Monthly Archives: October 2010

The freaks come out at night: The Flaming Lips @ the Paramount 09.28.10

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Santa Claus, a giant banana and a guy dressed up in a pink gorilla costume walk into the Paramount Theatre …

That was the scene at the historic venue Monday night when Oklahoma City’s fearless freaks, a.k.a. The Flaming Lips, delivered an energetic, playful and slightly sinister (in a Wayne Coyne kind of way) set heavy on material from last year’s Embryonic.

As a veteran of several Lips shows I walked into the show more or less knowing what to expect  — massive amounts of confetti, balloons the size of Volkswagen bugs, smoke machines, strobe lights, maybe some fake blood — but leave it to The Flaming Lips to throw a few curveballs my way.

You see, the Lips and I have a bit of history. A few years ago I had the privilege of dressing up like a Teletubby and dancing on stage with the band during its headlining set at Sasquatch! It’s an experience that changed how I perceive music and a measuring stick for how I judge every major concert I attend.

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Arcade Fire impresses with a memorable concert at KeyArena

Arcade Fire by Jason Tang

If Arcade Fire were a fast food cheeseburger the Montreal octet would definitely be a Dick’s Deluxe, and  in my book that’s not a bad thing.

You see in the faux band-burger hierarchy three distinct categories exist. There are the McDonald’s of the world. Think of them as burgers that are serviceable but can be easily replicated. In band terms acts like The New Pornographers and The Heavy fit the description. These are bands that are good live and on record, but if you see enough shows (or eat enough burgers) they don’t stand out much in the long run.

Then there are the Red Mills of the world. The cream of the crop. Arguably the best fast food burger in Seattle. It’s a burger you never forget. Bands like Radiohead, U2 and Springsteen are Red Mill burgers in this tasty analogy. When you witness any of these bands live it’s an experience you’ll remember forever no matter how many shows you attend.

Somewhere in between Redmill and McDonald’s lies the Deluxe. Now the Dick’s Deluxe is a damn good burger. It blows McDonald’s out of the water. Anyone who attempts to argue a McD’s patty is superior to anything on Dick’s menu is clearly a few McNuggets short of a 10-piece.

So how does Arcade Fire merit a Dick’s Deluxe rating? They put on a show you definitely remember, but it isn’t necessarily the best show you will ever see. A few other burgers, um I mean bands, I’d classify as Dick’s Deluxes are Muse, the Flaming Lips and my beloved Pearl Jam. These aren’t the biggest bands in the world but when you see them live they deliver shows that are worth well above the price of admission.

Now I’ve probably seen more bands live than I’ve consumed burgers, and Arcade Fire’s life-affirming 90-minute set made for a damn delicious burger I won’t soon forget, but it wasn’t quite up to Red Mill standards.

So why start off a review of a band many critics consider to be the voice of a generation by comparing them to a cheeseburger? Because many of the band’s detractors claim the group takes itself too seriously and I figure a lighthearted approach would be the best route to take when attempting to tackle Arcade Fire’s many complexities and my somewhat still mixed feelings about the group. Continue reading

From the vault: An interview with Rivers Cuomo

Rivers Cuomo interviewFINAL by GuerrilaCandy

One of the perks of being a professional music journalist is having the opportunity to interview your favorite musicians. Back in 2005, when I was still relatively green at interviewing rock stars, I took full advantage of that perk when Weezer was rolling through town with the Foo Fighters and I sent an interview request to the band’s publicist.

When I was a teenager Weezer was one of favorite bands and I still rock the Blue Album and Pinkerton quite often now that I am closer to my 40s than I am my 20s. I was extremely excited and extremely nervous to have a conversation with Rivers Cuomo and I think the playback of the nearly 30-minute interview reflects that. You see, my conversation with Rivers, which you can stream or download above, is a bit of a tough listen.

Or at least it was for me when I played it back on cassette tape and transferred it to a mp3 file. It was the first time I had listened to the interview since writing this piece five years ago (Note that I also interviewed Dave Grohl for the same article. Maybe I’ll transfer that to mp3 too and post it here next time the Foo Fighters come to town) and I cringed several times last night while playing it back. Hopefully budding music journalists can learn a few lessons of how to conduct interviews if they happen to stumble upon this post. The lessons to be learned here are to come prepared, try to be professional and don’t be nervous.

My attempt at small talk during the beginning of the interview was a massive fail and for some reason I ended a lot of the questions with “is that correct?” I rack that last one up to nervousness. On the plus side, as the interview progresses Rivers opens up a bit and I think that’s because he could tell I’m a very informed fan and critic who came prepared for the interview. Or maybe he could tell I was going down in flames and wanted to provide me with some material I could use for a print article. But enough about my analysis of my unpolished interview skills. You’ll just have to trust me that I have since become better at firing questions at rock stars.

Once you get through the awkwardness (you can actually hear me say “awkward” after one question while listening to the interview) there’s actually some pretty good stuff here. Of course all that stuff is from five years ago, but I have yet to read an interview where Rivers talks about his perfectionist tendencies and how the band tweaks its records after each pressing. So bonus points to me for getting that info. Other moments of note are and the parts where he tells me that he misses being with girls (he was celibate and unmarried at the time), the really interesting talk about Pinkerton and when he completely dodges my question about his brother teaching at the University of Washington.

Despite my mixed feelings about the interview I still consider my conversation with Rivers to be a highlight of my career thus far, albeit a slightly awkward highlight.

Victor Shade: The caped crusader of Seattle’s hip-hop scene

Victor Shade

Ryan Abeo, the heavily tatted, bearded, and pierced MC best known as Ra Scion of Common Market, is one of the most visible figures in local hip-hop. But when he takes the stage as his new persona, Victor Shade, he transforms from the socially conscious, rhyme-spitting Common Market frontman into a cape-wearing, world-saving superhero.

Sounds cheesy, yes. But like everything Abeo has done in the past, his Victor Shade project is serious, and it is layered with lyrics containing dual meanings that tackle weighty subjects like drug use, suicide, and spirituality.

Unfortunately, like every good superhero’s back story, Victor Shade’s tale begins with a tragedy. The concept of Victor Shade came after Ra Scion’s brother-in-law Jimmy, who was a comic book collector, committed suicide.

Before his death, Jimmy created a list of friends and family members and gave them all superhero identities complete with a detailed breakdown of why he thought the superhero was appropriate for each person. Abeo’s superhero was Victor Shade, an android that is a member of a collective called The Avengers, and Abeo decided to make Victor Shade into a hip-hop tribute to his fallen family member.

“Shortly after his death I started doing some research into the comic book character The Vision, and I was amazed at some of the similarities I found between his characteristics and my own,” Abeo said. “It really made me think Jimmy put a lot of thought into this process, so this project is like an homage to him.”

The biggest challenge for Victor Shade going forward will be forging an identity for the project beyond Abeo’s ties to Common Market. It’s a tough task, considering both acts put the unmistakable Abeo front and center — and Common Market has long been a staple of local hip-hop. Luckily there are distinct sounds that differentiate Victor Shade from Common Market, courtesy of local producer Matthew Crabtree, who does production under the name MTK. Continue reading