So, When Does The Punchline in This Lana Del Rey Joke Drop?

zzdrThis may have been an off year for Saturday Night Live, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still pushing the boundaries of modern comedy. Building off of the notion that quality humor is founded in solid timing, the show has still yet to drop the punchline on a skit they started in 2012. Realizing that they were in desperate need for a new franchise-worthy character ala Wayne and Garth or The Coneheads, Lorne Michaels and crew tried out a new sketch featuring a character called Lana Del Rey. The character was a personification of all that is wrong in the current state of manufactured bullshit claiming to be art in the modern music scene. It was funny for sure, but maybe went a little too far over the top. I understand exaggerating levels of sarcasm to make a humorous point, but no real human being would ever have plastic surgery to intentionally make their nose look like a pit-bull’s asshole. The songs were really funny though, and totally saved the sketch. It’s hard to write lyrics to fake songs that completely embody the soulless babble of ignorantly forged apathy, but they pulled it off. And yes, the performance of the “featured” cast-member, Lizzy Grant, was a touch over-the-top in the sense of acting like a dead-eyed piece of plastic, but none-the-less I thought the sketch had promise. But then it just ended. The song stopped and the audience clapped, but there was no punchline. When there was a reprise of the sketch later on in the same episode, I kept waiting for the conclusive one-liner but again, it never came. However, now I realize the genius of it all – SNL is actually going to wait years to drop the punchline on this one. It’s the ultimate anticipatory build, and I’m sure the pay-off is going to be hilarious.

For its annual Summer comedy issue this year, Rolling Stone realized how funny the whole bit is and agreed to put the character on the cover. The coinciding article weighed a tad too heavy on the whole “I’m really moody and don’t think I should be on the cover of your magazine” shtick, but it was still great to see a comedy figure from TV translated so well in a written medium. The thing is, by holding off on the punchline, the SNL producers have created a level of rapt intrigue that’s never existed with any of their other characters before. It’s like a hot girl has walked by but Wayne still hasn’t said “schwing” yet. But with a new level of attention being placed on the character, I think we’re bound for the big reveal any day now. It was a smart move to bring in Dan Auerbach to co-produce the character’s latest “album” – the professional touch helped it become part of the historic landmark moment of two comedy albums hitting number one in the same month, (Weird Al was the other.)

So as we all wait for the punchline to drop, we’re fortunately still being blessed with more comedic gems from this character. The latest comes in the form of the new video for “Ultraviolence,” a musical sketch that deserves to be in the pantheon of SNL classics like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick in a Box.” In the song and video, the writers imagine the character wanting to write her own updated version of The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss).” As the Del Rey character has no original thoughts of her own, all she can do is say the word “utlraviolence” over and over again while mixing in direct lines from “He Hit Me.” Let me tell you now, this shit is hilarious! They really nail the idea of mundane unoriginality, and its perfectly highlighted by the character fumbling through the woods in a wedding gown. It’s really too funny – I don’t know where they come up with this stuff!

I guess for now, we’ll all just have to keep riding this train as we debate on what the punchline will be. My best bet is that it’s going to turn out that Del Rey is actually a talking donkey in a human costume, but I also like the idea that she’s actually a giant glue-stick that was brought to life by a magic spell. We’ll have to wait and see! Until now, watch the hilarious new video below.

Who Knew Jack White Knows All The Lyrics To Beck’s “Loser”?

zzzzjwJack White appears to be having a blast on tour this Summer. On top of playing the longest gigs of his career, covering everyone from Metallica to Jay-Z, and becoming the hottest new meme of 2014, he’s also managing to squeeze in some time on friends’ stages. After headlining at Newport Folk Fest last night, White pooped over to Beck‘s gig in Providence to help him with some encores. While it’s fantastic to see two notoriously cranky artists having a blast with each other, what really blows me away about the moment is that White appears to know all of the lyrics to Beck’s “Loser.” Hearkening back 20 years to a time when modern radio was still worth listening to, it’s great to see that even the soon-to-be huge stars weren’t immune to getting the hip cuts of the day stuck in their heads. Still, as much as I love Beck and have listened to “Loser” God knows how many times, I still flake on most of it up until the “time is a piece of wax falling on a termite who’s choking on the splinters.” White, on the other hand, is nailing all these verses. With folks like Leadbelly as much cooler artists to name-check as your musical influences, I don’t think we’re ever gonna see White mention Beck as an inspiration, but the proof is in the pudding – alternative breeds alternative, and the cycle of quality sound evolves from there. Check it out yourself.

Phish in Vegas: Returning To The Scene of The Crime

zzphThe rumors about Phish playing in Las Vegas for Halloween this year had been circulating for months before they were officially announced the other day. It was a rumor that I had trouble believing because I didn’t think Trey would be ready to bring the big show back there for at least another decade. And yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the epic debacle that was Vegas ’04 – perhaps the most failed run of shows in the history of the band. But let’s return to the scene of the crime…

Even before any of us had set foot on the plane, the bad omens were looming. With Chris Kuroda in rehab, the band was slated to play its first shows without the legitimate 5th member of the band in 15 years. When it was announced that Dave Matthews Band’s lighting director, Fenton Williams would be taking the helm, I tried to keep an open mind. At festivals I had seen the band play successfully in the daytime, so surely the lights weren’t a dire necessity for the music to remain at pro-shop levels. But God, what a friggin’ shit show the lights turned out to be. It’s hard to remember the exact moment when I first realized the crap show on the lights, but I do remember the moment they really started to piss me off. At the end of night one, which was an unfathomably disastrous performance by the band, they broke into the delicate magic of “Slave to the Traffic Light.” Thinking that even the worst Slave is still a great Slave, I had a moment of peace and acceptance with the rest of the set. However, a single moment is all it was. As soon as the band dropped into the jam, Williams turned a bright spotlight on the entire “Page Side High” section and left it there for the rest of the song. There’s no easier way to piss off the self-declared “headiest” section of the building than by simulating the feeling of a cop car’s high beams blinding you in the rear-view mirror. Visually, things would not improve over the next two nights, and I remember a solid chant of “Where’s Kuroda” echoing in the upper section before the start of night three.

As for the music itself, I seem to have successfully blocked out most of it. I do remember the elation of seeing my girl Jen Hartswick come out on stage on night one, and then the subsequent awkward feeling accompanying the complete train-wreck that was Jay-Z’s “Girls Girls Girls.” I remember the total butchering of “You Enjoy Myself” on night three, where Trey basically just gave up and started doing the “Meatstick.” You know that feeling when you’re like, “Yeah, this is why people hate Phish” and your drug-induced thoughts start leaning towards the “what the fuck are we all doing” region? Not a good sensation to have. It was bad enough that when Trey announced the band’s break-up soon after, my first reaction was that it seemed like a pretty darn good idea.

I also remember feeling really bad for Jesse Jarnow, whose completely accurate reviews of the run were considered to be the articles that broke up Phish. Purportedly, Gordo even approached him backstage at one of the shows that Summer to tell him that Trey quoted his articles heavily when stating that the band needed to stop. Seriously though, the phrase “with meaningless excitement” has never been used more aptly. And while Coventry is a solid contender, these gigs will always be my vision of Mr. Anastasio at true rock-bottom. So that leads us to now…

I’m not sure where Trey’s sobriety stands today. I mean he seems to be incredibly healthy and sober, but I’m not sure to what degree he consults therapists of sponsors or what-have-you. But for years I’ve been thinking that rule number one on the list of things his support team won’t let him do is “Don’t go to Las Vegas.” And yet here we are – a three night stand on the horizon, falling upon the most debaucherous day in the U.S. calender year – Halloween. Honestly, if there has ever been a bigger test for a man’s sobriety than this, then please let me know how that turned out. I’m not saying I’m worried about Trey having a relapse in Vegas, but there’s no doubt that there will be thoughts of his past lingering in a more predominant way than they have anywhere else since the band reunited five years ago. If we’re lucky, the Good Lieutenant will take all those lingering thoughts and emotions and channel them into a touchstone moment in his career – a moment when he can firmly state he stands in full control of his existence and thrives purely on the high of producing quality music for the people who love him. In my mind, with the band firing on some rather profound cylinders right now, this is the biggest test of 3.0. If Vegas works out, then yes – let’s book Europe dates again, maybe another Japan run, maybe give Mexico a try. If this band can return to the place where they died and culminate their resurrection in triumphant fashion, then honestly I don’t think there’s anything they can’t do. I’m a tinge bit nervous, but I wouldn’t miss these dates for the world.

Top 5 Worst Places to Play a Gig

zzcasAsk any musician about their worst gig ever and I guarantee it won’t take more than a heartbeat for them to begin regaling you with an elaborate story involving a shitty venue, or a shitty staff, or a shitty headlining band, or a band member being sick, or gear breaking, or there being no crowd, or the crowd being dicks, or Altamont, or Woodstock ’99, or anything in a long line of ultimate crappy experiences that can occur when you’re trying to play music. Heck, there’s even a great site called where you can read about famous bands’ shittiest gigs of all time. But for the most part, all of those gigs are specific instances and/or surprises – in other words, the gigs would have been fine if some factors were slightly tweaked. With this list I am imparting upon you the five places where you’re guaranteed to have a shitty gig – the five places that you only see musicians playing at when they have ceded to the will of the gods and agreed that glory is not their destiny. Let me know what I’m missing.

5) Casino

Now I’m not talking about some big arena connected with a casino – I’m talking about playing on the actual floor of the gambling room itself, usually in a round by the bar in the heart of thousands of slot machines. First off, nobody in any sort of close proximity is either excited nor even expecting to hear music. They’re there to get drunk and gamble – anything that makes them recall the pleasures of the outside world is a knock to their fantasy. And nobody goes to a casino to be polite, thus even what you consider to be a killer version of the latest Maroon 5 hit is bound to get more vocalized criticism than praise. There’s nothing more powerful than the lack of any audible clap when a band has just finished up their third version of “Margaritaville” in the past two hours – it’s also the perfect time for somebody to shout “you suck.”

4) Sidewalk In The Rain

You see a lot of these folks out in Portland. Usually it’s either someone on acoustic guitar or someone drumming on buckets, and they’re admirably determined to not let the weather get in the way of their performance. On a sunny day, you can actually make decent money bustling on the sidewalk. But when the rain starts dumping on you, there’s no doubt that you’ve turned into nothing more than a glorified beggar. If the experience doesn’t incite one of those “what the hell am I doing with my life” moments, then I suppose your degree of self-content is to the level of true zen.

3) Airport

Ahh, the last remaining outpost for wielders of the pan-flute. Any gig where the central criteria is that you remain as invisible as possible is just a drag right out of the gates. There’s nothing as disheartening as watching hordes of people walk by you completely oblivious to your art. Even when you stop playing, there’s not even a hint of acknowledgment that anything has changed in the audible spectrum of the building. The shining moment may come when a six year-old brings you a dollar, but for the most part their parents will want to keep them as far away from you as possible. Want a smoke-break? Good luck with that.

2) Obligatory Wedding

I thought for a while about the right adjective to describe this one, because certainly not all weddings suck. In fact, I’ve had some downright phenomenal wedding gigs over the years. And shitty or not, they’re usually well paying gigs. But then you have the weddings where everyone in attendance is there out of obligation - that random couple that doesn’t have many friends so nobody knows each other and everyone is afraid to step foot on the dance-floor. The best is when the engaged couple gives you an advanced notice of “we don’t really listen to music.” But the worst part of it is when the band has not even been considered to be human beings. There’ll be no table for you to sit at, they won’t have any food for you to eat, and forget about trying to get a drink. Oh, and most likely they’ll want you to set up at least five hours prior to your actual start time, and expect you to be ready to play at any moment without warning.

1) Dueling Piano Bar

I know this one from experience folks – dueling piano bars are the ultimate worst. The one I played at required you to be on stage playing from 10pm to 2am – you literally could only leave the stage for an emergency. Also, you were considered an employee of the venue and thus weren’t allowed to have a single drink. Add to that the absurd notion that your tips were evenly distributed amongst all employees because sure, the coat-check girl deserves an equal cut of my pay. And while I presume not all of these bars are like this, I can guarantee they have a few things in common: You’re going to have a ton of middle-aged bachelorette parties sitting around you – guaranteed. Not only will you have to play the shittiest pop songs known to man night after night, hour after hour, you’ll also have to hear drunk middle-aged women scream along the lyrics. You think maybe you could spice things up with a tasty solo? You’ll get maybe two bars into it before they start yelping pleas to play “Don’t Stop Believing” again.

Are Cassettes More Durable Than Tape Players?

zzztapeIn case you’re out of the cyclical loop of regenerated hipness, cassette tapes are making a comeback. In fact, for some folks they never really went away - Thurston Moore purportedly has a massive collection of low-fi, noise-rock tapes that he’s never stopped collecting and there’s several tape-only record labels out there that have been doing just fine for themselves for quite some time. (Lost Sound is a favorite of mine.) Earlier this year, Sony introduced a new tape data storage system that would allow for 180 terabytes of info to be stored on one tape, or the equivalent of about 47 million songs. And more and more bands are offering tapes at their merch booths because it’s hard to argue with a $5 album. For a nostalgia geek like myself, a great indie band trying to sell me a cassette is hard to ignore and consequently I have a stack of tapes on my desk waiting to be listened to. Why are they being waited on though? Because all my tape players are busted, that’s why.

Yep, between my older car, older stereo, and two withered boomboxes, I have a total of six broken tape players at my home. And yet, my original 1988 copy of He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper is still going relatively strong. So why is that a medium which can be fixed with a pencil and a strategically placed piece of scotch tape holds up longer than the rotating cranks developed to play them? Sure, I’ve given all my players some solid face slaps over the years, but if you had told me 25 years ago that I’d be scrambling for a way to listen to Hysteria in 2014, I would have thought you were loony. So you tell me – what’s the oldest still-functioning cassette player you still own? Is it just that I beat the shit out of all my Walkmen over the years, or did folks just presume that the advent of CDs and MP3s would make us forget about the hundred of bootlegs and mix-tapes sitting in our parents’ closets? And truly, who can deny the magic of a solid mix-tape? The time spent winning a girl over with the correct placement of a GNR ballad or that one deep Poison cut you know would blow the roof of of your road-trip… and are we just supposed to forget about how the cases were the best way to carry a little weed around in your pocket?

I’m on my way to the electronics store, and hopefully leaving with a stereo that has a cassette player, record player, CD player, and an iPod plugin? I hope they still exist. If not then everything from this 2013 Kurt Vile EP, to this 2010 Carnivores album, to this half warped copy of The Grateful Dead in Portland from 1977 that was left on a hot car dashboard and melted to the point where the “Casey Jones” opener sounds like it’s being played underwater – they’re all just going to keep collecting dust on my desk. At least this guy gets it…

FREEMAN’s “Covert Discretion” Is Dividing Households of Ween Fans

zzawFREEMAN, the debut record from Aaron (RIP Gene Ween) Freeman is due out in a week from now – July 22 – but the live stream of the album is already causing factions to take form in the once prestigious house of Ween. The album is streaming for free right now at SPIN, which is somehow miraculously still a news source for music. It seems that most commenters don’t need to get much further than the opening track, “Covert Discretion” to take their stance on either side of the Ween lines. The simple notion that there is any dividing of the factions makes me slightly sick to my stomach. I’m under the impression that my love for the band is strong enough for me to accept both Gener and Deaner’s positions in this whole ordeal, despite me not being too into hearing Guy Heller sing Gener’s parts, nor into hearing somebody else play Deaner’s guitar solos. That being said, I think “Covert Discretion” is a beautiful creation to exist in this world, and I think Deaner himself would fully support it.

The gist of the tune revolves around Freeman giving his point of view of the debauchery of Ween tour, over the delicate plucking of an acoustic guitar. Stoked fans and the ailing state of his mind are presented in direct contrast with one another, battling til he reaches the point where he claims “I’m on my last leg and I can’t see – I wasn’t trying to blow your fantasy.” Realizing that playing in Ween is a toss-up between his “money and [his] life,” he pleads to “save your judgements for someone else” and “be grateful I saved me from myself.” It’s rather poignant stuff and an undeniably elegant telling of his 1st person experience. Then the coda hits, and in bombastic triumph he repeatedly says “Fuck you all, I got a reason to live and I’m never gonna die.” It’s this last line that’s stirring up some debate among fans. Some folks really seem to be taking it to heart, feeling that their love for Ween and desire to see the band reunite is being shunned by Freeman and that he’s misinterpreting their love for the band as opposition to his own health and well being. In fact, on Freeman’s facebook page some folks are stating that comments as such are actually being deleted from threads. In some sense, they are correct. I think there’s a notion that until he tries playing with Ween sober, he doesn’t have the justification to say it’s something he’s incapable of doing. Obviously no person is justified to critique the limits of sobriety of anybody else, but most of these naysaying fans have only been brought to this level by the way the Ween split went down. In fact, I think that some folks aren’t even necessarily looking for a reunion, but would rather have had a consensual farewell.

But disregarding the how and why of what brings us to the point where we’re talking about a Gener solo record as compared to a new Ween album, there’s no denying that this final line of “Covert Discretion” is one of the most bad-ass lyrics ever written. To Aaron, he takes every complaint about the breakup as a direct jab at his sobriety. And if his sobriety is the do-all end-all to his existence on this planet, then it’s understandable to see how he would take such comments directly to heart. The lesson he’s imparting though is that life and living are the top rung on the ladder – that anything that is a detriment to your own Earthly existence is not worth doing. So fuck you if you’d rather his potential death over the idea of Ween not being a band anymore. It takes balls to say this to your fans, and there’s no doubt that the people he’s telling to fuck off are legitimate Ween fans. In the end, I think every fans’ stance on the subject is stemmed in reasonable validity, but it’s hard to not take pride in an artist who’s doing his own thing to such an elevated degree. The tone is different, but this is just the same as when John Lennon said in “God”: “I don’t believe in Beatles – I just believe in me.Check out the track and the whole record and see how it makes you feel about the current state of the Ween community. The one thing we should all be able to agree on is that thank heavens we’re not arguing about what could have kept Gener alive.

Concert Review: Phish @ SPAC July 3, 4, & 5, 2014

If you don’t get lost at least once during a Phish SPAC run, then you’re doing something wrong. When it’s one of those perfect nights in Saratoga, the park becomes an enormous if not infinite spiral of trees, archways, pavilions, fireworks, sidewalks to nowhere, and a glistening haze of lights in the distance that makes seeing further than 20 feet in front of you a seemingly insurmountable task. Oh, you parked at the Gideon Putnam and aren’t sure which way to walk? Well, I know Milwaukee is due west from here if that helps.

As the decades continue to roll by without an adequate venue in Vermont to house the state’s preeminent sons, we’ve all taken to thinking of Saratoga Springs, NY as the designated locale for the band’s “hometown” shows. In fact, it was a Sunday night second set at SPAC in 2004 that caused the bittersweet tears of farewelling to stream down my face – not the subsequent disaster that happened in the Green Mountains later on in that week. And yes, after seeing this band for 20 years and 200 shows, nothing feels more like home than walking into a Stewart’s Shop to buy a case of beer to drink around a motel pool. Who’s got the boombox?

Thursday night started with the kind of thunderstorms that make those stuck with lawn tickets seriously question what exactly they’re doing with their life. Luckily it turned to more of a steady trickle as the gig got underway, and the rest of the weekend would be nothing but pure, perfect Summertime bliss. The first set was overly “first-setty” – odd song placements, under-stretched potential jam vehicles, and the solitary bliss of “Roggae”. In the bathroom line at set-break I really wanted to correct the bro in front of me who kept saying that “Row-Gay” is his favorite song, but it’s hard to tout the merits of a soft “G” to a guy non-ironically sporting an American flag bandana.

Most likely due to this year’s downplay of cover songs, “Bathtub Gin” finally made its way back into the second set, and found its place in the opening slot position for the first time since Hampton ’98. The jam took on some ideally sinister undertones before melting its way into “Limb By Limb” which itself got downright dangerous. Next came Fuego’s “Winterqueen” which garnered the most lukewarm reception of the evening albeit an oddly placed eruption when Trey sang “the prince of music plays guitar.” “The Line” came next and even the crowd’s biggest Fuego enthusiasts seemed to agree that back-to-back new cuts was an odd call. A rudimentary “Tweezer” would follow, dissolving too quickly into the still maligned “Prince Caspian,” which itself collapsed into “Sparkle,” which half of the crowd seems really excited to hear for some reason these days. Things continued to yada-yada-yada from there, so let’s get to the Fourth of July.

The “Star Spangled Banner” opener immediately stirred up debate among those fans who tend to take every word Trey says as gospel, and thus interpreted his “less covers” comment as a guarantee of no covers being played all Summer. Thankfully, the following weekend’s Randall’s Island run stopped all that talk, and relegated cover tunes to the position they used to hold – welcome surprises. Once we all settled into this SPAC first set though, it became a beautiful thing. “Reba” always sounds great in a summer shed, and this one served as an omen of the open expansion that would come in the second set. I really like “Waiting All Night,” but standing alone in the first set is not the place for it. It deserves to be the decompression drift out of something huge. “Runaway Jim” came next and featured an extended take on the pre-explosion percolation section which is always one of my favorite moments at a Phish gig. There’s nothing like getting really low on that part. Ahhhh… nothing. “Split Open and Melt” took a plundering stomp through the pines that everyone thought would end the set, but nobody argues when the ever-rarer “Squirming Coil” dropped in to push the firstt set near the 10:00pm mark.

The 2014 SPAC “Fuego>Down With Disease.” Despite an equally massive “Fuego” coming a few days later in Philly, we’ll be talking about this 33 minutes of music for years to come. The new tune that everybody had been waiting for the band to take to big places got launched into the ionosphere for America’s birthday. First venturing into the spooky, minimalist territory, it eventually wound its way into an ascending attack riff from Trey that sounded so perfectly massive that I half-thought it could have been a new composed ending to the song. It morphed into ethereal goo before landing in “Disease” in what may have been the most ideal transition into “DWD” that I can ever remember. It was perfect – one of those band/crowd blurred line moments where even the gabbiest set talkers were in an entranced hush. The brilliant pocket of the “Disease” jam infused my brain with one of those, “I can keep this up as long as you guys can” moments before ending up in “Twist.” Then a great “Light.” Then a solid “Theme From the Bottom.” And then came the soul-sucking intro to “Backwards Down the Number Line.” Not only could you feel the entire life get sucked out the shed, you could literally see it. A solid hour-plus of the hypnotic hold shattered in an instance – you could even see the frustrated smirk roll slightly off of Trey’s lips, which makes me wonder why even he wants to still play the song. As has become more usual, the jam went absolutely nowhere – nothing more than an extended strumming of chords – hopefully serving as the last great example to folks who say “at least the jam is good.” “First Tube” tried to regain some of the energy, but there’s only so much that song can do. That being said, the final 60 seconds of feedback couple with Kuroda’s explosion of light is one of the more intense things any human may bare to witness.

I’d be willing to wager that at least 50% of those in attendance on Friday saw the sun rise the next morning, which made Saturday one of those days where the ball gets rolling really slowly. I myself didn’t leave the woods of SPAC until 4:00am but that’s a whole other story. Saturday’s first set was fun, highlighted by Fish’s marimba lumina solo on “Scent of a Mule.” The novelty of “Wombat” works much better in a first set position, so I was stoked to hear it. Although I’m more interested to hear the soundcheck jam of “Wombat>Manteca>Wombat>Can’t Turn You Loose” – anybody tape that? But after “Undermind, “Song I Heard The Ocean Sing,” “Foam” and “David Bowie” all in the first set, I was feeling fairly rejuvenated for the upcoming final set of the run. Now, nothing was enormous in this second set but it’s hard to argue with the setlist. The “Carini” opener got unexpectedly delicate, which was great, but things felt a tad too drifty when it made its way into “Waves.” “Wingsuit” continued its battle for consensual validity, and most likely will be a fan-favorite across the board by the end of summer. “Piper” was the fiery victor of the evening – never getting too far out there but also never letting up once. Everyone was content with a well-placed “Fluffhead,” but it’s the “Slave>Yem” to close out the run that led my fiancée to say “Maybe we should just fuck our adult obligations in life and go out on tour again.”

So sure, for your younger kid on the lot, SPAC may not feel like home. If you’re not smart you’ll get a drinking violation, and the expansive park draws a lot of the magic away from any type of a centralized Shakedown. But for some of us who have been around the block more than a few times, SPAC is home. Hotels within walking distance. The lack of pre-show chaos. Bars open til 4am. Grateful Dead music being played somewhere til the wee hours of the morn. Bloody Marys by a pool. The acknowledgment that anyone from the greatest parts of your life growing up in the NorthEast could be just around the next tree. Not only will I be there every year until the cows come home, SPAC almost makes me never want to see the cows again.

Thurday July 3

Set 1: Farmhouse, Wolfman’s Brother, Maze, Yarmouth Road, Strange Design, Devotion to a Dream, Ocelot > Chalk Dust Torture, Mound > Roggae > Possum

Set 2: Bathtub Gin>Limb By Limb.Winterqueen, The Line, Tweezer>Prince Caspian>Sparkle>Run Like and Antelope

Encore: Sing Monica> Tweezer Reprise

Friday July 4

Set 1: The Star Spangled Banner, 555, Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance > Reba,Waiting All Night, Runaway Jim > 46 Days, Rift, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Fuego > Down with Disease > Twist > Light > Theme From the Bottom,Backwards Down the Number Line, First Tube

Encore: Character Zero

Saturday July 5

Set 1: Crowd Control > My Friend, My Friend > Scent of a Mule, Undermind, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, I Didn’t Know, Foam, Wombat, Divided Sky, Wading in the Velvet Sea > David Bowie

Set 2: Carini -> Waves, Wingsuit > Piper > Fluffhead, Heavy Things > Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Suzy Greenberg

CHON – As Absolutely Filthy As Prog-Rock Comes

zzchonUsually when a band lists Return to Forever as one of their influences you don’t expect their music to be even in the same league as the Chick Corea crew of sound benders – especially when they’re just a bunch of young cats from SoCal. CHON is a whole different story though. Fresh off a tour opening for the much beloved prog-metal band, Animals as Leaders, including some sit-ins from AAL’s Tosin Abasi, these kids are primed to be key players in the new age of mind-boggling jazz/prog/fusion/rock – you know, the genre that all the kids are talking about these days. Seriously though…

Guitarist Mario Camarena plays licks in that quick fluid fashion that makes old players want to smash their ax to pieces. Despite having a fashion sense somewhat akin to Jimmy Buffet at a Bar Mitzvah after-party, the kid plays guitar like the bastard love-child of Al Di Meola and Buckethead. Someone needs to tell these dudes that it’s not cool to wear shorts on stage, but I’ll be damned if it’s me. Camarena is joined by his younger brother Nathan on drums (quite the beast himself), guitarist Erick Hansel who manages to lay down harmony lines over the top of Mario’s speed attack, and Drew Pelisek on bass who is smart enough to know that less is more on the low-end when your melody players are cruising at mach-9. The fellas released their second EP back in March, Woohoo!, a six-song collection that only hints at  their full potential. Like most ridiculous instrumentalists their vocals are a bit of a weak point, but it shows that they’re willing to try anything to find their definitive sound. That being said, it does take some massive balls to sing the occasional pop-hook while opening up for one of the darkest bad-ass bands on the planet. Basically any criticism you could ever have of a song is destroyed by a quick compostional moderation that arises before you would have any time to voice your bitching. Straight up, these kids are filthy. Check em’ out for yourself below, and props to the bass-wizard Steve Jenkins for turning me on to them.

How Old is Too Old For EDM?

zzzorpIn the 90′s it was all about raves. I was one of the true-blood hippie kids in high-school, which meant that I attended a few raves simply because I had friends who were into it and we liked to do drugs together, and because sometimes they had nitrous tanks inside. I never got fucked up enough to hit the dance floor though. It was more all about ripping joints on couches while watching kids act like complete imbeciles. That being said, it hasn’t been much of a surprise to see Electronic Dance Music blow up as huge as it has over the past decade. And sure, I realize EDM is a rather vague and broad label. But the question is, when are you too old for this shit? Moving from Burlington, Vermont to Portland, Oregon three years ago certainly put me a lot closer to the heart of Burning Man and thus closer to a broader age demographic of people who are into their bleeps, bloops, and whomps, but seriously – how far can you go?

This weekend I played the Bearmouth Music Festival outside of Missoula, Montana. I played with two different bands; one that leans slightly towards the live-electro side of things and one that is nothing but good ole’ rock n’ roll. Both sets were played on the smaller of two main stages, and both sets had to compete with the “DJ Dome” in the woods. Now first off, if the festival was smart they would have made the Dome the main stage and had bands play in the woods. It didn’t matter how big any of the bands were – there was always a bigger crowd for the DJs. When my rock band played it was almost like an announcement had been made before hand stating that anyone under the age of 30 should keep as far away from the stage as possible. But anyway, let’s talk about the scene at the DJ Dome. First off, most of the music I caught was unfathomably boring. There are all these new producers who think they’re being innovative by leaning away from the dub-step stereotypes and thus not relying on having big “drops.” However, if you’re not going to have a big change in intensity happen during your songs then you need to make sure you’re songs have at least something interesting happening – be it a solid melody or even something so radical as a verse/chorus exchange. Instead it was just one unfinished and mundane beat after the other. For the younger kids in the crowd, this was no matter. Being in any music scene at all is a new thing for them, so a simple beat-driven dial tone is enough for them to douse themselves in glow-gear and dance like they’re in the cave scene of The Matrix Revolutions. They filled up the region closest to the stage. But all along the periphery of the main crowd stood the “elders” of the scene. And by elders, I mean kids around the age of 30 standing still , wiping ecstasy from their nostrils, and lamenting about the good ole’ days of EDM waaaay back in 2009. These kids are wholeheartedly depressing. In a scene and genre that is supposed to be all about the collective experience, they’ve alienated themselves to the sidelines. They still eat the same drugs, but now they just nod their heads and ogle the asses of 17 year-olds.

Now I know what you’re thinking – that what I witnessed isn’t representative of the scene whatsoever. And I’m sure that a Skrillex set at some massive festival is a far more all-inclusive experience. But these kind of smaller festivals are happening constantly this summer, and if you no longer are willing to make a complete fool of yourself, then maybe it’s time you chose another activity for your long weekend. I’m not saying that there’s a Logan’s Run level of acceptance at these EDM gigs, I’m just saying that if you’ve turned into a causal observer than maybe it’s time you moved on. This music is about participation, perhaps more so than any other genre, and so when you’ve turned into a sideline head-bobber you’ve essentially removed yourself from the core of the music. Plus there’s a certain degree of perversion that comes from just standing around watching all these half-naked kids when you’re not engaging in the moment yourself. At least that old lady at Studio 54 had a heart attack on the dance floor and not sitting in one of the booths.

Just check out how gross Bob Lefsetz sounds when he describe attending Electric Daisy Carnival last week. He rambles on and on about how rock and hip-hop is dead, and how EDM is all that matters now. And yet in his review of the festival he talks not once about the music, but rather just about how all the girls are half-naked. He also delusionally calls these girls “women” so as to not view himself as a potential pedophile. But that’s all he does – stand and watch. And as much as he tries to think he’s part of this new scene because he pays attention to what makes the most money in the music business these days, he’s actually just an old fart looking at girls a third his age dance naked in the desert. So if you’re not dancing – if you’re not in the thick – then you’re too old for this shit. Plain and simple. It’s all about being a part of it, so when you’re just watching from the outside you’re disgracing not only yourself but the sanctity of the live music scene in general.

Ok Go Define The Internet Again

zzokThink back to the 20+ years of the internet’s existence. What are the images that linger? What are the videos that you instantly associate with the core of the global community? It’s safe to say you’ve got at least one moment from an OK Go video in there somewhere – most likely treadmill dancing. For years now the band has been the soundtrack to the viral landslide; making videos that take cues from the web’s popularity and morphing them into something even more tangible and definitive. They’ve dropped yet another one today with an attack on perspective in “The Writing’s On The Wall.” It’s not necessarily their most ambitious project, but it’s still unique enough that you’ll want to watch it at least three times before the day is over. Of course overshadowed by the whole ordeal is the fact that the band is consistently churning out superb indie-pop-rock. This latest one has a slightly darker undertone but still emits that irresitable head-nod feel. It actually makes me more stoked for their new album than ever before - Hungry Ghosts is due out on October 14 this year. Check out the video below, and as usual remember to forward it to your Mom afterwards.