It's (A)live! Live Music Month comes to a close...


If you've been wondering why things have been so quiet, it's because the guy in my building whom I've been jacking my internet connectivity from didn't pay his bill. I've been cock-blocked off the web for almost a week now, but tonight I had a eureka moment and discovered again an open window.

Look, we don't have much time. I don't know how long it will last, so I'm getting in now and I'm getting in fast. This will probably be my last post about "live" music for the month of July. August will see me returning to my regular format... which is really not much of a format at all.

For now, here are a half dozen cool live performances:

"Silver Street" by MERCURY REV: Great live cover of a Nikki Sudden (ex-singer for Swell Maps) song. Anyone got opinions on the most recent Mercury Rev album? I haven't had a chance to buy it, but I've heard 3 really good songs. Any FLAMING LIPS nuts out there should check out Rev's "DESERTER'S SONGS" album (this track is a b-side from that album's "Opus 40" single).

"Box Elder" by PAVEMENT: This comes from the deluxe re-release of the band's debut, "SLANTED AND ENCHANTED."

"Here" by RICHARD BUCKNER: Sticking with Pavement and the "S&E" record, here's Richard Buckner doing a cover of "Here." I love his groaning, desperate vocals and the off-beat way he strums his guitar. Like the Andrew Bird song posted earlier on this blog, this track was performed at Schuba's.

"Let Down" by PEDRO THE LION: Comes from the widely circulated "LIVE IN OMAHA" bootleg. Pedro's David Bazan has great taste, because "Let Down" is probably my favorite RADIOHEAD song. They do a pretty faithful recreation here, but slow it down just a tad more. The lyrics are pretty crushing. I found this quote online from Radiohead singer Thom Yorke about the song: ""I was pissed in a club, and I suddenly had the funniest thought I'd had for ages - what if all the people who were drinking were hanging from the bottles... if the bottles were hung from the ceiling with string, and the floor caved in, and the only thing that kept everyone up was the bottles?" Mmmm'kay.

"On a Plain" by ROGUE WAVE: A decent audience recording of Rogue Wave's interesting cover of the Nirvana hit. I love the (I think) keyboard touches, and the gentle approach the band takes to a song that normally screams and stomps.

"Breed" by STEVE EARLE: A surprising live cover of another "NEVERMIND"-era Nirvana cover from a guy who has always walked the lines between country, punk and classic rock. It's odd... it seems to me the older and more politically outspoken Steve Earle gets, the less controversial and radical he seems to me. "Copperhead Road" is punk fucking rock, and so is this.

"Chinese Rocks" by JOHNNY THUNDERS AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: Live music from a dead guy is closing out my month of live music. Thunders was a druggy rock star of the KEITH RICHARDS variety, who got his start in the NEW YORK DOLLS and eventually died the inevitable but tragic death by overdose way too common in the world of punk rock. The Hearbreakers also featured TELEVISION's Richard Hell on bass. This is from a pretty outstanding compilation called "UNITED STATES OF PUNK," which features live tracks and demos from BAD BRAINS, THE RAMONES, THE MISFITS, SUICIDE and more.

For more on tonight's post:

- Mercury Rev have all kinds of song samples on their home page. You should definitely check out "Holes" and "Something for Joey."
- Check out Matador Records' Pavement page for some more downloads.
- Richard Buckner's site kinda sucks.
- The Pedro the Lionhome page. Follow this link to hear a few demos from their upcoming album.
- Rogue Wave's cool official site. The band says they're on the soundtrack to the upcoming video game Stubbs the Zombie, which features indie acts doing covers of 50s songs. Rogue Wave cover Buddy Holly's "Everyday."
- Steve Earle's rarely updated blog
- The Johnny Thunders cyber lounge



Little Room: THE WHITE STRIPES on John Peel


If it hadn't been for a bootleg, I may have never become a fan of THE WHITE STRIPES. A few years back, when the band's third full length "WHITE BLOOD CELLS" was released, I wrote a review of that record for a suburban Philadelphia weekly. I knew so little about the band that I had to pair that review up with a review of BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB's debut album. I basically reviewed them both as modern bands who were reaching back to separate eras (the Stripes to the mid-60s garage rock and STOOGES albums, BRMC to the late 80s Jesus and Mary Chain-style fuzzy droning guitar rock).

I thought both records were pretty good, with a couple of great songs. I really loved the Stripes' "We're Going to be Friends" because it sounded like a Kinks-era Ray Davies track. I listened to the record for a few weeks and then just kind of forgot about it. It would be a few months before the Michel Gondry/Lego video would become wallpaper on MTV.

In the meantime, I was trading a few live concerts with someone online and noticed that they had a 2001 Peel session for the White Stripes. I asked for a copy. Three weeks later, it showed up in my mailbox and almost instantly became my still-favorite Stripes record.

While their records are great and contain moments of brilliance, hearing or seeing Jack White in concert is another thing entirely. Critics may complain about Meg White's simplistic drumming, but she actually works quite well for her brother/ex-husband's needs. Through nods, grunts and shouts, Jack instructs her on where he's taking a song. Sometimes he might go for an extended solo, slow the song down entirely, or drop a cover right into the middle of a song they're playing. Their sound is so huge, you can easily understand why the Whites feel the need to keep the music to themselves and not share the stage with extraneous bandmates.

If you've heard their records but never fully caught the bug, I hope these tracks from that Peel session give you the same change of mind that they gave me. (Oh, and if anyone out there can find me a copy of the New Year's Eve show the Stripes played with the FLAMING LIPS in Chicago, I will love you forever.) I can't count how many times I've given this CD to someone and made them a convert. Pay particular attention to the thrashing they give Dolly Parton's "Jolene," and the insane guitar work on "Death Letter." Also, please remember to play these songs LOUD.

Tracks from:
THE WHITE STRIPES - Live at Maida Vale Studios July 2001

"Let's Shake Hands"
"Jolene" (Dolly Parton cover)
"Death Letter" (Son House cover)
"Astro/Jack the Ripper"
"Hotel Yorba"
"You're Pretty Good Looking (for a Girl)"
"Hello Operator"

For more on tonight's post:

- The White Stripes' home page.
- A couple of downloads can be found at WhiteStripes.net
- Punk Kittens play "Fell in Love with a Girl"
- The Stripes at Wikipedia
- A French fan page



Live! In the manner of, or somewhat similar to, a suicide!


This afternoon I finsihed the part of my CNA class that requires me to work at an assisted living facility. In the past week, I've seen some of the craziest, most raw things I've ever witnessed at a job. I sat with an elderly man and calmed him down after one of those "This is it, I'm dying" panic attacks. I fed a 105 year old woman her breakfast. I used mechanical lifts to put a man with no legs into his bed and a 350 lb. man onto the toilet. AND(!) I got to wipe his ass!

So you'll excuse the brevity as I go right into posting a handful of my favorite live recordings. I really wish I had a concert to go to this weekend, because the idea of it... of all that sweating, breathing humanity, just sounds really healthy right now.

"Can't Keep" by PEARL JAM: Talk about mortality. I'm having this song played at my funeral, just so I can say to everyone in that crowd "Pearl Jam were great, so eat a dick!" one last time. "I wanna race with the sundown / I want a last breath that I don't let out / Forgive every being / the bad feelings, it's just me." And then that great closing, "I've lived all these lives / It's been wonderful tonight / I will live forever / You can't keep me here." There's another great version of this song from the "LIVE AT BENAROYA HALL" album, with just Ed and his ukelele.

"A Quick One While He's Away" by THE WHO: From the absolutely essential "LIVE AT LEEDS," whether you buy the old version, the remastered extended version or the double disc remastered extended version. It may be the best live album of all time, and I'm definitely not alone in thinking so. If this version of "A Quick One While He's Away" doesn't sell you, I'm at a loss. I believe this is the version that appears in Wes Anderson's masterpiece, "RUSHMORE." Just look at all the great moments in this song:

- 24 seconds in, where Keith Moon's rolling drums and John "The Ox" Entwistle's massive bass enter the song just as Pete Townshend's foot hits the fuzz pedal. Take special note of all the insane guitar sounds and keep in mind that they're all coming from one gangly looking, big nosed gay dude.
- The falsetto vocals, especially during the "Cello cello cello" portion of the song. They even sing "Cello" on the album, originally as a marker as to where they were going to later add actual cello. They never did.
- Moon's drums during the opening of the Engine Driver section. Have you ever seen Keith Moon playing the drums? He looks like a muppet with a couple of busted joints.
- The "You are forgiven" coda. Forget about it, you can't beat that. "We're all forgiven."

"Lull" by ANDREW BIRD: I finally feel like I'm coming out of the lull I was in, so it's nice to revisit a song that was my soundtrack 6 months ago. A one-man-band performance from Schuba's in Chicago, a club just a few blocks away from where I lived. Site of my greatest performance of "Helter Skelter" at Live Band Karaoke.

"Waiting for the Sun" by THE JAYHAWKS: I was a fairly casual fan of The Jayhawks until I heard this live performance on the bonus material for their last album, "RAINY DAY MUSIC." Gary Louris's vocals are soaring and effortless here. A nice closer for the weekend.

For more on tonight's post:

- A ghetto lookin' Who site. Here's their photo archive, where I snagged tonight's pic.
- Andrew Bird's site, featuring a new link to a live concert.
- The Pearl Jam page, which for some reason is playing the "ROCKY" theme.
- The official Jayhawks homepage.



UNCLE TUPELO: Live, at the end of the line.


When I found out in the early summer of 1994 that UNCLE TUPELO had broken up, I was pretty crushed. I was much younger than I am now, but even then I was informed and cynical enough to know that when a great but lesser known band breaks up, that's it. It's not like THE WHO breaking up, where Pete Townshend has all the money in the world to keep exploring ideas and putting out records. Typically, unless you're Paul Westerberg, you slink back to your hometown and get a day job, or a bartending gig, and that's the end of it.

If you had told me back then, "Don't worry, Jeff Tweedy's band is going to be opening for the Rolling Stones in about 11 years, and Jay Farrar will be putting out his fourth Son Volt record and eighth post-U.T. album," I would have called Bullshit on you.

Of course, I didn't know then that the Uncle Tupelo story would go on to balloon into a bit of indie legend. It's fantastic that time has been so kind to them. A couple of years back, their catalog was remastered and rereleased with tons of b-sides and unreleased material. This was a victory for the band, who had seen little to no profit for their first 3 records, released on an indie label that had been screwing them for over a decade.

Now that the band has retained those masters, I wonder if they'd ever consider releasing their final concert on CD. The bootleg -- a fantastic soundboard recording from their 5/1/94 show at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis -- has been floating around for years. Video footage has also been spotted, and recently a fan dubbed the sound from the CD over the lackluster audio for the original film.

Until the day of a legit release comes, I highly recommend hunting down the audio files somewhere. For now, I'm including seven of the tracks performed that night.

"No Depression": The Carter Family cover that launched a magazine and, some say, an entire subgenre called "alt.country."

"Chickamauga": I think "ANODYNE" is a masterpiece of a break-up album, especially because the album seems to be about the break-up of the band and not just your typical romantic disaster. Chickamauga is the name of a city in Georgia that hosted a major Civil War battle.

"Watch Me Fall": One of my favorite Tweedy-penned Tupelo songs, and one of their earliest tracks to attract me to the country side of their sound.

"Postcard": The title of this song is also the name of the U.T./Wilco/Son Volt discussion forum I've been following for almost 6 years. I once curated the list CD tribute to the band, featuring list members and their bands covering the band's music. It was a pretty spotty affair, and my contribution ("Black Eye") would have sounded much better with today's recording software, but I was glad to be a part of making that collection happen. The title of the compilation came from lyrics from this song. It was called "DON'T COME HERE ANYMORE."

"Acuff-Rose": Another fantastic Tweedy number, praising the storied music publishing songbook of country legend Roy Acuff and his partner, a Chicago songwriter named Fred Rose. Some of the names that appear in that songbook include Roy Orbison, the Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams and more. Tweedy puts it best when he sings, "Name me a song that everybody knows / And I'll bet you it belongs to Acuff-Rose."

"True to Life": From my favorite U.T. album, "STILL FEEL GONE."

"Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" (Neil Young): These guys recognized the cold hard truth that, without pioneers like CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL and NEIL YOUNG, they would have never existed. Here they pay tribute to one of those forefathers, on a fiery cover of a classic Young song.

For more on tonight's post:

- A bio of Roy Acuff at Country Music TV.
- Factory Belt, an unofficial U.T. archive
- A link to Tweedy's setlist from the final show
- Learn more about Uncle Tupelo at Gumbopages
- The official homepage



Pimping the Pimps of Gore: THE SHINS, Live.


I used to believe that almost every CD player sold in America must have come with a free copy of THE STEVE MILLER BAND's greatest hits. It was one of those albums that everyone owned and somehow never purchased. Now my theory is that at least every third blog starts with a post about THE SHINS. A distinct contrast between the two bands: The Steve Miller Band sucks ass wholesale, The Shins rule.

But was anyone else embarassed by that scene in Zach Braff's "GARDEN STATE" where Natalie Portman introduces Braff to The Shins' music? It bothered me as much as a product placement as blatant as Fed Ex's in the movie "CASTAWAY." Why the hell couldn't it have been some fictional postal delivery service?

In "G.S.", Braff figuratively holds the headphones up to the ears of the audience and takes us out of his movie and into his basement after a joint and some wine. Maybe the whole "The Shins will change your life" scene wouldn't bother me as much if Braff hadn't already used the music of the Shins at the beginning of the movie. Why didn't it change our lives then, Braff?

Obviously I'm not the only one annoyed: there is now a blog dedicated to journalistic overstatements, named after dialogue in that very scene. Go check out The Shins Will Change Your Life. Now, admittedly, the very name of this blog comes from lyrics from a Shins song. But you have to at least give me credit for waiting 62 posts to write about the guys.

I didn't have blogs or Natalie Portman's one-note acting to introduce me to The Shins. I had Robert Pollard, lead singer of GUIDED BY VOICES. Back in 2001, I was writing for a suburban Philadelphia entertainment rag and I got the opportunity to interview Pollard during the release of his band's "ISOLATION DRILLS" album. Since I knew Bob had pretty impeccable taste in some pretty obscure music, I asked him for some recommendations. He scooped me on the New Pornographers, The Shins, The Strokes (who had just been signed to their label) and a few other bands.

After the interview, I contacted all of the labels of the bands he had mentioned. The first promo to arrive was The Shins' "Oh! Inverted World," and I immediately fell in love with it. It reminded me of really old Kinks and Zombies stuff, and the lyrics were pretty brilliant, too. (Go ahead "The Shins Will Change Your Life," use it.) I hounded Sub-Pop for more, and eventually got to interview James Mercer twice that year. I saw them in Philadelphia as openers for the RED HOUSE PAINTERS, and then later MODEST MOUSE.

Long story short, for those of you who just suffered through all of that: they're one of my favorite bands, whether or not they changed my life. Just for the sake of having some entertaining hyperbole, if you ever get to see them live, The Shins will blow your small and large intestines out of your ass, make balloon animals out of them and -- just before you pass out from the horrifying shock -- speak to you through their minds.

The Shins will end your life.

THE SHINS - Various Live
"New Slang"
"My Seventh Rib"
"When I Goosestep"
"Strange Powers" (Magnetic Fields)

JAMES MERCER - Live 01/07/04
"Harvest'" (Neil Young)
"Gone for Good"
"Baby Boomerang" (T.Rex)

For more on tonight's post:

- The full transcription of my interview with Robert Pollard is up at Swizzle Stick.
- Sub-Pop hosts the song from "CHUTES TOO NARROW" with the "pimps of gore" lyric, "So Says I"
- Check out this basement performance of "Gone For Good" (I think this is the version that appears as a b-side on the "So Says I" CD single)
- All this and more at the The Shins' homepage



Got more live if you want it.


There came a point this past holiday weekend where I found myself standing ankle deep in a field of mud, waiting in the middle of a blob of humanity for my fleeting chance for one drink from the single keg being "shared" by a few hundred people. I had been in this blob for at least 30 minutes when the lead singer of some local cock rock band admonished the crowd for not letting in the people with VIP passes right up to the keg when they needed a beer. "Come on people, this is about unity," this tattooed fuckweed grunted before yowling his way through -- I'm not kidding -- a Silverchair song. And then a Seven Mary Three song. And then... oh, just kill me.

This incident made me remember again how rare and beautiful a good live music experience can be. Don't get me wrong, I knew I wasn't going to find transcendence in that muddy field. I never actually even found a beer. My friends and I left before the second band plugged in, and we retreated to the back yard stereo. It just kind of sucks that we couldn't have seen a decent band that night... even some collection of middle aged jackasses doing Journey covers. We would have stayed. We would have braved that ridiculous beer line. Anything to be able to watch someone who enjoys what they're doing on stage, whether or not they're cool.

Anyway, I'm going to try and get a little streak of live music going over the next few posts. Summer is a great time to catch a good concert, but if your options are running thin and you're finding yourself spending a lot of time in muddy fields full of shitty music, maybe you can lose yourself in a few of these performances.

(UPDATE #78: The TELEVISION link should be working now, in both .mp3 AND .m4a format.)

"Kangaroo" by JEFF BUCKLEY: This BIG STAR cover was performed by Buckley and Co. at the Roskilde festival over 10 years ago, on June 29, 1995. If you're not a fan of Buckley's banshee wail and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan-isms, you should probably just step away. If you want to hear a band lose itself in a trance, communicating in grunts, thuds and howls in front of tens of thousands of people, dig right in. I love the effect of the German radio host rudely cutting in near the end of the song before being buried in explosions of noise. Buckley has said in interviews that he performed this song with his band as a sort of treat for them. After backing him and indulging his whims for 90 minutes, he'd let them cut loose here, sometimes resulting in versions that lasted over 20 minutes. Don't worry, this one comes in around 8.

"Dirty Boots" by SONIC YOUTH: Recorded live in Irvine, California, in 1990, about a year "before punk broke" and Nirvana hit the big time. If you've never had the opportunity to see Sonic Youth live, you should really take the chance the next time you see them coming around. I've seen them in some pretty bizarre places and some fairly odd bills, and they always chew scenery and steal the show. And you can't really appreciate Thurston Moore until you've seen just how fucking huge the guy is in real life. He could eat you whole, and that's if his guitar playing doesn't consume you first. This track can be found on the "DIRTY BOOTS" EP CD, along with 4 other live tracks from the same show.

"Ain't That Nothin'" by TELEVISION (for the .mp3 version of this file, click here): These guys were like no other band coming out of the whole late '70s NYC/CBGB punk scene. First and foremost, Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell could play their fucking guitars like nobody's bidness. This song, which comes from the rare "LIVE AT THE OLD WALDORF" CD, shares the same date as the aforementioned Jeff Buckley track: June 29th. This track was performed in 1978, making it 27 years old. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday.

"The Weight" by THE BAND: This version of the classic Band song comes from the 4 CD "LAST WALTZ" box set. While the actual movie performance of this song is a rehearsal duet with the Staple Singers, the band recorded the song live during its final performance together. Both are pretty mindblowing for their own reasons. I highly recommend you rent the DVD if you're interested in more from The Band. It was directed by Martin Scorcese in a coke-fueled haze, and the result is one of the best rock documentaries ever filmed. The action is filmed so close to the stage that you feel like you're right there with guests like Muddy Waters, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The coolest part of the whole movie is watching The Band react to Bob Dylan on stage as he completely takes over and makes all of them his collective bitch for a few songs.

The Band actually got its biggest break as Bob Dylan's backing band during the controversial period when Dylan started to play electric shows. If you've never heard Dylan's "BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 4: Live 1966," get thee to a record store IMMEDIATELY. It will make you a Dylan fan if you aren't already, and it contains what must be the most angry, intense live performance of the man's career in "Like a Rolling Stone". If my hearing serves me correctly, it's The Band's Robbie Robertson who responds to the crowd's animosity (they were angered by Dylan's new "rock" direction) by telling everyone, "Play it fucking LOUD."

For more on tonight's artists:

- A Jeff Buckley Wiki entry.
- Learn more about BIG STAR here.
- The Official Sonic Youth site, with tons of streaming mp3s.
- TELEVISION at Wikipedia