Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Mother Hips Return To The Fillmore

Next month, on September 18th, The Mother Hips return to one of the greatest rock music venues in the world, The Fillmore in San Francisco. The band has a solid history at The Fillmore, having played there many times in their career, both headlining and opening for luminaries like Johnny Cash. They had a truimphant show there in 2002 (seen in the photo above) celebrating the release and success of the Green Hills of Earth album. The show next month promises to be full of stoked and appreciative hardcore fans, both old timers and many newcomers that the Hips have attracted in the last few years since returning from their hiatus. Word is that they will be in rehearsal especially for this show, causing speculation that some old chestnuts will be busted out. You can't go wrong with one of the Bay Area's greatest bands playing at the fantastic Fillmore!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wilco - Ashes Of American Flags

We're getting ready for a road trip to Aspen over Labor Day weekend to finally catch Wilco again. They've been in Europe for most of 2010 and we missed them last year in Tucson, so we're really excited to catch them in one of their few US shows this summer.

I've been singing the praises of this live rock concert film ever since I got turned on to it about a year ago or so and had a rock 'n' roll epiphany about what a powerhouse rock band Wilco has become live. I'd written them off after seeing what seemed like a very boring show on the rooftop of the Gibson Guitar Factory on a very very cold fall night in Memphis, TN in 2002, so this realization was a complete turn-around for me. We've watched this DVD over and over and over and always seem to be blown away, even though we know what is coming. In the above song Monday, you get Glenn Kotche's hand-pummeling pounding on the drums, the pumping horn section, Tweedy's Chuck Berry riffs and the whole band riding the fadeout hard, rocking out with abandon; this is great rock 'n' roll to my ears.

The title track of the film is a Tweedy melancholy masterpiece with a gloriously dissonant and climactic guitar solo from Nels Cline.

Wilco, at the end of this decade, have become a more balanced band. I think they've found a perfect balance between the ambient, "deconstructed" art-rock of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in the early '00s (that I found boring on that Memphis night in 2002) and a more soulful sound rooted in classic American songwriting and arrangements.

For me, they really shine live. They are a true rock ensemble and its hard to hear it in their studio recordings. Their power comes from the way the parts fit together rather than from the brilliance of any individual band member's musical performance. They listen to one another and they have created tight live arrangements by playing a relentless tour schedule of 2 hour + shows for many years. The current line up is the most stable and longstanding that they've had since their beginnings in the mid '90s. Guitars (they sometimes have three at one time depending on whether Pat Sansone is playing guitar or keyboards) weave in an out of one another, hitting perfectly synchronized unison parts before Nels Cline breaks off into a frantic solo while the rhythm guitars stay synched and songs spiral up into dizzying climaxes, exploding into power rock riffing and then drifting into lyrical denouments. There is a lot of musical drama going on in their music, folks.

If you think you don't like Wilco based on their studio records, you owe it to yourself to check out this fantastic film and see what they can do live when they are firing on all cylinders.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Manassas live

Its fairly safe to say that Manassas is an underrated rock band. I wasn't really much aware of them until The Black Crowes started covering a few of their songs in 2005. We recently watched this live DVD from German TV in 1972 and were impressed at their jamming, tight rhythm grooves and the diversity of musical styles they hit on in just a handful of songs. They've got the weepy country ballad, the Latin-flavored jam, blues rock, and folky singer-songwriter stuff. Its clear after watching this just how much influence The Black Crowes have drawn from Manassas. Stephen Stills is a far better lead guitarist than I had given him credit for. He's smoking Hendrix-style on that Les Paul in the song Jet Set. Al Perkins on pedal steel is like a secret weapon and holds his own on guitar and pedal steel in the jams and rockers. What a treasure to have former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother Chris Hillman on vocals, he sounds great with Stills, although he does look a little bit out of his element when the band starts jamming.

If you like 70s rock and you haven't listened to Manassas, this DVD is well worth checking out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black Crowes' Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys tour has begun!

...and if you wanna go crazy keeping track of the tour night by night in one convenient spot, this blog looks promising for being both a one-stop compendium of setlists, photos, fan reactions and YouTube videos as well as having some witty and amusing commentary on the whole Black Crowes fandom experience from an insider.