Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Band of Skulls; We Are Augustines @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Band of Skulls; We Are Augustines
@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY - March 27, 2012

I came for the opener. But I stayed...for the opener.

To date, We Are Augustines are responsible for my favorite album of the last year and maybe of the last few. The post-Pela project led by Billy McCarthy is an unabashed, unapologetic power trio, not afraid to wear heart on sleeves while at the same time avoiding the traps of being corn ball. Introspective Meditations are the hardest things to pull off in Rock.It is a near impossible task. Because it is so easy to sound like a whinging dolt, the kind of suburban garbage that led to the Fall of Rock n Roll in the last couple decades, most are just better off deferring to the punk, garage, and original rock n' roll sounds that kept us pure and happy.

Perhaps We Are Augustines succeed because they have the spirit and energy of three chords and a "1, 2, 3 4!" while blaring out their sound. This is going to be blunt: Think of U2 on their Best Day. Think of how much the National have been written about in this rag. We Are Augustines match and maybe outmatch the former (woah daddy). They deserve the success of the latter (certainly).

From the moment they started with "Book of James" and through "Juarez" and "Headlong into the Abyss" and to the end, as they wound their way through Rise Ye Sunken Ships, the band did exactly what they should have done live with their record. They took one sharp turn, doing a piano ballad version of what may be their best song, "Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love)", the exact kind of experiment that a band that plays to thousands would do. And they were right to do it.

The effusive joy from the We Are Augustines set had me ready to discover Band of Skulls. I thought I had them pegged early when these 70's Americana-Rock looking Brits did sludgy dirges like "Sweet Sour" at the start. But when they switched up to disco rock and 80's Queen-style rock, and did both with an extremely fined polish, I saw what was really happening. After about 6 or 7 songs, the jig was up. This was a general tribute band to the popular sounds of 1975-1983. Their professionalism noted (and I'm a sucker for disco beats when done by an actual drum kit), I think I could see right through this thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Sonic Parthenon Show: Episode 42 – “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything or Hurry Up, Mad Men is About to Start”

The Sonic Parthenon Show: Episode 42 – “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything or Hurry Up, Mad Men is About to Start”
“Anything Anything (I’ll Give You”) by Dramarama

Set 1
“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves
“Love is Here to Stay” by Casey Shea
“Forget That You’re Young” by the Raveonettes
“Streets of Baltimore” by the Little Willies

Set 2
“Death to My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen
“Andrew in Drag” by the Magnetic Fields
“No Future” by Craig Finn
“Jealous Girl” by Ben Kweller

Set 3
“Can’t Just Be Friends” by Bad Sports
“Hold On” by the Alabama Shakes
“Haunt You” by the Pack A.D.
“Oysters” by Me'Shell Ndegéocello

Set 4
“Motor Away” by Guided by Voices
“Take Me to a Higher Plane” by Kate Nash
“How’m I Doin’” by Mountain Man
“Waiting for Something” by Nada Surf

Set 5
“Nauseous” by Terry Malts
“Electric Fever” by Free Energy
“Glass” by Field Mouse
“Surrounded By You” by Selebrities

Set 6
“Carbona Not Glue” by the Ramones
“Piss Factory” by Patti Smith
“The Passenger” by Iggy Pop
“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” by Johnny Thunders

“Anchor” by Alejandro Escovedo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sonic Parthenon Show: Episode 41 – “A Place for Elwood’s Stuff, Part 3”

The Sonic Parthenon Show: Episode 41 – “A Place for Elwood’s Stuff, Part 3”

“House Party (I Don’t Know What You Came to Do)” by Tony! Toni! Toné!

Set 1
“Wonderwall” by Cat Power (as heard on John Peel’s program)
“Silver Lining” by Beaulah
“Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club
“Wild, Wild Life (Extended Mix)” by Talking Heads

Set 2
“Keep Their Heads Ringin’” by Dr. Dre
“Bamboleo” by Gipsy Kings
“There’s a Hole in My Bucket” by Harry Belafonte & Odetta
“Saturday Night at the Twist and Shout” by Mary-Chapin Carpenter

Set 3
“Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen
“Rock Show” by Blink-182
“Then the Morning Comes” by Smash Mouth
“Hello America” by Def Leppard
“Children of the Grave” by White Zombie

Set 4
“What I Like About You” by the Romantics
“I Wanna New Drug” by Huey Lewis & the News
“Closer to Free” by the Bodeans
“Little Honda” by Yo La Tengo
“She Said” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Set 5
“Am I the Same Girl” by Barbara Acklin
“Chuck E.’s in Love” by Rickie Lee Jones
“Crazy Love” by Van Morrison
“R.O.C.K. in the USA” by John Mellencamp

“The Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 40: “Elwood’s St. Patrick’s Day Saturday Night Special”

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 40: “Elwood’s St. Patrick’s Day Saturday Night Special”

“Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones

Set 1
“Sally Maclenanane” by the Pogues
“The Likes of You Again” by Flogging Molly
“Brown Dog” by the Young Dubliners
“The Legend of Finn MacCumhail” by Dropkick Murphys

Set 2
“Whisky in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy
“Timorous Me” by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
“Don’t Ring Me Up” by Protex
“Riot in the Pub” by Sit n’ Spin
“Traditional Irish Folk Song” by Denis Leary

Set 3
“Star of the County Down” by The Chieftains w/ Van Morrison
“Finnegan’s Wake” by Gael Sli
“Spancil Hill” by the Prodigals

“American Land” by Bruce Springsteen

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 39: “The Trouble with Troubadours”

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 39: “The Trouble with Troubadours”

“Trouble” by Seth Morgan

Set 1
“Simple Twist of Fate” by Bob Dylan
“Coney Island Winter” by Garland Jeffreys
“Sure as I’m Sitting Here” by John Hiatt
“My Blue Manhattan” by Ryan Adams

Set 2
“The Ballad of Ira Hayes” by Johnny Cash
“Pancho & Lefty” by Townes Van Zandt
“Brass Buttons” by Gram Parsons
“Miner’s Refrain” by Gillian Welch

Set 3
“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” by Warren Zevon
“Dirt in the Ground” by Tom Waits
“We Call Upon the Author” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
“I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen

Set 4
“Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)” by Elvis Costello
“There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards” by Ian Dury & the Block Heads
“Slim Slow Slider” by Van Morrison
“Tupelo” by John Lee Hooker
“Church” by Lyle Lovett

Set 5
“The Entertainer” by Billy Joel
“Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen
“Audio/Stereo/Radio” by Bryan Dunn
“How a Resurrection Really Feels” by the Hold Steady

“The Story” by Norah Jones

Friday, March 09, 2012

Craig Finn @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Craig Finn; The Virgin Forest
@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Broooklyn, NY - March 8, 2012

When you get older, and you're an know exactly what's wrong with you, but you just don't know what to do about it...that's scary. - Craig Finn

When Craig Finn sings the songs of the Hold Steady, he sings with the voice of an older, wiser narrator on the outside looking in on a series of teens and early twenty-somethings living a strange life that he himself may or may not have lived. So it required short bursts of punk rock n roll, classic rock homage, and the occasional august ballad. But not every song can follow this dynamic and not every Craig Finn song can be a Hold Steady song, so here's Craig with a solo record (though he's the same old Craig - the body jerking, repeating himself off-microphone, giddy to be on stage to see you Craig).
A more countrified, somber sounding record than those of the Hold Steady, Clear Eyes, Full Heart lyrically seems to be the Contemporary Finn. He's singing of his age, if still not of himself (though presumably closer to himself than he ever has before...maybe). There's a definite sense of internal, not-quite-quarter, not-quite-midlife reflections in these songs. Mercifully, there isn't really any sense of crisis, despite the quote from his banter you read above. How does he always know what to say?! And how does he know how to say  it without sounding like, and making me feel like, a self-pitying first-world-problem child?
This went down in Park Sloping Williamsburg. I don't recall so many children in this neighborhood the last time I paid attention. And so many new giant condos! But I sure do recognize the fashion choices.  And I recognize the yakkety-yak of the Yuppies  in the crowd. But so did Craig. And what effectively drove me away from frequent concert going, the self-involved "I'm just here to be out, I don't even care who's playing", was met early on with a freight train of a stare from Craig. And what ensued was a respectful silence that I think I last heard on a visit to see the Hold Steady. As tempting as it is to turn any live show  into a trial of Gotham's nouveau elite denizens and the Midwest-Meets-San Fernando Valley cultural changes they've brought with them (judgment: Guilty), I can't do it again here. I was too caught up in Craig's songs and his backing band. And so was most of the crowd. Maybe it was the wise use of the pedal steel. Maybe it was because it was the right kind of country. Craig made the album in Austin and he was looking West. This is the big sky desert rock at night type of country that I like. It reminded me of the time the Volebeats did their cover of "Maggot Brain." And some of the best songs were the ones left off the album. "Going to a Show" may define just about everything happening here (thought the record's "No Future" may be the best song on technicalities).
Brooklyn's changed a lot. Craig and his fans can change, or rather evolve. Spread their wings a bit. Which means they can identify what has made their life what it is. Right down to remembering the politics of what it was like to go to a rock show when all you wanted to do was go crazy and meet people. Capturing in a nutshell what it meant to have lightning in a bottle. And other such banality put into much better words by Craig Finn.

The Virgin Forest - way too 80's. And not always in a good way. And that's not too surprising.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 38: “A Place for Elwood’s Stuff, Part 2”

The Sonic Parthenon Show – Episode 38: “A Place for Elwood’s Stuff, Part 2”

“And Begin” by the Mooney Suzuki

Set 1
“House Where Nobody Lives” by Tom Waits
“Champagne Charlie” by Leon Redbone
“Forever” by Ben Harper
“Lonelilly” by Damien Rice

Set 2
“Bohemian Raphsody” by Queen
“Roll With the Changes” by REO Speedwagon
“Love It Loud” by Kiss
“E.T.I.” by Blue Oyster Cult

Set 3
“Total Hate ‘95” by No Doubt
“Volcano” by Jimmy Buffett
“Interlude No.1/Play It All Night Long” by Warren Zevon
“Radio Radio (on Saturday Night Live) by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

Set 4
“Jail Guitar Doors” by the Clash
“You Are My Sunshine” by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan
“The Wildcats of Kilkenny” by the Pogues
“Talkin’ Loud & Saying Nothing” by Living Colour

Set 5
“Don’t Look Back” by the Temptations
“I Wonder Why” by Dion & the Belmonts
“Get Around” by the Beach Boys
“Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke

“Like a Rolling Stone (live)” by the Rolling Stones