Sunday, February 26, 2017

Tall Tall Trees Takes His Greasy Dance Party to Rockwood Music Hall

Mike Savino has been growing a beard for five or six years.  By now, the tangled nest of brown curls extends down to the middle of his chest.  It's the first thing most people notice, but if you'd seen him on Saturday night, it would've been his toothy grin as the capacity crowd at Rockwood Music Hall sang back to him: "I was a seagull / You were an eagle."

Just three songs prior, a good portion of this choir had never heard of Tall Tall Trees, the name Savino performs under.  While it's a delight to see a musician enjoying himself so much, one of my favorite things to do at a Tall Tall Trees show is to watch people's awed expressions as they first experience the spectacle of what Savino is able to do with a banjo.  I should mention that Mike doesn't play an ordinary banjo.  His "Banjotron 5000" is a custom-rigged Swiss Army knife of an instrument that he fingerpicks, bows, pounds with a mallet, sings through, etc., effectively transforming Mike into one-man band.  In an upcoming podcast interview that we taped before the show, he explained that many of the instrument's features come as a result of him breaking it and re-breaking it.  Its latest casualty was its trademark ring of flashing lights, inexplicably stuck on red.  "I think it's out of anger," quipped Mike.  "It's gonna stay red for a few years, and then we'll have to get the Banjotron back to blue... hashtag."

Although he normally performs solo (when not improvisationally sparring onstage with Kishi Bashi), Savino was joined by Ashevillean Micah Thomas on drums.  "After four years, I got tired of driving alone," Savino admitted.  He introduced "Say Something Real!" as Micah's favorite, the bombastic march of its refrain allowing for Thomas to pound away joyously.  The duo had been playing together for less than a week, and it was exciting to watch Mike keep Micah on his toes.  During the aforementioned "Seagullxeagle," an interspecies romance that Savino described as "Romeo & Juliet for the David Attenborough set," Thomas stood up at his drum kit, spread his own wingspan, and cawed like a bird.

The singalong helped the crowd to loosen up a little in the sauna-like conditions of the small room.  "Are you guys ready to have a greasy dance party?" Mike polled the sweaty audience before plunging into the bhangra-informed "Waiting on the Day."  Mike's foot missed a pedal during the intro to "Being There," and he decided to restart the number, owning up to it with an "I effed up, bro."  The mistake was quickly forgotten as the duo veered the song into a spacey jam, with Savino utilizing a toy megaphone and a laser gun to interact with the Banjotron's electronics.  The jam segued into final number "Highwire," Savino again enlisting the crowd for accompaniment on a few takes of its falsetto chorus before Mike and Micah brought it all home with a circusy dirge.

TALL TALL TREES - 02.25.17 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (56 minutes)

Picture Picture / Backroads / Say Something Real! / Seagullxeagle / Waiting on the Day / Being There > Jam > Highwire

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monthly Mix #24: January 2017

January 2017:
January is a month to further investigate the previous year's releases, while simultaneously looking forward to this year's crop.


1. Vitamin String Quartet - "As the World Falls Down"
When I posted this on Spotify last month (Follow theonlydustin to get these mixes the moment I finalize them.), it was a tongue-in-cheek way to address Bowie's deathiversary and the new administration.  Now that we actually seem to be teetering on the brink of WWIII, it doesn't feel quite the same. 

2. Blitzen Trapper - "All Across This Land"
I wasn't the biggest fan of Blitzen Trapper's eighth album when I first heard it, but the title track deserves a spot in their greatest hits.

3. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - "Nuclear Fusion"
Australia's most prolific psych-rock ambassadors are back with another offering of groovy weirdness.

4. Kris Kristofferson - "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)"
While I'll always know Kristofferson as Mace Montana, the ringmaster in Big Top Pee-Wee, I hear he's also a pretty good songwriter.

5. Vindata feat. Anderson Paak - "Own Life"
Vindata provides the chaotic, bombastic production for Paak to do his thing.

6. St. Paul & the Broken Bones - "Flow with It (You Got Me Feeling Like)"
Dig the old-school soul vibe. 

7. Robert Ellis - "California"
This powerful tune nearly made it onto the Top 40 Songs of 2016.

8. Morgan Heritage - "Strictly Roots"
When the weather gets cold, I like to listen to reggae in an attempt to trick myself into thinking it's warmer outside than it is.  Here's a new banger from Denroy Morgan's children, Morgan Heritage.

9. Day Wave - "Stuck"
This was another leftover from last year's list.  Jackson Phillips (Day Wave) will be releasing his debut full-length in May as well, so keep your ears open.

10. The Flaming Lips - "Nigdy Nie (Never No)" 
Gotta love that fuzzy bass squelch.