Live Musicians: Save me the political speech

Attention all live touring musicians, the fans don’t care about your politics.

Attention all touring acts this summer and fall, do me and many others a fucking favor. If you have a popular view on politics or the Presidential race, leave it in the fucking tour bus. Leave it on the IPad you are filling with notes for a book nobody will ever read because you didn’t include enough “Rock Star Fucking Party” diary moments. Save it for somewhere else because that person facing you in the lower bowl of the arena didn’t pay 120 dollars to be bored out of his or her fucking mind. Leave it alone.

We don’t care what you think. We don’t care who you think we should vote for or whether we should vote at all. You are a musician so act like one. The arena isn’t stuffed full because they wanted to hear a political debate. They have Anderson Cooper and a few hundred other faces who live and breathe the political world to tell them as they drift to sleep a few hours later. Your job is take all that pain away and PLAY! Play like never before. Treat that instrument in your hand like it’s Excalibur’s sword or something you can’t do without. Save us the political speeches that nobody wants to hear.

I respect Bruce Springsteen but when he stands there in the tightest fucking pants known to man on earth and preaches to us like a wannabe congressman, I feel like taking his guitar and smashing it over his head. He didn’t plan on using it for 15 minutes so I may as well break it in half over his tiny head. If you have something to say, stuff inside a song and play it. Half of your albums are political fireballs and that’s all good. Sing about it dude. Don’t preach it.  Continue reading “Live Musicians: Save me the political speech”

Dave Matthews Band: Proven live performers

For the 25th time, DMB is going on tour. And they stop in St. Louis.

 

It doesn’t matter if Dave Matthews has a new album cooking(he does but it’s not close to completion) or not, he just wants to play. It’s in his blood. I imagine Matthews sitting in his Seattle home and fidgeting through several cups of coffee after driving his girls to school and taking care of his other son, and getting dancing nancies running through his mind. Sooner or later, he picks up a notepad and scribbles down a playlist. It’s good, but not as good as it could be, so he starts over. Another pot of coffee is made and he is at it again. This time, the playlist is perfect and there is only one thing to do. Get the band together and play.

On May 11th, Matthews and his band will kick off their 25th anniversary tour in Wichita, Kansas and plow through a schedule that takes them from the Midwest to the East coast and back to the West Coast, finishing at The Gorge in late September. All summer long. That’s the only way DMB knows how to do it.

When you go see Dave Matthews Band live, it’s an experience. I’ve seen DMB perform live six times, and that includes two different baseball stadiums. Unlike some live bands who simply show up and fulfill a contractual agreement, DMB gets on stage and plays like they don’t want to leave. Originating from Charlottesville, Virginia, Matthews and company have been at this for over 20 years and don’t want to stop anytime soon. This summer, they will embark on tour and it will stop in St. Louis at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in May.

Your favorite bands aren’t exactly ones you listen to every day. They are the ones you trust that when needed, they can lift you up no matter what with their voice and ability to play. For me, it’s the Dave Matthews Band. Like any well known band, they have their lovers and their haters. The happy crowd easily outpaces the negative group, because if not the stadiums, arenas and outdoor pavilions wouldn’t be packed. Every time they go on tour, the crowds are enormous and when you are inside this crowd, it’s not like a bored table reading or orchestra snooze fest. This isn’t Yanni or Michael Bolton. When I saw DMB at Busch Stadium, people were dancing in the middle of the aisles in front of you. If you looked up to the loge, they were shaking up there as well. All over. This band gets you moving. For 25 years, that’s been their promise. A good time.

Great bands transcend studio album work into a live experience. The true test of any band is how they sound live. Anybody can sit up in a studio and a producer can find a good sound and make their music shiny and whole. Live, there is no safety net. The band is thrown into the abyss of public review and if they aren’t good, crickets will be heard. Trust me, I’ve heard a band get something worse than boos. Utter silence.

For DMB, it’s always been an experience live. In a new digital driven age of Justin Biebers and Miley Cyrus’, Matthews and his crew’s authenticity is welcome. It could be Boyd Tinsley on the violin, rocking with Matthews on “Two Step”. It could be Carter Beauford cranking the drums on “#41”. Local STL guitar wizard Tim Reynolds teasing the crowd that he may have 15 fingers when he spins the finale of “Lie in Our Graves”. Jeff Coffin, who replaced LeRoi Moore on the sax eight years ago, gets involved with bassist Stefan Lassard on a tune. Rashawn Ross adds his own element of surprise on the trumpet.

For Matthews, his motto is simple. When Rolling Stone asked him what the idea was this summer, if anything is different, Matthews was quick to answer. “We’re trying not to suck.”

That’s fine by me. Dave Matthews Band comes to St. Louis on May 29th. Go see them. Take a friend. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Pretty Little Empire’s William Godfred breaks out

Tonight at Off Broadway in St. Louis, Will Godfred teams up with Jessica Lea Mayfield for a show to launch his solo album. Will and I had a chat last week.

 

W Godfred

They say America is the land of opportunity and one must take control of every possible chance dealt their way. That saying carries the most weight in the world of music, where faces come and go as the years pass by. St. Louis native Will Godfred got together with fellow STL music disciple Justin Johnson and helped form the popular Pretty Little Empire and they made great music together. Recently, Godfred had a chance to hitch a ride on Jessica Mayfield, one of the music world’s biggest indie darlings, and her tour.

Strong arming that opportunity has given Godfred a chance to open for Mayfield on January 22nd at Off Broadway. He will be playing song from his brand new solo record. While Johnson may join him on stage for a few, it will be Godfred’s first big night in front of a home crowd playing music that has been rattling around his head for years. This past week, I grasped the opportunity to speak with Godfred about PLE, the time in between, and his new solo album.

KSDK-According to your Facebook page, December marked seven years since your first rehearsal with Pretty Little Empire. Do you ever take a moment, step back and think about how far you have come with your music? 

Godfred-I definitely do. I’m so grateful when I think about all the great opportunities we’ve had as a band. I definitely think we’ve come a long way when I think of all the great people and killer shows we’ve been a part of over the years.

KSDK-When did it all begin? You, music and the need to play…? 

Godfred-I started playing when I was 20 or 21. I played bass casually with a few friends that also played instruments. We ended up buying a digital recorder and I started recording everyone’s songs, including my own. A year or two later I met Justin and we decided to record an album in my apartment and that pretty much became how Pretty Little Empire started.

KSDK-While you, Justin Johnson, and Wade Durbin formed Pretty Little Empire, all of you have your side projects. Johnson recently collaborated with Jim Peters on Fog Lights and Wade has We Bite. This solo album for you. Do you find differences in playing inside a band formed years ago as opposed to putting together your own record? Or is it all just music?

Godfred-When it comes to recording music, I feel as though it’s one of my strong suits. I had a heavy hand in putting together the Pretty Little Empire records, so it wasn’t a foreign place for me. Plus, I made this record at Native Sound with David Beeman who put the last Pretty Little Empire album together. It was a very familiar, open environment to work in.

KSDK-How did you get the opportunity to share a show with Jessica Mayfield?

Godfred-I started working at Native Sound studios and David was tour managing for Jessica. I had the opportunity to go on tour with them and do some stage hand work and see what tour managing was all about. Tour managing has become a part of what Native Sound Studios can provide – David and Ben (our head engineers at the studio) both tour manage and run sound on long US and European tours. It is a great experience to be a part of.    

KSDK-Is there a better feeling playing in front of your hometown? 

Godfred-There’s nothing better than playing in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd!

KSDK-What would you say the theme of this album is? 

Godfred-I don’t know that the album has a single theme. Some of these songs are several years old. I would say the songs are a calibration of my own and my friends’ experiences in life.

KSDK-Pretty Little Empire’s music was recently played on a movie on Netflix. Being movie fanatics, it’s got to be a quiet kick hearing your music in a movie? 

Godfred-It’s a surreal feeing hearing your music on the big screen. We’ve definitely made a few fans from the movie. Me and Justin went to the premier of Last Time We Had Fun at the Oxford Film Festival. Seeing how well the movie played in front of a sold out crowd was a once in a lifetime experience. Me and Justin have also drove head first into film soundtracking and scoring, so it was a great stepping stone for us. 

KSDK-Where can fans buy your solo album if they don’t make it out on Friday, the 22nd? 

Godfred-That’s a good question. I plan to get it in all the local record shops. You can always message me at William Godfred on Facebook.

KSDK-Any plans for more shows around the area or a possible short tour? Where can fans find more Godfred at? 

Godfred-There are no plans for any upcoming shows or tours, but there’s always a chance something may come down the pipe line. I’m sure I will play more shows with this lineup.

KSDK-Can fans expect a few PLE covers when Justin joins you on stage? 

Godfred-Not this time but maybe in the future. 

KSDK-In closing, all these years later, what keeps you on the stage? Many people find something stimulating for a short period of time and give it up. You’ve stayed in the ring, found some success and had some fun. What keeps you in it? 

Godfred-It’s really great working with all the great friends I’ve made over the years. Playing with Justin Johnson and all the members of Pretty Little Empire and working David Beeman and Ben Majchrzakat Native Sound has been what keeps me going. Being around such great friends and so much talent, there’s always something exciting and new happening. I owe everything to these folks.  

KSDK-Finally, thoughts on the latest Star Wars film? 

Godfred-I enjoyed it a lot, but it is nothing compared to Empire Strikes Back! 

Some things are born with us. A gift, a need or a will to do something that if you do not partake in, life won’t seem as grand. For Godfred, it’s music. Making it, playing it and creating it for people to enjoy and consume. He doesn’t get to do it as much as he wants but he doesn’t waste opportunities.

When you hear him play live, a comfort and electricity enter your system. Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” When Godfred unleashes his arsenal of singer/songwriter ferocity on you on January 22nd, you won’t just feel good. You will feel fulfilled. Go to the show. Be there for something special.

David Bowie: An Artist for All Ages

The world lost a music icon on Sunday with the passing of David Bowie.

David Bowie is dead, gone from the world at 69 years young after an 18 month battle with cancer. What he leaves behind is a legacy that few can touch and a musical influence that will last for decades. Bowie wasn’t just a musician or artist. He was an island of memories, events and love swirls. I didn’t grow up on Bowie or listen to every single song he produced but I knew of him.

If you were a fan of music in general, you knew David Bowie. He lurked around everybody’s music interests, tempting them to take the fall for his distinct brand of music.

Bowie told millions of people to dance. He told you to be a hero. He made you wonder who Major Tom was. “Space Oddity” got inside your head, it wasn’t leaving for days, You’d spend the next week whispering it or humming to it. The best musicians, true artists, carve out a spot in someone’s cerebellum and buy up real estate there, slowly hooking them into your persuasive vices.

There was John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, and Kurt Cobain. Musicians who didn’t follow an influence. They created one themselves and demanded others to follow. Bowie did that and didn’t let it consume him. He enjoyed the game, match making and soul defying contest that the world of a rock star provided.

He seemed to warn us that one day he would gone.

“Nothing will keep us together. We can beat them. Forever and ever. Or we can be heroes for just one day.” 

The “Heroes” video says it all. A man wearing a leather one piece outfit unzipped with a tan tank top underneath, waving his body around and standing in a black box singing about being heroes and living in the now. Bowie didn’t look like everyone else. He had several colors of hair and his personality seemed to stretch farther with each decade. He looked bendable, like he would easily disappear at any moment. He was one of those people who could wear any outfit and get away with it.

For over 40 years, Bowie worked in several different genres, like a cure waving through nightclubs on a hot Saturday night. Glam rock, soul, hard rock, punk, and electronica. He blasted onto the scene with Ziggy Stardust in 1972. Bowie had fun with the media and toyed with his sexuality every time he released another he sported a new look. Instead of just being a singer, he became the characters and stories inside his albums.

On January 8th, he turned 69 and released his 25th album, Blackstar. One more hat tip to the world before he called it a night and departed this rock. When someone dies, people wonder what happens to their legacy or how they will sit in people’s minds. It’s like a house with no owner. With Bowie, people can rest easy knowing he lived a full life and did it his way, with style and grace.

Most people just try to keep living and move to the beat of the drum. For several musicians, Bowie was the drum. Just search “Heroes” and listen to the endless covers of a classic song.

“I can remember. Standing by the wall. The stars shot up over our heads. And we kissed so nothing could fall.”

“Heroes” was released on an album of the same name, in 1977. Five years before I was born. Once I heard it, there was no forgetting it. Nearly 40 years later, it’s potency hasn’t wavered. In another 40, it will still mean something to a new generation of kids. That’s the true work of an icon.

(In case you missed it on KSDK)

Dave Matthews: A true musician

Dave Matthews is my guy when it comes to music. He turned 49 today.

Dave Matthews represents the gatekeeper for my love affair with music. I didn’t grow up with the Stones, Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival. I grew up with the Dave Matthews Band, who formed in 1991 and have been selling out arenas and stadiums ever since. Today, Matthews turns a weary and wise 49 years old. He’ll be heading out on tour again this year in support of another album that he has poured a fair share of his soul into this past year.

That’s what Matthews does. He’s a true musician. He writes, sings, plays and allows his tunes to sell themselves. No extra glaze, glitter or glitz are required. Matthews looks like a college student who just rolled out of bed and dressed himself blind when he gets to the stage. It’s all about the music. He is a man with a guitar telling stories supported by an unbelievable crew of musicians.

It was back in 1998 that my dad slipped in an album entitled “Crash” that didn’t get taken out of the CD player for the entire night. We listened to it over and over again, revisiting and devouring the versatile set of tracks. There was the legendary “Crash into Me” but also “Tripping Billies” and “Proudest Monkey” to balance out the sound and rhythm of the band’s third mainstream release. I didn’t think about where they’d been for the first 16 years of my life. I only wanted more. Matthews was the maestro behind it all. He played rhythm guitar, wrote most of the songs, and had a voice that was hard to forget. You could label DMB a jam band but they were so much more, especially when seen live.

Unlike most bands I’ve seen, DMB didn’t just play to satisfy a mere date on a tour guide. They play for two and a half hours or until buckets of sweat fling from the stage on a 100 degree night in Maryland Heights at Riverport, Verizon Wireless, or whatever they call that place now. Matthews and company make it an experience every time. I’ve seen them play at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. I’ve never been disappointed.

Matthews’ dark past and stories define the music that the band plays. A South African native who lost his dad before he was 10 and his sister before he was 30 has plenty of emotional baggage but Matthews always infuses timely matters into his music without drowning out people’s attention spans or preaching to them. He could sneak in a take on the war in Iraq or a gentle slam of a President without turning into Bruce Springsteen.

Matthews’ music marks a lot of events in my life with his music. His flawed yet experimental and risky album Everyday helped me through my first year of college at Mizzou. I proposed to my wife at a DMB concert back in 2002. I remember putting his music on my wife’s stomach when she was pregnant with our son in 2011. I remember being moved to tears by his stories during his live shows with Tim Reynolds.

Great musicians represent pit stops in our lives. Matthews is my driver. When done right, a musician can strike a chord and feel like someone you have known for years, whether it’s the way their music makes you feel or their lyrics show a resemblance. They are a kind friend, if only for 3-5 minutes at a time.

Happy Birthday Dave. Keep playing. Keep creating. The world of music is better with you in it.

Adele is back and better than ever

Adele is back and better than ever. Will you be listening?

Adele-2012Adele has a plan. The British artist with a voice that could rock ten thousand battle ships is releasing her first album in four years on November 20th, entitled 25. The number title follows 2008 release 19, 2011 release 21, and now 25. She can sing, woo a nation with her voice and gets to do whatever she wants. On November 17th, she will hold a one time only concert in New York City which will air on NBC on December 14th.

Slowly, Adele is taking over the world again. She may do this every few years. Right when the dust has settled from her last album and the impact starts to subside, she comes back to rock us again. She can sing. I mean, she really can. She could sing in a back alley with no studio aide. She could sing in your backyard, your church or the bar down the street. She doesn’t need 75 wardrobe changes like Katy Perry or wild theatrics like Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus. She comes out, sits at a piano or stands at the mic, and just tells stories with a pain in her voice.

Fresh off a layoff that included finding love and having a baby, Adele dropped off “Hello” on the internet last week and it broke the web. People stopped walking in the street to listen. Meetings stopped. Starbucks lines got clogged. Women had to hear it. Men had to pause and memorize it.

In the video, the first 60 seconds don’t involve any singing. Just an old abandoned dusty house that Adele walks into and starts pulling back covers and uncovering furniture. She sits down, stretches her neck, and slowly peers at the camera. The piano starts and that means the shivers begin.

“Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d like me to go over everything.”

In one line, she is reintroducing herself to the faithful fans and also informing new listeners that what they are hearing is genuine and that she can recap the past two albums, which is consistent with heartbreak and loss.

Adele has it all. She has won Grammy awards, sold millions of albums and when she releases a song, people flicker to it like a warm fire in the cold of winter. She is old school and required these days, as the world of music rides a wave of music that is more spectacle than built from craft.

I like her because all she needs is a mic and a piano. She has the stories to tell and the need. She doesn’t make music when she is told. When she is ready, she strikes. In 2015, there’s respect in that practice.

Adele is the antidote to the crazy Cyrus, who will do anything to get your attention, on or off the stage. She can sing a song about New York called “Hometown Glory” or “Set Fire to The Rain”, a song about falling in love for the first time. It’s all genuine with this lady.

Now excuse me, I need to listen to “Hello” again. On November 20th, I’ll be buying that album too. Whether you are a fan of her style of music or not, it’s hard not to respect Adele. She’s back and ready to take over the world again.

The Fog Lights will lift you up on the darkest of days

The new folk band, The Fog Lights, give you a taste of acoustic melodies but pull you in with their songwriting.

Fog Lights 5“Met you a thousand years before…seems like yesterday. Time is like walking through a door. Go through but never go away.”-Lead The Way

The greatest musicians are honest on the stage. They sit or stand, and they play their hearts out, leaving nothing to chance. For they are brittle individuals when they step away from the stage, on it they are kings and queens. Listening to The Fog Lights heart and soul, Justin Johnson and Jim Peters, the immediate connection is forged due to that instant chemistry and honesty. Their debut album, Manhassett, is an album to own and not just rent. It’s a CD you will need on the highest of good days and the lowest of darkest ones as well.

The musicians built a folky pavement for their 12 songs to ride on and it’s an easy going familiar yet potent sound. When folk is done right, it instantly takes you back to a memory in your lifetime. It’s not just about driving down the highway with the window down. Manhassett takes you right back to your high school days, when you didn’t know who you were or what you wanted to be yet. The mystical emptiness that everybody gets sucked up into at some point in their life.

The regretful bluesy “Fear” is a street with littered doubts shaken all around. “Fear is in your heart. That’s the place to start. Second time around. The walls are coming down. If you feel nothing, then it meant nothing at all.”

“I had a dream”, which could be the mantra for all independent fighting musicians, drifts through that moment of grasping an idea and feeling relief. “I felt the breeze, seemed to put me at ease, I can sail the seven seas.”

In what is easily my favorite song on the album(which means it got the most replays and even had my three year old son singing along), “Wait” can be the mountain of contempt we all face on a daily basis. “Running down a stream, change your name for me, those that believe float away. Look out below. The tears of fallen snow is more than we can do or say.” Peters makes “wait on me now” sound like a rally cry for everybody who feels the need to run but are constantly stuck in neutral guarded by cement. Simple acoustic support is all that is needed on this golden track that will sound as crisp and pure in 50 years as it did on a calm Tuesday.

The scared Say Anything ballad “The Real Me” takes you down the time where you first wanted to open up to the one you love but didn’t know how to trust or give a piece of yourself away. “I don’t see the light in you. Other say its shining through. You know I want to treat you right. It’s just most nights I am so tired. Want to finally be, want you to see…the Real Me.”

Johnson and Peters’ biggest weapons here are their soulful voices and acoustic guitars that they swing like samurai sounds across your eardrums, slicing away the harsh reality of your condition while they explain how they came to be.  A banjo, harmonica and backup players may surface here and there, but it’s more or less these two fellas strumming along. That’s all great music is. Someone telling what they are and where they came from through via a tune.

My belief is that in order to give an album a fair shake, a person must listen to it at least three times. It’s like riding in a car. You must take it out for a variety of drives. Test the engine, brakes and see how it makes you feel. When I slipped this disc into my player, I didn’t want to take it out and that’s because Johnson and Peters are storytellers first and foremost. They aren’t fancy, don’t wish to stand toe to toe with U2 or The Rolling Stones. They just want to play music, give you an experience and make you remember what honest good music sounds like. Along the way, you may relax and forget about your problems for a short while.

If you need to see The Fog Lights live in order to truly buy what they are selling, you are in luck because they are playing all around St. Louis in the next few weeks. This Friday, August 7th, they are playing in The Open Highway Music Festival at the Off Broadway Music Venue. On September 5th, they are playing inside the Music Record Shop along with Emily Wallace. On September 8th, they play GadellNet Saturday Sessions at Tower Grove’s Farmer’s Market as part of Twangfest.

You can purchase their CD at any of their shows but first, get a taste by listening to their lead single. When it comes to these guys, it’s simplistic yet potent music that instantly makes you feel. That kind of music doesn’t need a genre. It just takes over. As the band said after their album release show at Blueberry Hill on July 25th via their Facebook page, “Thanks for being a part of this journey. Thanks for believing in music.” The Fog Lights make you believe in music again.