If you search Google maps for “Chicken Shack Alley, Garage” (I don’t know why you would, but if you did) it’ll point you to someplace in Collinsville, Ill.; that’s not the Chicken Shack Alley Garage I have in mind.
Let me clarify: On Sunday September 9 from 6-8 p.m. Central join me and Tony C. in a garage on the Chicken Shack Alley. Tony C. will be filling in for Rich Barta on the regular Sunday night R&B show that night (Rich Barta and Bruce B. alternate every other week). Tony has asked me to help put together a show that we’ve been talking about for a couple years. We were discussing the connections many of the garage bands had to blues, R&B and soul, and we’ll be broadcasting from the studios of 88.1 KDHX in St. Louis…not Collinsville.
Many garage bands based their sound on that music, filtered through the British Invasion bands of the mid-’60s: the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Who, Them and others. So we will be playing garage bands — and their British equivalent “freakbeat” bands — covering the blues, R&B and soul, or doing music that was heavily influenced by those genres.
Please join Tony and me on Sunday, September 9 from 6-8 p.m. Central — you can listen online at KDHX.org on mobile device via TuneIn — as we explore these specific meandering musical paths as they crisscross the crossroads of the blues, R&B and soul. Oh, and don’t bother looking for it on Google maps.
Thursday morning music news: Descendents ascend, Nick Cave descends and Ray Parker (Sun Records) and Stuart Swanlund (Marshall Tucker Band) pass on
If you’re Bob Dylan, you get to make whatever-the-hell kind of video you want. Behold: “Duquesne Whistle.”
“The Sun isn’t yellow, it’s chicken!” RIP Ray Parker, the man who designed the Sun Records logo.
Hurricane Isaac hits St. Louis in the form of a Del McCoury Band cancellation and a Big Muddy Blues Festival indoor plan.
This week KDHX’s “Hear and Now” feature is streaming new albums by Karlie Bruce and David Wax Museum.
Zoe Saldana will play Nina Simone in an upcoming Nina Simone biopic. Simone’s daughter is not thrilled.
Punk greats Descendents are working on a new album.
BuzzMedia continues its shopping spree with a detour into punk rock.
The Seattle Weekly picks 10 rock docs to watch on Netflix.
Brad Clontz, former Atlanta Braves’ sidearmer, future king of dubstep.
The Wall Street Journal wants to know what happens to all your digital stuff when you die.
Everything you never knew you wanted to know about the record store scene in “A Clockwork Orange.”
In related news, here’s everything about Jack and Diane’s Tastee Freez.
Rolling Stone is streaming the forthcoming album by Bob Mould.
Stuart Swanlund, guitar slinger for the Marshall Tucker Band, has died at the age of 54.
City Pages interviews Wanda Jackson on touring with Adele and recording with Justin Townes Earle.
The song remains the same: 95% of record producers and engineers have a Y chromosome.
Dangerous Minds shares “Fallen Angel,” an excellent documentary on Gram Parsons.
Joseph Arthur should have taken care of those parking tickets, but WTF NYPD?
Feel good story of the week: In Los Angeles, a deaf man hears music for the very first time. Mozart was a pretty good choice.
NPR is streaming new albums by Cat Power, Animal Collective and the Avett Brothers.
The LA Times profiles songwriter and screenplay author Nick Cave.
The Bad Plus will release “Made Possible” on September 25.
PopMatters interviews singer-songwriter Joe Pug.
Micky Dolenz explains why he won’t see a dime from that song in “Breaking Bad.”
Leave it to the Atlantic of all places to deconstruct the “Gangnam Style” video.
Concert review: Phish cranked out the old-school jams to a packed house at Chaifetz Arena, Tuesday, August 28
King of all jam bands, Phish, made its triumphant return to St. Louis last night — its first summer tour stop here since appearing at the Fox Theater in 2009.
After playing such an intimate and acoustically perfect venue, it was a touch disappointing that they chose the somewhat sterile Chaifetz Arena for this go-around; the band, however, was anything but sterile, putting on a jam-packed show that harkened back to the band’s early ’90s heyday.
With a first set that lasted nearly two hours, Phish catered to its diehard fans by concentrating on some of its oldest material (the exception being the seemingly out of place “Ocelot” from its 2009 album “Joy”). Starting out strong with “Punch You in the Eye,” the crowd could sense that the band was ready to bring its A-game. The scene was set as hundreds of neon glow sticks flew through the air, from the upper levels down to the packed floor, and the audience began to undulate, like one giant, groovy creature.
Frontman and guitar virtuoso Trey Anastasio threw down one of the night’s many incredible solos during the upbeat “Runaway Jim,” supported by bassist Mike Gordon, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer/percussionist Jon Fishman (in his signature polka-dot muumuu). Classic “Reba” was inspired, taking fans on a journey through its quirky, rapid-fire lyrical story into its catchy chorus and moving into the long instrumental jam that is one of the best examples of Phish’s true essence.
Fishman stepped out from behind the drum kit to play his signature Electrolux vacuum cleaner solo on “I Didn’t Know,” Anastasio introducing him as the “John Coltrane of the vacuum cleaner.” The deep reverberations spread through the crowd like a roll of thunder before the band moved into the opening notes of “The Curtain.” Phish showed off its jazz instrumental roots with a cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia,” and the room’s energy hit a crescendo during catchy favorite “Sample in a Jar.”
After the grand final notes of that tune, I was almost certain it was time for a set break; but the band had other ideas — continuing to push on full-steam ahead with three tunes that pre-date their earliest albums, “The Sloth,” “Camel Walk” and “Possum,” during which McConnell was killing it on the keyboards like the second coming of Jerry Lee Lewis. As if that all wasn’t enough, they closed the set with a happy-go-lucky cover of Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo.”
In addition to the great music pouring from the stage, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Phish’s light show, which is quite possibly the best in the business. With literally hundreds of lights in a spectrum of colors constantly moving and changing formations in perfect time to the music, their shows are a feast of sight as well as sound.
After about a 30-minute set break (during which most fans expressed sheer awe at the first set), Phish returned to provide another full hour of non-stop jams, picking up right where they left off with “Chalkdust Torture.” The band showed its funky side during much of this set, digging into heavy grooves like the highly danceable “Sand” and “Julius.” A cover of James Gang’s “Walk Away” was pure classic rock fun.
The evening hit its peak during “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (aka the theme from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Phish repeatedly building up the crescendo of this classical Strauss piece, then laying it down hard into the funkiest of jams. There didn’t seem to be a single butt in a seat at this point (or at any point, really) — everyone from the floor to the rafters on their feet moving to the rhythm.
Concert review: School of Seven Bells (with Stagnant Pools) light up the Luminary with eerie, ethereal soundscapes, Tuesday, August 28
Siblings: we love them, we hate them, but it turns out they make pretty great bands. Stagnant Pools, a brotherly duo fresh out of a van from Bloomington, Ind. kicked things off in the Luminary Center for the Arts‘ wide, dark basement gallery on Tuesday evening. The boys are signed to Polyvinyl and already generating a decent amount of buzz (from the likes of Paste and, yes, Pitchfork) for their drone-heavy noise pop. Lots of noise, in fact, from just one guitar and a drum machine. They have obviously listened to a lot of Joy Division, and I think we’ll be hearing much more of them during the months to come.
I was curious to see how School of Seven Bells would sound with only one Deheza sister (Claudia, vocalist and synth player, left the band before 2012′s “GHOSTORY” was recorded). But I didn’t have to wonder, because someone who looks very much like Claudia — and thus very much like her twin Alley, the lead vocalist — took the stage a little after 9 p.m. on a muggy Tuesday night, along with Benjamin Curtis (formerly of Secret Machines, and one-half the creative force behind SVIIB).
A group of willowy, unassuming Brooklynites, each dressed to some degree in tight black apparel, SVIIB kept it classy — no between-song banter other than a few sincere “thank you”s. But these Bells left my ears ringing. Opening with “Windstorm,” from their critically acclaimed 2010 release Disconnect from Desire, a few dozen attendees shrugged off their shyness, inching toward the light of the stage to “swing their weight around.” Live, the band sounds louder, harder, and — for lack of a better description — much more layered, deeper and complex than recordings allow. A young band, their catalog isn’t extensive, but plenty of old and new material wound seamlessly the speakers: “Iamundernodisguise,” a sparse, synth-heavy, spooky little number from their first record, “Alpinisms,” against “Low Times” and “The Night” off their latest. “GHOSTORY,” released a few months ago, is a concept album told through the eyes of a girl named Lafaye who falls into and out of ambient, weird love — not unlike the type of love you’d imagine Alley or Benjamin have experienced.
Of course, that is pure conjecture on my part, an attempt to reconcile the enigmatic duo’s art with their lives. Perhaps it’s because School of Seven Bells has a knack for slyly cloaking dusky, almost malevolent lyrics — “Is this the way you thought it would be/ Do you feel the same, without me darling? You have my arms/ You have my legs…. Devour me, devour me” (from “The Night”) — in torrents of shimmering, luminescent dream-pop and Alley Deheza’s liquid contralto. It’s a shade too heavy for shoegaze, but mysteriously vague, gentler than the pummeling electronic drumbeats of contemporaries like Phantogram and M83 (with whom SVIIB has toured). Behind the musicians, simple stage decorations: two giant Venn diagram-shaped set pieces, bedazzled with lights that pulsed, twinkled, or raced through all colors of the rainbow in time with staccato drums or Claudia’s cloudy synthesizer. “We recorded some new material a few weeks ago, and we didn’t know what to do with it, so, um, it’s for sale at the merch table,” announced Benjamin by way of cautious self-promotion.
And then, in an unexpected burst of bravado, “But it’s pretty fucking good, so you should probably buy it.” Agreed.
Chan Marshall has a reputation for being an unpredictable performer, and paying to see a Cat Power show is a little bit like hedging your bets in favor of Guns N’ Roses or Van Halen.
On the one hand, it could be a transcendental experience that blows your head wide open with the kind of stuff you’ve loved since you were a kid or wish you had the brain capacity to create; but on the other, it could be a sloppy, poorly-orchestrated mess that, when repeated enough times, becomes the kind of legend that an artist never seems to outrun.
The complication about Cat Power is that it all seems at least a little bit drunk, and this is what makes it so good. Marshall’s drowsy, soul-inspired vocals amble across comely melodies, her breathy (and sometimes breathless) delivery skirting the edge between Stevie Nicks and Dusty Springfield, a tableau of expensive French cigarettes and hard water-stained wineglasses. Even when making cover albums — like 2000′s “The Covers Record” or 2008′s spectacular “Jukebox” — Marshall doesn’t just sing, she compels.
The challenge, then, is to retain an amount of focus. Marshall is no good to anybody when she loses her way, that blushing vulnerability turned to clumsy aimlessness. She nailed her strengths on 2003′s “You Are Free” and “Jukebox,” but a scant few of her tracks and just enough of those legendary live performances lack definition. On “Sun,” to be released by Matador on September 4, Marshall is agile and in control, expanding her lyrical talents and arranging the tempo and tone of her track listing like a sestina.
“Cherokee” and “Sun” are both atmospheric trips through a mellow electro lounge, the energy of this album not ratcheting up until the snappy piano intro of the third track, titled “Ruin.” “Ruin” was the first single released from “Sun,” mostly danceable with a chilling mezzo-soprano to cut the tension.
Marshall samples a portion of the chorus from Shirley Ellis’ “The Clapping Song” for “3,6,9,” the familiar rhythm quelled by her layered backing vocals and a stuttering guitar. Because Cat Power is Marshall herself, all vocals are hers and expertly mixed to create a careful dissonance. For example, Marshall’s narration on “Always On My Own” is flinty compared to her aching singing voice, and neither detracts from the full effect.
Most of Marshall’s youth was spent in the South and she has recorded there, so her voice and the themes of her songs are imbued with a Southern Gothic sensibility. Even on tracks like “Manhattan,” the easygoing pace and hidden country rhythm speak to this and elevate the effort above one style or another. “Silent Machine,” another track on “Sun,” begins with a roadhouse guitar whine and a shaky, snaky tambourine — with that panted line about how “Charlie is a sinner,” it’s the steamiest selection on this album.
“Sun” closes with “Peace and Love,” a Laurel Canyon-esque jam that holds the most potential for one of those either/or Cat Power shows. If delivered as flawlessly as recorded on this album, though, Marshall is one stride closer to outrunning her reputation.
Festival review: LouFest 2012 Day 2: Lost and found and happy in a flood of rain and music, Sunday, August 26
I am still finding pieces of confetti in my hair and clothes as I type this, remnants of a wet and wild weekend at LouFest 2012 in Forest Park.
“We’re going to have a collective, cosmic orgasm!” promised Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, firing wave after wave of rainbow sprinkles at us during their headlining set. But before this surreal cosmic embrace, there were many others who took the stage, gallantly defying Mother Nature to blast our eardrums with high-powered rock, folk and soul.
The Pernikoff Brothers, a local folk-rock outfit, started things off nice and easy on Day 2 in Forest Park. The ladies of THEESatisfaction, resplendent of Afro and wriggling in all the right places, warned, “Whatever you do, don’t funk with my groove,” amid a snaky little bass line and pulsing, robotic drum beat — the sound would pair nicely with neon sneakers and a boombox hoisted over your shoulder. These college friends know their way around a rollerskate jam and make a kind of futuristic funk, layered over equally space-age raps. A little Q-Tip, a lot Janelle Monáe.
Next up we got more Missouri, this time a representative from the wild (South)west, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. The hometown welcome was extended by proxy to the Springfield quartet, who showed some love for our side of the state (“Cardinal Rules”) and, from the looks of it, coaxed a few fans up Interstate 44 just to see the show (as evidenced by a circle of tireless dancers, who screamed and waved a handmade sign throughout the entire performance).
“I’ll see you at Wild Nothing!” signed off John Robert Cardwell (vocalist/guitarist/occasional drummer), and no sooner had SSLYBY exited Blue Stage left than began a mad dash for the Orange Stage, where the dreamy pop of Wild Nothing cascaded over the crowd like so much misty, twinkling starlight. The creative force behind Wild Nothing, Jack Tatum, is as young and fresh-faced as they come, so it’s almost hard to believe he’s two records into a promising career and already commanding such admiration from a crush of sweaty Fest-ies (and Fest-ettes, especially) — albeit diffident, shoegazing admiration.
As Wild Nothing’s twinkled from the speakers, kids in Spotify ray-bans traipsed back across the field in time for Cults, a band whose star burned bright and early but hasn’t dimmed at all since their major-label debut last summer. Reinforced by a second guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, the film school couple Madeline Folin and Brian Oblivion (surely some of the coolest names you could have, as rock stars!) whipped through favorites like “Oh My God” and “Go Outside,” as well as a Leonard Cohen cover (“One of our favorite artists,” stated Brian, solemnly) in a dazzling set that clocked in shy of 40 minutes. Red and pouty of lip, Madeline thanked us for dancing and demurely sipped water between heartrending slow-dance numbers — the girl has pipes.
They had to rush off to catch a flight — or was it because Wayne Coyne had just been sighted in the press tent next to their stage, and they wanted to catch him? Regardless, the Coyne apparition faded from view in a blur of curly hair and feathered collar, while Dawes, the second band of brothers of the day, took the stage next. Their blend of folk and bluegrass, coupled with shiny guitar work and soaring, hymn-like choruses (“When My Time Comes”) draws comparisons to still other brothers (the Avett) as well as Fleet Foxes. As venues go, a wooded glen in the mountains would have been ideal, but a meadow in beautiful Forest Park, underneath an overcast sky, suited Dawes just fine. I look forward to hearing more from the band in the years to come.
Concert review and set list: Lyle Lovett strikes up the Large Band at Peabody Opera House, Saturday, August 25
Singer-songwriter and Texan Lyle Lovett is a consummate and versatile performer, drawing great musical power from the strength of the musicians backing him in his Large Band.
The band opened the show with an extended intro jam, showcasing its talent and flexibility as individual members traded licks and solos for several minutes. Lovett then took the stage as the band launched into a cover of “Release Me,” the title track from Lovett’s current record. After 27 years with Curb Records, “Release Me” is Lovett’s final recording for the label. Like Saturday night’s show at the Peabody Opera House, the album mixes eclectic covers and originals that run through nearly all of the musical styles and eras that Lovett has visited throughout his career.
With the assistance of vocalist Arnold McCuller, Lovett and his Large Band played a selection of songs from the new album, including a rollicking version of the single “Isn’t That So,” written by Jessie Winchester. “We’re playing some new songs,” Lovett said, “because when you’ve got a new record out, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Lovett then exited the stage momentarily, handing over the reigns to McCuller, who performed “Gods and Monsters” from his record “As Soon As I Get Paid.” Lovett then returned for “Well…All Right,” a song written by fellow Texan Buddy Holly. The first part of the show mixed material from the new record with both older and recent originals such as “Penguins” and “Cute as a Bug.”
Lovett later handed over the lead vocal to fiddle player Luke Bullock, whose self-titled solo record is also out now. Always the Southern gentleman, Lovett is obviously happy to showcase the talents of the members of his group, and is himself grateful to the people who have helped him in the past. For example, Lovett spoke highly of another great, but unfortunately lesser-known, Texas songwriter, Eric Taylor. Taylor was instrumental in helping Lovett in the early days of his career, when he was playing gigs at the renowned Anderson Fair Retail Restaurant in Houston. The band then played Taylor’s “Understand You,” which Lovett also recorded for “Release Me.”
Casual and soft spoken, Lovett is, of course, an excellent storyteller, conversationally and in song. The wry sense humor reflected in his work was on display in his banter as he frequently adjusted the tuning of his guitar between songs, keeping the audience entertained with his occasionally rambling anecdotes. “Looks like I’ve brought things to a stop here,” he remarked at one point.
Midway through the show, most of the band left the stage, while Lovett, Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Bullock played a couple of songs as a bluegrass trio, the three players sharing one center stage mike. On the second song “Up in Indiana” the band slowly rejoined the mix, and, once reunited, then launched into a wonderful version of Lovett’s classic wedding song/murder ballad “L.A. County.” That song was followed by “Private Conversation” from 1996′s, “Road to Ensenada,” a record released in the wake of his much-publicized romance with Julia Roberts. It’s a shame that Lovett’s brief relationship with a movie star is his biggest claim to fame for many Americans, because he is truly one of our greatest living songwriters.
With a sharp lyrical sense that brings a twist to many of his songs, Lovett is also a master of many musical styles — a great performer and a true country traditionalist. He and his Large Band are always impeccably attired and a joy to hear. Composed of legendary players such as Leland Sklar (bass), Russ Kunkel (drums) and younger players like Sean Watkins (mandolin and acoustic guitar), the Large Band is undoubtedly one of the great configurations of musicians touring today. And the Peabody Opera House is a perfect venue for the Large Band. More formal than the Pageant yet more intimate than the Fox, the Peabody is just big enough to house the band, unlike the Sheldon, where the size of the Large Band threatened to overrun that small stage in 2010.
Festival review: LouFest 2012 Day 1: Phantogram stole our hearts, Son Volt drowned us with country-fried guitars and Girl Talk split our skulls in a feverish dance party, Saturday, August 25
Of all the days the weather vane could have picked to end Missouri’s historic drought, August 25, the first day of LouFest, was not the one I would have chosen.
Still, it was impossible to dampen the spirit of revelry in Forest Park in St. Louis while rain pelted us sideways and the cracked, hard earth turned to mush beneath our feet. The afternoon hours, with the notable exceptions of local faves (and babes) Sleepy Kitty and young Brits Little Barrie, were packed with rootsy, interstate-ready Americana.
King Tuff’s gritty take on psychedelia translated surprisingly well from a dimly-lit club to a humid afternoon. “We would like to thank Lou for having us to his Fest,” announced Kyle Thomas, the creative force behind a quartet of guys cinched into tight jeans, before tearing into a set full of fuzzy slacker anthems—the stuff rock ‘n’ roll is made of.
Cotton Mather, back together after a decade-long hiatus, followed on their heels with straight-up, high-powered pop-rock. Three men dressed as Schlafly bottles, apparently there to remind us that we could be drinking Summer Lager as we munched vegan nachos on blankets, weaved in and out of the crowd, their bottle-capped hats bouncing along in time to “40 Watt Solution.” Cotton Mather seemed genuinely happy to be on the road playing together again; light-footed frontman Robert Harrison skipped and grapevined across the stage, in a manner of which the band’s Puritan namesake would have surely disapproved. And the sprinkles began.
Little Barrie took the stage amid thick, gathering storm clouds, charging into a punk-inflected set with a nod to the Strokes here and some nice cyclical riffs there. The London trio was doubtlessly more accustomed to inclement weather than we heat-stroked St. Louisans, most of whom were sent scurrying under merch tents for cover as the rain began in earnest, playing right through the much-needed (but ill-timed!) downpour.
“Drown,” appropriately named and timed, and one of the best-known tunes of Son Volt’s substantial alt-country catalog, coaxed festival-goers out from under their plastic ponchos to toe-tap and two-step. Jay Farrar’s harmonica reached all four corners of the park during several barnhouse rockers, but they also kept it cool with a few quieter folk ballads — classic Son Volt, and perfectly suited for a lazy afternoon slipping into dusk.
The band’s monitors were still buzzing as the youngest and most tattooed chunk of LouFest-ies tripped over to the Blue Stage for a hotly-anticipated appearance by Phantogram. It was only the second time the New York-based indie darlings have been to St. Louis, and they seemed overwhelmed by the size of the crowd and the feverish adoration contained within — “We’re definitely coming back!” promised lead vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel, following a set full of throat-constricting bass and forceful, danceable electronica-rock. (Rocktronica?) The duo (plus a drummer for the road) pairs Euro-pop and bass lines you feel in your stomach with Sarah’s sugary soprano—what Sleigh Bells wants to be when they grow up.