Friday Fives – the independence of it all

Do you have any Independence day traditions? 

I guess it mostly depends if you are inviting me over for something, are you? There has been an accidental tradition of being at Grateful Dead shows in the 4th. My first Dead show (Jerry is still alive at this point) was July 4th 1989. I was at many subsequent July 4th shows. When the Dead did their first formal reunion, about ten years ago, we were there, too. This was July 4th, at the Gorge. The band was billing itself at ‘the Dead’, as opposed to ‘the Grateful Dead’. I liked this, it was a classy homage to their history, but by not fully using the entire name… it was an homage to the fact Jerry was gone and it could never be the Dead again.

As you read this, I am seeing the Grateful Dead again, and again on July 4th. In the last 25 years, I suppose there have been more independence day holidays not at Dead shows that at Dead show. But, the Dead shows were certainly a bit more memorable. Where would you rather be? What is more American than the Grateful Dead? I can prove it. A couple years ago I had to call customer service for some Dead CDs I had ordered. The call center for the customer service was in India. That is how American they are. It made me sad. A bit of a sell out, and Jerry wouldn’t have allowed that.

Do you have any Independence bad memories? 

Well, yeah. After the aforementioned Dead reunion show at the Gorge, we were camping there. We had driven from Denver, you see. After the show, it being the 4th, everyone had fireworks. This is quite common at Dead shows. What you don’t have, though, is people in any condition to be shooting fireworks. It literally felt and sounded like a war zone. Shit was flying EVERYWHERE, and exploding. It wasn’t stuff flying up and exploding, either. It was stuff going sideways, and blowing up. It was terrifying.

Not conducive to sleep, and we were tired. Not just a ton of driving that day, but then an 8 hour concert. The Allmans opened up. Each band plays for about 3 to 4 hours, with set breaks in between. The amazing Warren Haynes played lead guitar for BOTH bands. 8 hours on stage. It was an amazing show, and the Gorge is still the most beautiful venue on Earth. I say that as someone who lives just a few miles away from Red Rocks.

It was tough to sleep. On top of that, some asshats set up a serious powerful speaker system out of their truck and played rave music. LOUDLY. It could be heard for miles. We didn’t want to hear ANY music, not to mention rave electronic music. We kept thinking security would come and tell them to turn it off. We were afraid to leave the tent, because of the fireworks issue. It wasn’t safe to walk around. Finally, after about an hour of this, I snuck over in the dark and unplugged their shit. Not just the power, that would be too easy. They could have just plugged it back in. I know how sound systems work, since I am in a rock band on the side. I think I pulled out the quarter inch audio jacks and then hid amplifier transfer box thingy under their tire. They would find it in the morning. It worked. Power to the people!

I am aware it’s ironic and kinda fucked up that a guy going to see the band who was the ultimate fuck you to the power structure… and I am now the ‘turn it down and get off my lawn’ guy. Had to be done, and everyone was appreciative.

What’s the most patriotic thing you have ever done? 

That thing above. Shutting down that goddamn fucking rave. Does ruining some kids one shot at a good time make me an American hero? Yup.

What is one of your earliest fireworks memories?

None come to mind. I can tell you this about fireworks. They were illegal in AZ. Super illegal. Like, you can’t have a sparkler. It’s the desert, and 120 in July. So, it absolutely makes sense. There were professional fireworks shows, of course, but it just wasn’t that big a deal. Well, I have some great stories about Mexican fireworks, but we don’t have time for that now.

What part of American history did you learn as a youth that you have discovered is completely misunderstood. 

Yeah. I remember finally figuring out the pledge of allegiance is some fucked up bullshit or a country that prides itself on freedom of everything.   I pledge allegiance to the flag, and the country, and to god? Fuck you, buddy. Now, there is nothing wrong with having pride in your country, and teaching that to kids. BUT… we were taught that before we knew what any of those words meant. THAT is what I resent. In my lower teens, I started the whole ‘society doesn’t know dick and is all about oppression and we gotta break the whole thing, man!’ phase. Did you have that? I hope so. I started standing for the pledge, but not saying it.

Power to the people. All power to the people. I can only hope that somewhere, some kid is writing in his blog about his 4th of July memories. He is telling a story about a joyous after concert dance celebration with the fans of the Grateful Dead, until some narc spoke into their shit and killed the joy. Probably a cop, no Deadhead would do such a power move.

Are you out there, kid? Happy 4th!

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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.

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 – another music cop out

hey all,

Yesterday didn’t go well in ‘IamCorrectistan’. My life is fine, but this website got all jacked up. Then, my editor sent me 5 questions I had answered in the Spring. I did not want to give you used content. So, I am going to do what I always do when I get stumped here. The first 5 songs that come up from my iPhone and my connection to them.

Note, last time I did this I did a whole piece on Amy Winehouse and how she is not overrated. She died the next fucking morning! The proof is right here.

rick_rubin_1

So, here goes.  Hope no ones dies >

Bob Dylan – My Back Pages

Well, I just love Bob Dylan.  Bob Dylan comprises about 30% of my music listening every day.  Right now, in fact, I am listening to my Bob Dylan station on Pandora.  This song has the greatest lyric in the hook.  Good stuff, and deep.  “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.

Big Jim Slade – Ain’t it Free

This is a local band, and some friends.  About 15 years ago, we were all co-workers at Nextel.  This is Slaus, Thad, and the bass players name escapes me.  I think he went by ‘Lopey’.  Anyway, these guys are really great.  They put out an album long ago and I still listen often.  It is called ‘Befuddled’.  They have been broken up about ten years now, probably, with Slaus now living in Atlanta (I think).  I tried to find a youtube clip of them for you, but could not.  It’s a shame, they are amazing.  Note, if you google the band name, another band comes up with same name.   This is why our Big Jim Slade changed their name at the end of their time together to ‘Lemon Engine’.  I wish I could have found their music, it is SO good.  Tell you what, find me and i will burn you a copy

Allman Brothers – Ain’t wastin time no more

Love this song.  Great early rocker from the band.  This cut is from the Red Rocks cd.  Even better is I was at this show (I am at all their shows.  have seen them over 20 times).  Tough story behind the song.  The band was almost done with their landmark lp ‘Eat a Peach’.  Seriously, this album could just be called ‘greatest hits’.  Blue Sky, One Way Out, Melissa, Statesboro Blues.  Anyhow, they were done with this record when their guitarist, Duane Allman, died in a motorcycle accident.  After his happened, Greg Allman went back into the studio to cut this track to honor his brother.  Heavy stuff!

Joe Myers – Alchemy

Joe Myers is an amazing acoustic guitarist.  Possibly the greatest in history.  I kinda grew up watching Joe, as he is a Phoenix musician.  I used to see him every week in college at ASU, and that was 20 years ago.  Now, I didn’t go see him every week because I was a big fan.  No, he was simply the local band at the one place that never carded.  I came to love his music and his musicianship.  I kind of think of him as a friend.  He is still gigging, and I just saw him last summer.  He has CDs on iTunes, and you should buy some.  Here are some clips, dig it!  I have seen Joe probably 30 or 40 times, and it is never enough.  He isn’t just an amazing guitar player, he is a great songwriter, and a hell of a nice guy.

Pearl Jam Alive

Well, you know I love this band.  This band is the only band I am in a ‘fan club’ for.  Have been since 1997.  LOVE me some Pearl Jam, and of course I see them whenever they come.  There are only 2 bands at this point that i NEVER miss live – Iron Maiden and Pearl Jam.  This song is their big breakthrough anthem off their debut album.  not sure if a better debut record exists.  I can tell you this, though; there is something amazing being in a crowd with 30,000 other people singing along to the chorus.  I put a clip uip above. Well, I’ll just add it here, too.  Dig this voice.  It really is something. 

Oh, and check out this story.  I have probably told it a million times.  The first time I saw them live I had NO idea who they were.  They were just breaking on MTV with ‘Even Flow’, but I didn’t have cable.  I was there to see the other 2 bands:  Nirvana and the Chili’s.  It was pretty much the concert of a lifetime.  one night, one stage – Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Pearl Jam.  All were at the peak of their powers.  Nirvana had just broke through with ‘Smells like Teen Spirit”