Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hot Night at the Austin360 Amphitheater

Elvis Costello

So, my friend Ron and I arrived at the venue right around 7PM. After quickly wolfing down food at the trucks, we got seated just as Elvis and the band started playing. Like the previous Rush show, although the sight lines were good, the sound was so-so, and it was extremely hot and humid. With the small seats, this made things sticky and slimy.

The Imposters

The backing band for Elvis is essentially the Attractions with a new bass player.

  • Steve Nieve - Keyboards
  • Pete Thomas - Drums
  • Davey Faragher - Bass

The set lasted exactly 1 hour, and consisted of the following songs. The music was very enjoyable despite the sound. Both of us agreed that the Bass would have been a much better venue.

Elvis and Steely Dan

My love of this music probably resulted in my enjoying this show more than I should have, given the shortcomings of the venue.

Steely Dan

The stage change-over was completed very quickly, with the headliner taking stage precisely at 9PM. This was my first time seeing Steely Dan live, and I would describe myself as a casual fan of the band.

The Band

In addition to Fagen and Becker, there were 12 other musicians on stage. They were all awesome musicians, but the drummer and bassist were particularly kick-ass in my mind.

For this leg of the Rockabye Gollie Baby tour, the 2 hour set of music consisted of selection of their greatest hits.

Everything was great with the exception of the heavy set, middle-aged, bald guy near me, who clapped out of time with every song, and insisted on standing and dancing throughout the show. Fortunately, the music was able to compensate for this annoyance.

Elvis and Steely Dan

Sunday, June 28, 2015

RIP: Chris Squire

Chris Squire, founding member and bassist for the band, Yes, has passed away. During my early teens, I was heavily into Progressive Rock, and Yes was my second favorite band, after ELP.

Throughout my life, I would hazard a guess that I have seen Yes approximately 6 or 7 times. I can't say that I was really much of a fan of the later incarnations of the band, and was pretty disappointed in the last Yes show, that I saw at the Moody, several years ago.

Here are some of the obituaries:


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Double Helping of Steven Wilson

Tour Announcement

After anxiously awaiting the release of Steven Wilson's latest solo album, Hand Can Not Erase, he announced the North American tour dates. My friends and I picked these shows because they were on the weekend, and within close proximity of each other. The shows were in Anaheim, and LA, on 6/12 and 6/13 respectively.

Band Lineup

For the European leg this spring, the band lineup was essentially the same as the Raven that Refused to Sing tour. The only person missing this time around were Theo Travis, on woodwinds.

For the North American leg, Marco Minnemann, and Guthrie Govan, also dropped off, because of their commitment to their own project, the Aristocrats. (I'll be seeing them perform here in Austin, on 8/21.)

The current lineup of the band is:

  • Steven Wilson - Vocals and Guitar
  • Adam Holzman - Keyboards
  • Nick Beggs - Bass and Chapman Stick
  • Dave Kilminster - Lead Guitar
  • Craig Blundell - Drums

I was already familiar with Kilminster's work, he has played with the Keith Emerson band in the past, and also was the guitarist on Roger Water's tour for the Wall.

Blundell apparently won some sort of drum clinic contest, and doesn't seem to have a very long resume. I will say, he is quite good, and certainly held things down.

Friday 6/12 - The National Grove in Anaheim

Even though Anaheim was only 35 miles away, we had to leave LA around 4:30 PM. With LA traffic, it ended up consuming approximately 90 minutes. I certainly didn't miss this aspect of LA, which I used to experience when I was contracting in Orange County 15 years ago.

The venue is actually at the edge of the parking lot of Angels stadium. So there were a lot of people in the area with baseball paraphernalia on.

Steven Wilson at the Nation Grove in Anaheim

Inside I estimate that the venue held somewhere between 1.5 to 2K. Sight lines and acoustics were good, and the seating was comfortable.

Steven Wilson at the Nation Grove in Anaheim

The concert started approximately at 8:30, and finished up two half hours later. The setlist was focused mainly on the new album, but also included covers of two PT songs. In all honesty, it would be very difficult for a live music performance to ever get much better than this.

Steven Wilson at the Nation Grove in Anaheim

Saturday 6/13 - The Wiltern in Los Angeles

Night 2 was at the Wiltern. It is located just a few blocks away from the La Brea tar pits, has a larger seating capacity than the Grove, and is an older building. Although we had floor seats, the pitch of the floor was essentially flat, making it a bit more difficult to see. The seats were also cramped, but I had no complaints about the acoustics.

Steven Wilson at the Wiltern Steven Wilson at the Wiltern

This show was actually streamed by Yahoo for free, and was on a somewhat tighter schedule than the previous night. The show started promptly at 8:00PM and finished up within the allotted two hours. I am hoping that perhaps it will be possible to purchase a video copy of the show in the future. As you can see, the setlist was a little different.

As the show progressed, you can see that my friends and I opted to go upstairs, in order to see better. Other friends at home were commenting on Facebook about how good the show was. I obviously look forward to more albums and tours by Steven in the future. (I'm just hope Porcupine Tree is eventually returned to action).

Steven Wilson at the Wiltern

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino at MOCHA

MOCHA at Monterey Oaks

My good friend Bruce Stofft has hosted several concerts at a church in South Austin. The common thread has been Bert Lams, who has appeared here with Tom Griesgraber, California Guitar Trio, and now, Fabio Mittino. Best of all, this show was free.

Kem Watts

The opener was a very talented Americana, Singer Songwriter, named Kem Watts. She played for approximately half an hour.

Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino

Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino

Bert and Fabio were introduced to each other by Robert Fripp. Fabio had worked for years on reducing piano arrangements by De Hartmann, of songs that Gurdjieff had captured, while traveling throughout Asia and the Middle East.

Originally a solo project, Fabio contacted Bert and they converted the pieces into duets. They recorded an album funded through Kickstarter, and are now on a small tour consisting of small venues and house concerts.

The music is simple, but hauntingly beautiful. It incorporates both polyphonic and polyrhythmic playing, which is difficult to describe. I highly recommend their album, however, Long Ago.

Bert Lams and Fabio Mittino

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Rush at the Austin360 Amphitheater

This is the seventh or eigth time that I've seen Rush, since 1981 or so. I describe myself as a fan, but not as rabid or fanatical, as their core demographic. In fact, I've really taken to seeing every other tour, and unlike my friends, I would not travel to go see them, or go to multiple shows on a tour.

So, this tour is being billed a R40, for their 40th anniversary. Actually, they have been around for longer, 2014 was the 40th anniversary of Neil Peart's joinging the band. in 1974.


In typical fashion, they started the show with a video montage including an animated section, depicting the band through its various eras, hair and fashion styles. The whole accompanied by the Rush music of that time period.


The show kicked off shortly after 8PM, and consisted of 2 sets and an encore, wrapping up around 11:30. The setlist consisted of selection of music covering their entire career. (Of course, I didn't even bother to note the songs because I knew someone else would capture the set list.



So the question now, is this their Swan Song? The band can still play, but Geddy is no longer able to hit the high notes like he once did. To be honest, I'm wondering whether he is doing damage to vocal chords now, because he clearly struggles.

Still it was an excellent night under the stars, watching a good show. In general, I'd say the venue (which holds about 14K) is average, particularly because of the parking situation. The pitch of the seating is far from ideal, because it is extremely difficult to see, if anyone is standing in the next 4 rows in front of you. For Rush in particular, this is bad, because there are always a bunch of the Neil Peart wannabes, who stand during the entire show playing air-drums.

Lastly, since it was already warm and a bit humid, I'm starting to wonder whether it will be more unbearable in July when I return there to see Steely Dan and Elvis Costello. Truth be told, I would have preferred to have seen this show at the Erwin Center.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Beards n' Beck at the Cedar Park Center

Jeff Beck

So I'm never one to pass up a Jeff Beck show, one of my favorite guitarists. This show was a double dinger, and also allowed me to catch ZZ Top for the first time.

For 2015, Jeff is touring with some new and some familiar face. His band included the following personnel:

  • Jimmy Hall - vocals
  • Rhonda Smith - on bass, and backing vocals.
  • Jonathan Joseph - drums
  • Nicolas Meier - guitar

I had seen Rhonda with Jeff before in Houston. She was awesome. The surprise of the night was the singer, Jimmy Hall. He totally blew us away. Jeff rarely plays with singers, but when he uses one, they are always exceptional.

This part of the show went by way too quickly. The setlist included a mix of old and new stuff.

ZZ Top

It was good to see ZZ Top for the first time. I'll say that their show was exactly what I expected. I'm not a huge fan, but I did enjoy their set.

As with the first half of the evening, it was easy to find their setlist on-line.


The highlight of the night came when Jeff joined ZZ on stage for the encore. This was memorable, and very fun to watch, to boot.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Requiem for a friend

I decided to wait a while before writing this post. Since October of 2000, I have had two companion cats, Pumpkin (an Orange Tabby) and Sacagewea (a Calico). They were farm cats; sisters from the same litter. I got them from a friend, right after they had been weaned.


This post is for Saca, a very beautiful and sweet animal. She was very empathetic, and seemed very attuned to me. The last 5 years of her life were challenging from a health perspective, including two bouts of Lipidosis.


When she recovered the second time in the Spring of 2014, I thought she might manage to survive to a ripe old age. Unfortunately, this was overly optimistic. Just before the Holiday season, she lost a significant amount of weight, and began to show signs of Kidney failure. She passed away on February 19, 2015.


I miss her greatly, and I think that one of my friends put it best,
Cats have a way of sneaking into your heart, curling up there and napping.

Cats 2001

Monday, March 23, 2015

SxSW 2015 Wrap-up

File this in the better late than never category

Day 0 - Badge Pickup

So, this year was a bit different. For the first time since 2010, my
little brother Sean was unable to make it here. We usually have a
good time getting our badges Thursday night, and then going somewhere
for dinner. I didn't realize how much I would miss this time, but I

He said he intends to come next year, so things will return to normal.

Day 1

The highlight of the first day from a SxSWi perspective, was the
Charles Barkley interview. He is as funny in person, as he is on

After some forgettable panels, I saw two great documentaries, City
of Gold, and For Grace.

City of Gold

Jonathan Gold is a food critic who lives in LA. I felt a certain
affinity with him, because he appreciates the same sort of low
ethnic, street cuisine that I do.

For Grace

This was a documentary was about the amazing chef, Curtis Duffy. A troubled youth who managed to rise in the world of cooking, opening an restaurant that eventually acheived a Michelin 3 Star Rating.

Day 2

I spent most of this day attending screenings, including:

  • Frame by Frame - an excellent documentary about photo journalists in Kabul, Afganistan.
  • The Boy - a fictional account about a young boy becoming a psychopath.
  • and ...

Son of the Congo

Son of the Congo - a documentary about Oklahoma Thunder player, Serge Ibaka. Which I enjoyed, even though I'm a Spurs fan.


Moonwalkers - a film with stars Ron Perlman, and Rupert Grint. I found this one generally uninteresting other than the chance it afforded me to star gaze.

Day 3

It seems as though every year, I get more and more immersed in SxSWf. I spent another day watching 4 screenings. The choices for this day included:


I had circled this one in advance. Like 25 Feet from Stardom, this film had the added bonus of Mavis in person.

Peace Officer

An important documentary. The escalation of SWAT teams in the country is out of control. This film hits you in the face with the facts, in case you've been asleep.

A short break during the day. Can't remember what was being promoted, but this campaign had lots of St. Bernards walking around town, and also in a pen on 5th Street.


I found this independent movie enjoyable, but flawed. Some obvious problems with the plot and writing.

Rolling Papers

  • A documentary about the legalization of Marijuana in Colorado. I think this film could have been better, as well.

    Day 4

    • Knock, Knock, It's Tig Notaro - a entertaining look at comedienne, Tig Notaro, as she went on a House Show tour.
    • Krisha - Kudos to the writer and director for making a movie with a real plot, I liked it.
    • Best of Enemies - Buckley and Vidal. A highly entertaining look at their famous debates.
    • They Will Have to Kill Us First - A real tear jerker. A band continues to play despite the attempts of religious extremists to eradicate them.

    Day 5

    • Wild Horses - Robert Duval's film. I would highly recommend it.
    • A Poem Is A Naked Person - a film tangentially about Leon Russell. So, I got see Leon in person, can't say I would recommend this film, however. A bit boring.
    • The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson - Interesting documentary about a musician having to face his own mortality, after finding out he had a terminal illness.
    • Jaco - No other words than fan-fucking-tastic. I have new found respect for Rob Trujello after this screening.
    • He Never Died - Like the Perlman film, I got to star gaze again. This time it was Henry Rollins. Not bad, but not good either.

    Day 6

    • Deep Web - as a documentary director/producer for the Internet age, Alex Winter is a home-run hitter.
    • The Damned: Don't you wish we were dead? - a documentary about the Damned. Captain Sensible was in the house.
    • The Last Man on the Moon - Gene Cernan was present to discuss Apollo 17, the last mission to the moon.

    Colm Mac Con Iomaire

    An acoustic singer/songwriter type. Very enjoyable, perfect for the acoustics of this room.

    Mother Falcon

    A local Austin band actually. Most people would describe these guys as a Jazz band. Don't get me wrong, there are some exceptional musicians in this band, but having spent all of those years around NYC, I have more stringent requirements improvisation-wise, before I award that title.

    Black Violin

    I had seen and met both of these players a year before at SxSW. I finally got to see them play. Like Mother Falcon, they are very heavily Classically trained. Very entertaining, and a bit more dynamic on stage than the previous band.

    Day 7

    So, my buddy Adrian Belew was in town with Daniel Rowland (Adrian's sound engineer), and Nick Mueller (developer) promoting Adrian's mobile app, Flux and Flux.fx. I've spent quite a bit of time with Ade and Daniel at TOAPP camp. Since I was also a Beta-tester for the Flux apps, I had exchanged emails and NDA's with Nick.

    Adrian was interviewed for SxSW, but did not play. Team Flux spent most of their time on the floor at the Gear Expo.

    I did manage to catch former STP frontman, Scott Weiland on the day stage.

    Since they were in town, fellow camp alumnus, Cedric Theys and I, had dinner with the guys that night. Despite missing the showcases that night, it couldn't have been a better night. The Margaritas were flowing.

    Day 8

    So to start off the last day, I got early to see Snoop Dog's keynote. For the opener, he had the very awesome Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago.


    One pleasant discovery this year was this band from Korea, on the day stage, Su:m. Unbelievable stuff, very relaxing, and intriguing.

    Ryan Bingham

    Jaco - Film panel

    Breaking A Monster

    Wynonna Judd & the Big Noise: Stories & Song

    Day 9

    Landfill Harmonic

    First I saw the film. I won't lie, it made me cry, while simultaneously obliterating every excuse I've ever had for not making music.

    At the end of the film, I then walked with the entire cast to the Driskill in order to see them perform. An absolutely transformative experience, and one I will probably never forget. Sometimes the universe delivers a message when you're most receptive, and need to hear it.

    Qarabagh Ensemble

    There's no way to describe this band from Azerbaijan other than fucking incredible. Despite talking to their manager here in the US, I still do not know where I can purchase a recording ( or twenty).

    Day 10 - BBQ

    So, for the past 5 or 6 years ago, I have been going to the BBQ, after hearing my friend Frank Souders describe how it helped you ease back into normal life. Multiple years ago, I also met two gentlemen, Marvine Harris and Hillery Robinson, because they noticed I was wearing a Baltimore Ravens t-shirt walking around the convention center. Marvine is a fellow Baltimoron, and Hillery is from TX and now lives in Pflugerville, but he also lived in Baltimore for a while.

    We have become good friends, and have run into each other every year for the past 6 or 7 years. We all have the same passion for music, and are all musicians. I always make it a point to get a picture with my buddies, at the BBQ.

    Normally, Marvine plays softball, but the games were cancelled, and the location was moved to Fiesta Gardens this year. It turns out however, that it didn't rain after all, and the weather was quite nice.

    Here's my pic from 2013

  • Saturday, February 14, 2015

    Phil Alvin and the Blasters at the Continental Club

    About a week ago, I was recently having a conversation with a friend about Rockabilly music. I happened to have mentioned the Alvin Brothers, and the Blasters.

    Then in a moment of serendipity, I was listening to KUTX as I was driving home from work Thursday evening, they played the Blasters, and mentioned that they were doing 2 straight nights at the Continental Club. Since it had at least 15 years since I had last seen either of the Alvin brothers, I decided to catch the Friday show.

    Although Dave and Phil are touring together this year, only Phil plays with the current incarnation of the Blasters. Phil fronts a five piece band consisting of on guitar and vocals, accompanied by a lead guitar, bass, piano, and drums.

    I arrived at approximately 11PM, and caught a bit of the opening act. The Blasters started promptly at Midnight, and delivered a solid 90 minute set of Rockabilly goodness to a very appreciative crowd.