I started to write a post today about how the dude from Linkin Park is now the lead singer in Stone Temple Pilots, but then I realized how much I don’t care about that. Sweet mercy, do I not give a shit. You want to see the largest gathering of complete douche-bags who have absolutely no concept of what good music is? Then definitely check out an STP show this summer. I’m sure whatever gig they play in my old home state of Connecticut will sell out in 60 seconds. Instead, I thought it’d be better for everyone involved if I just posted my review of Medeski Martin and Wood from a couple weeks back – essentially the biggest flip-side of musical taste and talent as you can get from the prior bands mentioned. I hadn’t seen MMW in years, as the last gigs I had seen with them were somewhat boring, but this one friggin’ launched me. Check it…
When Shack-Man first dropped half of my lifetime ago, listening to it felt like I was garnering the greatest universal street-cred I could ever muster. Seriously, during high school I’d listen to it while ripping joints in my Mom’s Geo and feel like the coolest kid on the face of Earth. But frankly, over the past decade or so the MMW shows I’ve attended have never quite moved me akin to the absolutely disgusting performances of the late 90′s. So when it was first announced they’d be playing an all acoustic gig for Portland’s Soul’d Out Music Fest, my first reaction was “another one of them sleepy MMW gigs.” But it turns out this show would be the one to make me remember… “oh yeah, John Medeski can straight up murder a piano.” I’ve somehow wrongly forgotten the power that this trio holds, and the entirety of this gig was on a next-level of amplified and unified tri-force telepathy.
While it was odd for the Roseland Ballroom to line the floor with chairs for the night, it brought a level of centralized focus on the performance, and I’ve never heard the room sound better. I’m not going to pretend like I could tell you the names of any songs played, but I can tell you that the band had the entire room at their mercy. Each tune went every which side of deep, rolling from moments of mouth-gaping syncopation to pulsing throbs of beastly devouring. And sure, when Medeski just keeps attacking those piano runs, you realize he’s one of our greatest living assets, but it’s still just the way he hits a single note that gives you the chills. Just one note — that’s all you need to hear from the man to be able to find him in the dark… READ MORE
If you spend anytime in the Burlington, VT area, you’re bound to hear the casual yet gritty voice of Zach Dupont playing in some room or venue. If you’re lucky, you may also get the kid to make you a killer sandwich… ahh, day jobs. If you saw Zach walking down the street, he kind of looks like that kid you expect to smoke a joint with after a game of full-contact ultimate Frisbee. But when the kid picks up a guitar, suddenly there’s this rush of intricate finger work that meshes seamlessly with a friggin’ amazing voice. It’s the kind of folk vibe that un-mastered and in the wrong hands makes you want to smash a plate over your head, but in the right hands makes you want to ruminate on the wonders of simple living. The kid has got the magic touch, and now low and behold it turns out he’s got an equally talented brother. Sam has recently moved to Vermont after living in Tuscon – obviously a smart move. Arizona and Florida – basically two states no one should ever spend too much of their life in. well, and then there’s that whole Mid-West bullshit but anyway… Sam has moved to VT, and the two have started a new gig and band known simply as The Dupont Brothers. A first listen at their new music is incredibly refreshing, and they’re the first band in a long time that I personally feel extremely confident supporting right from the get-go. The fellas are trying to raise some loot to put out their debut record, and if you support them now you can be one of those people who said they knew about the Dupont Brothers way before they got in that backstage brawl with Mumford and Sons backstage at the Grammys.
The last time I saw Hot Tuna was play was July 4, 1997, when they were part of the Further Festival and it came to Riverside Amusement Park in Agawam, Massachusetts. I don’t remember much from that day except that Ratdog kind of sucked, that The Black Crowes played the hugest “Remedy” of all time, and that I stood 5 feet from the stage for Hot Tuna’s set. I also recall them playing “I Know You Rider” which was preceded by Jorma saying that one of his friends told him he’d pay him 5 bucks if he mentioned Jerry Garcia‘s name before the song. Anyway, there aren’t too many bands I’ve ever taken a 16 break from in-between shows, but I just always seemed to be out of town every time they came to Vermont. So seeing them in a sold-out theater in Portland amid the strongest contingent of twilight hippies I’ve ever been immersed in, was really quite a beautiful experience. Here’s an excerpt from the review and read the whole thing over at State Of Mind.
…The sold-out crowd in Portland was mainly composed of folks who have most likely been seeing Jorma play in one manner or another since long before this writer was even born. The faded tie-dyes that were omnipresent throughout the room seemed to hold a metaphorical essence within them. Much like the ashen garb‚ the music represented the settling echoes of raucous times gone past. Like an acid trip of perfection‚ the psychedelic eruptions of Jefferson Airplane have peaked and settled into the soothing moments of delicate synergy that Kauokenen and Casady emit from the stage. Each song was prefaced by some fabled tale of enlightenment or moment of self-mockery‚ and it seemed clear that these guys have long existed on the true artistic mantra of taking your music seriously‚ but not taking yourself seriously at all…
2) Phantom Limb
3) It’s Only Life
4) Simple Song
5) New Slang
Ahh, the perks of being hip and unemployed in Portland, Oregon. Announced this afternoon only an hour before show time – the small confines of Mississippi Studio left little space for breathing room, but that didn’t stop half the PDX crowd from deciding that 2 in the afternoon on a Monday would be a great time for a beer or two. With a pile of ex-bandmates getting larger with every new album it’s safe to say these days that James Mercer is The Shins. Thus when seeing him play solo, it felt like the purest way to experience Shins’ tunes and surprisingly gave new depth to these songs.
The 5-song set opened with 2 tunes off the last album, 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. As essential as the reverb of an electric guitar seems to be to this music, the raw, acoustic guitar allowed them to open them up even more into their naturally intended environment. The lyrics made more sense, the space felt more necessary, and there was a simple way to lose oneself in the moment without focusing on a reclusive indie-star playing 10 blocks away from your home with the sun shining through the windows. Next were 2 tunes off the upcoming Port of Morrow. “It’s Only Life” came off as both a rather basic tune for Mercer to write, and as a somewhat dark window into the embraced loneliness he appears to project. I’m interested to hear how this one will sound with the full band, but I did have a moment here of noting my perceived pretentious meter for James Mercer fall a few notches into normal human being territory. The newest single, “Simple Song” followed and James himself seemed ironically amused at how simple the two-chord chorus came across in the solo format. After some charming commentary, he closed out the set with an awesomely beautiful take on “New Slang” from the Garden State soundtrack, then gracefully thanked the crowd. It wasn’t a mind-blowing half-hour of music, but it was great, and it was refreshing, and probably the best live set I’ve ever witnessed in-between loads of laundry.
Here’s a cut someone just posted of “It’s Only Life” from today, as well as “Simple Song” in its fully realized version off the upcoming new album.