Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince 4 Ever

If, like me, you hit puberty in the early 80's when Prince was in his heyday, you likely learned about sexuality, sensuality, and love through purple lenses. The same man who broke our hearts in songs like "Purple Rain" and "Nothing Compares 2 U" also taught us about the slow grind in "When Doves Cry." We learned about the thrill of one night stands from "Little Red Corvette" and "Raspberry Beret." He broke down the pain of a cheating lover in "When You Were Mine." And he held our hands as we dipped our toes into his explorations of kink - "Darling Nikki" and "Erotic City" are the ones that stand out for me, but there were many others. Everyone has a favorite.

As a musician, he set the bar impossibly high. The quality, the quantity, the excess, the secrecy. There were probably more than a few careers that fell, trying to keep up with Prince. Where one might dream of being like this or that band, Prince was out of reach. Neither you nor me were ever going to be that prolific. I first started to understand multitrack recording when I heard that he played all the instruments on his early records. I previously thought everything was just a band playing, hit record. When I heard that he played & sang everything, it broke open a new perspective of what one person could do in the recording studio.

He was a true genius, as well as a true artist. I don't use the former word lightly, but it was very clear to me - especially after Sign O' The Times. We lived in the same rarefied air as a bona-fide musical genius, writing and recording in our lifetime.

I saw him in concert once, in 2004. He played "in the round" at the Pepsi Center in Denver, and I was thrilled to be there. The show kept going, to everyone's sweaty delight. He played in town a couple of years ago, a few sets in a small venue, charging upwards of $200 per ticket. I wasn't able to go to those shows, but not because of the price of the ticket. I didn't even blink. If there's any artist worth that rate, it was Prince.

And to top it all off, some of my favorite songs by other artists are Prince songs! "Manic Monday," Mitch Ryder's version of "When You Were Mine," "Nothing Compares 2 U."

All the girls loved him. Some guys were jealous and maybe said they hated him, but I don't recall any of my friends who said that. I would have loved to have that kind of allure, that funk, that badass. Instead, I was a fan. I remember having Prince listening parties with my friend Tony in college. He's the one who turned me on to Sign O' The Times beyond the title track.

Purple Rain is one of my favorite albums and has been since it was released. I'll be setting aside some time tonight and this weekend to listen to it in reverence. In genuflection. In worship. One of the all-time greats from this or any generation. A true musical genius.

Thank you, Prince. Your music elevated us from mere subjects to royal equals in passion and funk. We're eternally grateful. See you in that world of never ending happiness.


Here's one of my favorite Prince performances, his guitar solo on the group version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the Rock Hall induction in 2006.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Riot Fest 2015 - Denver Day 2

It's always easy to get up for Day 2, especially when I'm taking it easy and pacing myself for three days. If I was just attending Saturday (which it sounds like a lot of people did, just attend the one day), I might have busted my ass to be there when the gates opened, but we took our time. One of my favorite bands of all time was playing at 2:30, so I would at least be there for that. That band? Swervedriver.
We got there a little bit before 2pm and posted up in front of the Riot stage (where Swervedriver would be playing) and watched some of Meat Wave's set on the Roots stage. It was really fucking hot and they were facing the sun, but they were making the most of it.

Meat Wave - Chris Sutter
I dug their sound, took a few pictures, and then listened to the rest from the front of the Riot stage. I didn't want to miss one bit of Swervedriver. Neither did this guy, a fellow sibling in shoegaze:

Swervedriver - Steve George, Mikey Jones, Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge
I loved their set and was happy to have seen them, even if it was only a short 30 minute set. I had joked on Twitter that they should play 5 minutes of "Rave Down," 10 minutes of "Last Train to Satansville," and 15 minutes of "Never Lose That Feeling/Never Learn." They didn't take my advice, and instead played one song off their new record I Wasn't Born To Lose You, and two each off Raise and Mezcal Head.

Finally hearing "Rave Down" live and fucking loud was transcendent for me. I could have stood there for another couple of hours, even in that searing heat.

The schedule then called for Dead Milkmen to play on the same stage that Meat Wave had played. We walked around the dividing partition to watch.

The Dead Milkmen - Joe Jack Talcum, Dean Clean, Dandrew, Rodney Anonymous
I've tried to be a good father, and part of that has been giving my kids the musical education they need. This means that they know Dead Milkmen, and "Bitchin' Camaro."

I'm a longtime Dead Milkmen fan but we bailed after about 2/3rds of the set to go catch some Gwar. As we got close to the stage, we saw the crowd walking away from the stage, many covered in red goo. I was surprised that the band cut the set about 15 minutes short from the allotted time, but considering the heat and the costumes they wear, it was understandable.

So we hung around for the Vandals. Now, at this point in my life, I'm a little ambivalent about The Vandals. On the one hand, their Peace Thru Vandalism EP was one of my early introductions to punk (thanks to my friend Pete's older brother Dan). On the other hand, they (or more specifically, Joe) helped Blink-182 hose my friend Pat out of thousands of dollars, at the very least. But, whatever. Stevo is dead, and he was my favorite Vandals singer on those first two records, and I haven't listened to anything The Vandals ever did after those first two albums. Boo hoo, right? I'm sure they give a shit at all.

The Vandals - Dave Quackenbush & Warren Fitzgerald
We watched a couple of songs and went inside to cool off again, watching some of the Sleep On It set.

Sleep On It - Riot Fest Denver 2015
I came back outside to get a spot for The Damned and heard The Vandals do "Anarchy Burger (Hold The Government)," so that was good for 14-year-old me.

I made sure to take Rodney Anonymous' advice and see The Damned. I was going to watch them anyway, but when Rodney talks, people listen.

Captain Sensible
I think I knew of Captain Sensible from his song "Wot" before I knew of The Damned as a band. I'm pretty sure my intro to The Damned was their cover of "Alone Again Or" from the Anything album in 1986. I was pretty pleased and surprised that the band really brought it, again, considering the heat, and the fact that Dave Vanian was clad in black leather.

The Damned - Dave Vanian
We watched most of their set, but it was overlapping with The Joy Formidable, and I wanted to see their set as well, so we bailed, missing "Eloise," "New Rose," and "Smash It Up." C'est la vie. But I got a picture of the band and this pink mohawk guy.

The Damned - Captain Sensible & Dave Vanian flanking a brilliant pink mohawk.
The Joy Formidable - Rhydian Dafydd, Ritzy Bryan, Matthew James Thomas
I was glad to be able to see The Joy Formidable, finally. I've loved their music for a long time and they just generally kick ass.

The Joy Formidable - Ritzy
We watched the whole set, which meant we missed the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but we were a little tired of walking back & forth by then. Covered moving walkways for 2016, Riot Fest. That's my big suggestion.

Eagles of Death Metal played on the adjoining stage, so we walked over to catch their set after Joy Formidable.
Eagles of Death Metal - Dave, Julian, Jesse
I think we went and got dinner after that, because I don't recall seeing any of the bands that played between Eagles of Death Metal and Drive Like Jehu.

Drive Like Jehu - John Reis
Drive Like Jehu was active during my years in San Diego. After Pitchfork split up and John Reis started Rocket from the Crypt, he and Rick Froberg continued to work together in Drive Like Jehu.

Drive Like Jehu - Rick Froberg
I'll be honest - DLJ was not my cuppa back in that there day. But, my tastes in music have evolved (luckily, right?) over the ensuing decades, and I find plenty to like here in the second decade of the 21st century. I'm a huge fan of a lot of the music that Mark Trombino has produced over the years (fluf, Jimmy Eat World, Inch, No Knife, aMiniature), so there's that connection as well. Fantastic set. Check out their Balboa Park reunion video with Dr. Carol Williams on organ. (I'll  link it below in the extra pics & vids section)

After Drive Like Jehu, we walked back over to the other side of the National Western Stock Show grounds (not kidding about them moving sidewalks) to catch some of Alkaline Trio, who had also played day 1 at the first Riot Fest in Denver, back in 2013.

Alkaline Trio
The darkness combined with my distance from the stage made for some pretty bizarre looking photos. Like these Run-DMC pics (who played after Alkaline Trio on the next stage over):

Run-DMC - DMC & Run
Rev Run
We didn't stay long for Run-DMC unfortunately, but…Pixies were playing back on the other side of the Stock Show grounds (SERIOUSLY) and I didn't want to miss their set.

Pixies - Joey Santiago, Frank Black, David Lovering
 I saw Pixies on their 2004 reunion tour here in Denver at the Magness Auditorium, but…it's Pixies.  One of my favorite bands of all time. This band changed the face of music in the late '80s/early '90s. I was not going to miss another chance to see them.
Pixies - Frank Black
 I've been a huge fan since 1988 when I heard "Gigantic" on 91X after I had moved to San Diego. Bought the Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim combo CD and was hooked on the weirdness and the power and the catchiness. Truly like nothing I'd heard before.
Pixies - Joey Santiago, Frank Black, David Lovering
We strolled by the Rancid stage for a few songs after Pixies, but we were burnt, physically and mentally.

Pretty sure it's Rancid. Really.
And that was it. Yes, we skipped out on Modest Mouse. You make sacrifices sometimes. Day 3 was coming fast. We opted for rest. We left the grounds & drove home.

MORE PHOTOS (click to see full size):

The Damned - Captain Sensible
The Damned - Monty Oxymoron & Dave Vanian
Riot Fest Photo Pit Punk
Dead Milkmen - Rodney Anonymous side boob
Dead Milkmen - Joe Jack Talcum
Some dude at the festival
Riot Fest Ferris
Joy Formidable - Ritzy fucking rocks
One of my favorite dudes of the weekend
Saved by Steuben's once again
Riot Food

Riot Dusk
That ferris wheel tho
Drive Like Jehu at Balboa Park

Swervedriver - Adam Franklin
Swervedriver - Adam & Mikey
Swervedriver - Mikey & Adam

Swervedriver - Marshall & Me.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Twenty One Pilots for Youth On Record

On Friday, December 11th, band-of-the-moment Twenty One Pilots played the Gothic Theater in Denver as a fundraiser for Youth On Record, a local nonprofit organization that helps provide music instruction and guidance for at-risk students. The band visited the organization earlier in the day at the Youth Media Studio and met with some of the students

Northern Colorado's Pandas & People opened the show with their full touring band instead of just the duo of Joshua Scheer & Johnny Day.

Pandas & People - Johnny Day

There was definitely a feel-good vibe to their music, and they helped give the fundraiser a hometown touch.

The crowd was there to see Twenty One Pilots, though, and the band was ready to put on a show.

Twenty One Pilots - Tyler Joseph
The band, founded in 2009 with a couple of other members, now consists of multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. They were playing a lot of songs off their newest album, Blurryface.

Twenty One Pilots - Josh Dun (pre-backflip) and Tyler Joseph

Twenty One Pilots - Josh Dun (mid-backflip) and Tyler Joseph
The music appeals to people of all ages - I had a friend my age asking for tickets on Facebook, and while I was camped out in the balcony, the family of this little guy took up the open seats next to me:

The littlest Twenty One Pilots fan!
I asked them if I could take his picture for this article and the consented. They told me about how he knows all of their songs including the lyrics. Something tells me this kid will turn out all right.

Twenty One Pilots - Tyler Joseph
The band's dynamic show had Josh playing a drum kit on a platform that was held up & supported by the people in the audience. Tyler disappeared partway through the song "Car Radio" (from the album Vessel) only to emerge, standing on the drink rail on one of the sides of the balcony.

The crowd was going absolutely nuts. People love this band, and it's easy to see why, based on the songs and stage show.

Twenty One Pilots - Tyler Joseph
Twenty One Pilots sold out Red Rocks Amphitheater this past September, and have already sold out the first night of a two date run this coming July. Definitely a band of the moment.

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