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Posts Tagged ‘Phish’

Ignored 110: Big Leaguers

In Graphic on September 22, 2016 at 3:26 am

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Ignored 108: The Concert Hall was pretty cool

In Graphic on September 3, 2016 at 11:04 pm

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Ignored 52: Too festive

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 at 12:57 am

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Ignored 49: The year(z) in music 2014

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

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A “2014 – the year in music” chat with my pal Adam that has very little to do with “2014 – the year in music”.

Cam: I have a web chat I want to do with you for a blog post: a “2014 – the year in music” post for two guys who aren’t really in tune with the latest/greatest music-wise. Vague concept but the subtext is that certain bands remind you of certain times in your life, irrespective of when the music is actually from. For example, when I first graduated from university and had my first job, I was really only listening to the first five R.E.M. albums, for some reason. I still don’t know why this happened.

Adam: 2014 musically for me: he year I became a more regular iTunes purchaser.  Easier, cross platforms, no ripping.  My Wilco fandom continued to rise and I really, really enjoyed Tweedy’s solo album. Saw it live at TURF this summer and liked every song I heard the first time. Then, I had to wait until the album finally came out in September. Concerts before the album seems more rare.  I downloaded and listened to a lot from the spring 1990 Grateful Dead box set with the Omni show in Atlanta becoming one of my favorite newly-discovered shows. Wonderful second set of “Foolish Heart”, “Looks Like Rain” and “He’s Gone”.  The beauty of wonderful song transitions. This was the year I realized I may not be seeing the Dead much more as Bobby cancelled the whole tour and Phil is doing long stands at terrapin and the capital theatre.  Perhaps that led to my dialling up the Wilco knob towards 11.  Added Wilco at Red Rocks to my bucket list.  What else. Oh! The discovery of 106.5 Voices radio late in the work season was a special experience. “Ghost radio”, as we call it. Random inexplicable and novelty on a new scale.  I’ll think of more once I can scan through my iTunes to see what else is new.

C: Awesome recap! I like how listening to music from the past is always the real measure of a “year in music” recap for most hardcore music fans. It’s why year-end issues of Rolling Stone or whatever never held much interest because truthfully, twelve months of music fandom can’t be limited to music that comes out in that calendar year. I saw some good shows this year: Slowdive, Beach House, Mogwai, Stephen Malkmus. All nostalgia largely but considering I probably listened to more of the Brian Jonestown Massacre this year than any other band, it seems fitting. I re-discovered checking out legit “new bands” early in the year too via Wavelength and Long Winter show. It reminded me of how fun it can be to check out really young bands, even if I have no intention of checking them out beyond those shows. I saw Alvvays and Pup at a library, which was also cool and atypical. So do you basically feel tapped on Dead/Dead-related stuff at this point? Does it make you sad on some level? I’d liken it to reading a really good book and that feeling of semi-dread knowing that there’s only 50 pages left and that void that’s on the horizon. There’s also that morbid silver lining when an artist passes that people tend to revisit their work with a slightly difference perspective. Albeit, very skewed in the immediate. Your Dead is my Pavement. That band was so important to me, as a music fan and to me, personally. They influenced my sense of humour, how I interact with people, the ways I’ve managed my career. Big picture stuff! I don’t know. I think some bands/music brings a point of view that extends far beyond the songs coming out of the speakers. I could probably bring myself to tears just looking at the cover art for Wowee Zowee and yet I’m sure somebody could listen to that album for the first time in 2014 and find it, at top dollar best, “slightly boring indie rock with 2-3 country songs uncomfortably mixed in”.

A: Yes, I am sad about [the Dead going away].  I also am not really willing to do a trip to see Phil at the capital outside New York, mainly because of the driving time and money and needing to coordinate someone else to do that with. Road tripping is a funny business if you’re finicky as I can sometimes be. It’s far. Fuck that. I always drive to western New York shows religiously and still would. Saw Bob Dylan play there in February and drove down alone. Met up with some friends.  Found a miracle ticket outside the show that was sold out. Second set: “Iko Iko” was the highlight.  I’ve seen Bobby or Phil About 25 times over the years. It’s my favorite music and I’m an unabashed dancer at shows. That’s where you get to do it in the midst of the thousands, also basking in that. All while singing along to your very favorite songs you know by heart. I wished I liked Phish more than I did, as they’re fun like that and I’ve gone to two shows in the last two years. Their live show is a completely different beast compared to their albums. Not a Dead show other than the crossover on the Venn diagram, the spirit and influence that spawned it. It’s still called “Shakedown Street” outside in the lot for a reason. Same crowd. Much more frenetic pace and faster dancing to be sure. Music that people on MDMA would love. Dead music was for pot and LSD. I’ll say that whereas I’d be up on the lawn for a Dead show, for phish, you want to be in the pit or lower bowl. Where the energy builds.  The pit in Toronto last summer was amazing. Getting the energy from the crowd pour down on you was a trip.  So there’s hope. Wilco gives me that for sure. Nels is fantastic at helping you lose your shit. Check out the Ashes of American Flags (actually just watch the whole thing) versions of “Impossible Germany”, “Side with the Seeds” or “Handshake Drugs” to see what I’m talking about.  That’s my fucking jam, that is.  I dance to the static at the end. It’s the funniest. I just like 4/4 time, I do. Also, I’m a total sucker for 3/4 time. “Norwegian Wood”, “Ashes and Fire” by Ryan Adams, “You’ve Ruined Me Now” by Norah Jones.  That’s another episode.

Cam: I don’t think I’ve ever asked: are you a vinyl guy? CDs seem to have the least amount of resonance as collectibles as music fans. One theory: the glut of shitty AOL “one month free” CD-ROMs in the mid-1990s rendered the format pretty much disposable, even when you were paying $18-20 for a new release. It seems like music being analog-ish in any respect just seems more tangible. Also, I think the ability to skip tracks on demand totally changed the way people listen to albums. Now, we see that x1,000,0000 with MP3s/iPods.

Adam: Fuck vinyl. I couldn’t like it less. It’s absurd to me how horrifically inconvenient it is, overriding the audiophile thing. CDs got a shitty rap up front because all those original CDs were AAD (remember that?).  Once they started remastering stuff, I never cared to look back.  I also don’t get mono. The Beatles in Mono? Fuck that! Didn’t they hear the stereo versions?  Had the Pet Sounds that came with mono and stereo? Deleted all mono tracks. I simply don’t get it.  Unless the sound of shitty audio is nostalgic. I grew up on vinyl. I still hear a skip in “American Pie” because the the scratched LP my parents had. Yes, CDs became disposable but I loved my Discman and my Walkman before that. I remember once seeing this portable record player thing at Woolco at Towne and Countrye Square.

C: I’m OK with vinyl but I kind of see vinyl like I see pets: it’s a good experience at somebody else’s house or in public but I have no desire to have one in my own home. I don’t buy this “vinyl sounds warmer” argument that a lot of vinyl dorks will throw out, esp. when they’re listening to it through shitty dime-store speakers they lifted from grandma’s basement or a flea market. Maybe the sound is slightly different and there’s a bit of crackle but to me, vinyl in 2014 is more a statement by the owner than it is a statement about the music. It’s a brand: “I’m the type of person who buys vinyl because it says something about me”. I do like vinyl purely from a collectible standpoint. Perhaps because it subconsciously reminds me of collecting baseball cards. I miss album art and liner notes. A lot. 1989 Topps was the first complete baseball card set I managed to complete. I guess Grateful Dead collectors would be the closest equivalent? The only other bands offhand I can think that inspire that “collector mentally” (based on sheer volume of product) would be the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Guided by Voices and the Fall. At least with Zappa and GBV, I think the completists try to grab everything because it “exists” rather than because its necessarily “good”.

C: Did you see Dylan this fall?

A: Nope. Have seen him a dozen times but the experience has fallen off sharply the last 3-4 years. Larry Campbell left his band and there’s less and less I enjoy about it.  Saw him close Americanarama last summer after My Morning Jacket and Wilco. A major drag. Id be going to get one, maybe two sweet harp solos. You can’t go I. With expectations and he can surprise you but the values not there for a shoe you hope to try and enjoy by force of will.  Have been listening to a ton of time out of mind though.

C: You know what’s sad? Certain concerts where the ticket buying decision is measures on the “This show will probably suck but this guy might be dead soon” scale. Felt this way about the last local shows for Neil and Leonard Cohen.

A: The band he had for the Never Ending Tour with Larry Campbell leading it was fantastic. it carried the shows. I still like Bob’s albums and I don’t want to be a complainer about live Bob, because you’ve got to know what to expect going in. but at Americanarama, it was the most lackluster “Desolation Row” I can ever recall. It broke for me. especially after Wilco and My Morning Jacket. Actually, it broke for me when Bob played the ACC with Foo Fighters opening. The first sub-par Dylan show post-Larry. Then, I went to see a show up at Rama, which ranks as the worst concert I’ve ever seen in the worst venue. That broke it good. Then, went to see him in Oshawa maybe three years ago, which was pretty decent. Passed on Lewiston last year and here we are now. it’s a weird strange thing when you don’t want to see the people you love anymore.

C: Yeah, the fact Bob played Casino Rama, Oshawa, Air Canada Centre, now Sony Centre… I dunno… this is fuckin’ Bob Dylan and he’s kinda just getting trotted out to whatever room will have him. Did the Rama experience taint him for you? It just sounds really, really sad. Like when you see old ballplayers all broken down and sitting at some folding table at a memorabilia show, signing crap for $25 a pop.

A: Have you watched Festival Express?

C: No. Always have meant to check that out. Do you consider the Band a 1960s band? On paper they should be since their most prominent work and Woodstock happened that decade. But they somehow, they don’t seem of that era. They’re a really unique band to me: if a lot of their shit came out today, it’d still seem contemporary and yet they recorded it 40 years ago and even then, I think they were trying to seem old timey. I’d love to read a oral history-type article of the Band in the 1980s and early 1990s. When they were releasing all those albums people didn’t like or didn’t care about (like the one with big pig face) and yet they continued to plow ahead.

A: Levon’s This Wheel’s on Fire is that book. Couldn’t bring myself to read it.  Didn’t want to hate Robby.

C: That’s sad. The 1980s were a real awkward stage for a lot of artists when music switched to become a more visual medium. Id put Robbie, Lou Reed, George Harrison, the Stones all in this category. Their videos esp. from this era tend to be pretty cringe worthy. Misguided attempts to get on MTV.

A: … but 1988 was a turning point!

C: Yeah but you also got the “it’s the 1990s so time to get real and grow a goatee” approach adopted by people like Bruce and Jack McDowell. You know what was really terrible? Mid/late 1980s Robert Plant. “Tall Cool One” et all. Just really weak and poorly thought out.

A: We aren’t going to talk about goatee’d Bruce. It’s dangerous territory. “In the Mood” by Plant is good.

C: Yes. Once they grow a goatee and engage in photo-shoots featuring B&W pics of them not smiling, the tide has clearly turned. Another trope of bad 1980s: bringing in sassy female back-up singers in inexplicable places. Such as…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7btcksg7z8

A: Hold on, you’re going after Petty? He has a short bad album window.  He was hitting his early stride in the early 1980s, then toured with Dylan, Roger McGuin and the Dead. Royalty. Then, the accident and Full Moon Fever, the Wilburys.  Artist of the decade. Shit. But go watch the Stones’ Steel Wheels video (At the Max is fantastic) for the classic back-up ensemble.

C: I dunno. I’m feeling all feisty after not having thought about Plant’s “Tall Cool One” for 10-15 years and forgetting about how shitty a lot of 1980s production was: this tendency to slot in back-up singers, keyboards, etc. where they didn’t necessarily belong. You know “Tall Cool One” sampled a bunch of Zep tunes (according to the music website Wikipedia)? Just total garbage and very indistinguishable from the equally weak Robert Palmer tune “Simply Irresistible” from around the same era. Truth: I thought Robert Plant and Robert Palmer were the same guy for a long, long while before I knew anything about music. I mean…. they were both named Robert!!!

A: PS:. Loving the new tweedy album. Though I’ve deleted the first and fourth songs   Mixed guilt about taking out the songs I don’t like. Weird huh?

C: At least you make an effort to appreciate albums in any form still. That’s rare.

A: I’ve been enjoying buying things from iTunes.  I still download movies, but actually bought both the iTunes movie and the soundtrack from Chef.  Bought a soundtrack!  When’s the last time I did that? Just decided not to buy the deluxe Fully Completely on CD and instead iTunes downloaded.  Otherwise, I’m just ripping it into my Mac anyways.  And no tax. Strange feeling about it.

C: I’d recommend you check out this. Weird renditions. Weirder audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUmMkD1fdIo

A: That was kinda awful.  The signing cheerleaders was an interesting touch.

C: Yeah, that Neil rendition of “USA” is really, really strange. I assume he’s trying to be provocative… or maybe not? He used to be really cheeky and self-aware when he wanted to be but I hate to say: I think he’s kinda just old or scattered at this point. No idea what the deal with the cheerleaders is. Did you like that song “This Note’s For You”? I still hear it from time-to-time on Q107. I’m not sure it’s even a good song but I like listening to it, if that makes sense. Unrelated, not sure if you listen to the Marc Maron podcast but he had a really good one recently with Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders. I’ve always liked the music w/o being a big, big fan but I kinda love her after this. She’s mid-60s and been around for more than 30 years but still sounds so enthused about music in a really basic, pure way. I love that she came out of the teenage Bowie/Lou Reed/punk sphere and then formed this band that was a straight-up rock and roll/power pop band, akin to a female fronted Heartbreakers. I forgot she was married to Ray Davies AND that annoying dude from Simple Minds:

Ignored 27: Cats in the well

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2014 at 4:44 am

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More thoughts from myself and high school pal Adam, talking (via Facebook) about the Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl commercial, selling out, the challenge of being a “jam band” in Toronto, hippie wiring, (re)considering Nirvana and overpriced compact discs. 

In three parts.

Part 1: The Imposter

Cam: Any thoughts on the Dylan/Chrysler Super Bowl ad? Bit of a “whatever” although I find it really strange to pick a guy lobbying for Detroit who has no obvious ties to the city. Couldn’t they have put Smokey Robinson in there instead? I guess Bob Seger would totally NOT have been marketable.

Adam: I admittedly haven’t watched it yet. The last Dylan thing I saw was the fabulous interactive video for “Like a Rolling Stone”. Only heard about it a few days ago on the Sklar Brothers’ Podcast, as they did bad impressions of Dylan as your car’s internal navigation system. “turn right ahead” (insert your own bad Dylan impression here). Now I have to watch it. Bob Seger, I believe is long spoken for. Have you so quickly forgotten “Like a Rock”?  A song that essentially only exists anymore in 30 second chunks, including that great guitar solo at the end, and “Oh, like a rock!”.  Kid Rock must’ve been too busy doing lines of coke off strippers’ (uh.. bodies).

Cam: … and Eminem was tied up in litigation with family members. Totally forgot the Seger/”Like a Rock” turn and never did the math about the Detroit connection. I think that commercial played 3-4 times/hourly on TSN Sportsdesk circa 1989-1993. Theory: could Dylan have been a more legit actor if he’d wanted to? He had a few small roles and I could see him being VERY funny if used properly in films 1970s and onwards. And not just in that Neil/Waits/Keith “let’s give them a weird background cameo”-type role. He actually looked fairly spry in the Chrysler spot.

Adam: Um…have you watched Masked and Anonymous? THERE is Dylan acting. I love Bob and everyone in that movie (who also love Bob too), but in no way can I watch that whole thing start to finish. Bob IS Mr. Cryptic. On purpose. I remember reading an article about him right after 9/11 (Love and Theft came out that day), and there were pictures of him playing cards on the bus and reading a Baseball Weekly magazine  in a convenience store. I was amazed by both of these. You mean he’s actually a human male? I think he’s acting when he finishes a show and stands before an audience. He doesn’t bow, doesn’t even hardly acknowledge the crowd but glares at it. It always made me laugh when I saw him do it. Bringing it back to Masked, check out the spectacularly fantastic “Cold Irons Bound” video that rocks full out. I have always been amazed by how he barely nods his acknowledgement of the applause the crew gives him. He is also Mr. Improv, performing songs as he wants in the speed he wants. At the Concert for Bangladesh, he famously threw off Ringo when he changed the time signature to “Hard Rain” for the second performance. I find in commercials, he tends to stand there looking mysterious like the “beyond here lies nothing” commercial I think they did for Victoria’s Secret. Because CLEARLY an aging Zimmy makes me think of breasts.

Cam: Oh! I always assumed that the “watchtower” of song was merely innuendo for… well, you know. I’m not a Dylan mark by any stretch but I do find him kinda fascinating in so far as he is almost universally regarded as the authentic REAL voice of a generation. And yet his name, image, persona and pretty much everything is completely fabricated. This makes no comment on his songwriting or abilities as a musician. Has he not made a career out of “being weird for the sake of being weird” and yet he’s beloved because his songs (at least to start) were seen as entirely authentic? He wasn’t as overtly feisty or “difficult” (in an obvious sense) as Neil Young but his image is maybe more impressive overall because he’s never really broken character in, what, 50 years?!? Not surprisingly, there was some “Dylan sells out” whining on the Internet RE: that Super Bowl ad. I’m trying to think of what artist of “our generation” (i.e. guys or gals who showed up late 1980s thru early 2000s) would’ve generated the largest amount of outrage if they were in that commercial. I’d say Eddie Vedder. By a wide margin! I’d round out my Top Five with Thurston Moore, Michael Stipe, Tori Amos and Trent Reznor.

Part 2: They’re dead

Adam: (Ed: I’ve chopped out a bunch of Major League Baseball chatter. Email me if you MUST know and I’ll give you the gist). I never saw the Grateful Dead proper.

Cam: Assume they played MLG when they gigged in Toronto?

Adam: They hadn’t been in Toronto since 1987 and had played Kingswood. They were coming to the SkyDome on Yom Kippur for the fall tour 1995 when Jerry up and died.

Cam: That’s crazy. Did they just not play Canada? Assume there’d be all sorts of border issues with their crew?!?

Adam: There were issues. They did play Hamilton a couple of times. Rather famously in 1990, I believe. They don’t come up here much even now. Bob Weir actually got held at the border two summers ago on his way to the Ottawa Blues Fest. Some (scalliwag) at the crossing out by Kingston gave him a hard time about a bust on his record from 1968. They’ve also got guys on their road crew who have border issues. Plus while they are very big east coast and even upstate NY, a lot of those deadheads don’t or can’t cross the border. Phish also don’t come up here much. Last summer was first in 10 years I think. That’s why we drive to Buffalo and Darien Lake and Rochester and Syracuse and Saratoga.

Cam: In general, it kinda seems like a lot of jam bands were far less popular in Toronto than they were elsewhere? I saw the String Cheese Incident out of curiosity at the Phoenix in 2001 or so. Pretty sure they were doing amphitheaters in parts of the US around that time. Maybe this was moreso a product of aforementioned border crap and whatnot. With Weir, a border guard could literally product any number of hard over books that outline their drug use. Hard to live down, I guess.

Adam: They can’t draw any regional fans besides Canadians here. ‘heads as a rule road trip. Toronto has a big jam band base. But if you look at the college culture in the States and how that fosters bands like String Cheese or even the Avett Brothers, etc. In Toronto, they’re playing the Danforth Music Hall or the Opera House or Queen Elizabeth Theatre instead of amphitheatres

Cam: Yeah, for those bands, there is a whole different “star” system up here. Maybe it’s just because we’re older but at our school, there definitely were different camps based what kind of music you like: jammies/potheads (Dead, Phish, DMB), grunge kids (PJ, Nirvana), skids (GnR Use Your Illusion, Metallica, Megadeth) and a small amount of goth kids (namely, some lil’ scamp who had a leather jacket with the Smiths’ Meat is Murder cover on the back… he was cool). Strangely, the only band i can think of that sort of reached all these groups…. Blind Melon!!!

Adam: Very funny. Yes. That one song. But heavy bands hated when they released such commercially palatable stuff like that.

Cam: You remember Evad? He did morning announcements so we used to give him songs to play on the two-minute warning. He used to delight on banning certain songs (namely, Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” since he thought the title promoted negative thinking) while letting other more obtuse choices “go to air” (namely, Ministry’s cover of “Lay Lady Lay” and the album cut of Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot” ).

Adam: Funny. I remember grunge when it started. I always hated it. Nirvana has only gotten worse with time. We went to see the Addams Family (Values?) at the Eaton Centre with (some dudes). They bought Nevermind. I bought Bryan Adams’ Waking Up the Neighbours at the big “Sams“. I tried liking Pearl Jam to impress a girl, but could only listen to three songs on Ten. Anything too hard was unlistenable. And yet, the first time I heard “Terrapin Station”, I felt my heart lift and I danced. Wired to be a hippie.

Cam: Clearly! Yeah, it’s funny in retrospect that PJ were CLEARLY just “hard rock” more than anything. And wildly earnest in a way you could only be in 1992. Do you remember the CD liner notes for Ten? You unfolded it into a “poster” and it ended up with the band members doing one of those “one…. two… three… BREAK” unity poses. Completely the opposite of the jaded, cynical manner in which Nirvana were marketed. I guess that’s why those bands were enemies. Well, “enemies”. Trying to think what local Toronto jam bands of that era were. Gypsy Soul? Later… the New Deal?

Adam: Man, we LOVED Gypsy Soul. Saw them open for Blues Traveler at the Kool Haus. Then, we went to see then at “the Elmo”. I still love that album. Very listenable. Saw the lead singer with the dreads up on the lawn at the Amphitheatre once. The trumpet click on the Lawrence subway platform. We though she was the coolest. Deep on my high school “I’m self identifying as a hippie ” phase.

Cam: I could totally be imagining this but I remember being in cahoots with some folks to curate a “massive” festival that would feature Gypsy Soul headlining with support from a hip-hop band called Graffiti Logic (Evad’s view: “there’s no logic in graffiti”) and 2-3 high school bands.

Part Three: Late 20th century rip-off

Cam: If you want to see a real capsule of those times, check out the 1992 or 1993 MTV Music Awards… you’d see Eric Clapton, Nirvana, En Vogue, Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, Bryan Adams, Black Crowes, Mariah Carey… all performing on a single show.

Adam: I have no recollection of that. Seriously.

Cam: I think in a broader sense, kids are more open to different types of music these days. But in a more micro-focused Top 40 sense, those days were really scattered… you’d have Clapton, Garth Brooks, Nirvana, Bell Biv Devoe in the Billboard Top 10. non rhyme-or-reason (pun intended?), style-wise.

Adam: It was just each genre putting it’s points up on the board. The glory days for Columbia/Sony. With us paying $18 for new release CDs.

Cam: Such a wracket! Plus everybody would care for their CDs like they were precious gems. Polishing solutions, etc. I used to think if you touched the CD’s “underbelly”, the whole thing would erase!

Adam: I was remembering yesterday the wonder of looking at my first CDs.

Cam: I like that moment music nerds have during format changes: do I splurge the extra $6 for the CD or just cheap out and get the cassette?!? The TRUE measure of how much you like a band!

Adam: There’s a great line in Men in Black where K is showing I all the alien technology. This is going to replace CDs soon, guess I’ll have to buy the white album again. I’ve had Graceland on LP, tape x2, CD x 3. Remastered was the first repurchase which made a huge difeewnce. My big pet peeve is when HD Chanel’s play SD movies.