No, we are not dead. Just old and lazy.
“I bet Dave Grohl is the one who nominated them.”
“Dave Grohl will show up. He’d give the speech.”
“Who was THEIR champion in the room? Probably Dave Grohl.”
“Dave Grohl plays the game.”
Almost six years ago, right after Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility, everyone with even a passing interest in the Hall wondered what effect having Dave Grohl as a member of the nominating committee would have on the future of the institution.
Years after he inducted Queen in 2001, Grohl went on a remarkable three-year run with HBO’s HOF showcase, sandwiching his own iconic induction and performance in 2014 with an induction and performance with Rush in 2013 and another induction performance with Joan Jett in 2015. As Hall watchers like to say, he’s “played the game” for years.
So, I mean, c’mon … we ALL knew he wouldn’t just be a voter, and we were right. He got in the room almost immediately.
We know, based on the compilation work of the great Hall resource, Future Rock Legends, Grohl is responsible for Bad Brains, Jane’s Addiction, and Devo ending up on ballots. He’s a huge proponent for Lemmy and Motorhead. And he was one of the loudest voices for Ringo Starr’s solo induction, which led to this, which is absolutely the most Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever Rock and Roll Hall of Famed:
I don’t remember when it was or where it was exactly, but I remember FRL – probably on Twitter – positing the idea that maybe those of us invested in the institution should take a good look at Grohl’s musical documentary work to get an idea of who this so-called “ambassador of rock” might take up arms for in the future.
As far as I can tell, they never did it.
So … I did it for them. The following might be a good barometer for what might be in store from the Head Foo In Charge.
Here we go:
FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH (2011)
The band’s 2011 documentary – while also using many songs from the Foos’ previous bands: Scream, Nirvana, Germs, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alanis Morissette, and Queens of the Stone Age – opens with private home movie footage of the band’s five core members, over a mishmash of songs that inspired the group as youngsters.
The opening credit songs include:
- Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
- Sex Pistols, “Pretty Vacant”
- Motorhead, “Ace of Spades”
- Dead Kennedys, “Stealing People’s Mail”
- Foo Fighters, “Iron And Stone ” (The Obsessed cover)
- Ramones, “We Want The Airwaves”
- Scream, “Bet You Never Thought”
- Hüsker Dü, “Dead Set On Destruction”
- Fugazi, “Waiting Room”
- The Jesus Lizard, “Nub”
In addition to being a long-form historical document about the band’s evolution, “Back and Forth” also chronicles the making of the band’s 2011 album, “Wasting Light.” Along with welcoming Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic back into the fold, indie rock legend Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar) also makes an appearance in the film, recording his guest spot on the album track “Dear Rosemary.”
Mould’s appearance is noteworthy in that it preceded Grohl’s appearance in Mould’s own documentary – 2012’s “See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould.” It’s especially noteworthy all because of one scene … where Dave flat-out asks Bob if he can give the induction speech when Mould gets inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
SOUND CITY (2013)
Grohl’s documentary about the legendary recording studio basically was the trial run for the “Sonic Highways” series – Episode 0, if you will.
Grohl threw the doors open and interviewed pretty much anybody who wanted to talk about their experiences in the studio: Hall of Fame icons like Tom Petty, Neil Young, John Fogerty, and Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks; his contemporaries from bands like Weezer, Rage Against The Machine, and Pixies frontman Frank Black; and even right down to ‘80s niche stars like Rick Springfield, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Pat Benatar’s guitarist (and husband) Neil Giraldo, and Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini.
What’s notable isn’t necessarily who he interviewed – obviously, nobody consulted him when they chose to record at Sound City in the ’70s and ’80s – but who ended up participating on the film’s “soundtrack album.”
When Sound City closed its doors, Grohl bought the studio’s famed Neve Console (in the film, Grohl says “this thing is a piece of rock and roll history. I thought that board would just go straight to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”) and installed it in his home studio, inviting scores of musicians – dubbed the Sound City Players – to jam and record all-new compositions.
Let’s take a look the track listing of the film’s companion album, “Sound City: From Real to Reel”
(keep in mind that Grohl also plays on every track):
- “Heaven and All” (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes)
- “Time Slowing Down” (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age producer Chris Goss of Masters of Reality, along with Rage Against The Machine’s Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk)
- “You Can’t Fix This” (Stevie Nicks, with several of the Foo Fighters)
- “The Man That Never Was” (Rick Springfield, with several of the Foo Fighters)
- “Your Wife Is Calling” (punk legend Lee Ving of Fear, with longtime Palm Desert Scene contributor Alain Johannes and several of the Foo Fighters)
- “From Can to Can’t” (Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, with Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder)
- “Centipede” (Joshua Homme of Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, with Goss and Johannes)
- “A Trick With No Sleeve” (Homme and Johannes)
- “Cut Me Some Slack” (Paul McCartney with the surviving members of Nirvana)
- “If I Were Me” (Foo Fighters violinist Jessy Greene and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, with studio drum king Jim Keltner, a.k.a. the “other” Traveling Wilbury)
- “Mantra” (Grohl and Homme with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor)
Worth mentioning: one of the discarded tracks allegedly featured Corey Taylor, Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Warren DeMartini, and longtime Dio/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice. Alas, it missed the final cut.
Also, a significant interview comes from longtime Sound City engineer Nick Raskulinecz, whose credits have included Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Korn and Deftones. In addition, Raskulinecz played bass with Grohl and Taylor Hawkins during the “2112” performance at Rush’s 2013 Rock Hall induction (he produced Rush’s 2012 album “Clockwork Angels”).
FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAYS (2014)
The set-up of Grohl’s HBO series is pretty well known at this point: Along with producers Butch Vig and engineer James Brown, the Foo Fighters celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band by picking eight different studios in eight different American cities, all with a diverse and musically-rich heritage, and recording a song at each one, usually with a guest musician from that region. The eight songs then comprised their 2014 album of the same name.
Each episode also contained the following:
- A title card for the featured city, usually accompanied by a montage of its greatest artists.
- You arrive at the studio and meets its proprietor, sometimes accompanied by a montage of the most notable albums either recorded at that studio or by its proprietor.
- The series had myriad interview subjects who show up in multiple episodes, but each episode typically features (right before the music video) a slow-motion montage of the most integral interview subjects for that particular episode, providing the insight into the city’s legacy.
- Each episode ends with a music video of the finished song, which usually stars the guest musician, as well.
- Also notable: the song that runs over the end credits.
There are tons of artists and albums to choose from here. I mean, he could have picked anybody.
So let’s take a look at who he DID pick, episode by episode:
- Song: “Something From Nothing” (guest musician: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick)
- Studio (proprietor): Electrical Audio (Steve Albini)
Produced albums featured: Pixies, “Surfer Rosa”; Gogol Bordello, ”Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike”; The Breeders, “Pod”; P.J. Harvey, “Rid of Me”; The Jesus Lizard, “Goat”; Bush, “Razorblade Suitcase”; Nirvana, “In Utero”
- City montage: Cheap Trick, Etta James, Naked Raygun, Chicago, Wilco, Gene Krupa, Kanye West, Ministry, Muddy Waters
- Interviewees: Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Marshall Chess (producer and son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess), Rick Nielsen, Naked Raygun (Jeff Pezzati, Santiago Durango, John Haggerty), teen punks Tracey Bradford (Dave’s cousin) and Jason Narducy (Bob Mould, Superchunk), Julia Nash (daughter of Wax Trax! Records co-owner Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher), Ken Ehrlich (TV producer)
- End credits song: Naked Raygun, “Bombshelter”
Noteworthy: Grohl’s comtemporaries, the Smashing Pumpkins, were not in the city montage. By far, the biggest Chicago band of the ‘90s alt-rock explosion. For some reason, this just stuck out to me.
- Song: “The Feast and the Famine” (guest musicians: Peter Stahl and Skeeter Thompson of Scream)
- Studio (proprietor): Inner Ear Studios (Don Zientara)
Produced albums: None featured, but Bad Brains and Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records are extensively profiled.
- City montage: Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Rollins Band, Nils Lofgren, Chuck Brown, Fugazi, Trouble Funk (Starland Vocal Band, ironically)
- Interviewees: Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), Seth Hurwitz and Dante Fernando (music club owners), D.C. mayor Vincent Gray, Scream, Bad Brains, Pharrell Williams, Big Tony Fisher (Trouble Funk), RDGLDGRN, Skip Groff (record store owner), Mark Andersen and Amy Pickering (D.C. activists)
- End credits song: Fugazi, “Waiting Room”
Noteworthy: I mean, if there was ever any doubt as to how Bad Brains ended up on a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot, this episode lays that to rest.
- Song: “Congregation” (guest musician: Zac Brown)
- Studio (proprietor): Southern Ground Studios (formerly Fred Foster’s Monument Records) (Zac Brown and Matt Mangano)
Produced albums: None shown, but Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Miller and Kris Kristofferson are prominently mentioned as having recorded there.
- City montage: Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Lady Antebellum, Roger Miller, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band
- Interviewees: Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Tony Brown (musician/producer), Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Carrie Underwood, Tony Joe White, Erika Nichols (Bluebird Café manager)
- End credits song: Tony Joe White, “Woodpecker”
- Song: “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” (guest musician: Gary Clark Jr.)
- Studio (proprietor): Austin City Limits Studio 6A (Terry Lickona)
Showcased ACL shows: Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Buddy Guy, The Black Keys, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Neil Young, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, fun., Neko Case, Fats Domino, Tom Waits, Foo Fighters
- Interviewees: Jimmy Vaughan, Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Jimmie Dale Gilmore (The Flatlanders), Gary Clark Jr., Terry Lickona (Austin City Limits executive producer), Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Roky Erickson (13th Floor Elevators), Tim Kerr (Big Boys), Darin Klein (SXSW festival producer), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard)
- End credits song: 13th Floor Elevators, “Two-Headed Dog”
- Song: “Outside” (guest musician: Joe Walsh)
- Studio (proprietor): Rancho De La Luna (David Catching and Fred Drake)
- City montage: The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Love, The Doors, Linda Ronstadt, The Runaways, Motley Crue, Red Hot Chili Peppers, N.W.A, Beck. (plus, the Germs are prominently featured. Not a surprise, given Pat Smear’s relationship with both bands)
- Interviewees: Joan Jett, Joe Walsh, Robby Krieger and John Densmore (The Doors), Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses), Daniel Lanois (producer), Lenny Waronker (producer), Mario Lalli (Palm Desert icon), Dave Catching and Hutch (Rancho co-founder and sound engineer), Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stones Age), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Rodney Bingenheimer (legendary Los Angeles DJ), Scott Reeder (Kyuss), Chris Goss (producer/musician)
- End credits song: Eagles of Death Metal, “Wannabe in L.A.”
Noteworthy: A love letter to the Palm Desert Scene. Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal … everything Homme will be a priority for him one day.
- Song: “In The Clear” (guest musicians: Preservation Hall Jazz Band)
- Studio (proprietor): Preservation Hall (Ben Jaffe)
- City montage: Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, Big Freeda Explode, Harry Connick Jr., Little Richard, Juvenile, The Meters, Aaron Neville, Dr. John
- Interviewees: Allen Toussaint, Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers), Ben Jaffe (musician/musical director), Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Ronald Lewis (museum director), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Tracey Freeman (producer)
- End credits song: Glen Campbell, “Southern Nights”
- Song: “Subterranean” (guest musician: Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie)
- Studio (proprietor): Robert Lang Studios (Robert Lang and producer Barrett Jones)
- City montage: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Melvins
Jimi Hendrix, The Ventures, The Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Sonics, Heart
- Interviewees: Duff McKagan, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Jack Endino (producer), Robert Lang (studio owner), Barrett Jones (producer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Larry Parypa (The Sonics), Sub Pop Records (Bruce Pavitt, Jonathan Poneman, Megan Jasper), Charles Peterson (photographer), Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees), Macklemore
- End credits song: Foo Fighters, “Kids In America” (recorded at Robert Lang Studios in the ’90s)
- Song: “I Am A River” (guest musicians: Tony Visconti and Kristeen Young)
- Studio (proprietor): The Magic Shop (Steve Rosenthal)
Produced albums: Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”; Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”; Bjork, “Vespertine”; The Cranberries, “No Need To Argue”; Norah Jones, “The Fall”; David Bowie, “The Next Day”
- City montages: New York Dolls, Ramones, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Sonic Youth, Chic, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Barry Manilow, The Notorious B.I.G., Carole King, Lou Reed, A Tribe Called Quest, Cyndi Lauper, The Ronettes, Bobby Darin, Little Eva, Manfred Mann, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Kiss, Blondie, Dead Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, 50 Cent, De La Soul, Public Enemy
- Rapid-fire N.Y. album montage: “The Velvet Underground and Nico”; Television, “Marquee Moon”; “LCD Soundsystem”; Eric B. and Rakim, “Paid In Full”; “Aaliyah”; Pete Seeger, “American Industrial Ballads”; Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”; The Notorious B.I.G., “Ready To Die”; Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest”; Kool Moe Dee, “How Ya Like Me Now”; Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die”; “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick”; Alicia Keys, “Songs in A Minor”; Quincy Jones, “Back On The Block”; Boogie Down Productions, “By All Means Necessary”; Barbra Streisand, “Guilty”; “The Teenagers Featuring Frankie Lymon”; Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, “Planet Rock: The Album”; Pat Benatar, “Crimes of Passion”; “Vampire Weekend”; John Coltrane, “Blue Train”; Nas, “Illmatic”; TV On The Radio, “Return to Cookie Mountain”; Steely Dan, “Pretzel Logic”; Mary J. Blige, “Where’s the 411?”; Charlie Mingus, “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady”; Norah Jones, “Come Away With Me”; “Talking Heads: 77”
- Interviewees: Joan Jett, David Fricke (journalist), Mike D (Beastie Boys), LL Cool J, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Tony Visconti (producer), Chuck D (Public Enemy), Steve Rosenthal (studio owner/archivist), Nora Guthrie (Woody Guthrie Productions), Jimmy Iovine, Paul Stanley (Kiss), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Rick Rubin (producer), Chris Martin (Coldplay), Seymour Stein (Sire Records founder), Clive Davis (industry legend), President Barack Obama
- End credits song: Beastie Boys, “An Open Letter to NYC”
Noteworthy: He went all out on this one. Multiple montages, both artists and albums. But more than anything, it put the CBGB scene and the birth of hip-hop squarely in the spotlight.
A special thanks to the podcast, “Who Cares About The Rock Hall?” New episodes drop every Thursday night at 11 p.m. sharp and I devour them instantly, so much so that I have a routine to drive out of the way to get gas so I’m able to enjoy each episode in its entirety on my nightly midnight commute home. And I’ve been the Joe and my buddy Teck has been the Kristen for the entirety of our 25 years of friendship.
Yes, I’m back. WE’RE back. The MoSS? boys are all still alive and kicking. But life sometimes happens.
But unlike those guys, who continue to immerse themselves in the new stuff, my year on the road consisted of a tour through what I imagine is the stuff populating the used-CD bins at Record Collector these days.
I ain’t got no complaints …
Less Than Jake (Wooly’s in Des Moines, January)
The year started with this throwback of a show, which was really just a night for all my boys to reunite and celebrate 1997-98 all over again, when we were all just out of college and partying every night like you’re supposed to when you’re 23. There was a time when Losing Streak was the soundtrack to that party and it ranked among my very favorite albums. Well, those days are long in the past, but that album can still take me back to that moment in time. Of course, they only played one or two songs from it.
Oh, and Reel Big Fish opened the show … I felt like I was at a Milwaukee Beers BASEketball game.
Barry Manilow (CenturyLink Center in Omaha, February)
“I’m just going because my mom wants to see him.”
That’s was my excuse if anyone asked. Truth be told, I just used that as an excuse because yes, I’m a closet Fanilow. “Weekend in New England” and “Could It Be Magic?” make me misty. Shut up! When I was 4, my mom bought my brother and me t-shirts at the mall with our names on the back and ANY iron-on patch we wanted on the front. Logan got a Star Wars patch (the “a” and the “n” from his name quickly rubbed off his shirt, leaving only Log … which I still call him 38 years later). What did I get? You guessed it … a Barry Manilow patch. Shut up! I guess it was all those times I was forced to sing “Can’t Smile Without You” in the car because it was “cute” (I’m lucky I didn’t get beaten up more).
Anyway … it was enchanting (yes, I said enchanting), and I got some quality time with Mom in the process. And sadly, I’d never had better seats to a show in my life. Ever … only for them to be trumped about four months later.
Sleater-Kinney (Omaha and St. Louis, Feb./April)
I’ve already covered this one sufficiently. And nothing has changed, except for the fact that I love this band more now than I did then. I’m praying they take another run through the Midwest soon.
Foxygen at the Mission Creek Festival (Blue Moose in Iowa City, April)
This was the only show of the week I went to differing from Chris’ itinerary. We both caught Real Estate and Father John Misty (with King Tuff … those dudes were bad-ass). But he chose Shovels and Rope on Friday, and I chose this one. Glad I did.
A super-energetic show. Sam France has that androgynous look like some ’70s British glam rocker and the band has this wall of backup singers, like they’re Ike and Tina Turner or something, including one that looked like a sex-kitten version of Abbi from Broad City. Yes, I was captivated. I remember saying to Michelle, friend of MoSS? and my partner in the evening’s festivities, that the whole thing was like some hyperactive psychedelic version of Meat Loaf.
After the show, we bumped into honorary MoSS?-Man Travis …
“That was awesome,” he said with his typical chuckle and grin. “They were like psycho Meat Loaf or something, right?”
Bastard stole my line. Case closed.
Diarrhea Planet (Gabe’s in Iowa City, April)
Great stuff. But if I took away anything about this show, it was the realization that from here on out, I will never NOT take earplugs to a show at Gabe’s. These guys play three-guitar punk rock with shredding solos. And as I stood and watched, I could SEE the guitarists’ fingers moving up and down the fret boards with Yngwie Malmsteen-like dexterity, but all I could HEAR was harsh, distorted fuzz. On a whim, I just stuck my fingers in my ears … then and only then could I hear the flurry of notes. I love me some Gabe’s – it’s been my home base for over 20 years now – but the sound needs improvement (it has for a while). I used to worry that the day I started wearing earplugs would be the day I was officially old. I still love it loud, but I just want to hear what’s actually happening. That ain’t old.
Mastodon (Five Flags Center
in Des Moines, May)
The Sword (Gabe’s in Iowa City, October)
I love this doom metal shit, the sludgy stuff coming out of the south, especially – Mastodon, Baroness, Kylesa out of Georgia, and The Sword out of Austin, Texas. I never want to grow up, apparently, because for as cultured as I like to think I’ve become over the years, I still love heavy metal and slasher movies. I hope that never changes.
Royal Blood (Wooly’s in Des Moines, May)
In the era of two-man bands or even no-bass player bands (think White Stripes, Black Keys or Sleater-Kinney), those bands’ guitarists always find a way to replicate the bottom-end sound where the bass would be. Check out Corin Tucker on “A New Wave” or Jack White on “The Denial Twist” for good examples of this.
But I’ve never seen anyone replicate a screaming guitar lick on a bass before, while still playing bass at the same time. It’s a mindfuck when you see it. But that’s what Mike Kerr does in Royal Blood. Plus, it’s just good old-fashioned hard rock. I like these guys. Quite a bit, actually.
After the show, I asked their sound guy how Mike Kerr did it. “It’s gotta be just a series of effects pedals, right?” I asked. But he basically told me – in that very regal, polite way that only a Brit can – to go fuck myself.
The Barry Manilow show gave me the best seats I’ve ever had for any show ever. Until this one. Second row center and seated, with no buffer between Billy and me (the front row in the center was for handicapped seating, but there were no handicapped people at the show, so it was just as good as front row). This show had sold out immediately months earlier, but I just knew the ungodly-priced VIP tickets would end up on the market again. Checked the day before, at just the right time, and bam, got four at a discount.
But no one wanted to go with me. I, of course, asked the MoSS? boys first (we’ll always have the fantasy draft, after all). Too short of notice. Finally, I got some takers in old reliables Kat and Von.
I loved this show. A stripped-down acoustic set. Yes, it was largely devoid of many hits or deep cuts from the 1991-95 era (more on that later), but at the same time, it didn’t feel like a rock concert. Lots of stuff from Adore (which I was cool with – “For Martha” was excellent, and the arrangement on “To Sheila” was KILLER), a couple of new ones, some Zwan stuff, some solo stuff, all meticulously arranged and presented almost like a Broadway show, with a locked-in songbook. I knew what I was getting.
But this was Des Moines. Home of a ton of buttrock FM radio. A lot of the people who bought tickets, guaranteed, probably didn’t read the fine print about what this show was going to be and expected to hear the big, loud anthems. They didn’t get them. I mean, he did play “Tonight Tonight,” “Today,” “Mayonaise” and “1979,” but mostly? Yeah, they didn’t get them.
Needless to say, it got ugly. For the first hour or so of the show, he had the room in the palm of his hand. But when people started realizing that this show must be winding down and they still hadn’t heard “Cherub Rock” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” they started getting antsy. During the end of the show, people started yelling out requests, which Billy actually took in stride, until some jackass yelled, “Play ‘1979’ again!” At that point, the famous Corgan petulance reared its ugly head. All tour long at that point, he had taken some requests for the final encore (including one stop when he played the entire Gish album in less than six minutes). But for us, he came out and played “Spaceboy” and got the fuck outta there.
Look, I’ve been very vocal over the years about how his refusal to play the old stuff is petty (basically, he feels like if he plays the stuff from Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie, he’s no better than Warrant playing “Cherry Pie” at the state fair. “I’m still making new music, dammit. You should want to hear that,” he thinks). There is a middle ground. People will listen to the new stuff if they know you’re gonna reward the years and years of loyalty with a few of the deep cuts. He needs to realize this.
But on that night, in that room, under those circumstances, I was on his side. We (I mean Iowans in general here) looked like hayseeds and it reinforced my fear that this was one of the reasons that Iowa is just the warm-up show for Chicago or Detroit.
I got into it pretty intensely with Chris about this afterward. A snippet of our correspondence:
“I can’t be on his side if he can’t entice me to attend. He can’t be bothered to include true fan rewards like Crush or Suffer or Obscured or Soma or Hummer. These are not hits. These are legacy-affirming songs but because they were written in the 20th century he won’t play them, even though he’ll play 1979 and Tonight and Today. If he wants an entire room of disciples without having to play the entire Greatest Hits tracklist, he would do this.”
I agreed with every word of this (my response: “I knew this was coming. And I know your stance. In fact, how many times have we had this discussion … and I AGREED with you? Because you know that I do”), but the contents of his acoustic tour were well-documented. It’s just that I bet no one was playing attention.
Well, I bet Todd would’ve loved it … I think.
80-35 Festival (Des Moines, July)
Jenny Lewis (she of Rilo Kiley, playing with the Watson Twins, and Jenny and Johnny) was awesome. Wilco was as good as they usually always are. Cloud Nothings sound better live than on their record. Run The Jewels were the balls. And Weezer played maybe the quintessential example of a perfect festival gig – every hit, a few deep cuts, a couple new ones, and the huge ones to shut it down.
In addition, on Friday night, I caught the Ataris play at the Gas Lamp … and the show was opened by Rational Anthem, my current favorite Iowa City band. Originally from Florida, they hooked up with fellow Iowa City punks Lipstick Homicide (also awesome) somewhere on the road and relocated to Iowa City when they realized that at any given moment, they were within a four- or five-hour drive of Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha. If you like fun pop punk, check them out.
Against Me! (Wooly’s in Des Moines, July)
Tom Gabel was the shit. Best voice in punk rock. That was always the draw with Against Me!. Laura Jane Grace? Now she has the best voice in punk rock. I love this band.
Cheap Trick (RAGBRAI stop at the Coralville Marriott, July)
“Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees I’ve seen live” list as of July 2015: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss, Nirvana, Green Day, Parliament (well, George Clinton), Run-DMC (kinda) and Patti Smith (kinda).
Now, I can add these guys to the list. Getting inducted this year (as well as Steve Miller, who I saw in 1992 and is also getting inducted this year). So many awesome anthems. And I bought a great t-shirt to boot.
A sidenote: After drinking a few too many beers that night, my buddy and I headed over to the Lumberyard II for a little post-show entertainment. I just want to say this to the strippers of the world: Picking your music? Shouldn’t be that difficult. Hair metal or ’90s R&B. Just keep it simple, ladies. It ain’t hard.
Just one of the shows that you always imagine a rock concert will be like when you’re 12 and haven’t been to a rock concert before.
I have friends who rag and rag about Dave Grohl and his overexposure. It’s tiresome. And it makes my head spin so much that it’s impossible to gather and articulate my thoughts on the matter (check out this piece that Chris wrote almost over four years ago, then check my counterpoint in the comments. And Chris wrote this BEFORE he was just starting to truly usurp Bono’s roll as media-appointed rock ambassador… his roll has only gotten bigger since then).
But anyone who tries to say the Foo Fighters are not one of, if not THE best, arena-rock bands in the world is crazy. This night was a tour de force.
I went to this show with T-Dub and it was a classic T-Dub and Vodka Bob outing. More than a few frosty beverages. Screaming every lyric, including the end bridge of “Monkey
Wrench.” Making friends with total strangers. There was the
purple-t-shirt guy. There was the beautiful girl in the checkered dress. The dudes in the Cinderella t-shirts (by the way, we weren’t ripping on you … we actually do worship at the altar of Tom Keifer, guys!). We invited one woman who was partying hard and her sister from Idaho out for post-gig drinks … unfortunately, I really don’t remember a whole lot about this or anything after (I do remember asking Miss Idaho if she liked shopping malls, because I remembered a line in Adventures in Babysitting when the kids in the movie asked the guy who carjacked the car they were sitting in to please drop them off at the nearest mall and the carjacker said “where do y’all think we are – Boise, Idaho?”). I think I asked for her number and she did give it to me (I’ve never used it), but she didn’t tell me her last name. I think she made the right call.
Anyway, I woke up the next day and start checking the receipts in my pocket. It was all worth it.
X (Wooly’s in Des Moines, August)
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Decline of Western Civilization, Part II: The Metal Years (why Penelope Spheeris has never done a “Where Are They Now” follow-up on the London dudes, the Wet Cherri guy, the guy with the one-side-bleach-blonde/one-side-blue-black hair, and Randy O. from Odin, I’ll never know. I mean, I REALLY want to know, for real).
Anyway, The Metal Years came out when I was 15, and after that, I was obsessed with seeing Part 1. For 25 years, I tried seeing it. I tried renting it everywhere. Never had it. Out of print. I started checking every used video store. No luck. Any time the TV guide said it would be on, I set the timer and it ALWAYS ended up being The Metal Years. No dice.
Finally, this year, the red tape finally got cleared up and the entire Decline of Western Civilization trilogy got released on Blu-ray. Part 1, for the uninitiated, is a deep dive into the L.A. punk scene of the early ’80s – The Germs, Circle Jerks, Fear and Black Flag, most predominantly. But X, with that infusion of rockabilly, stood out to me.
Skeet and I loved it. Doe rocks. Exene Cervenka kinda looks like a crazy Muppet these days, but still had me in the palm of her hand.
Plus, I didn’t want to think of John Doe as just the guy that said, “that guy at the end of the bar is fuckin’ Dalton, man.” Glad I went.
Beach House (The Pageant in St. Louis, September)
Chris already covered the specifics of this show well. I was just disappointed that he left out the late-night driving playlists I utilized to keep myself occupied while he slumbered … an ‘80s New Wave that featured Erasure, Duran Duran, Bananarama, The Dream Academy (twice!), Berlin, Bow Wow Wow, Romeo Void, Kajagoogoo, Simple Minds … I could go on and on, but it wasn’t until “Perfect Way” by Scritti Politti came on that he finally said, “Can we listen to something else, please?”
Then, on the way home, it was Vol. 4 of my essential “Anson Thrash” series, with enough Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Venom, Death Angel, Coroner, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, Overkill and Death to satisfy any knuckle-dragging, wastoid, headbanging degenerate like myself.
He didn’t say it (he was dozing), but I know he was impressed.
Not even gonna attempt a Top 10 for 2015 list …
… but I will say goodbye to a couple of dudes that meant a whole hell of a lot to me.
It was a good year. See you in 2016 … I mean, I hope I don’t fall asleep for another eight months.
Chris was correct in his “Year in Review” post. We have been very lazy bloggers as of late. We cruised right along from 2011-2014 with great content and ideas. 2015? Not so much. New work responsibilities, family commitments and a growing addiction to endless AppleTV content caused my lapse in quality posts. I’ll do better in 2016. Well, I’ll do better in 2016 IF … HBO quits making excellent TV programming. Seriously, have you seen The Leftovers? Best show of 2015. Hands down. Indisputable. Conversation over. There’s no need to bother arguing with me in the comments section. I won’t entertain any opposing viewpoints.
Let’s get back on track. Since you all read Chris’s post you already know about all the great music that came out last year. Well, at least the music that we consider great. I’d just like to add a few of my 2015 highlights.
Favorite Concert Experience of 2015
Best Coast with Bully at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
This marked the second year in a row that the wife and I made the pilgrimage to First Avenue for a show.
We caught a top notch Tegan and Sara set there in 2014. I feel like making the trek to First Ave should be a required annual event for us because, as my wife says, “Todd’s his Best Self at First Avenue.” She’s right. You basically can’t wipe the smile off my face or stop my singing along during a concert at First Avenue. Let’s delve into reasons why I’m “My Best Self” at First Avenue shall we?
Reason 1: The shows that we’ve seen at First Ave have been by bands that rank highly in my personal favorite list.
Reason 2: There’s a lot of nostalgia that comes along standing where Prince once stood in the movie Purple Rain, especially for a Prince uber-fan like me.
Reason 3: The crowds at both shows were predominantly female, making viewing the stage an effortless task for a ridiculously average heighted male like me.
Reason 4: Booze.
So at this particular concert, a tipsy Todd towered over a sea of singing ladies while witnessing a face melting set by Bully (A band whose Bully EP you may remember was #18 in my Best of 2014 list) and a stellar set by Best Coast (A band whose lead singer, Bethany Cosentino, is my rock and roll girlfriend/crush.) It was an experience that will be hard to top. You have a lot to live up to Future 2016 Concerts.
Favorite/Most Embarrassing Fanboy Moment of 2015
I love going to the small venue shows in Iowa City. It can be a strange experience though. At these concerts, you’ll often see people you may consider rock stars walking around like regular citizens or even worse, selling their own merch!
Take Small Black for instance, I listen to all their albums and watch every one of their music videos or live clips on YouTube. To me, these guys are as famous as Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith. You can’t blame a guy for being a little star-struck when he saunters up to the bar for a beer and rubs elbows with the lead singer of the band he’s about to see right?
This is what I would have liked to have happened after I realized I was belly up to the bar with Small Black frontman Josh Kolenik:
- I say something not moronic or cringe-worthy so he would know that I recognized him.
- Complement him on his new album and previous works especially the Moon Killer Mixtape.
- Buy him a cocktail and have an in-depth discussion about what it’s like to be in an indie rock band in this strange era of the music industry.
- Ask him what it was like working with Heems from Das Racist. That guy seems crazy.
Favorite Fanboy Redemption Moment of 2015
After the Small Black show was over, I grabbed one of the show posters that were tacked up around the Mill and got Josh to sign one while they were packing up their gear. That’s right! They pack up their own shit! If I was a more thoughtful fan I would have offered to carry a few keyboards or a drum set out to the truck for them as a show of gratitude.
And Finally, My Favorite Albums of 2015
- Kurt Vile, b’lieve I’m goin down
- Small Black, Best Blues
- Neon Indian, Vega Intl. Night School
- Jamie XX, In Colour
- Bully, Feels Like
- Nic Hessler, Soft Connections
- Tame Impala, Currents
- CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
- Best Coast, California Nights
- Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
2015 was my quietest year in terms of blogging since Todd and I started Music or Space Shuttle? in late 2011, but it’s not for lack of outstanding experiences around music. The blogging part of my brain just got really lazy.
But after the holidays ran their course, I looked back at the great music that came out in ’15, and the various photos and videos I shot at concerts big and small, and decided I should package it all together. Even if no one else looks at this, it will serve to remind myself just how much fun it is to stay up late for a weeknight show in Iowa City or drive a few hours to St. Louis for a wonderful night at the Pageant or join up with my Riot crew to make Chicago our home for a few days to do a proper festival.
Bjork, the band formerly known as Viet Cong, and Sleater-Kinney all decide to drop new music on us. The Bjork album is beautiful; the Viet Cong release is brutal (in a great way); the Sleater-Kinney album didn’t suck as I feared it might and landed on my top 10 of 2015 at #7.
I did not like Fleet Foxes. At all. But I kinda like what this Father John Misty guy is doing on his own. Yeah. His latest LP, I Love You, Honeybear, held much more than the SiriusXMU staple “Bored in the USA.” “Chateau Lobby #4” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “The Ideal Husband” are personal favorites, but really it’s an album you can enjoy front to back (even the electronic song grew on me). By year’s end, I rated it #3 among 2015 releases.
You know those lists you make if you’re a nerd? One of those lists is “Bands I Never Got to See, Goddammit” and mine is painful to read. (The Nirvana entry is the worst.) But here’s the thing: in 2015, I got to cross off a couple of names. The first one: Sleater-Kinney, who played a pretty-close-to-dream setlist at the Slowdown (a pretty cool club in Omaha). Janet pounded her kit, Carrie punctuated her riffs with amazing high leg kicks, and Corin’s voice was in good form. To my surprise they played one of my favorite S-K songs (“Oh!”), and the songs that sounded so good on the new album also sounded great live. And “Dig Me Out” was so great.
Kendrick Lamar drops To Pimp a Butterfly. I immediately liked “Alright,” and also found plenty to like throughout the lenghty LP. Is it OK that I prefer good kid m.A.A.d city, though? Not trying to take a hipster stance here; I just find myself listening to more songs from the previous album when I want to queue up some Kendrick. (Tobias Jesso Jr. put out Goon a day later. Not as good as TPAB, but good all the same.)
Jenny Death, the second part of Death Grips’ double album The Powers That B, leaks online. I’m sure I waited until the album was officially released at month’s end to obtain these songs. Anyway, I put Jenny Death at #10 on my top albums of 2015 list.
Courtney Barnett will be a 2016 entry in the “From the MoSS? Pit” series; Sam, Travis, and our friend Ian from the Riot Fest crew are joining me at First Avenue in April 2016 to see her do her thing. (I swear I’m going to get better about timely posts about concerts.) We will all be enjoying songs from the album she put out on this day, which ended up at #4 on my top albums of 2015 list.
Mission Creek show #1: Real Estate. I’d seen them the year before at Pitchfork, and the venue (outdoors, summer) and the time of day (late afternoon, sun lazily going down) were perfect for the band’s aesthetic. But they put on a nice nighttime show in the Englert Theatre, as it turns out. Their sound is so clean, so pure. Nice way to open my trifecta of 2015 Mission Creek shows, and it was the lone show of the festival that brought together me, my MoSS? boys Todd and Sam, and our honorary MoSS? brother Travis.
Mission Creek show #2: Shovels & Rope. This was year 2 of what might be an annual tradition, if Mission Creek keeps up its booking pattern: me and my bestie Sondra taking in the Friday night Englert show. (She went to Sleigh Bells while 8.5 months pregnant…that’s concert cred I don’t think I could attain even if I had the proper lady parts.) The first year it was The Head and the Heart, which we both looked forward to with crazy anticipation. This time around, though, neither of us were all that familiar with S&R (read: I glanced at their bio, listened to a couple of tracks online, figured Sondra would like them, bought the tickets). I think I can speak for the both of us in saying that S&R cleared the high bar set by Head/Heart. Those two are pure joy on stage (and, as we plunged into their discography, on record, too) and clearly enjoy making music together (and human beings, as it was announced that Cary Ann Hearst was pregnant). It might take a reunited Civil Wars to raise the stakes in 2016…
Mission Creek show #3: Father John Misty with opener King Tuff. OK, so the opening act set off the fire alarm when the singer’s leather jacket met up with the stage pyrotechnics, and yet King Tuff was easily the SECOND-hottest act to grace the Englert stage that night. Josh Tillman has it goin’ on, folks. He pretty much owned the room with his soulful vocals, slinky moves, and damn great songs. Even the cheesy neon backdrop worked. I was comfortably seated about halfway back, which was probably good because his magnetic charm had quite the effect on fans closer to the stage. My ancedotal evidence: one of my former work colleagues ended up burying her face into his shirt. It’s funny, partly because this is totally a Brittany B move, but also because it conjured up imagery of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face, and is it any surprise that a Father John Misty moment would relate to religion somehow? Anyway, a great way to close 2015 Mission Creek; I think I would rate this show as my favorite MC show so far, ever.
Jamie xx releases In Colour, which, after much internal debate, emerged as my favorite album of 2015. For most of the final third of the year, I had Beach House’s Depression Cherry in the top spot, but in the end, I found myself more satisfied with the front-to-back listening experience In Colour provides. “Girl” and “Seesaw” are my two clear favorites, but there’s not a song on here that I feel like skipping when I put on the album. (Sure, I wouldn’t include the instrumental interludes if I were curating a mixtape, but within the context of the album, they too are fantastic.) I am aware that Jamie xx has been involved in my album of the year three times in the past seven (2009 and 2012 with the xx), and what can I say? They are absolutely genius, and Jamie perhaps stepped up as the mastermind behind the magic with this solo-branded effort.
Tame Impala turns the Pageant in St. Louis into the coolest kaleidoscope ever. We (Travis and I) had nice seats in the center balcony, and we enjoyed some good pizza and beer across the street before the show. Every time I go to the Pageant, I leave wishing such a venue existed in Iowa City (its capacity of 2300 surpasses the Englert’s 725, and the Pageant sound is immaculate in my experiences) and, more importantly, that such a venue could receive proper support in Iowa City. Would 2,000 people show up for Tame Impala in Iowa City, especially if the show weren’t scheduled during the week of Mission Creek?
But this isn’t about the fact that I often have to drive more than 100 miles, sometimes 250, to see the bands I like. It’s about Tame Impala previewing tunes from its forthcoming third album and playing just about every one of my favorite songs from the first two LPs. Travis and I did have to snicker a bit about how seemingly all of Kevin’s lyrics reflect his inability to talk to/score with chicks, which we find highly suspect.
Kacey Musgraves releases Pageant Material, which lands at #5 on my best of 2015 list, and I nearly flipped a coin between this and Courtney Barnett for #4. The title track lyrics are arguably the most entertaining I heard all year. “Somebody to Love” is a very moving tune that sheds any cowgirl texture and replaces the vibe with a cool drone. And she puts on a hell of a show, which I got to experience later in 2015.
TRIPLE SIX FIVE FORKED TONGUE GET GET GET GET GOT GOT GOT GOT BORN WITH A SKI MASK ON MY FACE I’VE SEEN FOOTAGE I STAY NOIDED HUSTLE BONES COMING OUT MY MOUTH GRAB YOUR FUCKIN CHAIN AND DRAG YOU THROUGH THE PARKING LANE WHILE EVERYONE’S LIKE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO VISITED TESLA’S GRAVE FOR THE NINTH TIME TODAY SPREAD EAGLE CROSS THE BLAWWWWWWCK UP MY SLEEVES UP MY SLEEVES I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED STATES HALF COCKED FULL TILT RABID DOG FILTH ARRRRGH KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING (FUCK IT) ANKLES TIED TO CINDER BLOCKS AYE AYE I’M BOUNCING IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES IT GOES GUILLOTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE YUH! YOU’RE FIT TO LEARN ABOUT THE MEANING OF A BEATDOWN MADNESS CHAOS IN THE BRAIN I WANT IT I NEED IT NEED IT TO MAKE ME FEEL HEATED
Yep. Death Grips showed up for a concert and atoned for any previous misses we’d experienced over the past three years. I’m usually too old to get in the mix these days, but yours truly turned back the years (and wore flip-flops like a dumbass…thankfully all my toes survived). Travis also attempted to bring beers into the chaos and I ended up wearing about 89% of my beverage…but it’s all good. Need to do it again soon.
Wilco puts out a free album that I download and never listen to, not once.
Beach House releases Depression Cherry, which nearly crossed the finish line in the lead but ended up settling for my #2 album of 2015. All the same, this album and the band’s impeccable back catalog did entice me into an all-nighter trip to STL to see the band live…more on that later.
That night, I attend the Iowa Soul Festival in Iowa City to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s raining pretty hard. I saw one act with a very large and very talented guitarist, and I heard the Dap-Kings do about five minutes before lightning decided to take over the Iowa skies. No Sharon Jones show for me. Drove home in torrential downpour. Can’t win ’em all.
Family concert night! My better half and our son pile into our friends’ truck and hit River Roots Live over in the Quad Cities. It was $10 to get in (and I think the kids were free?), and Kacey Musgraves was headlining. BBQ stands lined the walkway, and our friends’ two children joined our boy in bouncy house tomfoolery before we all snagged good seats to see Kacey. She was on point, running through the lion’s share of the songs on her two albums. The beer prices actually weren’t bad compared with Riot Fest or Lolla, and the QC has a decent local craft beer selection that was available here. I probably exploited the relatively cheap beer prices to the point of being a bit off-kilter. The evidence of such inebriation existed in a video file (since erased, too bad) where you could clearly hear me “singing” along. Oh god, it was bad. And if you’ve ever seen me participate in karaoke night at the Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, you would know I have no shame.
But I did feel like my photo game was still on point. A photo similar to the one you see above currently sits framed in my basement, awaiting my eventual arrangement of a pop culture-themed room. Seeing as I’m putting out a 2015-in-review piece nearly a month into 2016, you can imagine how soon that room will come together.
RIOT FEST. I loved the 2014 version, primarily because I was so excited to see one of the big bands each of the three nights (Slayer, Descendents, The Cure). But this year I found myself looking at three days packed with intriguing artists, rather than playing the waiting game until the headliners finally took the stage. The new location was a vast improvement on the 2014 park. Plus, our crew ended up renting a place that had a rooftop patio, a grill, and a hot tub. Much better than your typical hotel room, especially with six humans sharing the quarters.
DAY ONE: We start with Death, the stars of recent documentary A Band Called Death. These guys still got it, as do the next group we caught, Fishbone. I had seen them twenty-some years before, but I think the intensity level is the same. Angelo Moore was in fine form. Caught Living Colour from a distance, made sure to catch the obligatory “Cult of Personality” before moving along. I split off from the group at some point to catch Anthrax rather than seeing Faith No More. Mistake? If you ask Ian and Travis, yeah, as FNM topped their festival highlights. Instead, I got “Caught in a Mosh”…
While the rest of the crew caught Motorhead (R.I.P. Lemmy), I went over to see Ice Cube, who was reuniting with Ren and Yella to do some classic Straight Outta Compton tunes as part of his set. It was OK, I guess. They cut the songs short to eliminate Eazy’s verses rather than have someone else stand in. I think my favorite part of the set was getting this watercolor-looking photo of a dude’s mohawk standing tall among the smoke wafting through the crowd.
We tried in vain to get a cab. At one point we were outside a prison, so we asked one of the guards entering the facility if she knew if cabs trafficked this area. Her response: “You don’t want to get a cab around here.” Um, Uber? Can you come get us? (And within a minute, our Uber arrived. Nice.) The hot tub felt awesome.
DAY TWO: Was pleased to discover FIDLAR at this fest. They were a lot of fun, especially the part where one of the band members crowd-surfed and then upon returning to the stage was pretty much tackled by security, much to the puzzlement/anger of his bandmates. To be fair he did look like your average Riot Fest whippersnapper.
Travis and I checked out Swervedriver, although it was a tad depressing when we got there, like two minutes before the band was scheduled to go on, and yet we were able to get within a row of the front rail. I did think they were an odd booking compared with the rest of the bill, and it was an early set, but come on. Thankfully the place filled up to a respectable level once they started playing. I was happy with the music, anyway.
Ran over to the other side of the park to catch Captain Sensible and the Damned. I kinda get Swervedriver being forced to play an early slot, but I really thought the Damned at Riot Fest would land a later, more high-profile spot. But oh well, I found myself a good spot on Sensible’s side of the stage and pogo’d around for an hour. Neat neat neat!
Then it was back to the other side again to meet up with the crew at Thurston Moore Band. It was cool to see Deb Googe play live again (not nearly as magical as the My Bloody Valentine show, but still…) as well as Thurston’s apparent hetero life partner Steve Shelley. Thurston got himself off for 45 minutes to mixed reviews (in other words, Rog hated it, Ian loved it, Trav liked/loved it, I was good with it).
After getting a bite to eat, we all watched Echo and the Bunnymen, which was fun for the whole family. Then Roger and I camped out on the Rancid side of the park, and got up in the mix when it was time for …And Out Come the Wolves, played in its entirety. It was a lot of fun to shout along with “Olympia, WA” and “Timebomb” and “Alleyways and Avenues” and “Ruby Soho” and “Roots Radical” and all the rest. And wouldn’t you know it, I once again ended up running into the Brothers Warden at a concert/festival. They also enjoyed the glory that is a Rancid pit.
I watched Iggy Pop and his hot dog skin from a distance to close out the night.
DAY THREE: After all the joking we’d done about bees at Riot Fest this year and the year previous, it finally came back to bite me…well, sting me, I guess. I caught a jab in the back during the De La Soul set. Pos, Dove, and Mace had us moving like crazy, which stirred up the bees, and one flew up the back of my shirt and couldn’t get out, so STING. I put on a brave face and didn’t complain about it (much).
Roger and I endured a horrible set by Kongos in order to sprint to the gate when the Kongos crowd dispersed. We had different motives, to a degree: I desperately wanted to be up close and personal for Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Rog was dead-set on front-and-center action for THE D (which I was excited about as well). We got up to the second row of people, and then a guy asked who was here to see Rod y Gab, and when I shouted “ME” he traded me his spot on the rail. And after some Kongos fans got picks and setlists or whatever, they vacated the rail and Rog was in. We were dead-fucking-center, and both Rod y Gab and THE D delivered. So worth sitting through that Kongos crap. We did pass the time high-fiving the crowd surfers who had been pulled over the rail one stage over during the Andrew WK set. I found a new way to amuse myself: every time I extended my hand for the five, I also yelled out, “YOU DID IT!” About half the time the person on the other end of the handslap was like “FUCK YEAH I DID DO IT!”; about 30 percent of the time, the person was all like “Um, thanks, wait, what?”; the other 20 percent were pretty much all “FUCK YOU, DICK.” It was fun.
If you’re not familiar with this duo, but you watched Breaking Bad, then you sorta know their music. Go listen to “Diablo Rojo” or “Vikingman” or their cover of Metallica’s “Orion”…or better yet, just go to YouTube and search for some of their live work. They like to cover thrash metal in their flamenco-inspired way, and they did just that at Riot Fest, with a medley of Metallica and Megadeth tunes. At one point, as Rodrigo took up a stance to give his strings a good workout, I yelled from the front row, “YEAH RODRRRRRRRRIGO!” and he looked down at me, gave me a slight nod, turned back to his fretboard, and went to town. I AM A FUCKING NERD BUT SO WHAT RODRIGO GAVE ME THE NOD!!!!!
So yeah, we had prime spots for Tenacious D, right next to a guy who pulled a Chris move (me in the third person, yep) and had been on the rail for eight hours waiting for The D. (I did that for the Cure in 2014.) It was a lot of fun, kicking off with “Tribute” and getting most every song you’d expect to hear, I suppose, although I really could have used a rendition of “Lee” somewhere in the set. And I had another interactive moment a la Rodrigo, this time with Jables. Song gets over, we’re all clapping, Jack looks down at the crowd, locks eyes with me. Now with Rodrigo, it all went smoothly, but I initiated that one. This time, I was put on the spot. And like a deer in headlights, I got run over.
I gave him a dorky smile and a big ol’ thumbs-up.
And he furrowed his brow, shrugged, made a face that you can only interpret as “um, okaaaayyyy,” and our moment ended. #isuck
But after The D played their final note and left the stage, one of the security staff, with whom we made conversation throughout the afternoon/evening between sets, scooped up a guitar pick KG had attempted to throw the crowd. The fans were losing their shit trying to get it, but he told the adoring masses, “Nope, I gotta hook up my guy right here,” and handed me the pick. He must have recognized me from Lolla 2013 and Riot 2014; I honestly did recognize him. The guy who had waited eight hours on the rail was choking back tears of agony when he saw the pick enter my grasp; it must have KILLED him to see me then give it to Rog, the true D disciple.
Then the Prodigy played to close out the night and we all went back to the pad and the next day we returned to our miserable lives. Although my co-workers couldn’t help but notice the post-Riot Fest mood enhancement, at least for a few days. I could tell they liked my stories a lot; I should be sure to nag them to read Music or Space Shuttle?!
Chvrches releases Every Open Eye, a solid follow-up to the beloved The Bones of What You Believe. Didn’t instantly grab me the way the debut did, but it was a “grower” that settled in at #8 on my best of 2015 list. I would go on to see them twice in the span of 15 days…with mixed results.
But the bigger news from this day…
RIDE. Todd and I trekked over to Chicago to see the shoegazers do their thing at the Riviera. To actually hear songs from Nowhere was a dream come true. “Seagull” might be the best live song I’ve ever experienced. So intense. Mixed in some great tracks from Going Blank Again and Chelsea Girl, along with the one really cool song from Tarantula. Blissfully shoegazed, Todd and I retreated to the ‘burbs and found a bar with like a zillion beers from which to choose, along with the 10+% Not Your Father’s Root Beer (aka Headache in a Goblet). Kinda wish I’d stayed in Chicago another night, as Alcest played on the 26th, but alas, it was not to be. But I did have another concert to attend this weekend…
I shared a FB photo of Beach House that had been posted by the Pageant, one of those deals where “share this and you’ll be entered into a drawing for 2 free tix!!!!1” which, of course, I didn’t win. But Sam saw my share and was like, “Hey, I know the show’s on a Sunday night and it’s all the way down in STL and you have to work at 8 am on Monday morning but if you really want to go I’d probably be down with that.”
Red Bull was purchased. I drove to Sam’s place. Sam drove us to STL. We hit the pizza/beer place across the street. Jessica Pratt provided some decent opener tunes. And then Beach House rewarded our all-nighter trip with that special band of intense chill that I love so much. Kinda cool that they opened with a couple of tunes from their first album, including “Master of None,” which the Weeknd used masterfully on his first mixtape. And of course we got “Sparks” and “Levitation” and “Space Song” from Depression Cherry and “Wild” and “Wishes” from Bloom and it was all pretty much beautiful. Then Sam drove us home, with me catching ZZZZZs from probably about Canton until Iowa City. Then I drove home, got another three hours of sleep, and went to work. (And probably got home from work that evening and went straight to bed.)
Deafheaven releases New Bermuda. When they released Sunbather, I thought it was pretty cool from a musical standpoint but wasn’t big on the vocals. But then I saw them at Pitchfork in 2014, and was converted. I looked forward to the new album, and was not disappointed. I put it at #9 on my best of 2015 list.
Usually the University of Iowa Homecoming concert elicits yawns. Not this year. Chvrches played a free show on the Pentacrest. Thankfully the Soul Festival weather didn’t ruin this Pentacrest show. Will and I had tickets to see the band two weeks later in Kansas City, but we decided to hit this show as well, seeing as it was free and all. (Glad we did, as you’ll read in the October 23 entry.) The new songs sounded great, and they played a good deal of the first album, saving “The Mother We Share” for the end. Will was fading fast toward the end of the show, but that song perked him up. I hope to see them at an indoor venue not named the Uptown Theatre in Kansas City.
Bully at the Mill. I know it was Homecoming weekend at the UI and there were a lot of stupid things happening in town that night, but there should have been WAAAAAAY more people at the Bully concert. Thankfully me, Todd, and Jess weren’t among the poor saps who missed out on a great rock show. I must admit I don’t listen to the Bully album all that often but man did those songs work in a live setting.
One of the opening bands was called Heat. Not The Heat. Not El Heat, like what the Miami Heat put on their jerseys to celebrate Latino culture. Just…Heat. Like the De Niro/Pacino(/Kilmer?) movie. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Neon Indian releases VEGA INTL. Night School. Worth the four-year wait? Well, it was really good. “The Glitzy Hive” should have been the biggest song in the world, and tunes such as “Smut!” and “Slumlord” were top-notch. I’ve got this at #6 on the best of 2015 list.
Will and I go see Chvrches for the second time in two weeks. It might seem funny that a band like Chvrches could possibly be too loud, but it was unbearable. And of course I forgot to bring earplugs for Will, so imagine the agony he was enduring if I thought it was too loud. We stuck it out for maybe five or six songs before we left. Even out in the parking lot across the street, we were physically assaulted by the sound. You could feel the vibrations. This theatre was maybe a little bigger than the Englert; no need to have the shit that loud. If nothing else, Will did get a sweet poster from the merch table. I told him to consider it a souvenir from the Iowa City show, and that we’d never speak of the Uptown Theatre ever again. On the plus side, the family enjoyed the rest of the weekend in KC, hitting the Plaza, eating Jack Stack BBQ, and taking in Science City at Union Station.
Small Black returns to Iowa City, playing a show at the Mill. Last time they were in town, they opened for Washed Out; this time, they topped the bill. They did quite well as the headliner. The most recent album, Best Blues, is pretty great, right up there with Limits of Desire, in my book. We even had a chance to chat briefly with Josh Kolenik. Cool guy. Hope he experiences bigger and better things in the future.
The Bright Light Social Hour met arguably their biggest fan (Ian, from my Riot Fest crew) in Iowa City on this night. I’m sure they made a few more diehard fans with their scorching performance.
Six days before Episode VII: The Force Awakens opened, I had the pleasure of watching/hearing the St. Louis Symphony perform selected works by John Williams. So we got to hear some tunes from Jurassic Park, Home Alone, the Harry Potter films, Catch Me If You Can, The Cowboys, Superman, and, of course, the Star Wars saga. Probably the coolest moment for me, aside from the main Star Wars theme, was a song from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, believe it or not. It was from the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel scene; the symphony was joined by a choir that provided the vocal portion of the score. It was incredible, that song, the whole concert. The conductor was an absolute showman; his between-song banter was outstanding. An interesting way to close out my 2015 live music calendar.
And The Force Awakens lived up to, nay, surpassed my expectations. Can’t wait to see Episode VIII, but that’s something like 18 months away! Guess I’ll have to go see some more concerts in the meantime. Already got tickets for Courtney Barnett, The Cure, and Riot Fest 2016…
To recap, my top 10 albums of 2015:
Jamie xx, In Colour
Beach House, Depression Cherry
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think…
Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
Chvrches, Every Open Eye
Deafheaven, New Bermuda
Death Grips, Jenny Death
April was a busy month here at MoSS? HQ. Chris spent most of the month trying to make sense out of our sketchy tax situation. For the first two weeks of April he was buried under stacks of expense reports and receipts turned in by Sam and Todd over the year. Bloggers can deduct vinyl record purchases, right? As a result, we haven’t had a lot of time to dive into new music lately. So, we’re “mixing” things up a bit with our April mixtape.
This time our playlists are comprised of great songs that are featured in the final or closing scene of some of our favorite movies. See if you can guess all of the movie titles. Some are obvious and some are more obscure. First person to list all 20 of the correct movie titles in the comments section below will win the everlasting respect of the MoSS? men. A prize beyond all monetary value.
Side A: Chris’ Picks
Side B: Todd’s Picks
Last weekend, I went to St. Louis to see Sleater-Kinney. Got a hotel room at the Moonrise, right next door the Pageant, where the show would take place in about four hours. Went to grab a beer in the hotel bar. Since it was just after 5 p.m., the bar had just opened, so there were about 10 people in the joint.
And in walks Carrie Brownstein.
My buddy Dub is saying, “well, go get your damn picture already, dumbass.” I said no. Didn’t want to bother her. Even when she got her drink and walked RIGHT PAST ME SIX INCHES AWAY (I mean, it wasn’t like she was 50 feet across the room), I didn’t tap her on the arm and say, “hey, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your music.” I let her sit and enjoy a drink with her friends before a gig. That’s what I assumed she’d want.
Yeah, I’ve regretted it for three days now. I should have said this …
Wait, let’s come back to that.
One of my favorite things about music is when you like a band – maybe you don’t love them yet, but you know they’re good – and then you go see them for the first time and they absolutely blow your friggin’ doors off. It’s like hearing them again for the first time.
I’d been a fan since the late ’90s, introduced to them by MoSS?’s own Mr. Chris, himself just coming out of his stint as college radio DJ. Working late and rocking out one night at our post-college entry-level newspaper jobs, Chris slid over a copy of Dig Me Out and said “put this on.” You gotta remember, it was a dark time musically, and being trapped in central Iowa in the years before the internet truly grabbed hold, you still had to find your music organically. I had just graduated from Iowa, so the cool alternative bands weren’t as readily accessible anymore once I left my safe musical cocoon of a college town. And unfortunately in central Iowa at that time, all you had were butt-rock FM stations and the popular music dominating MTV had shifted toward Britney Spears, boy bands, and Limp Bizkit.
Also, anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world is a girl with a guitar. It’s almost become a running joke. I think there’s nothing sexier. I loved the Go-Go’s and the Bangles when I was a kid. Joan Jett. Lita Ford … imagine my surprise when I realized those two were actually in a fucking BAND together at one point. Score. Love.
So when I heard Sleater-Kinney? Let’s just say I liked them a real lot.
But I never got to see them until Omaha. Missed them altogether before 2006. Never really had a chance the first time around. So when reunion tour dates were announced? I just bought four tickets. Didn’t ask anyone. I hadn’t even heard No Cities to Love yet, either. I just figured that this is one of the ’90s bands I had never gotten to see. Time to fix that. I certainly wasn’t geared up to be floored.
Everything about that show was perfect. The venue, a club called Slowdown, was sold out, but it wasn’t too crowded. Hit the floor with Chris and our friends Michelle and Jim and set up in front of where we knew Corin Tucker would be standing (of course, I was gonna stand in front of Corin Tucker).
Then they hit the stage. Wow.
That place just sounded phenomenal from where I was standing. Can’t recommend it enough in the future (check it out … Slowdown). The setlist was on point, too, with a heavy dose of the new album (which is perfectly fine when your new album immediately vaults into the “best album in your catalog” conversation upon release). But they didn’t forget to play “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” or yes, “Dig Me Out,” either. I can still see Chris bouncing up and down, singing “Turn it On” just like he would have when we first met in 1997.
But it was the band themselves that sticks with me. The ladies harmonizing perfectly – Carrie’s voice a little more girly, with Corin’s killer staccato, equally elegant yet perfectly harsh. The staggering riffs and sheer musicianship. I mean, I played drums until I was 15 when I inexplicably quit. Maybe my biggest regret in life. And if I’d stuck with it, I might be HALF as good as Janet Weiss. And let’s not forget the showmanship – love those high kicks, Carrie Brownstein!
So like I said – you like a band a lot, then you see them live and they blow your friggin’ doors off. Then you LOVE them. These days, Sleater-Kinney is pretty much my favorite band. And they aren’t just girls with guitars. Fuck that. They’re the best rock band on tour in America right now. Go see them. Like, right now.
As soon as I saw they were playing in St. Louis, I wanted to go again. Always heard good things about the Pageant. Plus, one of my oldest friends who lived in the Lou was soon to be moving to Brooklyn. Might not have a chance to go visit again, so I shot her a text and said Sleater-Kinney was playing at the Pageant on April 24.
She simply answered, “I would be super into that.” That was all I needed. Bought four tickets without asking for permission. Luckily she could go.
Last weekend was more about socializing, catching up with old friends. But I’m sure Lisa would tell you that once the band started, I ignored everybody. I remember vividly telling Lisa’s husband that if the ladies were in good voice that night, we were in for a treat. They were. And this time, I got to hear “The Fox” and “One More Hour.” And I NEVER get tired of hearing that riff in “Jumpers” … you know, the one right after the second chorus? Killer.
I also got to stock up on the memorabilia I missed out on the first time: you know … autographed vinyl, tour poster, even got the setlist I missed out on the first time (but not without annoying the shit out of the sound booth guy. Sorry dude, but I won’t apologize and besides, I wasn’t being THAT annoying).
But the thing I think I’ll always remember is having the chance to talk to Carrie Brownstein and not taking it. In addition to just telling her how much I love her music, I might have told her this something like this:
My buddy Dub has a 9-year-old daughter. She just started playing the violin. And like most 9-year-olds, she’s already getting a little bored with it. Being the guy that I’ve been since I was her age, when I was obsessed with Kiss records and early MTV, I’m praying that she stays with it (like I didn’t with the drums and now regret), that she gets inspired to play … although I must confess, when I first heard she had chosen the violin, I asked Dub, “if she’s gonna play strings, why didn’t you steer her toward cello? Because then, she can eventually pick up a bass guitar?” What a wonderful parent I’d be!
Anyway, my first thought was this: I wish Sleater-Kinney was playing in Des Moines that night, not Omaha or St. Louis. Because I totally would have tried to talk Dub into letting me take his 9-year-old daughter to see Sleater-Kinney as her first concert. Because seeing these three powerful women on stage – who have become the best rock band in America – might inspire her. And as she gets a little older, she might have gained the skill set to put down her fiddle and pick up an electric guitar. And then she can be Carrie Brownstein.
That’s what I would’ve said to Carrie Brownstein if I had another chance.
Also, forget inspiration for a second – I’m just pretty sure a 9-year-old girl that’s as up-and-coming cool as my buddy’s daughter would eat up “Little Babies” and “Oh!” and “Modern Girl” with a spoon.
Fuck it, where’s my phone? I’m Facetiming her right now and telling her to get on YouTube …