#SupportLocalArtists – Go See A Band This Weekend; Salina’s Rockgarden

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I can remember in college there were several kind of bars. There were pubs or taverns where you’d go to drink, talk loud and maybe shoot pool. These bars generally had juke boxes of varying quality. There were also “clubs” which typically had a dance floor, expensive drinks and music I considered awful. The third type of bar when I was younger, was a place with a stage or at least a cleared out part of the floor where a band could set up a drum kit and a few amps. The bands were like the juke boxes in the taverns, varying in quality, but I always loved going out to see a live band in a bar. My favorite type of bar in those days was probably a tie between the taverns with the juke boxes and the bars with live bands. Naturally most of the chicks were in the “clubs” dancing with sweaty dudes in polo shirts and a lot of Drakar Noir. At least I heard better music during this strange period of self-imposed celibacy.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself drifting more toward dive bars with crusty bartenders, dark murky fluids and classic rock on the juke box or the house stereo. I’m not sure when it happened but I stopped going out for the express purpose of seeing a band. I’m not sure how this happened. I can still remember being on a road trip in college and walking into a bar just as the trio in the corner launched into “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin. I can tell you that’s not a tune you’re going to hear very often by a bar band. These guys nailed it. My friends and I just plopped down at the bar, drank all the beer they had (or at least tried to), and didn’t leave til the band did.

I spent my summer after college in Boston working in a liquor store, where the employees taught me that summah was for drinking with your friends. There was a rough and tumble, heavy metal bar close to where we lived, named (if memory serves me) Bunratty’s (or maybe Bonratty’s, the accent always threw me off). We’d put on our shittiest clothes, and head down to hear whoever that night’s headbangers happened to be. You had to be careful at Bunratty’s… we’d heard a guy had been stabbed there, which I still think is a story the Boston-ites told us Midwest guys to freak us out. I remember seeing a few bands there and thinking, I’m going to see these guys in arenas some day. I’m still not sure any of them made it, but it was summer and I was drinking beer with friends… my judgement can’t be trusted.

After I returned from my Arkansas exile, back to Kansas City, the blues became central to my evenings out. There was a legendary blues bar downtown, the Grand Emporium. They had a poster on the wall of a July 4th concert that Stevie Ray Vaughn had played there and the ticket price was like, $4. Had I only known. I saw Koko Taylor there one night, Blues Royalty. I think it was Wednesday nights when the Grand Emporium held “Reggae Night” and you could go down and see the best reggae north of Jamaica. I seem to remember being especially impressed by a group named The Bone Daddys. Nice name, guys. I even saw the famous Chicago blues harmonica player Sugar Blue there…but I might be confusing that with Kingston Mines in Chicago.

Before I met the Rock Chick I used to spend my Saturday afternoons in a bar named Harlings, that smelled like they had a plumbing problem, but they had a blues jam hosted by Big Mama Ray, a woman who could be 40 or could be 90… too hard to tell behind those Marlboro 100s. After the blues jam was over we’d wander down to the Hurricane and catch the locally famous Bon Ton Soul Accordion Band. I won’t even begin to attempt to describe the cajun gumbo of sounds those guys made. I was lucky if I made it to 10 pm on those nights…

Those days have quietly faded away. I don’t remember the last time I’d gone out in KC to expressly see a live band, which is weird because we have a great live music scene here, mostly blues based. Usually when I’m traveling with the Rock Chick we’ll end up in some bar listening to a band. We recently traveled to Austin with my friend Stormin and his lovely wife. We ended up in a blues bar for most the evening listening to a band that was fair. Finally the ladies had had enough and went back to the hotel and Stormin and I ducked into an Irish pub that had a 70s Glam Rock cover band and holy crap were they good. I wish I remembered the name of that band. They played Bowie and if memory serves a great Kiss cover. These guys all had make up on, they were truly committed to their genre. It was awesome. My only regret is we hadn’t checked that earlier, the Rock Chick would have loved that band.

I had the good fortune of meeting the drummer of a great regional band, Rockgarden, at a Black Sabbath concert last winter. As fate would have it, Rockgarden came to KC and played a show this weekend. I was pretty fried by the end of a long week of work and being over served bourbon the night before, but in deference to my newly minted friend, the Rock Chick and I hooked up with my pal The General, and headed out to the bar. Man, am I glad I did. Rockgarden plays a mix of great 90’s rock: the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Aeroplane, a personal fav), Lenny Kravitz, Foo Fighters and to my delight some Rage Against the Machine. If you get a chance and live around here, go see Rockgarden, they kick  ass. But this isn’t a review of Rockgarden, I have to recuse myself as I know the drummer. This is about the forgotten joys of seeing a band live in a bar.

There is nothing like hearing the crack of the cymbal, the squealing feedback of a guitar while you watch the guys on stage play. When a band, like Rockgarden, lock into a groove, it’s simply magical. There was a chick celebrating something, I think a birthday, she had a tiara on and her and her friends were clearly having a blast. That spirit was infectious in the bar. Having once again been over served vodka, even I got swept up during the Rage cover, “Bulls On Parade” and attempted to create a pogo’ing mosh pit. Alas, due to the vodka I fear I looked more like I was doing off balance jumping jacks and nobody joined me on the dance floor. The Rock Chick was amused, so I get points there. That’s the magic of live music folks, even a guy like me who is usually rooted to the bar stool finds himself in the middle of the dance floor jumping up and down.

Wherever you live there is probably, within walking distance or a short cab/Uber ride, a bar that has on the marquee or website the words “Featuring Live Music,” or something like that. Maybe you live in a rural community and there’s a street fair going on. In Kansas City the KC Blues Society has a calendar of where and when certain blues acts are playing. I have to think that something like that exists anywhere in any town or hamlet. And if you’re like me, and you’ve let the joy of seeing a band in an intimate setting like a bar slip by, or if you only go see big name acts in arenas (and believe me, there’s nothing wrong with that!) do yourself a favor and find a band to see this weekend. It’s critically important that you support local bands and local artists. Your help could foster a whole “scene” and who knows, before you know it your town is the Seattle of the 90s. There is something quasi-mystical about convening in a dark room, surrounded by friends holding strong drink and listening to the sounds of a band play live. No matter what you’re into – blues, jazz, madrigals (yes, Richie Blackmore), country, metal, reggae, folk music – do yourself a favor and gather some friends and go out and support a local artist. I’m not saying you have to buy a CD after the show, just have a drink or two and if you feel inspired, get up and move your body around. It will do you good!! Trust me, it did me good after a long and awful week.

Cheers!

Concert Review: Guns n Roses, Kansas City, 29Jun16: The Power & The Glory

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*Picture from last night’s show courtesy of The Rock Chick

In the late 80s and early 90s Guns n Roses ruled the hard rock world, and Axl Rose was their king. On a tour they’ve named “Not In This Lifetime” (after what one of them said when asked about a reunion), Guns n Roses rolled into Kansas City like a rock and roll blitzkrieg and sonically pummeled an ecstatic crowd. This was rock and roll spectacle that I haven’t seen since… well, the late 80s. These guys played for 2 and half hours… It was a concert of Springsteen-esque length with more power than I’ve seen in years.

I still remember the first time I heard “Welcome To the Jungle.” I actually saw the video, back when MTV played videos, before I heard the song on the radio. These days I’m more likely to see a music video on the Weather Channel than on MTV but I digress. At first I thought they were just another hair band but after hearing the tune a few times, the sheer menace in their music turned my head. This was dark juju. By the time “Paradise City” came out, with another iconic concert video, Axl in white leather, I was on the bandwagon and their masterpiece first LP “Appetite For Destruction” went into high rotation on my turntable and stayed in high rotation to this day.

But then Axl got the worst case of LSD (Lead Singer Disease) in the history of rock and everybody else in the band left. Axl shouldered on and spent a decade making the deeply flawed, disappointing “Chinese Democracy.” Slash went on to various solo projects and even joined Duff McKagan in the short-lived supergroup Velvet Revolver with the late Scott Weiland on lead vocals. Izzy Stradlin became the Howard Hughes of rock and roll and disappeared. I certainly never thought any of these guys would play together again. Slash and Axl’s feud seemed so deeply rooted that they would never speak to each other again let alone make music together. I was utterly skeptical when I heard rumors that Slash, Duff and Axl were (literally) getting the band back together. I figured it wouldn’t live up to the hype even if they did get back together. I was wrong. The chemistry these guys have is fierce.

I will start off with the meme inspired subject – Axl’s appearance. Yes, he looks awful. He’s overweight but not grossly so. He was energetically all over the stage last night. He had his serpentine dance move on full display. I will admit, he kept ducking into a tent on the side of the stage whenever there was a musical interlude… I have no idea what was going on in there but I assume he was sucking on an oxygen tank. Appearance aside, his vocals were fantastic. His vocal range has not diminished whatsoever. He remains one of the most charismatic performers I’ve ever seen. He even looked, dare I say, happy. He changed t-shirts almost every song and I have to admit, when he came out with a shirt that simply said, “The Bitch Is Back” on it, I had to smile and nod in agreement…

Slash is the most melodic lead guitar player on the planet right now. His muscular, beautiful solos dominated the evening. He holds the guitar almost vertically and tortures the  strings. I’ve always loved Slash but to see him live is to really understand how talented he is. I might wear a top hat all day in his honor.

The unheralded guy in the equation is Duff McKagan… We should all look as good as Duff McKagan at his age. My God man, the guy is a Greek God… His bass playing is stellar. I had forgotten how many of their tunes start with his rolling bass fills. Flea is the best bass player I’ve ever heard but Duff McKagan has got to be on the short list of greatest bass players ever.

The show started with two great “Appetite” tracks, “It’s So Easy” and the heroin song, “Mr. Brownstone,” a personal favorite (the song, not the heroin). I was surprised when the old line-up then launched into the title track of “Chinese Democracy.” It was clear GnR was hellbent on doing a song from each of their LPs… Duff even sang “Raw Power” off of “The Spaghetti Incident?” “Chinese Democracy” despite some great riff-age from Slash was the low point in the evening’s performance. Luckily they followed it up with a maniacal performance of “Welcome To the Jungle.” That’s the point in the show where the afterburners kicked in. GnR were in high gear after that. They played all of their biggest songs but what impressed me most was how great the deep cuts were. Whether it was the hard rock blast of “Double Talkin’ Jive” or the epic grandeur of “Estranged” these guys just nailed it.

Slash had a couple of guitar solo moments – one was the theme from the Godfather movie and the other with the rhythm guitarist when they did “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd that left my jaw on the floor. A piano came up from under the stage and after jamming on the outro of “Layla” which was pretty amazing, Axl and the band launched into “November Rain.” Slash’s soloing on that one made my night. Slash’s soloing on “This I Love” transformed that song from a forgotten “Chinese Democracy” track to a highlight. The only song I would have cut from the set list was “Coma.” It was overly long and drug on a bit. On the other hand, the “Chinese Democracy” cut “Better” was simply awesome.

After “November Rain” they played two more songs, a great “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” followed by another personal favorite, “Nighttrain.” I certainly felt like I was on a “Nighttrain” by that point in the evening. The encore was three songs. They sub’d in “Don’t Cry” for “Patience” which they’ve been performing prior to this show and it was a welcome substitution. The cover of the Who’s “The Seeker” was great, despite the Rock Chick leaning over and whispering, “I love this song, uh, when the Who do it…” Finally, the last tune was the epic, “Paradise City.” That was the song that first got me really into this band and it seemed fitting that it would be the song they ended on. The stage lit up in different colors, the fire works went off and my friends, wife and I disappeared into the night. We ended up sitting on my roof, drinking beers and asking ourselves, “did that just happen?”

I have no idea where this reunion will go. I’m hopeful it leads to these guys collaborating on new music. I hope that Izzy comes out of hiding and plays with these guys, it looks like he’s missing out on some real fun. It’s more likely that won’t happen… “Not In This Lifetime.” But you never know…

As a side note, Alice In Chains opened up with a 45 minute rocking set. Jerry Cantrell is a magician on guitar and he and the new front man, whose name escapes me, harmonize just as Jerry and Layne Stayley in the old days…. ah, what might have been. I especially liked the portrait of the naked woman on one of Cantrell’s guitars but that’s another story…

If you get a chance and these guys are in a stadium near you, do yourself a favor and catch an epic, history-making performance. GnR proved to me last night that they still have that magic.

Cheers!

Review: Mudcrutch, Denver, Co; Ogden Theater 25May16

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*Mudcrutch takes a bow in front of your intrepid blogger (apologies to Tom Leadon on the right who I drunkenly cut off)

It was about a month ago I got the text…. it was from one of my dearest friends, Stormin’… it went: “My prayer has been answered. Mudcrutch May 26, Ogden Theater. Unfortunately my pre-sales code only allows for two tickets. Thoughts?” “Thoughts” indeed….the hook was baited but would I be able to take it? My first thought, as it always is when Stormin’ invites me off to an adventure was “How am I going to work this?…” The Rock Chick, strangely, is not a fan of Mudcrutch but is a fan of Tom Petty. It’s a little like saying you like Superman, but you’re not crazy about that Clark Kent guy. There were options… I could go alone but I quickly realized this was Memorial Day Weekend and that wouldn’t fly. I could buy the Rock Chick a ticket but that option was facing some stiff resistance. Or, and this is what we compromised on, I’d go alone with Stormin’ and the Rock Chick would get to go to Vail the next day… It was a dicey gamble, the Rock Chick likes to shop, but I can now say with clear hindsight, it was a good bargain all around.

In the old days, when Stormin’ and I went off into the night time, in search of rock and roll and other recreations, there was a good chance one or both of us would end up in shackles. There have been “episodes” in the past that decorum prohibits me from discussing in this rather public format. Things are quieter now that we’re both married dudes… I was on vacation all week anticipating this concert. The last time Mudcrutch toured they only played dates in LA and SF or maybe just LA… this was their first real trek across the States. I got to Denver Wednesday night to discover Stormin’ had his vegetable crisper full of beer and, of all things, “Sad Wings of Destiny” by Judas Priest on the stereo. Oh, yes, this was working out perfectly.

The only other time I was in the Ogden Theater in Denver was when I was there for the Cult’s “Electric” Tour where they performed, not surprisingly from the name, the entire “Electric” album. That was a banner evening. The Ogden seats, and I’m guessing here, maybe 1500 to 1600 people. I was assuming being able to see Petty and a few of the Heartbreakers in Mudcrutch in this small room was going to be something special. For once, I was right… It was an amazing night. Since we had the VIP package, we got in earlier than the rest of the GA crowd and ended up right at the stage, two people back from the barricade. There’s an intimacy in a small theater that I experienced first hand. When Petty came out, with his bass guitar slung low, he’d look slightly to his left, right into my eyes. As he sang, there were a few times I had to look away, it was like he was looking right into my soul. That’s how close I was. So naturally, this was not a normal show for me.

First and foremost I must call out Mike Campbell. He is one of the greatest guitarists I’ve ever seen. Whether in the Heartbreakers or Mudcrutch, he’s (as my friend Stormin’ said) “the glue.” Whether it was mandolin or guitar, the guy just shredded. To see his dexterity up close was something I will not soon forget. Benmont Tench, the other Heartbreaker in Mudcrutch, on keyboards was equally amazing. His boogie-woogie piano was all over the music. Each member sang at least 1 song and I must give a shout out to rhythm guitarist Tom Leadon (Bernie from the Eagles brother) for the amazing lead, harmony and backing vocals he contributed. He and Petty’s banter caused most of the laughter during the show. Randall Marsh on drums was a big hitter – not a lot of swing – but he was very capable and his vocal turn on “Beautiful World” was spot on. Petty played a nice bass guitar. He seemed almost nervous to be away from his natural instrument, the guitar. His hands were even shaking a bit as they came on stage. His vocals were amazing as usual. “I Forgave It All,” a haunting ballad and “Hungry No More” were vocal performances that I will never forget. Simply beautiful.

The show opened with a tune off the first Mudcrutch album, “Shady Grove” which spotlights both Leadon and Petty’s vocals. They followed up with three more tunes from the first record until they got to the first single from “2,” “Trailer.” They played almost all of “2” with the exception of “Beautiful Blue” which I’d liked to have heard and a good portion of “Mudcrutch.” The encore was a Jerry Lee Lewis cover, once again spotlighting the amazing piano of Ben Tench. Anyone expecting to hear something from the Heartbreaker’s repertoire will be disappointed… I was not.

Highlights for me include the Byrds cover from the first album, “Six Days On the Road,” which is just a great, galloping road tune. “Beautiful World,” “Dreams of Flying,” and “Crystal River” were all great performances. The latter tune being the longest jam they played all night. The interplay between band members was a lot of fun. Campbell would walk over to Leadon to trade licks, or all the guitarist would end a song standing near the piano watching Tench bang out a solo. The song “Hope” from “2” which on the record is an organ driven Animals’ style rocker, turned into a muscular guitar showcase for Campbell.

“Bootleg Flyer” was the last song in the main set and it was a scorcher. It was the perfect way to wrap up the two hour set. The band quickly returned for the encore, the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis’ cover, “High School Confidential.” The crowd was frenzied at that point. I could barely hear over the screams as Petty and the rest of the band took their final bow, right in front of me, as pictured above.

My legs were sore, but I had a huge smile on my face as a hobbled out of the Ogden. I once again grabbed my buddy Stormin’s shoulder and yelled, “Fuck, wow!” It was all I could muster. Storm and I staggered down to a deserted bar and had a few celebratory beers and finally managed to convince the bartender to call us a cab.

Where ever you happen to live… if Mudcrutch is in your town, call the ticket broker, this is a must see show.

Cheers!

Review Redux: Mudcrutch “2” (Full Album) A Very Strong, Tighter Return

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First and foremost, I must apologize to any of you who read my original review of the full album “2” by Mudcrutch. I wasn’t happy with my original title, which included the words, “A Band Having Fun.” I felt like that title was misleading and made the album sound more upbeat than it is. I do think, in terms of fun, Petty is  having a great time playing bass, playing with different musicians and having the entire band contribute songwriting, but that doesn’t mean all the music is happy. So, I went in and tried to edit the title. Being the Luddite that I am, I didn’t realize that changing the title would delete all the actual text under the title in the body of the post. Technical SNAFU’s seem to be my specialty. I will attempt, in this Redux Review, to recreate what I wrote earlier from my notes. Again, I am sorry for my technical stupidity.

If anything, these few extra days have only made my esteem for this record grow… leaps and bounds, in fact.

I’ve always been a huge Tom Petty fan… I can still remember buying “Damn the Torpedoes,” my first Petty album, on vinyl at the record store in the mall. That album was a certified masterpiece. I’ve always felt Petty’s career had a bit of an ebb and flow to it until “Fool Moon Fever” came out. Petty’s popularity exploded. I can still remember driving to the office when I was exiled to Arkansas and hearing “I Won’t Back Down” on the radio and thinking, “this is my new theme song…” It didn’t work, I ended up backing down, I quit. It was the best thing for me at the time. As Keith Richards once sang, it was time for me to “walk before they made me run…” but those records are also sealed.

After “Full Moon Fever” Petty seemed to have had the Midas Touch. Everything the guy did, with or without the Heartbreakers, turned to gold. That purple patch lasted him from “Full Moon Fever” through the whole Wilbury’s thing up to “Wildflowers.” Even the departure of founding drummer Stan Lynch during this time period seemed to make the Heartbreakers even stronger, which many times is not the case with a band member’s departure. Then came the superb and highly under-appreciated “Echo” album. For reasons unclear, the album didn’t reach the heights of Petty’s then recent successes. I will say, “Echo” had a bit of a melancholy fog hanging over it likely caused by Petty’s recent divorce. Petty did not react well to the lukewarm reception of “Echo” and recorded what seemed like a very angry follow-up, “The Last DJ.”

But after “The Last DJ,” the strangest thing happened. It’s as if Petty decided, “fuck it,” and started making music that made him happy and music that the Heartbreakers clearly enjoyed playing. He has a trio of great, late-career. kick-ass albums – “Highway Companion,” “Mojo,” and “Hypnotic Eye.” These are the types of albums that inspired me to start writing BourbonAndVinyl in the first place. All three are on the highly recommended list.

During this late period surge, in 2007, Petty agreed to doing a documentary on his and the Heartbreaker’s history, “Running Down a Dream,” and I must say it’s a must see for Petty fans. In the documentary, they dedicate a section to Mudcrutch, Petty’s first band out of Florida. Randy Marsh (drums) and Tom Leadon (guitar/vocal) were in the band with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Petty on bass guitar. Later, after Leadon left, Benmont Tench (keyboards) joined. The band recorded a few singles that were completely ignored before disbanding. Petty switched to guitar, kept Campbell and Tench, formed the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, is history. But something in the documentary must have inspired the whole “what might have been” thought process…usually that leads to calling an ex-girlfriend, but in this case, Petty pulled together Mudcrutch in 2008 and recorded the album “Mudcrutch.” It was a loose-limbed, “jammy” affair, but I really liked that record.

I had always assumed “Mudcrutch” was a one-off affair, but then late last year the rumors began that Petty was reassembling Mudcrutch to record another record. This past weekend saw the release of “2,” the band’s second record. Clearly with album names “Mudcrutch” and “2” it’s clear that Petty and the lads don’t put a lot of time or thought into their album titles. Having had some recent “title problems” of my own, I get it. Damn technology. The record starts off with an old outtake from Petty’s “Playback” box-set, “Trailer.” “Trailer” is one of those wistful, looking back tunes about a relationship that failed. At first, I was surprised he dug out that old tune for this album, but the sentiments in the tune sort of sum up the whole Mudcrutch enterprise. It’s a great version of the song.

Petty required everybody in the band to write a song. My favorite band contribution is “Beautiful World” by Randy Marsh. I think he sings it. I do wish, as I stated when the single came out, that Petty had sung it, but it’s still a kick ass rock song. It and “Dream of Flying” (which Petty sings) are the closest you’ll get to a Heartbreaker-y sound here. “Dream of Flying” is superb. I do think Petty is enjoying this different group of collaborators but that doesn’t mean the songs are all as upbeat as “Beautiful World”.

The centerpiece of the record for me remains “Hungry No More.” It’s a defiant song about resilience that makes Scarlett O’Hara’s vow to never be hungry again seem tame in comparison. Mike Campbell’s guitar is all over “Hungry No More” and his performance here is why he’s one of the greatest to ever strap on a guitar. “I Forgive It All” is a beautiful, spare ballad in the manner of “Highway Companion”s song “Square One.” It and “Beautiful Blue” are the best love songs here. “Beautiful Blue” simply shimmers. “Victim Of Circumstance”is Campbell’s writing effort here and it’s another exceptional tune.

The only tunes that left me cold are Leadon’s “The Other Side of the Mountain” mostly because there’s a banjo (not to sound like the Rock Chick, but I am “banjo-interolerant) and Ben Tench’s “Welcome to Hell.” I love Tench’s boogie woogie piano on the song, but the lyrics are like a joke that just misfires. But these are minor complaints, neither song is terrible. Mudcrutch’s first album, as I mentioned, was such a loose jam, it’s nice to hear these guys so focused. The songs are finely crafted, much tighter than the first record and well played.

“2” is a highly recommended purchase from BourbonAndVinyl. Play it loud and often… and the best part of this album is that for the first time Mudcrutch is playing concerts outside the state of California… which means I’ll be heading to Denver for Memorial Day Weekend with one of my best friends Stormin’ and Mudcrutch. If you get a chance to see these guys, run to the concert, don’t walk. I’ll post an update after I’ve seen the show!!

Again, my apologies for accidentally deleting the original review of this superb record and as always, Cheers!

 

Review: Mudcrutch “2” – Three Songs Released So Far

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I got a text a few weeks back from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Stormin. Storm and I roomed together with GP and some other dudes back in college but those records are sealed until twenty-five years after my death. Storm’s text was in reference to Tom Petty’s side project, Mudcrutch and their upcoming concert in Denver. “My wildest dreams have come true and Mudcrutch is finally coming to Denver. I’ve purchased 2 VIP tickets…” Now this was interesting… The next thing I knew I was booking a trip to Denver to see Mudcrutch.

Storm and I saw Petty together on the “Full Moon Fever” Tour. We weren’t going to go to the concert, but a few of our friends were attending so we went down to the old Kemper Arena and stopped in Sutera’s Tavern for a few quick brews. We made the cursory walk over to check on scalped tickets and a guy approached and asked if we thought twenty dollars was a fair price for the two tickets he had… they were 10th row, center on the floor. Other than seeing Van Halen on the “Fair Warning” tour it was one of the best concerts of my illustrious concert career. Best 2o bucks I ever spent.

To describe Mudcrutch as a “side-project” is probably a misnomer on my part. Mudcrutch was Petty’s first band. They had all moved together from Florida to LA and actually recorded a few singles. Those songs never really broke and I didn’t even hear them until Petty released his monumental box set “Playback” in the 90’s. Mudcrutch’s line up changed a bit but it consisted of Randy Marsh on drums, Tom Leadon (whose brother Bernie was a founding member of the Eagles) on guitar/vocals, Petty on bass guitar/vocals and Mike Campbell on lead guitar. Later after Leadon left Benmont Tench joined on keyboards. After Mudcrutch broke up, Petty moved to rhythm guitar, Stan Lynch took over drums and Ron Blair took over bass, they dubbed themselves Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the rest, as they say, was history.

In the excellent 2007 documentary “Running Down a Dream” chronicling the Heartbreaker’s history, they touched on Mudcrutch. I don’t know if it was revisiting his  history, or this was something that Petty had been considering for a long time, but merely one year later in 2008, Petty regrouped the Mudcrutch lineup and put out the great record “Mudcrutch.” It was written and recorded in like, 10 days. To support the album Mudcrutch did a two week, 10-concert residency in some LA theater. I think they might have done a few nights in San Francisco, but my mind gets foggier with time. I really loved the “Mudcrutch” record but I figured that was going to be the end of the story for these guys. It was like going to see an ex-girlfriend, Petty was curious, checked it out and realized he was better off where he was… so to speak… not that I’ve ever done that, I’m just saying’… it happens.

Now, eight years later, Mudcrutch is set to return. The second album is creatively titled “2.” Naturally I’v done the pre-buy and they’ve released three very strong tunes so far. The first track “Trailer” was actually originally released on the box set “Playback.” I think it was recorded around the “Southern Accents” timeframe. The “Southern Accents” album was supposedly Petty revisiting his roots, and telling the he and the Heartbreaker’s story. It got a little weird when he brought in Dave Edwards from the Eurythmics to produce it but such is life. “Trailer” got left in the can, as they say. Like returning to Mudcrutch “Trailer” is a wistful look back at a relationship long gone. It’s a great song, but like I mentioned in the Peter Wolf review a few weeks ago, when a band redoes a song already released, it feels a little like cheating to me. Unless of course the song is significantly different like Sting’s solo version of “Shadows In the Rain” which is a radical reinvention of that song vs the Police version. So I liked “Trailer” but I’d already heard a very similar version on “Playback.”

The second song, “Beautiful World” is a great, upbeat and hopeful tune. It’s got a nice little riff and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to hear live. It was written by Randy Marsh, the drummer and I don’t know if it’s him or Tom Leadon who sings it but it’s not Petty singing. Petty wanted a more “group” feel for this album so each member was asked to write one song. Marsh’s “Beautiful World” is a superb tune so we can only hope the other contributions from band members are as strong. I do sort of wish Petty had sung this one though. Still, it’s a great rock song.

Finally, the third song was released last week, “Hungry No More,” and it is awesome. It is certainly the pick of the litter so far. It clocks in at over six minutes and it allows Mudcrutch to stretch out quite a bit. It’s a mid tempo tune but has some blistering lead guitar work from Mike Campbell. Whatever he’s doing to his guitar is probably illegal in a number of states, but it sounds fantastic. The song has an impassioned vocal from Petty. It’s a down on your luck story but it’s sung with a beautiful, defiant vocal. “You can’t live on nothin’ at all, and I ain’t gonna be hungry no more…” Wow. With the economy like it is, it’s hard not to feel that this song was ripped from the headlines… but as usual, I digress.

I have to say, so far, so good on “2.” Petty has been on a hot streak since his solo album “Highway Companion.” Everything the guy touches lately is gold. There’s an exploration in his music – blues, country, jam-band – that is adventurous and always interesting. I am really looking forward to hearing the rest of this album… and actually seeing these guys destroy it live in Denver with my buddy Storm!

Until then, I’ll keep you posted as I hear more Mudcrutch. Check it out!

Cheers!

Recap: The Who, Live in KC 4/29/16

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I love to be pleasantly surprised. I have only seen the Who twice, once in ’89 and again at an exceptional show in 2000 in Denver with my buddy Stormin’. In ’89 they had a huge ensemble on stage with them and they were o.k. In 2000 it was just Daltrey/Townshend/Entwistle (RIP) with Zak Starkey on drums and a keyboard player. My general rule of thumb with the Who since that 2000 concert is simply, the less people they have on stage, the better the Who are. They are a primal force to be reckoned with.

I was supposed to see the Who in 1980 but due to some rather nefarious circumstances my father ended up confiscating my ticket and grounding me for a month. At the request of the guilty and my friend Brewster I can’t go into those details here. It has left a gaping hole in my concert-going experience that I will never be able to fill. Regardless of all that, I probably wouldn’t have attended this Who concert if a friend hadn’t given me two tickets on the floor. I love the Who but at this point, without Entwistle my expectations are pretty low. Couple that with Townshend’s continuing denunciations of touring and refusal to record any new music, and I just thought maybe it was time to cherish my memories of the Who but not invest the time in going to see them. As usual, I was wrong. Besides, free tickets, going with the Rock Chick and getting to see my pal SB and his brother Doctor Jimmy (names changed/obscured to protect the guilty) made this a no brainer.

I saw Bruce Springsteen interviewed a couple of years ago and he was talking about the guitar playing of Tom Morello. He said Morello, like Pete Townshend, could really create a “soundscape” with his guitar playing. That comment jumped out at me. I quickly put my iPod on shuffle and listened to the different stages of the Who’s career and damn if Springsteen wasn’t right. Townshend’s guitar playing is so distinctive I think we take it for granted. Before there was a Jack White, or an Eddie Van Halen or a Jimmy Page, there was Pete Townshend. The guy is simply masterful on his instrument. Yeah, the windmilling power chords are cool, but the guy bends the strings and pulls notes out of the guitar like a zen master. I had forgotten until seeing them last night what an amazing guitar player he is. He was playing up and down the neck of the guitar, dragging his pick over the strings and at one point used the mic stand to rub the guitar strings in a slide guitar solo. He put on a clinic. He alone was worth going to the show.

Townshend was in a funny and feisty mood last night. He did most of the in-between song patter with the audience. He made some pointed, humorous remarks about North Carolina’s ridiculous bathroom laws. He said, you never know which bathroom he might use, but if you were to come into said bathroom while he was in there, “you’d get to see the “Real Me,” well, depending on what you look like.” Funny stuff, Pete. Townshend reminds me of the odd uncle at the family reunion who the adults scorn but all the kids crowd around to listen to and hear in the hopes that he might say “fuck” in front of grandma again.

Daltrey was in fine voice and it was nice to see him fully recovered from the meningitis that sidelined him for the original date of this show, back in the fall. When Pete announced Daltrey during the band intro’s at the end of the show, he seemed to show some genuine affection for his old band mate and sincere relief that he’s fully recovered. Daltrey’s biggest vocal moment was during a powerful, emotional “Love Reign O’er Me.” Daltrey just nailed the vocal on that song. The rest of the band was fleshed out by the amazing drummer Zak Starkey, Pete’s brother Simon on guitar/vocals, groovy bassist Pino Palladino (who has the Entwistle “still as a statue” act down pat) and three keyboardist/backing vocalists. They utilized a lot of backing vocals which really enhanced the earlier Who material.

The show started with “I Can’t Explain” a favorite of mine but they were a tad sluggish. Things improved a little during the second song, “Who Are You.” It wasn’t until “The Seeker” that they seemed to click into gear. When they got into “The Kids Are Alright” the Rock Chick turned to me and said, “why would they play this one, it’s too pop…it’s not rocking’?” What does the Rock Chick not know about music. I thought things went up a notch a few tunes later when after a few misfires starting, Pete finally got the opening notes of “5:15” down. That song got the crowd really going.

Things continued to get better with a double dose from “Who’s Next,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Bargain.” They followed those tunes with an all time favorite of mine, “Join Together” and after that they were just on fire. They followed that up with a great version of “You Better You Bet” from my first ever Who LP purchase, “Face Dances,” an album I still love. Pete then announced they were going to do 3 songs in a row from their best rock opera, “Quadrophenia” and that trio of songs was the emotional center of the show. It began with “I’m One” during which Pete mentioned he noticed the “pensioners and older members of the crowd are sitting down.” Who knew Townshend was such a wise ass. The next “Quadrophenia” song was an instrumental “The Rock” that was powerful musically but made more so with the political imagery on the video screens behind them. That song led into the aforementioned “Love Reign O’er Me” that Daltrey just crushed. I let out an audible, “wow” after that.

They followed that up with a very muscular version of “Eminence Front” another fan favorite. The whole band kicked it into another gear on that song. “Dress yourself to kill” Townshend kept intoning passionately. He’s spoken in the past of his disdain for that song, but he sure looked like he was having a ball singing it. That led to a handful of “Tommy” tunes which were amazing to behold. They finished things up with “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where Daltrey again nailed the loud scream at the end… the chick in front of me, who despite being older than I am danced her ass off all night, turned to me after Daltrey’s scream and said, “He nailed it!” Indeed. I have to agree with SB when we spoke after the show that “Won’t Get Fooled Again” just seems to get more relevant and more true with each passing year. It’s a shame nothing has changed in the 45 years since the Who recorded it.

After the show, SB and Doctor Jimmy, the Rock Chick and I convened at our favorite post-concert bar, the Drum Room and over martini’s discussed what we’d just seen. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “shit, I almost skipped this.” If you’re out there and you’re on the fence about going to see a band, any band, always make the effort and go. Especially make that effort if it’s a legend like the Who. There’s a reason these people are legends. They continue to put on exceptional live shows. I can only hope that Townshend relents and takes the fire he showed on stage into a studio with Daltrey. I think they’ve got some songs left to sing and some more things to say.

If the Who come to your town, do yourself a favor and get out and see them. Short of that, get to a bar tonight and catch a live band, it’ll get your heart pumping.

Cheers!

 

Springsteen: The River Tour, Kansas City 4/7/2016

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I must pause in the writing to acknowledge the passing of a legend… RIP Merle Haggard. I saw the Hag with Dylan about 10 years ago and frankly I enjoyed Merle more than Dylan. His voice was craggy velvet on whiskey. Haggard and Johnny Cash are all anybody needs to know about country music. Everything after them isn’t worth the effort to drop the needle onto the vinyl….. On with the review…

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I went down to “The River” last night and I knelt to pray and I was cleansed. I haven’t had a chance to write much lately because my corporate overlords have been making life a living Hell. Nothing solves that work-despair like a good, old fashioned, rock and roll show. Especially when that concert involves the legend, the myth, Bruce Springsteen.

In the midwest in 1979-1980 you were hard pressed to find a Bruce Springsteen fan. A few of his tunes would make it to the radio but he wasn’t a wide spread phenomenon like he probably was in say, Philadelphia. I grew up in the provinces people. I like to think of myself as a drunken, much less talented Mark Twain. I remember February of 1980, getting up and scouring the paper for a review of the previous night’s Bruce Springsteen concert in support of his new album, “The River.” The reviewer said, “without a doubt we’ve seen the concert of the year and it’s only February.” I went to school and saw my buddy Brewster and lamented that we hadn’t gone to the show. Brewster and I would always go to shows together. He said, “Uh, Ken, uh, you might not have gone, but I went. I didn’t know you were into Springsteen… it was amazing.” It may have fundamentally altered Brewster and my friendship. Bitter, party of 1, your table is ready. Ironically Brewster was in from The Tall City, Texas last night and at the show and whilst his wife managed to keep us from speaking we were texting each other during the show.

“The River” album conjures so many memories. Unlike most people, “The River” not “Born To Run” was my first Springsteen album. (I bought “Born To Run” after sneaking into a Senior Skip Day party when I was a sophomore and making out with a beautiful girl… I had to stop to ask her what music was playing…”Born To Run” you idiot…”) “The River” was the first double LP I ever purchased, which was a huge commitment of lawn-mowing money back then. It was 12 bucks, much more than the usual 8 you’d plunk down for a single LP. Oh, my God, was it worth it. It’s a sprawling masterpiece. Springsteen said last night that he was attempting to capture the E Street Band’s mammoth live show on a record. I would say he succeeded. What I loved about “The River” was that Bruce let Little Steven (harmony/backing vocals/guitar) and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons (saxophone) run wild on this album. The album was big but felt intimate. It was like listening to the world’s greatest bar band explode like a nuclear bomb. There was so much more joy on “The River” than “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” that it’s hard to think both albums came from the same group of guys.

The show opened up with a muscular version of the outtake “Meet Me In the City Tonight”, which like “Thunder Road” is a great invitation to an adventure. My buddy SB said, “Hey, which album is this on?” There are so many great Springsteen songs that no one has heard, but I digress. (Everyone needs to buy the box set “The Ties That Bind”, the outtakes are worth it, trust me). Then Bruce gave a nice preamble speech about “The River” and what it meant to him as an artist. As the band launched into “The Ties That Bind” I must admit, and not to be a chick about it, a tear welled up in my eye. Clearly this album meant a lot to me as a listener too. I can still remember, nervously dropping the needle on the vinyl for the first time, wondering if my huge investment in a double album by this “Springsteen guy” was worth it. I was taking a huge risk. When that riff burst out of the speakers it was like what I imagine heroin hitting the brain pan, my temples exploded with joy. I was hooked on Bruce and haven’t given up the habit yet.

The band was leaner last night – no back up vocalists, no full horn section – it was just the basic band, albeit with an extra guitarist, Nils Lofgren and a violinist Suzee Tyrell who weren’t with Bruce on the original “River”tour that Brewster caused me to miss (did I mention I’m still bitter). And, predictably, I have to say that Jake Clemons is a big dude, but he’s no Big Man. His uncle Clarence, whose loss still brings tears to my eyes, was a much more powerful player than Jake. But I will give Jake an A for effort.

As always with me, it was the ballads that were the most arresting moments of the concert. “Independence Day” which comes early in the show, (and closes side 1 of the vinyl LP) was particularly moving. It’s what Bruce described as a conversation between two people at a kitchen table. If you’ve ever had a problem with your father, this is the Springsteen song for you. People talk about “Adam Raised a Cain” as his ultimate “father” song, but “Independence Day” is a heart wrenching, moving song that sums up everybody’s relationship with their dad or at least my relationship. Eddie Vedder used to leave his house with his acoustic guitar and slip down to the park and play that song as a form of escape. I wish I’d been hanging around because Vedder and I seem to like the same music. The version of “Point Blank” with a long piano driven preamble was the highlight of the night. It was the most amazing version of an amazing song that I’ve ever heard. It was gripping and live music at it’s very best. You should buy a ticket to this show just for that song. The version of “Stolen Car” they played last night will haunt me, in a good way, for the rest of my life. “Drive All Night” has always been a personal favorite of mine, and last night’s version did not disappoint me. It’s the greatest love song ever written. I only wish Clarence was here to play that beautiful sax solo, but again Jake did fine, I’m knit picking.

The set after “The River” was explosive and fantastic. He managed to play over half of “Born To Run” including a fabulous version of “She’s The One”. It’s the songs you don’t hear on the radio from that album that make it so special. “Backstreets” was sprawling, rocking and amazing all at once. I had two firsts last night, “Because The Night” and finally after all these years “Rosalita” which I’ve waited a life time to hear. Late in the set they broke into “Tenth Ave Freeze Out” and again, when Bruce sang, “the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band” I felt tears well up in my eyes again. I toasted Clarence with a large, deep tumbler of rye after the show. “Tenth Ave Freeze Out” is a gentle reminder that the E Street Band is more than a band, more than a group of musicians, it’s a brotherhood. And the magic of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is that on any given night, even out in the provinces of Kansas City, they can make you feel like you’re a part of that brotherhood.

Do yourself a favor. If you live in a city that Bruce is coming to in the next month or so, get a ticket and see his show. Dance in the aisle, sing along and for a beautiful 3 hours, forget you have to go to work the next day. Love life like it’s 1979 again and your buddy Brewster has called with tickets to the big show…..

Cheers!

The Cult: Alive In The Hidden City, Chicago 3/24/2016

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“Ian is awfully ornery tonight” – The Rock Chick 3/24/2016

The Rock Chick and I flew up to Chicago over the weekend to catch The Cult’s “Alive In the Hidden City” tour at the Chicago House of Blues. Man, am I glad I went. As I was walking into the lobby of my hotel before the show, I ran into three guys from Decatur, Illinois. One of them, Clint, was wearing a Cult t-shirt and after my two Old Fashion lunch I felt bold so I stopped in the middle of the lobby and asked loudly, “Hey man, are you going to the show.” Oddly, after that brief interaction I couldn’t go anywhere without running into the Decatur 3. Every time I went into a bar, hit the button for an elevator, or at the actual Cult show, I ran into the guys from Decatur. They were true Cult fans, and it was very nice to meet kindred spirits.

That’s the thing about concerts. When you’re into a band, you tend to meet like minded folks at a concert. Especially a show in a smaller venue like the House of Blues. The concert begins to transcend a simple live show. There is an almost spiritual connection you have with the band and the people in the crowd. There was a guy at the show who kept holding up his lighter, that took me back to a pre-cellphone world. Standing on the floor, hands in the air, singing along with the rest of the crowd, I felt a real connection with everyone in the room. After the show Decatur Ron and I were talking about the almost spiritual/religious nature of rock concerts and he agreed with me. There is something about this new material that has The Cult charged up. The only bands I’ve seen pull that type of intimacy off in an arena setting are Springsteen, U2 and The Stones…but I digress.

I must say Friday night at the House of Blues was a special concert. I’ve seen the Cult nearly 10 times over the last 15 years and they were simply on fire Friday. Ian Astbury was more animated than I have ever seen him. He does this skip/kick dance move that has gotten rarer and rarer over the years – not Friday, he was moving like man half his age. He was engaging with the crowd, funny and extremely charismatic. When he’s on like he was Friday, he is the consummate front man. He has an almost shamanic ability to raise the level of the entire room. Friday was one of those nights. He dedicated a song to the late Ray Manzarek of the Doors, made fun of American beer for being piss, and handed out tambourines to those lucky enough to be up near the stage. And not to sound like a chick, but the guy’s hair is long again and instead of slicking it back he was letting the freak flag fly. Dressed in all black with a blazer on, he was shaking that hair all over the place. It just seemed to make it more primal. It was after he gave somebody in the audience some gentle shit for texting during “Hinterland” that the Rock Chick turned me and laughingly said, “My, my, Ian is awfully ornery tonight…” I couldn’t have summed it up any better.

From a technical standpoint, the sound was great. I could tell Billy Duffy was struggling with his first guitar, which looks like the custom Gretsch Black Falcon I’ve been reading about. After two or three songs he quickly switched over to a black Les Paul. He ended the show with that beautiful White Falcon. Ian’s vocals were high in the mix and he sounded great. His voice was strong and very full. You can tell he’s very into this new material, and it has really put a lot of steam in his stride. The oddest thing Friday was the introduction of keyboards to the Cult’s sound. The new rhythm guitar player, who looks like he may be Rob Zombie’s illegitimate child, also doubles as a keyboard player, which was a first at a Cult show for me. The keyboard textures on the new stuff worked but inexplicably during “She Sells Sanctuary” the guy chose to play a piano figure instead of that brilliant rhythm guitar counterpoint to the main riff. It was the only sour note all night.

I was wondering how the new material off the great “Hidden City” was going to translate live. I didn’t have to wait long, as they opened with a muscular version of “Dark Energy”. Needless to say, this new stuff is awesome live. They quickly moved into “Rain” and then “Wildflower”, which was an amazing trio of songs to start the show off. After the always great “Horse Nation” they played another new song, “Hinterland” which was stunning live. About 1/3 of the show was from the new album, and the stuff just sounds great. “Deeply Ordered Chaos” was probably my favorite, but I’m pretty biased about that song. The setlist did take a left turn when they played the obscure “Gone” from “The Cult” album (aka the “Ram” album). I love it when a band goes obscure. I would have rather heard “Spanish Gold” but hey, that’s just me. “Fire Woman” made a reappearance on the set list for the first time in a very, very long time and the crowd went predictably batshit crazy for that one. After a slightly disappointing “She Sells Sanctuary” (rhythm guitar next time, not keyboards new guy), the Cult came back for a great encore with “G.O.A.T” from the new album and then a strong version of “Love Removal Machine”. The night was a tremendous mixture of new material and classic material. My only complaint is that the Cult could have added a few more tunes. I get that 90 minutes is the typical set length these days if you’re not Springsteen, but adding “Rise” or “Dirty Little Rockstar” would have been a nice add.

All in all, this was a great show. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town where the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” is coming, I urge you strongly to get out and see the Cult. You’re in for a good old fashion, rock and roll evening. I couldn’t help thinking as I was standing on the floor of the House of Blues, I’d rather be spending the night with the Cult, who feel like old friends these days, than sitting at home. Support live music and it will support you!!

Cheers! (Setlist below)

  1. Dark Energy
  2. Rain
  3. Wildflower
  4. Horse Nation
  5. Hinterland
  6. Honey From a Knife
  7. Gone
  8. Lil Devil
  9. Birds of Paradise
  10. Deeply Ordered Chaos
  11. Sweet Soul Sister
  12. Fire Woman
  13. The Phoenix
  14. She Sells Sanctuary
  15. (Encore break) G.O.A.T.
  16. Love Removal Machine

Spotlight: Rival Sons,Great Western Valkyries

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Just when I thought new rock and roll might be dead… enter, Rival Sons…they pull me back in…

I was sitting in the home office last night, lamenting the fact that I didn’t have anything to write about. I’ve been spending too much time in 2016 writing RIP pieces for my rock heroes. There wasn’t a lot of music I had teed up to write about. I keep a running list of ideas but none were jumping out at me. The Rock Chick wandered through the office and quickly surmised my predicament, “You know, you don’t always have to write about “retro” music, some people like new music… gotta keep up with the times.” Oh, thank you my muse… her support is sometimes…underwhelming. I must admit the Rock Chick has a life-time ban here at BourbonAndVinyl for criticizing my grammatical correctness and my sentence structure.

I quickly consulted my list of things to write about when I found a crinkled-up cocktail napkin with the words, “Rival Sons kick ass” scrawled on it. My list isn’t on one piece of paper… it’s fluid. Sometimes “you just have to let art… flow over you.” About a month ago, I went to see Black Sabbath live at the Sprint Center… I documented the experience in these very pages. I partied that night with the Four Horsemen of the Salina Apocalypse and apparently after the show, while being force-fed bourbon, I wrote myself this cocktail napkin note. This could be the creative spark I was looking for. Before we headed into the show, at the bar one of the Four Horsemen had said, “you’re going to love this opening act, Rival Sons, very Zeppelin-esque.” I awoke the next morning with a terrible hangover and the aforementioned cocktail napkin. There was a while there, the day after the show, when I feared I was going to have to have my blood exchanged with the blood of some young virgin, Swiss school children the way Keith Richards did… beautiful people, the Swiss…but I digress.

The night of the concert, I recall being very impressed with Rival Sons. Typically during an arena show during the opening act, the fans stay outside the concert, near the beer lines and restrooms. Not so for Rival Sons. The crowd mostly stayed in their seats and watched the set. I must say, these guys were very charismatic on stage. Not a lot of banter, just straight up, bluesy, rock and roll. I was a tad put off that the lead singer was barefoot, that unwashed hippy stuff was never my thing, but other than that these guys shredded. Guitarist Scott Holiday especially caught my attention. I must admit, barefoot vocalist Jay Buchanan was pretty talented as well.

As a result of all of this, I picked up their 2014 album ‘Great Western Valkyries’. These guys have been compared to Zeppelin and Sabbath in the press, but listening to the album, only the title has a Sabbath feel. Well, that and the first track, “Electric Man”, which has a very Sabbath, riffy sound to it. “Electric Man” jumps out at you like the slap of angry girlfriend. It’s all grimy guitar and fuzzy vocals. It’s rock and roll like I didn’t think was being recorded any more. I will admit that this band is everything I thought Wolfmother would be. Frankly, I think these guys are better.

While Rival Sons’ music is informed by Zeppelin, and you can hear the references, they make it their own and make it all sound fresh. “Play the Fool” has a crunchy riff that is reminiscent of “Misty Mountain Hop” but it’s repurposed and wonderful here. “Secrets” in an odd way reminds me of “How Many More Times” but again, that may be me making the connection vs the band doing so. There is an element of Zeppelin here, but I also hear a mixture of all their influences – “Good Luck” and “Good Things” have a feel of early 60’s white blues bands like Them, perhaps a touch of Butterfield and especially the Animals. It’s probably the organ in the rhythm section that makes you feel that way. The influences are there, but not as obvious as say, Lenny Kravitz.

I will admit, the song “Rich and the Poor” is the only mis-step here. The lyrics are cringe-worthy… It’s a rare mistake on an otherwise solid record. Admittedly, the music is still strong, but the lyrics are ludicrous.

The album ends with two epic tunes. “Where I’ve Been” is one of my favorite blues rock songs in a long, long time…”how could you love me when you know where I’ve been?”… who hasn’t asked that question. The finale and centerpiece to this record is the “Dazed and Confused”-like album closer, “Destination On Course”. “Destination…” is an epic blues tune. They even bring in backing vocals from the Exorcist, which probably brings the Sabbath comparisons… The guitar solo on this song is worth the price of admission. What Holiday is doing to that guitar should be reported as a crime, and that’s a good thing.

“Great Western Valkyries” is in high rotation here in the BourbonAndVinyl room… and I advise you to buy it quickly, pour something strong and turn it up… It may not be life changing like listening to Zeppelin the first time, but it is refreshing to hear a band play hard-core, blues rock again. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. I expect big, big things. As my friend Blake texted to me recently, “Are you ready to rock?” Thank Heaven I am…

Cheers!

The Rock’n’Roll Concerts That Got Away

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Like Sinatra when he sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, ” I’ve had a few regrets when it comes to concerts I could have attended. Well, that and a few women I’ve known, but those records are sealed. But I feel like Frank when he went on to sing about those regrets, “But then again, too few to mention”. But then again, here I am on a Saturday night, brooding and mentioning those regrets. AC/DC is in town this weekend and I didn’t even make an effort to attend, something 13 year old me would have been pissed about, but I digress. The shows I missed out on aren’t concerts like, “Oh, I wish I’d seen Hendrix in Golden Gate Park…” I wasn’t even “potty trained” at that time. These are shows I could have actually attended without the miracle of Time Travel. These are the 6 shows that I missed by sheer stupidity. I think we’ve all been there… the chance to see a show, the ticket in our hand or dangled in front of us, but for some inexplicable reason, we didn’t go… Here’s a tribute/list of shows that I could have seen…. oh, if only, as the Faces sang, “I knew then what I know now…”

  1. U2, The Joshua Tree Tour, 1987. Arkansas Joel and I were in Atlanta for some corporate training and it just so happened U2 was playing there. Arkansas Joel and I were big U2 fans, but Joel knew more than I did that they were a band for the ages. He wanted to go down and get tix. I wasn’t familiar with Atlanta and was worried about the price. More embarrassing, I was in “love” with a girl in my class… It was a lot like that scene in ‘Good Will Hunting’ where he said, “sorry boys, I’ve got to go see about a girl.” HUGE mistake. U2 actually dressed in disguise and opened for the opening act as a country band. This may be the greatest concert I ever missed. The girl and I dated for a year. That concert would have stuck with me for a life time.
  2. The Who, Face Dances Tour, 1981. ‘Face Dances’ was the first Who album I bought. It’s a much maligned album but it still resonates with me. You can hear Pete struggling with drug addiction. My friend Brewster and I spent every dime on our tickets. We were supposed to go with some buddies of ours, Steve and Evan. We didn’t have enough money to fill up Brewster’s gas tank to get to the show. It was our ill-advised idea to siphon gas from several folks in the neighborhood… (Crime does not pay kids). We actually snuck out at 2 a.m. to do so… Brewster’s dad caught him on the return, sneak-in to the house which led to a 3 a.m. call to my folks. “What mom, I was asleep, what are you talking about gas for…” Needless to say, no Oscars were awarded that night. My dad was so mad he grounded me and forbid me to go to the concert. Like Brewster I gave my tix to Evan and Steve who sold them and used the cash to buy weed instead of reimbursing us. Douche bags. At least that led me away from the life of a miscreant… well, sort of.
  3. Neil Young, Life Tour, 1986. Neil Young’s most troubled decade was the 80’s. He finally reunited with Crazy Horse for the tepid album ‘Life’. They went on tour billed as “The Third Best Garage Band In The World”. As “Third”, there was no pressure. First place has the pressure to defend the throne. Second place has the pressure to take over first place. But in third place, you were just cool and didn’t have anything to prove. I started drinking before we left for the show, which was a two hour drive. By the time Neil took the stage I’d already thrown up and made out with the girl in front of me. Thankfully her boyfriend didn’t notice. She was pretty wasted too. I was at the show but couldn’t tell you a thing about it. I rushed the floor, from the lower deck, but actually fell over the barricade and was led out by security. I couldn’t face Drew and Dennis, my comrades that night for weeks. They continue to rave about that show but they might just be fucking with me out of spite.
  4. Queen, The Game Tour, 1980. Matthew’s beautiful high school girlfriend actually sang “Another One Bites the Dust” directly to me to entice me to go to the show with them. She ended up going to Michigan or Ohio State to study brain surgery. I know she wasn’t hitting on me, but sweet Jesus, what if she was, but I digress. Queen at their last real high point. What was I thinking? It’s not like I was a homophobe. At the time none of us believed Freddy Mercury was gay, we just thought he was British, Monty Python in drag and all of that…not that there’s anything wrong with being gay. How did we not know? Anyway, people talked about that show for weeks.
  5. Led Zeppelin, In Through the Out Door Tour, 1980. They announced the US leg of their successful comeback tour of Europe in support of ‘In Through…’ There was a guy in my high school who was arranging to charter a bus and get a group of us up to Chicago for that show, they weren’t coming to KC. I was already working the, “Mom, I’m a straight A student” angle when John Bonham died… So, this one isn’t explicitly my fault…
  6. Springsteen, The River, 1979-80. Springsteen was playing Kemper Arena in KC in February of 1980. ‘The River’ was my first Springsteen album I purchased with my own money. It was a double album which took a lot more of my lawn mowing salary. I thought Springsteen was a secret I alone held. Unfortunately my pal Brewster was also a huge fan but kept it to himself. He went to the show with some dude named “Mack” and never considered inviting me. It was February and the KC Star said, “without a doubt, this is the concert of the year.” FUUUUUCK. You just can’t get some things back.

Folks, if you have a chance to see a show but have to scrape the money together. If you have to take a bus. If you have to skip school. No matter what you have to do, trust me, I know what I’m talking about here – do it and GO TO THE SHOW. Always, always, GO TO THE SHOW. If you have to steal a car, well don’t do that or anything else illegal, trust me again, I know what I’m talking about, but try to get to the God damn show. You’ll regret it if you miss it.

Sigh… I’m glad I got that off my chest. I can now put the cork back in the bourbon and sleep. Advice, Free.

Cheers!