Monday, September 28, 2009

It Might Get Loud

Now, I know this is supposed to be a concert review blog, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want. I'm gonna write about a movie. In early 2008, Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge all got together for no real apparent reason other to talk about playing guitar. "It Might Get Loud" is a documentary of this meeting.

It's a film about these three masters getting together, but it's also sort of like 3 mini documentaries about each player. The audience travels from Detroit to London and Dublin, touring old rehearsal spaces and part time jobs. Each star tells the story of how he got his first guitar and what song he rushed home to learn, all behind a slide show of black and white photos of greasy haired kids.

Then, amongst all of these mini-docs, we are brought back to the present with the three of them sitting on a set, each with a guitar and jamming. It's interesting that no matter how famous or legendary you are, that moment of meeting 2 other guitar players and trying to all play together still has that same strange feeling. Looking at the others' hands and trying to read the chords while your ears struggle to hear if you're playing the right thing. Trying to add something new without sounding like a ball hog. It seemed like Jack White was the most star struck of the 3. And why wouldn't he be? There were some great shots of him looking around, cracking the slightest of smiles, and realizing what was going on around him. The generational implications were an interesting part of the story, with Page saying things like "before rock and roll", The Edge walking us through all of his wacky effects, and White talking about his "Sears" guitar.

As a fan of these 3 guitar players, a rock history enthusiast, and a guitar player, this film was right up my ally. I'd like to see a series of these with more of my favorite rockers. Who wouldn't love to see Dave Grohl, Ringo Starr, and Mitch Mitchell swapping secrets and teaching each other their most famous beats? It's a cool idea for a music movie and it was well done.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Tonight was the long awaited H-Beam cd release party at the Rutledge. The bill included J-Po and the VAB and Uncle Milty as openers. I'm not gonna spend much time on J-Po, his show is pretty much the same (see below review). Although I will say he stayed a little more sober this time and actually put on a show from the stage, even if it was the same old stale show we've all seen numerous times.

After spending some time on the smoking deck, I came in to catch most of the set from Uncle Milty. They had drawn a nice crowd, ranging from moms to young hipsters. These guys were a laid back local band with a Widespread/Wilco type vibe. There were a couple of songs in a row that had the same chord progression, hence the Widespread comparison and catchy songs about love and Texas, hence Wilco. There were some times when some of the band members looked to be a little left out, like the poor guy on the acoustic guitar who just didn't make it into the mix, and the background vocal girl, who spent the majority of the time just standing there. There was something about this band that I can't decide if I like or not. They showed a lack of maturity with songs like "Santa Was Doin' My Momma" and "Truck Stop Gang Rape", and the show closer, "There's a Turd In The Swimming Pool". I guess I like the comedy idea, i.e. Pork Chop Express, but these guys didn't really seem to pull it off. They tried to look serious while asking the crowd to "fish out" said turd. Their songs were catchy and well written, even if their lyricist does seem to be a high school freshman.

Then H-Beam started. These guys are always a trip. They were introduced by a Tony Clifton type character wielding a chipping wedge and a purple pimp hat. This was just the beginning of the parade of characters to come through this show, as is typical with H-Beam. The music was really tight, as would be expected from a band that has been playing and listening to these songs in the studio for months. They have sort of a Flaming Lips/Zappa type sound with a stage show that could have been an episode from the Muppets. Leader Matt Walberg was excellent on that guitar of his. Russell Wright was a good stable bass substitute, as always, and the rhythm chicken on drums was really good too. Also props to him for the hand fart solo. Awesome. The show came to an abrupt awkward ending when one of the crazed mutant characters apparently pissed off the drummer enough to storm off the stage mid song. You never know, with H-Beam, this could have been planned although probably not the best way to encourage the crowd to buy your new record, which is probably why Beam did it. Kings of theatrics and drama these guys are. I hope Matt comes through on his promise for the next show to be "something we have never seen before."

Major props to Frank for the great mix on the soundboard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Derek Trucks Band

Tonight was another night at Live on the Green downtown. Derek Trucks, with support from Jack Pearson and Homemade Water were on the bill. After 2 full days of rain, the skies let up and gave us a beautiful night for some free music. I think the crowd might still have been a little waterlogged, because the energy was a little down for most of the night.

When I got there Homemade Water was playing. They were a run of the mill hippie jam band. The only thing that stood out to me was that the drummer didn't use sticks. He played the drums with his bare hands. I don't know what kind of statement he was trying to make but I got news for him. Dude, if you want anyone to hear your cymbals, you need to get some sticks. Also, it's hot in the summer and, oh forget it. I'm sure he has some reason for not using sticks. Saving Trees maybe? By the way, the fact that this is the only real thing that stands out about your band is not a good sign.

Jack Pearson's trio was next. He's another former Allman Brother. He was on guitar with Dickey in the 90's. I know he's a good guitar player. He's very talented. To me he was just another one of those guys who strives to play as many notes as he can without feeling any of them. I know he can play really fast, and that sounds cool and all, but with his rapid scale bursts, there was really never a continuous groove to follow and therefore no real dynamics. I know I'm not the only one thinking this because I could just see the crowd standing there like "c'mon, please give us something to dance to." Also the mix wasn't that great, making the guitar too loud, the bass to soft, and the drums kind of muddy. This was the case for most of the night, with all of the bands.

As flat lined as Pearson was, the Derek Trucks band was the complete opposite. Derek Trucks is a master of the dynamic jam. When the band kicks off a song, you could swear you're listening to your parents easy listening record collection. They lull you in with a smooth groove and then the next thing you know, Derek's taking a solo and melting your face with his SG. His playing style is more fluent. He starts off slow and builds up the jam after a minute or two. While there are still the rapid quick notes and random pauses, he makes it flow with soulful bends and more tension and release which gives you something to look forward to in the song. And then just when you think his guitar is going to shoot out sparks and explode, it's right back into the groove to finish the song. By the later portion of the show, this formula was successful in getting the crowd dancing and cheering. Jack Pearson came out for a few songs and swapped licks with Derek, drawing huge cheers from the crowd during the songs, as opposed to his set where the applause came at the end of the songs, seemingly out of obligation.

The DTB is a cool band. If you're looking for the Allman Brothers, you might be disappointed. These guys are more jazzy than southern. Although I've got to say, I'm glad the awesome keyboard player didn't bust out the flute, which I've seen him do before. We all know what the flute can do to a rock show. This show was fun, a good mix of people at a good venue. I hope this concert series goes on for the entirety of next summer and not just a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


In the words of my older sister, "it just won't be the same without Slack "opening" or the lawn fires", but it was still pretty awesome. I've never seen such a collection of bad asses in one place at one time.

In my quest to find a 15 dollar ticket (successful by the way) I came across a guy with an extra. He said he'd rather take in his ticket and waste it than sell it to me for 15 bucks because he got it for free. Some people man. I asked him what the logic of this was and he just looked at me like a five year old who owned the only dodge ball. That's fine, I told him, see you inside. I got to see the show for 15 bucks anyway and he's still a prick.

When I heard the name of the opening band was Lamb of God, I was excited to see a wholesome, nice group of young men with heavenly voices and a fine message. Not really. Lamb of God were your typical heavy metal, head banging, throat screaming band. It was great. Like a scene out of Wayne's World. One highlight for me was when the singer gave a shout out to his good friend Hank Williams III and described Hank Sr.'s being banned from the Grand Ole Opry as bull shatner. Fun show but also a good opportunity to get a fresh beer and use the mensa.

After Lamb of God the roadies scurried around to prepare for the Metallica spectacle that was soon to follow. The stage was in the middle of the arena, as opposed to at one end, which was pretty cool. With 8 mics on each long side and 2 on each end, the band was free to run amok and please every head bangin crowd member. The coffin light rigs were pretty cool too.

The lights went down, and the band came out. And from that moment on, ROCK. Awesome lasers, lights and pyrotechnics added to the face melting rock provided by the band. Kirk Hammett laid down some of the sickest lead guitar ever. James Hetfield was like one of Hinton's Outsiders but with a screaming guitar and a bad attitude during the songs, which turned to an old buddy between numbers. Robert Trujillo on bass was a monster. He actually looked like a silver back gorilla and rocked that bass down around his knees and ran around like a man on fire. Probably the most entertaining member for me, all music aside. I've never really had much respect for that Lars Ulrich, or any other sad sack of crap named Lars for that matter, but tonight I have to say he worked really hard and did a pretty good job of playing Metallica songs on the drums. And then just when I was getting ready to give him props, he got on the mic and reminded us of how big of a basket he is.

At this point I have to mention the guy outside in the smoking section talking on the phone to his girlfriend. He was sobbing, tearing his eyes out, talking about how the songs connected to him and the Black Album was so important and Metallica was so special. You'd expect this at an Elton John show or a Jonas Brothers concert or even Paul McCartney. But Metallica? Get a damned hold of yourself man!

The show wound down with a stellar rendition of "Nothing Else Matters" mostly with Hetfield singing and playing alone. It was a nice calm before the "Enter Sandman" storm that would close the "regulation" part of the show. In the break before the encore, the roadies loaded another Marshall stack amp onto the stage leading us to believe that this would be another Nashville sit in. Who would it be? Vince Gill? The wonderful John Hiatt? Tim and Faith? NO. Try Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead! Awesome! He came out and led the band through a pair of Motorhead songs which I'm sorry to say I didn't know the names of. But they were sick none the less, including a classic back to back lean between Hetfield and Lemmy. The encore closed with a loud, intense version of "Seek and Destroy" with Hetfield making the fans promise to "leave everything they had in this arena." The grand finale was about 50 huge black beach balls falling from the ceiling and bouncing around. After the song ended the band spent about 5 minutes throwing every pick and drumstick they had out into the crowd. It was nice to see such humble appreciation for the fans who have made this band great for the last 20 some odd years.

As a guy who's not "necessarily" a Metallica fan, this show was pretty great. The energy in the crowd was contagious and the band showed us why they are still one of the best acts around.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

J-Po and the V.A.B

I got to the Closing Bell a little early after walking through the biggest monsoon in the history of the world. This place is more of a bar with a stage than an actual music venue. By day it's a lunch spot for music row suits. None the less, it started to fill up around 9 and the opening band took the stage.
The HGB, (Home Grown Band) were a 3 piece from a little hippie community called the Farm. They launched into their set and did their best to get the collared shirts and summer dresses moving with their Sublime-like songs. The drummer was really tight and he was playing a really cool snare that added a good pop to the sound. The bass player did most of the singing which was good because I'm not sure if the guitar player was awake or aware that he was playing a show or even on earth. These guys were a fun little band. Playing music they like and having fun. They finished their set and were getting ready to leave the stage when a drunk fratty started yelling for "Bad Fish", a Sublime song. Of course they obliged, and did a pretty good job.

Oh, J-Po.

It was fun watching the over sized band play a round of "how many people can we stuff onto this tiny stage?". After a profanity laced self intro, J-Po and the V.A.B got going. Within the first minute of the song, J-Po was up on the bar waving his hands much like he doesn't care.

This guy J-Po is a skinny white kid that is almost like a mix between Ali G and a black southern preacher. He is known for surrounding himself with fantastic musicians which is the only real reason to ever see this act. That and the fact that it was free. I'll never pay to see this joker.

After a couple of songs filled with "uh" and "what" repeats, we were treated to a cameo from an "MC" who was a lifelong Tennessee resident that thinks he grew up in the Bronx. This guy gets up on stage, rambles off a bunch of nonsense, waves HIS hands in the air and disappears just like that.

So about 20 minutes in, the people started to realize that, yes, this does suck, so they start to leave. What does J-Po do? He cusses them, talks junk about the bars next door, promises an orgy to anyone who stays inside, and launches into his slow dance number "Sex in the Morning". Then he sits down on the bar, lets his awesome band all take solos, and clicks around on his iphone. All in all it was exactly what I expected. A good funky band interrupted by a towel swinging jack-ass. You might ask "why would you go if you knew it would be bad?" Well it was free, a few of my friends are in the band, and J-Po has a tendency to have lots of girls at his shows. It was something to do. More like sitting at a bar with a loud obnoxious juke box than attending an actual concert. J-Po, what a joke.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Toadies

After Stillhouse Hollow in the park, I moved over to downtown Nashville for the premier of Live on the Green with headliner The Toadies. This is the new "Dancin in the District" style, free live show downtown.

I showed up in time to catch the last 3 songs from a local opening Nashville band called American Bang (formerly Bang Bang Bang). Before tonight the only thing i knew about this band was that the lead singer dates a girl i've been in love with for 10 years named Evyn. I keep meaning to see these guys but always secretly hated them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that these guys rocked hard. A four piece rock band, these guys played like they were on their way up. Although i know they've had much bigger shows before, they played like this was their chance to rock out the biggest crowd they've had in their home town. Fun upbeat rock for all listeners, they weren't trying to be anything other than some dudes with an opportunity to play for their home town and have fun. This is in direct contrast to the Toadies.

The Toadies started off their show with a big bust. They tried to pull of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" with some kind of saxamaphone playing the lead singing part. Everyone failed. From the sax man, to the drummer, to the sound man, to the Titans announcer across the river, this was a bust. And this was only the first 90 seconds of the show.

When they moved on to their own material, they pulled it off in a way only a band who has been famous since 1997, broke up for a few years, and got back together, can. The lead singer looked like his head could pop at any time from trying to hit all the "old" notes. The drummer looked like a robot just trying to remember all those parts he wrote when he was 23. At some point, the 2 portly guitar techs each picked up shakers and shook them in the microphone like they were a pivotal part of the 90's. Come on guys, just tune up.

I found myself asking, "is this the big hit?" before more than a couple of their selections. You know, "do you wanna die..." None of them were, but most of them could've been. These guys, unlike American Bang, played like they used to be famous and we should know who they are. Whereas the bang played like their next show will be bigger and better, the Toadies played like their next show was at the fairgrounds in Bowling Green. Time to hang it up dudes. It's been a great 5 years, 10 years ago.

stillhouse hollow

The night started out at centennial park with Stillhouse Hollow. This is my brother's bluegrass band.

These guys are one of a kind. They bring their bluegrass with a hint of old-timey songs while having an obvious great time.

Tonight it was apparent that they were on a time restriction as they played mostly songs from their record,"Dakota". Don't get me wrong, those songs are well written and clever and probably their best material. However, when they have an unlimited amount of time, they mix in all sorts of covers that really make the show interesting and unpredictable. You never know what these guys can pull out. Tonight's versions of "Goosebumps" and "Miss Meg" were especially bouncy and fun.

I gotta say that the recent departure of their bass player has left a huge void that a guitar and mandolin simply can't fill. At some point, these guys have to fill this void, whether it be with bass or something else.