Posts tagged ‘Led Zeppelin’

4/30/09: Ghost & Six Organs of Admittance @ Doug Fir, Portland (98/100)

May 1st, 2009

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I’m in Portland. How bizarre. I certainly wasn’t planning on this last minute twist in the run up to day 100, but here I am. Yet, almost not. Check this shit out.

After a full day of traveling from NYC to Denver, then Denver to PDX, the pilot of the tiny express airplane I was on tried to land it, only to pull the nose up at the last minute and floor it – taking off again. I guess another plane hadn’t cleared the runway in time and…Jesus fucking Christ! This is how this is all going to end? Really? “Just get this fucking bird on the ground! I’ve got a project to complete!” is all I’m thinking.

He finally does, and my co-worker Matt and I grab a cab to the hotel, check in, and head out to meet up with our other co-worker Jerome. We meet him and some people who work out of the Portland office, and grab some drinks. Then, hit dinner at an amazing little French restaurant named Le Pigeon, right across the street from the venue. How amazing? Well, how’s pork belly and fois gras as a starter, and halibut with gnocchi and spring vegetables as a main sound? Delicious.

So, all day traveling, delicious dinner and now it’s time for music, just after 9:30pm. I’m hitting a bit of a wall at this point, having been up at 7am NY time, and it’s now about 12:30am NY time – but I have to power through. Before heading west for this impromptu meeting, my boss sent around an email to everyone in the Portland and NY offices. He said how my 100 Bands journey was nearing the end, and if anyone out here wanted to join me for a show to come along. So a writer named named Jimmy met up with Matt, Jerome and me for the show tonight at Doug Fir.

Below the venue is a restaurant and attached is a hotel, I think. The restaurant looks nice. The hotel looks like a motel. And the venue is fashioned to look like a fake log cabin – sort of. Which is totally cool, and made for great sound. When we walked downstairs to the venue, Six Organs of Admittance was already on. Six Organs is essentially one guy, Ben Chasny, with his acoustic guitar, at least that’s how it was tonight.

The records have more instrumentation, but tonight was super chill. Some songs are simple, interesting instrumentals in alternate tunings, while others have whispery vocals and later on in the show, musical accompaniment. It was mostly the first one though

The Japanese experimental/avant garde/psych-rock band Ghost was up after Six Organs, and they brought considerably more equipment. I didn’t know what was about to happen, considering there was everything from drums, keys, guitars and pedals galore to a flute, clarinet, saxophone, electro cello, and who knows what else – tons of weird gadgets and instruments I’d never seen in my life.

What happened was a sonic boom of noise/music with some Zep, Floyd, Mac, more noise, free jazz, free noise and whatever the fuck else mixed in. It was a hell of a trip that started out with a wall of noise, where they kept adding brick after brick after brick. Until it was just one huge, controlled mess.

Thing settled down after that and the majority of the set was 70s-sounding psych-rock. The guy on the left hand side of the stage was doing some of the more interesting things on stage. Maybe that’s because I’m a gadget freak, but he had the coolest toys. A sax, flute, clarinet, tons of effects pedals, a tambourine, and this weird oscillating remote control, with a huge antenna on it. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but it seemed like he could manually manipulate different instruments on stage with it. Pretty much making him the coolest guy in the band.

The set started to drag a bit for me, probably because my body was three hours ahead. Jerome and Matt had split about halfway through the show, totally exhausted. I was too, but had to stay. Jimmy was fine, but he lives here. Ghost finally wrapped up the set close to midnight. I called a cab immediately aftewards, not waiting for the encore, then thanked Jimmy for coming out and hanging, hopped in the cab minutes later (man, Radio Cab is fast) and was back at the hotel, in bed before 4am NY time.

4/26/09: Lenny Pickett & The NYU Block Party Band @ Bowery Poetry Club (94/100)

April 26th, 2009

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Another amazing day, in the high 80s, but I couldn’t just lay around the Park for six hours again today. Too much to do. I had to do an interview for East Village Radio for the project, and record my radio show, but first, I met up with this guy Mick, a writer for the soccer weekly First Touch. Oddly enough, they have a music section in a soccer publication. My friend Paul made the introduction, and Mick wanted to meet to write a piece about the 100 Bands project. And since I’ve played soccer since I could walk, I was totally down for it.

On my way home, I thought I’d pop by the Bowery Poetry Club, a cool little venue I’d been meaning to check out. I saw on the chalkboard outside that Lenny Pickett was playing with a group of students calling themselves The NYU Block Party Band. I had no clue who Lenny was, but it sounded like jazz from inside, so why the hell not.

I walked in, paid 7 bucks, and then took a seat in the music room, with the three other people watching Lenny and a 9-piece orchestra comprised of NYU music students. His students. Not only is Lenny a saxophone virtuoso, the leader and Musical Director of the Saturday Night Live band, but he’s also a music professor at NYU. And today was a performance with NYU music students.

Not exactly what I’d had in mind for today’s band, but one I’m glad I saw because man…Lenny can really play the sax. I arrived in the middle of a number, and after they finished that one up, Lenny was pretty funny when he said, “So that’s what I’ve been teaching your son, Mr. and Mrs. Cogliano.” Their son was the guitar play. How adorable is that? Probably not very if you’re their son, I would imagine.

The most interesting thing about this show wasn’t how the guy at the door, who took my 7 bucks and then asked me how may day was going so far – in a really genuine and sincere way. Although that was surprising, especially for New York. The most interesting part was how here is Lenny Pickett, a guy who heads up the SNL band, was a member of the jazz/soul band Tower of Power, basically holding a rehearsal with his students. And they’re mostly keeping up.

Obviously he’s miles ahead of them in talent and experience. But he was there, in a t-shir and jeans, playing to a room of four people, on a beautiful Sunday and seemed to be having a blast. Another cool thing was the song selection. He played classic jazz songs like “Honky Tonk,” which Lenny said all sax players are required to know, as sort of the price of entry if you want to be in a band. And he even rearranged the Led Zeppelin song “Black Dog” for a 10-piece jazz band. Which was totally interesting. And, apparently quite difficult, according to him.

I didn’t know any of the other songs, but it didn’t matter. I knew that these students were doing a great job keeping up with Lenny, that he seemed to be having a good time, while mentoring his band and making one student’s parents very proud. And I knew that the vibe at the Bowery Poetry Club made me want to check out again. Just maybe not within the next six days.

Day 94: done.

Less than a week to go.

4/5/09: Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band @ Bowery Ballroom (73/100)

April 5th, 2009

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Back to life. Back to reality. Back to the Bowery Ballroom.

After a week in Europe, visiting Sunshine, seeing a wide variety of bands in venues totally new to me in great cities like London and Paris, it’s back to the grind in NYC. And I’m sorta bummed about it. Even if this week is looking like it could be a really good one. It’s not because I’ve seen 73 straight days of live music. I think I got the post-vacation blues. Luckily I was able to chill out most of the day and recover from jet lag. And even luckier for me, the Bowery is only a 3-block walk from my apartment. Not the hour long jaunts of London and Paris.

Tonight was Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band from Seattle. I learned of them from old high school I recently reconnected with, then noticed they were playing a show at Bowery with Bishop Allen. How’s that for instant gratification? Plus, Bishop Allen’s not bad, either. I have one of their records, there are some good songs. But I was more interested in MSHVB.

I rolled my ass off the couch around 9pm, threw on some clothes and stumbled over to the Bowery. Walking into the club, I felt at home – like I was stepping into my basement for some Sunday night tunes. Of course, I wasn’t in my basement because I live in a 350 square foot apartment in Manhattan. The only thing in my basement is the boiler, and probably a shit load of rats.

The first band Team B just finished when I walked in. All I saw was them breaking their gear down. No biggie. I was looking for a quick night tonight since jet lag was beginning to kick in.

Twenty minutes later, MSHVB (which is not a very easy acronym to type) was on stage. Just looking at them, it seemed like they were going to be fun. They wore matching outfits, one of the guitar players had fashioned a headband out of what looked like spare material, and the female keyboardist/percussionist was holding big, stick thingys. They smiled a lot, bantered with the crowd, and seemed really nice. But when it came to the songs, they were all business.

Big thick, Gibson riffs. A little bit prog rock, a little bit garage and roll. Think Yes mixed with the De Stijl-era White Stripes (when they were interesting), Black Mountain and somehow, somewhere, a little bit of Led Zeppelin. Plus other references I can’t think of. See for yourself below.

This video is from the show:


This one is from SXSW (not mine, but I wish it was):


Well…it happened again tonight. I was on my couch. Not in the mood to get dressed and head out to see a band. But once I got there, and they MSHVB was on stage doing their thing, I was happy. I ignored my jet lag for an hour, took it in – and it was fucking great.

Sorry, I’ve been trying to control my cursing more lately (wait, I did say shit earlier, too – damnit). But MSHVB were that good. I even bought the CD afterwards. And I wasn’t the only one. The line at the merch table after their set was how every band wants to see it – packed.

I put my new CD in my pocket, walked upstairs, stopped for a moment and looked at the stage – trying to figure out if I could manage another hour and a half of music tonight. Bishop Allen, or not? Hmm. I thought, “Maybe.” But my jet lag said, “Hells no.” So I listened to the jet lag and went home.