March 11th: London

We grab some sandwiches at the Somerfield on Berwick Street and eat them on the way to Charing Cross Road. Today is bookstores day, as we take in as many as we can. Unfortunately for me, they mostly deal in expensive firsts, and when they have the books I’m looking for, they’re way more than list price. We go to Sainsbury’s for some frozen dinners and back to the hostel to heat them up. I’m shocked that the chicken vindaloo I got is actually spicy. Two American girls are in the kitchen – they hadn’t seen any sights, just there to party. We leave them behind and head off towards the British Museum. If you desire to see the history of Western civilization in two or three hours, that’s the place to do it. I found the Rosetta stone and the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon particularly memorable.

Later, we returned to Moon and Sixpence for some fish and chips before we went to The Avalon to see Heather Nova. She’s never played the D.C. area, so I was happy to finally catch her. She was amazing, although Seth was more impressed with Howie Day, who recorded loops while playing guitar and accompanied himself with up to five layers of vocals, percussion, and guitar.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

Robbie Schaefer & Jon Carroll at Jammin’ Java

Let me preface this by saying I really like Jammin’ Java. It’s a little coffee shop with a nice, intimate performance space in back (the lady at the door said there were 108 chairs). The setlist spells it out more, but it was Jon and Robbie switching vocal duties (and sometimes leaving the stage). I kind of expected Mike to be one of the “special guests”, and was happy to see Eddie show up as well.

Robbie’s new songs were great (especially Independence, Indiana), but my favorite part of the set was when they asked Julie to come up. Jon sang lead on “Get Closer”, but she sang “Quick” and a smoking version of “Love Me Like A Man”. Robbie confirmed the Wolf Trap show and said that Jon would be joining them at the Birchmere shows and possibly the Wolf Trap one. Bill Danoff (used to be in the Starland Vocal Band with Jon) sang lead on a couple, too (I had no idea he co-wrote Take Me Home, Country Roads).

[Originally published through the edheads email list]

eddie from ohio at the Rams Head Tavern

Setlist

We were treated to Mike’s obsession with the “Bob the soundman” jingle (maybe he’ll be over that by spring), some lovely chestnuts from Actually Not, great impressions by Mike and Julie of the Rudolph Christmas special, and Robbie referring to the far side of the room as “Havre de Grace” (Maryland joke). The most moving part was at the end as a visibly emotional Julie gave thanks to the band for helping her live her dream.

[Originally published through the edheads email list]

October 23rd: Sydney

Last day in Sydney, which meant shopping. In my case, lots of book and record stores. One unusual thing about streets in Sydney, is that the numbers on one side of the street don’t correspond; it could be 311 on one side and 364 on the other, with 312 several blocks away. Anyway, I hit 9 or 10 stores, then headed to Bondi Junction. I bought a Burgersaurus (veggie burger) at Macro, sort of a mini Fresh Fields. I went to a couple more shops before I headed back. I recommend Revolution CD, with several locations. They had a lot of good titles, and their prices were reasonable.

Dinner was chicken in garlic from Tum Tum’s Thai Takeaway, then back to Hodern Pavilion for No Doubt. Opener Area-7 was very similar to Goldfinger, and the crowd was into it, but they were waiting for No Doubt. Their set was heavy on material from Return To Saturn, but they played all the hits from Tragic Kingdom, as well as “Trapped In A Box” from their debut. Gwen was very enthusiastic all night, turning cartwheels at one point. Watching the news while packing later, I learned that the Yankees had defeated the Mets in game 2 of the series. That destroyed any enthusiasm I had to actually watch the game, which they showed next.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 18th: Sydney

We went our separate ways today. While Sharon did the bridge climb, I went to Fox Studios. The Simpsons had a reworking of the episode they visited Oz, plus some behind the scenes stuff. I expected a little more. Titanic: The Experience made up for it. From a waiting area, they draw back a curtain, and you walk up the gangplanks into the ship. You go to a big “Third Class” room, where the purser talks to you, pretending time passes until there’s a bang and the wall behind him opens and water starts pouring out. Depending on which line you are in, you exit right or left. To the right, you go into storage, then the boiler room. It’s very hot, and you “drown”, then exit up the grand staircase. To the left, you go up to first class, and beg the purser there to let you in. The boat is tilting now, and you rush out to the lifeboats. You board, and the ship sinks (it’s also so cold you can see your breath, adding to the realism. Other things to do there include the TV tour (it has a nice recreation of Mulder’s office), and the sound theater (32 channels of surround sound puts my 5 channels to shame).

I went back to the room (stopping by a market for some food), then returned to Fox for the Hodern Pavilion next door. I was pleased to see that Green Day hasn’t changed in the nearly six years since I last saw them. They played all the hits, and took requests off Kerplunk. They still try a medley of covers, and I was amused when Billie Joe asked if anyone liked Ozzy, then had to clarify, “I mean Ozzy Osbourne”. Afterwards, I was pleased to note that a fleet of buses was waiting to cart people back to the city.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

Rush Animates the Capital Center

It might be expected that a group might start to slow down after 20 years together. That certainly wasn’t the case at the US Air Arena Tuesday as Rush showed that they can still rock with the best.

Candlebox started the evening, but was unable to get much out of the crowd. They had a great set though. They opened with “He Calls Home”, a great song about homelessness, and got better from there. They continued with “Change”, “Blossom”, and “Arrow” all from their debut album.

Kevin Martin’s vocals were clean for the most part, except for “Arrow”. He sounds like he’s singing, “Some On Ghetto” when the lyrics claim “Someone’s Got Arrow”. Easily half of guitarist Peter Klett’s solos sounded like Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, which may be unavoidable since Candlebox calls Seattle home as well. Sometimes his tone was unique, though on “Far Behind” his solo sounded like Jimi Hendrix. That was intentional though, as the band followed his lead into “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”.

The band ended with their latest single “You”, as familiarity finally brought some crowd response. The most response Candlebox got was when they mentioned Rush would appear next. The anticipation mounted as roadies cleared off Candlebox’s equipment.

The lights went out as the crowd screamed. Then the curtains on the screen above the stage parted as the strains of “Also Sprach Zarathrusta” (the 2001 theme for you Beavis and Butthead addicts) became evident, On screen appeared a scene in space of a giant bolt approaching a giant nut (reproducing the cover art from Counterparts, their current album). As the bolt screwed into the nut, the music reached its climax. Then the lights burst on and Rush went into “Dreamline”, the first single from their last album. Next was 1980’s “The Spirit Of Radio”, a favorite which had most of the crowd singing along, followed by “Bravado”, an intriguing song about achieving your goals no matter what the cost.

One of the best things about seeing Rush live is their visuals. The giant screen over the stage will show scenes that are often in synch with the songs. The visuals are usually taken from their videos, but not always, as the next song “Time Stands Still”, had entirely new animation. “Limelight”, from the legendary Moving Pictures album forced the crowd back on its feet again, where they stayed for a while.

Lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee mentioned the next song was about tortured love, so it had to be a country-western song. The band even made some tentative country riffs before ripping into “Cold Fire”, their latest single. Then Rush got into a more serious vein with “Nobody’s Hero”, a new moving song about ordinary heroes like the guy who passed away from AIDS and the girl who’s a victim of senseless violence.

Two songs that have rarely been performed recently followed: the fantastic “The Analog Kid,” from Signals, and the African influenced “Mystic Rhythms” from 1986’s Power Windows. The crowd was obviously unfamiliar with these, but quickly rose to their feet and dug in their pockets for the lighters as guitarist Alex Lifeson reached for an acoustic guitar and started the intro to 1977’s “Closer To The Heart”. A song urging everyone to get inspired by the spiritual, not the physical. It’s still appropriate today.

Rush has recently dropped nearly all use of synthesizers, and this was nowhere more evident as their next two songs, “Animate,” and “Double Agent,” both new. Anyone who thinks these guys are old needs to see Geddy’s furious bass-slapping, Alex wailing away on guitar, and Neal Peart thundering away on drums. “Double Agent” featured pyrotechnics, making this the first Rush tour to feature them. It was particularly effective as well. A verse like “Cross of holy fire” had a field of burning crosses on the screen with six burning fire pots on the stage.

“Roll The Bones” from the album of the same name, features a rap in the middle. Originally done by Geddy, then electronically processed, the band played to the video version since keeping synchronized that long would be a significant effort. “Stick It Out” also had a great video, which was indescribably better when scenes of the band were removed and just a man in dreadlocks (strongly resembling the lead singer of Counting Crows), balancing on a pole, remained. “Show Don’t Tell” from 1989’s Presto followed, with huge inflatable bunny rabbits.

Next was the definite highlight of any Rush show: drummer Neal Peart’s “The Rhythm Method.” Some drummers just bang on the drums a couple of minutes to show off. Not Neal. “The Rhythm Method” is a song that changes for every tour but certain elements remain constant, especially since he introduced his electronic xylophone. He can play riffs on it which he can then duplicate rhythmically on the drums. The crowd was roaring as Geddy and Alex rejoined him for the instrumental from Counterparts: “Leave My Thing Alone.”

The crowd volume increased as Alex once more unleashed his acoustic guitar for 1978’s “The Trees”, a song that’s even more true in today’s politically correct world. A fable that tells of the maples complaining because the oaks take all the light, and concludes with equality being enforced “by hatchet, axe and saw.” Then, as in 1981, the band surged into “Xanadu” from A Farewell to Kings. Based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”, Rush brings the story to life with a great light show and a killer tune. At the end of “Xanadu” the band segued into the rarely heard “Hemispheres”, performing “Part I: Prelude” as they closed their set.

Feet crashed into the floor as the crowd demanded an encore. Rush let them have it with a double shot from 1981’s Moving Pictures: the ferocious instrumental “YYZ”, and a fantastic version of “Tom Sawyer” to end the night.

This was my seventh trip to see Rush in concert. If you want to be entertained at a concert, you won’t be disappointed by them.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]

Kevn Kinney Rocks 9:30

The Nightclub 9:30 was considerably less crowded than usual for Kevn Kinney’s appearance there earlier this month. This was more than likely due to a last-minute schedule change as he was forced to do an early show on a different day.

Kevn is the lead singer of the Georgia-based band Drivin’ N Cryin’, but has just released his second solo album. His first solo tour saw him accompanied by Peter Buck of R.E.M., but this time around, he brought his brother, nevertheless still an accomplished accordion and guitar player.

Kevn focused on his two solo albums, Down Out Law and Macdougal Blues. New songs which were really done well were “Down And Out Law,” “Shindig With The Lord,” and “Never Far Behind.” Kevn did perform several Drivin’ N Cryin’ classics, including “Keys To Me”, “Honeysuckle Blue”, “Let’s Go Dancing”, and a stirring “The Friend Song”.

The best songs were those he interrupted in the middle to tell stories, such as “Macdougal Blues,” and “Hey Landlord (Meatloaf And Fish Sticks).” One story in particular, about trying to explain to his father about how he spent his rent money on a 26-foot bong, had the audience rolling. His brother was also amusing, especially the drinking song he started singing when Kevn took a piss break.

The Washington Post and The City Paper both trashed his album and blew their chances to see a great singer-songwriter in an intimate acoustic setting. I found I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do his full band, but it was a good performance.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]

Sheryl Crow Takes to Georgetown

Small and cramped are good descriptions of some clubs I’ve been to, but prove truly inadequate to describe the crowd at Sheryl Crow’s in store performance at Kemp Mill Music in Georgetown last Sunday.

Sheryl was scheduled to appear at 3pm but 3:30 came and went as the line grew out of the store and down the block. She finally showed and apologized for being both sick and hung over. “That’s okay” someone from the crowd responded, “we are too.” She took a minute to tune up then went into “Can’t Cry Anymore” and “Strong Enough”, off her album Tuesday Night Music Club. Her voice was harsh and cracked but it grew smoother as she warmed up. Sheryl used to be a backup singer, most notably for Michael Jackson and Don Henley, but she’s definitely ready for the big leagues.

Sheryl ended with an extended rendition of her single “Leaving Las Vegas”, which sounds ten times better unencumbered of those goofy drums on the album. Near the end she snuck in parts from the Beatles “Blackbird” and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” and the crowd loved it. She signed autographs afterwards, and was extremely nice. One piece of advice: if you ever go to an in-store appearance, be sure to get there early, or you’re not going to see a thing.

Crow opened that night for the New Zealand band, Crowded House, a partnership that plans to return to the Washington DC area at Johns Hopkins University later this year. The Lisner Auditorium concert was sold out two weeks before the concert.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]

Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts – We Got Screwed

I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana this week. Trying to understand why someone would do such a thing is never easy, and this is no exception. What I can’t accept though, is the attempt to make Kurt Cobain into another John Lennon. He’s not the “voice of our generation”.

Kurt didn’t want to talk about it, but he obviously had an unhappy youth. He grew up in a small logging town east of Seattle, filled with macho guys quick to make fun of anyone who didn’t fit the mold, such as Kurt. I can’t blame him for carrying a grudge, but it’s nothing different than what happened to me, or people I knew in school. Refusing to conform to the norm is never accepted, but Kurt was apparently really stigmatized. He thought if he could make music, all the pain would go away.

It didn’t, of course. His vision of Nirvana was success on the level of Sonic Youth, a major label contract, but not selling enough to be a household name. Instead, Nirvana achieved worldwide acceptance, and Kurt was adored by the people he despised He hated every second of the fame. Sure he had money, but now people wouldn’t leave him alone. He was constantly badgered to help out here, donate money there, and give ’til it hurt.

That coma he went into last month as a result of drugs and alcohol was apparently another suicide attempt, with note. This understandably freaked people out, and he was urged by his wife and band mates to seek treatment. He agreed, but left after a couple of days. I don’t know if we’ll ever know why he took this way out. He had been talking about quitting the band, but that solution just wasn’t good enough. Now it’s revealed that he was having horrible stomach pains, which is why he turned to heroin in the first place.

I personally don’t see it. Suicide is just an easy way out, forcing everyone else to deal with your problems because you just can’t handle it. But I digress.

Make no mistake, I do like Nirvana. I think they’ve made some great music. Soon after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started getting big I bought Nevermind. I was impressed. After seeing Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Garth Brooks top the charts, it was refreshing to see some angst filled screaming overpower them all. I loved the album, and bought their first album Bleach, a couple of weeks later. A no frills album that sounds like a bunch of demos, it shows a promise that was delivered.

I was never deluded though. As good as Nevermind sounds, the lyrics are no more developed than Bleach. They just sound like a drunk guy spouting off, attempting to be wise, like “it’s okay to eat fish/’cause they haven’t any feelings” from “Something in the Way” or “when I was an alien, cultures weren’t opinions” from “Territorial Pissings.” They didn’t get much more intelligent on their last album In Utero. Witness “Like most babies smell like butter/his smell smelled like no other” from “Scentless Apprentice”.

I’m not saying that guy was a bad singer or songwriter. He had some legitimate angst to get rid of, and he managed to communicate that through his songs. How can you listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and not think that this guy is really pissed off? About what though? At the end of the song he sings “a denial.” A denial? Of what? I got the anger, but I didn’t see the message.

I don’t see Kurt Cobain as the voice of my generation. He wrote some good songs, but he wasn’t effective at communicating what he felt, and I think he gave up instead of trying harder. So who is the voice of my generation? I think it’s Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam has only had two albums, but they’re both incredible. Eddie is capable of taking a subject such as abortion, incest, or gun control, and letting us know exactly what he thinks about it, in “Porch”, “Daughter” and “Glorified G.” When he gets personal is when he’s at his best. “Black” just captures the emotions I feel at the end of a relationship perfectly. And when he sings it live, you can see him reliving that feeling. And he can use a song to communicate on different levels, as in “Even Flow” where he tells a story about a homeless man, while showing his rage about the system that causes homelessness.

Eddie manages to channel the angst many of us feel and tell us exactly why he’s angry. I never felt that Kurt was anywhere close to mastering communicating anything more than a general rage. I can’t support the idea that a guy that just screamed is the voice of my generation. I don’t think my generation would just give up like that either. I don’t like a lot of things that are going on in the world, but I can tell you what they are and why I don’t like them – like Eddie can, and like Kurt never could.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]

Pearl Jams Patriot Center

There was a strange vibe Friday at the Patriot Center. The news of Kurt Cobain’s death was ultimately overwhelmed by the energized show put on by Pearl Jam.

The show had been sold out for months. They announced at 3 p.m. on Friday that tickets would go on sale at 4 p.m., and I missed out, as many people did. I was relentless in my pursuit of tickets, badgering friends and offering people ridiculous amounts of money. I even sat on the Quad holding a cardboard sign that said “Will Sell Body For Pearl Jam Tickets.” Unable to get tickets by Friday, I had quickly gone over to the Patriot Center upon rumors that several hundred tickets would be released for sale. I was prepared to sacrifice my hard-earned cash to a scalper if I couldn’t get tickets any other way. However, they did release seats and I got mine.

The mood outside the Patriot Center was very odd. Kurt Cobain’s death by suicide had been confirmed several hours earlier, and some people were extremely depressed. Many expressed their frustration and grief over why a man with his millions, plus a wife and kid, could possibly do this. It felt like he had betrayed them, abandoned them to their fate. Others made light of the situation, trying to dispel the tension with macabre jokes. Overriding it all, though, was the excitement over seeing Pearl Jam live, and it served to dissipate the strain.

Mudhoney began the evening with a set of mostly originals. Their songs were a raucous wash of guitar and drums with a healthy dose of feedback. Not having heard them before, I was hard-pressed to differentiate between any of their songs, with the notable exception of a Jimmie Dale Gilmore cover, which was played so slowly I could actually understand the lyrics.

After Mudhoney left the stage, the crowd’s noise started increasing. Every time a new roadie walked on stage, the crowd got louder. Finally, following a noticeable delay, Pearl Jam took the stage. The lights went out, and all that was visible was several dozen candles burning on speakers next to the drums. Barely visible forms moved around on stage as the crowd’s noise became deafening. Then the tunes of a guitar became audible as Pearl Jam eased into “Release”. The lights remained off during the rest of the song, until lead singer Eddie Vedder addressed the crowd: “I think you know what’s on our minds, let’s do this thing”. The lights then burst on as the band exploded into the first two songs from their new album, “Go” and “Animal”.
The people on the floor seats seemed like they would like to throw their chairs away and create a mosh pit, but security was fairly strict about their remaining in their seats.

The band continued with “Dissident” from Vs, then went back to Ten for “Why Go”, “Deep” and “Jeremy.” Bassist Jeff Ament pulled out a stool and a standing bass guitar for “Daughter,” which was very well received. Eddie embellished the song by breaking into Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” and Don McLean’s “American Pie” at the end, a strange place considering the subject matter of the song, but appropriate with the day’s news.

Pearl Jam next rocked through “Even Flow” and followed with their two contributions to the Singles soundtrack, “Breath” and “State Of Love And Trust.” Next was a rarely performed song, “Footsteps,” the third song in a trilogy about a serial killer, along with “Alive” and “Once.” “Footsteps” was also performed (with different lyrics) on Temple of the Dog as “Times of Trouble” with lead vocals by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden.

The set concluded with an emotional “Black”, a charged “Alive”, and a psycho “Porch”. Earlier, Eddie had complained about the man-made barrier between the seats and the stage, as well as the height of the stage, although he thought the band had just reached an elevated state and could fall. In the middle of “Porch” he eased down off the stage and up on to the barrier as he continued singing. He offered the microphone to the crowd, the first couple rows of which had surged to the front and attempted some crowd-surfing.

The band soon rejoined us for an encore. They started with “Rearviewmirror” and continued with two new songs, “Corduroy” and “Not For You”. Next was the slow but popular “Elderly Woman In a Small Town”, followed by the frenzied “Blood”, which had Eddie pounding his microphone through the stage.

After the band left the stage again, some idiot brought the house lights up and people started to leave. The majority of the crowd refused to budge, and grew louder until Pearl Jam returned. They went into the laid-back “Indifference,” then Eddie spoke to the crowd one more time. He thanked everyone for coming, and exhorted everyone not to die. Then the band kicked into their closer, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” and the crowd rocked along.

Afterwards, everyone looked drained and euphoric. The band was fantastic and the show was incredible, and one can hope that the Patriot Center might continue to attract acts of this caliber.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]