Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Music from my high school years

It is a cold, dark, ominous and bewitching winter morning in Radford. The skies appear almost heretical. Ice is tumbling from the clouds like angry, dead skin from chapped scalps. It is an appropriate atmosphere, then, that I post a blog about the music I listened to when I was in high school. Looking back, I listened to many of the same artists then that I do now. Some I listen to more than I did ten years ago, some less, some...not at all. And so it is with some trepidation that I raise the coffee mug to my lips, enter the lion's den--and proceed.

1. Aerosmith
If you've been keeping up with this blog you know my feelings about Aerosmith, so I won't go in to detail here. Long story short...I loved the HELL out of them, bought all their albums, and listened to them ad nauseum. I still like Aerosmith, just not as much. This is probably the last blog for a while that they will show up on.

2. The Grateful Dead
I started listenting to the Grateful Dead in 11th grade out of sheer curiousity. I was at Best Buy, or Sam Goody, or one of those places one day looking at cd's and stumbled across all the Dead's albums. They looked...interesting. Very colorful cover art and quirky song titles (Sugar Magnolia, Jackaroo, Mexicali Blues, Box of Rain, Terrapin Station, Dark Star, etc.) All I really knew about them was that Jerry Garcia was this big hippie icon, that he had recently passed away, and that they had been making music since the 60's. The only song I really knew was "Touch of Grey" for which I had seen the video on MTV. After looking through all the different albums I settled on an early best of mix, "Skeletons from the closet," and made my purchase. I took it home and listened to it. Every song on that cd was vibrant, and happy, and beautiful, and fun. The Grateful Dead are what you would consider a "jam band," but interestingly enough my attachement to them never led the way into any association of my own with other "jam bands." By that I speak of course of Phish, Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, Umphreys Mcgee, to some extent Dave Matthews Band, and many more. I don't dislike any of these bands, and I have great respect for all of them; but they never clicked with me the way The Dead did...and still do. Below is a link for the song "Sugar Magnolia." It was one of my first favorites; and it's a PERFECT song for such a gloomy day. COME ON SUMMER!

3. Eric Clapton
I don't care HOW cliche` this sounds; but I still remember the first time I heard "Layla" on the radio. My immediate reaction was, "I need to listen to everything else this guy has done!" Being 15 though; and having limited funds, I had to settle on just getting my hands on the mega best-of collection "The Cream of Clapton." I clearly remember listening to songs like "Wonderful tonight" and "bell bottom blues" and thinking about girls I had crushes on back then; and how nice it would be to slow dance with them. Ironicly, in one particlucar case that geeky fantasy actually came true (with "Wonderful Tonight") and it wasn't quite as magical as I thought it would be. Funny that, no? It didn't change how I felt about the song though--I still see it as one of the greatest love songs ever. At any rate, there is something about Clapton's guitar playing, and song writing, that seems to have elements of epic black magic, painful romance, sentimentality, incredible heart-break, and rattlesnake ferocity. I guess that's why they call it the blues. (Yes, I realize that last sentence is from an Elton John song. And no, I didn't do that on purpose.) Check out this magnificent, live, extended version of "Wonderful Tonight" below.

4. The Doors
Do I still like The Doors? Sure. Do I still listen to them? Not really. They had their important place in music history, and in my own adolescence. Had Jim Morrison not become a bloated, drunken, pretentious, pratt--ultimately culminating in his premature demise--would they, as a band have matured? Who really knows. But, as a human being, I matured; and it seems i've left the "American Poet" and his crew behind. Morrison will be forever 27, but I will not forever be 17. That's not to say I hate them, or that I openly choose not to listen to them. When I hear The Doors on the radio it takes me back to another place--another world, almost--and I turn up the volume & reminisce. And it's nice. All things considered though, I've moved on. Below is a song, highly appropriate for today's unpleasant wintry mix

5. Lynyrd Skynyrd
I don't listen to Skynyrd as much as I did in high school. But "Tuesday's Gone" is still one of the sweetest ballads I know; "Sweet Home Alabama" still makes me wanna get up and dance, and if I stumble across "Freebird" on the radio while out driving I will ALWAYS, turn the volume up, and roll the windows down--no matter what the weather. I have many fond memories of this southern rock band. It's a shame what happened to them. Ronnie Van Zant died to soon. Airplanes and musicians just don't mix. Also, Rob Zombie made smashing use of "Freebird" in the final scene of his movie "The Devil's Rejects." A movie that is 90% grotesque, breaks free of its hideous cocoon; and transforms into something beautiful & decadent. Check it.

6. Steve Miller
When I was in high school, I didn't know what a "midnight toker" was. And I didn't care. That's the neat thing about music--you don't necessarily need to know what the lyrics mean, or to understand a complicated time signature to appreciate a song. A song, when it clicks with you, does something to your insides. The way you feel about a song, is similar to the way you interact with the person you love most. You accept them for what they are, and you don't try to change them--because they make a better person out of you. Some of those songs you love, like people, will not always stay with you. But the ones that do are the most important things to grace your life. And that's what it's really all about. Below is a lesser known Steve Miller song; and one of my favorites. I used to try to whistle the guitar solo.

7. Led Zeppelin
is a radical, epic, mysterious band

in 2008, I saw Robert Plant perform the above song with Allison Kraus, and it was one of the coolest things ive ever seen. Ever.

8. Creed
What can I say? I was young? I didn't know better? Nah...i'm not gonna make excuses. It is what it is. Their first album is not horrible. It rocks fairly well; and I very much enjoyed it at the time. It is unfortunate that Scott Stapp developed a Messiah Complex. The band crashed and burned in a resplendent display of embarassing brutality. I hope they find/have found peace and happiness in what ever they endeavor to do with the rest of their lives. The link to the song below reeks of my senior year of high school; and produces a veritable tsunami of memories...both good and bad. P.S. Mark Tremonti is an under rated guitarist. YEAH I SAID IT!

9. The Smashing Pumpkins
I love everything they did up through the album "Machina." But "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" will always be THE S.P. album for me. At a time when I was listening almost exclusively to classic rock, The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the few contemporary bands that I was heavily in love with. And Mellon Collie was the root of it all. I still love them just as much now, as I did back then. It's too bad Billy Corgan is a weirdo diva vampire snob who can't bury the hatchet and work with James Iha or Jimmy Chamberlaine anymore (I recognize that this works both ways, i just like to pick on Corgan)--cause those guys--those guys (along with D'arcy) wrote some of the best songs to come out of the 1990s--contributing grossly to the sountrack of my high school years. And my God...the videos they made...

10. The Cranberries
I was listening to them just this morning :) You can't mess with this band. And if you try, i'll fight you. Bear will help.

11. The Beatles
It wasn't until 11th or 12th grade that I realized The Beatles were a band I should be paying attention to. There isn't much to say except that I went out one day, bought some of their albums, and the rest is history. They have been one of my favorite bands and biggest influences ever since. I recently did a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of scenes from "Yellow Submarine." I framed it and put it up in my apartment. Yes...i'm that guy.

12. Van Halen
Let's get one things straight. 1. Eddie Van Halen is giant dick head. 2. So is David Lee Roth. 3. Sammie Hagar is a happy-go-lucky rock star with the voice of a wiley angel 4. Van Halen rocks pretty hard. 5. the previous fact doesn't mean that David Lee Roth can come back after 26 years to cut a new studio album with Eddie and Alex (michael anthony, the bassist, was fired and replaced by Eddie's 19 yr old song wolfgang....WEAK) because they are all OLD, (except of course for Wolfgang but who cares about him?) and they are all total ass-hats...but that is happening...nonetheless. I really, really, REALLY liked Van Halen when I was younger. In fact, Aerosmith, Guns N Roses, and Van Halen were at one point in time, my top three favorite bands. Ah, but how times change. The music they produced--I will always look back on fondly because A. it was VERY rockin' and B. many of those tunes take me back to another place and time with people who I very rarely converse with anymore. That's all i've got to say about that. Below is one of the lesser known songs, and one of my favorites. It is from the last album with Sammie Hagar, "Balance."

13. Bob Marley
Considering I just used his song "3 Little Birds" in preschool storytime last week; I think it safe to say I still hold Bob in the highest regard. Much like my introduction to The Grateful Dead, I simply stumbled upon Bob Marley somewhere along my sophomore year of high school...and fell in love.

14. Pink Floyd
It was a phase. It still is. :)

15. Sublime
It was in the spring of my ninth grade year--that I first remember hearing "What I got" and "Santeria." Bradley Knowles was already dead. But I REALLY liked those two songs. So, when in April of 1997 I found my self at a record store in New York City (because of a high school band trip) I purchased a Sublime album. Another kid from band (a trombone player named Craig) saw me buying it, and called me "Poser." I wasn't popular enough, or filled with enough self-worth to say anything back; I was still figuring myself out. So I paid for my cd, put it in my disc man, and plugged up my ears with a strange, provocative combination of white boys effortlessly maneuvering through a unique blend of ska, reggae, and punk. I'm still mad at Bradley for offing himself on a heroine overdose--not only because he left behind a dalmation named Lou Dog, and a brand new little baby girl--but also because at the time of Bradley's death, Sublime was just breaking through. And Lord, who KNOWS what those boys could've accomplished? Musically speaking. So...was I really a poser? Nah, that guy was just a giant deuche bag. But I feel sorry for him. Cause after all these years, and miles, and learning experiences, i've found that love is what I got; and i'm willing to bet he sure as shit hasn't.

16. Jimi Hendrix
Another young man to expire himself far earlier than he deserved. The first time I heard Jimi was in the movie "Forres Gump," when Forrest finds himself in Vietnam and the soundtrack lets loose with Jimi's cover of Bob Dylan's "All along the watchtower." Shortly thereafter I went out and bought "Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience." Jimi was a unique guitarist. Sort of like Clapton...but sexier. It's really a shame he never made it past 27; but the curse of Robert Johnosn is a hard one to survive when you live the lifestyle of a mad-man. Wanna hear something cool? Click the link below.

17. Alanis Morrisette
Is it weird that I had a crush on her? Alanis's more recent work has never made the impact on me that "Jagged Little Pill" did. I remember spending the night at my buddy matt's house one time. We stayed up until three or four in the morning...just talking, mostly about girls we liked and that sort of crap. But we kept "Jagged Little Pill" on repeat the entire time. Alanis could be so sweet, and so quirky, and so fierce, and so wise. I bet she's fun to go bowling with. I imagine this video, will bring back just as many memories for you, as it does for me

18/19. Jimmy Buffett & Tom Petty
I've said plenty about these gentlemen already, and like with Aerosmith, if you've been reading my blog you should know by now that yes, I began listening to them in high school. But that was merely the beginning. Both artists have, over the years, escalated to the highest ranks of my favorite singers. They've been with me so long that both feel like old friends. Below are two of my favorite songs from high school days.

20. Nirvana
I love all their pretty songs.

Honorable Mentions: Guns n Roses, Big Bad Voodoo Daddies, The Rednex, Janis Joplin, Weird Al, Metallica, and Journey.

Next week's blog: Favorite music moments in film

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Twenty Best Concerts I've Attended

Hello and Toppermost of the Poppermost to you! (ok that sounds lame when it isn't a zombie John Lennon saying it...look up a book called "Paul is Undead" and you will understand). At any rate I hope all are well and good. Last week was an erm...unpleasant week for me. Among other small trivialities I discovered that the breaks in my truck needed to be completely overhauled and had to shell out nearly $1000. I've concluded that Wal Mart is most likely responsible for this but I can't definitively prove it. I was pretty pissed off for a few days. But on Sunday I went for a good walk, listened to 1980s era U2 and felt quite better. Also over the weekend I read "Wind in the Willows." That's a novel to calm the anger if ever i've encountered one.

Today's blog will feature twenty of the finest/most memorable musical performances i've attended. My first concert was Johnny Rivers (he sang that song "Secret Agent Man"), at age 12. My most recent concert was the double-billed Rob Zombie/Alice Cooper show back in October. Below is a full list of the artists i've seen (to the best of my memory) relatively chronological order.

Johnny Rivers
John Denver
Kingston Trio
Aerosmith (5 times)
Van Halen (with gary cherone...booo)
Journey (twice...but never with Steve Perry)
Weird Al Yankovic
Eric Clapton
Peter Frampton
Lynyrd Skynyrd (or what's left of them...)
ZZ Top (twice)
Tori Amos
Nickel Creek
Ani DiFranco
Sammy Hagar
David Lee Roth
Bruce Springsteen (3 times)
Bad Company
Peter, Paul, and Mary
Bon Jovi
The Grateful Dead (twice) (Or...rather...I should say, "The Other Ones," and "The Dead")
Dave Matthews (solo)
Bob Dylan
David Byrne (of the Talking Heads)
Steve Winwood
Los Lobos
Los Lonely Boys
Robert Earl Keen (twice)
Iron & Wine
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Buddy Guy
Ben Folds
Andrew Bird
Pearl Jam
Robert Plant & Allison Kraus
Willie Nelson
Les Claypool*
Gogol Bordello*
Old Crow Medicine Show
Stephen Marley (Bob's boy)
Yonder Mountain String Band
Lupe Fiasco
The Coup
Jakob Dylan
Cowboy Mouth
The Beastie Boys
Al Green
Snoop Dog
Eryka Badu
Public Enemy
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Todd Snider
Jenny Lewis
Jonatha Brooke
The Smothers Brothers
Ozzy Osborne
Marilyn Manson
Kenny Wayne Sheppard
Johnny Lang
Ecto 1
Jimmy Buffett (twice)
Dave Matthews Band
Kings of Leon
Stevie Wonder
Conan O'Brien (it was mostly a comedy set...but at the end he DID strap on his guitar and played a few songs, including "The Weight" by The Band...and then he crowd surfed).
Tenacious D
The Dead Weather
Damian Marley & Nas
John Fogerty
Jimmy Cliff
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
John Butler Trio
Blues Traveler
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Monte Montgomery
Kanye West (ugh...we'll do a special blog on him sometime later...)
The Decemberists (though not their entire set...sadly)
The Lovell Sisters
Levon Helm
The Swell Season
Lez Zeppelin
Serena Ryder
Grupo Fantasma
Bonnie Rait
Sonic Youth
Antigone Rising
Holy Ghost Tent Revival
Rob Zombie
Alice Cooper


*I saw Les Claypool perform with Gogol Bordello and Kirk Hammett of Metallica. They played an entire set of Tom Waits covers. More on that later.

As you might's not easy picking the top 20 out of this list. In some of the cases I will be able to actually provide video footage of the shows that I saw...I will point those out. And, without further delay they are, as follows:

1. Aerosmith
At the age of 16, this was my first REAL rock concert. Prior to this i'd seen Johnny Rivers, The Kingston Trio, and John Denver. All good shows; but nothing like this. This was the summer...oh...1997...I think. And, Aerosmith was still on their game. I was very impressionable. After this concert (which I attended with my best friend at the time...and his family) I began to get my hands on as many Aerosmith records as I could manage. It was a superb, magical, bluesy, warm, summer evening full of loud, catchy pop-infused rock n roll. I've seen Aersosmith 4 times since that night; and each time has been memorable. But I have to mark the first time I saw Aerosmith, as not only the birth of my concert lust; but also as one of the best nights of my life up to that point. Additionally...the third and fourth time I saw Aerosmith they were pulling this stunt where in the middle of the set; they would leave the stage, stroll out to the lawn, and get up on a small stage that they'd set up out there, where they would do three songs, and then return to the main stage. I was out on the field for both these occaisons; but it was the fourth time around that I was actually within 5-10 ft of this second, smaller stage; and thus--for roughly 15-20 minutes I was 5-10 feet away from Aerosmith when they played "Same old Song and Dance," "Dream on" and " Dude Looks Like a Lady." They aren't my favorite band anymore...but they were at the time. And after being that close to rock and roll royalty, I very much needed a fresh pair of pants. The link below is of them playing "Crazy" at some other place and time than when I saw them...but it's still super sweet :D

2. Bruce Springsteen.
I think my previous ramblings about Bruce speak for themselves. If you like The Boss, and you've never seen him live...I strongly urge you to. It's a spiritual experience. I hazard to say that the third and final time I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, in the summer of 2009; was the finest performance, of anyone, i've ever seen....EVER. I saw him that summer at Bonnaroo. Below is a clip

3. John Fogerty.
I've been listening to, and loving, the music of John Fogerty and CCR since the sixth grade. Seeing him finally this past summer was a pilgrimage of sorts. Below is a clip of the show I saw

4. Alice Cooper.
Except for the fact that i've been listening to Alice Cooper since oh...the third grade instead of the sixth grade; please see the above caption ;) As of October 2010, this was the most recent show i've attended, and below, is footage of that glorious, glorious evening

5. Weird Al Yankovic.
Saw Weird Al and his band the summer of 2000 at King's Dominion with an old friend. This was mesmerizing entertainment complete with costume changes. Not only did he play all his most famous songs...but he did a huge medely of smaller hits so that you got to hear almost everything. It should also be mentioned; that his band is EXTREMELY tight. Think about it...they have to be able to play virtually every style of music at the drop of a hat...and they do it without blinking or missing a beat. I've only seen Weird Al once...but I pine for the time I get to see him perform again. Also, as Al was a childhood icon of mine...the evening was extra cool. :) There is totally not any footage of this performance on youtube. I didn't expect there to be. But check him out below anyway performing "Amish Paradise." :D

6. Eric Clapton
Is God. ;) Seriously though...this concert was so moving, electrifying, mind-blowing, and inexplicably astounding that it brought me to tears. There isn't any footage of the show I saw (that was in the days before youtube) but check out this video of Eric jamming with Steve Winwood on "Voodoo Chile."

7. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
He played a Traveling Wilburys song when I saw him. Obviously this is gonna be on my list. :) It is also worth mentioning that halfway through his show Stevie Nicks came out and made a surprise performance. They dueted on "Don't come around here no more" "I Need to Know" and "Stop draggin my heart around." Below is a short clip from that night when he played "Learnin' to Fly."

8. Gogol Bordello
East European Punk. I had a ball :) Below is footage of when I saw them in the summer of 2008

9. The Beastie Boys
Summer of 2009. A life changing experience. I can't express how exquisite this performance terms of intensity, musical tightness, and all around awesome. I need to see them This was a wild, wild, exuberant, manic, adrenaline filled musical party--led by three white guys with gray hair rapping their asses off. Please see below. I was in the middle of that crowd...somewhere

10. Tenacious D
I love The D. :) And I love that I was able to be at this performance. It was theatrical, hilarious, and it rocked my socks off. Please see below. For this is the greatest and best video in the world...

11. Stevie Wonder
One word: Legendary. Did I really see Stevie rocking a keytar? Yes, yes I did. See below.

12. Jimmy Buffett
I'd originally made plans to see Buffett (for my first time) in september of 2009. Imagine my extreme delight when I found out that one of my top 5 favorite artists was a surprise addition to the line up for bonnaroo 2009? They announced this 24 hours prior to the start of the festival (which was the second weekend in June). I screamed. I pranced. I danced. It was only going to be a one hour set. But that was alright with me. Jimmy was scheduled to play at noon on saturday of the festival. I made sure to get to the stage early enought to be right up front. I can't express the joy and happiness that I felt...of not only finally getting to see one of my heroes, and getting to see him twice in one summer; but also getting to be up close and personal at one of those two shows. His full show, that I saw in September was just as delightful. It was the whole "Parrot Head Experience." I had my picture taken with a middle aged dude dressed up as a pirate, and his wench. This performance was two and a half hours long, and he covered "Yellow Submarine." :) The clip below is of the september perfomance. The song is "Tin Cup Chalice," one of my favorites...and it was the last song of the evening; and as Jimmy played his sweet ballad I looked up at the stars in the clear summer sky, and took great comfort in the fact that some one very special was doing the same thing 250 miles south of me.

13. Peter, Paul, and Mary
This is one of my dad's favorite bands. I took him to see them at the Wolf Trap ampitheatre in Northern Virginia back in 2003 for Father's Day. It was a very special performance...and aside from Clapton, this is the only time i've tear'd up at a concert. It was when they played their version of "Where have all the flowers gone." I wasn't able to find a clip of the show we saw...but this gives you some idea. R.I.P. Mary Travers; November 9, 1936--September 16, 2009

14. Bon Jovi
Similarly to the above entry...this was a concert I took my mom to see, that same summer; for her birthday. Bon Jovi in it's current state may have sadly evolved into something of a cheezy wuss-rock incarnation of its former self; but when we saw them in the summer of 2003 they put on a damn fine show. And my mom had a BLAST. And that's what matters most :) Also, Richie Sambora is a pretty under rated guitarist. Unable to find any clips of that particular show...but check out the guys DESTROYING "Wanted Dead or Alive" in this video from London in 1995.

15. Old Crow Medicine Show
Out of all the concerts i've been too (aside from when I saw Conan O'Brien do it) this is the ONLY time i've seen people crowd surf. I saw Old Crow at Radford University in the spring of 2009. And i've rarely seen people lose control of themselves so grossly at a show. PEOPLE....LOVE....THIS BAND. Check out this brief clip of their song "Wagon Wheel" from that particular evening; and listen to the crowd going NUTS.

16. Bob Dylan
Duh. the Germans would say, "Naturalich." Dylan was scheduled to play at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival in the summer of 2004. He is the sole reason that I began goig to said festival. Unfortunately there seem to be no videos of when I saw Dylan in 2004. In's difficult to find any videos (live or otherwise) of dylan on youtube. So please enjoy this clip of his duet on "Girl from the north country" with Johnny Cash. One of my all time favorites.

17. Steve Winwood
This was during the same afforementioned 2004 music festival. To be perfectly honest with you...I didn't know a whole lot about Steve Winwood, other than that he was a buddy of Clapton's and was one of those classic guitar dudes. His performance was scheduled for 5:00 saturday afternoon...but it got pushed back, and delayed, due to a TORENTIAL rain storm, that lasted at least two hours. By the time Steve finally came on, I was soaked, cold, and sort of miserable, and I didn't know any of his songs. Then he played "Back in the High Life," and everything changed. It's a beautiful song, and it depicts triumph over adversity. everyone was getting into it and it didn't matter that we were all soaked and cold. Only the music mattered. It's lovely, when music can take away your it little or is always there to ease your sorrows. And I am eternally thankful for it. i wish with all my heart I could find a clip of that such luck. The one below will just have to suffice.

18. The Grateful Dead (Or when I saw them, they were simply calling themselves "The Dead."
Interstingly enough, I saw The Dead immediately after Steve Winwood on that same wet, chilly summer evening. They were the Saturday night headliners. One of my favorite bands in high school, this was something of an extra special show. Not only did they play many of my favorite dead songs, but by this time the rain had stopped completely, and there was a large amount of heat lightning lighting the Tennessee summer skies. It was, in one word, gorgeous...between the music and the night. My spirits were now soaring, and my clothes were dry(ish). And, as if things couldn't get more amazing, they came out to do their second set...and opened it with an EXTRAORDINARY cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine on you Crazy Diamond." GEEK. OUT. To experience that performance, please click on the link below. :)

19. Marilyn Manson.
No. Really. Have you seen him live? It's the most intense shit i've ever seen. I'm not necessarily saying it was one of my most FAVORITE concerts i've ever been to...but it's aboslutely one of the most memorable. This was, the summer of 2003, and I went to Ozzfest with my good buddy Bear. Below is just a small taste of what we experienced. Behold.

20. SUPERJAM 2008 something that Bonnaroo USED to do. The festival goes thursday through sunday. Late night on friday, after the friday night headliner, they used to have SUPERJAM. Superjam always consisted of a handful of artists thrown together that wouldn't normally play together, and the madness would then ensue. I wasn't there in 2007, but the SUPERJAM that year consisted of: Ben Harper, Questlove from The Roots, and John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin. 2009 featured a very small impromptu superjam at the tail end of the festival...when Bruce Springsteen came out to do a few songs with Phish, which was cool. 2010 was sans SUPERJAM. But it was the 2008 SUPERJAM, that will always be tatooed on my brain. The 2008 friday late night Bonnaroo SUPERJAM featured renowned bassist and Primus frontman Les Claypool, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, and the afforementioned East European punk band Gogol Bordello. Their entire set consisted of Tom Waits covers. Between the fact that the music itself, being born of Tom Waits was something like Vaudeville on opium, and that I saw this in the middle of the night, with a bunch of weirdo hippie kids, and that it was POURING rain (i was under cover of a tent this time...thank the Good Dude) i can only describe this experience as black magic personified through music. I only wish, you could've been there to drown in the ethereal quirkiness with me. :) Check it out

I don't know what the future holds for concerts. But I do know, that they will all thoroughly kick arse. :)

Next week's blog: Music from my high school years


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Twenty Favorite Songs

It's been a colorful week since last we spoke. While my own life has been quiet and unconcerned; larger fiascos have pummeled the nation once again in such a way that horrific and unecessary calamity has brought a sense of unity to usually opposing ideals. It's unfortunate that it takes public violence of a grand and grotesque scale to pull us as a people together to stand against forces that would seek to topple us down; but this is real life and them's are the breaks. We forget so quickly; and as soon as tragedy strikes, we are brought back together. In the mean time though, music will always be there to sooth our pain, our loss, and our confusions--however they may be presented to us. I truly hope that next week I have something more absurd and happy to comment the new celebrity crossed-eyed possum in Germany (no really...look it up) or John C. Reilly & Will Ferrell's budding rap career (again; no, seriously). Until then, I give you my top twenty favorite songs of all time...more or less.


1. Crimson & Clover, By Tommy James and the Shondells
--Some songs on this list are newer to me than others; and some go back with me a long way. I can't necessarily explain why they strike me the way they do; and so this particular blog will probably have very little in so much as explantion of why I like something or another. Some of the songs are on here for sentimental reasons, some because they bring me peace when i'm incredibly stressed out, some are guilty pleasures, some are perfect love songs (please note though that while "lovesong" by the cure is a good song, you won't find it on this list), and some of them I dance around in my apartment to when I think no one is looking. I'll leave it to you to guess which ones are which. This one has been with me since at least 1994. What can I say except that it is beautiful, trippy, and perfect?

2. No Surrender, by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
This one dates back to approximately 1990. Along with the rest of the songs on the Born in the U.S.A. album I would rock along with this powerhouse of romance and rebellion usually while either cleaning my room, or rolling down the autobahn in Germany all at the tender age of 8. Born in the U.S.A is a magnificent album; and for me this song tops the rest.

3. Fake Plastic Trees, by Radiohead
Absolute perfection.

4. Where is my mind, by The Pixies
hauntingly gorgeous.

5. Thirty Three, by The Smashing Pumpkins
One of the greatest videos of all time. A dark and unsettling lullabye. I want to live in this song.

6. Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison
Of course; i could be perfectly happy living with the love of my life in this song too. It's an endless daydream of warm, happily ever after.

7. Wildflowers, by Tom Petty
See previous description

8. Ain't Nothing but a G Thing, by Snoop & Dr. Dre
I like my dirty guilty pleasures JUST as much as my sentimental romance. You've never been on a ride like this before--with a produce who can rap and control the maestro ;)

9. In My Life, By The Beatles
Trying to pick one song out of the entire Beatles catalogue is remarkably difficult, but i've always been drawn to this one. In fact, it's a song that I would like to have played at my wedding.

10. Downtown Train, by Tom Waits
To be fair, the first version I ever heard of this was the Rod Stewart cover; and I totally dig his version takes me back to childhood. But you just can't beat Tom's worn and raspy vocals in his original. I could probably listen to this on repeat for the rest of my life (or at least several days on end) and be touched (non-sexually) each time.

11. Daydream Believer, By The Monkees
It's impossible to listen to this song, and not break out in to rapturous gales of song and dance. Complete with fist pumping the air...

12. The Crane Wife, by The Decemberists (parts, 1, 2, & 3)
A modern, epic, folk masterpiece.

13. Acid Tongue, by Jenny Lewis
I can play this one on the guitar!

14. Blind Man, by Aerosmith
Easily the single best song they have produced in the past twenty years. Srsly. The video is a bit...erm...cheezy...but the song itself is tops :) "She was a tall whiskey glass, I was an old hound dog who just LOVED to chase his tail..."

15. I want you, by Bob Dylan
Possibly the best love song ever written. Ever. I'm biased of course; but have a listen and try to disagree

16. Tweeter & the Monkey Man, by The Traveling Wilburys
The greatest ensemble of all time tells a gritty story, puts it to music; and makes it catchy. LOVE...THESE...GUYS.

17. Rain on a Scarecrow, by John Mellencamp
This song is a story about farms being taken away from farmers. I first remember hearing it in the car with my parents when I was about five. My mom was (is) a big Mellencamp fan. This one always stuck with me though because my own father grew up on a farm in East Tennessee where my Grandparents (Mom and Pop Banker, may they both rest in peace) still lived. We visited usually a couple of times a year. Even at a young age I recognized that this song was in defense of farmers, and that something was wrong. Additionally, I always pictured myself, and my grandfather as characters in the song. "When I was 5 I walked a fence, my grandpa held my hand." The song holds up today, as does Mellencamp. He's really an under rated artist, and deserves more than just "Springsteen light," as he has often been labled.

18. Fur Elise, by Beethoven
Short, sweet, and unnerving. A timeless classic of musical beauty.

19. Like a Prayer, by Madonna
To be honest with you, I really kind of think Madonna is a little over rated. Sure, she has her place and is an icon in the pop music world and all that. And in her younger days was really a remarkable sensation. These days though she does little to impress me. Like a Prayer, though, always has, and always will be one of my favorite songs. Also the dude from "Cool Runnings" is totally the black guy in this video. Yay useless knowlege! "...God?"

20. Ripple, by The Grateful Dead
Absolutely the MOST serene, soothing, peaceful song i've ever come across. I first heard it at age 18. 11 years later nothing has topped it.

Next weeks blog: The Twenty best concerts i've been too

p.s. Westboro Baptist Church; I flick boogers in your general direction.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Twenty Albums to Bring if I was leaving Planet Earth on a Spaceship

Welcome back. Happy new year and all that carp. Or crap...whichever. Sometimes my fingers sneeze. .....shut up.


Before we begin i'd just like to say that i've had no coffee today, and I have a hard time watching kids eat their own boogers. Also I just found out that The Pogues are playing at the 9:30 club in D.C. this march; which would be awesome--but i'm in no place financially to attend shows right now, or travel. Could be worse I pubes could be on fire.

And now, a list of twenty albums that I would take on a space ship if I were leaving planet earth (which is really just a fancy way of saying, "my top twenty albums").

1. Monsters of Folk: "Monsters of Folk" (debut album)
A folk supergroup comprised of M. Ward, Mike Mogis & Conor Oberst from "Bright Eyes" and Jim James from "My Morning Jacket." I got this album last year for Christmas and it is so good that my dad (who usually doesn't take to contemporary popular music) LOVED it. It's one of those rare album that I can listen to ad nauseum and not get nauseous. I suspect it's not for everybody--but my dad loves it; and that's good enough for me.

2. Creedence Clear Water Revival: "The Best of Creedence Clearwater Revival"
My life wouldn't be the same without John Fogerty's sweet and salty bayou influenced vocals visiting it every once in a while.

3. Aerosmith: "Get a Grip"
This is probably the last REALLY GOOD album these guys put out. "Nine Lives," and "Just Push Play" do have some memorable gems; but "Get a Grip" features a complete set of badass rock songs that defined my coming of age years in the mid 90s. No contest. If only Steven Tyler hadn't lost his damn mind. ::::SIGH:::::

4. Bruce Springsteen: "Born in the U.S.A"
All time favorite. 'Nuff said.

5. Smashing Pumpkins: "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness."
I credit this album (along with The Cranberries, Alanis Morissette, and LIVE) for thrusting me into the world of Alternative music in eighth grade. The album itself is beautiful, sad, trippy, elegant, and not without a distinct element of thrash. It also fostered some of the most memorable music videos to come out of the 90's. See below

6. Dr. Dre: "The Chronic"
How could this NOT be on this list? I ask you? Dre creep to the mic like a PHANTOM.

7. The Monkees: "Best of the monkees"
Seriously; it's 25 tracks of pure genius. The Monkees were like, The Beatles light. No bullshit. They were amazing and one of the most underrated bands of all time.

8. The Beatles: "Abbey Road."

9. Tom Petty: "Wildflowers"
2nd favorite album of all time. 'Nuff said

10. Bob Dylan: "Live 1975--Bootleg series VOL. 5 THE ROLLING THUNDER REVIEW"
I was listening to this one just this morning while walking to work. "Love minus zero/no limit" and "Just like a woman" are EXCELLENT January tunes...especially when Dylan is singing them with raw emotion and a full backing band to a frenzied audience roaring for more.

11. The White Stripes: "Icky Thump"
I really wanted to say, "anything by the white stripes" but that's cheating. So, I settled on their most recent collaboration.

12. The Traveling Wilburys: "Vol. 1"
So basically some of my favorite artists got together and decided to form a band on a whim and then they made this album and it's like...more awesome than God's sweat.

13. Garth Brooks: "Double Live"
...Don't judge me

14. Tool: "Aenema"
College friends introduced me to this strange, wonderful, pseudo prog-ish band. I'm still glad they did. "Aenema" is itself my favorite album they've done. But very much like with The White Stripes, it was difficult to choose. Also their videos are just balls to the wall awesome.

15. Rage Against the Machine: "Rage Against the Machine" (debut album)
It's like one big pretty ball of anger, with SMASHING guitar solos :D

16. Alice Cooper: "Trash"
A favorite album from my childhood, believe it or not; and it still holds up 20 years later. In fact, I recently saw Alice Cooper in concert and I nearly wept when he played "Poison." Yes, i'm THAT guy.

17. Mumford & Sons: "Sigh No More" (debut album)
This is the most recent album on my list. These blokes are brand new to the music scene; but I anticipate they will be around for a long, long time. All one need to do is listen; and understand

18. Queen: "News of the World."
This is the first CD I ever bought. I bought it in 1993. I still have it. It's still amazing. It still gives me goosebumps the same way at age 29, that it did at age 11.

19. The Beach Boys: "Pet Sounds"

20. The Complete works of Beethoven.
Well jeez I have to have SOMETHING educational on here. Also Beethoven was a madman, a badass, and he composed some of the most compelling works of all time; and he did so without his sense of hearing-----and you can't fuck with that. ;)

Next week's blog: Twenty favorite songs where can i get some damn coffee...?