Monthly Archives: October 2016

TIM LEE 3 – Tin, Man

Album: Tin, Man

Artist: Tim Lee 3

Label: Cool Dog Sound

Release Date: October 28, 2016


The Upshot: Tight-but-loose set that covers a wide swathe of stylistic ground, from swamp rock to power pop to soul balladry.


Say it ain’t so, gang! But it’s right there in black and white on the Tim Lee 3 website: Tin, Man is the Knoxville group’s swansong, following a ten year run and six superb albums. The group is officially going on hiatus, although the posting makes it clear that Lee, bassist wife Susan, and drummer Chris Bratta are all on good terms, and it’s only “external forces” that led to the decision for the Lees to concentrate, for the time being, on their duo project, Bark, and Bratta on his own various projects, (which include the Knox County Jug Stompers). Writes Lee:

“We’re not ‘breaking up’ the band. We’re not putting the band out to pasture. We’re good Southerners so we’re just putting it up on cinder blocks in the front yard until it’s time to put on some new tires and take it for another spin.”

Still, if going out on a positive note is the intention, Tin, Man seals the deal, in spades. It’s a bit looser in feel than last year’s 33 1/3 (of which yours truly noted had a pure “sonic and emotional wallop”), though no less tuneful and diverse. This may be due, in part, to the fact that a good chunk of the material here was tracked live, and also because they brought in quite a few guests on selected tracks, notably keyboard player Beth McKee, who adds crucial textures on several cuts. She’s particularly well-utilized on “See the Light,” a luminous ballad sung by Susan that, with McKee’s Wurlitzer electric piano, has an undeniable Southern soul vibe, and on its funkier counterpart, “No Rest,” McKee bringing her best Spooner Oldham Hammond B3 stylings to suggest a Muscle Shoals satellite studio established in Knoxville.

Elsewhere, the hits just keep comin’, from the 12-string-and-steel, Byrdsian Americana of “Lodger,” to bluesy, tremolo-drenched swamp rocker “Bad Attitude” (a cover originally penned by Suzy Elkins and RS Field), to the chugging powerpop of “Expensive Proposition.”

The latter, incidentally, is the TL3 minus any additional players, a perfect distillation of the trio’s core sound, with Tim and Susan swapping vocals so easily and intuitively that you can readily picture them onstage together, nodding, smiling, and exchanging glances as they sing. It’s also the album’s closer, and a fitting one, at that. Did someone mention going out on a high note?

Having followed Lee’s career going all the way back to his ‘80s band the Windbreakers, I’m confident he’ll keep making great music for many years to come. In 2015 he told BLURT, in an interview, “We generally just write the songs, and then give them the leeway to become what they need to become. We don’t really plan things out, we try to trust our instincts and follow whatever muse comes along.” So I’m good with trusting him and the musicians’ instincts. Catch ya on the flipside, folks.

DOWNLOAD: “Expensive Proposition,” “Superstition,” “Bad Attitude,” “Lodger”

George Jones – A Picture of Me (without you) / Nothing Ever Hurt me (half as bad as losing you)

Album: A Picture of Me (without you) / Nothing Ever Hurt me (half as bad as losing you)

Artist: George Jones

Label: (Morello Records./ Cherry Red)

January 01, 1970



The Cherry Red label (and its subsidiary label Morello) are really doing all of us a huge service here by reissuing these George Jones records as two-fers (others artists too…..gonna review a Vern Gosdin one, too). These two albums are from 1972 and ’73 and have a host of Jones’s classics on them.  The first one, A Picture of Me, the album reached #5 on the country charts and the title track reached #5. For the latter, Nothing Ever Hurt Me, two of the songs charted, namely the title track (#7) and “What My Woman Can’t Do.” (#6).

When people think of country music as being about “my old lady left me so I’m gonna go down to the bar and drown my sorrows” they’re talking about Jones. Only for Jones, he didn’t mean it as some joke or parody, the guy was the real deal, talking about heartbreak and alcohol consumption like the guy who’s been through both hundreds of times (he had). Jones had the best voice in country music, always picked the best material to record and always had the best players on his albums. These album, 11 songs on each, offered up the world such classic tunes as “Let There be a Woman,” “She Knows What She’s Crying About,” “We Found a Match,” “My Loving Wife,” “Love Lives Again” and too many more.

Happy or sad, whatever just dig into these two classics album from one of the absolute masters.

DOWNLOAD:  “Let There be a Woman,” “She Knows What She’s Crying About,” “We Found a Match,” “My Loving Wife,” “Love Lives Again”


Violent Femmes 10/8/16, Philadelphia

Dates: October 8, 2016

Location: Fillmore, Philadelphia PA


Performing live at Philly’s Fillmore, they blistered.


There’s one of two ways you can handle reunion shows if you’re a beloved cult band. To be clear, I’m not talking about a group that had a few hits and are getting back together after three years off because the members just realized no one wants to buy their self-indulgent solo records. I’m talking about a time-tested music classic that has developed legions of passionate fans across the globe over 30-plus years through passed along mix tapes and burned CDs from one generation to the next.

You have one of two choices when you finally decide to reunite and hit the road again. Option one: you play mainly from your latest record, along with a smattering of deep cuts and B-Sides from your catalog. They may not be fan favorites, but fuck ‘em, they’re your songs and they deserve to herd on your terms.

Option two: you realize, for good or bad, the reason most of the people have paid for babysitters and ventured out from the suburbs for a few hours is to be taken back to a time where they sang anthems for the underdogs, while most of their classmates were focusing on Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie or Men At Work (three of the best-selling albums the year The Violent Femmes released their debut).

On this night, The Violent Femmes opted for the latter.

Striding onto the stage with little fanfare in matching faded black jeans and black t-shirts, the Femmes stepped behind their instruments and jumpstarted their set with “Blister in the Sun” and “Kiss Off” right out of the gate, arguably their two most well-known songs, playing exactly what everyone came to hear that night. And they did so with panache and without a hint that they were playing out of some sort of obligation. It would be a misstatement of sorts to say they played the hits, because they were hardly a radio mainstay in the ‘80s and aside from a few rough live videos played after midnight on 120 Minutes, they weren’t an MTV-friendly band either. Rather, The Violent Femmes were an anomaly, mainly selling records via word of mouth, but still managed to be wildly successful in their acoustic punk rock world, eventually selling millions records over the course of their career.

With some of the bigger songs out of the way, a grayer, but clearly jovial band were allowed to go deeper into their catalog, keeping the audience with them the whole time, even slipping into “Country Death Song” off their somewhat polarizing second record early into their set. Weaving in a handful of their new songs, like “I Could Be Anything” and “Issues,” the crowd enthusiastically sang along.

Though the core of the band remained a trio, throughout the night more musicians crowded onto the stage, including the Violent Femmes backing brass section, The Horns of Dilemma. At one point, along with the standard drummer, bassist and guitarist, there were two violin players, a few more on brass – including two sousaphone players – and someone on the the melodica.

The band brought the show back full circle ending the set, after a two song encore with “Add it Up,” like their first two songs, a favorite off their 1983 self-titled debut. And just like that the show ended and the crowd, dominated by 30, 40 and 50-somethings, headed back to their lives.

ST. LENOX – Ten Hymns From My American Gothic (LP)

Album: Ten Hymns From My American Gothic (LP)

Artist: St. Lenox

Label: Anyway

Release Date: October 21, 2016


The Upshot: An odd little record from NYC songwriter Andrew Choi, a kind of confessional chronicle that gradually gets under your skin.


St. Lenox is one Andrew Choi, a second-generation Korean-American who was raised in Iowa but went on to go to law school and practice law school in New York. Along the way, though, he began making music as St. Lenox; Ten Hymns is his sophomore effort, the followup to 2015’s 10 Songs About Memory and Hope.

Choi has subtitled the LP “a gift for my father in honor of his 70th year,” with side A described as “Domestic and Regional Politics” and the flipside “International Relations.” Indeed, throughout the record he meditates upon his memories of high school (“The Public School System”), survivalists and gun nuts (“Conspiracy Theories”), his conflicted feelings towards his heritage (“What I Think About When You Say South Korea”), even the difficulties he has in relating to his parents (“People From Other Cultures” – “she’s from a different universe/ I said it’s different generation”). Lyrically, pretty straightforward stuff, at times uncomfortably so, like if someone were to hand you their personal diary and then sit patiently watching you until you finish thumbing through it.

The accompanying music, though, while intimate in places, has a bit more of a universal, Everyman feel, suggesting a cross between David Byrne and – as has been noted in the press – the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. “Fuel America” in particular is suffused in an upbeat, anthemic vibe, with the piano as the lead instrument against a backdrop of martial/programmed percussion and minimalist guitar strokes. The track “You Don’t Call Me Anymore” is another high point, boasting a rich melody of descending chords that’s abetted by a contrasting ascending chorus.

It’s an odd little record, a kind of confessional chronicle that gradually gets under your skin. In this era of fractured self-identification, Ten Hymns From My American Gothic nicely serves as a soundtrack for all the searchers and seekers out there.

Consumer Note: It’s available on bright red vinyl. Your choice is clear (obvious).

DOWNLOAD: “Fuel America,” “Korea,” “You Don’t Call Me Anymore”

THE MAVERICKS – All Night Live Volume 1

Album: All Night Live Volume 1

Artist: Mavericks

Label: Mono Mundo Recordings/Thirty Tigers

Release Date: October 14, 2016


The Upshot: Live release brilliantly showcasing the group in all its many facets.


Yes, every band likes to think they are unique; a singular snowflake like no other. But to be honest, for a majority of groups out there, you can usually peg the handful of CDs (or tapes, depending on the decade) that they’ve been playing in their van ad nauseam in the months leading up to hitting the recording studio. The Mavericks, however, were never that band. The Miami group is a Frankenstein of traditional country, classic rockabilly, straight ahead rock, western swing and Tex Mex cow punk – you can hear everyone from Patsy Cline and Carl Perkins to Elvis and X on just about any record they’ve put out over the decades. And they’ve put out plenty since their 1991 debut. But no matter how good they sound in your car or around the house, they are primarily a band built for playing live and proof of that is all over the 16-track All Night Live.

Recorded on last year’s Mono Mundo Tour, the album captures a band 25 years into their career who have managed to perfect their sound without coming off as too polished or contrived. The accordion, brass and cowbells are constants throughout their songs along with the dual guitars and Raul Malo’s thundering vocals. The pendulum swings wildly from a raucous polka/klezmer/country amalgam like “I Said I Love You,” to a delicate, haunting ballad like the Neil Young cover, “Harvest Moon” and just minutes later the band kicks off a floor-stomping number like “Dance in the Moonlight.”

It is simply stunning that a band like The Mavericks, despite winning over millions across the globe have never really been considered a mainstream music act here in the U.S. (despite a Grammy and several Country Music Awards). All Night Live is one more excuse to revisit this brilliant band and their deep catalog of music and realize that they should be.

DOWNLOAD: “Summertime,” “Dance in the Moonlight” and “Waiting For the World to End”

THE CHILLS – Kaleidoscope World

Album: Kaleidoscope World

Artist: Chills

Label: Flying Nun New Zealand

Release Date: August 19, 2016


The Upshot: Kiwi legends’ 1986 anthology gets a welcome re-release.


I’m not sure where to even begin in the importantance of this band to me. In the late ‘80s these amazing and pastoral bands from New Zealand began showing up in American record stores in the import section, all from this label called Flying Nun (and they may have begun appearing a few years before that but I didn’t catch hold until about 1987-’88). The Chills, led by enigmatic songwriter Martin Phillipps, were my absolute favorites of all the New Zealand bands (other favorites included The Bats, The Clean, The Able Tasmans and many others). Their jangly, chiming pop songs just seemed, well, magical. Though they’d been around since the early 80’s (when Philipps was just a teenager) they began releasing a series of singles that were then collected in 1986 on this superb compilation (they didn’t release their first proper full- length, Brave Words, until 1987).

Kaleidoscope World showed the world what a real talent that Phillipps was both lyrically and musically and amazing pop gems like “Rolling Moon,” “Pink Frost,” “Satin Doll’ and the whimsical title trace were a testament to his unique talent. This 30th anniversary reissue includes all of those plus the The Lost EP, the “I Love My Leather Jacket” single and even more extras including a real early version of the pumping “The Oncoming Day,” “Dan Destiny and the Silver Dawn” (an uplugged version) and more. Also, we can’t forget the b-side of the “…Leather Jacket” single, the absolutely stunning and mysterious “The Great Escape.” Let’s not forget that the Chills can rock when they want to as in the final cut, the stunning “Smile From a Dead Dead Face.”

The compilation is a real beauty and will especially be appreciated by fans of current acts like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Let’s also not forget that as great as these thirty plus year old songs are, that Phillipps has a new version of the Chills and even released a full-length last year, the very good Silver Bullets. That LP proved that Phillipps still has it as a songwriter, but see where he came from, his humble beginnings that showed the promise of a truly remarkable songwriter. One of the greats, really.

DOWNLOAD:  “Rolling Moon,” “Pink Frost,” “Satin Doll,” “Kaleidoscope World,” “The Great Escape”

The Baird Sisters 10/8/16, Montague MA

Dates: October 8, 2016

Location: Montague Book Mill, Montague MA


Live at the Montague Book Mill, the other performers included Marielle V. Jakobsons, Amber Wolf, and Chuck Johnson.


Does folk music need to be pure to be true?  This evening at a used bookstore tucked away in rural Western Massachusetts, a string of players incorporate various technological elements into their art, from the luminous amplified picking of Chuck Johnson, to the abstract voices and sounds behind Amber Wolfe’s soft country blues, to the full-on trippy video immersion of Marielle V. Jakobsons’ atmospheric soundscapes. It mostly worked — and sometimes wildly succeeded (Jakobsons) — but when the Baird Sisters sat down with nothing but acoustic guitar, banjo, voice and flute, you remember that magic can happen without artifice, too.

Chuck Johnson is not on the bill, but he’s playing when we get there, the Oakland-based finger-picker holding forth on amplified Fender Strat, spilling silvery American Primitive runs into deep wells of reverb, so that the notes blend together in pure dazzling tone. We just catch a few minutes of his set, but he’ll play later with Marielle V. Jakobsons, switching to bass.


Amber Wolfe, who lives in Northampton, comes next, pitting an old-fashioned, vibrato tinged folk voice (she sounds a bit like Josephine Foster) against a row of electronics, two effects boards, a hand-held recorder, a keyboard and possibly a few things I couldn’t see, all manned by a partner who kneels, back to the audience for the entire set. In the first song, you can hear some of those sampled sounds weaving through Wolfe’s elemental folk tunes, voices, whooshes and hums, though some of them might well have been the water going over the Bookmill’s rushing falls.

This all soon recedes into the background, though, as Wolfe plays. Her delicate features framed by tight ringletted curls, she looks like a Victorian doll, but her words are quietly bracing and strong. She sings one song that she’s recently performed in a play, getting at the slippery nature of the way women look versus the way they are — “You say that I’m beautiful asleep, but not awake, not awake.”  She performed with an inward-looking quality, as if she’s testing out these melodies for herself, drifting off into trilling hums at the end of phrases, like she’d just as soon keep all this to herself. And yet, when she turns to a Spanish-language cover, there’s a vertiginous wildness in the way she sings, the emotion she conveys, even the way she slashes out guitar notes, not quite flamenco, but fired with the same fire.

Marielle V. Jakobsons follows, against a screen of abstract colors and shapes. The images come from a “Macro-Cymatic Instrument” Jakobsons has invented, a visual interpreter that generates analogue representations of the music she makes, translating sound into water, light and patterns. Tonight the imagery is pre-recorded, but catch her nearer home with access to her macro-cymatic instrument, and she makes the flow of visuals as she goes and different every time.



Jakobsons and Johnson perform much of the recent Star Core, released by Thrill Jockey in August, layering trippy washes of analogue synth over booming, birth-of-the-universe evoking bass notes, and top it with Jakobsons’ airy, evocative vocals, violin or flute melodies. “Undone” looms mesmerically, long tons of synth flaring then receding; the bass is not loud but so low and enveloping as to have a physical presence. She croons into the mic airily, dreamily, the words blending into serene swathes of tone, as calming as the bubbling, waving imagery on the screen behind her. “Sinking of the Sky” is next, another center-of-the-universe soundscape, this one with flute and violin, their shifting melodies slipping beneath layers of drone.


The Baird Sisters take a few minutes to follow, since Meg (of Espers, Heron Oblivion and some really wonderful solo work) is having trouble with a battery for her tuner. It’s the last technological issue of the night though, since the Baird Sisters make the most beautiful use of organic sound possible, distilling guitar, banjo, flute and voice into quietly thrilling folk music.

Meg and Laura Baird have been playing together since 2001, with three home-spun self-releases to their credit. The third and most recent, Until You Find Your Green, was originally put out by Grapefruit Records as part of a subscription series, but BaDaBing is reissuing it this fall, and lots of the set material comes from it – “On and On” with its hammered out banjo rhythms and breath-catching harmonies, the Civil War-evoking traditional, “A Soldier Being Home,” the hauntingly melancholy “Down Where the Waters Flow.”

The two sisters’ voices work very well together, but not, as you might expect, because they’re all that similar. Laura Baird’s voice is lower, earthier, bluesier, while Meg’s is high and clear and pure, like the ice on the leaves that makes them glitter. Together, there’s something enchanting about the way they blend, the here-and-now simplicity of traditional folk resting against piercing ethereal beauty. They do have a sisterly channel for unspoken communication, filling in the spaces around each other with unassuming, unshowy grace.

It’s a good night for technology, for colorful screens and unexpected field recorded sounds, but also a good night for simplicity, in the clarity of archaic rhythms and harmonies. But whether electronically assisted or technologically unadorned, the music is lovely and true.







Louder Than Life Festival 10/1-2/16, Louisville KY

Dates: Oct. 1-2, 2016

Location: Louisville, KY


Live at Champions Park, the annual metal fest featured a who’s-who of the hard rock world. Go here to see our gallery from the 2015 event. Above: guess who?


For the third year in a row, the Louder Than Life Festival took place at Champions Park in Louisville, KY. If you are true metalhead and you missed this event, you should immediately kick your own ass! The weather was messy most of the week leading up to the festival, but after the gates were open for about an hour the Rock Gods said NO More! The weather was overcast most of Saturday, but Sunday was a perfect day with mid 80’s and mostly sunny. This Festival is billed as a rock festival with bourbon and gourmet man food, and the servings certainly lived up to the hype.



The festival had a lot of great sponsors such Jack Daniels, Monster Energy, Miller Lite, and lots of other bourbon makers. I must say one of my favorite sponsors this year had to be Vibes. Vibes is sold as high-fidelity earplugs. Vibes was kind enough to give me a set to try out. I must say that these earplugs are much more comfortable than the several of regular earplugs that I have used in the past. The best part about these earplugs is that they lower the sound by 20db, but keeps most of the quality of music. This is a life saver when you are at a concert little lone pressed against the speakers in the pit right in front of the artist where the bass will rattle your insides. I highly recommend you pick up a pair for yourself whether you use at a concert, work in a noisy environment, or just want to tone down the volume of your spouse! You can order yours here for less than $25.


Now on with the show! Saturday had great bands starting with Twelve Foot Ninja, Neck Deep, Avatar, I Prevail, The Amity Affliction, Motion in White, HellYeah, Anthrax, Pierce The Veil, Chevy Metal, The Cult, Cheap Trick, Slayer, and last but not least ending the night with Avenged Sevenfold.




Avatar, who I first saw at Rock on the Range earlier this year is from Gothenburg, Sweden. Johannes Eckerström announced that Avatar just stole the show after completing their first song, and I have to say that they did indeed steal the afternoon. Looking like an evil circus has come to town, Avatar has a tight sound and Johannes owns the stage.



Motionless In White is a gothic metalcore band who hails from Pennsylvania took the stage in the 3:45 time slot. The band defiantly looked and sounded the part of goth with lots of black eyeliner and even black painted arms, they even had one member dressed as the exorcist complete with green vomit. The crowd had now been on site since 10 A.M. or so for the late arrivers, so with plenty of convent locations to get a drink the crowd was rocking and surfing.


Next up was HellYeah who consist of Mudvayne’s lead singer Chad Gray, former Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, Bass player Kyle Sanders, guitarist Christian Brady, and former Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul. This was another highlight of the day for me. Chad’s energy on stage is nonstop, with antics such as high jumps, head banging and face covered in blood. With a lineup such as this in one band, you know you’ve got a solid hour of great music. My personal favorite is the new cover song of “I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins.


Chevy Metal

Chevy Metal

Next up was cover band Chevy Metal. Chevy Metal is much more than a cover band. Drummer and front man Taylor Hawkins who is the drummer for The Foo Fighters says “We are just a wedding band”, but they are much more than a wedding band. You never know who may join them on stage when they are playing.


Just before sunset The Cult took the stage. I have loved The Cult’s music since the album Love. From the moment I first heard “She Sells Sanctuary” I was hooked. The Cult sounded as good as they did in the 80’s and the mostly younger crowd enjoyed rocking out with them. One of my favorites of the day was “Fire Woman”. The only negative I can give them was the fact that we had to photograph from the soundboard. This seems to be a growing trend with aging artist. We all get older and fans still want to see you not an image of a band from across the stadium. Look at Neil Young and Willie Nelson, they accept the age and keep rocking and the fans love seeing good pictures of their idols. My two cents anyways.



Another example of older acts who are still rocking and allowing photographers up close is Cheap Trick. With too many hits to name them all starting in 1977. A couple of my favorites are “I Want You to Want Me”, “The Flame”, “She’s Tight”, “Dream Police”, “Tonight It’s You”, and of course “Surrender”. Guitarist Rick Nielsen has always been known for a great guitar player, but even better know for the unusual guitars he dawns on stage. I commend Louder Than Life for mixing up the line up the way they did this year. This is a great way to draw in all age rockers and to give the young ones a chance to see where today’s acts found their influences.



Slayer took the Loudmouth Stage at 8:35 and from the first note didn’t let up until the last note. I don’t know how they kept up that pace for the full set. I must admit, they were a little hard for my taste but then again they weren’t there for me! The massive crowd was head banging, sweating, and crowd surfing like there was no tomorrow.

Last but not least for the night was Avenged Sevenfold. Avenged Sevenfold also known as A7X is from Huntington Beach, California, and has been evolving since forming in 1999. Starting out more on the metalcore side and recently moving more toward the rock and heavy metal. Being the headliner and only stage running, the crowd had swollen to fill half the park. There was a nonstop line of crowd surfers during the entire show. A7X put on a great show with the sound on point. My only gripe with this set is that out of 50+ photographers covering the weekend, only 4 were preapproved by the band and allowed to shoot the set.


Sunday started for me with Adelitas Way at 12:15. They only had a thirty minute set, but it was a great way to start out the day. Adelitas Way got the crowd started on this long day of rock.


Skindred took the stage next. I had never heard of them before, but I’m glad I got to see their set. Skindred is a rock band formed in Newport, South Wales. Skindred is a mixture of heavy metal, alternative rock, reggae. Skindred wins the award for most fun band of the afternoon, between getting a large number of the crowd to take of their shirts and twirl them in the air during one song or asking the crowd “do you want to hear some evil shit?” and then playing Justin Bieber.

The weather now reaching mid 80’s, Trivium took the stage at 1:25 on the Loudmouth Stage. Trivium is now out touring in support of their latest album Silence in the Snow.






Other bands during the day lineup included Parkway Drive, Pop Evil, Skillet and Alter Bridge, and Ghost. Korn took the Monster Stage at 6:25, and you would have sworn that they were headlining the evening with the size of the crowd. Korn alone would have been enough for the evening, but we still had Disturbed and Slipknot to go.





Speaking of Slipknot, They were indeed the headliner on the Monster energy stage and the final band of the night. If you have never seen this crazy scary rock show, you owe it to yourself to catch them. Corey Taylor can go from a slow clear vocal to an all out scream and make you love both ends of the spectrum. The energy from all nine members is intense and the elevating/rotating drum kits on both sides of the stage will leave you mesmerized.




Shonen Knife 10/13/16, Denver


Live at the Marquis Theatre, the distaff popsters are touring North America through November 10.


I was trying to think of the last time I saw this perky Japanese trio  then realized I may never have seen them (this happen in 35 plus years of gig going…you forget stuff).

Ok so yeah…I’d never seen Shonen Knife before even thought they’ve been around for over thirty years (this was, in fact, thir 35th anniversary tour) and first came to cult attention in our country on the heels of 1986’s Pretty Little Baka Guy.

They’re in our country now touring for their latest album Adventure which came out back in April on the Damnably label.

After two or three opening band who I missed except for the band before S.K. who seemed to play forever but it was a lot more exciting our front on the sidewalk. I had an extra ticket that I couldn’t give away (not a knock on the band, everyone who showed up already had a ticket) so I offered it to this homeless guy who was on his knees chalk drawing out front . When he stood up he must’ve gotten a head rush ‘cos he fell face first flat down on the sidealk. Ouch. Ok so much for him.

In the band are still sisters Naoka and Atsuko (and a revolving cast of drummers…and even bassist Atsuko has bene in and out of the band over the years) dressed in colorful, flowery, silky dresses and armed with the energy of an entire Kindergarten class. They opened with the old favorite “Pop Tune” and played a relatively short set which included a few off their new record including “Jump into the New World” and “Green Tangerine.”

They interacted with the crowd and the crowd, especially the die hards up front, loved every second of it, smiling, pumping their fists and singing along to all the songs.

They ended the set with a rousing version of “Loop Di Loop” and came out for one encore, the fan favorite “Sushi Bar Song” (from 1998’s Happy Hour) and called it a night. Hey even rock chicks like Shonen Knife need their beauty sleep G’night ladies.


Album: Skeleton Tree

Artist: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Label: Bad Seed Lt.

Release Date: September 09, 2016


The Upshot: Born of tragedy and catastrophe, the latest album from Cave is nevertheless dotted with beautiful moments amid the dark anguish.




“What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change?” Nick Cave asks in the trailer for One More Time with Feeling, a documentary film that presents the songs from Skeleton Tree in the context of the nearly unthinkable change that shaped them. The catastrophic event, in this case, was the accidental death of Cave’s 15-year-old son. The songs written mostly before, but recorded afterwards, commune with this tragedy with a numb, hardly-there desolation that is as hard to look at as it is to turn away from.


Skeleton Tree further darkens the somber, restrained palette of 2013’s Push the Sky Away, relying on piano, strings, ghostly electronics and Cave’s hollowed-out, sleep-walking voice to carry it. Because the lyrics were already done before Cave’s life split in half, the songs do not directly refer to the son or his death. Still, words’ meanings change under pressure. There is no denying the anguish in “Jesus Alone,” as a buzz and whistle of feedback imply unbridgeable distance, solitude and loss. “With my voice, I am calling you,” Cave sings, in between visionary intervals of poetry, and you know who he is calling for and how unlikely an answer is. Later in “Girl in Amber,” he murmurs, “Some go on, some stay behind, some never move right on,” and though he may not have written the line about his lost child, it has surely become about him, the “little blue eyed boy” who moves with him down the hall.


Strings in Skeleton Tree are spare but necessary, as long-time collaborator Warren Ellis stirs up agitated dissonance in “Jesus Alone” and plumps up soft, soothing layers of sustained sound in “I Need You.”  Backing vocals curve gently around fragile, haunted melodies “whoa-oh-oh-ohs” in “Rings of Saturn,” sighing “ah-ah-ahs” in the interstices of “Girl in Amber.” The piano, too, is integral, though quiet. It stands in for wordless rumination, in lingering, melancholy chords that hang like memory over empty vistas. There is a solace in these sounds, a solace that is absent from the lyrics, which reject religion and cliché to look hard at the bald fact of loss.


Skeleton Tree has some painfully beautiful moments, none more harrowing or lovely than “Distant Sky.”  Here Cave enlists the lovely soprano voice of Else Torp, a Danish classical singer known for her interpretations of early and baroque music. “Let us go now, my only,” she sings with a high crystal clarity, a shaft of light piercing this dim and mournful vista. Cave’s voice is a shadow beside her, worn nearly through, exhausted, and gorgeous, too, in its way, because it sounds so true.


The album ends on an upswing, in the title track, the steadiness of rhythm bracing the tune in a way that has been, up to now, mostly absent. Cave’s voice wobbles as he finishes in a chorus that goes, “and it’s all right now” to the fade, and who can blame him? He does go on, though, as one does. Skeleton Tree is a testament to his art, his flaying honesty and his persistence in the wake of devastating loss.


DOWNLOAD: “Jesus Alone” “Distant Sky” “Skeleton Tree”