Bonnaroo Day 4- Punchin’ ’til the Last Round!

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The ‘roo kept punching all the way to the end and I actually enjoyed some of these acts on the last day as much or more than any other.

Just like Sam I Am and green eggs and ham I do not like the music of Regina Spektor. I realize that I am in the minority here. I have heard TV performances, listened to some cuts off of her discs and now after seeing her live, my opinion is cemented. I REALLY don’t get it. I would have said this before but certainly now after having seen Tori Amos the day before, I just feel like she is trying to do the same thing without having ANY of the elements that has always made Ms. Amos unique. To me Ms. Spektor possesses a nondescript voice, odd vocal stylings, uninspired compositions and just a general sense of being odd and weird for the sake of being odd and weird.

I must confess to having not listened to The Dave Matthews Band that much. I heard the radio hits and listened to a couple of discs and while I always liked what I heard it was just not something that I went nuts about. I have to say I feel pretty much the same way after seeing his festival closing performance. These are obviously VERY talented people and Dave brought his funk that night by accenting with a full horn section. I think Dave also had a nice “party” before his set as much of what he said in between tunes was barley coherent and what you could understand didn’t make much sense…”we are happy to be here…we are like the cheese after the appetizer, yeah cheese after desert”.  An interesting analogy but having never seen him live maybe that is normal for him. I will say that his music is not really derivative of anything else…it sounds totally unique and that I appreciate. To me it is a classic example of music with great merit but certainly a matter of taste.

The Lord did create the Celts, the Celts begat the Irish, the Irish begat dudes named Shamus, Fergus and Angus and those dudes hung out in places like Doolin and Dingle and begat the Irish music. Thus, The Irish Rovers were born and they begat The Chieftains and Altan who begat The Pogues who, with a BIG dose of the puck rock from across the channel, begat The Dropkick Murphys and the Lord did grin. (I know they are from Boston but it finished better that way). OK, so maybe my lineage is not perfect but that we have The Dropkick Murphys for our entertainment purposes is the point. A friend once took me to see them saying…”come see this Irish punk rock band with me”. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work but that is exactly what they are. Thrashing and banging away with accordion and the pipes in the mix but also not afraid to slow it down (at least the beginning of a song) for a bit of penny whistle. This is no revolt against the great music that came before them as traditional Irish classics such as Black Velvet Band are “punked” up but still treated with obvious reverence. GREAT fun…see ’em live!

Whether it was Zac himself or his handlers I think the plan was thus for the Zac Brown Band...create cult following in home state of Georgia, get Nashville record deal and make mainstream country record, have several smash hits and spend nearly 2 years on the Billboard Top Album Chart (not just the country chart), make 2nd record, show true roots and become huge crossover sensation. The first part of this scenario is fact… as for the last we will see but after hearing the new tunes from the forthcoming record, I would bet on it happening. The sound is now moving from straight ahead country to more of a Little Feat, Allman Bros. vibe and of course with the always present Jimmy Buffet influence. It was an amazing show…so good that it kept me from 2 other acts that I REALLY wanted to see. Along with the hits and the new music came Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic, John Mayer’s Neon and a somewhat obscure Shawn Mullins song Lonesome all pointing the musical depth of this artist. I tell my students that the audience loves nothing more than to see you love what you do, do it with passion and do it well. This is Zac Brown in a nutshell. It was an awesome show and I look for BIG things.

Against Me IS a punk rock band!…and a REALLY good one at that. I make this declarative statement as they are sometimes classified as something else. They are, however, VERY listenable and accessible. They don’t sing of anarchy and or incite a crowd to riot but when classified musically, to me, this is honest to goodness punk. Don’t let this scare you away as they are also a lot of fun…in fact the most fun I had at an act at this ‘roo. You can’t help but push your way to the front of the stage and get in the middle of the slamming and shoving that ensues. The energy NEVER lets down and you are infected with it from start to finish. Whether live or on their new or older discs, do yourself a favor…push pause on Lady Gaga, Jack Johnson, or whatever EMO you are listening to on your iPod and give these guys a listen.

When I talk to people of the singer/songwriters I like (Shawn Mullins, Robert Earl Keen, etc) people always say to me…” then you must be into Martin Sexton“. Well now I am. He is a great mix of modern folk, country…and I’m not sure what else a little R and B I guess. I somehow missed this singer/songwriter master along the way but I’m gunning for his catalog now. What sets Mr. Sexton apart from many other singer/songwriters is his wonderful and totally listenable singing…a REALLY great voice with incredible style. Don’t wait like I did…dig him now!

Who else but Kris Kristofferson could take 3-5 chords in only a couple of keys, a gravely sometimes inaudible voice and limited guitar skills and turn himself into someone with well deserved “legend” status. The lyrics are simple but so many times paint a perfect picture of some mutually shared situation many of us have had or an emotion we have felt. Anyone who has ever been alone for a period of time and woken up with a hangover listen to Sunday Morning Comin’ Down and tell me you don’t know what Kris is talking about. Help Me Make It Through the Night, Me and Bobby McGee…the hits just kept on comin’.

Lucero– THESE GUYS ROCK! It is pure Memphis rock and roll with full horn section. Nothing too complicated here but don’t be surprised to find some interesting points of view in their writing. Search the You Tube for the video of Darken My Door form their HIGHLY acclaimed new disc 1372 Overton Park. You can hit this link as well to see it It’s funny and cute on the surface but there is a dark edge that hits you when the laughing is done. They have been around for a while but this year they are hitting the big festival circuit which should propel them a bit more into the mainstream.

The truly eclectic offering today was Malian nomadic musicians Tinariwen. I won’t even begin to try and get into the political history that has given us this world music superstar. I will say that their story and plight is intriguing, interesting and involves a displaced tribe of people from Mali, fighting in regional wars and cultural prejudice over a 35 year period. Hit them up on Wikipedia if you want to know more. Musically, they play their West African version of the blues. It is traditional sounding chants and percussion that are accented with electric guitars and western-style grooving bass lines. They record wherever they can throughout Africa and have played most of the major festivals in Europe. Professed fans include Robert Plant, Bono, Thom Yorke and Santana and their discs receive raves in mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone and Spin. Different, unique and mind expanding, especially if you know their story.

So there you have it…the highlights of all 4 days. Look for a “best of, worst of, you should check it out” wrap up tomorrow.



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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.

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