Easter! Rock? Yes!
Can you believe that it's Easter already? We survived the winter! I went looking for some Easter songs to jam through the weekend, but it's not like rock bands are writing a lot of Easter tunes. We're going to have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h things a bit, but you're jiggy with that, right? I know you are - I can feel the vibes through the keyboard.
Let's start with the Jefferson Airplane. Huh? They aren't Christian rock, right? Nope, but they did do a great song called White Rabbit and that works for me. Here you go, rockers:
As regular readers know, the first live concert that I saw was Loggins and Messina. Number two was a week later: the Doobie Brothers. How does a band named after a spliff end up writing a song called Jesus Is Just All Right? Don't answer that. Anyway, it was a hit for the band, and here it is in all its glory. By the way, it was way cooler with tons of dry ice "smoke" swirling around their feet.
No spiritual rock set list would be complete without a track called Spirit in the Sky. Norman Greenbaum, as Christian a name as you will ever find, did this terrific song. Fuzzed out guitar! Hand claps! Trippy vibe! I've danced to it and I hope you will, too.
I love Chicago. I love New Orleans. Apparently, Jesus does, too, at least according to ZZ Top. Jesus Just Left Chicago has a great blues beat. And the lyrics are funny - turning Muddy Waters to wine in Mississippi, hahaha. Love it.
I almost forgot my Jewish friends. I really couldn't find a good Passover rock songs, but I did find this parody of Uptown Funk that is pretty clever and funky. I was raised Catholic so I don't get all of the cultural references, but I do get the Man, oh Manishevitz wine joke.
I'm not a very good Christian. Nor am I very good at any other religion for that matter. In fact, the most appropriate Easter song for BRP is probably the anti-redemption anthem by AC/DC: Highway to Hell. I love this live version - look at that audience! If you've never seen these guys, I'm so sorry for you, but if you have, you know the lit up devil horns thing. If AC/DC is not the perfect rock band, I don't know who is.
Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Road to Hell!
Viva Nick Lowe!
The Ardmore Music Hall is on a tear! Upcoming acts include Steve Earle, the Jayhawks, and Jimmie Vaughan. But last night, it was Nick Lowe's turn to grace the small stage in Ardmore. And can I tell you, it was one great show.
Nick Lowe is 70 years old. He has played with the Brinsley Schwarz band (Brinsley was later lead guitarist with The Rumour), Rockpile, and has had a lengthy solo career. Lowe and fellow Rockpile bandmate Dave Edmunds made a ton of great music together. His output is prodigious given the length of his career, but he's also had a huge impact on rock in general through his production activities with artists like the Damned, the Pretenders, John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Wreckless Eric, Johnny Cash (Lowe was married to Cash's daughter, Carlene Carter, for a while), and the Mavericks. He was one of the original artists on the famous Stiff Label, which featured one of the best taglines in the history of rock 'n' roll - google it.
I've seen Lowe a few times previously, including with Dave Edmunds. I saw him solo at the defunct Border's Books in Rosemont. I brought my son, who was probably about 10 at the time, and Lowe singled him out after the show and had a nice chat with him. I liked Nick before that, of course, but after that encounter, well, he will always be thought of fondly in my house [unlike former Celtics great, Bill Russell, who I met as a kid and who refused to give me an autograph even though he and I were the only ones around - jerk!].
I needed the outlet because work has been almost unbearable lately. It was good to get out of the house and do something that I love to do, and it helped. What really helped was the show itself. Wow!
Nick brought along Los Straitjackets as his backup band. If you've never seen LS, they are a surf-rock band who play in Mexican wrestling masks. Viva Los Straitjackets! Primarily playing instrumentals, they are fun to see live. Lowe came out and performed with LS, then took a breather while LS played about 4 songs by themselves, and then Nick came back and finished the show with them. Well, almost the rest of the show. Nick did perform one final acoustic encore song, Elvis Costello's Alison, which was beautiful and touching. A fantastic way to end the show.
When you've been around as long as Nick Lowe, you've written a lot of songs and you've got a lot to choose from come showtime. Nick came out and performed So It Goes and immediately got the crowd into it. Between songs, he said that they would be performing some old songs, some new ones (he cleverly said, yeah, he's been in an audience before and knows that nothing sucks the life out of a show more than the words "and now we'll play something from the new album," but he said that his new stuff pretty much sounded like his old music, and that made everyone laugh), and some deep cuts for those that were way into it. He did just that, and the new song that he played, Tokyo Bay, was a fantastic rockabilly number that was instantly likeable. The crowd loved it.
I need to tell you about this crowd. We got there about 7:45 for an 8 pm show. There was a forgettable singer-songwriter opening, so Nick wasn't going to come on stage until 8:45 to 9. But the place was already packed! I looked around and thought, hey, most of these people are about 10 years older than me. And that reminded me of something my brother told me years ago when he lived in Florida: you can't out-early the old. Proof positive at AMH this past week!
Back to the show. Lowe gave great renditions of Cruel to be Kind, I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll) - which is a huge favorite in my house - Half a Boy and Half a Man, and (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding. And Los Straitjackets did a fantastic instrumental version of I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, and Lowe came out at the end and dropped in the final lyrics. He even played some old Rockpile songs.
One of the great things about AMH is that it's about 10 minutes from my house. I got free parking, but it was a challenge because all of those geezers showed up after the early bird special dinner. I was home so quickly that it was almost hard to believe I had been out to a show - until the next morning, of course. It was a super satisfactory night during a super grind of a week, and it helped me to get through. Yup, I'm a big believer in the power of live music.
Next up, well, I think I've got something that will BLOW YOUR MIND. I'll find out tomorrow if I scored the tickets or not, but you'll be shocked! shocked! once I tell you who it is. For now, just think about what ridiculous show is coming to Philly and see if it ultimately matches up with reality. I'll be back soon and I hope you will be, too.
Welcome back to insanity! I'm glad that you keep coming around even when I'm slow and sorry. I'm trying to get back on a roll.
I haven't seen much live music lately. About the only thing I've seen is the interior of jets going back and forth to H-Town, and my shabby little office. The Man has been relentless. But I did get away from his greedy clutches to go and see one of my very favorite bands, Teenage Fanclub. They played Union Transfer, a great venue if there ever was one, and we got there early and had a great space on the elevated rail to catch an unobstructed view of the show.
If you've never heard of Teenage Fanclub, and you judge them simply by their name, you'll be disappointed. Yes, it's a terrible band name, right up there with the New Pornographers, but both bands are great. There are very few things in this world that are perfectly named. One is the Chevy Suburban. Yeah, GM could have tried to tell us that this massive four wheel drive vehicle was built to do the environs around Moab, Utah, but that would have been a lie. It was designed to haul families around the suburbs with a teeny tiny little woman steering it from ballgames to dance practices to the mall. The Suburban was perfectly named.
Other car companies have done well with names, too, like the Nissan Armada, which was huge and took up 2 lanes of I-95 all on its own. Others, like the Ford Expedition, are purely aspirational. It makes it sound like you might go to the moon or something when you're really going to the Regal to see some tepid Hollywood schlockbuster. And others are just stupidly named with numbers, so that you have to know the brand and all of its offerings in order to go "oh, that's a hot (or not) car." Come on, give us something, like Malibu (young things in bathing suits heading to the beach, yeah that works), that makes us visualize a good time. Not the damn 3 series. Hey, don't bad things come in threes? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Wow, that got off all wrong. Where the heck was I? Right, Teenage Fanclub, a poorly named band. If you dig in to this band's music, you'll find a Beatle-esque "alternative" band from Scotland that has put out some of the best pop-rock songs of the last 25 years. Think Beatles, the Byrds, Big Star and other quality rock bands and you'll get the drift. They have 3 songwriters, all of whom are great, and their live shows usually highlight each one's output as they bounce from song to song on stage.
TF has put out a bunch of albums, but my favorites are Bandwagonesque (Spin Magazine's 1991 Album of the Year), Thirteen, Grand Prix and Howdy. Four great albums, every one of them a keeper. TF came out and went right into one of my favorite songs, About You. I happily sang along to the consternation of those around me who actually paid to hear TF sing those songs. Oops, sorry.
How good is that song? I love it. And you wouldn't think that the guys singing it look like grandfathers, would you? Another one of those "book by its cover" things. Great music is great music. Kurt Cobain called them "the best band in the world," and whether he was right or not, they are worthy of acclaim.
Unfortunately, Gerard Love announced that he was done with the global touring and left the band in 2018. I had seen TF in DC before and all of the "big 3" were there, but this time it was just Norman Blake (who is funny as hell) and Raymond McGinley carrying the load. It was still a great show.
Now, when I say that, it's not like a Low Cut Connie show. It's not showmanship. It's a tight, well rehearsed band going through a deep catalog of great songs. No big light shows, jumping around the stage, or Iggy like moves. Sigh. But a good band with great material still makes for a fun night out. And this one was fun.
Another of my favorite Teenage Fanclub songs is Verisimillitude. They played it. It was great.
How smart are those lyrics? And the song is super-catchy, too. That's when you know you're dealing with genius. Sure, they don't look like rock stars anymore - no Struts here, thank you - but so what? I don't look like anything other than a douche bag, and yet.... wait, bad comparison. Anyway, TF has some terrific rock songs that I just love.
The band covered the gamut, playing songs from throughout their lengthy career. They haven't toured the US very much, and I was glad that they filled the gaps. A couple of years ago, I kept seeing that they were playing in Scotland, but not many places outside of the British Isles. I started hinting that I had always wanted to see Scotland - Helen immediately said "who do you want to see over there?" And then TF announced a US tour, and I got the itch scratched without having to go to Glasgow. It was nice of them to save me all that money. It was also nice of them to come back to Philly so that I could drag along a healthy sized crew to enjoy the show.
The band finished with two great songs from Bandwagonesque: The Concept and What You Do To Me. It was a great way to finish, and pushed us out of the club into a nice night with a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction. They look a little different in the videos below, but their voices and musicianship remain fully in tact.
Why aren't these guys huge? Who knows? I'm just glad that they exist and persist. And I'm glad that I got to see them in my favorite Philly club one more time. And with that ...
I'm outta here … but just for now. I'll be raging back shortly with a lot of other drivel that you won't want to miss. But it's 70 degrees outside and it's time for me to get rid of that pasty-white winter complexion - I'm freaking myself out with that opaque look, knowhatImean? You do whatever you want to do, but promise me one thing: you'll be back.
Love you BRP readers.
Another Philly Favorite
Yo, Philly locals, how great is this weather? Please don't tell me that you love winter. The last few days are the type of weather that just make you want to fire up the grill and have a meal al fresco (which I did yesterday, yum), and maybe head to a fantastic nature preserve like Mt. Cuba (yeah, I that yesterday, too). Follow that up with a couple of Final Four hoops game, and you've got yourself a pretty good day. Check!
Mt. Cuba has a big emphasis on local and native plants, and shouldn't we be thinking the same with music? Philly is busting at the seams with great local bands. Here's another one that is simply FANTASTIC! You ready? Cayetana. These 3 local ladies simply rock. So think locally when picking out what to listen to, ok? Here are a couple of face melting tracks from Cayetana that I think you'll dig:
Yup, that first one is a New Order cover, very good that you caught that. These ladies rock, right? I thought you would like me more if I shared these local discoveries with you. And even if you don't like me at all, you gotta appreciate the great sounds coming from these women. I mean, they're a helluva lot better than the Red Army Choir, right?
Haha, who the hell wants to listen to the Stalin Album? And what songs are on it? "Sweet Gulag?" "I Need to Purge?" "Five Year Plan?" "I Met My Girl (Through the KGB)?" Seriously.
But Eastern Europe recognizes the great stuff in the West that we ignore so that we can self-flagellate over our latest nonsensical political outrage. Here's some pictures from Budapest that make you think, yes, the message did get out and, yes, it's pretty damn good in the West.
Uh huh, now THAT's what I'm talking about. How many cool things come out of the US that the world gloms on to? Great cars, style, music. It's all here. And even when they don't get it all right, they do recognize that you can combine classic American cultural musical references with the world's best breed of dogs.
I love that song - when it comes on in the car, the volume goes up and the windows go down - no matter the season! That's the kind of stuff that just oozes out of the US. Can you imagine guys like this jamming? I think they sang a song about sheep.
How did I get here? I was at Mt. Cuba and Cayetana and ended up in Croatia. Hey, it's a weird world out there, but one that you ought to get out and see. However, if like me, you don't have the time to go do that just this second, stay local and party hard on the Philly music scene. The world will catch up one of these days and say, damn, I wished I lived in Philly so that I could see all those great bands. Guess what? You do live in Philly and this is your jawn. Use it. Or, in the words of a great bumper sticker:
We all hear those voices. Some of us are smart enough to listen and reap the spoils. Live your life. Love those that you love. Do crazy stuff and tell the tales far and wide. Write that damn book. Sing that song. Stick it to The Man. Go For It!
Phew, made it! I don't know about you, but it's been a long pull this week. I don't think I've had a day off in, well, months, and I'm tired. Hey, wait, don't walk away! I'll quit complaining, I promise. OK? We good? Great.
Here's a couple of songs that have been on my mind lately. I'm a huge Allman Brothers fan, and Whipping Post is just one great track. I'll let them complain rather than me!
I'm doing up a concert list to round up my buddies to see some shows, and the Jayhawks are coming to a venue very very close to Casa BRP. I'm white on rice with that show. I think the Jayhawks are great, and if you agree, you'll dig this great track:
I'm getting old and nostalgic. I remember being a freshman in high school when Boston's first album came out. My two older brothers were still in high school, too, and we drove to school together. I was always in the back seat. What kind of car? A Ford Maverick - pretty badass for high school kids, right? Yeah, well, whenever this song comes on, I'm a 15 year old kid in the back of that car again hanging out with my two older brothers. It's a pretty good memory even though I hated high school.
I have been bogged down by The Man lately, and I have felt abandoned - not just felt it, it's been true. I haven't had much time to rock. Which made me think of one of rock's great "comeback" songs: Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll. I saw LZ on the infamous 1977 tour. It should have been one of the best concerts ever. It wasn't. But this song still is amazing.
One more? Yeah, ok, you greedy people, I've got one more in me. Yes, this is one freaky video, but Royal Blood is just one amazing band. Hard to believe that only 2 guys are making all that racket, and that the guitar is a bass. I've seen them live twice and they simply grip it and rip it. Never miss them. Got it? Good, because this post will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
That's it for now. I'm going to reward myself this weekend with the treat of doing my taxes. The Man told me that would be a fun break from his ongoing torture. But I'm also going to do something that I love, which is work on some fabulous posts for your reading entertainment. I have the Teenage Fanclub show to review, and that will be up on Sunday, I promise. And I'm working on my Best Playlist Ever posts, too.
Have a good weekend, ok? And come back to hang out with me, ok? Thanks rockers. One last song in honor of doing my taxes by the best band ever.
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.