So I've been trying to get this blog thing going for a while now....my block mostly involves imagining the feelings of most readers being a big "who gives a shit?" when I go to put fingers to keyboard. Why should I deign to think anyone would give a crap about what my opinions are about popular music? But after consistently reading a number of blogs and other music related websites I figure my experience in seeing live music is about as good as anyone's and my knowledge is equal to a lot of the music writers/columnists I read, and people I've known over the years who work in the business. So, I figure if Rolling Stone magazine can pay money (any amount, it doesn't matter) to a hack that gives 3 stars to the latest Jonas Brothers album, then I might as well enter the discourse, even as a speck (what's smaller than a speck?) on the web. No matter it's tiny and will only be read by a few friends...if I can turn on one person to a new band or song that they never heard it'll be worth it. But if I'm ever going to do this, I guess now is as good a place as any to begin.
I didn't write about my experience at Mountain Jam or Bonnaroo this year, or about any of the other music I've seen and heard. So, I'll try and keep this fairly updated and see how that goes. A few friends have suggested I undertake this, so here goes....
I guess the best place to pick up would be the Allman Brothers Band shows I caught last March at the Beacon theater. These shows were celebrating 2 anniversaries - the 40th of the formation of the band, and the 20th of said band playing the Beacon. Gregg Allman had also spoke about how they were going to honor the memory of his brother Duane, one of the greatest slide guitar players ever, and the original impetus behind the band. There was also talk of special guest appearances, by players that had a link to Duane. I've been to about 15 or so Allmans shows at the Beacon over the years, and I was really looking forward to this run. Opening night was March 9th and my seats were 6th row to the left of the stage (thanks Brad!). The show opened with an acoustic take on the Duane Allman tune "Little Martha", which they had never done before. There's something otherwordly about seeing 2 of the best living guitar players playing together (Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks) and I loved the way they opened the show with this song. After that it was a fairly standard Allmans setlist for a few songs, and the 9th song into the set the 1st guest out was Taj Mahal. I've never been a huge fan of Mahal's (despite his critical acclaim, always thought he sounded like a "me too" bluesman...I've seen him open countless times for bands and was always bored). This time out, he was a great fit...he sang "Leaving Trunk" (which The Derek Trucks Band also does a great job with on "Live at the Georgia Theater"), and another standout was "Statesboro Blues", which has become an Allmans standard, but was written by Blind Willie McTell and done by Taj in 1968 on his 1st album, ("Leaving Trunk" is also on that album). Levon Helm was also a guest and opened the 2nd set. He did "The Weight" and a few other tunes. The crowd was into it, but having seen Levon Helm 3 times at his Midnight Rambles (www.levonhelm.com/midnight_ramble.htm) it's hard for me to appreciate him as much in a larger environment. Rest of the show was good, but not nearly as good as the next time I saw the ABB...March 19th. After performing for a few weeks and having different special guests each night, everyone was wondering when and/or if Eric Clapton was going to show. There was a obviously a big connection, as Duane was a huge part of the "Layla" album by Derek & The Dominos. Anyway, the 3/19 show opened again with Little Martha. No guest played the 1st set and there were rumors circulating thru the audience that Clapton had played a soundcheck earlier that evening. 1st set ended with "Whipping Post", and the 2nd began with Gregg at the keys solo for "Oncoming Traffic" (a Bonnie Bramlett tune). Halfway through the set you could see a Fender Strat on the side of the stage...and then Clapton walked out. I have never heard in all my years of concerts a roar like this. After all it had been 40 years and these guys have never played together live...it was history. From the opening notes of "Key to the Highway" and all the way through to "Layla" (about an hour), this was really rock heaven (and I'm using that term maybe for the first time in earnest). Everyone around me was pinching themselves as they couldn't believe what they were seeing. The sound was incredible and all of a sudden my $95 face value ticket for which I paid $250 became a bargain. Truly one of the highlights of my music-going life. Top 5. Can't wait for the live CD....Munck Music has been saying since June that they're releasing the entire Beacon '09 run, but to date nothing. I believe they're having difficulties obtaining the rights, as there were so many different artists that performed during these shows. Do yourself a favor and get this show if you're at all a fan of either Eric Clapton or The Allmans - http://www.hittinthenote.com/cart/p-945-allman-brothers-band-br-beacon-theater-31909.aspx
Here's the setlist from the 3/19/09 Allmans show:
Done Somebody Wrong
Woman Across The River
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Come and Go Blues
Good Morning Little School Girl
Key To The Highway w/EC
Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? w/EC
Little Wing w/EC
E: Layla w/EC
Next week I'm seeing the Allmans again, this time at their annual PNC show in Holmdel. This year the Doobies Bros are opening, should be interesting....glad Michael McDonald is gone, would love to see some non-greatest hist songs such as "Eyes of Silver" and "Dark Eyed Cajun Woman". Hopefully I'll keep at this longer than a week and can provide my review/experience on this blog.
MOUNTAIN JAM V (May 31 - June 2, 2009) - partial review
I attended the fifth installment of Mountain Jam this past May, which is a music fest organized by Warren Haynes. I never attended MJ, as it seemed to rain every year and I really had no interest in driving to Hunter Mountain to stand in the rain and see Gov't Mule. But this year's lineup was much better than last, and my brother in law owns a great house about 7 miles from the Fest, so I figured what the hell. The 1st day of the fest was great....very few people (which I love) and easy access to the front of the stage. Mountain Jam is set up like a mini-Bonnaroo (including camping)...but I don't think the campers can park their vehicle next to their campsite, as I saw tons of people carrying all their gear up the hill to the fest/campsites. Bummer. One of the great things about MJ was the ski lift. For $5 you could take a 30 minute ride up to the top of the mountain and back. Great views and a phenomenal party site indeed. Anyway, I finally got a chance to see a band I had only recently found out about - Alberta Cross. They are a bunch of guys from the UK (originally from Sweden) that have moved to Brooklyn. Their music sounds like a mix of Neil Young/Jim James (vocally), southern rock (not too much) and indie. Here's a video from their album:
I really think they're great, but the lead dude need to learn a thing or two about stage presence (he's got none). There were about 15 people in the front of the stage when they played at MJ, and they had the unfortunate circumstance of not having a drummer (something about a hospital trip). This band desperately needs a drummer live. They tried to pull off a few numbers but they longer they played the more they lost the crowd. And one female fan was tring to chat up the lead singer (Petter Ericson Stakee) by asking him about the button he was wearing, but he ignored her. (I think the button referred to John Lennon, guess he was looking for some credibility by name-checking a Beatle). These guys were much better at Bonnaroo later in June, as they got their drummer back and sounded great. They have a disc coming out in September, but in the meantime, check out their album "The Thief and The Heartbreaker", it's excellent....despite my review of their MJ show (http://www.atorecords.com/?page_id=2&artist=25). Other bands at the festival included Martin Sexton (sucked...he got angry and refused to play when some house music from an adjacent stage could be heard), Porter-Batsiste-Stolz (very good), and Tea Leaf Green...excellent and the best band of the day. Also had the strangest fan of the fest...wearing his TLG mustache and dancing like a spaz, he looked like an idiot. Love the band though, if you're not familiar with them, check out their disc "Taught To Be Proud", one of the best of last year. Also saw Gomez (very good), The Hold Steady (ok, but I just don't get them), and The Derek Trucks Band who were excellent as always. I took a ride on the ski lift during BK3's performance and listened to them play Scarlet Begonias on the way up which was fun. Richie Havens also appeared, solo acoustic, and I made my exit as soon as he started strumming. Didn't catch a bunch of other acts (Coheed & Cambria, Umphreys McGee, Gene Ween) but thought it was a great fest and will go back next year.
Some new music to listen to now:
Alberta Cross - "The Thief and the Heartbreaker" cd
(link to free new single from forthcoming disc): http://albertacross.net/
Assembly of Dust "Some Assembly Required" cd (track 1 is my favorite, Richie Havens shares vocals with Reid)
Levon Helm "When I Go Away" - great track off of his new disc "Electric Dirt"