Thursday, September 24, 2009

RodGab show review

I was at the Fox Theater in Oakland to see Rodrigo y Gabriela last night. If you haven't been to the (newly renovated) Fox Theater you should buy tickets post haste. It's wicked majestic like vanilla pudding should be and they get all the really great acts coming through. Seriously, step up and embrace Oakland.

The show was iocaine deadly. They rocked harder than most rock bands I've ever seen. These two can really shred, particularly Gabriela, who uses her right hand like an armada of conga players let loose on a Santana live DVD circa 1968. The music is very rock and roll...which is sort of amazing considering the only instruments are two acoustic guitars. The crowd was all souped up like a Def Leppard show. All Rodrigo had to do was lift his hands and he got a huge roar in return. One clap in rhythm and he had 75% of the crowd clapping in rhythm. I felt like we were in Estadio Azteca a couple times (this is hyperbolic but you get the drift). RodGab had us hynoptized. I have to admit a thought that kept running through my brain was "I can't believe this music is this popular." The show was sold out and all these people are here to listen to instrumental guitar music? Anyway, it was just one of those mild double-takes when moderately dorky but very cool things you like are accepted en masse...don't mistake me though: these guys definitely warrant lots of public attention.

Here's a highlight from their first (self-titled) album:

"Diablo Rojo"

These are the fastest guitar players I've ever seen live...definitely reminiscent of that classic John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Paco de Lucia record "Friday Night in San Francisco." I notice RodGab gives them all individual "shout out" tracks on their new record 11:11, which is supposed to be a tribute to eleven musicians that have inspired them.  Seeing as how you're about 29 years late on that John/Al/Paco tour...this is about as close as you can expect to come to that style of guitar wizardry.

Rodrigo is the showman. Dude is jumping around, controlling the crowd, and playing lead primarily. He is crazy fast. At one point he used a beer he was drinking as a slide for some really sweet out-over-the-soundhole melodic stuff. Gabriela is mainly rhythm, but don't get thrown off track as she's likely the more insanely talented one (of two insanely talented people). She uses all five fingers and knuckles and her palm to simultaneously strum the hell out of the guitar while also keeping crazy polyrhythms all over the body. They have it mic'd up so that a flat hand slap sounds like a big bass drum, and she fills out an entire rhythm section on her own with absolutely no problem...the type of stuff usually accomplished by 3 people. Their intense strumming patterns combined with their multiple percussive guitar hits and near supernatural command of dead strings make it sound (as I said) way more rock and roll than most "indie rock" bands I've seen in recent years.

Check this little video of them teaching you some of their (right hand) moves...still this does not do the rock justice:

Although I thought the show ran a little long...I'll forgive them that since the crowd was seriously eating it up. Long Dick Dale dead string slides up the board, a little "Master of Puppets" on command, and a one and half second "More Than Words" tease...the show was a flying guillotine to the headstock on a Wednesday morning at the cupcake factory.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beatles Top 25 - Fun Activity

Dear Babe-braham Lincoln,

There's been much buzz this week and last about The Beatles.  The main approach (from a snide internet commentator's standpoint) has been to pretend you've never heard of them or take the tack that yeah, they're played out but are still secretly good.  Eff that. The Beatles are full-on, front page, 2009, PLO-style, beyond thunderdome awesome with no disputes entertained ever. Go back to Russia. (wait, wait...there's even something for you!)

Now dig this.  I don't do modern videogames (not a dis...I just don't happen to be up on current era video games...but please know that I hold the opinion that they are smash-cut-to-us-throwing-hundred-dollar-bills-in-the-air-and-not-even-caring-where-they-land awesome and that I really wish my friends with Xbox's and the like would invite me over for an epic sesh now and again and preferably serve those little hot dogs rapped in air-compressed Pillsbury dough or barring that some Totino's pizza rolls).  Long story made even longer by my own prolixity and use of superfluous parenthetical asides, I haven't played Beatles Rock Band and I probably won't (I totally would though).

Secondly, although I am one to occasionally buy an actual physical CD from a non-virtual sound quality nerdiness has not reached a level where I care much about repackaged/remastered material.  Hence, I will not be hearing this box set.

However in order to stay in The rebooted Beat-maniacal theme of the now, I want to introduce you to a fun Beatles-based activity that my friends and I developed.  (I think  the idea came originally from Tom...but I can't be sure.)

Introducing my fun activity for music nerds and Beatles fans: The Beatles Top 25 Mix CD.  

Take a look at your entire Beatles collection, and actually rank your top twenty five songs, in order, on a CD. The Beatles didn't record a lot of lengthy songs so 25 will fit, almost definitely.  The Beatles are sort of an interesting case for a band for this reason: most "fans" of the band are familiar with pretty much every song they recorded.  Get at least one friend to do the same.

Once you've (painstakingly) trimmed the fat and made an "official" list of your favorites in order (no cop outs or ties, and yes I realize it's extremely difficult..just shut up and decide) then order the CD starting with your number 25 pick 1st.  In this way, the mix CD functions like a countdown with track 25 being your desert island, canyon of the crescent moon pick for your personal favorite Beatles song ever! Ever! 

Choose wisely. The best part is listening to the mixes your friends made, since you're not privy to their tracklist and will be on the edge of your earbuds waiting for the countdown.

Part of the fun is actually forcing yourself to decide which songs you like best. I sometimes hate how no one picks favorites anymore (myself included). I made one maybe 5 years ago (when we originally enacted the idea) and I am working on a follow-up now.  While I don't have an exact list of my original countdown tracks, I can remember a lot of it and this time around my tastes have shifted a good bit.  I'd say as much as 35% different songs right now from the old to the new mix (I won't be publishing my tracklist since I feel that completely defeats the purpose of the activity, which involves listening to an unknown Beatles-countdown on CD made by one of your friends).  I haven't worked out my number one just yet...and I'm wondering if I'll stick with my original pick or change it up.  Thrilling, yes?

So in summary, here's the deal:  You should make one of these, then we can exchange. Email me or call me or whatever and let me know you're into it.  I would be happy to exchange these with as many people as possible, and I even can instruct you on an easy way to make a CD envelope for your mix CD that you can just drop in the mail (to me) with just one stamp on it.  It really doesn't get any easier than that, does it?

Final thought: I've been noticing a resurgence in love for Magical Mystery Tour and a corresponding (very minor) downgrade of Sgt. Pepper in the overall catalog. Discuss.

(ed. note -  I love Ringo. I think Ringo-bashing is plain old dumb. A goofy but loveable scamp amongst and overshadowed by some serious super-talents? yeah, probably...but he's solid as nitrogen on neptune.  Recognize!)