Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Review: System of a Down - Mezmerize

I'll be honest. I didn't want to like this album. When Toxicity came out in 2001, I was quickly sold on it. It was intense, dynamic and creative and a breath of fresh air for heavy music that was being crushed under the weight of scores of half-baked alt metal acts. But when Steal This Album came out, it raised serious doubts about the band's integrity. The music was solid, but the package was designed to look like a burned CD (playing on the fact that it was easily available on many peer-to-peers at the time). It lacked all album art and inserts, yet it was a full-price CD. If they wanted to turn it into an official release to guarantee the quality and integrity of the music, at least they could have sold it for like $5 or $6. That release made me wonder if they were for real or if they were just paying lip service to activism while lining their pockets like Rage Against the Machine. But it didn't make me question the music. I had to wait for Mezmerize to do that.

Don't get me wrong, Mezmerize isn't a bad album. It's just not up to the standard that SOAD set with Toxicity. Serj Tankian's quick, jumpy vocals still make things interesting, but the music that supports him is only interesting in a few places, such as the ska-tinged "Radio/Video" or the breakneck "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song." Other tracks, such as "Sad Statue" back off the heaviness and allow Tankian's voice to do more than just deliver the words. When he becomes both rhythm and melody is when Mezmerize is at its best. But most of the time, it's just slighty above-average, chunky alt metal. After the strength of Toxicity and the musical strength of Steal This Album (especially considering it's essentially like an album of b-sides), Mezmerize is a step backwards.

Perhaps Mezmerize is just a set-up for the next album due this Fall. If so, it's a clever trick. If not, it's just a shame.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, May 16, 2005

Best album by...(metal edition)

Here's another shot at the best album exercise. Same deal as always. Highlight the text to see my choices.
  1. Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (Maybe it's because this was the first Maiden album I had, but I've always felt like this one was the standard to which all their other albums should be compared.)
  2. Def Leppard - Pyromania (Yeah, it's commercial and Mutt Lange helped write a lot of it, but the end product is pretty stellar and it doesn't quite lose it's edge like the overly slick Hysteria.)
  3. Megadeth - Rust in Peace (Megadeth is really kind of a second-rate band, but this album is very fast and precise. Unfortunately for Megadeth, they waited until the end of the speedmetal road to release their best work.)
  4. Kiss - Destroyer (I waver a little between this one and the less slick Dressed to Kill or the first album, but Destroyer always wins in the end, especially with some of the album tracks.)
  5. Judas Priest - Hell Bent for Leather (As a kid, I found this album inspiring. Give me a break, I was 13. I still enjoy it though. I could probably make a better argument for my #2 though, Screaming for Vengeance.)
  6. Deep Purple - Fireball (Deep Purple seems to be forgotten by many, but Fireball is a heavy record. They did a lot of good work in that period and this one just edges Machine Head and In Rock.)
  7. Scorpions - Love at First Sting (Through the 80s and even into the 90s, the Scorps were consistenly good, but Love at First Sting is their moment of glory. Blackout was close, but just not as complete.
  8. Kyuss - Blues for the Red Sun (A little less polish often equals a lot more energy and that's what Kyuss is about even if that energy isn't the sort that smacks you in the face.)
  9. Slayer - Reign in Blood (The earlier albums may have been ground-breaking, but this is where they put it all together. It is perhaps the greatest speedmetal album of all time. After this, it was all downhill for Slayer. They may have had a few decent ones way down the road, but nothing that even approached this one.)
  10. Motorhead - Iron Fist (This was a tough one to pick, because they're almost all good and they almost all do the same thing. Sure something like Orgasmatron is a little different when looking at the Motorhead catalog in isolation, but in the broader picture, they're kinda like a heavy metal Ramones.)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Live: Cult of Luna, Death by Stereo, Mastodon

May 14, 2005, Recher Theatre, Towson, Maryland

If I had to review each band with one word:
  • Cult of Luna: potential.
  • Death by Stereo: fake.
  • Mastodon: heavy.
But I'm not contrained to one word, so here are the details. Cult of Luna opened. They started their set with an echo-laden spacerock piece that went several minutes before singer Klas Rydberg even took the stage. I was actually thinking they might be an instrumental group. Once Rydberg began to sing, or growl rather, I wished they were. It's not that he was such a bad vocalist, so much as he was average while the band was actaully quite good and interesting. Drummer Thomas Hedlund was a top notch player and set the pace, which changed frequently, sometimes abruptly and sometimes gradually. Andreas Johansson's bass lines were heavy and plodding which created tension with the crispness of Hedlund's playing. Guitarists Erik Olafsson and Johannes Persson had cool interplay with each other as they went from slow, deliberate downstrokes to spacey leads to eerie harmonics with the frequent use of dissonance, often sounding as if they added more than just two layers to the music. The whole thing was held together with subtle ambient keyboards and samples. Cult of Luna had a lot of extended, seemingly repetitive intrumental parts, but a closer listen revealed the intricacies of careful layering that subtley kept the songs moving. Without the vocals, I'd probably give them 8 out of 10, but I think they lose a point for going the well-traveled road of growling instead of singing. It was still good enough that I bought their latest CD, Salvation, for $10.

Death by Stereo was next up. Over the first several songs, I thought they're a pretty typical hardcore band, maybe a little tighter than most, but nothing extraordinary really. They had an animated singer and a fairly proficient lead guitarist. After the first few though, I realized more and more that there was nothing behind it. The singer's animation was clearly choreographed, because it was the same thing over and over. He pretty much ran through every hardcore pose imagineable and if I had a nickel for evertime he gave the finger...well, you get the picture. The guitarist was a technically good player, but he was completely devoid of emotion. It was quickly apparent that he was about as emotionally tied to what he was playing as he was to what he ate for lunch that day. If I bought into Death by Stereo's act, they'd still only be a good hardcore band. But I didn't buy it at all, so they're just a sad facsimile of a hardcore band. They're what happens when hardcore gets into the hands of the wrong people.

Mastodon didn't have to do much to seem impressive after the lackluster performance of Death by Stereo, but in the end, they didn't need a bad band to make them look good by comparison. They were heavy, heavy, heavy. I mean HEAVY! They were also dynamic, which is something that elludes a lot of heavy bands. Singer/bassist Troy Sanders even looks a little like I imagine Captain Ahab would (which is kinda cool since their recent Levithan album is based around Moby Dick). They played a consistently tight set whether they were slowly trudging or rapidly barrelling through the songs. They managed the energy of their performance well, sometimes steadily pushing and other times nearly obliterating the audience. Guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds were both heavy-handed and agile in their playing and even approached something on par with Iron Maiden in some of their leads. Drummer Brann Dailor drove the thunder of Mastodon while remaining rhythmically articulate (no band that manages energy well does it without good drumming, see Led Zep or Screaming Trees for example). I'm pretty sure they were the heaviest band I've ever seen. It's what I expected, it's what I wanted, it's what I got.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Great Songs: Louie Louie

I once thought that any band worth hearing had probably played "Louie Louie" or "Wild Thing" at some point, if not on a recording or live, at least during practice. I'm sure that's not entirely true, but I bet it's close. A serach of allmusic.com returned 450 versions of "Louie Louie." It was apparently inspired by (ripped off from) "El Loco Cha Cha" by Latin artist Rene Touzet which Richard Berry played with a Latin pop band he was in during the 50s. He put his own spin on it and "Louie Louie" was born in 1956. In the years since it has not only been covered by countless bands, but also in countless styles. I even have a record devoted entirely to "Louie Louie" covers. The Kingsmen's was even the focus of an obscenity investigation by the FBI in 1963. After two years, the FBI was only able to determine that the lyrics were "unintelligible at any speed." How rock n roll is that?

  • Richard Berry (from Have "Louie" Will Travel) - This is the original version. It has a little more 50s R&B feel than most versions. This is the one the Beach Boys stole, but I prefer it to their cool, slick harmonies.

  • Rockin' Robin Roberts (from The Best of Louie Louie) - Apparently his band the Wailers (no relation to Bob Marley) played this for 45 minutes one night and the crowd's reaction convinced them to record it. I'm not completely sure if this version is the Wailers of just Rockin' Robin, but this has the original rhythm in the chorus. It's dated, but it definitely turns the corner from R&B to more straightforward 60s pop.

  • The Kingsmen (from The Kingsmen in Person) - This is the one we all know and for good reason. As the story goes, the Kingsmen heard Rockin' Robin's Wailers' recording on a jukebox and decided to learn it. Only singer Jack Ely did, but he goofed it, changing it from 4 eigths to 2 eigths and a quarter. The rest is history.

  • The Sandpipers (from The Sandpipers) - At first I thought this sucked. I still kinda do, but it is kinda cool that they made it so mellow. It drags instead of bursts. Still, it's a little too easy listening for me. They sing it in Spanish or something, so the lyrics are really unintelligible to unilingual idiots like me.

  • The Sonics (from The Sonics Boom) - Whatever damage the Sandpipers may have tried to do in their version is undone with a vengeance by the Sonics. This is probably the most agressive version until Black Flag did it almost a decade and a half later. Great garage rock cover of a song that must've been written just for the everyman nature of the genre.

  • The Last (from The Best of Louie Louie) - What's going on with this one? The Sonics may have made it angry, but the Last give it a dark Doors treatment. It's certainly a different version and one of the more interesting ones in my opinion.

  • Black Flag (from the Louie, Louie 7" and Damaged) - Another version that takes the song in a direction that's about 180 degrees from the spirit of the original. Unlike a version that just fails to capture the essense of the song, this one hijacks the song for its own purposes. If there's any question about that purpose, just check out the new lyrics in the verse. Harsh.

  • Les Dantz and his Orchestra (from The Best of Louie Louie) - "Louie, Louie" meets Bowie's "Let's Dance." This is strictly a novelty (as if you couldn't tell that by the guy's name alone) and, unfortunately, more funny than intriguing.

  • Jim Capaldi (from Let the Thunder Cry) - This version simply proves that a lackluster version of "Louie Louie" still manages to be fun.

  • Surfaris (from Surf Party) - I had high hopes for this one, but the Surfaris fall flat. Instead of adding energy, they seem to find a way to strip it of energy. And this is live. Who knows how boring the studio version was.

  • Tuck Andress (from Reckless Precision) - I kind of like this version, but, like a lot of this kinda stuff, I'm not really sure it's "Louie Louie." Tuck Andress' new age/lite jazz approach is generally pretty awful, but he does play well here. It would just be nice if he didn't get quite so far off-track.

  • Stanley Clarke (from The Clarke/Duke Project) - Stanley Clarke adds a little laid back funk groove. This is a pretty original version that manages to still stick the basics of the song.

  • Iggy Pop (from American Caesar) - Iggy does his regular thing here, adding energy and swagger. The spirit of rock n roll is alive and well here.

  • The Kinks (from The EP Collection) - I expected more from the band who brought us the simple, but earth-shaking "You Really Got Me," but I'm disappointed. This might as well be Gerry and the Pacemakers instead of the Kinks.

  • Paul Revere and the Raiders (from Here They Come!) - This one was a surprise, because it was a pretty soulful take that replaces the sense of fun with a sense of longing that might actually be more in synch with the words.

  • Beach Boys (from ) - I always liked this version, but after hearing Richard Berry, this is just a rip-off with nice harmonice harmonies. The Beach Boys didn't really do much here.

  • Toots and the Maytals (from Funky Kingston/In The Dark) - Most songs can probably be translated into reggae, but this is particularly true of "Louie Louie" since it had an "island" feel from the get-go. Toots and the Maytals don't disappoint here in this upbeat reggae version with spashes of soul.

  • Motorhead (from No Remorse) - Motorhead's version isn't as loud or raw as you might think. Lemmy's chain-smoker vocal adds a nice edge, but otherwise, this is standard fare.

  • Michael Doucet (from Michael Doucet & Cajun Brew) -
  • This looked promising, but it's really pretty typical and only superficially zydeco. Like the Surfaris, I expected more from this one just based on the genre.

  • Otis Redding (from Pain in My Heart) - Otis Redding delivers the soul on this one, but unfortunately his backup band doesn't. It's still worth hearing though.

  • Frank Zappa (from Uncle Meat) - there's only about 10 seconds of Louie Louie here, but man, it's crazy. Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall with the pipe organ and amps so loud you can't hear anything but noise, you can't say this one doesn't have energy even if it's total chaos. It's not a good version, but it's worth hearing if only for the taste of what Zappa must've been like live in the late 60s.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bands I used to hate...

There have been a few bands that I hated so adamantly, that it took me years to wake up and appreciate them. Each of these bands was a pretty big plate of crow, but here's why I hated them and why I changed my mind.

  • Grateful Dead - Linda used to threaten me with having to listen to the Dead (I countered by threatening to play Napalm Death). I hated the whole neo-hippie thing that exploded after the success of "Touch of Gray" and I hated the drug culture thing. Then I started to realize that there's a lot more to deadhead culture than just drugs. For instance, the Dead are one of the few big bands who allow taping of shows. Once I got over the culture thing, I realized that the Dead might be the best example of American music out there. A deep knowledge of music, particularly traditional music, that elludes most bands permeates their music. I'm still not a huge fan, but I do listen occasionally and Linda can no longer use it as a threat.

  • The Cure - Robert Smith is whiney and over-dramatic. A lot of the Cure's fans seem emulate that. They get under my skin. Eventually, I gave in a little and admitted that the Cure were "important," but I still couldn't stomach them. Then I finally broke down and listened to Disintegration. Who was I to argue? If over-dramatic whining produces that, I can live with it.

  • Fleetwood Mac - I never minded the old blues rock Fleetwood Mac that was dominated by Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer , but I hated the later Buckingham/Nicks dominated stuff. Maybe I'd heard the hits too many times, I dunno. Anyway, Chuck finally convinced me to give Fleetwood Mac and Rumours another chance. Once again, I was just plain wrong. Those albums are full of good songs, so much so that Stevie Nicks terrible voice doesn't even bother me.

  • Limp Bizkit - I'm only kidding! They suck.

So, the lesson here is to avoid painting yourself into a corner, especially if your objection is based on something silly (like my issues with the Dead or the Cure).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Best album by...(just some random stuff)

Chuck wanted more of this so here it. I hope he can pick a favorite for #10 considering how much I know he likes them...
  1. The Who - Who's Next (It's not just the definitve Who album, it's the definitive rock album)
  2. Bob Marley - Catch a Fire (It's everything that's good about reggae and it never sounds like something college kids listen to to be cool.)
  3. Tom Petty - Wildflowers (His whole career built to this point. he hasn't been as good since.)
  4. Talking Heads - Little Creatures (Talking Heads stretched so much that they often produced uneven records, but not so here. They stretch and reach their goals throughout on this one.)
  5. U2 - Boy (It's not their most mature work, but they did most of the important (pre-Achtung Baby) stuff here and just polished it later.)
  6. Prince - Parade (He did almost no wrong from 1999 through Sign O the Times, but this is my favorite.)
  7. The Doors - Tie: The Doors and LA Woman (They're very different, but too good to choose between. The rest of the catalog is pretty eratic.)
  8. Van Halen - 1984 (Everything they did with DLR was pretty much on par (except Diver Down), but 1984 wins on "Drop Dead Legs," my fav VH song.)
  9. Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (This was a close call with Touch, but "Love is a Stranger" carries the day.)
  10. Styx - Pieces of Eight (Don't even ask why I have a favorite for this one...)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Billy Bragg

I lost a lot of interest in Billy Bragg through the 90s, not because I felt like he lost his convictions, but simply because his music lost a lot of its edge. Still, I look back at those early albums (especially up through Talking With the Taxman About Poetry) and I'm amazed.

People who write love songs are often sappy and people who write protest music are often humorless and cold. Billy Bragg writes both and is none of those things. Take for example these lines from "A New England":

"I loved you then as I love you still,
Though I put you on a pedestal, they put you on the pill."


"I saw two shooting stars last night,
I wished on them, but they were only satellites."

It's a song about love and loss, but his mention of birth control and technology add an element of social commentary (this is more obvious if you listen to the whole song).

Even when he sticks strictly to politics as on "Ideology" or "Which Side Are You On," it's clear that his positions are based on much more than just ideology, they're based on a love for humanity. This is true across the board for Billy Bragg. Even later in his career when he abandons the raw honesty of his "just a singer and his electric guitar" approach, he never abandons his cause which is so clearly and firmly rooted in a love for people. Check out "Everywhere" where Bragg is critical of the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII not by making a political argument, but by telling the human story of two American friends, one, of European descent, who dies in the war and another, of Japanese descent, who takes his own life after not being able to deal with the disillusionment of being rounded up by his own country's government. He doesn't ramble on about how wrong it was and why, he simply tells the story and it's obvious.

Billy Bragg wrote love songs that made me want to be an activist and political songs that made me want to fall in love. He recognized that without the human element, protest means nothing. After all, without love and confusion and dreams and frustrations, what are we fighting for?

Here's a selected discography of my favorites:

  • Life's a Riot with Spy vs Spy (1983) - Billy Bragg's first EP, this is his rawest and arguably best work. A friend taped this for me about 20 years ago and I've never grown tired of it. It stirs up many of the same emotions at 34 that it did at 14.

  • Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984) - This second album is a little more polished, but just as honest.

  • Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (1986) - This is Bragg's creative peak. There's a little bit more instumentation, but it's still sparse and doesn't affect his ability to convey his ideas and emotions. It's a toss-up between this and Life's a Riot for best album.

  • Back to Basics (1987) - This package includes Life's a Riot, Brewing Up and the strong, but short Between the Wars EP. Unless you're buying old vinyl, this is the only way to get that stuff.

  • Workers Playtime (1988) - Billy started to lose me here, trading his punk edge for more traditional folk, but it does contain what I believe to be his best song, "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward."

  • Don't Try This at Home (1991) - This isn't a great album, but it does contain a great single in "Sexuality" (which is also a great example of what I tried to explain above) and the already mentioned "Everywhere."

  • Mermaid Avenue 1 and 2 (1998-2000) - Billy Bragg and Wilco put music to lyrics Woody Guthrie wrote but never recorded. It's appropriate, because he is probably Guthrie's most clear descendant, writing intelligent protests based on a simple love of humanity.

Since the lyrics here are as important as the music, you can check some of them out here.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Best album by...(female artist edition)

Okay, this is a follow-up for Amanda. It's all either female artists or female dominated bands.

  1. Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat

  2. Madonna - Like a Prayer

  3. The Supremes - Anthology (it's a cop out, but they're a singles group, not an album group.)

  4. Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

  5. Janis Joplin - Cheap Thrills (I know it's Big Brother, but they're just a vehicle for Janis...)

  6. Bangles - All Over the Place

  7. Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual

  8. Hole - No Hole album is worth liking...

  9. Bjork - Vespertine

  10. Heart - Dreamboat Annie

Best album by...

Mark and I were sending each other lists of bands and listing our favorites from each. I thought it might be fun to try it here from time to time. Maybe it'll be fun or maybe I'm just stalling rather than actually writing something. Anyway, I'll list the bands below. My choices will be there too, but I made the font the same as the background so you can't see them if you want to pick yours before reading mine. To see mine, just highlight the post with your mouse and you'll see the hidden text. I tried to keep this pretty mainstream for maximum participation.

  1. Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking

  2. The Clash - The Clash (but London Calling is so very close)

  3. The Beatles - Revolver

  4. Pink Floyd - Meddle

  5. Led Zeppelin - III

  6. REM - Document

  7. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique

  8. Fu Manchu - King of the Road
    (okay, that wasn't so mainstream...)

  9. Rolling Stones - Which is shortest...?

  10. Ramones - Road to Ruin

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Great Songs: Amazing Grace

From time to time, I'm gonna take a great song and do some quick reviews of different versions that have been recorded. The first song I'm going to try is "Amazing Grace." I really can't imagine a bad version of this one. Maybe a version that disregarded its intense emotion and spirituality would be bad. Otherwise, I'd think it's pretty tough to screw up. Here are some of the noteworthy versions I've heard (many of them on Rhapsody):

  • Dropkick Murphys (from The Gang's All Here) - To be honest, I find the Dropkick Murphys to be a rather contrived stab at Oi, but not on this track. They play it with such conviction that it makes me reconsider my previous impression of them.

  • Ditchdiggers (from Light and Salvation) - Americana is as natural a format for this song as gospel and the Ditchdiggers pull it off naturally.

  • Five Blind Boys of Alabama (from Spirit of the Century) - You'd think this would be one of standards, but the Five Blind Boys actually do this one to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun." It's a surprise, but a great version nonetheless.

  • Ani Difranco (from Dilate and Living in Clip) - The studio version on Dilate has a really interesting sublime groove that, along with the reading of the lyrics that interjects in the background, makes it one of the most original versions without abandoning the true feel of the song. The live version on Living in Clip has the same groove with somewhat different instrumentation and does an even better job of showcasing Difranco's voice without trying to outshine the song itself.

  • Mighty Clouds of Joy (from Mighty Clouds of Joy Live) - Do you believe? You will after hearing this version. They're so into it that the song loses it's structure altogether at times.

  • Neville Brothers (from Live on Planet Earth) - This is, in my opinion, the best live album of all time and this is its emotional climax.

  • Aaron Neville (from Believe) - This isn't quite the live version, but it's still hard to argue with Aaron Neville.

  • Holmes Brothers (from Jubilation) - This one starts off like a sermon at a Baptist church and settles into country-tinged gospel (or maybe it's gospel-tinged country) that's one of the more emotional versions. When that falsetto takes off, it gives me goosebumps.

  • Ralph Stanley (from Clinch Mountain Gospel) - You expect the full bluegrass treatment, but this one is a capella. Nonetheless, Ralph Stanley and company give this version the stamp of great traditional music.

  • The Soul Stirrers (from When the Saints Go Marching In) - This is a decent Motown-ish soul version. It's not bad, but it's more upbeat and lacks the emotional elements of many of the better versions.

  • Elvis Presley (from He Touched Me) - I expected better from Elvis, but this was recorded in the 70s. At least he didn't sing, "I mustasaida..."

  • The Zion Harmonizers (from New Orleans Gospel Glory!) - This is serious gospel, all a capella. This is another one that'll just make you believe!

  • Al Green (from Greatest Gospel Hits) - Ever soulful, Al Green delivers just as expected.

  • Jeff Beck (from Merry Axemas) - This is a strangely ethereal track, but Beck plays with some emotion. This is one of the oddest versions I've heard.

  • Willie Nelson (from Freedom: Songs from Heart of America) - No surprise here other than it being a little more bluesy than country.

  • Yes (from Yesyears) - I hadn't heard this before, but when I saw it I figured it would either be incredible or incredibly awful. Sadly, it was the latter. I guess my theory that you can't screw up "Amazing Grace" was wrong.

  • Statler Brothers (from Radio Gospel Favorites) - This would be a pretty mediocre version if it weren't for Harold Reid's bass parts. They do harmonize well, but the backing track is lame.

  • Fats Domino (from Christmas Gumbo) - Not only is there no vocal, but the whole thing sounds like it was recorded on a Casio keyboard. More evidence that great songs can be utterly wrecked.

  • Aretha Franklin (from Amazing Grace) - This is every bit as good as Aaron Neville's version on Live from Planet Earth. Aretha may be the one person who was truly meant to sing this song.

  • Cedarmont Kids (from Hymns) - Man, I thought this would be a cool one with kids pulling it off with the honesty that only kids truly have. Instead it sounds like Disney's "It's a Small World." I'd say this is worse than Yes, but still better than Fats Domino.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mars Volta: Live at the Electric Factory

The biggest risk with this show was that I had so totally overhyped it in my head that even a phenomenal performance would be disappointing. There was no opener, so there was no warm-up, just the building tension waiting for the Volta to go on.

The curtain dropped, the band strolled out and then exploded into something I could not have prepared myself for. Two and a half hours later, I wasn't even sure what happened, but I think it was possibly the best show I've ever seen.

I don't even know if I should try to make sense of it, so I'm just gonna throw out a bunch of random comments:
  • The band semed to be simultantaneously in complete control and ready to explode.

  • They did a better job of managing the energy of the music than any band I've ever seen.

  • Cedric performed like James Brown without any restraint.

  • They had a lightshow as trippy as their music, but the lights never focused on any single person.

  • Omar must feel something in the tips of his fingers that only he and maybe Carlos Santana can understand.

  • They played for two and a half hours without any break. They didn't even stop to talk between songs.

  • Half the time, I wasn't even sure what they were playing, but it didn't matter.

  • They didn't try to connect with the crowd as individuals with between song banter, because the music alone was the connection.

  • There was no encore and no one complained.

  • Cedric also reminded me a bit of a cross between James Brown and Jim Morrison.

  • The band never seemed to be going through the motions. They never seemed to be doing what they should do, but only what they must do. The music dictated everything. There was no posturing.

  • I've never been to another show that was so completely about the music.
I walked away thinking that this is what it's like to see a really great performance. Like seeing the Doors do "The End" at the Whiskey for the first time or being present when Pink Floyd filmed Live at Pompeii or watching Hendrix light his guitar on fire at Monterey. Something on that level. Or at least as much on that level as I can imagine experiencing. It was a new standard of live music in my experience and I'll measure all shows against it. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, qualitatively different from every other show.