It Ain't Right
I was in Costco on the last full day of Summer, Friday September 21. Here's what I saw:
Here's some pictures from one of the local gardens in the Philly area the following day:
A couple of quick comments. First, those roses smelled great - I love the smell of roses, lilacs and lavender. Next, it wasn't just Christmas trees at Costco. There were lighted wreaths and those essential lighted reindeer for the yard, too. Finally, are you appalled? I mean, can we enjoy SUMMER without the Christmas mess? And we still have Halloween and Thanksgiving (the official favorite holiday of BRP) before we get to Christmas!
I don't know who to blame for this, but I'm thinking we round up the usual suspects. And here's a great Fugazi song about greed and avarice. "You are not what you own" indeed!
Fugazi's Repeater album is perhaps the best post-punk record ever made. It rocks so hard and I just love it.
Gotta run. Merry Christmas!
Yet Another Rock Detour
I know that the BSO roaring 20’s music came out of left field for BRP readers. I have a feeling that your real question was “what the heck were you doing in Swarthmore? There’s absolutely nothing going on there” and you would generally be right. But we’re on the Swarthmore College listserve, and they have a number of cultural events that are interesting, and even better, they’re always FREE. We saw Ballet X there last year (I don’t care too much for classical ballet, but Ballet X was contemporary and really worth seeing), and this year there is an art show at the List Gallery that interested us. So there I was in Swarthmore and that’s when I stumbled on to BSO.
Phew, that’s a lot of ‘splaining. Let’s get to the real reason for going to Swarthmore. Ready?
There is an incredibly poor town in Alabama called Gee’s Bend. Most people living in that area are descendants of slaves who were owned by Joseph Gee. A few women in the town started quilting in the 1960s and 70s, not necessarily for artistic purposes, but for practical ones such as bed coverings, home insulation, warmth in the winter, etc. The quilters used whatever fabric they could get their hands on – sack cloth, old clothes – and then turned them into beautiful quilts.
Now, these are not quilts of the Faith Ringgold variety. Those feature fantastical pictures, stories and messages. No, the Gee’s Bend quilts are geometric patterns or visually arresting designs. They first came to light when the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston displayed over 70 of the Gee’s Bend quilts. Since then, they have been displayed throughout the country. Swarthmore ended up getting a small show of the quilts of Mary Lee Bendolph, one of the original Gee’s Bend quilters, and has them displayed at the List Gallery through October. They also are displaying another quilt exhibition called Responses to Gee’s Bend, which feature works by 17 artists throughout the U.S. The “response” quilts are displayed across the quad in the McCabe Library.
I don’t know if you’re the least bit interested in any of this. I thought the quilts were interesting as works of art in and of themselves, but also in that they help to tell a tale of America: dirt poor descendants of slaves coming out of the Jim Crow south and without any art training create visually compelling works of art that are really designed to be of practical use around the home. The works are so well done and so inspiring that they transcended their humble origins, and artists around the country honored the original works by creating other compelling quilts. There are many layers here, and I’m not doing a very good job of explaining them, but sometimes you just have to go see something with the most basic understanding of its heritage and then it means so much more. That’s the case with the Gee’s Bend quilts.
If you go, don’t expect to be overwhelmed. The exhibition is small, and it doesn’t take long to go through it. Do expect to think about them a lot more after you leave and have time to dwell on what you experienced and how the quilts came about. I took some pictures, but they don’t do the display justice as the size, texture, and overall effect of each quilt is somewhat lost when simply looking at computer displays.
The picture at the start of this article, and those that follow immediately below are of the Gee’s Bend quilts:
Here are some pictures of the Responses to Gee’s Bend:
Rock draws a boatload of its heritage from the south. So do the visual arts. Similar roots, different expressions. Ugh, that’s too cloying and clichéd even for me, the king of cloying and clichéd. Let’s move on. The world of rock ‘n roll is calling. Waiter! Something with a driving guitar lead, please!
The Pursuit of the New
If you go back and read through the BRP archives, there are a lot of acts that are highlighted, some well- known and some head scratchers. Despite covering musical acts like Gregg Allman, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli and Dolly Parton, I’m still trying to chase new bands. I’m not going to lie to you: I appreciate many of the icons of popular music, but I also like to know about the latest in the world of rock. Why?
First Albums Are Often The Best
Here’s a sad but true fact: there aren’t that many bands that have the talent to do more than one great album – or hell, sometimes one great song, hence the “one hit wonder” phenomenon. Quick: name a song other than 96 Tears by ? and the Mysterians. Hard, right? Ever hear anything else from The Vapors other than Turning Japanese? Nope.
The first album can take years to come to fruition, with lots of opportunities to test new songs before the album is cut. But once that album is out, the pressure to go on the road to support it, and then simultaneously write and produce a second album quickly, is super intense. Not many bands can do it, and the dreaded sophomore slump can be career-ending. There are plenty of bands that put out one great album followed up by mediocre efforts – think the Strokes – or others that simply had one album in them – say, the Sex Pistols – before they collapsed. You gotta get ‘em while they’re hot.
New Bands Have a New Sound
Do you remember the first time that Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” hit your eardrums? I remember it distinctly: I was in my car at a red light on Radnor-Chester Road waiting to make a left onto 320. I was listening to bland rock on one of Philly’s radio stations when all of a sudden this solo guitar riff piqued my interest. About 10 seconds later, this thunderous drum and wall of electric noise followed, and it was off to the races. Grunge saved rock at the time, and that song was the first grunge tune to really blow me away.
But Nirvana had been out in Seattle building a following for a quite a while before they knocked me out while making that left turn. So don’t you think that is the same for a lot of other bands – they are playing great sounds that are not yet commercially acceptable, but have the ability to lead the charge into unexplored territory. Right now, I’m thinking of bands like Protomartyr, Speedy Ortiz, Chumped, Sheer Mag and some others that are writing and performing music that will be ubiquitous in about 10 years. You can go to any NBA arena and hear the Ramones now, but that was not true during the 1970s when they were actually making that music. If you catch on early, you get that 10 years, and you get to see it live and cheap.
Movements Start At The Grassroots
This is somewhat the same point as above, but not exactly. Sometimes, it’s not just one band that makes the leap to something new, different and exciting, but groups of musicians all do so at basically the same time. This is true over and over in the history of rock: Sixties bands like the Stones, Beatles, Byrds, and Beach Boys all were influencing and listening to each other.
The Summer of Love was the launching ground for the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and many others. Punk blasted out of England with the Pistols, Clash, Jam, Buzzcocks and Damned, then hit California where X, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and the Dead Kennedys came out almost simultaneously.
Grunge hit with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Soundgarden basically at the same time. One thing that hasn’t been said is that sometimes the commercial mainstream catches this (like in the 60s or with grunge) and sometimes it completely misses (like with the punks). If you are only listening to the commercial stations, you are probably missing out on some of the most compelling music out there right now. And if you live in Philly, you may not be aware that there are a ton of local acts that are kicking ass right now – Low Cut Connie, Sheer Mag, Dr. Dog, War on Drugs, the Menzingers, the Districts, Waxahatchee, Kurt Vile, and on and on. Get with the program at its inception and you’re swirling around lots of fantastic artists all hitting their strides simultaneously … and sometimes under the radar. Fun!
I’m Cheap and I Like Small Venues
New bands don’t sell out arenas and stadiums. They play at small, intimate clubs. Not only is the musical experience fantastically different, the cost differential is also tremendous. Low Cut Connie costs about $20 to see – not only are they great, but they are also tremendous value. Back when I was sucking down rivers of wine, I was into finding the $15-20 bottle that tasted as good or better as the $50 labels. This is kind of the same thing: you find a good thing before everyone knows about it, and since the supply exceeds the demand, the prices are depressed. That means I can go to a lot more shows, enjoy a much bigger variety of music, see bands that are working like dogs to make an impact and be heard in an incredibly crowed music scene, and be right up front experiencing an intimacy that is simply not doable in an arena, stadium or festival setting.
Some Bands Will Never Be Hugely Commercially Successful … But They’re Great
Graham Parker. XTC. Big Star. Marah. NRBQ. The Jam. The Buzzcocks. All of these bands had great critical acclaim, are recognized by other artists for their work, but are virtually unknown to most Americans. Yes, there is a cadre that appreciates them, but none of these artists ever sold out an arena (and may not be able to sell out the biggest club in town, either). But I love them all. My life has been enhanced by their songs – in fact, some of their tunes are basically the soundtrack for my life. I don’t know what it would be like to live without them. And I wouldn’t have known about them had music not been a passion of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go for everything out there. I’m not a huge Dylan fan, and I still think that most people say they like Radiohead but secretly can’t figure out why they are so popular. Many massively talented musicians will languish on the fringes of commercial success and never be accepted by the masses. That’s alright with me (but I pity them) because that means I get to see Ash absolutely rip up the Foundry, the Feelies make the Queen quiver, Wolf Alice blow me away at UT, or Kasabian shake the foundations of the TLA, all with very little competition for tickets or front row spaces.
It Suits My Interests
Not everyone has my interests, which is good because the world would be pretty boring if we all liked the same things. I’m happy that there are others who are as passionate about literature, ballet, scrabble, baseball, foreign films, or whatever, as I am about music. It’s what makes a world a world. I love meeting someone who is really into something that I am not, and who will sit down and guide me through their passion. I don’t claim to know that much about music, but I love it and love to talk about it and experience it. I can be moved to tears by a sad song, want to jump for joy with a happy rave up, dance to a disco beat, or laugh out loud by a witty tune. The combination of creative writing and musical arrangement is super compelling to me. And seeing it live is transforming. I’ve turned one of my passions into what you are reading right now. And some of the music that does it the most for me is the new, the non-commercial, the experimental. Cool, huh?
Isn't Thirteen the most beautiful little love song? I love that song. And the fact that so few people have heard it is terrible.
I’m on the hunt for the next thing. This year I’m hoping to see Chumped, Fang Island and a few others that I’ve been jamming to for a while but haven’t yet experienced live. But I also want to see great visual art, skydive, travel my rear off (oops, my skinny little toosh can’t do that too much), laugh at comedy shows, see fantastic theater and movies, read some great books, eat fresh and carefully prepared food, catch up with friends and make new ones, and play with my grandkids. Among other things. How about you? What are you pursuing? Whatever it is, do it with passion and commitment. Thanks for sharing your time with me.
Blackbird Society Orchestra
Hey there fellow music lovers. I have a different one for you today. You know that I am usually riffing on punk, alternative, metal, "hard rock," classic rock and the what not, but last Saturday I found myself in Swarthmore, PA and stumbled across the Blackbird Society Orchestra. Richard Barnes founded BSO with the objective of preserving Jazz Age music using original arrangements. Think huge influential jazz masters like Duke Ellington or popular music icons like Jelly Roll Morton and you'll get the idea.
I didn't catch the entire ensemble, but just a trio. Let me tell you: these guys were good. The music was toe-tapping and fun, and if you truly like American roots music, it's hard not to find a soft space in your heart for BSO. It's not everyone that picks this music to savor and preserve, but we should feel fortunate that these musicians have done so.
Here's a link to their website:
They'll be playing the Kimmel Center on October 21 as part of the Eddie Lang day events. Check 'em out if you get the chance. And if you want to see a short snippet of their music, here's a link to the BRP YouTube channel:
I've got lots of other stuff cooking right now, and will hopefully be posting with more regularity than during the past few months. My tiny brain has been working on some stuff that I think you'll find fun and entertaining. In the meantime, turn up the volume.
A properly chastised BRP has a big case of the "oops." I neglected to post anything about the recent death of Aretha Franklin, one of the biggest soul/rock talents to have emerged in the 60s. I apologize: it was a bad oversight.
That being said, it's never too late for second chances. Rather than go with Respect, I'm going to go with a shout-out cover from one of the best blues-rock bands out there right now, Tedeschi Trucks Band. Here's a fantastic cover of I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You):
Kudos to Jonathan for bringing this cover to my attention.
And with that, we'll move on. Aretha, you were fantastic. Rest in peace.
Back Seat Driver
Whoa, there you are! I told you I’d be back with a review of the recent Car Seat Headrest show at Union Transfer and here I am. Would I lie to you? No need to answer that question. In fact, let’s move on quickly and get you something you can sink your teeth into.
Car Seat Headrest is a popular “lo-fi” band that is the brain child of Will Toledo. Toledo hails from Northern Virginia (ye olde stomping grounds of BRP) but has since moved to Seattle because he has an aversion to sunlight. Anyway, Toledo started doing albums and releasing them on Bandcamp, and the lad was prolific. I believe he has 12 self-released albums. Talk about the epitome of the DIY movement!
CSH eventually got signed to Matador Records and went from being the solo project of Toledo to being a real band with four members. Toledo still does the songwriting and singing, in a monotonous but not untuneful way, but he is now backed up by other musicians. And at the Union transfer show, he had quite a few musicians supporting him (more on that below – just a teaser to keep you reading, and do so because it’s GREAT).
Apparently, the name Car Seat Headrest comes from Toledo’s early days of recording. The story goes that he would go out to his car to get privacy, and ended up recording vocals while sitting in the back seat. The band name came from staring at the headrest in front of him. Now, I’m sure that those recordings were technically brilliant, but it is probably a good thing that Matador helped move the dude into a real recording studio.
So how was the show? Funny you should ask. There were two openers and we missed most of the first one. However, despite arriving a tad late, I think I snagged my best parking spot ever for a show at UT. No longer able to dump my car by the pistol range, I have been parking down Spring Garden for a while now, but this time I got a choice Spring Garden spot virtually in front of the club. It is true that I had to move a “men working overhead” sign in order to comfortably fit, but because safety always comes first for me, I did check to see that there were no men working overhead before the sign was moved. I was channeling Toledo’s DIY!
Back to the show. The second opener was a Seattle band called Naked Giants, who sport a great song called SLUFF. If you go to the website, it tells you what SLUFF stands for, and even though in my real life I am a generous user of profanity, I have really tried hard not to smut up BRP. So who is Naked Giants? They are a power trio of talented musicians making a huge sonic wave. Once they figure out how to make their songs more catchy, these guys could actually be something. They were, however, extremely energetic on stage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drummer leave his kit as many times as drummer Henry LaVallee did, constantly going in front of the stage to urge the crowd on. The other two members, Grant Mullen (guitars, vocals) and Gianni Aiello (bass) were equally enthusiastic. For a trio, there was a lot going on up there. Here are a few pictures:
Next up was the headliner. Here are two very interesting facts about the show (I told you this was going to be GREAT, and here it is). First, all three members of Naked Giants was fully incorporated into Car Seat Headrest for the entire show. Yep, they played every tune as members of the band. CSH bills itself as a foursome, but they were a sevensome at UT. As Ryan said, having the opener also play with you is one way to keep your costs down as you’re traveling across the country.
Second, Toledo never picked up an instrument other than the tambourine. [I’m still trying to figure out whether the tambourine actually qualifies as an instrument. I know in my hands that it does not, but the same could be said for a Stradivarius violin, so I’m no help at all on this subject.] Back to Toledo. Mr. DIY for 12 albums played no instrument at all. Rather, the rail-thin Toledo sang and “danced.” Yeah, he moves kinda funky up there, but in the world of verbs I could use to describe his somewhat herky-jerky groove, “dancing” is the best one I could come up with.
Now don’t jump to conclusions that the show was bad. In fact, it was just the opposite. The band was tight, they rocked pretty darn hard, and seven musicians can pack a sonic punch that is worth every penny you paid for the ticket. In fact, with two lead guitars, and a third chiming in on occasion, the songs sounded really strong.
And what songs! CSH ran through some of their best tunes (including Fill In The Blank and Drugs With Friends), but also played covers by Lou Reed, Dexy’s Midnight Runners (!), and Neil Young. Good choices, all. Here’s a link to CSH’s YouTube video for Fill In The Blank:
And here’s the setlist link from our good friends at setlist.fm:
The sellout crowd was into it, and the place was humping. It was definitely a younger crowd, which brought with it the vibrancy and energy of youth that can help to carry a show along. At one point, Toledo asked how many people were in college, and about half the crowd screamed, including me, hahaha. It was a good time, and continues the hot streak that Ryan and I now find ourselves on. Let’s see if we can keep that momentum rolling.
So what’s next? Well, Johnny Marr for sure. And I just circulated a fat list of shows to my email crew to carry me into the holiday season. I’ve already bought tickets to a few shows in 2019 – you gotta plan ahead to avoid those evil scalpers.
I hope you are also out enjoying some live music and glamming around town. It’s fun! And to crib from Bill Kirchen’s song, there’s a whole lotta things that I’ve never done but I’ve never had too much fun. Keep going – you only live once so don't screw it up, haha!
Where Are My Glasses?
Hey rockers, how you doin'? Keeping The Man at bay? Not me, unfortunately, but screw The Man. Let's talk songs about glasses!
I've reached that age where I'm constantly needing and/or looking for glasses. It's a pain, but they are wonderful to have - shout out to our Philly home boy, Ben Franklin, for the invention! Anyway, as I was recently struggling without my glasses, I started to think about songs that are about them. There are some good ones.
Let's start with glasses and love. I think women with glasses are sexy. I know, not everyone digs the look, but you already know how weird and unusual I am, so why assume anything different here? And if you listen to Rhett Miller before he sings his great song, Four Eyed Girls, you'll see that Rhett and I are fully aligned here. Enjoy.
Glasses and silliness? Oh for sure! Do you remember a one-hit wonder call John Fred and His Playboy Band? Well, if so, that's cool and we are simpatico, and if not, welcome to a great song about glasses. I'm not fully sure what this song is all about, but it's poppy and funny and filled with horns and don't we all need more of that in our lives? And this video shows John sporting the dark underbelly of 1960's era fashion. Without further ado, here is Judy in Disguise (With Glasses):
It just wouldn't be right to have a post about glasses without referencing sunglasses, would it? We have two videos from classic rock icons that are worth checking out, and then one from the oddly named Timbuk 3. First, let's talk about Billy Gibbons and his boys from Texas. ZZ Top had a huge hit called Cheap Sunglasses that rocks and is fun. And it kind of connects with Rhett Miller in that the second verse oohs and aahs over a hottie but what really knocked him out were those cheap sunglasses! Oh yeah! Me, too! And this video captures the song live with ZZ Top demonstrating their signature synchronized guitar moves.
I'm not a huge fan of the band The Eagles. I like some of their songs just fine, but if you put on New Kid in Town, Desperado, Witchy Woman, Take it to the Limit, Heartache Tonight, or Tequila Sunrise, well, I'm just going to have to move on down the road and let you enjoy those all by yourself. Then again, Don Henley had a huge solo hit that I love, and he not only talks about a lost love wearing sunglasses, but even identifies them later as Wayfarers. I think everyone at one point owned Wayfarers (or at least a knock off). I really like this tune, The Boys of Summer.
Timbuk 3? A new wave one-hit wonder, but their song has been in my repertoire for decades. The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades is actually an ironic song about a depressing version of what the future could be. But screw that - let's take it for what we want it to be, which is that the glass is half full and better times are comin'. You with me on that? Good, you guys rule.
The final one. Do you like The Cramps, the proto-punk outfit that explored the area between rock music and horror films? Well, I'm a pretty big fan, and loved songs like Goo Goo Muck, The Crusher, and Green Fuz. But they really outdid themselves (at least for purposes of this post) with a crazy rockin' punk song called Sunglasses After Dark. I never went for that fashion, and perhaps Lux Interior (their now-deceased front man) is just making fun of it, but the song is perhaps the perfect ending to this corrective lens post. Here ya go:
I'm still working on the Car Seat Headrest write-up, but I can tell you one thing about it right now: you don't want to miss it! Check back soon and see what the Kid thought about them.
It's a bummer that Fall is upon us, not because I dislike Fall (quite the opposite), but I'm already pining for those long languid days of Summer. Oh well, that's life in Philly, and I ain't leaving. I like it here. See you soon. And yes, I do love you in those glasses!
They'll Put A Spell On You
Have you ever been to Boot ‘n Saddle, the South Broad Street club? It’s the one with the silly but sweet cowboy motif up front, and the music venue in the back that is about the size of a suburban two-car garage. Well, I’ve been there a good number of times now, and I’m getting to really like it. It’s not perfect: Parking can be spotty and you are in the strange nether world between Center City and South Philly. But the venue itself is tiny, sports cheesy but also kinda cool decorations, and has really good acoustics. And more and more bands that I want to see are popping up there. Think Protomartyr. Think Ex Hex.
On Monday night, it was Ex Hex’s turn to rock the joint. I got lucky and grabbed a super sweet free parking space about half a block away, and then doubled down and nabbed a nice little spot right up by the stage. The show was sold out, and I found out that that means 200 people had tickets. I think I’ve had more people at my kid’s birthday parties before.
Ex Hex is an all-female trio out of DC, ye olde stomping grounds for BRP. I know that it’s probably sexist to mention their sex, but it is still unusual for a band to be comprised solely of women, so I thought it was a salient fact to point out. Deal with it.
And these women can ROCK. There is no candy-assed singer-songwriter stuff going on here. Nope. This is hook-filled, guitar solo filled, pounding rhythm section filled, rock songs. I got some great pictures of the band at play, and am generously sharing with you the hand-picked cream of the crop. Check these out:
Love those outfits, right? And the attitude! I knew they would bring it as I had seen them the last time they rolled into Philly. That was also scheduled for the Boot but ended up being moved to Union Transfer because of ticket demand. This time, they stayed at the Boot, and the Kid was all over it.
Ex Hex blasted through some of their best tunes, and they did it at volume. These ladies like it LOUD. Right out of the gate, they cranked into Don’t Wanna Lose, and as the smile hit my face, I knew it was going to be a really good night. That rocker was followed up by a bunch of other great songs: Beast, Waste Your Time, You Fell Apart, How You Got That Girl, Radio On, and more. We also got a good preview of the band’s upcoming release, and the new tunes have me licking my chops for that album.
I needed a show to restore my faith in rock ‘n roll, and Ex Hex did it. Ryan and I had had a bad spell there for a bit, but this time we were the beneficiaries of a great rock concert. Energy, powerful songs, tight musicianship, and a band playing at the top of its game and having fun. All done in a tiny venue and at high volume. Aaaahhhhh, I’m so back, baby!
And as good as Ex Hex was, they brought along another band that merits some attention: EZTV. Out of New York, they played poppy tunes that were reminiscent of The Byrds, The La’s, and other mellow pop bands with a penchant for vocal harmonies, they were a solid opener. Sure, they have some work to do to elevate their game, but the talent is clearly there, and the songwriting is solid with original takes on derivative sounds. And Ex Hex was generous and let the boys play for about 45 minutes so that we could see a good range of their music. Yes, I know that it can be dangerous to give an opener that kind of time since openers often suck, but in this case it worked. They even did a good cover of the Pretenders Brass in Pocket. These guys might prove to be a keeper. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it!
So what’s next? Funny you should ask. A sold out show is coming up at Union Transfer on Tuesday, and BRP has tickets. Car Seat Headrest should be terrific fun, and I’ll be there with the camera in hand and the earplugs jammed in.
Oh, and I might bring the GoPro if I don’t forget it and it’s charged up. Did I tell you about my last adventure with BRP videos? Remember all the good things I said about Taylor Swift? Well, I took two videos at the show and popped them up on the BRP YouTube channel. Just to be clear, I don’t make one red cent on those videos – I do it just for kicks. Anyway, Ms. Swift had those videos taken down in about 12 hours – I kid you not – and YouTube chastised me for potential copyright violations. I had to take a copyright quiz and was told that my channel might come down if I have two more violations in the next 6 months. Here’s my take on all that. Taylor Swift is going to squeeze EVERY LAST PENNY that she can out of her loving fans. Maybe the real TS is kind of nasty. Maybe I should believe the tabloids. Hmmm, it’s food for thought, monsters.
And the worst part is that this is a rock ‘n roll blog at heart, and she is Taylor Swift, an artist that is most definitely not rock ‘n roll. What was I thinking? The rock gods looked down on BRP and said “schlecht!” and “verboten!” and directed smote at me. I have no idea why the rock gods cursed me in German, but it’s a severe and guttural language and those words stung. If only they could speak in a lilting and lovely sounding language, like Chinese, it might not sting so badly. But message received!
Check back soon for the Car Seat Headrest review. And listen to some good tunes, enjoy the lovely fall weather, cheer for the Hokies, and keep on keepin’ on. I’m dragging The Man around me wherever I go these days, like some sort of leach or tick sucking my blood, but I’m not going to let him stop me from enjoying this great life. He ain’t heavy, he’s just The Man. I hope you are keeping your own version of The Man at bay. And with that, here’s a sweet and heartfelt digital hug for you from all of us here at BRP – come back for even more love! XOXO.
Too Old To Rock & Roll
The original baby boomer bands are old now. And I mean truly old. You know what the definition of an old person is? Someone who is 15 years older than yourself. Well, that means that even for someone like me, who makes dirt look young, can stand back and say, “damn, that guy is old” when I watch the baby boomer bands. I had that experience last Saturday night at the Mann Music Center in Philly.
Jethro Tull was in town. Jethro Tull! Now, I’ve seen Tull a bunch of times, but not for many moons. The last time I saw Tull, my hair was still dark and a bit longer than the way I wear it now. Yet, early this year, when I saw that JT was coming around for their 50th Anniversary tour, something touched me deep inside and I went out and bought some tickets.
Disclosure: I am a huge Tull fan. I probably have 10 of their studio albums on vinyl. And I have a few on CD and on the digital devices. I stream them on Spotify.
As a result, I was pretty psyched for this show. I had had a late summer break from rock ‘n roll while I was traveling and messing around, and I was ready for some classic rock to bring the summer to a close. The Mann is a great venue with terrific acoustics and good seats and sight lines. I had good (but not great) seats. I primed the pump by listening to a few Tull albums during the week, and was all set up to rock it out on Saturday. Yum.
Can you smell trouble brewing? Well, it surely ain’t Maxwell House. The first hint of “uh oh” was that pictures weren’t allowed during the show. Hahaha, yeah, I’ll follow that rule Mr. Usher. Here’s a couple of shots just to prove that some people aren’t deterred by the rules. Be happy that your humble little rules breaker has a few shots to fill the screen so that you can have some digital idea of what real life was like at the Mann last Saturday.
Trouble continued when I looked at the crowd. Let’s give credit that a lot of people who are OLD still like to rock out. But let’s also give a little bit of disrespect to them, too. I mean, Tull is flashing up pictures of the hippie generation in their youth, and there was style and pride going on back then. Now? Hey, sweat pants, gym shorts and a lot of synthetic fibers sort of kills the mood. C’mon, people, earn some style points, will you? I remember when I was at VT that we had a nickname for one particularly poorly dressed fellow student: No Pride. Well, No Pride must have been a trendsetter given the slovenly look of the JT crowd.
And then the lights dimmed and the band took the stage. Sure, I was expecting a lot of session players, and that’s what I got. That’s cool because session musicians are usually damn good. But I was also expecting Ian Anderson to still be able to bring it. Maybe not like in his 20s or 30s, but McCartney can still carry a 2.5 hour show with full voice and energy, so why not a younger dude like Anderson? Ian can still play the flute like a maestro and can still move about the stage quite well.
But his voice!
I remember when my kids were in middle school musicals and they needed boys to sing some lead songs. Often, they had the boy kind of talk the lyrics rather than sing them. Anderson couldn’t even do that very well. He tried to bluff his way through the songs, but at the end, the dude was struggling to even speak the lyrics in time with the tunes. And you know trouble is on hand when they have others take the lead and sing the song. I saw that happen with Steely Dan a few years back when Donald Fagen turned over the lead to some background singers on a few songs. Jethro Tull turned over the singing duties to the bass player on one song, and then turned them over to some pre-recorded unknowns who were on the video screen behind the stage. Seriously? You can’t even pay some money to drag along someone who still has the vocal chops and instead record them on video and sell that as seeing Jethro Tull live? Bah.
That being said, some of the songs aren’t as vocally demanding or feature lengthy musical interludes, and these were great. Think Bouree. And others are just so iconic that, even somewhat butchered, they remain in the pantheon of great rock songs. Think Aqualung and Locomotive Breath. And the session guys were very musically gifted and played the right notes at the right times thus driving deep nostalgia in BRP. I wish that the song selection had been my own version of Jethro Tull’s greatest hits, but the songs played covered the 50 years quite well.
There was no opener, and the show started on time. Tull played two sets, both well short of an hour, and then one encore. A quick exit from the strategically parked concert car, and I was home in a flash. In fact, home in time to catch the end of Penn State’s demolition of Pitt. (Speaking of college football, the Hokies throttled William and Mary, a ho-hum early season matchup, and the Good Guys sit comfortably in the top 15).
Here’s my conclusion from this show: I’m pretty much done with the baby boomer classic rock bands. Sure, there might be an exception made every now and again, particularly if the tickets are FREE. (I remember when I used to drink, people would ask me what was my favorite beer, and my answer would always be FREE. You lushes have my permission to use that now that I’ve put it into retirement. Cheers!). Back to the music now, I’m just not all that keen on dropping significant bucks to see a band that is way past its glory days ruin sweet memories of their previous greatness. I may be old, but not too old to rock ‘n roll, and I’m going to continue to go for the gusto and rock it with bands in their prime.
Ian Anderson is a super-talented composer and musician. However, this show was a disappointment. I think I’ll go back to the vinyl, the CDs and the Spotify and continue to listen to Jethro Tull the way they were. That’s a pretty good consolation prize.
Time to kick it up a notch, right? Oh yes, and don’t you know that the Kid did just that on Monday night? Oh hells yes, I did, and what a difference two days can make. Come back soon – and I mean soon – so that I can fill you in on not one but two solid acts that played to a sellout Philly crowd. Who are they? Here’s a picture:
If you guess right and let me know (no cheating) I’ll send you a BRP t-shirt. I have two left, and they are truly collector’s items. And with that, I’m out of here. Love ya, you rock ‘n rollers!
Monday Night Statement
Hey, summer is slipping away but that means football is back. And that also means the Hokies are taking the field. This is a remarkably young VT team that is playing this year, but that didn't stop the good guys from going to Tallahassee last night and crushing Number 19 Florida State, 24-3, in the opener. Yeah, baby!
F$U is college football royalty. Having to go to their home field on the season opener is a tough task for any team. And since it's an ACC conference game, its importance is only heightened. Make no mistake: this was a big win for VT. And they did it in classic Hokie fashion with a tough defense and a blocked punt for a TD.
In case you missed it, here's a 2018 season trailer.
Not all weeks in college football are this good - Miami got stomped, hahaha - but let's savor this one while we're in the moment.
I'll be back with a lot more soon. Ciao.
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.