Thursday, March 24, 2011

Richard Ashcroft: Bowery Ballroom, New York, 3/23/11

There is no point in being an apologist.  As they say, "honesty is the best policy," so I'm just going to come out and say it:  last night's R.A. show just wasn't that good.  Ashcroft, who I've seen perform with The Verve back in 2008 at the WaMu Theater (MSG), is undoubtedly a charismatic guy.  His vocals are sonic and gritty.  He has a loyal following of fans who often deify him as one of the true greats -- not to mention he practically invented the look and style of the modern Brit-rocker. However, his songwriting ability as of late is quite frankly, deplorable.  So bad, that at times, I was actually embarrassed for him. Performing before a sold-out crowd of 500+ at New York's historic Bowery Ballroom, there were regrettably less than a handful of moments that I felt justified Ashcroft's otherwise divine reputation.  

For starters, the music, particularly the lyrics to his new material, is amateur at best.  Singing trite songs about America, life, and repetitively asking (in his latest release) "Are you Ready?" just simply isn't gonna cut it, not in this city at least.   At times, the vocals were uncomfortably loud and muddled (which was a major complaint of the aforementioned '08 Verve show) and the synth sounded more like looped back-tracking than a live instrument. On the plus side, his band was stellar.  Equipped with a Questlove-type drummer and part-rasta, part-Prince influenced guitarist, I think these guys deserve much of the credit for carrying an otherwise lackluster performance by Ashcroft.  Sure, there were a few good moments, like Ashcroft on acoustic for "Sonnet" or the band's decent rendition of "Lucky Man," but overall, I'm afraid this show will be filed in the back-catalog of forgettable concerts I've seen in my lifetime.  

Note to Ashcroft:  next time you make it back to NYC, do everyone a favor and belt-out some acoustic Verve favorites like we know you can. At the end of the day, that's what the people wanna hear.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Simpsons and Delilah

The Simpsons are no strangers to good music. Over the years, we've seen cameos by The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, Phish, R.E.M, and RHCP, not to mention music clips from hundreds of bands. Don't ask how I spotted this (okay, so I happened to have paused a Simpsons' rerun on DVR and glanced at the screen in the process), but in Episode No. 88, Bart's Inner Child, Homer comes across an ad for a free trampoline. Check the ad right below the trampoline ad...

Funny thing, the Dead were still alive and touring back then.  Now if only there was a Dick's Picks for Capitol City, 1993...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trampled By Turtles Returning to DelFest

The WeightStaff will not be making their 8th appearance at Bonnaroo this June. I'm not willing to say that we'll never return there, but this year's lineup was not enough to get us back to the farm for another go. I don't regret any of the pilgrimages we've made to Manchester over the last decade, but each year the walks between stages got a little further, the wait times between bands got a little longer, the sun got a little hotter, and I kept getting older. The smaller, more manageable festivals seem much more attractive to me now and this year we are considering a trip to Western Maryland for the fourth annual DelFest. In my old age (full disclosure: 32), I am getting more and more into bluegrass and roots music, as I feel it represents the purity of music, with nothing but instrumentation and amplification, and none of the technical gimmickry that plagues so much of modern music. Don't get me wrong, I'm far from opposed to beats, samples, and synthesizers but there is something about being out in the mountains of Cumberland, MD, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying to some pickin' and grinnin' that I find really enticing.

One of the bands that I'm looking forward to seeing live for the first time is Trampled By Turtles. They are a young group of musicians from Duluth, MN that are keeping the traditions of Americana/Bluegrass music alive while bringing in some sensibilities of rock n' roll music. They fit very nicely in the same category as the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. It may be only a matter of time before TxT find similar success.

Wait So Long


DelFest takes place at the Allegheny County Fairgrounds on May 26-29.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super Group Saturday: Black Country Communion

Tonight, we bring the first ever (and let's be honest, the last ever) installment of Super Group Saturday. It features a band called Black Country Communion. Despite your initial suspicions, this supergroup does not include Clint Black or Darius Rucker. It actually features hard/prog/blues rock heroes Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, Derek Sherinian, and Joe Bonamassa. The band is named for the industrial West Midlands region to the north of Birmingham in the UK. So who are this band of merry men and why do they deserve to be called a Supergroup?

Black Country Communion is:

Glenn Hughes - Bassist/Vocalist for Deep Purple from 1973 - 1976 [The only years where Roger Glover did not play bass for DP; Fronted Black Sabbath in 1986. Served as frontman for Sabbath side-project Heaven and Hell after Dio's death.

Jason Bonham - Drummer and son of legendary Zep drummer John Bonham; Performed as drummer for Jimmy Page, Foreigner, Paul Rodgers.

Derek Sherinian - Keyboardist for Dream Theater from 1994 - 1998, incl. Change of Seasons album. He has toured with Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kiss, and Alice In Chains.

Joe Bonamassa - American blues/rock guitarist; Played with Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Gregg Allman, Steve Winwood, Paul Jones, Ted Nugent, Warren Haynes, Eric Clapton, and Derek Trucks.  Opened for BB King at age 12.

The track featured here is from their 2010 debut album.  Its called "Sista Jane". The chorus sounds interestingly familiar to Jefferson Starship's 1979 hit "Jane", which was featured in the opening sequence to Wet Hot American Summer:

Black Country Communion
Sista Jane

For comparison purposes, here is Jefferson Starship's Jane:

Dawes - My Girl to Me

The WeightStaff is very excited at the news of Robbie Robertson selecting Dawes to be his backing band on a few select dates this year. The California rockers, at the Rock n' Roll Hotel in DC, put on probably my favorite concert of last year. It was certainly the one that most exceeded my expectations. Selecting Dawes was a very interesting choice, given that Robertson could have his pick of almost any working musicians. Robbie is pushing 68-years old and each of the members of Dawes are in their early 20s, even younger then The Band when they played Woodstock 42 years ago. This is just going to make Robbie look even older than he already is. But I think the guys in Dawes will bring an energy that a band of studio musicians could never create. Dawes are still on their way up in the world and they know that this is both another opportunity for them to get their name out there and a chance to work with one of their heroes.

If you're not yet familiar with Dawes, check out this video of 'Still My Girl to Me' that they recorded for the FUSE TV network just two weeks ago.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ryan Adams Returns to Touring

Ryan Adams will end his self-imposed touring hiatus by going out on a 12-date solo tour in Europe this June.  All of the dates have him at traditional venues, with no festival dates included.  This is a great sign for those of us holding out hope that he would hit the stage sometime soon.  Hopefully he announces some Stateside shows rather than returning back into hibernation.

June 10 Stockholm, Sweden—Cirkus
June 11 Oslo, Norway—Folketeatret
June 13 Malmö, Sweden—The Consert House
June 14 Copenhagen, Denmark Koncerhauset
June 16 Lisbon, Portugal—Aula Magna
June 17 Porto, Portugal Teatro—Sa Da Bandeira
June 20 London, UK—Barbican
June 22 Brighton, UK—Dome
June 23 Manchester, UK—Bridgewater Hall
June 25 Glasgow, UK—Academy
June 26 Oxford, UK—Oxford New Theatre
June 28 Amsterdam, Holland—Concertgebouw

I'm not sure when this clip was filmed, but its definitely from the early 2000s, closer to when Gold was released.  Its from the time before Ryan entered his Grateful Dead period where he replaced folksy Americana for Psychedelia and got himself a rock n' roll band.  I really liked that Cold Roses-era (as does Phil Lesh who continues to cover material from that record), but I'm ready to see him go back to the Neil Young/Heart of Gold-style that he so perfectly plays in this video.  

Ryan Adams (Solo)
Oh My Sweet Carolina 

Call Me On Your Way Back Home

Sunday, March 13, 2011

RIP Owsley 'Bear' Stanley

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Owsley "Bear" Stanley, a 1960s counterculture figure who flooded the flower power scene with LSD and was an early benefactor of the Grateful Dead, died in a car crash in his adopted home country of Australia on Sunday, his family said. He was believed to be 76.

A statement released by [Sam] Cutler on behalf of Stanley's family said the car crash occurred near his home in far north Queensland. He is survived by his wife Sheila, four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

While the music played you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
That's when you turned the world around 

Reaction from Phil posted to

Fare thee well, Bear

I received a text in the middle of last night that Bear Stanley has died in a car accident in Australia. Bear, for me, was a true kindred spirit; when we first met, it was as if I had met a long-lost brother from another lifetime. I am heartbroken and devastated at his passing.

He was a friend, a brother, an inspiration, and our patron at the very beginning of our creative lives. We owe him more than what can be counted or added up- his was a mind that refused to accept limits, and he reinforced in us that striving for the infinite, the refusal to accept the status quo, that has informed so much of our work.

He never gave up his quest for pushing the limits of whatever he was working on. We had just been discussing his concept of point-source sound reinforcement in relation to a new project of mine, and his vision incorporated the latest developments in technology and perceptual research.

My heart goes out to his family, for whom he had such love and pride- his wife Sheilah, his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren- who have lost their patriarch.

A mind like Bear’s appears very rarely, and it’s been my privilege and honor to have known and loved two such minds- Jerry and Bear. I always laugh when I think about what Jerry once said about Bear: There’s nothing wrong with Bear that several billion fewer brain cells wouldn't fix.

I am eternally grateful for all of the gifts that Bear brought to the scene and to the music.
Fare you well; I love you more than words can tell.

- Phil 

Grateful Dead

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Darkness Comes to Light

English hard rockers The Darkness, who reached international prominence in the early 2000s, look set to reform with their original lineup, featuring singer and cat suit-wearer Justin Hawkins.  The group won three BRIT Awards in 2004 in response to their debut album Permission to Land, with the band that year taking home awards for Best Group, Best Rock Group and Best Album.  The record charted in 16 countries, reaching the Top 10 in 4 of them including Sweden and New Zealand.  The Darkness broke up in 2006 following Hawkins' entry into rehab for alcohol and cocaine abuse.  The band have not officially announced their reformation, but an official Facebook page and a new website have cropped up recently.

While The Darkness at first glance appeared to be merely caricatures of British hard rock bands from decades earlier, if you looked past the cartoon-like aesthetic, you would have found some incredibly well- crafted and well-produced rock songs.  If you're not familiar with the band or just haven't listened to them in a while, take a listen to a couple of my favorite tracks of theirs which were in heavy rotation on my first iPod back in 2003:

Love Is Only A Feeling

Growing on Me

UPDATE: Cap'n Ain't Goin' Nowhere

Children's cereal mascots everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief this morning.  On the heels of last night's unexpected news story that Cap'n Crunch would be forced into retirement by PepsiCo, the Cap'n took to his Twitter account this morning to squash the rumors of his demise.  From the man himself:

@realcapncrunch ."I'm hearing the rumors. I would never retire. I love being a captain too much!"

Well there you have it, Horatio Magellan Crunch gets to keep his job after all.  The WeightStaff was unable to to reach Cereal Mascot Union Chief Sonny the Cocoa Bird for comment.

Click here to follow the Cap'n on Twitter.

RIP Cap'n Crunch

Reportedly, PepsiCo is retiring the image of Cap'n Crunch in order to no longer come across as marketing the highly sugary cereal directly to children.  Out of respect for the good Cap'n, I bring you:

Ride Captain Ride
The Blues Image

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guests of Honor

Okay. So I'm kinda bored and apparently into making lists lately.  No, none of these facts will get you hot chicks -- or anywhere in life for that matter -- but you just might score that 5 seconds of fame you were hoping for at that next apartment soiree... 

So, without further ado, the winners of the Top 10 Greatest Celebrity Guest Appearances on Rock/Pop Tracks are (in no particular order):

1) Eric Clapton on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (G. Harrison)
2) Duane Allman on "Layla" (E. Clapton)
3) Paul McCartney on "Atlantis" (Donovan)
4) Mick Jagger on "You're So Vain" (C. Simon)
5) Jerry Garcia on "Teach Your Children" (CSNY)
6) John Lennon on "Fame" (D. Bowie)
7) David Bowie on "All The Young Dudes" (Mott the Hoople version, written of course, by D. Bowie)
8) Jimmy Page on "With a Little Help From My Friends (J. Cocker version)
9) Billy Preston on "Don't Let Me Down/Get Back" (The Beatles)
10) Eddie Van Halen on "Beat It" (M. Jackson)

I know there are others, any other A-listers you can think of?

"All The Young Dudes" - Ian Hunter w/ David Bowie, Mick Ronson,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sounds Like: The Acorn

The Acorn are an indie band hailing from Ottawa, Canada that have been releasing albums since 2004.  I became aware of them over the summer and I don't specifically remember how.  I do remember though that after the first time I heard their song 'Flood Pt. 1' off of their 2007 concept album Glory Hope Mountain that I went on to listen to the song another five times straight.  It's just that good.

I've put a bit of thought into how I'd describe the song to someone who hadn't yet heard it and the best I could come up with was: David Byrne fronting Arcade Fire covering Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints.  If you find that at all intriguing, I urge you to listen to it.  Let us know who you think it sounds like.

The Acorn
The Flood, Pt. 1

Do you know what's great about an awesome song with Part 1 in the title?  That's right...there's always a Part 2.  And this follow-up track couldn't be more different stylistically than the first, but its no less impressive.  The Flood Pt. 2 is harder for me to classify, but it's something closer to Band of Horses covering a McCartney ballad with backup vocals from CSN.

The Flood Pt. 2

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Phil Collins Says 'That's All' ...Again

I read tonight on that Phil Collins is retiring from the music business.  Isn't this like the third time that he's made a similar announcement?  I remember a while back reading that he'd never play drums again due to some progressively debilitating condition.  He then went on to record an album of Motown covers on which he played...the drums.  I also remember before that, with Genesis on tour in late 2007,  Collins stated that it would be the band's last tour.  So here we are again with another announcement from the drummer-turned-singer alluding to another chapter closing in his music career.

An article from London's The Telegraph from March 3rd wraps this story up quite nicely in saying:
Is Phil Collins really calling it quits? His interview with FHM certainly sounds very final, but we have heard this before. Collins first announced his retirement at an awards ceremony in April 2008, which came as a bit of surprise to everyone, since most people there seemed to think he had retired already. 
He sounds even more gloomy than usual in the FHM interview, but I am sceptical about whether this threatened retirement will be any more final than his last. Frankly, an interview with a glossy men’s magazine that was presumably carried out a couple of months ago seems a strange way for a superstar to bow out from the world stage. Besides, in today’s veteran-oriented musical landscape, surely the only point of announcing retirement is to facilitate a comeback?

Read the full article here

Check out this performance from Genesis' 1987's Invisible Touch tour of 'That's All' at London's famed Wembley Stadium in front of an impossibly huge crowd.  I really love this tune...for real.  If there is one thing that the post-Gabriel Genesis could do, its write a fantastic pop song.

Bonus Content:  
Two year's earlier, at the same venue, Phil Collins played a daytime set with Sting at the infamous Live Aid charity concert in London.  He was the only performer to play at both the British event and at the simultaneous Philadelphia event by flying between the two cities on the Concord.  His Wembley performance included a solo take on 'Against All Odds' with Collins seated at the grand piano.  He does a beautiful job on the tune, except for one moment (at 1:09 in the video) that you'll have to see in context to truly appreciate.  Phil is visibly disappointed with himself for the misstep he makes in front of 72,000 in person and far more in the international audience watching at home.  If I know Phil Collins like I think I know Phil Collins, he still wakes up in a cold sweat wishing he could have that note back.  If the WeightStaff put together their Top 10 favorite flubs of all time, this would easily be in the top three.  We've gotten some great laughs out of this one over the years!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Youth Gone Wild

On the prior post (OMG! It's ELO), a reader left a comment pointing out how Jeff Lynne was only 27 y.o. when he wrote ELO's classic hit, "Showdown."  Impressive as that is, it got me thinking about other artists who wrote (or co-wrote) mega-classics all before the age of 30.  Here are a few that come to mind:

Steve Winwood (21) - "Can't Find My Way Home"
Robby Krieger (20) - "Light My Fire"
George Harrison (26) - "Something"
Bob Dylan (21) - "Don't Think Twice It's Alright"
Eric Clapton (25) - "Layla" (w/ Jim Gordon)
Paul McCartney (22) - "Yesterday"
Billy Joel (28) - "Just the Way You Are"
Jimmy Page (26)/Robert Plant (22) - "Stairway to Heaven"
Donald Fagen (24)/Walter Becker (22) - "Reelin' in the Years"
Neil Young (24) - "Cowgirl in the Sand"
Robbie Robertson (26) - "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

I hope you are all now as depressed as I am after putting your lives in perspective.

Here is a great clip of Steely Dan performing their hit "Reelin' in the Years" from The Midnight Special (1973).  

Editor's note:  Part of the reason I chose this clip in particular is because of the individual introducing the band.  This is why I love the 70's!