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My Bloody Valentine Concert Review: Austin 4/21/09

Last night, MBV played one of five US tour dates at the Austin Music Hall in Austin, TX.  I arrived with my girlfriend around 6 to wait in line for doors at 7, assuming the line would be around the block.  However, the show wasn’t sold out and the venue could hold 4,400 people so the line was only about 60 people when we arrived.  After an hour of waiting to get in, a quick dash to the merch table (only to be appalled by the $35 t-shirts) and then a long wait for the openers, the first band started up.mbv

I can’t remember the names of the opening acts so don’t ask me what they were, but from rumors in the queue outside and bits and pieces of information from people in the audience, the lead singer of the first band felt that he had some kind of holy spirit in him since and early age and expressed it in his music.  I had no idea what to expect from this and was blown away when a skinny hipster type dude walked out with a full on hobo wine-drinkin’ beard and super long hair.  My gf said he reminded her of an instructor she had when she worked at a Buddhist summer camp.

Surprisingly, the band was really good.  The guitar player pulled off a convincing MBV style of guitar playing while the drummer and bassist keep up with matched intensity.  The songs were too long for my taste (7 minutes at the shortest, up to 15 minutes total) and the singer’s rants about Jesus (obligatory lyric: how do you know there’s a hell?  Because Jesus ain’t no liar) basically made me tune out early on.  If they could drop about 5 minutes off of each song and diversify their lyrics a bit, maybe I’ll give them another listen.

The crowd seemed to dig them better than the second opener, however, who was the lead singer/songwriter for the Lilies.  He had a bit of a Teenage Fanclub/Big Star type sound, but you could barely hear his twelve string acoustic and singing over the general chatter of the venue.  He needed to be turned up a lot.  As a result, most people seemed bored and kept talking shit.  He was pretty good about it though, fininshing up his set without getting angry or responding to it, and his songs really were pretty well written.  He just didn’t really fit in with the ravenous fans waiting to see MBV.

Finally, when he finished his set, MBV came on.  Here is the setlist for the show:

I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
(When You Wake) You’re Still In A Dream
Cigarette in Your Bed
Come In Alone
Only Shallow
Thorn
Nothing Much To Lose
To Here Knows When
Blown A Wish
Slow
Soon
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realize (with obligatory 20 minute 13 marshall stack jet engine noise solo)

A few notes about the performance.  The oddball musical parts that didn’t come from the guitars were sampled for the show; in other words, both guitar players basically jammed out the rhythm chords for almost every song and let the backing track do the harder sounds.  That being said, Colm Ó Cíosóig’s drumming was incredibly heavy and awesome.  He made simple beats sound complex and full of depth by really making use of the different parts of his drum set (for instance, staying off cymbals in some songs while focusing on the highhat and snare).  He provided a backbone for the show and his facial expressions brought a higher level of intensity to the performance.  Bilinda Butcher’s beautiful, reserved guitar playing and singing fit the sound of the records perfectly, although it was difficult to hear any vocals from near the front-center of the venue.  Both Bilinda and Kevin Shields played mainly a series of Fender Jazzmasters with a few oddballs thrown in, such as Bilinda’s Chavel Surfcaster.  Shields strummed his guitar using his Jazzmaster’s whammy bar on every strum, giving the chords that wavering, shimmering sound that gives MBV songs  their distinctive sound.  Bassist Debbie Googe also put on a great performance, mainly standing in front of the drums and looking awesome while adding a lot of intensity to the performance.  She and Colm looked a lot more into it than Kevin or Bilinda, who both looked nervous and at times uncomfortable.

Now let’s talk about the actual show.  The band has set up about 15 giant strobe lights, that went off in Loveless pink and every other possible color all throughout the performance.  The light was completely blinding and gave the show the same kind of effect of MBV videos; namely, that blurry, hard to see effect, bathing the band in light but at the same time making them harder to see.  The visualizations on the back of the board weren’t very interesting and only showed up for a few songs.  For the most part, the heavier songs were more interesting to watch, as a lot of the impact of the slower songs was lost on poorly amplified vocals and a loss of the heavy, earth-shattering wall of noise that you get on MBV albums.  Without it, a few of these songs fell flat.

The show ended with “You Made Me Realize,” MBV’s famous last song with a twenty minute noise solo (if you can call it that).  Basically, somewhere in the middle of the song, Kevin Shields turns on all 13 Marshall stacks he has behind him (and several other amps) and suddenly all you could hear was earth-shattering distortion.  I remember looking straight at the drummer and having no conception of what he was playing in the stream of sound I could hear.  Everyone was playing their instruments but the overall effect was like standing right in front of a jet engine when its going full steam; utterly mind blowing.  At one point I felt my chest and it was vibrating so hard that I had troubling distinguishing my heartbeat in the midst of the chaotic noise.

People stayed around waiting for an encore but Austin Music Hall promptly turned on the lights and shooed us all away.  I’d heard not so great things about AMH in the past and they were at least partially true (poor sound, not a fun venue) but really, MBV could have rocked any arena.  This was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time and I highly recommend checking them out if you haven’t.

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Judge: Beverly Hills H.S. Did Not Cause Cancer

Read the story here.  Frankly, I don’t think the judge’s decision was a good one.

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House Approves Roves, Miers Subpoenas

TAKE THAT NEO-FASCISTS!

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Filed under alberto, attorney, barn, barn stormer, barnstormer, congress, dc, firings, gonzalez, government, harriet, house, karl, liar, liars, miers, neo-fascists, political, politics, president, representatives, rove, scandal, stormer, Uncategorized, washington

My Crazy, Controlling Dad Explained

by anti-folk hero

Ah, fathers. Few have anything good to say about fathers. The best father/son relationships usually involved a father who taught his son to be just like him. The musician father with a musician son, the preacher father with a preacher son, etc. Then there are the loads of criminals in the world who claim to have been abused or neglected by their fathers. No matter what your relationship to your father was, however, one indisputable fact is that fathers have a tangible effect on their children no matter what they do. Whether that relationship is good or bad depends on the personalities of both people involved.

Let’s talk about my father for a minute. He is a very successful professional who is at the top of the company he works for. He has a team of elite, intelligent people working under him, doing his bidding, and generally just trying to profit off of his hard work. He financially supports my mother (whom he divorced over fifteen years ago and who still lives on alimony), sends his second kid to a private school for 30k a year, and is probably going to help me out when I eventually get into higher education later this year. Sounds like a great, helping, encouraging guy, right?

To be fair, he can be a great Dad. He got me into music by telling me stories about different musicians as I was growing up. He also forced me to start taking guitar lessons at age eleven even though I really didn’t want to. Almost everything he has ever predicted about my life or what would happen to me has been right on the money. So where is the issue in my relationship with him? My dad is a control freak. There is no better way to describe him. He has many personal insecurities that he cannot control that manifest themselves in negative behavior towards others. He’ll oftentimes be dead wrong about something and yet find justifications for why he is right and everyone else is wrong, often involving verbal and emotional abuse. He is aggressive, uncompromising, and decidedly uncooperative in just about everything. “My way or the highway” could be his personal philosophy.

Yet people still like him and deal with him. He has many friends, most of them through work, and he is well respected by his contemporaries. Now, you may be saying that I shouldn’t be so ungrateful, as he is giving me money for school. But at this point, I am sick of his money and sick of his shit.

An example: Today, I brought him a spreadsheet I had made outlining the costs of a cross-country trip to visit several of the schools I was accepted to. I laid out flight costs, dates, hotel prices, even trains prices from some cities back east back and forth. I got the absolute cheapest prices on flights that I could find (which is better than he could do). Upon sitting down in his office, he took the piece of paper to me, and then berated me for ten minutes about how stupid I was, how I should find the cheapest prices, insinuating that I was dumb and arbitrarily put up more expensive prices on purpose, and even accosting me for not realizing that flying to Ithaca is much more expensive than flying into Syracuse or Rochester instead (to save money). In the end, he has done nothing but yelled, complained, and generally insulted my intelligence in the most aggressive, mean-spirited way, and said nothing constructive at all. He had alienated me.

My father is a man at the utter whim of his moods. He can’t control himself. In many ways, a child has more control over the responses he chooses than my father does. If he has a bad day, he’ll be rude and contemptuous towards everyone around him. “This isn’t what I wanted for dinner!” he’ll shout at my step-mom. “I specifically told you that I only eat Norwegian potatoes, not these Idaho pieces of shit! You knew that! You’re just serving me these worthless, disgusting potatoes because you don’t listen. Maybe you should stop watching all of those idiotic TV shows and pay attention when I tell you these things. Its really not that hard to do.” Then, the same day, he’ll be half an hour late to a family dinner, forget about his son’s basketball game, and space out on a bunch of other shit entirely. HYPOCRITE.

This is my read on his personality. I see him as emotionally immature. Here is a person who has some serious insecurities that are deeply buried. He can’t control his fears and desires, so when he feels like he can’t control himself, he tries to control others. Being an intelligent person, he is quite successful in controlling other people. The effect, however, is that he alienates the people that care about him. He treats them like invaders or strangers and his attitude couldn’t be less inviting.

At this point in my life, I’m realizing that there are two paths I can take at this moment. If I take his money for college, I’ll be in a weaker position to call him on his bad moods and at the mercy of his bullshit. If I don’t take his money, I’ll have to take out monster-sized loans and repay them later in life. However, I would have my independence. What do you think? Is the independence worth it? Please share your stories about controlling friends or family members if you have them.

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Good Guy/Bad Guy Politics

by anti-folk hero

I’m not sure if this particular theory of politics has been posited before, but I’d like to take a moment to address something that I call “Good Guy/Bad Guy politics.” This is a form of political bickering wherein two sides of an issue are considered not only for what they actually state, but also for where they fall on an artificial scale of morality. Take a heated issue like abortion; pro-lifers are anti-abortion not only for religious reasons but also because they take certain religious tracts literally. As being religious necessitates believing you have the one truth, those who disagree with you are telling lies and thus bad guys. In response to this blanket stereotype, pro-choice advocates return the favor by depicting pro-lifers as religious fanatics devoid of decision making skills outside of exact Biblical text. This is the good guy/bad guy aesthetic at work. It is a reactionary technique used to polarize large groups of people into opposite sides of a particular issue.

Take Karl Rove’s strategy as Bush’s advisor. Rove tells Bush to take a far right stance on an issue, rather than a more centrist, cooperative stance; this immediately offends centrists and leftists who then chastise Bush for being divisive. Then, in retaliation to this flood of insults aimed at republicans, moderate-right and right voters move to the extreme right to support Bush (and in effect, pridefully defend their original support of Bush). Now we have people on the far left and the far right exchanging stereotypes and refusing to listen to each other’s points of view. Isn’t this a bit childish?

Occasionally, good guy/bad guy politics can be good. Take our long overdue switchover to an ecologically sustainable environment. This is a more clean cut issue where those who want to shut down polluters and move to sustainable fuels and organic foods are considered to be the goods guys and big industries are considered to be bad guys. Switching to sustainable fuels and organic foods would have mainly positive affects for the country and will be necessary to stop a complete meltdown of the planet. The wars in the middle east would become unnecessary and we would be able to keep more of our money in the country and put less of it into the hands of rich contracting companies like Halliburton and women-abusing-warlords in the middle east.

Until we can move away from good guy/bad guy politics, however, we will be stuck in a political world where hurling insults from either side of a fence has replaced conversation and logical debate. All of our beliefs are reactionary and based on the frustration of having an opposite side that won’t listen to what you have to say. In the end, we have to remember that we are all Americans before we are Democrats or Republicans, and if we want America to remain the greatest country in the world, we need to take each other seriously and place a higher value on cooperation. Otherwise the corrupt politicians and terrorists will have won.

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Britt Daniel – The Most Underrated Songwriter Around

by anti-folk hero

“Its so easy to say you don’t care, its so easy to say you don’t need it,” says Britt Daniel, lead singer of Spoon, but I would have to say that you all should care about Britt. He and his band Spoon have been putting out some of the most exciting rock music in the past 10 years and yet just about nobody has ever even heard of Spoon. Well, I for one am sick of that. This band can knock down and kick the shit out of your average indie band, though I think they’d be too modest to say that themselves.

Spoon 1

I remember my first Spoon show. I was obsessed with “Girls Can Tell,” their third release. It was my second year in college. I got out of class at 6:30; I went to school in Santa Cruz and the show was in San Francisco, an hour and a half away, and I had no one to go with. Over the phone, I convinced my friend Kevin to come with me. We showed up at a little bar called Slim’s, where I used my fake ID (I was 20) that said my name was “Richard D. James” to get in. We drank Pabst on tap and then fought our way to the front of the crowd to see Spoon perform. They were ON that night, as they electrified a packed house through most of “Girls Can Tell” and a good deal of “A Series of Sneaks.” For an encore, Britt Daniel even came out with an acoustic guitar and played “The Agony of Lafitte,” a song which he wrote as a gypsy curse for an evil record executive he once knew. The whole evening was so fun and exciting that Spoon immediately moved into my own personal hall of fame. Since then, I’ve seen them at the “All Tomorrow’s Parties” concert, where they played on the stationary cruise ship slash hotel, the Queen Mary. I’ve seen them headline at the Wiltern in LA and even up at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

So you’re probably saying, so what, why should I care? Well, listen to this song and see what you think.

JONATHON FISK

maybe you remember maybe you’re locked away
maybe we’ll meet again some better day some better life

mmmm Jonathon Fisk speaks with his fists
can’t let me walk home on my own
and just like a knife down on my life
so many ways to set me right

it’s such a long way home
it’s how the story goes
and it’s like atom bombs and blunt razors
atom bomb sand blunt razors

Jonathon then says it’s a sin
but he don’t think twice cause to him
religion don’t mean a thing
it’s just another way to be right wring
just like a knife down on my life
so many ways to set it right
that’s how it goes that’s how the story goes

it’s such a long way home
you’re too hold to understand
cause I just want to get home now
I just want to get home now

Jonathon’s right down on my life
so many ways to set me right
on the long walk home
that’s how the story goes
and Jonathon Fish always a risk
tells me he counts my teeth every night
I want to get them all back now
I want to get them all back now
and I want to turn him around

This song is Britt singing about a bully he knew in high school (or some kind of school). I read in an interview with Britt that Jonathan Fisk comes to their shows now. What a way to win over your enemies!

Britt recently worked on the soundtrack for the movie “Stranger than Fiction” with Brian Reitzell. Several classic Spoon songs were used and the soundtrack even included a new spoon song, “The Book I Write,” which I haven’t been able to get out of my head for days now. Spoon’s music really connected with me when I was first exploring indie rock music. Girls Can Tell became a soundtrack for my early college days and we spent many evenings listening to Spoon and Yo La Tengo records in the dorms. While my fellow Santa Cruz buddies were jamming to Zeppelin, I was figuring out how to play both the piano and guitar part of “Anything You Want” simultaneously on guitar. I even have a picture I snapped of myself with Britt Daniel from “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” He didn’t seem that thrilled to meet me. That’s ok. I still think he’s a legend.

Spoon 2

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I’ll lose some sales and my boss won’t be happy but I can’t stop listening to the sound…

by anti-folk hero

The Kings of Convenience are one of the most relaxed bands that have ever floated through my consciousness. Their music is breezy and laid back but still complex and interesting. Their songs are based on the harmonies of two guitars and two voices. The Norwegian duo consists of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe, a couple of dudes who used to jam together and finally decided to write some songs. They only have two albums out at the moment and Erlend is already in another band, but their second release transcends cultural barriers and resonates perfectly as an album without pretensions or self-consciousness.

Riot

“Riot on an Empty Street” plays like a lost Nick Drake album (if he’d been accompanied by John Denver) or an English language João Gilberto record. But the key here are the harmonies; the record is propelled to greatness by the intricacy of the singing and guitar playing. The two sing and play complicated arrangements as casually as if they’d been born to play them. The nylon string guitars are also a nice touch; having grown up playing both nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars myself, I appreciate a record that makes use of the softer, more percussive sound of a nylon string guitar. Let’s take a look at Cayman Islands, a track from “Riot on an Empty Street.”

Here are the lyrics.

Kings of Convenience – Cayman Islands

Through the alleyways to cool off in the shadows
Then into the street following the water

  • This reminds me so much of Venice. We were there in late July and it was hot as all hell, and we literally walked through the alleyways to cool off in the shadows. This couplet is my experience of Venice, perfectly captured.

There’s a bearded man paddling in his canoe
Looks as if he has come all the way from the Cayman Islands

These canals, it seems, they all go in circles
Places look the same, and we’re the only difference
The wind is in your hair, it’s covering my view
I’m holding on to you, on a bike we’ve hired until tomorrow

  • Now this has me thinking of Amsterdam on a quiet street off of the main drag. The lyrics evoke the reflection of a person who is just visiting, though looking around passively on the back of a bike. The lines about the wind and the bike bring you out of your reflective state and back in the moment, a good moment I’d assume, to remember the beauty and happiness you’re feeling at that point in time.

If only they could see, if only they had been here
They would understand, how someone could have chosen
To go the length I’ve gone, to spend just one day riding
Holding on to you, I never thought it would be this clear

Kings of C

These lyrics are relaxing, refreshing and enjoyable. Having just backpacked my way through Europe last summer, the lines in this song bring back memories of walking around in Venice and Amsterdam. Its not often that modern music is used to relax, soothe, or alleviate the tensions in our lives. Most often, with music like punk or pop, what we get is something that emulates the tension we feel. While this can help us feel connected to a greater mass of stressed out people, the Kings of Convenience have used their songwriting skills to create something that allows you to sit back and dream. Who else can you say that about these days?

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