amazing icon

Thursday, August 16, 2012

SK8R BOI

Billa Camp

Like Lupe Fiasco, Billa Camp hails from Chi-Town, loves skateboard culture and is an exemplar of alternative hip hop. And here’s another similarity”both appeared in the video for Fiasco’s song Kick, Push.” Still, Camp’s got his own thing going on, like an encyclopedic knowledge of rock, for starters. On Grateful Dread, the rapper name checks dozens of artists, starting with Sublime, Radiohead and Nirvana before moving onto Talking Heads, MC5 and Flaming Lips. Even Phish gets a shout-out on the hypnotic track, which combines lashes of cymbals and droning textures that sound like a deviant version of Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker. Stylistically, Camp’s music runs the gamut”from surf guitars on California to a crackling samples of the 1950s hit Why Don’t You Believe Me on Show Time to the banging Beat Street with its hefty dose of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa. You don’t know where you’re going when you put on a Billa Camp track, but you can be sure you’re gonna have a good time.

 

LCD Soundsystem And The Bands We Hope Never Stop Touring

LCD Soundsystem announced their last show of their final tour a few weeks ago, as though you hadn’t already heard. On April 2nd, the band will grace the stage at Madison Square Garden for their sold out farewell show, capping off a valediction of both shocking and well deserved amounts of hype. They will play their swan song, they will leave the stage and that will be the end of one of the great dance-punk bands of our generation. We’re still bummed that we couldn’t get tickets to that show, or to any of  the ever increasing number of gigs leading up to the MSG date (Side note: kudos to James Murphy for blasting the scalpers! Seriously, that guy is a class act).

But that’s beside the point. It got us thinking, LCD Soundsystem made a big deal out of this being their farewell tour but they hadn’t really earned their bonafides a live band du jour, as a touring entity, up until that point. Unlike LCD, there are some bands that have always made a big deal out of their live show, that seem to exist only to tour. Not that that’s a bad thing. Let’s take a look at some of the artists we hope never stop touring:

Bob Dylan

A rolling stone gathers no moss, and even though Dylan is old enough to have moss grow on him, there’s no stopping this man’s touring regimen. His tour schedule since June of 1988 has been dubbed the “Never Ending Tour“; this globe-trotting tour has Dylan performing around 100 days out of the year, and he’s kept up this pace in spite of the fact that he’s almost a septuagenarian. You’d think the man might want a break or a nap or something after so many years. Still, he’s already got April dates lined up in Australia. We should count ourselves lucky that we’ve heard so much from him, and we’ll probably be hearing more from Bob in years to come.

Reel Big Fish

These ska-punk workhorses have been at it longer than most of their ilk from the mid ’90s. You could’ve gone to see them at some festival in middle school, you caught them in the club when they headlined in high school and you went to their show again in college when you were feeling a wee bit nostalgic. They just wrapped up a tour with fellow goof-punk road warriors The Aquabats in January. So what do they have on their plate for the upcoming year? A European tour, you say? Suprise suprise.

Phish

This spot could have easily gone to Dave Matthews Band if they weren’t planning on taking 2011 off, kinda. And sure, some may cry foul as there was a long stretch when Phish didn’t tour, but we won’t count periods of band hiatuses/ breakups.

Phish’s reputation as a band is based off of their live show. Not only in how technically good it is or how “communal” (read: chemically altered) the atmosphere at one of their gigs is but also in how Phish fosters the live experience with their fans. For those who don’t follow the band, Phish’s fandom is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s and a lot of other prominent jam bands of yore. And a big aspect of that culture is bootlegging. I won’t go into the number of Phish phan phorums (I’m sorry) on the Internet; suffice it to say, they’re numerous. The online dedication to Phish is also unique in the number of ways fans can get their hands on live material from the band. You can find high quality audio recordings from nearly every live set the band has done on their Web site and the fan bootlegs and set lists for Phish shows spanning their entire career can be found all over the web.

Frank Turner

The man has been in the solo game for about 5 years now and has taken to touring with a workmanlike approach. There’s no need to count his time in hardcore band Million Dead in his total number of shows played because his solo schedule is so impressive that it speaks for itself. Since Turner started flying solo, he’s played over 1000 shows at a rate of a little over 200 shows a year. And he’s still had time to record three LPs, a handful of EPs and demos on top of all that. I wonder if he’ll go out on the road behind his next album?

What artist would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

The White Stripes: A Retrospective

Alas, The White Stripes, the band that led the garage rock revival in the late ’90s and early aughts, has called it quits. Let’s take a look at what made the band so great and why we probably shouldn’t be so sad that they’re gone.

The White Stripes had some of the best music videos EVER

The moment that most of us were first introduced to The White Stripes was in that awesome video for “Fell In Love With A Girl”. Without even mentioning the song (which is great) there are so many reasons that makes this video so iconic. First of all, LEGOS! Also, the video was likely your introduction to the work of Michel Gondry. “The Hardest Button to Button” is another iconic video from The White Stripes. So iconic, in fact, that it gets the spoof treatment on The Simpsons, with a cameo from the Stripes themselves!

The White Stripes reminded us of candy

Red white. Who knew that those two colors would end up being so revolutionary? The White Stripes are an instantly recognizable brand; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the band perform in or pictures without either of the Whites not wearing something red. And that drum set too. The sugar cane candy coated looking swirl on the front of the kick is so totally The White Stripes. Funny that a band so crunchy adopted a look that so many associate with sweetness. Not that The White Stripes don’t have their softer moments”remember “We’re Going To Be Friends”?

The White Stripes had the most mysterious relationship dynamic in rock

I mean, weren’t they brother and sister or  married or  illegal immigrants or something? We could never figure out exactly what Meg and Jack were to each other. The speculation as to the nature of their relationship (Married? Related? Both?!) added a good dose of mystique to the group. For the record, Jack and Meg were married for part of the ’90s but got divorced in 2000. Seems like they’ve had a more healthy post-breakup relationship than most.

But hey, you shouldn’t let their breakup get you too down. I can think of at least two good reasons why we shouldn’t be sad that The White Stripes are gone.

First: Jack White is still the busiest man in showbiz

Poor Jack White. Having endured the last White Stripes record being the greatest flop of his career, the frontman retreats to his palatial estate and/or gutter only to occasionally reenter the public eye as a shadow of his former glory, a shell of a broken man. Oh wait, that never happened. Jack White is not some elusive, hermit-like cave person; the man is still fronting The Dead Weather for sure, probably still involved with The Raconteurs and on top of that he’s quite busy producing albums for country legends and running Third Man Records. Meg White”the more private of the duo”never was too fond of the limelight so she’s probably happier now that she won’t be hounded quite as frequently by the press.

Second: The White Stripes will almost certainly reunite

I mean, come on. Just in the past three years we’ve seen Blink 182, Pavement, Phish, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against the Machine all get back together for triumphant reunion tours and nostalgia trips. Plus, it doesn’t look like they broke up due to inter-band conflict (the only explanation that has come out of the Stripes camp is that they want to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way) so I suspect that this isn’t the last we’ve heard from The White Stripes.

Viewer Discretion Advised: Three Dimensions of Phish

There’s no arguing the current phenomenon sweeping our nation.  No, it’s not the KFC Double Down, or even Bieber Fever. It’s 3 dimensional viewing. Why watch anything in boring, old 2D like our parents when we can enjoy viewing everything from cooking shows to cartoons with an additional dimension.  Three is better than 2, right? Luckily, we’re not limited to fuzzy children’s monsters and larger-than-life bugs to feel out of this world anymore.  Musical acts of all varieties are  jumping on the bandwagon, and this year a slew of HD 3D concerts will be assaulting your senses. And we’re not talking Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers.

Now, there is one band that comes to mind when mulling the unlimited possibilities of 3D concert experience. Known for musical improvisations that  ensure no two shows are alike and a fan culture that arguably surpasses any other following of its kind, jam band Phish are the perfect candidates. And wouldn’t you know, PHISH 3D premieres tomorrow (Friday, April 30th) in theaters across the country ” 3D glasses included.

The concert film features footage shot by AEG Live and Action 3D over the three days of the band’s Festival 8, which took place last Halloween weekend in Indio, California. We were lucky enough to catch an early screening of the movie on 4/20 (when else?) and we can promise you, this isn’t your little sister’s animated Pixar film.

The movie opens on the last night of the festival, November 1st, while the band is playing “AC/DC Bag.” The first thing you notice is the giant balloons bouncing throughout the crowd, nothing out of the ordinary for a Phish audience. However about a minute in you find yourself dodging one, and the stage is set for you to feel as if you are right in the middle of the awesome assemblage.

Continue Reading Three Dimensions of Phish

Q&A … AND GENERAL CONVERSATION… WITH ?UESTLOVE

m_3e91b829777d555f1e7cf9e1cdac60b8

Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, drummer extraordinaire and co-founder of the hardest working hip hop band, The Roots, talks with OurStage during a break from taping the Jimmy Fallon Show. Beside touring all over the world, The Roots also manage to be the house band for Fallon which has given ?uestlove recent insight into what it takes these days to make it in the music business.

OS: What advice would you give to a hip hop band that’s just starting out? Would you tell them to simply go out on the road and do as many shows live as possible, or would you tell them to hone their chops in the studio and build a fan base making mixes/demos/singles etc.?

?L: The answer will actually handle both of those together: I would insist that they rehearse for three to four hours a day. Real rehearsal. That is the key. This job with Fallon has forced us to do something that we’ve never ever done in our 17 years. We’ve never rehearsed. I know that’s weird to hear. We’ll do soundchecks, but that’s hardly rehearsal. It used to be where I considered Boise, Idaho, or St. Paul, Minnesota, as rehearsals, real shows would be L.A., New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Paris, major cities. What I’m finding out now is that with the show, that we have to rehearse hard for four hours, every day, we’re becoming better musicians, and we’re becoming way better songwriters. I feel like I’ve cheated us and cheated our fan base. All I can say is, damn, if we’d only rehearsed four hours every day since we started, we could have literally Lennon/McCartneyed the shit out of this industry. All our songs are based off a riff and a jam. If we really just applied that whole Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of rehearsal thing, we’d be kings.

OS: It’s refreshing to hear you say that, because I feel artists just starting out feel that if they just play live all the time that their sound will grow organically.

?L: Having this job is making me feel like we’ve only been operating at 40% of our powers, when we could have really been kicking ass at 95%. Its gonna make you a stronger songwriter, socially it’s gonna make you stronger” well you still have to deal with the closeness of being in a band and seeing these people all the time, i.e. the social aspect”but from a creative standpoint, as a band, you will be better, and you know I’m not saying you’ll be the best in the world. I know Deerhoof puts rehearsal before performance, by no means of their imagination are they virtuosos on some David Murray/ John Coltrane thing, but you can tell that those guys practice and play together.

OS: It’s funny cause you mentioned Deerhoof, because I was actually spoke to them once about how hard they rehearse, it’s amazing how it all comes down to practice. Look at someone like Trey Anastasio from Phish. When that band was at its apex, it’s not because they noodled for 18 minutes on a song, it’s because those guys rehearsed, they said they would spend like 6 hours a day when their not on tour, just sitting in a room, they would play rehearsal games, they would turn off all the lights so you can’t look for visual queues, you have to listen. They would do this for hours. Trey felt that the whole dynamic fell apart because life got in the way. Kids, getting so big, interviews, tours, all the distractions that took them away from practice time as they got bigger it may sound like we’re just improvising all this stuff, and a lot of it is, but really a lot of that improvisation comes from hours and hours and hours together in a room knowing where each other are musically.

?L: That’s why we do the Highline jam sessions as well. Tuesday, we played from midnight to four in the morning at the Highline. First of all, the pressure of practicing in front of an audience, that brings out an 7th sense that I didn’t know I had; that of an oppressor. The hardest thing about this gig is doing it each night. I guess I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I will say to all people that thought by taking this job and we were gonna phone it in from home. NO WAY! It’s funny when you mention the whole lights off rehearsal game, because we can’t all see each other during the show the way they have us set up, so this really does mean that we have to listen to each other. Which is always for the best.

METAL MONDAY: WHY ARE TOOL FANS SO OBSESSED WITH TOOL?

osblog_metalmondays_01No matter what the genre, each music scene seems to have a band notorious for its overly obsessive fans. For the jam band crowd, Phish gets this accolade; for college rock, Dispatch might get the bid. In metal, there is no doubt that Tool gets the honor (or is it dishonor?) of having fans who have unhealthy obsessions with their music. Perhaps it is because of the mystery involved with the band member’s personas, or the intricacy and vagueness of Tool’s lyrics. Whatever it is, few people seem to be able to ween themselves off of it once they have had a taste. Numerous destinations on the web are devoted to Tool, one of which is a forum with close to 35,000 registered users”all there to talk about the band.

Tool 1As an act known for mocking its fans’ lemming’s lack of defiance, Tool managed to garner quite a following. Maynard James Keenan is a well-known advocate of forward and original thinking, and naturally denounces any sort of gossip or bandwagons that his fans latch onto. In an interview with Alternative Press back in March of 1997, Keenan is quoted as saying I get resentful and upset when people don’t use their heads about stuff. It upsets me when people are selling themselves short or letting themselves down, whether it’s education or information.

Keenan’s actions are somewhat paradoxical at times, because there are a lot of free-thinkers among the Tool Army. A shining example of this would be the idea of Tool’s Holy Gift in which an anonymous Tool fan discovered a way to rearrange the tracks from Tool’s most famous release, Lateralus, that corresponds with the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.). How is that for open-minded? Another great, but lesser-known, idea spawned from Tool obsession is overlaying three tracks from their most recent album, 10,000 Days (dubbed as 10,000 Days Synchronicity around the Internet), placing “Vigniti Tres” and “Wings for Marei (Pt. 1)” end to end on top of “Wings for Marie (Pt. 2)” to make an entirely new song. Regardless of whether or not these ideas and theories are correct, they are certainly forward-thinking (after scouring the Internet, any legitimate thoughts or comments by the band about these theories are not available).

Tool 2Being largely hidden from the public eye can only lead to speculation. The fact that Keenan (as well as the other members the band to a certain degree) does not have large public personas only adds to the intrigue of Tool as an entity, something that has stirred many a rumor about the band over the years. In the end, all of this seems to help the band’s popularity and notoriety. Complex music about complex themes that the fans can make mean whatever they like. While Keenan has dismissed most of the assumptions about their music and themes as false, from time to time some ideas are confirmed as true (which only feeds the fans to keep the speculation up).

So why do Tool fans adore the band so much? Appreciation from the band is not the only thing that can give you fans. It is the malleability of the song meanings, it is the dismissal bandwagon thinking, and the freedom that you get with making the music personal to you. It is their stunning live show. It is the power given to the listener by the band and the music Tool makes. It is the thought of I get it, you don’t. It is the feeling of belonging to something bigger than you, me, or the band itself. Tool fans understand, the members of Tool do too. It may sound cheesy, but there is no other way to describe it. The facts are the facts, but they do not make up the entire story.

Tool 3

Photos courtesy of Ryan Mastro