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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: November 23, 2022] Jinjer

I saw Jinjer almost exactly one year ago to the day.  It was also the night before Thanksgiving (that’s kind of weird, no?}

When they announced this show I bought a ticket immediately.  Last year, there was no war in Ukraine.  There was no crisis or concern.  This year, I wanted to support them and their country.  I didn’t even really pay attention to the rest of the bill.

Which turned out to be Space of Variations–a Ukrainian band that I hadn’t heard of but who I have since hear were excellent.  Vended–featuring two children of members of Slipknot and which sounded like it would be loud and unrelenting.  And P.O.D. a band I thought was Christian and who I thought was long broken up.  I didn’t want to see any of these other bands (well, maybe Space of Variations).  And I didn’t want to spend two and a half hours standing around listening to bands I didn’t really want to hear.

So I thought I might not go.  But I listened to some Jinjer and decided that I did want to see them after all.  Especially when I saw that they were playing “Pisces” on this tour (which they didn’t play for us last time). Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: November 19, 2022] Suede

When this tour was announced I practically screamed with delight.  It was listed as a dual headlining show with the bands switching who would play first.  It just happened that we had Suede as the second band and I feel that, given how exciting Suede was, we saw them in the right order.

The first Suede album (or The London Suede, if you must) is one of my favorite albums of all time.  It’s glammy and trashy and catchy and wonderful.  Brett Anderson’s voice is unique and magnificent and Bernard Butler’s guitar work was like nothing else at the time.  When Butler left during the recording of their next album, it seemed like curtains for the band, but young guitarist Richard Oates stepped in and is a force unto himself.  I still think of him as the new guy, even though he’s been in the band for over twenty years.

Suede broke up in 2003 and I guess I lost touch with them.  But they reunited in 2010 and have been putting out new albums ever since.  Although I wasn’t really aware of these records–they really fell off my radar.  I had never seen Suede live (and they haven’t toured the States in something like twenty-five years).  I looked at their European shows and saw that they were playing a lot of songs from the new album.  But I hoped that they would throw a bone for the U.S. fans and play some oldies too.

The band came out and set up their first song, a lengthy instrumental opening.  And then Brett Anderson slowly marched out.  He shuffled and danced and was surprisingly goofy.  I evidently didn’t know anything about Suede’s live show, because I wasn’t expecting anything like the way Anderson bounced around, crawled on the floor, and, yes, climbed into the audience and sang with us.  It was awesome. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: November 19, 2022] Manic Street Preachers

When this tour was announced I practically screamed with delight.

I saw the Manic Street Preachers 23 years ago.  And while I haven’t kept up with their releases, I have listened from time to time.  But their albums from the 1990s are some of my favorites of the era.  And I have never seen Suede and their debut album is one of my favorite albums ever.  They haven’t toured the US in about 25 years.  I bought a pit ticket and was pretty psyched.

I was quite surprised to find out that it hadn’t sold very well.  But the people around me were super into the show and knew every word to every song (which is more than I knew).

My favorite two MSP albums are Everything Must Go (1996) and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998) and they started off with a song from Truth, the roaring “You Stole the Sun from My Heart.”  The followed it right up with “Everything Must Go.”  I was so excited to find out that James Dean Bradfield still sounded amazing.  He hit some great high notes and was full of power.   Their touring musician (whose name I didn’t catch) added some nice deep backing vocals to the songs.

I was more or less in front of bassist Nicky Wire who was pretty chill–although he did wear a boa for one song.  He used to wear dresses or skirts, but he was just wearing a MSP T-Shirt.  He said a few things (he is known to be controversial), but I didn’t really understand anything he said. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: November 14, 2022] Mercyful Fate

When Mercyful Fate announced their first U.S. tour in 23 years, I immediately grabbed a ticket.  They were one of my favorite metal bands back in high school.  I listened to their two albums constantly.  My friend Joe and I used to jam to them, learning how to play fast metal.

They basically broke up in 1985 and lead singer King Diamond went solo.  He was the main focus of the band for me, so I followed his career for an album or two then gave up on the whole thing.

I had no idea they’d reunited in the 90s and released a bunch of albums.

But after their 1999 album Mercyful Fate went on hiatus again.  And now, here they were back together after 23 years.  Well, sort of together again.  The new lineup features two of the five original dudes.  The King of course and original guitarist Hank Shermann.  Then there are some dudes who joined them for the mid 90s reunion drummer Bjarne T. Holm and guitarist Mike Wead.  The final piece was supposed to be Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, but he was off playing with Armored Saint.  So they found Becky Baldwin, who has been on a dozen albums by bands I don’t know.  But she totally kicked ass on stage and frankly it was nice to have a female presence on stage.

After Kreator was gone, we all rushed the stage and waited.  There was some turmoil as a big dude seemed to be lurking and lurching at the women in the audience. I anticipated trouble, but none was had.  And then people started pushing . Really hard.  Because the pit was being formed.  So I was far from where I started but still plenty close enough.

As with Kreator, I thought that the sound was too loud.  But that compliant is more for the fidelity of the music than the actual volume.  It felt like the music was very crackly and I actually thought it sounded better with earplugs in.  I also thought it was very un-Mercyful Fate like to play lead guitar in a baseball hat and sunglasses, but such is Hank Shermann’s deal I guess.

But honestly who cared as long as the music sounded good and that King Diamond could still do his magic.

They opened with “The Oath” and I was immediately transported back to 1985.  The riffs were spot on and, amazingly King Diamond sounded just as unholy and insane as always.

The stood at the top of the stage–there was a balcony over the drum riser with stairs leading to the stage–in front of a “marble” room. He wore a giant horned mask and a red robe.  And of course his face was painted white.  And he had his femur bone/cross/microphone.  The song started, the recognizable riff blasting through the speakers, and the King’s unholy falsetto soaring through the crowd: “I deny Jesus Christ.”

Yup, the giant floating upside down cross and goat’s head pentagram weren’t the only thing Satanic about this meeting.  It was followed by a song from their debut EP, “A Corpse Without Soul.”

I wasn’t really sure how many people liked Mercyful Fate. I mean, I know they are hugely influential (Metallica covered them after all), but who knew if that translated into actual fans.  But not only were there a lot of people there, most of them seemed to know all the words.

They played a new song, but I didn’t really care all that much about it.  I haven’t listened to anything past 1985 by them and doubt that I will.  It seemed to be a historical, rather than a Satanic song.  Between these three songs, it had been over twenty minutes already!

By this time, the King had gone up to the room and removed his horns.  He came back with the crown that he wears for most of the show.

And then they moved onto a song from Melissa.  It quickly became clear that I know Melissa a bit better than Oath, because every note of “Curse of the Pharaohs” was instantly familiar.  King Diamond hit those insanely high notes of the chorus with no trouble.  It was almost shocking how short the song is when compared t o the others.

King Diamond was pretty fun and funny throughout the show.  He invited us to “A Dangerous Meeting.”  They followed that up with “Doomed by the Living Dead,” another deep cut that shows a really catchy chorus.

I was pretty delighted that this tour was pretty much all classic songs–no 90s songs at all.  I wouldn’t exactly say hit after hit, but for a fan of those two records it felt like hit after hit.

Then it was on to a whole bunch of songs from Melissa.  They played pretty much all of the album (skipping “Into the Coven” and “At the Sound of the Demon Bell”).

The King climbed up to his room as Hank and Mike played the opening guitar riff and solo of “Melissa.”  King came out and knelt in front of the pentagram as he crooned the opening words.  I’ve listened to this song so much, I knew everything that was coming.  It was pretty awesome.

They followed it with the remarkably short “Black Funeral” and then the album opener “Evil” which I swear EVERYONE sang along to (except the high notes, thankfully).

The final song of the set was “Come to the Sabbath” (which he of course invited us to).

I knew they were playing “Satan’s Fall” on this  tour and I was unreasonably excited to hear it.  I didn’t know if there was anything else I especially wanted to hear.  “Nuns Have No Fun” would have been a hilarious addition, but I didn’t expect it.  And quite frankly, I was happy for the show to be relatively short.

So after an encore break, the band came out and began the epic journey.  It was crazy hearing that riff, hearing that voice (even if I had no idea what the words actually were), and feeling everyone moshing and slamming and singing around me.  If I had been 15, it would have been the greatest moment of my life, I’m sure.

The song was epic and they finished it and we all went crazy.

Then the band gathered near the front of the stage and it was very funny to see King Diamond smiling and waving to people.

There were actually some dudes shouting “one more song” as if a) you could top “Satan’s Fall” and b) you could actually tell King Diamond what to do.

  1. The Oath Ø
  2. A Corpse Without Soul ¥
  3. The Jackal of Salzburg [new]
  4. Curse of the Pharaohs ϖ
  5. A Dangerous Meeting Ø
  6. Doomed by the Living Dead ¥
  7. Melissa ϖ
  8. Black Funeral ϖ
  9. Evil ϖ
  10. Come to the Sabbath Ø
    encore
  11. Satan’s Fall ϖ
new song 2022
Ø Don’t Break the Oath (1984)
ϖ Melissa (1983)

¥ Mercyful Fate EP (1982)

[ATTENDED: November 14, 2022] Kreator

When Mercyful Fate announced their first U.S. tour in 23 years, I immediately grabbed a ticket.  I didn’t care who the opening bands were.  The fact that it was billed as a kind of double bill with Kreator was no big deal.  And we had support from Midnight, whom I’d never heard of.

I wanted to arrive late enough that I wouldn’t be too far back but also with hope that I didn’t have to sit through too much of Kreator.

I missed Midnight entirely–they sound like a band I would have enjoyed back in high school (solid Metal Blade music).

I had heard of Kreator, (they’ve been around since 1985, after all) but I really didn’t know anything about them.  Apparently they are quite legendary in the metal world.  Wikipedia even says

Pleasure to Kill is widely considered a landmark thrash metal classic, along with Master of Puppets by Metallica, Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? by Megadeth, Reign in Blood by Slayer, Eternal Devastation by Destruction and Darkness Descends by Dark Angel, all released in 1986.

But I’m guessing that since I didn’t get into this album back in the 80s, I never would.  I found the whole show, of which I saw about six or seven songs, too loud (so I’m too old).  And kind of samey. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Starcrawler

I found out about Starcrawler in 2018, a few months after they played their first Philly show at Johnny Brenda’s.  They had also played the Non-Commvention a few months later, which where I decided I really wanted to see them live.

Their stage show was supposed to be insane with lead singer Arrow de Wilde being a force to be reckoned with (who seemed to always end up bloody–fake or otherwise).  I was super excited to see them open for The Distillers in 2019, but Brody Dalle hurt her back during warm up and the show was cancelled a few minutes before the show started.  Later Distillers shows had other opening acts.

They played a show in 2019 at Boot & Saddle, but I had other plans for that night.  Then they were supposed to open for Red Fang in 2021, but that show was cancelled.  So, basically, I’ve been wanting to see them for a pretty long time.

I actually don’t know a lot of their songs. I absolutely love two of them, but as for the rest, I was there more for the spectacle than the actual songs.  I was concerned that the 2022 Starcrawler would be different from the 2018 version.  And, well, it was.  This version of the band is all dressed up in tuxedos. Not a drop of blood to be seen. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 27, 2022] Vixen77

Vixen was (I see is) a glam metal band from the late 80s.  They broke up in 1992 and then reunited with crazy drama) and are still active.

Vixen77 are a Philadelphia punk band.  They chose the name Vixen77 as a reference to the energy and the musical influence of late 70’s punk.  The band consists of guitarists Caitlin and Liz (I’m not sure who was who, but one of them was wearing a Flyers sweater and lost her glasses twice during the set!  I think it was LIz), bassist Jaz, drummer Sarah, and singer Samantha,

The band came out on stage and proceeded to rock their asses off.  It was a solid set of simple, fast, angry rockers.

Samantha has a great stage presence (the day-glo hair was a nice touch) and even though she screamed and snarled, she had a really powerful voice and could hit some pretty high notes.  Both guitarists sang backing vocals, although Liz sang most of them–and she had a powerful voice too.

I couldn’t really see Sarah on drums, but when I did she was smiling the whole time.  Jaz on bass hung in the back (but that may have been due to the size of the stage) and while she didn’t do anything fancy, for a couple of songs she had a nice rumbling solo section that kept the song rollicking on. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Tropical Fuck Storm

I saw Tropical Fuck Storm open for Modest Mouse four years ago and I was really impressed by them.  Since then, they have put out a couple more albums and seem to have made some headway into the American market (even with a name like that).

This show was sold out (it was their first show in Philly).  However, it was also a night that the Phillies were playing in the World Series.  So, the crowd was not packed in tight.  It worked out for everyone–the band got a sold out show and I didn’t have someone on my toes.

The band came out were fun but not super chatty.  I’m pretty amazed to see that they played largely the same set that they played back in 2018–especially since they have two new albums out since then.

They opened with “Braindrops” (from my favorite of the three albums).  I love the way the band sounds like a big pile of chaos and yet they are all really tight and focused.

I was in front of RKO (Erica Dunn) who mostly played guitar and occasional keys.  In the middle was Gaz, (Gareth Liddiard).  Off to the far side was Fifi (Fiona Kitschin).  On the drums was Hammy or Hammer (Lauren Hammel).  And she smashed the drums harder than anyone I’ve seen.

I loved watching RKO play wild guitar parts–sometimes conventional chords, sometimes solos.

But really it was Gaz who was the focal point.  And how could he not be since he sang most of the songs and played a frenetic and noisy lead guitar.  He has a huge stack of effects pedals, including what I’m thinking is some kind of loop, so that when he does … something, it sounds like a siren going off (but only for a second).

His playing is loose and seemingly crazy and yet full controlled with his hands almost never off of the whammy bar.

One of my favorite parts of their songs is when RKO and Fifi sing backing vocals.  They have great voices, but they can also sing in a surprisingly high register as well–which contrasts perfectly to Gaz’s low growl.

RKO sang lead on “New Romeo Agent,” a kind of slow burning song.

The crowd was very much into the whole set but they went nuts for “You Let My Tyres Down,” a personal favorite of mine, too.  It’s just as frenetic and wild as the rest but with a slow and catchy chorus.

FiFi sang lead on the cover of the Stooges Ann, a slow moody piece.   They ended with “Two Afternoons,” a song that has slow verses but is just a noise fest in the beginning and the end.  As this was the last song, they really jammed out the end with Gaz squatting on the stage playing with effects pedals and causing all kinds of noisy feedback–glorious chaos.

They came back after a couple of minutes and played “Paradise,” a killer song from Braindrops.  On the record it’s 6 minutes long but they stretched it out even longer with noisy jamming sections and aural chaos.

I thought they might do another song (they had been playing “Stayin’ Alive” as a second encore.  And they’d already long passed the 11PM mark (there’s no curfew apparently).  But nope, that was it.  I would have really enjoyed one more song, but it was clearly an exhausting set and it was quite an intense 75 minutes.  Highly recommended.

2022 2018
Braindrops Chameleon Paint
Chameleon Paint Antimatter Animals
New Romeo Agent ♠ Soft Power
Antimatter Animals You Let My Tyres Down
You Let My Tyres Down Back to the Wall (Divinyls cover)
Legal Ghost ♠ Two Afternoons
Ann (The Stooges cover) Rubber Bullies
Rubber Bullies Baby Squared (The Drones cover)
Two Afternoons
encore
Paradise

⊗ A Laughing Death in Meatspace (2018)
∀ Braindrops (2019)
♠ Deep States (2021)

[ATTENDED: October 29, 2022] Nina Ryser

Nina Ryser is a member of Palberta (I love that name) whom I saw live a while back.  I recently also saw her bandmate Lily Konigsberg solo, so that’s 2/3 of Palberta I’ve seen solo now.   (Clearly Anina Ivry-Block will be opening for someone in the near future).  I have also seen Nina Ryser play drums for Old Maybe.

Like the rest of her Palbertans, Ryser is a prolific songwriter who is classically trained but who likes to push the boundaries of what music should do.

For this little set, she and her husband played keyboards (and all manner of gadgets).  The set sounded improvised, but I’m sure it wasn’t.

Most of the songs were built around a beat and a simple chord pattern.  There was a droney component to it and Nina’s vocals were kind of deapan.

I know she played “Shelf the Trophy.”  She played another song that reminded me of a lo-fi Stereolab.

My favorite parts of the show occurred between songs where Nina would mess around with looping pedals and make these interesting collages out of bits of the song she’d just played.  There was definitely some improv in here and I enjoyed watching her manipulate the sounds to create something cool.

She ended the set with the catchiest song.  I don’t know what it’s called but there was a repeated refrain of “you never looked better.”  It was simple, but the vocal line complemented the music really nicely.

There’s so many interesting Philly-based musicians and so many places to play.  It’s quite a rich scene.

[DID NOT ATTEND: November 5, 2022] Superorganism/Blood Culture

I had seen Superorganism four years ago.  They were buzzing around with a couple of left field hits and at the time I thought they could be the next big thing or an internet meme.  Well, they drifted away.  But came back somewhat surprisingly at the end of last year.

Although I hadn’t heard they even released an album when this show was announced.

I’d had a good time at the last show so I grabbed a ticket.  Evidently the show did not sell well as Union Transfer sent out this:

You are invited to bring a friend for FREE! No catches or hidden fees etc. Just roll up to the show with your ticket(s) and let the door people and ticket scanners know you are bringing your friend as a free plus one / guest. They’ll hand over a complimentary ticket for your friend to use on the spot and that’s it. Free show!

It had been a long week and the kids were both going to a homecoming dance, so we decided to stay home (even though I would have brought her for free).

The opening band Blood Cultures has a fascinating gimmick

Blood Cultures is an experimental indie pop group from New Jersey. First known as a single person and now recognized as a collective (a quartet as of 2019), the band’s members remain anonymous, their faces obscured by black hoods in all photos. As they have explained, their anonymity is crucial to their ethos and aims “to keep the relationship between the listener and the music as pure as possible”. Hailed as some of the most exciting music coming out of New York by NME in 2018, Blood Cultures’ genre-bending sound is often characterized as psychedelic pop, electropop, and chillwave. Blood Cultures released their first album, Happy Birthday, in 2017. The band released its second album, Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs, in September 2019. Their third record, LUNO, was released on May 28, 2021.

They sound pretty interesting and I would have definitely enjoyed checking them out.  I’m also really surprised I hadn’t heard of them before.