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The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Published on July 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Click here to read it.


Rock and Roll Time Machine (Part 1?)
Published on July 16, 2013 by guest author: Tony Are

Recently, I was in the physical presence of the editor of this blog (which doesn't happen very often due to geographical considerations). Along with conversations about a number of interesting topics, she described how she and another friend had come up with the “rock and roll time machine,” an imaginary device that would whisk you back to whatever important concert (or other rock event) you desired. It's at times like this that music criticism can start to resemble the endless chatter of sports talk radio, wherein people pretend that their mostly subjective opinions have the weight of actual scientific facts, which is occasionally a good thing. So in the interest of fantasy-baseball style geekiness, I will add my subjective opinions on what should be the most critical time machine settings. Always keep in mind, however, that although there is a rock and roll hall of fame, there is no Bill James in rock journalism. 

The reader should also keep in mind that I have some (surprise!) very specific thinking about what great live rock performances are about. Despite my anti-folk and punk band roots, I admire a certain amount of craft, in the service of putting across a meaning. I like emotional honesty. I favor a rough edge and an artist going out right to the edge of being out of control. And most important, the show has to be about what the performers are thinking about at the time —and how they are channeling what they are thinking about back to the audience. For me a great rock show should be more like a conversation that engages you and captures the moment and makes you part of it and less like a demonstration of how proficient the performers are at putting on a show.  

That being said, here's a quick guide for those wondering where to set the dial. I did limit it to “rock” or “rock and roll” (jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues will have to be saved for another time), and it's a little heavy on US concerts (with a few exceptions) because I know more about those. It's also heavy on 1966-1978 events because, well, shows were better in those days. 

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Pandora and The Pandoras
Published on July 8, 2013 by guest author: J.K. Eisen

It’s easy to complain about how technology has changed music for the worse. I should know – I’m one of those people. Thanks to iTunes and other services, record stores, albums and album cover art have become virtually irrelevant. It may be a common complaint from someone pushing 40, but it doesn’t mean I’m completely anti-technology. I love streaming movies, TV shows and other videos to my TV and the other electronic gadgets I own. 

However, when it comes to music, I’ve been slow to embrace the new technology. Usually when I use this technology, it’s a memorable milestone: downloading my first song, getting my first iPod and my first upload of music to Amazon’s cloud. 

But my recent discovery of The Pandoras, an all-girl hard rock group formed in the 1980s, made me realize how much new music technology I have adopted without even realizing it – technology that has changed the way I discover and experience music. More important, it’s made me realize that the changes brought by this technology may be much more positive than I had thought. 

I discovered The Pandoras through the like-named Pandora Internet radio service. The band was a recommendation based on songs the service knew I liked. This recommendation was right on target. When I heard The Pandoras play “Run Down Love Battery,” I was stopped in my tracks. The song’s in-your-face guitar, pounding bass drum and big, catchy chorus made it a great pick for someone who enjoys The Runaways, The Donnas, Betty Blowtorch and L7. 

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The Rock 'n Roll Time Machine
Published on July 1, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my great new invention, the Rock 'n Roll Time Machine.

Here's an excerpt:

"A couple of weeks ago the New England Sports Fan Friend and I came up with a terrific invention: The Rock ‘n Roll Time Machine.

This time machine has one purpose: It permits the user to travel back in time to attend the rock concert of their choice. So if you’re like me, and you wish you could have seen some of the greatest bands in rock and roll history when they were actually in their prime, the Rock ‘n Roll Time Machine can make your dreams come true. Of course, the New England Sports Fan Friend and I discussed which band we’d most like to travel back in time to see.

For the most part, we were in agreement: The band we’d most like to see is Led Zeppelin. Now, Led Zeppelin is not my favorite band, although every time I listen to them or hear them on the radio I’m impressed by how great they sound. They never sound dated to me, and if I didn’t know anything about them and had never heard them before I’d probably think they were some terrific new artist, taking the world by storm. Anyway, research suggests that Led Zeppelin’s 1972 North American Tour would be a great tour to catch; the band played songs from the as-yet-to-be released album “Houses of the Holy,” as well as now-classic songs such as 'Stairway to Heaven,' 'Black Dog' and 'Rock and Roll.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


Saturday at Solid Sound
Published on June 24, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Solid Sound music festival, and bands such as Lucius, Yo La Tengo, Low and, of course, Wilco.

Here's an excerpt:

The Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA is the sort of event that just keeps topping itself. 2011’s festival was very good; this was even better. Granted, I only attended day two of the three-day festival. But day two featured an incredible line-up of up-and-coming bands and singer-songwriters, groups and musicians currently in their primes and alternative rock legends and cult favorites. If you like music, Solid Sound will not let you down.

I attended Solid Sound with my friend Monica, and we got there fairly early to see the band Lucius, a five-piece, female-fronted folk/rock/pop band. I’d never heard of Lucius before, but I trust Monica’s judgment, and I think it’s safe to say that Lucius was the discovery of the festival, at least for me. From the pure and vibrant vocal stylings of lead singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, to the unusual rhythms and crisp musicianship, this is a young band with a rich, full sound that makes you sit up and pay attention. Lucius’ songs run the emotional gamut, from light to dark and back again, and the band’s stage presence is both mysterious and welcoming, while their sound swings seamlessly from complex and catchy to spare and simple. They were so good that Monica and I decided to catch their acoustic set inside Mass MoCA’s large Building 5 gallery, where two enormous phoenixes constructed by Chinese artist Xu Bing currently hang.

Click here to read the whole thing.


The Replacements are Reuniting!
Published on June 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Well, they're reuniting for three shows far away from me.

But since Tommy Stinson lives in Hudson, maybe one day they'll play a show near me. I can dream, can't I?


Summer Concert Preview
Published on June 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list the summer concerts I'm excited about.

Click here to see what they are.


And Another Thing!
The Beatles Story
Published on June 3, 2013 by guest author: Barry Wenig

I’ve been a Beatlephile (I’ve been told that’s what they call us; “Beatlemaniac” is undignified) since 1969 when I bought the 45 of “Get Back” as a seven-year-old. I had been very impressed by the film “Yellow Submarine” earlier that year, and off I went into Pepperland.  

I began my Beatles’ “jones” in earnest in 1976, when I starting purchasing their albums with my Long Island Newsday (NY) carrier money. At first, I bought the Beatles' Capitol L.P.s. But once I found out that the American albums had fewer songs on them (a mere 10 compared to the 14 tracks on their British counterpart label, Parlophone), I started buying the English album versions. If my local T.S.S. (Time Square Stores) didn’t have them, I’d have them special-ordered.  

I had just moved out to a new county (Suffolk) and a new school district (Middle Island) from Queens that summer, and it was hard to make friends as I entered my first year of High School. And so … the Beatles became my friends. They offered rock and roll and romance.   

I thrilled to the discovery of each new album, and was proud of my rarer selections: a German bootleg of a 1966 live concert in Japan (!); a Dutch version of Magical Mystery Tour (with the songs on Side 2 in true, rather than “reprocessed” stereo); a Parlophone album called “The Beatles in Italy," which featured the set list from their 1965 concert in Italy (not live, but I could settle for that).  

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Favorite Beatles Songs
Published on May 31, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list my favorite Beatles songs.

Here they are.


Five Songs
Published on May 9, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list five songs I'm totally into at the moment.

Click here to find out what they are.


R.I.P., Christina Amphlett
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett died Sunday.


My Favorite Albums
Published on April 22, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list my favorite albums.

Here's an excerpt:

"Courtesy of the website The Awl, I learned that the Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled debut album came out 30 years ago this month. The Awl correctly identifies this album as 'one of the greatest albums ever recorded by anybody.' I discovered the Violent Femmes in middle school, as many kids do, and for years they were my favorite band. And though they’ve produced a number of fine albums and fine songs — I’m very partial to their 1991 album 'Why Do Birds Sing?', which contains the great song 'Out the Window' — their debut remains their best work: a sarcastic, aggressive, occasionally wistful blast of angst, sexual frustration and sneering punk-folk attitude. (Bandleader Gordon Gano wrote the songs on the debut when he was in high school, which might explain why generations of teenagers continue to discover this album and play it over and over and over again.)

Anyway, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with The Awl’s Violent Femmes piece, because the band’s 1983 album is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time. This made me wonder what my other favorite albums are, and I decided to put together a list. But when I sat down to type up a list, I quickly became stumped. For some reason, it seemed impossible to narrow my CD collection down to a list of five favorites."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Schwervon! in Hudson
Published on April 1, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the terrific concert put on by the Kansas City-based band Schwervon! the other night in Hudson.

Click here to read it.

Related: Tony Are explains why the Schwervon! album "Courage" is the best album of the year.


Jazz in Cairo
Published on March 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, occasional Rule of Thumb contributor Roger Noyes writes about his band's recent trip to Egypt for the jazz festival in Cairo.

Click here to read his piece.


Roots Music Festival Impresses
Published on March 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the local roots music festival, which was pretty good.

Here's an excerpt:

"On Saturday I attended the fourth Roots Music Festival at The Linda in Albany, which featured a number of good local musical acts, and a Rhode Island-based duo who deserve more attention: Brown Bird.

I caught Brown Bird last year at Club Helsinki in Hudson, and was impressed with their darkly lyrical brand of folk, which mixes blues, bluegrass and Eastern European and gypsy music. A lot of contemporary folk music sounds the same to me, but Brown Bird was something different, boasting a broader range of influences, surprisingly complicated arrangements and unusually literate songwriting that evokes classic American novels such as 'Moby Dick' and the Bible. Also impressive is the full and forceful sound produced by Brown Bird: Dave Lamb plays guitar, drums and sings, usually simultaneously, and MorganEve Swain plays the upright bass, cello and violin. After watching the duo in Hudson, I picked up their 2011 CD 'Salt for Salt,' which has steadily grown on me.

Brown Bird has gotten even better since I saw them during the summer. The duo immediately impressed with their emotionally complex songs and technical virtuosity; for those who expect folk music to be gentle and pretty, their rhythmic, often aggressive sound probably came as a surprise. They played a number of songs off 'Salt For Salt,' as well as tracks off their upcoming album, 'Fits of Reason,' which comes out on April 2."

Click here to read the whole thing.


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