Category Archives: live review

Jay Som + The Courtneys 4/6/17, Denver

Dates: April 6, 2017

Location: Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO

Lost Lake Lounge plays host to one Flying Nun band and one Polyvinyl band. TMOQ, no lie.


Man, I really wanted to get there early enough to catch Denver’s Shady Elders who, though I’ve heard some of their tunes, have yet to catch them in a live setting, but it was not to be. By the time I showed up they were breaking down.

I sure as hell wasn’t going to be late for Vancouver, BC’s Courtneys. I love their new record (II, out now on New Zealand’s classic Flying Nun label…I’d heard it’s the first non-NZ band to be signed to Flying Nun and there’s some truth to that).  The band is three gals who I believe are all originally from cowtown Calgary but headed west to Vancouver to seek their fame and fortune. Ok, probably not that but to at least make some noise with friends. They were each in several different bands before finding their groove as a trio making fuzzy, infectious pop. Said new record is just fabulous but live you see their interplay, the drummer (Jen) does most (all) of the singing while the bass player (Sydney), the talkative one in the band, held down the low end and the quiet, tattooed guitarist (Courtney) eked out some of the coolest sounds out of her instrument. Cuts like “Silver Velvet,” “Virgo” and “Minnesota” take on the feel of classics the first time you hear them. If The Courtneys come to your town do not miss them.


I’d only heard about Jay Som (pictured at the top) a week or so ago, but my pal insisted they were worth staying for and they were (though due to some unforeseen circumstances, a babysitting snafu, my pal and I had to leave after about 30 minutes).

Still, though the band looked and seemed pro (I snickered to my buddy that the guitarist looks like a high school gym teacher (“One more smirk like that Hinely and you’ll be running laps for the whole class!”) while the long-haired bassist looked like a member of Soundgarden, rocking back and forth for the whole set, and the versatile drummer was flat-out excellent.

Up front is Jay Som (real name Melina Duterte) a short, laid-back woman with loads of low-key charisma. I still have yet to hear her 2016 debut Turn Into (Polyvinyl) but the latest one Everybody Works (on the same label) is a real head turner with sneaky melodies and danceable bits all over the place. We had to leave just as the groove was sinking in but I was glad that I was able to catch at least part of Jay Som and her band. I’m staying to the end next time!


Real Estate 4/12/17, Denver

Dates: April 12, 2017

Location: Gothic Theatre, Denver CO

Happy birthday, Tim. At the storied Gothic Theatre, the acclaimed indie rockers were anything BUT gothic. View Real Estate tour dates HERE.


I got there too late to catch opening act, harpist Mary Lattimore, but got there in time to get good seats for New Jersey’s own Real Estate, up in the balcony. I don’t usually sit for gigs but some pals wanted to so what the hey (plus it was my birthday so we celebrated in style).

I’d seen Real Estate a few other times live, in fact the previous time being at the Gothic, and while they’re not the most exciting live band they more than make up for it with songs and nuance. They’ve been compared to another New Jersey act, The Feelies, and that comparison is fair, though not always completely accurate. They’re touring for their 5th album,  In Mind (Domino Records)  which seems to be as critically acclaimed as the previoius ones were. To put it simply, critics love this band.

Though leader Martin Courtney writes all of the songs, one of his main cohorts, Matt Mondanile, has left the band to focus more on his own project, Ducktails, but was replaced by a more than able new guitarist (Julian Lynch) and the band didn’t seem to miss a step. Let’s not forget the keyboardist, Matt Kallman, who looked like a reject from the Seton Hall men’s basketball team. Oh also he had no shoes or socks on but the rest of the bad were fully clothed. Bassist Alex Bleeker chatted up the crowd, as always, while long-haired drumemr Jackson Pollis, did his thing, and very well I might add.

They opened with “Saturday” off their latest record, and also off said new record we heard chiming gems like “Darling,” “Stained Glass,” “Serve the Song” and “White Light.” The band, however, didn’t forget their back catalog, either, as we were treated to older cuts like “Youger than Yesterday” and “Suburban Dogs” (unfortunately no “Talking Backwards”).

But honest to goodness, Real Estate rocked on this evening. Not sure if it was due to guitarist Lynch who took Mondanile’s place, but the band really bit down and chewed for pretty much the whole set.

After an hour they’d called it a night, but came back out for a few encores. “Had to Hear,” “Two Arrows” and “Crime” (two of them off of 2014’s Atlas) and then called it a night as the close-to-sold-out crowd left with smiles and that look of contentment after a satisfying gig.



The Rumjacks, 4/11/17, NYC

Dates: April 11, 2017

Location: Rockwood Music Hall, NYC


Live at the Rockwood Music Hall this week, Australia channeled Ireland and much ale was hoisted. Below, check out a couple of videos, courtesy Perfect Sound Forever.


Irish punk-gone-trad music is almost as old school as Irish traditional music nowadays with the Pogues’ landmark early albums over three decades old now. The boozy torch has been carried along by the likes of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys and more recently, an Aussie quartet who picked up on the music of their fellow British outliers.




The Rumjacks date back to 2008 with three albums and a bunch of singles under their belt, making their way across the States for a tour, including stops at SXSW and NYC. For their Yankee trek, singer Frankie McLaughlin was laid up sick so their mandolin/bouzouki player (don’t laugh- the Mekons have one) Adam Kenny ably took over, using a music stand cheat sheet for the lyrics.  With bassist Johnny McKelvey as the jovial MC (“this is the earliest and sober-est we’ve played so we’ll be the drunkest later”), they led the crowd through their catalog, including a stop at the Scottish ballad “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Reflecting the cross-current of the music, the crowd switched from jig dances to moshing in the blink of a song, even with a guest tin whistle player thrown in (Chiara De Sio from the Clan).





Once again Prof. Rosen makes his pilgrimage to Knoxville. Check out his 2014 report, as well as 2015, not to mention 2016.


Photos by Melinda Wallis-Rosen

As the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville has grown during its six installments since 2009, bringing a mind-bogglingly large mix of cross-pollinating modernist rock, classical, jazz, international and other types of music, one increasingly wonders where Ashley Capps — its founder and artistic director — got his interest in something so culturally cutting-edge.

After all, he runs Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, the company that puts on the giant summer outdoor Bonnaroo, Forecastle and other contemporary rock festivals. These are known for their innovative mixes of performers, but there are limits. One would not expect Bonnaroo, for instance, to feature the 78-year-old American New Music composer Frederic Rzewski rigorously, forcefully playing the piano for more than an hour straight in a performance of his 1975 “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” It consists of 36 probing, exploratory variations of a Chilean folk song, and is meant to remember the murdered Salvador Allende and serve as an inspiration for resistance.

But there he was on a Friday afternoon at this year’s recently concluded Big Ears (which ran from a Thursday through Sunday), playing a Steinway & Sons grand piano in the center of a large nightclub called The Mill & Mine, as a crowd sat on the floor or stood to watch and listen to this impressive exhibition of stamina. (Below: Matmos)


In the past, Capps and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have wisecracked that his interest in such unconventional music is related to him once owning a Knoxville club called Ella Guru’s, named after a Captain Beefheart song. That running joke continued at the Thursday-afternoon kick-off reception this year, when Rogero introduced Capps by calling him “a man who needs no trout mask replica, a man who is as safe as milk, a man who is our very own doc at the radar station.”

And that’s all well and good, but there’s something else at work here. Capps revealed some of that when introducing Rzewski (pronounced “zev-sky”) by telling about the time in 1977 he picked up him, pianist Ursula Oppens and saxophonist Lee Konitz at a New York airport to take then to Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio, where Capps was a student. There, Capps remembers, Rzewski played “The People United…,” a recent composition commissioned by Oppens, that had yet to be recorded. He knew at the time it was destined to be a major work, he says.

So Capps has a personal connection to this kind of work. (He also remembered driving Don Cherry to Woodstock.) And he definitely still has an ear for it.

When introducing the contemporary classical pianist Lisa Moore at the same venue, with the same in-the-round set-up on Saturday, he said that when he first heard her 2016 Stone People album, he knew it was one of the year’s strongest.

Imagine how many records in a year he must listen to, or at least be aware of, to stay atop of his vast festival and concert business. Yet he picks one, on the niche New Music label Cantaloupe Music, that features recordings of compositions by the likes of Rzewski, Missy Mazzoli and John Luther Adams.

But Moore did not disappoint. By turns lyrical and pounding in her choice of material and approach to the keyboard, and wearing a distinguishing white jacket, she began with one of Philip Glass’ most melodic and downright sweet compositions ever, 1979’s “Mad Rush.” There were times when Moore made it echo with snatches from “Over the Rainbow.” Her concert then featured works by other big names — Rzewski, Mazzoli, Adams, Julia Wolfe. But the standout besides “Mad Rush” was a work called “Sliabh Beagh” that she had commissioned from an Australian composer, Kate Moore, in order to explore Irish roots. Starting off like an introspective art song — Lisa Moore sang at the beginning — it evolved into a thunderously powerful work for piano that just kept building. Her concert was thrilling.

A couple years ago, the roaring, avant-garde bass saxophonist Colin Stetson played a Big Ears gig at a small bar so crowded I had to jump up and down every now and then just to catch a glimpse of his head. But there was no problem hearing then — the sound he got from that gigantic woodwind, large enough to double as a piece of public sculpture, could cut through a baseball park filled with fans cheering a grand slam.

This year, Stetson had a venue where he was easily seen — onstage at the large Mill & Mine. Believe it or not, it was reasonably hard to hear him. But it didn’t matter. With an ensemble of horn and string players, plus a singer, he was performing his reimagining of Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s 1977 3rd Symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), which became famous when a 1992 recording sold a million copies. Because one of the three songs contained within the symphony used a message found on a Gestapo cell wall, it conjures World War II and the Holocaust. Stetson calls his adaptation Sorrow, and he means for the saxophone to wail not so much in the Illinois Jacquet sense of the word, but rather in the “weeping” sense.

Amid the wave-like comings and goings of repetitive phrases from the other horns, Stetson’s playing fit in rather than stood out. And it sounded like an ominously rumbling bass. But the overall arrangement of Sorrow sucked everyone into its slowly building undertow and then cathartically brought them along. And when the music quieted to let Stetson’s sister, Megan, sing the songs, it was like Jefferson Airplane subsiding its playing for Grace Slick to solo on “Someone to Love.” Megan Stetson had a magnificently rich mezzo-soprano voice.

Stetson is a restless talent — on his new song, “Into the Clinches,” he hits his sax’s keys like he’s hammering out an electronic backbeat while blowing into the instrument. The result is as unexpectedly infectious as Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” and it could be a dance club hit.

While Big Ears is way too eclectic to pigeonhole its approach to booking, the rock or pop acts who played the two major venues — the luxurious 1928 Tennessee Theatre (the official state theater), and the 1909 Bijou — tend to be either experimentalist or to be using Big Ears for a conceptualist venture. (The event’s biggest act, Wilco, maybe doesn’t fit that description, but band members Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy also used the festival for separate concerts.)

One such example was the toughly intellectualized Matmos, consisting of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt, whose austerely theatrical take on the late Robert Ashley’s television opera Private Parts made for an invigorating noontime show at the Tennessee on Friday. Musically, it has an understated drone punctuated with electronica touches. Schmidt, in the first part looking Mr. Rogers-like in brown sweater and bowtie, provided the odd, casually upbeat recitation that Ashley himself used to do at his shows. Behind him, two women faced each other and provided an occasional encouraging “that’s right” in accompaniment. Ashley isn’t an easy composer to understand, but Matmos did make him and his music accessible — and hip.


But Matmos didn’t have anything on Xiu Xiu (above), who presented on Saturday at the Tennessee their tribute to David Lynch’s and Angelo Badalamenti’s music for the eerily meta Twin Peaks television series from 1990-91. Mostly instrumental but with a few vocals, like on the drifting and chilling “Into the Night,” the project allowed a fierce Jamie Stewart to play guitar or drums to Angela Seo’s keyboards and Shayna Dunkelman’s smashing, riveting percussion. She whacked mallets on vibes or slammed drums. With Twin Peaks slated to return to television on Showtime this year, Xiu Xiu has a hot concept more cutting-edge than retro, and knew it. It was a show infused with currency.

Compared to these two, the Magnetic Fields concerts at the Tennessee, presenting composer/singer Stephin Merritt’s year-by-year autobiographical songs on the band/art project’s new 50 Song Memoir, were more traditional. Merritt, after all, writes impossibly catchy pop tunes with witty lyrics that make you smile and laugh. What’s that doing at Big Ears?

But Merritt was downright subversive on stage, beginning with that low baritone/bass voice that can add such gravitas to even his lightest, loveliest songs. There was also, in new material like “Come Back as a Cockroach,” “I Think I’ll Make Another World” and “Eye Contact,” real bite and irony. He wasn’t just skimming the surface of his early years (I was only able to catch the first of his two Big Ears shows) for material, he was also humorously but resolvedly plumbing the emotional depths. He was being confessional yet novelistic.


He also was a very conceptual performer — in that regard, a natural fit at Big Ears. The stage set-up for his concert reminded me of the Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone. He sat inside a fanciful room-like set, maybe based on a childhood bedroom, wearing a garishly checked sweater and a mac. He made amusingly snarky between-song patter — he was the middle-aged man looking back with mixed emotions.

The five other musicians were positioned around and behind this prop, in an arc formation. They played an array of instruments that gave the sound satisfying coloration and power. Merritt, too, played instruments or otherwise manipulated sounds, and sometimes would do something surprising, like sing the unabashedly silly but joyful tune “Hustle 76.” This brought out the “bumpity bump” (as Merritt hailed it) in the Magnetic Fields’ sound. The second set, which got Merritt through year 25 in his life, was just as strong. This is a great album, probably one of the year’s best when final polls come out, and Merritt’s performance made you realize its quality.


By now, Merritt is an old pro. He’s 52, after all. But a couple truly old pros, both women, were the performers I’ll remember most.

The jazz composer and pianist Carla Bley, at age 80 looking as snazzy and stylish, with the same assured posture and black outfit as a decades-younger fashionable orchestra conductor, on Thursday night led the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the Tennessee Theatre through her big-band compositions. Her longtime bassist Steve Swallow and tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard augmented the group, and the result for the most part was swinging yet prickly, as burrs and detours kept cropping up in the straight-aheadness. Her final composition, “The National Anthem,” was prefaced by her comment, “What better time?” (to play it). But despite its unorthodox yet welcome funkiness, it didn’t seem to leave as strong an impression as I desired. Maybe the times and the current president call out for the kind of state-of-emergency defiant approach Hendrix took to patriotic music at Woodstock. This wasn’t quite fiery enough — maybe Bley needs to compose an Escalator Over the Trump.


And the 74-year-old, pigtailed Meredith Monk (above) was spry and delightful enough a presence at the Bijou on Friday night to play Puck in a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as if her career and talents aren’t already varied enough). And her ever-present gracious smile could have illuminated even the top row of the theater’s otherwise-dark balcony.

Appearing with her Vocal Ensemble, her voice was in synch and in pitch with anything else on stage. She could duet with a revved-up monster truck if she wanted to. It is a marvelous instrument, whether she uses it for wordless vocalization or to comically, exaggeratingly lampoon in song a privileged older woman not prepared to die yet whose time has come.

Her concert included material from throughout her career. Her ease with “Click Song #1,” which she described as a “duet for solo voice” and which found her humming, clicking and puckering simultaneously, would make Tuvan throat singers envious.

And on “Choosing Companions” — from an opera, Atlas, that she composed in 1991 — Monk sat at the piano and sang haunting variations on the sound “day-o” by herself for a while. Then, Vocal Ensemble member Katie Geissinger came out, knocked on the piano to introduce herself, and began a short recitation of what I took to be an interpretation of Monk’s musical message. She soon joined Monk in singing, and the two communicated a call-and-response, point-and-counterpoint sensitivity to each other that elegantly pushed the song toward emotional breakthrough.

At one point, Monk told the audience about sitting in the New Mexican hot sun waiting for a musical idea, and you can see how that state’s artistic New Age exoticism could play a role in her vision. But there’s also a New Music progressivism, not unlike John Cage or Steve Reich, which incorporates Contemporary Art notions of modernism. She deserves all the recognition she can get as one of America’s singular composers and composers.

In past coverage, and at the beginning of this review, I’ve mentioned the Big Ears-Captain Beefheart connection. And also how Capps, at Big Ears, seems to be closer to someone like Rzewski than a raucous blues-rock iconoclast like Beefheart.

But another experimentalist whose name cropped up this year was Arthur Russell, an early proponent/practitioner of the kind of open-minded approach to music the festival favors.

He was a cellist drawn to experimentalism and minimalism, a friend of such other New York City classical music boundary pushers of the 1970s as Glass, Reich and Julius Eastman who also became interested in the conceptual rock of Talking Heads and Modern Lovers and the multi-rhythmic funkiness of disco. And he composed, sang and played cello on fragile, Nick Drake-like chamber-folk love songs like “A Little Lost.”

Always ahead of the curve, his death in 1992 passed with little attention. (He was just 40.) But his reputation has since grown — he was the subject of a 2008 documentary called Wild Combination. He was truly an artist with “big ears.” This festival, as it evolves, seems to be modeled on his vision of music.














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Survey says… yes, indeed we do! At venerable Atlanta venue the Tabernacle, Wayne Coyne & Co. made jelly out of the crowd’s collective brain…. Photo gallery follows the text. Wait, is that guy above naked?


The Flaming Lips is a legendary band that will take you on a magical journey throughout their show. The Lips proved it in Atlanta on a warm Spring night in an old church that is the iconic music venue Tabernacle. Literally, standing room only and we were all like a jar of pickles ready to explode, and then it happened, The Flaming Lips took the stage. A great roar from us all in attendance to what can only be describe as a uniquely creative experience. Gigantic inflatable mushrooms, strobe lights, confetti cannons, huge helium balloons floating throughout and the Lips front man, Wayne Coyne, conducting a musical journey.

This is how memories are made. People coming together to celebrate music. I’ve seen the Lips quite a bit and they are a band that doesn’t disappoint when performing live. It is almost like a psychedelic circus where imagination and creativity knows no boundaries. It is all wonderful.

Music is never lost by the wonderment of the psychedelic imagery projected on the screen behind the band or by the giant disco ball or even by the confetti falling. They are a rare band that incorporates creative genius and musical genius. This does not come along often enough in music in this present day. Yes, they have been around for years and yes they are a band that some say is the new Pink Floyd. Whether that is true is up to personal opinions. To me, they are and always will be the definition of creativity.

Rope lights that looks like fringe is lifted and lowered to the stage, at one point during the show while it is lowered to the stage a giant inflatable rainbow arch is lifted in it. Wayne Coyne is underneath and beautiful music is the result. Confetti cannons shoot confetti during the show and huge helium balloons float back and forth and the crowd helps in keeping them afloat. A few of the balloons burst and make a loud pop, but that does not stop the fun that we are having in the audience. Laser lights, strobe lights, even Wayne Coyne coming into the crowd riding on top of a mannequin horse wearing inflatable rainbow wings this is what dreams are made of. We were all amazed by this sight of him riding through the audience. A psychedelic dream came true from a band that will always be the band to see on everyone’s bucket list, my advice to you, Don’t Miss this Show!

Their new album is “Oczy Mlody” and is out now.

The band is wrapping up its tour TONIGHT, April 4, in St. Petersburg, Florida, at Jannus Live. Did you miss it?

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Social Distortion 3/30/17, Denver

Dates: March 30, 2017

Location: Ogden Theatre, Denver CO


First of two sold-out shows at The Ogden Theatre!


It had been a few years since I’d  last caught Southern California’s long-running punk/hard rock/bluesy Social Distortion.  Their shows are usually never much different than  the other, but always entertaining. They’ve been at it since the early 80’s when they first crawled out of Fullerton, CA (along with The Adolescents) with their classic debut Mommy’s Little Monster. Though it’s been six years since their last record, 2011’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (Epitaph Records) the band has such a dedicated fan base that they can sell out two consecutive nights at the Ogden Theatre with no records in recent memory, as they did this time.

I caught the first night’s gig and leader Mike Ness still has his co-hort Johnny Two Bags on lead guitar while the rhythm section is Brent Harding on bass (he’s played with Deke Dickerson among many others and on a Ness solo record) and longtime L.A. musician David Hidalgo, Jr. on drums (son of the Los Lobos member and former drummer for Suicidal Tendencies, not sure what happened to Charlie Quintana???). [He left in 2009 and was replaced by Atom Willard, who was replaced by Scott Reeder, who in turn was replaced by Hidalgo in 2010. —Archives Ed.]

The band hit the stage early, 9:15 PM, and opened up with “I Was Wrong” (off 2006’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash which is one of their best records) and from there played a handful of tunes off a majority of their records (not sure we heard anything off of that classic debut I mentioned earlier).  They played fan favorites like “Bad Luck,” “Don’t Drag Me Down, “California (hustle and flow) “Ball and Chain” and “99 to Life,” among others.

While talking to the crowd Ness tossed out some of his opinions on the current adminitration  and stated, “These people don’t care about you or your grandparents!” He then mentioned that the band is working on new songs and played one of them, a bluesy number called “When You Your Burden Down.” After an hour or so the band walked off stage amid a ton of cheers (from the heavily sauced crowd, this bunch can drink) and came back out for a few encores including “Dear Lover” (also off White Light….)  and “Story of My Life” and called it a night.

Again, the band doesn’t play at the breakneck pace like they used to, but it doesn’t seem that their fans seem to mind. Ness could pretty much do and say anything and this fan base would still follow along and consider it gospel. He’s been at it for long enough, he’s earned his keep.

Photo is from 2011, via Wikipedia


Rain (Beatles Tribute) 2/21/17, Seattle

Dates: February 21, 2017

Location: Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Performing live at Benaroya Hall, the veteran trib outfit covered all the expected bases while giving the Fab Four’s timeless music a unique feel.


You can expect a lot of Sgt. Pepper hoopla this year, as 1967 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. At the time of its release, it was hailed as the greatest album ever made — a claim that’s been constantly picked over ever since, but that’s another story. As a prime artifact that epitomizes the heralded Summer of Love ™, the Sergeant still reigns supreme.

Sgt. Pepper was Paul McCartney’s idea of how the Beatles could reinvent themselves, and make an album without the pressure of being “The Beatles.” Which makes it a bit ironic to have it as the centerpiece of a Beatles tribute show. Rain is the premiere Beatles tribute band (they don’t call them “impersonators” any more) in the U.S., going all the way back to 1975 when they were based in Laguna Beach, California, and called themselves “Reign.” They weren’t a full on tribute band at the time, but did perform a lot of Beatles covers, which landed them a gig providing the Beatle music for the first feature film about the Fab Four, Birth of the Beatles (released in 1979, and for my money still a better film than Backbeat or Nowhere Boy).

Today, Rain is more of a brand than a band; there are various touring line-ups of the group. The band has grown and changed over the years, and I hadn’t seen most of the members of the line-up that played Seattle on February 21: Jimmy Irizarry (John), Paul Curatolo (Paul), and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo). I had seen Alastar McNeil (George) in Fourever Fab, a Beatles tribute act in Hawaii (a Beatle tribute artist can always land a gig somewhere), and I’ve seen Curatolo’s father, Joey, who’s also a member of Rain, playing Paul (like father, like son!). Also on hand was Chris Smallwood, playing keyboards discreetly at the rear of the stage.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Rain’s shows follow a pretty standard format. Open with the group in their Fab Four Mop Top suits performing on The Ed Sullivan Show. A couple of A Hard Day’s Night songs, and then we’re into the Shea Stadium concert and “Yesterday.” Then to the Sgt. Pepper era followed by The Beatles (aka “The “White Album”) and Abbey Road period. But with this show featuring Sgt. Pepper as the centerpiece — Rain performs the album in its entirety — some adjustments had to be made. And this is what made the show especially interesting, for band rejigged the set list to include some songs that Beatles tribute bands don’t normally play.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

The mood was set as you entered the venue; Benaroya Hall, home to the Seattle Symphony, so the acoustics were great. Rain has the best production values of any Beatles tribute band, with an attention to detail evident even before the show begins. There’s a black-and-white backdrop featuring pictures of 1960s signifiers (a peace sign, a lava lamp) and images related to the Beatles’ history (a Cavern Club sign, an Abbey Road street sign). The pre-show music is drawn from the early years of the decade (e.g. “Stand By Me”). There are numerous screens built into the set, with clips showing Rain re-enacting Beatles press conferences, and used to good effect at the show’s start, when a clip showing an Ed Sullivan impersonator introduces the band.

The first sequence emulates the Ed Sullivan shows, right down to “applause” signs flashing at the side of the stage after each song. You get the expected hits: “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Though right handed, Curatolo taught himself to play bass left handed — so important to that visual image of the Fabs (he did swap to a right handed guitar when playing “Yesterday”). By the middle Beatles period, the band had started to loosen up, delivering hard rocking versions of “Ticket to Ride” and “Day Tripper.” The screens flashed images tied in with each song (such as trains when the band sings “A Hard Day’s Night,” reflecting the train trip the Beatles make in the movie of the same name), along with vintage commercials shown during the breaks for costume changes (the one showing Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble taking a cigarette break drew the biggest laugh).

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Then came a melding of the Rubber SoulRevolver and “White Album” period, which brought the first surprises. I’ve never before heard a Beatles tribute band perform “The Word,” and they rarely tackle “Eleanor Rigby,” due to its having no rock instrumentation. Rain did both songs, along with other less expected material like “Drive My Car,” “In My Life,” and, skipping ahead, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” It was refreshing to hear a Beatles tribute band vary the “just play the hits” formula. The Beatles were a band with a fantastic catalogue — why not explore more of it?

McNeil’s star turn in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (a song which invariably brings down the house) brought act one to a dramatic close. The drum head on Chiazza’s bass drum was then changed to one emulating the drum on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, and we were ready for act two, with the band naturally attired in the colorful costumes also featured on the album’s cover. (Below photo by Richard Lovrich; courtesy Rain)

RAIN - A Tribute to the Beatles is a LIVE multi-media spectacular that takes you through the life and times of the world's most celebrated band. Featuring high-definition screens and imagery - this stunning concert event delivers a note-for-note theatrical event that is the next best thing to The Beatles.

Again, it was exciting to hear a Beatles tribute band play songs you never generally hear: “Getting Better,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Good Morning, Good Morning” (complete with animal noises) Also, it was great to hear the entire album, not just the highlights you usually get in a tribute show. The album stands as the Beatles’ most imaginative work, as well as being one of their most musically versatile, and Rain clearly relished the opportunity to dig into the album start to finish. Though it’s a shame they didn’t take advantage of the Sgt. Pepper suits to perform “Hello Goodbye,” a song whose video also featured those iconic outfits.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Then it was back to basics with the late era stuff, including a singalong to “Give Peace a Chance,” “Get Back” and “Revolution,” and an encore singalong of “Hey Jude.” The band was first rate throughout. Curatolo seemed to have the most fun, mugging and pointing at the audience just like the real McCartney, while Irizarry looked increasingly like Lennon as the show progressed. McNeil was suitably laid back as “the Quiet One,” and poor old Chiazza only got one song to sing. Never mind. As a group effort, Rain delivers. And with a crop of new songs in the setlist, even those who’ve seen Rain before will want to check out the new show.

Rain tours the U.S. through April 23, 2017.

Live! @ Benaroya Hall

Live! @ Benaroya Hall



Act One: “She Loves You,” “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “If I Fell,” “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” “The Night Before,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “Twist and Shout,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “The Word,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Drive My Care,” “In My Life,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Act Two: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Within You Without You,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning, Good Morning,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise),” “A Day in the Life,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Get Back,” “Revolution,” “The End.”

Encore: “Hey Jude.”


Author contact:, Twitter: @GillianGaar

Photographer contact: (Copyright Peter Dervin)

Suicidal Tendencies + Havok + Crowbar 3/7/17, Memphis

Dates: March 7, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphiis TN

ST 3


On March 7th the old school cross over thrash/punk group of Suicidal Tendencies took the stage at New Daisy Theatre in Memphis, Tn. Lead singer Mike Muir has been kicking ass and taking names ever since he was young and wanted a Pepsi and couldn’t get one. Mike is out on tour in support of the World Gone Mad Tour with bands Havok and Crowbar.

Havok 2


Havok (above) reigning from Denver Colorado took the stage first with lightning fast riffs and began to get the crowd into the mood for a great night.

Crowbar 2

Crowbar 3


Crowbar (above) was up next and the crowd received them by beginning to mosh all around the front and middle of the crowd. I actually felt sorry for one young lady who apparently had never been to a heavy rock show, or at least not up front. She eventually worked her way out of arms way and scurried off to the back. Crowbar was a perfect setup for Suicidal Tendencies. Crowbar’s set was just as heavy as Havok’s set and both bands are gaining new fans and winning over the old heads who once thought that the bands such as Megadeth and Slayer might be an end to an era. After Crowbar said goodnight and left the stage the crowd was shouting ST over and over waiting for Mike and the crew to take the stage.

ST 2

ST came out with their powerhouse song “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and didn’t slow down for the entire night. It’s hard to believe that Muir has put out thirteen albums under the Suicidal Tendencies band since forming in 1980, and that’s not counting the side project Infectious Grooves with Robert Trujillo who is now with Metallica. Trujillo and Muir even got Ozzy to sing the line “therapy” in the song “Therapy”. It’s a cool story how they managed to get Ozzy who was down the hall in studio to sit in with them. You can see interview on YouTube for the full story.


ST 4

Mike may be getting older but you would never know it with his stage presence. He never stood still and kept up the iconic stomp that he has always strutted on stage. The band did stop the show just long enough to invite a few skater and young fans on stage to jam with the band for a couple of songs. The night wouldn’t have been complete without hearing “I Saw Your Mommy” and “Institutionalized”, and Mike didn’t disappoint!

Pegboy 2/17/17, Denver

Dates: February 17, 2017

Location: 3 Kings Tavern, Denver CO

Pegboy Facebook page image

As part of the Don’t Panic festival, the Chicago punk legends laid waste to Denver’s 3 Kings Tavern


Wait….Pegboy is still around?? I had no idea. I had posted one of their songs on my Facebook page last month when a pal asks me if I’m going to see them next month. I’m like “Where? In Denver??! Uh…hell yes I’m going!.” Sure enough I checked the schedule and they’re playing this thing called the Don’t Panic fest. For me just seeing Pegboy was good enough thought I did catch a few other bands (Black Dots were real good).

Pegboy crawled out of Chicago in the late ‘80s loaded with talent, including ex-Bhopal Stiffs guy Larry Damore on vocals and guitarist John Haggerty, ex of Chicago legends Naked Raygun. Haggerty has always been one of my favorite guitarists, the sound he’s able to get out of that instrument still slays. On drums is Haggerty’s brother Joe (formerly of Bloodsport) and on bass is Mike Thompson (for a long stretch it was N.R. bassist Pierre Kezdy but he has been suffering some health issues the past few years).

Oddly enough, in all of my years of gig going, I don’t think I had ever seen Pegboy before so that made me doubly jazzed. It was going to be a late night, they were gonna hit the stage at 11:45 PM, but hey, if the guys in the band can do it (all over 50 years old ‘cept for the bassist) then this 50-plus year old can do it.

Damore was great, smiling throughout the set, cracking jokes, throwing his arms up in the air and then letting the crowd know “It’s been 17 years since we were last in Denver, if you can believe that.” The kind of guy you wanna throw your arm around him after the gig and buy him a beer. The rest of the band kept their heads down and went to work, Haggerty grinding and slashing on his axe while the rhythm section were powerful yet precise and they all really made these great songs come to life.

As far as the song selection? Pretty damn great, we heard “Strong Reaction,” “My Youth” and the unbelievably great “Dangermare.” They didn’t let us down on the covers either handling Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” (which they’d recorded for their 2nd album Earwig) and Naked Raygun’s “Soldier’s Requim.”

Toward the end of the set we heard “Field of Darkness” and the instrumental “Locomotivelung”  to which the packed house was going ballastic. Damore stated that “We usually don’t played any encores but we will tonight” when the band launched into “Slipped Through My Fingers’ (off the band’s debut EP, Three Chord Monte) and then, at the end, Damore stated “Thanks everyone , that was great, we’re gonna be hanging around if anyone wants to chat and get a beer with us.”  And with that Pegboy were off into the night. Let’s hope it’s not another 17 years before they make it out this way again. The band is too damn good to keep these songs under wraps for so long.


Phantogram 1/14/17, Rochester, NY

Dates: January 14, 2017

Location: Main Street Armory, Rochester NY


Onstage at the Main Street Armory in Rochester, the indie band thrilled the crowd and had a flawless sound.


Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, has come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boy and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP, Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.






Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.



Black Out Days

Don’t Move

Fall in Love

Same Old Blues


When I’m Small

Mouthful of Diamonds

Howling at the Moon

You’re Mine

Cruel World

You Don’t Get Me High Anymore