Enough of horsetracks and stadiums! I was finally back at a club – the Electric Factory in Philly – to see the Pixies. It was great to strut into the club after the opening act had finished, grab a drink, and end up about 75 feet from the stage. Ahhhhhhhh. The club scene is so superior to the stadium/arena setting! (Let’s not talk about standing for a few hours on concrete floors, ok? Thanks).
Now there are of you out there that don’t care for the Electric Factory. When it first opened, I saw a few shows there and the sound was harsh. But they have done a lot to improve the sound, and they got rid of the DNA-laden couches stuffed into the dank corners. I’m still a little freaked by how you get out of the place quickly in case of an emergency, but assume that there must be other exits that aren’t used routinely. They do a good job with security, and the sightlines are generally good – but you need to be careful if you are standing on the sides due to some pillars that result in obstructed views. It’s a big club, but I’ve never had a problem getting a good spot. All in all, I like it.
So what about the Pixies? If you put on a Pixies album from the 90s, it still sounds fresh and challenging even today. Their music was way ahead of its time. I’ve always liked them, and viewed them as a great transition band between the punk/new wave scene and later grunge rockers. I had never seen them and was happy when one of my crew suggested that we partake of the opportunity.
I’m not going to lie to you: this band is probably the least crowd-interactive band I’ve ever seen, right up there with the Feelies, the Cars, and some others. They simply came out on stage, and played music. Not one “thank you,” “how are you,” or “hey Philly” in them. In fact, I don’t think they took even one break between songs for the first half hour or so. No changes of guitars, sips of water, nothing. Just straight music, no bullshit. If you’re coming thinking that there might be some Jagger swagger, think again.
Even when the band did finally stop, it was for as minimal time as possible. It was a straight-music onslaught. And they delivered the tunes that they knew the crowd wanted to hear: “Monkey Gone To Heaven,” “Bone Machine,” “Nimrod’s Son,” “Caribou,” “Gigantic,” “Debaser,” “Gouge Away,” “Here Comes Your Man,” and “Where Is My Mind” were all memorable tracks. This is a band that didn’t sell a ton of records, but were hugely influential in the music scene, and these songs show why they were – they still sound amazingly modern and new.
They are not the most exciting band to see. There isn’t a lot of moving about on stage. They shun spotlights, and most of the time, play only with backlit lights. They stay in their positions on stage, and don’t even interact much with each other. It’s not boring, but it’s also not going to vault up into your top-ten concert list. Black Francis has an intriguing voice, and Joey Santiago can play some hot solos on the axe, but otherwise, this is a nothing-special band in terms of stage presence. Kim Deal left the band a while ago, and taking her “girl” place now is Paz Lenchantin. David Lovering pounds the skins.
But just when I was about to write them off completely on the stage-presence scale, they pulled a stunt that was fun. It was a very cool thing that they did was at the end of the show. They did not really leave the stage prior to the encore. Rather, they flooded the stage with dry-ice smoke, turned the lights down so that they were silhouetted, and then played “Into The White” with tons of smoke pouring out the entire time. Then, at the end of the song, they amped up the smoke, and simply disappeared into the fog. See my pictures below and you’ll get a taste. It was good rock theatrics and a bit atypical compared with the rest of the show.
One more nice thing about the Electric Factory: street parking. They charge you $30 to park in a crammed lot right next to the club, but if you’re willing to walk a block or two, there is ample street opportunity. And you don’t have to wait for the slow crawl of cars to exit the parking lot. BRP, being the cheap-ass dude that I am, found an amazing street spot and was out of there like my butt was on fire (it’s hot, but not on fire, hahaha).
My next review is going to require you to suspend judgment on BRP. I was in Florida and went to a casino show – so you know it’s a has-been trying to cash in on the casino circuit – but it was so much fun. I’m going to leave you right on the edge of your seat with that one, and I apologize if the blood doesn’t circulate well in that position. But that’s how it’s done here at BRP – tantalize until the tipping point and then leave you hanging. Hahaha, I wish!
See you soon, hotties. It’s time for me to go do something else for a bit, and you, too. Turn up the volume, step outside into the early summer heat, and enjoy the fabulous world all around you. I saw a lightning bug the other evening – super cool, first one of summer. But don’t get carried away - come back soon, ok? Ok!
Hey Team BRP – welcome to summer. Memorial Day is the official kick off to long, languid days, and fun in the sun. I love summer and hope that the season is good for you, too.
To kick things off, here are a few tunes to get you in the mood. Let’s start with The Undertones, and their great song “Here Comes The Summer.” Fun, right?
Next up, it’s Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” I loved Sly and his funky troupe, and this song is slow but full of summertime vibes.
The Lovin’ Spoonful did a great song many years ago: “Summer in the City.” Yes, those days are hotter than a matchstick, but the nights are warm and fantastic.
Many bands did great versions of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” Blue Cheer’s version has always been a BRP favorite. I hope you like it, too.
Enough? How about one more? C’mon, the days are long and you have the time. OK? Cool, here you go. Byran Adams’ “Summer of ’69.”
Here’s a shot of the flag from just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia to remind us that Memorial Day also means that we need to recognize those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in freedom.
Remember, guys and gals, that while we take our freedoms for granted, most of mankind has lived through the centuries under the yoke of oppression. Freedom is fantastic, and the soldiers and those on the home front that supported them, gave us something that we need to honor. My dad helped in a Sherman tank in WWII – here’s one from the WWII museum in New Orleans.
I salute them and hope you do, too.
Happy Memorial Day to the best readers ever! I salute you, too. Rock on and enjoy the remarkable and wonderful society that we are lucky to share.
Oh yeah, and enjoy the summer, too!
Sad news out of Georgia today:: Gregg Allman has died at the age of 69. Gregg died of liver cancer. He struggled much of his adult life with addictions of one sort or the other, including alcohol. It's a sad end to one of rock's best blues vocalists.
I was lucky enough to see Gregg perform with the Allman Brothers Band way back in the 70s, and to see him twice recently with the Gregg Allman Band. The last time I saw him was a little over a year ago, and he looked frail then. But his voice remained true to the end, and when he sang great blues songs, it remained magical.
Gregg will be missed. He and the ABB were all-time BRP favorites. Thankfully, he left behind a trove of classic recordings that we can still savor. To all who love the ABB and Gregg, this is yet another sad day among the many that have tragically impacted that band over the years.
Gregg, we will miss you, brother. Safe travels.
Have you had enough of horns and gumbo? Me, too.
Let’s turn up the volume and feel the bass. Let’s head bang in time with the music. Let’s have a lot of electric guitar, pounding drums, and fast songs about topics not generally discussed in polite society. Let’s have some serious body ink in the crowd. Let’s see some pyrotechnics.
It’s time, my friends, for Metallica.
I used to have a rule never to see concerts in stadiums. But I’ve broken that rule a few times in the last year, so maybe I need to admit that it’s more of a guideline than a rule. Whatever. I have said before that there are some bands that you only get the chance to see in a stadium, and then you have to make the choice: never see them, or suck it up and dive in with the other 60,000 fans. I went with the latter experience and gorged on the heavy metal mastery of Metallica at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Now, MetLife Stadium isn’t all that far from where Thomas Edison harnessed electricity to produce the world’s first light bulbs, recorded music and films. As I sat and watched Metallica bring it, I don’t think Mr. Edison could have ever imagined what his inventions unleashed. This show was big, used a ton of the electrical grid, and had it all: great and massive staging, huge walls of amplified music, big-screen goulish videos, lots and lots of fire and fireworks, and a massive and appreciative crowd. If you’re going to burn fossil fuels, this is the way that you do it.
I’m not the biggest Metallica fan in the world, but I own enough CDs to qualify as part of their horde. And since I went to Virginia Tech, I’m really partial to this band. For those who, shockingly, don’t know, the Hokie football team enters a frenetic Lane Stadium to the sounds of “Enter Sandman.” Here, check it out and turn green with envy that you didn’t go to Tech (or bust with pride that you did):
Anyway, I had never seen Metallica before, and was looking forward to it. I had a good crew of 5 dudes to check out the show with, and everyone was psyched and ready for some hard-ass rock ‘n roll. After all, we were there on Mother’s Day and as one person commented, nothing says Mother’s Day like Metallica.
Before Metallica came out, Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold warmed up the crowd. What must it be like to go from struggling and playing small venues to, all of a sudden, playing a football stadium in front of 60,000 fans with a stage that is the biggest you’ve ever seen? It must be so cool. Back to the music: Volbeat was average metal, but Avenged Sevenfold was pretty darn good. For the latter, close your eyes and you hear something like Motley Crue, not a bad sound. And they had a good stage presence. I liked them. Here are a couple of pictures of Avenged Sevenfold.
Now, on to the main event. Unlike Stevie Wonder, who wouldn’t shut up about how much he loved us all, and who droned on and on that we should be good to each other, not be divisive, blah blah, James Hetfield offered a different and short message. He came out and gave a speech that I would characterize as the “Metallica Doesn’t Give a Shit” elegy. Hetfield said Metallica didn’t give a shit what you did for a living, how much money you had, the color of your skin, your sex or sexual preference, or who you voted for. They only gave a shit that you were out living your life large by going to see live rock ‘n roll, and that you were part of the Metallica nation. That was it. Short, sweet and honest. I dug the message and so did the rest of the crowd.
Metallica has been around for about 30 years. They remain the reigning kings of metal, and they also remain a top-flight live act. They are masters of their craft and rulers of the stadium. The stage they use is huge, with massive screens behind them that both project images of the band at work, and show videos that work with the subject of the songs. Avenge Sevenfold used the video board to honor Johnny Cash while they covered “Ring of Fire.” Look at the photo they projected:
Metallica ripped through music from their 30 year history, including “The Unforgiven,” “Master of Puppets,” “Fuel,” “Fade to Black,” “Wherever I May Roam,” and, of course, “Enter Sandman.” People were jamming, head banging, roaring with approval, and loving the scene. I’ve been in metal and punk crowds a lot, and they can get hairy sometimes, but not here (well, there are always exceptions – we did see one guy get pulled out by the cops – check out the cops and Mr. Narco here):
People were clearly metal heads, but generally not assholes. It was cool.
I brought a small 35 mm camera with me, and got some good shots. You’ve already seen some above, but check out the rest. Here you go:
I recommend seeing Metallica at least once. My crew agreed, with some of them saying it was the best live show they have seen in a long time. That indicates that they haven’t seen Low Cut Connie yet. But they were on target that it was a damn good show, and worth seeing.
OK, kiddos, it’s time for me to move on and let you do something else. I know that you want to spend all of your time on BRP, right? It’s understandable. Remember that BRP doesn’t give a shit what else you do with your life, but does give a shit that you swing by often to see what’s happening here. Thanks for stopping by and come back for my review of the Pixies and a holiday post.
What’s happening? Are you ready for me to finish up on Jazz Fest? I am ready to get it done so that I can move on to a couple of shows that I have checked out recently, as well as some other things of massive and world-shaking import.
Let me get my biases out right from the start: I don’t like huge shows that are packed with people. I’m generally not a festival guy. And I have a strong preference for clubs and intimate settings. Of course, those feelings are going to impact anything I say about Jazz Fest because it’s a bunch of huge shows, it’s packed with people, it is a festival, and the setting is far from intimate. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and have some very pleasant memories of the event. In no particular order, here are my thoughts on Jazz Fest and the entire festival experience.
Jazz Fest has one strong thing going for it: it’s in New Orleans. Only Las Vegas matches this city as a party central venue. New Orleans has great southern hospitality, fantastic food, bacchanalia to make Bacchus blush, a still-lively and vibrant music scene, and a generally warm and favorable climate. I hadn’t been to the city since Katrina, and was happy to see that the parts that I visited were back and apparently thriving. However, it’s obvious that the city’s professional community is smaller than it was before (and it was small before), and that the city now relies on one basic industry, tourism. And like all cities, it has its warts. Crime is high, the city is rundown, it smells, it attracts hoards of drunken buffoons, and Bourbon Street is remarkably odd for a tourist destination. But all in all, not a bad place to spend a few days.
I like people (and I love BRP readers!). I just don’t enjoy them as much all at once. JF on Thursday has an enjoyable level of people. Not so on Friday/weekend days. There are A LOT of people there on those days, which means longer lines for everything (food, toilets, drinks) and crowded conditions for music-watching. Upside: good people watching. Upside: mainly 50 and 60 somethings who are buzzed but not drunk and disorderly. Downsides are obvious: lines, hassle, the occasional asshole (but less than I expected by far), and hard to get close to the music.
Headliners notwithstanding, there is a big emphasis on local talent. Lots of bands hail from New Orleans, and bring with it its signature sounds – zydeco, Cajun, R&B, blues and lots and lots of horns. That’s all cool by me. The headliners are different and are designed to bring in the crowds, so you might have rockers, funksters or whatevers. Note that the crowds for the headliners are huge and make the music watching a challenge and not nearly as enjoyable as you would prefer. Many of the other acts bring decent-sized crowds, but not so large as to make it miserable. And the earlier they play, the smaller the crowd. We had some great music-watching, but I wouldn’t go there to see the headliners unless you are dropping some serious coin for the VIP tickets.
Getting There and Back
You can’t walk there from downtown. So it’s cabs, Ubers, private cars, buses or bikes. Cabs are semi-reasonable at a fixed price of $7 per person, but if you have more people, Uber is cheaper. The bus is the cheapest of all – and we had a great bus experience the one time that we rode it. We did everything but bikes, which appear to be the best option. Recognize that when the day ends, EVERYONE is looking for a ride back to town, and that means loooooooooong lines. All in all, not the most pleasant experience.
If you aren’t tired by the end of the day, there is a lot of tag-along music in the city that takes place after JF shuts down. Of course, the Quarter has its share of party bands, and they are fun, but plenty of acts are playing all over the city. It will add to the expense of your trip, for sure, but if there is someone you want to see, this might be the better option.
One of my problems with the entire festival scene is the limited set. Most bands at JF get an hour. Now, if you paid to see an act at your local club and they only played an hour, you probably paid $10 or 15 and they only have one album out. But if they are a veteran act and only play an hour, you are either getting the “greatest hits” show or a slice that leaves out many of your favorites. Sure, you get to see the band, but you don’t “see” them in the same way as if they were the headliner at your local scene.
A daily general admission ticket is $65, and you get to see probably 5 or 6 acts (you can “see” more, but only for a few songs, which isn’t really “seeing” them, know what I mean?). It’s a pretty good deal given the number of national acts that roll through, but again, it’s hard to see those acts in a truly good way. You can spring for standing-room at the front of each stage, but the price differential is huge. And if you are the 1%, you can sit in covered bleachers, but they aren’t so close to the stage, and it’s even more expensive. We went the daily route, which is also important given the vagaries of the weather. Oh, and there is other stuff going on at JF. There are parades of locals dressed in Mardi Gras regalia, crafts, kids tents, etc. It’s not just music, but I would only go to it because of the music.
Mud and Weather
JF is outside and susceptible to the vagaries of weather. The Gulf Coast is rainy, hot and humid. We got some glorious days, but also some rain the day before. And since the festival is held in the infield of a horse race track, there is mud and to contend with. And some of that stuff that looks like mud? It ain’t mud. Boots are the fashion on muddy days. And bring sunscreen because it can be hot and sunny on the bayou. I can’t imagine going there and hanging out in the pouring rain, or when it’s 95 and humid. But since BRP was in town, the weather cooperated, haha.
Now, this is a huge “thumbs up” for JF. Great local food (soft-shell po boys, Andouille and crawfish sausages, gumbo, jambalaya, pork and cole slaw po boys, etc) and all reasonably priced. I’m big on value and hate getting ripped off (Camden alert!), and JF delivered big-time here. Bring cash – no cards allowed – but there are convenient portable ATMs around. Alcohol and beverages aren’t as good a value, but it’s not $14 per beer, either. All in all, this is a highlight.
Bring Your Gear
You need to bring a chair of some sort (or spring for the VIP tickets, which are truly for the rich – something like $1500 compared to $65). A lot of people bring blankets, tarps or something similar, but remember that you might be putting that stuff down into wet goo/poo. We were lucky enough to have a place to camp out thanks to our buddies. They knew some San Diegans who are regulars and who have the tarps, chairs, baby pool with water/ice, and flagpole and flag so that you can find them. Nothing like rolling out the red carpet for BRP! It’s a pain to travel with chairs, but if you don’t bring some, you are not going to be happy. And oh yeah, don’t forget the boots, and a bag to bring them home in.
Venue Size, Acoustics and Stages
Expect to do some walking. The stages are pretty far apart (which they need to be given that the music is amplified and for crowd control purposes) and oftentimes, you want to see one band at a far stage, then come back to see another band, then back again. That can lead to some poking around, hitting the head, grabbing a cold beverage, etc, and not seeing the bands. The stages are all good, elevated enough for those in the back, and the big ones have the video screens that make your live music experience just like being at home watching it on TV except the guy next to you smells bad and you’re standing in mud and horse dung. The acoustics are generally good but sound waves are waves, and if the wind blows, so do the waves. Like all outside shows, the music sometimes falters because of the weather conditions.
Port-a-potties galore. JF does a good job of making sure they are ‘fresh’ every day, but they still generally stink and have no place to wash your hands. One solution is not to pee on your hands. Expect lines, too. One person told us about how they met some cool people the year before as three of them packed into a port-a-potty while dodging a rainstorm. I don’t know about you, but getting wet didn’t seem like a bad alternative.
The Festival Experience
Like I said before, I’m not really a festival guy. JF is probably the best one out there for the middle-aged as you don’t have many drunken 20 somethings around, but it’s still suffers from the basic maladies: crowds, lines, weather, lack of music intimacy, etc. Sure, they get a lot of big acts, but often they play at the same time (you can’t see them all, but it’s a crowd management tried and true), and JF spreads out over two weekends, so you might not pick the right day anyway. There is also travel and hotel to consider, and New Orleans is moderate in expense, so the entire experience is going to set you back thousands. If you took that same cash and used it to go see local shows, you are likely to be better off.
But festivals also introduce you to acts that you don’t know, and allow you to sample from the many groups that come through. And the people watching is fun. Would I go again? Maybe, but not next year. We went with good friends who like to do their own thing and weren’t up our butt the entire time (and vice versa) and that worked out great, too. Going with a JF veteran, like we did, is also a good idea as there is always some learning the ropes that helps to maximize the experience. Conclusion: we had a good time; I’m glad I did it; I may do it again in a few years, but if I never do it again that is cool, too.
Rock on – back next time with a heavy review for you.
Hey hey hey, what have you been doing? I’ve been laying around on my backside wondering when you were going to revisit BRP, and now here you are! Are you ready for the final JF live reviews? OK, then let’s get to it, my friends.
Saturday was another glorious day in Louisiana. The sun was bright and warm with a steady breeze that it kept it from being hot. And man, did that ever bring out the crowds. JF was busting at the seams. But the fine weather virtually eliminated the mud, so this time it was shorts and sneakers.
We had a couple of bands that we really wanted to see, but not early. So we camped out in front of one stage, and just watched what came to us. It was a plan that worked on this day. We hung with some cool people from Houston, and were highly entertained by the people-watching as well as the music. The first act out was a true keeper, followed by the most ridiculous dud of the festival, then two more awesome acts to finish the day. Can you say a great day? I knew you could.
Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys Amanda Shaw plays the fiddle. I should say that she owns the damn thing, because she is incredible. Only 24 years old, she was a musical prodigy that first played the Kids Tent at JF when she was 10. She has a fantastic stage presence, a powerful but sweet voice, and a backup band who understand that she is the star. Her music is sometimes country, sometimes indie rock, sometimes roots and sometimes cajun. It’s a good combination, and she borrows liberally from all. She dresses up in flashy and sexy clothes, and a good word that I heard to describe her was “effervescent.” I was up front for the entire set, and it was truly worthwhile.
Tank and the Bangas I have no idea what this was all about. There were people dressed in those colored full body suits dancing on the stage, some musicians, and a lot of terrible music. Throw in some spoken word stuff that seemed nonsensical, but rhymed, and you pretty much get the picture. Well, maybe. This was the worst performance I saw at JF, and not by a little bit. Terrible. Awful. Get the picture? Good, because I didn’t waste my time taking any on this act.
The Iguanas Hey, I forgot to mention these guys from Day One, and now seems like a good time to restore some musical sanity to this post. The Iguanas were fun, played a zesty set full of songs featuring both Spanish and English language lyrics, and kept the crowd hopping with their pumped up south-of-the-border but roots-influenced songs. It was a good set, BRP was close and pumped up, and I recommend these guys if you get the chance to see them.
Irma Thomas We made our way down to the biggest stage at JF so that we could get a space to see Stevie Wonder. Irma Thomas was performing before him, and what a treat this was. Soul and R&B filled the Acura Stage, and Irma has a fantastic vocal range that fits perfectly with these musical styles. We were very far away from the stage, but her strong voice carried across the crowd and had us up and grooving at times. We enjoyed this set very much. But we were so far away that pictures were not worth it.
Stevie Wonder I saw Stevie a few years back, and he was fantastic. When we saw that he would be closing out Saturday night at JF, we changed our plans to make sure that we were around to catch his set. I’m a huge fan – SW is a national treasure in my opinion – and was psyched to see him again. Was he good? Oh yes. Was he great? Oh no! First the good: Stevie played hit after hit, picking the songs that everyone knew and that got the crowd up and moving. That part was good. But now the bad: Stevie felt obliged to tell us, over and over for many minutes, how he loved everyone. Yeah, we love you, too, man. And then he also felt obliged to tell us not to be divisive, to get along with one another, etc. Dude, look around you: a huge crowd was doing just that. And if you don’t want hackles being raised, do what you were paid to do – play music. Yes, we enjoyed this set, but no, we don’t need any more preaching and Stevie broke the JF rule of going out and playing music without the crapola.
That was it for me and JF 2017. We saw a lot of bands, met a lot of cool and interesting people, ate some great food, and luckily enjoyed good weather. I’ll be back one last time with my JF/festival thoughts, and then we’ll move on to other things. Like what? Well, today I’m going to shift gears a little bit, leave the horns/roots music behind, and go to see Metallica at MetLife Stadium. It violates my “no stadium” rule for live music, but I guess that’s more of a guideline than a rule. Regardless, I’ll be sure to write that up. And then it’s back to Philly’s own Electric Factory for a show by the Pixies. Yes, my musical tastes are all over the map. Indulge me, ok? And like Stevie said, I love all of you. But I’m only going to say it once.
Welcome back! I told you that I had had a work breakthrough, and now, hopefully, I’m back to my usual rate of posting. How about we head back down to the bayou for a bit more on Jazz Fest? Cool, let’s roll.
Friday was my big music day at JF as there were lots of bands that were on my list to check out. Like everything in life, you have to make choices, and this was a day of plenty that left me wishing for another day with the same lineups. But that’s not to say that it wasn’t a damn good day. The sun came out, it was warm but not hot, the mud (mostly) dried up, and the crowd thronged. I mean, it was crowded! Odd to go to the same venue two days in a row with such a different feel, but that’s what it was. OK, enough, on to the music!
Motel Radio I was psyched to see this New Orleans indie rock band. They didn’t disappoint – some trippy psychedelia added to their alt-country/guitar based rock. This combination sets them apart from much of their competition, and the boys were digging the JF opportunity. It’s clear that these guys like to play together, and their cohesion and fun-loving side came through in their live act. We really enjoyed their short set, and I would definitely see them again Philly-side.
Bonerama Put this one into your “keeper” box, even though it’s a highly unorthodox group. Three “lead” trombones and a tuba are the up-fronts for the band. And for a few songs, another trombone joined the group, making four sliders jamming in front of the stage. That’s a lot of metal up there. And it was used effectively. They played the most unusual rendition of “Whipping Post” I’ve ever heard, but it was highly entertaining and solid. BRP was singing along with the rest of the crowd. I’m not sure I would want to listen to this over and over, but man, it sure was a good time live at JF. Check ‘em out if it doesn’t cost you too much.
Sonny Landreth So I’ve been a Sonny fan for a while, and this was my first opportunity to see the slide/blues guitarist live. Disappointment! Yes, the boy can play the guitar. And yes, his band is solid. But I’m just not a fan of the 15 minute song followed by the 12 minute song, and that’s what he delivered. Once the jamming is on full bore, I go into full boredom, and took the opportunity to stroll around, take pictures, engage in conversations with a ton of new acquaintances, and otherwise ignore the long jams. I didn’t even bother to snap any pictures. Oh well, someone had to fill in the “disappointment” bucket, and it was better that it was Sonny than …
The Revivalists This is a band with a huge national buzz, a hit song, and a great stage act. I really enjoyed the set, as did the entire crowd. It was one huge love-in for the New Orleans band, and the group responded with a high energy set that hit all their “best” songs. This was one set that I was glad that I caught from top to bottom, and my team was feeling the same way. Did I push my way to the front? You know I did. (Well, as far to the front as I could get as I did not splurge for the VIP pass.) Dig it!
Wilco I’ve seen Wilco before, and they are really good live. This set was typical, with Jeff Tweedy up front in a dumb looking hat and changing guitars with every song. No, it was not an overpowering set, but yes, it did feature Nels Cline on lead guitar (this guy is superb – you have to see him live one of these days). Wilco rolled through a number of songs you know, and kept the chatter to a minimum. Unfortunately, playing at the exact same time was …
Earth Wind & Fire Earth! Yes, these guys are as old as the hills, and Maurice White is dead. That’s usually trouble. But these guys had hit after funky hit in the 70s, and you just can’t help to move the hips and feet when they blow into “Shining Star” or “September.” The trouble here, like with Wilco, was the crowd. It was so packed that you had difficulty busting a move (and for this set, I’m including breathing in the “bust a move” category), and that took some of the shine off the star. Nonetheless, this is a fun and funky band, and you shouldn’t miss them if you get the chance.
That’s it for day 2. After JF, we hooked up with a buddy of mine from Baton Rouge who showed us a good time in the crescent. Dancing? You betcha. Live music? Hey, it’s New Orleans, so of course. And lots of great food and southern hospitality. I had had to get up and work for hours before JF even began, and I was one tired hombre by the time I dragged my skinny little butt back to my hotel. But the call of day 3 was in my brain, and sleep was not going to overcome the need to rock and roll. Check back for my day 3 reviews, and then my overall assessment of the JF experience. In the meantime, enjoy the hell out of this day because it’s the only time you get to experience this one. See ya.
Hey gang, I told you that I would be back with my thoughts on the Jazz Fest live acts. I’ve been nutty busy at work – The Man has been killing me! But I think there was a breakthrough and now I’m back. Time to revisit New Orleans, right?
Let’s wind through what I did on Day 1. I’m not going to give the typical full live review because the bands didn’t play their typical sets. Most sets at JF are short – in the hour-long range – and there are no encores (yay!) or fooling around with late starts, etc. It is run with some precision as numerous bands are lined up for each stage, and therefore, they pretty much start and end on time. Cool with me, not cool for those who are chronically late. The shows start around 11:15 or so and run through 7 pm. I didn’t get there quite on time to catch the very first act, but saw lots of music. Ready? Me, too.
E.L.S. For the first set of the day, we didn’t have a band that we had targeted beforehand, and just stumbled upon E.L.S. They are three female vocalists backed by a powerful band complete with a full horn ensemble. It’s cover song heaven, and the ladies blasted through rock, funk, disco and even a country tune. Can you sing “I Will Survive”? If so, you’re better than some of the karaoke performers I’ve seen – but E.L.S. carried it off with aplomb. They were entertaining enough, had BRP dancing in the muck a bit, and were thoroughly enjoyable. Would I go see them again? Nah. But it was a cool way to spend the first hour at JF and get things hopping.
Marcia Ball Oh my, this was a great find. Marcia Ball is Americana music par excellence. Think roadhouse rave-ups and gulf coast blues with some Cajun and R&B influences thrown in. The demure Ms. Ball sits cross-legged behind a piano and belts out her numbers with heft. With her leg swinging in time to the beat, I don’t know how she gets such power given her posture, but it works well. Clearly a seasoned performer, Marcia gave a rousing set and me and the team were digging it. I would definitely check her out should she come Philly hopping, and think that you ought to put her on your list, too.
Wayne Toups Hey, we had to get our zydeco on while we were in New Orleans, and Wayne-o was the way to go. I had seen Wayne decades ago in DC, and he still is lively and kicking it. I’m a sucker for bad-ass accordion (I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing, did ya? Hey, Joe Ely has a guy he plays with named Joel Guzman who is just amazing on the squeezebox). Anyway, Wayne ripped it up. He has some good songs that got the crowd grooving and a solid backing band that rolled through his originals with well-rehearsed and tight renditions. There were some technical problems plaguing his set, but they got resolved without too much interference with the music. All in all, an hour well spent.
Widespread Panic The first of the headliners to take the stage. WP is a seasoned, well-known band with a lot of music in their catalog. I’m not a huge fan, but they were good live. A fair amount of jamming, but not so much that it was like watching “Mountain Jam” ramble on for 30 minutes. It was good, I pushed my way up close, and I enjoyed them. They had a lot of people in the crowd that were big fans (singing all the lyrics), and it was crowded. Would I see them again? Probably not because they would be expensive, but they are a decent live act.
Tower of Power Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Huge horn section, great stage presence and da funk! There was a lot to like about these guys, and they ran through a great set that had the whole Congo Square Stage crowd grooving and dancing. If you’ve never seen them before, you’ve done yourself a great disservice. Go ahead, treat yourself, and enjoy some funky good times with a fantastic party band.
So that was it for Day 1. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is many hours of music, walking from stage to stage, and a lot of standing up. Plus, Day 1 was cloudy, chilly and muddy. The crowd was thin compared to Days 2 and 3 (I didn’t realize that until Days 2 and 3 mind you – it wasn’t like the place was empty), and that made it very enjoyable. I could get pretty close to most of the acts, and the sound was generally solid. More on the entire experience and my festival thoughts later.
I hope you are doing ok, and that The Man isn’t oppressing you. I ask you to check back in a few to hear about Days 2 and 3. I got some pretty good pictures using a regular camera (as opposed to the iPhone 6), and hope you enjoyed them. See you soon, rockers.
Hey guys, I'm just back from New Orleans where I attended 3 days of Jazz Fest. It was fun, had great weather, and I have a lot of music and other news to report on. I'm on a new computer, however, and simply have time to upload a quick bit before I need to scramble. But check back for more in the next few days as I will be popping in and out with some great stuff.
Let's start with just a few sample pictures of some of the characters that can be found at JF.
So this guy was my hero. Yup, that's a full bear suit, but I don't think that those beers are full. I didn't catch his name, but he was cool and hopefully, he is checking out the site. These pics are classics.
Clearly, most people are dressed like those in the background. But there are some that strut their stuff, and here's Exhibit A. It's funky and vibrant. Chic? Maybe not. But America ain't really about chic, it's about individuality and fun. So this is All-American, baby!
My man Dave from Toronto was sporting this shirt. Anyone who ever spun a 45 knows what this symbol is all about. Dave was super cool, collects vinyl (over 3,000 records), and has such a huge collection that a local Toronto radio station set up in his yard and spun his discs. Nice, huh?
We had great weather - sunny, but not too hot, and with a sweet southern breeze. That brought out the hats in abundance, but check out this hat/sunbrella. Flamingo alert, haha! I was wearing my VT baseball hat, and got a number of "Go Hokies" from the southern crowd.
So Thursday was a bit muddy following some torrential storms on Wednesday. Boots are de riguer for Jazz Fest because it takes place at a horse racing track (it ain't just mud that is on the ground, nope). Lots of boots are plain jane stuff, but these were funky and cool. And appropriate for Cinco de Mayo, right? Shout out to my special friends who love Cinco de Mayo!
Oh yes, BRP is dachshund people, don't ya know? Ours have passed on to doggie heaven, but this guy's doxie ran the races at the fair grounds. He must have had my dog because he said his came in dead last. Doesn't matter to me - if you have a doxie, you are already a winner.
Here's kind of the standard look. Lots of men in white boots. I don't know why they picked white, but it's the style at JF. I wore hiking boots, which work in basically every situation including white tie, but these white pull-on babies were everywhere.
So that's Tower of Power in the background - more on them in a later post - but as you can see from the crowd shot, this is not your typical rock festival full of drunken twenty-somethings. No sir. This one is full of buzzed 50 and 60 somethings as the crowd in the foreground can attest. If you took away the band and put a PGA golfer in front, you would have about the same look.
OK, that's it for now, much more later. Rock on, gangstas!
Yo, baby, I’m back. Did you miss me? I was pining away for you.
Last Thursday, I was back at Union Transfer to see the New Pornographers. Yes, that band has a terrible name, especially given that their brand of indie rock is more folk than punk. But they are fun to see, have a solid catalog of music, and they feature one of my favorite performers, Neko Case. It was a good time and a much needed break from my recent work grind.
One problem for this post is that the band requested no pictures, and most of the crowd followed that request. For once, even I followed the rules (I promise not to let that happen again), and so I have no shots from the show. Instead, I’ll link to a couple of songs on youtube so that you can get a visual.
If you don’t know NP, they have been around for a while. They have 7 studio albums, and have collected a number of awards for their efforts. Mass Romantic was voted one of the top indie albums of all time just after its release, and other albums have been heavily praised by Rolling Stone and other publications. Their music is accessible, seldom rocking out hard, and the lyrics are often poignant. They also have a large following: The show at UT was sold out, and the appreciative audience was into it.
Before I went, I was worried that Neko Case would not be touring with the band. I shouldn’t have worried as Neko was there in all her glory. She is a dynamo with a great voice and incredible command over her vocal range. But more than that, she is just a wonderful stage presence. It’s not like she is Jagger – don’t expect that. What you should expect, however, is a stylish woman who has the self-assurance and mastery of her craft so down that she exudes a star quality that most performers don’t have. No matter who else you are looking at on stage, eventually you are drawn back to Neko. She is hard to ignore.
The rest of the band is solid, too. There are great vocal harmonies on many of their tunes, lots of instrumentation (two keyboards, two guitars) and hooks a plenty. Here is a link to the setlist for those who are interested in what they played.
I had a good time at the show except for the opening act, Waxahatchee. They were horrid. It wasn’t that they were without talent, it was just that each song sounded exactly like the song before it. BORING. NP has continued with a great rock tradition of not being upstaged by their opener, but I would prefer the attitude of the Revivalists – they brought along the Weeks, who rocked and are worth seeing – but then amped it up even further to prove that, yes, they are worthy of being headliners. Now that’s rock ‘n roll!
OK, until next time, keep on turning it up to 11. I’ll have plenty more to post about this week, and I hope that you tune in. And once you do, in the words of the Clash, don’t touch that dial! See ya.
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.