For the music fan in all of us, summer tours are a breath of welcomed fresh air. For me there’s nothing like a cold one, good friends and rocking out under the goddess’ own sky to my favorite bands to make the season complete. Keep Manhattan just give me that country life – well not really, but I’ll take an outdoor venue any day of the week, rain or shine, over a techno hyped indoor spectacle. But this summer, I don’t know. With unemployment at a record high, my non existent bank account as parched as the desert and the Sequester about to hit in force, indoor or out, what price glory for 90 minutes – at most, of music?
Depending on whose good graces I’m in at the moment, when I’m covering gigs under my nom de plume I’m usually comped so ticket prices aren’t an issue. But sometimes I’m not and then the money’s coming straight out of my pockets and deep these days they are not. So you can imagine the sticker shock I received when I totaled the cost of tickets for the 9 national touring acts I’m due to cover: $2000. $2000 effing dollars?!? Granted some of the tickets are after market with a sizable mark up, but damn. 2 Grand for 9 tickets? I mean this is for music not the cure for cancer or to end world hunger. And while I will never underestimate the importance of art I’m shocked and somewhat sadden that live music is being priced out of existence for the average person. And these are pop/Top 40 performers mind you – not a Broadway show or a couple of nights at the Met. No – for the most part we are talking about lip synched, highly choreographed live action video shows that with very little variation I could watch on YouTube. And adding to the ticket price the cost of parking, gas and various accoutrements, I may in fact do just that – me and I suspect a good portion of the very audience most artists are trying to attract.
But this isn’t rocket science nor casted in stone. To that point one concert promoter in particular, Live Nation has partnered with multi-Grammy Nominee Kid Rock to offer a $20 a ticket tour. According to the Wall Street Journal’s John Jurgensen, Kid Rock and Live Nation came up with an interesting scheme:
Instead of taking a big upfront fee from the promoter, the “guarantee” an act receives even if attendance is poor, he shouldered more risk by sharing ticket sales with Live Nation. In exchange, the promoter agreed to share revenue from food, drinks and parking—house earnings in which entertainers rarely get a stake.
Although it remains to be seen if this innovative approach will result in sell out crowds at least it is an attempt to address the dire financial straits in which so many fans are now finding themselves. I for one applaud this attempt and hope more major label artists follow suit, but knowing the industry as I do, I’m not holding my breathe. Instead I’m going to make sure that for every national act I see that I also patronize a local band at a local venue and I encourage everyone to do the same. Live music is the salve for our trouble times so lets make sure it plays on, for everyone.
Marc Cohn, Boulder Theater - 01/17/13
I’m not sure you can talk about any Marc Cohn show in Colorado without talking about what happened to him in Denver on August 7, 2005. Returning to his hotel from a show at Denver Botanic Gardens, Cohn was the victim of a carjacking in which he was shot in the head. The bullet lodged between his skull and and his skin, and fortunately, his wounds were not life-threatening. Logic would dictate that Cohn would have little interest in returning to Colorado.
Fortunately for us, Cohn doesn’t let logic get in the way of his love for Colorado and his fans here. Instead, he uses a story from the movie “The World According to Garp” to explain why he keeps coming back. As Robin Williams is talking with a realtor in front of the house he wants to buy, a plane crashes from the sky right into the roof. As the realtor frowns, figuring to lose a sale, Williams says, “The odds of another plane hitting this house are astronomical!” After telling that story, Cohn just laughs and says, “I fucking hope I’m right.”
So he always comes back. And maybe it makes Colorado shows just a little more special. Cohn came to Boulder as a trio this time, with Kevin Barry on guitar and Glenn Patchan on keyboard and backup vocal. They worked through a mix of Cohn’s smartly-crafted love songs, ballads, and middle-aged-white-Jewish-guy blues. The energy was high despite the usual effects of altitude on performers not from here. In addition to the ever-present stories about the songs, life, and the creative process, there was even more than usual a give and take with the audience.
At one point, when Cohn asked if anyone had any requests, the woman next to us shouted out ‘True Companion’. Cohn then asked if that was her and her husband’s wedding song (an obvious guess since it is popular as one). Turned out instead that her then-fiance had sung the song to her before proposing on the beach, and Cohn listened patiently, repeating particularly humorous parts for folks in the back. The story became a running gag throughout the show and ultimately, during the encore, when he sang the song he brought her up on stage to sit with him, a memory I’m sure will last her a long time.
The show was bluesier than most previous Cohn shows I’d seen, which probably had as much to do with Kevin Barry’s guitar style as anything. Barry has a long resume as a blues/roots session man and it was obvious throughout the evening that Cohn was happy and comfortable with the more soulful blues arrangements. The style was particularly appropriate early on as they performed ‘the Ghost of Charlie Christian’, a cover of the 1970 Joe Cocker hit ‘The Letter’(itself a cover of an earlier 60s song), and a raved-up ’29 Ways’. This was not going to be a typical show.
Then Cohn sat back down at the piano and started to talk about Levon Helm, who inspired the song ‘Listening to Levon’ from the album Join the Parade. Helm, singer and songwriter for The Band, died last year after a long battle with cancer and it was obvious that his death had given the song new meaning and depth for Cohn, much as it has for me when I hear it. He threw a few snippets of Band songs in as a nod to Levon. The song was beautiful and sentimental without being sappy.
He then called out opening act Rebecca Pidgeon (wife of playwright and director David Mamet and daughter of the late actor, Walter Pidgeon), a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, to sing backing vocals for a few songs and their voices meshed well, infusing a tenderness to ballads ‘Healing Hands’, ‘She’s Becoming Gold’, and a song he wrote for his father, ‘Silver Thunderbird’. The quiet almost reverent feel was in stark contrast to the earlier raucous blues.
He thanked Pidgeon for her help and introduced his biggest hit, ‘Walking in Memphis’, asking the audience if they wanted to sing along. Of course we did. And while it would have sounded a lot better if we had just let him do it, it was a lot of fun and Cohn seemed to really enjoy it as well, listening with a smile on his face. When we got to the part about Reverend Green, he launched into a soulful ‘Take Me to the River’. It was maybe the most intimate moment between a performer and audience I can remember.
The first time I saw Marc Cohn was in the fall of 1992 on the pier at the South Street Seaport in NYC. He was just a guy all by himself with an electric piano and an acoustic guitar. His first album had been out for about a year. It was also the first show my wife Patty and I ever saw together. I already knew then that I would marry her. And I also knew that I would see Marc Cohn every time he played.
Cohn is a perfectionist as a songwriter so he doesn’t crank out an album a year like a lot of artists. But every album is worth the wait. As is every live show. In 2010, Cohn paid tribute to his musical roots, recording an album of rearranged covers of songs from 1970 on album called Listening Booth. He chose to close this show with a couple of songs from that album, the first of which was Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’. Before playing the song, he told the story of how Paul Simon wrote it as a goodbye to his friend and partner, Art Garfunkel. I had always loved the song but never knew that and it changed the way I heard it.
The last song of the set was ‘Into the Mystic’, one of my favorite Van Morrison songs. Cohn is about five months younger than I, so I guess it’s understandable that I could relate completely to why he picked each and every song for the Listening Booth. As he sang it, you could feel how deeply he felt it, and he even managed to throw in samples from ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ and ‘Tupelo Honey’. A perfect end to a great and varied set.
They didn’t keep the standing crowd waiting long before coming back out for the encore. They launched directly into ‘True Companion’, calling the lucky bride up to the stage and serenading her, as her husband beamed and shot video. When he finished, Cohn asked if we wanted to hear “Walk Through the World’, and up-tempo pop song, or ‘the Things We’ve Handed Down’, a ballad he wrote when looking forward to the birth of his first son. We couldn’t decide, so he played them both.
He again joined Patchan and Barry for bows as the crowd stood and the houselights came up. Patchan and Barry left the stage and Cohn thanked us and it was obvious he didn’t want to say goodnight. He turned and called the guys back to the stage and said he wanted to do one more song if it was all right with us. We all assumed it was a rhetorical question, and as we sat down, he started to play ‘One Safe Place’, the song he wrote and sang to his wife at their wedding and which doesn’t appear on any of his albums. Considering what happened to him in Colorado that one night long ago, it was an ironic and heartwarming choice.
Got Anxiety? Don’t Go To The Movies
When life gets stressful there is nothing like a cheap matinee at your local gazillion-o-plex to provide a little distraction, right? And seeing a first run movie for $5 is definitely a major plus. However you might want to pass on that caffeine driven $6.00 soda if your nerves are an issue because if you’ve got anxiety, don’t go to the movies or instead of reaching for your popcorn you’ll be looking for your Ativan.
My early afternoon outing to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey almost turned into an unexpected panic attack due to the optical assault that was unleashed upon me from the moment the lights dimmed and the coming attractions starting rolling. It also became clear that if art is indeed a reflection of society then we are all fucking doomed. Every single trailer had one theme: The earth as we know it has/is/or is threatened to be annihilated by either nature/aliens/robots/demons/our selves or some combination thereof. From Will Smith on a desolate earth to Tom Cuise on a desolate earth to all of the 10 or so similar movie scenarios it is obvious that the fiscal cliff is nothing compared to whats coming for us. Even the animated How To Train Your Dragon is all about fear and destruction – of course in a cutesy Dreamworks kind of way so that your children will also have the pleasure of being faced with utter devastation. Forget sex, fear is what’s selling now.
And speaking of sex, let ‘s not forget Idris Elba’s new end of times flick Pacific Rim cause if I’m gonna die, that’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it.
Boston Music Awards 2012 Nominee – Caleb Groh Folk Artist of the Year
My first exposure to Celeb Groh was a couple of weeks ago at the RedStar Union where the trio was performing at a preview show for the upcoming Boston Music Awards 2012. Coming in from a cold snowy night I was impressed by the ultra techie meets musical wet dream theme (imo) of the venue. From the stunning stage design to the superb acoustics, my expectations for the night were heighten. So when Caleb Groh and his bandmates took the stage I was in the mood listen. Frist of all the instrumentation for the the group is pretty unique as there is no drummer. Caleb plays acoustic guitar, sings lead and plays the kick drum from his seated position. Jack plays electric guitar while Lilah Rose plays midi bass, sings and plays the snare drum all from her position on the floor à la 60′s flower child style. There was initially though, a moment of adjustment for me due to the lack of an actual drummer coupled with the laid back, almost too chill feeling of the band. However once the music began I was swept into the musical canvas that Caleb that paints so well both through his lyrics and his voice. I was really moved by their song Indigo and definitely disappointed by the length of their abbreviated 3 song set. However I was able to address my disappointment by checking out his BandCamp site for more goodies. And you should too.
While I’m not so sure I would classify this band as Folk, maybe Nouveau Folk, they definitely are winners in my book.
Boston Music Awards Nominees 2012 Moe Pope & Rain for Best Hip-Hop Act of the Year
Hailing from Roxbury, Massachusetts, Moe Pope has been rocking crowds since the early 2000’s. His first projects included Bay-Area based Mission (later known as The Crown City Rockers), Electric Company, and Project Move. Moe’s solo debut “Moe Pope and Headnodic Are Megaphone” was heralded as “a contemporary rap artifact” by the Boston Phoenix, and solidified his status among Boston’s best MC’s.
2010 saw the release of Pope’s most mature work to date. He hooked up with Boston producer Rain to create Life After God. The project was included among iTunes Rewind Top 10 New Hip-Hop Albums of 2010 and earned praise across the Hip-Hop blogosphere. Life After God showcases the MC’s conscious rhymes over complementing rhythms by the upstart beat smith. URB.com called Life After God, “another album in Moe’s catalogue that wholly devastates just about 90 percent of Moe’s contemporaries.”
And from there the story just keeps getting better. And don’t let the Hip Hop label lull you into believing that Moe Pope & Rain are just another out of the box beat band. What set these guys apart from their Boston contemporaries is their originality and musicality, which is rare combination indeed. Not only do they flow seamlessly together but their chemistry with the audience is undeniable.
It’s that time again. On December 2, 2012 the famed Boston Music Awards turns 25. To celebrate, their live awards show will held at the Boston Liberty Hotel spotlighting the accomplishments of the best of the Boston Area music scene. And what an eclectic palette it is. From newbies to local landmarks, Hip Hop to Americana if you are in in the area on December 2nd you should get your tickets and go.
And to get you in the mood, we will feature a different Boston Music Awards 2012 Nominee everyday leading up to the live show. Which will be also be simulcasted from the RedStar Union.
As for the Roy Sludge Trio, they are an awesome slice of musical genius. The the band becomes a trio minus Kevin Berry on steel lap guitar but the rest of guys Roy Sludge aka Allan Sheinfeld, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar; Duke Levine, Electric Guitar; and Jim Haggerty on upright Bass keep the joint rocking none the less. Although all of the players are seasoned veterans of not only the local scene but of the national touring circuit as well, The Roy Sludge Trio takes one on an unique, tipsy little journey through post modern Americana. Everything from the steady backbeat of Jim Haggerty, to the melodic musing of Mr Sludge fits right into a wide open groove that troubadour extraordinaire Duke Levine rocks the hell out of with his perfect electric swagger.
This year the band is nominated for Best Live Ongoing Residency for their current stint at Radio in Union Square, Somerville, MA. The band’s weekly gig is on Sundays from 4:00pm – 6:00pm. The parking ain’t bad but I would suggest you get there early if you want a seat because every time I go it seems that the secret is out and people are coming in increasingly high numbers. But the crowd is fun and the dancing sweet and the music is unbeatable. And guess what? No cover.
“And what does sex mean to society?”
That line, and many more just like it come from Human Sexual Response’s song What Does Sex Mean to Me? featured during their reunion concert at the House of Blues in Boston on Saturday, November 10. First of all this concert was moved from The Paradise to HOB, probably to fit the near capacity crowd which gave nothing but love to the original septuplets Casey Cameron, Larry Bangor, Dini Lamot, Windle Davis, Malcolm Travis, Rich Gilbert and Chris Maclachlan (who replaced Rolfe Anderson in 1980). But the House of Blues is no Avalon nor is it The Paradise. And while the band rocked the house, the miserable food service and the cold, dead feel of the HOB meshed with the parking nightmare that is Lansdowne Street made for an early night that longed for a second act. But this is Boston.
The last time I saw Human Sexual Response was literally decades ago. Then they were just a local Boston New Wave band with a knack for camp and a bad case of potty mouth. While their provocative name hinted at their in your face sexual bravado I remember my virginal ears straining to grasp the meaning of their double entendre laden lyrics. And while age catches up to us all these guys still got it. Not only do their songs’ social commentary still hold up the band also gave an energetic although too short for me performance. But it was worth every second.
The crowd was an interesting mix of people who bouy the band by singing along to just about all the songs. From grandmas to X’ers everyone was swaying, engaged and loving it. Although I really didn’t comprehend the opening act whose name escapes me, the crowd warmly accepted the strange duo who played an abbreviated 4 song set. However from Human Sexual Response’s opening number to the 2, count them 2 encores, the show as tight, fun and poignant as Dini announced that he had finally wed his long time partner Windle last year when Gay Marriage became legal in New York. And if you have never heard their trademark song Jackie Onassis live en masse, you need go and buy their new DVD “Unba Unba” which was filmed 30 years ago during Boston’s New Wave Hey Day. But what I truly love about Human Sexual Response is that they were open about sexuality in general way before it was fashionable or acceptable. Gay, queer, straight or somewhere in between nothing is sacred but all is embraced; they definitely were ahead of curve then and now. And since being under stated is not their forte, the band ended the night with Butt Fucked.
Good news the Unemployment rate in the US is somewhere around 7.8%. The bad news is that for the millions of long-term Unemployed & Uncounted Americans those numbers are pointless. And for someone like me who has been staring down the barrel of abject poverty for the last 4 years my chances of EVER being hired again are at about 6%. Wonderful.
What bothers me about my situation is that most people I know – all of which are employed, just blame me. They always say “well you know how you are”. Well if you mean that I’m an artist who needs to be creative, or a single mother that needed to actually see her kids or a human being that wants to enjoy life then, yes I do know what you mean. And if you are lucky enough to have a gainfully employed spouse, or to have a stable career or quite frankly too scared and stupid to see anything pass your 401K good the fuck for you. I hope nothing ever rocks your little boat. But that doesn’t make it “okay” for me and countless other people to be deemed unemployable and discarded. Jesus we aren’t even counted in the unemployment numbers and if that isn’t disgusting then I don’t know what is. Where is the outrage? Where is the compassion? And in the end where the fuck are we supposed to go? There is no social safety net and no there are no unemployment benefits after 99 weeks. Welfare or food stamps? Ha! I just thank god for Romney Care. And for all of you conservatives (that I’m sure never read anything I write) let me tell you I don’t know who those “entitlements” are going to but with a 0 income, it ain’t me.
So what does one do? I write. I create. And I pray a lot. But I also know that there is only so much I can take.
I also recently relaunched RadioComa. If you haven’t checked it out, I have included below a little sample on a segment I did called ironically enough Unemployed & Uncounted.
- http://t.co/3pKss0Eo #
- Congrats http://t.co/BTQ60Fap #
- One of the best events of the year coming up on 10/27. Help Somerville Local First raise much needed capital at… http://t.co/U5m05Iaj #
- B.B. King @ Santa Cruz Blues Festival « American Rock Shots http://t.co/hbQ7iMdP #
- http://t.co/M2WLfBMz #
- Carrie Mae Weems featured in New York Times http://t.co/AnJZcCkv #
- hellz yay http://t.co/WhGLlg3p #
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- Worried About Vocal Damage? Do This Everyday: http://t.co/rENrridj #
- Freak Show 101 at Coney Island | MetroFocus | THIRTEEN http://t.co/WeXWYPNZ #
- Boston Music Spotlight – Your Source for Music News and Concert Information » Susanna Hoffs to pla http://t.co/c2oSUDKs #
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