Sunday, June 7, 2009

"What Up 1991?!" - Jane's Addiction (and some NIN) Holmdel, NJ June 6, 2009 concert review

In a recent email to my pal Melissa telling her I was attending the NIN/JA 2009 tour featuring Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails (with openers Street Sweeper Social Club) she responded with the humorous and very accurate "Wow! What Up 1991?!"

Accurate because 1991 was not only "The Year That Punk Broke" (according to the Sonic Youth / featuring Nirvana documentary of the same name), it was also the year Mr. Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza which would feature his band Jane's Addiction's final tour and also feature up and comers Nine Inch Nails in a hot and sunny early day slot (I've always heard NIN sold more T-Shirts on that tour than either anyone else or all the other bands would be three more years before they took over the world with their mud covered set at Woodstock '94 bringing them to the attention of the masses - happy to say I was there for that one...but did miss Green Day's mud set).

I caught Lollapalooza at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center that year and enjoyed Nine Inch Nails (in what would be the first of about a half dozen times I would see them over the years including just this past October headlining Saturday night at The Voodoo Festival in New Orleans) and LOVED Jane's Addiction.

Eighteen years later I finally got to see them again. I somehow missed them on the various reunion tours they've done (although I remember really trying to get tickets to the Halloween show in NYC for the first reunion, but it sold out too quick). I saw Porno for Pyros numerous times (including that '94 Woodstock as well) and Perry fronting various super groups at benefit shows, but there's nothing like the real thing as Pepsi might say (or is it Coke?)

So Welcome back 1991 indeed!

It had been on and off rain since Wednesday and by the time Saturday morning, June 6, arrived, it was looking overcast and rainy...not usually a problem for shows, but we had lawn seats for this one. Luckily by noon the sun was out and it was in the 70's, an absolutely perfect day for a lawn seat show!

We paid for a VIP parking pass which allows you to park right outside the entrance to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. If you don't buy one of these reserved lots passes you have to walk about a mile or further up hill to the thanks. It also allows you to hear when the bands hit the stage although this information is posted for all the shows on Jane's website. It would be Tom Morello's Street Sweeper Social Club at 7:30, Nine Inch Nails at 8:15 and Jane's Addiction at 10:00pm. While this is called a co-headlining tour, Jane's has been the headliner on every show so far. Perhaps on the second half of the tour they'll trade slots.

Monetarily this tour is a great idea for both bands as while there is obvious alt rock crossover, many fans seem to be die hard fans of either one or the other. I know I would have passed on Nine Inch Nails this summer without Jane's and I heard many with the opposite sentiment while waiting on the will call line which I'll get to in a minute.

I had seen SSSC do a short set at the Road Recovery benefit recently (see my past blog for review) and really truly was planning on seeing them here, but when you're with family and friends and doing the parking lot party...time just goes by and how can you leave those last three beers sitting in the cooler?

So needless to say, I missed their set which word has been for every show that they killed. They've been doing a standard seven song half hour with six originals and a great cover of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes".

I know it's a great cover because there is an open taping policy on this tour! Not just audio, but video as well. Almost every show has been showing up immediately on the various bit torrent sites and YouTube. Actually this show I'm reviewing right now, less than 24 hours later is already on my hard drive...ah technology!

So Suddenly we're finishing our last beers and hear NIN hit the stage and decide along with the rest of the parking lot partiers (of which there were MANY!) that we should go to Will Call, pick up the tix and head inside.

Well I learned a lesson on this night, if you're at the show early, hit will call early to get your tix. There was one Will Call window open and HUNDREDS of people on line to get in. It was slow and kind of annoying listening to some of my fave Nine Inch Nails songs while waiting to get in (Damn...why did "March of the Pigs" have to be so early in the set!). It was while waiting that I heard many complaints from people who came just to see NIN whining about missing them, again I already saw them on this tour and was really there for JA, so it wasn't so bad.

As we get about four people away from the front, they of course open another will call got my tix and then go walk over to the gates to go in.

This was where we noticed the weird security vibe at this show. As I stated it was open taping, so you could bring in audio, video, still cameras, but there was a major pat down on everyone. There was also a heavy police presence with one group of about eight cops standing around waiting for trouble. Someone was worried about trouble from this crowd for no apparent reason. First of all there was a good amount of "older" fans - I mean Jane's has been around 22 or 23 years...hell, Perry just turned 50...I don't think anyone was going to be forming a moshpit. All the cops were cool and I didn't see them hassle anyone drinking from glass bottles or anything...maybe there was a riot at a Nine Inch Nails show here in the past or something? The security issues continued somewhat inside when it came to lawn seating.

Here at Holmdel and most other ampitheatres with lawn sections I go to, they usually have an option to rent a chair for 5 bucks for those who don't want to sit on the grass or didn't bring a blanket. Every time I've gone to a show here in the past, I did this and we all planned on doing this tonight, but when we went inside, we saw the chair rental booths were there full of chairs, but no one renting. A security guard was stationed there and had to get sick of people (like myself) going up and asking him if we could rent a chair to which he would reply, "No, there are no chair rentals at this show." Very odd indeed considering they always rent out a few thousand chairs, so that's potentially tens of thousands of dollars the venue was giving up because why? Were people beaten with chairs in the past? Did they get destroyed? They just did not trust this crowd with anything. Oh well...I was REALLY glad at this point it hadn't rained so I didn't have to suffer muddy ass on the grass.

Although later in the night Perry would say this was a sold out show, it wasn't...but a real nice turn out. We were still able to get a nice spot on the right side of the lawn where we could view the stage and there were also screens on both sides to view as well. Sound was excellent as it always is when I've seen a concert at PNC.

So with the beer drinking, will call line waiting, patting down and rental chair searching, we missed about half of Nine Inch Nails set. They were rocking and excellent as always, with "Mr. Self Destruct" from "The Downward Spiral" being the first song we heard once settled.

They followed that up with a double shot from their 2008 free downloadable album "The Slip" playing "1,000,000" followed by "Echoplex".

The double shots continued with the third and fourth tracks from 2007's "Year Zero" in the way of "Survivalism" and "The Good Soldier".

Their set completed with a pair of singles, "The Hand that Feeds" from "With Teeth" and that 1991 Lollapalooza anthem "Head Like A Hole" from "Pretty Hate Machine" which had the audience screaming for more as the band left the stage.

They returned giving the crowd what they wanted, their biggest hit and another visit to "The Downward Spiral" with "Hurt." From what I saw a great career spanning set which made with the die hards and more casual fans happy.

What I truly came to see would hit the stage in about fifteen minutes, the return of the original line-up of Jane's Addiction!

So for fifteen minutes we wated the mad dash of thousand of attendees running for the beer line and/or bathroom line and then the lights dimmed and the stage lit up with a curtain in front of showing classic images of the band as we heard that acoustic opening with Perry telling us "Right Now you should be here with us..." as the band opened with their epic "Three Days" from "Ritual De Lo Habitual!".

This is such a monster of a song on album and live it reaches new heights. I had been following the setlists of this tour and when I first heard they were opening their set with this song I thought it was a bad idea. "Three Days" takes you on a musical journey of over 10 minutes and while it is a must have in the set list, I didn't know if it would work as the bring in. Well it works with the slow build into the psychedelic / tribal breakdown (with the amazing Stephen Perkins on drums) peaking two thirds of the way through as Perry screams of "Erotic Jesus...plays with his Marys..." and then the final Dave Navarro shredding road trip to the end... amazing and tight - sounding like these guys have been playing together for the last 18 years instead of the last month of this tour.

If you forgot that bassist Eric Avery is back in the mix, you're reminded immediately with his bassline intro to "Whores" from their self titled live debut album. It becomes apparent over and over through out the night what an important roll Avery's bass played in Jane's music. While Navarro gets the real notice as guitar hero, so many of the songs in tonight's set are based on the base line including "Ain't No Right" which comes next. As Perry sings the opening line "I Am Skin and Bones..." you realize he certainly is, but in excellent shape physically and vocally. The muscle tear he suffered early in the tour is no wear to be seen as he prowls and dances around the stage all night.

"Nothing's Shocking" album closer (and also featured on the debut) "Pigs in Zen" rocks out next and then another "Ritual..." epic with the second longest track after "Three Days" the very personal "Then She Did." Another song which shows the expertise Jane's has in slowing bring the audience into a song and building to an emotional peak.

While the boys do the epics well, they also do the balls out riff rock as good as anyone else. "Up The Beach" starts playing, but instead of going into "Ocean Size", it leads into their first real MTV exposure with "Mountain Song." This one brought everyone in the audience back on board and could only be topped with their biggest hit "Been Caught Stealing".

It was about 11:00pm at this point and a decent amount of the audience, having felt they heard most of what they came to hear, departed after "Stealing" as the boys took another dip into the "Ritual" pool with the one suprise song of the night - "Obvious."

The setlist has been standard for this tour with one open slot where they are switching things up. "Obvious" first appeared in the set only a week ago right after Stephen Perkins announced on the website that they were practicing this as well as "No One's Leaving" to work into the setlist. Considering the other choices of songs which have come in this mystery slot, I'm glad we got "Obvious" (the only song I know they've played on this tour that I would have rather heard would have been their great cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" which I think they've only played twice live. At most of the shows they've been doing "Had A Dad" with "1%" as a close second and a really occasional "Standing in the Shower Thinking" - I do love that song too...I think I gotta go check out one of the few Jane's theatre gigs their doing where they probably get more time and play all of these!). Again I was amazed at how tight the band sounded on a song which was just added to the set.

While "Mountain Song" didn't get any hate, I'm sure there were plenty of people who wanted the massive guitar onslaught of "Ocean Size" and after "Obvious" they got it. Only one more song for the main set and it was another from "Nothing's Shocking", it's depraved epic "Ted Just Admit It..." with it's similar structure to "Three Days" with slow beginning to tribal middle and "Sex Is Violent" chant to guitar madness at the end...then the boys left the stage to return a couple of minutes later.

The next song was very fitting considering the beautiful weather as the encore set started with "Summertime Rolls." They had some rocking left to do so "Stop" the first track on "Ritual came next and then the night could only end with what has truly become the bands biggest song, the acoustic guitar and steel drum driven "Jane Says" which had everyone singing along and smiling wide as they left to find their cars for the ride home.

Amazing show and I hope to see them again at least one more time on this tour.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Classic Full Albums Live On Tour!

Has anyone else noticed how the trend of an artist/band going on tour to revisit a classic album and play it live, in order from start to finish, is becoming very popular? I, for one, couldn't be happier.

I was reminded of this phenomenan when talking upcoming summer shows and my buddy mentioned the ZZ Top / Aerosmith tour. I really didn't have any thought of going as I'm not the biggest ZZ fan in the world and I've seen Aerosmith numerous times in the last twenty years and they just dissapoint me more and more each time because I don't think I've loved anything they've actually released in those twenty years.

I first saw Aerosmith on the Permanent Vacation tour in the summer of 1988 with Guns n Roses opening (first of numerous times seeing GnR as well). It was probably the biggest rock tour of that year and by a miracle we were able to pick up scalped tickets (I think for either face value of like 5 bucks over face) outside the Orange County Fairgrounds for the sold out show in Middletown, NY. It remains one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. Two great bands right around the peak of their powers. I love 70's Aerosmith and got to hear nuggets like "Rats in The Cellar" along with the obvious "Sweet Emotion", "Dream On" and "Walk This Way". Sure they played some new stuff and Permanent Vacation is actually pretty good...unfortunately, like other things in life, it would never be like the first time whenever I saw Aerosmith again. Loosing setlist space that once held classic rockers to the likes of "Pink" or "Jaded" just doesn't do it for me.

I can't really blame them - Aerosmith have had way more charted hits since the release of "Permanent Vacation" than prior, I just happen to like Aerosmith alot more when they were an album band as opposed to a singles band.

So yeah...that was a lawn seat I didn't expect to buy this summer, until my bud told me their playing "Toys In The Attic", my favorite Aerosmith album, in it's entirety! Sure I've heard the popular half of it live as it contains many of Aerosmith's biggest hits of the 70's (Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way and the title track are pretty standard from the shows I've seen - I think I've heard them do Big Ten Inch live as well), but the other half are great tunes too, so a summer night on the grass with some beers and friends for $20 sounds like a good time to me.

"Toys..." came out 35 years ago when I was but a lad of four, so if I had super hipster parents, perhaps I could have seen them on that tour. Alas my parents gave up on popular music around the time the Beatles started smoking weed, but I thank these bands that revisit these classic albums live for those of us who missed it or weren't born the first time around.

I've seen plenty of my favorite bands when they were just starting out and therefore more or less got to hear their early albums live, but today I'm talking about those that bring the classic back years later...the ones I've seen...and the ones on my wishlist.

The first band that comes to mind is The Who. On the first reunion tour in 1989 I saw the first and last nights of their four night stand at Giant's Stadium. Those performances were epic three and a half hours with all the hits and plenty of rarities, but the first 45 minutes of each night was "Tommy".

These were just about the first shows of the tour right after the band did "Tommy" at Radio City Music Hall so it was fresh in their mind and they brought it to the 70 thousand people who came each night to NJ. If I remember correctly it was about 90 to 95% complete...I think they dropped one or two tracks, but considering the Radio City Music Hall tix were $500, I was happy to save $475 and miss two minor pieces. I'm so glad they started that tour on the east coast as they broadcast the last show of the tour on the radio and by that time, Tommy had become a greatest hits suite and the band was down to playing two hours.

The who would strike again with the classic album live when they did their "Quadrophenia" tour around 1996. Caught one of the nights at Madision Square Garden on that tour which, as with every Who show I've ever seen, was fantastic. Some special guests too with Billy Idol and Gary Glitter. The whole album, a couple of encores, done - loved it!

I remember thinking at the time how I wish more bands would take this idea and run with it and two years later Cheap Trick brought it to town.

The Trick did a three night stand at Irving Plaza from October 29 to Halloween night in 1998 performing their first three albums, one a night, each night. My friend and I couldn't think of a better way to spend Halloween than seeing Cheap Trick do "Heaven Tonight". I remember Kiss were starting their tour on the same night in California and to start the show, a damn good Gene Simmons in full Kiss get up came out to introduce the band with typical Gene hyperbole only to be bum rushed off the stage by a group of dream police to much applause. Then CT came out and rocked the house.

Other shows I've caught in more recent years include Slayer doing the absolute metal classic "Reign In Blood" in full, Roger Waters on his last tour where the second set was "Darkside of the Moon" (with special guest for that night, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason during the DSOTM set) and oddly enough W.A.S.P. doing "The Crimson Idol". I saw W.A.S.P. a few times in the 80's when Poughkeepsie was a key stop on any metal band's tour and decided to check them out for this gig. I didn't own this concept album of theirs from the 90's, but heard they had made a film to go along with it back in the day that either was never toured with anywhere or never toured with in the US. The film would play on a backdrop as the band played along explaining the images. I'll give them kudos, it made it interesting and the tunes were good, the only bummer was after playing this album of material I never heard before, we only got a one or two song encore - was hoping to hear a few more tracks I knew, but I'll just catch them next time around as they were still rockin.

The most recent classic album live shows I've seen have been part of the amazing Don't Look Back shows put on by All Tomorrow's Parties. I believe this series started in 2005 as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties festival and has since grown (as has the festival which is now held a few times a year in numerous countries). ATP specializes in "Alternative" Music from the mainstream to the quite obscure and almost forgotten but talented.

Usually as part of their festival, a few of the gigs will be "Don't Look Back" sets where a band will play an entire classic live. For example Devo recently performed their debut "Q: Are We Not Me?..." to the less well known to the public influential No Wave legends Suicide doing their debut at the NY ATP festival in September to the you really have to be up on your music Dirty Three and the Drones doing "Ocean Songs" and "Wait Long by the River" respectively.

I've never been the the All Tomorrow's Parties festival (I think last year was their first one in Monticello, NY), but I'm probably going to go at least to the first night this year (check out this Friday lineup - The reunited Jesus Lizard, Iron and Wine, the aforementioned Suicide, Dirty Three and Drones, The Feelies - also doing a full album "Crazy Rhythms" and probably my favorite standup comic David Cross! Plus Cinema by Criterion! Holy shit! - Hell I might just do the whole weekend as curators The Flaming Lips are there, Melvins, Boss Hog...and Monticello is a mere hour away...but back on topic)

So anyway, for the last four or five years, ATP/DLB concerts have brought some amazing shows around and I caught two.

Mudhoney doing all of their early singles plus "Superfuzz Bigmuff" and one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen - Sonic Youth doing "Daydream Nation at McCarran Park Pool in Brooklyn.

Mudhoney was a packed hot sweaty night at Bowery Ballroom. Great Fuzzy Guitar Madness (and also introduced me to openers Pissed Jeans who I quite dig) where as Sonic Youth was a beautiful outdoor summer night playing one of my ten fave albums of all time - sublime is a word that fits here.

So it bring it on bands...practice those great old tunes and get them on the road to NY.

Part two will talk about my hopes and dreams for this movement - who's out there that have enough band members still alive to pull off some of my favorite albums live front to back - I'll bring it after this weekend's NINJA Tour review from NJ. Maybe Jane's Addiction will play all of "Ritual de lo Habitual" or "Nothing's Shocking" oh boy would I dig that!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Supersuckers - Kingston NY 5/29/2009 Concert Review

Sometimes things just work out...

On Tuesday, May 19, I wanted to be at the Fillmore at Irving Plaza in NYC for the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash featuring oodles of great music including the Supersuckers. Unfortunately somehow once again my Tuesday night dart league team made the playoffs and I couldn't let the team down...we won that night, but came in second for the season.

A few nights before I had checked the Supersuckers tour dates to see if there was anything else in the area and there really was nothing very close...looks like I would have to miss the boys supporting their latest album "Get It Together" and more importantly the 20th Anniversary Tour of the (aptly) self described "Greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World".

But as I stated above, sometimes things just work out...

So it's about a week later and I sign on to myspace (That's right, MySpace, I'm sticking with it, I'm not joining facebook or whatever the next flavor of the moment social network comes along...) and see a post from los 'suckers saying something about finalized tour dates...I figure lemme take a gander and WHOLE LEE SHIT Kids, what's this?! The Supersuckers are playing this Friday, May 29 at the Basement in

Kingston?! A mere 2 minute drive from my job and 30 minutes from home!? That Powerball virgin sacrifice paid off some dividends afterall!

So I call my buddy Kev who I turned onto the band soon after I discovered them around the release of "La Mano Cornuda" (their classic 1994 Sub Pop release) and suddenly, as the Easybeats sang, "I've Got Friday On My Mind"

So I actually had never been to The Basement, but I hear it's a small joint so we get their right before 8:00pm when it says doors open. A mere fifteen bucks and we get our wristbands for entry and check the joint out...oh yeah...this is gonna be good!

I've seen the Supersuckers at Maxwell's in Hoboken NJ and I thought THAT was a great small place to see a show...well the Basement takes it to another level. (Photo note - the photos throughout this review are ones I took of the Supersuckers about 15 years ago at one of those great Maxwell gigs - unfortunately I didn't bring my damn camera to this show for updated pics)

The joint is about 15 feet wide and maybe 60 feet long. You walk in and a bar is immediately inside the door for about 30 feet down the right side. Then there's about 20 feet of open space and then the stage which is about 2 feet off the ground and maybe 15 feet deep. Legal capacity can't be more than 100 people.

Oh yeah...bathrooms...well this place took a cue from CBGB and you have to walk across the stage to get to the bathrooms which are right behind the stage...and at a supersuckers show you know the beer is flowing and the bathroom traffic was pretty heavy through out the night, but "Rontrose", who was stationed directly in the bathroom path, handled it well.


So I'm really wondering who has the goods on Eddie Spaghetti (vocals and bass), Ron "Rontrose" Heathman and Dan "Thunder" Bolton (guitars) and Scott "Scottzilla" Churilla (drums) to blackmail them into playing such a tiny place, but I'm thankful. It was actually the grand re-opening weekend of The Basement so it looks like management went all out!


We were parked against the left wall about 5 feet from the stage and there was a slightly shaky start to the show. Eddie's mic was shocking him everytime his lips touched it and it's hard to rock to your maximum powers when your getting mouth tazed everytime you go to sing. Luckily the boys trusty roadie fixed things up after about three tunes and then the show truly began!

This being a new album tour as well as a 20th anniversary tour, we were treated to just the right balance of new tunes mixed with plenty of classics - the first of which was "Luck" off 1992's "The Smoke of Hell". "Luck" shows the hardest fastest punkest rockest side of the Supersuckers and it ruled. It came early in the set after somewhat newer tracks like "Rock n Roll Records (Ain't Selling This Year)" and "Rock Your Ass" the lead off tracks from 2003's subtly titled "Motherfuckers Be Trippin".

The majority of the night's selections from their latest studio album "Get It Together" came early on mixed in the set list with the likes of an amped up "Bad Bad Bad" (from 1995's Sacrilicious Sounds of...). The new tracks got plenty of racous applause but things truly went into overdrive when the classics starting emanating from the speakers right above my head.


My first taste of the Supersuckers was when I picked up "La Mano Cornuda" and to this day it's remained my favorite. I actually consider it one of those rare finds - the perfect album, great from beginning to end...imagine a sonic cocktail made up of 2 parts Cheap Trick, 2 parts Motorhead and 1 part Bon Scott era AC/DC. I still to this day listen to it and wonder how the hell the Supersuckers did not explode out of the Seattle scene with this and their other albums...but I digress...

From this must own long playergot the ode to slackerdom "On The Couch" (probably the highlight of the night for me), the revenge fantasy "How To Maximize Your Kill Count" and of course "Creepy Jackalope Eye". "Jackalope" was something of a strange slowed down version, not countrified (there was no acoustic country set tonight), more lounge, but with a last full speed balls out verse and chorus to get the crowd jumpin.

Close to the end of the night, before the "encore", we got treated to another two off "Smoke of Hell" with the bluesy "Hell City, Hell" and the full bore rock attack of "Coattail Rider" (which actually followed "On The Couch" if memory serves me correct for quite the one two puch to the ear drum).

I say "encore" in quotes as the Supersuckers have a motto of once they leave the stage, the show is over, so there is a few second fake encore break while the band explains this and then the night ends with a great last batch of songs starting with a cover of the Ramones "I Believe In Miracles", a holdover from the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash of a week earlier and done to perfection.


Next up is what would probably be the closest thing the boys had to a hit - "Born With A Tail." Again, this song should have been massive - hard commercial rock you can't help but sing along too and won't leave your head for days. "Born" led right into "Pretty Fucked Up" and was immediately followed by "I Want The Drugs" which led back into a reprise of "Born" and suddenly the show was over.

About 80 to 90 minutes, 25 or so songs, 90 or so degrees, 100 or so very happy fans! Sometimes things just work out!

Opening the show was a great local band called Rented Mule. They play both types of music - Country AND Western (and Blues - hell they play CBGB - Country Blue Grass Blues). The core of the band is the husband and wife team of Jeff and Kate McCoy on bass and sultry vocals/sexy stage presence/guitar respectively. Jeremy Boniello on just right less is more drums and Mark Primoff on stellar clean and tasty lead guitar. For those who came to the show hoping for the country Supersuckers, Rented Mule should have sated their appetite. Excellent originals and a cover or two (a Lynyrd Skynyrd song I didn't know, but my buddy Kevin did) - this is the type of country music I like - the good old Hank Williams Johnny Cash type. I look forward to seeing this band playout again locally