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January 2009
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March 2009

Barack You Like a Hurricane


A buddy over at Gigatone put me on this latest Barack Obama rock video "Barack You Like a Hurricane" by the Axe Men, a band of pro musicians who have played with Robin Trower, Tower of Power and Starship, .  The've got an EP on iTunes as well as a full CD of Barack inspired tribute tunes expected in March including:

  • B-A-R-A-C-K in the USA
  • Barack the Casbah
  • Barackin' on Sunshine
  • Loves me Like Barack
  • and more...

You can listen to the four-song EP on MySpace or by the songs on eMusic or iTunes.

Alejandro Escovedo Live Acoustic Show

Alejandro Escovedo comes from a musical family including brothers Pete and Coke Escovedo and his niece, long time Prince collaborator Sheile E.  I discovered Escovedo recently after a feature story on the Sound Opinions public radio podcast.  That prompted me to pick up his latest CD,  "Real Animal," a musical autobiography of Escovedo's formative years listening to bands like Mott the Hoople, Iggy & the Stooges, The Clash and others.  It's a killer album.  If you haven't heard it, head straight to Amazon; you can get it for under $10.   I'll write up a seperate review in the coming weeks.

At any rate, I was thrilled to see that Escovedo would be wrapping up a short acoustic tour (Tourette?) with a final gig in Santa Cruz.  But I had some aprehension: first of all The Rio Theater doesn't have a license, and nothing goes better with roots rock than a good cold beer.  Secondly, I wondered whether an acoustic set would do justice to the power of the songs on "Real Animal."  Escovedo's guitar player Dave Pulkingham assured me the evening would rock, and it did. 

Amy Cook, an alt-folkie with a beautiful voice opened the show with a short set.  Then Escovedo and Pulkingham played their first number, "Five  Hearts Breaking," coming down the aisle of the theater.  It was a fitting start for a splendid evening.  Once on stage, they launched into several songs from "Real Animal" starting with "Always a Friend" and then recent songs "Sister Lost Soul," "Chelsea Hotel '78" as well as some older material. 

Between songs, Escovedo talked about his life growing up as a musician, playing with Iggy Pop, and hanging out with Sid Vicious at the Chelsea Hotel.  They also played "Castanets" a song Escovedo disowned for several years when it was reported the song was on Geoge Bush's iPod.  Now that Bush is out of office, the song has made its way back into Escovedo's set list. 

 The evening finished with a few more songs from the audience, this time with Amy Cook joining on backing vocals.  They performed a beautiful rendition of "Sensitive Boys" a song about the band the True Believers that Escovedo formed with his brother Javier in the 1980s.  Escovedo's vocals were as haunting as ever, but this was truly a mesmerizing performance.  

I had a front row seat and managed to get some photos and video with my trusty Canon G9. (Not all of the videos have been uploaded yet, so check back.) 

Escovedo will be touring again in March and April in the midwest and southern US.   Don't miss an opportunity to see one of the pionneers of indie rock.

Prepare for U2 Hype Fest


U2 is getting ready to release their newest CD "No Line On The Horizon" March 3 and you can see the signs everywhere.  They signed a $25 million 12 year "360" contract with Live Nation last year and started doing more interviews over the last couple of months.  They've released a new single, the underpowered "Get On Your Boots," and they've booked five nights on David Letterman to coincide with the new CD.  And if that's not enough, Bono is writing a regular editorial for the New York Times.  I expect to see Bono on the cover of the upcoming Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue any day now.

I just hope the rest of the CD is better than the first single.  "Get On Your Boots" seems anemic to me.  I saw U2 on their Elevation tour a few years back and it was awesome.  So lets hope this CD leads to another great tour. 

According to a story from The Business Insider, it seems that the new U2 CD may have been leaked, perhaps inadvertently, by the band's label.  From the tracks I've heard, this is a very good album, but admittedly a bit spacier and mellow than other U2 albums.

Guitar God Kaki King on Tour

Kaki King is one of those guitar players whose talent greatly her exceeds her popularity.  Beyond a certain core audience, King is relatively unknown.  So in a way, it was not surprising to see her play a dive (and I mean it in the best sense of the word) like the somewhat haunted and barely heated Brookdale Lodge, in Santa Cruz a few weeks back.  There were also two local acts opening the show, Nico Georis and Sarah McCoy, and I'll post some videos and photos of them in the next week.

King played a solo set consisting mostly of instrumental music with a wide range of innovative tapping, slapping and other crazy rhythmic sounds from her acoustic guitar.  I managed to shoot some photos and video, posted on PicasaWeb and YouTube.  The colors are a bit washed out due to the relatively dark lighting, but the sound came out quite well.  It's amazing to see King coaxing an amazing range of sound out of a guitar.  And because it was a small venue, it had the intimacy of a private concert.  King was quite serious during her playing, but warmed up with the audience with some riffs on Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love and tales of late night debauchery. 

King's latest album "Dreaming of Revenge" wull be released in March and accentuates catchier melodies than the more experimental instrumental style for which King is most well known.  King is on tour through the US, Australia and Europe through March and will also appear at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee in June.  If you find yourself in Katoomba with nothing to do, you could have a memorable evening with Kaki King.

Moonalice Live in Felton

Moonalice, a jam band led by tech investor Roger McNamee, pulled into Don Quixote's in Felton last week for a great evening of psychadelic rockin' blues and laid-back grooves.  The band includes all-star musicians GE Smith on lead guitar, Pete Sears on keyboards, Barry Sless on guitar & pedal steel, Jimmy Sanchez on drums, Ann McNamee on vocals and pretty much anyone anytime playing bass. 

In the year and a half since I last saw Moonalice at Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, the band has improved tremendously.  As Roger "Chubby Wombat" told me, they've now done 150 gigs as a band and it shows.  The setlist has evolved to have a better flow, the vocals were more controlled, songs have been reworked, heck, even the lighting system has been upgraded! 

The band kicked off on-time at 8:00 pm with a cover of Canned Heat's "On the Road Again" sung by Ann McNamee.  This was followed by GE Smith singing "Down the Road a Piece" which included some great guitar work.  Other songs included a mix of covers and original songs by all of the band members including "Up in the Clouds," "Empire State," the romantically trippy "Happy Endings," "Fair to Even Odds," a cover of the motorcycle manifesto "'52 Vincent," and a unique arrangement of "Whiter Shade of Pale," that blew me away. 

While the words were immediately familiar, Moonalice did this song in a frenetic style that brought a new sense of urgency.  I don't know if this was T-Bone Burnett's hand at play, but it was one of the highlights of the evening.   They wrapped up the first set with "Tell Me It's Okay" including an extended pschadelic jam that showed off some mighty-fine Jerry Garcia inspired guitar work by Barry Sless.  I could have sworn there were lasers going on during this song, but maybe it was just the ambiance. 

After a break, the band came back with another full set including classic songs "Somebody to Love," "Nick of Time," "Like a Rolling Stone" (always a favorite) and "Stella Blue."  They finished off with a Dead-tribute version of "Goin' Down the Road," which has got to be a theme song for the band as they prepare for a US tour that takes them through the South in February and back in the west in March.

I've posted photos on PicasaWeb and a few videos on YouTube.  That said, I don' t know that video quite captures the magic this band has when they get on stage in front of an audience.   You can also download music from their site.  But I think this is a band that you have to see live to really appreciate.  It was a night of uplifting musical vibrations, great memories and even a few select readings from the book of Moonalice. 


Top iPhone Apps for Guitar Players


The good folks over at FretBase have posted an article on the top iPhone applications for guitar players.  It's pretty amazing to see the type of creative applications coming out for mobile phones.  The iPhone wasn't the first smartphone and it's not the most corporate, but it has certainly inspired a broad range of application developers.  Some applications may be a bit goofy, but still...

A few notable applications include:

  • FourTrack:  Sonoma Wireworks has created a complete 4 track recording system for the iPhone.  It's not quite as sophisticated as their RiffWorks product, but it's still pretty cool.
  • Guitarist, PocketGuitar & Guitar: Turn your iPhone into a mini-guitar with real sound, vibrato, hammer-ons and more.  Not necessarily easy to play, but sure looks cool. 
  • 7 Chords: A chord library reference that will sound the chord for you.
  • Guitar Toolkit: Includes a tuner, scales and chord diagrams.
  • Visual Metronome: The name says it all

Check out the full article for details & links to the iTunes store.  And here's a sample video of what's on offer from Guitarist: