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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Dream Team: Loudon Wainwright & John Hiatt

Browsing around the Internet tonight for Loudon Wainwright III tracks and reviews of his recent concerts, I stumbled on this rare gem, pairing two of my favorite singer/songwriters of the moment.
I bought tickets to see Loudo at the tiny Barns at Wolf Trap next month after reading Bob Lefsetz's glowing reviews of his genius songwriting and lyrics. I have been listening to his songs online constantly for the last month or so. He has an endless catalog that can be witty and funny at one moment and in the next be deeply emotional and soul-bearing. Very few artists can execute effectively on both ends of that spectrum.

What I found tonight through Hype Machine was a stripped-down, acoustic guitar and piano take on the Motown classic 'My Girl' by the aforementioned LW3 alongside the equally talented John Hiatt, another singer that I love who should receive so much more recognition than he does.

Take a listen to their version of 'My Girl'
[via Cover Lay Down]

I'm seeing John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett performing together on Sunday night, which I'll be reviewing for the site. I've been increasingly enjoying Lyle Lovett's songs too, not just his amazing version of Friend of the Devil. I'm definitely noticing a pattern in my listening as of late, trending towards the style of these gentlemen. This may have been triggered by my seeing Jackson Browne in concert last month.

Status Update: "SAYONARA!"

"I became despondent. What, then, was I? If my time was spent changing my profile picture on Facebook, thinking of a clever status update for Facebook, checking my profile again to see if anyone had commented on my page, Is this what I am? A person who re-visits her own thoughts and images for hours each day? And so what do I amount to? An egotist? A voyeur? Whatever the label, I was unhappy and feeling empty. The amount of time I spent on Facebook had pushed me into an existential crisis. It wasn't the time-wasting, per se, that bothered me. It was the nature of the obsession -- namely self-obsession. Enough was enough. I left Facebook."

Sounds like something Woody Allen would have said-- maybe even Freud. Chillingly, it's all too true. This excerpt is from a recent article which attempts to rationalize the seemingly infinite Facebook frenzy...or dilemma, depending on how you view it. The author, who apparently paid attention in PSYCH 101, makes a compelling argument regarding the link between narcissism, egotism, boredom and even voyeurism amongst, as she aptly observes, the "look at me" generation. The article struck a particular note considering just one month ago, I virtually [pun intended] dismantled about 99% of my profile (including photos) for many of the same reasons examined in her passage.

Psychoanalysis aside, howabout the fact that any shred of privacy you once had pre-Facebook, MySpace, or Friendster is now appalingly non-existent. In fact, I think I can hear George Orwell saying "I told you so" from the grave as I'm writing this. Even if you're too cool to be concerned with the ever-present "Big Brother" aspect perpetuated by "social-networking" [surveillance] sites, aren't you the least bit creeped out that your boss is getting off to pictures of you doing body shots at an office happy-hour...during your lunch break?? I am.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

iPhone Photos of the Day - 10/12/08

Man Rocking the Keytar
14th Street/Union Square Subway Station, NYC

Jones Soda Flavors: Strawberry Manilow, D'Peach Mode, and Bohemian Rasberry
Drink Fridge @ Barnes & Noble, Citgroup Center, 54th Street/Lexington Avenue, NYC

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'm Amazed

My Morning Jacket is gettin' some love right now on New York City's WRXP, with the band's "I'm Amazed" making its way through the airwaves. Nice to hear a real band, playing real instruments, with a real good tune in rotation. Maybe music isn't over...

Here is the video via YouTube.

VH1 Video Countdown - 10/11/08

I don't generally watch TRL-type music video countdown shows. In fact, Total Request Live shuttered its windows for good a few weeks back. But being up before 11 am on a Saturday for the first time in forever, I found myself curious as to what the kiddies these days are listening to. And I now know why I don't follow this crap. I'm a cynic and always wondered if people are actually voting for these things or if the network is beholden to advertisers, corporations, and sponsors. Well, here is your Top 20 America, including:

American Idol Retreads:
Jennifer Hudson (7)
Jordin Sparks (20)
Daughtry (2)
Leona Lewis (3)( she counts, Product of British X Factor)
and Archie himself, David Archuleta! (1)

Oldies But Goodies(?):
Bret Michaels!!! (16)
Staind (11)
Gavin Rossdale?!? (10)
New Kids on the Block (4)
Three Doors Down (6)
Lifehouse (8)
Pink (5)

Jam/Frat House Rockers:
O.A.R (13)

Did I mention AC/freakin/DC is on the list with a bullet at #17.

What alternate universe has the "music" world entered??? AC/DC in that company? Archuletta is your #1? Really?!?

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Bridge To Release New Album

The Bridge are set to release their latest studio album, Blind Man's Hill [Hyena Records] on October 21st. Honest Tune's Tim Newby wrote a great piece about the band and their recording of the album. I'm looking forward to both hearing the disc and attending their CD release show in Baltimore on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at Baltimore's Ram's Head Live. The Bridge draw huge crowds for this now annual late November show.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Soup or Group

It's time to play everyone's favorite blog gameshow.


In Today's "Soup Or Group", you will have the opportunity to choose between:

SOUP: Lobster bisque

GROUP: After playing together live for the first time in February during a solo Sammy Hagar concert in Las Vegas, a new group featuring the ex-Van Halen vocalist, bassist Michael Anthony, guitarist Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith is making an album.

Read the rest of this article.

Cash For Your Extra? Part II

It's only been a few days since Phish's announcement of a live return, and longtime phans are still buzzing about it. This includes our buddy Brian who has filed his second report about the reunion.

Ok, so the dust has settled a little bit, and the shock has worn off (kinda). I must say after speaking and texting with several people yesterday, the buzz is in the air. Ladies and Gentleman, Phish is back on the road. I started to think about this yesterday and it is amazing to me the huge amount of hype and excitement that this band generates. I've been trying to put my finger on why this particular band gives people such a feeling of euphoria. Why in the end does it always come back to Phish?

Including local shows, I have probably been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts in my 30 years of life. My interests in music have always been very eclectic and I've always tried to have an open mind when it comes to choosing musical acts to see. Over the years I have seen rock, R&B, bluegrass, metal, classical, alternative, jazz, and so on....My point is that I've opened my musical spectrum to all genres. Each show I go to fulfills a different side of my musical interest. Music has always fascinated me to a level that I can't describe. It literally touches my soul. It inspires me, makes me sad or happy, reminds me of a time in my life, etc. Any musical enthusiast will probably tell you the same thing. I guess this is part of the reason that I learned to play guitar and piano. So, that I could begin to explore my own musical outlets....Ok, sorry about getting a little off topic here. Anyway, going back to Phish. The four guys in Phish love music and their own influences purely reflect their style. Each member brings a different aspect to the table. Mike brings the bluegrass and country, Trey the 70's style rock, Page brings the jazz and ragtime, and Fishman brings it all together with his impressively technical style. When you throw this all together, I guess you have Phish. There is no other way to really describe their music. I think what's creative about Phish is that you never know what you will get at each concert. Each setlist is different and their onstage antics over the years have proved to be comical and surprising. Other bands will go on tour and play the same songs in the same order and even say the exact same things on stage each night. Phish does merely the opposite of this. The entire experience of driving from city to city following this band is an adventure in itself. I met many people over the years at Phish concerts and you really do see the same faces year after year. Its like a large extended family. Maybe this is why people are so attracted to the scene. People feel a sense of community and acceptance when on the road with the band. For me personally, I like the spontaneity of the band itself. I like their improvisational style and their highly regarded expertise at each instrument they play. The energy that the band can achieve musically is simply something that can't be described in words. Simply put, their music makes me feel good...really good! I like the excitement I feel before the show anticipating what the band will do that night and wondering if they will play a song I haven't heard before or whether they will break out some new material. All of the sights, sounds, and smells of the parking lot before and after each show is certainly something you will always remember (for those of you who have never been to a Phish concert).

I guess its a combination of all of these ideas that makes people so crazy for Phish. The end result is that the band continues to evolve musically and its phans want more, more, more. If the band keeps booking shows, the phans will follow. They will always want that high of the entire Phish experience. For some its about the music, for some its about the scene, for some its about the drugs, and for some its just about a good time. I guess I can say that I'm in for a little bit of everything. I saw this band 45 times between 1996-2004 and every show brought me a different and memorable experience. I kept going back because the whole experience was always an adventure. I really can't describe it any other way to you. For anyone that has been to a handful of Phish concerts, you know what I'm talking about and you understand why their return has turned everyone upside down. It will be interesting to see how long the band's return to the stage will last. Only time will tell.

Page, Jones To Tour Without Plant??

Could Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham set out on tour without Jimmy Page? According to London's The Sun, it's possible if Robert Plant fails to agree to tour with the threesome.

Would you still pay to see a Plant-less Zep? Who could fill Plant's shoes?

I think Chris Cornell would be an excellent choice. Check out this clip featuring Cornell's acoustic take on Led Zeppelin's 'Thank You'. Now that [the trainwreck] Audioslave is behind him, I imagine his schedule is pretty clear.

Freestreamin' Bob Dylan is currently streaming Bob Dylan's new album, Tell Tale Signs for free.

Bonnaroo 2009 On The Calendar

According to Alpha and Omega Mounted Security Patrol, Bonnaroo 2009 will take place from Thursday June 11 to Sunday June 14, 2009. That's less than 250 days folks. Also of note, Bonnaroo will not take place on Father's Day. My dad will appreciate that.

Thanks to PT for the tip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Superbad Brad Prowley

In my Apollo Theater web searching I decided to dig into YouTube for some archive Amateur Night footage. I came across the following clip which you HAVE to watch!

So, now the controversy. Who is this guy?!?!? Is he REALLY homeless? An up-and-coming singer looking for a visual hook? Bruce Willis in disguise as a few posters thought? He has been "outed" as Brad Prowley, real life homeless guy. I'm not convinced...What do you think?

It's (Almost) Showtime...At The Apollo

Of all of the vaunted music halls in Manhattan I've crossed off of my list after visiting, I have not yet attended a concert at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. But tonight, a change is gonna come. Unfortunately, I'm not checking out Steve Harvey hosting Amateur Night, or witnessing James Brown or BB King making history at the venue. Instead, I will be trekking up to 125th Street to see Jenny Lewis, of Rilo Kiley fame, working through her solo catalogue and perhaps some choice covers and Rilo hits.

To give you some perspective on why I'm thrilled to head uptown tonight, The Apollo, and Harlem for that matter, were part of so many of my Saturday nights as a kid. I would watch in amusement and awe as some very (and some not so very) talented singers, rappers, dancers, comedians, beatboxers, and "special talents" took to the stage for a taste of fame on Amateur Night. As a 10 or 11 year old, the show seemed to me to be broadcast at 1 am (although it was probably much earlier) and there was a bit of a dangerous element to the show as the performers would try their best not get booed off of the stage by the raucous audience on seemingly live television. This was way before reality TV and the only place you could see true heartbreak on the air.

Also, I was mesmerized by the ageless and beautiful co-host KiKi Sheperd and always chuckled when "The Sandman" would bring out the cane to corral the losers off of the stage. And of course there was the lucky stump that every act rubbed for luck before they went in front of the curtain.

It's going to be surreal seeing the neon lights in person at night tonight and then filing into the velvet-seated theater where so many famous (and not so famous) acts have performed. I'll post more about my experience at the show later on...

Extra: According to it's Wikipedia entry, the Apollo became famous for assisting in launching the careers of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, and Sarah Vaughan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Astral Weekend

Multi-award winning musical legend Van Morrison will take to the Los Angeles concert stage for "Astral Weeks Live" at the Hollywood Bowl on November 7 and 8, closing out the 2008 season of the famous venue. Van Morrison has over 150 songs featured in major motion pictures--with the latest being featured in the Scorsese film "The Departed". Tickets for the concerts go on sale 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, with Citi pre-sales beginning 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1 through 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4.

While the first half of the show features Morrison and his band playing the timeless classics that have made him a legend, the second half is a breathtaking cover to cover recreation of the "Astral Weeks" album. The Astral Weeks band will be a different line up and include band members from the original sessions. The seminal astral weeks recordings established Van Morrison as a great solo artist and has consequentially changed the face of music.

Read the full press release

Astral Weeks

We are pleased to bring you this earnest and engaging reflection from one of our favorite contributors/readers regarding one of his (and our) favorite albums. There is no doubt that this album will have greater meaning and significance after reading this pointed examination. Enjoy.

Van Morrison is about to do something very
Un-Van Morrison. Not only is he intentionally revisiting his back catalog, but he is re-creating his first solo album, Astral Weeks -- the masterpiece -- in its entirety -- with horns, strings and all before a live audience. According to recent news clippings, he will be gathering many of the musicians who appeared on the original album. These will be two very special shows at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl (live recordings on vinyl should be out by Christmas, and cds, in early 2009). Very, very exciting stuff.

A look back on Astral Weeks:

Never before has there been a more perfect album. From the moment the needle hits the wax (or "play" for you digital heads), this collection of songs has the ability to release endorphins within the listener's body and mind. Truly a special composition, the album is, for me, one long dream sequence; the "subconscious" concept album. No literal thread, but complete symmetry, balance, and theme.

Side 1:

Astral Weeks
- The title track starts off the album instantly. Tapping high hats, shakers, John Platania on guitar, and then, "if i ventured in the slip stream / behind the viaducts of your dreams." At this point, you're in that quasi-alert state just before sleep -- a sort of semi-conscious dream. The song continues as a perfect microcosm of the whole album. Lyrically, nothing quite makes sense. Every reference point is negated with another meaningless phrase. The stream of consciousness of Joyce buried in Irish poet folklore and paired beautifully with Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The strings pick up. Enter a dancing flute (John Payne). "Ain't nothin' but a stranger in this world / ain't nothin' but a stranger in this world." And finally, we are reminded exactly where this album is coming from and hopefully where it is taking us: "in another time, in another place / in another time, in another place."

Beside You
- Track two starts off a bit more ominously. We're reminded that we are all lost somewhere, alone, "down the road so dark and narrow, in the evening." The song is filled with fear, loneliness, and longing to be, as the title and refrain suggest, beside you. Once again, there is something in the ether -- it can't quite be touched, quantified, accurately described or caught -- "you turn around / you turn around / you turn around." The same dancing flute pervades this track. Only this time a bit more somber, almost haunting. We are alone. We are mortal. "You breath in/you breath out / you breath in/you breath out."

Sweet Thing
- The rhythm guitar, the triangle, the pounding of the upright bass, and then, "I will stroll my merry way and jump the hedges first / and I will drink the clear clean water for to quench my thirst/and i will never grow so old again / and I will walk and talk in gardens all misty wet with rain." Here, Van has found what Ponce de Leon dedicated his life to. The dream motif continues. This is a surreal world where all are invincible; what is old and broken is repaired as new; what is dead, is alive once again. "And I will never remember that I ever felt the pain." The greens are greener, the sun is brighter, the love is sweeter, and we're all drunk on optimism. "Sugar baby with the champagne eyes."

Cyprus Avenue
- Van's ode to childhood insecurity and subdued class warfare. "Caught one more time up on Cyprus Avenue." This is the dream when you realize everything looks familiar and you're back in your old neighborhood; back in grade school; angst-ridden, frustrated and angry at being forced to walk past those "big mansions on the hills" and when you're too nervous to talk to the girls; "my tongue gets tied every time I try to speak;" and when "my insides shakes just like a leaf on a tree / I'm caught one more time way up on Cyprus Avenue."

Side one ends with this track. And if the album ended right here, this would be one passionate, complete free-form composition. An incredible accomplishment for a budding solo artist -- only 23 years-old. But as he would later scream while performing this track live in 1974 (backed by the Caledonia Soul Orchestra), "it's too late to stop now."

[flip record over]

Side Two:

The Way Young Lovers Do
- Side two starts with this frenetic jazz-influenced ramble. The horns are wailing, the strings are doing their best impression of a horn section, all the while Van is scatting along. Perhaps the simplest lyrical composition on the album, the track sums up youthful idealist love quite succinctly: "we sat on our own star and dreamed of they way that we were / and the way that we wanted to be / of the way that I was for you / and you were for me" -- the staccato of those lyrics repeated for emotional impact, followed by the free-form jazz solos until it brazenly backs away from the moment: "and we danced the night away."

Madam George
- Clocking in at over 9 minutes, this track shows Van at his most patient. It has been said that this is by far the greatest song ever written about a transvestite with a love of gambling. I'd have to agree. The song returns to Cyprus Avenue with a bit of a flip -- we are no longer "up on Cyprus Avenue" but instead, "we're down on Cyprus Avenue." This is one of the most surreal dream sequences of the album. The narrator is stuck in smoky parlors with "the one and only Madame George...playing dominoes in drag." The room is "filled with music, laughter, music all around." The cops break up the party, the guests are as frazzled as the violin strings, and contraband is thrown from the window "out onto the street below." If you're lucky, you'll have enough time to say your respects, and hop a "train down to Sandy Row." As for the Queen of the party, it doesn't look good. Van compels us to "say good bye, good-bye, good-bye," and lastly to "dry your eye for Madam George." The song fades out, fades back in, back out again, and then in, as Van scats "Love to love to love to love to love to love to love," and finally reminds us to "say good-bye / take the train and say good-bye."

- "Spread your wings / come on fly a while straight to my arms / oh little angel child." Does it get better than this? Once again, stream of consciousness takes over. Just when a narrative takes shape, Van shatters it. "When it gets to you / and you feel like you just cant go on / and you think you're heading for a fall," he continues, "just step right up / ring the bell / just like a ballerina." You are startled in your sleep, you wake up, and you try to make sense of the dream you were having. Can never quite touch it; can never quite reason with it. With eyes open, there is no narrative. "Get on up / keep on movin' / moving on / a little higher baby."

Slim Slow Slider
- The most somber song on the album. Death, despair, jealousy, hopelessness, the end. The juxtaposition to Sweet Thing. This time, the dream is over; what's dead is dead and what's living is dying. "I know your dying, and I know you know it too." This is desperate, this is dark. There are no happy endings. Drug references seem to bubble up from this one. Is it Heroin? Cocaine? "Horse you ride is white as snow." Is it a farewell to youth? Is it one long suicide letter? "I saw you walking this morning / catching pebbles from some sandy beach / you're out of reach / saw you out there this morning / with your brand new boy and your Cadillac / you're gone for something/and i know you won't be coming back / every time I see you, I just don't know what to do / I know your dying, and I know you know it too."

The metaphor of the pebble tossed sidearm into the pond seems to work. The pebble hits the waters, skips up into the air, skims the water, back into the air. Water, air, water, air, and then finally, it sinks to the bottom.

Mojo magazine put out a fantastic retrospective of the making of the album a few years ago. Stories abound how Van didn't communicate with any of the session musicians on the album. He ran to a private room between sets. The 23 year old skiffle musician was in awe with the great jazz session men playing on his song cycle. But that's not for me to comment on. In the meantime, we should all wait with high expectations that these live shows in November produce something as special as the 1968 live jazz sessions in NYC. Until then, the record sounds as sweet today as it will 40 years from now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cash For Your Extra?

Well, undoubtedly you've already heard the news about Phish announcing their first post-breakup shows to be held next March in Hampton, VA. Our friend Brian sent us his thoughts on the announcement and what will surely be a tough ticket:

I must admit that I did not see this coming so soon. I really felt in my heart that Phish was in no way prepared to make a comeback so quickly. My instincts told me that we may see a reunion show sometime in late 2009, but what the hell do I know. It definitely raises some questions when you think about it. When the band called it quits in 2004, Trey really made it sound like the band was officially done for good and their was no shot of them continuing on. Now, I know that their have been shows where members of the band played onstage together, and in the past few months, the rumors have been flying around like crazy as to what would happen next. Well, the boys are back and it looks like they are in no way done. My question is, why? One could argue that the four guys in the group have all enjoyed doing their own thing musically, and since they are getting along so well, why not pick up right where they left off. As Trey so bluntly put it..." I would give my left nut to play that song onstage every night for the rest of my life" (referring to You Enjoy Myself). I'm hoping that their decision to return is that genuine. All four guys in that group love music, and love to evolve through a musical outlet. I'm sure that they feel they can continue to grow as individuals and as a band through Phish. The only other reason I could see them returning is simply for money. Although I doubt that this is their prime motivation. I imagine that all four guys are rather wealthy and money really isn't an issue to them anymore. I know that when the band broke up, Trey said he felt really bad about having to inform nearly 100 people that they no longer had a job. He was referring to the Phish front office and road crew. My guess is that all of these people when on to other ventures but now maybe they will have a chance to relive old glory days. All in all, it makes me very happy to know that Phish has decided to take the plunge and give it another run for the phans. The scene has changed in the last few years and it will be interesting to see who the band attracts. So far, the band has announced 3 shows in March at Hampton Coliseum's "Spaceship". I saw Phish their many times and anyone that has been there knows it holds only about 12,000 people. Well, I can only imagine that hundreds of thousands of people are gonna want to get into those three nights so tickets will be very hard to come by and expensive once its sold out. I am going to do my best to get in all 3 nights but I know its going to be difficult.