Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reapin' the rewards

Taking a gamble on the Patriot Center worked out to my advantage - and my risk paid off big time. Gorillaz brought it hard last Monday- it was a fantastic show! Our seats turned out to be great, fifth row was excellent. I will definitely visit that crap venue again so long as I get seats like that.

The show kicked off with Virginia Beach's own N*E*R*D (reprezentin' the 757 baby!). The young crowd was mostly disinterested save for a few pockets of avid fans. However, Pharrell and company delivered an energetic, exciting set. By the end of their set, the crowd was feeling it and everyone was on their feet, including myself. Their mix of rock and rap is in sync with what the Gorillaz do so it turned out to be a perfect choice of an opening act. N*E*R*D did exactly what an opening act is supposed to do: get the crowd psyched up for the headliner and maybe garner a few fans in the process. They won me over - I've already got a copy of their last album and I'm anxious to get the new upcoming record, too.

Gorillaz -
No more playing behind screens, overshadowed by their cartoon avatars. This time the Gorillaz band was front and center, alive and kicking with full force. The band consisted of a full string section, 4 backup singers, drums and keys and guitars and probably more stuff that I missed. The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble played a number of songs. Best of all was the presence of Clash alumni Paul Simonon and Mick Jones who played throughout the entire show. Then there was ringmaster Damon Albarn, former Blur singer and one of my musical heroes. When Damon took the stage, I went completely nuts. I turned into a squealing teenager, just thrilled to little bits and pieces over the presence of the delicious pop idol.

The rotating cast of guest artists included:
legendary 70s soul singer Bobby Womack
trailblazing rap group De La Soul
gorgeous singer Little Dragon
UK rappers Kano & Bashy
more rappers and....


As we were driving to Fairfax, I told my husband that I would probably pee myself if Mos Def showed up. I didn't lose bladder control, but I sure did lose my mind. I went absolutely nutso when Mos Def was announced. Somehow I had missed the fact that Mos Def would be joining Gorillaz on 3 dates, one of which was my Fairfax date. I have a bit of a crush on Mr. Def ever since Be Kind Rewind. He looked so dapper in his sea captain suit and hat! What a thrill it was getting to hear Stylo performed live with both Mos Def and Bobby Womack, plus my favorite Plastic Beach track, "Sweepstakes" performed live along with the brass ensemble.
I'm not a terrific writer, thus it's difficult for me to put into words how thrilling the live show was and how great the scale of it really turned out to be. I have posted some of my photos here but I was a bit far away to be taking nice photos with a little point & click that I hadn't really used before. Still, they are not terrible pictures given the circumstances. Also, it's such a delight to be able to say that I myself took photos of Mos Def, Mick Jones & Damon Albarn.

Gorillaz left me woozy and spinning in the very best way. The 1.5 hrs that they played was incredible and I danced and danced every moment that I wasn't trying to take crappy pictures. (See photos above & below for crap reference)
Apparently Jamie Hewlett was ushered onstage after the Madison Square Garden show in NYC. That would have been the cherry on top for me since I have another yet another crush on Hewlett (see his visit to The Colbert Report here... even though the guy doesn't speak he's just ridiculously lovely). Unfortunately, if he was there he remained behind the curtain. Ah well, I suppose I can't have everything. It was nevertheless a terrific, memorable evening and perhaps the best large-scale concert that I've ever attended.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Music in the air

I bought that new Grinderman album because of the outstanding cover art. My expectations were decidedly low. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The album isn't just better than the first, it's really quite excellent. Now I can't hardly stop playing it. Out of curiosity I went ahead and listened to the first album to see if perhaps I just remembered it being dull. No, there is definitely a very distinct improvement over the first record. I'm very pleased. Plus, I bought the vinyl so that I could have the cover as large as possible (so beautiful with embossed lettering...).

Also, one week until Gorillaz!

Last week I also received my first package from the Third Man Vault. It felt as thought I had been waiting for years, not months. However, I must admit that it was worth the wait. The Dead Weather live LP, 7" and DVD set is nicely packaged and is a super sweet treat for fans. Now if I could just get my hands on a triple decker...

Weather's been getting me down but music has been liftin' me up. Can't beat some live Dead Weather and new Nick Cave on vinyl.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stranger than fiction

Just when I think I've heard it all, someone surprises me. I've heard some strange stories and had some bizarre requests in this past week.

A nice lady called to ask if she could bring her husband to a performing arts theatre for a show...on a hospital gurney. She said she would arrange for an ambulance to drop him off and pick him up if there was enough room in the theatre to wheel him in. Unfortunately, the theatre is simply not set up to accommodate this particular mode of transport. Plus, if this guy is riding around on a gurney being shepherded by nurses and cruising in an ambulance, it doesn't sound as though he might be in any condition for a night out at the theatre.

Also, just ran into a local guy on the street. I asked him how he was doing and he replied that he's not so great, his mother passed away last week. I offered my condolences and he said that he believes she's in a better place. Then he proceeds to tell me that his mother's life is one hell of a story that he will share with me one day. He offered this much:
"Mom left my dad after 27 years of marriage. She left him for a 21 year old guy cause she said Jesus told her to. Yeah, Jesus himself. I'm talkin' burning bush kinda shit."

That's a story I would actually like to hear in detail.

Stuff I like this week:

Boardwalk Empire
Third Man Records and the Triple Decker Record release (oh what I wouldn't do!)
Asobi Seksu
The IT Crowd

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another reason to love Herzog

Oh, I love Werner Herzog. He just is one of those guys who gets better with age. Watched The Bad Lieutenant again the other night and I was so utterly exhausted. Nevertheless I made it through the whole movie without falling asleep because it's fantastic, never boring and complete off the wall.
Today I found yet another reason to love Werner Herzog.

Also, this movie looks completely rad. Another incredible cast in a Herzog movie about lunacy. Hurray! Reviews appear mixed but I think that with the director and cast and a running time of 91 minutes, it can't be anything but great entertainment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Risk v Reward

For the past couple of weeks I've been having a crisis of sorts. I have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of a US tour for the Gorillaz since the first of the year, salivating at the mere thought of seeing Damon Albarn and co in person (hopefully not behind a screen this time around). Google news updates having been coming to my inbox daily, plus I joined the fan club in hopes of securing presale tickets if the tour should come to fruition.

My dream came true just a couple of weeks ago when the tour was announced. Then the bad news quickly followed. Of all the venues that the Gorillaz could play, they will be playing at the $#&!!$#* George Mason Patriot Center.

A couple of years ago, I got tickets to go see The Cure (one of my most beloved bands of all time) at the Patriot Center. I got the tickets the minute they went on sale to the public. Apparently my fingers weren't fast enough cause our seats were s#!t. The worst part was not necessarily the seats but the quality of the sound. The Patriot Center is essentially a large basketball court. This meant that the sound was so terrible that I could actually hear the sound bounce off the back of the venue and out back towards the crowd again. This was particularly crappy from where I was seated. However, a couple of friends were seated on the floor much nearer to the stage and they said that the sound wasn't too bad at all from that area. However, my experience was so disenchanting that I said I wouldn't go back to the Patriot Center again.

Oh dear, what to do?! There are really but two options, skip out on the concert, save the money and pop in a video at home OR try to get decent seats and hope for the best.

I'm an idealist, I suppose. I called my husband and asked his opinion, then went ahead and bit the bullet. This should be better than last time simply because the seats should be much better. I took advantage of my presale access and was able to secure seats on the floor, just left of stage in the fifth row. Not necessarily ideal (first row center, hahahaha!), but certainly an improvement over those Cure seats. I can just cross my fingers and hope that the sound will be decent and the view will be worth the long drive to Fairfax. The way I figure it, this could be my only chance to see Damon Albarn, not to mention the Clash's Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Plus, I've been a little bit in love with Jamie Hewlett since the Tank Girl days of my youth.

So between my choices of no Gorillaz or the Gorillaz on a basketball court, I suppose it's game time. I confess that I would rather that they perform pretty much anywhere else, but I'll take my Damon Albarn any way I can get him. He's no Jack White and I won't be having the same transcendent experience that I did on July 13 at the Dead Weather show, but I think it will be fun all the same. Hit me up if any of my peeps and homies are thinking of heading to Fairfax on October 11!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

how cover art can sell an album

My man and I have been discussing album artwork lately as he is prepping his new recording for public consumption. Album artwork can really be a deciding factor in purchasing an album. My friends know that I adore the music, art and writing of Nick Cave. However, I was on the fence about his Grinderman project. I just didn't fall in love with it like I thought I would. However, I will buy the new Grinderman album (due out in Sept) based almost solely on the cover art. It is the best album cover I've seen in quite some time. I just love it so.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Put the needle on the record

I like vinyl. Guess I'm sort of a music snob, really. I've been qualified as a "hipster" before and I suppose I can see that, being that I have been to see bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Rilo Kiley. Thus my penchant for vinyl probably comes as no surprise to those who know me even a little bit.
My vinyl kick started when I was in high school when I discovered my parents' old records collecting dirt and dust in the garage. In the collection I found albums by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Cat Stevens and more. I decided to rescue the treasure and claim them as my own. (I left some things like Loggins and Messina to continue their decay process in the garage). I found an old record player that barely worked and started my music education with albums like "Desire", "Hunky Dory" and "Teaser and the Firecat". I also began buying my own records at that time, starting with little 7" ones by bands like Pavement and Velocity Girl that I found at Fantasy Records (where I still buy vinyl from time to time).
I still have all of the records that I salvaged plus perhaps hundreds more. I love vinyl, I love the size of the album covers and the artifacts themselves. I love the sound of the pop as the needle first drops down onto the record.
My husband and I owned one record player, a basic Sony component model that serves us well. However, I've been on another vinyl tear lately and I wanted a little portable thing that I could drag upstairs to my little room where I like to read and practice my guitar and have time alone. It seemed like a simple enough task, there are plenty of portable models on the market right now. We were shopping at Target and decided to pick up a basic Crosley portable record player.
Don't buy a Crosley portable record player. At least not if you care about how your music sounds. Now, for $75 I didn't expect great things. I expected barely adequate speakers and plastic parts. That's fine, no problem. However, the problem was that the speed of the record turntable was wrong. The player spun the records too slow. It wasn't even immediately noticeable. However, when I was trying to learn a long buy playing guitar along with the record, something was definitely wrong. I checked the tuning on my guitar and eventually my husband confirmed that the records were playing just a bit too slowly. So we decided that perhaps it was just a bad item and we decided to swap it for a different one, same model and everything. We got that stupid Crosley piece of shit home and immediately tested it. This one played just a little too fast. Back in the box, piece of crap Crosley! No more Crosley, period.
Perhaps I am a snob and a music elitist, but I believe that the music should be heard just as the artist intended, in the key and tuning that the artist intended. It seemed that the manufacturing of a small motor that causes a turntable with a record on it to spin at 33 1/2 rotations per minute wouldn't be difficult being that record players have been around for quite some time now. However, Crosley apparently isn't concerned with such trifles.
After some thrift store hunting and debate about the pros and cons of ordering online, we decided to go with what we know. We chose another Sony, the exact same basic model that we already owned and loved. We hooked it up to a radio and it works like a charm. Not necessarily ideal as it's not that easy to lug around the house, but it serves its purpose and it plays records at the desired intended speed. I think it will last a good long while, too.
With the resurgent popularity of vinyl, I'm surprised that a decent player isn't easier to access. Perhaps I'm just too picky. Nevertheless, I'm appalled at the poor quality that passes for acceptable. A company like Crosley that claims to specialize in radios and record players should have some concern about the quality of the sound of the product, no matter the model or cost. At least I now know what NOT to look for when I'm in the market for another radio or record player and I hope that you vinyl fiends will take this into consideration, too.