My girlfriend dumped me today so it was a good time to listen to the Blues.
Real, authentic, deep South, Delta Blues coming to you from the luminary label Fat Possum. This was T-Model Ford. Eighty Eight years old and a reported 23 little Ford’s to his name. That’s got to be a classic.
Francisco Fernandez, from the opener Ferocious Few called out his name and pointed to the diminutive man sitting on the side with his cane waiting patiently to go on.
“I’m a legend!” he announced. Classic.
Getting dumped is a bummer. But it’s a bummer tinged with realism and that’s what the blues are about. It’s a bunch of sad chords, set with a bunch of sad and lonely and resigned lyrics, but there’s an optimism and energy to the structure and to the rhythm. We’re all fucked, it says, but we’re all in it together so we may as well dance, drink, fuck and have a good time.
So I was listening, loosening up, drinking Thee Parkside’s famous Blue Collar Special (shot of Jameson and a PBR) two fisted of course and the feeling was coming back. From an incredible sadness I went into a kind of reverie and then I hit on this girl that turned out to be my friend’s new girlfriend. Oops! Worse things have happened and now we were all good friends.
I even started flirting, by text, with my ex. Maybe we weren’t done after all. As long as there’s the blues, there’s a glimmer of hope.
T-Model has a creaky broken guitar sound that he fingerpicks and drones and he plays exclusively in the key of E. That’s apparently all he knows. He only picked up a guitar at the age of 58. And now he sounds like the back side of Heaven. “I’m a chicken head man,” or “She asked me, so I told her.” Classic.
Between every song he announced, “It’s Jack Daniels time!” and he took a slug.
Nothing sad about this man. He was having the time of his life and you could tell he had that same time of his life every night. This was not the embittered, embattled picture of the stereotyped black bluesman from the South.
He watched my friend’s girl twirling her hips to the beat right in front of the stage and licked his chops. He wasn’t afraid.
Twenty four was right around the corner.
I didn’t go.
I heard it was an awesome show. I decided to hang with my friends instead and go along with groupthink and that ended up in medicrocrity. The beginning of the evening was fun, watching a bunch of drunk girls dancing with each other at 500 Club. I tried to get the crew interested in this potentially amazing live show, a mere three blocks away, but they weren’t having it.
“I don’t like that loud shit”, was basically the response.
What did we do instead? drove all the way across town to Space Gallery to see a bunch of stupid laptop acts including a guy that used Atari sounds exclusively. With an MPC. Ooh! Aah! I’m so impressed. It was lame. Nice try.
So I thought we might be able to salvage the evening by hitting the Hemlock Tavern right next door. It’s usually a good venue, but sometimes on weekend nights they get these douchbags with label support that basically suck. This night it was the much written about Starfuckers. The only reason these people get written about is that they have publicity support. They’re lame. Trust me. This is not good music. They don’t have a good name. There’s nothing impressive or inspirational here. Maybe the local openers were good. Who knows. We got there too late.
Next time, I told my friend Matt, we’re doing it my way and going to Triclops! Now they’re on a European tour and won’t be back for awhile. And they’ll be jaded from that twatty Continent.
Long live American Rock N Roll!
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…went from “Single” to “Married”
…went from “Married” to “Single”
…went from “It’s Complicated” to “Single”
…went from “In a Relationship” to “Single”
Don’t miss this! Saturday, Mar. 28th at the Elbo Room.
Tricops! has been tearing it up. Their last show, at the El Rio with Schlong, was an event. Johnny had his shoe lights conking into my head all night and Christian’s axe was wielding in full force even though his Orange head was as dead as blond Cylon. Monotonix, from Tel Aviv, are “untarnished” according to their Myspace page. I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to find out this Saturday.
The next night, Sunday Mar. 29th at Thee Parkside, brings the Ferocious Few opening up for T-Model Ford of Fat Possum Records. FPR is one of those white guy outfits that mines the Mississippi Delta for legit Blues legends and T-Model is one of those with tunes like, “She asked me, so I told her”, sung over and over.
The Ferocious Few are a young, two piece band to watch. I got word that they had a great experience at SXSW this year, having played 15 shows, including their trademarked ‘find a loose electrical outlet dangling from a tree, plug in and play for five hours and sell 100 CDs at 7-10 bucks apiece.’ While other bands are struggling to break even these two hucksters have gone back to basics and are teaching us a thing or two about grass roots capitalism. The music doesn’t suck either. They play together (Francisco Fernandez and Daniel Aguilar) so much that they’re like a Swiss watch of tempo synchronicity. After the show Francisco goes back to sleep in the back of his ’71 Cadillac Hearse (white) or stays up all night and schmoozes with the locals. The buzz is starting. You heard it here first.
Triclops! I’m a fan of bands with Umlauts and/or Exclamation points and I’m a big fan of four piece rock bands that kick ass. I didn’t think I was such a big fan of extreme FX on vocals, but it works…
Like the Hemlock Tavern on Polk, only about half the miscreants at the El Rio are there for the music. The bar and the outside patio are sufficiently separated from the stage so that the beer swilling, conversation loving guitar-phobes can lubricate their own vocal cords and hear each other talking about the next big thing. In their efforts to see into the future, or wax nostalgically about the past, these people are missing out on the visceral present.
Of course you can hear Triclops! from the patio, indeed from miles away, and you can listen to their silly songs on Myspace, but you can’t truly experience them without being right up front and having them enter your earholes and eyeholes firsthand. It’s an undeniable maelstrom of jubilant intensity punctuated by flashes of blinding light emanating from the crowd surfing and vocally ambidextrous singer Johnny’s microphone and, in a new development, duct taped to the tops of his oft inverted kicks. I don’t know what he’s singing about (because I’m a guy and I generally don’t listen to vocals and anyway they’re heavily laden with pitch and formant shifting electronics for a ghastly pharmacopic effect, but with song names like “March of the half-babies” and “Iraqi Curator” I’m quite sure they’re brilliantly infantile. Johnny spends more time on the ground, spinning around on his head, or up in the air suspended on up-stretched hands than on the stage.
Christian on guitar, bassist Larry and drummer Phil take up enough stage space without him. Apparently, when local frontman extraordinaire Jello Biafra heard them for the first time he chased them down in a pink Cadillac Hearse and signed them right up on his rogue-ish Alternative Tentacles label.
These four don’t waste any time. They start right in on your lugubrious, Depression era senses and pick ‘em right up to the transcendent stratosphere where mind numbing self reflection or critique has no time to worm it’s way into your otherwise natural state of confident perfection.
As noise machines go this one is the Swiss watch of gear meshing harmony, confounding the boundaries between technical proficiency and unconscious spontaneity. Something like the mind bending efficiency of the perfect drug, but without the hangover.
Christian keeps up the overdriven riffage and the unyielding rhythm section locks into your skull with in-profligate intensity. Christian’s Orange head conked out just before the show, and there was a certain amount of foreplay like confusion, but nothing was lost with the makeshift Roland replacement. I’m sure Christian wasn’t too happy about the situation, but nobody else noticed. We were too busy getting pummeled.
I discovered Moped the day before the show.
As any of my readers know, I’m a diehard guitar based, power trio, rock ‘n roll mayhem kind of noise connoisseur, but I’ve been branching out lately into, of all things, the Chill station on satellite’s Sirius XM. It’s a matter of simple pragmatics. I can’t get any work done while I’m listening to anything with too many lyrics or a melody. It’s just too distracting. And you can forget about the usually tantalizing guitar solo – way too captivating. So seamless, nauseating Downtempo it is for most of my day.
So that’s what I’ve become (during the mean spirited work-aday period between 9 and 5) and I’ve quickly found rationalizations for this seemingly mindless, vapidly over-aged genre. “It’s the future of music,” I’ll find myself saying. “Yes, I know it’s a warmed over, passionless turd, but at least it’s trying to use modern instruments (sometimes) in a format that’s not always confined to the dance floor. It actually mixes nice new synthesizer technology with traditional analogue instruments and even strays into truly International and World sounds. Zoics! There’s no rules. If it grooves or glides or fits into a perfectly synched midi environment, and if it’s capable of infinite repeat without getting too annoying then pile it on.”
So, in this new inclusive, shiny and indoctrinated state of mind I came across the Myspace page for local the local duo, Moped and welcomed them with an open heart. I listened to their five songs at least five times as I was working on my new website and the friendly, unassuming sounds wafted over me like melted cheese. I got to the end and I pushed play again. The tunes are perfectly organized, with no sharp edges, a bit of humour thrown in from time to time. I heard the word “nipple” a couple of times but wasn’t challenged enough to endeavor a context. The songs pulsated and repeated and the cool sax leads positively nurtured my beleaguered soul.
They were playing the next night at Amnesia and I had to see how two guys could pull it off. I played the nipple song for my girl. She thought it was funny. I wondered what the hell I was thinking. Could all my years of ear splitting rock ‘n roll fetishism be proved wrong? Could a couple of knob twisters and multi instrumentalists create a program as vital as say, The Entrance Band or Wolfmother.
The answer is a resounding No.
The dudes are certainly talented. Moped is by far the best loop and laptop band I’ve ever seen, but when I saw that anodized aluminum clam-shell opened up for the first time my heart sank. My girl told me to get over it. She was more privy to the club scene and to all the attempts at “live” electronic music. She was experienced enough not to get her hopes up. She just wanted to hear the nipple song and move on with our lives.
The sounds came on as crisp as a pile of chopped up iceberg lettuce. The bass loops intensified. The video footage of a mother falcon weening her young in the nook above an austere human cemetery provided ample ironic edge and campiness. The live drumming was particularly inspired. The sax playing gorgeous enough for a Steely Dan song or even Van Morrison. The sounds of the 80′s resounded and the Cure’s “Lullaby” was the obvious and most inspired cover of the night.
We all held our collective breath for the nipple song. Elevator, from their new CD, listened to a total of 17 times on their Myspace page; at least 10 of which were by me and my girlfriend.
What have I come to expect?
Singer and multi instrumentalist, ____, grabbed the mic, pushed a play button on his powerbook and came to the front of the stage. The crowd, ample, moved closer to the front and started bobbing to the infectious rhythm. There came the climactic moment in the song, about a nerdy guy trying to hit on a strange woman in an elevator and didn’t know quite what to say. “I decided to keep it simple. I touched my nipple.”
The crowd went wild.
There’s really not much to say. If that’s what tends to make a crowd go wild these days, we’re in dire times indeed.
There’s really nothing wrong with loungey chill or warmed over cheese for that matter, it’s just not terribly compelling as a live endeavor. Many will continue to try. The likes of Thievery Corporation have turned turntableism into a valid cash cow, but where’s the intensity? Where’s the passion? It’s a calculated, laptop aesthetic that’s best left to your iPod earbuds.
Thanks for trying, Moped. I’ll still listen to you when I’m trying get something done at work.
Hey, baby. Ow!
Live electronica, odd 80′s & Djs
9 p.m., $5
Moped sounds like perfect lounge. Something you’d hear on the XM Chill station. Check it out.
Awesome! Four Stars.
Friday Night in San Francisco or Slendido Hotel. I wasn’t sure which style to expect. Turns out, we got both.
The food was good, but the place is a giant corporate monstrosity. The service seemed rushed and impersonal. We were herded from one place to another, like a Disneyland vacation.
We got very good seats though, in the second row, just ten feet from the stage which was littered with various acoustic and electric guitars and percussion instruments.
I ordered a Laghroig and she got a Sazerac.
Al came out, all in black and picked up the nylon stringed acoustic. He sat in front of a stack of sheet music and a single microphone. The sounds that came from his guitar varied from classical acoustic to fully electric with distortion and everything had a fusion feeling. One of his most used sounds used a layering of pads and a steel drum like attack. It sounded cool, but left me dry. the accordion player was fantastic. You could tell that Al had a special affinity for that instrument and a genuine appreciation for his talents.
They tore it up and everything was going just fine. He was just as amazing as I expected, but just after about the fifth song the room went completely dark and all the sound conked out. Some emergency lighting came on in a few seconds but it was clear the music was to be put on hold for a time. The musicians walked off the stage and there were a few announcements. they were working on it, and then it seemed the whole block was down, not just the club. I went to the bathroom and stretched and talked to our neighbors and everybody was perplexed. The club people looked genuinely worried and stressed.
And then something completely fabulous happened. Di Meola came out from behind the red curtain with his guitar in hand, followed by the rest of the band, and he announced, Well, we are going to play anyways. And this was followed by a huge round of applause.
They pulled all their chairs up to the front of the stage, all but the bass player who had been playing an unfortunate electric upright, and Al played just a few chords to see if we could hear. it was very quiet and it was not at all clear if it was going to work, but they were prepared to try and we all were prepared to remain quiet enough to hear.
The people in the front row offered the musician’s some nibbles off their plates and they passed around a beer another table offered up. It got laughs. There was still some ice in the room but it was breaking and melting.
Then they started to play and it broke my heart. You had to remain very quiet to hear everything but it was glorious. The accordion player barely pumped his bellows not to overpower the two quieter guitars on stage. He employed various improvisational techniques, like pumping the air through the bellows without any notes, kind of wash or a pad sound. He scraped the side of his instrument and wacked on it a few times for rhythm. The conga played banged on a wooden bongo. the drummer rattled some shakers and only once got up to vibrate a cymbal right at the end of a song for punctuation. It was a moment. Everyone was hanging on every note and every unrehearsed investigation.
When they got to Mediterranean Sundance the place became unglued. The accordion guy somehow traded lightning fast riffs and kept up with the melody. It was glorious and was greeted with a standing ovation. Al said at the end of it, I know Friday Night in San Francisco is a favorite around the World, but I will always remember this Sunday night in San Francisco.
Of course we gave him a standing ovation and he came out for two more, and made another short speech after that saying that San Francisco had always been very good to him, but this one will definitely go down in the books.
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