Last updated by at .

Mar 182008

Langerado was not in the cards for me this year so I took solace in the fact I could see Vampire Weekend and the new Blind Melon in intimate venues.  As reported here, VW cancels to play to a captive audience of millions…jerks, but the better band was to crush the tiny Back Booth in downtown Orlando.

I had reservations, as anyone would, which concerned Shannon Hoon’s replacement. Shannon Hoon’s presence is unmistakable and a key part to Melon’s sound, but the band is far too good to be held back without him. They have an incredible rhythm section. Glenn Graham and Brad Smith are amazing – tight jazzy and funky – and lay the backbone for some of the most innovative guitar work of the 90’s. Rogers Stevens and Christopher Thorn, weave their 70’s Saturday morning cartoon fuzz-sound in and out of each other creating truly impressive melodies as good as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood ever did (Yes, I said that). Independently the guitars are creative, intricate works of swirling chord progressions, but together they make Blind Melon.

I remember standing outside The Edge in Orlando when Blind Melon opened for Lenny Kravitz because I couldn’t get tickets. Then cursing myself for missing the show I pledged to drive to Cocoa when they were playing a fair or festival 2 years later in 95. Shannon died in New Orleans 2 weeks before they returned.

Now, 13 years later, I would see one of my favorite bands. The show started early and I missed the first song or two. I entered during “Galaxie” and was instantly struck with chills as the vocals poured around the corner before I could see the stage from the double doorways by the bar, “And your givin’ me, a hated identity-y.” Eerie and magical it seemed like the ghost of a band long gone reaching across planes of being and throttling my collar.

The music was impeccable as they tore through classics like “Paper Scratcher,” “Drive,” and “The Pusher.” What was more impressive is Travis Warren’s voice, powerful, sad, and gravelly. Like seeing the Tennessee 3, Blind Melon presented the same paradox of closing your eyes during a song and daring you to think it could possibly be anything but the original. What is great is that it is not a carbon copy or weak imitation but a perfect fit. Where Shannon almost sounds fragile or vulnerable (that being part of the charm), Travis possessed the same sound with much more ferocity and power. There were rock moments of fierce howling and guttural screaming that shook the walls of the small bar. The crowd seemed to share my opinion with constant remarks around me like, “holy shit” and “wow!” The new material was impressive too as they peppered them in between older tunes. The audience sang nearly every word with the force of a much larger crowd. Warren summed it up best saying, “I’m not here to replace Shannon, nobody can. I am here to keep this great band going.”

Article originally appeared in REAX # 23, April 8 2008

“Paper Scratcher” at the BackBooth

“Soak the Sin” Live


God damn that bible pushin’ man!

Mar 032008

Possibly the most overlooked band of the ‘90s has made its triumphant return. The Elevator Drops are back with the release of OK Commuter, a flexing, grooving, power pop gem. True to form, TED create a swirling haze of sonic joy that is both classic and innovative and, as with previous releases, completely beneath the radar.



To re-cap: Boston’s The Elevator Drops birthed their Devo meets Zeppelin meets Bowie future glam pop in 1996 with the release of Pop Bus and followed up in ’97 with People Mover. Both are stellar, grandiose albums that feel as if they could be released next year. I compare them to powerhouse acts like Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, and Radiohead (no, I’m not joking) in that, at the core they are a great band with solid songs, but possess a gift for using production to flush out a number, elevating it with their unique sonic signature. TED was on Time Bomb records, probably a major reason for their obscurity.  Now they re-emerged on San Francisco indie label Plastigas. The Drops were able to parlay a small cult audience with the energy and overwhelming volume of their live shows.  In the 10-year hiatus they kept working with several side/solo projects including The Rentals and the excellent, but mostly discarded, The Texas Governor.

OK Commuter sees the return of Goolkasian (bass, vocals) a.k.a. Tone Source 1, Garvy J (guitar) a.k.a. Tone Source 2, and FITTS (drums) a.k.a. Tone Source 3 in top form. They continue the tradition of incredible drumming, powerful guitar, cool bass lines, and hooky synth loops piled on top of each other in an elaborate web, which in the end produces undeniable power rockers.

Despite their notorious bombast they open OK Commuter with the slow, almost yearning “Hello,” but this serves as a build-up to full form. The next song, “Shake It” continues the upward momentum with more of the pop nuance they are renowned for. Replete with comping piano lines, hazy guitar, do-do-do-do’s and electro back beat that builds until a real drum kit takes over, “Shake It” glimpses the modern Drops. “Jules” begins the heavy grandeur and the album completely takes off, never looking back by the clever changing “Catastrophe.” The hook-laden “Christmas Song” transitions from an acoustic intro to catchy synth pop Рa la The Cars Рand slides gracefully into heavy guitar and back displaying all their talents at once.

Bottom line: Do your ears a favor and find a way to own this album. Do your hipster friends a service by being the first one on the block to blow your windows out with this album and sing the well deserved praises of The Elevator Drops.

Article originally appeared in REAX #22, March 2008

“Be a Lemonhead / Beautiful Junkie” from 94′s Pop Bus