March 26, 2007

Busy and Blogger's Block

Two of the most common things that I hear from bloggers who are irregular with their posting is that they are busy and they don't know what to write. Well, I find myself busy. I'm working on getting all of my stuff packed to ship to Alaska, selling my truck, and working part time from home. It's not the type of busy that I don't have free time, it's the type of busy that makes me feel the impending date when loose ends must be tied. That day is next Tuesday. I'll be jumping on a plane and heading to Alaska. So, is there any better time to participate in a little meme action? Well, Erin tagged me, and instead of just posting it, I thought I would use it as a lesson for blogger's block. If you can't think of anything to say, try participating in one of the memes floating around the webs.

Pretty simple, here's the rules.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthday, month and day only.
2. List 3 events that occurred on that day.
3. List 2 important birthdays.
4. List 1 death.
5. List a holiday or observance. (if any)
6. Tag 5 other bloggers.

March 9th

Event 1: 1841; The Supreme Court rules on the Amistad case, ruling that the Africans seized on the ship were obtained illegally.
Event 2: 1975; Construction on the Transalaskan Pipeline begins.
Event 3: 1987; U2 releases The Joshua Tree

Birthday 1: Barbie (1959)
Birthday 2: Emmanuel Lewis [Webster](1971)

Death 1: George Burns (1996 at age 100)

Holiday: Baron Bliss Day in Belize

1. The Mad Fishicist
2. Belle Etoile
3. Montes
4. ReckenRoll
5. [Sch]Metzger (if you have it in you)

March 25, 2007

Catching You Up On My Netflix Activity

I think the last movies mentioned were the Illusionist and Prestige comparison. Since then, I've been plowing through some new releases and a few movies I missed the first time around.

Marie Antoinette
I thought Kirsten Dunst did a great job portraying a misunderstood queen, but I thought the way that it was directed was lacking a certain depth. As I mentioned, the cinematography was first class and the art direction was pretty amazing too.

Another movie that was shot beautifully. Ben Affleck will always be overlooked as an actor, probably more for a couple of poor choices of films and the whole J-Lo thing than any performance he's ever done. You have to remember that he was amazing in Good Will Hunting, Chasing Amy, and Shakespeare in Love; and overlook Gigli, Pearl Harbor and Daredevil. I feel like his portrayal of George Reeves had a lot of himself in it too. Adrian Brody is one of those actors that causes you to hold your breath without realizing it whenever he's on the screen. He's so talented and unique that you can get captivated by the characters he creates.

The Last Kiss
I think all the performances in this film were great. Zach Braff, Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson, Casey Affleck, and Michael Weston were all spectacular and well acted. I think the story was too spread out and the direction didn't lend itself to the film. I was intrigued much more by the Casey Affleck storyline, the Blythe Danner/Tom Wilkinson storyline, and the roadtrip to South America storyline than I was with the Braff/Bilson/Barrett story. I'm interested to see the original Italian film (L' Ultimo Bacio) to be able to compare.

All The King's Men
This is an example of a deep cast not being able to make up for a weak film. The film stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, Anthony Hopkins, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo and Jackie Earle Haley. Sean Penn plays Louisiana Governor Willie Stark. While the movie might have been better served to have been about the change between the idealistic and passionate Willie Stark we meet in the beginning of the story to the idealistic, passionate and corrupt Willie Stark we see at the end, the film focused on Jude Law's character instead. The film is based on the book by the same title by Robert Penn Warren and was made into a film in 1949 that won three academy awards including Best Picture, but where the 2005 version differs is ultimately it's downfall. The character of Willie Stark is based on Louisana's corrupt governor Huey Long.

Casino Royale
Best Bond movie ever; hands down. I think Daniel Craig portrays the James Bond that we all imagined as kids, before we understood all the double meanings of the words. A classic example of this is towards the beginning; while the guy he is chasing is displaying some pretty good parkour, there's Bond crashing through walls like the blunt object he's described as. Craig does a great job portraying James Bond as the heroic genius, but also as the tragic character with nothing to lose we meet later (err...earlier) in the series. I did think that the sequence with Eva Green went on too long in the middle for the ultimate payoff, but the deception of Bond as well as us the audience are done better than other Bond twists.

A very clever, entertaining movie from Mike Judge (of Office Space, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill fame). Luke Wilson plays the character he's played in most of his movies, but still manages to be believable in a ridiculous, unbelievable story. It's crass and slapstick, but funny all the same. Overlooked might be Maya Rudolph's brilliance.

Winter Passing
One of the harder movies I've seen recently. Despite having Will Ferrell in the cast, this is a haunting film about some pretty broken people and how they live and learn from each other. Zooey Deschanel is amazing as is Ed Harris. Will Ferrell, in the bonus features, says he's the closest thing to a comedic performance in the movie, but mainly because his character is so awkward. It's an interesting look at death, family, drugs and writer's block. To fully show her talent, Zooey Deschanel sings a couple songs in the film, though they aren't on the soundtrack.

Hilarious. I'd watched Ali G a bunch over the last few years, and didn't think that the movie would go beyond the overall joke of the skits on the show, but whether the plot made any sense or not, the movie was funny. I'm glad to see that Sacha Baron Cohen is putting together a Bruno movie, but this is the type of performance art that can't be repeated, so get in while you can.

March 23, 2007

Lyrics: More Than Words (Part One)

For some reason over the last couple of weeks, I've been hearing lyrics in music more. Usually the actual words that a singer is singing are the last thing I hear in the composition of a song, but maybe it was Josh Ritter or maybe it was something else, but I've been hearing lyrics. Sometimes cover versions of songs allow me to hear the lyrics more clearly because aside from the melody, that's the only thing that remains the same from the original and is often the only way to distinguish that it's a cover. I heard a live performance of "Like U Crazy" by Mates of State (a MKinMotion favorite) and the lyrics were pretty amazing. I'm not sure who writes the lyrics in the Mates of State relationship, but the more I listen to them, the more I'm amazed. I've decided to start a new series where I feature lyrics from a song that touches me.(Photo from ACL website)

Like U Crazy (Gardner/Hammel)

I like you crazy (repeated)
I'm suffering lonely ones too
And I can't resist sending this on a whim
There's a compulsion to mend
Write on the wall, my loudest pen goes
I can't wait to say all the things you can't see
All the things that make you better
I can't wait to say all the things you can't see
All the things that make you

I like you crazy (repeated)

Hot summers repeating
Bubs noticing bees in the air
Won't get off this rail
Then great hope remains
Observing the critic
I knew you had plenty to say
I could not resist watching you with him
I can't wait to say all the things you can't see
All the things that make you better
I can't wait to say all the things you can't see
All the things that make you

I like you crazy (repeat)

In their live shows, they drop Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" into the song and not only does that tie back in with what I said about cover versions of songs, but "Crazy" is also a song that has fascinating lyrics.
(Photo via Myspace)
Crazy (Cee-Lo)

I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo
In so much space

And when you're out there
Without care,
Yeah, I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy? (repeated)

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice, that's my only advice

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul

You really think you're in control?

Well, I think you're crazy (repeated)
Just like me

My heroes had the heart to lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember is thinking, I want to be like them
Ever since I was little, ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it's no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

Maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy

So do yourself a favor and add these songs to your collection. It's worth the $1.98 and it gives you not only 7 minutes of great lyrics, but 7 minutes of great music too.

Mates of State "Like U Crazy" from Bring it Back
Gnarls Barkley "Crazy" from St. Elsewhere

March 20, 2007

Eric Clapton @ HP Pavilion: Prodigal god Returns

It's easy for someone in my generation to find some fault in Eric Clapton. There was the Babyface phase, the saturation of the Unplugged version of "Layla," but when it all comes down to it, the guy is rock royalty and I knew a live performance would be something to remember. Robert Cray Band opened the evening, and I've always had a lot of respect for Robert Cray. He calls Portland home, which automatically puts him in a sweet spot for me. His band was tight and it made for a solid blues band.
When the lights dropped after the intermission, there was a moment when the crowd was going wild, the band was taking the stage, and then you hear it: Clapton is given his guitar before he walks out to the front of the stage and plays some little blues licks as he dodges members of the band. These little licks that are probably a reflex he'd had since the late 50's when he first started to play. He put together an all-star lineup to back him up and wasn't afraid to share the spotlight with the other guitarists. Derek Trucks who plays with the Allman Brothers, played slide guitar and Doyle Bramhall II played the other guitar. Bramhall apparently plays his guitar upside down. I noticed that he was playing left handed with a right handed guitar, but in a little further research read that he doesn't re-string the guitar ala Hendrix, but plays it upside down.
Clapton played some classic Clapton songs with "Layla" (On a short list of all time great rock songs), "Cocaine", "Running on Faith" and was joined by Robert Cray for a rockin' version of "Crossroads." I've seen a lot of guitarists play live, from The Edge to Santana but I've never seen someone play blues and rock so cleanly. The performance was phenomenal and truly a privilege to see a living legend responsible for so much great music with the Yardbirds, Cream, and who saw studio time with The Beatles, and in my opinion his finest performance on Roger Waters' Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. It was a privilege also to take my folks to this show. They are both Clapton fans and it seemed to be a real treat for them.
Many people refer to Eric Clapton as god, and I can assure you that isn't the case, but I don't think there is a better guitarist out there today. And if you thought he sold his soul to have hits in the 90's, know that his blues today are as good as they were in the 70's.

New Music Tuesday: Modest Mouse Aren't From Barcelona

Modest Mouse are following up their 2004 smash Good News For People Who Love Bad News with a very promising effort. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank has the elements that make Modest Mouse's music contagious and catchy. It's also a great showcase of the melding of the Modest Mouse sound with new member Johnny Marr's guitar. You may remember him as the signature guitar sound of The Smiths. Apparently Modest Mouse aren't indie enough for the indie kids anymore, but their music is far from mainstream. The album is solid and worth it to hear the synergy and the occasional appearance of The Shins' James Mercer.

I'm not from Barcelona, but neither are Sweeden's I'm From Barcelona. This group first hit my radar screen when Paste Magazine's Kate Kiefer featured them in a blog post with bands with confused geographic names (Beirut, Of Montreal, Berlin, The Mars Volta) and they're also featured on this month's Paste sampler. Let me tell you this is a fun record. It's fun pop music with lots of sound and lots of melody, but what else would you expect from a 29 piece band? Let Me Introduce My Friends is going to stick around in my listening for quite some time. Check out their single "We're From Barcelona" for a taste.

Sample and Buy Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Sample and Buy I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends

March 15, 2007

New Music Tuesday: Aqualung's Memory Man

Sometimes an artist gets lost in a shuffle. This could mean the way I shuffle 25400+ songs in iTunes and sometimes get surprised when a really great song comes on that I may have missed years before. This also could mean when record labels consolidate and conglomerate and the artists end up feeling the pain of what be a good thing for shareholders of the corporations. Matt Hales (Aqualung) might qualify for both ways...or it might be a fear that Aqualung is a Jethro Tull tribute band. Aqualung might not be as powerful as Paul Hewson's nickname, but it works. As you may remember I saw Aqualung open for Pete Yorn last month, and of course ACL 2005. There are parts of his career that look like the formula for success. As Julie Moffitt mentioned in her responses to my questions, one of the measures for success in today's music industry is to be featured on a soundtrack or one of the hot TV shows. Aqualung has been featured on the wildly popular Wicker Park soundtrack and a VW commercial (see Nick Drake's [posthumous] record sales spike). His music has been featured on indie loudspeaker The O.C. and Scrubs. If you don't already know who he is, you'd recognize "Strange and Beautiful (I'll Put a Spell on You)", "Easier to Lie," and "Brighter than Sunshine." It's straight up Piano-Pop, but there's energy and craftsmanship in the music. Back in February at the Fillmore, Aqualung played a couple of songs that would be on their upcoming album, Memory Man. "Pressure Suit" stood out as his next hit and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it's featured in an upcoming episode of Grey's Anatomy, or October Road or whatever the next big show that I won't watch will be...or at least the next Zach Braff film. Memory Man is very enjoyable and worth it to have in my shuffling.

Buy Aqualung - Strange and Beautiful
Buy Aqualung - Memory Man
Buy The Wicker Park Soundtrack

March 12, 2007

On Blogging Part Five: Blogger's Block

In Stranger than Fiction, Emma Thompson's character is suffering from writer's block because she has painted herself into a corner with the ending of her novel, but she isn't satisfied with the ending that is expected of her. I don't think I could be a novelist that only writes one kind of story, but a lot of authors write a successful book and it's expected that they continue. The same thing happens to film directors. People are often shocked to find out that Steven King wrote the book that Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption or even The Running Man because of his reputation and our expectations. Writer's block can only ultimately be cured when a writer feels either the quality or the direction to the words they're currently on are correct. The same principles in writer's block apply to blogging too. Some of it you can chalk up to blog fade, where a blogger just slowly loses interest in the medium, some of it you can chalk up to circumstances that change or take priority over their blogging, but sometimes it's just because the blogger feels they've run out of things to say. I think for the person who's suffering from blogger's block, some remedies may be found in common remedies to writer's block and then there are some that might be specific to blogging too.
The pros suggest changing the setting in which you're writing, so in blogging, maybe it means taking the laptop to a park or a coffee shop or just go to the library and use a public computer. Any change in the setting may spark a new perspective from which to blog. Remember that you don't need to write directly into your blogging interface. Some of my best posts have been typed up in Word and later formatted for Blogger.
I suggest making some lists to jar your creativity. It doesn't take much looking to find a list on a blog. I know I do it from time to time with songs or albums or top ten this' or thats. Maybe you can write down your top five jobs you've had (or maybe you've had 5 jobs period) but then expand on each job on what you liked and didn't like. Not only are you getting something out there, but you're likely giving your readers new information about you and maybe even industries that they're thinking about.
Authors outline a story when they can't seem to get it going. Believe it or not, authors and writers have unfinished stories, articles, poems, movies and songs just rattling around their heads that could fill a library. When they get in a jam, oftentimes they'll outline the piece so that if they can't get started, they can at least work on a climax or an ending or just develop the conflict. The same can be said for blogging. Let's say you have a post rattling around about a restaurant you just discovered. You can outline that with headings like service, location, ambiance, appetizer, entree, dessert, wine selection, etc. Maybe writing about the location or the server will jar your mind to explore the food itself.
Sometimes blogger's block is due to not having a topic at all. For this, I simply suggest reading, reading, and reading. Sometimes if you look at what is popular or what's being blogged about you can at least blog about what everyone else is blogging about to weigh in and it usually leads to other ideas. Technorati's WTF (Where's the Fire?) feature is an interesting look into what people are blogging about, looks like Richard Jeni's apparent suicide is a topic. So here's my quick thought on celebrity suicide: Why is it that the public and the press when looking at a celebrity suicide they automatically think there's foul play if the celebrity has anything to consider a success? I think Kurt Cobain taught us that sometimes it's the success itself that spins someone to take their life. But there I go too, comparing one celeb suicide with another, with the only common ground being more people know who they are than the average person. See how easy that was?
I don't know about you, but sometimes I'll observe something out in the world and it will spark me to think, I should blog about that, but 96% of the time I don't because it slips my mind and I move on to something else. Why not carry a little notepad with you and write down ideas you have. Then when you do sit down at the computer and think "Man I wish I had something to say, all these people keep stopping by my blog, they must be so disappointed when they see the same ol' article" you can look at your notepad and boom there's your great commentary on SUV behavior in inclimate weather from your notes.
Above all you should feel freedom in the medium that most of the pressure that you feel to make a great point or share some amazing piece of information with your readers is all in your head. That's the glory of the blog is you're only accountable to yourself...unless you get paid to blog, but the principles above still hold true in that case too.

On Blogging Part Four: The Industrial Blog

In order to cure a case of the blogger's block, I'm revisiting some ideas that I started but didn't finish.

Industrial blogging is a term that I believe I coined. There are two categories of Industrial blogs and sometimes a third category that combines the first two. The first category of Industrial blogging is a blog that focuses on a particular topic or industry exclusively. Many times these blogs have multiple authors who write consistent articles in one space. There are thousands of these. There are gadget blogs, tech blogs, food blogs, wine blogs, guitar blogs, music blogs, political blogs and just about everything else you can think of. I'm a little too schizophrenic with my blogging to settle on one topic, so I stick to my own thing, but I could see having a Red Sox Blog like Laura and the Red Sox or Surviving Grady, or a fly fishing blog, or a gadget blog, but I'm discouraged from doing that not only by my topic schizophrenia but also because those ships have sailed and there are already plenty of people doing a good job with most of the topics I follow. The more specific the topic, the more challenging I think it is to be original.
The other category of industrial blog is one in which the blogger is paid or blogging in order to make money. Now, we all wouldn't mind making money blogging, and I've made a couple bucks here and there through iTunes, Amazon and Adsense ads, but I've never been paid to blog about something. Directly and indirectly there are people who are paid to blog. Most of the time they blog for a bigger company like AOL or Gawker but there are some people out there who accept payola in order to blog about particular topics or products. Part Three of this series looks at people who blog as a function of their role in a company in Corporate blogging, so I'm not talking about your company's CEO or PR joker having a public space, but rather their job (some people even do it full time) is to blog on a specific topic. You can see how Industrial blogging can cross over.
Another type of blogging that can sometimes fall into the Industrial blogging category is the A-List blog. If you googled for A-List bloggers are people who have or had a career in technology or tech journalism, but it goes beyond tech. Tech, as I've mentioned before, has its own self inflated ego of thinking that blogging and podcasting are terrain reserved for the techies, but you know where I stand on that. I think anyone willing to share their voice should. I may not read or listen, but I salute you for doing it.
A point that should be made before I cut off this ramble is that not all bloggers who blog about a specific topic are being paid, some do it for the love of sharing...imagine that.

March 9, 2007

The Long Con: The Prestige vs. The Illusionist

Two movies about magicians coming out at the same time takes me back to the summer of 1998 when Armageddon and Deep Impact both showed us how to avoid the Earth being destroyed by comets, meteors, and asteroids. In the same way that Armageddon and Deep Impact separated themselves despite similar plots and elements, both The Prestige and The Illusionist are both similar and unique. I'll preface this further by saying that I enjoyed both movies, though I would have done something different with each of them. Whereas The Prestige deals with the rivalry between two magicians and the lengths they are willing to go to in an effort to best the other, the rivalry in The Illusionist is between a magician from humble beginnings and the crown prince of Austria. Both movies are period pieces, both movies have a generation's most promising actors (Edward Norton and Christian Bale), both movies have one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood (Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Beil), and both movies con their audiences in the same way that the characters con each other. I'd heard enough about both movies to know that more was happening than they were willing to give away, but I think both movies could have done better at protecting the reveal yet still keeping true to the con. To protect anyone who hasn't seen them, I won't go into too much detail other than to highlight a couple of performances. Michael Caine, who worked with Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan on Batman Begins was great in The Prestige. I thought Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell did well supporting Norton's performance. I think I liked the Prestige better, but I don't feel as though to like one better is to not like the other.

33 songs for 32 years

1975 - Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
1976 - Aerosmith - Last Child
1977 - Bob Marley - Three Little Birds
1978 - Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson - Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys1979 - Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
1980 - U2 - A Day Without Me
1981 - Duran Duran - Planet Earth
1982 - Michael Jackson - Beat It
1983 - The Police - Synchronicity II
1984 - Prince - Purple Rain
1985 - The Cure - In Between Days
1986 - Van Halen - Summer Nights
1987 - INXS - Devil Inside
1988 - The Church - Under The Milky Way
1989 - Van Morrison - These Are The Days
1990 - They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse In Your Soul
1991 - Nirvana - Drain You
1992 - Inspiral Carpets - Two Worlds Collide
1993 - Hothouse Flowers - One Tongue
1994 - Weezer - In The Garage
1995 - Everclear - Santa Monica
1996 - Counting Crows - Have You Seen Me Lately?
1997 - Matthew Ryan - Chrome
1998 - Lucinda Williams - Drunken Angel
1999 - Tom Petty - Room At The Top
2000 - Joseph Arthur - In The Sun
2001 - Ryan Adams - Somehow Someday
2002 - Coldplay - Warning Sign
2003 - Death Cab For Cutie - The Sound of Settling
2004 - The Killers - All These Things That I've Done
2005 - Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo
2006 - Cold War Kids - Hospital Beds
2007 - The Shins - Sleeping Lessons

You make the connection...or better yet, make your own connection.

March 8, 2007

One Decemberists Ticket; One Killers Ticket

In light of the recent development of moving back to Alaska, I'm selling a couple of tickets to shows I won't be able to attend. Currently on ebay, 1 ticket to The Killers' April 7th show at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The current bid as I post this is $60. Also available 1 ticket to The Decemberists' show on April 25th at the Warfield in San Francisco. There aren't any bidders at this point on the ticket and there is 1 day left. My understanding is both shows are sold out, so buying one ticket can add another person to your group or you can be a single like I would have been. If you're in the S.F. area or will be at either of those times, get your bidding on.

The Decemberists - here (currently priced at face value of the ticket)
The Killers - here

Arcade Fire: Take Out Your Neon Bible

The suspense can end. Arcade Fire released their highly anticipated Neon Bible on Tuesday. I'd heard most of the album through internet leaks and of course the live performances, so I knew it was going to be a great album. It's also no surprise that it's currently the top album in the iTunes store. Arcade Fire are probably the most hyped 'indie' band out there. Usually internet hype leads to disappointment, but Neon Bible is a more or less perfect follow up to Funeral. There's the energy that has come to be expected from Arcade Fire, but there's an element of maturity to the craftsmanship of the songs. If they can continue to stay true to their indie tip despite the hype that they could bottle, sell, and retire on the proceeds, we have lots more Arcade Fire albums for the future.

Listen and Buy: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Listen and Buy: Arcade Fire - Funeral

Also new this week:
Son Volt - The Search
Bright Eyes - Four Winds (EP)
Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy

March 5, 2007

In Anaheim... was 80 degrees today and tomorrow I'm off to see Mickey.

March 4, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

I've had Stranger Than Fiction sitting here from Netflix all week, but with the live music schedule, I haven't had a chance to watch it. I got around to watching it last night and let me tell you...this is a great movie. The performances were fantastic. Will Ferrell puts his acting chops on display whereas the performances by Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the brilliant Dustin Hoffman complimented both Ferrell and the movie. Having taken several creative writing classes and having a affinity for fiction writing also made this movie intriguing for me. Zach Helm's writing is genius and director Marc Forster did a great job putting it all together on film. I'm surprised actually after seeing it, that it wasn't included in any Oscar nominations. Will Ferrell was nominated for best actor in a comedy (though, I wouldn't label Stranger Than Fiction a comedy), but lost to Sacha Baron Cohen. I recommend you rent it or drop it into your Netflix queue for a pleasant surprise.

March 2, 2007

Man of the Day in California

Bono was in the same county as me today. I've been in the same county as him before but it's usually because he's performing and I'm watching. He was in Oakland today meeting with some people about the AIDS crisis among the African American population in Oakland. He called East Oakland the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in America. If he were anyone else I might criticize the double epi usage, but it's Bono and he can make reading the phone book a little poetic. He met with leaders in a couple of AIDS groups, some clergy, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). Of course he had to take off before he had a chance to visit ol' Dublin down the road, but he had to get to LA to accept the Chairman's Award from the NAACP at the Image Awards tonight. The picture above is from (San Francisco Chronicle) and has Bono with Rep. Barbara Lee [in product (red) attire) and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. It's an AP photo credited to Ben Margot.

Snow Patrol, OK Go and Silversun Pickups @ Bill Graham Civic

I'm going to keep my review brief. It took me longer than expected to get to the city because there was a stalled car on the Bay Bridge. Still there in plenty of time before the first band played, but not early enough to get a premium place to stand. I conceded to stand against the gate surrounding the soundboard because I could lean on the gate and didn't have to worry about being in anyone's way.
Silversun Pickups started the show off. Lots of energy and the crowd was really into them. Considering the average age of the crowd was probably right around 18, it really showed the marketing power of things like Myspace with high school and college kids. I'd heard of Silversun Pickups from the music blogs I have had in my RSS reader since ACL 05, and I liked their stuff but I had no idea of the fervor that was out there for them. They played a solid set and connected well with the crowd.
OK Go is probably always going to be referred to as "that treadmill band" because of their insane popularity that came from that video bing passed all over the internets. I'm even guilty of sending it to a few people. I'd only heard a few of their songs and their live performance was good and fun enough for me to snag their album Oh No. They had interesting images projected on a screen behind them, including a camera on lead singer Damian Kulash's mic for an extreme close up on his nose as he sang. I enjoyed their performance and again, the enthusiasm of the crowd and the announcement from the stage that their new song is debuting on YouTube shows the shift in the music business that the big shots in the industry are in denial about.
Snow Patrol are probably two hits away from being legitimately on the same plane as a Coldplay. They may not be as amazing as Coldplay, but the talent and originality is there. Lead singer Gary Lightbody said from the stage that last night was their biggest US gig yet. With a sold out Bill Graham Civic (7000 "seats") under their belt and a very professional show resembling a trimmed down Vertigo stage (minus the b-stage ring). People who are fans of Snow Patrol are huge fans of Snow Patrol. People who aren't fans of Snow Patrol haven't heard much or any of Snow Patrol's music. Sound familiar? It's been a trend for quite some time in music, but I think with their songs getting on Grey's Anatomy, the Zach Braff produced "The Last Kiss" soundtrack, and just recently featured on NBC's The Black Donnelly's, more and more people in the U.S. will be hearing Snow Patrol and more and more people in the U.S. will become Snow Patrol fans.

Buy Snow Patrol - Final Straw
Buy Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Buy Silversun Pickups - Carnavas
Buy OK Go - Oh No

Watch "that treadmill song"

March 1, 2007

Josh Ritter @ Swedish American Hall: In Good Company

Josh Ritter solidified himself on a list I've had bouncing around in my head last night. He's on the list of my generation's best songwriters. At 30, he's already able to write (dare I say it) Dylanesque or Springsteenesque (both Bob and Bruce are listed as influences) songs that express a uniquely Ritteresque perspective. Okay, I promise not to use esque again. But nonetheless he joins the likes of Ryan Adams, Colin Meloy, Matthew Ryan, Fiona Apple, Damien Rice, Ben Gibbard and Chan Marshall on my list of great songwriters. The list is continually growing as more and more artists show their songwriting chops, and Josh Ritter is just now catching on.
The evening began with a couple showcases of great female talents with Nicki Chambly and Laura Gibson (from Oregon, wooo). I was thoroughly entertained by them both. Nicki Chambly has the sultry quality of Chan Marshall (without the twitchy stage presence) and her songs are well crafted and well suited for the intimate venue. Laura Gibson has an endearing quality to her on stage personality as well as her music. Her set was fantastic and her stories and delivery of said stories was perfect.
The third act of the evening was Etienne de Rocher. I hadn't heard of Etienne prior to last night, but his performance came off well. First impressions are everything, and for the Berkeley based songwriter, his impression worked. The crowd was gracious with all the performers, and Etienne's stage presence added to the enthusiasm.
Josh Ritter took the stage amidst a ton of anticipation. The house lights were dropped and the crowd cheered the "bumper" music of Johnny Cash's "The Night Hank Williams Came To Town." Josh ran on stage and that kicked off an amazing set that showed his belonging to the list I mentioned above. I'm not sure about the order of the songs (I'm not that good), but I think he started off with "Monster Ballads" or maybe "Good Man" and I know he closed the night with an acapella rendition of the traditional Irish song "The Parting Glass." He played all the songs I've come to love over the last couple of years including "Kathleen," "Harrisburg," "Girl in the War," "The Snow is Gone," and the haunting "Thin Blue Flame." The energy and enthusiasm that Josh brought to his performance were undeniable. He doesn't hold back emotion or stories that pop into his head between songs. Whether it's his invention of a new winter Olympic sport or wanting to be a skateboarder while living on a gravel road, it's no wonder from his stories how his mind works on an unconventional plane and that's where his wonderful music comes from. If you have a chance to catch Josh Ritter or any of the other acts from last nights show, I highly recommend it. And if you haven't bought Josh Ritter's CD The Animal Years, I think it's about time you do.
Addendum: I forgot to mention that Heather from I Am Fuel, You Are Friends was there last night. I didn't meet her nor did I recognize her in the sea of faces, but I'm sure she'll have a much better review than mine.