Category Archives: music

Paying Respects to Prince at Paisley Park – Chanhassen, MN


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When I moved to Minnesota in November of 2013, it didn’t take me long to hear that Prince lived in the area. Occasionally, he’d hold performances and dance parties at his studio and residence in the Twin Cities suburb of Chanhassen, known as “Paisley Park.” I’d always hear about these events on the radio, or even in local publications like City Pages. I’d always meant to go but figured I could the next time around.

Now there’s no next time around, unfortunately. For a man who seemed so private, mysterious, and guarded in the media, it was was a breathe of fresh air that he’d actually opened up his property to anyone who wanted to see him perform, or anyone who simply wanted to dance to some good music played by other artists whom he likely served as a mentor to.

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Upon finding out about Prince’s untimely death on Thursday, I knew I wanted to pay my respects. I’d become a bigger fan once seeing his Super Bowl halftime performance in 2007. I didn’t own every single album (he released a whopping 39 over his career), but for the longest time, I’d rocked out his greatest hits CD in my car. It was a double disc that featured many of his most memorable tracks. Most recently in 2014, I’d bought one of his more recent CDs, Art Official Age.

Visiting Paisley Park on Saturday made me sad, but it was also refreshing. A little girl offered me a marker and said, “do you want to sign it?” She pointed to a poster hanging on the fence, already adorned with fan memorabilia, letters, and purple flowers. As I went to sign it, there was hardly any room to write anything. However, I managed to draw in a tiny little heart. So many fans around the world adored Prince. Simply said, he accomplished more in his 57 years than most of us combined will accomplish. He lived a full life and now he’s gone, but he will live forever through his music. Rest in peace, sweet Prince.

 

 

 

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Dash Rip Rock Bassist Readies First Solo Record


Singer-songwriter Patrick Johnson is ready to tell his side of the story. The current bassist of cow-punk band Dash Rip Rock has spent a long time in the music industry, playing in a few different bands that have varied stylistically. Now he’s finally set to record his debut solo album, Last River-Drive In. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with the singer about his past career highlights, the album he’s been busy creating, and what’s in store for the future.

Like many, Johnson picked up the guitar as a teenager. For him, it was at the age of 16. Despite the musical acquirement, it wasn’t immediately a hit with Johnson personally. “At first, I didn’t really take a liking to it, so I stopped and set it aside,” Johnson stated.

However, things changed for the young man when he started developing a musical relationship with his brother Paul, who played the guitar. At age 19, Johnson had turned toward playing the bass-guitar. From there, it was a collaboration that would transform into Johnson’s first extensive musical project and band, Poor Harvey – an alternative group influenced by the likes of Tom Petty and Neil Young, with a little grunge thrown in.

Besides playing live, it led to Johnson’s first step into the recording process. However, it wasn’t exactly what anyone would desire, but it fit for the time. “We came up with a demo cassette tape, took it to a friend of ours, and recorded 6 songs. It was a Gorilla studio, we hung mikes, duck-taped them to the ceiling. It was artistic, open, poetry, like free verse, anything goes. That’s how we came up with the demo CD, a 6 song EP around 2001. I played bass and sang a little bit of background vocals.”

Over the years, Johnson’s musical career included a stint in New York City, where he was seeking the limelight to musical success. The living situation wasn’t exactly desirable. In fact, it was quite humble. He lived in a basement – relying on a café down the street for a restroom. “If you needed to go at night and the café was closed, you were out of luck.”

But it ended up being one of the greatest experiences that shaped the artist. “I performed more music in that brief time period than I had ever had the opportunity to play before.  It was 5 bands, with 3 being regular gigs.  You can go to NYC and play every night in a different club, never play the same place twice, and never play with the same musicians again if you wanted to.”

NYC provided for a fun and competitive atmosphere to play live, an undeniable favorite for Johnson when it comes to the music industry. There’s a competitive nature that goes along with the task. “Nothing’s better than blowing away another band, especially if the band is the headliner and you’re the opener. And you knock everyone away with your performance. Then the headliner comes on and bing, not everyone is as energetic because you sucked all the energy out of the room with a great opening set!”

Then, of course, there’s the thrill. “Playing live involves very high energy. When you’re on, you’re on, when you’re off you are off, like any band. The energy and just pulling it off is really amazing to have people link up. Something chemical goes on.”

“With live music, there’s definitely an understanding between everyone. It feels like you’re sort of a conduit, music is flowing through you and you’re along for the ride,” he continued.

Meanwhile, over the years, Johnson has continued to evolve musically. One stint with a band called the Prescriptions even had Johnson playing bass in a song featured in a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear.

Other interesting highlights have included tour stops with his current band Dash Rip Rock, where he’s played in places including Denmark and Norway.

Johnson refers to music as being the universal language, and with his solo album there’s something to prove. There’s also the added pressure of being in the spotlight, rather than playing bass and doing backup vocals. “There’s always the chance someone could hate it. You have to be open to criticism. It’s something you have to get over. We’ve had criticism before with Poor Harvey. You just have to shrug it off, not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing.”

The songwriter’s music is inspired by various elements ranging from real life experiences to sci-fi movies, a genre he takes a special liking to. As for the songwriting process, Johnson states, “Sometimes with enough caffeine I can write a song in 10 minutes. Sometimes they stay in the vault for a while. Then I’ll change the chord structure later, and it takes on a new life.”

As for the future, it’s completely open. Johnson hopes to continue recording and he’s starting out without a label, something he actually sees as a perk. For him, it’s an asset that doesn’t give the added pressure and constraints of what a label demands.

“It’s going to be fun promoting the record but I don’t see myself quitting my main band just to fly solo.”  Meanwhile, collaborating and forming new projects are something he looks forward to. The new album is a continued step in the songwriter’s evolving musical adventure.

Foos Return With ‘Wasting Light’


Dave Grohl and company have returned with their latest release, Wasting Light. The last time the Foo Fighters released a record was nearly 4 years ago with 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace (Wow 4 years already?).

After lots of touring and a greatest hits package, it was time to hit the studio again. Instead of recording the latest album at Studio 606 (where they recorded the last) the Foos took the step of recording it in Dave Grohl’s home garage. Guitarist Pat Smear (who originally left the band in 1997) has been fully implemented back into the band (even though he’s been a touring guitarist since 06).

The end result of the recording process is a genuine Foo Fighters record. The album starts with the fast and heavy-hitting Bridges Burning. While the guitar rift is simple, it’s sweet. The open drum beat helps pump listeners up (kind of like My Hero did, but in a much heavier way). It’s the perfect start to the album. Rope, the lead single has an interesting mix of guitars and a classic-sounding Foo chorus.

The album’s third track, Dear Rosemary hits me as a bit Petty-esqie. I’m sure there are plenty who’d disagree with me about that one, but it’s a lovely track with some amazing melodic guitar patterns going on. White Limo is the album’s heaviest track. In fact, it’s pretty similar to the track Weenie Beenie from 1995’s self-titled, except with a heavier edge. In fact the music video for the track went pretty heavy metal, having Lemmy from Motorhead driving the Foos around in a limo (great video btw).

Alandria is one of the best tracks on the album.  Grohl’s signature vocals hit with the line, “You and what army?”. The track is intense but good-natured and really, really catchy. These Days is a softer song with a harder hitting chorus. It’s just a really pretty-sounding rock song.

Back & Forth is a solid track with an extremely poppy sounding chorus. It’s just a really pop rock song. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely distinguishes itself apart from other track on the album.

I’d have to say that A Matter of Time is probably my favorite track. It sounds like something you’d find on 1999’s There’s Nothing Left to Lose, except it has some heavier hitting guitar chords, which makes it edgier. Miss the Misery is one of the heavier rockers on the album. It’s another solid track.

We finally get to the much-discussed I Should Have Known, one of the album highlights that is rumored to be about Grohl’s relationship with Kurt Cobain and centers around the Nirvana’s singers self-destruction. Grohl sings, “I should have known, look at the shape you’re in. . .I should have known, there was that side of you. The song starts soft a and ever increases into a heavy track.

The album’s final track, Walk is a feel good, optimistic track. It’s a good closer for the album. With Wasting Light (surely to become notorious for having been recorded in Grohl’s garage),the Foo Fighters have created their best album since 1999’s There’s Nothing Left to Lose.

New Jackson Album of Unreleased Material Set to Thrill Fans Around the Globe


Despite surrounding controversy over as to whether or not these tracks should have seen the light of day at all, it appears that Sony has put together a solid effort in releasing the first posthumous Michael Jackson CD of new material after all.  In the beginning, there was even controversy over as to whether or not the three tracks recorded at the home of Jackson friend Eddie Cascio in 2007 were even Jackson’s voice.  When even some family members questioned the tracks’ authenticity, it set off a divide between even some of the late pop star’s biggest self professed fans.  As the date for the album’s release has drawn closer, those previous doubts have settled and many are now without a doubt that the voice of the three Cascio tracks are indeed Jackson’s.  The first single from the album, Hold My Hand is a track that was previously recorded in 2007 for one of Akon’s albums and features Akon’s vocals about the same(if not more) throughout the track.  While it’s a good first single, it’s also the only track out of the 10 on the album that doesn’t credit Jackson as a writer.

The album’s 2nd track, Hollywood Tonight is a fast paced pop track that features Jackson beat-boxing and singing in a deeper tone similar to that of 2000 Watts from the Invincible album.  It’s a good, solid track that’s been well received by critics and many fans, although I don’t really see it as a single.  The third track on the album is Keep Your head up, a softer song that kind of fits with the times of economic uncertainty and ends with the classic Jackson sound of a choir in the background towards the end, definitely a possible single in waiting.

The album’s fourth track, (I like) The Way You Love Me was previously released on Jackson’s Ultimate collection a few years back, but it still remained unknown to a mass of the public.  The new version is a bit different and starts out with a call from Jackson to his studio engineer describing how he’d like the song to begin.  The song features Jackson’s vocals at their best and I’m guessing it was recorded sometime around Invincible.  The next track, Monster is the second Cascio track featured on the album and begins with a horrifying scream then paves its way into a jamming pop beat that’s really edgy.  We hear Jackson croon about how he feels he’s been unfairly treated by the media & tabloids as he sings, “you give them your all, they’re watching you fall”.  The track also features 50 cent, who’s rap was posthumously added to the track (and it goes well with the song).

The next soft song on the album is Best of Joy, which I believe is probably the best song featured on the album.  It’s also believed that the recording of this song took place shortly before Jackson’s death in 2009.  It just has a feel-good vibe to it.  I hope this is released as a single.  Breaking News is a track I’m not too keen on.  I mean, it’s decent but I don’t think it was worthy enough to be released on this album.  It sounds like producers took a rough vocal demo and added layers and layers of sounds over it.  (I can’t make it) Another Day is a track that’s edgy rock and has a similar rock vibe to it like Dirty Diana, Give Into Me, and Privacy, except it’s definitely better than the latter 2.  Kravitz’s backing vocals mix well with Jackson’s.  Although the track was leaked online in early 2010, this version is an improvement as the guitars during the chorus are a whole lot edgier.

Behind the Mask is a track that was probably recorded around the Thriller era.  Jackson’s vocals sound similar to that time period.  This is a song that was originally released by Yellow Magic Orchestra in the late 70’s, picked up by Jackson’s keyboard player in the early/mid 80’s and released as a solo track.  Jackson is credited with writing the lyrics for the song (The song was an instrumental originally).  It definitely has that 80 vibe to it, but it’s really nothing like anything we’ve heard from Jackson before.  You get a feel of video game music featuring funky instruments overlaid by backing vocals from elctronic robots.  It’s a neat vibe for sure.  The album closes with another track, Much too Soon(possibly recorded during the 80’s as well).  It’s a sweet & soft song featuring acoustic guitars and has a similar vibe as for as lyrical content to that of She’s out my life.  Overall, the producers on this album did a good job of making these tracks(which expand throughout 3 different decades) fit together in a way the seems satisfying and thrilling for the listener.  If you’ve got a way to hear the album in with a good quality sound system, go for it.  Simply listening to it streamed online over computer speakers doesn’t do it justice.

Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Return of Soundgarden


Soundgarden performs live at the Show Box on April 16, 2010 in Seattle, WA

If Alice in Chains can do it then Soundgarden definitely can.  Only a few years ago Pearl Jam was considered one of the only important survivors from the early 90’s Seattle grunge scene.  Meanwhile, Chris Cornell had found success with his new band Audioslave and many AIC fans never imagined Alice In Chains would reform after the death of their frontman, Layne Staley, who died of a drug overdose in 2002.  Alice In Chains reformed in 2005 and released a new studio album in 2009.  Soundgarden, on the other hand, recently announced their reformation with a post on their official website stating, “school is back in session”.  Soundgarden recently played their first show together since reforming, billed as “The Nude Dragons”.

Soundgarden plans to play Lollapalooza in August and there’s even talk of recording a new album.  Interestingly enough, both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden now share the same drummer, Matt Cameron, who joined Pearl Jam after Soundgarden’s break up in 1997.  So if there’s any trouble balancing acts, they could always tour together.  So maybe the Seattle sound is coming back a bit after all, but this time perhaps without the same flannel grunge fashion it had in the early 90s.  Meanwhile, here’s a link to a video from Soungarden’s April performance.

For more information visit: http://www.soundgardenworld.com/

Star Wars in Concert brings audience closer to a galaxy far far away..


Star Wars in Concert, May 19, 2010, Baton Rouge, LA

If you ever wanted to get closer to the Star Wars universe than sitting down and watching the Star Wars movies, this event would probably be your best bet.  A delight of beautiful music played by a full orchestra in the way that John William’s envisioned, perfect on every note set to the beautiful imagery from the Star Wars universe.  The stage is backed up by a full screen.  The video only enhances the music and the Star Wars Universe comes to life in a way nobody has ever imagined.  Not only does video enhance the music, lasers are there as well, quite reminiscent of the amount of lasers the movie trilogies never seem to lack.  What’s even more delightful about the event it that actor Anthony Daniels, (known as the voice behind droid C3PO) is there to narrate it.

The famous voice of C3PO, Anthony Daniels narrates

Whether it’s set to smooth music from the sappy love scenes between Anakin and Padme from the prequels or to booming performances set to video of the rebels defeating the imperial forces at Yavin and Endor, or to the beautiful Yoda’s theme set to video of the small and humble jedi master, the orchestra never fails to bring Star Wars to life in a way that it hasn’t been brought before.  Attendees are also treated to props used in the trilogies.  Star Wars in Concert runs through July 25 with it’s last stop in London, Ontario.

For more information visit: http://www.starwarsinconcert.com

Pearl Jam rocks the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival


Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and singer Eddie Vedder on stage in New Orleans

I’m not too much on big festivals, especially when it’s that humid.  The idea of being in such a big, sweaty, nasty crowd, constantly getting elbowed while trying to slowly navigate your way around under the hot southern sun with the smell of beer and marijuana flowing through the air is something I don’t find too appealing.  But this was different, this was Pearl Jam.  I made my way to the New Orlean’s Jazz and Heritage festival on May 1, 2010.  I’d never seen Pearl Jam before and was so excited after buying my ticket from ticketmaster only a few weeks before.  It’d been a dream to see this band play for almost 10 years.  I’d first purchased the album “Ten” from a Wal-mart when I was on vacation in Hawaii about 10 years ago.  And from then on i’d been a big fan.

I arrived about an hour and a half early, so we had plenty of time to make our way to a decent spot in front of the stage.  Parking had been bad as festival organizers were charging 50 dollars for official festival parking.  Thanks to the great people of New Orleans who opened up their driveways and yards to the many visitors, we were able to find parking for 15 dollars.

The band came out and burst suddenly into a cover of the Byrd’s “So You Want to be a rock n’ roll star”.  This was a fantastic way to begin the show as the essence of rock n’ roll filled the air with Eddie groaning, “Don’t forget what you are, You’re a rock ‘n’ roll star”.

We can’t come closer, but we can play louder”, the longtime Pearl Jam frontman shouted to the people in the back.  Then band went on to play songs like the trashing “Lukin”, their classic from Vs, “Corduroy”.  It’s interesting because with Pearl Jam you never no what you’ll get, you’re always in for a surprise.  You see how the set list changes for show to show, so no Pearl Jam experience is quite the same as the last one or the next.

We can’t come closer, but we can play louder -Eddie Vedder

Even troops stationed in Afhganistan were in for a great show.  The concert was making history as the first to be directly telecast live via satellite to troops watching abroad.  Memories of the old Pearl Jam came to mind, they still played with the same passion and vibrance as they had during the early 90’s grunge era, if not more.  Gossard’s hair had grown back out and Eddie was content jumping around, taking a sip from a bottle of red wine occasionally.  Songs from the new album were played, like “unthought unknown”, “supersonic”, “the fixer”, “just breathe”.  Classic from ten like “alive” and “even flow were played as well.  Overall, it was a good mix of old, new, and all that existed between.  Minus anything off Binaural.

The band, known for it’s occasional political stances kind of kept itself quiet about things throughout the concert until Eddie blasted into the BP oil spill mess, criticizing BP for letting their regulations slide in recent years.  “BP, send your own sons and daughters to clean up your own mess” Eddie blasted into the microphone before the band played “Daughter”.  After the second encore was played Pearl Jam ended with a fast paced “Kick Out the Jams”.  The band said night and left the stage.  The crowd, very pleased, wanting more but Pearl Jam had left the building.  Overall, the crowd was pleased with a great experience and a great night to remember.

Set list:

Encore 1

Notes: Set list taken from PearlJam.com