Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mark Lanegan: Part VII - Bubblegum Seas

This is the final installment of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.
Part II is here.
Part III is here.
Part IV is here.
Part V is here.
Part VI is here.

In 2004 Lanegan took another creative step when he released Bubblegum on the Beggars Banquet label. Bubblegum is more of a rock record that his previous solo material, stylistically oscillating from acoustic based ballads to driving, foot-stomping electric guitar-driven rockers. He duets on “Come To Me” with PJ Harvey, and there are so many other guest musicians playing on the album (including QOTSA's Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, Greg Dulli from Afghan Whigs & Twilight Singers, Dean Ween from Ween, Chris Goss from Masters of Reality, and former Guns N' Roses members Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin') that it should be called a music collective rather than a solo project or a proper band. Lanegan even filmed a video (gasp!) for “Sideways In Reverse”. Notably absent is longtime collaborator Mike Johnson. Lanegan said at the time:
Mike seemed less and less interested as time went on in making these records with me…Had his own records to make, which he should make. We made a lot of records together. And more than enough. Time to move on, y'know? Time to move on. Don't wanna do the same thing for the rest of your life. - The Independent, July 2004
This one took me a lot longer to get into than just about everything else Lanegan has made – I’ve only recently really “gotten” it. Not sure what took me so long, but I think it may have been that I was expecting/hoping for more of the chilled-out Lanegan material, and the aggressive rock vibe threw me for a loop a bit. The album was lauded by critics, and he toured a bit with a full band to support it. With the perspective of a couple of years, I now feel like this reviewer got it right regarding Bubblegum:
Bubblegum is a full-blown creative revival for a man whose solo output was becoming far too predictable.” – Magnet Magazine, Oct/Nov 2004
Hit The City
Wedding Dress
Methamphetamine Blues
Come To Me

Not to be outdone by his solo effort, Lanegan also contributed his mighty pipes to She Loves You, the 2004 album from former Afgan Whigs leader Greg Dulli’s outfit, The Twilight Singers. Dulli is a good friend of Lanegan’s, and the two have been working on a project together for some time now under the moniker Gutter Twins. For a taste of a Dulli-Lanegan collaboration, visit this previous post, where the two cover Massive Attack’s “Live With Me” on the BBC.

2006 saw Lanegan release his collaboration with Isobel Campbell, Ballad Of The Broken Seas. I’ve just started to digest this one, but a few listens bring to mind the hackneyed term “mature”. The mixture of Lanegan’s growl with Campbell’s sweet ethereal voice works in spades. They're an unlikely duo that has created some really great music together. Critics seem to agree that it’s another home run for Lanegan, yet another example of the various and deep talent possessed by this extraordinary artist.

Deus Ibi Est

So this brings me to the end of my little opus on Mark Lanegan. Hopefully some of you found it interesting at times, and maybe a few folks were inspired to revisit Lanegan’s music after a long respite. Ideally someone out there in cyberspace got turned on to Lanegan’s music for the first time. In any case, it was good fun putting these posts together, sort of my thank you note to Lanegan for all the phenomenal music he’s made that’s meant so much to me over the years.
Oh, sweet oblivion feels alright.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Mark Lanegan: Part VI - Fallen Trees

This is part six of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.
Part II is here.
Part III is here.
Part IV is here.
Part V is here.

The next few years saw the Screaming Trees’ star begin to fade. The trials they went through making Dust may have ultimately been more than the group could handle. Lanegan took some time to deal with his alcohol abuse and heroin addiction. He headed off to Joshua Tree, CA with Mike Johnson and a slew of other musicians, notably J. Mascis and Tad Doyle, to record another solo effort,1998’s Scraps At Midnight. Comprised of 10 beautifully melancholic songs, Scraps continued Lanegan’s trend of releasing moving, compelling solo albums. Though similar in sound and style to his previous solo efforts, Scraps has a unique feel that the musicians involved attributed to the special atmosphere of the Joshua Tree-area studio in which the music was created. “Bell Black Ocean”, a piano based ballad with exquisite, sparse acoustic slide guitar, is a highlight and is reportedly Lanegan’s favorite track on the album.

Bell Black Ocean (from Scraps At Midnight)

Without wasting any time, Lanegan and Johnson released the covers album I’ll Take Care Of You in 1999. My least favorite of Lanegan’s solo releases, it’s still gripping if only because of Lanegan’s soulful vocals.

In 2000, Queens Of The Stone Age released Rated R, their second full-length. This was special for Lanegan fans because Mark’s vocals were featured on “In The Fade”, “Auto Pilot” and “I Think I Lost My Headache”, though on the latter two in a backing capacity only. This collaboration would prove fruitful, as Lanegan would have a bigger role on QOTSA’s next album and would even tour with them in 2002.

In The Fade (from QOTSA's Rated R)

This era of Lanegan's career also saw the Screaming Trees cut new demos in the studio, one of which is below, and they performed a few shows in showcase-like situations in 2000 to try and seduce labels with their new material. However, no labels were biting, and the group officially disbanded after a final show at the Experience Music Project in June of 2000.

One Way Conversation (unreleased 1998 demo)

2001 saw Lanegan release another solo effort, Field Songs. Lanegan’s manager hyped it in the press as more of a rock record than previous solo albums, but in my opinion it was not a significant departure in style from his previous solo releases. A few more electric guitars don’t make an album a “rock” record when it is still steeped in folk and blues. Labels aside, Field Songs was another strong album, and it's definitely worth checking out if you like Lanegan's solo material.

Resurrection Song (from Field Songs)

Queens Of The Stone Age’s 2002 release Songs For The Deaf featured Lanegan’s lead vocals on four tracks, “A Song For The Dead”, “Hangin’ Tree”, “God Is In The Radio” and “A Song For The Deaf”. This is an outstanding record, worth purchasing not only for Lanegan’s vocals, but also for the excellent, bludgeoning songs and the always fantastic drumming of Dave Grohl.

A Song For The Dead (from QOTSA's Songs For The Deaf)
Hangin’ Tree (from QOTSA's Songs For The Deaf)

Click here for PART VII.

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Mark Lanegan: Part V - Dusty Madness

This is part five of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.
Part II is here.
Part III is here.
Part IV is here.

While the Screaming Trees struggled to put together a follow up to Sweet Oblivion that they felt lived up to their potential, Lanegan recorded and appeared live with Mad Season, one of the plethora of side-projects in which many of the now-famous Seattle musicians took part. Comprised of Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist, Mike McCready, Alice In Chains vocalist, Layne Staley, bassist John Baker Saunders, and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin, Mad Season released Above in 1995. Two standout tracks feature vocals from Mark Lanegan – “I’m Above” and “Long Gone Day”.

I’m Above
Long Gone Day

I’m sure anyone reading this post has heard of Mad Season, but what may not be as commonly known is that the group was working on a follow up album after Above’s success. Staley couldn’t get it together to record vocals for the follow-up project, so Lanegan was reportedly going to take on vocal duties. As far as I know, the project, called Disinformation, never made it past the conceptual stage. There are many reports in the press confirming that songs were written for the record, but if any recordings were actually finished I haven’t seen evidence that they circulated amongst fans.

It took four years after Sweet Oblivion's release, with a full album recorded and scrapped in the interim, for the next dose of Screaming Trees music to hit stores. Though Dust wasn’t released until 1996, it was well worth the wait. Slightly more polished, but just as epic as its predecessor, the album demonstrated that the Screaming Trees had more than one great album in them. “All I Know”, “Dying Days” (featuring a blistering guitar solo by Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready), “Sworn And Broken”, “Traveler” and “Gospel Plow” are highlights. The record is one of those that finishes too soon, begging the listener for repeated plays.

All I Know
Dying Days
Sworn And Broken

Click here for PART VI.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mark Lanegan: Part IV - Last Call In Purgatory

This is part four of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.
Part II is here.
Part III is here.

Sweet Oblivion achieved plenty of commercial success, enough to compel the Screaming Trees to tour extensively in the US and in Europe to support the album, and the success afforded them the opportunity to take their time when making their follow up album. In the interim, Lanegan released outstanding solo effort Whiskey For The Holy Ghost in 1994, again on SubPop. He told interviewers at the time that he enjoyed the opportunity a solo record provided for him to explore something different than what the Screaming Trees did musically. Mike Johnson joined Lanegan again for Whiskey…, even co-writing a number of songs. The album was heaped with critical praise, and I feel it is perhaps the single best piece of work in Lanegan’s outstanding career. I’ll let the words of reviewers take the mic for a bit:
“Brilliant, of course… very few singers have the nerve, humility and arrogance to lay themselves so bare (in Lanegan's case, so flayed), and fewer still have the skill to render that nakedness so plausible and involving. Whiskey is a dense but intensely moving piece of work.” – Melody Maker, 1994

“Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan temporarily ditches his arboreal pals on this intensely beautiful second solo effort. Lyrics dense with metaphors of death and drink come to life through Lanegan's smoky tenor, which howls and billows from the depths of subconsciousness. Shadowy background voices, wispy violins, and lumbering acoustic guitars add to the haunting allure. A delightful companion for last call in purgatory.” – Entertainment Weekly, 1994

“Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan easily blows away any and all of his Seattle counterparts…” – Spin, 1994

“This is the kind of album that gives you the chills on the first listen. And the second and third for that matter.” – Month Magazine, 1994
Drop what you’re doing now and go get yourself a copy of Whiskey For The Holy Ghost.

House A Home

Click here for PART V.

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Mark Lanegan: Part III - Sweet Oblivion

This is part three of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.
Part II is here.

Ah, 1992. I’d just graduated from high school and was finally getting into music that wasn’t complete shite. It was in late 1992 that I first heard Mark Lanegan sing. Cameron Crowe’s Seattle-based film Singles was out and the soundtrack was in the grubby little hands of all of us who had jumped onto the Pearl Jam bandwagon (The soundtrack features two at-the-time-unreleased songs from Pearl Jam). Buried in the second half of the record was the song “Nearly Lost You” by the Screaming Trees.

Nearly Lost You

I liked it immediately, but it would take the urging of a good friend at a later date to finally convince the ignoramus that is me to pick up the Trees’ 1992 masterpiece, Sweet Oblivion.
Said Lord please give me what I need
He said there's pain and misery
Oh sweet oblivion feels alright
It sure does. From album opener “Shadow Of The Season”, the last line of those lyrics neatly sums up the feelings evoked by the Trees at their best. Like most of the music that hit the mainstream from Seattle in the ‘90s, Sweet Oblivion was dark in lyrical content and in musical mood. But something about Lanegan’s vocals soaring over the churning guitars and pounding drums was uplifting and cathartic in spite of, or perhaps because of, the darkness. I guess that’s what separates great music from the pedestrian – that undefinable “something” that elevates certain songs or albums above the rest, causing a primal, gut reaction in its listeners. Sweet Oblivion is loaded with songs of such caliber – ”Nearly Lost You”, “Dollar Bill”, “Winter Song”, “Butterfly”, “No One Knows” and the epic, mind-crunching album closer, “Julie Paradise”. In addition, like all great albums, the entire record fits together like a well constructed puzzle, each song absolutely necessary in its position in the sequence.

Dollar Bill
Julie Paradise

Of course, the true test of music’s “greatness”, for me at least, is how it stands the test of time. Sweet Oblivion still is as compelling today as it was when I first heard it over a decade ago. At the time the album was recorded, Lanegan’s voice had matured to the point where he’d become one of the best rock singers around. It still makes me angry, in the way that only a fan who feels one of his favorites has been cheated of well deserved fame and fortune can be, that the Screaming Trees never achieved the level of mega-fame that Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden did.

Click here for PART IV.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Matthew Good Treats His Fans

Matthew Good is another of those artists that I just can't get enough of. In a recent poll conducted by Philly radio station WXPN, listeners are being asked to rank the top ten best artists of all time. Matt Good is in my top ten for sure. His 2003 release, Avalanche, is a must-have masterpiece for anyone out there who likes music.

Anyway, I had to take time out of my Mark Lanegan opus to mention something amazing that Matt did for his fans last night. He was moving out of his home in Vancouver and decided to thank his fans for all of their support by putting on a show in his empty living room. About 20 lucky folks that responded to the invite on his blog were allowed to attend an unamplified performance by one of their favorite artists. How amazing is that? I can't even fathom how fun it would've been to hear Matt play his songs and chat with fans right there in his living room, with no mics or PA, just him, a guitar and his two dogs accompanying him.

The webmaster at The Acoustic Diaries was one of the lucky attendees of the show last night, and he posted a great review here. In honor of the show, I thought I'd share the tracks that Matt has made available for download on his MySpace page. The first three are from the aforementioned Avalanche, and the fourth is a b-side.

While We Were Hunting Rabbits

Thanks to Dan Lilly for the photos I used above. I'll post some more Matthew Good at a future date.


Mark Lanegan: Part II - Sub Pop, Trees Go Major

This is part deux of my piece on Mark Lanegan's career.

Part I is here.

1990 was a big year for Lanegan. The Screaming Trees released the Change Has Come EP and he released his first solo album, The Winding Sheet, both on the now famous indie label SubPop.

Change Has Come is the classic “bridge” record – an audio document that demonstrates the maturation of a band’s sound from one era to the next. Solid from start to finish, the EP serves as a harbinger of the creative potential the Trees would realize on their three forthcoming releases.

Change Has Come (from Change Has Come EP)
Time Speaks Her Golden Tongue (from Change Has Come EP)

The solo album developed out of an attempt to record a few blues songs with Mark Pickerel (the current Screaming Trees drummer), Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic (both from Nirvana – duh!). The blues project didn’t yield much fruit, but Lanegan started writing original material at that time. He took his songs to SubPop and, much to his surprise, the label encouraged him to record an album.

Joined by Mike Johnson on guitar (the bassist from Dinosaur Jr. who would turn out to be a long-time collaborator with Lanegan) and a few other musicians, The Winding Sheet was recorded in three days and mixed in three more. Upon its release the record was met with mostly positive critical reviews. Often mentioned by critics after the fact is the cover of Ledbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” that appears on the album, with guitars played by Lanegan’s good friend, Kurt Cobain. Cobain’s haunting rendition of the same song from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance is the one that drew popular attention to the song, but Lanegan had at it first on The Winding Sheet.

Ugly Sunday (from The Winding Sheet)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (from The Winding Sheet)

1991 saw the Screaming Trees release their first album on major label A&M. Uncle Anesthesia never earned the critical accolades that some other 1991 releases did (namely Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten). However, the album showed the Trees hitting their creative stride. Major label production certainly didn’t hurt, but regardless of technical help from the studio, signs that they were firing all of their creative cylinders abound on songs like “Something About Today”, “Alice Said” and “Caught Between”. The song “Before We Arise”, which often appeared as a live set opener during this era, shakes me up every time I hear it. Lanegan’s voice is the focal point of the sparse arrangement, and it seems to originate from the depths of some place to which I don’t want to ever have to go when he sings the opening words “Blackness all around…can you wake me?”. “Haunting”, the best adjective my limited writing skills can conjure, doesn’t come close to doing the tune justice.

Caught Between (from Uncle Anesthesia)
Before We Arise (from Uncle Anesthesia)
Alice Said (from Uncle Anesthesia)

Click here for PART III.

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Mark Lanegan: Part I - Birth of a Raspy Baritone Treasure

I've been at this blog thing for eight months now, so I thought it was about time I addressed this site’s moniker. Obviously, the site is named after the Screaming Trees album of the same name. Said record is one of the best albums of the past twenty years, I dare say, and I may take some time to look at it in that grand context at a later date. For now, I’d like to explore the career of the Trees' singer, Mark Lanegan. It’ll take a while, so I’ll have to split the piece into a number of posts.


Mark Lanegan is one of the most compelling artists to make music in my lifetime, and along with Chris Cornell, he has one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary rock music. Lanegan’s voice is deep, soulful and ragged, invoking the spirit of Tom Waits, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison among others. Few singers have that inexplicable “something” in the timbre of their voice that can evoke powerful, gut-wrenching, emotional reactions in listeners. People say Cobain had it, Jeff Buckley had it for sure, and I’d say Lanegan has it in spades.

Reviewers have described Lanegan’s voice in many ways over the years. Haunting, raspy, stunning, harrowing, growling, aching, dark, otherworldly, rough-hewn are common descriptions of it. A “raspy, baritone treasure” is perhaps my favorite one. However, his voice didn’t always have so much character.

Lanegan got his start as singer for the Screaming Trees when they formed in the mid 1980’s in Seattle. The band’s early recordings showcase a much smoother, for lack of a better word, sounding Lanegan. He was very young then, and he claims that at the time he had no idea how to sing. The coming years of drinking, smoking and drug use likely had a significant formative impact on his vocal chords, but Lanegan claims some of his gravelly tone may also be hereditary (apparently his father had a similar sounding voice). Listening to the Trees’ 1985 Other Worlds EP, it’s hard to believe the vocalist is the same guy that growls through “A Song For The Dead” on Queens Of The Stone Age’s 2002 album, Songs For The Deaf.

Barriers (clip)
A Song For The Dead (clip)

The Trees recorded an album a year from 1985 through 1992, the bulk of which was for their first label, SST. It took a while for the Trees to refine their sound into the unique mash-up of classic and modern rock that it became by the early 90’s. But don’t think for a minute that the early Trees recordings are not strong, quite the contrary. Songs like the following ones illustrate the awesomeness of the Trees' early work.

Cold Rain (from Even If And Especially When)
Ivy (from Invisible Lantern)
Where The Twain Shall Meet (from Buzz Factory)
Black Sun Morning (from Buzz Factory)
End Of The Universe (from Buzz Factory)

For the Screaming Trees neophyte, it is impractical to collect their extensive early back-catalogue. But luckily (or typically if you share a cynical view towards record companies…), in 1991 SST released a compilation of 21 songs from the Trees’ early years. Though inherently flawed by a lack of coherent flow, as most retrospective collections are wont to be, Anthology serves as a solid introduction to the Screaming Trees that existed before Seattle exploded onto the national music radar screen.

For those interested in a deeper look at the Screaming Trees' early work, here's the discography from which Anthology draws its tracks.

Other Worlds EP (1985)

Clairvoyance (1986)

Even If And Especially When (1987)

Invisible Lantern (1988)

Buzz Factory (1989)

Click here for PART II.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Black Crowes 02-07-1997

My first live concert post was a Black Crowes show, so it's about time I got around to posting another. They are my favorite band, after all...

This show from 1997 in Madrid is a soundboard recording of the group in their heyday before lead guitarist Marc Ford left the band. The set includes great versions of "Thorn In My Pride" and "Nonfiction", as well as two choice covers - "One Hundred Years From Now" (The Byrds) and "Silver Train" (Rolling Stones). Supposedly they played "Jealous Again" at the end of the encore, but no one seems to have a recording of it. So here's the full show minus "Jealous".

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The Black Crowes
Madrid, Spain

One Mirror Too Many
Black Moon Creeping
Could I've Been So Blind
Downtown Money Waster ->
Share the Ride ->
Girl From A Pawnshop
Jam -> Thorn In My Pride
One Hundred Years From Now
Evil Eye
Nonfiction ->
Nonfiction continued...
Hard To Handle
- encore -
Good Friday
Silver Train
Jealous Again
The Crowes are selling soundboard recordings of their latest gigs from Instant Live, and you can now order shows as downloads. If this post appeals to you then be sure to check out their current shows. They're really on fire now, perhaps better than back in the good ol' days of '96 - '97.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Like 09-13-2005 KCRW

I took the train to New York last night to catch The Like perform at the Mercury Lounge. I really enjoyed their 2005 debut Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? and wanted to see them live. The trio of young ladies put on a good show. I wasn't blown away by their live prowess, but I did think drumer Tennessee Thomas rocked the kit pretty hard. Singer Z Berg has a very deep, mature voice for such a young woman, and she sang beautifully live. Bassist Charlotte Froom's harmony vocals were a nice touch too. The show was a lot of fun and it reminded me of why I'll be keeping my eye on their career. Here's their live set from KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic on 09-13-2005.

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The Like
KCRW 09-13-2005

June Gloom
Mrs. Actually
What I Say And What I Mean
The One
(So I'll Sit Here) Waiting
Too Late
Waves That Never Break

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gov't Mule 11-03-1996

Gov't Mule's new record, High & Mighty, dropped today, so in honor of the occasion I decided to post a show that harkens back to my first Mule experience.

I went to see the Black Crowes play back to back nights at the Tower Theater near Philadelphia in November of 1996, and I got to the venue the first night toward the middle of the opener's set. The song they were playing was awesome (for any Mule fans out there, it was "World Of Difference"), the band was killer and the guitarist was phenomenal. His voice sounded awfully familiar... Well, this dullard eventually figured out that the singer/guitarist was Warren Haynes, sometime member of the Allman Brothers. His new power trio, Gov't Mule, was opening for the Crowes, and they'd just won over a new fan. Needless to say, I got to the Tower plenty early the next night to be sure I caught all of the Mule's set.

Though I don't have a soundboard recording of either Mule set that I saw in 1996, I did track down one from the same tour when they were opening for the Black Crowes.

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Gov't Mule
Amherst, MA
Mullins Center
Opening For The Black Crowes

Pygmy Twylyte >Blind Man In The Dark >
Mother Earth
Game Face >
No Need To Suffer
Mule > Who Do You Love?


Monday, August 21, 2006

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals 07-22-2006

A friend of mine found this Ryan Adams show online and told me I had to hear it right away. Now that I’ve listened to the whole thing twice I can say for sure that it is absolutely amazing. Adams and the band are on fire, tearing through songs that draw on the entirety of his extensive catalogue. By the time they got to the crazy-cool rock version of “I See Monsters” that closed the first set, I knew this show was a gem. Then they came back out and rocked the pants off the audience in the second set even more. The show reminded me, in a multitude of great ways, of a Black Crowes show. And that’s one of the highest compliments this writer gives out about a band’s live show.

Not only is the performance spectacular and the set to-die-for, but the recording is good enough to be an official live release. It’s a soundboard/audience matrix that trumps just about every other recording of the type I’ve heard in the past. I’m sure this is posted elsewhere – it’s too good not to be – but I had to put it up here anyway. If you want a FLAC version of the show, you can get one here. Enjoy.

Ryan Adams
The Norva
Norfolk, VA

Love Is Hell
Let It Ride
When The Stars Go Blue
What Sin
Please Do Not Let Me Go
A Kiss Before I Go
He's Gone
Shakedown On 9th Street
The End
Blue Hotel
Magnolia Mountain
Mining Town
I See Monsters
Breakdown into the Resolve
Two Hearts
Everybody Knows
Mockingbird Song
This Is It
Note To Self, Don't Die
Wish You Were Here
Dear Chicago
New York, New York
Beautiful Sorta
Anybody Wanna Take Me Home?
Hard Way To Fall
Strawberry Wine (solo)

Download the show here.
Buy Ryan Adams' music here.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Centro-Matic 03-29-2006 Atlanta, GA

As usual, I arrived at the party long after the cool kids had already left. Most folks that would be interested in this live show already know more about Centro-Matic than I do. My main source for new music encouraged me to check them out, knowing how I enjoy Ryan Adams, Son Volt, Wilco and the like. Their new record, Fort Recovery, is awesome. After this live show whets your appetite you can buy it here.

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03-29-2006 Atlanta, GA
The Earl

Post-It Notes From The State Hospital
Fountains Of Fire
Triggers And Trash Heaps
Flashes And Cables
Call The Legion In Tonight
Strahan Has Corralled The Freaks
Mighty Midshipman
For New Starts
Calling Thermatico
Patience For The Ride
I See Through You
Most Everyone Will Find
The Blisters May Come
Without You
Love Has Found Me


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kathleen Edwards 10-12-2005 Philadelphia

Kathleen Edwards opened for My Morning Jacket at this gig and gave a seething, rocking performance. I feel like she stole the show from the headliners, although MMJ was certainly rockin' in their own right. I came to the show already a fan of Edwards' 2005 release Back To Me, so I was ready to enjoy her set from the get-go. The crowd was sparse when she started, but that didn't stop her and her band from tearing through a bunch of tunes from the new record, along with a smattering of songs from her debut Failer. I was so into her intense show that when it was over I realized with surprise that the room was full. Folks had trickled in for MMJ but were cheering raucously for Edwards and her band as she left the stage. Good times.
Kathleen Edwards
10-12-2005 Philadelphia, PA
Theater Of Living Arts
Opening for My Morning Jacket

Independent Thief
Six O'Clock News
What Are You Waiting For?
Good Things
Intro to In State -->
In State
Copied Keys
12 Bellevue
Back To Me

Download the show here.


"With Special Guest ______" - The Opening Band Dilemma

I've always had mixed feelings about opening acts. On the one hand, I'd like to consider myself open enough to new music to be able to listen to an opening band with welcoming ears. I've discovered a few acts that I really enjoy when they played as unknown (to me) openers. On the other hand, there have been plenty of openers that simply killed 30-40 minutes of my life while I was waiting for the headliner I came to see to take the stage.

Ah, the classic opening band dilemma. It's usually considered a great "opportunity" to play for an act with an established following, fans with whom, presumably, your music will connect. But you have to be awesome every night just to appease a crowd that generally isn't there to see you play and would, at times, rather you took the night off so they could see the band they love play an extended set. And if you blow the audience away? If your opening set is outstanding, most audience members will only remember that you didn't suck. Some will be impressed enough to buy your CD or check you out online later, but I bet the great majority of concert-goers don't remember the opening band's name after the gig. If the audience was even in attendance for the opener's set, that is... I've been to plenty of shows that are less than half full for the opener but are jam-packed by the time the headliner goes on. I've even been one of those late arrivals on purpose.

Cynical? Perhaps. There's no denying that being an opening act is a difficult challenge. That's true even for established acts that choose to open for one of their heroes, as a kind of nod to the headliner's venerable career or as a notch on the career belt of the established opener. Maybe suffering the "special guest" slot is a rite of passage that all up-and-comers have to endure in order to "earn" a sweet headlining tour and build that coveted following. More likely, it's a way to keep cash flowing for the opener, even if it's just a trickle, while making a living out of making music. Just about every band you and I love started as an opening act for someone that was more popular or experienced, so I guess in the end there's no dilemma. The good ones, and a lot of the craptastic ones too, will succeed in clearing the hurdle of being the dreaded "opener" and go on to have their own headlining show.

So get out to the venue early, because it sure is fun to be able to say to your fellow music snobs - "Yeah, they're great now...but I saw them when they opened for _______."

Some Of My Favorite Bands In Random Opener Slots:

Led Zeppelin opened for Country Joe And The Fish in 1969

The Rolling Stones opened for the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley in 1963

Pearl Jam opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Smashing Pumpkins in 1991

Radiohead opened for Catherine Wheel in 1992

The Black Crowes opened for Robert Plant in 1990

Catherine Wheel opened for INXS in 1993

Juliana Hatfield
opened for Aimee Mann in 2002

Nirvana opened for Mudhoney in 1992

Jeff Buckley opened for Juliana Hatfield in 1995

Gov't Mule opened for The Black Crowes in 1996

Soundgarden opened for Guns N Roses in 1991

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Drive-By Truckers: 07-29-2006

My MMJ post from this morning about an awesome opening act spawned another post. And so it goes…

If you are reading this blog then you probably realize that I’m a major fan of the Black Crowes. So it should come as no surprise that I went to see them when they played at the Festival Pier in Philly last month. The opening bands were The Drive-By Truckers and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. The latter put on a great set, but the first act of the day blew the roof off the place. Or they would’ve if the venue weren’t outdoors…

I honestly don’t know much about the Drive-By Truckers. This show was the first time I’d seen them live, and I had only heard one of their songs, “Danko/Manuel”, on a friend’s best-of-the-year mix from 2004. The song was good, but I didn’t go buy their record after hearing it.

Sometimes it takes a special convergence of events – seeing a great live show at the right time to be open to something new, hearing the perfect song playing as the soundtrack to an important moment in one’s life, etc… - to really make you stand up and take notice of a good band. Needless to say, I thought Drive-By Trucker’s performance at this show was fantastic, and after their set I went directly to the merch table to pick up their latest, A Blessing And A Curse. The album is strong, though not as reckless and raucous as the live set I witnessed. If you like your rock southern and heartfelt, this band is for you.

The last song of the show was a ridiculously awesome, “classic”, rock moment. If you listen to nothing else from this set at least give "Let There Be Rock" a shot.

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Drive-By Truckers: 07-29-2006
Festival Pier
Philadelphia, PA
Opening for The Black Crowes

Women Without Whiskey ->
Decoration Day ->
Feb 14
Gravity's Gone
Sink Hole
Never Gonna Change
Marry Me ->
Road Cases ->
Let There Be Rock