Archive for February, 2012

"I will *not* jump around..."

Walking into my all too familiar bar I felt all too unfamiliar. Immediately I was struck in the face by beats of my past as they rumbled through the Spotlight Tavern in Beverly, Ma. Watching the DJ flip through the pages of his CD book it reminded me of DJs past that would flip with great care through their stack of vinyls. With slight flicks of the wrist an average DJ proved his mediocrity through an unengaged, uninspired DJ set. As the DJ walked away from the stage I looked around frantically for someone else to take control and found no one. Seeing the DJ pass by me, I decided to take the opportunity to express my outrage in regards to the abandonment of his set. In response to my complaints the DJ responded that he “had to take a piss” and that the track was “at least three minutes long”. Clearly agitated by clearly hearing my point the DJ returned to the stage (forfeiting his “piss”) and proceeded to single out your humble author in his Bevis and Butthead shirt declaring him an intolerant. To my readers I must admit, I expect a DJ to stand by his set as it sinks as a true, honest Captain would.

That being said, it was now time for the local lyricists to take the stage. As the large group of five lyricists begin their lines they serve not only to deter would be patrons but any with a basic grasp of the English language as well. A disgusting blend of rhymes weaves a tale of suburban profit in a majorly profitable region. One rapper after another stood before me tasting the glory of the greats such as Notorious BIG and Tupac as they fumbled through lyrics to an oblivious crowd. Sitting and listening to a freestyle resembling that of one who had known actual hardship insults those who are the actual downtrodden.

Once upon a time art reflected life, yet recently, to my chagrin, music has begun to imitate fiction. Perhaps when I reserve actuality to my sub-conscience and drag thin and vaporous lies to the forefront of my mind I will be able to understand and relate to the lines I hear these fortunate few construct as if they were the exact opposite. Until then however, I will continue to go to the heart of injustice and inequality and I am sure to be pleased with the sincerity of its performers.

A faint clap and the rap troupe leaves the stage along side the DJ who stops to talk to people in the crowd while his set continues on unattended. Would anyone pay for this I thought and as I watched him make his way haphazardly back to his setup just in time to mix a sloppy transition into House of Pains “Jump Around” I had my answer.


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Our Own World 1-10-2012

"It's everyone's birthday tonight."

Many people have asked me about Our Own World. For one reason or another they had found themselves placed directly in the path of a magnificent tidal wave and despite their reasons for being there, whomever asks always gets the same response: you need to see it to believe it. As I sat and listened to a funky sound check I hardly noticed as the band slipped into their version of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire On the Mountain”. With the smooth backing of bassist Billy Sullivan singer and guitarist Collin Curtis stands tall as he lays down a solo that would cause any fan of the Dead to nod their heads in approval. Curtis has a unique talent of taking each cover and singing it with the passion of its original author. A building rhythm presents itself as lead guitarist Brandon “Spacebird” Cyr begins to take the forefront with a lofty melody that guides the band gently into “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. If the Grateful Dead is where Curtis shines than Pink Floyd is Cyr’s sunlight, charging him up and sending him soaring in a way only Superman himself could know. Similar precision and emotion punches forth gorgeously from Cyrs guitar as he screams into a whirlwind of unforgiving notes to close out the song. And then there was Sullivan. As the bassists thumb comes down upon the strings of his instrument the foundation of the Spotlight Tavern in Beverly, MA is put through the ultimate test in Phish’s “Weakapaug Groove”. Listening to the swirling pattern of Cyrs playing I could not help but wonder at the lack of originals. Jamming out of “Weekapaug”, drummer Jacob Snyder began to gleam in a flurry of cymbal strikes that builds to a beautifully constructed solo by Cyr featuring simple yet amazingly credible “Harry Hood” teases (also Phish). Now out of “Weekapaug” the band comes together to take the next step into a funk inspired southern rock jam. Each member faded away as they stood together as a perfect whole. Their sound was flawless and nothing short of impressive. Reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Band they decided to drop the flavor of Curtis Mayfield as Sullivan proceeds to set the pace with thundering accuracy. Cyr steps to the front of the stage in an attempt to bring more ferocity to Sullivan and Snyders monstrous rhythm and has little trouble in doing so. Just as the jam hits a fever pitch the band stops and beings their version of the classic “Turn On Your Lovelight”. This time it is Cyrs turn to take charge as the clean, powerful chords of the American classic send Snyder into a trance as he delivers a frantically heavy solo. With cheers from the previously dormant crowd ringing out they stopped and stood with a smile. It was time for others to have their turn as the open jam proceeded.

After a series of performances from various local musicians (all of which worthy of top billing in any local venue) it was time for Our Own World to once again take the stage. A brief tune up jam (one of my favorite traits of Our Own World) and we were off. Gradually the tune up fades away to reveal an instrumental rendition of Phishs “Meatstick”. With lofty guitar licks the crowd begins to find its way to the stage inciting Snyder to react. Signaling the the change with a blast of the snare the band effortlessly moves into “Kyles Song” by moe. Just as I began to find myself disappointed at the continuing lack of originals the disappointment was gone as quickly as it came, overtaken by a blistering solo from Cyr. Expert precision favors Snyder as the wonderfully placed cymbal crashes ring true throughout the bar. A few more crashes and Sullivan has had enough of the pace and bombards the audience with a knee buckling display of sheer power. Kicking the jam into overdrive, he and Cyr lock in for a collective journey at the speed of light featuring Pink Floyd teases in the form of “Another Brick In The Wall pt.2” and “Young Lust”. Just before igniting the band decides to save the audience the trouble of the fire alarm going off by reentering and finishing “Kyles Song”. Much to my displeasure Curtis begins moving into “Brown Eyed Woman” by the Grateful Dead. Curtis never fails to deliver when the Grateful Dead is concerned and this time was no different. Despite my yearning for originals I found myself bobbing my head to the familiar tune as they closed it out. Watching the band group up and have a quick conversation I sat patiently and waited as Curtis took a drink and I was instantly rewarded for my patience in not only an original, but a personal favorite in “My Girl”. Light melodies from Cyr compliment Curtis as he releases each word with absolute passion and sincerity. Moving from the verse to the chorus the entire crowd rises with Snyders high-hat and falls perfectly into Cyrs lap as he begins a gut wrenching solo to end the song. With a soft laugh and a thank you the band opts for another original titled “Moving Through”. Curtis’ lyrics speak of experience as opposed to theory and it shows. Reaching into your head and pulling you away from contemplating Curtis’ lyrics and back to the here and now is another wailing solo from Cyr to end the show as well as another fantastic Tuesday night at the Spotlight Tavern.

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MOAB 1-9-12

"Mother of All Bands"

There is nothing quite like a brilliantly talented band playing to a small crowd for free. Truly a hidden gem, MOAB (Mother of All Bands) continues to baffle those in the know each and every Monday of each and every week at the Spotlight Tavern in Beverly, MA. The solidarity of this band is most noteworthy as their experience and passion shines through on even the dullest of songs. Fantastically done covers blend seamlessly with impressive originals as the vocalist Richard James seems to be completely unaware of what is and is not his. Blown away, though unknowingly to where, I found myself entranced by the professional quality of the knock-back guitar riffs that were now adamantly punching me in the face. I have rarely been so pleasantly oblivious to my surroundings as I was sucked into a now escalating jam. As the band moves into a psychedelic rendition of the Beatles’ Tax Man any doubt remaining regarding the Mother of All Bands was blown away leaving nothing but the pristine sound that was being produced. Slowly I began to return to my chair both in mind and body; fading out the band paused for a lengthy applause before stepping off for set break.

With a sudden recognizable blast the Mother of All Bands took the stage once more, this time shaking the perceptions of listeners with an impressive Pink Floyd medley. A spacier rendition of  Young Lust was met with a dyslexic take on The Wall classic as the band opted for a reverse segue into Empty Spaces. Dissolving into Run Like Hell (complete with more Empty Spaces teases) the band brought each patron present back to their self aware youth as they wrapped up the medley with Another Brick In The Wall pt. 2. As I hear a tease of Stevie Wonders’ Higher Ground it gently fades away into a southern rock style jam featuring teases of the Allman Brothers. Looking around I saw a certain confused anticipation as the audience follows each move the band makes trying to decipher the next song; blind to the incoming of a jazzed up version of the Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street. Silently I sat awaiting the tell-tale sign of a good Shakedown cover: the woo. Now, if you are unfamiliar with “the woo” there is a good chance you fall into one of two categories and should disregard this. You are either A.) Not a fan of the Grateful Dead or B.) Heard many horrible covers. Whether you are aware of “the woo” or not, the band delivers it with confidence and I nod in approval. Before one can gather themselves, a quick and seamless transition into the previously teased Allman Brothers rings out through the bar with MOAB’s gut wrenching version of Whipping Post. Richard James’ vocals on this particular song are not only near impossible to match, but the guitarist’s screaming notes leave a persons jaw agape as each note that wails forth from the amplifier strikes you with decidedly more force than the last. Bringing the blues to the forefront of the song the organ adds a full sound that is difficult to match. With a belly scream the Mother of All Bands moved with a fierce sincerity into the final progression of the evening. A punching solo reaches its climax before the final verse leaves the entire crowd with their heads bobbing and screaming the recognizable chorus “Oh Lord, sometimes I feel like I’m dyin'”. Sometimes I too feel like I am dying, however tonight was most certainly not one of them.

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"A night to forget."

It looks like everyone brought their laptops (five) to class and now it was time to see if they had been paying attention or simply paying for the equipment. Aside from a rather impressive looking drum set there was little on stage that one would not see normally at such an event. Wires running everywhere busy bodies running around to set up their different mixing boards (which I hope they are familiar with). They have apparently also brought a sheet, no excuse me, a trip screen from home as well. Without a doubt the visualizations are automatically produced through whichever software they are currently using (my guess is Ableton) (I later found out that the visuals, though produced through the software, where being manually controlled. One laptop down, four to go.)

1st Act: There is not much to be said of trip-hop music that is not already in the title. It is repetitive but catchy. However, this particular DJ was completely uninvolved which translated to his audience with ease. As I sat and watched the audience talk amongst themselves while the DJ stood their doing next to nothing I thought about what I was even doing there. In between poor (seemingly default) horn samples and dead air between mixes of modern rap and classic R&B I found myself quickly summing up this performance as a less than average opening act, though as with everyone, there is room for potential. He simply seemed not to care as beats where skipped and drops passed over in favor of library browsing. It was not until the DJ was joined by a live bassist that it became remotely bearable, and even then the bass lines were simple and without inspiration. There were no fills, no solos, simply the same beat grinding away laboriously at what little patience I had left. As quickly as he had come the bassist was gone and I was once again left with the tracks of others being neglected by the inattentive DJ. As I looked out over the hapless crowd still milling about seemingly without purpose I raised the idea to a friend of mine to which he responded, “The crowd is just a bunch of DJ wooks waiting for a drop.” The drop never came.

Just as I began to give up all hope and leave the bar a (quite literally) shining beacon of entertainment presented itself to me. Looking to my left I was delighted to finally see someone dancing! Not only was someone dancing, but it was an incredibly old (in comparison to the crowd, he was probably in his fifty’s or sixty’s) man. In his shoe slippers and socks, he began to take charge as if he had always been the King of the Scene. Though admittedly I would hardly call it dancing as much as bouncing around manically, I would be hard pressed to say his pristine Docker Khaki’s and tucked in plaid collar shirt didn’t make it look damn good. The leather belt was a nice touch as well. As the song dies down so do the movements of the now crip walking elder. With the end of the song comes the end of my great humor and it is back to basics I thought at the return of the uninspired hip hop tracks beat against my head once again. The only reprieve was when the DJ missed a mix or a a beat and there was a brief moment of wonderful silence as everyone looked at each other as if there was something expected of them. Boring, and oh wow, that was just the first act. This next act may cause me to abandon all hope in this endeavor as my personal arch enemy begins to play through the speakers…Brostep.

2nd Act: And so here I sat presented with what I viewed as the death of a scene I was enchanted with. This was the reason the most undesirable people slither up to you dripping all over themselves asking if you have “ever heard of dubstep”. This may seem very minor to the average person, but to me it is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to me at a concert. As the incessant vocals of the Brostep  began drilling slowly into my skull I looked around to notice the crowd growing thicker and more tan. They had heard it and the Bro’s have arrived. Imagine if you would the worst cover of a brilliant song you have ever heard. You probably already have one in mind. Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” being redone and thoroughly slaughtered by Cheryl Crow perhaps? There are plenty, however what I am now seeing and hearing assures me that my first impressions thus far have been true: this is a bush league cake walk. Just as I began to lose interest in amateur hour the aforementioned crip walking bald man took to one of the laptops. As I instantly rose for a better look I came to learn he was controlling the visuals on the she–trip screen. We have come a long way from the black and white screens of his day I thought as I eyed the still unoccupied drum set. I wanted to see him play but physical illness was more likely to arrive before he did. As the DJ continued on through easily recognizable dubstep tracks as well as some of the more modern pop songs we wish were less recognizable he would pause between songs and await an applause from his crowd, rarely getting any. I raised my issue with this to another friend of mine and our discussion has lead me to believe that the DJ had apparently failed to get the memo that a live DJ set is supposed to consist of a live, constantly playing and frequently mixed array of their (preferably original) material. A DJ will get praise on his individual tracks from his fans, but there is a prerequisite for that to happen: you must have fans. Tonight, there were very few that had even heard of a single act and this DJ should have been doing everything possible to reach out to the new crowd and instead was floundering at best. Once fans are gained then you will not have to ask for applause, it will be freely given. My smile at that idea was quickly washed away as the ultimate display of what I despise about Brostep began to bang through the speakers. It was “Cracks” by Flux Pavillion and it was not being mixed but instead put to a beat grid and simply skipped a few times every now and then. I sat and listened as it was basically the original song and then rose to finally walk out. That drummer was far off it would seem and I may never make it…and after so much torment that was unacceptable. I had to maintain.

3rd Act:  Standing on the deck of the Spotlight Tavern reeling from the atrocities I had witnessed over the course of the night is when I first noticed it. There was a silence coming from inside (aside from the still nauseating slick of the grease as the tannest of tan carried on mindless incoherent conversations) and the repetitive assaults upon the glass had stopped. I decided to leave my safe haven (the farthest corner of the deck I could find) and venture, though warily, to the door and peer inside. The Brostep was gone. Suddenly a rush of excitement came over me as I had made it through the worst and now there was nothing which lay between myself and what I had come to see. With a loud crack throughout the bar each person became a blur and I pulled the corner of my mouth into a small grin. Another crack of the snare sent my grin into a full blown smile as I burst the door aside and headed for the stage at full pace. Boom Boom Boom. A feal kick drum. I was in heaven finally and just hearing the man tune up I saw others more interested in dancing and moving to the front of the stage. I knew this of course because the senseless hum that had persisted all night ceased…the crowd themselves was still a blur of my excitment. It was time for the main act to begin and I was finally going to see the fantastical drumming I had been forewarned about, and I was right. Or was I.

When the music started I realized that I had actually come to a show after all and that it simply lay dormant around me. Though the players were all askew, the spirit of the game was there and it was restless. A light ambient intro from a talented DJ and a gentle organic cymbal splash has rather rapidly become one of my preferred starts to a live-tronica show and more often than not I was not disappointed as it came standard. This was no different and before you know it the music has begun and every person there is feeling it at an equal level, at the same pace, despite anything else they had been doing prior in the evening. Not minutes ago I stood swaying with the breeze of the deck considering if the height of it was sufficient for tying a rope around my neck and jumping off and now I found myself front and center, replacing the prior slipper shoe wearing party starter. The drumming was as impressive as the set and the DJ knew what he was doing; it did not take long for the natural instincts of those around me to begin dancing if they were not before. That was the great brilliance in the natural drum kit: it brings out the tribal instinctive urge to move your body without you even realizing it and I was no different. However, the majesty of the moment was slowly tarnished by my creeping awareness of a lack of variety in the playing. One by one I noticed as those that were the most in tune with the music began slowing down and losing interest while those that had joined in at the beginning of the set had all but dispersed entirely. It suddenly hit me that the drummer I had waited so long and arduously to see was all out of tricks and there was still much to come. I slowly moved from the front leaving the position to the truly dedicated and slinked off to the back to watch the scene as a whole as I had been prior to my excitement. In an instant I observed exactly what I had feared from the beginning: this was stagnant and unoriginal. My joy for seeing an actual instrument played had caused me to overlook the fact that the drummer himself was playing the same beats I found impressive from most every other drummer I have seen in such a format. It was not him that impressed me, but the beats themselves. I had been fooled and as I looked at the sticky mass of people before me (sadly noting that the only thing larger than their numbers was their gut wrenching odor) and felt upset for them. You see they too had been fooled and yet there they stood, banging away as if they themselves were the “totally awesome” drummer they were now watching. I was getting dizzy again; it was finally time to leave.

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The I.R.S.

"Pay us and go to jail."

Alright folks so it looks like it may just be time for my first ranting post. If you are not one for dealing with upset rants then I highly suggest skipping over this update and just moving on to the next one as soon as it is readily available.

Now on to business. In the past couple of weeks I have been (somewhat) patiently awaiting my Federal tax returns to little avail. In a fair and common attempt to locate where my hard earned and easily taken dollar was I went through the average channels only to repetitively be made aware of the incompetence and lack of sincere involvement on the behalf of the dreaded I.R.S. The least I would expect out of a Federal agency is to have competent technical professionals able to at least maintain a functioning service through their website, however that is the furthest thing from the truth. In actuality, they appear to have very little interest in the common man as they provide little to no information regarding the average mans tax returns.

Sure they offer a quick and vague explanation of their system undergoing “unforeseen issues” and though they offer a less than comforting apology for “the inconvenience this may cause”  they have done little to adjust the program or provide any further information regarding the current state of the problems they are facing. Perhaps I was going a bit too far in assuming they had a competent technical engineer however I am most assuredly not over stepping my ground in assuming they at least have a reasonable public relations person…they are the Federal government after all.

I can understand expecting disappointment and a complete lack of sincerity and care for their underlings from such an institution, however I do not feel alone in my anger that stems solely from them taking my money and then refusing to provide a straight answer as to its location.

…but I suppose it all goes back to what my father told me as a boy, “Jim you would make a horrible doctor.” I would ask him why that was and it was the same answer every time, “…because you don’t have any patience.”

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"...how far does the rabbit hole go?"

Well here we are ladies and gentlemen. Despite my better efforts I have finally succumbed to the apparent overwhelming need to create and maintain one of these blogs in order to establish oneself as a credible and recognizable writer in today’s society. Though I find this thought to be sickening I am a realist and have decided to live by the old adage, “If you cannot beat them,  join them.”

And so here I hope to supply any who would care to stumble through during their all consuming browsing of this massive heap we like to call the Internet with a steady (though admittedly less stable) flow of my personal thoughts and observations, as well as a series of more professional pieces in the form of formal reviews of the local music scene of Massachusetts’ North Shore (all of which will be easily accessible via a conveniently organized drop down menu of categories to the right of the page).

So I guess that is all. Bear with me as I learn how to make this page a more enjoyable experience for you, the reader.  After all, here is to you…

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