Category Archives: Shows

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals

Heads up on this concert announcement. When you see a gig announcement in your town (vintage posters) for The Cardinals, note bene that it’s really the tried and true Ryan Adams and The Cardinals. I’m sure he’ll have something bitter and/or obtuse to say about it on stage, which is his normal m.o., from what I’ve seen.

August 23 ~ San Francisco ~ Fillmore
August 26 ~ Seattle, WA – WaMu Theater *
August 27 ~ Vancouver, BC – General Motors Place *
August 29 ~ Edmonton, AB – Rexall Place *
August 30 ~ Calgary, AB – Pengrowth Saddledome *
September 1 ~ Winnipeg, MB – MTS Center *
September 4 ~ Ottawa, ON – Scotiabank Palace *
September 5 ~ Montreal, QC – Bell Centre *
September 7 ~ Boston, MA – Bank of America Pavilion
September 9 ~ London, ONT – John LaBatt Center *
September 25 ~ Schenectady, NY – Proctor’s Theater
September 26 ~ Syracuse, NY – Landmark Theater
September 27 ~ Rochester, NY – Auditorium Theater
September 29 ~ Columbus, OH – Palace Theater
September 30 ~ Cleveland, OH – Palace Theater
October 2 ~ Indianapolis, IN – Murat Theatre
October 3 ~ St. Louis, MO – Fox Theater
October 5 ~ Madison, WI – Overture Hall

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Black Francis

I like people who get excited about things. Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson, a.k.a. former frontman of The Pixies) gets passionately obsessed about weird things like fringe Dutch musicians. To paraphrase, “Is he weird, is he white, is he promised to the night?” Yes? Bonus.

In the last year Black Francis has released two EPs/short LPs, Bluefinger and SVN FNGRS. I was never a big fan of the Frank Black (and the Catholics) solo stuff, but these new discs more than deserve the old moniker. They rock like nothing I’ve heard of his since The Pixies, and the live show was impeccable.

Bluefinger is a theme album, based on or at least inspired by the drug-crazed life and times of Herman Brood. The disc contains a cover of You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It (by Herman Brood and His Wild Romance), in which you can hear coked-up pounding anguish that makes it such a good song for Black Francis. You can hear how it would influence him. Sort of like, if you listen real hard to Nirvana, it makes so much sense that Kurt Cobain‘s first band was a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

Listen to Threshold Apprehension from Bluefinger and When They Come to Murder Me from SVN FNGRS on his MySpace, but know neither song is as intense as the overall vibe of the discs.

But if I had to choose, I’d pick SVN FNGRS (vowels are so uncool) for sure. The incisively short songs vamp (or is it harp?) on those good ol’ bloody themes: birth, sex, battle, death. Watch the video for the song I Sent Away. The album’s title comes from the seven-fingered-and-toed Cúchulainn, a mythological hero from Irish folklore “known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.” Sounds like the transformation that occurs when pasty, bald (and blue suede shod) Charles Thompson rips into a two-minute song as Black Francis.

I saw Black Francis with a bass player and drummer perform almost every song from both discs at The Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska. The jukebox, the beers, the size (capacity 470!), the jaw-dropping bookings, the overall aesthetic … everything’s perfect in that bar/venue. And Charles commented more than once on how great the club is for performers.

The Slowdown’s excellence comes from the fact that it was created by owner/operators who are musicians themselves–folks from Omaha’s own Saddle Creek Records (Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Cursive, et al.).

I highly recommend The Slowdown … and so do others. It was named Esquire’s Club of the Year.

Getting back to the obsessions of Black Francis. He has recorded songs to accompany the 1915 film Der Golem, which I think will be released as another album soon. This is the third film I know him to sing about, joining the ranks of Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou.

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Toadies

There’s no feeling in the world better than when you first find out your favorite band is coming to town.

Except the feeling when you learn that one of your favorite bands is back together, releasing a new album, and touring. Can you see me jumping up and down?!?!

The new Toadies album, No Deliverance, comes out August 19. Stream the title track at their MySpace.

An article/interview at Spin ends by quoting lead singer Todd Lewis on “what the Toadies, especially after all these years, can offer fans and the music industry that no other rock band can:

‘Balls. A ton of balls.'”

And they’ve got lots of tour dates in which to teabag us with their incredible charisma and raucous stage presence.

The Toadies broke up seven years ago while I was living in Dallas, just a couple of years after Tripping Daisy called it quits. It was a one-two punch to my rock-show loving soul. Two of my favorite frontmen, first Tim DeLaughter (a long post of mine) and then (real first name Vaden) Todd Lewis, gone away. Each quickly moved on to another great project, The Polyphonic Spree and The Burden Brothers, respectively. But I always missed l’original.

Before I rhapsodize about The Toadies, I do want to briefly plug The Burden Brothers’ discs Buried in Your Black Heart (buy it) and Mercy (buy it and listen to some of it). I can’t do much better than this Village Voice description: “BB are a kick ass hard rock combo who riff off Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age’s neo metal blues and Weezer /Pixies power chord sing-alongs.” It’s more in your face than you’re expecting, and who doesn’t want that? When I saw them, they hadn’t released a proper album yet, just a homemade EP, and for a 15-minute song they thrash-jammed while Todd was repeating (screeching) the phrase Dirty Sanchez, which whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

The Burden Brothers were/are something of a local supergroup, with Todd joined by Taz Bentley, the former drummer for Reverend Horton Heat. BB is shuffling other personnel right now but haven’t “broken up.” [It is hard to do … ]

Now, on to The Toadies!

In 1994 the album Rubberneck broke. Yeah, it’s the one with Possum Kingdom, which you know you crank on your radio every time it plays on “’90s at noon.” You also know you’re unsure what it’s about … you’re hoping you’re not getting too excited about date rape while you sing along from the drivers’ seat.

Here are some more YouTubed music videos for songs from Rubberneck: Tyler, Backslider, and Mister Love.

It wasn’t until 2001 when the band struggled through record company problems to get Hell Below/Stars Above released. The title track is perfect in so many ways, pushing the band into a dynamic range they had not previously revealed.

Both albums are amazing. So, so solid. I can’t wait for the new one in August!

In the meantime, grab these rare tracks from a die-hard fan:

Toadies’ I Hope You Die

Toadies’ Possum Kingdom (Live)

Toadies’ cover of Talking Heads’ Not in Love

And also download the mp3 of this cover of (you guessed it!) The Pixies’ Where is My Mind.

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Kanye West at Bonnaroo 2008

I didn’t think I’d say anything more about Kanye West’s ante meridiem show. But I had to put something up after reading Stereogum’s post about Kanye’s cap-locks blog rant regarding his postponed-then-much-delayed fizzle at Bonnaroo.

I stayed for the show, and I was glad to do so. I hadn’t seen a rap show in a decade (Ice Cube), and I think that Kanye has done some brilliant or at least incredibly interesting things.

But I agree with the commenters who say a simple apology or even acknowledgment of the audience’s tenacity in standing sardine-style waiting for him would have gone a long way toward building good will. Also, if he would have mentioned that his crew forwent some of the pyrotechnics in favor of actually getting on with the performance, we wouldn’t have been so disappointed in his “Glow in the Dark” tour’s much-hyped light show. Watch video of some people’s reactions at Bonnaroo (wait for the end for a woman to say “S my D, Kanye”) courtesy of Spin.

His blog post? Even if there is a “sorry” or two in there, and despite the logistical obstacles, his lyrics from the song Stronger say it all:

“You should be honored by my lateness
That I would even show up to this fake shit”

Live and die by the pen, dude.

Putting Bonnaroo aside, I’m uncommitted about how interesting Kanye is at this point … particularly after being initially fascinated by the three different music videos for the intense yet catchy song Flashing Lights, and then being horrified at the “she was asking for it” message at the end of one of them (the third one here on MOKB). In the chorus he says to his girl, “As I recall, I know you love to show off / But I never thought that you would take it this far,” which is innocuous in and of itself until paired with images implying the drunk golddigger’s rape at the end of the vid. Very uncool.

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Trampled Under Foot (TUF)

Kansas City blues band Trampled Under Foot gave a stellar CD release concert at Uncle Bo’s last Friday night in Topeka, Kansas.

Their latest release, May I Be Excused, is available for purchase here. My copy is still on its way, but judging from the evolution of their live shows (and because of the rough recording quality of some of their older work), this must-have 12-song disc will certainly be their best, showcasing their songwriting skills and commanding vocals. They won the 2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (in a field of 90 bands), and just in case you think these kids are fooling around, also note well that “big brother Nick” won the Albert King Award for Most Promising Guitarist at the IBC.

These incredibly talented siblings–vocalist and bassist Danielle, guitarist Nick, and drummer Kris Schnebelen–are part and parcel of the larger family of regional blues musicians. This is Kansas City, after all, and it ain’t known for its techno. So singeth Muddy Waters (listen here to Kansas City Blues).

Their mom and dad were musicians in KC-local Little Eva and the Works. Nick worked with the bands K-Floor (a.k.a. Killin’ Floor) and Buddahead on the east coast before returning to team up with the fam. Danielle came up in the KC scene via Fresh Brew Band, The Nortons (watch her here), and regular Friday gigs at the Grand Emporium as Danielle Schnebelen and the Rush Hour Rendezvous. She recently married Brandon Hudspeth, the front man for local blues group Levee Town.

This post updates (and eclipses) Stella Splice’s February review.

The Trampled Under Foot performance on June 27, 2008, was in the basement of the downtown Ramada. If you can rock the Ramada in northeast Kansas, you can rock any place imaginable.

I’ve also seen the band at other, bigger venues: B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, which is a must-go club for all those passing through, no matter the act, and also The Jazzhaus. These three shows, over the course of time, were like core samples of TUF’s evolution from great to call-everyone-you-know killer great.

I’m going to act like I’ve seen the hard-touring TUF crew a bunch of times and sketch a “typical” show.

They open with an instrumental, tuning you in to their groove. Then maybe Nick steps up to the mic, tearing into the most danceable sort of blues number with a voice that sounds chock-full with decades of whiskey, cigarettes, and no-good women. His smile is the biggest I’ve ever seen this side of a Crest commercial, but it’s twisted with a love for the bended blue notes he shakes out of his left-handed guitar (she’s a lefty, too). We hear the first round of Nick’s solos, and even the most recalcitrant concert-goer wants to hop up and see if they’ve got any boogie-woogie left in ’em.

The third song: it’s Danielle’s turn to sing. You could have listened to a Nick-fronted band all night, and been ecstatic for the chance. But once the force of nature that is her voice emanates from that woman’s soul, you just want more “D,” the little sister on bass. I recommend listening to the title track May I Be Excused on their MySpace. The butter-smooth song showcases Danielle, and even though it comes in just shy of seven minutes, she still makes you wanna beg for more. Don’t think for a minute that that song captures her energy on stage, though. In fact, my one and only criticism of her is she gets so into the vocals she sometimes twists her head away from the mic, and I don’t want to miss even those split seconds.

The rest of the show will go back and forth with Nick and Danielle trading songs. The real gems are when they (plus Kris, who is underused for this function) chime in on each others’ choruses, for that familial harmony that rings so true.

For the last song of the first set, D will leave the stage while Nick solos his ass off, guitar behind the head, taking you through a technical and emotional tour of blues history. Then Nick will leave Kris alone on stage for the sort of drum solo that makes you regret your current occupation–“Why didn’t I choose percussion in grade school?!?” Eventually, after waves of tom riffs and powerfully silent two-beats that make you yell out in hearty agreement, Kris drops back into keeping time and the others join him to finish off the song and the set. But not to worry, there’s so much more to come.

To kick off round two, Nick sets up at the trap set. He plays guitar and two-foots the bass and the top hat perfectly. It’s not a novelty; it’s just a great song that he plays himself. And it’s gotten much, much better over time.

The rest of the show may include Nick on the Dobro, a round of solos by each band member during the bridge of a couple of songs, a jam with a fellow musician (last night on the Hammond B3 organ), and a whirlwind of covers. Over the course of three shows, I heard Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools, which turned people into crazed fools on the dance floor, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia, Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor and his Howlin’ for My Darlin’ (which Nick rocks with absolute authority, as if he penned it himself), the Janis Joplin version of Summertime, I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley and The Wailers, and Danielle workin’ it out on Etta James’ At Last. (D says Etta is her biggest influence.)

The most crowd-pleasing of their older original music is Honey Bee and Virginia Creeper, both streaming on TUF’s MySpace.

At the end of a third set, the band tried to get off the stage and no one wanted to let them. Brilliantly, Danielle satisfied the crowd and sent us off to bed with a sweet a cappella cover of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz with big brothers on harmony. Very nice.

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The Swell Season at Bonnaroo 2008

The Swell Season captured the spirit of Bonnaroo best, of all the great bands I saw (pictures). You can download the show, transformed magically into mp3s, here, or any of 15 other live shows of theirs here.

I expected great things from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, but I also know it’s hard to put a sweet sound out into the great outdoors and manage to maintain intimacy and vibrancy all at once. Their songs did just that, and their humility and joy refreshed us despite the mid-day heat. The two musicians really did fall in love while filming the movie Once and making the music that became not just a soundtrack but also this group The Swell Season. They interacted on stage just how I’d hoped: adoring looks, encouraging cues, an ever-so-slight touch on the shoulder while they worked out what to play next.

If you haven’t bought any of their stuff yet, I would recommend the collector’s edition of the Once soundtrack that also includes a couple of live cuts and a making-of DVD. Perhaps it talks about how they fell in love while filming and touring. And the actual movie DVD is out now, too, if you missed it in theaters. If you saw the movie, you won’t be surprised to know The Swell Season covered two Van Morrison songs, Astral Weeks and Into the Mystic.

Glen was much more of a showman than I expected. He orchestrated the audience without commanding us (see future post on Metallica at Bonnaroo), encouraging us to cut loose with no inhibitions in the spirit of a festival. We were hungry for this sort of communal happiness, and the packed audience ate it up and gave it back to the performers on stage tenfold.

Glen and Markéta were accompanied by Glen’s usual band (since 1990) The Frames. I’ve not been able to get into their records, but this show made me want to keep trying until it takes. The drummer was an incredible mix of charismatic and seriously absorbed, the guitarist and bass player were great role players, and the violinist played so emotively I actually looked for another woman singer when he laid harmonies over and under Markéta’s soaring vocals.

The song I loved best was originally a Frames song, called God Bless Mom. It’s not anywhere online live to show you. I’ll keep a lookout. The video for the original version of the song does nothing to capture the dynamic range with which The Swell Season infused it.

I love The Pixies. I was amped for a Pixies cover by a downloadable concert of The Swell Season at the 9:30 Club offered by NPR here. So when the band left the stage and Glen and Markéta had a confab and then broke into a cover of Levitate Me, I went ballistic. You can’t see me going apeshit about five rows back in  the crowd, which is only due to the camera angle, but it’s still fun to watch them.

The band worked a jam for a while, which was unremarkable in and of itself. But Glen asked poets to come up on the stage, and two people took the invitation. The man who went first looked at the crowd in awe, genuinely taken aback by the sea of people focused on him. Glen nodded in shared astonishment, and with that bolstering moment the dude plowed into a really good poem. I tapped him on the shoulder later and thanked him for letting us all be part of something special, and he seemed to take the compliment as seriously as I meant it.

Final note: They did an encore, Hey Day (written by Mic Christopher), which was racous. What more could ya want?

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Iron and Wine at Bonnaroo 2008

I really like Iron and Wine. I have loved the direction in which they’ve grown, fleshing out their sound and increasingly embracing grooviness. Woman King was my favorite until The Shepherd’s Dog, and there’s nothing more exciting than knowing one of your favorite active bands is cranking out ever-better discs [buy them!].

A lovely little review exultingly examines the change in Beam’s sound:

“Basically a one-man band until this release, Beam left his four-track machine behind in his bedroom and expanded his music to include polyrhythmic textures, percussive flourishes, and multicultural influences. Nothing too radical here, but if you’re familiar with the hushed intimacy of his earlier work, it’s significant.”

The author likens Iron and Wine’s shift to the change in Paul Simon’s career ushered in by Graceland. The comparison is too forced, but the article is endearing nonetheless. I mean, what (beyond over-exuberance) can be faulted in sentences such as this: “At its best, Iron & Wine’s music feels magically haunted like a Southern Gothic musicbox found in an attic that chimes intimate secrets into your ear.”

Now that I’ve established I’m a fan, I can safely say I hated seeing Iron and Wine live at Bonnaroo. They sounded good, all eight musicians. Sam was crooning, she was harmonizing and plucking her violin strings, the xylophone was hyping the beat, the trap set and auxiliary percussion balanced their contributions perfectly, et cetera, et cetera, as Yul Brynner pontificated. They even jammed out the riffs, as is appropriate for Bonnaroo.

But it was uninspiring. When I see a band live, I need the lead singer to acknowledge the audience exists. Make eye contact just once. Crack a smile or a joke better than the bitchy:

“Last time we were here, you guys danced like crazy when we played fast and shut the hell up when we played a quiet one,” Mr. Beam said from the stage after a few songs. “Are you going to do that again?” [from this lame NYTimes review]

It’s a festival, dudes; at least look up from your perfectionism and try to have a good time once in a while. Us audience members want to have a good time or at least be transfixed as we were for the similarly contemplative set by José González. Instead, I and my compatriots felt alienated and fidgety. In fact, two-thirds of us voted with our feet and left our primo spot center stage to catch Little Feat or Ben Folds.

I was seriously considering traveling four hours each way to see Iron and Wine earlier in the year. I’m glad now I didn’t spend the ticket and gas money. I love live music more than most things in life, but for this band I will be henceforth content to hear the songs, in all their brilliance, on disc or (for the live jams) online. If that appeals to  you, check this MPR show or the umpteen downloadble concerts.

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