Archive for September, 2016

in performance: ross hammond

ross hammond.

ross hammond.

What is the worst time of day or week to stage a performance? Hard to say, but judging by Ross Hammond’s brave and ultimately winning solo guitar concert earlier today at A Cup of Common Weath, rush hour on a Friday afternoon gets my vote.

The downtown setting offered a turnstile-like level of customer traffic for the Sacramento-by-way-of Lexington artist to contend with, much of which was probably unaware Hammond was even booked to play an Outside the Spotlight show there. The result was a coffeehouse setting for what was clearly a concert artist. In other words, Hammond was relegated to working as a largely background fixture in an atmosphere where multiple levels of conversation and commercial distraction were rattling around him.

He nicely preserved though, offering an hour long set of folk-blues instrumentals on resonator guitar. Unlike his past visits, which relied on a mix of American and European inspirations, the slide-savvy sounds produced on the steel framed resonator guitar (which, Hammond admitted, was “not as old as it looks”) favored far more of an American primitive feel. An update of “John Henry,” while rich in wiry density, retained a sturdy melodic flow – a sort of steam engine-like accent in terms of pace and atmosphere. The original “Sick Wife Blues,” though, was more cross generational in sound and style, blending rustic slide colors within a contemporary compositional frame

Best of all was an instrumental take on the Civil Rights Era protest song “I Ain’t Afraid of Your Jail” (popularized most prominently in the early 1960s by Pete Seeger) that defused its anthemic fabric for a sparser, roots-conscious feel that opened the tune out into a ghostly meditative soundscape. A variation on the Appalachian blues “Sinner Man” was also refreshingly non time-specific with Hammond’s slide work slowly peeling away the years until a rootsy, dark core was revealed.

The chatty, noisy ambience surrounding the music eventually dissipated, leaving a handful of quiet, involved patrons. Still, OTS shows, by their very improvisational nature, demand environments for active listening. A Cup of Common Wealth works wonderfully as a coffeehouse. But for this music at this time, it simply wasn’t the right fit.


stanley dural jr. (buckwheat zydeco), 1947-2016

stanley dural jr., a.k.a. buckwheat zydeco

stanley dural jr., a.k.a. buckwheat zydeco

Stanley Dural Jr. was a joyous giant of a musician. More than any artist of his generation, he introduced and furthered the Cajun/R&B music known as zydeco. It became so synonymous with him that audiences came to know Dural mostly by his professional non-de-plume – Buckwheat Zydeco.

Of course, serious Cajun music followers will forever credit the great Clifton Chenier as the forefather of zydeco, and they would be correct. But it was Dural, a longtime Chenier protégé and bandmate, that essentially inherited the elder’s accordion-led legacy and pushed zydeco into the mainstream. With Chenier, zydeco was more roots-directed, meshing Creole sounds with the blues. Dural had a bigger party in mind. From the dawn of the 1980s onward, he invited rock and soul into the songs he fashioned and put it all on display with an immensely infectious and endearing performance style.

Critics sometimes scoffed at how crossover his music became, especially on his late ‘80s crossover albums for the Island label. But Dural never let his Lafayette, Louisiana roots leave him even as his fascination for more broad based music grew. The title tune to his finest and most recommended Island album, 1987’s “On a Night Like This,” may have sounded like a Creole jamboree, but it was really a zydeco recasting of an underappreciated Bob Dylan tune from the early ‘70s.

Reflecting just how vast his musical reach had become was a growing list rock ‘n’ roll notables that lined up to work him. Dural’s A list collaborators included U2, Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, Keith Richards, Willie Nelson, Robert Plant and Paul Simon.

Luckily, Lexington got in on the fun, too. Though absent from local venues for much of the past decade, Dural and his Ils Sont Partis Band played long-since-demised downtown clubs like the Bottom Line and Breeding’s throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, flashing a smile as big and bright as the cosmos and making the rooms bounce with that white accordion adorned with the word most post-Chenier audiences would most come to associate with zydeco music: Buckwheat.

in performance: jacob wick

Jacob Wick.

Jacob Wick.

As Outside the Spotlight performances go, tonight’s solo trumpet outing by Jacob Wick at the Homegrown Press studio was way, way outside the norm – even for a concert series that prides itself on predominantly improvisational musical adventures.

The set was only 30 minutes in duration but was something of a Herculean effort. During that time, the Mexico City-based Wick (a veteran of past OTS shows with Jason Ajemian’s band The High Life and the industrious trio Tres Hongos) played a single improvisation piece based around a hushed, cyclical and punctuated motif that was less a manner of musical expression and more an extension of breathing. Initially, it was repeated like a mantra with sudden but subtle bursts interrupting the monologue the way a cough would when one is talking. But the overall flow of what came out of the horn was never interrupted.

At about the 12 minute mark, there was brief – as in extremely brief – instance where the see-saw expression approached the expected musical tone of the horn. Then it subsided into a run of static, but incantatory sound. In some instances, it formed disassembled bits of auditory accents. In others, Wick warped the trumpet’s voice into a mesh of flatulent, scorched and eventually corrosive voices.

How musical all this was, even to ears practiced in the more free form playing of OTS concerts, is a tough call. There was, however, enough of a meditative feel to the improv that commanded one’s attention throughout. But there was no debating what an astonishing technical display this was. Whatever breathing technique Wick employed gave the illusion that he was playing this minimalist-style experiment without stopping – without even a discernible or prolonged exhale, for that matter – for half an hour. It wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t some freakish trick. But it wasn’t like any other musical exhibition I’ve witnessed of late, either.

A footnote: through the years, OTS shows have seldom settled on a single performance home for any extended period of time (the current Mecca studio being a possible exception), preferring instead a rotating lineup of available venues. This was its first outing at the Homegrown Press studio on North Limestone. The vast array of paintings that surrounded the small stage created a dialogue with Wick that existed quite separately from the music, one where visual art and live performance existed in a mutually complementary setting. Here’s hoping OTS lands there again in the future.


too close to touch plays the burl

Too Close to Touch. From left: Kenneth Downey, Mason Marble, Keaton Pierce, Thomas Kidd and Travis Moore. Photo By Graham Fielder.

Too Close to Touch. From left: Kenneth Downey, Mason Marble, Keaton Pierce, Thomas Kidd and Travis Moore. Photo By Graham Fielder.

Just a few years ago, Too Close to Touch was a band brewing in a basement, specifically one where guitarist Mason Marble and drummer Kenny Downey had been trading riffs and ideas. On Thursday, the Lexington troupe returns home as a conquering hero of sorts. Bolstered by a potent sound that blends metal and hardcore with an unsettled but anthemic pop undercurrent, Too Close to Touch will celebrate the release of “Haven’t Been Myself,” its sophomore album on the nationally distributed Epitaph label (due out Friday), with a performance at The Burl.

The quintet – rounded out by vocalist Keaton Pierce, guitarist Thomas Kidd and bassist Travis Moore – introduced itself with a self-titled EP disc that was picked by Epitaph in 2014. The sound that evolved through its 2015 debut album “Nerve Endings” has emerged full blown on “Haven’t Been Myself.” It has been slapped with all kinds of vague terms like “post hardcore.” But a listen to the new album reveals a loud, tight cohesive sound that, if anything, sounds like a metal-esque version of latter day Rush. The music is melodic but unrelenting and thunderous in its groove and momentum. But what makes it all accessible to listeners perhaps wary of all the loud and proud stylistic references, is Pierce’s singing. It reflects a lyrical cast that rails away with suitable authority, clarity and angst on “Crooked Smile” amid some very Rush-like guitar torrents. But on “Heavy Hearts,” a song offered as a free download last winter, the band cools to the demand of a more acoustic rooted, ballad-savvy sound.

Among the bands Pierce and company have been compared to are Emarosa, which Too Close to Touch has toured with.

Having already played Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati this summer as part of the Vans Warped Tour, Too Close to Touch also warmed up for its current concert trek by taking honors as Best Underground Band at the 2016 Alternative Press Awards.

Too Close to Touch performs at 6:30 p.m. September 22 at The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd. Call (859) 447-8166 or go to Noble Giants will open. Tickets are $12, $15. Doors open at 6. This is an all ages, general admission event.

in performance: phoenix friday finale

Anthony D'Amato headlined the final Phoenix Friday concert of the summer earlier tonight at Phoenix Park.

Anthony D’Amato headlined the final Phoenix Friday concert of the summer earlier tonight at Phoenix Park.

One was a local favorite, the second a Nashville song stylist with a regional connection and the third a Jersey boy who couldn’t count Mother Nature among his fans. That was the bill earlier tonight for the fifth and final installment of WUKY’s Phoenix Friday series of free concerts at Phoenix Park. Actually, it was an encore of sorts as the series was initially slated to wrap up a four show run in August.

Up first was Lexington’s own Justin Wells, the guitar force behind the now disbanded Fifth on the Floor (“We made a pittance but we had a blast”). Wells channeled the electric drive of his former band into a solo acoustic set that boiled over with boisterous blues intensity (“Going Down Grinnin’”), wary country sensibility (“The Highway Less Taken”) and tough love road stories (“The Dogs”). There was also a very dark makeover of Dire Straits’ “So Far Away” that was not for the skittish. “There will be a lot of happy songs after my set,” Wells said almost apologetically.

Nashville song stylist and one time Frankfort dweller Derik Hultquist followed with a set that could indeed be termed happier. But it was more of a stylistic detour than anything else, with songs pulled mostly from his new “Southern Iron” album that employed a backup quartet to flesh out music drenched in heavily atmospheric pop. Hultquist’s high and hushed vocals distinguished songs like “One Horse Town,” “Garden of Roses” and “Devil’s in the Details.” But the primarily ingredient to this mood music was actually guitarist Steve Page, whose layers of ambience added hearty doses of chill to Hultquist’s cinematic pop.

Headliner Anthony D’Amato whittled Hultquist’s broader pop soundscapes down to leaner, rootsier and more narrative heavy songs that reflected the traditions of his native New Jersey. Tagging Bruce Springsteen might seem like an overly easy comparison, but there was more than a passing nod to the Jersey cool of the Boss’ early records in “Good and Ready” and a show of lean rock ‘n’ roll smarts within the smart riffs that propelled “Rain on a Strange Roof” and the loose jamboree shuffle underscoring the show opening “Was a Time.” But “Ballad of the Undecided” brought the show to an abrupt close. Actually, the beginnings of an evening storm did. The rain quickly dispersed the crowd, leaving a bemused D’Amato, who was clearly just getting warmed up, with a premature shutdown.


the retelling of a legend: the beatles live again in “eight days a week”

eight-days-a-week-the-touring-yearsAs the demands of stardom begin to mount in “Eight Days a Week,” Ron Howard’s immensely enjoyable new Beatles documentary, Paul McCartney is asked the weighty question of his band’s place in Western culture. “It’s not culture,” he replies dismissively. “It’s a good laugh.”
No doubt the answer was an honest one at the time as the Beatles’ formative years as a touring act, the focal point of the film, abounded with good cheer – that is until, as the present day McCartney narrates, performance life got “complicated.”
“Eight Days a Week” doesn’t abound with many hidden secrets into the band’s staggering popularity, especially from 1964 through 1966, when its performance profile hit its zenith and then its breaking point. Instead, it is a glorious retelling of a fabled pop saga. Fans that grew up the Beatles’ music will undoubtedly sense a nostalgic vibe that comes from watching a familiar rock phenomenon unfold. Younger fans will likely marvel at the detail within Howard’s telling of a tale they may only be casually acquainted with. Curiously, rock scholars and Beatles die-hards may wind up the happiest given how completely “Eight Days a Week” outlines the Beatles’ early years, whether its through nicely restored footage they’ve seen a thousand times or scrappier, previously unseen segments (mostly from overseas shows) that flesh out the pageantry.
The film begins with a brief primer on the Beatles’ work-a-day beginnings – specifically, a performance regimen that hones the band’s skills as live performers even as its early ‘60s music creates a stir. “Eight Days a Week” really gets cranking, though, when it hits 1964 with the Beatles’ performance debut in North America. McCartney remarks how wary he was of heading Stateside for fear failure or indifference here would do irreparable damage to an already mounting global popularity. Starr, however, views the maiden voyage to America as an open invitation, one where New York was opening its collective arms to the band before it even landed for the famed Ed Sullivan Show appearance.
“It was like, ‘Come on down, boys.’”
The central topic among the historians, musicians, activists and comedians interviewed in the film is that the world largely viewed the Beatles then as a bubble ready to pop. But the film’s overall presentation details a band maturing at a rate no one, not its critics and especially not its fanbase, could keep up with. Such seeming conflict is hesitantly confessed by Elvis Costello, who registered how initially taken aback he was by an initial listen to 1965’s “Rubber Soul,” the album the Beatles cut in the midst of all the performance hysteria that clearly signaled a move away from the more outward pop cheer of the band’s early music.
The bubble doesn’t so much burst as implode. It’s not the audience that gives up on the Beatles. Rather, it’s the band’s dissolution with the manic hysteria surrounding its live shows and the very public demand it remain the same living portrait of pop innocence it was in 1964. “It was like being a politician,” says John Lennon in an archival interview. “You were on 24 hours a day.”
The film takes the saga up through the studio creation of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the Beatles’ first album after retiring from performance duty and an affirmation of how stardom would only ascend for the band without the demands of touring.
Most already know this story. But just as “The Compleat Beatles” did so expertly in the ‘80s and “The Beatles Anthology” did with such inclusive detail in the ‘90s, “Eight Days a Week” offers a new generational portrait of the innocence and dissolution that forged the Beatles into a pop music colossus. In short, it is a story well worth repeating.
A footnote: screenings of “Eight Days a Week” come with a bonus – a restored print of “The Beatles at Shea Stadium,” a chronicle of the August 1965 performance that may stand as the greatest visual performance document of the band. “Eight Days a Week” details the highs, lows and tolls taken during the Beatles’ concert years. “Shea Stadium” is, in effect, the end result – a 30 minute capsule of pop hysteria and improbability all made incredibly real.

in performance: bela fleck and chris thile

Bela Fleck (left) and Chris Thile performing last night at the Opera House. Herald-Leader photo by Tom Eblen.

Bela Fleck (left) and Chris Thile performing last night at the Opera House. Herald-Leader photo by Tom Eblen.

“Why don’t you just grow up?”

Those were the words a bemused Bela Fleck offered Chris Thile three songs into a wildly adventurous performance of banjo/mandolin duets last night at the Lexington Opera House. The remark was a kind of playful chiding from a string music elder to an eager disciple. It came after Thile heaped praise on Fleck’s genre-busting 1995 album “Tales from the Acoustic Planet,” a record the former championed “when I was 15.”

The age crack aside, the comment followed a blistering reading of the “Acoustic Planet” leadoff tune “Up and Running,” where the two traded rhythmic jabs both playful and pensive, juggled warp speed solos of astonishing precision and shifted the string music patterns from more stereotypical bluegrass surroundings to something more akin to jazz and swing.

The entire make-up of the 2 ¼ hour performance (excluding intermission) followed a similar flight pattern, using the more jazz-like variant of bluegrass often dubbed new grass as a template. The show opening “Riddles in the Dark” (from a 2001 Thile solo album, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” that boasted Fleck and many of the banjoist’s new grass contemporaries as guests) embraced the form with joint rhythms that began with the spry acoustic expression of bluegrass but quickly deviated into string music dashes of maniacal speed and intensity.

But, again, decades-old new grass was only the template. The music the two explored cruised across numerous stylistic terrains and down multiple avenues of their respective careers.

A second set performance of “Cheeseballs in Cowtown” (another “Acoustic Planet” gem) possessed a country swagger within the melody that the two repeatedly ripped open and jury-rigged with the kind of dizzying interplay that wouldn’t have been out of place on a vintage cartoon soundtrack. “This is the Song (Good Luck),” the closing tune to Thile’s 2010 album with Punch Brothers “Antifogmatic,” was a discourse in dynamics with the music slowed to a folkish cool before evaporating completely (but briefly) so only the mandolinist’s whispery singing remained. Best of all was “Metric Lips,” a Grammy nominated Fleck tune from his ‘80s tenure with New Grass Revival that worked off an initial mandolin groove before spinning off into jig-like runs and jazz-friendly improvising.

There were several new and unrecorded tunes that seemed to purposely shove the two into even more technically demanding turf although “The Ghosts of Industry” downshifted with a lighter tone and temperament before splintering into showers of sparse, brittle notes from both players and even brief free-form runs.

It should also be noted that contrasting but complimentary performance stances were at work onstage. Fleck, 58, exhibited a largely stoic stage presence while Thile, 35, seemed positively elastic, bobbing almost every joint in his lanky frame, even while seated. Capping it all off was the kind of spontaneous (make that scattered) between-song banter that ensured this program of astonishing acoustic music was hardly a slick, perfunctory affair. That was underscored by another Fleck remark that came before the two paid their traditional bluegrass dues with an encore cover of Bill Monroe’s “Footprints in the Snow” and after a piece of Thile’s ear monitor fell to the stage floor.

“Was that part of your brain?”


in performance: fastball

Fastball, from left: Joey Shuffield, Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo.

Fastball, from left: Joey Shuffield, Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo.

Yesterday’s storms may have short circuited the live music schedule for the second and final night of the Christ the King Oktoberfest. But with a delay of only 40 minutes, clearing skies and temps that shed the previous evening’s sauna like conditions for a touch of autumn cool, Fastball got to work with an hour long set of efficient, good natured power pop.
With its founding ‘90s lineup still intact – guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Tony Scalzo, guitarist/vocalist Miles Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield along with an auxiliary bassist – the band didn’t re-write the book on pop innovation or even stretch the limits of their material past efficient, single-length tunes (save for the occasional but brief guitar jam).  As a result, the material presented during the hour long performance, as was the case with the previous evening’s headlining Oktoberfest show by fellow ‘90s-bred pop-rockers Gin Blossoms, didn’t vary all that much. Fastball’s favored a little more by way of dynamics – the luxury of having two lead singers, the guitar riffs that percolated during the instrumental “Tanzania” and even the rhumba-esque sway of the band’s signature hit “The Way.” Mostly, though, the repertoire set up chances to play spot-the-influence within its conventional but appealing designs of vintage pop. Cases in point: the Beatle-esque harmonies behind the hit “Fire Escape,” the bright melodic terrain of “Sooner or Later” and the ska-like groove underneath “Loves Comes in Waves.”
Last night was also Zuniga’s 50th birthday. Even though the rains from earlier in the evening whittled the crowd down to roughly a third the size of what turned out for Gin Blossoms, those on hand serenaded the guitarist with the expected “Happy Birthday” and seemed more than up for tagging along with Fastball’s smart and enthusiastically delivered pop parade.

bela fleck and chris thile dig into ‘big talk’

bela fleck and chris thile. photo by devin pedde.

bela fleck and chris thile. photo by devin pedde.

Among the inviting aspects to the numerous musical duos Bela Fleck has engaged in over the years has been the balance of play and challenge. He could be duking it out on banjo with jazz piano giant Chick Corea, longtime bassist pal Edgar Meyer, banjo mentor Tony Trischka or, in his most favored setting of recent years, banjoist wife Abigail Washburn. The results, though stylistically different in each configuration, have always led to music as rich in its sense of play as it is in stylistic innovation.

For one-time Lexingtonian Fleck, though, there is something else he looks for, an attribute he found in his newest duo with mandolin maverick, Punch Brothers founder and soon-to-be Prairie Home Companion host Chris Thile.

“It was so long from when I became a professional before anyone younger than me could kick my ass,” Fleck, 58, said. “Chris was the first one to show up that was young, that I saw from a beginning musician who turned into a phenomenon, that was stronger than me in many areas. That is what makes me want to work with somebody, by the way. They have to be better than me at stuff.

“Chick has seen that with me. I was a big fan of his since I was a kid. I sent him a recording of my first album, which had ‘Spain’ on it, one of his tunes. I let him know I was a big fan, that he had helped shape me as a musician. At a certain point, we got together when I was in my 30s and did ‘Tales from the Acoustic Planet’ (Fleck’s 1995 return to acoustic music after a string of progressively minded albums with his fusion band The Flecktones). He found a collaborator who knew his music inside out so much that it came out in my playing. That made it very easy us to play together, but it also inspired some new, fresh ideas. That is what Chris is doing for me.”

For Thile, one of the most heralded acoustic musicians of his generation, Fleck provides the same source of elder inspiration that Fleck received from Corea.

“As a musician, you are what you eat and I ate a whole lot of Bela Feck music,” said Thile, 35. “So that manifested itself as a component of my overall musical picture. Obviously that component is incredibly familiar to Bela, so as we play together I think we can cut straight to the chase in a way that maybe that two musicians are seldom able to.

“Bela has been one of my biggest heroes. Just his ‘Tales from the Acoustic Planet’ record alone … I mean, he was a hero even before that. I was seven or eight years old when ‘Drive’ (Fleck’s acclaimed 1988 solo album) came out. That record was so big for me and so big for so many acoustic musicians. But when ‘Tales from the Acoustic Planet’ came out, I wore it out. I learned every note. It had a profound impact on me as a musician, as has just about everything Bela has ever done. So this duo project is a true thrill.”

While the duo performances Fleck and Thile have undertaken represent a new project for both players, their alliance is an established one. Thile played on Fleck’s classically inclined 2001 album “Perpetual Motion” and guested on the 2003 Flecktones’ multi-disc opus “Little Worlds.” But the collaboration essentially began when the banjoist and several of his string music contemporaries (Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan, among others) performed on Thile’s “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” a 2001 record that embraced the jazz-like innovations on bluegrass instrumentation that Fleck had helped pioneer decades earlier.

“It used to be I would see folks, like a bunch of people that loved Punch Brothers, that didn’t know where some of the roots of that music came from,” Fleck said. “That would bother me a little bit. But now I’m kind of thrilled. The idea that I could be part of a great American music like bluegrass that was growing, expanding and finding a way into the modern world is a wonderful thing.

“There have been times, especially times connected to when I lived in Lexington (during the late ‘70s) where I wasn’t sure what I was doing was such a great thing. There were things about the traditional side of bluegrass that were being lost and I felt some shame about that. I was one of those people on the edge of the music pushing it out into other areas, although that was my natural bend. I was just being truthful to myself. But then seeing people like Punch Brothers and all the wonderful new musicians coming around nowadays makes me feel like they’re still getting the essence of what the thing is about and how the music needs to move forward and thrive.”

Added Thile: “We speak a very similar dialect because Bela had such a strong impact on me. There is a lot of understanding. It’s like, ‘I hear you. I got you. I know exactly what you mean. Here, let me comment on that. Allow me to interject.’ It can be one of those easy, free flowing conversations like when you meet someone with whom you have a lot in common. The conversation just goes to a deep place really quickly because small talk isn’t necessary. It’s already understood.

“I think musicians work the same way. Oftentimes, there is a lot of musical small talk you’ve got to get through before you can get deep with someone. Because of the music Bela has made and its position in my life, we can dispense with the small talk. We get right into the big talk.”

Bela Fleck and Chris Thile perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 West Short. Tickets: $55, $75. Call 800-745-3000, 859-233-3535 or go to

in performance: gin blossoms

Gin Blossoms: Jesse Valenzuela, Robin Wilson, Bill Leen and Scotty Johnson.

Gin Blossoms: Jesse Valenzuela, Robin Wilson, Bill Leen, Scotty Johnson.

“Okay, now play the other one.”
Trust me on this, that’s not the kind of audience response any band wants. But that was a remark overheard last night at the Christ the King Oktoberfest as the Gin Blossoms wrapped up “Allison Road,” one of the jangly pop confections that defined the band’s commercial heyday nearly 25 years ago.
Now, there were two primary ways one could interpret that remark – three if you counted the abundance of Oktoberfest beer, which seemed to intensify the crowd chat level at this free performance. But alcohol among concert patrons seldom offers much by way of artistic insight into a show, so we’re really back to two.
The first explanation might have been that the Gin Blossoms had only a modest library of recognizable hits to begin with, which is partially true. Outside of music from the career defining 1992 album “New Miserable Experience” (which contained “Allison Road”), there was little in the performance that would have been recognizable to anyone but the most ardent of Gin Blossoms fans. The opening “Follow You Down,” which was pulled from 1996’s “Congratulations, I’m Sorry” came close, but the sound was so awful at the show’s start (horrible bass distortion, a buried vocal mix and volume that dropped dramatically once you walked more than 100 feet from the stage) that it’s a wonder anyone deciphered anything.
The comment’s other possible meaning could have been a reference to the fact the songs within the Gin Blossoms catalog tended to sound the same. Robin Wilson’s vocals were clear and exact (providing you were able to worm your way close enough to the stage to where the band didn’t sound like it was playing underwater) and the melodic hooks within the material were plentiful. As such, tunes from the Gin Blossoms’ most recent album, 2010’s “No Chocolate Cake,” didn’t sound at all removed from the “New Miserable Experience” fare. A few of the (comparatively) newer songs, like “Dead or Alive on the 405,” allowed guitarist Scotty Johnson to modestly toughen the sound.
The former reason was likely what the well-lubricated patron intended. But “the other one” actually turned out to be a triumvirate of ‘90s hits that took the show down the home stretch. “Found Out About You,” “Til I Hear It From You” (a 1995 soundtrack single) and the moderately less wistful “Hey Jealousy” defined the sort of mid tempo, highly melodic pop that served as the blueprints for the rest of the set – the rest, that is, save for workmanlike but unremarkable covers of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Tupelo Honey” that bookended the hit parade. That’s when you knew the Gin Blossoms had fully played their hand.

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