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Archive for the ‘Lucky Peach’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” (2019).

OHMME provided gorgeous backing vocals on the previous two Christmas songs that I posted about.  Well, they also have their own song on the JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 compilation and it is not quite as beautiful as you might think.

However, what it lacks in conventionality, it more than make up for in coolness.

OHMME is a two-piece band made up of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart.  They both play guitar and sing (there’s other instruments going on as well).

Their voices are gorgeous together, but their music also features some interesting guitar sounds.

“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” is a manic song originally sung by The Andrews Sisters.  There are two parts, a super fast chorus (the “jing, jing a ling” part) and then a middle part that is slower and, in the OHMME version, a bit creepy, maybe.  OHMME is known for their amazing use of hocketing.  [In the medieval practice of hocketing, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests].  It’s a mesmerizing sound that they do perfectly.

This version opens with noisy guitars and the two voices rapidly singing the chorus.

Jing jing a ling jing a ling jing a ling
I love to hear our laughter mingle
Hah hah
Ho ho

But when the ha ha ho ho part comes in, OHMME performs some amazing hocketing to make the sound just stunning.

The slower middle part is played on a deep low guitar with a second guitar playing scraping noises as the two voices sing in close harmony.

It’s over quickly and after a guitar solo the manic chorus resumes.

Everywhere-man Thor Harris is also on this track.   I’m not sure what he’s doing, but I assume the drums and maybe whatever those other weird ringing sounds are (or are those from the guitar?  who knows).

As the song comes to an end, the two voices sing separate ho ho and ha ha and then they ho ho slightly out sync until they return in perfect tuning for the end note.

And if you listen closely at the very end of the track you can hear someone say, “Yeah!  Fucking awesome.”

It’s a really stunning song in just over 2 minutes.

I played it last night for my family and my 12 year old daughter loved it while my 14 year old son did not: “just because it’s weird doesn’t make it good.”

[READ: December 18, 2019] “Amaranth”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I read this story in Lucky Peach back in 2013.  In that review I gave away a little more than I was planning to this time, so avoid if you want fewer details (but no real spoilers).  I am also surprised at my reaction to the story six years ago.  I thought it was unduly harsh and a little hard to read (the content, not the quality of the story).

Here it is now, six years later with so much badness going on in the world and I found the revenge rather impressive and it gives a little bit of hope for those waiting for a long payback. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WÜRST NÜRSE-Hot Hot Hot (2018).

I wanted to find a soundtrack that would go with a book about wurst.  I found this fantastic Australian band with a hilariously appropriate name who also happen to be a band that rails against sexism.

In fact, one of the members of the band is in the fantastic feminist band Camp Cope!

Their story:

In 2016, five nurses with a sick-of-your-shit attitude put down their scalpels to pick up their instruments and Würst Nürse was born!  Würst Nürse are ripping out the stitches of the patriarchy with their dominating & satirical lyrics.  The band consists of Georgia McDonald (Camp Cope) as singing nurse, Anna Stein & Stephanie Butigan as guitar nurses, Morgan Sterley as bass nurse & Abbie Laderman as drummer nurse. Since Würst Nürse’s Fürst Rehürsal they have been administrating sludgey fever-inducing riffs & a power pop energy hot enough to send you into heart block.

This EP has four songs and is 13 minutes long.

It is musically brash with catchy melodies and sing-along choruses.  But its the biting lyrics that are so much fun

Like on “Hot Doctor” which is three chords and a sing along chorus of:
Hot Doctor
Hot Doctor
He’s gonna pay my bills
He’s gonna pay my rent
Hot Doctor
Hot Doctor
Gonna quit my job
Never have to work again

Although the verses are a bit more subversive

I give the wrong meds to get your attention
I want your hot beef injection
Hot Doctor
So, it turns out I didn’t even need that bachelor’s degree anyway
When I saw you walking down the hallway
Oh, Hot Doctor are you coming back to my place?
Your blue scrubs they rub up the right way

“Hot Surgeon” is very different from “Hot Doctor.”  There’s no big chanting chorus, but the lyrics are very different:

I wanna drill into your head
You’re such a hot surgeon
I bet you give great head
I know you’ve got your doctorate
Hot Surgeon
Know your way around a woman
I could help you out in theatre
You could help me put in a catheter
You, me and the Hot Doctor could get it on after hours

Okay maybe not that different.  But it turns out that they are connected:

I wanna get with the hot surgeon
Nobody tell the hot doctor
I don’t wanna ruin my chances

“Hot Brown Rain” is very different from the other “hot” songs because it is a hilariously revolting song about, well, being “number 8 on the Bristol stool chart” [The chart only goes up to 7, ew].  “from your underwear, how did it get in my hair?”  The chorus is surprisingly catching or catchy.

“Dedication Doesn’t Pay The Rent” has big stomping verses and much more pointed lyrics:

Knowledge learnt
Is money spent
And I still owe
The government
And they cut
My pay again
Those suit wearing white men

The chorus is very satisfying too:

No dedication don’t pay the rent
If you cut my pay
I’ll cut your oxygen

Of course I don’t want to see Camp Cope end, but I sure hope Würst Nürse releases more music.

[READ: Summer 2019] The Wurst of Lucky Peach

I really enjoyed Lucky Peach magazine.  It was often exhausting to read them since they were so packed with content (not unlike a sausage).  I was bummed when the magazine folded.  But in addition to several great issues, they also left behind some of these really fun and interesting cookbook-type collections.

This book is more than a series of recipes that I will likely never make or eat.  It is a fun history of the sausage that travels from Europe to the Americas to Australia and beyond.

Chris Ying says he loves sausage.  He says he might be in the world’s best lobster restaurant, but if there’s sausage on the menu that’s what he’s getting.  This book is fill of sausage history, sausage based humor (they tried to limit the number of dirty jokes, but failed often and with gusto). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Niagara Falls (2013).

This three-CD live album contains the complete concert from on December 7, 1995, at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in Niagara Falls, New York.

This concert is a “universally recognized high point for Phish.”  There’s a few big jams and some classic favorites.  But they also start with an unusual song.  “The Old Home Place” is a folky, countryish fun opening.  It’s quite expected, but it segues right into “The Curtain” (not “The Curtain With”), a groovy jam with a cool keyboard intro.  The sons segues into a rocking “AC/DC Bag” which has a long solo (the song is 9 minutes long) and a lengthy piano ending.

“Demand” is a short song, not played too often.  It sounds nice here and segues into a great version “Rift.”  The 12-minute “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a little slower-paced than usual, but there’s some beautiful soloing.  The extended “Guyue” works well with the bouncy “Bouncing Around the Room.”  And that short song is nice bookended by another jam in a rollicking “Possum.”  Everything gets really quiet for a few minutes before the guys do an a capella “Hello My Baby.”  It’s a little quiet but not as bad as some of the other ones.  I will never understand why people need to yell loudly when a band does something quietly.

Set two opens with an audience chess move and a 17 minute “Split Open and Melt.”  It has a groovy jam and a tease of “In a Gadda da Vida” before turning choppy and angular and going into some darker grooves.  It slows down to almost a stop before turning toward the end.  That workup leads to a mellow “Strange Design,” a very pretty version that pairs well with “Taste,” a fun song that Fish takes some vocals on (his voice sounding rough like usual).

“Reba” is one of the faster versions of the song–so fast that they seem to trip themselves up in the middle of the second verse.  The first part of the solo is insanely fast including the drums.  But the middle jam is much more mellow.  As the song comes to an end, the keyboards get a little spooky with intermittent drum thumps before seguing into a rocking “Julius.”

Things settle down for the funny “Sleeping Monkey”  Fish sings the high-pitched vocals and apparently gets a bug in his mouth (cough cough pbblt).  They jump to a very fast “Sparkle.” The ending “laughing laughing fall apart” is really really fast.  This leads to a 17 minute “Mike’s Song” that has one of my favorite jam section from phish—a full band jam, a funky 70s keyboard section, a big grooving section, and then a slowing down to guitar arpeggios which leads to  trippy spacey keyboards.  That morphs into a wild piano section which ultimately segues into a 13 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”

The set ends with an a cappella “Amazing Grace” (that is nicely loud–two a capella songs in one show?). The encore is “Uncle Pen,” a song I don’t really know (by Bill Monroe).  It’s done in a rollicking honky-tonk style.

The disc contains a bonus soundcheck of “Poor Heart.”  It is almost comically slow.  Not essential but always interesting to hear them do soundcheck and see what they play around with—including what they soundcheck and then don’t play in the show.  The set is a fantastic live representation.

[READ: June 25, 2017] “Lamb to the Slaughter”

I have read many of Dahl’s children’s stories.  But after reading this I realized that I have clearly not read enough of his adult stories.

The idea behind this is so familiar that I have to wonder if I have read or seen a version of it not realizing it was created by Dahl.

The set up of this story is great.  And, what’s better is that I found it really annoying at first only to be surprised by the twist.  Mary Maloney is a happy suburban fifties housewife.  Its gross.  She waits for her husband to come home, serves him a drink, waits to talk to him until he has finished his drink and basically feels a sense of completeness once he gets home.  Gross, right?

Mary’s husband is a police detective.  He come s home that day and is a bit more brutish than normal.  He drinks his drink much faster than usual. He tells Mary to sit down and be quiet a few times.  And as much as she tries to make him feel better–by offering to cook him a meal rather than going out to diner–he just gets more angry with her.

And then finally he tells her what’s got him so upset. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NATIONAL-First Listen Live: The National, ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (September 5, 2017).

On August 17, Union Transfer sent out a message that World Café and NPR Music present a First Listen Live with The National on September 5 at that very club.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant–was the audience going to sit there and listen to the record together?  Was the band going to be there?  I assumed they would play it live, but who knew.  I also didn’t really love The National enough to find out.  I like them sure, but I don’t know that I would have gone to see them anyhow.

I have since grown to really love “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” and while I probably couldn’t have gone to the show anyway (busy night) and it sold out pretty quickly anyhow, I was pretty glad that NPR has the show available for stream (right here).  The album sounds great and I was really delighted with how lighthearted singer Matt Berninger was and how good the band sounds.

I was also surprised by how piano-based these songs are.  Not that the band doesn’t have pianos in their songs, but I think of them as more guitar driven, while nearly every one of these songs is led by piano.  Since I don’t know all that much about the band, I also didn’t realize that in addition to Berninger, the rest of the band is two sets of brothers: guitar dueling by twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums.

Since I wasn’t there, I’ll reply on Bob Boilen’s description of the show:

The concert began with a sharply dressed Matt Berninger comically mixing up his own lyrics as he sang, “You said we’re not so tied together, what did you mean? Meet me in the bathroom in a second, for a glass of gin,” instead of “meet me in the stairwell.”  It foreshadowed Matt’s frenetic performance throughout the night as he cast off that sport coat, rolled up his sleeves and led the band in a fun and inspired performance of these new songs. The show ended with Matt pitching his plastic cup full of clear liquid into the crowd in a frenzy of strobe light mania.

The group was joined throughout the night by Arone Dyer of Buke and Gase (who also sings on the new record), along with Ben Lanz on trombone and keyboard (and everything else), Kyle Resnick on trumpet, keys and backing vocals (and everything else).

Unlike recent record release parties that didn’t really feel like record release parties, this show was what I expected the other ones to be like–a band playing their new album front to back (in fairness the other three shows of this ilk were more indie in nature (and weren’t on the radio) so they could do what they wanted).  So indeed, the band played the album front to back (and went on around 8PM, sop they were done by 9:30, I’d guess).

As the show began, Berninger came out and in his deep voice said, “Hows it going,  hello.”  Someone shouted, “Play ‘Karen.'”  Berninger laughed and said, “it’s pronounced Kuh-RIN, come on.  How many time do I have to…”  (“Karen” is a song on their earlier album Alligator and “Carin at the Liquor Store” is a new song).

The album feels quite spare with minimal instrumentation, but the spaces are full of interesting music.  There’s a lot of piano on “Nobody Else Will Be There.”  At the end, as it says above he says, “I screwed up the first verse.  The first verse was wrong.  [mock angry] Do it again. [Laughs and says in a mock pissy voice] “We’re going to do everything again until it’s right.”

“Day I Die” has squeaky guitars and a funky bass.  Berninger after the song: Oops can I get a towel [pronounced towl].  Thanks a lot.  Next is ‘Walk It Back.’  Is there a towel anywhere?  I kind of walked it back into my drink.  Thanks, Ev.  Evan Middlesworth!  [cheers]  That’s all he does.  [singsong] Evan, you missed a spot.  [chuckles].  The song is spare with piano and a rather complex drum pattern.  The l vocals are almost recited.

Arone Dyer from Buke and Gass helped a lot on this record.  This is the person you hear at the beginning of this song. This is “The System Only Dreams [cheers] Wait!  I’m not done with the title yet [laughs].  This may be one of my favorite songs this year.  It sounds a bit different here–not bad, just live.  But by the end it totally rocks out.

“Born to Beg” is a slow ballad with some lovely backing vocals from Dyer.  After the song Berninger announces “Johnny Brenda’s tonight at 11: Buke and Gass.”  Now that;s a show I would have really liked to see.  Had I gotten tickets to The National, I would have hung around town and gone to Buke and Gass for sure.  Berninger mentions their symbiotic partnership: “punch the glove, touch the glove, you know what that means? hand in glove? Nevermind.”

“Turtleneck” roars out with 2 scorching guitars.  Berninger is practically screaming (as are the backing singers).  he is normally such a sedate singer that this comes across really powerfully.

“Empire Line” returns to that more moody style.  The song kind of smooths along on a rumbling guitar line.”

Berninger introduces the next song: “This is called ‘I’ll Still Destroy You’ … Did somebody boo?  The record’s not even out yet.  Someone went ‘oooo.'”  The song has a cool, complex drum rhythm with some nifty quiet parts and buzzy keys.  But the end gets bigger and louder with really powerful drums.

I love the glitchy opening sounds of “Guilty Party.”  The rest of the song is gentle piano and e-bow but the end builds with different instruments playing different spare sections around each other.  There’s also a cool guitar solo at the end.

One of the other guys in the band says “Thanks to NPR for doing this and thank you guys for coming out.  This is a good way for us to learn these songs… live on the radio.”  Berninger dedicates “Carin at the Liquor Store”:  “This is for Yoko.”  I wonder of that has to do with the chorus: “blame it on me. I really don’t care.  It’s a foregone conclusion.”

After the song he says: “Sorry, Scott, I fucked up your mic.  Hold on I gotta fix Scott’s microphone.  This is called ‘Dark Side of the Gym.’  A gymnasium in America is a multipurpose room where proms take place. In Europe they keep thinking it’s the dark side of the fitness club.  Some corner of the locker room Dark side of Equinox or something.”  This is a slower song with more piano.  “Arone Dyer is back.  Buke and Gass tonight, 11, Johnny Brenda’s.”  He sings the line “Hand in Glove” then says “Uh, never mind I almost told a story.”

The final song is “Sleep Well Beast” with more interesting electronic percussion and wavery synths.

The whole album sounds really good.  Mostly spare, but a few really rocking songs.  I’m now curious to hear if the album sounds like it.

It sounds like there’s an encore break.

When they come back: “Were going to play a few songs that are ten years old.  This is from Boxer.”  Introducing “Green Gloves” whoever is talking says “this is kind of a creepy song.”  Berninger agrees: “Don’t do any of the stuff in this song.”  There’s much more guitar.  It’s quite moody and sounds great.

“Apartment Story” is a bit more upbeat with fuzzy guitars that build and build over staccato drums.

Presumably that same guy from the beginning shouts, “Play Karen, please.”  But no, they play “Fake Empire” instead (I don’t think they heard him).  This is a piano-based song, but it builds and build and builds to a rocking climax.

The final song comes from High Violet.  “Terrible Love” totally rocks with big noisy guitars and drums crashing to an ending.  They practically scream “It takes an ocean not to… BREAK!” and the show ends with a crazy and wonderfully chaotic conclusion.

There audio just ends–no goodbyes or anything.  I assume the band didn’t hang around afterwards–there wer 1200 people there, after all .

On WXPN after the show, they played an interview: World Cafe host Talia Schlanger and I recently talked with Matt Berninger about how he and the band created their new album. Listen to that full interview here.

 

[READ: June 25, 2017] “Beneficence”

I am quite saddened to read that this is the final Lucky Peach issue that will see the light of day.  The magazine is going to retain an online presence, but there will be no more oversized, thick-papered profanely delicious quarterlies.  [Technically not true, there was one more final issue after this].

I am equally disappointed that the final story printed in this final issue is so irritating.

This story seems like it is a take on John Cheever’s “The Swimmer.”  That’s the overall vibe I get from the story.  If you don’t know that terrific story, a man drinks alcohol and swims through neighborhood backyard pools–and learns something along the way.

This had that same backyard neighborhood drinking feel to it.  But it was so overwhelmed by the phrase “A white person” that I was totally lost and distracted from any actually story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Vegas 96 (2007).

This show was recorded at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 6, 1996.  The set also includes a DVD.

The show has a great amount of classic songs, a few big rarities, some cool covers and a whole lot of surprises.

Wilson has a really rocking beginning (everyone is going nuts during the can you still have any fun) until just before the “blap boom” part when it slows to a halt with about 20 seconds of squalling feedback.  Then they launch into an excellent non-jamming version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”  It is followed by a fast romp through “Poor Heart”—one of the fastest I’ve heard.  It ends really noisily and then segues into a funky jam that’s mostly keyboard.  After 5 minutes it resolves into “2001,” which also ends noisily with scratchy guitars that segue into a very fast “Llama.”

This has been a simply rip-roaring show thus far.  And then they settle down for a 26-minute “You Enjoy Myself.”  The “Boy Man” section is very funky and the following jam stays funky with a lot of high-pitched bass soloing from Mike and a lot of percussion thrown in as well.  The song ends with a vocal jam but instead of doing weird sounds and screams, trey starts singing “doh doh doh donuts, I like donuts.”

I tend to think of “YEM” as set-enders (since that’s my experience with them), but this is still mid-set and they follow up with a synth and piano version of “Cars Trucks Buses” which seems like it’s going to morph into “Kung” but instead it becomes a loud, brash “Down with Disease.”  The set ends with a rocking “Frankenstein.”  I tend to thing they play this and “YEM” a lot because they seem to be on a ton of official live recordings.

Set 2 opens with a funky “Julius” (a song I always assume is a cover but which isn’t), and a nice version of “Sparkle” (with a super fast “laughing laughing” section at the end).  “Mike’s Song” runs about 10 minutes with a really noisy middle section and then segues into “Simple.”  There’s a lengthy piano section that turns into a rocking jam that goes on for quite a while (the whole song is over 18 minutes).  It winds down eventually and returns to a lot of piano.  It is followed by a noisy and raucous “Harry Hood” that feel really raw.  The song is 15 minutes and there’s a long solo before the “you can feel good” part.

Then comes a big, 11 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”  About midway through the jam the whole band stops dramatically and perfectly. They run through a bit again and stop perfectly again (except for an extra snare hit).  It’s amazing how tight they are.  The end grows very quiet as the band prepares for a quiet a capella “Sweet Adeline” (it’s so quiet all you hear is the crowd shushing everyone–this is the major downside to them doing these barbershop songs).  They come out of that with a set-ending, totally rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” with Fish singing the “I know what it means to be alone” part.

The encore proves to be about 35 minutes long.  There are lots of guests and surprises.  And the band walks through a version of the “Harpua” story.  Ler and Les from Primus come out to start the song.  The chorus is done in half time—which is rather unsettling.  The story leads to Les singing Don Bowman’s “Wildwood Weed.”  I had assumed he made up but he obviously didn’t.  Then it’s back to “Harpua.”   In this version of the story, Jimmy walks to Vegas with his cat Poster Nutbag (Trey tells everyone to put all their money on 17).  As they get “closer to Vegas” they hear voices singing “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (a song by Patsy Montana).  It is sung by the Yodeling Cowgirls.  (There’s some “Happy Trails” in there as well).  Then there’s more of the “Harpua” story and as they approach Las Vegas they see Four Elvises.  Which leads to a singoff of “Suspicious Minds.”  This contest was between four Elvis impersonators with Fish joining in at the end.  Unmentioned (as far as I can tell) are John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on backing vocals) and actor Courtney Gains (on percussion). And then everyone launches into a wild “Suzy Greenberg” including the Elvises.  During the jam at the end, one of the Elvises turns the song into “Susie Q.”

This is one of my favorite shows.  The inclusion of the Primus guys and the crazy version of “Harpua” is just spectacular.  And by the end, everyone is having a great time.

[READ: April 1, 2017] “Las Gaviotas”

I enjoyed the way this story seemed really unsettled, just like its protagonist.

Finley is a in a relationship with Neil.  But she is currently hanging out at Brace’s apartment.  Brace is Neil’s old roommate.  Neil is in the other room with Brace’s girlfriend Alice.  They are all pretty drunk.

Brace is everything that Neil is not: he is big–not fat, just big–with a voice and presence to match.  And while Finley loves Neil–she keeps telling us that–there’s something about Brace (that name!) that she is drawn to.  She also hates Brace’s girlfriend Alice who has “otherworldly beauty.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live in Brooklyn (2006).

Just over ten years ago I started this blog.  And sometime in May of 2007 I wrote about this disc.  Well, actually, I didn’t really write about it. Initially the “soundtrack” was just the record I was listening to that day.  I didn’t really write about the music at all.  The only thing I noted about this disc was that a 17 minute guitar solo is not such a good idea when you are sleepy.

So, now that I’ve often spent more words on the music than the stories, here’s a full review of this live album (their fifth “official” live record).

This show was performed on June 17, 2004–the opening night of what was promoted as the band’s final tour, before their 2004 breakup.

This show starts with “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.”  It is a rocking opening although it sounds a bit flat.  “Dinner and a Movie” is fun, an angular version with a perfectly jazzy end section.  It segues into a great 13-minute version of “The Curtain With” and then a short, fast “Sample in a Jar.”

“The Moma Dance” has a lengthy intro before the song starts and then a long jam afterwards.  It’s fifteen minutes long and then segues into an outstanding “Free.”  There’s a particularly cool razzy funky bass solo.  “Nothing” is a sweet song from Undermind, a nice mellow come down after Free and a good workout for Page on piano.  It’s followed by “Maze.”  This one sounds a little funny, but there’s some great soloing from Trey and Page.  Trey’s solo starts trippy and then turns wild and really rocking.  “Frankenstein” is not quite as faithful to the original as some earlier versions, but they’ve played it many times by this point.

Set 2 opens with the crowd chanting “It’s 1, 2, 3, strikes you’re out at the old ball game” and then it’s a 17 minute version of “46 Days.”  It mostly a guitar solo that segues into a long version of “Possum,” although this “Possum” is rather slow, comparatively.  The solo grooves along until it gets down to a quiet moment.  Then there’s a short “Oh Kee Pah” that launches into a rollicking 18-minute “Suzy Greenberg” with a great jam in the middle.  It segues into a super rocking “Axilla” and then segues into a groovy “2001.”  The jam on that song lasts 9 minutes and it’s connected to an excellent “Birds of a Feather.”

They dedicate the insane “Kung” to the people at the US Open next door.  They are going to sing it very loud so that the players can hear it.  And after the runaway gold cart marathon, Trey says they’re going to slow things down with “Mike’s Song,” but its’ got a very fast jam in the middle.  It does slow down to a mellow “I Am Hydrogen,” which segues into a romping “Weekapaug Groove.”

The encore is “Divided Sky.”   There’s a 1:15 pause while Trey doesn’t play the next note before beginning the rest of the show.  The crowd gets really restless.  It’s pretty funny.

This entire concert was simulcast on over 100 movie theater screens around the country.  The band was supposed to break up for good after this tour.  But here it is 13 years later and they are playing better than ever.

[READ: March 27, 2017] “Down and Out in Paris and London”

This issue of Lucky Peach includes an excerpt from a book by George Orwell.  Down and Out in Paris and London was the first full-length work by Orwell, published in 1933.  It is a memoir in two parts on the theme of poverty in the two cities.

What does it have to do with food?  Well, it was originally called “A Scullion’s Diary.”  And this excerpt comes from around Chapter III where the narrator obtains a job as a plongeur (dishwasher) in the kitchen at “Hotel X.”

He explains that one of the few humane jobs in the kitchen was polishing silver and glasses–at least the waiters might treat you as something of an equal.  Otherwise he was washing crockery–often for thirteen hours a day.

He marvels that the squalor of their kitchen–“we are in disgusting filth”–was only double doors away from the splendid dining room.  He says “we slithered about in a compound of soapy water, lettuce leaves, torn paper, and trampled food.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-New Year’s Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden (2005).

Phish has always made New Year’s Eve shows special (I have tried for a few years now to get tickets but have failed).  These shows are usually long, full of surprises and something of a spectacle (this was especially true when they were younger, like in this show–Rolling Stone named it as one of the “Greatest Concerts of the ’90s”).  The concert features a cover of The Who’s “Drowned” and “Sea and Sand” as well as a substantial number of songs from Phish’s mythic and hardly ever played Gamehendge cycle.

“Punch You in the Eye” opens the show with a funky groove and some great sing-alongs (this is a tangential Gamehendge song).  If you watch the video, you can see Trey and Mike dance during the salsa moments, which is pretty amusing.  As the song ends, Page gets a lengthy piano solo while Trey plays percussion.

“The Sloth” is an interesting second song–its chugs along and is very heavy (it’s also the second song in a row to mention getting sliced on the nipple).  (this is a proper Gamehendge song).  “Reba” sounds great—and at 14 minutes, it’s got a good stretching out guitar solo.  “The Squirming Coil” is one that I want to see live.  This version is mellow with a lengthy piano solo–it segues perfectly into “Maze” which has a long keyboard solo and then a guitar solo.  (20 minutes total).

Then things settle down into the Gamehendge saga.  It begins with “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent”in which he talks all about the Gamehendge Time Lab where the Phish guys work when they are not touring,  They say that they used the Helping Friendly Book to learn how to make time move forward–otherwise we’d be stuck in 1994 all the time and you’d hear the same songs on the radio (they play a minute of Collective Soul’s “Shine”).  This is all part of  lengthy “Fly Famous Mockingbird)

“Sparkle” sounds great with a super fast ending.  And the first set ends with an 8 minute “Chalk Dust Torture” which has a great solo.

Set two opens with the audience chess move in which the audience member defeated the band by capturing its queen.  Score at the end of 1995: band 1, audience 1.

Then they play a great version of The Who’s “Drowned” (even is Mike can’t hit all the notes).   It segues into a rocking “The Lizards” (part of Gamehendge) and an even more rocking “Axilla, Pt. 2” (tangential Gamehendge).  “Runaway Jim” is a 16 minute jam with a middle part that slows down to just bass and audience clapping–and then some 70s funky keyboards while Trey plays his own percussion kit. Things settle down with a pretty “Strange Design” and an a capella “Hello, My Baby” (which is totally audible hooray).

And they end set two with a great 20-minute “Mike’s Song.”  The first jam is Page and Mike and its long and groovy and the last five or so minutes ends in very trippy sequence with trey jamming on his digital delay pedal.

Set three begins with the end of the year countdown.  The notes for the disc talk about the Gamehendge Time Machine (you can watch the Countdown and celebration here–as well as the whole show).  Fish is dressed like baby new year.

Once the countdown finishes, they launch into an instrumental version of “Auld Lang Syne” which segues into a fun 17 minute “Weekapaug Groove” (Trey throws in some “Auld Lang Syne” notes into the solo).  It turns into a surprisingly stark piano melody of The Who’s “Sea and Sand” (sung by Page).  This is followed by a 25 minute “YEM.”  There’s a big long keyboard solo and then some lengthy guitar solos before the song settles to complete silence.  The silence ends with a whispered ”washufeet” that morphs in and out of Trey whispering and everyone muttering and making noises and becomes a vocal jam that is mostly harmonies.

They come out of the that with a bright version of Sanity.  It starts really rocking especially when they all start shouting “BOOM, POW.”  The set ends with an awesome version of Frankenstein (complete with one more “Auld Lang Syne” solo nod in the middle).

After nearly three and a half hours of playing, the band still had time for an encore—a rollicking version of “Johnny B Goode.”

Now that’s a way to welcome in the new year!

[READ: March 30, 2017] “The Sympathizer”

I really enjoyed this excerpt, but I was puzzled about what direction the story would go after this section.

I was also puzzled at first as to why this story was in the Pho Issue of the magazine (stories don’t necessarily correspond to issue themes).  It starts off in Vietnam, so I figured that was the tenuous connection.  And that was fine.

The narrator is reading a screenplay of a movie set in Vietnam.  He has been called in to counsel the auteur (whom he agrees is, in fact, talented) on the Vietnamese-ness of the story.  But the narrator is not to be swayed.  He himself wants to work in Hollywood, but he is immediately on guard against the racism that he encounters.  Or maybe it’s all in his head–he is certainly prepared to be offended by everything.

Not least because the screenplay, while good for the white heroes, treats every Vietnamese person exactly the same.  None of them have any lines [cut to villager speaking in their own language], most of them simply scream, and if they’re not getting killed (bad guys) they are thankful to the white people for saving them.

The narrator gets right in the auteur’s face with a very dramatic demonstration of how people scream differently in different circumstances. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Slip Stitch and Pass (1997).

After two more studio albums, Phish released their second live album, Slip Stitch and Pass. Unlike the previous live album, this one comes all from one show, although it is not the entire show.  The recording was done at the Markthalle Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany, during Phish’s 1997 European Tour.

This was release on one disc and it sounds brighter than their other live shows.

What I always found strange about this releases is that three of the nine songs are covers.  Obviously, covers are a part of Phish shows, but it seems weird that their second live album is so full of covers, especially when they have now 7 albums to choose from.

The show opens with a rocking cover of Talking Heads’ “Cities” and segues into “Wolfman’s Brother” which has some great funky bass from Mike.  The song slows into a mellow jam of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago.”  Its slow and groovy, a nice contrast to the other songs.

I love Weigh and am delighted that they played this fun, very silly song: “I’d like to cut your head off so I could weigh it, what do ya say?
Five pounds, six, pounds, seven pounds.”  It leads into a great Jam of “Mikes Song” (one I’ve really wanted to see live but haven’t yet).  After a fun, suitably short “Lawn Boy” they start playing the fun that is “Weekapuag Groove.”  This version teases a bunch of other songs, like: Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” Rolling Stone’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and The Doors song “The End.”  They have a lot of fun with The Doors with Fish shouting: “he walked on down the hall” and Trey saying, “Father….   Mother I want to cook you breakfast.”

The jam ends with a very quiet a capella rendition of “Hello My Baby”—it’s a little too quiet for the disc, but their harmonies sound great

The disc ends with “Taste,” a mellow jam with multiple singers. It’s a nice ending to the disc.

The full concert setlist was:

SET 1: Cities > The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, Down with Disease, Weigh, Beauty of My Dreams, Wolfman’s Brother -> Jesus Just Left Chicago , Reba, Hello My Baby, Possum

SET 2: Carini, Dinner and a Movie > Mike’s Song -> Lawn Boy > Weekapaug Groove, The Mango Song > Billy Breathes, Theme From the Bottom

ENCORE: Taste, Sweet Adeline

[READ: March 21, 2017] “Oil and Vinegar”

I’ve read a few things by Gray, and they have all been short.  This one is also short.  She really gets right to the point with her stories, and I rather like that.

It begins by telling us that Lissa looked forward to her bath every night.  She had recently discovered the trick of putting a few drops of olive oil into her bath.  She loved it so much that she would disrobe as soon as she got into her house.

Lissa was a shower person–never liked baths at all.  She also never cooked.  She  was decluttering her kitchen and was planning on throwing out the bottle of olive oil.  But she decided to give that suggestion from the magazines a try–a few drops in a bath.  It proved to be a luxurious experience, and she was hooked.

She went on this way for months and expanded upon the routine–a  book, some candles, wine.  It was wonderful.

And then she spilled some extra oil in the bath.  If a few drops made her feel good, more was even better.  A quarter cup healed the calloused ridges on her feet and cured the raw skin on her lower back.  The cleanup was kind of a pain, but it was worth it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-A Live One (1995).

Phish has released virtually every show that they have played in some recorded format (not to mention all of the shows that have circulated as tapes).  But before all of that, it took them five studio albums before the released their first official live record.  And while it is not one show, it is a great collection of their more popular live songs.  There’s some really long jams (30 minutes for “Tweezer”) but also some normal length songs (several under 5 minutes).

If you ever want to know anything about Phish, they are probably the most well-documented bands around.  Their fan base is encyclopedic (if they didn’t follow Phish, they would be really into sports stats, clearly).

So a cursory search will tell you

Each track on the album was recorded at a different live show in the United States during Phish’s 1994 summer and fall tours. Several of the songs have never appeared on studio albums and the track “Montana” is not really a song, but actually a two-minute excerpt from the longform improvisation that followed “Tweezer” during the band’s show in Bozeman, Montana.  On A Live One, “Montana” serves as a prelude to the epic “You Enjoy Myself”, one of the most well-known versions of that song.

“Bouncing Around the Room” is light and fun, a great start to a show.  I was really happy when I finally got to see it live.  It segues into a a rather quiet “Stash.”  There’s a lot going on in the solo with the chorus repeating and then a solo resuming.  It’s followed by a slow Gumbo with The Giant Country Horns: Peter Apfelbaum – tenor saxophone; Carl Gerhard – trumpet; Dave Grippo – alto saxophone; James Harvey – trombone; Michael Ray – trumpet.

“Montana Jam” is a short instrumental segue into “You Enjoy Myself.”  As stated above, this is a killer version of “YEM.”  There’s a funky bass solo, there’s many elements to the jam including a section where they chant “ahhh way um way um.”  After 15 minutes, the end is a five-minute “voice jam” with them making crazy sounds.  It devolves into a lot of clicking and other weird noises.  “YEM” would normally end a set but this one it’s followed by a rousing “Chalk Dust Torture” (a song that I really wanted to see).  The disc ends with a really rocking “Slave to the Traffic Light,” that has a mellow solo until everyone builds it up hugely at the end.

Disc two opens with “Wilson” (I was really excited to see that one live).  The “Tweezer” on this one is a much darker version—with lots of weird solos and crazy sounds including keyboard sirens.  The song kind of thuds and lumbers along and then turns into what sounds like a heavy metal riff—distorted guitars and bass–until it eventually returns to a rocking jam.  They start doing the “Tweezer” riff again but it segues into a new jam with noisy guitar and funky keys.  There’s a whole lot more going on in these 30 minutes).

“Simple” is rocking fun and ends with them singing in a whisper.  This version of “Harry Hood” sounds great with all three parts connected by lengthy jams.  The drums are quite prominent in this song with Fish doing all manner of drums fills.  The disc ends with Squirming Coil which is primarily a long and pretty jam, with some really nice solos.

Since it’s a well curated live album, it’s really a great place to start exploring their love shows.  And the sound is fantastic.

Some people care about this sort of thing, so these songs come from:

  • “Stash,” July 8, 1994, Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield, MA
  • “The Squirming Coil,” October 9, 1994, A. J. Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh, PA
  • “Harry Hood” October 23, 1994, Band Shell, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • “Tweezer,” November 2, 1994, Bangor Auditorium, Bangor, ME
  • “Chalk Dust Torture,” November 16, 1994, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • “Slave to the Traffic Light,” November 26, 1994, Orpheum Theatre, Minneapolis, MN
  • “Montana,” November 28, 1994, Field House, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
  • “Gumbo,” December 2, 1994, Recreation Hall, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
  • “You Enjoy Myself,” December 7, 1994, Spreckels Theater Building, San Diego, CA
  • “Simple,” December 10, 1994, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA
  • “Wilson,” December 30, 1994, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
  • “Bouncing Around the Room,” December 31, 1994, Boston Garden, Boston, MA

[READ: March 10, 2017] “Jack and Jim Who Lived by the River”

I tend to not really like the stories in Lucky Peach.  That’s not entirely fair, because some of them are quite good.  But many of them, like this one, are just kind of weird an unsatisfying.

Jim doesn’t like to each much fish in the morning, but Jack sure does. He eats fish because “we are Jack and Jim who live by the river, and we are excellent fisherman.”

Jack smokes his fish while he drinks a beer and then he goes over to see Jim who has just woken up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Reverb, Toronto, ON (August 29, 1997).

This is the final show Rheostatics show from the 1990s that I haven’t mentioned thus far.

I’m not sure what the band had been doing before this show (aside from making he Nightlines show), but they’ve apparently not played live for a while.  This return to performance seems to have brought out the wildness in them.  This show has all kinds of jamming moments with eight songs lasting over 7 minutes.  There’s also some slower moments or songs played differently.  It’s a cool, unique show–very different from their other shows.

There’s even an “opening jam” with a guitar riff explored around some bass notes.  Then a new guitar comes in with some rums.  The whole jam is about 3 minutes but it doesn’t really turn into anything, it’s just a like a warm up jam–I even wondered if it was just the guys messing around until all four of them were on stage.

They play the opening riff to “Fat” but he only plays a clip of it and then stops (allowing Tim to do some bass fills).  During the “bye bye” section they stop the music a few times unexpectedly as well.  It’s an interesting jamming opportunity and runs a pretty long time.

After the song Dave says, “we haven’t played togetehr in a long time well, we haven’t played live in front of people.  We played together at the CBC.”  (the Nightlines show mentioned later).  “So now we got one under our belt.  We forgot our songs had so many parts.”

Dave continues, “There’s a lot of people from Michigan here tonight for some strange reason.  They think the Stanley Cups is here.  But it’s not.  We’ll send this next song out to them.”  It’s “Aliens” At the end, Martin takes off on a wild solo as the band really rocks out.  There’s also an extended jam with someone singing a “dit dit dit” part while Martin plays along on guitar.

“All the Same Eyes” is pretty straightforward except that there’s some real wailing from Martin throughout.

Someone shouts “Are you looking for some fun?” and Martin says “We’ve got a new version of that song we’re gonna play.”  Then Tim says, “Just write your requests on a plate.  Dave: “There’s a private party upstairs and there’s lots of plates outside the door.”  Martin: “There’s a private party for um the three little boys with sandy blonde hair… hamsum?  handsome?”

Then they play the first known occurrence of “Junction Foil Ball.”  Martin introduces it: “we’ll do a kind of a new song”  Don: “its new and we’re kind of going to do it.”  I’m impressed with the interesting sound effects that Martin gets while playing this song.  During the “acoustic tile” section he even distorts his voice like it has slowed down–is that effect of Martin’s singing.

“Four Little Songs” sounds totally different.  It’s got a kind of swinging opening.  The first part is really heavy.   Dave’s part is interesting because while still in the trippy intro section, he begins singing the lyrics to Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  When he finally gets to the song, people sing along to his first lines!  Martin has crazy fun with the riff at the end–lots of squeaking solo noises.

Dave asks: “How are those chamois working out, martin?” “They’re remarkably absorbent for large quantities of liquid.”  When I saw them Martin was very sweaty.  I wonder if he always was.  There’s a solid, slow version of “Bad Time to Be Poor,” which Dave says was written awhile ago…but it’s still a bad time to be poor.

Before “Sweet Rich” Martin says, so I’m going to do this solo, okay Tim.  Just the first bit.”  It’s a great version.

“Joey II” has a long rollicking jam in the intro with Martin chanting “I’m about to fuck up, I’m going to fuck up.”   During the middle of the song he asks if any musicians in the audience have played at the Royal Albert Hall in Winnipeg–well that’s what this song is about.

They play an early version of “Easy to Be with You” which goes to “California” instead of “Harmelodia.”

Dave introduces “Stolen Car” by saying “We’d like to do another new one for you.  We played this at our last concert but we’re going to play it a little differently.  This is Tim Mech one of North America’s greatest unsigned artists.   Seriously, he won a contest in Musicians magazine and was named one of the ten best unsigned artists.   We recorded this for the last Nightlines program.  We recorded about 32 minutes of music.  Old stuff, new stuff and a version of this song.  Dave’s last show is tomorrow night.  Thats 104.1 FM CICZ-FM in the local area!”

As the song starts he says (I assume referring to Mech’s guitar) “this is a Hawaiian guitar that’s autographed by Ben Harper.”  ( I had no idea Ben Harper was noteworthy back in 1997).  There’s a weird electronic drumbeat through the song, and the music is primarily guitars–gentle and smooth.

Martin shouts, “Its’ been great playing in our home town–Toronto!”  They play a long version of “My First Rock Show” with a lengthy introductory instrumental section.  Near the final verse, he whispers the “many years later” section and someone shouts “bird in a cage” at the right time.  As the song ends they play the chorus of Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time).”

“California Dreamline” is quite extended as well.  After the first verse there’s a dance jam before the second verse begins.  The middle has a kind of vocal jam with a light bass and guitar motif and everyone singing different parts in a fugue state.  It’s a weirdly unique version.  At the end Martin says, “That was ‘California Dreamline,’ we’re going to do ‘Record Horse Count’ next.  They do neither and in fact play a really slow almost country-feeling version of “Claire.”  It’s so different sounding that they kind of mess it up here and there.

Things get quiet and then people start clapping along and you can barely hear them playing an acoustic un-mic’d version of “Bread Meat Peas and Rice.”  Dave says the name of the song “for those of you who could hear it.  You kind of understand why you use microphones.”  Tim starts talking about the band Farm Fresh. “They had a similar kind of thing with their Peanuts and Corn record [what?] and apparently they’re supposed to be releasing a new record, is that right?  They’ve made two cassettes and they are both for sale and are both really good.”  Dave: “Whats with that T-shirt, Tim?”  “Free with every cassette sold.”

Someone shouts again, “We’re looking for some fun.”  Dave: “Are you?”  And they launch into “Fishtailin'” which opens with that lyric.

After the song Dave asks “What is the time, late or early or what?  What time do bars say open til  4?  5?  [Shouts of four and Five] Tim: According to the new mega city law they close at 1 [boooos], so we’ve got half a song left.

They surprise ever one with “Bees,” a short quiet song with Martin making bee-like sounds on his guitar.  It leads to a long, quiet intro for “Michael Jackson” with Martin still doing some cool guitar sounds.  The whole beginning is slow and a little odd, with Dave singing “but an auto-bon would be better.”  And later, “Elvis is king because he’s dead.”  In the middle of the song Dave starts “rapping” and he says “I’d like to call Pip Skid (I assume) to the stage.  Pip Skid from Manitoba does a rap that’s kind of hard to hear.  Then there’s some soaring guitars from Martin.  The whole song is 11 minutes long and ends in a vocal jam that grows ever quieter.  Martin sings “It feels good to be alive” (hitting great falsettos) while the others are singing snippets and oh yeas.

They play an 11 minute “Dope Fiends” which has a bass and drum solo in the middle as well as just a drum solo later.  After 8 and a half minutes the band keeps going with some simple rocking.  At the end Martin says, “Thanks guys for giving me a second chance.” [?].

They leave the stage for the encore with a drum machine blipping away.  They come back with the drum machine still playing and someone plays a slow meandering guitar line. Another instrumental jam for 3 or so minutes before Dave says, “We’ll play one more.”  He also says that they’ll have their live album out by Christmas (stocking stuffers!).  And they end the show with a great non-nonsense version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream.”

This is a wonderfully atypical show for the band.  A real treat for fans and an interesting entry point for fans of jamming shows.

The next Rheostatics show that I’ll mention will be in 2001!

[READ: March 16, 2017]  “The Pickle Index”

This story is written in a fascinating way.  There are newspaper articles from The Daily Scrutinizer (written by Mark Hamper) and with them, there is the Pickle Index, a series of recipes.  In fact, it’s a recipe-exchange network “for citizens by citizens.”   Daily participation is mandatory (though surely that’s unnecessary since the treats within are so tasty).

From the Scrutinizer we learn that the official strike team has captured Zloty Kornblatt,the instigator, conspirator and fomenter. He brought a troupe of “performers” into the village to mock, destabilize and cause anarchy.

The Pickle Index begins with Fisherman’s Dills (by Sarafina Loop)–brine-ing cucumbers in the ocean.  And then comes Hollow Gherkins by Flora Bialy.  Although midway through the recipe, it shifts directions and talks about Zloty.  How he left them last night and the writer, Flora Bialy wonders why–was it their incompetence or was it her?  She says that once, years ago Zloty’s team was a real circus with clowns, a trapeze and roasted nuts, but now they were reduced to an extended residency in Burford. (more…)

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