Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zut Alors! Pixies Annouce American Tour!

Holy crap, holy crap, and holy crap.

The one the only the spectacular Pixies are hitting the road later this year for some North American dates. I'm definitely a sucker for seeing the awesome bands I missed back when I should have seen them the first time, so I'll be glued to my laptop on 9/11 trying to get some tickets for the tour-ending DC date (as much as it really does seriously suck seeing a gig at Constitution Hall). Cut to "La La Love You" being stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Here's the full list of dates, and a big thanks to the fine folks at Prefix for the schedule:

11.04 Los Angeles, CA: The Palladium (on sale TBA)
11.08 Oakland, CA: Fox Theater (on sale August 16)
11.09 Oakland, CA: Fox Theater (on sale August 16)
11.12 Seattle, WA: Paramount Theatre (on sale August 1)
11.13 Seattle, WA: Paramount Theatre (on sale August 1)
11.14 Eugene, OR: Hult Center (on sale August 14)
11.16 Denver, CO: The Fillmore (on sale September 12)
11.20 Chicago, IL: Aragon Ballroom (on sale September 12)
11.21 Chicago, IL: Aragon Ballroom (on sale September 12)
11.23 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.24 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.25 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.27 Boston, MA: Wang Center (on sale September 12)
11.30 Washington, D.C.: Constitution Hall (on sale September 11)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mick

Ask me who my favorite band is, and I'll give you a list of three names: Radiohead, The Verve, and this man's band. The Rolling Stones.

To me, and countless others, they are unparalleled, without peer, and the best damn rock band the world has ever known. And o, those lips...All of this will of course amuse my mother to no end, because for years we fought over The Stones and The Beatles (I was a proponent of the Fab Four for a long time). I once spoke disgustedly about the Stones song "Under My Thumb" and the woman Jagger sang about. But one day I woke up, saw the light, and haven't looked back.

It doesn't get any better than Mick Jagger as a frontman. He is the consummate lead singer, the oversexed, overly hedonistic with bedroom eyes and a whip-smart intelligence. Sure, he fibbed when he said many years ago that he would quit when he was 30. I don't know about you, but I'm glad that was a lie.

Happy 66th Birthday to the Man, the Myth, the Legend: Mick Jagger.

Meet Balkans

Atlanta Rising, part 2.

As with the previously mentioned Carnivores, Balkans is another ATL band making some (seriously fantastic) noise. They are young, they are brash, and they kinda sorta rock my little world. It's no great stretch of the imagination to see them sharing a stage with The Black Lips at some point in the near future, as they've got the bratty snarls and devil-may-care 'tude down pat. For those of us who enjoy sharply strummed guitars, warbling vocals, and songs that promise heaving dancefloors (see "Oh Dear"), I think you'll be pretty enamored with Balkans in no time flat. I sure am.

I'd like to reiterate the Balkans/Carnivores double-header on Tuesday 7/28: first, catch the hot instore action at Plan 9 (Balkans are on at 6), and then head over to The Triple for what will no doubt be one heck of a show. Bitchin'.

mp3: Oh Dear

[Photo by Jeoff Davis]

Meet Carnivores

Thought for the day: Is Atlanta the new Athens?

Think about it, my dearests. Athens has always been the trendy pick in Georgia, the small college town with indie bands to spare. But over the past few years, thanks in no small part to The Black Lips (o, how I love them), Hotlanta's been on the brink of something special. And now, well, the floodgates might be about to open. May I present to you exhibit A, otherwise known as Carnivores. They've got attitude in spades, guitars verging on obnoxiously loud, and hilarious song titles like "Organ Trail" and "When We Met You Called Me Stoic." In other words, they're pretty goddam good.

For those of us in Richmond, Tuesday 7/28 is a double bill of awesome starring Carnivores: first an instore at Plan 9 at 5, and then a gig at The Triple (both with fellow Atlantans Balkans). I'll be there, make sure you're there, too.

mp3: There Is Evil

Friday, July 24, 2009

LP Lust: Jooooooly Edition

Hot damn it's been a long time since I went record shopping. When I first had that thought, friends, I realized it was time to make amends, and add records to my already full shelves. Obviously, it's time to buy more shelves.

The records listed here were acquired over the past couple weeks, including a no-holds barred pillaging of the record bins of several area thrift stores this morning. I lucked my way into quite a variety this time, a little bit of this, that, and then some. After this haul, I thank my lucky stars to have wandered into the stores when I did. One of the best ways I know of to beat the heat is by parking myself on my couch with a nice cold beverage, listening to one of these fabulous records all night long.

*Bay City Rollers: Dedication
*Parliament: Motor Booty Affair
*Herbie Mann: Glory of Love
*Brushfire Records 12" Sampler Volume I
*Procul Harum: Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
*The Rolling Stones: Hot Rocks
*Jeff Beck: Blow by Blow
*Duane & Greg: Allman
*The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street
*Nancy Wilson: Goin' Out of My Head
*Big Country: The Crossing
*Babar Songs & Stories
*The Umbrellas of Cherbourg OST
*A Man and a Woman OST
*Chet Atkins: Music from Nashville My Home Town
*The Dillards: Live...Almost
*Willie Nelson: The Sound in Your Mind
*The Mamas & The Papas: A Gathering of Flowers - The Anthology
*Diana Ross & The Supremes: Greatest Hits
*Kenny Rogers: The Gambler
*Charley Pride: Pride of Country Music
*Adam & The Ants: Stand and Deliver!
*The Police: Synchronicity
*Steve Miller Band: The Joker
*Muddy Waters: King Bee
*Metallica: Ride the Lightning
*Men at Work: Business as Usual
*Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hard Promises
*Roy Orbison: The Classic Roy Orbison
*Charley Pride: Charley Pride in Person
*Barry Nesbitt and The Highlanders: Scots Wha' Ha'e
*Henry Mancini: The Pink Panther

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Live Review: NIN/JA 2009 @ Merriweather Post Pavilion, June 9, 2009

There are shows, and then there are Shows. Your average show happens every night, in bars the world over. They range from dire to nothing special to pretty darn good. Shows, conversely, Shows are something else entirely. Shows can be stunning, awe-inspiring, earth-shaking. At a Show, you might see stars, shapes, or God. Shows don't happen all that often, but when they do, you're bound to thank your lucky stars you were there. And friends, last month, I saw a goddam Show. Nine Inch Nails. Jane's Addiction. Live supremacy. Below is my review from RVA, photos by Miss Laura O'Neill. Hope you managed to catch the NIN/JA tour...

"If you’re anything close to my age (30), there’s a small collection of bands that have been a part of all our lives for a good number of years. You’ve probably spent over half of your life listening to some of them, even the ones that you weren’t necessarily all that fond of to begin with. These bands, over time, become a part of the lexicon of your days, the familiar Old Faithfuls of your record collection. When you got bored with the new or became tired of the classics, they were there, dependable. Listening to them, whether as a snippet of a chorus heard on modern rock radio or a voluntary listen at home, can bring back a flood of memories of bygone days, blurry snapshots of younger years. And it couldn’t possibly get much more nostalgic (or, well, awesome) than the Nine Inch Nails/Jane’s Addiction NIN/JA farewell tour, which stopped in the wilds of Maryland at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

When Trent Reznor announced (in his very fan-friendly way) the indefinite hiatus on NIN tours, it brought a tear to my eye. For my money, there are few bands around that can touch the intricacies, the intense spectacle, and the sheer performance value offered at a Nine Inch Nails show. Admittedly, I was slow (a mild understatement) to see the appeal of the formerly constantly black-clad and gloomy Reznor (my obsession with Britpop during my formative years being well-documented), but thanks to some jaw-droppingly spectacular live shows and a couple of the newer records, I’ve seen myself turn into quite an NIN fangirl. So naturally, then, the announcement of one last Nine Inch Nails tour was huge (another mild understatement). Throw in the promise of fellow '90s alternative mainstays Jane’s Addiction (and, I can’t lie, the promise of a shirtless Dave Navarro), and I was sold. Tickets were procured, preparations made (including a homemade cocktail I dubbed “The Ninja”). It seemed as though June 9th would never come.

When NIN/JA Day finally arrived, we jaunted up to Columbia, giggling like teenagers (the not-so-unexpected side effect of sheer giddiness, and those homemade cocktails). The glorious, sun-dappled (though ridiculously muggy) day gave way to the billowing thunderheads of a late afternoon storm, making a very atmospheric backdrop for the bon voyage party of two heavyweights. It’s as if Mother Nature wanted to see to it that the bands went out with a bang - though there were no worries there.

The farewell began with former Rage Against the Machine axeman Tom Morello’s newest band, Street Sweeper Social Club. I found them notable more for their matching epaulette-laden military jackets and huge banner than their actual tunes, though they did provide a fair introduction to the proceedings. It was loud, it was heavy, and you could dance to some of it. We already knew that Morello knows how to play guitar better than about 99% of the population, but the magic he found with Rage hasn’t been replicated. The best thing about SSSC, though, was that they sounded nothing like Audioslave.

After Morello and Co. left the stage, a certain energy began to fill the air. The thousands of us in the stands and the thousands more swathed in ponchos on the lawn all seemed to be buzzing at once. It was impatience, expectance, and exhilaration all pouring forth at the same time. After what seemed an interminable, molasses-like span of time, the lights finally went down, the crowd roared, and out strolled Nine Inch Nails for one final turn on the Merriweather stage. Trent Reznor being ever the chameleon, his approach to the final tour was in stark contrast with the last time I saw them, last November in Charlottesville. That show featured highly elaborate stage and lighting configurations, with each note of each song carefully planned with sensational effects for maximum impact. The NIN/JA tour was far less dramatic, though no less atmospheric. With the ever-approaching nightfall above, the dark lighting scheme of hazy golden browns and dark purples with strategically placed spotlights seemed somber and moody, perfect tones for a goodbye. The gloom was interspersed by fiery red lights and electric blues, but the fancy projections and mesh boxes were a thing of the past.

NIN was in rare form, though it’s pretty hard to imagine this band having an off night. They began with “999,999” and set the tone immediately. It was to be nothing but the best. The 19-song set was full of favorites, a veritable retrospective of NIN’s lengthy and noteworthy career. Two standouts were “March of the Pigs” and “Echoplex”, an old and a new favorite, the former featuring one hell of an audience singalong (though there were many), and the latter having been tweaked so that Robin Finck's saucy guitar riff was somehow even dirtier. All four band members were in fine fettle, with Reznor, as always, taking the lead. Alternating between vocals, guitar, keyboards, and fair amounts of thrashing around with boundless energy, the 44-year-old continues to put dudes half his age to shame. And hot damn, is he sexy. Every song was great, but the final four nearly induced my brain to melt: “Dead Souls” (the Joy Division cover that I never in a million years would have expected to see live), “The Hand That Feeds”, “Head Like a Hole”, and “Hurt”. The crowd singing along to “Head Like a Hole” and “Hurt” was quite possibly the loudest I’ve ever heard at a concert. And the finale, “Hurt”, was the best I’ve ever seen it, with extra poignance because of the finality of the gig. Despite the lack of songs like “Closer” or “Mr. Self-Destruct”, it was an amazing set, nearly perfect, but incredibly bittersweet. If we had to say adieu to NIN, this was the way to do it.

After the set that I didn’t want to end, it was time to take a breather before Jane’s Addiction closed the show. I’d never been much of a Jane’s fan, probably thanks to years of inherent resistance to the song “Jane Says”, which I couldn’t stand back in the day. But now I stand before you, completely converted. All it took was 14 songs to turn me into a believer. Ageless wonder Perry Farrell (50) shimmied and shook his ass across the stage, prancing around in his tight, befeathered ensemble like a preening, over-sexed peacock. Farrell is truly a consummate performer, witty and engaging, with the added charm of being overtly raunchy. Swigging from a bottle of wine, Farrell wiggled his hips and alerted us to the fact that we were making him hard. It wasn’t just the ostentatious Perry that I found so impressive. It was the entire band. They sounded legendary. After falling in love with songs like “Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song”, I found myself under Jane’s spell. I even found their last song, “Jane Says”, fantastic. And that truly is impressive, given how many years I’ve disliked it. The lighting was more outrageous for JA, as you might guess. Lots of pinks and greens and bright purple, to match the over-the-top whirlwind that is Farrell. They sure shocked the hell out of me with how much they could rock. Maybe not quite as hard as they once could, but they still know what they’re doing. And Pied Piper Perry will forever know how to keep the audience in the palm of his hand.

NIN/JA was probably the (non-festival) concert of the year for me. It would take some kinda ferociousness to top what happened up there in Maryland. There are so few bands that could withstand the test of time the way these two bands have. I mean, Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction would have been a hot ticket back in 1994, but it takes something special to keep the masses enamored for as long as they have. They always have great musicians around them, but both bands will always be known and noted for their frontmen; NIN with the awesome force that is Trent Reznor, and Jane’s with Perry Farrell, their brother from another time and place. I just hope they don’t stay in rock & roll retirement for too long. After all, someone’s gotta show the kids how it’s done."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Live Review: Cut Off Your Hands @ Iota, June 5, 2009

I have to say, Cut Off Your Hands is rapidly becoming one of my bands of the year. Having seen them at South by Southwest and at the Black Cat already, I happily drove up 95 for another chance to see some of my favorite Kiwis. Below is the review I wrote for RVA, with photos graciously provided by Adam Kissick.

"“Oh shit,” was the horrified, wide-eyed sentiment collectively chorused by New Zealand’s rising stars Cut Off Your Hands when they learned I was reviewing their performance at Iota, opening for Viva Voce. “What are you gonna say?” they all frowned and fretted, and were genuinely relieved when I promised kind words would be imparted. I wasn’t just giving them lip service, either. A Cut Off Your Hands show, regardless of whether or not you catch them after staying out entirely too late in New York the night before, will always be pretty darn great, no two ways about it.Trust me, I’ve already seen them thrice this year, and would gladly see them a dozen more times if I could.

Despite mouthpiece Nick Johnston’s wary disclaimers about the band’s NYC indulgences, you’d just about never know the band was the least bit tired (well, save for maybe a dark under eye circle hither and yon). The audience, which was a bit on the small side for a Friday night crowd in Arlington, was treated to a solid, if a bit short-ish, eight song set. As much as I love them on record, I’m convinced that COYH is an even better live band. Their exuberant, bright-eyed pop with bite is even more animated, more robust, and more appealing, not to mention of course that the boys themselves are ever so charming in the flesh.

They began the set with one of my favorites, “You & I”, a shouty, frenetic firecracker perfect for kicking things off. A trio of high-energy, catchy as can be songs followed: “It Doesn’t Matter”, “Oh Girl”, and “Turn Cold”. The first line of drinker’s delight “It Doesn’t Matter” seemed perfectly apropos on this night (“I woke up drunk once again this afternoon”), a case of life imitating art, perhaps. The sweeping, grandiose single “Happy As Can Be” was up next, and once again the band didn’t disappoint. I’m a not-so-closeted fan of a good ballad, so when the opening chords of “Nostalgia” started coming from the stage, I inwardly squealed like a fluttering-hearted schoolgirl. O, the crooning, the gentle strum of Jono’s guitar, the “oooooh” choruses. It was a dreamy, languid moment amongst a sea of delirious dizziness. Naturally, the lovely ballad was followed by one of the most danceable songs in the Cut Off Your Hands catalog, “Let’s Get Out of Here.” The summery ode to careless youthful abandon got quite a few of the increasingly less and less stoic Arlingtonians dancing (ever-so-slightly, of course). The last song, “Still Fond”, came much too soon, and just like that it was over. The boys left the stage to fairly enthusiastic cheers, including hearty hollering from the khaki-clad contingent sitting near me at the bar, and I’m pretty sure they won themselves several new fans. My one complaint was the omission of their bitchin’ cover of Split Enz’s “Shark Attack”, which when confronted with my displeasure all four vigorously assured me next time it would be back on the setlist.

After the show, as we kicked it with some drinks, I asked the band to sum up the show in one word. Nick, who was so (unnecessarily) apologetic even after a thumbs-up set, went for “hungover.” A somewhat glazed-over Phil, bassist extraordinaire, needed some time to marinate, eventually settling on “Shock Top.” Not being a beer connoisseur (hard liquor, if you please), I initially thought he was trying to stump me with some Kiwi slang I wasn’t familiar with. Only later on did I come to find he was referring to the pint in front of him. Jono, the somewhat quiet and rather tall guitarist, asked if we could throw proper grammatical caution to the wind for his answer, which was “reallyfuckinggood.” I’m definitely in agreement with him on that point, run-on and all. And Elroy, the delightful new drummer, chose the Zen-like “content” for his summation. Bottom line, though, we were all pretty much on the same page. It was a damn fine show.

All in all, the evening was well worth the $40 parking ticket left for me by the overzealous Arlington parking patrol. Perhaps if they’d seen Cut Off Your Hands, they’d have been in too good a mood to dole out infractions."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ringo

Happy Birthday to everyone's favorite drummer (yes, including mine!). What's not to love about a man called Ringo? I'll always love Mr. Starkey for penning one of my favorite songs when I was younger, "Octopus's Garden", not to mention those endearingly droopy eyes and deadpan Liverpudlian accent. Ringo always seemed to be the sanest of the Beatles, the most level-headed (yes, even while coming up with songs about frolicking under the sea with octopi). He's always seemed like a stand-up guy, and I appreciate how into the notion of harmony he is, not just musically but in terms of universal accord.

So into the idea of love thy neighbor is he that Ringo, last year, evidently wished his birthday to become something greater, something about love and happiness. So let's all wish each other a very happy Peace and Love Day, along with a very happy 70th to Ringo.