SALAD DAYS PARTY with GOVERNMENT ISSUE, SCREAM, and YOUTH BRIGADE - December 29, 2012
Black Cat - Washington, DC
SALAD DAYS PARTY with BLACK MARKET BABY, DAG NASTY, and KING FACE - December 28, 2012
THE ROLLING STONES - December 15, 2012
AN EVENING WITH CRAIG FERGUSON - November 16, 2012
THE WHO and VINTAGE TROUBLE - November 13, 2012
AN EVENING WITH KATHY GRIFFIN - October 19, 2012
BLONDIE - October 1, 2012
MADONNA and BENNY BENASSI - September 23, 2012
IAN HUNTER AND THE RANT BAND - September 15, 2012
DEAD CAN DANCE and DAVID KUCKHERMANN - August 27, 2012
ORRIN STAR - August 21, 2012
YOUNG RAPIDS - August 15, 2012
Black Cat - Washington, DC
Prudential Center - Newark, New Jersey
Winter has set in finally in the capital city as I rushed around trying to get my errands done before I try to rush home to catch The Rolling Stones, who are supposedly playing their final show on Pay-Per-View. The band are celebrating their 50th Anniversary and they are finishing a six-show mini-tour called the "One More Shot Tour" and it is to commemorate their fifty years as rock and roll legends, they played two shows in England last week, and then a show on December 10th at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn where they rocked out spectacularly judging from the footage I saw on YouTube, particularly a goosebumps-inducing version of "Gimme Shelter" with the amazing Mary J. Blige gloriously wailing away as the lead female voice, and then at the "12.12.12: Superstorm Sandy Relief Concert" they roared through "You Got Me Rocking" from 1994's "Voodoo Lounge" album and an almost punk rock "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that was released as a single in 1968, and Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Charlie Watts were absolutely amazing, plus Charlie is the glue to this band. So I ensconced myself in my room and got ready for their performance, and frighteningly the E! Network has a red carpet special for the concert that started at eight o'clock...so let the rock and roll circus begin...the pre-show started out with a video montage of The Stones throughout the years and the camera opened up to the stadium and the hordes of people filing in and the stage was a big gaping mouth and then the E! Network talking heads laid down the hype as they chatted with the many celebrities in attendance and the whole process was leaving me aghast but if any band deserves such pomp and circumstance, it is The Rolling Stones. The parade of idiots and their inane comments are unbearable...Adrien Grenier...fucking Kevin Rudolf...Whoopi Goldberg...Luke Wilson...Elvis Costello...Diane Krall...Jeremy Piven...Don Johnson...Al Roker...the show opened with a montage of rock stars talking about their love of The Rolling Stones. The spectacle began with these drum majors marching through the audience while dropping a New Orleans-style groove as they made their way to the stage and the lights began to swirl and pulsate and an announcer's voice said, "Ladies and gentlemen please welcome The Rolling Stones," and the band strolled on the stage and launched into a surprisingly crisp "Get Off My Cloud" from 1965's breakthrough album "December's Children (And Everybody's)" and Mick sneered, "I live in an apartment on the ninety-ninth floor of my block, and I sit at home looking out the window, imaginin' the world has stopped, then in flies a guy who's all dressed up like an union jack, and says, I've won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack...", and Keith Richards and Ron Wood skillfully traded guitar riffs and they flowed into a tight and sparse-sounding "The Last Time" from 1965's "Out Of Our Heads" album and the band sounded phenomenal as their instruments interplayed with amazing swagger. I was completely blown away by drummer Charlie Watts' deft and perfectionist playing as they kicked out a country-esque "It's Only Rock And Roll" the title track to their classic 1974 album by the same name and Ron Wood gave it a nice edge with a scintillating guitar solo and the tour keyboardist Jack Lavelle underscored the groove with some great tension that he kept up as they oozed into one of my top ten Stones songs, a menacing "Paint It Black" from 1966's "Aftermath" album that had Mick moaning wickedly delicious as he seductively sang, "I see my red door and I want it painted black, no colors anymore I want them to turn black, I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes..." They finished the song and Mick Jagger reminded us to vote for the audience request song and then he began his serpentine dancing as Keith Richards started the signature opening riff of "Gimme Shelter" from the timeless 1969 album "Let It Bleed" and then Lady Gaga came out in giant platform shoes and a skin-tight bodysuit and danced with her long blonde hair and she wailed Merry Clayton's vocal part, "War, children, yeah, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away, war, children, yeah, it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away, hey, yeah..." It was an incredible soul-shattering rendition as the band played off each other remarkably well as they grinded it out with luxurious clarity. Next they slowed things down with a teardrop-inducing "Wild Horses" off one of the greatest rock albums ever, 1971's "Sticky Fingers", and it had Mick singing his heart out as the band flowed gently behind him as guitarist Ron Wood played a scorching solo during the bridge and it was awe-inspiring to see. Mick brought guitarists John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. to the stage and them and the band kicked into some old school blues with the Freddie King classic "I'm Going Down" and all four guitars wailed and moaned and John Mayer sounded surprisingly good as each of them took a turn laying down some smoking hot riffs, it was fantastic and I loved Gary Clark Jr., he's the hottest cat out there now, get his album and let the new generation of blues players catch you by the soul, and finally Keith Richards...he made those six strings howl like a hurricane. Mick announced that it was time for the winning request song and it was "Dead Flowers" from the "Sticky Fingers" album and he picked up an acoustic guitar and the band joined him in a killer version that Ron played my favorite guitar solo of the night as Mick croaked, "Take me down little Susie, take me down, I know you think you're the queen of the underground, and you can send me dead flowers every morning, send me dead flowers by the mail, send me dead flowers to my wedding, and I won't forget to put roses on your grave...", like he was an old country and western singer. Mick brought The Black Keys to the stage and they joined the band as they launched into a raw'n'dirty version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" that blew my mind as Charlie and The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney laid down the raw gut-bucket boogie beat that was sensational as Keith and The Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach traded blistering licks. Mick picked up an electric guitar and they jumped into their new song from their "GRRR" greatest hits collection called "Doom'n'Gloom" and it sounded way better than the studio version and live it had more crunch and the guitar swaggered as Ron shined on his axe. The band continued with their other new song from "GRRR" called "One More Shot" and I found it to be a bit derivative of their early work and it bit ho-hum, and damn, Mick Jagger was skinny and spry for a man of seventy. They started into a fresh-sounding "Miss You" from 1978's career-reviving album "Some Girls" with some fabulous bass work from tour bassist Darryl Jones and I loved this band de-discofied version as Ron and Keith traded licks over Mick's competent rhythm guitar playing that made the song darker sounding and bassist Darryl played a careening solo that was deep and funky and then longtime saxophonist Tim Reese capped the song off with a mournful and elegiac solo that gave me the chills as Ron finished the song with a tasteful and melancholic guitar solo. The band seemed to be having fun and Ron was doing this goofy dance as they started into their 1969 single "Honky Tonk Women" and it was a bit ragged in the beginning of the song but they tightened it up by the second verse as Mick crowed, "I met a gin-soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis, I tried to take her up stairs for a ride, I had to heave her right across my shoulder, I just don't seem to drink you off my mind, honky tonk, honky tonk women, gimme, gimme, gimme the honky tonk blues...", and keyboardist Jack Lavelle played an amazing lyrical solo during the bridge. Mick introduced the members of the band and oddly Charlie Watts would not shake Mick's hand like everyone else did, and they launched into a raucous "Before They Make Me Run" from the "Some Girls" album and Keith Richards croaked out the words while Mick was off-stage, Keith stayed at the microphone as they rolled into a boogie-woogie rave-up version of "Happy" from the 1972's masterpiece album "Exile On Main St." and it was one of the high points of their set and I must say Keith has the best worst singing voice in the biz and Ron tore it up on the pedal steel guitar. Mick returned to the stage with his harmonica and he brought their former guitarist Mick Taylor to the stage and they launched into a wonderfully lumbering "Midnight Rambler" from 1969's "Let It Bleed" album and Mick just blazed on the guitar as Charlie laid down an utterly glorious back-beat that held the band together. This was my favorite performance of their twenty-three-song set, and they continued on into a pulse-pounding "Start Me Up" from 1981's "Voodoo Lounge" album with a fury as they plowed through the song as the camera cut to Lady Gaga dancing her ass off. The applause became thunderous when Mick brought Bruce Springsteen to the stage and the band let loose with an extra-pumped up version of "Tumbling Dice" from the "Exile On Main St." album and Mick screamed, "This low down bitchin' got my poor feet a itchin', you know you know the deuce is still wild, baby, can't stay, you got to roll me, and call me the tumblin' dice...", and it had more punch than usual and they stayed amped up as they exploded into a sassy "Brown Sugar" from the "Sticky Fingers" album and it careened madly as Tim Reese blew a blistering saxophone solo. The band was on fire now as they cranked it out, they kept up the pace as they played an awe-inspiring "Sympathy For The Devil" from 1968's "Beggars Banquet" album that Charlie propelled with his wonderful drumming as Ron and Keith traded fiery licks, the song never sounded better to me especially Keith's succinct playing. The band left the stage and the audience began chanting for encores...The Rolling Stones returned to the stage with a full choir who began singing their timeless signature song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" from 1969's "Let It Bleed" album which they seemed to favor and the band joined in gently as the audience sang along with the immortal words and they played an absolutely fabulous rendition that brought tears to my eyes as Ron Wood played his most exquisite solo of the night. The band continued into a driving version of their 1968 single "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that pounded and pulsed like a great big beast as Ron and Keith just smoked on their guitars as they unleashed some raw energy. The Rolling Stones closed with a menacing "Satisfaction" from 1965's stellar "Out Of Our Heads" album and Rolling Stone magazine picked it as the second greatest rock and roll song of all time, and Mick Jagger was like an eternal creature as he danced like the mythical Pan and shouted, "When I'm drivin' in my car, and the man comes on the radio, he's tellin' me more and more, about some useless information, supposed to drive my imagination, I can't get no, oh no, no,no...satisfaction...", while the band all really shined with a fury that got me on my feet in the safety of my house as I watched them leave the stage for probably the last time. This was one tremendous performance that was emblazoned in my mind with the band totally rocking out with superb musicianship and excellent songs that have stood the test of time just like The Rolling Stones have lasted fifty years and counting.
Warner Theatre - Washington, DC - Balcony/Row GG/Seat 17
Winter had begun to settle upon DC as I made my way to The Warner Theatre with my pal Mark Amabalie to see one of my favorite comedians, the delightfully insane Craig Ferguson, who's late night talk show on CBS I never miss. I have been looking forward to this show because I really need a good laugh. The show was being filmed for an upcoming special so he should be really on his game, I only wish Geoff Peterson, his gay skeleton robot, was going to be onstage with him, but alas, I guess his extension cord is not long enough...I found my seat while Led Zeppelin pumped out in the background as I waited for him to hit the stage and my mind reeled with my favorite catch-phrases of his that tumbled around my mind..."Balls"..."Here comes the players"..."It's a great day for America". The voice of Geoff Peterson, actor Josh Robert Thompson, took the stage and he does all kinds of voice imitations like actor Morgan Freeman who could make taking a dump sound poetic, the kind of voice that you would want to narrate your life...he said doing voices during sex can be exciting...Matthew McConaughey to Wilfred Brimley as Dracula..."I want to suck your blood sugar"...Liam Neeson doing his character's voice from the movie "Taken"..."I will find you and kill you"...and can you image Regis Philbin or Morgan Freeman reading "50 Shades Of Grey" out loud...then he spoke about meeting people who he imitates, Sylvester Stallone and he still doesn't know what he said, Morgan Freeman just said, "Damn, you a skinny-ass white boy", and he was scared of Robert DeNiro but he was a hit at Robert's birthday party, and then he left the stage as Craig Ferguson bounded on it and said, "Take your finger out of my bottom, it's a great day for America!" Craig said he was happy to be here because it got him away from his kids and he started to tell a joke about Drew Carey but he became distracted by his thoughts...fat is where comedy is stored...he started talking about his kids and...afterbirth just makes him gag, babies are so unreasonable, they are like living with Glenn Beck, just screaming and pooping, they are born evil..."I think my kid is the anti-Christ"...then he talked about his "drug years" and "X" isn't tripping that ain't acid...he used to drink all day then take some acid and drink some more but never take acid after twelve pints of Guinness...it's not science to blow a drug dealer for crack, it's art...I don't give a fuck what you do...then he ranted about various celebrities...Honey Boo Boo...Dr. Phil is not a fucking doctor...Oprah lied...The Kardashians...but there is always room for a lovely ass on TV...great asses have caused so much drama like war, the Trojan Horse was built for a great ass...he loves films about ancient Rome where the actors have British accents...Hitler had a great ass because of dieting and goose-stepping, no one gets mad when you make fun of Nazis, they should just bedazzle that swastika...Nazis and Canadians are the only two groups that you can rag on without any backlash, Canadians are nice until they get a hockey stick in their hands...trannies are upset about his drag persona Peg Ferguson saying that he is making fun of them and not in a good way but he is a man trapped in a middle-aged woman's body...and women and their clitorises...some women are clitoris ninjas and will scare the fuck out of you...but let's hear it for lady cock...Scots and sex is just hideous, they always try to appear stoic during orgasm...he hates gay-haters and they always, and he means always, get caught in some gay sex scandal...ooooooh, he hates the tabloids...of course Angelina Joli stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer...Warren Beatty was a giant ho fucking anything that moved until he met Annette Benning...Hitler was a vegetarian and they don't tell you that down at the Whole Foods...he was surprised to find out that Mel Gibson was a Nazi...he thought cocaine was a vitamin that helped you to drink more alcohol...the idea that one gets a "sex addiction" is bullshit...fuck new age shit, the music and the lifestyle, it mocks and massages you and that is bad, and it is similar to many weird medieval practices...fuck the past, I grew up in the seventies and it was awful, you had disco and I had rickets, just a dreadful time...he spent "Shark Week" in the Bahamas to film a special for the Animal Planet channel and that is where Sean Connery lives, the sharks were like Osmonds with extra teeth...sharks have two penises but no hands and that is why they are so cranky...he is always asked why does he refer to his studio audiences as hobos, well, they are...he had an idyllic childhood and that turned him into a ex-alcoholic comic, so what does that tell you...he finds "The Teletubbies" very weird and his kid is obsessed, Tinky Winky is a fucking drunk...and Craig Ferguson finished his hysterical set with the forgotten Drew Carey joke and then he ran off stage. Craig was fantastic on his manic rant as he jumped from topic to topic and made me laugh my ass off with his comments and critiques that were right on the money as he paced the stage with manic energy. I left the building laughing to myself all the way to the metro at his clever insights and silly parodies. Thank you Craig. Cheers!
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 112/Row H/Seat 6
I am sitting at an Asian restaurant in the shadow of the Verizon Center enjoying some Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken with my dear friend Joyce Lacovara, who sang for my favorite local band Murder Ink who I tried to guide to fame in the nineties, but cancer got in the way and our little rock'n'roll machine collapsed and now some fifteen years later we are sitting in a restaurant catching up as we kill time before we head to the Verizon Center to see The Who on their "2012 Quadrophenia Tour" and I finally get to see some musicians who are older than me...yeah...It is amazing that they are still touring albeit without the legendary drummer Keith Moon and stalwart bassist John Entwistle both who are sadly departed from the earth, however they have been playing the Washington DC area since their first show here at GWU's Lisner Auditorium on August 13, 1967, and they played our area many more times including their now legendary show on May 25, 1968 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, and I will never forget my first time them live on December 5, 1973 at the Capitol Centre in Largo, Maryland with a young Lynyrd Skynyrd opening for them and blowing them away, and the last time that I saw them was on December 17, 1979 when the band's volume made me deaf for the next three days, and then the eighties started and I had little interest in The Who as I began my own musical journey and now thirty years later, I am getting excited about seeing The Who as we wait to go to the show. We enter the arena and I buy a tour shirt before we made our way to our lovely seats with a sensational view and we sit and reminiscence about our long ago musician friends like Dave Grohl, Vance Bockis, Boyd Farrell, and Fred Smith. Thankfully there is an opening act who I have been wanting to see, a band from Los Angeles called Vintage Trouble who play old-school heavy blues-rock in the vein of Ten Years After, the band took the stage suavely dressed in suits like classic blues-men and they blew me away with their driving blues stomp, and the singer Ty Taylor blew me away as he wailed and moaned like a modern-day Otis Redding and the band...lord have mercy...they laid down a smoking hot high-energy groove, the guitarist Nalle Colt just made his instrument scream as bassist Rick Barrio Dill brought a thunderous bottom and drummer Richard Danielson kept the beat throbbing and propulsive. I was completely blown away as they rocked their hearts out. The highlight of their six-song set was a thumping "Run Like The River" that was electrifying as guitarist Nalle Colt played some excellent slide guitar as the band plowed on but I think that they would better in a more intimate club setting. I found them to be more "AC/DC" than "Ten Years After" but I thoroughly enjoyed their performance but they could have used some female background singers and a horn section though. Vintage Trouble finished their all too brief set and they jumped into the audience and made their way to a meet and greet on the concourse. The houselights came up and we watched the crowd and waited for Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend to hit the stage and play their classic 1973 album "Quadrophenia" in its entirety and then according to a set list I got off setlist.fm, the band is going to encore with their best five songs, including "Behind Blue Eyes" which is my all-time favorite song by The Who. Roger and Pete and their band hit the stage with images of crashing waves on the overhead video screens as the band opened with a swirling "I Am The Sea" that flowed into a sensational "The Real Me" with Roger singing, "I went back to the doctor, to get another shrink, I sit and tell him about my weekend, but he never betrays what he thinks, can you see the real me, doctor...", and the band sounded amazing and tight and Pete Townshend whipped off some scorching solo leads and then the band flowed into a gentle "Cut My Hair" as images of 1950s England floated by on the screens and drummer Zak Starkey kept the beat better than his father Ringo Starr ever could and the musical symmetry between Pete and his younger brother Simon's guitar-playing was exquisite and Pete really shined on his guitar more than I expected from him. The video images showed an old news report of the Brighton Beach riots between the mods and rockers as the band launched into an elegant "The Punk And The Godfather" and I am amazed how fantastic and timeless the music and the band sound. The band slowed things down a bit as Pete played the acoustic guitar and the rest of the band joined in played a lovely version of "I'm One" and Roger was brilliant as he brought the lyrics to life with his voice, "Every year is the same and I feel it again, I'm a loser, no chance to win, leaves start falling, come down is calling, loneliness starts sinking in, but I'm one, I am one, and I can see that this is me, I will be, you'll all see, I'm the one...", and this was one of my favorite moments of their set. Contrary to what I read and heard about his musical skills declining, Pete Townshend was playing his guitar and singing great, and his brother Simon stepped the microphone and gorgeously sang lead on "The Dirty Jobs" and his voice mixed nicely with Roger Daltry's backing vocals and the horn section of J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham punctuated the song in a way that really brought it to life. The band segued into a lyrical biting "Helpless Dancer" and that melted into a satirical "Is It In My Heart?" and I forgot how political their lyrics were, especially in this song and the words are still applicable to the world today amazingly enough. They marched on into a driving "I've Had Enough" with its charming country twang as Roger sang, "You were under the impression, that when you were walking forward, you'd end up further onward, but things ain't quite that simple...", and drummer Zac Starkey was impeccable as he played perfectly and Pete Townshend let loose with his delightful solo that made my hairs stand on end and Roger Daltry let loose with his best scream of the night as they roared into a crowd-pleasing "15:15" that really demonstrated how tight the band's playing was as Pete wailed on his red guitar. I was so impressed because even Roger Daltry's voice sounded good as he belted out the wonderful words. They then showed video footage of John Entwistle playing the bass solo and Zak Starkey played along with his image brilliantly and then the band cranked it up and Pete did a few of his signature windmills on the guitar and he let it rip with a scorching lead. They segued into "Sea And Sand" as I sat reeling from the glorious beauty of the previous song and the amazing technology that they used to intertwine images of the late John Entwistle playing a bass solo into the live band experience, but damn Pete Townshend sounded great on the guitar as the band moved into "Drowned". Roger played a lovely harmonica intro as the band thrashed away behind him, and I kept wondering what was with the constant referencing of bodies of water in Pete's lyrics but then he whipped off another exquisite guitar solo and the band picked up the tempo as they kicked into a raucous "Bell Boy" and they once again intertwined images of the late great Keith Moon singing the lead vocal and pounding the drums, it is amazing what technology can do these days. More crashing waves appeared on the video screen and the band launched into a manic "Doctor Jimmy" that had Roger belting out, "What is it, I'll take it, who is she, I'll rape it, got a bet there, I'll meet it, getting' high, you can't beat it, doctor Jimmy and mister Jim, when I'm pilled you don't notice him, he only comes out when I drink my gin...", until he ran into a little microphone trouble and I saw him give the monitor guy the evil eye, and the song ended like the crashing of waves as the band erupted with a mind-bending instrumental "The Rock" and Pete proved that he is a guitar god as he exploded with riffs and licks. The video screens showed images of Elvis Presley, Keith Moon, John Lennon, Princess Di and their obituaries amongst images of war and despair and loss. The music crescendo-ed and swelled as it was propelled by the excellent bass playing of Pino Palladino until it built up to the "Quadrophenia" album closer "Love, Reign O'er Me" and Roger sang the words with such conviction and hope as he roared, "Only love can make it rain, the way the beach is kissed by the sea, only love can make it rain, like the sweat of lovers layin' in the fields, love, reign o'er me, love, reign o'er me, rain on me, rain on me...", and damn, he still can hit the notes. Pete Townshend thanked us in the Washington DC area and he referenced the upcoming 2012 Kennedy Center Honors Award that they are receiving for their contributions to popular culture and then he and Roger introduced the band; Simon Townshend on guitar, Pino Palladino on bass, Zak Starkey on drums, John Corey and Loren Gold on keyboards, J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham on horns, and the band's musical director Frank Simes on keyboards. The band kicked it into high gear with a killer version of "Who Are You" the title track of their 1978 album of the same name, and various band logos floated across the video screen and the band performed an awesome rendition as Pete played the most amazing guitar solo that mutated into the opening riff of the song that I waited all night to hear, "Behind Blue Eyes" from their signature album, 1971's "Who's Next". The second the opening notes came out of the speakers I was singing along with Roger, "No one knows what it's like, to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes, no one knows what it's like, to be hated, to be fated, to telling only lies, but my dreams, they aren't as empty, as my conscience seems to be, I have hours, only lonely, my love is vengeance that's never free...", and Pete whipped off another scintillating guitar solo. The band flowed into a rocking "Pinball Wizard" from their classic 1969 rock opera album and film "Tommy" that had everyone in the audience on their feet enrapt and roaring their approval as the intro to "Baba O'Riley" also from the "Who's Next" album and, for you youngsters, the theme song for "CSI: Miami", began to play and the synthesizers swirled out into the crowd and the band was on fire as they turned it out and Roger was smoking hot on the vocal harmonies. The crowd was in heaven as the band launched into a masterful "Won't Get Fooled Again" also from the "Who's Next" album, and what a fantastic version it was as Roger heartily sang, "I'll tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and grin at the change all around, pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday, then I'll get on my knees and pray, we don't get fooled again..." The Who closed their twenty-three song set with the odd choice of "Tea & Theatre" from 2006's "Endless Wire" album and they cranked it out in an oddly British way as they bid us all goodnight and left the stage. Joyce and I had got a head start on leaving the arena during this song and we hobbled out of there and she gave me a ride to my house and we bid each other a fond farewell as "Won't Get Fooled Again" echoed in my head. Goodbye The Who...It has been great all these years.
D.A.R. Constitution Hall - Washington, DC - Box 5/Seat 2
It has been a dreadful day; first I got soaked by the rain not once but twice and it messed up my phone, and then it takes forever to park near Constitution Hall, and finally I make it to the venue and thankfully something good happened, my tickets were in Box 5 and we were twenty feet away from Kathy Griffin on the stage, so hopefully we will catch her eye. Being that it is right before the presidential election, she should be full of political zingers. My dear friend Scott Parks and I smirk at each other as we watch and mock all the other gays in the audience, half of the patrons of the gay bar I used to frequent are here, so my bartender must be bored and thankfully at 8:15PM, Kathy Griffin hit the stage after her lovely video montage of her TV appearances and photos of her with various celebrities and a message from her mother Maggie Griffin...it's just Kathy...She hits the stage wearing a purple shirt for anti-bullying day and she thanks us for coming because she loves her DC audience the most and then she is off and running as she begins her act...Arnold Schwarzenegger is a fucking whore and the new Kardashian...she said look around and when you see the really fit men, they're the gay ones...she had dinner recently with Jackie Collins and the stories she told...J-Woww from "Jersey Shore" has had a head transplant because you just can't recycle whores...then she said that she fell out of one of Mitt Romney's binders full of women. I was laughing hysterically as she delivered her jokes with her impeccable timing and she continued...she said she was basically a Sandinista but there were three groups she did not make fun of and they were lesbians, PETA, and Barbara Walters, she don't cross them...ever...She went to the White House which was absolutely amazing and she just loves HBO's "Homeland" and she was backstage at The Emmys where she was nominated for Best TV Special for "Tired Hooker" but she lost to the "Kennedy Center Honors"...before there was Britney there was Liza, who by the way is fucking nuts...then she said she doesn't care about facts and figures just the dirt...and she loves to mock the Palins...and doesn't Paul Ryan look like he's getting ready to get a hand-job in the sauna at the gym...and Bristol Palin has no right to say she is being bullied. The audience was rolling in the aisles laughing their asses off as she let loose with a righteous vengeance and badmouthed Journey...Foreigner...Andy Dick...Danny Bonaduce...Downton Abbey...the Real Housewives who she said that they are delusional and they all think they are Meryl Streep...and that Bravo's talking head Andy Cohen was a fool. Kathy delivered her jokes as if she was proud of herself particularly when it was dancing on the line of decency and she said was happy to make fun of the handicapped...I will cross the line...then she gleefully mocked Justin Bieber by pretending to puke like he did onstage a few weeks ago and it was wickedly delightful. She continued on with a bit of political humor stating that undecided voters are assholes because how could anybody be undecided...she don't care if you can run a business, can you run a country...I found myself nodding my head in agreement with her. She went back to her original targets, celebrity idiots...like Demi Lovato and she broke her down saying "Ooh, I'm a cutter"...and she said these days she's a little bit friendly with Ryan Seacrest and it scared her...and she got to go to the "I Heart Radio" festival in Las Vegas where she got to introduce the Swedish House Mafia and everybody was on bath salts because meth is so yesterday and she interrupted No Doubt's prayer circle and then she mistakenly complimented Green Day's drummer Tre Cool who she thought was No Doubt drummer Adrian Young much to her chagrin. Kathy was on a roll now and she did not pull punches and she said that she went to lunch with Megan Mullally and she hates to be asked to do her character "Karen Walker" from "Will And Grace"...and she would like to have a dementia apartment just like Joan Rivers...she loves watching Rihanna and Chris Brown and especially at music industry events when they pretend they are not together...then she asked if anyone had seen Britney on "The X Factor" with all of her hand gestures and her fiance Jason was like a male nurse and he kind of looked like your insane cousin on holiday. She reads a real letter from a death row prisoner that is just fascinated by her and wants to do some very sick things to her...she went on and did the best Nancy Grace vocal impression of her acting 'holier-than-thou' about killers and child molesters and rapists...oddly Kathy said 'nigger' three times and I was a bit taken aback...then she went off on the "Jersey Housewives" and she told us that they were all in debt...how the fuck do you get twelve million dollars in debt...and they are such morons that they can't even pronoun their own names. I love how Kathy is all over the place but it always comes together in the end and she was onto TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" and how her hate for the show has turned into love for it and then she quieted the audience and she said 'Honey Boo Boo' and everyone laughed because we knew it was coming...that Mama June, god she is 'large'...she said what a weird thing to say about fat-ass rednecks...and what was that stuff she was drinking...go-go juice...it is basically bath salts for tots...Mama June is special...then she told about having dinner with Paula Deen and that she was only thin for television because she was hungry and bitter all the time but Kathy loves how she says 'fuck'em' and Paula Deen loves Honey Boo Boo and how she loves eating 'sketti' which is pasta, catsup, and butter...and the 'redneck games'...oh my god...basically it is a puddle of grungy water and they think is Disneyland and it is just Ecoli waiting to happen...and we cannot forget Mama June and her 'chineck'...she jumped to "Beyond Scared Straight" and she loves it when one of the inmates says he's gonna spread you and stuff yo shit and then you are going to be in a 'teeth-optional' situation and the teenagers are shaking and scarred, she thinks its great fun. She goes back to The Grammys and how she met Dave Grohl and fabulous he is for a straight guy...and that Taylor Swift, she is fucking a Kennedy, but she is a pain in the ass with her perfect life...and John Mayer is spreading his VD all over Hollywood, you can look at him and catch crabs...and finally she ends on Miley Cyrus and how she loves her side boob shots, they are hysterical. Kathy stopped for a few seconds to catch her breath and onward she went...she said sometimes when I blow my boyfriend, I feel like a gay boy and so we can role-play all night...and finally she got to her favorite two topics "Cher and Celine" but she said that Cher loves to call C-Span and rant...she loves to say what's an instagram, bitch...and she has a letter from Cher that she signed "love you more than I hate the tea party"...Kathy did her best Oprah imitation introducing Celine and it was fabulous, but oh yeah, she has a thirty-three year old boyfriend now and she's a cougar because she is fifty-one...but she was taking him to Las Vegas and they were going to see Celine at The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace and Celine wants her to come backstage and they happened to be seated next to Rene Angelil, her husband who was a frequent target of Kathy's comedy, she is nervous and gets 'instant diarrhea' because she has pissed him off by saying that Rene is gambling all of her money away, and besides Rene is an OLD man, but her show is dazzling and she sings a beautiful rendition of "Goldfinger", Kathy goes backstage and she makes a cocaine joke and it totally misfires because Celine thinks that she is offering her some cocaine and a comedy of errors ensues as Kathy tries to explain that she is joking but it falls on deaf ears. She finished her act and took a bow and runs off the stage and Scott and me just laugh our asses off and we headed out and go to my house with big smiles on our faces. Cheers, Kathy Griffin, keep us laughing.
State Theater, Falls Church, VA
It is a very dreary first day of October and the dark clouds are threatening to burst any second as I make my way on the Metro to Falls Church to see Blondie once again. I realized I have seen Blondie perform in five different decades from the seventies when I ran away to New York City to see them at CBGB's to last October when I hobbled up to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, and they still sounded fresh as ever. So here I am tonight hoping that they change up their set a bit. They just finished up the "Whip It To Shreds" tour with DEVO which did not make it here but I have always been more of a Blondie fan anyways. Before the show I wandered around Falls Church a bit thinking about my past; my childhood doctor and the barbershop where I went as a kid are just around the corner from the club, and I am feeling old and overwhelmed as I popped into a Vietnamese restaurant and had some spring rolls and grilled chicken and started to write this. I ventured back to the venue to find my pals Keith McGirt and Jimmy Fitts, and by the way, Keith is the world's greatest Blondie/Debbie Harry fan ever. I could not find a current set list so tonight's show should be a surprise. I arrived and the place had a decent size crowd and they were primed and ready to rock as I made my way to the balcony to my favorite seat and began the countdown to Blondie...soon some weird intro music began coming out of the speakers as the members of Blondie take the stage and Debbie Harry looked great in a silver coat as she began singing "Dreaming" and her voice sounded great as she cooed, "When I met you in a restaurant, you could tell I was no debutante, you asked me what's my pleasure, a movie or a measure, I'll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreaming...", and her voice danced with Leigh Foxx's seductive bass line. Tommy Kessler looked great in a suit and pink hi-tops as he began strumming the opening riffs of "Hangin' On The Telephone" and he gracefully dueled with Chris Stein who sounded great as their guitars intertwined and drove the rhythm, and the house sound was decent for the State Theatre. They continued with a new song from the "Panic Of Girls" album called "Love Doesn't Frighten Me" and the band was surprisingly tight and Chris Stein played an amazing guitar solo as Matt Katz-Bohen made his keyboards carry the song as they segued into "D-Day", also on the new album and it was a delightful rendition. The set highlight was a slinky and sensuous "Call Me" that Debbie brought to life with her 'come hither' voice as she sang, "Cover me with kisses, baby, cover me with love, roll me in designer sheets, I'll never get enough, emotions come, I don't know why, cover of love's alibi...", and the interplay between the guitars and keyboards was awe-inspiring. Debbie changed into a black mini skirt and a huge skull belt and the band launched into "What I Heard" from the "Panic Of Girls" album with its great driving rhythm and Tommy Kessler played the best guitar solo of the night that wound serpentine throughout the song, it just proved that they can still write a great song. They played another new song called "Wipe Off My Sweat" and Tommy played this great Spanish guitar intro and then he rocked the electric guitar as Clem Burke pounded away beautifully at his drum set. Next they performed a scorching "The Tide Is High" with a fantastic new arrangement that was out of this world, I just love how they blend musical genres so seamlessly as Debbie crooned, "The tide is high but I'm holding on, I'm gonna be your number one, I'm not the kinda girl who gives up just like that, oh no...", and then Chris Stein played an amazing guitar solo followed by bassist Leigh Foxx who did the same thing much to the amazement of my ears, they totally rocked the song out. They did a trippy cover of "Lights" by Ellie Goulding and it was okay but to me it was the low-point of the night. Another high point of their set was "Atomic" with its cool new arrangement and I just loved it as Tommy Kessler played a killer guitar solo that he played like he was in a heavy metal band. Next was a real showstopper as they launched into "Rapture" and they played it like a straight up funk number and the crowd went nuts for it. Chris was stomping as he made his guitar howl and moan and Tommy made his guitar scream and roar as they wove in and out of the rhythmic thunder and Debbie danced and rapped "Toe to toe, dancing very close, barely breathing, almost comatose, wall to wall, people hypnotized, and they're stepping lightly, hang each night in rapture..." The song evolved into the Beastie Boys classic "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" and they rocked the song better than The Beastie Boys and Debbie got everyone riled up as she sang her heart out. Debbie said fall was her favorite season because it is good for dressing up and she jumped into "Mother" which was awesome and it was the final new song from "Panic Of Girls", and it blended in quite well with their older songs. The band was on fire as they cruised into the home stretch with a crunchy "Rip Her To Shreds" and I just love the new arrangement, and then they finished with a furious "One Way Or Another" that had Tommy tearing it up with a killer guitar solo and the audience singing along, "One way or another I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha, one way or another I'm gonna win ya, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha..." They finished and left the stage to the deafening roar of the crowd as they yelled for more, and after a few minutes Blondie returned and let loose with a sensational cover of "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood that was just stunning in its execution. Debbie introduced the band and told us that we have been a great audience and then she and the band played a spectacular "Heart Of Glass" and Debbie wailed, "Once I had a love and it was a gas, soon turned out to be a pain in the ass, seemed like the real thing, only to find mucho mistrust, love's gone behind, ooh ooh ooh whoa..." Blondie finished their amazing sixteen-song set with great pizzazz and they walked off the stage showing that they could still rock after all these years. I rushed out of The State Theatre and headed to the Metro and hurried to my home back in the city and I am looking forward to seeing them again.
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 110/Row P/Seat 3
It was a gorgeous fall day as I made my way around the city attending to some personal business before I had to meet my BFF Scott Parks for dinner and then we were going to head to the Verizon Center to see our penultimate gay diva, her majesty Madonna Louise Ciccone, or just Madonna on her "MDNA" tour, and I am awash in memories. From the early eighties in NYC before superstardom when I used to see her dancing away at the Danceteria and the bouncer would keep a table free for her and every night like clockwork she would go to Jellybean Benitez's DJ booth above the main dance floor and the curtain would close and she...you know...and she would return to her table and then her demo version of "Everybody" would pound out of the speakers and she would dance like a maniac...and once outside of the club she was arguing with her then boyfriend Tony Ward and she pulled some of her now signature black bracelets off her wrist and threw them at him and a few minutes later I got on my hands and knees and retrieved one from the gutter and I still wear it...and then a few months later after I had burned out on NYC and I had returned home to my father's apartment to recover and re-group and the only music-related thing I did was I would watch "Solid Gold" at 7pm on Saturday nights, and lo and behold, there she was singing her first hit "Holiday" and I was aghast as I sat stunned and shocked and right then and there I decided to jump back in the music biz...then I went to the "Like A Virgin" tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion with my 'departed' best friend Mark and we were the only 'fags' in the middle of an audience of screaming Madonna look-a-likes while their mothers gave us dirty looks as the openers The Beastie Boys scared us, it was supposed to be Bronski Beat opening for her but singer Jimi Somerville got arrested for toilet sex and could not get in the country...then I saw her at RFK Stadium with Level 42 but that show is a blur...but the "Blonde Ambition" show in 1990 with Technotronic at the Capitol Centre is emblazoned in my brain and I was blown away by her production...I missed the "Drowned World" tour at the Verizon Center in 2001 and the "Re-Invention" tour in June of 2004 and then she skipped DC for her next two tours so I cannot wait until tonight's show because it should be spectacular...We arrived at the Verizon Center and went straight to the merchandise table and I spent eighty dollars on a tour shirt, a program, and pins, and we found our rather lovely seats and we sit and wait for the bitch to take the stage and she ain't known for being prompt. I sit and observed the audience; the eighties soccer moms, the over-the-hill queens, horrified straight guys, girls dressed in various eras of Madonna outfits, a misplaced black couple, and gawking Asian tourists, it was a plethora of cross-generational Madonna fans that I found excessively amusing as I made very rude comments about them, much to the chagrin and amusement of my friend. What happened to my generation? We waited and waited and I wondered what Madonna was up to right now, probably on the toilet getting ready to take her Geritol and say her ritual pre-show prayers. The stage set-up was kind of cool, and it came to a point and there was a VIP pit but it looked a bit uncomfortable for my taste. It got to be nine-o'clock and the crowd was getting restless in the warm arena waiting on her. Benny Benassi finally takes the stage and kicks into some annoying gay disco that he desperately tried to get the audience to bounce up and down to but it does not work, except for one annoying dancing girl. He played a remix of Bob Marley's "Jammin'" and I wondered what Bob would think of all this. It was endless and boring and I stopped working at gay clubs to get away from this shit and it seemed to go on forever. Finally he finished his set with his own hit "Beautiful People" and I have never seen so many rhythm-less dancers in my life, all of them gyrating like they were having epileptic seizures. Benny left the stage and they played some mindless techno as the crew did a quick set-change after which Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" began playing, the scrim dropped as Diana Ross' "Upside Down" pumped and then it was some David Bowie and then eventually it was 10:24pm...who does she think she is...Axl Rose...grrrr....Suddenly the lights dimmed and the scrim dropped and in the "Transgression" segment of the show these monks appeared ringing bells under an over-sized incense burner that swayed above them and then a priest came out and said some prayers and led the monks in chanting a Gregorian Chant as the Virgin Mary appeared and they performed "Act Of Contrition" with Kalahan who were playing assorted percussion instruments. Dancers rose from the floor and writhed and gyrated as demons appeared with them, and the huge door at the back of the stage opened up and Madonna appeared and strutted out on to the stage and she began "Girl Gone Wild" and defiantly sang, "Girls they just want to have some fun, get fired up like a smokin' gun, on the floor til the daylight comes, girls they just wanna have some fun...", and the band was tight and the drummer Brian Frasier Moore was amazing. The stage set was constantly evolving as the steps in the middle of the stage went up and down and Madonna jumped up and down on top of them gleefully as the band played a bit of "Material Girl" and the accompanying graphics on the video screens ruled. Suddenly Madonna got a gun and shot bullets at the screen and images of blood went everywhere, and then she went into "Revolver" and the band was invisible but crisp and sharp and sirens went off and a hotel room appeared in the middle of the stage and Madonna flopped in the bed and began singing "Gang Bang". She writhed about and acted kind of 'ho-hum' as she pretended to drink Jack Daniels and shoot off guns and then she shot one of the male dancers in an act of gratuitous violence, it was very bizarre and off-putting because it was very violent and did not fit the image she was creating for herself. Next they did a classic track, a revved up "Papa Don't Preach" and it was fantastic and it had a new amped up arrangement with some stellar violin from Joseph Yang. The stage revolved and tightropes were stretched across the width of the stage in several rows and several 'parcour' dancers began bouncing and flipping on the ropes as the band played "Hung Up" and she sang, "Every little thing that you say and do, I'm hung up, I'm hung up on you, waiting for a call, baby night and day, I'm fed up, I'm tired of waiting on you..." Weird graphics of voodoo images and symbols flew by on the video screens as the dancers manically manhandled Madonna in a frenzy as a factory background appeared in the smoke. Madonna picked up a guitar and she kicked off "I Don't Give A" with a sneer as she spit the words out and stained glass appeared on the video screens along with Nicki Minaj who dropped some lyrics, and then a priest appeared on the stage and he sang in Latin as the stage evolved and it was an amazing set. Cemetary pictures flashed on the screens as the dancers got freaky all over the place then a video of a heartbeat began thumping along, and I must say that the sound system was immense as that I heard every little thing. The "Prophecy" segment of the show began with a video montage featuring snippets of "Best Friend" and "Heartbeat" and then Madonna returned and passionately sang, "Come on girls, do you believe in love, 'cause I got something to say about it, and it goes something like this...", as she and her band launched into a thumping "Express Yourself". Meanwhile high above the stage these drum majorettes marched in mid-air as they banged their drums and majorettes on the ground twirled their batons, and the band played a fantastic new arrangement of the song, but in an apparent rip on Lady Gaga, she played samples of "Born This Way" mixed in the song. They continued on with "Give Me All Your Luvin'" and the suspended drummers pounded out the beat and it was trippy and fantastic to see. Another video interlude happened with "Turning Up The Hits" and a collage of her hit singles flashed on the video screen and the lights were fantastic as they swirled and pulsed. Madonna came back to the stage with a guitar and launched into "Turn Up The Radio" and it was one of the best songs of her set as guitarist Monte Pittman traded riffs with Madonna over Kevin Antunes' skillfully keyboard wizardry. The next song "Open Your Heart" was quite a surprise with an updated arrangement and the Basque percussion trio Kalahan joined her once again and added a spirited edge as they pounded away and Madonna's voice sounded good as she sang, "Open your heart to me, baby, I hold the lock and you hold the key, open your heart to me, darlin', I'll give you love if you, turn the key..." Madonna then asked why does it feel so good to say 'motherfucker' as bubbles floated about the stage and she went on a political speech on supporting President Obama and we had better vote for him in November and she started playing "Holiday" much to the audience's pleasure, it was a lovely upbeat version that felt updated and I liked how she performed the older songs with new arrangements. Kalahan returned to the stage and Madonna slowed things down with a sensual "Masterpiece" as Kalahan played light and delicate on their instruments and the keyboardist Kevin Antunes played a beautiful solo that accented their percussion playing as the lights dimmed. The "Masculine/Feminine" segment of the show started with the "Justify My Love" video and it segued into the return of Madonna and her dancers as the band kicked things off with a joyous "Vogue" with the dancers worked the entire stage as they vogued and posed and runway-ed and Madonna coyly sang, "All you need is your own imagination, so use it that's what it's for, go inside, for your finest inspiration, your dreams will open the door...", and there was even a dancer who was a Kevin Aviance clone. It brought the house down and the audience was ecstatic and it was the most straight up version of her older songs. The band continued into "Candy Shop" with its slinky groove that Ric'key Pageot made jump with his sparkling keyboard lines, they moved on with a flawless "Human Nature" that was tight and crisp and reminded me of a Dr. Dre production. Madonna even showed the audience her bare ass and she let a dancer write "Sexy" on her back with a black marker. Then the highlight of the night which was "Like A Virgin" and it was barely recognizable as Kevin Antunes tinkled the piano like an old jazzman and Jason Yang made his violin purr while Madonna gyrated on top of the piano cooing "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time, like a virgin, with your heartbeat next to mine, gonna give you all my love, boy, my fear is fading fast, been saving it all for you, 'cause only love can last...", and the audience loved it. The band re-appeared and morphed into a dreamy "Love Spent" and Monte Pittman played a scintillating guitar solo and he tightened it up as they segued back into "Like A Virgin" until the lights dimmed. The final segment of the night "Celebration" began with the video to "Nobody Knows Me" and then Madonna got real political and faces of teen suicides and murders appeared on the video screen and they floated by to remind us that things have got to change. The tightropes re-appeared and the dancers were dressed as convicts and prison guards as they bounced and balanced themselves on them as the band began "I'm Addicted" which they performed beautifully and I would say it was one of the best performances of the night. It was very techno and full of deep house rhythms as it pulsed under the trippy lights and for some reason it reminded me of all things Japanese. The Basque trio Kalahan returned and joined the band in playing a grinding "I'm A Sinner" with Madonna on guitar and it swirled and twirled like it was a Bollywood showstopper as the dancers contorted all over the stage to the Indian rhythms that Kalahan provided. They segued into "Like A Prayer" and you could feel the love in the air as a gospel choir came out and their voices made me get all teary as they sang so beautifully and uplifting and the joint was rocking joyously. The choir had this amazing female soloist whose voice wailed amazingly and lifted me to a higher plane. These cool huge pillars appeared on the stage and they were covered with ancient holy Hebrew letters and words as church bells tolled in the background, it was a transcendent and beautiful. Madonna and her band finished the night with a celebratory "Celebration" that had the audience clapping along as Madonna extolled us, "Boy, you got it, it's a celebration, 'cause anybody just won't do, let's get it started, no more hesitation, 'cause everybody wants to party with you...", and the lights were great as they pulsed and throbbed as the beat pumped and jumped and got deep and the band turned it out one last time. Madonna and company left the stage as the audience roared for more but alas, it was over and I must say that it was one of the best concerts that I have seen in years and I loved every minute of it. We hightailed out of the arena flush with excitement as we headed across the National Mall to our car to head home.
Howard Theater - Washington, DC
It is a gorgeous Saturday evening as I make my way to the lovely Howard Theatre to see one of my rock icons, the amazing Mr. Ian Hunter of my first favorite band Mott The Hoople, who I was lucky enough to see at D.A.R. Constitution Hall on May 15th, 1974, with Aerosmith, and in the fall of 1991, I was also lucky enough to see the Hunter/Ronson Band at Hammerjacks just a few weeks before Mick Ronson died, and so tonight I am looking forward to see Ian Hunter play the best highlights of his illustrious career and we are sitting right up front waiting for him and his Rant Band to rock my world. Ian Hunter And The Rant Band take the stage and they started with a new song from their excellent new album "When I'm President" called "Comfortable (Flyin' Scotsman)", and it was a blues-y thumper that featured Ian Hunter on the acoustic guitar raspily singing, "Gather 'round, gather 'round, the Flyin' Scotsman's back in town, fully operational, why don't we slip into something more comfortable...", and he sounded great as he stood there in a dapper outfit and his patent black shades. They went right into "Once Bitten Twice Shy" from his 1975 debut solo album "Ian Hunter", and he and guitarist James Mastro rocked it as they traded tasty little licks over the magnificent drumming of Steve Holley that was tight and the bassist Paul Page was in the pocket. The keyboardist Andy Burton played a great soulful solo and guitarists James Mastro and Mark Bosch play off each other quite well as they crunched out the song. They continued with another new song from "When I'm President", a pounding "Fatally Flawed" that had a nice groove and great lyrics about addictions and James rocked a searing riff on the guitar. Next they played "Words (Big Mouth)" from 2007's "Shrunken Heads" and it had a nice driving rhythm as Ian sang, "One thing for certain baby, I got a big mouth, I'll change, I promise you I'm gonna change, I gotta turn a new leaf, and this will be the very last time I put my foot in it..." Mark Bosch played a killer solo that electrified me, and Ian wailed on the harmonica beautifully and his voice has the right balance of raspiness. They slowed things down for the next song "Wash Us Away" from 2000's "Rant" album, James Mastro played a nice and jaunty mandolin as Andy Burton made the organ swirl with Paul Page's nice and deep bass, they made the song almost country. Mark played a great guitar intro solo to "23A Swan Hill" from 2007's "The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nuthin' But The Truth" album, and the band is amazingly tight and each player shined, Ian wailed on the harmonica like an old blues-man and it danced in between the guitar licks in the song's coda gracefully. The time had come for the first Mott The Hoople song so they took off like a rocket with "All The Way From Memphis" and Ian was on the keyboards and he pounded away as he wailed, "Yeah it's a mighty long way down rock'n'roll, from the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl, 'n you climb up the mountains, 'n you fall down the holes, all the way from Memphis..." Mark Bosch never sounded better on the guitar, and it was a fantastic version and it was a great rave-up that made me want to dance. The band raced on with a raved-up version of the title track of 1976's "All American Alien Boy" album and it was the highlight of the set as bassist Paul Page thumped along lovely and Mark and James had an amazing guitar duel. Ian Hunter and Andy Burton battled it out on the keyboards and made the song stomp so hard it was almost funky. They continued on with "Black Tears" from the new album and it is very reminiscent of a Mott The Hoople song, and the lyrics were incredibly insightful, and it featured some excellent slide-work from James Mastro. Next they plowed into "Just Another Night" from 1979's "You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic" and it was totally grooving and Ian Hunter was rocking on the keyboards as he growled, "Oh no, the fuzz, all in a line, my oh my, I think I'm gonna die, and it's just another night, it's just another night...", and he traded keyboard riffs with Andy Burton, they were fantastic as they segued into a new song from "When I'm President" called "What For" and the band is pumping now and they play well together. The new album rocks and it is almost punk in its message and it reminds me of The Damned. They totally surprised me with a cover of John Lennon's "Isolation" that was exquisitely beautiful as Ian Hunter played the piano intro and his voice was perfect for the song and the drummer Steve Holley was impeccable and tasteful in his fills. Ian switched to the guitar and began another set highlight, the title track "When I'm President" from his new album, and it was a raucous version that rattled the rafters as Ian defiantly sang his pointed lyrics, "I'm gonna lean on the 1% - when I'm president. I wanna 28th amendment - when I'm president. No more bargains in the basement - when I'm president. Everything's gonna be different - when I'm president." He told us that this was the first time he's been in the music charts in a long time and he was quite proud of this album. Their set proceeded with "Flowers" from the 2009's "Man Overboard" album and it had a great loping groove and the words were insightful and introspective, and Mark Bosch play his best guitar solo of the set and it was full of fiery passion and drummer Steve Holley never missed a beat. It was time for another Mott The Hoople song and so they played "I Wish I Was Your Mother" and it was a great country-esque version that had me swaying to and fro as Ian Hunter wailed like Bob Dylan as he sang, "Oh I wish I was your mother, I wish I had been your father, 'n then I would have seen you, would have been you as a child, played houses with your sisters, and wrestled with all your brothers, and then who knows, I might have felt a family for a while..." Next they played the sixth song off the new album, and it was really cool that they were playing new music instead of being some nostalgia act, the song was called "Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)" and it was a tribute to the American Indians and the lyrics were quite good as they were a biting indictment of the injustices that they had to endure over the years. The guitars sounded real nice and crisp and they had a way of balancing each other out in the mix, and the keyboards were cool, too. The band finished with Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" that they delivered as a jumped up raver without the Lou Reed edge, I loved Ian Hunter's delivery because it was more blase than manic like Lou. The band wounded it up and knocked it out of the ballpark as they gloriously played until the very last note and they left the stage and the audience erupted and screamed for more. After a few minutes Ian Hunter And The Rant Band returned triumphantly to the stage and launched into Mott The Hoople's "Roll Away The Stone" and they played it like they lived it as Ian led the audience in singing along with him, "Won't you roll away the stone, why be cold and so alone, won't you roll away the stone, don't you let it die..." It almost brought tears to my eyes, and it was a fantastic version with an excellent guitar lead from Mark Bosch and Steve Holley's drums were perfect as Ian Hunter finished the song on the keyboards and played the start of a medley of Mott The Hoople songs that started with "Saturday Gigs" and they were spectacular and all the players shined on their instruments as they joyously went into "Life", and Mark Bosch played his best solo by far tonight that gave me chills. The final song of their twenty-one song-set was, of course, "All The Young Dudes" and they blazed as they tore through the song, "All the young dudes (Hey dudes!), carry the news (Where are ya?), boogaloo dudes (Stand up, come on), carry the news..." I was on my feet singing along totally blown away and Ian Hunter's voice was spectacular as he sang a forty-year song with the same fire as he did all those years ago. His band left the stage in a roar of feedback and it died down and the 73-year-old Ian Hunter turned his back to us and walked off the stage with a wry smile on his face. I stumbled out of The Howard exhilarated and exhausted with my head full of memories and headed home.
Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA - Row CC/Seat 2
After a long rainy weekend it finally cleared up and it turned out to be a lovely evening as my friend Dave Coleman and I made our way to Wolf Trap Filene Center to see the ethereal Dead Can Dance on their first American tour since 1996 when I was a stagehand for them at The Warner Theatre in downtown Washington, DC. They are a lovely shimmering amalgamation of goth/electronica/folk/Renaissance music forms that took you on a trip as they played to their swirling psychedelic lights and videos, so hopefully tonight's show should be just as fantastic. We find our seats and watch the very diverse audience from goths to suits flow in and make their way to their seats. The opening act David Kuchnermann takes the stage with these three pieces of metal that looked like inverted steel drums that he played with his fingers and it reminded me of "kirtan" (yoga) music. It was interesting and the pieces seemed to lack structure or a sustained melody but it reminded me of a lot of Rising High Records trance releases. Each piece was specifically tuned and only has seven to eight notes to work with so the music became limited rather quickly. He switched to a souped up tambourine and it sounded like a really bad drum solo as played by some Krishna. He brought his friend Astra to the stage to sing as he accompanied her on the "hu-mee" and her lovely voice gently sang, "The river isn't ashamed as it pulls you down..." It was quite nice and his four-song set was over rather quickly, and since there is no real set change I hope that Dead Can Dance hit the stage sooner than later. Guitarist Brendan Perry and vocalist Lisa Gerrard formed the band in Melbourne, Australia in 1981 and moved to London, England in 1982 and released their debut album in 1984, then they toured and toured until 1997 when they decided to pursue solo careers and disbanded until 2004 when they reunited to perform their gorgeous music for their myriad of fans, and now we find ourselves at Wolf Trap anticipating a wonderful musical experience. Brendan and Lisa take the stage with a nine-piece band backing them, and Lisa looks lovely in a full on goth-looking blue gown as they opened with a pulsing "Children Of The Sun" from their new release "Anabasis" and it flowed effortlessly as Brendan sang, "We are the children of the sun, our journey's just begun,sunflowers in our hair, we are the children of the sun, there is room for everyone, sunflowers in our hair...", and the lights were gorgeous as they accentuated the music. The keyboardist gave the song these great washes and he flowed in and out of the other two keyboardists who were driving the song. They flowed into the title track of their new album "Anabasis" and the percussionist broke it down as Lisa and Brendan's vocals intertwined angelically and then her voice would just soar over synthesizer washes and layers of rhythm. They continued with "Rakim" from 1994's "Towards The Within" and the band used all kinds of weird instruments and Lisa played the xylophone as electronic beats pulsed in and out of Brendan and Lisa's voices swirling beautifully together. They played another new song "Kiko" next and it opened with an ominous percussive beat that flowed and ebbed as Lisa sang like she was an Arabic woman singing an ancient melody, and they segued into "Lamma Bada" which was an eight-hundred year old song from Moorish Spain, and Lisa left the stage and Brendan dazzled us with some exquisite guitar playing as he lit up his fretboard. Lisa returned to the stage and sang new song "Agape" with some gorgeous vocals that intertwined with the keyboards and the layers of percussion like wild vines. They then began my favorite song of their set, a glorious "Amnesia" from new album, and Brendan took the microphone and intoned, "Saw the demonstration on remembrance day. Lest we forget the lesson enshrined in funeral clay. History is never written by those who've lost. The defeated must bear witness to our collective memory loss...", while the serpentine keyboard lines danced in the rhythm. It flowed into "Sanvean" from 1994's "Towards The Within" and Lisa sang like a diva and her voice rose up and down as the keyboardist provided sparse washes of notes that gently carried the song, Brendan began thumping out a rhythm on a drum as they began an ethereal "Nierika" from 1996's "Spiritchaser" album and Lisa's vocals just soared majestically and danced with the percussion. Another highlight of the set was a dreamy "Opium" from the new record and it featured an outstanding vocal part from Brendan and a wonderful keyboard part that was narcotic and drew you in like a dream. Next was the minimal beat of "The Host Of Seraphim" from 1988's "The Serpent's Egg" and it was very dirge-y with very sparse percussion as their two voices flowed together in word-less beauty, and the lights seemed to be breathing in and out above the stage. They began the next song "Ime Prezakias" with heavy percussion as Lisa told us that the song was from the 1950s and it translated to "I'm A Junkie" and then Brendan dazzled us on the bouzouki as he played a dark and menacing riff that gave the song edge. They moved onto "Now We Are Free" from the "Gladiator" soundtrack, a Lisa Gerrard solo song, and it was the most pop they played in their set as Lisa let loose with some Irish Gaelic, "Anol shalom, anol sheh lay konnud de ne um (shaddai), flavum, nom de leesh, ham de nam um das, la urn de flavne", and it was over a delightful pop beat and she wailed beautifully and hers and the keyboardist's voices intertwined as one. They finished up with "All In Good Time" with its lovely drone and the keyboardists traded riffs back and forth as Brendan added vocals that basically summed things up. Dead Can Dance left the stage and the audience applauded ecstatically for several minutes and then they came back and played a joyous "The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove" that was a real crowd-pleaser as the keyboards played great riffs that danced in the pounding rhythm of the drums, as Lisa and Brendan playfully sang, "Dream on my dear, and renounce temporal obligations, dream on my dear, it's a sleep from which you may not awaken..." They segued into a brilliant cover of "Dreams Made Flesh" by This Mortal Coil that turned the original inside out, there were keyboard parts everywhere and Brendan played his guitar with a ferocity that surprised me. They left the stage and the crowd erupted wildly screaming for more, they quickly returned and gave new life to Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren", and then they played the final song from the new album, "Return Of The She-King", and they made it pulse and throb as the band finished the instrumental to its end and the audience went crazy as they left the stage one more time. But lo and behold, Dead Can Dance returned one more time and closed their nineteen-song set with "Rising Of The Moon" as they sang, "At the rising of the moon, at the rising of the moon, and an army fights for freedom at the rising of the moon..." The perfect song for the perfect ending of a perfect night as we filed out to the parking lot and escaped before the other people and we sped into the night towards home.
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It is a pleasant summer evening as I make my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Orrin Star, a renown guitarist and mandolin player who plays bluegrass and folk with some humor thrown in for good measure. His resume includes three bluegrass bands and he won the 1976 National Flatpicking Championship and he has recorded three albums for Flying Fish Records and he played at the DC Folk Festival this past spring and he is reprising his set tonight according to the libretto and DC-area Irish musician Keith Carr will join him on the cittern. Orrin Star takes the stage and opens with "Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and boy can he pick that guitar, it was almost as good as Buck Owens' definitive version on "HeeHaw". His picking skills are impeccable as he dazzled me with his deftness and sense of rhythm that reminded me of Stanley Jordan. He has thirty-five years of experience as he joked about living in Prince George's County and working funerals and he joked about their extraordinary amount of bail bondsmen. He continued on with a finger-picking medley of two gospel songs, "Happy Home" and "I'll Fly Away", and the way he sounds like he is playing two guitars is beautiful and he was impeccable as he plucked out some gorgeous runs. I like how he joked with us in between songs. He announced that tonight's show is dedicated to the recent-departed Doc Watson and then he played a delightful medley of Doc's "Alberta" and "Billy And The Low Ground". The clarity of his playing is quite soothing and sounds wonderful to my ears. He picks up his mandolin and he is just as amazing on it as he is on the guitar as he rocked out on John Phillips Sousa's "Stars And Stripes Forever" and it was like Ritchie Blackmore had played it and I was blown away. Next he played an original called "The Sad Rag" and you could feel the melancholia in the notes as he flat-picked away and beautiful notes seemed to float off his guitar. He continued on with a song called "Partida" by a Finnish band called Rum and he liked it so much he thought he would do a "gypsy jazz" version that kept reminding me of the soundtrack music in an episode of "Kojak". Keith Carr joined him and rocked out on some traditional Irish music as they traded delicate leads and the notes flew everywhere. They switched it up and went back to folk with Gene Richey's "Jubilee" and they played well off each other as he sang with a plaintive voice with a touch of regret in the edges. They finished their ten-song set with a traditional number called â€œSpanish Waltzâ€ that Orrin gave a new edge with his unique style of flat-picking that had the notes sounding like they dancing and then he said goodnight and left the stage. I was blown away by his playing and his sharp wit and I hope to see him again.
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
THE ROLLING STONES - December 15, 2012
AN EVENING WITH CRAIG FERGUSON - November 16, 2012
THE WHO and VINTAGE TROUBLE - November 13, 2012
AN EVENING WITH KATHY GRIFFIN - October 19, 2012
BLONDIE - October 1, 2012
MADONNA and BENNY BENASSI - September 23, 2012
IAN HUNTER AND THE RANT BAND - September 15, 2012
DEAD CAN DANCE and DAVID KUCKHERMANN - August 27, 2012
ORRIN STAR - August 21, 2012
YOUNG RAPIDS - August 15, 2012
JANE'S ADDICTION and BAND OF SKULLS - August 14, 2012
Lyric Opera House - Baltimore, MD - Row P/Seat 120
I can still remember it as clear as day when I saw the poster of the now iconic cover of their debut album at the Dupont Circle Kemp Mill Records in August of 1988. It featured a statue of two naked women bounded together sitting in a chair with their heads on fire and it just blew my mind and I had to buy a cassette copy immediately even though I knew nothing about Jane's Addiction, I bought it and ran down Q Street to my basement apartment and popped it into the cassette deck and hit play and immediately from the opening riff of "Up The Beach" to the closing notes of "Pigs In Zen" I was addicted and listened to it almost everyday for the next year. I saw them open for Iggy Pop at The Warner Theatre in 1988 and I became a fervent fan. I saw them several more times; the first Lollapalooza at Lake Fairfax, with Living Colour at GWU's Smith Center and my former boss Chad and I had to drive their equipment truck to Madison Square Garden in New York City and I learned about the nightmare world of venue union rules and I was shocked, because after we arrived and tried to find out where we had to park, we got the complete runaround from the asses backstage, and finally I saw the "Strays" reunion tour at Nissan Pavilion in October of 2004 and nearly froze to death as they played a mediocre show, so I am looking forward to seeing a fully rocking show tonight. The openers Band Of Skulls are a trio from South Hampton, England, who have been around since 2007 and they take the stage promptly at 8pm with a squall of feedback and segued into "Sweet Sour" that impressed me with Russell Marsden's deft and delicate guitar playing as the rhythm section of bassist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward lumbered and lurched like a prehistoric wooly mammoth. They reminded me of a heavier Garbage/White Stripes hybrid when Emma sang lead, and I really enjoyed Russell's guitar playing and the way he bent notes. Next the band went atmospheric with the heavy effects in "Patterns" but the drums kept the beat going full-force as they plowed forward. My favorite song of their ten-song set was a pounding and grungy "The Devil Takes Care Of His Own" but towards the end of their set it seemed that it was mostly guitar tricks without much regard to songwriting and they became very plodding and tedious and I just wanted them to stop. No band has ever changed my mind so quick about them, but they finally finished and I breathed a sigh of relief because they were giving me a headache but the audience seemed to like them...stupid Baltimorons. The crew changed over the stage rather quickly and the stage set was a church with two naked women looking down on the drum set, it should be interesting to see it in action. The countdown to Jane's Addiction taking the stage begins as I look around at the bizarre collection of people in the audience but then again they always had the strangest fans, I hope they go on at 9:15 as promised. They hit the stage with Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" drifting out of the speakers and they launch into a pounding new song "Underground" with two dancers on swings above the band as guitarist Dave Navarro grinded away and Perry Farrell sneered, "I try to find some love from up high, there just ain't enough to go around, someone had to pay up for the wakes, taking place down in the underground, whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh..." Next was a throbbing "Mountain Song" that exploded on stage and the audience went crazy as strange drug images swirled on the video screens, Dave squealed and squalled in all the right places as new bassist Chris Chaney gave the song an excellent bottom which rode Stephen Perkins' precision drumming like a glove. Perry has gotten quite buff as he began "Just Because" but the sound was getting murky and the vocals got lost in the mix. The crowd was quite enthusiastic and boisterous as the band began "Been Caught Stealing" and they were totally in the groove as they went chugging along and Dave was making his guitar riffs dance like he was playing some funk in space as Perry wiggled and moaned, "She walked right through the door, walk right through the door, hey all right, if I get by, it's mine, mine all mine..." They segued way into "Ain't No Right" and Chris sounded amazing as he made the bass rumble and stutter as Dave stretched and distorted notes brilliantly. The band kept the pace up with an eerie "Irresistible Force" as Dave played some killer lead work that was haunting and best described as "voodoo blues". A weird-looking stroller rolled across the stage while strange images of dolls floated above them and the band switched to acoustic instruments and strummed a playful "Jane Says" as Stephen kept time on steel drums and the crowd was singing along loudly. The band continued on like this into "Up The Beach" and Perry writhed and moaned the lyrics, "Here we go now, home...home...home...", I really liked the new arrangement because it gave it a weird country feel and they finished with a mellow "Classic Girl" that had the audience swaying arm in arm. They returned to electric instruments and launched into a Led Zeppelin-esque "Whores" that was the highlight of the set as Dave played cascades of notes that just made his guitar howl like a banshee. They finished with an eerie and trippy "Three Days" but the place just swallows up vocals, and there are way too many people acting out the lyrics, "Three days was the morning, my focus three days old, my head, it landed to the sound of cricket bows...I'm a proud man anyway...covered now by three days...", and Dave played an exquisite guitar solo and two gagged dancers twirled madly as the drummer Chad pounded out the rhythm and he broke it down and built it up, then Dave changed guitars and he went metal-crazy as his hands flew up and down the fretboard like a madman until he walked off stage and the crowd erupted with loud applause and whistling. They stamped and stomped for more until Jane's Addiction returned and played a raucous "Splash A Little Water On It" as a male dancer acted the song out and Dave played a great soaring riff as the lights swirled as he began the king-sized riff that opened "Ocean Size". Perry Farrell danced about like a shaman and began intoning "Wish I was ocean size, they cannot move you, no one tries, no one pulls you out from your hole, like a tooth aching a jawbone..." over the stellar crunching guitar riffs that punctuated the song. I must say Dave Navarro knows how to play the guitar like no other. The audience turned it into a giant sing-a-long that had everyone swaying and raising their lighters, and Jane's Addiction played one last song as they plowed into "Stop!" that they played with a manic fury until the last note. The band departed the stage and overall, it was a fourteen-song set that spanned their career and was full of guitar riffs, bass throb, and pounding drum beats, but my only complaint was the vocals were constantly lost in the mix and I could not understand them and I had to listen to the audience for the words.
THE MAX LEVINE ENSEMBLE and FLEX MATTHEWS - July 23, 2012
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
Another summer evening and another show at Fort Reno Park as the clouds broke and the sun peeped out from behind them to make a lovely sunset. Tonight there are only two acts, and first up is local hip-hop legend Flex Matthews and he is backed by bassist Hash and drummer Jerry Busher of Fugazi fame and they are currently sound-checking but they lay down a funky groove that let Flex flow lyrically with his skillful wordplay as he worked the stage and let the sentences flow about life on the street in DC. Jerry Busher sounded fantastic as he laid down the sparse but funky groove as Hash rocked the deep bass melodies as Flex proclaimed, "I got the mic in my hand...", and the words tumbled and danced out of his mouth kaleidoscopically. He brought his crew to the stage, MC Artimus, MC Ray, and MC RNL, and they dropped some free-style raps and the pretty good-size crowd seemed to enjoy them as they watched enrapt. I liked how his lyrics were positive and motivational and he did not use any offensive epithets, then he gave a shout-out to Capitol Hemp who are being screwed by the government. He said they were good people who were about community and he supports that kind of people. Flex brought his crew returned to the stage and he explained free-style and he had the audience bring various items to the stage and he based his rap on the objects brought to the stage and it was very inventive and quite enjoyable, in fact it was the highlight of his seven-song set. I would go see them again. Hopefully the set change will not take too long for The Max Levine Ensemble to make it to the stage, but thankfully it does not and they take the stage and do a brief sound check and then begin their set. They are a noisy indie rock trio that reminded me of the Teen Beat Records aesthetic and their songs are really short. I did not hate them but their music did not appeal to me. Their music seemed to lack focus and clarity as they genre-jumped all over the place, but they reminded me of The Buzzcocks way too much. They were competent musicians but the writing and song-structures were off and they need to decide what they want to be, but the crowd loved them. I could not take it and headed to the metro to go home.
NONA HENDRYX - July 17, 2012
U Street Music Hall - Washington, DC
It is yet another boiling hot summer day in the DMV as I make my way to the U Street corridor to make my first visit to the U Street Music Hall to see my penultimate diva, Miss Nona Hendryx. I have loved her since her days with Labelle when they set the dance floor on fire with their anthemic "Lady Marmalade" from their genre-defying masterpiece "Nightbirds", and I was lucky enough to see them perform at D.A.R. Constitution Hall years ago when they asked everyone to wear silver which lead to my life-long fetish for wearing silver...and the amazing songs that she wrote with them and her incredible solo career. I cannot wait for her to take the stage. The band kicked the night off sounding all tight and funky and the guitar screaming and wailing, and then Miss Nona took the stage and she let loose and she sounded great and looked fabulous. Her band threw down; drums pounding, bass thumping, keyboards swirling, and the guitar cutting like a knife as they kicked her set off with a passionate fury as they laid down the funk opening with "Rock Me Harder". Nona greeted the crowd and introduced the next song as being from her new album "Mutatis Mutandis" on Righteous Babe Records as "Temple Of Heaven" and it rocked as they flowed in perfect sync as she sang "Say yeah, yeah, yeah!" Nona got a bit upset about the sound and the extra feedback, so there was a bit of a delay and she chatted with the audience and they launched into another new song called "Mad As Hell Pt.1" and it was about the wealth disparity in the world..."There are the rich and there are the poor and you know who you are." The guitarist played a driving soul-shattering riff that was phenomenal as Nona sang her heart out and told us how we all must care, it was sensational and touching and should be a smash hit, but... She next goes on a speech about the horror of that drug addict Rush Limbaugh, who she wrote the next song about, "The Ballad Of Rush Limbaugh", and she did not mince words and it was beautiful. She flubbed a line that made it more endearing as the guitarist punctuated it with a searing guitar burst. Next up was the song "Winds Of Change (Mandela To Mandela)" that was about Nelson Mandela and how he has influenced her life, she said she wears his prisoner number 46664 everyday. It was an absolutely gorgeous song and her voice gave me chills as she sang of her admiration and thanks for what he did for his people and how he inspired the world, and the keyboardist Nick accompanied her beautifully as the notes danced with her words and then the guitarist let loose with a scorching solo. The band picked up the mood with a raw and funky "Transformation" that got the crowd moving as the band let loose and Nona and her background vocalists Kiki and April engaged in mind-boggling vocal acrobatics, it was beyond words and I was blown away as the band stretched the song out and turned it up, it was exhilarating as Nona and her girls got their grind on. Nona asked if anyone rapped, and they brought a free-style rapper to the stage but it turned out to be a booty dancer who could only worked his ass. They finished the song up and kept things uptempo with an exquisite "Let's Give Love A Try" but more sound issues arose so I hope she don't snap, but they funked on because to me they sounded good in the room as they segued into Al Green's "Take Me To The River" and they blew that shit up as they deconstructed and re-constructed it as a Nona song. The drummer Brian began pounding out a beat as the rest of the band got hard with a grinding, metal-esque "Truth Will Set You Free" and oddly it reminded me of a middle-period Bad Brains' song as they smoked up the riffs that hammered at the rhythm section like the crashing waves of a tsunami. They finished up with no encore but it was a wonderfully intimate gig and if you love Nona Hendryx you missed out. But surprise, surprise...Nona and her band returned and started blazing on their instruments with a hard-driving version of "I Sweat (Going Through The Motion)" that lit the joint up and had everybody chanting "Go, Nona, Go, Nona", which led to her shaking ass and people putting tips in her waistband as they turned the song out. Nona thanked everybody for coming and stepped down into the audience and greeted people as she made her way to the merchandise table to sign autographs and shake hands. I bought a "Mutatis Mutandis" cd and a tour shirt and best of all, a Labelle tour shirt that just made my day as I walked out and into the night.
NUNCHUCKS, RCRDS, and SATORI TROVA - July 12, 2012
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
Thankfully the heatwave has left the area and sitting on a blanket in a field is mostly bearable, Monday's show was canceled and so I am looking forward to chilling in Fort Reno Park with some local bands, especially some punk rock like The Nunchucks. The first band tonight is Satori Trova and they are a diverse sextet, who call themselves "experimental indie art-rock", so they should be interesting. After a rather long soundcheck, they finally crank out their slightly jazzy, slightly funky, but very indie groove that featured a rather engaging vocalist Liora Valero who had a nice easy on the ears voice that blended well with Stephen Baker's swirling synthesizer waves and Regina Fiorentini's haunting saxophone as the rhythm section pulsed and throbbed like they had time-traveled from the seventies. The guitarist Avi Elisar tossed in some tasty riffs that brought the whole thing together. Oddly, they reminded me musically of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with a jazz chanteuse who reminded me of a young Amy Winehouse, they played a lovely seven-song set however they were a bit too retro for me but they kept the crowd interested. It is blowing my mind on how many little kids are here tonight, but Ian MacKaye's son always makes me smile as he runs around happy as a lark all innocent and carefree. Next up is RCRDS, a nerdy looking trio who I think are going to scare me, and of course they did with their twee shoe-gazer music which they wear on their sleeve, and who would have thought My Bloody Valentine from the early nineties would be such an influential band today. The vocalist/guitarist David Connor used his loop effect way too much, but the drummer laid down a skillful jazz beat that seemed out of place in the effected guitar drone. They droned on for what seemed like forever, but it sounded like the same song over and over and drenched in assorted effects, it was an abysmal five-song attempt at a live performance, thank God they did not have a real vocalist, looped choral vocal effects were enough as they closed their set by molesting their guitars unmercifully...ack! Hopefully Nunchucks will get up there and rock and wipe away the stain RCRDS left in my ears. The Nunchucks take the stage with big riffs and catchy choruses that reminded me of The Ramones a little bit but with more lead guitar solos from John Bevans. They were polished and professional and quite enjoyable to watch, I found myself really liking vocalist/guitarist Anthony Soltes Jr.'s lyrics and their songs were well-structured and had me tapping my toes and bopping my head to the beat. The drummer Nathan Ridenour was fierce as he laid down a tight beat that bassist Brandon Schnedl wore like a glove as he propelled the songs forward as John and Anthony made their guitars battle back and forth with dueling riffs and licks that made their six-song set rock. The Nunchucks could be DC's next big band and I hope that I get to see that happen.
DEF LEPPARD, POISON, and LITA FORD - July 10, 2012
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD - Row K/Seat 19
Thank God the heatwave has passed and it is a pleasant but cloudy day in the DMV as my best concert bud Mark Amabalie and I make our way to Merriweather Post Pavilion way out in Columbia, Maryland, home of punk legends Void and trippy hippies Animal Collective, and we are there for a glam-rock flashback with the UK's Def Leppard, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Poison, and ex-Runaways guitarslinger Lita Ford. These summer package tours just kill me, especially the women trying to re-live their misspent youth in clothes that are way too tight, some GenX-ers' have not aged well I must tell you. Mark and I enter the venue and grab some beers and chill in the back and laugh at the passing people. I am here mostly to see Lita Ford because I have loved The Runaways since the mid-seventies when I discovered them in the pages of Creem magazine..."Cherry Bomb"..."Play With Fire"..."Dead End Justice"...and I was even lucky enough to see them with The Ramones at The Warner Theatre. She has since evolved into the hair metal band scene and had a few hit singles, even one with Ozzy Osbourne. She married douche bag pervert Jim Gillette who was the former singer of Tuff and Nitro, and settled down to raise her two sons she had with him, but that proved disappointing and she got a divorce amid much hubris. However recently there was talk of a big Runaways reunion, and then there was all this drama to the point that when you went to Cherie Curie's website, the first thing you saw was "Fuck You Lita Ford", but that is all behind them now and hopefully there will be a reunion tour. We make our way to our seats and wait to see Lita Ford do her thing. Lita Ford and her band take the stage and open up with Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back", which was surprising, but she looked good and sounded great and her partner Gary Hoey whipped off a fantastic solo on his guitar as they played a quite excellent version and then they plowed into "Hungry" as her ace rhythm section pounded away like a runaway freight train and guitarist Gary ripped another lightning fast solo as Lita seductively screamed, "I'm so horny for sex". Lita Ford strutted onto the catwalk and belted out a crunching "Gotta Let Go" that sounded as fresh as ever, and guitar Gary Hoey just blows me away with his flashy guitar pyrotechnics. Next up was the title track of her new album, "Living Like A Runaway", it was a very autobiographical and the lyrics were quite touching and sounded great, and then she made my night by picking up her double-neck guitar as she belted out a stellar version of "Kiss Me Deadly" that had me dancing up a storm. She informed us that, yes, she did get laid, and her and Gary played a thrilling dual lead that was exhilarating and explosive to the ears. They finished their way too brief six-song set with a teardrop-inducing rendition of "Close My Eyes Forever" sans Ozzy, and Gary and her skillfully traded soaring riffs, I was in metal heaven as they blew the song up. In seconds they were gone and the stagehands quickly moved their equipment and Poison's stage set magically appeared, so there should be plenty of bells and whistles as Pennsylvania's favorite glam sons do their thing. I remember seeing them years ago at The Vault in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and their glam ways horrified the locals and Poison soon moved to Los Angeles and Sunset Strip and the rest is history...the lights dimmed, and the crowd roared, and Bret Michaels and the boys bounded on to the stage slinging big riffs and a stripper beat as vocalist Bret Michael rose up from behind the drums and belted out "Look What The Cat Dragged In" and C.C. Deville wailed on his guitar like a madman as they seamlessly flowed into "Ride The Wind" and the sound was impeccable, you could feel every note. I just love the keyboardist Will Doughty hidden in the shadows on stage left adding all the accents to the songs. Bret Michaels stopped things and he took the time to thank the other bands on the tour, and then he gave a special thanks to the armed services as they kicked out a glammed up version of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" that featured C.C. Deville's best guitar solo of their set and then Bret Michaels blew some raucous harmonica as they got the crowd dancing with a swinging cover of Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" as Bret and C.C. dueled on harmonica and guitar...it is hard to believe that Bret almost died last year. Next it was the obligatory extended guitar solo that had C.C. burning up his fretboard like his fingers were on fire as notes flew everywhere, the rest of the band returned and they played their 'stripper chick' anthem "Fallen Angel" that had the audience singing along as C.C. Deville and Bret Michaels battled on dueling guitars, I never realized what an inventive player C.C. is because I was quite impressed by his riffage. They continued with their biggest hit "Unskinny Bop" that they gave a slow swaggering blues edge and it was not as annoying as the radio version. I am such a fag because I kept wanting C.C.'s bad-ass shoes and after a few more choruses of "Unskinny bop bop bop bop, oh no good, no good, good, no good, ooh ooh, unskinny bop nothin' more to say, kick it...", the band left the stage to Rikki Rockett so he could pound out the obligatory extended drum solo which he did with a lot of aplomb. So bathroom break before Poison hit the homestretch with their biggest songs and the band returned with a few more Led Zep riffs before they kicked into "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", their first Number One and the whole audience sang along wholeheartedly. Bret Michaels announced that he was doing "Celebrity Apprentice: All-Stars Edition" to represent rock'n'rollers next year and I was laughing my ass off because Donald Trump is such a douche. C.C. Deville played a scorching guitar solo as they launched into "Talk Dirty To Me" and the bitches in the audience were loving every minute of it as Bret cooed and strutted his way through the song. They closed with a raucous version of "Nothin' But A Good Time" that whipped the crowd in a frenzy. Poison left the stage to the deafening roar of the 'near-hometown' crowd and I enjoyed their eleven-song set way more than I thought I would. The roadies got to work quickly because the Def Leppard stage set seemed a bit monstrous as they began putting the various parts in their places so it should be spectacular when it is finished. It has been a long time since I have seen Def Leppard live; I saw them once in Salem, Virginia, at the Roanoke-Salem County Civic Center way back in September 9, 1981, and they were opening for Blackfoot and The Johnny Van Zant Band, and at the Capital Centre on the "Hysteria" tour at their peak a few years later back in 1987, so I am looking forward to tonight's performance. The lights dimmed and Def Leppard hit the stage on fire with a driving "Undefeated" and Phil Collen wailed on his guitar looking hot with no shirt...yum. Joe Elliott sounded great as he sang, "Look in these eyes, these eyes don't lie, and they say that if you don't blink, then you don't die...", and they kept rolling with a pulsing "Rocket" that featured bassist Rick Savage laying down a throbbing bass line as the audience gave them much love, and I love Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell's dual guitar interplay and their one-arm drummer Rick Allen blows my mind with his playing. Phil kicked off "Let It Go" with its scorching riff, it is amazing how tight they are as Phil finished the song with an incredible solo. Vivian Campbell opened "Foolin'" with a flurry of riffs and notes as they play a scintillating version that had me enthralled and Joe sang, "Oh I got to know, if you're really there and you really care, 'cause baby I'm not...F-F-F-Foolin', ah f-f-foolin', not f-f-f-foolin', ah foolin'..." They continued into a smooth and sassy "Animal" that every girl in the audience mouthed the words with these faraway looks in their eyes, then they slowed things down a bit with a power ballad, a taut "Love Bites" that had the girls in ecstasy. It featured Phil's best guitar solo of the set as he traded riffs with Vivian, they continued in this vein with new song "It's All About Believin'" and it must be influenced by Journey who they toured with last summer. The band fired things back up with a pulse-pounding "Let's Get Rocked" and they tore it, especially the drummer Rick Allen, he was almost funky in his playing, and that Phil Collen just blows my mind with his tasty licks and riffs. Next it was on to the ominous sounding "Gods Of War" as Joe Elliott darkly sang, "On a countdown to zero, take a ride on the nightmare machine, there ain't gonna be heroes, there ain't gonna be anything..." , as the band thrashed it out behind him. The band left the stage to Joe and an acoustic guitar and he started singing "Where Does Love Go When It Dies", it was kind of boring and I could have gone without this part as the rest of the others joined him as they all strummed away on acoustic guitars to a medley of songs; "Now", "When Love And Hate Collide", "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad", and they finished with a heartfelt "Two Steps Behind" and the crowd loved it. After it a few minutes it was back to Phil on the screaming guitar as they launched into "Women" with its big beat and driving guitars over a pulsing bass that just rattled you. Finally the song I really wanted to hear tonight, "Bringin' On The Heartbreak", and it was a scintillating version that rocked me as the band entered the homestretch to play the songs that made them rock stars. Joe left the stage and they flowed into a bone-crunching instrumental "Switch 625" that blew my mind with its intensity as they burned up their guitars and the drummer pounded away ferociously. Joe returned and they played "Hysteria" to a roaring audience as they raged on, they are hardworking motherfuckers. Def Leppard are hitting their stride as they exploded into "Armageddon It" and Vivian Campbell made his guitar scream as Joe wailed, "Gimme all your lovin' - ev'ry little bit, gimme all that you got - ev'ry bit of it, ev'ry bit of your lovin' - oh c'mon live a bit, never want it to stop, yeah, but are you getting' it - Armageddon it...", and the audience was a writhing sweaty mess. The drums kicked in with a monster beat as they blew the roof off the place with a driving "Photograph" that morphed into a swaggering "Pour Some Sugar On Me" that just oozed with raw sexuality and animal magnetism that held the crowd rapt. They left the stage to an electric reception from an audience that wanted more, so Def Leppard bounded on stage one more time and they electrified us with a primal "Rock Of Ages" that contained a monumental guitar duel between Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell that was incredible and Joe Elliott was in fine form as he thundered, "Gunter glieben, glauchen globen, All right, I got something to say, yeah, it's better to burn out, yeah, than fade away, all right...". They gave it one last blast as they played their instruments like Godzilla destroying Tokyo and they finished and left the stage as confetti and feedback fell to the ground chaotically. The lights went up and we were halfway to the car and we fled because you know how people get when everyone is trying to leave, we hit the road and off we went down Route 29 to get home. I must say that was an incredible show and I was quite pleased by all the bands and their performances, especially Def Leppard.
AN EVENING WITH TANGERINE DREAM - July 8, 2012
Howard Theater - Washington, DC
It is day eleven of temperatures over 95 degrees and the DMV and I are melting in the withering heat, but Germany's Tangerine Dream should cool the night down with their cool ambient sounds. I have loved them since the early eighties when a college friend turned me onto to them and I would listen to their "Rubycon" and "Phaedra" albums endlessly. I even got to see them at the Kennedy Center in the early eighties, so I am really excited to see them again on their "The Electric Mandarine Tour" which is only going to eight cities including the 33rd Montreal International Jazz Festival. Mark Amabalie and I head for The Howard Theatre hoping it does not rain, but things do not bode well from the look of the darkened sky. We arrive at the venue and get a table in the center and order up some over-priced hamburgers and some Stella Artois beers, however this gig seems a little better attended than when I was here to see Blue Oyster Cult in May. I am so looking forward to seeing Tangerine Dream play through the P.A. here at the Howard so I sit and wait...the curtains opened as gentle synthesizer lines swirled out of the speakers as Iris Camaa laid down a driving percussive beat as images spun chaotically on the backdrop as the rest of the band pulsed and ebbed behind founder Edgar Froese's deft keyboard playing and sound manipulation. Bernhard Beibl was exception as he made his guitar accent and propel the relentless synthesizer waves that swam out of the exquisite sounding PA. Cellist Hoshiko Yamane added some wonderfully delicate riffs that underscore the percussion as did Linda Spa on the flute. Bernhard is quite a lovely guitarist as he amazed me with his control and fluidity of notes, he reminded me of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour but not as anal. The lack of interaction with the audience can be tedious, but the music's warmth more than makes up for it. I really like how Edgar Froese blends Bernhard's heavy metal riffs into the ocean of flowing synthesizer music waves. Their set flowed flawlessly and even though they are an instrumental group, I never got bored and Linda Spa provided a voice with her decent saxophone playing. It is amazing how many genres of music it has influenced; progressive, trance, ambient, techno, new age, the band is phenomenal as they laid down layer upon of intricate music like a celestial symphony, the musical interchange between the various members was mind-boggling as they seamlessly glided in and out of the various songs they played. They are the most perfect amalgamation of electronic music and heavy guitar parts that I have ever heard, they left the stage for a twenty minute intermission. Edgar Froese and company returned to the stage and Edgar got all Chopin-esque on an acoustic piano until Iris Camaa began adding percussion flourishes and then Linda Spa and Thorsten Quaeschning began dueling driving synthesizer parts and propelled the song into space, and then yet another soul-stirring guitar solo from Bernhard Beibl that gave me the chills as did Linda with her ethereal alto saxophone and flute solos in the song they were doing. Finally in the next number Edgar Froese picked up his guitar and traded licks with Linda on her tenor saxophone as he played a thick Pink Floyd-like solo that wound through the saxophone riff, but he looked scary for 68 because he looked 88 and acted like he had a secret Nazi fetish. Their set is starting to go long and I am, sadly, getting tired of the endless beats and no vocals. In song 22, Hoshiko Yamane threw down on the violin ferociously, and that broke the monotony of the endless waves of synthesizer washes. Suddenly the show was interrupted and the main speakers went out, but bit was quickly remedied and the band continued on. Finally they finished their twenty-six-song set, and overall it was highly enjoyable but there is no reason for an instrumental band to play two-and-half hours and never interact with the audience, he did not even say hello to us, my attention-span is not that long anymore.
GIVE, COUP SAUVAGE AND THE SNIPS, and BORIS MILIC - July 2, 2013
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It is a tolerable summer evening in the city after a weekend of storms that left many in the city without electricity and it totally screwed up my cellphone service to the point that I could only make calls down in the metro...Sprint can kiss my ass...I find a good spot to watch the bands with my friend Dave Coleman and we wait for the festivities to begin. I finally managed to talk with the soundman Marty Shepp and exchanged numbers and reminiscenced about old friends which was nice to do with him. The first group Boris Milic do a quick soundcheck and jump right into some nice and melodic indie-rock, guitarist Tres Thomas played some cool atmospheric guitar riffs that reminded me of Kitchens Of Distinction, however I found vocalist/guitarist Boris Milic's voice a bit annoying but he played some lovely intricate riffs, but his vocal tone just made me cringe. The rhythm section were quite impressive as they drove the songs with drummer Brian Moran's deft playing and bassist Brodie Ruland's sanguine and rolling bass lines gave them a pleasant lilt that made me want to dance. They played a brief six-song set that they closed with a fabulous instrumental with great intertwining guitar lines that left me wanting to hear more. The second band Coup Sauvage And The Snips have been generating some buzz around town with their take on seventies girl-group music complete with harmony vocals and synchronized dance moves as lead vocalist Kristina Gray does a punk-rock Aretha Franklin thing to synthetic beats but they should be entertaining and different from the usual Fort Reno fare. Coup Sauvage launch into their invigorating techno-soul dance groove with very lovely vocal harmony interplay and I was immediately impressed by their sass and charisma as Kristina Gray turned it out with ease and panache but I would love to see them backed by a full band but they were working it with some tight beats and funky grooves. Too bad no one got up to dance because they have the biggest crowd of the summer so far. They could be huge, they reminded me of early Labelle, and Miss Nona Hendryx would love them...I say work it girl...get yer groove on...holla! The highlight of their six-song set was a booty-shaker called "Freak Of The Week", and I wanted to get up and shake it fiercely to the beat. I really want to see them do a full set so I am going to book them at my next extravaganza. The third band tonight is Give and I saw them last summer and they got on my nerves then, and so I don't expect much tonight but we shall see. Give take the stage with their name in lit-up cardboard letters behind them and alas, they have not changed much, maybe they are a little more metal-sounding than last year but I still hate their singer so I am leaving.
SEAMONSTERS, TREBLE LIFTER, and THE ADMINS - June 28, 2012
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It is yet another beautiful summer evening as my pal Adrian Salsgiver and I make our way once again to Fort Reno to catch some local bands...support local music okay...we find a great spot and dig in to our dinners we just got at Whole Foods and we watch the proceedings unfold. First up is The Admins who I was unable to find much info about, so we will see what they have to offer. The Admins are a new trio, and I mean brand spanking new, because they were confused by the concept of soundcheck, but they somehow managed and kicked off their set with a crunchy instrumental that reminded me of an amped-up Gang Of Four. I found them interesting as the bassist and drummer played a driving beat, but the guitarist used too many effects and his guitar tone annoyed me almost as much as his voice and style of singing, but the rhythm section rocked, especially the bassist whose playing flowed nicely with the drummer. Their eight-song set was pretty much bearable but I wished the guitarist used other effects to get different tones instead of the one he used the whole set, but they are a very young band so they should grow and write more interesting songs. Next up are Treble Lifter who have been around since 2009 and have two albums out, their April 2012 release "Once Upon A State Of Mind" and last year's EP "The Hell In Home", so they should be more professional and hopefully have better songs and a stronger stage presence. Treble Lifter take the stage with a pounding din that morphed into some sort of song that was all over the place as the four of them bashed away at their instruments without really being aware of each other as the singer/guitarist Hendrik Osinga screamed like he was in pain. Oddly they reminded me of Government Issue a little bit as they played passionately their melody-less songs. I found it painful to watch them and I will not write anymore about them because their seven-song set was mostly unbearable to my ears. Hey guys, you are supposed to play notes that you string together in a melody...look it up! Hopefully The Seamonsters will play some music that I actually enjoyed hearing...please God...something with a melody. The Seamonsters take the stage as a trio and kicked into some pleasant sounding indie rock that never seemed to go anywhere but I found their musicianship very competent on the part of the vocalist/bassist Blake Courlang and the guitarist Erik Estrada, who had a nice style with lots of incisive lead runs that were kind of jazzy, as they danced about the drummer Dave Kanner and his sparse rock-steady beat but a bit on the boring side, so I decided it was time to leave. I rushed away quickly to the metro and hurried home for the night wishing that bands today paid the slightest attention to their songwriting and the use of melody.
GEORGE CLINTON AND THE P-FUNK ALL-STARS, MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO, and IVAN NEVILLE AND DUMPSTAPHUNK - June 27, 2012
Folklife Festival On The National Mall - Washington, DC
It is a beautiful summer afternoon as I trek to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall to catch the "Bring Back The Funk" show with Washington DC's own bass goddess Meshell Ndegeocello, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, and the one and only legendary Funkateer #1, George Clinton...they will be bringing the funk to The Mall to celebrate the ground-breaking for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture to which George Clinton is donating the Mothership stage prop. I have loved the funk since 1974 when I discovered P-Funk records in the 99-cent cut-out album bin at the Dart Drug and I have been hooked ever since...Parliament, Funkadelic, Eddie Hazel, Parlet, Bootsy Collins, Junie Morrison, Bernie Worrell, Mike Hampton...I loved them all. I was even lucky enough to attend a few of their legendary Capitol Centre shows in the seventies when their stage set rivalled KISS and they played as long as the Grateful Dead. The eighties were a bit lean for George and company but in 1987 they re-grouped and I saw them at the original 9:30 Club on F Street, yes, in that tiny dirty place, but the white kids caught on to the funk and it grew exponentially. I even got to work the stage when they played Lollapalooza, and once the new 9:30 Club opened I DJ'ed several of their shows and I got to hang out with them. Every morning when I awake, my autographed George Clinton photo is one of the first things I see, so here I am sitting in a tent on The Mall waiting for the show to begin. Meshell Ndegeocello and her band take the stage and jam on a laid-back funk jam as the way of a soundcheck, and they sound phenomenal as they wait to get this party started, the crowd is getting antsy and I am glad I arrived early to get a seat because people are sprawling in every direction. A speaker makes a few announcements and brings Meshell Ndegeocello to the stage and she and her three-piece band jump into a crowd-pleasing tribute to Chuck Brown with a funked-up instrumental version of his classic "Bustin' Loose" that had the audience singing the lyrics at the top of their lungs while Meshell Ndegeocello had her bass pumping and thumping. They flowed into a eerily slinky version of James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud" that was fantastically groovy and her band just kicked it with their psychedelic brand of funk as they segued into P-Funk's "P.Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)" and it really got the crowd moving, they flowed into a lovely and airy rendition of her hit "Talk To Me" that flowed into a nice down-tempo number, and then it was on to a lovely instrumental that showcased each musician, drummer Deantoni Parks really knows how to keep a beat, and keyboardist Jimmy Green added a great techno groove to the mix, as guitarist Jimmy Green knew just where to add a lightning-fast riff. Overall it was a lovely seven-song set but she did not play her two biggest hits, I can understand not doing "Leviticus: Faggot" but "Bet He's Not Your Boyfriend" would have had the crowding jumping up and down. DJ Tom Joyner took the stage and encouraged people to sponsor the museum then he made a few slave jokes...I kid you not...Lonnie Burch took the microphone next and gave a rousing speech and showed a short film about the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and the story behind it. Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk take the stage with their lively New Orleans funk that reminded me a lot of mid-period Funkadelic with their heavy guitar sound and no horn section. They laid down a rock-steady groove but it had no punch, however it was an enjoyable and had the audience moving. Ivan Neville had some great musicians backing him particularly the female drummer Nikki Glaspie who played like a monster with her fat kick drum sound that she rode the pocket like a second skin as the bassists Tony Hall and Nick Daniels thumped along like a lumbering beast as the guitarist Ian Neville played some dazzling riffs, but they really need a horn section to spice things up and add some texture to their music. George Clinton made a small cameo and he was wearing a suit and he had no colorful dreads...the times have changed...and the drummer Nikki Glaspie sang lead as they did a remarkable Betty Davis cover. They played two more songs and the funk was flowing non-stop as the musicians played off each other remarkably well. Overall, their seven-song set was a fun appetizer for the real funk that would be coming next, but Ivan Neville is an amazing keyboard player. They left the stage and Tom Joyner returned and prattled on with some really bad jokes as we waited for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic to make it a P-Funk party because a P-Funk never stops...finally it is time and Parliament/Funkadelic hit the stage and warm up with "Flashlight" and the place came alive with funkateers of all shapes, sizes, and colors as the music swirled around the twenty-plus people on the stage throwdown as the music pumps non-stop, horn runs, guitar riffs, thumping bass, talking drums, and whole chorus of voices and George Clinton is looking healthy and dapper...everybody's got a little light under the sun..., and the band funked on through their greatest hits and audience-pleasers as they stretched them out, "(Not Just) Knee Deep", "Chocolate City", "You Turn Me On", they were mixed and matched and back to the one and it was capped off with a wonderful guitar solo on a double-neck guitar from Mike Hampton. The band slowed things down a bit as George Clinton brought Mary Griffin upfront so she could wail like a super soul diva as the band got all bluesy and cranked out a slinky R&B groove and then another scintillating guitar solo from Mike Hampton and Miss Griffin could wail like Patti Labelle at church. It was time for more classics as they launched into a raucous "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)"..."There's a whole lot of rhythm goin' around..."...and then a swirling and pulsating "Do That Stuff" that George's son Trey Lewd rapped on. I love how the drummers keep rotating without missing a beat, they were amazing to watch. The place was turned into a giant love-fest as everybody was swaying and dancing and singing along. Then they erupted into "Up For The Down Stroke" and they turned it out, the trumpeter wailed like a demented Miles Davis as George Clinton lead the audience in chanting, "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire, we don't need no water, let the motherfucker burn..." until they were hoarse. The band finished their ten-song set with a lively "Atomic Dog" that had the audience in a frenzy as they danced their way out of their constrictions. George Clinton bid us a good night and walked off stage and then I had a mad time trying to leave the area that was just crawling with people. It is hard to believe what a large crowd they drew, but I guess that goes to show you how the funk has touched America to its core.
THE TORCHES, MUSICBAND, and THE NV'S - June 25, 2012
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
It is an absolutely beautiful warm summer day as film-maker Adrian Salsgiver and I drift up to Tenleytown and Fort Reno Park to catch the bi-weekly show and this one features new band The NVS, punk upstarts Musicband and the glamorous Torches, so it should be a real cool show. The NVS take the stage and launch into their poppy power punk with a rather engaging female vocalist Sal Go who reminded me of Wendy O. Williams as she sang, "You're just like a suicide". They played very NYC-style punk rock and they reminded my friend Adrian of being at CBGB's back in the late seventies. The band was tight and energetic as Sal Go sang her delightful and insightful lyrics with an intense vocal style. The guitarist Scott Wilson slashed away at his instrument as the rhythm section bubbled away, bassist Lucas Oswalt was an inventive player as he gave his bass a work-out and drummer Nathan Armstrong pounded away sharp and tight. I was quite impressed by how they added a new edge to an old-school style of punk. The NVs played an awesome ten-song set that reminded me a little of Blondie and a little of X, but very original in their own way. I hoped they have a CD for sale, but alas no such luck. Tonight's show has drawn a pretty big crowd full of old punks and their children and dogs, I found it to be a bit trippy but cool. I have been hearing a lot about the next band, Musicband, for the past couple of months as the punk band to see, so I sit and wait to see if they live up to the hype. Musicband are a quartet featuring vocalist Patrick Crean and guitarist Mike Palmedo, and they remind me way too much of The Clash but they were pretty good at what they did, its not often that you get to see a punk band with an acoustic guitar. Singer Patrick Crean was engaging and I really liked his overtly political lyrics..."We don't need no heroes." The drummer Dirge was fantastic as he drove the rhythm with his skillful and precise playing as the bassist Sean McManus throbbed along like he was in a country band which gave the band it's edge, but however the guitarists were competent but lackluster, so practice and practice and learn a few more chord progressions and Musicband's songs could really shine. My favorite song of their nine-song set was called "There Ain't No Drug War" and it was a nice ditty that neatly summed up the absurdity of the notion of a "war on drugs". I was quite impressed actually by their performance and politics, but I kept waiting for them to break out into The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" Thankfully tonight's show is moving along briskly, so the Torches should be right up, they are a six-piece band featuring a cello, violin, oboe, and a banjo, so I am not sure what to expect. After an excessively long set change the Torches finally begin their set and tragically I was underwhelmed by their blend of The Pogues, Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks, and Gogol Bordello with a splash of alt-country. The six of them were all very competent musicians, especially Stephen J. Perron Guidry on vocals and accordion and the lovely Tina Plottel on assorted instruments, but I lost interest in them rather quickly and decided to leave and take my tired ass home and start typing because I got a book to finish.
TEEN MOM, ALARMS & CONTROLS, and UPFORTH - June 18, 2012
Fort Reno Park - Washington, DC
Well, well, it is time for the start of my absolute favorite annual outdoors summer concert series, that is held Mondays and Thursdays at Fort Reno Park, so I make my way to upper Northwest where I meet up with my pal film-maker Adrian Salsgiver. We take the metro up to Tenleytown to catch the first show of the 2012 Concert Series at Fort Reno and it is kicking off with three young bands; starting with high-schoolers Upforth from Bethesda, Maryland, a quartet who cranked out some noisy old-school punk as they opened with an instrumental and the guitarist/vocalist Isaiah Marshall played some psuedo-speed metal riffs as he sang his heart out on their second song, but Marty Shepp's PA is sounding a little worse for the wear, however the band played on despite all the crackling and odd sounds coming from the speakers, and a small pit of dancers playfully moshed in front of the stage. Upforth reminded me of eighties' hardcore band Tales Of Terror from Sacramento, California. Thankfully the sound greatly improved as the band grinded along and for a young band they were well rehearsed and they seemed to put a lot of effort into their songs. The rhythm section were in perfect sync, especially new bassist Nick Hinsoh who played some driving bass lines over the surprisingly succinct drumming of Ray Brown who recently switched to drums from bass, as Isaiah Marshall and second guitarist Lucas Smith wailed melodically as they traded riffs. However their songs are a little short on lyrics, but Upforth have plenty of time to grow and improve because they could go places with their music. Overall, they played a decent seven-song set that got the audience on their feet and dancing, they even had me bopping my head to the beat, so hopefully they will develop into a noteworthy band from the DMV. After a quick set change, new band Alarms & Controls take the stage, they are a trio closer to my age featuring musicians from several notable past DMV bands like Antimony, Canyon, Circus Lupus, Crownhate Ruin, and Monorchid, so it is nice to see a diversity of bands on Amanda's part. They kicked off with a crunchy song called "On Your Mark" and they reminded me of a cross between Gang Of Four and Wire as they played in an abstract and obtuse jazz-like way that had drummer Vin Novara filling his groove with these tasty little fills and counter-rhythms that gave their music a lovely texture as bassist Michael Honch thumped along deeply buried in the mix as guitarist/vocalist Chris Hamley slashed away at his guitar with these scratchy riffs but sadly his vocals were unintelligible as he growled into the microphone much to my dismay. The three of them were decent enough musicians but their songs all seemed to sound the same as they reminded me more and more of Primus without the humor and the schtick. I found their eight-song set tedious and unbearably monotonous and way too borderline progressive rock for my taste and I could not wait until they finished. When they finally put their instruments down and I breathed a sigh of relief...progressive punk...yuk...hopefully Teen Mom will break the monotony in a few minutes. Teen Mom are a trio who has been getting a lot of buzz lately around town, so I am looking forward to their performance...after a slight delay, Teen Mom launched into their weird hybrid of indie-rock, ska, and emo and I was horrified, nobody seemed to be in sync with each other and drummer Sean Dalby's tempo was all over the place as he tried to play tricky drum fills and vocalist/guitarist Chris Kelly sloppily intoned some words into the microphone as bassist Tom MacWright tried desperately to follow both of them as I sat there scratching my head because I had no idea what he was singing or what they were trying to play. For a band with buzz, I was sadly disappointed and had to leave after four songs because my ears were just not having it, maybe it was the sound but I do not think I will be seeing them perform again anytime soon.
THE CULT, AGAINST ME!, and THE ICARUS LINE - June 12, 2012
The Fillmore - Silver Spring, MD
It seems that the only time I ever come to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, is to see a band whose heyday was way back in the eighties and tonight my concert buddy Mark and I are there to see the electric lords of goth-tinged rock, The Cult, whom I first saw twenty-six years on April 2, 1986 at GWU's Lisner Auditorium for the "Love" tour with The Divinyls as openers and they were sensational, and on July 31, 1987, for the "Electric" tour when they opened for Billy Idol on his "Whiplash Smile" tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, which was marred by drunken frat-boys running amok on the lawn and caterwauling to "Rebel Yell" and "Mony Mony"..."Get laid, get fucked...", and I cannot forget to mention the time in 1990 when I got to hang out backstage as a ROX Magazine writer at the Baltimore Civic Center on their "Sonic Temple" tour and tragically the band were so strung out they could barely stand and some anonymous guitarist was hidden behind a curtain where he played all the lead and solo guitar parts for a very visibly-impaired Billy Duffy, but tonight The Cult, who have since said that they have outgrown such irresponsible behavior, will take the stage and play a spellbinding show...The lights dim and The Icarus Line from Los Angeles take the stage in a squall of riffs and crashing cymbals that went on way too long until they started up into some seventies-style crunch and boogie music that reminded me of The Stooges, Savoy Brown and a swagger-less Foghat and their vocalist Joe Cardamone's voice just got on my nerves as he nasally sang inane lyrics to the strangled cat sounds that guitarist Jason DeCorse was beating out of his guitar, and once again, what is with their damn singer, how many Iggy Pop wannabes do we really need, Joe Cardamone had none of Iggy's raw charm or lyrical wit, or the body for that matter. Their performance was just appalling and I cannot wait for this bad Stooges imitation to be over, it was a half-hour of pure hell. And to cap off this musical nightmare the singer stuck his microphone into one of the stage monitors and it made a god-awful feedback squeal that almost broke my ears and worst of all, I am sure it was just to torture the club's sound guys...grrr...the most incoherent singer and tuneless guitarist ever. The second band on the bill tonight is Against Me! who formed in 1997 in Naples, Florida, and after fifteen years of slogging it out on the road, it is evident that they have built quite the following by the number of kids sporting their tour shirts at this gig. Their singer/guitarist Tom Gabel recently announced that he was undergoing gender re-assignment because he has suffered from gender dysphoria for years and that his new name is going to be Laura Jane Grace, so it should be interesting to see how the crowd tonight reacts to him...and so I must ask why are bands from Florida so damn weird, i.e. Deicide, Marilyn Manson, The Impotent Sea Snakes, etc. Against Me! take the stage to the strains of the "Rocky" theme song as they launch into their faux-Green Day third-generation punk rock, their music was bouncy and poppy and I felt like dancing along, but I still find it hard to believe that the singer Tom is becoming a woman with full tattoo arm sleeves, but he is wearing a hair barrette right now...more power to him...but how odd. But they turn out to be just another faceless punk band who reminded me of Los Angeles' Sloppy Seconds way too much. The crowd seemed to enjoy them as they plowed through the pantheon of classic punk bands, I did not think that they were very original at all. The drummer Jay Weinberg must be tweaked or something because he did not change tempo once as he pounded his drums to death, and the bassist Andrew Seward tried desperately to keep up with him. I did enjoy a few of their songs, particularly "White Crosses" in which Tom raged, "I'll make my way back home to you, head north on San Marco Avenue. White crosses on the church lawn, I want to smash them all. Looking for context and perspective, looking for some kind of distraction. White crosses on the church lawn, I want to smash them all. I want to smash them all.", and it was the highlight of their thirteen-song set. It was the perfect distillation of a pop-punk song with a catchy chorus and guitarist John Bowman's vaguely familiar sounding buzzsaw guitar riff, I could see why the kids loved it. The song I liked the most was "Black Me Out" with the lovely lines, "Black me out, I want to piss on the walls of your house, I want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers, as if you were a king maker, as if, as if, as if, black me out..." The rednecks in his hometown must have had made his life a living hell, so no wonder he wants to become a woman. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable show, but I must say that he is going to make one ugly woman. Now the wait begins for The Cult to take the stage, and I am excited to see them since they have been revitalized after they put out their 2007 album "Born Into This", and the projected set list for this tour that I found on setlist.fm looks to be awesome. The stage crew hurriedly changed the stage set as the anticipation built and I eavesdropped on various people around me as they recounted their favorite Cult moments in their lives. Suddenly the lights dimmed and Billy Duffy made his guitar sing with the opening riffs of "Lil' Devil" from 1987's "Electric" which fired up the crowd instantly. Ian Astbury sounded great as he howled, "Living in a shack in a one-horse town, trying to get to heaven 'fore the sun goes down...come on little devil be my little angel..." He looked good, almost younger, sobriety has been good to him, and as Billy grinded away effortlessly on his guitar the rest of the band played their parts perfectly and they segued into their new single "Honey From A Knife" from their recent album "Weapon Of Choice" with the fantastic line, "We got the drugs, the drugs in here...call it, own it fucked up children.", I was really impressed because they sounded better than they have in a long time. It was nice to see Billy Duffy actually playing his guitar. Then it was on to one of their classics, a haunting "Rain" from 1985's "Love" album that had Ian Astbury sensually moaning, "Hot sticky scenes you know what I mean - like a desert sun that burns my skin I've been waiting for her so long - open the sky and let her come down - here comes the rain I love the rain..." It was sensational and it still sounded great after twenty-seven years since its release as the crowd roared their appreciation. Their backing musicians, bassist Chris Wyse, drummer John Tempesta, and guitarist Mike Dimkich, sounded great as they propelled Billy Duffy and Ian Astbury across the music. Next up, was another new song, "Lucifer", but they have not been playing it live enough yet for it to sound smooth and cohesive. It was back to the classics with a stellar version of "Nirvana" from the "Love" album and Billy Duffy played his best solo of the night hitting the notes just right and Chris Wyse's fantastic bass playing gave the song groove and drive, however second guitarist Mike Dimkich seemed to be doing all the heavy lifting so to speak as they slowed things down with a sensually bluesy "Embers" from 2010's hard-to-get "Capsule" EP with its soaring riff, and they just flowed with an incredible passion that exploded into an visceral "Fire Woman" from 1989's "Sonic Temple" that really got the crowd going as we sang along, "Fire woman, yeah...shake, shake, shake, shake it, yeah...wound up, can't sleep, can't do anything right, little honey. Oh, since I set my eyes on you, I tell you the truth...T-t-t-t-twistin' like a flame in a slow dance, baby..." Mike Dimkich rocked on the guitar as he played these long extended notes as they flowed into "The Wolf" from their new album, which Ian informed us was about guys who ingest a lot of steroids and Billy sounded electrifying as he flung out screaming riffs left and right, and of course once again the other guitarist absolutely shined as he kept the groove chugging along with dancing licks. Without missing a beat, they charged into a pounding version of "Wild Flower" from the "Electric" album, and it featured a particularly cool solo from Billy Duffy as Ian Astbury joyously screamed, "Hey you pure raw wild honey child. I'm out of control every time you are near me. I'm a wolf child baby and I'm howlin' for you. My heart beats faster hey hey I'm overpowered...", he sure likes to sing about wolves because this is the fourth song in which he has mentioned them. The band kept things going full throttle with a Hendrix-esque version of "The Phoenix" from "Love" in which Billy Duffy had his guitar soaring like a rocketship shooting notes everywhere, I was tremendously impressed by his skillful playing and interaction with the other musicians. Next was another new song called "For The Animals" which was the only song in their set that I was not overly familiar with but it sounded like the entire "Sonic Temple" album rolled into one song, however I liked the message in it. The band kept rolling with the song that put them on the map back in 1984, a swirling and pulsing "Spiritwalker" from the "Dreamtime" album, it was absolutely gorgeous but it seemed to go over most of the audience's heads, however I loved it and they segued into the song that defines them, a bone-chilling "She Sells Sanctuary" also from "Love", and it brought a tear to my eye as he sang, "Oh the heads that turn, make my back burn, the sparkle in your eye keeps me alive...I'm sure in her you'll find the sanctuary and the world and the world..." The Cult left the stage with sound of guitars still ringing in the air and the audience roared their appreciation and love as we waited for the encores and they returned to the stage raging with a raucous "Rise" from 2001's "Beyond Good And Evil" and they finished with a scorching "Love Removal Machine" from "Electric" that had Billy Duffy burning it up on his guitar as Ian Astbury howled, "Fell to the red room because she was there, a scarlet woman, she got me in fear. She said do all the things you do to me, you know what I mean, do all those things you do to me yeah...love removal love removal machine...you little fun remover love remover machine..." The crowd was in a frenzy as The Cult gave it all they got and more, overall it was a fantastic and mesmerizing show that made me feel good. I am glad to see and hear that rock'n'roll is still alive and well.
BOOTSY COLLINS AND THE FUNK UNITY BAND - June 10, 2012
The State Theater - Falls Church, VA
It has been a long hot day as I make my way to the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia, on the hideous metro to see the incomparable Bootsy Collins play a make-up gig for when he canceled here earlier this year, but I am surprised he has not played the recently re-opened Howard Theater yet. It has been quite the month for seeing the funk live in and around Chocolate City, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and the father of da funk, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars are playing on the National Mall at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's "Bring Back Da Funk" concert on June 27th with Meshell Ndegeocello, and Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk. I have loved Bootsy Collins since I discovered P-Funk albums with their psychedelic Pedro Bell drawn cover art in the 99-cent cut-out bin at the Dart Drug in Manassas when I was growing up in the seventies...Starchild was the shit as he pumped and slapped his bass and filled me with the funk...R-U-B-B-E-R-B-A-N-D...Pinocchio Theory...These Boots Were Made For Funkin'...Party On Plastic...It was Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel and Bernie Worrell and Mike Hampton who made me want to become a musician. In the nineties I started working at the 9:30 Club as the funk revival began, and I was lucky enough to work for George Clinton and company in various configurations, and I saw Bootsy throwdown at the Capitol Ballroom in 1998, and best of all, on September 30, 1994, at the Lincoln Theater with Slave which was the night I first met my diva Angela Bofill whom I met through my drummer friend T.C. Tolliver who drummed for Peaches & Herb, The Plasmatics, and Murder Ink and we got to cut to the front of the line to meet Bootsy in his dressing room much to the chagrin of his other fans, and best of all, I got his autograph on my guest pass which I still have on me at this very moment. It has been a good luck charm for me all these years. Now I find myself sitting in the balcony of The State Theater patiently waiting for Bootsy to funk-matize me with his bass. The lights dim and the crowd erupts maniacally as the Funk Unity Band take the stage and launch into a riveting funk groove as the video screen showed the Mothership landing and the MC takes the microphone and pumps up the crowd even more with a little call and response, and then Bootsy struts onto the stage in a bright red sequined outfit and a red feather wig. It was a sight to behold as he proclaimed, "Aah...the name is Bootsy, baby...", and the band and him let loose with whirling melange of the funk as they plow through all the signature P-Funk catchphrases as Bootsy made his beautiful bass rumble, growl, and throb to the beat of the amazing drummer Penitentiary Bamn who had his kit jumping and pumping in his black and white striped prison outfit. Bootsy's wife, Peppermint Patty, took the microphone to inform us about the Bootsy's Girls Foundation which provides instruments and opportunities to under-privileged children, which is a good thing, so google it and contribute. The band flowed into "Bootsy (What's The Name Of This Town)", and the interplay between the musicians was sensational as each part intertwined with skill and rhythm that kept the crowd on their feet. Bootsy was in fine form as he led the band with his tight and groovy playing as they segued into "The Pinocchio Theory" with its infectious sing-a-long lyrics, "This is the world's funkiest sing-a-long...sing...R-U-B-B-E-R-F-A-N-S...rubberfans and funkateers..." His band was in the pocket as Bootsy made his bass glide like a ship over the sea of sound that keyboardists Joel Johnson and Rashon Murph were banging out as guitarist Keith Cheatham made his Telecaster squeal and sqawk as they segued into "Hollywood Squares" and Bootsy shouted, "There's gonna be a party!", and the band was smoking as they laid down the groove as they drove it out of the speakers and into the crowd and made them dance to the background singers wailing, "Shake your body...", however the vocal mix really sucks because their vocals sound really muffled. Bootsy left the stage and Penitentiary Bamn let loose with a funky drum solo that really got the crowd moving and grooving to the beat. Peppermint Patti took the microphone and told the audience to give up some love for Sly Stone and The Family Stone as the band launched into the classic "Wanna Take You Higher", and each musician on the stage took turns solo-ing as they weaved through "Dance To The Music" and "Everyday People" and a riveting version of "Stand" that rivaled the original, and as they funked their way through this extended jam, I found myself checking out the equipment back-line and realized that Bootsy had six custom SVT amps so no wonder the building was vibrating to the music. They finished up the Sly Stone segment and someone on stage yelled, "Give it up for the P-Funk", and right from the opening signature keyboard riff, I was on my feet as they brought the funk as everyone sang along, "Most of all he needs the funk. Help him find the funk...get him...most of all he needs the funk...I know we can get him...help him find the funk...ho...flashlight...neon light...spotlight...", and it was a sensational version with second bassist Mike Cobb shining as he dropped into a deep groove and made the various band member introductions and saxophonist Randy Villars finished the song with a wonderfully soulful wail that gave me the chills. Bootsy returned to the stage in a glittery psychedelic sequined suit this time, and he gave a shout-out to the recently-departed DC go-go legend Chuck Brown as he and his band improvised on a funk re-write of the classic Chuck song "Wind Me Up" which morphed into a masterful bass solo segment in which Bootsy played his instrument as if it was a guitar. It was almost magical and I was enraptured by his superb musical clarity as he played like he was lost in the moment as he made his bass go boom. I knew he had to perform at least one sweet and sexy song for the ladies and it was a sensual "I Rather Be With You" that had the women swooning as he sang, "I'd like to make sweet love to you..." and the fellows running for the restroom or the bar. Nobody does 'nasty' like Bootsy and the incredible tones that he got on his bass just blew my mind, he is the 'Hendrix' of the bass. He kept the love groove going as he crooned, "Your love is kinda special treat, a personal stash, and I'm selfish with your love, you see, your love is kind of sweet, sweet enough to eat, I'm hooked on you chocolate star...I got the munchies for your candy-like love..." from "Munchies For Your Love". The song faded away and Bootsy proclaimed it time to get "Back To The Old School Groove" and the Funk Unity Band dropped a seventies funk groove and the background singers began singing, "Don't take my love away...", as Randy Villars wailed like a real-life "Bleeding Gums Murphy" from The Simpsons on his saxophone as Bootsy strolled offstage again and the band started up with a joyful "One Nation Under A Groove" and the entire audience and me sang along with the band at the top of our lungs, "Ready or not here we come, getting' down on the one which we believe in, one nation under a groove, getting' down just for the funk, can I get it on my good foot, getting' down just for the funk of it...", it was deliriously wonderful as everyone sang and dance and became the song as the band played on. Bootsy returned to the stage in a bombastic, over-the-top silver sequins head-to-toe outfit that would put Cher to shame as the band began a sassy "Casper The Friendly Ghost" that segued into a pumping and jumping "Funk Gettin' Ready To Roll" which turned into a mass sing-a-long of the best of P-Funk phrases...The roof, the roof is on fire, we don't need no water, let the motherfucker burn...We want the funk...Give up the funk...as the band played a medley of "Touch", "Yes We Can", and "Funkentelechy" and they were throwing down as the rhythm flew around..."Reach out and touch somebody...". Bootsy removed his silver outfit and said, "The club told me not to do this...but...", and he was helped off the stage and into the audience and then he made his way through the crowd which he was hugging, dancing with, and doing some forehead to forehead ritual, it had everybody running to get next to Bootsy and taking pictures with their cellphones at the same time and the band kept the funk coming in endless waves. Bootsy made it back to the stage and picked his bass back up and let loose with a mad bass solo that turned my ears inside out. He stepped to the microphone and proclaimed, "DC is the funk capital of the world", and the audience roared their approval and began chanting, "We want the funk, we want the funk..." After the applause died down, Bootsy began singing, "Well, All right! Starchild, citizens of the universe, recording angels. We have returned to claim the Pyramids. Partying on the Mothership. I am the Mothership connection, getting' down in 3-D, light year groovin'. Well all right...if you hear any noise, it's just me and the boys, hit it...", and Bootsy and the band stretched it out and the whole place was dancing to best version of "Mothership Connection (Starchild)" I have ever witnessed. Bootsy thanked the crowd for being to good to him and the band and said they will be recording new songs shortly and he begins bring audience members on to the stage to dance as they launched into a foot-stomping "It's Official, It's Family Approved" and then they reprise "One Nation Under A Groove" and each musician played one last solo until they all end on the one, and Bootsy yelled, "Keep The Funk Alive". Well Bootsy, I shall, I shall, and I head downstairs to buy a fresh Bootsy t-shirt and they do not have any, so I just danced my way to the metro while singing, "One Nation Under A Groove" with a huge grin on my face and the funk in my heart.
THE LEGENDS OF HIP-HOP With Host FLAVA FLAV and DITIGAL UNDERGROUND, ROB BASE, DJ KOOL, and YOUNG MC - June 8, 2012
Fairfax County Government Center - Fairfax, VA
My pal Artie Lassiter and I made our way out west on Route 66 to Fairfax, Virginia, to go to the annual Celebrate Fairfax event to see the "Legends Of Hip-Hop" show with Host Flava Flav and the cream of nineties hip-hop, Young MC, Rob Base, DJ Kool, and Digital Underground throwdown in Middle America. Let me tell you though , it was an endeavor, first we had to park at Fair Oaks Mall and board a shuttle bus to get to the Government Center grounds, get our tickets, and then weave our way through the crowd to get to the Bud Light Stage and as we arrived, we could hear the Powerful Quiet Fire Soul Show on the COX Rocks Stage, and they were kicking out some fairly decent old school go-go featuring some crowd-moving renditions of Chuck Brown and E.U. classics as we found some decent seats for the headline show on the main stage. It looked to be a pretty decent stage set so the sound should be good at least. The crowd was incredibly diverse as they amassed and waited to be entertained. I, myself, did not know what to expect, but at least Flava Flav should be frighteningly amusing as he often is. Flav takes the stage and he seems way smaller than he does on the television as he leads the crowd in some call and response chants to pump them up, then he thanks the audience for supporting Public Enemy over the years and his reality TV shows and finally dropped a rhyme as he introduced the first act of the night, Young MC, who hit the stage in a flurry of beats and rhymes as he rapped "I Can Make You Move" with its cold euro-techno groove and he flowed with smooth and suave sophistication. His DJ segued into the Funkadelic sample based "Can You Feel My Love" that had the ladies screaming as he suavely slid into "Hey Baby Girl With The Brown Skin Tone" and that got the females up and moving. I do like his word flow technique as he jumped back to some old-school hip-hop and began free-styling for a while until I could hear him get winded as he wound the crowd up for his Number One smash hit "Bust A Move" but he got the whole audience on their feet as he he let loose with "Next day's function high class function, food they're serving, you're stone-cold munchin'. Music comes on people start to dance but then you ate so much you nearly split your pants. A girl starts walkin' guys start gawkin', sits down next to you and starts talking, says she wants to dance cause she likes to groove, so come on fatso and just bust a move..." - hip-hop has truly crossed over to the masses, so it must be dead...who would have thought there would be dinosaur hip-hop...some of it does not hold up well over time...but the crowd ate it up. Young MC left the stage and Flava Flav was back to flap his lips and he offered twenty dollars to the first person in the audience to tweet him, and I could see everybody poking away at their electronic devices and such. After a few technical delays, Rob Base and his crew hit the stage and really got the crowd going as he belted out "Wave Your Hands" as the audience responded with "Whoa-a-ohs", but he rocked it old school - two turntables and a microphone - and without missing a beat they flowed into "Ain't No Party" with surgeon-like precision and on to a heartfelt "Joy And Pain" that really moved the people all around me. It is nice to hear some old school New York style hip-hop with a rapper who knew how to work the stage and move the crowd like it was 1985 as they got the audience jumping to the bounce beat of "Run This Mothersucker" and the crowd was hyped..."I'm in love with Mary Jane..." and I am quite impressed by DJ Mike who was manning the decks with nimble dexterity and had the beats dancing out of the speakers. He kept the groove pumping as Young MC flowed into "Make Money" and led the crowd in some call and response with a parade of old school phrases and then they kicked into the song everyone was waiting to hear - his smash worldwide hit single "It Takes Two"..."It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight. Hit it! I wanna rock right now. I'm Rob Base and I came to get down. I'm not internationally known, but I'm known to rock the microphone...". Everybody was on their feet and dancing, and let me tell you, it is so hilarious to watch white people get their hip-hop groove on, funnier than that famous "Seinfeld" episode where Elaine did her seizure-like dancing at her office party. DJ Mike and Young MC turned it out as they traded turntable wizardry and free-style lyrics like they were jousting knights, it was spectacular but the modern Young MC looked like he ate the old Young MC, it was kind of scary. They left the stage to a huge roar and Flav returned to the microphone with a bunch more of his nonsensical yakkity-yak about being against racism and separatism, and how we as a people just need to come together because we are all God's children, then finally he cleared his throat and he brought Washington DC's own DJ Kool to the stage, who shouted out to the audience "What's your area code?" and then the obligatory shout-out to the recently departed godfather of go-go, Mr. Chuck Brown, and then they kicked into a bouncing "I Got That Feeling" that turned into an extended call and response sing-a-long where he kept saying, "Where you at?", and much to my annoyance he kept talking about how he was 54 and still working the stage. However DJ Twenty was jacking the turntables with great skill, and usually "turntablists" just get on my nerves with their scratching and what ever else they do because I find them very distracting and take away from the music. DJ Kool said it was time to introduce a new song called "Party Goin' On" and it sounded like a dozen other songs on the radio these days as they plowed through a melange of every hip-hop cliche in the book and led the crowd in endless call and response routines. DJ Kool stopped the music and reminisced about hip-hop of yesteryear and DJ Twenty rocked a mash-up of "classic" hip-hop jams as DJ Kool led the audience in singing the most memorable choruses, and he stopped the music again and said the next song is dedicated to the R&B of his youth, and I kid you not, he led the crowd in singing "The Jeffersons" theme song..."Well, we're movin' on up to the east side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin' on up to the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie..." The big thing about DJ Kool that I did not care for, was that his set seemed to be more of a jumble of musical bits and pieces than an actual song orientated set, and for some odd reason he seemed to mock James Brown for some reason as an introduction for his song that everyone came to see, "Let Me Clear My Throat", and the second it started thumping out of the speakers, the audience was on their feet and going crazy and then Flava Flav joins DJ Kool on the stage and they trade rhymes for a few minutes and DJ Kool bids us goodnight. Flav starts up again with the gobbledygook on the microphone and announces the show was taking a short break for a fireworks display and then he lead the audience in an a cappella version of "America The Beautiful" with the audacious line, "Land of the free, and the home of the Flav", which gave me a chuckle as he keep running his mouth with a few verses from "911 Is A Joke In Your Town", then some fool near the stage yelled for "Fuck Da Police", to which Flav responded, "We didn't do 'Fuck Da Police'!" The look on his face was priceless when he realized he had said that over the PA as the cops on the side of the stage glared at him, so he apologized profusely, somewhat over-emphatically actually, very un-Public Enemy-like, then he yelled "Please welcome Shock G and Digital Underground!". School G bounded on stage as DJ Skratch dropped the beats with pizzazz as they kicked into "Underwater Rhymes" that the guitarist underscored with pseudo-metal riffs that swam like sharks through the groove. Shock G babbled something about being glad to be back on the stage and the DJ dropped the beat on "Sex Packets" which pulsed and throbbed as Shock G nastily rapped, "Sex packets, a dollar or two, just tell me, how many for you, this time, this time...Sex packets, the girl of your dreams, just try one, it's not what it seems, this love, this love..." I got my little dance groove on like everybody else as they flowed into "In The City" and then "I Came To Party"..."all around the world the same song plays...", and they finished their rather brief set with a raucous "Humpty Dance" that they cranked out like a metal song and they fled the stage and Artie and I made our way back to the shuttle buses and rode one to the mall and his truck and proceeded to get struck in a traffic jam on Route 66. Overall it was a cool but weird night with an old school hip-hop soundtrack, but I do not think I will be attending another one of these package things at a county fair ever again.
STEVE WINWOOD and BOBBY LONG - May 29, 2012
Filene Center At Wolf Trap - Vienna, VA - Row D/Seat 21
Summer has landed on the DMV like a hot coal as my friend Sean Bush and I make our way to the prestigious Filene Center at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, to see one of my all-time favorite musicians, the multi-talented Steve Winwood, whom I aspired to be in the early seventies when I was taking piano lessons, "Dear Mr. Fantasy" was my favorite song to practice along to for hours. Years later in the late nineties, I was lucky enough to DJ a Steve Winwood show at the 9:30 Club on September 28, 1998. I was happy as a lark as I skipped into the club and made my way to my DJ booth because I was going to drop a set before seeing Steve Winwood in a small club. This was almost as good as the summer of 1994, when I got to see Traffic perform three times, first, opening for the Grateful Dead at Washington DC's RFK Stadium on July 17th where it rained and the crowd was full of obnoxious neo-hippies, but Traffic played a nice brisk set, the second time was on August 14th, a dreary day in the middle of a field at Woodstock II in Saugerties, New York, where they played yet another brisk set between Santana and The Allman Brothers Band on a semi-pleasant Sunday afternoon, and lastly, on September 1st they played a magnificent and winding set at the lovely Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. It was a glorious summer indeed, but back to my story...when I reached my DJ booth, the crew from a local cable music show were setting their equipment up in my booth to interview Steve Winwood, and that made me extra excited to be at the show, but then the host Christian Koukal actually asked me who is Steve Winwood and what does he play...I was flabbergasted and so I had to school him in all things Steve Winwood in fifteen minutes with the insert from the Traffic's "Smiling Phases" compilation CD, and then Steve Winwood arrived and sat in the booth easy chair and did the interview as I DJ'ed, and after he finished, he thanked me for my enjoyable music selection and then we shook hands and hugged and then he autographed my CD insert and went back to his tour bus. The second he left the booth, I ran over and sat in the chair where he had been interviewed and let his residual energy wrap around me all warm and soothing as it enveloped me like a favorite old blanket. I was in heaven as he and his band played a fantastic set...and oh yeah...while he was being interviewed, I swear to God that he was looking at my rather pretty ass with lust in his eyes, umm, I heard rumors...back to now...I am sitting in my seat in Row D way upfront in the center section and I cannot wait for Steve Winwood to take the stage, but first I have to endure Bobby Long from South West England, who is mates with "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson, which means he gets minus points in my book. He is yet another insipid singer/songwriter in a long line of insipid singer/songwriters, and he is an English one so he reminds me of a mutant cross of Billy Bragg and a pre-heroin Pete Dougherty. He played a seemingly endless eight-song set of overly verbose numbers that bored me to death, but at least I was not sitting with the peasants in the rain on the lawn. Bobby Long finally finished his set and the house lights went up and I was horrified by the fat, ugly, and dripping wet audience with distended stomachs, and it was ghastly. So please Mr. Winwood, play me a song to make me forget the people sitting around me...the house lights dimmed and Steve Winwood and his band take the stage and opened with the Spencer Davis Group classic "I'm A Man"..."Well my pad is very messy, and there's whiskers on my chin, and I'm all hung up on music, and I always play to win...", his band laid down a smoking groove and Steve sounded great as he pumped away delicately at his organ and multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth sounded sensationally gorgeous on the saxophone as its notes danced over Cafe da Silva's bright and percolating percussion that perfectly complemented Richard Bailey's sparse drumming. Next they smoothly sailed into "Fly" from 2008's "Nine Lives" with its gentle and loping rhythms, and Paul Booth once again impressed me with his phenomenally soulful saxophone wails, and I am blown away by how incredibly in sync his band is with each other, particularly in a song with no bass or guitar. They continued with another song from "Nine Lives", the wonderfully lush "At Times We Do Forget" that featured Cafe da Silva's pulsing propulsive percussion playing that gave sparkle to Steve's delicate organ melodies that flew all around and danced with Paul Booth's killer flute solo. Steve stood up and welcome everyone to the show as a tech handed him a guitar that he made hum with the opening riffs of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" as he sadly sang, "Come down off your throne and leave your body alone, somebody must change, you are the reason I've been waiting so long..." It was an impeccable version and it sounded better than the version he did with Eric Clapton two years ago when they toured together, Steve continued on the guitar as they launched into the best track on "Nine Lives", the heavy swamp jazz number "Dirty City" with its biting lyrics, and his band was so tight as Paul Booth tied things together with his riveting organ playing that gave the song its edge. I looked up a few of his recent set lists on setlist.fm earlier in the day so I knew what to expect and it was time for the Traffic segment of the show which began with "Low Sparks Of High-Heeled Boys" and Paul Booth kicked it off with a sensually serpentine saxophone introduction that languidly wafted out of the speakers. Steve Winwood returned to his organ and mournfully sang as Jose Neto's guitar notes skillfully danced over his melodies, but Jose added his own touch that reminded me of Robin Trower a little bit in the way he extended notes and bent them as the band flowed into "Empty Pages". Steve Winwood sounded ageless as he crooned, "Staring at empty pages, centered 'round the same old plot, staring at empty pages, flowing along the ages..." I was in heaven, this was the next best thing to seeing Traffic as they segued into an impeccably solid and driving version of "Pearly Queen" that showcased each band member's talent, particularly Paul Booth on the saxophone, and to my ears he was the Most Valuable Player of the evening and he out-shined himself this time on his horn. It is amazing how well his band plays off each other, they were as good as Traffic in 1994. It was Richard Bailey's turn to shine as he played his drums tight and funky in a James Brown way as they began "Light Up Or Leave Me Alone"..."Sometimes I feel like I'm fading away. You're looking at me, I've got nothing to say. Don't make me angry with the games that you play...either light up or leave me alone...", and the band is on fire now as they deftly play off each other and take turns playing exquisite solos, particularly Steve Winwood's ethereal and spine-tingling work-out on the organ that was inter-spliced with jazzy saxophone wails from Paul Booth, and most of all, I really enjoyed the up-dated song arrangement that made the song more concise and yet looser. Cafe da Silva let her hands go wild as she played an amazing percussion breakdown that morphed into a John Bonham-esque drum solo from Richard Bailey that went on a little too long for my tastes but it was enjoyable and he knows how to break a beat down. Steve Winwood and the rest of the band returned to the stage as he began a swaggering reggae beat and they exploded into a very upbeat "Higher Love" that had the whole audience swaying and singing along, but I really missed the female vocals from the album version, where is Chaka Khan when you need her. They wound the song up and quietly left the stage, but the audience screamed for more, and they were one of the more enthusiastic crowds that I have heard in a while, I was very surprised by how loud they were. Steve Winwood and his band returned to the stage, a tech handed him a guitar and he stepped up to the microphone and thanked everyone for coming and began playing the signature opening riff of "Dear Mr. Fantasy" as he nonchalantly sneered into the microphone, "Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune, something to make us all happy. Do anything, take us out of this gloom, sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy. You are the one who can make us laugh but doing that you break out in tears. Please don't be sad if it was a straight mind you had, we wouldn't have known you all these years..." These lyrics seemed to sum tonight up to me judging by the audience, but it was an out-of-this-world version that brought a tear to my eye as I sang along with him, he then played the most shimmeringly beautiful guitar solo that reminded me of Jimi Hendrix. However, as he was finishing his solo, the stage power blew and you could only hear the drums, but Steve did not let that phase him as the stage techs ran about trying to regain power but it worked out and they were able to finish with "Gimme Some Lovin'" from his Spencer Davis Group days, I liked how began the show with one of their songs and then closed with one. The only thing missing was that he did not play anything from my favorite album of his, "Arc Of A Diver", but strangely enough I bought a tour shirt with the artwork from that album on it. I must say that it was a great show to kick off my summer concert season, because he is one of my favorite musicians and I loved every song that they played tonight. My friend and I fled the premises to beat the parking lot madness and get to the metro for the unbearable ride home with "Dear Mr. Fantasy" stuck in my head, I think they call it perseveration.
ROB ZOMBIE, MEGADETH, and LACUNA COIL - May 13, 2012
Merriweather Post Pavilion - Columbia, MD - Row G/Seat 121
My buddy Mark Amabalie and I head to Merriweather Post Pavilion for our first outdoor venue gig of the 2012 summer concert season, and it is a full-out metal assault billed as the "Metal Lords' Day" featuring my all-time metalist Rob Zombie, Megadeth with Ted Nugent's idiot political bed-mate ex-junkie Dave Mustaine, and the relatively unknown Lacuna Coil, plus three pointless heavy metal cover bands on the side stage, so it should be a lovely way to celebrate Motherfucker's...oops...Mother's Day. We found our rather lovely seats in the first row above the mosh pit, so our photos and video footage should look stellar, we sit and watch the parade of people; headbangers, stoners, metal nerds, rock chicks, skanks, and lots of bad tattoos. I love watching the variety of metal tour t-shirts as they go by, the most common (Iron Maiden), the oddest band (Taylor Swift), and the band most diametrically opposed to heavy metal, like the Bauhaus t-shirt that I just saw walk pass me. Lacuna Coil from Milan, Italy, finally take the stage to the strains of eerie organ music wearing matching military-esque shirts and then the dual lead vocalists, Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia, started wailing, "This might long my face is burning, I cannot keep it all long enough. I want to hide myself in something that is bigger than me, that I cannot control...", as the mesmerizing twin guitars of Cristiano Migliore and Marco Biazzi kick into "I Don't Believe In Tomorrow", and the crowd was into them right away. They reminded me way too much of Linkin Park as the two guitarists grinded away as the rhythm section, bassist Marco Coti Zeloti and drummer Cristiano Mozzati, played absolutely every metal cliche in the book so I was bored by the end of their first song. The females in the audience seemed to love them, I guess because it was because of their pop edge that made their music almost danceable. As their show progressed, I found myself enjoying their nine-song set way more than I thought I would, especially a pounding grinder called "Heaven's A Lie" where I found myself singing along, "Set me free, your heaven's a lie, set me free with your love, set me free, yeah..." They closed with their best song of the night, a pulsing and swirling "Spellbound" that had me on my feet as the Andrea and Cristina sang, "Tell me who you are. I am spellbound. You cannot have this control of me. Everywhere I go I am spellbound, I will break the spell you put on me..." The rhythm section finally changed tempo and I could finally hear some melody in the guitar lines instead of the usual squall that was in the other songs like "Survive" and "Kill The Light", or maybe they just had a crappy sound-man. Lacuna Coil finished up and left the stage as a black scrim dropped while the stage crew went to work changing the stage because I do hope that Megadeth has an interesting stage set with lots of moving parts, even though I view Dave Mustaine with disgust because he is a Nazi republican fuck who supported that hateful closet queen Rick Santorum in his run for president. Megadeth hit the stage a'thrashing as they opened with a propulsive "Never Dead", but the sound mix was crushing the vocals which only got a little better as their set progressed, so it was hard to hear Dave sing his insightful lyrics as they plowed into "Hangar 18"..."Welcome to our fortress tall, take some time to show you around, impossible to break these walls. For you see the steel is much too strong, computer banks to rule the world, instruments to sight the stars...Possibly I've seen too much, Hangar 18, I know too much...", and they pummeled and bludgeoned the song to death with endless guitar riffs, however I could not stop myself from feeling disdain for guitarist Dave Mustaine. Without taking a breath they plowed on non-stop into a pulse-pounding "Headcrusher", and Dave does know how to shred on his guitar...I will give him that...So I hope he keeps his mouth shut and does not espouse any of his inane political views. The drummer Shawn Drover was phenomenal as he pounded away on his double kick drum set, he actually had groove and a sense of rhythm that longtime bassist Dave Ellefson rode with a menacing throb. I forgot how much I love thrash and second guitarist Chris Broderick was blowing my mind with his speed and dexterity, his fingers were flying up and down his fretboard like greased lightning in "My Darkest Hour". The highlight of the set was a mind-melting "Trust" that featured Dave Mustaine on a beautiful double-neck guitar that he made sing and it almost made me forget that he is a Republican asshole. Next up was a heart rate pulsing "She Wolf", but I wish the vocals were up in the mix more, because regardless of what I think of his politics, he does write some intelligent lyrics like in "Sweating Bullets" where he sings, "Hello me...Meet the real me and my misfit's way of life. A dark black past is my valued possession...", and as the dual guitars screamed, a mosh pit broke out in front of the stage and the metal-heads were going crazy as the bodies flew everywhere. Next vocalist Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil walked onto the stage to sing "A Tout Le Monde" with Megadeth and it was the best song of their set as they traded vocals with ease, but the band kept the pace of the show at non-stop as they let loose with a menacing "Whose Life" where he sang, "You hate everything you see in me. Have you looked in a mirror? Hey, just whose life is this anyway? You tell me how to live but who asked you anyway. Hey, just whose life is this anyway? Cost so much more than the price. I ain't going to pay. You only point out fault, anxiety attack, you running your mouth. You stab me in my back...", but to me, these lyrics seemed contrary to his Republicanism, because the GOP is all about telling people how to live their lives for God and country. They followed this with the most thrashing moment of the night as they scarred my eardrums with a brutal "Public Enemy No. 1" and its accompanying video that showed monkeys playing a Bonnie and Clyde shoot-out scene, I was very impressed by Dave's guitar prowess throughout the whole set, but he really shined when they launched into a searing "Symphony Of Destruction" that just set the pit off and the bodies were flying. Finally it was time for my favorite song by Megadeth, 1986's thrash blueprint "Peace Sells", the band was tight as they pounded away as Dave sneered, "What do you mean I don't believe in God? Talk to him everyday. What do you mean I don't support your system? I go to court when I have to. What do you mean I can't get to work on time? Got nothing better to do. What do you mean I don't pay my bills? Why do you think I'm broke...Peace sells, but who's buying...", and it sounded fantastic, it is the apex of thrash. They finished their set with a skull-crushing "Holy War", which Dave prefaced by saying, "Don't waste your votes.", well dude, I ain't voting for a motherfucking racist Mormon blasphemer and he will make metal music illegal - just remember that. Megadeth finished their surprisingly enjoyable thirteen-song set and they were gone in a flash as the stage crew went to work setting up for Rob Zombie. The house lights came on and I looked around at the variety of people at the show and I was kind of frightened, there were some scary motherfuckers in the house tonight. The stage crew re-set the stage and a scrim dropped down to hide the stage and the countdown began for my metal god to take the stage as the crowd starts chanting..."Zombie"..."Zombie"..."Zombie"...Rob Zombie, John 5, Piggy D., and Ginger Fish take the stage in a cloud of billowing red and white smoke that revealed a burning wickerman center stage as they opened with a soul-shattering "Jesus Frankenstein", John 5's guitar grinded away as Rob growled, "Eyes of a sideshow, teeth of a dog, face of a marvel, wander in the fog into ragged mountains, savior of the breed, vandal of the vultures begging you to feed..." The band was raging as they steamrolled into a pounding "Superbeast" that melted into a slamming "Scum Of The Earth" that John 5 made his guitar bleed with the fury of the gods. Without stopping they launched into a devilishly sexy "Living Dead Girl" that whipped the mosh pit into a manic frenzy as Rob Zombie prowled the stage like a caged tiger and he cajoled the audience to "rock like fuck". A large mutant figure began wandering the stage as drummer Ginger Fish began pounding out the signature zombie funk beat of my favorite White Zombie song, "More Human Than Human", and Rob growled, "I am the astro-creep a demolition style hell American freak - I am the crawling dead - a phantom in a box shadow in your head say acid suicide freedom of the blast read the fucker lies - scratch off the broken skin - tear into my heart make me do it again yeah - more human than human...", and the band just blew it up as they played like madmen on fire. I love John 5's guitar histrionics, he plays like no one else. Next Ginger Fish took his turn in the spotlight and kicked out a decent psychedelic drum solo that actually was not boring. The stage set was straight out of the devil's nightmares as random psychedelic images flowed on the video screens as smoke billowed and the lighting began to pulse and throb like a porno movie set and Piggy D. made his bass rumble like an imploding building as Rob rasped, "Yeah, my durango number 95, take me to the home, kick boots and ultra live, see heaven flash a horrorshow, knock it nice and smooth, step back and watch it flow, yeah...never gonna stop me, never gonna stop, never gonna stop me, never gonna, never gonna...", I love this fucking song, "Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy)" is my favorite metal song to dance to like an idiot and I was bouncing away. Rob Zombie was dancing with two zombie figures on the stage as the band started into my favorite Rob Zombie song overall, the wall-rattling "Sick Bubblegum", and it had everyone singing along to the chorus, "Run, motherfucker, run motherfucker..." It was diabolically wonderful to watch as Rob screamed and writhed to the soul-shattering, bone-crushing music..."chew it up - spit it out - blow it up - stick it out - tear it up - push it down - shove it in - rip it out - sick bubblegum...", he gave it his all as they flowed seamlessly into a dark and scary "Demonoid Phenomenon" that steamrolled over the audience like a runaway freight train caught in a tsunami and crashed into a menacing "Mars Needs Women (Angry Red Women)" that Piggy D. propelled with a monster bass line that rumbled like an erupting volcano while John 5 made his guitar scream like it was being tortured as Rob Zombie wailed like a high priest performing a sacred rite. The lights flashed and the smoke swirled as Ginger Fish launched into the throbbing big beat of strip club standard, "Pussy Liquor" and Piggy D. dropped a bass line that lumbered and lurched like a drunken behemoth, and next, it was the song that put Rob Zombie and his first band White Zombie on the rock and roll map, the turbo-charged "Thunder Kiss '65", and his band just destroyed it and John 5 played his most perfect note-shattering solo of the night. He shredded as Rob Zombie bellowed, "Well sweet little sista's high in hell cheat'n on a halo - grind in a odyssey holocaust heart kick on tomorrow - breakdown - agony said 'ecstasy' in overdrive she come a riding on the world - thunder kiss'n 1965 - yeah - wow!" Rob jumped into the audience and strolled around for a few minutes while the crowd roared like a hungry beast and John 5 played his psycho-version of "The Star Spangled Banner" that just blew my mind as the band vanished from the stage and everything went dark. We screamed and yelled for more until a screen lit up and began showing the movie trailer for Rob Zombie's forthcoming feature film "Lords Of Salem", and it reminded me of one of those classic 'Satan' movies that they showed at the drive-in on Saturday night as part of a triple feature and the films always had these great neo-psychedelic soundtracks that made the mounted speaker rumbled and sound fuzzy, and it looks like it is going to be a real nightmare inducer. Rob Zombie, John 5, Piggy D., and Ginger Fish returned to the stage to a tremendous explosion of applause as John 5 began playing the ominous guitar riff of "Dragula" and the band exploded with a psychotic fury..."Dig through the ditches and burn through the witches an' slam in the back of my dragula...do it baby, do it baby...do it baby, do it baby, burn like an animal..." Rob Zombie and his band left the stage and I stumbled away thunderstruck by their beyond amazing performance and my friend Mark and I sped away in his car back to the city with our heads full of Rob Zombie and our hands holding our fresh new Rob Zombie tour shirts with a giant FUCK OFF silk-screened on the back of them. I love Rob Zombie.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and SLEIGH BELLS - May 10, 2012
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 6/Row A/Seat 12
It is one of those schizophrenic spring days that Washington, DC is so famous for as I walk through Gallery Place, and I have just picked up my awesome ticket for tonight's Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the Verizon Center and I have been looking forward to seeing this show since I saw their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame the other night on the annual HBO special. The introduction speech by Chris Rock was heartfelt and touching and both Flea and Anthony showed tremendous gratitude and class with their speeches and they honored their fallen former band members especially guitarist Hillel Slovak, and then they turned it out magnificently on the stage so I decided that I had to go to this show. I arrived and made my way to my rather excellent seat on the floor just in time to see the openers Sleigh Bells take the stage and churn out their god-awful racket that they call music, and for twelve "songs" they pummeled me with their headache-inducing sonic squall of random guitar riffs and out-of-tune caterwauling from the vocalist. I cannot believe that somewhere in Teenage America there are kids who listen to this crap while hanging out at the mall or cruising the backstreets of their nowhere towns. Every one of their songs sounded exactly the same, unintelligible singing backed by two squealing guitarists and a fucking drum machine and I was so happy when they finished their set. I found their unmelodious and unstructured songs to be absolutely unbearable and I want to kill the person who gave them a record contract. Why the Red Hot Chili Peppers picked them to open for them on their "I'm With You Tour" is beyond my comprehension! So hopefully the Red Hot Chili Peppers will wash away the stain that the Sleigh Bells left in my ears. As I scan the arena I notice that they have an interesting stage rigging contraption with lots of moving parts and I cannot wait to see it in action because it should be pretty wild. The house lights dimmed and the crowd went bonkers as vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer took the stage and Chad kicked off "Monarchy Of Roses", the lead track from their new album "I'm With You", with a funky groove as tour percussionist Mauro Refosco added sassy little fills. New guitarist Josh Klinghoffer sounded great as he played these great serpentine riffs that danced with Flea's throbbing bass lines as Anthony soulfully sang, "Several of my best friends wear, the colours of the crown. And Mary wants to fill it up, and Sherry wants to tear it all back down, girl. The saviour of your light, the monarchy of roses, the monarchy of roses tonight..." The rigging contraption above the stage began moving and several video screens dropped down and began showing flashing psychedelic imagery, as the band kicked into "Dani California", my favorite song from 2006's "Stadium Arcadium" album, and Flea was spanking his bass madly giving the song some real soul. The video screens began showing the chemical formula of cocaine as Josh Klinghoffer began playing the beautifully melancholic guitar introduction to "Otherside" and Flea gently cooed, "I heard your voice through a photograph. I thought it up, it brought up the past. Once you know you can never go back. I've got to take it on the otherside...", and the audience loudly sang along with him. It is amazing how many people know all the words to the song as Flea led them like a conductor of a giant chorus. Flea and drummer Chad Smith played an intertwining intro to "Can't Stop" from 2002's "By The Way" album as tour musician keyboardist Chris Warren added some delicate melody lines and Anthony sang his heart out and Flea did this amazing forward flip with his bass without missing a note. The band was in the groove as they flowed into the lovely "Ethiopia" from the new album, but the sound mix was a little rough on the guitar which seemed to get lost in the pounding rhythm as the song morphed into an extended jam that was highlighted by a Bootsy-esque bass workout from Flea that was quite percussive in the way that he played his instrument as he segued into "Throw Away Your Television" from the "By The Way" album and Anthony paced the stage like a manic tiger while he forcefully sang, "Throw away your television. Time to make this clean decision. Master waits for it's collision now. It's a repeat of a story told. It's a repeat and it's getting old..." The band was starting to hit full stride now as each of them gave it their all as they skillfully played off of each other, it was a sight to behold but I wish the sound mix was a little better because sometimes the guitar would just drown in the wall of sound coming from the rhythm section. Flea stopped the band and beseeched everyone to vote for Obama in November and he thanked the President for supporting gay marriage rights and the crowd roared positively much to my surprise and amazement. Drummer Chad Smith and percussionist Mauro Refosco began playing the wonderfully lilting rhythms of "Hard To Concentrate" from "Stadium Arcadium" and Josh Klinghoffer played these delicate notes that flitted over the percussion like butterflies as Anthony sang and danced and the video screen flashed band images. The contraption above the stage once more began rotating until it formed a giant cylindrical shape that looked like window blinds and the lighting effect was that of hundreds of birds flying around and around and the band launched into their new song "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie" that flowed and swirled like the birds and Anthony gave his best vocal performance of the set as he playful crooned, "I said hey now, we've got to make it rain somehow. She told me to and showed me what to do, she knows how to make it loud...", and the band sounded phenomenal as guitarist Josh played his best and most sublime solo of the night and I really enjoyed this song. They flowed seamlessly into "Right On Time" from "Californication" and onto another new song, a taut and crisp funker called "Look Around" that had everyone around me dancing like idiots but it was quite lovely. The second Josh Klinghoffer began playing the opening notes of "Under The Bridge" from their landmark 1992's "Blood Sex Sugar Magik" album, the audience went bonkers and the band put on their best performance of the night as each of them played like their life depended on it as Anthony let his soul bleed the words, "I don't ever want to feel like I did that day. Take me to the place I love, take me all that way. Under the bridge downtown is where I drew some blood, under the bridge downtown I could not get enough, under the bridge downtown forgot about my love, under the bridge downtown I gave my life away..." It was one of the most heartfelt and brilliant performance of this song that I have ever witnessed and I have seen them a good twenty times, it brought tears to my eyes. It was time for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to bring the funk as they launched into their butt-shaking cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" that lit the place up as they delivered a stellar thumping version that flowed effortlessly into another new song, a dark and funky "Factory Of Faith" that shuddered and lurched its way out of the speakers and into my ears, I am going to have to go buy their new album because the songs are nice. Flea and Josh break into a bit of an improvised instrumental jam that blossomed into a spectacular "Californication" as Anthony let it rip, "Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind's elation, little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations, and if you want these kind of dreams. It's Californication..." The video screens were showing these vivid graphics of flying pill bottles as the band laid down the rock-solid West Coast punk-funk that made them famous as they segued into the full-on bass attack of "By The Way" that had Flea bounding from one end of the stage to the other as drummer Chad pounded away in a funk fury and Josh made his guitar explode with a frenzy of notes as Anthony cried, "Leave a light on, leave a light on..." The lights dimmed and the band left the stage as we roared for more and everyone seemed to have a big smile on their faces as they cheered and cheered, I have not heard a crowd react like this in a long time. After a few minutes the band returned to the stage and began a loose and swinging jam that broke down into a quite impressive percussion workout from Chad Smith, and it was one of the better drum solos that I have had to endure over the years that I have been in the music business. Flea returned to the stage in his weird outfit and did a handstand before he slapped his bass with the stuttering riff of "Around The World" from the "Californication" album, the rest of the band played in peak form as they rocked the place. The song slowed down and the band played bits and pieces of some of their other songs, "Soul To Squeeze" in particular which erupted into a volcanic "Give It Away" from "Blood Sex Sugar Magik" as Anthony wailed, "What I've got you've got to give it to your momma, what I've got you've got to give it to your pappa, what I've got you've got to give it to your daughter. You do a little dance and then you drink a little water...what I've got you've got to get it put it in you..." The whole place was in a maniac frenzy as the audience danced and sang along at the tops of their lungs and the band was throwing down as they finished with an explosive free-for-all punk-funk jam that left them and the audience exhausted as I made my way up the stairs to the exit before everyone else. Overall, their eighteen-song two-hour set was pretty enjoyable except for a few sound glitches, but I left happy and glad I made it to the show.
BLUE OYSTER CULT - May 4, 2012
Howard Theater - Washington, DC
It was a totally bi-polar day - first rain then sunshine and then rain again - as I made my way to the recently resurrected Howard Theater to pick up my tickets to tonight's show with Long Island's metal gods Blue Oyster Cult. The Howard was once the crown jewel of the "chitlin circuit" in its glory days when all the jazz and rhythm and blues legends passed through its doors - Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday - it eventually fell into disrepair but Jimi Hendrix and George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic played there regularly, but by the late seventies the place only hosted go-go shows, I saw Petworth there with HR from the Bad Brains and our girlfriends way back in the spring of 1983 right before it closed permanently and that was quite the experience, but that is a story for another time. So tonight I am looking forward to checking the place out and seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Blue Oyster Cult, I just saw them back in October of 2011 at The State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia, so I hope they play a different set tonight. My friend Mark and I arrive to the Howard Theater and the restoration is spectacular, the staff is pleasant and very attentive, and the acoustics in the place are brilliant because right before showtime the sound man and the roadies had to do a quick sound-check to resolve some technical difficulties and the sound system speakers sounded phenomenal and in true stereo. I cannot wait...we have a little dinner that was quite delicious but somewhat pricey...an eighteen dollar hamburger and a twenty-four dollar fried chicken dinner, oy vey...I sit and wait for the band to play their first show, because it seems they are playing a double show tonight which seems odd since they only sold two or three hundred tickets at most to the first one. The promoter should of booked only one show and had a big local band like King Giant opened for them, there would have been a whole lot more people here. The small crowd blows my mind because they used to sell-out the 19,000-seat Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland, back in the seventies and eighties every couple of months. At eight o'clock on the dot, Buck Dharma and crew take the stage and opened with a manic "The Red And The Black" from 1973's "Tyranny And Mutation" that had the band humming along like a well-oiled machine as Buck, Eric Bloom, and Richie Castellano traded sizzling guitar licks like they had one mind and six arms. It was amazing how well they sounded on The Howard's practically brand new PA system, the sound was remarkably crisp, clean, and clear. After a few jokes from Buck, they launched into a grinding "Golden Age Of Leather" from 1977's "Spectres" with everyone playing their part flawlessly, especially Eric Bloom who ripped with an amazingly nimble-fingered guitar solo. Next was an exquisitely languid "Burning For You" from 1981's "Fire Of Unknown Origin" that had the whole audience mouthing the lyrics along with Eric Bloom as he sang the song. Blue Oyster Cult are the best triple guitar attack ever in the history of rock and roll. They segued into a gloriously sleek "Harvest Moon" from 1998's "Heaven Forbid" and Buck Dharma really shined as he made his guitar singing as substitute bassist Kasim Sultan, regular bassist Rudy Sarzo is currently on tour with the Dio's Disciples, dropped a wicked bass groove that made this one of the best-sounding Blue Oyster Cult gigs that I have ever been to in my lifetime as Eric Bloom made the notes dance magically out of his guitar. The highlight of the night was an ominous and plodding "Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll" from their brilliant 1973 debut album, and the three guitarist traded menacing riffs and soaring licks like three gladiators as they stretched the song out and smashed it back together, it was a beautiful moment to watch and hear. Next was one of my all time favorite B.O.C. Songs, "Then Came The Last Days Of May" also from their debut album, Buck explained that it is a true story that happened to some of his friends and Eric Bloom played a magnificent guitar solo with notes floating everywhere and then Buck Dharma wailed on his guitar like a demon escaping hell and it left me breathless with its intensity. Jules Radino began pounding out the signature drum pattern to the intro of "Godzilla" from "Spectres" and the audience was on their feet as Buck and Eric joined in with their raging guitars and they played a loose and raucous version that thumped along like a lumbering monster because I bet they get tired of playing it but they always give the people what they want. Eric Bloom introduced Kasim Sultan to the audience and they played a medley of the songs he played on with his former bands; Todd Rundgren and Utopia's "Bang On The Drum All Day", Meatloaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock And Roll", it was kind of wild and fun to see and I guess they do deserve to change their set every now and then because they have been on the road endlessly for the past forty years. Kasim Sultan then played an amazing jazz-metal work-out on his bass that morphed into a decent drum solo from Jules Radino that led back to the band re-joining him and kicking back into "Godzilla". Buck thanked us for being such faithful fans and he encourage everyone to clap out a rhythm as he showcased his precision guitar playing with a scintillating "Buck's Boogie" that first appeared on 1975's "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees" live album and has been a concert staple ever since. Buck stepped to his microphone and dedicated "Don't Fear The Reaper" from 1976's genre-defining album "Agents Of Fortune" to the recently departed Beastie Boy Adam Yauch as they launched into a spectacular version that held me rapt. The five members of Blue Oyster Cult left the stage and this small audience made a big noise for them to return which they did moments later as they cranked out a driving version of "Hot Rails To Hell" from "Tyranny And Mutation" that just smoked my ears and made me want to kick somebody's ass as they bade us good night and left the stage. I must say that this was one of my favorite Blue Oyster Cult concert that I have had the pleasure to attend and I will go see them again when they come back to the area because the road goes on forever.
BE'LA DONA - April 30, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It has been a long month of multi-seasonal weather and I am looking for some mood-brightening joy as I make my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to catch some homegrown go-go music from all-female band Be'la Dona...you heard me right...go-go up in the Kennedy Center...can a local death metal band be far behind, the area is crawling with them. A very diverse audience slowly fills up the room and I am looking forward to seeing how some of them respond to the music, it should be quite amusing. At 6PM on the dot, the eight members of Be'la Dona take the stage and launch into a very Beyonce-esque amalgamation of urban pop and go-go that was propelled by Shannon Brown's deft drumming and Tempest Thomas' delicate bass lines as vocalists Rhonda Coe and Wendy Rai MacKall and traded vocal lines with great ease and passion while keyboardists Claudia Rodgers and Cherie Mitchell Agurs sprinkled notes and soaring washes over the groove and every now and then guitarist Genevieve Konecnik would whip off some tasty guitar riffs that gave the songs fire, particularly during their stretched-out and funked-up version of Whitney Houston's "Heartbreak Hotel" where she wailed on her guitar brilliantly and succinctly. I was impressed by her skills and technique on her guitar. The band flowed seamlessly into an impressive cover of JoJo's "Baby, It's You", I just love how go-go bands can cover a song and transform them into something all their own. The band is incredibly tight and Shannon Brown is my new favorite drummer, and I am amazed by how well she stays in the pocket with bassist Tempest Thomas. They flowed into Beyonce's "What's My Name" with the greatest of ease as Karis Hill pumped up the go-go groove on her congas in a style that reminded me of E.U.'s percussionist Ju-Ju, who is the very best go-go percussionist in the DMV. Be'la Dona are quite the entertaining band, vocalist Rhonda Coe left the stage to stroll through the audience to urge them to get on their feet and dance, I laughed to myself because most of these people would freak the fuck out if they saw how the audience danced at one of their shows down in the ghetto, there would a whole lot of booty-shaking freaky dancing and some call-and-response audience interaction which go-go is all about, it is not sitting and watching, it is getting up and getting involved. The band began breaking the beat down go-go style to get the audience on their feet as Wendy Rai MacKall and Karis Hill taught everyone how to "lock-it", the popular dance right now, as the band kicked it out old school go-go style and stretched the groove out until everybody was sweating and moving to the beat. Be'la Dona finished their eleven-song set with a dirty/sexy cover of Guns'n'Roses "Welcome To The Jungle" that just blew my mind, I have got to send a clip to Slash. Genevieve Konecnik tore it up on her guitar as she made it squeal and the band laid down a rock-solid groove that made me say...damn...so suck it Axl W. Rose. If you get a chance to see this band, do it...shit, goddamn, get off your ass and jam.
KHRIS ROYAL AND DARK MATTER - April 25, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
BIRDLIPS - April 20, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
SCREAM, BEASTS OF NO NATION, MOBIUS STRIP, and OUTLOOK - April 14, 2012
St. Stephen's Church - Washington, DC
It is a lovely spring day as I make my way to St. Stephen's Church to see one of my favorite local bands, Scream, who are playing a benefit gig for DC Jobs With Justice with three other bands. The recent hardcore revival has blown my mind, and tonight I get to see Scream who I have loved since the early eighties, and next weekend, The Bad Brains at the recently-renovated Howard Theatre, it is like the eighties all over again. I arrive and the place is not too crowded yet, and the first band Outlook from Olympia, Washington, take the stage, and it is day twenty-five of their spring tour supporting their new album "Our Time Is Now" and they brutally attack their instruments and the female singer screams incoherently as the bass throbs ominously as the guitarist bludgeons his guitar and his amp is way too loud. They remind me of The Cro-Mags way too much but I like their energy and the vocalist is very passionate about whatever she is screaming about, something political I'm sure. They were quite blistering as they plowed through their five-song set that promoted positive political actions which was nice to see coming from the youth. I just wish I could understand the lyrics and that the guitarist had a cleaner sound and used the volume knob more judiciously. After a quick set change, locals Mobius Strip took the stage and they were yet another hardcore power trio who bludgeoned the melody out of their songs a little more gracefully than Outlook, but alas, sadly their vocals were just as incomprehensible as the first band, but I think they were also political in nature. The bassist/vocalist Frank Gomez laid down a nice groove with an inventive little hook, he would have sounded better with a more skillful drummer because Shane Carwile just seemed to bash away haphazardly without a sense of rhythm or timing and guitarist/vocalist Mark Kennedy seemed to sound like a giant buzzing generator as he slashed at his guitar. However, I did enjoy their third song "Safe" which was about the sexual bullshit women have to endure on a daily basis from harassment to rape. I could actually understand Frank's insightful lyrics but the damn clattering drummer really got on my nerves, he should concentrate on his playing rather than the constipated faces he seemed to really enjoy making as he drummed away. Their fourth song was an instrumental called "For Better", which is rare with a hardcore band, however it is my favorite one of their seven-song set, but I could not wait until they were finished. I hope the set change is extra quick. Beasts Of No Nation are on next, I saw them last summer at Fort Reno Park and I did not care too much for them then so I hope things have changed for the better. The quartet take the stage to some electronic talking head a la Rob Zombie and fire up their instruments and play a more melodic, almost metal version of hardcore as vocalist/guitarist Jason Yawn bellowed into the microphone and bemoaned the horrors of the world. Their drummer Andrew Black was the best one of the night so far as he skillfully maneuvered through the screaming guitars of Jason and Mike Schleibaum with a decent sense of rhythm as he played drum fills in all the right spots. I am quite impressed by how much they have improved since I last saw them at Fort Reno, but the singer Jason still needs to learn to enunciate his words. They reminded me of a really fast version of The Screaming Trees and guitarist Mike Schleibaum played some sensational leads that perfectly complimented and accented Jason Yawn's chug-a-lug rhythm guitar quite nicely. They played tightly and they meshed well together as they slammed through their six-song set that I actually enjoyed this time. Now the countdown begins for my BXR (Bailey's Crossroads) heroes Scream to take the stage, and they mean more to me musically as a local band than the Bad Brains or Minor Threat, which would be considered "blasphemous" by my peers...but fuck them. To me, Pete and Franz Stahl, Skeeter Thompson, and Kent Stax are the best hardcore band in the business and I cannot wait until they explode with righteous punk rock fury on the stage. Scream hit the stage full-force with a burning "Still Screaming" in which vocalist Pete Stahl turned into a frenetic whirlwind as he burned through the rhythm on his guitar like a flaming comet as bassist Skeeter Thompson and drummer Kent Stax drove the song like a tsunami. The band kept the pace up as they steamrolled through their classics - "Way Back Home", "This Side Up", "Fight The Power" - Kent Stax made their songs jump with his tremendous control of his drumming, Scream were playing at a peak that I have not seen in years, it was thrilling as Pete Stahl sang like he was on fire as his brother Franz played one scorching riff after another, he was like an even more manic Angus Young as they slowed things down with a bluesy number that had Franz giving that wanker Joe Bonnamassa a run for his money. For the next song they switched up to some ferocious pop-punk with a pulsing "Holiday" and it was my favorite song of their set. I thought I would miss Harley on second guitar but they did not need him as they raged with "Holiday" and then bassist Skeeter Thompson sang lead on their brand new song "You Can't Beat Yourself Up" as he played a swinging bass line that got the pit hopping. The band was phenomenal as they rocked until Pete Stahl was red in the face and covered with sweat as they cranked out "New Song" and a searing "Human Behavior". I must say their older songs never sounded better and the band dynamics and interplay seem to be the best they have ever been, especially during a pounding "No Money Down" and they finished their set with a fast and furious song that sent the mosh pit into a frenzy. Overall, it was a fantastic thirteen-song set from a local band that I am proud to say that they are my friends and that they have stuck to their principles after all these years - STILL SCREAMING!
VAN DYKE PARKS - April 9, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Well, this is the third time I have ventured to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage in the past two weeks and I am here to see an American original, Van Dyke Parks who has written and/or produced timeless songs for a wide variety of people, most notably for The Beach Boys "Smile" album, and Grace Kelly, Delaney Bramlett, The Byrds, Loudon Wainwright III, Harry Nilsson, Silverchair, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, Inara George, Keith Moon and Ringo Starr. He has released six studio albums of his own, and now he has his own record label Banastan and he is releasing a series of 7"singles which will feature sleeve artwork by several well-known artists, including Ed Ruscha, Charles Ray, Art Spiegelman, Frank Holmes, and his wife Sally. He also just released a CD compilation called "Van Dyke Parks - Arrangements Vol. 1" which showcases his work with Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Lowell George, and others, and Pitchfork.com named it the "Best New Re-issue" of 2011. He is supposed to be quite the raconteur on his piano so I am looking forward to hearing his music. He is also playing The Hamilton on 14th Street later to night so I am glad to be here at the Kennedy Center for his early show instead of having to go to a expensive club. Tonight he is playing as a trio with Jim Cooper on the upright bass and Don Heffington on drums and percussion and they take the stage and Van kicked things off with a stellar piano crescendo that danced like the rain as the rhythm section chugged along like a rickety roller coaster and damn, he is a phenomenal musician. Next they played a mid-tempo New Orleans-style rocker called "Opportunity For Two" and I find his voice to be a bit quirky but pleasant. Van Dyke Parks talked about working at The Smithsonian Institute Of American Folklore trying to remove the racist tinge from the Uncle Remus/Br'er Rabbit songbook to help protect what Mark Twain called "our most precious stolen goods" referring to African-American musical contributions to the American cultural landscape. He informed us that this tour was the last one for his current trio because drummer Don Heffington has medical issues that need his immediate attention. Van is quite verbose and witty as he introduced the next song which he wrote with Beach Boy Brian Wilson, "Orange Crate Art", that he dedicated to his adopted state of California, and he tinkled away on his piano like an ancient jazzman. Staying in this vein, they next delivered a slice of classic Americana, Prof. John Hartford's "Delta Queen Waltz", with great pizzazz and grace as Van made his piano purr. They continued on with a song written in 1854 by early American composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk called "Danza" and he skillfully brought it to life in a way that his playing reminded me of Chopin's "Nocturnes". He regaled us with further stories of the birth of American music and how it changed America and its people. Next he sang a musical ode to President FDR called "Roosevelt In Trinidad", it was historically correct and illuminating and quite humorous when you deeply listened to the lyrics. He dedicated the next song to an old friend from the area that he has not seen in fifty years, and she had been injured in the 9.11 Pentagon attack, and Van Dyke was visibly moved by her story as he dedicated the song "Cowboy" to her, which was a quite moving and touching story about the history of Hawaii. He then introduced the next song, "Wings Of A Dove", with a story about jamming with Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan to record said song for a movie soundtrack, and it was a fantastic workout on the piano as he carefully placed notes in the air. Then he said, "I want to remind you that there are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who can't", he was quite lovely and full of hope and his songs really made me think. I can see how he influenced Ben Folds and Coldplay's Chris Martin and their music. Van Dyke Parks and his crack rhythm section finished their ten-song set with a majestic "Sail Away" that the three of them delivered with classic style and panache. I just love his deft wordplay in his lyrics and plan to purchase some of his music.
HONEYBUNCH, DOT DASH, and THE PINES - April 6, 2012
The Artisphere - Washington, DC
I decided to be a bit adventurous tonight and so I rode the Metro to Rosslyn in Virginia to go to the Chickfactor 20th Anniversary Celebration in the Box Theatre at the Artisphere in order to see one of my favorite local bands, Dot Dash, which features my friend drummer Danny Ingram from one of my all-time favorite local bands, Strange Boutique. Chickfactor was a local fanzine publication that was huge in the nineties for reporting on the local underground music scene from the female perspective, and it is hard to believe that they have been around for twenty years now. The show kicked off with U.K. band The Pines, who are playing their first US gig tonight. They are a lo-fi duo featuring Jan Berry on vocals and Joe Booker on guitar, and a badly tuned one at that, and I truly hate the current alt-folk craze that all the so-called "hip" white people are crazy for these days like the odious Mumford And Sons or the mind-numbing Bon Iver. I found The Pines to be dreary, atonal, and downright boring and I cannot wait until they are finished with their set. Jan Berry has a pleasant enough voice but when combined with the cacophony passing as guitar playing, it becomes almost unbearable to my ears. Thankfully their set was brief and I hope the show moves along quickly. After a few minutes, Dot Dash take the stage and launch into their post-modern post-punk I am an adult now music that only sometimes reminds me of the various members' former bands but only as influences. Danny Ingram sounded fantastic as ever on his drums and Terry Banks has become quite the frontman as his poetic lyrics remind me of my yesterdays as Bill Crandall's guitar lines snake through the rhythm like an electric eel sparking with electric notes as Hunter Bennett's rumbling bass propels their music along. I really hope Dot Dash achieve some international success because they deserve it. They are nice, tight, and concise because they have really jelled as a cohesive band since I saw them with The Black Sparks last summer at Fort Reno and opening for ex-Stranglers Hugh Cornwell at Montgomery College back in October. Tonight their playing is much more leisurely and controlled and they are starting to remind me of The Buzzcocks in their prime. They played several songs off their fantastic debut album "spark>flame>ember>ash" including a heartfelt "Learn How To Fly" and an intense and pulsing "That Was Now, This Is Then". The highlight of their thirteen-song set was a new song, the magnificent "Lateral/Vertical", and Terry Bank's words stuck in my head for days after wards, "animal...vegetable...chemical...", and the band turned it out and I could see it becoming a hit single just because of bassist Hunter Bennett's catchy and driving groove. Danny Ingram's sense of timing is impeccable and his drumming gives the music its edge, and when combined with Hunter's grooving bass lines, they are, in my opinion, the best rhythm section in the city because they seem to bring out the best each other. The band on the whole sometimes reminds me of a more sophisticated Dead Kennedys and I just want to get up and mosh like a madman. The best thing about this gig is that the sound in the Box Theater is phenomenal and the clarity of the sound is heaven to my ears and Dot Dash sound even more impressive. They closed their stunning set with a throbbing and squalling song called "Devil's Road" that I hope is going to be on their new album. Their set made my trek to Rosslyn and the twenty dollar ticket price well worth the trip. After a bit of delay the third band, Honey Bunch from Providence, Rhode Island, finally took the stage and began playing their country-esque, Slumberland Records style of low-fi alterna-pop, they are pleasant sounding and competent musicians but sadly their songs do nothing for me. The monotony of their music was overbearing because all their songs sounded exactly the same, but Rafael Attias was a decent guitar player and he had a few cool moments where I enjoyed his languid melody lines that meandered through the sparse percussion of the drummer who never seemed to vary her tempo once. However the vocals of bandleader Jeff Underhill and keyboardist Lisa Underhill are another story, they were a bit nasally and out of kilter and they reminded me of Arlington, Virginia band Unrest way too much and after a few songs I had to put my notebook away and get the hell out of there and on the metro to head home before my ears revolted, but go see Dot Dash anytime you get a chance.
LIGHTFOOT - April 5, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It is a splendid spring day as I make my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see the lovely Jessica Louise Dye and her band Lightfoot perform their melodic and melancholy songs of heartbreak and lost love. I make my way to the foyer and I am surprised by some changes to the Millennium Stage, and I really love the new and recently installed futuristic looking stage set with its giant video screen. Vocalist Jessica Louise Dye grew up in the Arizona desert and that has had a great influence on her music, she graduated from high school and joined the United States Air Force for a few years until she was honorably discharged and ended up homeless in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2009, and that fall she bought a guitar and immediately began captivating audiences with her gorgeous music and heartfelt lyrics. In the spring of 2010, she met her musical partner Eric Sleight and they formed Lightfoot and soon became a beloved fixture on the Mid-Atlantic music scenes. In January 2012 they released their six-song EP "Scarlet Sails" and will be touring in support of it for most of the spring and summer before they head back to the studio to record a full-length album for the winter of 2013. So now I am sitting patiently in my seat waiting for them to take the stage and blow me away, because from what I heard during their soundcheck when I first arrived, it is going to be fabulous. Erik Sleight opened their set with a gentle riff as Ron Storhaug played a mournful flugelhorn that gave their first song some punch as Jessica soulfully wailed like a younger version of Alanis Morissette and they flowed into a lovely ditty called "1963" from their "Scarlet Sails" EP that had a nice groove. Drummer Adam Orlando has an unique style that is almost jazz-like in his delivery and it gives Louise's songs some pep. I am quite impressed by multi-instrumentalist Ron Storhaug, he jumped between his flugelhorn and trumpet and xylophone without ever missing a beat, plus he gave the songs their edge with his delightful fills. Jessica switched to an acoustic guitar and sang a really sad song that reminded of Emmy Lou Harris, she has a gorgeous alto voice that she uses with conviction and then Erik Sleight whips off this killer guitar solo that reminded me of Neil Young. She dedicates the next song to the on-line audience, which by the way is where you can go watch every previous Millennium Stage show, and the band kicked into a nice mid-tempo rocker that was my favorite song in their eleven-song set. I just wished the bassist Rick Irby had a little more groove in his playing because he seemed to be playing against the drummer instead of being in the pocket. Next, they thoroughly impressed me with a raucous version of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" that Ron Storhaug made unique by carrying the melody line on his xylophone, after that was another up-tempo rocker with a wonderfully wistful bent to it, from Erik's chug-a-lug guitar riff to Ron's trumpet blasts as Louise sang with her heart on her sleeve. They continued in the uptempo country-rock vein with a song that reminded me of Roseanne Cash as Louise sang, "Kiss me like you don't care, I am gonna break your heart in two and tear you apart..." It was quite the crowd-pleaser and they continued on with a song called "Be Sure" from their EP and I could hear Chris Isaak covering it, and the song featured yet another gorgeous trumpet part from Ron. However I have yet to hear the third guitarist Eddie Rivers in the mix, and the band often gets a bit discordant when they finish and end their songs. They played on with another tearjerker that had Jessica Louise Dye really emoting as Erik Sleight made his guitar sing, it was quite beautiful to hear. Lightfoot closed their set with yet another break-up song called "Break-up Song" that Louise said was her personal favorite of her own songs, but they are starting to sound a bit repetitive to me, however I did quite enjoy their performance and I would not mind seeing them play again somewhere soon.
JAY HAYDEN - March 30, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
The sun finally appeared from behind the clouds today as I was walking to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to catch local R&B sensation Jay Hayden deliver a set of songs that he calls 'love counseling', which is also the name of his debut album on J-Records. He is also currently a Strathmore-In-Residence Artist and he is starting to make a name for himself in the neo-soul world with frequent live appearances at venues around the area. Tonight he is backed by his six-piece band and if the soundcheck is any indication, they should be smoking hot because the band laid down a tight groove. Him and his band take the stage and open with a light and airy groove as Jay Hayden gently sings about the sun shining on his love. He has a pleasant mellifluous tone to his voice that reminds me of a more mature Ne-Yo. For his next number Jay sat at the piano and his guitarist Zach Cutler whipped off a Hendrix-esque riff as Jay Hayden cooed "Welcome to the show," and bassist Tyler laid down a deep and warm groove as Jay tinkled away at the piano like an urban Barry Manilow and backing vocalist Aisha perfectly accented his vocals with her crisp soprano. I do find the drummer Dewayne a bit heavy-handed though, there were a lot of annoying 'thwaps' in the mix where they should not have been. Next was a song called "Ride With Me" and with a loping guitar riff backing him, he rapped/sang his clever and insightful lyrics that made me think and laugh. He then asked the audience how many of them have cheated on their partners before as he made his way to the piano and began playing as Zach Cutler played a soaring riff on his guitar and Jay Hayden told about the lesson he had learned after he cheated on his girl. Then he and his band blew my mind with a sensational cover of The Eagles' classic "I Can't Tell You Why" from 1979's "The Long Run" album, which Jay mistakenly said was from the nineties. It was the best cover of an Eagles song that I have ever heard. Next was a new song "Loving Me" from his upcoming sophomore release "Believer", and he puts most modern soul singers to shame, especially the odious Chris Brown who he reminded me of the most as he soulfully crooned, "I don't know, oh whoa, must have been a time..." I find him to be a sensational pianist with an impeccable sense of timing that helps his voice to shine as his band skillfully ebbed and flowed behind him, especially guitarist Zack Cutler. They continued with his smash local hit single "No Where" from his debut album and it was exquisite and Aisha really shined with her gorgeous voice. I would love to hear her sing lead with some band somewhere. I love how his band follows his lead and stays in the pocket so effortlessly. They finished their show with their most up-tempo song of their nine-song set, as each musician took a moment to shine, particularly bassist Tyler who rocked like Jaco Pastoria with a pulsing, fiery solo. Overall it was a soul-stirring set of love-inspired R&B that thoroughly impressed me.
VAN HALEN and KOOL AND THE GANG - March 28, 2012
Verizon Center - Washington, DC - Section 2/Row Q/Seat 8
Thankfully, the sun finally came out from behind the clouds after an overcast day full of drizzle and wind and the sky cleared up as I sat in Dupont Circle passing the time watching people until it was time to venture downtown to the Verizon Center to see one of the oddest musical pairings in a long time, Van Halen and Kool And The Gang...I know...WTF...back in January as I was laying in my bed trying to drift off to sleep and I heard a voice on the television announce that on March 28th, Van Halen and Kool And The Gang would be performing at the Verizon Center...I jolted awake thinking did I just hear what I thought I heard...I got up and googled it and lo and behold...I heard right. There have been some odd concert tour pairings throughout the decades; the infamous Monkees and Jimi Hendrix Experience tour in August of 1969 that lasted three weeks, then the time in February of 1978 when I went to an Aerosmith/The Outlaws show at the Capital Centre and seminal black rockers Mother's Finest opened and the rednecks were not having it, and the worst one was when I was at University Of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum in March of 1983 to see the Blue Oyster Cult and last-minute openers Blotto were violently booed off-stage after their second song...I doubt anything like that will happen tonight, but I applaud Van Halen for being adventurous. I arrived and made my way to my seat on the floor and it was way up close to the stage and on the aisle, and Kool And The Gang had just hit the stage and launched into "Fresh" and they sound surprisingly good as the eleven of them pumped out their upbeat funk-lite to a pretty much indifferent audience as they cranked out all of their classic songs; "Tonight", "Emergency", and the highlight of their ten-song set, a scintillating "Misled" featuring a Van Halen-esque guitar solo from Ahmir Bayyan, then they went into a sultry "Too Hot" with a killer saxophone solo from band co-founder Ronald Bell. Thankfully the crowd had finally warmed up to them and started acting like they were having some actual fun and enjoying their music. The best thing about Kool And The Gang being the opening act, is that their set is all their hits and no filler, and they just hit their stride with a joyous "Hollywood Swinging" that got the audience on their feet and dancing as Ronald 'Khalis Bayyan' Bell and Curt Williams battled back and forth on their keyboards and jammed out with riffs flying everywhere as drummer George Brown kept the beat tight and funky. They flowed seamlessly into a ferocious "Jungle Boogie" that had Robert 'Kool' Bell turning it out with his bass pumping like a locomotive as Robert Mickens wailed on the trumpet like a psychedelic Miles Davis. The groove was smokin' hot as they morphed into their dance floor smash "Ladies' Night" and the crowd was grooving now as the band stretched the song out and got all funky and sweaty as they rocked the house with their tasteful and delicious funk. The band segued into my favorite song of theirs, "Get Down On It", and it sounded fantastic and it was a real crowd-pleaser as they got their best response of the night. Kool And The Gang finished their ten-song set with their career-defining number "Celebration", and it had the whole crowd singing along. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable performance that seemed to fit as an opener for Van Halen, kudos to them for being adventurous. The house lights went up and the countdown began for Van Halen to take the stage and rock our asses into Spring. I clearly remember the moment I heard their debut album back in April of 1978 during my halcyon high school days, the second their song "Running With The Devil" exploded out of my stereo speakers, I was hooked and later that summer on August 12th when I saw them blow Ted Nugent away at the Capital Centre and Ted Nugent himself proclaimed at the start of his set, "I ain't playin' with those motherfuckers again!", I was amazed and enthralled by guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his lightning fast fingers for years. Then there was the time when their "Van Halen II" tour rolled into town on May 1st, 1980 and when they hit the stage at the Capital Centre, Eddie Van Halen was so drunk that he stumbled and fell when he walked onto the stage and they butchered their set as David Lee Roth slurred the songs and joked about their excessive Jack Daniels drinking backstage. But they redeemed themselves to me on July 27th, 1981 with a spectacular show for the "Women And Children First Tour" at the Roanoke Civic Center when I was away at Virginia Tech for summer school. But then I went 'punk' and they went 'pop' with Van Hagar and I lost interest in them as a band, and when I heard David Lee Roth was back with the band, I decided I had to see them one more time and so here I am sitting in my seat waiting to hear Diamond Dave scream and Eddie Van Halen's guitar wail. The house lights dimmed, the audience roared, and Alex Van Halen started playing the intricate drum intro to "Unchained" from 1981's "Fair Warning" then Eddie played some searing riffs as David belted out, "Thought you'd never miss me till I got a fat city address, non-stop talker, what a rocker, blue-eyed murder in a size five dress, change, nothin' stays the same, unchained, and ya hit the ground runnin'..." Unbelievably he still can do his signature high kick, but I swear to God, he is so gay, and I know an old queen when I see a old queen. Alex kept the beat slamming as they exploded into an exquisite version of "Running With The Devil" from their classic 1978 debut album, I was surprised how well David's voice sounded as Eddie's son Wolfgang Van Halen made his bass throb and pulse beautifully but I really missed the pure raw power of Mike Anthony who left the band acrimoniously in 2006. It was on to a new song from their recent reunion album "A Different Kind Of Truth" called "She's The Woman" that featured relentless riffage from Eddie's magic fingers as he made his guitar scream as he squealed into a sizzling "The Full Bug" from 1982's "Diver Down" which was full of his lightning fast guitar solos but the sound did get a bit loud and distorted. The band was rolling at full-speed now as they kicked into a grooving version of "Tattoo" from the new album that had David showing us his butt tattoo as he sang, "Tattoo, tattoo, show me your magic dragon, tattoo, tattoo, so autobiographical, best believe that needle will hurt you, best to see these true colors than follow one of your false virtues, little secret to make you think, why is the crazy stuff we never say poetry in ink?..", Eddie whipped off yet another scorching guitar solo as Wolfgang played a bass line that gave the song bounce and I was quite impressed by his skillful playing. Next up was the highlight of their set, a swaggering version of the bump'n'grind strip club classic "Everybody Wants Some" from 1980's "Women And Children First", in which Dave leeringly sang, "You can't get romantic on a subway line, conductor don't like it, says you're wastin' your time but, everybody wants some, I want some too, everybody wants some, baby, how 'bout you!.." and it showcased Eddie's unparalleled guitar pyrotechnics from the fabulous intro solo to the lovely new arrangement that gave the song a menacing edge as the band segued into my favorite song on "Van Halen II", a manic "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" that had me on my feet singing along with everyone else in the arena. They continued on with the best song from the new album, "Chinatown", it is the one that most reminds me of the classic Van Halen sound with Alex's double kick drum sound that danced beautifully with Wolfgang's full-bodied bass sound. Next, it was the song I first heard by them back in high school, the scorching "Jamie's Cryin'" from their debut, and it shook, rattled, and rolled as the band pumped new life into the song with a sharp new arrangement, and Dave's voice was holding up well as he screamed, "She saw the look in his eyes and she knew better. He wanted her tonight and it was now or never. He made her feel so sad...oh oh oh Jamie's cryin', oh oh oh Jamie's cryin'...", and it was a tremendous performance that blew me away and David was working the crowd as they unleashed an awesome version of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" from "Diver Down" that Diamond Dave peppered with several witty 'bon mots' as he strutted around the stage like the cock of the walk. Dave, Eddie, and Wolfgang left the stage and Alex went into hyper-drive with a thunderous drum solo featuring sample triggers as he worked out on his kit and at one point he was working a Latin groove that reminded me of a Gloria Estefan song, however it was not bad for a obligatory concert drum solo that was just long enough without being tedious. The other three returned and they jumped into an electrifying version of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and Eddie was just completely nuclear on his guitar as he blazed on his best solo of the night that made my hair stand on end as they played an extended breakdown in the middle of the song over which Dave scatted like an old jazz cat and I was thoroughly impressed by his old school vocal skills. According to the set list I printed off setlist.fm, we are at the half-way mark as the play their final new song of the night, a rather dreary and negative "Blood And Fire" that I considered to be the low point of the night, but it had a rather nice bridge with a delicate and almost classical sounding guitar line in it. The strain of singing is starting to show in David's voice as the band began a crisp "Dance The Night Away" from "Van Halen II", but they still sounded great musically and Eddie Van Halen is the best finger-picker in the business when it comes to hard rock. The notes languidly danced with the rhythm section as David sang, "A live wire, barely a beginner but just watch that lady go, she's on fire 'cause dancin' gets her higher than, uh, anything else she knows, oh baby baby, won't-cha turn your head my way, oh baby baby, well don't stop romance 'cause you're old enough to dance the night away..." The stage lights dimmed as Eddie played the swirling intro to "I'll Wait" from 1984's chart-topping "1984" album with the awesome smoking cherub cover on a guitar with synth triggers as he slowed things down and David cooed into the microphone but then he forgot the words and made a few stupid jokes as he tried to ad-lib it, it was quite funny. Alex began pounding out the swaggering beat of "Hot For Teacher", also from "1984", and it was like listening to sonic sex as Eddie made his guitar scream and howl as David danced and sang the song like a horny satyr and the audience was going bonkers. Eddie began finger-picking on his fretboard and made his guitar sing in unearthly tones that morphed into these soaring riffs that flew around the arena as David with a melancholy voice sang the classic "Women In Love" from "Van Halen II" as he pranced gaily around the stage as they started another drag song, "Hang 'Em High" from "Diver Down", with the guitar way too loud and it basically drowned out Dave's vocals and I had good seats and they seemed to have a fantastic sound system, so it made me wonder what was up with the sound man. Next they kicked into a nice and loose "Beautiful Girls" from "Van Halen II" that had Dave singing, "Here I am, ain't no man of the world, no, all I need is a beautiful girl, yea, beautiful girls, come here honey, come here, come here...", as Eddie played my favorite guitar riff by him which carried the song because Dave's voice was losing its edge and sounding raspy. The band left the stage and a video screen appeared and began showing a documentary film about David Lee Roth's life as an award-winning sheep-herding dog breeder which I did not know and found quite surprising and made me respect him a little bit. David returned to the stage and talked about his dogs and his life as a breeder, he started strumming his guitar and started singing the John Brim classic "Ice Cream Man"..."I'm your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passin' by, oh, my my, I'm your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passin' by, see now all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy, hold on a second baby, I got bim bam banana pops, dixie cups, all flavors and pushups too..." The band returns to the stage and they finish the song with David and then they kicked into fantastic version of "Panama" from "1984" and the whole audience was singing along joyfully, and Eddie just kept playing his guitar so masterfully that I was feeling overwhelmed as he played every note, chord, lick, and riff ever and he made them sound good every time as he whipped off one last over-the-top symphony of an extended guitar solo that filled me with jaw-dropping awe as the rest of the band re-joined him and they segued into a scintillating "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" that had David growling, "Ain't talkin' 'bout love, babe, it's rotten to the core, ain't talkin' 'bout love, just like I told you before, before, I been to the edge and there I stood and looked down, you know I lost a lot of friends there, baby, I got no time to mess around...", and the band was barreling out of the speakers like a runaway train into my ears, it was a completely spectacular version of one of my favorite Van Halen songs and Eddie capped it off with one last earhole searing guitar solo.. Since I had the previous night's twenty-four-song set list, I knew it was time to head up the stairs and out of the Verizon Center because I knew the next song was going to be my least favorite Van Halen song, the odious and at one time, inescapable, "Jump", and as I made my way out the crowd was eating it up and then I had the damn song stuck in my head for the next few hours - curses. Overall, it was an highly enjoyable and well-paced show that showcased all my favorite songs by them, and it showed why Van Halen is one of LA's greatest rock and roll bands and Eddie Van Halen is still a guitar god of the highest level.
THOMAS DOLBY and AARON LEWIS & BEN RECHER - March 25, 2012
The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
It was a lovely Sunday evening as I made my way out to The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, to see yet another classic eighties icon, Thomas Dolby, who is back after a twenty-year hiatus from recording, and he is back on the road with his "Time Capsule Tour" which included him parking a vehicular contraption called 'The Time Capsule' in front of the club that was equipped with a video camera in which people attending the show were able to record a thirty second message for the future that would be uploaded onto YouTube to be voted on, and the best ones would win prizes. He has just released a new album called "A Map Of The Floating City" and it has a on-line game to play along with it, quite futuristically cutting edge I must say. The openers Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ben Recher from Richmond, Virginia, took the stage and played some pretty traditional roots music, Aaron on the violin and Ben on the acoustic guitar and banjo as they sang about life on the road and long lost loves. What was scary, was the fact that the violinist Aaron wore these really tiny booty shorts with a full beard, it was quite distracting and very disconcerting to see as they played their post-modern hillbilly music. I found them to be a bit on the boring side, and the clunky and twangy notes of the banjo really got on my nerves, because I am starting to feel like I am at some country store jamboree, but the audience seemed to like them immensely even though I cannot for the life of me figure out why Thomas Dolby picked them to open for him. They played a ten-song set that went over well with the crowd but they did not do much for me and I was glad when they left the stage because I found Aaron's playing to be sloppy and Ben's to be a bit heavy-handed when the notes should have been more delicate for the type of music that they played. The last time I saw Thomas Dolby perform was November 22, 1988 at GWU's Lisner Auditorium for the "Land Of The Lost Toy People" tour in support of the "Aliens Ate My Buick" album, and it was a phenomenal show and Lene Lovich joined them for two songs, "May The Cube Be With You" and "Airhead", before he brought her to the stage, Thomas said he had ran into her at National Airport and he talked her into postponing her flight and staying for the show. I am quite looking forward to seeing him play tonight, and I hope they perform "Flying North". Thomas Dolby and his five-piece band walk onto the stage to a resounding ovation as they opened with an electro-funk version of "Commercial Breakup" from his 1982 debut album "The Golden Age Of Wireless" that made me want to get up and dance as he sang, "Night so bright - transmission smooth. I take my head and stuff it in the tube. I find something that I can use but there's no credit where no credit is due, it cost me ten dollars and in thirty seconds it's so clear and I adhere - I'm only humanoid..." The star of the night was guitarist Kevin Armstrong who laid down a solid groove with his brilliant playing while Thomas Dolby turned it out on his keyboards as he let the notes swirl and fly. One of the things I really liked about the show was when Thomas told stories about each song and how they related to his life, especially the ones about his father and his archeologist's life. He started the next song, "One Of Our Submarines" also from "Golden Age Of Wireless", by saying it was dedicated to his favorite Uncle Steve who died in on submarine in World War Two, and it was a gloriously elegant and beautiful rendition that gently reminded us of the futility of war. Kevin Armstrong is an excellent player who knew how to accent the rolling keyboard riffs without trampling the melody, this was probably my favorite performance of their set. Kevin kept blowing me away on his guitar as he played the spacey opening riffs of the title track "The Flat Earth" from their 1984 album of the same name and Thomas Dolby's plaintive voice sounded great as he sang, "The Earth can be any shape you want it, any in the world, but don't you point that raygun at me, I might just explode, there are stones buried in your soul and only a fool would blame the death of rock and roll, yeah, and in time you'll come to understand the flat old Earth is in your gentle hands..." It was a gorgeous and heartfelt rendition that had the audience on their feet applauding wildly and Thomas Dolby smiling broadly. He took a few minutes to talk about his new album "A Map Of The Floating City" and how he enjoyed having chanteuse Ronnie Spektor singing on the album, and that tonight they would be using a sample of her while they performed "Evil Twin Brother". The song was funky and tight but elegant with a great narrative, it is amazing what can be done with keyboards these days, it was like he was conducting a full symphony. I loved the sparse sound of drummer Matt Coulson as he laid down a fierce rhythm on his synth-drum pads and Kevin made his guitar sing like soaring missiles. It was on to another song from his new album, the lovely "Love Is A Loaded Pistol", that Thomas said was inspired by a dream he had about Billie Holiday so he decided to write a song in which he used her song titles as lyrics and then he immediately went to record it in his home studio which is a refurbished World War II ship named the Nutmeg in his back yard. The song featured a wonderful piano melody that lingered in my ears as Thomas seemed to be lost in the notes as he played with his eyes closed. He then asked violinist Aaron Lewis from the opening duo to come to the stage and he joined them on a jaunty "My Brain Is Like A Sieve" from 1988's "A Buick Ate My Brain" that had a lovely reggae tinge to it as Thomas sang, "My brain is like a sieve, sometimes it's easier to forget all the bad things you did to me, you did to me, my brain is like a sieve, but it knows when it's being messed with, if you wanted you could come in, so come in...", and then he played the most uplifting horn solo on his keyboard that had me looking for a hidden horn player. The band picked up the tempo for "Road To Reno" from his recent album, it was a very upbeat-sounding song with some very downer lyrics highlighted by some exquisite slide guitar work from Kevin Armstrong that took my breath away with his emotional playing. Thomas dedicated the next song "The Toad Lickers", also from "A Map Of The Floating City", to all the rave hippies of the world as he built the song up with samples on his fancy-ass keyboard, it was kind of like Appalachia meets techno. I really love how he can build a song so quickly and with such ease as the band jumped in and guest Aaron Lewis played a fantastic bridge on his violin over Thomas' swirling techno rhythms. It was onto another new song that he wrote for post-Katrina New Orleans called "I Love You Goodbye" and it was soulful and funky and featured Aaron Lewis on the banjo as Thomas Dolby let his fingers fly over his keyboard like he was playing a guitar. It was fantastic as they segued into my favorite song from "The Golden Age Of Wireless", the sensational "Europa And The Pirate Twins", and I cannot believe how fresh it still sounds after all these years. Thomas changed the song up a bit as he ad-libbed vocals and dropped some off-the-wall samples into the mix that gave it a new edge and then Kevin blazed with his best guitar solo of the night that had me on my feet cheering away. Thomas announced that the next song was written with the help of avant garde composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, the buoyant "Field Work" from "The Flat Earth", and it was one of the highlights of their sixteen-song set, it was a perfect piece of classic synth-pop in which Thomas joyously sang, "Brush up on my field work, better brush up on my field work, gonna get my fingers dirty, better brush up on my field work, one thing I need is to understand this jungle before I can untangle the part of me that's fungoid...", over the soaring synthesizer lines that he coaxed out of his dueling keyboards. It was a phenomenal sight to behold as the band morphed into a throbbing "Airhead" from "Aliens Ate My Buick", and I must say that the lyrics still ring true, "...if she's an airhead, it has to be said, it was men made her that way, it was us made her that way...". Kevin Armstrong played a great funky guitar riff that drove the song as Thomas deftly twiddled on his keyboards like a mad scientist and drummer Matt Coulson laid down a great groove that bassist Matthew Seligman rode deep in the pocket giving the song a funky back-beat as I danced like an idiot as they flowed seamlessly into a spastic "Hyperactive" from "The Flat Earth". I love the signature riff in this song that danced madly with the killer new arrangement of the song and I must say that Thomas Dolby and his band turned it out like they were P-Funk. Thomas Dolby took the microphone and told a story about Professor Pike who said uttered "Science" in the recording of the next song, he said he was hanging out with the professor and he told him that people were always scaring him by sneaking up on him from behind and yelling "Science" and making him jump out of his skin. Everyone laughed and they kicked into an exquisite version of his career-making song "She Blinded Me With Science" and it sounded ageless and as great as ever as he sarcastically sang, "It's poetry in motion, she turned her tender eyes to me, deep as the ocean, as sweet as any harmony, mm - but she blinded me with science - she blinded me with science! - and failed me in biology..." The audience went crazy and danced and screamed for more as they finished the song and left the stage and I was feeling blown away by the whole show. After a few minutes Thomas Dolby and his band returned to the stage and he talked about the computer game that goes with "A Map Of The Floating City" and then they launched into "Spice Train" from said album which was quite psychedelic and trippy accented by a sample of a Punjabi vocalist that wailed in and out of the swirling rhythms that reminded me of some kind of weird gay techno meets banghra Goa trance and I quite loved it, and it made me buy the album at the merchandise table. They finished their set with "Silk Pajamas" from 1992's "Astronauts And Heretics" album, however I could have lived without their version of a honky-tonk "Nawlins" style song, but Kevin Armstrong played a nice clean-sounding guitar solo that danced with Thomas Dolby's boogie-woogie piano playing and guest Aaron Lewis' Cajun fiddle was just annoying to my ears as they finished up and took their bows. Overall, it was a highly enjoyable show and it proved that Thomas Dolby still can take it to the stage and rock the house, so I went home happy with "Hyperactive" stuck in my head.
JEFFERSON STARSHIP - March 14, 2012
The Hamilton Live - Washington, DC
It is a fantastically beautiful day in the Nation's capitol for the middle of March as my pal Mark and I make our way down 14th Street to DC's newest "upscale" music venue, The Hamilton, to see Paul Kantner and his current incarnation of Jefferson Starship. I cannot believe that they have been around in one form or another for more than forty years with assorted musicians. As a child in the sixties, their precursor band Jefferson Airplane was my first favorite band, because my hippie aunt used to play their albums all the time when she babysat me when my parents went out to various work functions that my father was in charge of for his job. Their second album "Surrealistic Pillow" still takes me back to those hazy days of the late sixties when I would do the "hippie shake" to their music and make my aunt and her stoned friends laugh hysterically and they would howl as they shouted "Look at Little Jimmie Jam!", which is where I got my nickname that I still use to this day. I saw Jefferson Starship many times in the eighties and nineties, the most memorable times include the James Madison University Homecoming Concert with the Elvin Bishop Group on November 7, 1981, an outdoor show in July of 1984 at the King's Dominion theme park near Richmond, Virginia, that turned into a wild melee when the cops attacked the crowd for smoking pot at the park, but my all-time favorite one was when my friend, Murder Ink guitarist Tim Cleeton, and I did sound for Paul Kantner, Tim Gorman, and The Band's Robbie Robertson at the Blagden Alley Warehouse in Northwest Washington on November 8, 1992, and I was simply blown away by their performance. Tim and I would often work together setting up the sound system and doing sound for many bands around town, and this was my favorite show that we did together, first we sat up all the equipment and then watched an amazing sound check where Paul Kantner played the most inventive interpretations of his best songs, the audience was let in and they partied, I have never seen so much pot smoke billowing about at a gig as I saw at this one, and some guy begged us to let him plug his recording DAT tape machine into our sound board, he eventually convinced us by bribing us with this incredible red-haired sensemilla that got me so high that when the band was playing, the notes floated off Paul Kantner's guitar like thousands of Monarch butterflies, and I have never heard a more beautiful version of "Wooden Ships" than I heard that night. I wish I had a copy of the tape of that show. The past couple of years they have played regularly at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, but more often than not, circumstances always prevented me from catching one of their shows there, so I decided that I had to catch them tonight one way or another, since they were performing so close to my home. Since we got to the club early, we were able to snag the best table in the house that was directly in front of center stage, right at Paul Kantner's feet, I ate the most incredibly delicious pulled pork sandwich and waited for the band to take the stage. The band meandered on stage and opened with the title track from Jefferson Airplane's 1968 album "Crown Of Creation" and the three vocalists, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, and new addition Cathy Richardson were fantastic, their voices intertwined beautifully as they sang, "You are the crown of creation, you are the crown of creation and you've got no place to go, soon you'll attain the stability you strive for, in the only way that it's granted in a place among the fossils of our time, in loyalty to their kind, they cannot tolerate our minds..." The best part was lead guitarist Slick Aguilar was directly in front of my friend and I and he was about four feet away on the stage so it was like watching someone play in my living room, and he played a very liquid guitar line that weaved its way throughout the song with ease. David Freiberg started talking about recent politics and how we need to be vigilant against the encroaching fascists, it is nice to see the 'hippie spirit' still lives as he began strumming his guitar and singing "Get Together", the classic 1967 "Summer Of Love" anthem by The Youngbloods, with great gusto and Paul and Cathy's voices blended so nice with his, and Paul Kantner, who had to be propped up on a road case to play, you got to do what you got to do sometimes, also played a massive psychedelic solo on his guitar that Slick finished with his own solo that was like a blazing comet through my ears and melted my eyeballs and he does it so nonchalantly. They have so many songs to pick from that I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised when they began "Count On Me" from 1978's "Earth" album and it actually reached #8 on the Billboard Top Singles Chart, and Cathy Richardson's earthy voice fitted perfectly as they sang, "Emerald eyes and china perfume, caught in a wheel and lost in the feel of a love so soon, ruby lips, you make my song into the night and saved by the light of a love so strong, you can count on me girl, you can count on my love..." Drummer Donny Baldwin played gently but forceful as he laid down a total rock-steady beat as David played a crisp, clear, and tender solo on his acoustic guitar and he got the whole audience to sing along like we were at some kind of hippy love-fest. Next up was a jazzy-sounding "Lather" from "Crown Of Creation" that featured great guitar interplay between Paul and Slick that gave the song a whole new edge, and Cathy delivered a soul-shattering vocal that matched Grace Slick in intensity and veracity on one of my favorite Jefferson Airplane songs. It was flashback time when David Freiberg stepped to the microphone and said it was time for something from his past and he began sweetly singing, "Ooo, have another hit of sweet love, ooo, have another hit. I love you, yes I do, babe, and I love you, I do, sweet lips. Ooo, have another hit of sweet California sunshine, ooo, have another hit..." It was a lovely rendition of "Fresh Air" from 1970's "Just For Love" album by David's previous band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Slick Aguilar was amazingly adept with his tasteful guitar leads and one particularly exquisite solo that gave me the goosebumps, Paul Kantner also tore it up on his vintage Rickenbacker as his notes danced gracefully with Chris Smith's nimble and concise piano playing that wowed me, I had forgot about this signature song of the post-hippie California sound and I really enjoyed their performance of it. The band kept the hippie groove going with a spectacular rendition of "When The Earth Moves Again" from Jefferson Airplane's 1971 album "Bark", and it featured a shining example of three-part harmony from Paul, David, and Cathy as they sang with heartfelt conviction, "In golden Hannibal Carthage days, marching on to Rome, knocking on the door and finding nobody home there. Rome, she cut our armies down and left them in the snow, so now I go to where I came from, now I go home to the sun..." Slick Aguilar has now become my new favorite guitarist as he continued to shine with his diverse and inventive riffs that made each song stand out from each other uniquely, and drummer Donny Baldwin was simply amazing as he played these great fills that accented the guitars. He kept the beat sharp as he segued into the familiar military-esque drumbeat of Jefferson Airplane's generation-defining drug song "White Rabbit" from their 1967 release "Surrealistic Pillow" and as he laid down the groove, Cathy did a weird hippie chick dance as she was pretending to do a magic trick with a napkin over her hand as she lifted it to reveal her upright middle finger and then she sang the song like she meant it. The band was so in sync as they began a gloriously beautiful "Wooden Ships" from Jefferson Airplane's 1969 record "Volunteers" that Paul Kantner co-wrote with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and Cathy and Paul's voices intertwined as if they were one as they sweetly sang, "You must try some of my purple berries, I been eating them for six or seven weeks now, haven't got sick once, probably keep us both alive. Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy, easy you know the way it's supposed to be, silver people on the shoreline leave us be, very free and easy..." Cathy Richardson's voice was sounding fantastic with a warm and rich tone that meshed well with Slick and Paul's wonderful, cascading guitar interplay that left me breathless and I must say it was the best dual guitar solo that I have ever witnessed. Paul announced that the band was taking a little intermission and would be back in a few minutes, my friend and I sat amazed by what we just heard and could not wait for them to return to the stage. After about fifteen minutes David Freiberg and Chris Smith returned to the stage and as Chris tinkled on his keyboards, David sang in very plaintive voice, the very spiritual "Harp Tree Lament" that he wrote for Paul Kantner and Grace Slick's first post-Airplane album, 1973's "Baron Von Tollbooth And The Chrome Nun". Oddly, his delivery kept reminding me of Sarah McLaughlin, but his vocals were rich and harmonious and I just love listening to his voice. The rest of the band except Paul returned to the stage and Paul announced that Cathy would be singing a song from her 2007 solo album "Delusions Of Grandeur", I believe it was called "G.O.D." and it was pretty much a standard rock song that featured David on bass and Cathy's voice was really starting to remind me of Dale Krantz from the Rossington-Collins Band in the way she phrased her words and sometimes in her tone but I did like the way she sang. Slick Aguilar continued blowing my mind with yet another blistering guitar solo, his playing get fiercer by the song, I tell you, he is one of my new Top Ten guitarists. Paul Kantner finally returned to the stage and they kicked into a raucous "St. Charles" from Jefferson Starship's 1976 album "Spitfire" and the vocalists sounded lovely as they sang, "Oh St. Charles sings, sings about love, St. Charles, tell me tonight. Won't you tell me 'bout love? You know I saw her in a dream, there was China in her eyes, in silk and velvet disguise. She was movin' like a lady, lookin' like a dragon princess..." Thankfully the sound and vocal mix was much better than the first set as they launched into an pulse-pounding "Jane" from their Top Ten 1980 album "Freedom At Point Zero", David Freiberg sang the Grace Slick vocal part much more crunchier than the original, but their vocal harmonies were impeccable, and the dual guitar leads from Paul and Slick absolutely smoked as they made their guitars scream like banshees. The band slowed things down a bit as they dropped into a post-psychedelic instrumental jam that was loose and tight at the same time until Cathy started singing "Fast Buck Freddie" from 1975's "Red Octopus", and she sounded delightful as she added a new perspective to the vocals that made you forget all about Grace Slick. Next from the same album was their Top Ten single "Miracles" and it was the musical highlight of the show as the three vocalists sang with such shimmering beauty that they gave me the chills as I sang along with them, "If only you believe like I believe baby, we'd get by, if only you believe in miracles baby, so would I..." Slick Aquilar finally topped himself as he played his guitar like he was in a heavenly choir and the delicate riffs twirled like ballet dancers across his fretboard as I sat there stunned by their glacial beauty. It was back to beginning with a rapturous "Good Shepherd" from "Volunteers", and the band was beyond tight as Slick stepped off the stage with his guitar and strolled through the room just a'wailing, he even sat in some woman lap and he never missed a note as Paul took over with the thick reverb-saturated chords and they traded licks back and forth until they melted into "Find Your Way Back" from 1981's "Modern Times". Cathy totally rocked the vocals as she soulfully wailed, "I sure ain't got no home, I seem to find love where I ramble and when it's time to go, I hear that voice again, saying find your way back, find your way back to her heart..." The band was unbelievable as they flowed like a well-oiled machine and I loved the new power-packed version which was crunchier than the original and with more groove. I was quite surprised when they launched into the Jefferson Airplane's very first single from February of 1966, the spirited "It's No Secret" from "Takes Off", it was a driving song that was almost punk sounding in it's delivery and just proved to me that punk was just the bastard child of hippie music and acid rock because all three genres were about bringing about change in society. The second I heard the droning feedback squall that opened "Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil" from 1968's sonic masterpiece "After Bathing At Baxter's", I knew we were in for a treat as Paul and Cathy traded vocals skillfully, "If you were a bird and you lived very high, you'd lean on the wind when the breeze came by, you'd say to the wind as it took you away, that's where I wanted to go today. And I do know that I need to have you around, love like a mountain springtime, flashing through the rivers of my mind, it's what I feel for you...", and Paul and Slick engaged in some cool battling guitar solos that swirled and throbbed like a neon-colored acid flashback as they broke the song down until Paul and Cathy left the stage and Slick kicked into an extended psychedelic Pink Floyd-esque solo jam that sent notes spiraling in every direction like he was the hippy David Gilmour, he left the stage and it was Chris Smith's turn to showcase his prowess on his keyboards as his fingers deftly danced across the keys and Donny Baldwin pounded out a jazzy back-beat. Paul, Cathy, and Slick returned to finish the coda with a flourish as they segued into their signature song, the undisputed hippie anthem "Somebody To Love" from "Surrealistic Pillow", and it was a spectacular rendition that brought a tear to my eye while Cathy Richardson sounded amazing as she did her best Grace Slick imitation singing, "When the truth is found to be lies, an' all the joy within you dies, don't you want somebody to love, don't you need somebody to love, wouldn't you love somebody to love, you better find someone to love...", and then my new guitar hero Slick Aguilar finished things up with one final sizzling guitar solo that had to leave blisters on his fingers. Jefferson Starship left the stage but quickly returned and kicked into an almost punk version of their anthemic title track from 1970's "Volunteers" album, and I must say the shit was rockin' as they transcended space and time as they exhorted us, "Hey now it's time for you and me, got a revolution, got a revolution, come on now we're marching to the sea, got a revolution, got a revolution, who will take it from you, we will and who are we, we are volunteers of America...", they left the stage and we roared for more, but it was the end of their twenty-song set and I could not have been happier, I even managed to snag a set list from the stage as we left the Hamilton. I must say that this was the best Jefferson Starship show that I ever saw because the intimacy of the club gave the music a new vitality that showed that the hippie spirit of the sixties was still alive even though the original hippies were pushing seventy and some of them needed some assistance, like Paul Kantner, but they were still getting their freak on and still being relevant to the cause. Mark and I left the club with smiles on our faces and a song in our hearts hoping that there will be a Jefferson Airplane reunion someday soon with Grace Slick, Jack Casady, and the incredible Jorma Kaukonen.
PETER FRAMPTON - February 19, 2012
Warner Theatre - Washington, DC - Balcony/Row HH/Seat 17
It is yet another cold and dreary winter night and it is a three-day weekend celebrating Presidents Day...yey America...and I am heading to one of my favorite concert venues, The Warner Theatre, with my favorite concert buddy Mark Amablie to see one of my favorite guitar players, the sensational Peter Frampton. I saw him last summer at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, but I am looking forward to seeing him again, even though he is probably going to play the exact same set, since the tour is celebrating the 35th anniversary of his monster-selling double live album, "Frampton Comes Alive", and he is performing it in its entirety and then finishing with a few songs from his Grammy-winning instrumental albums and his brilliant cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun". The place is packed with post-baby boomers, who are making a rare outing with their spouses to see one of their high school music heroes and relive their glory days, because statistically 95% of people over the age of 35 do not listen to new music, they only listen to what they loved during their high school/college years. We arrive and find our seats just a few minutes before the house lights go down and the video screen lights up with a heart beat symbol as white lights pulse to the rhythm and the video flows with images of all of his solo album covers as Peter Frampton and his band members walk onstage and they kick the show off with the album's opening number, a muscular-sounding "Something's Happening" and they sounded great and I love how Peter plays his guitar lines with such finesse and the sound is perfect as he sang, "You know it's alright something's happened. Hold tight it might be lightning. Turn up the lights somethin's moving..." On an interesting side note, the 1954 Gibson Les Paul that he is playing tonight has quite a history, the guitar was given to him in 1970 when he was playing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco with Humble Pie, and he went on to play it on Humble Pie's "Rock On" and "Rocking The Fillmore" albums, but more importantly, it was the guitar he used on 1977's "Frampton Comes Alive", but sadly in 1980 a cargo plane that was carrying his band's equipment to Panama for a performance there unexpectedly crashed on the island of Curacao and everything on board was thought to be destroyed. But sometime last year the guitar turned up and the Curacao Tourist Board acquired the guitar and with the help of two super-fans it was flown to the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville, Tennessee, where it was authenticated as Frampton's long-lost guitar and then lovingly restored to pristine condition, and last night it was presented to him at the Beacon Theater in New York City where he was performing, and so tonight is the first full gig that he has played with it since 1980. It is quite the mind-boggling story and I feel lucky to be at this gig and hear him play so beautifully and passionate on this guitar. You could feel the specialness of the gig in his playing as they launched into "Doobie Wah" and the band tore it up with an almost funky edge that reminded me of early Doobie Brothers, I was in awe as he totally rocked it on his guitar. Frampton segued into the fabulous solo that opened "Lines On My Face" with its wonderfully delicate riffs as longtime bassist Stanley Sheldon drove the song with deep, lumbering bass lines that danced with Dan Wojciechowski's precise drumming with mournful grace. Peter thanks everyone for coming to the show as he switches guitars and a stagehand moves the famous talk-box microphone to the front of the stage and everybody cheers madly because it is time for his 'super-hit' "Show Me The Way", and there were even middle-aged women swooning around me like teenagers as he sang, "I wonder how you're feeling, there's ringing in my ears and no one to relate to except the sea...", and I must say the song has aged well as he had everyone on their feet singing along with him. It was back to the prodigal guitar for a throbbing "It's A Plain Shame" as the band flowed effortlessly and his drummer is so in the pocket with the groove, I was quite impressed by his controlled timing and sense of rhythm. The sound was so much better than the show that I saw last June, but his voice has changed as he sang the song. He effortlessly glided into "Wind Of Change" that he performed solo and the great delicate and melodic riffs that he played sounded great and then he segued into "Penny For Your Thoughts" that was originally titled "Swirly Bum Dee". He continued with "All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)" and the audience loved it as they sang along as he strummed the guitar, and then it was on to "Baby, I Love Your Way". Peter was joined by his band and they kicked out a gentle loping beat as he sang, "Oh baby, I love your way, I want to be with you every night and day..." Next keyboardist Rob Arthur played a great intro to "I Wanna Go To The Sun" and then Peter Frampton and Adam Lester played blistering dual leads and the audience loved it as they clapped along, it was actually Peter's best solo of the night as he played like his life depended on it. Then it was on to the best song of the set, a scintillating "(I'll Give You) Money" that was heavy and trippy, and it had a fantastic video accompanied it that was great psychedelic ooze that gave the song its edge, and once again Peter and Adam Lester played intertwining leads that melted into one another like two crayons. They dove back into his catalogue and played "Shine On" from his days with Humble Pie, and they turned it out as the guitars and the organ played throbbing riffs back and forth as the band drove it along, it made me wish for a Humble Pie reunion. They segued into a stellar version of The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that put the Stones to shame with its complexity and execution, it had a wonderful extended breakdown that had the audience clapping along as Peter made his guitar howl. From the opening notes of the next song, "Do You Feel Like We Do", it was exquisite as it showcased each of the players, particularly organist Rob Arthur and Peter Frampton who showed us just what you can do on the guitar and it was like no other. His use of the voice-box was mind-boggling and he really got the crowd going, it has proved itself as a timeless classic, and he even showed his "The Simpsons" clip. I was totally blown away by his command of the guitar and the sounds he made were sensational to the ear..."Do you feel like we do..." Peter Frampton announced that they would be taking a short break, and then they would be back to perform some of his recent songs. They returned after a little while and they opened with "Asleep At The Wheel" and it was dark, crunchy, and heavy as it swirled around the room. The band continued on with "No Restraint" which was about greed on Wall Street, and it featured a driving riff that pulsed ominously, I really liked this song and what it had to say. They flowed on with "Float" and Peter played on his recently returned guitar and it sounded beautiful, and it was kind of Pink Floyd-esque in its guitar solos, and it was a lovely instrumental. They segued way into "Boot It Up" and it was a kind of jazz-fusion instrumental as they played it with great zeal, the band was smoking as they continued on with "Double Nickles" and it sounded like a laid-back country instrumental and Adam Lester played the most phenomenal guitar solo that accentuated the gentle groove with a grace and ease. Peter Frampton then told about how the next song held a special place in his heart for his grandmother and he launched into "Vaudeville Nana And The Banjolele" as Adam Lester played the banjolele while the video screen showed his beloved family members. Oddly Peter Frampton played a song again from his earlier set but he changed a little bit by playing the leads on the electric guitar instead of the acoustic, and "All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)" never sounded better with a fantastic guitar solo that reminded me of Wes Montgomery. Then he blew my mind with a breathtaking cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" that he performed as an instrumental with his talk-box and it was a thing of beauty which he played on the guitar like no one else, these great big riffs that just sounded beautiful as he played them over his talk-box antics. It was a spectacular cover and a highlight of the set. Next the band started into "Four Day Creep" by Humble Pie and they were on fire as they delivered a raucous version of the song as Peter belted out, "I want you to love me 'til the hair stand on my head, I want you to love me, oh, make me dizzy, make me feel like a man...", and he sounded like he meant it. Peter Frampton wound up the set with "Off The Hook", an instrumental that the band played with a determination that showed in their playing as they went off, each instrument played a solo that was just sensational as they finished the song with aplomb. The crowd went crazy for Peter and his band as they cheered for one more song, and the band returned and obligated us with one more song, a rather lovely cover of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" that Peter played with his heart and soul. I was completely blown away by his performance and I would love to see him again. I left the theater with a smile on my face because I had just witnessed one of the best shows I have ever seen.
ANGELA BOFILL EXPERIENCE and MELBA MOORE with DAVE VALENTIN and THE ORIGINAL ANGELA BOFILL BAND - February 15, 2012
The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
It was a typical dreary winter evening in the Nation's Capitol as I rushed around my room getting ready to go meet my friend Tony Redmond who did promotional work for Angela Bofill, whom we were going to see at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia later tonight. I have known Angela since the early nineties when my friend T.C. Tolliver was her drummer and I saw her and her band perform multiple times back then, being that she possesses one of my favorite female singing voices, sadly she had two strokes a few years back in 2006 and she is still re-learning how to walk and sing these days. But last year she decided that she missed the stage and her fans and so she had the brilliant idea of putting her original band back together and getting Maysa to sing her vocals and Angela would narrate the show in-between songs by telling stories and the histories of the songs and such. The show did really well and inspired Angela to put a new show together and take it on the road one more time, but with Melba Moore performing the songs. So Tony Redmond and I entered the club and made our way backstage and said hello to Angela and sat around talking to her for a little while and caught up, it was nice to see her and how she was not letting her having strokes stop her from sharing her music with the world. I made my way to the side of the stage to watch them perform, and the band took the stage a few minutes after I found a spot to watch them. The band was smoking hot as they took the stage and laid down the fierce jazz, and Dave Valentin played some amazing flute. After the band rocked out for a few minutes, Miss Melba Moore took the stage to sing "Angel Of The Night", and she was sensational as she sang the song with great passion but with her own twist. She was dressed in a beautiful silver dress that sparkled as she added some great soulful wails and yelps, and then she danced the cha-cha. She was quite sassy as she added a blurb about Whitney Houston and her death, she said she and everyone should treasure life and she thanked God for music because it helps heal. They continued on with "Need Your Love" and Melba Moore delivered it with soulful panache, she does Angela Bofill's songs justice. The drummer Greg Phillips had a fantastic back-beat as the keyboardist Noah Daniels played with great skill that really helped the song to shine. Angela Bofill made her way very slowly to the stage to a standing ovation, and she loved it as she cracked jokes and laughed as she sat down in an easy chair that was placed on stage right. Dave Valentin and Angela Bofill talk about the first time that they met and made the first album together. She continued on about her pet monkey Chi-Chi and her pet Pug who was named Mo-Mo, but her joy was her grandson. She was quite funny as she dropped zingers left and right. Melba Moore chats about being competitive with the strong women who sing and how she gives it all she got. The video screens on either side of the stage began to show highlights of her career including in 1984 when she was nominated for the song "Too Tough" at the American Music Awards, and she presented the award for Favorite Soul Album to Michael Jackson and he kissed her. She also met Rick James and Teena Marie and she joked about Heaven's band and what a fantastic line-up of people were in it. Back to the stage where Melba Moore turned it out on "Too Tough" and the bassist Kevin Walker totally rocked out, it was fantastic as he pumped out a funky bass line that got the band moving and grooving. They played the song with a nice new arrangement that was not as new-wavey as the original song. Angela Bofill then said that in 1979 the album called "Angie" was first released and this happy event was tainted by the death of her nephew, who died in a car accident, but the album was being re-issued this month, so go buy it. Next it was on to "Rainbow Child" and the band was exquisite in their delivery, and then Angela talked about surviving two strokes and how she spent three years in rehab, and then she choked up a bit as told about her mother dying last year and how it effected her. The band kicked in and they performed a fantastic version of "I Try", and Melba Moore turned it out as the band played impeccably and with great heart. Angela joked about being a cougar granny, and that just made her daughter act so prudishly and she call her a big baby, then she talked about her dad and his strength that he carried with him until he died in her mom's arms. She went on to say that Washington, DC, made her famous and broke her record and she is forever grateful, and she introduced her most famous song. The band launched into a gorgeous "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" that just made me want to melt, Melba Moore hit each and every note as the band laid down the deep and sexy groove. Melba said that they have come to the end of the show as she made a grand toast to Miss Angela Bofill and she said praise God for songwriting and that Angela wrote the last song with Gwen Guthrie. Melba and the band then played a wonderful "I'm On Your Side" that they performed like a joyful gospel song, and it got the whole audience to join in as they sang along with the band. Melba Moore thanked Angela Bofill from the bottom of her heart as she left the stage, and then the audience gave a thunderous standing ovation to Angela as she thanked everyone and made her way off stage. Tony and I ran backstage and wished Angela a wonderful life and then we left because Angela had a meet and greet and autograph signing to be at to show her fans that she really appreciates all their thoughts and prayers. It was a warm and wonderful show and it was so nice to see my friend Angela Bofill.
THE EMPRESARIOS - January 23, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
Oh what a dreary fucking day it is as I make my way across town to the Kennedy Center on the Metro's Orange Line, and I must bite my tongue as I wade through clumps of mindless abortionettes, pro and con, who were leaving a rally at the Supreme Court on the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, but hopefully The Empresarios will bring a ray of sunshine into this otherwise ugly and rainy evening in Washington, DC. The band refers to themselves as "tropicaliente" and they play an unique blend of salsa, reggae, cumbia, dub, and house that always gets the crowd up on their feet and dancing, but we shall see, being that we are at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and things are always a bit restrained around here. Even though the group calls Washington DC home, the three main musicians in the group, band leader Javier Miranda and vocalists Frankie Rosada and Felix Perez, all hail from Puerto Rico, locally the band is part of the Thievery Corporation's Eighteenth Street Lounge record label who released their debut album "Sabor Tropical" to much critical acclaim...so let's get this party started...the eight members of The Empresarios stroll onto the stage and immediately kick off their set with a gentle flurry of percussion and samples as guitarist Paul Chaconas played a melange of riffs, Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley, but I must say that using horn samples is cheating, but John Bowen's cool video graphics on the overhead screen, made the experience pleasant as the lively rhythms played on, and making me wish I was poolside in Miami instead of wet and cold Washington, DC. After the first two instrumental numbers, vocalists Frankie Rosada and Felix Perez step to the microphones and began intoning rhythmically in Spanglish. The band laid down the fierce groove of "Sentimento Latino" but no one is dancing yet and then the stage power blew and so the congas player Javier Miranda rocked out a while as the stage techs did their thing to get the band up and running again...and we waited and waited, back into "Sentimento Latino", and still no dancing as they hit a darker groove with an Afro-pop feel to it, a slinky "Negrita Linda", which turned out to be my favorite song of their set. The next song had the same dark feel to it, however I am quite surprised by how sample-driven their music is, because all the horns and keyboard parts made all of their songs sound too much alike, but the percussion was consistently nice and authentic. The next song, "Rompan Fila", lilted in a reggae-stylee, but the band could benefit from a real horn section, bassist and keyboardist, because their sound was a bit one-dimensional sometimes and this really showed when they tried to pump up the funk with a ditty called "Put Up The Volume", but to quote funkmeister George Clinton, "It sounds like it's on a three!" And then it was back to their signature sound, a hyped up salsa/meringue hybrid that just bored me to death as it seemed to go on and on and on...Overall, their thirteen-song set was an enjoyable, if somewhat repetitive, but I would imagine that they would be much more fun to see in a club setting with everybody dancing and screaming. They closed with the title track to their recent album "Sabor Tropical" which was featured on EA Sports "FIFA 2012" video game incidentally, and finally a couple of people got up to dance and then The Empresarios left the stage and I hit the road and headed home.
FUTURECITIES - January 20, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
It was yet another drearily cold winter day as I made my way to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to see Futurecities play their rather unusual music. They are a duo featuring Anne Rainwater on piano and Jude Traxler on drums and percussion and they took the stage and led off a punchy piano-driven number that took my ears on a whirlwind journey that was punctuated by Jude's inventive drumming that he showcased in the next song as he created different textures of percussion that was very symphonic in its flow. It was cool to see but it went on a little too long for my liking as he experimented with different sounds and drum patterns. For their next number Anne played some discordant melody runs that sounded foreboding and ominous as she worked the entire keyboard while meandering through the song like she was channeling John Cage or Phillip Glass of whom she reminded me. Jude created a loop and then played along with it chaotically and he stepped over to a xylophone and played it beautifully as Anne made some weird noises and odd notes on the piano in some sort of musical piece no one would ever listen to again which is kind of sad. They even reminded me of Frank Zappa sometimes as their music oozed along as I heard random pieces of melody in the ponderous flow of sound. Next they performed a piece that was just the sound of their voices being continuously looped as they sweetly sang of distant memories and they kept adding layers of their voices over the minimalistic percussion. Anne returned to the piano and let loose with some weird off-key runs as did Jude on the xylophone as they went back and forth and completely confused me with what they call “music” but it was difficult to listen to with any sense of understanding or for that matter, melody and groove. I really cannot believe that anyone other than music students and their professors along with their very limited audiences listen to this...noise pollution...er...I mean music. Jude recited a very long thank you list and they finished their eight-song set with a number called “Drift” which is what I wanted to do as they seemed to randomly play notes and melody runs and they called it a “song”. I cannot wait until they finish their set and I can go home and listen to some music I can understand.
SHERYL UNDERWOOD and KYLE ERBY - January 13, 2012
The DC Improv - Washington, DC
"Ch chu chur, ch chu chur..." It is Friday the thirteenth and my BFF Scott Parks and I are off to The Improv comedy club to see one of my favorite comedians, the always sassy Sheryl Underwood, and it is almost exactly two years to the day since we last saw her spread the love and truth of her incisive and deep comedy and her jaw-droppingly spectacular use of curse words. A lot of things have changed with her since then, particularly her brand new gig on CBS' daytime talk show "The Talk" with Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler, and Julie Chen, who I have affectionately dubbed "my girls" since I start every weekday by watching the five of them discuss the latest hot topics with their unique chemistry that always makes me laugh and starts my day right. We made our way to the club, and I was amazed by the crowd especially the increase in the number of white people in attendance from the last time that we saw her perform here at The Improv. I guess "The Talk" is raising her profile in the social media world. The opening comic Kyle Erby took the stage in a flurry of "nigger this, nigger that"...football stuff...blah blah blah...sex allegory of comparing the liking of football teams to secret lovers...lovely, lovely sexism...and then a whole bit about sexting...make sure you fluff it before taking a photo and make sure to shoot from the right angle...and always remember - do not cheat on your wife with a crazy bitch...he made adultery and lying seem so fun...yeah...he introduced Sheryl Underwood and she took the stage and announced that she had to refute some of the bullshit he had been spouting in his set...she ain't fucking herself with a damn cell phone so don't be sending her any damn sext...and she was off as she said, "Before you ask, yes, we all get along.", referring her TV gig co-workers, Sharon Osbourne, Julie Chen, Aisha Tyler, and Sara Gilbert. She then told us the story of how she got the job on "The Talk", she received a telephone call that told her to go to the Beverly Hilton where she was going to meet with Sharon Osbourne for lunch, she arrived and was directed to a table where Sharon was lunching with Good Charlotte's Joel Madden who Sheryl said looked freaked out when she approached their table, she joined them and while they were chatting, Sharon suddenly turned and vomited on her. Sheryl said she thought that it was some kind of test for the show, but Sharon became embarrassed and apologetic, and then she "pooped" her lovely pants...we all laughed...and she added that Sara Gilbert is great person to work with and she loves talking about eating pussy with her...she said she just does not understand the Kardashians and their appeal...if you do not want to end up on "The Maury Povich Show", do not fuck your kin...in Hollywood you cannot go against Eva Longoria, do not even try, she will fuck you up...she finds all of the various "Housewives Of..." reality shows to be just wrong...she had me on the floor LMAO when she declared "all dick ain't good dick" as she ranted about Chris Brown and Rihanna and their famous "incident" and how he "bit her" when they were fighting that fateful night, she howled, "he fucking bit her, probably because Rihanna was whipping his ass"...and that J-Lo, why oh why is she fucking another dancer, didn't she learn her lesson the first time...and Hugh Jackman just needs to come out, you cannot be a giant Broadway star and be straight, it is against nature...and speaking of "The Housewives Of...", did you see the episode about Ne Ne Weakes and the male strippers who can suck themselves, it was priceless how much she overreacted with disgust, and Sheryl even laughed at her own jokes about the hilarity of guys who suck their own dicks and if they are really straight...Oprah made a mistake when she left free television...black funerals are the only time black people will drive across country and the travel details are done with military precision...and then she said it was time for a "church moment" and led the audience in a sing-a-long...and her best crack-up line of the night - "Can you believe a black doctor killed Michael Jackson!"...she cracked me up when she said that she even loves Joe Jackson, because what other Jehovah Witness could make the best Christmas album ever...she next said it was time for a black empowerment meeting and so she led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to Martin Luther King and then she discussed the debate of "never say nigger" vs. "let's say it" within the African-American community and she proclaimed that you should make up your own mind and live everyday like it is February or Black History Month for the white people in the audience. Next she was on to secret black talk, the way one to talks to fellow blacks vs. the way one speaks to white people, and there is quite a difference you know, and it has led to the trickery of racism which has made the N-word that a diabolically delicious word in more ways than one...Sheryl was on a roll now as she paced the stage like a mad professor as she continued on...when I call you a white bitch that means I like you...cunt stands for 'can't understand normal thinking' and she has no problem using that word...she just loves that big southern girl in the news who shot the robbers that were in her house and every time she watches the news and they talk about some horrific crime she finds her praying 'don't be black, please don't be black' and speaking of that, the authorities should kill that Joran Van Der Sloot and Scott Peterson for their crimes against women...and white women don't mop, they swiff...and she just loves Mormons, they're like black people because they love to eat Jello and they love to sing in church...Sheryl was on a roll right now as she bounced from hot topic to hot topic in her delightfully sassy way and she told how she loved Condoleeza Rice and that she felt for her when she had to deal with George Bush whenever he said or did something asinine...look, I can't do shit with him when he has been drinking...and even though she is a Republican, she voted for Obama just because he killed the motherfuckers that Bush could not, she like First Lady Michelle but she know she is kicking Bo the dog off-camera for being a big stupid dog, and she is always imagining in her head, President Obama getting high while discussing killing Osama Bin Laden, and she laughed to herself as she told her jokes about it on stage. The audience started shouting names and such at her and once again she says that she really likes her "The Talk" co-worker Sara Gilbert and she does not care that she is a lesbian because sin is sin, and Sheryl says I'm going to hell just as fast as the next person so who is she to judge other people. She loves the gays except for the ones who tell straight women when it comes to men, "I'm more woman than you and I can take your man,"...to which she responds, "until you shoot a baby out of your penis, you are not, and don't ever think you are"...and she hates, I mean hates when men talk about women having smelly pussy and her answer is that if your balls are not springtime fresh keep your big fucking mouth shut...so she likes to sit around and drink her wine and masturbate and speaking of sex, she revealed that she would fuck a seventeen year-old boy but she hates doing it in a twin bed with Star Wars sheets and she kept getting rawer by the second as she declared that one should sample everything in the buffet of love and if you want to keep a man, don't argue with him just shut the fuck up and things would work out because not all men can say 'I love you' to you so they have to show you with gifts and acts of kindness. She said most men see sex as like picking a cereal brand, so ladies, suck dick and you will control your man by his dick, use a little vapor rub, always remember your dick etiquette, she finished her set abruptly with what she calls the 'triangle defense' - dick - nipple - nipple - repeat - as the way to keep your man and in check...she said goodnight amongst the roars of laughter as the staff practically pushed us out the club to make room for the second set of the night by the hilarious Sheryl Underwood. See ya next year girl....
THE HEAVENLY STATES - February 4, 2012
Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage - Washington, DC
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