Touring to promote their eighth studio effort, Turn Blue released in March of this year, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney formally known as The Black Keys played to a packed crowd at DC’s Verizon center last Thursday evening.
While the sheer size of the Verizon Center never fails to amaze me, what’s interesting at shows like this is just how intimate a performance a band like The Black Keys can deliver to their audience. While I’ve always preferred the smaller stages for music in general, it’s nice every once in a while to be reminded that even a now iconic national act like The Keys can still drive things home in a venue that seats 18,000.
Backed by just a bass player and a keyboardist for this tour, The Black Keys sounded fantastic live as any hardcore fan might expect. The Keys are clearly still able to deliver a live performance that exceeds what they do in the studio.
Let’s remember that this is a two piece band after all, and the task of bringing a sound as full as they pull off live takes hard work and precise playing. They’re still at the top of their game and their set list ranged from older to newer material which spanned the gamut of their career to date.
This Welsh duo may be young but there’s a lot of promise ahead for Jessie Hallett and Luke Searle. The chemistry between the two is electric as they present their elegant indie folk single “Stay,” set for release on 20th October 2014.
Having met whilst studying in Bridgend, South Wales, they’ve combined their love of ’70s artists like Fleetwood Mac and have given the sound a modern twist—think The Civil Wars meets Lorde combined with that Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham chemistry that contributed to Fleetwood Mac’s legendary sound.
The single is a promising start for the pair and with an EP out soon after, we predict big things next year for Remembering August.
Jesus Funkin’ Christ, Grand Funk. Where does one even begin? Homer Simpson’s immortal description of the band’s members is as good a place as any: “You kids don’t know Grand Funk? The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer? Oh, man!”
Grand Funk was one of the biggest arena acts of the 1970s, but nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find anyone besides Homer Simpson who will admit to liking them. I’ve never heard a single rocker cite Grand Funk as an influence, and unlike their Michigan brethren the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges, Grand Funk scored a big zero when it came to hipness factor. Their talk of revolution was transparently empty jive, they didn’t have a proto-punk bone in their bodies, and in general all they did was fill arenas—something the far cooler MC5 and the anarchic Stooges never came close to doing—and make the people in those arenas (and their bongs) happy.
Of course filling arenas doesn’t prove much, except that it’s impossible to overestimate the ignorance of the American public, but still it’s intriguing—what did all those pothead on reds at all those Grand Funk shows hear that we simply can’t hear in 2014? Did people back then have an extra Grand Funk ear? That closed up around the time of 1976’s Born to Die, which marked the band’s downward slide following seven consecutive LPs in the Top Ten?
That’s right: seven consecutive LPs in the Top Ten. How they managed this feat, given their lackluster body of work, remains a mystery, like what became of Amelia Earhart or how Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Dock Ellis managed to throw a no-hitter while tripping his balls off. It is possible people really did come to hear the shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? Or were they truly that hard-up for entertainment in the Dark Ages of the early to mid-seventies, when rock had become empty entertainment, with the talk of music changing the world having become passé on one side and the soon-to-come (and equally unsuccessful punk revolution the other. Never having seen Grand Funk—they were well into their precipitous fall from superstardom when I started attending concerts, I can’t say.
Carly Meyers has made a name for herself as the high-energy trombonist with the Mike Dillon Band. The pint-sized player will bound around the stage, dancing and jumping. Her horn becomes not just an instrument but also an appendage that she incorporates fully into her wild moves.
While everyone will concede that Dillon is awesome, it’s hard to leave one of his shows without being enamored by Carly. If you are one of the many who has fallen in love, you’re in luck! The first four Wednesdays of October, Ms. Meyers will have a residency at the Maple Leaf with her band Yojimbo.
Along with Carly, the trio features Doc Sharp on keys and Adam Gertner on drums, both powerful musicians with a clear punk influence. Fans that have come to expect Carly’s crazy-fun antics will not be disappointed. She will wield her trombone like a samurai sword, she will put on scary skull masks, and she will play with streamers. The punk rock energy and infectious melodies will leave all in attendance powerless to do anything except dance and maybe grin uncontrollably.
“My parents had a record player when I was a kid, but we never played records on it. It sat like a fossil, with an arm that never moved and a table that never turned.”
“I’d ask my dad why we never listened to records, and he’d tell me ‘the machine needs a new needle’ without explaining to me what that meant. I’d heard that the needle had to be made of diamond as thin as a human hair, so I figured it was something we’d never have, being too rare and fragile for any modern household.
We had a record player at my first apartment in Montreal, but the amp never worked, so I’d spin records and put my ear to the needle and listen to the sound off the grooves. I remember being amazed that the sound was actually there, on the record, not encoded in 0s and 1s but embedded physically into the disc in a way that made the needle sing as it ran along the grooves.
A key figure in the history of bluegrass, 80-year old singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Alice Gerrard has just issued her latest LP. Produced by longtime admirer M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger and pressed up via the Tompkins Square label, Follow the Music finds Gerrard in strong voice and wielding focused intensity across 11 tracks.
To describe the ‘60’s bluegrass scene as male dominated shouldn’t imply the milieu was in any way unusual in the grand musical scheme of the period. Alice Gerrard and her departed playing partner Hazel Dickens were amongst the high lonesome exceptions. Gerrard (then known as Alice Foster) and Dickens cut their ’65 Verve Folkways debut Who’s That Knocking for 75 bucks in Washington, DC’s First Unitarian Church with the worthy assistance of Dave Grisman on mandolin plus Bill Monroe sidemen Chubby Wise on fiddle and Lamar Grier on banjo.
Today the Smithsonian Folkways CD Pioneering Women of Bluegrass collects that LP and Won’t You Come Sing for Me?, its ’73 follow-up. Gerrard and Dickens continued to make records together into the mid-‘70s, producing two more discs for Rounder, though just as important to Gerrard’s background is her participation in civil rights activists Anne Romaine and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s race and gender inclusive ’68 Southern Folk Festival tour, the lineup including Roscoe Holcomb, Elizabeth Cotten, Dock Boggs, Bessie Jones, and the New Lost City Ramblers.
Gerrard’s second husband was the late Rambler Mike Seeger. In 1980 they completed an eponymous album for Greenhays Recordings; it’s currently in print on a CD titled Bowling Green with extra stuff from a ’71 Japanese visit. And while she’s dished three prior solo efforts and played in the awesomely-named Back Creek Buddies with the also deceased clawhammer banjoist Matokie Slaughter (I’d love to hear their ’90 cassette release Saro) Gerrard remains most well-known for her work with Dickens.
Of course you know Karen O as the eclectic frontwoman of the critically acclaimed Yeah Yeah Yeahs and as a fashion idol among the masses of hipster girls, but there’s a side to her that many of us have probably been missing. Last week Karen stopped by San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall for one of the few intimate shows in support of her newly released solo album, Crush Songs.
The show sold out in minutes and the venue would provide the perfect backdrop for her stripped down solo debut. Recorded in 2006 and 2007, Crush Songs is an intimate collection of lo-fi, bedroom recordings in the vein of Karen’s Oscar-nominated “The Moon Song” from the Spike Jonze movie Her. Perfect timing for Karen after performing the song live to a record 43 million viewers, the largest audience for the show in 14 years.
Joined on stage by the ultra-stripped down duo of Moses Sumney and Holly Miranda, Karen O was stunning in her gold dust woman styled, long sparkly dress. She seemed to be in sort of trance as she sang each of the songs, barely opening her eyes at all to see the capacity crowd. The lighting was at a bare minimum that evening while the trio performed under a neon lit sign that appropriately read “Crush Palace.”
“I still remember opening the first box of vinyl that we received from Saddle Creek. We were playing a show in Minneapolis at the 7th Street Entry. There was something about seeing Hometowns on vinyl for the first time, holding onto a tangible product that was in a way a summation of every show, practice, and recording session that we’d done up to that point that made you feel like you’d actually created something.
When you hold something like that for the very first time, you actually feel like you’ve maybe done something special.”
Special, indeed. The Rural Alberta Advantage returns with a brand new LP, Mended With Gold this coming Tuesday, (9/30) and its arrival it being met with anything but faint praise, with Filter noting, “The band shines in its own ability to blend pared-down composition with fast-paced percussion and lyrics that could only come from, well, rural Alberta.”
“The Toronto-based trio, led by born-and-bred Albertan Nils Edenloff are full of nostalgic songs about hometowns and heartbreaks, marrying salt-of-the-earth acoustic rock to energetic rhythms and grand orchestral arrangements,” Pitchfork recently underscored.
Another facet of Mended With Gold’s arrival is the gorgeous clear vinyl with gold splatter edition (shown above) of which 1,000 were pressed as a mom and pop shop, indie exclusive edition. Of the 1,000, 250 were offered as presales which sold out in a proverbial flash—but 750 have made their way across North America and they arrive in your local shops on Tuesday for purchase.
“My own memory of vinyl is just it being there because my mum had so much of it. I remember getting singles on vinyl such as “T.U.R.T.L.E Power” by Partners In Kryme (still have it) as well some stuff by Paula Abdul and Madonna. I was tiny and happy.”
“When I was 10, my Uncle died, who was a big character in our family and one who was very musical. We inherited most of his records and there was so much. As I got older and more curious about wanting to know who he was outside of my fading memory, I used to play the records almost as if to see if he was there inside them. That sounds cheesy and sentimental but it meant that I discovered people like Buddy Holly, Marty Robbins, Ben E. King, along with Fats Domino and all these wonderful songs. There was so much in there.
As my brother and I both progressed into our teens, my older brother became a huge Guns ‘n’ Roses fan (he saw the first leg of the Use Your Illusion tour at Maine Road while Izzy Stradlin was still in the band!) and I remember my mum and me going to Castle Records in Darwen to buy him a copy of Skid Row’s Monkey Business. It was a 12” single and the cover had this picture of a gorilla with a crow-bar in its hand. It was fantastic and it made me laugh for days. We also bought him Hey Stoopid by Alice Cooper. However, being at opposite ends of puberty, I followed my nose towards my mum’s Beatles’ collection, which is where my love for songs really kicked off…
The sheer size of vinyl was something that was in some ways great because it meant that you could really take in all the artwork, but once CDs came along then I didn’t really miss it ‘cos it could also be a massive pain in the arse—but then nostalgia is a much bigger pain the arse. I do think that vinyl, tapes, CDs are all representative of a time when people felt much more of a physical ownership over their music, as well as being of a time when albums were a work as a whole rather than the latest collection of songs.
This Wednesday, the Seattle favorites will be bringing their indie-folk rock to the Crescent City. The roots rockers are arguably the biggest grassroots success story in recent memory.
After recording and releasing their debut album on their own dime in 2010, the band was able to sell 10,000 copies by word of mouth alone. This is an impressive feat for any unsigned band, especially given the fact that so many people no longer buy music. And these fans weren’t just some teenyboppers.
They garnered the respect of such varied acts as Vampire Weekend, the Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab for Cutie, and My Morning Jacket, touring with many of the big names while they were still an unsigned commodity.