Posts Tagged ‘Great American Music Hall’

Doubleshot Tuesday: Temple Of The Dog/Singles

27 April 2010

[Today: Remembering Grunge…]

A few years back I dragged The P out to the Great American Music Hall to see Mudhoney. I’m sure she was bored witless, but one of the things I love about my wife is that she’s always up for a show. I was never a huge Mudhoney fan back in the day, but lately they represent one of the few chances to get a taste of real grunge music, and they didn’t disappoint this semi-fan. It seems so apocryphal that I feel the need to qualify the following: as I remember it, lead singer Mark Arm ran up into the balcony overlooking the stage, climbed up onto the railing, and jumped down onto the stage. Not an impossible jump, but it seems like such a perfect grunge moment that now I wonder if I dreamed it up to satisfy my expectations of what the show must have been like. Who cares? All I remember is a great, rowdy show that delivered exactly what I was after…

Grunge reached its peak in 1992, the year I graduated from college. My college roommates were a diverse bunch – four guys who liked all kinds of different music, from metal to rap to classic rock to pure pop. My roommate Keith was a metalhead and had like-minded friends from Seattle who would drive down for periodic visits. Each time, they’d come storming in raving about bands like Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Nirvana. They brought us Temple Of The Dog in the fall of 1991, minutes after it was released and months before anyone else had a clue. We’d put their discoveries on the hi-fi and crank them up and drink cheap beer and sit around basking in the glow of this music. Additionally, my high school friend Aldo was at the University of Washington, and I’d get the occasional word from him about these amazing triple-bill shows he was seeing for two bucks in Seattle bars. It’s viewed in hindsight as a huge corporate grab (which it turned into) but grunge really was a local movement that had genuine energy and excitement behind it, well before the majors caught on.

At that time, of course, it wasn’t called “grunge”, it was just the next wave of rock, and it sounded a lot fresher than the same old stuff clogging the airwaves. I’ve never quite understood what distinguishes music as grunge – perhaps a combination of geography, attitude, flannel and distortion? The soundtrack to the movie Singles collects some great songs and provokes a few more questions. What is Paul Westerberg’s sap doing here? Are Smashing Pumpkins really grunge? Why was this movie so bad? Alice In Chains kill it on album-opener ‘Would’ – perhaps the purest distillation of the idea of grunge, but lead singer Layne Stahley’s gruesome death makes their music sound like chilling, self-fulfilling prophecy. Pearl Jam contribute a couple of decent songs that anticipate the boring albums they’ve been turning out for the last decade. Soundgarden add two completely different tunes that foretell their split later in the decade – ‘Birth Ritual’ and Chris Cornell’s acoustic ‘Seasons’. Nirvana was already too huge to be included here, but they were as doomed as grunge itself.

And right in the middle of the pomp of the Singles soundtrack sits ‘Overblown’ by Mudhoney. Shouting against the very commercialization of his scene that this soundtrack represented, Mark Arm sings “Everybody loves us/Everybody loves our town/That’s why I’m thinking lately/The time for leaving is now.” Ironically, Mudhoney was probably the band least affected by the spoils that grunge brought. And far from leaving town, Arm and Mudhoney are the last band still regularly conjuring the spirit of Seattle circa 1992…

Listen: Pushin’ Forward Back [Temple Of The Dog]

Listen: Would? [Alice In Chains]

Listen: Seasons [Chris Cornell]

Listen: Breath [Pearl Jam]

Listen: Overblown [Mudhoney]

The Black Keys @ The Fox Theater

19 April 2009

The Black Keys @ The Fox Theater | Oakland, CA

The Black Keys brought their rough, distorted blues-rock to the historic Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night. This grand theater opened in 1928 and served as a movie house until 1966, when it was closed down. It wouldn’t re-open again until February of this year, but one evening in this splendid art-deco palace was worth the generations-long wait.

Fresh off a main-stage appearance at Coachella the night before, Akron, OH’s favorite sons played for just over an hour to a rapturous capacity crowd. The Black Keys are unique in that they found a great sound and have stuck by it, avoiding the trap of re-inventing themselves in order to be perceived as evolving artistically. To see them live is to be surprised at how much racket a two-man band can put forth. Guitarist Dan Auerbach cuts loose with powerful feedback-drenched blues licks, while Patrick Carney bangs the drums in a manner alternately tribal and bluesy. Auerbach’s vocals are so buried beneath the Sabbath-like sludge of his guitar and the ferocity of Carney’s drums that it’s best to just sit back and let the music wash over you – The Keys are meant to be enjoyed, not studied (but for those so inclined, a complete setlist can be scoped here).

The Fox Theater stage is flanked by a pair of ten-foot tall bronze Buddhas, complete with glowing eyes and ruby red heart – a nice touch that could have been inspired by Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom. The detailing in the facade that extends more than four stories above the stage was ornate enough to capture the eye time and again, and throughout the building – from the Moroccan lamps to the hand-woven rugs – it appears that no expense was spared in restoring the building to its past glory. The Bay Area is blessed with many beautiful rooms for live music (The Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, Warfield, and Paramount Theater spring to mind), but the renovated Fox Theater is impressive enough to leave even a veteran concert-goer slack-jawed and gawking. “Nice theater. Isn’t this fancy?” Auerbach asked the crowd midway through the show. “I put on my fancy shirt, I’m ready to sit at the big kids’ table.”

Review: Black Lips @ GAMH

8 October 2008
Chaos is the name of the game at a Black Lips show. Photo by dk.

Chaos is the name of the game at a Black Lips show. Photo by dk.

The Great American Music Hall opened its hallowed doors Monday (and Tuesday) night for the lunacy of Atlanta’s Black Lips. It’s tempting to say that the Lips’ brand of garage-punk went out of style shortly after the 1972 release of Lenny Kaye’s famous Nuggets compilation, but in truth this kind of music has always lived in the margins of popular culture. It’s no coincidence that the Lips were mentored by Bomp! Records impresario Greg Shaw. The living legacy of Shaw’s musical vision was on display Monday night, and it was a sight to behold: pop music laced with the psychedelic fuzz of garage rock and performed with the frantic, anything-goes spirit of punk.

The gilded hall was about half full – to be expected considering the day of the week and the musical margins mentioned above. But this was no passive audience, content to sit back and nod along. More than half the people in the building were involved in a rather feisty mosh pit, and the energy on the floor was matched by the whirling dervishes on stage. When the band launched into ‘O Katrina!’ and ‘Bad Kids’ the stage became an ocean beach, pounded by wave upon wave of bodies. By the end of the night, that stage was littered with crushed beer cups, stray brassieres, a set of car keys, and a lone Chuck Taylor high top. Impressive damage for a crowd of about 300 people.

Black Lips are gloriously ragged, but there’s a method to their madness. Drummer Joe Bradley is steady as a rock, and bassist Jared “Hondo” Swilley is on point enough of the time to provide a solid bottom, freeing guitarists Cole Alexander and Ian St. Pe – and I swear I’m not making these names up – to wander off key, elicit feedback with their mic stands, or climb the speaker stack in a big floppy pilgrim hat. Late in their set, Alexander (the pilgrim) called to the stage hands “I’m tangled up real bad here.” He was talking about the myriad chords connected to his effect pedals, but could easily have been referring to his band’s psychedelic web of sound.

10 Things I’m Thankful For

21 November 2007

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here’s a list of stuff I’m glad I don’t have to live without:

Fillmore - photo
1) The Fillmore Auditorium – One of my favorite rooms in the whole wide world.

Jimi - photo
2) Jimi Hendrix on guitar – Has anyone else ever come close? I think not…

M. Ward - photo
3) M. Ward’s croak – One of the greatest instruments in the world.

John Phillips - album
4) John Phillips’ solo album – The definition of a lost gem. Sounds fresher today than the day it dropped.

Hank Mobley - photo
5) Hank Mobley on sax – Who’s underrated? Hank’s underrated.

Mike Watt - photo
6) Mike Watt’s philosophy – The ex-Minutemen bassist’s enthusiastic musings on doing-it-yourself were a prime inspiration for me to start writing about music.

GAMH - photo
7) The Great American Music Hall – Another gorgeous room, and an amazing place to see a concert.

QMS - album
8) My Uncle Henry – He’s passed along nearly 2000 primo albums over the last couple of years. Huge props for Henry!

Segovia - photo
9) Andres Segovia – A different kind of guitar genius, but a genius nonetheless.

The P - photo
10) The P – My love, my life, my wife…