Friday, January 26, 2007

The Mikeys IV

(Jam Cruise Journalism Panel Above: Burning Spear, Patterson Hood, Benjy, Kayceman, and me)

If you asked me in May of 2000, the month I completed my freshman year of college, what bands appear most often in my itunes, urr CD player, the answer would most likely go something like this: Phish, Guster, the Disco Biscuits, The Grateful Dead, moe., the Slip, and Fat Mama. So, it is kind of funny, and even more fitting, that seven years, three apartments, and enough typos to make me question the spelling of my own name, many of those bands still top my annual, neurotic award ceremony. But, whether it’s the Slip’s newest set of songs, Joe Russo’s current set of hair products, or my latest batch of Jewish guilt, the pieces fit together in slightly different order. Indeed, some bands are easy to grow out of, others you simply grow up with.


Best indie-rock carpetbagger: The Slip-Eisenhower

Though The Slip’s Eisenhower sums up many of 2006’s central themes for me---the rise of post-jam, the fall of Capitol Hill, the uncertainly of life as a single twenty-something born in July (though not of 1975)---the best part of the year’s best release is that Brad Barr and company weren’t trying to be profound. And, as “Airplane/Primitive” postulates, if it’s truly “the day before the rest of my life,” I can only dream about what the Slip have in store for tomorrow.

Best “it band” without a “the” attached to its name: Cold War Kids-Robbers & Cowards

Hipsters these days. One night their playing an opening spot at the Bowery Ballroom and then you go to the bathroom and by the time you flush the toilet their selling out the place as a headliner (for, as the blogosphere reminds me, three nights). But if any group deserves the buzz it is this batch of artists, who managed to figure out that Billie Holiday and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah aren’t necessarily strange bedfellows.

Best heterosexual take on Siegfried & Roy’s shtick: The Benevento/Russo Duo-Play Pause Stop

Tom Hamilton and Joe Russo may be the next Brad and Jen, but, for me, Marco and Joe will always the true Wayne and Garth. And, as Wayne’s World once mused, “I now know that plutonic love can exist between two fully grown men.” Oh, and their new album is pretty hot too.

Best reason to stalk a member of the opposite sex on MySpace: The Elected-Sun, Sun, Sun

So, I was minding my own business, quietly stalking some girl I met at a bar on MySpace, when all of the sudden the Elected’s “Fireflies in a Steel Mill” popped into my speakers. Low and behold these guys sound like the Byrds, only fronted by Rilo Kiley. I didn’t get the girl, but I sure as hell got the CD.

Best proto-post-jam indie-rock revivalists: Built to Spill-You in Reverse

Built to Spill looks like Wilco fronted by Bill Nershi, sounds like My Morning Jacket crossed with the Arcade Fire, and jams like Neil Young on the Slip’s budget. Oh, and their fans complain like PT dwellers on Pitchfork.

Reissues and Live Albums:

Best reason to pull the Pharmer’s Almanac out from under your pillow: Phish: Colorado ’88
I’m not sure who this band is, but I sure wish they were still around. ‘nuff said

Best obligatory My Morning Jacket award: MMJ- Okonokos

Given all the praise he’s received in the past year, I’m not sure Jim James even has room on his mantel to place a Mikey. But, if he does, I hope he thanks me by breaking out “Bermuda Highway” next time he comes to town.

Best inverted breakup concert souvenir: The Disco Biscuits- The Wind at Four to Fly

For those keeping score at home, this two-disc set is the first of two albums to capture Sam Altman’s first final five nights with the Disco Biscuits (but which turned out to actually be his thirteenth to last shows). No matter, by the time you get through the 17:25 minute “Story of the World” you’ll wish they’d release disc another seventeen discs.


Best music industry conference disguised as a music festival: Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN
Five years after some wook stole all our worldly belongings in the name of peace, love, and Tennessee Moonshine at the inaugural Bonnaroo, I’ve figured out to key to surviving Bonnaroo: don’t worry about seeing music . Seriously. Like a needle in a haystack, you will stumble into the weekend’s best offerings, whether it’s G.R.A.B.’s surprise debut, Pavement’s surprise semi-reunion, or Steel Train’s surprise use of a windbreaker in 80 degree weather. Indeed, Bonnaroo keeps me on my toes and, if living in the moment isn’t what Woodstock was about then acres of mud surely is.

Best Organ Donner Rap: Phil Lesh and Friends f. Trey Anastasio @ Beacon Theater, New York NY, 2-12-06

As an unabashed, all around dork, I’ve often joked that life couldn’t get much better than watching Phish and the Grateful Dead jam together while chugging a tall glass of chocolate milk. Well, on this snowy Sunday night at least one lifelong dream came true when Trey Anastasio joined Phil Lesh for his entire set at the Beacon Theater. To top it off the Beacon gave out free hot chocolate all night, resulting in a sensory overload not even a drunk text message could properly convey (though G-d and my phone bill both know I tried).

Best reason to put down your pen and take a stroll down shakedown: All Good, Masontown, WV, July 14-16
Living in New York and working in an office filled with critics (who sometimes discuss music), it’s easy to forgot that concerts aren’t meant to be analyzed. But All Good keeps it real and, for the first time, managed to keep it dry as well. From the Disco Biscuits to ALO to G.R.A.B. to Grace Potter, every performer arrived in top form and, I realized that some areas of shakedown have thankfully avoided gentrification.


Best Reason to Surrender All My Heady Cred.: Guster

If Guster arrived in New York for the first time tonight, not in 1995, and ditched the bongos around the time of George W. Bush’s first election, Zach Braff may very well have inserted a life changing Ganging up on the Sun advertisement into his Garden State fantasy. And, though it’s impossible to change the past, it’s sure as hell fun to revisit, which is why I consider this column my own personal Natalie Portman…

The First Person Award (for self-indulgence): American Babies on Cold Turkey (at Langerado) Even if we sound like a Jewish version of Chip and Dale, I love doing Cold Turkey every week (or at least every festival). And, this acoustic set recorded backstage at Langerado was not only my favorite episode, but also our most trafficked.
Plus having Magner sit-in made it kosher!

1 comment:

Scott Bernstein said...

Well done Mike. I particularly love the description of Built to Spill.