Monday, July 10, 2017

Show #159 May 27, 2017

This one's for Corinna and Gig Buddy's everywhere!

Corinna- Mimi Betinis Music Sounds 
Best Friends- The Outlets Outlets 7" 
Flagrante Delicto- The Upper Crust Delusions Of Grandeur 
We Don't Mind The Rave- The Flys Waikki Beach Refugees 
Frantic Romantic- Scientists Frantic Romantic 
Comes Around- The Well Wishers Comes And Goes 
Chart Buster- De Cylinders We Must Pay 7'' 
Please Stay- Paul Collins' Beat To Beat Or Not To Beat/Long Time Gone 
^Best Friend- Foster The People Best Friend 
*Best Friend- English Beat Keep the Beat - Very Best of 
*Best Friend- The Gangsters The Gangsters 
Start Again- Suzy and Los Quattro Faster and Louder! 
Takeaway Love- The Resistors e.p. for Jeanie
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?- The Monkees  Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. 
*My Best Friend- Weezer Make Believe 
*My Best Friend- Milkshake Play! 
*My Best Friend- Nixon's Head Traps, Buckshot and Pelt 
No Way This Could Fail- The Wellingtons End Of The Summer 
When Donna Romances- The Scruffs When Donna Romances 
Lucy Potato- Teenage Head Teenage Head 
>My Best Friend- Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow 
*Best Friend- The Krinkles 3 - The Mordorlorff Collection 
*Best Friend- Fastball Step Into Light 
Colosseums- The New Pornographers Whiteout Conditions 
Blue Thing- DM3 West Of Anywhere 
Teenage News- The Connection Just For Fun 
*Best Friend- The Drums Best Friend 
*Best Friend- Legendary Wings Do You See 
*My Best Friend's Hot- The Dollyrots Because I'm Awesome 
*Best Friend- Dandy Warhols Dandys Rule OK 
He's Frank- The Monochrome Set The Independent Singles Collection 
He's My Best Friend- Jellyfish Spilt Milk

^Power Pop Peak:  #14 US Alt Chart  3/10/14

*SacroSet:  Best Friend Songs

>Power Pop Prototype:  1967

The Upper Crust

I don't go to many rock shows these days because a) there aren't that many bands I want to see and b) those I do aren't popular enough to score a Friday or Saturday so, along with the 100 mile round trip to San Francisco, it makes for a late weeknight.  That said, there was NO WAY I was going to miss The Upper Crust's recent show at Bottom of The Hill.  

Titanics, Nat and Dave on right
After I left Boston in 1992, Nat Freedberg must have gotten pretty bored with his band The Titanics because he and guitarist Dave Fredette formed not one, not two but THREE joke band offshoots.  In The Satanics Freedberg was "Devlin Carnate," I'm not sure what his name was in surf-rock group The Clamdiggers but in The Upper Crust  he was, and continues to be, Lord Bendover.  The concept is brilliant:  18th Century French fops in make up, wigs and period attire singing songs about being rich.  The other members of The Upper Crust were in Mente and Seks Bomba with drummer Jim Janota
The Bags, Jim Janota center
coming from one of my all time favorite Boston bands:  The Bags. 
Ted Widmer (Lord Rockingham) is a Harvard guy who left the band to take a job as a speechwriter for Bill Clinton and now works at the Library of Congress.

Twenty-two years later all the aforementioned bands are long gone, save for The Upper Crust who recently released their sixth album Delusions Of Grandeur. Back in the 90's I missed my chance to see the band play at the Covered Wagon Saloon in SF so I was very excited to hear they were coming back in May 2017.  

I called up my best friend Frank and he was game- we have gone to many shows together over the years.  I've known Frank since high school, here's a picture of us from back then.  We weren't a band yet but that didn't stop us from having photo sessions- there's no denying we had "a look."
Ted, Jim, Frank, Rick

When we moved to Boston after high school (me to go to Emerson, Frank to Northeastern) we had a band with our friends Pete and Jim called No Idea that played all the Boston clubs.
Rick, Frank, Pete, Jim

Frank was my best man when Jaime and I got married on March 14, 1992.
Lance, Rich, Paul, Frank, Rick, Jaime, Mary Beth, Jenny, Sarah, Sue
In 1993 Jaime and I moved to San Francisco and Frank came out a few months later.   When he married Joanna on June 6, 2004 I was in their wedding party

Frank's brother Greg was best man but didn't want to do the toast.  I was proud to do the honor myself- though I would've appreciated more than five minutes notice.

In the late 90's I wrote a song called "The Warm Up Band Sucks" about a less than stellar experience I had waiting to see The Plimsouls at Bottom of The Hill.  I got there early that night because I thought the club would be packed.  It wasn't, and I was subjected to not one but two terrible support acts.  On the plus side, The Plimsouls were AWESOME, featuring none other than Clem Burke on drums!
Plimsouls with Clem Burke circa 1997
Despite my aforementioned "Warm Up Band Sucks" episode, repeated numerous times since then, I remain ever hopeful that support acts won't punish my punctuality.  This night I once again cajoled Frank into arriving at Bottom of The Hill early and once again we were... let's just say the pump was primed for The Upper Crust who blew everyone else off the stage.  The band was resplendent both aurally and visually.
The Upper Crust 5/25/17

Even after a 20 year build up, The Upper Crust exceeded my expectations.  Frank was similarly taken- the songs, the look, the stage banter- they were on fire!  It is difficult to describe, the band was very tight yet also seemed to be careening out of control at times especially during Duc D'istortion's sublime solos.
The Duc Lets Loose!

We Are NOT
I especially appreciated relative newcomer Count Bassie, who joined the group in '96. His disgust at the rabble in the audience was apparent in his ever present sneer.  Yet thoughts of the guillotine are banished in your shock at hearing such a beautiful falsetto- clear and pitch perfect- emanating from such a debauched reprobate.  If you don't believe me, check out this live version of "Little Castrato" recorded last year in New Jersey.  Count Bassie also gets credit for the salute that adorns the Delusions of Grandeur album cover and which many of us in the crowd could not help but raise throughout the performance.  And I would be remiss were I not to mention the great Jackie Kickassis anchoring the rhythm section on, as the French say, "le batterie." 

I Want To Be
Jackie Kickassis

As a long time rock show attendee, I pride myself on being able to always spot band wives/girlfriends in the crowd, though at an Upper Crust show it is admittedly not that difficult.  You do not want to get caught standing behind these ladies!
The Crustettes

So it was a great night of rock and roll, made better by the fact that I was able to spend it with my best friend- Thanks Frank!

Click the link below to stream this week's show or to download, right click and "Save Link As:"

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Show #158 March 11, 2017

For Valerie!

Valerie- Greg Kihn Greg Kihn Band RocKihnRoll
We All Make Mistakes- The Sweat No More Running 
Guns N' Roses Saved My Life- The Genuine Fakes s/t
First Rate- The Proof It's Safe 
Loverboy- Bonnie Hayes With The Wild Combo Good Clean Fun 
On The Rocks- Bash and Pop Anything Could Happen 
Proto-pretty- Wondermints Proto-Pretty 7" 
Waters Raging- Cotton Mather Death Of The Cool 
^It's A Mistake- Men At Work It's A Mistake 
Don't Mistake Love- Radio City Class of '77 
Everyday I Make Another Mistake- Fast Cars Coming, Ready or Not!
Mary's Got Her Eye on Me- Smart Remarks Foreign Fields: 1982 - 1984 
Leave- Regular Guys Regular Guys E.P. 7" 
Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow- Rooney Washed Away 
*Mistakes- Madness Mistakes 
*Mistake- Artful Dodger Babes On Broadway 
*Mistakes- The Lash Outs State of Excess 
Oldest Oak at Brookside- John K. Samson Winter Wheat 
Another School Day- The Hollywood Brats Sick On You 
Get Outa My Pagoda- Chris Spedding The Very Best Of Chris Spedding 
*The Same Mistakes- The Records Smashes, Crashes and Near Misses 
*Same Mistake- The Pets Misdirection 
*New Mistakes- The Celibate Rifles The Turgid Miasma of Existence 
*New Mistake- Jellyfish Spilt Milk 
All These Things- Empire Expensive Sound 
No More- The Tweeds I Need That Record: The Tweeds Anthology 
Irreplaceable- Popsicle Laquer 
>My Mistake- Split Enz My Mistake 
Great British Mistake- The Adverts Crossing The Red Sea 
Forgiveness- Bob Mould Beauty and Ruin

^Power Pop Peak:  #6 Billboard Hot 100 8/20/83

*SacroSet[s]:  Miztake Songz

>Power Pop Prototype:  1977 

My daughter Nica is a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning first show In The Heights so we were familiar with his work when the first articles about Hamilton started appearing in the press.  We followed the show's progress from it's Off Broadway run at The Public Theater and then onto Broadway, where the rest as they say is history.  I bought the cast recording the week it came out in September 2015 and on a family trip to down Monterey that Thanksgiving we probably listened to it at least ten times (both discs!)  Since then it's been a selection in our home at least once a week.  It's been especially enjoyable hearing Nica perfect Angelica Schuyler's spitfire rap in Act 1's "Satisfied."

 Market Street 12/12/16
In Fall 2015 SHN announced Hamilton would be coming to San Francisco in March 2017.  They then leveraged the show's appeal to sell tickets to their 2016 season- the only way to guarantee your right to BUY tickets to Hamilton was to BUY tickets to six other shows the prior year!  In December the other 99% got their chance to buy tickets and it was CRAZY.  In our Internet-dominant age, it was very cool to see people camping out for anything.  The show also did a lottery for $20 tickets (I'm guessing that was Lin-Manuel's idea and not SHN's) and we heard about several people scoring tickets, including Nica's Civics teacher.
Within a few days tickets were up to $1500 for an orchestra seat on Craigslist so Jaime and I figured we'd get our chance to see it sometime in 2018.  Then a few weeks before Christmas Jaime got a call from James, a friend and former member of her board, who wanted to give her the amazing gift of two tickets to see Hamilton on March 16, 2017!  She was thrilled for about 90 seconds then horrified when she realized that both Nica (as lead actress) and I (as Stage Manager) had a performance of Emma! A Pop Musical that nightLuckily James' wife Jennifer was able to finagle an exchange for an earlier date that happened to be March 14, my 25th wedding anniversary.  We could not have been more grateful to James and Jennifer.  In that spirit, a selfless act for which I've got to be in the running for Father of the Year, Jaime and I agreed that we would give my ticket to Nica for Christmas.  She had to literally piece it together Christmas morning because Jaime had written each letter on a different scrap of paper.

We were so busy with Emma! in January and February I didn't give Hamilton much thought. 
Emma! A Pop Musical
The plan was that I would drive Jaime and Nica down, go record shopping at Amoeba or maybe see a movie, then drive them home.  The day before the show I thought I'd see if there were any reasonably priced tickets up on Craigslist- the best I found was one in the mezzanine for $280 but it was gone by the time I e-mailed the dude.  Just for kicks I went to the SHN website and saw they had four house right "obstructed view" orchestra seats for sale and I snagged one for $200!  I was going to see Hamilton with my ladies!   

The next day we drove down and to save on parking I asked Jaime and Nica if they wouldn't mind walking the last third of a mile.  Unfortunately I didn't have
The Tenderloin
my bearings and this took us down Hyde Street passing right through the TenderloinMy discussion of how Theater Districts have historically abutted Red Light Districts in many cities (The Combat Zone in Boston, Times Square in NYC, etc.) was not well received as we were stepping over several homeless people.  If my Father of the Year Award wasn't already in peril, a sketchy dude in a parka asked me if I was running an escort service.  NICE!  Suddenly saving $40 on parking didn't seem like such a good deal.  We ate at Florinda's
Market Street Grill, one of the few expensive restaurants right near the Orpheum TheaterAfter that walk down Hyde Street there was no way I was going to get away with Sam's American Eatery.  

We had timed things right, so after a leisurely dinner it was a quick walk across the street to the theaterFull disclosure I'm kind of a "if I can't see it on Broadway why bother" snob so I didn't have high expectations.  That said, the Orpheum is
beautiful and a lot more spacious than most NYC theaters I've visited.  In most of those Broadway houses the street doors seem to open onto the back row but the Orpheum has a huge lobby.

Jaime and I made a deal that she would sit with Nica for Act 1 then we'd swap seats for Act 2.  This way I got to sit with my daughter for my favorite song in the show:  "It's Quiet Uptown.After the curtain speech, hilariously delivered by King George III, the show just.... started.  

"How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman..." 

Joshua Henry
I had listened to the cast recording so many times that the opening of the show was downright surreal.  I thought to myself "Oh my God, NoI'm not ready, I need more TIME" but there was Joshua Henry as Aaron Burr spitting rhymes and I wasn't going to miss a word.  I could see everything from my "obstructed view" seat except one quick exchange that took place on the up left second level- not bad for a seat I bought the day before 

The Hamilton set is both sparse and intricate at the same time and includes a turntable that often plays with your sense of movement.   Phantom of the Opera it ain't but for this production I thought it was perfect.  The show is lightning fast at times then at others it slows to a crawl.  I was worried that I knew the musical so well the live experience wouldn't hold anything new for me but it was thrilling from start to finish.  I also realized that in recording a cast album without visual context and for the broadest possible audience they probably limit the small idiosyncrasies each actor brings to their part.   For this reason the live show struck me as much funnier than I expected.  Little things like the way Amber Iman delivered her "and Peggys" in "The Schuyler Sisters" was freakin' hilarious!
Solea Pfeiffer, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Amber Iman
Rory O'Malley
Jonathan Groff is great on the record but Rory O'Malley jacked up the fun factor by 1000%.  It probably helps that he played the character on Broadway before joining the tour.  He could twitch an eyebrow and get a huge laugh- man is that guy fantastic!  I had to say it was very hard not to sing along with "You'll Be Back," especially in the final chorus when he says "everybody!"  (Turns out he is talking to his fellow cast mates and not to me in the audience.)

Michael Luwoye
Jaime wanted a softer Alexander Hamilton but I think Michael Luwoye did a great job bringing a desperation and ferocity that made the role his own.  He is the first actor to play both Hamilton and Burr on Broadway, so it's no surprise he played the part so well.  The story is he first auditioned for Mulligan and after numerous callbacks ended up booking the understudy role for BOTH Hamilton and Burr.  Try beating those credentials when it comes time to cast the touring company. 

Hamilton Pit
One recent development on Broadway that I don't
care for is how some theaters have moved the orchestra off-site to make room for more seating.  The music is still being played live, but you lose something when you're not in the room with the musicians.  I'm happy to say that in Hamilton SF the orchestra was front and center in the pit where they're supposed to be- in fact during "The Reynolds Pamphlet" Jefferson hands the conductor a copy of the titular missive. I love the combination or old and new technology in the pit.  There were several pieces of electronic equipment at each station that I didn't recognize and every musician had their own monitor with a view of the conductorAt the same time, they were reading the music off printed pages of paper, as orchestras have been doing for hundreds of years. 

I'm with you Cast, BRAVO Orchestra!

What a pleasure to have something you've looked forward to for so long exceed your expectations.  Hamilton really is a musical for the ages and I'm so grateful we got to see it together.

Click the link below to stream this week's show or to download, right click and "Save Link As"