Tag: 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.

Setlist

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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)

Pixies
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)

Beck
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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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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Long Enough to Stay – Review of The Mantles at Lilypad

The Mantles onstage at Lilypad. (Photo - D.Hixon)

The Mantles onstage at Lilypad. (Photo – D.Hixon)

The Mantles
Lilypad, Inman Square, 07/11/13

Last Thursday night The Mantles played Lilypad to a sweaty and anticipatory crowd. They took stage just after 12:30am – which by Boston standards is extremely late, but the wait was well worth it – as they tore through an excellent set to a frenzied group of revelers who danced and swayed through the early morning night, myself included.

The Mantles latest album, Long Enough to Leave, is one of my favorites of 2013, and they’re a band that I’m surprised isn’t getting more attention because their music demands it. The Mantles live set echoed their albums perfectly, with a laid back California cool that jangled everyone in the room. You can watch them in their latest video for “Hello” below and purchase Long Enough to Leave over at Slumberland Records.

Lastly, Queens native Juan Wauters put on an excellent show as well just before The Mantles, and the leader of The Beets will likely be showcased on Visions very soon, as his set was equally impressive.

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Play What You Can – Review of FOR BOSTON: A Benefit for the Victims of the Boston Marathon

Earthquake Party (.GIF - D.Hixon)

Earthquake Party rip through an electric set.  (.GIF – D.Hixon)

Multiple Boston Bands
T.T. the Bear’s Place, Central Square, 04/16/13

UPDATE: $7,740 was raised last night for MGH!

Boston was weird yesterday, is weird today, and will likely stay that way for some time. Bostonians had to wake up and go to work yesterday knowing that less than 24 hours prior two bombs changed how we celebrate our city. Words like amputation, shrapnel, kettle, and pellets became an unfortunate part of our vocabulary. Coming home from work I entered South Station with National Guardsmen at the Subway entrance and police at the turnstiles. The sound of helicopters overhead was constant, and on the ride home during rush hour no one said a word. As eerie as a ride as I’ll ever have. The mood is heavy, and emotion high.

Even now as I write this a co-worker’s late because her commuter train is being evacuated and searched. My city, friends, co-workers, and fellow citizens are still dealing with the ripple affects of the unspeakable – but last night the Boston Music Community banded together in an effort to raise funds for Victims from Marathon Monday’s gruesome attack, and to help each other forget about the weird, for a few hours at least.

FOR BOSTON: Lineup

FOR BOSTON: Lineup

Word of the Event at T.T. the Bears began spreading quickly on Twitter and Facebook around 3:30pm, and by the time I showed up the club was jammed. Michael Marotta & Richard Bouchard did a phenomenal job in organizing the event in such a short amount of time, and from the staff, the crowd, and the bands – everyone banded together as one. The price of admission was to pay what you could afford, with 100% of the door being donated to MGH on behalf of the Boston music scene. On top of this there were multiple raffles being held, with 31 prizes in total up for grabs (an incredible number for only having a few hours to gather them). 957 total raffles were sold and all tips given to the bartenders are also being passed along to MGH, with both totaling more than $2,300.00, and this isn’t even counting the door and all the merch proceeds from the bands that were also being donated. Again, just an incredible overall effort.

While cruel, unthinkable, and senseless acts like what happened on Patriots Day are likely to forever play out – the heart, kindness, and selflessness of the majority of people who breathe continually restores my faith in good, and last night was step one for a lot around town to move on, but not forget.

I’d like to give special attention to both Endation and Earthquake Party. Both bands played with the fervor of a Tasmanian Devil last night, and had me truly losing myself for the first time since 2:50pm on Monday. Endation felt like a Nirvana two-piece that played Fugazi standards. Matt Graber’s drumming was incredibly creative while Anthony Conley’s abandon on stage added a perfect mix of chaos to the succinct back-beat behind him. Meanwhile, Earthquake party played like the lovechild of The Ramones and Yo La Tengo – ripping through their set with barely enough time to take a breath between songs. I’ve written about them before, and truly believe they’re one of the best things happening in the Boston Music scene today. Just a great band.

Things are still weird outside. My commute this morning was a little more normal. There were still cops, guards, and helicopters, but the people on the train seemed a little less dazed and a little more there. There’s still so much we don’t know about Monday, but on Tuesday night I didn’t have to watch replays of those goddamn explosions, I didn’t have to listen to talking heads circle around things they’re not sure of, I got to escape the way I’ve done my whole life – through music.

My deepest thanks to the organizers, the staff, the bands, and the everyone there last night. You all helped me deal with the weird while helping those more affected. Simply put, Boston made me proud last night.

Endation (.GIF - D.Hixon)

Endation left nothing on stage – an excellent performance. (.GIF – D.Hixon)

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