Saturday, October 13, 2012

Band Profile: Songs of Water

I had  the pleasure of interviewing this AMAZING folk/experimental/orchestra/world band from North Carolina lovingly titled Songs of Water.  They have a beautiful album called The Sea Has Spoken available on Bandcamp and iTunes NOW. They are currently working on the follow up...

My band profile was for Broken Records Magazine. CHECK IT OUT! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Working Through the Foo Fighters Hiatus

Dave Grohl New York City Beacon Theater Skin and Bones Tour
This is the closest I've ever been to Dave Grohl. Will I be able to get closer
if he tours solo during the hiatus? A movie release? Something? Please? 

People keep asking me about the Foo Fighters hiatus, treating the issue with kid gloves, as if it were a breakup, “Ryan…are you ok!?”

When Dave Grohl paraded through a nine-song set at Central Park as part of the Global Citizen Festival and said, “We don't have any shows after this. This is where we play as many songs as we can in a short period of time, because, honestly, I don't know when we're gonna do it again" I had a feeling of celebration in mind. It’s been a hell of a ride. They came through with arguably their best album in Wasting Light (I mean, their best is TCATS, but one can contend WL and it’s not ridiculous) and slaughtered the world with a rip-roaring tour. One town down and ON TO THE NEXT!? The most notable thing about the tour, is their setlists were 3.5 hours!? That’s insane considering the energy level they play at. I think it was clear between the two times that I saw the Foo, this rigorous schedule took a toll on the band. It’s part of the business and I’m so happy to see the Foo play such a marathon set, but, seriously, these guys deserve a break. 

That’s no joke, man.

When you look at the Foo Fighters history, as well as other bands, a hiatus at this stage of their career is common. It’s not like they need the money. After the first or second album, they probably would keep going just to keep themselves in the black. Most bands do. Keep grinding. Get yourselves out there. In their 18th year, these guys are doing it for pride, legacy, love of the game, and sure, everyone loves to add more to the total. Family men and all.

I’m happy for the hiatus, because I believe it’s going to lead to better material in the future. I don’t think you’ll hear another Foo Fighters cut until Fall 2015. Anything before that would seem rushed to me. I’m sure they have B-Sides and all kinds of shit sitting around, but if history serves the band correctly, they will have made some kind of mindset adjustment and their tone and sonic fortitude will have shifted to reflect the new times of the band. This is one of my favorite qualities of the band.

Given their age, I don’t think they are going to rock any HARDER. I think Wasting Light and the subsequent 3.5 hour tours of screaming “White Limo” will take a little of that hard rocking edge off the band. I think you’ll see an album that borders more along the lines of E.P.S.& G. Perhaps dwindle themselves back into the acoustic beauty of the second half of IYH. The Foo Fighters pretty much have four eras as far as age.

Aging of the Foo Fighters by Era:

1) Young – Dave screams all the fucking time and lets his hair fly. Songs are written to bounce the fuck out of the audience.  

2) Learning to Jam – The band ages, matures, and starts learning how to rock their songs out. Sometimes, Dave has short hair and hipster facial hair. This is actually my favorite era of the band. They were finding themselves.

3) Statesmen (Statues) – Elder statesmen of rock. Pretty much the biggest band out there, as far as rock music is concerned. They are the standard. Their shows are huge. They headline festivals. They write songs about having children. Dave starts to save his voice a bit on screamers (well, he kind of makes all songs screamable live) and wear only black at shows. Less banter, burping, cussing and more music, bigger jams.

4) Classic Rock – This last era of the Foo Fighters is the first time that I realized Dave Grohl is going to get old. I think it’s going to be even more of a problem moving forward. They’ve reached that upper echelon of being old, but still able to rock like kids. I don’t know how much longer that will hold. Gray hair on the way? Perhaps, he has to use Just For Men to keep that shag so black. The beard is fuller and there is just the slight development of jowls on the face. Tours go in 3-week increments to give time for the family. Album recorded at home for the same purpose (there were other good reasons, it was actually genius, but the song remains the same, they’z be settling down). 3.5 hour setlist, much like seeing a Rush show. Sit back, “we’re going to play a lot of songs!”

So, what now? Is there any REASON. TO. LIVE. Yesssssssss…..

Fun with Side Projects:

Dave – In a letter to the fans, he referred to his Sound City documentary as POSSIBLY the “biggest, most important project he’s ever worked on.” I love that man and his superlatives. That fact about him, is probably why he is what he is to me. The greatest. The BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST….anyway, I digress. The project is billed as, “a film (by Dave Grohl) about the truth, the craft and the integrity of Rock ‘n Roll.”

Is there anyone better to do that than Dave Grohl? That’s an exciting project! Then of course, he’ll drum for some big names, it’ll seem random and awesome and we’ll all get really pumped. I would imagine for kicks he’ll do something with Josh Homme. A Them Crooked Vultures second wave would be fucking amazing! Perhaps more work with Trent Reznor? I still don’t rule out that he’ll drum for Led Zeppelin! I don’t care how many people say Bonham’s son will play drums…it’s going to happen.

Taylor – I want a Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders tour. It’s always a treat to see Taylor Hawkins drum up-close-and-personal in a small NYC venue. I would love a third album, but, the second one was almost TOO GOOD. I’m kind of fearful of another album, but I think you get that guys’ jazzy self on the kit, with his sensibility and drive, and you’re going to have something. If he continues to keep things on the rise, polish his product and develop his ability to write a song…HOLY SHIT! The Coattail Riders are a force to be reckoned with.

Nate – Sunny Day Real Estate. I missed the last tour. Guys…if you tour again…or even just in NYC…I will be there. I want this, bad!

Chris “Shifty” Shiflett – Jackson United is Chris Shiftlett’s primo side project. Cali pop-punk with some grit. He was in No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. He’s a seasoned vet and everything he does has a certain melodic quality to it. He also plays solo gigs (with the & Dead Peasants moniker). This is something to look into.

Pat Smear – Who the hell knows what Pat Smear will do? Something tells me he doesn’t need music in his life and will pursue something like egalitarian studies. Perhaps, he will research finding ways to make guitars sound thrashier with less effort. 

A New Album?

If I were a betting man (and I am…) I would put the over/under for a new album October 2016. They love the fall release and that would be about 4 years after Wasting Light, which is about on their pattern. Time between albums for the Foo looks like this: 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 4. It’s safe to say this will be their biggest break, albeit, not their first hiatus. I think they will take a real break from being a band, before coming together and taking forever to record and decide what to do with a new album.

Well, would you know it? I have some sage advice.

Things I want in a new Foo album…
  • Oh God, how many times can I call for MORE BLENDED VOCALS!? The best example of what I’m talking about was the psychedelic fusion vocally on “Rope” when Taylor’s classic rock howl and Dave’s wounded growl were soldered together so beautifully. Yes, more of that please!
  • I love Grohl, but, I like the diversity of letting Taylor and Chris sing. Chris sang on a Foo Fighters cover of “Danny Says” by the Ramones and Taylor has taken lead vocals a couple of times. Most notably, I’d love to have a song like “Cold Day in the Sun” make a run as a Foo Fighters song. I think it’s a good shift in pace. A little bit country, A little bit rock ‘n roll!
  • Another tempo changing album. One of my favorite dynamics is how the Foo’s like to take the pace up and down in their songs. Wasting Light was pretty straight forward, but the two Gil Norton produced albums really swayed back and forth with a diverse variety of tunes. Take TCATS for instance in which you have a bunch of screamers, a couple ballads, an intro, a epic closer, a square dance number, a couple of hits, a cult classic/hit/staple song for the band forever and ever, etc, etc. Songs like “Hey Johnny Park!” blend scream vocals with clean poppy vocals in the same song. I have yet to hear them use that theory in a song since, therefore, I have to get my fix from Polar Bear Club who do it all the time.
  • How about an epic closer. Sure, “Walk” is about as good as it gets as far as taking the rising action to a screaming crescendo of fist pumping glory. I’m looking for something that is at LEAST 10-15 minutes long. Not necessarily all about the “time” per se, but they had this theory with “Comeback” and “Long Way Home” and “Exhausted.” With “Walk” it was there, but it was also kind of like a single. I want a closing number that take the hinges off the barn doors.
  •  Speaking of Rush…how about a song or two that’s really just flexing drum muscles. The drum fill on “Everlong” remains one of my favorite drum licks all-time. I think One By One has some stand out drum lines, and everything is always top-notch, but, if you put my two favorite drummers in ONE band…I want it to be THE BEST! Show me something just fucking insane. Seriously, just get silly out there. For the fuck of it. Put drum fills for the sake of having drum fills. WHY. SO. SERIOUS. In an interview I once heard Dave say that Taylor has motioned for louder drums and he shot the idea down saying the Foo Fighters have always been about loud guitars and big hooks.
  •  Yup. I want piano too. I wouldn’t mind a 17 track album all over the map. That’s the stuff Zerfas dreams are made of.
  •  If you’re going to play piano…why not bring Norah Jones back. That’s the stuff Zerfas WET dreams are made of.
  •  But seriously, “Home” and “Statues” turned out pretty good. The Red Hot Chili Peppers recently cut an album with some intriguing piano numbers. It’d be a fun change of pace.
  •  I think Dave’s voice has went through the gauntlet. I know when I listen to the first album, I think to myself, I miss the soothing rock voice, like best displayed on “Floaty.” Can he still sing like that? I think it was a voice that was just a little shy. It’s kind of endearing. I guess this could be like asking Billy Joel to sing “River of Dreams” with the high falsetto bridge, perfectly, live, at his age.
  •  Folk elements? John Paul Jones played “Mandolin” on IYH. I think there was a B-Side where he played mellotron, but was nixed, because Grohl didn’t like how it turned out. Also, you take a song like “Ballad for the Beaconsfield Miners” and think they could do some neat, folky stuff.   
I know this has asked for a lot of things. High expectations are the best form of praise. We can celebrate the hiatus with hope for the future. I think the Foo Fighters are far from done, but it’s certainly the “end of an era” in a way. I look forward to the next era and view this Wasting Light time period as a resurgence.

I would like to close this celebration of hard-work and exceeding of expectations in the exact way that Dave Grohl ended his letter to the fans and every show I’ve ever attended, watched, downloaded, bootlegged, etc, etc.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Music Review: Fall Classic, Nerves

I wrote a song by song review for TSE about a Chicago band, Fall Classic, who put out a ridiculously awesome album, titled Nerves. It's a great soundtrack for pumpkin spice lattes and autumn flings. Grab a glass of cab, start the fire and pick this sucker up on Bandcamp!

My review is HERE.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trouble with the Eastwood?

When I heard Clint Eastwood was coming out of retirement (he said Gran Torino would be his last film as an actor) my feelings were mixed. I figured he, like MJ, had the perfect close to his (acting) career with Gran Torino. It certainly wasn’t his best all-around movie, but it definitely scooped into a barrel of quotables and kicked some gritty neck-scrunching ass. Everything you’ve come to know and love Eastwood for. One last ride into the sunset, albeit a much older, retiree sunset.

Then, I saw my all-time favorite actress, Amy Adams, was on the bill. My thought was, Million Dollar Baby II, one last run at the Oscar. Why not? The academy certainly makes picks to reward a career over the present, for respect and it’s own “Hall of Fame” aspirations. I thought Adams would be a ray of sunshine to what is typically and literally a dark brand of cinematography. Adams certainly can shine in shadow lighting too, right?

It and many other feelings alllllllll came crashing down when he made that “Eastwood and Chair” (link: Bill Hader SNL edition) speech at the Republican National Convention. What a train wreck. It reminded me of how I would turn my face away from the TV the first time I watched the British Office. Squirming. Squinting. Covering my eyes, I got through what seemed like a half hour of the worst improv I’ve ever seen. That brought my dreams of Eastwood glory to a screeching, whistle-laden speech impediment halt. There would be no Oscar. Is everything I know and love about my favorite movie maker a sham? Perhaps, he’s just a senile old man off his gourd? Or, I’ve hitched my movie wagon to an incandescent asshole, you know, the opposite of the kind of admirable asshole he plays in his movies that I love so fondly. 

I soon learned the real reason he came out of retirement was to help his long time director assistant and production partner, Robert Lorenz, who was directing his first film. That seemed noble to me. I like that. Use the name and pass the torch onto others. It was the first time since the 90’s In the Line of Fire that Clint relinquished overall movie command. They were able to rope in quite a surrounding cast, with Adams, who without a doubt was the star of this movie, and JT, who added impressive comedic flair, along with John Goodman, who once again, is in EVERY movie. Good for Goodman.

The real question I have about it all: Was it worth it? I believe, because of the retarded speech, Clint was actually in need to come through on screen to not tarnish his movie legacy.

I didn’t like J.Edgar at all. It was like a boring Oliver Stone spoof. 2009’s Invictus was similarly disappointing with a seemingly great premise and all-world cast with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a studly rugby player.

The 2006 duo-perspectives of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima left me slightly ying-yang dizzy. I felt Flags of our Fathers was flat, while Letters from Iwo Jima left me stunned with its sheer awesomeness.  I’m not sure how Eastwood pulled off a picture in Japanese and why that perspective had so much more punch and enthrallment, but it did and the duo perspectives ordeal ended up being successful in the face of a probable plateau.    

2010’s Hereafter and 2008’s Changeling were good movies, but nothing to get overly excited or brag about.  

Needless to say, after Gran Torino, I think coming out and making a bad movie would teeter the end of his career to a downward spiral that would possibly affect the legacy. So, that’s added pressure for Trouble with the Curve. Grantland already predicated this concept, basically promenading over Eastwood’s career as if he were the Limp Bizkit of filmmaking. They can go-ahead and profile the “rise and fall” OF MY ASS!!!!

There was one great take in the piece I agreed with though, “He rolled movies off studio lots like cars off Ford factory floors: speedily, under budget, without a ton of flash or hassle or pauses for fits of artiste-style pique. Actors and executives spoke with awe about how quickly and painlessly it all happened. And then it was onto the next one.”

I guess I’ve always enjoyed that about Eastwood though. His steady hand guides you through darkness, violence and all-around malfeasance like a floating, rocking hammock. I like a warm glass of milk when Sean Penn’s daughter is killed. Despite the awards and overall recognition, the highs and lows of his movies are typically pretty tame and/or consistent. You know what you’re going to get. That’s why J.Edgar and “Eastwood and Chair” were very troubling to me. He was handed Leo and a topic that should have been more engulfing. It wasn’t. He was handed a spotlight to make something I’m typically not that interested in, more exciting. He didn’t. He made me question my taste in pictures and heroes. He let me down.

Does Trouble with the Curve deserve all this pressure cooker legacy propaganda? Certainly not. Why can’t movies be fun anymore? You go, take a load off, get some terrible-for-you-food and forget about life. Good, bad, indifferent—just be entertained. There’s nothing like it, cue projecting reel sound.

Eastwood’s comeback was pretty parallel to Micheal Jordan’s with the Wizards. He proved in Trouble with the Curve that even at an age when you don’t belong “in the biz” the moves are still there beyond what others are capable of in their prime. He probably shouldn’t have made the movie and certainly should have declined to speak at the RNC, but, there is still something there for those like myself, that miss zipping by Model T’s on the roads. Even if you’re like me and weren’t alive when they were on the roads, you’ve read about them, your parents and grandparents told you stories trumpeting their omniscient prowess. They are ancient archeological antiques that now rule museums. When you see one, alive and well, you just have to gawk, and remember the day when they ruled the world.

Despite all that, I don’t think Trouble with the Curve has NOTHING to offer. The chemistry between JT and Amy Adams was electric, though mostly spoiled by the previews (stop doing that previews!!!). Timberlake is really proving that he can carry his own in a movie. He was funny, light and reflected the classic Amy Adams shine right back to her. It was tennis, not Adams hitting the ball against a wall, although, I’d certainly watch that—especially if she had a ponytail and sweats. Adams always seems like a real person to me. Perhaps, it’s because I have a friend that looks/acts/has the same first name as her. I just always see something real from something as basic as having a crooked smile, remembering her first movie moment (that I remember) as a girl with braces, to being remarkably cute in a non-movie star way. I think we all know an Amy Adams in our life, which seems plain, oozes cuteness, yet is an ordinary part of your day, but is extraordinary once she exits your lens.

The baseball scouts and players are comically clichéd Moneyball b-sides and poorly executed at that, much like the astonishing poor surrounding acting in Gran Torino. The “Grumpier Old Men III” lines are cringingly bad, like “Feng Schmei” and “I’m not a pole dancer.” He can take scripts that should have been in the shredder, he has to know they should have been in the shredder, deliver them in a way that says, “this is a lame line, but I can make it work,” and, somehow, it’s still warm and enjoyable. In that way, Eastwood’s late career is like the comedic delivery of David Letterman. Taking nothing, and pounding into something. A magical blacksmith who majestically rides into town to view the sunset with the common people—true Kings wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Clint Eastwood is the champion of being a bad ass. He’s so cocky he can do it as YOUR grandfather. Bob Dylan and Neil Young continue to make albums. 60 is the new 40. 80 is the new 50. Billy Joel never sang about how “only the good get old,” but, if he did, you’d have to respect the math and courage of it all.

In my favorite all-time Clint scene, he asks a bunch of guys to apologize to his mule. Then, he kills them all when they scoff at the idea. To ask the inverse of Eastwood, to apologize for becoming old and irrelevant, is just as crass.

Legends don’t need the money. They want the relationship. Somewhere someone is wearing a Michael Jordan Wizards jersey, reading and scoping a Model T in a museum after playing four hours of Megaman II on Nintendo. 

I wish someone would hand that guy the keys…that baby still runs. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Music: The Congress, Whatever You Want

My second review for TSE is about a Josey Wales hot-iron branded power rock trio from Richmond & Denver appropriately called The Congress. They take rock music seriously, as you can tell by the compositions, but not so seriously that they're not having a good time. It's the perfect work to fun ratio.

See for yourself...HERE.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Roger Waters The Wall Tour Finale, Quebec City, The Plains of Abraham, Road Trip Log

Seven years ago, on the date of July 20th, I moved to NYC with the dream of becoming something. I don’t know exactly what, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with creating the written word. Back then; I may have still had delusions of Mad Men grandeur, that is, if I really wanted to officially use my official education in Advertising. I don’t see myself ever working at an ad agency, however, the beckon and call of rock shows continues to leave me in salivating pursuit of every ticket, wristband, blanket and rocking space I can get myself into.

A few weeks ago, I saw a life-changing concert at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure my friends are tired of hearing about it, but the Roger Waters’ Wall show is something everyone must see. I was so impressed I knew I needed to see it again! My thinking was, I rarely leave the city, much like Tom Green in Road Trip I find myself banging on my friends Zipcars as they mock me for never leaving the vicinity. They vacation and I continue to sweat sadistically in the concrete jungle toiling in the throngs of server Hell. The toughest part of deciding to quit a “real job” to become a writer/server was the loss of paid vacation. It makes it so hard to match schedules with friends and/or go on any kind of proper vacation. It can be done; it’s just not as easy as requesting the days off and taking the money out of your bi-weekly paycheck.  

No retreat, no regrets.

Enough of my whining, though blues songs LOVE to use the number “seven” in their songs. Seven years in the city, propelled by a life-changing concert on the seventh day of the seventh month. I have to go to Quebec to see this right?

The following is an approximate diary of the events as I remember them…

Friday, July 20th

10:00 a.m., E.S.T. – Time to get up for work! Oh yes, the job I hate so much, I couldn’t get the day off, therefore I couldn’t join my comrade, simply known as THE MAN, for the journey there, because he had no other choice but to venture to Lake Champlain to renew his passport. Apparently, that’s the only location that had same day passport renewal on such short notice. Yeah, we didn’t exactly plan ahead, but I feel that’s part of the fun of a trip of such unhinged kinetic energy.

10:15 – I always am in search of motivation for my prison sentence serving shifts. Obviously, with my Quebec adventure locked and loaded, I decided to watch the Waters video again. Thoughts of the “bigger wall” loomed in my head, swirling with the preposterousness of a 250-meter (820 feet) wall and increased pyrotechnics, along with the promise that the sound system will “shake the entire site.” Distractions and “the audacity of hope” make prison easier.

3:00 p.m. – Apparently, THE MAN has to wait for six hours for his passport. Poor guy. At least he doesn’t have to ride on a Greyhound bus like I do, which is exactly what’s in store for my night and early morning. It’s supposedly a seven (BAM!) hour bus ride to Montreal, and then a three-hour bus/train from Canada’s transport system Orleans Express. Due to his passport issue and my work issue, we’ll just have to meet up in Quebec City. Hopefully, I can get some sleep on the bus, which should be aided from my hangover stemming from a late-night, drunken, “special baking session” I had the previous night. That will certainly make the border cross a little more entertaining.

6:00 – I’m home and packing. The express Greyhound leaves in a couple hours, and if you know anything about my Greyhound history, you know I want as little to do with Greyhound as possible. Unfortunately, for as awesome as it is to take trains, the scheduling is quite anemic, rarely allowing me the pleasure of a company I don’t despise (grrr….Greyhound) and extra foot room. The biggest issue I have with Greyhound dates back to a trip I took from NYC back home to Grand Rapids. To make a long story short, the bus was filled, just chock full of really, incredibly horrifyingly smelly people. This is an understatement. One particular offender of my nasal passages walked in wearing a helmet, and just wreaked (double entendre?) all kinds of special. This bus was like the Con Air for the lower class ridiculously troublesome looking trash. It just seemed like bad news. But, it pressed on. Needless to say, the guy in the helmet took his helmet off and headed for the bathroom. It just seemed askew. Time passed and everything seemed OK until there was this putrid smell from the bathroom. This is when everyone remembered the helmet guy had probably been in the bathroom for about 45 minutes. People were looking around, making eye contact, just wondering to oneself “is this really happening.” And, like a bad movie, it happened…the guy came out of the bathroom covered in feces. He walked the aisles and people were screaming, again, like a horror movie. It was at this time, I was glad I had a window seat, because people in the aisles were in grave danger of touching this guy as he walked back down the aisle like a shit cover swamp monster! The bus driver started screaming on the microphone for him to get back inside the bathroom. I don’t remember how, but he actually DID eventually walk back into the bathroom.

Then a large African American man, again, you can’t make this up, said “I’m sick of this SHIT” and slammed helmet guy into the bathroom, to which the whole bus gave practically a standing ovation. Everyone at this point became bonded by the incident and people started breaking out cologne and air freshener, but really, nothing could crack the smell. Either way, it was helping and people were talking with one another and working together.

The bus was about 45 minutes from its destination, Grand Rapids, MI, which was about 2.5 hours into the Detroit to Grand Rapids leg and about 23 hours into the Ryan C. Zerfas leg. I was torn. People wanted the bus to stop, I wanted to get home. This is when helmet guy started pounding on the door. The African American “door jam” was screaming “NO FUCKING WAY!?” in a tone only possible for black people. I’m not trying to be racist, but seriously, they have a way with tone and words that can’t be replicated by other races. He took control. We all loved this guy. The bus driver was screaming into the microphone for the guy to stay in the bathroom.

Eventually, he got back out. I don’t know if the “door jam” fell asleep or what, but helmet guy came back out looking cleaner, but very disoriented. Everyone was screaming. This part, was actually the most chaotic, because many were yelling to stop the bus. The bus driver was screaming back that she wouldn’t stop the bus. People were standing and doing the “asshole point” in the aisles. It was one of the most chaotic things I’ve ever been a part of. How the hell do you not stop and throw this guy off the bus? I’ll never know. It went on like that for about 15 more minutes until we reached Grand Rapids. To which there was a HUGE line at the complaint desk. We all got a number and vowed to call it.

So, I called the Greyhound line the next day and proceeded to tell this tale in further detail. I think I impersonated every character involved to the best of my ability. At least a 20 minute monologue to which the operator said, “I’m sorry about that.”

I said, “that’s it? No refund, no vouchers, nothing?”

She responded that, “she’s sorry I had to go through that.”

After a few awkward pauses, I didn’t know what to do, so I said goodbye. She didn’t even seem the least bit moved by the story. I mean, really? No emotion, no nothing over THAT!? Are. You. Serious.

I vowed never to take Greyhound again, but you know how that works. They are always the cheapest option and in the RCZ graph that favors time over money, sometimes you must make decisions based on your lowest plot point. Money. Damn.

Fuckin’ Greyhound.

9:30 – My love of Greyhound continued, as it appears the bus is full. I was 5th in line. I decided it was prime time to have one of the little pieces of special brownie I made for the journey. If I get accosted at the border, at least I would have been able to have SOME taste of my brownie making labors. Actually, I didn’t do any of the work, my buddy did as my apartment doesn’t have an oven. I know nothing about drug use as I never touched any for the first 30 years of my life, but, the few brownies I’d had previously were made with a lot of “schwag” type stuff. Cheap. Shitty. Good for cooking and putting in brownies. We used pretty decent stuff in a smaller quantity, but since it’s typically more potent (again, I have no idea) we figured it might be like “rocket fuel” and be down right deadly. Seems like the perfect agent to have for a Roger Waters’ Wall show?

10:45 – I finally was able to get on a bus. Hurray me! I was starting to feel the effects of the brownie, seemingly, and I threw in Animals a weird little Floyd album between Wish You Were Here and The Wall, which to my knowledge garnered little acclaim. I’ve heard people talk about it, but it’s certainly not on the medal podium with the other three. I know I’ve tried to listen to it in the past, but could never get into it. It has five songs. There’s essentially three songs titled “Pigs” and then there’s two songs with different animals; “Sheep” and “Dogs.” Two of the songs are about a minute long while the others are between 10 and 20 minutes in length. It’s trippy. Imagine that, right? Basically, to me, it sounds like lo-fi Pink Floyd with more cowbell. I definitely was digging the cowbell.

11:01 – When slipping into unconsciousness the guitar work on “Sheep” seems to embed itself into your brain and go right to left across the territory without regard. You can feel it shake itself out inside your brain like a tuning fork. It’s quite an exquisite feeling. I bet it’s even better under “more influence” or under “more unconsciousness” but, the song remains epic nonetheless. This could be a favorite and something to revisit next time I really get myself brownie blitzed.  

11:11 Animals with a little bit of research appears to be quite a critique of society. “Pigs,” “Dogs” and “Sheep” are representative of different classes of people, loosely based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Dogs = the combative rebellious. Pigs = Tyrannical power hungry rulers. Sheep = Herded followers. Neat.    

11:59 – I can’t sleep on these fucking busses, man! I’m trying all the usual tricks. There’s a skinny girl with a nice smile next to me, but she keeps encroaching on my space. All she talks about is her boyfriend, so, I find this to be disconcerting. STAY ON YOUR SIDE!!! I’ve tried Norah Jones, my favorite sleep agent; I mean this in the most endearing way possible. There is nothing better than waking up on a Sunday morning (if you have a normal schedule), going back to bed and having Norah Jones lightly playing, tickling the senses with that smoky voice and those intricate key lines just fade into your subconscious. It’s so pleasant. Iron & Wine is another one. I bought a book about the history of Coney Island, it’s huge, and history class looking, but it’s so interesting it’s peaking my attention. Can’t have that. I need sleep. The MAN just sent me a text that I should get some sleep, because we’re going to “hit the ground running” tomorrow. All I could say in return was, “Jesus.”

This Plains of Abraham painting looks just like a Pink Floyd cover. 
Saturday, July 21st

4:00 a.m. EST – Bars are closing in NYC and I’m about to cross the Canadian border. I have no idea how this works on a bus. In my head, a customs agent would walk the aisles and get on identified peoples’ cases as seen fit. Like, perhaps, a smelly special looking man in a helmet? But, there is a special section for busses and we pulled off into this dark corner, to which we all had to exit the bus, gather our gear, and engage on a one-on-one interview with a Customs agent. Yikes. At least it wasn’t busy. It was just us from the bus. I do, however, have to show some sign of caution. I have a Tupperware container with some buried brownies that may interest some folks. All they need to do is bring out the hounds. I moved slowly and observed others conversations. Some had extremely long conversations and some seemed to be reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail consisting of questions about your name, quest and favorite color. I didn’t see any hounds or need for concern to move to plan throw out Thursday nights’ labors.  

4:11 – It’s my turn. I get the Monty Python treatment. The Gods’ must know I’m a big fan. On the third question I get an, “enjoy the show.” Ooooooooh…..if only you knew, guy, if only you knew.

5:45 – I arrive in Montreal. Boy, did that city look cool from the bus. Needless to say, the senses are critical when your knees are buckling like Tom Beringer in Major League and you’re sleep deprived. Eventually I zonked off after the border possible fiasco, but not for long. That driver although, a chain smoker, (he must have put four cigarettes down during our 15-minute stop) really knows how to keep a tight ship. He kept good time and it’s one of the only times I remember flying by other cars…while riding a bus. We arrived before the slated time of the ORIGINAL bus I was supposed to.

6:30 – Oh yeah. Everything is in French!? I still figured out when my bus was leaving, because Quebec City in French is…yeah. I thought I was going to have to leave the station to find the train station, but there was a bus to Quebec City right there departing in 45 minutes, and I was told that the train station didn’t open until like 10am, which would have cost me “hitting the ground running” time. Then, I ran into “encroach my space” girl who was waiting for her cousin to come pick her up. We then engaged in a very awkward conversation. I should have just walked away. Why does this person think I want to talk to her? Even if I were single, which I’m not, I wouldn’t want to hear more tales about your boyfriend. I don’t care? Why do people think I care? I don’t. Most people I like or flat out enjoy, I don’t care to have these conversations with. Silence is ok. Getting the fuck away from me is better.

8:30 – I think I’m sleeping. Awesome. This bus is pretty empty allowing me my extra space. I can stretch my crimped legs across the seats and stretch a tad. I have to, because some rude people made an inconsiderate decision. A group took the seat ahead of me and the two seats to my left. The person to my front left, put the seat all the way back, severely encroaching on her friends’ space. To which the person in front of me made a wonderful suggestion, “use my seat so you can go ALL THE WAY BACK.”

I replied, joining the conversation, rudely, but seriously, “I don’t like that decision.”

They laughed. I laughed back, squinty, mocking them. And the cunt switched seats, putting her seat all the way back anyway.

This is why people hate the French.

9:00 – I have arrived in Quebec City. 12 hours to showtime. I just need to find a way to meet up with THE MAN at the hotel. I have no idea where I am or if I’m in the “old” part of the city like I need to be. I ask a nice lady at the breakfast counter (a nice western sandwich) and she say, “oh, you’re here for the show.” Which pumps me up, because, it makes me feel the power of the spectacle I’m about to take in. Apparently I’m a 45-minute walk from the Plains of Abraham.

9:12 – I’m getting a feel for the city already. Very, what I would imagine a European city would look like, with café’s and such on the streets. Perhaps, that’s just the quintessential French stereotypes beginning to permeate through my pores. Everything is hilly, as the cabby is rocking and winding through the streets. And I thought the NYC cabbies were the professionals. This guy is legit.

9:24 – I meet up with THE MAN and we partake delightful hotel activities like pooling and hot tubing. There seems to be only a 5 degree difference between the two, but hey, it’s sunny outside and I can see the back of the wall from the pool chairs. We’re onsite: Lock, stock, ready-to-rock!

11:34 – We head to lunch. The main decision now: How long do we wait to get tickets? We figure out we can buy tickets at the venue, for now, and I don’t think it’ll sell out, but we’d love to find a scalper with the sold out “VIP Front Row.” The downer of waiting is the slight chance it sells out and the price gets jacked and the lines at the ticket booths become vast and unruly, wasting precious party time. Hmmmmmmmm……

2:00 p.m. – Walking back from lunch, we’re parallel with the hotel, not close, but eye distance from the venue and the familiar sound of The Wall helicopter shakes right to left across the sound system. Even walking away in the distance it was loud and quite palpitating. To Waters’ credit, he is a control freak that makes DAMN sure the sound is good from anywhere in the venue—in this case a few football fields away walking in the opposite direction of the intended sound, it’s still crystal clear. For some reason, all the things I’ve read about Waters “controlling” every step of the process implants an image in my head of Waters up on top of the mountain wiring the very back “surround sound” speakers to his rig. Wire cutters and all. I wouldn’t put it past him based on his Howard Stern interview.

4:00 “Let the Journey Begin”. The brownie strategy is set. I’m going to consume 15% of my supply in the pregame and the remaining 85% two hours pre show, which should be the perfect mixture. I had never mixed special desserts and alcohol before the baking session on Thursday, but they seem to compliment each other like mash potatoes and peas. Just drinking beer typically makes me tired after awhile and the special desserts seem to give me focus. Perhaps that’s all internal.

5:45 – The scene is ridiculous. What started out pretty slow like a typical day in quaint Quebec City has blossomed into a full-fledged shit-show party. You’re seeing kids of all ages, though more graying baby boomers in black nostalgic Floyd shirts with that unflappable artwork are flocking into bars for pre game drinks. I know myself; I’m feeling a slight glaze of the eyes while milking some monstrous Hefeweizens. The lemon in my beer is a bobber, bouncing boisterously, as my anticipatory glands anticipate a crescendo. Rock departure is near.

6:15 – THE MAN and I disagree on the concert strategic plan. He wants to chill on the hill taking in the experience from the back, while I would like to not be 90,000 rows away from the stage. It’s one of the reasons I am for all intents and purposes anti-festival, because I imagine standing for hours to watch something happening 300 yards away would be anti-climatic. Especially in this case with all the time and money put in. In my head, we want to be as close as possible. The downside is as decrescendo as imaginable, in my little chemically enhanced noggin. 

6:25 – We settle the check and go. I think this is a good decision. As we leave the bar, there is a steady downhill pour of people to the venue. The show has literally taken over the streets. The scene reminds me of cattle. It’s absolute pandemonium and chaos. People are chanting, jumping over barriers and punching babies in the face. Some people are simply stumbling around. Others have been on-site up front camping out for what must have been days? The traffic flows to a standstill as the line is filtered around the most ridiculous maze I’ve ever been a part of.

Seemingly, anytime we were about to make up ground and make a progress towards arriving at the gates, the maze takes another detour. With so many people, it’s essentially like walking in the dark. I wish I had a walking periscope like the driving periscope in Curb Your Enthusiasm. This maze included a stop at the port-a-Jons that found myself walking around the line and peeing in the bushes—right next to a couple of hot girls that were ass-naked squatting themselves’—let me tell you, they had good flow and the view from these eyes was real and spectacular. Like a trickling crick. I’ll never be able to remove that image from my head and sickening enough, I don’t want to.

All in all, it takes about two hours to get our spot in the field. Luckily, enough people wanted the hill that we were able to find a reasonably close place to set up shop.   

8:45 – What a spectacle. Beer vendors are wading through the crowd with cardboard beer boxes on their shoulders. Fans are buying them six at a time. I’m surprised you don’t see more of this in field-based venues. It saves time and there is always money to be made when you offer convenience. I’m surprised at how unglazed I feel at this point. The plan was I should be seeing Roger Waters floating across the deserted plains by now. Our hotel with the spinning roof is in full view. It’s pretty neat to have your hotel be a part of the view on a trip of this magnitude. It couldn’t have worked out better.

9:14 – I open my flip phone and the 14 rolls to a 15 in perfect cadence to the band taking stage. These guys do not fuck around.

9:16 – Roger Waters doesn’t need the money. He’s 68 years old and set for life. I think what makes him want to continue this Wall show, is the M.O. is essentially “I’m a badass.” About 100,000 people (I’ve read numbers from 70,000 to 110,000) lined up for miles to see him complete this over the top introduction that begins with shooting fireworks during a roaming “hi!” and ends with a plane driving into the wall, all the while crunching out rock staple, “In the Flesh.”      

9:22 – The groove of “Another Brick in the Wall” is irresistible. The presentation of it during this show is having Waters out front slappin’ the bass while all the lighting makes it seem as if he’s embedded as a living, bass slapping creature in molten lava. The lava flows as Waters remains steadfast. The bass line is so groovy, yet the song itself is so patient as it takes many layers and subtle movements before exploding into the chorus everyone knows, “We don’t need no education!” Every stop on the tour he has a group of local kids clapping from side to side along with him as the arraignment of the song progresses into full fledged rock immortality.

9:29 – Every mothers’ dream is to have a song like “Mother,” right? This is the point in the show when Roger likes to address the audience. For this particular show, he pulled a paper out of his pocket and recited his speech about terrorists and “fucked up younger Roger” in French. Most banter for this show was in French. Impressive. He then proceeds to play the song as a duet with a video from the 1980 tour. For some reason I was feeling semi-critical, with my arms folded thinking, “maybe he only does it this way, because he can’t sing it anymore. He’s too old.” Perhaps he’s such a control freak as well as obsessed with his mother that he can’t bare to let anyone else in the band sing it. Only Roger and Roger alone can sing about his mother.

9:47 – This is my favorite sequence of The Wall. The “Goodbye Blue Sky,” “Empty Spaces,” “Young Lust” segment. The grooves during the “Another Brick in the Wall” segment in the top part of the album are thunderous, but this part just makes me want to break my neck, jamming. The guitar work from Gilmour on “Young Lust” is just sick. I never realized it until I heard this show full force at Yankee Stadium, but his ability to flip between clean blues chords, bend and then flick a slight screech is enough to make me weep from over-exertion of emotive tones! Even though I was trying to be critical (apparently) of the show due to my lack of “special high” and lack of sleep, this segment of the show had me jumping up and down in glee.

10:15 – The band goes through another, “Another Brick in the Wall” segment and then to the last song before intermission, “Goodbye Cruel World” which signifies that the wall has been built and the isolation of the character (Pink) is complete. Waters peers through the last brick to say the final word of the song, “Goodbye” and then there is an intermission. Through the intermission pictures of veterans; past and present appear with mini bios. Semi haunting, but what would you expect. This is an abrasive Roger Waters rock show!? Many describe it as a religious experience and that comes with some blood, sweat and tears.

10:30 – Intermission is over and the opening chords parade into listeners delight as the albums strongest song plays. About this time in the show, my desire to be “critical” finds me wondering how the vocals on “Hey You” are so clean. I’m thinking they are back injecting Waters with cortisone shots and massaging him up, while the backing band takes heed of the situation. I’m thinking, “this is too clean…he’s not singing…he can’t be singing.” Only to find out in retrospect, that intro is vocal is Gilmour’s. Even so, once Waters chimes for the big rock finish of “Hey You,” one can consider themselves’ ROCKED. I can see why the high schooler in The Squid and the Whale would want to take credit for writing this song, hell, I want to have written this song. Elton John wishes he wrote this song. Epic.

10:39 – I consider this part of The Wall the waiting for “Comfortably Numb” section. I won’t say it’s a dead spot, because I think the true dead spot is later, but, there isn’t anything between “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb” I salivate over. I do LOVE the part when Waters emerges from the wall to sing a song from the bedroom, which looks really cool when he’s like 30 feet in the air.

I’m waiting….

10:45 – Yesssssss. The higher wall makes the guitarist and singer look incredibly stunt worthy for being so high up. The Gilmour voice is up on top of the wall and when the guitar solo comes, that guitarist then plays that part (not G.E. Smith) levitating to the top of the wall. Pretty neat watching performers kind of isolated up there. During all of this Waters goes back and forth from the sides of the stage. It doesn’t seem like he has a ton to sing in this song. It looks really cool nonetheless.

10:50 – The show picks up considerable steam during this segment. Waters seems like he was behind the wall guzzling Red Bull as he begins to take control and “earn his money.”

10:56 – Until this moment, I didn’t see a ton different with this show. It seemed like the same amount of pyrotechnics and the wall itself was bigger, but most of that was just extra white graffiti space at the edges. The real “game-changing effect was on “Run Like Hell” the stage shot white light into the sky, much like how NYC used to light up the empty space of the twin towers with what seemed like a 100 foot wide Maglite. This featured a dozen or couple dozen singular beams of white light seemingly going from the stage to the end of the stratosphere. It made you feel like you were seeing the biggest stage in the history of the world. Perhaps…we were. It was a badass effect. I was now won over. Critical period over…THIS IS A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE!!!!

11:00 – After “Run Like Hell” I usually stop listening to The Wall, but like many things, it’s like Waters knows this and this is where he really amps himself up. There is a huge cartoon scene, where I’m actually not sure exactly what’s going on, but the image is communicating a great deal of passion as Waters seems to know this is the finale and gives the singing everything he has. You find yourself chanting “TEAR DOWN THAT WALL” even if you’re in the most hipster of moods. This is an example of the religiousness of the show. It’s hard not to get into it. Eventually the massive white beast is torn down and everyone goes crazy!!!!

11:09 – Under the ruins, everyone comes out from the wall and plays essentially an “unplugged/acoustic” military line version of “Outside the Wall.” Everyone is thanked profusely and the backing band is introduced. I was hoping they would play another song for the finale concert, but really, would it have been THAT awesome if they came back out and cracked into “Time!?” Ok, yeah, I would have loved that, but certainly one can’t expect something like that. It’s a fantastic fucking show and I just saw it on the biggest scale. I’m floating on a little piece of white wall at this moment. Funny enough, I heard people were able to take pieces of the actual wall with them. If only I would have been more astute in making this happen. Would there be a better piece of rock memorabilia? I don’t see any on E-Bay, so perhaps the concierge was pulling my leg.

11:59 – It takes awhile to get out of there, but the scene outside was even crazier than before. Perhaps everyone is loaded and looking to party some more! The streets and bars are just JACKED all the way back to the hotel and beyond. Sirens, flashing lights, the bat signal—it was allll happening. Made me think of East Lansing on a big football Saturday after a worthy win. Roger Waters apparently, just won the World Series! I’m embarrassed to say, I pretty much got some post-game food and crashed. I was so tired, but again, such a rewarding experience.

Having seen the show before from such an askew angle, all the way in the corner, it was nice to be dead center and pick up on some of the things happening on stage and in the videos that I wasn’t able to see the previous time out. It also helped being that much further “into” the material.

Last Bricks

Getting up the next day, the place was a desolate ghost town!? Many of the bars, shops, etc weren’t even open. We wanted to get a nice steak for lunch before departing and all the places that seemed good and recommended, were closed. We decided to forfeit the steak and just eat on the go as we have a 10 or so hour drive remaining. Well rested from the hotel and a nice walk in the sun around the surrounding area before departure had my spirits quite high. Anytime I see something incredibly moving it effects me for many moons. I guess that’s why I write about music.

Like anything addicting, it leads me to think about what’s next? Is this it? As scheduled, this was the last show of a tour that started in 2010. Rumblings and gut feelings from interviews have me believe that Waters will do a European run next summer and then perhaps trickle into the states.

I know what you’re thinking…what a great excuse to go to Europe (it would be my first time) right?

The Wall all started because Waters became so angry with a fan, that he actually spat on the fan and theorized himself building a wall between the audience and performer. That kind of anger spurs creativity and wonderful art. I typically claim that depression is the best creating agent for music, but when delve into the creative genius of Waters, I see it doesn’t always have to be depressive. It can be a healthy use of anger. Anger has energy. The only solution for me, from here on out, is to use my own anger and transgressions in a positive way. Write more. Read more. Listen to more Pink Floyd. They have their finger on the pulse of creativity. They just took more chances than most bands.

If this show truly is a religion, the message is projected as clearly whether on an 800-foot wall or fuzzy set of headphones: Find something to get angry about and rip it to the ground. Much like the NYC audience tore flying pig apart (I wonder if he was pissed he had to buy a new pig. If he did, how many of those pigs does Waters bring on tour? Is it like baseballs for a baseball game?)!? Anger when properly channeled can be the best source of motivation. It’s my time to use Waters as an example, collect my finest basket of zeal and work (run?) my way (like) out of hell, because I’m sure as shit not a sheep and the show must go on.

Trust Us.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Music Review: Future History, Loss:/Self, My Steam Engine Debut

Read my debut, a review of an awesome album titled Loss:/Self by a band called Future History, for The Steam Engine here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Roger Waters' The Wall Live, Yankee Stadium, July 7th, 2012

Photo Credit: 2012 Roger Waters Music Overseas Limited (NY TIMES) 

A hot summery day in July, a few days over 12 years ago, a concert moment would change my life forever. Something that most certainly leads me to the concert going fiend and desired inker of such moments I am today. Legacy cemented…

Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI was hosting the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There was an opening act and the sub headliner was a growing band by the name Foo Fighters, rising to newfound heights on their new single, “Learn to Fly.” I wasn’t even going to attend this concert as I wasn’t a Foo fan yet and I did love the Chili Peppers, but for some reason I hadn’t acquired tickets until I ran into my buddy Ben downtown on a bridge (like that?) on the 4th of July. He had tickets for the next night and despite what seemed like a steep price, I had nothing else to do, so I joined. I didn’t live and die by concerts at this time in my life, and I attribute that transition to when the Foo Fighters took stage that faithful night. 

I knew a few of the Foo Fighters songs like “Everlong” and “Big Me,” but they continued playing song after song that I knew and loved, which made me continuously scream out that famous line when you’re surprised by a band you know, but don’t really know, “they sing this song too!?” There was a real up-and-down song, “For All the Cows” in which Dave Grohl would walk to opposite ends of the stage and take shots with Chad Smith, drummer of the RHCP, before laying out big screamer parts of the song. It seemed a tad unorthodox, and to this day I’ve never seen anyone so freely meander through stage time as an opening act.

It came time to dust off a cover. Not just ANY cover, but the Foo were about to play “Have a Cigar” (link: not the G-Rap performance) by Pink Floyd. A song at the time, for me, which meant more in spectacle of the name than anything else: Is there anything more badass than the notion of “having a cigar?” Has anyone in your life commanded you to have a cigar? I’d think if it happened, you’d have to oblige, or fear turning in any potential you ever had of being a badass. And really, that’s any boys/mans/human beings dream, right?

Cigar tangent aside, Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters took over as drummer and Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters drummer, took center stage and the microphone. I state this very simplistically, because this concept blew my mind. 1) I only really knew DG at the time as drummer of Nirvana that started his own band 2) It seemed weird to give this unknown drummer the center stage. 3) Not anybody can get up there and sing 70’s rock and get away with it! To this day, all the concerts I’ve been to, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it on that level. It makes sense logically, but it was just not something I expected.

Grohl was KILLING it on the drums as that seemed like the spectacle to watch, but really, it was Hawkins voice that really made it totally badass. These fuckers knew what they were doing. In hindsight, it’s easy to look at Hawkins future solo albums and use in future Foo albums, but at the time, I don’t think anybody had any idea what they were in for. It’s not like the Eagles where everyone sings. This was a fucking rock show and the main act could step behind the kit, and somehow that UPS the ante.

Over the years, I’ve heard Taylor Hawkins sing Floyd a number of times. It’s honestly one of my favorite concert delights. Pink Floyd was more “my dads’” music at that time, and was recognizable, but I couldn’t really fathom the scope. More so, I didn’t realize how classic that voice was until I heard Hawkins doing it. Perhaps it just took someone of my era to give me the frame to classify it, but when I hear that voice, there’s no way for me not to transport into the 70’s and drench myself in fake nostalgia. I love the notion of hearing something through someone else’s realm and how it brings the true meaning of something to your own table.

Bringing it back to today, The Foo Fighters on their latest tour for Wasting Light rolled “This is a Call” and transitioned into “In the Flesh?,” and it was fucking amazing! Pretty much the perfect selection of a cover I’d love to hear them do. On Jimmy Fallon, in almost a salute to this decision, Roger Waters joined the Foo Fighters in a performance of the same song. Wow.

Which leads us full circle, Roger Waters’ The Wall at Yankee Stadium.

Roger Waters, Pink Floyd bassist, 68, took over the main songwriting and concept duties for Pink Floyd in the early 70’s. The result: A four album run that rivals if not tramples any other band in the history of music. Think about it!? Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), and The Wall (1979). What are you going to put against that? The Beatles? Perhaps. I’d argue the Kinks or Zeppelin, but really, all things considered this sets the standard for stringing together albums. I always had, without proper research, given credit to guitarist David Gilmour for the legacy of Floyd, but thanks to a push from a friend, I forked over the ridiculous amount of dollars it took to get to this concert—and don’t recall why I didn’t make this a priority, sooner.

This was a show of epic proportions to say the least.

Roger Waters is a pimp! Cool and cleansing like his namesake, yet proven, wise, and larger than life like his legacy. Because I’m an idiot, I arrived to the show a little late, and when I heard the opening notes to “In the Flesh,” I found myself sprinting up the Yankee Stadium escalator to my ‘tweener level seats all the way stage right. The first image I saw from the show was fireworks and Roger Waters’ grill adorned with sunglasses that must have been about 150 feet per shade in aviator circumference projected on what seemed like a 2 kagillion foot wall. Whoa.

Let’s take a separate paragraph to discuss the wall. Not, The Wall, but the wall itself, not metaphorically or sonically. Literally. There was a projection-laden wall that covered approximately 70% of the Yankee Stadium outfield about 40 feet high that transitioned piece by piece throughout the set. The wall started with a broken brick “V” opening to which you’d see the 13-piece backing band, which featured G.E. Smith on guitar (you might remember from SNL), building itself to full force by mid-show (perhaps the Tenacious D “Roadie” song was about the never-ending job these guys do) creating the metaphoric barrier between artist and fan. Ha-ha! And finally, well, you know the story, it gets torn down. That process itself is spectacular, but if that’s not enough, the white wall also serves as a dynamic video screen of war propaganda, idealistic imagery and references to anything against the system. Big Brothers’ (referenced) worst nightmare!

Ok, back to The Wall. Born out of Waters’ frustration with audience perception, he imagined building an actual wall between the performers and the audience. This happens during the show and it’s kind of surreal. If the screen wasn’t so entertaining just in its grandiose stature this ideology may have reigned supreme, but honestly, the wall is so awesome, you could almost lose yourself looking at just the wall. Perhaps, I’m just easily amused. That ideology of imposed isolation is documented throughout the rock opera’s plot. Loss of a father in World War II, an over protective mother, loss of marriage, loss of confidence through ridicule of teachers and the loss of self through rock star excesses. It’s quite a journey, one that weaves in and out through some of rocks most famous songs, “Another Brick in the Wall”, “Hey You”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Young Lust,” and of course “In the Flesh.”

In music, artists’ losses are typically a win for the fan. It’s unfortunate, but most of the music I seem to really enjoy comes from a great deal of pain. Waters was the first to point out, when he sang a duet of “Mother” with a video of himself from the early 80’s, that he was indeed a 36 year-old “poor, miserable, fucked up little Roger.”  It was then impossible for any thinking man not to ponder about how this show has evolved over time. To think of how early on, they must have moved many of the wall pieces by hand (I guess they still do at parts), or how imagery projected onto the wall has changed itself, with political culture. References to Mac lingo (i____..., i____...) were countered with bios of soldier’s that lost their lives without blinking. I’ve always been a fan of the overall font and brand The Wall has created. I’ve had The Wall poster in my room before I knew shit about shit and/or anything remotely interesting about this album, other than it looked cool and it’s legacy is prominently heralded in high regard. It mostly is an insanely colorful red dominated charge-up-the-mountain with sweat on the brow and a setting sun fist-pumping imagery.

In fact, during the show, when Waters was giving props to the kids and ranting about terrorists, the New York natives (as a Michigan boy, they are still fodder, even after seven years) took it upon themselves to scream obscenities, interjecting the word terrorist every few seconds, just so they, themselves would feel like they were helping the show. It was a classic NY moment in which I could say to myself, “only in New York…do fans get inappropriately belligerent and boisterous…even when high.”

I mean, this was the same audience that found a way to catch and destroy my favorite prop (well, besides the wall) from the show--the inflatable pig with fake slogans. Man, they really ripped that thing apart. It really got out of control, fast!

The sound was another monumental achievement. I was incredibly worried, because my seats were as far to the right as you could get, outside the main speaker stacks, which is usually the first sign of trouble. But, true to the professionalism of the set up, the sound was loud, clear and impeccable. When he brought a “choir” of kids for “Another Brick in the Wall,” their voices were so loud in my ears it was almost piercing. I can only imagine what that was like to be close and dead center. Also, the show was in surround sound, so when there was laughing, gunshots and other high jinks you come to associate with Pink Floyd depth of sound, the noise would move right to left and/or directly behind you. The effect was unreal. Even if you weren’t high.

I’ll never forget the little moment late in the show when the full wall had been created, a piece about half way up unfolded like a hide-a-bed. Sure enough, it was Roger Waters, the pimp in command, coming from behind the wall 20 feet in the air on an easy chair and makeshift living room set. I can’t remember if he had a glass of wine or not, but the scene was set. He was chill, with one arm on the arm of the relaxing piece of furniture he was sitting on, casually serenading the audience. In direct contrast to when he walks along the entire wall, with the backing band covered, with the spotlight on him, projected his live image on bookends of the wall, with half a baseball outfield on either side to work with—putting on a show, with space cadet glow.

The thick and richness of Floyd’s arraignments are hard to match. After re-watching the Foo Fighters version of “In the Flesh,” (only three live guitars?) and listening to the 13-piece version (twice) during Roger Waters’ The Wall it’s just majestic in sonic triumph. I won’t go on record and say “it’s the best concert I’ve ever been to,” but I have no problem saying it’s the most expensive show I’ve ever been to, therefore I expected it to be, and it did live up to my lofty expectations. I just don’t have the history with the music to justify the “best ever” superlative.

My internal wall, however, has been knocked down, allowing me to pursue this not quite uncharted, but under-pursued, delight, with the reckless abandon personified in “Young Lust.” When you think about it, is there a better trajectory to unbridled fun then the freshness of a new addiction…with a map?

The album, The Wall By Pink Floyd

Writers note: The picture at the top was taken from the NY Times piece. Yeah, I know that’s kind of lame, but it seemed like the best possible picture for my obsession with the majestic wall. It seemed like I could credit it pretty easily. Also, Yankee Stadium doesn’t let you in with a Kindle, so taking in my big camera was an easy no-no. I need to work on getting a small digi-cam. In due time. Either way, I saw the perfect image and I wanted it. 

Also, I have no idea why my first chunk of paragraphs are double spaced and I can't fix it. I'm not going to spend all day on it.