Friday Fives – more music because my editor is a lazy bastard

I can say that, right?  I mean… it’s with love.  Plus, it’s about music.  I can hold forth all day long about music… but you poor sucks already know that, don’t you?

Who is the worst band you’ve ever seen live and why?

Flaming Lips at Red Rocks.  They were opening for someone, I don’t remember.  I was initially very excited to see them.  Wayne Coyne is famous for his great live shows.  Red Rocks is also a magical place that has coaxed amazing performances out of mediocre bands… like Radiohead.  The Flaming Lips were horrible.  I finally realized they are built on kitsch and novelty.  They are not good songwriters, they are not good musicians, and Wayne Coyne is not a good singer.  10 or 15 minutes into their set I have to leave. I went up top to drink and look at the amazing view.

See, if you go up top, the sound is horrible… which is best for the Lips.  It means it is also the quietest up there.  Red Rocks doesn’t put speakers anywhere but the base of a stage.  Normally, this would be fine… were you not on the side of the mountain.  If you are not in the first 30 rows, the sound is terrible.  This is especially true when the wind whips around, which it tends to do on the side of a mountain.

but why were they so bad?  The music just wasn’t compelling on any level.  Not catchy, nor thoughtful.  You know those kids songs Charlie Sheen’s character wrote on 2 and a half men?  It was stuff like ‘who cut the cheese?’.  Yeah, that is Flaming Lips catalog.  Anyone who likes Flaming Lips is a hipster douchebag!  Trust me, it takes one to know one.

But… any concert at Red Rocks can’t be that bad, right?  It’s like how they say a bad day fishing is better than the best day at work?  Well, they weren’t at this show.  To close, Will Rogers never met this band.

Who is the best band you’ve seen live, and why?

Oh golly, I have see a LOT of bands, and a LOT of great bands.  It is almost impossible to pick 1.  So, I’ll pick two.  This answer goes out to Cody in Utah, a month late.  Sorry on that, bud.  James Taylor and Barenaked Ladies.

James Taylor I have been seeing since high school, possibly longer.  For one, and maybe this is a given, he sounds perfect… every time.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s… every decade I have seen him he was amazing and crystal clear.  Every show gets the obvious hits.  Here is what people don’t know who haven’t seen him; he is hilarious.  He is a seriously funny and engaging guy.  I have seen comedians live, many of the great ones:  Richard Lewis, Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black, and Brian Regan.  I have laughed that hard at every single James Taylor show.

Barenaked Ladies have always killed it live.  First time I saw them, it was the ‘Rock Spectacle’ tour, which was a very early greatest hits tour… of sorts.  I wasn’t a big fan, but I Gordon.  The internet wasn’t everywhere yet, so I hadn’t seen clips or read reviews.  After that show, I was amazed.  As everyone knows now, they are amazing live.  Funny and sweet and musical and surprisingly improvisational.

Every show becomes a very unique experience.  It becomes about your city, and current events.  I have seen them 3 or 4 times, and every show was better than the last.  I should have to mention this was all back when Steven Page was with them.  I can tell you every person who has ever seen BNL at any era with Steven Page will tell you it was the best concert they have ever seen.  I agree.

What band has your go to perfect album?

Again, SO many.  How about three?  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti,  Guns & Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.

What are the best comebacks you know?

The question implies a witty rejoinder, a la ‘the jerk store called’.  In the spirit of the questions leading up to this, I will assume it is a poorly worded question about career comebacks in music.

I have been seeing bands for 30 years now (it starts with the Police in 1983 and Rush in 1985… and keeps going).  One day, ask me about the golden girl I saw at the Rush, and how that kinda changed my life. Hint, it involves boobs and a 13 year old boy. A lot of the acts I have seen were regarded as ‘comebacks’, but never left.  I saw Pearl Jam in 1997, and the critics were calling it their ‘comeback’ tour.  They never went anywhere, never broke up, and never stopped making music.  Same has been said for seeing Page & Plant together, James Taylor, and Paul Simon.  To qualify, we have to count a band who fully broke up before I saw them.  I think these guys broke up a lot.  Heck, they just re-broke up again last fall.  This time, I think it’s for good.  Greg must be in his 70s.

The Allman Brothers.  I first saw them in the late 80s.  They had already been broken up and reunited several times by then.  Over the years, I saw them more than any other band, except maybe the Grateful Dead.  I have seen both bands around 20 times.

When I count the Dead above, I am talking about with Jerry Garcia.  Since his passing, I have seen another 20 shows of their very many offshoot bands.  Also saw Bobby and Jerry solo while Jerry was alive.  Still go see Bobby every year.  Going to see him this summer, too.

The Allmans are a unique class of band that got better with age.  They are also a band that thrives live.  I say the same about Iron Maiden.  They not only get better, they get more popular.  Iron Maiden is amazing, and one of two bands I NEVER miss when they come to town (the other is Pearl Jam).  Sorry, since we are talking about great live bands, I had to get in a plug for Iron Maiden.

The radio is on and you are driving down the road, a song comes on. At what moment did you realize “Damn.. I’m getting old”?

HA… I remember the exact moment.  Wifey and I were driving through Northern Arizona on our bi annual trek to see movies.  We were in a car that likely only had a cassette deck, and we were sick of our tapes.  Maybe it was CDs, who knows?  We were searching the radio for anything.  Of course, when you are in the middle of nowhere, you only get county and bible shit.  Why is that?

FINALLY we find a good station.  Prince was on, from his Purple Rain heyday.  We were so pleased with ourselves until the dj came on.  “you’re listening to Northern Arizona’s golden oldies.”.  we listened for another hour.  We knew, and loved, every song.  We were OLD, man.  I swear we were only in our early 30s, if even that.  We are early 40s, now.

* for the record, Wayne did this.  It was cool and all, but clearly a distraction from shitty music.  Prince never had to do this.  Also, he was afraid to get passed back/up.  Reasonable, since Red Rocks is built into the side of a mountain.  Still, though, that woulda been cool.

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Friday Fives – in concert edition

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, or over-think this.  Just whatever pops in to mind.

20141017_095812Best concert

Gosh, I have been to so many concerts. Hundreds. See those ticket stubs in there?  That is just the last ten years, after I had effectively stopped going to concerts.  Best Concert? In the spirit of not over-thinking it (per our instructions), it just may have been Pearl Jam last night in Denver. I have seen the band a lot. Over ten times, I would say. Last night’s show was unique and amazing. And long. Almost four hours. I wrote that up this morning, though, if you are interested.

Worst concert

I can’t think of any overtly bad shows. Ok, there were some that were a little disappointing. I saw Smashing Pumpkins three different times on the Siamese Dream tour. Each and every one of those shows was stopped early because Billy lost his shit at something stupid. However, the band was absolutely at the height of their powers then. So, even a shortened Pumpkins set was still more beautiful and powerful and intense than every other rock band playing a full set.  At that time, in that era, on that tour, Smashing Pumpkins*** were the greatest rock band in America.  This was a band at the height of their powers > like Guns and Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’ era.  Zeppelin in ’77, the Destroyer bootleg era Chili Peppers*** on the ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ tour.  Beastie Boys*** on ‘Ill Communication’.  Nirvana*** on Nevermind tour.  Pearl Jam*** on the Ten Tour.  Police*** on ‘Synchronicity’.  Prince in the ‘Purple Rain’ era.

Billy Corgan:  he will cut you

These are bands that were in top form, taking over the Earth.  It never lasts long, but if you can catch a band in this moment, you should.

There was another show I was disappointed at, but not the band’s fault at all. Back at Lolla 2 (1992) Pearl Jam had been added to the bill last minute. They were just coming up, and getting bigger every day. Because they were a late add, they had a shitty time slot. They went on at 2 pm. PLUS, it was a school/work day. So, about half the audience wouldn’t show up until about 7 pm, after work, time to catch the headliners. PLUS – it was Phoenix in the summer. So, it was 118 degrees out… as it is in summer in Phx.

At this point in time, I was already a rabid Pearl Jam fan. This was my third time seeing them, and they were still just out whoring for their very first album. I saw them three times in Phoenix in one year.  Can you imagine how many shows they must have played that year?  Editors note:  I counted them up.  They played 71 shows in one year. So, there was virtually no one there to see them. It was early and it was hot as hell. There was no shade at this venue, so most folks found a shaded beer garden and holed up there for a few hours. Sadly, those folks missed an amazing show. Pearl Jam ALWAYS puts on a killer and passionate show.

Most overrated live band

Poison. Actually, I don’t know how they are ‘rated’ live. But, I do enjoy their music. I don’t actually have any albums, but I know the music. Many, many years ago I had the cassette ‘Look what the cat dragged in’.  Look at this cover.  They were seriously hot, beautiful women. Their show was flat. It felt like they were just going through the motions. I fully get how that happens. After 4 or 500 hundred live shows, I imagine it gets tedious. The good bands, though, never let it show.

Oh, and Pink Floyd. That is correct, I have not only seen Pink Floyd, but they sucked. Even kookier – I can tell you that every other person there will tell you it was the greatest show in history. Why the discrepancy? Because most people are stooges. Couple that with the fact that I seriously am an expert in live concerts. I have actually seen more national touring acts than all of your friends put together.

At this point (early 90’s, Division Bell tour) the band was basically the David Gilmour show. That isn’t a necessarily a bad thing. The band played only expected songs. The setlist was boring and predictable. On top of that, the versions played were too good. There was no character or intimate moments. It literally sounded like the band put on a greatest hits CD and stood there. I understand that saying Pink Floyd is wildly over-rated sounds like a hipster douche. However, they are wildly overrated. I very much enjoy their music. However, about 60% of it lost its appeal after I stopped doing drugs. In an unrelated side note, here is my favorite Pink Floyd song, performed awesomely by David Gilmour. This is a beautiful and unique performance of a very deep cut… the kind of moments I live for… and the kind of moments that were not present that evening in Tempe.  I could tell you the name, but it’s so absurd you wouldn’t believe me.  Put some headphones on and dig it!

If you ever get me cornered, ask me to tell you about the drive home. In a blizzard. On drugs. In a strange car.   With a busted window. With 3 guys tripping balls. Oh, I guess I just told you the story. Well, never mind.

I love to play this song camping. It’s tough for the others. I tell them I am going to play some Floyd. Then, I play that song, an Fearless. People get quite disappointed. Sorry, but Wish you were Here gets boring after playing it for 30 years.

Most underrated live band

Again, I am going to mention a couple here. The first is Barenaked Ladies. I haven’t seen them since Steven Page left, so I can’t vouch for their shows now. However, this band is the most fun band live… consistently. I went in to the first show (tour supporting Rock Spectacle, and excellent live collection) just being a casual fan. Maybe even the tickets were free. I can’t remember laughing so hard or feeling so engaged as I did that night. Once that happened, I went to see them every chance I got. In Winterpark the show became rather famous among hardcore fans as the ‘pipe guy’ show.

It’s a great story, but one you need to hear in person. I have met hardcore BNL fans, who have never been to Colorado. I tell them “I was at the ‘pipe guy’ show and they gush every time. Ever been to a rock show at a ski resort? It is super cool. They set up a stage at the bottom of the hill/run. Then, the people just fill up the hill. Everyone has a great site line, because you are halfway up a mountain. On top of that, you are in the woods. It is just magical.

Oh, the other is James Taylor.  As you can guess, I have seen him a ton, too.  Over ten times.  Now, you imagine a James Taylor show is relaxed white people listening to very pretty songs.  It is.  But, it is SO much more.  First off, his voice is still crystal clear.  It sounds as good or better than it did in 1972, when Fire and Rain first came out.  Next, he is a super good guitar player.  Then, my favorite part; he is incredibly funny.  He is as engaging and fun as BNL.  There is no concert I laugh at more than a James Taylor show.  He gets is self image.  He is keenly aware that is a punchline of all that is white and boring in music.  He plays off that. Here is my favorite song of his, Copperline.

Best concert album

Simon and Garfunkel – Live in Central Park. There is no further discussion. There is top five list. Just that concert, far and away above the others.  I defy you to watch this and not cry.

 

*** I was at these shows

Friday Fives – more music and michael vick, too

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Which music artists football players* have changed the game?

Well, I will tell you about something a lot of people don’t talk about. Michael Vick! Yes, he is a horrible person and a psycho who killed dogs for sport. However, he also changed the game of football… completely and single-handedly. Allow me to ‘splain.

Before Vick, the guys on the line of scrimmage (both sides, defense and offense) weren’t designed for endurance or distance. They were big fat bastards. There only job was to run into each other at top speed, and allow the fat, planetary-like collisions to buy the QB enough time to dump the ball (to a running back behind him, or a receiver down field). So, if you worked on the line you didn’t have to be fast, or in shape. All you had to be was a fat motherfucker. Remember William ‘the refrigerator’ Perry? He was 382 pounds. That was his single only contribution to the Bears. He was AWESOME.

Quarterbacks didn’t run, for the most part. Dan Marino, for example, held every passing record in the NFL. He had 32 yards running, in his CAREER. Vick changed that by being incredibly mobile. Once you hiked him the ball, he just took off. Not even forward, necessarily… just everywhere.   So, the guys in charge of chasing him… just about fell over dead. This allowed him to take all the time in the world.

This changed the game. His mobility meant those guys on the line (again, both sides) had to be fit and fast and have endurance. Yes, other quarterbacks moved before him and after him… but no one like him. I think he changed the game of football more than any one single person before him. Also, don’t worry about the dog thing. He not only went to jail and humiliated himself… but if you believe in hell I assure you he is going there.

* I felt like talking about football.  So, I made an executive decision

What’s the best acoustic version of a song?

I have to go with Everlong on the Howard Stern show. Again, that single leaked recording was a revolution that made acoustic cool again. It was a breakthrough for everyone, ESPECIALLY Dave Grohl. He clearly hadn’t planned to play guitar for Howard. They probably had a guitar in studio. It was also apparent he had NEVER played the song on acoustic before. This is unusual, as almost all songs are written on acoustic.

Also, he didn’t choose the song, Baba Booey did (Dell’Abate, the show’s producer). So, he wings it… and creates an historic moment.

Keep in mind, ‘Unplugged’ had largely fallen off the radar… especially for rock groups. His performance is amazing. It also shows how unbelievable good that song is. It stands up without distortion or a big band or special effects or overdubs. To this day, Grohl plays that song with an acoustic intro all because of that day. Now, we don’t have video of this. It was when Howard was on terrestrial radio. We do have the audio though. Listen to this with headphones. Seriously, that is an order. Note his singing, as well. When Foo Fighters play live, Dave Grohl screams. There is little nuance to his singing OR playing, historically. In this performance, he sings carefully, and plays carefully. He is a good and talented musician.

Now, if I may generalize, 99.99999999% of the time I prefer an acoustic version of anything.  It shows the actual musical proficiency of the artists, and shows when a song can stand on its own without special effects and studio magic.

What is something you were a huge fan of BEFORE it got really popular?

Your mother. Ha, just kidding. Never liked her at all. How about this, I knew Guns and Roses before they were big. Before their first album. Before ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. Now, I don’t get credit for discovering them. That goes to Tim Ashton. He had a very obscure limited EP ‘Live like a fuckin’ suicide’ on cassette. Once Guns got big, they re-released that EP as side two of ‘Lies’. In fact, lemme tell you about that summer. Tim and I were inseparable. We spent every waking moment together. We had a cassette that we listened at all times. It never got pulled out of the cassette deck. We were, and it was a blank tape. One side had Appetite for Destruction and the other side had ‘in the Dark’ from the Grateful Dead. Two masterpiece albums

Also, I was a fan of Pumpkins years before ‘Today’ and all their hits off of Siamese Dream.

What are you listening to right now?

Mr Wonderful on Shark Tank. Oh.. you meant in music? The usual suspects, Pearl Jam bootlegs, Grateful Dead, early Dylan. Also, I picked up the new free U2 album today. It is quite good. Though I don’t listen to U2 like I used to, I think they are biggest and best rock band in the business today. Their disc from about 7 or 8 or 5 or 10 years ago (editors note:  2000.  So, it was 14 years ago)  is one of the top five albums EVER made. It’s called ‘All that you can’t leave behind’. It’s super duper good. You should not even finish reading this. Find that album and download it. Don’t even talk to me unless you have heard it about 45 times.

What’s the saddest song in the world?

Idiot Wind. Well, I dunno. Each and every song on that album is a serious heartbreaker and soul crusher. The album is Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood on the Tracks’. It is his masterpiece form 1974 about his divorce. Dig these lyrics from Idiot Wind.

I can’t feel you anymore, I can’t even touch the books you’ve read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishing I was somebody else instead
Down the highway down the tracks down the road to ecstasy
I followed you beneath the stars hounded by your memory
And all you raging glory.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me
You’ll never know the hurt I suffered not the pain I raise above
And I’ll never know the same about you your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.

Every single song on that album is that well written and that sad. This album, most famously, produced ‘Tangled up in Blue”.

OOOHHH WAIT. Even better and sadder – John Prine. Which song? Try every song he ever wrote. More specifically, look at this song – ‘Lake Marie’. At first glance, it appears to be sweet. The subtext of sadness is so well written, it simply defines the issue of heartbreak.

Yes, that it what it looks like at first… like ‘My Last Dutchess’. But look closer at the words. Holy fuck this song is sad. Here is a verse, and here is a clip of him playing said song.

Many years later I found myself talking to this girl
Who was standing there with her back turned to Lake Marie
The wind was blowing especially through her hair
There was four Italian sausages cooking on the outdoor grill
And Man, they was ssssssssizzlin’
Many years later we found ourselves in Canada
Trying to save our marriage and perhaps catch a few fish
Whatever seemed easier
That night she fell asleep in my arms
Humming the tune to “Louie Louie’
Aah baby, We gotta go now.