Wednesday, August 22, 2012


About a year after I'd last seen Steve Earle & The Dukes and Duchesses at the Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, we returned to see them again.  I wrote a review of the show for CBS New York, but I felt I had to write a more personal take on the show.

The more I listen to Steve, the more I really think he's in a league with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, he's really one of the best American songwriters from the post-Dylan era. So, on one hand, it's thrilling to see him in such a small theater, and on the other, it's a bit outrageous... why isn't he more popular?  Couldn't country radio have given him some room between Clint and Garth? Couldn't classic rock have played him instead of Foreigner or REO Speedwagon?

But context aside, it was a great show. Steve always brings it, and his band the Dukes & Duchesses are great.  The only problem was, singer/multi-instrumentalist Allison Moorer wasn't there.  As Steve explained, their son John Henry took his first steps on a tour bus, and they realized that they didn't want him growing up on the road. She's an important part of the band, which felt a bit thinner without her. Steve seems to have more fun when she's there.

As I mention in my CBS NY review, the venue is perfect for Steve, and his songs -- "Hardcore Troubadour," "Someday," "Copperhead Road," "The Revolution Starts Now," "Little Emperor" and "Waiting For The Sky" -- hold up to the songs that he covers: Dylan's "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry," Springsteen's "State Trooper" and Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." As with Springsteen and Petty, I'll go to see him every time he comes to town.  Luckily for me, the next show will be next month: he's about to wrap up this tour and then hit the road on a solo acoustic tour. Hopefully they get a babysitter when he plays Bergen PAC though, so Allison can come out! But even if she doesn't, it'll be a great show.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


photo credit: Maria Ives
A week ago, I went to see Jane's Addiction play at the State Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey. My head is still vibrating from the experience.  They were amazing.

I did a review of the concert for CBS New York as a preview of their concert last Friday night in Brooklyn.  But I had to be professional when writing for CBS.

It's hard to explain how radical they were back then. The combination of sexuality and intelligence, power and sweetness, loud and quiet, classic rock and punk rock and heavy metal, it was just different, scary and thrilling.  Plus you knew that all of the guys in the band were probably living dangerous lifestyles, it really added to the danger.

These days, the guys probably live a bit more sensibly.  Perry was drawing from a flask and from a wine bottle throughout the night, but you never felt the show would go off the rails: Jane's meant business.  They seemed determined to bring the same power and vibes that they did back in they day.  They were, in fact, really powerful.  Perry Farrell hasn't lost any of his shaman-like frontman super-powers. Dave Navarro's guitar playing still rips your face off.  I know people criticize him for his celebrity status outside of music... but really, when he hits the stage, it's all about his playing.  He is still amazing. Stephen Perkins brings a weird tribal thing to heavy rock drums, it's perfect for this band. Chris Chaney has a difficult job filling in for Eric Avery, but he holds it down, without standing out too much. I saw them with Avery in the band a few years ago, and that was unbelievable.  But this show held up to the original lineup.  That's saying a lot.

photo credit: Maria Ives 
At first, I wasn't too sure about their recent album, last year's The Great Escape Artist.  It may not be as classic as Jane's Addiction, Nothing's Shocking or Ritual de lo Habitual, but some of the songs really held up live:  "Underground" and "Splash A Little Water On It." A song from their last album Strays (which also featured Chaney), "Just Because" was one of the highlights of the show.

No, they aren't as dangerous as they were then. But other than The Stooges, who is?  Perry is a dad and a businessman, and Dave has responsibilities.  And anyway, they don't need to be as dangerous as they used to be, they just need to be as great.  At the State Theater, they were. I can't wait to see the next tour.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I was really curious to hear the new Dr. John album, Locked Down. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, I knew it would get more attention than his usual albums.

Sometimes having the young gun produce a legend just doesn't work:  for instance, Ryan Adams produced Willie Nelson's 2006 Songbird.  It's OK, it's not great. You don't get the impression that there was a lot of chemistry.

On the other hand there's (and I hate to make this comparison) Jack White producing Loretta Lynn's 2004 Van Lear Rose. Auerbach came closer to the latter.  Locked Down is a really great Dr. John album.

Just by looking at the cover, you can see where Auerbach was going:  it's Dr. John, the same "Night Tripper" as we saw on his 1968 debut, Gris-Gris, 40+ years on.  That could be dangerous; who really wants to "go back" and emulate their younger self like that?

But it works.  Dr. John only plays electric keyboards (no piano), Auerbach leads a really tight garage-rock-y sounding band, and it sounds like there's no air conditioning in the room and the windows are starting to fog up.  The album is funky, it's dirty, it's creepy, it's fun and it swings.  This is one of my favorites of the year so far, and I totally recommend it (if you like Dr. John or even if you just like the Black Keys).


I'm not just a fan of U2, I'm a member of the fan club. I was a member back in the day when the fan club was called "Propaganda." My membership has occasionally lapsed over the years, but I always re-sign up when they have something cool, like this: U22. It's a 22 track live collection, taken from U2's 360 tour (which blew my mind).

The tour focused on their latest album, No Line On The Horizon, but by the end it was really leaning on Achtung Baby. I could never understand why they didn't put out a live album after Achtung Baby, it was such a great studio album that really translated live.

So I was glad that this collection has some of the best songs from that album: "Even Better Than The Real Thing" (excellent live), "The Fly" (one of my favorites, it's amazing live) and "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)," which was a highlight of the concert.

On the other hand, Bono mangled one of my favorite songs, "Until The End Of The World," by vamping on Frank Sinatra in the middle of the song, and singing a bit of it like Sinatra. Personally, I don't care about Sinatra (I know, sacrilege, sorry, but I don't).  It just took a really intense song (and one that hasn't had a great live version on CD)  and made it sound corny.

But on the other hand, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (which has had a few different live versions) got yet another new one: South African trumpet legend Hugh Madekela (a solo artist in his own right, he also played on The Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star?") joined them on the song, adding a completely different dimension to it.

What are some other highlights? "Magnificent" (similar to the version they did on The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert), "Stay (Faraway, So Close)," "One Tree Hill," "Beautiful Day," "All I Want Is You," "The Unforgettable Fire," "Zooropa," "Walk On," and their latest classic song "Moment Of Surrender." "Out Of Control" was a great touch also.

Is it worth the $50 annual subscription price?  Well, I'm not going to try to sell you on it, but I'll just say that the live collection is awesome.  If you're enough of a U2 fan to want to spend the cash, go here to join the fan club.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Last night I should have been at Bergen PAC in Englewood, New Jersey at the B-52's concert. They're a great band who I've never seen before. Maybe next time.

So, instead of writing a review of the show, I'm going to write about their 1979 self-titled debut album, which is a classic.

To me, this album is about determination.  It doesn't sound like they put a lot of money into it, or that they had a lot of money to put into it. You don't get the impression that Ricky Wilson was playing Fender guitars and Marshall amps.  Many of the instruments sound like toys (oftentimes, they are) and the rest of the time, they're using instruments that sound kind of cheap. But that didn't matter: guitarist Ricky Wilson, drummer Keith Strickland and the rest of the band wrote great songs.  And really, they wouldn't have sounded right on huge, badass guitars.  For all it's limitations, I don't think there would be anything you could do to improve this album.  You wouldn't say it's "punk rock," exactly, but it is punk rock in it's determination to be different and have an identity that clearly didn't fit in with the mainstream.  There's a version of the Foo Fighters playing "Planet Claire" live with Fred Schneider on vocals, you really hear the punk rock in that version!

Of course, the key was the vocals of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. They were fun and kitschy, but at least on this album, I felt like there was kind of a sense of danger (which I never heard in B-52's songs after this album). The music was '50s or '60s-ish with a big surf music thing going on. Everyone knows "Rock Lobster." I never get tired of it.  But there are so many other great songs: "Planet Claire," "52 Girls," "Dance This Mess Around." Even their cover of Petula Clark's "Downtown" was cool. You could have techno DJs or a contemporary pop group or a garage rock band cover this entire album, and it would translate to any of those mediums.  How many albums can you say that about?

I don't have many other B-52's albums.  Years after this one, Ricky Wilson died from AIDS related illnesses.  Miraculously, Keith Strickland got out from behind the drums, became the guitarist and started writing music.  Of course that led to their most successful album, 1989's Cosmic Thing, which is a classic. It's their second best album for sure.  But for me, nothing touches the first one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


This week, Sony Legacy released We Walk The Line: A Celebration Of The Music Of Johnny Cash. It's a live album of a concert recorded earlier this year in Austin, Texas.  An impressive group of singers joined an amazing house band to pay tribute to the songs that Johnny sang.  He didn't always write the songs he sang, but when the man took a tune on, it belonged to him.

My favorite performance on the album is Lucinda Williams doing Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails classic "Hurt," which Johnny covered on American IV: The Man Comes Around. But there are a lot of great performances here.  Jamey Johnson is kind of the perfect guy to sing Johnny songs: he does "Sunday Morning Coming Down" with Kris Kristofferson, which is great.   Buddy Miller's "Hey Porter" is great, as is the Carolina Chocolate Drops' "Jackson," Shooter Jennings' "Cocaine Blues" and Willie Nelson's "I Still Miss Someone."

The most moving part of the night might have been the cover of The Highwaymen's "Highwayman."  The Highwaymen were, of course, Cash, Willie, Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings.  So, this version featured Willie and Kristofferson, along with Jamey Johnson singing Johnny's part, and Shooter singing his dad's part.  I got chills listening.  Also, the arrangement is way cooler than the original from the album.

I have to give it up to the house band: Buddy Miller on guitar, Blue Note Records president Don Was on bass, Greg Leisz on slide guitar, Kenny Aronoff on drums and Ian McLagan on keyboards.  Mr. McLagan actually told me all about the show in a recent interview. He told me there'd probably be some kind of tour supporting it, with the house band and different singers in each city.  I hope that that's still on.  Hell, I don't care if they get any famous singers: just put Buddy Miller on the mic, that's good enough for me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


photo by Maria Ives 
I can't believe it's been four years since I last saw the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  That's way too long.  On a good night, they are one of the best live bands in the world, and last night was a very good night.

I wasn't really sure how packed Webster Hall would be: it wasn't that crowded last week for Helmet, and they're a New York band. But when we got to the venue, it was packed.  We missed the first band, but the second band, The Have Nots, were great.  I downloaded their song "The Years," and I'm probably going to check out some more of their music.

photo by Maria Ives 
But everyone was there to see the Bosstones, and the Bosstones didn't disappoint. Dickey Barrett, while not a "singer" as such, is a stone-cold entertainer, and a great frontman.  He doesn't just perform, he looks out for the crowd in a way that probably isn't too removed from the ethics of the hardcore punk rock scene that he came from.

Ben Carr - the "Bosstone" - he dances on stage and occasionally sings backing vocals - also keeps an eye out for the audience.  This is only worth mentioning because being at a Bosstones show is a frantic experience. There's a lot of energy in the room, with lots of slamdancing and (especially) crowd surfing. I have to give it up to the bouncers there, as well as the Bosstones' road manager, who showed a lot of patience with some overzealous and over-entitled crowd surfers.

photo by Maria Ives
But back to the music. The entire band is tight as hell, but I have to mention the horn section who are amazing.  Sax player Johnny Vegas has been with the band since the beginning, and sax player Kevin Lenear was with the band early on, quit in the 2000's, and rejoined a few years ago. One of their newer members is trombone player/singer Chris Rhodes (formerly of The Toasters), who is an amazing addition. These guys are, as Dickey says, "the best horn section in the world."

I kind of expected the band to stick to their 1989-2000 era, but, in fact, they played a lot of more recent material.  On paper, I would have thought it would have been a bad idea to do that. But the recent songs - "The Daylights" and "The Magic Of Youth" from last year's The Magic Of Youth, "Graffiti Worth Reading," "Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah" and "A Pretty Sad Excuse" from 2009's Pin Points And Gin Joints and two of my favorites, "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker" from 2007's Medium Rare and "Everybody's Better" from 2002's A Jackknife To A Swan.

Of course, the old songs made the crowd go ballistic: "Someday I Suppose," "Rascal King," "1-2-8," "Dr. D," "Devil's Night Out," "Hope I Never Lose My Wallet" were all incredible and the entire audience, men, women, white folks, black folks, knew every word. But the biggest moment of the show was when former guitarist Nate Albert (now a VP at Universal Music, I've heard) joined them for "Kinder Words."

Other than one near scuffle that I saw -- and one nasty head injury suffered by a guy crowd surfing (he turned out to be a Marine) -- no one seemed to get hurt and everyone had a blast.  I know that the Bosstones aren't a full time thing anymore, but it's just as well.  It gives a sense of occasion to every time they play.  I just hope it's an occasion I won't have to wait four more years for.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Yesterday, I went to Rockstar Energy Drink's Mayhem Festival at the Toyota Pavilion in Scranton (!), PA. It was my first time going to see this particular tour. Mayhem has been going on for five years and I've never really felt the need to check it out, but this year's lineup was too good to pass up: Slayer, Motorhead and Anthrax. It was headlined by Slipknot.

Slayer played right before Slipknot, and it reminded me a little of the first time I saw Slayer, especially since they have not changed much at all in the decades between then and now. The first time I saw them was in 1987 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey.  They were on a multi-band bill headlined by W.A.S.P.  Now, W.A.S.P. was cool and had all this theatrical stuff going on, but they couldn't compete with Slayer's intensity. In fact, a lot of people left before W.A.S.P., and many more who stayed just threw stuff at the band.

It's not an exact metaphor: Slipknot was the clear headliner last night, respected and loved by pretty much the entire crowd. But, like W.A.S.P., they had a lot of visual stuff going on, other than the obvious (their costumes and masks). Clown's percussion riser was going up and down, other members were jumping on it, there was lots of pyro, it was a real spectacle.  They look awesome and sound great.  But in my mind, it's really tough to follow up Slayer.  Last time I saw Slayer was with Metallica at the "Summer Sanitarium" tour -- Metallica are good enough to pull it off. I also saw them on the Ozzfest. The Deftones went on after them, and with all due respect, I felt they were out of their league.

I only stayed for the first few songs of Slipknot - Scranton is far away, and due to traffic it took us more than four hours to get there. But from what I saw, they were tight.  There aren't that many songs that stand out to me, but I was impressed.

Slayer knock me out every time.  Their intensity and focus is just amazing. Even with a fill-in guitarist -- Gary Holt from Exodus subbing for Jeff Hanneman while he recovers from a spider bite that almost killed him -- they are just unreal.  Holt and Kerry King are a tight guitar team, Dave Lombardo sets the gold standard for metal drummers and Tom Araya still bellows with the same fury he did two decades ago.  Before Slayer took the stage, an AC/DC mix played over the P.A. which I thought was fitting.  They sound nothing alike, but like AC/DC, Slayer ignore and outlast all trends, never compromise, and never let their fans down.  If I had one request for Slayer, it would be to do their cover of Black Sabbath's "Hand Of Doom." Other than that, there's no way to improve on what they do. And anyway, how can I complain when they did “Disciple,” “War Ensemble,” “Mandatory Suicide,” “Seasons In The Abyss,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Angel Of Death” and for their encore, “South Of Heaven” and “Raining Blood.”

In my mind, Motorhead were the headliners.  Of course, when they tour on their own, they don't play venues nearly as big as the Toyota Pavilion, but that's a shame. Like the aforementioned almighty AC/DC, they are oblivious to the trends that they will outlive, and they have a formula that works for them. Like The Velvet Underground, they've influenced so many bands, a very disproportionate amount compared to their record sales.  But Lemmy accepts it.  He's like a metal Willie Nelson, always on the road. Sometimes playing big places, sometimes small holes in the wall, if people are going to pay to show up, he'll blow their minds.  I thought their set was a bit too short, I still heard a lot of classics including "Bomber," "Damage Case," "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch," "The One To Sing The Blues," "Killed By Death" and "Ace Of Spades."I would have dug "Orgasmatron," but as Lemmy himself noted, they had no say in their set time. Honestly, I was just glad to see them playing for such a huge crowd.  They could probably have filled the joint with metal and punk bands who wouldn't exist without them.

Anthrax is probably the band on the bill who I have spent the most time listening to. In high school, they were one of my metal favorites, and I listened to them more than Slayer or Motorhead. I haven't seen them in years: since they reunited with former singer Joey Belladonna.  I was skeptical about them allowing Joey back in the band, but as I wrote last year, their reunion album Worship Music is really good, and Joey sounds great, and also contemporary.  He still is an excellent singer, but isn't sounding like he wishes he was in Journey or Kansas. I used to feel like he didn't fit in, I don't feel that way anymore. Whatever crap has gone down between the members, I think they're over it.  I think they appreciate that they get to play metal year after year all over the world, even if it isn't quite on Slayer's level.  Instead of playing on the main stage, Anthrax headlined the second stage, which was a smart choice.  They might have played to some empty seats on the main stage, but on the second stage, mosh pits erupted everywhere the minute they hit the stage to "Caught In A Mosh." It was a great set, but just too short.  They left out "Bring The Noise," which is one of my favorite things they've ever done, but it was probably smart: I don't know that that crowd would have been into hearing a hip-hop classic. I also would have loved to hear something from the John Bush era, like "Only" or "Room For One More," but they didn't have enough time.  I was glad to hear "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't." That song always feels like Scott Ian's credo: I don't think he's a very technical guitarist, but he makes some of my favorite noises from a guitar. He's like a metal Johnny Ramone. I'm glad they're still fighting.  It was a bummer that his co-founder/co-leader/drummer Charlie Benante wasn't there: he's recovering from a minor hand injury, apparently.  Jason Bittner from Shadows Fall did a great job in his place.

I didn't see any other bands (I caught a bit of Asking Alexandria, which was OK), but I do have to mention one amazing aspect of the festival that doesn't get much press, which is a shame: their "Metal Of Honor" initiative to support our veterans. "Metal Of Honor" goes beyond lip service. (Note: I covered the event for CBS Philly, and the next paragraph is pretty much the same thing I wrote there. All the previous stuff here is a totally different take than what I wrote for CBS).  Besides encouraging fans to text $5 donations to support the troops, a "Metal Of Honor" tent featured a Chamber of Commerce "Hiring Our Heroes" representative to provide attending veterans with information on upcoming Veteran Employment Fairs in the area.  Additionally, all military personnel were allowed early entry to the shows, and they all received a "Metal Of Honor" wristband, along with information on the various charities supporting veteran causes. Concertgoers were encouraged to thank vets wearing the wristbands.  There was also a raffle.  The winner -- Sean May from Operation: Iraqi Freedom -- was honored on the main stage between the Motorhead and Slayer performances. The audience cheered for May as strongly as their did for their favorite bands. He deserved it, too.  My only criticism?  Promote the "Metal Of Honor" more. Not just honoring a guy, but helping our troops when they get home and involving citizens in that effort. Also, they should put the photos of each "Metal Of Honor" recipient on their website, with info about where he or she served, rank, etc.


Tonight's episode of True Blood is titled "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." During the credits, we didn't hear the original Tears For Fears song: instead, it was the Care Bears On Fire cover from their Girls Like It Loud EP.

I don't know the status of the band, I do know that when they recorded the aforementioned EP and the LP Get Over It! they were freshmen in high school.  I think they're seniors now.  I don't know the status of the band at the moment. Of course, the members might just be thinking about school and not promo tours, photo shoots and all the other stuff that goes with being in a working band.

I hope they're still together though - and they're at least active enough to have tweeted about tonight's True Blood.

They're a great band, and one I wish more people knew about. They set a great example for high schoolers (not just girls) with their super catchy, great and funny songs like "Barbie Eat A Sandwich," "ATM" and especially "Everybody Else."

I'm hoping to have a quote from the women in the band for the True Blood story that I'm writing for CBS Local.  I'll tweet it out, so if you're interested and you don't follow me already, I'm @NoExpiration on Twitter.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Black Sabbath has just hit the stage at Lollapalooza. As I wrote in a piece for my day job, the irony here is rich.  In the '90s, Sharon Osbourne pitched Ozzy Osbourne to Lollapalooza (when it was a summer tour), and as legend has it, they laughed at her. So she went and founded Ozzfest. The Lollapalooza tour soon died out, and Ozzfest thrived for years.  Classic Sharon Osbourne. She doesn't mess around.

In Ozzfest's first year as a national tour, Ozzy reunited with Black Sabbath, and played one set with them, and one with his solo group. Sabbath, however, only had 3 of their 4 members: it was Ozzy, guitarist/leader Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, along with drummer Mike Bordin (of Faith No More, at the time he was Ozzy's drummer). Drummer Bill Ward wasn't invited.  I remember interviewing him that summer; he said he didn't know why he wasn't included. Two years later, the Sabs toured on Ozzfest again, and this time, Bill was there.

All these years later, Lollapalooza has reinvented itself as an annual weekend festival in Chicago, and this year, Sabbath headline along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White and the Black Keys. And again,  sadly, Bill won't be there - this time Sabbath are using Ozzy's current drummer, Tommy Clufetos.  I saw Tommy in Ozzy's band about a year and a half ago and I noted that he was a monster on drums. He's perfect for the band, if Bill can't be there.

I've followed the band, and their drama, a lot over the past few years.  As I've mentioned in the past, I wrote the liner notes for The Black Box, the box set that collects all their albums from the Ozzy era.  And I was interviewed for the Sabbath doc that aired on the Biography Channel. I guess all I can say is that Ozzy, Tony and Geezer with Tommy can do a great Sabbath set, but it's just sad that they can't make it work out with Bill.

Of all bands, Black Sabbath should realize that life is finite.  Ronnie James Dio, the guy who originally replaced Ozzy (and with whom Tony and Geezer toured and recorded with as Heaven & Hell in recent years) recently succumbed to cancer. Tony himself recently finished chemo and radiation therapy, and happily, things went well.   But these guys know: they don't have decades ahead of them to work things out.  I interviewed Geezer after Sabbath left the stage the year of the first Ozzfest, and I asked him how the reunion happened:  he just said they were "too old" for squabbling.  

In my interview with Geezer for the box set, he told me that if the band never played another gig, he'd be ok with it. They had done a few reunion tours (with Bill), and they were all friends again. If that was "it," he'd be cool with that.  As a fan, I felt the same way. I thought it was cool that Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill showed up together for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though they didn't perform (Metallica performed for them).  That would have been a perfect end to the story.  So, no matter how great they are tonight (they're currently trending on twitter, I'm guessing they're doing well), if this is it for them, their story ends on a sour note. So I hope that in 2013, they work this CRAP out with Bill and do a few last shows.

All of that said, none of this take away from their legacy: they are one of the best bands of all time, and one of the most influential.  I'm glad that at least the Lollapalooza people have finally caught up.


photo credit: Brian Ives (really!)
It's been years - well over a decade, actually - since I've gone to see Helmet in concert.  I haven't seen them since Page Hamilton reactivated the band in 2004, five years after he dissolved the band.  I was curious if they'd be as powerful today as they were back then.  And when I say "they," I mean Page and anyone who he hires.  Helmet is no more (or less) a band than Nine Inch Nails, which is an observation, not a criticism.

Like Trent Reznor, Page Hamilton hires really great musicians who play as if they are full members of the band, who played on the classic records.  And as a result, seeing Helmet is still really powerful, just like it was in the '90s.

I first experienced Helmet at the Roseland Ballroom in 1992, with the release of their classic Meantime. They opened for Faith No More (it was a mind-blowing show). They were this weird combination of Zeppelin-esque power with Fugazi-esque post-hardcore.  They sounded like a bullet: sleek, hard, fast, with no adornment. They didn't dress like rock stars: they didn't dress like anyone you'd notice.  "Grunge" bands from Seattle are often credited/blamed for moving away from looking like "rock stars," but generally speaking, you'd notice if a guy from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Nirvana walked by you in 1992. They didn't look like they were in Poison, but you knew they didn't work on Wall Street!  The guys from Helmet, on the other hand, looked like anyone you'd see at a bar, or at a baseball game.  If you walked by them, you might not even notice them, which I think was part of the idea:  the only time they wanted you to notice them was when they were on the stage. The thing is, their music was so brutal and hard, that even though they looked conservative, they were way less accessible musically than the alternative rock bands of the era.  They influenced a lot of the bands who I really like (including Rage Against The Machine, Pantera and Tool) and many that I don't (KoRn and all their brethren).  Their music really resonated with me: it was metal but without any of the unnecessary stuff (long hair, misogyny, drum solos). To me, they symbolized getting past all the b.s. in life. That's just my interpretation, but they really resonated with me, and of course I loved (and love) the music.

photo credit: Brian Ives 
So, how was tonight's show?   Like I said, powerful.  It wasn't a "greatest hits" show.  Page noted that Helmet did a 20th anniversary tour for Meantime already; he also joked that at his age - 52 - he has to choose between sex and taking a nap.  The message being that he isn't playing all of the Meantime songs, and that he wasn't going to play a marathon set (the show was a co-headlining concert with The Toadies, and Hamilton also noted that there was a strict curfew, because Webster Hall is actually a disco). I wasn't super familiar with all of the songs that they played, truth be told.  Meantime and the follow-up, 1994's betty are two of my favorite albums of the '90s but I've not spent as much time with the rest of their discography.  The thing is, Helmet songs have such a great groove, and so much force, that I can enjoy them without knowing them by heart.  That said, I was bummed that they didn't play "Biscuits For Smut" and "Unsung." But some of my other favorites were in the setlist, including "Exactly What You Wanted," "In The Meantime," "Milquetoast" and "Wilma's Rainbow" were all amazing. And just as awesome as I remembered them.  Of course, I've never stopped listening to the band's recordings, which are among the most brutal albums in my collection. In a good way.

I didn't stay for the Toadies - but at my age, I have to choose between rocking and going to bed on time (and plus, I wanted to catch the Olympics!).  No disrespect to the band, but after Helmet, I figured it'd just be anti-climatic to me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


First off, I'm happy to announce "30 on 30," a challenge that some of my colleagues and I issued to ourselves: we're attempting a post a day to our blogs through the month of August.  I'm particularly "out of shape" (although I write a few posts at my day job every day, so it's not like I haven't been writing at all). I'm looking forward to it.

Last year, I posted about how much I enjoyed the music on True Blood, even as I thought season 4 was a total letdown. I even mentioned Music Supervisor Gary Callamar by name.  So, it's been one of the very fun parts of my new job that I've been writing a series of weekly posts on CBS Local websites that covers the music of True Blood. And I get to talk to Mr. Callamar himself!

This year has had some great music moments, both for the soundtrack and in the context of the show.  Here's a brief synopsis:

The season premiere, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" had some great moments, but none topped Jessica and Jason rocking out to The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" on Guitar Hero.  The episode's title track was a new take on the song by My Morning Jacket, which worked quite well.

"Authority Always Wins" featured a very cool and very different cover of John Mellencamp's "The Authority Song" by a rockabilly artist who I never heard of, Bosco Delrey, who I'd never heard of.  Actually writing this reminded me that I have to check him out, so I just downloaded another one of his songs, "Wild One," on iTunes.

"We'll Meet Again" features the World War II hit as covered by the great Los Lobos, a great musical moment.  The funniest music moment, however, was Sookie lying on her couch, drunk, singing "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)."

"Let's Boot And Rally" features a brand new song written for the episode, penned by Mr. Calamar himself.  Nice work if you can get it!  Read the story about it here. It is a duet between Iggy Pop and Best Coast singer Bethany Costentino. An interesting combination: I personally would love to see someone pair Iggy up with Kills singer Allison Mosshart, who would have been amazing on this song. You can buy "Let's Boot And Rally" on iTunes now (but Mr. Calamar told me the next True Blood soundtrack wouldn't come out until season six).

The episode called "In The Beginning" featured a song by the same name by an artist named K'naan. But the best music moment featured a karaoke version of "You Light Up My Life" that has to be seen to be believed.

The latest episode, "Somebody That I Used To Know," had an interesting music twist.  The episode originally planned to use the very odd smash of the same name by Goyte.  But as the song got more popular - and has been used on American Idol, The Voice and Glee - it got a little too popular for True Blood. They ended up not using it, instead opting for a song with the same name by the late Elliott Smith.  I think they made the right choice.  As unusual as Goyte's song is, it would have been a bit too obvious for True Blood at this point (I actually thought there'd be a cover by an unlikely artist).  But the best song in the episode was Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'" which was used during a particularly steamy scene.

I'm looking forward to the music from the rest of the season.  Also, I should mention that I ended my last True Blood post hoping that season five would make up for season four.  I'm glad to say that I think  it has, and then some: this season has been pretty great.  I really dig The Authority.

By the way, I'm not going to use my CBS stories as launching points for all of my posts this month.  Tomorrow I plan on writing a review of Helmet's show at Webster Hall. I haven't seen them in years, and I'm wondering if they'll be as great as I remember.