Saturday, March 5, 2011

"I promise this weekend will be full of staring out a window,

while holding a glass of scotch." - Jack Donaghy.

I've been catching up on my 30 Rock and South Park and Season 5 of 30 Rock is smashing Season 14 of SP. Trey and Matt need to up their game for Season 15. 10 years ago I couldn't have fathomed the idea that Alec Baldwin would be one of the most entertaining people on television in the future.

It's very rare that making a phone call to an airline is generates any joy in my life. I called Pacific Blue last week to change the return date of my Australian expedition and as expected, was placed on hold. I was at work, so I put the call on the speaker phone and continued with the email I was typing. A few minutes later I took notice of the beat of the hold music that was playing and turned the volume of the speaker phone. I immediately knew that I liked the song, and quickly tried to Shazam it, but in a strange twist of events actually got connected to the customer service agent. The chorus was very repetitive so I looked it up, found the artist, downloaded and have probably played it 50 times since then.

I catch a song like this every now and then (the last one being "Heartbeats" by the Knife). Sometimes a song with a really strong beat and chorus can reel me in and I just can't get enough of it. I don't think it will take long for this one to get onto the ipod's of the masses. It's feels a little bit to me like "Walking on a Dream" or "Little Secrets", and like those tunes, will probably be completely played out by the end of the US summer.  It's not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination. It's a great song to run or workout too. Most of the sounds on the track can be looped. Drum beat: loop. Bass line: loop. The singing is done through a voice effects box, so their really no telling whether these guys are talented or just got lucky. I just checked out the video and guys look like d-bags; like they got rejected from the fraternities and the emo hipsters in the same week and formed their own loser clan as a result. The lyrics of the song are pretty dark, if you can make any sense of them at all. I do like the opening line "Robert's got a quick hand."

Foster The People - "Pumped Up Kicks" from Foster The People on Vimeo.

The Byron Bay Blues Festival is about to go from pretty f-ing amazing to a once in a lifetime experience. At least for me it is. It should be announced this week, that my all time favorite guitarist and one of my musical heroes will be added to the festival lineup.



Kicking off with Warren Haynes' unmistakable and masterful guitar over gospel-soaked piano, the title track to the dynamic new album Man in Motion functions as a mission statement for the legendary musician and his signature brand of rock, blues and soul. Driving horn blasts and powerful organ punctuate some of the most soulful guitar playing and singing that Haynes has ever recorded. Appropriately, Stax/Concord will release 'Man In Motion' May 10. Check out video of "The River's Gonna Rise" live from Haynes' sold-out Christmas Jam in Asheville, NC:

Man in Motion is also a snapshot of a creatively restless musician who is constantly in artistic motion himself. "Musicians are students for life. We have to continually take new approaches," affirms Haynes. It's not Haynes' first foray as a soul man, however. "Soul music was my first love," says Haynes. "The first LPs I had growing up in Asheville [NC] were greatest hits compilations from Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, James Brown, Junior Walker, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, Wilson Pickett, and The Supremes." Man in Motion contains all original Haynes songs with the addition of original Stax recording artist William Bell's hit 'Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday'.

The album harks back to another theme of his young life: Haynes started out as a singer before he began playing guitar. "The vocal is more of a centerpiece on 'Man in Motion, he says. Haynes' singing shines on the album, with a bold and emotive delivery that shimmers with his smoky vibrato.

Man in Motion clocks in at over an hour, allowing for its ten tracks to breathe and develop, punctuated by a stellar rhythm section and sophisticated, moving solo guitar work from Haynes. The studio band includes Ivan Neville on background vocals and organ, Ian McLagan on piano, Ruthie Foster on background vocals, George Porter, Jr. on bass and Ron Holloway on saxophone. Haynes recorded the album at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios to two-inch tape with vintage tube microphones and everyone playing together in the same room. "We recorded it live to capture the emotion, passion, and spontaneity."

Haynes, a Grammy-winner and 9-time nominee, is ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone Magazine's Greatest Guitarists Of All Time list. He is the front-man for Gov't Mule and is also vocalist and guitarist in The Allman Brothers Band and The Dead.

The Warren Haynes Band World Tour kicks off at The Allman Brothers Band's own Wanee Festival followed by an Australian tour with dates including Sydney, Melbourne and The Byron Bay Festival. Look for the Warren Haynes Band to be appearing throughout the U.S. at theatres, amphitheatres and the most prestigious festivals including Bonnaroo, Haynes' own Mountain Jam and The Hangout Music Festival.

This guy is deservedly known as the hardest working man in rock n roll. I'm not sure what the official stat is, but he must play music for live audiences on over 150 nights per year between all the acts he is associated with. And I'm not talking about an hour and 45 minutes a night, 10 song setlist, with a 2 song encore. These are 2-3 hour shows, where he is the guitar centerpiece for most of the evening. When he plays with his main band, Gov't Mule, he holds down guitar and lead vocal duties. Every live show he does with GM, is available for download within 2 weeks of the performance. That's serious confidence in your ability as a band. He's got huge shoes to fill as well. He has to attempt to replace Jerry Garcia when playing with the Dead, and Duane Allman, when playing with the Brothers. And somehow he manages to make this look easy. 

I'm really excited about this new soul project hes about to release. I have a GM show from 2005, recorded on New Year's eve in New York. The second set is almost all soul classics including I can't turn you loose, I've been loving you too long, Papa's got a brand new bag. If "Man in Motion" is on par with this 2005 live show, then it'll be a sweet album. Warren's known for inviting lots of guest musicians on stage and with the amount of talent already booked for the festival, the collaboration possibilities are endless. I'll be posting my fantasy setlists over the next few weeks.....

Views from a little day hike I went on last Sunday. This is the easter walkway on the miramar peninsula and I walked to the trail from my house. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's no hanging matter, it's no capital crime

It's almost offensive. Not almost. It is. To even post to this blog now is brash. It's like Axl Rose reappearing after  10 ten years of dormancy and expecting people to take him seriously. I strongly considered closing this site down. People that read blogs like pictures. Pictures and stories. I've had neither for months. Important events have occurred. But nothing that warrants sitting down and writing a descriptive story. I'm not making excuses. It is what is it is. In the end, I decided that my story-telling days aren't over yet. I've just to go out and create some new stories. They'll come. With no thrilling stories to tell, or snazzy pictures to accompany them, you're left with only my spry commentary. You lucky so and so.

I didn't make it to the Big Day Out Festival in Auckland. It was on a Friday and we were way too busy at work that week to try to take the days off I would need to get up there. I didn't miss it much either. But I did buy my East Coast Blues and Roots festival ticket. I've also got my plane ticket and lodging teed up too. This is the little 5 day festival in Byron Bay, Australia that I wrote about a while back. I put my "Blues fest wish list" down in a previous post. Well the lineup has been released and it is nothing short of spectacular. Only three variations of acts from my fantasy lineup made it: Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band (I had Derek Trucks Band) and the Funky Meters (I had Porter Batiste Stolz). But the quality of the lineup more than makes up for the lack of my wishes being granted.

There's a really nice blend of ingredients bubbling up in this gumbo. First, you've got a nice handful of bonified guitar slingers in BB King, Billy Gibbons, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks, Rodrigo Sanchez and Charlie Sexton (Dylan's band). There's more "living legends" parading this festival than any other I've ever attended: Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, George Clinton, Aaron and Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Elvis Costello, Toots Hibbert, Peter Rowan and Tony Joe White. Of course, no outdoor music festival would be complete without a solid representation of New Orleans acts: the Funky Meters, Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas and Mavis Staples. While most of the big names on this lineup enjoyed their mainstream success in previous decades, this is no senior citizens show. New "hip" acts like Wolfmother, Fistful of Mercy, Australian indie hero Xavier Rudd, John Legend (not a fan), Imogen Heap and Eli "Paperboy" Reed make the festival fresh and important. But where this lineup's true value lies is in the old-but-not-forgotten category. Most festivals back home would have filled out the rest of bill with electronic or dance driven acts, and maybe even a few full blown pop singers. Bluesfest opted out of this to bring in bands like Jethro Tull, Los Lobos, The Indigo Girls, Little Feat and the Blind Boys of Alabama. You won't hear any tunes from these guys on Casey's Top 40, but that doesn't mean their shows won't be incredible. I really hope Jethro Tull sounds as good live as they do on record. And then of course you've got Ben Harper and the blah blah blah and Michael Franti and whatever who play so many damn festivals you're actually bored my seeing their name in print. Of course I'm being cynical as I've seen both of these guys rock crowds of 50,000 plus, but to me they are way overexposed. I read something great about Franti on an ACL message board a few years back. The quote went something like this: A Michael Franti show is an anomaly, there are some songs that will make you want to booty dance with the drunk cougar on your left, and others that will make you want to punch the lip syncing 12 year old on your right in the face in between his twitter posts....." I know how you feel brother.

The real question mark about this festival for me is Mr. Zimmerman himself. Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan. Besides the Beatles, there is no one else who carries a bigger persona Dylan. Not Sinatra, not Elvis, not the Stones, not Cash, not even Ray "everybodys a fan now that Jamie Foxx made the lousy biopic" Charles.

I'm a Bob Dylan fan. I like his music.....ALOT. But I don't love Bob Dylan. I'm not obsessed with him, the way his fanatics are. I respect the importance of his accomplishments. But I'm not 100% convinced he deserves ALL of the mythical-epic proportions of credit he gets. He probably does. But the bigger question is: Should he be the headlining act of a major six day music festival? No, that's not the question. If he's on the lineup and the Stones or Eric Clapton are not, he should be headlining. The question is: should he be playing at all?

Dylan headlined ACL a few years ago. When The White Stripes cancelled a few weeks before the festival because Meg White had developed "acute anxiety" (whatever the F that is, how anxious can you get banging on a drum kit), Dylan stepped up to the plate and added a sideshow on the Sat. night the stripes were meant to play, at the world famous Stubb's BBQ. I didn't make either show, but the feedback I got from friends was atrocious. Everyone knows Bob's never had a particularly beautiful singing voice. And I don't think even the most hard core dylandylaners. They are his apostles, his true believers. I've never heard a casual Dylan fan tell me that he can still rock and that I definitely shouldn't miss it. One thing that really excites me about the Dylan show is the potential for collaborations. Yet another great gift of the outdoor music festival is the guest appearances. You know everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed for Leon to join in on "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". Or maybe Aaron Neville could help him with his singing duties on "I Shall Be Released." Or maybe it's Susan Tedeschi on "Don't Think Twice". Or maybe it's BB King on "It Takes Alot to Laugh, It takes a Train to Cry", and then I could just go on and die happy..........

Maybe the possibilities are endless. Maybe Dylan sounds the way he looks and forever scars my perception of, the way Van Morrison did at ACL in 2006. Maybe he rocks the house and cements himself as the legend he purports to be. Maybe it rains grand pianos. Who knows. But it's pretty much all I think about these days. And I can't wait to find out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

Thanks for the emails and messages of concern. I have not felt any effects from yesterday's earthquake in Christchurch.