Thursday, December 17, 2009

Marduk, 12/16/2009

Last week, a bar in Brooklyn hosted a "black metal theory symposium." What the hell is that? Black metal is such a visceral experience. The point of it is its mystery, the things left unsaid. It's about wolves and sheep, Darwinism. Enter Swedish black-metal group Marduk, who taught a lesson no academic could come close to, when they played last night at the Gramercy Theater along with Nachtmystium and French black-metallers Merrimack. This was a night of black metal, sans theory, sans pedagogy—just as it should be.

Merrimack played a good set, but the sound was too quiet. Nevertheless, frontman Terrorizt chided the audience and got some reaction from the stereotypically apathetic New York metal crowd. (At the end of the night, my friend Dave was complaining that no one danced during Marduk's set—he'd attended the Allentown kick-off show for the tour and said it was better, and he was even disappointed in that one for the most part.)

Nachtmystium were a crowd favorite and sounded great. Most of their set came from their latest releases, focusing heavily on last year's
Assassins LP, which I reviewed for Revolver. Their sound guy kept on sticking his hands in the air in victory/"Black Sabbath Vol. 4" poses throughout their set. Obviously, this level of excitement came through the speakers. Marduk didn't have a soundman, and most of my friends told me that their set was feedback-laden; I was up front so I didn't notice. At the end of Nachtmystium's set, they played G.G. Allin's "I Kill Everything I Fuck," and Terrorizt came back out (sans corpse paint) to sing along. I think the fact that frontman Blake Judd did the show without a shirt is the reason they came across so well to the crowd—or at least for the ladies—since that's the band a lot of my friends were talking about afterwards.

Marduk's set, for me, was incredible and the night's highlight. Mortuus is a charismatic frontman and straddles the line between rock posturing (in a good way) and the vitriol you expect from a black-metal frontman. Guitarist Morgan mugged throughout the show, but mostly kept to the shadows. He's always been a mysterious character (having played in Abruptum) so it was fitting. The band's set seemed to include a song or two from each of their albums, which over well with the seemingly hardline/oddly sparse crowd. The mid-tempo "Materialized in Stone," off Marduk's third and arguably best album, Opus Nocturne, was a highlight, and the audience sang along. Throughout the night they played up their excitement to be in New York (they were here in August, though I missed that show), but it could also very well have been because it was the last night of the tour. Regardless, it was one of the best black-metal shows I've been to in a while. No lecture necessary.


Blake Judd of Nachtmystium

Judd with Merrimack's Terrorizt


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts, 10/29/2009 and 10/30/2009

I attended the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden last week. The lineup was incredible, not least of which were Metallica’s duets with guests Lou Reed, Ozzy Osbourne, and Ray Davies. I covered both nights in the press room, watching the event on closed-circuit TV and doing junket interviews with many of the artists, for The Village Voice’s “Sound of the City” blog. I’ve pasted the teasers for both below.

Bruce! Sam! Billy! Bonnie! Live From The Ludicrously Star-Studded MSG Rock Hall Extravaganza

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Celebration
Madison Square Garden
Thursday, October 29

The first half of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's two-night benefit concert and 25th-anniversary celebration lasted six hours, ended at 1:30 a.m. and featuring star-studded sets by curators Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, with guests ranging from Billy Joel to Tom Morello to doo-wop legends Little Anthony and the Imperials. All these artists showed a real humility and gratitude for the 60-odd-year-old genre: "Everybody's got their own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their hearts," as Springsteen put it. And no matter what you think of the museum itself or the state of rock at the moment (the closest thing to a hard-line rock album in this week's Billboard Top 10 is the New Moon soundtrack), the evening proved what a great emancipator the music still is.

Continue reading " Bruce! Sam! Billy! Bonnie! Live"...

Live: Even Lou Reed Gets Sentimental At Rock Hall MSG Blowout #2 (Featuring U2, The Boss, The Black Eyed Peas, And Some Dude Named Mick)

Ooooh plus "Iron Man"

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Celebration
Madison Square Garden
Friday, October 30

"When we were down, rock 'n' roll lifted us up," says Tom Hanks in his introductory remarks for the final night of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's benefit-concert extravaganza at Madison Square Garden. "Rock 'n' roll music was American," he later adds. "And it changed the world." Despite his use of the past tense, tonight is anything but a eulogy: Friday's slate features a wider palate of curators than the previous night, this time including Aretha Franklin, Jeff Beck, Metallica, and U2. The headliners' guests, a pop-music dream-team ranging from Ray Davies to Ozzy Osbourne to the Black Eyed Peas, also do a better job than last night's cavalcade of explaining how far rock has come.

Continue reading " Live: Even Lou Reed Gets"...

More videos:

Lou Reed and Metallica perform the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat”

Jeff Beck performs “A Day in the Life”

Bruce Springsteen and Sam Moore perform “Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Soul Man”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

L.A. Times Interview

Recently, the Los Angeles Times book blog interviewed the authors of Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces. The book contains my “Hall of Fame” pieces on Napalm Death’s Scum and Obituary’s Cause of Death. For the blog, I contributed a story about meeting Gorgoroth in Norway, which became the basis of this article. Albert Mudrian and Adem Tepedelen also contributed stories, and the L.A. Times blogger was Christopher R. Weingarten.

Gaahl of Gorgoroth

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sonic Youth, 7/3/2009

Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon has gotten a lot more freedom through the years as the band has added members like multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke and now former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold. She’s had so much freedom that, after she puts down the bass at concerts, she has perfected a flailing dance that I call—without creativity, I admit—“The Kim Gordon Dance.” At their performance Friday at the United Palace, I caught it with my camera as best I could from where I was sitting.

Ladies and Gentleman, the Kim Gordon Dance:The Kim Gordon Dance

Honestly, the set was one of the best times I’ve seen them. They mostly played songs from their new album The Eternal, but the oldies the group pulled out were great: “Tom Violence,” “Catholic Block,” “Pacific Coast Highway,” “Brother James” and, my favorite of the evening, “Death Valley ’69” (full set list below). This song made me especially happy because earlier in the day, my girlfriend, Lisa, and I had gone to MoMA and seen the “Looking at Music: Side 2” exhibit. There’s a video post there showing Richard Kern’s video for the song in it, so it was exciting to hear it twice in one day; the exhibit is totally worthwhile, by the way, with great no-wave and first-wave punk photos and artifacts, like a old Teenage Jesus 7-inches and a Patti Smith “self-portrait.” At the show, the band members were jokey with one another. At one point, when Moore was fiddling with a guitar strap, Ranaldo said, “Strap it on!” Moore barked back, “I’d like to strap it on you.” Ranaldo rejoined, “Again?!” Maybe this explains why Gordon dances…

Thurston MooreKim Gordon, pre-danceLee RanaldoThurston MooreSonic YouthKim and ThurstonThurston Moore Sonic YouthLee RanaldoLee Ranaldo and Mark IboldThurston MooreSonic Youth from Row A, Loge

Set list:

Sacred Trickster
No Way
Calming the Snake
Poison Arrow
Tom Violence
Walkin Blue
Leaky Lifeboat
Catholic Block
Malibu Gas Station
Massage the History
World Looks Red
What We Know
Pacific Coast Highway
Brother James
Death Valley ’69

Monday, June 08, 2009

Jane’s Addiction/Nine Inch Nails, 6/7/09

Tonight, Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails played Jones Beach Theater, along with Street Sweeper Social Club. One thing I felt fortunate about growing up in Colorado was seeing shows at Red Rocks, but I have to say, seeing concerts literally on the water—as with Jones Beach—feels special, too. And even though Jane’s frontman Perry Ferrell kept saying, “Tonight is a historic event,” it sort of was.

Stephen Perkins

Not only was this the original lineup of Jane’s Addiction’s first time playing in the New York area since 1991, but—if Ferrell’s memory serves correct from the way he introduced “Jane Says” at the end of the set—this is also the band’s 25th anniversary. The group played a hit-filled set, including (going by memory and not in order) “Had a Dad,” “Mountain Song,” “Ocean Size,” “Ted, Just Admit It…” (accompanied by a canopy depicting sex and violence and Natural Born Killers footage, see below), “Stop!” “Ain’t No Right” and “Been Caught Stealing.” (Why no “Classic Girl”?) Throughout the set Ferrell was swigging a bottle of wine in between poses and spouting off about grabbing his crotch, and how sometimes you’ve got to do it. (This was around the time it dawned on me that JA is pretty much an even split between the Doors and Led Zep, with a little Bootsy Collins thrown in.) At one point during “Ocean Size,” I think it was, Ferrell said, “I was just getting to the sexy part,” which had me in stitches because it was so non sequitur. It was nice to see original bassist Eric Avery back in the fold, but he seemed out of it for most of the show or upset. Nonetheless, they played a great set and—for not having seen them in 10 years—it was, I guess, historic, for me personally.

Tonight was the first time I had seen Nine Inch Nails live. What struck me most about about their show was that frontman Trent Reznor and the rest of the band hate instruments. Each member threw a guitar at one point (as my friend Reed said, “That acoustic guitar didn’t stand a chance, Robin Finck”), and Reznor threw several mic stands at drummer Ilan Rubin. “Burn,” from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack was a surprise, a cover of “I’m Afraid of Americans” was welcome, and “Wish” was fun, but I would have liked to hear even more stuff from the first few releases (especially since this year is the 20th anniversary of Pretty Hate Machine). I found it odd that they were playing in the middle—going on during daylight—even though they played a full set, including an encore of “Hurt.” The dichotomy between the NIN and Jane’s Addiction fans was pretty black and white, and many of the NIN fans seemed to leave during the Jane’s set. At the end of the night, there was a girl on the way to the parking lot with a “Free Hugs” sign, and we can only imagine which band she had come to see.

Openers Street Sweeper Social Club—a new group featuring Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Coup rapper Boots Riley—were quite good, too. They came onstage to Darth Vader’s theme in Star Wars. Throughout the set, Riley kept saying, “We’re more than a band. We’re a social club.” Their novel feat, aside from Morello’s always incendiary guitar playing, was doing an almost note-for-note rendition of M.I.A.’ s “Paper Planes.” The music sounded better than the original samples. The band’s debut is out June 16, and I like it quite a bit. In a way, this band was the glue between DIW optimism and recession-fueled negativity that held together the other two bands tonight even though they played earlier. In fact the only drawback from the whole night—and detractor to the bands’ anti-consumerism ethos—was the venue’s high prices for drinks (and they don’t serve alcohol). It’s a good thing its on the water.

Street Sweeper Social Club
Street Sweeper Social Club
Street Sweeper Social Club

A swan on the harbor during Street Sweeper’s set Swan
Nine Inch Nails
Trent ReznorNine Inch NailsTrent ReznorNine Inch NailsNine Inch NailsNine Inch NailsTrent ReznorNine Inch NailsNine Inch NailsReznor and Finck
Jane’s Addiction
Jane's AddictionJane's AddictionJane's AddictionAvery and Ferrell with FriendJane's AddictionJane's AddictionJane's AddictionTed, Just Admit It...Ferrell and AveryJane's AddictionPerkins and NavarroPerkins, Navarro and FerrellPerry FerrellJane SaysFerrell and Navarro