Live Review: TV Casualty, Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 31, 2009

TVCAsualties

The Halloween cover show has become an increasingly popular way for bands to exercise their influences, and Saturday’s benefit for West Philly’s People’s Emergency Center at Kung Fu Necktie was a glorious resurrection. TV Casualty, fronted by Jersey’s favorite everyman (one of them, anyway) Ted Leo, brought together a rogue’s gallery of punks—Atom Goren (Atom And His Package) and Andy Nelson (Paint it Black), among them—to pay tribute to the macabre boys of October: the Misfits. A recent interview in the Philadelphia City Paper with member Brian Sokel (AM/FM) revealed that this is not a one-off Halloween event and that a Black Flag benefit with other collaborators is in the works.

From the opening chords of “She,” Leo took his designation as Glenn Danzig as serious as one can when making affectations of Glenn Danzig. With his bouffant wig and macho posturing, Leo perfectly captured his famous Garden State accent, bemoaning that “there were too many words” to remember along with several threats of vomiting. Summoning the dark one was so taxing, in fact, at one point a weary Leo relinquished the mic to the hyperactive front row for a boisterous rendition of “Braineaters.” Perching himself center stage, he glared and cooed in step for immortal sing-a-longs like “Horror Business” and “Hybrid Moments,” a song that has recently creeped its way into the Pharmacists’ repertoire with some regularity. Leo wasn’t the only one immersed in method playing; Nelson’s Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein impression conjured the same menacing stiffness of its lanky source.

The evening divided the Misfit’s oeuvre into two chronologically delineated sets: its early singles and its later, faster woah-oh-oh period. Though the first had the classics in its favor (“Last Caress” and “Teenagers From Mars,” just to name two), both had its respective highlights. Staying true to its Evilive incarnation, the band brought up 2009’s answer to Henry Rollins, Dan Yemin (Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Paint it Black), to provide guest vocals on a throaty rendition of “We Are 138.” It was just as good, if not better, than it sounds.

Though the second set might have oversold the crowd’s enthusiasm for the Misfits’ late-era thrash, it concluded on a high note with a rollicking “Skulls” along with a song described as “a new direction for the band,” as drummer Chris Wilson counted off the opening to Danzig’s “Mother.” Hurling himself into the crowd as the last notes rang out, Leo and the rest of TV Casualty quickly disappeared into the night, an apparition of the now-tainted band’s former greatness.

—Matt Siblo; photo by Kurt Iobst

Live Review: Jason Lytle, San Francisco, CA, Oct. 23, 2009

Live Review: Jason Lytle, San Francisco, CA, Oct. 23, 2009
Jason Lytle, troubadour! That’s what it came down to last night at San Francisco’s Independent: just the man, his acoustic guitar, an electric piano, his trademark wobbly vocals—and a back catalog of songs to pick from that is second to no one in the new millennium! Anyone with at least a working knowledge of Grandaddy, Lytle’s former band, should have instantly recognized the person hunched over his guitar, pouring out his heart, even if they didn’t recall his name.
Eschewing his customary trucker’s cap for an Elliott Smith-like knit job, and accompanied occasionally by a droning keyboard loop or a pre-recorded, bare-bones arrangement of an old song, Lytle wowed a near full house there to see Liam Finn perform his onstage magic. The former Modesto, Calif. resident, now happily tucked away in Bozeman, Mont., opened his  set with “El Caminos In The West,” a churning standout tune from Grandaddy’s landmark 2003 album Sumday with the telling catch phrase “Always so far away from home.”
Like a scrappy middleweight contender who knew he had the champ in trouble early, Lytle followed up with a devastating left-right combination: the two best songs from his 2009 solo debut, Yours Truly, The Commuter (Anti). “Last thing I heard I was left for dead/I could give two shits about what they said/I may be limping but I’m coming home,” from Commuter’s title track left no doubt about Lytle’s borderline cranky attitude and his joy at returning to his old Bay Area stomping grounds. “Brand New Sun” with its Jeff Lynne-like descending keyboard run, played on acoustic guitar tonight, told you all you needed to know about Lytle’s appreciation of his newfound surroundings: “We should rest a while, you’re like a tired child/It’s been a lot miles/I might fall down and my back is bad/ And you might fall down on a sleeping bag/So you should hold my hand while everything blows away/And we’ll run to a brand new sun.”
If that perfect opening threesome didn’t make it clear enough where he’s been and where he is now, Lytle borrowed a sentiment from Brian Wilson halfway through his 50-minute set, with a heartfelt rendition of “In My Room” that left no doubt. “I miss my couch,” muttered the man who never seemed happy on tour with Grandaddy. Lytle told me later that everyone always assumed it was Brian Wilson’s California dream that stoked his fire. Not so. “For me, the California genius has always been Merle Haggard. I’ll stay in Bakersfield when I get tired of L.A.,” he said.
With its simple, Beethoven-like piano intro, “I Am Lost (And The Moment Cannot Last”) pretty much conveyed Lytle’s fragile state of mind, reconfirmed on the sidewalk outside the club afterwards while he loaded his gear into a black Toyota mini-van for the 11-hour drive to Portland, his next stop on a short west coast tour.
“You know how much I hate touring,” said Lytle as he pushed a skateboard from one of his Modesto buddies into the vehicle’s back seat for safekeeping. “I’d drink too much and then worry too much about getting everything right for the next show. But I’ve done a few shows like this in Bozeman. I think I like the solo performance thing. I can change tempos whenever I want.”
As has been the custom in our many talks and interviews over the past dozen years, I felt like Lytle’s big brother, bucking him up for another run at the brass ring with his pending second solo outing for Anti next year. I had planned to open with a joke, something breezy like, “Hey, Howe Gelb’s other protege, Matt Ward, is recording with Zooey Deschanel and he’s on Conan with Jim James and Conor Oberst. What happened to you?” But I didn’t have the heart. I told him something else, instead. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You know, nobody has written better songs than you have over the past 15 years. Nobody. These people may not recognize your name, but they loved your stuff tonight.” Lytle staggered slightly back into his vehicle and replied with a crooked smile, “You’re really making me feel good. Thanks.”
—Jud Cost

jasonlytleliveJason Lytle, troubadour! That’s what it came down to Friday night at San Francisco’s Independent: just the man, his acoustic guitar, an electric piano, his trademark wobbly vocals—and a back catalog of songs to pick from that is second to no one in the new millennium. Anyone with at least a working knowledge of Grandaddy, Lytle’s former band, should have instantly recognized the person hunched over his guitar, pouring out his heart, even if they didn’t recall his name.

Eschewing his customary trucker cap for an Elliott Smith-like knit job, and accompanied occasionally by a droning keyboard loop or a pre-recorded, bare-bones arrangement of an old song, Lytle wowed a near full house there to see Liam Finn perform his onstage magic. The former Modesto, Calif., resident, now happily tucked away in Bozeman, Mont., opened his set with “El Caminos In The West,” a churning standout tune from Grandaddy’s landmark 2003 album Sumday with the telling catch phrase “Always so far away from home.”

Like a scrappy middleweight contender who knew he had the champ in trouble early, Lytle followed up with a devastating left/right combination: the two best songs from his 2009 solo debut, Yours Truly, The Commuter. “Last thing I heard I was left for dead/I could give two shits about what they said/I may be limping but I’m coming home,” from Commuter‘s title track, left no doubt about Lytle’s borderline cranky attitude and his joy at returning to his old Bay Area stomping grounds. “Brand New Sun” with its Jeff Lynne-like descending keyboard run, played on acoustic guitar tonight, told you all you needed to know about Lytle’s appreciation of his newfound surroundings: “We should rest a while, you’re like a tired child/It’s been a lot of miles/I might fall down, and my back is bad/And you might fall down on a sleeping bag/So you should hold my hand while everything blows away/And we’ll run to a brand new sun.”

If that perfect opening threesome didn’t make it clear enough where he’s been and where he is now, Lytle borrowed a sentiment from Brian Wilson halfway through his 50-minute set, with a heartfelt rendition of “In My Room” that left no doubt. “I miss my couch,” muttered the man who never seemed happy on tour with Grandaddy. Lytle told me later that everyone always assumed it was Brian Wilson’s California dream that stoked his fire. Not so. “For me, the California genius has always been Merle Haggard,” he said. “I’ll stay in Bakersfield when I get tired of L.A.”

With its simple, Beethoven-like piano intro, “I Am Lost (And The Moment Cannot Last”) pretty much conveyed Lytle’s fragile state of mind, reconfirmed on the sidewalk outside the club afterward while he loaded his gear into a black Toyota mini-van for the 11-hour drive to Portland, Ore., his next stop on a short West Coast tour.

“You know how much I hate touring,” said Lytle as he pushed a skateboard from one of his Modesto buddies into the vehicle’s back seat for safekeeping. “I’d drink too much and then worry too much about getting everything right for the next show. But I’ve done a few shows like this in Bozeman. I think I like the solo performance thing. I can change tempos whenever I want.”

As has been the custom in our many talks and interviews over the past dozen years, I felt like Lytle’s big brother, bucking him up for another run at the brass ring with his pending second solo outing for Anti- next year. I had planned to open with a joke, something breezy like, “Hey, Howe Gelb’s other protege, Matt Ward, is recording with Zooey Deschanel and he’s on Conan with Jim James and Conor Oberst. What happened to you?” But I didn’t have the heart. I told him something else, instead. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You know, nobody has written better songs than you have over the past 15 years. Nobody. These people may not recognize your name, but they loved your stuff tonight.” Lytle staggered slightly back into his vehicle and replied with a crooked smile, “You’re really making me feel good. Thanks.”

—Jud Cost

Live Review: Jay Farrar And Ben Gibbard, Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 22, 2009

Benand-jeffOriginally, Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard were only supposed to record a couple of songs for what was to be a star-studded soundtrack to the new Jack Kerouac documentary, One Fast Move Or I’m Gone, but the two hit it off so well, they decided to do the whole thing themselves. The film, which chronicles the period of Kerouac’s life while he was writing Big Sur, was issued on DVD on October 20. To coincide with the release, Gibbard and Farrar have embarked on a short tour. On Thursday night, the band played its first ever show, at one of the most intimate and magical venues in the country, Los Angeles’ Largo.

Opener John Roderick (Long Winters) warmed up the crowd nicely, telling jokes and taking requests. He also took the opportunity to debut a new song called “Not Moving To Portland,” which he stressed was “not an anti-Portland song,” and try out a cover. Roderick said, “When you play Valhalla, you have to play the songs of the gods,” and then proceeded to almost butcher Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up,” having trouble hitting some of the notes and eliciting laughter from the audience. It seemed to be in good fun, but I wondered if Roderick was aware that Mann was there, watching from the back of the theater.

After a 10-minute intermission, Farrar and Gibbard took the stage with bassist Nick Harmer (Death Cab For Cutie), multi-instrumentalist Mark Spencer (Son Volt) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Mountain Goats, Robert Pollard). The band played the entire soundtrack, most of it in order, in addition to a few other songs: Son Volt’s “Voodoo Candle,” “Couches In Alleys” (which Gibbard wrote during a collaboration with Styrofoam) and two covers (Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie” and Tom Waits’ “Old Shoes”).

The songs from the soundtrack seemed to vacillate between quoting Kerouac directly and empathizing with the writer, trying to see things from his point of view. Several of the tunes felt a bit unfinished, but that could have been a result of the lack of practice with the band or the loose structure that develops out of adapting someone else’s prose to an Americana/folk template. The endings to a few songs especially felt awkward, where the music would just trail off and end when you expected the band to go back into another short verse or chorus. That said, almost every song they played had great, beautiful moments. It’s possible I just didn’t want them to end at all.

The non-soundtrack numbers were noticeably stronger and more confident, with the highlights of the evening being the cover songs. Dylan and Waits have come about as close to living lives akin to Kerouac’s as any famous musicians possibly could, so the choices were certainly fitting, with their words seeming to resonate a bit more with the spirit than anyone else’s that night, but that could probably be blamed on the nerves of the performers.

This is a good band, and it’s a shame they’re only together for this little project. Farrar and Gibbard play off each other well, and their voices sound very smooth together. It would be nice to get an original and proper full-band album from this group or even hear these songs when the band is confident enough to jam with them. This was a warm-up show, and that’s just what they were doing, getting warmed up. They sounded terrific—we just wanted more.

They finish up the tour this week with dates in Chicago, D.C. and New York. The Largo setlist is after the jump.

—Edward Fairchild

Continue reading “Live Review: Jay Farrar And Ben Gibbard, Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 22, 2009”

Live Review: The Raveonettes, Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 17, 2009

RAVEONETTES_TLA02The Raveonettes are on tour to support new album In And Out Of Control, and if you don’t already know the dynamic duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, you should. I had only heard of them recently and fell in love with their music in an instant, and their live performance just added to my complete respect for the Raveonettes. They carry a heavy lyrical bag with them that they lighten with their pop-rock beats. They performed a mixture of older tracks alongside newer material from In And Out Of Control, including “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” and “Suicide.” One of the best moments of the show was when the band took a break and Wagner did a solo performance of “Little Animal” (from 2003’s Chain Gang Of Love), which was then followed by Foo doing a solo acoustic “Oh, I Buried You Today.” Though they were two songs played apart, they gave the feeling of a deep conversation between a man and a woman. This is a show that no one should miss out on. Read our 2008 Raveonettes feature.

—text and photo by Miranda Watson

Live Review: The Gaslight Anthem, Vancouver, BC, Sept. 24, 2009

If you’ve heard of the Gaslight Anthem, you’ve probably heard of Bruce Springsteen. While it’s the most obvious comparison, it’s well warranted. Out of New Jersey, the esteemed four piece play the kind of power punk that reminds you of being surrounded by your best friends. And on Thursday night at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, that’s what made up the crowd; a room chalk full of music lovers eager for a great time to share with one another.
As clouds of smoke filled the general admission crowd before the Gaslight Anthem took the stage, it was evident the anticipation surrounding the band had risen since the band’s last appearance in the city, last March. When they launched into “Old White Lincoln,” from their latest and most lauded LP, “the 59 Sound,” the first crowd surfer emerged, though it wouldn’t be the last. The Gaslight Anthem welcomed three bands to open for them in Vancouver, including Frank Turner, the Loved Ones and Murder By Death. They harnessed the collective energy of all three bands, playing a high-energy set that many young bands could have taken notes from.
Their brand of gut-punching rock and roll bridged a divide between pop and punk, highlighted by the title track off their latest record. Like a charging freight train, their tunes were full of power and emotion. “The ’59 Sound” brought those on the sidelines of the Commodore out of their seats. Drenched in hooks, the crowd couldn’t help but keep their arms extended towards the roof of the Commodore.
It was this bridge that held the crowd together. Soon, the Gaslight Anthem attempted to bridge the gap between the crowd and the stage, singing songs of blue-collar rock that would indeed make The Boss proud.
I saw many a drink topple over as they worked through their uplifting set. Though this might be the nature of a show at the Commodore, when they dedicated “Old White Lincoln” to a birthday girl, their hopeful, swirling punk took on a new soul. While rock and roll like theirs may be limited forever to the Commodore, it is a show not to be missed. But don’t worry, if the Gaslight Anthem take any cues from Bruce Springsteen, they’ll probably be playing together for a long, long time.

gaslightAnthemIf you’ve heard of the Gaslight Anthem, you’ve probably heard of Bruce Springsteen. While it’s the most obvious comparison, it’s well warranted. Out of New Jersey, the esteemed four piece plays the kind of power punk that reminds you of being surrounded by your best friends. And at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, that’s what made up the crowd: a room full of music lovers eager for a great time to share with one another.

As clouds of smoke filled the general-admission crowd before the Gaslight Anthem took the stage, it was evident the anticipation surrounding the band had risen since its last appearance in the city in March. When they launched into “Old White Lincoln,” from their latest and most lauded LP, The ’59 Sound (Side One Dummy), the first crowd surfer emerged, though it wouldn’t be the last. The Gaslight Anthem welcomed three opening acts: Frank Turner, the Loved Ones and Murder By Death. The band harnessed the collective energy of all three artists, playing a high-energy set that many young groups could take notes from.

The Gaslight Anthem’s brand of gut-punching rock ‘n’ roll bridged a divide between pop and punk, highlighted by the title track off its latest album. Like a charging freight train, the band’s tunes were full of power and emotion. “The ’59 Sound” brought those on the sidelines of the Commodore out of their seats. Drenched in hooks, the crowd couldn’t help but keep their arms extended toward the roof. Soon, the Gaslight Anthem attempted to bridge the gap between the crowd and the stage, singing songs of blue-collar rock that would indeed make The Boss proud.

I saw many a drink topple over as the band worked through its uplifting set. Though this might be the nature of a show at the Commodore, when the Gaslight Anthem dedicated “Old White Lincoln” to a birthday girl, its hopeful, swirling punk took on a new soul. While rock ‘n’ roll like this may be limited forever to the Commodore, it is a show not to be missed. But don’t worry: If the Gaslight Anthem takes any cues from Springsteen, it will probably be playing together for a long, long time.

—Joshua Kloke