The Last Waltz: Reviewed

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the bassline

Directed by concert-filming genius Martin Scorsese The Last Waltz is a lively and emotional look into The Band’s farewell show at Winterland in San Francisco. And what a show it was. Bill Graham, San Francisco legend, booked the show and brought together many of music’s finest to perform together. He also allegedly is the reason the show was filmed. Dylan protested the filming of the final few numbers, but Graham frustratedly exclaimed, “This is history! We’re filming.” Basically thank god for Bill Graham. And thank god for Scorsese who has the unique ability to rig up a concert hall with enough cameras to make the show come alive on screen. He brings a unique dynamism to concert films (see my review on Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light). Like in Shine a Light, the film is primarily concert footage interspersed with some interviews with members of…

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Schmilco Review

First of all the name. Wilco gets some credit for the amusing self-deprecation. The name was likely intended to lighten the mood of the album. Tweedy’s lyrics are emotional and personal, more so than any recent Wilco and maybe ever. Consider these lines from the first song on the album “Normal American Kids:”Oh, all of my spirit leaked like a cut / I knew what I needed would never be enough / I was too high to change my bid / Always afraid to be a normal american kid.” Themes of childhood, growing up, and trying to be happy are present lyrically throughout the album. In this way the album feels quite introspective and honest.

Musically, I found the album a bit boring. Largely acoustic, the songs all sound pretty similar. I didn’t find it as artistically interesting as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (an aside: YHF is one of the 20ish CDs I keep in my car which only plays CDs, so I listen to it and love it a lot.) Schmilco is super mellow and great easy listening but lacks enough musical variation to really capture the listener’s attention. Locator (9th song on the record) gets kinda noisy towards the end which lends a bit of interest.

Regardless of my quibbles the album is worth listening to if not at least for the title. He makes fun of “We Are the World” in track 11, “We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl)” which made me laugh a little. With songs like that, the album title, and the amusing album art we can’t really be sure how serious Wilco is taking themselves right now which I kinda like. But also the lyrics are sometimes quite serious so I’m not sure what to make of everything.

Okay this is a pretty mediocre review, but I have to write a paper.

NOT NOT FEST Reviewed

This evening I attended a small show held in a poorly ventilated Columbia suite. I’m complaining about the heat, but in reality I’ve been to house shows back in San Francisco that were FAR hotter and sweatier.

There’s really nothing like seeing music in a tiny little room of your friends; however, I am a first year student and truly know nobody beyond the friend I went with. It wasn’t like back home in San Francisco where I usually know the SF punk-house-show-goers. Or I suppose I used to when I was still with my ex. He was super involved in the SF scene and still is.

Regardless of our newness and semi loneliness (we did later make some friends at the show!!) we had a lovely time. We saw three bands play and enjoyed them all. We saw Kathryn Agatha play first. She had a great voice and presence–really glow/dream pop-y. We liked her.

Next we saw Maxy and the Beefcakes who were without doubt my favorite. The singer had a totally dope pop punk voice and his lyrics were witty and absurd. In this way they very much reminded me of Joyce Manor–one of my all time favorite bands (just realized I’ve never written anything about them on here! what the hell! I will soon.). Highlights of the set included a song about Selena Gomez. The Beefcakes also had excellent bass guitar parts (especially bass). I really enjoyed their fun little riffs. Definitely was bobbing my head around quite a lot!

Lastly we saw Drug Bug which felt very The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die-esque to me. (Sidenote: I’ve yet to write about TWIABP as well which is truly a travesty given how much they’ve moved me as a band and advanced my musical taste). In all honesty Drug Bug wasn’t nearly as interesting musically or aesthetically as TWIABP which is a fucking 15 part band, but they certainly held their own and had a good sound.

And so my friend and I are hoping to get involved further with Rare Candy (the music publication that hosted the show), and to ultimately write for the magazine and/or take photos. Big thanks to them for hosting such a cool event.

The Last Waltz: Reviewed

Directed by concert-filming genius Martin Scorsese The Last Waltz is a lively and emotional look into The Band’s farewell show at Winterland in San Francisco. And what a show it was. Bill Graham, San Francisco legend, booked the show and brought together many of music’s finest to perform together. He also allegedly is the reason the show was filmed. Dylan protested the filming of the final few numbers, but Graham frustratedly exclaimed, “This is history! We’re filming.” Basically thank god for Bill Graham. And thank god for Scorsese who has the unique ability to rig up a concert hall with enough cameras to make the show come alive on screen. He brings a unique dynamism to concert films (see my review on Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light). Like in Shine a Light, the film is primarily concert footage interspersed with some interviews with members of The Band.

The film opens with the charismatic lead guitarist and singer Robbie Robertson discussing and slightly lamenting The Band’s 16 year touring stint; they’re tired and ready for the end. Then we see The Band absolutely shred their greatest hits. Levon Helm is so incredibly soulful while Robertson is playful and fun. Shape I’m In, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Evangeline (sung with the ever wonderful Emmylou Harris), and Ophelia were highlights, but The Weight (The Staples) decidedly stole the show. After they finish the song one of the backup singers is caught on camera whispering “beautiful” barely into the mic proving that once again music is magic.

The best parts of the film though are likely the numbers featuring an impressive array of guest stars. Neil Young joins The Band onstage to sing Helpless while Joni Mitchell waits in the wings singing backup vocals. The song lends itself to an ensemble and sounds beautiful. Then Joni joins The Band onstage for an energetic and pitch perfect performance of Coyote which lends itself less to an ensemble cast but nonetheless is a treat. Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton both join The Band to perform (wonderfully) their own songs. Van The Man joins them later for an all star performance of Caravan which he totally sings the shit out of. Van works the crowd (and the band) and steals the show. I will admit that I am a lover of Van Morrison but had never really seen him perform and was distracted by his rather rodent like appearance.

And then . . . drumroll . . . BOB DYLAN! The Band gave Dylan the well deserved honor of closing out the show. Dylan comes on in what first appears to be a pink fedora but out of the light is white. He starts off with his signature blank stare and frown, but he warms up surprisingly quickly. He begins to smile at the members of The Band and even the audience. The glint in his eye is obvious; he’s having fun. I’d actually never seen our sultry poet look so happy performing, and it made me really really happy. In Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles pt. 1, he talks about not enjoying performing and being self conscious especially when he was younger. I think that being onstage with other well known and wonderful musicians gave him the space to enjoy performing. Dylan gives a show stopping performance of Forever Young and then jams out with The Band to a punched up Baby Let Me Follow You Down. So freakin cool!

Finally the whole cast (plus Ronnie Wood and RIngo!!!) comes onstage to join Dylan and The Band for I Shall Be Released. It is a magical moment seeing so many greats side by side—Joni singing with Neil Young, Dylan with Van Morrison etc etc.

The best part of the film is perhaps watching the members of The Band watch their guests perform. Seeing the wonder in Robertson’s eyes as Dylan sings Forever Young, watching Rick Danko smile like a kid seeing Joni, seeing Levon’s childlike reverence for Muddy Waters. When you think about it it’s remarkably selfless (or confident?) that The Band decided to bring so many incredible musicians—all who totally hold their own and steal the show—onstage with them for their last show. I think for The Band it has always been about the big sound of togetherness. Their songs (e.g. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down) lend themselves to a big, loud, joyous ensembles of singers. Even their name allows for an ensemble of stragglers and solo artists who join the band just for the night.

Outside Lands: Unpacked & Unloaded

I attended Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate park this last weekend. Below are some thoughts!

Going into the weekend I was focused almost exclusively on LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead, two of my favorite bands. I was also excited to see Chance the Rapper (this may surprise readers because Chance is admittedly outside the genres I generally listen to, but it’s the trumpet and timbre of Chance’s voice that gets me).

At festivals a considerable amount of people go to just bop around, drink and see whatever music they end up seeing. All good, but I personally go less for the relaxed “music in the park” vibe and more for the “I’m going to see the stuff I really love and go really hard” vibe. And being in the front matters to me. The large majority of the bands I listen to and see live are pretty small. When I see a band like Modern Baseball at Slims I can be rest assured that I’ll be able to see the stage and be in the action. You can’t say the same for OSL. Given that, my general approach is to see the two-three bands playing before whoever it is I’m there to see.

First night I was there to see LCD Soundsystem, and I wanted to be up close and personal with James Murphy when he’d take his drumming breaks. So I saw Miike Snow with some friends (was good fun), and then everyone left to see J. Cole for which I had less than zero desire to see. I saw Duran Duran play before LCD, and it was so great. I felt completely transported back to the 80s. The white leather, the visuals, everything. Rio and Notorious were highlights. Who knew I like disco!

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Duran Duran doing their 80s thing (my photo!)

Then LCD came on. I honestly could not have asked for more. Their songs sounded even better live (I’d never seen them in concert before). This amazes me given how complex some of their music is! And LCD isn’t that lame Zedd “on my MacBookPro” shit. Nancy is actually doing everything live on real boards and pedals etc. James Murphy became my fascination after I watched Shut Up and Play the Hitsand his performance Friday was superb. He was energetic, funny, and his vocals were PERFECT. Interesting enough to feel unique and different from the recordings, but absolutely perfect. It was wonderful.

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James Murphy singing the shit out of New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. (also my photo)

They played essentially every song I really wanted them to play (except maybe North American Scum and All I Want).

Highlights: I Can Change was insanely beautiful. Someone Great. Losing My Edge was SO COOL. New York I Love You brought me to tears. Dance Yrself Clean really truly made me dance myself clean. All My Friends sounded beautiful although it did make me wonder where all my friends were (they were at J. Cole). Honestly I didn’t miss them for a second. LCD wrapped me in a big hug of musical love, and those two hours were some of my favorite yet.

Day 2: I was totally focused on Radiohead. I saw nothing particularly great while waiting for Thom except Air. Air was cool. They didn’t have a guitar just really really dope bass. The drummer was also sick. The music was truly interesting and complex, and I found myself in a musical trance. The vocals, however, were a problem. For whatever reason Air puts the vocals through the weirdest effects. They come out literally robotic. It made me understand part of why I love LCD so much: the interesting electronic and super clean music is perfectly complimented by James’s punk rock, raw, un-altered vocals. That’s the way to go. I can’t stand when the vocals are just drowning in their own reverb or cleaned up digitally till they sound cold and fake.

Radiohead was wonderful. Highlights: noticing the unique instruments they use live (including but not limited to: a coat hanger with bells hanging off it and an old transistor radio) and watching Thom Yorke’s groovy as hell dancing. Set highlights: 2 + 2 = 5, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Everything in It’s Right Place, Bodysnatchers, Idioteque (so. much. fun.), and Karma Police.

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Radiohead. (still my photos)

Day 3 there was no one I cared deeply about. I wanted to see The Oh Hellos and Chance. The Oh Hellos played a wonderful set early in the day at one of the smaller stages. They were endearing and sounded insanely good. It must have been a 12 piece band, and they were all in perfect synch and very into the music. It was fun and lighthearted, and we danced a lot. Then we went into a very aggressive and unkind crowd to wait for Chance. Fortunately we got to see the Muppets (!! so much fun !!) and Third Eye Blind (middle school emo kid jams!) while waiting. The Muppets played a short set of popular, classic covers (including: Home by Edward Sharpe and With a Little Help From my Friends).Third Eye Blind was pretty funny and bad. However, I went very hard to and deeply enjoyed Jumper.

Chance the Rapper was great when he was performing. However, he played the shortest set in the history of music, and considering we’d been waiting in a very aggressive crowd of white frat boys it kinda sucked. I’m not a die hard Chance fan so it was okay, but I felt badly for my friends. He did have great energy and sounded awesome though.

Day 3 headliners weren’t particularly enticing. We saw a bit of Lana Del Rey’s set. I quickly became depressed and bored and unhappy. So I begged my friends, and we hightailed it to catch the last 30 minutes of Lionel Richie. It was SO FUN. My friends kept saying how happy they were I convinced them to leave Lana. We danced ourselves SO CLEAN to Brick House and All Night Long, and we sang our hearts out to We Are the World.

It was a wonderful weekend of friends, food, fun and music. Overall, LCD Soundsystem stands out from the rest. It was a truly wonderful performance.

Until next time Ranger Dave.

LCD Soundsystem! Outside Lands!

Happy Thursday! I’m sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front. I have been thinking a lot about music and you lovely music people though. I had a near-religious moment earlier this evening while in a bubble bath listening to Van Morrison. It was specifically an absurdly beautiful version of Into the Mystic that got me going. Reminded me yet again that music is magic.

But alas, I’m here to announce another Nothing to Get Hung About hiatus. I’m attending Outside Lands Music Festival in my lovely home city of San Francisco, CA this weekend. I’m insanely excited, but it does mean I won’t be at my computer.

You can however expect detailed reviews and witty commentary next week when the festival is over. Expect to hear about LCD Soundystem, Radiohead, Lord Huron, The Oh Hellos, Third Eye Blind, Chance the Rapper, Major Lazer, Sufjan Stevens and more! The sets I’m most excited for by far are LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead. My love for LCD literally knows no bounds and the very idea of partying with James Murphy makes me giddy. Listen to this insanely good version of All My Friends. LCD is just the perfect child of punk and electronic/dance. Ever since seeing Shut Up and Play the Hits I’ve been dying to see LCD live. I’m so excited. And Radiohead has been one of my favorite bands for as long as I can remember. I’m stoked to see Thom Yorke in the flesh and hear his beautiful, beautiful voice.

Anyways wish me and my weekend in the park luck and love. May the music be with you.

Brand New / Modest Mouse: Concert Review

I saw Brand New with Modest Mouse at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA on Thursday July 28. Here are my thoughts. (Disclaimer: written at 3am)

Brand New and Modest Mouse are embarking on a tour together as co-headliners which is an interesting concept. There are no opening bands which I’m definitely okay with, and both bands play headlining sets. It seems like a great idea for fans and for marketing purposes, but in reality it’s a bit awkward. The tour managers should have realized that Brand New and Modest Mouse do not have the same fan base. Brand New is simply far more emo/punk rock/generally louder than Modest Mouse.

It also appeared that the majority of concertgoers were there for Brand New, and so the Modest Mouse set was very mellow and not all that enthusiastic. The band actually tried to punk-up their music probably to blend better with Brand New. Everything went a lot harder than in the recorded version, but still the crowd wasn’t particularly enthusiastic.

I actually really did enjoy Modest Mouse’s set. I thought it sounded great and was super fun. It was just conspicuously less exciting than Brand New’s set. There were a few people around me and my date in Modest Mouse shirts who left partway into Brand New’s set. Whether they were unaware of how emo Brand New is or simply had only bought a ticket to see Modest Mouse I do not know, but regardless I felt bad for them. The tour was advertised as two bands playing equal sets, but this was obviously not the case. The Modest Mouse fans got short changed.

The energy of the crowd and the stage changed drastically for Brand New’s set. Roadies wheeled huge panels of LED lights onstage providing us with awesome visuals throughout Brand New’s set, and the mosh pit was extremely (perhaps terrifyingly) energetic for Brand New.

Brand New’s set was really everything I hoped for. I’d seen Brand New three times before and heard them play the majority of my favorite songs. The only songs I hadn’t seen and desired to hear live were a few songs off Deja. And they played them! I was so freaking excited! (Please read my previous posts about Brand New to hear more about the band’s music and my personal connection to/thoughts on the band).

My date and I hung back a little so we wouldn’t get pushed which was a good call. I go to a lot of shows, and I totally love to get sweaty, pushed around and feel the crowd. However, the first time I saw Brand New at the Fox in Oakland the crowd up front was so aggressive I couldn’t even stand up (I’m a small person and stand O chance in a pushing match with big male concertgoers). When I saw Brand New in Barcelona and Paris the crowd was rowdy but much more mellow and perfect for me. I didn’t want to deal with fearing for my body this time around so we hung back. I’m glad we did. I’ve never seen the Greek that rowdy. The pit was totally insane (there was even a huge meathead guy who took his shirt off), and crowd surfers were flying every which way. There was even a rogue fangirl who jumped up on stage and got tackled by security! Basically it was really exciting and a typically rambunctious & punk rock Brand New show that I was happy to watch from a comfortable distance. Also we had a perfect view of the stage from where we were.

It was a great set. The crowd was into it. Jesse was into it. Vin was fucking crazy into it. The sound was good. The lights were dope. And everything had this exciting but sad feeling of finality. Goodbye tours tend to be the best.

Shine a Light: Reviewed

Summer roc docs guilty pleasure trip continued tonight with Shine a Light, a film directed by Scorsese documenting the Stones’ 2006 Beacon Theatre performance. Unlike usual, this time I watched the doc not on the treadmill but with my lovely parents. We were all freaking floored. They’d seen it when it came out in theaters too but were still floored!

Scorsese managed to rig that whole damn theatre with cameras effectively making a 2 hour concert film a dynamic work of art. Scorsese shows behind the scenes footage of him and his crew as well, a thrill for Scorsese lovers and fans of his thick rimmed glasses. The film is interspersed with incredibly amusing footage of the Stones being interviewed and mouthing off to Japanese and German interviewers. Scorsese expertly shows the youthfulness, sexiness, and joyful spirit of Mick, Keith and Ronnie too.

Mick shines brightest during the film/show. The camera is mostly focused on him and his positively ECSTATIC dancing. Everyone knows Mick has groovy moves, but you kinda forget how incredible he is. He’s also a lot older now so we don’t expect as much. He definitely delivers though. He appears positively possessed with the ghosts of blues and rock n roll past. I found myself hypnotized by his sashaying walks and shaking hips and also the way he interacts with the audience. You keep wondering to yourself how he KEEPS DANCING. It’s glorious! I’ll admit that after the film ended I was dancing around like a lunatic trying to imitate Mick’s crazy hand moves and airy moonwalk.

The Keith Ronnie dynamic is also a highpoint of the film. Scorsese’s many cameras do a wonderful job picking up every wink and gesture. The viewer feels in on the action.

The film/concert also has some beautiful guest appearances! Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera grace the stage and sing the shit out of a few songs with Mick. Buddy absolutely kills and vibes with Keith making you thank god again for the blues.

I loved every minute.