Put an­oth­er dime in the juke­box, baby. I like more or less all the mu­sic, at least all of it’s that writ­ten by hu­mans and per­formed by mu­si­cian­s, which ex­cludes most mod­ern in­dus­tri­al. But Rock is the mu­sic of my time and tribe, and while oth­er kinds can make me dream and weep, it’s the on­ly one where the first gui­tar chord makes me smile and be­fore long I can’t not dance.

Half a cen­tu­ry · In 1966, shrimpy 11-year-old me was on a pre-Christmas vis­it to my un­cle in Drumheller, Al­ber­ta, and then we drove back to Ed­mon­ton, on­ly a few high­way hours but his car heater was on the blink and it was like -20°, so we stopped in a din­er at least once an hour to warm up. In those days, they all had juke­box­es, and those juke­box­es all had Th­ese Boots Are Made For Walkin’, and I cadged a quar­ter at ev­ery stop so I could play it. What a song  —  it still gives me a shiv­er ev­ery time.

Since then, I saw Neil Young’s Rust Nev­er Sleeps tour at Maple Leaf Gar­den­s, and Springsteen’s Dark­ness on the Edge of Town tour, and one of the good Kinks tours (at their peak their show ri­valed Springsteen’s), and an Ig­gy Pop/Pre­tenders tour, and the Clash’s sec­ond and third North Amer­i­can tours, and Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an (dou­ble bill with Jeff Beck) two weeks be­fore he died, and a Michelle Shocked/Public Ene­my dou­ble bil­l, and Ron­nie Hawkins in a bar, and John­ny Win­ter in a bar, and Hot Tu­na in a bar, and Pat­ti Smith in a bar, and, well, lots more, and that’s just the ones from My Gen­er­a­tion.

Hotlips Messiah

Late­ly too · Like the Tull song says: “No, you're nev­er too old to Rock'n'Roll if you're too young to die.”

In re­cent months I’ve been to a per­for­mance of Bach’s Mu­si­cal Of­fer­ing, and it had the most pure beau­ty, gold­en arcs and loops spi­ral­ing up in­to the church’s nave. And I’ve been to one of Pa­tri­cia Barber’s reg­u­lar Monday-night shows at the GreenMill in Chicago, and her band squeezed the most mu­sic in­to each per­for­mance sec­ond, pas­sion mar­ried to in­fi­nite depth and sub­tle­ty.

But screw all that stuff. In Oc­to­ber I went to the Livewire Lounge in Chica­go to see Sho­nen Knife, who play the purest pos­si­ble gui­tar rock re­al­ly loud with Ja­panese ac­cents, and have writ­ten a lot of good songs over the years.

The open­ing act was Hotlips Mes­si­ah, pic­tured above and again be­low where the singer had leaped off the stage to en­gage her #1 fan a lit­tle more close­ly. Fast loud rock, maybe a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed than it needs to be, but good stuff.

Hotlips Messiah

The Knife girls were awe­some as al­ways and I’ll prob­a­bly buy their lat­est record be­cause the songs they said were new were I think bet­ter than av­er­age for them, which is strong praise. Below is At­suko on bass; I post­ed this on Twit­ter and At­suko liked it!

Atsuko of Shonen Knife

And then on De­cem­ber 1st, Rock ’n’ Roll gave me the on­ly re­al­ly great time I’ve ev­er had in Las Ve­gas: Kings of Chaos live at the House of Blues, with guest star Bil­ly Gib­bon­s.

Con­text · I was at AWS re:In­vent 2016, and could have gone to the par­ty, fea­tur­ing Martin Gar­rix. But all those EDM DJ’s are plas­tic bobble-heads to me. When I go to a live show, I wan­na see per­form­ers per­form. DJ’s don’t, re­al­ly; but don’t be­lieve me, take it from dead­mau5.

Kings of Chaos · They’re a pick­up band, or­ga­nized by vet­er­an hard-rock drum­mer Matt So­rum, of Guns N’ Ros­es, Vel­vet Re­volver, the Cult, and so on. The line-up last Thurs­day, along with So­rum, in­clud­ed Bil­ly Duffy (Cult), Steve Stevens (Bil­ly Idol, Michael Jack­son, etc), Corey Tay­lor (Slip­knot), Robert DeLeo (S­tone Tem­ple Pilot­s), and Ch­ester Ben­ning­ton (Linkin Park). Here they are (mi­nus Ben­ning­ton):

Kings of Chaos

The guest star was Bil­ly Gib­bons, and he ob­vi­ous­ly had an in­flu­ence on the set list. Here’s the band, with Bil­ly.

Man, that’s a lot of good mu­sic. I’ve nev­er been to ZZ Top so it was nice to hear some of those songs; I’ve al­ways loved Sharp-dressed Man and es­pe­cial­ly La Grange, which I’m not go­ing to de­fend po­lit­i­cal­ly.

But the high­light of the night for me was Go­ing Down, with four good singers on stage, lean­ing in­to the vo­cals and swap­ping gui­tar lick­s. Any­how, good good times.

Kings of Chaos, with Billy Gibbons

The songs with­out Bil­ly were pret­ty tight­ly script­ed, with the cho­rus­es and so­los locked in. Th­ese guys may be a pick­up band, but they’re pol­ished pro­fes­sion­als who take show­ing the au­di­ence a good time se­ri­ous­ly and work hard at it.

Hey, look they have a web­site and they’re tour­ing! I rec­om­mend tak­ing them in if they come near you. Wel­l, on­ly if you like ex­treme­ly loud flashy 70s-90s rock, played well.

Com­par­a­tive mu­si­col­o­gy · A rock-and-roll lover has to give up a lot. The time is gonna be 4/4, and the beats are go­ing to be on 2 and 4, and there’s not go­ing to be much in the way of coun­ter­point, and there’s on­ly one in­stru­men­tal voice that mat­ter­s.

But it’s not as though the no­tion of less be­ing more is sur­pris­ing or con­tro­ver­sial. And it’s got a good beat, you could dance to it. I feel so luck­y, mu­si­cal­ly, to have lived in the decades that I have.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Eric (Dec 12 2016, at 15:40)

It's not _always_ 4/4. (I imagine you knew that). My favorite waltz, e.g. is Hendrix' "Manic Depression".

OK, so it's kinda fast for a waltz. But still.


From: Meisenheimer (Dec 20 2016, at 21:10)

The first time I listened to Horses was on York Road. If memory serves (not really a given any more) you commented then to the effect that Patti Smith is God. Anyway, it remains one of my very favourite albums and a fond reminder of my disorderly youth, now that tea is my only real vice.

The first stadium show I ever saw was Neil Young in Maple Leaf Gardens. He was playing with the Stray Gators, not Crazy Horse, but we didn't care. We drove for three hours to get to Toronto, then drove home after the show to get to school the next day. The driver was my buddy's Presbyterian Minister dad, which did not help our post-rock show paranoia on the way home.

Most memorable shows? Probably not the ones I would have remembered twenty years ago. The Beggar's Banquet concert at Borough of York Stadium that had Black Sabbath and Three Dog Night as headliners was where I discovered Humble Pie; they were worth the price of admission themselves and the lead acts were kind of lame after Humble Pie's full tilt performance. Then there was the night John Cale stormed off stage after four tunes, proclaiming that we were the worst audience ever as the crowd chanted the name of the act that opened for him. It's not just the music after all, it's the lifestyle.

I agree with you about Knife.

That Tull tune is kind of depressing though.


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