Posts Tagged ‘John Vanderslice’

John Vanderslice and Bent Shapes, November 21, 2013 @ Bootleg Bar

January 6, 2014

My last concert of 2013 was an intimate show at the Bootleg Bar in LA.  It was my first time to this venue, the front of the space is open and had a ping pong table to pass the time before they opened the door to the back room where the show was.  Before the opener, we bought John’s new LP, Dagger Beach and he was nice enough to sign it and take a picture with my wife, who is a big fan.

The opener was Bent Shapes, a Boston three piece (though lead singer Ben Potrykus’ sister was joining them for this show, she also served as their hypewoman from the stage).  They burned through a half hour set of polished punk and still had time to thank John Vanderslice for being a great tourmate by presenting him with pastries before he went on.

As the  last time I saw him, Vanderslice played with Jason Slota on drums and keyboard.  This time he had a third person up in the rafters of the club, Jacob Winik, who was doing sound.  In addition to putting on great shows and being a fantastic musician, John is very passionate about music and he always give much love to the people that play with him.  He took a few minutes during the show to point out the crazy skills of his drummer Jason, who in addition to drumming was playing keyboards, often at the same time.  I could barely handle playing drums with two hands, let alone handling a second instrument with one hand.  He also demonstrated how his soundman Jacob was modulating his guitar to make some wonderfully weird sounds.

He mixed in songs from Dagger Beach with older material, and the small but attentive crowd lapped it all up.  Slota is a mesmerizing drummer and can bring the hammer or flit around in the background.  He also plays a good straight man to Vanderslice’s goofy banter.  After finishing up his main set, he came down off the stage and the audience circled him and Jason for a few more acoustic songs, including the last song with Bent Shapes.  Great show as always, Vanderslice is consistently entertaining.  Even if you don’t know his stuff (you can stream a bunch of his stuff on his blog), if he’s in your town, go and you will be entertained.

A few music-related articles

March 8, 2012

Ran across a few music-related pieces on the web the past few days I thought were worth passing along.

First, an article from NPR about iTunes new “mastered for iTunes” concept. It gives a quick overview of the mastering process (basically removing information from the recording for a given delivery mechanism, like a cd or a mp3.) and a good description of what the differences are between lossless and lossy audio formats. It also delves into whether Apple is responding to the current drive of music delivery (streaming services) by continuing to push development in lossy formats rather than working on lossless formats.

One artist quoted in the article who doesn’t appear to be a fan of iTunes’ approach is John Vanderslice. And speaking of him, he has a fascinating blog series going where he is basically giving you a very detailed blow-by-blow of the recording process of his new album. Here’s a link to his site, the latest entry is December 7th. I don’t know a lot of what he’s talking about but it makes me want to learn more and it is interesting to hear how he makes decisions on what instruments, filters, etc to use. I will also be interested to compare the final versions to these sketches.

Last, a quick piece from Consumerist about how music sales rose by 4% last year. These numbers include both CDs and digital sales. Given the economy, this is a good thing for the music industry. As I’ve posited before, I’d like to think that the continued proliferation of streaming music services I mentioned above are playing some role in his recovery. In my mind, these services are more and more replacing radio as the medium to discover a song that you want to go out and buy. iTunes’ 30 second previews never were going to cut it and especially don’t now when you can go to Spotify or Rdio and hear a whole song and the rest of the album that go with that song.

And I’ll leave you with some nice relaxing bmore indie pop:

Looking Back at 2011

December 19, 2011

It’s been a good year for listening to music.  I felt like I listened to a lot more new artists (at least to me) this year than I have since I was a teenager.  I also rediscovered a lot of old albums that I hadn’t heard in awhile.

Best (and worst) music platform – Since it came to our shores earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of Spotify.  One of my recurring posts this year revolved around recounting what I’d been listening to on Spotify.  Easy to use with a huge library, it was a great way to listen to new albums in their entirety as well as catch up on old albums I haven’t heard since I had a cassette player.  So why’s it also get a worst nod.  A few weeks ago, it started crashing my computer any time I tried to run it.  Like total freeze-up crash, have to manually power down and restart the machine crashes.  In trying to find an answer, I’ve uncovered a wealth of problems others have with the app.  I also found that customer support is spotty (sorry).  I finally found a customer support email; I did finally get a response after two weeks, asking me what version of Spotify I was running.  We’ll see if they can come up with a solution.  Wonder if the expansion to the US has overextended the service and its employees?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m going to be checking out and rdio to see what they have to offer in 2012.

Best Concert – Ben Folds at The Wiltern.  I loved the stage banter, the energy, and the music was phenomenal.  I went in with only a little bit of knowledge about his music, but I left wanting to hear more and learn more about him.  That’s the mark of a good concert.  Honorable mention to Portishead and to John Vanderslice.  I didn’t write about the Vanderslice show, but I’ve seen him three times now and each show has been distinctly different.  And his drummer, Jason, was amazing to watch.  I ended up missing the Bon Iver show, but Sarah told me that it was very good (I believe her).

Favorite Album – Rome by DangerMouse and Daniele Luppi.  I feel like a lot of year-end lists become top heavy with material released toward the end of the year, which I understand since the songs are fresh in reviewer’s mind.  Rome came out in May, which is a long time ago in today’s millisecond attention-span world.  I also am also only basing my choice on albums I actually listened to in their entirety, which I admit isn’t a lot.  But, I come back to this one because, like his collaboration last year as Broken Bells, as an entire album, the songs meld into a cohesive unit and he can just really create a vibe.  Here, he’s wisking you away to the set of spaghetti westerns with a tribute to the soundtrack sound of that era (most notably Ennio Morricone).  Honorable mention to Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, for the same reason basically.  A lovely arrangement of electronic music that makes you stop thinking of individual songs (much better than the sprawling and Pitchfork-loved M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

Biggest Surprise – The Whole Love by Wilco.  After Sky Blue Sky, I kind of lost interest in Wilco and didn’t even bother to listen to their next album.  They seemed to have lost a lot of their bite, both lyrically and musically, from previous records.  I had heard nothing of their new album, but decided to give it a listen when NPR was doing a free preview of the album.  To my amazement, I heard the rockin’ Wilco from Summerteeth days.  I’ve seen Wilco twice, now I have a new reason to go see them a third time other than Jeff Tweedy’s amusing stage talk.  Honorable mention to the Beastie Boy’s new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2.  Another group that I had just lost some interest in, but this re-ignited interest.

Best Music Book – Read the super comprehensive history of the Velvet Underground put out by Rough Trade.  Not knowing much about the band other than the songs on their greatest hits albums, this was a good and thorough introduction to the band, as well as the solo careers of all its members.  Can be a bit overwhelming, but overall a good read.

I’ll try and come back with a few more year end thoughts before the year actually ends, but if not, have a great new year filled with good tunes and good times.

Stage Banter

November 21, 2010

Last month I went to see a double bill of John Vanderslice and the Extra Glenns (John Darnielle + Frank Bruno) at the Rock n’ Roll Hotel in DC.  In addition to some good music, the audience was treated to some talkative musicians.  I’ve seen both Vanderslice and Darnielle (in his Mountain Goats skin) before and I knew they enjoy some interaction with their audience.  Personally I like some good stage talk, I mean that’s part of the concertgoing experience as much as an extended guitar solo or a song played at a different tempo.  If I wanted to just hear the music as it appeared on the album and nothing else, I’d have stayed home and popped in a CD.  And when the band doesn’t acknowledge the audience at all, well, it makes me wonder how thrilled they are to be there.  Of course, as with anything, done to excess, stage talk can wreck a concert experience.

John Vanderslice opened and played a nice acoustic set with some songs from his last album as well as some older numbers.  When I last saw JV in LA at the Troubadour he was the headliner and played with a full band.  The smaller confines of RnR Hotel suited this stripped down version of his music.  The small space also seemed to encourage talking to the audience.  Vanderslice several times mentioned that he was manning the merchandise table and at one point joked about how he should have been in retail given how much he was shilling the merch table (and if you somehow read this Mr. Slice, remember my girlfriend is still waiting to get the call to work your merch table in LA!).  After playing a song from his collaboration with John Darnielle, Moon Colony Bloodbath, he remarked that he should put this on his website for free which was met by enthusiasm by the crowd.  Vanderslice always has an aura of optimism and it comes out in his interaction with his crowds, he genuinely seems excited to talk with those who come to listen to his music.  He provided a good warmup for the main event, both musically and stage banter-wise.

John Darnielle also exudes his love for music in his stage presence.  He often explains the origins of songs before launching into them and will respond directly to audience members (more on that in a second).  I wasn’t that familiar with the Extra Glenns music and apparently neither was Darnielle.  He messed up the guitar parts multiple times and while he tried to laugh it off, but after 3 times it was getting a little old.  Suprisingly, when Darnielle and Frank Bruno decided to depart from the setlist (at the time I thought this was not going to end well) Darnielle seemed to pull it together and the rest of the set went smoothly.  The mess-ups did lead to one funny exchange with a fan.  Darnielle was explaining to the crowd that he has trouble remembering the guitar parts for the Extra Glenns songs and a fan said “but you’ve wrote like 3 million songs.”  Darnielle retorted, “yeah but all my songs only have 3 chords.”

Earlier in the show, in between songs, one unknowing audience member yelled “Freebird.”  Now, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence at shows, I even have one friend (who shall remain nameless) that enjoys this bit of fun at shows.  However, I’d seen this movie before with Darnielle (telling the fan at the Mountain Goats show “that one day that joke will be funny, but this isn’t that day”), so I knew as soon as I heard the fan shout “freebird!”, we were in for something good.  Darnielle let the fan know that “yelling Freebird is the equivalent of killing a boner.  You sir are a bonerkiller.”  This got a good chuckle from the audience.  He went on to tell the offending party he should get “bonerkiller” tattooed on his back.  There were no more calls for Freebird.

A small technical snafu also led to a short lesson on acoustics that Darnielle admitted was for “geeks.”  A small mic he’d installed inside the body of the guitar started causing interference.  Darnielle went on to explain why he’d put the mic in, which included the very technical term “soundhole” to describe the circular opening in guitar.  Loved that.  Also got a kick out of his intro to one of their songs where he assured the audience that we were great and this line was nothing personal.  The song then began with “No one in the crowd was anyone of note,” which again created a collective giggle from the audience.  Finally as his piece de resistance, during the last song (“Memories” a Leonard Cohen cover), he noticed a girl filming the song on her iPhone, jumped off the stage and sang in front of her, then snatched the phone, went back onstage, getting some extreme closeups of his face, and then returned the phone to its surely ecstatic owner.

Darnielle then exited as Bruno finished off the piano part of the song solo.  Bruno does not really look the part of a musician.  He’s bald, wears glasses, and looked like he’d come from the office to play (wearing chinos and a dress shirt).  As I remarked at the time, it looked like he was a guy that was taking part in a rock n’ roll fantasy camp.  In addition to his appearance belying his musical talents, while he didn’t say much during the show, he had the line of the night.  Finishing his solo and recognizing some of the night’s “issues” he deadpanned “thank you for being so forgiving.”

As I imagined, here’s the youtube video of “Memories” I mentioned above: