Lucero at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 10/18/09

I heard someone in the crowd telling a friend, “The last time I saw Lucero was on a boat.” They had a slide guitarist that night, but I was thinking that if you hadn’t seen or heard Lucero in 18 months, seeing them Sunday night would have been something of a shock. Lucero officially added keyboardist Rick Steff and slide guitarist Todd Beene to the band, cementing the lineup of the last couple shows I’ve seen. And at least on this tour in support of their new album 1372 Overton Park, they’re playing with a three piece horn section. Adding 5 (FIVE!) additional people to a 4 piece band will obviously change things.

1372 Overton Park features horns on every track except the last, so it was pretty clear Lucero would bring a horn section on the road for at least this tour, but I wondered how they’d work the horns in with the older material. If I remember correctly, the solution was a set list that looked like this: a couple of new ones with horns, a couple of old ones with horns, a couple of new ones with horns, a couple of old ones with horns, horns take a break while band plays a couple of old ones, Ben with slide and keyboards, horns come back for a couple of new ones, a couple of old ones with horns, a new one with horns, thank you, good night. Mixing the horns in and out, was something that may have been better suited to 2 distinct sets, but I’m not sure how that would have flowed.They didn’t play “What are you Willing to Lose” (which they skipped the night before in New York), unfortunately, but they did hit most of the new album, along with a rousing version of “The Blue and The Gray” “The War”, “Mom”, “Chain Link Fence”, “I Can Get Us Out of Here”, “All Sewn Up”, and “Last Pale Light” from Ben’s solo album.

Overall, it was a solid set, lacking some of the drunken sloppiness that had characterized shows from a couple years ago (though we got some of that towards the end, too). The last couple shows have been more sober than the first couple I saw, and while previously, that relative sobriety brought something of a stiffness to the sets, the band seems to be growing into it more.

I also sensed something of a self-consciousness to the band’s set choices… Lucero likes playing and cares about their fans, to be sure, but a two hour set is long for a band with punk rock roots. I wondered if that was acknowledgment of the $20 ticket price. A price, by the way, which probably kept the Middle East from selling out, but just barely, as the room was mostly full. (Incidentally, Lucero played for OVER 2 hours this spring at the Paradise, and tickets were $15 then, so who knows.) Mixing the horns in and out, was something that may have been better suited to 2 distinct sets, but I’m not sure how that would have flowed. There was definitely a desire to play the new songs, but also a willingness to take requests from the crowd for old songs, even if horn arrangements weren’t prepared for those songs. Maybe by the end of the tour it will be horns all night, but I couldn’t tell if that was the plan.

A note about the sound. I had planned to watch the show from the raised bar area at stage right, but the sound was so bad up there I retreated to the floor in the middle of the first song where the sound was fine (after a song or 2). I think it might have been an issue with the stage volume being too loud for the sound guy to mix appropriately, but the sound on the floor straightened out eventually, while the sound on the raised bar area never did.

I’m interested to see Lucero next time around. Have they kept the horns and added arrangements to all of the old songs, reworked the new songs to accommodate missing horn lines, or have they done what they did Sunday and mixed it all together? This last option would surprise me. Frankly, Lucero has a relatively standard base sound and song structure; 2 guitars, bass, drums, no crazy solos, versechorusbridgerepeat, etc. And yet, as a band, they’ve continued to grow, as songwriters and as performers, while continuing to write songs that resonate with their fans. Because of this, it’s unlikely they’ll come back through town without changing something up, which is about all you want from a band.

Lucero at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA 10/18/09

forgetters at Great Scott, Allston, MA – 10/4/09

Forgetters at great scott When I interviewed Blake Schwarzenbach a couple weeks ago about his new band, forgetters (small f, no the), Schwarzenbach had mentioned that when Thorns of Life started last year, they weren’t interested in trading on anyone’s past to get a head start. That’s apparently still the case as forgetters took the stage at Great Scott on Sunday night for around 125 or so people, the last of 3 bands on a $6 bill. I imagine if they felt differently about playing up the past, the show could have been at a bigger venue, promoted differently, and more widely attended. At the very least, the ticket price at Great Scott could have been doubled. Still, 125 fans for a band’s 5th show is a strong showing, and I expect it will be a harder ticket it the next time they’re in town.

On stage, everyone looked to be having a good time, and Blake is back to eyes shut, neck strained screaming. I never saw Jawbreaker, but I didn’t see this the 2 times I saw Jets. The band seemed more polished than I’d expect for a 5th show, though there was a flub or two (‘Fuck You, Dad’ stopped after a few beats, reintroduced as ‘I’m Sorry, Dad, and started again). Although I don’t think I’ve heard any of the songs, a lot of them sounded familiar. There was the syncopated drumming of Kevin Mahon that punctuated a lot of the early Against Me! catalog. Aside from the drums, the songs sound like a mix between pre-Dear You Jawbreaker punk with bits of Jets to Brazil pop sprinkled in, which, you know, is nice. I don’t know how to explain it, but the songs sounded like they wanted to be recorded, which bodes well for the 7″ recording in October. Most importantly, the songs are good enough to stand on their own. They’re good enough to allow forgetters to build a following of it’s own, without trading on anyone’s past. I could probably get away with saying that everyone at Great Scott on Sunday was there because of Jawbreaker, but if forgetters lasts for 5 years (or more) as Schwarzenbach expressed hope that they would in our interview, that won’t always be the case. I’m looking forward to seeing them again after hearing their record.

forgetters at Great Scott, Allston, MA – 10/4/09

Blake Schwarzenbach Interview

Jawbreaker, Jets to Brazil, Thorns of Life, and now forgetters. Blake Schwarzenbach, after not performing publicly for several years following the disbanding of Jets to Brazil, caused a stir when Thorns of Life debuted late last year. After only a handful of performances and a recording session rumored to be troubled, it was said Thorns of Life had reached the end, as well. This was confirmed a couple weeks ago when Schwarzenbach resurfaced playing in a new band, forgetters. They play Great Scott in Allston on October, 4, and I recently had the opportunity to speak with Schwarzenbach over the phone.

We discuss the plan for forgetters, English, the nonpossibility of a Jawbreaker reunion, books, healthcare, politics, and more. Instead of breaking the interview into sections it’s all in one post below. Enjoy!

Why don’t you start off by telling me a little bit about forgetters and what you guys are about and what you want to try to do.

We’re a 3 piece band from Brooklyn and we’re still kinda getting know to each other as a musical entity. But songs have been happening very quickly for this group so we don’t have any huge plans to continue gestating. And we want to play a lot.

So you guys are done with the birth period and you’re gonna get out there.

Yeah! I mean we’re still writing a lot of songs. I’ve got a little backlog and there’s also been some spontaneous creation, which I’m always looking for. So it’s hard for us right now because we’re getting a lot of show possibilities and at the same time, we’re trying to catch up with learning songs, in order to play them. So it’s a good problem, but it is, nonetheless, something we have to negotiate.

Are you guys going to put together a tour, or just keep to weekends?

We’re starting out with weekends and we’ll be recording a couple songs in October for a 7″. I think the plan is to be incremental and modest in our aspirations. We’re trying to live in real human time.

So a 7″ in October?

That’s the recording. It will take longer to come out, obviously.
Continue reading “Blake Schwarzenbach Interview”

Blake Schwarzenbach Interview

The Crooked Vultures – Led Zeppelin + Nirvana + QOTSA

What do you get when you combine someone from Queens of the Stone Age, someone from Nirvana/ Foo Fighters and someone from Led FREAKING Zeppelin? You get The Crooked Vultures:

In a 2005 interview with Mojo magazine, Grohl confirmed the roles would be the most logical ones: “The next project that I’m trying to initiate involves me on drums, Josh Homme on guitar, and John Paul Jones playing bass. That’s the next album. That wouldn’t suck.” So the only question remaining is who would be singing. Speculation runs rampant, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

The Crooked Vultures – Led Zeppelin + Nirvana + QOTSA

Lucero? MTV? Craig Brewer? Oh My!

MTV’s Five Dollar Cover is based on The Hill’s, but set in the Memphis music scene. Fascinatingly, it was created by Craig Brewer who made ‘Hustle and Flow’. There’s something about the dialogue in these unscripted shows that drives me crazy because of it’s tendency to be off a couple beats from real dialogue. Oh, and Ben Nichols from Lucero is one of the characters on the show. I can’t imagine watching this, unless I watch it on mute with closed captions.

Look, we’ve all been there, hanging out with friends having a good time, something crazy and dramatic happens and someone says, “Man. This could be on TV.” But then STOP. If you think you and your friends have ridiculous times that should be on TV or in a movie, WRITE A TV SHOW OR A MOVIE and probably hire some actors. Unfortunately, not everyone can improvise, and when they try to, it makes me want to change the station.

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:uma:video:mtv.com:352682

Lucero? MTV? Craig Brewer? Oh My!

Lucero, The Paradise – Boston, MA 4/16/09 Review

After only seeing Lucero in divier venues (The Middle East, The Living Room, and a dingy boat riding around the Boston Harbor), I was interested to see what they did in a classier venue, like the Paradise. While the sold-out crowd was into it from the get go – singing along and finger pointing – the band started out a little stiff. Whether it was playing some new songs or the newer arrangements to older standards or the apparent complete sobriety, something wasn’t clicking on stage for the first couple songs. The situation turned around quickly, though, and after the audience carried the band out of gate, they were treated to the Lucero performance they were expecting. [I don’t know if there’s ever been a more vanilla opening paragraph, blech. Writing about things dispassionately sucks!]

The band was joined on stage by a slide guitarist and keyboardist (and at one point towards the end, some random bald guy from the audience singing a Replacements cover) adding extra heft to the songs and all told, Lucero played for two and a half hours, which is NUTS. It got sloppy towards the end of the night, which is hard to avoid when 2 of the members are drinking straight from bottles of Jameson, but this was still the most polished performance I’ve seen – Ben only forgetting the words to one song and mixing around the verse order of another – and really, what did you expect?

Lucero, The Paradise – Boston, MA 4/16/09 Review

New Thorns of Life Album Out June 30th? Called Legislators and Prophets? Rumor Time!

Rumor Update 3 (3 months later) Since the album is supposed to be released in 10 days and there has been no announcement from the band or the label the album was supposed to be released on, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Legislators or Prophets is not going to come out on June 30th.

Rumor Update 2 (4 hours later) DeSoto has clarified their email. Of course they know who Thorns of Life are, but they’re still not releasing the album. This rumor is looking more and more unrealistic, but we’re getting closer to the bottom of it.

Rumor Update (an hour later)! I posted the below earlier this morning before hearing from DeSoto Records. They are not doing the album, saying it’s an internet lie, and that they haven’t heard of The Thorns of Life. I’m skeptical of that last point, though because of the Jawbox/DeSoto/J Robins connections. J Robins recorded with The Thorns of Life last month.

Hearing rumors that ‘Legislators and Prophets’, a new album by Blake Schwazenbach’s new band The Thorns of Life, will be released June 30th on Washington, DC’s DeSoto Records. Can’t find much more info than that except for the track listing below, and a mention on a French blog, and well, The Thorns of Life Wikipeida page (The Wiki has now been updated with ‘no release plans’). This news seems counter to news earlier in the year that the Thorns would self-release an album. This is a living document and I’ll keep updating it as I get more info.

From the World Inferno Friendship Society message board a track listing:
1. The Black Arts
2. Kryptonite
3. My First Time
4. Ribbon Head
5. Available
6. Anti-Song for Barthelme
7. Not a Track Bike
8. Mont Blanc
9. I Hate New York
10. Oh Deathly Death
11. Gemini
12. Vivid Green
13. Building Al Qaeda in Washington
14. Tuning Out

New Thorns of Life Album Out June 30th? Called Legislators and Prophets? Rumor Time!