Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've Been Thinking About My Doorbell

The White Stripes and The Shins @ Keyspan Park 9/24/05
Ah, another trip to Coney Island for a show (this was my 1st time at Keyspan Park; previously I'd only been there to attend the Siren Festival on 3 separate occasions, most recently this past summer, which you can read about here. Of course, you know what that means, right? Another trip to the original Totonno's pizzeria, of course! Unlike last time, when we got seated right away and got our food rather promptly, this time it seemed like everyone who was eating before the show chose Totonno's, so we had to wait for an hour just to get a table and then another half hour for our food to come. You know what, though? It was worth it. The pizza was even better than it was back in July, if that's even possible. And this time, we wisely chose a small pizza over the large, which is humungous.

Because of the long wait and dinner, we missed all of Brendan Benson's set and the first song or two of The Shins' relatively short set. Despite playing for only 45 minutes or so at the most, they were still really good. They played a mix of songs from their excellent 1st 2 albums and the newer song "When I Goosestep". While keyboardist Marty Crandall was funny as always (I loved his reference to John Fogerty's "Centerfield" as we really were standing in what is centerfield when the Coney Island Cyclones, a Mets minor league team, play there) and the center of attention, singer/guitarist James Mercer was much more talkative than usual. I also must say that for a large outdoor venue, the sound was surprisingly very crisp and clear, much like Central Park Summerstage and unlike almost every ampitheater on earth.

And then The White Stripes came on and like the 2 previous times that I've seen them, absolutely blew everyone away. Though they're only 2 people obviously, they play with enough intensity and energy and sheer volume (good thing that I had earplugs, even at an outdoor venue) to rival most 4 or 5 piece groups. As soon as they launched into "Blue Orchid" off of their excellent new album Get Behind Me Satan, the crowd just went nuts and neither the band nor the crowd let up during the hour and half long set, which was considerably longer than the sets that they played the 2 previous times that I've seen them. They played a set of songs that covered much of the new album, but wasn't too shy on the oldies, either, from a rousing version of "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button" (both in the encore) to the blues-jam "Ball and Biscuit" (all from 2003's commercial breakthrough Elephant) to songs from their 1st 3 albums (originally released on indie Sympathy for the Record Industry) like the excellent "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground", "Hotel Yorba", "Screwdriver" and others. The set was also heavy on covers, from their jaw-dropping version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene", which gives me chills every time I hear it, to 2 Son House songs "John the Revelator" and "Death Letter"). Many have criticized Meg White's drumming, but I think it's fine for the minimalist, stomping blues-rock that The White Stripes engage in. It's a different story when she sings, though. I like the recorded versions of "Cold Cold Night" and "Passive Manipulation", but her voice didn't sound good at all and fortunately both were mercifully short (though the latter was sung twice, oddly enough). She still is mighty fine, though. Swoon. :-)

Anyway, because of the length of the set, there was a bit of danger of them overstaying their welcome, but they left the stage right after a long and satisfying encore, so it was ok, though still a bit unlike previous White Stripes shows where they kick your ass for an hour, leave you panting for more and totally drained and then go home. Much like their new album, it's nice to see them maturing into their status as probably the biggest mainstream-crossover stars in the indie-rock scene without compromising the integrity of their music in the slightest and by challenging themselves further.

"Dumb It Down for the Average Jew"?

The Pernice Brothers w/ Tim Fite @ Southpaw 9/23/05

Ok first things first. Tim Fite sucked. I just don't get his whole indie minstrel singer with his brother playing guitar act. Can someone please explain his appeal? The most positive thing I can say about him is that I've never heard anything quite like it, but that doesn't mean that I enjoyed it.

The Pernice Brothers came on to an unfortunately half-empty but still enthusiastic Southpaw crowd. Although only guitarist Peyton Pinkerton (on the very left-hand side of the above picture) remains from the original band, they still rocked and played even better than at their excellent show last month at The North Star Bar in Philadelphia. The setlist was virtually the same, concentrating on new material from this year's excellent Discover A Lovelier You and 2003's just-as-excellent Yours, Mine and Ours along with older material from their 1st 2 records and a few songs during the encore where Joe played solo before the band came out again to do "Flaming Wreck", perhaps Joe's finest composition.

Joe and the rest of the band seemed visibly shaken (and understandably so) from the murder of their tour manager's father a few days prior to this show (they had to cancel their previous 2 dates as a result of that tragedy) and I think that intensity carried over into the performance. He also dedicated the excellent "Saddest Quo" (one of my favorite songs on the year) to Jet Blue, who showed footage (on their other planes as well as on the one that was stuck in LA before crash-landing) of the plane that flew over LA to their passengers and he said that it's symbolic of how fucked up we are and I can't help but to agree with him.

As for the title of my post, before performing the excellent "Dumb It Down", he explained that some listeners (including his wife Laura Stein, also pictured in this shot from 2001 since she was a former member of the band) thought that he was singing "dumb it down for the average Jew" instead of the correct line, which is "dumb it down for the average Joe", which makes more sense. The alternative lyrics, which Joe described as "horrible" and rightfully so (what's funny about this is that his wife is Jewish), are ones that I just don't hear anyone being able to make out, but perhaps as my friend Jack said aftewards, it's that Boston accent.

As a side note, I took my friends from The Czech Republic who were in town to see the dB's a few days beforehand and who never heard of The Pernice Brothers to see the show and both of them loved them, even commenting on how it's unbelievable that they don't have a major label deal given how accessible their music is. I couldn't agree more, but such is the music industry.

Oh and by the way, I know that September is almost over, but for a few more days, you can download the rare Sandwich ep for a $5 donation from The Pernice Brothers' Bargain Center and all the proceeds will go to hurricane relief. It's great and otherwise unavailable music for a good cause, so get to downloading!

Previously: My review of The Pernice Brothers show at The North Star Bar in Philadelphia last month

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I Feel Good Today

The dB's @ Maxwells 9/19/05
This review is long overdue, so sorry about that. I don't know who the openers were, but we (me, my girlfriend, my friend Jeremy and 2 friends from The Czech Republic who came here to see all 4 dB's reunion shows including 2 earlier in Chicago; now that's dedication!) got there late, so we missed them anyway.

The dB's got off to a bit of a shaky start with the first 2 songs, "Big Brown Eyes" from 1981's wonderful Stands for Decibels and "Ask for Jill" from 1982's even better Repercussion. They looked similar to their 20-something selves back in the early '80s except for Peter Holsapple, who had a shaved head and a goatee and looked not unlike a goateed Mr. Clean or a tough biker dude instead of the bookish Holsapple of yore. Holsapple emerged once again as the clear leader of the group, though Chris Stamey shared the spotlight, singing slightly less than half of all of the songs performed. Gene Holder seemed content to not hog the spotlight and hang out in the back though Will Rigby was manic (and great) on drums.

Throughout the approximately hour and a half long set, the band alternated songs from their 1st 2 landmark albums (which made up the majority of the set) along with later gems like "Love is for Lovers" (one of the best performances of the evening along with an astonishing version of "Neverland") alongside new material like "World to Cry" (set to be released on a new album next year), which you can download here. This was the 1st time in 22 years that the original lineup (including Chris Stamey, who departed the band after their 2nd album back in 1983) had played together and it was only their 3rd show since the reunion happened earlier this year, so I wasn't expecting them to be super-tight. The only real misstep of the evening was the performance of "I'm in Love". Stamey just can't hit the high notes in the chorus anymore, though he was fine on the verses, so they just should've chosen to perform another song in its place. Otherwise, his vocals were fine, sounding even more like his hero Alex Chilton than ever (as Jeremy pointed out).

Regardless, I'm sure that if they end up touring to promote their new album that they'll be a bit tighter, but to be totally honest, it was all about the vibe in the room on this evening. It seemed like I knew about a good quarter of the people there from when I lived in Hoboken (including my former roommate Jim, who got me into them; he showed up right when the dB's took the stage) and members of Yo La Tengo, Antietam, The Schramms and other bands that (like North Carolina transplants the dB's) cut their teeth at Maxwells as far back as the early '80s and were thus giddy with excitement and anticipation at the thought of this reunion. Thus, it was just awesome to see them not only in such a small place and in such a great club (still one of the best in the entire area), but also in their old stomping grounds.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What They Do

The Roots, TV on the Radio and Deerhoof @ The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts Philadelphia, PA 9/16/05
Though originally not a benefit, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, this became a benefit for hurricane relief, which made me and Anne feel better about paying $60 or so for this eccentric Philly hip-hop meets indie-rock triple bill.

Anyway, to start things off, Deerhoof played a cacophonous (in a good way) set of no-wave influenced clatter (again, in a good way) with cooing female vocals (think a combination of God is My Co-Pilot and recent Blonde Redhead) that left most of the members of the audience (clearly there to see the Roots) or I should say, whoever was there (as most of the audience wasn't even there for their set nor for TV on the Radio's set as well), perplexed, confused or just plain bored. In their defense, I have to say that Deerhoof (like TV on the Radio) clearly didn't come off as well as they probably would've in say, a small club. They play North Six in a few weeks, so I may be able to give a total different review then.

TV on the Radio were up next and they played a set which encompassed material from their 2003 ep Young Liars, their 2004 full-length Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and the new "Drunk Dry Emperor", which was appropriately dedicated to President Bush. They sound like Peter Gabriel (their vocalist) singing for Suicide (buzzing guitarists, one with his back to the audience and one out front, creating walls of feedback similar to Suicide's bludgeoning static synth flourishes) with the additional accompaniment of a barbershop quartet (their harmonies). I know that might seem like a lazy description and too similar to the all too often used A+B+C=D way of describing bands' sounds, but I just can't think of another way to describe this unique band. They came off a bit better than Deerhoof did, but again, they would've been much better in a club and of course, as most of the audience was their to see the hometown heroes (The Roots), the crowd response was a bit low as well.

And then The Roots came on. They made one of the most unique entraces I've ever seen. A New Orleans marching band procession that started on the street (complete with drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson on bass drum and MC Black Thought on a megaphone) went into the venue, in the aisles and up towards the stage where all the performers took their places. In addition to their normal set-up (an MC, guitarist, bass player, drummer and Korg synth/keyboardist), they added the marching band on many tracks and even a string quartet (this venue is normally used for classical performances) for a few. Anyway, the set started out very strongly, but after 30 or 40 minutes, they ran out of steam for a little while, but got back into the groove with an incredible version of the (on record) 10-minute plus "Water", which they must've extended to 25-minute, jam-band length (I didn't time it but I should've). Among other things, this version contained a battle between the keyboard player and ?uestlove, who's incidentally one hell of a drummer. After a short break, they brought out Jill Scott (who also sang their biggest hit "You Got Me" when I saw them back in 1999; Erykah Badu sings it on the recorded version) to sing back-up on one song and then she had her own mini-set (well it was only one song) with her own guitarist backing her up. After that, I thought that it would over soon, but they proceeded to play for at least another hour (they played for almost 2 and a half hours). To be honest, they did get a little tedious (and I was a bit tired), but overall I thought they were good and much better than the 1999 show I saw at Roseland (at that show, they totally killed the vibe by having a so-so group called Black Moon perform for 30 minutes or so and this was maybe 20 minutes into their own set; also they spent way too much time noodling at that performance as well). They left the same way they came in, with the marching band leading the way and the band members following and the procession continued onto the street with over 500 people watching them as well!

Overall, they don't have a lot of memorable songs, but they're notable for being one of the very few hip-hop acts that use live instruments, thus making for a much more effective show than most rappers/hip-hop groups, who tend to bludgeon your ears with an MC and a lousy-sounding turntable. It might work on record, but rarely does that setup work well live (IMO, of course). Also, I have to credit them for exposing their audience to bands like TV on the Radio and Deerhoof, who perhaps made a few new fans on this evening. With that in mind, every time I've seen them (this was my 3rd time, though the first time was at a spring festival at my college back in 1997 where they played a great but shortened set) they've managed to draw one of the most diverse audiences I've ever seen. It's nice to see a modern-day band that atracts a multi-racial audience as well as one from different subcultures of the music scene where fans of rap/hip-hop, alternative rock, punk and hippie jam bands can all come together.

Furthermore, I have to add that it was a little like watching Prince's Madison Square Garden show last year, only much better, partially because I was sitting much closer to the stage (right behind the soundboard) and it was in a much smaller venue as well. The point is that it was more like a party with people dancing and going bonkers in the aisles rather than a typical, normal rock or pop concert, and I appreciated that aspect of it as well. Ultimately, though, with their extended compositions, an keyboardist that often sounds like the one from Medeski, Martin & Wood (who in turn often sounds like many classic jazz organists) and their penchant for soloing, they're a hip-hop jam band, which really isn't as bad as it sounds (in fact it's often quite good).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Damaged Goods Redux

Gang of Four @ Hard Rock Cafe 9/15/05
This show was free and part of a night sponsored by Souza tequila, which I must say is the nastiest-tasting tequila I've ever had. It was a kick-off party for URB Next 100 Live. I shouldn't complain since there was an open bar there with Sam Adams on tap, but as for the tequila, blech! Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo tequila, on the other hand, which I had about a month ago at a party, was much better, but that's another story.

Anyhow, the show was at the space that used to be the short-lived club called The World, where me and my friend Jeremy saw The Damned put on a very good show 3 years ago and it's 1 block from the newly opened Nokia Theater, where we'll be seeing Bauhaus in November. At first, there was a DJ and then a screening of "URB Next 100 Live" which, despite the presence of Souza in the background where everyone involved was interviewed, was an interesting piece detailing how hip-hop, alternative rock and dance music have all combined into a cohesive whole and it featured innovative artists ranging from hip-hop MCs like Mr. Lif of the Perceptionists to DJs like Diplo to more well-known stars like Moby as well as Dave Allen from Gang of Four. I would've preferred it if there was seating for the movie and the sound system was better (a recurring theme for the evening) and people weren't talking over the movie, but again, all of it was free, so I can't really complain.

And then it was time for Gang of Four to come on. I was standing up front and unfortunately I'd forgotten to take my earplugs (my ears still hurt a bit) as they were loud and coupled against the absolute worst sound system I've ever heard. You could barely hear Jon King's vocals throughout their hour-long set. Either way, it didn't matter that much because Gang of Four completely kicked ass and wiped the floor with almost any band I've seen this year (save for The Arcade Fire, Mission of Burma and perhaps a few others). It much better than the also very good (but too short) Irving Plaza show back in May. The raw energy was unbelievable, especially for a band 25 years removed from their classic period. They played most of the songs from their 1st album Entertainment, 3 songs from 1981's underrated but equally as great Solid Gold and 1 from 1996's Shrinkwrapped ("I Parade Myself"). To say that they really know how to work a groove and that Dave Allen's bass-playing was funky as hell would be an understatement. Combining that with Andy Gill's guitar, which sounds like cutting shards of glass (in the best possible way), and Jon King's yelping and jumping around like a monkey all over the stage and you have a still powerful unit that should silence all the naysayers regarding their reunion.

PREVIOUSLY: If you wanna stream their new album, you can go here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The TV News Finally Gets It Right

I don't think I have to add anything here. Just like those Mastercard commercials, this is indeed priceless.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Coldplay picture

No, I didn't take pictures at the show over Labor Day weekend, but if I had a better view (maybe if I actually had seats instead of standing out on the lawn), they would have looked something like this from my vantage point. Thanks to Erikk for letting me use this awesome shot.

For my review of the concert at PNC Bank Arts Center over Labor Day Weekend, click here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

All for the Taking

I saw this movie today as part of the Evil City Film Festival. It was a really moving account of how lower-income, mostly African-American homeowners in Philadelphia are being displaced in favor of higher-income homeowners. I highly recommend it.

All Wound Up

The Circle Jerks, D.I., 45 Grave and Channel 3 @ CBGBs 9/10/05
Well even though the show was $40, it was for a good cause as CBGBs is currently without a lease and just received an eviction notice a few days ago. I don't know if my contribution will make a difference in terms of whether the club survives or not (without a lease it's doubtful), but at the very least, I figured that I'd see a show at this legendary venue for perhaps the last time ever. And I sure picked a good one to attend! It's amazing how many great old-school punk and hardcore bands have reunited out of the blue to play these benefit shows and this lineup was one of the best (perhaps the best) out of all these shows. All are legendary and fantastic bands from the California punk scene of the early '80s and as I was too young to have seen these bands in their heyday, I jumped at the chance to see them even at this late juncture.

Channel 3 opened the show and even though I'm not really familiar with too many of their songs (with the exception of the excellent songs "I'll Take My Chances", "What About Me", "Indian Summer" and "I've Got a Gun"), they played excellently and were a good opener for the rest of the show and like most of the other bands on the bill, play hardcore punk with a melodic edge and harmony vocals so typical of Southern California style bands.

Up next were 45 Grave, one of the best and most overlooked bands from that scene. In their original incarnation, they featured singer Dinah Cancer (possessor of the greatest punk name ever; she stills leads the new lineup) and former members of original LA punk bands like The Germs (drummer Don Bolles and sometime guitarist Pat Smear, who among other things who was later in Nirvana and Foo Fighters) and The Bags (bassist Rob Ritter) and sounded not unlike a US version of The Damned or even Siouxsie and the Banshees. Many, myslef included, would argue that they were the progenitors of the horror/goth punk genre in the U.S.. Their 1983 album Sleep in Safety is a classic of the genre. Unfortunately, though, this show was lackluster. Featuring only original member Cancer on vocals and Rikk Agnew of The Adolescents (who also played later, though I left before their set; see more below) on guitar and a rhythm section that I didn't recognize (though I think the 2nd guitarist, Jaime Pina, was in Chemical People), 45 Grave stripped all the subtlety and musical intricacy away from their songs in favor of a punk snarl and bar-band hackery that pleased much of the "punk as fuck" CBGB's crowd (more on them below) but left me displeased. They could've really used a keyboard player and Dinah's voice was really irritatingly screechy live. I don't mean to diss them entirely here. I respect Dinah as she was the chief lyricist and obviously the singer of the great '80s incarnation of the band, but they lose a lot without their key members that I mentioned above as well as chief songwriter and guitarist Paul Cutler.

Next up were D.I. The place was really starting to fill up at this point as it was almost impossible to get down to the bathroom and come back up in time for their set. Wading through the crowd in the oversold, hot and sweaty club was no easy task. To be honest, having only heard their contributions to the Suburbia soundtrack and their overlooked but excellent 1989 album Tragedy Again, I wasn't too familiar with most of the songs that D.I. played (save for "Imminent War", "Richard Hung Himself", "OC Life" and "Guns"), but I did enjoy it quite a bit. Lead singer Casey Royer could've been a comedian in another life as he was so charismatic and plain funny and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. He did a bit too much complaining about the "system" and their home (Orange County) for my taste (that shit may fly when you're 16, but I'm 30 and it's really old).

Next up was the band that I'd wanted to see the most on this bill, The Circle Jerks. Being a big fan and having never seen the group live, I was really looking forward to their set and the Jerks didn't disappoint. They plowed through lots of songs from their incredible 1st album Group Sex and their subsequent albums Wild in the Streets, Golden Shower of Hits and a surprising number of songs from their excellent but often overlooked 5th album VI ("All Wound Up", "Beat Me Senseless", "I Don't" and their awesome and timely cover of "Fortunate Son"). And then, after security escorted a knife-wielding patron out of the door and an admonishment by singer Keith Morris about "leaving the tough-guy shit for the next time The Exploited play" (I couldn't agree with him more), their set really kicked into full gear as The Jerks turned into a great cover band, playing The Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" (which they recorded for their 1995 reunion album), The Weirdos' "Solitary Confinement" (bassist Zander Schloss has been playing with them recently) and a mini Black Flag set featuring "Revenge", "Wasted" and the closer "Depression". The Black Flag set was entirely appopriate since Morris was their original singer and sang on the original recorded version of "Wasted" (as well as The Circle Jerks version on their 1st album). He even told a story about Greg Ginn's girlfriend before introducting "Behind the Door", thus further adding to the old-school Cali vibe.

If there was a lowlight to this show, it was the club itself and some of the fans. While Morris was trying to speak about the important issue of schools having to turn over their information for military recruiters, some of the "punk" fans were yelling over him and one of them yelled "fuck your politics". Morris yelled back "fuck you" and finished his spiel and more power to him. The Circle Jerks were always way more intelligent than many members of their audience and it was nice to see him railing against the small mindedness of the beer, spikes and leather set that was one of the things that drove me away from the genre that I'd loved as a teenager. As they closed their set, he told the crowd not to use punk rock to act like an idiot. I couldn't agree with him more. Disgusted with the crowd and tired after 4 1/2 hours on my feet, I left before The Adolescents set. Now, having loved The Adolescents growing up, I wanted to stay for their set, but my body and mind could only take so much abuse. It was really loud in there and I was tired. I know, excuses excuses, but D.I., did "Amoeba", my favorite Adolescents song, to close out their set and I'd gotten to see Rikk play with 45 Grave, so that was good enough for me.

P.S. I have very mixed feelings about the very real threat of CBGBs closing. On one hand, it's a New York institution full of lots of history of amazing music, but on the other hand, it hasn't been a relevant club for new music for many years and it tends to attract very narrow-minded crowds like the one I wrote about above. Regardless, I'd like for it to stay open as a museum of some sort so that people can visit it, as it does generate a lot of tourist revenue and more importantly, it's a landmark, but I won't be sad if they don't do shows there anymore as there are far better clubs that book better bands and treat them better, too. However, the threat of it turning into condos or a Starbucks or something is really sad, but if that's the case, it'll be another step in the inevitable gentrification of the Bowery.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Space Between All Things

Idlewild @ Irving Plaza 9/7/05
I went to see Idlewild on Wednesday night. I'd looked forward to this show for a long time, getting tickets several months ago once I found about it. I was excited about it because Idlewild are one of my favorite bands and because they haven't played these shores in over 2 years (not counting a few acoustic gigs in LA last year). Their excellent new album Warnings/Promises, which you can buy here, was released in the UK back in March and as I got the import (luckily Amazon gave me a $30 credit and I used most of it to buy it so I didn't have to pay the exorbitant import prices), I've been able to listen to it since then though it just came out in the U.S. in August. After a so-so opening set by Inara George (the daughter of Lowell George of Little Feat), who contributes backing vocals on their new album (including the brilliant single and opening track "Love Steals Us From Loneliness"), Idlewild came on and at first they were a bit underwhelming as it took them a few songs to find their groove. Overall, the older songs, including (surprisingly) "Film for the Future" from their debut album Hope is Important and the rousing rockers from 2000's classic 100 Broken Windows ("Little Discourage", "Roseability" and "These Wooden Ideas", though unfortunately no "Actually It's Darkness", "I Don't Have the Map" or "Mistake Pageant", though "Bronze Medal" was played, which was a nice surprise) along with several great ones from 2002's The Remote Part (especially "A Modern Way of Letting Go" and the beautiful and seriously underrated "Live in a Hiding Place") went down a lot better and had much more energy than the more understated and mellower material from the new album. The big exception was a prolonged, psychedelic version of "The Space Between All Things" (my favorite song on the new album), which was dedicated to my friend Jack Rabid, a long-time supporter and champion of the band who also understand how truly great and underrated they are, especially in America. Perhaps it takes time to incorporate these more subtle songs into their live repertoire or they're best when they're rockin' out more, but either way it should be interesting to see how these songs come off the next time they play here.

Though it lacked the sheer power and intensity of their shows here back in 2003 (including their last Irving Plaza appearance and their set at the Siren Festival that year), it was still a welcome return to New York for one of my favorite bands.

Ultraggrl also went to the show. You can see her review and a bunch of comments (including one of mine) here.

Venus and Serena Understand

Last Sunday, I went to the US Open with a few friends for the 2nd year in a row. Last year, we went to an evening session, but this year, we went in the afternoon, which made it a much more pleasurable experience for me in all but one respect (the blazing sun, more below). Last year, we only got to see a few matches in the gigantic Arthur Ashe Stadium. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. One of the matches featured Maria Sharapova and another featured Martina Navratilova in mixed doubles action, which was cool to see, but we didn't get a chance to explore the smaller courts and matches. This year, watching (among others) the 30th seed in the mens' singles play a Norwegian player on a tiny court and being merely a few feet away from the action was liberating in the same way that being up front at a club is different from watching a band in an arena. After watching that as well as a mens' doubles match (an Israeli team versus an American one) on a slightly bigger court, we went to the main stadium (Arthur Ashe) and once again watched Sharapova. This time, she decimated her Mexican opponent (again the name eludes me now; her first name was Sonia; but it was cool to see that she had a fan section with fans hoisting Mexican flags and cheering her on) in straight sets and in the highlighted match of the afternoon set, the Williams set met each other in the 3rd round in womens' singles action. Unfortunately, the heavily-touted match was a bit of a letdown. The first set was thrilling and competitive with Venus winning 7-6 (I think the tiebreaker was 7-5) with Venus coming from behind to win but the second set wasn't even close, with Venus plainly outplaying her younger sister and coasting 6-2. And that was it. Although it wasn't blazingly hot, I still sat right near where I got the most sun during the earlier matches and despite applying lots of sunburn (recommended), I still got a bit burned on my forehead, possibly from sweating so match, thereby negating the effect of the sunscreen. Oh well. Either way, I'll definitely be back next year. What a great event. I'll just wear a hat next year!

np: 45 Grave-Sleep in Safety

Friday, September 09, 2005

In My Place

Coldplay at PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ 9/3/05
First off, we missed Rilo Kiley, but the few songs that I heard from the parking lot sounded nice enough. I didn't think that they'd be able to pull off a show in a large ampitheater since I thought their Webster Hall show back in May was underwhelming. Incidentally, you can read a review of that show here.

By the time that we got there, the lawn was already overcrowded (note to self: the next time I come here, I'll get seats; the lawn there sucks). In fact, it was the most crowded I've ever seen the lawn there, though I've only been there a handful of times over the years. I think that they oversold this show or maybe it was just the fact that everyone seemed to rent a lawnchair, thus minimizing the space. Regardless, this meant that we couldn't get a spot that wouldn't ensure that the members of Coldplay looked like microscopic dots as they played, resigning us to look at the screens. To be honest, I was kind of underwhelmed. Either Chris Martin was sick or his voice just wasn't as powerful compared to the rest of the band (especially the awesome drummer) live as opposed to the records. It was more effective on slower, piano-voiced songs like "The Scientist" where the band played quieter, but I have a feeling that the band toned it down a bit on the louder numbers to make way for Martin's voice to glide over it, much like what's on their records. This meant that for such a big show, the impact was stunted. It would've worked much better in a smaller setting in my view and not just because I would've seen the band much better. Many of the songs sounded almost soulless in that they were so close to the studio recordings, especially early on. And let's not even talk about the screens. Instead of showing the band as how they are, there was some crazy live cut-up imagery which was nice and innovative, but ultimately added nothing to the experience. It was almost like watching a high-tech MTV video on the screens instead of the band! In the one bit of spontaneity (though I'm sure it was well-rehearsed), not counting Chris Martin's constant joking, they played an acoustic set featuring a cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". Otherwise, the rest of the set consisted mostly of 2002's great A Rush of Blood to the Head and the newly-released X&Y. Furthermore, the crowd was annoying with many patrons talking throughout the entire bloody concert. Arrggghhh! I was disappointed, but perhaps things could've been different if Coldplay wasn't such a hugely popular band and they could play more intimate shows or if Martin was in better voice.

Bushes on Vacation

Thanks Sue for this priceless (and darkly comical) image.

Dry Drunk Emperor

You can download the unreleased TV on the Radio song "Dry Drunk Emperor" here. It sums up my feelings on the White House response to Katrina (and about the President in general)quite well. Plus, it's a really good tune. Enjoy!