Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Poor Liver: The Hold Steady, Sep. 27, Toronto

There are so many reasons why I love The Hold Steady. One, the band members are my age, so they are old enough to know better. Second, the lead singer/songwriter and lead guitarist grew up in the upper Midwest and often reference their geography in their songs. I also grew up in the upper Midwest, so I get the references. Thrice, their music is obviously highly influenced by 1980s college radio, which I listened to obsessively as a teenager. Combine these facts and you can see why I love their music.

I have lived/am currently living some of their lyrics. "...and the early 7 Seconds taught me some of life's most valuable lessons..." ("Stay Positive") I used to lie to my parents about going to 7 Seconds shows and get home after curfew and get my ass kicked. "...I said it's great to see you're still in the bars..." ("Barfruit Blues") 99 out of 100 times when I am out at the bars, I am the oldest one there. "...we kissed in your car and drank from your purse..." ("Massive Nights") Self- explanatory.

But the main reason that I love The Hold Steady is that they fucking rock the live show! THS played a two-night stand in Toronto at Lee's Palace on Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27. I didn't have my shit together enough to attend both shows, so I just caught the Sunday nighter.

Their set spanned all four of their albums, with equal time given to 2004's Almost Killed Me through 2008's Stay Positive. I was delighted to hear some of the older tracks. When I saw them in 2007, they only played one song from Almost Killed Me. The show opened the same way it did in 2007, with "Hornets! Hornets!" Only this time the ruckus crowd loudly sang along.

THS played for over an hour and a half, and even tried out some new tracks. Though the crowd didn't know the words to the new ones, they still danced up a storm. Such a great audience! And THS is tighter than ever. Every time smiley and spastic lead singer Craig Finn got ahead or behind the beat, the rest of the band would real him back in.

Towards the end of the show the Minneapolis native and Minnesota Vikings fan Finn thanked Mr. Brett Favre for beating the San Francisco 49ers on a last minute play earlier that Sunday, much to the chagrin of the Wisconsinites in the band (and in the audience). If Hallelujah can be resurrected, I guess there is hope for Mr. Favre and those lousy Vikings. Hell, there may even be hope for me.

Set List
Note: by about the 10th song I was hammered, so this set list may be highly inaccurate. I even wrote how drunk I was in my notes after misspelling "Jamica." See the scans of my notes below. I couldn't remember the song names so I started writing some of the lyrics. It took a lot of detective work and Googling to decipher my hieroglyphics. Brutal. I'm a wasteoid. And old enough to know better.

1. Hornets! Hornets!
2. The Swish
3. Navy Sheets
4. Banging Camp
5. Our Whole Lives - New!
6. Magazines
7. Sequestered in Memphis
8. One for the Cutters
9. Constructive Summer
10. One of the Hallelujah/Holly songs, I think. Or it may be a new one. I'm confused. Just say no to drugs, kids.
11. You Can Make Him Like You
12. Stuck Between Stations
13. Chips Ahoy
14. Joke About Jamaica
15. Charlemagne in Sweatpants
16. Don't Let Me Explode
17. Stay Positive
18. Sweet Payne

19. New - "we don't have a name for it yet"
20. Little Hoodrat Friend
21. Most People are DJs
22. How a Resurrection Really Feels

You can listen to some of the new tracks here.

The Swish.mp3
You Can Make Him Like You.mp3
Buy: A Positive Rage (CD/DVD combo 2009)

click image to enlarge

Toronto indie rockers Still Life Still opened the show. I didn't really know anything about this band going in, but I had heard a bit of buzz about them from the local entertainment rags. They played mostly from their 2009 release Girls Come Too. This album was produced by Martin Davis Kinack, noted producer for Broken Social Scene, and Kevin Drew, musician from Broken Social Scene. Drew seems to be mentoring a lot of up-and-coming Toronto bands. Still Life Still did a great job of warming up the crowd with their high-energy alt rock. Normally I'm a snob and I skip the opening band, but I'm glad I got there early to see these young lads. I would see them live again.

Neon Girl.mp3
Buy: Girls Come Too (2009)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Choctaw Bingo

I'm too hungover from last night's The Hold Steady show at Lee's Palace to write anything original. My blogger buddy at A Truer Sound showed me this piece on Slate by Ron Rosenbaum and I thought it was brilliant. The article is a tongue-in-cheek (I think?) opinion piece on why James McMurtry's song "Choctaw Bingo" should be the new United States national anthem. "Choctaw Bingo" is the best fucking song ever. Enjoy...
It's rare for me to devote an entire column to a single song—although I once did so for Joni Mitchell's "Amelia"—but in this case it's a song by a singer whose name is not very well-known and whose name I want to make known.

His name is James McMurtry, and that—his name—initially presented an obstacle to my appreciating his work. I've been intrigued by McMurtry ever since my girlfriend came back from a trip to the far reaches of inner America. She'd heard this song—and other great McMurtry cuts—while driving long stretches of West Texas and Oklahoma. When she played me McMurtry's masterpiece "Choctaw Bingo," I couldn't stop thinking about it.

......continue reading here.
Choctaw Bingo.mp3
Buy: Saint Mary of the Woods (2002)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Boys and Girls in Canada

Note: I wrote the below piece when I was just posting my reviews on MySpace before I had a blog. The Hold Steady is playing a two night stand in Toronto, last night and tonight. I'm headed for tonight's show and I cannot friggin' wait. I am in dire need of a rock and roll soul cleansing, and only The Hold Steady can save me from my current music malaise.

The Hold Steady, Monday, August 6, 2007
The Opera House, Toronto

You expect the indie rock power quintet The Hold Steady to come on stage and blow the Labatt Blue out of your hand with a killer power chord. But this isn’t exactly what happened. The band sauntered onto the stage, waved at the fans, and got their instruments organized. Lead singer Craig Finn grabbed the mic, looked at the audience, smiled, and started into the a capella opening of "Hornets! Hornets!" from the 2005 release Separation Sunday. The capacity crowd cheered wildly, but, by the second line, got deadly quiet, following Finn’s every lip movement, an odd but delightful phenomenon that rarely happens at rock shows. Of course by the time Finn finished the verse, “… with whoever's gonna get me the highest,” the crowd erupted.

The Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis-based band continued to rock the house, covering most of their superb 2006 release Boys and Girls in America. Finn and lead guitarist Tad Kubler both looked and dressed like they could teaching assistants for your sophomore level Comparative Literature class, not rock stars, and the long-time collaborators (both formerly of Lifter Puller) easily played off of one another. Kubler (who, according to a recent article in Spin, is from the same hometown and high school as my mom), stoically ripped mean licks from “Hot Soft Nights” (a song about “getting busted,” said Finn) and “Banging Camp,” while Finn spasticly danced, gesticulated, drank beer, and played rhythm guitar.

Early on my buddy Carly and I examined the crowd and were a little stunned to realize that we were at, or slightly under, the average age of the audience (our average age ~35.5). This never happens to me anymore! And, the male to female ratio was approximately 10:1. Most of the guys there were wearing jeans and Converse All-stars, and basically fit the description of every homogeneous white boy that I have ever dated. Lots of disciples of the Craig Finn school of fashion in the audience (i.e. nerd chic), not to mention the number of Molson-swigging du Maurier Light-puffing guys named Kent hitting on us and trying to convince one of us to get up on his shoulders (and he didn’t even offer to buy me a beer first, jerk). The odds were good, but the goods were odd.

We were maybe six rows of people to the left of center stage, in front of the very talented and eccentric keyboardist/ mouth-harpist/ accordionist Franz Nicolay. He and bassist Galen Polivka were practically putting on a side-show, singing the lyrics together, putting their arms around each other and dancing, truly looking like they were having a blast. Not such a small feat considering this was their fifth consecutive show, including Lollapalooza on Saturday the 4th.

There were two tracks that I really wanted to hear. First, “Barfruit Blues” mainly due to the verse “she said it's good to see you back in a bar band, baby. I said it's great to see you're still in the bars,” which reminds me of all of my 30-something friends who are not engaged, pregnant, or buying a condo. Right Carly? Second, “Chillout Tent,” a song which I really hated at first, but learned to love because the story telling and the line “he looked a lot like izzy stradlin” totally makes me laugh. However, this track would have been impossible to do as The Hold Steady are not touring with a female vocalist. But I did sing first alto in a women’s choir in college, and that was ONLY twelve years ago. I would have taken one for the team.

The band really nailed every tune, and I loved the accordion in “Modesto is Not That Sweet” and “Citrus.” There is not enough accordion in rock music, but you probably have to be from the upper Midwest and have been forced to dance to the “Too Fat Polka” to really appreciate that statement. The band closed with a kick-ass extended version of “Killer Parties,” (unfortunately the only track they played off of 2004’s Almost Killed Me) which included Nicolay playing keyboard chords that sounded like something from Sunday morning mass, thus emphasizing a faith-and-dependency metaphor that The Hold Steady often employ in many of their songs. Nicolay also wailed on the harmonic as a guitarist from Jon-Rae and the River, the opening band, joined in. Finn concluded by thanking everyone and acknowledging The Constantines, an alternative rock band based in Toronto, and then taking photos of the audience. Carly and I escaped into the fresh night air with our ears ringing, our bodies and brains still rocking, our livers hurting, and, thankfully, without Kent following.

Hornets! Hornets!.mp3
Buy: Separation Sunday (2005)

Chillout Tent.mp3
Buy: Boys and Girls in America (2006)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mr. Something Something brings the green funk

Last Sunday in Toronto was one of those perfect summer/fall transition days where it was 65F/18C and not a cloud in the sky. I headed to the Queen West Art Crawl and the Trinity Bellwoods Outdoor Art Show to enjoy the weather.

After cruising around the artist's tents for a while, I came across a groovy band entertaining the Queen West crowd. The band called Mr. Something Something was performing on the south side of Queen St. between Stranchan Ave. and Gore Vale Ave., but facing north towards Trinity-Bellwoods park such that the people in the park could sit on the hill and watch the band. Every time a streetcar or a large van or truck drove by the music was temporarily muted.

Mr. Something Something plays what people call "Afrobeat" which is something of a mix of funk, soul, and jazz. Regular readers (all six of you) will know that this normally isn't my style of music, but it was perfect for a spectacular sunny day. It made me feel like sitting on a patio and drinking a large cocktail in a pineapple shaped goblet with a bunch of foo-foo umbrellas sticking out of it, all while getting a very nice sunburn.

The band consists of a funky bass and drum rhythm section, plus electric guitar, and tenor and baritone saxophones. Bari sax is one of my favorite instruments, and both of these sax players could wail on their horns. The lead singer manically danced around, played the shekere (which is another of my favorite instruments, because you get to shake your ass while you play it, see right), and encouraged the audience to join in the Queen West dance party (but watch out for traffic).

What was most remarkable about this dance party though, was the fact that it was powered by bicycles. Various stationary bike trainers (enough for ten bikes I believe) were set up so that one could set their bike onto the trainer, pedal, and thus power the amplifiers. See Mr. Something Something's Sound Cycle section of their web site for more information. Totally cool! If my bike hadn't been in the bike hospital that weekend I would have been powering the show. See how its done on the below video.

Mr. Something Something has a new CD out called Shine Your Face, which I very much recommend. They are playing tonight (September 26) at the Sliver Dollar in Toronto, on Friday, October 2, at the Rainbow Bistro in Ottawa, and on Saturday, October 3, at the Neat Cafe in Burnstown, and in various places in the US in October. See their tour schedule for more details.

Coincidentally, The Globe and Mail has an article on Mr. Something Something's pedal-powered dance parties in today's issue. Read the article here.

The Antidote.mp3
Buy: Shine Your Face (2009)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mary Travers 1936-2009

Mary Travers of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary passed away this past week from leukemia at age 72. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a huge Bob Dylan fan. However, my first taste of Bobby D. was actually from PP&M. Dylan and PP&M shared a manager, and while PP&M already had a hit with their 1962 rendition of Pete Seeger's "If I had a Hammer," Dylan was still relatively unknown outside of New York City. To quote AllMusic:
"The era of public activism over civil rights, directed at the administration of President Kennedy, was rising to new heights, and "Blowin' in the Wind" embodied the spirit of the time. In one fell swoop, it established Bob Dylan as the new conscience of a generation, and PP&M as the voice of that conscience, culminating with their performance of the song at the same August 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech."
I distinctly remember hearing this song as a child and being struck by Travers's beautiful soaring voice.

Peter, Paul, and Mary - Blowin' in the Wind.mp3
Buy: The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary (2005)

Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind.mp3
Buy: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963, reissued 2004)

Another PP&M song that I remember hearing in my 1970s childhood home is the John Denver-penned "Leaving on a Jet Plane." This song was written by Denver in 1967, and recorded by the trio on their 1967 release Album 1700. Warner Brothers records released this song as a single in 1969 when they heard that radio DJs around the country were playing the track. "Leaving on a Jet Plane" went on to sell over a million copies and was PP&M's only #1 hit, as well as their last Top-40 hit.

Peter, Paul, and Mary - Leaving on a Jet Plane.mp3
Buy: The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary (2005)

John Denver - Leaving on a Jet Plane.mp3
Buy: John Denver's Greatest Hits (2005)

NPR has a nice summary on Travers's life and PP&M's career.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September Feel Bad For You Comp

The monthly comp from our forum friends at AltCountryTab.ca. The zipped download will be good for one week only. And yeah, I ripped this photo off of Awkward Family Photos. But its awesome and I couldn't resist.

1. Amy Ray - "Johnny Rottentail"
Stag (2001)

2. Eddie Spaghetti - "Some People Say"
Old No. 2 (2005)

3. Charlie Robison - Racin' in the Streets.mp3
Buy: Beautiful Day (2009)

4. Lee Hazlewood - "I Move Around"
The Very Special World (1966)

5. Truckstop Coffee - Laredo Skies.mp3
Buy: For Dear Life (2009)

6. Carolyn Mark w/NQ Arbuckle - "All Time Low"
Let's Just Stay Here (2009)

7. Weird Owl - "Tobin's Spirit Guide"
Ever The Silver Cord Be Loosed (2009)

8. Graveyard - "As Years Pass by the Hours Bend"
Graveyard (2007)

9. Corrosion of Conformity - "Shelter"
Deliverance (1994)

10. Susanna - "Better Days"
Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos (2007)

11. Stephen Steinbrink - "Breath of Fire"
Ugly Unknowns (2009)

12. Wave Machines - "Keep the Lights On"
Wave if You're Really There (2009)

13. Ben Harper - "Number With No Name"
White Lies for Dark Times (2009)

14. Tom Russell - "Criminology"
Blood and Candlesmoke (2009)

15. Gretchen Peters (w/Tom Russell) - "If I Had a Gun"
One to the Heart One to the Head (2009)

16. Englebert Humperdink - Quando, Quando, Quando.mp3
Buy: His Greatest Hits (1974, reissued 1998)

17. Scorpions - Arizona.mp3
Buy: Blackout (1982, reissued 1997)

18. Bruce Cockburn - Wondering Where the Lions Are.mp3
Buy (MP3 only): Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws (1979)

19. Bruce Cockburn - "Last Night of the World"
Breakfast in New Orleans Dinner in Timbuktu (1999)

20. Paul Burch - "Still Your Man"
Still Your Man (2009)

21. Paul Burch - "Ballad of Henry & Jimmy"
Still Your Man (2009)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Some Josh Ritter Love

I just searched my own blog and I can't believe that I have never written about one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Josh Ritter. Originally from Moscow, Idaho, Ritter started writing songs as a teenager. He went to Oberlin College in Ohio, originally to study neuroscience, but changed to a self-made major called "American History Through Narrative Folk Music." He self recorded his first self-titled album at age 21, then promoted himself at various open mic nights in the Eastern United States and in the UK and Ireland. Glen Hansard of The Frames heard him and encouraged him to continue recording, and invited him to open for The Frames in Ireland.

I first discovered Ritter in 2006 when I heard his fourth album The Animals Years, an album that blew me away. I've seen him live twice: once solo with his acoustic guitar and a glass of whiskey, and once with his full band. Both completely different shows, both completely excellent.

You can download some MP3s and stream his albums on his website. Also on his website are some links to live shows recorded by NPR. I highly recommend that you listen to them.

Ritter is currently touring in the UK, and is touring Ireland in October. No word yet on a new album, but he is a pretty prolific writer so I will assume that something is in the works!

Buy (MP3): Golden Age Of Radio (2004)

Good Man.mp3
Buy (MP3): The Animal Years (2006)

The Temptation of Adam.mp3
Buy: The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jesus Protect Me From the Swine Flu

Ack! After celebrating my friend's marriage and partying my ass off in Chicago last weekend, I picked up some cold/flu/plague/SARS/Upper Respiratory Bullshit, but not the Swine Flu. I think I ate enough bacon to be immune to the old H1N1. And I was so sick that I missed Tim Easton at the Horseshoe on Tuesday night. I was so impressed with him during NxNE, and I really wanted to see him again. I'm grumpy!

Here's an Easton song that reminds me of the current political climate.

Buy: Ammunition (2006)

My blogger buddy at A Truer Sound posted a sweet Tim Easton show a while back. I highly encourage you to check it out. Easton is a great songwriter and an amazing guitar player.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Everybody Needs Somebody

Congrats to Mani and Petey who got themselves hitched in Chicago this weekend. In the immortal words of Elwood Blues:

People, when you do find that special somebody, you gotta hold that man, hold that woman! Love him, please him, squeeze her, please her! Signify your feelings with every gentle caress, because it's so important to have that special somebody to hold, to kiss, to miss, to squeeze, and please!

The Blues Brothers - Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.mp3
Buy: The Definitive Collection (1992, reissued 2007)

Buy:The Blues Brothers (DVD - Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition, 2005)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shake Your Tailfeather

2000 bucks and it's yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I'll throw in the black keys for free.

"I not only worked with John [Belushi] on the Blues Brothers film, I also worked with him on Saturday Night Live. He was the kind of guy who would volunteer to sit with me and help me prepare my lines, since I obviously could not rely on cue cards." - Ray Charles
From: 20 Years of Rolling Stone: What a Long Strange Trip it's Been (1987, out of print)

Ray Charles - Shake Your Tailfeather.mp3
Buy: The Blues Brothers: The Definitive Collection (1992, reissued 2007)

Buy:The Blues Brothers (DVD - Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition, 2005)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Still Owe You Money, Fool!

Don't you "don't get all riled, sugar" me! You ain't goin' back out on the road and you ain't playin' them old two-bit sleazy dives. You're livin' with me now, and y'ain't gonna go slidin' around witcho ol' white hoodlum friends.

The Blues Brothers? Shiiit! They still owe you money, fool.

Aretha Franklin - Think.mp3
Buy: The Blues Brothers: The Definitive Collection (1992, reissued 2007)

Buy:The Blues Brothers (DVD - Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition, 2005)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Kasey Anderson T-Shirt Giveaway

To help Kasey Anderson promote his upcoming release Nowhere Nights, a bunch of us blogging types have set up a promotion in which you can not only hear some demos off of said release, but also have a chance to win some cool swag.

On the album cover to the left you will see a phrase at the bottom center of the cover art. This phrase is part of a lyric to one of Anderson's new songs. Just match the phrase with with the rest of the lyrics and you may win one of three Nowhere Nights LP/Admit One t-shirt bundles or one of two additional Admit One t-shirts. (See Red River Records for more details.)

Where can you find the rest of the lyrics? Here is where you will have to do a little pointing and clicking. May I suggest you start at A Truer Sound. Or, if you have already stopped by A Truer Sound, I suggest you check out Fencepost. Once you have all of the lyrics, you will be instructed as to where to send the lyrics to be eligible for the prize pack. Good luck! Isn't this fun???

Kasey Anderson - Like Teenage Gravity (demo).mp3
Buy: Nowhere Nights (limited edition signed vinyl LP).
Official release date is February 16, 2010.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whiskey in the Jar

More drinking music! Yay! While I love classic heavy metal (e.g. Motorhead, Ace of Spades), I admit that I don't follow any current bands. NPR Music Notes recently posted a Heavy Metal Kegger, a summer guide to metal drinking songs. They all sound pretty friggin' good to me! Then I found a blog that combines heavy metal and beer! Check out Brewtal Truth.

- Whiskey in the Jar.mp3
(Traditional folk song by metalheads!)
Buy: Garage, Inc. (1998)