It’s a hot Friday night and a band I’ve been hankering to see for a few years is finally in town and ready to rock. Yes, boys and girls, the Weeks are playing Underground Arts and I’m stoked and ready. Yeeeeeaaaaaahhhhh!
The Weeks have been around for a while now. Led by twin brothers Cyle and Cain Barnes, the band formed in Florence, Mississippi when the members were between 14 and 16 years old. That was way back in 2006. Now that they are all grown up, the boys still are together, living in Nashville, and putting out alternative/indie/southern rock that has caught my fancy.
I first saw the Weeks open up for the Revivalists a number of years back, and they tore through a ½ hour set that had me asking “who are these guys?” I tracked them down via Spotify and liked their recorded output very much. Knowing they were good live and on acetate, I was psyched to see them on tour when they were headlining. But I had to first suffer through a few near misses. The worst was earlier this summer when I changed our plans to head to Nashville on a Thursday, opting for Friday instead, while attending a wedding event that took place on Saturday. Of course, after I made that change of plans, the Weeks announced a show in Nashville that Thursday. Properly chastened, I kept an eye out for when they would tour and hit Philly, and that opportunity recently presented itself.
None of my suck friends wanted to see them, but Helen soldiered on even though she isn’t a big fan of UA. As regular readers know (yes, I mean both of you), UA has become one of my favorite venues in Philly. The stage is kind of small (but not so small that the band doesn’t have room to work, i.e., it’s not Boot and Saddle), and the place is a concrete basement, but I’ve seen some great shows there: Marah’s Christmas show (twice), Stiff Little Fingers, the Strypes, the Meat Puppets, a double-bill of the English Beat and Paul Collins Beat, Titus Andronicus, Protomartyr(!), the list goes on and on. Anyway, whoever does the bookings for UA has their finger on the pulse of the BRP hotlist. And lo, they booked the Weeks.
Of course, the cheaper the show, the more bands there are, right? This was a $15 triple bill. And while I usually don’t comment on the openers unless they compel me to, this was a compelling evening. The first band was a Philly local called the Vernes. I had never heard of them, and my first impression wasn’t a good one. It was Area 51 night or something, and they came out in alien garb that was, ahem, revealing. Hey guys, if you’re going to wear something that tight and stretchy, you better stuff some socks. Those were some teeny wieners, haha, and it wasn’t the least bit cold in the room. Nonetheless, the band made up for their limp membership by playing about 7 really catchy pop-rock songs that had me noting them in my phone for further inquiry. Unfortunately, their live act is much stronger than their recorded output, which is overproduced pop jangle. Still, I recommend that you see them live if you can get the opportunity.
Next up was a band from LA called Spendtime Palace. I don’t know why, but the lead singer grated on me from the time he took the stage. He seemed cocky and arrogant or something, and I just didn’t care for him. He was all LA. But his voice was a complete knockoff of Julian Casablancas of the Strokes. I mean as close as you can come – sort of like the ripoff singer from Greta Van Fleet stealing Robert Plant’s Led Zeppelin vocals. You would have sworn that it was the Strokes playing. Except the songs weren’t as good. And they weren’t drunk out of their minds. Still, they played a Strokes cover and it was their strongest output of the evening and had the crowd yelling for more. I like the Strokes. But this guy grated on me.
Let’s talk about the crowd. I used to say that Philly had a great music scene because every show I went to was sold out. It’s been years since I’ve said that. I still think Philly has a good music scene, but when bands like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are forced to play tiny venues like Boot and Saddle, something is amiss. And I have to tell you, I was disappointed with the size of the crowd for the Weeks (but it did lead to a very interesting story that I’ll tell in a minute). The place was a bit more than half full, which is great for me because I can simply stroll up to the front of the stage and get pictures before I spit at the band (just kidding on the latter), but it’s not good for the bands who are actually trying to make a living. It still galls me that ass-clowns like Billy Joel get to sell out stadiums and make large money while great bands like the Weeks struggle to feed themselves. Life is not fair, I know, but still. And Philly is disappointing in that great bands come to town and venues are half full. Maybe it’s a comment on rock dying, or maybe it’s a comment on the over-saturation of live music (and its commensurate expense), but something is amiss in Rocky’s hood.
Anyway, the Weeks finally took the stage and simply rocked it with a really strong set. I have to tell you that the lead singer Cyle Barnes has a very interesting stage presence. He doesn’t play any instrument, but has a great southern vocal style that is undeniably great. But he has some oddly effeminate mannerisms that are almost distracting, and he rolls his eyes up when he is singing, sort of like a great white shark does right before it clamps down on its prey. It’s somewhat unusual. That being said, I think he’s great. Here’s another unusual thing. His twin brother, Cain, plays the drums. We noticed that the brothers have identical tattoos in the same places on their bodies. I don’t mean one tattoo, either. I mean several visible tats. Does that strike you as strange? Or is it that twins thing?
Regardless, the band just ripped through their best tracks. And the bassist, Damien Bone, is one entertaining dude on the stage. He really feels the music and is constantly moving. He’s also interacting with the crowd, and got them inspired enough so that he did the stage dive thing. Now, remember, this wasn’t a sold out show and the crowd was not packed in before the stage. Still, they caught Damien twice, once while he was still playing his bass and once when he put down his instrument and went for it. It was cool. In fact, it was so cool that some jackass in the crowd decided to emulate him, and jumped up on the stage for his own dive into the crowd. However, the crowd did a Dewey Finn and simply backed away and let the dude plunge onto the concrete floor. Injured? Maybe, but hard to know because the security guy swooped in on his ass and jacked his arm up his back as he run-walked him out of the venue. It was different and, yeah, even a little enjoyable.
Back to the show. The band was red hot, tight and jamming hard. They blasted through great songs like Bottle Rocket, Dear Bo Jackson, Grind Your Teeth, Girls Like You, Talk Like That, Brother In The Night, The House We Grew Up In and Buttons. There were plenty of other tracks, too, thus proving that this band can crank through a full and complete set of tunes that has you hankering for more but massively entertained. I was psyched for the show, and the Weeks didn’t disappoint. Now, I know that I like a lot of shows – I’m like the grommet surfer, more stoked than anyone even though I’ve been to tons of shows – but trust me that if you like hard rockin’ bands, you’ll dig the Weeks.
Remember when you were a kid and had to figure out the moral for each story you read? Here’s the moral for this show. Never stage dive into a crowd that is not packed to the gills.
Thanks for your patience while I catch up on my backlog here at BRP – maybe use my lengthy wait to see the Weeks as a role model for your behavior? Yeah, keep checking to see where I’m at, and if you see that I’ve posted, doggedly pursue it. And with that, I’ll catch you on the flipside.
It was a weird night in Ardmore. I was going away the following day and a buddy of mine knew that I was home alone for one night. He asked if I wanted to go to AMH and catch Steel Pulse, the ancient British reggae band. I jumped on it and bought the typical BRP ticket – the cheapest in the house! Since the concert was mostly standing room, I had as good a chance as anyone of seeing the band up close and personal even though I bought the ticket late.
But my friend had a ticket for the seats, and was going to be joined later by his wife and some neighbors. OK, fine, we can still sort of hang out. In fact, we went to dinner first at that Vietnamese place down the street (good food, and I’m particularly smitten with the beef and black pepper sauce, but for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the restaurant even though I’ve been there 3 or 4 times). We had a good pre-show meal. With full stomachs, we headed to AMH to catch the show and link up with everyone else. It worked perfectly: we entered the venue, and I headed to my spot on the floor while my friend went to the seats. I told him where I was and to join me on the floor when the band came out. That was the last I would see of him until the show was over.
A few weeks later, I told this story to some neighbors, and they said that they were also at the show. I’m like, what? AMH is small, and you bump into people there all the time. A former neighbor is a barmaid there, and I’ve seen many other locals I know there over the years. But at this show, I never saw my neighbors even though they were probably standing about 20 feet away. I was stage right directly in front of the band, and the sold-out crowd overwhelmed the joint and there was simply no moving around.
Such is life. Hey, concerts are loud and I don’t do a lot of talking anyway, so hanging out by myself is fine. Some other people at AMH won’t shut up, or are busy groping whoever they came with (isn’t it true? I see the middle aged grope all the time at AMH. Yeah, I saw that!). But me? Nah, I watch the show, maybe say a word or two, and politely smile and laugh when someone says something to me that I never can hear. You know the situation, right? It’s loud as hell, you have earplugs in, you’re jamming, and then your friend leans over and shouts, “hey, so and so is deathly ill.” Having no clue what they said, I smile and laugh because my hearing sucks and I figure they wouldn’t pick the middle of a show to fill me in on the latest illness or death of their loved ones. It’s what makes me so special – laughing at everything even when it’s utterly inappropriate.
Back to the show. Opening that night for Steel Pulse was a reggae band from another internationally known reggae hotspot, Baltimore, MD. Jah Works is the name of the outfit, and they were quite good if not a bit untraditional. Yeah, a white reggae singer is not usually the drill, but this guy had good chops and could carry it. And since he was leading the opening act for the show, he also had the good sense to come out on stage with his fly down. I noticed it, and sat back for a few songs before someone in the crowd (not me, of course) finally had the decency to let him know. He closed it before Lower Merion’s finest could break the place up for violations of the Main Line’s indecency code. That little distraction taken care of, the band zipped through a set of strong tunes and had the place lubed up for the main attraction.
I don’t know if you’re a Steel Pulse fan or not. I saw them about a decade ago with three dudes who were all struggling in their lives – my kids called it Dad’s Island of Misfit Toys concert. It was a good show, however, and I laughed at all the trials and tribulations that they tried to share with me during the concert. Even though I liked the show, I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest reggae music fan out there. In fact, I could go the rest of my life without hearing any more Bob Marley songs (well, except maybe Trenchtown Rock) as most of white America seems to believe that Bob Marley is actually the entire reggae music scene in and of itself, and tirelessly plays Marley, and only Marley, songs.
But Steel Pulse has been around a long time, and they have some really good tunes. Not only that, they put on quite an active and entertaining show. And for the second time in a row, AMH had fine-tuned the acoustics perfectly, and the sonics were outstanding. Coming out and immediately blasting into one of their biggest hits, Worth His Weight in Gold (Rally Round), the crowd was instantly pumped up and the reefer began to burn. I’m serious – the vaping crisis had not yet hit the newspapers, so there was a lot of weed going up inside AMH. And for the first time in a long time, a dude next to me lit up a spliff and passed it around. I did not partake as I’m straight edge to the hilt right now. Nor did the guitarist for Steel Pulse who was offered a toke but graciously turned it down.
Anyway, SP kept right on cranking out their big tracks, like Chant a Psalm (something I regularly do), Steppin’ Out, Roller Skates and more. Just pop Steel Pulse’s Greatest Hits into your music machine, and you’ll duplicate the set list. Which is good for me, because I don’t follow the band that much and wasn’t in the mood for any reggae deep tracks.
David Hinds, the lead singer, defies the patent office and is a perpetual motion machine on stage. I’m not kidding you: the dude has to be older than me, and he is still vigorous and energetic. It must be that he takes Geritol or something. Regardless, it’s fun to watch him and see him inspire the rest of the group to get rowdy, too. The bassist was the next biggest presence on stage, and I’ve got a couple shots of him swinging his axe in front of the front row crowd and trying to hit on some of the middle aged women shouting out to him. That made me laugh, too, even though I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Maybe it was “welcome to Gropesville?”
I don’t think the band had any clue where AMH is located. They referred to Ardmore a couple of times, butchering the name of the place and joking about it. Yeah, it may not be on the international concert scene, but to see guys from a craphole like Birmingham, England bust on Ardmore is pretty funny. Oh well, to each his own. I will say that the band gave a strong performance and even had me pumped up enough to listen to them in the car on the way home. Of course, I haven’t been jonesing for it since, and that’s probably the last time I’ll listen to Steel Pulse until the iPod is on shuffle and the algorithm chooses to play one of their tracks.
There it is. International reggae band does Ardmore and everyone leaves happy, even those that weren’t stoned. Next up? Funny you should ask. It’s a band fresh out of Mississippi via Nashville that the Kid has wanted to see for a while now. You’ll have to check back soon to catch the review. As they say in Jamaica, lay-tah!
Don't we all have friends who come in and out of our lives, but when they're in them, it's like they never left? They show up and it's instant camaraderie again. You start laughing, carrying on, and acting as though you had just seen them a day before, but it might have been months or years. Know what I mean?
My man Jeff was in town. He loves live rock 'n' roll, and has an adventurous spirit. Basically, he's up for whatever show is rolling through town, which sort of sounds like yours truly. We don't get to see each other much, but we've been able to catch some great shows in the past. It's what we do. Who have we seen? Well, Low Cut Connie, Queens of the Stone Age, Royal Blood, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, the Heavy Pets. Some of these bands we just went to see without knowing anything about them, while others are BRP legends and the timing was just so choice.
This trip, the choices were not abundant. I hunted and finally decided to go see Davy Knowles after watching a couple of his videos on YouTube. It helped that he was playing at the Ardmore Music Hall, which is just so close, and he only wanted $20 for the performance. What the heck, if it sucks we'll split early and go find something else to do.
Well, he didn't suck. In fact, he was damn good. For those who don't know about him, and that would be many people, Knowles is a blues guitarist from that known blues hotspot, the Isle of Man. He's mainly a self-taught guitarist who was heavily influenced by Dire Straits, Cream and Celtic music. Yeah, that's some stuff right there. He has solo albums and has also been a front man for Back Door Slam. He plays a well worn Fender Stratocaster, and for a guitar slinger, he isn't always changing guitars and messing with his soundboard. It's refreshing.
Jeff and I got there early and grabbed a choice spot right in front of the stage. Davy basically played right in front of us all night, ripping off guitar licks that were eye-popping. He stuck to blues numbers, some of which I knew, many of which I didn't. No worries on that - the blues performed live are fantastic even if you don't know the songs. To me, they are accessible and full of human emotion and struggle. I love that stuff.
I was also impressed with AMH on this night. It wasn't sold out but there was a healthy crowd. There was energy but no bumping and grinding, and I had perfect sight lines, and the mix was spot on. I'm usually not a fan of the venue, but I'll give it credit when it's due.
Here are a couple of tracks from Davy - some of which are old - that give you a feel for how good he is. I forgot to mention that he has a pretty good blues voice, and that is amply demonstrated in the first video. Enjoy:
Davy had a good band, too, in particular this dude on keyboards. I don't know his name, but oh my, he could play. There is a particular solo I have in mind where he had the crowd screaming and Davy simply smiling and shaking his head. Indeed, it was that good.
Davy brought along another treat. The opener was Jamie McLean, a great New Orleans guitarist who has played with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Aaron Neville. He brought along the sound of his city, a great mix of blues, funk, jazz and rock. He ripped through a terrific set, and then came out and played with Davy. The latter was Fun with a capital F. The two savants traded guitar licks, trying at first to mimic, and then ultimately to top the other. Spontaneous stuff like that doesn't happen that much, and it felt like being in someone's basement back in the old days. Except, of course, the musicianship was top notch.
I don't know who that couple was in the foreground of the pictures of McLean, but talk about bringing it - they danced the entire evening and had a blast. I boogied, sure, but didn't bust the patented moves for which I'm famous (infamous?). I admired them for getting right out front and having a blast. We all ought to be like that more often than we are.
There you have it. Jeff comes to town, I search for a show, we attend one by an obscure dude that blows us away, and we leave satisfied and happy. It doesn't always work out that way, but then again, the magic of BRP can envelop everyone and make them feel like partying at 100 mph. Hahaha, if only!
It's magic time at BRP. I have a few more shows to write up - 3 to be exact and another one coming up this week - so there should be plenty of reason for you to swing by. I'm trying to keep up with my own life at this point. Here's a proposal for you: you come on around and let me know you're reading, and I'll keep posting. Deal? Let's shake on it.
I'll catch up with you later.
I love American roots music. I've been watching the Ken Burns series on country music, and it has reminded me of just how much I love Americana music. Here's a few songs, including a new and great one out of Texas, to keep your Sunday buzzin'.
Let's start new with Whiskey Myers out of Tyler, Texas. If you like rock, I don't know how you won't be able to like this, too. It grooves and moves, and makes me want to take my girl out and dance. Here ya go:
I've loved Joe Ely's music forever. He's from West Texas where the sky goes on forever and the land is flat as a pancake. If you want to see for a few miles, stand on a coffee can and the view unfolds. I've seen him a few times, and this is one of my favorite tracks. It's all American in the best way possible.
I like to dance. Here's a great little dance track from Dwight Yoakam. I like honky tonks blasting out great tunes just like this one. Try it out and then go find your person and go dancing. You won't be sorry, trust me.
Perhaps the best country/roots performer out there is a fella named Chris Stapleton. I'm going to give you about 15 minutes why. Take a look and a listen when you have the time. He's so goooooood.
Let's go back-to-back classics: Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. Enough said.
There you go. New to old, but all great. How's that for a beautiful sunny Sunday?
You know I'm thinking of you and enjoying immensely the fact that you decided to hang out with me for a few minutes. Swing by soon as I've got three concert reviews to post, and I'm adding to that list this week. Phew, I'm tuckered out just thinking about it!
See you soon.
I've been stuck on Smokey Robinson lately, particularly this song. I love it. I want to share it. It's sweet, sad, and yet hopeful too. And it has a bouncy sound that you can dance to. Here you go:
My oh my, the musicians of my youth are all beginning to play their last gig.
Last week, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and Eddie Money of Eddie Money both cashed their last check and left us mere mortals to wander the face of the Earth.
I was always a Cars fan. Their first album didn't sound like much of the other "radio ready" songs being played on my FM kit, and they had a very nice career run. The man behind it all was Ric Ocasek. A gaunt, skinny dude with always-on shades, Ric was not the most dynamic performer I've ever seen, but hey, he married a supermodel and made enough dough that he could live a life many of us only dream of. Here are a couple of Cars tunes in remembrance:
Good stuff, right?
And then there's Eddie Money. He came blazin' out of the radio during my high school years with a couple of monster hits. Somehow he was able to remain relevant enough to score a reality TV show decades later. I didn't really follow his career, but just have fond memories of driving around in V-8 muscle cars in the late 70s with Mr. Money on the radio.
I have a feeling that the Reeper is going to be busy with a lot of older rockers soon. That will be an end of an era. But the magic of recorded music and YouTube will keep these people in our minds and hearts for as long as we want to remember them. For now, let's say goodbye to Ric and Eddie, and wish them godspeed.
Philly has produced a lot of great bands over the years. It's also produced a number of solid bands that had a good run. Such is Cayetana. Cayetana performed a going away show at Union Transfer recently as the band has decided to call it quits. It was a great show, with a lot of emotion and a loving, almost tender crowd there to support the band.
For those who don't know, which is most people, Cayetana is a trio of three women that play indie, punkish rock. Kelly Olsen, Allegra Anka and Augusta Koch formed in 2011, put out a few EPs and full-length albums, and developed a nice local following. They were solid enough to tour in support of a number of bands.
Augusta Koch plays guitar and does the singing. While she doesn't have a beautiful voice, it's a good voice, and her lyrics always felt expressive and emotionally vulnerable. She has a nice stage presence, but given the situation of the band's final performance in front of friends and family, it's kind of hard to judge whether or not this was a "typical" show.
The critics really liked Cayetana, but alas, one of the ladies decided it was time to move to California and pursue other interests. Thus, the demise of the band. But they left a nice little legacy, and some good artistic output to remember them by. I'm sure we'll hear more from them in the future, but maybe not as Cayetana. Want to hear some stuff? Of course you do. The band opened the show at Union Transfer with Mesa and it was a rip-snorting way to get the show up and jumping. Here it is:
I really like this track, too: Scott, Get The Van, I'm Moving. It rocks and it's about a subject that a lot of us have experienced. I dare you to listen to this a few times in a row. It will get stuck in your brain and you'll want more more more. Yeah, it's that good.
It was quite a good show. And like I said earlier, it was a very emotional love-in, both from the band's perspective and from the crowd's. That made the night more special than just seeing another live rock show (which, of course, is always special).
I keep hearing that rock is dead, no one is putting out good music anymore, all the great rock songs have been written, blah blah blah. Hey, here's proof that people saying that are ignorant and wrong. There's a ton of great rock still going in this country, and it's there for the taking at clubs all over this city. If you watch these videos and disagree, well, then you never liked rock in the first place.
One more track, just to prove how smart these ladies are. They covered a fantastic New Order song called Age of Consent. Here's the Cayetana version followed by the original New Order version. They're both good, but I prefer Augusta's lyrical take on it. I also like the more guitar-centric version and less synth-y take by Cayetana. What do you think? Listen and tell me:
And with that, it's goodbye to Cayetana and good luck to these three ladies. Thanks for the songs and memories, and keep going for the gusto.
As for me, I've got a few more live shows to get you caught up on. How can that be? I feel like I've been posting and writing reviews all summer, but I have two shows to write up that I just saw, and I'm on schedule to see a few more before September leaves us. Keep up, kids, life is for living!
Love ya, BRP readers!
I was kind of scared to see the Rolling Stones. Not about the crowd, or the cost, or the hassle. No, I was concerned that the ancient Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood would put out a pathetic performance that would ruin my memory of the Rolling Stones forever. I saw Jethro Tull last summer. I love Tull and had seen them a bunch of times when we are all decades younger. But last summer’s show was terrible – Ian Anderson’s voice is shot and it killed the whole thing for me, and has now left a bitter taste in my mouth. But I went to see the Stones anyway at the massive MetLife stadium in the Meadowlands. You see, I had free tickets.
I have seen the Stones when they were (a) pretty young, (b) “old”, and now (c) geriatric. I’ve always been a fan, but haven’t been listening to their music much lately. With the show approaching, I did the Spotify “This is the Rolling Stones” playlist to get into the spirit. What I got was a lot of great memories as rocking songs from my early childhood through about 15 years ago were played. I also once again had a grudging realization that many of their songs are just great rockers. Jagger’s voice and mean/cutting lyrics. Richards signature guitar licks combined with Woods guitar weaves. Great backup musicians like Chuck Leavell and Daryl Jones. Man, it’s true: this is rock ‘n’ roll.
But what was it going to be like to see a 76 year old Mick Jagger, fresh from heart valve surgery, trying to perform songs that are 50+ years old? Richards is the same age, Charlie Watts is 78 and Ron Woods is the baby at 72. How would they all hold up? As you know, I’m big on performers who also rock, and if Jagger isn’t the best of the classic rock frontmen, I don’t know who is. You can have Freddie Mercury, Roger Daltry, Steven Tyler and Robert Plant. I’ll take Jagger and his over-the-top, exaggerated rooster strutting around the stage. My big question was this: can they still do it while most of their contemporaries need to take Advil just to get out of bed?
Before that question could be answered, we first had to hear the Wombats. A trio on a huge stadium stage, they were prohibited from using the runway down the middle of the field. The Stones are no fools. I had a buddy who saw the Stones in Jacksonville while he was in college. It was at the Gator Bowl in the hot sun. An up-and-coming band from Southern California opened for the Stones – Van Halen. As my buddy described it later, “the Stones were good, but damn, Van Halen blew them off the stage.” I’ve seen Van Halen, including the original lineup back in the day. I don’t doubt the story. Thus, the Stones now prohibit their opening acts from making full use of the stage. No more upstaging these guys!
Back to the Wombats. They were fine, but nothing special. I wouldn’t go out of my way to check them out. In fact, I think I went back to the food stand while they were playing, and chatted with my seatmates quite a bit during their performance. It wasn’t forgettable, but it wasn’t compelling, either.
The Wombats left to go back to wherever they had come from, and next up was the main attraction. I was checking out the crowd, and I’ll say this, it was pretty mixed in ages if not ethnicities. I saw plenty of young people at the show. I also saw massive amounts of boomers. They were buying all kinds of Stones paraphernalia and strutting around in their earlier Stones tour shirts. Some were wearing Stones capes, Stones hats, buttons, pins, pants, “Hawaiian” shirts with the tongue logo, and the like. I kept thinking that if they spent that money on seeing new rock bands, the world might be a better place.
Instead, they made the rich richer (probably at the same time lamenting about the nation’s income inequality). To each his own, but I was reading the comments to an article about the Stones ongoing tour, and there were a bunch of boomers saying that rock is dead, there is no good rock after 1985, blah blah. Yeah, right man, keep going to see the same bands that are stuck in the comfort zone of your youth, and I’ll go see the vibrant young talent that is still out there flying the flag. And I’ll go see the Stones, too. With free tickets, hahahaha.
Hey, here’s one thing I can’t figure out. If there was ever a group of guys that treated women like complete crap, it’s the Rolling Stones. I mean, the groupies, the lyrics to their songs, their lifestyle. Check out the lyrics to Some Girls:
Do you think they could even play that song now? It’s racist, sexist, and whatever “ist” there is, and it’s not an outlier in their catalog. If they were running for office, they would be crucified. Yet, the boomer women are all there, singing along to misogynistic slut songs. Someone explain this to me.
Despite being surrounded by a lot of aging rockers, I was still a bit shell-shocked when the Stones took the stage and I got a good view of them on the massive screens flanking the stage. Wow! Jagger, Richards and Wood were so old looking! Jagger was the one most prominently featured, and while he dyes his hair (at least Charlie Watts remains authentic in that regard) so that it has the appearance of youth, the rest of his face was what you would expect a 76 year old guy to look like. Dressed in a red sequined jacket and black pants, he sought the look of youth, but damn, those craggy features have AGED.
Then I started to think again. They all are fit and in good shape, particularly Jagger. They’re playing a great song (they started with Street Fighting Man), and Jagger is prancing and moving around the stage, which is massive. The sound is top flight. They aren’t trying to dazzle with props like in previous shows I attended (no massive penis, no honky tonk women). They’re just rocking.
And then I got completely over it and completely into the show. They played a set of great songs:
They had a solid backup band with horns, keys, and singers, albeit they haven’t ever mastered playing live performances as a tight and ripping unit. Nope, they’re still the sloppy live band that you’ve seen before, and some of the songs were just not played that well – for instance, Let’s Spend the Night Together was played too slow and they couldn’t replicate many of the great guitar riffs if they wanted to do so. And starting the “whoo hoo” at the beginning of Sympathy for the Devil rather than in the middle of the tune where it belongs, was not cool. But these are quibbles.
What was impressive is that the boys still have it. At the end of the show, I was tired from standing up, but Jagger must have done 3 or 4 miles on the stage. No, he doesn’t have the same moves that he did back in the day, but he did it from start to finish and was better than 95% of the young bands that I still see. The rest of the band was up to it, too. Rather than cringing, I was inspired by these guys.
I’m beginning to get a bit long in the tooth, but I’m not the least bit ready to give up on physical exertion. It’s heartening to know that 4 guys who have done massive amounts of drugs, exposed themselves to god knows what number of sexual partners resulting in who-knows-what in terms of auto-immune illnesses, swam in alcohol, and abused their bodies for decades are still capable of moving and grooving well into their mid-70s. Sure, they aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still pretty damn good. Also, they aren’t doing this just for one night. They are on tour, playing over 20 cities. Color me impressed.
You know that I’m reluctant to see these aging boomer bands. They command high ticket prices, play in massive venues, and the show is often spotty if not downright bad. But when a band like the Stones puts it all together and play like what I recently experienced, it restores my faith. As one of their contemporaries sang many years ago: Long live rock, I need it every day!
And get it I did. Two nights later, I was out catting around yet again. This time it was down at a much smaller, intimate venue that I love. Yup, Union Transfer. And it was a going away show for a band from Philly that deserves a lot more attention than they ever got. I’ll be back shortly with that review. And I’ve got tickets to three more shows in the next few weeks. The Kid is back and rockin’ – can you keep up? Only if your name is Jagger, hahaha.
Have you ever been to a show that you were hopped up about and no one else even showed up? It doesn’t happen often. I saw Ash at the Foundry a few years back, and about 100 people were there. Ash just tore it up that night, playing all of the classic 1977 album and then the best tracks from the rest of their catalog. On that night, Ash was the best live band in the world, and only about 100 people witnessed it. Such is life, but it’s unusual to have that experience.
At the Boot recently, I was pretty psyched to see Pittsburgh’s indie rock savants, The Gotobeds. It took me a while to get around to grabbing tickets, and I was a bit worried about getting shut out. Well, that concern was ill-founded. We got to the Boot only to find that about 20 people were going to see this show. And twenty might be about 5 people generous. Hoo boy.
I learned of the Gotobeds from the Sound Opinions guys. I downloaded their first CD and really enjoyed it. Indie garage rock stylists with an attitude, sort of like the Fleshtones with less humor. Yeah, that’s in the BRP catalog for loved musical genres. Seeing that they were going to be playing the Boot was excellent – nothing like a hot summer’s evening full of guitar driven sloppiness.
Well, we got there and the joint was EMPTY. Even the cowboys and cowgirls who frequent the front bar were somewhere else, probably sleeping on the floor of someone’s dad’s house in Avalon. We hung out with the guy who runs the door for the club (who has dreds down to the back of his knees), and had a nice chat about the Boot, its sister venue Union Transfer, the overcapacity of clubs in Philly that can hold about 4 – 500 people, the trouble with Underground Arts as a venue but the respect for the bands that it routinely brings in, how crappy the Electric Factory nee Franklin Music Hall is, and other such world-bending issues. Very enjoyable pre-show banter. But our boy also was honest that not many people had bought tickets, and the walk up crowd was unlikely to materialize. Worse yet, the opening act, who was local and thus would probably bring along 15 or so friends and hangers-on, had cancelled, so it was just going to be the Gotobeds.
After waiting around for a long time, the band finally decided to go on stage. They were good-natured about the whole thing. One of them said that this was how they were spending their vacation. When I tried to clarify by saying “wait, so you’re on vacation?”, the answer I got was “Dude, this ain’t work.” That’s the damn truth. Anyway, they got up there, said that they were the Gotobeds and that tonight they were opening for the Gotobeds, and then they got down to business.
I don’t know whether they decided to treat the night as a live rehearsal or if they are just consummate professionals, but the boys didn’t skimp on the show. Well, they only played about 50 minutes, but what I mean is that they went after the songs, played them with motivation, jumped around and engaged in some silly stage hijinks (like jumping off the amps), and otherwise gave it their all. They played with urgency and desire.
Yes, they played the songs I wanted them to play. Yes, they were fun. No, they shouldn’t give up the day jobs (assuming they have them – if not, they should consider whether to get them). And yes, they reminded me how tough it is to make it in the music business. This, after all, is a band with a record deal and enough PR clout to get noticed by some prominent rock podcasters with influence. Yet, they could only get about 20 (ok, 15) people out to see them play for $10 on a summer’s evening in the nation’s 6th largest city? A city that cares about rock and has a passion for live music? That’s trouble, man.
I had a good time. I ate a bitchin’ cheesesteak before the show at a place I never would have thought would be up to it. And because of the limited nature of the evening’s performance, I was home early and not dragging a dog-tired body through The Man’s workhouse of horrors the next day. I could complain, but that would be extravagant, and I’m not extravagant. In fact, I’m a common dude, a man of the people. I love live music, and enjoyed the sensation of being in someone’s basement while a talented group of people played some interesting tunes at high decibel levels. It could have been worse.
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.