Tag Archives: the dead

MTH-V: Warren Haynes Band Live

Summer approaches, meaning:
– I spend much time thinking of great outdoor shows from summers past
– I listen to more DMB than normal (and I already listen to a lot), gearing up for the annual summer tour

Today, this leads me to Warren Haynes Band. Last summer, during my annual DMB pilgrimage to The Gorge on Labor Day weekend, I saw Warren Haynes’s solo band perform a smokin’ set. Haynes & Co. were my favorite (save the headliner) of DMB Caravan 2011 – last year’s full-blown festival. (TR3 and The Roots also get honorable mentions for also tearing the nonexistent roof off the place.)

Warren Haynes, a who’s who rock and blues guitarist, has earned his reputation as a top-notch gunslinger playing for The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead (and various Grateful Dead satellite projects), and Gov’t Mule. 2011 saw the release of Man in Motion, for which he’s been touring in support of with a killer backing band. After seeing this band (the same personnel as the below video) absolutely destroy last September, my first order of business upon returning home was to purchase Man in Motion. Good songs and good jams abound, although I must say I prefer the live band of more obscure side(wo)men – the studio effort understandably features a few more “name” acts. The same live band is also featured on the recently-released Live at the Moody Theater (2012). Besides the band simply being filled with solid musicians, it’s one of my ideal instrumentations: drums, bass, keys, guitar, male & female vocal, horn. Very versatile.

This video is from the band’s performance at last year’s Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, TN. Oddly enough the first time I saw Warren live was at Bonnaroo 2005, both with Gov’t Mule and when he sat in with DMB – talk about coming full circle for this post! The one and only Lewis Black introduces the band and enjoys the show from the wings. (Black himself is a fan of good rock – he often uses “U.S. Blues” as the audience exit music after his shows.)

Warren Haynes Band:
Warren Haynes – Guitar, Vocals
Alecia Chakour – Vocals
Nigel Hall – Keys, Vocals
Terrence Higgins – Drums
Ron Holloway – Saxophone
Ron Johnson – Bass

MTH-V: GD’s “Shakedown Street” Live

I’m busy with a lot of playing this week, so I’m posting another vid that doesn’t require too much annotation: a live performance of The Grateful Dead‘s “Shakedown Street” from 1989. This particular performance has been one I’ve returned to time and again for the last few years.

Although I don’t quite consider myself a Deadhead, I am a fan. (Since I’m the equivalent of a Deadhead for DMB, I know what’s involved in such a moniker, and wouldn’t claim to be such for The Grateful Dead when I’m obviously not.) A number of my friends and musical partners past and present are Deadheads, however, so I’ve been around their music for about a decade. I have a number of albums and live recordings, and actually consider my attending concerts of both The Dead and Phil Lesh & Friends to be some of my more profound live music experiences. I’ve also played their music in a number of groups: Teag & PK, Zentropy, The French Henchmen, and all of my musical endeavors with Pat Harris (including The Dirty River Jazz Band & The TCQ – two iterations of what I consider to be my first real band).

“Shakedown Street” is a great song. It’s definitely a dance number, which is a big reason I enjoy it so much. That also makes it fun to play – if done right, the crowd gets moving, further fueling the band. (I played this quite a bit with Zentropy; it was always a fun time.) It’s the title track of their tenth album (1978), and is also the namesake of the fan-run vendor area, selling items legal and “otherwise,” found in the parking found at their shows. (The name has since been extrapolated to other bands and fan communities – the vendor area for any band/festival is generally referred to as Shakedown Street nowadays.)

As mentioned, I don’t consider myself a Deadhead. I can’t get too deep into the minutiae of X month of Y tour being my favorite, etc., but I do have a relatively active knowledge of the band’s history. (What recordings I have span their output.) Hopefully I won’t cause too much controversy by saying that I really dig the late-80s live material, the lineup for which included the late Brent Mydland. This video’s performance comes from July 9, 1989 at Giants Stadium. (Recorded just days after Truckin’ Up To Buffalo – I mention that because I own that recording, and I love Buffalo – it’s my wife’s hometown and where we got married. :)) As is evident in this video, the band can not only jam, but groove. Hard. Jerry, Bob, Brent, and Phil snake in and around each other’s lines and ideas, all while maintaining the ensemble’s forward momentum. Jazz snobs take note, because the Dead display improvisation and group interaction as well as most any other jazz ensemble…

I hope you dig it. I have for a while, and will for a long time to come.

Grammys 2012: My $0.02

For me, the Grammys largely come and go most years without much notice. I occasionally have some small emotional stake in one or two awards. This year I was pleased to see Bon Iver (praised here) not only nominated but win, and I was pleased that they refused to perform. I don’t often watch the show. It’s not out of protest or an attempt to be some sort of hipster; I’m more curious in the outcome than the fanfare, presentations, and most performances. And yes, I’m well aware that the Grammys are more of a corporate than artistic affair. (That’s part of what made Herbie‘s well-deserved 2008 Album of the Year win so exciting.)

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

This year I actually had Sunday evening free and decided I’d watch the awards show. You know, give it a chance. (After all, I was hoping for some Bon Iver success, and I was quite looking forward to the Beach Boys‘ reunion performance.) That lasted about 30-40 minutes, or however long it took for Chris Brown‘s sad display to end, before I shut it off. Bruce was Bruce (and wasn’t helped by the awkward camera work), and the derivative Bruno Mars set lost my interest after a minute or two. (I love James Brown’s music, especially when it’s James Brown doing James Brown. [Un]fortunately [for Bruno Mars], it’s more than wardrobe and staging.)

Then good ol’ Chris. Not only was I offended when I first saw it (having looked up from my laptop, as I was also following the Greek debacle), but my irritation has grown as the week’s progressed. His performance, as I’m sure you know by now, sparked controversy across all media, but not for artistic reasons. Everyone’s been in a furor over 1) the Grammys allowing him to perform after his pre-Grammy domestic violence a few years ago, and 2) various reactions to those reactions, etc., especially via the all-powerful Twitter (granting gravitas to dumb 14 year olds everywhere). Yes, domestic violence is awful, and should not be either taken lightly or even forgiven. But here I’m coming from a strictly artistic point of view – music only, personal history aside. People who have done far worse have received infinitely much more praise throughout the years, and it’s often necessary to separate the music from the (wo)man. As someone with a deep, deep love of the music of both Miles Davis and Richard Wagner, I know this all too well. As high as a mantle as I may place the appropriately-named Prince of Darkness, I know and discuss his many shortcomings. It would’ve been amazing to have been his employee and band member, but not so much his friend or acquaintance. Forget Brown, Miles could have given a masterclass in misogyny and domestic violence. (Let’s not forget that he also enjoyed boxing). And of course there was his legendary drug addiction. Yet he recently received his own US stamp…

Often, an artist is quite complicated, and while a person’s life can and does inform their art, the art can – though understandably not always – also be judged separately from the (cult of) personality. Sure, different strokes for different folks – what some can compartmentalize others cannot. It can be as severe as Miles, or as subjective (for me) as Ted Nugent. 🙂

Anyway, back to Mr. Brown. Aside from his absurd staging, which resembled more of a realized Q*bert fantasy than anything else, his lip-syncing was atrocious. Not that he was lip-syncing, but that he was doing so poorly. Unless, of course, he wanted onlookers to believe he could circular breathe while doing so. Add to that the fact that he was lip-syncing something that was severely auto-tuned and you’ve got a recipe for something really special. I watched it as one would watch a train-wreck, and then to my astonishment the crowd (largely of music industry types) went wild. Hm. A man lip-syncs vocal effects in front of thousands of musicians and is adored. Corporate or not, that’s something to behold.

This whole last week, Adam Carolla has been saying about Brown on his podcast that, “We’ve constructed a society in which you can be forgiven for anything as long as you can dance.” While he was saying that in context of Brown’s domestic violence and Jacko’s many controversies, his point could just as well be applied to Brown’s performance itself (and many other pop acts). As with most things, Ace was on-point.

I simply waited until Monday to catch the Beach Boys performance on the internet, and I must say I watched it probably twenty times. What a joy. Unfortunately, most reviews referenced or centered around their age and appearance, but let’s not forget that they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary. (That generally means old.) Sure, some of the harmonies could have been a little cleaner, but overall they sounded quite good for all being near 70. And in context, they outdid the preceding lackluster cover performances by Maroon 5 and Foster the People. (Case in point, when Adam Levine and that other guy joined them for the end of “Good Vibrations,” Levine made no effort to actually sing into the microphone. Was he afraid the judge wouldn’t turn his/her throne around?) Yes, the Beach Boys are old, and Brian Wilson often looked near death. However, given everything they’ve been through – professionally, emotionally, physically, mentally, and psychopharmacologically – it’s amazing those survivors did anything at all. (Just skim their lineup history for a taste of the drama.) And Brian Wilson actually looked to be having a ball at times.

As surprised as I was to hear so much discussion of Chris Brown after the Grammys, I was equally surprised – and disappointed – at the lack of Beach Boys discussion. While I didn’t expect them to receive undying praise from all media outlets, it seems as if their performance was largely unnoticed. Perhaps I’m cynical, but maybe there are just too many left alive to care. I mean, The Beach Boys are one of the biggest rock/pop acts in American music, and Brian Wilson is consequently considered one of the great American pop songwriters. The Beach Boys also allowed the US to give England & the Beatles a run for their money in the 1960s. I’m sure part of it is their heavy association with a particular geographical area (i.e., the tropical coast), and the fact that their enduring career provided a decent amount of cheese, possibly diluting the more substantial material. (I can’t be the only one my age who remembers endlessly hearing “Kokomo” at the roller-rink in elementary school.)

[This of course touches on a whole other area worthy of much discussion – longevity and surpassing one’s prime – distilled in this clip from High Fidelity (a GREAT movie for pop music snobbery — one of my favorites, and one I often reference in this blog) – simply substitute The Beach Boys for Stevie Wonder.]

Although Brian Wilson (and the rest of his bandmates) have enjoyed wildly different post-1960s careers than those of McCartney, Lennon, et. al., and even the Grateful Dead, the fact remains that they belonged to bands that laid the groundwork for much of what took place the subsequent 4+ decades. I saw a (skeletal) Beach Boys performance around 2003 – Mike Love had licensed the name for touring with bandmate Bruce Johnston and a backing band that I think comprised most of the Grammy backing band – and it quite fun. Similarly, and more profoundly, when I saw the original Black Sabbath in 2004 & 2005 and The Dead in 2010, I knew that I was seeing a genuine piece of rock history. Also in those cases, the old original members blew away their younger competition.

Going back to the aforementioned Grammy performances, The Beach Boys actually sang (!!!) those trademark tight vocal harmonies and ended up a footnote, whereas Chris Brown pretended to sing auto-tune and walked away with much of the press’s attention (thanks also to his tremendous hubris).

And jazz and classical musicians are sad to be largely excluded from this circus…? Blech.