Category Archives: live review

Hollywood Undead + Butcher Babies 11/29/17, Memphis

Dates: November 29, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphis TN

New Daisy Theatre was the scene of the rock ‘n’ roll crime…


When I first heard that the Butcher Babies would be touring with Hollywood Undead I must say that I was surprised. The head banging, Scream rocking, hair whipping ladies of Butcher Babies just didn’t seem like the best fit for the rap rockers of Undead. It turns out that it’s a great fit and has introduced the band to a whole new group of fans.

As soon as the Butcher Babies hit the stage they began to win over the crowd and they didn’t slow down for the whole set.

After about a thirty minute timeout for the set changes and setup it was finally time for Hollywood Undead. As usual the guys took the stage wearing their masks. The first song of the night was “Whatever It Takes” and followed up with “Undead,” to which the crowd began to explode with excitement. Hollywood Undead had an excellent light show for the size of the venue, complete with several pyrotechnic sparklers that shot up about twelve feet high.

This was a great night of music—I recommend catching both groups when they are in the area. Hollywood Undead will continue touring the U.S. through December before Heading over seas in January. When they return to the States they will continue touring and playing festivals, including the Welcome to Rockville at the end of April in Jacksonville, FL.

Mark Jackson: @markjacksonphotography1

NATIONAL ANTHEM: The National Live in D.C.

Berninger & Co., supporting the recent Sleep Well Beast, had a sold-out crowd December 5 at the Anthem venue willing to follow them anywhere. (Photos follow the review.)


The National’s Matt Berninger sounded more hoarse than usual at the sold out Anthem here in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. Hard to believe, as Berninger’s signature voice is usually like a more melodic Tom Waits. But like Waits, the extra rasp pushed the needle a bit more on the band’s often-melancholy lyrics, the voice breaking in all the right spots. It gave songs like “Empire Line” and “Slow Dancing in the Gym” more emotion, if that’s possible.

The scratchiness didn’t stop Berninger from his usual quips, political commentary, expressive lyric-screams, or the band’s intensity. The National are masters of the slow-burn song, the kind that starts out relatively simple then evolves into something breath-catchingly massive in terms of sound. This was, and has been largely thanks to the drumming of Bryan Devendorf. Devendorf was bathed in the darkest of the dark spots on the Anthem stage, but his presence was spotlight bright; his tribal pounding with a jazz skip is the band’s secret weapon, tapping into one’s neurotransmitters, making it visceral.

The band as a whole aren’t super active onstage and were darkly lit Tuesday, at times almost removing themselves physically to let the songs stand on their own. As the music swirled and tumbled about the ears, the audience was treated to very simple menageries of colors on the large screens behind the stage, at times looking like the splotches of a Pollock painting, at times the simplicity of a Mondrian. The latter could look cheap in the wrong hands, but the visuals were almost a pictorial representation of the music. During the moody “Lemonworld,” there were three black boxes on screen rimmed in green, with two random straight lines through them. It was not super interesting to see but it seemed to perfectly set the tone of the song.

The National didn’t remove themselves completely though. Berninger, who has a habit of heading into the crowd during a show, did just that during “Day I Die” and the encore-ending Ramones’ cover, “KKK Took My Baby Away” (which he dedicated to the “illegitimate white supremacist moron near here”). Some singers do that but are accompanied by security-not Berninger. He moved alone through the 6,000 person audience, full of faith in his fans that he’d be safe. He would have probably scaled the walls up into the balcony as he’s done before here at Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Hall, but given the height of the first audience boxes at the Anthem, it’s probably better he didn’t.

Nine of the set’s 24 songs were from the latest release, Sleep Well Beast, but the show had a few interesting inclusions. The set started with “Santa Clara,” a song off of The Virginia EP that they’d only played in Lisbon and Amsterdam previously, but had to be scrapped due to what seemed to be an issue with Berninger’s in-ear monitor (“We’ll try it in Montreal,” he quipped). The encore kicked off with “Rylan,” a song from the early National days that has never been formally released. The Ramones cover of course (I heard someone say, “The National are the least likely band I ever expected to cover The Ramones” after the show). Nice to see a band who could just get by with the favorites still like to mix it up a bit.

The band even showed some love about the venue, which only opened in October. Said guitarist Bryce Dessner about Anthem, “Thank you so much, this place is really incredible. You guys are lucky, there aren’t many venues like this.” A unique venue for a unique band, and a crowd willing to follow them anywhere—that was The National at the Anthem last Tuesday.


Spoon – 12/1/17, Poughkeepsie NY

Dates: December 1, 2017

Location: Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie NY


Spoon played to a full house of super attentive loyal fans at the Chance Theater. After playing two sold out shows in Brooklyn I knew this was going to be a packed theater. Opening the show with “Do I have to talk you into it” from the band’s newest release “Hot Thoughts”.  About half way through the show the band slowed it down with a heavy synth intro to the song “I’m not the one”, the crowd was entranced with lead singer Britt Daniels stage presence. These guys have been touring since the mid- nineties and it shows with how tight they play live. Closing the show with “Rent I Pay” the band and audience clearly had a great time together. I don’t know that Spoon will be playing that small of venue again, but I felt lucky to see such professional musicians in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Brian Setzer Orchestra – 12/6/17, Christmas Rocks! Atlanta

Dates: December 6, 2017

Location: Symphony Hall, Atlanta GA

For his 14th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour, at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, the Stray Cat became Santa Claws…


One of the cool things about rock and rollers having incredibly long careers is that some of them never stop getting better.  A case in point is Brian Setzer – who jumped outta the gate 35 years ago already an accomplished, confident player and entertainer, mature beyond his years even.    Now, at 58, he’s matured yet retained the exuberance and swagger that has made him so fun to watch.  At his holiday performance this week in Atlanta, I had the sense I was at a Masterclass in guitar chops and showmanship.

Setzer’s currently in the middle of his packed house crowd-pleasing 14th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.   He’s clearly the driver of this engine, a 19-piece big band swing orchestra; all eyes in the band are on him, digging and feeding off his non-stop energy, just like the crowd is doing.   So much going on, all very entertaining.   Every few licks Brian stops to smile at the crowd – hoping they are having as much fun as he is. They are.

Lots of timeless Holiday standards in the set – all of them re-worked to swing and rock.  Also lots of Setzer’s hits (Stray Cat Strut, Rock This Town) from his days as leader/founder of the The Stray Cats, the rockabilly trio that crashed the gates of American Top 40 radio with their Dave Edmunds-produced platinum LP ‘Built for Speed’ in 1982.

A highlight was about half-way through the show — the orchestra leaves the stage so it’s just Brian, standup bass, 3 piece drum set and a honky tonk piano — all wailing for 20-minutes of nothing but flat-out rockabilly starting with a full blown version of Johnny Burnette’s ‘Rockabilly Boogie.’  What a treat.

Other highlights were full-song heartfelt tributes to the recently departed Glen Campbell and Tom Petty.   For me, one of Setzer’s all-time greatest moments was his guitar solo in the movie ‘La Bamba’ playing ‘Summertime Blues’ as the late great Eddie Cochran.  He played that lick at this show, albeit in another song, and it was magic.

The 30-city tour in in progress in the US through December, then Japan in January.   The who/ what/ when/ where are here:

I read a 2016 interview wherein Brian says another Stray Cats tour is going to happen, but for now, Here Comes Santa Claws, er, Claus.

(John Boydston’s bigger photo galleries are here:  (or follow him on Instagram @johnboydstonphoto)

Trump-Shifting: Morrissey Live in D.C.

The Mozzer got all anthemic at Anthem in Washington, DC, November 30. Exclusive photos follow the review.


There was a lot of pondering in DC, right up to the time Morrissey came out on stage at the Anthem last Thursday, as to whether or not we’d actually get to see him perform that night. “Will he or won’t he appear?” has become the question one asks when buying Morrissey tickets over the last couple years, given the number of performances he’s cancelled. Apprehension about that and his recent comments about Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein kept some away. But for those who did go, the Pope of Mope did in fact show, full of the usual pomp and swagger for which he’s known and adored.

Kicking off the night with a cover of Elvis Presley’s “You’ll Be Gone,” the band, clad in matching “Animal Rights Militia” t-shirts, sounded great. And Morrissey and his unmistakable croon, though a little raspy at times, still sounded as lovely as always. But energy was seriously lacking from the Mozz, and he seemed to just be going through the motions. It wasn’t until song 16, “Jack the Ripper,” of the 20 song set that Morrissey seemed to finally and fully turn on and connect with the audience, much like he flipped a switch. Maybe it was seeing the countless number of hands outstretched to him, illuminated by the plethora of white smoke that filled the stage behind him during “Jack” that inspired him (which looked really cool by the way—there was so much smoke you couldn’t even see the band members and only saw Morrissey in silhouette).

Or maybe it was the huge roar from the crowd and the sea of electronics pointed toward the stage recording the minute that iconic intro to “Everyday is like Sunday” started that inspired him. (He even shook things up a bit, substituting, “Tell me Quando QuandoQuando” in place of the “every day is silent and grey” lyric.)

By the time he got to the set-ending “I’m Not Sorry,” he walked along the lip of the stage, touching the hands of those in the front row…and flanked by two security guys on either side of the stage, just in case anyone was so enthusiastic they pulled the Mozz down or themselves up on stage (“This happens a lot,” I was told by management). And it did happen, during the first song of the encore, “Suedehead,” when a kid managed to get up onstage and hug Mozz (which inspired at least three more to try as well, who were not as successful).

When the band returned for the encore and someone held out a vinyl record from the crowd, Morrissey took it and signed it right there. Given the full minute he took writing, it’s probable he wrote a small novel on the cover, which was neat to watch.

“If we’re all protected, I’ll see you soon,” said Morrissey before the last song of the night, “Shoplifters of the World Unite.” Changing the title to “Trump-Shifters of the World Unite” and an imitation of the Years of Refusal cover on the big screens with him holding a baby Donald Trump, Morrissey went out being Morrissey. And, as a final thank you to the faithful, he took off his shirt and threw it into the audience, causing a mad scrum to ensue.  Divas gotta diva, but it’s Morrissey, you wouldn’t want him any other way.



Cindy Wilson + Olivia Jean 11/16/17, Denver

Dates: November 16, 2017

Location: Marquis Theatre, Denver CO

Femme magic at the Marquis Theatre, courtesy one B-52 and one Belle. (Above photo from Wilson’s Facebook page.)


Olivia Jean is a Nashville-based gal who was previously in a band called the Black Belle and has some kind of connection to Jack White. My pal and I got to the show a little bit late but caught the last few songs by the very retro-looking gal and her band and they sounded like some nice retro 60’s garage pop. Next time she/they’re in town gonna make sure to make it early as I liked what (little) I heard.

The new Cindy Wilson record is certainly a pleasant surprise. Change is on Kill Rock Stars no less (this was after the release of a few EPs, Sunrise and Supernatural) has plenty of surprises. Yes, the erstwhile B-52’s vocalist apparently had this one in the works for quite some time. She has a very talented band of youngsters in her band including a female on keyboards/violin who seemed to be the secret weapon. In addition there was a screen behind her showing assorted psychedelic videos so a multi-media event is always welcome.

…and Wilson herself seemed to be in a great mood. Smiling the whole time while dressed in all black, her former beehive now close-cropped (with the sunglasses not coming off all night) and looking quite fabulous, I must say.

Her current sound is a little hard to pin down with elements of pop, new wave, disco, electronica and rock all melded togeter into one unique stew.

In addition to the hypnotic electropop of the recently-released single “No One Can Tell You” we heard other cuts like the pumped-up disco of “Take My Time’ (from the Sunrise EP) and the dreamy pop of “Twice Shy.” They also did a cover of another Athens, Ga band Oh OK with their rendition of “Brother.” They played other EP cuts  like “Ballistic and “Frenzy” (both form the Supernatural).

Wilson didn’t feel the need to throw in any B-52’s songs and good for her. Plus it didn’t matter as the small but enthusiastic crowd were shaking their moneymakers all night. The new record stands on its own and she seems totally confident with what she’s done. 40 years after her other band initially got going it’s great to see her still at it and sounding great. (Tour dates are HERE at her website.


The Descendents 11/3/17, Kansas City

Dates: November 3, 2017

Location: Uptown Theater, Kansas City MO

Live at the Uptown Theater for some legendary punkin’… Upcoming tour dates are HERE.


It had been twenty years, 4 months and 12 days since I last saw punk rock legends The Descendents live.

That day in 1997 was the typical Midwestern July: hot as fuck with no sign or hope of letting up.

I was in Lawrence, Kansas that day against doctor’s orders, being a month out from a foot surgery.  Resolve and painkillers got me through the day; I would see the Descendents.  As faux 1940’s swing bullshit act The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies set up to bore the main stage, The Descendents exploded on the flatbed trailer that passed for a second stage.

Frontman Milo Aukerman climbed the speaker stacks, flipped off the cops and sang with venomous conviction.  Stephen Egerton attacked his Lucite body guitar like a buzzsaw, while Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson kept the rhythm better than any section that day.  It is still, to this day, one of the single greatest performances I’ve ever witnessed.

I hated The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies with a passion but my admiration and fandom for The Descendents was solidified.

On November 3, 2017 the streak ended.  I was to re-live my youth, to go back to a time before kids, grey hair, an ex-wife and stress brought worry to my door.

This night, 20 years and some change later would be slightly different.  No longer was I a wide-eye fan of 22.  Now, I was a wide-eyed fan of 42, with life under my belt.  I’m older, wiser and thanks to my gig with Blurt Magazine, I have far better access to the action.

After picking up my credentials, I found myself backstage, chatting away with Stephen Egerton while being served coffee by Stevenson, one of my all-time favorite drummers.  My life has officially become a one surreal experience after another.  The Descendents had given me another memory I’ll never forget and they hadn’t even been on stage yet.

They walked onto the stage to a packed house at The Uptown, a deafening roar that threatened to bring down the rafters.  As they tore into “Everything Sucks” I watched years melt away to reveal the band I saw all those years ago.  As they blasted through their “hit” “I’m the One”, “Hope,” “Rotting Out,” breakneck versions of the already blistering  ode to the caffeine driven life “Coffee Mug” and the gem I first heard on Pump Up the Volume “Weinersnitchel.” Twenty-five tracks in the just over 2 hour set time, memories came flooding back.  With all the bad shit that has happened to me in the last few years, it was good to have a night where I had no fucks to give.  It felt wonderful, if just for a night.

What I saw on this night was exactly what I saw 20 years ago.  Not to say it was boring. It certainly wasn’t, in fact it was one of the best sets I’ve seen all year at one of my favorite venues.  What I saw was the same virile, aggressive punk giants that I saw two decades ago; years, day jobs and kids have not slowed them, they haven’t lost a step or the obvious joy they feel in front of a room full of like minded individuals, all running on the same frequency, all drinking in the moments as if it would be the last time they’d see this spectacle of punk rock superiority.

The Descendents, 30 plus years into a storied career, are still the band they always have been: aggressive, furious, lightning quick and, above all else, a band that believes in what they’re selling and has a great time doing it.

And so, the countdown begins: it has been 8 days since I last saw The Descendents live….


Slowdive + Cherry Glazerr 11/1/17, Denver

Dates: November 1, 2017

Location: Ogden Theatre, Denver CO

Live at the Ogden Theatre, an evening of mixed intentions and sentiments.


According to Set List the last time that Slowdive played Denver was in 1992 at the Gothic Theatre. I was not living in Colorado then, in fact, I had just moved to California, but had never seen them there either and then …..poof. They were gone. Their legend grew in the ensuing two plus decades and when they came back earlier this year (or maybe in 2016?) people were ready and frothing at the mouth. They released a  S/T record on Dead Oceans earlier this year, which is at least as strong anything they have ever done.

There was a good crowd at the Ogden even for opener Cherry Glazerr. I had seen this young Los Angles trio, led by Clementine Creevy, once before and they were not my cuppa team and the two years that have passed I haven’t become more of a fan. The band has  healthy following but I think they’re not sure if they want to be a pop band or a metal band or even a ….I dunno, grunge band. I didn’t like the songs, didn’t like her voice, didn’t like really any of it. Lots of shrieking and crashing guitars (which in the right hands can be a good/great thing). After a few records on the Burger label this latest one, Apocalipstick (great title!) came out on Secretly Canadian. Listen at your own risk.

Slowdive came out next with keyboardist/vocalist Rachel Goswell (whose solo record, 2004’s Waves Are Universal, is very good!) giving the crowd a big hello while the rest of the band including vocalist/guitarist/mainsongwriter Neil Halstead kept silent, kept their heards down (to, of course, gaze at their shoes, right?) and played song after dreamy song. In the shoegaze movement these guys were among the best and their breakup left many sad and confused (though I loved their next band, Mojave 3, as much, maybe more).

They opened with “Slomo” the opening track on said latest record and proceeded to play a terrific, career-spanning set complete with highs and even more highs (cool light show, too). From 1994’s Souvlaki we heard “Souvlaki Space Station’ and “Alison” and the great “When the Sun Hits” while from their 1991 debut, Just for a Day , they played gorgeous, swirling version of  “Catch the Breeze” and  from their “weird” album 1994’s Pygmalion, we heard “Crazy for You;’ and “Blued Skie’d and Clear.”

They didn’t skimp on tunes from the latest record as other than “Slomo” we heard the brilliant “Star Roving” plus “Don’t Know Why” and “Sugar for the Pill.” The ended the set with a cover of the old Syd Barrett song “Golden Hair” (which confused some of the millenials).

Not to be outdone they came out for three encores including “No Longer Making Time” plus “Dagger”  (not named after my longtime zine) and they ended the swirling, ethereal “40 days” (from Souvlaki) and called it a night.  They came, they saw, they conquered. The crowd was more than satisfied (present company included) and yeah, I hope they stick around for a while.


Live at Athens’ Foundry Venue on November 9, Stuart and his band schooled a packed house, and then some.


If Modern Country music annoys you as much as it does me, you’ll really want to go see Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives play live.   Marty and his crack band of veteran Nashville Cats are here to remind you how good country used to be, and to save it if possible.  But it’s more than just that – their show is an astounding history lesson in country, rock, pop, rockabilly, folk, bluegrass, and instrumental surf.   Does it get any better?  (One genre they left alone was metal, but Marty Stuart could go toe-to-toe with Jimmy Page with his mandolin any day, if he hasn’t already.)

During the show I kept hearing glimpses of bands and performers I’ve always loved – The Long Ryders, Nick and Dave, The Bobby Fuller Four, Buck Owens, The Ventures, a flash of Brit pop here and there, and latter-day Byrds.  And there’s Marty playing Clarence White’s original B-Bender, a Telecaster indelibly modified by Byrds’ bandmate and drummer Gene Parsons to give it that pedal steel effect when the player pulls back on the guitar bending that B-string in and out of key. (Ed. Note: Read “A Marty Stuart Story” for some additional color re: the White axe.) Stuart is a walking encyclopedia of country music and has played with everyone who’s anyone starting with Flatt & Scruggs and Johnny Cash.  Look him up if you don’t know.

Indeed, my nickname for this band would be American Rockpile.   Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds fans will get that.  Two guitars, a bass, drums, great vocals and harmonies and a tight tight groove.   Great players and about every song had a show-stopping moment of guitar-pickin’ virtuosity (mostly from blue-fringe vested Kenny Vaughn).  But as good as they are nobody was showing off, just getting it done and having a good time doing it.   That’s Harry Stinson on drums and vocals, and Chris Scruggs on bass and steel rounding out this band of brothers.

The new Marty Stuart record is Way Out West on Sugar Hill Records (a Rounder subsidiary), available now. (It’s reviewed HERE.) These guys are always touring so do yourself a huge favor and go see ‘em and learn to love again.  Tour dates are at Stuart’s Facebook page. here:   Plus it’s a no-earplugs show.  Imagine all those amps and guitars and tone at volume you can talk over.

John Boydston’s photo galleries of things he likes are at


Alvvays + Jay Som 10/31/17, Denver

Dates: October 31, 2017

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

Live at the Bluebird Theatre for a special Halloween fashion show… so to speak.


Why give out candy to the kiddos on Halloween when you can go see Alvvays! Yes, for this terrific Toronto band’s first sojourn to the Mile High City I was not gonna miss it but first I had to weather labelmates (Polyvinyl) Jay Som (who were all dressed as The Edge from U-2…that was great). I’ve seen Jay Som before here when they headlined over the Courtneys last year and I don’t necessarily dislike the band but I’m not falling all over them like a lot of of folks.

It’s a pop sound, one that’s occasionally dreamy, other times groove-oriented and at other times a big, grating mess (and I just don’t hear enough hooks). Leader Melina Duterte definitely has talent and most of the crowd seemed to love it so who am I to judge. Check her/them out for yourself and make your own informed decision (Everybody Works is their latest).

Canada’s Alvvays, hot on ther heels of their sophomore release Antosicalites, hit the stage at 9:15 PM sharp dressed as Oompa Loompas and from there it was an hour or so of melodic pop bliss! They remind me a bit of a few 80’s/90’s indie pop bands like Velocity Girl and Shop Assistants as well as current bands like Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Veronica Falls. Falling nicely into the pantheon of great pop bands.

They opened with “Hey” which is the new waveish song off the new album (and sounds just a wee bit out of place on the record) and from there proceeded to play mosty of the cuts from both of their records. After that first song the 1-2-3- punch of “Adult Diversion,” “In Undertow” and “Plimsoll Punks” knocked us all flat in the best way possible.

Mid-set they laid out the great “Saved by a Waif” and the Shop Assistants-esque “Your Type” and ended the set with another great trifecta in “Archie, Marry Me” (the surprise hit off their S/T 2014 debut), “Dreams Tonite” (my 9 year old’s favorite song) and “Party Police.”

They came back out and played the great “Next of Kin” and ended it with a cover of a Motorcycle Boy (who were a post-Shop Assistants band) cover of “Trying to be Kind” and called it a night.

The band is really flying high as this sold out show proved and they deserve it, they work hard and write terrific songs. Looking forward to see what they deliver on their next record but for now I’m still basking in this memorable Halloween. Alvvays and forever!