I’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:
I 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.
I got an enewsletter from St. Vincent (customer retention!) with tour info. Of course Orlando dates were nowhere to be seen, but I did see a weekend date at The Tabernacle in Atlanta. On the mind-numbing drive up 75 (maybe not as bad as I-10 through the panhandle) I realize that this may be the first time I’ve gone out of my way for a female artist. By “out of my way” I mean making a trip out of it. There is a short list of bands I will travel anywhere I can afford (two towns over) to see. Radiohead, the Pumpkins or anything Billy, The Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, Placebo, My Morning Jacket, and maybe a few others make that list. I think I can add Annie Clark to that list.
She is just a powerhouse – and easy on the eyes, ya know what I mean? Huh-huh? She is a brilliant songwriter and singer producing some of the most intense and intelligent indie pop out there. She hit what I thought was a sort of apogee with her last album, Strange Mercy, but Annie’s collaboration with David Byrne, Love This Giant, is mindblowing. That experience with Byrne – writing, recording, and performing – seems to have energized her and pushed her to new levels. Her eponymous 5th album is her best yet.
What makes me go ka-ka-cuckoo for her is that beyond her aforementioned strengths she is a true axeman (woman). She is deceptive in her shredding prowess. Annie reminds me of Prince in a weird way. Don’t gasp! Stick with me. She can easily stand toe-to-toe with other rock artists in the songwriting category, but she takes it a step further than pop sensibility because at any moment she can just take over a performance on the merit of her soaring, screaming ax. Not many people that aren’t in a jam or metal band do that. Take the Smashing Pumpkins for instance. Maybe you are a casual fan or remember a few songs you liked and decide to see a concert. What you are really going to get is the Billy Corgan Guitar Clinic. Annie can do that.
On Saturday night at The Tabernacle she played with all the charisma and precision she is known for. It was parts pop diva-ship, performance art, and rock show. The moments when she stomped a pedal and stepped in front of the mic or climbed her lighted staircase, Miss Clark would unload scorching six string fury on our faces and the crowd howled in recognition of the awesomeness. She owns it. The rest of the band was stellar and mostly electronic working synths and samples, and “manipulating 0s and 1s.” They were precise, adding the technical touches and textures that make her albums so rich. Her drummer was obviously fantastic as he locked down to a click-track and played with drum machine accuracy, but I felt like he needed to open up. I wanted the drums to be more assertive and propulsive. I wanted them to make the funky sections a little dirtier and the rocking sections a little more explosive, but you can’t complain about perfect time.
Just about every lead singer can talk the talk, but how many can walk? Josh Homme, frontman, founder, and lead shredder in Queens of the Stone Age, is a rare breed these days. A lead singer that can throw a tantrum and threaten to kick someones ass, but actually be able to knock their fuckin’ teeth out. We all know about Axl Rose’s temper. Let’s say, for some reason, Axl singled me out in the crowd and jumped in after me. Axl is about 5’8″ and in his hay day was about 145lbs soaking wet. I would literally grab him by the face and throw him back on stage. That’s not going to happen with Joshua. Some people assert that QOTSA lacks that sense of danger they had with Nick Oliveri. Nick might have been a maniac, but Josh is pretty damn dangerous. Take the incident at The Mahaffey Theater Tuesday night.
The band took a break from working our faces like a speed bag to slow down the pace momentarily with a song from Like Clockwork … “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” Here is where an intoxicated fan took advantage of the intimate nature of the theater to make his way on stage and show his love for Josh. Homme don’t play that. This sturdily built bearded dude wrapped up Josh from behind in a bear hug. Josh jumped up to subdue the guy. This fella, drunk and determined, got a little squirrely and slipped away. You could see a change come over Homme and calmly say to himself, “not in my store you don’t.” It almost seemed like he was putting an Aikido move on the dude. Josh placed one hand on beardy’s shoulder and another on this guy’s wrist. He seemed to get leverage with the wrist hold then pulled the guy’s shirt over his head hockey fight style and pitched him headlong into the orchestra pit. My video picks up just as the guy disappears into the pit:
Mr Homme has a history of not taking shit from pussies. When you’re 6’4″ and probably close to 240lbs your swagger comes with a little more authority. Here is a compilation of Josh calling people the fuck out:
The funniest part of this compilation is that half of these instances are a big, badass, American rock ‘n roll hero telling Euro-trash that he is going to fuck them up. Haha! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Orlando fans may recognize this section of the compilation. This might have been my first or second QOTSA show. It was the $2 MTV concert. Here is my first taste of Homme’s no bullshit policy. He basically straight-arms a pretty large dude right off the stage:
The last time I caught Nine Inch Nails was with Queens of the Stone Age here in Orlando and in Tampa. At that point I didn’t see how they could possibly top themselves visually. We would have to make another thrust forward technologically as a species to even conceive something more grandiose. Well, we are not colonizing the moon, but Trent has reconvened and reconfigured NIN for 2013 in a seriously mean way. The visceral attack of the music was as poignant and raw as ever and the light show was astounding. Although it is not what was originally planned, this live line-up for Nails might be the best it’s ever been. Nine Inch Nails always existed at the crossroads of technology and music by seamlessly melding the fury of rock, industrial, and punk with digital and embracing all technologies that underscore the music, enhance the live show, and unite the fan community. The Tension 2013 Tour may be the apogee of Reznor’s vision for NIN.
I’ve lamented on the state of metal in previous posts. I don’t know if I’m just too old to care or metal just isn’t what it used to be and the puss-ification of America only underscores the lack of real heavy metal alternatives. My interview with David Sanchez of HAVOK confirmed some of of my suspicions. Tuesday night’s show was like a breath of fresh air – actually a choking gasp of smoke-filled, metalhead perspiration fart – that brought the crunching, classic sounds of Max Cavalera’s Soulfly and the revelation of a new (to me) thrash metal band that gets it right. The walls of The Social shuddered as the blistering volume of real metal and the swirling mosh pits did their best to reduce the place to rubble.
It sometimes seems that Soulfly is a loud, lazy shadow of what Sepultura was. The songs are short and focus on the devastating riffage and Max’s voice more than pulling off Sepultura classics and Soulfly tracks with precision. Six minute songs feel reduced to 3-minute medley versions of tracks. For instance, I’m sure “Arise” is a 5-minute song that clocks in a 2 and a half minutes at Soulfly shows. BUT it doesn’t matter once the bowel-shaking breakdown comes in the middle of the song. So it comes off as a punk twist to classic metal that Soulfly employs. I’m not sure if that even makes sense. Max’s gritty guitar skronk and thunderous, demonic vocal growls more than make up for anything missed. Add in the fact that his 20-year-old son, Zyon, is an absolute fucking beast on the drums and it is worth the price of admission.
HAVOK is new to me and boy I’m glad I found them. There are strands of Slayer, Kreator, Overkill, Megadeth and other classic genius in their DNA, but they are able to churn up their influences and blast out angry, original, and totally for-real thrash metal. Hallelujah! Praise Satan. They are rock solid all the way around and deliver their set with machine gun precision.
*Mental note – Taking pictures at a thrash show is fucking pretty hard. I had to cradle my Canon 60D in my arm like a running back half of the time to ensure it wouldn’t be headbutted out of my hands and stomped to shit.
It took about two days after the show for me to realize it was the AmericanaramA Fest and not the Americana Fest. It’s like my mind refused to acknowledge the last four letters. The people that run the Americana Music Fest, an acoustic festival in Virginia City, were probably really tired of my irrelevant tweets and @-metions. I will pretty much see My Morning Jacket and Wilco any time, anywhere. Throw in the fact that it’s the legendary B-Dizzle’s show and I will definitely be there. I’ve never seen Dylan in my life. I can’t say I’ve taken the time to get to know all of his work, but I’m well aware of the history and myth that surround Bob Dylan as well as what his impact on modern music is. Actually two of the supporting bands owe a lot to him.
Bob Weir kicked off the evening’s vibe fest with a solo, acoustic set.
My Morning Jacket was next and despite their lower station on the bill and a setlist that was just over an hour, they killed it. They always do. Here, was a slightly folkier set opening with “Circuital,” dusting off the folk-epic “The Bear” and busting out “Dear Prudence” with Bob Weir.
Wilco was positively awe-inspiring. Like MMJ, the busted out a flawless gem of a set.
I didn’t see many traditional hippies or Dead-heads considering the line-up. That is until Wilco and Weir whipped out “Friend of the Devil” and I would swear the hippies repelled down from the ceilings. The aisles and walkways were instantly clogged sandal-clad dancers groovin’ the way only white people can.
Dylan played a set that was light on legendary hits and more focused on deeper cuts and recent music. He wasn’t the warbling, unintelligible feeb I thought he would be. He voice was craggy, jagged, angry and aggressive. It seemed more like Tom Waits with a fiery backup band than the godfather of folk.
I’ve been on a little bit of a bluegrass kick for the last few years and it appears Steve Martin was too. We’re like kindred spirits. He’s become an authority on the banjo and his touring band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, are the real deal. A viciously adept group, this band can stand toe-to-toe with the best. They possess the ability to move between lighthearted, Appalachian-infused comedy tracks and true soulful bluegrass to Alison Krauss style bluegrass/pop hybrids and all with authentic musicianship and spot-on style. Mr. Martin ties all of this together with a steady stream of jokes and amusing anecdotes. There is something to be said for having a legendary, world-renowned actor/comedian as your frontman. Throw in post-hippy soul nymph, Edie Brickell, and you have an incredibly interesting entertainment experience.
“Jubilation Day” is an example of serious bluegrass chops and a touch of signature Steve Martin humor coming together in a song no one else could pull off:
Every member of The Steep Canyon Rangers is a bluegrass heavy hitter. Here, they honor Flatt & Scruggs (sort of) with a fiddle and banjo tune that builds one instrument at a time:
All the musicians in this troupe are stand-outs; the banjos shred with Steve and Graham Sharp dueling, Charles Humphrey on bass, Mike Guggino on mandolin, and Woody Platt (what an awesome bluegrass name) on guitar and vocals. They all seemed excellent, on par with one another until they let fiddler, Nicky Sanders out of his cage at the end of the first set and he went absolutely apeshit:
The second set was devoted to the band’s work with Edie Brickell on their latest album, Love Has Come for You:
When I first heard Sir Paul McCartney was kicking off his Out There tour at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL my response was, “meh.” Then I was was like, “wait, this isn’t Sting. This isn’t going to be the adult contemporary mom party I think it’s going to be. It’s a fucking Beatle!” I have to see a Beatle before they call it quits, right? Paul McCartney’s post-Beatle catalog is staggering and songs like, “Baby, I’m Amazed” and “Band on the Run” are near perfect songs in themselves, but the chance to see rock ‘n roll history is one that shouldn’t be missed. I will never stop kicking myself for missing James Brown at the House of Blues in Orlando. Actually, that is one of the biggest motivating factors to see Sir Paul. This is a lead figure in the best – if not, most influential – rock band in human history.
They opened with “Eight Days a Week” and I teared up a little. The fucking guy that wrote “Eight Days a Week” is playing it in front of me. When will I get that chance again? I wasn’t sure what to expect with McCartney’s performance. I thought it would be a big production, but it was basically four guys with a fifth guy filling in as a multi-instrumentalist. This gave the show even more punch as it was basically a straightforward, amped up rock show.
Paul was charming and funny, regaling the audience with bits of rock history and insight from the Beatles and his years on the road. It gave me chills similar to Bob Wooten’s banter during the Tennessee 3 show in Orlando. It’s just awe-inspiring for me to hear the stories of rock legend told by the people that lived through them. Bob told tales of walking into Sam Phillips studio with Johnny Cash and McCartney would tell stories like the time Hendrix performed “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” only two days after the album was released and how he needed Eric Clapton to tune his guitar after. This is pure gold for a rock fan or any student of the humanities really.
He paid homage to the other Beatles through story and song like he did with this sweet ukelele version of George’s “Something.”
The Pumpkins broke from their world tour dates in Florida to join the roster at a few festivals including the Funshine Music Fest at Ax Gary Amphitheater in Tampa. Here, they do a paired down festival set aimed at a broader audience. In this instance an audience that includes fans of Train and Phillip Phillips. Who the fuck is Phillip Phillips btw? Not for nothin’ pal, but your parents are dickheads. Phillip Phillips. While those monsters of rock played in the giant amphitheater, SP played a side hall that was better suited for a rodeo or a livestock competition. With the tropical shit storm that sat on Florida for nearly a week it was actually way better that they played inside. The hall was rather big too with about 3,000 in attendance that caught the opening “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” then bee-lined to Train leaving about 1,500 SP fans to enjoy the rest of the show that was a modified version of the full shows in Melbourne and St. Augustine.
They were mercilessly loud. Mike Byrne is playing his heart out, Nicole Fiorentino looks and sounds wonderful, Jeff Schroeder is absolutely killing it and even picking up more lead duties, and Billy appears to be having a great time. The Smashing Pumpkins are a force in concert. Seeing Anthrax, Rush, the Smashing Pumpkins 3 times, and The Black Crowes twice in less than a month along with the release of new Queens of the Stone Age material has got my dick hard for rock. It’s making me realize just how tired I am of two-man laptop bands and “indie” dog shit.
“Zero” with a cool melodic intro
As is customary with SP stops in SW Central Florida, William Corgan Sr. makes an appearance.
“United States” a song that should be a rallying cry for a people that is having their way of life hijacked by a corporatized, criminal government