Categories
Concerts

Friday Night’s Hidden Music

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What is the hideout? A small venue is located in Chicago, one of many. But this one is unique. More unusual than you might think. It’s a place for the average dude or chick. A dive bar that “rocks.” It’s in the middle of an industrial area with a lot of garbage trucks and warehouses nearby. An obscure location. Cash Only. Since the Al Capone days, the Hideout has been around. Lots of events and small concerts actually happen here. I tend to dig places that are off the beaten path. Have you been to a bar this this? One that holds random bingo nights, charity events, live shows with a lot of beer that keeps on coming. Cheap drinks. The hideout isn’t flashy. It’s ordinary, small and a wonderful little gem that many people don’t know anything about. Plus there’s cool outdoor seating in the summer time. Which brings me to the next question.

They hold a Block Party? Whats this all about? Well it takes places annually around Labor Day. In September; on the streets outside of the bar, this fun and laid back party is full of music, food, drinks and various hipsters hanging out. But there’s no hype or much talk about it. Unlike events, such as Lollapalooza or Pitchfork, this is kind of a secret. But let me tell you, there’s a lot of heart and soul in this party. Low stress, family friendly festival. There’s even valet bicycle parking. The smell of garbage dumpster juice blowing around in the cool Friday night windy air is awesome! Ahhhh! Parking is free but you have to walk at least 6 blocks. That’s what my wife and I did on Friday, September 6th.

Now for the bands we saw as we stood around drinking our green tea, chomping on BBQ sandwiches and pasties.

First we got treated by banjos, fiddles and various acoustic guitars jamming quite excitably loud and making everyone clap and cheer. This group I speak of is called “Trampled By Turtles.” They’re from Minnesota. It’s folk. It’s bluegrass. Think Bob Dylan and Neil Young with a touch of country. The two of us were nicely entertained by this catchy band.

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Intermission time. Bathroom break! Lets grab a coke!

Next up? A living legend. We are now in the midst of the one and only Mavis Staples. Se been around since the civil rights movement. Rhythm and Blues mixed with Gospel is her style. She was the front runner of the classic group The Staple Sisters. Remember the hits, “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself?” We’ll she’s been recording some new stuff with Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) creating gospel albums of the 21st century. Spectacular voice and a great band with backup singers. Mavis is 74 years old and still really packs a punch! You go girl!

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Last break before the final act. Our headliner for this evening is Neko Case. We situated ourselves up front to the left of the stage and leaned against the cold steel rails in anticipation for one of my favorite artists to take the microphone. This now marks my fifth time seeing Neko live. Today, September 8th, is her birthday. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Neko Case! Just thought I’d mention that. So, who is she? Why do I like her so much? She has the voice of an angel. Much revival enthusiasm with arresting beauty.

Her inspiration comes from respected artists like, Loretta Lynne, Hank Williams and Tom Waits. She’s embraced country music but truly influenced by David Lynch Films and unusual noir styles. She’s incorporated dreamy imagery of the rights of animals, love, loss and what it means to live in America.

So the blue spotlights flicker on
We hear the noises of Submarine sonar pings
Fog fills of the stage
The crowd goes wild
Much applause
Our red-headed hero is ready to jam
She’s ready to expose her soul
Her melancholy mixed with humor
It’s just her way of entertaining
Aggressive guitars
Yet laid back

Her stuff is truly a nice blend of Indie, Alternative, Rock and Country.
One of the most stunning moments was a gorgeous acapella done by her and co-singer Kelly Hogan. Shocking language and just their two pleasant voices in this abstract location just made me realize why I love her so much. No fear to express her and dear friend’s voice in an honest and real way.

It was another night to remember at the Hideout.

Thanks for the inspiration Neko and everyone else.

Peace out
C-Note

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Categories
Album Reviews artists Concerts

Neko Case is Back in Chi-Town

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I am happy to announce that Neko Case, alternative-country-nor-indie-rock star, is releasing a brand new record and will be playing in my neck of the woods. “Sweet Home Chicago”. I cannot wait! It’s been over four years since I last saw Neko. I thought I would dig something out from the vault to give you an idea of my enthusiasm. Here is the May 2009 article I wrote for a newspaper about my joyous experience:

Alternative Country Singer Shines at Chicago Theatre

By

Christopher Noe

Let me tell you about Neko Case. She is an alternative country singer-songwriter, best known for her solo career and guest vocalist with many popular artists. Neko is gifted with the guitar as well. She’s originally from Virginia and has travelled and recorded albums all over North America, including Chicago. Case primarily performs her own material and has recorded cover versions of songs by artists such as Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams. Her sound is very unique as it contains “country noir” elements that have truly defined her style. Neko Case has said that filmmaker David Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and Neil Young’s soundtrack to the film Dead Man have influenced her style. Her last two albums are her most commercially successful ones. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood was released on March 7, 2006. Critics praised this record for her use of desolate imagery and nonstandard song structures. It debuted at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200 list. Her latest album, Middle Cyclone, was released on March 3, 2009. Just before she began her U.S. tour to promote the record, Case appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and it is her first album ever to reach the top ten in the United States.

On Friday April 24, 2009 Neko Case played a sold out 90 minute show at The Chicago Theatre. The stylish lobby with its magnificent staircase, stunning auditorium complete with murals above the stage and on the ceiling, all make up an amazing building called “The Wonder Theatre of The World” when it first opened in 1921. The Theatre was the first of its kind in America; a huge and extravagant movie palace. It remains today as an excellent symbol of State Street in Chicago. An assortment of the entertainment world’s brightest stars and most excellent productions have taken place on this stage, including Aretha Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, and now for the first time Neko Case. Her material is predominately introspective and passionate. You would not think that ridiculous humor would be so widely integrated into her live gig, but this was exactly the “case”(pun intended) at the show. With a charming and audience-engaging spirit, Neko and her entourage of band members made silly comments and jokes between songs for the duration of the performance. While the music remained perfect and even emotional, the banter in between involved lighthearted chatter about things like Diana Ross wearing too much makeup, Chicago being a sausage town and of course the idea of someone requesting the song “Free Bird.” The crowd was an interesting blend of intellectual college students, the heavily tattooed folks, and bearded-hippies. They watched the entire performance in church-like silence. The only comments from fans came between songs, during which they had no trouble expressing themselves (i.e. “You Rock!” “I Love you!”) in order to verbally contribute to the band’s onstage behavior.

Playing a mix of songs old and new, the inspirational redhead and her squad, gave a magnetic performance that had some 3,000 onlookers completely mesmerized. They had a large screen behind the stage set-up all night where they were projecting unique images of tornadoes, tigers, and a machine-crane among other things. A giant owl seemed to be holding the screen with eyes that glowed red. Before they even took the stage, the audience was treated to several minutes of ambient nature sounds, mostly tree frogs chirping. The room was dark except for a few flickering specs of light projected on the above mentioned screen. Earlier on, opening act Crooked Fingers, brought their own style of Indie experimental rock ranging from soothing, to edgy megaphone, and electronic sounds. Guitarist Eric Bachmann delivered commanding vocals. However, the most dazzling member of the trio was Tim Husmann, a percussionist, pianist and master noisemaker of all kinds. I was honored to be a part of these spectacular musical performances. Both Crooked Fingers and Neko Case are inspiring, powerful, and relevant in our troubled times. It’s good to know that exciting and original music is still alive.

Originally published in the May 14, 2009 issue of desplainesvalleynews Copyright 2009 Christopher Noe. All rights reserved.

P.S. I plan on blogging about my next encounter with her when I attend another show of Neko’s at the Hideout Block Party in Chicago this September! Stay Tuned!

Categories
Off Topic

Nostalgic Evening Under The Stars….THE DRIVE-IN MOVIES!!!!

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I’m at the drive-in with my wife. We’re at the Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago. It’s a classic and has been around for several decades. This place is one of the few remaining in Illinois. We decided to take a trip down memory lane and relive our youth from the 1980’s. We pulled up to the booth earlier to get our tickets. The lady saw me hand her a credit card and was like, “We only take cash. Sorry” in a concerned tone for us. I did not realize that they do not take credit cards. Ooops! She suggested that we drive a few blocks away to an ATM in order to get cash so we can still enjoy the movies. So we did a U-Turn, pulled out of there as the dust and smoke spread from the gravel road as we peeled away! I was frantic! You would have thought I was on 10 cups of espresso! Although, I did have a couple of coffees earlier. But, nonetheless, I was panicked and freaking out! So off we went to the ATM.

Then we finally got back after the 15 minute delay. We made our way to our parking spot which took me a few extra minutes because I was trying to get the “right” spot! Got to be suited perfectly. I hurried out of the car to set up the lawn chairs. Everybody has their chairs either in front of their car or behind them if they backed in their space. Tailgating of course is an option too. The gravel is everywhere. The chairs are everywhere. There’s a little puppy on a leash off in the distance. They’ve go classic 50’s and 60’s music playing over the P.A. system. People are throwing footballs around. It’s kind of funny and nostalgic all in one.

You got to love the tall white screen projector up ahead, far in the front. No obstructed views, which is good. This truly is a thing of the past. Even some classic convertibles start pulling in. There’s the infamous snack bar that’s sort of recessed like a dugout off in the distance behind us. The sun is slowly setting to the west. The portable radios can be attached to your window. Just cranking the volume is good enough. All of the speakers scattered around the gravel parking lot echoes enough to hear what’s going on. Plus you can tune your radio station to 88.5 FM and listen to the films on your car stereo. I am just sitting here waiting for the movie trailers to begin.

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It’s the middle of August. It’s fairly cool outside. Not freezing but it’s certainly not blazing hot either. Just cool enough yet just warm enough for I can sit here in my jeans, t-shirt and a light jacket and I’m just fine. We may have to eventually climb into the car once the temps drop and the bugs come out. But for now, it’s all-good. It’s all right because now Booker T and the MG’s are playing their famous song, “Green Onions.” It’s good to see all ages here. You got ten-year-old kids walking around. There are people our age in there 30’s reliving their own youth. Plenty of people our parent’s age doing the same thing. We kind of have all of the age groups represented here to recollect this fond memory of drive-in movies. A dying breed. These outdoor theaters may stick around for a while. But I don’t know for sure.

As my wife sits next to me in her chair, she has her sketchbook on her lap as she doodles and tangles away some splendid artwork. Denny loves to draw. She achieves Zen from doing this. But it’s so nice to sit here in front of the car and relax as the daylight fades and watch people walk around and go get snacks and just simply walk around to “walk around.” That’s what we like to do. Plus its good exercise. Good way to stretch the legs. Be active. Socialize. Chat. Catch up. No booze allowed, of course. But there are always a few who sneak it in. I haven’t seen any myself but it wouldn’t be that hard to slip it in your car and take a swig here and there. But that’s not why I’m here. I think other people are here to just escape. Perhaps some of the kids in high school are here to make out in the backseat of their car.

I will admit those speaker devices are very interesting and I have no idea how old they are. It would be interesting to research that fact. It’s sorta like going to the carhop where you roll your window down. The girl on roller skates brings out your food on a tray and kinda hangs it off your window. Clearly the device is intended to clip on your window as you listen to the film. It’s something they have definitely retained here at the Cascade and they certainly refused to part with them at all for they are here in abundant quantities. All of this instrumental, pop radio from the baby boom era like what you would hear at the diners is a nice treat for my ears. It’s a fitting touch.

Now they do play new movies here. Our double feature here tonight is KICK ASS 2 and ELYSIUM. Both of which seem quite favorable action and sci-fi flicks! I would imagine that some of these places have those #throwback nights. I don’t know for sure, but its certainly a #throwback environment. The mood is evoked, even with a digital projector. Sorry, no film reels or cigarette burns here. You get a better high definition for the outdoor viewings. The time now is seven minutes after eight. The anticipation is starting to get real. I recommend this kind of a movie experience for everyone.

Time to enjoy to movies!!!!

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Categories
Concerts

SPECIAL FEATURE: LOLLAPALOOZA Sunday August 4th 2013

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The first weekend of August was gorgeous. The blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures along the lakefront of Chicago, Illinois; made the annual Lollapalooza experience on Sunday a tremendous pleasure for my sister and me.

What is Lollapalooza? Dating back to the 19th century, it has to do with an extraordinary or unusual event. Over the years, the word also was used to describe a large lollipop. It now basically means both. It’s a large, extraordinary lollipop with many flavors for everybody to have a lick. Thanks to the vision of Jane’s Addiction front man, Perry Farrell, we’ve been enjoying this tradition for almost a decade now.

Grant Park, Chicago is where this weekend “block party and getaway” takes place. Over 70 bands on five stages scattered throughout the beautiful landscape with rolling hills, tall tress, the famous Buckingham fountain and of course the amazing Chicago skyscrapers cascading in the backdrop.

Lollapalooza is HUGE. Over 200,000 folks attend this over the 3 day weekend. It’s pretty organized with an interactive website, maps, live video feeds, FAQ’s and much much more. I particularly like that there are water filling stations located in various spots to keep everyone hydrated. You just walk up to a “water bar” with your empty bottle and they top it off for free. A regular drinking fountain does not even match this genius idea to help more people with fewer lines to wait in and with fresh and clean beverages.

Sure there are plenty of food vendors in the “Chow Town” area selling pizzas burgers, tacos, etc. and there are beer tents and a wine drinking area too. There’s quite a lot to do here. A Farmer’s market that literally sells fruits and vegetables. Smoothies are abundantly provided as well. Don’t forget all of the merchandize. T-Shirts, posters and hats are available at a reasonable price. Port-A-John’s are all over the place. You gotta do what you gotta do.

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But the main reason I am there, of course, is to check out the music! I planned ahead of time who I was going to see and where. The website lists the days’ performers and the stage and times to catch them at. Many choices are there. What has remained pretty consistent over the years are the kinds of choices. The music is LOUD! The styles are plentiful. And the entertainment value is truly there. Alternative rock, punk rock, hip hop, dance, and there’s even a little stage for the kids with good fun provided.

A music festival like this one, is something that’s right up my alley! First I have to thank my dad for buying my sister and I each a ticket of choice for our birthdays. I looked at the lineup and picked the day that would entertain me the most. I chose Sunday. I narrowed it down to five acts of music to enjoy (taste, lick from that lollipop).

After I drove my car into the city; cruising along Lake Shore Drive at 9 in the morning, I parked near my sister’s apartment. We met up and went out to breakfast at a nice little restaurant. I had pancakes and coffee. She had eggs and sausage, I believe. We both must have our coffee. It’s essential for being alert all day. Then we hopped on an L Train to make our way over to #Lolla (the new slang for it)!
We started taking pictures of signs, fountains, balloons and we definitely took a lot of “selfies.” We all want pictures of ourselves in front of something COOL. I swear the word “cool” is never gonna die. We had to go through the baggage check area after we get our wristbands (the tickets) scanned.

You see, we can carry a backpack with us. No food, no drugs and no alcohol is what they’re looking for. You just have to be in the right line and the right inspector. You can bring water bottles, cameras and blankets basically. That’s what I had….except for the 2 Graham Snackers I had shoved inside of my blanket. They never found them. It doesn’t hurt to try and save a few bucks.

Once we were in, then it was a lot of walking around and people watching. The most often seen “look” was the following description. Teenage girls with long hair, headbands (serving no function) with flowers, super cut off jeans (think daisy dukes) with a little cheek showing, tank tops and sandals. Although I saw people dressed up like superheroes too. Large groups carried around glow sticks and banners to help others identify them in case they get lost. The funniest was when I saw this one couple with a picture of a cat with glued on whiskers that was at the end of a stick that they kept carrying around with them.

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Now let’s get to the bands. We made our way to the Lakeshore stage with our blanket spread out on the grass and listen to a group called Guards. They are good, energetic pop/rock. They remind me of 90’s grunge mixed with a little 60’s psychedelic jams. It was nice to just chill out on the lawn and listen and look while drinking some cold water and soaking up those sun rays.

We packed up to hike our way through the main strip of shops and heavy pedestrian traffic to get cozy up at the north end. Now we’re chilling out by 2 stages. One is the Petrillo and Bud Light sponsors the other stage. At the Bud Light stage, there is a really loud and animal noise-making group blasting the speakers while we lie on the blanket and try to talk. I can’t remember their names right now but it wasn’t really making me want to buy anything from them.

Meanwhile, a British kid named Jake Bugg was about to take the stage at Petrillo. He’s only 19 years old. I really dig his material. I tried to take a picture but it was hard to see him but we certainly got to listen clearly. His stuff is like Bob Dylan meets Neil Young with a Beatles kind of vibe. He had the folk thing going on for sure. It was pleasant hearing his music while chomping on a snack bar and lying on my back staring at the sky. No I didn’t choke on my food. I drank plenty of water to wash down my peanut butter and jelly.

So once he finished, it was time to take a bathroom break and fill up my water bottle at the “Oasis” area. Jess, my sister, got herself a smoothie and it made her happy. This is when things started to get real. We found a really awesome hill to spread out the blanket and prepare ourselves for the spectacular twin sister duo—-TEGAN & SARA!!! I recently blogged about these girls but let me just tell you, it was quite energetic, fun and mood elevating. They were great! I got my sister into them and she was really grooving to their alternative new wave 80’s pop love tunes! Check out my posting that describes them, as artists, more fully here:
https://themusicbard.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/why-tegan-sara-are-heartthrobs/

They left me breathless while chilling out on our well-situated grassy null.

It’s time for a slice of pizza. Sausage. Go to the bathroom. Fill up the water bottle. We’re going to see Vampire Weekend at the Bud Light stage. These New Yorkers are incredible. We met up with some friends and joined are blankets together for this exhilarating performance we were about to witness. Although we had to stand on them at this point because thousands of people congregated here. I am reminded of The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and tribal drums whenever I hear these talented fellows. They just released their third album and lyrically and guitar playing abilities are stellar here.

They really got the crowd going with their dancing melodies. At one point this stoned/drunk girl decided to join us on our blanket, slapped my sister in the ass and tried to dance with her. It was kinda creepy and we shooed her away. You never know what kind of weirdoes you’ll “bump” into. But anyway, we all danced in place and sang along to tunes like “Cousins,” “Horchata,” and ‘Holiday.” I was really grooving. I think I got a contact buzz from the entire weed being toked in the crowd (obviously those people made it through the surveillance check earlier.) It was all good fun.

We split up at this point because my sister wanted to see a band called Phoenix, a couple of the guys went to see Major Lazer, 3 girlfriends went to see The Cure and I wanted to see Cat Power. My sister eventually joined up with me during the Cat Power setlist because we each were flying it solo. After she heard a few Phoenix songs, she got her fix and found me in The Grove.

The Grove, ahhh. That’s a nice place to see a show. Especially a Cat Power show. Who is Cat Power? Charlyn Marie Marshall or Chan Marshall is CAT POWER. She is an American singer-songwriter and musician. She has opened for Liz Phair and Sonic Youth back in the 90’s. She has recorded a lot of records. She’s done cover songs. Chan has played with David Grohl of The Foo Fighters and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Then, a year ago, she recorded a masterpiece of an album. It is self produced and opened at number 10 on the Billboard chart.

The record she was promoting last night is entitled, Sun. Her sound over the years has constantly been evolving. I hear the punk. I observe the blues. I am moved by the folk elements too. This material is full of soul. Last night she nailed it out of the park. I wish more people came to see her. My sister surprised me by tapping me on the shoulders, two songs into the performance. I was glad she joined me in this nice experience. The Grove is exactly that. Small field the size of a little league baseball diamond, surrounded by rich, full, tall trees. It’s cozy. Like a hobbit’s home. It’s dark too. I loved it in that place. I was basically standing right in front of the stage and captured a lot of film here. I truly saved the best for last.

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I mention a lack of people because everyone was at the BIG shows. So I felt bad for her since it wasn’t really packed in there. Perhaps not everyone “gets” her stuff. But the true die hard fans showed up. She had maybe 4-500 dedicated fans that cheered her on. Cat Power is shy, quiet, reserved, cooky, and unusual. She’s fidgety and kind of ADD-ish. However, that does not take away from her guitar playing, her humor and remarkable voice. It’s stunning! What talent!

I love how she has transitioned into more of the electronica world too. It’s a nice change from her really slow guitar songs. They are less, “snoozy.” She was dressed in head-to-toe black and an interesting taped-up leather jacket. She played like she’s trying to change how we think of her. “Manhattan” is my favorite song. It’s blissful with stammering drums, making it real loose. Marshall howls like a wolf in a strange manner during that song, but its still wonderful.

She ended the show throwing roses into the crowd, one by one. She smelled each individual flower one at a time before she released them. Humble, is what she is but I can tell you that Chan is a really sweet person who must be doing something right to land her a top spot at Lollapalooza. She was imperfect and yet it was personal. She is human and her performance was not at all about living up to some hype, but rather to share with us something real….her heart.

I was drained emotionally and physically from the long day. It was exciting and well worth the one mile walk to the bus stop at the end of the night. It was worth being on the crowded bus on the way back to Jess’s apartment and my car. It was worth trying to stay awake on the drive home listening to Cat’s music and talking to my wife on the phone.

I made it home safe and sound.

Now I am sharing my fond experience with all of you.

Thank you for reading this.

C-Note

p.s. here’s a nice sample from that song, “Manhattan”

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Uncategorized

Why Bother With The Box Set? Discovery That Is…

415389138Well I don’t know where to begin with the babble on Pink Floyd. I absolutely love this band. Ever since I was a kid in the 80’s, I was exposed to them. My dad played the records and eventually got the Shine On Box Set in the early 90’s. Very cool box set! It didn’t have the entire collection of their albums but it captured the highlights. I was awakened from whatever slumber I was trapped inside when I listened to this box set and was reading the really cool book that was included. My dad and I had a bond where we’d listen to the music while working in the garage, painting in the family room or driving around in his truck. I was hooked. Then just before I went into college, the 2 of us went to Soldier Field in Chicago and saw Pink Floyd perform one of their last live concerts ever! It was quite an awesome experience.

So throughout the years I began to collect more of their music and read about them and what not. I have all of their stuff on cd or mp3 formats in one way or another. I know that four years ago a box set came out called “Oh By The Way.” Now the “Discovery” one just came out. I’m not saying that new fans or complete fanatics shouldn’t go buy these, but for me, personally, I don’t see the big deal. They probably turned the volume up “one louder.” So what? I have ears and a powerful stereo to enjoy the ones I already have. Also, I will take convenience over quality of “so called” painstaking box sets. Actually they are releasing all 14 albums individually right now in box form and sort of a 2 fold method. One is the Immersions where it is captured in these huge mini-box set releases. (Cash Cow….excuse for all of this stuff? hmmmm) Also then there are the “Experience” versions. THOSE I would consider because they, for one, are cheaper if purchased individually, on occasion. They are usually two discs. One is the original remaster plus live and bonus features. Those are worth it.

The box set “Discovery” is just the studio albums with virtually no new artwork and little cardboard sleeves to wonderfully ruin the discs.  Also no bonus features or a book or anything. Kinda cheesy if you ask me. So I am a traditionalist. I will still go to record shows and look for vinyl and collect artworks. I definitely love surround sound and what not. I just don’t see the big deal in these new box sets. That includes, Oh By The Way, Discovery and the individual Immersion ones. I will say that the “Experience” version of  the individual albums are the ones to look into. At least you can pick these up at your convenience. Besides, convenience is what benefits us all in different ways. I like buying physical cds but I also like to download music too.

Bands like Pink Floyd are kind of worth doing both. I think owning all of the albums is a good thing if done so carefully. Box Sets….hmmm? Shine On was the best one. Sure it came out in 92-93 I think but for what it was…the artwork, the books, the selections and the originality of it all made it the best “box set.” But in general….choose what you like is what I am saying. The new box set for me is just a way to make money and there is no big difference unless you are tripping on acid or something. lol. Anyway “Shine On” or choose “Any Colour You Like!”

Peace Out…C-Note

Categories
Concerts

Concerts: The Flaming Lips Concert Aragon Ballroom 7/7/11 CHICAGO

623778477My wife Denny and I went to see The Flaming Lips last night at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, Illinois. This a historic ballroom located on West Lawrence Avenue approximately five miles north of downtown in the uptown neighborhood, it was built in 1926. Starting in the 70’s many rock concerts took place here. A nickname for this venue was called the “brawlroom” because of the tough crowds. The architecture inside here is very Spanish looking with the different columns and such. I have been to dozens and dozens of concerts. BUT this was one concert hall that I just never went to before. Upon walking in here with my Benedryl-induced wife, we were deafened by this band called Marnie Stern. They were freaking loud! Weird, but they did have a technical style to them. I’m guessing the guys in the Flaming Lips chose them as their opening band. I’m sure they like them. My wife did not care for them so much. However I thought it wasn’t bad. It certainly set the mood for the live band experience. First we we approached the main floor arena area and were going to just stand in the back and watch. But I knew her feet would hurt and she’d probably stumble over since she was a little fatigued. Then I looked up and saw the historic looking balcony mezzanine section.

We went up the stairs and looked around at the audience of freaks (which consisted of dudes wearing bunny ears and animal costumes). The girls seemed to look normal but the dudes were funny with their outfits of choice. Anyway, we made it upstairs and scrambled to find a sitting area. We finally located ourselves behind these 2 thin columns. I actually grabbed an extra chair from the back and just plopped it right down next to her seat. We had a pretty ok view (about two thirds was viewable from our vantage point) We were content because we were sitting and could comfortably enjoy the show. There was about a 30 minute gap before Wayne Coyne (lead singer and songwriter) and the Lips took the stage. Lots of artsy synthesized vamping music set the mood. A couple next to us introduced there selves to me. I won’t mention their names but I think they were tripping on acid. Lots of smiles and hugs and touching were among them. Anyways they were harmless and it was all good. I saw a couple of guys from work there too. So it was good to be there among friendly mellow people. Now Wayne Coyne is a nice guy. He’s real friendly and tries to get the crowd in the mood. He succeeded. He talks a lot about the music in between songs and speaks well. Wayne warned us of all the flashing lights that would be used during the Flaming Lips performance and that if at any time if we felt sick, that we should take a break and grab some water. I thought this was an incredibly polite spiel, as most bands would not even bother to warn the audience of such things. A half moon sized lcd screen lies behind them all lit up in multiple colors and screen shot images.

The show begins with an image of a nude silhouette girl dancing around drums and slowly starting to bang them as the countdown begins to this freak ride we were about to take. The members arrive one by one through the screen. A door appears out of nowhere as they are entering through the screen. Big ballons drop from the ceiling. Confetti shoots from multiple sides. Wayne arrives inside of  a big air bubble and starts crowd surfing as they push him all around. It is a funny sight. Lots of gimmicks were used to enhance the show. Loud sounds from these guys weren’t bad. You could say that these guys are psychedelic rockers! What we were in for was a real treat as they began playing their 1999 release The Soft Bulletin. in its entirety. Bulletin was a major turning point for the band as it was a critical success and truly their most artistic one yet.  The album is considered one of the best in the band’s catalog. They really stretched it out to about 90 minutes. Like I said their was fog sprayed at the audience by Wayne as he wears a nice suit and jeans with what looked like a fur scarf around his neck. His hair is semi long, salt and pepper tones that match his beard. He even puts on these big hands and tries to pickup a balloon and throw it. There were serious moments too when he speaks of someone who lost a friend who was supposed to come to the show but died. So the song “Waitin’ for a Superman” was dedicated to him. Then there’s a mini encore break and they come out to do an INCREDIBLE cover of Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage/Eclipse. Probably the best cover I have ever heard of this song. As before I mention this ginormous half moon projection screen so there are thousands of stimulating images that accompany the tunes before, during and after the floyd tribute. The song ends with this close up of a real human heart beating. Then it gets calm.

Now I should mention that there’s an interesting camera that captures the band shot from the just beneath section of the front row so its looking up and you can see the drummer and practically the nose hairs of the singer. But very inventive camera-work for sure. That being said, they conclude with their biggest hit and the official theme song of Oklahoma City….”Do You Realize? ” It was also played at our wedding reception and is a special song for me and my lovely wife. A very gnarly rendition of it was done that was inspirational even with projection images of giant bunnies and naked cheerleaders dancing around. Wayne gets emotional and bids the Chicago fans a fond farewell and says he loves this audience in particular as his favorite. Then the house lights come on and its over. “Please come again!” We stumbled out like cattle and drifted into the dark streets of the uptown and headed back to our car with muffled ears, enthusiasm and tired bodies. She and I had a really fun time. This was like a circus freak show. Visually, musically and vocally stimulating and entertaining. Loved it!