The Dirtbombs, one of the greatest live rock & roll bands you’ve never seen — all right, some of you have — have gone techno. This can’t be good.
Actually, it’s quite good. The Detroit veterans’ new album Party Store pays homage to the influential Detroit techno scene, covering tracks by the likes of Derrick May, Carl Craig and Cybotron, and giving them all a furious, garage rock kick, while retaining all the dense dance-floor thump and shine.
It’s fitting then that a few of the Dirtbombs’ revisions of these classic tracks have been further revised and remixed by Kyle Hall, Ectomorph and Omar S. Grab the frenetic Kyle Hall remix of “Bug in the Bassbin,” originally by Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra — while the grabbing’s good.
Before this month, Esperanza Spalding was largely unknown to mainstream America. But after some buzz from a special performance invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony sent by President Obama, her career gained momentum, resulting in a 2011 Grammy for Best New Artist.
While outside of pop circles, the bassist, vocalist and composer from Portland has built a reputation in the jazz world as a modern-day prodigy. At the age of 20 she became the youngest instructor ever to teach at the Berklee College of Music.
During performances — which you can see on YouTube — her hands steal the spotlight as they work wonders along a double bass that stands over a foot taller than her. The deep notes of her bass yield to her light and agile touch, creating keystroke-like transitions between the notes. Esperanza’s vocal presence is just as impressive as her musicianship. On songs like “Ponta De Areia,” “Cuerpo y Alma” and “I Know You Know,” she delivers a naturally romantic feel that’s convincing in both Portuguese, Spanish and English.
Spalding has performed with many great musicians including Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Although she is a fine musician of jazz, her talent transcends genres into blues, funk, hip hop, pop fusion and Afro-Cuban. Spalding’s debut solo album, Esperanza, led her to become the best-selling new jazz artist internationally in 2008. Her 2010 album, Chamber Music Society, has not lost a step. Released on the Heads Up International label, the album features a wide array of musicians, includng drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, pianist Leonardo Genovese and percussionist Quintino Cinalli. Esperanza is currently on tour with both national and international performances.
Creating a follow-up to the 2008 masterpiece A Mad and Faithful Telling would be a difficult achievement for any artist, but DeVotchKa seamlessly delivers — and with gusto. This quartet’s roots are in a self-made style of multi-instrumental punk, and clearly, as this album demonstrates, they have continued on that path while evolving along the way.
The overall sound of 100 Lovers, as with many albums previous, including their 2006 score to the breakout indie film Little Miss Sunshine, is cinematic, epic, intense, emotive, exciting and soothing — often simultaneously.
On this album in particular, frontman Nick Urata sustains his vocal notes over galloping percussion that moves songs along and strings that often glide, twirl, engage and disappear before you realize just what happened. Whether on fast or slow tempos, his disciplined singing style shines through.
100 Lovers was produced with Craig Schumacher at Wavelab in Tucson, Ariz. Schumacher is best known as longtime producer for Neko Case and Calexico, among others, and his skills behind the board show well throughout this record, as on the many fine records he’s worked on previously. Ever heard Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone or Fox Confessor Brings the Flood? With the arrangements and clever production decisions on 100 Lovers, as with many great producers, one could easily make an argument that he plays the role of fifth member to the band.
The single “100 Other Lovers” is about as close to a pop song as DeVotchka gets, and the melody and subject matter offer a slight nod to the Police’s “King of Pain.” Even with all the hooks the song is never predictable — strings, reversed flute, percussion and Urata’s voice and delivery shift to drive the song as it unfolds. As the title suggests, his love interest may have 100 other lovers, but the singer chooses to shake it off by declaring, “I guess it’s just as easy if you lie to me.”
The accordion and electric guitar heavy sound of “The Man From San Sebastian” stands out as a clamorous, classy, Klezmer track. The song gracefully slides into a ghostly, ethereal guitar/theremin solo, and then jumps back into form.
Mariachi horns and accordion set up the merengue song “Contrabanda,” lifting the album with Latin spice and pizzazz. But the album’s recurring thread occurs in songs like “All The Sand In All The Sea,” “The Common Good,” “Bad Luck Heals” and “Ruthless,” all of which exude emotion like, well, like opera. An amazing, beautiful south of the border/Eastern European opera.
DeVotchKa’s 100 Lovers overall demonstrates an inimitable group at the top of its game, and like many bands I love, DeVotchKa plays by its own rules. It’s unfortunate that groups like this are too often thrown into genre boxes based on their instrumentation. If voice and instruments are colors on a pallet, the vocals, guitars, keyboard, accordion, strings, horns, bass and percussion really color the heart and soul of the album. And those dimensions, as a whole, are so richly developed.
DeVotchKa – “100 Other Lovers”
All photos by Kate McDaniel. See more at my Flickr stream.
Old 97′s may come from Texas, and they may be a Texas “bar band” through and through (clad in the requisite cowboy shirts and boots), but last night, to everyone at the Pageant, it felt like they were home again. “When the sun goes down on [St. Louis] town / That’s when I’ll know I’m home.” Right?
“Hiy’all doin’ St. Louis?” lead singer Rhett Miller shouted in greeting to the packed theatre. In response to the fans’ “wooooooo!” Rhett laughed and said, “Yeah me too, me too. It’s nice to be back in St. Louis.” It is nice, Rhett!
“Do you want to dance with me,” fans of the Old 97′s? Apparently, yes, you do. Following Whiskey Folk Ramblers and Those Darlins, we rocked out last night to the Old 97′s most recent return, though Rhett was sure to remind St. Louisans of their long history in this town: “We’ve always had great shows here, all the way back to Cicero’s and the Hi Pointe.” He reminisced, “I always bumped my head on the ceiling at the Hi Pointe. The Pageant has their shit together; they didn’t put a metal beam right here!” What town doesn’t love a band that loves their town?
Rhett set a perfect tone for the night — humor, excitement, familiarity with the local scene. And the band opened the set strong with “The Grand Theatre,” followed by a handful of songs from recent albums (2008′s Blame it on Gravity and 2010′s The Grand Theatre: Volume 1). From my vantage point, I could see the standing-room-only crowd pushed close to the stage, grooving and swaying (“Movers and martini shakers”), and even noticed the seated crowd who, judging from the median age, were likely fans of the Old 97′s since the early days (mid-1990s), nodding their heads and relishing this opportunity to see them live, maybe again after having seen them at the Hi Pointe years ago, or maybe for the first time (“Once in your life / And the time has come”). It’s always nice to see a band you love make it, and even nicer to see a group known as being a “bar band” successfully fill a big venue and not get lost in the space.
Yes, a lot of niceness all around last night, all the way through song 14. And 15. Aaaaaaaand 16. (“Yeah, I’m a little bit afraid that we’re out of control now.”) At song 17, Rhett exclaimed, “Don’t get too excited St. Louis — we’re NOT DONE YET!” Indeed.
Maybe like any long-lost love or friend or relative coming home again, fondness is commensurate with the length of the absence. And maybe like any house guest who can overstay the welcome, a 27-song show is a bit much.
But after song 21, the obligatory pre-encore stage exit, audience cheering, and band return, the encore seemed likely to deliver an earlier promise of “But you make it all right, you make it OK.” All right, Old 97′s, “I’ll stay all night / I’ll wait right here.” Let’s see what you’ve got for us.
For the first song of the encore, Rhett performed an acoustic solo of “Singular Girl.” It was lovely, truly. The second encore song featured bassist Murry Hammond performing an acoustic solo of “Valentine” with Rhett harmonizing. Very, very lovely. Then for the third song of the encore, the whole band rocked out solidly to “The Fool.” Fantastic.
Admittedly around song 14 I had thought that perhaps I didn’t want to stay until the end. By song 2 of the encore, I fully felt those lyrics, “You make me sorta glad that I waited”; yes, indeed, Old 97′s, “you thought I wasn’t listening / but I was.” Those first three songs of the encore were more than nice — truly, they were an awesome close to a really good rock show.
But then, oh wait, there’s another song? And another? Oh my god, there are SIX encore songs? At encore song 5, I asked the doorman how many more, and when he answered “2 more,” I hate to admit it, but as I tried to avoid standing in the way of the masses exiting the Pageant, the words they sang hit a little close to home: “‘The end is coming soon,’ but not soon enough / Restring all your guitars / Pack up all your stuff.” Now, I won’t go so far as to say that I would have embraced the sentiment behind the lyrics, “Now I’m begging and I’m pleading,” but I will say that after nearly 2 hours, I did enthusiastically join the refrain of “I’m on my way / I’m on my way / I’m on my way.”
Frontman Rhett Miller stood center stage and belted out song after song of heartfelt lyrics, only taking a break to wail and flail around as he strummed on his 6 string. Miller and his band’s professionalism on stage, along with their well-crafted tunes, make it easy to understand why these veterans fill venues across the country.
Opening was Nashville-based, 4-piece band Those Darlins. With Jessi, Nikki and Kelley Darlin took charge of the guitar and bass duties, while drummer Linwood Regensburg held it down on the kit. The group played a set that consisted largely of numbers from its upcoming sophomore release, Screws Get Loose. Known for wild, unpredictable shows, Those Darlins kept themselves in order and let their new batch of songs do the rebel rousin’. Look for an album release sometime in March.
All photos by Nate Burrell. See more at my Flickr stream.
KDHX has been hosting live music in-studio since the day we began broadcasting on 88.1 FM, nearly 24 years ago. Recently, we developed a system for volunteers to produce video of these sessions — giving the public a peek into the studios of KDHX.
We hope you are enjoying the results. Here are some of our favorite live in studio videos from 2010.
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the passing of Bob Stinson, founding guitarist for the Minneapolis band. That makes this list a little bittersweet.
But without further ado, here are my favorite 10 Replacements songs.
10. “Answering Machine” – Let It Be
Maybe a little antiquated technologically but unrequited love will never go out of style.
9. “Color Me Impressed” – Hootenanny
In my opinion, the earliest (of many) great songs by the Replacements.
8. “Achin’ to Be” – Don’t Tell a Soul
From the Replacements stab at the pop market, Don’t Tell a Soul is a much maligned album to many fans. This song, however, is great and the title perfectly fits the song.
7. “Merry Go Round – All Shook Down
From the Replacements’ swan song (or what many consider Paul Westerberg’s first solo album) comes a song that stands up to their best.
6. “Alex Chilton” – Pleased to Meet Me
Paul Westerberg managed to put one of his best songs in memorial to one of his biggest influences, Alex Chilton of the Box Tops and Big Star.
5. “Sixteen Blue” – Let It Be
Even though I didn’t hear this song until I was in my mid-20s, it still manages me to put me in the confused mind of my 16-year-old self. Genius.
4. “I Will Dare” – Let It Be
The next three can interchange between spots 2-4 at any time. The leadoff track from the album that stands as, arguably, their best. With Peter Buck of their peer group R.E.M. helping on guitar.
3. “Hold My Life” – Tim
One of my first handmade cassettes was Tim on one side and Pleased to Meet Me on the other. I listened to that tape every day for about a year. Auto-reverse, I love you. Love this track. And I still don’t know the words: Razzle dazzle, razzle roam, razzle dazzle razzle die…?
2. “Here Comes a Regular” – Tim
Bittersweet. Sad. Comforting. Lovely.
1. “Can’t Hardly Wait” – Pleased to Meet Me
My favorite Replacements song, by a huge margin. Just an amazing song. If you haven’t heard the version from the Tim sessions, check it out. I fell in love with this song on Pleased to Meet Me … the demo version from the Tim sessions that I heard years later made me love it even more.
Any songs I’m missing? What’s your favorite?