Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bloc Party - Winston Salem June 2 2007

Me and a friend went to catch the London alt rockers 2 hours up the road in Winston Salem. Th venue was the Millennium Center which is frankly like a large indoor covered market place. Plenty of space but a few funky pillars.

The support bands were the noisettes - punk/rockabily - excellent and the Maccabees. The Maccabees were clearly musically talented but a mess. No focus and more like some art school project than a cohesive band. And whats with the two drummers? I never get that.

Bloc Party were amazing. Really. They did not disappoint. They ripped through a good selection off both albums with real enthusiasm. They clearly were happy to be there performing for fans. I have heard some live recordings on line and this was much better. The sound, and frankly the playing was top notch. The set list is here: I lifted it from the Bloc Party website.

And here are a few pics of the band.

All in all a good night.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review: Bloc Party "A weekend in the city"

I am usually pretty apprehensive when I get sophomore releases from bands that produced spectacular first records. Bloc Party is no exception - their first album "Silent Alarm" (Review here) was fantastic - but what of the follow on? Part of the problem bands face is that they have no time to adequately develop and prepare new material because of the touring and promotion pressures of their first record. Hence the sophomore curse.

"A weekend in the city" is a dramatic, powerful record. This is a more mature, complex album than their first. The songs still tell personal stories, and yet retain the almost naive song writing of the first album. In many ways this record is more London/England focussed that the previous record. I imagine that the lyrics will probably mean more to a Brit than to someone else.

Song for Clay - gentle opening lyrics then a driving guitar riff - then the verse with the great line: "dream the eighties never happened". No idea what it means but it sounds good.

Hunting for witches - amazing intro riff, just brilliant. "I'm sitting on the roof of my house with a shotgun and six pack of beer". A song about terrorism in London - a difficult that could sound really lame, but they pull it off.

Waiting for the 7-18. Just a great pop song. Although the main refrain "Lets go to Brighton for the weekend" takes a little getting used to. This is the first song I have ever heard that talks about sodoku.

The uniform. Quite a stark song about fashion, indifference, and self indulgence at the expense of all around you. The first half of the song is quite mellow, then the drums kick in and the urgency picks up. The vocals are complex and dramatic. Like a lot of BP songs, this song doesn't ever really repeat the verse -chorus - verse - middle 8 - etc - formula - rather it moves through stages of varying tension.

On. 80s sounding pop song. Pretty unremarkable, but nicely done anyway.

Kreuzberg. Ditto.

I still remember. I'm beginning to wonder whether I like Bloc Party so much because they sound like they are out of the 1980s. This song is another great pop song. Nothing dramatic, nothing crazy. Just a simple song.

Sunday. "I'll love you in the morning when you're still hungover". What a great lyric.

SXRT. An anthemic end to the record.

Overall a good follow up and well worth listening to. One of those records that gets better with time.

Incidentally, BP are coming to Winston Salem in June.

Review: Cracker/Leftover Salmon "O'Cracker where art thou?

As a band, Cracker has always been alternative rock with country tendencies. Check out the brilliant album "Countrysides" which features the band's alter-ego "Ironic Mullet". "O' Cracker where are thou?" is a greatest hits collection that takes these tendencies further and re-records the classics with a blue grass band. Basically take a bunch of your fave Cracker songs and add banjos, pianos, fiddles etc, and you get the idea.

Some of the songs are quite different from the original and are very refreshing. "Get off this" is great - a lilting acoustic version. "Eurotrash girl" is about as un-euro as you could imagine, although DL's attempt to sing with a country drawl falters after a while. Some of the songs have less of a blus grass influence - for example "Ms santa Cruz County" pretty much moves along like the original, although with banjo riffs through out. The surprise on the record is "Low" with a haunting repeated banjo riff for the intro. The guitar solo, shows Johnny at his finest - with a devastating tone - a heavily overdriven LP - contrasts with the plicking of the banjo and is very effective, although you have to hear it to believe it.

My favorite on the record is the last track "waiting for you girl". This song originally appeared on the brilliant "Gentlemen's Blues". This version is similar to the original but features a beautiful piano accompaniment.

Overall, this album was a very pleasant surprise and well worth getting. You can order it from

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cracker's youtube site

Check out the newly updated Cracker youtube site. The band has started to post loads of old videos and clips on this site and its a real treat for fans. The "Ironic Mullet" documentary is well worth checking out.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cracker Acoustic (at the Pour House 2/2/07)

I caught the "Cracker acoustic duo" again live at Raleigh's Pour House bar on Moore's Square. This is a great venue with dozens on beers on tap and no smoking downstairs. Cracker (Johnny Hickman and David Lowery) were supported by the Hackensaw Boys

Here's a pic of the Hackesaws - I forgot my camera but I snagged this one from a fan on the Crackersoul message board. The Hackensaws were on first with their brand of fast energetic blue grass music. I am not much of a fan of blue grass - it evokes old guys on porches playing the fiddle. But these guys are fantastic - great tunes, a mix of humor and thoughtful songs, and great musicians to boot. I'll definitely try and catch them again.

Johnny and David came on after and kept it simple. Johnny playing his trusty lucky #7 Les Paul with the kahler trem, through a very well worn small combo amp. David was playing a nice looking nylon string acoustic. A mid size model that was a bit bigger than the one he had at the Cats Cradle last spring (see the review of that gig here). For the hard core Cracker fans: David was sans laptop.

Here's a pic of Cracker. They played a mix of Cracker and Camper songs, with at least one of Johnny Hickman's solo songs: "Friends" - which is on his solo album - Palmhenge. Halfway through the Hackensaw boys joined them on stage and jammed along. A truly fantastic show. I don't have the full set list but this is what I could remember:

(not in the right order)
One Fine Day
Teen Angst
Dr Bernice
Euro trash girl
All her favorite fruit
Something you ain't got
Glad she aint never coming back
Big dipper
Mr wrong
Been around the world

And then with the Hackensaw boys:
Might makes right
O Death

Please send a comment if I got it wrong.

At the end of the evening David and Johnny were meeting fans and signing DVDs and CDs, so my wife bought me an early birthday present (Camp out DVD - get yours here -its under "Pitchatent Merch" - but she won't let me see it til March). Anyhow, I got to meet Johnny and David which was a nice end to the evening. As usual I can't wait for the next time they are in town.

Oh and I also got to meet a couple of other hardcore cracker fans - a nice bunch of folks.

A little update. Here's a link to a few more pics taken that night by other fans.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Review - Pixies Sell Out DVD

I am a new Pixies fan. I have to admit it that I was not cool enough to know about them the first time around, but I am trying to make up for lost time. First of all, check out the review of the Disco Rodeo concert earlier.

This DVD is footage from various concerts during the 2004 leg of their reunion tour. Most of the footage is at a concert in France, although there are quite a few extra tracks at other venues. There is about 145 minutes of footage.

The quality of the camera work is great - the scenes are sharp, well lit and really clear. The sound is excellent in 5.1 surround sound. The DVD captures the band clearly enjoying themselves, playing hard and delivering fantastic performances. This is a must see DVD.

In the French concert there was a lack of direct footage of Joey Santiago (the lead guitarist). Here we have an incredibly interesting and innovative guitar player whose style and technique is of great interest to most guitarists. The camera also seems to do a lot of unnecessary twisting and turning - not to mention zooming in and out.

The last "extra" on the DVD is footage of "Monkey gone to Heaven" in which you can select the camera angle. This is a really cool feature and it would be nice if the entire DVD was like this.