Live Review: Built to Spill; Shiver Shiver, SSTM; Remembering Tom Snyder; Coyote Bones, High on Fire tonight…
Before I get to last Saturday night, a quick review of the Built to Spill show at Slowdown July 18. What’s that? Wasn’t I in Cape Cod the night of that show? Well, yes, I was indeed, good reader. But through the magic of bootleg technology, I was able to relive the moment. A friend of mine sent me a link to the Blasé Blogspot, which posted a link to this divShare page that allows you to download the entire Slowdown performance, presumably recorded off the soundboard. It sounds pretty marvelous indeed.
I’ve never been a collector of bootlegs. My only foray into bootleg acquisition was picking up a cassette from a friend of a friend of mine of an old Led Zeppelin concert titled “Mudslide.” The quality was piss-poor, but at the time (back in the ’80s) I was so hungry for anything Zeppelinesque that I cherished the tape, which included a recording of a (then) unreleased Zeppelin track. These days there are entire web networks dedicated to nothing but bootlegs of live shows — not just the usual boring, pointless Phish or Widespread head-shop noodling sessions, but everything from Prince to Morrissey to last week’s Built to Spill concert. Who knows which of the recordings are authorized by the artists and which aren’t. I assume the person listed in the accompanying BTS text file (strangely identified only as “DB” — who could that be?) had permission from Martsch to record.
My take on the concert: Martsch’s vocals continue to sound more and more like Neil Young’s, to the point where the recording got me wondering if Young would ever consider covering a Built to Spill song (Martsch certainly has covered enough of Young’s songs). Sounds like the band had a few problems with their gear, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a solid night of rock that dipped extensively into their back catalog. Seems ol’ Doug was a man of his word, and rock won out over jams, though he ended with a 16-plus minute version of “Randy Described Eternity” that devolved deeply into jam territory. Among the highlights were roaring versions of “Time Trap,” “Stab,” and a cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Uncle.” The recording includes all the between-song banter, including Martsch asking (after “Time Trap”) “Anyone know what happened to Mousetrap?” Silence (a testament, I guess, to the number of people in the audience who don’t remember the band). Moments later, he said”Chicago?”
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File this under “eerie” and “sad”: Yesterday while doing some “research” on personal writing hero Harlan Ellison, I spent a couple hours watching old Tom Snyder interviews on that ultimate internet time-waster, YouTube. After Ellison, I went to an old Wendy O. Williams interview, and — just like opening a bag of potato chips — couldn’t stop watching interviews with The Clash, Iggy Pop, and PiL (specifically, Johnny Rotten, who is as famous for being a prick during interviews as he is for his music — and what a prick he was to Snyder).
Then this morning on my drive into work, NPR reported that Snyder died yesterday after a long battle with leukemia. Strange, sad coincidence. I didn’t grow up watching the Tomorrow show; I only caught it a few times during the ’80s. It was on way past my bedtime — if I was up that late it was because I was either studying or partying. The times I did catch it, however, I loved. It. Snyder’s interview style seemed off-the-cuff, as if he did little or no research before strolling onto the set each evening. He was the first guy I ever saw regularly talk to the folks behind the cameras and control board during a broadcast — it felt like he was letting you in on something you weren’t supposed to see, and as a result, you felt like you were part of the show. He was no fan of punk and New Wave — he simply didn’t understand it. Despite that, he knew it made good television, and often invited punks onto his show, providing exposure that they’d get nowhere else. Unfortunately, more people remember Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of Snyder than the man himself. YouTube, of course, could change all that.
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My only show attendence this weekend was Shiver Shiver and Sleep Said the Monster at O’Leaver’s Saturday night. Opening band Donnelly is a new project by Satchel Grande member Ben Zinn. I missed them. Shiver Shiver is a keyboard/drum duo whose impressive recordings on MySpace drew me to the show. In fact, they were probably the main draw of the evening as half the crowd left shortly after their set. Live, their sound was muddy and off-balance, moreso due to the limitations of O’Leaver’s sound system. O’Leaver’s is a fine venue for punk and hard rock sets, not so much for more laid-back keyboard or acoustic-driven music. That said, Shiver Shiver sounded as good as they could, though nowhere as good as on their recordings. The formula is simple: Jordan Elsberry belts out loungy, jazzy ballads a la Todd Rundgren or Ben Folds on keyboards, while drummer Chase Thornburg fills in the rhythms and adds harmony vocals (For whatever reason, I couldn’t help thinking of Flight of the Conchords). Again, maybe it was the venue, but the set seemed hollow. I’m told Elsberry handled bass lines on one of the keyboards, but that didn’t compensate enough for not having a real bass (Why are bands so reticent these days to bite the bullet and bring on a bassist?). Elsberry’s keyboard tones also seemed locked in a mid-tempo, mid-range rut, and lacked some much-needed variety. Some songs seemed too long. Still, there’s no question these guys know how to write music, and no one is doing anything like Shiver Shiver around these parts. They slated to play at Saddle Creek Bar Aug. 17 with Seymore Saves the World. Check them out.
Sleep Said the Monster sounds different every time I see them, and last Saturday was no exception. They’ve evolved into a hard-rocking indie band that plays run-of-the-mill indie music — which is a nice way of saying the band never sounded better, but their music was far from unique. I’m not sure fans of this style of music care, as long as it rocks, and it certainly did.
Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Coyote Bones opens for Blitzen Trapper. CB, one of the best new bands in the area, has a split 7-inch with Flowers Forever coming out eventually on CoCo Art. $7, 9 p.m. Also tonight, Oakland stoner metal band High on Fire (Matt Pike, formerly of seminal stoner band Sleep) plays at The Waiting Room with Omaha band Back When. $10, 9 p.m.
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