Little Lies and Massive Dreams

My name is Bear. I play in a band called Talking About Commas and live and work in Providence, RI. I like music.
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Feb 26, 2008

Wilco at the Schubert Theatre, New Haven, CT 2.24.08

Wilco is a great Rock and Roll band. Period. Perhaps even America’s finest at the moment (among relevant bands, sorry Bruce and Tom). They have the players, the front man, the right gear and most importantly a vast, brilliant repertoire. This tour is unlike any other recent Wilco tours because they are not directly promoting an album and thus are playing a mixed bag of all 8 of their studio albums (including the Mermaid Avenue records). They are even soliciting requests via their website and playing the top choices at each different stop. The tour kicked off with a five night stand at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago where they played 96 different songs (out of a total 160 played - just to give you an idea of what I mean by vast repertoire). As a huge fan of the band, I was pretty psyched to see what they were going to play at the Schubert.

The Schubert is a (relatively) small theatre in the run down Connecticut city of New Haven. Home of Yale and a grotesque waterfront filled with huge gasoline refineries. The venue, which usually houses plays (Camelot featuring Lou Diamond Phillips was coming up later in the month. Really? Lou? Remind me to miss that one) is a historic venue with two balconies and 12 small private boxes lining the walls. It’s small, has great acoustics and a 19th meets 21st century decor. Perfect for a Wilco show.

The band opened with the sweet lullaby “Remember the Montain Bed” (which was nice because I was still waiting for a beer in the lobby) before launching into the fan favorite sing-a-long “California Stars”. Of the first 9 songs, 8 were off of different albums. Ah, now that’s a quality set list! It was interesting to see how the new guys interpreted the older material because only 2 of the band’s current members are on their first 5 albums. New guitarist Nels Cline added wonderful lap steel lines to the older more county-fide material and drummer Glenn Kotche infused his distinct style into the older straight ahead rhythms of Ken Coomer (Wilco’s original drummer).

The main set of the show conveyed how versatile this band can be. From the bluegrass tinge of “Airline to Heaven” to the riffy jams of “Impossible Germany", the meloncholy space of “Radio Cure” to the county funk of “Walken” and even the barn burning rocker “Always in Love". Wilco can do it all. Unfortunately this can also lead to many slow songs next to fast songs in such a way that the crowd never gets into a groove and wants to dance. Until the encore that is. The band played a 6 song feverish encore that kept the whole place on its feet for the remainder of the show concluding with the epic trifecta of rockers from Being There.

The John Doe band opened the show with their brand of predictable rock that is as about as original and exciting as their name. Needless to say, I spent the opening set wandering around the lobby with my vodka tonic.

Set List:Remember the Mountain Bed, California Stars, Company in My Back, Pot Kettle Black, A Shot in the Arm, Radio Cure, You Are My Face, Side With the Seeds, Pick Up the Change, Hotel Arizona, I’m Always in Love, Impossible Germany, Jesus Etc, Misunderstood, Airline to Heaven, Theologians, Walken, I’m the Man Who Loves You, On and On and On

E: Hate it Here, Heavy Metal Drummer*, Red Eyed and Blue, I Got You, Monday, Outtasite (Outta Mind)

* w/ alternate verse that starts "She lifted up her shirt at the Battle of the Bands..."

Feb 18, 2008

A little West Africa comes to Western Rhode Island

Who says Rhode Island doesn’t have any culture? Rhode Islanders know how to eat, lay at the beach, catch wind and waves alike and root on incredibly good athletic teams however, we don’t really know squat when it comes to music. Aside from our folk festival and the Station fire, there’s not much going on in the musical world of the Ocean State. Last night, the world came to us as Master Kora player Toumani Diabate and his Orchestra swept through the University of Rhode Island.
Toumani, best known in the western world for his album with Taj Mahal, is fusing traditional West African music (Kora, Balophone, Djembe) with modern instruments (Electric bass and guitar, drumkit) and it is delightful. Everyone in the packed house was clapping, dancing or tapping their feet to his bands infectous ostinato-laden grooves.

Diabate opened the show with a couple oldies, try 500 year oldies, that got the place a shaking before settling down into some softer songs that highlighted each instrument on its own (a la many jazz solos). Its incredible to think how someone so steeped in tradition (he is a 71st generation Kora player in his family, how do you like them apples?) can still bring new life to his art and transfer it effortlessly to even the youngest members of the student body.

The only non-traditionally African song of the night came with a nice tease of Dave Brubek’s “Take Five” during a Balophone solo to which Diabate scolded from behind his Kora, “No No, play something they don’t know”. Well, that may have been the only melody I recognized the whole night but I assure you with music as the world’s greatest communicator, I knew excactly where they were coming from.

Apollo Sunshine @ the Milky Way (1.25.08)

Here’s a video clip (courtesy of Cleantone) of Apollo Sunshine’s recent hometown gig at the Milky Way Lounge in the Boston Suburb of Jamaica Plain. The band has been holed up in the studio mixing their 3rd release and decided to test out some new songs at one-off gig. Joining Apollo on the bill was the horn tinged flavor of The Self Righteous Brothers and the young Brit-rock throwbacks, Wonderful Spells.

The Milky Way is a small, dingy basement club that is has a duck pin bowling alley on one side of the room and a small stage at the other. The sold out show was jam packed near the stage and provided a welcome intimate setting for one of the areas finest psychedelic art-rock bands…

1: Brain Wave?, ?, Better Change Your Mind , Magnolia, 666: Coming of the New World Government, Brotherhood of Death, Today is the Day > Lord, Papa Woody, Bach, Phyllis