Rolling Stone recently ran a Readers’ Poll of The Best Smashing Pumpkins Songs, as selected by their readers. The response was so large and varied that they decided to make it a Top 20 list instead of the regular Top 10 with Rolling Stone Readers’ Polls. I had been planning on running a Five From the Archive piece on the Smashing Pumpkins anyway, and when I read this, I thought it afforded the perfect opportunity. Here’s what I’ve done.
Last fall, the new Smashing Pumpkins lineup – Jimmy Chamberlin is out on drums – did a short tour of the states in October, and a quick jaunt into Europe in November. So I chose five songs from those shows that were also included in the Reader’s Poll. All but one of the selections are from Siamese Dreams, for two reasons. First, the album dominates the Readers’ Poll. Second, I have a special attachment to the record. I was a bit obsessed with it when it came out. I went on and on about what a brilliant set of songs I thought it was, to anyone who would listen. Including some GloNo colleagues I knew back then.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals released a new record earlier this year, The Lion The Beast The Beat. I was a big fan of the first single, “Never Go Back” when it came out, and what I’ve heard of the new record is also great. Her songwriting continues to mature, and I swear I notice some prog rock influence in a few of these songs. Or that may just be wishful thinking on my part.
They played five tracks off the new album at this show in late April. The band is tight and enaged. Go see them if you can.
5. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – “Timekeeper”. Starts out with just Grace on the piano. Then some drums, a little bass. Later, guitar. But for most of the song, the focus is on the piano. I like the epic flavor of this track.
This was our first year at Summer Camp, and there were a bunch of bands I was excited to see. So my expectations were high. I got to see most of the bands on my list, and all that I did see were as good or better than I was expecting. But, Christ… the heat? Almost unbearable. It practically drained the life from me. But, once again, I was saved by rock n roll… plus some new strategies for staying cool when you’re spending entire days out in unshaded, 90+ degree heat. Here are some of the bands and artists that made Summer Camp a special musical experience for me.
Keller Williams is a one man show, like no other. He plays guitar, bass, and brings digital programming and loops into the mix, including layers of harmony vocals he’s built in advance. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen him play. He’s incredibly interesting to watch – especially considering it’s just one dude, and he doesn’t even bite a bat’s head off or anything to keep the crowd entertained.
You can listen to the whole set over at the Live Music Archive by clicking the link above. My two personal favorites were “Freaker By The Speaker” and “Doobie In My Pocket”, both of which I’ve seen him play before. They both brought smiles to my face.
It was during Keller’s set that our strategy for staying cool and properly enjoying the festival came together. Which is odd, because we’ve done this before. My theory is that the sheer number of stages threw us off. There were just so many fuckin’ stages at this festival. In fact, it’s one of the things Summer Camp promotes – how many bands and how many stages they have. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. Way too much movement required.
In any event, our strategy became: Whenever we decamped and headed for a stage, we brought our lawn chairs, a small cooler, our camera gear, and set up camp at every stage, before the show we were there to see. Then I would head up to the photo pit, take a few shots, while Sab kept the new base camp under control. So we didn’t exactly do this for Keller, but we found the shadiest spot to kick it, far back from the stage, but still with good sight lines and audio coverage. [More photos of Keller Williams at Summer Camp]
Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. And the should-be-more-famous Jackie Greene. Now touring together as an acoustic trio. I hadn’t seen them together before, so they were high on my list of bands to see. They started things off with “Truckin'”, a common and loved show starter for the Grateful Dead and the bands that have come after – Furthur, RatDog, Phil and Friends, etc.
The rest of the set – all hour and a half – was a mix of songs that I would have killed to see at a Ratdog or Furthur. “West LA Fadeaway” was one of the highlights for me. They creep into the song. On “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, Greene plays mandolin. Outstanding.
The idea for the trio likely grew out of the Furthur and Friends show for Phil’s 70th birthday, which saw Greene and Robinson joining Furthur to amp up the celebration. In fact, I saw them do New Speedway Boogie at both shows. An acoustic Boogie was a treat. Jackie Greene is the multi instrumentalist in the band. In addition to rhythm and lead guitar, he plays mandolin and the occasional harmonica. Weir and Robinson stick to acoustic guitar. And, obviously, they all do vocals – harmonies on the choruses, and they mostly take turns on singing the verses. This one is also available on the Live Music Archive (link above). [More photos of Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio at Summer Camp]
MathGames, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 12:00 – 1:00
I’d seen MathGames once before. The first time was at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They had Ray White with them then, and they covered Frank Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights”. They had the same uniforms on – some sort of white coveralls that couldn’t have been comfortable to be playing in the Chillicothe heat. My son had his tonsils out the other day, and now I’m pretty sure they’re wearing the same thing my son’s mom wore to observe the beginning of the surgery – at least until the boy was sedated. Anyway, maybe one of them is a surgeon in his day job?
I don’t know quite how to classify MathGames’ music. There’s jazz in there, a hefty dose of progressive rock, minus the choruses and verses. Space age jazz rock? No, four words is too many… Space jazz? Not quite right, either. I give up. For now, I’ll just describe the band. Fareed Haque is the driving force behind the band. He’s a unique and respected jazz guitar player, steeped in the 80s jazz fusion, and now a music professor in Illinois. Two younger Chicago musicians making up the rhythm section – Alex Austin on bass, and Greg Fundis on drums. And a new, permanent (?) addition to the band, Jesse Clayton on keyboards, coming to the band from Ann Arbor’s own Macpodz.
The good news is that I found a video of MathGames at Summer Camp. Prepare yourself for some, um, space prog…? Yeah, that doesn’t work either. Just watch the video!
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 1:30 – 2:30
For both MathGames and JC Brooks, we managed to score the best seats in the house. A gracious beer vendor had set up a sun shelter, and since no one was using it, we set up camp there for a couple of hours. The chairs, the beer cooler, etc. Plus shade in the noonday sun. Which was brutal! Brutal, I say!
But it was all worth it. Brooks is a charismatic frontman, and The Uptown Sound is a tight, accomplished band. Brooks has some stories to tell, and he weaves them through the songs in their set list. “I Got High”, for example.
Their Wilco cover – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is outstanding. They turn the song in a completely different direction. And it was the song I was really looking forward to hearing (we highlighted a version in our Summer Camp Music Sampler, you might recall). JC and the band funk it up a bit, and JC pulls the heartache in the song fully to the surface (the Wilco version hides it behind a lot of thrashing guitar riffs and noise).
Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of their set, which is very frustrating. They have a liberal taping policy, so I kind of expected it out there. No YouTube videos, either! They are a band you’ll want to see if they come to your neck of the woods. [More photos of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Summer Camp]
Common, Saturday, May 26, Sunshine Stage, 4:15 – 5:15
Common was at the top of my list of bands to see. I don’t get to see enough live hip hop, and I thought a festival would be the perfect environment for it. And I’ve been a huge fan of Common’s since I saw him with Kanye West on the Dave Chappelle show. His new record, The Believer/The Dreamer, is great. He played a few songs from that, but otherwise wove through catalogue highlights from the last 10 years or so of his work. He had a drummer, a keyboard player, and a DJ on stage with him.
Common used the length of the stage to engage the audience and drive his verses home. And the crowd loved him! There were enough hardcore Common fans to pack the stage area, from the soundboard forward. I was amazed at all the people spitting out the verses with Common, too. I mean, I know parts of verses from the Common records I have. But even if I knew them by heart, I don’t think I could get my mouth to move that fast, and if I did, I’d run out of breath before I got through a single verse. But it was really cool to see the crowd rocking with Common like that. I vote for more hip hop artists at festivals.
PS: Towards the end of the set, he said “lookout for the new album, coming soon” and he rattles off some of the people involved, starting off with Kanye West. Which could be good.
Another bonus from the YouTubes. Here’s Common doing a freestyle over a slice of the beat for “Otis” from Watch The Throne.
Anders Osborne, Saturday, May 26, Campfire Stage, 5:00 – 6:00
I’d only heard of Anders Osborne recently, via Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and their work together recreating The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers. So I didn’t know any of his solo work going in, but the Sticky Fingers work impressed me enough that I circled him on my festival schedule. I’m glad I did, because he was the best discovery of the festival for me.
Osborne played right after Common over at the Campfire Stage, so we had to decamp and move quickly to catch his set. What we heard was just great rock n roll. Well crafted songs writ large by a three piece band, with extended soloing over a rugged rock n roll terrain. Neil Young through the filter of New Orleans. Sort of. What was interesting is that he just released a new album at the beginning of May – Black Eye Galaxy – and he didn’t play a single song from it. Just one song from his album before that, American Patchwork. The song was “I Got Your Heart”, my personal favorite from that album (which I bought, along with the new one, when I got back from Summer Camp). He introduced it this way:
“Alright. Here’s a little song I wrote for my wife when I was in rehab last.”
Lucky for us, someone captured a few songs from their set on video, and posted it to YouTube. Here’s one, for the song “Burning On The Inside”. About 4:20 into the clip, Osborne starts playing this riff that builds into a nice solo, with good support from Eric Bolivar (drums) and Carl Dufrene (bass).
I don’t remember exactly when it was, but sometime early in 2011, Karl Denson asked his Facebook fans a pressing question: What album should Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (KDTU) perform in its entirety on its next tour? I remember I submitted a suggestion. I think it was Bill Wither‘s Just As I Am, but don’t quote me on that.
Someone else, though, had the brilliant idea to suggest The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers. In order to do it right, KDTU recruited Anders Osborne, a Swedish singer/songwriter and guitar player via New Orleans, to help present the record in all its fullness. Typically, they will play a set of KDTU songs, then bring Osborne out for the Sticky Fingers set. Sometimes, they had Osborne open up with his own set as well. I trolled through the various audience recordings of Sticky Fingers shows from late 2011 and early 2012, and my gut and ears tell me this show is the one to listen to:
Each of the tracks below are pulled from the Pittsburgh, PA show. Enjoy!
1. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe – “Brown Sugar” “This first song… is about interracial sex!” So sayeth Karl Denson at the beginning of this track. Which makes me think that when my parents named one of our dogs Brown Sugar, that may have been an inappropriate use of the song name.
While I was doing some research on Alabama Shakes, I came across their stuff on the Live Music Archive. What a surprise! They are a young band, and it was a brilliant decision to let people record them and upload those recordings to the Live Music Archive. Free marketing. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find.
This summer, we’re sending a GLONO crew to camp out and cover at least three music festivals. The first will be the 12th annual Summer Camp Music Festival, in Chillicothe, IL over Memorial Day Weekend (All Good and Hoxeyville are also on the list).
The line up for Summer Camp is really exciting. Over 100 bands over three days, across five different stages. Jane’s Addiction and Common are the two artists I’m most excited about. Unfortunately, neither artist currently lets their fans tape shows and upload them to the Live Music Archive (LMA). However, a lot of other bands playing at Summer Camp do let their fans tape shows and upload them to the LMA. In honor of Summer Camp, we’ve selected 13 songs – a baker’s dozen – from the LMA by these artists for your enjoyment. Each song is another reason you should consider going to Summer Camp (if you haven’t signed up already…). So bake away, my friends. Bake away, and give the tracks below a listen.
2. Ween – “The Mollusk”. Some seriously ELP style keyboard action going on in this one. He’s using a wheel or similar mechanism on the keyboard to bend notes. In an appropriately cheesy prog rock seventies kind of way. There’s a bit of a psychedelic meltdown in the middle, too. Then the clouds clear, and it’s smooth sailing to the end. Full Show: January 26, 2011 – Crystal Ball Room, Portland, OR
While I was trawling through the 2011 selection of Ween shows on the Live Music Archive, I saw a lot of interesting cover choices. More variety than I remember seeing in earlier years, too. So we’ll probably be back with another Ween post sometime soon, with just covers this time around. MP3s courtesy of the Live Music Archive, Ween’s liberal taping policy, and the intrepid tapers who put their lives on the line to bring us the raw, uncut stuff.
Photo of Ween was taken by Mike Vasquez in 2010 at The Royal Oak Music Theater in Detroit, MI.
Well, it’s that time again. Time for another Five From the Archive post featuring the legendary Warren Zevon. We’ve looked at his work before, first a batch of songs from 1978, then a batch from his 2000 solo acoustic tour. This time around, we are looking at selections from 1976, the year his first record, Warren Zevon, was released. And the first year of live recordings documented in the Live Music Archive.
About two and a half years ago, we ran our first “Five From the Archive” piece. We called it “Top Five Covers by Umphrey’s McGee”, predating the official series name, since we only decided to make it a more regular item after we saw how much interest the Umphrey’s McGee covers generated. Since we’ll be sending a team to cover Summer Camp Music Festival over Memorial Day weekend, and Umphrey’s McGee will be playing each night of the festival, we decided it was a good time to revisit and see what other brilliant covers we could highlight.
1. Umphrey’s McGee – “Burnin’ For You”: Have some Blue Oyster Cult with your Wheaties today. This is the first time they played this one. Anyone remember the video from early MTV? I was around 12 or so when I first saw that and “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” Great memories. In this version, Cinninger has got the licks down pat, and delivers a smoking little solo in the midst of this B.O.C. celebration. Full show: February 17, 2012 – LC Pavilion, Columbus, OH
On Jake Cinninger, lead guitarist and one of the vocalists in Umphrey’s McGee: Is there anybody out there playing better than him? With the range and depth of ability? I ask the question. I don’t know the answer, but I’m leaning towards no, there isn’t.
Photo of Umphrey’s McGee taken by Mike Vasquez at the All Good Music Festival in 2010.
Greensky Bluegrass is a local Michigan band done good. Coming out of Kalamazoo, they hit a soft spot for me right away, since that’s where I (and some other GLONO folks) went to college. And they have done a lot of shows at a place I know well: Bell’s Brewery. I was drinking their beer when they were still putting it in wine bottles. And I look forward to summer mostly because that’s when Solsun Oberon is available.
More importantly, these guys have put together a great band. Their originals are fantastic, and they incorporate a lot of different bluegrassified rock covers. I don’t know what your conception of bluegrass might be, but I can tell you that Greensky’s music is joyous. Something about the banjo playing just drives the band’s music forward with a bounce, the same way it did in Neil Young’s International Harvesters.
I’ve spent some time this week going through their 2012 shows and pulling out noteworthy covers. Below are five of the most enjoyable.
4. Greensky Bluegrass – “Ain’t No Sunshine”. This is from their New Year’s Eve show at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Somehow, these guys have managed to turn this song about love and heartache into a murder ballad. About love and heartache after the song’s protagonist has killed his beloved in a fit of angry passion. At least, that’s how it felt to me. And it’s fucking fantastic. Full show: December 31, 2011 – Majestic Theater, Detroit, MI
If you like what you hear, and want to explore more, intrepid tapers have been uploading full shows to the Live Music Archive for years. They’re also currently on their Spring tour – with some upcoming dates in Michigan. Check out the tour dates here and go see them if you get a chance.