down a rock music rabbit hole


(Image above from a Birdeatsbaby video)

This is how an entire afternoon can disappear. Recently I was perusing a long list of rock music genres and sub-genres when I came across this one:

Italian Occult Psychedelia

How could I not look into it? Before long I was on Spotify listening to a band called Cannibal Movie.  Imagine if you dumped a beat up old carnival organ into a swamp, and then the Creature from the Black Lagoon sat down and began to play. The sound burbling up from the water is their song, “Fame.” 

Take a less distorted organ and add somber drumming and gothic chanting and you’ve got Capra Informis. Music to play at a goat sacrifice – “Tunnels of Cliphoth.” From here I moved on to …

Math Rock

I listened to music from several bands in this genre and really couldn’t detect a common denominator (ha ha) among them. One British group called Three Trapped Tigers had an album called “Numbers: 1-13” with songs labelled 1, 2, etc., as befitting math rock. I like a lot of this music. Another group, from Japan, called Ruins was utterly different and berserk. I recommend this inspired weirdness called “Skhanddraviza,” which must be a homage to Frank Zappa.

Folk Metal

I started with Finntroll. I don’t know why, but this combination of black metal and a type of Finnish polka music was hard to take seriously. It kept reminding me of the Stonehenge scene from Spinal Tap. Much of this genre is Scandinavian. However, the Orphaned Land is out of Israel, mixing metal with Middle Eastern folk music. Here they are live, doing a number without the deep growly voice technique they use on other songs. Finally, I’ll end with:

Dark Cabaret

Picture a group of young circus vampires trying to look menacing while playing squeezeboxes. Face makeup, accordions, and a theatrical style create the cabaret and lyrics about death and destruction make it dark. The Tiger Lillies recommend mindless insurrection in “Start a Fire.” I really like the stop motion style video for this Birdeatsbaby song called “The Trouble.”

You can have the same adventure I did by following the links to the music videos above. As an avant-guard metal band, Gorguts, says, “As spleen takes over me, resound, the echoes of my threnodies.” Live at the Brutal Assault festival.

(Avant-garde metal band, Giant Squid.)


forty years in my ears


The audio portion of my head still works after decades of amplified punishment.

Recently I saw a Web page in which a Mr. Peterman posted a list of concerts he’d attended over a period of decades. It was fascinating to see where we converged and how his tastes did or did not change. Since I have a similar concert list, I decided to post mine also, with a bit of commentary. Those marked with the pluses +++ are among my favorite shows.

In many cases I’m guessing at dates and years, and I’ve probably forgotten some. I’ll update if I get better data. We’ll begin at the beginning.

Part 1. Michigan, My Michigan (“Glow fair the bosom of thy lakes.”)

Vanilla Fudge – 2/24/1968. Toledo (Ohio) Sports Arena. They didn’t show up! Allegedly the VF had a broken down tour bus, robbing me of a great experience at my first “big” concert. Here they are on a TV show. Instead of the Fudge we heard several other bands on the bill, the mainstay being the Amboy Dukes (the band that brought us—yikes—Ted Nugent and reached minor fame with “Journey to the Center of the Mind”). Also performing was Soap and the Frightened Trees. Never heard from those two again.

Outdoor concert at Michigan State University. – 5/24/70
Jefferson Airplane
John Sebastian
Rotary Connection

Mountain, Chicago, and the Small Faces also played that day (see posts and photo link below). I either missed or don’t remember them.

The John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor – 12/10/71. White Panther party leader and legal marijuana proponent Sinclair had been put away for ten years for possession of two joints. John Lennon wrote a song called “Ten for Two” for this benefit.
John & Yoko
David Peel
Stevie Wonder
The Up
Bobby Seale,
Black Panther and Chicago 7 defendant
Rennie Davis,
Chicago 7 defendant
David Dellinger,
Chicago 7 defendant
Bob Seger
Phil Ochs
Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen

And more, but that’s enough.

Aerosmith – Boston, MA  1973

There were a large number of concerts in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo throughout the 1970s. I can’t put all the dates together.

Allman Brothers/Dr. John – Ann Arbor, Crisler Arena – 12/9/72.

+++Tim Buckley/Randy Newman – Ann Arbor, Power Center. 4/11/73. I count myself very lucky to have seen the talented Tim Buckley (yes, Jeff’s dad). He had one of the most distinctive, powerful, emotional voices I’ve ever heard. Died in 1975. Here’s one of the only decent videos I could find.

Phil Ochs – Ann Arbor, 5/25/73 (date uncertain).

Carlos Santana & John McClaughlin –  Ann Arbor, Crisler Arena – 8/31/73.

Sun Ra and His Space Arkestra –  Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival, 9/9/73 (probably) I must have seen many other legends at this festival. May have attended the previous year also.

New York Dolls – Detroit, Michigan Palace, 9/22/73.

Moody Blues – Ann Arbor, Crisler Arena- 11/8/73.

Hawkwind –  Detroit, Ford Auditorium, 11/28/73.

Arlo Guthrie – Ann Arbor, I think. Possibly 10/27/73 Ypsilanti Bowen Field House

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Toledo Sports Arena. 12/29/73. An intense jazz-rock fusion group led by virtuoso guitarist John McClaughlin.

Bob Dylan & the Band –  Ann Arbor, Crisler Arena, 2/2/74.

Mott the Hoople/Kansas –  Detroit, Masonic Auditorium –  5/20/74. Note: this was after Mick Ralphs had left Mott. Replaced by “Arial Bender.” The opening group was supposed to be Queen. Big disappointment when they stuck Kansas on the bill instead.

Johnny Winter/Golden Earring – Toledo Sports Arena 6/4/74.

David Bowie – Toledo Sports Arena – 6/20/74.

Santana/Peter Frampton/Lynrd Skynrd –  Rynearson Stadium (outdoors), Ypsilanti, Michigan 5/25/75.

Yes/Dave Mason/Peter Frampton/Ace –  Rynearson Stadium (outdoors), Ypsilanti, Michigan 7/20/75.

+++Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – 9/23/75. Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor. This was Springsteen at the height of his concert power, shortly after the release of Born to Run. It was an incredibly exciting show. Bruce was a dynamic king of rock and roll with the tightest, hardest-working band imaginable.

Aerosmith/Barnstorm (Joe Walsh post James Gang) – Ann Arbor, Crisler Arena. 11/22/74?

Lou Reed – Detroit (possibly 5/15/75 Masonic Temple)

Archie Shepp –  Ann Arbor? Maybe Detroit. 73?

B.B. King – Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor. 10/19/73

Judy Collins – Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor 10/20/73 (The night after B.B. King?)

Phoebe Snow – Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor (She played there in April 1975 with Jackson Browne, but I don’t remember Jackson)

David Bromberg – the Ark, Ann Arbor. Either 11/73 or 7/74.

Proctor and Bergman (Two members of the Firesign Theater)- Ann Arbor. 1/19/76

Part 2. I Moved to Oregon (State Mushroom-The Pacific Golden Chanterelle)

Ken Kesey’s 2nd Perennial Poetic Hoohaw – University of Oregon, Eugene. 5/7/7.  Included Allen Ginsberg, Paul Krassner, and a host of would-be poets who each got a few minutes onstage before getting booted off for the next one. Ken and his brother served sandwiches to the audience outside the hall during the break. Ken personally heaped a pile of beans into my pocket bread.

Al Stewart (twice) Eugene and Salem.

George Benson/Minnie Riperton –  Eugene

The Who/The Clash – Traveled to Seattle and the Kingdome for this one. Always wanted to hear Townsend sing the words, “teenage wasteland.” It was satisfying. 10/20/82.

Part 3. Seattle Beginnings (State Senate declares April 12, 1985, “Louie Louie Day”)

Violent Femmes –  Saw them three times. Once at the Gorilla Gardens (maybe 1/25/85), and I think twice at the Paramount.

R.E.M. –  I saw R.E.M. twice. Seattle Music hall, with Dream Syndicate. (6/27/84) Stipe was in swirling hippie mode. Again (7/12/85 show, probably) at the Paramount. Stipe was in dark overcoat, close-cropped mode.

Eric Tingstad & Nancy Rumbel – Local Seattle area acoustic “new age” artists. Part of some sort of holiday concert sometime in the mid-80s somewhere in Seattle.

The Three O’Clock –  Odd Fellows Hall, 84? Groovy light show. They were part of a psychedelic renaissance in the early 80s. Stupid Einstein.

Agent Orange – The Metropolis. 84? People were still slam dancing. I played human bumper cars.

Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater – Comedy group. One member, Ian Shoales, was a regular on NPR for while, known for his one-minute bursts of rapid-fire social satire, always ending with, “I gotta go.” Saw them at On The Boards, and once at the Backstage  83 & 86?

KCMU Shake the Shack Night – At the Tractor in the mid-80s. Sadly, I can’t recall who played. I remember a heavily duct-taped guitar.

Lynn Wedekind – Local Washington state musician and friend of mine. Saw her perform numerous times all over Seattle, including the Honey Bear Bakery.

Cris Williamson/Tret Fure, Lynn Wedekind – Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane. 1/5/88.

Karla Bonhoff – Once at a club up on Aurora, once at a Zoo Tunes show.

Paul Winter Consort – Once at the Seattle Opera House, once at Zoo Tunes.

+++Leonard Cohen – Twice at the Paramount.  10/27/88 and 7/1/1993. There are bits of Leonard Cohen lyric forever stamped in my heart. I feared that seeing him live would destroy his hero status, but both shows were very entertaining and engaging.

Indigo Girls –  Once at the Paramount, and later as part of a Jesus Christ Superstar performance at the Pier that included a bunch of musicians from Athens, GA. Leaning heavily on loud, solid rock and roll, the JC show was actually pretty good. They also opened for the Grateful Dead (see below).

John Hiatt –  St. Michelle Winery – 91?

Little Village – Paramount – 92?

Ry Cooder & Steve Lindley, Nick Lowe – Bumbershoot – 1990

Laurie Anderson. University of Washington. Not a big multimedia extravaganza, but a quieter evening of mostly spoken word.

+++Neil Young with Crazy Horse/Sonic Youth –  Seattle Ctr. Arena 4/11/91
This was the Ragged Glory tour. Young, the living legend, with the ultimate rough-edges band slammed out incredibly loud, feedback-laden songs with melodies twisting around inside them. (If I was a music critic I could actually get paid for this kind of prose.) Jamming with Pearl Jam.

Neil Young – acoustic and electronic, Minnesota State Fair (1985), acoustic at the Paramount.

Grateful Dead – Eugene, Autzen Stadium, August 22, 1993. Everyone had to go at least once–the pilgrimage to hippie Mecca. Indigo Girls opened.

Loudon Wainwright –  Zoo Tunes concert 96.

Bela Fleck – Zoo Tunes concert.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Mercer Arena 9/1/96.  A very fine show. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the last time The Attractions played in the U.S. His long-time back-up band broke up soon after.

Marian McPartland
– Jazz Alley. My piano teacher’s teacher. Back when I was trying to learn piano the first time.

Ritsu Atomic Violin Explosion – Bumbershoot 96. At the time Ritsu was doing a Hendrix-of-the-violin act with her two-piece backing band. Always wanted to find a tape of the band. Years later I found her Web site, sent her an e-mail, and she offered to burn a CD of some power trio recordings for me that were in the same vein as what she did at Bumbershoot.

Lowebeats– (Nick Lowe tribute band) Bumbershoot.

Part 4. Latter Day Seattle (WTO protesters knock the “H” off Maggie’s Honda)

Buck Owens, Bumbershoot 9/7/98

+++Screaming Trees, Bumbershoot 9/7/98. For all of this band’s personnel problems, long breaks, and in-fighting, they produced what is arguably the best rock music from the Northwest. Their final album, Dust, is some sort of classic, mixing folk, psychedelia, and hard rock. They gave a powerful performance at Memorial Stadium that year, including many cuts from Dust. Link to a very fine song.

Bob Dylan/Lucinda Williams – Puyallup Fair, September 27, 1998

+++Elvis Costello and Stevie Nieve – 5/26/15. Paramount. This was the ultimate Elvis show for me. Costello’s voice had evolved into a smooth instrument that could fill the Paramount even when he stepped away from the microphone. It was clear that the great songwriter could also be a fantastic performer.

Peter Case – Bumbershoot  9/6/99.

The Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band – Saw this local brass band many times at various venues such as the Folklife Festival.

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians – Bumbershoot – 9/6/99

+++Magnetic Fields, Bumbershoot 9/2/00.
Following their “69 Love Songs” release, Stephin Merritt and his compatriots put on a magnificent show—acerbic, beautiful, funny; with their great mix of banjo, cello, keyboards, and guitar.

X – at a club in Seattle. Reunion of the original band.

Patti Smith – June 23, 2000. EMP opening weekend concert. People have the power.

Jason Webley – Town Hall and again at Burning Man. Can’t attach a year to either of these.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters – Paramount 2002

The Magnetic Fields – Moore Theater, November 12, 2004

Rev Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir – Burning Man 2003

The Shins – University of Washington. May, 2005. It was a joy to catch singer/songwriter James Mercer and the band in action. The first two albums are always swirling in the far corners of my brain.

The Jill and Julia Show (Jill Sobule and Julia Sweeney) at The Amazing Meeting, 2006 in Las Vegas. Trading songs and spoken word, this was a charming, funny, and fascinating experience. It made me a Sobule fan. I already liked Julia. Here they are at TED.

+++Iggy and the Stooges – WaMu theater, April 2007. As I described in a blog entry, Iggy was a writhing Adonis (Maggie’s phrase). At age 60 he had an amazing series of sinuous twists, leaps, and screams that continued for the entire 90-minute-plus aerobic workout of a concert. Ron Asheton is the guitar player every punk band wished they’d had – pure noise perfection. It was like I’d stepped 35 years into the past to see a concert I never should never have missed.

The Mugs – Sunset Tavern. KEXP listener show.

Shonen Knife at Chop Suey 12/07. It’s never too late to catch one of the best pop bands on the planet. Sheer fun. The Japanese Beatles with a little Ramones mixed in.

Roy Zimmerman – 9/08 Kenyon Hall. Funny left-leaning political songs.

The Sonics – 10/31/08. Paramount. The original powerhouse from Tacoma gave a fine show, finally getting the respect they deserve as progenitors of punk. Happy Halloween for the band who wrote about girls, cars, and drinking strychnine. They tear into the song, “Louie Louie” like no else ever could.

2009 – The year without live music. Actually, no, I saw Roy Zimmerman again at TAM 8.

2010 – The year with almost no live music.

Wild Flag – 11/12/10. High Dive, Seattle. Plus Keli Schaefer, The Royal Baths.

Lucinda Williams – 6/29/11. Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

The Go-Go’s, Girl In A Coma – 8/14/11. Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle.

Wild Flag – 11/11/11. Neumos, Seattle. Plus Drew Grow & the Pastor’s Wives.

Grizzly Bear, Lower Dens 10/5/12. Paramount, Seattle.

Clave Gringa,  4/27/13. Seattle Women Jazz Festival (Egan’s Ballard Jazz House).

Future Bible Heroes. 7/12/13. Tractor Tavern, Seattle. (Without Stephin Merritt).

Shelly Segal. 8/13. At Uli Baba’s camp, Burning Man.

Jill Sobule & Julie Sweeney. 9/13/13. Neptune Theater, Seattle.

Sergey Ignatov and Acoustic Fantasy. 11/1/13. Egan’s Ballard Jazz House, Seattle.

Sundae & Mr. Goessel. 9/15/14. Royal Room.

Pierced Arrows, Wimps, Deep Creep, SSDD. 2/14/15. Highline, Seattle.

Replacements, Young Fresh Fellows. 4/9/15. Paramount, Seattle.

Damon & Naomi. 4/18/15. Experience Music Project, Seattle.

Elvis Costello 4/26/15.  “Detour.” Paramount, Seattle.

Stooges Tribute Band 8/24/15. Pike Place Market. Band consisted of Mark Arm (Mudhoney). Scott McCready (Pearl Jam), Duff McKagan (Guns ‘n Roses), and Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees).

Cory McAbee, 10/1/15. “Small Star Seminar.” Columbia City Theater, Seattle.

Roger McGuinn. 10/15/15. Benaroya, Seattle.

Low. Andy Shauf. 11/21/15. Crocodile, Seattle.

Mark Lanegan. Sean Wheeler. 7/8/16. Neptune, Seattle.

Chastity Belt and Boyfriend.  8/4/16. SAM Outdoor Sculpture Park, Seattle.

Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds Tour. 10/8/16. Paramount, Seattle.

Lucy Wainwright Roche & Suzzy Roche. Also Richard Shindell. 10/14/16. Royal Room, Seattle.

Aimee Mann, Jonathon Coulton. 5/9/2017. Neptune Theater, Seattle

LCD Soundsystem and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 5/6/18. Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles

Puddles Pity Party.  6/1/18. The Showbox. Seattle