Archive for December, 2015

My Favorite Music and Concerts of 2015.

December 15, 2015
Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk at the Midland Theatre, in Kansas City.

With 2015 wrapping up, it’s time to look back on some of my favorite music and gigs of the year.

Canadian noise rockers Viet Cong put out my favorite album of the year. The sprawling, weird soundscapes of their self-titled debut make for quality extended listening. Serious shoegaze vibes that hit hard.

I also really loved the Chvrches album Every Open Eye. Their sound has really grown from their debut record. A track like “Keep You On My Side” peaks really well and brings the energy. The vocals are on-point (as always), but the beats hit harder and the songs are more epic.

Gigs:

German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk put on a show for the ages at the Midland this year. Kraftwerk perfected the idea of the “man machine” and raved the way for nearly every form of modern electronic music. It was my first 3D sit down rave. Visually, the show was stunning and the music wasn’t just a nostalgia trip. For something so robotic, it felt so lively, fresh and new. The show also marked Kraftwerk’s first Kansas City show in 45 years.

Stevie Wonder’s epic show at the Sprint Center was also one of the best of the year. He played for over three hours. The setlist included his classic album Songs in the Key of Life. He approaches music from a totally different angle. The hits were there, the jams were there, something for everyone. Janelle Monae sat in with Stevie in KC, which made the gig even better. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime show.

Favorite tracks:

The demo version of “Realiti” by Grimes is my favorite song of the year. Her whole sound really comes together on this track. An updated version of the song ended up on Art Angels, but the demo version has more rawness and punch.

I really dug the house vibes of Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You.” I was lucky enough to catch him live at Pitchfork Fest in Chicago this year. It’s a glorious feeling hearing a song like this wash over a festival crowd.

New Orleans-based rapper Curren$y showed why he is one of the best rappers out there today with “Speed.” His vibe is singular and different. The production on this record is one of the best I’ve heard all year. This beat is so fresh!

The laid back, chill vibes of Martin Courtney’s “Airport Bar” made it one of my favorite tracks of 2015. The lead singer of Real Estate displayed a subtle shift in tone on his debut solo album. Courtney knows how to craft a really quality song.

What were your favorite music moments of 2015?

Choose Positivity.

December 14, 2015

HateCat

I recently did a short audio piece talking about why choosing to be positive can be so important in your life.

You can listen to the piece here.

A Sticky Situation: $13.99 Almond Butter.

December 14, 2015

AlmondButter

This jar of almond butter costs $13.99. It seems so hip, it should be featured on http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/ I think I will smear it on artisan bread, crafted by monks in the Himalayas, and combine it with rare African cultivated jelly. Time to make a $55 peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am afraid to try this almond butter, because I know I will probably like it too much. It will be like tasting the Mount Olympus of almond butter. All other spreads will become irreverent and my life up until that point will become a fallacy. A terribly sticky situation.

What Was Your Worst Handcrafted Cocktail Ever?

December 14, 2015

Made a quick podcast. What was the worst “handcrafted cocktail” you ever attempted to make? Check the piece out here.

Dancehall Forever: How I Became Passionate About Reggae-Dancehall.

December 13, 2015
Damian Marley

Damian Marley at Crossroads KC.

Like most people, Bob Marley was my first introduction to reggae. His impact on music and viewpoint is on a whole different level. However, being in New Orleans really helped ignite my passion for reggae-dancehall. NOLA has long had a strong reggae scene.

The first time I walked into Reggae Night, upstairs at the Dragon’s Den, people’s lifeless bodies were being carried down the stairs from overheating. It was an intense scene for sure, but I knew it must be one heck of a party. The Wednesday night DJ sets spun by DJ T-Roy are about hot, sweaty dancehall mayhem. It was always great to see what gets the crowd hyped up. Those old school Buju Banton tracks would always get the crowd moving. “Good Body” always hit really well.

Thursday nights at the Blue Nile, also hosted by T-Roy) start out on the more chilled out reggae tip. The dancehall vibes get turned up at the party goes late into the night. I made it to the end of reggae night once. It wrapped up at 6 am.

Being a fan of reggae-dancehall can be conflicting sometimes. The lyrics can be uplifting, thought-provoking and positive. However, at times, the lyrics can be really slack, disrespectful and trashy. This can sometimes happen within the same song.

To me, a lot of the beats and production in reggae-dancehall seem much fresher than in other genres. Many artists freestyle their verses over the riddims, which is always great to see and adds to the energy of the song. It’s interesting to see what different artists do with the same riddim. How they put their own spin on the track and what lyrical themes they address.

Attending reggae nights in NOLA also sparked my interest in DJing reaggae-dancehall. It’s a lot of fun to mix and great to see how people respond to the tunes. You can listen to my mixes here.

The quality vibes created by reggae-dancehall are unparalleled. The energy and joy is so infectious and wonderful.

Here are some of my favorite tracks:

Pressure “Love and Affection”

Jah Cure “Sticky”

Vybz Kartel “Go Go Wine”

Richie Spice “Di Plane Land”

Collie Buddz “Come Around”

Mavado “So Special”

Buju Banton “Champion”

 

 

“What Had Happened Was…”

December 13, 2015

A recent article on NOLA.com inspired me to create a short podcast episode. It was a very NOLA story in a strange way. Listen to the podcast here.

Something Fishy Going On: The Mainstream Emergance of the Hip Future Mermaid.

December 12, 2015

mermaid

There is an important trend in indie rock/hip culture that needs to be discussed: The emergence of the trippy mermaid from the future. There’s something fishy going on.

It’s like some of these entry level hip chicks go out and buy their mermaid witch starter pack. Boom! You’re a mermaid now. It’s like people are saying, “Please pay attention to me! I’m relevant!”

How does one find a hip future mermaid? This can be a challenge, especially if you live in a landlocked urban hellscape. Cast a net outside of any Urban Outfitters and you might be blessed enough to catch a glimpse of one, shimmering by the ironic ice cube trays. At a local, artisan belt buckle shop, you’ll look into her glistening eyes, “Are you from the future? Your scales are so luscious. Can we grab a chai tea?” Some folks these days look like a discount version of Grimes. Once you notice the mainstreaming of mermaids, you’ll see it all the time.

American Eagle Outfitters Celebrates The Budweiser Made In America Music Festival - Philadelphia, PA - Day 2

Grimes. (Photo credit: Stereogum)

Granted, the visual impact can be stunning. The mermaids can really hook you in, but it means nothing without substance. I feel like the Internet helps to cheapen ideas that start off as something unique and original. It’s like making a photocopy of a copy, the quality goes down.

If you’re an organic, handcrafted mermaid, nothing fishy there. If something is real, it should be a natural extension of yourself. You don’t need to join in with the corporate indie mermaid culture, just be true to who you are.

Past Interview Subjects Nominated for 2016 Grammy Awards.

December 8, 2015

The 2016 Grammy nominations were announced today. Several of my past interview subjects received nominations this year. I choose most of my interview subjects. If I interview an artist, it is because I greatly respect their work. It is always a great honor to interview so many diverse, talented people.

Guitarist John Scofield is nominated for Best Improvised Jazz Solo (for “Past Present”) and Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.

The Punch Brothers are nominated for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for their song “Julep.” They are also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Jason Isbell is nominated for Best American Roots Song for “24 Frames.”  He is also nominated for Best Americana Album.

Pianist John Cleary is nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is nominated for Best World Music Album.

The Grateful Dead are nominated for Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package.

DJ/Producer Kaskade is nominated for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical for his remix of the Galantis track “Runaway (U & I).”

 

Gratefully Deadicated: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead.

December 8, 2015
50th_logo2

Photo credit: Dead.net

 

Friday (12/4/15) marked the 50 anniversary of the formation of the Grateful Dead. I have been fortunate to interview three out of the four members of the “Core Four” and several former members of the Grateful Dead throughout the years. When you see the name Grateful Dead come up on the caller ID, you trip over yourself to grab the phone. Here are links to my past Dead-related interviews:

On playing with the Dead, “I’d find myself playing, say the right hand being with Jerry, and the right foot with the bass. Each limb being with a different instrument. Maybe doing my own talking with the snare drum, but filling for the other instruments with those other limbs and breaking it up like that. It got so you could really hear the pieces, who is doing what. You would separate it that way.”

Mickey Hart: http://www.the-vignette.com/…/mickey-hart-dancing-with-the…/ (Audio)

Bob Weir: http://www.the-vignette.com/…/the-grateful-deads-bob-weir-…/

On song selection with the Dead, “You know, if Jerry was singing and I was up next. I would have the whole song Jerry was singing to decide what I was going to do next. I’d sort of feel it out while I was playing Jerry’s song. I’d just call out what I was going to do, and we would go into that. Then it was Jerry’s turn.”

Bruce Hornsby (who played keyboards with the Dead in the late ’80s/early ’90s): http://www.bandsthatjam.com/bands-…/bruce-hornsby-interview/

On learning to play with the Dead, “I considered my self fairly well versed in their music, which meant I knew about 40 Dead songs. I thought that was a lot. They had a revolving list of about 160, that were on their list of songs in active rotation. It meant I had to learn about 120 songs. That was definitely challenging, but they were so loose about it. It was such a loose environment. They hated to rehearse, kind of like I do. I’m the same way. They would just tell me the key and just say, “OK, just wing it.” Some of their music is very simple, and some of it is very complex. “Help On the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower,” that part in the middle isn’t something you can just wing. You can’t hear that and play it. You have to learn it. You have to spend time wood shedding it. There were several songs like that. Those would often be the most enjoyable songs to play, once you learned how to play them. There’s a little more meat on the instrumental bones. It was really fun, but they were a lot to learn. I could have probably done a better job of doing my homework. I did what I did. I can’t say I did my best. I probably could have been a little more studious in my wood shedding of the songs. I tended to just use my ears. Frankly, I would just lay out a lot when I didn’t know something. Often, the best thing to play is nothing. There’s a lot of players up there. Often, I would just sit there. People would think, “Why is Bruce not playing? He must be bummed out or something.” It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was just trying to leave some space. Also, a lot of times, I wouldn’t be playing because I didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I didn’t know it, so why be up there sucking? All in the name of looking like I’m into it and playing. I would just stop.”

Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead keyboardist from 1968-1970);
http://www.bandsthatjam.com/…/qa-with-tom-constanten-forme…/

On touring with the Dead, “The usual vicissitudes of travel. The music is the easy part, I’ve often said. Some people get stage fright. Not me. I get stage calm. After the day’s hassles with flight connections, hotel reservations, and all, it’s when I’m finally seated in front of the keyboard that I feel most in control.”

The Grateful Dead helped change the face of modern music. Happy 50th! What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Laying the Smackdown: Rekindling My Love of Live Pro Wrestling.

December 1, 2015

I went to the WWE matches in Kansas City on Saturday night (11/28/15).

Growing up, attending wrestling matches was one of my favorite hobbies. Before I started going to concerts, it was the big thing to do for me. The energy of being at a live event is unlike anything you would ever imagine from watching wrestling on TV. It is a very unique, surreal experience.

My first match was the pay-per-view Over the Edge, in 1999. Tragically, wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death from the rafters of Kemper Arena after his harness malfunctioned. The crowds also used to be a lot rougher back in the day. There was almost more fighting in the stands than in the ring. Back in 1999, people behind me got arrested for fighting about Stone Cold versus the Undertaker. You went to jail for your love of the Undertaker? I wonder how they feel now? Most likely still proud and still in jail.

While crowds are calmer and more family friendly these days, the furious anger of the fans was still palpable. On Saturday, the most heat from the crowd was directed towards the heel Bo Dallas. His “motivational speaking” on the mic really got the crowd riled up. Bo skillfully antagonized the crowd, “If you’re in need of a hero, raise your hand in the air. If your hand isn’t in the air, you are a liar!” He even took time out during the match to take a victory lap around the ring even though he was being beaten. Bo’s unwavering positive attitude mixed with the crowd’s seething hate was a sight to behold.

In-person, the matches have a completely different feel than the over-the-top bombast you hear from the commentary on TV. The crowds never know what matches or wrestlers are coming up next, so the excitement is genuine and infectious. There is no commentary piped into the crowd during matches. A lot of the crowd stands up for the entrances and then sits down for the matches. The crowd intensely watches the matches, awaiting the next move. It makes for an oddly calming experience.

It’s the subtle things about live events that make the most impact sometimes. The most vocal man in the crowd was the older black man in his 70s, seated next to me. When a wrestler would hit a big move, he would yell, “Dummy! You should have expected that! You should have seen it coming!” When Alberto Del Rio slammed Neville into the steel stairs, the man exclaimed, “Those stairs don’t budge an inch!” I could also hear the ref talking to the wrestlers. When Bo Dallas dragged Zack Ryder out of the ring, the ref pleaded with Bo, “Bring it back inside the ring, Bo! Are you not hearing these things?”

I took a 15 year break from seeing matches live and then got back into it in November of last year. Attending wrestling matches is one of the ultimate nostalgia trips for me. If you were ever into it, you go to a match and you know what to look for and what you would like to see. Kane’s side slam and chokeslam Saturday night were so old school, they should have been sponsored by Surge, Gushers and LA Gear.

However, something isn’t purely nostalgic when it’s right there in front of you, live, laying the smackdown in front of your face. Pro wrestling is staged and fake, but it is all about real athleticism. If I tried any of those moves, I would surely bleed sadness and failure all over the sqaured circle. Wrestling matches can be a glorious trashy, joyous thing.

One thing I learned from watching so much wrestling back in the day is that it’s not so bad to outsize yourself. Why not bring some overblown energy and joy into someone’s day? As you plod through your boring modern hellscape of a day, why not amp it up a little bit? Beast it hardcore! Like the Macho Man once said, “I’m 1000 percent, that’s way better than 100 percent.”

 


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