Monday, December 29, 2008

The Weight Remembers...Delaney Bramlett

From Reuters:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rock guitarist Delaney Bramlett, who collaborated with such artists as George Harrison and Eric Clapton, died in a Los Angeles hospital following gallbladder surgery. He was 69.

His wife, Susan Lanier-Bramlett, said he died on Saturday after "seven hard months" of ill health.

"I held him and he held on up until the last breath with which he went in peace to the light and on into eternity," she said in a statement.

The Mississippi native first gained renown in the late 1960s as part of the southern-fried rhythm and blues combo Delaney & Bonnie, which he formed with his first wife, Bonnie Lynn. The gifted duo were often overshadowed by their "Friends," as their backing group was known. Among them was Clapton, who regularly performed as a low-key sideman.

Bramlett, in turn, produced Clapton's self-titled debut solo album in 1970, and co-wrote most of the songs, including the gospel-tinged hit single "Let It Rain."

Clapton brought Delaney & Bonnie to England, and recruited such musicians as Harrison and Dave Mason to perform at their shows. According to Bramlett's biography, he taught Harrison how to play slide guitar and to write a gospel song, which led to the recording of the former Beatle's hit single "My Sweet Lord."

Delaney & Bonnie enjoyed a few hits of their own, including the 1971 tune "Never Ending Song Of Love," but their popularity faded after Clapton moved on. The couple divorced after releasing their last album together, 1972's "Together."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weighing In: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream

"You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won't back down." -- Tom Petty

There is a fundamental difference between the "concert" documentary and the "artist" documentary. The "concert" documentary primarily focuses on a band or artist's performance; narrative and behind-the-scenes material are by-products. Scorsese's The Last Waltz, Bob Smeaton's Festival Express and Jonathan Demme's Heart of Gold all fall into this category. Not surprisingly, the "artist" documentary primarily focuses on the artist or band itself; performance is the by-product. The Beatles Anthology and Scorsese's No Direction Home are two fine examples in this group. Peter Bogdanovich's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream (2007) is a near-perfect take on the latter.

Director/critic/John Ford enthusiast Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon), masterfully interweaves archival footage, interviews, rare outtakes and a smattering of live performance to produce one of the best artist documentaries I've seen in years. The film begins fittingly with footage from the band's 30th anniversary concert in Gainsville, Florida -- the same town where a younger, free-spirited rebel named Tom Petty egged some local buddies to forgo college (and in one case, the military) in hopes of acheiving rock 'n' roll stardom. What foresight. Despite its 3+ hour running time, Bogdanovich does an impeccable job taking us through virtually every aspect of Petty's storied life: an abusive father, a mother's untimely death, the Mudcrutch period, the band's odyssey to L.A., record deals, bankruptcies, the rise to stardom, the tragic loss of a bandmate, and of course, becoming one of the biggest names in rock history. There is never a dull moment.

Admittedly, much of this I was unaware of beforehand. Take for example Petty's vigilante heroism against the predatory record companies during the 1970's and 1980's or the band's immense popularity overseas before becoming a household name in the States. But what I found most astonishing was the sheer number of hits penned by Petty -- each one more recognizable than the last. This is certainly a near-impossible feat given today's standards. If there was a ever a Picasso of rock 'n' roll, it would be Petty.

Also included is great interview footage from a list of admirers ranging from: Eddie Vedder, Jeff Lynne, Stevie Nicks, Dave Grohl, Johnny Depp, George Harrison...George Harrison -- a FUCKING BEATLE! Who can boast about that these days? Fall Out Boy? The Jonas Brothers? The Black Eyed Peas? Laughable. Another high point recounts Petty's stint with the exceedingly underrated Traveling Wilburys. The Wilburys, whose members included, Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne, was hands down, the GREATEST rock "supergroup" of all-time. And for those who disagree, let me repeat the names a second time: Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. Just watching the group jam and mess around is staggering. There is a great scene where Petty assists Orbison in writing Orbison's mega hit "You Got It." I had no idea of Petty's collaboration. The only real disappointment was that Bogdanovich couldn't land an interview with Dylan, although I suspect this had more to do with Dylan's elusiveness than any oversight on Bogdanovich's part.

There is a great quote by Petty where he observes that today, rock stars are "being invented on game shows." There is a sadness in his eyes; a sort of reluctant acceptance that the industry has let us all down. I think he knows the gig is up. Unlike the cookie-cutter, money-making machines of the music biz today, Petty earned his stripes the hard way. He trekked over 2000 miles to California in a broken down van, armed only with a pocketful of songs and a will to be heard. There was no reality t.v., no MySpace, no YouTube, no Sirius; just one man and his guitar. The future was wide open...

--D.S., Weightstaff

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weight: Flashbacks

When The Weight was born almost 2 years ago, it was merely a forum for a few friends to share music videos and sound clips of the artists we love. But over the last 24 months, the site has proudly evolved to include concert/movie reviews, ruminations, criticism, editorials, news, comments, contributions, and a healthy portion of (justifiable) Beyonce bashing.

Anyway, as our frequent visitors have probably noticed, the site has been dormant for an inexcusable period of time -- and for that, I apologize. I guess between the holidays and our busy work schedules, we unfortunately haven't had the time to generate quality posts. So, I'll make it easy: I'm going back to our roots and posting, for lack of better words, one damn cool video clip; no clever conversation, just Billy Joel.

p.s. The only person missing from this performance is Albert Hammond, Jr...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve 2008: The Bridge

Before I overloaded on turkey, mashed potatoes, and football, I had one task that needed to be complete…go out and see The Bridge. Every year the night before Thanksgiving, The Bridge can be found playing a gig in their beloved hometown, Baltimore. This event has become a tradition that seems to grow larger and larger every year. If memory serves me correctly, the first pre-turkey gig started at Paloma's, a now out of business nightclub that reminded me of dark and trendy dive bars in New York City. Eventually the band moved the show to the 8X10 club, the same place it holds it's summer residency shows. With ever growing popularity, and the fact that the 8X10 can't hold more than about 350 people, the band made a wise choice in 2006 to move the gig to Ram's Head Live, right in the heart of downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. A venue more similar to DC's 9:30 club in size (it holds about 1500 people), this venue was the perfect avenue for The Bridge to market their latest CD, Blind Man's Hill.

It seems that each year The Bridge play this gig, it also serves as a reunion of friends and family from the area's surrounding the band's roots. Everyone comes home for the holiday, so why not head out the night before for some drinkin' and good music. This particular year I got a chance to hang out with 2/3rd's of The Weight's staff not only for the show, but for some good Mexican eatin' right next door to the venue.

We headed into the show just in time to catch the opening act, Ekoostik Hookah. These guys have been around since the early 90's and I recall seeing them at an All Good Festival or two many moons ago. They have a huge following in Ohio and it looked like the band even brought some of their fans out from the "Buckeye State." The played for about 75 minutes which is pretty nice when you have the warm up slot. Their sound is saturated with hints of southern rock, blues, jazz, improvisational jamming, and good harmonies. They definitely got the crowd warmed up, but for me their songs tended to sound alike.

The Bridge finally took the stage close to 11pm and immediately launched into songs from their new album. During their two sets, they managed to play almost every song from the new disc as well as some older crowd favorites. Their new songs continue to be rich in originality and feeling. Throw in some covers from Ray Charles, Robert Palmer, and Robert Johnson, and you have a typical Bridge show full of fantastic music. They even managed to hire a woman to do a trapeze routine in front of the stage. Nothing wrong with throwing in a little Cirque De Soleil to add to the mix.

Recently, The Bridge added a new member to its crew, Mark Brown on the keyboards. His abilities and style have added a new color to the band's music which compliments nicely with Kenny's mandolin. Mark hasn't been in the band for too long, but you could already see the chemistry on stage between him and his band mates. This band continues to amaze me after seeing them for eight years. Each new album brings great songwriting, catchy melodies, and phenomenal playing. Chris Jacobs continues to be the primary singer/songwriter and he pours his soul onto the strings of his guitar night after night. Dave Markowitz's back-up harmonies and impressive bass skills allows the band to creatively jam and open new doors. The Bridge has seen a few people step into the saxophone role, but Patrick Rainey is no amateur. He's got great chops and gives the band its signature sound. I will never get tired of Kenny Liner's beatbox routine and I think he has come the furthest from a musical prospective on his electric mandolin. Mike Gambone rounds it out on the drums with his consistent, hard-hitting, and on pace style.

For me the night was an A+ all around and I look forward to living out this tradition year in and year out. If you have not seen this band yet, please make it a priority…you will not be disappointed.

The Bridge continues their tour this month through the end of the year and already has dates set for early next year.
Here is the setlist from the show:

Set I
Let Me Off This Train
Old White Lightning 95
Brother Don't
Honey Bee
Poison Wine*
How Much Fun^
Bad Locomotive->
What I'd Say$->
Bad Locomotive

Set II
Come in My Kitchen%
Heavy Water
Diggin in the Cold Ground
In Dreams
Devil on Me*
Shake 'em Down
Born Ramblin'
Give it Up
Lasting Hymm
Bury My Bones in Baltimore

E: Will it go Round in Circles&

* w/ Kate Brown on trapeze
$ Ray Charles Cover
^ Robert Palmer Cover
# new original, first time played
% Robert Johnson Cover
@ Van Morrison Cover
& Billy Preston Cover

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weighing In: Taxi Driver

"Partly truth, partly fiction --
a walking contradiction."

The first time I saw Taxi Driver, I was merely a passenger in the backseat of a cab. I was vaguely familiar with [the genius of] Martin Scorsese and hardly old enough to grasp the cold realities he so solemnly depicts. But after over a decade of inexcusable procrastination, I owed it to myself (and to the film gods) to it watch again; this time around, the difference was glaring. A lot older and a bit more cynical (living in New York City can have that effect), the film was much more than what I remembered (an array of pop images hanging on the walls of the freshman dorms). Rather perversely, Scorsese wills us to empathize with the protagonist's downfall: his alienation, his vulnerability, and his immorality. It is both a profound and painful portrayal of one average man's complete mental decay. But despite it's complex themes, the storyline is not all that complicated: Man is alone. Man moves to the city. Man gets a job. Man likes woman. Woman doesn't like man. Man is disillusioned. Man goes crazy. Man goes on killing spree. Man is once again, alone.

The film, penned by screenwriter Paul Schrader (Raging Bull), centers around anti-hero Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a purported ex-Marine Vietnam vet who works the graveyard shift as a cabbie in order to combat his chronic insomnia. Our first impression of Travis is rather benign -- he is respectful and possesses that boy-scout sort of duty for his job (he's even willing to work on Jewish holidays). He is almost the kind of guy you want driving you home at 3 a.m. But as we soon come to see, appearances are only skin deep. Travis is a loner of the worst kind: he has a pathologic contempt for a society over which he ultimately has no control.

Truthful to the film's title, Travis endlessly traverses across the city's underbelly -- a gritty landscape that only fuels his already fragile psyche. Critic Roger Ebert describes it as a "Stygian passage;" I liken it to Dante's descent through the circles of hell. Night after night, Travis is surrounded by steaming manholes, neon lights, peep shows, pimps, prostitutes and drug pushers (or as a friend of mine so evocatively calls it "old New York"). Worse yet, Travis hasn't the faintest clue about how to interact with his fellow citizens -- male or female. He is pitifully lost and alone. Even Travis acknowledges his Sisyphean curse: "Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man."

As the film progresses (accompanied by the wonderful scoring by Bernard Hermann of Hitchcock fame), Travis covets the attractive and ambitious Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a campaign volunteer for fictional presidential candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). After persistent prodding, Betsy begrudgingly agrees to meet Travis for coffee. Even during this first encounter, it is obvious that Travis is incapable of carrying on any semblance of a normal relationship. Despite fumbling through conversation, a confounded Betsy is willing to overlook Travis's feeble persona (after all, De Niro was a pretty handsome guy back in the day) and agrees to see him again. Quoting Kris Kristofferson (who two years earlier starred in Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Betsy tells Travis that he is "partly truth, partly fiction -- a walking contradiction." Little does she know, her observation is spot-on: Travis is a walking contradiction. He is infatuated with the scummy parts of town, but despises its inhabitants; he is a loyal patron of the porno theaters, but is sickened by the sexual sin that surrounds him; he denounces the dope dealers, but is himself a habitual pill-popper.

Barely into their second date, Travis's courtship with Betsy takes a nosedive after he daftly takes her to see the 1969 Swedish "sex education" film, Language of Love -- the obvious wrong way to impress a woman. Not surprisingly, Betsy storms out of the theater leaving Travis frustrated and alone. But despite Betsy's overt disinterest in seeing him again, Travis continues his forlorn pursuit which only bolsters his inability to woo her. During an awkward telephone conversation, Travis desperately begs for a second chance, but we already know that he's acting in vain. In a now famous shot, the camera tracks away from the downtrodden Travis and towards an empty hallway, sparing us his all-too-painful rejection. I think it is this event that ignites the powder keg that is Travis Bickle.

Travis's Descent Into Madness

Apparent that his mental state is rapidly deteriorating, Travis finds himself, intentionally or by chance, involved in a series of violent encounters. In one scene, he intervenes during the course of a convenience store holdup, fatally wounding the black crook. This sort of vigilante justice is common in Scorsese's films (recall in The Departed, Leonardo DiCaprio's character similarly defends a store clerk from extorting mobsters or Ray Liotta's line in Goodfellas, "[w]hat the organization [mafia] does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. They're like the police department for wiseguys."). Perhaps Travis, an outspoken bigot, saw this as a "justifiable" excuse to lash out against those he scorns. He then concocts a botched assassination attempt against Palantine, who just weeks earlier, Travis praised during a chance encounter with the candidate in his cab. Famously, it is during rehearsal for this maniacal act that Travis engages in schizophrenic dialogue with his mirrored reflection: "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking to me? Well, I'm the only one here." That he is.

The last part of the film documents Travis's quest to "rescue" Iris (Jodi Foster), a young prostitute who, much to Travis's consternation, is rather complacent about her lifestyle. After realizing that Iris won't voluntarily abandon her world of corruption, Travis again resorts to vigilantism -- this time against the pimps and players who prey on his angelic Iris. At the forefront of this group is Sport (Harvey Keitel), a second-rate pimp whom Iris claims is her spiritual counterpart. Iris's naivety becomes apparent when after Travis remarks that Sport "looks like a killer," she replies, "he never killed nobody. He's a Libra."

There is much commentary on the comparison between Taxi Driver and The Searchers -- another film which depicts one man's [John Wayne] attempt to rescue the "innocent" from the "immoral." Both Scorsese and Schrader were undoubtedly influenced by John Ford, and on a wider scale, the formulaic themes within the Western genre as a whole. Indeed, Schrader himself remarked, "I make sure to see The Searchers at least once a year; [T]he Searchers plays the fullest artistic hand -- the best American film." Expounding on this topic, critic Matthew Iannucci points out, "Travis's lack of distinct identity compels him to cut and paste together what he believes is a heroic identity from an external menu of personages such as the 'gunslinger' and the Indian." These parallels are confirmed when we watch Travis twirling his guns in the mirror a la Dodge City.

In a now notorious sequence, a mohawk-clad Travis gruesomely massacres Sport and the other lowlifes who he perceives (albeit correctly) as threats to Iris's well-being. However, in an ironic twist of fate, the blood-bath ends in a failed attempt to take his own life; Travis cannot escape his curse of loneliness, literally or figuratively. But the film's epilogue offers one final wrinkle: Travis is coined a hero by Iris's parents, the Steensmas, for having saved their daughter and more notably, by the media, who report that his rampage took out a variety of underworld characters, including local gangsters.

We are then back where we began, this time, riding shotgun with Travis. He picks up a passenger who happens to be Betsy, only now, she admires his "heroism." Travis cooly downplays his injuries and drops her off outside her upscale apartment on 56th Street. In the blink of an eye, Scorsese quickly cuts to the rear-view mirror which displays an empty seat. Was Betsy ever in the cab? Was this a fantasy played out in Travis's head? Did Travis ultimately succumb to his wounds and are these his deathbed hallucinations? Scorsese leaves us pondering...partly truth or partly fiction?

Some 32 years later, the film remains just as relevant as it did upon its initial release. Many critics view the film as an indictment against the fallout from Vietnam, the plight of the veterans, or governmental impotency. In his own review, Iannucci quotes writer Richard Martin who observed, "Taxi Driver...reinvents noir in a context more suited to the sociopolitical realities of mid-seventies is informed by an understanding of political paranoia, economic deprivation, inner-city decay, and the violence of the seventies." I think there is much truth to this -- even more so in light of the current State of the Union. But beyond these implications, at its core, this is a film about human loneliness -- a condition to which no one is immune. Indeed, Ebert confessed, "we have all felt as alone as Travis. Most of us are better at dealing with it."

Verdict: Heavyweight

--D.S., Weightstaff

Monday, November 24, 2008

AMAs = WOT (Waste of Time)

Let's get one thing straight: I did NOT watch the American Music Awards. I never have (at least I have no specific recollection of ever watching it) and never will. But, while in the midst of stuffing my face with an extra-tasty chicken and guacamole wrap during the 6-minute part of my day I call lunch, I did stumble upon a very amusing blog post (on Y! Music) by someone who, albeit unfortunately, did watch the "award {cough} show."

So, this is what I learned:

-The Pussycat Dolls are lucky-as-hell, vomit-inducing fakes who can't even lip-sync properly;
-Rhianna wore an eye-patch yet does not suffer from any apparent ophthalmologic disorder...oh, and she can't sing;
-The Jonas Brothers collectively know 3 guitar chords;
-Miley Cyrus embarrassed herself...again;
-Beyonce has been doing the same two-bit dance routine for the past decade;
-Watching Mariah Carey and taking an Ambien have the same effect;
-David Cook has freakishly tweezed eyebrows;
-The collaboration between Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah and Kathleen Battle was an "all-over-the-place-trainwreck" (quoting the author);
-The New Kids On The Block performed?!? Can someone please explain this?!? I think I missed the memo...;
-Kanye sucks;
-Coldplay came off as forced and their outfits screamed, "trying to hard;" and
-Annie Lennox stole the show -- big surprise considering she was probably the only person within 4 miles of the venue with any talent.

Now time to hit the bathroom...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Phish Philms -- 11/16/96

Apparently there is a serious amount of Phish concert footage swimming around YouTube these days. I was cruising through a few of the clips and really enjoyed listening to this one which features Suzy Greenberg (with La Grange and Axilla teases) and an acapella Amazing Grace from 11/16/96 in Omaha, NE. The jams inside of Suzy (play it Leo!) remind me of the why this band commanded my attention back in those days (my second show was one day earlier in St. Louis). I sure hope the guys sound this good in March.

11-16-96 Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE

1: Poor Heart, Down With Disease, Guyute, Gumbo, Rift, Free, The Old Home Place, David Bowie, Lawn Boy, Sparkle, Frankenstein

2: La Grange, Runaway Jim, Kung*, Catapult, Axilla#, Harry Hood#, Suzie Greenberg**, Amazing Grace

E: We're an American Band^

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deadhead Sticker on a Pickup Truck

The Grateful Dead have a strange way of popping up in random places throughout pop culture. They get mentions in movies, television shows, and other artists' songs. ("Deadhead stick on a cadillac" i'm looking in your direction.)

Enter Cross Canadian Ragweed, a country rock / southern rock / Americana / alt-country band that gained popularity in Stillwater, Oklahoma in the late 90s through the Red Dirt music scene, a scene that receives virtually no coverage here on the east cost. I have become a fan of many of the bands that exist in this genre, based out of both Oklahoma and Texas, including Chris Knight, Stoney LaRue, Jimmy LaFave, and the aforementioned Cross Canadian Ragweed. Their founding fathers and main influences include Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, and even Woodie Guthrie. Anyone who respects this group is OK by me.

Given the Oklahoma background of Cross Canadian Ragweed, I was very surprised, pleasantly so, to hear a song of theirs called Brooklyn Kid. The track not only name checks the Grateful Dead, but also Friend of the Devil, Uncle John's Band, and Jerry Garcia. This is hardly a passing reference to the Dead. I'd been meaning to post this song here for quite some time, and tonight it popped into my head again.

The last two verses of Brooklyn Kid read:
Reflecting on the Viet-Cong,
Uncle John's Band and a Dylan song,
Smellin' like it's supper time.
You know, it brought a tear to his eye,
The day that Jerry Garcia died.
He said he was the genius of his time.
Yeah, A Friend of the Devil is a Friend of Mine.

Don't try to find it, make the time,
A couple of joints and a bottle of wine.
You'll be glad that you did.
With the Grateful Dead spinnin' round,
Kick your feet back and be astounded,
By the life of the Brooklyn kid.

Enjoy this track and I hope to introduce you to some more Red Dirt music soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ticketbastard Waives "Convenience Fees" for Eagles Tour

Ticketmaster, having recently acquired Front Line Management and it's head and long-time Eagles manager Irving Azoff, has made a bold move in attempting to appear less bastard-like by eliminating the controversial/hated convenience charges on all tickets to the upcoming winter Eagles tour. I appreciate the sentiment of the move, but I doubt the tickets will really be any cheaper.

And not that I am going to be buying tickets for said Eagles concerts, but those that do buy them, I suspect, will feel some satisfaction in not paying for the added convenience charges (who's convenience are those fees going towards anyway?) even if the fee is just buried into the overall ticket price. So this is certainly a step in the right direction for TM. Practices like charging $10 in convenience fees on top of a $10 ticket was getting ridiculous. I would rather just pay $20 for a show advertised as $20 and not feel violated by the additional charges.

I imagine that this no-fees trial with the Eagles will be pervasive soon enough, and it will perceptively be a nice change from the ever increasing convenience charges. . . . they're still bastards though.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sirius Changes

As a current XM subscriber, I have mixed feelings about the new merged channel lineup that debuted today. I am excited about now having access to Sirius' Jam_On, The Grateful Dead Channel, BBC Radio 1, and NBA basketball. I am concerned about the quality of playlists now going downhill, consistent with the poor reviews I've read about the tunes that are played on Sirius' music channels. XM has been great for obscure tracks and bands that I would not otherwise hear via other means. Let's hope that the new Sirius/XM can find a way too maintain the best of each service and do away with overly repetitive playlists.

View the story and the new Sirius/XM channel lineup here

Greatest Story Ever Told

According to Billboard:
Veteran producers Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa and Eric Eisner are going truckin'. The trio have signed on to produce a biopic about Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia that will aim to offer a revealing look at the roots of the counterculture icon.

The untitled project will focus primarily on Garcia's early life in the Bay Area before he joined the band that would become the Grateful Dead -- a period that includes a stint in the military, a life-changing car accident and his first creative encounters with members of the Northern California music scene such as future Dead bassist Phil Lesh.
Read the full story here.

RIP Mitch Mitchell

7/9/1947 - 11/12/2008
Mitch Mitchell was Hendrix's most important musical collaborator, playing in Hendrix's Experience trio from October 1966 to mid-1969, his Woodstock band in August 1969, and also with the later incarnation of the "Jimi Hendrix Experience" in 1970, with Billy Cox on bass, known as the "Cry of Love" band. Hendrix would often record tracks in the studio with only Mitchell, and in concert the two fed off of each other to exciting effect. Buddy Miles only replaced Mitchell for the three months it took to rehearse, record, produce and deliver the finished Band of Gypsys LP to Ed Chalpin.
His last days were spent celebrating the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix with old and new friends on the 2008 Experience Hendrix tour. For nearly 4 weeks, the tour traveled coast-to-coast bringing the music of Jimi Hendrix to nearly 50,000 fans across the country. In addition to Mitchell, the tour featured Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Cesar Rojas and David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, Hubert Sumlin (Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters), Chris Layton (Double Trouble) as well as Eric Gales and Mato Nanji (Indigenous). The tour ended 5 days before Mitchell's death.

Mitchell was found dead at appoximately 3 a.m. on November 12, 2008 in his room at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland. Mitchell, 61, apparently died of natural causes, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner said.

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weighing In: The Trip

1967 was a good year for the movies. Films like Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn), The Graduate (Mike Nichols), Who's That Knocking At My Door (Martin Scorsese) and Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg) brought about a new era of Hollywood, and names like Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman went from relative obscurity to industry A- listers. But between these gems – and I mean, very between – lies an unpolished stone; a film that put another group of young, unknown actors on the radar. The Trip (1967), was arguably Hollywood's first mainstream acknowledgment of the burgeoning 60's counterculture/psychedelic scene. While it is generally accepted that Bonnie and Clyde ushered in the "New Hollywood" movement, The Trip was in its own right, a pretty groundbreaking film itself -- at least as far as B movies go. And while it didn't contain the innovative camera work, spewing blood and gratuitous violence -- all which have become industry standards -- like its contemporary Bonnie and Clyde, it did however supply a generous helping of pot smoking, topless dancers, Owsley-like visual effects, and maybe even -- and I'm reaching here -- a subtle nod to the French New Wave. But more seriously, The Trip unquestionably helped pave the way for films like Easy Rider, which itself played a critical role in developing the "New Hollywood" era.

The Trip was produced and directed by B movie extraordinaire, Roger Corman (The Terror, The Edgar Allan Poe canon) and the screenplay was written by a then relatively unknown frequent guest star of The Andy Griffith Show named Jack Nicholson. The film begins with Paul Groves (Peter Fonda) in the midst of an existential crisis after a recent (or soon to be) break-up with his unfaithful lover, Sally (Susan Strasberg). In search of "answers," Paul hooks up with pal John (Bruce Dern) whose role is part drug advocate, part spiritual mentor. John, nice guy that he is, introduces Paul to a world of promiscuous women, wacked-out hippies and as the title suggests, every psychedelic drug known to man (at least at the time). After all, that's what friends are for, right?

In one cheeky early scene, Paul has a random, brief encounter with a blond nymphomaniac who excitedly strokes a very phallic strelitzia -- a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what's in store for Paul should he decide to just say "yes." This is Corman exploitation at its finest. We then meet Max (Dennis Hopper), the resident dope dealer and ringleader of the local hippie clan. Between his outlandish getup and his effortless ability to roll the perfect joint, it's hard to imagine that Hopper wasn't stoned during the entirety of the film's production.* After Paul sits in on a group toke session, he finally musters up enough courage to drop his first tab of acid under John's supervision. A blatant reference to the then recent Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows" (which itself quotes LSD guru Timothy Leary), John re-assures Paul to "turn off your mind, and relax, and then float down-stream." (Makes you wonder if Nicholson purposely named his two leading men "John" and "Paul" for a reason...)

It is at this point, however, that the film loses any semblance of conceivable plot structure and slowly melts into one continual orgasm of psychedelic goop. The main problem is that most of the scenes depicting Paul's trip come off as just plain corny by today's standards. Take for example a few of Paul's reactions while on LSD: a childish fascination with an orange or an obsession with a laundromat dryer. There is also a bizarre scene where a fully nude Paul freaks out in a swimming pool and is subdued by John in a melodramatic homoerotic exchange. Was this really supposed to entice people to experiment with psychedelics? We are then reunited with Max (who at this point is starting to resemble a Hammer Films Count Dracula) and Paul is subjected to a (fantasy?) pseudo-inquisition where a kaleidoscopic collage of pop schlock, including images of Timothy Leary, Sophia Loren, L.B.J., Jesus, an oven (yes, an oven), and a one-dollar bill, bombard the screen. Maybe this was considered "deep" stuff in 1967, but I have hunch it had more to do with being stoned out your mind while watching the film than it did with any hidden messages. Finally, after an evening of aimless wandering and enough bad hallucinations to scare someone sober for life, we reach the climax of Paul's trip: a montage of flashbacks, satanic imagery, carnival folk, death-mounted horses, and of course, Dennis Hopper smoking an endless stash weed. The trip is over.

At long last, Paul ends up in the sack with a random one-night-stand named Glenn (Salli Sachse) and we are subjected to a rather disappointing lovemaking scene -- especially for a B movie. Paul then awakens and walks out to the balcony where he meditatively faces the sea. Then, in a brief moment of philosophical curiosity (again, I'm reaching), Glenn asks Paul whether he's learned anything from his experience (or something to that effect) to which he simply responds: "Tomorrow." But what I found most interesting in the entire film was the last shot: Corman zooms in on Paul's face, freezes the image, and then cracks it to pieces. I couldn't help but recall the poignant final scene of Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959) where a young Antoine Doinel similarly looks to sea and ponders his own uncertain future. In the now famous shot, Truffaut zooms in and freezes on Antoine's face in almost identical fashion. Coincidence? Maybe. But, Corman was no dummy. I'd like to think this was his tip-of-the-hat to a contemporary for whom there was a mutual respect.**

So where does The Trip leave us? Is it smarter than it appears with its glaring references to good music, pop icons and maybe even film history? Probably not. But what I can promise is 85 minutes chock full of tripped-out strobe lights, body-paint, loads of recreational drug use and some damn good shots of Peter Fonda's bare ass. And besides, you get to watch Dennis Hopper roll one hell of a doobie!

*Internet lore suggests that Nicholson, Fonda, Hopper and Corman all took LSD prior to making the film as part of their "preparation." Why am I not surprised by this.

**At the time, Corman, along with American B movies in general, were highly praised by the writers of the renowned French film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema -- writers who included Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol.

--D.S., Weightstaff

Monday, November 3, 2008

American Music: The Felice Brothers, New York City, 11/2/08

A few weeks ago, I defiantly inquired whether there were any artists who would "step up to the plate" and lead us towards a new renaissance in the arts. Well, I'm relieved to say that there is at least one taker: The Felice Brothers. Last evening (and early morning), I witnessed about 90 minutes of floor-stomping, washboard-scrubbing, beard-wielding and accordion -- eh, churning musical bliss. The show was at "Spiegelworld," an indoor tent situated on the docks of the river of lower Manhattan -- creepy frigates and all. It's the sort of place you'd picture in La Strada, not the big apple. Nonetheless, it was both cozy and eerily charming, and with no more than 350 people inside, it had more of the upstate-backyard barbeque vibe than the normal uptight and pretentious New York City concert experience.

I'm not going to write about the band's background, because thanks to a fellow Weightstaffer, that was done a while back (November, 2007 to be exact). The Hudson Valley natives, all with names right out of a Washington Irving novel (Ian, Simone, and James Felice, Christmas, and Farley), are a rare gem in a music scene inundated with hipster wannabes and fly-by-night, immodest "singer-songwriter" types. Of course, it would be cliche to say that The Felice Brothers are The Band incarnate or Dylan disciples, because anyone who hears or sees these fellas for less than 30 seconds, can easily gather that much. But what sets them apart from the other "new" acts I've seen in recent years is that these guys are real -- you truly believe in them, or at least I do. The Band, was more or less a group of Canadians (minus Levon) who transplanted in upstate New York, as part homage to the visionary American folk-life experience. In contrast, The Felice Brothers are from that region; namely, a town called Palenville, nestled in the serene glory of the Catskill Mountains. They sing about their history, their wanderings, loves lost, firearms, and well, whiskey...and I believe every word of it. Sure, they're a bit rough around the edges, the instruments look like they came from grandpa's attic, and the sound was far from properly engineered (maybe the venue was to blame), but this is the appeal of The Felice Brothers. The hell with the fancy equipment and the hipster hairdos; unlike their competition (if there is any) these guys live, breathe, and probably bleed the lifestyle they so aptly write about.

They played their usual standards including "Frankie's Gun!", "Ruby Mae," "Saint Stephens End" (perhaps a nod to the Dead), and a rabble-rousing rendition of "Whiskey In My Whiskey," which I thought would leave our tent hopelessly floating down the East River. Sure, there were times when I was waiting for them to tear up a version of "Rag Mama Rag" or "Ain't No More Cane," but the boys weren't there to recreate The Band -- they were there to tell their own story.

But I can't resist mentioning that there were moments when I felt as if I was watching a young group of Rick Dankos stampeding around the stage; particularly Ian Felice, whose spontaneous and almost spastic jigging was reminiscent of a forty-niner who struck gold at Sutter's Mill. James Felice, with his floppy farmer's hat and Rip Van Winkle beard, must be the love child of Garth Hudson. He not only makes the accordion "cool," but handles the organ with great ease as well. And then there is Farley. Seemingly the odd man of the group (sans facial hair), he is perhaps their unsung hero. Between his possessed discipline on the washboard and his abuse of the fiddle, he is the yeast that makes up the moonshine that is The Felice Brothers. All the while Christmas solemnly thumps away and Simone, the most outspoken member of the group, theatrically prods the audience to sing along in falsetto.

There is an old adage that says, "imitation is the highest form of flattery;" well, if The Felice Brothers chose to follow in the vein of Dylan and The Band, that is just damn fine by me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Smokin' New Grass

It wasn't until this year that I discovered the immensely talented four-piece band of bluegrass virtuosos, who played the part of rock stars, called New Grass Revival. Formed in 1971, following a number of lineup changes over the better part of a decade, they settled on a core group of musicians including founder Sam Bush (mandolin), John Cowan (bass), Bela Fleck (banjo), and Pat Flynn (guitar). That lineup would continue on until the band's breakup in 1989. Fleck and Flynn joined Bush and Cowan in 1981 after the previous incarnation of the group was on tour as Leon Russell's backup band and opening act for the prior two years. Their last official concert as New Grass Revival was played on 12/31/89 opening for the Grateful Dead at Oakland Coliseum.

Back in 1981, a Leon Russell/New Grass Revival live album was released featuring the lineup of: Leon Russell (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Curtis Burch (guitar, dobro, background vocals); Courtney Johnson (banjo, background vocals); Sam Bush (mandolin, fiddle, background vocals); John Cowan (bass instrument, background vocals). This concert was also released on DVD in 2002 and features additional tracks not featured on the album including a take on the Bill Monroe classic Uncle Pen.

New Grass Revival were known as much for existing outside the traditional bluegrass scene as they were for being incredible musicians. Their dress and appearance was nothing like their peers and they referred to themselves as 'newgrass'. Their songs were more akin to rock n' roll, soul, and reggae music than they were to traditional country. They were most certainly pioneers of what would become the jam band scene in the early 90s.

The band has reunited on two occasions since their breakup in 1989:

In 1997, when Garth Brooks was invited to perform on The Late Show with Conan O'Brien to perform "Do What You Gotta Do", a song written by Pat Flynn, he asked Flynn, Bush, Cowan, and Fleck to join him in performing it.

In April 2007, Bush, Fleck, Cowan, and Flynn stepped forward together into the spotlight during the Merlefest 20th Anniversary Jam and played the Townes Van Zandt song "White Freight Liner." The single song reunion was the first time the four of them had played together in a decade.

Source: Wikipedia

I have been a casual fan of Sam, Bela, and John via their more recent projects and I have been thrilled with discovering their collective work in New Grass Revival. I was introduced to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones upon their release of the double-live CD Live Art and I saw them open for Dave Matthews Band at the now demolished US Air Arena in Landover, MD around 1996. I first saw Sam Bush in concert at the Tsunami Relief Benefit at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC featuring moe., Trey Anastasio, and John Medeski on 2/10/2005 where Sam joined moe. on the excellent "Same 'Ol River", a song I'd had on my ipod for a couple years at the time. Just last week, I purchased New Grass Revival's Greatest Hits from iTunes and its been in rotation in my car on a daily basis.

Check out the following videos of New Grass Revival:


Can't Stop Now:

In The Middle Of The Night

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Bridge: Back In Time, 10/31/08

The Bridge celebrated Halloween last night in Richmond, VA with a show of originals mixed with a number of covers from 80's movie soundtracks. Looks like a fun night.

The Bridge
The Canal Club
Richmond, VA
October 31, 2008

Set One:

Superfunk >
Back In Time (Huey Lewis - Back To The Future) >
Brother Don't
In Dreams
Jump In The Line (Harry Belafonte - Beetlejuice)
Jomotion >
Theme From Rocky (Rocky) >
Eye of The Tiger (Survivor - Rocky III)
Honey Bee
Drop The Beat

Set Two:

Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. - Ghostbusters) >
Good Rhythm >
Drums >
Bad Locomotive >
Ghostbusters 2 (Bobby Brown) >
Bad Locomotive
The Candyman (Sammy Davis Jr. - Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) >
Whipping Post
Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins - Top Gun)
Heavy Water
Hey Pocky Way
Dirtball Blues


Mule Shines On Halloween

It turns out the rumors were true and Gov't Mule, with new bassist Jorgen Carlsson, played an entire set of Pink Floyd tunes to celebrate Halloween in Boston last night.

10/31/2008 - The Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA

Set 1

Brighter Days
Bad Little Doggie
Brand New Angel
Eternity's Breath Jam->
St. Stephen's Jam->
Monkey Hill
Child Of The Earth
Kinder Bird Jam*->
Kind Of Bird

Set 2
One Of These Days*->
Pigs On The Wing Part 2*->
Shine On You Crazy Diamond*$&->
Have A Cigar*&->
Speak To Me*->
On The Run*->
Great Gig In The Sky*$->
Comfortably Numb*$->
Shine On You Crazy Diamond Reprise*$&->
Wish You Were Here

A Million Miles From Yesterday$
Blind Man In The Dark&

*1st Time Played
$ with Machan Taylor, Sophia Ramos & Durga McBroom Hudson
& with Ron Holloway

Friday, October 31, 2008

R.I.P. Merl Saunders 1934-2008

There was one thing for sure when it came to Jerry Garcia and his music. He always knew how to find a great keyboard player. From Melvin Seals, to Bruce Hornsby, to Brent Mydland, Jerry usually shared a unique bond with whoever was "ticklin' the ivory". Perhaps one of the greatest ambassadors to the instrument was the late great Merl Saunders.

His roots with Garcia and the Grateful Dead go all the way back to 1971 when he contributed some tracks on the Dead's album Skull and Roses. This formed a relationship with the band that would last for the better part of the next 30 years. Merl went on to collaborate with Garcia's side band's Legion of Mary and Reconstruction.

In addition to that, Saunders formed his own band, Merl Saunders and Friends which saw contributions from Garcia, Dave Grisman, Vassar Clemmens, and John Kahn, just to name a few. Over the years Saunders worked with acts such as Phish, Miles Davis, and B.B. King.

Saunders built a resume and reputation over the years that proved that he could hang and play with the best in the business. He brought soul and feeling to his music that no one else could match, most notably on the Hammond B-3 Organ.

I managed to catch Saunders and his band play back in the late 90's at Baltimore's former brewery Bohager's. I specifically remember his version of the popular Dead tune Deal, and it stuck in my mind for a long time. He took the song and gave it its own spin and flavor that gave me new appreciation for the song. I'm sure he will be missed thoughout the music industry. Here's a statement from his official website:

Message from Merl Saunders' family:

Merl Saunders stood for music and love - his smile alone told you that. We loved him very much - and we know that you, his fans, did too. Sad as we are to lose him, we're very aware of being comforted by the affection coming from all those touched by that smile and that wonderful music. He was a special man, a beautiful companion, father, grandfather, and family patriarch, and the proof of that spirit is in the way you've reached out to us at his passing.

From our hearts, thank you. And we know Merl thanks you too.

Keep on keepin'on,
The Saunders Family

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feel Good About Hood

Between my mention of Drive By Truckers' Patterson Hood and his solo acoustic tour in a post last night, and my receipt of the latest Wolfgang's Vault newsletter featuring an Alice Cooper concert from the LA Forum on 7/27/75, and Halloween coming and all . . . . it occurred to me that I should post a video of Patterson Hood playing Cooper's hit "Eighteen" solo, on acoustic guitar. It's a tune I saw him play solo, acoustic at NYC's Bowery Ballroom on Halloween in 2003. I was able to tell Patterson how much I enjoyed that Halloween show at the Bowery when I had the pleasure of meeting him after the show at the Birchmere a few years later.

Enjoy the video...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Levi Stubbs Remembered

Best known as a magazine/website devoted to the alt-country genre, No Depression produced a fantastic tribute piece to the late, great Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops. Read it here.

Dances with Guitars

One of my favorite venues in the greater DC area is The Birchmere. The place offers a unique experience, in that it's the only concert hall that I've attended where they have strictly table and chair seating. In fact, there is a strict 'No Standing' rule. There is a full dinner menu and table service and no one has to leave their seat for a beverage. For those occasions where an act is better suited for an audience that wants to get down with their bad selves, there is another room, called The Bandstand, that can accommodate a larger, standing crowd. The vast majority of concerts though are in the seated hall, and the bands that play this room are suited for the quiet, attentive audience that the environment produces.

I did experience one concert there though where the strict No Standing, No Talking rules were completely disregarded. This night, James McMurtry and the Heartless Bastards were playing to a seated crowd. Early on, James mentioned that he was surprised that he wasn't booked into the Bandstand. This should have been a clue that we were in for a rockin' show. Partway into the set, a few mavericks in the audience decided that they were going to disregard the rules of the room and stand up and dance. This went on for a bit, with people seated behind them just trying to peer around them. As the night progressed, more and more people started standing up and eventually we were all on our feet and dancing to the music. It felt to me like we were in that movie with John Travolta and that other guy, where they're in Russia, but they don't realize they're in Russia, and they open up a nightclub, and people are exposed to rock n' roll music for the first time. Anyway, James put on a great show that night.

I've seen a wide range of other acts at The Birchmere, including from The Finn Brothers, a solo Patterson Hood, acoustic North Mississippi All Stars, and Emmylou Harris. I signed up on the mailing list so I can be apprised of show updates, and in the email newsletter received tonight (the inspiration for this post), I was shocked to read up on two acts set to perform there.

My first shock was that comedian Jackie Mason's performance on 10/31 is being postponed due to illness. How awful for the people who were lucky enough to score tickets while so many others were shut out due to overloaded Ticketmaster servers from scalper's automated ticket-buying software. Here's to a speedy recovery for the legendary Mr. Mason!!

And my second shock was in reading that, on December 2nd, Kevin Costner and Modern West will be gracing the stage at this Virginia venue. And yes, it is THAT Kevin Costner, performing with HIS band. To satisfy your curiosity, you can check out his Myspace site to hear what the tunes sound like. If his live shows are half as good as The Postman or Waterworld . . . .

Halloween Concerts

Much like New Year's Eve, Halloween is a challenging holiday for a concert goer. How do you rally the troops (i.e. your friends) into NOT going where EVERYONE they know is gonna be. Where all your friends will be wearing funny costumes AND get wasted. Sound fun? Not to me! After all, Halloween is now known for epic and surprising set lists (thanks Phish)...maybe more so than New Years. And the problem is you sure as hell don't want to go to a show alone!! That would just be lame. So what is a music fan to do?

Well, this year for Halloween I got the girlfriend on board for Ryan Adams at The Apollo! After some quick convincing that dressing up and wasting money at a random bar was just plain silly when my FAVORITE band is involved. (Maybe not my all time favorite, but who is counting.) So now that she was on board, I could set my sights on the on-sale date. I guess due to the limited number of tickets at the tiny Apollo, I promptly whiffed on getting tickets via Ticketmaster. Those bastards.

After some tears, and alot of haggling on Craigslist, I was able to secure a pair of tix for $75 each (which is about $50 over face in total). Not so bad. The Apollo is a pretty magical venue and it should be an epic show. Will I be wearing a costume?? Nope! Will I have an amazing Halloween? Well I will if Ryan can stay on stage without fighting with his bandmates or falling off of the stage. No drama, Ryan, no drama!

Here is who is playing in NYC on 10/31 (at least who I have heard of)

Ryan Adams - Apollo Theater
Misfits - B.B. King's Blues Club
Zappa Plays Zappa - Blender Theatre At Gramercy
Earl Greyhound - Bowery Ballroom
Patti Smith - Hammerstein Ballroom
The Black Crowes - Hammerstein Ballroom
Conspirator - HighLine Ballroom
Luis Miguel - Madison Square Garden Arena
Phil Lesh & Friends - Nokia Theatre Times Square
Armin Van Buuren - Roseland Ballroom

Speaking of Halloween, here is a clip of Jack's Mannequin, featured in the latest Lefsetz newsletter, covering Weezer's My Name is Jonas for Halloween 2006. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Alice In Chains will hit the road and tentatively issue its first new album in 14 years in 2009, according to a statement issued by the band's management

411mania reviews the new Lucinda Williams album

The Roanoke Times reviews Old Crow Medicine Show's recent show at the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre

Oasis' 2009 stadium tour broke all UK box office records when tickets went on sale, selling a staggering 500,000 tickets in several hours

The Boston Globe reviews the recent Who concert at the TD Banknorth Garden and the recent John Hiatt/Lyle Lovett concert at the Opera House.

Johnny Cash gets the remix treatment from the likes of "Snoop, Pete Rock, Alabama 3, The Heavy and other head-scratching candidates."

Gov't Mule plays their first show with new bassist Jorgen Carlsson when they kick off The Kinder Revolution Tour this Thursday at the Flynn Theatre in Burlington, Vt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Duo: Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in DC

Last Sunday night, I was lucky enough to witness a concert at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC performed by two of the most accomplished, yet underrated, singer-songwriters working today. Carriers of the Americana torch, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt performed strictly on acoustic guitars, seated next to one another for nearly three hours, with only a break prior to the encore. The evening consisted of one of them playing a song while the other watched on, and then the other would take their turn to perform. On select occasions, John would take a solo or pick up a harmonica, at the encouragement of Lyle, during one of Mr. Lovett's songs.

The two performers took opportunities between each song to chat back and forth candidly about the inspiration for the songs being performed, and also to tune their guitars (which became a running joke throughout the night). Of the two of them, Lyle seemed most interested in doing the talking, many times playing interviewer and coaxing stories from John. Lyle showed off his great sense of humor during these dialogs. During each exchange, he had the crowd rapt on each anecdote and observation he shared because he was just so damn funny. Musically, the show was phenomenal. It exceeded my expectations. Each of these guys have been performing for decades now and they have expansive catalogs of both hits and deep album cuts that are equally of high quality. I spent the night trying to decide who I liked more, and I found myself changing my opinion at numerous times, typically based on who was performing at the time.

John is more raw and soulful in both his singing and guitar work and Lyle is more polished and calculated in his. When they did decide to sing together, the harmonies melded perfectly in that Lyle's sweet tenor soared above and John's smoky baritone covered the low parts. Of all the songs played, I probably recognized one-third of them, mostly from my recent cramming in preparation for the concert, but it didn't matter one bit that the songs were new to me.

One of the highlights of the night was John's playing of 'Riding With The King,' originally written about a dream he had of flying on a plane with Elvis, and his subsequent telling of the story where Eric Clapton called him at his house to ask that he rewrite the song for Clapton and BB King's album, ultimately titled 'Riding With The King'.

Throughout the night, the crowd broke out into loud applause after each and every song performed during the marathon set. Those of us in the audience knew that we were watching something special. We got to enjoy two superstars on the same stage on the same night, performing songs stripped down to their essence, with no distractions. The show was closed out with a duet on the folk standard 'Ain't No More Cane', a song that both artists have recorded on their own albums. The song was also performed by The Band on The Basement Tapes, and on February 16, 2008, Lovett and Hiatt performed the song live at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, New York, along with The Band's Garth Hudson.

Two of the loudest reactions from the crowd, and deservedly so, emerged for their most recognizable hits, Hiatt's 'Thing Called Love' and Lovett's 'If I Had A Boat'. Enjoy them here, courtesy of IMEEM.

10 Things I Hate About...New York City

For those who live in NYC, or ever lived in NYC, this list might strike a chord or at least, rekindle some old, unpleasant memories. Yet, despite my complaints, I'm still magically drawn to this infinitely frenzied, claustrophobic urban mecca, and I have a hard time thinking about leaving it all in favor of a simpler life (is there any such a thing anymore anyway?); it's truly a love-hate relationship. As a young farm girl from Kansas once famously remarked, there's no place like home...

10) $12 beer night;

9) Crosstown traffic;

8) That my local diner charges $5.50 for a side order of turkey bacon;

7) Getting caught behind a smoking pedestrian;

6) The smell of rotting food and garbage on every corner;

5) Penn Station and Times Square;

4) People who get on subways/elevators before you get off;

3) Waking up at 7a.m. on a Sunday (or any day for that matter) to the sound of your street getting ripped apart for seemingly never-ending construction;

2) Two or more persons who occupy the entire width of the block while walking at an obnoxiously slow pace;

and of course,

1) Free-range coughers, sneezers and loud-talkers on public transportation. They are most definitely the worst of the bunch.

Did I leave any out?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Silent in the Morning

As expected, I came up empty on Phish tickets. In fact, everyone I know that tried was also unsuccessful. Yet again, I blame Ticketmonster.

This is how it went down:

I was in just seconds after 10:00 a.m. I entered my request for Friday night's show (2 tickets). So far, so good. I reached the security check screen (where you are prompted to enter distorted words seemingly in an attempt to prevent "Bots"). One problem: THE WORDS DIDN'T APPEAR! In a panic, I tried refreshing the words several times; hell, I even tried the "vision impaired" button (which didn't work either). Heart was racing, mouth was getting dry. As a last ditch, I opened another browser and re-logged in, but by this point, I knew it was too late. I spoke with the other members of The Weight, and they encountered the same problem -- an unreliable technology offered by Ticketmaster that intentionally or unintentionally prevents the general public from getting a fair shot at tickets. Sure, we all knew going in that our chances of getting tickets were slim, but this is just getting ridiculous. At least ensure that the website is operating properly! We had similar problems getting tickets for Pearl Jam and AC/DC which makes me think this is no mere coincidence.

What is more disturbing is the whole TicketsNow system. Talk about conspiracy theories. Bottom line: Ticketmaster makes more money, the brokers continue to corner the market, and the fans are getting fucked.

Nothing left to do but get back into bed...

Friday, October 17, 2008

RIP Levi Stubbs

I've just lowered the flags outside of Weight Headquarters DC. It is with great sadness that I report that the lead singer of The Four Tops has passed away in Detroit at the age of 72. With Stubbs in the lead, the Four Tops sold millions of records, including such hits as "Baby I Need Your Loving," "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.)"

The Four Tops were my first music purchase (cassette) and my first favorite band. My dad listened to Motown songs in the car all the time, and it was the Four Tops that I latched on to the most. With their four part harmonies and danceable grooves, they were the first step in my love of all kinds of music. And The Temptations couldn't touch 'em.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Read the full article that starts with this teaser - "Historian says Beatles were just capitalists, and not youth heroes"

Concord/Fantasy Records recently reissued Creedence Clearwater Revival's six major albums made between 1968 and 1970. They have all been digitally remastered, and contain added tracks of B-sides and previously unreleased live and studio material.

American Idol creator Simon Fuller wants to find the new Monkees.

Actor Forest Whitaker will play the late, great Louis Armstrong in a movie biopic.

Read the surprising results, just released, of Radiohead's pay what you want promotion for In Rainbows.

Eminem To Return With Relapse

Eminem may be just about the only rap act, outside of The Streets, who would cause me to get excited about news of a new album. I couldn't name one song from today's so-called hip-hop superstars like Lil' Wayne, TI, Akon, and Twista. Hell, I don't even know if I just gave you a legit list of who's selling singles these days. Slim Shady has consistently proven to me that he's a talented dude, worthy of praise from even those of us who don't really listen to rap anymore. 'Stan' still ranks up there with my favorite songs of all time. I would like nothing more than to be blown away by another song like it, so today's news that Marshall would be releasing a new album, possibly before 2008 ends, called Relapse, got me revisiting his catalog today.

"Purple Pills" may not be a proper Eminem song. It was released by his side project D-12. But I love it too much to not post it here. Check it out...

Purple Pills
Devil's Night

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rockin' Resume: Kris Kristofferson

So despite the corny title, I'm hoping that this becomes a regular installment on The Weight. The idea is to shed light on some of the lesser-known or underrated names in rock history -- you know, the guys and gals whose songs you hum, but can't quite remember who wrote them. I thought Kris Kristofferson would be a good place to start.

1936 - Kristofferson is born in Brownsville, Texas.

1954 - Kristofferson enrolls at Pomona College where he graduates Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Literature. He is an active member of the rugby, football and track & field teams.

1960 - Kristofferson obtains an MA in English Literature from Oxford University where he is a Rhodes Scholar. He is a distinguished boxer during his time at Oxford.

Date unknown - Kristofferson follows in the footsteps of his father and joins the Army. He becomes a helicopter pilot, completes Army Ranger School and earns the rank of Captain.

1965 - Kristofferson is offered a teaching position at West Point but ultimately turns it down to pursue a career in music. Kristofferson moves to Nashville, TN where he works odd jobs, including one as a janitor at Columbia Studios. It is here, he meets Johnny Cash.

1966 - Kristofferson watches Bob Dylan record portions of Blonde on Blonde at Columbia Studios. Kristofferson's song "Viet Nam Blues" becomes a hit with Dave Dudley.

1967 - Kristofferson signs with Epic Records. He pens a number of hits, including "Me and Bobby McGee."

1970 - Kristofferson signs with Monument Records. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price and others all score hits with several of Kristofferson's songs.

1971 - Janis Joplin posthumously releases Pearl. "Me and Bobby McGee" reaches #1 on the charts.

1973 - Kristofferson marries singer Rita Coolidge and they have one child together. They later divorce.

1974 - Kristofferson plays the cool and free-spirited rancher David, in Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Ellen Burstyn wins the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.

1979 - Willie Nelson releases Wille Nelson Sings Kris Kristofferson. The album is a huge success.

1983 - Kristofferson marries Lisa Meyers. One of their five children is named Johnny Cash Kristofferson.

1985 - Kristofferson forms The Highwayman, a country supergroup featuring, Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings. Kristofferson is inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame that same year.

2004 - Kristofferson is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

2008 - Kristofferson continues to write songs, particularly those advocating peace and an end to the war.

Hats off to Kris Kristofferson

"Me and Bobby McGee"
Isle of Wight, 1970

Beat it! On down the line...

Meeting the Dead was quite literally, a somber experience.

Let's rewind 2 weeks ago: Best Buy in Midtown Manhattan was having a promotion where the first 400 people to purchase The Dead's latest release -- Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 -- would be invited back to meet Bobby [Weir] and Phil [Lesh] on October 14th. We were told that they would sign "one item of your choosing" (and say "howdy," whatever that means). So naturally, I waited in line for 2 hours (beginning at 7 a.m.) to buy the c.d.

Fast-forward to last night: The event ran from 7-9 on the dot. I was literally amongst the last 5 people in line. I figured they would cut some slack for the last few stragglers. I was wrong. The natives were getting restless. Wookies were cursing out security. Hippies were wielding bongo drums at khaki-clad Best Buy employees. The only person missing was Colonel Kurtz. It was nearing the end and everyone was on edge. I had been waiting for almost 1-1/2 hours. Phil and Bobby were finally in plain view. I began making my descent towards the table when suddenly, Kojak seizes the "one item" from my death grip and hands it to the guys (all the while I'm still away from the table). Once signed, he finally gave me the "ok" to approach. Of course, photos were out of the question (although I did manage to sneak one). It was set up like an assembly line straight out of Flint. Anyway, I get to the table, manage to say "howdy," when all of the sudden, pure instinct kicked in. I whipped out two ticket stubs for Phil and Bobby to sign when I felt a large hand on my shoulder [not gently] prodding me away. People kept shouting, "one item," "one item only!" Much to my chagrin, Phil just stared dumbfounded and seemed to mutter "sorry" under his breath as I was being manhandled away. Bobby was just plain dazed -- I doubt he had any clue what was going on.

Moral of the story: Best Buy + The Grateful Dead = MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lyle Lovett: Step Inside This House

Last night I showed some love to John Hiatt, one half of the co-bill that I'll be seeing on Sunday night in the District. Tonight, I'm going to feature the other half, Mr. Lyle Lovett. Of all the songs I've listened to of his in recent weeks, having not heard much at all before that, I've been the biggest fan of those on his Step Inside This House album. Released in 1998, this double disc set features the songs of his fellow Texas artists, including those that inspired him to write songs himself. The writers selected include Robert Earl Keen, Michael Martin Murphey, Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Walter Hyatt. Lyle's band for this record includes bluegrass living legends Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro, and Alison Krauss on background vocals.

The title track is one of my favorites on the album, and is the one I'll share here. The song was written by Guy Clark, the man who penned "Desperados Waiting For a Train", which was taken to the Top 20 by the legendary Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings). Lyle's voice on this tune shows off the perfect laid-back confidence that is unfailingly consistent on every song he sings.

Step inside this house girl
I'll sing for you a song
I'll tell you 'bout just where I've been
It shouldn't take too long
I'll show you all the things that I own
My treasures you might say
Couldn't be more than ten dollars worth
They brighten up my day


Watch a video of Guy Clark performing "Desperados Waiting For A Train" from the Heartworn Highways DVD, a documentary film by James Szalapski capturing some of the founders of the Outlaw Country movement in Texas and Tennessee in the mid 70s.

Watch the performance of 'My Baby Don't Tolerate' from an episode of Austin City Limits [PBS] featuring the quartet of Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Guy Clark, and Joe Ely, recorded on 10/20/2006.