Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Night of Discovery & Healing for EB

While the rock and roll lifestyle of the modern musician might seem to be all sound and fury, there are many who take time out from their busy schedule in order to do things for those less fortunate and draw attention to things that need our attention. Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the seminal band Pearl Jam, and his wife Jill are shining examples of that pay-it-forward attitude. They both are drawing some attention to a terrible illness which affects young children.

The Vedder’s both took part in "A Night of Discovery & Healing for EB" recently at Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose. This event happened a day before The Bridge School Annual benefit concert. The evening was an awareness and fundraiser for “Heal EB.”  Heal EB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure while raising awareness for Epidermolysis Bullosa.

If you have never heard of EB before, it just sounds dreadful. EB is a painful congenital disease that causes blisters after the mildest trauma. The Myoclonic describes EB:

“Epidermolysis bullosa (ep-ih-dur-MOL-uh-sis buhl-LO-sah) is a group of skin conditions whose hallmark is blistering in response to minor injury, heat, or friction from rubbing, scratching or adhesive tape.”

Maybe the most terrible thing about EB is that children are the ones who suffer from it.

“Most types of epidermolysis bullosa initially affect infants and young children, although some people with mild forms of the condition don't develop signs and symptoms until adolescence or early adulthood. Mild forms of epidermolysis bullosa may improve with age, but severe forms may cause serious complications and can be fatal.”

While the fact that EB may improve with age is one small bit of hope for those diagnosed, that is not always the case. And there still remains no known cure. For most kids who develop EB the treatment is all about dealing with the pain and preventing outbreaks. Kids will be kids though; imagine having had to have lived your whole youth in a bubble; reacting violently and painfully to even the slightest abrasion. Depending on the type of EB, the effects can be mild, disabling, or life threatening. Children with severe cases of the disease oftentimes do not make it to adulthood.

Mrs. Vedder has a dear friend, Heather Fullmer, whose son who suffers from EB. Mrs. Fullmer is CEO and founder of the Heal EB non-profit. Because she was so deeply moved by the pain of these children and the strain they endure, Mrs. Vedder sits on the Heal EB board of directors.

During the night, the Vedder’s made fast friends with a number of children who are grappling with EB. Eddie also got up to do an impromptu performance with the event band, Big Daddy Sunshine. Together they played "Running Down a Dream", "Come Together", and "Rocking in the Free World."

In order to raise awareness and help spread the word, Heal EB has an auction currently up on EBay. The auction is running through 9am Pacific this Friday October 26. There are a number of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam items up for grabs, including:

  • - Autographed Eddie Vedder ukulele, autographed Eddie Vedder Deluxe Edition songbook, front row tickets to an upcoming Eddie Vedder solo date (first time front row tickets are being offered for bid)
  • - Eddie Vedder solo tour front row tickets and autographed poster package
  • - 2 autographed Pearl Jam posters (Made in America and Montreal 2011)

There are a ton of other great items from athletes, fellow musicians and others. If you are a fan of the band or if you are interested in getting some cool auction items and helping a great cause like Heal EB you should check out the whole lot and see what strikes your fancy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fiona Apple - WCSU Ives Concert Park - 6/29/12

For a very particular slice of the public consciousness lexicon, the name Fiona Apple is one filled with reverence and mystique. However Fiona Apple's also a name which fell from public consciousness as mysteriously as she appeared.
If you're a young person today who divides your time evenly among names like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, you probably have never heard of Fiona Apple before.
At the same time if you're too old to appreciate the names who headline the Lilith Fair embargo (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco) and instead fall back on old standards like Heart, Pat Benatar, and Annie Lennox then the name Fiona Apple probably means as little to you as anything.
However if you do fall in that tender slice of years (say high school graduating class 1994-1999) then you may know who Fiona Apple is. You may have known her firsthand or maybe you had an older sister or cousin who turned you on to songs like "Criminal" and "Shadowboxer." Maybe this relative turned you on to her inverted and tortured music and filled your head with some of the wilder stories about Apple like that she allegedly had an eating disorder. Or perhaps you were drawn in by the very true story of how she was raped when she was very young. Whatever the bait was time turned you around and her impression was indelibly made and you were hooked.
So when Fiona Apple was reported to be coming through the Western Connecticut State UniversityWestside campuses Ives Concert Park I was delighted to find myself present for that show. I saw on Pitchfork earlier in June a new song from Apple, "Werewolf," from her new record "The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Ever Do." This song is incredible and so I looked forward to this concert with great anticipation. 
Much to this reporters delight the Fiona Apple of today looks much the same as she did in the mid-90's. Her arms are a little stronger looking but she's still very gaunt and this fact tells me that this is just who Fiona Apple is; she's just a thin woman. 
The concert took its time to get going; the opening band came out a little after 8pm and strummed along for almost an hour. Then just after 9, Apple took the stage to thunderous applause.
She was in pretty strong form which was also pleasantly surprising; still with a defiant attitude throughout. She stood with an almost stoic indignation as she sang the lyric to "Sleep to Dream," and I thought that maybe she was a little resentful of that simple song's powerful commercial success. "Is she just going through the motions," I wondered. But then, as though reading my mind, as the band riffed off on an extended solo the singer totally lost it and began thrashing in a manic dance all over the stage. The cheers came and she cavorted herself further still before curling into a fetal position and squeezing her knees tight to her breast sitting on the stage floor for the songs conclusion. 
She was a very energetic performer but Apple never lost her groove though. There were other moments, later on in the show, where she stood with her arms akimbo, sighed and let her exhausted and frazzled looking head fall backwards even as her sultry hips kept moving with the underscored beat. Just when you thought she might collapse from exhaustion or fall into a heap she then would thrash her body about some more. She ended one song retreated to a full surrender of her upper torso even as her legs stood taught like toothpicks. 
Of course Fiona Apple had soulful moments as well. One such occasion was her stirring rendition of "I Know." Apple commanded the microphone and laid down her longing vocal line around the warm encapsulating synth, simple drum brushes, tiny plucks of the bass and the single note twang of the guitar. 
Her voice was certainly edgier than I remember from FM radio. A new song like "Daredevil" was filled with a guttural rawness which was at once refreshing and unnerving. 
I can't wait to hear what's next from Fiona Apple. I also apparently need to be a better fan and pick up her intermittent recordings as well. If this show is coming to an off-the-beaten-path venue near you, I would get my tickets right away! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Bacon Brothers at City Winery; New York City -- with Vance Gilbert 4/26/12

Bacon was on the menu recently at City Winery in Lower Manhattan. Not cured strips of meat from the rumpus of a pig but Kevin Bacon and big brother Michael; the Bacon Brothers. Michael Bacon is a CUNY (City University New York) professor and an accomplished musician and film scorer; little brother Kevin is also a well-respected thespian; star of numerous big and small screen reckonings. Kevin Bacon even has his own “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game where you can apparently link any actor to Kevin Bacon (alive of dead) by no more than six degrees of separation. However together this duo (and their excellent backing band) simply do the deed of playing an interesting bit of soul, blues, folk, ballad, jazz, country, and good old fashioned rock and roll.

 Before we get to the Brothers Bacon though there was the mystery of opening act Vance Gilbert. Gilbert was a twangy-blues laden singer songwriter. He actually called himself “The Black Folk Star of Love.” His short set might have been okay if he were the attraction. Maybe such macabre, heartbroken musings such as his would have been more appropriate for an engagement at a coffee house or something. But as an “opening act” for a group as full of verve and energy as the Bacon Brothers, it would have stood to reason that Gilbert would have played some more upbeat songs.

 Forgetting the topics of his set for just a moment; Gilbert had a glaring self-awareness and a corny disposition coupled with a sharp wit which at times elicited laughter.

 “You’re so old,” he joked to one audience member, “you’ve got a signed copy of the Bible!”

 His songs though were very intentionally oppressive and languid. Despite this fact Gilbert had a fierce set of lungs on him which oscillated between a practiced John Denver high to an extended Herman’s Hermits vibrato.

 Still, I go to the audience for the most fun quote of the night. One of the individuals sitting nearby me, who had even appeared to enjoy portions of the opener remarked, as Gilbert was exiting the stage:

 “For most of that performance, I wanted to stick something in my eye.”

Bacon Brothers. City Winery, New York City. 4/26/12.
 Then out came the Bacon Brothers. Both Bacon’s were spry and full of life. The entourage was Kevin and Michael trading lead vocals and both wielding rhythm lines on the electric and acoustic guitars. Kevin played the conga drums, a Latin shaker tube, and was the one man dance party as though everybody were hanging “Footloose!” Michael also played a floor string instrument like a standup bass only stouter.

 The first two songs were sung by Michael and Kevin simply sang backup vocals, strummed along as a second rhythm guitar, and played some very insignificant conga lines. When I pointed out to my wife that you didn’t even really hear the conga, she remarked that it's attributable to the fact that Kevin’s an actor. Actors onstage (or onscreen) should always have some kind of an action for their hands. I couldn’t disagree with her.

By the third tune though, a song Kevin dubbed “the iPod song” he had earned his place onstage. Just before breaking it down Kevin took his audience on a funkdafied history of what it was like when he first came to New York City in 1976. He danced and cavorted to the tight funk line the song was electric.

 All the musicians onstage appeared to be effortlessly competent at their instruments. The bass player slid all over his fret board while singing harmony and doing something of a queer crouching crab step. The lead guitar player and organ player both cut out nice solo lines when they were called on to do so. The drummer also had no problem tearing up the skins a little bit like Animal from the Muppets.

 I wasn’t able to stay for the whole evening but from what I saw of the Bacon Brothers, they are a group worthy of your attention. A lot of times famous actors get a hard time when they just want to play in a band. But Kevin Bacon rips that stigma out and chucks it to the side. He just appears to be having a great time with his big brother, playing the music that’s had him dancing inside his head for all these years.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Marcy Playground - City Winery - NYC - 3/25/12

When I heard that Marcy Playground was coming to one of my favorite Manhattan music venues; all I could think was “Sex & Candy,” the bands 1997 hit song which was its only, to date, charting single.

1997. That was 15 years ago. A lot has happened in the last 15 years; for me anyway. In 1997 I was still a comparative novice to things like modern rock and was still a heavy fan of candy. Regardless the last 15 years have been something of a rollercoaster for Marcy Playgrounds lead singer/guitarist John Wozniak. Marcy Playground has written and released two other CD’s following 1997’s eponymous debut and now they are back with a fourth album “Leaving Wonderland…in a Fit of Rage.” Wozniak boasts the new album is “by far the best thing I’ve ever done.”

So it was with a great deal of anticipation that I took the A trains long journey from Northern Manhattan all the way down to the City Winery SoHo location on a brisk Sunday night in an otherwise tropical New York City winter/spring to see Marcy Playground and find out just what Wozniak was talking about.

The ambiance at City Winery was relaxed and jovial as it always is. The place was full of Marcy Playground fans because as soon as they introduced the band everyone “shushed” everyone talking and waited for the music to begin.

Wozniak came out alone at first and began playing the admittedly appropriate “All the Lights Went Out.” My wife asked me if this was a one man outfit. As though on cue the bass player and drummer entered the stage and began accompaniment following the first verse.

Maybe one of the things which most immediately impressed me about Marcy Playground was their deep bass lines and audibly vibrant tones. Because my investment with this band to this point had not been very deep the only tune of theirs I knew was kind of timid and sparse; radio-friendly as it were. There were certainly other songs they played tonight which I could see coming across on the FM dial but that wasn’t the whole deal with these three; there were sonic arpeggios and long, dissonant periods of feedback.

In the middle of the third song Wozniak made a motion to hold on for one second and he went offstage to change guitars. He would do this again. He couldn’t seem to decide which of the two identical looking guitars he liked. If you hadn't seen him walk offstage during “Devil Woman” you never would have known that he'd left. The bass player and drummer kept a rollicking beat going for 16 bars or so while he was offstage and his absence just sounded like an extended bridge.

I'm sure he wasn't intentionally trying to upstage him but I was enthralled with the drummer, Shlomi Lavie. In very minimalist fashion he had the most basic setup: snare drum, bass drum, bass-tom, hi-hats, and a ride cymbal. That's it. But watching him play was like watching Animal from The Muppets. He thrust his arms and flailed about in such a crazy way, it was mesmerizing for me as a former drummer anyway. Ask any drummer; getting a good “crash” from a ride cymbal is difficult. To compound his thrashing though many of his crashes included him banging on his open hi-hats.

The bass player, Dylan Keefe, was interactive with Wozniak and Lavie. On more than one occasion he chimed in to one of Wozniak’s musings. Carefully reminding the audience not to give Wozniak too big of an ego. Keefe also did a really nice thing and told an abridged story of Michael Dorf who founded both City Winery and earlier The Knitting Factory and gave his heartfelt thanks to the venues owner.

Towards the end of their set the three had a dissonance reckoning with everyone playing as fast and with as much extended feedback as they could for about 5 min.

When they finally got to “Sex and Candy” they were almost done with their set. Wozniak called the song an indelible gadfly. The song included a somewhat muted sing-along (their instruments were still really loud) and just like that the evening was over.

Marcy Playground are back on tour and that just makes me feel old. But if you’re like me and miss that lost generation we knew as the 1990’s, check out Marcy Playground when they swing through your neck of the woods.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jane’s Addiction - Palace Theater - Waterbury, CT 3/7/12

The fathers of 'modern American alternative rock' and one of the best bands to come out of the 1980's, Jane's Addiction were a group whose influence entered my life at a pivotal moment. Perry Farrell is the front man and a zany one at that but for those who don't know the band they likely know another of its members; guitarist Dave Navarro. It may have been his relationship with the likes of Carmen Electra, it may have been his work with other bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Panic Channel or it may have been his hosting reality TV shows or selling other products but Dave Navarro is one of those guys whose face is out there. I also had an affinity for Jane's drummer Stephen Perkins who was popular in the drumming world around when I was first learning the craft. They've had a bunch of bassists; Chris Chaney joins them on this current tour.

Jane's Addiction has a few songs which may ring a familiar chord ("Been Caught Stealing" and the songs chorus of guard dogs may be the most familiar). Jane's Addiction has broken up and gotten back together they've even taken an extended break for Farrell and Perkins to team up with others for Porno for Pyros (MTV aficionados of my era my remember their song "Pets" which got video and radio airplay). But Jane's Addiction was always bigger than that. They were pretty influential; they remain pretty amazing. The Lollapalooza Tour was founded by Farrell and it's always been their live shows which have drawn the most intrigue. Intrigue was in the air when I reviewed their live show in Waterbury Connecticut at the Palace Theatre.

The Jane's Addiction portion of the evening started out with the Pink Floyd song "Welcome to the Machine." Anyone who knows that song knows that it's kind of long and strange with this building crescendo of synthesizers and guitar. The crowd grew restless as the seven minute song droned on and all I could think was what a waste it would be if indeed the band did not show up onstage. After several minutes of stops and starts from the audience though they finally did show up.

I must admit; I am a Jane's Addiction fan from their first incarnation: "Jane's Addiction," "Nothings Shocking," & "Ritual de lo Habitual." Those are the three albums I'm familiar with and those are the three albums most fans know. There are some others; the album "Kettle Whistle" is a live/rare one with a few new tunes and they just put out a new record. But by and large it's the first three that matter. So a few of their initial songs I was not totally familiar with.

The second song they played though; "Mountain Song" I knew very well. When Farrell screams "Everybody has their own opinion," it's as though he's singing it for the first time. One couldn't help but notice that they were really quite loud. Farrell had some kind of a monitor for his vocals onstage and it was during the guitar line in "Mountain Song" that he first dove into getting feedback from the bass guitar; it was reverb city.

Farrell then told a story about how he was stealing and was confronted by a police officer. His bravado seemed genuine enough if for no other reason than a mystique has always surrounded him. And of course one of the most well-known Jane's Addiction songs is "Been Caught Stealing."

Right after that they dove into "Ain't no Right." It was during this song that I noticed how so many of his words were getting lost; primarily because of Farrell's cavorting with the crowd. More than once he dove into the audience and at the very least was up front high-fiving everyone. This loss of vocals actually didn't matter because everyone in the audience knew every word. Perkins, Chaney and Navarro were also so bombastic, loud, and unrelenting. It was almost as though they were playing a festival show or an arena show in the few thousand seat Palace Theatre.

During the song "Nothing's Shocking" was when Dave Navarro took off whatever shirt he'd been wearing to show off to the audience all the lovely artwork all up and down his body.

I was sitting in the middle of the mezzanine and noticed that everyone in the audience stood up before the first song. Even though the Palace is a "theatre-proper" with seats even up in the mezzanine everyone wanted to get as close to the action as they could.

They moved a drum-set skeleton downstage for a couple of songs. "Classic Girl" was the first and Navarro and Chaney sat down on stools. The drum kit had electronic steel drums which are the signature instrument in the song "Jane Says."

Farrell noted that it's not a concert; his shows are a "carnival. We drive in on the bus and they say to me, 'Do you wanna go to a party?' and I say sure." That is what is most impressive about this band; after 30 years together and breakups and makeups they still have a festival atmosphere. There are girls in leather (one of whom is reportedly Farrell's wife) and they still get all the sound and atmosphere out of each other that made them famous on the Sunset Strip in the early 1980's.

For our portion of the evening there were two more songs I'd like to mention; "Three days" and "Stop." "Three Days" is one of the best songs in their whole catalog and one of my favorites. Seeing this song played out live was also one of the coolest musical performances I've ever witnessed. There is an almost unassuming bass solo line that's flipped around in the intro. The song on the album is part of a second-side that's like a symphonic movement. But when the four played it this night it worked well as a standalone track. Navarro's got a pretty amazing extended solo which he took on for an extra 32 bars or so. Most of the songs remained largely as they are on the record but with this solo Navarro and Perkins both showed off their chops. During the songs drum break towards the end, Perkins really took it home. I could imagine thins song being the way Jane's Addiction began the end of plenty of sets in the past.

After the exhausting, extended mix of that long song they played "Stop." Farrell addressed the crowd by saying "Good night Connecticut; now the real party starts!" and they walked offstage.

I couldn't hang around to see their encore; stupidly I'd parked in a zone which from November 1 - April 1 had to be cleared out for snow removal, so by the time they finished their main set it was already half-past 11pm.

I stepped out into the warm Waterbury March twilight, saw a wonderful near full moon in the sky, and considered myself privileged to have been a part of the musical-carnival of Jane's Addiction in this way, on this night. My temples were throbbing, my head was ringing, but my mind could not stop dancing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Southern Gentleman Tour, City Winery, 2/21/12

The mood was jovial at City Winery in Manhattan on a recent February Tuesday. There were some southern gentlemen in the house and their aims were pure enough. The Southern Gentlemen tour is the collaborative arrangement between Ed Roland of Collective Soul and Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra. Both bands stake their roots in the south (Georgia and New Orleans, respectively) and from the ambling demeanor of the evening, both appear headed for the same ends as my dear old grandpa and others I'd met while living in the south. Folks in the south could just go on for days about anything and everything (which, coincidentally, appeared to be the narrative of the Southern Gentleman show). They spoke about their families, their kids, their misadventures one day prior to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and their love/hate relationships with their respective bands (which, Roland says, is like another marriage).

Six minutes past the top of the hour and there was a fair amount of seats towards the rear which sat vacant. I wondered if that would change as the night progressed and it really didn't. Throughout the evening though I learned that the Southern Gentleman Tour began in this same venue months prior. Many of the fans who were here on this February night were also here in October. And it was a Tuesday night in the middle of winter; so in a way I understood the sparse audience. This seemed more of a thank you to the die-hards; fans who were there were cheering in full support.

When the two hit the stage I must admit I was a little taken aback but for different reasons. Anyone who knew Collective Soul in the 1990's knew that Ed Roland had something of a Jesus/wrestler thing going on. He had long hair, a beard, and appeared very muscular. He struck these epic poses, he led his crew around; shepherding them through their troubles as it were. Roland today looks totally different. He came out in professorial spectacles, had a curly gray bob-haircut, and had a suit jacket on. Having just brushed up on my Collective Soul earlier in the day I had to admit I was a little surprised.

Kevin Griffin looked the same. Basically the same. Tall and skinny. Roland I would later discover is only a few years Griffin's senior. However it was something about their respective dispositions which also made an impression. For Griffin who did a lot of the talking; he seemed very comfortable with Roland (and their percussionist/accompanist) and comfortable with the audience. Roland on the other hand seemed very comfortable with his stage-mates. And he communicated easily enough with the audience; it just didn't appear to be what he preferred to be doing. I don't know if it was just the way he was feeling this night but I got the impression that Roland was much more comfortable playing than he was performing.

These two showmen didn't waste any time jumping right into the fracas with one of Collective Soul's more well-known numbers, "December." They played a couple of songs together before Roland took to the stage himself to play some songs of his own, Collective Souls, as well as another group The Sweet Tea Project.

Songs rolled off his guitar which I was unfamiliar with. Lyrics like "Goin' to Birmingham" and "When it comes down to love" were in the mix. Then he introduced two new songs. "You Said That You Loved Me," had a droning and monotonous repeat of title or the line "it was a long time ago." The song ends with refrain Amazing Grace ("…how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…"). All I could think was some songs should stay in the studio. Apparently his wife agreed. He wrote this just the week prior (or so he says) and played it for her on Valentine's Day. She rejected it so he wrote an upbeat poppy tune, "All I really need is love." This song was full of biblical allusions "walk the earth," "once was lost," "lift you up." However when he capped off this tune with the same refrain from "Amazing Grace" it was funny. So I guess the lesson here is that you never know what you've got until you tag it with a familiar refrain. He also played a surprisingly reflective, quieter, almost pained version of another one of Collective Souls more well-known songs, "The World I Know."

Kevin then came on and played some of his songs. It's interesting I have very detailed notes from the Roland solo session but my only notes about Griffin's time was "Kevin played..." I think that's because he was a lot more entertaining. Don't get me wrong I liked Roland's songs but I guess it's akin to studying for a test or going to a birthday party. Or so it seems to me.

The whole of the evening came across less as a Southern Gentleman's tour and more of a real mellow jam session between friends. Their whole thing was just two singer songwriters telling stories, razzing one another on the couch.

I am more familiar with Collective Soul than Better Than Ezra, but I was shocked to find all the work that Griffin had done on popular songs with artists. The two guys had stark contrast in their demeanor. Griffin appeared that he could care less. He was impersonating Bono and took the stage as MASTERS OF RAWK!

Roland on the other hand was a lot more reserved. His demeanor was open but he looked tired. He appeared to almost be saying, "are you serious? You guys are going to let me play another day?" - as though he knows his jig should have been up. But he's a good musician. So he should just milk it. Maybe Roland is moving into a different phase in his life. Griffin on the other hand was busy singing about Daisy Dukes and Ugg Boots. I could picture Griffin being the kind of guy to leave the toilet seat up, as it were.

When both reappeared they played songs like "Shine" which had the extended "Midnight Train to Georgia," remix and "Good". The whole crowd remained engaged for both choruses and requisite "YEAH" or "Aha."

For their encore they came out and played a really brief medley of "Wonderwall," "Kids" (MGMT),"Shattered," "Feel Good Inc," "White Wedding," and I think that was it. And then the show was over. The lights came up, the doors swung open and we all spilled out into the streets.

And everyone who'd been to that show on that night couldn't stop smiling.










Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bob Mould at City Winery in Manhattan

New York, New York - 2/9/12

I must admit that when I heard about the legendary Bob Mould coming to my favorite intimate New York City music venue, City Winery, I was really excited. I was not as familiar with his work as any fan of alternative rock probably should be; I had heard some songs from Husker Du and I actually had one track from Sugar on a CD compilation some time back. But I was not as familiar as I should be with his whole body of work. Regardless, City Winery is one of my favorite spots to see live music and this Mould show did have an excited energy about it.

As my wife and I approached the Varick Street venue in the still February cold, the insides of City Winery looked packed. Usually this place gets pretty full but a full half hour before the show the place was buzzing so we did our part and got to our seats quickly.

Obviously Bob Mould solo is not Bob Mould with Husker Du, Sugar, his backing solo band or even any of the work he’s done with any other artists (like his work with the Foo Fighters). But I was surprised when the projection screen in front of the stage was lifted and the stage was bare save a microphone stand.

Mould entered from stage right in a pair of worn blue jeans and a black short-sleeved t-shirt. He had a guitar around his neck, a piece of paper with his set list, and three bottles of water. A lot of the fans in the audience were a tad on the older side. This would make sense since Mould began his musical career in the late 1970’s. But these fans went nuts when the singer took the stage. They all began clapping and engaging in a seated cavorting and pumping their fists in the air and thrashing their heads to and fro.

From the moment he began to sing over his wash of hard-charging guitar chords I was really able to hear the derivation of the angst-ridden modern rock which I grew up around in the early 1990’s. He stepped out on stage and the only thing he said was “I’m not going to talk; just going to play.” And he played. One song ran into the next ran into the next. His fading riff hadn’t even gone out before Mould had attacked the next song.

Mould was exercising the same angst in the 1970’s and 80’s. As I scanned the older gray haired gents in denim collared shirts who are head banging along with a song like “Your Favorite Thing” mouthing the words as they go; I was struck by an inescapable fact. Nothing about life gets any easier; not for this middle aged rocker on stage who still appears as anxious as if it were his first time before an audience, not for these apparently happily married guys who have their grown kids sitting across the table from them. Not for anyone.

The one lyric that I really walked away from on this evening was when Mould said “…Let’s see what the future brings; I wouldn’t mind; and I can’t tell you what’s been happening; I don’t know…Not at all.”

That’s it people. Your life is what you make of it; right here; right now. There is no tomorrow and yesterday’s already done.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Brooklyn Industries CRASH INTO SPRING

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is happening February 9-16, 2012. Hot on the heels of this semi-annual event our friends at Brooklyn Industries are going to be presenting their “CRASH INTO SPRING” Fashion Presentation. The event is happening at the Union Square store (801 Broadway) and will be full of sweets, treats, and beats.

The CRASH INTO SPRING Fashion Presentation is going to include the unveiling of Brooklyn Industries Special Edition CRASH Handbag.

One of Bed-Stuy’s favorite bakeries, DOUGH, will be providing the sweets portion of the evening.

Brooklyn’s own Brooklyn Gin will be presenting some signature cocktails for all those who are of course of-age to enjoy.

Beats are being spun live by DJ SoSuperSam from Los Angeles.

The Brooklyn Industries design team will also be presenting some Live Art Demonstration so make sure to check that out.

In order to gain access you MUST RSVP. Brooklyn Industries Mega Band event was crazy and the whole place was packed. DJ SoSuperSam promises to pack the house once again. RSVP at PR@BROOKLYNINDUSTRIES.COM.

The CRASH INTO SPRING event is happening during Fashion Week. It goes down in Union Square February 10, 2012 7-9:30pm. 801 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ingrid Michaelson ‘Human Again’

1/26/12: New York, NY

Ingrid Michaelson is an interesting chick.

Of course I say that with the most hallowed reverence. As anyone who has ever read my pieces on this uber-talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist will tell you, I love the work she does. However I’ve had a problem with her first couple of records; they’ve always left me feeling kind of moody and apathetic.

But it was that terrestrial apathy which was what was so appealing about her work too. Songs like “Masochist,” “Die Alone,” and “The Hat” on “Girls and Boys” were replaced by talented and tender versions of classics like “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Over the Rainbow” but still the meal felt incomplete. At the end of the record “Be OK” was an acoustic version of the opening title track which led you to believe that the singer was anything but.

That was then; this is now. The new Ingrid Michaelson record, aptly titled “Human Again” covers a wide swath of terrestrial emotions; catapulting the listener up into the trees, back in time, and with heavy heart but it’s always hopeful. I think that was what was missing from Ingrid Michaelson records past. Hope. A hope which is alive and electric and very present on this newest record.

Diving right into the tracks on this record, Ingrid gets things going with a rapid fire opening track called “Fire.” This song reminded me of Kate Bush and a song like “The Big Sky.” Even though a lyric like “I’m walking into the fire with you” is a familiar one for Ingrid; the hook immediately afterwards, “…and I love it” shows a bold new leap that the recently humanized singer is making.

“This is War” reminded me of a cross between Depeche Mode and Gloria Estefan-South-Beach type musical sound. The clincher for this one though was Ingrid’s distinct vocal line which illumed her standing-on-a-rock-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean loneliness (a sound perhaps best recalled in her own "Starting Now").

The third song “Do it Now” has a real spunky and fun line “…don’t waste a minute on the darkness and the pity sitting in your mind and do it right now” which the singer kind of spills out over the listeners ears.

“I’m Through” is a very tender love song; much more in the familiar Ingrid style of a song like “The Chain.” One of the principal differences between the two songs though is that there is no vocal overdub on "I'm Through." It sounds as though on this record Ingrid is growing a lot more comfortable with her instrument. “I’m Through” really represents this liberation. She doesn’t have to hide behind the production tricks we've come to know. A song like “I’m Through” proves to her fans and to herself that she can stand at the microphone, sing a straight love song and belt it out to the back-row.

“Black and Blue” is a lot funkier; a straight piano line but funky beat. The sound of this song reminded me of my first New York City apartment. I lived on 108th Street between 5th and Madison; Spanish Harlem. The neighborhood wasn’t quite Harlem but it also was still technically right on the border of some very ritzy real estate on the Upper East Side. And there was not a decided division between the two. I could just imagine an Upper East Side Ingrid in this song running her scales at her piano lessons while secretly messing with her Walkman and listening to the latest hip-hop grooves; all the while listlessly gazing out the window; yearning to be on the streets below from where the same music she was yearning to break into was being created.

“Ribbons” starts out with a mopey undercurrent. Ingrid envelopes the microphone as she repeats “wrapped me up in ribbons then he went for the door” in a silly-low voice. But of course when the chorus comes up she breaks out and pleads the question with this object of her affections; “I’m not flying, am I?”

“Palm of Your Hand” is another powerful song with a driving backbeat. The rhythm on “Palm of Your Hand” sounds like it’s pop music out of the 1980’s. The storyline of the song though is quite good. The narrator takes us on the road of leaving a controlling relationship. The breakup seems to affect the narrator more than the one she’s cutting it off with but her resolve just makes the triumph that much more fulfilling.

A quick summary of other tracks: “In the Sea” sounds like Sinead O’Connor, “Blood Brothers” is more straight pop and sounds like Gwen Stefani with a Cheryl Crow guitar line.

“Keep Warm” is a homey, synth-laden tune that rises slowly and fully like a 1920’s film score and takes the listener on the journey: “Down down down I go on a road that I don’t know.” The final track “End of the World” also has the appeal of an old-time song.

Then there’s this song “Ghost” which I’m not really sure what to make of just yet. It sounds to me as though there’s something pointedly personal going on here.

“Human Again” is a sonic wonderland for the listener; a combination of her signature plucked acoustic guitar, piano which slides from big and imposing to demure and almost forgotten, carefully arranged strings, classically warm synth, and even stranger computerized sound effects. The signature Ingrid Michaelson vocal looping feature is noticeably absent on this record. At least insofar as how audiences have become accustomed to it.

Not much about this new record is all that familiar; especially for fans who latched on to the somewhat helpless sounding, flailing heartbreak which many had fallen hard for. But that’s a good thing. As the title reminds us; even when we go through our darkest hours; we always emerge on the other side, a little wiser, a little more cautious, but always have been; human again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Next for Joe Crummey?

While it may surprise many of the vocally vociferous Facebook fans of Joe Crummey who were flummoxed and flabbergasted when it was revealed towards the end of 2011 that Crummey would be replaced by Geraldo Rivera on WABC radio, Joe Crummey is not angry. Quite the contrary. He sees this change in employment status as little more than a bump in life’s swooping road. An opportunity for him to find a venue where he could continue to broaden his base. Arizona, Los Angeles, New York…what’s next?

He blew in like a hard charging storm cloud with a laid back sass which caused the half-listening listener to up and take notice; he disappeared like a mirage; almost as though you had imagined the whole thing.

Still now that WABC 770 AM in New York City and Joe Crummey are no more, that doesn’t mean the listening masses should give up on him. What has Crummey been up to in the days since leaving WABC? Plenty actually. I recently got the chance to sit down with Crummey and talk with him about his severance from Cumulus Media and 77 WABC, new media, what he's been up to, and what's next.

Me: So I guess the biggest question on everyone’s minds is ‘what’s up?’ ‘Where can we hear you again?’
Joe: “I’m interviewing. I can’t tell you with who, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m excited.”
Me: What happened at WABC?
Joe: “Well, ya know…change.”
Me: Are you okay? What have you been up to?
Joe: “I’m not in a funk. You go through a range of emotions when you get fired and I was in LA for a couple of weeks, hanging out but I finally decided, ‘enough.’ You know I got myself a really good agent and they know everybody.”

When I pressed him further for more details about what he and his agent had going he was pretty mum about the whole thing. However Joe did open up generally saying: “LA stuff, Boston stuff, San Diego stuff,” and he promised that he would be streaming online.

Maybe the most interesting thing about our conversation was that Joe Crummey has got his own new website where he promises all of his ranting’s and ravings and musings and discussions will live. Fans who love the Crummey experience can check out the still under-construction website at


Joe seems to be taking pause from this time outside of the working world to be tackling broader issues. To hear him tell it, Joe sounds as though he wants to be back in Los Angeles; back with his family; but that he would be open to offers from stations in a variety of markets. He also is very honed in on the new media side of things; he seems to want to be partners in his working arrangement rather than working for the man.

Still, to this listener, at WABC I felt like he had a great deal of control over his own image and his own message. If I didn’t know any better I would say that a show like the one he had at WABC is exactly what Joe wants to have back again.

Speaking for parties in my circle, that is what his fans want back too.

Joe Crummey’s microphone at 770 WABC radio in New York has gone dark for now. But don’t worry about that New York; when I asked him if he’s coming back to the Big Apple, his answer was promising:

“I plan on being back on the air in this town. It won’t be like the first time; it will be much bigger.”

While I wonder how much bandwidth it would require for a voice that’s bigger than the one he exerted before, Crummey’s got a message for all the fans who are bummed out that he’s gone:

“Wait and see what’s next.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jane’s Addiction Announces Waterbury CT Show in March

Just when all the alt heads thought it was time to grow up and that they would never see Perry Farrell again; Premier Concerts just announced that Jane’s Addiction is going to be back on the east coast for a show at Waterbury’s Palace Theater.

Wednesday Mach 7, 2012 at 8:30 PM the Palace is going to rock out the late 80’s - early 90’s alternative favorites. Fans can only hope that Farrell and company will be playing favorites from “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual de lo Habitual.”

Jane’s Addiction has produced two more CD’s; 2003’s “Strays” and 2011’s “The Great Escape Artist,” though the band is far more well regarded for their two earlier albums including the groundbreaking “Ritual de lo Habitual” which drew comparisons to “Zeppelin IV.” Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins also collaborated on the Porno 4 Pyro’s project after Jane’s first disbanded.

Opening up for Jane’s is the Brussels alt-rocker band Black Box Revelation. These two young Europeans have been described as an “R&B inflected garage-band rock that takes its cues from mid-60’s Stones and The Kinks to the most gut-bucket, electric delta blues evocative of Led Zeppelin by way of The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.” Hmm. Sounds like a band with a bit of an identity crisis. But if they’re good enough to open for Jane’s Addiction…

For fans interested in seeing the show, the concert was just announced today and tickets run between $38-$58 plus service charges. Reserved seats can be attained at www.palaetheaterct.org or by phone at 203-346-2000. Tickets go on sale Saturday January 14, 2012 at 11am.

Listing to Jane’s Addiction as I often do is like a walk down memory lane. It will be interesting to see the response and if Jane’s Addiction can still bring out the zealots after all these years.