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Wrapping up 2010

Wow, where do I start….

As evidenced by the previous posts I had a pretty amazing year of concert-going.  A near lifelong quest completed, an epic show I’d missed 30 years ago revisited.  A music oriented couple weeks in London.  Countless HOF members of the Rock Hall of Fame….heck a ton of them in just a single week.  Shows with good friends old and new.  Hard to even wrap my head around the whole thing.

Here’s the list:

Keb’ Mo’ – Coach House – Jan 14

The Blasters, John Doe, Rumble King – Coach House – Feb 20

Peter Gabriel – Hollywood Bowl – May 7

Styx, Kansas, Foreigner – Citizens Bank Arena – May 19

Richard Thompson – Royal Festival Hall – June 19

Green Day, Joan Jett – Wembley Stadium – June 19

Elvis Costello – Royal Festival Hall – June 20

Glastonbury – June 23-27

Jackson Browne – Albert Hall – June 29

Jack Johnson – O2 Arena – June 30

Laura Marling, Fanfarlo, Peggy Sue, Smoke Fairies – Hyde Park – July 1

Hop Farm – July 2-3

Jools Holland – Kew Gardens – July 6

Barenaked Ladies, Kris Allen, Angel Taylor – Greek Theatre – July 22

Blondie, Gorevette – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 8

Rush – Irvine Meadows – August 13

Al Yankovic – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 14

Scissor Sisters – DAR Consitiution Hall – August 23

Neil Finn – Largo – September 11

Muse, Passion Pit – Staples Center – September 25

Gorillaz, N.E.R.D. – Gibson – October 27

Bonobo – Music Box – November 26

Roger Waters – Staples Center – November 29

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 13

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 14

Twenty three shows and two festivals in all.  I don’t think I could even pick a “best”.  However a few things to note do occur to me.

Worst sound, Scissor Sisters.  Horrible mix that completely left the vocals out, and it’s not like I had a crappy seat, I was in the 5th row.  Really guys?  Totally detracted from an interesting performance.

Only show I left early, Jack Johnson.  It was okay, but very one-note.  I like his studio stuff, but in a huge arena it was lost.  Put the same show in an intimate venue and I might have loved it.  Add to the experience that I was a bit sick that night and it was just not a compelling show.

Most disappointing, Muse/Passion Pit.  Passion Pit left me cold and Muse after all the hype just didn’t live up to expectations.  Lot’s of copped riffs and wasted technology that didn’t go anywhere.  If you want to use technology look to Gabriel, Waters or even the Pet Shop Boys.  This was “sound and fury that signified nothing”…

Most intimate, Neil Finn.  The Largo is magic when Neil plays there and the September show was no exception.  An obscure setlist that actually added to the special feeling of the evening.  You knew even while watching this was the sort of thing that would never be duplicated.  Jackson Browne in the acoustic tent at Glastonbury was a close second.  While the masses grooved to Stevie Wonder….Jackson held court for a few hundred lucky folks and spun magic with his sidekick David Lindley.  Moving and unique almost sell short just how very special a way it was to end my Glastonbury experience.

Surprises…How awesome Gorillaz were in LA after disappointing in Glastonbury.

Bonobo, Midlake, Hot Chip, Fanfarlo, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Magic Numbers, The Bees….none of whom I knew before 2010 and who all get extensive spins regularly on my ipod now.

How great Rush could be at doing “Moving Pictures” after being somewhat average the other time I’d seen them previously….this show made up for that one in spades.

Disappointment….U2 having to cancel in Anaheim and Glastonbury…(of course it does give me a couple shows to look forward to in 2011 already…)

Well, that’s it…another year in the books, and an amazing one at that.  Curious to see what 2011 (and beyond) will bring?  But, it’ll be hard for any year to reach the heights of 2010 for me.

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Finally, the Glastonbury Report Continues with Saturday!

I know that there haven’t been throngs of people waiting at the dock for my next installment to see if “Little Nell” lives or dies.  But, it’s been an open loop that I need to close.  So, with no further ado…I present, Saturday at Glastonbury!

As I’d mentioned in my “Friday” post, it was a fitful night of sleep often interrupted by shouting idiots.  But, I did finally manage to drift off for long enough to get a decent nights rest.  So, I awoke Saturday and climbed out of my sleeping bag to find both of my legs covered in red bumps…hummm?  Having no idea what it might be, I headed to the medical tent.  There I learned it was a heat rash set off by the large quantities of pollen and dust in the air (I was told it’s fairly common when it’s that hot.)  They wanted me to get antihistamines and keep them covered.

A brief note about the medical staff at the festival…they are awesome.  Apparently they volunteer and work shifts in return for seeing the festival.  What a great system, and what a credit to those folks who give up their free time to work in a tent in a field looking at a manner of ailments in a crowd of that size.  All things considered, it was a really good experience and put my mind at ease.

But…now I was limited to not wearing shorts in the heat and sun.  I struck out for the pharmacy…a very long walk and bought some antihistamines as they suggested, I also took the one they gave me (more on this later).

I swapped my shorts for long pants and and headed out.  First up was the Other Stage and a band called “Two Door Cinema Club”…who were awesome.  I heard the last part of set (after I got home I bought their disc, which I was playing just this week…good stuff).  From there I headed to West Holts and caught Brother Ali’s set as it started.

Who knew I could like a rap concert?  Brother Ali is an Albino, Muslim from Minneapolis who raps (it seems) about mostly positive stuff.  I liked it so much I sat down and listened to his whole set.  A real surprise for me and something I never suspected I’d enjoy.  Do you sense a theme about Glastonbury so far?  The magic happens when you least expect it.  You can’t force it, you can’t set out to create it…you just have to open your mind and amazing things happen around you.

I’d postponed lunch to hear Brother Ali, so I grabbed a huge baked potato and topped it off with a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  I decided to hit the acoustic tent, since I knew it was shaded and I did have the long pants issue going in the midday sun.  I guess it was good that I did.  You may recall that I took Gandalph an antihistamine a while earlier, and was somewhat tired from restless sleep.

Well, I got to the acoustic tent in the dark shade and lay down on my pad to listen to “Leisure Society”…and fell fast asleep.  Vague, restless half-sleep, but sleep nonetheless.  I heard snatches of “Leisure Society” and then “Gandolph Murphy”.

Next up was Michael Eavis being interviewed and telling the history of the festival.  But, the bad leg cramps returned and I finally got up to walk around.  I could hear “Dead Weather” in the distance, but had no desire to fight the Pyramid crowd in my current state.  I desperately needed a chair and appealed to a kind warden at the handicapped area that was mostly empty.  He allowed me to go up and sit down on a real chair they had placed there.  Another thing about Glastonbury, almost everyone working there is really nice.  It made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the afternoon.

Al Stewart was up next and he did a show not far off from the last time I’d seen him at the Coach House, except this set was electric in comparison.  He seemed really fired up to be playing the 40th.  (He was one of the original acts in 1970 at the first one, so a cool story there.)  He brought out some guest singers (their names escape me at the moment) for “Night Train to Munich” and even did a sterling version of “Carol” as an encore.  It was one of the best Al shows I’ve seen, and I’ve seen him lots (maybe 15 times).  It seems Glastonbury really does inspire the best in musicians who play there too.

Imelda May was next with her cool retro sound.  Sort of a female “Brian Setzer” with a nice bluesy growl.  Her band was very tight and she had a nice charisma as a front woman.  Here’s a look at her:

She did a rockin version of “Train Kept a Rollin” and closed with a rockabilly version of “Tainted Love”.  Good stuff.

Next up at the Acoustic tent was one of my “must-sees”, Nick Lowe.  If you don’t know Nick Lowe…you should.  He’s a legend not just for writing the most amazing power pop, but also as a producer, bass player and singer.  Here’s a little reminder:

This was only my second time seeing Nick, even though I’ve been a fan for over 30 years.  All thoughts of leg cramps, heat rashes and anything negative was now washed away.  The triple punch of three great bands in a row had me back in the Glasto spirit and the antihistamine had worn off.  I had one more must see for the day, so now that it was dark I struck out for the next band, Midlake.

I stopped for a second at the Queens Head Stage and heard a completely forgettable band called Cherry Ghost.  So, forgettable that I can’t recall much about them except that I stopped for song or two.

Next, I took a detour past the Other Stage and watched a little of the Pet Shop Boys.  It was the same show I’d seen in Atlanta last September, very fun (and I owe them a debt for ripping off their stage look for one of my corporate shows…)  But, I really wanted to make sure I saw all of Midlake at the Park Stage.

Not really a danger of that I found, since I arrived to a long delay while the band tuned, fiddled with amps and generally mucked about for a really long time…half an hour?  Come on boys, get it together….

They were good, but honestly…I think better on CD.  Maybe it was the long day, maybe it was the spirited sets I’d just seen?  But, they have a sort of low-key sound.  Kind of “Prog-folk” and after a long day it was more atmospheric and lulling.  Not a bad thing, if that’s what you’re looking for.  But in my tired state I found it hard to really get engaged by the music and my mind wandered.  To be clear, it wasn’t bad.  It was quite good technically.  Just quite chilled out for that late at night after a long day.

This is one of their more upbeat tracks:

Near the end, I shot a few more photos and headed down to my tent, which was mercifully very close to the Park Stage.

All in all a fine day with a few bumps.  I was able to see the main acts that I had in mind and only really regretted missing out on a couple hours due to sleeping in the Acoustic Tent.

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Glastonbury thoughts

This won’t be the long delayed wrap up of  my trip stories, but I just wanted to record a few random musings as Glasto has been very much on my mind the past few days.

As the days since the trip have rushed past I’ve realized that the entire experience changed me in ways that I never expected.

Lots of people ask me if “I’d go back”.  My stock answer has been that it was a once in a lifetime experience and I wouldn’t likely want to try and repeat it again.  But, as the days pass I find myself checking back onto the eFest boards and looking at the discussions.  Yesterday they announced the on sale date for 2011 and I had a huge twinge of wanting to try and get another ticket and go back….for reasons that I honestly can’t quite even explain.  I recall the rush last year of making a ticket deposit at 1am and realizing that I was going to take the plunge.  Part of me wants that focus back.

Since I got back from the trip I’ve been a bit adrift.  I spent so long obsessing about going that with it now done…I’m not sure what my next focus should be.  In a way I think that’s why I’ve delayed writing about the last parts of the trip here.  As long as it’s still living in my head it’s not completely finished and wrapped forever.

Do I have regrets…many of them.

I feel like I didn’t get to see every band (even though that would have been a physical impossibility), I missed many of the art and dance areas.  I did all I could do…but, like life itself…there was too much to experience it all and you have to pick and choose.  (Lots of these things were said to me by festival veterans, but they don’t really come into focus until you’ve had the experience of being there.)

Maybe I drank too much, maybe I drank too little…maybe I slept too much, maybe I should have rested at different times…Maybe I should have seen more at the Park Stage, the Pyramid Stage, the Dance Village…maybe I should have eaten different foods…

Should I have seen Stevie Wonder instead of Jackson Browne?  Jackson Browne was my best act of the whole festival…yet, did I  miss something better?

See what I mean?  It’s like life…you choose things, but you can’t help but wonder how a different choice would have turned out.  I guess that’s why people go over and over to Glasto.  Some of it may be the fear of missing something.  Some of it may just be the vastness of the choices that let you live a magnified version of “life” in the span of a long weekend.  I could have gone 100 times and had 100 different experiences.

I even said that to someone on site, that Glastonbury is exactly like a limited version of life.  You are faced with a stream of choices and they will define your experience, and not all of it will be good.  But, you survive the bad to reach the good stuff, and having done so, the good stuff is made even better by the context.  If everything went perfectly on a Glasto trip it would actually be boring as all hell.  You need the “spice” of the collapsed tent or the uncomfortable bed so that when you see the perfect sunset while at the Other Stage you understand and appreciate it more because of having struggled some just to get to that point.

I have a vivid memory of washing my hands on Friday.  It’s so vivid because I’d been using hand sanitizer for three days and I stumbled upon a tap with running water and bars of soap.  I scrubbed my arms up to the elbow and I’ve honestly never felt so happy in my life about the simple act of washing my hands.  But, the great thing about Glasto is that it (at least for me) provokes further thought.  I realized that millions of people don’t have running water and don’t get to experience that feeling at all on a regular basis.  Suddenly a simple act took on no only significance in the moment, but it opened me to a bigger picture and made me appreciate more each time since then that I’ve scrubbed my hands how there are others who are as fortunate as me.

Now, I sit here tonight listening to Ray Davies, Florence & the Machine, Midlake and Hot Chip….thinking about each of their performances and the experience of seeing each of them at the Festival, I realized that I’m going to carry this festival around with me forever and at least parts of it have really changed me forever (hopefully in good ways).

And, I also suspect that I have been impacted in ways I’ve likely not even discovered….but, I guess that’s what this blog is for, to document the “beyond” that expands out from my Glastonbury experience.

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A couple of the bands I plan to see

Clock is ticking closer…and here I sit tonight trying to stave off what feels like a cold starting.  Ugh.

As I’ve been researching so many of the bands that will be playing, a couple have really jumped out at me that I like.  I figured I’d just share them tonight and head off to bed early to try and rest.

Midlake:

Hot Chip: (They don’t allow embeds, so you’ll have to click)

(Trust me on this one, it starts off pretty odd…but it heads off in some really strange directions…)

Mumford & Sons:

Enjoy!

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Saturday “must see” list

So here it sit tonight, worn out from a four mile walk with light pack (trying to get ready for all the walking) and a hard cider in my hand (a festival tradition I’m told, so getting ready for that as well.)

We’ve covered Friday’s clashfinder so now lets move on to Saturday:

The early part of the day has no really compelling acts that I need to see so far.  The openers for the main stage have been announced and it was a little bit of a letdown after all the build up about the 40 anniversary.  Saturday is someone called “Tinchy Strider”…apparently a rapper, apparently a pass for me.  However on the Park stage is someone a little interesting…Candi Staton.  Nothing like a blast of disco to start the morning.

Next up will be the Lighting Seeds or Reef.  Unless something else grabs my attention.  Don’t know much about either band, just know the names really.  Then, maybe off to see Coheed & Cambria?  Listened to a little of their stuff and it’s interesting in a “Rush” sort of way.

But then is my first real clash of the day.  Do I leave Jackson Browne early to see Imogen Heap?  I have three shots at seeing Jackson, but he never disappoints.  Imogen is a wild card, I know a little of her stuff.  So, I guess I’ll just have to see how JB’s set starts then decide if I should slip away halfway through.

Then, comes another slot where I see some names I know, but nothing excites me enough to say that I really have to see any of them.  So, I’ll likely see some mix of Seasick Steve, Kate Nash, Devendra Banhart, Beach House and the Avett Brothers.  I hope something out of that list grabs my ears.  Then, Dead Weather is playing, and I’ve hear lots of critical raves…but the couple songs I know didn’t grab me that much.  I may opt for the National who I have a couple CD’s by and find a bit more to my taste.

Now comes a three-fer on the acoustic stage.  Al Stewart into Imelda May into Nick Lowe.  Two of my favorite songwriters sandwiched around a young rockabilly singer with some great pipes.  Looking forward to settling in and relaxing after all the rushing around in the afternoon.  Now that means I’ll likely miss Shakira, the Cribs, the Editors and the Scissor Sisters…can’t be helped, seeing Nick Lowe is a rare chance I can’t pass on.  And even though I’ve seen Al Stewart many times, to see him at Glastonbury (he played the 1st one in 1970) is another rare treat I can’t pass on.  That means I’ll also miss Laura Marling, but I’ll see her in London the following week, so more about her later.

But, the closer of the day presents a difficult decision.  Muse, Pet Shop Boys, Parliament or Midlake?  Muse is “the next big thing”…seen PSB and Parliament….so while I’d be happy to see either of them again, I have to look to the pair I haven’t seen live.  That being said…Midlake has really caught my ear with their new CD “Courage of Others”.  Great moody prog-ish rock.  Plus, it will be MUCH less crowded and I’m there to see cool new stuff.  So, I’m leaning toward Midlake, but Muse may draw me in.  Or, I may see how Muse starts off and then rush to Midlake?  Decisions, decisions….

So, Saturday really has two big clashes (Muse or Midlake & Jackson Browne or Imogen Heap), the rest is made of of “must see’s” or “don’t cares that much”…

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My Concert Agenda for London

Well, since this is going to be a trip mostly about seeing concerts, I now have most of my shows scheduled and tickets bought…Only one more show to still book, and more about that later.

The Plan:

June  19 – Richard Thompson – “1000 years of popular song”.  I have the CD of this show he did a few years back.  He touches on songs from the 12th century right on up to Bowling for Soup.  This is part of the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall and he’s one of those guys who somehow I’ve missed each time he’s passed through town.  Critically, he’s names as one of the top 20 all time guitarists.

June 20 – Elvis Costello – Solo Acoustic. Also part of Meltdown.  Really, what can you say about him?  Plus, seeing him in London…should be awesome!

June 23-27 – Glastonbury….MUCH more about this later…

June 29 – Jackson Browne & David Lindley.  Found a great single floor seat for Royal Albert Hall when I get back from Glasto.  They are playing twice at the festival, but knowing I can see them here will free me up for others acts at the festival itself and reduces my potential clash list of bands by one.

June 30 – Jack Johnson at O2 Arena.  Another show I found a great single for.  Love his music and never seen him live.  He’s also playing Glastonbury, but for the reasons above, knowing I’ll see him in London takes another potential conflict away at Glasto.

July 1 – Laura Marling – Serpentine Sessions in Hyde Park.  Honestly, don’t know much about her, but the little I’ve heard puts her into the Regina Spektor, Imogen Heap class.  Close to my hotel (short walk) and I’ve always wanted to see a show in Hyde Park.  She’s also at Glasto and Hop Farm.  But, the setting of Hyde Park is too cool to pass up.  Support acts still to be named…so many be Mumford & Sons who record with her?  One can only hope…

July 2 – Hop Farm with Van Morrison!  Just amazing…a chance to see Van in the UK at a really interesting sounding smaller festival.  Still no idea who else will be playing, but Van is enough draw to get me out there…

July 3 – Hop Farm day 2…No ticket yet, but leaning this way.  Bob Dylan, Ray Davies top the bill….pretty sure I’ll end up going to this.

A small gap with the potential to see Dr John, CSN or Buddy Guy…still not nailed down…and I may need a night off…:)

July 6 – My last night- Jools Holland at Kew Gardens.  An outdoor show in a botanical garden with one of my favorite bands that never tours the US.  A suitable way to wrap three full weeks of music.

So, there you have it.  Less than three weeks that includes pretty much a who’s who of the rock and roll hall of fame (U2, Stevie Wonder, Ray Davies, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan) my favorite songwriters (Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Al Stewart, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, David Lindley) and newcomers that I’m enjoying already (Muse, Midlake, Hot Chip, Magic Numbers, Imelda May, Laura Marling)…and all to be seen live and in person in less than 20 days in the UK!

WOW, am I excited?…a little, just a little….

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