Tedeschi Trucks Band - Live Review
Man, I thought that I was a road warrior. And then along comes the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB), who have spent more than 200 days on the road for each of the past 5 years. Grueling! But for the discerning rock fan who loves a finely-tuned, heavily rehearsed and talented band with lots of live gigs under their belts, it’s a great thing.
For the third straight year, I caught TTB live, this time at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC. Before I get to the band, let me say that the Warner is beautiful, has great acoustics, and sits right in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. It even has decent space in the rows, something missing from, say, the Tower Theater in Philly. Check out these photos of the venue – nice, right?
OK, back to TTB. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a 12 piece band led by the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. The band plays Americana – rock, blues, soul, and even gospel – and truly appeals to those who like blues-driven rock of the variety made famous by the Allman Brothers Band. Trucks is the nephew of the late Butch Trucks, one of the original drummers from the ABB, and Derek himself played with later versions of ABB. He is a slide guitar prodigy, and can pull off some amazing lead jams that leave the crowd cheering and hollering. And one interesting fact – he uses the same guitar all night long. That isn’t always the case with guitar heroes, some of whom have quivers that require their own stand-alone storage unit.
Susan is no slouch with the guitar either, and ripped into some awesome lead riffs on Saturday night. But her stage presence (she is front and center for a reason) and her singing voice, which is full of power and soul, makes the band stand out from others. And check out how her show wardrobe – a nice dress! These two are a musical combination that is hard to beat.
But the band is much more than Susan and Derek. Like ABB, they have a two-drummer lineup that is just fantastic. Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson play off of each other, provide a driving beat, and add power and presence that is additive but not overwhelming to the rest of the band. And the rest of the band features a solid horn section, keyboards and other talented backup/lead singers. It is a remarkably diverse group of gifted musicians who have played together a long time.
Saturday was the birthday of the late Beatle, George Harrison, and TTB played homage by covering “Within You, Without You,” “Wah Wah,” and “Something.” And they weren’t the only covers played. TTB also played tunes by the Staples Singers, Derek and the Dominoes, Leonard Cohen, Elmore James, Miles Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Sleepy John Estes, Rahsean Roland Kirk, Billy Taylor, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and Leon Russell. Whew! And they also threw in about 10 of their own songs. The two sets covered a broad swath of American artists, but all the tunes got the TTB treatment, and came out as a cool mix of the original and the new.
The crowd was into it right from the start. This was the third sell-out in a row at the Warner, and it was Saturday night. We stood for most of the show, danced in the rows, and jammed along with everyone else. By the end, I was ragged out and ready to roll on back to the hotel. The last encore song was a jam marathon which, while entertaining at times, was also wearing on my tired dogs. Nonetheless, I was satisfied and happy to have made the journey down I-95.
Alright, I have a lot of pictures. We had good seats about 10 rows back, but I still managed to slide up to the front for a couple of better close-ups. I do that for you, you know that, right? I hope you enjoy. Sorry that the keys and bass aren’t in any of the shots – we were a bit off to the side, and I couldn’t see them for much of the show.
OK, It’s time to sign off. I have lots more stuff in store for you, some of which is rock related, but some of which is not. I’ve got another show coming up soon, and I’ll write it up for your reading pleasure. In the meantime, put on your sailin’ shoes and everyone will start to cheer. See ya.
Japandroids - Live Review
Here’s how it goes at BRP: work hard all week, play hard all weekend. This week is no exception. Friday night, at a sold out Union Transfer, I was there to catch a truly brilliant live act out of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Japandroids.
The Japandroids are a duo: Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums. Both guys sing. There is no bass guitar. But they pack a wall of sound. We commented on the number and size of the amplifiers that lined the rear of the stage before the band performed, and it’s remarkable how two guys can make that much noise.
The band has been around for about a decade, but they aren’t prolific. They have, however, toured a ton, and their live act is refined and skilled. I’m familiar with the band’s first two albums, Post-Nothing (2009) and Celebration Rock (2012). The latter led to tremendous critical praise. Rolling Stone called it one of "The 10 Coolest Summer Albums of All Time", and Spin named them 2012's Band of the Year. So is it any wonder that the show was sold out? I told my concert posse that this would be a show to see and to grab those tickets fast. And I was right again.
So what does the band sound like? Japandroids' music features heavy distorted guitar, but no lead riffs. It’s all rhythm guitar, all the time. They do have a punky flavor, but also have a lot of classic rock influences. So the sound is accessible, and the crowd had a wide age gap to prove it. Hey, if you like Petty and Hüsker Dü, like your author does, you are in luck.
Proving how difficult and fickle the music business is, the band almost broke up. But with the release of their first album, pitchfork.com gave them a huge national spotlight. First, they named the song "Young Hearts Spark Fire" a 'Best New Track' designation. And then Pitchfork started the national bandwagon by giving the album a 'Best New Music' label.
The band doesn’t disappoint. They played all their great songs like “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” "Fire's Highway," "Adrenaline Nightshift," and "Evil's Sway. And the crowd was super into it. If you watch the video from “The House That Heaven Built,” which you will because I link to it below, you will see an audience that is big on fist pumps, singing of lyrics, chants on call and response vocals, and crowd surfing. The Philly crowd was certainly knowledgeable because this was one fist-pumping, singing, chanting and crowd surfing audience, your blogger included (well, not the CS part).
In fact, there was so much CS action, that Brian had to set a rule: you are allowed to be deposited on the stage, take a second to show off to your friends, and then dive back into the crowd. Otherwise, it was meet the bouncer time and off you go. We saw much of both, and one guy must have been up on stage on 3 or 4 different occasions. There was even the occasional girl up on top. The crowd on the floor was amazingly accommodative of all this crowd surfing, and some people were up on top of the crowd for a long time. Check out this picture:
Both guys are set up on the front of the stage – no “drummer in the back” thing here. Duos are like that. So it was cool to watch Dave ply his craft right in the front of the action. And it’s clear that the boys like each other, too. There were a lot of good vibes up there, and cool interaction between the two guys.
The band travels with its own light show. That eliminated the use of the dominant red/blue lights that make up the house rack at UT. Japandroids used lasers, spots, strobes, and everything in between. And while lights can sometimes distract, I thought that these ones enhanced the performance, and fit with the songs. For instance, while they were singing about French kissing French girls, the tricolors of the French flag were spotlighting across the crowd. It was pretty cool.
The only crappy part of the night was Craig Finn, the opening act. Finn is the leader of the band the Hold Steady, but he was touring under his own name with a backup band, the Uptown Controllers. Finn seems to think that he can write poetry and then just plop it on top of mediocre background music. Well, I guess he can, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. Finn has an annoying habit of being over-earnest while he sings, and his lyrics aren’t as compelling as he seems to believe. Couple that with songs lacking hooks, and it was a good time to get a drink and visit the restrooms.
Finn did come out and sing the final song with the Japandroids, an interesting cover of the Saints “(I’m) Stranded.” (Thanks to my man Ryan for knowing the title to that song.) And then the band stopped playing – no encore, no b.s. Great!
Hey, I told you that it’s work hard, play hard, and now I’m off to DC for Saturday night to see the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the beautiful Warner Theatre. I’ll be back soon with a review of that show. In the meantime, you enjoy your weekend and know that I’m cheering you on to greatness. Rock it!
Living Like A Rocker, Part Two
I see you came back for more. Sucker! Haha, just kidding, it’s great to see you again.
As you’ll recall, I started to write about how to bring rock into your everyday life to drum up the humdrum. Part One was posted a few days back, and if you missed it, man, scroll down and get caught up.
Here’s Part Two, on a lovely spring-like February day, with more great tips on the entire rocker thing. Of course, everything I put into these posts is 100% guaranteed to get you signed to a multi-million dollar album deal. Not to worry, just like the Sex Pistols, you can learn how to play the instruments later. For now, it’s all about the STYLE, baby! Ready? Hang on, Sloopy, here we go:
Engage the Neighbors: This is a nice way of saying turn it up to 11 while you are chilling outside. Your neighbors will then come over to tell your teenage kids to turn it down. Then they’ll discover that it’s you, not the kids, blasting the music. Ask them if they want a drink, and then continue playing the music and rocking hard. Convert them. Make your neighborhood the noise ordinance destroyers of the township. Tell them about Article 69 of the Constitution that guarantees the freedom to rock. It’s good practice for helping to explain the decibel level to your friendly neighborhood police force when they come to visit, too. Hey, you pay taxes, your township is safe, you may as well give the cops something to do, right?
Naming the Pet: Yes, another place where you can show your rock coolness. Under this rule, you simply take your favorite rocker’s name and use it in vain. Naming the dog Bruce or JB is kind of cool. Don’t try this with your kid unless you go with something like Axl or Hole. But a pet can carry it because THEY DON’T CARE. You can even name them after bands, like Foghat or Jethro Tull. Pets dig this, especially if you feed them regularly and let them pee and poop in your house. And calling out for them when they are carrying a badass rock name simply sets you into a different class (maybe different breed?) and you become the envy of the neighborhood. Why, your more non-rock heavy neighbors will ask themselves, why didn’t I name my dog Slash? Heh heh, you did and you are COOL.
Dinner Reservations: Now, here’s a harmless and fun one. When you make your dinner reservations, use a rock ‘n roll name to reserve your table. You can go obscure, such as using Dewey Finn, the Jack Black character in the terrifically fun School of Rock. I’ve used it before but it’s never generated recognition from the hostess. It’s my “go to” name when I’m messing around. Or you can go big – say, use Paul McCartney, or Angus Young, or if you’re a woman (or simply want to be) use Tina Turner or Janis Joplin. You can even make up huge lies to accompany the questions that the big-time name is going to bring, such as your mom used to be a groupie with the Beatles and named her only son after Paul, or you’ve attended an Angus Young namesake convention and jammed with the master on stage while each of you were wearing his signature school boy outfit. Whatever you want, its harmless fun, gets your creative juices flowing, and is very good inside joke material.
Now that was fun, right? It was for me. And as you know, keeping BRP happy is the number one rule of BRP! No, that's not true at all. It's all about YOU and your fulfillment. Anyway, I have more rules of living like a rocker, and will happily share them with you in the near future if you will just come on back and waste some time with me.
Next up: a couple more live reviews. And I need to get some more damn music on the site, don't you think? Not to worry, kiddos, sleep is for wimps here at BRP, and I am hard at work finding for you. See you next time.
Maceo Parker - Live Review
Here’s the teaser from the Ardmore Music Hall for Maceo Parker: “Maceo Parker: his name is synonymous with Funky Music, his pedigree impeccable; his band: the tightest little funk orchestra on earth.” They then go on to say that he played with James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, all big-time funk outfits. So I was pumped up for da funk!
Disappointment time! MP played about 10 minutes of funk. The rest was easy going jazzy background music. Well played, mind you, but think George Benson while you sit at the bar at the Hyatt waiting to go out for a business dinner. And MP can’t sing, either. It wasn’t a very good show given what I was anticipating.
I’m putting this show in the Robin Trower and Dick Dale bucket. Guys past their prime who I overpayed to see. Here’s a couple of pictures just to prove that I was there. See you soon, brothers and sisters.
It's Mardi Gras Time!
The Louisiana State Society of Washington, DC has a Mardi Gras weekend in the Nation’s Capital. Because it’s DC and DC writes the rules for all of our lives regardless of whether or not they make sense, the LSS Mardi Gras festivities don’t actually coincide with Ash Wednesday at all. Nope, they hold it about a month before the real event on the bayou. Whatever. I attended one night of the DC bacchanalia recently and had a good time.
At this event, they had a square stage that held four bands. Each band would perform for about 20 minutes, then break while another band took over. It was non-stop music, it was loud, it was accompanied by gumbo, raw oysters, slow-cooked pork, fried oysters and the like, and it covered the range of traditional New Orleans musical genres, including zydeco, Cajun, Dixieland, blues/jazz, and Senatorial.
What is Senatorial music? It’s when you get a former U.S. Senator onstage to play the washboard with spoons to accompanying zydeco music. Hence, John Breaux, who served 18 years in the Senate and a bunch of years in the House, jamming on stage. Maybe it helps explain the current state of the union. Whatever, it’s what Louisiana pols do, and here’s two pictures to prove it:
A couple more photos show some of the other players, including a very skilled pianist who looks remarkably like The Wolf character played by Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.
OK, time for me to geaux. Here’s a cool song by Credence to finish off this little Mardi Gras thing. Oh, one last little item – I’m holding beads in my hand right now. Want ‘em? You gotta do better than that because these ones have little lights that blink. Hahahaha.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Hey lovers, just a quick wish for a special day. Here's a trio of Stevie Wonder love songs to get you in the mood. Stevie is a bona fide National Treasure! And so are you!!
I'll be back shortly with another mind-bending post. In the meantime, be cool and love one another, ok?
The Legwarmers - Live Review
Oh my, It’s the 80s all over again! The self-proclaimed ultimate 80s tribute band, the Legwarmers, blew out The Trocadero on Saturday night. BRP was there, has the pictures to prove it, and is now handicapped because he danced his butt off! And hey, I got a new fisheye lens for my camera - check out the cool crowd shot below:
Let’s get things straight from the get go. The Legwarmers don’t write their own music, but they picked out some great songs (and some not so great) from the 80s and played most of them perfectly. They have a great name that totally fits the decade - for women, at least, I personally didn’t get into legwarmers until the 90s. A crowd of partygoers follows the band around and BRINGS IT so that it is one totally fun night. And there is no pretentious b.s. involved – it’s the music, the scene and the good times which drive this band. And the band is totally into it, with moves and jams that are just fantastic.
I’m going to direct you to their website to see the songs that the band typically picks from to play, and for more info about them. It’s not all arena rock and pop/dance tunes that make up the show. I had forgotten how many great new wave songs were really from the early 80s, but the band had not, and they chose some particularly choice ones to play. Anyway, believe me when I say that you would know all of these songs, and would like most of them.
I normally don’t go to tribute band shows (although the AC/DC cover band Hells Bells, whom I saw in Cape Coral, was worth the $0 in admission that I did not pay to see them). But this was a birthday party blowout, and it beat the crap out of the typical wedding/bar mitzvah circuit bands playing The Happy Song and Celebrate. Does anyone remember the Skip Castro Band? Johnny Sportcoat & The Casuals? The X-Raves? Nasty Habits? All were great early to mid-80s cover bands who played many of these same songs. So for me, it was the purest of nostalgia, but in a good way, not like going to your 25th high school reunion and realizing that the hot chick from high school now has 4 kids, 2 ex-husbands, and hopefully, a 130 pound tumor that can be removed rather than a backseat full of Jack In The Box trash, because it’s either one or the other.
I danced until late, late into the night, slept the dreams of rock and roll, and woke up with a smile on my face. All that for $15! That, my friends, proves how great rock is for us geezers who still love it. Hey, and check out this guy – talk about moves. He was actually kind of a drunken pain in the neck most of the evening - in fact, he was pawing up these women who were standing by us (and, sadly, the women were letting him - what's up, girls?) - but doing the splits in jeans when overweight deserves a mention.
One last thing about the venue. The Trocadero looks super cool inside. But its Chinatown location means it’s hard to park (and expensive), and the bars are PACKED and slow moving. And the bathrooms are old and cramped. Otherwise, it is a pretty cool hangout.
Here are the rest of the photos. The crowd was super cool, too, many of them dressed to kill, 80s style – or at least what they thought was 80s style. It was pretty campy, but happy times for all. I will see you again really soon, ok, dear ones? As I used to say all the time in the 80s, take it easy.
Now, I know that you might be feeling a bit down, the holidays are over, winter is grinding on, and you’re stuck reading about all these rock ‘n rollers who are out having the time of their lives while you sit at a desk grinding out work for The Man. Well, that’s bunk! The Man is an ass! So here’s the key to having fun: you too can live a rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Indeed, I have some suggestions for bringing rock into your everyday life. Let’s get snappy and list some of those ideas, alright? Here we go, Part 1:
Rule Number One - Live Like A Rocker: Rockers sleep late and lay around the house a lot. So do many suburban people, so you already have that one down. Rockers love mischief, like, say, fireworks, particularly in suburban communities where they are banned. So set off fireworks whenever the mood hits you. I’ve personally found it satisfying to light them up at 3 in the morning on a Tuesday after staying up all night blasting new rock for your neighbors.
Rockers also seem to go for drugs and booze, but I’m going to draw the line there. I said to LIVE like a rocker, not die like one, hahaha. And I would go with tattoos, too, but not all rockers have them, and now EVERYONE has them. If you’re going to go with a tattoo, do it tastefully, like a huge eagle across your back. Gothic letters that spell your name are effective for remembering how to spell your name. And tramp stamps that look good as they expand with age are a solid choice for women. Facial tattoos, however, are beyond the pale. Examples of "yes" and "no" tattoos are shown below:
Rule Number Two - Dressing the Part: It’s true that a lot of rockers dress, well, normal. Then there are those that try to distinguish themselves through outrageous outfits, like Jimi Hendrix during his Band of Gypsies period. That’s your sweet spot. You need new glasses? Think, WWED (What Would Elton Do)? Why, yes, he would get those monster sized things with rhinestone studded wings and red-tinted lenses, and you should, too. Why the hell not? And clothes! Rip ‘em, tear ‘em, wear crazy stuff that no one else would dare to wear. Big boots! Fur hats! Sequined vests with no shirt underneath (particularly impressive on women)! Pants so tight that the stitching screams for mercy with each step. Yeah, baby, you go for it. Hustle your way on down to the Salvation Army and stock up on the stuff no one else wants because you can carry it.
Here are some great work glasses guaranteed to impress The Man!
Rule Number Three - Write Terrible Lyrics on Napkins or Scraps of Paper and Leave Them Everywhere. There are few things more humbling than trying to write great rock lyrics. Yeah, right. In fact, most rock lyrics were written in the bathroom after snorting some blow. That is, unless those lyrics are things like “I don’t wanna be a pinhead no more/I just met a nurse that I could go for.” Those classics must have taken many minutes to write, don’t you think? So clearly, you, too, can write rock lyrics. The formula is pretty easy. Write about girls, cars, hanging out with your friends, how different and misunderstood you are, how deeply you are hurting, how much you want to have sex or do drugs, etc. It’s not hard. But to look truly “rocker,” you need to do this and then leave these lyrics all around your house, preferably close to an ash tray full of stubbed out cigarettes. So when friends come over, you can tell them that, yeah, it’s your latest song, but it still needs work. How bitchin’ is that? Pretty bitchin’
Alright, I'm just getting started with my rules for living like a rocker. Part One is done, but dry your tears and remember that there is plenty more where that came from. I may not get to Part Two for a wee bit as I have two more live music events to report on, as well as a special Valentine's Day post for the lovers in the group. And with that, I will see you on tomorrow's police blotter. Smile!
Welcome back! I’ve missed you. Thanks for taking the time to check out BillyRocksPhilly to see what is happening in my niche of the cyber world.
As you can see, this post is not about rock. Waaaaah!! Instead, it’s about Vlisco and African-inspired designs for textiles. Of course! I was at the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and there was an amazing exhibit displaying these textiles.
It turns out that a lot of what we think are African patterns were actually designed in Haarlem, The Netherlands by a company named Vlisco. They used this cool wax process for producing the printed fabrics. And amazingly, the company is still in business, and you can go to their website and buy (at remarkably affordable prices, please sponsor me Vlisco) their latest line of cloth sporting African designs.
Anyway, because it was a museum collection, the pieces selected for exhibition were exquisite. But they also had western-inspired motifs where those western references tied into the local African culture that was the target market. For example, the Mercedes-Benz three-pronged star emblem is incorporated into certain designs because the truly successful African women who marketed the textiles locally all drove Benzes. (Remarkably like Main Line doctors and such, don’t you think? They stich you up with resulting Mercedes scar patterns as they fantasize about being able to afford the new E class.) Look at the pictures and you'll see the V8 label from American automobiles of the 60s, psychedelic patterns, King Kong, spiffy shoes, swallows, love bombs and other fun things.
I didn’t really think that I would like the exhibit that much, and ended up spending quite a bit of time in there. The textiles have really vibrant patterns, and were just fascinating in person. And to bring it back to the rock ‘n roll thing, don’t you think that they helped to inspire some rock cover art from the 60s and 70s? They sure look like some of the stuff that still sits in my ancient album collection. So there’s the rock hook: all art eventually grabs inspiration from all over the globe, and artists beget artists. Or some bullshit like that.
I’ll be back with more rock soon. There will be another live show review in your future. But be careful sliding too close to the edge of the seat – I’m a little busy, and may not get the review up until early next week. Until then, keep on truckin’.
I think everyone in America caught at least a part of the Super Bowl. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you watch because of the advertisements and the halftime show. I thought there were a few good advertisements this year – the Mr. Clean one, the Justin Bieber T-Mobile one (the boy has some moves!), and the one with Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken where Walken recites NYSYC’s “Bye Bye Love” lyrics. The others? Most of them, in my opinion, were either pedestrian (boring), preachy (like we don’t get enough preaching at us all the time), or simply stupid (Gronk is a dope).
How about the halftime show? Hey, I’m a Lady Gaga fan. I thought she did a great job singing the national anthem before the 2016 Super Bowl, and her halftime show on Sunday was another solid performance. I liked the respectful nationalistic start to it, which people can and will interpret differently, but which didn’t include anything other than the songs themselves. And I actually like a lot of Gaga’s songs, which were the focal point of the show. The songs are so good that they even generate great cover versions – for instance, here’s Eric Cartman’s version of “Poker Face:”
And the girl has brass, right? The illusion of jumping from the top of the stadium was cool, and she didn’t use a stunt double. Gotta give it to her on that! Her performance was a non-stop moving-and-singing extravaganza in high heels. Even if she is in her 20s, it was an athletic performance for the ages. And it being the Super Bowl, the over-the-top effects and production were proof that America is still the pop culture king of the world. How many drones were there?
Like most things in life, where you generally like or dislike something but have quibbles around the edges, I don’t dig everything Lady Gaga does. And I can understand those who characterize her as being provocative just for provocative’s sake. Clearly, she is not for everyone. But for me, I can overlook the parts I don’t like to appreciate the artistic and pop culture vision that has made her one of the most well-known performers of the last decade. And in a man’s man’s man’s world (still), she is an inspiration to women. That’s all cool by me.
OK, one last thing from me. I also liked the fact that the Super Bowl featured an American artist. Let’s face it, American football is loved in one and only one country: the US. The Super Bowl is a national spectacle that binds us together as Americans over something that only Americans love. So let’s go the jingoistic distance on this and feature artists from America – God knows we have plenty of great ones. To me, the ultimate Super Bowl halftime show would be something like Jools Holland’s show “Later:” a bunch of American bands of different genres set up on multiple stages around the field and they go from stage to stage allowing the band to blast through their one best song. You know, knock ‘em dead, old school Motown style, in 2 minutes 59 seconds. How cool would that be? Way cool.
So here’s to Lady Gaga and a great halftime show. Well done. See you soon, cool cats.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.