Double Shot Week continues with Chuck Prophet, a seemingly perfect rock ‘n’ roller who’s knocked out distinctive, memorable and hugely satisfying music since the late 1970s when he first rose to attention in Green On Red. However, it’s Prophet’s solo work, particularly in the past decade, that marks him as a rootsier American answer to Richard Thompson, displaying his own nuanced way with a guitar, a tune or a vocal delivery that makes one lean in and pay attention. The sweet meat with Chuck Prophet is often found in the details – a slight turn of phrase, a wink in a black tale, a totally unexpected yet perfect flash of guitar, tenderness in a punch – and his albums are the sort that just keep getting better & better with repetition and time. Like we said, kind of a perfect musician, and goddamn great live performer, too. Here’s two recent killers from his pen, and check out Dennis chat with Chuck Prophet from a few years back here.
Ah heck, it’s Sunday and we adore Chuck, so we’re gonna make it a DOUBLE Double Shot!
One of the great joys of 70s FM radio was the days when they’d play two in a row from a band. The first cut would stir one’s appetite and the second finish ya off. It’s a simple gimmick but it worked, and we’re never averse to using an old trick that’s still got play. So, for the next seven days the Impound will offer you two tunes from bands we think you ought to know. Instead of the usual well-worn names that get the double shot treatment, we’re gonna hit ya with gems that’ll enrich your listening knowledge and tickle your ears.
We begin Double Shot Week with the band once touted to be England’s answer to The Band in the early 70s. Brinsley Schwarz never reached those heights of popular or critical acclaim, but they were a damn fine band that launched the career of Impound Hall of Famer Nick Lowe (check out Dennis’ chat with Nick from a few years back here). Curious folks should snap up Brinsley’s self-titled 1970 debut, Despite It All and Silver Pistol for the best this bunch had to offer. Now, on with the show…
Prog-jam-metal-pop twisters Umphrey’s McGee recently held a two-night stand at The Fillmore in SF. Always an animated, colorful bunch, we’re lucky that lensman Dave Vann was on hand to capture some moments for us.
Set One: Jazz Odyssey > Prowler > 2×2, Conduit, Red Tape, Morning Song, The Way You Rule the World
Set Two: 1348 > “Jimmy Stewart” > Andy’s Last Beer, Roundabout, #Hangover, Syncopated Strangers, Bridgeless > 1348
Encore: Bright Lights > Bridgeless
# = preceded by “Pony Moog Tune”
Set One: The Fussy Dutchman, Cemetery Walk, Susanah, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft > Deeper > Kid Charlemagne* > 2nd Self, Wellwishers, Hajimemashite, Can’t Ya Hear Me Knockin’^
Set Two: Mantis > Hurt Bird Bath > Mantis, Girlfriend is Better > Night Nurse, Plunger > The Linear > Plunger, Cemetery Walk II
Encore: 40′s Theme
* = first time played, Steely Dan; instrumental; dedicated to Owsley “Bear” Stanley
^ = with Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) on saxophone
That’s the resounding impression I walked away with from my first live experience with The Soundtrack Of Our Lives this past Wednesday on a dreary, poorly attended night in Santa Clara, CA. There’s no accounting for taste but the flock was thin enough for TSOOL lead singer Ebbot Lundberg to mutter, “The chosen few,” under his breath after blazing opener “Universal Stalker.” Folks missed out because these Swedes are pretty much everything right about rock. They make hoary, seemingly antiquated terms like “groovy,” “psychedelic” and “cosmic” seem like proper, cool descriptors. Watching them turn it on at the Avalon – quite simply one of the most depressing, grumpily staffed venues in the Bay Area – one saw men who genuinely believe in rock ‘n’ roll’s power, relevance and capacity to stir passion & joy. And if one opened up, even a little, their music and personal energy seeped into one like life giving water to hungry roots.
Does that sound corny to you? Well, you probably don’t feel rock’s importance on a fibril level like TSOOL and the handful of us hugging the lip of the stage, sweating and swaying as they knocked out one compelling, intensely engaging and simply well-made tune after another. TSOOL wraps their heads and hearts around the modern human condition, grappling with our changing social climate, technology’s impact, the afterlife and other high-minded notions…while simultaneously churning out riffs and hooks that are simply classic and generally catchy as all hell. One can enjoy their music on several levels, but in concert, their sheer, visceral power is inescapable.
In many respects, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives is the grandchild of the folks that set up shop at the original Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland – earthy explorers in love with life and music and eager to connect the dots with anyone down to share a night with them. You’d never have known the cavernous Santa Clara club was nigh empty based on TSOOL’s sterling performance, though one wonders how much better the experience is for them with at least a few hundred frothing coconspirators and also what heights we might all have climbed with a smidge more collective energy. In any case, rock loving folks need to explore The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, and unlike myself – a fan of their studio output for many years – don’t wait a minute longer than you have to see them in the flesh. Even though the circumstances may not have been ideal, the band should know they put the zap – in the best of ways – on this boy’s head – not just with their own material but also a pulverizing cover of The Stooges’ “Sick of You” that conjured up both vintage Iggy and company but also The Doors in the quieter bookend sections. I’ll never miss this band again when they roll through town. (Dennis Cook)
Those uninitiated or only passing familiar with TSOOL can start with the new compilation Golden Greats No 1 (released March 22), a nice handshake, though their full albums are stuffed with great songs and subtle, overlapping themes, and worth exploring in their own right.
It’s a bloody treat to share photographer extraordinaire (and pal) Jay Blakesberg’s photos from the evening. As usual, he captures the vibe and personality of a show better than almost anyone wielding a camera.
Welcome back to John Jordan’s reoccurring column where he’ll dig through his album collection to ruminate on the gold he’s accumulated over the years.
It is a tricky business using words to describe music. Trying to describe our reactions to and feelings about what we hear sometimes seems inexact, clumsy, and indirect, as if we are adding several steps to the process of perception. Music, by contrast, is a very effective and direct medium of transmitting feeling, at least in the hands of skilled artists. Think of the visceral connections between love and George Harrison’s “Something,” elation and the work of Earth, Wind, and Fire, or rage and the work of Minor Threat. Sometimes we are tuned to different wavelengths, but I don’t think anyone visiting the Impound will deny that music has this sort of immediate effect on them.
I had these thoughts as I was trying to get to grips with Hawkwind’s Space Ritual double live album from 1973. Recorded during an ambitious 1972 tour financed by the success of their single “Silver Machine,” Space Ritual should be filed with such seminal live albums as Live at Leeds and Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, as it is surely the document of a band at the absolute height of their powers. The difference between The Who or The Rolling Stones and Hawkwind is that Hawkwind are madder than twice their weight in hatters (even accounting for Keith Moon). Their off-center and sometimes disturbing vibe resonates in their music. The feeling that everything is about to fall off the rails, that someone’s mind is humming just below the frequency that will cause it to snap, is omnipresent throughout Space Ritual.
You know what’s rockin’ our boat nicely this week? The sweet, put-on-repeat new album from Erland & The Carnival, which comes out next Tuesday, March 29, in the States. Nightingale has a cool, post-80s feel and songs that crawl into the nooks of one’s brain. Here’s a taste in their new video:
Simply put, the North Mississippi Allstars recent two-night run at San Francisco’s fab The Independent on March 11-12 shored up their place amongst the greatest trio’s rock has ever known. Bold words but backed up by the sinewy, incredibly diverse and endlessly tasty playing of Luther Dickinson (guitar, vocals), Chris Chew (bass, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums). While justifiably identified with the blues, NMAS displayed equal facility with gritty soul, tattered denim rock and roughhewn psychedlia. Touring behind the finest album of their career, Keys To The Kingdom (see review here), the Allstars have loads of new material to chew on, and their bite was firm and sharp in San Francisco, the three of them dripping sweat as they chased down each tune, men driven by angels and devils – lusty and wondering and hard-nosed in their determination. Without hyperbole, Luther Dickinson is one of the guitarists of his generation – there seems to be no end or ceiling on his invention – and it was a downright treat that he opened both nights with a solo (mostly) acoustic set, where he ranged through antique gems, works by contemporaries and his own fine songbook before being joined first by his brother and then Chew, who knocked out some amazing vocals this weekend. This band is playing at the top of their game, showing folks just what a trio is capable of and having a fine old time in the process. (Dennis Cook)
While we always dig John Margaretten‘s work, this batch from The Independent shows ranks as some of his finest pictures to date.
It isn’t easy being a musician these days. OK, it’s never been easy, but today’s music industry is a landscape that is shiftier than the Pacific plate that so many great musicians call home. Between the wave of clubs toppling like bowling pins and the royalty graveyard of the internets, the flow of indie music bucks has slowed to a trickle. Yet the need for a little music therapy in these hard times has never been greater. What are artists and music fans to do?
Nathan Moore, in the guise of Hippy Fiasco, is creating a new paradigm of his own design. In the summer of 2010, the perennial darling of the folk and jam festival circuit and frontman for the rockin’ Surprise Me Mr. Davis unexpectedly found himself facing a new adventure. When a festival in Northern California failed to pay their performers, Nathan, his road manager and a companion decided that instead of heading home with their pockets inside out, the techno-savvy trio would pick up their cell phones and make a few calls. The flight home was canceled and they set out on a spontaneous tour thrown together with the help of friends, fans and Facebook at a moment’s notice. Touching down in living rooms, backyards, pizza parlors or anywhere someone volunteered to play impresario-for-a-day, the Hippy Fiasco tour took flight and made a lot of people very, very happy.
The idea was simple and brilliant. A perfect win-win. Artists need places to play. Fans love to connect with artists. No agents. No ticketing convenience fees. No ten dollar beers. Just a donation at the door keeps the show on the road. And maybe if they’re lucky, they get a place to stay and a hot meal!