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Jul 092015

jimmy-chamberlin-andneal-peart-come-to-denverFans of face-pounding rhythm, explosive fills, brilliant flourishes, and general badassery should be in Denver this weekend. Legendary prog rockers, Rush, play the Pepsi Center on Saturday while psychedelic alt-rock masters, Smashing Pumpkins, hit Red Rocks on Monday, July 13. If you’re a drummer your dick is hard. Real hard. Especially with the return of Jimmy Chamberlin to the Pumpkins’ lineup.

These bands are more similar than you think, but their obvious common thread is two of the best drummers – ever.

These are guys steeped in the thudding, grooving rock masters that preceded them, such as John Bonham, but more importantly Jimmy Chamberlin and Neil Peart are students of jazz and precise drum technique.

Now there are a fair amount of fantastic drummers that play jazz and fusion and routinely grace the covers of drumming magazines, but Neil and Jimmy are other-level brilliant. What sets them apart – besides the wicked chops and deep knowledge of rhythm – is a certain musicality; an ability to play over-the-top drums that don’t run over the music. Instead, the complicated patterns, constant barrage of fills, and improvisation serve to underscore and define the music, propelling both band and song forward in a way that could not be done without them.

Another notable attribute of these guys is the ability to seamlessly meld stomping arena rock beats with jazz fluidity. This would typically be referred to as fusion, but it isn’t as antiseptic or math-y with Jimmy and Neil behind the kit. The drums have balls; powerful, smooth, vibrant, pulsing, organic balls.

It could be said that they overplay, but no one ever has said it. They are too nuanced, too in tune with the melody of the song to ever harm it. They know what the song is supposed to do and use everything in their arsenal to make it better. It’s more than just meter. On top of their preternatural timekeeping abilities, these two drummers are able to push their kits out front as a lead or melodic instrument.

The Pumpkins suffered horribly without Jimmy’s natural propulsive, chattering percussion and the push-pull between he and Billy Corgan. On the other hand, imagine Rush without Neil Peart. Eeeewwww.

If you care about music at all or if you are interested in drums then seeing these guys in action is worth the price of admission alone.



May 142015

thee-oh-sees-in-denver-gothic-theaterI’m new to Denver so I want to check out the music scene and get acquainted with the venues. I decided to see Thee Oh Sees on the strength of one or two songs I heard on satellite radio and the killer, nightmarish video for “Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster.” New town, killer venue, possible decent show – why not?

Well, the rock gods smiled upon my blithe decision. Thee Oh Sees killed! The current incarnation of the band features two drummers, bass, and founder John Dwyer on vocals and monstrous guitar. The two drummers created earth-shaking grooves that rattled the foundations of The Gothic. The band simply rocked with an ear-splitting volume that served their punk meets garage rock meets psychedelic alt-rock sound.

The vibe was amazing for a school night and the high-energy antics of the band had the Denver crowd bouncing and moshing with every song. I think this gives you a pretty good idea:

Apr 292015


I picked up an event calendar from famed Denver jazz club, Dazzles, and noticed an interesting show: Rekha Ohal presents the music of Radiohead. Don’t mind if I do! Ohal put together a quartet to explore some of Radiohead’s darker music. I anticipated a sort of greatest hits set and that, to my delight, was not the case. Also, I envisioned a slightly more traditional jazz interpretation and was surprised to find Ohal on piano and keyboard supported by drums and two electric guitars. One guitar had an E string tuned for bass lines and both were drenched in effects. Despite that sounding like a more rock ‘n roll set up, band members took turns exploring each composition with extended, improvisational jams.

As mentioned, the group played with some deep tracks and a lot of music from In Rainbows and Hail to the Thief, which actually have sort of jazzy roots with keys and interesting guitar phrasings to begin with. They did moody and brilliant takes on “Reckoner” and “Weird Fishes” as well as “Scatterbrain” and I even think “Punch Up at a Wedding” was in there. The only “classic” Radiohead might have been “Fake Plastic Trees.”

The band did a a great job locking down Radiohead’s buoyant atmospherics and Rekha added her own charm to Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals. Band members appeared to be well-acquainted with Radiohead, but Rekha may have heard some of these songs for the first time when she played them. She seemed surprised  by some of the lyrics and musical changes, but being a consummate musician never missed a step. It was actually impressive if that was the case. Following “Everything in its Right Place” she exclaimed, “wow, that’s a great song!” The one Radiohead song that she plays often, “Fake Plastic Trees” was one they “messed up” but with true jazz chops the band reacted with ease and essentially improv’d a new arrangement.

Mar 132015

murder-by-death-at-the-social_kisses-and-noise-music-blogI know this show sounds like a thrash metal or grindcore show, but it totally wasn’t. I called Bloomington, Indiana’s Murder by Death and New York’s O’death ”Mumford & Sons for kids that wore black nail polish in high school” because they both take themes of Americana; country & western, bluegrass, and folk then blend them together seamlessly with splashes of alternative rock. They tell tales of the darker side, from whiskey drinking to lost loves that drown in a river.

O’death blew me away. Building from dark, goth-y folk to nearly doom metal by the end of the set they kept my attention all night. With ghostly vocals, banjo, and some killer fiddlin’ O’death was both authentic and unique. I found the drummer interesting. It was apparent that he was holding back early. I could feel him wanting to blast into power punk. He executed with restraint, but as the set progressed he got heavier and heavier. He also had a pretty interesting set up with no hi-hat. Instead he had a tambourine mounted to the left and another rigged to his foot so he could tap tambourine with his left foot. He also had a ride cymbal with another, slightly smaller, ride cymbal sitting directly on top of it creating this cool, trashy hiss. I notice these things. Sorry.






Murder by Death let go of some of their softer nuance to come out of the block heavy and loud. I have no problem with that! I’ve always been struck by lead singer’s voice. It sounds dusty and old. I pictured a grizzled 60-year-old man in overalls. Adam Turla’s voice is just so whiskey-soaked and wise that the face just doesn’t match up. Cellist, Sarah Balliet balances out Turla’s craggy voice and adds gothic ambience to their alt-country sound. I adore 2010′s Good Morning, Magpie, but the band threw a wild mix of songs from all six of their albums.




Mar 102015

album art for the band O'DeathThere was a recent spike in folky Americana-inspired, bluegrass-tinged alt rock that swept the nation. That surge coincided with an exponential increase in old-timey facial hair. I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, but think about it. I didn’t quite understand it. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t get the throngs of fans singing along with the likes of Mumford & Sons, Avett & Sons, and Sons & Sons or whatever.

I am a gigantic fan of bluegrass so that’s not the problem. I just prefer the way bands like Murder by Death and Portland, Maine by way of New York’s O’Death bring a more authentic, honest sound. Touches of Appalachian music blend with alt country, western textures and dark themes. It’s just cooler.

It’s like if Alice Cooper started a band inspired by Fleet Foxes and wrote music for True Detective and any band that takes their name from a song made famous by Dr. Ralph Stanley is alright by me!

MBD is a perfect gothic, whiskey-soaked companion for O’Death.

If you prefer Johnny Cash over Elvis, Slayer over Metallica, Outlaw Country over New Country, The Black Crowes over Dave Matthews or just can’t stand the inexplainable popularity and unnerving optimism of modern folk rock and its fans then this show is for you. Buy Tickets

Oct 052014

the-ghost-of-us-by-the-moon-chambers-is-toyota-songOK so I’ve been trying to track down this fucking song for a long time now. The commercial is running for over a year and it was the only one not on the official Toyota YouTube channel. I watched so many Toyota commercials (I feel like buying a Toyota for some reason) trying to find this fucking thing! I did numerous searches with keywords like “toyota corolla commercial” and “they tell you I’m the one who drives you mad” and found nothing but one other dude on Yahoo! Answers asking the same question.

I just heard the commercial again from another room and decided to try one more search. Voila! Right there. Yahoo! has an answer and some other asshole found the commercial on YouTube. There seems to be mini-cult built around this song; a disparate and dedicated group endlessly searching this phrase, ”they tell you I’m the one who drives you mad” and posting on forums: “does anyone know who sings that song in the Corolla commercial? It goes …”

Here’s the commercial that got my panties all knotted up:

And here is the song, “The Ghost of Us” by The Moon Chambers

Sep 282014

rome-fortune-reviewed-on-kisses-and-noise-friendsmaybeAfter jumping into an email from the folks at Life or Death PR I spent some time catching up on music. I went down a Soundcloud rabbit hole and found myself going back to Atlanta rapper, Rome Fortune‘s “FriendsMaybe” over and over. It’s catchy, sexy, and the bass drops. This song isn’t one of the few produced by Four Tet, but it is the production here that elevates the subject matter above the din of other rappers crowding Soundcloud. After sharing the tune with friends on our music snob Facebook group, they went fucking ba-nay-nays over it. In fact every hip-hop lover I share it with kind of lost their shit, so you best listen …

Aug 122014

louis-ck-and-leading-comedians-visit-central-floridaDue to my persistent brokeness, oldness, and overall lameness I didn’t get down to Tampa for what could only be called the Woodstock of Comedy. Well, maybe Lollapalooza of Comedy. The Oddball Comedy Festival sees the titans of modern stand-up on the road and playing amphitheaters across the US. Tampa kicked off the tour. What’s better than seeing silver-tongued, misanthropic geniuses on opening night with a format and venue that is largely foreign to them? Seriously. What would be misfires and awkwardness on a band’s first night would only fuel the comedic fires of some of the sharpest comedy minds of this century (It’s only 2014 soooo…).

It may seem strange to perform stand-up in an amphitheater but I’m sure the line-up delivered. Tampa didn’t get the genius of Bill Burr, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, or Dave Attell, but they did get big papi, Louis CK, along with Maron, Hannibal Burress, Chris Hardwick, and Aziz to name a few.

If comedy in an amphitheater doesn’t get you going don’t miss:

Jay Mohr, September 20, Straz Center

Nick Swardson, October 1 at Bob Carr 

Jim Gaffigan, November 28 at Hard Rock Live 

Some Great Comedy Shows in Central Florida Over the Past Two Years

I’ve been sitting on these recordings for awhile now. I don’t have any problem sharing music from a concert. I think it fires people up because they like to hear songs more than once and see bands play. Comedy can have a bit of its thunder stolen if you hear the whole hour before you go to the show and see 95% of the same material again. Two out of three of these shows have had their hour-long special come and go. Dave Chappelle is the only one who hasn’t had a special yet, but I think his 2013 tour was more of a soft dive back into to the biz than it was shaping a new hour of material for an HBO special.

This is Louis CK live from The Straz Center in Tampa from November of 2012. It’s great because you can actually hear parts of Oh My God! being worked out and toyed with leading up to that comedy special:

Listen to Louis CK live in Tampa 2012

Dave Chappelle came out of nowhere and hit the road for a large portion of 2013. The flow was loose and open as Dave told stories, worked through new material, and riffed off the crowd at Melbourne’s King Center:

Listen to Dave Chappelle live in Melourne, FL 2013

Jim Breuer played the weirdest venue. I saw a list of intimate shows as he swung through Florida beach towns. I was able to catch him at the Treasure Island Yacht Club where he performed to a packed room of well-to-do 50 and 60-something club members. He toned down the heavy metal anecdotes and improv’d some material about the, um – unique audience and setting. You can also hear bits of his latest special, … And Laughter for All:

Listen to Jim Breuer in St.Pete 2014
May 182014

isaac-brock-of-modest-mouse-in-orlando-2014-2First of all I was completely wrong. The set from Friday night wasn’t so much a testing ground for new music as I prophesied, but a killer, fan-friendly riot. The show was a short, but stellar. It started early, which is lame. I know it isn’t my business endeavor, but a band like Modest Mouse playing on a fucking Friday night shouldn’t start while people are still in their evening commute. Maybe The Beacham rakes in the dough (doubt it) from club night, but there will be less stabbings, more alcohol purchases, and more tips from a crowd there to see a legendary band than one hanging on to their tip money for a late night coke run. Rock show over at 10:30: G-A-Y.

I was stoked for Morning Teleportation. I didn’t learn until the day before that they were opening. I reviewed their debut album in 2011 and pretty much loved their Modest Mouse on amphetamines sound. I was able to catch their last song – played at 7:30!!!!! – though:

Modest Mouse just killed it:

AUDIO: “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”

Listen to Tiny Cities Made of Ashes

AUDIO: “I Came as a Rat”

Listen to I Came as a Rat

I always thought Isaac would be sort of a recluse. According to this Crowd Album he certainly made himself available to fans.

May 152014

modest-mouse-concert-preview-for-orlando-may-2014One of my favorite angry existentialist drunks will be in town tonight and tomorrow! Well, he’s probably not a drunk … anymore. Angst-y genius, Isaac Brock has a way with words. I’m drawn to his honest, raw, and mostly scathing insights about life, death and humanity. What makes them scathing is the unflinching honesty. Like someone with Asperger’s syndrome, Brock’s lyrics have no filter. He calls it like he sees it, “There’s one thing to know about this earth / We’re put here just to make more dirt; and that’s OK.” This could be interpreted as bleak to some while others, like me, find it refreshing. The words work perfectly with the songs but can read like the works of Bukowski or Henry Miller (If I was more well read I might have a better comparison) on their own. Take these lyrics laced with brutally honest perspectives and doubt, deliver it with a delicate lisp and some guttural fury then couple that with production techniques that sometimes layer Brock’s lines; whispering a phrase in one headphone, speaking it in the other, and screaming in both simultaneously and we have a pretty interesting approach.

The music of Modest Mouse has this sort of loose, jangly quality to it. It sounds warbly and sad, teetering on either side of the meter and tethered in place more by the bass than the drums. The music is dark and poetic, wounded and sincere. Even tunes like, “Float On” which sound incredibly pop and upbeat are tragically sad and humanistic upon closer inspection. Modest Mouse really creates some of the most unique rock ‘n roll ever to make it big. And just like St. Vincent and Smashing Pumpkins, behind the powerful music and lyrics lies a serious guitar player that sort of takes over at live shows.

When I saw dates for Modest Mouse at The Beacham in Orlando I was hoping a new album was on the way. They haven’t put out anything since We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007) and the EP, No One’s Fist, and You’re Next (2009). This spring tour is even more exciting than a new album in a way. It seems this tour was put together as a testing ground for new material, which will make shows more interesting. Most great rock ‘n roll bands will get out and field test new material in the live environment and as a fan it is fun to watch them take shape throughout the tour and ultimately on the album. It’s a peek into the creative process. Another benefit to these kinds of tours is bands like to reward super-fans by mixing new material with fan favorites and deep cuts. Although the new album would technically only be the band’s 6th album they have a vast catalog to pull from and Orlando crowds will be eating it up starting tonight.