Halloween Blog

WOW! You actually came to visit! Thank you. Here you will find material that wasn’t quite good enough for the book (mostly lists). More to come.

29 November 2016, Tuesday

Exercise: Can Listing “What You Like” Help You Understand “Why You Like It?” (Does It Matter?)

Musicians I like, who almost no one could objectively deny are great players (technical), artists, and composers:

  • Leo Kottke
  • Larry Coryell
  • John McLaughlin (1969-1976)
  • Paul Simon
  • Doc Watson
  • Metallica
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Leonard Bernstein
  • Univers Zero
  • Habib Koite
  • The Bad Plus
  • James Brown
  • Thelonious Monk
  • The David Grisman Quintet (the first album in particular)
  • Tony Rice
  • Leo Brouwer
  • Gong
  • King Crimson (Robert Fripp)
  • Yes
  • Miles Davis
  • Frank Zappa (1972-1974)

Musicians I like, who are great technically but are arguably not great composers.

  • Nels Cline
  • Django Reinhardt
  • Jaco Pastorius

Musicians and composers who are great in all fields, yet I still don’t want to listen to them for extended periods of time (i.e. for more than three or four pieces in a row). 

  • Django Reinhardt
  • Raymond Scott
  • Charles Mingus
  • Glenn Gould
  • Ravi Shankar
  • J.S. Bach (yes I said it)
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven
  • Most classical composers

Musicians I like, who most people don’t like and I completely understand why (too jarring, too edgy, too weird, too difficult, and some are willfully antagonistic).

  • The Minutemen
  • Minor Threat

Hmmm…this could be a long list of punk bands, so be it…

  • Dead Kennedys

Hmmm…I think this list might be the most important one to me. These musicians are distinguished in a multitude of creative and refreshing ways, even if many are the least technically skilled, and suffer the smallest audience reach.

  • The Hampton Grease Band
  • Marc Ribot
  • Circle Jerks (Group Sex)
  • Magma
  • Devo
  • Ani DiFranco
  • Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band
  • Descendents
  • Eugene Chadbourne
  • John Fahey
  • Ice-T
  • Battalion of Saints (Second Coming)
  • Nomeansno (Actually I can’t understand how anyone couldn’t like Nomeansno. I think they are the most underrated band in history. They should have been as famous and lauded as Nirvana in the 1990s.)

Musicians who aren’t necessarily great technicians (not counting vocal ability) but nevertheless make some of the most visceral and vibrant music. (This could be a long list of rock bands.)

  • The Beatles
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Police
  • Third Eye Blind
  • Bob Marley
  • Modest Mouse
  • The Smiths
  • Pink Floyd
  • R.E.M.
  • AC/DC (Maybe AC/DC should be on another list, though one would be hard pressed to explain why they are not great; one could say, “I don’t like them,” but could not deny their impact as integral torchbearers of rock, and excellent – genre-specific – songwriters and “riff” composers.)

7 June 2016, Tuesday: Shawn Buys a KISS Record

Prelude

At the age of five, these were the first songs I heard that made me think, “That’s great!” (In the order that I heard them.)

  1. “Devil Woman” Cliff Richard (Released 23 April 1976)
  2. “When Will I Be Loved” Linda Ronstadt cover of the Everly Brothers (Released March 25 1975)
  3. “Rhinestone Cowboy” Glen Campbell (Released 26 May 1975)

5 August 2016, Sunday: Music vs. Spectacle

What “big” concerts have I seen?

  • Sammy Hagar and Krokus, The Capital Centre, Landover, MD, Nov. 1, 1984
  • The Firm, The Capital Centre, Landover, MD, May 1, 1985
  • Power Station, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, July 5, 1985 (free ticket)
  • Sting, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, Sept. 21, 1985
  • A Gathering of the Tribes featuring X, Fishbone, Primus, Steve Earle, EPMD, King’s X, Salt-N-Pepa, John Wesley Harding (the best performance), Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, July 7, 1991 (free ticket)
  • Steely Dan, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, Aug. 28, 1993 (free ticket)
  • The Police, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2007 (This show was fine but it left me wanting.)

Not many. And all of the above, excepting the first two, are somewhat unmemorable in any moving or life-affirming sense. I have more criticisms than endorsements of such events.

Most of the concerts I have attended (and my favorites) have been in smaller venues (ranging from 6-person house concerts to 1200 seat venues – from punk basements to performing arts venues such as The Birchmere in VA). Many of these shows had ridiculously meager audience attendance ­– including a GWAR, Prong, and Mentors Sunday matinee gig at The Hung Jury Pub in Washington D.C. in 1989, with an audience of 12, including myself.

Other Concerts I Have Attended (I’ve never kept track – these are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. In no particular order.)

  • Wasted Youth, Hung Jury Pub (1986) (my first punk concert)
  • Suicidal Tendencies, 9:30 Club (the original one at 930 F Street NW) (1987 or ’88)
  • Th’ Inbred, The Dry House (1988) (Their final show)
  • GWAR, Prong, and The Mentors, Hung Jury (April 17, 1989)
  • Fear, 9:30 Club (Original club)
  • Leo Kottke (Many times and always amazing)
  • Michael Hedges, Musicians Institute (1991) (Amazing)
  • The Music Of Frank Zappa:  Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, with The Music Today Ensemble  and Orchestra Of Our Time featuring:  Joel Thome (cond.), Mike Keneally, Scott Thunes, Mats Öberg, Morgan Ågren (Feb. 2, 1993)
  • John McLaughlin with Dennis Chambers and Joey Defrancesco (Mid-1990s)
  • California (Bluegrass quintet)
  • Mike Keneally (I’ve seen him three or four times, acoustic and electric, he is always excellent)
  • Steve Vai, The Bayou (Dec. 22, 1996) (Mike Keneally opened, and then played keyboards and harmony guitar for Vai.)
  • David Byrne and the Balanescu Quartet, The Knitting Factory (1998)
  • John Renbourn (2000, the Kennedy Center)
  • Vernon Reid, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Melvin Gibbs (2002)
  • Rock City Angels (Post-Johnny Depp) (1991)
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers, Black Cat (free ticket)
  • Stereolab, 9:30 Club (free ticket)
  • Komeda, Black Cat (1998)
  • NoMeansNo, Black Cat (1995)
  • Anthony Braxton (mid-2000s)
  • Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, The Birchmere
  • The Daycare Swindlers (many times, always great)
  • Princessed
  • Fugazi (several times)
  • Shoutbus (many times, always great)
  • The Tony Rice Unit
  • Gong (three times, shared the bill once)
  • The Band from Utopia
  • Project Object
  • Sunday afternoon punk shows that I organized at Drum & Strum in Warrenton, VA (1997-’98)
  • The Smothers Brothers (early 2000s, fantastic)
  • Frodus (1998)
  • Bizet’s Carmen, Prague National Theatre (1999)
  • Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at Yale
  • Henry Threadgill (two times)
  • Elliot Sharp and Janet Feder
  • The Symphonic Dances of West Side Story at Yale
  • Tim Sparks
  • The Muffins, Prog Day (2001) (I was also on the bill, solo)
  • Johnny Winter
  • Henry Kaiser, Elliott Sharp, and Glenn Phillips
  • Preston Reed
  • Kaki King (twice, shared the bill once)
  • Benjamin Verdery
  • Larry Keel Experience
  • The Claudia Quartet, Firehouse 12
  • Jonny Rodgers, Firehouse 12
  • Gary Lucas, Firehouse 12
  • Sonic Youth, Toad’s Place (excellent)
  • John Jackson (mid-1990s)
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan, Toad’s Place (excellent)
  • Third Eye Blind at the Yale Spring Fling (2004)
  • Lou Harrison (the music of) at Wesleyan University
  • Supervecta (1998): I saw this amazing prog/punk guitar/vocal and drum duo in Austin, TX and never heard of them again. Over the course of their performance they just got better and better until I thought, “It can not get any better than this.” And then they finished with a cover of Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” and I fell in love!
  • Operation: Cliff Clavin (1998)
  • Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Prague Estates Theatre (2007)
  • The Misfits (the one with Dez from Black Flag and Marky Ramone) (2005 I think), Toad’s Place
  • Larry Coryell (three times, all excellent: solo at Musicians Institute 1991, Gerosa Records [performing with his two sons; six people in the audience], and The Southport Pequot with Paul Wertico and Mark Egan 2007)
  • Les Paul, The Iridium (2007 or ’08) (one of the best shows I’ve ever attended)
  • Victor Wooten and J.D. Blair at Sam Ash Music (March 26, 2009)
  • Magma (amazing show), Highline Ballroom (Sept. 20, 2010)
  • Už Jsme Doma (Sept. 23, 2010) (easily one of the greatest shows I have ever attended – and I got to open for them – there were only about 18 people in attendance)
  • Kronos Quartet, New Haven Green (2013)
  • Rik Emmett, Daryl’s House (May 16, 2015)
  • Z3, House of Blues (2016) (NAMM)
  • The Ventures (only one original member) (NAMM)
  • Bizarre Bar-B-Q: Opposite Day, Body Parts, Bee vs. Moth, and Invincible Czars (2012) (An amazing show during SWSX [but not official] where Prester John was also on the bill – a career highlight gig.)
  • SWSX Innova Showcase: Sxip Shirey, Golden Hornet Project, Todd Reynolds (2012) (Another incredible line up at SWSX [this one official] where Prester John was also on the bill, also a career highlight gig.)
  • Laurie Anderson (The Nerve Bible tour 1995)

Notable shows when I also played on the bill:

  • Gong
  • The Dismemberment Plan (three times)
  • Henry Kaiser (Jerry Garcia tribute night at Ashkenaz) 2013
  • Tim Reynolds (solo and with TR3)
  • Kaki King
  • Schleigho
  • Present (twice)
  • Janet Feder
  • Eugene Chadbourne
  • Tony MacAlpine
  • Del Rey
  • George Baker
  • Richard Leo Johnson
  • Rattlemouth
  • Forever Einstein
  • Chris Cutler (2004, Cutler played a solo set and Jack Vees and I joined him for the second set)