Jun 122012

You say you’ve been meaning to check out Gentle Giant? Well, here’s your chance: an entire concert from 1978!

Watching this entire concert is daunting, but I encourage you to click on any point in the video, spend a minute or two, and and see if your highly developed Rock Town Hall sensibilities do not kick in. This performance, by a band dressed in the gamut of Rock’s Unfulfilled Fashion Ideas, is ripe with odd rock details that our Townspeople have made their specialty. For each RTH quirk you spot (eg, fashion/hair oddities, rock stances, specific soloing faces, instrumentation, RTH Glossary-defined behaviors) list it in the Comments section with an indication of the time in the clip—one detail per post—in Last Man Standing fashion!

Right off the bat, for instance, the clip features a guitarist in overalls. Another example: I clicked on the concert at the 14:35 mark to witness a man in an Oakland A’s jersey and hat playing vibes. Then I clicked again, around the 28-minute mark, to hear a guitarist playing a Dr. Q solo! Normal people don’t readily identify Dr. Q solos. We’re not normal.

Make sense? In short, click on this concert video at any point and I bet within 1 minute you’ll see something that delights your RTH sensibilities. Please share your discoveries so that others might see through your eyes. Thank you.

May 042012

It’s not often we get to see Robert Fripp laugh, is it? I forgot King Crimson played on the failed early challenger to Saturday Night LiveFridays. Clearly, Fripp had a good time that night.

Collective critical wisdom probably considers Robert Fripp to be an “influential” musician, much like it does his old partner in crime, Brian Eno. However, unlike the body of work Eno produced, I’m not sure Fripp’s work as a guitarist, composer, producer, conceptualist, and iconoclast actually influenced many musicians. Who else plays in that weird scale that’s so distinctive of Fripp’s work? Who else uses Frippertronics? What other rock guitarists play seated on a stool? Eno inspired a generation of non-musicians to produce music, and he actually helped change the way we hear music. Fripp’s body of work suggests a musician needs to spend a lot of time practicing. Baby, that ain’t rock ‘n roll!

I’m not criticizing Fripp, mind you. I like his body of work. I like that one circular scale he plays repeatedly—and the other one, involving 2 notes that don’t quite go together yet move up the neck in some weird harmony. I love those soaring, melodic solos he occasionally plays on Eno records and The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” I consider Fripp to be an inspiring musician but not an influential one, if that makes sense. Along the same lines, I call bullshit on most folks who claim Captain Beefheart as an “influence.” His music is inspiring, but how can one be influenced by Beefheart without aping him? “Yeah, man, I like to stick daggers in the blues and sing ‘out there’ lyrics!” With rare exceptions (eg, Pere Ubu, early PJ Harvey), that is Beefheart more than it is influenced by Beefheart. I think he’s too idiosyncratic to be that useful an influence.

If you can get on board with this concept, are there other musicians you can think of who may be so idiosyncratic that they do not leave much room for influence, in terms of “building off” their work?



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May 032012

I could do without the drummer’s mullet and Dennis Miller, but how blessed was Matthew Sweet during his Girlfriend-era breakthrough (yeah, I know, it wasn’t “overnight”) to have been surrounded by the likes of Robert Quine, Richard Lloyd, and, in this clip, is that Peter Holsapple I see?

What other relatively “unknown” musicians come to mind who seemed to burst onto the scene with the benefit of cool surrounding musicians, musicians who were more than ace session men and women?

This thread is not to suggest that Sweet and other musicians who will be named didn’t actually do the work to arrive at their blessed state.

Continue reading »

Apr 212012

This has been a rather grim week or two for the passing of rock legends, and today Bert Weedon, inspiration for many a guitarist primarily through his Play in a Day book, said goodnight as well.

I know practically nothing about his life, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of his records, but in common with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Brian May, I owned a copy of his book and at one time tried to learn to play using it.

My knowledge of music was so rudimentary (read non-existent) that the book was far too complicated for me, and I never returned to it. I eventually figured it out in my own way, but the act of buying the book and opening it with an untuned and probably untunable guitar in hand was enough of a statement of intent to lead me to find a doorway to the instrument even if it turned out not to be that one.

I eventually figured it out by making a set of flash cards with chords on one side and the name of the chord on the other and to keep shuffling them and pulling them out at random until I could not only play them but remember them all as well. I did do it in a day—New Year’s Eve 1978, when I couldn’t find anyone to stay up with, but which turned out in hindsight to be the most productive evening I’ve ever spent.

I wondered if anyone in the Hall ever did learn to play using Bert’s book? And please share any Eureka moments with instruments that you subsequently became at least passingly competent with.

Mar 162012

This one goes to zero!

Rock Town Hall has a long and honored tradition of rock video analysis, with Townspeople often incorporating the distinctive technique of commenting on videos with the sound off. In honor of alexmagic‘s recent analysis of a video of Tom Jones performing with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, we are instituting a new feature, Sound Off!

The way a Sound Off! thread works is simple:

  • A video is posted for us to view with the sound off.
  • We comment on what we’re seeing with the sound off.
  • We most likely share in the sense of wonder that there’s much to learn about music with the sound off.

You will be entrusted to view the following video with the sound off. If we could disable the video’s sound we would, but something tells me the copyright holder of the video might object to that. Trust us, for the purposes of this thread the sound will get in the way. Beside, you may be viewing this at work, in which case coworkers will only be distbured by your giggles; you won’t have to worry about the artist’s music leaking into their cube.

After the jump, why don’t you turn the sound off and watch the following video!

Continue reading »

Mar 132012

Who among the 35-and-under crowd is worthy?

If you had to choose an Early 21st Century All-Musician team, composed only of musicians younger than 35 years of age and from bands of the last 12 years, who would fill out your 5-piece roster of drums, bass, two guitars, and keyboards? If you want to throw in a “sixth musician” on any instrument, even a laptop, go for it! But let’s leave singers out of this thread; they still get plenty of attention.

Even among the more contemporary bands I like I rarely feel like the musicians are highlighted. I was listening to some new album recently and thinking that the production kept me at an arm’s length from the music; everything was so focused on the the vocals and the extremely steady beat. If you had to “give the drummer some,” for instance, to which drummer younger than 35 would you turn? I just spent 3 minutes trying to begin to answer my own question, but any cool, modern-day “musician’s musician” who came to mind was already past 35 (eg, Jack White [37], Omar from The Mars Volta [37], Nels Cline [55!]).

Surely a large part of my question is a function of my age and lack of touch with modern music, but I’m also curious to know if people still cherish musicianship (of any favorite style of music) the way my friends and I did growing up. We were just as likely to make fun of Neil Peart, Steve Lukather, and their ilk, but we could have easily produced an alternative list of shit-hot musicians who should have been on the cover of those chops-oriented magazines. I can’t even name mainstream “chops” types younger than 35, can you? (Surely I must be forgetting some obvious contenders.)

Of course this thread begs the question, How many Townspeople are young enough and in touch enough to answer this question? Nevertheless, I think it’s a question worth investigating.

Mar 092012

Seriously, is there something about being a “musician’s musician” that makes one seem more likely to come off like an asshole—not everyone in this clip, mind you—or is it the fact that they’re the ones most likely to be asked to appear in these videos that gives us the opportunity to see them that way? In other words, if we were filmed playing “No Fun” or “Gloria” or whatever “cool,” rudimentary song we knew how to play on guitar would we tend to come off looking just as self-absorbed?

Or am I simply an asshole for thinking this way at all?

Is there’s anything to what I’ve been thinking when I watch this clip, is there an instrument on which players with “chops” are least likely to look silly playing in such a video? Do piano players, for instance, come off any better when captured showing off their chops?


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