Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday Morning Coffee

Need a little pick me up after the long weekend?

Which also reminds me of this....

How can I get either of these to be my morning alarm?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I know, I post the same song every year for Memorial Day, but I don't care because this song is bad-ass! First, this song is sort of a throw back to the origins of hip-hop in that it's a protest song, questioning why the US military is in Iraq. Second, it calls out the Bush administration for having no proof on "weapons of mass destruction." Third, while he questions authority, the narrator in the song also takes tremendous pride in being a soldier and doing his job well. Despite the fact that the song is from 2005, it's lyrics can easily be changed for today's regime. Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

But would Robert Gates back me up with the chrome?
Would Janet Napolitano fight or would she stay secure back home?
And would Hillary Clinton cover grenades in a fox hole?
I'm startin' to believe what I was told is not so.

Such a killer song! Play it LOUD!

The Perceptionists - Memorial Day.mp3
Buy: Black Dialogue (2005)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ha Ha Tonka: Usual Suspects and Tornado Relief

The boys of Ha Ha Tonka have been busy as usual, touring in support of their fine new album Death of a Decade, which was released in April. Check out their new video for "Usual Suspects."

They toured through Boston a few weeks back, but shit happened and I missed the show. They are currently touring in their native Missouri, and other nearby states. Here's one of my favorites from their new album.

Problem Solver.mp3
Buy: Death of a Decade (2011)

Importantly, Ha Ha Tonka is playing in a relief concert for the victims of the recent tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. Ha Ha Tonka hail from West Plains, Missouri, due west of Joplin, and their southern Missouri heritage plays a prominent role in their songwriting. They are probably all too familiar with the terror of living in Tornado Alley. If you are in the Kansas City area, attend Midcoast Cares: a Benefit for Joplin on Wednesday, June 1 at Crosstown Station. Thanks guys! If you are not in Kansas City and still want to help Joplin, MO, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas nailed by tornadoes and other disasters this spring, donate some cash to the Red Cross's general disaster relief fund. Come on! You easily spend $10 on beer every weekend! Or, if you are lazy like me and don't want to get off of your couch, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. And be thankful that you have a couch to plop onto tonight.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Concert Review: Rammstein at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto, May 8

Mediocre photos by me taken with my Droid.

A while ago I promised my good buddy Schneider Weisse that I would go with him to see his favorite band, the German metal industrial band Rammstein, if they ever toured North America, which they rarely do. Last summer they played a festival in Quebec City, but neither of us could make the show. This past December Rammstein played in the US for the first time since 2001. They did only one show, at Madison Square Garden, and it sold out in about four minutes or something ridiculous like that. Schneider Weisse somehow got a ticket and flew from Toronto to NYC for the weekend for the show (review of the NYC show from Spin). I wanted to go, but I was in the middle of trying to get my shit together to move to Boston and couldn't pull it off.

Since the Quebec and New York Cities shows went so well, Rammstein must have decided to do a mini North American tour, and in early 2011 announced that they were playing six US, three Canadian, and four Mexican dates in the spring of 2011. Fortunately, one of those dates was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, within stumbling of Schneider Weisse's condo. So I booked a flight and got my sorry ass to Toronto for the May 8 weekend.

The Air Canada Centre was nearly sold out, and we had perfect seats just off of the floor facing the stage. German industrial metal bands will always attract it's share of goths, chicks in short skirts and fishnet stockings, dudes in black skirts and combat boots, and enough black lipstick and nail polish to paint a hearse (on both the chicks and the dudes). But I was really impressed that Rammstein attracted fans of all ages. While the kids mostly stayed in the pit area - the ACC's floor was cleared of chairs so people could mosh - my section had a wide range of ages, within plus or minus 20 years of 35, I would guess. Leader singer/entertainer Till Lindemann is 48 years old. My crew of simps (Rockstar Aimz, Schneider Weisse, Haifisch, Warlock, and Paul) averaged around age 35. Haifisch, who is a native of Germany and has two daughters in their late teens/early 20s, commented, "This is a much better Mother's Day present than toast in bed." Yah!!!

Someone like me who isn't overly familiar with Rammstein's music, except for their only North American hit, 1997's "Du Hast," attends these type of concerts for one reason: to be entertained. In others words, for the pyro. Both Lindemann and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz are licensed pyrotechnicians, and work with designers to set up pryo, lights, and other effects for their shows. And the pyro did not disappoint. There were giant flames from the stage, fire coming out of metal wings on Lindemann's back, flares blaring out of the end of Lindemann's big-ass bazooka, fireworks, sparks on wires flaming out over the audience, flames from the top and the bottom of the stage. We were on the far side opposite the stage and we could feel the heat from the pyro. The performers and the kids in the pit must has been cooking!


Rammstein is also know for their stage props and other theatrics. This tour included Lindemann throwing Lorenz into a basin and torching him from above, only to have Lorenz crawl out of the basin wearing a head-to-toe gold sparkling jumpsuit. Lorenz then scampered back up to his keyboards and spent the rest of the show walking to the beat on a rotating treadmill ("Flake" must be in incredible shape). Lindemann also torched a "fan" who "ran" onto the stage, and towards the end of the main set, boarded a giant penis and blew foam at the fans, some of which made it all the way back to our section. During the first encore Lorenz in his jumpsuit boarded an inflatable raft and "sailed" out into the audience. As the fans pushed him along, Lorenz hoisted a big Canadian flag, much to the crowd's delight. Don't worry, the flag wasn't torched. Maybe they saved the flag torching for the American shows? That was a joke people.

Pyro, props, and theatrics are all well and good Aimz, but what about the music? Rammstein played about half of their set from the 2009 album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da . (Translation = There Is Love for Everyone) They sounded AWESOME. From the minute the guitars chopped through the backdrop during the opening song, to the metronome-like timing and pounding by the drummer, and the keyboards tying every song together: the band was tight and focused. Other reviewers mentioned that they had a hard time hearing Lindemann's deep baritone voice, but from my vantage point he sounded wundebar. I could hear him rrrrroll every "R." At one point Lindemann sang a solo with just an acoustic guitar backing him (can't remember which song). An acoustic guitar at a metal show, you ask? Of course! That's how you score with the chicks!

I was also blown away by the knowledgeable crowd. Considering that a vast majority of the crowd presumably did not speak German, it was incredibly impressive how the audience knew the music. Basically, the only non-German Lindemann said the entire night was, "Sank you Toronto. Merci beaucoup." During the aforementioned "Du Hast," the crowd essentially sang the song back to the band. That has to be something pretty special for Rammstein, having 14,000 non-German speakers on a different continent sing a 14-year-old hit back to you in German. Check it out:

I was completely entertained for the 100 minute show. I even threw in a few fist pumps and devil horns. It's not a show I will see on every subsequent tour (that is, if they have more North American dates before 2021), but I highly recommend a Rammstein gig not only for the pyro and stage show, but also for the killer metal. "Other bands play, Rammstein burns!"

(from MetalSetlists.com):
1. Rammlied
2. Bückstabü
3. Waidmanns Heil
4. Keine Lust
5. Weisses Fleisch
6. Feuer Frei!
7. Wiener Blut.mp3
Buy: Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (Deluxe edition, 2009)
8. Frühling un París
9. Ich tu dir weh
10. Du Riescht so gut
11. Benzin
12. Links 234
13. Du Hast
14. Pussy

15. Sonne.mp3
Buy: Mutter (2009)
16. Haifisch
17. Ich Will

2nd Encore
18. Engel

Combichrist opened the show with a 30 minute set, and since it took forever to get through the Air Canada Centre security pat-down, I only saw their last song, where they tipped over their drums sets and smashed their shit. Rock on! Their PR people did send me their latest ultra-violent, extra-boobies video for the song "Throat of Glass," which has a very Nine Inch Nails vibe. Needless to say, the video is not safe for work. Watch the uncensored version here.

Check out these killer photos of the show by Tom Pandi.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Feel Bad for You: Killer Basslines Edition

Your favorite monthly comp has a theme for May: "Killer Basslines." Tracks were submitted by bloggers, twitterers, members of the AltCountryTab.ca forum, rock stars, and other ne'er-do-wells.

1. Fugazi - Waiting Room
13 Songs (1989)
Submitted By: romeosidvicious
Comments: This one took no thought at all. The opening to this song is what comes to mind any time any one mentions a bass line. This album was an icebreaker between me and my now best friend when we first met, and to this day still makes my play lists 22 years later. God damn it now I feel fucking old…

2. The Meters - Chicken Strut.mp3
Buy: Struttin’ (1970, reissued 1999)
Submitted By: Phil Norman
Comments: I dig the current neo-funk-soul revival of bands like Sugarman 3, but I dig The Meters even more. Also, this song has chicken noises.

3. Morphine - Yes
Yes (1995)
Submitted by: April at Now This Sound Is Brave
Comments: Since the general makeup of Morphine was drums, baritone sax and two-string slide bass, nearly every song they recorded was built around a killer bassline. But the bassline on "Ye"” is the one that most frequently makes me rock out and say, "Damn."

4. Cream - Tales of Brave Ulysses
Disraeli Gears (1967)
Submitted By: District Noise
Comments: Because I figured everyone else would pick "Sunshine of Your Love."

5. Eleven Hundred Springs - Queen of Canton Street
Welcome to Eleven Hundred Springs (1999)
Submitted By: mikeorren
Comments: In my mind, the best country acts use bass to create an R&B rhythm behind the fiddle, slide and twang. This is one of my favorite examples, as well as some nice songwriting from Matt the Cat. (Hint: "Naomi" was one of Dallas' best country bars, not a woman.)

6. Tom Freund - Comfortable In Your Arms.mp3
Buy: Copper Moon (2005)
Submitted By: toomuchcountry
Comments: Before pursuing his solo career, West Coaster Freund played in a couple of fantastic bands: first with then unknown Ben Harper and later with The Silos. His bass playing is as smooth as a tumbler of Kentucky bourbon. Be sure to check out the video of this song.

7. Sir Mix-a-Lot - Testarossa
Mack Daddy (1992)
Submitted By: Autopsy IV
Comments: The 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb.

8. The Who - Young Man Blues
Live at Leeds (1970)
Submitted by: Rockstar_Aimz
I recently heard the Foo Fighters cover of this song, and while their version is good, Nate Mendel is no John Entwistle. This song has so many killer parts, but it's Entwistle's driving base line that makes it kick so much ass. Although it's not an original, this song represents The Who musically at their very best

9. Grand Funk Railroad - People, Let’s Stop The War
E Pluribus Funk (1971)
Submitted by: Truersound
Comments: What Homer Simpson calls "The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher."

10.Quicksilver Messenger Service - Mona
Happy Trails (1969)
Submitted By: Shooter Jennings

11. The Who - The Real Me
Quadrophenia (1973)
Comments: My introduction to this song was by the 80′s Metal Band W.A.S.P. Which got me to look into deeper cuts from The Who. Thanks Blackie!! John Entwistle sure could play. What a rhythm section, Keith Moon & John Entwistle.

12. Radio Moscow - The Escape.mp3
Buy: Brain Cycles (2009)
Submitted By: popa2unes
Comments: Comprised of singer/songwriter/guitarist Parker Griggs, drummer Corey Berry and bassist Zach Anderson – the rebirth of the Power Trio. Call it blues rock, call it psychedelic, call it hard-grooved stoner rock, it’s Cream on steroids.

13. The Stranglers - Nice 'n' Sleazy
Black and White (1978)
Submitted By: TheSecondSingle
Comments: With regards to killer basslines, when in doubt, pull out some late '70s/early '80s British punk.

14. The Who - My Generation
My Generation – Deluxe Version (2002)
Submitted By: Simon
Comments: No choice to make on the track, other than which version to submit.

15. The Wipers - Potential Suicide
Is This Real (1979)
Submitted By: verbow1
Comments: Another band I discovered thanks to one Mr. Kurt Cobain. Very heavy song – and pretty depressing – stay away from the handguns after listening to this one.

16. Descendents - Myage.mp3
Buy: Milo Goes To College (1981)
Submitted By: @marioegarcia (imperialrooster)
Comments: If we’re talking killer basslines it’s hard not to submit something by Motorhead or the Minutemen (or Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five). I’ve been struggling with this selection for a little bit but decided to submit this Descendents song. It's the song that made me fall in love with punk rock, a relationship that has alternately ruined my life and made my life worth living at various points. Let's talk about that bassline. The Ventures after about six pots of coffee, this is one of those lines that's guaranteed to get my motor going in the morning, especially when Bill Stevenson's "Wipeout" drums lock in time with the bass.

17. The Cure - The Hanging Garden
Pornography (1982)
Submitted by: Slowcoustic
Comments: Because I was every alternative outcast character of a mid 80′s John Hughes film, I listened to said "alternative" music because it made me better than the rest of the Junior High/High School normals. Because of this early emo angst, I was introduced to The Cure. And it changed music for me forever. The bass lines on the album might not be killer, as they are fairly straight forward, but are also quite pronounced. The album is dark and echoing due to the heavy bass and percussion aspect, and it almost pushed me to eyeliner…. Almost.

18. Betty Davis - Your Mama Wants Ya Back
They Say I’m Different (Originally released in 1974; reissued with bonus tracks in 2007)
Submitted By: BoogieStudio22
Comments: This was a very tough choice. Whittled my library down to 32 songs with "killer bass lines." Then down to five songs. In the end, went with this Betty Davis track, with nasty sounding vocals to complement the "killer bass line." BTW, Betty Davis was married to Miles Davis in '68, divorced in '69.

19. Black Flag - Six Pack.mp3
Buy: The First Four Years (1983)
Submitted by: AnnieTUFF
Comments: After a lot of thinking about killer basslines, and about technical skill vs just sounding badass, I had to choose this song. Because it doesn't matter where I am, who I'm with or what is going on with my life, when I hear the first couple of notes of this song I wanna get rowdy. And who doesn’t wanna get rowdy?

20. Al Green - Belle
The Belle Album (1977)
Submitted By: Adam Sheets
Comments: Great bass here courtesy of Reuben Fairfax Jr. and an excellent performance from the undisputed King of Memphis soul. This is perhaps Green’s most ambiguous number and those who aren’t paying close attention to the lyrics are likely to interpret this one far differently than the artist intended.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Concert Review: Hayes Carll with Jason Isbell and Shovels and Rope

About a minute into Hayes Carll's first song "Chances Are" a big cheer erupted from the crowd. No, the crowd wasn't cheering for the protagonist in this heartfelt ballad. They were celebrating the fact that the Boston Bruins had just beaten the Montreal Canadians in double overtime. For a second there I thought I was back in Canada, but then I remembered that the Leafs never make the playoffs. I hope the Texans on the stage weren't confused either. Welcome to Boston!

Carll headlined the sold out gig on Saturday, April 23, at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, playing all but one song from his tremendous 2011 album KMAG YOYO (and Other American Stories), and other great tunes from his back catalog. (The one song he didn't play from the new album was a Christmas song, which really didn't fit on the day before Easter).

After the warm up ballad, Carll and his band dug into the country rock with "Hard Out Here" and "It's a Shame," along with "Drunken Poet's Dream," which he co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. By the time he got to the title track to his new album, "KMAG YOYO," which to me sounds like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on meth, the crowd was rowdy and dancing up a storm.

A few down-tempo tracks later, including my favorite song "Beaumont," Carll introduced a new song that he co-wrote with Bobby Bare Jr., "One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine." This song, along with the venerable "She Left Me for Jesus," which is a quality Easter song, is one of the reasons why I love Hayes Carll's music. There is a long tradition of humor in country music, and so few songwriters use humor in their songs these days, and even fewer use it well. The only other modern humor-using country-ish songwriters that immediately come to mind are are Todd Snider and Corb Lund, both of whom have guest vocals on the song "Bottle in My Hand." A tour with Carll, Snider, and Lund would be worth TSA molestation and domestic air travel.

Early in the set Cary Ann Hearst of first opener Shovels and Rope (see below) joined Carll on stage for the duet "Another Like You." Hearst actually sings on Carll's album, and she is exactly what I pictured: sassy, snarky, and wonderful. "Another Like You" reminds me a bit of the John Prine/Iris Dement duet "In Spite of Ourselves," only Carll's song is framed as a liberal man and a conservative woman getting drunk and mouthing off while actually being attracted to each other. As Carll said, "At the end of day we are all American. I'm convinced that all it takes is a little bit of alcohol and physical attraction." Carll recently announced on twitter that he was talking to James Carville and Mary Matalin about being in his video for "Another Like You." For those of you too young to remember 1992, Carville was chief political strategist for Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign, while his girlfriend Matalin was deputy campaign manager for George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful re-election bid. I can't find it right now, but I remember reading some brilliant essay written by Carville on how he had to suck up to Mary after the election. They married in October 1993.

Carll's band was fantastic. First, they were all wearing pearl snap shirts, including Carll. Old school. The pedal steel player switched to a different instrument for every song, including mandolin, Dobro, banjo, and probably some stringed instruments that I'm forgetting. The lead electric guitarist also played lap steel and accordion. During "The Letter" both the lap and pedal steel guitars were going full force. That's a lot of steel guitars for just $15.

After a short encore, Carll returned to the stage to play the melancholy "Hide Me" solo. The rest of the band slowly ambled onto the stage and by the end of the song the band had fully assembled to kick the audience into next week with a hard rocking cover of George Jones' "White Lightning." Shovels and Rope joined them on stage to sing, play, and rock out. Perfect ending to a perfect evening of country-rock!

I hope Carll auctions off this sweater for charity, because I want it!

Set List
1. Chances Are
2. Hard Out Here
3. It's a Shame.mp3
Buy: Trouble in Mind (2008)
4. Drunken Poet's Dream
6. Bye Bye Baby
7. Another Like You
8. Rivertown
9. Little Rock
10. Beaumont
11. Bottle in My Hand
12. One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine
13. The Letter
14. Faulkner Street
15. Grand Parade
16. I Got a Gig
17. Long Way Home
18. The Lovin' Cup
19. Girl Downtown
20. She Left Me For Jesus
21. Stomp and Holler.mp3
Buy: KMAG YOYO (& other American stories) (2011)

22. Hide Me
23. White Lightning (George Jones cover)

Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit alternated as the headlining act for this mini tour, with Carll closing the Boston gig. I've seen Isbell and his band live twice before, and had never seen a Carll gig, so this setup worked out perfectly for me. Isbell's new album Here We Rest is a slight departure from his previous two solo albums in that it is more of a singer/songwriter type of album as opposed to the blues-based country rock that permeates his previous releases. For example, "Alabama Pines" is an homage or even a love song to his home state, which really shows Isbell's growth as a songwriter.

Not that we fans haven't known about Isbell's musical talents for years. While Isbell and his band mainly played tracks off of his superb new album, he also treated we longtime fans to a few of his older songs from his days with the Drive-By Truckers. I was especially thrilled to hear "Outfit," one of the best songs in Isbell's, as well as the Trucker's, catalogs.

Isbell is also a tremendous guitar player. Before launching into "Never Gonna Change" he shredded on his electric for a few minutes, and broke up "Never Gonna Change" with Hendrix's "Stone Free." So killer. And the rest of his band is fantastic as well, switching from the electric instruments to the acoustics and upright bass for the country-folk "Codeine," and back to the rock and/or roll for The Meters cover "Hey Pocky A-Way" ("New Orleans Music" - Isbell) and a new track "Tour of Duty." Isbell's lead guitarists Browan Lollar is not only a bad-ass guitarist, but also an artist. He painted the album art for Here We Rest.

As much as I loved seeing Hayes Carll headline the gig, Isbell's set left me wanting more. Come back to Boston soon, Jason!

400 Unit lead guitarist Browan Lollar did the album cover painting.

Set List
1. Go It Alone
2. Alabama Pines.mp3
Buy: Here We Rest (2011)
3. Never Gonna Change ---> Stone Free (Jimi Hendrix cover) ---> Never Gonna Change
4. Goddamn Lovely Love
5. Codeine
6. Hey Pocky A-Way (The Meters cover, drummer Chad Gamble on lead vocals - I didn't actually know this song and had to look it up.)
7. Tour of Duty
8. Heart on a String
9. Outfit
10. Streetlights.mp3
Buy: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (2009)

Changing my name to Calamity Aimz.
A few weeks ago I messed up my left foot, and I finally saw the doc about it last Wed. She gave me this ridiculous boot to wear which prevents me from bending my toes, and helps my third extensor digitorum longus tendon/third metatarsal heal. So I limp all over the place and have a hard time walking. Why am I telling you this? Because my slow walking and limping made me miss the bus, then miss the subway, and completely miss the first openers Shovels and Rope. Why didn't I just take a friggin' cab? Shovels and Rope are husband/wife duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. Judging by the ruckus applause they received as I walked in, their set went over very, very well. In fact, I talked to a couple who were there just to see Shovels and Rope, and had never heard of Hayes Carll or Jason Isbell.

I'm not sure if they played the below track on Saturday night, but it's one of many stellar songs from their self-titled album.

Can't Hardly Stand It.mp3
Buy (mp3): Shovels and Rope (2008)