Lords of Summer: Sweet Summer Sun

I’ve been pretty inconsistent posting on here so let’s see what I can generate. I’m going to attempt writing more random recollections on music, movies, and movements. I used to do it back when I was a lot more freewheelin’ and weirder. It also helped that I had a lot more free time on my hands. So let’s all get weird together again.

It’s arguably been my most eventful Summer yet, trekking to both places familiar and alien. An ocean? Holy shit. We’ll get to that…

The opening scene of Summer happened in late May in Chicago with Woodstock ’15 (Fagan term). First on the docket was a return to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs vs. Royals. This was my first time back in the friendly confines to see a Cub game since 2011 I believe (Checks facts, still hazy).

There hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about over the past 4-5 seasons during this rebuilding stretch, but out of those ashes has risen a youthful, hungry 2015 Cub team. This has been the long-term plan ever since the new front office of President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs in late 2011. They’re ruthless and cut-throat when it comes to analytical decisions and they will do whatever it takes to make the Cubs succeed and chase down that elusive World Series title. After what they did in Boston, I fully trust them to get it done.

It was a great time being out in the center field bleachers for the first time. I had far too many beers (I would not recommend drinking a 12-pack worth of beers at Wrigley alone, for both your liver and your wallet) and the crowd was a rabid mix of Cubs fans and Royals fans (Est. 2014). Unfortunately I think I legitimately went to The General Jake Arrieta’s last “bad” start (This was May 29th, almost three months ago) as the Royals ended up pulling away with this one. I anticipated retribution the following night but it was not to be as the game was rained out. I’ll have to wait until the make up game on September 28th, which could have huge playoff implications for both teams. If I would’ve known then what I know now just how great this Cubs team would turn out to be, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed in the loss. The young nucleus of this team is only going to get better too as the years go on. More importantly they make sure to keep it fun.

Denorfia W

After having a few more (unneeded) beers at Merkle’s it was up to my associate Matt Moss and I to stumble drunkenly through the Wrigleyville area in an attempt to find the Riviera Theatre to see “The Chief” Noel Gallagher. astonishingly we were able to find it (After a vital pit stop at Al’s Italian Beef) and Noel was able to pick us up with his impeccable, soaring anthems. A set that infused magnificent solo cuts (If you don’t have the new incredible Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album Chasing Yesterday that was released in March, stop reading this post, order it, then continue reading) with timeless Oasis classics ending things with a majestic “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

June brought with it a pilgrimage to Waverly, IA to experience the carnival feel of Mumford & Sons’ traveling Gentlemen of the Road festival. An interesting endeavor considering the current boom of stationary festivals. It was a diverse line-up that featured some of my favorite stalwart bands like Dawes, Jeff The Brotherhood, and The Flaming Lips as well as unfamiliar ones that were a pleasant surprise like Rubblebucket and The Maccabees. The two-headed dragon of My Morning Jacket and Mumford & Sons were to no surprise the best parts of the weekend. Mumford & Sons have seemingly made an effortless transition to the bright lights, big crowds, and main stages of the world. They were a well-oiled machine in Waverly and always an extraordinary live act. My heart however, belonged to My Morning Jacket pertaining to the live acts. They were operating on a totally different plateau than everyone else there that weekend both spiritually and physically. I’ll never tire of seeing them live, sonic transcendence at its best.

I had to pick myself up off the floor for the next weekend in Kansas City to see some band called The Rolling Stones. One of the bands I’ve definitely been pining for to see live and cross off my concert bucket list. It is astonishing what they are doing at their age but they still sounded incredible and Mick Jagger cemented his legacy as the greatest front man of all time. He strutted and preened like he was in his 20’s belting out classic after classic. It was like witnessing the Dead Sea Scrolls of Rock & Roll. They were in the rattling genesis of Rock music, like witnessing the Big Bang of the universe. I don’t know how long they’ll tour (Mick said he has no plans of retirement and Keith is going to live forever), but I’m glad I had a chance to see them live in person. What this had me salivating for more than anything was a new record from them. 2005’s A Bigger Bang was their best album in my opinion since 1978’s Some Girls and recent singles like “One More Shot” and “Doom and Gloom” came off as effortless blues rock instant classics. I’m sure they have enough fire power to churn out another batch of marvelous tunes. I’d love for them to work with Jack White or Rick Rubin as the producer, but I’ll take anything to be honest.

Stones KC

I had been redlining at work for sometime and needed a lengthy break physically and mentally. I took the longest amount of time off I’ve had from work in 13 years, I whopping two weeks (For me that’s impressive!). For the first leg of vacation I headed to South Carolina, specifically Folly Beach for a relaxing few days. This was foreign territory for me, I’d never seen the Atlantic Ocean, it was a sight to behold. I am horrible at taking pictures so this was as good as it got (Look at that fuggin’ rad moon!).

Ocean Breathes Salty

We left South Carolina a few days later and proceeded to trek across the countryside for nearly 19 hours. What was awaiting me on the other side of this road trip was Chicago and Lollapalooza. I’ve now been to Lollapalooza six consecutive times and I must confess although it’s a great time, I was considering sitting out this year. The way the festival has been trending in recent years was more towards EDM (Bull shit), abysmal hip-hop (Bull shit), and flavorless pop acts (Bull shit) rather than the guitar-centered Rock & Roll bands. Sure there’s always a strong undercard every year but the main stages have been getting less stellar. Well, when they announced the Friday and Saturday headliners I was all in. Paul McCartney and Metallica, I thought it was a hoax at first. No hoax at all. I saw McCartney back at Bonnaroo in 2013 and he was the best act there and he was brilliant again here. Meanwhile it’s been nearly seven years since I’ve seen Metallica live and they did not let me down. They’re still arguably my favorite band of all time and have been since high school (Okay, okay, I had a severe Guns ‘N’ Roses crazed phase in there too). Couple those monolithic acts with the other acts I saw: St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Father John Misty, The War on Drugs, Gary Clark Jr., Catfish & The Bottlemen, Death From Above 1979, Delta Spirit, Tame Impala, Circa Waves, Lord Huron, Strand of Oaks, Of Monsters and Men, TV on the Radio, and Florence + The Machine and it was one of the best Lollapaloozas I’ve been to. Next year? We’ll see.

There’s a lot of details I left out but I’m getting royally distracted by the blitzkrieg heaviness of Metallica’s Lollapalooza set I purchased from their website:

Metallica.Lollapalooza.Chicago.cover_.0801-15I’ll always be forever tethered to this band. For people that don’t like Metallica or don’t understand, I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s that chaotic angst the registers in your marrow, only Metallica is able to drill that deep for me I think. You could buy the physical double CD of this show (Which I did) or download it. Metallica does this for all of their live shows now and I wish all acts would do it. For one, an extra source of revenue for them and two it would cut down on bootlegging.

That’s it for now, more posts coming I believe. One on Sunday if I’m up to the task.

P.S.- I’m seeing The Tallest Man on Earth tonight at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City so let the live shows keep flowing! I’ve seen him a few times already live and he’s extremely captivating, one of the best lyricists on the planet. Cheers!

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AUGUST 2012: A MOTHERSHIP OF LIVE MUSIC

It’s been a sensational August for live music for me, maybe my best month for live shows yet. It kicked off with The Black Keys in Council Bluffs. The first time I saw The Black Keys live it was a small venue at the IMU Ballroom in Iowa City. Then their popularity exploded and they’ve been playing arenas and headlining festivals ever since. I wanted to catch them after their new found and well-deserved mass popularity in the arenas. I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch them at Lollapalooza as they were going to headline against Black Sabbath, so this was the appetizer before Lollapalooza. They did not disappoint.  They were a well-polished machine and they’ve perfected their amalgamation of gritty blues and glam rock. Partick Carney with his wiry frame bashed the drums with a propulsive primal ferocity while Dan Auerbach played ferocious and dirty guitar licks and sung in his signature soulful howl. The truly great live band, a truly great band. I hope they remain at the forefront of Rock & Roll’s royalty for decades to come.

Next up was my 3rd annual trip to Chicago for Lollapalooza. It was an exciting time to be alive. I think I’ll most remember the legendary set put on by Metal Godfathers Black Sabbath. The band sounded fantastic and it’s one of my favorite live moments ever, I can’t wait to hear what they’ve new record sounds like next year. With Rick Rubin behind the helm guiding the band and producing the record it’s got potential to go down as another classic in their canon. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were another big name legendary band I’ve wanted to see that I can check off the list now. They seem forever young in their live style of play. Flea I swear is the beast incarnate on bass. Jack White closed out Lollapalooza in mad scientist, guitar wizard style with two entirely different backing bands for each of his set. I loved a lot of under card acts as well including: Dr. Dog, The Head & The Heart, The Shins, Delta Spirit, The Tallest Man on Earth, Gary Clark Jr., The Gaslight Anthem, and Of Monsters And Men. The only real crime of Lollapalooza this year was The Gaslight Anthem only getting 45 minutes to play. Ridiculous. I’m going to have to see them on their own at some point.

This past Sunday I caught Dawes in the Englert Theatre in Iowa City. What a band. I was truly captivated by frontman Taylor Goldsmith. He’s rapidly blossoming into a world-class songwriter and his guitar playing was phenomenal. They played a couple new songs. I liked both of them but there was one that had this darkened lounge feel, like a Dire Straits song that I thought sounded terrific. Can’t wait for record #3 from these guys. They may be poised for a huge run, let’s hope so.

Finally came Bob Dylan on Tuesday night up in Rochester, MN. This was the seventh time I’ve seen Dylan now and I think I can honestly say, this was my favorite. I made the trip to the show by myself but that didn’t dampen my spirit when Dylan and his band took the stage. Bob and co. tore into a smoldering “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” to kick off the show. Then things got interesting. I read about how Bob was bringing a grand piano with him on tour, sure enough that grand piano made it to Rochester. And for his first song on it, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” I was floored. The depth of the song. Dylan’s piano playing added an entire other level to the song. It also showed how much of a gifted piano player Bob truly is. Bob snarled and growled his way through classics and nuggets, I thought it was one of his best vocal performances. Bob sounded great and looked great. He seemed to be in high spirits, gesturing and flaunting on the piano, high stepping and marching around the stage while singing and playing harp, and cracking up with his bandmates. Some of my favorites included hearing “John Brown” for the first time. One of my favorite non-album cuts and Donnie Herron’s banjo playing really added to the ominous soundscape. Later on came an incredible surprise when Dylan busted out “Visions Of Johanna”, the song I’ve most wanted to hear at his last few shows. A few days ago I was clamoring for him to play “Desolation Row”, but this was an even bigger surprise and it sounded magnificent. Bob and his band then tore the roof off the place with the ferocious roadhouse blues of “Highway 61 Revisited” that really took on a new life with Bob’s piano playing. Dylan then strapped on a guitar for “Simple Twist Of Fate”. And for anyone that wondered if Bob could still play guitar? Not only can he play guitar, but he was ripping off solos and playing leads and gnarly fills like a true blues guitar master. Bob then took to center stage and preached to a willing congregation the unsettling apocalyptic “Ballad Of a Thin Man” before tearing into “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower”. For the encore Dylan came out and I got to hear for the first time as well arguably his first historical song, “Blowin’ in the Wind”. It was done masterfully with a full band, I love Bob on piano and Herron’s beautiful fiddle. Bob and company then stood at the end of the show, just soaking in the adulation like the always do. Because they’re bad asses and they know it. Nothing gets cooler than that. They left me salivating for more and I think I have no choice now but to pull the trigger on getting tickets for his Omaha show in November with Mark Knopfler. Also I can’t wait (even more so) for Tempest to be released. Get here soon September! Below is the setlist:

Rochester, Minnesota

Mayo Civic Center

Taylor Arena

August 21, 2012

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat

2. Love Minus Zero/No Limit

3. Things Have Changed

4. Tangled Up In Blue

5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum

6. John Brown

7. Summer Days

8. Spirit On The Water

9. Rollin’ And Tumblin’

10. Visions Of Johanna

11. Highway 61 Revisited

12. Simple Twist Of Fate

13. Thunder On The Mountain

14. Ballad Of A Thin Man

15. Like A Rolling Stone

16. All Along The Watchtower

(encore)

17. Blowin’ In The Wind

Band Members

Bob Dylan – guitar, keyboard, piano, harp

Tony Garnier – bass

George Recile – drums

Stu Kimball – rhythm guitar

Charlie Sexton – lead guitar

Donnie Herron – violin, banjo, electric mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel

…Well I’m off to Apple River now. If I survive I may have some tales for WordPress world. Stay tuned folks, it’s gonna get weird up in Somerset, WI.

(Changes)

Still waiting for my diploma in the mail. Apparently they’re supposed to be mailed this week. Alright University of Iowa and USPS, don’t blow this!

On a different note. I may have stepped foot in 5420 Gordon Ave. for the last time today. After 27 years, my parents are moving out and into a smaller apartment/condo.  Makes sense, no more kids in the nest. Plus it was so rundown, I think this will be good for them. I lived there for 20 years of my life. A lot of memories to say the least. Helping them move this weekend was daunting, but I’m glad I helped. One final send off for 5420…

 

 

 

Elsewhere, I’m getting very excited for the albums coming out this Summer/Fall. Yes, I’m obsessed with music. But you know what? Music is so great. At least the kind I listen to anyway. There’s no shortage of juggernauts coming out, but I’m always on the look out for new artists on the rise too. Just a few notables include new records by The Gaslight Anthem, Band of Horses, The Avett Brothers, Green Day, The Killers, Muse, Mumford & Sons, Soundgarden and The Flaming Lips. There’s also numerous other rumored records to be released, most notably Bob Dylan. This is sounding like a lock, but not 100% guaranteed. There hasn’t been a lot of information released regarding the record, but the stuff that has been, has got me salivating. Dylan is a master when it comes crafting lengthy songs and there’s a rumored 9-minute song as well as a staggering 14-minute song, supposedly about the Titanic. That would be his second longest song ever recorded on an album behind “Highlands” which runs longer than 16-minutes. The record is also said to be around 68 minutes. I’m a sucker for long albums too, the more Dylan the better.

In 2008 and 2009 I wrote about the top 10 albums of the year. Stepped up my game a bit in 2010 and wrote about the Top 25 albums of that year. Then I went a little further in 2011 and did a top 30 albums. This year, for 2012? I’m aiming for 50. 50 records to write about! I just may be able to pull this one off. Most people probably don’t even buy 50 records in 2-3 years, let alone 50+ in one year that they have to narrow it down to. I’ve already started to keep track of records and have a rough sketch of the top 20 so far. So far Bruce Springsteen is still #1 with Wrecking Ball, a spot he’s held onto since early March. The only record to come close to challenging it is the surprising surge of the all thrills no frills, all killer no filler of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock. Man they really knocked my wind out with this record, it’s phenomenal, not a bad second on it. I’ve raved about it over the past month. Can’t say enough good things about it. I’d say they’re the Cinderella story of the year, knocking it out of the park ahead of some of the established giants in rock & roll. Anyway, you know the top two, here’s the complete top 20:

1. Bruce Springsteen- Wrecking Ball

2. Japandroids- Celebration Rock

3. The Tallest Man on Earth- There’s No Leaving Now

4. Ben Kweller- Go Fly A Kite

5. Jack White- Blunderbuss

6. The Lumineers- The Lumineers

7. Of Monsters And Men- My Head Is An Animal

8. The Hives- Lex Hives

9. The Shins- Port Of Morrow

10. The Walkmen- Heaven

11. The Smashing Pumpkins- Oceania

12. Delta Spirit- Delta Spirit

13. Fun.- Some Nights

14. Heartless Bastards- Arrow

15. Silversun Pickups- Neck Of The Woods

16. The Beach Boys- That’s Why God Made The Radio

17. Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself

18. Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls

19. Trampled By Turtles- Stars And Satellites

20. Vintage Trouble- The Bomb Shelter Sessions

There’s a lot of other records I’ve purchased too, but I whittled it down to 20 for now. It’ll be tough to knock The Boss out of that #1 spot, but with these rumors swirling of Dylan’s album being a monster, he could definitely do it. And not because of a Dylan bias since he is my favorite artist, because I try to be as objective as possible. In 2009 Dylan’s Together Through Life, although a very good record, did not even crack my top five that year. The reason is because, well, Bob Dylan has been on a roll for 15 years now including three masterpieces in a row with Time Out Of Mind, “Love & Theft”, and Modern Times. That and his brilliant collection of outtakes and alternate takes of latter day recordings with the bootleg series Tell Tale Signs. On those records and bootlegs are some of the finest moments in Dylan’s career, and that’s saying a lot. If Dylan’s feeling up to it, he can topple anyone, including Springsteen with another marvelous record. Not a knock on Bruce, but there’s only one Bob Dylan. Anyway I’m rambling, just really excited about the prospects of this Dylan album.

Continuing on the music circuit, sort of, can August get here yet? I am taking 10 days off in August, it’s going to be great. What do I have on my plate? A gauntlet of greatness. August 1st: The Black Keys in Council Bluffs, August 3rd-5th: Lollapalooza in Chicago, August 19th: Dawes at The Englert, Bob Dylan in Rochester on August 21st, and then Apple River to close it all out from August 23rd-26th. Yeah, August is going to be great.

Let’s not forget, shortly after that… Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Chicago, Wrigley Field on September 7th. Nuff said. Can’t get anymore epic than that.

Well, that’s all for now on the ramblin’ trail…

wait!