I was honored to be asked to review this weekend’s Phish shows at Dick’s by the fantastic Denver paper the Westword. The review went live, read it here: Westword review of Phish at Dick’s
Eminem released his new single on his website yesterday, and I have to say, I love this busy thing. There is a LOT going on, and in the beginning when he samples Beastie Boys I went “oh, no” in my head, but then it works as the beat keeps changing and you get other samples like Billy Squier coming in. It helps that Rick Rubin is at the helm producing, he really does have the Midas touch and does a great job of keeping it all cohesive. I think that a lot of people are going to say that this song sucks, and then it will be a big hit, it reminds me a lot of the silly bounciness of his earliest work. While I love dark sinister Marshall Mathers, I’m an even bigger fan of happy, celeb taunting Eminem. Check it out:
Where do I begin with this band. I first saw them in 2009 thinking I was going to see some smooth blues guitarist, and instead I saw a cuter, hipper, younger James Brown with a fuzz pedal and a white tank top (who can play some smooth blues for sure, though). First things first, Black Joe Lewis no longer has and the Honeybears in their name. Don’t worry, the Honeybears are still there, and I asked the very talented former Honeybear and baritone sax player Joseph Woullard today about the name edit, and he spoke about how the cohesive sound they had didn’t really require a modifier, stating “We knew what we were getting into, and welcome the discussion. Objectively speaking, the majority of people don’t even know who we are anyway, so we might as well be who we want to be”. I’d say that’s all the discussion needed, and apparently what they want to be is the dirtiest, funkiest garage rock band I’ve ever heard a saxophone even step near. The album kicks off with that wonderful electric guitar sound signifying someone is plugged in, and then “Skulldiggin'” kicks off with a thick fuzz midtempo beat, giving a taste that this album is going to be a little harder and more raw.
The next song “Young Girls” instantly reminded me of “Boogie”, one of my favorite tracks from their album Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is. It’s a fast paced boogie woogie with taunting vocals and lyrics of lust, classic BJL. “Guilty” is a great tune that really lets the horn section shine with great bursts of melody turning into a ominous, growing buildup of sound in the latter portion of the song. These guys can get such raw, pure sounds out of their instruments, they make it sound like brass and distortion were invented to be together. New party anthem “Come To My Party” is also a standout, it’s got a great confident swagger and is full of Black Joe Lewis saying improvised things that don’t always make total sense, but he sounds really cool saying them (one of his strongest talents, in my opinion). “Vampire” takes it down a notch with some dirty, slow southern blues, the horns giving you the feeling of walking late at night in the French Quarter without a friend alive. Wait- I just described a vampire’s night, the song works! I can’t wait to hear “The Hipster” live, it’s one of those fast paced dance numbers that end up turning into mosh pits at the shows sometimes. This album has made me so homesick that I have tabs open with flights to Austin, the album releases tomorrow, check it out if you are a fan of the blues, garage rock, guitar, fuzz, Austin, good times or good showmanship. Black Joe Lewis rules.
Last night, local Denver favorites Rastasaurus played their first show at the Bluebird. They have a dedicated fanbase, as they went on promptly at 9:00 to around 25 people and within about two minutes the place filled up with happy people that all seemed to know each other. They have a reggae sound that is complimented by more psychedelic jamming, my interest certainly piqued when I saw all their pedals. A “Divided Sky” tease by lead guitarist Eric Ciccone followed by his twin brother Mark on bass playing Makisupa Policeman and noticing it was in the same key as the song they were about to play made the Phish fans of the audience get all excited, but this is no Phish cover band, and the teases were left at just that. Just as well, because their originals are great. Lead singer and guitarist Justus Lacewell is a huge guy and commands the stage well, they all do. All in all, it was a fantastic showing at Bluebird for these first timers, I’ve seen many touring acts absolutely bomb there in the opening slot, so kudos Rastasaurus.
Blitzen Trapper are awesome guys. They were my first face to face interview, and while I pretty much nervously babbled and spit out a couple nonsensical questions that led to an untranscribable interview, they were perfectly sweet and charming and even gave me a new music recommendation (martial arts rockers Dragon Sound from cult classic Miami Connection, a movie the Austin Alamo Drafthouse made popular again, Erik Menteer knows how to recommend). They really energized the crowd at the festival, their first few notes played causing dozens to abandon the guacamole stand line and come get down. Highlight of the show for me was “Black River Killer”, as a friend had had much discussion regarding the key the song was played in (C#m, but live they capo it up). I plan on being at every Blitzen Trapper show from here on out, these guys are just straight up talented and cool.
Crocodiles are great at mixing the beauty of simple pop melodies with the chaos of distortion and fuzz without the music even missing a beat, and their latest release “Crimes of Passion” is even more than I hoped for. “I Like it in the Dark” immediately makes the album takeoff, a funky piano line dropping down into the verse while a tambourine frantically keeps the beat until a ripping guitar solo takes over. Everything is well thought out here and flows perfectly, the whole album is a perfect package. Crocodiles are a well edited garage band, all fat is trimmed and they can really just fall right into a chaotic freakout and pull it right back into the melody like it’s nothing.
Their San Diego roots are very evident, especially in songs like “Teardrop Guitar”, filled with melodic California sounding jangly guitar riffs and dreamy, layered vocals. “Cockroach” brings even more organ to the front, really giving the song that great swirling sound I love in psych music. This album is short and sweet, when I got to the end I was actually surprised it was already over, and already yearning their next album. This band has been steadily gaining steam over the years with consistently great recordings, and I think this album might just put them over the top. Thank you, Crocodiles!
Listen to “Teardrop Guitar” here: “Teardrop Guitar” soundcloud
Finally got to see Said the Whale last night, and they surpassed my pretty high expectations. The success of their single “I Love You” brought quite a few teenagers and every pretty young lawyer that lived in the area. While their latest album has a very polished sound, their live show is much more raw, intricate and careful sounds coming from everyone, often leading up to moments of distortion and reverb that I didn’t expect from them. I don’t get a chance to shoot females often, but when I do, I shoot their shoes. They are currently on tour with Kopecky Family Band, go see them if you like sweet pop rock that gets a little chaotic.
Neko Case has a gorgeously haunting voice that matches her looks, and her new unreleased album “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight” shows that voice off so well. It’s streaming today over at NPR, prepare yourself for beauty: Neko Case First Listen
Cultivate Fest by Chipotle in City Park proved to be wildly successful once again. The production coordinators really have the free festival logistics down, easy to get up close to the stage, tons of food options, celebrity chef tents, and you could bring your dog. Cold War Kids put on a note perfect set, mixing the setlist with old hits like “Hang Me Up to Dry” and new material from their latest release. The last few times I’ve seen them have been little SXSW shows, kind of forgot they are really, really popular, everyone knew every word. Expect to see more of Cultivate Fest here in the future, looks like a keeper.