Category: Live Music

It’s Alive! A Concert Experience With The Wood Brothers

On Saturday, August 14, I had the pleasure of attending The Wood Brothers concert at the Bethlehem, PA festival Musikfest. Since live music is still just making it’s comeback in fits and starts, it’s a real joy to be able to go to a live show. And I have to say that this show was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. The band was amazing. Their music spans genres from Americana to bluesy rock with a funky jazz feel. It’s a three person band with the majority of songs being played with electric guitar, stand up bass and drums. They would switch up to acoustic guitar, electric bass and the drummer playing an interesting hand percussion instrument tricked out guitar (the drummer, Jano Rix, would also sometimes play keyboard with one hand while still playing kit drum – a pretty nifty trick). The band puts on the type of show I really enjoy, loose flowing fun, nor overproduced. For me it had more of a 70’s concert feel. Throughout the show the band had people on their feet dancing along, a real connect with the audience. Chris Wood is jazz school trained and you could really see this in some of the lines he was playing on double bass – really amazing. Oliver Wood played some smoking slide guitar parts and had a perfect rough vocal for the type of music they do. They do wonderful harmonies on the songs. It was a well put together set with driving songs to build peaks then a ballad style song to change the pace.

I found an amazingly cool video that really gives a feel for the music The Wood Brothers play. In 2013 they released an album titled ‘The Muse’. In 2020 they recorded a full live version of the album. They recorded outdoors, a perfect backdrop for their music. This was not a live show with an audience, so they were able to make sonically crisp and clear versions of the songs. It’s a long video since it’s all the songs on the album, but you can, of course, browse through the video. It certainly gives a great representation of all the styles they play and is well worth a full view if you have the time.

Before we went to the show I hadn’t checked to see who the opening bands were. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the opening band was Parsonfield. I reviewed one of their songs for a Grapevine post last year (see September 2020 Grapevine). They played this show as a two piece with some backing percussion tracks. It’s a challenge for a band to do a two person set on a live stage, but they pulled it off in fine style. They changed instruments several times moving between guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin. a very upbeat and energetic set. (Excuse the blur on the second image – I’m not great with phone photos).

Here’s a live clip of Parsonfield playing as a two piece.

I wanted to finish with saying what a wonderful venue the South Bethlehem stage at Musikfest is. The color lit backdrop of the old steel factory provides an amazing setting, the sound was top notch and the audience was really in to the show. Couldn’t ask for a better night.

Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs – ‘Countdown’ – Live In The Studio

There’s a lot of good things about having your own studio to record in. You can work on anything you want, anytime you want. You can take your time recording your own music and not have to worry about how much money you’re spending, giving you the ability to experiment. We’ve been having a lot of fun working on cover songs and have been able to create them at our own pace. We’ve also been able to create videos of us playing our own music live. Since the band consists of the two of us, playing in the studio gives us the ability to record some tracks ahead of time then play the other parts live along with the recording for the video. The song in this video, ‘Countdown’ was recorded for our EP ‘Celebrity Prostitution’ (it’s available to buy as a digital download on CD Baby and other places – you can check it out on the Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds label website). Because the original recording was made in ChurchHouse Studio, we’re able to use parts of it for a live video rendition. The original EP version had multiple tracks of vocals and guitar. For this video we stripped all of that off and just kept the bass and drum tracks. So what you see in the video is literally what you would hear from us playing out live. There’s no overdubs or punch ins on the vocal and guitar tracks. Just turn on the video and let it rip. We did the video on a simple GoPro recorder which gives you that ‘fish eye’ wide view along the edges. We had a lot of fun recording this way.

Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs playing ‘Countdown’, live in ChurchHouse Studio:

Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs – Live In The Studio – ‘The Wish’

We have another Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs ‘Live In The Studio’ performance for you. This time we recorded a live version of our song ‘The Wish’. This song was originally created with our previous band Conduit for the CD ‘Superior Olive’. You can find out more about the band and the CD version by visiting the website for our record label Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. The version in this video is performed with just vocals and acoustic guitar. That’s how we write most of our songs, so this gives you an idea of how we start out with a tune before we add all the other parts for the full studio version. This version is recorded with just two room microphones. We want our blog reading friends to have the feeling of sitting with us in the room as we play, so the video is live start to finish from turning on the camera to the end, comments, silly faces and all.

And….the story of the t-shirt. For anyone who’s not from the northeast US, ‘Live Free Or Die’ is the state motto of New Hampshire – it’s also on their license plates. New Hampshire is an awesomely beautiful state, so I wanted to give a ‘shout out’ in the video like when I wear national park t-shirts (please support and cherish your national parks). I always thought it was such a cool motto to have on a license plate. If you want great hiking, head to the White Mountain National Forest. Some wonderful, rock strewn trails to challenge you. I’ve included a photo from the last trip my wife and I took below .

Anyway, here’s the video – Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs performing ‘The Wish’ live in ChurchHouse Studio.

Checking In With The Reverend

It’s been a while since we checked in to see what’s happening with one of our favorites, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. The band has always put out stellar work whether it’s audio, video or live music. I’m including two videos that will give you an example of all three areas. We’ll start with the recent video for ‘Too Cool To Dance’. As always, the playing is great. Rev’s still finger picking the hell out of his guitar. The recording sound is a bit cleaner and smoother than some of his early work, but just as fierce. And the video maintains the great humor of his other videos. The band’s vibe remains ‘let’s have fun and not take ourselves too seriously’. They always bring the same joy to their live shows.

The next video is from a recording of the Elmore James classic ‘Shake Your Money Maker’. The band recorded this live in Sun Studios with Dom Flemons, the legendary Steve Cropper and bassist Scot Sutherland. So many cool things going on. The video was made on an iPhone and synced with the live recording. Check out the classic equipment used in the recording. We recently talked about live studio recording in a post. This video is an amazing example of nailing a take. I’m not going to over analyze. Just sit back and enjoy it!

A Return To Live Music – It’s Been A Long Wait

I finally got to see a live band last Saturday night. We went with friends to see The Verve Pipe at Levitt Pavilion which is a local outdoor venue. It was the first time I’ve been to see a live band in over a year. It’s been so long I almost forgot how much fun it is and how much seeing live music adds to your life and elevates your attitude and sense of happiness. It was one of the coldest May 29ths on record around here and we were in a misty drizzle. Shows are still social distancing so it wasn’t very crowded (OK – I sorta like that part). None of the conditions affected how great it was to see a show. It felt like a return to real life.

The sound, performance and music were awesome. The band put on a great show. Kudos to the band for going all out – it’s got to be a bit more difficult playing to a smaller crowd on a cold, wet evening. They even added some cool cover songs to their set. Highly recommend seeing The Verve Pipe if you have a chance.

I’m really hoping our return to some form of normality (at least as far as live music goes) continues. You sometimes forgot how much connecting with a band and their music in a live setting adds to your life. It can lift you up and pull you through a full range of emotions. I know it does the same for a band when you play a live show. We’ve been in a period of darkness. Let’s all cross our fingers that we’re finally heading back to the light.

Messin With The Music Part 13 – Mule Skinner Blues

We’re finally back with another episode of Messin’ With The Music. It’s been quite a while since we were able to get together to start working on tunes again due to the pandemic. It feels great to be recording again and Mule Skinner Blues was a song we’ve been looking forward to finishing. The song has a long history. It was written and first recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1930. His version was a pretty straight forward blues tune. He originally titled it ‘Blue Yodel #8’ but it became commonly known as Mule Skinner Blues (or some variation of that) as time went by. Many artists have covered this classic song. The next well known version was by Bill Monroe in 1940. He picked up the tempo a bit and turned it in to a classic bluegrass style tune. The version we used as a template is Dolly Parton’s amazing 1970 version. We pretty much followed her lyrical take and song structure.

Instrumentally we have two different acoustic guitar parts, one hand played and the other picked. To add some flavor we added an electric guitar with some effects and a bass part that has a few effects too. There is a mandolin backing these parts and a banjo riffing throughout the song. There’s also a snare drum and floor tom holding down a beat in the deep background. All of the instruments are a platform for the vocals which are really the heart of the song. As always with Messin songs we recorded ‘straight through’ tracks for a live, loose feel using the same mic and sound path for all the instruments. We want to get the feel of everyone standing around a single mic playing the song.

Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs playing ‘Mule Skinner Blues’:

Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs – Live In The Studio -‘Details’

We’ve finally been able to get back in to the studio to start working on recording. We decided to start with a live video performing one of our original songs. ‘Details’ is a song we first created when we had the band Conduit. The song had a bit different origin as it was written from the bass line up. So for the album version we started with bass and then vocals with the other instruments being added afterwards. Writing this way definitely gives a song a more rhythmic feel. The song was originally on the Conduit album ‘Superior Olive’. You can find it and the other songs on the album on our Soundcloud account – there’s a link on the blog page. You can also find more about Conduit on our label site – Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. For this version we recorded guitar, mandolin, banjo and some percussion first. These tracks were recorded in live fashion – no punch in, straight through tracks. Since the song was written from the bass and vocals, we decided those would be the instruments we would play on this video. The video is also ‘live’ – no edits. As an FYI – you can ‘follow’ our blog. Just scroll to the bottom of the post page and fill in ‘Join The Mailing List’. You’ll get an email whenever we do a post. You wont be swamped with emails – we do a couple posts a month. As always comments, questions and suggestions are welcome.

December 2020 Grapevine

Well, we’re in the last month of the year of horror that wouldn’t end. Except it looks like the beginning of 2021 won’t be much different. I’m hoping for personal brain reversal salvation when the new year rolls around. A bit of an attitude adjustment. A shining light of positivity to appear. Some beauty in the world. Which for me means diving deeper in to music and art. I guess ‘positive’ is only there if you create it yourself. So let’s finish off the year by reviewing some more music. Maybe you’ll hear something that will be a positive influence for you. Or a least take the ‘real’ world away for a few minutes. Let’s see what we have:

First Up: Bambara – ‘Death Croons’

I’ve stated before that songs show up in our Grapevine posts for a variety of reasons. When I hear a new tune that I like, I go back after hearing it for the first time and try to take apart the pieces that each instrument plays. ‘Death Croons’ has a great driving drum beat with a bass part that enhances that drive. Moody, reverb laden guitars add atmosphere, with one guitar pushing it further with some retro sounding slide. The vocals, somewhere between spoken and sung, make the song sound even darker. One reason I like to occasionally put in performances of the song that are recorded live to video is that you get to see what the musicians are playing and that can give you a better feel for how the songs are constructed. For this song I’m including a live video and the studio version of the song. See if you can pick out the differences in the recordings. One thing missing from the live version is the backing vocals. I think their floating, almost call and response feel add a great deal to the song. The drums are a bit more smoothed out in volume and attack. The echo and reverb on the guitar floats from channel to channel in the studio mix. The versions are similar, but the slight variations are cool. One reason to see a band live is to enjoy these differences.

Next Up: Best Coast – ‘Wreckage’

Let’s start with the musical composition on ‘Wreckage’. Great straight ahead driving rock song. The drums and bass lay the foundation for the song. The bass sits on eighth notes of the chord root, driving the song relentlessly forward. The guitars provide the atmosphere, pulling back in the verses and pushing the chorus forward. In this song the music is meant to highlight the vocals and lyrics. Vocals are crisp and clean on top so the lyrics can be heard and understood. The lyrics are the main part that resonates with me in ‘Wreckage’. I’ve had these kind of songs in Grapevine before – singing loud with the window rolled down while driving (not as much windows down in the winter – hard to sing with your teeth chattering). I’m including the lyrics here because there are a lot of great lines. I really relate to ‘Guess I’m really still the best at getting in my own way’.

So sorry for everything
You know I really wanted it to work out
I put the blame on everybody
Was incapable of not being stressed out

I, I wanted to move on
But I, I kept writing the same songs

Now that everything’s burned down
I can put it all to bed
If only I could make sense of it
When it’s swirling in my head
I’m so sick of being proud
And I’ve got nothing left to say
Guess I’m really still the best at
Getting in my own way

So if I’m good now
Then why do I feel
Like a failure
Almost every day?
And if I’m wise now
Then why do I feel
Like I’m lying
Straight to your face?

I, I wanted to move on
But I, I keep doing this thing wrong

Now that everything’s burned down
I can put it all to bed
If only I could make sense of it
When it’s swirling in my head
I’m so sick of being proud
And I’ve got nothing left to say
Guess I’m really still the best at
Getting in my own way

I’ll keep pushing forward
So I don’t slip way behind

Now that everything’s burned down
I can put it all to bed
If only I could make sense of it
When it’s swirling in my head
I’m so sick of being proud
And I’ve got nothing left to say
Guess I’m really still the best at
Getting in my own way

No one’s saying that I’ve got to be perfect
So why do I keep pushing myself?
No one’s saying that I’ve got to be perfect
So why do I keep pushing myself?

Finally: Aoife Nessa Frances – ‘Geranium’

Right off the bat what struck me with this song is the use of a drum machine over live drums. If you had played the song for me before completion, I would have expected live drums to push it forward. For ‘Geranium’ drum machine proves to be a great choice. Their simplicity lays down a wonderful foundation to build the rest of the song. The arpeggio guitar chords with the simple drums gives a dreamy, magical feel you probably wouldn’t get with live drums. There are reverse tape effects in the song that are another great trick to maintain the atmosphere. All the instrumentation is used to highlight the vocals in the song. There are many different ways to highlight vocals musically and I think ‘Geranium’ and the previous song ‘Wreckage’ show that you can do it using two very different techniques. ‘Geranium’ is a more ‘incense and candles’ than ‘sing along’. Shows how important recording/production can be if used correctly.

Retro: The Beatles – ‘She Said She Said’

I sometimes like to use the ‘Retro’ song to look at the musical past and how much of it still relates to music today. You can always find lots of influence looking through The Beatles catalogue. ‘She Said She Said’ has the arpeggiated guitars in the verses, turning to jangly chords in the chorus. The recording has a trippy, laid back feeling to it. And the music serves to highlight the vocals. This song came out on the 1966 Revolver album. For a song written and recorded over fifty years ago, it does not seem at all out of place with the other songs in this post. Remarkable considering the differences in recording tech between then and now. If a song is great it will always continue to influence.

One More Thing……..

After sending out the October Grapevine last week, I was listening to other music showing up in my internet feed. I came across this video of Tommy Emmanuel. I had heard of him before – he’s pretty well known as a virtuoso guitar player. He’s mostly known as an acoustic guitar finger picker. This video is of him playing Classical Gas, a song that was big when I was younger. My guitar teacher had me learn the basics of it. I watched this video, probably with my mouth open in awe the whole time. Our series Messin’ With The Music was based on trying to redo songs acoustically and pretty much ‘live’ by recording the tracks straight through, showing the sounds you can create using just that format. Tommy Emmanuel takes the acoustic guitar and pushes it to the limit. The speed, accuracy and timing is other worldly. This video shows how much sound and style you can produce with one acoustic instrument. There’s even a guitar bend he does that sounds like a whammy bar on an electric guitar. And the timing in and out of it is perfect. Enjoy.

April 2020 Grapevine

April is the month most people see as the start of spring. You know “April showers bring May flowers”. As has become the weather ‘custom’ in our area, April is just, well, weird. It’s 70 on Monday, it’s 45 on Tuesday, possible tornadoes on Wednesday, out cutting the grass on Thursday. And we’re still staying in. There’s a million things I want to do yet with my life, so no chances are being taken. Fortunately our access to music while stuck at home is almost limitless. On the internet you can start with one song, then decide how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. Here’s a few different entry points you may want to try.

First Up: Ghost Funk Orchestra – ‘Seven Eight’

So what musical ‘category’ does Ghost Funk Orchestra fall in to? The fact that you can ask that question is one of the reasons I like this band. The way all the separate instruments have their own little riffs that weave in and out of the song makes analyzing how this song was put together really interesting. I chose the live video version of this song because you can actually see all the players and instruments and what each of them is doing. It’s also pretty cool how all of them are crammed in that little room and still keep all the pieces tight yet separated. That many different instruments could easily turn a song in to a big ball of mush, but GFO pulls off something that is both snappy and smooth without missing a beat.

Next Up: Old Crow Medicine Show – ‘Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer – Live At The Ryman’

Old Crow Medicine Show has been around for quite a while, since the late 1990’s. They have some well known songs (Wagon Wheel) and have been at the forefront of the Americana movement for quite a while. Their music is a great combination of ‘old time’ sounds mixed with the raw edginess of more modern Americana, Folk and Country. The song is a few years old, but the band just released a ‘Live At The Ryman’ album so I wanted to put this version in. Why? Live. At. The. Ryman. I’d love to be dancing in the aisles during this show.

Finally: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets – ‘Cornflake’

So we’ll veer off in to different territory for the third song. How to catch someone’s attention as they’re reading through album reviews? Name your band Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. How could I see that and not pull up some songs? The song builds from fuzzy space guitar hooks to quieter interludes. Also has cool reverb swimming vocals, a nice change from some songs in this genre that rely on shouted vocals. I also liked the video. It fits in perfectly with the music: strange, colorful and mesmerizing visuals. It’s always good to go from floating in space to banging your head in one song.

Retro: Supersuckers – ‘The Evil Powers Of Rock N’ Roll’

So I think it’s a great idea when cooped up indoors to end with a bang. Straight forward, high energy, butt kicking rock n’ roll. This album and song came out in 1999. I’d often play it while driving, although it would give me a tendency to drive a bit too fast and a strong desire to throw the bird at anyone that got in my way. So much fun to play jamming along with the record, or better yet play live with a band. It has the guitar sound I like – crispy crunch. And it ends with a strange slowed down death metal type sound. Classic.