Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Reboot With “Rocket” And Land In NYC To Show What They Are 12 Years Since Their Last LP

Last month, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians released Rocket, the band’s first album in a dozen years. In the interim, Brickell has stayed busy as a solo artist and collaborator—with the likes of Steve Martin, stepson Harper Simon (Heavy Circles) and Steve Gadd (Gaddabouts). But with Rocket, Brickell is hoping to get the New Bohemians back into a more regular musical orbit. The band just toured the East Coast, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was at the Irving Plaza show in NYC and witnessed a band still successfully shooting rubberbands at the stars.

Roky Erickson Has Always Been Here Before: The 13th Floor Elevator Takes Philly For Another Psychedelic Ride

If a man is known by the company he keeps, then Roky Erickson should be a household name. The founder of the 13th Floor Elevators (the first band to call the music it played “psychedelic,” back in 1966) should easily be mentioned in the same breath as the Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Big Star and Nick Drake as the most important early influences on the kind of music MAGNET covers. Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute To Roky Erickson, a 1990 album celebrating the music of this Texas treasure, featured R.E.M., Primal Scream, T Bone Burnett, Butthole Surfers and more (name another album on which the Jesus And Mary Chain and ZZ Top could possibly cover the same song). Subsequently, Erickson has been backed by the likes of Okkervil River, Mogwai and the Black Angels. The 71-year-old Erickson is still active, and he recently brought his genius to Philly’s Underground Arts, playing a 21-song set of material from throughout his 50-plus-year career. Far-Out Fangtooth and White Mystery rounded out the psychedelic celebration, and MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there to document this mind-altering experience.

Far-Out Fangtooth
White Mystery

Live Review: Lucinda Williams, Collingswood, N.J., Nov. 2, 2018

Lucinda Williams kicked off her tour for the 20th anniversary of Grammy-winning masterpiece Car Wheels On A Gravel Road down South. South Jersey, that is. MAGNET’s M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) were thrilled to go along for the ride.

There are artists who are so identified with their hometown scene they can never escape it, and others who seem to sprout from nowhere in particular. And then there’s Lucinda Williams. She couldn’t shake the South from her mouth if she wanted to—and, with such a distinctive voice, why ever would she want to?—but rather than try to embody a singular city or encompass a whole region of the country, Williams’ discography is like a pushpin-dotted map of flesh-and-bone places she’s inhabited. If you didn’t know from her bio that she and her family bounced around from town to town—Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Jackson, Fayetteville—her songs would tell you as much.

Perhaps that’s most evident on her nearly flawless 1998 album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, which Williams and her band Buick 6 played in full at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood, N.J. Early in the record, she sets off from Macon, as the girl she used to be, sitting in the back seat of a car headed toward Jackson for reasons she’s too young to understand (the title track). Before long, she touches down in a juke joint in Rosedale (“2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten”), pines for a lover in a prison in Opelousas (“Concrete And Barbed Wire”), sets an ex’s soul free in Lake Charles (“Lake Charles”), kicks a no-good man off the tour bus in the middle of nowhere and sends him back to Greenville (“Greenville”), looks for joy in West Memphis and Slidell (“Joy”) and finally finds some solace as she travels from Lafayette back to Jackson (“Jackson”).

She doesn’t name every town from Texas to South Carolina, but the grit in her voice suggests she’s seen (and rocked) them all. Which makes it all the more intriguing that Williams kicked off an 11-date tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her most celebrated album in South Jersey—which also happened to be the furthest south this excursion went. Williams never said what made her pick the ornate Scottish Rite Auditorium for the honor of an opening night that felt intimate, grand and perfectly scaled, all at once, but it seems unlikely that someone so mindful and precise about geography would leave this to chance. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but the venue is just a few miles up the road and across the river from Philadelphia, where she played right after CCar Wheels On A Gravel Road’s release, in a definitive performance that was released years later as part of the album’s deluxe edition.

Whatever the reason, Williams felt comfortable enough with the crowd to share details about almost every track and the real-life characters who inspired them.

Of the title track, whose vowels sounded more liquid than molasses, she noted that she hadn’t realized it was autobiographical until her father, poet/professor Miller Williams, pointed it out after hearing it for the first time at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Here in Collingswood, she nearly swooned to see, for the first time, the video that played behind her—long-lost footage from one of her family’s many moves and images of herself as a baby in the arms of her dad, who died on New Year’s Day 2015. (“I have to keep it together,” she told the crowd.)

She recalled singer/songwriter Blaze Foley, the inspiration behind “Drunken Angel” (still a fixture of her sets all these years later) who was killed in 1989 and the subject of a biopic earlier this year, which she urged the audience to see. “He had a tendency to sabotage things,” she observed, in one of the understatements of the night. “Lake Charles” brought more reminiscing about Miller Williams as well as Clyde Woodward, whose life and death inspired it.

Williams also divulged some personal details about that no-good man who inspired “Metal Firecracker” and “Joy” (one of the night’s undisputed high points) among other songs on her notoriously tortured record. She didn’t name names, but admitted it was a road romance with someone who wasn’t a permanent member of her band—and turned out to have sweet talked some other women.

The outspoken singer invoked a completely different kind of scoundrel in an aside to “Concrete And Barbed Wire.” “They tore the Berlin Wall down and we’re trying to put one up,” she said in the first of the night’s political references. “We don’t need more walls.”

While preparing for the tour, Williams had considered mixing up the order of the songs, but she acknowledged that fans insisted she play the record in the right order. After giving the crowd exactly what they wanted, she played a set of songs of more recent vintage—and while the Car Wheels material was undeniably strong, the second half sounded superior, with selections that covered a broad range of feelings and inflections that were better suited to Williams’ older, wiser voice.

Beginning with a haunting solo performance of “Ghosts Of Highway 20” (inspired by the interstate that runs from Texas to South Carolina), Williams masterfully connected the main points that come up time and again throughout her work. The 2016 song puts her in the front seat, she pointed out, but she’s just the same girl she was in “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” all grown up.

Other standouts included “Essence” and “Honey Bee,” back-to-back takes on the same raw sexual desire with radically different ratios of desperation and playfulness, and a spirited take on “Foolishness” that brought the audience to its feet with forceful rejections of racism, sexism and everything else that diminishes us, turning the theater into a revival tent with a righteous communal joy that could not be topped.

For the encore, “Rainy Night In Georgia” served as a nice tribute to Tony Joe White, who died in late October, and then Williams wrapped things up with a stirring pairing of “Faith & Grace” and “Get Right with God.” If the South rises again—in South Jersey or anywhere else—let us pray that someone as thoughtful, forthcoming and well-traveled as Williams is at the wheel.

Live Review: Pioneering People Basilica Benefit: Courtney Love, Hudson, N.Y., Oct. 27, 2018

Courtney Love (and a few friends) paid tribute to Courtney Love at Basilica Hudson’s biennial Pioneering People fundraiser in upstate New York. MAGNET’s M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) traveled to the absolute outskirts of civilization to celebrate “the magic and the power” of Love.

When you’ve broken as many boundaries as Courtney Love has, people eager to pay their respects will drive through flooded roads and wait in massive puddles of dirty water until you’re good and ready to receive them. And when you’ve burned as many bridges as Courtney Love has, people will drop you harder than a crowdsurfer in a pit full of spindly armed selfie queens. Both principles were in play at Hudson, N.Y.’s Basilica Hudson for a sold-out tribute to “the magic and the power” of the rock star/model/actress.

Pioneering People Basilica Benefit: Courtney Love—announced with a snowballing all-star lineup that never quite materialized—was part New York society outing, part amateur hour. It was wildly uneven, significantly disappointing in certain respects and heartwarming in others. In short, it was not the tribute that Courtney Love, the pioneering musician, deserves or the one that fans who’d traveled long distances had come to see. But it was the tribute that Courtney Love, the polarizing person, has in some ways earned and one that made those who will defend her to the end grateful that she and we are all, somehow, still alive.

The highlight, unsurprisingly, was Love herself (would she have had it any other way?) performing three songs from Hole’s 1994 tour-de-force Live Through This. For an audience so starved for Love’s presence that they’d trekked out to the absolute outskirts of New York civilization, as one guest put it, it was admittedly fabulous to hear three beloved songs recontextualized. Accompanied by Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole’s former bassist, co-founder and director of Hudson Basilica and de facto hostess for the evening), Love sang an acoustic version of “Softer, Softest” with Imperial Teen’s Roddy Bottum on piano, followed by “Doll Parts” and “Miss World,” which gained an electrical charge from Rebel Girls Rock Academy guitarists who weren’t born until well after Hole disbanded.

It was a genuinely powerful-sounding, emotional three-song set, and if the teen musicians seemed less than awestruck by the moment, Love is at least partially to credit for making the occasion seem so normal, both by her quiet presence and her early-career bulldozing.

Love’s influence was most clearly articulated by Meredith Graves, the former Perfect Pussy singer/music journalist/new Kickstarter music director, who started playing guitar at 11, shortly after Hole’s epic Celebrity Skin came out in 1998.

Graves recalled the impact of Love’s lyrics, “Doll Parts” in particular, and the way instant adages like “I want to be the girl with the most cake” and “Someday you will ache like I ache” tapped something deep within her and girls like her. Love didn’t just give voice to the pain and anguish so many listeners felt; her underrecognized talent as a songwriter, inextricably coupled with her lightning-rod status as Kurt Cobain’s outspoken girlfriend, wife and widow, helped those who were drawn to her find each other. Life is unfair—whether you’re a millionaire rock star with no secrets or a precocious tween with many—but if you’re lucky, you can create a supportive community out of people who make you feel less alone.

“Twenty years ahead of women in music joining the larger societal discourse around #MeToo, we were writing Hole lyrics on our three-subject notebooks to accomplish the same ends,” Graves said.

While her speech was worthy of its subject, the night’s other tributes were more in the vein of Night Of 1,000 Kates, Philadelphia’s annual camp homage to Kate Bush—but mostly without the same level of ambition and artistic commitment. The best of these was a snarky cabaret rendition of “Old Age” by Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman. The rest included a tragicomic reading of “Teenage Whore” by Orange Is The New Black star Natasha Lyonne, via video; “Good Sister/Bad Sister,” acted out by multimedia artists Zia Anger and Annie Bielski, complete with black goo and partial nudity; and an interpretive dance and lip-sync to “Violet” by the singularly named enigma Davon, whose chiding of the audience about its overwhelming white privilege felt longer and stronger than his performance.

But with cryptic pre-show communication that allowed rumors and speculation to flourish—including hopes that surprise guests like Billy Corgan might play with the night’s honoree; that Michael Stipe, the event’s most notable announced performer, would serenade her with R.E.M.’s “Crush With Eyeliner” or duet on “Doll Parts”; or even that there would be a full-blown Hole reunion—the night left a chunk of the audience disappointed, including some who’d paid three-figure VIP ticket prices for seats that turned out to be much further back than they’d been led to believe.

Stipe beamed in from his sickbed to beg off, matter-of-factly and without abject apology, saying that he had wanted to be there for his friend and goddaughters (including a grown-up Frances Bean Cobain, looking lovely in the front row next to her mom), but instead offered a short snippet of “Doll Parts.” Since he’d been advertised as one of the event’s hosts and was still listed in the program as the top performer aside from Love, it seemed odd that Stipe’s absence wasn’t mentioned until the finale, almost as an aside, and that he said more about feeling sick and missing his friends than about what made Love worth celebrating in the first place. Corgan, whose potential appearance was always more wishful thinking than grounded in fact, was a no-show, as were Chloë Sevigny and others who’d been confirmed, compressing a scheduled three-hour running time into slightly over two hours.

As for Love’s former bandmates, Patty Schemel and Eric Erlandson sent their regards in a “video bouquet” of salutes, which also included Rufus Wainwright, John Waters, performance artist Marina Abramowić, and fashion designers Marc Jacobs and Jeremy Scott. If you showed the montage to someone who was unfamiliar with the guest of honor, they’d never know that she made music, let alone wrote and recorded some of the most piercing songs of her generation, or that she’d had a surprisingly respectable side career as an actress.

Auf der Maur did what she could, as side musician, emcee and interviewer. While her questions were too basic and fawning to elicit anything new from Love, there were a couple good anecdotes, including a one about how she came to know the truth about Harvey Weinstein and one about Fleetwood Mac playing a private show so Hole could study them up close. Auf der Maur’s affection for her former boss was evident, matched only by her cheerleading for the venue itself, a lovingly refurbished factory whose aim is to connect artists and create sustainable community in a rapidly gentrifying area.

But while it was sweet to hear her urge Love to save the world from this precarious time we find ourselves in, and cool to see her candid photos from Hole’s touring days projected on the big screen during the Q&A, the overall effect didn’t inspire much hope. As much as some of us would love to see Love take center stage musically and culturally again, it doesn’t seem any more likely to happen.

In Graves’ speech, she imaged the unfolding moment as “acolytes of Babylon feasting at the feet of our high priestess.” We don’t actually live in a world that recognizes women in their mid-50s as high priestesses, and, to be honest, not much of the music Courtney Love has released this century has been worth feasting on.

With Love seeming more like she was doing a favor for an old friend, and most of her own old friends nowhere to be found, it’s long past time to push past the desire for a heroine or some other savior, and figure out how to build bridges—or rebuild the ones that have been burned down—to create those supportive, sustainable communities already.

Jack And Kyle’s Excellent Adventure: Tenacious D Goes On The Offensive In These Post-Apocalyptic Times

Tenacious D—Jack Black and Kyle Gass—kicked off the first leg of its North American tour in support of new album Post-Apocalypto (Columbia) with two shows at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there opening night and not only lived to tell about it (apparently Tenacious D knows how to save this Trump world we live in; great success, guys!), he also got these great shots of the dynamic duo.

ZZ Top Frontman Billy F Gibbons Brings The Blues To Time Square

ZZ Top frontman and Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Billy F Gibbons recently released sophomore solo album The Big Bad Blues (Concord), and he’s on tour now supporting the 11-track LP, which features Gibbons originals as well as covers of songs by the likes of Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. Gibbons’ live band is made up of hot-shit left-handed guitarist Austin Hanks, drummer (and fellow Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer) Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) and—on a few songs—longtime ZZ Top guitar tech Elwood Francis. Gibbons and crew recently played two nights at the intimate Iridium in Times Square, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for the first show, witnessing the band’s fearless boogie.

Garbage Day, “Version 2.0” Version 2.0, Part 1.0 (Philadelphia)

Garbage celebrated the two-decade anniversary of Version 2.0 with the 20 Years Paranoid Tour, recycling old faves in new ways. At the Fillmore in Philly, MAGNET’s M.J. Fine (words) and Chris Sikich (photos) were happy to take in the trash.

Twelve seconds into Version 2.0, Shirley Manson shows her cards. “I’ll tell you something,” she purrs. “I am a wolf but/I like to wear sheeps’ clothing.”

And so it is that “Temptation Waits,” the first track on the Garbage’s second album, sets the tone for the rest of the experience. It’s all about the switch and bait. Think you’re getting a second album that’s merely an upgrade of the band’s first outing? Nope. When Version 2.0 came out in 1998, it was both noisier and more self-consciously poppy than Garbage’s 1995 self-titled debut, with more techno beats, more distorted guitars and brash lyrical nods to the Beach Boys, Pretenders and Salt-N-Pepa.

And so it is with “Temptation Waits,” the third song played each night on the 20 Years Paranoid Tour. Think you’re getting a live redo of a beloved record? Think again.

That much was clear from the setlist, which remained constant throughout the 39-date tour, with minor variations reserved for the encore. With a running order that completely disregarded the flow so familiar to listeners who’ve lived with Version 2.0 for two decades, the sonics were spot-on, from the pointed dialogue from films (including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Natural Born Killers and The Graduate) that played between songs to arrangements with snippets of other songs baked in. (“Wicked Ways” borrowed Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” rather effectively; “You Look So Fine” paid proper homage to Fleetwood Mac with a bit of “Dreams.”)

Rather than simply re-create the record song-for-song with older musicians employing newer technology, Manson and the band—original members Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, joined by ringer Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction on bass—challenged themselves, delighted the diehards and shrugged off any fair-weather fans with a show that was as much about rewriting history as it was a well-earned attempt to cash in on Gen-X nostalgia.

At the Fillmore in Philadelphia, with just two more U.S. dates and a four-night run in Mexico left on the tour, hits like “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Push It” and “Special” sounded appropriately massive, and deep cuts like “Dumb” and “Hammering In My Head” were explosive. Yet the band seemed most energized by songs that didn’t quite make the album, several of which had never been performed live before this year.

The eight b-sides scattered throughout the set proved that Garbage’s late-’90s castoffs have longer legs than chart-toppers by long-forgotten peers; two of them, “Afterglow” and “Deadwood,” got things off to a strong start even before “Temptation Waits” provided the first of many sing-along opportunities. The show’s one stumble was a reading of “The World Is Not Enough,” the band’s 1999 Bond theme, that felt listless and out of place.

Manson seemed almost giddy to give non-album tracks their due, introducing “Get Busy With The Fizzy” as “the weirdest song in our discography” (elaborating, she called it “a party song about getting off our tits, and it doesn’t get any deeper than that”), sharing the obvious observation that “Lick The Pavement” is about cunnilingus, and confiding that she didn’t come to understand Big Star’s “Thirteen” until years after recording it, but now believes it’s imperative to hold on to the wonder and innocence of that age your whole life.

While the main set played out with machine precision on paper, a function of the instrumentalists’ engineering backgrounds, Manson was charmingly loose-lipped between songs. Warning the audience early on that anyone who’d rather just hear the music without her commentary should just go home and put the record on instead, she kept it up all night, shedding light on the heavy subjects that pervade the album and repeatedly alluding to the U.S.’s current political situation. Reminiscing about her first time in Philadelphia, she recalled playing the “Theatre Of Arts” (mistake number one) with her previous band Angelfish on a bill with Live and Vic Chesnutt, eating a “Philly sub” (mistake number three) and nearly kissing Live’s guitar tech here (which would have been the biggest mistake of all).

But it was the encore that was most gloriously unscripted. Manson took a more direct swing at the White House, a move that felt earned after she spoke of the beginning of her lifelong admiration for America as a girl growing up in Edinburgh and her outsider status in an otherwise all-American band: “Fucking knock it off with the dictatorship here. You have something spectacular here and you are watching it be dismantled.” Erickson put it more simply: “I have one word: Vote.”

After a deeply moving performance of “The Trick Is to Keep Breathing,” which Manson called Version 2.0’s linchpin, the singer surprised her bandmates by quashing the one new song they’d been playing in favor of requests. After Marker rejected a plea from the crowd for “Parade,” from 2001’s Beautiful Garbage, Manson indulged the fan with an a cappella bit of it, and then the group debated among themselves whether they were prepared to play “Queer” for the first time in more than a year. Once Vig located the instantly recognizable sample, they pulled off a version that was as flawless as anything that had come before. Dedicating the last song, Beautiful Garbage’s “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)”—another genderqueer hit—the band pulled off the biggest switch of all: making a show without a single offering from the past 16 years sound absolutely of the moment, by the moment, and for the moment.

Rituals Of Mine

In what could have been a thankless warm-up slot, Rituals Of Mine cultivated a chilly mood of menace and magic out of spare synths, Adam Pierce’s laser-focused drums and singer Terra Lopez’s impressive lung power.

Rituals Of Mine

Johnny Take A Bow: The Smiths Guitar God Ends His North American Tour With A Night That Opened His Fans’ Eyes

Legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr capped off his North American tour in support of new album Call The Comet at the TLA in MAGNET’s hometown of Philly. The guitar hero’s 16-song set included six Smiths cuts (“Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “The Headmaster Ritual,” “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” “How Soon Is Now?,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”), plus two Electronic tunes (“Getting Away With It” and “Get The Message”). MAGNET’s Chris Sikich was on hand to photograph this charming man. Read our classic Marr cover story:

Johnny Marr: This Charming Man

Babe, I’m On Fire: Nick Cave Sets Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Ablaze With The Bad Seeds’ Take on Arena Rock

Two-time MAGNET cover star Nick Cave and his very Bad Seeds just completed a brief, four-show North American tour, hitting—for the very first time in his four-decade career—arenas. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for Cave’s two-and-a-half hour, 19-song, career-spanning Brooklyn set at Barclays Center, and he let St. Nick’s love in.