For nearly fourteen years I was able to keep up this daily blog of books and music.

About a year ago I got a promotion and that changed everything.  I no longer had the time to post everything I wanted to.  Heck, I didn’t even seem to have the time to read all the short stories I wanted to.  Amusingly (or not), just before this new position, I had gotten a print subscription to the New Yorker.  This now means that I (like many others) have a two-foot stack of New Yorker magazines that I haven’t even looked at yet.

For a few weeks I was limiting myself to only the concerts that I went to because that was a little easier to write about.  Although back in the good old days, I used to include photo and links, and I pretty much have neither now. And I’m several shows behind as well.

So I’m still reading books and I think I may try to post some thoughts about them from time to time.  I’d also like to think I have time to write about my concerts, but even those are proving to be challenging.

So let’s consider the blog on hiatus more or less, with occasional posts about things I’ve read or listened to.

The good thing is that I like the new position and wouldn’t change it for the world. I guess I never realized how much down time my old position gave me!

[ATTENDED: May 27, 2023] Le Tigre

Le Tigre’s song “Deceptacon” became a huge viral Tik Tok sensation last year.  I remembered the song from the 90s.  I was interested in Le Tigre because Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna was involved.

I liked it enough, but I found it so simplistic and repetitive that I didn’t really enjoy the album all that much.  I grabbed their second album, but didn’t follow through with them after that.  They put out one more album and then broke up.

Then they announced a reunion tour.  My daughter really wanted to see them.  The first date was at Union Transfer and then they were going to Europe.

I snagged two tickets as soon as I could and, amazingly, we would see Kathleen Hannah twice in two months.  Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: May 27, 2023] Shamir

I was supposed to see Shamir on several different occasions, but it never happened.

So I was really quite pleased to see that they were announced as the opening act for this Le Tigre show.

Shamir is a Philly based singer songwriter.  When they first released “On My Own” I was so intrigued by the song.  Shamir’s voice soars to really high notes.  The song is very poppy, but with some great rocking guitars and full-on band.

Later Shamir released an album called Heterosexuality which explored personal issues with songs like “Gay Agenda” and “Cisgender.”

When Shamir came out, the crowd was immediately supportive.  When they asked who here is gay?  90% of the crowd waved their hands.  Which was good because the first song “Gay Agenda.”

Shamir’s band was great.  Rhea on drums and Grant on bass added a ton of accompaniment to Shamir’s relatively quite guitar playing.

The album has a lot more synthy sounds that fill in the songs.  Live, it was just the three of them with Grant’s basswork really shining.  And the songs rocked a lot harder with Rhea really smashing the drums.

I was pleased that they sang “On Mu Own” especially now that I see that Heterosexuality is their eighth album!  It sounded pretty different, a bit more gritty.  Shamir said it was an introverts anthem and when someone guessed that it was an asexual anthem, well, Shamir was fine with that.

They played the first single from the soon to be released album on Kill Rock Stars called “Oversized Sweater.”  I’m curious to hear what this new phase of Shamir’s career will bring.

On a few songs Shamir’s voice dipped into a low growl which was especially effective on “Other Side” –the “metal portion of the show.”

As the set neared the end, Shamir busted out an amazing version of “Cisgender.”  It was full of so much rawness–much more powerful than the recorded version.

And the set ended with “Our Song” (not the Taylor Swift song).  It’s about a couple who lives above a record store (based on a show he saw in England).  It was a great ending.

Shamir’s voice is pretty incredible and they can hold a note like few singers I know.

  1. Gay Agenda
  2. Reproductive
  3. On My Own §
  4. Oversized Sweater £ (first time played)
  5. Other Side §
  6. Appetizer
  7. TEARS
  8. Cisgender
  9. Our Song £

£ New album (2023)
⊕ Heterosexuality (2022)
§ Shamir

[DID NOT ATTEND: May 26, 2023] Avatar / Veil of Maya / Orbit Culture

I’ve seen Avatar twice.  The last time was about a year and a half ago.  They always put on a good show with lots of spectacle.

I thought my son would enjoy going to see them with me so I got us both tickets.  I tend to forget that there’s a lot of growling and unclean vocals in Avatar because the parts I remember are more theatrical and campy/circusy.

This tour was for their new album which I didn’t know all that well.  But it turns out they were playing from throughout their career and it seems like they played for two hours.

We were both feeling pretty exhausted this week, and were both kind of hoping the other didn’t want to go.  So when he asked if he could bail, that was fine with me.  Especially since the show wound up with some things I wasn’t that excited about.

The opening band was changed so they would go on at 6:30, which would be fine if I was leaving from work, but a real pain to get home and then drive back to Philly.  On the positive side, this mean the show would end kind of early, but that was a small comfort.

I was intrigued by the opener Orbit Culture, a Swedish melodic death metal band.  They are heavy and brutal and yet there’s something about them (maybe because they are Swedish) that I liked better than most of this kind of music.  Plus you could actually understand the unclean vocals and when Niklas Karlsson sings cleanly he has a great powerful voice.

Veil of Maya is a metalcore band from Illinois.  I think of all of the subgenres of metal, metalcore if probably my least favorite.  This band has a lot going on with different vocals styles, lots of sound effects and some progressive metal time changes.  Frankly, it sounded exhausting on a night when I was tired.

So, I knew I wasn’t going to make Orbit Culture.  If I wanted to Make Veil of Maya, I would have to leave shortly after I got home and I wasn’t prepared for that.

As the time I’d have to leave to make Avatar rolled around, I thought about TLA.  It’s a pain to park there most times.  But a Friday night, arriving after 8PM?  It just seemed like far too much work for only one band.  So I was fine with blowing this show off.  And if I they come back around I can always see them again if I want to.

[ATTENDED: May 23, 2023] Beach Bunny 

When this mini tour was announced I was pretty psyched.  My son and I have seen PUP and loved them.  My daughter and I have seen Beach Bunny (twice) and loved them.  The only problem was that it was at Rooftop Pier 17–a massive pain in the butt to get to.

But I grabbed tickets anyway and surprised them earlier this month.

When PUP ended the place cleared out some.  There were definitely fans of both bands there (in fact, they had toured together five years ago), but a lot of the more hardcore PUP fans took off, which was nice.

I used the intermission time (since our space wasn’t that great anyway) to look at merch and use the bathroom.  When I came back up, my daughter had moved further back (she says she can see better from the back, which is kind of true, but there is the huge problem of drunken hangers on hanging on and talking back there).  My son, on the other hand, pressed forward and wound up just five people from the stage. Continue Reading »

[DID NOT ATTEND: May 24, 2023] Nekrogoblikon / Inferi / Aether Realm / Hunt the Dinosaur

I don’t know a ton about Nekrogoblikon, but I do know enough to know that they would be super fun to see live.  I mean, they have a goblin in the band, after all.

When this show was announced, I asked my son if he wanted to go.  He surprised me by saying that his friend Ty had already gotten tickets for the both of them.  And they wanted to drive to Union Transfer with no adult supervision.  [Even after the stupidly late night in NYC].

Well, we had been a few times recently and I showed him how to get there and the best place to park and when the night came up, he did great and got the free parking and arrived with enough time to buy merch and still be fairly close to the stage.

Suffice to say that if I didn’t really know the headliners, I sure did know the support bands.  Ty was a fan of the headliners and Aether Realm, but didn’t know the other two bands.

So after the show I asked for their reviews.

Neither of them liked Hunt the Dinosaur, a Dallas based “Progressive Deathcore” band.  Although the clips I’ve just listened to sound like heavy low end with occasional squeals of guitar and a lot of growled inaudible vocals.  It could get old fast, even after a 20 minute set.

Æther Realm is an American heavy metal band from Greenville, North Carolina. Their music is a blend of melodic death metal and folk metal, with lyrical themes of fantasy and mythology.  I can see how this band would be more palatable to them (and to me).  I like the melodic components and I enjoy the weird folk metal genre.  The vocals are still pretty growly, which is not my cup of tea, but it seems like the words are actually audible.

Neither of them much likes Inferi a technical melodic death metal band from Nashville. I always think I’d like this genre.  As I like technical and melodic, bit the death metal component usually doesn’t do it for me.  So these songs have long, pretty guitar parts and super fast but strangely muted double bass drums and then after a lengthy intro when the singer comes in, the vocals are growled and inaudible, which seems kind of pointless to me, but whatever.

They both enjoyed Nekrogoblikon who are also a growly band (but a goblin kind of growling).  And I enjoyed looking at the pictures and videos.

It sounded like a pretty good night.

[ATTENDED: May 23, 2023] PUP

When this mini tour was announced I was pretty psyched.  My son and I have seen PUP and loved them.  My daughter and I have seen Beach Bunny (twice) and loved them.  The only problem was that it was at Rooftop Pier 17–a massive pain in the butt to get to.

But I grabbed tickets anyway and surprised them earlier this month.

I assumed that PUP would go on last as they are the louder band.  But, in fact, they went on second. And that may have been wise as many of PUP’s more bro fanbase left after their set.

But as they were setting up, the sun hadn’t set yet and PUP came out to the orchestral version of their album (they just released some kid of answering machine version of their album from during the pandemic, which I’m pretty curious to hear).  They had a cool evening sky and marveled at being on a rooftop in New York City (it is a very cool venue).

And then they were off.  They opened with the two songs they closed the show with last time.  This being a shorter set, it was more of a greatest hits and less of a celebration of the last album.

There’s only one rule at a PUP show.  Look at your neighbors around you, have fun and look out for each other’s safety.  Then the moshing began in earnest. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: May 23, 2023] Pool Kids

I think I heard of Pool Kids about a week before this show was announced.  I really liked their mix of punky alt rock and really cool guitar shredding (so much finger tapping).

I was thrilled that they were opening this show.

The Rooftop at Pier 17 is a great venue but it is a huge pain in the ass to get to.  Last time, we drove in and looked for parking for about 20 minutes.  This time we drove to Hoboken and took the PATH train to World Trade Center.  It was about a ten minute walk but we stopped or food.

We had left the house at 4 and wound up being late for Pool Kids who went on at 6:30.  So I don’t imagine going  to too many more shows there.

We saw about three Pool Kids songs and they were great.  The band has great on stage presence and clearly were cool with a large crowd.  Vocalist/guitarist Christine Goodwyne was fun with a powerful voice that held high notes and also screamed with rage.  She and second guitarist Andy Anaya played some great harmony solos together too.

Bassist Nicolette Alvarez took lead vocals on one song, but mostly held down the low end.  And drummer Caden Clinton somehow made a lot of noise on a drumset that was off to the side (and was much smaller) than Pup’s massive kit behind them.

I think we came in during “Arm’s Length.”  But I was really excited that they saved “Conscious Uncoupling” for late in their set.  It’s the first song on their album and is a perfect statement about the man.  Great vocals, a cool riff and tons of energy.

I’m really excited they’re doing a headline tour later this year so I can catch a full set.

  1. Swallow
  2. That’s Physics, Baby
  3. $5 Subtweet
  4. Arm’s Length
  5. I Hope You’re Right
  6. Conscious Uncoupling
  7. Talk Too Much
⊗ Music to Practice Safe Sex To (2018)
¶ Pool Kids (2022)

[DID NOT ATTEND: May 23, 2023] Indigo De Souza / Sluice

Here was the fourth time that this show was scheduled.

And by now, Indigo de Souza has become even more popular.  So much so that this show is sold out.

Unfortunately, the timing of this show didn’t work out for me.

I had been planning to go but then a show with Pup, Beach Bunny and Pool Kids was scheduled for the same night.  So I grabbed tickets for me and my kids and we headed for New York City.

I wrote this blurb about a year ago (when the first show was postponed):

Indigo De Souza is a new (to me) musician who I heard about on NPR music.  Her song “Kill Me” is outstanding.  A great dynamic of sounds, very funny lyrics and memorable hooks.  I loved it immediately.  She announced a tour soon after I’d heard it and I grabbed a ticket to see her headline tour (!).

She’s been making music since she was like 9 with a few EPs and a previous album.  I imagine she’ll be a fun and wild performer.

Sluice is folk music from North Carolina singer-songwriter Justin Morris.  Pitchfork notes that the songs are “without a hook or central focus” which I agree with, although they gave his album 7 out of 10.

[DID NOT ATTEND: May 22, 2023] Come / Sun Organ

Come are an indie band from a long time ago.  They were formed by Thalia Zedak and Chris Brokaw.  I really liked their albums Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Near-Life Experience.  Then they broke up in 2001.

They reunited in 2013, although I missed it completely.  Thalia and Chris are still in the band, but the rest of the band was fresh.

They haven’t put out any new music, but they do tour occasionally.  I didn’t know any of that, so I was really surprised to see that they were playing Johnny Brenda’s.  I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to see them since it’s been a while since I listened to them.

But that night turned out to be the night of my kids’ honors awards ceremony, so the question was moot anyway.

Sun Organ was scheduled to open for Algernon Cadawallader back in October, although I didn’t get to the show.  They are a kind of shambolic noise band from Philly.  The first two songs on their album Candlelight Showertime are kind of slow and ponderous (as if the vocals are slowed down) and I was about to give up on them, but the third and fourth songs are more interesting both in tempo and sonic construction.  I’m sure they’d be fun live.

[ATTENDED: May 18, 2023] Acid Mothers Temple

I have seen Acid Mothers Temple twice and both times were mind blowing.

The pandemic kept them from coming here for about three years so I was pretty excited to get to see them again.

They came out and Jyonson Tsu found out that his guitar was broken (it was supposed to have been repaired), so he had to borrow a guitar from ST 37.  Then they had trouble at the soundcheck.  Jyonson couldn’t hear anything in his monitor and Higashi Hiroshi’s synthesizer was quiet.

Kawabata Makoto started jamming out a solo and the band kicked into high gear while poor Higashi sat there making no sounds at all.  Finally, Kawabata grabbed the mic and yelled a few things and soon enough, there was synth and we all cheered and they started with “Blue Velvet Blues.”

I will admit that I don’t know many of the song names and most of their songs sound the same to me–a blur of (wild and frenetic) guitar soloing and then a slow middle section (or vice versa).  Although these songs all have “parts” and “Blue Velvet” has a slow moody middle section which slows down and in which Jyonson sings a mournful melody.

They jumped into “Dark Star Blues” in which Jyonson plays a gourd-shaped mandolin (A very cool sound) and sings before the band kicks in.

Back on the drums, Satoshima Nani is so much fun to watch.  When the songs really pick up steam, he is a blur of limbs–smacking the crap out of everything in sight.  But he can also slow things down and keep that really slow pace (like in “Blue Velvet Blues”).  He must be a sweaty mess by the end of the shows.

The last two times I saw them, on bass was Wolf.  Wolf left to do his own thing (I wonder how that’s going) and for this show he was replaced by Ron Anderson (the first non-Japanese player I’ve seen play with them).  I didn’t know who he was but Wikipedia tells me that he is known for collaborations with many famous musicians, and has a large catalog of releases and compositions.

He was great too.  Playing some really cool jazzy basslines that seemed to accentuate the wildness that Kawabata was laying down.  He was especially notable on their cover of Gong’s “Flying Teapot” which has a very cool bass line.

They played roughly seven songs, but who can say where the songs began and ended.  “Blue Velvet” ran over 15 minutes.   Their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” was a uge surprise to me.  The riff is so recognizable.  Their version is pretty close to the original with the main riff and a massive freak out in the middle.

This was the first show I’ve seen by them where they didn’t play any of “Pink Lady Lemonade.”  And that’s fine, although I’m somewhat surprised that they’ve ended with “Cometary Orbital Drive” each time.  It’s a great set ender.  A slow riff that builds and build and builds growing faster and faster and which can be stretched out as long as Kawabata wants.

As the song came to its noisy ending, he held his guitar out into the audience and I got to brush the strings, which was pretty cool as I usually don’t get perks like that.

And then, like all shows, he held his guitar aloft and gentle slammed it on top of his amps to signify the end.

Every show is different.  But every show is also the same.  And you feel transported every time.

Here’s a few words (Google translated) from Makoto about the show (his blog is great).

A 90-minute set will be shown tonight. On the North American tour, we usually start the performance only with the line check just before the performance, unless we do a sound check. In other words, when the start time was pushed, I started playing without hesitation, but the sound engineer interrupted the performance because he did not start monitoring Azuma’s synthesizer. Then, when Azuma-kun’s monitor finally functioned, the audience applauded loudly, and the performance resumed. However, if I suddenly break the tremolo arm, I have no choice but to play the whole song at speed tonight, and even if I’m on the verge of being shipwrecked in a black hole instead of drifting in space, a furious wave of dismantling and rebuilding goes wild. After that, after a new ritual called Guitar Crowd Surfing, the curtain finally reached the finale.

Here’s a video from RhymanTube of the opening jam/soundcheck problem


2023 Johnny Brenda’s 2019 The Saint 2018 Underground Arts
Jam (while soundcheck was finishing up) La Novia Dark Star Blues
Blue Velvet Blues Sycamore Trees Blue Velvet Blues
Dark Star Blues From Planet Orb With Love > Disco Pink Lady Lemonade >
Interstellar Overdrop (Pink Floyd cover) > Good-Bye Mrs. Uranus La Le Lo > 
Flying Teapot (Gong cover) Hello Good Child > In C
From Planet Orb With Love § > Disco Pink Lady Lemonade > Untitled > 
Good-Bye Mrs. Uranus § In E > Nanique Another Dimension > 
Cometary Orbital Drive Pink Lady Lemonade coda Pink Lady Lemonade coda > 
Cometary Orbital Drive Cometary Orbital Drive

It’s unclear to me what records these songs first appeared on (as they have 1,000 records out), although Setlist does a pretty good job, I think.

‰ Does the Cosmic Shepherd Dream of Electric Tapirs? (2004)
≅ Electric Dream Ecstasy (2018)
⊗ Pataphisical Freak Out MU!! (1999)
§ Sacred and Inviolable Phase Shift (2018)
⇔ Cometary Orbital Drive (2008)