Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sublime (With Rome) Live at The Comcast Theatre

There was once an era we now call the 90s, when Radio 104 (out of Hartford, CT) played good music and held a daylong onslaught of the best bands from around the country.  This was onslaught was called 104fest.  In those days, Sublime was intact, with lead man Bradley Nowell writing ballads mixing reggae, punk and hip hop.
Sadly, those days are long gone.  In 1996, Bradley died from a heroin overdose, leaving a gaping hole in the music world.  Thus, the band known as Sublime fell apart.  In 2003, Radio104 sold out, flipping to R&B radio shows.  It seemed that all good things had come to an end.  

Having listened to Sublime as a young boy....having been to 104fest in the glory days... standing among a crowd of pumped up hippies at the old 104fest location... I felt like that boy again.  I felt the glory days coming back to life.  A fellow onlooker stopped after the opening song "Oh my god, he sounds just like Bradley." He was, of course, referring to Roman Ramirez, the new frontman for Sublime (now called Sublime with Rome.)  Although Roman cracked his voice during the first note on stage, naked and exposed for all of Hartford to cringe at, he quickly recovered and sent chills down the backs of every long-time Sublime fan.  Bradley's voice swept over crowd out of Rome's mouth, and every hippie there looked on with delight.  It was eerily unbelievable how similar his voice sounded, so much so that I have described Rome as the reincarnation of Bradley (even though Rome was alive when Bradley died....)


The show, even with Rome's beautiful tenor and the nostalgia of days past, was not as amazing at is could have been.  Bassist Eric Wilson dangled a cigarette out of his mouth throughout the entire show and seemed as if he'd rather be smoking something else, somewhere else.  He even taped down the keys of his synth (producing a deafening pitch) just before leaving the stage at the end of the set, until the tech crew rushed on to ensure the speakers wouldn't blow.

Here are a couple videos of the opening of the set and the song "Let's Go Get Stoned"

As a last thought,

Dear Large-Boned Guy in the middle of the moshpit,
First, it is not acceptable to mosh to reggae.
Second, a mosh is supposed to be a communal coming together to toss our bodies and feel primal, NOT a chance for you to beat up preteen girls who happen to be around you.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Failure - Lupe Fiasco (unfinished)

Lupe Fiasco, real name Wasalu Muhammud Jaco, can be considered a prince of the modern hip-hop royal court.  Introduced to the world by none other than Jay-Z, Fiasco has changed his approach from the 'thug-life; get high; Money-Over-Everything' rappers of todays modern scene to a more graceful and educated form of lyricism.  Fiasco (who is a devout muslim) uses his words to preach tolerance and social justice, and has thus been donned a leader of the 'conscious rap' movement, which advocates anti-profanity, intellectualism and social consciousness.

In the song Failure, off the album 'The Cool', Lupe shows off his talent for witty lyricism, double (sometimes triple) entendres and clever punchlines.   Almost every line in his poetry has a double meaning or hidden message. The piece samples a track by Idris Muhammad called 'Could This Be Heaven', which was released in 1977.

Lupe received critical acclaim for this piece, having broken a 'record' for the most triple entendres in a single song.

Here is a line by line analysis of his words: (analysis in red)

It's mean, so just
Now let me put the streets down like steam rollers

Lupe starts off with a construction theme about tearing down the streets to rebuild them as his empire.  He embellishes this theme throughout the song

With the cats that push 40 ounces through the hood

Comparing drug dealers to 40 oz beer sales

Like king cobra, see me sling soda

King Cobra is a beer that comes in a 40 oz bottle

Cause the extra four in the split is mix

the drugs in this analogy is cut with 4 oz of something else

(It's really 36)

40 - 4 = 36 ; suggesting that there is really only 36 oz. of real booze in the 40 oz.
much like drugs are cut

Used to buy toasters and clips

What drug dealers buy with their profits (toasters are guns and clips are bullet clips)

You can tighten your circle or boa constrict

Another snake reference (King Cobra)

While you was lightin' your purple I was over the scripts

Lupe is a devote religious man; he states he was studying while others were smoking marijuana

See, I couldn't walk the walk

Couldn't really talk the talk

Had to get my talk to properly explain my walk

He needed to be able to explain his actions poetically, lyrically (and man, did he learn how!)

Cause this lack in talk had my walk lookin' off

Now I'm over the limp

At a younger age Lupe could not 'walk-the-walk' or 'talk-the-talk'

Watch how they mugs drop when they see my Verbals able

(that's the Usual)

Reference to 1995 film 'The Usual Suspects', in which the main character, who walks with a limp, goes by the name Verbal

Later in the film Verbal drops his mug in slow motion and looses his limp (hence the previous lines)

When I was po' I was low,

When Lupe was poor he owned Polo shirts

Now me and my chops cop purple label

Now he is rich so he rocks that Ralph Lauren

It's Ralph Lauren on the rap noreat?

Nigg*s brown-nose, they are like alf to him

Alf had a brown nose....duh.

Runners and interscopers not as styled as him

Please don't interscope

It's gonna be a whole lotta IV-ing and respiratin'

If I lean out this window with Irene

Nigg*s as tall as Yao Ming

Will LUP emperor 

It's the foundation, I-beams and the antennas

It's so sears-ious every time I write my john hancock

Sears tower verses the John Hancock building

Like, you could damn near see Detroit (I see you)

Nigg*s is scared of heights (see you)

This is saran wrap and aluminum foil

Some potpourri a little machine oil

I stack my paper and throw off my cents

This is top flo', better look out below

Pennys from heaven is the same as a semi from the sect

And I reign supreme

(reign; rain)

Turn your umbrellas upside down

Did you even catch the change in theme?

This is were Lupe shows his real genius.  At this point the lyrics have changed from the 'construction/ 

building blocks' theme to a 'skyscraper empire' theme.  During the first verse Lupe has climbed out of 

the streets and now sits on the top floor, raining (reigning) pennies (change in theme) down on what he 

has built.

(this is gangsta)

Lupe to the F to the I to the A to the S to the C to the O

From the west side of the C to the H to the I CA to the G to the O

(this is gansta, man)

This is gansta, man

Lupe Fiasco; from the west side of Chicago

Verse 2

And them nigg*s ain't watch

Known from him regime, gangsta lean

Hats on tilt like his sneakers ain't drop out the vending machine

You gotta put more money in

And I shake nigg*s up everytime I drop a bar

It's horse in the Porsche, bricks in the box 

Like more money them every time I cop a car

You see I'm a roller, right?

So it might be a rover, right?

But every time I drop a 'r' get off the streets

It's over, aight?

drop the 'r' from rover = over

Better being ahead like overnight

Like rollers, right, she the chauffeur, right?

So I keep her sober

She don't get fed-ex like overnight

I am dole the might

All that gas can't help, but Solar might

So just call on son (sun)

Drop a 's' pick up a 'o', you know (u no) , put it all on one (uno)

Then brace yourself like overbite

For that quiet nigg* that relocated down south

Comin' back to floss, nigg* get your molars right

Fix your grill

No plaque but a whole lotta cheese

This the drill, mr. Chill gave me the green light 

Like yo the knife

So ima force my will like the force I will

Of course you will

Take my time but wait behind only pertains to that Porsche grill

It's snakes in the hood, gotta watch for that cobra bite

Let me see, there's snakes in the hood

A bird, a horse behind the grill 

Some gator on the seat and a fox behind the wheel

No it's not noah's ark (ark), It's just a flower's start 

This is Lupe to the F to the I to the A to the S to the C to the O

From the West side of the C to the H to the I CA to the G to the O

Verse 3

For achiever, my procedures proceed at all cost

With no breather

I'm all walk, rain, snow, a fever

I'm all coughs, comin after your teacher

I'm on the ball like FIFA, Feva, Lupe, Diche, 

Long live the leaders

I remember I ain't have sneakers, it was welfare

Comin' up for air like whales there

Fila's, but now I'm well here 

I'm Shamu with twelve pair 

And nigg*s wanna take me back to zero like tear, fair

Well, my scale's clear

Your 'see' world is Braille here

I'm Bumpy Johnson, I stick to the streets

Keep my dawgs out in front of me 

See what I'm sayin'? and I push keys wonderfully

Friday, May 11, 2012

Big D and The Kids Table - Live At Toads Place

by Keelan Freitag

In a drunken blur I stopped and stood still inside of Toad's Place.

Around me skankers, nerds and punks softly pushed their shoulders into each other while I felt a smile creep onto my face.
"This is the friendliest moshpit I've ever been in," I said to no one, and then proceed to lift a knee to meet my opposite elbow, joining my amiable strangers for the rest of Big D and The Kids Table's set.

Its called skanking, a dance move that young whippersnappers use as a form of youthful rebellion.  Everyone has their own way of doing it.  My friend, who curls his body up and touches knee to elbow, knee to elbow, or the cute girl next to me, daintily throwing her toes out and flailing her arms, or even the lead singer of Big D... no one could help themselves.  It's contagious, and by the end of the night, everyone was skanking in their own style.

Big D and The Kid's Table are a ska septet hailing from Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Their raw style blends the early 90s punk revolution and the late 90s pop-ska explosion with just a hint of hardcore.  The band has slowly built up a large following, having opened for thousands of shows, headlining 2 tours and playing together for over 2 decades. Their most recent tour was stopped short due to lead singer Dave McWane's battle with thyroid cancer.  He announced himself cancer free last month and the band has decided to make up the missed tour venues.

McWane obviously felt happy to be back, as he belted out "Noise Complaint" and "Shining On", two of the bands most popular tracks.  Trumpet player Chris Lucca and Saxman Ryan O'Conner proved themselves as they remained in tune while adding subtle riffs; a challenging task made look easy.

Toad's place is a notoriously intimate venue and in my opinion, one of the best places you could ever see a show.  The smaller size makes even a small crowd of a couple hundred seem like sardines in a crushed tin box.  The bar is tucked into a corner, leaving the creaky wooden floorboards open to skankers, moshers and spazzers.

Unfortunately the audience of a couple hundred took a while to get energized.  The opening bands, whose style and energy matched Big D's, were not met with the expected zeal.  Most in the audience bobbed their heads and bent their knees to the upbeats, but many were seen standing idly by.

The show may have packed a punch, but had far too many 'still-standers' and 'wall-leaners'.  Those of us that just wanted to skank the night away had a blast.

Dave McWane

Big D will continue touring until the end of July with Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Malkin Jewel - The Mars Volta

by Keelan Freitag

As a long-time fanatic, I usually describe The Mars Volta to friends as a modern day Led Zeppelin, with hints of Yes and Zappa, but produced in a more cinematic form.  Thirty minute long interludes of Cuban cricket chirps separate two (and I hate this word, but this calls for it) epic journeys of mixed time signatures, dissonant solos and intense builds in their album Francis the Mute, released in 2005.

The bands newest record, Noctourniquet, hit shelves last week and has had mixed reviews.  In the 70s prog rock style, The Mars Volta has changed with each album and fans seem to be unsure if they like this new direction.

The first single released before the album dropped was Malkin Jewel.

Seen pictured above, guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez and singer Cedric Bixlar-Zavala (or whatever...weird names right?) have been life-long friends, having grown up in El Paso together.  They gained critical acclaim after the formation of their post-hardcore experimental band, At The Drive-In.  After ATDI dissolved, some members formed Sparta, while Cedric and Omar started The Mars Volta.

Prior to ATDI, Cedric and Omar recorded psychedelic dub tracks under the band name De Facto.  The Volta's newest track sounds to me like a mixture of ATDI and De Facto.

Youtuber, JaminMr, had this to say about the song:

"TMV, regrettably, has drastically evolved since de-loused and Frances [The Mute].  I see them gravitating more towards new age punk and hardcore genres.  The first half of the song was weak, following a simple, ska-like chord progression, the singing has so much less range than their earlier material, a lack of distinct basslines...I hope this song does not reflect the quality of the album."

Cedrics lyrics have always been cryptic and there is the cinematic feel to the piece, where the first 'A' section (the simple 'ska-like' progression) builds into a raucous climax in the 'B' section.  There is not the same complexity, however, that has been the staple of their previous albums.  The energy and hallucinogenic feel to their music has evolved into something more: you can almost imagine the broadway play set this piece.

Many critics, however, say this is the best TMV album to date.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Black Liberation Movement Suite - Performed by the Brooklyn College Big Band

written by Keelan Freitag
originally published by The Daily Campus

Last night's performance of "The Black Liberation Movement Suite" by the Brooklyn College Big Band left the local concert hall's audience members cheering on their feet.

"That was awesome," said Arijit Chakraborty, an 8th semester music major, directly after the show. "I am shaking in my seat even though I am standing up.  That was the best jazz show I have ever seen a college jazz ensemble perform at this school."

The piece, The Black Liberation Movement Suite, was commissioned by the Black Panthers in 1969 and composed by trumpeter Cal Massey.  It had never been recorded, until last night.

"By no mean is it commercial release quality," said Chris Sampson, director of jazz at WHUS, who brought the performance to UConn. "Musically, artistically, what these guys brought to the table is just ridiculous."

The '60s style, nine-movement jazz piece was performed by the Brooklyn College Big Band, along with community friends and musicians.  A total of 23 musicians graced the stage, some obvious professionals, some students.

"I would say about half the musicians are students [at Brooklyn College]," said band director Salim Washington.  His band described Washington, who has been director of the Big Band for over a decade, as "deep" and "very knowledgeable," but "loose" and "conversationally interesting with a unique style of humor."

The concert consisted of two introductory pieces: "Oxum" and "Meditations on Egypt," (both composed by Washington), the Black Liberation Movement Suite, and a surprise encore composed by the Sun-Ra Orchestra.

"I think he wrote that last night or on the bus ride up here," said vocalist Kosi Gyebi about "Meditations on Egypt." "We learned in on stage before the show."

When asked about The Black Liberation Movement Suite, clarinetist Quincy Saul said, "The reason this piece has never been recorded is because Cal Massey was very outspoken with his political views, so there is a very small minority of people in the world who have heard this stuff, and that has everything to do with politics.  Especially, as Salim opened with his song about Egypt, these are very important times to be reconsidering these ideas," referring to the Arab Spring.

Washington took about 15 minutes after the first two opening pieces to "let the players take a break" and to inform the audience of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1950s and 60s, which he said was more influential but less popular than the Civil Rights Movement.

And then he began the piece.

The 23 players soloed, bopped and even danced down the aisles of the concert hall.  Gyebi used a vocal technique that she called "screaming."

"This has surpassed all of my expectations," said Jenny Moffett, a 7th-semester music major and cultural affairs director at WHUS. "I'm so proud to be a part of it; it's so historical.  We brought this to UConn and got it recorded for the first time, in full."

"I feel that tonight there was a spirit of creativity involved," Washington said. "My band delivers good music the way its supposed to be.  There are people that approach the music as an artifact.  But the music in the way that this band approaches it makes it a living thing.  It makes me very proud."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Caspa - Live at Webster Hall (NYC)

by Keelan Freitag

            "In the UK we have something called a moshpit," boasted old-school dubstepper Caspa at his Christmas Eve show in the Webster Hall of Chelsea, New York.  "Do you have that here? Do you know what a moshpit is?"
            And then it began.
            WOB WOB WOB WOB WOB as the bodies in the pit tossed each other like ragdolls.  At one point, even several female-festival-fairies (if you don't know the type, think rave girls) were seen throwing their weight around.
            But I'm getting way ahead of myself. To start this journey we must go back to the beginning of the show: sitting in a club listening to 'I'm Sexy And I Know It' by LMFAO about twenty times in the course of 3 hours.  Absolute torture.  Then came the rollers; the ecstasy mules of the night; with wide pupils that stare like the world is a television set and vision only goes in one direction.  Several times I had to tell an overzealous stranger to stop touching me and scram.  By 1:00 a.m. it was time to either hear some dubstep or get the hell out of limbo.
            Luckily, Caspa went on a half hour later.  Take it from me, walking up the marble stairs to the third floor of the Webster Hall felt like ascending out of the hell of a frat-house dance party and into the arms of a devilish angel.
            Caspa started his set with darker dub, keeping the tempo down and sticking purely to low wobbles and high female vocal style.  Girls with pacifiers and bead bracelets threw their bodies against the slow beat as guys dripping with sweat were caught headbanging. Caspa's cover of La Roux's "The Kill" was my personal highlight of the night.

Check out this vid, taken at the show!

            Halfway through the show, however, Caspa's british accent was heard over the PA system. "Lets turn up the tempo a bit. Lets get this party moving." Thus began the second half of his set, which started off with a couple Drum and Bass tracks.  Again the bodies swam and flailed around each other, caught in flashes of pure white light.  The quicker dance tempo injected a new energy, giving most in the cramped venue a second wind.
            All in all Caspa showed his true talent: injecting a crowd of animals with pure power and excitement, forcing us to rage until the early hours and trudge home sweaty and exhausted.