Monday, December 30, 2013

The Besty's 2013

To those that deserve a good listen.
Every year is unique, as is the individual path we each choose to navigate. My yearly journey tends to lead me down the rabbit hole that is live music. The concert going experience always resonates with me, I tend to crave live performances. For whatever reason, I caught more live performances this year in the festival setting. Other great shows took me back to a couple of my favorite venues in the Bay Area (I had been missing you Fillmore).

The year of the water snake brought me to familiar places, but make no mistake, these were new paths of exploration. This year the list includes a couple of artists I've certainly blathered about before. I also saw some top notch talent for the first time, which is always nice. The reviewed list below is in chronological order. And the Besty's are...

STS9 at the Fox theatre in Oakland, March 1st

Sector 9 at the Fox pretty much translates into dancing like you're wearing moon boots. You best get there and lock down some prime real estate in front of the sound board on the floor. Sound Tribe kicked off the night with the intent to blister the listener. Songs that the true fan recognizes would be reworked with a hyper pace. This, Us was the flame that set fire to a night that wouldn't be extinguished. The high end beeps and human wooing from, When the Dust Settles was the fuel that would power an audio/visual transportation via Arigato. This Japanese inspired track took us on a digital journey through the high speed trains of modern day Tokyo, complete with the people of everyday day life in the land of the rising sun. The keyboards and monomes were being pushed to their  adaptable interface limits. Sector stayed the course through the next two offerings (Beyond Right Now & T.W.E.L.V.E.) which continued to build in tempo. Warrior came in the way a soldier does, with strength and barking orders. I'm glad I don't have a one-track mind. Hunter was cleanly laying down cadence-like squalls in support of Phipps' cascading keys. Metameme swirled around us with its inhale-exhale-like back beat. Bringing the first set to a close was the playful pulse of Simulator.

Anytime you kick off a second set with a Jamiroquai cover you know shit's gonna get loose. With a ripping live horn section tethered to Sector's altered sound, pure energy was emanating from the stage during, Revolution 1993. There's nothing wrong with being youthfully digital. No one knows this better than Daft Punk. So when the band blitzed us with the End Titles track from Tron, I for one went ballistic. Back to back covers were a fiery surprise. I was sure to tell those who were unaware. Dirty samples brought out the dark side for a rousing Be Nice. When the timing is on, this song bangs. The three piece horn section allowed this STS9 original to be a bit more defiant. Jazzy vibes would continue on Firewall. As the brass left the stage the new school world of Sector 9 was warming up. Golden Gate gave us one last chance to catch our breath before the fuse was ignited. Bringing us nearer to the club banging madness was Rent. Velmer began punching the drum kit like an android pre-programmed to destroy. Feverishly they were pushing each other, pleading the audience to go harder. When they kicked off the vocal sample to Bigs, you knew they were going for that modern day grime. This track was a modern day beast but not mainstream. At the 4:20 mark they recycled the 1, 2, 3 sample, proving that cultures can collide, that hip hop can coexist with live instruments and electronic dance music. What is Love? came up on us faster than the organ could resonate its sound. The pace was once again picking up and to my delight came the cover, Bloody Beetroots Awesome. It got dirty up in Oakland. The brand new flavor was heavy hitting and bled directly into another banger, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature. The sirens were hollow and sharp, while the deeper beats hit quickly in their repetition. Then without notice, unless you've seen them perform before, they dive into a sampled rhyme that red lines with an exaggerated gait. Everyone at this point was expecting a crescendo, but each time it was suggested, they blasted back off into the ether. For the encore they balanced an old tune, By the Morning Sun, against Scheme, a newer track. Later in the year STS9 would release this show on DVD with the help of Tour Gigs. It immediately went onto my birthday wish list. Low and behold we spotted ourselves amidst the HD footage. Cheers to one hell of a dance party and to a band that is ingenious at blurring the lines of modern music. STS9 is a unique adventure of sound and light.

Lotus at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, March 26th

Petaluma got a good one. The Scene was lively regardless of the intimate crowd. Lotus had their vibe going and those in attendance were stoked on the personal feel to the evening. A fierce opener set the tone for a party that was just getting going. The set list below showcases a mix of selections from four of their albums, including their latest, Build. The first set was hot, Intro to a Cell blossomed into Golden Ghost, both of which conjured mad dance moves. Kodiak, one of the few new tracks to appear had some magic. The second set was mutant bananas and if you weren't dancing already, you most certainly were now. Harp launched us into a second set orbit. Before long we were exposed to a warp-speed Mikesnack that would transport us through a hyper Arupa. There was some left over heat that resulted in a hot Sunrain. Small venues with an intimate crowd can create one of two things, either a calm or an energetic momentum, this was the latter.

Set 1: Hammerstrike, Intro to a Cell > Golden Ghost, Juggernaut, Kodiak, Let Me In, Wax
Set 2: Harps, Mikesnack, Bellwether, Arupa > Sunrain, Uffi, Jump Off,
Encore: Cloud 9, Break Build Burn

Jim James at the Fillmore, May 12th

Poster from the Fillmore

Jim James is an artist and entertainer. He has intimate knowledge of the power he has while on stage. This newer five piece band had tight synergy while performing James' solo record, Regions of Light and Sound of God. The set was a live version of the album, played in sequential order. For what it's worth, the first three songs were quite delicious. I was especially spellbound by State of the Art. There were moments when they captured an almost Pink Floyd sound. Another name that came to mind was Neil and Crazy Horse, but with far more appeal. For the encore Jim came out alone with an acoustic guitar and coaxed the crowd with a beautiful and soft rendition of Wonderful. The Right Place and Losin' Yo Head were also highlights of the encore. It was nice to see Jim play some Monsters of Folk songs.

Set 1: State of the Art, Know 'Til Now, Dear One, A New Life, Exploding, Of the Mother Again, Actress, All Is Forgiven, God's Love to Deliver
E: Wonderful, Dear God, His Master's Voice, The Right Place, Losin' Yo Head, Changing World

High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, CA, July 4th-7th

My favorite performances of the festival were; Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters (07.04), Houndmouth (07.05), John Scofield's Uber Jam (07.06), Thievery Corporation (07.06), and Lee Fields with the Expressions at night in the vaudeville tent (07.06) .
For a complete review click here.

Shovels & Rope, the Arrow Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, October 6th

(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World, and I probably won't get this one again. It was a total treat to hear this Wreckless Eric song from the mid 70's live. One of the single best songs I heard all year. Why this awesome duo from South Carolina had to take the stage at 11:00 am of the final day is beyond me. What is known, is that these two stole the show at Golden Gate Park. Birmingham, which they performed for the masses, was selected as song of the year at the Americana Awards. To watch a video of their performance click here. Country music rarely sounds so soulful while remaining gritty. Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are on to something that I need more of. They rolled into the Golden City and left with our hearts. This show was the truth.

Jeff Tweedy at the Fillmore, December 12th

"Oh distance has a way, of making love, understandable." If Jeff's lyrical songs don't equate to you maybe Jesus and Cheez-its will. Apparently an occult was initiated during the Wednesday show, but those in attendance on Thursday were indoctrinated. Tweedy was given diamonds and Cheez-its the day before, on this night, he shared them and so much more with us.

He was relentless with his songs. There was no passivity. Kicking things off with a harmonica on Via Chicago, the night teetered near monumental throughout. He was simply giving it to the San Francisco crowd, an audience he applauded for being the best to perform for. Later we were asked if we (SF) hated LA, because he was sure that no one would hook him up with munchies in LA. During this comical exchange he reminded us that we were going to be treated to two shows with more people, versus the four nights he'd be playing in a broom closet down in LA. His knack for confrontation is well known, and with that in mind, he confronted the specialness of San Francisco by telling us, "if you're cool here, than you should know that you're cool." Then he went on to scold the honkers for, "talking during his quiet, strumming songs."

It was a dream set in my opinion. I Might showed up early on and let's just say it was boundless in its simplicity, compared to the boom that Wilco tackles it with. His high pitched and crackling sighs were music to my ears. A couple of tracks later he abandoned Please Tell My Brother due to a woman yelling, I love this song. I didn't mind the detour, as it lead into the sadly beautiful, One By One. My Two Fathers helped to spur some candid remarks, being that he was in San Francisco and all. Radio Cure and Art of Almost came next. Both songs were devoid of that familiar Wilco sound, especially Art of Almost. Instead they morphed into soft, naked canvases, allowing for a new image to be rendered. A handful of titles would pass before he took us down to the old mainstream. Radio King came in to steal my attention completely. It made my night to hear this song, thanks for taking me there. Three more gems would be revealed before the end of this set. Spiders (Kidsmoke) is a raucous take typically, but once again the song would be stripped down into something new. Misunderstood took action, as the crowd began to stomp while sharing the responsibility of singing this alt-adult anthem.

The encore served as a second set. Added to the mix was Scott McCaughey, who accompanied Jeff on Oklahoma USA and God (John Lennon). The Lennon hit captivated us all. So much so, that during his singing, the crowd booed when he echoed, "I don't believe in Garcia, I don't believe in the Beatles." Next he drove us through I Got You, Gun and a peppier version of Late Greats. He knew that wasn't enough, so he eulogized his attentive worshipers with California Stars. This may have been the only song he played twice on two nights, but damn if I wasn't glad to hear it being crooned. The audience did its part by serenading the Guthrie lyrics back to the front man. In a move that would warm any folkies heart, Jeff walked back out, guitar in hand, to the edge of the stage. He asked us once if we could hear him and then it went pin-drop silent as he laid down a raw Dreamer In My Dreams without the buzz of a PA system. He joked about how he may never do this solo thing again. If that's the case, I'm sure as hell glad I was there. This was a performance that was worth every penny and then some. Show of the year in my book. Click here for the complete set list.

Hopefully we all take advantage of the New Year, until next time. Thanks, eightychoices.

Mr. Salty's favorites were STS9, Shovels & Rope and Jeff Tweedy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So Good So Far

Art by: David Ellis
The second installment of So Far So Good is finally here. It's been rather pleasant to absorb and review new music in a bi-annual manner. So, with the craziness of the next three weeks looming, I'm attempting to spotlight some more of this year's music. Back in August I made an initial stab at my favorite records up to that point. Without any extra fuss, here's the final installment of So Far So Good, 2013. As was the case before, these fire spitting records are in no particular order. Enjoy.

Houndmouth - From The Hills Below The City was a gem of a release from Rough Trade Records. Which is saying something, considering that the Rough Trade vault has plenty of jewels. This four-piece band was an easy highlight for me at High Sierra. Their sound creates its own treasure within the richness of the alt-country scene. Two voices share this record, yet each tale is true and singular. Side A treats us to, Penitentiary and Hey Rose. The B side harbors, Krampus, Houston Train, and Palmyra.

M.I.A. - Matangi was released before it was released. Thank god she brought that world-crunk, anthem-like craze to her latest release. This is definitely my favorite M.I.A. record. The track below, Only 1 U, has an under appreciated message braided into its modern digital fabric. Bad Girls is a new world ode to the next generation of youthful women. Come Walk With Me deviates initially, sounding too poppy, but at the 90 second mark shit goes off. It's like scribbling with your mac. aTENtion is the next track, and if you like digital effects thrown in on vocals and decibel levels, you'll want to pay attention. Boom Skit is both fun and poignant, it's a brief lyrical juxtaposition that only M.I.A. seems able to see, let alone nail down. The closer of this party is Sexodous (featuring The Weekend). It's a gift to be both rough and smooth, sexy and militant, damn girl.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor was not only one of the most hyped album's of the year, it was also the most revelatory. This record cemented their brand, while simultaneously showcasing their chameleon-like ways. Arcade Fire is here to stay, they could possibly change the game, should they continue on as the curators that they have shown us to be.
     Reflektor is the jam, it's prophetic, yet not over the head of anyone. It conjures images unbelievably well. It transports me into a state of self reflection, imagine that. Maybe we're caught inside, or outside of a mirror ball, continuously gazing into its multitude of falsified angels. This song feels like a warning, beware of that which is artificial, especially when they're singing, "just a reflector, we'll see you on the other side." Realize that what we are looking at, is what we see, there should be no false pretenses or assumptions. Move the obstacle that hinders, or reposition yourself in order to see what was hiding.
      With, Here Comes the Night Time, Arcade Fire helps us to shed the dogmatic coat that covers up that which is apparent and real. To truly see with our own eyes can be scary. Then there's Joan of Arc, which hinges on the sounds of classic rock. It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) and Porno are two other heavy hitters. The album is modern, this album is theirs, it's right now and perhaps, something more. They've blended a new, fever inducing cocktail. Their songs illicit such visuals, hopefully they're helping me to digest their genius.

I also really liked the truthful tracks dropped by Earl Sweatshirt off of his LP Doris. With a unique and sometimes unorthodox delivery, his words tend to stick to you, like the way a city does. Often times he touches on topics that don't make it on the top 40 charts, they're too honest. Hardships are a theme that has many forms, The Sweatshirt has obviously observed his share. He has guest spots from RZA, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator. Earl is not your typical MC. I've been chilling to Hive (featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies). One of my favorites is Chum, hear it below.

Matthew E. White snuck in a wonderful follow-up EP titled, Outer Face. This young man is proud as hell to be from Richmond, Virginia. Mister White has been quite busy since he debuted Big Inner last year. This isn't an LP, but it is more than adequate with five deep grooves to digest. Human Style is rich in playful banter. The question though is, "When are you coming home." Listen below to Hot Hot Hot, it's reminiscent of Dr. John and Randy Newman.

My complete list of the artists who put out stellar albums this year were; Phosphorescent, Vampire Weekend, Jim James, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, with honorable mentions that included, Daft Punk and Foxygen. Minus Matthew E. White's EP you have a top ten, so there you have it. The end of the year is coming, as are the Besty's. Have fun with the rest of 2013. Happy holidays!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Solo, a Jeff Tweedy Tour

Jeff Tweedy is en route to the Pacific coast, alone on stage, adrift in the art that feeds us all. His solo tours are to be experienced with an acceptance of his singularity, as an artist and as a person. These will be his shows. I for one like his honest candor and criticism that are laced into and out of the songs. In preparation for this solo tour, I journeyed back in time via the Wilco Road-Case. A couple of years back, Jeff played an almost unfair show to the people of Boulder. (Listen to the entire show here). In a nod to the seasons, here are some lyrics from Laminated Cat (aka Not For the Season), which was first a Loose Fur tune.

candy left over from halloween / a unified theory of everything / love left over from lovers leaving
books they all know / they're not worth reading

it's not for the season

when autumns comes / you sit in your chair / and you stare / at the tv square / hiding in the deep end / weeding out your weekends

winter comes / and the day all start late / there's motion on the boughs / where the dark shapes prowl / feeling all the feeling / feeling out the feeling

Below are two selections of Jeff performing solo tracks elsewhere. They give you an idea of who you're dealing with. The first, Open Mind, is a beautiful track more recently penned on, The Whole Love. The eery guitar, pedaling its elongated concern, coupled with Jeff's words, seemingly steal from us all the scenes of life. "If you would let me be the one to open up your mind."

I love hearing, "I'll take you, anywhere. Let's go out together. Broad daylight in the street. I'll take you over anything." The track below is actually titled, Radio King. This originally appeared on, Down By the Old Mainstream (1996), the first LP Golden Smog put out. He co-wrote this with Gary Louris. One could argue that this was once the best song he had written. The Golden Smog record was released between the critical indifference of A.M. (1995) and Being There (1996).

Thanks for checking in,