Monday, July 27, 2009

Magnolia Electric Co. tonight @ Solar Culture

I'll be heading down to Solar Culture tonight to check out Magnolia Electric Co. and The Donkeys. All-ages as always, the show starts at 9 p.m. and is $10.

I've caught Magnolia Electric Co. a couple times before - in May opening for the Avett Brothers and about three years ago at Congress - and there's no question the band is great at what it does. The new album, Josephine, is a high and lonesome set of songs, with guitar, piano, pedal steel and lyrics that evoke images that are precisely what the music calls for - filled with sundowns, shadows, horizons and a restless isolation.

The band is touring heavily - just over halfway through a 26-show U.S. run (in under a month, now less) and then after just a couple weeks off, they head out for another 27 European shows in less than two months. Catch 'em if you can.

Magnolia Electric Co. - Little Sad Eyes
Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine
Magnolia Electric Co. - Lonesome Valley

Magnolia Electric Co. dates:
7/28 - Los Angeles, CA - Echo
7/29 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom Of The Hill
7/31 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir
8/01 - Seattle, WA - Crocodile
8/03 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
8/04 - Denver, CO - Hi-Dive
8/05 - Kansas City, MO - Record Bar
8/06 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
8/07 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
8/08 - Dubuque, IA - Busted Lift

Sonic Youth touring West Coast this fall

Photo by Michael Schmelling, 2009

Touring in support of their 16th studio album, alternative rock gods Sonic Youth have just thrown a handful of new dates on the schedule, including two stops in Arizona: Oct. 1 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe and Oct. 2 at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson.

I'm far from a Sonic Youth expert, but I've been growing more interested over the past couple years, partly from Stu LeBlanc's insistence and partly from reading about the band's early days in Our Band Could Be Your Life (which was also at Stu's insistence, as a matter of fact). I don't think there's ever been another band to rival what Sonic Youth is in terms of being the quintessential independent band. They've done their own thing for nearly 30 years, and what was made possible musically in the wake of Sonic Youth's career, every step of the way, is incredible.

I haven't heard this year's The Eternal (meaning The Eternal Youth?), but the record has not surprisingly been getting all sorts of outstanding reviews.

Sonic Youth - Sacred Trickster

Sept. 25 - Pomona, CA Fox Theatre
Sept. 26 - Santa Barbara, CA Arlington Theatre
Sept. 28 - San Diego, CA House of Blues
Sept. 29 - Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern
Oct. 01 - Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
Oct. 02 - Tucson, AZ Rialto Theatre
Oct. 04 - Austin, TX Austin City Limits

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WHY? touring

Another good fall tour has announced both Tucson and Phoenix shows. A unique combination of folk, indie rock and hip-hop, Oakland's WHY? has plenty of followers anticipating their new record, Eskimo Snow, out this fall on Anticon.

I'm pretty new to the band, but the promo single for Eskimo Snow sounds great, and this interview with Pitchfork paints an interesting picture of WHY?.

WHY? - This Blackest Purse
WHY? - The Hollows

9.24 Cincinnati, OH @ Northside Tavern
9.26 New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
10.1 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East
10.2 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
10.3 Pittburgh, PA @ Assembly Room
10.4 Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
10.5 Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
10.6 Madison, WI @ UW Madison Terrace
10.7 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
10.9 Denver, CO @ Bluebird
10.10 Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
10.13 Anacortes, WA @ Department Of Safety
10.14 Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
10.15 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
10.17 San Francisco @ Great American Music Hall
10.20 Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
10.23 Phoenix, AZ @ Modified
10.24 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
10.26 Denton, TX @ Hailey's
10.28 Birmingham, AL @ Bottletree
10.29 Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle
10.30 Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle
10.31 Atlanta, GA @ Lenny's
11.2 Orlando, FL @ The Social
11.3 Gainesville, FL @ Common Grounds
11.4 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Down
11.6 Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
11.7 Houston, TX @ Walter's
11.8 Austin, TX @ FunFunFun Fest
11.10 Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot Music Hall
11.11 St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
11.13 Bloomington, IN @ Rhino's Youth Center

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bon Iver coming to The Rialto

Bon Iver @ Outside Lands Festival. © T. Van Nunnery.

Right after some good friends went to the Bon Iver show in Denver earlier this month, I got a message: "can you find us this bon iver show on the internet?!" And I know what they mean.

The first time I saw Bon Iver play live - in Golden Gate Park at last year's Outside Lands Festival - I immediately wanted a recording of that show too.

The band is mesmerizing live, recreating Justin Vernon's muted and spare records with an all together different sort of intensity, a gathering storm of percussion and surging guitars all held together by Vernon's singing, the high and often spooky howl that stamps his music with such a tremendous feeling of isolation.

The good folks at Stateside Presents are bringing Bon Iver to Arizona for two fall shows - Sept. 28 at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson and Sept. 29 at the Mesa Arts Center. No word yet on opening acts.

Below, check out not only Bon Iver's first single, "Skinny Love," but also this incredible concert recording of a February 2008 Washington D.C. show, from NPR.

Bon Iver - Skinny Love
Bon Iver - Live NPR broadcast (42 minutes, 38 mb)

Friday, July 10, 2009


I don't think the fact that I had a name for it from the opening bell of Jan. 1 - ¡El Ocho! - could have possibly made 2008 such a tumultuous roller-coaster of a year, but it's curious that the still-unnamed 2009 has been such a steady, mellow year so far.

As I wrote last year at this time, a half year is a period of time that never gets enough credit. So if a year generates a year's worth of reflection, why not give half as much to a half year?

The Fourth of July has long been claimed as a modified personal New Year's Day by Mr. Chair, and in a bit of good fortune I was able to spend the holiday with the man himself, soaking in the glorious Colorado weather and flinging myself headfirst into the funky side of Denver.

The trip also provided one of the greatest moments of the year so far - Wilco & Okkervil River at Red Rocks.

I've already caught about 40 shows so far this year, and here are some highlights aside from Wilco & Okkervil River: Fourkiller Flats (six times - great as always), the Crooked Fingers, Elvis Perkins, Justin Townes Earle, Gary Louris & Mark Olson, Mike Watt, Provocative Whites, Avett Brothers, Jonathan Richman and Sunset Rubdown.

And then there's SwedeFest, the ludicrously self-indulgent 30th birthday party I threw myself. Talk about growing elderly in style. Thanks again to all the bands that played that one...

If last year was one for weddings, this year has already been a big one for kids - The General, The Skousens and Freaktown & Lisa Marie have all welcomed tiny human beings into the world.

My adventuring for the year started up last month when I went to Desemboque on Mexico's Sonoran coast. Further adventures are likely to include Seattle and San Francisco...

These pictures were all taken from my balcony yesterday evening, with the camera on my sweet new iPhone. The searing heat in this desert does bring a few rewards from time to time.

Here are some of the best albums I've heard so far in 2009:
• Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Elvis Perkins in Dearland
• Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
• Clem Snide - Hungry Bird
• Golden Boots - Winter of Our Discotheque
• Bob Dylan - Together Through Life
• Mos Def - The Ecstatic
• Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
• Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
• Sum & Belief - The Lone Wolf
• Fourkiller Flats - Treasure & Trash
• Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies
• The Felice Brothers - Yonder Is The Clock
• The Antlers - Hospice

Like every other year, I'm way behind in catching worthwhile movies, but I did really enjoy Adventureland and I Love You, Man.

Anyone else have thoughts on the first hemishphere of 2009?

Bob Dylan - Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
Golden Boots - Love Is In The Air
Elvis Perkins in Dearland - Shampoo

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Open Choir Fire

Seattle's Open Choir Fire is self-releasing their first full-length album with a pair of shows in Tacoma and Seattle this weekend. Plus, the band is offering the album up for free, for a very limited time. Check out the band's Web site to download the album for free.

The three-piece band has been generating plenty of buzz in Seattle, with a live in-studio session last month on the great KEXP that builds on the success of their 2006 EP In Each Appreciate Everlasting And Not.

The new album, Dirt Bathed and Quilted, takes the sharp, pounding and shifting indie rock of the EP and adds a some more instrumental variation on the way to producing a record that's both heavy and catchy. The quickest comparisons are the Pixies and Fugazi, but there's plenty of Pacific Northwest in Open Choir Fire's blend of guitar-bass-drums. Consider it an indie-punk update on the grunge style that had bands flocking to Seattle 15 years ago.

The album release shows are Friday, July 10 at the New Frontier Lounge in Tacoma and Saturday, July 11 at the High Dive in Seattle.

Open Choir Fire - Dirt Bathed and Quilted (full album)
Open Choir Fire - Oh Grace

Review: Wilco (The Album)

I forgot to tag onto the last entry that my review of the new Wilco record is printed in this week's East Bay Express and last week's Tucson Weekly:
Full of radiance and subtleties, Wilco (The Album) is an ambitious yet confident record from a band at its peak, an eleven-song odyssey that trades skillfully between tension and elation. The preposterous album cover (a camel wearing a party hat) and sly title represent the fun side, but the album also holds shadow-cloaked songs, soaked with images of death, blood, and thrashing desperation. The most stable lineup in Wilco's sometimes tumultuous fifteen years surges ahead without a hint of complacency, allowing the tremendous talents of six musicians to mix in myriad combinations.

A comforting love letter to fans, "Wilco (The Song)" kick-starts the album with the exhilarated urgency of a payday Friday. However, the disc's longest — and most challenging — song is "Bull Black Nova," a veiled and disjointed murder ballad that's harsh, rigid, and relentlessly repetitive at times, spinning and twisting into a fitful paranoia as it builds to a mesmerizing guitar freak-out. Next up is Feist joining Jeff Tweedy for a duet on "You and I," a sorrowful yet sweet ballad. "One Wing" is a showcase for guitarist Nels Cline that sadly stops short of the transcendence of his solo on "Impossible Germany," 2007's Sky Blue Sky triumph, while the first single, "You Never Know," is a jaunty piano rocker that'll drive the "dad rock" naysayers up a wall.

Even the album's slowest tunes — "Country Disappeared," "Solitaire," and closer "Everlasting Everything" — open up as soulful and gorgeous gems on repeated listens. (Nonesuch)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Wilco & Okkervil River @ Red Rocks

(Photo by Julio Enriquez, from this fantastic set I found at Flickr.)

I can't resist a good music-oriented vacation - not when the factors align themselves so perfectly.

So, with the following set of considerations in hand, understand that I really had no choice in the matter: I was trading searing desert heat for beautiful Mile-High weather; the round-trip flight was a steal at $150; I had a long Fourth of July weekend to take advantage of; one Wilco show this summer - at the the acoustically pleasant but beyond stiff Centennial Hall - wasn't going to be nearly enough; another band high on my list of favorites, Okkervil River, was going to be opening; I'd never been to Red Rocks; and besides, it was about time I paid a visit to the good Mr. Chair.

Red Rocks is certainly as advertised, a gloriously beautiful venue in the foothills of the Rockies. Squeezed into a natural amphitheater between taller-than-tall rock formations, Red Rocks plays with your head, simultaneously feeling humongous and intimate. A spectacular rain storm blew through earlier, and the horizon was framed in storm clouds and lightning for the show.

We camped out in the parking lot for a while, watching as Coloradan after Coloradan pulled camping chairs from Subaru wagons and those nautical looking Toyota SUVs. A Sideways crew of yuppies just down the line from us brought a picnic basket of wine, bread and cheeses. And they actually had people wheeling big recycling bins up and down the rows of tailgaters. The Red Rocks faithful sure know how to warm up pre-show.

Okkervil River went high-energy, doing their best to capture the attention of the stream of pre-buzzed folks still filing into the amphitheater. It was a quick and pounding set - mostly songs from the Stage Names and Stand-Ins - from a band that has only gotten better since eating Thanksgiving at my house six years ago (sure, I'll take a bit of credit). They were clearly thrilled to be opening for Wilco and playing Red Rocks. Will Sheff said his parents were at the show, and it was just his mother's second time at Red Rocks; the first was to see Jimi Hendrix in 1968.

(Photo by Julio Enriquez, from this fantastic set I found at Flickr.)

Wilco played probably the best show I've seen from the band (out of eight now), clearly enjoying the distinctive Red Rocks atmosphere. The 28-song set clocked in at just over two and a half hours, a good bit longer than the Centennial Hall show a couple weeks earlier.

The show began with The Price Is Right theme music and a two-dudes-under-a-costume camel being walked out across the front of the stage. Then the band's thank-you love-letter to fans, "Wilco (the song)," which looks like it'll be the show opener for a little while.

The set list drew heaviest from the new record and A Ghost Is Born, but had plenty of special surprises, including "Shouldn't Be Ashamed" and the John Stirrat-sung "It's Just That Simple," both A.M. gems I'd never before seen live. Jeff Tweedy said that Nels Cline's guitar solo on "Ashes of American Flags" was "epic." I'd agree, and add in "Impossible Germany," which has become pretty much my favorite Wilco song to see live.

Mr. Chair said he'd never seen me happier than I was when Okkervil River came back out to join Wilco in "California Stars," and he's pretty much on the ball with that one. Other highlights: "Misunderstood," "Bull Black Nova," "Spikers (Kidsmoke)," "Jesus, Etc." and "The Late Greats."

It was one of those rare shows I walked out of feeling a surging high, fully aware that I was well beyond fortunate to have spent the last few hours soaking up such a tremendous musical experience.

Jeff Tweedy interview on Chicago Public Radio