Saturday, June 27, 2015

Robin Trower, 70, Sacramento, Leicester, England, USA... a Strange Vine, California... and growing up, all over again

Robin Trower, Sacramento, 2015
Robin Trower, Sacramento's Ace of Spades, 2015
I first saw Robin Trower many, many years ago, on the stage at Leicester University, This was the time of Bridge Of Sighs...people were stoned, people were dreamy, people were playing air-guitar and making guitar faces and being psychadelic and all that. And while I totally appreciated Mr Trower's guitar skills, like with Steve Hackett at that time in my life, the music didn't quite resonate for me. Everyday energy from The Jam, Blondie, Madness... Bridge of Sighs was for dark, smoke-and-cushion-filled rooms, and I woke with the daylight.

(Music is inseperably entwinded with life. There is no such thing as "just a song". Try thinking of a piece of music without remembering where you were, who you were with, the emotion of that moment, that place in your life. None of us listen, or live, in a vacuum.)

Robin Trower, Sacramento, 2015
Robin Trower, Sacramento's Ace of Spades, 2015
Last night: end of a hot, hot Sacramento summer day, in an Ace of Spades packed with (mostly) guys who had been set free from their workday business suits, most of whom seemed to be at least seven feet tall, with only a handful of people under thirty (surprised me--I thought there would be many more young, aspiring guitarists there)... it worked. Robin Trower, his signature Strat guitar sound, his music, old and new, embraced me. It was a wonderful show,

Robin Trower, Sacramento, 2015
Robin Trower, Sacramento's Ace of Spades, 2015
So happy I was able to complete the circle from all those years ago.

Robin Trower, Sacramento, 2015
Robin Trower, Sacramento's Ace of Spades, 2015
Last night was memories of friends long gone, of companionship and love, of the fading of childhood. It was today, and new dreams, rhythms for the future, life. And it was proof that, no matter where you are in life, music matters.

Robin Trower is now seventy years old. He's still on stage, playing his heart out, and there's no sound quite like this.

You still have a chance to catch up with this tour: a few more dates remain. And check out Mr Trower's 2015 release, Something's About To Change.

More photos from Robin Trower's show last night in the Toon's Tunes gallery--or click on any of the images here.

Support act were Strange Vine, from Fresno in California's central valley. Their sound: bluesy, ethereal, evocative of a drive down highway 99: two men doing the job of five, dusty, sparse, and a mental image of beautiful kids-without-shoes. (There was also zero light, so there are very few photos!) Listen to their album, Ghosts.

Strange Vine, Sacramento, 2015
Ian Blesse, Strange Vine
A few more photos of Strange Vine in the Toon's Tunes Strange Vine gallery.

(Oh and the stranger who tried to nibble my bare shoulder while I was watching and listening to Robin Trower? You. Don't. Do. That. Ever. Ever. Good grief...)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Upcoming shows... where will you be?

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Sacramento, October 2014
Catfish and the Bottlemen: returning to San Francisco in September
Checking out local music calendars, there are a few shows on my radar, as well, of course, as Aftershock Festival 2015 in October, and TBD Fest in September, and Five Finger Death Punch in Reno.

Robin Trower plays the Ace of Spades in Sacramento, next Friday, June 26th. I saw him a long, long time ago in Leicester, England, and really want to see how my appreciation of his music has changed over the years. Guitar fans? Be there. Prework? Listen to Bridge of Sighs (from way-back-when), and this year's release, Something's About To Change.

And also... Catfish and the Bottlemen, 30th September, at the beautiful Fillmore in San Francisco. They sell out shows in the UK immediately tickets go on sale. They play Glastonbury festival next weekend, They played here, in Sacramento, to a really small-and-intimate audience at the now-closed Assembly. Well worth a trip down to San Francisco for the evening! I wonder how quickly the tickets will go this time...

Love, Another trainride, another dream... Alone again, or... (another playlist)

A couple of days ago, a Facebook friend posted something about Love's song, Alone Again Or... And I realised I hadn't heard it for a long time. And I remembered how much I loved that song, from the band's iconic album, Forever Changes (or rather, Love Forever Changes). Released on Elektra in November 1967, I think I heard it for the first time late in the year of 1976, part of my introduction to "West Coast" music, along with The Doors, Tim Buckley, The Greatful Dead (two of which I still listen to, guess which?). When you listen to the song, no, it's not a faulty recording--the first few seconds are one channel, one speaker, one ear only. Then the second channel kicks in, and the music is inside your very being.

Love were not just-another psychadelic folk-rock band; they were that, and more; heavy rock, but with horns, strings, a glimpse of a mariachi band... and so much Love.

You may be far too young to have even heard of this band. Key band members, including singer and songwriter, Arthur Lee and guitarist Brian MacLean, are, sadly, long dead and gone. But... it's an album to hear. (At the time it was released, and for many years after, it was far better recognised, and charted higher, in the UK than here in the USA.)

So... sitting on the train, riding home to Sacramento from San Francisco, I started another playlist, with Love's Alone Again Or... as the anchor. And this is what came out: dreamy, a mix of old, and new... nothing too heavy, nothing too hard. Just a good mix for a gentle, sunset ride home to the state's capitol. And an occasional surprise thrown in.

Love: Alone Again Or...
The Nits: Bauhaus Chair
Steve Winwood: Dust
The Three Way: Fade Away
Wyclef Jean: Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Chris Whitley: Look What Love Has Done
Beth Hart: Stay
Richie Havens: What About Me
Marillion: Beyond You
Tom Waits: Blue Valentines
Steve Vai: For The Love Of God
Benny Mardones: Into The Night
U2: Love Is Blindness
The Damned: Alone Again Or...

(If you like Love, be sure to listen to the album Black Beauty. Recorded not long after Forever Changes, the recording wasn't released until very recently. Not all the same lineup--Arthur Lee liked to switch things around--and published after his death, the "deluxe" version has a book of stories and some wonderful photos.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tulsa, Alberquerque, Broken Arrow... and Gene Pitney? American places, names, songs, movies... and bands.

LAX to BOS, southern route
Somewhere over the USA
Travelling a lot, I love a window seat on a clear day; or even a cloudy day, when the sky above the clouds is open. Flying over the USA, I'm always stunned by the natural beauty of the vast, huge areas which are still free of human habitation. And, by contrast, the cities, towns and ranches viewed from the air.

Last week, the skies were clear for a trip to Boston via LAX, and the pilots on both the outward and return flights took a more southern route, across Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma... Virginia, New Jersey, rather than the more usual routing where you see the Great Lakes.

LAX to BOS, southern route
(Yes, that's a road, and yes, those are mountains and dry creeks.)
I kept checking the in-flight map, matching what I was seeing from the window, with placenames and states. And it struck me that almost every town, city and state in the USA has either a song, a movie, or a band named after it.

Broken Arrow? Rod Stewart has a song by that name. There's a James Stewart movie, And a John Travolta movie.
Alberquerque?  Doesn't rhyme easily, but Weird Al took that one on...
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhklahoma? (Movie, musical, and song!)
Chicago. Not on last week's route, but a band.
Kansas! A band.
And don't forget... Sacramento! (Sound quality on this is awful... and I refuse to talk about the quality of the song itself... make up your own mind. No, it's not in my iTunes.)

But one of my favourites? Gene Pitney, and the classic, 24 Hours From Tulsa--a song that made sure I heard the name of the place as a little kid, but only now have I seen it... and that was only from the air!

(Side note: watch how "live" this is... and how he magically performed "live" without a microphone. But what a voice, what a voice!)

If you want to join me in my window seat, I'm updating this photo collection regularly. I love how some of these photos turn out: they are mostly taken with a Nokia Lumia phone, not an SLR camera, and edited for contrast etc. in Lightroom.

And if you don't see me at local shows, I'm probably on a plane. Again.

Breaking Benjamin--new music, after how-many years? See them at Aftershock!

If you are looking forwards to seeing the latest lineup of  Breaking Benjamin at Aftershock 2015, you'll want to check out their latest release. The album is called "Dark Before Dawn", and it's available for pre-order on iTunes... with three tracks for immediate download.

Here's a sample (and you can learn the words in time for Aftershock... did you get your tickets yet???):

Monday, June 15, 2015

We live in a beautiful place... every one of us. Just find the beauty.

While packing boxes, and sorting through far-too-much stuff, I came across my electrical photo frame... which I had loaded with a set of photos, and music, when living in a small community on Long Island: Mastic Beach (officially, per New York, now a "village"). The montage is below--it's on YouTube, too.

Mastic Beach doesn't have the best reputation, nor is it--by far--the most-expensive place to live on Long Island. It's a few miles from the super-chic Hamptons, and it houses many low-income families, as well as many people who just want to enjoy the beauty of the place. It's on the south shore, with views over the Great South Bay, and close to one of the few road bridges to the beaches of Fire Island.

Surrounded by wetlands, ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, the village is susceptible to floods at the will of the moon and the tides. There are mosquitos in summer, impassible snow drifts in winter, and ongoing squabbles between the people who live there, rooted deep in the history of the place (and quite unintelligible to those of us who didn't grow up there). And yet... it's one of the most beautiful places that I've ever lived. I will go back and visit, one day, soon...

Now I'm in yet-another new home... and it will be beautiful, too. We are home in our hearts, and home is where we are.

Music provided by the kindness of the wonderful guitar player, Richard Peikoff. If you haven't heard his music, check it out,

(The real estate business card at the end of this video is way out-of-date. If you're considering buying or renting a home in Mastic Beach or anywhere on Long Island, check out Sparrow Realty of New York,)

New song from Five Finger Death Punch: "Jekyll and Hyde"

Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2014
Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2014
Can't wait for the next Five Finger Death Punch album? Here's a taster: it's called Jekyll and Hyde, and you can listen to it here, on the Monster Energy FFDP page. Three minutes, 26 seconds of pure energy.

Looking forwards to seeing them on tour! If you don't have your tickets yet, hurry! Find dates here, on the FFDP tour page.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

(Music to move house to: If you've been wondering why this week was so quiet...

... Toon's Tunes has been moving house). Just getting all the technology set up again, in the new abode, downtown Sacramento.

Been listening to the Gordon Lightfoot channel on Pandora while driving back-and-forth to the old house every evening and all this weekend... Gentle, tuneful, folk-influenced music: needed something restful to counteract the stress of living in a tetris world. Most everything is still in boxes, being moved from room to room, but getting there, at last.

The Pandora channel has Gordon, lots of James Taylor: gems from the wonderful, late Jim Croce... and I also came across this one. I had forgotten about,Kansas. Just close your eyes and listen...

Kansas are touring: in fact, they'll be in Pleasanton, CA, on July 2nd, for the Alameda County Fair. Oh! And September 8th, here in Sacramento, at the Crest Theater!