Seth Yacovone Breaks Down Every Second of 1974 Grateful Dead


zzwosGuitarist Seth Yacovone is one of Vermont’s greatest treasures. If you ever want to see a man’s soul pour out of his laser-shredding fingers, there’s no more reliable place to look than Seth. And despite much of the widespread jam/rock world having not heard much from him since his 1998 sit-in with Phish, the Northeast is still currently in a two-decade-long love affair with the man. He is legitimately the hardest working dude in show-business, dividing his time between solo gigs (every Friday at Nectar’s for the past decade,) the Seth Yacovone BandDead SessionsThe Seth Yac Blues Band, Dead Sessions Lite, and Blues For Breakfast, he’ll regularly have runs where he’ll play more gigs than days of the month – yes, literally. And on top of all that, Seth knows his music. You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who can top his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, and of course… The Grateful Dead. So when Seth told his friends earlier in the year that he was going to listen to every 1974 Grateful Dead show on the 40th anniversary of its performance, it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Little did we know that he was actually analyzing and ranking every song. With 10/20/74 being the last gig of that year, Seth revealed his in-depth statistical findings yesterday. So here we go – the most detailed break-down of one of the Dead’s greatest years. Get ready to start digging.

All shows are ranked on a scale of 1-10. First set rankings include the Phil Lesh/Ned Lagin “Seastones” performances if they occurred, and second and third set rankings include the encores. And in case you’re wondering why Reno was so horrible, it’s reportedly due to gale-force winds fucking up the wall of sound.

Top Ten Shows
1. 10/19/74 8.9 San Francisco 
2. 10/20/74 8.4463 San Francisco
3. 10/18/74 8.388 San Francisco
4. 6/26/74 8.382 Providence
5. 6/18/74 8 Louisville
6. 9/11/74 7.8333 London
7. 6/16/74 7.789 Des Moines
8. 8/6/74 7.60575 Jersey City
9. 10/16/74 7.49715 San Francisco
10. 6/23/74 7.48 Miami

Worst Show - Reno 5/12/74

Top 20 Sets
1. 10/18/74 II 10 San Fran 
2. 6/26/74 II 10 Providence
3. 9/11/74 II 9.6 London 
4. 10/19/74 II 9.47 San Fran
5. 6/18/74 II 9 Louisville
6. 6/16/74 III 8.916 Des Moines
7. 10/20/74 II 8.625 San Fran
8. 10/20/74 III 8.5 San Fran
9. 6/20/74 II 8.5 Atlanta
10. 10/16/74 II 8.411 San Fran
11. 10/19/74 II 8.33 San Fran
12. 6/28/74 II 8.22 Boston
13. 10/20/74 I 8.214 San Fran
14. 8/5/74 II 8.1666 Philadelphia
15. 6/16/74 II 8.166 Des Moines
16. 7/31/74 III 7.909 Hartford
17. 6/23/74 II 7.909 Miami
18. 8/6/74 II 7.75 Jersey City
19. 10/18/74 I 7.666 San Fran
20. 10/18/74 III 7.5 San Fran

Worst Set: – 5/12/74 II 3.75 Reno

Songs Played – How Many Times - Notable Versions
1. Big River 35- 6/26, 6/16, 2/23, 5/25, 2/22, 6/28, 5/17, 9/11, 5/14, 7/21, 6/18, 3/23, 10/19
2. US Blues 34 -6/23, 10/19, 6/28, 3/23, 7/27, 9/11, 5/14, 6/26, 7/21, 5/21 
3. Mexicali Blues 33 – 10/18, 5/21
4. El Paso 33 – 10/19, 6/18, 6/26
5. It Must Have Been the Roses 32- 10/20, 2/24, 7/31, 8/5, 7/19, 5/14, 7/21, 2/22, 2/23, 6/28, 7/27
6. Beat It On Down the Line 29 – 6/18, 5/19, 9/11, 6/23
7. Scarlet Begonias 28 – 10/19, 5/14, 7/19, 8/6, 9/14, 6/22, 9/11, 5/25, 6/8, 6/28, 6/30, 8/4, 7/21, 9/18, 6/20, 8/5, 5/19, 7/29, 7/31, 10/16, 7/25, 3/23, 6/16, 6/26, 10/17, 9/20
8. Row Jimmy 27 – 6/26, 7/21, 6/18, 5/14, 8/6, 9/18, 2/22, 7/25, 9/9, 6/28, 5/17, 7/31, 6/23
9. Me and My Uncle 27- 6/26, 6/16, 9/10, 5/14
10. Jack Straw 27 – 7/31, 9/11, 6/23, 8/4, 2/24, 5/14, 6/22, 7/25, 10/19
11. Around and Around 27 – 6/16, 10/20, 7/21, 9/11, 
12. Ship of Fools 25 – 6/16, 6/23, 5/19, 6/28, 9/18, 5/17, 7/21, 6/18, 6/20, 2/24 
13.Seastones 24 – 10/20, 10/18, 9/14
14. Eyes of the World 23 – 8/6, 10/19, 6/18, 6/16, 7/31, 7/19, 6/20, 9/11, 6/26, 2/22, 5/27, 5/21, 9/21, 2/23, 6/30, 6/8, 9/18, 6/22, 9/14, 9/20
15. Sugar Magnolia 23 – 6/26 8/6, 6/28, 10/17, 6/22, 2/24, 10/19, 8/4, 5/21
16. Let It Grow 23 – 6/18, 6/28, 7/19, 7/29, 2/24, 9/10, 8/4, 7/31, 5/14, 6/23, 10/18, 10/17, 7/25, 2/23, 3/23, 6/26, 5/19, 9/20, 9/14
17. Deal 22 – 6/16, 3/23, 6/28, 7/19, 5/14, 7/29, 5/21, 5/25, 6/22, 5/12, 
18. Weather Report Suite Prelude 22 – 10/17
19. Weather Report Suite Part 1 22 – 10/17
20. Playing in the Band 21-5/21, 8/6, 10/16, 6/16, 9/11, 7/19, 9/18, 8/4, 2/24, 6/8, 2/22, 10/20, 3/23, 9/9, 7/21, 7/27, 5/17, 5/14, 9/21, 6/30
21. Tennessee Jed 21 – 10/20, 6/16, 6/18, 5/19, 9/11
22. Truckin’ 21 – 5/19, 6/20, 6/16, 7/31, 6/26, 10/19, 8/5, 9/9, 2/22, 5/12, 5/17, 7/21, 7/29, 9/18, 2/23, 5/25, 6/30, 9/14, 
23. One More Saturday Night 18 – 10/19, 6/23
24. Brown Eyed Women 17 – 2/24, 7/31, 5/25, 9/11, 7/19, 7/25
25. Black Throated Wind 17 – 10/19, 5/19, 3/23, 9/10, 9/18, 5/14, 7/25, 8/4, 9/20, 2/22, 6/23
26. China Cat Sunflower 17 – 6/26, 6/16, 5/17, 5/19, 2/24, 8/5, 7/31, 3/23, 6/22, 6/20, 7/21, 10/20, 5/25, 5/12, 2/22, 6/30, 10/17, 6/8, 7/27, 9/10
27. Feelin’ Groovy Jam 17 
28. I Know You Rider 17
29. Bertha 16 – 8/6 , 5/14, 7/31, 8/4, 5/19, 9/21, 3/23, 10/18
30. Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo 15- 10/19, 5/19. 7/31, 9/10, 8/5, 7/27, 2/22, 6/23, 10/20, 9/14, 7/21
31. Promised Land 15 – 2/23, 10/18, 
32. Sugaree 15 – 8/6, 10/18, 2/23, 6/28, 6/22, 5/25
33. Jam 13 – 6/18, 6/28, 6/26, 10/16, 6/16, 9/9, 5/19, 
34. Wharf Rat 13 – 6/26, 5/19, 6/22, 9/11, 7/31, 6/8, 7/21, 5/21, 3/23, 7/29, 10/20, 5/25, 10/16, 8/4
35. Space 13 – 9/11, 9/21, 10/18, 6/30, 6/28, 10/16, 8/5
36. Loose Lucy 12 – 6/18, 2/ 22, 7/25, 5/17, 8/6
37. China Doll 12 – 6/20, 6/18, 6/23, 5/14, 10/19, 5/14, 5/17, 9/18
38. Uncle John’s Band 12 – 10/19, 8/6, 9/18, 7/31, 6/23, 3/23, 9/21, 6/30
39. Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad 11 – 6/16, 10/18, 5/19, 5/14, 6/26, 6/28, 5/25, 8/6, 9/11
40. Greatest Story Ever Told 11 – 6/16, 5/19, 6/22, 7/31, 6/30, 2/23, 6/8
41. The Race Is On 10 – 10/19, 6/22, 9/18
42. Me and Bobby McGee 10 – 7/19, 7/27
43. Casey Jones 10 – 6/16, 10/17
44. Loser 10 – 2/24, 6/18, 5/14, 7/25, 10/20
45. Ramble On Rose 9 – 6/18, 10/17, 7/31, 
46. He’s Gone 9- 7/19, 10/17, 7/29, 8/5, 2/23, 10/19, 8/6
47. Johnny B. Goode 9 – 10/20, 9/18
48. Not Fade Away 9 – 9/10, 5/14, 10/18, 5/19, 10/20, 6/30
49. Playing in the Band Reprise 8
50. Peggy-O 8 – 5/19, 8/4
51. Stella Blue 8- 10/17, 6/18, 8/5, 9/10, 7/25, 2/23, 6/30, 10/20
52. The Other One 7 – - 6/18, 10/17, 2/23, 5/12, 8/6, 10/20
53. Cumberland Blues 7 – 2/24, 6/30, 10/18, 6/23, 9/20, 10/16, 5/14, 
54. Spanish Jam 7
55. Dire Wolf 6 – 5/17, 6/30, 9/10, 8/5, 10/19
56. Drums 6 – 10/20
57. Mind Left Body Jam 8 – 6/28, 5/19, 7/31, 5/12, 6/26, 9/21, 6/16, 10/17
58. Slipknot Jam 5 – 2/23
59. Morning Dew 5 – 10/18, 6/18, 9/10, 2/24, 3/23, 9/21, 
60. Brokedown Palace 4- 10/20, 7/21, 2/22
61. The Other One Reprise 4
62. Dark Star 4 – 10/18, 2/24, 9/10, 5/14
63. Nobody’s Fault But Mine Jam 4 – 6/16
64.To Lay Me Down 4 – 6/23, 7/31, 10/19, 6/28, 7/29, 9/18
65. Friend of the Devil 4- 9/18, 10/16
66. Tico Tico Tuning 3
67. Nobody’s Fault But Mine 3 – 2/22, 5/17, 7/29, 
68. Money Money 3 – 5/17
69. Beer Barrel Polka 3
70. Black Peter 3 – 8/6, 6/23, 10/19
71. Dark Star Jam 3 – 6/23, 6/28, 7/25
72. Sunshine Daydream (Split from Sugar Mag)
73. And We Bid You Goodnight 2 – 10/20, 2/23 
74. Big Railroad Blues 2 – 10/19
75. Don’t Ease Me In 2 – 6/30
76. Caution Jam 2 – 10/17
77. Mama Tried 2 – 10/19
78. The Other One Jam 2/22
79. They Love Each Other 2/22
80. Here Comes Sunshine 2/23
81. Candyman 2/24
82. Not Fade Away Reprise 2/24
83. It’s All Over Now Baby Blue 2/24
84. Cassidy 3/23
85. Uncle John’s Band Reprise 3/23
86. Almost Caution Jam 6/16
87. Almost Dancin’ Jam 6/16
88. It’s a Sin Jam 6/18
89. Let It Rock 6/23
90. Drums/Bass Jam 10/16
91. Happy Birthday 10/16
92. Tomorrow is Forever 10/19
93. Truckin’ Jam 10/19
94. Cold Rain and Snow 10/20
95. Good Lovin’ 10/20

First Set Openers:
Bertha (10)
Promised Land (9)
U.S. Blues (5)
Around and Around (3)
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo (3)
Me and My Uncle (2)
Scarlet Begonias (2)
Ramble On Rose
Big River
Don’t Ease Me In
Uncle John’s Band
Cumberland Blues
Cold Rain and Snow

First Set Closers:
Around and Around (12)
Playing in the Band (10)
Let It Grow (4)
China Doll (3)
Playing In the Band Reprise (3)
I Know You Rider (2)
Greatest Story Ever Told
It Must Have Been the Roses
Johnny B. Goode
Stella Blue
Big River

Second Set Openers:
U.S. Blues (5)
China Cat Sunflower (5)
Seastones (4)
Playing in the Band (3)
Promised Land (2)
Loose Lucy (2)
Big River (2)
Scarlet Begonias (2)
Uncle John’s Band (2)
Tennessee Jed
Row Jimmy
Cumberland Blues
El Paso
Jam
Sugar Magnolia
Brown Eyed Women
He’s Gone
Bertha
Ship of Fools
Mississipppi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo
Me and My Uncle

Second Set Closers:
Sugar Magnolia (13)
One More Saturday Night (10)
Sunshine Daydream (3)
Johnny B. Goode (3)
Playing in the Band Reprise (2)
Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Casey Jones
Not Fade Away Reprise
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo
Playing in the Band
Let It Grow
Wharf Rat
Morning Dew

Third Set Openers:
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo
Truckin’
Tennessee Jed
El Paso
Around and Around
Row Jimmy
Promised Land
Good Lovin’

Third Set Closers:
Sugar Magnolia (5)
One More Saturday Night (2)
Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad

Encores:
U.S. Blues (14)
Casey Jones (9)
Johnny B. Goode (4)
One More Saturday Night (4)
Uncle John’s Band (2)
And We Bid You Goodnight (2)
Eyes of the World (2)
Ship of Fools (2)
It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
Morning Dew
Happy Birthday
Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo

Segues and Times - Excluding China>Rider and Weather Report Suite

2/22/74
Truckin’->Nobody’s Fault But Mine->Jam 12:42
Eyes->China Doll->Wharf Rat->Sugar Mag 30:43

2/23/74
He’s Gone->Truckin->Drums->The Other One ->Slipknot Jam->Other1->Eyes->OMSN 67:16

2/24/74
Dark Star->Morning Dew 43:24, Sugar Mag->NFA->GDTRFB->NFA 25:53

3/23/74
Playing->UJB->Dew->UJB->Playing 45:42

5/12/74
Truckin->Nobody’s Fault But Mine Jam->The Other One->Mind Left Body Jam->Row Jimmy 41:36

5/14/74
WRS Prelude->WRS Pt.1->Let It Grow->Dark Star->China Doll 48:04

5/17/74
Truckin->Nobody’s Fault But Mine->Jam->Eyes->China Doll 34:53

5/19/74
Truckin->Jam->Mind Left Body Jam->NFA->GDTRFB 34:02

5/21/74
Eyes of the World->Wharf RAT->Sugar Mag 33:31

5/25/74
Truckin->Jam->Space->Let It Grow->Wharf Rat 36:53

6/8/74
Playing->Wharf->Playing 39:06

6/16/74
Eyes->Jam->Big River 26:04,
Truckin->Nobody’s Fault But Mine Jam->Almost Caution Jam->Almost Dancin Jam->Wharf Rat->GDTRFB 39:09

6/18/74
Eyes of the World->China Doll 21:04
WRS Prelude->WRS Pt. 1->Let It Grow->Jam->The Other One->Jam->It’s a Sin Jam->Stella Blue 54:15

6/20/74
Truckin’->Space->Eyes->Slipknot Jam->China Doll 49:26

6/22/74
Eyes->Wharf->Sugar Mags 36:56

6/23/74
Dark Star Jam->Spanish Jam->US Blues 32:40

6/26/74
WRS Prelude->WRS pt. 1->Let It Grow->IMHBTR 22:51
Beer Barrel Polka->Truckin->OtherOneJam->Spanish Jam->Wharf Rat->Sugar Magnolia 51:44

6/28/74
Half Step->IMHBTR->Jack Straw 19:46
Sugar Mag->Scarlet Begonias 15:43
WRS Prelude->WRS pt 1-Let It Grow-Space->Mind Left Body Jam->Dark Star Jam->Jam->US Blues 52:11
Promised Land->GDTRFB->SSDD 16:10

6/30
PITB->UJB->PITB 33:12
US Blues->Truckin->NFBM Jam->Eyes->Space->Stella Blue 51:37
NFA->GDTRFB->OMSN 22:20

7/19
He’s Gone->US Blues 20:38
WRS Prelude->WRS pt. 1->Let It Grow->Space->Spanish Jam->Eyes of the World->China Doll 50:40

7/21
Playing->Wharf Rat->Truckin->NFBM Jam->Playin’ Reprise 47:30

7/25
WRS Suite->Around 21:50
Dark Star Jam->Slipknot Jam->Stella Blue 32:35

7/27
US Blues->Promised Land 13:35
NFA->GDTRFB->JBG 19:27

7/29
7/29 He’s Gone->Truckin->NFBM->Other One->Spanish Jam->Wharf Rat 49:27

7/31
Truckin->MLB->Spanish->Wharf 40:59

8/4
WRS->Space->Wharf Rat->US Blues 46:50

8/5
He’s Gone->Truckin’->Space->Stella 56:39

8/6
Playing->Scarlet->Playing 36:44
Sugar Mags->He’s Gone->Truckin->Spanish Jam->Other One->GDTRFB->SSDD 58:55

9/9
Truckin->Jam->Wharf Rat 27:45

9/10
WRS->Stella 26:51
Dark Star->Morning Dew 44:39

9/11
Seastones->Space->Eyes->Space->Wharf 85:37
GDTRFB->Sugar Mags 16:15

9/14
WRS 22:34
Truckin’->MLB->Wharf->Sugar Mags 34:36

9/18
Eyes->China Doll->He’s Gone->Truckin->Drums->Caution Jam->Ship of Fools 65:16

9/20
Truckin->Eyes->NFA->GDTRFB->OMSN 59 minutes

9/21
Seastones->Playing->Drums->Playing 29:11

10/16
Seastones->Space->Jam->Space->Drums/Bass->Wharf Rat->Space->Eyes->Space 85:25
Truckin->GDTRFB->UJB 26:43

10/17
He’s Gone->Other One->Spanish->MLB->Other One Stella 52:04

10/18
Seastones->Jam->Dark Star->Dew 74:57
Promised Land->Bertha->GSET 18:21
NFA->GDTRFB->OMSN 20:55

10/19
Eyes->China Doll 24:36
Sugar Mag->He’s Gone->Truck Jam->Caution Jam->Drums->Jam->Truckin->Black Peter 54:06

10/20
Playin->Drums->NFA->Other One Jam->Drums->Other One->Wharf Rat->Playin 63:10
Eyes->Slip->Stella->Sugar Mag 33:05

China-Riders of 74
2/22/74 – 14:20
2/24/74 – 16:46
3/23/74 – 14:41
5/12/74 – 14:57
5/17/74 – 13:48
5/19/74 – 13:52
5/25/74 – 12:31
6/8/74 - 13:48
6/16/74 – 16:05
6/20/74 – 15:33
6/22/74 – 17:08
6/26/74 – 22:06
6/28/74 – 17:25
7/21/74 – 14:04
7/27/74 – 14:48
7/31/74 14:47
8/5/74 – 16:02
9/10/74 14:48
9/18/74 – 15:20
10/17/74 – 15:10
10/20/74 14:47

Shortest Show 9/9/74  Two Hours 18 minutes and 17 seconds apporixmate
Longest Show  10/16/74  Four Hours 8 minutes and 33 seconds
Shortest First Set 5/12/74 50 minutes and 51 seconds
Longest First Set 8/4/74  1 hour 53 minutes and 13 seconds (9/9/74 exempt)
Shortest Second Set 9/21/74  29 minutes and 11 seconds
Longest Second Set 2/24/74 Two Hours 21 minutes and 29 seconds
Shortest Third Set 9/11/74 28 minutes and 50 seconds
Longest Third Set  7/31/74 One hour 15 minutes and  27 seconds
Shortest Encore   5/21/74  4 minutes
Longest Encore 9/14/74  24 minutes and 38 seconds
Shortest Seastones  9/21/74 10 minutes and 56 seconds
Longest Seastones  10/20/74  35 minutes and 03 seconds
Shortest Dark Star  10/18/74  23 minutes and 51 seconds
Longest Dark Star  9/10/74  31 minutes and 36 seconds
Full Show Rankings:
10/19/74  8.9  San Francisco
10/20/74  8.4463  San Francisco
10/18/74  8.388  San Francisco
6/26/74  8.382 Providence
6/18/74   8  Louisville
9/11/74 7.8333  London
6/16/74  7.789  Des Moines
8/6/74   7.60575 Jersey City
10/16/74 7.49715  San Francisco
6/23/74   7.48 Miami
2/24/74  7.33 San Francisco
8/5/74  7.261 Philadelphia
7/31/74  7.159  Hartford
9/18/74 7.1535  Dijon
10/17/74  7.115  San Francisco
9/10/74  7.0486  London
6/20/74  7.0355  Atlanta
5/19/74  7.02  Portland
9/20/74  6.9838  Paris
6/30/74  6.975  Springfield
3/23/74  6.91  Dale City
2/23/74  6.884  San Francisco
7/29/74  6.87 Landover
9/21/74 6.8194  Paris
6/28/74  6.685  Boston
7/19/74  6.68  Fresno
5/25/74  6.64  Santa Barbra
8/4/74  6.535  Philadelphia
5/14/74 6.36  Missoula
5/21/74 6.225 Seattle
2/22/74  6.22  San Francisco
7/21/74  6.2  Hollywood
6/8/74  6.08  Oakland
5/17/74  6.02  Vancouver
9/14/74  6.0166  Munich
7/25/74  5.83  Chicago
6/22/74   5.69  Miami
9/9/74    4.9  London
7/27/74  4.86  Roanoke
5/12/74  4.55  Reno
Full Set Rankings:
Set Rankings
10/18/74 II 10
6/26/74  II 10
9/11/74 II  9.6
10/19/74 II 9.47
6/18/74 II  9
6/16/74 III 8.916
10/20/74 II  8.625
10/20/74 III 8.5
6/20/74  II  8.5
10/16/74 II 8.411
10/19/74 II 8.33
6/28/74 II  8.22
10/20/74 I 8.214
8/5/74  II  8.1666
6/16/74 II  8.166
7/31/74 III 7.909
6/23/74 II  7.909
8/6/74 II 7.75
10/18/74 I 7.666
10/18/74 III 7.5
8/6/74 I  7/4615
2/24/74 II  7.41
2/23/74 II 7.4
5/21/74  II 7.38
7/21/74 II 7.38
5/19/74 II 7.35
9/20/74  II  7.3076
9/18/74 II 7.307
5/25/74 II 7.285
2/24/74 I  7.25
10/17/74 II 7.2307
8/4/74  II 7.23
9/10/74 II 7.2222
6/30/74 II  7.133
3/23/74 II  7.06
6/23/74 I  7.06
7/19/74 II 7
6/18/74 I  7
10/17/74 I
9/18/74 I 7
9/21/74 II  7
9/11/74 I 6.9
7/29/74 II 6.9
9/21/74  III 6.875
9/10/74 I 6.875
9/11/74 III 6.85
7/29/74 I 6.84
6/30/74 I  6.818
7/31/74 II 6.8
3/23/74 I  6.77
7/31/74 I  6.769
6/26/74 I  6.76
5/19/74 I 6.7
5/17/74 II  6.66
9/20/74 I 6.66
5/14/74 II  6.5833
10/16/74 I  6.5833
9/21/74 I  6.58
2/22/74 I   6.46
6/8/74  II  6.4
6/22/74  II  6.4
2/23/74 I   6.384
7/19/74  I  6.36
8/5/74 I 6.357
7/25/74 II 6.33
6/16/74 I  6.285
9/14/74 I 6.2
5/14/74 I  6.15
2/22/74 III  6.11
2/22/74 II 6.09
5/25/74 I 6
5/12/74 II 5.9
8/4/74 I 5.84
9/14/74 II 5.833
6/8/74  I  5.76
7/27/74 II 5.61
6/20/74  I  5.571
6/22/74 I  5.538
5/17/74  I  5.38
7/25/74 I 5.33
6/28/74  I 5.15
5/21/74 I  5.0625
7/21/74 I  5
9/9/14  I  4.9
7/27/74 I 4.11
5/12/74  I  4
5/12/74 II 3.75

Run Rankings:

1. October  8.06929
2. June  7.124
3. Feb/March run 6.836
4. September Run  6.679
5. July August Run – 6.556
Rating for the year: 7.887
Average Run rating: 7.052858
Average show rating:  6.85944
Average Set rating:  7.067
Average Set 1 rating:  6.1186705
Average Set 2 rating: 8.5006
Average Set 3 rating:  6.5825

Concert Reviews: Phish Returns To The Pacific Northwest


zzzzphPhish

Eugene Oregon - 
Matthew Knight Arena
Sunday, October 17, 2014

Set 1: Waiting All Night, Free > Poor Heart > Sample in a Jar, Strange Design, 555,Bouncing Around the Room > Reba, Roggae, Simple -> Maze, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Carini -> Plasma[1], Farmhouse, Halfway to the Moon > Twist, Crosseyed and Painless > Harry Hood > Rocky Top

Encore: Wingsuit, Sleeping Monkey > Quinn the Eskimo

Seattle, Washington
Key Arena
Saturday, October 18,2014

Set 1: Cavern, Wilson > Rift, The Moma Dance, The Line, Sugar Shack, Lawn Boy, Kill Devil Falls, Wolfman’s Brother, Sparkle > Bathtub Gin

Set 2: Down with Disease > Golden Age > Fuego > Light -> Cities > 46 Days >Sand > Backwards Down the Number Line, Bold As Love

Encore: Meatstick > Character Zero

There was a lot of hype leading up to these shows. But as any experienced fan will tell you, pre-show hype is usually a good thing only about 50% of the time. Tour after tour, the greatest gigs happen in the most unexpected places. Thus, after nearly 200 shows I’ve come to a level where I’m able to find much more joy by having no expectations leading up to a gig. But you had your tour opener hype. You had your first Oregon show since 1999 hype, your first Eugene show since 1994 hype, your first Seattle gig since 1996 hype – shit was hyped the fuck out. And in true over-hyped fashion, the first two nights of tour failed to produce anything really noteworthy.

It seemed clear throughout this past weekend that not much practicing had occurred prior to the run. Repeatedly, we found ourselves in the middle of those jams where Trey is looking at either Fish or Page and giving the old “I’m not sure where you’re really trying to go” gaze. But more of that in a second. First let’s have a quick word about the Pacific Northwest Phish crowd. Much akin to the crowds in the bay area, this is still a scene where there’s that leftover Grateful Dead angst that most of us East Coasters thought died out at least 15 years ago. Some folks still think that there’s a battle of the scenes happening, somehow forgetting that Jerry’s been dead for two decades and the rest of the live music community has elevated past the age of pointless debate. Prior to the lights going down on Friday, a fully tie-dyed and dread-locked fella walked up to me on the floor and said “Where’s Page side – my friend told me to meet him there.” I politely stated that he was on Page side already, and he replied “Well how the fuck am I supposed to know that?!?” I don’t know buddy – have a good night. He wasn’t alone in his noobness though, and I’d honestly wager that there were more people experiencing their first Phish gig this night than at any other show I’d been to in a while. Good for them, and it seems like most folks had a blast. Unfortunately it was also first-times for the venue staffs as well. Despite walking into the show prior to the lights dropping both nights, it took me four songs and over 20 minutes to obtain my floor wristband on Friday, and another 15 minutes and three songs on Saturday. Frustrating to say the least but anyway…

I’m actually glad I missed the “Waiting All Night” opener on Friday, because that is the worst possible set placement for that song. And the rest of the set was mundane at best. It’s really hard seeing “Strange Design” in a place where the majority of the crowd has no emotional ties to the tune. I’ve never heard more folks talk during that one ever. “Reba” meandered and meandered and then ended. “Maze” was solid, but not as ridiculous as everyone claims it was. I suppose if you haven’t hear Page rock the organ on that one before, your first time is bound to be an experience. I personally was more stoked to hear Page dance around his own mind during the “Squirming Coil” outro – always a perfect first set ender.

On to the second set, which according to the majority of the crowd post-show, I was just a pompous dick for not enjoying. The “Carini” opener fell rather flat before turning into the Phish debut of “Plasma.” Now here’s my problem with “Plasma” – it’s not that it’s a bad song or that it was all that poorly played – it’s the fact that despite a new album this year, the band is still desperate for new material that really clicks with the crowd. And debuting a 13 year old Trey Band song that the rest of the band didn’t seem all that familiar with is a step in the wrong direction in my opinion. If you didn’t think this song was worthy of the Phish stage all that time, what makes you think it’s worthy now? I frankly wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled out a “Shine” sometime soon. Anyway, “Plasma” ends and the coveted third song slot of the second set is filled with… “Farmhouse”? That’s a massive ‘meh’ in my book. Next came “Halfway to the Moon” which I friggin’ love, but it just never clicked this night. It felt uncertain from the get-go and then Trey unsuccessfully tried to turn it into a ripper. So he goes into “Twist” which has frankly become one of the more beige songs in their repertoire as of late. It seems to always pop up when there’s a lull in the music – Trey has a brain fart, can’t think of a song to play next, so just goes into another rudimentary “Twist”. Again, the first-timers seemed to dig it, but… Then comes “Crosseyed” – the one song that I always used to wish was played more frequently, and that now I wish would be played less. This was like a slow-motion version that was quite simply boring for the first ten minutes. They eventually found a cool pocket to gel in, but it took way too long to get there. At some point during the jam, I remarked to a friend that I thought it was some of the most stubborn Phish I had heard in quite some time – odd choices at every turn. However, I was stoked for the subsequent “Harry Hood” since it’s been going to magical places the past year or so. Sadly, this was back to the old cookie-cutter Hood that made me tire of the song in the late 90′s. The “Wingsuit” “Sleeping Monkey” “Mighty Quinn” trifecta encore was probably my highlight of the night, but I left the arena with a shoulder shrug and a smile. I had much higher hopes for Seattle.

Now ironically, the post-show crowd in Seattle didn’t seem as psyched as the night before, and I thought there was far more to cheer for in Washington. As I said before, the understaffed venue didn’t get me on to the floor until “Moma Dance.” I still love the Moma, but I think 52 straight first set appearances is enough. Bring it back into a jam-friendly spot in the 2nd set already. And stop pairing it with “Rift,” “Funk Bitch” and “Kill Devil Falls” – (17 times out of those 52.) And while you’re at it, somebody play Fishman that Denmark 98 debut so he can remember how that original drum-line goes. Next we had four bathroom break songs in a row, before things finally got mildly interesting with “Wolfman’s Brother.” It wasn’t fabulous but at least it did its job. Then came “Sparkle” which made me ask, when did people start liking this song? At some point in the past few years the collective moans at its started turned to cheers – I’m not sure when and I’m not sure why. “Bathtub Gin” closed out the set and reached some fairly mighty heights.

Now this second set was fun – not in the “thank you for this gift” kind of fun, but in the “hey that was cool” kind of fun. “Disease” was solid but never went anywhere extraordinary, and then took a somewhat awkward turn into “Golden Age.” One of these days, Trey is going to learn the lyrics to this tune, and man is it ever corny when everybody claps their hands during the “clap your hands” line, but it was still fun. “Fuego” came next and fell half way in between the mind blowing versions of the summer and the going nowhere versions of the summer. It was big, it was rocking, but it wasn’t as weird as I had hoped it would get. “Light” came next, and I got my routine comments from surrounding friends of “just wait for the jam.” Yeah, I get it – the song has a nice jam. Does that make the song any less of a sunshine promo for a fat camp? Nope. Not surprisingly, the Light jam was the easy highlight of the night – getting all plinko-esque before melting into a faster than normal “Cities”. It was solid. The subsequent “”46 Days” was solid. The “Sand” that came next was solid. The “Backwards Down the Number Line” that came next was as stupid as ever, but the Hendrix-dedicated “Axis” that followed made me forget all about it. The “Meatstick” encore was fun, and the subsequent “Character Zero” was expected to say the least – that makes over 25% of all shows this year with a Zero encore.

All in all, this was two of the safest Phish shows I’ve seen in quite some time. It felt remarkably like 2009 – where your enthusiasm for just being at a show far outweighs the actual musicianship being showcased. A great Phish show seems like a gift – where the price of a ticket pales to the mind-blowing experience granted unto you. These shows didn’t seem like rip-offs, but they were far from gifts. They were tepid, uncertain, and led by an Anastasio that seemed wary of losing control. Maybe they’ve got big Halloween plans too centered in their minds right now. Maybe Trey’s TAB and orchestra gigs have left too little time for him to get into the Good Lieutenant state of mind. Hopefully these were just some warm-up gigs and shit gets heavy down in California. We’ll see,

As always, Phish is perhaps the most subjective band in all of history. So if you had a great time, then I’m psyched that you did. For the most part, these shows are always what you make it. But isn’t it fucking awesome when shit is so amazing that even the sourest fan is blown away? Sure is – hopefully we’ll see some of that on this run.

Currently, Parquet Courts Are The Only Band That Matters


zzzpqSo today Parquet Courts announced that they have another full length album coming out this year, – actually in just a few weeks on November 11. My final tallies aren’t in yet, but I’m pretty sure their June release, Sunbathing Animal will come in as my top album of the year. Thus, the notion of them putting out another record in just around four months is friggin’ fantastic news. Content Nausea will technically be released under the name Parkay Quartz, which some folks may tell you makes a difference. Like that this record is a more Americana-esque sound, or that it wasn’t made with the full lineup, but whatever – it’s the same band. I’m pretty sure they’re more excited about the use of homophones than they are about distinguishing different aspects of themselves. I suppose we’ll have to see if the gigs under the alternate moniker are anything different. But for a group with a very limited presence on the web, it’s basically a lot more about having some uncertainty in your mode of self-definition – something we used to love about bands before we cared what Kesha had for breakfast.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. Who’s the biggest band of 2014? U2? Miley? Taylor Swift? Foo Fighters? War On Drugs? Some shitty dubstep DJ that I could care less about? The fact of the matter is that it’s nobody. It’s been cresting for nearly a decade, but this is the year without the breakaway hit, the dominating record, or even a tangibly definitive sound. Most of my favorite albums this year are ones that wouldn’t rank in my Top 50 in year’s past. Today, for bands to gain any recognizable following they have to be as middle of the road as possible. It’s like the mundane evolution of politics has crept into the music scene. But then there’s Parquet Courts – a band so adverse to singular recognition that they stopped performing the only song that any casual fan would be slightly familiar with (“Stoned and Starving.”) This is the band that has reclaimed apathy. And that’s not to say they don’t give a fuck about anything, but it means they realize that the self-confident abstract relation to the popular infrastructure isn’t something that you promote on Twitter and then search the web for an ironic t-shirt to promote your lack of caring. This is the band that realizes that the music is the only thing that matters. And when all the distractions of the device-oriented American society are eliminated, magic and beauty have room to breathe once again.

Yes, there are other bands today that I can lose myself in. Just yesterday, I listened to Real Estate’s “Crime” seven times in a row trying to listen to the story in the lyrics, only to completely forget to pay attention on every repeated play. And sure there’s the Phish experience… yada, yada, yada. But when you let Parquet Courts absorb you, it elevates you to a level of self-awareness that only the greatest bands can ever do. What was I bitching about? Where am I going? Should I have another drink? What’d you say? These questions just evaporate into the ether while I’m listening to this band.

Have you watched the clip of the new St. Vincent movie yet where Bill Murray sings along to “Shelter From The Storm”? For God’s sake, watch it if you haven’t. But think about the feeling of joy that that video elicits. It’s pure. It’s you. It’s the recognition that a back patio can be just as beautiful as the Alps. It’s that feeling that reality is worth something – that Murray and Dylan are real things that exist outside of you. And they’re entities that couldn’t exist unless this world was both as fucked up and as beautiful as it is. Life passes us by quickly and there are forces out there that are trying to consume your time with fear. But you’re alive today for a reason. I don’t know what the fuck reason it is, but this passing moment is important. And currently, there is no better sonic definition of this moment that is purer than Parquet Courts. They’re now. They’re real. They’re for you. If you allow yourself to get lost in their music, then you drift up. You rise. You become truly self-aware. You have the moment of bittersweet acceptance that always comes in a great Spike Jonze script. You fucking feel alive. You want to fuck the living shit out of a human that you love with every atom of your existence. And as you drift away into and out of yourself simultaneously, you suddenly hear the music. And that music is Parquet Courts. And you realize that now in 2014, they just may be the only band that really matters. That really means something. That really is real. And you light a joint and you look up at the sky and you tell Lou Reed that everything is going fine down here.

Here’s “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” – released today and the final track off their upcoming album as Parkay Quarts. Or whoever the fuck they are. It doesn’t really matter. See?

Who The Fuck Is Voting For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?


Not the people that should be, that’s who. Currently the running tabs for fan voting in the Rock Hall’s 2015 Nominees looks like this:

 

  •  Nine Inch Nails 25.01%
  •  Stevie Ray Vaughan 24.57%
  •  Kraftwerk 10.18%
  •  Green Day 8.45%
  •  Joan Jett & the Blackhearts 5.85%
  •  Bill Withers 5.18%
  •  Lou Reed 3.67%
  •  The Smiths 3.13%
  •  Sting 2.96%
  •  The Paul Butterfield Blues Band 2.75%
  •  War 2.08%
  •  N.W.A 1.94%
  •  The Spinners 1.55%
  •  The Marvelettes 1.46%
  •  Chic 1.23%

Now of course, this doesn’t correspond to who will actually get admitted to the Hall this year. The top votes will comprise a fan ballot that will then be tallied with the other ballots of the Hall members. The top 5 vote getters will be inducted. The problem with having an online fan ballot though, is that many of the folks that were fans of and know these older acts don’t know that there is an online fan ballot… or how to find it… or even use the internet on a regular basis. So while I do love the notion of the hall reaching out for fan’s input, we have to accept the fact that any online poll will be skewed towards a younger demographic. Let’s look at the biggest issues with this current tally.

zzrnrSo Nine Inch Nails is at #1 with a quarter of all voters checking their box. It makes sense that the most tech-savvy band in the lineup is at number one, especially for a ballot that you can vote as many times as you want on. Do they deserve to get in this year? While they admittedly did define the sound of industrial music, they also were heavily influenced by bands lower down on this list. They’d be nothing without Kraftwerk, and it’s hard to deny some of the emotional parallels Trent Reznor took from Lou Reed’s solo work, and I’d even go so far as saying that a lot of that repetitive pocket holding can be traced back to Chic. But they don’t deserve to go ahead of the majority of this list, especially in their first year on the ballot. The sentiment is even more true for Green Day. Sure they’ve had their hits, but they’re also infamous for stealing melodies and basically took their whole pop-punk schtick from Rancid. I’d vote for them in 2025. Frankly, Phish has had a far greater influence both musically and culturally than Green Day these past few decades and their appearance on the ballot this year is the biggest slight against Phish not being up there as well. Moving on…

I think Stevie Ray Vaughn is the biggest shoe-in this year, so his quarter of all votes seems worthy. Kraftwerk is a heavy influence on a shit load of modern bands, so they deserve to be in there but they still wouldn’t make my Top 5 this go round. Joan Jett is the truest rock band on the list, and after her performance with Nirvana last year it seems like she grabbed the hall’s attention. I’d be cool with her getting in this year, but she’s still not getting my vote. Good ole’ Bill WIthers seems like a pretty good bet, because everybody loves Bill. In terms of the solo guys, I’d take Lou Reed light years ahead of Sting, but I’m interested to see if either of them make it.

I’m actually surprised The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is doing as marginally well as they are. They’ve been on the ballot a few times before and they get a ton of influence credit in the blues-rock world, but have you ever listened to them? Unless you really like your rudimentary blues, the shit is boring as all hell. It’s crazy how low down War is, and I’ll just blame that on people not realizing who the artists behind their favorite hits on the oldies stations are. Both The Spinners and The Marvelettes are groups that you presume are already in there, and they’re the kind of acts that seem to have less of a chance getting in the longer time goes by. Chic coming in dead last is the craziest part of this whole list. I mean, if we’re letting in hip-hop groups now, then it only seems right that we should be letting in the bands that they took most of their samples from. And I thought that Daft Punk proved last year how valuable Nile Rodgers is. Apparently the world still has a lot of disco haters out there – get over it people. But that does bring us to N.W.A. The Hall let in Grandmaster Flash in 2007, which made it OK to let in Run-D.M.C. in 2009, which made it obvious that The Beastie Boys should be in there in 2012, which led to Public Enemy getting inducted in 2013. Obviously the hall has moved far from just being about “rock” and being more about the widespread reach of quality music. So in terms of hip-hop in the hall, sure, N.W.A. deserve a spot. But do they deserve it ahead of actual bands from before their time? I don’t think so. But I have a feeling the hall is going to let them in this year. However, if that happens and War doesn’t get in, then somebody needs to give the voters a slap upside the head and remember where music comes from.

My 5 picks? Stevie Ray, War, Bill Withers, Lou Reed, and Chic. I’d put The Spinners at #6, followed by Joan Jett and Kraftwerk. And as for The Smiths? Man, year after year I’ve tried with them. I have huge music loving friends who pray to the altar of Morrisey. But frankly, I’ve been over them before I could ever get into them. Make your pics at the Hall HERE.

What We’re Listening To – ISM Playlist #1 – 10/12/14


varnsonPeople always want to know what’s in the regular rotation over here at ISM headquarters, so today we’re starting a brand new bi-weekly column. Once every two weeks, we’ll post a Spotify playlist of what the greatest hits of the past two weeks have been around here. Sometimes it will feature a lot of new music – sometimes none at all. Hopefully you’ll always discover something new. Our pure intent is your pleasure. Enjoy.

 

1. Free Energy – “All I Know” – 2010
2. Can – “I’m So Green” – 1972
3. The Crust Brothers – “Feel a Whole Lot Better” – 1998
4. Roxy Music – “Grey Lagoons” – 1973
5. Wilco – “Hate It Here” – 2007
6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “Cover Up” – 2014
7. The Pants – “Vibecrusher” – 1997
8. The Unicorns – “Inoculate the Innoculous” – 2003
9. Parquet Courts – “Instant Disassembly” – 2014
10. Cat Stevens – “Father and Son” – 1970
11. The 13th Floor Elevators – “You’re Gonna Miss Me” – 1966
12. Jesus Christ Superstar – “What’s The Buzz?” – 1970
13. J Roddy Walston and The Business – “Take It As It Comes” – 2013
14. Raekwon – “Incarcerated Scarfaces” – 1995

 

Tracks Spotify doesn’t have:
Ben Gibbard – “Something’s Rattling” – 2012
Ty Segall – “The Singer” – 2014
Jerry Garcia – “Accidentally Like a Martyr” – 1977

Trey Shits Music


zzztrWhen I originally created this site four or so years ago, there was no more natural title for me than “I Shit Music.” I live it, I breathe it, it fully consumes me, I fully consume it, and thus it literally falls out of my ass as I’m so connected with it. It’s a phrase that’s originally attributed to Paul McCartney who used it in the 70′s to describe the prolific and innovative output of Stevie Wonder. But the phrase truly became a part of my lexicon when Jon Fishman used it in a 2003 interview with Relix Magazine to describe how fellow Phish member Trey Anastasio will write upward of ten songs a day. In other words, the dude keeps busy. And it’s hard to tell whether his recent factory-level of output is just the same old shitting or if it’s increased to serve as a steady distraction from drugs and alcohol, but the phrase has never felt more apt than the present.

Just weeks after debuting a brand new 20 minute symphony piece known as “Petrichor“, big red announced days ago that he has yet another solo album due out in the Winter, Paper Wheels,  and that the time between Phish’s fall run and New Year’s Eve this year will be filled with several weeks of Trey Anastasio Band tour. Like they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and it seems like he’s making sure his hands don’t get a millisecond to breathe. The first track from the new album is already out, entitled “Bounce”. You can stream and download it HERE. It starts out with a nice mid-tempo soul-groove, with lyrics that fall on the far-less corny side of his ongoing spectrum. I really dig the first half of it, but I’m somewhat thrown off by the second. Suddenly the groove stops and a rather formulaic jam-band, two-chord whole-step progression starts up. It’s a little too familiar to multitudes of other jam songs he’s written over the years, but I suppose it’s a nice jump-off for some horn-punctuated guitar soloing. You know, it is what it is. But after some of his sordid history, we should just be thankful that he’s till shitting music and not baggies of heroin.

Hopefully The Next Perfect Pussy Album is Dylan-esque Folk Rock


zzzmgWhy? Because people need to hear what Meredith Graves is saying. If you don’t know Graves and her band, or if you’ve ignored her because you incorrectly think that with a name like that they must be some misogynistic douche-bags, then you’re literally missing out on the most powerful woman in music since… well, maybe ever. I was completely floored when I saw the band in Boise in April – never before had I seen someone own and dominate a hard-core scene like Graves, let alone a woman. And ironically, that response is exactly the thing she is trying to destroy. She doesn’t want her sexuality to be the thing that impresses and conquers; rather she wants her conquering power and control to be the only thing that matters – regardless of her sex. She screams her fucking ass off when she’s performing, so don’t expect to understand a word she’s saying unless you read the liner notes. But like I said when I reviewed their album, Say Yes To Love, the power of the band is massively elevated when you understand the words and can truly grasp where her strength comes from. Check out the incredible poetry hidden in “Advance Upon The Real”…

“I don’t understand attraction, all attraction involves fear, and all fear is desire. I’m an advance upon the real – not a step up from the others, but a step away. I’m waiting in the interim of her and other her and him, too dangerous to care for, too curious to pass by, too interesting to love. But you’re cool, so you’ll try and for a while things are gonna be just fine. Everything is gonna be fine. I’ve been god in a rose, I’ve been woven into quilts and a hundred bad songs, and I’ve done so much wrong, and because of me you can’t like that one band anymore. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.” 

Stereotypes, destinies – demolished. This is the exact opposite of the purported feminism that Beyonce claims to be touting. While Miss-Jigga is using her beauty and outward confidence as tools to dominate and control, Meredith Graves is stating that those stereotypes have completely besmudged the notions of what it means to be a strong woman. That real strength lies in inner confidence – the knowledge that you don’t need to impress or intimidate; you should be able to be exactly the person you are without fear and without needing to showcase your strength.

And this is why Graves needs to be heard. This is why I honestly think that it would be totally in reason for Perfect Pussy to follow up their lightning attack-music debut with an album composed of acoustics and nearly spoken word. But that is, only if Graves wants to. She shouldn’t do it because she feels she needs to and because some random stoned blogger thinks it would be a good idea. A month ago at the Soundscape Festival in Hudson, New York, Graves gave a phenomenal spoken-word performances where she talked about the notion of authenticity and how it is perceived completely differently by the public for different genders. You can read her whole speech HERE and I highly suggest you do. This morning Graves wrote an article on Marl Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and his new song entitled “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock.” In case you’ve missed the beef, The War on Drugs were playing a festival in the same time slot as Kozelek a few weeks back, and when their stage got too loud he began to talk shit on the band, which then escalated to this song being released. Personally, I haven’t written about it because I could give two shits about Kozelek – I find his music utterly depressing. But Graves’ piece is all about the common acceptance we have for terms associated with male violence, and how any novelty fun associated in the song is rooted in terms of hateful masculine domination. Again, it’s brilliant – read it HERE.

So I’m not sure if it’s what she wants, but Graves needs to be recognized as one of the most important voices in her generation. There are millions of young women who need to hear her wisdom. But sadly I feel like a solid majority of those women would be frightened by her music. Hell, it’s about as distant from pop radio as you can get. I have faith in Graves though. I think she’s one of the most intelligent and inspiring people I’ve ever come across, and thus I feel like she’ll find a way to be heard. Right now there’s blood on the tracks, and the times need to be changing, and in so many ways a punk band making a folk album could be the most punk thing they could ever do… just throwing it out there.

Every Music Journalist Has At Least One Horrible J. Mascis Interview


zzzjmLast week I saw a link pop up somewhere for a 10 year-old interviewing J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. I initially didn’t watch it because I didn’t want to see some cutesy, young punk-rock kid use his child’s sense of wonder to elicit an actually decent interview with Mascis. For at least 25 years, the man has been a notoriously horrible interview – overly shy and quiet, and chock full of one-word answers that make you reconsider any and all of your journalistic endeavors. But my curiosity won me over today and I finally watched the link, and God was it great to see this little kid bomb so hard. Sure he gets some smiles out of the guy and they have a tad bit of back and forth, but for the most part it’s the same reclusive Mascis interview that the rest of the world gets. And that makes me happy because that means that J doesn’t change himself for anybody – not for Kennedy back in 1993, not for an hour long chat with Marc Maron earlier this year, and not even for a starry-eyed young child. And hopefully young Elliot takes something from this experience, and realizes that not all interviews go over swimmingly, and that some folks can never be won over regardless of the onslaught of charm you give them.

This reminded me of my interview with Mascis. It occurred in 2007, just after Beyond had been released and the original trio was back together for the first in two decades. I caught up with J via phone from a hotel room in Michigan. It was fucking brutal – at times I wasn’t even sure if he was still on the line. This was also my first interview with a legitimate musician and I’ve always viewed the experience as getting the worst one out of the way first. When it was originally printed in State Of Mind Music Magazine, I included my own inner monologue. Here it is…

 

AdamKing:  …so for a while Dinosaur was essentially just sort of you.  How do you feel now that with the guys back together, do you still feel more like it’s your band?  Or do you feel like this is a band you’re in?

J.Mascis:  Um, I guess ultimately it’s my band but even, you know, without those guys it was always like a band.

The man’s modesty is without peer. Obviously it’s his band – for Christ’s sake man, you kicked out one third of the group! But as I would learn, that truly isn’t how he sees it. Kris Kristofferson said one of the things he learned in life was “You don’t paddle against the current, you paddle with it. And if you get good at it, you throw away the oars.” Mascis has no dreams of his next big album, or project or tour – he’s just acting as the tides lead him to do.

AK:I remember reading when you guys were sort of starting to play again a couple years ago that you and Lou both seemed hesitant about making sure you weren’t writing new music that sounded like crap and disgraced yourself.  How do you feel about these new songs as compared to the older stuff?

JM:  Uh…I don’t know.  I mean…

AK:  Is it all sort of the same to you in your head?

JM:  Yeah, they’re all like that.

AK:  That’s good.

JM:  Yeah they’re just like pictures or reflections of the time they were written.  Most of em. Yeah, I think they’re pretty good.

He has no favorites. They make him happy and that’s all that matters. My passive admiration grows mildly stronger.

AK:  I want to ask you about “Back To Your Heart” because over the years there, it seemed Lou was writing a couple of blatant songs about you that were not, uh, the friendliest, and how much do you feel that “Back To Your Heart” is sort of an almost forgiveness, squash the beef kind of tune about you?

JM:  Um, I think it’s more about his wife.

He’s lying! I know he is. His sincerity in everything he does seems to ring so true, but he’s got to be lying about this. They probably never even talked about it. Besides I’m the over-analytical, struggling musician in his mid to late 20’s who’s always right on everything in the world of music in a non-sarcastic nor arrogant manner! Anyway…

AK:  What about the name of the album – Beyond?  Is that sort of saying that you guys are beyond all the bullshit of not feeling one another and just sort of rollin’ on with it?

JM:  Um…yeah.  I don’t know.  Sure!  [Laughter]

I knew it. I’m such a genius. He has nothing to say because the pinnacles of linguistic perfection are flowing out of my lips…

AK:  So how did it feel to be in the studio?  It’s sort of been a while since you’ve done a straight out full album of being in the studio yourself playing.  You dig it?

JM:  Yeah, kinda, you know it’s all just kind of more…kind of work in a way.

AK:  I hear ya.

JM:  It’s just slogging away.

AK:  [Laughter] How do you compare sort of producing your own stuff as compared to going in and producing other people’s tracks?  Like I know you did a couple tracks off the new Lemonheads album, right?

JM:  Uh, stuff like that are just playing guitars.

AK: Do you feel like it’s a lot less work for you to sort of produce yourself and know what you want yourself to sound like?

JM:  No, it’s probably more work.

AK:  Really?

JM:  ‘Cause you know, it’s just easier to please other people than to please yourself.

AK:  You think so?

JM:  Yeah.  Definitely.

AK:  That’s a very unselfish way to think about things.  Do you feel like when you’re sort of doing yourself that you’re trying to strive towards something more of perfection than with other things?

JM:  Yeah.  Sure, you know, I think that like if I’m just playing guitar with Lemonheads or something the song’s already there and all the work has been done. Just guitar and just, you know, “how do you like that?”

AK:  Yeah.

JM:  [Laughter] Yeah, that’s funny.

There’s something very admirable about being a creative minded perfectionist. Not knowing when to stop is always the hardest part.

AK:  [Laughter] I was reading after a gig you played in Montreal a couple years ago, Kim Gordon was in the newspaper down here saying that she thought it was almost like you guys had been reborn as a hard core band.

JM:  [Laughter]

AK:  What kind of truth do you think there is in that statement?

JM:  I kinda always thought we were a hardcore band, just weren’t labeled as such.

AK:  Well, in relationship to that, what do you think about the modern music of what people are calling hardcore now?  Are you into it?

JM:  I’m not impressed with like anything after ’83.

AK:  Laughter

Is it wrong to be intrigued by 25 years of apathy? Kafka was cool right?

AK:  Do you want to try to bring in other people in?  Or are you sort of content feeding to the old fans?

JM:  Yeah, I mean it’s always good to get new people into the music.

AK:  Yeah, right?

JM:  I’ve seen a lot of younger people at shows which is pretty interesting.

AK:  That’s cool man.

JM:  You know but it’s all ages for some of these gigs.

AK:  Yeah.

JM:  As long as they’re not all little kids.

Ahhh, trepidation. I knew he was human.

AK:  Well, cool man.  So, you think you’re gonna make it through this summer?  You feeling confident and energetic about it?

JM:  Hopin’.

AK:  Hopin’.  [Laughter]  And still just sort of rollin’ with it?  No plans after this?  Just sort of seeing where it goes and keeping it goin’?

JM:  Yeah, man.

Photo by Bene Riobó

The Crust Brothers – Stephen Malkmus’ 3-Off Cover Band


zzzcruAhh cover bands… the most controversial of all live performing acts. Why do you do it? For the money? Because nobody wants to hear your shitty originals? Or maybe you and your pals just want to have some fun playing some of your favorite tunes. With The Crust Brothers it’s all about the latter. Much like Doug Martsch’s Boise Cover Band, The Crust Brothers was yet another outlet for Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus to do what he does best – play the living crap out of some music on stage. The band consisted of SM and the three cats from Silkworm, who if you don’t know, are the greatest band to never escape the Pacific Northwest. The original gig took place on 12/5/97 in Seattle as a benefit for the Washington Wilderness Coalition. Two other performances would occur about a year later in Vancouver and Seattle again.

That first gig was recorded and released as a live album known as Marquee Mark, which one can only presume is some subtle nod to Television’s Marquee Moon. The set is 12 songs, the bulk of which are tracks off of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes. And while most legitimate music fans have those songs inscribed in their DNA, the mid-90′s indie-rock crowd in Seattle seems rather unfamiliar. Most of the tunes are met with the most tepid of reactions, and any real excitement for the songs is drowned out by the repeated pleas for “Summer Babe.” At multiple points during the set Malkmus threatens to bash his guitar over the head of anybody who requests another Pavement cover.

Hopefully in hindsight, the majority of the crowd realized what an incredible moment in music they were able to bare witness to. Starting with the “Going To Acapulco” opener, it’s clear these aren’t your normal bar-band covers. There’s a profound rearrangement of dynamics, most easily described as Malkmusified. Even with Silkworm’s Andy Cohen taking the majority of lead vocals, these tunes are centered on the violent Pavement riffage that defines their most intense songs. When SM takes the lead vocals on “Yazoo Street Scandal” it sounds not only like it could have been on Slanted and Enchanted, but also that the bulk of listeners would have easily presumed it was an original. The same can be said of “Mrs. Henry” which closes the set and sounds dangerous in a way that could have never occurred in the basement of a pink house in upstate New York.

I’ve always argued that the Gladys Knight and The Pips version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is the definitive version of that song, but that was before I heard this Crust Brothers version. It represents a temporal vortex of rock music – a teleportive vessel in which you walk the hallowed halls of Motown, trudge through a Fogerty mud creek and eventually end up in a formative moment of rock’s history when suddenly the walls of apathy and irony were broken down to allow the sound waves of pure intention echo off the halls of the universe. In other words, it’s fucking massive. The rest of the set has some Byrds, Stones, and Skynyrd thrown in for good measure. When put all together, it’s essentially the dream set for any legitimate backyard Portland barbecue.

If you need to kickstart your Monday and week with the essence of rock bliss, this is just what you need. Get into it.

Marquee Mark Tracklisting:

1. Going To Acapulco
2. Million Dollar Bash
3. Bessie Smith
4. Yazoo Street Scandal
5. Lo And Behold
6. You Ain’t Going’ Nowhere 
7. Never Met A Man I Didn’t Like (Silkworm)
8. Heard It Through The Grapevine
9. Feel A While Lot Better (The Byrds)
10. Bitch (The Rolling Stones)
11. Tuesday’s Gone (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
12. Mrs. Henry

The Experience of Wu-Tang Is Completely Different on The West Coast


zzzwuI grew up in Connecticut, about an hour North of the city via train. And in the 90′s, in the NorthEast, especially in the tri-state area, the sound of Wu-Tang Clan was omnipresent. I’m not talking about just with the hip-hop crowd either – the Wu seemed to transcend any specific demographic and were just a common sound of day-to-day life. As teenagers going for long joint-rides on beautiful long-stretching back roads, it was always a natural flip from the most recent Phish bootleg to 36 Chambers. A lot of it had to do with a sense of expanded hometown pride – these guys were name-checking highways and cities that we lived in. When Raekwon gave the shout-out to Connecticut in “Incarcerated Scarfaces” it didn’t make you giddily say “Neato, that’s us!” – instead you nodded your head and felt like you were able to see your role in the extended tale he was spitting. That’s not to say that I ever felt like I represented the same gun-toting scene he was speaking of, but it also meant that it didn’t feel like a different world to me.

Along with Nas’ Illmatic, those records made you feel like you were in the heart of something. When Method Man dropped his line about seeing “The Grateful Dead live in Hempstead” you could instantly see him walking the lot at Nassau Coliseum, experiencing a culture that mirrored his own in many different fashions and validating the mantra of “real knows real.” And the mutual crossover between locales and cultures meant nobody thought twice when the car with a giant Steal Your Face sticker on the back window drove by blaring Liquid Swords with the bass exploding. The Wu helped instill a sense of pride in the East Coast way of living – we talk mad shit, we don’t take shit from anybody, and we’re not afraid to embrace some grimy situations. You gained confidence from those tapes, and it had nothing to do with intimidation. We weren’t listening to those albums to freak out the old people, we were listening to those albums because they felt like home. And the still do.

So now I’ve been living in Portland, Oregon for three years. I love it here – it’s beautiful, it’s promising, it’s abundant with the things I adore, but it’s not the East Coast. The sarcasm which I grew up using as a way to show love and respect is viewed out here as just being dickish. The people drive like goddamn pussies. So when I get frustrated with the West Coast way-too-laid-back mentality out here, I do the same thing I did when random shit frustrated be back East – I play Wu-Tang Clan really fucking loudly. It calms me. It makes me feel at home. It makes me see the non-significance of petty annoyances. But I’ve noticed driving around Portland, that people’s reactions to the fuzzed bass coming out of my old Subaru are rooted in fear and confusion. Sure, this is literally the whitest city in America, but the posh sophisticates out here look at me as though my only intent is intimidation. First they hear the music and presume it’s some local gang member that they should be afraid of. Then they see my white face and my longish hair and they give me the most offended looks I’ve ever gotten. It’s like they think I’m only listening to this music out of some ironic play for attention. They don’t realize that my stereo was turned up twice this loud ten minutes ago when I was driving through the woods and that I’ve actually turned it down now in public to be polite. And those reactions suck. Because ironically the music that I’m listening to to make myself feel more at home is causing reactions that more than anything display how far away from the East Coast I actually am. When I talk about “the city” out here, people think I mean San Francisco. And I’m sorry SF, I friggin’ love the shit out of you, but there’s only one city. And it’s the center of the universe.

And so the longer I live here, the more Wu-Tang becomes this warm comfort blanket for me. I’ve always know how much I loved this music and what a substantial part of my life it was, but it wasn’t until I moved out West that I was able to see how much I actually needed it. When I was having some anxiety-related stomach issues out here, my doctor actually told me that I should listen to The Wu as loud as possible when I’m feeling anxious. She literally prescribed it to me. So my heartfelt thanks goes out to The Clan – I hope you fellas realize how important you are to white prep-school hippies from Connecticut.