Bill Frisell sure knows how to keep busy, which is great for fans of his uniquely amazing jazz / blues / Americana / unclassifiable style of guitar playing. By surrounding himself in the ensemble setting with other skilled veterans, Frisell manages to helm some compelling projects, and this one is no exception.
The music performed by Bill Frisell's Big Sur Quintet was commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival and composed by Frisell during a stay at Big Sur Land Trust in Monterey, and an album was released last year. The quintet includes Eyvind Kang on viola, Rudy Royston on drums (Kang and Royston also, along with Frisell, round out Bill Frisell's Beautiful Dreamers, whom I had the pleasure of seeing perform last summer), as well as Jenny Scheinman on violin and Hank Roberts on cello (Scheinman and Roberts have also worked with Kang in Frisell's 858 ensemble, ).
Of the many Frisell projects I've enjoyed, Big Sur sees him taking a bit more of a back seat in comparison; much of the material performed by Big Sur is led by the other stringed instruments, and surprisingly little of Frisell's otherworldly technique is showcased. This patience on Frisell's part shows up in the seemingly telepathic way that the group attacks its improvisation, functioning as a singular unit and approaching the themes cohesively. See above and below for short clips of Big Sur Quintet's music from this show.
Frisell, as always, is perpetually touring, with shows coming up over the next few months from coast to coast. January and February have him on the West coast before returning to NYC in mid-March for more Beautiful Dreamers shows at Village Vanguard.
Whew. Whatta year, amirite?! Yes, new music may have been a bit lacking, but fortunately the one constant that remains is that there's a shit-ton of great live music coming through NYC year-round. When I moved to Williamsburg in '08, I did so almost entirely because of the proximity to so many music venues; nearly 6 years later, that remains my biggest motivation for sticking around.
In fact, my show-going affliction reached new heights this year - I did a rough count last week, and if I wind up going to the New Mastersounds afterparty following the Phish show on December 29th, I will have seen a robust *98* distinct concerts in 2013. According to Jalepzerz' / MeatBox archives, that's a personal record (although I've eclipsed 90 shows in several other years), and as proof, I uploaded literally hundreds of videos to my YouTube channel, effectively documenting my own crime spree.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve, workin' on my final post of the year for this blog; a post that focuses solely on the highlights of my showgoing for the year. In 4 evenings, Phish NYE Run starts, and if some notable, epic shit goes down, several of these lists could be (at the very least) a bit out of whack and (at most) completely irrelevant. I welcome that. :->
See you in the new year, everyone!
Best Live Show of the Year - Phish at Hampton Coliseum, 10/20/13
Top 10 Phish shows I personally attended this year:
10.) 10/25/13 DCU 9.) 11/1/13 AC 8.) 8/4/13 BGCA 7.) 11/2/13 AC 6.) 7/6/13 SPAC (fuck off, I loved this damn show) 5.) 10/19/13 Hampton 4.) 7/14/13 Merriweather 3.) 10/27/13 Hartford 2.) 10/26/13 DCU 1.) 10/20/13 Hampton
The best three non-Phish arena shows I saw in 2013:
16.) Split Open and Melt at SPAC, July 6 15.) Rock and Roll at BGCA, August 3 14.) Crosseyed and Painless at Holmdel, July 10 13.) Twist > Under Pressure at AC, November 1 12.) Theme from the Bottom > Shaft theme at AC, November 2 11.) Drowned at Worcester, October 26 10.) Harry Hood at Merriweather 9.) Runaway Jim at BGCA, August 4 8.) Stash at Merriweather, July 14 7.) Carini at SPAC, July 6 6.) Carini at AC, October 31 5.) Golden Age at Hartford, October 27 4.) Piper > Taking Care of Business at Hampton, October 20 (yup, this is cheating) 3.) Light at Merriweather, July 14 2.) Seven Below at BGCA, August 2 (in spite of the butchered composed section) 1.) Carini at Hampton, October 18
One of the more heartwarming stories in the music world over the past several years is that of Detroit "proto-punk" band Death. Death's story has been pretty well documented at this point, including an in-depth writeup in the New York Times and plenty of coverage by the indie press at large (such as this Pitchfork review), and interest in the band was rekindled recently with the 2012 release of the documentary A Band Called Death.
Briefly, the story is as follows: three brothers form a band in Detroit, and they record an album worth of ahead-of-their-time rock tunes, before having their career derailed largely due to a poor band-naming choice. After releasing a limited run 7", the remainder of the recordings are stored in a dusty attic for nearly 35 years before the album, For All The World to See, is given a full release by Drag City in 2009. World rejoices.
Of course, as with anything that benefits from significant amounts of pure, unadulterated hype, the facts need to be separated from the fiction. Claims that Death were "the first punk band" and "punk before punk existed" are nothing but laughable, credibility-damaging bullshit; The Stooges had released three albums prior to Death's formation, and punk forerunners The Velvet Underground and the MC5 (among others) were alive and well around the same time, as well. It's also questionable how "influential" a band that only released a few hundred copies of a 7" during their lifetime could actually be. Rather than showering Death with unrealistic praise, I compare them to Los Saicos, a Peruvian band who, without having been exposed to the garage rock explosion in America and the UK in the mid-60s, somehow developed a sound oddly similar to their contemporaries around the globe. Anyway.
I was fortunate enough to be present at Death's show at Europa in Greenpoint April 2010, which was opened by the band Rough Francis, featuring children of the members of Death. I enjoyed the bejeezus out of that show - it was arguably one of the most joyous concert experiences I've ever witnessed, since it was truly a family affair. I've literally never seen performers that were as excited (and appreciative!) to be playing a packed house in New York City as I did on that night.
So, a little over three years later, we have this show, which coincided with local showings of A Band Called Death at a nearby indie cinema. While the band's material speaks for itself, a couple factors contributed to this show being less enjoyable than it should've been. First off, apparently some idiot had arranged for an incredibly obnoxious MC to work this show, and predictably this devolved into an embarrassing display of shameless self-promotion. I don't want to devote any more time than is absolutely necessary to discussing this attention whore, so I'm'a cut that shit off here, but suffice it to say the easiest way to make it painfully obvious that you don't go to many NYC shows is to berate the crowd with mindless "party people in the house!" bullshit and / or admonish the crowd for being "complacent," both of which happened. Seriously, go fuck yourself.
What's more, the club on this night was SWELTERING hot. No clue why lpr didn't have the AC on; hopefully this doesn't bode poorly for their finances, since this reminded me of times I've walked into a deli that's just barely hanging on, and the poor bastards have their lights off to save on the electricity bills. Would be a shame to lose lpr, since it's easily the best non-Bowery-affiliated venue at which to catch a show in Manhattan, but no AC on July 1st is pretty brutal any way ya slice it.
I walked in towards the end of The Everymen's set, and these guys had Jersey written all over them. Their "thing" reminded me of the final time I could bear to see Titus Andronicus live, which included (for me) the exact dividing line at which Titus' earlier, rockin' punky material gave way to overwrought, cloying emo garbage. Not that The Everymen were as unbearable as what Titus Andronicus has become, (that would be tough!), but it certainly seemed like things could turn out that way. Man, was it hot inside (le) poisson rouge.
Purling Hiss was up next, and I was excited to see their set. They started off with a patient, rockin' stoner groove which reminded me quite a bit of Dead Meadow's best work. Unfortunately, slowly but surely the set morphed into a bunch of samey, poor-man's Dino Jr. soundalikes. Still hot as balls up in this sum'bitch.
Death's set was up next, and not a moment too soon. With the modern lineup of surviving brothers Bobby Hackney on bass and vocals and Dannis Hackney on drums with Bobbie Duncan on guitar (guitarist and third brother David Hackney died of lung cancer in 2000), the band tore through their coulda-been-hits like a band half (a third?) of their age. They played every song off of ...For All the World to See, and a couple off of the "odds and ends" follow up from 2011, Spiritual Mental Physical, braving the stifling heat and turning in a roaring performance. Personal favorites were "Keep on Knocking," the show-stopping "Politicians in My Eyes," and "Masks," which hilariously cribs the verse section from the Beatles "Got To Get You Into My Life" note-for-note. See above and below for videos, of course.
Went to see Death at (le) poisson rouge last night and managed to shoot the above videos. Figured I'd post 'em now becauee I'm probably not going to get around to posting a proper show review until late next week at the latest. Enjoy!
Ahhhhhh, the healing power of music. By the time I arrived at (le) poisson rouge for this show, I was still feeling the aftereffects of the previous night's raucous, Budweiser-fueled (uh, at least for me) The Men show at Union Pool. Truth be told, if I hadn't actually bought this ticket beforehand I probably would've just stayed in for the evening.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when I checked the lpr website and found that the opening act, Hubble, was the side project of The Men's Ben Greenberg. Can't miss that, right?! I arrived at lpr minutes into his set, which consisted almost entirely of solo noodly tapping, with only the final piece actually containing vocals (see second video).
Ceramic Dog was up next, and I have to admit that I was totally unprepared for how great their set would be. These guys played angry, as befitting their ornery new album, Your Turn. The diversity of the set was astounding; while the majority of the tunes were rockin' and grungy, they also detoured into noise, "straight" jazz, psychedelia, chanted diatribes, and late-period Hendrix-esque fusion. Fucking awesome. Do yourself a favor and pick up Your Turn - it's the best album I've heard so far this year.
I definitely drank the Kool-Aid early on with Deerhunter. After a brief period early in the year when I was finding Cryptograms impenetrable, it wound up as #3 on my Best Albums of '07 year end list. I managed to catch the band three times last year, with two of the three performances resting firmly within the top 10 best shows I saw in '07. Seen 'em three times so far in '08, and I'll be checking them out at Music Hall of Williamsburg when they come back in November. To quote the burly dude from the movie The Deer Hunter (no relation), "Fuckin' A."
My first Deerhunter show was in April '07 at a sold-out Mercury Lounge, with the performance accompanied by all the hype drummed up by Pitchfork's gushing review of Cryptograms, and the band totally delivered by managing to out-creepy the album versions. Part of this was due to me being blindsided by the striking live show, which featured Bradford Cox wearing a sundress, chewing blood pellets, and (lightly) physically abusing his bandmates. At this show, bassist Josh Fauver grabbed the glasses right off of my fat face (I was front and center as usual) and wore them for a good portion of the set. It was also at this show that Karen O spat beer all over me (yeah, I know, take a number) and I got to shake a visibly uh, "moved" David Cross' hand afterwards.
Second time I saw them was at Bowery in July, and the set was solid (as were the openers, Blues Control and Ex Models), with a now-legendary Bradford-onstage-meltdown occurring post-set prompted, in his words, by a saucy alprazolam and whiskey sour combination. The third time I saw them was at my favorite show of last year's CMJ, which also included splendid sets from Dan Deacon and No Age.
So, September 9, 2008 was to be the third time I've seen them so far this year, too (first time was at the free McCarren Park show with King Khan and Black Lips, which was as revelatory a set as I've seen all year, and second at the quasi-secret Mercury Lounge show about a week later). I already have tix to see them again on their next swing through in November, after the official release of their new album Microcastle. I absolutely love what I've heard of the new one, and if it doesn't crack my the top 5 of my Best Albums of '08 list, I'll eat my hat.
Got to (le) poisson rouge just before 11 and waited briefly for my buddy Sluggo to show up before heading in. He got there a little later and we immediately began firing it up. I'm really liking this venue, and although I saw the Lou Reed/John Zorn show here last week this was the first chance I'd get to see the (le) poisson rouge light show in full effect. For the record, said light show matched Deerhunter's psychedelic shoegazeyness perfectly.
The set was opened with what's IMHO Bradford Cox's finest composition, "Calvary Scars," and many of the evening's songs trod similarly swirling, krautrockish territory-- trance-inducing, melodic, and wholly danceable. The set continued with songs from Cryptograms ("Hazel St.," "Spring Hall Convert"), the Fluorescent Grey EP ("Dr. Glass," the creepiest funk song ever, and the title track) and a generous helping of new songs, including the fantastic "Never Stops" and "Operation."
The stage banter was clever as usual, with one particularly funny story involving Bradford wanting to meet Lou Reed, who had performed at the venue earlier in the evening, but missing the chance encounter by minutes because he (Bradford) was purchasing a Velvet Underground compendium at the nearby Strand Bookstore (haha, that's irony for you). At one point, guitarist Whitney Petty led brief jams on Skynyrd's "Simple Man" (not "Freebird" as the crowd had implored) and Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane," which brought a rise.
Although the band suffered through several equipment malfunctions, Bradford managed to pull off the lemons/lemonade thing with funny, self-deprecating patter.
I've noticed this year that the band has begun to distance itself from the clammy creepiness of their '07 output a bit, (no "Wash Off" for the third straight show, and less droney/instrumental pieces) and towards a more palatable/less harrowing direction. Nothing embodies this shift more than set closer "Nothing Ever Happened," a fairly straightforward, awesome rock song complete with a stunning finger-tapping-centered (!) coda. Many of the new songs do have a more classic rockish feel, and just as Bradford has ditched the sun dresses and blood pellets, so has the band's sound come to rely less on the macabre and sound trickery.
For the encore, the band emerged and jammed briefly on a speed metal theme, claiming, jokingly, that "this is on the new album" before closing out with the bittersweetly hopeful "Strange Lights." Man oh man, this is a great fucking band.
Prob'ly not heading to another show until Friday's Jazzmaster 50th Anniversary show (with Thurston Moore, J. Mascis, Tom Verlaine, Lee Ranaldo, Nels Cline, others I'm probably forgetting) at Knitting Factory. But holy fuckin' shit, my dance card will be pretty full from that point on with shows by A Place to Bury Strangers, Mogwai with Fuck Buttons, Bobby Bare Jr., and, finally, BOTH My Bloody Valentine Roseland shows over the following coupla weeks. Yowza. Till then, Muddd outward.