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Friday, February 27, 2009

March Pittsburgh concerts

3/17 Morrissey @ Carnegie Music Hall (Oakland)

I'm in the camp of folks who find Morrissey to be an overrated, pompous ass. But he's still a legend and he never plays in this city, so we'll call it our must-see show. Please go to this concert and heckle him. I will not be satisfied unless this night results in Morrissey flipping out and cursing Pittsburgh (again).

3/12 Busta Rhymes @ Gateway Clipper
Fo realz! The wacky rapper with a few screws loose performs on the Gateway Clipper as it travels down the rivers of Pittsburgh. Woo-hah!

3/28 A.C. Newman @ Andy Warhol Museum
The New Pornographers' frontman plays a show at my favorite local venue, in support of his second solo album Get Guilty. What happened to that album, by the way? People were talking about it for like 2 days, and then it dropped off the face of the earth. Perhaps this tour will re-ignite some interest in it.

Others to keep in mind:
3/1 Mudvayne & Nonpoint @ Club Zoo
3/1 Fleetwood Mac @ Mellon Arena
3/2 The Airborne Toxic Event @ Mr. Small's
3/3 Steve Poltz @ Club Cafe
3/4 We the Kings @ Mr. Small's
3/5 Joan Baez @ Byham Theater
3/6 Cheech & Chong @ Benedum Center
3/7 Margaret Cho @ Carnegie Music Hall (Homestead)
3/7 Punchline @ Diesel
3/9 Here We Go Magic @ Garfield Artworks
3/11 Bouncing Souls @ Mr. Small's
3/12 Busta Rhymes @ Gateway Clipper
3/13 Butch Walker @ Mr. Small's
3/14 Bleeding Through @ Diesel
3/19 Kottonmoth Kings @ Gravity
3/20 Erin McKeown @ Thunderbird Cafe
3/27 Britney Spears & Pussycat Dolls @ Mellon Arena
3/28 Lewis Black @ Heinz Hall
3/28 Phil Vassar @ Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse
3/29 Glen Tilbrook @ Hard Rock Cafe

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscars vs. Grammys

Sean Penn: You damn well better acknowledge Mickey Rourke in your speech!

I usually don't watch the Oscars because I'm just not into movies. Going to a theater feels like paying $10 to watch television for a couple of hours. But you only get one channel. And the snacks aren't free. And you have to sit among strangers, many of whom might be talkative and rude. That's just not fun for me!

I only saw 3 films in the past year - Sex & the City, Religulous, and The Wrestler - but I wanted to see Mickey Rourke win an Oscar, so I caught the last 30 minutes of last night's broadcast.

As I watched, I just kept thinking... Wouldn't it be great if the Grammys were as respected as the Oscars? The Oscars are the unquestioned authority of what's good in the world of film, while the Grammys are derided by fans, music critics, and musicians alike.

Sometimes I like to imagine what the Grammys would be like if they were run by the Oscar people. Here are some changes the Grammys could institute to make themselves more like the Oscars.

1. Slash the number of categories
When there are 110 categories, you're giving out way too many awards. Do we really need to recognize the Best Hawaiian Album or Best Norteño Album? Having so many categories cheapens the awards. Think about it: Most actors would kill to win a single Oscar in their lifetime - or even just a single nomination. With the Grammys, it's not a good year for superstar artists unless they get at least 8 nominations. People freaked out this year when Alicia Keys got only 3 noms instead of her usual 6 or 7. And I love the guy, but how can people take the Grammys seriously when Weird Al Yankovic has 9 career nominations? If he had that many Oscar nods, he'd be Meryl Streep!

Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle with the coveted Grammy for Best Native American Album, 2001

I'd cut the number of Grammy categories by more than 90%, from 110 to 7. Obviously, this would never happen, but allow me to dream.

These would be my categories:
Best Album
Best Song
Best Male Performance
Best Female Performance
Best Group Performance
Best Producer
Best Music Video

This kind of arrangement means that all genres would be competing against each other - rap against country against metal. And it would be truly special to win one of those gramophones!

2. Allow indies to have a real shot

Slumdog Millionaire

The best thing about the Oscars is that a little-known film like Slumdog Millionaire can come out of nowhere and snag the top prize. The Grammy voting bloc is so dominated by major labels that small-label artists have virtually no shot of winning. No, Radiohead doesn't count. I'm talking about critically acclaimed indie acts like Vampire Weekend, M83, Crystal Castles, Frightened Rabbit and Deerhunter. The way to change this is to dramatically increase the percentage of indie representation in NARAS, either by stripping some old-timers of their voting privileges, or adding a new wave of indie voters. Somehow, the Brit Awards have managed to figure it out - MGMT, Santogold, and Fleet Foxes all earned Brit nominations this year.

3. Don't vote for the dead guy
The best way to guarantee yourself a Grammy Award is to die. The Grammys never vote against dead people. Everyone from Roy Orbison to Ray Charles to Warren Zevon have triumphed largely due to the sympathy factor.

Oscar voters must be cold-hearted bitches, because they aren't swayed by this kind of sympathy. Heath Ledger's win yesterday was only the second time in history that a major award was given posthumously. They prefer to give the awards to the folks who actually deserve them. What a novel concept!

4. Have respectable people present the awards

We actually respect these presenters!

This is a small thing but it goes to the respect factor. I loved how the Oscars had five legendary actors/actresses present Best Actor and Best Actress. Having these giants give a personal comment on each of this year's nominees really built up the award so that we as viewers believed we were watching history as the envelopes were opened.

Meanwhile, the Grammys will let damn near anybody present their big awards. I will never forget a cocky, yet-to-accomplish-anything-in-his-career Usher presenting Album of the Year in 1998 and introducing nominee Bob Dylan as "Bill Dylan." I don't even blame Usher - he shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near that podium. Only the true giants should be giving out these awards.

The Grammy makeover
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the 2009 Grammy Award nominees, if they had been Oscar-ized using these suggestions:

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
Santogold, Santogold
Dear Science, TV On the Radio

Skinny Love, Bon Iver
Courtship Dating, Crystal Castles
Blind, Hercules & Love Affair
Gobbledigook, Sigur Ros
Oxford Comma, Vampire Weekend

Modern Guilt, Beck
Feed the Animals, Girl Talk
Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne
Play, Brad Paisley
Paper Trail, T.I.

New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War, Erykah Badu
Rockferry, Duffy
Youth Novels, Lykke Li
Robyn, Robyn
Santogold, Santogold

Raising Sand, Alison Krauss & Robert Plant
Microcastle, Deerhunter
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Oracular Spectacular, MGMT
Dear Science, TV On the Radio

Raising Sand, T-Bone Burnett
Fleet Foxes, Phil Ek
In Rainbows, Nigel Godrich
Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros & Flood
Dear Science, Dave Sitek

Who's Gonna Save Your Soul, Gnarls Barkley
Run To Your Grave, The Mae Shi
Eraser, No Age
House of Cards, Radiohead
Pork and Beans, Weezer

It's true that a lot of these bands are not household names. But they would be, after the press built them up for months leading up to the nominations, and after the press wrote all kinds of features about them after the nominations were announced.

I think this would've made for much more fascinating Grammy Awards ceremony.

Monday, February 23, 2009

We have music from Tinted Windows

We now have music from Tinted Windows, the most controversial band of all-time, or at least it would seem that way based on the vitriolic reaction to the group among bloggers, most of whom hadn't even heard their music yet. The group, comprised of James Iha, Taylor Hanson, Bun E. Carlos and Adam Schlesinger, released its first track to the public today, "Kind Of A Girl."

The song is pure power-pop, which is what I feared when I initially heard the band's lineup. I don't want them to sound like Fountains of Wayne. Hopefully the rest of the record will be a bit more adventurous.

They are signed to S-Curve Records, whose founder/CEO Steve Greenberg first discovered and signed Hanson back in the '90s. The debut record will be release April 21.

MP3: Tinted Windows - Kind Of A Girl

Here's a cheesy introduction to the band. They're going for an early '80s kinda vibe:

Tinted Windows - Promo

Friday, February 20, 2009

Album Review: U2 - No Line On The Horizon

No Line On The Horizon

A personal revelation before I commence this review: I like U2, but I despise all the attention they've been getting over the past two album cycles. How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, in particular, wasn't that great. They just played the Grammys, even though they weren't nominated, and now I hear they're going to be the musical guest on David Letterman for five days straight the week this CD comes out. It's almost enough to make me puke. So I'm not exactly impartial here. I'd love nothing more than for No Line On the Horizon to be complete rubbish.

It isn't. But it falls far short of being a masterpiece.

Regarding U2's sound, Bono was recently quoted as saying, "Maybe the rock will have to go; maybe the rock has to get a lot harder. But whatever it is, it's not gonna stay where it is." Producer Brian Eno also stated this the new record is a throwback to Achtung Baby, back when U2 were innovating and creating new sounds.

After reading these two quotes, and then listening to No Line On The Horizon, I have come to the conclusion that these two individuals are out of their minds. In fact, U2's sound hasn't changed much at all. Some of these tracks ("Stand Up Comedy") do have a harder edge. But none would've been out of place on How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

"Moment of Surrender" is a slow, spacey song, one of the best on the record. But it's done in by a chorus that uses the lyric "At the ATM machine." Seriously? Are you doing this just to fuck with us, Bono? To force us to feel the unease that comes from hearing such a hideous grammatical screw-up?

"Unknown Caller" is an appealing mid-tempo track with a sing-along chorus. But I'm still wondering... where is the innovation here? Weren't we promised this would be a groundbreaking record? I'm not hearing anything that sounds original.

"I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" comes from the Fall Out Boy school of really long song titles. Apparently someone thought it would help U2 seem hip with the kids if they used a complete sentence as a song title.

The better songs are towards the end of the record. "White As Snow" is a pretty ballad in which Bono laments, "If only a heart could be as white as snow." That's followed by "Breathe," in which Bono near-raps the lyrics over a heavy guitar riff. It's good stuff. But not enough to save No Line On the Horizon.

No Line On the Horizon
hits stores March 3.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

James Iha and Taylor Hanson: Bandmates!

This is pretty much the coolest thing I've heard in a while. A new rock supergroup called Tinted Windows has formed, comprised of former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, and Hanson vocalist Taylor Hanson.

No, really. I swear, it's true!

I'm excited for Taylor - too many people only think of "MMMBop" when they hear his name, and this will give him a chance to earn cred with a completely new group of guys. I'm also excited for Iha, who belongs in a popular band and deserves better than the headcase that is Billy Corgan.

Who knows what they'll sound like, but they already deserve huge points for thinking outside the box.

Tinted Windows already has a MySpace page... with no content. Their first gig will be next month at South By Southwest. I'm betting this is going to be one hotly-anticipated show!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There was blood on the keyboard

February 16, 2009
Club Zoo, Pittsburgh

Everyone's favorite lovable, piano-playing geek delivered a song-packed performance on President's Day, peppered with some interesting tales from his life and adventures in Pittsburgh. Folds reminisced, "I played at the restaurant next door (referring to a former music venue called Rosebud) 10 years ago and hurt people's ears...and now I'm back hurting people's ears here today." He wasn't kidding--this is probably one of the loudest shows I've been to what with all the bass-heavy accompaniment, pounding drums, and Folds thrashing at the low notes on the keyboard.

Openers Miniature Tigers provided short, tuneful songs with nice harmonies and catchy choruses; favorites were "Dino Damage" and "Tell It to the Volcano," the calypso-feel title track to their August 2008 album. Despite ending on a bit of a bland note, the Tigers were quirky and engaging. Frontman Charlie Brand announced, "On the count of three, shout your favorite President!" After the noise cleared, a crowd member shouted, "Who's your favorite first lady?" "Michelle O-ba-ma!" Brand retorted.

Next up was Carnegie Mellon's men's a capella group, The Originals, who provided renditions of Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero," "Hate" by the Plain White T's, and Ben Folds' "Rockin' the Suburbs." The group was difficult to hear at times because of the way they were miked; nonetheless it was a fun, spirited prequel to the big show. (Later on, Folds revealed that he is putting together an album of cover songs as performed by collegiate a capella groups from across the country.)

Folds, in an orange striped polo shirt and his signature big dorky glasses, entered the stage with his band, plowing through "Effington" and "Brainwascht" before addressing the crowd: "I'll always remember my climb up Mount Motherfucker...which was apparently renamed Mount Washington," he told the audience, and later dedicated the song "Free Coffee" to "those who died climbing Mount Motherfucker."

Folds also told the tale of a recent concert in Germany, during which he "sucked so bad" that he started changing the words to “Free Coffee” to things like “strapped on my dildo” and “texting with my dick.” He then offered a demonstration of how he got the sounds for the song--two Altoids cans on the piano strings and a distortion pedal.

As Folds explained the mechanics behind "Free Coffee," he commented on how quiet the audience was; "No one even screamed, 'show me your dick.'" Of course, a random guy shouted out Folds' request, and a song was born: "It's always a dude/who says show me your dick," and so forth. Folds also played a little Pittsburgh improv tune after recounting his visits to Jerry’s Records and Pamela’s Diner in Squirrel Hill.

Much of Folds' set drew from his latest album, Way To Normal. "You Don't Know Me," the album's single featuring Regina Spektor, still fared well without her. "Kylie from Connecticut" was a bit dull, but I was pleased that Folds graced the crowd with "Cologne," a simple but stunning track.

He also played "illegitimate" versions of "Dr. Yang" and "Bitch Went Nuts," renditions found on a new release of B sides from Way To Normal entitled Seeds and Stems. The album also contains Way to Normal's missing title track, which Folds played complete with prog-rock style intro.

High points of the show were "Fred Jones Part 2," a lonely tale of man who gets laid off after 25 years at his job, which Folds played solo, and "Kate," a Ben Folds Five vintage that ended the set delightfully. Folds returned for an encore with the thundering "Fair" and his signature closer, "Not the Same," during which he conducts the audience to sing a minor chord. And although Folds didn't give in to crowd whims like "Rock This Bitch" and requests for his cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit," I left that night feeling very satisfied with what I'd heard.

Set list:

  1. Effington
  2. Brainwascht
  3. You Don’t Know Me
  4. Annie Waits
  5. Alice Childress
  6. Way to Normal
  7. Dr. Yang (stems and seeds version)
  8. Dr. Yang (album version)
  9. Before Cologne/Cologne
  10. You To Thank
  11. Landed
  12. Free Coffee
  13. Hiroshima
  14. Where's Summer B.?

    - Solo Set -
  15. Fred Jones Part 2
  16. Brick
  17. Lullabye
  18. Emaline

  19. Kylie from Connecticut
  20. Zak and Sara
  21. Rockin’ the Suburbs
  22. Bitch Went Nuts (seeds and stems version)
  23. Army
  24. Kate


  1. Fair
  2. Not the Same
P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos, readers: I was stuck behind a speaker for the show :(


Monday, February 16, 2009

Slim Shady be flippin' burgers somewhere

In the two years I've been blogging it occurs to me I've not written a word on Eminem. With his new single "Crack a Bottle" shooting to #1 this week, now's a good time.

I have mixed feelings about Marshall Mathers. No question he's one of the most innovative rappers of all-time. The Marshall Mathers LP was a classic. The epic "Stan" might be the greatest rap song ever written, and "Kim," his brutal but fictional tale of murdering his wife, was positively chilling. But he does get lazy sometimes - "Without Me" was a pathetic rewrite of "The Real Slim Shady."

Eminem has had prominent beefs with several artists, most notably Will Smith. After Will bragged about being able to top the charts while writing clean lyrics, Em responded with the clever line, "Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell records/ Well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too." I was always hoping Smith would respond, but he chose to take the high road. I imagined Smith saying something like, "Eminem can say whatever he wants as long as he realizes that I helped make him what he is today. If it wasn't for artists like me taking rap music into the mainstream in the '80s, Slim Shady wouldn't exist. Slim Shady be flipping burgers somewhere."

"Crack the Bottle" is alright. The song features Dr. Dre and 50 Cent, so it's nothing we haven't heard before. But it's nice to see Em back on the charts. If nothing else, next year's Grammys should be interesting - Eminem and Kanye West will have to battle for Rap Album of the Year. Neither of them ever loses that award, so somebody's about to be humbled.

Streaming Audio via YouTube:
Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent - Crack the Bottle

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The best of Blink

"We used to play music together, and we decided we're gonna play music together again." With those words at the Grammys on Sunday, Travis Barker announced that Blink-182 have reunited. Although they were never the most groundbreaking of rock bands, Blink could always be counted on for quality pop hooks and a great sense of humor. With all the Axl Roses of the world, we need artists that don't take themselves so seriously.

In honor of Blink getting back together, here's a rundown of my favorite 8 Blink songs.

This one is included merely for its gratuitous obscenity.

"Man Overboard" was the one studio track on Blink's live album The Enema Strikes Back. This is one of those songs that makes me want to be a drummer. Travis Barker rips it up.


A serious song about overcoming suicidal thoughts. "Adam's Song" was an early sign that Blink had more to them than just fart jokes.

This song gave Blink 182 its first taste of mainstream notoriety. The lyrical theme of immaturity was easy for many to relate to.

The final album Blink-182 recorded together, 2003's self-titled effort, was a major step forward artistically. The toilet humor was gone, replaced with respectable lyrics and incredible musicianship. One of the best examples of this was "The Fallen Interlude," a 2-minute mostly instrumental track showcasing Barker's drumming skills.


"Dammit" was Blink's first hit single, and probably still their most well known. The song begins with that instantly recognizable riff. Notably, the video features some dude named Scott on drums, as Travis hadn't yet joined the group.

Another one from their self-titled album, "I Miss You" was an acoustic track featuring a stand-up bass and jazz brushes. It's a love song that contains a lot of dark imagery, with lines like "We'll have Halloween on Christmas" and "Webs from all the spiders, catching things and eating their insides." The video is equally haunting. And it's fun to sing on SingStar Karaoke.

1 ALL OF THIS (featuring Robert Smith)

This collaboration with The Cure's singer came out of left field but remains one of their best songs. It's the one I can't stop listening to. There is no video for this song. The clip below is a video montage made by a fan.

There also exists a video of Blink playing this song live with Robert Smith which is pretty amazing, but the sound isn't great quality - see that here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grammys snub Leroi Moore

2/11 UPDATE: Today the Grammys released a stunningly callous non-apology claiming that Moore wasn't included in the tribute because there wasn't time to include everyone who had died in the past year. In other words, they didn't accidentally leave him out of the video - they intentionally left him out, because he wasn't important enough. Simply unbelievable.

As we noted during our live blog of the 2009 Grammys, Leroi Moore of the Dave Matthews Band was shockingly omitted from the ceremony's video montage of those who died in the past year, even as numerous lesser-known musicians were included.

Clearly this was an oversight; there is no way they would intentionally slight someone who had 12 Grammy nominations and 1 win over the years. In fact, when Moore died last August, the recording academy's president, Neil Portnow, released the following statement: "Grammy winner LeRoi Moore was a versatile and inventive saxophonist. A classically trained musician, his love of jazz infused the Dave Matthews Band's music with jazz and funk overtones that helped define the group's eclectic and signature sound. His untimely passing is a loss to music fans everywhere, and our heartfelt sympathies go out to the band, his family and all who were moved by his music."

DMB bassist Stefan Lessard, Roots drummer ?uestlove, and Dave Matthews himself have all expressed their displeasure via Twitter updates, and irate DMB fans are demanding an apology from the academy. See the facebook group here. The DMB message board antsmarching.org has 16 pages of comments from fans regarding the incident.

Let's see if the academy does the right thing and takes responsibility for this grievous error.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Live blogging the 2009 Grammy Awards

7:18 pm
Breaking news for tonight's show - Rihanna and Chris Brown have canceled their performance after being involved in an incident last night on the streets of LA. The Rev. Al Green will step into their spot.

Also, regarding the evening's most anticipated performance, it's official - Radiohead are playing "15 Step" with the USC marching band.

7:42 pm
Most of tonight's awards have already been given out, during the pre-telecast ceremony. Radiohead have won Best Alternative Album. Coldplay won for Pop Group performance for "Viva La Vida." Rick Rubin won Producer of the Year again. Kings of Leon won in a mild upset for Rock Group, for "Sex on Fire."

7:49 pm
Kathy Griffin doesn't get her Grammy - George Carlin wins for Best Comedy Album. Never bet against the dead guy at the Grammys.

8:00 pm
U2 is opening the show. Why do the Grammys always have to beat us over the head with U2? This band has absolutely no business being here. They dominate the Grammys every year, and they're going to do so again next year. But they have no nominations this year, so they should relinquish the spotlight to someone else for once.

And by the way, I'm not feeling their new song. It's stupid.

8:04 pm
Whitney comes out to present the first award and receives a standing ovation. I must say, she is looking absolutely spectacular. She gives Best R&B Album to Jennifer Hudson. Yay, it's a feel-good story! It's an emotional acceptance speech - "I would like to thank my family, in Heaven and those who are here with me today."

8:12 pm
Al Green is playing "Let's Stay Together" with Justin Timberlake, Boyz II Men, and Keith Urban. It's a weird mishmosh of people, but the song is classic.

8:23 pm
Chris Martin is at a piano playing "Lost!" solo, and is soon joined by Jay-Z. Jay is performing later tonight, though, which brings out one of my pet peeves - I hate when an artist performs twice at an award show. Jay quickly departs and the band moves into "Viva La Vida." As much as I'd like to deny it, that's a terrific little ditty. They get a standing ovation, which makes 5 standing Os in the first 25 minutes of the show.

8:27 pm
Carrie Underwood is singing "I Don't Even Know His Last Name," her boring retread of "Before He Cheats." Give up the tough girl act, Carrie. You can't pull it off.

8:33 pm
Leann Rimes and Sheryl Crow present a country Grammy to Sugarland. Thank goodness Rascal Flatts didn't win - those gasbags aren't Grammy-worthy.

8:42 pm

Song of the year is "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay. No big surprise. I love their colorful attire.

8:43 pm
Next up is Kid Rock, who tries to singlehandedly repair Israeli-Palestinian relations, singing about "feeling guilty about being white" while the flags of different nations appear on screen behind him.

8:55 pm
Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift perform together during one of the slow acoustic segments. I give Miley credit for at least trying to show she can sing. You would never see Britney do such a thing. Next up is the award for Pop Collaboration, which goes to Plant & Krauss.

9:02 pm
Jennifer Hudson might be my new favorite pop singer, for real. That girl knows how to belt, without going overboard like Whitney. Best performance of the evening so far.

9:10 pm

The Jonas Brothers are here. I had a hunch they'd perform with someone more credible than themselves, and they've brought along Stevie Wonder. They team up for "Burnin' Up" and "Superstition." Not bad at all.

9:14 pm
Blink-182 have reunited! I'm really psyched about this. Their last album was a major, mature step forward. Travis Barker's arm is still in a sling from his accident. They present Best Rock Album to Coldplay. "As you may have noticed, we're not the heaviest of rock bands," says Martin, almost apologizing for winning the award.

9:23 pm
Katy Perry is lowered to the stage in a giant banana. There's all sorts of giant fruit on stage. Her dress is even covered with fruit. This is one we could be looking back on years from now and laughing at.

9:26 pm
Kanye West and Estelle are doing "American Boy." Kanye's rocking a mini-fro and a silver sparkly '80s style suit - nice! The mini-fro could be the new striped sunglasses. Kanye presents Best New Artist to Adele.

9:40 pm
It's Record of the Year, and it goes to the juggernaut of Plant & Krauss.

9:48 pm

Nine-months pregnant MIA is performing on the Grammy stage, I love it! Jay-Z, Kanye, T.I. and Lil Wayne come out wearing tuxedos for "Swagga Like Us," which is shown in black & white until the very end. Brilliant.

9:56 pm
Paul McCartney is playing "I Saw Her Standing There." I'm so over the Beatles at the Grammys. I love the Fab Four, but there's no need to have a Beatles performance every single year at this ceremony.

10:03 pm
Male Pop Performance goes to John Mayer. Even McCartney can't beat Mayer at the Grammys! I called this one, which means so far I'm 10-for-21 with my predictions. I've never finished below 50%, so things are looking dicey. But on the brighter side, I just discovered that Weezer won earlier tonight for Best Music Video for "Pork and Beans." Weezer have a Grammy! How cool is that?

10:18 pm
It's time for Radiohead! I dare say this is the most-anticipated Grammy performance since Elton & Eminem in 2001, and the band doesn't disappoint. "15 Step" is the best track from their overrated In Rainbows album, and the USC marching band is a nice touch.

I wish Radiohead had played the Grammys in previous years. I've always had this vision in my head of the band freaking everybody out by playing "Everything in Its Right Place" at the 2002 Grammys. Now that would've been something special.

10:28 pm
T.I. and Justin Timberlake play their new single. Didn't I just read in Blender that T.I. is supposed to be locked up soon?

10:38 pm
Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx, Smokey Robinson are singing with a surviving member of the Four Tops. I'm losing interest. Let's get this show over with now.

10:47 pm
Neil Diamond - now we're talking! Thankfully, Neil's recent acclaimed records with Rick Rubin have re-established his buzz factor, so it's no longer uncool to love Neil. His "Sweet Caroline" is one of the most fun moments of the evening.

10:52 pm
They just did the annual montage of musicians who passed away. I wasn't paying attention closely, but I'm pretty sure they neglected to include Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Leroi Moore. If so, that would be an unforgivable oversight.

11:03 pm
WEEZY! Lil Wayne brings out Allen Toussaint (who I enjoy) and Robin Thicke (who I despise) for a tribute to New Orleans. Not as cool as "A Milli" would've been, but good nonetheless. Wayne then wins Best Rap Album as expected.

11:18 pm
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss perform "Rich Woman" and "Gone Gone Gone." Flawless. Green Day present Album of the Year to Plant & Krauss, and everybody goes home.

Whew! This win means I finished 12-for-23 with my predictions, so I topped 50% for the 9th straight year. Krauss' 5 wins tonight give her 29 Grammys in her career, just 3 shy of the all-time record held by conductor Sir Georg Solti. Better watch your back, Sir Georg!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2009 Grammy predictions

Last year I posted full Grammy predictions and odds in 19 categories, and nailed the winner in 13 of them. I was the only pundit to correctly predict that Amy Winehouse would win 5 awards. But now I don't have the energy for all that. If the Grammys aren't going to take the time to create a quality control panel with people who know what they're doing, I'm not going to spend hours analyzing their picks.

This year, I'm just going to list the predicted winners in several categories. Check back here on Sunday night when I'll be live blogging the event!

Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Alison never loses at the Grammys, and with Plant on her side, this one seems like a pretty safe bet. Coldplay has a shot as well. Some people are actually calling Lil Wayne the favorite for this award, but they must be smoking something.

Viva La Vida, Coldplay

This is one where Plant & Krauss may lose, because their nominated song Please Read the Letter isn't very well-known. Coldplay has won this award before (remember when "Clocks" beat four hip hop songs in a controversial decision?) They'll triumph here again.

Viva La Vida, Coldplay

This may be a category where the Grammys get to honor a new female artist they enjoy (Adele), but I'm going to play the favorites and say Coldplay.

Duffy or Adele? I've never heard a single Adele song, so I have to go with the chanteuse I'm familiar with. I'm rooting for the Jonas Brothers, though, just so people will be outraged and trash the Grammys again.

FEMALE POP VOCAL: Bleeding Love, Leona Lewis
Tough call here. I'm guessing that Adele and Duffy will cancel each other out, leaving this battle between Leona Lewis and Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl. It would be cool to see Perry win, but I think Lewis reminds academy voters of one of their favorites, Mariah Carey, so Bleeding Love wins here.

MALE POP VOCAL: Say, John Mayer
Snooze. John Mayer always wins this one. Paul McCartney could get a win here due to old-man sympathy. The dark horse is Jason Mraz's I'm Yours.

GROUP POP VOCAL: Viva La Vida, Coldplay
This one is obvious.

POP COLLABORATION: Rich Woman, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Another easy choice. Plant & Krauss triumph over Madonna & Timberlake.

POP VOCAL ALBUM: Detours, Sheryl Crow
Just because Sheryl is a Grammy whore.

DANCE RECORDING: Disturbia, Rihanna
I'm uneasy picking against Madonna in the dance field, but Rihanna was everywhere in 2008, so the guess is she outguns a strong field that also includes Lady Gaga, Hot Chip, and Daft Punk.

GROUP ROCK PERFORMANCE: Long Road Out of Eden, The Eagles
Coldplay and Radiohead are going head to head, along with veterans the Eagles and AC/DC, and the buzz band of the moment, Kings of Leon. I'm really taking a wild guess at this one.

BEST ROCK SONG: Violet Hill, Coldplay
Another category where it's Coldplay vs. Radiohead. Either could win and it wouldn't be a surprise. Bruce Springsteen has a shot too, for Girls in their Summer Clothes.

BEST ROCK ALBUM: Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay
The only competition for Coldplay comes from the Raconteurs.

ALTERNATIVE ALBUM: In Rainbows, Radiohead
This is where Radiohead gets one, unless Grammy favorite Beck pulls the upset.

CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM: Year of the Gentleman, Ne-Yo
Ne-Yo wins against a weak field. Mary J. Blige provides the only real challenger.

RAP SOLO: A Milli, Lil Wayne
It's Wayne's world, we just live in it.

RAP GROUP: Swagga Like Us, Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne & Kanye West
Who could vote against this mega-collaboration?

RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION: American Boy, Estelle featuring Kanye West
I liked this song for about ten minutes, then it got old.

RAP ALBUM: Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne
Good thing for Weezy that Kanye's album wasn't eligible this year.

COUNTRY ALBUM: Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
Lamest group of nominees ever. Randy Travis? George Strait? Patty Loveless? What year is this, 1987?

CONTEMPORARY FOLK ALBUM: Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
I need at least one slam dunk to boost my winning percentage.

BEST COMEDY ALBUM: For Your Consideration, Kathy Griffin
This is the award I'm most looking forward to. Will Kathy Griffin realize her dream of winning a Grammy, to go with her two Emmys? The odds are against her, since George Carlin is the sentimental favorite, but Kathy's on an awards show winning streak, so I'm not betting against her.

BEST MUSIC VIDEO: House of Cards, Radiohead
The futuristic 3D/laser scanning technology will be rewarded here with a Grammy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 4: Thumbs up/ Thumbs down

Bruce Springsteen. The Boss killed during halftime of Super Bowl XLIII, showing everyone exactly what his live show is like: high energy, incredible musicianship, and a great time. The E Street Band has to be the best backing band of all time. Anyone who has an opportunity to see Bruce this year, do yourself a favor and go!

Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I., and Kanye. This foursome will be teaming up to perform their collaboration "Swagga Like Us" at the Grammys. Even if you don't like rap, this is something special. If there was a Mount Rushmore of hip hop, these would be the four faces on it, so seeing them team up live will be a treat. Just please go easy on the AutoTune, Kayne!

Kelly Clarkson. Recently I heard the first few notes of a song I didn't know, and I thought, this must be the new Kelly Clarkson song! Sure enough, it was. How could I make such a confident declaration? Because the song uses the exact same guitar intro as "Since U Been Gone!" Kelly, dear, I know you're itching to return to the top of the charts after your last album flopped, but you should know there's nothing worse than blatantly repeating yourself!

Langerado. The Miami music festival was canceled due to sluggish ticket sales. This could be the first of many such cancellations. Promoters had better take the weak economy into account when pricing their tickets this year. Coachella and Bonnaroo are offering layaway plans for the first time. It's a good idea, but it doesn't go far enough. They should cut ticket prices by 10-20%.

Monday, February 2, 2009

February Pittsburgh concerts

2/22 Tapes 'N Tapes @ Brillobox
I'll be honest, the one time I saw Tapes 'N Tapes live I wasn't blown away, but I only caught about 20 minutes of their Lollapalooza set, so it's not fair to make a judgment based on that. The Minneapolis act is still touring behind last April's Walk it Off, a David Fridmann-produced effort which features the gem "Conquest." Brillobox is a rather cozy club so I imagine this show will be quite crowded.

2/16 Ben Folds @ Club Zoo
The piano man makes his first Pittsburgh appearance since a free show at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006, when he made up a song on the spot about the Cathedral of Learning. Club Zoo is quite a different venue, but it's worth the trip to the Strip District to catch Ben. If you're lucky, maybe he'll play his earnest cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit."

2/28 Tokyo Police Club @ Mr. Small's
2/28 Ben Kweller @ Diesel
Two good shows in one night. What tempts you, a peppy indie rock act or a sensitive singer-songwriter? Tokyo Police Club played Small's last year and delivered a solid, if short, performance. Kweller's been releasing music for a decade now, and this performance is likely to showcase a bunch of songs from Changing Horses, his new record due out tomorrow.

Others to keep in mind:
2/5 Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt @ Carnegie Music Hall (Oakland)
2/5 Von Iva & Semi Precious Weapons @ Hard Rock Cafe
2/8 School of Seven Bells @ Carnegie Mellon University
2/8 Ludo @ Diesel
2/13 Cute is What We Aim For with Meg & Dia @ Diesel
2/14 The English Beat @ Rex Theatre
2/18 Bitch & The Exciting Conclusion @ Your Inner Vagabond
2/19 Eagles of Death Metal @ Mr. Small's
2/24 Dark Star Orchestra @ Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
2/25 Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry & Papa Roach @ Petersen Events Center
2/28 Jason Isbell @ Club Cafe