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Let’s Get This Engine Runnin’: Mahogany @ Littlefield 4.10.10

Posted by evankessler on April 12, 2010

The main event of this past weekend took part on Saturday Night at Littlefield, a new-ish and rather excellent art space and venue in the Gowanus/Park Slope region of Brooklyn.  My good friends in Mahogany headlined one heck of a bill with Philadelphia’s Arc in the Round and another band called Long Distance Poison.  Unfortunately I missed the first band, but I really thought Arc in the Round and Mahogany were both excellent. Although it seems the bands were having monitor problems, they dealt with them like professionals and put on a great show.  Over the  last couple of Mahogany gigs I’ve really taken a liking to some of the newer tracks like “Light Brigade” and “Emmanuelle & Valerie”  although the last one doesn’t necessarily feel new to me after having it seen performed a bunch of times.  There’s something about getting lost in a sea of swirling guitars and keyboards, isn’t there? I took a bunch of photo and video and really should put my camera down every once in awhile to enjoy the show more, but I’m a sucker for documentation and I enjoy myself just fine. For those of you in the world who couldn’t make it…and I assume there are a lot of you, because the number of attendees didn’t reach into the billions…here’s a peak at what you missed.

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Mahogany @ The Bell House

Posted by evankessler on March 29, 2010

Matt Filler and Andrew Prinz of Mahogany

Mahogany played at The Bell House in Gowanus tonight sandwiched in between Pacific Theater (great band name) and A Sunny Day in Glasgow. I didn’t take a ton of pictures, but had a great time watching all of the bands on this extremely solid bill.  One day I’ll have a better camera that will compensate for the fact that I have the shakiest hands in the world.  Sometimes I look at my hand and think that I’m turning into Michael J. Fox, though I’m probably more on the Carpal Tunnel side of the spectrum when it comes to the my unsteady hands.

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Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall

Posted by evankessler on October 7, 2009

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!  Or if you’re Steve Martin, you get there by being one of the more talented human beings in nearly all facets encompassed by the arenas of stage, screen, and the written word in recent memory.  The ability to do a damn fine job finger-picking a banjo, can’t hurt either.

I’ve always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the work of Steve Martin.  The jealous part of me thinks he’s a total asshole for being so great at everything.  I only wish I could be as good at one thing  as he is at well…you name it, he’s probably an expert.  I bet he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a world class chef.

The other part of me finds the deft touch of wit and complete dedication he seems to put into everything to be totally admirable and absolutely endearing.  The latter, more positive part wins out 99.9% of the time.  So, it was with little to no hesitation that I accepted an invitation on Tuesday evening to attend Steve Martin in concert at Carnegie Hall accompanied by the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers with the legendary Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys slated to be the opening act.

To be as gifted as Steve Martin is to be allowed to display  at least a cursory amount of arrogance and for as long as I can remember Martin’s feigned air of superiority has been a staple of his humor repertoire.  While jabs at his own haughty superstardom would mark later banter in his performance, the perennially white-haired jack-of-all arts strolled on stage with his banjo at around 8pm and thankfully announced to the crowd that he had always dreamed of doing a Banjo show at Carnegie Hall.  He went on to inform the crowd that when it was suggested that the legendary Bluegrass performer Ralph Stanley be his opener, his response was, “Ralph Stanley doesn’t open for me.  I open for Ralph Stanley.”  And with that the show began, Martin picked his way through a short number influenced by several of his favorite banjo tunes growing up.  Following a generous round of applause Martin exited stage right and made way for Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Clad in matching outfits suitable for a traditional bluegrass whoop up complete with cowboy hats and guitars, fiddles, banjos, and a standup bass accompanying them, the Clinch Mountain Boys sauntered out on stage followed by what appeared to be a tiny aged afterthought, shuffling to catch up with arms crossed.  The Clinch Mountain Boys launched into their opening number and the aged man still hung back from the microphone so as to patiently bide his time until it was his turn to make his voice heard.  As the opening instrumental came to a close, Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley stepped up to the microphone and gave a haunting rendition of “O Death,” a song more recently familiar to many music fans as a track on the acclaimed “O Brother Where Are Thou?” soundtrack.  After wresting complete attention from his band for that moment with his weathered, otherworldly wail; Stanley and company launched into the much beloved “Man of Constant Sorrow” which also enjoyed a resurgence from the aforementioned Coen Brothers soundtrack.

Steeped in 60 plus years of tradition, the hour and ten minute opening set by the legend and his cohorts rolled on like a steam train running on fuel made out of clawhammer guitar strumming and tunes played tighter than a parachute pack on a first time skydiver. The 82-year-old Stanley occasionally slowed things down with some stage banter; banter that made you realize just how young you were.  On several occasions he’d mention when he wrote songs, peppering in years like 1948, and 1954; probably long before many attendees were a gleam in their mama’s eyes. It was a family affair for old Ralph and the Clinch Mountain Boys as we learned that many of the players had been with him for upwards of around 16 years maybe even longer.  More than that though, they also featured Stanley’s actual 17-year old grandson on the guitar.  They let him sing a few too.

Perhaps the oddest moment of the entire evening came when Ralph Stanley invited his son, Ralph II out on stage to play a few tunes with him.  From the moment Two (Ralph Stanley II’s nickname) entered stage right, visions of Kenny Powers and many other of the world’s greatest black sheep bounced around the brains of the audience.  While everyone else was wearing more Bluegrass friendly garb, Stanley’s son separated himself wearing sunglasses, a dark designer outfit ,and a devil may care attitude accented by his cocky stroll to the microphone stand.

Ralph Stanley II

Ralph Stanley II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Instead of thanking his father for having him up on stage, Two spouted off sales facts about his new album.  It debuted at number one, it’s been number one for a few weeks, and so on…  It was as if the former Clinch Mountain Boy was saying, “look at me dad, I can do this shit without you.  You may be a legend but you’re fucking out and I’m fucking in.”  While Two’s first song seemed like a stereotypical neo-country snooze fest, the second with his father and what seemed like the full compliment of the band, had a lot more life to it.

Overall, the full set performed by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys was a solid outing with very few chinks in the armor.  While Stanley’s aged rasp didn’t necessarily travel that well through the Carnegie Hall sound system on occasion, he along with his band made you feel as though it were an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of such musical history and greatness.

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

If Ralph and Co. were as tight as a snare drum, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performance had about as regimented a feel as elementary school recess.  Martin’s original compositions were pleasant to the ear and full of toe-tapping, knee-slapping splendor, but they also had an airy, loose feel that was quite apparent from the get-go.  Throughout it all Martin kept the audience smiling and laughing with trademark witty banter.  He warned his bandmates not to be too talky as that was his job and threw wrenches in the conventional stage discourse reserved for expounding on song backstory.  At one point Martin was about to wax informational about the inspiration behind a particular ditty, launching into…”this song…” and letting the words hang in the air before actually playing it. He also told the crowd that the tour fulfilled a life long dream of his to go on the road with handsome men, referencing his bandmates in the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin again proved a modest host early on in his set, leaving the stage for his bandmates, allowing the audience some quality time to get acquainted with the music they play when not in the presence of such a superstar.  The Steep Canyon Rangers certainly impressed with the vocal harmonies on their Gospel award nominated track “Be Still Moses” and another song.

Martin soon returned to the stage and the loose atmosphere persisted even through a turn at more traditional songs.  He only provided vocals on two or three of his own songs with his bandmates picking up singing duties on the other non instrumentals.  Even the more poignant songs had a dash of humor as Martin introduced “Daddy Played The Banjo” as a song he wrote while attempting bad poetry, which he thought made for a good country song.

Even in the midst of delivering his blend of bad poetry, the crowd was never left wanting for someone more talented.Having such an adept comedian deliver  in the midst of such a fine setlist of quality music seems like a nearly once in a life time opportunity.  Martin’s songs off The Crow: New Songs for The Five-String Banjo may or may not leave an indelible mark on the Bluegrass community but seeing this undeniable talent’s combination of skills in action certainly left one in my mind.

In a fitting end to the evening after an encore or two, Martin called out all of the night’s performers to join in on the bluegrass standard Orange Blossom Special…and as Martin traded lyrics with the legendary Ralph Stanley, he made sure to throw in a “King Tut” just to make everyone remember from whence he came.

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The Sound of Sirens

Posted by evankessler on July 21, 2009

Hello EvanKessler.com readers, my old friends.  I’ve come to blog for you again.  Because a weekend slowly fading from the sands of time is still fresh in the back of my memory, I thought it was high time I brought it back to life in all of it’s fruitless glory.  I’ll beging where I usually begin, that elusive friday evening that we work all week to get to only to see it fade away so often in a drunken haze, the blink of an eye or the twitch of an involuntary muscle fiber.

This past weekend began like so many others, with  the celebration of the anniversary of a friend’s emergence from the womb.  There were more than two lives to commemorate on this evening and so it was undoubtedly going to be unsatisfying on some level.  I find those evenings with more than one event that seems of an obligatory nature to always leave something to be desired.  I always feel as though I missed something by leaving the other and that the 2nd event is joined at a point in progress where you’ve ultimately missed the momentum. Such is the story of my Friday evening.

I arrived at Musical Box on Avenue B between 13th and 14th street shortly after 7pm.  I had called Suli 15 minutes prior to my arrival to see if he was at the bar in which he would be celebrating his birthday.  Despite his email that had notified us to show up at 7pm he would not be on time.  Perhaps, this was wise as the bar would not open for another half hour, much to the chagrin of myself and the other two revellers who, like me, were not really in the mindset to appear fashionably late.  Jason S, Jes P and I stood outside future party central making pleasant conversation and peppering the same lewd joke whenever a passerby was close enough to possibly be eavesdropping.  I don’t quite remember what we were saying, but I think the general content involved “inserting penises” somewhere.

About five minutes prior to the doors opening, the belated birthday boy arrived on the scene.  After ordering up a round of drinks, rather than enjoy the spaciousness of the empty bar, we made ourselves cozy in the back left corner at a couch that had been reserved for the specific purpose of accommodating our company.    It felt a little odd having all of that free roaming space behind us, but we liked it just fine.

JSarah Shows Her Appreciation for Birthday Boy #1

JSarah Shows Her Appreciation for Birthday Boy #1

The crowd grew rather quickly, Ajay, Morwin, Kishore, Nicole P, Kayvalyn, Andrea, Joe D, JSarah, Erika G, Rich, Enisha, and really too many people to name.  It was a good mix of New York City, Rockland County, and parts unknown.  The conversation was flowing just as smoothly as a tap dispensing Guinness.  I made my way between several groups of people and was genuinely enjoying myself.  However, I could not stop looking at my watch.  I had told my friend Jenny back in Brooklyn that I would be at the party she was throwing  by 10 so that they could present Matt with the birthday cake.

So, despite having an enjoyable time at Musical Box, I said my goodbyes, and regrettably left early, ultimately missing out on the appearance on my friend Matt C who was up from DC for his own birthday.  The rain was pouring and I thought it might be tough to find a cab in the East Village because of it, but I had no trouble as the first yellow minivan I waved down promptly stopped in front of me.

I entered to find the 2Pac song “California Love” turned up to 11.  Thankfully, the driver saw fit to turn it down so that I could tell him where I was going.  The second he got the information though, it was back to busting eardrums.  It didn’t bother me that much originally as it is an enjoyably nostalgic tune.  The nostalgia did not stop there though as right after the song ended he played the same song again and at a similar level. Apparently he was fond for the events of 3 minutes before.   My first thought on the second “California Love” go around was that of identification.  I’ve played the same song twice in a row before because I liked.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the next three times he played the song.  All the way to Matt and Jenny’s house it was “California Love.”  Five straight times of the same song.  I thought I was being punked or in some weird twilight zone vignette. It was as if I wasn’t even in the car. This guy could not get enough of this song, but I could. I thought it was the more incredible cab rides I’d ever been privy to; just wholly unusual.

I was more than happy to escape into the receding dampness of the night.  I had the driver drop me off a full two blocks before the apartment, mostly because it was the only point I might get in a word edgewise before the next (or same) song started again.  I also thought I might find an open beer store, but to no avail.  I entered Matt and Jenny’s empty-handed, which felt somewhat shameful.  I hate showing up to a party without bringing anything.  That’s just wrong.  There was nothing I could do at that point though and I really had to pee anyway.  So, this one time, they’d have to let me off easy.

The crowd at Matt’s was fewer than I had expected.  Matt and Jenny always had pretty decent throngs of friends at their get togethers, but I guess the rain had cause many to balk at the proposal of a good time.  Pesky water.  In any case, the faces surronding me were familiar ones.  Zak, Emma, Marie, Abbi, Felecia, John, Robert, Matt’s bandmate Rich, and maybe someone I’m leaving out.

The party itself was very mellow, which was kind of a downer from the very lively scene I had been apart of prior.  I wasn’t unhappy to be there by any means, but it was a complete 180 from where I had been.  It sort of made me wished I had stayed where I was, but I was still glad to be celebrating Matt’s birthday with friends as well.  Sometimes fun and friendship can be a double-edged sword.

Soon after my arrival the cake was brought out.  It was similar to the one Jenny created for Marie’s birthday, except for the fact that it had not been fashioned into a volcano.  It was however, rich and delicious.

Matt Attempts To Put Out The Candles Blowdart Style

Matt Attempts To Put Out The Candles Blowdart Style

Post-cake the rest of the evening was spent blabbing in the backyard, feeling the stickyness of humidity and sprinkle of mist dance around our exposed skin.  Zak, Emma, Marie, and Abbi seemed to exit on the early side and the evening ended with some more light chatter from the host couple, Felecia, John, and Robert.  Everyone else eventually made their exit via car service and I walked home at what seemed like a reasonable hour seeing as the sky had cleared up considerably and it was strolling weather.

Saturday’s plan was a little bit iffy.  I had been planning on attending the Siren Festival on Coney Island not out of fondness for any of the acts, but more so out of my desire to relive the majesty of July 4th weekend.  Sure it was a markedly different event, but you can never go wrong with Nathan’s Famous, the boardwalk, and some quality music.

Out of all of the people I knew, I was probably the first to arrive.  My original plan was to get there by 1pm to see the Tiny Masters of Today, a band consisting of a 13 and 15 year old pair of siblings.  I had my interest piqued when I checked out their website.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get out of my apartment til close to 1pm forcing that plan immediately out the window.

By the time I arrived, The Blue Van was playing on the Stillwell Stage, but more important than that, there was no line at Nathan’s!  In past years at the Siren Festival I had usually experience up to half-hour waits at the Hot Dog haven.  Rather than wait around, it was go time.  I got myself a cheesedog and some fries in  a snap and wandered around the booths for a bit while the poor sound quality emanating from the 2nd stage aided in the background noise department.

After sampling some Coke Zero and Fuzion to help wash down my meal, I headed over to the Main stage where Mikachu & The Shapes were starting up.  There I ran into Jes P, her friends who were visiting, and Jason S. After standing around and watching Micachu for a few minutes, Jason and I more or less decided that they were not our thing.  We wandered back to the other stage and caught a little bit of Bear Hands’ set.

It was like a game of music festival badminton with Jason and I as shuttlecocks.  We’d sit for a few songs at the  Stillwell Stage and then get knocked back to the main stage.  After tiring of Bear Hands’ we moved back to main stage to catch Japandroid for a good bit before deciding to get a feel for The Oh Sees.  Unfortunately, by the time we got to the Stillwell stage for that, the band had finished.  Apparently they had only played a twenty minute set.

Frightened Rabbit at Siren Festival

Frightened Rabbit at Siren Festival

We had set a dizzying pace for ourselves in the early going, but that was calmed down after our disappointing last foray to Stillwell.  We caught up with Suli, Jes, Andrea, Andrea’s neighbor Jennifer, Rich, and Ajay (dressed ridiculously in a suit in 85 degree weather) to catch the Frightened Rabbit set, which was pretty decent.  When that part of the afternoon came to a close it was back to Nathan’s for the other’s to get their grub on.

Jes and Ajay: Two Faces in the Coney Island Crowd

Jes and Ajay: Two Faces in the Coney Island Crowd

During our time at Nathan’s, Andrea tried to relay the story of a great local Rochester commercial that apparently brought about the maximum level of unintentional comedy with it’s sung “tighten up” slogan.  We all looked at her like she was crazy, but eventually took it to be our own slogan for the afternoon.

We didn’t move from our perch at Nathan’s more or less until a little after 6pm when the Raveonettes were playing at the mainstage.  By the time we made it up there though the crowd was pretty backed up and the sound was not really concert quality where we were standing.  Several of our crew went to go on The Cyclone and a few of us waited it out. The Cyclone was kind of making me nervous all day.  While the bands were playing I kept noticing the rickety wooden nature of the structure every time the cars went over each track and seemed to shake the foundation a bit.  I was not getting on that thing. I’m not paying $8 for historic whiplash.

Beware The Cyclone

Beware The Cyclone

Once the Cyclone riders returned, we all made our way to our section of Brooklyn.  I rode the subway alone back to Park Slope having not ridden a bike.  We had made plans to meet up and hang out at Kishore’s after we regained our composure after a day roasting in the sun.  We were even going to barbecue.  I made my way over to Kishore’s having bought some sausage, chips, and beer; ready to grill.  When I got there I found out that everyone had bailed.  Oh well, Kishore, Patty, and I enjoyed the sausage, chips and beer, though we didn’t stay out too late.

Sunday was low key.    My ankle was bothering me a little bit from all of the pressure I had exerted on it by standing around and/or walking all day.  I’m so fragile.  I basically spent my final day of the weekend sweating and reading on the stoop.  Not the worst low note to bring things to a close.

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Deception (Green)Point/Park Slope

Posted by evankessler on March 17, 2009

This past Friday brought with it the promise of a pleasantly musical evening courtesy of New Jersey rock band, The Wrens and my good friend Arby.  However, before heading towards the bright lights of Manhattan I had a few things to take care of prior to leaving Brooklyn.  Specifically, I wanted to get in a quick workout before the probable night of drinking ahead.

I dressed up…or I guess I would have to say I dressed down in order for my brief sojourn to the gym diagonal from my apartment.  I wore a red pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt, and my navy blue college sweatshirt with the word “Syracuse”  emblazoned in bright orange letters divided down the middle with the zipper.  As I crossed 7th avenue on the South Side of Union Street a voice called out “Hey, Syracuse!” and as I looked over I noticed an attractive woman from whom the previous sounds had been emitted.  I did not immediately recognize her face, so my original thought was that this person was someone I had possibly gone to school with that I didn’t remember, or a recent graduate who wanted to make friends with another fellow former Orangeman.

I unknowingly approached said enticing individual and began a pleasant dialogue.  She told me she had just moved  from the Syracuse area and noticed my sweatshirt.  We had a brief discussion about where she lived in Brooklyn and when I had graduated Syracuse.  She then introduced herself as “Jasmine” and exchanged “nice to meet you” pleasantries.  As someone who has had a hard go of it attracting members of the opposite sex as of late, I almost felt like this was too easy, like an attractive girl fell into the palm of my hands and wanted to know about me just because I was wearing a Syracuse sweatshirt.  It’s like they say, good things come when you stop looking or maybe they say some things are too good to be true, because then it happened.

broken_heart_green

What Happened Next

She took off her backpack and pulled out a petition.  It was then I suddenly realized what corner I was on.  Union and 7th is more or less a hotspot for charity-mongers, how did she manage to disguise herself so effortlessly?  Maybe I was blinded by my hopeful nature or maybe she’s just a master of the petition.  She then asked me if I had signed up for Greenpeace and knew what they did.  I wanted to reply, “they break hearts” but I resisted.  Instead I made up some story that she could probably see through, that I thought I had signed up some time ago and was probably a member.  I told her I was in a rush and wanted to get to the gym because I needed a quick workout so I could go and  catch the Syracuse game which started rather early.

With that I bid the deceitful donation collector adieu and worked out my aggression sans steroids on the elliptical.  My heart rate was racing, but despite it’s speedy nature continued to sink deeper within my chest.  Damn you Green Peace.  I’ll teach you to play with my heart just yet.  I’m going to find a few aerosol deodorant cans and drive my mom’s SUV across the country for that.

All cruel heartbreak aside, I eventually made it into the city and met Arby at Blue and Gold where he was gathered with Paul L for his birthday.  On my way in, I began to realize how cold it actually was.  The weather had seemingly been up and down all week, but the temperature seemed to dip back to nipple-stiffening lows.  I was relieved to finally get inside, but our seats at the end of the bar near the door were none too comfortable as people frequently kept leaving the door opening, allowing for a more than cool breeze to enter the premises.

After a few celebratory drinks it was off to the Bowery Ballroom for myself and Arby.  On the way we stopped for some turkish goodness at Bereket and had a few drinks at the venue bar before The Wrens went on.

The Wrens Take The Stage

The Wrens Take The Stage

I didn’t know much about The Wrens prior to the show.  I have one of their albums on my iPod, but I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to it straight through.  Sometimes I’ll be listening to my iPod though and a song comes on that I realize that I quite enjoy and I look to see who it is and it’s The Wrens.  So, I guess that means something.  For what it’s worth, I found the show to be vastly entertaining and the band to be entirely able of making me knee-bend head bob along to the songs.  The only problem came about 50-55 minutes into the show when it ended.  Now, I can’t be that disappointed because I didn’t pay for the tickets, but I can definitely understand why Arby was and still is slightly bothered by the lack of length to the show.  I for one was enjoying myself and was okay to listen to music for another 30 to 40 minutes.  Instead though, Arby and I had two more drinks at the downstairs bar before stupidly going on to The Patriot, where are evening ended after several more PBRs.

The next day I felt as though I were one of those drunk dazes where everything that comes out of my mouth is either completely nonsensical or hilarious because there is absolutely no filter between thoughts and spoken words.  There wasn’t much to Saturday except for laziness that culminated in watching Syracuse lose the Big East championshipo to Louisville.

Sunday was more of nothing.  I peaked out the front door just in time to see the St. Patrick’s day parade go by our apartment and witness now perennial mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, flanked by two staffers holding “Meet Anthony Weiner”  signs, shouting into a megaphone.  His megaphone amplified presence was enough to not make me want to leave the house to witness the procession as he seemed to be talking to people on the sidewalks and I didn’t want any politician kissing my babies or picking me out of a crowd. After a brief trip to the gym, I made a trip to visit Jess S’s new apartment off of 5th avenue in the Slope and spent the rest of my evening taking in some of the World Baseball Classic.  Yes, my weekends are exciting affairs…maybe one day you’ll be apart of one.

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Black Cat Power

Posted by evankessler on February 6, 2009

img_8364
My Best View of Cat Power All Night

I don’t know exactly what to say tonight.  It was interesting might have to suffice.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a concert that unfolded quite like this evening did, as Arby and I went to Williamsburg to see Cat Power at The Music Hall of Williamsburg.  After a brief stop in the City at Flight 151 the two of us hopped the L train to Williamsburg and  made a brief sojourn through the frigid temperatures to the venue.  When we settled down we had a few beers and at around 9:45, we went upstairs in the venue and prepared to catch a wonderful show.  To this day I had never seen Cat Power solely based on Arby’s previous reviews.  When we used to live at the NYU dorms we had several opportunities, but I had been discouraged by his warnings of the performer’s imminent breakdowns and general disappointing behavior.

Chan Marshall took the stage at around 10:30pm launching into a song which I did not recognize but nonetheless sounded like an old soulful blues tune.  She has a way of making every song sound like an old soulful blues tune.  Her second song was a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” which she certainly made sound like an old soulfil blues tune.  For the first two or three songs, Cat Power was more or less in clear view.  I’m not sure what happened after that.  She seemed to go backstage and request that the lights be dimmed, but after that point, Ms. Marshall was shrowded in mystery, an apparition obscured by a lack of spotlight and an array of colored fills that neither illuminated nor hinted at who might be performing.

That being said, we all knew who we were there to see and we certainly heard her voice.  It was the voice of a soulful angel breathing new life into songs like “The Dark End Of The Street,” “Fortunate Son”   and “She’s Got You” (made famous by Patsy Cline).  The concert went on, the band sounded great and Chan continued to belt out the tunes, but there was a certain oddity that accompanied not being able to see the person performing.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the singer was that anonymous and less engaged with the audience.

All the way from “Metal Heart” into favorites like “The Greatest” and “Lived In Bars” amidst some other covers, she more or less remained anonymous.  I was thrilled to be at the show, but I was confused.  Beauty was audible, but the connection just wasn’t there.  I had heard stories of stage fright and I guess not seeing the audience and not letting them see her was her way of compromise but I couldn’t help feel the show was incomplete.  At one point the shy chanteuse wandered into the audience and belted it out amongst the crowd, but it somehow felt cheap, like a compromise with her audience based on a dare.  There was a semi-thrill to see her directly in front of me, but I couldn’t help thinking she was just throwing people a bone before she slipped back under the cover of night.

In the end, I left with an odd feeling.  I had enjoyed the music, but was a little perplexed by the experience.  I like Cat Power, but if going to her performances are going to be this impersonal while trying to maintain this ruse of intimacy, I’m not sure my money isn’t better spent on her next album.

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The Phair-est Of Them All

Posted by evankessler on June 27, 2008

In the April of 1999 I went town to Binghamton University with a few friends from Syracuse to catch that school’s year end Student only concert or block party, or whatever they call that thing down there. While I was certainly not an undergrad at that particular university, I was definitely a fan of the headlining act on the bill. After sitting through a few mediocre bands including some guy named David Mead who sounded like your average white guy Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews hippie crooner the day’s anticipation gave way to satisfaction as Liz Phair took the stage. Before she started into her set I had been filled with skepticism because a friend who had previously seen her play sometime during the run of her first two albums had told me that she wasn’t very good live. Not only was Ms. Phair excellent that day, but she had blown me away with an assorted selection of songs from her first three albums, 1993’s landmark Exile In Guyville, her able 1994 follow up Whip Smart and her more recent, slightly more adult sounding, but still ever so enjoyable whitechocolatespaceegg.

Despite having heard of her tentative stage demeanor and previous disappointing performance, there was a certain confidence that her songs exuded that made up for maybe not the most dynamic stage presence. I wasn’t expecting a KISS show and I didn’t get one. I got a quality rock show from a great artist at the peak of her performing powers.

Fast forward two months later, I was living with that same friend who had raised doubt about Ms. Phair’s performance prowess in April, at an NYU dorm on 10th Street and 3rd Avenue as we were both ensconced in Summer internships for the next few months. One evening my brother called me with the news that the same Liz Phair of whom both my roommate and I were huge fans was playing a show at a Calvin Klein event and we would be able to grace the venue with our attendance despite it being a charity event to which we were not contributing any funds.

Later that evening we witnessed a very intimate set that probably consisted of no more than seven or eight songs. Before the show, my brother was backstage taking photographs for the event and got the artist in question to autograph a bag for me. Being the pathetic fan that I was, I held that bag up to try and show Liz the entire show. I was twenty years old and I was an idiot. Nonetheless, it was a rare experience that I probably didn’t think I could ever duplicate.

Several weeks ago, while looking through a bevy of emails in my Inbox deciding what to trash, I came upon a bulletin which alerted me to a special show at Hiro Ballroom featuring the distinguished Miss Phair, who would be performing her 1993 opus Exile In Guyville in it’s entirety. Thrilled at the prospect I immediately asked my friend if he was interested in going and when the time came around to attempt to purchase tickets, I was on it. Unfortunately, “on it” meant more like cable company on it or electric company on it. I was an hour too late and by the time I placed my order for ticketmaster the two night run was all sold out.

However, yesterday afternoon, as I sat in dispose in a very private area of my house, I received a text message from my friend Marie. In said text message it inquired as to whether I had any interest in attending Liz Phair’s performance the very next day for the show at Hiro Ballroom that I could not get tickets for. Jazzed isn’t a good way to describe how I felt, but I’d like it to suffice for now. I immediately accepted her invitation throwing any other plans I might have had for Thursday evening into the recycling bin of alcoholic indulgence. I’ve had my issues with Ms. Phair’s musical output over the past few years, but this was a one of a kind experience that I was not going to miss.

It was around 7pm this evening when I left my apartment in Park Slope to meet Marie in Manhattan for the show. I was running a little late because I was fumbling with a few personal belongings, deciding if I needed to bring my iPod on the train or something to read. God forbid I had to spend thirty minutes on the 2/3 not listening to music or reading something. What did people do before the advent of electronics? I’m sure they weren’t too concerned about occupying their time in transport when they were sitting in the back of the wagon dying of hay fever or wondering where there next meal came from. In any case, I decided to go it without musical or literary accompaniment and rough it. I did have my camera with me, but that was for the show.

I got out of the Subway at 14th Street and 7th Avenue at exactly 7:29, one minute before I was to meet Marie. Fortunately, Marie is a patient person because I still had a few blocks to walk as Hiro was at the corner of 16th and 9th. When I happened upon Marie she was reading as people are wont to do when they’re waiting, we said our hellos. Marie had gotten the tickets for free from her promoter friend who I met outside the door and who also was generous enough to give us drink tickets. This was the life. When we got inside we found that we had a booth reserved for us and two other people as well. Things were getting better before they got worse. It was certainly a dose of good fortune.

The rest of our night would be a mixture of feast and famine. At around 8:35pm as Marie and I enjoyed our maiden drink, Liz Phair stepped out on stage to a warm applause and a high level of enthusiasm. She alerted the audience that she was wearing heels and made an allusion to a lyric in the first song off of Exile in Guyville saying that tonight she’d be standing 6” 1′ instead of 5” 5 adding three inches to the latter number. And just like that she was off launching into “6’1”, her shaky, nearly monotone timbre filling the room with a palpable excitement. The characterization of her voice isn’t meant to be an insult, it’s what gives her music such rich character. It’s not concerned with being pretty, it’s more along the lines of a bluntly honest conversational tone that’s not being sugar coated with melisma or acrobatics that span the vocal ranges. Conversely, that’s probably the reason her fans have largely ignored her last two albums as they seemed to be efforts to craft pretty pop songs over forthright ones. I guess you can’t blame a girl for trying to make some money.

In the early going, Marie and I noticed a group of girls standing to the right of our booth. In our estimation, they couldn’t have been over the age of 24. We assumed they were in the audience to either hear her more recent pop songs, despite the fact that it was plain by the reason for the show that those songs wouldn’t be played. They were dressed as if they were going to see Sex And The City on opening night, despite the fact it had already occurred. The lot of them had Cosmos in their hand and were blabbing aloud over the music during “Glory” and Marie turned to them and gave them a nice “Shush!” It was then that these kids retreated to the bar in back of our booth where I heard one of them utter, “it’s her 21st birthday! Let’s do shots!” So yes, these girls were six years old when Exile In Guyville was released. As they stood in the back getting their drunk on and loudly cavorting, Liz Phair continued to play her landmark album that these girls probably could’ve taken a lesson or two from.

With the kids relegated to the rear of the venue fading in and out of earshot and probably taking frequent cigarette breaks, a new threat to musical enjoyment emerged. A couple that looked to be on their second or third date who were perpetually at that point in the date where conversation just flows stood nearby datin’ and conversatin’ with little to no regard for the surrounding masses. The girl sitting next to Marie shushed them, and they dropped out for a bit. They along with the girls got repeated scoldings, but were fairly unaffected. New rule: if someone has to tell you more than once at a rock concert to shut up, you’re talking too loud and you’re probably a huge asshole.

All distractions aside, the show itself was really enjoyable. I think the thing that kind of caught me off guard about it was that I had never seen an entire show that was just one album played straight through. There was no mystery about what would come next. I knew that “Canary” would be followed by “Mesmerizing”, “Fuck and Run”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Divorce Song”.

Another positive thing that caught my attention was the amount of maturity in the audience. It wasn’t only that most of the crowd resembled the same late 20’s to late 30’s indie rock fans of yore, but also it was the maturity level. Nobody yelled in celebration when the C word was uttered during “Dance of The Seven Veils” and there was not one morsel of merriment sounded when she alerted the males in the audience she wanted to be their “blow job queen” during “Flower”. It was all very refreshing and quite a delight to experience.

I took measured delight as the album motored along towards the end. I thought back fondly on singing along to both “Stratford On Guy” and “Strange Loop” on my long car rides to and from Syracuse and realized that I hadn’t listened to Guyville straight through in a very long time. By the end of the show I was extremely glad that I was getting the chance to run through the whole thing yet again, but this time with a live flavor.

As the last note in Strange Loop was sounded and Liz thanked everyone, I wondered how much if any of an encore she could come out for. She was only supposed to play one album. Had she planned any more surprises. She was only playing four dates on this tour, I couldn’t imagine she had rehearsed a terrible many songs.

After the tiniest of waits, she came out yet again and sat down at the piano, hammering out a great version of “Chopsticks” off of Whip-Smart, followed by “May Queen” off of that same album, which had been yelled out as a request when she re-took the stage. Her guitar playing was a tad bit tentative but it was understandable. It seemed as though it had been awhile since playing these songs and it’s not always like riding a bike. Take it from me. I’m not a musician.

The show finished up on a positively unique and rather fun note. Liz started off playing her take on the famed classic rock song “Wild Thing” which was part of her Girlysound Demos from before Exile. Obviously rusty, she stopped playing at one point and solicited help from a guy in the front row. She let him come up on stage and help out. At first she thought he was just going to sing the lyrics, but he took over on guitar duties and allowed her to pick up the lyrics of the last verse. Finally, the show ended with a decent rendition of “Polyester Bride” that sent this audience member home plenty happy.

Liz Phair @ Hiro Ballroom NYC 6/26/08

1. 6’1″
2. Help Me Mary
3. Glory
4. Dance of the Seven Veils
5. Never Said
6. Soap Star Joe
7. Explain It to Me
8. Canary
9. Mesmerizing
10. Fuck and Run
11. Girls! Girls! Girls!
12. Divorce Song
13. Shatter
14. Flower
15. Johnny Sunshine
16. Gunshy
17. Stratford-on-Guy
18. Strange Loop

————————-

19. Chopsticks

20. May Queen

21. Wild Thing

22. Polyester Bride

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Rocking Out Is The Best Revenge

Posted by evankessler on June 20, 2008

If laughter is the best medicine then rocking out has to be a close second, because the four plus hours spent in the acoustically friendly confines of Madison Square Garden this evening certainly did the trick in terms of lifting me out of any recent doldrums. Several months ago Andrew Morton had done an excellent job in staying abreast of the summer concert happenings and inquired as to whether or not I would want to go with him to see R.E.M. take to the world’s most famous arena to turn it into the world’s most presently rocking one. Without hesitation I accepted his invitation and before I knew it we had arrived at the date of the event in question, June 19, 2008.

I spent most of the day somewhat ignorant to the fact that I was going to a concert in the evening. I was excited about the show but for some reason not filled with the usual anticipation for a show that I’m terribly excited about. Maybe it’s that I’d seen R.E.M. perform somewhere in the neighborhood of seven times before and I pretty much knew what to expect or maybe it’s just because I haven’t felt terribly excited about anything lately. When the clock struck 6pm I made way towards midtown with a ho-hum, I’ll get there when I get there demeanor.

I made better time than I thought I would as I exited the 34th Street BQ station at around 6:45. I was supposed to me Andrew and Renga at 7pm in front of the arena, so I had some time to kill. Rather then shuffle in and out of stores or restaurants, I decided to park myself in front of the Fuse building, but as I crossed the street to make my way to the video screen monstrosity that is housed at the front of that building my phone rang. The voice on the other end was Goody, who was on the side of the street from whence I came. He was waving at me along with our old high school buddy JK and his girlfriend Stephanie. Rather than stand by my lonesome waiting for Andrew and Renga I turned right back around and crossed the street to hang out with Goody and JK for a few minutes and make some small talk before they decided to make for their seats on account of wanting to catch the openers.

It was only a few minutes later that my two fellow concert going pals happened upon me as I stood in front of the Chase Kiosk outside of Madison Square Garden and we happily made for the insides of the arena as I joked about being excited to finally get the opportunity to catch a New York Liberty game. Ah, the WNBA it’s faaaaantastic…on opposite day. Upon entry and finding our way through Tower A towards gate 79 we stopped at the beer stand featuring the imported versions of our favorite frothy beverage from lands as distant as Canada (Labatt’s Blue) and the Czech Republic (Pilsner Urquell). Andrew and I settled on Labatt’s citing that it was a full 50 cents cheaper at $7.75 than Laura’s eurotrash Bass Ale and it still came with a pretzel rod firmly entrenched in the handle. Ah, the pretzel rod, one of life’s simple pleasures.

Andrew and Renga enjoy their brew and pretzel rods

We soon took our seats in section 232 just as opening act, The National was starting into their set, which lasted roughly forty-five minutes to an hour. That’s one of the better things about seeing an established act like R.E.M., they’re big enough to choose any opener they like and don’t have to give into record label pressures to put some crappy band on their bill. This evening certainly boasted a sterling lineup. In addition to Brooklyn Indie-Rock upstarts, The National, the bill also included indie-alternative rock darlings Modest Mouse to complete a more than formidable lineup, as they boasted the presence of the legendary Johnny Marr of Smiths fame on guitar.

After the National’s set ended Andrew and I went up to get hot dogs and were met with the two options of either a “Jumbo Dog” or “Foot long”. The Jumbo was a longer than a normal hot dog and the foot long, well, it was a foot long, but only cost 50 cents more. Despite getting more bang for the buck, I didn’t fall into the trap of the foot long, because frankly, there’s only so much hot dog taste I wanted in my mouth for the next three days.

Jumbo vs. Foot long Hot Dog

We returned to our seats promptly after our purchase and heartily enjoyed Modest Mouse’s set which featured songs like “Satin In A Coffin” , “The Good Times Are Killing Me” and “Florida”. They kept the banter to a minimum but managed to rock properly, though I have to say, while I enjoyed their set, something about their sound or their song selection didn’t seem properly suited to the arena. Their arrangements are more sparse than bombastic, so it didn’t translate into a proper arena rock atmosphere. I wasn’t that disappointed though, I had seen them in a smaller, more proper venue for their sound and knew what it was supposed to sound like. Not a lot of bands can pull off the fanfare necessary for a venue such as MSG.

It was around 9pm when Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, sideman Scott McCaughey, and tour drummer Bill Rieflin took to the Madison Square Garden stage. In a span of several seconds it became apparent that they were there to rock the hell out of the place. Opening with one of Accelerate’s more upbeat numbers, Living Well Is The Best Revenge, the band launched the crowd into a rock ‘n’ roll frenzy and that freight train kept ‘a rolling for what more or less accounted for the entirety of the two plus hour show. The last time I encountered R.E.M. in an arena setting was on my birthday in 2004, two days after the re-election of George W. Bush at MSG. The city of New York, the crowd, and especially the band was in a dour mood following that travesty. Tonight, Michael Stipe took a few opportunities to acknowledge that show, but he and the band seemed full of optimism about the impending election and it reflected in their mood and performance.

This was a show that was not built for fairweather fans who liked “Man on The Moon” and “Losing My Religion”. The band vigorously delved into past gems such as “Disturbance at The Heron House”, “Harborcoat”, “Ignoreland”, “These Days”, and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” amongst a host of other favorites while mercilessly leaving out slower hits like “Everybody Hurts”. I think the only albums ignored in the setlist were 1983’s Murmur and 2001’s Reveal.
They also dusted off “Leaving New York” which they had not rehearsed all tour and which I think had not been played since the post-election New York show. The new songs captivated just as effectively as the old ones. “Man-Sized Wreath” and “Horse to Water” seemed to be sonic proof that despite their advancing years R.E.M. is not ready to fade away anytime soon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS8VPFrG0bQ

R.E.M. performing “Pretty Persuasion”

One thing I really enjoyed was that of the Mills-Stipe dynamic. Mike Mills has always been one of the most arresting background vocal talents and his abilities shined through the song selection. Hearing him sing live is always an aural delight when balanced with Stipe’s or even in the lead as was the case with the performance of Rockville.

The only negative part of the show had absolutely nothing to do with R.E.M., rather it was a product of a girl sitting directly one row in front of Laura, Andrew and I who talked straight through the last half hour of the show before the encore. Normally you wouldn’t expect one person’s voice to be so distracting during a loud, bombastic rock show, but when that person is trying her best to talk louder than the music being blared at brain blasting volume…for that long, you’re going to notice it. I don’t think I’ll ever stand people who see fit to pay a large sum of money to go to a show and then persist to ignore the goings on as if they were at a dinner party. Anyway, Andrew gave her the ol’ shush sign entering the encore and she mostly shut up…or she spent time whispering into her friends’ ears how appalled she was that someone signaled her to shut up.

The encore itself was pretty much the only “Greatest Hits” portion, though it led off with eardrum cracking “Supernatural Superserious” which led into radio favorite “Losing My Religion” and three songs later into “Man On The Moon”. When the show came to a close around 11:20pm the feeling was one of exhilaration. We had just witnessed two hours of high spirited arena rock for the ages, affirming the greatness of a band that will stand the test of time.

(currently working on uploading some video…be patient…I may need to edit a clip)

R.E.M. @ Madison Square Garden June 19, 2008
Living Well Is The Best Revenge
These Days
What’s The Frequency Kenneth?
Bad Day
Drive
Hollow Man
Ignoreland
Man-Sized Wreath
Leaving New York
Disturbance At TheHeron House
Houston
Electrolite
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville
Driver 8
Harborcoat
The One I Love
Until The Day Is Done
Let Me In
Horse To Water
Pretty Persuasion
Orange Crush
I’m Gonna DJ
——————–
Supernatural Superserious
Losing My Religion
Begin The Begin
Fall On Me
Man on the Moon

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Full Circle

Posted by evankessler on September 28, 2007


On either May 30 or 31st of 1987 (I thought it was 1986 in Wednesday’s post) I saw Genesis play Giants Stadium for my first ever rock concert. Last night, one score and nearly half a year after my inaugural experience, I was able to relive that magic when Andrew Morton and I trekked to The Meadowlands to see Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and their duo of able sidemen, rock Giants Stadium once more.

I met Andrew outside of the Port Authority at 5:30 PM with 4 complimentary tickets (courtesy of Laura Bassett) to the show in the lower front pocket of my dark brown cargo shorts. We would only use two but I liked the thought having 4 tickets so we had the option of sitting in any of the 4 seats and if someone pressed us for proof of our occupancy rights we would be able to obnoxiously sprawl across two seats each and say, “yeah, these are ours.” I had purchased two round trip tickets for the bus two The Meadowlands just minutes before, so we were all ready to go. It was a hair before 6pm when we got off the coach bus near Gate D of the House That Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms built. The stadium gates had yet to open and tens of fans of the 70’s prog rock and 80’s adult contempo- pop progenitors, Genesis, awaited their inevitable ascent upon their pews of worship in the court of Phil Collins’ Kingdom. Some of these loyal subjects wore mullet hairstyles, some wore shirts of the band they were going to see, some blasted “In Too Deep” from their car stereos. Most of them were above the age of 40. Also exceeding 40 in numerical value was the cost of the shirts and nearly everything else at the nearest souvenir stand. I decided long ago (never to walk in anyone’s shadow) that the only important souvenir one needed from a concert was a ticket stub (unless of course they offer a cd of the show or the shirts are totally sweet), so after perusing the wares at gate D Andrew and I decided to make a lap around the stadium as there were still a solid 2 hours before the time advertised on our admission tickets.

Andrew and I did a full lap and could have easily done 2 more before the show began but when we found ourselves at Gate D once again we noticed that people were being allowed into the venue. Upon our entrance we headed up the escalator to the Upper Tier. As we dismounted from the moving stairs we were face to face with The New York Sack Exchange. A poster featuring the iconic New York Jets Defensive Foursome of the 1980’s featuring Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko, Abdul Salaam, and Mark Gastineau adorned the wall opposite the escalator. We approached the poster but made a right at Gastineau and I told Andrew of the time I saw him making out with Brigitte Nielsen in an Arizona airport sometime in the Late 1980’s or Early 1990’s. If only I had known about Page Six back then.

Our first order of business once on the upper tier was to get some quality eats. Most of the little carts were closed on our level. They probably only have them available on game days. Therefore, getting hamburgers at the Goal Line Grill was out of the question. Our dining choices were limited to Hot Dogs or Sausages at Fan Favorites or hot dogs or chicken fingers at 1st Down and Fries. Andrew and I both went for the chicken finger dinner with fries for a hefty sum of $7.75. I added an Aquafina on top of that for an additional $4.oo. Normally I would be whining about the cost (well I sort of am now) but I did get the tickets for free, so all in all it was a pretty cheap night of entertainment.

Andrew and I found our way with food in hand to the middle of a nearly vacant section 329. I remarked that I couldn’t see the stadium getting much more crowded than it’s current capacity which was sparse to say the least. We dug into our expensive and mediocre meal. I let Andrew have my Honey Mustard sauce which was more or less regular mustard, for his nuggets and we shot the shit talking about our expectations for the show as well as a few writing ideas we had. The main topic of conversation was probably the fact that I was reliving my first concert experience more than 20 years later. I told Andrew that if I called my mom she’d probably say “that’s cute” and not be really in the least bit amused.

I chose to test this theory by actually calling her. For the first 5 minutes of the phone call I didn’t even get to discuss where I was at the moment but once I had the opportunity I decided to test my mother’s powers of parental recall. The conversation went something like this…

Me: Mom do you remember taking me to my first concert in the summer of 1986.

Mom: Was it in Queens? Was it in a park?

Me: No. It was at Giants Stadium.

Mom: I remember something about being in an open space.

Me: Were you high?

Mom: (long pause implying maybe) Was Aileen there?

Me: So you admit it…You told me when I was a kid you never did drugs but it was okay if I tried once as long as I didn’t make a habit out of it.

Mom: Who was the concert?

Me: Genesis.

Mom: Oh is that with Phil Collins.

Me: Yes…Guess where I am now?

Mom: Giants Stadium

Me: Guess who I’m going to see?

Mom: Genesis…That’s cute…

The rest of the conversation I went on to tell her how certain I always was that she had to have done drugs since she grew up in the 60’s and had gone to see bands like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Dylan live in concert. There was no way she could have gone to see those bands without expanding her mind. That basically capped off probably one of the strangest and funniest conversations my mother and I had ever shared.

After hanging up the phone it was back to waiting patiently for Genesis to take the stage. The stage set resembled an avant garde boom box with video screens on what resembled the circular speaker areas. Later in the show the stage set would more resemble a large white whale as the entire thing was a video screen for live concert footage and computer animated backgrounds. As the crowd waited though the screens played videos from groups spanning the last 30 years of music. The artists ranged from Talking Heads to Tapes ‘n’ Tapes. There were also skateboarding videos being shown on the screen causing me to wonder allowed if this really appealed to the Genesis demographic. The screen also showed ads for a new Genesis book and other Genesis related paraphernalia. Meanwhile, the stadium was becoming slowly filled and reached a respectable level of attendance. People moved in all around us though we had a considerable buffer zone between us and the nearest concertgoers. The demographic also became more varied as two impossibly attractive women that couldn’t have been older than 30 happened into our section. Andrew and I wondered aloud what they could possibly be doing at this concert.

There was a semi-palpable feeling of excitement in the air as the band taking the stage was inevitable. At around 8:58 the majority of the lights began to shut down and after a brief and frankly kind of stunning video screen presentation the band took the stage with musical bravado in their intro to “Turn it On Again” a song that I did not recall so I automatically chalked it up to pre-80’s pop Peter Gabriel era Genesis though I knew that not to be the case with this particular song it was just my own lazy way of classifying the songs I was unfamiliar with. The next two songs were more my speed, sort of. “No Son of Mine” immediately followed the opener and while I was familiar with it, it was from an era where I had already lost interest in Genesis, more notably known as the album I Can’t Dance. All was well one song later as the band blasted through the Reagan era anthem “Land of Confusion”. I thought they should’ve waited a little longer to dust off that gem but they’re in charge not me.

I was quickly reminded of my ignorance to the non-80’s Genesis catalogue with “In The Cage” though I was transfixed by the graphics on the screen behind band which reminded me of the movie The Lawnmower Man. The music descended into a prog rock jam out session that could’ve easily double as material by ELP or Yes in their heyday. Prog rock bands to me are kind of a dime a dozen. At times the music just seems like an all out attempt to put as much keyboard, guitar and drums into a single measure. The frantic musicianship gave way to light rock. As the band transitioned into “Hold On My Heart”much of the audience transitioned to the bathroom line.

It was a good thing that the audience was done relieving themselves because Phil needed them for audience participation for the spooky “Home by the Sea” and “2nd Home By The Sea”. He readied everyone to make spooky sounds and then never used them throughout the duration of the performance. The next 2 songs were more prog-rock, probably Gabriel-era numbers. I would’ve had no idea what they were but thanks to my own Prog-Rock encyclopedia Andrew Morton, I knew that I was listening to “Follow You, Follow Me” and “Dance on a Volcano”.

After all of the musicianship, Phil Collins took over with a little showmanship. During “I Know What I like” the bald frontman/drummer did a few trick moves with his tambourine playing off of his head knees, feet and hands much to the delight of the mostly middle aged crowd.
Phil followed up this performance by a genuinely wicked performance of the song “Mama” which really is a pretty good song. I was familiar with the song because it was used for Colorwar Sing at Camp Westmont in 1992 when I was a member of the “White Mystery”.

The three songs that followed weren’t anything to write home about. One was a Gabriel-era song that sent a lot of people heading towards the lavatory and one was probably my least favorite song off of the “Invisible Touch” album. That trio of songs was probably followed by one of the two best moments of the evening as Phil Collins and Chester Thompson engaged in a thrilling drum duet. For all of the criticism Collins gets for being such a suspect soft rocker, people forget that he’s actually quite accomplished as a drummer and can spank the snare and cymbals with the best of ’em.

When the drumathon ended I sensed the show drawing nearer to it’s close. The next song was foreign to both myself and Andrew. It was more surprising that Andrew didn’t know since he had known the name of every song up to that point. However, familiarity settled back in and the crowd sang along to “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” and the set was closed out by a spirited version of “Invisible Touch” which saw the release of pyrotechnics both visual and verbal. The visual being actual fireworks and the verbal being Phil Collins use of the f-word to let you know that “She’ll fuck up your life” with her invisible touch.

With that the band briefly left the stage. I was almost positive I knew that the last two songs would be “I Can’t Dance” and “That’s All”. The latter of which would be followed by the band abruptly leaving the stage never to return. I was correct on my guess of “I Can’t Dance” which I always found to be somewhat unbearable but the crowd ate it up and grooved to it. Rather than close with “That’s All” they ended the show with one of their older numbers, the Gabriel-era “The Carpet Crawlers” from the 1974 album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Thus the night was brought to a close on a quiet number rather than the poppy 80’s number I had wished for. Nonetheless, the evening was certainly worth the price of admission. My live music experience has officially come full circle. I never have to go to another concert again…though I’m pretty sure I’ll go to one rather soon.

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I’m All Out Of Love

Posted by evankessler on January 26, 2007

Last night I came to a realization. That realization was that seeing as I have no job at the moment, I can actually post at whatever point in the day I wish. If I want to post at 10:23 in the morning on a Friday about the day before, then so be it. So here I am…posting at 10:23am about yesterday because I was simply too tired upon returning home last night to submerge myself in my usual typing frenzy.

In any case, my day yesterday did not effectively begin until 5:25pm. Up to then the majority of my day was spent searching for jobs and attempting to promote my new Kevin Costner-related Venture. At the aforementioned time I left my apartment and made for the city for a happy hour sponsored by Hey Lets Go!, a company that I am currently doing some work for as both a social ambassador and events editor. iPod in hand I began another brief run on the iPodyssey as I walked towards the train, beginning with Broken Social Scene’s “Lover’s Spit” and followed by the Cure’s “Lovesong”. And just like that, the “love” section of the iPodyssey had ended. I’m not sure how long I expected it to go on but I thought there would be more than the 33 actual songs it encompassed. The spell was broken by a string of 2 songs entitled “Low” by the likes of Cracker and R.E.M. who then followed themselves with a song called “Low Desert”. Before the subway ride was over I had buzzed through two songs called “Low Light” by Idlewild and Pearl Jam. All in a days work…or listening.

I ran into Miller at 6:05pm on the corner of W.3rd and Broadway as I was enjoying the tail end of a Radiohead two-fer as “Lucky” succeeded “Lozenge of Love”. He and I were both en route to the Hey Let’s Go event at the Leela Lounge. Ahmad, Dmitry, and I had conference called him earlier and had entire conversation about our evening plans as Miller’s voicemail listened in so he knew where to go.

When we arrived we were the only ones there and nobody from the bar seemed to know that an event was taking place. That got straightened out soon enough and we were joined by Ahmad and Dmitry. Soon, more people from the website arrived such as Sunjay, Matt, and Pallavi whom I had met on Saturday at the wine tasting. However, my Happy Hour was to be short lived as I had to rush back to Brooklyn at 7:30 to meet Arby. He had notified me around 4pm in the afternoon that he had tickets to see Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips (both formerly of the band Luna) at Union Hall. I was excited to see such a sublime duo at such a small venue so close to my apartment. It’s the kind of thing that makes you all warm and fuzzy. My subway docked at Pacific St. at 8:03pm and I sprinted home to get some downtime before having to meet Arby. My daily iPodyssey ended on Radiohead’s “Lurgee” as I walked through the door to my apartment.

I met Arby outside of Union Hall at 8:30 as we rolled up at the exact same moment. Good timing. We chose to hang out downstairs and get a good spot. Unfortunately, the Union Hall stage isn’t elevated high enough, so unless you’re very tall, the only really good spot is right up front. We chose a column midway back to lean on. In the 15 minutes I was home before the show I had recharged my camera and brought it with me to take some pictures which would not prove to be an easy task from where I was standing, seeing from there was difficult enough.

A Nice Photo of Dean and Britta not taken by me

The opener’s name was something like Sean Cahill and he played a vibraphone, which I think is like an electric xylophone. There was something unsettling and creepy about him. At around 10pm Dean and Britta came on with several accompanists that I could not see. They played their blend of dreamy, melodic pop for a little over an hour promoting their new album which comes out in a few weeks. The only songs I recognized were “Night Nurse” from their first album together as well as their cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Bonnie & Clyde” which appears on 2 Luna albums. Overall, it was an excellent show. My only complaint is that I wish I could’ve seen better, though I certainly did have the opportunity to get a better spot in the early goings.

The Cleanest Shot I Could Get of Britta Phillips

The Cleanest Shot I Could Get of Dean Wareham

After the show, Arby and I went upstairs and had two drinks as we sat at the bar before calling it a night. Upon arriving home, I had a brief chat with Marty as we watched “Scrubs” but once the clock hit 1am I knew it was about time to fall asleep.

Well, this wasn’t so bad was it? Taking the extra time to get my story straight instead of blogging right way. The world didn’t fall apart and nobody panicked. Alright, well, I’ve got a busy day, I’ve got places to go and people to see. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it later.

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