Sunday, February 28, 2010


I Hate When That Happens

Pet Peeve: Bands that show up late. If I make it a point to show up early to see your second-rate, lame-ass band, the least you can do is show up on time. Otherwise, you're wasting my time. You probably won't get a second chance.

And seeing you hang out at the bar, downing your comped drinks, when I've been waiting over an hour for you to show up just pisses me off. Get your ass on stage and hang out with your friends later.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Chinese New Year 1991

2/19-21/91 Grateful Dead @ Oakland Coliseum - Oakland, CA

As much fun as the New Years Eve runs were, I wanted to try something a little different, so I headed out to the '91 Chinese New Years shows in Oakland. While still a big deal, there wasn't nearly as much hype for these annual February runs. I figured it would be a nice, low-key way to spend some time with the Dead in their home environment.

We stayed with Jeff - a friend of my co-worker's up in Larkspur, just north of San Francisco. Jeff was renting a beautiful house up in the hills. Jeff would pop in and out of my Dead experiences in California over the next couple years. Great guy and a very gracious host.

The shows were a blast. Bruce Hornsby wasn't there, but that was fine with me. I wanted to hear Vince on his own for a change. These were the first shows of the year - a time when it's not uncommon for them to pull out a surprise or two. This time was no different.

On the first night, after a fun, solid opening set, they wound down with a nice "Cassidy" that rolled nicely into a completely unexpected "New Speedway Boogie." Holy crap. "Unexpected" doesn't even come close. They hadn't played that one in over 20 years. The crowd went apeshit. Jerry belted it out like they had never stopped playing it. The "One way or another..." part was a giant sing-a-long. One of my all-time favorite Dead moments. For the rest of the night we kept hearing this guy in the crowd yelling "BBBBBBBBOOOOGIEEEEEEE!!!! between every song. In fact - we heard him the next 2 nights, too. Funny. Annoying. Mostly funny. The rest of night #1 was a treat, but this night was all about NSB.

Night #2 was fun, but uneventful, with the exception of the Drums segment, which featured the legendary Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju sitting in. Good lord. Talk about masters. These guys are amazing. They had the crowd mesmerized. Fantastic.

Night #3 was the big Chinese New Years celebration. My co-worker/travel companion headed off to visit family for the day. We'd meet up later at the show. I called-up a tape-trading buddy of mine, Matt, who flew down from Seattle for the show. We had never actually met, but since I was carless, he volunteered to come pick me up and give me a ride to the show. I know it sounds cheesy, but I miss those days when I was less cynical and more trusting of people. I did some things I'd never do now (like let complete strangers stay in my apartment for a few days), but I was also repaid in kindness many times over. Ah, to be young, fool-hardy and happy.


We got there pretty early, getting a good spot on the floor, about 1/3 of the way back. The show was great. The Chinese Symphony Orchestra opened. No - really. It was awesome. The Dead were terrific, as well, pulling out a lot of the big guns - "Help->Slip->Franklin's", "Playin' ", "Terrapin", "Eyes", etc. Very nice. The highlight was during Drums when they had the Chinese New Year parade. I don't remember too much about what was going on, other than the giant dragon running around the floor of the coliseum and this HUGE orange bird on a stick that was swooping around. It was kind of like a kite, I guess, but the guy was swinging it around like crazy. Somehow he managed to keep it swooping down over us - coming seemingly inches from our heads, then having it soar back up and around in circles. All while Mickey, Billy and Airto were drumming like crazy. Another magical Grateful Dead moment when everything seems completely insane, yet perfect at the same time. The world needs more of that.

I had a blast at this run. It was nice to experience a regular west coast run without the insanity of New Years Eve surrounding you. I decided that this was going to be an annual trip.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


2/16/89 They Might Be Giants @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

I think They Might Be Giants is one of those bands that everyone goes through a phase with, then eventually grows out of. I discovered them in college - as I imagine everyone does. They were quirky, funny and just odd enough that they could stay in the "alternative" realm - whatever that means. I remember buying their first cd when it came out. I used to call their dial-a-song hotline a couple times a week. I thought "We're The Replacements" was hilarious. "Don't Let's Start" is still catchy as hell. By the time this show came around I had discovered The Grateful Dead and was generally preoccupied with them. Still - It was a quick way to flashback to college for a couple hours, so we went to the show. It was fun, but the songs didn't seem as clever, the music seemed pretty tame now and I felt a bit old in the crowd. The show was fine, but I realized that I had grown out of TMBG. I haven't paid much attention to them since. They're still around though. I never would have guessed that to be the case, 20+ years later.

2/14/93 Inspiral Carpets @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

I went to this one with my then-boyfriend. He wanted to go, so I went along. All I remember is that I hated it and wanted it to end. Just not my thing at all. I just didn't get that whole Manchester thing. (shrug)

2/19/96 The Next Step @ The Bayou - Washington, DC

The Next Step were a local Grateful Dead cover band. At least I think they were local. Anyway - they had some kind of Mardi Gras party at the Bayou, so I went with this really cute guy. We had met at a bar a couple days prior and this was our very first "real" date. 14 years later, we're still together. In fact - today is our anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Baby.

2/21/03 Mission Of Burma/Oxes @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

The return of Mission of Burma. I never saw them back in the day, so I wasn't about to miss this. Oxes opened. As I recall they're an instrumental band from Baltimore. I recall thinking they were really good, but I don't think I've heard anything from them since. Too bad. I'd definitely check them out again, simply on that vague memory.

Burma was really good. My knowledge of them had been limited to that Ryko compilation that came out many years ago. They played enough from that to keep me happy. I'm not sure if it was them or me, but I didn't really "get it" this night. I thought the show was fine and I was very glad I went, but I just didn't see the fire that so many reviews of their past seemed to rave about. I left thinking they were a really good band, who were doing a respectable job of a comeback tour.

Of course, they're still around and now they tend to blow the roof off of everywhere they play. I'm glad I gave them another chance after this show, because I certainly "get it" now. They're an amazing live band. In fact - I'm going to see them on Saturday. You should go, too.

There's a lot more to come for February. One week where I saw 6 shows in a row and a ton of Dead shows from various trips to Oakland. I'll try to spread those out over the next couple weeks.

Monday, February 15, 2010



2/13/10 Furthur @ Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA

1st Set
Jam >
Playin' In The Band
Wang Dang Doodle
Friend Of The Devil
Greatest Story Ever Told
Ship of Fools
Sittin' On Top Of The World >
New Speedway Boogie

2nd Set
Help on the Way >
Slipknot! >
Franklin’s Tower
Cassidy >
St. Stephen >
Revolution >
The Eleven >
So Many Roads
Let It Grow >
Playin' In The Band (reprise)

Encore: Johnny B. Goode

Despite the fact that the show was nearly sold-out and a large portion of the parking lot was filled with giant mountains of snow, we got in and got a great parking spot with no problem. We hooked up with one of Don's friends before the show, had a couple beers and we were inside at around 7:40.

I guess the stage was bigger than the seating chart indicated, because rather than being one section out from the stage, we were right at the front corner. We actually had a great view of everyone except the backup singers, but the sound was a bit lacking. Still, you couldn't get much closer than we were without being at the very front of the floor.

This was my first real Dead-related event since the Obama benefit gig back in 2008. The big change with this line-up is the addition of John Kadlecik of Dark Star Orchestra on guitar and vocals. I've seen John a bunch of times with DSO and he can totally nail Jerry's sound - both vocally and his guitar style. Hopes were high that they finally got it right.

The first set was quite nice, but a bit of a mixed-bag. The opening "Playin' " was ok, but I don't like it in the opening slot. It's one of those balls-out jamming songs that they do better after they've warmed-up a bit. "Wang Dang" was pretty forgettable, as it usually is. We finally got John singing on "FOTD". They played the fast version, which I had never heard the Dead do before. I'm pretty sure there was a major vocal miscue in there, but it otherwise sounded fine. I still wanted more from John though. "Greatest Story" was a bit perfunctory and seemed to drag a bit.

But then things took a turn. They did "Ship of Fools" (with John singing) in a different manner than I'm used to. It was quite bouncy and fun, with a vibe almost like "Loose Lucy" used to have. They did a great job with it and John started getting approval from those around us. They followed this with the highlight of the set - "Sittin' On Top Of The World" - a song from The Dead's very first album that the Dead stopped playing many, many years ago. And they nailed it. John's guitar playing was fast and furious - almost a bluegrass-style - and the rest of the band played with a fire that hadn't been seen yet in the show. Sweet. The set ended with a rocking "New Speedway Boogie" which turned into quite the sing-a-long by the end. The first set started a little slow, but ended on a great note, leaving me anxious for the 2nd set.

Set 2 started out with what turned into the highlight of the evening - possibly one of the best "Help->Slip"s I've ever heard. Certainly the best post-Jerry one I've heard. John took the vocals for this one. The "Help On The Way" was tight, fun and had the drive needed to push the song to "fantastic" status. Then came the "Slipknot". Holy crap. Tight when it needed to be. Loose and spacey when it needed to be. It was perfect Grateful Dead music. I just closed my eyes and got lost in it. [Lucky for you I deleted the long, hippy-dippy description of what the song was doing to me at the time and my related thoughts. You're welcome. ] It really was absolutely perfect.

And, as expected, after the lengthy jam, "Slipknot" tightened up, ended and fell seamlessly into "Franklin's Tower". The crowd went nuts. Everyone dancing, smiling and jumping around, knowing they're in the middle of a great version of one of the quintessential Grateful Dead combos.

And then Phil started to sing.

Phil Lesh has got to be completely tone deaf. The man can't sing for sh-t. With the exception of the few songs he used to rarely sing with the Dead, he completely ruins everything he tries to sing. He really just needs to play bass (which he is masterful at) and otherwise STFU.

So in a matter of seconds I switched from one of the greatest post-Jerry musical moments I've ever experienced, to cringing at the sound of this terrible voice ruining what should have been a stellar moment. It was painful. Soul-crushing. I had to leave. I went out to the concourse and walked around until the song was finished.

"Cassidy" and "Lovelight" were good, but I hadn't quite recovered yet. It was around this time that Don was wandering around the arena and we discovered just how bad the sound was where we were. Oh well...

"St. Stephen" started out ok, but they seemed to keep dropping it down to a real quiet and slow mode. Every time they got it built-up to a new level, they'd drop it down again. They'd build it up again to an exciting apex, then bring it down. Frustrating. Seemingly out of nowhere they went into The Beatles' "Revolution". It was an OK version, but there's really not much to the song and I thought the placement was odd.

THEN they went into The Eleven. A terrific version of a difficult song. Bob pulled-off the lyrics just find and John sounded really nice. But I have to wonder about this combo. Why on earth would you split one of the classic combos ("Stephen-> The 11") by inserting a mediocre cover song? The playing on all of them was fine - especially "The 11" - but "Revolution" killed the flow and the power the other 2 songs usually develop.

As "The Eleven" wound down we recognized the opening notes to "So Many Roads" - a nice latter day Jerry ballad. Don and I just looked at each other and went "Oh no." Please don't let Bob sing this and PLEASE don't let Phil get anywhere near it. Luckily, John stepped up to the mic. And he f--king nailed it. Just beautiful. The voice, the guitar - close enough, but not quite imitating Jerry. One of the high points of the show. This is what this band has been missing. Well done. More of this, please.

We were expecting this to go into "One More Saturday Night" and were a bit shocked to hear the opening chords to "Let It Grow." A very nice version and a great way to end the set. Or so we thought. From there they went into a "Playing Reprise." To be honest - I was dead tired at this point and just wanted it to be over. It seemed a bit superfluous, since they did a complete version "Playin'" to open the show. It sounded fine, but I was done.

We were even more surprised to the the "JBG" encore. It's a bit of a throwaway, but it's always a rockin' good time. This may be the first Saturday "Dead" show I've seen where they didn't play "One More Saturday Night."

So the show was a mixed-bag, but overall I'd say it was very good. I really hope they let John stay for a while, let him gel with the band a bit and let him open things up. This lineup has the best potential the band has seen in a while. When they're hitting everything just right, it's absolutely incredible. I'd definitely go see this lineup again.

Just don't let Phil sing any more.

Friday, February 12, 2010


February Continued...

2/ 7/90 The Residents @ Lisner Auditorium-GWU - Washington, DC

This was the first time I had seen The Residents - and definitely my favorite show of theirs. This was on the "Cube E" tour. The premise was basically that Cowboy music + Blues/Slave music = Elvis. As the formula suggests, the show was in 3 parts and each focused on a highly bastardized interpretation of the 3 genres of music. The first 2 parts were a bit disturbing, but the Elvis part was just freaky. Completely Residents-ized versions of Elvis classics. Familiar, yet downright frightening. The King and Eye came out around this time. If you want to scare people - put it on at a party.

Here's a nice little medley of "Teddy Bear" and "Viva Las Vegas."

Great show. I love The Residents. I hate the fact that they play at 9:30 these days. They deserve to be seen in real theaters and auditoriums. It's just not the same with bar-noise and distracting movement and lighting. It's a performance - not a gig.

2/ 7/97 JGB @ The Bayou - Washington, DC

This band was basically the remains of The Jerry Garcia Band, which had obviously stopped playing when Jerry died back in 1995. I remember Melvin and the girls, but I'm not sure if anyone else from the original band was there. I don't remember anything they played, but I do remember the emotional wallop we took hearing Melvin play that organ and the girls singing those backup vocals. I was kind of surprised it hit me so hard. I remember thinking the guy singing and playing Jerry's parts was adequate, but it really wasn't about him. This was all about Melvin, Jackie and Gloria and saying goodbye to the JGB. It hit the spot perfectly.

2/10/04 The Shins/Cass McCombs @ The Black Cat - Washington, DC

I remember nothing about Cass McCombs. Nothing.

The Shins were touring for Chutes Too Narrow, which I love. I believe they played 2 shows at The Cat and they both sold out really quick. I remember thinking they were good, but not great. They just didn't seem to have any fire to them. Like they were just going through the motions. I came away thinking they were a decent band that made great records. There's nothing wrong with that, but the show came off a bit lackluster to me. My one sentence review from my original entry for this show kind of backs up my memory. As does my next time seeing them in 2009.

2/11/05 The Wrens/Army Of Me @ The Black Cat - Washington, DC

The Wrens are a good band, but why, oh why, don't they put out any new music? I don't think they're released anything since this show, but they still tour. They were really good, but my main memory of this show was the chatty chatty chatty crowd. I know people complain about noisy crowds all the time, but this was just ridiculous. STFU already. Much more can be found in my original review.

2/ 9/06 Mary Timony Band/The Aquarium @ The Black Cat Backstage - Washington, DC

I love The Aquarium. I haven't seen them in a while, but they sued to be primarily instrumental and would play before screens showing a variety of movies behind them. Not Hollywood-type movies, but the kinds of movies we used to see in school back in the day. I'm not sure why they don't get more attention here in DC. They're a great band.

Mary was good - as always. The BF was there with me for this one. I think we met up with this guy, as well. Original review here.

2/ 9/07 Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

I can't believe it took me this long to see Jonathan Richman. I've been a fan for over 20 years, but never got around to seeing him. He didn't disappoint. He only played a few songs I knew - but it didn't matter. His story-telling and charm were thoroughly entertaining. I'll gladly see him again anytime. I thought it was cool that people brought their kids. What a perfect show to bring your kids out to. The only bad thing I remember about this show was when the "whooping guy" showed up late and started yelling "Roadrunner, Roadrunner!" very loudly in the middle of one of Jonathan's other, more quiet songs. Congratulations. You've been promoted from being a general annoyance to being a full-blown dick.

2/ 9/09 The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart/The Depreciation Guild @ Black Cat Backstage - Washington, DC

This show was a last-minute decision. I totally fell for the Pitchfork hype. Normally that's a disaster for me, but this time they were spot-on. Both bands have a shoegazey sound with some very melodic, happy-sounding tunes going on underneath. This show sold out at the door and was jam-packed. I may have actually liked Depreciation Guild a little better, but both bands were terrific. DG didn't have a cd yet, but they gave everyone who wanted one a website link where you could download their record for free. I got it as soon as I got home. Good stuff. I love it when I walk into a show knowing next-to-nothing about the bands and walk out a fan of every band that plays. It's nice to know that can still happen.

Both bands are worth checking out. If you like one, you'll like the other.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Early February Stuff

I was hoping to go to a bunch of shows this week. The Residents, Title Tracks, Olivia, Furthur... Not gonna happen. Stupid blizzard. I'm hoping to get to Furthur, since it's not until Saturday. And I really don't want to eat those tickets. We'll see.

Meanwhile... On to Februaries past.

2/2/01 All Mighty Senators @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

I wish I had seen The All Mighty Senators more often. A very funky rock band out of Baltimore. I'm not sure how they got a gig headlining at 9:30. The place was maybe 1/4-full. Loaded with drunk fratboy types and their drunk dates, but it was still a great time. I think the fact that it was so empty and I was able to move around a lot helped quite a bit. Lots of dancing. Fun was had by all.
Well...At least until I got back to my car and discovered it had been broken into. Someone smashed my window and took everything - including my coat from the trunk. Bitterly cold, window down, no coat. It was a long ride home. I parked in the 9:30 parking lot for quite a while after that. hrmph.

Anyway - Good band. The only disc I have is Flow and it's well worth a listen.

2/3/01 Meat Puppets @ 9:30 Club - Washington, DC

Ah, yes, the return of the Meat Puppets. Sort of. I think Curt was the only original member at this time. I used to love the MPs back in the day. I hadn't seen them in years and wasn't going to pass this up. As with most reunions of favorite-bands-past, it was fun, but just not the same. The mayhem was gone. They went from being a great, powerful, almighty force of a band to just being a good band. Glad I went, but I told myself I was done. That would change years later when Cris would rejoin.

2/1/06 - The Rolling Stones @ First Mariner Arena - Baltimore, MD

This was the smallest show of their tour. The smallest place I've seen them play (about 14,000). I actually joined their fan club in order to get a chance to get presale tickets. Not a cheap effort (about $100 to join), but it worked. Decent seats, straight back about half-way up. I'm pretty sure this is the most I've ever spent on a concert ticket. Definitely the most, if you include the fan club cost. And these weren't even the expensive seats.

The show was fantastic. They opened with "Jumping Jack Flash" and never let up. "Midnight Rambler", "Gimme Shelter", "Sympathy For The Devil", "Honky Tonk Woman", "Start Me Up", etc. Don said he still preferred the bigness of the stadium gig back in '02, but I thought they were on fire tonight. I think I need to make it a point to never miss them when they come around again. I usually only go once every 2-3 times they come around, but they can't be doing it much longer, right? Right?

2/3/06 - (the sounds of) kaleidoscope/French Toast @ The Black Cat - Washington, DC

I loved French Toast and was going to see them as often as I could. As I said in another recent post, TSOK have a great , psychedelic, buzzy, unique sound to them. I haven't heard much from either band that isn't really, really good. Another great bill of local DC bands.

2/1/07 - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band @ Verizon Center - Washington, DC

I had my doubts that Seger could still fill big arenas, but I was proven wrong. The tickets were reasonably priced, but I still told myself I'd only go if we got good seats. Halfway back on the floor was good enough for me.

I'd call this one a guilty pleasure - except I have no guilt. It just rocked from start to finish. You forget just exactly how many hits this man had. Some of them sound a bit cheesy now, but as a kid growing up in the 70s/80s his songs were everywhere and very much a part of my growing up. This was one of those shows where I went in thinking "Just don't embarrass yourself, Bob" and came out reminded what a great old-school rock and roll star he is. Good for him.

2/3/07 - Telograph/Two If By Sea/Cedars @ Black Cat - Washington, DC

Another great local lineup I wish I could see again. This was a cd release party for Telograph - a band I didn't know well at the time and don't think I've heard much from since. I never did get around to picking up their cd either. I'm not sure why. I was trying to listen to every band in town back in 2006/2007. Not sure how they slipped by. Two If By Sea and Cedars were two of my favorites at the time though. I couldn't get enough of either of them. DC had a lot going on around this time.

Damn it's snowing like a mother------.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


So Long, Butterstick!

Heartless commie bastards! Taking away our panda. F-You!

We'll miss you, Butterstick.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Random Stuff

I actually watched the Grammys in their entirety last night. I came to the conclusion that we're all doomed. The Lady Gaga/Elton John duet was really good - and I'm not exactly a big Gaga fan...although I admit I'm becoming intrigued by her. Cirque du Pink was pretty damn awesome. Wow. But beyond that I thought it was pretty much a disaster.

My last entry made me realize that I'm totally falling out of touch with the local music scene. One of my resolutions this year is to start paying more attention again. Casper Bangs has been sending me emails for a few months. I finally gave in and ordered their new 7". It's pretty darn good. I did a little research and discovered their connection to The Hard Tomorrows, who I used to love. That explains how I got on CB's mailing list. Anyway - Buy the 2-song 7" and get a download code for 5 tracks. Not a bad deal. I missed their show on Friday, but I'll make it a point to be there next time.

Any other suggestions who I should start back in with?

My big news for the week is that Joe's Record Paradise is moving to downtown Silver Spring. In fact - The grand opening is today. I'm totally excited about this. No more trekking out to Rockville to go vinyl shopping. The new location is about 10 minutes from my house and walking distance from both my gym and my favorite bar in town. I totally see me going to the gym...rewarding myself with record shopping...then blowing my workout by going to The Quarry House, loading up on tater tots and reviewing my purchases with greasy fingers and a few cold ones. Sweeeet.

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