Shark Jumps Man!or How Lucius Beebe Saved the Universe
Peaches En Randalia #17
Againsweet music is turned sideways, dig.
Alright. Recently, I was fortunate enough to get criticized by a few folks for being too trivial, non-committal and evasive in my columnsthe infamous Peaches En Randalia. Whywhen you runneth off the mouth in your featuresdo you write such impersonal, vague and incomprehensible columns? Dont you take your responsibilities seriously as one of the second generation, senior members of the Jambands.com smoking club? Why not be more helpful? Try, just try, to be relevant. Attempt coherent sound writing.
Wellthat was quite a haranguing diatribe but I belabor the point. Features, you say? I am only there to hold the candle to the painting. It is easy to interview someone; my opinion is not necessary in the conversation whereas in a column it is ALL about me and I write like Trey Anastasio plays musicnowhere to go but updownallaroundandbackagain.
Jambands.com caught up with me in a last ditch effort to save my column from oblivion on a late Monday eve as I sat innocently on the couch after yet another long weekend of transcribing another heady interview while J.K.s seventh sat waiting after my wife had devoured its deathly hallowed ground. I deigned to speak to the aging upstart Mr. Jambands.com and get on with the feeble inquisition.
Shall we goyou and Iwhile we can?
JB: When did you go to Owl Farm to speak with HSTs widow, Anita?
RR: Uh, how do you know about that?
JB: You live on our server.
RR: Ummmwell, I dont talk about work-in-progress. Even my wife doesnt know what I do. Hell, Im not even allowed to know what Im doing. Which is a good thing. I think. I dont think that Hunter S. Thompson doo wag is for the site. Thats for something old school paper-y or maybe not. Im supposed to be staying home this yearyou know what I always say: If its good enough for Ernie and Cactus, its good enough for me. Unless, of course, your name is Budnick, Jarnow, Eisen or Greenhaus, I dont answer those whatareyaworkinon questions.
JB: Fair enough. Whos your favorite Beatle?
RR: Dean, of course; although, Jarnow gets a lot of fan mail from me. Eisen had the best solo album and Greenhaus is the rock we cling to so it depends on the song, you know?
Then againis zzyzx George Martin or is Dr. Dean Lennon, McCartney and Martin? Maybe, hes Harrison, too. I would think Steinberg is Ringo Harrison. There you go.
JB: That road led to John Wesley Harding, Dylans first post-motorcycle accident album and The Bands first album entitled, well, entitled Music from Big Pink. My road, lo and behold, leads to the search for that which provides everlasting substance. The poem? It was easy, man, writing underneath that tree, its just going to be you and me…yeah, under that Apple Suckling Tree…damn, Dylan and The Band were out on The Edge on these numbers. Clocks didnt exist in the Big Pink in 1967. Timelessness was a blissful king ruling a besotted, napalm-scorched soul of a nation. Clocks didnt exist, the king repeated again while falling back to sleep. Time has no meaning there.
What the freakin hell were you talking about when you wrote that drivel for last months columnand you realize that Peaches En Randalia should be Peaches en Randalia? Advil, please. I thought you were the site copy editor or something?
RR: Ill take the latter and work backwards because, dig, Im an old Bisco kid at heart. I copy edit when I have time because I love the site. Always have. Ive respected Budnick since the days of new net lore and Eisen and Jarnow helped create something that was truly magical a long time ago that continues to spark interest. Having said that, I miss Waful and wish hed write more and think that David Steinberg is one of the most underrated cultural writers on any scenepast or present. Hence, Im a fan boy like all the rest and I dont acknowledge that fact enoughIm proud of my current involvement.
My column is titled En instead of en because Ive always been a little bent. Did I tell you I met Weir at the Roo this year? We hung out for about five years; although, Bobby would say it was five minutes, dig. Ill cover that sound bite tangent a little later. Maybe.
Last months column about Dylan and the Band and stream-of-consciousness and the light bulb going off and on and now, sideways? I was speaking about Bonnaroo 2007.
JB: Since you brought it upwhat did you think of last months festival?
RR: Here is what I wrote about Friday and Saturday for Dean and the Bonnaroo Beacon. Ill do the Thursday and Sunday bookends a little later on (Set II sandwich?) Wouldnt want to be predictable; NO SETLISTS. How about next month like an old Phish show?
Another Roo Day in Paradise Friday, June 15
Dispelling the myth that less is more and refinement saves the day, Friday brought a healthy dose of global diversity. The lineup continued to challenge barriers and preconceived musical notions of what can exist on a festival bill. One could easily circle the planet, cross the Atlantic or dive down into a South American rain forest. Then again, what distinguished Fridays cross-cultural extravaganza was the nearly ageless energy level of the musicians, serving as a reminder that youth does not always corner the market on cool, contemporary music.
The Richard Thompson BandThe Other Tent-2pm>
The day began with a large helping of blues rockthe Richard Thompson grit, intensity and fire that has marked his career. His laudatory past exploits from the Fairport Convention to an extraordinary solo career lent well to the Bonnaroo spirit. The crowd welcomed Thompsons band with a lusty roar before delivering a blend of hard rockers and soul music. Perhaps more to the point, Thompson set a high standard for the day by playing music that got the audience to their feet and responding in a volley of loud approval. And thats what its all about.
Alexa Ray JoelTroo Music Lounge2:45pm>
Alexa Ray Joel had a challenge. How does one face a crowd without having the heavy image of her famous father, Billy Joel, hanging in the background? She solved this issue by singing a mixture of strong originals and well-selected pop standards in a blue summer dress. Joel had an easy grace with a comfortable stage presence, range and chutzpah, easily blending disparate cover material from Billie Holliday and Bonnie Raitt.
The Nightwatchman-That Tent-4pm>
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine gave a very spirited solo acoustic show that was laced with biting political commentary. This was not your typical sedate acoustic setting. In a nutshell, he stated his creed as one day at a time. One venue at a time. We are liberating territorythis is the Peoples Republic of Bonnaroo, and later after hearing the synergy between himself and the overflowing tent audience, he confirmed: the best crowd is in Tennessee. Let Freedom Ring from his new solo CD was one of the more raucous performances before Morello played a version of Woody Guthries This Land is Your Land with the provocative original lyrics intact. Morello gave a haunting performance that sounded like he was also channeling the muse of Johnny Cash.
Brazilian Girls-Sonic Stage-5:30pm>
Small scale in stage setup only, the Girls played fluid versions of Latin jazz salsa that didnt fail to lift into a weird, flying reggae carpet. The band took a locked-in groove and rode the back of the worm while effortlessly altering tempo. When they werent delivering on a funked-out promise of a melody, the band was chopping musical passages and reassembling them without missing a beatBrazil via the streets of New York.
The Roots-What Stage-6:15pm>
The Roots laid down the gauntlet. Any doubt about their genres demise? Not quite yet. The Philadelphia band kept hip-hop relevant with an exhilarating tight but loose jam combo of Chuck D, Sly Stone, Cab Calloway and Jaco Pastoriuscomplete with a mish mash mix of In A Gadda Da Vida. Their sampling of a wide range of music interspersed with clever lyrics and a charging anthemic groove served notice that The Roots earned their spot on the main stage. If there was a crowd-pleasing highlight for the day, the Roots confidently laid claims to a portion of that ethereal prize.
Manu Chao Radio Bemba Sound System-Which Stage-7pm>
Describing the massive euphoric ska rush of Manu Chao isnt easya genre-defying band deconstructing rhythm to invent passages of percussion-crushing post-reggae heavy metal jam. Or something especially descriptive like that. When not peeling the sound layers to incorporate many forms of dance-oriented breakdowns, Manu Chao also tossed in their fair share of Eastern psychedelica, taboot. Spain via France with an outlet through Jamaica and West Africa was explored in an easy chameleon fashion.
Bang Bang Bang-Blue Room Cafpm>
Alrightrock n roll! shouted a festival-goer when the band hit the stage in full de rigueur Southern rock attire with Les Pauls hanging like electric monoliths. And it was an apt comment as the day had delivered an exotic menu and the need for pure, hard rock in its truest form was warmly welcomed. Lest we forget the smaller tents and upcoming bands, Nashvilles Bang Bang Bang played classic hard rock riffs filtered into a punk rock slant on AC/DC although surprising detours occurred as they were also able to lay down fine improvisatory jam passages, as well.
A light break before the next round of heavy music ensued. Sasha Baron Cohens deadly accurate portrayal of the American rules of the game elicited the requisite relief to a standing room only crowd that grazed on popcorn and our frequent social disgraces courtesy the wit of Borat as played by the British comedian.
Superjam-The Other Tent-Midnight>
After beginning the day with a British guitar legend, one felt compelled to end the night with another of the same rich melodic flavor. Led Zeppelin bass guitarist, John Paul Jones, led a supergroup comprised of Ben Harper on slide guitar and ?uestlove on drumswho incidentally had the quote of the day at an afternoon press conference when he was asked if he liked hippies. Hippies? ?uestlove deadpanned. They pay my bills. I love hippies. The band barreled through a healthy two-hour doze of Zeppelin classics including a lengthy Dazed and Confused jam sandwich filled with sections from How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown and Immigrant Song. When the superjam ended, a very long and passionate ovation filled the tentpartially to acknowledge the group, mainly Jones and his icon status but quite a bit more could be in response to a day of global diversity with all tests passed by artist and audience.
JB: And Saturday?
RR: Here you go:
Synchronicity Saturday, June 16
There is that point at the high peak of a jam where a musician finds a way to reach beyond ones skills and bring everyone just a wee bit higher. After Fridays colossal highlight reel leading to Tools Main Stage gig and the Superjam featuring Led Zeppelins John Paul Jones, Saturday delivered its true moment of transcendence. On the 40th Anniversary of the Monterey Pop Festival, the Police continued their triumphant return to the stage with a two-hour show covering a wide variety of their classic hits. Keeping to his word about lifting the Police to an A-game level at Bonnaroo, Stewart Copeland managed to pull out all the stops as he played drums and percussion sitting, standing, jogging and jumping, proving to be the bands secret MVP Policeman behind bassist/vocalist Sting and guitarist Andy Summers. [Peaches Note not included in the Beacon for diplomatic reasons: Sting/Summers sucked. Benjy Eisen: Randydid you like the Police? RR: No. I just didnt want to trash them in the piece.]
The day began like a litany of future superstars as Dr. Dog tore through an incendiary set of post-garage psychedelic rock in This Tent. Regina Spektor was overwhelmed by her Roo turnout on the Which Stage; the scene was hot, boisterous and emotional as her performance radiated from the strong communal reception. Gogol Bordello, meanwhile, was all dark side of the soul with a cavalier and infectious stab at performance art as a musical form via an Eastern European setting. John Paul White wooed an intimate crowd in the Troo Music Lounge while beaming Thom Yorke vocals through a reading of ELOs Cant Get It Out of My Head.
Not to be overshadowed by their younger brethren, Hot Tunafeaturing two Monterey Pop fest alumni Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonenoffered 100% genuine old school blues in the Other Tent while Warren Haynes played a solo acoustic set at the Sonic Stage while quipping that he began guitar at the age of seven and started with [Haynes played the Smoke on the Water riff] and then learned [he vamped on Louie Louie.].
Speaking of tales of birth and traditionthe afternoon press conference featured Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and Bob Weir in a panel discussion which turned lively when the two spoke of the legacy of the music festival. If I wasnt playing at Bonnaroo, said Coyne, Id still want to be here. Its an adventure. Weve got to live it with some sort of intensity and it is easy to get inspired here.
Weir was equally forthright about Bonnaroo and a poignant and timely question was asked about the Grateful Deads appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. It was the first rock n roll festival, said Weir. The party backstage was pretty damn wonderful. We had some fun jams including one with a guy in a headband. This kid plugs in; we clicked immediately. The kid turned out to be Jimi Hendrix and a legend was born.
With that in mind, Saturday continued its own path towards legendary status as Dublin, Irelands Damien Rice blanketed the crowd with his warm brand of acoustic tapestries.
The Hold Steady had more than a few raising their eyebrows as a large crowd embraced the banddouble neck Gibson guitar, piss and vinegar vocals and a cutting-edge indie hard rock tone that was the last stand on their American tour, according to lead singer, Craig Finn. He mentioned that it was good to see so many familiar faces, which furthered the curiosity about a band that has a small tribe following them around from town-to-town. Sound familiar? Perhaps that attribute is no longer the sole property of the jamband circuit. That ethereal dynamic was apparent also in the Firecracker Jazz Band performance in the Bonna Rouge tent as Dixieland came to Tennessee with the proper velvety ambience including some old fashioned NAwlins humidity. Meanwhile dragging entire continents along in his large muse bag, Xavier Rudd had his own version of musical topography with an amazing combination of Euro deep house sounds, traditional Australian outback music and various fringe Western rock strands.
The unique esprit de corps together with what was and what could be continued as the puzzle pieces started to finally fit together in the festival matrix. A complicated amalgamation of a festivals diversity based upon an echo of the Monterey Pop Festival came into view. Like so many things in life, the activity revolved around a childrens game (which somehow seems appropriate since Sunday is, indeed, Fathers Day.) What had to have been the worlds widest, most elongated Frisbee toss was taking place outside the Art of Such N Such late in the afternoonabout eight people in a football field-length rectangle encompassed a huge patch of grass while throwing the disc.
Once in a while, some random festeroo would join in and suddenly, the thought that a massive, improvisatory game of Frisbee was going to cover the entire festival grounds appeared possible. It didnt need to happen; but the thought that it could meant that seeing Hot Tuna after Regina Spektor alongside Ziggy Marley guesting with Ben Harper betwixt Ween, Spoon and Keller before the big Police reunion extravaganza prelude to the UFO landing at the Flaming Lips midnight show leading to Luther Dickinson, Bob Weir and John Paul Jones sitting in with Govt Mule after Galactic gathered half the continent to share a stage made a heck of a lot of sense. If the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival was the prototype for bringing diverse acts together in a multi-course sonic buffet then Bonnaroo 2007 updated the template to include a few new chapters in a grand musical tradition.
JB: Solet me see, for Saturday, you liked the Hold Steady and Friday, John Paul Jones.
RR: Not exactly, but yes. My column last month that you asked about? It was about the spirit of stream-of-consciousness. What I noticed at Bonnaroo last month was that the tone of the festival had changed and now bands that would hardly be called live champs were bringing their proverbial Roo A Game as Brendan Bayliss would call it but the bands werent necessarily improvising. The shows appeared rote and structured as if they could have been taking place anywhere at anytime. When Dylan played with the Band, the world appeared to be exploding and reborn all at once. At Bonnaroo, it appeared to be dying. Nothing epitomized that more to me than the Police. Not Stewart Copeland, of course. I think he gets itreally gets it. I credit Trey and Claypool for that but, then again, I think thats giving them too much credit. Copeland is smart. Hell, his whole family is extremely sharp if not a bit abrasive at times. Have you heard his soundtrack to the early 80s Coppola film based upon the great S.E. Hintons teenage angst novel, Rumble Fish? Great stuff that has a jazzy improv spirit within a rock milieu. Summers has lost his chops through no fault of his own other than age; Sting should have made that call to the official Andy residence in 1997, instead of 2007. As for Stinghis comment about Hello, Bonnaroo, Tennessee and then, more telling, Its great to see 80,000 Tennesseans at a festival where the majority of folks are definitely NOT from Tennesseehe doesnt get it nor will he ever get it. His only hip cards are Marsalis and Garcia but he writes simple little songs that have hooks and they stand the test of time and therein lies the dilemma. I dont give a fuck about pop songs. I dont want to remember specific melodies, lyrics or hooks. I want to remember the overall vibe of a performance. I want to see an artist reach outside of themselves to achieve something completely unexpected, beyond comprehension, and spontaneous with a whole lotta soul. THAT is why I lunged in desperation for the Basement Tapes when I returned home. I wanted to remember what real music was all about.
JB: Was it the acts at the festival that you were so repelled by or something else?
RR: No. It was my response to the way the music was presented. Having said that, I could have hung out in the jazz tent for a century. There was an 80-year old cat jamming away during one of the sets and he GOT IT with every cell in his aging frame.
JB: Soyou like jam music and old jazz but not rock, specifically indie rock? But, waityou liked the Hold Steady. Wouldnt you say they are indie?
RR: It isnt as simple as that. I dont think that portions of that kind of music will evolve; it cant. That kind of emo-based treble-heavy music has nothing to say to a live audience, nothing to deliver, nothing to hold onto, which is why the iPod has skyrocketed to fame. You dont have to hold this music in your hands anymore; its just there, in the thin air, waiting for you to listen and then, like some childs bubble from a plastic ring, it evaporates before you even knew what it was that hit you: NOTHING.
JB: John Paul Jones must have been a kick in the ass.
RR: I spent a lifetime trying to reach that stage and it was better than I could have hoped. My three favorite words after Love you, Daddy! are GET THE TAPES! Againsweet music is turned on so that you can feel alive and not so alone; embrace those that feel the same way because being lonely and isolated is no way to get through life, no revenge for those that would wish youd never been born. Fight that feeling. Creativity is addictive. – Randy Ray stores his work at www.rmrcompany.blogspot.com.