When two substances collide: Andrew Bird kicks off U.S. tour

“I’m tired of playing all these instruments. It’s quite taxing,” lamented indie music superstar and whistling champion Andrew Bird toward the end of his July 16 show at the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theatre in Reno, Nev. As a featured artist for Reno’s 2008 Artown festival, Bird kicked off his national tour performing fan favorites including “Fiery Crash”, “My Skin Is” and “Nervous Tick Motion of the Head to the Left” and five songs from his upcoming untitled album, two of which the had never played for an audience.

Decked out in striped green and pink socks, three piece tweed suit and tie and tousled hair Bird looked more like a mad scientist than a classically trained violinist turned indie darling, and to some extent he was. Flanked by his band, a sock monkey, glockenspiel and a modified gramophone, Bird looped Theremin-like whistles, staccato guitar riffs, and driving rhythms with his voice that impressed with its strength and range. Bird’s creations weave together music layers into a sonic tapestry that seems to move forward as if under its own power. In two hours Bird performed on the glockenspiel, violin, guitar and keyboard several times looping a track and switching instruments mid song.

Bird’s articulate phrasing and effective dynamic use, created an altogether unique sound that soared and fluttered as a leaf on the wind unpredictable and scattered but also purposed and graceful. The evening brought to mind sonic chaos of Radiohead and My Morning Jacket but also the harmonies of the Beatles and Beach Boys.

This was particularly evident on “First Impossible” a tune Bird himself described as, “tricky.” owing to a complex beat pattern that took advantage of the offbeat employing them with both skill and elegance, as Bird often does. The song conjured telegram rhythms coming to full and unexpected stops and starting again just as quickly creating a disorienting, fractured piece whose rhythms eventually broke down washed over the audience in waves ending miles away from where it stared.
Bird was full at ease with his audience whom he treated more as guests in his living room rather than paying audience members disarming them with humor and engaging them with colorful anecdotes. Several times during the evening Bird asked the audience for patience and leniency as the band ironed out some bumps and kinks in the set list. And though there were minute missteps in the newer tunes, Bird and company handled trademark complex rhythms and melodies, intricately and delicately designed with Swiss watch precision at dizzying and sometimes breakneck speeds.

Though there were only four people on stage they seemed backed by a virtual symphony of sound layering ethereal whistling skills, eccentric rhythms and to create an organic and distinctive sound and one of the most original and entertaining voices in music.


Andrew Bird Photo Gallery

Last Wednesday, indie rocker and world champion whistler Andrew Bird kicked off his 2008 US tour at the Grand Sierra Resort's Grand Theatre in Reno, Nevada. Bird premeired five songs from his upcoming album. A full review will be forthcoming as soon as I get a free second. Until then, enjoy the gallery.


New Radiohead Video Premieres

Aaaargh! The new Radiohead music video for "House of Cards" is insane. A more objective review coming soon. Posting may be spotty for the next few days as more professional duties call for now. In the meantime, prepare to be dumbfounded as this video uses no cameras. Details to follow.

Watch Now: Radiohead - "House of Cards"


All Star Cast, VH-1 Honour The Who

Tune into VH1's annual Rock Honors concert tomorrow for an all star tribute to Brit rock legends and CSI theme songsters The Who featuring Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, The Flaming Lips and, of course, Tenacious D. The guests of honor will wrap up the show with a 40 minute set which should include classic Who standards, but may also feature the first live performance of "Slip Kid" since 1976. Though you may have to be in the LA audience to hear it as the performance may be cut down for time.

A candid Roger Daltrey told Rolling Stone recently, “What they use on the TV will probably be the same old stuff...They’ll probably just show ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Who are You?’”

Daltrey also revealed in the same interview that the Flaming Lips are working on a Tommy medley and that Pearl Jam will cover “Love Reign O’er Me” which also appeared on the soundtrack for the film "Reign Over Me." “It’s gonna be weird having them play Who songs while we’re there,” says Daltrey.

Proceeds will be donated to multiple charities, including the Teenager Cancer Trust, an organization that builds hospital wards for teenagers with cancer with which Daltrey has been involved for years. Check here for local listings.

mp3: The Who - "Magic Bus"


Fleet Foxes Premiere Video for "White Winter Hymnal"

Fleet Foxes, SXSW wunderkinds and current critical darlings, are striking while the iron is still hot by releasing their video for "White Winter Hymnal". The video, which blends equal parts harmony, mysticism, and claymation is a perfect complement to the song's ethereal nature.
Directed by Foxes frontman Robin Peckenpold's brother Sean, the video examines a life gone by and how quickly it can come and go. As fleeting and fragile as fame itself.

Watch Now: Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"

White Winter Hymnal from Grandchildren on Vimeo.


Obama to Crowd: You Are Not Lil' Wayne

Because when you're a presumptive nominee absolutely everything that you say gets national attention is it a surprise to anyone that, when Barack Obama name-drops current pop music chart king Lil' Wayne, people start talking?

The presumptive Democratic nominee and avowed Dylan and Steve Wonder fan demonstrated the depth of his pop culture knowledge by referencing Lil' Wayne during a speech discussing the importance of staying in school as opposed to pursuing a career in the recording arts.

"You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school," Obama told a cheering crowd during a town hall style meeting in Powder Springs, Georgia while lamenting high school drop out rates and encouraging students to continue to pay attention to academic studies in order to pursue a career.

Obama added that he knows that some young men think that they cannot find a good job unless they choose music or basketball. This message continues Obama's "tough love" message that encourages parents to "turn off the video games, get off the sofa, and if their child is in trouble in school, not cuss out the teacher."

mp3: Lil' Wayne - "Playing With Fire"

WTF: Turbo Tooth Tunes

From the WTF desk: Much has been made in recent days about bands operating as corporate schills from the Beatles' catalog on Guitar Hero (not happening by the way), Ludacris getting in bed with AT&T, and a host of others. But just when it appears that things cannot possibly get more surreal than pretending to be Aerosmith, along comes this.

Introducing Turbo Tooth Tunes from Hasbro. The toothbrush that pumps music into your head while you brush. Devo, with their re-worked "Brush It", joins the ranks of Miley Cyrus, Smash Mouth, the Transformers, and other brush-safe pop icons to help get those whites pearly once again.

The best part about the whole deal is the diagram that shows "science" in "action". That should be more than enough to convince people to plunk down ten bucks (each add'l track extra) for theirs. Happy brushing!

Mp3: Devo - "Watch Us Work It" (sadly, not available for Turbo Tooth Tunes)


Ben Folds Announces New Album

Everyone’s favorite Dre covering, blue streak swearing, piano-rocking rock star Ben Folds has a new album hitting record store shelves Sept. 16.

Way To Normal
is Folds' first studio LP since 2005’s Songs For Silverman and will be released on Epic Records. Though Folds has played some high-profile shows over the past couple years from opening for John Mayer to being backed by a symphony orchestra, the new album is still an unashamedly rock and roll record.

“It’s a fairly un-orchestral record,” Folds told Paste magazine in a recent interview. Folds continued, “It’s a fairly lyric-driven rock record. We’ve looked at taking a few of the songs on the new record and scoring them for orchestra and, uh, it was kind of slim pickins.”

Notable tracks include titled “You Don’t Know Me”, an eccentric duet with Regina Spektor (is there any other kind)? Also on the album, a experiment that hearkens back to Fear of Pop called “Free Coffee” on which Folds gets an electronic effect on his trusty piano by taping Altoids cans to the strings and running it through a distortion pedal.

Folds’ trademark irreverence is still in full effect on several tunes includin “Bitch Went Nuts,” which tells the story of a relationship that went wildly wrong after the song's narrator’s lover goes crazy and stabs his basketball. The song, according to Folds, is a comment on relationships from the male point of view. Says Folds, “If you ask loads of women what went wrong in a relationship, they’re going to give you a variety of answers. But you ask men, especially at a bar somewhere, and they’re gonna go, ‘Uh, bitch went nuts!’”

Check out tour dates here.

MP3: Ben Folds: Such Great Heights (Postal Service cover)


Springsteen Releases Digital Charity EP

Bruce Springsteen, who led a digital revolution of sorts by pressing the first Dual Disc album is now putting the internet to use for something other than viral videos and online contests: namely a Digital Charity Live EP. Springteen's Magic Tour Highlights collects four live tracks with corresponding videos from this spring's E Street Band tour supporting the Boss' newest album Magic.

The EP features collaborations with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, the Byrds' Roger McGuinn, and Alejandro Escovedo, as well as E Street keyboardist Danny Federici's (photo right) final performance with the band.

Columbia records is set to release Magic Tour Highlights to digital retailers July 15, with a portion of the proceeds will benefiting the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund.

Magic Tour Tracklist:

  1. "Always a Friend" [ft. Alejandro Escovedo] (live in Houston, April 14, 2008)
  2. "The Ghost of Tom Joad" [ft. Tom Morello] (live in Anaheim, April 7, 2008)
  3. "Turn Turn Turn" [ft. Roger McGuinn] (live in Orlando, April 23, 2008)
  4. "4th of July, Asbury Park" (Sandy) (live in Indianapolis, March 20, 2008)

Guitar Hero Update: World's Best Pretend Guitarist, Zep Says No

In the interest of full disclosure, I think the Guitar Hero video game series is a scourge that often destroys lives by having gamers invest hours in the game rather than actually learning how to play the proper guitar. That being said, I love video games and love being amazed and normally I wouldn't post a video of someone playing a game (especially GH), but Chris Chike's perfect 100 percent score on Guitar Hero 3's Expert-Level "Through the Fire and Flames" is surreal to put it lightly.

Said Chike of his Guiness record breaking effort, "I was almost in shock when I finished the song and had hit the 100 percent -- I am so glad I caught it on video or even I wouldn't have believed it happened."

Check out the video below for full aggro amazement!

How I Feel About Guitar Hero: South Park "Guitar Hero"

In other GH news, despite the game's success, you won't see any of Led Zeppelin's iconic tunes being mutilated any time soon, this according to the Wall Street Journal.

The band, specifically guitarist Jimmy Page, is "not comfortable" giving gaming companies access to the group's master recordings, a necessary step in adding a band to any game.

This is welcome news especially since Robert Plant has started schilling for JCPenny's, and the Beatles and Aerosmith have already caved to the Guitar Hero pressure.


The List: Top Songs About States

In observance of the July 4 weekend, this week's edition of "The List" examines the best songs about states.

The Rules: songs must be about about states or commonwealths (songs about territories or provinces are ineligible), only two songs may be country songs, 5 song limit.

Sound Advice List: Best State Songs
1."Washington Bullets" - The Clash
2."Nebraska" - Bruce Springsteen
3. "California Love" - 2Pac and Dr. Dre
4. "Ohio" - CSNY
5. "Kentucky Woman" - Neil Diamond
Dig through your vinyl collection and mp3 backlog and see what you come up with. Post your favorites here or tell us what some of your favorite state songs are.


Born on the Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July to all. Take a minute today to think about what this holiday meant, means, and what we can do to make things better in the future. Though there are many versions of this song, from Jimi Hendrix to the Dixie Chicks, this is my favorite.
Watch Now: Marvin Gaye - "The Star Spangled Banner"


Next President to be Featured in New Boxed Set

Whomever emerges victorious from the general presidential election in November gets a bonus prize (in addition to leading the free world). The life and times of either John McCain or Barack Obama will be featured as a supplemental track on the album Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 Presidencies, as a digital download.

In the vein of Sufjan Stevens' state project, this three-disc boxed set, delivers exactly what it says on the label, featuring the tracks "Martin Van Buren: The Little Magician," and "John Adams: Armed With Only Wit and Vigor and the U.S. Navy" which should pair nicely with They Might Be Giants' "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" and "James K. Polk".

Presidencies' auteurs have brought along additional artists to wax historical including Vince DiFiore (Cake), Alan Sparhawk (Low), and Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon), but a host of others, but surprisingly not Stevens. The album's official release date is Sept. 9.

Have a sneak peek at the album's Monroe track and register to vote for the subject of track 44.

Your New Band Name Has Arrived

Creating a good band name is a difficult thing. A band's name should encompass the tone, style, and personality of the group all while being memorable, clever, and most of all, catchy. A band name can be clean and simple (The Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience), complex (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead), or seemingly nonsensical (Vampire Weekend, The Sea and Cake, et. al). Get it wrong and you'll end up like this.

But fear not good reader, Band Name Maker is here to help. The process is simple and outlined on the site. "Use band name generator engine to create random band names using our extensive database of hand-selected words. Our tool is useful for coming up with cool band names for rock, punk, emo, or other musical styles. If you like, type in your own word or phrase and our engine will randomly use that in the generation process."

We plugged in the word "centaur" and here's what happened:

  • Centaur Ire
  • Dirty of the Extra-Strength
  • Centaur Attack
  • Centaur Cadillac and The Gray Zenith
  • Lone Centaur
  • Centaur Wish
  • Centaur Shore
  • Teal of the Anti
  • Centaur Meat
  • Corrosive Centaur
Give it a go and see what you get. Post up your favorite originals or some of your favorite real band names here. Good luck.


Rock the Vote Ups the Ante with Contest, Against Me!, Saul Williams

In observance of the upcoming July 4 holiday, we bring you yet another internet contest. Rock the Vote is launching a contest called DemROCKracy in which bands get their fans to register to the vote in the upcoming election you may have heard about. The grand prize for the group that registers the most voters is a spot playing Rock the Vote's Ballot Bash before the Democratic National Convention August 25.

In other Rock the Vote news, Against Me! weighs in about the importance of the democratic process, and Saul Williams again rocks our world.

Watch Now: Against Me! - Rock the Vote

Watch Now: Saul Williams - Rock the Vote


Featured Video: Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma

English teachers around the world are relieved that the Oxford Comma is finally getting its day in the sun. Enjoy the boys from New York City and their song about how it's possible to get your point across without being grammatically flawless. And how girlfriends can be so uppity sometimes.
Watch Now: Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma