Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trombone Shorty @ Fairfield Theater Company in Fairfield, CT

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to score front-row seats to the hottest thing going down in a 30-mile radius, the funkadelic New Orleans-jazz act known as Trombone Shorty.

...And I took some videos!

"Show Me Something Beautiful" -

I had never heard their stuff before, but I loved these guys.  There was a really heavy funk element to their music at times, which I totally dug.

 I could tell there was some serious musicianship going down that night, especially when I realized halfway through a jam that Trombone Shorty was actually directing the rhythm section of the band on the spot - he would demonstrate a beat and the drums, percussion, and bass would play it back, totally in sync with him and each other.  It was kind of incredible.

The best part about this band is the fact that they are so freaking fun to see live.  There was no set break so the energy of the show wouldn't lapse, and the music kept the audience engaged and wanting more the whole night.

The bottom line?  I'm making it my business to see these guys again.

Peace, love, & summer nights,

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - New Album Release

I thought I would drop in with some quick thoughts on Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' new self-titled album, freshly downloaded on my iTunes (I'm not too quick on the uptake, I know...)

I saw GPN for the first time at the Gathering of the Vibes last summer and was immediately impressed with the fun hardcore rock 'n' roll element to their music.  There's no doubt the songs themselves were well-written, but I suspected that it was Grace's incredible voice and performance that kept the audience engaged.

Now I know I love their sound even in the studio.  'Paris (Ooh La La)' and 'Medicine' have infectious licks that won't escape you for weeks.  

Here's the GPN on Jay Leno doing "Paris" -

In fact, upon re listening to the album a number of times, I have come to the conclusion that there isn't even one flop song on the album.  All of the tracks are interesting and have their own sound.  I especially love rockers "Hot Summer Night" and "Only Love" as well as the chilled-out tune "Oasis."  

After overcoming some initial skepticism about the group's new tunes, I have to give it to them: this album is wholly original while maintaining their trademark spunk and classic rock 'n' roll sound. 

In other words?  It gets the stamp of approval.

I see a tiny light -

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Good Catch - The McLovins

Love The McLovins?  Me too.  Luckily for us, their sophomore album, Good Catch, provides more reason to dig them than ever before.

What separates this album from the first (called Conundrum - check out my review here) is the difference of sound in the songs they're putting out there this time around.  The differences in each track are subtle enough that each one has a distinct McLovins sound, but they are also all unique.  I accredit this trait to the group's improved songwriting.

Another type of difference the group has embraced incorporating parts of other genres of music into their songs.  The tracks 'Milktoast Man' and '3:47' pay homage to reggae and tribal roots, respectively.  Although there's no serious shredding in 'Milktoast Man,' I find myself putting it on replay due to its off-beat catchiness.  '3:47' is a standout tune because of two reasons: the first is that I simply like the sound of the drums used to create a tribal feel to it, and the second is that while the group continues to jam well past 5 minutes in other tracks on the album, this one is a complete musical thought captured in less than two minutes.  Pretty cool.

Another standout tune is 'Virtual Circle'.  It's catchy, it's upbeat, and it rocks.  Then there's 'Bedhead Crystal Bugger': the rocker of the album.  This is the song that's going on my running playlist.  It's totally instrumental, but words for this one seems superfluous anyway.  There's more than enough going on that words would get in the way.

'The longest track on the album is 'Deep Monster Trance' (almost 12 minutes long!) - and it's exactly what it says.  This song takes you through a series of different and engaging musical segments.  During the first two minutes of the song, there is a very faint conversation and noise in the background of a spacey intro jam - it seems as if there's surrounding life outside of the music that seems impossible to tune into.  And, voilĂ !  Hello, name origination.  The music launches into a catchy melody with lyrics followed by a fast-paced shred session.   A cool-down jam to follow, and with a reprise of the melody and jam to boot, you've got yourself the bare bones structure of the song.  Confused?  Go listen.  It speaks for itself. 

Here's a live version from Boston in October '09:

I tend to avoid virtually all studio albums of my favorite jam bands (read: Phish, the Grateful Dead) because they always fail to capture the energy and passion that is put on display during live shows.  It's a given that the studio albums are never as good as the live version.  On Good Catch, however, there's an intensity and energy to the jams that impresses me.  Not only do I frequently pull out the McL's studio albums for a listen, but I enjoy them as I would a live show.

So cheers.  Let's have a listen!

Peace, love, and noodles for everyone!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Phish Sunday 20 June 2010 @ SPAC in Saratoga, NY

The keyword for Sunday?  Solid. 

Solid set list, solid playing, solid crowd, solid time. 

The group honored Father's Day by having Trey introduce each member's kids to the crowd while they climbed out of a big metal bathtub center stage they had shimmied into during the set opener, 'Brother.'  Cute!

My brother painted this really groovy picture in honor of our own papa!

 I heard 'Undermind' live for the first time that night and not only were none of the riffs or lyrics flubbed, it had a good jam attached.  Next came a cover of the Talking Heads' 'Cities,' which seemed popular with the crowd.  I love the Talking Heads because their lyrics are funny and overly accessible - Trey's imitation of the original is hilarious.  Page led the group for a funky fresh jam on this one. 

The highlight of the first set had to be the sweet-sounding 'Gotta Jibboo,' especially when Trey introduced Tony Markellis to the stage as a "good friend" and a "Saratoga native."  The audience was psyched out of their minds.  He played the bass for this tune, pushing Mike into the second guitar spot.  There was some sort of magic floating around (new Harry Potter movie, anyone?) in the music of this song.  The walking bassline was so groovy, and throw the sound of an extra guitar in the mix and everything sounded incredibly... solid. (Told you!)

'Antelope,' the first-set closer, was a huge party.  The unbridled energy of both the band and the crowd made for some damn good music.  There was equally if not a more awesome glow stick war PLUS fireworks.  Yes, fireworks.  I don't know how that happened, but hey!  I'm not one to ask questions.  Easily, easily, easily the number one highlight of the set.

If setlist selection was scored like a video game, the 'Carini,' 'Mango,' and 'Wilson' run that started the second set would earn quadruple golden combo points for being so awesome.  I loved hearing these older, more obscure songs rather than the ubiquitous 'Tweezer' or the like.
What a treat to hear 'Carini'!  It's a favorite of mine and I had never seen it live before.  It was so cool - there were moments where it seemed like time was suspended.  Also - excellent jam out of it and into 'The Mango Song.'  The opening riff emerged out of the remnants of the dying 'Carini' jam and crowd went wild - always a fun song and a relative rarity (this was first time the group played it in 2010!).  Complete with a comical and slightly skewed ending (think of the last note dripping away), it made for a good time.  The famous opening notes of 'Wilson' were warmly greeted by shouts of "Wiiiiiillsooonnn!" from the crowd as the next tune swung into high gear.

The Who's 'Drowned' spiced things up with a dose of some classic rock n roll, followed by a hilarious Phish 3.0 'Makisupa' - meaning, the references to drugs were out, and lyrics that set up solos for Mike, Page, & Fishman replaced them.  The crowd (myself included) got a kick out of the line - "I'll do just what I wish - and I'll listen to some Fish!" (although it can be interpreted for Phish as well).  Monsters 'Piper,' '2001', and YEM' shut down the second set and the excellent weekend of music that I had experienced.  (I snuck away before the beginning of 'Frankenstien' to begin a 3-hour drive home back to CT!)

So who else loves Phish as much as I do?  I'm hoping I'll see them at least a few more times this year.

Bye, losers.

Hippie Espionage has a YouTube channel!

I'll be posting any concert footage I take here and *maybe* experiment with doing reviews in the form of a video blog!  But that's for the future.

click here to be directed to YouTube!

And now I leave you with an important message from the One and Only - 


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oh Dear! I'm on Facebook!

Phish Saturday 19 June 2010 @ SPAC in Saratoga, NY

I needed some time to fully absorb and relisten to Saturday's show a few times before forming an opinion because of all the negative comments I have been hearing about it.  People have said that the song choice wasn't stellar that night and the jams didn't really go anywhere.  I can't say that this was one of the best Phish shows I have attended, but I will say that I did have a good time and enjoy the music.

The show started appropriately with 'Tweezer Reprise' as a continuation of the ongoing joke of the doubled Tweezer the night before (reference the video in my review of Friday night!).  The highlights of the first set happened right at the end - 'Bathtub Gin' and 'Suzy Greenberg' were easy favorites of the night.

There was an INCREDIBLE glow stick war during Suzy Greenberg - the best one I've ever seen!  See it for yourself!

Most of the complaints I heard about the show happened to be about the second set.  The combination of three new songs so close together in the second set - 'Backwards Down the Number Line' followed by 'Halfway to the Moon > Prince Caspian' and 'Joy' - was a buzzkill.  Remember my post on first-set and second set-songs?  These numbers are first-set material; there is no real substance to them.

Now, I like 'Backwards' and, in fact, hearing it on Saturday night helped them take on a new meaning for me (my best friends being newly scattered across the globe upon our graduation from school).  But I'm not saying it belonged where Phish put it that night (the middle of the second set).

But to be honest, most of the second set was great.  The group took the jam off of 'Rock & Roll' (the opener) to a really interesting place (which was later labeled as the 'Saratoga Jam' by  'Free' was spot-on: they practically burst into the melody line, Mike took a freakin' funky bass solo and the jam ended up being interesting.  All good stuff.

I would call 'David Bowie' the highlight of the second set.  It is one of my favorites and was well-jammed out.  There was one spot in the beginning of the jam that is a little dead, but the band quickly gets on it and creates a rousing tune with a solid, high-energy ending.

The gorgeous piano coda of 'The Squirming Coil' (the first encore of the night) gets me every time.  Enough said.

Don't listen to the haters on this one - I would give the show a solid B- (and I'm a tough grader!).

Now go do what you do best.