Archives For Live Music

Phish UIC Pavilion

This is not a review. These are simply my observations.

It’s no secret that I like Phish. I’ve been to some pretty awesome places because of them over the last 15 years and I have in turn seen some very cool stuff while following them around. But trust me, this past week in Chicago I saw (and heard) some things that I’ve never seen at a Phish show before. It’s always a great time and this time was no different. But….

  • “Take it to the fucking gutter”

For some reason, on night two, in the encore, during “Heavy Things” of all songs, some dude no more than 3 inches from my right ear just started shouting “take it to the fucking gutter.” I’m not sure if I’m out of touch with what’s going on on television or in forums, but, yeah, never heard someone repeat that phrase over and over before.

But, while it was bit annoying, Gentle John and I had a lot fun shouting “take it to the fucking gutter” to random passers by, waitresses, bartenders, and cab and bus drivers for the rest of our Chicago stay. Our logic-maybe if we put the phrase out there to enough people, someone would tell us what it was from.

  • That’s not water…or cream soda

Night one, not really sure what caused me to turn my head but, when I did I caught a 2 second glimpse of some tool pissing in his water bottle. Now, I’m not sure why this upset me so much, but I was totally dumbfounded. Maybe I was afraid that we’d get Hep C or that this dude would brush up against me or maybe I was upset that I spent 15 minutes in the bathroom line missing Alumni Blues>Letter to Jimmy Page>Alumni Blues.

Now, while the bathroom situation was out of control and definitely a hazard for many, this kid is just an idiot. Get clue, fucker.

  • My mom got me this floor ticket, left me with $ for coke

“Dude, I lucked out big. One of my mom’s clients asked her if she knew anyone that wanted a floor ticket for Phish at UIC. Best gift ever.”

This is a conversation that I overheard during setbreak one of the nights. I thought it was cool that a kid’s mom got him Phish tickets. I was touched even. That all went away when this dude opened up his pack of Parliaments, grabbed a cig out along with a bag a powder, and then proceeded to pour the powder into the recessed part of the filter. He inserted in his nose and then did the same for his dirty buddy. Winning and spinning.

Well, at least these kids had a good time and their hearts didn’t explode. I’ve never seen two kids dance around that much when there wasn’t anything to dance to. If you’re into this sort of thing, look for “dipped” Parliaments on a lot near you.

I’m not going to go on too long about this show but to say that I was a bit peeved by the final notes is a bit of an understatement. First and foremost, the music was good. Titus Andronicus continues to be impressive and explosive. Even with sound issues (believe it or not, they weren’t loud enough). Honestly, I’m surprised a riot doesn’t break out every time they play. I’ll definitely make an effort to see them whenever they’re around. Without a doubt.

And Bright Eyes. Well-Conor and co.  were better than good too.  Mike Mogis and Nate Wolcott are terrific musicians that add a ton to Oberst’s live show and the amount of applause they both received when announced is a true testament to that.  As for this particular evening, having seen Bright Eyes several times, I would say that musically this show sits somewhere near the middle. Song selection was  a bit People’s Key heavy but they managed to pull it off pretty well. The new songs sounded good and a little less flat than some of them do on record. There was also a nice mix of older tunes-a couple from I’m Wide Awake got a lot of people excited and “Bowl of Oranges” served as a nice singalong for a crowd that acted like they were at their first concert. Ever.

But besides the good that came from the night, the bad will probably be a little more memorable to me. I think what really got me going was the fact that there wasn’t a Titus Andronicus/Bright Eyes section where only Desaparecidos songs were played (totally joking, although that would’ve been rad).

But seriously,  the fist pumping dudes toward the front that jeered at every drug or alcohol reference, shouted I LOVE YOU Conor like they were thirteen year olds at a Dashboard Confessional show, were a little much. I know, I know,  I used to be that dude.  But…on this night there was no escaping them.  As the show went on, no matter where I went that wasn’t the Riverside lobby, they seemed to multiply. And while that was moderately tolerable right up to the encore, what I was really unimpressed with was the fact that the show ran amok and turned into a political soap box.

Rock n roll can be political. Hell, rock n roll is political. It stemmed from, among other things, political and social angst. So. Ok. Write political songs, incorporate political undertones that express your angst into your lyrics-basically be Titus Andronicus-but I could honestly care less about what a celebrity has to say about it. My allegiances may align with yours, but I could honestly give a shit if you want a crowd of people to press your proverbial “like” button while you stumble around the stage shouting. Sure, everyone ate it up. They went wild.

Fact is- instead of all of the useless banter,  I would’ve rather heard two more songs. I mean, that’s what we paid for. But instead  I learned that politicians are fundamentalist Christians that worship an imaginary deity and are only concerned about corporate America. Thanks. My life was enriched by that.

I was honestly entertained by their 2007 Milwaukee performance when an overindulged Oberst fell into his string section, jumped into the audience, and gave his guitar away. That show is memorable for the unbelievable set that Bright Eyes played and the fact that Conor was composed enough to skillfully play a guitar and sing his heart out while barely being able to stand on two feet. But the music was not the memorable part of this particular night.  Since their music was so important to me at a crucial part of my formative years and the fact that I genuinely enjoy the hell out their records, I’m kind of hoping that I forget about it.

From the Twitter:
#Phish is playing some crappy Little Feat album for Halloween and I wasted over $1000 to see the shitty album. Fuckers” –THE_RICK

Since 1994, every time that a Phish concert falls on Halloween, they put on a musical costume by playing one of their favorite albums in its entirety. To date they have played The Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia, The Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, Velvet Underground’s Loaded, and The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. They also surprised the hell out of an under attended Salt Lake City crowd with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon just two days after playing Loaded in Vegas in 1998.

So far Phish has chosen some heavy hitting crowd pleasers. Any fan not thrilled to witness any of those albums performed live would be insane. However, I recall that there was a ton of online negativity and WTF sentiment in regards to Loaded. After all it was 1998, still three years before the massive VU revival brought on by The Strokes and other NYC & LA bands.  At the time I remember that I wasn’t too familiar with Velvet Underground’s final proper and Lou Reed fronted album either. I had heard and loved “Heroin” and various other tracks but never dove into their catalogue. Thankfully, Phish hipped me to the Velvets before the hipster vampires began to feed and made Loaded one my absolute favorites.

Fast forward to this year. When early spoilers were tweeted last Sunday that Phish would cover Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus I thought that they had finally made a horrible decision and were about to completely alienate the majority of their fan base. Little Feat? Nope. Never listened to them and never thought that I would. Obviously, based on the tweet at the top of the page, I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. I had never been more grateful to have not been at a Phish show.

But that feeling was temporary.

They did it again. Waiting for Columbus makes sense on so many levels and Phish played the hell out of it. The influence that it had on Trey, Page, Mike and Fish is so incredibly noticeable that if you walked into Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall unaware of Phish’s Halloween history, you would’ve believed it to be their own. It’s funky. It’s fun. And it is all around fantastic!

No kidding, I have since listened to Waiting for Columbus in its entirety or in pieces, every day since Halloween. Seriously! if you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Tonight I had an opportunity to do something that I never dreamed was possible; I saw PAVEMENT at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. While interviews with Stephen Malkmus had me a bit worried about the seriousness and overall tightness that this ‘short’ reunion would showcase, all concerns were left behind when the first notes of “Two States” were played. From my angle, the band had just as much fun rewinding the last 15 years as the crowd did. They joked, shouted, and bounced around like a band that’s just starting out. Amazing! If you have a chance to see Pavement, do so. You may never get another chance to see a band that might be a piece of your puzzle.

Instead of boring or intriguing you with the details of the show or recapping the encyclopedia of songs that they played, I will just tell you that they only teased “Type Slowly” and that nostalgia through music is real. I was transported back to picking up a used copy of Slanted and Enchanted to entering and exiting a countless number of retailers in search of the reissue of the same album years later during my junior year at UW-Madison. On this particular night I envisioned my skater youth, life defining conversations amidst cigarette smoke and finding comfort in music during a time of massive disillusionment. Pavement, much like a lot of the music that I tend to hold near and dear to my heart, will always symbolize simpler times; times when decisions were easy and life didn’t contain spreadsheets. These brief vacations from daily existence can be the best and the worst prescriptions for ruts. It just depends how you use them.

Go here to—->Download: MMJ @Charter One Pavillion, Chicago 8/17/10

As expected our heroes from Louisville, My Morning Jacket, blew the clouds out of the sky at Chicago’s Charter One Pavilion on August 17th staving off what could’ve been a mood crunching rain.  While I’ve seen Jim and the boys a number of times before, this show added a bit more jam to my toast which was nice considering I was still reeling from four nights of Phish.  One to remember for sure.

Opening with one of the many beautiful sections of “Rollin Back” from It Still Moves they then launched into one of only three songs recorded before 2003, “The Way That He Sings” from 2001’s At Dawn and never looked back.  It was a smoking set that, to my surprise, contained their breakthrough It Still Moves almost in it’s entirety.  While that album shows heavily in most sets it was nice to see (sorta rare to me)  “Masterplan,” ” Easy Morning Rebel,” and the always welcome but seldom witnessed “Steam Engine.”  The rest of the set was a nice mix of Z and Evil Urges with the latter bringing the most jubilation from the crowd due the cape that Jim James dons for songs performed from it.

They also played one new song, “Circuital” that sounds like a culmination of many of the sounds and attributes in their repertoire that make them so special; Jim, a touch of his falsetto, a smidgen of noise, a pinch of acoustic strumming, and a punch of shake appeal.  That one has me really looking forward to new material!

Highlights: Rollin’ Back section, Run Thru and Lay Low reprises.  With Califone opening the show, MMJ didn’t have as much time to melt our faces as they usually would so they worked in the jam sections from the latter two crowd favorites.  It was a nice touch and very friendly.  They started “Run Thru” at what I call the ‘disco Slayer’ section and “Lay Low” at the peak of the jam.  While I would’ve preferred to hear each song in it’s entirety, I was happy with what we got.

“Bermuda Highway”– This is the song that I played over and over and over my first summer of getting familiar with the band.  It is also the first MMJ song that my loving wife heard and she has been anxiously waiting to see it.  QUICK STORY I remember that Rochelle, myself, and our friends Tom and Sarah went to Louisville to see them a couple of years ago and I all but guaranteed Rochelle that they would play it.  Well. They didn’t.  After that she had planned on writing them a letter that explained that we had seen them in four states and traveled x amount of miles and all she wanted was to hear “Bermuda Highway” live.  She never wrote that letter and now she never has to.  Hearing her excitement and seeing her smile on that evening made the show even better.


Rising prices for concert tickets is kind of a no brainer for artists.  The fact that it has become incredibly easy to freely acquire or ‘steal’ albums and hence decrease sales, offers an easy out when asked as to why the ticket price for their shows has increased by up to 40% in the past two years.  That is understandable.  However, I suggest that people will stop going to see you’re expensive show if you don’t switch things up a bit.

Surely not many in this economical climate have the extra money lying around to see the exact same set that you played in our city last winter.  Right. You are a great band with a great catalogue of music that plays your songs perfectly but please, change more than three songs on your setlist if you’re going to charge me $60-100 after I just paid $40-70 last year.

There are certain bands that I’ve expressed my love for on this blog that I will skip the next time they come around because the set will be EXACTLY the same with the possibility of a few new songs mixed in.  They won’t stretch them out and they won’t dip into their rarities……. I could only imagine that it would get incredibly boring to play the same songs night in and night out.

It sounds kind of weird but bands playing the same amazing show has gotten a bit old.  Each time they’re great and flawless but there’s no suspense.  No surprise.  Each show will be as good as the last but it won’t be any different.  You know exactly what you’re going to get and it’s hard to get excited about that.

In this case, for me, absence makes the heart grow fonder.   So, maybe wait a bit longer before you come back.  Play a smaller more intimate venue the next time you’re here.  Shit, talk a little.  I’ve been to plenty of shows that were made memorable by stage banter.

I think there has been some effort by the way of justifying the hike.  Springsteen and others have played full albums to break up the normalcy of their  sets; Tom Petty ticket prices included a copy of his latest album; starting in fall all Phish tickets will include an MP3 download of the show you attended.  While these bands are leading the way by explaining the reasons it costs so much to see them, is it enough?

PS: if bands have any control over any of this, see what you can do about lowering the price of a beer at these corporate sponsored amphitheaters and arenas.  $9 for a 12oz can of Fat Tire is almost as absurd as $13 for 24oz can of Coors Light.


Tonight’s “Storm the Bastille” 5K, the annual lead in to Milwaukee’s celebration of berets and towers named after men named Eiffel, led thousands of smiling sweaty runners and walkers through the streets of downtown.  This year’s festival features some great talent in Milwaukee native and favorite Paul Cebar (July 8), The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (July 9), Lisa Haley and the Zydecats (July 10), and Appleton native Cory Chisel closes out the weekend with his band the Wandering Sons (July 11).  Do yourself a favor and check out this truly unique festival in the middle downtown Milwaukee.  And if for some reason you are unable to attend you can still achieve a French feel by eating Nutella smothered crepes while watching this video of my  favorite froggy import over and over again.

When I think of France I think of amazing electropop.  Well there’s that and game changing headbutts.

Prior to last night’s Hold Steady set at Summerfest’s US Cellular Connection Stage I was engulfed with nervous anticipation.  It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady without the crowd pleasing party starter Franz Nicolay.  It was my first time seeing The Hold Steady play material off of a new record that (so far) has the least amount of intensity and replayability.  And it was my first time seeing The Hold Steady at a festival that places little more emphasis on sound quality and crowd comfort than it does on making sure that fifteen year olds aren’t smuggling in flasks of peach schnapps.

SOAP BOX:::::::I only saw two shows at Summerfest this year (Passion Pit & THS) and both were at the US Cellular Connection Stage.  I just want to say that the sound at this stage is ridiculous.  It’s muddy and distracting.  While I am grateful that we only have to pay a meager $15 to see some of our favorite bands in our hometown, it’d be nice if someone took some time and small amount of the massive amounts $$$ this festival generates to fix the sound issues.  If I came from miles away to see anyone and had to deal with a shitty sound system and BLEACHERS that hold no purpose, I’d be pretty unhappy.  Anyway….

The Show

The band stormed out of the gate with “Constructive Summer” and started building a set peppered with favorites from Separation Sunday, Boys and Girls in America, and Stay Positive with well placed new songs folded in.  “The Sweet Part of the City” ” The Weekenders” “Hurricane J” and “Rock Problems” translated well live, kept pace, and should be welcomed into live sets by any fan of the band.

Highlight of the night: “Sequestered in Memphis.”  From where I was standing, this was the only song that the crowd around me knew all the words to.  I found out that a Hold Steady show can sometimes only be as good as the crowd around you.  Singing, shouting, and flailing around in unison with Craig Finn and an elated audience is truly the highlight.  Hopefully some of the fans that got on board with Stay Postive and Heaven is Whenever will do some research and one day lose their voices during the “woh-oh” parts in “Massive Nights.”

Bummer: The set was devoid of Almost Killed Me. When it was 11:30 and the band was finishing Separation Sunday’s “How a Resurrection Really Feels” I was certain they would have time left for end of the nighter “Killer Parties,” but I was wrong.

Overall, it didn’t reach the epic levels of jubilation that a Hold Steady show usually does for me but it still didn’t totally disappoint.  And while I missed looking on at the suited, mustachioed, and dapper looking key tapper, the Franz Nicolay-less Hold Steady still breathes life into it’s audience with the best of them.


June 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

Timothy Showalter/Strand of Oaks

Timothy Showalter/Strand of Oaks

I just got home from yet another fantastic live music experience at the hands of Milwaukee’s own 91.7 WMSE.  It was the warm up show to the first annual Radio Summer Camp, a festival that is bringing great music to some of Milwaukee’s best venues from tonight (August 19) thru Monday August 24.  Tonight’s preview was a religious experience followed by rocking throwdown at Shank Hall that featured my friend and favorite new songwriter Tim Showalter/Strand of Oaks opening for the amazing Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.

Now I know that I have written and gushed over Tim’s work before but his songs and personality continue to blow me away and introduce my slightly coffee stained chompers to whoever’s around.  He impressed me even more tonight by showing up with nothing but his beautiful voice, guitar, and some effects pedals that enhanced the already pleasant atmosphere.  It’s so unbelievable that one man can produce the sound and explosiveness of songs that were recorded with a full band.  After the show I thanked him for playing “New Paris,” my personal favorite, and he smiled with appreciation but said “Aw, they sound so much better with a full band.”  I say they sound great any way we get to hear them.  We got a touch of some new material in the form a lyrically funny but sweet sounding song about post Blues Brothers Dan Akoroyd and his closing number that he wrote after a dream he had about his grandfather.  Obviously, I loved both.   Can’t wait to hear more and see a lot more of Mr. Showalter.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit followed and blew the roof off.  Being familiar with his work with the Drive-by Truckers and his two post Truckers albums, I’d say I was a casual fan.  But after tonight there isn’t an album I won’t cop or a show that I won’t see that has Jason on the bill.  They tore through some of his Truckers’ work and dominated newer songs to make them sound like they’d been playing them for decades.  Super tight playing all around.  If you’ve never heard him before I strongly suggest getting a hold of anything with his name on it if you enjoy good rocking accompanied by down home storytelling lyrics.  Highlights of the night for me came from “Outfit,” “7 Mile Island,” “Decoration Day,” Chicago Promenade,” and a lengthy and rocked out “Never Gonna Change” that featured the facemelting riff from “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”.

Big thanks to WMSE for throwing this whole thing together! If tonight is any indication of how the next couple of days are going to be, Milwaukee’s in for a real treat!