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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ranking every band I saw in 2009 from 1-86

It's time for my year-end recap of every band I saw live. In 2009, I traveled all over the country, so only a handful of these shows were in Pittsburgh. The upside of that traveling was that I saw a ton of bands that never made it to the Steel City.

1 Leonard Cohen, Rosemont Theatre, October 29
The 75-year-old Rock N Roll Hall of Famer was in fine form, performing for nearly three hours and playing all of his biggest hits, including a theatrical performance of the greatest song ever written, “Hallelujah.” When Cohen read poetry, the silence in the theater – no sound but Cohen’s deep, booming voice – was moving and powerful.

2 Flaming Lips, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
It was total sensory overload when the Lips closed out the Pitchfork Music Festival with confetti, giant balloons, strange costumes, and lots of great music. Wayne Coyne didn’t quite stick to his agreement that the show would be entirely by fan request, but he did plays the fans’ top four choices - "Yoshimi," "She Don't use Jelly," "Fight Test," and "Do You Realize?"

3 Jay-Z, All Points West, July 31
Jay-Z calls himself “the new Sinatra,” and he lived up to that billing with this show at the All Points West fest in New Jersey. A late replacement for the Beastie Boys, Jay opened with the Beasties’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” and performed “Izzo” to the backing track from the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” as a tribute to Michael.

4 Elvis Costello, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
Elvis never fails to deliver a great performance. He threw himself completely into this Memphis weekend, playing most of his biggest hits during his own set, joining Los Lobos for a few songs of their set, and showing up at Sun Studios and conversing with surprised fans during a studio tour.

5 The Hold Steady, Basilica Block Party, July 11
It was a triumphant homecoming in Minneapolis for Craig Finn and the Hold Steady. The setlist was a joy, beginning with “Constructive Summer” and including “Massive Nights” and “Southtown Girls.” The poor Counting Crows on the other festival stage couldn’t compete with this performance.

6 Andrew WK & the Evaporators, Neptoon Records, June 23
This Vancouver in-store performance was 30 minutes of total chaos. I can’t imagine anything more fun than this at 4 pm on a Tuesday. Andrew WK performed all of his party songs, and Evaporators frontman Nardwuar did a great deal of crowd surfing, nearly hitting the ceiling of this tiny record store.

7 The Duchess & The Duke, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Saturday’s best Pitchfork performance was delivered by this duo, who combine an indie rock sound with a folk sensibility. Their beautiful harmonies were complemented by strings on "I Am Just a Ghost," which might have been the best song performance of the weekend.

8 Matt & Kim, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
If I was to award a prize for Artist of the Year 2009, it would go to earnest, adorable indie popsters Matt & Kim. At Pitchfork, they triumphed with a lightning-fast set of their sugar-sweet pop songs. Newer tracks "Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare" and "Daylight" were received just as well as older favorites "Yea Yeah" and "5K."

9 Weezer, Aragon Ballroom, December 1
Weezer proved they are still a live force to be reckoned with, opening with four massive crowd-pleasers: “Hash Pipe,” “Troublemaker,” “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Surf Wax America.” Their lively 90-minute set pulled tunes from every album, including “Tired of Sex” and “Why Bother” from Pinkerton.

10 Gogol Bordello, All Points West, August 1
The crazy gypsy punks bounced all over the stage, beat the hell out of their drums, and rocked the violin and accordion. Their typically energetic set included “Wonderlust King” and “Think Locally Fuck Globally,” some of their most electrifying songs.

11 Japandroids, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Pitchfork-goers were impressed by the Japandroids, a manic garage rock two-piece from Vancouver. Many of their songs consisted of only a couple of lyrics repeated over and over, but their ferocious delivery was enough to captivate.

12 Vampire Weekend, All Points West, July 31
Ezra Koenig and company provided a quality set that included an impressive new song, “White Sky,” and the majority of their self-titled release.

13 The National, All Points West, July 31
The National took advantage of the rain. Frontman Matt Berninger strolled into the crowd during the band’s final number, “Mr. November,” getting drenched and endearing himself to the fans in the process.

14 Cobra Starship, Riviera Theatre, October 19
Singer Gabe Saporta moved around the stage with swagger and charisma and led his sassy emo-pop band through a set full of songs with anthemic, sing-along choruses at the height of their “Good Girls Go Bad” fame.

15 Jerry Lee Lewis, Beale Street Music Festival, May 3
The 73-year-old belied his grumpy, unpredictable reputation with an enthusiastic 12-song set, predictably sending the crowd away with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Great Balls of Fire.”

16 Coldplay, All Points West, August 2
It’s been fun to watch Coldplay’s rise to arena-rock status. They covered the Beastie Boys and Michael Jackson, and the thunderous “Politik” was a climax at the end of their set.

17 Mgmt, All Points West, August 2
The eccentric Brooklyn duo clearly worked on their live show after last summer, when they got several awful concert reviews. “Kids” and “Electric Feel” sounded much better this time. And brand new song “It’s Working” was great.

18 Yeah Yeah Yeahs, All Points West, July 31
Karen O’s band opened with “Heads Will Roll,” perhaps my favorite song of 2009. They played most of their excellent new album, while sending giant beach balls that looked like eyeballs into the crowd.

19 The National, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
The only band with two shows in my top 20, The National earned that distinction with a quality show-closing set during the second day of the Pitchfork Fest.

20 John Lee Hooker Jr, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
Perhaps the best set in the Blues Tent during the Beale Street Festival. The son of the legendary blues man is deservedly earning acclaim on his own.

21 Green Day, Last Call with Carson Daly, June 3
Band played 7 songs, including 3 as their alter egos Foxboro Hot Tubs

22 Ghostland Observatory, All Points West, August 2
A glowstick-tastic set that sadly didn’t include “Silver City”
23 Fall Out Boy, Beale Street Music Festival, May 3
Still not the best live band in the world but they have great energy
24 Snoop Dogg, Beale Street Music Festival, May 3
A fun show, though it included a weird cover of “Jump Around”
25 Akron/Family, All Points West, August 2
A large group of musicians created songs that ranged from tribal music to hard rock
26 Kathy Griffin, Chicago Theatre, October 11
Comic claimed to be “wearing a Kevlar vest…as well as Kevlar panties”
27 The Duchess & The Duke, Reckless Records, December 6
An enjoyable, relaxed show at a Chicago record store

28 St. Vincent, All Points West, August 1
Talented multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark captivated with tracks from her latest album Actor
29 Final Fantasy, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Owen Pallett used creatively-looped violins and keyboards to build stunning crescendos
30 Fleet Foxes, All Points West, July 31
Owned the main stage with their haunting folk balladry
31 Lykke Li, All Points West, August 2
Li covered Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” singing, “Throw your muthafuckin hands in the air!”
32 James Taylor, Beale Street Music Festival, May 3
Set was too low-key but "Sweet Baby James" and "Carolina On My Mind" were impossible to resist
33 Ra Ra Riot, All Points West, July 31
Indie rockers surprised many with one of the best performances of APW
34 Grizzly Bear, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Delivered a satisfying set of some of their most exquisite songs

35 Trailer Choir, Greeley Stampede, July 4
Country band features a 380-pound overall-wearing vocalist who dances around like a madman
36 The Ting Tings, All Points West, August 1
Delivered an infusion of pop music to an excitable crowd
37 Miranda Lambert, Grant Park, October 3
Rowdy country singer of “White Liar” and “Gunpowder and Lead” sizzled on a freezing night
38 The Steve Miller Band, Beale Street Music Festival, May 1
Steve could use a lesson in spacing out his hits – he saved most for the very end
39 Los Lobos, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
A cameo from Elvis Costello made a solid performance even better
40 Tokyo Police Club, All Points West, August 1
How come a band this damn peppy hasn’t exploded yet?
41 Pharoahe Monch, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Brought hip hop to the hipsters, with "My Life" and "Desire" especially standing out
42 Bar-Kays, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
Their lively Memphis soul was a Beale Street Fest highlight

43 Frightened Rabbit, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Acclaimed emotional rock came off as bland at first but the energy picked up later
44 Tokyo Police Club, Mr. Small’s Theatre, February 28
“Cheer it On” is always great to hear live
45 Rise Against, Beale Street Music Festival, May 1
Band’s political punk diatribes got the crowd moshing
46 Carbon Leaf, Easy Street Records, June 19
Five-song acoustic performance was short but engaging
47 Mogwai, All Points West, August 2
Appealing rock instrumentals from the celebrated Scottish band
48 Tool, All Points West, August 1
Technically proficient, but scared away some fans by opening with three 10-minute songs
49 Peaches, Henry Fonda Theater, June 7
Entertaining, but surprisingly tame; she neglected to play her most explicit sexual songs
50 Boys Like Girls, Riviera Theatre, October 19
Songs weren’t catchy enough to justify their status as a headliner
51 Harlem Shakes, Mr. Small’s Theatre, February 28
“Strictly Game” was a catchy track
52 M83, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Band’s dreamy electropop was the perfect late afternoon soundtrack
53 Al Green, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
The white-suited Reverend isn’t such a great singer these days, but he was still a showman

54 Green River Ordinance, Basilica Block Party, July 11
A satisfying brand of Our Lady Peace-meets-All-American Rejects rock
55 Lindstrom, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Norwegian DJ found his groove after a very slow start
56 Black Lips, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Offered some catchy choruses but generally weren’t entertaining
57 George Clinton & P Funk, Beale Street Music Festival, May 2
George Clinton mailed it in, singing about every 10th word & letting the backup singers do the rest
58 Ponytail, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
High-energy rock band that didn’t live up to all the hype
59 Fucked Up, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
A letdown, thanks to the freak show behavior of frontman Pink Eyes, who rarely bothered to sing
60 Yeasayer, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
This is one blogger-approved act that has never blown me away

61 Matt Nathanson, Basilica Block Party, July 11
Most memorable parts of his set were oddball covers of “Laid” and “Jessie’s Girl”
62 Neko Case, All Points West, August 1
Neko was ok but her backup singer wouldn’t shut up. No one wants to hear banter from backups
63 Silversun Pickups, All Points West, August 2
Nothing from their new record has been able to match the appeal of “Lazy Eye”
64 Crystal Castles, All Points West, August 1
Apparent mic problems made the first half of their performance accidentally instrumental
65 Blake Shelton, Greeley Stampede, July 4
The highlight was when he brought out Miranda Lambert for a duet
66 Counting Crows, Basilica Block Party, July 11
Adam Duritz sang “Mr. Jones” in a shockingly lifeless manner that suggested he no longer gives a shit
67 The Cult, Beale Street Music Festival, May 1
If I hadn’t known they were a legendary band, I wouldn’t have figured it out from this show
68 G Love & Special Sauce, Beale Street Music Festival, May 1
G Love’s laid back sound was right up the Beale Street crowd’s alley

69 Bucky Covington, Greeley Stampede, July 4
Former American Idol relied too heavily on covers
70 Jack’s Mannequin, Aragon Ballroom, December 1
Like The Fray, if they were emo
71 Great Lake Swimmers, Schenley Plaza, August 28
Too mellow; it worked fine as mood music for those sitting on the lawn
72 Yo Majesty, Henry Fonda Theater, June 7
Hip hop group came off like a novelty act
73 Blitzen Trapper, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Pitchfork set was not even remotely interesting
74 The Maine, Riviera Theatre, October 19
Non-descript emo included a less-than-stellar cover of “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
75 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Another Pitchfork act that just didn’t take advantage of the opportunity
76 Arctic Monkeys, All Points West, August 1
I only caught part of their set, and it wasn’t very impressive
77 Jamey Johnson, Grant Park, October 3
Stunningly boring - this man is not in the same league as the outlaw country greats of the past
78 Versaemerge, Riviera Theatre, October 19
Forgettable female-fronted opening act for Boys Like Girls
79 Vivian Girls, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Proof that punk rock can indeed be boring

80 The Mae Shi, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19
Massive disappointment; it took them 15 minutes to play something discernable as a song
81 Wavves, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
I don’t even remember being there
82 A Rocket to the Moon, Riviera Theatre, October 19
It’s hard to believe they somehow got signed by Fueled by Ramen
83 Bowerbirds, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
Their quiet songs didn’t translate well to the festival environment
84 Thriving Ivory, Beale Street Music Festival, August 2
One of the few acts on the Beale Street bill that didn’t deliver
85 Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pitchfork Music Festival, July 18
They have potential but they just don’t have it together live yet
86 Drums of Death, Henry Fonda Theater, June 7
This dude – an opening act for Peaches - painted his face to look like the Phantom of the Opera, then DJed a set of electronic music and danced awkwardly around the stage by himself. At first, I thought maybe the performance would be interesting, in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Then I realized it was just bad.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Demi Lovato

I guess Demi Lovato is a singer, right? Last night she was in the Christmas spirit:

No. Freaking. Way. IS IT SNOWING?!!?! IN TEXAS?!!?! ON CHRISTMAS EVE?!!?!!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Chris Brown goes berserk

So much for Chris Brown being a kind, respectful citizen in the wake of the Rihanna incident. This past week, he went on a tweeting marathon:

JUST WAS AT WALMART IN wallingford CT,844 north colony.. the didnt even have my album in the back... not on shelves, saw for myself im tired of this shit.

major stores r blackballing my cd. not stockin the shelves and lying to costumers. what the fuck do i gotta do...

WTF... yeah i said it and i aint retracting shit im not biting my tongue about shit else...

the industry can kiss my ass

Chris Brown then deleted his Twitter page, perhaps at the request of his record label. But the damage was done. Good luck trying to resurrect your image, Chris!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grammy news, predictions, analysis, and such

Regular readers know that I tend to write a lot about the Grammy Awards. Even though I rarely agree with their choices these days, I'm fascinated by the awards. I've seen every minute of every broadcast since the mid '80s so I've lived through the good and bad.

In advance of the 2010 Grammy Awards, I'm writing just as much as I usually do. But not here. I decided to write in a forum where I could actually, you know, get paid. Find me over at examiner.com, where I'm their Grammy Awards guy.

Here are some of the noteworthy articles I've posted so far.

Will Taylor Swift make history at the 2010 Grammy Awards?
Could Lady Gaga get shut out at the 2010 Grammy Awards?
What's the difference between Record and Song of the Year?
Best Comedy Album prediction & analysis
Yeah Yeah Yeahs earn additional Grammy nomination at the expense of Miley Cyrus

Or, just check out my profile page and see the whole damn list of articles.

Happy reading! Join me there on January 31 for a live blog of the 2010 Grammys.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Justin Bieber

The 15-year-old pop sensation tweeted this morning:

Soundchecked at MSG...preparing some surprises for 2nite...sold out Madison Square Garden...CRAzY

Wait, he's playing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden? How the hell did we as a society allow this to happen?

I have yet to hear any of his music. Maybe I would actually like it. I'm not above enjoying disposable pop music, of course.

But I do find it amazing that someone can become such a huge star these days without me ever hearing one of his songs on the radio or anywhere else.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

3D concert film featuring Dave Matthews Band & Gogol Bordello hits theaters

Gogol Bordello

The Dave Matthews Band, Gogol Bordello, and Ben Harper & The Relentless7 will be featured in a 3D concert film appearing in theaters for one week. "Larger Than Life..In 3D" plays nationwide from December 11-17.

I've seen Dave Matthews Band live 15 times, but I'm particularly excited about this film because of Gogol Bordello, one of the best live acts in the world right now. I've seen them three times and been blown away each time by their energy and showmanship.

Ben Harper, I've never gotten into, but I do like "Steal My Kisses." Maybe he'll play that.

There are no plans to ever release the film on DVD, so the theatrical run may be the only chance to see it. The film is playing at several Pittsburgh-area theaters. To find out when and where the movie is playing near you, go here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amanda Palmer makes a video for Tegan & Sara's "Hell"

Tegan & Sara have a new single called "Hell." My impression? It sounds like the twins have been listening to a bit too much Paramore lately (although the rest of Tegan & Sara's new album is excellent.)

Amanda Palmer, of Dresden Dolls fame, has made her own music video for the song, as she is sometimes fond of doing. It's even better than the original Tegan & Sara version.

Watch and compare the two videos below. Amanda's video is fun because of the reactions of the random passers-by. If you're impressed by Palmer's take, head to YouTube and check out some of the other videos she's made for songs by other artists. My favorite is the one she did for the underrated Avril Lavigne song "Together."

Video: Amanda Palmer's video for Tegan & Sara's "Hell"

Video: Tegan & Sara - "Hell"

Friday, December 4, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Keri Hilson

The R&B singer tweeted after the Grammy nominations were announced on Wednesday:

OMG I just found out I'm nominated for TWO GRAMMY'S!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!! Best New Artist & Best Rap/Sung Collabo!!

Keri has a decent shot to win Best New Artist. Her toughest competition is probably the Zac Brown Band.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Pittsburgh concerts

12/12 Loretta Lynn @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
When you get a chance to see a legendary act like Loretta Lynn, you just do it. She hasn't released a follow-up to 2004's brilliant, Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose, but when an album is that good, who needs a follow up?

12/7 Arctic Monkeys @ Mr. Small's
It's hard to believe a band that headlines festivals throughout Europe and was one of the bigger names at this year's All Points West in New Jersey would have to play a smaller venue like Mr. Small's, but it's true. Personally, I think this band has never lived up to its hype. We'll see if this show proves otherwise.

12/15 Jeffree Star @ Altar Bar
Jeffree Star is so wild and outrageous he makes Adam Lambert look like Ben Stein. Jeffree became famous as one of the more popular kids on MySpace. Now, he creates his own dance-pop music, dresses in drag and tours the country. He joined the Warped Tour and found a surprising ally in NOFX's Fat Mike, which gave him street cred. This concert would be worth going to just to see the crowd reaction, but knowing Pittsburgh, no one will be at this show.

Others to keep in mind:
12/2 Lee Greenwood @ Palace Theatre
12/3 Annuals @ Thunderbird Cafe
12/3 Lez Zeppelin @ Altar Bar
12/4 Pat McGee @ Hard Rock Cafe
12/8 Barenaked Ladies @ Diesel
12/8 Rookie of the Year @ Garfield Artworks
12/9 Insane Clown Posse @ Club Zoo
12/9 Rickie Lee Jones @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
12/13 KISS @ Mellon Arena
12/13 Raekwon @ Mr. Small's
12/14 Thursday & Dillinger Escape Plan @ Mr. Small's
12/29 Punchline @ Diesel
12/29 Lotus @ Mr. Small's
12/31 Rusted Root @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead

Friday, November 27, 2009

Musician Tweet of the week: Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas succinctly captured the spirit of the night before Thanksgiving with this tweet of Wednesday:

tonight begins holiday drinking. cheers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sugarland to play Lilith fair 2010?

Sugarland is confirmed to play the Lilith Fair 2010 tour.

Ok, so they're not officially confirmed, but we're good at interpreting clues. Check out our full article here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My 5 favorite bands, November 2009

It's time for my every-six-months list of my favorite bands. My indie leanings have taken a turn toward the mainstream over the past few months, with dance and pop music moving much higher on my radar. Here's the current list.

might be my favorite album of 2009. It's an entire record full of catchy indie pop. I never thought I'd see the day this duo won an MTV Video Music Award, but somehow they did it. Their reign has just begun.
Video: Lessons Learned

Until recently, I'd enjoyed Lady Gaga's dance hits but didn't see her as much more than another fly by night pop singer. But then I saw her artistic performance at the VMAs. I finally listened to the rest of her album, and it's great. Madonna recently said she saw herself in Lady Gaga, and I agree - she's likely to be a force for years to come. Her new video for "Bad Romance" is simply captivating.
Video: Bad Romance

The sassy pop band finally hit the mainstream with "Good Girls Go Bad." The rest of their album Hot Mess is excellent as well, even if radio continues to ignore all of their music that doesn't feature Leighton Meester.
Video: Hot Mess

Sigur Ros is still probably my favorite band, but when you haven't released any new material in over a year you start to fade a little. Singer Jonsi has a side project going called Jonsi & Alex, a mostly instrumental ethereal kind of thing that makes Sigur Ros seem accessible.
Video: Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

I bought the blue album not long after it came out, and my Weezer-fanhood has never wavered since, not when they released Maladroit, and not even with their new album Raditude, which features a collaboration with Lil Wayne. Their sound may change, but it's still good stuff.
Video: I Want You To

Others earning consideration: Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Ghostland Observatory, MGMT

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Live blogging the 2009 American Music Awards

Tonight I'll be live blogging the laughingstock of music award shows, the American Music Awards. The performance lineup is actually quite good, with Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, and a host of others.

Head over to Examiner for my minute-by-minute commentary as the 2009 AMAs happen.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Lisa Loeb

I love Lisa Loeb's tweets because they're so pedestrian. The woman thinks she's still on a reality show, and that everyone cares about the tiniest bits of information:

spoonful of home-made chocolate pie for breakfast appetizer. I made it last night... practicing making crust.

Lisa's tweets are kind of refreshing, considering that many other musicians only tweet when they're trying to pimp their music. "Stay" was one of the best songs of the 1990s, and the one-take video has stood the test of time.

Video: Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - "Stay"


Thursday, November 19, 2009

That epic Lady Gaga / Michael Bolton duet

This week it was revealed that Lady Gaga would be ineligible for Best New Artist at the 2010 Grammys. But, no worries for Gaga. She's still eligible in other categories for that Michael Bolton duet.

Wait... Michael Bolton duet? Yes, everyone's favorite mullet-wearing balladeer teamed up with Gaga for his new song "Murder My Heart." It's officially credited to Michael Bolton featuring Lady Gaga, but you can only hear her singing backup vocals on one or two lines in the entire song.

Still, if you were Michael Bolton, wouldn't you do anything to try to revive your long-dead career? Giving a recording credit to the hottest artist in the world is definitely a smart idea.

Video: Michael Bolton featuring Lady Gaga - "Murder My Heart"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Musician Tweet of the week: Joe Perry of Aerosmith goes rogue

This week's Tweet(s) of the week are huge, absolutely huge. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry made waves this week by declaring that singer Steven Tyler had quit Aerosmith. Perry backed up his claims on Twitter this week:

Aerosmith is definetly NOT breaking up. One of the members is doing his own thing and said so in the press. That's all I know.

Inthe meantime aerosmith is positivly looking for a new singer to work with. You just can't take 40 years of expiriance and throwitinthebin!

Replacing Steven Tyler? Good luck with that, Joe. I hear Gary Cherone is available.

Turns out that Tyler and Perry patched things up a couple days later and Tyler confirmed that he's not leaving the band. Rock fans can sleep easy now.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live blogging the 2009 CMA Awards

That's right, I'll be live blogging the 2009 Country Music Association Awards tonight, starting at 8 pm EST.

I'm always amused by country music award shows. I'm not a huge fan of country music but I appreciate good music no matter where it comes from. And there are always enough moments at these shows to keep rock fans interested. Like Darius Rucker being nominated for Male Vocalist and Dave Matthews showing up to perform on the broadcast.

Tonight, the big question is whether the Academy will reward Taylor Swift with its Entertainer of the Year award. Clearly, she deserves it, but as I've written before, it takes a superhuman effort for a female to take the trophy. My prediction? She loses to someone boring like Kenny Chesney.

The show opens with Taylor Swift performing a song no one knows, "Forever and Always." She was a little pitchy and the performance itself wasn't very interesting. You expect more from a show-opening performance.

Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are the hosts for tonight. I cannot tell you how much I hate when award shows are hosted by artists who are nominated themselves. It just seems so phony, and a little too coincidental, when they inevitably win.

After a humorless Kanye joke, Underwood announces Taylor Swift will be performing again later in the show. WTF?

Here's the evening's first effort to pander to the rock community - Kid Rock presents the first award. Single of the Year goes to "I Run to You" by Lady Antebellum, a song I've never even heard of. I'm just happy it beat that godawful "People Are Crazy" song by Billy Currington.

HOOTIE! Darius Rucker performs his excellent single "Alright." You have to feel good for this guy, who was written off as a musical footnote just a couple of years ago.

Darius goes into the crowd for part of the song. What a strange crowd! The women in the crowd are all wearing gowns. Like they're at the opera or something.

Song of the Year goes to "In Color" by Jamey Johnson. I have to say, I saw Jamey Johnson perform live last month and he was absolutely dreadful. Just painfully boring. When I do my year-end recap of 2009 concerts, that one's going to rank near the bottom. I don't know what people see in this guy.

Here's a great performer - Miranda Lambert, the official badass of country music. I saw her perform live last month too, and she was fantastic. She performs her hit single "White Liar." Well done.

After a ho-hum Brad Paisley performance, Zac Brown is singing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Why he's doing this is unclear.

It's time for George Strait. I resent this guy because he gets nominated for Entertainer of the Year every single year, even though he hasn't deserved it for at least a decade now. He could release an album of himself sneezing and he'd still get nominated for Entertainer of the Year. It's a joke.

George is standing there with his guitar, but he's not playing it. Fantastic. That's an entertainer right there.

Lady Antebellum performs while fake snow flies. Nice! That takes me back to the Counting Crows video "A Long December."

Patricia Heaton is ecstatic about the CMA Awards. "This is rocking!" she says. Now that's high praise - you can't have an endorsement bigger than Patricia Heaton. She presents the award for Vocal Group of the Year to Lady Antebellum. They beat out the Eagles. Hell freezes over again!

During the commercial break, a promo appears for a new ABC show called "Cougar Town." You've got to be kidding...

Carrie Underwood sings with a bunch of ladies in lingerie. Neither edgy nor interesting.

The Judds are back! Wynonna has spent so much time in the tanning booth she looks like a completely different race than her mother. They present the very competitive Best New Artist category to Darius Rucker. "Thank ya'll for accepting me," he says in a speech that was a little too intense. He almost came off as angry instead of happy. I had these visions of the country bumpkins watching on tv being frightened by the angry black man. Tone it down a little, Darius!

Good God, it's Daughtry performing at the CMAs. Can it get any worse than this? At least he's joined by Vince Gill, so the song is only half bad.

I like Keith Urban a lot but his performance is pretty pedestrian. He's followed by the great Tim McGraw, who sings "Southern Voice," which sounds like the country version of "We Didn't Start the Fire," as it runs down a list of influential people including Aretha Franklin, Michael Jordan, Dolly Parton, Rosa Parks, and Billy Graham. Nifty.

It's Sugarland's turn. I was hoping they'd play the song with the chorus that goes "Shhh... it happens!" Instead they opt for a ballad. There have been a few too many ballads tonight. Someone needs to come out and tear the roof off the place with some electric guitars. Only Zac Brown has delivered that so far.

Some kid in the audience gives a thumbs-up on cue and everyone laughs. Yeah, that wasn't rehearsed at all.

Album of the Year goes to Taylor Swift! The ironic thing is, as much as I love Taylor, I don't think her album is particularly strong. Her debut was actually better. The new album is a couple of good songs and a bunch of filler. She thanks a producer "who's believed in me since I was 14." Way back in 2004!

They've been hyping this performance all night. It's the "final" performance ever at the CMAs for Brooks & Dunn, who are parting ways. They're joined by Billy from ZZ Top.

There's no way in hell this is the last CMA performance for Brooks & Dunn. In five years, maybe ten, you know they're going to reunite and play the CMAs again. I'll give everyone reading this $100 if they don't. There isn't a single band in music that stays broken up for good.

Jamey Johnson is singing with Kid Rock. How many times has Kid Rock played the CMAs now? At least three, by my count. They sing about drunks and record executives, with a heavy dose of slide guitar to back them up. Not bad.

Sugarland wins Vocal Duo of the Year. There's absolutely no reason for this category to exist. Duos and groups should be combined into one category, like they do at every other award show in the world. Sugarland wins for the third year in a row.

Taylor Swift is back. She sings an acoustic version of "Fifteen" while her fans sing along. I give the CMAs credit - they know who the big draw is, and they're putting her on the screen as often as possible.

LeAnn Rimes presents Male Vocalist of the Year to Brad Paisley. I won't argue with this one.

It's the "Hall of Fame" segment. They're inducting Barbara Mandrell. When I was very little, my mom used to be a fan of the Mandrell sisters. So I will watch with mild reverence and refrain from any snarky comments.

Actually, I won't. You just know Taylor Swift's young fans are watching Mandrell's speech thinking, "Who the hell is this old lady?"

It's Reba McEntire. She's just trying to go by her first name these days. Sorry, lady, you're still Reba McEntire. McEntire. McEntire!

I love Reba but this song is shit. In fact, I can't name one worthwhile song she's recorded since the '90s. Even her duet with Brooks & Dunn was less than earth-shattering.

Here's Billy Currington, performing "People are Crazy," my most-hated song of 2009. When your chorus begins with the line "God is great," it's obvious you're just pandering to the bible-thumping country audience. I might respect this guy more if he didn't need to stoop to such cheap tricks to earn a hit single.

Female Vocalist of the Year is Taylor Swift. Her competition wasn't very stiff, but it's still quite an achievement to win this award at age 19.

It's time for the Kenny Chesney/Dave Matthews duet "I'm Alive." This is a good song. Dave didn't co-write it, but it sounds like he could have, given its "live for the moment" attitude. I enjoy the dark, moody melody, which is something new for Chesney.

Time for Entertainer of the Year, presented by the first couple of country music, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. History is made as Taylor Swift wins! A satisfying ending indeed. Maybe the old boys network in Nashville has finally met its match.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I call bullshit on Owl City

When I first heard the Owl City song "Fireflies," I was floored. It's such a ripoff of Ben Gibbard/The Postal Service, I can't even believe it.

Lots and lots of ignorant teens are downloading the song, thinking it's some cool new sound. But the song is a disgrace because it's so derivative.

I've held by tongue long enough on this horrible band, but now that the song has stunningly reached #1 on Billboard, I have to speak out. I guess Owl City is one band I won't be interviewing any time soon.

Decide for yourself.

Video: Owl City - Fireflies

Friday, November 6, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Martina McBride

From Martina McBride's Twitter:

Oprah was fun. Glad they didn't show the "crack house" where I used to live! Not literally a crack house..but it kinda looked like one!

Martina had to later explain to her fans that she was talking about the house she first moved into as an adult, not the one she grew up in.

It could be a big week for Martina - she's nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2009 CMAs. I might live blog the 2009 CMAs, just for the hell of it. Stay tuned!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Pittsburgh concerts


11/23 Jay Reatard @ Brillobox

This is worth going to if only to see what all the fuss is about. I've been reading about this guy nonstop over the past couple years, but for some reason, I thought he was a teenager. Turns out he's 29. A few weeks ago he tweeted that his entire band quit on him. Hopefully they'll have their shit together by the time the Brillobox show rolls around.

11/4 OK Go @ Mr. Small's

Our recent interview subjects are kicking off their tour in the Burgh, and they'll be showing off some of the tunes from their forthcoming album. "White Knuckles" and "End Love" are the two most Prince-sounding songs I've ever heard in my life. It'll be cool to hear how they sound in a live setting.

11/6 Brian Wilson @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
I saw Brian Wilson once before, when I used to work security at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in 2002. I wasn't sure how a guy whose speech was slurred would be able to sing coherently, but he did, and the show was outstanding. Expect lots of Beach Boys classics during this performance.

Others to keep in mind:
11/3 State Radio @ Mr. Small's
11/4 Atreyu @ Ches-A-Rena
11/5 Ingrid Michaelson @ Mr. Small's
11/6 Hawthorne Heights @ Diesel
11/7 Get Up Kids & Kevin Devine @ Mr. Small's
11/7 WPA & Erin McKeown @ Disel
11/7 Jill Sobule & Kelly Joe Phelps @ Carnegie Lecture Hall
11/8 Forever the Sickest Kids @ Diesel
11/11 Harper Simon @ Andy Warhol Museum
11/11 Flyleaf @ Mr. Small's
11/12 Breathe Carolina & Kill Paradise @ Altar Bar
11/12 Tim Reynolds & TR3 @ Hard Rock Cafe
11/12 Dark Star Orchestra @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
11/13 The English Beat @ Diesel
11/15 The Academy Is..., Set Your Goals, Mayday Parade @ Altar Bar
11/15 Thrice @ Diesel
11/19 Umphrey's McGee @ Mr. Small's
11/20 Minus the Bear @ Mr. Small's
11/24 Metric @ Mr. Small's
11/28 Ari Hest @ Thunderbird Cafe
11/29 LMFAO & Shwayze @ Diesel
11/29 Saosin & innerpartysystem @ Altar Bar

Friday, October 30, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Max Bemis

Emo/punk icons Say Anything are back with a new album. Singer Max Bemis is excited.

Yes! This is the best reaction we've ever had to anything hahahaha Thank you guys! Album stream: www.myspace.com/sayanything

I haven't personally checked it out yet; I've been busy with the new Weezer and Tegan & Sara CDs... reviews to come soon!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interview with OK Go's Tim Nordwind

Bassist Tim Nordwind (right) and his bandmates

Interview by Scott Shetler

OK Go has been one of the more underappreciated rock bands of the past several years. Their excellent last release, Oh No, was overshadowed by its equally excellent videos for “A Million Ways” and “Here it Goes Again” (the treadmill video), the latter of which won a Grammy Award.

In January, they return with the Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, a record produced by Dave Fridmann (MGMT, Flaming Lips) that channels Prince and shows off the band’s funky side. On November 4, they kick off a mini-tour of the Midwest at Mr. Small’s in Pittsburgh.

We recently chatted with bassist Tim Nordwind on the phone about the new record, his Grammy Award (which may or may not have been stolen), and the awesomeness of ‘80s weekly countdown show Solid Gold.

Hi Tim, where are you calling from this morning?
I’m actually in South Bend, Indiana. We’re shooting a video here.

On the subject of videos, your previous videos have set the bar really high. What do you have planned in terms of videos for the new album?
We’ve got one in the can and we’ve got about four more that are in different stages of planning. We’re hoping to make a video for every song on the record this time, which is kind of a lofty goal, but that’s what we’re shooting for.

We have a good time making videos. We’ve been making videos outside of the traditional filmmaking industry for the most part, just because it’s more fun for us to have an idea and figure out how real people might make it, versus industry professionals. It’s fun to dream something up and make it guerrilla style, versus doing it the proper way.

Video: OK Go - A Million Ways

Congratulations on the new album coming out. You started working on it a couple years ago, right?
Yeah, we started writing for it about two years ago when we stopped touring. We toured for 31 straight months on our second round, so we were pretty burned out by the time we stopped. I’d say the first six to eight months, we wrote a bunch of crap because we were so burned out. We were just trying to figure out how to be human beings again.

So it took us about a year and a half to get a group of songs together that we actually liked. We spent most of last year in Fredonia, New York recording with Dave Fridmann and we mixed the record over the summer.

I listened to the new album and I’m kind of blown away by how Prince-sounding some of the songs are.
We were listening to a lot of Purple Rain in the studio. I think on the first two records we exhausted whatever kind of guitar rock demons we have inside of us. We all grew up listening to ‘80s pop radio, which was a pretty seriously eclectic bunch of music – it was Prince and Michael Jackson, but then it was Talking Heads and B-52s. So this record we went back to earlier influences like that. So, yeah, there’s a lot of Prince on this record.

Did you happen to be a fan of Solid Gold in the ‘80s?
The dance show? (laughs) Yeah, who wasn’t? They really don’t make shows like that any more, do they? ‘We’re gonna put 150 people in the room and watch them dance.’

That’s my guilty pleasure on YouTube.
Wow, I hadn’t considered that it might be on YouTube. I guess everything’s on YouTube. You’ve inspired me to go back to my Solid Gold years.

One of the new songs, “Before the Earth was Round,” feels like your Kid A moment. What’s the story behind that song?
That was one of the first songs written for this record. It was an early contender for the album. It’s got that vocoder, lonely robot sound. I suppose musically, Blonde Redhead was sort of the referential influence for that song. Lyrically, I feel like I’m not always equipped to speak to the lyrics because I didn’t write them. Damian’s the singer and wrote those lyrics. I know it’s sort of a parable about before the earth was round. The characters are the sky and love.

Do you have a favorite of the new songs?
There’s a song called “All is Not Lost” that I like a lot. I think “Skyscrapers” is really good, a slow and groovy song. It’s roughly about a character who lived his or her life not believing in anything, sort of looking up at a skyscraper and being like, Wow, someone actually dreams that and makes that, and that’s pretty insane. Sort of a song about finding something to believe in, which is kinda nice.

Stream “Skyscrapers” from OK Go’s upcoming album here:

Where do you keep your Grammy?
(Laughs) I don’t even know where my Grammy is, to be honest with you. I moved about two years ago and I packed it up. My Grammy is in storage. Which is awful, I need to get it out.

I’m a little bit afraid that it’s not there anymore. It’s buried under a bunch of boxes. I think it’s probably safe. In some ways it’s probably safer than the ones that are out because I think it would be much harder to find. If someone wanted to come in and steal my Grammy, they’d have to go through an awful lot of boxes.

Are you guys in the camp that doesn’t put much stock in award shows, or was it actually really thrilling to get a Grammy?

It was really thrilling, but I don’t put stock in accomplishments, period. I feel like the minute you are satisfied with something, that’s the minute you’ve lost. I don’t want to say we don’t put a lot of stock in award shows – we don’t actively go out and say they’re bullshit or anything like that. But I don’t think we’re the type of people who sit around and celebrate that stuff for a very long time. We appreciate it on the day we get it, and then it’s time to move on to the next project.

Your band is one of the more fashionable bands in rock. How would you describe your style?
The style for the last record was like an update on turn of the century dandyism (laughs). It was fashion patterns mixed with paisley and formal suits. I think it’s ever-changing, though. The way it’s going this time is sort of colorful. We’re getting out of always needing to be in a three-piece suit. I get the sense we’re sort of headed in a slightly more futuristic and colorful direction.

Video: Tim narrates a video of OK Go recording the new album

You guys have been parodied on The Simpsons, you’ve been in films and tv shows, in video games, on billboards… are there any forms of media left for you to conquer?
Well, we’ve yet to be projected onto the moon. That would be great. We haven’t been on Saturday Night Live, which I would like to do. That’s personally my favorite show - other than Solid Gold. If I could turn back time and get on Solid Gold, that would be an obvious choice, now that you’ve got me thinking.

OK Go performs at Mr. Small’s in Pittsburgh on November 4 with local favorites Donora. Find the band online at okgo.net and follow Tim on Twitter at http://twitter.com/timothynordwind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Musician tweet of the week: Brendan Urie

Panic! At The Disco are working on a new record. And they've reclaimed their lost exclamation point!

It's amazing how fast a band can fall off the radar. They've lost two of their members. We'll see if the new album (blink-182's Mark Hoppus is contributing) puts them back in the spotlight.

Panic! singer Brendan Urie was tweeting about domestic life this week:

i believe my dog Bogart's favorite movie is Marley & Me. can't keep his eyes off the screen.

The band's new album is slated for a 2010 release.