Saturday, April 15, 2017

You, Me, And NIRVANA

This blog post was a long time coming. In fact, it’s about 2 years late at this point, but who’s really paying attention anyways?

I had wanted to sign off on all things NIRVANA back when the documentary “Montage Of Heck” was released theatrically. After all, to most of my friends, colleagues and associates, I’m known as the “NIRVANA” guy. (Or at least I was up until college. I suppose in the last decade, I’ve been labeled as the “horror” guy, but anyways…) It’s been hard for me to wrap my head around the way “Montage Of Heck” made me feel. Back in high school, Nirvana were my all-time favorite band. After several failed attempts to play instruments, Nirvana was the band that gave me the confidence to start my own band. And through sheer will, and genuine enthusiasm, I somehow was fortunate enough to find myself in the audience of the now infamous MTV taping for their Unplugged performance. Little did I know it at the time, but a mere 5 months later, Kurt Cobain would be dead, and Nirvana would be over.

They remained my favorite band through all those years, occasionally relinquishing the crown to acts such as SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, or FAR. But after Kurt's death, they became something much more than just a great rock band. Kurt’s demise gave him some sort of strange martyrdom. He became this tortured artist that couldn’t handle fame or depression in the eyes of the general public, whereas I just missed those goofy guys that would play pranks, make out with each other live on Saturday Night Live, or sing Teen Spirit one full octave lower on a Top Of The Pops appearance to sound more like Morrissey. The humor that came with Nirvana somehow got lost in the shuffle of the tragedy that followed the untimely end of the band. And only sporadically would we be reminded of their brilliance, such as when the self-titled “best of” collection came out and included the never before released final Nirvana track "You Know You’re Right." which in itself feels extremely sad and melancholy rather than celebratory, as it should be.

Documentarian Brett Morgen was granted exclusive access to years of archival material to put together a definitive documentary that focused solely on Cobain, the “genius” artist, as opposed to Nirvana, the really awesome band. And I guess it’s this perception over the years that has bothered me. Before I get into my thoughts about “Montage Of Heck,” I wanted to recommend perhaps what I consider the best ever documentary about Nirvana, and that’d be “Classic Albums: Nirvana Nevermind.”

It was a VH1 series where each episode would focus on one specific classic album, and break it down, track by track, with the key people involved in its creation. Nevermind is now over 25 years old. But at the time of this doc’s release, it was only 10 years after the fact, and we got to hear directly from Dave Grohl, Krist Novesellic and recording engineer/producer Butch Vig. Because of Kurt’s absence, the trio focused specifically on the actual damn songs! Back when Nirvana were actually around, getting a serious response from Kurt seemed damn well impossible, so hearing this perspective was tremendously refreshing, and inspiring.

Take, for example, this break down of the track “In Bloom.” Once you hear Butch Vig break down the individual instruments, and playing Cobain’s isolated vocal track with Dave’s backing vocals (which are buried in the final mix), you’ll never hear the song the same way again! And it’s a reminder that in this day and age where musicians go into a studio and punch in bits of songs with Pro-Tools, or “auto-tune” their voices for perfect pitch, this was an album that 3 guys went into a room, recorded, and rocked. Plain and simple!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course, Cobain was an insanely talented artist in every capacity. An incredible vocalist, singer and songwriter. His lyrics were pretty mind-blowing, even if they don’t all seem to make coherent sense. That's the beauty and poetry in his words. All of it worked towards making Nirvana what it was, but I also believe it was these 3 key people that made the band work at exactly the right time. Dave Grohl has proven with Foo Fighters and the dozen other side projects he's participated in over the course of the last 20 years just how incredibly versatile and talented a musician he is. There’s no doubting that. But Nirvana wasn’t just Kurt. It was the combination of Kurt, Krist and Dave that made it work. Otherwise, they would’ve hit big with “Bleach!” It took the right combo, and the right timing for Nirvana-mania to happen the way it did. And I only bring this up as a way to illustrate that I’m not 100 percent on board with any narrative that paints Kurt as an artistic genius that would’ve been huge no matter what. It took these 3 to make Nirvana the Nirvana that we still hear on the radio (or Pandora) today.

“Montage Of Heck” is a fascinating film, and a good documentary, but one that I don’t find completely honest or genuine in its execution. The best bits are all the unseen footage of Cobain as a child. Getting insight into what kind of kid he was is a wonderful snapshot at a certain moment in time, even if it doesn’t fully explain why Nirvana was the cult phenomenon it was. But then again, teenage Kurt is still an enigma. I don’t believe any of the stories he tells that were presented in the doc as animated sequences. He was never even remotely serious in interviews during the band’s run, so why would he confess to some of these elaborate stories, like losing his virginity to a mentally handicapped girl from his high school? Lifelong friend and Melvins frontman Buzz Osbourne called the doc out for its inaccuracies, and I kind of believe him. I’m sure if Kurt was alive today, he’d probably be unhappy with the depiction we see in the latter half of the film where he’s nodding off, high as fuck, while trying to hold his baby daughter in his hands. It’s pretty rough.

I guess what bothers me is they skip over the Nirvana part in this Kurt Cobain documentary, and go straight to the “Kurt and Courtney” years, which, to be frank, are rather difficult to sit through as well. Did I learn anything new that I didn’t already know? Not really. Did it change my view of Kurt as a person or artist? A little bit. The candid footage with him and Courtney revealed a willing participant in the rock star lifestyle he publicly would constantly shame. And that’s the bummer part.

The positive? The book version inspired by "Montage Of Heck." I was a little disappointed that Kurt’s father Donald Cobain was finally interviewed for the first time publicly about his son, and he has maybe one line of dialogue in the finished film, whereas Kurt’s mother, who bears a striking resemblance to Courtney in personality, is very, very prominent all throughout. However, the book version of “Montage Of Heck” is the full transcripts from the 5 people closest to Kurt. His mom, his girlfriend, his sister, Krist and his father (and his wife). Getting to read those full interviews painted far more interesting a picture than the doc itself managed to do. And here’s the thing. I was hoping that repeat viewings would change my view on the actual doc, and accompanying album… but it only got worse and worse.

The “Montage Of Heck” CD promised never-before-heard Kurt Cobain compositions; long lost songs! But quite frankly, it’s unlistenable. As a musician myself, I do a lot of rough demos when it comes to figuring out songs. Sometimes it’s just a riff or a melody I have in my head that I put down on my tape recorder, and it’ll take me months to convert it into a functional, listenable song. Point being, I would never, ever want anyone to listen to those early sketches. And the “Montage Of Heck” album is all that. Private bits that should never have been released. The most coherent of the bunch s a cover of The Beatles “And I Love Her.” The rest? Just plain awful. So, why release it? Because it’s a Nirvana release where they don’t have to pay the other members of Nirvana, because it’s released as a “Kurt Cobain” album! At least, it could’ve featured the lullaby version of Nirvana songs by “Rockabye Baby!” (which I ended up buying separately), or the Vitamin String Quartet orchestrated version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that features so prominently in the documentary. But alas, none of that is here.

The best bit of getting to see “Montage Of Heck” on the big screen here in Los Angeles at the Arclight, Hollywood was getting to see it with a Q & A moderated by filmmaker Scott Derrickson, right before he went off to shoot DOCTOR STRANGE, with director Brett Morgen. Since I'd been following Scott since the pre-SINISTER days, I knew he was a huge Nirvana fan, and in full Nirvana mode leading up to this particular screening. I decided to craft a 3 disc Nirvana box set to gift to him. Well, and also for myself.

You see, I’ve always been pretty disappointed in the officially released Nirvana box set “With The Lights Out.” Over the years, long before the days of Napster and the Internet in general, I used to make weekly trips into New York City, and hit up all the record shops in search of bootlegs. Between all the import singles I found, bootleg releases, and rare LP's, I could craft my own little mini-albums solely made up of all the B-sides or unreleased songs. So, I’ve always imagined that at some point, someone would officially release all this material. While a lot of the stuff on “With The Lights Out” is, in fact, versions or takes of tracks I’d never heard before, they left out so, so much.

So, I made my own box set, in 3 discs.

Disc One is all the officially recorded, but never properly released B-sides. It includes all the leftovers from “In Utero,” “Nevermind” and even some odd tracks from various compilations such as their long-lost KISS cover of “Do You Love Me?” and the original studio version of “Spank Thru,” recorded by Jack Endino (who also recorded Bleach) and ended up on the SUB POP 200 comp. So, Disc One is a whole new album of Nirvana songs you didn’t know existed!

Disc Two? Well, this one is compromised from all the bootlegs over the years and let me tell you, it is something special. As I mentioned earlier in this write-up, when Nirvana were actually around, they were hilarious. I think people forget just how funny, sharp, and satirical they could be on the fly. So, I pulled my favorite bits from the vast library of bootlegs I owned. Everything from a guy screaming like a lunatic for them to “sing about fucking girls!” to which Kurt replies, “This song is called About A Queer” before launching into their track “About A Girl.” There’s the accordion malfunction before “Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam” at one show, which prompts Kurt to suggest, “throw it in the smash pit!” Or the live electric version of their David Bowie cover of “The Man Who Sold The World,” which absolutely rocks.

The third disc is an oldie but goodie. Basically, I closed it out it off with my “Case For Nirvana” mix as the final disc. To refresh your memories, a while back, my friend and colleague Joe Maddrey and I got in a big Nirvana versus Pearl Jam debate. By the end of it, we decided we were going to make each other CD mixes of their best tracks to prove who was the better band. The one rule was “no singles!” It had to be on the merit of songs that weren’t generally known. And so, we exchanged our mixes, I wrote about it in this blog here, and quite frankly, I think I won that debate.

In using this pre-existing mix, however, there's a tiny bit of cross over between the 3 discs, but I'd like to think it's not too noticeable.

Without further ado, below is the full track listing for my 3-disc epic Nirvana box set:


1. Verse Chorus Verse (No Alternative comp)
2. I Hate Myself And I Want To Die (Beavis & Butthead Do America Soundtrack)
3. Moist Vagina (All Apologies B-Side)
4. Marigold (Heart Shaped Box B-Side)
5. Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip (In Utero import)
6. D-7 (Hormoaning EP)
7. Return Of The Rat (Fourteen Songs For Greg Sage and The Wipers)
8. Oh, The Guilt (The Jesus Lizard split)
9. Curmudgeon (Lithium B-Side)
10. Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (from Mark Lanagan's 1st solo album "The Winding Sheet")
11. Spank Thru (SUB POP 200 comp)
12. Do You Love Me? (Hard To Believe: A KISS Tribute)
13. Pen Cap Chew (Demo)
14. Blandest (Demo)
15. Clean Up Before She Comes (Demo)
16. The Extreme (Wipeout demo)
17. Everything and Nothing (alternate Verse Chorus Verse demo from Wipeout)
18. Here She Comes Now
19. Dumb (Radio Appearance)
20. Drain You (BBC Sessions)
21. Something In The Way (BBC Sessions)


1. Negative Creep (Acoustic Version from Outcesticide 2)
2. Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam (from More Live Tits)
3. School [Live] (from Bleach reissue)
4. Aneurysm (from Europe 1991 - 91.11.16)
5. About A Girl "About A Queer" (from Out Of The Blue)
6. Help Me, I'm Hungry [with Tad] (from Out Of The Blue)
7. Smells Like Teen Spirit (from Europe 1991 - 91.11.16)
8. Polly [Electric] (from Europe 1991 - 91.11.16)
9. Lithium (from Europe 1991 - 91.11.16)
10. Rape Me (from Seattle Sound, Sounds Great)
11. In His Hands (from Ourcesticide 2)
12. Serve The Servants (from Make Me Sick, Live At Roseland)
13. Scentless Apprentice (from Make Me Sick, Live At Roseland)
14. The Eagle Has Landed [aka Torrettes] (from Outcesticide III)
15. Milk It (from San Francisco 1993)
16. Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam (from Meltdown)
17. Improvisation [Including Drum Solo] (from Live In Rome)
18. Where Did You Sleep Last Night (from New Year's Eve)
19. The Man Who Sold The World (from New Year's Eve)


1. Breed (Nevermind)
2. Aneurysm (Incesticide)
3. Drain You (Nevermind)
4. School (Bleach)
5. Turnaround (Hormoaning/Incesticide)
6. Oh, The Guilt (The Jesus Lizard split)
7. Very Ape (In Utero)
8. Territorial Pissings (Nevermind)
9. Son Of A Gun (Hormoaning/Incesticide)
10. Negative Creep (Bleach)
11. Curmudgeon (Lithium single)
12. Milk It (In Utero)
13. Lounge Act (Nevermind)
14. Return Of The Rat (Fourteen Songs For Greg Sage & The Wipers)
15. Marigold (Heart Shaped Box single)
16. Spank Thru (Sub Pop 200)
17. Talk To Me (Europe 1991 bootleg)
18. On A Plain (Nevermind)
19. Something In The Way (BBC Session)
20. Opinion (With The Lights Out Disc 2)
21. Do Re Mi (With The Lights Out Disc 3)
22. You Know You're Right (Nirvana)

So, “Montage Of Heck” is kind of a bust. But what else should you watch?

Well, again, my top pick is Classic Albums: Nirvana Nevermind. It’s by far the best Nirvana related documentary. Not quite as great, but featuring some of the best, most infamous Nirvana gags, you should also check out “Live! Tonight! Sold Out!” You’ll get glimpses of a lot of their high jinx on that disc. If you’ve never seen “The Year Punk Broke,” that’s another documentary that follows Sonic Youth on their Goo tour with Nirvana supporting. Even though they’re secondary in the doc, Nirvana steals it every chance they get. With a stellar version of “Negative Creep,” to Kurt pretended he’s Kevin Costner meeting Madonna to Kim Gordon backstage, “The Year That Punk Broke” is filled with a lot of pure fun.

Live-wise, there are two definitive shows that encapsulate Nirvana at their peak for both the Nevermind and In Utero albums. For Nevermind, it’s the “Live At The Paramount” gig. This is the show they used footage from for the “Lithium” music video. It was shot in 35mm film and it looks spectacular. It’s also from right before “Nevermind” exploded as big as it did, so it was the band at their best as a 3 piece act. Then, for “In Utero,” there’s the “Live And Loud” MTV special which aired on New Year’s Eve 1993. The full show, which features additional touring guitarist Pat Smear is a magnificent look at a band finally coming into their own as a successful rock group. Granted, it didn’t last beyond the few months after this performance, but it’s still a great, satisfying watch.

Well, there you have it, whether you asked for it or not, there’s my 2 cents (and 2000 plus words) on Nirvana. Take it or leave it! Or you know, whatever…  never mind.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The CJH Sessions: You'll Never Hear These Songs The Same Way Again

I love song breakdowns.

I wasn't fully aware of just how powerful an experience it'd be to single out each individual instrument, and analyze them one by one, until I first stumbled upon the DVD Classic Albums - Nirvana: Nevermind. Basically, these were original VH1 documentaries that would focus on a specific classic album, and then talked to everyone involved in the creation of that album. They'd go track by track and play each individual instrument one at a time so you could really understand the role that each musician played into its canvas. In the "Nevermind" one, there's a bit where producer Butch Vig breaks down "In Bloom," which was one of the first tracks they recorded for the album. Now, I've always liked the song, although it was never one of my favorite Nirvana singles. But it wasn't until I saw this that I absolutely fell in love with it. Check it out:

It makes you realize just how great a rhythm section Dave and Krist were for Nirvana. It's also so cool hearing both Kurt and Dave's isolated vocal tracks, especially since we're now so used to Dave's voice in the Foo Fighters. Ever since I watched this doc, I've never been able to hear this song in the same way. I now love it and am in awe of the fact that back in 1991, 3 guys walked into a studio and recorded this. They didn't need freakin' autotune for the vocals. They didn't do any studio wizardry. They just wrote great songs and recorded them exactly as they'd rehearsed them. Modern bands really have no excuse.

Several months back, my roommate Dave Foy asked me if I wanted to join him to go see his buddy Christian James Hand do a live breakdown at the Swing House Studios in Atwater in Los Angeles. I'd never heard of him before this, but he's all over 95.5 KLOS and hosts a similar show titled "The Session" which airs on the station on Sunday evenings.

For this live version, however, Christian picks 2 completely different songs, and spends about a hour on each with a brief intermission in between. The show we happened to go to, his two selections were RUSH's "Tom Sawyer" and OZZY's "Crazy Train." Within the first 5 minutes when he just played Neil Peart's isolated drum track, I knew I was in for a treat. And I don't even like Rush! Yet, after spending 60 minutes hearing what each of these guys does in the song, I had a completely new-found respect and admiration for the band. And then? Ozzy! Randy Rhodes! "Crazy Train" was just as rich an experience as the first track. Listen for yourself:

OZZY OSBOURNE - Crazy Train:

I became obsessed with trying to make sure I could catch his show every month. The next one I went to, I bought a bunch of tickets in an attempt to turn some mutual music loving friends onto what he does, and everyone freakin' bailed on me at the last second! But, whatever. I still went by myself and this time, it was Guns N Roses Vs David Bowie. He broke down "Welcome To The Jungle" and "Ziggy Stardust." And it was amazing.

Look, I was only 11 years old when Guns N Roses "Appetite For Destruction" came out. Of course, I loved it at the time. But in all these years, I never stopped to analyse the craftsmanship of the songwriting on any of their music. Basically, they were rockin' degenerates that made parents nervous, and that gave us all the more reason to crank their tunes. Hearing "Welcome To The Jungle" piece by piece is really ear opening. Duff McKagan has got to be one of the most underrated bass players out there. Slash and Izzy were no slouches either. They could freakin' play!

The Bowie segment felt even more special, given that none of us have gotten over his untimely death. Breaking down Ziggy Stardust was a thrill, but it was really being in a room full of strangers, sitting in silence, and listening to Bowie's isolated vocal track that broke us all. There's never been a voice like the one that came out of that man, and he's gone. At one point, Christian put up only his acoustic guitar and vocals, so we got to examine and listen to just what Bowie was playing on Ziggy Stardust. And as I've said countless times on this blog, it's truly amazing how music can connect us. (That track is not embeddable, but you can listen to an abbreviated breakdown right here.)

By the way, the other thing I should mention is that Christian has an unconditional love of Phil Collins. As a fellow drummer himself, he often brings up, cites or compares things to the work of Collins, which I find tremendously endearing.

The first "Session" of the year 2017 focused on Faith No More's aptly titled first single from their album The Real Thing "Epic." Yet again, I've always loved the song, and now I love it even more knowing what each and every person is doing in it. I mean, the drums & bass isolated truly make-up the sound that Rage Against The Machine have gotten famous for. And I never realized it, but Roddy Bottum is, in fact, the greatest name for a keyboarder player ever. (And he's in Faith No More.) A fan posted that particular episode to You Tube, so it's embedded below for your convenience.


There's so many more of these to comb through and listen to. I've already made my way through just about all of these. If you head over to iTunes, you can do a search for "Christian Hand Song Breakdowns" in podcasts, and you'll find a list of abbreviated versions of all of the above. As a "grungster" myself, I'll share one more of my personal favorites, his breakdown of Alice In Chains' "Man In A Box," a song I always liked but didn't realize was truly as exceptional as it was until hearing this. Check it:


While the radio versions are cool, and all worth a listen, I can't recommend enough going to catch one of his live shows. They're fully improvised and that makes them have a certain air of magic to them. His next planned one is for Saturday, January 21st, and it's a breakdown of a QUEEN song and a PANTERA song! Followed by an encore of "Bohemian Rhapsody," so that should be quite something. Takes places once a month at the Swing House Studios in Atwater Village, Los Angeles.

Keep tabs by "liking" his Facebook page here. And who knows? Maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

What The Hell Happened To FINCH? (Yet Again!) When A Band Break-Up Breaks Your Heart...

Being in a band is like being in a complicated relationship, except instead of one significant other, you're trying to make things work with multiple partners. In short, it's kind of a living nightmare. Like any relationship, it can't always all be peachy. There will be ups and downs and challenges, and all you can hope for is that the good will outweigh the bad, and that you can get through the worst of it. Forgive this cheesy analogy, but it helps give context into why keeping a band together is so difficult.

FINCH has been one of my favorite bands since they released their debut album way back in 2002. I was working in the art department of Tower Records in Massapequa, New York at the time, and often I'd get advance promo copies of upcoming albums. On the rare occasion, I'd get multiple copies, which I'd either gift to my co-workers, or bandmates. I remember I rehearsed with my band Pretty Polly in that area around this time, and I gave my extra copy of "What It Is To Burn" to my drummer Steve, and a CD of And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead's "Source Tags & Codes" to our bassist John Walsh, figuring they were both more up their alley than mine. I liked both albums and bands right away, but it wasn't until a few short years later that the first FINCH album really resonated with me and became a pivotal part of my musical make-up. You can probably guess why I had such a sudden strong attachment to this one particular record. Yes, it was because of a girl. A failed relationship I so desperately wanted not to fail. Just this once. But alas...

Ever have those albums? Or those songs? Where you're going through a personal traumatic time, then you hear these songs and it feels as if this band wrote these lyrics specifically for you and your situation? "What It Is To Burn" came to represent a long distance relationship I had that never quite gelled together the way I hoped or thought it was supposed to.

I'll spare you the long drawn out details, because it's a story you've no doubt heard a million times before and my heartbreak is no different than most. But super short version: Boy meets girl on the Internet. They talk on the phone. Think they're meant for each other. (Or at least Boy thinks so.) Girl already has long-term boyfriend she's miserable with. Boy waits it out. Girl drags it out. Boy continues to wait. Girl breaks up with idiot boyfriend, suddenly has new boyfriend that isn't original boy. Girl marries new boy quickly after. Original Boy is heartbroken, never fully recovers from it. I know, right? Lame? Typical? Same ol', same ol'.

But anyways, during that entire relationship where I was constantly wondering if we were every going to get together or not, I had FINCH's "What It Is To Burn" album. For the romantic optimist in me, there was always "Letters To You." When you only get to see someone you care about once a year, you just want them to know how much you miss them. (And hopefully hear it back too.)

The one song that perfectly encapsulated that moment when I knew we weren't going to work out, the calm before the storm if you will, was way back in March of 2008. I was in Dallas, Texas for a one-off horror convention called FEAR FEST. I was there partially as "press" for Icons Of Fright, but also because at that point I'd become good friends with Tom Holland through making my PSYCHO documentary, and was asked to moderate what I believe was the first full on FRIGHT NIGHT reunion. It was a whirlwind weekend with a lot going on. And I recall, I had a lot of trouble getting a hold of this gal on the phone the entire weekend. I was getting ready to jump on my flight back home when I finally got a text reassuring me that everything was fine and that she was just pre-occupied with her boyfriend. That kind of deflated me. Made me feel like such an idiot thinking here I am at a horror convention, non-stop thinking about a person that spend that same time probably not thinking of me at all.

And then "Post Script" came on in my headphones. And that line, "The worst is over for now, take a breath, now let it out." It got me through that flight home. And the rest of the lyrics felt as if it was everything I wanted to say to her at that point, but was afraid to. Here's the song and the lyrics below:

I wish it didn't hurt, hurt like this

To say these things to you

I'll sacrifice one moment for one truth

If we get through tomorrow then we'll be fine
We'll wait forever and see how close we get

It's just another day, one more chance
To get this right
I'll sacrifice forever please just for tonight

If we get through tomorrow then we'll be fine
We'll wait forever and see how close we get

The worst is over for now
Take a breath now let it out

I vaguely recall shortly after that trip trying to share this song with her, but she didn't really like FINCH. Oh well. The more fitting song that best represented our relationship, especially once I found out she was engaged to someone else would be "Without You Here," and the lyric "I've waited til it's over. It's over now."

The storm is bad tonight,
So how could I awake without you here?
Your picture's on the wall,
You haven't called
But I'll wait for you

To her own reflection, she says, "I will hold on"
To her own reflection, she says, "I will be strong"

The storm is letting up,
But it won't die
If you weren't right was I?
Your picture still remains,
But I wonder are you still the same?

To her own reflection, she says, "I will hold on"
To her own reflection, she says, "I will be strong"

Am I losing you?

I've waited, I've waited til it's over
It's over now
When weakened, when will you rise?

Anyways... I had no intention of this blog turning into such a personal mush fest. I honestly wanted to focus on the fact that in October of 2016, FINCH broke up yet again for the third time. And focus a bit on the scattered facts and things they left behind to try to build a narrative to why this happened.

But since then, both parties have gone back and forth, and outlined the disagreements. I'll get to that in a minute. The reason I digressed the way I did is because as I started drafting this, I realized that this band's music meant more to me than I originally thought, and that's why it's always a bummer to hear of any band breaking up. The music is still there, it always will be. But when a band, or album, are so deeply connected to one of your own personal relationships, the dissolution of that band only reminds you of the dissolution of said relationship.

Just a brief refresher on why this wasn't a surprise... FINCH has a line-up change going into the recording sessions for their 2nd album "Say Hello To Sunshine" back in 2005. Whereas their first record was a high-energy pop-punk/post-hardcore hybrid, their second, more experimental effort fell more in line with FAITH NO MORE-esque weirdness. I was a little taken aback upon it's release, but after frequent spins, I grew to fall in love with that weirdo sophomore album. They went on indefinite hiatus, for the first time, in February of 2006.

They regrouped a few short years later and released a self-titled 4 song EP with the lead-off track Daylight. (Which is great.) They began touring and I recall going to see them the first week I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2009. In fact, they were my first ever West Coast show! And despite playing an awesome set filled with tracks from both albums and the new EP, they broke up yet again while attempting to write and record their 3rd album. They released on their website for free a digital download of "Epilogue" which consisted on 2 new songs "Hail To The Fire" and "World Of Violence," both even more relevant now than ever. The mini-break-up EP was rounded out by a kick-ass cover of the FAR track "Bury White," one of my personal favorites!

Well, technically, if you really wanted, you could take the track off the UNDERWORLD soundtrack, the 4 tracks from their self-titled EP and these 3, and put them together and pretend it's an unofficial 3rd album. That's what I did, at least until they got back together yet again in celebration of their 10th anniversary for the album that started it all, "What It Is To Burn." I got to see them on that tour, and the live version of the band was better than ever. (Most of the above live videos are from that tour.) But I was pleasantly surprised when they played a brand new track, "Back To Oblivion" at their LA show. This led to a new album titled "Back To Oblivion," which is a great return to form, and a wonderful amalgamation of their first two records. While I love the studio version of the opening track, I want to share with you the actual performance I saw here in Los Angeles, because there's something so special and catchy about hearing them play this for the first time.

After a successful reunion tour AND a new album, I assumed all was well in FINCH-land, but apparently that couldn't be further from the truth. Back in October of this year, I was scrolling my Facebook feed when I saw a message from the FINCH profile saying that Nate (the singer) has quit the band yet again. They decided to share 3 final tracks they recorded intended for their 4th incomplete album. Of the bunch, this first one "Monuments" is in my opinion pretty top-notch traditional FINCH.

But then I dug back earlier in that week, and it appeared that Nate has also posted his note via Instagram about leaving the band. And he posted 9 completely different demos under the album title "Phantasma!" Whoa. And while some of those tracks definitely sounded like works in progress, there were quite a few great ideas among those demos!

So if anything, between all this music from both camps, it obviously wasn't a matter of writer's block or anything. What the hell happened? Again, back to the top of this blog post, it's not always easy for people to communicate, especially when there's 5 of them. The remaining members of FINCH chose to announce their new band Speak The Truth with Sense's Fail frontman Buddy Nielsen. Nate yet again went on to clarify his side of things in this post here.

Short version, the PHANTASMA demos are the first attempt at Album 4 that Nate released. Their management thought the demos were only "ok," and recommended they work with a producer. The producer is the one behind the 3 songs FINCH released themselves, including "Monuments." But according to Nate, that producer took too much of an active role in the writing process going as far as to tell him melodies to sing, so he didn't want to work with him anymore. And the band continued to work with him anyways. Things got ugly, he was locked out of their social media accounts. And the band was over.

But, unlike most band break ups, a ton of music came out of this one. A hypothetical 4th album. Tracks from both camps with their view of who the band was, and I find that fascinating. I'm bummed that they're done, but as I said previously, we always have the music. That doesn't go anywhere. It's just always a bit heartbreaking when a band you love breaks up.

RIP FINCH (for the 3rd time)...

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Thrill Of The Spontaneous "Give Yourself A Present" Record Hunt!

The work week is tough. Life, in general, tends to be too. So, I'm a strong believer in keeping a delicate balance between all things and occasionally treating yourself to the sometimes surprising fruits of life. I adhere to one simple piece of advice gifted to me by the great Agent Cooper of TWIN PEAKS.

"Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair or two cups of good hot black coffee."

"A present. Like Christmas!"

The daily coffee "present" is a given. I dropped the low-brand stuff a while back and only drink good quality coffee, because... well, life is short and you should never cheap out when it comes to coffee, cheese or toilet paper.

I also tend to have ice cream or milkshakes regularly, because if there's anything that can brighten any day, it'd be ice cream!

But, I'd say every other week, as soon as I'm finished with my weekly workload, usually around mid-day Thursday, I go record/movie shopping. I don't really have a wishlist. For me, I love the spontaneity of it all. I like the idea of leaving my apartment one afternoon, and having no idea what goodies I might possibly come home with later. The thrill of the hunt!

Another ritual I partake in while I'm out in the wild & skimming fast and furiously through record bins, is to text back and forth with my brother from another mother, and overall soundtrack expert/fellow enthusiast Tony Giles. For those of you that don't know him, he's the co-host (along with Scott Johannsson) of The Damn Fine Cast, one of my favorite podcasts on the web that specifically covers soundtrack releases on vinyl. And over the last few years, not only have we repeatedly guested on each other's shows, but we've become good buddies! So, I like vicariously taking Tony record shopping with me.

This week, I hit my usually Burbank spot Atomic Records and immediately stumbled upon this vinyl edition of VERTIGO. I had never seen this particular cover, and I couldn't tell if it was the original score or a performance of it, so I texted this photo to Tony for spiritual and financial guidance. Is this worth $15 bucks to me? Should I go for it?

Before he texted me back with the facts, I had already decided to put it back. Sometimes you just know. "It's a Dutch import reissue of the original version." You know.... if it were PSYCHO, I'd buy it because I buy anything PSYCHO related, but for now, this particular VERTIGO was going to be a pass.

Now, it's not an easy thing to put a record back anymore. I had the lovely opportunity to interview Henry Rollins last year for a documentary project I'm working on (and have vaguely alluded to repeatedly in this blog.... but DETAILS SOON, I SWEAR!), and there was one quote that has stuck with me ever since. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "you never regret the records you buy, you only regret the records you don't buy." So, ever since he put that damned notion in my head, I've been inclined to act on instinct and just buy it! But alas, I did show some self control this time. So, no VERTIGO!

I mean, you never know what you're going to find on any given record store stop. For example, if you want to own a record from a total douchebag, Scott Baio's "The Boys Are Out Tonight" (no doubt about him and Trump) is available for a mere $3.99!

Nah, pass.

But then there's the random finds you just can't pass on. THE BANGLES "Hazy Shade Of Winter" on 12" caught the corner of my eye. Wait, what?! Multiple remixes? 4 versions of that same song? For $3.99? SOLD! Also, one of the few Scream Factory titles I neglected to pick up when it initially came out, RAVENOUS for $7.99.

I was just about ready to call it quits when I briefly thumbed through one more aisle and spotted this. "Spin The Wheel" by HI-TEK3 from the 1990 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie. For $2.99! This is most certainly a nostalgic buy. I already have the original motion picture soundtrack for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES on vinyl, as well as the 12" single for "Turtle Power" by Partners In Krime. So, this seemed like a no brainer.

My final tally, which also included Jack Johnson's second album "On and On" came to $30 bucks total with tax. Not bad. For that amount, I came home with several records and a movie I didn't anticipate I'd want or need to own, and yet here they are. (RE: Jack Johnson, I actually love his first 2 albums and didn't realize they were on vinyl, so had to snag it!)

The thrill of the hunt.
A present to myself.
At least that's how it feels to me.

Go out and try it for yourself.
You've earned it!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Most Indelible Live TV Performances From The 90's!

Getting the chance to grow up as an impressionable teenager in the 90's was pretty darned awesome. Not even going to front. Especially considering the explosion of good music that was happening in the wake of Nirvana's success. 

To give context, we were literally discovering new bands every week. Normally the artists that the big ones would cite as their musical influences, or bring along as opening acts for their tours would be the ones we immediately had to seek out.

But long before You Tube, the Internet or DVD's, there was something special about just catching a band live on TV. I'd wait up for 120 Minutes on MTV (back when they actually played music videos) or the MTV Music Video Awards, or David Letterman, or hell - the Jon Stewart Show! He had a great little talk show on MTV long before The Daily Show days where he'd get so many great up and coming bands to perform. Because they were always struggling to fill seats for the Jon Stewart Show, which filmed in New York City, my friends and I would go regularly for free. I got to see L7 on one episode in person. Maggie Estep on another. The luck of the draw was usually pretty strong for us in terms of musical guests when we went.

The unpredictable nature of live TV also added to the strange excitement of watching one of your favorite bands perform, as you'll see in some of my examples below. Now, I don't want this to come across as me reminiscing about the good ol' days or anything. Sure, I can distinctly remember seeing all of the below as they happened and still have them on VHS tapes in boxes in my closet. What I find amazing is how easily accessible these performances are these days on places like You Tube. Our natural inclination to tape them as they happened was because of a strange sense to preserve what was happening, not realizing in the moment that this stuff was destined to live on in future formats. I mean, there are gigs I remember being at very specifically, and 20 years later, I can watch a bootleg clip of it on You Tube from a completely different angle. It's truly amazing.

Nowadays, as soon as an act performs live on the Late Show, we can jump on You Tube or Hulu the next day and see it. That's why I like the low-fi quality of the following. It reminds me of a time when I felt like if you missed it, you missed out! I wanted to try to share that feeling with all of you. So from that era, here are some of my absolute favorite live performances from the 90's.

THE BEASTIE BOYS "Sabotage" Live from the David Letterman Show (1994)

I was sitting in the Chinese Theater earlier this summer enjoying STAR TREK BEYOND in 3D IMAX. And now with this new incarnation of Star Trek, The Beastie Boys most famous track "Sabotage" has become synonymous with the franchise. But quite frankly, the way they incorporated it into STAR TREK BEYOND is probably the best usage we'll ever get of the track! That, coupled with the recent interview I conducted with Money Mark for my new documentary project, put this particular performance back in my brain. They played a lot in support of "Ill Communication," but there's a vibrant punk rock energy & aesthetic to this David Letterman performance that has remained unmatched. They played "Sabotage" again a few months later on the MTV Music Video Awards, and it was good, but this is by far their best performance of this song. Check it!

NIRVANA "Rape Me/Lithium" MTV Music Awards (1992)

This is one of those examples of the unpredictable nature of live TV! All future airings of this particular performance were edited, but thankfully, it's on You Tube and a part of rock history. Nirvana had hit big with "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which was up for several award nominations here. And they'd already released music videos for "Come As You Are" and "Lithium," which had just debuted on the network. They wanted to come out and perform a brand new song "Rape Me." MTV apparently freaked and forbid them for doing so, threatening to pull the plug if they play anything other than "Teen Spirit" or "Lithium." After much reluctance, the band had opted to play their latest single. Behind-the-scenes, in the back stage area prior to the show, the members of Nirvana had gotten into an altercation with Guns N Roses. So when this originally aired, Nirvana played the first few chords of "Rape Me" before switching into "Lithium." I remember this was the first time I heard "Rape Me" and thought, "whoa, what song is THAT?!" At the end of the performance, Chris Novoselic did his infamous bass toss and for the first time in the band's history, missed and hit himself in the head, hard! Dave Grohl, still angry about their Guns N Roses scuffle, is pounding the drums harder than he ever has, and while Kurt destroys his gear, comes up to the mic to call out Axel Rose on live TV! All of this was cut out later, but watching it live was truly something else. Have a look for yourself.

PEARL JAM "Animal" MTV Music Awards (1993)

Pearl Jam were in a similar situation as Nirvana the year prior where they wanted to play their cover of The Dead Boys "Sonic Reducer" and were forced by MTV execs to instead perform "Jeremy," their big hit at the time. A whole lot can change in the span of a year! By 1993, they were given carte blanche to do whatever they wanted, so they debuted a brand new song from their upcoming album "Five Against One," which was at the last minute changed to VS. As soon as they wrapped "Animal," they brought out Neil Young and performed "Rockin' In The Free World" with him. While that's cool too, I was more blown away by the furiosity of this "Animal" song! Plus, Mike McReady plays a completely different solo here than what ended up on the official studio recording, and I like this solo better, especially when the final chorus kicks in. This actual performance was released as the B-side to a cassingle (that'd be a cassette single for you youngans out there), but I can't recall the A side, and I've since sadly lost that tape. This still remains one of my favorite by the band from this era.

L7 "Pretend We're Dead" Live From David Letterman (1992)

There's something hilarious about watching David Letterman's band, led by Paul Shaffer, play along with the riotous L7 on their hit single "Pretend We're Dead." I mean, very few bands at that time rocked as hard as L7 did. And I saw them several times, so I know! But this in particular always stood out as my favorite performance by them, complete with Letterman's quirky jokes about hoping that "the girls aren't neglecting their studies." Don't worry, Dave! They weren't. I've gotten to know Jennifer in the last year and a half and she's one of the smartest, most well-versed people I've ever been friends with. Oh, and her and the girls rock harder than just about everyone.

HUM "Stars" Howard Stern Show / 120 Minutes (1995)

This is a two-parter because they go hand in hand and are both just beyond awesome. I remember first hearing HUM's single "Stars," and just being blown away by it. I also remember speculating with my friend (and bandmate at the time) Pete that there's no way they could sound as good live as on the recording. We figured there would be feedback galore, and the heaviness would get lost in distortion. And boy were we wrong! I caught them playing the track on 120 Minutes (below) and they were the real deal! But also strange and of note, their biggest fan was Howard Stern! I listened to Howard in those days and his tastes were always a bit puzzling, but I loved how much he loved this band, and in particular the song "Stars." So he had them on his morning talk show, and although it was not even remotely set-up for a proper live performance, he insisted they play "Stars" live on the air. So below is that performance, with the members of HUM literally scattered throughout different rooms of the studio. It's a bit messy considering their set-up, but the heart is all there. So below are both the Stern appearance and 120 Minutes performance.

OASIS "Live Forever" at Glastonbury (1995)

Ah, Oasis! I've always loved them. From the moment I read about them and heard the track "Supersonic," I knew this was right up my alley. They came across as The Beatles meets The Sex Pistols and had tremendous attitude before they were rock stars! I bought the "Supersonic" single before "Definitely Maybe" came out, and also on that CD5 was the track "Live Forever," which immediately became one of my all time favorite pop rock tunes. With the exception of their first NY gig at the Wetlands, I caught every single one of their New York shows and watched them outgrow The Academy, then Roseland, then Jones Beach and ascend to Madison Square Garden. They really hit their peak when they released "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?" and got a new drummer. The first single before that 2nd album came out was "Roll With It," and the B-side was this live version of "Live Forever" from Glastonbury. Now, I'd never seen this performance until putting together this blog, but I used to listen to it over and over, because the way drummer Alan White elevated this track and turned it into an arena rock anthem is astonishing. Just listen to his drum roll fills leading into each chorus! Magnificent. They were always a stellar live band, in particular when you got to hear an entire audience belt out "Don't Look Back In Anger," but this recording of "Live Forever" is my personal fave.

THE TOADIES "Possum Kingdom" Live on 120 Minutes (1995)

Despite being considered a "one-hit wonder" from the grunge era for this particular song, The Toadies were so vastly underrated. Hell, they are probably the only band I've seen live that could cover "Where Is My Mind?" by The Pixies and give the original song a run for it's money! I also loved bassist Lisa Umbarger, a bad-ass that usually would wear a hockey Jersey and just rock the F out. To see just how good they were, here they are performing "Possum Kingdom" on 120 Minutes. (Side-note: ever notice how darned creepy and weird the lyrics are? Pretty sure it's from the perspective of a serial killer. Just sayin'!)

JAWBOX "Savory" Live on 120 Minutes (1994)

One of those bands in the mid-90's that never got their proper due, and yet were so highly influential, let's give it up for Jawbox, shall we? And although "Savory" was their "single," there were so many epic tracks between their 2 Atlantic Record releases that I liked more. However, in recent years, I've grown to appreciate this as a perfectly written and executed post-hardcore "indie" song. Members of The Deftones and FAR later did a kick-ass cover of this, but really, you can't top Jawbox! I also recall a performance of "Motorist" from this same live studio session, but sadly it's nowhere to be found on You Tube. One of these days, I'll transfer all of my VHS tapes to digital and share. But until then, check out this version of "Savory" live!

SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE "In Circles" 120 Minutes / "Seven" The Jon Stewart Show (1994)

The forefathers that were credited with inventing "emo," nothing compares to the original incarnation of Sunny Day Real Estate!!! I used to order random 7 inch singles from the Sub Pop store, even if I'd never heard of the band, because I figured a few bucks to sample 2 tracks from an up and coming band was a low-risk gamble. And I'll never forget when "Thief Steal Me A Peach" by Sunny Day Real Estate showed up at my door. It came with an elaborate booklet, and the tracks were simply titled "Song #8" and "Song #9." There was a raw intensity to the band that I immediately called over my friends and told them, "you have to hear this!" We were lucky enough to see them a few times during their initial run. And although they got back together with the original line-up a few years back, it was a whole different animal in 94-95. The energy in the room was intense. It felt like a band, seething with all this animosity for each other, barely able to keep themselves together. Let alone, in tune! And yet, it hit the audience like a ton of bricks when they actually played. Below are two examples, "In Circles" live from 120 Minutes and then "Seven" live from the Jon Stewart Show.

SMILE "Jack Shrimp" Live at Brownies, NYC (1995)

Now we're delving into bands that I sadly never got to see, but later got to vicariously enjoy via the magical world of You Tube! For example, SMILE! I was only 19 years old when they performed in NYC in support of their epic debut album "Maquee." And Brownie's was a NYC bar with a very strict "21 and over" only policy. So I was crushed that I never got to see SMILE until only a few years ago on their reunion tour opening for OZMA. Alas, I stumbled upon this video from the very show I remember being so bummed I had to miss, and nothing quite matches the manic energy of "Maquee." They went "surf rock" for their follow up album "Girl Crushes Boy," which I don't really like nearly as much as their first record, but I mean, look at them. This drummer is insane! And they were one of the biggest influences on my band at the time Pretty Polly.

FAILURE "Smoking Umbrellas" Live 1997

Another band I completely missed out on was Failure. "Fantastic Planet" was this amazing concept album from start to finish filled with dreamy, catchy rock songs. It also became a huge influence on myself and my bandmates because it was beyond what anyone was doing at the time. I got to see them perform that album last week as part of it's 20th anniversary celebration, but before that, I had to watch the below clip in awe. So glad they're back together. If you don't know them, seek out "Fantastic Planet" asap. A Perfect Circle covered the track "The Nurse Who Loved Me," and we can thank Maynard from TOOL for getting them back together. He apparently asked them to reform and play at his 50th birthday bash.

THE MUFFS "Agony" Live at CBGB's 8/23/95

For everyone, there are probably 5 or so shows that will forever stand out in your mind as the most epic things you've ever been able to experience as a music fan. For me, one of those gigs will always be the first time I saw punk-pop trio The Muffs at CBGB's. I was up front when the drummer Roy McDonald asked me if I'd run across the street and pick them up a few bottles of bottled water, in exchange for a T-Shirt. I complied! And the thing is this, I loved The Muffs on record. But I had no idea just how raunchy and punk rock they would be live! So when they took the stage, lead singer/guitarist Kim Shattuck was spitting all over the place and screaming like a banshee. Bassist Ronnie Barnett fell backwards into the crowd during the 2nd track. I will never, ever forget the experience of standing there and being blown the F away by the sheer punk rock power of The Muffs. Cut to 20 years later, I'm prepping for an interview with Kim for my doc, and going down the You Tube rabbit hole. Low and behold, I find the exact show I was at, only from a different angle! And it's so surreal to have this memory for 2 decades and then to get the opportunity to relive it all these years later when the thought never crossed my mind that you could do that. Below is that entire show, but I'd recommend at the very least watching the first 2 songs from the set list, "Agony" and "Lucky Guy."

THE BREEDERS "Cannonball" MTV Studios 1993

Really, what can I say about The Breeders? I came to them thanks to constant mentions from Nirvana. Loved their first album "Pod." Loved "Last Splash" even more. And forever had a crush on Kim Deal from the moment I first caught the music video for "Cannonball." She reminded me so much of my friends older sister that I also had a crush on, and I think that's basically who she was to a lot of impressionable teenagers in the 90's. That cool older sister your friend had that everyone was in love with. Here's their 2 singles "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer," the perviest single to ever play on MTV!

CONCRETE BLONDE "Heal It Up" Live on The Jon Stewart Show

This is top of my list in terms of performances. I loved Concrete Blonde, but sometimes, you come across a voice that just makes your soul ache because it's that great. Johnette Napolitano was that voice. From the moment I heard her belt out the chorus to "Heal It Up," I knew I had to up my game as a singer, and then realized I just suck compared to this amazing woman. "Heal It Up" could be in my top 5 songs of all time and it's all because of Johnette's emotional performance. See for yourself!

STABBING WESTWARD "Shame" Live at the MTV Studios 1996

I literally can go on and on and on with examples of more live performances from this era, but I've got to try be productive with my day in other areas! So I'm going to wrap it up with a slightly off-kilter choice. And who knows? Maybe I'll do a "Part Two" to this eventually. Stabbing Westward were kind of a Nine Inch Nails knock-off in the mid 90's. They were pretty darned good, even if now in retrospect, the lyrics are a bit silly and immature angst-ridden non-sense. But I'll tell you one thing, they were amazing live. I got to see them do a tiny club gig at Coney Island High (RIP) in NYC in celebration of their 3rd album "Darkest Days," and when they got to their encore of "Shame," the place was pure pandemonium. I recall distinctly a guy jumping up on stage and headbanging along with singer Christopher Hall before joining him in screaming the chorus into the mic. I wish a video of that gig existed somewhere but sadly it does not, unless someone shot it and is holding out! But instead, here they are performing "Shame" on 120 Minutes.

Hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, and perhaps we'll do it again! I still get lost occasionally in the You Tube rabbit hole, so if there are any performances you remember from this time period that had as profound an impact on you as some of these did for me, please feel free to comment them below so I can check them out! Until next episode...

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Follies And Rewards Of Mid-Life Show Going

In the great words of Roger Murtaugh, "I'll too old for this shit."

At least that's how I feel these days when it comes to going to concerts, which is why I rarely go! But alas, somehow, because of my naivety in planning, I managed to purchase tickets to two shows that happen to fall consecutively two nights in a row.

I mean, I went to a lot of shows in my youth. I've seen just about everyone I've ever wanted to see. I saw Nirvana, both electric and at their infamous MTV Unplugged show. I got to see David Bowie perform all his greatest hits at Queens College. Members of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson playing Twisted Sister songs with Dee Snider at the Elbow Room in Manhattan. Portishead's legendary Roseland show that became their live album. The Ramones. Morrissey in Central Park. Not to mention all the amazing shows at CBGB's: The Melvins, The Muffs, Vision Of Disorder.

So, it's rare I'd feel the need to see shows these days, because I've already seen it all. But when these two came up, I couldn't pass them up.

First up, SURVIVE, the electronic act that I first discovered for their music in the 2014 flick THE GUEST, were doing a gig at the Echoplex. And several months back, my buddy Mike Williamson alerted me to the return of 90's grunge prodigal sons FAILURE, who would be playing in it's entirety, their album "Fantastic Planet" from start to finish in celebration of it's 20th anniversary. Failure is not only one of my favorite bands that inspired me back in my late teens / early 20's, but "Fantastic Planet" in particular is essential listening. There were a handful of albums that became so indelible and influential to me as I was learning to hone my own craft of songwriting. (That's for another blog!) And for whatever reason, Failure always alluded me live. I don't recall them coming around to New York that often, if at all, during the height of my fandom for them. So up until now, I'd never seen them.

If you're reading this, then you no doubt know that horror is my business, for better or worse. And being that I write about horror movies on a daily basis, October becomes somewhat of a problematic month in terms of properly rationing my time. But again, I bought these concert tickets ages ago, and didn't think about how they'd fallen directly at the beginning of the busy Halloween season.

Another sting was that I had to attend both shows on my own. I normally don't care about that sort of thing. I go to movies by myself all the time, but I'm a little anxious when it comes to going to shows. You have to time it out so perfectly. You have to plan for expensive parking lots, unless you're lucky enough to stumble upon an open street parking space. A damned rarity for Hollywood. I've sat through enough opening acts in my day that I just don't have the energy, patience or stamina to stand in the same spot for hours on end anymore.

So, with SURVIVE, I tried to arrive as late as possible in the hopes I'd make it just in time. My date for the evening was feeling ill, and had to bail last minute, which was OK, because then I could just wing the entire evening. After a few strolls around the sketchy neighborhood that harbors the Echoplex, I miraculously found free parking in a small outdoor lot! It was already just past 9PM as I arrived and that was exactly when the parking time was up! I walked into the packed venue to learn that my timing wasn't nearly as spot on as I'd hoped. I would have to sit through one opening act before SURVIVE took the stage. I managed to find a predominantly uninhabited spot to the right of the sound board, which was in the center of the venue. As I got settled leaning up against the booth, MAJEURE took the stage and settled up behind a full drum kit.

I don't have any problem with electronic music, but it's a bit weird to see it performed live because for the most part, all you're going to see is some really, really high guys standing still behind a laptop and keyboard occasionally bopping their head, and maybe someone in the audience will actually dance to it rather than foolishly just staring at a guy playing a loop. But alas, you never know what you're going to get, and in the case of MAJEURE, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise! MAJEURE is actually Anthony Paterra, whom along with Steve Moore make up the prog-y band ZOMBI. Here, he played live drums over a series of synth programmed samples and selections. So, although it was something that required a laptop and a keyboard, it benefited greatly from watching this guy pound along on the drums the entire time too. He was wrapped before I knew it, and I patiently waited for SURVIVE to make their 11PM call time. (Is it me, or is is it... yawwwwn... getting late?)

As the minutes went on, of course my safe haven spot had been invaded by crowds of people trying to get a closer look. A couple next to me got a little too close for comfort, but I was already up against the wall of the sound booth, so there really wasn't anywhere else I could go. And then directly next to me, a large 6 and a half foot man suddenly appeared who would periodically cough aloud, as the neurotic in me started freaking out that I hadn't taken enough Vitamin C that day.

It was a bit late, but finally SURVIVE took the stage and my excitement immediately waned. It was 4 dudes, behind 4 keyboards that were cranked really, really loud, not doing much else except occasionally sipping at a beer. The energy level was low, and no one around me was really dancing. The second track in the set was "Hourglass," one of my personal favorites and most well know as the song playing in the bar scene of THE GUEST. And... it sounded kind of puny in comparison to the album version. I mean, it was loud, for sure. But it just didn't sound... right.

Regardless, I stuck it out, and the next song was both equal parts loud and drastically out of tune. Look - maybe I was already in a bad mood coming into the venue. It was late. It was an inconvenient time. I not only had to eat the 2nd ticket I paid for for this show, but a few weeks back, I ate an additional ticket to see DJ Christian James Hand perform his shtick. And later this month, I have to miss a special charity screening of CARRIE that I already paid for. So I guess I wasn't in the best of moods, but these guys weren't blowing me away either. At all. At least with John Carpenter's band it was a full on band, all playing their respective instruments and making each track sound even better live than it ever did on record. Here, it was the opposite. It made me want to go home and just crank my SURVIVE LP's. So halfway through the set, that's exactly what I did. I went home.

I started to wonder, is something wrong with me? Have I seen too many shows? Have I finally hit the age where this doesn't excite me anymore? Am I too old for these hip young electronic acts? I don't know. All I knew was I was still going to see the mighty FAILURE, even though I had to brave that show alone as well.

The ticket for that show said 8PM doors and 9PM show time. There were no opening acts listed anywhere online, including The Roxy's webpage. And since this was advertised as the band playing one of their fairly epic albums from start to finish, I assumed I wouldn't have to make it there until just before 9, and I was right. I bit the bullet and paid for the $10 dollar parking in the lot next door, which coupled with the hefty $45 ticket price brought this evening up to a $55 dollar street value. The venue was tiny, and already pretty full, but even being in the far back as I was, wasn't too far from the main stage and would be totally suitable to enjoy the performance. It didn't help that literally all of the tallest guys in Los Angeles had decided to attend this gig, and felt their height had earned them the right to be closer to the stage than the other mostly vertically challenged patrons.

At about 9PM, we were treating to a 20-some-odd-minute short film produced by the band to coincide with their 20th anniversary. It had some pretty spacey visuals including a close up of a couple lying on a blanket in the park as the camera view pulled back and back and back until we were in the vast emptiness of cold space, millions of meters away. Then some random movie clips started playing, some with subtitles that were impossible to see because this tiny venue was packed and the screen was stage level. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME opened credits played inter-cut with members of the band in the montage sequence, followed by a few creepy moments of HAL in 2001. And then, finally... FAILURE took the stage.

Again, I had never seen this band live before. And they were among my biggest musical heroes. I had waited a long time for this moment. I hope I was ready for it. And then, the first few chords of album opener "Saturday Savior" began. Ken Andrews voice couldn't have been crisper, cleaner or more perfect. And when the distortion and drums kicked in for the chorus, a wave of sound hit me head on, and I was truly swept away. They were amazing. And the power of a good live act was well in tact, after the previous night's disappointment.

That's not to say there weren't the usual obstacles present when it comes to sharing confined space with large groups of sweaty, beer guzzling people. I had already mentioned the over population of tall people, right? Well, yet again, there was a rather large gentleman standing directly next to me with long shoulder-length curly hair. As the band rocked the pillars, he was headbanging furiously and on the first head swing, his sweat hit the side of my face. Sure, it was kinda gross, but after all this is a rock show. And when a few minutes later in between songs, he cried out, "this is the best thing of ever and I'm loving it!" His like-minded enthusiasm won me over.

I usually hate when people spend an entire show with their phone in the air documenting the whole show, and I didn't want to be one of those assholes. But fuck it. I paid $45 bucks. And I was standing pretty close to the back. I wanted to at the very least document a few seconds of my favorite tracks off the album. So I tried to time it for a chorus here, or a guitar solo there, very sparsely through out the show. But again, those tall peeps. So I had to put my arm up pretty high to get the decent quality video you see here in this blog. After this one from "The Nurse Who Loved Me," some semi-drunk guy behind me with a beer in his hand yelled at me to put my phone away, man. I promised him it was just for that solo, and he still gave me a dirty look. Shrugs. Screw you, man. I'm 40. And this is my first time seeing FAILURE!!!

Joke's on both of us, I guess! I noticed they were in fact taping the evenings gig, so maybe there will be a live DVD or Blu-Ray of this sucker coming out in the not-too-distant future. And against all better judgement, the merch table has something I couldn't pass up. Original vinyl copies of "Fantastic Planet" for $50 bucks. I know, I know. That's steep. But jump on Discogs and you'll see the lowest it is on there is usually in the $160 dollar range. These were brand new sealed copies of one of my favorite albums of all time! I had to have one as I left the venue.

And that's when all these random thoughts from the previous two nights began swimming around in my head, and inevitably were destined for this blog. Because one night I thought I was too old for this shit. And the next, I'd witnessed one of the best shows I'd ever seen in my life. In the top 10 and one I'll always tell people about.

I guess you're never too old for this show going thing. For all the follies that surround them, including parking and the people around you, the reward is sometimes a life long memory to cherish forever.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oldies But Goodies! The Return Of The Annual Gift Mix CD!

Whew! It's been a while, hasn't it? And apologies. For those of you that don't follow my exploits outside of this music related blog, about a year ago I was hired to be the senior editor of the website, alongside my Killer POV / now-Shock Waves co-host Rebekah McKendry, who is our editor-in-chief. In short, because of our vast writing experience across tons of horror related publications, we were tasked with transforming what was originally a website for the production side of Blumhouse into a daily destination for all things horror. A place where you can find articles on horror toys, retrospectives on classic and contemporary movies, music, true crime, real life scares and beyond! Basically, is "a celebration of all things scary."

And it's been great thus far! But also time consuming and a lot of work to maintain. But alas, in between that gig, I've still been trucking along, slowly but surely making great progress on my new documentary project with the great Buz Wallick and Joe Maddrey. And I've still got music on the brain every single day. My 40th (!) birthday just passed earlier this week and as I've grown accustomed to doing, I decided I wanted to yet again gift all my friends with a new mix CD.

2 years ago, I kicked it off with my epic "80's Movie Music Mix." (Read the full details on that one here.) Last year, I waited until October to unleash my "Halloween Hits!" mix. This year, I set my sights on a sub-genre that is near and dear to me. Oldies! Primarily, the majority of my selections are from the late 50's with one minor exception. (More on that in a minute.)

This all came to be a few short months ago when I got together with my buddy Robbie Ikegami. Robbie and I used to work together at Amoeba Music over in Hollywood and our constant back & forth banter amused most of our fellow co-workers. Enough so to inspire the collective nick name of "The Rob Couple," a play on "The Odd Couple." We both embrace our similarities and differences, and play up to this comedic persona. Every couple of months, we'll get together for a catch up session. Last time he picked me up in his convertible, I believe he had an Amazon Playlist set to all oldies music. Jackie Wilson's "To Be Loved" came on, we cranked it while cruising on Ventura Blvd with the top down, and I was reminded of just how great of a pop song it really is.

From that afternoon on, I became obsessed with re-discovering all my favorite "oldies" artists and songs. A big part of it plays into the music I myself have been writing over the course of the last year. I used to be so used to starting with a guitar riff or musical idea, building on that, and my last step would be to figure out melodies and lyrics. But because of this oldies kick, I instead have reverse engineered all my latest songs, starting first with the catchiest melody I can think of and working backwards to figure out what chords or music should compliment it.

In doing so, I started really analyzing and breaking down some of my favorite late 50's hits. They're so simple, straight forward, rather brief and often build these gorgeous harmonies between several singers. While this style and academic breakdown have influenced my songwriting as of late, it also inspired me to collect the best batch of feel-good songs. Literally, a new CD mix filled with non-stop good vibes. And after months of testing, I think I finally got it!

If I bumped into you in the last week or so, then you would've been treated to my latest:

"Oldies But Goodies: A Rob G Mix Vol. 3"

Track listing:
1. Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
2. Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets
3. Come On Let's Go by Ritchie Valens
4. Be My Baby by The Ronettes
5. Wouldn't It Be Nice by The Beach Boys
6. Oh Boy! by Buddy Holly
7. Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) by The Penguins
8. Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
9. To Be Loved by Jackie Wilson
10. Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
11. Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton
12. Twist And Shout by The Beatles
13. Lollipop by Chordettes
14. Come Go With Me by The Del-Vikings
15. Yakety Yak by The Coasters
16. Respect by Aretha Franklin
17. Do You Love Me by The Contours
18. December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
19. Stand By Me by Ben E. King
20. Great Balls Of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
21. Shout, Pts. 1 & 2 by The Isley Brothers

I can think of no better way to kick off an "oldies" mix than with "The King" himself, Mister Elvis Presley. "Rock Around The Clock," believe it or not, has been floating in my mind for a potential mix ever since I made the 80's Movie Music one. It's on the soundtrack of THE KARATE KID PART 2 and I always had it in the back of my mind for one of these collections eventually.

Can't have an oldies mix without some of the absolute greats like Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. I, of course, have a few movie-themed/inspired selections through out. The original version of "Earth Angel," followed immediately by Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is of course an homage to BACK TO THE FUTURE. I was debating between the Beatles version of "Twist & Shout" and The Isley Brothers one, but while driving around and testing this mix with my buddy Dave Parker, he suggested "why not Danke Schoen, then the Beatles version?" Of course! A perfect nod to FERRIS BUELLER.

Also, did you realize that "Danke Schoen" was originally performed by Wayne Newton? And that Wayne Newton has the voice of a woman?! I had no idea!

Tracks 13-15 were not on my first version of the mix, but then I revisited STAND BY ME on Blu-Ray in honor of that film's 30th anniversary and knew I had to cull some tracks from that soundtrack.

The one cheat is "December, 1963," which technically is a single from the 70's. BUT, the Four Seasons have a ton of late 50's oldie classics including "Walk Like A Man," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Sherry." And they're often associated as an "oldies" act. I just love that song, and think it fits perfectly among these other selections. And how else can you close an "oldies" mix out than with "Shout?"

I'm pretty proud of this particular mix and absolutely encourage you to either draft up your own, or make a Spotify playlist! Sometimes it just feels good to rock out to some old-school positive tunage! Enjoy. And I promise I'll be back on here much sooner rather than later.