Sunday, November 29, 2009

Phish - Albany, NY 11/27/09

What a night.

First of all, we somehow managed to get amazing seats.  I guess (check it! they're cool!) loves us?  Basically we were 25 feet away from the stage with a great view - first row of the side section.  Most excellent.  The only issue I had with our location was the sound quality - although not as horrible as some may claim it to be (ahem, father), it was still discombobulated and unbalanced where we were.  Bummer.

Our view from the seats -

I think the sets themselves made up for the lack of coherent sound quality.  We started off the night with a driving 'AC/DC Bag', always a crowd pleaser and riles up the crowd.  The 'Bouncing Around the Room' halfway through the first set was awesome, and with it came a hearty prelude to a glowstick war that followed later that night.. Remember how I was talking about how Phish's new stuff is kind of commercialized, a-quirky (not a word but I'm using it anyways) kind of music?  With 'Light' to finish off the first set, I have to admit - I stand corrected.  It was very jammed out, very cool - something I hadn't entirely expected.

Although the first set was well-played, it was the second set that grabbed me (but isn't it always?).

'My Friend My Friend' kicked off the set; always a rousing jam.  I had never seen that one live before.  But the ultimate winning combo of the night was 'Fluffhead' > 'Piper'.. WOW.  Maybe I say that so emphatically because those are two of my favorite Phish tunes, and to see them live let alone together was mind-blowing.  I swear, I felt tears in my eyes when I heard the opening riff to Piper.  It was a spiritual moment.

I have to say Mike really held those two together.  Not like the other guys were off the ball or anything (they weren't), but the bassline really keeps the groove going, allowing Trey to peer up into the abyss of the concert hall and explore, like he's translating some order from a higher power lurking up there in the rafters.  And that's the beauty of this band. 

The Bayne family being, well, the Baynes.  

The other notable jam that night was 'Harry Hood'.  As soon as the incoming bass line was plunked down, I knew it was time to get to business.

Closing the set was 'The Squirming Coil,' which only proved how much of a deity Page really is on the keys.  That outro.. Wow.  Eat your heart out, Mozart.

The encore was a cover of Jimi's famous "Fire," a rockin' way to end the night.  But I've gotta admit, I was pretty stunned into amazement by TSC and never landed..

Watch out for another update coming your way soon!
peace, love, and baby alpaca hand-stitched non-shrink hoodies,


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Christmas Music Preview - Preview!

As I plunked the last sentence out in this article I finished for my school newspaper, it occurred to me - why not post it on my blog BEFORE it gets published?

A Christmas Music Preview - Preview, if you will.

by Elizabeth Bayne '10
Red & White Staff Writer
What’s the best part about leaves falling off the trees and darkness at four in the afternoon?  The perfect excuse arises to bust out the holiday tunes.  Yes, I’m one of those people.  We sing about silent nights, sleigh rides, and Good King Wenceslas whenever we please.   So I’ll do my best to impart to you, faithful readers, a seasoned holiday listener’s favorites.

My favorite holiday album of all time has to be “Jingle Bell Jazz,” a compilation of some truly all-star jazz musicians with their take on the classics.  Big names such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock appear on the roster, covering tunes like “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Deck the Halls”.  Although these seem like standard holiday songs, what makes this album fun is the level of musicianship that is brought to these somewhat rudimentary tunes.  If you’re looking for some impressive music (for some impressive company, perhaps?) try blasting “Our Little Town” from your stereo.

One that never fails to provide entertainment is “Deck Us All with Boston Charlie” – an impressive and structured choral arrangement fades in to begin the song, but about a minute in (and after I’m thoroughly sick of it), the drums start rolling and a scat singer comes on the scene, spinning the song in a  complete 180.  That continuity, that flow, becomes apparent that had been so lacking before.  A stark contrast arises when the music frames itself by the end of the song, abruptly cutting in with an excerpt of the aforementioned choral singers. 

It’s all about experimentation for these guys – seeing how far out they can take the music with improvisation before reining it back in with a familiar chord progression or riff.  It’s putting a twist on the known.

And if you like twists, you’ll love Jethro Tull’s satirical “The Christmas Album”.  So what’s a progressive rock band doing recording a Christmas album?  My answer?  Good things.  Ever hear a mandolin, a harpsichord, and an accordion used in the same song?  How about a Christmas song?  I thought not.  (Check out the tune “Holly Herald,” the second one on the album).

What really separates this album from other Christmas compilations is that the music is Jethro Tull, only holiday flavored.  There’s still that classic Tull Celtic feel to their stuff, like someone could break out into a jig and that would be entirely appropriate for the occasion.  That’s the beauty of Jethro Tull – their music spans lots of different vibes, consequently making for lots of variety.
And then there’s the flute - that magical flute that Ian Anderson is so well known for.  The sound is crisp, agile and clean when necessary, but it’s passion drives that jazzy, iconic tone that he most often uses.  Talk about keeping it Tull.

The element of satire is employed quite thoroughly throughout the album as well, spanning song titles, witty one-liners, and encompassing the attitude of realism that the music takes in regard to the holiday season.  This album isn’t about the picturesque.

Straight No Chaser, the all-male a cappella group (and YouTube sensation!) from Indiana University, released a Christmas album for the season just last year, titled “Holiday Spirits”.  Unlike Jethro Tull, this album is all about the classics, this time in flawless four-part harmonies.  Granted, there’s nothing inherently edgy about this music, but nevertheless it merits a recommendation.  Perhaps it is my membership in the Snapdragons that inclines me to look at the more technical aspect of a cappella, but even the live track (probably the most well-known out of any of their songs – it’s called “The 12 Nights of Christmas”) that’s included in the album is nothing to shake a stick at.  There’s musicianship lurking among these renditions of the overdone holiday favorites.

So.  What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving?  The tunes.  Enjoy, kids.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A potpourri, if you will.

I miss blogging.

And more importantly, I miss going to shows.

I blame my education.  Going away to such an oppressive (read: busy) school is so preventative of my jam band mojo.. It's rediculous.

That hasn't stopped me from reviewing, per se.. The problem is I just don't have any new shows to talk about!  I have been writing for my school newspaper about jam bands, but I do more of an overview of bands rather than a review of specific shows.. it's not the same!

HOWEVER.  I am thrilled to report that I sucessfully sniped tickets to two nights of Phish in Albany over my Thanksgiving break (is there anything else to be thankful of?  I think not.)  I'll have lots of new material in the near future!

I've gotta say, I haven't really been into the jam scene these past few months as much as I would like to be.. Indie tunes have caught my eye, and I finally learned who the heck Notorious BIG is!  I blame living with 350 teenagers for my growing tendency towards the mainstream.

I want to kick it with the hippies.

Christmas music is entirely appropriate for any time of the year,

PS! Here's the most recent review I did for my school newspaper.. I covered the McLovins, but due to time constraints, I stole a little bit from my previous review of 'Conundrum'.. you can't win em all, I guess.  But anyways!

The McLovins- An Overview 
by Elizabeth Bayne '10
Red & White Staff Writer

There’s no doubt you’ve heard of the explosive craze within the jam band world for the group Phish.  And perhaps you’ll even know of the infamous (and oftentimes uncomfortable) tension issued between the diehard Phish Phans and Deadheads.  So was I surprised to hear faint riffs of the complex Phish tune ‘You Enjoy Myself’ drifting through the ocean breeze on the grounds of the Gathering of the Vibes this summer?  Bet on it.  (The Vibes is a four-day festival dedicated to the loving memory to Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead).  My immediate speculation as to the source of the music was that some barefoot, sunbathing, peace-loving hippie decided to blast it out of his car stereo.  Upon sleuthing the campground I came upon its legitimate source –The McLovins, a high school trio hailing from West Hartford, Connecticut.

While my anecdote may prove unnecessary to some, I must disagree; it is entirely relevant in order to illustrate the monstrosity of this band’s sound.  There’s this fusion of jazzy riffs and mind-blowing jams that’s vastly unlike the stuff on the radio today.  What really impresses me is the fact that the guitarist of a mere fourteen years can eerily replicate the likes of Trey Anastasio and Neil Young.
He’s fourteen.  A freshman in high school this fall.  As for the other members, they are both sixteen, juniors.

The McLovin’s debut album, titled ‘Conundrum,’ is such a win.  It is inspired by the boys’ favorite novel, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster.  The two favorite songs off the album are album-titled ‘Conundrum’ as well as ‘Sea of Wisdom’.

‘Sea of Wisdom’ is worth mentioning especially in conjunction with the overlying theme of the Phantom Tollbooth.  There’s sort of a laid back vibe for most of the song, complete with soothing imagery all relating to the water.  The lyrics give a sense of security to the listener, like they are trying to impart that knowledge is continuous and flowing, like water, but not threatening or hard to find, which, if one is familiar with the novel, happens to be a recurring theme throughout.  A great bass line starts about a minute in that picks up as the tempo changes into something faster for maybe more than a minute at the close as well.

And, of course, there’s ‘Conundrum’:  jazzy, a real standout.  I venture to assert that it’s much more intricate than most of the other songs on the album.  There’s the element of having multiple repeated parts throughout the song that makes it seem much more refined.  I especially love the tenacious bass line about two and a half minutes in.

The McLovins’ structural style to their music is a lot like that of Phish, but in more of a subtle way.  There are a few different parts or interludes to their music, which becomes apparent upon listening to ‘Dynne’, the sixth song on the album.  There’s a lot going on in this song, like how the guitar will switch from some serious shredding to a relaxed vibe on the drop of a dime.  That’s talent.

Another new favorite is ‘Virtual Circle’, which was debuted after the ‘Conundrum’ was dropped.  There’s this exchange of the vocal line between the drummer, Jake, and the bassist, Jason, which switches into this jazzy, heavy jam from the guitar with bouncing drums and a driving bass line for backup.

These kids are not your average high schoolers wielding a clarinet for an art credit.  There’s some serious passion, musicianship, and dedication going into their stuff. says their album embodies “a cornucopia of musical genres” which “melts your face then gives you a minute to recover before melting it again.”  Need I say more?

So, without further adieu, consider this the official Elizabeth stamp of approval.
Up next on the agenda?  Two days in Albany this November for Phish.  Anyone else going?