Thursday, November 30, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Jamie Foxx Tour Presale

My apologies for the long absence during the Thanksgiving holiday (happy turkey, btw!), but I return to you now with big news...

It's official, Jamie Foxx is going on tour. This is going to be huge. Timed, no doubt, to coincide with the buzz around Dreamgirls, he's poised to be one of the big earners of early 2007.

Tickets in several cities go on sale this Saturday at 10am local time, and you can already find a couple IL & CA shows on sale now. For folks in NYC, you can get tickets to his MSG show before they go on sale to the general public via his presale. Here's the deets:

Presale: Friday, 12/1, 9am -9pm ET
Password: BASFOXX
Tour Tickets: Find Em Here

Note: Though Fantasia didn't make it into the cast of Dreamgirls, she made it onto Jamie's tour roster. She's his opener.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: Gomez in Concert

Bowery Ballroom, New York, 10/7/06

Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell of Gomez live in concert at Bowery Ballroom, New York

A British jam band? Is there such a thing? Well, sort of.

If you judge a jam band by its crowd, like judging a book by its cover, then sure, there is such a thing as a British jam band, and its name is Gomez. A Gomez gig has much the same crowd as you might find at a Dave Matthews concert -- just as eager to sing along to every word of their favorite standbyes as they are rabid for the singular jammy moments unique to only one evening, one moment in time. The kind that used to cause Deadheads to trade bootleg tapes, saying things like, "Dude, this one has that amazing Jerry solo on Dark Star from Watkins Glen in '73." But in Gomez' case, one might hear a fan saying something more along the lines of, "Omigod, Tom Gray didn't do that solo acoustic one last night!"

Gomez live in concert at Bowery Ballroom, New York

Judge a band by its gig mates, and yep, again Gomez are the lone British cousin on a bill of jam bands. But perhaps it's more guilt by association. It's likely most Americans discovered them at massive fests like Bonnaroo and SxSW, where they just happened to appear on festival lineups in close proximity to the next generation of jam bands like O.A.R., String Cheese Incident, etc. Honestly, they bear more of a resemblance to Guster, with its melodic pop and bongo backbone than to Phish, with its protracted guitar solos and endless variations on a theme. The question of whether the former could have existed without the latter is a philosophical debate for another day.

Judge a band by its earthy-crunchitude, and Gomez rank highly, as well. Considering they've "gone green" and all. Yes, they have officially, honorably, and laudably taken the high road on tour. Literally. Their entire tour is biodiesel-fueled. Yes, the bus runs on veggies. That, in combination with their commitment to recycle anything and everything, their choice of staying at sustainable lodgings whenever possible, and the sponsorship of their tour by Clif Bar, and you have an eco-friendly flavor that brings to mind their hemp-clad cousins across the pond.

Ian Ball of Gomez live in concert at Bowery Ballroom, New York

But judge a band by its output, and Gomez are the unusual confluence of Jam Band and distinctly Britpop sensibilities. Yes, they have that jam band staple of drummer + percussionist. At their core, they also have that everything-comes-from-the-blues celebration of American roots music that most jam bands share. But there's something undeniably British in their pop-ness, that makes them wholly unlike other jam bands out there. Part of it comes from having three vocalists, each with strikingly different voices, trading off lead duties on reliably poppy, boppy tunes with an undercurrent of pensive brooding only Brits can muster. Also in the mix with the occasional slide guitar is a distinctly Britpop art of atmospheric guitar layering that would do Nigel Godrich proud.

This is my kind of jam band. And judging by their sold-out three-night run at New York's Bowery Ballroom, I'm not the only one. The waves of adoration washing over the band is palpable. And little wonder. Gomez are in their element on stage and truly come alive with their fans.

Ben Ottewell of Gomez live in concert at Bowery Ballroom, New York

With their trifecta of vocalists, no matter whose voice you prefer, there's something for everyone in the audience. There's Ben Ottewell's gruff big brother with a broken heart vibe. Then there's Ian Ball's youthful indie approach with its tinge of touching insecurity in the lyrics. And Tom Gray is the most affably chatty of the group. With leads ranging from jangly alt guitar, to circus pop organ, and back again to twangy slide, there's a tone for everyone. And with the combined kits of the drummer and the percussionist filling the entire back half of the stage, there's a tempo for everyone, as well.

One key to Gomez's success in the live show metier is in their observation of the importance of interaction. It's an interplay between musicians that is wholly egalitarian. Not one of the band members is officially the frontman, putting himself out there to outshine the others. They are equals in sync with each other from thestart of each song to its end. And while each man has his moment in the spotlight, he steps back into the collective whole at the end of his tune, allowing the next to step up and take his place. And a healthy respect for interaction is the only way a band can pull off the improvisation required in any jam.

Tom Gray of Gomez live in concert at Bowery Ballroom, New York

This philosophy also extends to personal interaction with the crowd. They know that making each night unique makes every crowd feel special. They talk to the crowd. They laugh with the crowd. They show a personal side that makes them seem accessible on a very human scale that is in distinct contrast to their celebrity-mongering brethren in the music scene.

Look at it this way: They could have booked one night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. But instead, they bookedthree nights at the Bowery Ballroom. That really says everything you need to know about Gomez. Now go out and see them live...

Hamoa Beach

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Bloc Party Illness, Tour Canceled

I'm horrified and saddened to report that Bloc Party's Matt Tong, one of my favorite drummers of all time, has been hospitalized for a collapsed lung!  Can you imagine?! (*shudder*)

As a result, Bloc Party has had to pull out of the rest of their tour with Panic! At The Disco. I suppose that goes without saying. But for those of you with tickets, this is heartbreaking on several levels. 

photo by Lauren Dobkin, 2006

An announcement on Bloc Party's MySpace page had the following to say:

Bloc Party has cancelled the remainder of their current US tour with Panic! at the Disco due to Matt Tong's health after being admitted to an Atlanta hospital with a collapsed lung last Thursday night.

While Matt is on the road to recovery, doctors have advised that he not travel or play again for another few weeks in order to give his lung time to properly heal.

From Kele: "We would like to apologize to all of our fans here who won't be able to see us on this tour. We were looking forward to playing in a number of American cities that we've never been to before, however, Matt's health is our number one priority right now."

Ticket refunds will be available at point-of-purchase. Ticket holders are encouraged to return their tickets within the next week.

If you're interested in sending your best wishes to Matt and the band, you can do so at...
--Their MySpace Page
--Their Official Site

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

HOT TIP: Gnarls Barkley Tour With Red Hot Chili Peppers

Yes, for those of you sad sods like me, who have yet to see Gnarls Barkley live, you have another chance. They've announced they'll tour the US with the Red Hot Chili Peppers from January into March, so this is one way to kick off your 2007 with a bang. Actually, looking to really kick your 2007 off with a bang? How 'bout Gnarls and The Flaming Lips on New Year's Eve? Now that'll be a Crazy show. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Meanwhile, when, oh when will they add a NY date???

Gnarls Barkley (solo): Find Tickets Here

December 2006
7 - Seattle, WA - KNDD's Deck the Hall Ball
8 - Sacramento, CA - KWOD's Twisted Xmas
30 - San Francisco, CA - Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (w/ The Flaming Lips)
31 - Los Angeles, CA - Galen Center @ USC (w/ The Flaming Lips)

Red Hot Chili Peppers & Gnarls Barkley: Find Tickets Here

January 2007
12 - Oklahoma City, OK - Cox Business Services Convention Center
13 - Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
15 - St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
17 - Nashville, TN - Gaylord Entertainment Center
20 - Cincinnati, OH - U.S. Bank Arena
22 - Raleigh, NC - RBC Center
23 - Charlotte, NC - Charlotte Bobcats Arena
25 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center
26 - Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena
28 - Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum
30 - Orlando, FL - Orlando Centroplex
31 - Sunrise, FL - BankAtlantic Center

February 2007
27 - Rosemont, IL - Allstate Arena

March 2007
2 - Des Moines, IA - Wells Fargo Arena
3 - Champaign, IL - Assembly Arena
6 - San Antonio, TX - AT&T Arena
7 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center

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BREAKING NEWS: Snow Patrol Presale Today

Greetings, all!  The boys from Glasgow are releasing an entirely new leg of their tour for this Spring. You have the chance to get tickets before they go on sale to the general public with the Snow Patrol Presale!

The presale began today, and runs through Thursday, 11/16.  
The password: HEADLIGHTS
Get tickets here: Snow Patrol Presale Tickets

Cities included so far:
-Portland, OR
-San Diego, CA
-Grand Prairie, TX
-Coral Gables, FL
-Orlando, FL
-Camden, NJ
-Boston, MA
-Detroit, MI
-Milwaukee, WI
-Minneapolis, MN

Don't Forget: Snow Patrol are also headlining the 93.3 Not So Silent Night fest in Denver, CO on 12/5.

Get presale tickets to Snow Patrol in concert on their US tour.

Office Fans: This Is Just Too Good

In honor of the fact that The Office stars, John Krasinski (Jim) and Rashida Jones (Karen), sat in front of me at the 11/9/08 Death Cab for Cutie show at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, along with Nip/Tuck co-star Joey Slotnik (ether-huffing Dr. Merrill Bobolit), I figured this was a perfect time to share my new favorite viral video. This is just too good...

The Office Brings SexyBack to TV

Friday, November 10, 2006

GOOD GOSSIP: Prince Goes to Vegas, Baby, Vegas

He's so money, and he knows exactly how money he is. That's why Prince has opened a club in Las Vegas, where he will perform twice a week.

Yes, that's right, His Purple Highness has thrown his hat in with the Celines, Eltons and Barrys of the world. Not that I can really picture them hanging together, but Prince seems to have smelled the money. And he's smart enough to know that by owning the club where the performances take place, he stands to make much more than he would by splitting the proceeds from ticket sales with a third party venue. Imagine if Celine owned the Coliseum. Egads. Caveat: His venture is being backed by AEG Live, so it's not totally DIY.

Prince is setting up house at the new club, 3121, at the Rio Casino. The which casino? Exactly. It's off the strip, so the Rio will obviously benefit from the extra pull Prince represents. 

He'll perform Fridays and Saturdays, starting Nov. 10, according to AOL Music News. Tickets are $125, which is pretty standard in Vegas. Yo, check it: Prince Launches Purple Vegas Reign. Meanwhile, there's no telling how long the residency will last. It may only be a matter of months, so get ye to Vegas if you're dying to see Prince.  

Looking for more of the latest from Vegas? Check out the Vegas Pop Blog.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: The Decemberists

Live at Hammerstein Ballroom, NY, 11/3/06

The Decemberists in concert at Hammerstein Ballroom New York

The Decemberists. The name itself is evocative. Evocative of a multitude of things, among them an icy chill in the air, avid proponents of the month of December, and for the smarty-pants historians among us, Russian revolutionaries. But for music fans, the name can mean only one thing: The storied band out of Portland, OR, upon whom so much praise has been heaped, and around whom such a legend has grown, that it's difficult to imagine them living up to expectations. Entering Hammerstein Ballroom for The Decemberists' CMJ Music Marathon concert on 11/3, every member of the sold-out crowd was certain that they would.

Colin and his cohorts have cultivated such a mystique that their true story has been lost to the mists of time. I, for one, prefer the band's version of revisionist history. As The Decemberists' Wikipedia entry attests, "Their official biography, keeping up their reputation for intentionally over-the-top grandiloquence, describes how the band's members met in a Turkish bath. A footnote following the biography claims, 'The Decemberists travel exclusively by Dr. Herring's Brand® Dirigible Balloons.'" Who wants the real story when we can have such a mythology?

Colin Meloy of The Decemberists in concert at Hammerstein Ballroom New York

Much has been made of band visionary and leader, Colin Meloy's prowess as a lyricist. And for good reason. His songwriting can be most easily summed up as "literary," which it often is in print, so I won't claim this as a revelatory observation. However, I prefer to think of Colin as a raconteur -- a traveling storyteller of old, weaving yarns for the enjoyment of the public, much as a bard of Ireland would recount the history of his people through story-songs. Not convinced? His EP, The Tain, is exactly that -- an 18-minute-long retelling of the Irish mythological epic of the same name. Take also, for example, his tale of doomed lovers upon the Cliffs of Dover:

We Both Go Down Together

With four full-length albums and three EPs full of songs to pull from, his discography is rife with atmospheric tales of Civil War sweethearts left behind, injured football heroes, married magical bird-maidens, daughters of Spanish kings, sea chanteys worthy of Ahab himself, and cautionary tales of murderers haunting the shadowy streets of Belfast. But is this really so extraordinary? He's not the first to employ storytelling in his songcraft. One need only remember Morrissey's "Vicar in a Tutu," who wasn't strange, he just liked to live his life in a particular way. Or of lonely "Eleanor Rigby," buried along with her name. Colin is the youngest in a long line of storytellers who entertain us with cantos revealed with bombast and grinning gusto.

Shankhill Butchers

Yes, Colin displays an enviable vocabulary, employing such toney words as "palanquin," "four-score years," "curlews," "arabesques," and "fontanelle." But reviewers always seem to toss off a mention of his degree in English, as if that can neatly and tidily explain away his talent and unconventional approach. Frankly, to describe him as nothing more than an English major is belittling, considering how many of us there are out there without a Crane Wife, a Tain, or a Picaresque under our belts.

Colin, for one, never chooses to downplay his literary bent and influences. On the contrary, he plays up the angle, allowing it to bolster the group's mythology. In fact, in "The Engine Driver," the narrator declares himself "a writer - a writer of fictions." And while fictions are what Meloy excels at, they also give him the opportunity to exorcise any internal demons -- just as his Engine Driver does:

The Engine Driver

It's refreshing that so much attention be paid to the lyrics. How often does that happen in rock today? But let us not gloss over the incredible musicality and musicianship of The Decemberists. This, my friends, is where it becomes clear that Colin Meloy is not the only member of the band worthy of attention and admiration. Nowhere is it more obvious than in seeing The Decemberists perform live. And as they proved at their CMJ showcase at Hammerstein Ballroom, The Decemberists are Musicians with a capitol M. They glide effortlessly from one style to the next, and from one instrument to the next with ease. And we're talking some mighty unusual instruments, at that.

Colin Meloy, Nate Query and Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists in concert at Hammerstein Ballroom New York

Every person on stage at Hammerstein was a multi-instrumentalist. Guitarist Chris Funk played banjo, pedal steel, fiddle and what looked like an antique hand-cranked organ or hurdy-gurdy. Bassist Nate Query also pulled out a cello and a stand-up bass, playing both finger-plucked and bowed. John Moen added harmonizing vocals and melodica to his drumming duties. And the inimitable Jenny Conlee rocked her trademark hammond organ, keyboards, accordion and melodica. Last, but not least, came touring backup vocalist Lisa Molinaro, who lent guitar, violin, accordion and xylophone to the mix. I'm told someone throws in a theremin, from time to time, as well. As you can imagine, the stage was downright packed with one beautiful instrument after another, ranging from electric to exotic. While their performance was tight as a drum, they kept the vibe lighthearted, playful and rollicking. They were downright game for whatever their merry trickster of a leader had in mind.

Song for Myla Goldberg

In the end, it all comes down to Colin as a powerhouse frontman. These are his stories. These are his melodies, and his arrangements. This is his voice, ringing to the balcony with more power than I'd imagined he'd have, and with far more comedy in his patter than I would have dared hope. Seriously, the guy's hilarious. I mean, really, he staged a dance contest in the middle of the audience, ordering the crowd to part and clear circles for people to boogie down, setting up a rivalry between house-right, house-left and balcony. (The balcony won, hands down.) And in the middle of performing a rollicking rendition of "Sixteen Military Wives," he again encouraged a little friendly crowd competition dividing the crowd in half, advising us to avoid the hot boiling lava down the middle, and telling us to leer at our neighbors on the opposite side. "It's almost election day. Let's get riled up, eh? Let's get riled up!" Get a load of this:

Sixteen Military Wives

Would you have guessed he went to theater school as a kid? Ahhhh, it all becomes so clear! After enjoying an impromptu sing-along during one of his more obscure numbers, he berated us for not warming up properly before singing, as we might damage our voices and risk never singing again. Then he proceeded to lead a couple thousand of us in choral class vocal warm-up exercises, encouraging us to sing from the diaphragm. I kid you not. See for yourself:

O Valencia!

Theatricality, it seems, is Colin's middle name. He understands the power of tone and mood, as he showed when he asked the light engineer to bathe us in spooky red lights for his chilling cautionary tale, "Shankhill Butchers." He even stopped one song to narrate while three band members reenacted an epic battle in the middle of the crowd. Each recruited "armies" from among the fans, and all would agree, it was a rout.

John Moen of The Decemberists in the crowd at Hammerstein Ballroom New York

The Decemberists' show at Hammerstein was clearly a highlight of the CMJ festivities this week. Though to call it a "CMJ show" is a bit of a misnomer. As at so many of the other shows during the week, not a soul with a CMJ badge was allowed entry, prompting many on line to wonder aloud why they bothered spending $400+ on a badge to begin with. But that's an article for another day.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Sad News: McGarrigle Christmas Tour Cancelled

I have sad news to report: The much-anticipated McGarrigle Christmas Tour -- featuring Martha & Rufus Wainwright alongside their Mom, Kate McGarrigle, and others -- has been cancelled. Here's the official announcement...

McGarrigle Christmas Tour Cancellations

With our deep regrets, we are sad to announce the cancellation of the McGarrigles Christmas Tour. Due to an unexpected illness in the family, the tour will not be taking place this year, with the exception of December 13, at Carnegie Hall, which will now be the Wainwright Family and Friends Christmas. All tickets for the New York show will be honored. Once again, our apologies to everyone. We truly appreciate your understanding at this time. More information about the Carnegie Hall show will be forthcoming.

Refunds for tickets will be available from point of purchase.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

HOT TIP: 50% Off Tix to BB King Blues Club in NY

You in NY? Check out Ticketmaster's awesome offer for 50% off tix to one of Manhattan's best music venues...

Save 50% on Tickets Now! Don't miss your chance to get half-off tickets to great shows at BB King Blues Club and Grill. See the entire line up and find tickets 
Shows include: Al Green, Ronnie Spector, Acoustic Africa, Shemekia Copeland, Patty Smyth + Scandal, Isaac Hayes, More...
Enter code: OFFER into Special Offer Box.
BB King Blues Club and Grill
New York, NY

More CMJ Madness: If Only....

If I could clone myself and thus be in two places at once, I'd be at...

--11/1: What Made Milwaukee Famous at Bowery (also Tapes 'n Tapes & Cold War Kids)
--11/2: The Shins at Bowery (also CSS)
--11/2: Apples in Stereo at White Rabbit (Gothamist House at CMJ)
--11/2: Hot Chip at Webster Hall
--11/3: Mew at Bowery
--11/3: Architecture in Helsinki & Apples in Stereo at Irving Plaza
Curious who else is playing when and where? Check out a complete guide to the CMJ Madness at
Hellodrama - What Made Milwaukee Famous