Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Friday, December 23, 2011

Alabama Shakes

Vintage rock guitar meets a soulful voice and indie sensibilities. What more could you want from a young new band? If you like Black Keys, Kings of Leon and/or Otis and Aretha, you'll dig this. Their EP rocks. Download it for $4.

- J

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Rearview Mirror: My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses at MSG, 12.14.11


Although it was a week ago now, the My Morning Jacket/Band of Horses show at MSG last Wednesday is still fresh on my mind.

The day began with a relaxing train ride along the Hudson River courtesy of Amtrak. We arrived at Penn Station around 4:45, checked into our hotel, met up with friends, and grabbed food and drinks at a couple taverns near the Garden. The pre-game couldn't have gone more smoothly -- I knew it was going to be a great night.

I wanted to be sure to catch all of Band of Horses set that started at 7:30, but I was more than disappointed with our sideview, stage right seats (the price you pay for waiting until a month before the show to buy tickets). After hearing Band of Horses' "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" opener, I was determined to move. So we shimmied over a few sections and grabbed some empty seats so that we could at least see the screen behind Band of Horses (which played a fluttering photo montage of the band on tour and nature). And empty seats were easy to come by. With just a small crowd in the pit and a thousand or so scattered in the seats, the place felt empty and cavernous while BoH was playing. I don't think it's because no one knew who they were, it was simply too early for the New York City crowd. BoH still played like the place was packed to the gills, running through a "greatest hits" setlist, playing songs from all three of their studio albums in a little over an hour, not allowing much room for the intimacy you would expect, even during tender acoustic songs like "For Annabelle". They still sounded great, but I wasn't quite satisfied. But, I guess I can't expect much more; they were there to get the crowd primed for the main event, and lead singer Ben Bridwell was obviously stoked to have that pleasure, saying, "Man, we're so happy to be here in New York City for the last show of our tour. It's been an honor opening up for My Morning Jacket. Those guys are the best. The Jacket's up Next!" (or something like that). I was equally as fortunate to see them at all.

Anyway, here's Band of Horses' setlist:

Cigarettes, Wedding Bands
The Great Salt Lake
Is There a Ghost
The General Specific
For Annabelle
The First Song
Islands on the Coast
No One's Gonna Love You
Infinite Arms
Ode to LRC
The Funeral
Am I A Good Man (I had never heard this one, a really nice surprise. He also brought out flute player/composer Brian Jackson)

By the time My Morning Jacket came on, I was on another planet, or at least in a new seat. We made our way "stealth-like" around the arena so we could get a front facing view of the stage -- and it payed off big time. The sound was infinitely better. The point in opener Victory Dance when the bass kicked in was so loud it made my hair stand up. Same goes for Circuital, when the band kicks in following the acoustic intro riff .. it was like ... holy shit awesome. Then, as few bands can do after hardcore rockers, they brought it back down to earth with the deep and tender It Beats 4 U. First light and I'm Amazed brought the tempo back up steadily, followed by the acoustic favorite Golden, which saw Jim James share the stage with Ben Bridwell - one of the highlights for sure. The rest of the first set was rocking and seemed to get better with each song. I was on cloud nine and didn't want to come down. Thankfully, after a short break, Jim James came back on, wearing his cape -- which is a sure sign of good things to come.

After a beautiful Bermuda Highway with Jim performing solo to open the second set, Wordless Chorus steered off into the dark and mysterious. Day is Coming was a nice choice for a follow up to such an ominous song. Then came a cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle" (I had to look this up). I knew Jim and the band were fans of 70's soul/funk jams, and this was a rare treat, complete with the "Uno, Uno, Dos, Tres, Quattro" intro (Jim obviously enjoyed it). It also took full advantage of guest Brian Jackson's flute. Then came the two everyone was waiting for, Holdin' On To Black Metal and One Big Holiday: a live concert experience I'm glad I had a chance to see, and one as good as any these days.

I'll Be Home For Christmas with the Band of Horses fellas was a nice nightcap to a special evening.

MMJ's setlist:

Set I:

Victory Dance
Beats 4 U
First Light
I'm Amazed
Wonderful (w/ Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses)
Steam Engine!!!!!
Outta My System
Dancefloors (with horn section)
Dondante (guest playing flute and keyboards; extended Carl sax)
Smokin' from Shootin'
RunThru into Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. II
Off The Record
Extended Jam of Gideon closing first set

Set II/Encore:

Bermuda Highway to start the encore - Jim solo
Wordless Chorus
Day is Coming
Cover - The Bottle (1974, Brian Jackson and Gill Scott-Heron, composers; Brian Jackson on flute)
BLACK METAL with horns!
One Big Holiday
I'll Be Home For Christmas (with all of Band of Horses)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Type of Inspiration

A few weeks back I spotlighted the work of Brooklyn designer and illustrator Jon Contino, whose lettering work really inspired me to open the sketchbook and experiment with hand-drawn type. Well, I stumbled upon another Brooklyn designer/illustrator recently, Dan Cassaro (aka Young Jerks), whose work is equally inspiring. Like Contino, Cassaro specializes in hand-drawn lettering, which, I've discovered, is so much harder than it appears. While I've been to emulate their styles in my sketchbook, I realize that I lack advanced understanding about typography. It's some kind of hidden knowledge about kerning, serifs and attention to negative space that makes their lettering pop and gives their work that authentic quality.

I'll continue to study their approach and typography. In the meantime, check out Dan Cassaro's website. Also check out this awesome set of T-shirts, featuring hand-lettering by Jon Contino. Good gift idea ...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Even Indie Rockers Exercise

When it comes to working out, I procrastinate as much as the next guy, but I make time for it. I went from playing baseball in college and working out at least six days a week, to working out three times a week if I'm lucky. Well, come to find out, Bon Iver lead singer and guitarist Justin Vernon makes time for it as well, even between touring, chillin with Kanye and playing the role as Americas indie heartthrob.

Gotta love Justin's quote:

"The word 'workout' just sorta sucks. It doesn't make you feel good and it's sort of, like ...dorky."

On the road DVD Trailer from Rogcity Fitness on Vimeo.

As far as technique is concerned, the boys have some work; and Justin - please keep your shirt on. In all seriousness, though: above all pills, diets or remedies that claim to make you "feel better", exercise works every time.

- J

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wish List

Hoping I find this little guy underneath the tree on Christmas morning ; )

Also hoping the neighbors don't want to sleep in #mannheimsteamroller

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Day Is Coming

2 round-trip train tickets, Albany-Penn Station: Check
1 Night's Stay at the Holiday Inn Express Madison Square Garden: Check
2 tickets to Band of Horses/My Morning Jacket 12/14 at MSG: Check

Indeed. The bags are packed and the anticipation is growing for my mid-week trip to New York City to see BoH and My Morning Jacket rock MSG. And what better time of year? The Big Apple dressed in holiday garb, and the bustle of the city made a bit more tolerable by jolly shoppers and holiday greetings (not you, homeless guy).

So the question you're probably asking yourself: Who am I more excited to see? Well, funny you asked. Both bands have a reputation for great live performances; but being that I've seen MMJ live on two occasions (see photo above from MMJ at Essex Junction in '10), I would have to say that I'm more excited to finally see Band of Horses. My last opportunity to see them was muffed when Kings of Leon cancelled their scheduled appearance in Saratoga Springs this summer. I'll also be interested to see how the softer songs of their newer album translate to the arena.

These are two rock juggernauts descending from the Black Forest of deep space to rock the Big Apple, and I'll be there to witness the hammer fall. Sure there will be tender moments (when Ben Bridwell reaches for the highs), but mainly, it's going to fucking rock my face.

So, check in late this week for some amateur photos and a recap of the experience. It should be epic.

- J

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Dr. Dog Album Out In Feb.

Classic-rock jammers Dr. Dog will release their fourth album in February, entitled Be The Void. You can pre-order the album here.
I was lucky to see them live in 2010 at the now defunct Revolution Hall, in Troy. Since then, they haven't come within stone's throw of the upstate NY region. Damn it, Dog! Looking foward the album, which is sure to be full of the Beatles-esque arrangements and riff-heavy tunes that have made Dr. Dog one of my favs.