Monthly Archives: November 2009

Monsters of rock: Them Crooked Vultures @ The Paramount 11.21.09

*photos by Steven Friederich

Dave Grohl by Steven Friederich

Them Crooked Vultures should consider billing themselves as the second coming of the Monsters of Rock.

Sure Monsters of Rock was a long-running festival that featured several groups and TCV are just one band, but this one band features John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on bass, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters behind the drum kit and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age on vocals and lead guitar. And this one band delivered a monstrously epic set of rock to a capacity crowd at the Paramount Theatre Saturday night. On record TCV sounds like a glorified Queens of the Stone Age thanks to Homme helming the vocals, but in concert Them Crooked Vultures comes across like an unstoppable monster of a supergroup.

Homme’s fuzzy stoner-rock guitar sound soared through the venue. His frontman duties were also admirable, especially when he took the microphone off the stand and gallivanted all over the stage during “Interludes With Ludes.” Jones’ bass held down the low end during the 90-minute show but it wasn’t until the third song of the set, “Scumbag Blues,” where he really made himself heard and from then on it was all JPJ all the time. Grohl’s presence was felt the entire night, from the opening drum hits of “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I,” which was the first song of the set, to show closer “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up.” He should consider giving up his day job fighting foos because it’s clear he belongs behind a drum kit. And touring guitarist Alain Johannes made his presence known by adding slight flourishes to Homme’s distinctive style while the band played through its entire self-titled debut. As an added treat an unreleased song, “Highway One,” made the set.

Almost every face in the crowd was wearing a smile as concertgoers reveled in the pure joy of watching these titans of rock together. But the faces in the crowd weren’t the only ones having fun. Homme, Grohl and Jones flashed smiles at one another throughout the show, making the concert almost feel like a mutual admiration society of rock. I walked into the show thinking it would be a one-off performance considering Homme, Grohl and Jones have other obligations involving other bands (Hey JPJ when are we going to get that Zeppelin reunion?) and although there was no encore, their smiles combined with the performance of “Highway One” hinted that Saturday may not have been the last fans will see of Them Crooked Vultures.

Them Crooked Vultures set list:

No One Loves Me & Neither Do I
Dead End Friends
Scumbag Blues
Highway One
New Fang
Mind Eraser, No Chaser
Interlude with Ludes
Spinning in Daffodils
Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up


Whigin’ out: The Whigs, The Features & Dead Trees @ The Tractor 11.14.09

Athens, Ga. trio The Whigs topped a three-headed rock monster of a bill at the Tractor last weekend. Here are some thoughts about the show taken from my notepad (In short, The Whigs are always good live. The Features are a band you need to check out if you haven’t already and Dead Trees have a promising sound) along with photos by  Dave Lichterman.

The Whigs :: by Dave Lichterman

Dead Trees: Initially they start off sounding like every other indie pop outfit out there. Not much happening to set them apart from rest of the pack. But then spontaneous pockets of rock begin to appear, salvaging  their 30-minute set from the depths of boredom. The band features a bass player who I swear was wearing a fake mustache (check the pics in the slideshow below) which made them fun to watch because as everyone knows, it’s tough to take your eyes off a solid ‘stache. They seemed to be onto something with their mixing of catchy indie pop and spontaneous, unexpected moments of rock.

The Features: Apparently this Tennessee band has been around for a while and have gathered quite a buzz that I didn’t know about. How big is this buzz? Well, we’re not talking Vampire Weekend or Animal Collective or anything like that, but after seeing them live I did go seek out their records. They play the type of music suited for a gypsy hoedown. It’s a great modernization on Southern rock as these boys sounded like they spiked their own moonshine, in a good way. From their maraca-wielding, slow-motion windmilling bassist to their hyperactive, sweat-stained rock ‘n’ roll frontman, The Features prove that Southern rock ain’t dead yet and for every Kings of Leon (The Features are actually signed to KOL’s imprint label) bands like The Mother Hips and The Features are out there waiting for their big breaks. Continue reading

Nuclear war on the dance floor: Electric Six @ Neumos 11.15.09

The last time I saw Detroit disco-rock outfit Electric Six live was in 2004 in 111-degree heat at Coachella where they put on a great set inside a dance tent. I was very curious to check them out five years later in a dark nightclub on a cool rainy night to see how they’ve improved. Here’s what I thought about their show with The Gay Blades and Millions of Brazillians on Sunday night at Neumos.

Electric Six :: by Travis Hay

Millions of Brazilians: This trio came off sounding like a Detroit-flavored Arctic Monkeys. Lots of squealy guitar effects and some pretty updeat dance-friendly numbers. Not too bad for a three-piece that features two guitarists and a drummer.

The Gay Blades: I really wanted to dislike this band based solely on the premise of the fact that their band name sucks. Then I walked past the merch booth and they told me off in the form of band shirts that say “No, your band name sucks.” They get points for having a sense of humor. Jokes aside (you’ve got to admit that band name is pretty lame), as much as I wanted them to suck, the band was pretty good. They rocked as hard as two people could without being, say, Death From Above 1979. I was impressed with how easily they went from making the crowd move with fun, upbeat pop numbers to making the crowd mosh with loud, screamy songs that almost bled into heavy metal territory. Continue reading

Because nerds have to dance too: They Might Be Giants Flood tour @ Showbox SoDo 11.10.09

Things got a bit nerdy in the industrial SoDo district last week when They Might Be Giants brought their Flood tour to Seattle, much to the delight of a sold-out crowd at Showbox SoDo.

The band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their platinum album Flood by playing the album in its entirety in select cities. But the show wasn’t just a straight-forward affair where the group played through Flood in full. Like everything TMBG does, the show was a bit different. Instead of doing by-the-numbers walkthrough of Flood things started with non-album tracks and then after Flood started other non-Flood songs were peppered throughout the show.
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Stir the Blood stirs the crowd: The Bravery @ Showbox at the Market 11.09.09

Sometimes a little exposure can go a long way when it comes to launching a band’s career. Case and point: The Bravery.

The last time The Bravery performed in Seattle they were on the big stage at KeyArena opening for Green Day. Last week the band played to a sold-out crowd at Showbox at the Market. Selling out the Showbox is something the New York band would’ve eventually done without the exposure because their brand of new wave rock is contagious and fun, but I’m sure sharing the stage with Billie Joe, Tre and Mike helped speed things up a bit.
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REVIEW: Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth & Unnatural Helpers @ Neumos 11.13.09

As mentioned yesterday, I filed a review of Friday night’s grunge spectacular at Neumos featuring Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Unnatural Helpers with the folks over at Crosscut. Here’s a snippet of the review. Click the jump to read the full review.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth :: by Alex Crick

Seattle’s music scene is fast becoming known for its bearded folk rock and burgeoning hip hop, but Friday at Neumos the flannel flag flew high once again with a triple-bill featuring Unnatural Helpers, Brother of the Sonic Cloth, and Mudhoney.

The show was in celebration of photographer Michael Lavine’s book Grunge, and the lineup did a great job of capturing the essence of the book, making it feel like 1992 all over again. Lavine was one of two photogs hired by Sub Pop to visually capture the bands that helped define a musical movement. He spent the late 1980s and early ’90s living in Olympia and later moved to New York where he shot various Sub Pop acts (TAD, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Fluid, Skin Yard) along with other important alt-rock bands of the time (Sonic Youth, Hole, White Zombie, Pearl Jam) as they passed through town.

The book features photos of all the aforementioned bands and dozens more, and is a striking visual document that chronicles the culture and look of an era. It is similar to what Lavine’s colleague Charles Peterson, who also shot for Sub Pop during the grunge days, did with his book Touch Me I’m Sick a few years back. One of the main differences between the two is that Peterson’s style emphasized the action on stage and in the crowd; Lavine’s shots are more candid and playful band photos.

Although the Neumos show was technically a book release party, aside from Lavine being on hand signing and selling copies of his work there was not real emphasis on Grunge the book; rather it was more about grunge the sound, which felt appropriate considering the book visually represents sound. And what better band to have representing that sound on stage than Mudhoney?

“These photos are mind-blowing for those of us who are old enough to remember,” Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm told the crowd before starting the band’s set with a cover of Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In.” It’s a song the band has covered previously, and astute grunge scholars will know it’s also a song Nirvana covered during its famous 1992 Reading Festival set as well as a song Arm performed onstage with Kurt, Krist and Dave (check out the video here).

From there the grungiest of grunge bands blazed through a near two-hour set that spanned its 21-year career. The set proved once again that Arm is still capable of commanding the stage like the proud graduate of the Iggy Pop School of Frontmen he is, and that guitarist Steve Turner can still shred with the best of them. Plenty of new material from the band’s 2008 release The Lucky Ones made the set including the title track, “I’m Now,” and “Tales of Terror,” which was a late highlight. An earlier highlight was Turner tearing it up on the one-two combo of “Suck You Dry” and “Oblivion.” The performance was one of the best Mudhoney sets I’ve witnessed out of the dozen or so times I’ve seen the band, and according to UC Berkeley’s Mudhoney Tourbook it was the longest set of the band’s career. It was an impressive showing by one of the most important bands to hail from the Emerald City.

Tad Doyle, former frontman of TAD, a lesser known but still very important grunge band, played with his new band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth before Mudhoney’s set. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s songs combine ground-moving drums with deep, bowel-shaking bass while Doyle’s dark and heavy guitar cuts through it all. There are not a lot of vocals happening with BOTSC but when Doyle screams it is a scream that makes you pay attention.

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PHOTOS: Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth & Unnatural Helpers @ Neumos 11.13.09

Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Unnatural Helpers brought back the ’90s at Neumos Friday for the book release party for Michael Lavine’s Grunge. I just filed my review with the folks over at Crosscut and it is awaiting editing. I will post it here when it is online. Until then enjoy the below photos by local photographer Alex Crick. 

This monkey’s gone to heaven: The Pixies at the Paramount 11.12.09

The Pixies performed Doolittle in its entirety along with its related B-sides and a few other songs at the Paramount Thursday night. You can read my full review over at Crosscut by following the jump. Look for a photo gallery from the show later today along (UPDATE: Photo gallery is here) with another take on the Pixies Doolittle experience from yours truly in the coming days.

Black Francis :: by Dave Lichterman

Eyeballs were sliced, a car was driven into the ocean and yes, a monkey went to Heaven Thursday night as The Pixies performed its seminal alt-rock album Doolittle in full to an elated sold-out crowd at The Paramount Theatre.

But what does it all mean? Well, that’s a question that was left unanswered at the band’s 90-minute set. After watching the band play Doolittle in its entirety along with its related B-sides, I got the feeling the Pixies wanted it that way.

The influential Boston four-piece has been riding the reunion tour train since 2004 when they got back together after breaking up in 1993. The band has played several high-profile concerts in Seattle since (including a Bumbershoot headlining spot in 2004 and a Sasquatch! main stage spot in 2005) and those sets were all greatest-hits affairs, not a show that focused on one piece of the band’s catalog. This is what made the opening show of the group’s two-night stint at the Paramount so special.

The Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud formula has been aped by countless bands (most notably Nirvana) and while it’s difficult to declare one Pixies album better than another, you definitely can’t go wrong with Doolittle. You don’t get the whole Pixies package with Doolittle but you do some of the best the band has to offer in “Here Comes Your Man,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Monkey Gone To Heaven” and others. The record helped introduce the group to the masses, the band is celebrating its 20th anniversary (hence the Doolittle concert), and it is held in high regard in rock-snob circles.

Hearing the album’s 15 tracks live and in order was akin to reading a book and then seeing the movie based on the book. A book lets you use your imagination and shape your own thoughts about the contents of its chapters, while the film creates a visual element you’ll always associate with its written counterpart. In this case the book is the record (but there is an excellent book about Doolittle by Ben Sisario that I highly recommend) and it is a mighty piece of art on its own merit. Doolittle live definitely added a visual flair to the record and I’ll likely not think of the album the way I did before the concert the next time I give it a spin.

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