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Archive for the ‘Beck’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 22, 2022] In Beta_

I saw this book at work and was grabbed by the cover (yes, clearly covers do signify something about the book).  I decided to read it before reading much about it.  I didn’t understand the accolades until I read the acknowledgments at the end.  The book was self published through Inkshares, but it then went on to win (or at least do very well in some Nerdist/Inkshares Contest.  Which I guess is a big deal, maybe.

The book is set in a small town in the rural Pacific Northwest in 1993.  The town of Bickleton is boring.  Super boring.  There are like three businesses in town, one is a restaurant and grocery store together.  Everybody seems to work in the mines.  And there’s like a curse on the high school.  No a single person has ever gone to college.

And people aren’t exactly sure why–their grades are good, they just apparently aren’t good enough for even community college.

The main characters are Jay Banksman and his best friend Colin Ramirez.  They are nerdy boys who love video games and probably won’t be going to the prom.

Their school is a strange set up in which Jay and Colin and some of the other brainier kids are in a special classroom set apart from the rest of the school.  I have no idea if this is even remotely realistic, but who knows.  There was A-Court, the largest building which was close to the main parking lot and seemed to house all of the cool and popular people.  C-Court was smaller and shabbier and was where the dumber kids went–the burn outs.

Jay and Colin felt that A-Court was too vanilla and C-Court was too raw.  So they stayed in their trailer area called Tutorial.  Their teacher was Miss Rotchkey.  She had asked to teach these kids as a kind of experiment.  The school principal rolled his eyes at the whole thing but allowed it.  Miss Rotchkey was cool, teaching them existentialism and allowing them to use the school’s computer.  She was convinced that her class would be  the first to go to college.

But then came rejection day.  Everyone in the class was rejected from all of their schools, even their safeties.

Things were pretty much the same every day at school.  Then one day a rumor spread that there were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pies in the A-Court vending machine.  And Jay wanted to get one.  So he and Colin snuck down to the A-Court and managed to evade detection from the jocks and the cheerleaders when suddenly there was Jeremy and the Johns.  Jeremy McCracken was the most popular boy in school.  A handsome jock and star of the baseball team.  The Johns were everyone else on the baseball team (I love this little joke that literally everyone else is named John with no last name just initials).

When they see Jay, they crush his pie and punch him in the face.  The principal sends Jay to the guidance officer because, hey sometimes life isn’t fair.

Jay’s only solace is in video games.  He gets a lot of video game and computer magazines and is always looking for new games to try out.  One day he gets a game called The Build.  When he puts t into the school computer, the graphics look like just like Bickleton.  It’s 8-bit graphics, but there he can see the whole town.  Including people walking around.  He mouses to his class room and when he raises his hand, the pixel version of himself raises its hand too.

He can’t believe this.  He tries to tell people about it, but every time he starts to talk about it to someone, they glaze over and seem to forget everything he just said.

Then things start to look up for him.  Liz Knight, the most popular girl in school (who he has known since like first grade when they were actually friendly–the held hands once) breaks up with Jeremy and asks Jay to the prom.

Liz’s best friends (who only like to talk about Beverely Hills 90210) don’t seem to be on board with this–they look down their noses at Jay like everyone else does.  So what gives?  Is it a prank?  It’s hard to know because Liz has been acting really strangely lately (in addition to asking him to prom that is).  Has she has a breakdown?  Or a breakthrough?

The next day Liz and Jay are talking when Jeremy approaches and asks her to go for a ride with him.  She does and Jay is very jealous.  He looks at The Build and sees the red Mazda Miata driving away with a little heart above it.  He clicks around the screen and sees a menu for disasters.  So he clicks on tornado.

And within minutes a tornado appears on the screen.  And in the town–a town  that has never had a tornado in its history.

There’s a lot going on in this story (although it’s a very fast read).  I don’t want to give any kind of spoilers away, but I do like to mention that Jay finds out his avatar’s stats: Strength; Speed;  Hit Points; Intelligence.  And at some point he moves them all up to ten.

This allows him to take sweet revenge on the Jeremys and to have access to intelligence and memories that he’s never known before.

The story sounds like an all boys story and it kind of is, but as the story moves along, two women become essential to the story.  There’s Liz of course, and there is also Stevie, a computer nerd who has mad programming skills.

Having the book set in the nineties means that Harvey overloads the book with 90s pop culture.  It goes a bit overboard.  He throws in some good music cues (Beck, My Bloody Valentine) and some bad ones (the bullies drive around playing Kriss Kross’ “Jump” all the time.  I’m also curious, since I didn’t go to school in the 90s, but would they have played Rage Against the Machine at a prom and would the kids have slam danced?  I cannot imagine.

So this was a fun story and one that I read very quickly.

And, if you’re wondering, as I was, about its similarity to other popular culture books and movies, he says in the acknowledgments that he started it about a decade ago and was about a group o seventh graders who found a magic VCR that brought 80’s movie clichés to life.  While he was finishing it up, Ready Player One, The Lego Movie and Free Guy (I don’t know this last one) all came out.  So he changed his tactics a bit.

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[LISTENED TO: November 2021] Girl in a Band

I didn’t really have that much interest in this book when it came out.  I love Sonic Youth, but I didn’t really think I cared all that much about their origin stories.  Then I saw that there was an audio book read by Kim and that sounded pretty cool.

I realized that I had no idea anything about Kim Gordon’s life and it was fascinating to learn just how much of a bohemian artist she was before she joined the band.

The memoir starts with the final Sonic Youth show.  Kim and Thurston’s divorce was already going to happen.  They simply wanted to finish out their final shows.  So Kim played while watching her disappointment of a husband absorb all the adulation.

But Kim’s book isn’t a salacious tell-all. It’s the story of her life and how she wound up where she did.  In fact, there’s very little about Sonic Youth (a lot more about the earliest records and then bits and pieces about the later records).  And, while she’s obviously pissed at Thurston for what he did, she’s restrained in her need to thrash the guy.

Perhaps the biggest take away from the book is that after thirty years of being in a rock band, she doesn’t consider herself a musician or a Rock Star (maybe a small letter rock star).  That eye opening statement is a kind of lead in to the fact that she has been an artist for most of her life–just not necessarily in music.

She moved to New York from California in 1980.  It’s crazy thinking that Kim was a California girl.

It’s even crazier thinking about her older brother Keller who was manipulative and mean and ultimate institutionalized. Kim idolized him and he abused her terribly (more than an older brother might normally do).  All of this made Kim into the shy and sensitive woman who you would never think was responsible for some of the most iconoclastic and then iconic music of the 20th century. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARCO BENEVENTO-Me Not Me (2009).

This album (Benevento’s second) with the confusing title is actually a (mostly) covers album.  Marco takes some familiar (to me) and some unfamiliar (to me) songs and turns them into instrumental versions using piano (and more), bass (from Reed Mathis) and drums.

The first song is My Morning Jacket’s “Golden.”  The melody is instantly recognizable and bouncy and fun.  Matt Chamberlain provides drums, which are skittery and complicated but never loud. Until the end when the songs starts to float away with trippy synths and some wild drumming.

“Now They’re Writing Music” is an original piece that switches between synth and piano and features Chamberlain and Andrew Barr on drums.

“Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” is a Leonard Cohen song.  It’s produced as if it’s on an old scratchy record with echoing bass and drums over the scratchy piano.  Barr is on drums.

“Mephisto” is an original, a slow jazzy number with a hummable melody and Chamberlain on drums.

“Twin Killers” is a Deerhoof song.  Appropriately, it has some riotous drums (from Barr who is on the next two songs as well).  It’s longer than the original because it features a cacophonies middle section that is just insane.  But Benevento’s faithful reproduction of the melody line makes this really catchy.

“Call Home” is a pretty lullaby.  It’s an original with soft keys and a baby cooing.

“Heartbeats” is the Jose Gonzales/The Knife song.  The main low riff sounds like its on the bass and then Marco plays the familiar lead melody with all kinds of fuzz thrown over the song.

“Sing It Again” is a mellow song from Beck off of Mutations.  I don’t really know it that well but this version is very pretty and simple.

A highlight of the album is this really fun version of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends.”  It’s immediately recognizable and yet different somehow.  Its full of raucous paying from all three especially when Benevento ads the sinister synths near the end.  Chamberlain plays up a storm on the drums.

The final song is George Harrison’s “Run of the Mill.”  I don’t know the original, but this is a jazzy song with lot of piano runs from Marco and some restrained drumming from Chamberlain.

This is a pretty solid introduction to Benevento’s music, although his albums definitely get better once he starts writing his own songs with words.

[READ: March 14, 2021] “Surrounded by Sleep”

Ajay was ten years old.  His family lived in Queens (having moved from India two years earlier).  He and his older brother, Amam, were in Virginia visiting his aunt and uncle.  One morning Aman was swimming in the pool.  He dove in and hit his head on the cement bottom.  He was on the bottom of the pool for several minutes before anyone noticed.

His parents were not terribly religious, but as Amar lay in a coma in the hospital, his mother began to pray regularly.  She also prostrated herself and fasted.

At first Ajay thought “her attempts to sway God were not so different from Ajay’s performing somersaults to amuse his aunt.”  Then Ajay knelt before the altar and drew in the carpet an Om, a crucifix, a Star of David and the Superman logo.

When his mother saw him praying, she asked what he prayed for.  He told her for a 100 on his math test. His mother said “What if God said you can have he math grade but then Aman will have to be sick a little while longer? …   When I was sick as a girl, your Uncle walked seven times around the temple and asked God to let him fail his exams just as long as I got better.”

Ajay replied, quite rightly, “If I failed the math test and told you that story you’d slap me and ask what one has to do with the other.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 12, 2019] Strand of Oaks

In 2016, Timothy Showalter played his second Strand of Oaks Winter Classic at Boot and Saddle.  I got a ticket for the third night, not really knowing what to expect.

It turned out to be a fantastic night of music and togetherness.

I missed the next year but went last year to Winter Classic IV.  Which was also great.

There was no way I was going miss Winter Classic V.  This year I went for the first night of the three.

The other two shows had opening acts announced, but there was none announced for my night.

I didn’t think we’d get an extra long show (Tim doesn’t do extra long shows).  Instead we got a cool improv by his partner for the night, Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 27, 2019] Mac Sabbath

When I saw that Okilly Dokilly was opening for Mac Sabbath I had to check out who this band was.  They’ve been around for a few years and this was their “American Cheese Tour” (that’s a good one).

And so basically, they are a Black Sabbath cover band, but all of their lyrics are about McDonald’s and the fast food industry in general.  So that’s pretty funny.  But that’s not all.  They have taken this concept to an absurd length.   Each band member is costumed or wears makeup.  And the costumes are phenomenal–not cheap little handmade things, but remarkably detailed and well constructed heads and bodies.  The attention to detail is really impressive.

The band members are also completely anonymous, which is also pretty funny.   And that is why they have such great band names:

The lead singer is Ronald Osbourne.
The guitarist is Slayer MacCheeze
The bassist is Grimalice (the least impressive name, it’s Grimace with an Alice in Wonderland hat on, but his other name is brilliant: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butler.”)
On drums is Catburglar or Criss Cut Fries (he is dressed like the Hamburglar with Peter Criss Makeup).

I didn’t really think too much about the music before the show, I just wanted to see the stage show. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 28, 2014] Beck

It was five years ago that S. and I saw Beck live.

For that show, I went in with lowered expectations.  I thought the show was going to be a lot of Morning Phase, a mellow album he had just released, but it turned out to be a ton of fun.  S. remembers it as one of her favorite concerts ever.  So when I saw that he was touring and coming to Holmdel, I was excited to get tickets.

Then I saw how much they were.  Tickets were over $100 for most normal seats and the front section was well over $100.  So there was no way I was getting tickets for that.  Then I remembered the awesome feature at PNC Bank Arts Center.  If there are seats available before the show you can upgrade a lawn seat for $20.  So we bought $30 lawn seats and then a few days before the show, we took advantage of the upgrade and for $20 more, we were moved to Row N!

And Row N is a great vantage point.

Needless to say, our expectations were pretty high for this.  And Beck did not disappoint.  Well, maybe a little. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 20, 2019] Cage the Elephant

I was rather surprised that Cage the Elephant were co-headlining this tour with Beck.  I assumed that Beck was the clear headliner–and yet the (younger) crowd seemed to be there more for Cage.  I also didn’t realize that they had collaborated recently on the song that this tour was named after).

But the biggest confusion for me was that I didn’t know who Cage the Elephant were.  They were part of that trend of bands that had three words with The in the middle. Like Pedro the Lion, Jukebox the Ghost, Minus the Bear and Young the Giant.  I assumed that I had no idea who Cage the Elephant were or what hey even sounded like.

But then I was surprised to discover that I really liked two of their songs but had no idea it was them: “Ready  to Let Go” and “Mess Around.”  After figuring that out, I was looking forward to them but really had no idea what to expect.

Well, they went on about ten minutes late (which was annoying, since they’d had 30 minutes to get ready).

Their stage set up was like bleachers–a guitar drum and keyboards on the top and a guitar vocals and bass on the floor.  Then the lights went down and the stage burst into flames! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 6, 2018] Spoon

I couldn’t believe that Spoon was the second band on this bill.  I had seen Spoon last year at the TLA in Philly and they played a huge set and the fanbase was rabid.  It was weird to see them in the setting sun (Britt Daniel came out and acted like he was a vampire when he saw the bright sun).

The crowd had filled in somewhat between Sunflower Bean and Spoon, but they were still going on at 6:45–not an ideal concert time, to be sure.

Regardless, the folks who were there were there for Spoon and they reacted appropriately. There was lots of dancing and singing along.  And Daniel either saw people he recognized or just acted like it because he was engaging and a lot of fun.

A few days before this tour started, it was announced that bassist Rob Pope was leaving the band [he’s going to spend more time with his other band The Get Up Kids].  It seemed liked terrible timing, but I gather they had his replacement Ben Trokan all lined up because they didn’t miss any dates on the tour and Trokan was great when I saw them.

Britt Daniel was dressed in a shirt and jacket (again, it was very hot, what’s up with these singers?).  He immediately started interacting with the crowd, climbing on his monitors and putting a foot on the fence that kept the crowd from the stage.  Like last time, they opened with “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” and everyone sounded fantastic.  Daniel’s voice was in great form and his guitar playing (when he played) was right on.

Since the previous show was nearly two hours and this one was barely 40 minutes, I assumed we’d get the truncated version of the previous set list.  But it seems that Spoon likes to mix things up a bit from night to night.  So up next was “The Way We Get By” which I didn’t hear last time (nice!).  They followed that with another favorite of mine, “My Mathematical Mind.”

They played the new song, “No Bullets Spent” which fit in perfectly with the rest of their set.  Then everyone went crazy when they started the rumbling guitar for “The Underdog”.  There were no horns like on the record, but the keys and piano were a great substitute.

I love watching drummer Jim Eno.  He seems to be having so much fun out there.  He definitely feeds off of Daniel’s energy–there were a couple of times when Daniel slashed his guitar through the air and Eno accented that with some drum hits.  During “The Underdog” he was playing the maracas and when he was done he hurled it across the stage to the roadie–who caught it!

The slow piano intro that started the next song sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure if I knew it.  It turned out to be a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation.”  It sure sounded like a Beatles song when they were playing it, but they put a nifty Spoon spin on it.

On the left side of the stage was Gerardo Larios and Alex Fischel both on keys and guitars.  Larios was standing in the back playing mostly keys but the occasional guitar.  I enjoyed watching Larios play the harp-like keyboard sounds during “Inside Out.

Alex Fischel is a rocking lunatic on his side of the stage.  Mostly he’s bouncing and pouncing on his own keyboards and effects arrays but every once in awhile he would strap on a guitar and come out to the center of the stage for a minute, playing some noisy angular guitars like in “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” (a song I can’t believe they didn’t play last time and which I was super exited to hear tonight).

I knew that Trokan would fit in fine with Spoon once he played the throbbing bass of “I Turn My Camera On” which sounded perfect.

They ended the set with a rocking “Don’t You Evah” and  hen followed it with two songs from They Want My Soul, “Do You” and “Rent I Pay.”  Las time, they ended the TLA show with “Rent I Pay” as well.  So the first and last songs were the same, but much of everything else was different.

The sun started to set on them before their set ended, and that seemed to make their set a bit more fun.

Spoon were very loud though and I should have put in ear plugs.  But since they only played for 40 minutes, it wasn’t too much over-exposure for me.

All in all a great set and a good introduction to Spoon for S. who didn’t really know them.

 

2019 PNC 2018 TLA
Do I Have to Talk You Into It [Hot] Do I Have to Talk You Into It [Hot]
The Way We Get By [Moon] I Turn My Camera On [Gimme]
My Mathematical Mind [Gimme] Lowdown (Wire cover)
No Bullets Spent [Hits] The Fitted Shirt [Girls]
The Underdog [Ga] Don’t You Evah [Ga]
Isolation (John Lennon cover) Do You [Soul]
Inside Out [Soul] Via Kannela [interlude]
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb [Ga] I Ain’t the One [Hot]
I Turn My Camera On [Gimme] Everything Hits at Once [Girls]
Don’t You Evah [Ga] Can I Sit Next to You [Hot]
Do You [Soul] My Mathematical Mind [Gimme]
Rent I Pay [Soul] Don’t Make Me a Target [Ga]
The Underdog [Ga]
Got Nuffin [Trans]
Black Like Me [Ga]
encore
Small Stakes [Moon]
Hot Thoughts [Hot]
Rent I Pay [Soul]

[Girls] Girls Can Tell (2001)
[Moon] Kill the Moonlight (2002)
[Gimme] Gimme Fiction (2005)
[Ga] Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
[Trans] Transference (2010)
[Soul] They Want My Soul (2014)
[Hot] Hot Thoughts (2017)
[Hits] Everything Hits at Once (2019)

Evidently Eno has different bass drum heads.  I wonder how often he changes them.

This time it was the one on the left.  Last time it was the one on the right.

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[ATTENDED: September 23, 2017] Sunflower Bean

Two years ago I saw Sunflower Bean open for Pixies. I thought they were great live and I wanted to see them again.  Since then, they have put out a second album and another EP.

When I saw that they were opening the Spoon/Cage the Elephant/Beck show, I knew I wanted to get there by 6 to see them again.  They were only given 25 minutes, and there were only about 25 people in the arena (not including the lawn), but they rocked the house.

In the two years since I’ve seen them, they have grown bigger (adding a keyboard player) and more confident.  Julia Cumming was a lot louder and more brash as the frontwoman–shouting to the people in the back (and the lawn) and encouraging us all to stand for the final song.  She also sounded great, employing a few different vocal styles on each song.  As always her bass (she plays a Rickenbacker, which is awesome) sounded great.  The biggest change was in her look.  Last time she was wearing a dress and had a fairly normal hairstyle.  For this show she was all glammed out, with a cool pink tigerprint dress and her hair and make up very new wave.  She looked an awful lot like Debbie Harry. (more…)

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