September 27, 2008

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter at Great Scott

There's not much better than seeing Jesse Sykes and her band the Sweet Hereafter in a tiny club. Last Thursday they were at Great Scott in Allston, a club I had never been to before and barely knew existed. I must not have been the only one, because the turnout for this show was pretty damn minimal, maybe 100 people. That's depressing. But no matter the crowd, the show was pretty great. Jesse had her problems with the sound and while it seemed to effect her mood (she was a bit grumpy), it didn't effect the music, which was intense. She played a lot from her recent album, "Like, Love, Lust...," which is filled with snaky, electric guitar licks from Phil Wandscher, who, live, really gives his whammy bar a workout. Sometimes his sound was delicate, sometimes it was roaring. Jesse's voice is amazing and smoky, and the rest of band lends a hand with supple backing vocals. The group was augmented by a young pedal steel player, who on the quieter songs added nice touches; on the rocking tunes, he kind of got lost in the mix. The sound was a big problem all night for Jesse. She had trouble with her acoustic; she was constantly asking the sound guy to turn up her vocals. That was kind of too bad. Rumors were also whispered that maybe she and Phil, who are romantically linked, may be having some issues. Hopefully, just rumors... Anyway, a fun night. The openers were Mike Fiore, a singer-guitar player with really nice sound and songs. I'm going to check him out more. And Marissa Nadler, an artsy folk-rocker in the Regina Spektor mode.
For more photos from the night, click HERE. Below, a video from the show.

September 25, 2008

Issue 22, Sept. 2008

Summer Picks: From festivals to clubs – even to Symphony Hall! – we were there
Summer has come and gone again, bringing its share of hot days and sultry nights. It also brought – as usual – great opportunities to catch live music at outdoor festivals and indoors at steamy clubs.
Our purchase of a new and more powerful camera also brought hopes of better images from these shows. While we’re still trying to figure out all the features of the camera, we were able to capture some of the great moments of what we saw.
We made two trips to Western Mass., one to catch the Great American Hoedown known as the Green River Music Festival, one of our favorite festivals. There we caught up with Crooked Still, now sporting a new lineup that includes cellist Tristan Clarridge and fiddle player Brittany Haas; we also caught Mavis Staples, the Greencards, and Lucinda Williams (a first for us!); plus a fabulous after-hours set by the foot-stompin’ Eilen Jewell band.
On our second trip out west we took in the Swell Season, the amazing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, as well as Josh Ritter playing solo as the opener. The show was intimate and warm despite downpours scattered throughout.
And speaking of Mr. Ritter, his performance at Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops orchestra was a real treat. He and his band, decked out in suits, were in top form for the occasion.
We also visited clubs like T.T. the Bear’s, a great college hang, to see young and hip Thao and her band, the Get Down Stay Down. You actually don’t go to see and hear her, you go to take part in her show as she bounces, bounds, and bobs along to her songs and you have little choice but to follow suit.
We stopped into the Bank of America Pavilion (not one of our favorite venues) to catch the amazing Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, who mixed ’70s-style guitar jams with alt-country accents to soaring effect.
We’re breathless just remembering all the fun we had this summer and can only hope that the fall will be half as fun.
To download the new issue, click HERE. To read CD reviews in the issue, click HERE.
To view photos, click HERE. For videos, click HERE.

MA5 - Songs
Songs that helped us survive this issue.
1. “You, Me & the Bourgeoise,’’ “Honeysuckle Weeks,” The Submarines. What? An upbeat, bouncy song? Impossible.
2. “We Both Go Down Together,” “Picaresque,” The Decemberists. They go down, we follow.
3. “Shady Grove,” “The Pizza Tapes,” Grisman/Garcia/Rice. Spontaneous and just plain fun.
4. “I Envy the Wind,” “Essence,” Lucinda Williams. Great to hear this song live at Green River.
5. “Modern Trick,” “Diamonds in the Dark,” Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. In honor of guitarist Mike Castellana, who is leaving the band in favor of family. Hopefully, we’ll hear from him again soon.

September 8, 2008

Ryan Adams live and well

If the Grateful Dead were young upstarts on today's music scene they probably would sound a lot like Ryan Adams did last night. The sometimes mercurial singer-songwriter Adams has shown both on his plethora of albums -- solo and with his backing band the Cardinals -- that he can play, and play well, in a variety of styles, from acoustic neo-folk to alt-country to rock. While I'm a relatively new fan and have not heard the full range of his catalog, I know him well enough to know that if you go to a Ryan Adams show expecting to hear a certain sound or certain songs, you could well leave disappointed. Luckily for me, that wasn't an issue last night at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston.
Adams and his band were fresh off a Canadian tour opening for Oasis, an odd pairing, but one, Adams said, went off well with the bands getting along well. Adams was in fine spirits, jabbering on with the band between songs, acknowledging "I Love Yous" from the audience. I don't have a setlist yet, but I will keep an eye open and post one when I find it.
Right from the start, the band was in full throttle, fully electric and full force. His sound mixed '70s-era rock -- the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, electric Crosby, Stills & Nash -- with his modern-day alt-country influences. Songs like "When the Stars Go Blue" balanced beautifully between eras, sounding neither dated nor derivative. A cover of Oasis' "Wonderball" was slowed down and stretched out to wonderful effect. Adams covered a lot of ground, playing songs from a wide variety of his albums as well as a new tune, each treated with guitar-driven power that built to crescendos and melted into quiet with care. Even his more acoustic numbers were beefed up, but they never felt overabused. And solos, and there were many -- from spacey Dead jams to Allmans-esque harmonized dueling guitars -- didn't overstay their welcome with most songs clocking in at around 4 minutes.
In all, a great night of rock music, like you've heard and never heard before.
For more pics, click HERE. Videos are HERE and HERE. If you want to read a great, professional review of the show, click HERE. You can download the whole show HERE and/or HERE.

The setlist (courtesy of Ryan Adams fan site):
1. Off Broadway
2. Bartering Lines (Super Heavy)
3. Goodnight Rose
4. Cobwebs
5. Everybody Knows
6. Why Do They Leave
7. Magick
8. Two
9. Please Do Not Let Me Go
10. Come Pick Me Up
11. When The Stars Go Blue
12. Wonderwall
13. Fix It
14. Easy Plateau
15. Let It Ride
16. Games
17. Cold Roses
18. A Kiss Before I Go
19. Peaceful Valley
20. Dear John
21. Shakedown
22. Sinking Ship (live debut)
23. The Color of Pain (live debut)
24. Magnolia Mountain
25. Beautiful Sorta
26. I See Monsters

September 2, 2008

Goodbye to Sarah Borges guitarist

We're in between shows right now (waiting for Ryan Adams on Sunday), so I thought it would be a good time to post a goodbye and fond farewell to one of my favorite guitar players, Mike Castellana, who is leaving Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles to begin life as a father of his first child. While I'm happy for Mike and his circumstances, I am very sad to see him leave Sarah's band. (She has hired a replacement, Lyle Brewer). For those who have seen and heard Mike play, they know what I'm talking about. While he could rock with the best of them, playing the nastiest, dirtiest, smokingest (is that a word? It is now!) riffs around, what I really loved was his pedal-steel playing, which could make you cry. Maybe soon, he'll be playing pedal-steel lullabies to his new son, due Nov. 2. Hopefully, we'll still be able to catch Mike's playing with his local group the Blue Ribbons in the near future. They have a gig Oct. 11 at Matt Murphy's if anyone wants to check them out. I will hopefully be front and center.
In case you've never heard Mike play, here's a clip I took at a recent show. Enjoy.