Blue Man Group live review

Blue Man Group

My latest bit at PopMatters is a review of a recent performance by Blue Man Group. They have also introduced cool new author pages where you can see all my articles at a glace.

They’re surprisingly dark, and I hear Tracy Bonham’s lyrics anew thanks to touring singer Adrian Hartley’s ability to straddle exuberance and downright creepiness. “Persona” starts with everyone wearing gas masks, finally removing them only to reveal others beneath; “Shadows, Part 2” shows the protagonist repeatedly devolving into a generic stick figure as she wanders around the city, dwarfed by intimidating skyscrapers. All the while, I’m racking my brain trying to connect the dots and come to some grand conclusion about the message they’re trying to send about emotional isolation and modern technology, but it’s hard to stay reflective when the guys on stage are squirting toothpaste at one another and barfing up marshmallows on some poor girl’s head. More

Totally unexpected Lucinda Williams train wreck

Lucinda Williams

Binge, part three: apparently disliking Lucinda is a contentious position. PopMatters now says I’m their “resident fan rankler” and even ran a counterpoint essay!

Williams somewhat redeemed herself with “Honeybee”, an unreleased song stuffed with reckless anthropomorphism that puts her quirkiness and general lack of shit-giving on the same level as Pixies frontman Black Francis. In general, though, she spent too much time fighting with her overbearing guitar players, who continued to heap blues runs upon her by the bushel, scaring off what little poignancy hadn’t already departed in a huff. More

Tim Reynolds live review

Tim Reynolds

PopMatters binge, part two: Tim Reynolds.

You’d think that the opportunity to see a master up close as he works his instrument in the raw would be a transcendental experience. With all due respect to Reynolds’ spacey wobbles and echo-laden swirls, that wasn’t really the case; he seemed to do best when he wasn’t saddled with duties of pulse, rhythm, or harmony. When he put his fingers on autopilot and let them free-associate on the fretboard, it made for a stupefying display, but his talents were ultimately wasted on rhythm guitar.


Bill Callahan live review

Bill Callahan

PopMatters binge, part one: Bill Callahan.

“Woke on a Whaleheart” was the first record he released under his own name, and, ironically enough, his return with a larger ensemble came only after dropping the band name. The logical inversion, of course, is that it can be a bit harder to see the man beneath the songs at times, but they’re still put to good use—Callahan’s songs are fattened up as much by the violin and bass as by the drum fills and counterpoint. “Cold Blooded Old Times”, in particular, is driven by biting octave dyads on a violin which, given its aggression, might as well be a distorted guitar. Eighth notes aren’t swung, they’re bludgeoned.


Concert For Virginia Tech


PopMatters seems to think this is a concert review, but I’m not so sure. Judge for yourself.

Syncopated mind games culminated during “#41”, when opener John Mayer turned up for his guest spot with staccato blues-guitar runs that answered each dotted sixteenth note in kind. In what I thought was bound to be the emotional climax of the evening, Mayer closed his solo by echoing the central sax riff, then stepped up to the mic and sang harmonies for each note, eyes wide and head shaking as if to convey his dismay at the circumstances that had brought him there. I was wrong: DMB was about to up the ante.


The B-52s bomb


PopMatters just posted my review of last month’s Charlottesville performance by the B-52’s.

Their moves were still outlandish: frontman Fred Schneider seems to have decided to split the difference between Screech and Carlton, displaying kinetics that threatened to degenerate at any moment into snorkel dancing or walking like an Egyptian. Schneider has been getting short shrift for decades, and it’s time we finally gave him his due: he is, without a doubt, the whitest rapper ever. A sort of Pat Boone for New Wave, he yaps on about shellfish with the same inept rhyme scheme your eighth-grade science teacher used when he decided that a rap would be a cool way to teach the kids about plate tectonics.


Battles live review


My review of last month’s Battles show at the Satellite Ballroom has just been published on PopMatters.

At any given moment, the three musicians might be working six instruments—including guitars, keyboards, bass, and electronics. Braxton and Williams are armed with everything from Echoplexes to Moogerfoogers, and Konopfka spends half the show down on his knees twiddling knobs on God knows what else. But at the end of the day, Stanier is the heart, and all the gadgetry is just a Rube Goldberg machine for him to destroy with his drumsticks.


It’s kind of a long story, but this was originally slated to be a Monkeyclaus article, which means I also got to do a live recording. Unfortunately, the guys later decided they don’t want us to release it. That’s too bad — the show was awesome.