Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wrappin' up

One last post for '07 is in order before I take off for the holidays.

First, the last couple of pieces of music writing of mine that have run:

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West Coast Performer ran my review of the debut album by L.A. "slamgrass" band Old Bull. Viva la medical marijuana!

And Bullz Eye wraps up '07 with their year-end overview of the best music we surveyed since January. Each music writer submitted his own list, and as it happened, we all had a different number one entry (number one on my list is Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters). A few albums appeared on more than one list, like Radiohead's In Rainbows, the White Stripes' Icky Thump and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand. But for the most part, these lists are all over the place, and fun to read.

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The big rock show to close out '07 for me happened on December 7 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, when Live 105's annual "Not So Silent Night" concert took place. I generally have avoided these big alt-rock package events in recent years, but as a friend had an extra ticket he needed to sell off and the headliner was a band I had wanted to see for at least the past three years, I went for it.

I arrived when Spoon was playing. The quick and dirty lowdown: Spoon put on a good set. Songs didn't stick to the brain, but their sound was excellent, more idiosyncratic (which equals GOOD) than what followed.

And what followed was Angels and Airwaves, the band Blink 182's Tom DeLonge now fronts. I was never a Blink fan. First time I heard them was when I received a promo copy of Dude Ranch when I was in college. My preference for punk then (and now) was the raw, unpolished and often political sound of the genre's first wave. Blink, to me, was always a teenybopper brat band with loud guitars and too much business sense to ever truly carry a punk aesthetic in a credible way. They just sounded too much to me like "product," and not very good product at that. But hey, they made lots of people happy, so more power to 'em. Better them than, say, Savage Garden. Anyway, Angels and Airwaves seemed to elicit the strongest crowd response of all the bands that played that evening. DeLonge was really into the Jesus Christ pose, and his tone of voice really put me off for some reason. He also liked to talk a lot, and referenced Blink a few times but never by name, as here in this clip from youtube:

His intention of creating music that expressed feelings and ideas that everyone else was feeling was a grand one, and he seems really sincere in what he's doing... but it wasn't for me. His band is often compared to U2. They've got the big guitars and righteous attitude, but I'm not tossing my copy of Zooropa any time soon.

Jimmy Eat World was next. They were also crowd favorites, and happened to be the only band on the bill that was recognizable to the French couple I hosted at my apartment the following weekend. So it seems they've achieved some reach, even though their star has faded a little. I honestly don't remember much of their set, as I was half nodding off in exhaustion. But it was necessary, so that I would be fully cognizant for the closing set by Modest Mouse.

Modest Mouse's headlining status was entirely deserved, just as it was last year. Their latest album, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 upon release this past March. And after something like 13 years together, the band has achieved a sonic identity unlike any other band out there. I've said this numerous times, and now I must put it in print: there's something truly beautiful about seeing a mass of people crowd surfing and moshing to the music of a band that employs the services of a banjo, accordion, stand-up bass, trumpet, two drum sets, and various other percussion instruments, not to mention the obligatory rock guitars, bass and keyboard. Amazingly, the mix of instruments never comes off as hokey or novel, or even excessive. And Isaac Brock's vocals are as unhinged live as they are on record. The only complaint I had was that two of the new songs, "Dashboard" and "Fire It Up," were lacking the fire and excitement of the studio recordings. Something wasn't translating well to the stage with those two. But everything else was pumped up and wild, and holy shit, what a way to open a headlining set with a banjo-driven tune like "Satin in a Coffin" - talk about off the beaten path! They even played "Float On" early in the set, saving an epic-length new song for the closing slot. They confound and delight, and that's my kind of band.

Here's a youtube video of Isaac Brock playing a typically nutty guitar solo during the song "Spitting Venom" at the NSSN show. Nothing fancy, just bent sound from a guy who dresses in a rather plain, not-too-rock n' roll way (kind of like myself):

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Web class ended last month. Where to take the skills now? How to retain them? It's a question I'll be dealing with in the coming weeks.

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2008 will see more writing coming out of me for Performer and Bullz Eye, not to mention the second coming of jefitoblog, now called PopDose and due to launch on January 1.

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And it's also looking like I'll be picking up one of my instruments again for another band workshop in the new year.

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So with that, to shut the door on the overwhelming feeling that's sweeping over me, I will say goodbye to 2007, wish you all a happy Xma$ and a merry goo year, and may we all find some kind of salvation for ourselves, collectively and individually, in the face of increasing demands and desires.

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