Friday, March 24, 2017

Concert Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers

March 15th I was at Moda Center watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their Getaway Tour.

In some ways the show was a testament to the band's longevity. Performing about two songs per album - so performing many favorites but leaving many favorites unheard - reminded us that this is a band with eleven studio albums covering 34 years. That's time to build a lot of fans, and even up in the cheap seats the arena was packed.

Despite that level of history, nothing felt old or nostalgic about the show. The band was vibrant, the crowd was energetic, and the venue was alive.

The funny thing about me being there is that I have never been a fan. I haven't been against them either; I think it was mainly an issue of timing and exposure. However, my friend Karen is a lifelong fan who had never seen them before. (This is also how I ended up at Gogol Bordello.) I had become fond of bass player Flea since seeing The Other F-Word, but otherwise I knew two songs and not much else. (And no points for guessing those two were "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge".)

So speaking as someone who did not have much familiarity but was sitting next to someone who really needed to be there, the show worked on multiple levels. For me, they served up good rock. Having been exposed, I like them.

(And not that kind of exposure. Singer Anthony Kiedis did remove his shirt at one point, but everyone was pretty clothed.)

For a long-time fan, it was much more. Yes, there were some songs missing that she would have liked to hear, but there were also really important points touched. She did not know how much she needed to hear "Scar Tissue" until she heard it played. I know that feeling.

There are two other things I want to mention. One was the sense of camaraderie. Yes, Kiedis and Flea have been together for decades, and drummer Chad Smith came not long after, but there have been many line-up changes.

Even those show loyalty. Chris Warren has only been touring keyboardist since 2007, but he has been a drum technician for them since the '90s. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer toured with them in 2007, then became part of the band in 2009. Watching Kiedis introduce all of them, and others, it was easy to believe that the band takes good care of their crew and is well cared for in return. There was an easy affection going around. The sweetest moment of that may have been when Flea and Klinghoffer walked toward each other and Klinghoffer briefly rested his head on Flea's shoulder, but there seemed to be general good feelings all around.

(I can't explain why, but Klinghoffer's playing style really appealed to me.)

I also need to mention the show design. In addition to good use of video and live footage, there was an amazing light set-up, described as "history's largest touring kinetic light structure" at

In arena shows it is hard to maintain intimacy. Leif Dixon's video meant that the audience could get close-ups while still balancing with visual material chosen to enhance specific songs. That was important, but I was fascinated with Scott Holthaus' light structure.

With the lights being able to change their color and intensity, as well as being able to go up and down, there was incredible versatility. The lights could create a frame for the stage and floor seating, defining the space. The could create an arching roof like an awning you might see at an outdoor show. They could represent undulating waves or rotating geometric patterns, and they did all of those things and more. I can only imagine some of the technical difficulties of setup and take-down and transportation, but it feels like it's worth it.

I do not doubt in any way that just the four members in a small venue would still have that energy and fun, but all of these elements combined makes a team effort that I can really appreciate.

Congratulations all around!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty is the stage name of Troy Andrews, one that makes sense when you see pictures of him as a four-year old playing the trombone.

With that early start, he has had a long career already at 31, with a lot of backing and session work. I recently got to see him as himself, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The show was a party, perhaps reflecting his New Orleans jazz roots. The backing band had two saxophones, including one baritone - something that I haven't seen for a while - and they all worked together well. Little details added to the sense of fun, like a pair of red sneakers working their way across the stage (not on Andrews himself) or the laughs between the band members. When they are having a good time, it spreads to the audience.

Speaking of the audience, I was pleased to see that they seemed to recognize and respond to many of the numbers; not all opening bands get that.

A new album, Parking Lot Symphony, will be available on April 28th, but for now a look at Trombone Shorty's own discography will show team-ups with Ledisi, Jeff Beck, and Lenny Kravitz, among others. If you look for him appearing on other people's albums, you will be finding new names for a while.

But as much as he is helpful to other musicians, and able to build a career solely on that, Trombone Shorty is great at center stage. Watch him funk it up if you get a chance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Feeling low

One of the things that I am not getting to is keeping track of all of Trump's orders and writing out both the worst-case scenario and the ideal. The purpose of that would be to have a grasp of what is going on, but also to not lose sight of good possibilities.

I had been thinking about that since shortly after the inauguration. Then, at Disneyland, I was reminded that Tomorrowland was initially set thirty years in the future, which we have now passed by about thirty years again. It occurred to me that looking at how the future developed over those two three-decade periods could lead to some interesting forecasting for now.

Those were both ideas that seemed valuable, and I am just too tired. I'm too tired for a lot of things right now.

That is not all the fault of the current political situation, but it is hard to keep up with that. It's not just all of the terrible Trump appointments and pronouncements and executive orders, but also things that are happening in Congress and in state legislatures that directly relate, and it is tiring.

I think I remember someone saying that the initial travel ban and things were part of a blitz that was done specifically to overwhelm, but because of that it was done sloppily, where the initial travel ban was easily overturned. That was therefore an opportunity to fight.

As the new travel ban was still similarly sloppy, I can't help but wonder if some of that is deliberate. Maybe you can keep everyone so outraged for the first few months that they eventually get tired of rushing out to protest and make phone calls, and then you can push through the carefully crafted legislation.

That needs two clarifications. One is that I do not doubt the sincerity of Trump's irritation when things get overturned. He is a petty man, and he will not be the one carefully crafting anything.

Two is that even the small victories are not preventing damage from happening, and it is happening to marginalized people first. Some of it is legally sanctioned, like deportations, but some of it is not officially endorsed, like men getting more aggressive with women since the election, or more attacks on mosques and synagogues. Some of it is not obvious, like the hiring freeze preventing the hire of new daycare workers, so members of the military can't get childcare when they need it. The rush that comes with each victory can be deceptive.

Not all of the exhaustion will come from outrage either. I see people boosting their fundraising efforts for Meals On Wheels, trying to keep it going despite a government who literally called cutting it "compassionate". That's great, but if we keep trying to make up for government evil via personal funds and efforts, we are all going to be tapped out pretty quickly. I am convinced that is just the way the Trump administration likes it.

That doesn't even seem to be my issue. My greater tiredness lately has more to do with taking care of my mother, and yet it does matter. If her cognitive disorder was treated the same as a physical disability, and I could be compensated for caring her, that would relieve a lot of worry. There are a lot of ways there could be better support for aging and health and humans.

That contains another conflict that tires me. There is no one else who is in the same position to take care of Mom now, so that should be my primary responsibility, but some of the things happening now are really important, affecting a lot of people. Perhaps they would be more important, but even that assumes that I could do something.

Those are the kind of things that weigh me down, but if there is any solution, it is going to come from us banding together. We need to be working together and loving each other, and there is something really specific that continues to be an obstacle.

I'll try and get to that Monday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sidetracked by books again

I can point to two different posts where I had specific goals that I was going to get to, and I am still behind.

I was going to start writing about my issues with fat, and then I saw a reference to a book, The Obesity Myth (by Paul Campos), which felt like it would be very relevant. I was supposed to be working on my facist/authoritarian reading and my Black History month reading, but okay, one book won't make much difference to either of those schedules. Then I started reading it.

The Obesity Myth is an excellent book, and it definitely fit in with the reading, but there were also things about how people will ignore facts, and where a fear of contamination goes along with certain issues. It seemed to relate to another book that I always intended to get to, The Panic Virus (by Seth Mnookin).

That is about how autism and vaccinations became associated in people's minds. I knew that there was a flawed study by a person with a financial stake, but I had not known about pre-existing vaccine fears, or some of the parental input. Most of my previous reading on immunizations had focused around flu shots.

Those books do relate to each other, at least in a sociological/psychological sense, but they also relate to some thoughts that I have had politically. And I almost don't want to write this today, because at a later point I believe I am going to go through and point out the flaws with every political label including independent voters, so I could be getting ahead of myself here.

It does go with one of the gardening books. Let me back up.

Some time ago - when vaccination was in the news - I remember someone talking about this mindset of purity. Some people have faith that they will eat the best foods and live the healthiest lifestyle, and that will protect them. They don't need vaccines.

Except that they do. One part of Panic Virus relates how a doctor who supports anti-vax parents tells them not to tell their friends, because we could drop below the necessary herd immunity levels if everyone did it.

If your secret to health or financial success or happiness is something that relies on other people not being able to have it, there are problems. First of all, you may be selfish and evil, which is worth thinking about. In addition, are you sure you can make it work?

At the start of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Solomon spends a lot of time on how the nutritional value of food has decreased due to soil depletion. The extent to which it has dropped is less in organically grown food, but it's still a problem; how are you going to fix that?

You can worry about mercury in vaccines (though thimerasol was never in the MMR shot and has since been removed from other shots) but you are getting larger amounts in the air and quite possibly in your food. How are you going to fix that?

Speaking of things we have good science on, but that some people still refuse to believe, how are you going to fix global warming? Or bees dying off? Trying to keep your food uncontaminated and nutritious still assumes that the weather and pollinators are cooperating. That is not guaranteed.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this now, because I am running late and I am tired (there will be more on that tomorrow) and I know I will be circling back to it, but I will say this.

The next logical step to thinking "I am better than you" is thinking "I don't need to care about you".

It is always wrong.

Related posts:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Recovering from emo

Here I am still writing about emo, but I ended up adding an eighth day to James Dewees week, so there is still some symmetry.

I already said my interest in emo first came from 2012 when I was new on Twitter and falling headlong for My Chemical Romance. Part of that time was also connecting with a lot of younger people - mainly girls - who were also big MCR fans, or fans of some other band that was everything to them. The word "emo" was flying around a lot back then, even if not always by them.

Five years later, things are very different. I don't know that anyone's musical taste changed, but there are other things on their minds. Kids who obsessed over bands in junior high and high school are now in college, or applying to colleges, or working or engaged. They are accomplishing things. They still love music, but it's different, and it's better. I still worry about the world that is out there for them, and the difficulty of making it out there, but it is better for them to have more in their lives.

In that way it is easy to view emo as a phase that you outgrow. And if it is defined by its self-absorption and moodiness, then it becomes very easy to say that not only are some bands not emo anymore, but it is also remarkably clear that some never were. Genre labels always have some weaknesses; we just keep using them because they're convenient.

I know there are also new kids going through that possessive, obsessive phase. I saw it just today with some people jumping all over just a little thing Frank Iero said, where you could totally understand if he never tweeted anything again. I'm not attracting new young music fans anymore, so it's easy to forget about it, but it's still out there. I suppose it's the circle of life.

The other thing that is important to know, though, is that while it is common to mature out of this phase, it is possible not too.

I suspect at some point I am going to want to do some writing about toxic masculinity and emo aspects of that, and then I may regret that I've already used the title "Terrible emo boys". For now, I want to focus on Chris Carraba.

That's not saying that he's terrible, but if reading about him the first time around was sad, this time around it was really disturbing. I guess that makes it more disturbing that Greenwald is so enamored of Carraba, because people who love his dysfunction are less likely to get him help.

I believe in the role of art in helping to heal, and that you do need to process grief, but at some point it begins to sound like a Dashboard Confessional concert is just wallowing. Is that cathartic? Catharsis implies that you get somewhere. And I know that even though picking at a scab is not the best way to heal a wound, the wound will usually still heal anyway, so there may not be any need for concern, but it looks unhealthy.

(I know that Nothing Feels Good is 14 years old now, so Carraba could be fine. I hope he is.)

It may be a natural part of youth to glamorize misery, but at some point you realize that Romeo and Juliet is less love, more stupidity, and that realization is good for your future. Maybe one album about girls never noticing you can be great, but ideally you will then move on. Then there can be albums about the pain of long distance relationships, or bitter breakups, or the euphoria of it working out, or starting to seriously consider your mortality (especially once you have kids).

It is a big world out there, and it is terrible and beautiful and frightening and amazing.

You're a much more interesting person (and musician) once you see that.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Band Review: Andy Jackson and Death in the Park

Just for the record, there are two Andy Jacksons.

The older one is a recording engineer best known for his work with Pink Floyd, but who also has produced some solo work that reminds me of Pink Floyd. The songs on Signal to Noise are moody, if not quite dark, and carry a weight to them where I can suddenly hear where Pink Floyd might have been among the inspirations for sludge,

I feel pretty confident that the Andy Jackson that James Dewees recommended is the younger one, who has sung for Hot Rod Circuit and has a solo project called Death in the Park. I suspect this based on James Dewees following him and Hot Rod Circuit having toured with The Get Up Kids. (You can get things past me, but not indefinitely.)

Unsurprisingly, Death in the Park is more to my taste, with its earnest aching and more melodic delivery. It is certainly closer to danceable.

I particularly liked "Sway", one of the faster offerings, but Jackson's team-up with Paramore's Hayley Williams, "Fallen", may leave the strongest impression. The way it lingers in the mind makes it a solid choice for closing out the EP.

I was not able to find any links dedicated to Death in the Park, but there is sometimes information on Andy Jackson (the younger one's) Twitter.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Band Review: The Superweaks

I liked The Superweaks on the first listen, which is always appreciated. As it got closer to writing time, I started having concerns that I had no idea what to say.

Profiles mention their loves of clogging and Satan, coffee and hot sauce (depending on where you are looking). They may not take biographies that seriously. I believe when they say they are from Philadelphia. Still. no words were coming together. Their music did not sound as cheeky as their profiles, and I felt like I was missing something. Then I read about the death of bass player Corey Bernard. 2016 release Better Heavens is a tribute to him.

It's not that it's a huge musical departure from their previous work, but it does feel more serious. There is beauty, but given that context I also sense grief. It gives me a reason for why the ending of the final track, "Junkie's Gone to Heaven" felt so haunting when the ending feedback seems to be fading up and out.

I do like the earlier songs, especially "I Don't Want To Be An Anarchist (Anymore)". There is great guitar on "Finals". Still, I believe Better Heavens is a great starting place.

I checked The Weaks out on the recommendation of James Dewees. "I'll See Myself Out" has some keyboards that remind me of him, but some tracks also remind me of Blink-182, circa "First Date". One article described them as "Weezer meets Thin Lizzy". I am not sure I hear the Thin Lizzy part, but with their traditionally short track length and other antecedents one could probably call them emo-adjacent: punk roots, but more mellow and thoughtful. And I am sorry for some of the things they have had to think about recently, but I still appreciate their results.

It looks like they play fairly regular dates and keep that updated on their Facebook page, but there is not currently anything scheduled.

Worth checking out.