Music Musings: Bonnaroo 2002

My actual ticket stub.

I originally wanted to write this post the week leading up to this year’s Bonnaroo, but I got busy. As it turns out, though, I’m writing this on the 9 year anniversary of the first day of the very first Bonnaroo. Yeah, I went to there. It was the summer after my first year of college and earlier in the year, while I was home on break, my buddy Toth told me about this new festival in Tennessee. It was three days, tickets were $100 and that included camping spots. I wasn’t the biggest jam band fan in the world, but the line up seemed interested enough and I liked the idea of being able to tell people I went to the first of something I figured would wind up being a pretty big deal (I guess I was right on that point). To make matters better, Toth figured we could head down to Nashville for a few days and then drive the next hour to Manchester and watch the show. Seemed like a good plan to me.

Our days in Nashville were pretty fun, though would have been even better had we been 21. I have a very distinct memory of walking down the main street wherever we were and hearing all this different music coming out of the bars and clubs that we couldn’t get into. We did however find a Charlie Daniels museum (I love the Charlies Daniels Band), ate at a Hard Rock Cafe, went to a few record stores and also got some “rock star clothes” as Toth called them. I still have the redish pink 70s pants and bright green button down shirt I bought there. I also remember having a conversation about this new show called American Idol. Toth thought it was a big deal and I thought it was BS. Guess I was wrong about that one.

Our Nashville Hotel Room

On the morning of June 21st, 2002 we packed our crap up, stocked up on food at a grocery store and then went to make the hour-or-so drive down to Bonnaroo. Seems pretty simple, right? Heh. No way. Instead of taking the hour that Mapquest told us it would, we wound up being stuck in traffic for 7 or 8 hours. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the exact amount of time because it’s been so long and I was kind of losing it at the time. I don’t know if it was the wide open space, the insane gridlock or the fact that no one else seemed to think this was a big deal, but I was starting to have a serious panic attack as traffic all but stopped. I was very seriously doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how long it would take us to get home if I just turned around and started driving. How mad would Toth be? How would I pay him back? My better judgement won over and I wound up just sitting it out. To give you an idea of how slow the traffic was moving, people were getting out of their cars and tossing the frisbee around for 15-20 minutes spurts and only had to move a few feet to catch up to their car. It was insane.

Toth, The Camp Site & My Old Van

Eventually we got in, though and went to our camp site. As you can see from the pic, they were basically as wide as a car and twice as long. Toth had a ton of camping equipment like the tent, chairs, a grill, the awning, the whole works, plus he knew how to cook on the camp stove, so we were pretty set. We had a pretty good set up across from some older biker-looking people from Chicago who I remember talking about quitting heroin,or “H” as they called it. That kind of freaked me out, but they seemed nice enough. Again, I’m relying on memories that are a decade old that were probably fuzzy to begin with thanks to poor sleep, a lack of showers and (I assume) some kind of contact high. While I didn’t partake in anything while there, there was plenty around being imbibed freely. I even saw a guy with two different colored eyes. I guess they could have been contacts, but he looked REALLY messed up.When we got to the actual gate, we were given a schedule and a map to help us find our way around. I don’t have it here in NY otherwise I would scan it. I believe the camping areas essentially surrounded the concert area which was split between four stages of increasing size. At least one–and I think two–were under huge tents while the larger two were just gigantic, open air venues. I remember having a general feeling of calm and ease while there even though it was beastly hot and really big. Everyone seemed cool and I saw all kinds of things I had never seen before, from the guy with the crazy eyes to some of the wildest frisbee catches I’ve ever seen. And that’s not even taking the music into account.

The Stadium, Bonnaroo's largest venue that year

Thankfully, I wrote about my experiences at the show on my old website which is still around thanks to Angelfire (that’s also where I swiped all these pictures from). According to that, these are the bands I saw along with some modern day commentary.

Friday

Big Wu
Jim White
Umphrey’s McGee
Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade
Gov’t Mule
Widespread Panic (the first set)
Keller Williams Incident (kinda)
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (for a few minutes)

I couldn’t tell you thing one about Big Wu or Jim White. You’ll see me writing that a lot in the next few paragraphs, but I think it’s because I wasn’t familiar with most of the music going in, so there aren’t a lot of touchstones. However Umphrey’s McGee made a big impact on me. They really impressed me and I still remember their show as being my favorite. It was in one of the smaller venues and I think we got pretty close to the stage. We saw Frog Brigade from way back, but it was rad seeing Buckethead play. Gov’t Mule and Panic are mysteries, but I do remember sitting on the side of the tent for Keller’s show and peeking under to see what we could see. I actually really regret not sticking around for Karl Denson’s set. It was one of the late night ones and I actually had listened to one of his records, but I think I didn’t want to be on my own that late. Such a wuss…

Saturday

Ben Harper (solo)
Jack Johnson
String Cheese Incident (I think)
Jurassic 5
Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains
moe (the first set)

Harper played the largest stage they had all by himself. I wasn’t really familiar with his music at the time, but that really impressed me. I don’t believe Jack Johnson was a big deal at the time I saw him, but I do remember him bringing out a 6 or 7 year old Australian girl named Scarlet to play drums at one point. I have no recollection of String Cheese Incident, but Jurassic 5 was awesome. That was my first and only hip hop live show experience. Maybe I was thinking of Bucket of Bernie Brains when it came to seeing Buckethead? moe was the late night show that night and it was pretty cool. Toth and I met some nice people while waiting for them to go on. I think the band was an hour or so late (which anal retentive me did not appreciate), but we all wound up talking bootlegs for a while which was cool. I think Toth stuck around for the second set, but I was exhausted and headed back to the camp site.

Sunday

Ween
Bela Flech & Edgar Meyer
Phil & Friends with Bob Weir
Superjam
Trey Anastasio

Ween is another one I have zero memory of, though I know I was interested in checking them out because some dudes I worked with in high school were HUGE Ween fans. I remember being in the thick of things for Phil & Friends, but am not a Dead fan, so it was another “I have to say I was there” kind of a thing. I wandered away from all that craziness and hung out towards the back of the second biggest stage to check out the Superjam which I remember being really sick. The last show of the night was Phish’s Trey Anastasio playing with his then-new band. At the time, Phish had “broken up” and word around the festival was that Phish would be reuniting. That wasn’t the case, of course as Trey went on and played with his big band. I wasn’t all that interested in this particular show and really didn’t feel like wading through a literal sea of people, so I hung back at the camp site while Toth went and watched. I was able to get one of the camping chairs up on the roof of the van and wound up watching from there. It was actually a pretty awesome moment. I’d love to watch more concerts that way.

The Arena, Bonnaroo's second largest stage

By Sunday, I was more than ready to get the hell out of Tennessee. I had had a good time, but that was a completely different kind of living than I was used to. I had spent the whole time in a uniform of cargo shorts (the same pair I believe) and white under shirts. The cargo shorts were important because I could put water bottles in the extra pockets. Man was it hot. Oh and showerless. There were a few rigged-up sinks that helped a little, but I had never been that sweaty and gross for so long.

Phil & Friends with Bob Weir on stage

We had decided–thanks to my prodding, I’m sure–to head home right after Trey’s set. My plan was to get out of there and drive for as long as I could before needing to get a hotel room and sleep.That’s not how it actually went down, though. It took Toth a while to get back because of all the people, but then it took three hours just to get out. My figuring was that that was still better than what it would have been like the next day. I only got an hour away from Manchester before needing to stop. The hotel we wound up stopping at must have made a killing that night because they charged us for a full night even though it was late and we had to be out by 10 or 11 the next morning and we were definitely not the only Bonnaroo attendees staying there. At the end of the day, though, we didn’t care because we got to sleep in an actual bed and even got to take showers. I’m fairly certain that was the best shower I’ve ever had. I also had the best chicken sandwich of my life the next morning at a nearby Cracker Barrel.

Looking back, I’m really glad I stuck with it and didn’t let my craziness get in the way of a really interesting and fun experience that left me with a lot of memories, even if most of them don’t have much to do with the music itself. Toth went back to Bonnaroo a few times after that, but I bowed out. I spent a ridiculous amount of money that summer between the Tennessee trip, visiting the future-missus in New Hampshire for a few weeks and buying a guitar (the last one I bought now that I think about it). Would I go back again? Yes. But only if I was taken in via helicopter or didn’t have to deal with all that traffic thanks to a parachute drop or some such.

Supergroup Showcase: John Legend & The Roots

THE PLAYERS: John Legend (vocals) and The Roots (everything else)
THE STORY: Inspired by his experience campaigning for Barack Obama in 2008, John Legend decided he wanted to make a record with The Roots that reflected how he felt at the time. They got together, recorded a series of covers and one original track and the results was the 2010 album Wake Up! (via Wiki).

Like a lot of posts, I’m going to kick this one off with a story from my past. It’s not too long, so don’t worry, I’ll get to the music shortly. Like a lot of colleges, my school Ohio Wesleyan University held a yearly concert on campus for the students called SpringFest. I never actually went to one because I either didn’t care or had something better to do (seeing Everclear with my buddy Jeff instead of watching The Counting Crows). But there was one year that I really wanted to attend and that was when The Roots were playing. I’d never actually listened to the funk/hip-hop group’s records at that point, but I knew of Questlove from that hilarious Chappelle Show skit with him and John Mayer and the band from my buddy Toth who’s always been a lot more tapped in than me. I was all set to buy my ticket after Easter, but on the way back to school after heading home for the weekend, I got a crazy speeding ticket. Money was tight in college and the speeding ticket completely wiped me out, so I couldn’t go to the show. Wah wah.

Fast forward to modern times. Jimmy Fallon scores Conan O’Brien’s old spot on Late Night and he makes the ingenious decision to hire The Roots as his house band. Not only did he instantly score the best band in late night, but also gave me and millions of other night owls the opportunity to become familiar with the group. After being so impressed by their chops I went out and bought one of their albums Phrenology, but it’s more of a slick hip-hop record and that’s not what I was looking for. I wanted something a little more soulful and funky. I didn’t have to wait too long because, soon enough, Jimmy was talking about a new record featuring an epic team-up of soul singer John Legend and the band called Wake Up!

I didn’t run out immediately and buy the album. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw the digital version on sale on Amazon for $5 that I bit. Man, what a fantastic use of a Lincoln. Like The Roots, I’ve long admired and appreciated John Legend from a distance either through live performances on TV shows or guest spots on other records, but I never jumped in and got one of his records. Wake Up! seems like the perfect entryway to both bands but also offers up all the soul/funk/rock/hip-hop stew that I could want from this collaboration. As far as supergroups go, these are two great tastes that taste great together, almost like they’d been playing together for years.

I even dig the fact that they went after lesser known songs to cover for the most part. I’m no soul/funk aficionado, but even I have heard “Wholy Holy.” The rest though are mysteries that feel both historical and fresh at the same time, making me want to check out the originals. It should come as no surprise that every track on the record had me bobbing my head along to the groove. Heck, it even calmed me down as I wrote this post in a coffee shop right next to a pair of teenagers who couldn’t keep their paws off of each other and kept playing with the girl’s hair RIGHT NEAR MY COFFEE. Okay, well, it didn’t calm me down too much I guess.

If you’ve never gotten into but always been curious about soul music of the 60s and 70s, The Roots or John Legend, Wake Up! is essentially the perfect mix of all three. The record can act as a gateway, but also stands as a fantastic, sometimes funky sometimes mellow but always sonically pleasing  listening experience for pretty much any kind of mood. Feeling down? This record will cheer you up. Feeling good? You’ll feel even better. Seriously, the original track “Shine” is really helping to calm me down about those teenagers. They left by the way. Good thing too, or I was going to blare Husker Du in their ears. In conclusion, Wake Up! is a rad record, but it will not help you chase away teenagers who won’t stop playing with their hair. It will probably just make them want to make out, which is far worse. This ends the review as well as the cranky old man portion of the proceedings today.

Casting Internets

Sam Sarkar’s The Vault is a pretty interesting book, check out the story I did on it over at CBR. Same goes for All Nighter, Mysterious Ways and Shinku.

I also did some goodness for Marvel.com about the upcoming Black Panther Point 1 issue!

The hilarious and awesome Rob Bricken of Topless Robot fame did an excellent FAQ based on the never-to-air Wonder Woman pilot.

In the last year, I’ve discovered I’m a big fan of gin, so Esquire‘s Summer Gin Guide was quite informative.

I thought John C Abell’s post on Wired about how eBooks are falling short right now was a fun read.

Ed Brubaker’s Criminal has never really lit me up, but his recent interview with Tom Spurgeon definitely has me curious about this new mini.

I’m linking to my buddy Ben‘s post about Batman being the worst JLAer not only because he name checked me in it, but also because it’s a convincing argument.

This might be a little creepy, but I actually wished I had these kinds of video glasses when I worked in the city because, as David Cross said, when walking the streets of NYC you’re constantly deciding whether to look at the most beautiful woman in the world or the craziest guy in the world. I also would have settled for simple camera glasses. (via Wired)

Anyone interested in comics, regardless of what kind, should be reading Jim Shooter’s blog. It’s fascinating. Take the one about the origin of the Dark Phoenix Saga as an example. I love this kind of behind the scenes stuff.

Speaking of behind the scenes comic book stuff, check out Ron Marz’s latest CBR column where he discusses what went into his decision to leave Witchblade. If you just thought “Pfft, it’s Witchblade, who cares?” I recommend checking out the first trade, it’s good stuff.

Wow, Jimmy Page came out to reprise his role as session guitar player for Donovan’s Sunshine Superman in London. I hope someone recorded it. (via Rolling Stone)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers will have a new album out on August 30th called I’m With You with new guitar player Josh Klinghoffer. Their most recent records have been musically amazing, but not necessarily the most interesting records. Hopefully this one brings back more of the funk. (via Rolling Stone)

I’ve never been so interested in a headline and then immediately worried by a subhed as I was with this Rolling Stone.com example: JACK WHITE MAY RECORD MUSIC FOR ‘SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE’ MOVIE Film version of Kings concept album is being developed by Bobcat Goldthwait.

Dig this crazy skate park designed like a pinball machine! (via Wired)

Kinect Star Wars looks exactly how I want it to. Can’t wait.

Speaking of lovely time wasting video games, Spider-Man: Edge of Time sounds pretty rad too. The fact that it’s written by Peter David is awesome. I’ve still got to get my hands on Shattered Dimension, but have plenty to keep me busy until the used price drops a little lower. (via CBR)

I’ve listened to and really enjoyed Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi records in the past (she’s an amazing vocalist), so I’m happy to see their new band Tedeschi Trucks Band got a good review for their first record on Rolling Stone.

Supergroup Showcase: Blind Faith

THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals (The Yardbirds, Cream), Ginger Baker on drums (Cream), Steve Winwood on guitar (Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group) and Ric Grech on bass (Family).
THE STORY: Clapton and Winwood started jamming while Winwood was on a break from Traffic. One day Baker stopped by, but Clapton wasn’t sure about starting a new band with him a few months after officially disbanding Cream. He also had made a deal with Cream’s Jack Bruce that, if two of them got back together, all three of them would reunite. Grech left Family to join the band, they recorded an album, toured and broke up within a year. (via Wiki)

When I started really getting into Supergroup Showcase, Blind Faith was definitely a band and record I wanted to check out. Not only is it yet another Eric Clapton supergroup, but I also have almost zero experience with Winwood, so I was excited to get a taste of his talent. It’s kind of handy that they only recorded one album, because it makes the whole thing a little easier write about. The record has six tracks and I’m split right down the middle on liking and not liking them.

The album kicks off with “Had To Cry Today” which has a fun riff, but it got to be really repetitive and boring in the song’s nearly nine minute length. The vocals also have a high-pitched wail on this song which I’m not really down with. With Winwood, Clapton and Grech all singing, I’m not sure who to blame. “Can’t Find My Way Home” takes a more mellow approach which I like, but again, the vocals didn’t appeal to me. This song’s the shortest on the whole record at just over three minutes, but still feels repetitive. The thing I noticed two tracks into this record is that it doesn’t really feel like a cohesive record and these two songs don’t feel very well thought out. I like the idea of experimentation but they don’t sound like they’re doing anything different. Maybe that’s because I’m listening to this thing in 2011 and it was recorded in 1969 and a LOT of music has come out in between.

Things get a little more cohesive with “Well…All Right” which has a great riff, more integrated vocals and results in a song that feels like an actual song instead of a recorded jam session. “Presence Of The Lord” continues on that same track and includes an excellent wah wah fueled solo. But then things go downhill with “Sea Of Joy” for me. It sounds like the the vocals were sung in an echo chamber or something, that really makes the voice akin to a caterwaul. The album ends with “Do What You Like” which I didn’t think I would like because it’s just over 15 minutes long. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of long jams, but I do appreciate good ones. And luckily, this turns out to be a pretty good one because it’s not only based on a solid riff, but also has a pretty bitching organ solo followed by a great guitar one. There’s even some repetitive chanting type stuff, but even that didn’t get on my nerves. It reminded me of a Santana instrumental.

Ever since iTunes came along I wind up judging an album by the $0.99/song rule. Essentially, if an album has enough tracks that I like and add up to what I paid for it, it’s worth keeping. I’m not quite sure where Blind Faith winds up on the scale, partially because I don’t remember how much I paid for this used disc online, though I’m guessing it was more than $3. Those first two tracks really don’t work for me. I mean, they’re not “so bad I have to skip it” bad, but I also didn’t enjoy them. Sometimes I can ignore vocals I’m not into and just dig the music, but not always. I’ll probably keep this one around for now at least kind of like my copy of The Firm’s Mean Business which I don’t listen to very often. Or, listening to Derrick And The Dominoes might bump it out of the ol’ collection.

Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

After listing my favorite new albums of 2010, I figured I’d also have some fun with a list of records I really dug that I bought this year, but didn’t come out in 2010. I’ve mentioned this before, but I buy a LOT of CDs on the cheap at garage sales, yard sales, flea markets and at stores. I rarely spend more than $7 on something new and get all kinds of deals at those other places, so I’ve been able to acquire lots and lots of music I missed out on in previous years. This list has a whopping 12 records and/or bands on it, but I’ve written about a few of them previously, so I won’t get into too much detail on those. Hit the jump for all the goodness you can handle! Continue reading Favorite New Old Albums Of 2010

Supergroup Showcase: Velvet Revolver

VELVET REVOLVER
THE PLAYERS: Scott Weiland on vocals (Stone Temple Pilots), Slash and Dave Kushner on guitar (Guns N Roses, Wasted Youth respectively), Duff McKagan on bass (GNR) and Matt Sorum on drums (GNR).
THE STORY: The GNR guys got together with Kushner and were looking around for a singer. They auditioned a bunch of people, Weiland’s name came up, but he was still with STP at the time. Once they “broke up” he joined the band. The band put two CDs–Contraband and Libertad–before Weiland got back together with STP. The band claims to still exist, though they’re working on other projects.
OFFICIAL SITE: VelvetRevolver.com
The mid-2000s were a really interesting time for supergroups. Dave Grohl was running around recording albums with all kinds of different groups (not the solid definition of a supergroup in my opinion, but still interesting). Meanwhile, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden essentially took over for Zach Larocca in Rage Against the Machine, calling the result Audioslave and Scott Weiland joined a group of former Guns N Roses musicians. I haven’t listened to Audioslave yet, but I did pick up Velvet Revolver’s first record. My memory of Contraband wasn’t very positive, but when I gave the record another listen today I found myself generally liking it.

I wasn’t really a huge fan of either Stone Temple Pilots or Guns N Roses, but I’ve always had a lot of respect for Slash. He and the rest of the band do their thing and it’s pretty fun for the most part. Weiland does his usual vocal thing. He’s got a good voice for rock and roll, but doesn’t really do much for me. Overall, they’re a pretty good band, but I think I would like anything involving Slash (his most recent solo album with a series of different singers is awesome). I’ll be keeping this one in the collection/on the iPod now, but I don’t know how often I’ll go back to it.

Supergroup Showcase: The Highwaymen

THE HIGHWAYMEN
THE PLAYERS: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson on guitar and vocals.
THE STORY: The four baddest outlaws in country music got together to sing some of the best damn story songs in the history of music. They recorded three albums before Jennings passed away in 2002. Nuff said.

I remember the very first time I heard about The Highwaymen. I was an intern at Wizard, rooming with Brian Warmoth at Nyack College over the summer and he played a few songs from one of their records on his laptop. At the time I might have picked up one of those Walmart Johnn Cash Super Hits CDs or that might have come later, but I did have a general disdain towards country–you know the stuff they play on the radio or even VH1 sometimes. I didn’t realize there was so much better country out there. Anyway, he explained the supergroup to me, that it included Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The idea of it was very intriguing. Later, during my senior year of college, I went to Walmart once again (there’s not a lot to do in Delaware, Ohio) and picked up a Super Hits Highwaymen CD. Damn, it’s good stuff. Since then, I’ve gone on to listen to lots more Cash and was blown away when I got Nelson’s Stardust earlier this year. The most I’ve listened to Jennings is on Highwaymen records and the only extra Kirstofferson stuff I’ve heard was on my SNL DVDs when he hosted way back in 1976 (he was better known to me for his turn in the Blade movies).

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to come across the Highwaymen’s first record which was just called Highwayman. At the time, the band didn’t really have a name, they just went by their last names. It wasn’t much of a leap from Highwayman to Highwaymen and there you have it. Many of the tracks on the first record are on the Super Hits version I have, so they were familiar to me by the time I listened to it, but there were a few newbies like the Cash/Nelson sung “Committed To Parkview” a haunting track about two men in a mental institution. On their own, these guys were masters of the story-song, but together they’re like a Voltron of the form.  Much like the Traveling Wilburys these four men came together to play some amazing music which retained their individual skills but also sounded awesome together. I’ve only listened to the Super Hits and the first record, but I’ve got my eye out for the other two and will look around to see if there’s any performance DVDs on Netflix. My one complaint about the recordings is that they’re kind of over-produced. You could have just put these guys in a room with their guitars, amps and a few mics and just put it on wax like Rick Rubin did with Cash towards the end of his life and also Neil Diamond on 12 Songs. Maybe a more lo-fi remaster is in order.

Supergroup Showcase: Cream

CREAM
THE PLAYERS: Eric Clapton on guitar (The Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers), Jack Bruce on bass and vocals (Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Manfred Mann) and Ginger Baker on drums (Graham Bond Organisation).
THE STORY: The three guys all knew each other and got together, forming the preeminent blues trio in England. Baker and Bruce had played together in a band and hated each other, so it was tough going. The band was together for just a few years and recorded four albums between 1966 and 1968. (via Wiki)

I was actually pretty surprised when I discovered that Cream was a supergroup. I always just thought of them as an awesome blues-based classic rock band. Sure, I knew that Clapton was a big deal even back then, but it took some reading up on Bruce and Baker to really understand why they’re considered one of the first supergroups of rock. Though they weren’t quite famous in the States at the time, these guys were a huge deal in the UK.

I have to admit, I’m not completely immersed in Cream. I have one of those 20th Century Masters greatest hits records that I’ve had for ever and haven’t really listened to a lot in recent years, but I used to borrow my dad’s copy of their second and most critically acclaimed record Disraeli Gears (pictured above). Even without having a lot of experience with the band’s catalog, though, I know a good thing when I hear it. These guys really were the best of the best when it came to blues rock at the time. Their songs are tight and pack quite a punch, though I hear their live shows tended to go on and on with jams. I haven’t heard any of their live shows, but I’d definitely be interested in tracking some live shows or bootlegs down. They apparently jammed with Jimi Hendrix in London. Does anyone know if recordings of that event exist? I’d love to get my hands on that. The mix of psychedelia and blues had a huge influence on what was going on in the rock scene of the late 60s and early 70s. The guys just couldn’t stay together and Clapton had already established himself as a kind of wandering minstrel losing interest in groups and moving on to others. Pretty much everything that dude joined after that is considered a supergroup. I’ve been listening to some of his 70s records lately like 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand and am not only impressed with the guy’s skill, but also with how easily he creates awesome rock songs. I just picked Disraeli Gears up today but haven’t had a chance to listen to it again, but I’m really looking forward to doing so soon.

Supergroup Showcase: Tinted Windows

TINTED WINDOWS
THE PLAYERS: Taylor Hanson on vocals (Hanson), James Iha on guitar (Smashing Pumpkins), Adam Schlesinger on bass (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy) and Bun E. Carlos on drums (Cheap Trick).
THE STORY: According to the band’s site, Adam and Taylor have been friends for a while as have Adam and James. The three of them got together and wanted to find a drummer like Bun and eventually asked the man himself and he agreed. They recorded a self-titled album which came out in April of 2009 and toured. It seems the members have gone their separate ways since last year as there haven’t been any updates on the site.
OFFICIAL SITE: TintedWindowsMusic.com

Holy crap I love this record, you guys. I bought it along with the wildly disappointing Transplants record and Blind Faith’s record, but this one really blew me away. It’s not only one of my favorite supergroup records of all time, but quickly becoming one of my favorite records period. It’s kind of the perfect storm of a group for me to like. I am a gigantic Fountains Of Wayne fan, so Schlesinger’s involvement is cool, plus I know he and Iha have been on each others’ records and even own a recording studio together. I’ve discovered an appreciation for Hanson’s vocals recently and who doesn’t like Cheap Trick? So this is definitely a case of great tastes tasting great together.

Overall the record has a very power pop/rock vibe to it that oftentimes veers very closely to FOW territory (the opening riff of “Kind of a Girl” sounds almost identical to that of FOW’s “Little Red Light” off of Welcome Interstate Managers), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Back when I first discovered FOW, I would describe them to my friends as “what pop music should sound like” (this was in the early days of Britney and NSYNC) and that’s exactly what this Tinted Windows disc is. Hanson’s got one of those great, higher range voices that makes perfect sense when heard singing about girls (which seem to be the subject of most of the songs on the record), but also can get a good growly bluesy thing going on. I defy you to listen to this record without tapping your foot or bobbing your head. Even after just a few listens, I felt very comfortable and familiar with the record, singing along with the songs in my car. These songs won’t blow your mind, but they will make you want to move. I really like to think about what these guys would talk about when they were just sitting around shooting the shit. On paper the group sounds so strange. The guitar player from the Smashing Pumpkins, one of the Hanson kids, a guy from Fountains of Wayne and the Cheap Trick drummer, but it all works out on the record with everyone giving into their lust for pop rock gems.

I’ve listened to a lot of supergroup records while working on this column and while this one isn’t the first I’ve liked, it is the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I really dig listening to the Wilburys, but, in the end, that sounds like a combination of dudes I can pull out. That’s Dylan, that’s Roy. With Tinted Windows, the whole record sounds not only like a band I want to have a hundred more records from, but also one that seems incredibly cohesive and polished. This is a unit not just a lot  If you like pop, rock or pop rock, I can’t recommend a record more than this one. Then go get yourself some FOW and Cheap Trick records and maybe even give Iha’s 1998 solo record Let It Come Down which, as you might expect Schlesinger appeared on.

Supergroup Showcase: Expensive Taste

EXPENSIVE TASTE
THE PLAYERS: Paul Wall, Skinhead Rob and Travis Barker.
THE STORY: Apparently after Transplants fell apart, Travis and Rob still wanted to work together and then Paul Wall got involved and here you have a mix tape of theirs which you can download here.
OFFICIAL SITE: ExpensiveTaste.com

You might think that after disliking the Transplants first record so much last week that the last thing I’d want to check out is a mixtap by two thirds of that group. Let it never be said that I’m neither curious nor willing to get burned a second time. Luckily, though, I didn’t. Expensive Taste’s mix tape is fantastic. I don’t really know much about hip hop, especially current hip hop, but I really dug on the beats and the rhymes that these guys puts together which makes me think that the weak link in the Transplants chain had to be Tim Armostrong. That’s okay though, dude still writes, sings and plays awesome punk rock music. Here’s a sample of one of their tracks. NSFW lyrics.

What I dig about the mixtape–aside from the fact that it was free–is that it just feels a lot cleaner and fresher than the Transplants, which is kind of funny considering those were legitimately release records and this is a free mixtape. Everything’s very crisp and the dudes and their guest stars have a tendency to layer the vocals with different singers that sounds really great. I might not know what the hell they’re talking about some of the time (keeping up on slang when you rarely leave your house is pretty difficult).

The real draw here, aside from trying to give these guys another chance, is hearing Paul Wall–a rapper I’m not super familiar with, but have heard his tracks on some other records and a few of his singles–and Barker, who, as I’ve mentioned, is one of my favorite drummers out there. These beats feel more like his, though I still wish they were a little more hard hitting. That could come down to the compression of the music though and not the actual recording because, as many of you may know, MP3s are the worst possible way to listen to music and a lot can be lost in the process. Ah well, I still have most of my music as MP3s. How else am I supposed to fit all this stuff on my iPod? And I will be putting Expensive Taste on there and deleting the Transplants ASAP.