Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Um, help?

With only Incubus putting out any album of note yesterday, there was no need for a Tuesday's releases blog. And since Incubus is, you know, a bad band and all, no need to rip them more than I do in Friday's Weekend.

But you know what there is a need to rip? The Arena at Harbor Yard. Let's not even talk about The Who show last night. I'm sure all that attended had a great time. But, I would venture to say that 50 percent of people missed The Pretenders totally or partially. You know why?

Because this venue is the absolute worst to attend for a crowded show. I've been to a ton of places, nothing even comes close.

The Arena at Harbor Yard is really a beautiful venue, a smaller arena with good sound, comfortable seats and very good sightlines. Unfortunately, the city of Bridgeport isn't ready to handle a venue of its size. When you get off I-95, you're greeted with ridiculous amounts of traffic. It took me 90 minutes yesterday to drive less than a half-mile. Re-read that sentence, please. Ninety minutes.

The traffic to get to a parking spot is excruciating. And last night, the city ran out of parking for the venue, forcing folks like me, who got off I-95 15 minutes before the show began, to find a spot somewhere in the city. One police officer was waving cars on ... to nowhere. That's right. After a garage closed, he just kept waving folks on ... right back onto 95.

And I want to talk about the cops. Look, I've got nothing against them; more than 50 percent of my family are police officers. But, I have no idea what they think they're doing whenever I go to the Arena. At least seven of them line the half-mile horseshoe that cars have to travel to get to the venue. They wave on cars, yet travelers also have to abide by the lights. So what's the point? It makes things so much worse.

The city chooses to close the street that would send cars right to the venue, more than likely for traffic purposes. But another real problem is that last night at least five folks were selling bootleg T-shirts in the middle of the streets, creating even more of a traffic jam. Cops were literally five feet away. What did they do? Nada. And I'm also not sure what the two on horses and one a Segway (really, a Segway, like Gob!) were doing, either.

All in all, my point is that if you're going to erect a complex the size of the nice one they got in Bridgeport, you must have the infrastructure to handle it. I'm sure the venue's great when it's only 2,500 people seeing a Sound Tigers game, but when more folks come, it's plain ridiculous.

Maybe I should have left my apartment at 5 p.m. to drive the 20 minutes to Bridgeport.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's Coming? Oh yeah, The Who

Take a look in your wallet. If you can count out anywhere from $52 to $202 stuck in there, you can see The Who at The Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport tomorrow. If you'd rather wait till Friday, the legendary duo comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena for the tidy sum of $87-$202 a seat.

But if this sounds interesting, you better act quick. Though nothing officially sells out at Mohegan until the day of the show, tickets are no longer available online and will have to be purchased at the venue's box office. For tomorrow's show in Bridgeport, some seats remain, but they're going fast.

I'm not really sure what to think of this show. I saw The Who about five years ago and really enjoyed it. The band was much better than I expected, much better than the typical classic-rock band touring to line its pockets. On the other hand, this jaunt is promoting a new record, one that would be good if I could cut it in half. Because I can't, "Endless Wire" is a frustratingly long disc, one that has far too much filler overshadowing eight to 10 good tracks.

All that said, I'll be at the show reviewing. So if you see me on the way out, let me know what you think. Otherwise, get moving to buy those tickets. StubHub's lowest ticket currently tops $130. Get going and good luck.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Music Tuesday

Gobble, gobble, gobble says the turkey.

If you can't tell by that sentence, you're reading a blog entry from one fried writer. Let's just say cramming five (and really six) days of work into four has been taxing on my already little mind.

But you didn't come here to learn about how my brain is swimming in thoughts of turkey and football, already shut down for the long weekend. You came to this blog to learn about a pretty great week for CD releases. So here we go, as always rated on a one-to-four-star scale. We'll have full reviews in Friday's Weekend section, along with a holiday-movie preview, an article on Gov't Mule and so much more. Check it out.

The Beatles"Love"
three-and-a-half stars

Jay-Z"Kingdom Come"
three-and-a-half stars

Swan Lake"Beast Moans"
three-and-a-half stars

Paul Brill"Harpooner"
Scarlet Shame
three stars

Snoop Dogg"The Blue Carpet Treatment"
two stars

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Keep it Quiet

A quick note on this very fall-like Sunday: I went out to North Haven yesterday to peek my head on in on New London's Quiet Life, a quartet recording its debut record at Butterflies of Love multi-instrumentalist Scott Amore's studio.

Besides talking with the guys and seeing some of the recording process, I got to listen to the rough mixes of four or five songs. This is going to be one great record. While singer/guitarist Sean Spellman says the band was sort of going for a Neil Young-ish sound, I think the early tracks have a real Wilco "A Ghost Is Born" vibe, not in the arrangements or instrumentation, but rather sonically.

New London has a really vast and eclectic music scene, but it's great to know that a band like Quiet Life prefers coming down here to make its disc. Look for a lot guest spots from a bunch of Elm City players on the record, which should be out sometime early next year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weird Stuff

A harp on stage, seats on the floor, hipsters trying too hard, a performer who admitted to drinking a beer before the show for the first time and folks almost passing out ... let's just say that Wednesday night at Toad's Place was an unusual experience.

I know that the venue doesn't have the greatest reputation with checking IDs, what with it being forced to shut down for 90 days this summer and all. And I know that the owner is trying hard to correct that. But here's thing, when someone passes out at your venue, and someone alerts a security guard, that employee has to either get medical attention, or boot the concertgoer. You can't just bring him water and let him sit on the grimy floor for 30 minutes.

We all know the Dodge Music Center isn't the best at enforcing the 21+ liquor law either, but if they see anyone looking too inebriated, that person is immediately brought to the medic station. This kid in front of me basically just collapsed. It was not pretty. He should not have been allowed to continue watching the show so tanked. Who knows what could have happened?

Onto the musical portion of this entry. Toad's did the wise thing of putting seats in the venue (the first time I've seen this) for this Joanna Newsom show. Her restrained freak-folk, highlighted by her harp playing, is perfect for a small theater, which is the type of place she's performing at during the rest of this tour. I imagine the show would have been much better if I got there early enough to sit.

Coming on stage by herself, Newsom opened the gig solo, strumming two tunes from 2004's "The Milk-Eyed Wonder" and then a traditional Scottish hymn. After finishing, her five-piece backing band came on stage and the group performed the five-song, 55-minute "Ys" (which just came out Tuesday) in its entirety.

All in all, this was a good show, if slightly anticlimactic. Newsom's eclectic and nuanced arrangements along with her Romance-era poetic lyrics don't play too well in a rock club, where it's best to hear some loud crunchy guitars while sipping on an over-priced P.B.R. When you're hearing banjos, accordions and tamburas, all powered by a harp, you're liable to believe you're at Sprague Hall, not Toad's, where folks like The Rolling Stones have surprise shows and pure rock 'n' roll rules.

But Newsom's performance kept everyone's attention, and her stark and gentle adaptations of Van Dyke Park's gorgeous arrangements from the studio version of "Ys" sounded great. It's very possible that many fans in attendance who love "The Milk-Eyed Wonder" more than "Ys" thought this restrained performance of the new record was better than the album version.

Overall, even if you didn't like the show, all the weirdness made it worth it. The chairs, the harp, the guys with homemade T-shirts who are trying too hard to look like Bright Eyes, folks drunk at a harp concert!, and, of course, the performer all added an extra oomph to the night.

Good times.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday Releases

Here we go again, another Tuesday with another batch of releases. And, like last week, we got a couple gems hitting stores.

Look for full reviews of most of these in Friday's Weekend section. But until then, here's a list, which, as always, includes my one-to-four-star rating for each record.

Yusuf Islam"An Other Cup"
three stars

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead"So Divided"
two stars

Joanna Newsom"Ys"
Drag City
four stars

The Game"Doctor's Advocate"
three stars

Tenacious D"The Pick of Destiny"
one-and-a-half stars

Neil Young & Crazy Horse"Crazy Horse at the Fillmore 1970"
four stars

Damien Rice"9"
Warner Bros.
one-and-a-half stars

Monday, November 13, 2006

He Must Have Seen 'The Big Chill' on TV Last Week

According to The Associated Press, former Procol Harum keyboard player Matthew Fisher wants a songwriting share on the band's smash "A Whiter Shade of Pale."

Of course, it's an odd time to be asking. You see, if you're familiar with the song, you know it came out way back in 1967. My guess is Fisher heard the tune on the radio this weekend, heard his organ line and said, "You know, this wouldn't be the same without my kicking organ part. I could use some money, too. Why don't I sue the songwriters for a cut."

I'll admit, the Hammond solo is certainly a major part of the tune, but if this dude felt strongly about his role in the writing, why not do it back then? Hell, why not do it when he left Procol in 1969? Clearly, he's had enough of his new job as a computer operator.

Besides the odd timing and this dude really thinking he has a chance, the funniest part of the story is about how in the courtroom during the first day of the hearing, the organ Fisher plays on the tune just sat near the judge.

Wouldn't it be priceless if Fisher went through his thought process. "You know, when I wrote these eight bars, I was eating a Snickers, high on some killer drugs and thinking about what would make this song gold. I took my last bite, took a puff and out came this. Here I go."

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Sometimes we all need to hear things twice. In last Friday's Weekend, I wrote about tonight's show at Cafe Nine featuring Amy Rigby and The Shellye Valauskas Experience (that's them in the picture, really!). Make sure not to miss it. And don't be late; the whole shebang begins at 8 p.m. ... for real.

Back in the mid 90s, Rigby released "Diary of a Mod Housewife," and it's one of those records that sticks with anyone listening. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Rigby will perform the disc in its entirety tonight. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Ol' Joe Lieberman

I'll be upfront — I did not vote for Joe Lieberman yesterday. I don't like his stance on the war and I truly hate that he wants to be able to tell all of us what we can and can't listen to and watch. His views on censorship give me hives. But that's not what this about.

Did anyone else hear the song in the background when Joe took the stage to declare victory? It was Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising." The Boss has been an outspoken opponent of the war, and I seriously doubt he'd willingly let Lieberman use that song.

Remember 1984, when Bruce got all hot and bothered over Reagan trying to use "Born in The USA" for his campaign? Of course, this isn't quite the same thing, but I still found it interesting.

I've been trying to come up with a song Joe should have taken the stage to. Any ideas?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Surprise of the Year!

Who would have ever guessed this?

From the Associated Press:

Britney Spears is saying bye-bye K-Fed.

The pop princess filed for divorce Tuesday from her husband, former backup dancer and aspiring rapper Kevin Federline.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court filing cites "irreconcilable differences," said court spokeswoman Kathy Roberts.

Spears, 24, married rapper Kevin Federline, 28, in 2004. They have a 1-year-old son, Sean Preston, and an infant son who was born Sept. 12. The divorce papers identify the baby as Jayden James Federline.

I just wonder who K-Fed is going to have multiple children with next. Same goes for Spears, who is, at this point, nothing more than a huge, no-talent laughingstock who people used to think of as hot.

But alas, it's all sad. I thought this one would last.

The CMAs

I'm not saying all country music is bad because it's certainly not, but what I saw of the Country Music Awards last night made me want to vomit. Before we get into this, let me just say I like a lot of indie country, a lot of old-school country, too. But ...

If you actually like Rascal Flats or Sugarland, I really have absolutely no respect for your taste in anything. And Carrie Underwood, she's got a nice voice and she's pleasant to look at, but I wish Jesus would take the wheel of her career and drive it right into a tree. Brooks and Dunn, shave your mustaches because you just flat-out stink, too.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: Popular, mainstream country music has turned into a retread of '80s crappy pop metal. Thank you Shania and Faith. Folks who used to write bad songs for Bon Jovi now write bad songs for these country artists. Throw a fiddle in the mix and woo-hoo, you have a Nashville tune ripe to become a crossover hit. I'd venture that contemporary country's mainstream popularity has been helped by the same people who made bad bands like White Lion a hit in the '80s.

This is harsh, I know, but it saddens me that garbage has become so huge. There are always people that will listen to bad music (and I listen to a lot of it, too), but the sad fact that this genre keeps getting more popular is chilling. Lyrics full of cliches and pathetic patriotic pandering, music straight from the Desmond Child songbook and blond-tipped hair with cowboy hats on top is basically all that was on TV last night.

And don't even get me started on Sheryl "I'm the new Steven Tyler" Crow. Here's a talented artist whoring herself out for any bit of popularity she can maintain. Sheryl: I know your career is slowly going downhill, but that doesn't mean you have to beg for country fans.

With all this said, Kenny Chesney won entertainer of the year and he's pretty good. Keith Urban knows how to make music, and Vince Gill's been doing just that for a long time. The new Dixie Chicks record is very good. Dwight Yoakam would be a star in any era. So, if it wasn't for this new crop of wanna-be Bon Jovis, the CMAs might just be tolerable.

New Music Tuesday

With the holiday season just about upon us, look for an onslaught of greatest-hit discs and boxed sets to hit stores. But the end of the year also means some big artists looking to grab some of your holiday bucks. This week finds Keith Urban and Josh Groban, among others, trying to separate some cash from your wallet.

Here's this week's most significant releases. Look for full reviews in Friday's Weekend section, which will also include feature stories on Meat Loaf, Queensyrche and Rocky Votolato. We'll also have a talk with The Bluelights and peek in on Call It Arson. Should be fun.

Keith Urban"Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing"
two-and-a-half stars

Josh Groban"Awake"
two stars

Pavement"Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition"
four stars

Call It Arson"The Animal Strings Album"
Kill Normal Records
three-and-a-half stars

Isobel Campbell"Milk White Sheets"
three stars

Monday, November 06, 2006

Last Bite of String Cheese

When I was a kid, my friend Paul's house was always stocked with string cheese. It always tasted really good. Although I probably haven't had any in a good decade or so, I bet I still love the taste of string cheese.

Who wouldn't, really?

But what I don't like is the awful music of The String Cheese Incident. Well, guess what? The band annnounced Friday that it's breaking up. Here's what the press release sent to me had to say:

After summer 2007, Billy Nershi is leaving The String Cheese Incident to pursue other musical projects. There will be only a limited number of Incidents between now and then. Current plans include Thanksgiving in Atlanta, a New Years Eve blowout in San Francisco, Winter Carnival in Colorado, and a return to Red Rocks. Presently, there are no plans for The String Cheese Incident beyond summer of 2007.

The band would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our friends and fans for all your support.

My real question is this: Does anybody who doesn't partake in illegal substances really care about the SCI calling it a day?

It simply amazes me that bands like SCI can travel around the country with ease, packing clubs and entertaining fans with mind-numbingly long songs with absolutely no core melody.

I have a friend who once was forced to go to an Umphrey's McGee show by his then girlfriend. I remember he texted me something like this during the show: "This is my hell. I've never heard such a long solo in my life."

And this is what it would be like for me. I don't care if a band can solo for 20 minutes. Just a write a good song already. OK?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Check this out

My old college roommate, Pat Cohen, is an actor down in New York. He's made some action flicks where he kills a lot of zombies. Those are pretty cool. I rented one on Netflix.

Anyway, that's not the reason I'm writing. Cohen (yes, that's his Matinee Idol-like head to the left) sent me a link to download his new sort-of-sitcom, "We Need Girlfriends." It's pretty funny, and since Cohen's a Guilford native, I thought you guys would get a kick out of it. Actually, I'm lying: Even if Pat wasn't a Guilford native, I would have put this up.

Anyway, go here to download.

Wowee Zowee

There aren't many times I leave a concert and know I just saw greatness. I see hundreds of shows a year, and the feeling comes over me maybe 10 times.

With that said, Matt Pond PA at Toad's Place last night: Just perfect. I admit I have a soft spot for the band (I've put them in my top-20 records feature the last two years.), but just looking at the crowd, you could tell it was something special. So good.

I planned to hit Cafe Nine after and see Headlights, but that wouldn't have been fair to that good band, because I would have inevitably left disappointed. Plus, I had an offer to play Setback. Nuff said.