Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Sleepover Party

Before I was old enough to drive, my friends and I used to have what those of us who grew up in the suburbs affectionately referred to as “sleepover parties.” Each week or so we’d all gather at somebody’s house, have dinner, play basketball, maybe see a movie and eventually sprawl out in someone’s living room or basement to goof around until someone’s dad would come downstairs in his underwear and scare us all to sleep (which was usually followed by an inappropriate collective group laugh and an encore appearance by Dad). And while staying up to 1 AM seemed pretty badass at the time, in retrospect, it was a relatively innocent time, before sex, drugs and, rock ‘n roll truly infiltrated my social circle.

I’m a big fan of the sleepover party, not so much because I liked sleeping on someone’s floor (though those sleepless night did prepare me for life on the road with Phish), but because I enjoyed the after midnight talks I used to have with my friends back when girls first shed their cooties and hair first started to grow in strange and unusual places. As I’ve said time and time again, my brain usually wakes up when most of the world is sleeping and I often wished I could fast forward through the basketball, the movie and the obligatory parental scolding and start my night right at the late night talks. I made some of my best friends while working the sleepover party circuit (I hereby tip my hat to you Jon, Jon, Dave, Dan, Kirk, Devin, Tom, Dyer, Nick, John M., Dan, Chris and even Andy, though he usually refused to sleep on the floor and held court on the sofa) and truly believe you can tell a lot about who someone will become by their sleepover party persona: the kid who falls asleep way before everyone else and ends up with marker on his head tends to get married before all his friends to a woman who most definitely holds the marker in their relationship, the kid who gets hopped up on too much sugar and ends up running around the room telling dirty jokes usual ends up getting hopped up on other types of uppers (or becoming an actor), and, I suspect, the kid who starts mumbling random words in his sleep will end up having a midlife crisis and buying a new motorcycle and/or wife. Of course, there’s also the kid who gets up before everyone else in the morning and feels it’s his civic duty to systematically wakeup everyone else in the room, like a dog licking his master’s face for attention. I always secretly hated that kid, who enviably grew into the type of co-worker or boss who feels it is necessary to call you on your cell when you take a personal day with a “quick question.”

I distinctly remember my last “real” sleepover party. Andy came over, we played basketball, caught a movie and settled in for a late night talk and, when we were done overanalyzing some girl situation that seemed like the end of the world at the time (but is now a footnote in this here blog), he said, “you know I think I am going to drive home and stay in my own bed” and he did. After that night, the sleepover party was replaced by the drunken pass out, the post-show crash and, with more girls than I’d like, the plutonic spoon (an oxymoronic statement if I ever heard one, but that my friends is the subject of another blog altogether).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Jamband Outing of the Week: MGMT

I really, really, really wish MGMT put on a good live show. Especially since I’ve had “Kids,” “Time to Pretend” and/or “Electric Feel” alternately stuck in my head since my co-worker first played MGMT for me last summer. But, after now seeing MGMT no less than three times in two months, I'm going to place them in the same life changing album/poor live show pantheon that housed The Shins until they added an extra member before touring behind Wincing the Night Away. And hopefully like the Shins, in time they’ll learn to deliver. I mean, after all, they were Phish-kids back in college. Oops, did I just say that on the internet? Anyway, let’s take a step back and read this 2003 article from their college newspaper...back when they opened for Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Silly hipsters, didn't anyway ever teach you to take any and all incriminating evidence off the interweb before buying your first bandanna? Speaking of incriminating evidence, I'm going to go put on "Electric Feel" and bounce around my room as if I was jumping on the floor piano from Big.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Two Sentence Thoughts…

For the second installment of two sentence thoughts, let’s pick up right where we left off, leaving Stephen Malkmus at the Bowery Ballroom (I love aimlessly bouncing around New York)…

2008-03-31-Jason Domnarski Trio @ Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY

After leaving Malkmus, I walked around the corner to Rockwood Music Hall to see the final night of my college classmate’s weekly residency at Rockwood Music Hall (an intimate room that has quickly blossomed into one of my favorite New York City venues). Jason’s trio is sort of like a naked version of Marco Benevento’s current group, fusing jazz, piano-rock and avant-garde music into something both your hetty roommate and your sociology professor should really enjoy.

2008-04-01-Shine a Light: The Rolling Stones IMAX Movie

Though it seems sacrilegious to bash Martin Scorsese and the Stones in the same sentence, this movie was flawed for several reasons: The cameras moved way too quickly, the film focused way too much on Mick Jagger, the middle of the show was filled with too many 1970s/80s snoozers and Scorsese even cast himself as a character, which is the cinematic equivalent of writing an article in the first person and going off on a tangent about your family (maybe Marty should start a blog). In fact, the film’s highlights were its guests: Buddy Guy, Jack White and, yes I am going to say this, Christina Aguilera (who has a really nice voice when all the gloss has been stripped away).

2008-04-03-RatDog w/Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Tom Pope, Steve Molitz and Fuchs @ Beacon Theater, New York, NY

I had a really good time bringing my friend Ben to his first Bob Weir show as part of his blog-experiment (see two posts below). Though RatDog certainly delivered on their own, the guests were the evening’s highlights, especially Jimmy Herring, who makes everything sound so smooth and easy.

2008-04-03-Marco Benevento @ Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY

I’ve probably seen Marco Benevento and Joe Russo in more New York venues than any two musicians, from 12,000-person amphitheaters to 12-person bars (love you Bar 4). The highlights of my first Duo side-project at Rockwood included a stripped down version of “The Real Morning Party,” (which I will mash with MGMT’s “Kids” before Mark Ronson does),
a jazzy take on “Paranoid Android” (which I actually like better than the Radiohead original) and playing wingman for one of my buddies (a hit single that always seems to pop up at Duo-related events).

2008-04-04-The Blue Album Group, Dave Hill (Upright Citizens Brigade) @ Glasslands, Brooklyn, NY

As their name suggests, my friend Ezra’s new group is cover band specializing in Blue Album-era Weezer. I love that album like an awkward little brother I care deeply about, but don’t necessarily want to hang with on the weekends…yet I still managed to bounce high enough to almost hit my head on the ceiling (darn lofts).

2008-04-05-Widespread Panic @ United Palace Theater, New York, NY

As a Phishhead, seeing Widespread Panic is kind of like watching someone else have sex. But, hearing "Airplane" live for the first time was enough to finally turn me on...

2008-04-05-Lotus @ Irving Plaza, New York, NY

For any group visiting Manhattan, graduating from New York’s downtown clubs to Irving Plaza is a right of passage. And few bands in the scene deserve to take that step more than Lotus (shameless plus, for more on Lotus please read my recent feature in the current issue of Relix).

2008-04-05-Cliffside Push @ Bowery Poetry Club, New York, NY

Cliffside Push is a trance-rock band featuring my friends Eric, Jordon and Jon, all of whom have either had dinner at my house and/or puked on my porch (or both). So, naturally, their late night gig was a party filled with all the good friends and neurotic girls I could ask for at 2 AM (and a handful I didn’t really need).

Monday, April 07, 2008

From the Archives: Seven and Seven's Last Call

In light of Ben's recent weekly "New Year's style" resolutions, I figured I'd pull this one out of the archives, if only because I failed miserably at it...who knows, if I can survive Coachella without any 7 & 7s thanks to Passover, maybe I'll be able to finally break the habit...

Seven and Seven's Last Call

If left to my own devices, I’d rather order a tall glass of chocolate milk than just about any other mixed drink. But, unfortunately, chocolate milk stopped being socially acceptable sometime around the second grade and for the past eighteen years I’ve been forced to hide my lingering childhood addiction like a premature bald spot on a teenager’s scalp (a Band-Aid which usually comes off as natural as a bad comb over). Back in the heady days of yore, aka college, I managed to squeak by living on a steady diet of Magic Hat and Stella. But, as my taste buds have evolved past kegs and my metabolism has slowed to the speed of a stoned snail, beer has crushed my six pack into a pile of hairy mash potatoes.

Fortunately, the summer after I graduated college I found a new signature drink, the Seven and Seven. As far as I can tell, I stole it from my friend Jon who stole it from our friend Dyer who is actually so retro he manages to be one of my most forward thinking friends. I fell hard for the Seven and Seven for several reasons (besides the fact that it making for good alliteration): First, it’s a somewhat mysterious drink which always starts conversation. Second, it has a girly taste, but macho ingredients, which immediately makes its cooler than your average vodka cranberry. Third, it contains whisky which automatically squashes any comparisons to its sophomoric younger sibling, the Rum and Coke. From August 2003 through February 2007 I ordered a Seven and Seven on almost every occasion I could, to the point that both my parents and my employer immediately placed it on my tab at all family/phamily functions. Its name served as more than a few conversation starters at bars and its alcohol content served as the catalyst for even more unnecessarily feuds with members of the opposite sex. But, now, after all this time together, I’m forced to retire my whisky to the cabinet and search for a new drink at my favorite watering holes.

Why you might ask? Well, for one thing, as the collegiate cycle has rolled on a new crop of alcoholic freshmen have claimed the drink as their own, rendering it the new Rum and Coke and, therefore, just about as socially acceptable as freshman Fridays in the dorms (or, more accurately, Falstaffs for those of you from Saratoga Springs). I’ve also noticed that it does wonders to my breath and as I’ve gained confidence in club-like environments that has posed quite the problem. And, in an effort to smooth out all my unconscious nervous habits, I’m trying to stop myself from chewing ice in public (we’ll deal with paper crumbling and blogging in future entries on the subject). So, for now, I am officially retiring the Seven and Seven as a dietary staple. Perhaps it will pop up again at a party or two, but, as of now, I’m searching for a new signature drink. That is, of course, until chocolate milk becomes so retro is its once again cool.

Friday, April 04, 2008


My friend Ben is currently 13 weeks into a year of “hyperliving,” where he pledges to pick a task to either accomplish and/or blog about each week throughout 2008. So far his experiments have included everything from running everyday for 45 minutes to going to bed before 10:30 PM. Last week’s task involved seeing a show for seven days in a row, something I’m personally a lot better at doing than, say, either running everyday for 45 minutes or especially going to bed before 10:30. Before he was a full blown Brooklyn indie-rock blogger, Ben was (apparently) a jamband message board dweller and mentioned that he was interested in seeing RatDog at the Beacon as part of his 7 night stretch. And since he said both "blog" and "jam" in the same e-mail, perhaps my two favorite words in the entire English language (except, of course, "neurotic" "Jewish" and "girl"), I hooked him up with my +1 for the show. In general, I think he enjoyed time traveling back to his high school Deadhead glory days and the following night we traveled even further back in time to middle school when we saw our friend Ezra’s not-as-ironic-as- it-sounds Weezer cover band at Glasslands.

Ben did a pretty great job recapping our experiences, so I’ll leave the rest to him...Since week 23 involves "listening to nothing but pre-2000 Phish," I'm sure we'll check back with Ben then, but, until then, anyone know where there's a live performance of the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack tonight? I loved that sh*t in Elementary school.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stephen Malkmus

I saw Stephen Malkmus at Bowery Monday. My initial reaction was "good show, but sloppy," but if one artist its allowed to be sloppy it's Malkmus. The clear highlights for me were the bouncy "Gardenia," which could have been a later day Phish song, and the 15-minute "Real Emotion Trash," which I'm pretty sure was a later day Phish song. In the more traditional Pavement-style, we got a set closing "Church on White" and some serious drum drum work from Janet Weiss (who made her name in bands like Quasi and Sleater-Kinney). But the real reason I love Malkmus this morning is this quote from the A.V. Club:

How is making an indie-rock record now different from what it was, say, 10 years ago?

Well, 10, it's probably not so different. But 15 years ago, or when we started, obviously [the scene] was smaller. I just got back from England, and with the advent of these groups like Arctic Monkeys, and, I don't know, there are other ones--I can't remember who was on the cover [of NME] this week. But the major youth music is "indie." So I don't know. We just do what we do. I would quantify our sound as more underground than indie, in that it's not catering to a fashion, so much as indie happens to be a fashion now. But the underground lives on regardless. It always does. Because there are so many people making music, and there are enough people just making it to their own taste. In-your-face type music. The indie moniker has obviously grown with movies like Juno and The Arcade Fire or whatever. U2 wants to hang around with Arcade Fire. U2 didn't want to hang around with Pavement. It's too different, you know? Maybe they're better or something. Or maybe we were, you know, not a threat. The difference between U2 and Pavement was quite vast. It's grown narrower--closer, I guess. Radiohead being the biggest band in the world.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Two Sentence Thoughts

I’m extremely lucky that I get to see a lot of live music, but all too often I get tangled in my typos and end up reviewing only a quarter of the shows I see. So I figured I’d start a new weekly column, recapping my recent musical adventures in two sentences or less. Sometimes I’ll focus on the music, other times I’ll talk about the experience. Every time, I’ll probably include some run-on sentences…

Drive By Truckers, Terminal 5, New York, NY-3/26

The Drive-By Truckers turned in an energetic, 2 ½ hour set that fell somewhere between Bruce Springsteen and Widespread Panic, both in terms of the crowd's energy and whisky consumption. The clear highlight of the night was a surprise cover of one of my favorite songs, Jim Carroll Band’s post-punk, Basketball Diaries classic “People Who Died,” that featured Whigs guitarist Parker Gispert playing Patterson Hood’s guitar while being fed shots of whiskey!

Dave Brubeck, Jazz Lincoln Center, New York, NY-3/27

My friend and Skidmorian protégé Matt gave me a free ticket to see Dave Brubeck at Jazz Lincoln Center and, though I unfortunately missed most of the show because of work, I still managed to catch a glorious version of his signature “Take 5.” At 83, Brubeck’s band is full of “young cats” in their 50s and 60s, which somehow managed to put the whole rock and roll-era in perspective for me.

Ghostland Observatory, Webster Hall, New York, NY-3/28

Silver cape aside, Ghostland Observatory are an awesome dance-band that my hetty intern eloquently described as “kind of like Rage mixed with the New Deal or Lotus.” The only thing better than the actual show, which I rode the rail for, was the Japanese food I ate afterwards (though I’m still not exactly sure what I ate).

Fleet Foxes, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY-3/29

Thanks to some positive blug buzz and a some standout shows at SXSW, Fleet Foxes managed to sell out their first New York play---at Bowery Ballroom no less---four months before their first album even hits stores. Like their recent EP, the evening’s highlight was the haunting “English Houses,” which meshes the best elements of CSNY, The Shins and My Morning Jacket with harmonious bliss.

Strawberry Fields, Brandeis High School, New York, NY-3/30

Along with some of my friends, I went to see the popular Beatles cover band Strawberry Fields play an afternoon benefit at an uptown high school. The band delivered, the event helped a great cause and the family-approved crowd scared me enough to include a “no smock” clause in my pre-nup.

Nathan Moore, Pete’s Candy Stores, Brooklyn, NY-3/30

Seeing pacifist singer/songwriter/Slip-mate Nathan Moore in New York is always a treat. Seeing a free show is even more exciting, especially when Moore is loose enough to balance his songs with his equally enjoyable/bizarre stories.