Issue No. 27 - Modern Acoustic
ALSO: OUR FAVES OF ’09
The Avetts, the House of Blues, the Big Surprise Tour, and more!
MUSIC AMD MUSIC-RElATED ISSUES THAT MATTER
DEC. 2009 - Issue 27
We all have have things we have lost tolerance for. Animated kids’ films? No more,
thank you. Musical theater? Not unless our
kids our in it. Costume parties? No invite
But it is good occasionally to step outside
your comfort zone and take in experiences
you don’t consider your style. Sometimes
they even surprise you.
A couple of summers ago, we spent a weekend at a jam-band festival. We are not big
fans of jam music but we were interested to
see if the groovy vibes of the Grateful Dead
era that we knew and loved still existed.
(They actually do!) Did we come away loving
the music? No. But we were more appreciative of the whole scene.
This year we put our mettle to a test by
taking our son to a metal concert. Now the
metal-est we get is Zeppelin and Hendrix, so
this was a real challenge.
The question was not only would our ears
Can’t get enough
T H E
ED I TO R
be able to take the decibals, but would we
be able to tolerate the music and the scene,
which has never appealed to us.
So how did it turn out? You’ll have to read
all about it in our review beginning on Page
4, but we will tell you we were pleasantly
– and amusingly – surprised.
Something that might not surprise you is
that we have picked our favorites for this
year and they include albums by Eilen Jewell
and the Avett Brothers. We have written
about both bands in depth, reviewing both
their albums and concerts. It makes us happy
just thinking about them.
We had a great time at shows this year,
seeing performances by Regina Spektor,
Grace Potter, and the Avetts at the House of
Blues, Kathleen Edwards at the Paradise,
Steve Earle at the Berklee Performance
Center, and the metal extravaganza with
Dragonforce at the Palladium in Worcester.
Check out our annual list of favorites
L I VE
S H O T
Photo by Adam Kassirer
which begins on Page 6.
Finally, just in case you hadn’t gotten your
complete musical fill from this issue, we offer
a review of the new release from – gasp!
– Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. It’s actually the first release from David Rawlings,
with help from Gillian Welch.
Hey, at least they have finally released
something new. And with it, we can slip back
into our comfort zone. Rich Kassirer, editor
Modern Acoustic in your life?
just click on the links below!
ON THE WEB
2 MODERN ACOUSTIC
ON THE BLOG
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Herman Li of Dragonforce at the Worcester Palladium.
Photo by RICH Kassirer
MODERN ACOUSTIC 3
hen my son Adam asked
me to take him and
his friend to see his
favorite metal band, I
was a little nervous.
Not because I was worried that my 13-yearold would be safe among a rowdy crowd of
leather-and-black-clad metal types or that
we had to travel 60 miles to the rough-andtumble town of Worcester. No, I was worried
whether or not I could survive four hours
of loud, head-banging music. But not only
did I survive the three bands – Taking Dawn,
Sonata Arctica and Dragonforce – I actually
enjoyed myself. No, I didn’t come away
loving the music, but I had a great time
being a fly on the wall at an event I never
would have gone to. Here is my experience
(in chronological order).
PhotoS by RICH Kassirer
Dragonforce – (from left) Herman Li, ZP Theart and Sam Totman – rocks the Palladium.
It turns out they were industrial fans used to
blow the band members’ hair back for effect!
The Palladium is a great venue to see a
show. It’s an old theater with a few tables,
but mostly just standing room on tiered
levels, so you can see over the people in front
of you. There is plenty of floor space for
moshing. The show wasn’t sold out so there
was ample room to move around.
‘WE F-ING HATE/LOVE YOU’
The first band on was Taking Dawn, who
immediately made my night. If you were to
parody a metal band (can you say Spinal
Tap?), these guys were it. After the first song,
the singer shouts to the mildly interested
crowd, “You guys F-ing suck! Get loud,
Massachusetts!” Following the second song,
“Massachusetts, you guys suck! We wanna
see you either punch the guy next to you
or show us your tits!” Seriously, that was
supposed to inspire us? How about play some
good tunes. They lambasted fans after nearly
every song of their six-tune set, and then
4 MODERN ACOUSTIC
ALL THE STAGE IS
Dragonforce’s Vadim Pruzhanov and Sonata Arctica’s Henrik Klingenberg.
as they are walking off the stage, the dude
shouts “Massachusetts, we love you!” Really.
PUMPING IT UP
Heavy metal, even more than rock ’n’ roll, is
predominately a guy thing. The crowd at this
show was probably 75 percent guys, maybe
more. I understand the ol’ guitar-as-phallus,
the tight leather pants, the shirtless, bulkedup guitar player. But who are these bands
trying to impress?
Next up was the Finnish power metal group
Sonata Arctica, definitely a step up in quality.
The group is led by a singer who reminded
me of a mix of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)
and Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) for the
hardcore set. The band’s sound was more
arty, more melodic, like an overly heavy Yes.
Finally, it was time for Dragonforce, the
band we came to see. Dragonforce, I’ve
learned, is more than its music. Yes, they
are known for their speed-metal prowess
(see Favorite Quote, Page 7). The guitarists
certainly can play their instruments fast. But
they are also a show. Before the band came
out, the roadies set up a number of boxes
on the front lip of the stage, but from my
vantage point, I couldn’t tell what they were.
The band’s stage setup was dramatic, with
cool effects lighting that included strobes and
ricocheting beams of light and a fog machine.
A riser, probably a foot high and 10 feet long,
allowed the guitarists to leap up and off after
particularly speedytastic solos.
THEY WILL, THEY WILL
The two guitarists, Herman Li and Sam
Totman, are a blast to watch. Li is Asian
and not who you’d picture as a typical metal
player. But he can play, running his fingers
from both hands up and down the neck during
solos. Totman was clad in the funkiest glowin-the dark green and yellow leopard-printed
spandex. His best moments included high
leaps off the riser, playing the guitar lying on
his back next to the drummer, and drinking
his beer attached to his mike stand from a
Vadim Pruzhanov, the keyboard player,
not to be out done, was a show of his
own. Standing behind his huge organ (no
pun intended) on a high riser in the back,
he could be seen in silhouette jumping,
pinwheeling his arms and pounding the keys.
His big moment came a little over midway
through the show when he and the keyboard
player for Sonata Arctica stepped to the
front in a duel of keytars. It was awesome.
THEY WILL SPLASH YOU
Singer ZP Theart has a big voice, but has
little to do during the extended guitar and
keyboard solos. He fills his time by running
offstage to fetch plastic water bottles, then
running back onstage, splashing fans and
tossing the bottle into the crowd. My guess
was he was trying to splash the women, but I
don’t know for sure.
The crowd surfing was a unique experience
for me, having never seen it live. Not sure
if this is typical, but it hit Adam and me the
same way, like something out of “Catcher
in the Rye.” As the kids rode to the front of
the crowd, the burly security guards would
snatch them up and deposit them safely on
the ground, like Holden Caulfield in the corn
THROUGH THE – SORRY, MAN –
FIRE AND THE – OOPS, SORRY
AGAIN – FLAMES
For the encore, fans were rewarded
with Dragonforce’s most popular song,
“Through the Fire and the Flames.” An
extended, multiple face-melting guitar solos
extravaganza that had fans pumping their
heavy-metal salute in time to the beat.
Beams of white light blasted through the
crowd as the guitarists reeled off scorching
solos. During those solos, the singer was
doing his water-bottle thing and then trying
to punt the bottles into crowd, but twice hit
security guards at the side of the stage. A
YouTube video catches the scene perfectly,
and you can hear Theart apologizing to them.
A classic moment and a great finish to a
really fun night. (See THE VIDEO HERE)
MODERN ACOUSTIC 5
Our faves of 2009
The Big Surprise Tour at the House of Blues.
“I and Love and You,” the Avett Brothers; “Sea of Tears,” Eilen Jewell. The
Avetts’ mountain music has just enough punky attitude. Yes, we realize the
band’s sound has been scrubbed a little cleaner than in the past, thanks to legendary producer Rick Rubin, but “I and Love and You” still comes off fresh and
exciting, and new to those of us who hadn’t been paying attention before. As for
“Sea of Tears,” Eilen’s timeless voice gets backing from some of the most-kickass late-’60s and early-’70s guitar-based sounds from a band who appears to
have totally found its groove.
(Read our album reviews: Avetts HERE; Eilen HERE)
“Friend of a Friend,” David Rawlings
Machine. Since we’ve been waiting six
years, anytime there is new music from
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings it is
(See album review, page 8;
check out DaVE’s music here)
Regina Spektor blowing the shofar as
part of her encore.
Dragonforce guitar player Herman Li
Regina Spektor at House of Blues.
6 MODERN ACOUSTIC
(see Live Shot, Page 3)
Best time at a show
Big Surprise Tour. We went to see Gillian and David. We
also got to hear the Felice Brothers, Old Crow Medicine
Show and Justin Townes Earle – all together sharing the
stage in one big hoedown. The highlight was a concertending full-on version of “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If
You Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll).”
Regina Spektor at the House of Blues, Dragonforce at
the Worcester Palladium. Anytime you can experience
music with your kids, it’s a good time.
(Watch OUR video HERE; read our CONCERT review here).
House of Blues Boston. We have mixed feelings about
this. We love small clubs for their intimacy and HOB is a
corporate rock club that holds a couple thousand people.
But we saw
year – from
to the jamGrace Potter at the House of Blues.
-- and the sound was perfect every time. Even when
there were nearly 15 musicians on the stage for the Big
Surprise Tour, we could hear every instrument and vocal
nuance. While you do have to stand most of the time, the
sightlines are surprisingly very good. One thing: $6 for
a can of Bud? That’s why corporate rock really sucks. A
special shoutout to the Palladium in Worcester. We had
never been there before and it’s a pretty cool place to
see a show. (read our GRACE concert review HERE)
(read our REGINA concert review HERE;
see Page 4 for our Dragonforce review).
Q. How would you respond to some critics saying that
“Inhuman Rampage” is just playing fast at the expense
VadimPruzhanov, Dragonforce keyboard player: We
love to shred and shredding is what we do. There are
plenty of bands that play mid-tempo power metal whilst
looking at their fretboards and not move at all. If it’s too
fast, you’re too fucking old! (FROM SAVIORSOFROCK.COM)
Favorite new artist
The Low Anthem. This R.I. band caught our attention
with their song “Charlie Darwin.” We look forward to
their next album. (Check out the LOW ANTHEM HERE).
Steve Earle. We’ve
known about Steve
for a long time. But
after seeing him at the
Center, we realized he
is the real deal, a folk Steve Earle at Berklee.
singer with that political drive to keep going.
(READ OUR concert REVIEW HERE; STEVE’S MUSIC HERE)
MODERN ACOUSTIC 7
REV I EW
WELCOME TO THE
It’s been six long years since Gillian Welch and David
Rawlings have released an album. Their avid fans, us included,
have been asking – no – begging for some new music. Yes, we have
scoured YouTube for clips of a tune we call “Throw Me a Rope.” We
have downloaded various quality concert audio of another unrecorded
tune called “Knuckleball Catcher.” And we have gone faithfully to
their performances at the Newport Folk Festival, the Big Surprise Tour,
and anywhere else within a 100-mile radius.
And yet we kept wondering: Where is the new album? Well, it arrived
recently. It wasn’t what we expected, but it was more than a pleasant
Instead of Gillian at the helm, Dave Rawlings
gets a chance to be the frontman of his first
Dave Rawlings Machine album, “Friend of a
The album continues the duo’s basic
sound – a mix of old-timey, country and
bluegrass – adding fiddle, banjo, and bass from their friends
in the band Old Crow Medicine Show. Dave’s soprano voice
takes the lead throughout with Gillian providing the backup.
It’s a nice change that works well especially on the slower
numbers, like the opener “Ruby.”
You’d expect Dave’s guitar to be showcased, but that
really isn’t the case here. He gets a few licks here and
there but for the most part, he keeps the band orientation front and center.
Other songs that stand out are his upbeat, Ryan
Adams collaboration “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad,
Is to Be High),” the hoedown “It’s Too Easy,” and
the standard “Monkey and the Engineer.”
The highlight of the album is Dave’s “Method
Acting/Cortez the Killer” pairing, a 10-minute
dream that bridges the generation gap between
Bright Eyes and Neil Young. A great combo. We
saw this done live and it really is mesmerizing.
While this album not quite what we expected, it’s nice to hear new tunes from these guys.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take another six years for
Gillian to come out with her new album!
(WATCH OUR VIDEO OF “METHOD ACTING/CORTEZ
THE KILLER” HERE; CHECK OUT HIS MUSIC HERE)
8 MODERN ACOUSTIC
T H E
L I S T S
So happy together
Other memorable concerts
Jenny Lewis at House of Blues We knew
Jenny had a great voice, but we were amazed
that in concert she hits all the notes, whether
singing a solo gospel number or fronting her
full-tilt rock band. (Read our CONCERT review
HERE; check out her music HERE)
The Avett Brothers at the House of Blues
We’d heard that seeing these guys live is
a different experience than hearing their
albums. And it is true. The energy level is
ratcheted up to the point where you can’t
help but dance. (Read our CONCERT review
HERE; check out TheIr music HERE)
Kathleen Edwards at Paradise This was our
second time seeing
Kathleen. She puts
on a great show,
the stage and firing
off funny stories
about life on the
road. (Read our
HERE; check out
her music HERE)
Eilen Jewell doing Loretta Lynn songs at
Lizard Lounge We almost didn’t go to the
show, but at the last minute changed our
minds. And we’re glad we did. (Read our
CONCERT review HERE; check out her
PhotoS by RICH Kassirer
The Avett Brothers at the House of Blues.
Other memorable albums
“Hundreds of Lions”
Erin has a spark, a wit,
and a way with songs
like no other. Take a
listen to “(Put the Fun
Back in) the Funeral” and “The Rascal” and
try not to smile. (Read our album review
HERE; check out her music HERE)
Regina Spektor, “Far”
We thought we’d never
love a Regina album as
much as we did “Begin
to Hope.’’ But, lo and
behold, “Far” hooked
us. It has so many great tunes full of her
M A 5
amazing vocal acrobatics. One listen to “Eet”
or “Dance Anthem of the ’ 80s’’ and you’ll be
hooked too. (Read our album review HERE;
check out her music HERE)
Kasey Chambers and
Kasey is a nationally
known folk-pop singer;
Shane, her husband,
is apparently known mostly in their native
Australia. This album, a mix of folk, blues
and bluegrass, really stands out for the way
their voices meld into one. The best songs
-- “Jackson Hole,” “The Devil’s Inside My
Head” – are romping tunes filled out with
some furious banjo picking. (Read our album
review HERE; check out TheIr music HERE)
S O N GS
Song that helped us survive this issue:
1. “January Wedding,” “I and Love and You,” the Avett Brothers. A wonderful little ditty of a love song.
2. “Long Distance Runaround,” “Fragile,” Yes. Reaching way back to someplace way back in my brain.
3. “To the Dogs or Whoever,” The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter,” Josh Ritter. Still a blast to listen to.
4. “The Rascal,” “Hundreds of Lions,” Erin McKeown. Erin sure knows how to have fun – even when she’s mad!
5. “A Man Needs a Maid/Heart of Gold,” “Live at Massey Hall 1971,” Neil Young. A great solo acoustic version.
MODERN ACOUSTIC 9