Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 NCAA Bracket Predictions: Pick by Pick Analysis

The Madness is here! You know I wait ALL YEAR for this. Next year is only 366 short days away, but for now, I'll focus on the breakdown of this here 2012 bracket.

Games start around noon this Thursday!!! Yessssssssss.....

Analysis by Region:

Final Four:
North Carolina over Vanderbilt
Kentucky over Michigan State

Kentucky 79, North Carolina 75

Thank you for reading! I hope this enhanced your enjoyment of the best event in sports....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Young the Giant: Terminal 5, March 9th, 2012

Young the Giant Live. The band name alone promotes two obstacles this show was going to have to overcome. 1) Young – An all ages show for a band a vast majority of the population (actually, including myself) discovered during the MTV Music Awards. Yes, that still happens. 2) Giant – Out of all the venues in NYC, there must be 1,000 places to play, Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen is one of the airiest, echo bearing, dysfunctional places imaginable. You might as well hand squeeze orange juice and mix it with Tropicana.

The space is chock full of obstructed view places to stand (obviously you don’t have to stand behind pillars, but why build it like that or have rock shows there?) and the bathrooms insist on creating awkward situations by employing a bathroom concierge. Really!? At a rock show? A bathroom concierge? I pretty much live my life by the credence that if there’s a bathroom concierge, I should not be there.

Needless to say, there was skepticism and a two-touchdown deficit to start the show. Let me backtrack a tad to profess my excitement for the band. I can complain about young people at the show, but I too, discovered the band by watching the MTV Music Awards for the first time in over a decade. The last band I discovered through MTV was probably Pearl Jam. But I digress, Young the Giant did make my Best of 2011 albums list. They seem to have fused the accessible energy of Coldplay’s newer albums with the arty, Peter Gabriel loving, intelligent upper class melodies of Vampire Weekend.

Grouplove did a fantastic job opening the show. I didn’t particularly enjoy the band, nor would I consider purchasing any of their gear, but “the kids” went insane for their upbeat pop sensationalism. I can’t blame them, it looked like fun, but it’s not really my thing. Like people playing Operation in the park. Fun game, I just don’t have steady hands, so I’ll just watch and drink some fine Abitia Beers in the distance. Credit Terminal 5 for having affordable GOOD beer. That’s about the last possible decision you’d expect them to get right, but they did, and it did me right to have a couple of cold ones during the opening set. And possibly a few more during the closing set.

Young the Giant came out around 9:22pm, which seemed about right, since the wonderful (last sarcastic comment about the venue) Terminal 5 has an 11pm curfew. That seemed about right. I only have the one album, although I know they’ve been around awhile and have compiled, and whittled down a somewhat underground catalog. For me, the right opening number sonically for YTG would have to be, “My Body”, but I know they wouldn’t have the balls to do that. That's like eating all the marshmallows in your Lucky Charms before the mushy wheat bits.

Instead, I was delighted that “I Got” was the opener choice, which made me feel silly trying to imagine the band coming right out with their biggest hit, albeit their only really definable red-line rock number. Lead singer and gregarious front man Sameer Gadhia, took the stage dressed exactly like everyone in the audience (not a slight to the venue, slight-slight to the audience?) in blue jeans and a freshly pressed light color button up. He reminds me a tad of Aziz Anzari, but I realize full and well, that’s probably pretty racist. I said it anyway.

The tone, however, was not holier than thou in the least bit. The man came to WORK! He danced back and forth throughout the stage, shaking tambourines feverishly, and confusing the shit out of me by switching microphones every five seconds. There was a brief moment in which Gadhia was shaking two differently weighted tamborines, seemingly at different rhythms, while singing one of the band’s complicated harmonies. I’ve never actually seen anyone do that. The task seems similar to juggling eggs and bowling balls while reciting state capitals.

With the microphones, he typically had one normal microphone in his hand, while having a 50’s style radio DJ looking microphone, glistening in metallic delight, while he’d switch from one to the other, depending on location, sometimes even mid sentence. He did this throughout the set. The glistening metal microphone seemed to have a slightly cleaner sound, but I never did figure out the how’s and why’s on that one. I chalk it up to a kid having fun.

It’s hard not to have fun at a show like this. The music is fun and engaging, giving various groups of people, young and old; rockers and gawkers; beer drinkers in the back and thrashers up front; what they want from a show. You could put their album on with your parents at a BBQ or find it played at a 20-year old’s birthday party with illegal substances. That kind of communal music appreciation is harder to find than you might think. In my family you basically have Johnny Cash, Jack Johnson and CCR, if you truly want something that everyone can agree upon. And I can’t even always sneak Jack in there.

They closed their set with the impressive save your energy for the finale explosion, “God Made Man” which brought Gadhia into a screaming fit. Epic. And lastly, YTG had no choice but to give the kids what they were craving. The encore featured “My Apartment” and closed with a ferocious everybody jump and screaaaaaaam final scene. Everybody leaves happy. There was even an obscure (to me) Gorrilaz cover and multi-piece orchestra ensemble lending determination to diversification.

At some point I decided when I got older I was going to attend every concert I wanted to, because I love to be at the show. There is nothing better than a good energetic set to give memories, time and place to the music. Young the Giant has seemed to approach the tipping point of becoming the next big band. I hope they too, will remember this moment of youthful exuberance, and relish the opportunity, put it into the new music sharing it with the masses, because I want more.

I won’t quit. I want more.

I Got
Guns Out
Shake My Hand
What You Get
12 Fingers
Cough Syrup
Empire Ants (Gorillaz cover)
I Wanna
St. Walker
God Made Man

My Body

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MuteMath: Best Buy Theater, March 8th, 2012

With songs like “Clipping”, “Cavalries”, and “Allies” on the setlist, it’s no wonder New Orleans own MuteMath chose to open Thursday night’s show at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square by flanking the audience from behind. Drummer Darren King led the way manning a snare, weaving through the audience with military rhythm, while the remaining members of the band followed suit with a caravan crashing symbols, a thumping bass drum and a traveling entourage of security. All traveling under some sort of telephone line sculpted, Christmas lit concoction, shining a pathway of pandemonium to the stage. Marti Gras apparently went into overtime. Bonus southern spirit for everyone!?

Magic air mattress rides. Confetti. Jam sessions consumed with the ideology of “everyone pitches in” percussion. Sting sounding sing-a-longs. Homemade instruments thrown into the audience. Scissor kick pool jumps off the center stage organ. Keytar dance endeavors. All things well documented during MuteMath’s new video for “Allies.”

But first, Darren King, beast of a man, needs to electrical tape studio sized headphones to his dome.

And away we go...

The opening 500 notes of the show (from stage) took place in King’s four-second animalistic drum introduction to “Odd Soul”, the first cut off the new album of the same name. Lead singer Paul Meany proceeded to scream, “TRIALS and tribulations always seem to track me down…” giving added soul to a line just about any soul can relate to. Meany, whose voice is usually silky smooth, never sounded so inspired. It was the sound of a band on a mission.

Typically when a concertgoer pontificates, “they played everything off their new album,” it’s seen as a real downer. Wah-wah. Not this time around. Early in the show intention to play every song on Odd Soul as well as other favorites was declared. It’s ballsy to come out with that kind of confidence about your new material, but the execution was brilliant and time flew like confetti.

Add this up: 27 songs and almost 2.25 hours of MuteMath madness.

It’s rare for me this day in age to leave a concert feeling like the band did EVERYTHING in their power give the fans what they want. There’s usually a “What if…” I can point to in order to not deem what I just saw as perfect. I’m always seeking quantifiable justice. I never feel that way after a MuteMath concert. Every show seems better than the last show, which was previously the best show I’d ever seen.

In the early days, nights wound down with the band drenched in sweat, reveling in a path of destruction that seemed to include most of their instruments and equipment, all the while, taking time to shake hands with audience members and thank them for “taking time out of their schedule to see us play.”

Though they’re not as destructive, circa 2012, the keen sense of how to put on a show, and keep things fresh remains true. Little antics throughout the show exponentially pile themselves up, towering a tally of rock moments beyond our vividly constructed imaginations. Especially for a $25 buy-in. It’s absolutely SILLY that more people don’t know about this band.

I’ll never get sick of seeing DK Beast fill his drumhead with water and thrash like a little boy in the rain during “Reset.” The quintessential “Break the Same” jam has been replaced by a seamless merger into epic seven minute opus “Quarantine” in which Meany crowd surfs on an air mattress strung with bright lights without missing any of the quick hitting lines or notes. It makes me wonder what “Magic Carpet Ride” would sound like with air mattress technology.

If you were sad not to see King solo on top of Meany’s keyboard (another “Break the Same” jam trademark), you were quickly restored to percussion fulfillment when he rode into the audience on a moving piece of catwalk—to complete a brief, but angry, bad ass snare solo. Retribution reloaded. It’s the same piece of moving stage Meany crooned con confetti during “Equals”, yet another majestic memory from a show full of innovative imagery.

It’s good to see new guitarist Todd Gummerman has bought into the system, periodically mimicking Meany’s scissor kicks off the organ. It’ll be interesting to see his impact on the guitar playing for the next album.

The greatest victory for me is a deeper appreciation for the Odd Soul catalog. Somehow, even though I tasted the flavor, I never picked up on exactly how much Southern Baptist church clapping organ ingredients the album has. You listen to a song like “One More” and you’re practically transported into the congregation. If Odd Soul is your bible, affirmation just became one big drum ladled jamboree. Your concert ticket is your tithe, brother.

The show’s closing song “Typical” has been typically known an opener, with flashing lights and Meany armed with a keytar on top of his keyboard Para trooping to stage level in time to sing, dance and give thanks to another rocking day. A signature signal has come full circle for a band that continues to push themselves into new territories of showmanship—backwards, forwards and all-around.

Every new end comes from some other endings beginning.

Odd Soul
Blood Pressure
Tell Your Heart Heads Up
Sun Ray
Plan B
Walking Paranoia
One More
In No Time
All Or Nothing
Break the Same

You Are Mine