Category: Live Show Review

Think Summer In The Milky Ways – Review of Guided By Voices at Paradise Rock Club

Guided By Voices in swagger on the Paradise stage. (Photo - D. Hixon)

Guided By Voices swagger about the Paradise stage. (Photo – D. Hixon)

Guided By Voices
Paradise Rock Club, Boston, 07/14/14

This more tome than setlist. (Photo - K.Gartland)

This is more tome than setlist. (Photo – K.Gartland)

Bam. Boom. Pop. Crackle.

My right arm is extra tender these days. There’s a deep, dark, and ugly bruise that extends from my forearm to the middle of my triceps. It’s embarrassingly large, yet I have no clue how I came to acquire such a mark. All I know is that there was Saturday. There was Guided By Voices. And there was me with no voice come Sunday.

Nearly 50 songs were played in a set that included three encores, multiple Uncle Bob kicks, and a crowd that was fervently lucid. It was constant, loud, and well received. This show was different from the last time GBV were in Boston. That was at the apex of their classic lineup victory tour. That was a show to celebrate days gone past. This was a show to celebrate days still here – and with a killer mix of both yesterday and today they achieved just that.

The sun will rise. The sun will set. And Guided By Voices will be playing and putting out great music. To think, I thought the 4th of July was eight days earlier  – and like bright lights dimming in the sky, it’s a shame this bruise is gonna fade.

Bam. Boom. Pop. Crackle.

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Even When They Stand, They Sit – A Sort Of Review of Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks at Paradise Rock Club

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are not to blame.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are not to blame for the shoegazers we’ve become.

It’s finally happened, much sooner than I expected – like a sniper in the shadows pulling a shot that ends in red mist, my youth has been blown away. Without want, desire, or effort I’ve become old – the inevitable fate of the survivor…I guess.

At the young age of 34 I’ve reached a disgruntled state that has me waving a white flag on the future status of what I call Rock. I’ve gone to too many shows where I expect to be swept up in the excitement of Rock and Roll – allowed to forgot my everyday worries, and be entranced by bright lights, good music, and a raucous crowd.

Shit. Maybe I’d even pogo around like an idiot, sweat too much while feeling alive, free, and without self consciousness. But for whatever the reason when I attend a show as of late it’s an affair riddled with crossed arms, furrowed brows, and a bunch of young assholes who haven’t lived enough to make a mistake that allows them to make a real decision.

Crap. I really have crossed a border.

I know. I’m old, disgruntled, and you should get off my lawn. These are likely middle aged growing pains that I feel while not going to the real shows of today – but I doubt that’s all they are – going to a show like Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks shouldn’t feel docile, safe, and sterile. You should sweat, move from the spot you stand, and get lost in a sway you don’t completely control.

But what the fuck do I know. I’m 34 years old.


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Gouge Away – Review of the Pixies at Orpheum Theatre

Pixies at Orpheum Theatre on Saturday night. (Photo - D. Hixon)

Pixies at Orpheum Theatre on Saturday night. (Photo – D. Hixon)

Orpheum Theatre, Boston, 01/18/14

Riding in an uber on my way to the Orpheum I had my doubts on what to expect from the Pixies. Their name and reputation, which was seemingly impenetrable prior to their 2013 release of EP1, has since been in serious jeopardy. Kim Deal leaving last June is the blow that keeps reverberating, and the subsequent firing of her replacement (Kim Shattuck), and the underwhelming response to the recently released EP2 (Pitchfork gave the album a 2.0) – have assisted in making these used to be superheroes not only appear human, but possibly desperate, and certainly average.

Thankfully for those at the Orpheum on Saturday there was nothing average about the Pixies performance. The sold-out crowd stood firmly behind their hometown heroes as they played the songs that made the Pixies THE PIXIES. Newly minted bassist, Paz Lenchantin, seems to have re-energized the band as they ripped through their set in a precise and focused manner – with her not overstepping bounds, which meant Kim’s ghost minimally haunted the evening. Playing a total of 31 songs it wasn’t surprising that only one was from the recently released EP2 (“Magdalena”) – which sure seems like an acknowledgement from the band on its shortcomings.

With Kim gone, the stage banter was minimal, but Frank and Crew made up for it with a steady stream of great song after great song. The recent turmoil that’s encircled the bands brand and legacy was nowhere to be seen on stage, and their Boston brethren in the audience were firmly behind them, as the mezzanine swayed in approval on a rocking Saturday night, leaving hope that the story of the Pixies is not yet final.

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Soul Of A Man – Review of Beck at Bank of America Pavilion

Beck on stage at Bank of America Pavillion. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Where it’s at. Beck on stage at Bank of America Pavilion. (Photo – D.Hixon)

Bank of America Pavilion, Seaport District, 08/02/13

I’ve grown up with Beck, and have been a fan since first hearing that sloppy slide guitar on “Loser” back in 1993. The timing was perfect for that song and me. It mashed together a plethora of cultures I was exploring and was so different than the classic rock I grew up with or the “serious” alternative that encircled it back in the early 90’s. For a 14 year old kid living in the suburbs it was weird enough, funky enough, and punk enough to peak my interest – and more importantly, it was fun. “Loser” was also a popular adjective for me and my crew at the time, made famous by Sub Pop’s iconic t-shirt which became a uniform of sorts for a best friend of mine. That song cracked open the door to Beck for me, and after walking through I’ve never really looked back.

I quickly dove into Becks other work, buying Steropathetic Soul Manure and One Foot In The Grave, both of which I love today more than ever. And as I went deeper into Becks catalog I was floored by how diverse his music was. Everything was present. Folk-slop acoustic songs? Check. Punked-Out screamers? Check. Weird Lo-Fi Field Recordings? Check. Funky White Boy Soul? Check. Beck seemed to have no fear of what to explore or play which I connected very strongly with. He belonged to no clique and his music was his own. I’ve always been all over the map with what I listen to, never pinning myself to a single genre, and think I owe Beck a lot for that, he’s bent genres more than any other solo performer I can think of, staying relevant and contemporary throughout it all.

Each album of his is like a unique watermark. Odelay and Mutations helped me get through a move in the middle of High School, while Midnight Vultures provided the party soundtrack for my college years. After getting my degree I struggled with weird work and no money and reflected with Sea Change. Then as my 20’s moved on I finally settled into my life and celebrated with Guero and The Information. Modern Guilt brought me into my 30’s and led to this past Friday’s show at Bank of America Pavilion, which I have to say, I was a little disappointed in.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Beck and I’ve never seen him so docile on stage. I knew he’d be touching on his entire catalog so I expected a bit more of a performance from him and not just playing. Instead he stood fairly complacent on stage dressed all in black and played his songs, which did sound great mind you – but it all seemed….I don’t know, a little too grown-up for me. The fun which I’ve always loved and associated with Beck seemed to be a little sapped from what I’ve come to expect from a Beck performance. It wasn’t a bad show, it just seemed restrained to me. The concert was fine enough for 34 year-old Derek, but I’m pretty sure 14 year old Derek would have been bored, or maybe I’m just a loser for not really growing up – choking on the splinters.

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Baby I’m (Not) Bored – Review of Surf’s Up Spicoli, Tijuana Panthers, & LE Yikes SURF CLUB at TT the Bears

Tijuana Panthers

Tijuana Panthers on stage at TT the Bears last night. (GIF – D.Hixon)

Surf’s Up Spicoli, Tijuana Panthers, & LE Yikes SURF CLUB
TT the Bears, Central Square, 07/30/13

If you’re reading this chances are you missed out. Tijuana Panthers were part of a great bill last night at TT’s along with LE Yikes SURF CLUB (more on them tomorrow) and Surf’s Up Spicoli. The crowd was thin at the beginning and damn near barren at the end – but the lack of a people didn’t deter any on the performances as each band brought it.

Surf's-Up-Spicoli (Photo - D.Hixon)

Surf’s-Up-Spicoli (Photo – D.Hixon)

Surf’s Up Spicoli came out of the gate sprinting as guitarist Andy Baker and bassist Mike Blasi played off of each other with deft and aggressive surf licks that left me swaying with a smile, while drummer Liz Walshak provided a steady backbeat. You’ll certainly hear more here on this talented Boston based trio. Great band.

Long Beach based Tijuana Panthers were on next – they’re currently touring the East Coast with LE Yikes SURF CLUB in support of their excellent new album Semi Sweet. It must have been quite the contrast to be at an uninspired TT’s after just playing to a raucous crowd with No Age back in Santa Monica – but the Panthers showed nothing but enthusiasm as they ripped through a set that bounced with perfect pop. You can hear some of their new album below, which is highly recommended.

Last up was Philly’s LE Yikes SURF CLUB who unfortunately had to deal with some van issues in NYC (something to do with a series of tubes) – therefore they got off to a later start then they would have preferred. Sans sound check the gents threw caution to the wind and played probably the most ferocious set of the night, and any aggression aimed at car troubles was taken out in their music – and those who stuck around were treated to a strong and boisterous performance. Their APOCOLYPSOS 12″ is due to come out this Fall via Grizzly Records – and will certainly be a must buy.

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I Was There – Review of James Murphy at The Sinclair

James Murphy on stage at The Sinclair. (GIF - D.Hixon)

James Murphy on stage at The Sinclair. (GIF – D.Hixon)

James Murphy DJ Set
The Sinclair, Harvard Square, 07/26/13

The ability to walk away from something good before it becomes bad is something most of us don’t have the foresight or control to do. But on April 2nd, 2011 James Murphy did just that in front of a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd – and as the last white balloon careened to the Garden floor, James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem went out on top.

A year earlier I was lucky enough to see them play at the Orpheum Theatre and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to my fair share. I felt like I was seeing The Talking Heads at their peak – and was amazed at how much their records came to life on stage. I was bummed when I heard he was breaking up the band, but was also relieved to know the name wouldn’t be cheapened by sub-par singles or albums.

The crowd reacting to Murphy. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The crowd reacting to Murphy. (Photo – D.Hixon)

James Murphy has come to epitomize cool over the past decade, fashioning himself into the ultimate taste maker. He very well may have been the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids at CBGB’s – and if people found him crazy then, they now just find him crazy good. This was brought to the forefront this past Friday at The Sinclair as a ravenous crowd ate everything he played up, dancing deep into the early morning.

Coralcola opened up for Murphy, representing New England well – spinning an eclectic set that concluded with a rare and all time favorite of mine, Units “High Pressure Days”. This led perfectly into James’ set as he started off to a loud roar that reverberated throughout The Sinclair. He was getting away with playing things most us wouldn’t even dare spin, but James Murphy can do things us mere mortals can’t – such as taking a tribal twist at the halfway point – only to turn everything on it’s head – finishing the set with some gnarly & deep house.

The spirited crowd willfully let James take them wherever he wanted, and I was supremely impressed with how much of a master he is with his taste and choice in music. I also realized that while Murphy left on top with LCD Soundsystem – he’s now just riding on top of a different crest – because apparently this is James Murphy’s world, and we’re just living in it – but thankfully, it sounds pretty damn good.

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Half Angel, ALL Light – Review of The Men and METZ at The Sinclair

The Men at Sinclair in Harvard Square.

The Men at Sinclair in Harvard Square. (GIF – D.Hixon)

The Men and METZ
The Sinclair, Harvard Square, 07/26/13

I’ve been appreciating The Men’s records the past few years, and with this years release of New Moon, they went from a band I liked, to a band I love. Reviews were initially mixed on New Moon because it wasn’t as heavy as previous releases, leaning more towards Crazy Horse era Neil Young than the punk they were known for. What some considered disappointment, I looked at as evolution, and if last nights show proved anything, it’s that The Men have Frankensteined a style that’s unique to them.

METZ were a force on stage.

METZ were a force on stage. (Photo – D.Hixon)

While New Moon is still a rocker, there are acoustic guitars and harmonicas present throughout the album, however, none of these made it last night as they plugged in with the volume set to loud. You could tell from the very beginning that their set would be heavy, and when opening for METZ that’s to be expected. A swirl of feedback beckoned the beginning of their show, and from there The Men took off into a loud and hazy psychedelic flight. Fuzzed out distortion ruled their set as dueling guitars squelched and competed with some innovative lap steel. Meanwhile, Bassist Ben Greenberg provided a playful backbone – and what stood out most from the set was their pure passion on stage and their ability to get lost together. Every note wasn’t perfect, but every note came from a place that was genuine. The highlight for me was a raunchy rendition of “I Saw Her Face” – which bled well past 10 minutes, featuring a slow build up that eventually let loose into a frenzied free for all.

After The Men finished their set the crowd got a chance to catch it’s breath, but not for long, because METZ took the stage with an undeniable immediacy. The band’s been given some comparisons to Bleach-era Nirvana, and that description isn’t too far off, albeit a little too much praise for my liking, but still, I can see where it comes from. Their music is more hardcore than punk, and what makes them stand out is their ability to have Pop undertones filter from the aggressive nature of their music – which definitely sets the stage for them having some crossover appeal. I really enjoyed watching them, and found myself dancing in a pit for the first time in quite awhile, guarding my recently purchased Men record with a fervor – however, I’d take going to a Men show over METZ. METZ certainly has the hype now, and their songs definitely have a lot more immediacy, but with songs playing off of a Pixie-like hard/soft formula, the diversity in the music lacked from song to song, whereas The Men traded singers with nearly every song, and could transition from a slow burner to a ferocious melt down in a succinct manner. Either way, on night like this you just can’t go wrong with either band, and admittedly METZ likely brought the best out of The Men – which is what a complimentary bill should do. Killer Venue. Killer Music.

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Beige Suits and Fedoras – Live Show Review: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, & Bob Dylan

My Morning Jacket, Wilco, & Bob Dylan
Comcast Center, Mansfield, 07/20/13

By: Kevin Gartland

As roadies with white hair and ponytails lit outdoor heaters on either side of the stage, the crowd roared.  A dark shadow with a pork pie hat broke through the fanning light.  After a night of excellent music it was time for the headliner, Bob Dylan.

My Morning Jacket outdid every act of the night as the opener.  Wilco was a close second and Bob Dylan was a distant third.  Before I go on, I will defend this vicious ranking.  I do like Bob Dylan.  I listen to Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home regularly, however I must admit that I’ve never listened to his more recent albums or many of his others.  His work is one of the many black holes in music that I haven’t explored.  I was drawn to this show not entirely by Wilco and My Morning Jacket, but also a desire to watch the Greatest American Musician.

The night began with Jim James and My Morning Jacket.  Wearing his lion’s mane-like hair in the heavy 90-degree heat, James and his band delivered a growling 90-minute set.  This was the first time I’d seen My Morning Jacket and I was surprised that each musician looked suited for a different genre.  The drummer, a Metalhead.  Rhythm guitar, a small club Indie Rocker.  On keys a Jazz Musician.  Rhythm guitar, a Southern Rocker.  Then Jim James, a man who perhaps wandered out of the wilderness of Kentucky directly onto a stage in suburban Massachusetts to entertain us all.

They played sprawling southern, psychedelic rock from each of their six albums – none getting preferential treatment.  James rocked his falsetto perfectly and got non-fan hand-sitters to stand for his antics.  The ample seating still sparse with audience members as the sun was still shining bright, James joked that there are three types of people who come to see the opening act:

  1. True fans who came to see them.
    2. Music fans who may have heard of them and have been converted to fans.
    3. Audience members who came for the headliner and don’t give a shit.

During their excellent performance there were plenty of 1s and 2s with no 3s that I could find.  The overall crowd favorite was a cover of The Band; “Don’t Do It”.  A very appropriate song as Dylan of course was involved in popularizing The Band in the late 60s.

Next Wilco came out.  I missed their opening two songs as I was getting a beer in a short but highly inefficiently run beer line.  That’s a complaint for another night.  Tweedy (also wearing a pork-pie hat) and his band members dressed in classic 60s southern garb were on stage when I returned to my seat.

Tweedy belted out his tunes in his raspy, country-light voice that we all love.  Many of the songs selected were from their alt-country-est album, AM.  The twang used to mix in with Bob Dylan’s set perhaps.

It was the always-mesmerizing “Via Chicago” got the audience to their feet though.  The disarming acoustic guitar and calm vocals contrasted by the fits of anxiety-inducing strobes of Nels Cline distortion-rock frenzied the crowd.  Grey-haired women were dancing in the rows mixed with long-haired slack-jawed youths. A surprising finale was the best of the night though.  Tweedy invited the entire MMJ band to join the stage with them.  Each member of both bands began a familiar tune with perfect timing.  Distortion rang from each instrument including a sax from the MMJ crew.  A moment passed before the noise could be recognized.

It was “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles.  A great selection that energized the crowed and prepared them for the headliner.

Then Dylan.  He arrived on a set lit with warm lights and the aforementioned outdoor gas heaters.  He removed his pork-pie hat to reveal his iconic curly hair; now grey.  Accompanied by a crew of anonymous musicians in beige zoot suites and fedoras, he took the mic stand with confidence and familiarity that 50(!) years’ affords a performer.  His voice, though not the haughty and raspy voice that I’m used to on his records, wasn’t bad.  Just different.  I’ll call it a higher pitched Tom Waits’ croon.  The voice wasn’t the problem here as other reviewers may suggest.

The Anonymous Crew of Beige Musicians played on time with technical proficiency; bobbing at the precise moments of pristine melody with the timing of a well-trained actor.  Dylan faced the crowed as he sang his newer tunes and the crowed roared and whistled at the conclusion of every cleanly rehearsed song.  The Anonymous Crew of Beige Musicians faced Him during every song; not the audience.  That must have been a requirement as he recently canned two rhythm guitarists from the tour in the past two weeks.  Any slip-up and a beige fedora might be stomped out back-stage.  It was a weird 1984 vibe where Dylan was Big Brother.

He played “Tangled Up in Blue”, which was great.  It’s a perfect song.  It just IS and no amount of odd stage dynamics can remove the joy from it.  However, after that my wife got a splitting headache, likely due to coming down from the sugar high she received from her guitar-cup-shaped “margarita” (just serve real drinks Comcast Center!) – so we left.  Neither of us were disappointed with the night.  It was fun.  It was great to see the Greatest American Musician perform live.  That’s not a sarcastic comment either.  He truly is the Greatest American Musician; He just can’t perform as one anymore, which is okay – he’s seventy-fucking-two!

On the way home as some sort of weird musical baptism we played Highway 61 Revisited to cleanse us from the sin of walking out of a Bob Dylan show early. “Like a Rolling Stone” blared as the warm air blew through our hair and I felt guilty thinking, “That’s the Bob Dylan I wish I could see.”

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