Friday, May 24, 2013

Say No More

After 4 years (to the day) and more than 250 posts, it’s time to move on to some other things. I’m not necessarily finished with this blog forever, but I am putting it on ice for awhile. Maybe I'll pick it up again someday. But, for now, I won’t be updating it anymore. I have some other things to focus on in my precious little free time.

I started this blog with the intent to write about:

  1. My keen interest (professionally and personally) in the radically changing world of media – particularly the written word.
  2. My passion for music – new, old and in between in a range of genres.
  3. Miscellaneous other stuff of interest – whether funny, quirky, sardonic, beautiful, humbling or otherwise thought-provoking.      
In the beginning, this blog was 50 percent about music, 30 percent about media and 20 percent miscellany. Over time, however, it gradually morphed to being focused primarily on music. The reason for this was two-fold: 
  • First, as my job became increasingly demanding, I had less time to research and then write thoughtful and (I hope) insightful commentary on the transformation of the mediascape as it relates to “journalism” as we've historically known it. And, after putting in long hours every day working in media communications, I wasn’t that inclined to do so in my few free hours.
  • Second, in my professional life I’ve come to appreciate the value of tracking and using data (of all sorts) to inform decision-making in order to improve efficacy and get the most value or impact out of the effort put forth. When it came to this blog, the data was quite clear: The music posts garnered a lot more traffic than other topics.
There you have it. But now it’s time for me to do some other things. (Though in the back of my mind, I do wonder whether I’ll be able to resist the occasional post when something really compelling prompts me to do so – we’ll see.) 

In the meantime, I would like to think that at least some of what I’ve created here will continue to have some relevance or appeal, and that you might find a few posts that strike your fancy even if they have collected some dust. So feel free to browse the archives (see the chronological index at left and below that a keyword index to post topics).  And
 please comment if you’re compelled. I will continue to monitor and respond to those.

Thanks for reading. Peace.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Good Feeling at The Met

Glenn Mercer led The Feelies through an exuberant set at The Met.

The Feelies made what has become their annual visit to New England this past weekend – I've caught the band’s springtime visits for the past four years. This time around was supposed to be a two-night stay, starting with a gig in Cambridge on Friday. Of course, that was canceled due to the Greater Boston area being in lockdown as the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers played out only a few miles away.

Fortunately, for those of us who had planned to see the Cambridge show, we had another chance the next night when the band made its first Rhode Island appearance in more than two decades. They quintet graced the stage at The Met in Pawtucket, R.I., a great venue that has recently upped its game booking wise. It really has all that The Paradise in Boston has to offer (except the legendary history) but with easier parking, better sightlines, cleaner restrooms and friendlier staff.

Though the Jerseyites made no direct reference to the traumatic and surreal events the area had endured over the past week – they’re not really much for stage banter — they were spurred on by the enthusiasm of the crowd and delivered a much needed celebration and return to normalcy.

Context aside, it was a typically wonderful Feelies show, featuring two sets and a lengthy series of encores. They played most of the old favorites (“Slipping Into Something,” “Higher Ground,” “Away” “Deep Fascination,” “Crazy Rhythms” et al) and more recent standouts (“On and On,” “Nobody Knows” and “Time Is Right”).  A special surprise was the rarely played “Decide” from 1991’s Time for a Witness album.

As usual, The Feelies offered up their own unique take on more than a half-dozen covers by the likes of The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, The Stooges, The Doors, Television and R.E.M.  They slipped The Velvets (“There She Goes”) and Dylan (“Seven Days”) into their main sets – ending the first set with a particularly vicious rendition of the Dylan tune – then packed the four or five encores with the rest. 

Most notable of these were two covers that I had never heard the band do before. The first was The Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud,“ seemingly a bit out of character for them, but so was “Seven Days” only a few years ago and now it‘s nestled comfortably in their repertoire. The other was R.E.M.’s “Shaking Through.” The Feelies’ R.E.M. connection goes way back – Peter Buck production and opening shows for the Athens quartet back in the mid ’80s. I’d heard them cover “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” several times, but never this Murmur track.  

Despite the interesting covers, though, it’s The Feelies’ sometimes manic, sometimes melancholy, but always melodic pop that keeps me coming back each time. I hope they reschedule the Cambridge show before another year passes.

The Feelies at The Met, Pawtucket, R.I.  4/20/13
First Set:
•  It’s Only Life
•  Who Loves the Sun
•  For Now
•  instrumental
•  Change Your Mind
•  There She GOes
•  Invitation
•  Nobody Knows
•  Should Be Gone
•  Let’s Go
•  Again Today
•  The High Road
•  On the Roof
•  Seven Days

Second Set:
•  Deep Fascination
•  On and On 
•  Decide
•  Higher Ground
•  For Awhile
•  The Final Word
•  Way Down
•  Away
•  Slipping Into Something
•  Doin’ It Again
•  Time Is Right
•  Too Far Gone
•  Raised Eyebrows
•  Crazy Rhythms

•  Get Off of My Cloud
•  Waiting
•  Shaking Through
•  See No Evil
•  Sooner or Later
•  I Wanna Be Your Dog
•  Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)
•  Paint It Black
•  Take It As It Comes
•  Fa Cé-La

Saturday, April 13, 2013

G.P. and The Rumour Rock Rhody

I saw Graham Parker play live last night for the third time in the last 7 months. My wife and I caught him for a solo set on our wedding anniversary back in September. Then a friend and I saw his much-anticpated reunion with his original backing band The Rumour in December. Last night, it was another gig with The Rumour, this time at The Met in Pawtucket, R.I., with a few friends and my teen-age daughter. 

With a rare all-ages show, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to introduce her to G.P.’s impassioned live performance, song-writing acumen and witty banter. Of course, judging by the crowd, the “all ages” on the ticket meant you were welcome no matter how ancient you are! At nearly 18, my daughter was the youngest one there – by a lot. Regardless, she dug it, too.

In the December gig, it was obvious that the reunification with The Rumour inspired Graham not only to rock out, but to emote in ways that I’ve seldom seen him do in the dozen or so concerts I’ve seen over the last 25 years. (And as great a backing band as The Figgs have been for him on occasion over the years, it seems there’s just no substitute for his original compadres.) That was even more obvious last night at The Met. Graham was dancing and gesticulating like I’ve never seen him. And though there was plenty of gray hair on stage, the singer’s energy did justice to the “angry young man” legacy. He did, however, smile a lot more than back in the day.

This video hardly does justice (sound or vibe wise) to the superb, energetic show Graham Parker and The Rumour delivered last night at The Met.

As in December, guitarists Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont were both in fine form, trading the many memorable vintage-toned melodies that are hallmarks of some of Parker’s best songs. While the six-stringers tend to get the most attention, the rhythm section of Andrew Bodnar and Steve Goulding played with deft touch and keyboardist Bob Andrews rocked the Hammond B-2 and impressed with essential – and very under-appreciated, I think – harmony vocals.  

The set list followed a similar tack as the late fall tour, with a few variations and perhaps a little less emphasis on the new album (the impressive Three Chords Good) and a little more on G.P.’s ample catalog of hits.

Things kicked into gear just a few songs in with the “controversial” (G.P.’s description) “Coat Hangers,” leaving little doubt about singer’s politics. Many highlights followed, including a particularly soulful “Black Honey,” a vibrant, edgy and elongated “Protection” and “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” which G.P. aptly introduced by saying, “Nobody plays this shit like The Rumour!” He’s right.

One of the most telling memorable moments came during the last song of the main set, “Local Girls.” I looked over the crowd to my left and saw Mike Gent – who opened the show and has backed G.P. in various guises for the last decade or so – dancing and singing along with abandon. Just another punter in the crowd inspired by G.P.’s brand of smart pub rock pop. Of course, a few minutes later Graham pulled him up on stage to join in on vocals for the rousing finale of “Soul Shoes,” which was propelled to the finish by Bob Andrews’ pounding Hammond.

Mike Gent of The Figgs joins G.P. for some impassioned vocals. 

On this second tour since reuniting and recording the critically acclaimed Three Chords Good last year, G.P. and the boys seem to be riding high on the exposure of the band’s appearance in Judd Apatow’s 2012 film This Is 40 (with G.P. even plugging the freshly released blu-ray edition of the movie, which features a documentary on the band). The fact that they all seem to be genuinely enjoying this second run 30 years on begs the question as to whether they might be game to do another album together – sooner rather than later.

My brief chat with Brinsley after the show as he cleared his gear off the stage and the crowd thinned out gave reason for hope. To my encouraging “you guys should do another album!” comment, he replied, “Yeah, we were just talking about that.”

Get to it boys!

G.P. & The Rumour
The Met, Pawtucket, R.I.  4/12/13
•  White Honey
•  Fool’s Gold
•  Howlin’ Wind
•  Coat Hangers
•  Three Chords Good
•  Long Emotional Ride
•  Lady Doctor
•  Get Started, Start a Fire
•  Black Honey
•  Snake Oil Capital of the World
•  Soul on Ice
•  A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World
•  Watch the Moon Come Down•  Discovering Japan
•  Don’t Get Excited
•  Protection
•  Stupefaction
•  Local Girls
•  Passion Is No Ordinary Word
•  Don’t Ask Me Questions
•  Soul Shoes

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eilen Jewell's Understated Treasure

Nearly two months have passed since the occasion, but I don’t want to let the wonderful shows Eilen Jewell and her band played at Fall River’s Narrows Center for the Arts back in mid January go by without some recognition. 

The two sold out performances featured plenty of country twang and upbeat folk highlighted by the tight band's superior chops and Jewell’s prowess as a songwriter and singer. Her between song storytelling added to the folksy vibe while showcasing her understated humor and genuine charm. 

Eilen’s crisp vocals really shone on the few Loretta Lynn tunes where she really cut loose with extra exuberance. Among her many own tunes, standouts included “Queen of the Minor Key,” “Bang, Bang, Bang,” “Warning Signs,” I’ll Remember You,” “Only One” and “If You Catch Me Stealing.” 

Eilen Jewell at  The Narrows Center, Fall River 1/19/13:
•  Radio City
•  I Remember You
•  Warning Signs
•  Heartache Boulevard
•  Reckless
•  Restless
•  Only One
•  Too Hot to Sleep
•  Deep As Your Pocket
•  Why I’m Walking
•  Santa Fe
•  Dusty Boxcar Wall
•  Satisfied Mind
•  Home to Me
•  Rain Roll In
•  High Shelf Booze
•  Fist City
•  Bang Bang Bang
•  I’m Gonna Dress in Black
•  Shakin’ All Over  (with bits of Paint It Black and Daytripper)
•  Queen of the Minor Key
•  If You Catch Me Stealing

Music in Mexico on the Road to the Mayans

A pleasant ride through the Yucatan countryside on our way to see the Mayan ruins in Coba. No getting lost, there’s only one very straight road through the jungle with just a few humble hamlets along the way. 

Not quite so many Gringo tourist-targeted money traps on this route. In fact, as depressing as some of it was (definite Third World feel), it was good to see some parts of the country outside the sphere of the tourist trade.

Apropos music by Los Lobos and Los Straightjackets. We listened to some Santana, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Clash on the way, too.