Coachella 2008 can do better than this

LA Times announces that the Verve, the Raconteurs, Jack Johnson, My Morning Jacket and Rilo Kiley.

My thoughts on this:

1. The Verve getting back together is AWESOME. I’m hoping for a generous helping of stuff from A Northern Soul.
2. The Raconteurs are that band that play the Joe Jackson cover, right?
3. Jack Johnson? Why would I pay good money to watch a surfer strum play frat party soundtrack music on an acoustic guitar? I live in San Diego–about the only thing that’s easier to find in these parts is a burrito stand.
4. My Morning Jacket will KILL in that environment, as long as they don’t have massive beards and die of beard-related heatstroke. Incidentally, the last time I wrote about Jim James (and gave him a glorious, positive review), some chief got all on my case for calling the guy a beard-o. Aren’t there bigger fights to be fought out there? Assuming that there aren’t, I’ve decided never to write anything about MMJ without mentioning beards.
5. Rilo Kiley. At least now I know when to schedule my last piss of the evening. You couldn’t pay me to give a shit about this band.

Also announced: Portishead and the Breeders were announced, too. Great, all they need to do is dig up Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (who I actually like) and my dreams of seeing a live recreation of my first stoned watching of 120 Minutes will be complete.

Show Review: Jim James (My Morning Jacket) @ The Belly Up Tavern

Yours truly arrived early with Rosey from sddialedin.com in tow. To be fair, I was probably the one in tow: Rosey had been resourceful enough to procure tickets for the invitation-only event, though as it turned out 94/9′s promotions people were handing out tickets out front before the show; perhaps their “on the DL” marketing campaign was too smart by half. Outside, I had the good fortune to run into Ryan Renteria, the director of our “Bottom of this Town” video, who I hadn’t seen in a while. Inside, we managed to find great seats along side Seth Combs, Adam Gimbel and Citybeat‘s Troy Johnson.

Tonight’s show was part of a series called “The Craft,” a series of songwriter interviews/performances co-sponsored by Miller (thanks for the free hooch, guys) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (thanks for sending the unholy spawn of Stuard Smalley and an English Lit professor as the interviewer). I’ll spare you the details of the interview, but suffice it to say that no normal fan, if given the chance and a limited time frame, would ask Jim James if he ever tried singing up a half-step in order to increase his range. Warren Zanes, who represented the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on this occasion, had a penchant for stripping the event of any shred of the spontaneity on which rock music has always been predicated. He did manage some interesting questions, but they were too few and far between to justify the ten minutes or so that were dedicated to them between tunes.

Ah, the tunes. My, my, Jim James is a man with a common name and an uncommon voice. Playing primarily through a Gibson acoustic, James gave the (relatively, this being San Diego) rapt crowd an incredible performance rich with nuance, depth, and heart. In short, his all-to-brief musical interludes justified the reverent tenor of the evening, though their emotional depth made the nuts-and-bolts questions to which he was treated seem all the more prosaic by comparison. We did get to sample some unnamed new songs, which were both much more straightforward than anything I’d heard from My Morning Jacket to his point and reminiscient of the Flaming Lips. It’s an open question as to whether not these are good things, and really not one for me to decide: in this case, I’m a tourist, not a dyed-in-the-wool fan.

The Belly Up was a great venue for this kind of gig. Lovely to look at, acoustically rich, it was the perfect environment. The clientele could stand to have a few lessons in manners and making less noise during an intimate acoustic set, but that’s on 94/9’s listeners, not the bar. Demerits to the smug, bald, penis-in-a-black-t-shirt dickweed who tried to heckle. Assuming you read well enough to understand this, I think you know who you are.

Sorry for the lack of pictures: hopefully Rosey’s attempts at clandestine photography were more successful than mine.

Show Preview: Jim James (My Morning Jacket) @ The Belly Up Tavern 7/9/07

Jim James

Let’s hope this beardo is nicer to his fans than this one.

When I posted about the other bloggers in town not just being welcoming but being downright helpful in getting me started, this is the kind of stuff I mean: Rosey (sddialedin.com) offered to take me to the private Jim James (he of My Morning Jacket fame) show tonight at the Belly Up. This will represent a couple of firsts for me, so as you can imagine I’m pretty excited:

1. First trip to the Belly Up. That’s right: having lived here for seven years now, I have never actually been to the famed Solana Beach venue. How is that possible? Well, it has something to do with their penchant for charging fairly high ticket prices and booking the kind of bands that wouldn’t sound too out of place as the soundtrack to an average Solana Beach bar experience. That said, the sound is by universal acclaim fabulous, and it’s a local institution. I understand there may be onion rings involved, too?

2. First time seeing Jim James. My Morning Jacket, along with Tool and the Flaming Lips, is one of the only new bands (i.e. debuted in the past twenty years or so) that’s the deserving subject of fan mythology. Of those three, My Morning Jacket is by far the newest. Okonokos, a double live album recorded at the Fillmore in San Francisco, has a lot to do with the devleopment of said mythology. For San Diegans uninitiated into My Morning Jacket, think Transfer but with a little less pronounced classic rock vibe, or think Radiohead working through Skynyrd’s edgier stuff. Either way, they are a wonderful live band. The opportunity to see their frontman in a stripped-down, acoustic setting is a chance I’ll have few times in my life. From what I understand, the format of the show is somewhat like Storytellers, where James will take breaks between songs to discuss their meaning, or the writing process, or that time after a big show at the Forum where he and Gary had been drinking pretty heavily, and he hit a kid. He didn’t do that, but points if you got the reference before clicking here. Look for a recap later tonight/early tomorrow.

Show Review: Transfer, Apes of Wrath, the Vulgar Herd @ the Ken Club

Oh the Dialed In and the Dirtbag should be friends,
Oh the Dialed In and the Dirtbag should be friends,
One may dig the Dynamite Walls,
The other digs stuff with more balls,
But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.

Rosey and I met up last night at the Ken Club to see Transfer and Apes of Wrath celebrate the most famous pro-slavery, anti-tax revolt in history (in honor of this aristocratic rebellion, I tried to affect my best Thurston Howell for the photo). It was almost impossible for me to believe that this would be my first time seeing Transfer. Transfer arrived in San Diego about the same time as The North Atlantic, and while it took them a little longer to get going, my, my, are they going. The Ken was packed from 9:30 PM on, with Transfer’s usual mixture of well-meaning hippies, older folks digging on their Zeppelin-esque 70s vibe, and PB denizens. I recognized virtually no one, a sign I take as positive. Bands that appeal primarily to other musicians may benefit from all sorts of scene cred, but ask any professional band (by which I mean any band trying to make money making music) and they’ll tell you that what they need are fewer post-show discussions of effects pedals and more people standing in their merch line. Transfer seem to be one of the favorite bands of the non-hipster crowd, which in my book is a good thing. It usually means that the band can play and that their tunes mean more than their ability to do the hang. Good for them.

First up, presumably, was the Vulgar Herd. Two initial observations: 1. these guys roll with a TON of gear and take a little too long getting off stage and packed up, and 2. the other bands apparently didn’t know they would be there. Given these two facts, I was predisposed to not liking them purely for matters of band etiquette. That said, I was amused and entertained by their odd mixture of of Pretzel Logic-era Steely Dan and Europe, of all bands. The crowd didn’t quite seem to be picking up on what they were putting down: if not for a back wall, I’m pretty sure most onlookers would have been standing in front of the WaMu across the street. I liked them alright, though, and they seemed to be having a good time.

 

Next was Apes of Wrath. My brother Jason was excited to see this band because he works with the drummer, who apparently has spent every conversation the two of them have had downplaying the quality of both his drumming and his band. And while low expectations are easy to surpass, he needn’t have worried: Apes of Wrath were fun, interesting and energetic. The best I can do to describe them would be to imagine Bloc Party covering Thin Lizzy and Television songs: tandem guitar flourishes, manic, fevered drumming, and tight, bouncy bass made the band very fun for the musician in me. When their singer finds the vocal hooks to match their considerable compositional skills, I’ll be swearing up and down that its time to break out the anointing oil.

 

 

Transfer was the big draw this evening. By the time they (somewhat shakily, judging by singer Matt Molarius’s laughter) eased into the first notes of their first song, the crowd was already in good spirits. I’d estimate there were at least 150 in the music room for their set–or, put another way, considerably more than it was designed to hold:

 

The highlight of the set for me was the new track “You Are the Wolf,” Transfer’s contribution to the upcoming Black Box compilation, which probably does the best job of showcasing the band’s unique knack for shoehorning pop songs into expansive soundscapes that reference but don’t ape classic rock; the kind of tune that has earned comparisions to bands like My Morning Jacket. Other songs, however, played it closer to the leather vest, so to speak: at their worst, Transfer sound like a competent, Zeppelin-inspired classic rock band. While that’s no faint praise, the more they can do to escape the comfortable but well-worn territory of 70s rock, the better.

PS: Where were the suits? Oh, right–it’s always 120 degrees in the Ken Club music room.