Archive for June, 2012
Ok, so last month on Cinco de Mayo, I hopped in a party-bus here in Portland, became massively inebriated, and had one of the top 20 most raging concert experiences of my life seeing Van Halen in Tacoma. The band was on fire – Eddie was a friggin’ monster, taking his new grasp on sobriety and channeling the thunder gods through his fingers. David Lee Roth was still a total ham(fortunately) and his vocals more or less were able to last the whole show. What was most noticeable though, was the ridiculous amount of fun the entire band was having on stage with one another. Eddie would laugh at Roth’s crazy old ninja moves, unable to wipe the massive smile off his face during their entire 2 and a half hour set. They all laughed with and at each other during slight flubs that only accentuated the raw rock attack they were showcasing. Shit was beyond my expectations, and believe me after waiting 25 years to see one of my all time favorite bands, my expectations were fucking huge.
So what’s been driving me crazy since the show is the fact that whenever I try to tell somebody how totally epic and amazing the performance was, I’m always met with a “Yeah, too bad they hate each other and couldn’t keep it going.” This comment is derived from the fact that last month VH announced they were postponing a large string of upcoming dates. Rolling Stone printed an anonymous insider comment claiming that the band hated each other. And that total douche-bag Sammy Hagar instantly posted comments on how he was expecting the cancellation to happen earlier, stating: “They’re hard people to get along with, those brothers… Otherwise I’d still be in the band.” But HERE’S the thing – all those comments and rumors were complete bullshit. The band was quick to announce that actually they’re just old and didn’t realize how worn out a 250 date tour would leave them. They say they’re getting along “famously” and that they just need to catch their breath. But the fact that Van Halen are happy with each other isn’t news – so nobody covered it. It’s the same thing as when Fox News fully reports on someone being accused of a crime, but will never file a follow-up report stating that the person was falsely-accused. People just want to hear shocking and shitty news, so even Rolling Stone didn’t care enough to publish a follow-up saying: “Our bad – VH is actually rocking and happy.”
So guess what? The band is on fire, happy, and probably ready to rock for another 10 years. Oh and Sammy Hagar? He’s a washed-up piece of shit playing in the ultimate “stuck in 1988″ band of all time. You know why you’re not in VH anymore Sammy? Because you fucking blow, that’s why buddy. I can assure you, no-one walked out of Tacoma last month saying – “I really wish they would have pulled out a ‘Right Now’” – Nobody buddy… your name wasn’t even mentioned. So watch David Lee’s video post below, where he explains the postponement – sadly it seems only 4,000 people have watched it. That essentially means there’s probably a solid half-million folks out there who think the band hates each other, since no new folks re-reported on it. So now the evil ways of Fox News are infiltrating Rock and Roll. Just sit back and let Eddie fucking melt your face already people.
Portland, Oregon – shitty 80′s long-sleeves – funky Beck falsettos… So I’m not sure when all 3 of these things began to coexist as the hip new trend, but I have realized that I’ve begun to harness a preparatory disdain for the formula. And the thing is I really like shitty clothes from the 80′s and music that sounds like mid-90′s Beck – I really do. Perhaps that’s why I’m overly critical – I just want the best. Anyway, I’m not sure what level of sarcastic angst I was carrying the first time I heard Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I do know I was a jackass that day. Luckily, since I’m 8 months late to the game, their self-titled debut is my new jam of the summer.
Basically you take 3 cats who have an obvious love for the Flaming Lips and modernized back-beats, throw them into the technicolor explosion of London circa 1966, light up a monster spliff, and wham – you are now pulsing in the heart of UMO. This album has also made me realize that making shit sound intentionally low-fi will never go out of style. 50 years from now, when we’re just shooting lasers into our heads to hear tunes, there’s still gonna be new kids on the scene who will figure out how to connect a busted 4-track to their cerebellum.
It’s about an hour’s drive to the beach from Portland, and these guys have made the perfect album to listen to on that drive with the windows down. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to eat mushrooms, swim in the ocean, then lie on the beach and listen to it all over again. Dig it.
When Sigur Ros first entered the universe a decade ago with Agaetis Byrjun, it was positively like nothing I had ever heard before. It felt like ripping into a droned out My Bloody Valentine track, plucking away layers and layers til you have this stripped out essence of true ethereal drift. I used to lie on my bed with headphones on listening to it late at night and just quiver in serenity and joy. Since then the Icelandic magicians have floated in and out of some different tangent realms of their music, and frankly a whole album hasn’t been able to hold me like that first one. The Untitled album came pretty damn close, but Takk kinda sucked, and the last one felt lie it was only half-way complete. Luckily, I’ve been getting utterly floored for the past month or so by their latest offering Valtari. It finally seems like the companion piece to the first album that’s been waiting to be re-birthed for some time. The shit is fucking transcendent. Listening to it takes me to this blissed out nether-world, kinda like some place in a Bon Iver video. I guess that’s why Sigur Ros did everything they could to make sure the first 2 videos for the album then look nothing like a Bon Iver video.
Essentially, it’s like someone looked directly at my Top 20 list of things I don’t want to see in a music video, and took 2 of those ideas to run. Things Adam King doesn’t want to see in a music video #12 – A How-To video for the Heimlich Maneuver, and #5 – Shia Labeouf’s Balls. The Shia one I kinda get – sometimes you gotta drop some nuts for everyone to understand the pain of psychedelic addiction you’re trying to present. The Heimlich one just seems like a Monty Python skit with no punch-line. Either way, you can’t say the boys don’t try to go out of the conventional spectrum.
Here’s “Fjogur Piano”
And here’s “Eg Anda”
All right, I’ve had a good chunk of time to ruminate on this concert, and I’m confident with my opinion. So my girlfriend loves the soundtrack to Amelie. You know, that French flick about the cute girl putting ripped pictures together or something… I don’t really remember. Anyway, the soundtrack is composed of delicate, quasi-eerie piano-heavy tunes done by one Yann Tiersen. It’s not the heaviest or most complicated stuff, but admittedly there is an ethereal draw to it. When I saw he was playing at the Wonder Ballroom here in Portland last month, I jumped on the opportunity to go to a concert that my girl would adore. Now I have a fairly geeky knowledge of most pop and rock music, but I had never heard Tiersen’s name outside of the Amelie context. In fact, asking around…I realized nobody else did either. Thus I thought it was a little odd when I read an interview with Yann where he said his rock band sometimes shocks people with their music, and he always sees a few couples get up and leave during the show because they were expecting Amelie. Uh-oh.
So I prepped my girl for the upcoming let-down. Yet as we had already purchased $20 tickets, and we did both appreciate the music of his that we knew, we decided to give it a shot. 3 songs in…it wasn’t bad. It reminded me of some band that if they tried real hard, might be able to get an opening slot on a tour with Yo La Tengo. But here’s the thing – there were 500 people at this show. 500! At 20 bucks a pop! And looking around the room, you could tell NOBODY was familiar with this music. In fact, I’d guarantee that 99% of the building only knew him from Amelie. And here in a Mecca of hipsters, nobody wants to admit that that were confused as to what the actual music was, so EVERYBODY hung around. It was a solid 2 hours of people standing there with half-smirks on their face – pretending like they knew and enjoyed the music, when you know that every single person there was waiting for a simple tune from Amelie. My sweet girlfriend, bless her heart, held out faith even through the encore that maybe he would play something remotely similar to the music he was known for.
But he never did. Instead it was one of the most fake “elephant in the room” concert experiences I had ever seen. Imagine going to see Jim Hendrix and he just played a penny-whistle the whole time – that’s how vastly different Tiersen’s band was to the music that made him popular. The thing is… he either is completely oblivious to what the crowd is expecting, or else he is just raking in the dough with this false impression. The rock shit wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t worth $20. Maybe I would have thrown down $5. I’m gonna guess that of the 500 people that went, probably 20 of them would go the next time he’s in town. But perhaps there’ll be another 500 people that just recently saw Amelie, so they’ll fall into his trap.
I wouldn’t have been so upset by the whole situation if Tiersen didn’t have this odd sense of confused pride emitting from himself. After every round of applause, he gave this smile or French accented mumbling about how everybody loves that tune. Yo Yann! Nobody knows any of this shit buddy! They’re all just clapping politely so they don’t feel like they’re the only ones who made a mistake in coming to see you! So this made me realize that Tiersen is succeeding on this model of the reverse sell-out. He started his career by becoming popular for a specific sound that I guess wasn’t really his bag, and now he tours successfully by people anticipating that shit and instead playing the music he wants to. I suppose I have to admire him for that, but I’d much more prefer to have my $40 back. If this show is free, then go check out 20 minutes of it. Otherwise I’d recommend your couch, popcorn, and a Director’s Cut of Amelie if you really want to hear Tiersen shine.
You will hear none of this at his concert:
You know, bands get old. No matter how much they may maintain their abilities to kick ass, things will never be the same as those first experiences you had with them, so embrace those passing moments with as much self-referential joy as you can. I’ve been a Ween fan for a long fucking time. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say that inebriation is an essential part of their live experience (for both fans and band) I also wouldn’t say that sobriety fits in too well with the game plan (for both fans and band.) And with only a handful of shows in the past few years, highlighted by a disastrous Pacific Northwest performance a year or so ago, it seemed that perhaps Gener was headed to one of the 3Ds of rock stardom: Dead, Drugs, or Done. He was either gonna completely burn himself out til it straight-up killed him, just continue to become a fatter piece of faded shit, or walk away from the whole situation. Those were his only 3 options – call it the Garcia Exit Plan if you will.
I’ve been holding out a glimmer of confused hope since the unofficial announcement of Ween’s demise came a month back, but last week’s official one made it hit home a little more. To quote Gener, “I want to thank each and every one of you for all of your kind words and support. It means a lot. My decision to leave Ween, however interpreted, was absolutely not made in haste. It’s involved over a decade’s worth of internal and external struggle. Know that I am extremely proud of all that Ween created, and want to leave it that way. I need to now move on for myself, and for my family. Many new roads to travel, bridges to cross.”
So while it fucking blows that Ween is calling it quits, and it blows that poor Dener seemed to have found out by reading it in Rolling Stone, I’ve decided to take some pride in the fact that one of my musical heroes is hopefully going to maintain his actual physical existence on this Earth – I can’t really be pissed at the guy. Something’s gotta change. Seems like Eddie Van Halen could only rock the sober train if Michael Anthony wasn’t around – which again blows. And Trey can’t rock Phish sober unless he’s allowed to play a lot of sub-par shows whenever he wants. Gener can’t rock Ween unless…he’s just not rocking Ween. Oh well, I feel the looming paycheck will bring a tour somewhere down the line, but til then…upward and onward. The girlfriend and myself have had this track with The Kostars from 1996 on loop since the first announcement – poignant shit and Dener’s solo is a soul-crusher.