Thursday, May 23, 2013

Planet Earth Is Blue, And There's Nothing I Can Do

I stumbled across this amazingly poignant video of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield; who, after handing over command of the International Space Station, recorded a slightly modified version of David Bowie's classic 'Space Oddity'. Watch below.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Under The Great North Star, Try To Work Out Where You Are

And now for CD number four. I think I may be off on my dates, but this CD must be from 2005 or 2006. I forget.

1. Sleazy Little Blues Trip – Freaks Of A Feather*
2. Who Did You Think I Was – John Mayer
3. All Star – Smash Mouth
4. One Week – Barenaked Ladies
5. Misfit – Elefant
6. Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello
7. Bandages – Hot Hot Heat
8. Strict Machine – Goldfrapp
9. Take It Off – The Donnas
10. Plush – Stone Temple Pilots
11. Piece Of Crap – Neil Young
12. Kryptonite – Three Doors Down**
13. Monsters – Matchbook Romance**
14. Girl On The Wing – The Shins
15. Talk – Coldplay***
16. Wake Up – The Arcade Fire
17. Island In The Sun – Weezer
18. Move Along – All-American Rejects
19. All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
20. Harder Better Faster Stronger – Daft Punk

* More local music.
** Glarg. No longer a fan of either band.
*** Funny story about this song - Coldplay actually re-recorded X&Y, the album this was on; but not before someone leaked the original version to the internets. I ended up getting the early version of 'Talk' and was confused as hell for a long time about why the version I later purchased sounded like an entirely different song.

I'm Shining Just For You

Let me be your everlasting light... Thanks to Matt Sutej for the photo.
Well, the 2013 visit to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh by the Black Keys (and The Flaming Lips) has come and gone, but my post-show glow has not been dampened yet. I was eagerly anticipating this show from the moment I heard about it. I've been a major Black Keys fan since I heard 'Your Touch' off Magic Potion and fell in love with their hard-boiled brand of blues-rock. Hell, I even have four of their albums on vinyl now. As it says on the back of The Big Come Up, their debut, it truly is amazing that two guys from Ohio could make music with the sound they do so well at in this day and age.

The show was a double-bill with The Flaming Lips, and I knew very little about them except that for a long time in the mid-2000s they were indie rock darlings (in a career that goes from about 1986 to the present day) and that that 'Tangerine' song was actually titled 'She Don't Use Jelly' (and a very curious piece of pop songwriting to boot).

So we went in (me, Sammy Joyce, Matt Sutej, and Jeremy Shaw) and boy were we in for a treat. First up was the Flaming Lips' set. Like I said, I really had little idea what to expect, but we had heard that the Lips' stage show was damn awesome. Wayne Coyne running around in a giant hamster ball over the crowd, half-nude women splashing paint on each other, and all manner of strange and fascinating sights. We would not be let down.

I still remain bewildered by the Lips' set; it was, in a word, mindblowing. Sadly, none in the crew thought to get any photos of the set: the creepiness of Coyne cradling a limp baby (certainly a doll) in his arms as he sang; the psychedelic visions of nude dancing women in technicolor display; the revolving images of the world from space, the human eye and the nude vulva (sometimes in color inversion); tendrils of light that crept across the stage; and I still don't know what the 'fighting kite' that pulsed with the music was supposed to represent, but I was very much impressed and blindsided by the bizarre visions that The Flaming Lips elected to accompany their set. The music was primarily from their new album, The Terror, and I had not heard anything from it before the show. I was very intrigued  and I do have it now, on vinyl; though I haven't found a moment to listen to it.

That said, when The Black Keys came on for the main attraction, I knew exactly what was going to happen  Almost. You know what they say about some bands that their studio material doesn't do the live show justice? E.G. Deep Purple - they were all tight and perfect in the studio, but when it came time to go on tour, they pulled out every stop possible and rocked the hell out of their audiences. I am glad to report that The Black Keys are a member of this club!

I was surprised when they opened with 'Howlin' For You' from Brothers; this is a favorite of mine, and I'm now guessing that it's a fan favorite. Most of the material was the full band stuff from Attack & Release, Brothers, and El Camino. I had secretly been hoping they might go way back in their catalog and play some older stuff, and for a few songs in the middle of the set they stripped down to just Patrick and Dan and played 'Thickfreakness', 'Girl Is On My Mind' and 'Your Touch' (which they rocked up a lot, instead of just playing it like it was from the album). Visuals were limited to them on stage with some accent footage of broken-down industrial towns like their hometown of Akron and driving shots. Neat stuff, but just an accent to the music.

The photo is from the encore: they played 'Everlasting Light' and 'I Got Mine', and during the former they lowered this HUGE disco ball from the ceiling; I swear it must have been nine feet across! That was a really cool moment, and they saved a lightboard that spelled out 'The Black Keys' for no ther reason than to drop it during 'I Got Mine'. Daaang. They are a powerful live act, and seeing them beofre they got big must have been very interesting, in smaller venues than the Consol.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Blocking Up The Scenery, Breaking My Mind

A few signs I've seen around that I thought were, to say the least, interesting.

Here's the name of a road that runs a couple miles away from the new place, and its photograph for proof.

What waters? We're in the desert.
You read that right. Sandune. Not sand dune. It's like it goes by the spelling rules of 50's marketing, as in 'drive-thru' or 'tonite'.

Heh. Drive-thru Sandune tonite!

Here's a good double take for you. This was taken on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, in front of a gas station.

What if I wasn't using it in the first place?
The intent is to prevent people walking along the road from cutting through the gas station and possibly getting run over. At least that's my guess.

Then there's this one from the South Side.

Yinz guys stop litterin' n'at. 
Am I the only one who finds official city signage that uses a regional expression (for cleaning, for those of you from other states) very amusing?

2015 update: with the changeover to Bill Peduto as mayor, these signs have vanished since one line reads 'Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor'.

Here's one that's pretty straightforward.

Confusing US presidents since 1948

Well, except for the fact that it begs the question: what the hell is a prothonotary?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Better Strap On My Guitar, Gotta Be A Big Rock Star

Apparently this is a thing.

Yes, that is Donnie Iris and The Cruisers playing The Black Keys' 'Your Touch'. It's not the first time our boy from Elwood City has done a cover song, though.

On 1982's The High and The Mighty Donnie and the boys covered the British Invasion classic 'Glad All Over', originally by The Dave Clark Five. Interestingly, during The Beatles' first run of number one singles, only Dave and company were able to knock them out of that spot. Donnie and company didn't do quite so well on the charts with the song, but they did a good job on it regardless. Check it out:

More recently, on 2006's  Ellwood City, Donnie and crew decided to cover the Sam & Dave soul classic 'Soul Man'. The arrangement rocks, unbelievably so. It's really damn good; but I can't find the album version on YouTube. This horrible-quality live version will have to do. 

And you thought Donnie was just Pittsburgh's token rock star.