Sunday, May 21, 2017

WORDS FOR CHRIS CORNELL

CHRIS CORNELL
JULY 20, 1964-MAY 17, 2017

And another one gone...

The very early morning of May 18th brought about some deeply saddening news, the kind of which I am feeling that I will be reading/hearing/seeing more of as I age. Just as I was entering the study to begin my slow "wake up" after my morning shower, I opened up the internet and was shockingly greeted with the news that Chris Cornell, singer/songwriter/guitarist of the bands Temple Of The Dog, Soundgarden and Audioslave as well as his work as a solo artist, has passed away the night before, just hours after what is now his final performance with Soundgarden in Detroit. He was only 52 years old.

The sting and sadness of this news just took the wind out of my sails instantly. I never really knew terribly much about Cornell personally. And as for his music, I only own a small selection of songs, Cornell's solo debut "Euphoria Morning" (released September 21, 1999), Soundgarden's "King Animal" (released November 13, 2012) and of course, his work as contained within the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's "Singles" (1992). 

Even with my limited knowledge of his work, which is only due to my interest in other bands and artists during the initial alternative rock wave of the 1990's, everything I ever heard from him or his bands, spoke to me powerfully. Soundgarden especially possessed a certain Zeppelin-esque swagger and mysticism combined with what I tend to think of as art-metal, a turbulent, tempestuous darkness that flowed with poetry and pain--something I have always meant to explore more deeply but just never did.
But most of all, that voice!! That superhuman four octave voice that could make the clouds scatter and the Earth shake but also carried a terrifically soulful growl and grit that demonstrated that Cornell held a world of musical influences inside of his musical spirit, yet could miraculously make each and every one singular and instantly distinct.  

With all of the purely idiosyncratic artists that emerged in the 1990's, Chris Cornell's singing voice was unlike anyone else's, a roaring beast with angel's wings. Truly a graceful warrior. No wonder bandmate and Temple Of The Dog/Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron referred to Cornell as being his "dark knight."

And still this man passed away, so very young. And I think that is what hit me so urgently at first. His youth and the fact that he was not the first at that. Chris Cornell and his musical compatriots and contemporaries being so close in age to myself, is very personal to me. In some ways, these figures feel like auxiliary classmates, the people of my generation who were able to write and perform songs,make albums, create art and take over the world for a time. As they continue and age, so do I and my contemporaries--the thought of them continuing to provide the soundtrack for our respective lives forever serving as connective tissue, even if we never knew each other or meet face to face. 

The connection, solely forged through music is palpable, making this death especially painful. It's just not our time yet. It just can't be. Can it?
Yet, very quickly after reading the initial news, during which a cause of death had not been acknowledged, reports began to surface about Cornell possibly having taken his own life. Then, the tragic news rapidly became even sadder--news that eventually was confirmed later in the morning as it was revealed that Cornell had indeed committed suicide, a death by hanging in his hotel room.

Good God...

Chris Cornell, the person, is someone I never knew terribly much about and I have wondered if that was indeed by design to a certain extent. A bit of self-protection in the predatory world of the entertainment business. These days, I wouldn't blame anyone for having enacted some level of "radio silence" regarding the 21st century media. Even so, as I began reading tributes and stories about the man, I discovered elements that I never knew about like  his previous drug addictions as well as his battles with depression. 

The realization that Cornell was yet another of his generation as well as locale--after Mother Love Bone's Andy Wood, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Alice In Chains' Layne Staley, and Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver's Scott Weiland--to have his life end so tragically is as perplexing as it is painful. This time, it just seemed as if Cornell would one of the figures to make it, to age, to grow older, to live a much longer life. 
Honestly, I look at photos of him and he looks as if he is one that quite possibly "had it all." He was truly a stunningly handsome man, with a beautiful wife and children, who was also artistically fulfilled, beloved by fans, attained the respect of his fellow musicians and artists and had even ventured into the world of philanthropy with The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, an organization benefiting the protection of children. 

To my outside eye, it all seemed just perfect. But, not one of us was Chris Cornell, not even those closest to him...not even his wife and family. In many ways, Chris Cornell was just like all of us: existentially alone in the universe solely because we are the only ones that are able to completely live within our own skins and thoughts. Who knows what thoughts Cornell had to live with, how unbearable they were. How much pain was this m an in? It is crushing to think about: that anyone, even a rock star like Chris Cornell, could be in so much anguish that the only relief to conceive of is through ending his own life. 

We never know what baggage someone is shouldering. Ever. We just never fully know. And with his passing, that point is again made so brutally clear. Without getting into the whole pharmaceutical industry and their controversial issues as Vicky Cornell has expressed in statement that she feared the anxiety medication her husband had been taking perhaps increased his symptoms leading to his suicide, I just wish that if we can take anything away from this horrible news is that we should always attempt to make an effort to try and be more patient, kinder, reflective and loving regarding ourselves and our fellow human beings. 

Yes, we have the musical and artistic legacy of Chris Cornell to explore, cherish and love forever but what has occurred is so far beyond music. I think of the opening lyrics of Cornell's gorgeously sorrowful "Preaching The End Of The World":

"Hello, I know there's someone out there who can understand
And who's feeling the same way as me
I'm 24 and I've got everything to live for
But I know that it wasn't meant to be
'Cause all has been lost and all has been won
And there's nothing left for us to save
But now I know that I don't want to be alone today..."

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. For not one of us should feel so isolated, so alienated, so out of step with existence itself that we choose the final escape. 

It makes me so, so very sad that Chris Cornell lived with this pain. I wish that there was another way for him. Maybe the strength to write even one more song to wrestle through it all, to keep him here just a little longer for his family and friends to lift him up just high enough where he would have chosen to stay. 

I don't know. I don't have any answers. I just wish that it didn't have to be this way for him.

Chris Cornell..Rest In Peace...Rest In Power.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

THE REVOLUTION LIVE AT THE BARRYMORE THEATER MAY 12, 2017

THE REVOLUTION
BARRYMORE THEATER
MADISON, WI
MAY 12, 2017

THE REVOLUTION:
Lisa Coleman: Keyboards, Synthesizers, Vocals
Dr. Fink: Keyboards, Synthesizers
Brown Mark: Bass Guitar, Vocals
Wendy Melvoin: Guitars, Vocals
Bobby Z.: Drums
with 
Stokley Williams: Vocals

While entirely impossible to ever fully conceptualize, I would really like to think that Prince would have been proud. And beyond that, he would have felt gratified and enormously moved to know that his legacy remains so powerfully intact and beloved.
Dear readers and listeners, it is of no secret to any of you who have followed this blogsite to know what an impact the life and death of Prince Rogers Nelson has had upon my life...and for that matter, forever more. Once it became known that Prince's former band The Revolution had re-formed and would be taking part in a short tour as a means to commemorate their shared legacy as well as provide some communal healing between themselves and audiences--and that they would surprisingly be making a tour stop in Madison at the Barrymore--it was imperative that I attend.

Believe it or not, I never saw Prince perform live even once. It is true. I never saw him and it saddens me that I really never gave myself the chance. Truth be told, for much of my younger days, Prince never really performed terribly much in the United States--or at least,  standard touring was rare, as he tended to mount those shows in Europe, where audiences tended to be more appreciative of his musical transformations during the 1980's especially.

However, I did have a ticket to the "Purple Rain" tour back in 1984 but I unfortunately was unable to go as I had a test in Science (my worst school subject) the following morning and my very strict parents refused to let me attend. Four years later, I held summer employment at Ticketmaster and even with the staff discount, I was still unable to afford to go and see Prince's in the round "Lovesexy" tour.  And so it went, for the remainder of Prince's life as well as my own. He toured and performed while I missed him again and again, feeling that inevitably, one day, I would have my chance.

And then, April 21, 2016 happened...

This Spring, I have had the opportunity to be present for several terrific concerts here in Madison, shows that I have attended with a frequency that, for me, is quite rare. From the incendiary protest music of Fishbone, to the euphoric, life affirming uplift of The Flaming Lips' extravaganza to the eloquent, elegant minimalism of Aimee Mann, I have been so very fortunate to have experienced them all. And seemingly, all of these shows, plus my life of missing Prince concert performances, all felt to culminate in the experience of bearing witness to The Revolution's thunderous, fully triumphant performance, a night that was nothing less than cathartic as it left me, and I would gather the entire audience, drenched in sweat and tears.
Before heading to the Barrymore and excitedly telling friends and acquaintances that I would be heading to see The Revolution, I was a little taken aback by the repeated question of wondering if I was seeing a Prince tribute cover band. And every time, I would have to inform people that no, I was going to see the band, the very band as featured in Director Albert Magnoli's now iconic "Purple Rain" (1984) as well as the very musicians that collaborated and performed with Prince upon the equally iconic albums "Purple Rain" (released June 25, 1984), "Around The World In A Day" (released April 22, 1985) and "Parade" (released March 31, 1986). While the show was indeed heavily attended, with many audience members dressed in purple (as was yours truly) and all manner of Prince themed paraphernalia, it was stunningly not a sold out concert. Well, folks, if you did not attend, you missed it and The Revolution, in turn, missed you!!

Granted, and despite the strong reviews and word of mouth, I was curious as to precisely how this concert would go forward as the central figure was obviously and tragically not present. While undeniably excited, I sat in the Barrymore in the first row behind the V.I.P. section alongside my treasured friend and world famous WLHA-FM DJ Kelly Klaschus and her husband Brian, all three of us just sending mental hopes to the band that this evening would go well. We would soon discover that those mental wishes were wholly unnecessary.

Shortly after 8 p.m., as the strains of Donna Summer's "Last Dance" faded from the loud speakers, the house lights went dark and The Revolution quietly took their places upon the stage, in the very configuration as they performed in the 1980's. As the large crowd bean to scream their excitement towards the stage, Drummer Bobby Z., slickly dressed in a black suit and tie took his place behind the drum riser, soon to be followed by Keyboardist Dr. Fink, fully dressed in his trademark surgical scrubs and sunglasses. Bassist Brown Mark took his place on the left side of the stage as Guitarist extraordinaire Wendy Melvoin took her spot on the right with the ethereal Lisa Coleman sauntering her way to her keyboard station. And center stage? That space was left appropriately and so poignantly empty, a consistent reminder of what was so powerfully missing.
Opening with the announcer's voice from the beginning of the "Purple Rain" film, extolling..."Ladies and Gentlemen...THE REVOLUTION!!!!", Bobby Z.'s booming drums signaled the start of "Computer Blue," which featured Brown Mark valiantly taking over the lead vocals while Wendy Melvoin brilliantly performed Prince's lyrical guitar solo. From those first moments, it was clear that The Revolution had not lost a step in the 30 plus years since they had last played together. Inexplicably, the band extended themselves far past mere nostalgia even as the sheer sound of the group conjured up a world of memories while remaining ever present and so of the moment. It was undeniably riveting to behold.
 
From "Computer Blue," The Revolution next segued into "America" and a glorious "Mountains," both selections found Brown Mark and Melvoin handling lead vocals. Yet, even so, the most significant voices in the Barrymore happened to belong to the audience, who sang along loudly, proudly, and enthusiastically to every lyric and seemingly every vocal aside and ad-lib from the original albums ("Guitars and drums on the ONE...HUH!!!!").

And so it was for much of the full and tightly packed two hour performance as The Revolution roared through hit songs ("Kiss," "1999," "Raspberry Beret," "When Doves Cry"), deep album cuts ("Uptown," "D.M.S.R.," "Automatic," "Let's Work"), b-sides ("Erotic City"), and even the long unreleased yet soon to be released "Purple Rain" outtake "Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden." Through everything, the band remained in high spirits, encouraging the audience to sing along, which we did non-stop as we all danced and screamed continuously.
For even extra and excellent assistance The Revolution called upon Stokley Williams, most known for being the drummer/lead singer of the Minneapolis based Mint Condition, to handle Prince's more vocally demanding selections. Certainly mountainous shoes to fill but as with Brown Mark, Wendy Melvoin and all of us in the audience, Stokley Williams wisely never attempted to emulate but he firmly rose to the challenge and to a joyous degree that completely ingratiated him to the band and the audience.

And then, it was time to officially address the elephant in the room...

photo by Jami Phillips

As most of The Revolution exited the stage, only Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman remained, and I knew it was time and that it would potentially be very difficult. Melvoin began to speak at length for the first time on this night as she explained how she and the band were in as much shock as all of us on the day that Prince died. As she explained how this tour came to be, a story that she has told many times over this past year, it was obvious that the grief was still close to the surface as her voice cracked here and there and it seemed as if she was still searching for the best words to express this loss. The effect was human, down-to-Earth, relatable and absolutely inclusive. Not one moment felt canned or insincere and it endeared her and therefore the band to us even more.

Wendy and Lisa soon began to perform the beautifully stark and elegiac "Sometimes It Snows In April," the closing song from "Parade," a song of tremendously palpable existential sorrow that was so overwhelming that I essentially skipped listening to the track when I first bought the album as a teenager in 1986, and I rarely listen to it now for the same reasons. On this night, as Wendy explained that she and Lisa recently discovered that they first recorded the song with Prince on April 21, 1985--32 years to the day of Prince's death--an audible hush flowed through the crowd. Wendy again informed us that if we wished to sing with her, then to please accept her invitation. A few audience members did just that, whereas I, Kelly and so many others took time to reflect upon the lyrics and the music and shortly, crying in the auditorium was audible--my tears included.

When the full Revolution returned to the stage, the band performed a portion of "Paisley Park," again inviting us to sing along with a song to be used as what Wendy Melvoin referred to as a "smoke signal" to Prince, to his spirit and memory.
How could we possibly get out of a moment like this one? Where could the show go from here? The Revolution soldiered onwards, lifting the audience back upwards into dance with "Controversy." Admittedly, I was having some emotional trouble connecting to the groove as I was still reeling from "Sometimes It  Snows In April," but when the famous chant began ("People call me rude/I wish we all were nude/I wish there was no 'Black' or 'White'/I wish there were no rules"), it was as if The Revolution reached out with their collective of hands and personally pulled me back into the moment, which only lifted me higher and higher with "Delirious" and the titanic "Let's Go Crazy."

And then...that unmistakable guitar chord was played and that equally unmistakable hush of recognition flowed through the Barrymore as we knew that it was time for the greatest of them all, the mammoth "Purple Rain." Every single moment congealed beautifully over the course of this song as The Revolution with Stokley Williams and the audience worked through the celebration and grief in tandem. Cigarette lighters and cell phones lit up the room as arms swayed back and forth, all of our voices flowing and rising together as if in some purple choir and Wendy Melvoin heroically took on Prince's towering, mountainous guitar solo and scorched the sky, leaving all of us completely spent.
The Revolution, while backed by Melvoin and Coleman's orchestral coda to "Purple Rain," all exited the stage, leaving the audience fully spent yet not wanting the night to end at all. As for me, even though I knew the unwritten rule--the show ain't over 'til the house lights go back on--I do not think I ever wanted a show to not end more than this one. To be so enveloped by this sound, the sound of this figure who completely transformed my life and in the close presence of some of the key figures who assisted him in realizing his artistic vision was soul stirring to say the least. As I expressed at the outset, it was a night of sweat and tears, all of which were flowing freely in the deliverance of this communal outpouring.
And so thankfully, the night was not finished as The Revolution, just as in the "Purple Rain" film, returned to the stage to give us the grand finale of "I Would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm A Star." 
Sweat and tears, y'all. Sweat and tears.

I am unable to stress emphatically enough to you how formidable The Revolution happened to be. It was a muscular performance filled with musical virtuosity, aggression, agility, athleticism and profound grace and gravity. And for all of the tears, it was not a maudlin night or one of easy sentimentality. The Revolution rightfully earned the full embrace of the Barrymore audience not through nostalgia but through their almost feverish commitment to ensure that this figure and his musical legacy is curated, protected and presented with as much professionalism and artistry as it was when he was alive.

And still, it was a night of community, with The Revolution, Stokley Williams and the audience playing off of each other, feeding off of each other and simultaneously holding each other upwards in unison, for if we fell, they would fall and vice versa.

I sincerely would like to believe that if there was a way for Prince to have seen or felt this night, he would know just how loved he was by the musicians with whom he worked and the audience who listened and believed. Perhaps this night in its entirety was a bit of a smoke signal. If it was, I hope the message was received. But for The Revolution, I hope even more that they received the message from us of how loved they are and how thankful we were to host them in our city.
photo by Jami Phillips

All photos by Scott Collins except where indicated

CODA
I would like to share a story with you about what happened to me after the concert, something that seemed to place a wonderful period upon the night as a whole for me.

Upon leaving the Barrymore and after walking a couple of short blocks towards my car, I bid farewell to Kelly and Brian, climbed into my car and looked through a few of the pictures and videos I took during the show. I turned on my car and began to make my way towards home. And then, inspiration struck and I thought to myself simply, "Why not?"

Instead of heading home, I drove back to the Barrymore and into the small parking lot where The Revolution's tour truck had been stationed. I parked, looked out of my window and saw a few people holding albums standing by the trucks as the roadies loaded up the equipment. I listened for a moment and then, I saw him.

It was Dr. Fink himself signing a few albums and as I approached, I watched him pose for a few quick photos before he took off for the night. Very shortly thereafter, Bobby Z. walked outside and towards us. While he politely declined taking photos ("I'm really sweaty," he explained), he spent a few quick moments signing autographs and I  quietly asked if I could shake his hand, he obliged and I thanked him for coming. And with that, he was on his way as well.

Perhaps another five minutes or so later, I could not believe my eyes. Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman ventured outdoors and the fans called them over, to which they fully obliged, with Wendy, in particular, presenting herself as being quite gregarious and self-deprecating while Lisa quietly sauntered alongside her.

I could not believe it! Certainly, as a teenager, I housed little crushes on both Wendy and Lisa but it was the sensation and realization that these two figures, musicians I deeply revere, women who I have seen on film, in videos, photos and magazines for over 30 years were now standing directly in front of me and the significance completely disarmed me.

Wendy Melvoin stopped directly in front of me and smiled as she took my hand and gave it a lengthy handshake.  "Hi," I said, hearing my voice crack and suddenly, I was overcome and I began to cry. I was stammering and I felt so embarrassed, and yet, Wendy continued to smile and hold my hand.
     "Are you feeling verklempt?" she asked me.
     "Yes," I choked out.
     "Me too," said Wendy, still holding my hand and we began to laugh. Any tension on my part evaporating in seconds.

It was all a fumble of appreciative words but I was glad that I could tell her not only how much Prince meant to me but how much she and Lisa mean to me as I do indeed possess all of their post Revolution albums, an acknowledgement that Wendy seemed to be most appreciative of as she continued to smile as she bowed in gratitude. When I told her that I hoped that she and Lisa woud make another album one day, she replied that she would love to but her commitment is currently to the band and it may not look right if they did an album quite yet. And then, she took her time shaking more hands, posing for photos and signing albums.

Lisa Coleman eventually found her way to me and I was overcome all over again. She shook my hand delicately and just exuded such warmth as I was a teary, inarticulate mess. She smiled as well and soon said, "I love your hat!"

Huh?

"Fishbone," she said. Oh yeah...I was wearing my Fishbone baseball cap, the very one I purchased at their show nearly two months ago. And then, we had a short conversation about Fishbone, and my life as a preschool teacher and community radio DJ before we each wished each other safe travels before departing our separate ways.

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were nicer and kinder than they had any right to be and they each gave me a moment that I will remember forever, a moment that fully encapsulated the richness of this night. I had forgotten my camera in the car and I had nothing for them to sign. And there was so, so much that I wished to say and ask but I didn't wish to be a pest and again, I was overcome.

THANK YOU to The Revolution for coming to my city and I sincerely hope that you make a return trip one day. THANK YOU to Wendy and Lisa for just being so personable, so inviting and just plain nice to me.

And to Prince...THANK YOU. That's all I can say...THANK YOU.

Friday, May 5, 2017

AIMEE MANN with JONATHAN COULTON LIVE AT THE BARRYMORE THEATER MAY 2, 2017

AIMEE MANN
with JONATHAN COULTON
BARRYMORE THEATER
MADISON, WI
MAY 2, 2017

Aimee Mann: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar
Jay Bellerose: Drums, Percussion
Paul Bryan: Bass Guitar, Vocals
Jamie Edwards: Piano, Keyboards, Synths, Vocals
with
Jonathan Coulter: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano

I first experienced the music of Aimee Mann live in concert fifteen years ago, as she was touring in support of her gorgeously devastating album "Lost In Space" (released August 27, 2002). 

While having been a longtime fan of Mann's even at that point in my life, yet not having the chance to see a concert by her, I remember feeling more than unsure as to what kind of a show I would be witness to. There was no question about the songs themselves in regards to quality, especially after riding the wave of critical and commercial success with her stunning music from Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" (1999) and her equally brilliant opening shot as an independent artist, "Bachelor No. 2 or The Last Remains Of The Dodo" (released May 2, 2000), her third solo album.

The curious question I had to myself was housed in the fact that Aimee Mann is not known for composing music that could be perceived as being "fun" and definitely not "frivolous," with many selections adhering to a somber, mid tempo to slow pace. Would the night be, oh...a depressing one, so to speak?

Additionally, while Mann's songs are undeniably warm, they are equally more than acerbic, eliciting an aching bittersweetness that has long since become her trademark. That being said, I had rarely seen an interview with her at that time so I had nothing to gauge her actual personality on. Certainly, through her music, she possessed a tremendous amount of empathy. But she also seemed to be somewhat icy and unknowable, making me question if she was mining variations of her own mental state and emotional territories for her music. Frankly, did she even posses a sense of humor? Remember, she had not yet established her reputation for droll comedy. "Funny Or Die" and "Portlandia" did not yet exist. And with "Lost In Space" proving itself to be her darkest material to date at that time, I was unsure as to how she would perform her show.

To my surprise, the "Lost In Space" show was filled end-to-end with strong rock and roll energy as Mann and her crack band perform brought out the power in her specialized brand of power pop yet without sacrificing any of the nuances and delicate textures that make her songs so idiosyncratic and identifiable. And as an added bonus, what surprised me most was Aimee Mann's in-between song banter, which was often extremely funny and filled with a self-deprecation that ran in contrast with the melancholic qualities of her own music. She smiled and laughed easily, as if she were tickled with herself  and the qualities of her chosen craft and her genuine, unpretentious nature warmed the entire night, which built upwards throughout the audience as we sang along heartedly...as if we were in some sort of a musical group therapy.

It was a wonderful night (one that was richly shared alongside an equally wonderful friend), so much so that I knew that if I had the opportunity to see Aimee Mann again, I would not waste the chance.
So...here we are. 15 years later, with seven more albums under her belt and her existence as an independent artist having paid off handsomely, Aimee Mann returned to my city and the Barrymore Theater, more specifically, and over the course of around 1 hour and 45 minutes, Mann and her core band performed an eloquent, elegant concert that beautifully showcased the shimmering textures of her latest album "Mental Illness" (released March 31, 2017) and more.

Unlike the recent, and astonishing, performance I had previously witness from The Flaming Lips, which contained all manner of outstanding special effects, Aimee Mann achieved something of equal standing (and I think some would argue, to an even higher standing). Mann illustrated that in this bombastic age of 21st century musical excess, from singing and performing to theatrical effects, the greatest special effect one could have, so to speak, is the material itself. In the case of Aimee Mann, her vast catalog of musical riches, combined with the plaintive qualities of her voice are special effects no one but her could engineer as distinctly and often, as powerfully.
The evening began with Jonathan Coulton, performing in support of what I have discovered is his ninth solo album entitled "Solid State" (released April 28, 2017), a work Coulton wryly described as being a sci-fi concept album about technology and complete with a full graphic novel--"This isn't 1974! Who wants a concept album about robots?" he quipped.

Appearing as if he exited either his high school English class or collegiate T.A. session group and headed straight to the stage, Jonathan Couton's witty, melancholic songs of 21st century middle age angst carried a lyrical astuteness and vocal tenor that often recalled someone like Ben Folds, or even Mann's former co-conspirator Jon Brion, while his expert acoustic guitar work often reminded me of Pete Townshend,
Coulton was a terrific opening act, a performer who could not have been more tailor made to support Aimee Mann, even if he was not upon Mann's record label and also even if she had not sung backing vocals upon his album. But he is and she did and the twosome made for a splendid pairing as Aimee Mann herself popped on-stage during Coulton's set to join him on two selections as well as some often laugh out loud stage banter, which displayed their clear affection, rapport and respect towards each other, all of which carried over into the fullness of the Barrymore.
By the time Aimee Mann began her headlining portion of the show, she strode on-stage confidently, with her right hand man, bassist/vocalist/producer Paul Bryan in tow, as they opened with the stark "4th Of July" from her debut solo album "Whatever" (released May 11, 1993), a song I have loved for so long that hearing it on this night made it feel like a reunion with an old friend. Shortly thereafter, the duo of Mann and Bryan were joined by keyboardist/vocalist Jamie Edwards, drummer/percussionist Jay Bellerose.  

Jonathan Coulton returned to the stage and repaid the favor given to him earlier in the evening by performing with the band on the tracks from "Mental Illness" which he co-wrote with Mann, including the mournful "Good For Me," and the heartaching "You Never Loved Me," songs that sparkled with glistening and pristine three part vocal harmonies from Countol, Bryan and Mann. .

What struck me about this night, as Aimee Mann and her first rate band traveled confidently through her vast catalog, including a suite of songs from her treasured "Magnolia" period, was that the evening was not one of emotional catharsis for me, much as it had been for the first time that I had seen her and even in comparison to the recent shows that I have witnessed from the aforementioned performance by The Flaming Lips as well as with Fishbone. Yes, I urge you to not take that statement as existing and any form of criticism, for the show was a perfect one from start to finish. There was nothing that I could have asked for that was not already delivered beautifully by Aimee Mann and her band.

Certainly Aimee Mann's music, as presented on this night as well as within the entirety of "Mental Illness," was not designed to be overtly dramatic, so to speak. It was an evening of subtlety and nuance, her music functioning almost as chamber pop. All of the music arrangements were more than notable in their sparseness--quite the feat if you have listened to the studio wonders created on her albums from the beginning--a feature that was also reflected within the stage set-up, which possessed nothing but the most essential tools: the musicians, their instruments and the stage lighting. Intimacy was paramount and the overall effect was filled with grace and generosity.
Additionally, the inclusiveness of the night was unquestionably found within (again) Aimee Mann's wonderful sense of humor, which she displayed over and again. Her story and intro to "You Never Loved Me," for instance, was priceless in its honesty laced with a cheerful vulgarity.

Most notably, when Jonathan Coulter returned to the stage, he and Mann simply chatted a bit back and forth, making each other laugh with inside jokes and wry asides, all of which translated extremely well. Mann, after flubbing her own opening lyrics to "Stuck In The Past," led to an impromptu joke at the expense of a certain celebrity figure who now happens to be President of the United States, found the Barrymore audience erupting in laughter. Everyone on stage looked to perfectly relaxed and comfortable, with each other as well as the material, which was exquisitely performed, never maudlin at any moment, nor cynical, embittered and definitely not humorless.

Aimee Mann's performance for me was not about being a night of epiphanies and frankly, it never needed to be. For me, it was most reminiscent of the performance I saw by World Party back in 2015, also one where the studio wizardry of the band's discography was stripped down to its most naked elements. For Aimee Mann, the only spectacle of the evening were the songs themselves, brightly shining stars that have endured for the duration of her career and have no fear of dimming anytime soon.

And in turn, the bright shining stars that are the songs reflected their brilliance directly back to their creator, a singer/songwriter of immeasurable talents and one for whom we should never take for granted as their are so very few in her league operating at her level. And still, she makes it all look so easy (!) as her demeanor throughout the night was practically breezy, despite the darkness and anguish contained within her music and the seriousness and purity of her delivery.

Aimee Mann is an artist of which there is no artifice or self-important and ironic detachment. She was fully engaged, so present and giving, as if she had welcomed us into her home for a night of stories and songs.

But, on the contrary, we welcomed her into ours, and believe me, we will be thrilled to have her return whenever she possesses the wish.
All photos by Scott Collins

WSPC'S SESSION NOTES FOR MAY 2017

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

As the band XTC sang and performed upon their blissful album "Nonsuch" released 25 years ago on April 27, 1992, "Books Are Burning."

Yes, dear readers and listeners, books are indeed burning, so to speak, as each day of our human history feels increasingly precarious as the ones holding the keys to the kingdom are all heartless rulers with an equally increasingly shocking sense of disregard for human decency and empathy. We don't need to get into every little and big thing that has happened. But, as I write on May 5, 2017, the dark clouds are not only swirling, they are growing heavier and darker.

In recent months upon my Savage Radio show, I have been ending each episode by saying the words, "Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other." This has been a purposeful move on my part to try and show some sense of solidarity without saying anything overtly political. I mean it with every piece of myself each and every time I say those words because I firmly believe that now, more than at any other time in recent years, we should be watching out for each other, for each other is all that we have, despite how conspiring forces attempt to tear us all apart.

In addition to showing the empathy and decency that our leaders refuse to elicit, I feel that we must continue to keep living as best as we are able and keep forging connections with each other to increase our collective bond. For the purposes of this blogsite, finding connections through music whether by going to record stores and concerts or just talking about and sharing what we have all been listening to is more paramount than it may seem.

Think about all of the connections you have made within your lives that have occurred solely through music. In fact, my first college roommate became instant friends entirely by sharing the same musical preferences, something that was witnessed and discovered when I first looked at his milk crate of CDs nearly 30 years ago when we first met in our dorm room. He and I remain friends to this day and it just amazes me of how easily it happened--he loved the music of Yes and Pink Floyd and so did I.

It was just that simple.

So, honestly, truthfully, no matter what happens, let's continue to take care of ourselves and take care of each other in whichever ways we are able in matters large and small. And hey, keep listening to the music, for music will never fail.

PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

WSPC PLAYLIST APRIL 2017

April 1, 2017
"Description Of A Fool" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Skankin' To The Beat" performed by Fishbone
"My Love Explodes" performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphear

"If I Should Die Tonight" performed by Marvin Gaye

April 2, 2017
"Bloom" (live) performed by Radiohead
"Shake Hands With Danger" (live) performed by Tortoise
"Careful With That Axe, Eugene" (live) performed by Pink Floyd
"There Should Be Unicorns" (live) performed by The Flaming Lips
"Watcher Of The Skies" (live) performed by Genesis

"Born With The Blues" performed by Lonnie Brooks
"Walkin' Out The Door' performed by The Detroit Blues Band
"Our Love" performed by Gary Clark Jr.-WSPC PREMIERE

April 3, 2017
"Bach Cello Suite #1" performed by Yo Yo Ma

"Fishy Swa Ska" (live 2017) performed by Fishbone
"Armagideon Time" performed by The Clash
"Possessed" (unreleased) performed by Prince

April 4, 2017
"Election Day" performed by Arcadia

April 6, 2017
"Long Long Road" performed by Paul Weller-WSPC PREMIERE
"Cruise" performed by David Gilmour

April 7, 2017
"Time Is Running Out" performed by Steve Winwood
"Battle Cry" performed by Jack White-WSPC PREMIERE
"I'm So Afraid" (live 1976) performed by Fleetwood Mac

"Sample And Hold" (live in Berlin 1982) performed by Neil Young
"I Know There's Something Going On" performed by Frida
"This Is Love" performed by Tony Banks
"Reap The Wild Wind" performed by Ultravox
"Goodbye Is Forever" performed by Arcardia
"Love Is The Drug" performed by Roxy Music

April 8, 2017
"Don't Kill The Whale" performed by Yes
"Animal" performed by Pearl Jam
"Proposition" performed by Duran Duran

'Drum Duet" performed by Buddy Rich and Ed Shaughnessy (live on "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson" 1978)
"Whiteout Conditions" performed by The New Pornographers-WSPC PREMIERE
"Goose Snow Cone" performed by Aimee Mann-WSPC PREMIERE

April 9, 2017
"Blinded By The Light" performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band
"This Song Has No Title" performed by Elton John
"Don't You Ever Learn?" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Ripe (With Decay)" performed by Nine Inch Nails

"Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?" performed by Kaki King

April 10, 2017
"My Ever Changing Moods" performed by The Style Council

"All Join In" performed by Temples-WSPC PREMIERE
"Turning Japanese" performed by The Vapors
"Let's Go To Bed" performed by The Cure
"Let Me Out" performed by Gorillaz featuring Pusha T and Mavis Staples-WSPC PREMIERE
"Power To The People" performed by Public Enemy

"Immigrant Song" (live) performed by Led Zeppelin

April 11, 2017
"Till Next Tuesday" performed by James Iha
"Bruised But Not Broken" performed by Joss Stone
"Monkey Man" performed by The Rolling Stones
"Dolly" performed by Nicky Hopkins
"Flamethrower" performed by J. Geils Band

April 12, 2017
"Giant Steps" performed by John Coltrane
"A Love Supreme" performed by John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana
"One Last Kiss" performed by The J. Geils Band
"Sleepless Night" performed by The Kinks
"All Blues" performed by Miles Davis

"We Got Married" performed by Paul McCartney

April 13, 2017
"Deaf Ears" performed by Todd Rundgren featuring Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross-WSPC PREMIERE
"Truth" performed by Kamasi Washington-WSPC PREMIERE
Explosions In The Sky--FULL performance live on KEXP September 3, 2016

"Bombs Away" performed by The Police
"Distant Early Warning" performed by Rush
"Power" performed by Planet P. Project
"Power" performed by Tears For Fears
"Red Rain" performed by Peter Gabriel

April 14, 2017
"Heaven On Their Minds" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973)

"In My World" performed by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie-WSPC PREMIERE
"White Light" performed by Real Estate-WSPC PREMIERE
"Simple Fix" performed by Aimee Mann-WSPC PREMIERE
"I Don't Know How To Love Him" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1970)
"Passion" performed by Peter Gabriel

April 15, 2017
"Taxman, Mr. Thief" performed by Cheap Trick
"What Do You Do For Money" performed by AC/DC
"Did You Steal My Money?" performed by Pete Townshend
"Money's Too Tight (To Mention)" performed by Simply Red
"Got Your Money" performed by Ol' Dirty Bastard
"Money Talks" performed by Rick James

"Cross My Heart" performed by Melody's Echo Chamber-WSPC PREMIERE

April 16, 2017
"Couldn't I Just Tell You" performed by The Lemon Twigs and Todd Rundgren (live at Coachella 2017)

"Judas" performed by Esperanza Spalding
"Mary Magdalene" performed by Patty Larkin
"The Resurrection" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973)
"It Is Accomplished" performed by Peter Gabriel

"Jesus Is Just Alright" performed by The Doobie Brothers
"Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea" performed by Zwan

April 17, 2017
"Girl Loves Me" performed by David Bowie
"Chelsea Lovers" performed by Dave Stewart
"A Fan's Mail (Tron Song II)" (live) performed by Thundercat-WSPC PREMIERE
"Snake Oil" performed by Tony Williams

April 18, 2017
"Ballad Of The Dying Man" performed by Father John Misty-WSPC PREMIERE
"Answering Bell" performed by Ryan Adams
"Consolers Of The Lonely" performed by The Raconteurs
"Houses Of The Holy" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Armor And Sword" performed by Rush

"DNA" performed by Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE

April 20, 2017
"Did You Miss Me" performed by Lindsey Buckingham
"Missing" performed by Everything But The Girl
"Say You Miss Me" performed by Wilco

"Hi Hi Hi" performed by Paul McCartney
"Do You Wanna Get High?" performed by Weezer
"Southbound" performed by The Allman Brothers Band
"Itchycoo Park" performed by The Small Faces
"Let's Go Get Stoned" performed by Ray Charles
PRINCE ROGERS NELSON
JUNE 7, 1958-APRIL 21, 2016
REST IN POWER
April 21, 2017
"Sometimes It Snows In April"
"Comeback"
"The One"
"Cinnamon Girl"
"Chocolate Box"
"ANOTHERLOVE"
"Bambi" performed live with 3RDEYEGIRL
"Chaos And Disorder" performed live with 3RDEYEGIRL
"Pop Life/Life Can Be So Nice" performed live with The Revolution
"A Love Bizarre" performed live with The Revolution and Shelia E.

April 22, 2017

HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY/EARTH DAY 2017
"(Nothing) But Flowers" performed by Talking Heads
"Spiral" performed by XTC
"Big Ten Inch Record" performed by Aerosmith
"Rise" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Song For A Dying Planet' performed by Joe Walsh
"Nature Girl" performed by World Party
"45 RPM" performed by The Alarm
"Cosmically Conscious" performed by Paul McCartney

"Smell The Roses" performed by Roger Waters-WSPC PREMIERE

April 23, 2017

PRINCE TRIBUTE CONTINUES...
"Wonderful Ass" (unreleased)
"Joy In Repetition" (live)
"Electric Intercourse" (unreleased)
"4Ever"
"Freaks On This Side"
"Habibi"
"Silver Tongue"
"Arboretum"
"Deliverence" -IN ITS ENTIRETY-WSPC PREMIERE

April 24, 2017
"Goin' On" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Gimmie All Your Love" performed by Alabama Shakes
"Little Black Submarines" performed by The Black Keys
"Entrance Song" performed by The Black Angels
"Dis Generation" performed by A Tribe Called Quest

April 25, 2017
"1-2-3" performed by Len Barry

"Mr. Ambulance Driver" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Darlinghurst Nights" performed by The Go-Betweens
"Ocean City Girl" performed by Ivy
"Achmed Flyger" performed by Dungen
"Agaetis Byrjun" performed by Sigur Ros
"Fixing A Hole" performed by Electric Wurms

April 27, 2017
"Carpet Crawlers" performed by Genesis
"Love Forever" performed by Oasis
"Temptation" performed by New Order

"Space Oddity" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Listen To The Rhythm Of The Falling Rain" performed by The Cascades
"J-Boy" performed by Phoenix-WSPC PREMIERE
"It's Raining Again" performed by Supertramp
"Drinking Again" performed by Dinah Washington

April 28, 2017
"Shake Your Body Down" performed by The Laurie Berkner Band

"Long Time Coming" performed by Cheap Trick-WSPC PREMIERE
"Little Sister" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age
"Baby Driver" performed by KISS
"Black Diamond" (live 6-14-12) performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Told You I'd Be With The Guys" performed by Cherry Glazerr-WSPC PREMIERE
"Stay Sharp" performed by Skyline Sounds

April 29, 2017
"When I Grow Up" performed by The Beach Boys
"Growing Pains" performed by Tim Finn
"The Rest Of My Life" performed by Sloan
"Slit Skirts" performed by Pete Townshend
"When I Grow Up" performed by Garbage

April 30, 2017
"Andromeda" performed by Gorillaz-WSPC PREMIERE
"Celebrate" performed by Little Dragon-WSPC PREMIERE
"Protect Ya Neck (The Drop Off)" performed by The Wu-Tang Clan
"Whoodeeni" performed by De La Soul with 2 Chainz
"Electric Intercourse" performed by Prince-WSPC PREMIERE

Friday, April 28, 2017

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS APRIL 2017: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #72: SPECIAL TWO HOUR EDITION-APRIL 5, 2017-HOUR ONE
1. "25 O'Clock" performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphear
2. "Follow The Leader" performed by Foxygen
3. "My Ever Changing Moods" performed by The Style Council
4. "Party At Ground Zero" performed by Fishbone
5. "Rope" performed by Foo Fighters
6. "Never Seeing The Ground For The Sky" performed by Sloan
7. "Cheese Cake" performed by Aerosmith
8. "Anything I Say To You Now" performed by Ryan Adams
9. "Mission: Submission" performed by TV Eyes

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #72: SPECIAL TWO HOUR EDITION-APRIL 5, 2017-HOUR TWO
10."One Of These Days" performed by Pink Floyd
11."Erase/Rewind" performed by The Cardigans
12."Boy Or A Girl" performed by Imperial Drag
13."Androgyny" performed by Garbage
14."Be Strong Now" performed by James Iha
15."April 5th" performed by Talk Talk
16."How Lucky Am I?" performed by The Lemon Twigs
17."Lucky And Unhappy" performed by Air
18."Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control" performed by Tame Impala
19."Umbrella Man" performed by Utopia

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #73: "A TRIBUTE TO PRINCE"-APRIL 19, 2017
1. "Thunder" performed by Prince and the New Power Generation
2. "The Belle Of St Mark" performed by Shelia E.
3. "He's So Dull" performed by Vanity 6
4. "The Walk" performed by The Time
5. "Six And 1/2" performed by Madhouse
6. "Nothing Compares 2 U" performed by The Family
7. "Love Sign" performed by Nona Gaye and O+>
8. "Dream Factory" performed by Prince
9. "I'm Yours" performed by Prince

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX APRIL 2017

"VOLCANO"
TEMPLES
Released March 3, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: It has been three long years since I first fell in love with Temples and their specialized brand of 21st century psychedelia courtesy of their debut album "Sun Structures" (released February 5, 2014).

Where their first album conveyed a certain soundscape of being caught in the middle of some kind of dark London underground club circa 1968, Temples has evolved its sound into something more overtly modern yet without sacrificing the huge, melodic qualities that made their debut such a stunner. But, was it enough?

"Volcano," the band's second album, is a melodically rich and beautifully loud album filled with booming production and cavernous sound where an army of keyboards and synthesizers are the dominant instruments (save for Samuel Toms' drums) on display. Now this is not meant to foreshadow any negative commentary. I love the superb wash of the synthetic 88's but I do wish that the alteration in sound made for a collection of better songs overall.

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed tracks like "Certainty," the glorious album closer "Strange Or Be Forgotten" and the terrific "I Wanna Be Your Mirror" among others, but for much of the album, the songs tended to blend and bleed together and leaving not much of an impression, instead of making my ears pop in excitement, much like their debut. .

Now, never fear. "Volcano" does not represent a sophomore slump or creative stumble. Just an album that ushers in a bold new sound but is still a tad tentative to really make that great leap. Temples had that great album in them, I think...and I am happy to follow and wait for its full arrival.
"IN MIND"
REAL ESTATE
Released March 17, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: Sometimes, the arrival of Spring is perfectly announced through the music of Real Estate as their specialized blend of gorgeously languid, dreamy interweaves of guitars, sighing vocals and tempos that conjure the mood of listening to new grass growing and the Earth itself gently warming after a bitter Winter.

While their fourth album "In Mind," features a personnel change as original member singer/guitarist Matt Mondanile departed the band to focus full time on his excellent Ducktails project, a move that now finds guitarist Julian Lynch joining the fold, Real Estate's signature musical palate, one that suggests a combination of The Byrds, The Feelies and The Smiths, has remained as blissfully steadfast as ever.

Now for some, the musical sameness may strike listeners as Real Estate being trapped within some sort of creative stagnation. But, I don't think that fans of the band are looking for them to re-invent themselves from album to album--at least, I'm not. With Real Estate, I may not get the album that re-invents the wheel, so to speak, but I do know what I will receive, making any new effort feel like receiving the warmest messages from a friend.

And when those guitars announce themselves upon the album's opening track "Darling," and continue onwards towards the lovely album closer "Saturday," I am simply happy.
"DREAMING OF REVENGE"
KAKI KING
Released March 11, 2008
"CHIM CHIM'S BADASS REVENGE"
FISHBONE
Released May 21, 1996
"ON AN ISLAND"
DAVID GILMOUR
Released March 6, 2006
"MENTAL ILLNESS"
AIMEE MANN
Released March 31, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: The cat nearly did me in.

In the music video for "Goose Snow Cone," the debut single and opening track from Aimee Mann's undeniably moving 11th solo album, we are treated to a short story of a cat parent dealing with the illness of her treasured feline friend. Cutting to the chase, the video contains a happy ending but even so, (and especially as I am a cat parent to two beloved feline friends and endured the devastating loss of my first treasured feline companion many years ago), the images immediately brought tears to my eyes--tears that were truly earned through the images propelled by the honestly and overall compassion of the music itself, which contains Mann's most delicate, stripped down arrangements to date.

"Mental Illness," which Mann has described as containing her "slowest, saddest and most acoustic" music yet, is exactly as advertised. Working again with her longtime producer Paul Bryan (hmmmm...whatever happened to Jon Brion?), Mann has envisioned her latest collection of character studies, intimate portraits and interior monologues as explorations of specific mental states, all fueled by sounds of chamber pop merged with 1970's easy listening.

In fact, quite often, I found myself feeling that these songs, with their stunning harmony vocals (the background singing in the piano ballad "Good For Me" is especially killer, for instance) and other accouterments would not have sounded terribly out of place on an album by Burt Bacharach or better yet, The Carpenters, that is if Richard Carpenter's orchestrations were toned down (no disrespect to R.C.).

To my ears, what Aimee Mann has achieved, especially in this age of mega-excess--from singing to production, all signifying nothing) is truly masterful and I would urge aspiring songwriters to take heed of her qualities as there are quite few in her league. With this album, Mann demonstrates how less is so powerfully more as the instrumentation is essentially built around acoustic guitar, bass, minimal; drums and percussion, some piano, those aforementioned string arrangements and harmony vocals and of course, the heart and soul of the album itself, the lyrics and voice of Aimee Mann, which contains a rich sense of gravity and empathy for her new cast of characters.

From the cat inspired "Goose Snow Cone," to the adrenaline junkie ("Rollercoasters"), the romantically rejected ("You Never Loved Me"), the bipolar grifter ("Lies Of Summer"), the soon to be eaten alive hopeful young actor ("Patient Zero") plus six more tales of woe, Aimee Mann's "Mental Illness" is a emotionally affecting work filled with cryptic metaphors yet miraculously dives straight for your heart while never growing maudlin or overwrought--just brilliantly direct in its melancholic eloquence and elegance.
"TIME MACHINE"
THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS
Released March 14, 2014
"THE TERROR"
THE FLAMING LIPS
Released April 1, 2013
"EMBRYONIC"
THE FLAMING LIPS
Released October 13, 2009
"AT WAR WITH THE MYSTICS"
THE FLAMING LIPS"
Released April 3, 2006