Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dream Theater, The Joker And The Ruins

For about a week, I've been listening to the Ruins everyday on the way to work - I seem to do this about once a year.  Every time I listen to them, they blow my mind all over again, as though I'm hearing them for the first time.  I find myself wondering:  what prevents me from listening to them on a more regular basis?  I think it is because they are the tricksters of rock.  And it makes makes me love them all the more.

Let me explain what I mean.  As you know, the role of the trickster in mythology is to introduce chaos into a given situation.  Tricksters dispense with rules, convention, and posturing.  I'd add my belief that the trickster is one with his true nature/so in tune with what he is that he cannot explain his motivations; he just acts on impulse.  I think the Joker touched on this in "The Dark Knight":
I'm a dog chasing cars . . . I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it.  I just do things.  I'm just a wrench in the gears.  I hate plans. . . . Schemers are trying to control their worlds.  I'm not a schemer.  I show schemers just how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.
So let's think about the Ruins, a lean, stripped down, ultra-aggressive duo (and sometimes trio) of staggering ability and chops that would make the proggiest of prog fans shit their pants.  Why aren't they required listening for all Dream Theater fans?  Because of the Ruins' steadfast refusal to take themselves too seriously.  Most prog rock/jazz rock/fusion fans would find them way too hard to stomach.  The would yell at their tricked out sound system:  "Why won't they settle into a groove!?  What's with the incomprehensible falsetto singing!?  Where is the story line!?  Where is the slick production!?  The chops are there - WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE RUINS?"

There's nothing wrong with the Ruins.  They simply provide a stark contrast to the posturing all around them.  About the only thing they have in common with Dream Theater (and bands of similar ilk) is the heavy riffage.  But in addition to the acrobatic bass playing and aggressive, technical drumming, it's the raw chaos I'm attracted to; the goofy singing and ear drum splitting noise. It's fun to imagine what it would be like if the Ruins showed up unannounced on a busy night at one of the local nightclubs.  I'm positive it would look like SEAL Team 6 just hit the place.  Patrons would be left wondering what the hell they just saw.  They'd be trying to sort it out.  And they won't be able to sort it out.  The only solid conclusion they'd reach is that they just saw something so rare, so powerful, so unique that everything else in their music collection will begin to lose its luster.  And it was all because of some clowns - some jokers - from Japan showed them what power and beauty look like after they've been rearranged at least four times in the same song.  In this way, the Ruins introduce chaos and smash one's understanding of what sophistication looks like.

I'm doing a crappy job of explaining myself, so I'd better just let this go.  Here's a sample of what I'm talking about; and yet another.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musical Updates

Mondays are usually slow at this blog, so I thought I'd remedy that by posting.  I've got some musical stuff to catch y'all up on.

I've been playing with my neighbor (and a keyboard player) about once a week.  He has come up with about 5 neat new songs in the short time we've played.  They're still pretty malleable in terms of sound and structure, so they'll change a lot over time.  The goal is to scrape together enough to do a short set at a bar nearby to see how folks like it.  I think it's shaping up into something cool.  It's been a fun ride that's only going to get better.  I'll post tunes as I can.

I'm going to attempt to put together a Christmas project to post here for streaming in early December.  If I pull it off, it will involve a variety of people performing original and cover material.  If you're reading this and you're interested in participating, email me.  More details on this forthcoming.  In the meantime, you can hear cuts from a previous Christmas project here and here.

In mid-November, I'm audition for an Indianapolis band called Jamodo.  I don't know what will happen with this.  Not only do I not know if I'll get this job or not, I'm not sure I'll be able to stay with them if I do get it.  It's a bit of a commute to go to Indy for practice, and that might not be feasible from a time/gas money standpoint.  But I'm excited enough for this audition to go for it - it would be a blast to be in a band with Leslie Donovan again, and I've never played with a horn section before.  So that will be super cool.  I'll keep you posted whether I get it or not.

As for Trowar; well, barring any changes, I'll be heading out for rehearsals/gig in early December.  Although I was thinking we had abandoned it, the recording I did last fall is being remixed and some parts rerecorded.  I can't wait to hear the final mixes.  I honestly wouldn't mind taking another crack at my parts to see if I could make them better, but no matter:  if they sucked, they wouldn't be on there.  I'm not sure what the intention is for this final mix - will it be a demo to get more live shows?  Will it be shopped to record labels?  I've heard rumors of both.  No matter - John and Fred tell me where and when to show up and play, and I'm pretty happy with that arrangement for now.

So exciting stuff heading into the final months of 2012.  Hopefully I'll have big, amazing things to report back to you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Rush's Geddy Lee On "Red Barchetta"

If you're new to this blog, you should know that on Fridays I feature an exceptional bass player/bass part. Today, it's Geddy Lee's bass line in "Red Barchetta".

There are so many awesome Geddy Lee bass runs to consider.  Like this one.  Or this one.  But ultimately, I felt obligated to select something from the "Moving Pictures" album.  I have many memories wrapped up in it; and it is the album I am most familiar with, going all the way back to the days when Quack and I were bunk mates listening to cassettes as we fell asleep.  "Moving Pictures" is a great album to listen to in the dark, but Lee's bass work didn't help me fall asleep.  It was too acrobatic, too creative - too exciting to let me sleep.  "Red Barchetta" has all these amazing little flourishes that to this day make me hold my breath so I can hear them better.  The music so perfectly captures the lyrics that the song is almost an onomatopoeia for the term "red barchetta".  And then there's the tone of what I'm pretty sure is a Rickenbacker bass - it's slightly fuzzy, and that grit gives the bass run just the right amount of teeth.  Take a listen to it - see where the "Red Barchetta" takes you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gig Report: Creekdogs At McCormick's Creek State Park

This is our third October playing in McCormick's Creek's WPA-built amphitheater.  Every year, it seems as though Mother Nature gives us cool, dry weather and dresses up in all of her autumn finery just for us.  The atmosphere is definitely laid back; the vibe relaxing.  For these reasons, the gig at McCormick's Creek has become a favorite of ours.

(Left) Kevin Reynolds and (right) Dan Lodge-Rigal
tuning up before the show.

About 60 people came out and listened to us play covers and originals for about 1 hour, 45 minutes.  One of the indicators that we played well is that those who came did not leave.  Afterwards, we had many folks telling us how much they enjoyed the show - I can tell you that never gets old.
Set list, with my preamp doubling as paper weight.
We weren't perfect, that's for sure.  There was an occasional misstep, but they were usually the sort that you had to really listen for to hear.  I do feel like we may have taken too long between songs, but that is sometimes hard for me to gauge when I'm on stage since a minute can feel like an hour.  I didn't sing any leads for this show, but had multiple opportunities to do harmonies.  I did an adequate job - would like to tighten things up a bit, especially in terms of my singing volume in relation to the rest of the band.  It is sometimes hard for me to figure out how far to stand from the microphone when I'm singing.  But again, there were no glaring errors.
(Left to right) Kevin Reynolds, Dan Lodge-Rigal, and
Matt Zink.  Photo by Emily The Super Friendly
DNR Woman.
We kept the bass up higher in the mix this time, which meant I could ease back on the physicality in which I usually play.  Eventually, I turned my bass down a bit because it was hard for me to hear Kevin when he played Dobro.  Anyway, the excietment/tension of being on stage tends to make me play very physically regardless of my level in the mix - it's probably good I turned down.  As for my singing and playing at the same time, there's still work to be done, but progress continues to be made.

It's hard to say what songs went the best.  I was happy with how "Diamond Joe" turned out, especially since this is a new one in our set and this is the first time we've played it in front of a crowd.  Dan's song "Goodbye Heart" - a favorite of mine to play AND listen to - sounded just fine too. We nailed the ending on that one, which is good because it is sometimes tricky to do so.  Neil Young's "Long May You Run" sounded really good too.  The crowd seemed to really like that one.  It had been awhile since we'd done "Atlantic City", but it sounded very good.  No mistakes at all.  And finally, we did a new one written by Kevin that we "premiered" at this gig.  It went great.

"Same Old River" was a bit sloppy, but we made it through without a complete derail.  Everything else was pretty much dandy!  McCormick's Creek has once more proven to be an incredibly satisfying gig.

Friday, October 19, 2012

50 Attempts At Speech In Video Games

This provides a nice little book end to the post about the sounds of the arcade.  Very entertaining - I'd say I have memory of roughly 40% of those games.  Gizmodo rightly points out that the exclusion of the Commodore 64 version of "Impossible Mission" (or many other C64 games) a travesty, but still:  this is a fun video.

Fat Friday Feature: Lake Street Dive's Bridget Kearney On "I Want You Back"

Check out the nimble fingers and fat tone that Bridget Kearney gets on this cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back".  I love how her bass line approximates the "bounciness" Wilton Felder's original line (which, by the way, is so bad ass I'd be foolish not to link to it), but goes its own way in terms of groove and creativity. I also love the lush harmonies of this cover.   This is a damn fine reworking of a classic tune.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

See The Creekdogs Live This Saturday

I keep forgetting to post that this Saturday (20 Oct), the Creekdogs are playing at 7 PM at McCormick's Creek State Park (in their amphitheater).  We will be doing both covers and originals - I think you'll like what you hear.  Our originals especially are coming along nicely.
The Creekdogs are:
Dan Lodge-Rigal:  guitar, mandolin, vocals (and keyboard, banjo and accordion should he decide to bring them along.
Kevin Reynolds:  guitar, mandolin, vocals, harmonica, Dobro, lap steel, resophonic guitar
Matt Zink:  upright bass, vocals

This has become an annual gig for us as we've played the previous two Octobers as well.  It has also become a favorite gig of ours as the cool autumn weather and clear, moonlit skies make it a great excuse to wrap up in a blanket and enjoy the show. If the weather predictions hold true, it looks like it will be another great gig, so make it if you can.  Hilly Hundred riders especially welcome!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Auditory Storm Of The Arcades Of Yesteryear

The Golden Age of the Arcade came rushing back to me when I found this and its sister site.  Full disclosure:    I am not nor have I ever been in any sense of the word "a gamer".  I wasn't a gamer for three reasons:  a.)  playing video games was frowned upon in our house b.)  I had no steady income (and any income I had was spent on musical gear)  and c.)  I freaking sucked a video games.  However, that didn't stop me from spending as much time as I could hanging out in them.  I liked watching my buddies suck/rule a given video game.

For a non-gamer like me, it was about the ambiance.  This was the domain of the American teen.  The only adults around were tucked safely away behind the counter, scurrying out, frantically jangling keys like some ancient gate keeper when the token exchange machine was busted.  We ran the floor otherwise.  I loved the 8-bit auditory assault, the stale popcorn and acrid body odor smells, the dark, cavernous quality of places like Pac Man Palace (Mounds Mall, Anderson, IN) and Alladin's Castle (Glendale Mall, Indianapolis, IN) and even the shitty prizes - everything.  Tonight, I will probably stick some headphones on, sip some rye whiskey, close my eyes and be immersed in it all again.  And if I had a blowout comb to stick in my rear pocket, I probably would just to make it complete.

Note:  Track by Andy Hofle; can be downloaded from here:
Mr. Hofle owns all rights.

Fat Friday Feature: Cake's Gabriel Nelson On "Short Skirt\Long Jacket"

Terry (or was it Joan?) reminded me that Cake would make an excellent "Fat Friday Feature".  I've thought of them in the past, but kept forgetting about them.  I believe they've had multiple bass players.  One thing's for sure: whoever is playing, the bass part is almost always super strong - there are a ton of Cake songs I could feature for a FFF.

This bass part is fun because it's one part James Jamerson (in the verses) and one part Cliff Williams (on the chorus).  You get funk and rawk in the same damn song.  Win/win!

Thanks for the idea, Terryjoan!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Improvised Jam Session On The Set Of The "Black Gold" Video

One last Esperanza Spalding link - check out this smokin' jam session on the video shoot for "Black Gold":

Monday, October 8, 2012

Concert Report: Esperanza Spalding

Who:  Radio Music Society (but let's face it:  Everyone was there to see Esperanza Spalding)
Where:  Murat Theater*, Indianapolis, Indiana
When:  6 October 2012, 7:30 PM
Length of Show:  1 hour, 50 minutes (including encore)
Notes:  The Radio Music Society consists of Esperanza Spalding on bass and lead vocals, an 8-piece horn section, a drummer, guitarist and keyboard player.  You can learn more about the band here.

Impressions, in list form:

  • Let's get the one negative from this show out of the way:  to paraphrase the Jesus, you pull out your cell phone and use the flash, I will put it up your ass and press the shutter button until the memory card is full.  Look, I know that we've passed the point of no return and there will be cell phone photography no matter where you go.  I can accept it.  I don't like it, but that's the world in which we live.   But holy crap, judging from the flashes/glowing cell phone screens, you would've thought that there was a press conference going on.  I remember once seeing Jeff Tweedy admonish someone from the stage for the same thing by saying:  "Put your cell phone away.  This next song is great.  You're going to want to be here for it."  Great fucking advice. 
  • This wasn't so much a concert as a performance, meaning there was a lot more to this show than music.  There were bits of acting between songs, the singing of story lines & dialogue (similar to an opera), and even poetry.  Normally, if someone described a show like that to me, I'd say "wow I bet that sucks".  I'd prefer to see an artist burning through a set list rather than to hear them act/recite poetry between songs.  But they were very entertaining and thought provoking.  They pulled it off nicely.
  • It's really hard to explain, but I'll put it to you this way:  on at least two different occasions when soloing, Spalding appeared to be having an outer body experience.  She just wasn't there.  To me, she looked like she had achieved the perfect state of meditation wherein her mind was free of conscious thought and she was fully present in the moment.  It was something to see - she was totally lost in her solos.  You sometimes hear critics praising an artist by saying "their instruments is an extension of a performer's body", and this is definitely true of her.  I've never seen anyone as nimble and as comfortable on a bass (both upright and electric) as she is.
  • I have mixed feelings on jazz vocalists.  Some I like (Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Turner, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker), but most I can do without.  That being said, Esperanza Spalding is an immensely under rated jazz vocalist.  She sang with great range, power, finesse and feeling; and she sang on every tune.  She literally didn't break a sweat doing this and her voice was not fatigued in the slightest.  I must confess I wanted her to bust off into 10 minute, vocal free jams with the band; but I'd be lying if I said I was unimpressed with her vocals.  I'll come out and admit I'm really jealous of the skillz this woman has.  She could earn a decent living as a vocalist or bassist; she does both very very well.
  • There was a drum solo at the end.  As a general rule, I loathe drum solos.  But Lyndon Rochelle does it right.  What he did:  variations on the groove that had already been established.  What he did not do:  lightening fast fills/acrobatics on every drum and cymbal within 10 feet of him.  The size of his kit was quite modest already; his solo was mainly executed on his snare (rim shots mostly), his high hat, bass drum and one tom drum. The timings he did were, lacking better terminology, fucking wacky.  If I can find a clip of him doing a similar type solo, I'll post it.  It was a damn clinic.
  • E.S. was able to get this mean kinda 70s soul/funk/70s porno music sound from her Jazz bass.  It was soooo bad ass.  This is primarily due to the pickups on her Jazz bass.  (Couldn't tell for sure if it was fretless or not.)  But from the back of the room, I could tell she was using flatwound strings on her bass - you could tell by how the light caught the strings.  I would've bet my next paycheck on it.  (Sure enough, she does use flat wounds.)  I've never even considered flat wounds on my electric.  But now I'm wondering if I can at least approximate her sound by throwing a set on my '77 Sting Ray.  It won't sound as bad ass since Jazz basses have passive electronics, but if it gives my bass more of the balls** hers has, Imma go for it.  I was really coveting her tone a lot.
  • Radio Music Society, like just about all jazz, is meant to be seen live.  I saw Esperanza Spalding perform with a combo on Austin City Limits*** a few years ago and loved it.  But this blows away anything I've seen on TV or You Tube.  There is a groove, a give and take that can't be captured on camera.  You can say that about some rock shows, but my sense is that you can say this for every RMS show.
  • The encore was just ES and her upright bass.  I think she just made it up on the spot.  Holy crap.  It was great.
Good stuff.  Like the Bad Plus, I'm going to see her every time she comes to town.  

* - Sorry, not going to call it "Old National Center" or whatever the fuck corporate branding they've given it now.

** - Probably a bad choice of words, I already know.

*** - She'll be appearing on Austin City Limits again in December!  Mark your calendars.

Mac MacCaughan On 1980s Punk

". . . back then if you were into punk rock you were a part of this community because everyone wasn't into [it], and you couldn't just . . . go online to find out about punk rock.  You had to go to a hardcore show. . . you had to go see bands in the basement of a church or whatever.  So it created like a bond between people, I think. . . it was like an extended family. . . "
 - Superchunk's Mac MacCaughan 
I think this is one of the points I was trying to make here.  MacCaughan said it so much better.

Friday, October 5, 2012

No Fat Friday Feature Today

Unable to come up with a worthy bass heavy song to post today, Imma skip the "Fat Friday Feature".  That's the bad news.  The good news - at least for me - is that on Saturday, I'm going to see one of the bass players I've featured here before.  I can't wait - she is such a pleasure to watch.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gwar Covering Kansas

This shreds too hard not to share.  I love it when someone makes dinosaur rock of my youth feel lean, hungry and aggressive.

GWAR covers Kansas