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Tonight, Vieve, John and I went to the Middle East Downstairs to see Mates of State open for Cake. This post, however, is not about Cake. I enjoy their music. I listen to it more than a lot of other stuff. I have seen them before. They were good. It turns out I didn’t really have to see them again.

Mates of State, however, rocked the house. I was very impressed. I had listened to their album once or twice, but not very closely. The live experience is just so different. Sometimes, it takes a live show before I really get into something. That’s how it was with these guys.

Mates of State are married. He plays the drums, she plays the organ and they both sing. It’s pretty surprising when you find out that there is only two people and two instruments in all that music. The music sounds so full. This has a lot to do with with fact that they are constantly harmonizing with their voices and change the tempo and the groove of the song. They are also both equally featured. In their FAQ they say “We both write the songs. We are equals.” That completely shows in the performance. Not to mention all the body language and signals that they have between one another.

Plus, she is completely pregnant like she’s about to bust open!

If you get a a chance to see this guys, take it. If you want to pick up an album, the one we have is “Team Boo” and the song “Ha Ha” is particularly catchy.

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On Thursday, Genevieve, Adrienne, Phil and myself went to the Middle East Downstairs to see the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players. I had seen them once before on Conan. I got a pretty good review of the show from Evan. I’d read articles. I had the basic idea, that they get old slides from estate and garage sales and that they make songs about them and perform it all live. I just didn’t realize how entertaining it could be!

First of all, I need to talk about this comedian that opened for them, Bobby Tisdale. I’ve never seen this guy before. I’ve heard of him, because he produces a weekly show in NYC with Eugene Mirman, who I like a lot. Anyway, I did not like him at all. I mean, I like an alternative comic. A lot of times, there is a guy who is hilarious because of the way he is so bad he upsets the audience. You know? The kind of thing Andy Kaufman did. David Cross does it. Lots of people do it. Honestly, I think this guy just sucked.

As for the family, they rocked. The setup is pretty much daughter on drum set, mom on slide projector and dad on either guitar or little Casio-style keyboard. While mom flips the slides, the other two make music with dad singing lead. Most of the songs are silly, but have some kind of recurring theme, There’s the one I saw on TV, “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” and there’s one about an egg. They’re pretty popular at this point and have been to Boston before, so people were requesting favorite songs.

In addition to the slides and the music, there’s also the hilarious banter of the father and here and there from the other two. He went on for a while about how he was wearing a watch and how bad that was to do on stage and some story about Eric Clapton. He is an interesting cross between Rick Moranis, Austin Powers and Woody Allen. He has this sort of neurotic mumbly manner on stage and wears these nerdy glasses. But it all works. He’s a complete character.

If you haven’t seen these guys, I definitely recommend it. It’s a lot of fun!

A couple of weeks ago, DJ Shadow and the rest of the Quannum crew were in town on their first world tour together, ever. Let me tell you, it was quite a show.

I was basically going to see DJ Shadow. The fact that other people were going to be there, including Blackalicious, was only icing on the cake. I mean, I’ve heard Blackalicious and I’ve liked it, but I wouldn’t say I was particularly a fan. That was before.

This show was amazing. It was so high energy and dripping with quality. I’ve been to a lot of hip-hop shows and I am usually disappointed. They’re usually too loud and sloppy and high (hence the sloppy) and you end up glad that you got to see these artists who you’ve listened to, but wishing you had some proper earplugs and that you hadn’t paid $30 to get in. That was not the case here. These guys were all on point.

The arrangement on stage was three full DJ setups, one in the middle and one on either side, all aimed toward stage front and center. In the middle was DJ Shadow, with some number of turntables, samplers and unidentifiable devices, plus a spankin’ new Pioneer DVJ-X1 digital audio and video (a.k.a. DVD) turntable. To the right was Chief Xcel, DJ for Blackalicious, with two CDJ-1000 CD turntables and a standard SL-1200 vinyl turntable. Then on the left was where the other two or three DJs rotated throughout the evening. Behind them were two large projection screens.

Out in front, obviously, were the MCs and there were a number of them. Everyone just rotated onto and off of the stage every couple of songs so we really got to see everyone perform. The whole crew was very talented and they had all different vocal styles. It was really an impressive set. All the while, DJs in the back mixing it up. Periodically, Shadow would put a DVD into the DVJ and scratch it up, both on the sound system and on the screens. It definitely added a new dimension to things.

I have to say, now that I’ve seen the show, I’m not only a Blackalicious fan, but I’m a Quannum fan in general. Meaning, DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Latyrx, The Gift of Gab, DJ D Sharp, Lateef and the Chief, Joyo Velarde, Lifesavas and Lyrics Born. They all represented and gave Boston a fantastic performance and my thanks go out to them.

A little over a month ago, just a few days after we went to see Jon Stewart, Vieve and I went to Avalon to see Bob Dylan and his band. This was only my second time seeing him. The first time was at the Fleet Center back in November of 2001. Needless to say, it’s pretty different seeing the show at a rock/dance club rather than at a big stadium. However, I guess I’d have to say my mind wasn’t blown by the whole thing. I’m glad I went, but it didn’t change my life or anything. He pretty much sounds the same in either case and I definitely had a lot more trouble seeing anything at Avalon than I did at the Fleet Center.

One of the most significant things that I noticed at the show was the size of the audience. I’m not really referring to the number of people, so much as the girth of those people. I’ve been to a lot of sold out shows at Avalon. Never was I as worried that we’d all run out of air and suffocate as I was at this Bob Dylan show. The place was mostly filled with older gentlemen, gigantic in both height and width. There was really no place to stand where there was any kind of line of sight with the stage. So Vieve and I found some place where we could stand and breathe at the same time and listened to the show from there.

It was a great performance. I really enjoyed the music. I was pretty much able to pick out all the songs I knew, which was all but three or four of them. Most people around me were totally lost for the greater part of the show, though. These men near me would spend a few minutes at the beginning of each song trying to figure out what it was and would then suck it up and come over and ask me, since I looked like I knew what was going on. “Memphis Blues,” I said, shortening the rather long title to something that could be more easily heard in a loud club. They seemed confused at first, perhaps questioning if I was right about which song it was. But once they finally caught it, for the rest of the song they never missed their cue, singing along with Bob every time he sang those two words, only. This same thing happened three or four times until I found another place to stand where I didn’t have to tell people the names of songs that they were listening to before I was even born.

Here’s the setlist, in case you’re interested:

    Maggie’s Farm
    I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
    Lonesome Day Blues
    Just Like A Woman
    Things Have Changed
    Tell Me That It Isn’t True
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Can’t Wait
    Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
    High Water (For Charley Patton)
    It Ain’t Me Babe
    Honest With Me
    Saving Grace
    Summer Days
    encore
    Cat’s in the Well
    Like a Rolling Stone
    All Along the Watchtower

I just got a recording of the show this week and I’m listening to it right now! Yay for the Internet!

The Saturday after the Ninja Tune show, Genevieve, Lisa, John and I went to the Orpheum for a live stand-up performance from Jon “The Daily Show with” Stewart. Man, it was such a great concert! Jon was every bit as quick, hilarious and intelligent as he is on the show. He speaks a lot about his politics and I really feel like he and I are on the same page with just about every topic he hits. This was probably one of the most enjoyable comedy performances I’ve ever experienced. It was a great followup to the Lewis Black and Mitch Hedberg (also Dave Attell) show that we saw at the same theater last year. Rock on Comedy Central!

I know it’s been a couple of weeks, but I still wanted to write about the Ninja Tune tour at the The Paradise. Even though I purchased four tickets in advance and won two more on the day of, it ended up being just Doc at the show. The show was totally sold out so I had no trouble getting what I paid for the four and Doc and I got the enjoy the show for free!

First up was Sixtoo, who was pretty interesting. He did some stuff with mostly one turntable and a small drum machine, which he used both to play pre-programed beats and to play live. He did a few songs, but spent a good portion of his time on stage doing some experimental improvisation with DJ P-Love on various turntables and electronic instruments. In spite of the looseness of the set, it was still enjoyable to watch and to listen to.

When they got off the stage this so-called “Blockhead” came on. For the record, his name is not clever, except in that it describes the shape of his head. I did not like this guy. His music may have been alright, but he was probably the most boring DJ that I have ever watched. He didn’t move at all. He didn’t read or engage the audience. After playing a couple of very quiet, slow jams, he announced that the up-tempo part of his set was over and it was time for some down-tempo. Maybe it was that I didn’t want things to be that chilled out at that point in the night, but I couldn’t wait for him to get off stage so I could see an actual performance.

And perform Bonobo did. This guy rocks. He makes very good music and it’s very clever and interesting and he really gets the audience moving. I really like watching him because his stuff is so complicated I have a hard time figuring out which instruments are making which sounds. He uses a number of turntables and some samplers and compact disc players and a computer and who knows what else. The final product is really great. Bonobo is one of my new favorite artists.

Next up was my main man, the guy who was the original inspiration for me to buy turntables, Eric “Kid Koala” San. This guy is my favorite DJ of all time, but he wasn’t quite himself on this night. He wasn’t on stage for more than half an hour. He had a lot of false starts. He attempted some interesting things, but also bailed a bunch of them. He apologized to the audience. I was kind of disappointed that it was the first time Doc got to see him. But really, the more I think about it, a bad Kid Koala performance is still pretty damn entertaining, especially if you don’t know what to expect. I’ve seen him no less than 8 times since 1997 and I guess I’d say this was the worst of those. Don’t worry man, I’ll still be there next time when you rock out.

Finally, the crowd-drawer, Amon Tobin. I do love this guy. His music is a nice range of down-tempo and up-tempo, with a similar range of trip-hop electronica and drum’n’bass. However, at a live show he definitely lays on the hard stuff. And he goes bigger as the set goes on. Things got heavy at one point and kids were doing what I guess we used to call “moshing” and one dude and I connected a few too many times. This led to that, he ended up on the floor and I strolled over to Doc to request that he please, if he would, “watch my back.” Doc has a pretty good story about the whole adventure, though I don’t know exactly how much of it is true. I do know that the same dude came up to me minutes later and shook my hand, asking for my assurance that “we cool?”

All in all, it was a good show, if a bit rocky at times. I can never resist a Ninja event like this one. I hope it isn’t long before the next one.

I’ve wanted to see Bjork for years. The last time she came to town, she played at the Wang Center, but the tickets were cost-prohibitive. This time, the show was scheduled to take place at Suffolk Downs, which is where we saw Radiohead a couple of years ago. The tickets were also cost-prohibitive this time ($45) but I found a way to get them for $15, so I did!

However, things have not worked out for the best. Apparently, they must not have sold enough tickets for Suffolk Downs because they’ve moved the show to the FleetBoston Pavilion. I really do like that venue, since it’s a big tent right on the water and it’s much closer to me than Suffolk Downs. Alas, I will not be able to attend.

Apparently, anyone who received “comp” tickets, either by getting them free along with the purchase of the new Bjork DVD at Newbury Comics, or by buying them from some value club like I did, will not have their tickets honored at the door. The show is now sold out. I think this is all is pretty lame.

Ryan and I went to see Liz Phair at Avalon. I had a great time! Liz was totally hot and completely rocked the house. I’ve seen here twice before — first at Oberlin in April of 1994 and then again at the University of Minnesota in April of 1999 — but this show was definitely the best so far.

She was really happy and charged up on stage. I remember the first time I saw her, at her own alma mater 5 years after she graduated, and she really wasn’t comfortable on the stage. It really affected her performance and even made the audience feel a bit uncomfortable. The second time, she had pretty much kicked the stage fright and did a wonderful show. Tonight’s show was great as well, but was much bigger than the last. For one thing, it wasn’t in a college student union. The audience knew who she was and she looked like a real rock star up there. And did I mention hot?!

Here’s the setlist:

    6’1″
    Polyester Bride
    Rock Me
    Never Said
    Glory
    Help Me Mary
    Divorce Song
    Red Light Fever
    Uncle Alvarez
    Perfect World
    Why Can’t I?
    Johnny Feelgood
    Flower
    Extraordinary
    Supernova
    encore:
    Little Digger
    Fuck and Run

Now we wait to see if the new album and this tour have the desired effect of catapulting Liz Phair into rock stardom. I know one thing for sure, by the time that happens, I will be very sick of Why Can’t I. Still, I wish her luck.

We are currently driving back to Boston after a Radiohead show at the Tweeter Center. The show was great. It didn’t even rain! Ethan and Heather are discussing which they’d rather lose, their eyes or their genitalia, over the radio, while Sean drives Enola and Ethan navigates the BMW. It is a crazy scene, here in the car.

We met tons of people we knew in the parking lot waiting for cars to start moving. We made some new friends too! A guy hassled me and then us and then another guy called him a fucking reject guidance counselor! It was HI-larious! You shoulda been there.

That’s all for now. It’s hard to type while we weave in and out of traffic Of course, now we are not moving at all. That was quick! It’s funny how that is. Anyway, more later.

Tonight, Vieve and Drew and I went to the Orpheum to check out Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. This was my 17th Flecktones show. The only band I’ve seen more than them is Phish (duh). They were wonderful as usual.

There were a few annoying things, however. First of all, the audience was pretty annoying. Tons of people yelling and screaming during the show while people were trying to listen to the music. Many of those people were yelling things like “VICTOR!” (the bass player), but even more people were cheering “NOMAR!” or “YANKEES SUCK!” which I don’t really think is “on topic.”

The security staff was also annoying. This one woman (who I recognized from having been to quite a few shows at that venue) must have noticed a flame being sparked in the row in front of us. So, she squatted in the aisle right next to me and just watched like a hawk for about 5 minutes. She was sort of hiding but watching intently for another flame to be sparked. As soon as it was, she pounced, grabbing the two offenders and exiting them from the venue. That blows. The light guy and I made eye contact with each other and both shook our heads about the situation. I mean, I know they have no smoking rules, but still. They don’t need to be quite that aggressive about it. Lame.

Still we had a great time. The music was fantastic. The band has such a great dynamic on stage. They are so playful with each other, messing with each other’s instruments and such, that it really adds to the enjoyment of the show. I also had a nice little chat with my buddy Chard, the Flecktone sound guy, who graciously put Vieve and myself on “the list” for tonight’s show. Good times.

Afterward, Drew and I headed over to Vertigo to check out Peter and folks at the Analog Lounge. The place was bouncing! Lots of people came out. It has been weeks (okay, more like months) since I came out for that. I’ve been staying at home working, mostly. It was great to get out and see everyone and support Peter and hear some good beats. I’m glad I went.

Perhaps now it is time for some rest.

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