Sunday, September 30, 2012

Global Festival Setlists, Photos, & Review

On Saturday, 60,000 global citizens in Central Park (and many more watching the largest webcast in history) experienced Global Festival, a concert to raise awareness and end extreme poverty.  I read some statistics, watched some videos, signed some petitions, and was fortunate enough to receive tickets to the show for my efforts.

I met my friends at 72nd St and Central Park West around 3:30, and we made our way down the half-mile-long chute to get onto the Great Lawn.  Divided into six pens, we were corralled into the front of Pen 3 (left side, middle).  It was the furthest back I've ever been for a concert, but seeing how far the crowd went behind us at the end of the night, we had a great spot.

A gigantic stage with a large circular screen framed by a proscenium of the Global Poverty Project's red O logo, sat imposingly at the north end of the lawn.  I went to grab food before it got too crowded, so I missed most of Katie Couric's greeting, but I did make it back in time to see BeyoncĂ©'s music video for "I Was Here."  Which is a relief, considering it was the biggest waste of time of the night.  Not only had I seen it at work before, but why was I watching a fucking music video when the opening act only got to play for 15 minutes?!?

Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan kicked things off with "In the Beginning," banging on a drum in front of him as he shouted the lyrics.  He then played new song "The Seed," which traced his origins to a refugee camp in Africa.  His worldwide hit "Wavin' Flag" was an obvious choice for his final number, but in an effort to "reclaim that song as a personal song," he added an opening verse, sans instruments, about moving to Harlem in the '90s and having problems with the INS.
Band of Horses opened with new single "Knock Knock" and transitioned into "The Great Salt Lake."  Ben Bridwell stomped his foot before singing the title lyrics each time, which reverberated off the wooden stageof House of Vans nicely, but went unheard in the huge open space of the park.  Introducing the next song, Ben said, "We have to play our best songs even if they're really sensitive.  Here comes a sensitive song."  As the chiming guitar of "No One's Gonna Love You" came in, my body was overtaken by euphoria (as usual).  Before their last song "The Funeral," the ever-gracious Bridwell said with a big grin on his face, "Man, this is such a great event.  I can't get over it.  We get to play with our heroes.  We get to play the Lawn.  This is just so incredible.  Even if you don't know who we are, I just wanna say thank you so much for listening and having us, really." 
Video pieces from countries around the globe, highlighting individuals who have made personal goals to eradicate polio, malaria, and other diseases, were introduced by a cavalcade of supermodels urging us to take action by tweeting (We really are the laziest country.).  After hearing the shocking statistic on global infant mortality ("While you're here at this incredible concert tonight, 4000 babies will die."), I was curious as to how much awareness without action really matters.  Does being a "global citizen" really just entail having a smartphone and sharing these facts on Facebook?  Why wasn't anyone collecting donations?  Did anyone else there actually watch the videos online, or just sign petitions unknowingly because they'd get to see Foo Fighters?

Surprise guest John Legend appeared at a piano stage left and said, "You might have heard this song before.  It was written by a guy named John Lennon."  He led the crowd in a singalong of "Imagine" and was gone just as quickly as he'd arrived.

Worried that they'd just do the same setlist as they did when I saw them at Catalpa (and that they've been playing for a year now), I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Black Keys perform "She's Long Gone," which has normally been reserved for encores.  The appearance of "Gold on the Ceiling" later in the set, where it belongs, was also a nice change. The biggest Patrick Carney flub occurred during the second part of "Little Black Submarines," where he couldn't keep cadence.  In contrast, Dan Auerbach mastered his guitar solo on "Tighten Up" for one of their best performances.  Having played with their band for the whole set, they finished as a duo with "I Got Mine."

The crowd reached critical mass before Foo Fighters.  It was probably the wrong time to bring out UNICEF ambassador Selena Gomez to speak on eliminating the number of preventable deaths of children.  People around me started booing her for being a better person than they will ever be.  Audience members talked over the presenters throughout the evening, however, proving that the organizers should have cranked up the audio on the activists so more would pay attention to what this was really about.
Just before 7:30, Dave Grohl took the stage alone in front of an illuminated Foo Fighters logo on the back screen.  "I'm not playing for you; I'm playing with you tonight," he announced to the army of fans, and began strumming the opening chords of "Times Like These."  The band made their way onto the stage halfway through the song to finish it out with him, and then amped it up with the balls-to-the-wall "All My Life," igniting a mosh pit nearby.  They segued into "My Hero," which had the whole crowd singing its triumphant chorus.  Grohl admitted, "I wish we could play all night, you know what I mean?"  Cheers.  "But I'd rather see Neil Young," he laughed maniacally.  He went on to explain that they didn't know when they'd be performing next, and decided this would be the perfect last show until then.  They followed "Learn to Fly" with three songs from Wasting Light and a so-so "Best of You."  "I don't know when we'll see ya, but we'll see ya around," Dave remarked before they launched into their normal closer "Everlong." 
The crowd thinned a little after Foo Fighters, but those who left missed the highlight of the evening.  Topping their set from last week's Farm Aid, Neil Young and Crazy Horse played a blistering mix of new songs from the upcoming Psychedelic Pill, and classics like the 15-minute opener "Love & Only Love."  Young, Poncho, and Billy Talbot huddled together in the center of the stage, churning out waves of distortion into the crisp night air.  Before playing new tune "Born in Ontario," Young reminisced about the first time he came to NYC for an audition: "This is a great place… even though I didn't get it."  The band showed off their whistling skills on "Walk Like a Giant," the 18-minute song culminating in a series of noisy strikes led by drummer Ralph Molina, that simulated the crashing footsteps of a giant.  Crazy Horse left the stage for Neil to perform a pair of acoustic tunes, the quintessential anti-heroin song, "The Needle & the Damage Done" and the new "Twisted Road."  "Road" recalls what it's like to listen to the music of your idols, and it's even sweeter when you realize that Dylan and the Dead aren't just Neil's idols, but his peers.  Crazy Horse returned to the stage for "Fuckin' Up," and the whole night came to its finale with "Rockin' in the Free World," where Dan Auerbach, K'naan, Foo Fighters, and Band of Horses all got in on the action.  After a cacophony of guitars soloed at the same time, just when everyone thought the song was over, Neil whipped his finger around like a lasso to signal everyone for another round of the chorus.  Here's to rockin' in a world free of preventable diseases and full of free concerts.

K’NAAN – 09.29.12 – CENTRAL PARK, GLOBAL FESTIVAL (15 minutes)

In the Beginning / The Seed / Wavin’ Flag


Knock Knock > The Great Salt Lake / No One’s Gonna Love You / The Funeral




Howlin’ for You / Next Girl / Run Right Back / Same Old Thing / Dead & Gone / Little Black Submarines / Money Maker / Strange Times / Nova Baby / She’s Long Gone > Tighten Up / Gold on the Ceiling / Lonely Boy / I Got Mine


Times Like These / All My Life > My Hero / Learn to Fly > Arlandria / These Days > Walk / Best of You / Everlong

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE – 09.29.12 – CENTRAL PARK, GLOBAL FESTIVAL (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Love & Only Love / Powderfinger / Born in Ontario / Walk Like a Giant / The Needle & the Damage Done / Twisted Road / Fuckin’ Up / Rockin’ in the Free World 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Farm Aid 2012 Setlists, Photos, and Review

Yesterday in Hershey, PA, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews brought together a group of their musician friends for the sold-out 27th Farm Aid Benefit Concert.  Twenty-nine thousand people flocked to the antiquated Hersheypark Stadium, which was constructed in 1939, and probably handles high school football games better than it does giant concerts.  Every act played short (under an hour) sets, but the roster was so packed, the show still went over into the windy Pennsylvania night.

When I pre-ordered Farm Aid tickets earlier this year, the lineup was Willie, Neil, Mellencamp, Dave & Tim, Jack Johnson, ALO, Lukas Nelson, and Pegi Young.  As the months went on, they added a handful of country acts and the welcome treat of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals.  “They tricked us into going to a country concert,” remarked my sister-in-law, as we walked past several people in cowboy hats tailgating amongst the DMB fans.

ALO were scheduled to start at 2:40pm, but when we had our tickets scanned at 2:30, the announcer was finishing their intro.  We walked to our seats as ALO warmed things up with “Dead Still Dance,” guitarist Dan Lebowitz showing off his exaggerated movements while soloing.  The band followed it with another tune from their latest album, “Speed of Dreams,” in front of a large screen projecting idyllic stock photos of farms and carrots.  The stage was flanked by two giant screens that played remarkably clear live video of the show, alternating between crowd shots and close-ups of the musicians.  “This song's about prolonging good feelings,” Zach Gill introduced “Storms & Hurricanes,” the ukulele-based love song a perfect companion to the warm sun shining down.  And then it was over.  Sixteen minutes.  What happened to prolonging good feelings?  Such is the nature of a benefit concert with 12 acts on the bill.

Pegi Young, Neil’s wife, notorious for not making it for her allotted slot, actually showed up, but we decided to check out the Homegrown Village during her set.  The Village gave off the vibe of a school science fair, complete with 3-panel presentation boards on the dangers of fracking and the benefits of compost.  “Here’s a really fantastic website on sludge,” said a woman handing me a business card.  Okay, no real reason to go back.

Willie’s son, Lukas Nelson, was up next, so we headed back inside the stadium.  With a voice similar to his father, although higher-pitched and a little more nasal, he sang “Four Letter Word” and new number “Haiti’s Eyes” before tackling “Here We Are in the Years” by fellow Farm-Aider Neil Young.  A showy guitar player, he then gave his searing instrumental solo take on “Amazing Grace.”  He closed his set with rocker “Wasted” backed by his band, Promise of the Real.

I got a text message from ALO’s manager saying they’d be in the Village at 4pm.  When we arrived at the small stage, it didn’t appear as if it was set for a band to perform: two mic stands, maybe a seat.  It turned out to be a discussion with ALO and a local dairy farmer.  After asking how they came to be at Farm Aid (Jack Johnson was the answer.), the moderator asked, “So… what else?”  It wasn’t organized well at all, so the band and farmer took it upon themselves to attempt to make it interesting.  Dave Brogan commented on CSA boxes: “I never knew what kale was before.  Kale’s awesome!”  “You can fry it.  Turn it into a potato chip,” added Gill.  We got an inside tip that Jack wasn’t feeling well, but our worries that he wouldn’t perform were dispelled by Lebowitz when he confirmed that he was going to play on a few tunes.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals opened with the “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” as they did when I saw them at Irving Plaza.  After “Never Go Back,” Grace revealed that Mickey Raphael from Willie’s band would be joining on harmonica for the next song.  She then looked just offstage and asked Willie if he wanted to play too.  Nelson obliged and they performed “Ragged Company.”  “I wanna dedicate this song to every farmer in the nation who’s been having trouble with that goddamn drought this summer,” Potter said as she took on “Nothing But the Water” alone with her Flying V and bottleneck slide.  She noted that she came from a small farming community in Vermont, but “I’m pretty sure none of ‘em ever wore boots like these, so I’m gonna take them off,” removing her stylish black boots to hop around barefoot for a spunky dose of “Medicine.”

Willie returned to the stage shortly after Grace’s set.  “I’d like to introduce an old Hawaiian buddy of mine, Mr. Jack Johnson,” he said, and Jack Johnson came out alone, sporting a crop of curly hair.  As he played "Better Together," the gardening-themed “Home,” and “Do You Remember,” Jack’s songs felt like old friends that I hadn’t seen in a long while, finding their way off my playlists as people found their way out of my life.  But it was good to heard from them again.  The band joined in on “Good People,” which was more lo-key than its usual boogie-woogie.  You could hear the cold in Jack’s voice, so Zach offered bits of harmony to soldier him forward.  “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” featured a few lines of verse from the Cars’ “Just What I Needed,” and “Upside Down” was played for the people who brought their kids to the show.  Hitting a wrong note on his guitar in a song, Jack remarked, “I dedicate that bad chord to Michelle.  I met her before the show, and she said, ‘I love it when you make mistakes.’”  The dedications continued, as he offered “Wasting Time” to his wife “sitting over here, making me nervous.”  Isn’t that cute that she still makes him nervous after 18 years together?  Zach picked up his accordion for “Banana Pancakes,” and after beginning his solo, Jack egged him on: “Come on, Zach, this is Farm Aid.”  Gill stepped up his game, and then was joined by bandmate Dan Lebowitz on lap steel for “Flake.”  “Mudfootball” was a fun closer for the first set of the day that felt like a real show because it was over a half hour.

Kenny “Pee Break” Chesney was next, and we trickled into the area underneath the bleachers where the porta-potties were.  Beer lines merged with bathroom and food lines to create one big slow-moving clusterfuck that could have been billed as a simulation of life on the feedlot.  We finally got back to our seats as Chesney was finishing, shouting, “Thank you guys for loving music!”  You don’t get to say that, Kenny.

A video of Dave Matthews that mentioned his contributions to the Farm Aid cause (Keeping family farmers on their land, in case you weren’t aware.) played on the side screens.  Now we were in board member territory.  Dave Matthews and longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds took their acoustic guitars center stage, and plucked right into “Gravedigger,” a song with an interesting concept of inventing people’s lives from their headstones.  “Stay or Leave” had fans singing along to its lofty chorus, and “Don’t Drink the Water” featured a foray into “This Land is Your Land,” which could only be applied to the plight of the farmers.  Black and white farming images were projected on the large center screen, interspersed with the DMB dancer logo.  The duo played “Funny the Way It Is” next, and I felt like its lyrics hit harder in this format than with the whole band.  Dave revealed that he was talking with Willie Nelson one time about the song “Crazy,” which was originally to go, “I’m stupid, stupid for feeling so lonely,” before producers stepped in and changed it.  Dave agreed that the word change was a good one, and that he stole it for the beginning of “Crush.”  New single “Mercy” and oldie “Dancing Nancies” followed, and Dave ended the set with a lone “Some Devil.”  I still don’t really like DMB fans, but I’d go to another show.
Using the exodus of DMB-lovers to our advantage, we made our way through the field fairly easily to check out our food options, which turned out to be incredibly limited and disappointing for a farming event.  Are hand-dipped corndogs really the paragon of U.S. family farm production?  Maybe Super Pretzel is?  I settled on a decent antibiotic and hormone-free bratwurst because the porkchop sandwiches were all gone by then.

Dave Matthews returned to introduce John Mellencamp, who reprised last year’s opener “Authority Song.”  Kenny Chesney sat in for “Small Town,” but he didn’t know the lyrics and flubbed it.  “He butchered a classic,” declared my sister-in-law.  I’m admittedly not a big fan of the Cougar, and I did not keep a setlist.  Neither is my brother: “He needs to play a little ditty about Jack and Diane, and get the fuck off the stage.”  Nevertheless, I caught him bobbing his head to “Rain on the Scarecrow” and singing along with the entire stadium on “Pink Houses.”

Neil Young & Crazy Horse charged out the gate with a blistering 10-minute version of “Country Home” followed promptly by another scorcher “Ramada Inn.”  Neil brought out Willie and began a diatribe on the mission of Farm Aid, stressing the importance of local agriculture over corporate farming.  “What we want is for you to buy food that matters.  Good food. I hope you know that’s why you’re here,” he said, though judging by the appearance of the majority of crowdmembers (We played a lot of “Pregnant or Just Fat?”), it seemed obvious that most attendees weren’t shopping at farmers markets, but were a product of the processed foods of agribusiness.  He continued, “Watch out for this food.  There’s nothing wrong with these people from South America that are sending it up here, but we have no idea what they did to get it here.  We don’t know what happened, how it got here, how much fuel it used to get here, how much damage it did getting here, what kind of antibiotics are in it, what kind of pesticides are in it.”  (It really makes me wonder what kind of speech he’ll give at next week’s Global Festival.)  He used the opportunity to introduce “Homegrown,” a Farm Aid anthem.  The highlight of the set, however, occurred next.  A keyboard disguised as a large, crying bird descended from the rafters, and the band began a jam that sounded like a storm brewing.  It churned and bubbled into “Like a Hurricane,” the massive final song.

With Crazy Horse finishing after 11, when the finale was originally supposed to happen, Willie brought forward a Native American farmer to talk during the speedy set change.  He essentially said one thing over and over, and it was, “Learn the realities of industrial hemp.”  There is a case to be made for hemp farming to be the savior of the family-run farm.  However, it probably wouldn’t take very long for a large corporation, likely a pharmaceutical company, to monopolize that industry and out-produce the independent farmers.
The set began as most of Willie Nelson’s sets have begun, with “Whiskey River.”  Transitioning into “Still is Still Moving to Me,” which has picked up a reggae lilt ever since he re-recorded it in 2004 with Toots & the Maytals, Nelson set the pace for the remainder, segueing from song to song to cram in as many as possible before midnight.  But isn’t that a metaphor for how Willie always sings, just behind the tempo, trying to catch up?  The hits found their way in: the aforementioned “Crazy,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and of course, “On the Road Again.”  While most got a thrill slurring along to “Beer for My Horses,” I preferred the understated father-son duet of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”  Lukas traded words with Willie, who was strumming away on his famed six-string “Trigger,” or the closest thing there exists to a zombie guitar.  For the finale, Willie chose a gospel medley of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away,” as friends poured onto the stage to sing backup.  The Calhoun Brothers, the Bee Creek Gospel Singers, the Watson Twins, Jamey Johnson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and someone in a full Indian headdress all crowded around the mics, with Grace Potter providing some colorful vocal licks.  But it wasn’t over yet.  “Roll Me Up,” which contains the refrain “Roll me up and smoke me when I die” made for a jaunty last song of the night, warming everyone’s spirits as chilly gusts of wind whipped through the stadium.
I had a fun time.  I got to see some artists for the first time, some of my favorites again, and I learned the term fracking.  I would definitely go to another Farm Aid, but I likely wouldn’t go to it at Hershey.  There’s no reason to spend 40 minutes moving through a line to pee for one minute.  I think I’ll take Neil's advice: keep it local, and pray that they come back to New York.


Dead Still Dance / Speed of Dreams / Storms & Hurricanes


Four Letter Word / Haiti’s Eyes* / Here We Are in the Years / Amazing Grace > Wasted


The Lion the Beast the Beat / Never Go Back / Ragged Company (feat. Willie Nelson) / Nothing But the Water (I) > Medicine


Better Together / Home / Do You Remember / Good People / Sitting, Waiting, Wishing > Just What I Needed (tease) > Sitting, Waiting, Wishing / Inaudible Melodies > Upside Down / Wasting Time > Bubble Toes / Banana Pancakes / Flake (feat. Dan Lebowitz) / Mudfootball


Gravedigger / Stay or Leave / Don’t Drink the Water > This Land is Your Land > Don’t Drink the Water / Funny the Way It Is / Crush / Mercy / Dancing Nancies / Some Devil


Country Home / Ramada Inn / Mr. Soul / Homegrown (feat. Willie Nelson) / Like a Hurricane


Whiskey River > Still is Still Moving to Me / Beer for My Horses / Funny How Time Slips Away > Crazy > Night Life / Just Breathe / Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys > On the Road Again / Will the Circle Be Unbroken > I’ll Fly Away / Roll Me Up

Friday, September 21, 2012

Farm Aid Schedule

I'm going to Farm Aid in Hershey, PA tomorrow, so check back on Sunday for setlists and a review.  Hopefully I'll get some chocolate too.

  • 2:40 pm Pegi Young & the Survivors
  • 3:05 pm ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra)
  • 3:30 pm Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
  • 4:00 pm Jamey Johnson
  • 4:40 pm Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
  • 5:20 pm Jack Johnson
  • 6:20 pm Kenny Chesney
  • 7:15 pm Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  • 8:15 pm John Cougar Mellencamp
  • 9:15 pm Neil Young & Crazy Horse
  • 10:15 pm Willie Nelson & Family
  • Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit, and Kishi Bashi Play Central Park Autumnstage

    My work computer's clock is four minutes slow.  I adjust it to the actual time occasionally, but somehow each day when I return to the office, it has reset itself to four minutes ago.  I think it's a conspiracy and my employer is stealing my life away, four minutes at a time.  To counterbalance, I come in late.  Yesterday, it did more than just thieve four minutes; it almost made me late to the Dr. Dog and Delta Spirit show at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.  You see, Google Maps reads the computer time to make its subway recommendations, and when it told me I could take the B at 5:16, 5:16 had already passed.  I realized this when I was on the platform, terrifyingly watching D train after D train pull through the station.  When the B finally dropped me off at 72nd with fewer than ten minutes before 6pm, I drew upon my former life as a cross-country runner and sprinted across the park.  I got to Rumsey with a few minutes to spare, and took a spot in the center.
    Why the big rush?  Kishi Bashi was opening, and this marked my third time seeing him this year.  He walked onstage impeccably dressed in a suit exactly at 6, accompanied on banjo by Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees, as he was at Joe's Pub two months prior.  They began, as the album does, with an instrumental intro that found its way into "Pathos, Pathos."  Although he impressed them with his beatboxing skills on the "Atticus" that followed, the bearded fans of Dr. Dog and Delta Spirit were not the ideal crowd for a Kishi Bashi performance.  Whereas normally the audience would be raptly listening to each layer as it was created, twisted, and turned, mouths agape in awe, this crowd came to see the headliner, so talking came out of their mouths in between puffs of tobacco smoke.  The hoedown section of "Bright Whites" won their attention back, just in time for Kishi Bashi to dismiss Savino for some solo tunes.  "I'm just gonna do a few more songs and then an incredible concert will ensue.  I'm just as excited as you," K gushed.  Now that he had everyone's eyes and ears, he delivered a dramatic "It All Began with a Burst" and finished up with an extended "Manchester."

    Desperately trying to shed their folk-rock label, Delta Spirit unveiled a new sound when they released their polarizing eponymous album back in March.  Longtime fans said they'd sold out.  Newcomers loved it.  I listened to the album for the first time the morning prior to the show, and while the last song lulled me to sleep, I enjoyed the record.  There's nothing on it as beautiful as "Devil Knows You're Dead," but I really dig the chugging drums and guitar licks of "Tear It Up."  "Get your jock jam on!" Matt Vasquez shouted as the beat started.  When I originally saw Vasquez as part of Middle Brother, his raucous onstage antics, long hair, and shitty beard reminded me of Andrew WK.  A shave and a haircut later, I'm happy to report that he doesn't store that energy in his hair.  He was just as wild, making eye contact with individual crowdmembers and mugging at them with raised eyebrows while singing.  And he has a terrific voice.  He screeches and growls his lyrics so effortlessly that it seems like anyone could do it, but they can't.  It's almost uncanny because it doesn't feel like he has to build up any emotion to take him to that timbre.  He really wanted the audience to clap to the songs, and "People C'mon" was the singalong clapalong he was thirsting for.  "We're playing in New York in November, folks!" he announced (11/27 @ Irving Plaza, tickets go onsale next Friday) before closer "California."
    The sun dropped to the west and a giant flag dropped behind the stage, signaling that it was almost time for the headliner.  When the opening chords of "Shadow People" were met with cheers, it was immediately clear I was in a crowd of Dr. Dog-lovers.  I'd seen them twice before and enjoyed it, but aside from their earlier albums, I felt like their studio work didn't come close to capturing the sound of their live show.  That is, until they put out Be the Void this February.  Minus the stupid lyrics of the overlong "Warrior Man," the LP succeeds in accurately presenting their ramshackle instrumentation, golden harmonies, and bass-forward grooves.  That groove is the secret weapon of Dr. Dog, and it likely comes from having bassist Toby Leaman split lead vocal duties with guitarist Scott McMicken.  Put a bass player in the driver's seat and you're gonna go on one hell of a trip.  The Pennsylvanians didn't talk much between songs, or even leave space between songs, best exemplified during the mid-set sequence of the harmony-laden "Do the Trick" to a fiery "Beach" to a heartfelt "Way the Lazy Do" to a rollicking "Vampire."  They followed that with a "Heavy Light" that went into jam territory, and I didn't think it could get much better than that...

    They finally took a break to mention how great it's been to have watched Delta Spirit perform and grow over the six years they've been touring together.  And then, sure enough, things got better.  On Tuesday I got to see Band of Horses play one of my favorite songs ever, so imagine my delight when they launched into Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart It Races."  (The Dr. Dog version is another all-time fave.)  A joyous "Lonesome" with keyboardist Zach Miller on slide guitar ended the set, the audience shouting out the "hey"s.

    Returning to the stage for the encore was a pared down band of drummer Eric Slick, Miller, and McMicken on an acoustic guitar emblazoned with fluorescent orange tape and the words "Strum Machine."  They eased into oldie "County Line" from Toothbrush, and the remaining members appeared and joined in.  When the band charged into "Worst Trip," Matt Vasquez stormed the stage with a shaker, climbing on top of Leaman's shoulders for the song's ending.  "Oh No" brought everything to a close with a clamorous singalong.  "We'll be at the White Castle tonight," offered Leaman before leaving the stage.  If you were looking to buy Easy Beat on vinyl, I got the last copy.

    KISHI BASHI – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (37 minutes)

    SET –
    Intro > Pathos, Pathos / Atticus, In the Desert / Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / Bright Whites / It All Began with a Burst / Manchester

    DELTA SPIRIT – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (54 minutes)

    SET –
    Strange Vine / White Table / Tear It Up / Idaho / Parade > Empty House / Time Bomb / Bushwick Blues / People C’mon / Money Saves / Children > California

    DR. DOG – 09.20.12 – RUMSEY PLAYFIELD (1 hour, 34 minutes)

    SET –
    Shadow People / Stranger / That Old Black Hole / The Ark > The Rabbit, the Bat, & the Reindeer / These Days / Do the Trick > The Beach > The Way the Lazy Do > Vampire / Heavy Light / Hang On / I Only Wear Blue / Heart It Races > Jackie Wants a Black Eye > Shame, Shame / The Old Days / Lonesome

    ENCORE –
    County Line > Worst Trip > Oh No

    Wednesday, September 19, 2012

    No Mirage, Band of Horses Rock

    Those who pre-ordered Band of Horses' new album Mirage Rock from Insound (or RSVP'd online) were invited to a special gig at House of Vans in Greenpoint on 9/18, the day of the album's release.  Violent rain and wind threatened attendees to abandon the beer tent and go indoors, where they received a staggeringly good show, peppered with new tunes and brimming with old favorites.

    No opener was announced, but Band of Horses' guitarist, Tyler Ramsey, took the stage alone to warm up the crowd.  Beginning with a finger-picking instrumental that will be released on 78rpm by Tompkins Square, Ramsey silenced the room, aside from a slight buzz in the speakers.  After playing "The Valley Wind" and "1000 Black Birds," both of which had some great lyrics, he decided on "No One Goes Out."  His long fingers moved along the strings effortlessly, and the respectful crowd listened intently, causing Ramsey to remark, "Apparently people do go out," at the song's conclusion.  Ben Bridwell joined him on harmony for a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night" for his final number.

    Just before 9pm, the music on the PA shifted to Milli Vanilli's "Blame It on the Rain" and the Band of Horses took their positions.  "We're gonna blame this show on the rain," suggested Bridwell, and they galloped into "The General Specific."  As the song came to its close, Creighton Barrett's drums kept pounding and the distortion from three guitars morphed into "Knock Knock," the single from the new LP.  All that knocking opened the door to "NW Apt."  "It's gonna be one long song," Ben joked, as they merged into "Islands on the Coast."  After that opening salvo, they didn't pull back, they pushed forward with their best tune, "No One's Gonna Love You."  Normally I'd say this would be too early in the set, but it being legitimately among my favorite songs of all time, I was immediately overtaken by emotion, almost in a daze listening to the soaring vocals and shimmery guitars.

    Bridwell then paused to talk about the new album, specifically its shared release date with some of his favorite artists: "It's like a damn holiday for music lovers."  They eased their way into "Dumpster World," which started off with CSN-style harmonies and then abruptly plunged into a chorus of crunchy guitars and shouted vocals.  While the album will take a few more spins before I can give a real verdict on it, the new songs seemed to fit pretty comfortably into the setlist.  Bridwell dedicated "Marry Song" to his wife, who was celebrating her birthday, and he even fielded a request for "On My Way Back Home."  "That's a tough one.  Shit, I'll try it."  And it was mainly a success, despite one vocal flub and the fact that Ramsey either didn't remember how to play it, or more likely, didn't have a guitar tuned for it (Two guitar techs provided fresh axes in between every song.) and awkwardly slunk backwards without playing a note.  "Have we ever done that fucking live before?" Bridwell questioned with a smile.

    Without the distraction of video collages projected behind them like when I saw them at Hammerstein or at MSG opening for My Morning Jacket, you were free to watch them as solely a band.  And what was evident was that these boys love playing music.  Ben sang with such gusto, you could witness the veins bulging in his tattooed neck.  Every member had a wide grin for the show's duration; even the typically stoic Ramsey sneaking out a smirk from somewhere in the center of his beard.  

    They ended the set as they started it: with a medley, this time "Wicked Gil" to "Ode to LRC" to "The Funeral."  They thanked the crowd repeatedly and went backstage.  A few minutes later, they returned for an encore of the first BoH song I ever heard, "Detlef Schrempf," and the title track from Infinite Arms.  "This has been so fun.  It shouldn't be this fun," Bridwell pronounced.  He then corrected himself: "It should be."
    TYLER RAMSEY – 09.18.12 – HOUSE OF VANS (33 minutes)

    SET –
    Instrumental* / The Valley Wind / 1000 Black Birds / No One Goes Out / A Long Dream / All Through the Night (feat. Ben Bridwell)

    BAND OF HORSES – 09.18.12 – HOUSE OF VANS (1 hour, 37 minutes)

    SET –
    The General Specific > Knock Knock > NW Apt. > Islands on the Coast / No One’s Gonna Love You / Dumpster World / Cigarettes, Wedding Bands / Electric Music / Older / The Great Salt Lake / Is There a Ghost / Marry Song / Slow Cruel Hands of Time / Laredo / On My Way Back Home / How to Live / Wicked Gil > Ode to LRC > The Funeral

    ENCORE –
    Detlef Schrempf / Infinite Arms

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    The Postelles Warm Up for Album #2

    Tucked away in the back of the Lovin' Cup Cafe in Williamsburg is a hidden gallery and music venue called Cameo.  The Postelles played there on Friday to kick off their fall tour and test out some new songs for their second LP.

    I should start off by saying that I had an extremely sore throat due to allergies, so I was in both pain and a Children's Benadryl stupor for the show.  Drink enough of that stuff and you can get pretty dazed.

    Opening the door to enter the club, I was hit with a wall of sound (Bring earplugs to this venue if you value your hearing.).  Opening band Rumors were onstage doing their best Cure impersonation, but my drugged-up ass wasn't having it.  I sat in a chair along the wall next to a large pillar that bisects the room.  I watched the colorful streams of light rippling up and down what resembled a chandelier of white shoelaces, hanging above the stage.

    I got a drink (because it's always good to mix alcohol and antihistamines) and took a place in the center of the room so I wouldn't be blocked by the giant column.  The Postelles came out at 10:50 and played my favorite song of theirs, "123 Stop" right away.  Usually it's a bad sign when a band kicks it off with their best number (Where do they go from there?), but they were able to keep the momentum going for most of the night.
    Lead singer Daniel Balk, who looks like a cross between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Pauly Shore, but with a beard, and shorter than both, announced they were working on their second album and asked if we wouldn't mind hearing some new songs.  A resounding yes from the crowd.  I don't know the names of all of them (setlist help appreciated), but they performed five new ones, including new single "Running Red Lights."  When performed live, most of their pop/rock songs stick tightly to structure and sound the same as their recorded versions, albeit with increased energy.  "Running Red Lights" was a great example, its heaps of bravado definitely upstaging its comparatively tame recorded counterpart.  Before new song "Everyone Knows," Balk encouraged the crowd to have more to drink, to which bassist John Speyer joked, "Our new songs sound better if you have a drink I guess."  Let me assure you, you don't need a drink for this one.  "Everyone Knows" is a super-catchy tale of hooking up that fits snugly among the the best songs of the Postelles' canon, perfectly displaying their ability to wrap up the emotions and frustrations of dating in NYC into a 3-minute pop song.  New ditties "Caught by Surprise" and the dancey "Tidal Wave" were also winners.

    After "Can't Stand Still" was unfortunately marred by some yucky bass tone, the crowd joined in in singing "Happy Birthday" to guitarist David Dargahi.  While I usually find it lame and incredibly unnecessary to sing the song at concerts (You never like when people sing it your party, so why here?), it was sweet when Dargahi responded sincerely, "That's the best I've ever had.  Thank you."  Frontman Daniel borrows a lot of his moves from Mick Jagger, gesticulating with his hand on his hip while singing, so it was only fitting that they covered "The Last Time" towards the end of the set.  They closed it out with a blasting "White Night" lit by a dizzying strobe effect.  The house music came on, but the lights stayed off, so we clapped for an encore.

    Drummer Billy Cadden stepped out of the door to the right and took his place alone behind his kit.  He began beating out his part to "Boy's Best Friend" and the other band members filed out one by one onstage to accompany him.  Sadly, their instruments hadn't been tuned prior to the encore, forcing Balk to sing in a different key, and genuinely fucking up the song.  "We're gonna actually tune our guitars this time," Balk remarked, and they finished it off with an in-tune, stellar "Stella."

    THE POSTELLES – 09.14.12 – CAMEO (51 minutes)

    SET –
    123 Stop / Sound the Alarms / Open the Door (It’s You)* / Hey Little Sister / Everyone Knows* / Sleep on the Dance Floor / Running Red Lights / Can’t Stand Still / Happy Birthday / Caught by Surprise / The Last Time / Tidal Wave / White Night

    ENCORE –
    Boy’s Best Friend / Stella

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Matt Embree's Tour Ends with a Drunken Tell-All on 9/11

    Matt Embree and Vinnie Caruana finished up their acoustic tour last night at the Acheron in Bushwick.  While Vinnie had been the talkative one at Mercury Lounge, a slew of shots loosened up Matt thoroughly, resulting in a very fun, very interesting show in a super-small venue.

    A duo called Sad & French opened the show.  One guy sang, played guitar, and occasionally kicked a kickdrum, while the other played upright bass and occasionally sang backup.  Under the lights, the singer looked like Nicolas Cage in Con Air, and he had a good punk growl.  Unfortunately, the accompanying music was too simplistic to add much, so most of the songs felt incomplete.

    Vinnie's I Am the Avalanche bandmate, Mike Ireland, also known as Spirit Houses, came next.  I am a fan of the tracks on his album, I Don't Do Drugs Anymore Again, but in the studio, he kept his vocals in check.  Live, he had trouble with restraint, singing and screaming his words at top volume, making the songs seem "emo," which is never a good direction.  If he can hone his live performance to be as nuanced as his record, he'll go a lot further.

    Vinnie Caruana began his set with the same trio he started with at Mercury Lounge: "Symphony," "This One's on Me," and "To Be Dead & in Love."  His throaty bellow on full display, he launched into "The Gravedigger's Argument" from Avalanche United.  "It's important that you write songs about killing your ex-wife.  It's important so you don't do that," he said, extolling the medicinal properties of music.  He followed it with "Clean Up" from IATA's first album.  "Brooklyn Dodgers" ended with a singalong from a crowd that sounded much better than those at Mercury Lounge.

    At 10:45, Matt Embree climbed onto a stool on the stage, drink in hand.  He began by thanking everyone for coming to the show because it was essentially unpublicized (Well, aside from yours truly.).  He also described Vinnie's flat-faced cat as looking like it had been hit in the head with a spatula made of concrete.  "I don't have to worry about my nose getting in my water anymore; just my whiskers," he imitated.  "Overcome (the Recapitulation)," which had ended the show on Friday, moved up to the front of the set.  After revving up the crowd with the Rx tune, Embree shared, "I feel so very blessed to have so many good friends in New York City, and it's a wonderful place.  I have to have at least a $600 hangover or that's how much I lose if I miss my flight tomorrow."  "Bring Our Children Home" followed, with "oh-oh-oh" chants supplied in full force by the crowd.  After a reprise of Friday's "The King of Carrot Flowers," Matt jumped into the first medley of the night, which included "Scarlet Begonias," "54-46 That's My Number," and "I Second That Emotion."  "Just so you know, none of those songs are Sublime songs.  They ripped all those songs off," he clarified, despite having sung lyrics from the Sublime versions.

    Shots piled up stageside to assist in the hangover.  "I look so ungrateful with all these shots sitting up here.  How 'bout I finish some of 'dem and I won't look so damn ungrateful?" he suggested in a sing-sing tone.  As the evening progressed, Matt became more and more inebriated.  Out of nowhere, he questioned, "You guys ever seen Big Momma's House?" which led to a tangent about playing acoustic in a South American jungle, to going to Montreal with a Canada-hating Vinnie, to the advice: "If you're so pissed off that you need to kill someone, just kill yourself."  A little later in the show, he went on a riff about California's Prop 8, and divulged how he had once made out with his gay friend to see what it was like.  "I think everyone should go home tonight and make out with one of their gay friends and see what happens," he suggested. (Check out video of the banter below.)

    "You are all very lovely and attractive people," he complimented the audience.  "So are you!" called someone. "You should see me in the morning without my makeup... I look great!" he joked.  The banter became downright ridiculous, Embree claiming he knew half the people in the room, even their "drunken-ass aliases, like when you get so drunk you're another person."  While he may have seemed like another person between songs, his drunkenness had no effect on his musicianship.  His guitar solo in "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers" was absolutely ferocious, and he proved his vocal prowess on a soulful cover of Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand."  After fulfilling a request for Manu Chao's "Clandestino," Matt snuck in a cover of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" before segueing into "Apparition."  He announced what would be his last song, and started playing "March of the Caterpillar."  When he reached the jam, he declared, "Are you ready for it to get weird?" and transitioned into "S.T.P." by Sublime.  But it didn't stop there.  He seamlessly delved into "Only for the Night," which had the entire crowd throwing their heads back to shout to the sky.  With the amount of alcohol consumed and the probability of additional security at the airport, hopefully Matt is able to make his flight on time tomorrow.  And if he doesn't, he's certainly welcome to stay in Brooklyn.

    SPIRIT HOUSES – 09.11.12 – THE ACHERON (19 minutes)

    SET –
    That Ship Has Sailed / Seasick / Holy Eraser / January Wedding / Piles of Dirt / Just Don’t See*

    VINNIE CARUANA – 09.11.12 – THE ACHERON (28 minutes)

    SET –
    Symphony / This One’s on Me / To Be Dead & in Love / The Gravedigger’s Argument / Clean Up / Hey / Brooklyn Dodgers

    MATT EMBREE – 09.11.12 – THE ACHERON (1 hour, 27 minutes)

    SET –
    Overcome (the Recapitulation) / Bring Our Children Home or Everything is Nothing / The King of Carrot flowers (pt. I) / Scarlet Begonias > 54-46 That’s My Number > I Second That Emotion / Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers / David’s Birthday / Master of Puppets (tease) / Castles Made of Sand / White Lies / Clandestino / I Heard It Through the Grapevine > Apparition / March of the Caterpillar > S.T.P. > Only for the Night

    Monday, September 10, 2012

    150th Post!

    This marks the 150th post at Dry Paint Signs.

    Although it took awhile for this blog to find itself, I think it's safe it to say that its current incarnation of concert review resource has been the most popular.  July was a record month for the site, receiving almost a quarter of its all-time views.  Then, in August, that number was more than doubled.

    Stories have been quoted by Brooklyn Vegan, flat-out stolen by Gothamist, and even tweeted by the lead singer of the Heavy.

    I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my articles because I take a lot of time crafting them.  I especially want to thank the repeat readers, who check back daily for new posts.

    Here's just a few of the shows I'll be going to in the next few weeks, so you can get excited prematurely:

    The Postelles @ Cameo Gallery
    Band of Horses @ House of Vans
    Dr. Dog @ Rumsey Playfield
    Farm Aid
    Global Festival

    Also, I'm going to start having some contests on the site to attract more readers, and give away some bonus download codes that I get from buying vinyls.

    For a digital copy of Bon Iver by Bon Iver:

    Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) is from Eau Claire, WI.  What is the name of the biggest record store in Eau Claire?

    First person to correctly answer in the comments below within 24 hours gets it.  Please leave your email address with your answer. (Don't comment if you own the album.  There's no bonus tracks or anything; just the same ten tracks you already have.)

    Saturday, September 8, 2012

    Matt Embree Covers Neutral Milk Hotel & Announces Brooklyn Show

    Matt Embree (of Rx Bandits) and Vinnie Caruana (of I Am the Avalanche) sold out Mercury Lounge for one of the last stops on their summer acoustic tour.  Each frontman played a solo set of songs from their various projects, and announced a secret Brooklyn show for next week.

    Those who arrived early were treated to a short set by Lauren Coleman, singer for Pebaluna, a new band that features Embree (Album Carny Life drops 9/18.).  Accompanied only by her ukulele, her sultry voice sang songs of becoming rich and an island where parrots open your beercans.  Coleman's tunes, with her jazzy delivery, playful lyrics, and gentle strums, recalled those in movies from the '50s where everyone stops to watch a musical number.  I was trying to think of who her voice reminded me of, but I couldn't quite place it.  When I got home, I discovered she's the female character in one of my favorite songs: Gavin Castleton's "Coffeelocks."  Mystery solved.
    Vinnie Caruana (rhymes with marijuana) put down his beer and picked up his six-string to open with "Symphony."  His voice has improved so much over the years, his guttural growls awed the crowd into silence.  When the song ended, he launched into the first of what would be several extended railleries: "That song's a downer.  'Why did he start with that?'  There's more where that came from."  "I'm from Long Island and I'm in a band called I Am the Avalanche."  Cheers from the crowd.  "You guys know that island and that band?  Sick."  After another IATA classic, we got Vinnie solo staple "To Be Dead & in Love," which he said would be on a solo release to be recorded during the winter months.  "I was in a band called the Movielife."  More cheers from the crowd.  "The magazines say we were an influence to the young'uns.  And we made way less money than them."  Movielife tunes "Hey" and "Sailor Tattoos" had most of the crowd singing, and one drunk guy on the right side of the room yelling.  Caruana took time to thank Lauren Coleman, revealing, "My father already likes her music more than mine."  Vinnie's parents were in the crowd, which made the father-themed closer "Brooklyn Dodgers" all the more poignant.

    Matt Embree took his place on a stool center stage a little after 9pm.  He kicked things off with "Bring Our Children Home," the first of five Rx Bandits songs for the evening.  The crowd joined in for the triumphant chorus, and for a moment, things were great.  But as the night progressed, the drunk on the right shouted more and more, and audience members came together to shush him.  After the incendiary Love You Moon track "To Kill for You," Embree eased his way into Sublime's "Pool Shark."  A surprising cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's "The King of Carrot Flowers (pt. I)" came next, and was promptly followed by the highlight of the night, "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers."  Everyone in the crowd seemed to know the words, and helped Matt through the song's bridge.  He admitted afterwards, "Whenever I play with Rx, I just make shit up."  A faithful cover of Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" came later, the inebriate on the right barking, "Mary!" throughout.  A bluesy interpretation of Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" was similarly marred by the asshole.

    When punk musicians go acoustic, their fans generally don't know how to adapt (Well, at least no one moshed.).  It's fine to scream at the top of your lungs when it's drowned out by distortion and drums, but it's a completely different story when the artist is alone and unplugged, even if they're encouraging you to sing along.  Add in the fact that most punk fans can't carry a tune and you've got yourself one nasty situation.  This culminated when Lauren Coleman stepped on the stage to duet "A New World" with Matt sans microphones.  Please please please let the band sing when they're not using mics.  RXB standard "Overcome (the Recapitulation)" finished it out, along with the announcement that Vinnie and Matt have added a special final tour stop: Tuesday 9/11 at the Acheron in Bushwick.  Tickets are $10 at the door, and the guys promised to change up the setlists.  I'll be there if you shut the fuck up, and if I can figure out how to get home.

    VINNIE CARUANA – 09.07.12 – MERCURY LOUNGE (33 minutes)

    SET –
    Symphony / This One’s on Me / To Be Dead & in Love / Hey / Sailor Tattoos / Green Eyes / Brooklyn Dodgers

    MATT EMBREE – 09.07.12 – MERCURY LOUNGE (56 minutes)

    SET –
    Bring Our Children Home or Everything is Nothing / To Kill for You / Pool Shark / The King of Carrot flowers (pt. I) / Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers / David’s Birthday / March of the Caterpillar / The Wind Cries Mary / White Lies / Bring It on Home to Me / A New World (feat. Lauren Coleman) / Overcome (the Recapitulation)