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Friday, April 26, 2013

Further, 4.25.13. The Night That Bob Weir Collapsed on Stage

Cannot help but feel let down






It had been nearly 20 years since I last saw Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and anything that resembled The Grateful Dead.  What I fondly remember is Weir's short shorts, boundless energy, and howling vocals.  Lesh was always somewhere in the background, but his bass could be heard.  Every now and again he would step out to the mic and lead a sing along that would leave the Dead Heads in a drugged up euphoria.  Garcia was the one most likely to flub a lyric (or several), miss a cue, or sleep walk through entire songs.  Now that I have some clarity it is not shocking that he died in 1995.  Heroin + greasy sandwiches + tour = not good.

Last night marked the 9th and final night of Further's (an enhanced Dead cover band if you will) Capitol Theatre's residency.  The good news:  Port Chester's Capitol Theatre is a real beauty.  Peter Shapiro, the man behind Brooklyn Bowl, has restored the art deco building to beyond its proper form.  He has added a state of the art lighting system, impressive sound system and kept more than enough of the old details to please just about everyone.  It is, in a word, fantastic   If you have ever tried to escape midtown Manhattan on a Friday or Saturday night this venue should be an option.  That is, would you rather spend a half hour waiting at the tunnel or driving 70 mph?   Port Chester, a working class town surrounded by affluent Rye, NY and Greenwich, CT, is only 30 miles North of NYC.

Now, onto the very, very bad news.  Bob Weir ain't that carefree 40 something anymore.  At least he wasn't last night.  His appearance aside, (think a cross between Wilford Brimley and Gary Busey), Weir looks every bit a senior citizen.  That need not be a bad thing.  Plenty of nostalgia acts continue to tour the country, even World, with great success.  Bruce Springsteen, a mere two years younger than Weir, is tireless and somewhat ageless.  Its hard for me to WATCH a two plus hour show.  How does he continue to perform them??

The first sign something was amiss came around 8:10pm.  For the first 8 shows the band took the stage promptly at 8pm.  Soon it was 8:15.  8:20.  8:25.  Eventually they made it to their designated spots around 8:30pm.  And Weir looked haggard.  They broke into "Feel Like a Stranger" which had its moments, but was clearly slowed and hampered by Weir's pace.  He was struggling.  His voice was cracky.  He missed marks and fumbled lyrics.  His guitar was noticeably absent.

John Kadlecik, from Dark Star Orchestra, plays the role of new/young/skinny Jerry.  Good thing he was in the mix.  The second tune, "Brown Eyed Women," was a highlight.  In fact, all the "Jerry" songs were done well all things considered.

But Weir is the one front and center here.  Lesh takes a more active role when he tours with Phil and Friends.  Like the old Dead days he planted himself toward the back of the stage and kept the time.
Last night a more pro active Lesh was needed.  It was during "Me and My Uncle," the Dead's MOST played song, that things went terribly wrong.  Weir attempted to get to the mic on cue but was several times thwarted by his own confusion.  The intro went on and on with band members hoping, praying that Weir would be able to pull it together.

He would not.

As the first set ended, with Weir barely able to stand upright, we all wondered what, if anything, the second set would bring?  Lesh and cast had to scramble and edit what they had planned for the second set.  These guys are a veteran team and were now responsible for carrying one of their fallen members.

The second set opened with "Scarlet Begonias" which always, transitions into "Fire on The Mountain."
Not last night.  Instead they played "Eyes of the World."  That was the nail in the coffin.  Slow paced songs were not in Weir's playbook last night and before long he was leaning on amps, stumbling clumsily and finally falling to the stage.

He got up like any good prizefighter would.  He shrugged off roadie assistance and made his marks as the band played another Jerry song, "The Wheel."  His microphone and guitar were never really audible.  There was not one scream.  Not one signature guitar lick.  He was at a different concert altogether.  Hell, he was completely absent save for his ragged body.

The Phil song "Unbroken Chain" saw Weir do all he could do to stay alive while seated.  It was awkward, oft putting, and sad.

Was he having a serious medical issue?  Was he under the influence?  Was he gonna be ok?

These are the things I do NOT want to ask myself at a rock show.

This was a night when I was reminded more of my mortality than I can remember at a concert.  20 years ago I was a skinny kid with a future ahead of him.  A nice stadium show with buddies getting blasted was an everyday occurrence.

Today I am far heavier, with grayer hair, and a ton more responsibility.  If I am going to shell out significant entertainment dollars I want to be reminded of youth, passion, and vigor.  In other words, I do not want to be depressed.

Weir and Further play another show in Atlantic City tomorrow night.  They may prove last night was a blip or aberration.  I sure hope so.

Lesh even gamely came out for a third set (sans Weir) and from what I told performed quite well.

Hell if I know.  I was busy heading home wondering where my $100 went.  And my youth.


Merch at The Cap

Capitol Theatre Lobby


The wonderful Cap Theatre ceiling/light show



Shakedown Street

Weir losing it during "Unbroken Chain"  Lesh a real pro.

Weir hanging on for dear life (seated)

Glass pipes for sale.  Shakedown Street alive and well.










Setlist and another account of last night's debacle

Zags blog with more pics/details of Weir

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joy Formidable, Webster Hall, 4.18.13

It has been a week now since Welsh trio Joy Formidable rocked Webster Hall.  First off, they packed the house!  They sold out the venue and did the same the previous night at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  These kids are not a flash in the pan.  It was only a few years ago that front woman Ritzy Bryan (guitar/vocals), Rhydian Dafydd (bass/backing vocals) and drummer Matthew James Thomas (drums) played the same venue to a much smaller audience.  2011 saw them promoting their debut album, The Big Roar,  which boasted the bold, radio friendly hit "Whirring".   Then the trio was reliant on heavy chords and long, free wheeling jam sessions.  That is, "Whirring" live was probably a 10 minute song.  Bryan relies heavy on feedback and sheer force on the guitar.  They are but a few chords, but they demand attention and can be most potent.  Dafydd (maybe the hardest name in rock to spell) is every bit a LEAD bassist.  Like the title of their debut record, his ax roars and sets a heavy handed tone.  And Thomas is more than capable behind the kit.  Their rise was pretty significant and before that tours end they headlined the far bigger Terminal 5 and even managed to support the Foo Fighters for a few gigs.  

In January of this year Bryan and Co. released their sophomore record, Wolf's Law.  While it might not have the extended jams and electric hooks their debut has, it is solid nonetheless.  During the nearly 1 and 1/2 hour show they showed some more versatility and growth than 2011.  Songs like "Austere" and their first single from Wolf's Law, ""This Ladder is Ours", were played tighter, and without the extended jams.  Bryan, adorned again with a little jumper and tights, thrashes around and gets the absolute most out of her tiny frame.  Her voice is commanding and she is an engaging leading lady.  At first glance she has the look of Mary Stuart Masterson's character in Some Kind of Wonderful.  She has a sweet and demure exterior.  However when the house lights go off, so does she!  That blonde pixie haircut of hers makes the whole thing even more disconcerting.  You gonna take my order or rock my socks off?  It's the latter folks.

During this tour they are mixing in some slower tempo tracks too, namely "Wolf's Law" and "The Everchanging Spectrum of Life."  Bryan is up to the task, as is her rhythm section.  But when "Wolf's Law" reaches it's fiery finish you remember why you bought the tickets.  When these three musicians lay it all on the line and play to/for the rafters, it is when they are at their best.  It can be heard toward the beginning of "A Heavy Abacus."  It can be heard as "Cradle" comes to its bombastic, howling, and supremely satisfying conclusion.

The show might have been last week.   Their have been myriad of events, both rewarding and miserable in the days that followed.  But when I think back at little Ritzy and her mates tearing the hell out of the East Village a smile comes to my face.  

Things could always be worse. 





A new phone/camera is just days away




Until then these awful photos will have to suffice



The adorable rock star, Ritzy Bryan.  



Joy Formidable, Webster Hall, 4.18.13
Setlist Joy Formidable 4.18.13

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Greetings from Paradise

Let me preface this by saying I/we are most fortunate to be in Jamaica this week.  The weather is wonderful.  The people are off the charts friendly.  This place is a real treat.  We have worked plenty hard to afford the trip and time off.  It has been pretty darn good.

Now, the harsh realities.  First, one week is a long, long time to be away from reality.  When you hustle and claw each and every day it requires an effort to simply calm down.  What do you mean the phone doesn't work?  What do you mean you are supposed to just lay at the beach?  The Atlantic Ocean can really look that clear?  And it is capable of that temperature?  And where the hell are the throngs fighting for a morsel of sand?  The Jersey Shore this is not.

And we are starting to realize we are not the "all inclusive" type either.  How much do you have to drink/eat to make this concept work?  I did my fair share on Tuesday and probably had a few bottles of rum.  The result?  I don't want to drink ever again.  Let alone in the 90 degree heat surrounded by the countless European men in their banana hammocks and their odd children.  Question:  at what age should you put a bathing suit top on your daughter?  Also, what male body type, if any, should be allowed to wear a speedo?

Oh, that's another story altogether.  We are finding out we really don't like kids either.  Sure, we have one child.  And yes, we love her dearly.  But she skews older and has a couple of jaded dip shits as parents.  She can't help but hear us snicker at the foibles of every one we come across.  Oh, and she surely noticed we changes rooms today.  Yeah, we had to switch because our new neighbors had a demon spawn screaming all of last night.  It would be much easier to take a couple of newlyweds making kids rather than this kid raising holy hell.   This is a kid friendly place and we are trying to do our best.  Couples Resorts or Sandals would probably bug us too.  Maybe we should just vote ourselves off the island?

The food thing is tough to navigate too.  There are a few good spots within the resort.  In fact, we have had several quality meals at the restaurants on site.  The portions are right too.   It is the buffet that is somewhat unnerving.  The cuisine is acceptable.  The staff, as mentioned, is tremendous.  But the reality is you are sitting in a glorified mess hall.  The ocean is in view, but all you hear is the clanging of utensils.   No one needs the self serve ice cream machine either.  I can hear my jeans snickering at me already as I attempt to button them when I get back home.  Beer.  Rum.  Vodka.  Pizza.  Ice cream.  24/7.

At least there is the beach.  And again, it is spectacular.  But no one told me about the solicitors that comb the sand more than the lifeguards.  "Jetskiparasailing."  "Cigarettes."  "Needamassagebosslady?"  "Dabestweedmon?"  "Whatchaneedmon?  Coke? Weed? Pills? Shrooms?"

If I closed my eyes for a minute I could swear I was in the parking lot of a Dead show.  Oh, and I sampled some of that "best weed" too.  Um, not quite.

I face less pan handling and sales pitches on a NYC weekday.  And I pay far less for that.  I just want to lay on my chair and hear the water.  Turns out you can't really do that.

It's just a harsh reality that comes from growing up and living in the Northeast.  Oh, and being a grade A, numero uno PAIN IN THE ASS!!  And I readily own up to it.  We like what we like.  We love even less.  And when we put out money for a dream vacation we want the everything.  The biscuits and the beans.  The no drama.

It has as much to do with expectations.  Maybe we expected too much.  That is ok.  We are learning more each day.  We are probably not resort people.  We definitely are not the all inclusive type.  Jamaican people are some of the best folks we have ever met.  It has been a terrific week.  Getting home to the dirty Jerz sounds pretty good right about now.  I miss driving.  I miss our dog.  I miss hostility.  I might even miss my phone and stupid work emails.  Soon enough.

First, some more pool time and a couple more cocktails.   Liver, good sense and good health be damned!!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Vacation, All I ever wanted...

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It's been admittedly quiet here at the blog this "Spring."  Winter has not let up, both in weather and aggravation.   Between work, school, coaching, and the altogether miserable experience of buying/selling a home, trivial posts on music, politics and entertainment have gone unwritten.  That is far from a complaint though.  Tis what it tis.   Although I do enjoy the catharsis writing provides.  Here then is an attempt to get back into it.

Music is once again on the agenda.  Maybe its the sunny day, or promise of a pending vacation, or just an overall feeling of calm that brings a smile to this authors face.  Who cares how it got there?  Here is hoping it stays.

Mortality is an ongoing theme in my world this week.  There was an impromptu trip "home" mid-week as a loved one underwent major heart surgery.  Then yesterday the news that Roger Ebert passed.  North Korea and the diminutive new leader seem hell bent on inflicting unprecedented harm too.  It is all so delicate.

This week I spent time fondly remembering my childhood and looking forward to my future, both immediate and long term.  More often than not music provides the inspiration.  With less than 24 hours until wheels up on a long overdue vacation, and motivated slightly by Paste Magazine's Best of 2013 (so far), please take a look/listen at the 2013 Springtime Super Mix.  As always it can be found on Spotify if you subscribe.

Have a great weekend all and catch ya'll in a week or so.

Violent Femmes "Add It Up"  Long live the 80s!  On long drives I find myself listening to 80s on 8.  For every bad Phil Collins or Billy Ocean song, there are gems too.  This one brings to mind Suzuki Samurai joy rides to high school football games, fall foliage, first kisses, and innocent times.  Funny, since in 1983 this was an anti-innocent song.  Hard to believe this track is 30! years old.

Cayucas "Cayucos"  While not technically the same name, it is darn close.  It's kinda like Bad Company singing "Bad Company."  That bugs me for some reason.  The song however is super groovy.  This buzz band from the left coast releases its debut record in the coming weeks.  Get to know them,

U2 "Heartland"  More nostalgia.  Thoughts of 25th St Budco cinema to watch Rattle and Hum.  Thoughts of pretentious lead singer Bono, not pretentious philanthropist Bono.  Quite simply an amazing rock and roll love song.

Waxahatchee "Peace and Quiet"  A few chords and a big voice can go a long way.  This has a 90s attitude (think Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Cat Power.)  Will be on many top songs of the year lists when 2013 is over.

Joe Jackson "Breaking Us in Two" Jackson's 1982 record Night and Day remains one of my favorite of all time.  It/he is one of the only performers my dad and I agree on.  He must have played "Steppin Out" a thousand times on the 33 I bought him for Christmas.  This track is the real stand out.   Sadness and harsh realities here folks.  Sometimes there just isn't a happy ending.  But the song is evidence of superlative songwriting.

Billy Clyro "Black Chandelier"  I am still somewhat on the fence here.  I hate the intro.  His voice sounds much like Brandon Boyd from Incubus (who I can't stand!)  The image in the video is NOT how I pictured the band.  There are a lot of questions.  Yet, when I hear it I don't turn it off.  And in my darkest moments I may even hum along.  I submit, I suppose.  You?

English Beat "Save It For Later"  Cheeky British ska done to perfection.  Nuff said.

Foxygen "No Destruction"  These West Coasters cancelled their European tour after a mini meltdown at last months SXSW.  It ain't easy to handle the rigors of making music these days.  Tours. Press. Tours. Press.  It never ends.  They have but one album that has been received more than favorably and they are finding the waters rough.  All that being said this track is darn good.

Icicle Works "Whisper to A Scream (Birds Fly)"  In the infancy of music video all you needed was a sound stage, wind machine, and fake leaves.  Does the drum beat sounds an awful like Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy?"  One of the most underplayed and underrated songs of the decade.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Sacrilege"  Karen O plus a gospel chorus?  Karen O with some 70s style Curtis Mayfield guitar fills?  The song is one thing...  the sexually charged video is quite another.  Their new LP is weeks away from release and this song has established itself as one of the years best.

The GoGos "Vacation"  Cause I am on one...  effective, NOW!!


added bonus:  Hate the song, but need your input. Why is this being played???