Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Check out this incredible glow stick war from SPAC Saturday night.  Around 3 minutes in is the best part! (The sound quality is surprisingly not bad either!)

More reviews to come, dears.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Phish Friday 18 June 2010 @ Comcast Center in Hartford CT

Friday night was another great show filled with jams, glitter, and laughter.  'Fee' kicked off the first set and got everyone grooving.  After a rousing 'Rift' came 'Wolfman's Brother': a tune favored by everyone and with good reason.  It featured an incredible long jam that alternated between Page and Trey - it definitely didn't feel like the third song of the night.  'Reba' and 'Cavern' were my favorite numbers of the set, the former being a new favorite tune of mine.  

I had been thinking about what differentiates Phish from most of the other bands out there these days, and I came to the conclusion that it's their sound on songs like Reba, Fluffhead, and Divided Sky - they have this element of an organized cacophony going for them.  All of the riffs are written out and yet there are moments to them that feel so earthy and original because they don't sound like anything else on the market.  Weird, right?  Take the whole 'B' section of Reba - after the lyrics are finished, the group launches into this whole new focus of sound mid-sentence (about 2 minutes into the song).  Upon hearing it live for the first time on Friday (and hearing 'Divided Sky' the night before, which shares the same element) I came to the conclusion that, among other things, this technique could quite possibly be the key to Phish's greatest music.

'Halley's Comet' opened the second set of the night, and, being an a cappella fanatic myself (and singing in a group for two years), was impressed with the sound.  The song never really showed up on my radar for some reason or another in the past, but after hearing it live, I'll be sure to change that!  I liked the incorporation of the a cappella element to the instrumental music.  Not to mention - what an incredibly catchy song! If I could whip out some Tuvan singing skills to belt the harmonies on this one, I totally would. 

Despite my speculations in previous blog entries, 'Light' seems to have established a serious post in the second-set rotation for Phish these past few tours.  I can't say I love it as much as I love some of their older, more original stuff, but it's not a bad number to hear occasionally. 

After a forgettable 'Light' (in fact I have trouble recalling it now) came a nice 'Tweezer' that rocked the stadium.  Next came a pretty stretched out but really beautiful 'Harry Hood'.  The jam on this one was what I would call beautiful (although from a previous entry you, reader, would know that my definition of beauty is somewhat unconventional).  There was a lot of light, airy guitar with a bouncy bass backing.  Listening to the jam in retrospect makes me smile. 

It's Jeff from The McLovins!

A different kind of beautiful took over when the group turned into 'Velvet Sea' - one filled with delicate piano intros, touching lyrics, and ever-catchy chord progressions. Ah, me. 

Oh. And then this happened:
And the people rejoiced and danced their way home. 

Peace, love, & dinosaur chicken nuggets,

Friday, June 25, 2010

Phish Thursday 17 June 2010 @ Comcast Theater in Hartford, CT

I recently finished up four nights of following Phish around and was, for the most part, thoroughly impressed with every show.  I found myself in Hartford for Thursday & Friday's shows and Saratoga on Saturday & Sunday.  What fun!

Thursday's show setlist was not entirely conventional and therefore intriguing.  'Punch You in the Eye' started off the show which was all fine, fun, and fancy, but it was the second tune, 'Ocelot,' that deserves commentary: perhaps I never hold much faith in most of the songs from Joy, but it was surprisingly jammed out and Page added some interesting flourishes on the organ that I had never heard them do before.  Hmm.  The other standouts from the first set include 'Esther', 'Walk Away' (an Eagles cover), the jam on 'Alaska', and 'Divided Sky' (of course!).

Thursday was the first time Phish had performed 'Esther' in about a year, and I had never seen it done live. It's an incredibly creepy song, especially for someone who is and always has been inexplicably terrified of dolls.  The song reminded me of the famed composition 'Peter & the Wolf', which is a story intended for children told by an orchestra with the occasional help of a narrator.  The connection between the two pieces lies within the music's ability to tell the story.  In 'Peter,' each character is assigned a specific instrument which represents them.  'Esther' illustrates the story in a much more subtle way, creating images for actions and emotions which appear throughout the story.  It's a unique song and always a treat to hear.

The jams on both 'Walk Away' and 'Alaska' pleasantly surprised me.  I wasn't expecting much out of them, but both songs turned out to have fun and interesting jams.  'Walk Away' has that classic-sounding rock n roll vibe (mostly because it is classic rock n roll) that is sort of a different pace for Phish to take rather than their usual sound.  As for 'Divided Sky', it's hard to find anything better.  The song itself is an incredible piece and the group performed brilliantly that night.

Here's a glimpse of 'Walk Away' (surprisingly good video quality!):

The band wasn't kidding when they started their second set with 'Partytime' - it was a time to boogie indeed.  'Down With Disease' is always a personal favorite of mine (I'm a Mike fan and I love the beginning) and a great song to groove to.  This particular version on Thursday brought a smile to my face and a tap to my toes.  Did you know this is the only Phish tune with an official music video?  You do now!


'Sand' and 'Guyute' were the highlights of the second set.  I love funky, bass-laden tunes like 'Sand'.  It was well-played and well-jammed.  'Guyute' is another personal favorite of mine if only because of the hilarious lyrics (ugly pigs dancing the jig? come on).  All kidding aside, I find 'Guyute' to be one of the more complex and beautiful songs Phish has on their repertoire.  I use the word 'beautiful' carefully because I see the beauty in this song as anything but conventional.  Especially because the second half of the song takes on a hellish quality (lots of dissonance and tension builds before the repetition of the opening phrase).  But it's beautiful to me.  To each her own.

I love me some good Weekapaug, but unfortunately this show didn't do it for me.  The band closed the set with 'Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove,' and although if I had to choose a top 5 song list, Weekapaug would be there without question, in retrospect their rendition on Thursday seemed somewhat lackluster.  I was excited at the time, but listening to it on the way up to SPAC for Saturday & Sunday's shows changed my mind.  It just.. didn't really do it for me that time.  Pity.

All in all a damn good show, and I left on Thursday night feeling revved up for an incredible weekend of music and fun.

peace, love, & vegan cheeseburgers,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ryan Montbleau Band & Marton Sexton 5 June 2010 @ Nokia Theatre NYC

So I figured seeing Ryan Montbleau would be the way to kick off my 'official' summer vacation (on-campus senior parties nonwithstanding, of course).  It so happened that Martin Sexton was also on the ticket for the night's entertainment.  I had never heard any of his stuff before, but I figured the act had to be worth watching with the RMB on backup.

The show started with a set with just the Ryan Montbleau Band, and as it turns out, it was the best act of the night.  Maybe I'm biased, but from what I heard, Martin Sexton has absolutely nothing on Ryan.  The instrumentation for the RMB is much more interesting (poor Larry the viola player was stuck on stage during the Sexton bit with a cabassa) and the lyrics are less conversational and heartfelt.  Ryan always gives a personal performance and seems so at ease up on stage - tonight he managed to throw in some witty one-liners throughout into his signature tune, 75 & Sunny, that got the audience laughing.

The band followed up with Songbird, a new personal favorite.  There's a lot more going on in this one than what appears at first glance - I found myself listening more  to the reggae aspect of the song (and in that sense, the music itself) during the first few times, but I have come to realize it's the lyrics that really grab me.  You are the dance, you are not the dancer; you are the song not the one who sings. 

I know I brought this up during my last review of a RMB show (NYE, to be exact), but I feel as if it's worth mentioning again: I love the keys solos.  Maybe I just dig the sound of the jazz organ.  Jason keeps getting better and better every time I see him, and man, if I've gotta say one thing, it's this: that guy's always grinning and grooving.

Another random moment that I love during RMB shows: when Ryan is sitting on his leather stool with his acoustic guitar and swings it around to face the rest of the band - I feel as if they're just having any old jam session that we happened to have in on.  Rock on!

For the first time in a while I found myself completely unaware of what was going to happen next with the music during a fade out jam of 'Maybe Today'.  There was this intriguing moment when I had no idea about what was going to happen next.. it was wild. 

The band finished off with the ever-rousing 'I Can't Wait' and took a break before doing the Martin Sexton act.  I walked in feeling a little unprepared for this set - I had never heard any of Sexton's stuff before, but with Ryan and the guys backing him up, I had a feeling it would be good. 

Unfortunately I was mistaken.  Generally when one listens to a band for the first time, there's an immediate decision made if they are worth listening to - Sexton's rendition of 'America the Beautiful' was worth it, but my opinion of him slowly but surely declined throughout the night.  

While Martin Sexton is a 'fun' act, there are no complexities to his music.  From what I observed, there seems to be two different types of sounds that he uses for songs: the first has a country vibe where he employs the higher register of his voice and produces a loud, nasally sound which was not particularly pleasant to listen to.  The second sound he uses has more of a jazzy edge to it where he sort of sing-raps (very much like Jason Mraz) but sounds more like Jack Johnson.  

Now, if I wanted to hear Jack Johnson, I would go to a Jack Johnson show.

I didn't get the impression that he was a strong guitarist either - there were no guitar solos worth remembering - in fact I struggle to recall if he did any at all.  There were, however, vocal solos aplenty.  I will refrain from using the word 'scat' to describe what he did because scatting implies an intimate knowledge of the music and its chordal structure and a trained ear - in other words, scatting uses a lot more technique than what was displayed to me on Saturday night.  Martin Sexton howled a lot of oooohs using utterly predictable pitches on a distortion microphone to make it sound like a guitar solo.  Oh, and the falsetto he persistently used throughout the entire show?  Ouch.

Not to go all Negative Nancy on you, dear readers, but I can't say I will be going back for more Martin anytime soon.  

It's a shame that Ryan Montbleau isn't doing his own set this year at the Vibes.  Anyone want to start a petition?

Peace, love, and lava lamps,

ps. Sexton did this song at the end of the night, and I will admit that it's one of the jams I enjoyed.  Check it out for yourself.  (See what I mean about the falsetto and the Jack Johnson sound?)