Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beatles Re-Revisited.

I know I already have written on the experience of hearing the remasters for the first time, but now that we are going to reproduce that experience for you, and now that I know more details about the actual reissues, I thought it would be worth revisiting the topic of The Beatles remasters. On 9-9-09 local purveyors of great sound Listen Up will bring down a really high-end stereo system and we will set it up on our stage as though a band were going to perform. I secured from Capitol records the comparison disc I referenced in my other blog. On this disc you will hear 13 snippets of songs and the corresponding snippets from the new versions. This is followed by three of the new songs in their entirety. I think it is safe to say that hearing it on this system, in this setting will be an eye/ear opening experience for you. The value of these new versions will really be brought home to you. I have listened to it again myself a few times in the last few days under “optimal” conditions, and my opinion has not changed. In fact it has strengthened if anything. The new versions are like Dorothy stepping out of that black and white house onto the yellow brick road. Talk about kicking off your muddy boots. It is kind of hard to believe it has taken this long for the label/band to get around to this. When listening to George Martin’s brilliant re-imagining of Beatles music for the show “LOVE” I remember thinking, “why don’t they all sound like this?” This music is so much a part of our collective DNA at this point that we should be listening to it with this level of scrutiny. Finding new details in music this renowned is more than just an interesting sidebar, it is a moment of cultural reflection (I half kid).

So, we will be playing the music on the big system, and we will be serving some booze and snacks, and we will have the new Beatles video game to check out as well. I’ve seen some of the animation and it looks pretty cool. In addition to this we are encouraging you to bring in a favorite piece of Beatles memorabilia. I’ll look over them and choose the best. That winner will get a rare official Apple Records Beatles banner and some other stuff.

We will have the individual CDs on sale for that first day only for $9.99. The rest of the week they will be discounted, but not that heavily. As far as the two box sets are concerned, we still don’t know how many we are going to get. I ordered pretty heavily on them, but we are told there may be allocation depending on demand. We will just have to wait and see. The stereo box comes with a DVD of all quicktime computer files that are embedded on the first run of cds. To me, that is a pretty big incentive. The mono box is supposedly limited to 13,000 copies, which isn’t a lot for any official Beatles product. To my ears, those early albums sound best in mono. That limited supply is a pretty good incentive to get that box. It sounds like it is the one that will become highly collectible, although there are no guarantees. I have had a lot of customers ask me to put one or more of the boxes aside for them. I’m telling everyone the same thing; let me see how many I get first. Obviously our greatest hope is to take care of everyone.

It’s hard to get my head wrapped around the historical significance of this event. As a lifelong Beatles fan, it feels like they are putting out a new album, and that’s pretty exciting. As a music retailer, I can’t help but think this is one of only a number of events left that will excite the general public about the thing that I do for a living. I do believe physical music will continue to be around for a good long while, but I wonder how many more times it will rise to the forefront of the public’s consciousness this forcefully. I look forward to a good night of music, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Bowling Ball!? I got yer bowling balls right here. Representing local music retailing mecca Twist and Shout will be a group of visitors from another dimension. Not satisfied with just pulling in some ringers, we have brought the fabled lost Mexican Wrestling team from another planet back to defend our honor. Yes the name itself strikes fear into the loins of our enemies: Los Chimichangas Dinamicos (sans flavore). These 8 liquored up aliens will be knocking down drinks, pins and biting the ears off our enemies: The Flobots, The Fray, Flogging Molly and anyone else foolish enough to challenge us. In spite of the fact that this is for the Flobots charity which brings music to our schools-our wrasslin’ ringers will kick their asses with no quarter given. You don’t think we are serious, bitch? - check out these mugs:

Bam Bam en Fuego

 Pantalones de Sangre

El Taquito Majico

Rocktasha la Rockera Especial

La Huracan Mas Sexy

Astronauta Mas Sexy

El Azteca del Twisto

Huevos Magico

Cower, mere mortals, for we will bowl you into another dimension!

- Chimichangas Dinamicos

Living Artists, part the first

You know, this Michael Jackson thing got us to thinking. Why don’t we ever pay tribute to our heroes when they are alive? I mean, why do these great people have to die before we wax poetic about them? We asked some of our friends and employees to pay tribute to a living artist by answering some questions for our blog. Feel free to post your own tributes in the comments!

Mike Venutolo-Mantovani - Matador 

Artist: Archers of Loaf

1) How did you get turned on to this artist?
When I was 11 my cousin bought me a copy of Icky Mettle I'd never heard anything like it. And I still haven't.
2) What was the first record you got by this artist?
Um. Icky Mettle, bro. The first one I bought myself was Vee Vee. I was 13. Wayyyyy too young to be ingesting the Archers.
3) Have you seen the artist live? What was the best show?
I never saw them live. (un)fortunately I got into the band at a very young age and they never really reached a level of recognition where they were playing major venues and all-ages type shows. I tried to sneak in a few times in NYC but never made it. By the time I was old enough to get into the clubs they toured through, the band had broken up.
4) Have you ever met this artist?  What would you tell them if you were to have dinner with them?
I've met Eric Bachman (singer, guitar). I continually make a fucking idiot out of myself and am convinced he will never think I'm cool. Which is fine.
5) What makes this artist different than others?
How friggin good they are.
6) Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you?
I don't know. Why does anyone like anything?? I guess the most accurate answer would be because it makes me smile every time I listen to them.

Scroobius Pip - musician
“If this doesn't make sense that would be because I have had several drinks and am in a part of Norway that doesnt get dark. It messes with your head..."- 
Artist: Prince

1) How did you get turned on to this artist?
To be honest I was real late. I had obviously always been aware of him but became more obsessed on a holiday to New York in a bar that played "Let Go Crazy" every night. It spawned a mild obsession. Then I watched a youtube of a James Brown gig where he got Michael Jackson up and then Prince, and Prince blew both of those legends off the stage.
2) What was the first record you got by this artist? 

Predictably... Purple Rain. Which, whilst it is predictable, is STILL genius. "Darling Nikki" is equal measures of absolute genius and absolute filth. its finding all the album tracks that turned it into an obsession. In "Ballad of Dorothy Parker" he manages to deliver the line "Then I took a bubble bath... with my pants on" and make it sexy.

3) Have you seen the artist live? What was the best show?
I dont like to talk about it. Prince did 21 shows in london and I had tickets to see him twice. Then things took off with Dan le Sac and I and we got our first headline tour that month. Obviously I had to miss the shows. Then, a year later, we played Coachella and Prince was headlining! "This is my chance!" I figured. Coachella happened to fall in the middle of ANOTHER tour so we literally ended up flying over, playing, then flying back the next day whilst Prince was playing. One day.

4) Have you ever met this artist? What would you tell them if you
 were to have dinner with them?
We could never meet. It just wouldnt work. He is tiny and smooth. I am huge and hairy. It just wouldnt look right...
5) What makes this artist different than others?
The fact that he is Prince! Pretty much everything about him makes him unique. The fact that he writes, records and plays pretty much everything on his albums and has done right from the start. Theres just no one like him.
6) Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you?
I really dont know. I guess it is the mystique in a way. He couldnt be further from the life I have grown up in. I live in a small town in england. Have done my whole life. And there is nothing at all "small town" or, really, "British" about Prince! I guess, aside from the music, the slickness, the sexuality... it's the exoticness of this weird little purple dude.

Scroobius Pip

David Weingarden -Director of Concerts/Talent Buyer, Swallow Hill Music Association
Artist:  Wilco

1) How did you get turned on to this artist?
I saw the HORDE tour in 1995 which came through Michigan… Morphine was on the small side stage. Great to see them, too.
2) What was the first record you got by this artist? 
I was a roadie for few years in the mid-90’s.  The band and crew would get advance copies of a lot of music. Being There came on to the bus and I remember sitting around listening to “Misunderstood” for the first time and thinking… wow! these guys are really on to something.  I’d say that I listened to that album more than anything else that year.  Beck's Odelay being a very close 2nd.
3) Have you seen the artist live? What was the best show?
I’ve seen Wilco about 20+ times… it’s hard to say what show was the best.  I saw them in 97 or 98 at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  Really young and fun… Loved watching Jay Bennett move from instrument to instrument.  This past Red Rocks show was great… though the show in Colorado Springs last year was terrific, probably because it had better sound. Saw Tweedy do 2 solo shows at the Fillmore in 2007 (I think) that were fantastic, too, which were featured on the Sunken Treasure DVD.
4) Have you ever met this artist?  What would you tell them if you were to have dinner with them?
Briefly… the band I was working for shared a bill with them in 96 or 97.  I haven’t a clue what I would ask them at dinner…
5) What makes this artist different than others?
They go against the grain, make their music and don’t compromise their creativity.  That, and all of them are just tremendous musicians. Tweedy is one of our generation’s greatest songwriters.
6) Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you?
I love to be excited by music and they excite me.  I’m a sucker for a good song, experimentation, and a strong live show. I like to be kept on my toes.  Wilco… Wilco… Wilco loves you baby!

Natasha Alexander – T&S staff

1) How did you get turned on to this artist?
I was part of the MTV generation; remember when they played music videos and not beach party/ real world crap??? SO the Eurythmics were one of the coolest bands with all of those amazing videos like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Here Comes the Rain Again”.
2) What was the first record you got by this artist?
1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) by the Eurythmics was the very first album I bought on my own. It was the soundtrack to the film 1984. We called this music New Wave back then.
3) Have you seen the artist live?
Sadly, no…
4) Have you ever met this artist?
4.5) What would you tell them if you were to have dinner with them?
I would love to thank Annie Lennox for being one of the most amazing women in rock EVER! Her ability to stay fresh and relevant have continued through decades and she made that tough almost androgynous quality sexy. But she never had to rely on her sex to be amazing (unlike Madonna). She was soulful, deep and still had a lot of humor.
5) What makes this artist different than others?
There is a strong emotional expression in all of her music which I think sets her far apart from the average Pop performer.
6) Why do you think this artist strikes a chord with you?
Perhaps I saw Annie Lennox as the type of woman I wanted to grow up to be. Strong, Independent and ever changing as an artist.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Phish-Day III and IV

The action doesn’t let up! Two more incredible days at Red Rocks. The second half of the run finds the band playing in an equally muscular fashion, breaking out new material and rarities each night. Night three’s first set was highlighted by the incredibly rare “Mound” as well as letter perfect readings of the dense “Guyute,” “Tube” and the perennial crowd pleaser “Run Like An Antelope.” Second set kicked off with a totally balls-out cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock &Roll” followed by a high-energy set of mostly uptempo favorites like “Down With Disease,” “Free” and “Harry Hood.” It was the quintessential night at Red Rocks. Perfect temperature, visibility and vibe quotient made it an evening to remember. The final night began auspiciously with Ween’s sly philosophical tract “Roses Are Free” which got the crowd jumping. A twelve song set followed with too many winners to name, but “Reba,” “Sample In A Jar” and the hard rock new song “Kill Devil Falls” all won crowd favor. The second set was truly a special event. Opening with a percolating version of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” the crowd literally went ape-shit dancing like there was no tomorrow. Following right on its heels was what is probably the closest thing Phish have to a signature song - the long, complex and always fun “You Enjoy Myself.” During the vocal Jam at the end, we could see a second drum kit being set up on stage. Then who should saunter onstage with arms raised high in a triumphant pose but Grateful Dead drummer Billy Kreutzman. The enhanced Phish then proceeded to offer the most diverse and energetically played set of songs of the run. “Undermind,” the Eno-esque “Seven Below,” “2001,” Waves” and an over-the-top “Character Zero” all betrayed how excited they were to play with this legend, and Kreutzman looked over-the-moon about the experience. Not satisfied to rest on their laurels the band returned for an epic three-song encore that concluded with one of the best versions of “Slave To The Traffic Light” I’ve heard. With that they did their Beatles bow and walked off. It seemed almost hard to believe that it was over.

Here are a couple of observations about Phish;

1)They music they make has more in common with Led Zeppelin, Gentle Giant or Yes than it does with the Grateful Dead. Yes, they do extend some songs with improvisation, and their audience is very similar to the Deadhead phenomenon - in fact many of them are misplaced Deadheads (witness - me), but for the most part their songs are highly composed, full of changes and tempo shifts and are often too codified to “jam” on. Much of their concert is usually taken up with the recreation of these extremely intricate numbers that are exercises in practice and precision more than loosey goosey jamming. They are all serious musicians playing serious music.
2)Trey Anastasio is one of the very few guys out there of his generation who is a bona-fide guitar hero. There are almost none left, and it does not appear to be a value in most modern music. That’s fine, nobody says rock music HAS to be all about electric guitar solos - however, if that is your cup of tea-you are insane for passing this band by. Anastasio’s playing is an amalgam of many styles, but one hears Zappa, Page, Hendrix, Fripp and Santana as much as Garcia in his solos. If you like the guitar, it is thrilling to see him working it with Phish.
3) The thing the band has most in common with The Grateful Dead is the audience and the in-concert experience. Throughout the years I tried to turn people on to both The Dead and Phish, and what I’ve learned is that, the audience itself makes it almost impossible to be a casual fan of these bands. There is such a culture (and I use that term very loosely) built up around seeing these bands in concert that it by default becomes a lifestyle for many. When a newcomer enters the scene (difficult because the faithful snap up all the tickets) they are off put or even freaked out by the reverence and (misguided) importance that every gesture the band makes is given. The fans treat the band like the second coming and outsiders feel like they are at a religious service. This is too bad for a couple of reasons. The pressure it puts on the band is ludicrous. No band, or musician can stand the pressure. Garcia, Lennon, Dylan, Townshend and on and on have all bemoaned the “spokesman of a generation” tag, and it has, partially resulted in the loss of Jerry and the near-loss of Anastasio to drugs. It also deadens the ears of the audience. If it is your lord and savior you are watching on stage it makes it hard to hear it when they hit a wrong note, or deliver a lackluster show. This level of fandom is not good for fans, artists or art. I understand it, and I have been part of it at times, but as I’ve gotten perspective I’ve come to believe that if we want to continue enjoying our favorite artists, we must give them some distance. For the music’s sake and our own. Phish are great! I don’t want to lose them to our own fanaticism. I remember reading interviews with them before their self-imposed hiatus five years ago, and they indicated that the pressure was getting to them and they didn’t want to end up like the Grateful Dead where the scene overtook the band and its artistic impetus.
4) We are so frickin’ lucky to have Red Rocks! Each night I had at least one moment of awe about the physical wonder of this place. When it is right, and the breeze is blowing, and the moon and stars are above, and the audience is swaying to the music with the great plains spread out before us, it really DOES feel like a religious experience. Red Rocks is a power spot on this earth, and we, as residences of this great state, must never forget just how lucky we are. Amen

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Girls Rock Showcase

Girls Rock, final day. Saturday, August 1.
Well, the day is finally here. The showcase is just a few hours away and there's still lots to do. Each band had 20 minutes of practice. When they weren't practicing their song, the girls were making buttons (thanks to the help of Fancy Tiger) or getting their hair and makeup done, which was very exciting for most. They made the most of it, getting tattoos, putting glitter on their eyes, cheeks and lips, and rocking out their hair. Some brought outfits that they had planned and others wore their logo'd t-shirts. After eating pizza (and reapplying the shimmer on their lips), the girls were picked up by their families and taken to the Mercury Cafe.

At the venue, the volunteers marked off an area for the girls and set up the merch table. Photographers took pictures and the instrument instructors ran through soundcheck. After the doors opened and the families started pouring in, the energy of the place just skyrocketed. Monique, project director for Girls Rock Denver, gave a tearful introduction to the organization, conveying how emotional it was to see a year and a half of hard work finally come to fruition. After that, it was all about the rock. The order of the bands could not have been more perfect, starting with the youngest band (they effectively tugged on the heartstrings of the crowd) and ending with the oldest (which included a 16 year old drummer with 5 years of drumming experience). So it was The Next Generation, Kosmic Rumbles, Trouble at Midnight, The Unknowne, Sparkling Lemonade and The Lighter Side of Dark. The camp volunteers were not the only ones emotional while cheering the girls on; the families were so proud of their girls and they created such an enthusiastic vibe. The Mercury Cafe was packed and I'm still amazed that none of the girls froze while onstage. They all remembered their parts and lyrics and the only mistakes were likely having more to do with not being able to hear themselves or each other. But none of that mattered because the crowd was so loud and supportive every step of the way.

As Trouble at Midnight was preparing for their performance, I put Sadie's tour posters on the stage. And they launched into the song without the worrysome nerves that I thought they would have. They were spectacular and I could not have been more proud. And sad. I was realizing that this was it. The end of a pretty intense week. The last band, The Lighter Side of Dark, was reportedly approached afterwards about doing a gig next summer at the zoo! Hopefully that'll work out somehow with the guitarist living in Kentucky. But just news of them being asked to play outside of camp was incredibly cool!

After the bands performed and the adults led them in the camp theme song that they created during camp, the girls scattered. I eventually found all my girls and gave them a quick hug and a card that I had for each of them. As some of them left, I had the urge to call after them, "let's go bowling or something," but instead it seemed as though this might be the last time I see some of them, and it was so sad! Zoe gave the volunteers boxes of cookies and the moms and dads of the rest of the band were so appreciative of our time, dedication and enthusiasm for what we were doing. It was so rewarding to hear the parents talk about how much their kids loved the experience and how the parents were planning on getting them the instruments of their choice. The showcase proved to be the inspiration needed to get others involved in the organization. So many people approached me and the other volunteers about wanting to be managers, coaches, instructors or just wanting to be involved somehow in next year's camp.

Volunteers sometimes don't get the luxury of knowing how much of a difference they've made on another life. But when I asked camper Alexis what lessons she has learned this week about being a girl, she answered: 1) Girls are smarter than boys and 2) Girls are really independent. So I know that somewhere in the midst of all the rock & roll, the girls learned a little something about empowerment, healthy self images and the possibilities of equality between genders. So I'm completely certain my time and energy went to a particularly good cause!

Girls Rock!

Friday, July 31. Day 5.

The day before the showcase. We decided to rotate the girls through a plugged-in band practice, instead of 2 hours of instrument instruction in the a.m. So each band got 20 minutes to practice with karen (bass instructor) and sara (drum instructor). I think this worked well, considering that the girls were having a hard time keeping focus for 2 hours in instruction classes. Also, it gave them an added band practice in front of some new eyes. I sat in the bass class for those 2 hours and had the girls run thru their parts. Several times, we went to the playground for some fresh air.

In the afternoon, Trouble at Midnight had their loud practice upstairs in the drum room that was lined with mirrors. Seth ran them through the song and spent particular attention to the last line of the song, "I want my life to rock!" This is where the rest of the band was going to join in. But they weren't very enthusiastic about it. They were told to shout it loudly. But for some reason, that didn't come easy to them, so we told them to do it while looking at themselves in the mirror to show how uninspired it was. After awhile, it finally sounded loud and we ran through the entire song 3 more times. Luckily we had some comedy relief after an hour of a pretty focused practice. To start the last song, Bella was about to count everyone in but realized her drumstick was upside down. And after the song, Sadie asked the band whether, when raising her arm during the I-Want-My-Life-To-Rock line, she should hold it like this (slightly bent) or like this (straight). I don't know why Seth and I thought that was so hilarious, but we did. I guess it's easy to forget what young girls tend to focus on.

After practice, there was an hour of showcase run-through. Each band was going to have the chance to play their song in front of the rest of the camp. Finally, I got to see the other bands and it was not disappointing at all! I just can't get over how great it was to watch each girl get to this point. What a treat. During our afternoon practice, Seth asked each girl what they did well during the run-through and what they needed to change. We also got our t-shirts back with our band logos on them. I was so impressed with TaM's logo, considering how quickly they threw it together. I think it was Tuesday when the girls got to work on designing their logos. During this workshop, the managers & coaches had a meeting. When I walked into the logo workshop with only 10 minutes to go, I saw that each girl was doing their own drawing. After realizing that they had not agreed to any one thing, they voted on each of their drawings. There were 2 that got the most votes so they worked on putting them together. They didn't have much time to work on it, but it came out so great nonetheless. Maggie May's moon saying "That's Ms. Trouble to you," was so very appropriate!

Finally, at the end of the day, the lovely Marni (guitar instructor) gave a kickass workshop on how to work with male musicians. The girls seemed to really like this workshop. At one point, Marni told them that if they're not moving their own gear, the boys aren't going to take them seriously. So she enacted a scene of how to do that even though they might not be able to lift gear. She got down and lifted one end of an amp and shouted to fellow female volunteer "Hey Joe, come help me lift this. I want to move it right over there." This way, girls can convey a self-confidence that proves that they are in the band and that they are as strong as the guys, which is important as a female musician in a male-dominated industry.

Phish - Day II

Different day, different weather, different vibe. Day two found Phish in an even more musically serious mood. With stormclouds threatening, they opened with a nostalgic trifecta of songs “Runaway Jim,” “Chalkdust Torture” and “Bathtub Gin” which put the crowd in the partying mood. The band and the weather then took a big left turn. The title track to Trey’s new solo album, “Time Turns Elastic” is dense, complicated and full of prog-rock twists and turns. Clocking in at almost 17 minutes the song got more and more intense, ending with another heroic guitar workout by Anastasio, while the sky started to spit, then drool, the pour. It rained with increasing strength throughout the remainder of the set, which ended with a spacey, almost scary “Split Open and Melt.”

The rain continued through the set break with increasing severity, finally letting up after about an hour. The crowd was definitely a bit dispirited and in need of some big musical energy. Phish, as usual, did not disappoint. Opening appropriately with a high-energy version of The Who’s “Drowned,” they jammed effortlessly into the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” which drove the crowd into a near frenzy. The energy dipped a little during the two new songs “Joy” and “Backwards Down The Number Line” which has a beautiful, melodic guitar figure at the end, and promises to be a winner in the future. Then, audience and band held their breath for an instant as the band launched into the rare and highly anticipated classic “Fluffhead.” One of their most complex and change-riddled songs, they pulled it off without a flaw. It was truly a reward for the faithful, the loving, the damp. The set ended with a great version of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life” which they debuted at Red Rocks in 1996 and still has all the power and resonance it originally did. 

Soaked, but not satiated, we went home with nothing but tomorrow on our minds.

--Paul Epstein