Phish - MSG New Years Run (12/28,29,30,31) setlists

Phish - 12/28/2012, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Set 1: Stealing Time From the Faulty PlanThe Moma DanceFunky BitchArmy of OneTube >StashNellie KaneKill Devil FallsFreeWolfman’s Brother -> The Little Drummer Boy -> Wolfman’s Brother
Set 2: Tweezer -> MazeTwist[1] > Theme From the Bottom -> FluffheadDavid Bowie
Encore: Bouncing Around the RoomGood Times Bad Times

[1] Little Drummer Boy teases and quotes
Notes: The Little Drummer Boy was played for the first time since April 16, 2004 (187 Shows).  Twist contained multiple Little Drummer Boy teases as well as quotes from Trey, referring to Fishman.
(ed.) Official setlists have overlooked the real significance of their teasing Little Drummer Boy. To my knowledge Little Drummer Boy was played for the first time on 12/28/94 the first night of that years holiday run (the second in existence) in Philadelphia at the Civic Centre.  I recall having attended all the shows on the run.

Phish - 12/29/12 - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

Set 1: Crowd Control, Mound, ACDC Bag, Rock and Roll, Sugar Shack, Reba, Halley's Comet, Limb by Limb, Velvet Cheese, Bathtub Gin

Set 2: Golden Age* > Waves > Prince Caspian , Boogie On Reggae Woman, Suzy Greenberg, Bug, Cavern, 46 Days

Encore: Coil, Grind, First Tube

* TV On The Radio cover

Phish - 12/30/12 - Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

1:Runaway Jim, Cities, Divided Sky, Back on the Train, Ride Captain Ride, Ocelot, YaMar, Horn, My Friend My Friend, Run Like An Antelope

2: Down With Disease > Twenty Years Later > Carini* > Backwards Down The Number Line, Julius, Slave To The Traffic Light

Encore: Harry Hood, Show of Life 

* Download.  Rated by Mr. Miner #6 top jam of 2012

Phish - 12/31/12 - Madison Square Garden

Set 1: Garden Party[1], Possum, Roses Are Free, Rift > Sample in a Jar, Alaska, Mike's Song > Walk Away, Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero
Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Ghost > Piper > Light[2] > Also Sprach Zarathustra > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself[3]
Set 3: Party Time, Kung > Chalk Dust Torture > Auld Lang Syne > Tweezer Reprise[4] > Sand > The Wedge > Fly Like an Eagle[5] > Wilson, Lawn Boy[6]
Encore: Driver, Iron Man[7]

[1] Phish debut.
[2] Auld Lang Syne tease
[3] Birds of a Feather tease
[4] With backup singers.
[5] Steve Miller cover, first time played
[6] a capella
[7] First Phish performance in full.
Notes: Arena floor and stage appear to be covered by a green lawn of live grass. Preshow webcast shows fans playing garden sports like badminton and mini-golf.

Third set song selection seems to reflect golf and the overall theme of a Garden Party: Sand, Wedge, Fly Like An Eagle, Wilson, Lawn Boy, Driver, Iron Man.   They did everything short of a 'Top Flite' jam in the middle of Piper.  Notably absent is the ultra-obscure Dog Log which contains the notable lyrics 'walking cross the lawn lawn lawn lawn'.  Perhaps if the song were called Dog Leg.

More to the point does a New Years celebration- built as it has been on an extended 3 set concert typically laced with obscure fan favourites and extended ultra-psychedelic and funk improvisations- with a golf motif seem a little bit middling?

Perhaps Phish in it's 3.0 configuration (same core membership several hiatus and one actual retirement later) is truly a renaissance act- a Phish cover band. As always the tapes and tales will tell.  Although staging a Runaway Golf Cart Marathon onstage at MSG was an adventurous enough idea and one that tipped the cap to their own lyrics and collective madcap history.

For a band that began the New Years Run tradition in Boston in 1993 with a flying hot dog containing the band that 'rode' around the venue a setlist built around golf motifs seems to be two things; entirely age and lifestyle appropriate for the band and most of its members and a good reflection of the median income of its core adherents.


Daryl Hall, Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger - People Are Strange

The paragon of Blue-Eyed Soul is of course Mr. Daryl Hall, who while occupying himself with restoring Georgian style mansions has made a venerable sideline with his Live From Daryl's House series of one-off musical collaborations documented for the web.  Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek from The Doors visit and while chatting before setting down to performing in a loose setting the three have an engaging conversation about Millbrook, NY close to where Daryl resides. 

Daryl fills Ray in on Timothy Leary's connection to the area, apparently Billy Hitchcock had a 55-room mansion which he made available to Leary's ego and entourage.  Ray chimes in that he believes that Stepenwolf was also filmed thereabouts.   A fitting entree to a set that begins with People Are Strange including Family Affair, Crystal Ships, Roadhouse Blues, Break On Through, Borderline and a perfunctory Kiss On My List.


Aaron Freeman - Nature Man (lyrics)

Nature Man (Aaron Freeman)

You could be my Nature Man
And I could be your Nature Girl
Walking with our boots on 
Streams of love trickling down 

Mr. Nature Man comes to me like a little girl
throwing daggers in the buildings
Southern eyes of greed and shame
Skin of paste and liquor
 throw your line to me I see your pain

You could be my Nature Man
And I could be your Nature Girl
Walking with our boots on 
Streams of love trickling down 

Have you held a newborne flower? 
Plucked yourself a sprig of Thyme in summer
A Yam in winter
 Take the shell of your soul and come with me

You could be my Nature Man
And I could be your Nature Girl
Walking with our boots on
Streams of love trickling down

The Cerebine's life, the berries glow
The seeds I have to show make growth seem like a possibility
The flesh peels, the bark peels off the flesh 
and succumbs to me

You could be my Nature Man
And I could be your Nature Girl
Walking with our boots on
Streams of love trickling down

Aaron Freeman (the now-deceased Gene Ween) was known in his now-former band Ween for writing the huge compendium of songs in their repertoire from which they would dip freely.  One of the things that made Gener such a thrilling performer was that he could sing in 4 or 5 different styles quite well including various vocoded and semi-demonic (but friendly demonic) altered voices.  In his very public meltdown at a Vancouver Ween performance, having lost a severe amount of weight over a matter of months, there were legitimate concerns that much deeper issues were at play than bananas and blow and pot brownie poisonings afoot.  One of the reviewers of that show rightly described one of his voices as a high pitched falsetto reminiscent of the Heat Miser (from A Year Without Santa Clause)- except in that performance his voice seemed to get stuck in that voice about half way through and never deviated after.

But for all of the debauch in the Ween repertoire- and it is a bloated lot suh that even listing relevant song titles and drug references would be largely futile- Freeman was just as much known for his blue-eyed soul. Ween are not a Philadelphia band they are rather proudly from New Hope, Pennsylvania but their song Freedom of '76 is a modern marvel in the Philadelphia Soul tradition.   Nature Man belongs strongly in the vein of those tender heart warming ballads that made up an important place in any live Ween show, songs such as: Birthday Boy, Baby Bitch, Stay Forever, Tender Situation, Flutes of Chi.

Freeman has been playing Nature Man live since at least June of 2012, numerous good sounding versions are out there including this one from Reggatabar which comes off as unintentionally comedic.  The inversion of Freeman as the Nature Girl 'walking with out boots on' is intended to play for some laughs.  But it's clear in listening to the recorded and interrupted (with laughter) live version that there is notsomuch humour hear as a harrowing and searching walk past the void upon whose edges he'd danced like a satyr over a volcano's lip.

Black Milk - Demo Beats 2012

Black Milk, a producer/rapper as well as drummer/percussionist, who appears on the cover of his landmark album Popular Demand with an MPC tucked under his arm, plays the 'instrument' live and in the studio better than most any human being (Pete Rock's up there too).  Which is part of what makes Demo Beats 2012- a recently dropped teaser of his current output so fascinating.  This future-forward material veers out into some new bracing territory (sounding at times unabashedly similar to even Dilla's Donuts with it's style of constant revolutions of sound) that suggests a much broader sonic palette and production environment.  Where his last full length release Album Of The Year was definitive for how he captured the live sounds of instrumentalists Daru Jones (drums), AB (keys) and bassist Tim Shellabarger (not as much for his personal lyrics of the crushing year he had marked by loss) here we see a man tossing off, literally, a series of tossed off beats (one of 400 produced in the last year he'd rather hold onto for now) that echoes at points his deep crates neo-soul lineage while pointing to something else entirely.


Aaron Freeman - Genene

Since Aaron Freeman announced the necessary demise of his arch persona Gene Ween - the well loved and prolific songsmith he had produced music under since 1984 with his partner in crime Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo) as Ween - he may have puzzled fans with his first solo outing being an album of unearthed covers (Marvelous Clouds) by supposed legend Rod McKuen with whom he had a puzzling but befitting kinship. A crop of new original music is just what Dr. Rock ordered although it's no surprise that we're getting the kinder, gentler version of The Golden Jew.

Certain to further confuse his rabid fanbase Aaron was contacted by Hidden Track about Genene at his hospital room in Belgium where he is undergoing “a transformative procedure.":

He immediately made sure to tell us, “This song is left to interpretation on purpose. To me it’s just an honest song about where I’m at, creepy, real and pretty, just the way I like it.” Freeman finished our chat by saying, “On one hand it’s about change and acceptance on a personal, spiritual level but can obviously be interpreted literally as a sex change.”
These themes of transformation, transmogrification, shifting seem fitting for Freeman (now sober for over a year) at this point in his life and other demos with spoken word samples like Signs of The Transgression riff on similar themes.  Currently on his A. Freeman soundcloud he is only streaming two songs.  Rivers and God2.  Fortunately one of the resourceful brown minions of the Boognish captured and posted for download the majority of 2012 demos that had streamed briefly (excluding Genene unfortunately).


Peter Peter - Une Version Amelioree De La Tristesse

Une version ameliroree de la tristesse is the title track off Montreal act Peter Peter's second album which goes by the same name.  The song title might be translated as An Improved Version Of Sadness or An Enhanced Version Of Sadness.  I would only argue, my french being far from perfect that the tense is feminine (both the version and the sadness- but maybe like boats sadness always carries a feminine tense?) that a reasonably poor translation could also be: A Version Made Better By Sadness (f).

This effortless piece of popsmithing steps out of the limiting mould of quebecois and 'le deuxieme pays' placing their efforts handily on a national and international stage. 

 In any case it's a wondrous song that got it's official launch at the increasingly important Festival de Musique Emergente in Rouyn-Noranda en Abitibi-Temiscamingue at the fittingly named Cabaret De La Dernier Chance.  This past season saw Feist close her Metals tour in an intimate context, Barr Bros. play to enraptured audiences, and Plants And Animals playing in a mine. 


Jay Dee - Thought U Wuz Nice (instrumental)

The instrumental to Phife Dawg's Thought U Wuz Nice is hallmark '99 Jay Dee production.  Likely months if not weeks after crafting this silky guitar line and parsed drum beats into some sort of signature sound he was of course well beyond it. 

Thought U Wuz Nice appeared as the B-Side to (Pharcyde member) Phife Dawg's to Bend Ova the lead single from his debut album Ventilation: Da LP. Its B-side contained the instrumental, along with Thought U Wuz Nice, which is not featured on the LP. Both tracks were produced by Jay Dee.


MPC Minute featuring DJ Premier & Pete Rock

How funky can you get in 10.3 seconds?

Premier and Peter Rock talk in geekish detail about their introduction to (by now fairly) arcane music production centers like Pete's affinity for the MPC 2000 and the MPC 2000 xl whereas Premier hasn't moved past his affection for his Akai MPC 62.  When Premier was asked is there anyone whose done things with the MPC that you really didn't think could be done he responds:

"Lord Finesse the 4000 he got that thing where it actually stands up and talks and walks around the house and makes coffee"
Recorded live with Akai MPC 4000 with acapella from vinyl


DJ Shadow kicked off decks at Miami's Mansion (12/14/12): "too future"

Only twenty minutes into his set at Mansion in the Miami Beach area DJ Shadow was interrupted and pulled off the stage.  "Josh" Davis (Shadow) took to his Twitter account remarking:

I don't care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet.  I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ... ever. #AllBassesCovered

A similar incident took place in late February when Dennis Ferrer was contracted (where a %50 guarantee is paid at the time of booking and the remainder at latest upon arrival- there is no question they were both paid) and kicked off for 'not playing commercial enough'

Here's a brief video of DJ Shadow being interrupted and concluding his set.


Ten Years Ago: Rick Danko (December 29, 1942 – December 10, 1999)

Rick Danko RIP (December 29, 1942 - December 10, 1999)

Thirteen years ago actually the world lost one of the purest voices in all of Rock and Roll history.  Born of humble beginnings in Turkey Point, Ontario and picked up by Ronnie Hawkins to be a member of his Hawks he would eventually get plucked to back Bob Dylan and his group would become known simply as The Band.  His mournful voice captured a life that was full of great humour and great sadness particularly when he suffered the loss of his own son.  All his past lives will be forgotten, all his past lives will be erased.

Intro: A  D  A  D  A  D  A  D

A          D           A       D
I want to lay down beside you
I want to hold your body close to mine
Like a grape that grows ripe in the sunshine
A                           D           A
There comes a time when we must sip the wine

I can tell by lookin ... that you're not mine girl
I believe everything I told you was true
There's a child here that wants to start livin
And you know that this child will get it's start
from me and you             

            D       E                       A
Close your eyes ... and don't you think of nothing
          D                  E             A
Let your thoughts remain here inside this room
F#m                           A
Lay your head beside me on my pillow
 D         E                     A
And I will share this night with you

A                D
We must sip the wine ... till it feels alright
A                D
We must sip the wine ... into the night
A                D
We must sip the wine ... together ...

Outro: A  D  A  D ...

*: Rick is credited for lyrics and music to "Sip the Wine" on Rick Danko from 1977. This may not be correct. The song first appeared under the title "I Want To Lay Down Beside You" on Tracy Nelson's 1972 album Tracy Nelson / Mother Earth (Reprise MS-2054,) where it was credited to Tim Drummond who also played bass on Rick Danko.


Neil Quin - Marching Through Your Head (original version)

Here's an odd clip of Neil Quin of Zeus playing at what seems to be some sort of bush party in Orillia called Suncrash in 2008.  What's noteworthy is how, after cussing out the scuzzy locals in attendance, he plays straight through what ultimately became the definitive Zeus classic Marching Through Your Head from their first full length from 2010's Say Us.

The video (directed by Adam Makarenko and Alan Poon) for Marching Through Your Head seamlessly integrates live action performance with stop-motion animation and features meticulously detailed miniature sets.

The video documents the journey of the band's boots up to the peak of the mythical Mount Olympus in search of the Greek God of the sky, Zeus only to find that Zeus the God is actually Zeus the band.


It Makes No Difference - My Morning Jacket w. Brittany Howard (Newport Folk)

My Morning Jacket's Jim James dedicated this rendition of It Makes No Difference to Levon Helm, not long after his passing, onstage at the Newport Folk Festival joined by the Alabama Shakes Brittany Howard.

Ween's - Banana's and Blow (performed on harp)

Harpists Kaela and Morgana are students of a performing arts school  in Australia. Kaela's also a fan of Ween and she arranged one of her favourite songs for the harp.  Kaela is the daughter of Adam Phillips, director/animator of Ween's Transdermal Celebration video.   Father Phillips recounts:
Kaela's been hearing Ween all her life. She was 5 when I animated their Transdermal Celebration video. With the album White Pepper in the car's CD player, she'd ask me to "play the song that sounds like it's got coconuts in it", that is Bananas and Blow.

She was terrified of the song Ice Castles though because I told her it was about poison toys so it became the soundtrack to her nightmares. Bad daddy.

In case you're not familiar with the touching original version here's another clip.

The Barr Brothers - Kisses From Chelsea


The Barr Brothers perform "Kisses From Chelsea" from their self-titled debut album live at the National Arts Centre's 4th Stage theatre (Ottawa, ON) on Saturday March 3rd, 2012.


Black Milk - Demo Beats 2012

Nothing could please us more than word today that our man Curtis Cross- the impossible Black Milk- was pouring over a folder of some 400 (!!!) demo beats he'd been working on over the course of the year.  Late in the day he dropped a file to his soundcloud account called Demo Beats 2012 that is certain to create a quiet storm in the Hip Hop community.

In a year that's been dominated by micro cycles of hype and canonization in 'independent' Hip Hop (see Kendrick Lamar) it was reasonable to question what place was there at the table for the last great hope Black Milk the protege and heir apparent to the neo-soul throne of his mentor J Dilla.

Cross has left no place for doubt.  This 6:57 is more future forward than one might expect from the garrulous  producer.  With his most recent production efforts (after his 2010 signal Album Of The Year) he's produced a variety of projects revered by his acolytes all of which however failed to launch anywhere near commercially or critically.  His highly anticipated collaboration with Danny Brown the Black and Brown EP admittedly didn't amount to more than the sum of its parts (and was fairly thoroughly drubbed critically).  Similarly Random Axe the Hip Hop supergroup composed of Guilty Simpson, Sean Price and Black Milk yielded varied results.  Two recent collaborations with Jack White (Brain and Royal Mega) were promising in principal as was a live set at White's Third Man Records.  His much vaunted collaboration Searching For Sanity with vocalist Melanie Rutherford has yet to appear.

Demo Beats 2012 drops like something of a clarion call from a man who may feel like he has something to prove.  The futuristic style of the transmission harkens back to his own 2008 release Tronic which largely put him on the map particularly with collaborations like The Matrix (featuring Pharoahe Monche and Sean Price).  His first releases 2005's Sound Of The City (as well as 11 untitled tracks from August 2005), 2006's Broken Wax EP and the landmark Popular Demand (2008) established Black Milk as a strong advocate of the neo-soul tradition highly adept with the MPC 2000.  The Music Production Center 2000 has signal processing qualities that are highly pleasing to the human ear as most sample based music we're familiar with has been produced with this device.  Some producers would say that it is the loss of signal, a pleasing 'woody' quality to the sample, as much as the transmission that satisfies the listener aurally.

Milk, a drummer and percussionist, who appears on the cover of Popular Demand with an MPC tucked under his arm plays the 'instrument' live and in the studio better than most any human being.  Which is what makes this teaser of his current output so fascinating.  This material veers out into some new bracing territory (sounding at times unabashedly similar to even Dilla's Donuts with it's style of constant revolutions of sound) that suggests a much broader sonic palette and production environment.  Where Album Of The Year was definitive for how he captured the live sounds of instrumentalists Daru Jones (drums), AB (keys) and bassist Tim Shellabarger (not as much for his personal lyrics of the crushing year he had marked by loss) here we see a man tossing off, literally, a tossed off beat (one of 400 he'd rather hold onto for now) that echoes at points his deep crates neo-soul lineage while pointing clearly to a whole new bag.


Billy Martin & Wil Blades "Mae Mae" (7/5/12) Manchester, CT [6 Camera]

Billy Martin & Wil Blades "Mae Mae" (7/5/12) The Main Pub, Manchester, CT [6 Camera]
all audio and video production by Clinton Vadnais 


Wil Blades/ Billy Martin interview (Shimmy)

(l to r) Wil Blades and Billy Martin
On one level it sounds like dogged persistence paid off.  Billy Martin is in San Fransisco doing a drum clinic, the young organist Wil Blades whose built a name for himself at the Boom Boom Room thinks he can swing a duo money gig together, presses the manager, and apparently he passes the muster. "We just got up there and played, there was no preparation we didn't really have time for any of that with Billy coming in to do these clinics there just wasn't any time.  So we basically did a quick soundcheck got up there and played.  And that's basically been our whole thing ever since," recounts Blades from his San Fransico home.

What is thought of as their first gig was actually their second, a late night gig, at the Blue Nile in New Orleans during the annual pilgrimage- the NOLA Jazz and Heritage Festival. "That was the gig that really made us be like 'wow this is cool we should do something with this'... It was just easy, there was an audience there they were supportive from the first note everything felt good all the way to the end.  The audience was really into it and you know it felt good which is the most important thing it just felt good which is more important than music being perfect."

Something about the chemistry of the two players spoke to everyone involved.  "We listen. Our ears are wide open and we have a conversation that leaves each player some time to make a statement. In large part, that's what makes our music so appealing," says Martin

How the 33 year old organist, who for reference sake was seventeen and graduating high school when Medeski, Martin & Wood's Shackman was released, found himself possessed of such a unique talent on the Hammond B3 organ that the proposition engaged Martin is a story worth exploring.  "He'll be the first person to tell you, the last thing on his mind was to start another project with an organ player."  For his part Martin freely admits "the chemistry was undeniable. It was something fresh I had not experienced with anyone else. I wasn't looking to play with another organist, but it really is special the way we play together on the stage. It couldn't be denied and when that happened I had no choice but do dive in!"

Blades spent his formative years in Chicago picking up drums at 8, guitar at 13 and getting into pretty typical early nineties fair which he was learning on guitar. As he got a little older he noticed all the bands he was getting into Hendrix, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Santana all had one thing in common.  "The sound of the organ started to pique my interest.... I actually can pinpoint the first time I really recognized I thought the organ was a great sound.  We would do these gigs in church basements, I think I was playing drums and he was playing keys and he put on the organ and I was like 'yeah that's the sound for me'. I really can remember that moment."

The instrument stayed on his radar and his fascination grew from the Hammond to the Leslie speaker that brings it to life. "It sort of throws the sound around the room so it's not such a static, dry sound. You get this real dramatic tremolo effect".  A senior in high school "I saved up money, this is like some classic storybook stuff, I saved up some money from painting a fence that summer. I got it in my head that I was going to buy a Hammond organ so I was able to buy a Spinet which is a smaller cheaper version of a B3, I found a place in Chicago that had 'em. So I put it in my basement and I kind of fiddled with it at this point my senior year I was getting more into jazz like Jimmy Smith and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Which is the first time I'm hearing Billy too which is funny enough."

A music education and the west coast came calling at a very small music college when a storied sideman and instructor Herbie Lewis wanted to see more progress on one instrument than the three (drums, guitar and organ) he was practicing.  "He pretty much gave me an ultimatum to pick one so without even hesitating I picked organ and I think to this day that was the best decision I could have made musically and career wise."

Presenting himself no doubt as a green, overeager and accomplished young player he "started playing at this club in San Francisco at the Boom Boom Room, it was a blues club it was a real deal blues club and I was playing with these older guys Oscar Mayer's Blues Beat.  All the guys in the band were seasoned guys who'd played in blues bands and R&B bands all their life and I was just this white kid trying to hang with them and for some reason Oscar decided he liked me and took me under his wing and that band- that was the other half of my learning education, my music education.  And it was a really old school way of learning."

Blades is clearly an ambassador of both his instrument but also the jazz organ tradition he finds himself on the vanguard of.  "Without even knowing it I got this real old school education, and without even knowing it that was instilled in me this kind of traditional carrying through.  It's not that those guys wanted me to play traditionally it's that they kind of let me in this lineage that they were a part of.... Even though I don't want to be playing necessarily traditionally you can't take it out of me."

This is in let's call them the early days of the internet.  There was no youtube to look up a clip and see what someone was doing with their hands.  There was no way to learn other than in the voracious listening and the doing.  Blades- who'd made a probing study of the instrument began an exhaustive exporation of it's heritage.
 "I really just had to figure it out on my own I listened and played along with alot of Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Richard 'Groove' Holmes, Shirley Scott records."  Of Jimmy Smith - whom he describes rightly as 'the Charlie Parker of the instrument'- he is unabashed about how deeply he and all organists after him are both in the thrall of and under the tyranny of his influence.

Jimmy Smith
"He revolutionized the instrument and everyone to follow is really pretty much stuck under his umbrella. I mean it's insane how much vocabulary that man came up with on the organ it's impossible to play the Hammond without referencing him... What he brought to it, well let me start with what was happening before him was Wild Bill Davis and Milt Buckner guys who played more swing style organ, big block chords and lot's of vibrato.  Wild Bill Davis specifically was doing big band arrangements on the organ and that's how the organ combo thing started is it was this way of getting the sound of a whole orchestra with like three or four guys usually guitar, drums and sax.  And so club owners wouldn't have to pay a sixteen piece band they'd pay a quartet or a trio to basically emulate that.

So when Jimmy Smith came along he was really influenced by Wild Bill Davis especially if you listened to his first recordings you can really hear the direct lineage.  But what Jimmy Smith did was he took that and applied all the Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell you know he was a bebop guy, blues and bebop guy.  So he was playing the bass lines and playing all this bebop stuff and he was unreal, he was amazing. Miles Davis was quoted as saying he was the '8th Wonder of the World'.  He was really an unbelievable musician...  So he really just permeates you as an organ player he created a whole language just like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk and these guys created with bebop, Jimmy Smith created a whole language on the organ that really has set up what everyone else is doing from that point on.  There's been very few people to get out of that umbrella.  Larry Young is one, pretty much the only to get out of that Jimmy Smith umbrella.  I mean everyone has their own personalities and styles within that it's not to say that everyone's just Jimmy Smith clones but Larry Young was the one guy to really get out of that really heavy Jimmy Smith influence."

What does Billy Martin make of all this?  "I don't know anything about the organ tradition. He's a drummer on that thing!!"

After the gig at the Blue Nile in 2011 a west coast tour followed which ended with a recording stint in Berkeley.  A few numbers that made it onto their new release Shimmy (via Royal Potato Family) stemmed from that second gig.  Deep In A Fried Pickle a hands down live favourite is one with it's rumbling bass, played largely with the left hand and accented by the foot stomps, and drum fills two breaths faster than a death tempo.  This album isn't all Hammond organ mind you, the Clavinet is an important fixture here as on a handful of other numbers. That night in New Orleans, Billy slipped into a Mardi Gras groove and Wil started into Down By The Riverside- that one made the album too.  Wil had a few compositions of his own that were staples of his repertoire.  Les and Eddie,  "is a tribute or homage to Les McCann and Eddie Harris", with interpolations of their song Compared To What from their seminal Swiss Movement album.  Blades also does a strong reading of Harris' Mean Greens on Shimmy.

Having lapsed six or seven hours of studio time the organist and the drummer asked the engineer how many minutes of material they had in the bag- twenty five minutes they got back.  This cultivated a sense of urgency and two of the albums finer songs Toe Thumb and Pick Pocket were the result of these late stage, deep bond improvisations which Martin later edited down a bit to shape them into songs.

The coda of the album is an incredibly gentle number Give that also worked it's way into their repertoire.  There is something very contemporary, not to mention righteous, about this song but it reminds Blades of Hendrix with it's Clavinet and 'washy' sound.  It lets him show that "side of my personality that I don't get to express that much... that swirly psychedelic side of myself" the funk gigs he normally plays have no place for.  There's a gathering quality here, as we're being drawn in just a breath further.

The last song on the album is a heart breaker and a heart maker.  Fittingly it was the first thing they recorded together.  "We were standing in the studio talking and I was just sort of playing this little thing without really thinking about it and Billy was like: 'Record that. Now. Go press record.  So I just played it, stopped, did another longer pass of it and I think we used the first take. To me that's how the record should end.  That means Good Night in Ethiopian."

Billy Martin & Wil Blades Duo
The Shuffle Demons
Jailmate (featuring members of The Burt Neilson Band)
plus DJ Jive Express (Sweetback, Chameleon Project)

THE GREAT HALL 1087 Queen Street West www.thegreathall.ca
Tickets: $25 - Soundscapes, Rotate This & Play De Record
Ticketweb Link: tktwb.tw/OryUOO
Facebook: on.fb.me/Rz5XxD


Bob Weir Wife

John Barlow, Bob Weir, Natascha Muenter

One of the most searched phrases that seems to land people on this site is 'Bob Weir wife'.  People seem to really want to know who Bobbie's taking his cutoffs off for these days.  Bob Weir maried Natascha Muenter in Mill Valley California July 15th 1999.  The ceremony was officiated by a Tibetan monk who spoke 'the discipline of marriage'.  Bob's best man John Barlow decried: "I never thought I'd see this day!"

In the just released insider documentary The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir -  while glossing over difficult times in Bob's life and perfomances - the film talks at some length about Bobbie's life as the ladies man (and only suitable suitor) in the Grateful Dead.  The film briefly touches upon Bob's meeting Natascha at the tender age of 14 when she would hang around backstage at Grateful Dead concerts.  One segment refers to her being present but not participating in what sounded very much like a menage a trois.  All of this is related tastefully of course.

According to the GD Forum:

The ceremony, held near Weir's house in Mill Valley, was officiated by a Tibetan monk, who spoke of "the discipline of marriage." Bobby was in a formal kilt, and his best man was John Barlow, who remarked "I never thought I'd see this day!"
The wedding was a very small affair; Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Steve Parish, and Ramrod were among the attendees. Natascha held Shala Monet in her arms during much of the ceremony. 
After the wedding, the party retired to Weir's house for a Vegan dinner. The reception was held at the Mill Valley Outdoor Art Club, with the newlyweds arriving in a horsedrawn carriage. The Dave Ellis Quartet provided the music (Dave Ellis on reeds, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards, Peter Barshay on bass, Deszon Claiborne on drums) for the reception. A jazzy version of "Terrapin Station" was rousingly received by the guests. Others in attendance included Wavy Gravy walking his fish, all the members of Ratdog, Bobby Cochran, Eileen and Cassidy Law, Cameron Sears, Peter Coyote, Deborah Koons, and Vince Welnick.


Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers) from hired gun to missile defense advisor

While living in the Maritimes of Canada an annual New Media conference often brought one curious and extremely well liked individual: Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter.  As a session guitarist he was onhand for some of Steely Dan's finer moments and as a proper member of the Doobie Brothers he was a more permanent fixture in the American Rock canon. It was well known in certain circles at the time that Baxter's real sideline for many years has been as a missile defense advisor- although god knows what he might be advising on these days.
 Skunk talks about the transition in this article titled The Way We Live Now (New York Times 06/10/01)

Q: How does a Doobie Brother become a national adviser on missile defense?
A: It started with consulting for musical-instrument companies. I would read the defense magazines to find out what the latest technologies were and try to apply them to digital recording.
Q: Really? Is there a lot of crossover?
A: A data-compression algorithm that might be useful in a military arena would have much the same utility in a recording arena. As I read the different magazines, I started to gather information on things like the off-boresight capability of an AIM-9 missile.
Q: That wouldn't really be too helpful in a future Doobie Brothers reunion.
A: No. However, one day I sat down and wrote a paper about converting the Aegis system, which is a defense system for American carrier battle groups, to do theater missile defense. I didn't know what to do with it. So I gave it to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who's a friend of mine. Congressman Curt Weldon asked me to form a citizen's advisory board for missile defense.

Physical Therapy - Drone On (feat. Jamie Krasner)

Now finally here's some EDM (Electronic Dance Music) with balls.  What sounds like it's just one of countless Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn!) producer/vocal duos with droning vocals cues an air horn just past the minute mark and shakes loose something verging on a good and proper '94 Jungle beat - bringing the whole piece up a notch considerably. 
Drone On  was released by producer Physical Therapy on his Safety Net EP on July 24, 2012.  A strong remix (for free download)  by Supreme Cuts also plays up the stems of the bed track nicely.


Billy Martin & Wil Blades Duo (Toe Thumb)

Billy Martin (famously of Medeski, Martin & Wood) in 2011 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival paired with a young west coast B3 Hammond prodigy Wil Blades for what was supposed to be a one-off encounter.  The collaboration was so successful that a west coast tour followed with a recording session in Berkley that resulted in the splendid album before us Shimmy.

Toe Thumb is a Blades composition as is the whole album shy of a couple of covers and is a good representation of their throw-down grooves, bluesy R&B and Funk. The Martin Blades Duo played election night last night in Mobile, Alabama (probably a pretty Democratic crowd that goes out to see an Organ Drums duo?) with seven dates left on their Northern and Central American tour.

The phenomenal Shimmy LP is available direct from their label Royal Potato Family (on vinyl LP and CD).  The duo is in Toronto on November 17 as part of the NuJazz Festival.  Martin has said, if you're familiar with the album, "that’s pretty much how we sound. It’s straight-up and honest, that record, Wil and I have a really great chemistry. It’s basically groove-oriented.  We had a perfect match, so it’s really a lot of fun, you know. We can be in the moment and sort of improvise, stretch out the tunes.”

November 8 | The Melting Pot | Athens, GA
November 9 | Five Spot | Atlanta, GA
November 10-11 | Bear Creek Music Festival | Live Oak, FL
November 17 | The Great Hall | Toronto, Canada    ***NuJazz Festival
November 27 | The Space | Evanston, IL
November 28 | el Lunario Auditoria Nacional | Del. Miguel Hidalgo, México
November 29 | Barreamericano | Guadalajara, Mexico
 Toe Thumb - Live from New York City


Trey Anastasio aids victims swept away by Hurricane Sandy

A photographer for The Gothamist happened to spot Phish frontman Trey Anastasio in Red Hook, Brooklyn distributing diapers and batteries in front of  the flooded 158-year-old Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church.  Anastasio was apparently in the area helping a friend whose "house is under water. I've spent the day helping him, pulling out dry wall. It's really bad here. Really bad."

Salt Of The Earth (Rolling Stones, Axl, Izzy)

Perhaps one of the true golden nuggets in the Rolling Stones is Salt of the Earth from the 1968 album Beggars Banquet was recorded at London's Olympic Sound Studios from May until July in 1968.  As on the rest of the album the song features Richards acoustic guitar work and notably Richards sings the lead vocal.  The song has been played historically only six times, once at the request of Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin when they were asked what song they'd like to perform over the course of three nights at Atlantic City in '89 on the Stones Steel Wheels/ Urban Jungle tour.  Richards and Jagger have only played the song twice since at the Concert for New York City and in London in 2003 on the Licks tour.



Dave Azzolini (Golden Dogs) archived interview

The following is an archived  in-depth interview (originally published May 3, 2010 dealing largely with The Golden Dogs forthcoming release (Coat of Arms, release date July 27), the songwriting and recording process and in the end a helpful but largely irrelevant (given The Golden Dogs stark originality) list of influences.


Q: Who are the exact personnel on Coat of Arms and who plays what instruments (presumably multiple).  

A: There's so many guests and such, but mostly it's Me, Jess, Taylor Knox, with Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien. Afie (Jurvanen) came in for one solo, Rob Drake drummed on Dear Francis, Neil Quin played on a couple tracks, and a whole lot of people came in for backing vocals and group vocals.  

Q: Did Carlin (Nicholson) engineer and produce it or who is the producer?

A: The Producer cred is "Produced by The Golden Dogs with Carlin Nicholson and Mike O'Brien". Most of the arrangements were solidified in the demo process. There were a couple of tracks that we saved for the studio which Carlin & Mike had a hand in: For instance, When the Movie’s Over was sort of a hybrid song that came about when we were jamming out some new songs at our place. It started out as a jam and I started making up the verse melody with bogus words, then Carlin came up with a piano hook. Then Jess suggested that a chorus from one of my other songs would fit. So I plopped that in there, finished off the words and we recorded it pretty soon after. That doesn’t happen with me very often. I like to think about songs for awhile before I put them down on record. Lester was another one, although the arrangement was finished, Mike offered the lead guitar hook, which is an important part. Underwater Goldmine was another one. Mike developed that intro slide guitar part. Goldmine was one where me, Jess, Mike & Carlin came together and just knew where to take it. It is a pretty magical recording.

Q: When did you first start thinking or not start thinking about the album setting out to as it were to let the album come together in an organic way. If Lester was the first song unexpectedly recorded in a gap in the recording of Zeus’ album Say Us what was the first song written for instance?

A: Burst and Weapon I think – they were finished at the same time, winter of 2007. More than half of the album was written on piano, a Yamaha CP 70 electric piano – it’s Carlin’s, but we’ve had it for years now. Jess loves playing it, and if it wasn’t 200 pounds, we’d bring it on the road. Even songs that are heavy guitar arrangements like Permanent Record and Old Hat were started with the piano. Weapon was actually written on guitar first even though it's a heavily piano arranged song, that opening riff was written on guitar. Darkroom (the chorus at least) was developed at Taylor’s place on an badly out-of-tune piano and cheap old church organ with foot pedals and ridiculous drum beats. Songs like Dear Francis and As Long As You Like were sort of developed at the same time. They have a 50s girl group kind of feel. Jess was originally going to sing Dear Francis, which is why the key is so high, but when we went to do vocals, she wasn’t feeling it and insisted that I do it. I did it too…in only a couple of takes.  

Q: Over what time period would you say you were writing songs for this record and at what point did you start to work up arrangements?

 A: The seeds of some date back to the period right after we finished the last record, so late 2006. I always have bits that I record. If the songs keeps bugging me to finish it, then it gets special attention. Jess is great for remembering bits and pieces and pushing me to finish melodies that she really likes. Cheap Umbrellas was one I had started a long while back. I had sort of let it go and Jess pushed me to finish it and said that she would sing it. There's always songs like that where, say, I can't finish it all at once, but the melody keeps needling me until I have to finish it. Songs usually come in twos or threes. There are always songs that are related to each other in theme, or at least in terms of the point in my life that they were created. Burst / Weapon are two that definitely go together. Goldmine / Lester ; Dear Francis / As LongPermanent Record / Old Hat. The last song arranged was When The Movie’s Over.

Q: How would you say Coat of Arms is a product of Ill Eagle Studio, the East End vibe, the shared responsibility etc.  

A: That studio has a drum sound. Getting the drums to sound good is half the battle and they have that figured out. It's a very dry, small room sound, but that's the way I like it. The recording vibe was such that there was no real huge time pressure while we were tracking…this was good for getting the right feel on songs. One song though, Travel Time was the first song recorded at Illegal, but it ended up not having the right feel and I wanted to scrap it, but Taylor insisted we have one more crack at it, but by that time, the studio was unavailable (Danielle Duval was tracking). So we did it at Taylor's place in the west end just off Spadina. We ended up liking the track a lot better. Better performance, big drums sounds – it has a nice place on the album. The east end vibe is mostly that it's very residential where we were. Parking is easier...hahahah. Not too many distractions, very laid back. The studio was just the best place to hang out at the time. Whether working on our stuff, Zeus stuff or Danielle's stuff, or just goofing around.

Q: What is the official release date for the vinyl LP and what is the overall release date.  

A: I think it's all July 27. It's a summer release. I think most of the music industry goes on vacation in August so it'll be interesting to see how this works out.  

Q: What can you tell me about your excitement about having your own piece of vinyl, and also what does it mean to be on a label like Nevado with artists like Afie that you clearly admire?  

A: I can finally do scratching on my own piece of vinyl! Besides that, I hope it means that the real music lovers out there will dive into the new album a bit. Vinyl does have a romance about it that's undeniable. Each side of the album has it's own vibe. We think that the second side is just as good as the first side. We hope others will find that too. We spend a lot of time on album art….the whole winter actually making these specialized song signs…vinyl is a great canvas for artwork. Having something to stare out or zone out on while you’re listening to the music. It’s very important to us.  

Q: It seems slightly odd that one of the most common questions to ask an artist is their influences but you seem to remind so many people of so many different bands (The Cars seems a common reference point for instance) that The Golden Dogs sound ends up being so rooted in pop tradition but bracingly original. Maybe by way of the bands and artists you started to introduce Jess to when you first met perhaps you could talk about who your big influences are as a songwriter, guitarist and producer. I'd imagine that by now you're so hip deep in the music that your peers are making that they are the greatest influences but if you can point to any other contemporary examples of original bands that inspire you or craftsmen whose technique you applaud that would be helpful.

A: I hope people hear this album and don't immediately think "influences". I think we really got our own thing going on this new album but obviously, rock and roll is almost sixty years old and there are going to be references that pop up in every band playing music today. Arcade Fire - Springsteen/Talking Heads/Modest Mouse; Broken Social Scene - Dinosaur Jr.; I could do this for every band almost... Radiohead - Can/Pink Floyd/ Beatles; Everly Brothers/Buddy Holly/Little Richard/60's Girl Groups; Beach Boys - Phil Spector.   It's fun to do for sure... Anyways... I digress...In terms of influences I just heard some of the new New Pornographers and was pleasantly surprised. I went right to listening to Permanent Record afterwards and felt that we fit right in with this music. Is it Prog Pop? I just think it's just Pop with definite English pop leanings. I felt like we were like the Pornographers minus the slightly faux English accents and the oblique and grandiloquent lyrics- (I looked that up, it means someone who uses big words!). Plus, perhaps we have a bit more of, say maybe, a Neil Young influence going on? Not overtly but...I don't know. A definite directness anyways. If this is a fair universe, the Golden Dogs would get a spot playing with the Pornographers. If we're talking about who we'd love to play with? I'd say Spoon, Pornos, Wilco, Walkmen, I just heard the new MGMT and thought they were doing some interesting stuff too. I thought of Burst when I heard the new MGMT album, I immediately put Burst on and felt really good about our album. Jess and I were talking about how fun it would be to do a covers album and release it on our website only. For free.

Here's the list we came up with, I think it's a pretty good list of influences too:
 Harry Nilsson - Without Her  
Wilco - I'm A Wheel  
Frank Black - Headache  
Kinks - Tired of Waiting  
Hayden - Dynamite Walls (Jess sings this one great)  
Cypress Hill - Insane in the Brain (don't think we could pull it off, but it'd be fun to try)  
Modern Lovers - Hippie Johnny Elliot Smith - Independence Day  
Guided By Voices - Glad Girls  
Brian Eno - Needle in the Camel's Eye
 Ween - The Mollusk (didn’t I put that on the list?)

As far as the music I started with at 12, it was all about learning every Beatle chord back then. That's what got Jess hooked too. It's the blueprint for great pop. Great for learning and having fun learning music. Beyond that, Stones, Dylan and The Who made me love Rock & Roll at that age too. That shit took me through most of my teens right there. It's not that esoteric a list but it worked. I couldn't get enough of that stuff.


Eric Earley - Up On Cripple Creek

In the second of a series called the Deschutes River Recordings (intended to raise money and awareness for the Deschutes River Conservancy in Oregon) features Eric Earley and a few of his bandmates from Blitzen Trapper.

Much like his SubPop labelmate Eric D. Johnson of Fruit Bats (who was the first in the series with a riverside recording of the Byrds Ballad of Easy Rider), Earley is a multi-instrumentalist and near prodigy having picked up music at something like the age of 3.  As a dyed in the wool fan of The Band I can't think of too many reasons to listen to Up On Cripple Creek these days even after Levon's passing.  Earley and the Trapper turn the song a bit on its ear and the outcome in the great outdoors is in perfect relief.

This rendition of Up On Cripple Creek can be downloaded for a donation (or not) of your choice.


Zeus - Strong Mind (backyard footage)

Zeus perform the Neil Quin penned Strong Mind in their backyard as part of the house concert television series neighboursdogtv. 


Zeus Biography (Drake, Quin, Nicholson, O'Brien)

(l to r: Drake, O'Brien, Nicholson, Quin)

When Zeus proper first emerged (out of the ashes of a band called Paso Mino amongst other things) the notion of multiple songwriters was central to their origin story.  Guitarist Mike O'Brien (everyone plays every instrument except Rob Drake who largely sticks to the drums and the occasional Pac Man keyboard solo on the mini Moog) and bassist Carlin Nicholson are always credited as co-founders.  Most everyone had shared history, hailing largely from Barrie's Bay north of Toronto.  O'Brien and Drake were members of Paso Mino (Carlin did front of house sound) although O'Brien and Nicholson had been writing together since they were 13 or 14.  Paso Mino backed Collett on seminal lalbums Idols Of Exile and Here's To Being Here.  After the recording of Here through various circumstance (including bassist Michael P. Clive pursuing a career as a chef and guitarist Afie Jurvanen -now performing solo as Bahamas- went on tour with Feist) the band dissolved as a band in their own right and as a backing band for Jason Collett.

You might call this account of the birth of Zeus as the Zeus Family Tree.  Close to the genesis of the band was another bassist Jeremy Little (Burt Neilson Band) who had handled bass duties for Collett after in particular Clive's exit touring in support of Here's To Being HereGregory Macdonald (the fifth member of Sloan) was also brought in to play keys at the same time until his multiple Sloan commitments conflicted.  Then Carlin was brought in to play keys.  About the time that Collett mounted the Bonfire Ball Revue tour with Bahamas and Zeus in a revue style show, Little (known affectionately as Jer Bro) became the 5th member of Zeus for a period acting as sound technician, playing auxiliary synths from the boards and road manager.  Little now plays in the Peter Elkas Band (curiously Peter Elkas also appears on their most recent album Classic Zeus although the vocal recordings date from the original Say Us sessions).  During this whole period Mike and Carlin were recording tunes in their Riverdale garage/studio (now properly dubbed Ill Eagle Studios).  The nature of these sessions was goodhearted and rekindled the childhood friend's appreciation of each other.   Their personal history went back to high school when they also started the 6ixty 8ights, a band Carlin would keep going for 10 years with Mike leaving in 2002 for Paso Mino.  With Mike frustrated with Paso Mino being spread all over the place and Carlin feeling lost in 10 years of 6ixty8ights, the zeus sessions begun.  Carlin and Neil Quin had both been members of the ferocious live group The Golden Dogs under the tutelage of Dave Azzolini and his wife Jess Grassia

Rob Drake
For the original sessions Mike and Carlin were joined by Dave and Jess as well as Taylor Knox from their band (Taylor and Quin also had a band together Major Grange).  With the Dogs being their own thing Rob Drake and Neil Quin cemented the Zeus line up.  The following tour Zeus was asked to open for Jason Collett and Neil was asked to join the Jason Collett Band as well.   These sessions resulted in their definitive debut EP Sounds Like Zeus (2009) but no doubt they were likely already working on songs for Say Us (2009).   In a recent interview with American Songwriter they showed a kinship with other bands with multiple songwriters (their companero Matt Murphy's Super Friendz, Beach Boys, Kinks, Sloan, Queen, Dr. Dog). Busting Visions (2011) features material written by O'Brien, Nicholson and notably Quin whose contributions such as Strong Mind (originally a Major Grange song reworked for Zeus) set the benchmark for their newest material.  Collett has gone so far as to say that Quin, who seemed so tenderly young when he joined the band, has "the best rock ‘n’ roll voice I’ve heard in 20 years".
Neil Quin

Of Busting Visions O'Brien has said "the story of this record is it's our first as a band" acknowledging that Say Us ultimately drew from a revolving door of collaborators.  Visions is also their first effort produced, recorded and mixed alongside longtime collaborator Robbie Lackritz (Feist, Jamie Lidell, Bahamas).  It is also their first album to record in two settings; Ill Eagle Studios and Leslie Feist's ranch studio. Each Zeus songwriter readily admits to a healthy amount of competition in the band, "you bring your best every time" says Nicholson. Since the release of Busting Visions Zeus have toured extensively across North America and Europe accumulating accolades and enviable tour slots (including an opener for Belle & Sebastian at Massey Hall in Toronto).   During this period they have also produced albums for their compatriots including The Golden Dogs and Danielle Duval.  In various interviews they've indicated that they'd like to turn their vintage Ill Eagle studio into a new millenium hit factory - a type of Motown North-  making them something like the Canadian version of the Funk Bros. or  Booker T & The MG's which sounds about right.