Song of the Day: Kishi Bashi – Bright Whites

Posted on by halley in Song of the Day | 3 Comments

It’s fun. It’s light. It’s a bit fruity. It’s not Fresca. It’s Kishi Bashi’s Bright Whites. The mysterious artist (perhaps not mysterious to others more adept at Googling up-and-coming artists than I) has burst upon the scene and is quickly proving to be a show-stopper. He is currently touring a wide range of US cities – so check him out before he passes through (I speak regretfully – as he came through DC, opening up for Sondre Lerche, and I totally missed my chance).

Although all his songs are enjoyable, my favorite, and one of “K’s” most popular tracks, is Bright Whites. The four-minute tune offers listeners an addictive hybrid sound spanning Native-American-like-yelps, campfire-tune-hand-clapping, and electro-tech-twist. The total product is somewhere between Sondre Lerche and Of Montreal – both bands with whom the artist has collaborated with.

Kishi Bashi dives into Bright Whites with an energetic chorus of yips, followed by his smooth voice singing… something? I’m going to leave the lyrics up to you – both the artist’s bio and lingo escapes me even after listening to the song about a dozen times consecutively (yes, it’s that good).

The specifics I caught?

“you and me at the edge of the world…”

“and if you smile at me… I could fly by land or sea…”

The sense I get? In general? You’ve got a guy. A girl. Potential. A journey. Y’know, the tried and true themes of everyone’s dreams, just put to a snazzier soundtrack than you might be able to generate on your own. My suggestion? Give it a listen (or several). You won’t regret it. And if you figure out who this guy is, let me know. The more I can get of him the better.

Concert Review: Hellfest 2011, June 17 – 19, Val de Moine Sport Complex

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 3 Comments

Shai Hulud

Clisson – Our top story tonight: Phil Lynott is still dead.  Yes, I just referenced a 36 year old Chevy Chase joke.  Not exactly the most topical, but then neither are Thin Lizzy

The Irish rockers recently reunited sans their departed frontman and were playing at Hellfest, a metal festival situated just outside of  the small French town of Clisson.  Billing themselves as a tribute to Lynott and featuring a mix of original members and new additions, this new version of Thin Lizzy seems pretty clearly to be an exercise in nostalgia, both for the fans and the band themselves.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I saw lots of “nostalgia” acts at Hellfest that put on great shows – Iggy and the Stooges, The Scorpions, Judas Priest – but something  about these guys performing without Lynott, who to many people essentially was Thin Lizzy, seemed a little dubious.  That said, they did put on a fun show full of classics like “The Boys Are Back In Town,” “Jailbreak,” and “Emerald.”  New singer Ricky Warwick has a decent (albeit often too growly) voice, knows how to work the crowd, and has a lot of swagger onstage.  But not quite the right kind of swagger – ie. he’s not Phil.  Warwick did pay tribute to Lynott during “Cowboy Song,” changing the lyrics for the occasion: “It’s alright, Hellfest, you can let yourself go/’Cause Phil’s still riding with us in this rodeo.”  A bit cheesy, yes, but cheesy often works at massive outdoor festivals.  Ultimately, these guys sounded good, people were singing along, and I enjoyed myself, but I still couldn’t help but detect a whiff of Blueshammer in their performance.    

Thin Lizzy

Another surprising act appearing on the bill was Mr. Big, best known for their massive hit ballad, “To Be With You.”  In fact, they’re so well known for it that it’s easy for anyone but the most diehard of their fans to forget that back in the day, these guys displayed a great deal of instrumental virtuosity.  That is to say these guys rock pretty hard, something they basically had to do in order to maintain any cred while playing at a festival that also featured bands like Severe Torture and Septic Flesh.  In fact, they didn’t even play the aforementioned ballad, sticking instead to numbers like “Addicted To That Rush” that offered up a chance for Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan to show off their chops.  Singer Eric Martin even jokingly attempted a half-hearted death metal growl at one point as if to acknowledge the fact that they stuck out a bit on a bill that was generally full of much heavier bands. 

Bad Brains

Hellfest is nothing if not eclectic though, featuring acts as diverse as hard rock survivors UFO and The Cult (whose Ian Astbury seemed a bit standoffish) along with space rock masters Hawkwind, reunited desert rockers Kyuss Lives! and punk legends Bad Brains, whose website had them listed as playing “Heavenfest,” a nod to their Rastafarian beliefs.  On the heavier end of the spectrum, Vader, DRI, Bolt Thrower, Grave and Destruction all offered solid sets while black metal OGs Mayhem delivered an ultimately disappointing set despite the fact that they had a hell of a lot of stage props and even pyro onstage. 

New York hardcore crew Shai Hulud impressed with a tight set and their message of channelling negative emotions like fear, hatred and anger into positive actions.  Less impressive was L.A’s Terror, who left me cold with their hardcore tough guy posturing and “we aren’t rockstars, we’re just regular guys like you” pandering.  It seemed a bit contrived and frankly just annoying.  Also, encouraging the crowd to climb onto the beams in front of the stage when there are signs posted near them stating that you can get kicked out of the festival for doing so is a dick move. 

Ghost

The bands that left the strongest impression on me were both acts that value the visual presentation aspect of live performance as much as the music – Ghost and Hawkwind.  Hawkwind were amazing musically (not surprising considering they’ve been going since 1969) and made good use of projections screened behind the band to add to the atmosphere.  They also periodically featured two dancers who made various costume changes throughout, the most memorable of which resembled Predators on stilts.  Speaking of costumes, Sweden’s Ghost made very good use of them, with all of the members appearing in black hooded robes that totally obscured their identities, save for the singer, who dresses like Skeletor if he was a cardinal.  These guys are all about the theatricality, their whole shtick being that they are part of some kind of Satanic church awaiting the birth of the Antichrist.  They’re also a lot of fun to watch live, even throwing in a somewhat sinister cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Son.”

I leave the final words on Hellfest to Mike Williams, singer for New Orleans sludge metallers Eyehategod: “Y’all are going to Hell.  We’re all going to Hell … Actually, there is no Hell.  You just rot in the ground.  But let’s get drunk first.”  That right there could be the slogan for Hellfest.  It has a certain ring to it.

TO Jazz Review: Dave Brubeck Quartet, June 24, Koerner Hall

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | Leave a comment

Toronto – Dave Brubeck would probably appreciate a review of one of his shows that doesn’t reference his age. Last night was the second time I’ve seen Brubeck and his quartet in concert, and both shows easily rank among the best jazz performances I’ve ever seen. The man is a master behind the piano keys, his solos are breathtaking, his absurdly long fingers just fly across his piano when he picks up the pace and are equally deft during his somber mood pieces. I can’t even explain what he and his quartet do with time signatures. It’s over my head. You’d have to be some sort of music theoretician to explain it properly, probably.

But the fact is, Dave Brubeck is 90 years old. It’s a stunning number. People that age aren’t supposed to be able to tour around the country, selling out concert halls and stunning audiences. By any reasonable standard, Dave Brubeck should be retired. He should be enjoying his status as a jazz icon of incredible longevity in a coastal home in California, relaxing on a deck chair watching the sunset.

He doesn’t walk too well. He speaks in a slow, halting fashion, pausing to search for the right words often. At 9:30 he declared it was “getting pretty late” and played the last song of the night.

But Dave Brubeck had the crowd in the palm of his hand all night long, from the standing ovation that greeted him to the one that bid him farewell and just wouldn’t stop. He gave us the benefit of his self-depricating sense of humour, telling us it’s a “good thing you clapped before you heard me play,” the only man in the room who didn’t think a brilliant show was in the offing. He told a story of how Miles Davis,  “the kind of jazz,” according to Brubeck, ripped off his idea for a jazz album of Disney tunes, before playing a wonderful rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” After “Elegy,” he said the song is “a great mood kind of thing, and I enjoy playing it very much. Thank you for liking it.” He praised Clint Eastwood’s documentary about him, In His Own Sweet Way, and talked about when Eastwood used to sneak into clubs when he was 15 to see Brubeck play. He beamed with pride when his son Matthew, a music teacher at York University, sat in with his cello for the latter half of the set. The lines of his face seemed to melt away as he watched his bandmates play one delightful solo after another, and he positively shone while doing a few of his own.

I must admit, my attention did wander in the middle of his set a little, probably a function of seeing something really great for the second time in recent memory. Like last time, however, I’ve had the opening melody from “Take Five,” the set closer, in my head since the show ended, and probably will for days to come. This is the third year in a row that Brubeck, along with saxaphonist/flautist Bobby Militello, double bassist Michael Moore, and drummer Randy Jones have graced a Toronto Jazz Fest stage. Lets hope that he comes back for years to come, and never really acts his age.

Someday My Prince Will Come by DaveBrubeck

TO Jazz Preview: Interview with Eric Krasno of Soulive

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, interviews, Toronto Jazz Festival | Leave a comment

Toronto – Today marks the start of the Toronto Jazz Festival. For the next ten days, the city will be teeming with fantastic musicians playing venues large and small. You can check out some of the highlights of the line-up here.

In anticipation of the festival, I had a chance to chat with the guitarist of soul/jazz/funk outfit Soulive, Eric Krasno. We talked about their latest album, Rubber Soulive, and also dove into how new technologies like do-it-yourself studios, grassroots record labels, and the internets are changing the the face of music.

Mark: Soulive has been doing jazz, soul and funk for over a decade. This latest album, Rubber Soulive, is a funkified Beatles tribute.

Eric: It’s kind of a take on the Rubber Soul album that they did. In London [white guys playing soul music was called rubber soul]. We ended up calling it Rubber Soulive based on the Beatles album, but ended up taking other Beatles tunes as well.

MJ: What was the motivation behind this album?

EK: We had talked about doing a covers album. At first we were talking about doing a British Invasion thing, where it was different British groups, this was right around when they did the re-master of the Beatles stuff. Originally it was going to be an EP. The first session we just sat and listened to a bunch of tunes and talked about which ones would translate best into our instrumentation and our style, and then we just recorded them live in the studio pretty quickly and organically.

MJ: Over the last decade, you’ve worked with a number of different record labels. You were involved in Velour, a couple of years with Blue Note, and a brief stint with Stax. Now you’ve gone your own route with Royal Family. I’m curious about how the record label has influenced your sound and how you make music over the years.

EK: We’ve been pretty fortunate that labels didn’t really tell us what to do. The difference really is when you have a big budget. As we decided to do it on our own, we had to be a little bit more aware of what we’re spending. We have our own studios now, so we’re able to record a lot easier, but we’ve been fortunate in that we could pretty much record and hand in what we wanted to put out and they’d put it out. It’s a lot different if you’re a pop singer on a major label where you don’t have a lot of influence over what you do.

MJ: So what was the prime motivation then to break out with the Royal Family?

EK: We had [wanted to enter into a subsidiary deal with labels, but it didn’t pan out so we started our own]. Now we’re doing all of our other projects as well. We can put out live recordings every night. We actually offer our recording of our shows live at the show that night, so you can leave with a copy of the show that was just played.

Things like that we weren’t allowed to do on major labels: being able to put out as much music as we want, and put stuff out for free on the internet. For the number of albums we were selling, it made more sense to do it ourselves.

MJ: Things are moving very quickly in the music industry with technology and the movement online. It sounds like with the Royal Family you’ve got a little more freedom to embrace the change.

EK: Absolutely, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

MJ: How has the Soulive sound changed over the last decade?

EK: It has evolved in that we’ve got better as a group, as far as communicating and improvising, and [we’ve also] allowed other influences to seep in. It started out just organ, guitar, and drums, and now … our palette has expanded.

MJ: From a guitar point of view, what are some of your influences? I don’t want to load this question, but there are certainly some people that pop in my mind when I listen to you.

EK: I was a huge Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page fan; a big rock & roll fan as a kid. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a good one, and then later on I found Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. It’s a combination of all those things really.

MJ: I’m glad you said Grant Green, because that’s definitely what I had in my mind when I was listening to Rubber.

You seem to be doing a lot of studio work and live touring. Do you like the mix?

EK: I kind of need the mix. I’ve also produced a lot of records over the last ten years; everything from hip-hop, to pop, to African music. It’s nice because I can try all sorts of different things when I’m in the studio. But then after a while, I like to get out and play, and then when I’m out on the road, I get sick of the road too, so I definitely dig the balance.

MJ: So if you were heading to a deserted island and you had to pick one Beatles album, which one would you have to take?

EK: For me it’s Abbey Road, I have to say.

MJ: Nice.

Soulive plays this Monday (June 27th) at the Horseshoe Tavern at 9:30 and 11:30.

Soulive – Drive My Car – Rubber Soulive by royalfamily