Tag Archives: Live shows

Countdown to YEEZUS: Ticket Secured, MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY Re-visited, and Thoughts on a Live Kanye Performace

As promised, I’m going to write a few posts about my impending Kanye West concert. When I last wrote about this concert, I explained that a Denver show had been announced and that I was dusting off my credit card  so I could attend. Luckily for me, I didn’t really need to use the Defending Axl Rose Master Card! I was able to get a pretty good seat for $69. Since that time, I’ve kept an eye on the tickets and for the most part, the prices have remained stable and as of this posting tickets are still available.

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As long as there’s Kanye, there is hope.

During the fantastic World Series, which I watch every year, I muted my TV and revisited MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY. Mr. West’s 2010 album has been severely underplayed in my household, which made me decide to revisit it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the album holds up 6 years later. The singles “Power” and “Runaway” remain solid classics, but I was really blown away by the John Legend track “Blame Game.” I’m not sure why this poignant song failed to connect with me in previous listening sessions, but man is this an almost perfect song (the closing outro with comedian Chris Rock is probably the most cringe-inducing K. West album skit). The star-studded “Monster” also still holds up really well, though I must say the star-making performance from Niki Minaj bums me out when I hear now. Who could have guessed that her fierce performance on “Monster” would be an almost one-off thing and she’d become one of the most disappointing new rap artists of the 2010’s?

Listening to “Monster” got me thinking about what a Kanye West concert would be like. Despite being well-known as an egomaniac, Kanye’s albums are so brilliant because he doesn’t hog the spotlight on his releases. In fact, Kanye the album maker is generous with the limelight and often appears as second banana on the best tracks. How do I know that Kanye isn’t his troubling, problematic public persona? I listen to his albums and hear him give the best moments away to other, usually up-and-coming artists. The first time I heard Chance the Rapper was this summer when he stole the show on the opening track of THE LIFE OF PABLO. With so many of his best songs featuring A-list and AAA-list artists, how does a live Kanye performance work? Obviously a track like “Monster” doesn’t work unless Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Niki Manaj, and Bon Iver are in attendance and thus doesn’t get performed. But because so many of Kanye’s songs feature really great artists that I’m not sure Kanye can avoid doing a solo-only concert. I’m guessing that the verses done by guest rappers are just omitted, but as someone that’s never been to a rap concert before, I’m interested to see how it’s handled.

 

Look for a few more Kanye-centric posts to appear before my November 28th concert. I’m still trying to decide the best way to document the concert itself, so if you have any thoughts on the best way to do that chime-in below in the comments section.

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Campaign to Send Me to See Kanye West Official Over

You might recall a few months ago when I started a Go Fund Me campaign in order to send me to Las Vegas to see Kanye West perform live. Don’t remember that? Well, it happened. Fueled by the  desperation to see the man perform LIFE OF PABLO live in person and a lack of funds in order to travel outside of Denver, I emulated my musical hero and took to the Internet in order to (essentially) beg for money. So how did I do? Well, I made $6 more than Kanye made when he infamously sought money from Internet Zillionaire/Facebook Mogul Mark Zuckerberg…of course, that means I only raised $6. Well short of the $900 I was asking for. Now, let me admit now that that figure was pretty high, but consider the fact that I need airfare, a hotel, and a ticket to Yeezus’s show. I only guestimated, so $900 might have been on the low side…who knows?

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The campaign is over, I’m no longer accepting donations, mostly because it’s too late for me to raise money to attend the Vegas show. But don’t shed any tears for this middle-aged rock blogger, for every time Yeezus closes one door he immediately opens another (and then tweets about it). This week it was announced the second leg of Kanye’s tour would come to my beloved Denver, Colorado! Huzzah! So this Friday at 10:00am I’m dusting off my credit card and paying whatever number fate demands I pay in order to see Mr. West. I wish the show wasn’t on the Monday after Thanksgiving, but we do what we can with what we are given, right?

I’m going to document the shit out of this concert, so stay tuned for updates!

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LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL by The Beatles

I can’t think of a band I associate less with live performance than The Beatles. That’s partly because the group was long disbanded by the time I was born in the early 1980’s (thus no chance of me ever seeing them live). But for the most part, it’s because The Beatles so famously turned their back on touring and became the quintessential studio band. Over the years I’ve heard a handful of live Beatle recordings, mostly from the LIVE AT THE BBC double-album. I remember getting my hands on that set way back in my early Beatle-years and promptly tossing it aside. It’s not that the band was bad in concert, it’s just that live recordings from the era in which the Beatles performed live are spotty at best. So when it was announced that LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL would be coming out in conjunction with Ron Howard’s Beatle documentary THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, I bookmarked the release date but didn’t hurry to get around to listening to it until recently.

LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL documents several concerts from August of 1965, near the very end of the groups touring life. Released originally in 1977, LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL has been remastered and remixed. I was pleasantly surprised at how good these recordings sound. I would say that this album is 100% absolutely the best live recordings of The Beatles I’ve ever heard. That said, the performances are solid but ultimately pale comparisons of their studio counterparts. It’s been argued that George Martin is the so-called fifth Beatle, these recordings help make that argument in my opinion. It’s not that the band is terrible live, it’s just that the songs are so damn good on the studio recordings.

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I may be a bit biased, as live albums really aren’t my thing. The only way a live recording can move beyond the good and into the essential is when they capture the intensity of their performance and bring something new to the table. Many songs recorded live differ from their studio versions, either because of technical limitations (no string section? no problem!) or because playing the same song over and over  gets boring for bands and they do something a little different. These live embellishments separate the hacks from the great artists. A decent song can become sublime when stretched out into an intense extended jam. Guitar heroics/wankery can also take a live recording to the next level.  Sadly, LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL was recorded before the 1970’s, arguably the heyday of the live album. Thus, The Beatles are just performing their songs as best as they can like they appear on the albums.

What LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL is missing is between-the-songs banter. The few times Lennon announces the next song with a goofy voice is a real treat. It’s a shame that there isn’t more of this sort of stuff on the album because it’s something the studio albums don’t have. What there is plenty of, however, is screaming girls. Famously one of the reasons the band quit touring, the girls are screaming on LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL. And. They. Don’t. Stop. It almost feels like a parody there’s so much crowd noise on the recording. Though it never goes away, the audience never really gets in the way, either. I chalk this up to an expert remastering. Ironically, those who’ve listened to LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL have probably heard the concert better than those who attended the show. One of the Beatles (I think it’s Lennon if I recall correctly) even asks the crowd at one point, “Can you hear us?”

Overall, LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL is a fantastic musical artifact. The album is a bubble of amber perfectly preserving a fly (or Beatle) for all time. I’ve listened to it all the way through three times and frankly can’t imagine putting it on again. I’d much rather listen to the albums. LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL is really just for completist and band scholars (such as myself) and not an essential recording. The album has made me want to see Howard’s documentary, which apparently a Hulu-exclusive (which bums me out because now I have to wrangle a Hulu account in order to see it).

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Gonna be in the USA in 2017? Wanna see Metallica? I got good news for you!

I guess for the remainder of 2016/early 2017 I may have to change the name of my website to Defending Metallica. Since last week’s brand-spanking track release, I’ve anticipated more Metallica news. Well, today Rolling Stone reported that the band is planning a fairly extensive tour starting in January. No specific dates have been announced, but I’ll wager that Metallica is coming to a city near you, regardless of which city you live.

 

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Coming soon to a town near you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And you. And me

 

How can I be so sure? The article quotes Lars Ulrich as saying “It’s time to come back and do some proper penetration of America.” Wow, that almost sounds like a threat, doesn’t it? I’ve yet to see Metallica perform live, but I have a feeling that’s about to change in a big way. Besides a list of actual cities, the thing I’m most eager to see are the bands that will open for Metallica. I’m hoping they pick some fairly obscure, up-and-coming metal outfit to feature.

Bottom line: start rolling those pennies, you’re gonna be buying tickets.

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Send Defending Axl Rose To See Kanye West

Hello. Well this is awkward. A few weeks ago I found out that Kanye West would be touring in support of his latest album/magnum opus THE LIFE OF PABLO. Normally, this would be great news except he wasn’t coming to the city I live in. I was pretty bummed out. Then, a few days after my birthday, my parents got to see Guns N’ Roses in Kansas City. While very happy for them, this also really bummed me out. I should have gone to that show, but unfortunately a new job and a new baby (plus lack of money) meant that I’d have to skip seeing GNR. I’m barely able to live with myself, people. I swore that the next time a “Holy Fuck!” artist went on tour I’d do everything in my power to go and see them.

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Which leads me to Kanye. I was once offered free tickets to see Kanye open for U2, but I had already made unbreakable plans was was forced to pass up the opportunity. My relationship with Kanye started in the fall of 2005. I was living in the dorms at the University of St.Louis-Missouri when hurricane Katrina hit. The kids studying in New Orleans were distributed to colleges all across the nation. I remember sitting on the front porch of my dorm building, smoking Camel cigarettes, when a van pulled up and deposited two such refugees. The school representative helped them with their luggage, gave them vouchers for food, and then basically said “good luck” and drove off. I could tell that these kids were shell-shocked and in need of help. I didn’t really know anyone in St. Louis at the time, having just moved there myself, so I sympathized with them. I took them out for lunch and we became friends. They introduced me to Budweiser (up until that point I did not know there was any variety other than Bud Light), Tyler Perry movies, and Kanye West. LATE REGISTRATION had just dropped and they insisted that I hear it. That was my gateway to rap music, a gift that continues to enrich my life over ten years later.

This year’s LIFE OF PABLO is my number one favorite album. It’s the album I listen to when I run and when I speed to fast on the highway. In short, I need to see this man, but I can’t afford a trip and concert without help. Please take a moment to consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign.  It feels weird asking for this money, but at the same time you’ll be getting something out of this, too. For starters, I plan on writing extensively about both the lead-up to the concert, the concert, and my post-concert thoughts/feelings. Maybe some of you would pay to NOT get my thoughts on a Kanye West concert, to those people I say: “Why are you still reading this post?” I’m going to reward my top donors with a thank you package and wear the names of everyone who donated to the fund on a special t-shirt when (if?) I attend the show.

I promise not to be annoying about this and post about it ad nauseam. I also won’t make this a “thing” that I do for every concert I go to. I can afford a $35 ticket to see Weezer in the city where I live, I don’t expect people to pick up the tab on that sort of thing. I do feel like I’ve turned my readers onto good albums and songs over the years. And I know I’ve made you laugh (at least once) even it was at me and not necessarily with me…that has to be worth a buck or two, right?

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Van Halen Announce 2015 North American Tour–They’re Playing Where You Live

I’ve been out of it lately and I’ve been meaning to do some writing…well today Van Halen announced a pretty big North American tour and shook me from my malaise. I missed the band the last time they reunited and toured–so this news has me pretty stoked. Sure, Michael Anthony is still out of the band and he-who-shall-not-named is still playing bass (and fat), but this announcement has me reaching for my Visa card.

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Sure, I’m still trying to recover financially from buying a pair of Replacements tickets, but this is Van Halen. Van fucking Halen. One of THE last truly great, truly massive rock bands. I’m sure this won’t be their last tour, but this will probably be the last chance I’ll ever get to see them.

And look at all the chances Van Halen is giving me (and you) to see them this summer:

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And the dates keeps going! Too many dates for one screen grab!!!

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That’s pretty much every American city worth a damn, and then some. Hell, the band is even playing my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and they only have one horse! Since moving to Denver a year ago, I’ve yearned for seeing a concert at Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado) and this might be my chance to finally pull the trigger and visit that epic outdoor venue. But who will accompany me? Mrs. Defending Axl Rose ain’t the biggest Van Halen fan, and these tickets are gonna be expensive. I hate dragging her to stuff, but I really hate dragging her to concerts that cost $100 a pop. My fantasy list of people I’d like to see this show with would be: my Dad, Robin Renee, Gandhi, and maybe my 8th Grade Science lab partner who liked to scribble “Van Halen” on his trapper keeper (sorry dude, I have forgotten your name).

Alas, I’m broke as hell but I’m gonna fill out a home equity loan application tomorrow so I can buy tickets for this tour. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, how about a little mood music?

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I Made Jack White’s Guacamole Because…Rock ‘n Roll!!!

When I first heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” way back in 2002, I had no idea that people would still be talking about Jack White in 2015. I liked the song well enough, but I wrongly predicted that White’s career (and impact on the music industry) would be as lengthy as The White Stripes breakthrough hit. I was thoroughly puzzled by White initially. I remember seeing White creepily perform “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” on Saturday Night Live and writing The White Stripes off completely. Look, we at Defending Axl Rose can’t all be right 100% of the time. Sometimes things slip by me. And don’t forget, when The White Stripes came on the scene there was a lot of strange rumors about Meg being Jack’s wife-sister…so you can’t blame me for dismissing them.

I quickly corrected my view of The White Stripes when the band released ELEPHANT in 2003. When  Mojo magazine declared it the band’s “British” album, I quickly went out and bought it on CD and red-and-white colored vinyl. That’s right, I dropped $45 on the album before I’d even heard “Seven Nation Army.” ELEPHANT was rousing, epic rock album that blew me away and immediately made me a fan and follower of White. I still think he’s weird (sometimes a little too much for his own good), but he’s the closest thing my generation has to a true rock god.

Oh my God, do a Google image search for "Jack White Guac."

Oh my God, stop reading and go do a Google image search for “Jack White Guac.” Seriously.

I’m still heartbroken that The White Stripes are no more, if you want to know the truth. I like The Raconteurs and love The Dead Weather, but I miss those glory days of red-and-white albums. White’s solo records haven’t really done much for me, but to tell the truth I’ve never really given them much of listen. White has given me so much over the years, I really owe it to him to sit down someday and study both BLUNDERBUSS and LAZARETTO in depth before writing them completely off.

Anyway, like the rest of you, I have been breathlessly following Guacamole-Gate, the dip-themed scandal that has embroiled Jack White these past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, here are the basics: Jack White played a concert at the University of Oklahoma earlier this month. The school’s newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the contracts involved with the concert. These documents were published in the school paper and revealed the amount of money the school paid to have White perform, as well as White’s tour rider. While I was a bit surprised it only cost the school $80,000 to have Jack White perform, the press (small and large) have jumped on the tour rider which included a recipe for Jack’s guacamole.

Ah, tour riders. Do these things ever not make an artist look crazier than a bag of cats? The purpose of tour riders is to ensure that bands and their staff are comfortable while setting up and waiting to perform  a gig. Let’s face it: being a traveling musician is not fun and glamorous. Can you imagine sharing one bathroom with everyone in Metallica? Or splitting a meal with Wolfgang Van Halen*?  Then there’s the small army needed to setup and tear down even the most modest of stages. Tour riders ensure that these hardworking folks get all the brown M&M’s they so desperately need.

Speaking of brown M&M’s, the most famous rider in all of rock history is the Van Halen rider that specified that the band have a large dish of only the brown colored candies. This demand made the band  poster children for rock excess, but over the years Eddie Van Halen has claimed that his odd request was made out of safety! According to Eddie, the band used this request to judge how compliant venues were with all of their requests. If the brown M&M’s weren’t done right, the band reasoned, then maybe the super dangerous lighting rigs weren’t done correctly either. I hate to side with Eddie (because agreeing with him stokes his ego) but the dude has a point.

Jack White’s rider requested that the venue make a bowl of homemade guacamole and included details instructions on how to make it. These instructions are Van Halen-specific, going so far as to tell venues what sort of knife to use on the avocados (a butter knife, presumably to avoid smooshing the soft fruit). The recipe even includes instructs venues to use the avocado pits and lime juice to prevent the guacamole from browning.

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“Subject to budget and advance” naturally…

When the rider hit the interWebz, the music world was shaken to the core. So much ink was spilled over this non-story that earlier this week, Jack White issued a long, semi-rambling statement about this rider. Essentially, he was sick of being asked about the whole affair and chastised the student reports for making something out of nothing. White’s management group issued a statement saying that White and their other artists would be boycotting the University of Oklahoma because of this incident. Of course, White had nothing to do with that particular decision. He even went so far as to say that he’d forgiven the student reporters and holds no ill will towards Oklahoma.

For such a strange guy, White’s response to the so-called scandal was surprisingly down-to-earth. The only disappointing part of White’s statement, in my opinion, was the revelation that the guacamole recipe wasn’t actually Jack’s:

“Anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. This “guacamole recipe” is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. It’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. Though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it. I can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, I don’t have that talent.”

Great. So first The White Stripes break up forever, and then I find out Jack White can’t even make the most basic of party dips. What’s next, Bono will never be able to play guitar again? I know I’ll never be a musical genius like Jack White, but if I realized that if I could make this guacamole then there would be one area where I’d have him beat! Thus, I decided to use the recipe to make his manager’s dip. I went to the store and acquired the ingredients necessary for this magical rock ‘n roll creation. Then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some White Stripes, and got to work.

When you follow the recipe, this what you end up with:

So how was it? Well, if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up with something less like a dip and more like avocado salad.

Sorry, Jack. That isn't how I like my guacamole.

Sorry, Jack. That isn’t how I like my guacamole.

I’ll be honest, I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter, but I couldn’t abide such hippy-dippy gauc. Also, I’m really lazy. It was so much easier to just shove everything into my food processor.So that’s what I did. The results, while not 100% Jack White approved, was still pretty stellar.

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The serrano peppers added just the right amount of heat. I love spicy foods and this dip didn’t let me down. I would like to add that if you plan on making this dip, be sure to have a hungry crew of guitar techs coming over–the recipe yielded a ton of guacamole.

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

*I bet you thought I’d gotten over making fun of Wolfgang. You thought wrong.

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Overpaying For Concert Ticket PreSales Suck Or How I Learned To Relax And Love LiveNation (NOT)

About a week ago there was a major announcement in Defending Axl Rose-land: The Replacements were going on tour. Luckily for me, one of the stops would be my hometown of Denver. The band reformed about a year ago for a few festival dates, but I wasn’t able to attend any of those. This announcement was the second-chance I never thought I’d get. Once the initial thrill of a Replacements tour dissipated I was left with one thought: these tickets are going to cost a fortune.

Anytime a legendary band re-forms and goes on a reunion tour there’s a ton of money to be made. The Replacements broke up in 1991 and though they’re highly influential, I don’t know anyone personally who actually likes them. So I had no idea just how highly coveted would these tickets be. I’m a terrible judge of popularity—the larger populace more often than not greets the things that seem incredibly important to me with a resounding “meh”. Still, there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a chance to see The Replacements, so I resolved to see them. No matter what. Come hell or high water. *Insert other cliché here*.

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My first move was to see when tickets would go on sale, so I hopped online and went to the band’s trusty website…which immediately linked me to LiveNation. Fucking LiveNation. When I clicked that link I swear my computer made a cash register sound. I won’t bore you with my own personal tale of poverty; I know that there are people worse off. But let’s just say that despite being paid a handsome salary as President & C.E.O of Defending Axl Rose Industries; I don’t have an unlimited supply of funds. Anytime I deal with LiveNation I end up spending double what I thought I was going to pay. Going on their website is akin to being pulled over by a police car. Scrolling through the website is just like rolling down the window and forking over my driver’s license. How much, I think, is this shit going to end up costing me?

LiveNation’s website indicated that The Replacements tickets were going on sale to the public on Friday but that there was a “Presale” the day before. Gripped with a nerdy fear that I might not get to go due to a lack of tickets, I instantly jumped on the hope that this mysterious presale offered. There was zero information explaining what the rules or requirements of the presale was, so I had no choice but to set a timer in my iPhone and check back at the time of the presale.

I know exactly none of you care what my opinion of presales is, but I’m going to tell you: I hate them. Essentially presales are insulting to most fans, rewarding the lucky few who possess a Visa Rapid Rewards Card or who belong to KQRC’s Morning Madness Fan Club. Want the privilege of buying overpriced tickets before anyone else? Sign up for our annoying ass mailing list. Despite being such a massive music nerd, I have no love for fan clubs and don’t think I should have to give the Kaiser Chiefs my personal info to score tickets to their show before all of you other sweaty basement dwellers.

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When the day of the presale came I hit up LiveNation’s website to see if they’d explain what hoops I’d have to jump through to score tickets. It turned out the presale wasn’t for a credit card or fan club I didn’t belong to…it was for a local radio station and users of the LiveNation app! The idea of downloading a free to app to score a code to buy tickets a day early didn’t seem so bad. I went to the App Store and quickly downloaded the app. Then I spent five minutes or so setting up an account with the app. Then I navigated to the Replacements concert within the app, thinking there I’d be allowed to purchase tickets for the show. Nope.

I was treated to a rage-inducing notice that tickets would go on sale the next day. Well played, LiveNation. The whole purpose of the app-only presale was to get me to stupidly download their app and give them my information, which I happily did. Too bad I wasn’t paid in kind for my cooperation. I double-checked myself, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. When I was sure that I hadn’t, I angrily deleted the app from my phone. Then I went back on LiveNation to see if I was confused or had missed something. The website insisted that as an app user I’d be provided with a code I could use for the presale. I resigned myself to having to wait a day to buy tickets. Then about 20 minutes later I downloaded the app for a second time and tried it all over again.

Pissed off and feeling foolish, I decided to double-down on the amount of time I was going to waste on this presale and went back to LiveNation’s website in order to file a complaint. At the very bottom of their page I found a FAQ/Help link. There I found a section about presales which offered this nugget of wisdom:

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Guess what, LiveNation: FUCK YOU.

I couldn’t believe it, could it really be that simple? Did all I need to do was type “beatbox” and I’d magically be allowed to give them my money? Yep, it really was that simple. I deleted the app off my phone for the second time and swore under breath. Then I dropped $121 I didn’t really have on concert tickets. Much like songstress Jewel, these foolish games are tearing me apart.

I get that with this presale LiveNation wanted me to download and use their app, but without doing what they said it was going to do (i.e. give me a code to buy presale tickets) it makes it look like LiveNation doesn’t know what it’s doing. Being a multi-million dollar company, this level of incompetence casts LiveNation in an evil, manipulative light. So which is it, LiveNation are you incompetent or evil?

Sadly it doesn’t matter if they’re evil, because even though I wasn’t happy with them, I still gave them my money. What choice did I have? I guess I could have waited a day and half and gone down to the venue to purchase tickets, but I’m not even sure if I can do that anymore. And waiting on tickets can mean missing out on shows, especially when scalping computers swoop in to buy up all the tickets for those shady online re-sellers.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought tickets anywhere other than online. Much like cable companies, LiveNation and other giant ticket sellers have all us music fans by the balls. I love seeing bands play live, but I hate everything about buying concert tickets. As the music industry shrinks faster than the polar icecaps, I get understand that concert revenue has become increasingly important. I get that high tickets are paying for my evil, music streaming-ways. And if I truly love a band, I’ll pay way more than I should to see them in concert, but why do ticket retailers like LiveNation have to give me an electronic wedgie when I try to give them my money?

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Rhett Miller at The Soiled Dove Underground 01/30/2015

On Friday night I saw Rhett Miller in concert, the last time I saw him was eleven years ago in St. Louis. I did the math while sipping a Moscow Mule before the show, and I’ve been listening to Miller and his band Old 97’s for fourteen years. Most artists today seem to appear on the music scene and then dissapear after two or three years. Longevity, along with album sales, seems to have vanished from the music industry. I guess that’s why I’m shocked I’ve been listening to Miller for so long.

I discovered Old 97’s while trolling music magazines on my lunch break, back when I was working for minimum wage at a chain drugstore. The band’s blend of rock and country fascinated me…and Miller had a cool haircut…so I bought FIGHT SONGS and the then-newly released SATELLITE RIDES. I was blown away and the band quickly became one of my favorites. Pioneers in the “alt-country” scene, like The Jayhawks (another great band I’ve only recently discovered), the Old 97’s are one of those great bands that haven’t had massive mainstream success in large part because they don’t fit neatly into one genre.

Guy still has a cool haircut.

Guy still has a cool haircut.

Rhett went solo in 2002 with THE INSTIGATOR* and for a moment I feared the 97’s were done for. Luckily for all parties, Miller quickly proved that he can walk the delicate balance between band and solo career. I saw the Old 97’s just before I moved away to college, the show was more raucous and raw than I’d imagined. But as I waited for the show to start Friday night I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to see Miller by himself a decade later.

It takes a special kind of talent to go up onstage alone and play songs by yourself, especially when the songs everyone knows and lovers were recorded with a full band. If I’d had my choice prior to the show, I’d have preferred to see Miller play with the Old 97’s rather than just bang away on his guitar alone. But I must admit there was something really special and intimate about seeing Rhett with only a guitar. The stripped back set also reminded me once again what a powerful set of pipes he’s got, his voice still boyish and ragged. The set list was surprisingly heavy on Old 97’s material, with the best songs from his solo output peppered in between. I wasn’t expecting as many of his band’s songs to be included since it was a solo show.  Despite being pared down, all of these songs sounded great.

The venue, unfortunately named The Soiled Dove Underground, was small and intimate. I’d estimate it could hold about 200 people and the crowd was about half that size. The Soiled Dove is a sort of yuppie jazz club, which clashed a bit with the Texas-twang Miller was throwing off. I was seated at a table, which made my knees happy, and the audience was brimming with a white hair. That said, I wasn’t the youngest person by far—an 11-year-old girl named Nora was in the front row, sitting dead center of the stage. I know her age and name because both Miller and his opening act made a big deal about their being a kid in the audience. Though two sets of people sent shots of tequila up to the stage for Miller (he politely said thanks but didn’t drink them, sticking to whiskey the entire evening) the show was much tamer than the night I saw Old 97’s in St. Louis.

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About halfway through the set, Miller confessed to not really having a set list and began taking requests from the audience. There were a lot of requests for older, twangy-heavy 97’s tracks like “Murder or a Heart Attack” and “Timebomb,” which was to be expected. More interestingly, though, there were also few oddball requests that Miller was all to happy to oblige. The first and best oddball request was for REM’s “Diver 8” off that band’s 1985 album FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION. Not only was Miller happy to sing this song, he also prefaced the song with an anecdote about seeing Peter Buck in his boxer shorts in Mexico.

Later, after the audience was good and liquored, there was a great swell of enthusiasm for Miller to play “Murray” songs. This of course was a reference to Murray Hammond, the bass player for Old 97’s, who has over the years contributed a handful of really kickass songs to the band’s repertoire. Miller did an admirable job replicated the solemn “Valentine” off FIGHT SONGS as well as performing a valiant though lyrically incomplete run through of “W. TX Teardrops” off 1997’s TOO FAR TO CARE. I dearly love both of those songs and seeing them performed live, although by a different singer and with giant lyrical holes, was a nice treat.

Time’s been kind to Rhett Miller and his ability to give a crowd exactly what they want. Before playing his final song, Miller said that he’d be back later this year in Colorado with the Old 97’s. I’m not sure I’d have gone prior to seeing this show, but Miller has definitely sold me a ticket to that show.

As a side note, Miller’s opening act was a record producer friend of his who seemed really interesting. I tried to remember his name, but it escaped me. I’ve tried to look it up online, but both the venue website and Miller’s tour page fail to name him. I love seeing new acts and find being introduced to an artist for the first time live is a really great way to discover new talents. I wish artists/bands would make it easier for us in the listening public to find out who they are. The opening act doesn’t have to be on the marquee or anything, but if you got a strange/unusual name, maybe say it more than once or twice?

 

 

*I don’t count the out-of-print MYTHOLOGIES from 1989.

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METAL MONDAY: “If You Have Ghosts” by Ghost

I shan’t lie, I’m a huge fan of Swedish heavy metal rockers Ghost (now called Ghost B.C. but whatever).  I love their larger-than-life Satan worshiping antics and their sweeping Blue Oyster Cult-vibe.  Most of their tunes have a dark heart, and while I dig that about them, I can’t help but love their earnest (dare I say, sweet?) cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts.”

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Stirring strings? Silky smooth vocals? Killer guitar? Check. Check. And check. This song kicks so much ass.  And Dave Grohl on rhythm guitar is there to add a badass cherry on this hard rock sundae.

“If You Have Ghosts” appears on a recently released EP of the same title, like the band’s prior full length LP’s its is highly recommended.


Also, I’m super stoked because Ghost is embarking on a North American tour that will include a city near me! I can’t wait to see them.

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