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Tuesday, Aug 19, 2008
Words and pictures by Thomas Hauner.

Ben Harper once said, “I refuse to age disgracefully in rock ‘n’ roll.” It’s an apt mantra that aging rockers should adhere to for the sake of their music, but mostly themselves.  Mike Gordon, former bassist of reunion-rumored Phish, and touring in support of his latest release The Green Sparrow, did bring his musical aestheticism with grace and humility to a packed Highline Ballroom last Wednesday night. But his aging fans should give it equal credence because no matter how yuppified a Phish-head can become, their nostalgic nights out are all too predictable.


Just as Gordon’s bluegrass ballads followed a tried and true formula—so much so that the only variable was the number of players that joined him as he progressed through that portion of the program—so too did his faithful: Weathered Birkenstocks, homemade purses and bags, and apoplectic dance. 


 


They did have some reason to gyrate, though. “Dig Further Down” and “Traveled Too Far”, both from the new album, weren’t too bass heavy, but exuded that light funk Phish could easily toy with. Arguably the best song of the night was “Takin’ it to the Streets” with keyboardist Tom Cleary thankfully singing lead.  (Gordon’s voice has always been intrinsically goofy and awkward. He sings with exuberance but it just sounds like his sinus is the vocalist.)  A close second was the C+C Music Factory cover, “Things that make you go Hmmm”, showing some alacrity on Gordon’s part. That guitarist Scott Murawski played Trey Anastasio’s signature guitar (which is only made by Phish’ audio engineer/guitar-tech/luthier Paul Languedoc) emphasized the show as a diluted recapitulation of Phish’s best, and worst, characteristics.



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Friday, Aug 15, 2008
Word and pictures by Mehan Jayasuriya.

I used to think that only an act of God could keep me from a Radiohead show. Well, much to my surprise, this past spring, God decided to call my bluff on that one. So it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I approached Radiohead’s performance this past Tuesday in the Philadelphia suburb of Camden, New Jersey – a makeup date, of sorts, for the washout this past May. This time around, I took every precaution. I checked the weather forecast compulsively. I packed a GPS-equipped phone, just in case I got lost on the way. I double-checked to make sure my name was on the guest list. I left for the venue earlier than was probably advisable.


Despite all of these precautions, just about everything that could go wrong en route to the venue went wrong. I took a wrong turn and got lost in the suburbs of Camden. My GPS-equipped phone ran out of batteries. The car charger for the phone didn’t work. None of the gas station attendants seemed to know where the Susquehanna Bank Center was (not that I can blame them, what, with a catchy name like that). I eventually made my way to Camden, only to get lost yet again in that city’s vast, spooky underbelly. The setting sun completely obscured my view of the road. My girlfriend told me to settle down, repeatedly.


Eventually, I made my way into downtown Camden, where I asked a police officer for directions. He shot me a befuddled look before pointing directly across the street from where he stood.


As for the show, well, there’s not much left to say about the In Rainbows tour and even less left to say about Radiohead as a live act. As always, the five lads from Oxfordshire were on point, crafting a career-spanning set-list and attacking it with both passion and precision. And as you’ve surely heard countless times by now, the band’s LED light spectacle was, for lack of a better word, spectacular. Standing there in awe of the music and lights and amazed that I had made it to the show at all, I couldn’t help but identify with the band’s choice of a closing number. As Thom Yorke’s disembodied voice rang through a sampler, the LED spires scrolled in tandem: “EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE”.



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Wednesday, Aug 6, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner.

A balmy Tuesday night in New York’s Central Park was the near perfect setting to take in the sonorous melodies and counterculture nostalgia of Crosby, Stills & Nash. Playing in their 40th year together, the trio (this time sans the erratic Neil Young) serenaded the crowd with the more equanimous side of their repertoire during the first set. Breezy and reminiscent, “Marrakesh Express” instantly entranced the audience with patchouli-laden thoughts of seminal rock festivals. David Crosby gingerly sang backup–appearing either stoic or stoned–while Graham Nash paced Persian rugs barefooted and Stephen Stills basked in the glow of his sunburst Gibson at sunset. Other classics like “Southern Cross” and “Long Time Gone” quickly followed.


The second set, opening with the earnest a cappella ballad “You Don’t Have to Cry”, showcased their trademark harmonies and more Stills-led electric rock. Equally known for their infamous anti-establishment and political commentary, “This is My Country” (written by Joel Rafael with backing vocals by Nash and Crosby) was the most biting socially conscious song of the night. Nash then thanked the crowd for listening to his solo performance—apparently the tune fell on less receptive ears at the D.C. show.


Though ostensibly political, the iconic Buffalo Springfield tune “For What It’s Worth” has instead evolved into a go-to group sing-along. It didn’t disappoint as the first encore. Rounding out their two and a half hour show, “Teach Your Children” was as fitting a bestowal to the younger concertgoers as it was a reprise for the older. And in plugging their appearance on The Colbert Report the next day, CSN united the generations too.



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Monday, Aug 4, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner.

Kin of Chicago Jazz luminary Phil Cohran—Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter and founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—this group of eight blood brothers (and one non) seem born and bred for musical conception. What began as a family band in Chicago during the late ‘80s has developed into something deeper. Since transplanting to Queens in 2005, busking and backing major artists has become the group’s calling card.


At New York’s Highline Ballroom, in what turned out to be a homecoming celebration (the group just completed a month-long European trek) the group was energized and unabashed in a show that seemed more like a party for their closest 150 friends.


Considerate hosts, they announced their 9:30 pm starting time and even came on five minutes early, cutting off the Lil’ Wayne prelude. Playing disciplined and cohesive brass lines, the ensemble carved out dense harmonies across a scope of styles ranging from the somber but resilient “Baliky Bone” to the rowdy “Get the Party Started”. “War” has a beguiling Afro-Cuban beat that was missed when performed live. They even made room for a speedy variation of “Korobeiniki” a.k.a. Tetris song A.


As a unit they still maintain their individual identities with demure solos. But it’s largely their tight brass and hip-hop laden sound that has attracted collaborations and backing gigs with Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Damon Albarn, Tony Allen, and a Jay Z remix. Sadly, September 1st has been declared their final street-performance, something they have diligently served NYC since their arrival. On the upside, it may mean a sharper focus and more recording that should yield promising results.



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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner.

Summers in New York City are synonymous with SummerStage, and the 2008 season has seemingly dubbed Santogold its breakout star. As Converse ads with Pharrell and opening gigs with Gnarls Barkley have become the norm for her, she is now more commercial than she ever was indie. And after enduring an afternoon’s worth of 100-degree temperatures for 30 minutes of routine performing, it seemed that Santogold’s solipsism was her most defining characteristic.


After a tag-team of DJs and styles, numerous dance crews, and half-ass hype men, a somewhat anticipated, though brief, headlining show for Santogold transformed into a sweltering and anticlimactic Sunday at Central Park’s SummerStage. The afternoon show—produced by MeanRed as part of their Madfools party—promised to deliver “a spectacular display of confetti cannons, beach balls, dancing monsters, and performances by the reigning stars of international dance floors.” It was more akin to a hazy water fight with birthday party favors.



Entertaining the masses until her arrival were DJ Blaqstarr and Kid CuDi, who galvanized the crowd from its heat-induced ennui. Later, A-Trak was capable of kick-starting the dancing with both throwback (Jackson 5, Notorious B.I.G.) and current (Lil’ Wayne) beats. With Diplo joining him at his Technics, the duo got a warm reception. But as Diplo took over the scene, not even waves of “Get Mad” dancers in ridiculous costumes and makeup could keep the audience’s attention any longer than the nearest available squirt gun.


Overall, the energy and excitement seemed to evaporate as quickly as each Super-Soakers’ ammo.



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