All posts by carwreckdebangs

About carwreckdebangs

Carwreck deBangs writes about music, pop culture and little known stories that have escaped mainstream attention, with a dollop of quasi investigative journalism. Cool music, cool synthesizers, cool stories for a cooler world.

Summer Comes Early-Spring 2019 Concert Roundup: Mott, Floyd, BOC, Tull, Sunn O))), Slayer, MSG, Priest, Acid Mothers, fake Genesis and More…

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The summer concert season started early this year, seven days into spring in fact. One thing friends noticed was the lineup-Mott the Hoople, Blue Oyster Cult, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd…what year is this anyway? Lots of shows went down criss crossing the Northeast, blossoming at a furious pace, so let’s see and review what transpired: (note: some of these were intended as their own articles, but due to time constraints, have been all sandwiched into one longer piece)

Scroll down to see in order

Pat Metheny, Mott the Hoople reunion, Blue Oyster Cult, Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets Pink Floyd Extravaganza, Acid Mother’s Temple, Martin Barre’s 50th anniversary Jethro Tull reunion, Sunn O))), the Lemonheads reunion, Michael Schenker Group Festival, Judas Priest with Uriah Heep, Slayer, Musical Box

Pat Metheny – Academy of Music Northampton March 29th

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This show was going to be a real unknown quantity. Although I had seen Metheny under many different guises (going all the way to the seminal American Garage tour), I had no idea what to expect here. Little did I know that although two unknowns were onstage with Pat, it would be the closest to a Pat Metheny Group show I had seen in decades. James Francies needs to be name checked here. A relative unknown and newcomer in the jazz world, he was a monster on keyboards. Piano and synthesizers danced through songs in a fashion that many would mistake for Lyle Mays. However, most of that came out of his right hand while his left hand delivered convincing and dexterous jazz bass lines-incredibly difficult to pull off for any musician.

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As a guitar/keys/drums trio, several songs were very close to late 70’s early 80’s golden age of the Pat Metheny Group quartet -a stunning achievement for a trio. The show finished with an extended acoustic solo set from Pat that spanned his now four decade career. setlist here

Mott the Hoople – Orpheum Boston April 9th

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Mott the Hoople in 2019? A Conclave of the 96 Decibel Freaks

I’m one of the boys
One of the boys
I don’t say much but I make a big noise
And it’s growing alright its growing -One of the Boys 1972

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Mott circa ’74

This is a show that had been on my list since it was announced. I mean really, Mott in 2019? An extremely unlikely proposition. I had been crushed that I’d missed the 2009 few show reunion in London which featured Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Overend Watts and Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin (Griffin passed away in 2016, Watts in 2017), and the quick 2013 London reformation. I figured it was over.

I was wrong.

Somehow, they managed to get it together to re-create the 1974 tour, a short 45 years after the fact, for an short 8 show US tour. Now first, Ian Hunter has always been sketchy about his actual age, but it was always known that he was about a decade older than his 60’s rock contemporaries. Conservatively going by his listed birthday of 1939, it would put him in as the only octogenarian currently fronting a 70’s superstar glam rock band on the planet. Quirky keyboardist Morgan Fisher and guitarist Ariel Bender (Luther Grovsenor of Spooky Tooth provenance) rounded out the 1974 original lineup, now augmented into an octet.

They nimbly navigated an exact reproduction of their 1974 tour setlist with some alterations of lyrics (All the Young Dudes managed to change ‘speed jive, don’t want to stay alive, when you’re 25’  to ‘when you’re 95’).  Hunter also acknowledged that the current era of PC makes some of their 70’s misogynist leaning and slang inflected lyrics seem out of touch. Hidden from view from most behind Morgan Fisher’s grand piano was an ice bucket with chilled wine ready to go for the band-Fisher kept a glass going perched over the 88 keys. From the opening notes of American Pie to the closing of the elegiac and retrospective Saturday Gigs, it was a blur of pure rock n roll. Brian May of Queen and Mick Jones of the Clash are quite clear that Mott were one of the reasons they became full time rockers, and though time has obscured some of their influence, it was obvious that these guys are still masters and originators in the rock field. Sure Ariel Bender still can’t really play lead guitar very well, and some songs teetered on the edge (Lounge Lizard had to be stopped so they could begin again), but this was a masters class in 70’s rock, put on by the 1974 version of the band. Spine chillingly good shit. Perhaps it is the current PC era that is out of touch–musical brutality, a touch of violence and pushing the envelope of propriety never really go out of style. The highlight of the spring. Setlist here.

Blue Oyster Cult-Academy of Music Northampton April 11th

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Two days later….This show didn’t get a lot of people super excited, as BOC can be known to phone one in here and there lately, and their setlist has little variation from night to night (or year to year). The departure of dynamic former Utopia bassist Kasim Sulton has the band down to founders Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma with a supporting cast of sidemen. To be fair, the band lost their drummer and bassist pair, the Bouchard brothers in the 80’s. Allen Lanier, their last founding member to leave, departed after the 2007 tour (though he did some 2012 shows).  So folks going around saying ‘there’s only two of them left’ haven’t noticed that it’s been that way for 12 years now, and there were only three of them since the mid 80’s.

This was no better nor no worse than anything I’d seen from them in the last ten years. The Last Days of May, Godzilla, Cities on Flame, Reaper-at this point you know you will here these every night. It’s the deeper cuts off newer albums that give each tour a signature feel. The evening opened with the questionable Dr. Music from 1979’s Mirrors. It was an obvious attempt at the time to garner some airplay and commercial success (somehow ignoring the massive chart success of Don’t Fear the Reaper and Godzilla over the previous two years.) It sank like a stone, like the album. Not an auspicious start. Other clunkers like the Golden Age of Leather and the Vigil slowed things down. Rarities from Agents of Fortune get trotted out (they seem to alternate True Confessions and Tattoo Vampire each night.) They started to get into gear about halfway through the show, and shook off the lethargy that seemed to grip the early part of the evening. Overall a rocking night from a seminal band, but a little more variety in their sets would be welcome.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets-Oakdale Theater, Wallingford CT April 12th

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Nick Mason Live: ‘Oh My God, Somebody Still Fucking Cares!’

One night later…..This show was going to be another unknown quantity. Mason was never known for his solo stuff, and though his hypnotic tom tom work is integral to Pink Floyd’s soma-like trance work, he is never mentioned in the same breath as the giants of drumming of his era (Bruford, Collins, etc). Once I figured out that this show would be based primarily on Saucerful of Secrets and Piper at the Gates of Dawn era material (1968 and 1967 respectively) and try to unlock the Syd Barrett era? My hopes rose considerably. It was a hope that was delivered upon nicely.

With an eclectic band: bassist Guy Pratt from the last Pink Floyd tours, Ian Dury and the Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris,  Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp and keyboardist Dom Beken of the Orb, one wouldn’t know what to really expect. (heard in crowd-‘Spandau Ballet? Well this guy has seen the error of his ways, hasn’t he?’). The show began with the one two punch of Interstellar Overdrive and Astronomy Domine, two of founding member Syd Barrett’s signature tunes. The twin guitar attack of Kemp and Harris trading leads where Gilmour would start to fade, pushing each other from the end of one solo to trade off brought the song to new heights of madness that lent a distinctly crackling edge to the psychedelic feel.

Seven songs from their Syd Barrett 67-68 phase graced the set, a set which for many Floyd heads had zero recognizable songs. No tunes from Dark Side of the Moon or later were included:  No Wall, no Wish You Were Here, none of the radio staples of today’s classic rock station. Obscured By Clouds, More, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle? For a true Floyd head, this was a cornucopia of rarities. Mason was a treasure of tales during the whole show, sharing stories both familiar and unknown (Barrett’s troubles stemmed not from LSD overuse, but mainly from the skull popping hallucinogen STP, which took three days to recover from-likely the cause of his noted 1967 US tour meltdowns onstage, the thousand yard stare he had on TV and in interviews during that tour. Andrew Loog Oldham and Pete Townshend had similar STP related experiences in the US during 1967, bearing out the sanity zapping qualities of this little discussed drug). Mason also gestured to his large chinese gong, commenting that he finally got to play it during  Saucerful of Secrets, as Roger Waters was a bit of a gong hog back in the day.

The encore of Saucerful of Secrets and Point Me at the Sky rounded out an evening that far surpassed what I had expected. I realized there are actually two kinds of Pink Floyd fans: ‘real’ ones for who this was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the classic rock ones, those who think Dark Side is their first album and the Wall is their last album. Some were disgruntled, audibly griping about the lack of recognizable tunes, while others (like the fan quoted in the article title above, who yelled it loudly-while shirtless-at no one in particular) who knew this was a rare display of even rarer genius on display. They firmly captured the loose psychedelic feel of the improvisational era of Floyd but injected enough stability to anchor the more free flowing stuff like Atom Heart and Saucerful. Another major highlight of  the spring, and highly recommended. Unlike Mott, you might actually have a chance of seeing this show. Setlist here

endnote: this was the first show of the spring where I noticed a new and very strange phenomenon-people had their heads buried in their smartphones, absently scrolling through their Facebook feeds and actively not watching the show for long periods of time. I know this is common behavior for teenagers in classrooms, but seriously? I’ve seen people film a whole show on their smartphone and watch the screen instead of the show, but….wow.

Acid Mother’s Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO – Space Ballroom Hamden CT April 19th

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Seven days later…Acid Mother’s Temple rolled through town. These guys are true road warriors, check out the tour above, 46 shows in 46 days? For those who are unfamiliar with this Japanese psych/space rock band, here’s a taste of them doing a cover of Gong’s Flying Teapot:

You know you will always get Pink Lady Lemonade and Cometary Orbital Drive (they play these every night). The band does Gong/Hawkind inflected instrumental jams that are tight and upbeat-they used to do the Wizard off Black Sabbath’s first album as an instrumental. I’d known of them for a long while-to call them prolific is a serious understatement (they’ve released 60 studio albums since 1995). This was my second time seeing them in two years, and they once again were amazingly consistent from opening note to final crash of the cymbals. If you like space rock, you need to put these guys on your calendar. With 25 states on the tour, they most likely are coming to a venue near you.

Martin Barre Band 50 Years of Jethro Tull – The Academy of Music Northampton MA April 20th

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Too Old to Rock n Roll Too Young to Die?

One day later…back once again to the Academy (these guys booked quite a spring). Some are unaware that Ian Anderson fired the whole Jethro Tull band to take full control of the name (chronicled here) in 2012. Anderson continues on as the only member of Tull, and has been severely restricted in his vocals for two decades now-still doggedly touring as JETHRO TULL. So for the 50th anniversary of Tull, Barre took the reins and created a full tribute to the history of the band, including getting key historical and  integral members Clive Bunker 1967-1971 and David Palmer (now Dee) 1975-1980 on drums and keys respectively, as a kind of ‘fuck you’ to Ian Anderson and as a gift to the fans, basically creating two rival versions of Jethro Tull touring simultaneously.

Barre recently rearranged the set to make it a ‘true retrospective’ that flowed chronologically through Tull’s career.  Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Dan Crisp has a vague similarity to Ian Anderson circa 75, and has a hint of the animated stage presence that captures the spirit that Anderson interjected into shows so well. Set one was 18 songs covering material from their debut in 1968 “This Was” up through 1971’s masterpiece Aqualung. Deep cuts that would please even the most diligent chronicler of Tull  lore took the forefront.  To Cry You a Song, Teacher, Dharma for One, Cheap Day Return were some of the more familiar deep cuts that Tull heads know well combined with more obscure tunes like the rarely heard For a Thousand Mothers and Back to the Family from 1969’s Stand Up.  The set ended with an acoustic rendering of Locomotive breath-a clever take to finish up the first half.

A nine song second set kicked off with War Child and the obscure Sea Lion from the 1975 album of that name, then bypassing through some of their catalog-skipping Too Old to Rock n Roll Too Young to Die, pausing for Songs From the Wood and Heavy Horses,  and then omitting everything else until hitting their 1987 hit Steel Monkey (ya know the one that got them the heavy metal award over Metallica in 1989. ) An electric Locomotive Breath brought the proceedings to a crackling end.

Bunker played the only drumkit onstage for the whole show, very much unlike aging classic rock drummers who many times have a partner on a kit next to them, or are absent completely (Bill Ward, Alan White, Phil Collins etc.) Pounding the skins in Tull is no easy feat for a 73 year old dude.  Palmer seemed distracted at times, sometimes choosing not to play at all on songs that clearly had a strings part. Flashes did come here and there though of the rollicking keyboard spirit that once flowed from John Evans and Palmer.

Whither Tull?

So in the end, it is kind of sad that Ian Anderson couldn’t get it together for a proper 50th anniversary reunion. However, Tull fans should be extremely glad that Barre took the initiative to seek out Burr and Palmer to create a special event to commemorate the anniversary. Hell, there haven’t been three real Jethro Tull members in Tull since 1980, as they were reduced to Barre and Anderson after that. So in a way, this was actually the real Jethro Tull reunion.   THIS WAS

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Sunn O))) – College Street Music Hall Hartford April 26th


Sunn O))) bringing ‘Life Metal’ with spiritual energy to College Street

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Sunn O))): Idiot Savants or Savage Sonic Geniuses?  Live 2019

Six days later….Off to Hartford to see Sunn O))) for the first time. I had been prepared a bit, owning a few of their albums after being turned on to them by a friend who highly recommended them. He said: “here’s Sunn O))) in a nutshell-they fill the club floor to ceiling with a fog machine until you literally cannot see the stage. Then the amps start to hum loudly and they come out in black robes and hit a chord at jetliner landing in front of you volume. They let it feedback through all the harmonics and hit the same chord again. That’s pretty much it” No discernable drums, vocals or bass seem apparent. For my friend was correct, you never really see the stage. (nor were any songs apparent-they droned rhythmless for the better part of 90 minutes.)

The first song was variations on a single chord lasting 17 full minutes. The club shook and you had trouble seeing more than 20 feet. After I went downstairs to use the restroom, I noticed some phenomena they must be aware of. The pipes in the overhead of the mens room were squawking intermittently in time to the pulsing harmonics. The hand railings likewise were humming in a different frequency. The walls of the large brick club rumbled occasionally. The club was playing along as a fifth member.  I thought ‘hey these guys are doing experiments with sound as much as actually playing.’  Shit like Tony Conrad and LaMonte Young used to do,(John Cale was a huge drone fan as were the Velvet Underground) and very much like Glen Branca’s over amplified guitar assault orchestra (the one that spawned Sonic Youth). Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music is another very strong touchpost. Just remove the amphetamines from that album and drop in cough syrup as the replacement fuel.

Some eerie trombone cut through the  mist for a while, changing the ambience ever so slightly. There seemed to be four band members onstage, but one could not be 100% sure it wasn’t a guitar tech wading into the mist to examine an amplifier crying out in pain for assistance.

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They call their stuff Life Metal now, I suppose as opposed to Death Metal. In the metal world, you really can’t get any slower, more tuned down or heavier than Sunn O))), they’ve taken it to its logical conclusion. And if you think about it, literally anybody could be in the band, we’d never know. They’ve created the ultimate enigma: who’s onstage? What are they playing? Do they know they mimic early 60’s NYC avante-garde classical experiments? Does any of this shit have a song title? Good questions, no easy answers. Worth seeing for metal heads, volume freaks and fans of avante-garde noise. Setlist?? here

Don’t wear earplugs either,  for full effect.

The Lemonheads – Gateway City Arts Holyoke MA May 1st

Six days later….The  Lemonheads are embarking on a world tour this spring and summer, and to kick it off, they did a show before the tour started  to kick the rust off at a semi secret show in Holyoke, knowing the proximity to Northampton and to  local rock stars (J Mascis and Murph from Dinosaur Jr live nearby-Murph was in the Lemonheads for a bit) would bring out the 1998 hipster crowd.

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Tommy Stinson, most famous as the youngster in the Replacements opened. (somehow everyone forgot he was in Guns n Roses for 18 years in the dreadful Chinese Democracy era)  He came out on solo acoustic and rambled through songs: working out live what he might play on the upcoming tour. he sometimes fumbled songs quickly, stopping some completely, abandoning some after a minute, turning off his pick up and mic when he thought nobody was paying enough attention, walking into the crowd to sing from the middle, unamplified. Intimate.

The Massachusetts born Evan Dando came out onstage slowly apprising the house.  Dando has been everywhere-Hollywood films, rubbing elbows with Keith Richards, sex symbol of the mid 90’s, junkie punchline in the late 90s, somehow fronting MC5 in the aughts-he has seen the pinnacles and depths of stardom and drug abuse. And yet here he was, looking spry and  healthy, hopping onstage ready to rock. (an excellent article/interview on his return can be read here). He moved well and seemed infused with the spirit of the early 90’s.

The setlist leaned heavily on It’s a Shame About Ray and Come on Feel, and the drawn out alt country inflections reflected the influence Dinosaur Jr has had over them through time. The show was short, but if getting the bugs out in front of an adoring crowd was the mission, it was mission accomplished.  Setlist here

Michael Schenker Fest The Palladium Worcester MA May 10th

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The Return of the Mad Axeman

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Nine days later…Michael Schenker Festival headed into Worcester. Not many people had any idea of what to expect (given his notorious reputation for not showing up from time to time for his own shows). I’d seen Schenker in the mid 90’s UFO reunion in NYC, and he burned the sky in a club that let in easily 500 over the fire limit. (god bless the Limelight)

What I didn’t expect was that he would feature almost EVERY singer MSG has ever had all on one stage.: Gary Barden,  Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley and Doogie White of the most recent era. It was unprecedented to see all of these egos forced to share a stage and share lead vocals on songs they thought were their own.  They came out in order-Bardens (voice now thin and unable to hit the big notes, he never really could back then either), Bonnett (still sounds and looks like he did back in the day-knows his limits better than Bardens), McAuley (looking like he was auditioning for Priest, more of a yelper) and Doogie (resplendent in kilt-the least known but the most powerful singer of the four)

Schenker dragged them through a 31 song set covering UFO, Scorpions and MSG material, soloing relentlessy throughout. He stopped a few times to tell stories in halting English  about how his brother Rudolph stole everything he knew musically and stylistically from him. (those Schenker brothers know how to hang on to a grudge) The trading off worked quite well as they worked in duos, trios and full quartets-sometimes trading off lead vocals, sometimes supplying powerful harmonies the material requires.

Occasionally one could see why Schenker was thrown out of the UFO reunion-too many notes. Solos cascaded perfectly but endlessly between verses, and it took a concerted effort from the band to make sure he came back on cue, which he usually did. In the past, he would blow through these on stage stop signs and solo blissfully for another  five minutes-spitting notes out like a Teutonic Hendrix on speed. (Which he kind of is.) The highlight of the show had to be his signature tune, written as a teenager, UFO’s  Rock Bottom.  Excellent detailed tour review here

Brilliant idea to bring all the singers, I’d like to see this  happen with other  bands of the era, but the egos would  have to be checked in rather large footlockers ahead of time.

Mind bending setlist here


Judas Priest and Uriah Heep – Mohegan Sun CT May 16th

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Six days later….Tickets for this tour were generally expensive on Stubhub for most dates, but for some reason got down to seventeen bucks for Mohegan the day before. So once more jumping into the concertmobile, it was off to the casino.

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Openers Uriah Heep had been long on my list of things to do since early college era. I had their greatest hits LP in heavy rotation for my first two years in college. One by one, the founding  members of the band fell by the wayside: distinctive vocalist David Byron departed in 1976, Keyboardist and main songwriter Ken Hensley left in 1980, bassist Gary Thain was electrocuted and died onstage in 1975,  drummer Lee Kerslake technically not a founder but was main drummer from 1971-2007…well you get the idea. Only guitarist Mick Box remains, leaving the air of a tribute band of sorts. Competent and efficient, it didn’t really sound much like Heep without Byron and Hensley.  They are somewhat the model for Spinal Tap (though Status Quo is the main model for that film). Easy Living did get the crowd going a bit though. setlist

Good God, Pluck Me

The main event though was Judas Priest. I’d last seen them in 2008 with Ronnie James Dio’s version of Sabbath opening. Halford looked unhealthy, kept his sunglasses on full time, wandered around bored and relied on effects to fill out his faltering voice. Dio  destroyed the  headliner that night, despite Glen Tipton and KK Downing still being in Priest. (his last show ever was exactly a year later; he passed away less than two years after this gig)

Tonight, Halford was a new man. He doffed the sunglasses early on, and although he left the stage after nearly every song to go backstage (vocal cord treatment? Lines of coke? A hug?), he came back refreshed each time. (why the lead guitarist also went backstage nearly as much is also a mystery). With KK Downing chucked out of the band, and Tipton troubled with Parkinson’s disease and only able to play select shows, we were left with bassist Ian Hill and Rob Halford holding the fort. Richie Faulkner has proved to be a worthy replacement for KK, and has held up his end since joining in 2011. The new album Firepower is oddly  also a source of strong material, the best album since 1990’s Painkiller. (which itself was an anomaly)

Halford was vocally strong throughout, far more powerful than eleven years ago.  Much more animated, he brought some amazing vocal pyrotechnics to the forefront, sometimes reaching the level of the monumental Unleashed in the East live album of 1979.  I had told my companion at the show that other than Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford was the most powerful vocalist in rock. As he hit his signature notes during Victim of Changes, they turned and said “ahhhh that’s what you mean”  Damn straight. Setlist here

Slayer, Lamb of God, Amon Amarth, Cannibal Corpse – Great Woods Mansfield MA May 25th

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Nine days later…I’d seen Slayer in August  on their summer/fall  leg of their lengthy farewell tour, and they were surprisingly strong. So strong, I’d decided to go to what was on paper their final US show ever (since this show, Les Claypool let slip that once they get back from Europe, the final leg will begin in Madison Square Garden and end in the LA Forum.)

Cannibal Corpse opened this show. They were rather notorious in the late 80’s for their lyrics and album covers, but didn’t sound much different than most of their contemporaries like Death and Kreator–think a bunch of ball bearings in a blender with the Cookie Monster growling on top. Recently their guitarist Pat O’Brien went on hiatus for his arrest following a break in to a neighbors house claiming the rapture was imminent. His house burned down during this event, and police ended up finding a huge cache of weapons which included two military grade flamethrowers. Throw in lead vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher and you have quite the opening band.

Amon Amarth are melodic berserkers from Sweden cut out of the same cloth as Children of Bodom. Bands like this sound generally like a drum machine banging out 180 BPM rhythms while twin guitars playing lock step full speed trebly arpeggios. This kind of stuff can run its course within a few songs, but the crowd ate it up.

Lamb of God I’d seen on the last leg and was underimpressed. They seemed to have much more in common with an extravagant Wrestlemania performance than a concert band. This night, they were a little more listenable and vaguely enjoyable. Still, all of this was only the prelude to:

Slayer Slayer Slayer….

The band hit the stage in an explosion of sound and flames. They were solid but not as tight as they were in August. One of the problems was that this was an open to the air shed. This meant their extensive front of the stage flame display was considerably toned down (to prevent an errant gust of wind turning the band into a weenie roast) and the fact that bands like this need four walls and a roof to bounce the sound off. I’d noticed this phenomenon when seeing Ministry twice in ’92 on the Psalm 69 tour,  both outdoors and indoors. The sound needs containment. Although they still stood head and shoulders above the openers, I am awaiting the final leg. Hell awaits. Setlist

fake Genesis errr the Musical Box – Calvin Theater Northampton MA May 30th

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The phenomenon of the high end cover band is a bit of a mystery. Dark Star Orchestra went from playing specific historical Grateful Dead shows in  their entirety in clubs to festivals and theaters (with the commensurate jump in ticket prices) and the  Australian Pink Floyd can play arenas along with arena pricing. Paying a $35-$60 scale for tickets for a cover band? This says a lot about the current state of rock n roll

A Genesis cover band is a rara avis in the rock world. Especially one that focuses solely on the Peter Gabriel era of Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Even rarer is a cover band approved by the parent band, Genesis and even Peter Gabriel. Like the Australian Pink Floyd, they have gone to the parent band to buy original props and light shows of the era from them.

Set one featured newer non Gabriel  material from the Phil Collins era of Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering. The sound at the Calvin was a bit murky, awash in too much reverb. A couple of songs got to the point where they were starting to lose each other onstage and they had to work to keep the songs from falling apart. Dance on a Volcano in particular was affected -the tight syncopation of the original was murky and lacking the tight unison slaps punctuating the song. Set two was a bit better, focusing on the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. They came to life in set three, based on Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot and Selling England. This stuff is their bread and butter and what they built their reputation on.

Formed in 1993, they are currently on their 8th Tony Banks, 5th Phil Collins, 3rd Steve Hackett (current one wears a Hackett wig). Only faux Peter Gabriel (Denis Gagne) and faux Mike Rutheford (Sebastien Lamothe) have been hanging in there from the beginning.

How did they sound? From a critical eye, they had their ups and downs. fRuthefords’s bass sometimes sounded like it was coming from a blown speaker (fuzz box poorly applied?) and the bass pedals could use a touch more oomph. fHackett sounded far more like Daryl Stuermer’s 1978 and onward guitar version, post Hackett. He also was waaaay too quiet in the mix every time he tried to push a lead to the forefront. Part of this had to do with the reverb that was slathered on everybody onstage-things started to all recede into one big ball of blur. The band carries a fGabriel and fCollins to bring more authenticity to the proceedings, and the fGabriel guy had it nailed pretty perfectly. He also was able to play a pretty good flute as well, something that we sometimes forget Peter used to great effect from 71-74.  fBanks did a pretty good job on his mix of vintage and current keyboard gear-eliciting a loud shout of “SICK” once the impressive version of Cinema Show ended. This song was the highlight of the evening. I was a little disappointed to not see them try any sections of Supper’s Ready, but the rare Can Utility and the Coastliners from the same album was a nice replacement. The encore, their version of the song that gave the band their name was properly raucous. Last year the band sold out this venue quickly, tonight it was about 1/3 of a house.  Here is a taste of last year at the Calvin:

Overall, they took a while to warm up and hit their stride. Perhaps a brand new drummer and keyboardist had something to do with it. They do have a ton of equipment, and are attempting to play some of the most challenging rock music ever written. They all are able to pull out 12 and 6 string guitars, play flute, cello in addition to their main instruments, so they need to be recognized for what they are pulling off here. Perhaps the best way to describe this is they are putting on a historical play that represents a time long gone as opposed to a band. Actors change for each character, costume changes,wigs n props. But it is a fine line they are walking here.

Most telling quote: “I’m glad I went, but next time, I’d rather listen to Genesis albums on the couch and have a glass of wine”

I get that, but I might want to give them one more try.  Setlist here

So, that wraps up the spring.  12 shows, 1200 miles traveled.

Cats under the stars my friends, cats under the stars.


Motley Crüe Had A Fake Nikki Sixx And Nobody Noticed? The Strange Tale of Matthew Trippe

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Whaddaya mean I’m not me?

This is a tale that might strain credulity, but extensive wading through first hand interviews and snippets from those that were there at the time seem to bear it out:

“There was a fake Nikki Sixx in Motley Crüe ”

That is a fairly mind blowing idea. I mean, bands don’t go out and just replace a guy and don’t acknowledge it’s someone new, right? (Leaving aside Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer’s 21st century masquerading in Ace and Peter’s makeup in Kiss, and Vinnie Vincent’s first uncredited live appearances in Kiss in Ace’s make-up as Ace for real, this trickery is mostly limited to Kiss)

I first became aware of this event long before anything was in print. Working in a heavy metal  record store outside of Boston, my colleagues and I were on the cutting edge of the new resurgence of metal in the early 80’s. We had access to most new releases as ‘not for sale’ radio promos before they were released or fresh of the boat import albums unavailable in the States; large radio station programmers and concert promoters would drop by to gossip, all of the British music papers hit us early-this store was a nexus of informed people. One close ‘very metal’ friend (who was convinced early on of Manowar’s greatness) and I had a conversation about a recent Motley Crüe video. We’d both independently noticed something weird: some shots in it just didn’t look like Nikki Sixx. Of course it had to be him, but how had he grown so doughy and pudgy so quickly? He seemed to be a different height as well, shorter. Other close friends at the time also had noticed Nikki….just didn’t look like Nikki.   Others also noticed. From a website linked below:

“I do not know if the story is true or not. I love the Crue, however around the time of Theatre of Pain i had a photo from one of the rock mags showing Nikki in the black and white striped suit he was slightly pulling his pants down to show a tattoo of a pair of lips. In this photo Nikki’s lower teeth were slightly crooked and did not match earlier photos of Sixx. Was Matt just hired for a photo shoot or is his story true? Who knows? However even though i’m a huge Crue fan i know they are not saints and this could have happened. Maybe it didn’t, but i do know that whoever was in that picture was not really the same Nikki Sixx who was featured in photos from the Too Fast for Love era.”

But…..It would be insane to think it wasn’t him. So, what’s the deal?

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It all started with the March 1988 issue of Kerrang. In the upper right corner was the tantalyzing ‘Nikki Sixx Shock’ tagline. Wondering what this could be, I waded into a tale that was very hard to believe. This guy Matthew Trippe was claiming he replaced Nikki Sixx in Motley Crüe when the ‘real Nikki’, Frank Feranna was nearly killed in a car crash, and was out of circulation. With the band quickly on the rise, supposedly Mick Mars had approached Trippe at the Troubador in Hollywood….and there our tale begins.

Of course, my co workers and I immediately turned to this section as soon as we unpacked the issue from the box. Nikki Six Shock? Was there anything left this guy could do to shock us? (to be truthful, several infamous incidents were still on the horizon). As most record store employees of the era, we had transitioned from intrigued to openly making fun of Crüe. (Pout…pout..pout at the Devil!)  But that didn’t mean we didn’t listen to them more than most of  their fans and knew more about them than their roadies, we were into it.  And reading the tale, some of us remembered that four or so years ago, we had the idea that Nikki Sixx wasn’t Nikki Sixx. Kerrang wasn’t exactly the Washington Post when it came to vetting articles and research, but they were not amateurs either. They’d seen plenty,  and hanging out full time with borderline psychotic early 80’s metal bands had given them pretty decent bullshit detectors. For this to get through their screening process meant there was definitely something more than a rumor cooking here. In essence, here’s the story:

Matthew Trippe had moved to Hollywood like many early 80’s metal aspirants. Also like many metal aspirants, he was dead broke and desperate for a break. He’d encountered Motley Crüe guitarist Mick Mars at the Troubador on Sunset before, but this time Mick had a question: “Can you play bass?”  Anyone in the rock scene then would say yes to any question that could lead to an audition, and Trippe readily agreed. The story continues with Trippe meeting Doc McGhee, Motley Crüe’s manager in their office, whipping out a few Crue tunes on bass, then being offered a contract as the new bassist:  the replacement Nikki Sixx. (This calls into question the origins of the wording of their original contract-were the members of Crue ‘characters’ playing a role who could be replaced by other actors? The confession by a “replacement Andrew WK” in public interviews saying his contract was exactly that would seem to back this up as a possibility) He was told to sign as Nikki, not as Matthew, which he thought odd. The whereabouts of Nikki Sixx was only referred to as ‘involved in a car accident and we are moving on’. This end of the story is plausible as Nikki was quickly becoming a liability with unpredictable and self destructive behavior, and had recently racked up his car and was hospitalized with a ruined shoulder.

Trippe wasn’t shy about sharing his accomplishments. As a practicing amateur Satanist (actually joining  the Temple of Set headed by Michael Aquino- he joined after his arrest and then  getting kicked out of the band), he advised them to invert their pentagram on the cover, call the album Shout at the Devil, wrote the songs Knock Em Dead, Kid and Danger. He wrote Save our Souls that ended up on Theater of Pain. He toured with them, made the Shout at the Devil video with them and then at the end of the tour, was told that he was out and real Nikki was back in. Perhaps it had something to do with Trippe’s sudden legal difficulties and imminent incarceration that forced Crüe to realize they’d traded one shitshow for another, and that with real Nikki healed, why not let him back in?

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The Lawsuit

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40,000 lbs.? That’s my head stash man

In 1988, Trippe initiated a lawsuit against Doc McGhee (note not against Motley Crüe) claiming civil theft. He noted that he had not been paid royalties for songs he’d claimed to have written: Wild Side, Knock Em Dead, Kid, Danger, You’re All I Need, Dancing on Glass, and the huge hit Girls Girls Girls. Whether he was crazy or not, once in the courts, people started to look closer. (the case ended up being dismissed on a statute of limitations technicality.) Things weren’t going well for Doc in 1988, as he was convicted in April of smuggling 40,000 pounds of marijuana into the States (that’s twenty TONS kids). Two thousand pounds varies from state to state, but 10 years to life is a good summary of what he was looking at. Forty thousand pounds? 30-50 years would be most prosecutors opening salvo. How he walked with a $15,000 fine and a five year suspended sentence testifies to the pliability of the legal system,(although he has managed Kiss since 1995, so you can’t say karma won’t bite you in the ass eventually). 

Trippe hired lawyers and a private investigator (who were skeptical of his claim, but a paycheck is a paycheck) who unearthed some things that did support his claim. From a website comments section comes some very interesting potential insights. Someone claiming to be his private investigator:

I am Jerry Rollins Oglesby, they call me J.R., I’m the Private Investigator that broke the case of the cloning of Nikki Sixx. He is emphatically the clone that replaced blue eyed Frank Ferrano AKA Nikki Sixx. GREEN EYED, Matthew John Trippe Is telling the truth. This case cost me my marriage, $12,000.00, 2200 hours of my time and in the end I saw some supernatural occurrences with Matthew Trippe that would cause your skin to crawl. He became a very close friend because Matthew Trippe is an autistic genius in a child like mind. I met him before the Theater of Pain album, which was released by the record company. I filed a copyright in the Library of Congress on his music that he wrote before the releasing of the album. I received two copyrights to the album from the Library of Congress. If you should be so brave assholes, investigate and see if any of you want to go up against me, as the signatory of those copyrights. It was worth it to go through my time with Matthew John Trippe. When I heard Matthew John Trippe, with my own ears talking to Doc McGee and Doug Thalar in a conference call in my office and heard their offer to a fraud, poser, imposter and faker.

Matthew did not drop the case it was dismissed on a technicality in the statute of limitations in contract tort law. In Florida, the statute of limitations is 4 years on a contract tort. We sued in Florida. In California, it is two years. They, the record label’s attorney joined forces with Thalar and McGee Entertainment and contrived a viable statement that is a matter of record in Tampa Florida Circuit Court. I quote: “We are not saying that a contract was struck with Matthew Trippe but if it was signed, it would be signed in California, therefore the statute of limitations would have expired.” The case was dismissed. It is a matter of record ladies and gentleman. I spent 3 years proving that Matthew John Trippe is the one that cloned Frank Farrano alias Nikki Sixx for an injury that incapacitated him where he was not able to sign with the record company and Mick Mars discovered Matthew Trippe in California and he is the one that took Matthew John Trippe to Doug Thalar and boom, it happened, Matthew Trippe is the one that did all the tours, wrote the majority of the music and if you should read his interviews, you will see as I did on many occasions, doubt my intelligence as one of the greatest investigators that existed in our lifetime in those rock magazines, I read every title of each rag mag. and then it happened, I got this wild ass idea and started looking at body parts on both men and compared pictures of each man. Naturally, you would never guess in a million years that we have different everything and if we are blessed with two of anything, one is always smaller than the other, i.e. breast, one is smaller than the other, belly buttons, no two alike, toes no two alike etc. etc. You will see that Farrano has blue eyes with green contacts. Matthew Trippe has GREEN eyes and the NICKKI SIXX that gave those interviews has GREEN EYES.

I had over six hours of proof that was subpoenaed by the opposition, thinking it would be a walk in the park with my deposition. Well it wasn’t and right after that deposition is when they decided to come clean without saying they committed any tort against an imposter.

If I had not heard those two assholes on the phone, McGee and Thaler wanting Matthew Trippe, the weirdo, DRUNK, Pervert and anything else you Neanderthal fuck bugs can call him.
They wanted him to join forces with them again to replace another with him.
I have stayed silent for many years but after reading this tripe, the record must be set straight that Matthew John Trippe is the Nikki Sixx that helped bring the success that Motely Crue enjoyed at his expense in the eighties.

Nikki my love, there is a song dedicated to you and it is about Matthew and you when you and him were on the dock in Fort Myers. He loved you very much and only you, him and me know what happened that day.

Steve Purcell is a very honorable man and on that day in question, YES, he used a tape recorder. He wrote an exhaustive spread on Matthew John Trippe. Our interview lasted for over an hour. If you have this tape anonymous, I would advise you to stay anonymous because I was there. I was there in the interview and refused to disclose who I am and was at that time married with a family. The very reason was that Doug Thaler and Doc McGee were heavily involved with Manuel Noriegia of Panama and the TEXAS MAFIA. It’s a matter of public record, look it up or read about it in a request for the disclosure of information from the FBI, under the public information act. Hell Goggle it, every damn thing is goggled today.

SIXX Pack, I was part of that management but you SIXX Pack made a critical error with alot of talent that could have went far but again, I saw that Matthew was tired and you asshole, you are a damn liar, I saw and watch you and the others write music and did riffs with Trippe but Matthew John Trippe wrote the lyrics that started this glam band that went no where, after they pushed Trippe out. I withdrew my support from managing and financing, after I had a heart to heart talk with Matthew. He decided not to do this anymore and did not want anything to do with performing ever again because he feared failure and ridicule.

Matthew was fearless at times but deep inside he feared failure. He is a strange bird in his own rite and I believe very strongly that this should be the final note on this mystery of judging a man you don’t know and never will because he is silent as I should be but I’m 63 years old and my last hooray is to write about my escapades as a person that has seen the world for what it is to us as the societal drones that are quick to judge but slow to forgive. I wrote a seven book series and Trippe is in there, at a glimpse you see what I have seen for over 40 years and in this Century, we will see the first and second coming of JESUS Christ.

Listen up public, “What You Hear Believe Nothing and What You See Believe Only Half of What You Saw. What is isn’t and what isn’t is, until it isn’t or is.” Ladies and Gentleman, I quote my words on this today I live by this quote and I DECLARE THAT THIS CASE IS CLOSED!.

Although somewhat rambling, there’s some pretty strong stuff in there, if he actually is the guy. The Noriega bit sounds crazy, but is true. (read here)  Add in McGhee not explicitly denying a contract was signed with Trippe  to help  get the case thrown out of court on a technicality? Well that just adds another layer of confusion to the mix.  Other commenters are from the scene in Florida, and opinions vary, but some choice tidbits do show up:

“I won’t leave my identity for personal / safety reasons which may make people doubt my comments. I worked for Doc McGee during the Motley Crüe debacle and can state definitively that Matt Trippe was employed by the agency during this time. I do not know if he wrote the songs he claims he’d I’d but I know he attended writing and recording sessions I also know he was ‘let go’ due to an arrest and that his calls etc were refused by the agency from that point onwards.
Maybe not that interesting but absolutely true I assure you.”

and then this one:

“I was going through my desk that I had put in my garage over 20 years ago and came across a few notes that I had pertaining to this story. And the reason I had the notes is because the story is ABSOLUTELY TRUE. I lived 3 houses down from MJT and we were friends until one night i came home and caught him breaking into my house. Anyway, about 3 months before that,after work one night I went to MJTs house and brought some beer, When I arrived at his house there was a Blue Mercedes in the driveway that I had never seen before. I walked into the house like many times before after work and Doc McGee was right there in the living room with some Husky Quiedo looking Italian guy, the guy said to me If i wanted to live then “you better go back to wherever you came from and pretend you were never here” I did leave and waited in the bushes next door and drank a few beers waiting until they left. When I went back to open the door it was locked and MJT would not answer for at least 15 minutes after I was banging. I asked him what in the hell was going on and he was crying and stuttering like I had never seen before. I went back to get the beer that I left in the bushes and when I came back the door was locked again and he just yelled through he door that he would call me tomorrow. Well that was the last I had seen him until I came home one night to find him in my house, he literally just vanished for 3 months until I found him in my house. He took off and that was the last I had seen of him. To this day I am freaked out about what happened, i don’t know the details however I know for a FACT it was Doc McGee who was in his house.”

I’d have to point out all three of those comments all spell ‘McGhee’ as McGee, so my faith in those comments aren’t rock solid, but they come from the 2012-2013 era when folks had little to gain by supporting this story. Others weighed in:

“If you go around saying you filled in for a member of a well known band even back in the 80’s without any proof, nobody would listen. There was a fake Peter Criss and a fake guitarist of Great white that made the news and that lasted for 5 minutes before put in the trash. Trippe’s story has lasted thru the years.”

“I remember this years ago reading Kerrang. As much as i don’t want to believe it I do however think it’s true in part. not so much writing the songs but playing live and photo sessions for definite. look at the pictures..they are the truth. It’ll come out years later..make for another film no doubt.  The Strange case of motley Crue”

“Matt probably filled in for a show or part of a show. He probably didn’t even play and just told to fake he was playing, since Motley sometimes uses recorded guitars, bass, and vocals even to this day. I’m sure one of the band guys will mention something truthfully about it in a few years, maybe not in the mainstream media, but if you talk to them one on one you’ll get the truth.”

Some have said “Why was none of this in the Motley Crüe book, the Dirt?” Although it does seem self evident, someone added this:

Motley’s manager was friends with the mafia. Do you really think members of Motley Crüe are gonna come out and say that Matt briefly replaced Nikki? The mafia motto is ‘one slip of the tongue and you’re in deep shit’

From an interview with associate and Florida bandmate in his post ‘Crüe’ days, Roger Hemond:

He could at times be very convincing and to this day, I don’t know whether or not anything he said was true. I have seen copyright forms processed by the Library of Congress that had every member of Mötley Crüe’s full real name, aka name, and social security number, with the exception of Nikki Sixx. All it said was Nikki Sixx and gave a social security number, which I swear to God was the same number on Matthew John Trippe’s social security card which I was holding in my other hand. I’ll tell you one thing, if I were going to try to pull what Matt alleges Thayer/McGhee did, I would probably pick someone a lot like Matt to do it with, because nobody would believe him completely – he was a lunatic! A variety of photos seemed to show differences in facial features through those years for Nikki Sixx. That could be attributed to any number of things though I guess. Matt was at the time that I knew him, a member of the Temple of Set, which is a pretty exclusive organisation. I find it a little strange that they would allow some weird-guy-nobody with no money to be a member, but I guess it could happen. 

He continued:

He had all of the tatts through the Theatre of Pain years. They were not cheaply done and there were several. He had a wife, a brand new baby boy, and no money – so I have no idea how he would have paid for them.



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Nikki? Well yeah just for a bit




Well on the surface, you’d have to dismiss this guy out of hand as batshit crazy. But he never backed down from this  story up to and including his death in September 2013. And there are some very strange things that do make me wonder. Some pointed out that in band photos, sometimes Nikki had a protruding navel in one photo and an innie in another, a difficult feat. He also varies in height in photos of that era, noticeably.  He had the tattoos identical to Sixx. One group that is hard to dismiss is the people that lived around him in the aftermath of his post Crüe supposed tenure. The comments above are all posted anonymously, but the weight of so much circumstantial evidence…?

Me? There definitely is enough to back up his story on some level. He clearly had inside knowledge of the band that would  be difficult to pick up from the outside. He had very expensive tattoos mimicking Nikki, and few visible financial resources to get them done. The high profile Michael Aquino of the Temple of Set backs up most of Trippe’s tale. (A lengthy and very strange and detailed article by him can be read here. Scroll down until Aquino’s post The Cloning of Nikki Sixx) He had many weird little tidbits. He had Crüe stories that no one outside the band would know. He had a speeding ticket with his name on it driving a car registered to Mick Mars.

I think it is very likely that a portion of his tale is true.  That he was put into a short ride with Crüe as a replacement part until things figured themselves out. Did an interview and photo shoot here and there, some video scenes, did some recording and rehearsals with the band. Perhaps a gig or two are not out of the realm of possibility. (some mention that newspaper reviews of certain live shows of the era mention audience members close to the stage claiming there was a Motley impostor onstage in the mid 80’s.) The differing looks for Nikki in that era are hard to reconcile, as is the fact that myself and several colleagues and acquaintances had noted a big difference in Sixx’s appearance four years before this story broke. The extent of the truth, well Matthew Trippe took it to the grave. But in the end, it does appear that the simple statement “I was in Motley Crüe” is very likely true. Weird.

UK Night After Night tour 2012-Carwreck Archive: Further Adventures in the Best Bands You’ve Never Heard Of

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This was written in the immediate aftermath of the second show of the 2012 UK reunion tour in Boston (Foxborough).  I’d forgotten I’d written it until I found it recently in an old archive.  UK were one of the last true progressive bands to hit a major label (1978), and the last one to do it right. (Asia being the prime example in 1981 on how not to do it right) The original quartet was a powerhouse-Alan Holdsworth, Bill Bruford, John Wetton and Eddie Jobson represented the cream of the mid 70’s progressive rock world: King Crimson, Yes, Roxy Music, Gong, Genesis, Curved Air, Frank Zappa, Soft Machine-these were the main names on this quartets resume. By the second album in 1979, Holdsworth and Bruford had departed, and Terry Bozzio came on board as drummer while the band contracted to a trio. This lineup released Danger Money, an album that put naysayers to bed as it was possibly even stronger than their debut. A live album, (and eventually  the namesake of the reunion tour, Night After Night) was released at the end of their final tour to satisfy contractual obligations and the band dissolved quickly as Jobson wanted to expand the instrumental sections while Wetton wanted short pop songs. To this day, this band is generally  unknown-perhaps due to their relatively short (just over two years) existence and their unfortunate timing during the rise of punk rock.

This show and tour should have been big news-promoted heavily into large theaters, but instead it was relegated to smaller venues and was not promoted at all. (one website advertising the Boston area show even failed to mention the date of the show in the advert for tickets going on sale in January of 2012)  This was the second night of the tour and it showed. The band had difficulties technically and overall the show was leaning towards disappointing. But with John Wetton’s departure from the world in January 2017, this is an event we will never see again. So through the lens of 2012, here’s how it looked:


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One of the biggest events in prog rock history recently came and went with barely a flicker of attention. It is difficult to understand why and how this ended up being a very unheralded event. I mean the (almost) original lineup of UK playing their first show in 33 years? (1979 was their final tour of the States)  This should be HUGE. In the prog rock world, this would be like Yes getting back together in 1983  (Jobson was an early and uncredited member of the 90125 unit), like ELP’s early 90’s resurrection, King Crimson coming back in 1993…big stuff in the progressive scene.  It should have been promoted through the roof, yet I only heard about the show in Foxboro through word of mouth, barely a week ahead of time. Advertising? None. Anticipation among the faithful? High. What would Jobson, Wetton and Bozzio bring to the stage?

Previous ‘almost’ UK reunion shows featuring Jobson and Wetton in the last few years gave a hint of what to expect. The previous tour had included a guitarist to handle Holdsworth’s guitar parts. With the original trio, one could expect much of the material to be drawn from the second album, pyrotechnics from Bozzio,  and streamlined tight arrangements.

But this show, (Showcase Live, Foxborough Mass May 2, 2012) the second of the tour, was quite uneven. It really felt like the third night of rehearsals for a big tour, still getting used to playing and getting the kinks out, as the band didn’t really seem ready for an audience. Early on, Eddie Jobson went to great pains to expansively explain how his keyboard rig was quite an improvement, and contained no synthesizers, just dummy keybeds triggering laptop computers. How each of his old synths had been painstakingly sampled to ensure that all of his signature sounds were at his fingertips, indistinguishable from his original 1970’s synth rig, and free from the foibles that analog synths on the road are prone to.

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Jobson’s 1979 real synth rig: EMS VCS3, Yamaha CS80, Minimoog and Hammond B3 in view

There were several problems this evening.  The major problem was the failure of Eddie Jobson’s keyboards. Call it irony, call it hubris, but within a couple of songs  of his boast that his rig was now impervious to old school difficulties, Jobson’s computer driven synths completely packed it in. First they cut in and out, then? Silence. Much hand wringing and hair pulling ensued onstage as the band vamped as a duo to kill time. (Jobson and a keyboard tech huddled under the wooden enclosure of his rig, feverishly plugging, unplugging and rebooting. Several shows later, his keyboard rig looked markedly different) Unfortunately this was the first of several keyboard incidents of the evening.  During one of the several subsequent gear failures, Jobson admitted that his two keyboards were running four laptops. So that means there were exactly zero, repeat, zero synths onstage. Latency ( a note sounding long after a key is hit) and unexpected swells and drops in volumes, both traditional problems with running a laptop rig were embarrassingly in plentiful evidence. The duet version of Fallen Angel by King Crimson was particularly affected. Wetton was in fine vocal form ( it is early in the tour) and was able to hit many of the higher register notes that he can miss in other projects (see: Asia) He was also solid on bass, but seemed visibly confused and distracted by the keyboard failures.

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Terry Bozzio, a madman under even calm circumstances, was a frenzy of activity and energy, (perhaps reacting to the perceived unevenness of the set). His drum solo was as monstrous the size of his drum kit. I’d seen Bozzio with the first reunion of Zappa Plays Zappa with Dweezil in 2006 and was blown away, but this evening he was exponentially better.
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It wasn’t until Jobson fired up his violin that things started to really pick up.  (Caesar’s Palace Blues). By the end, they had finally hit their groove. Smoke and rosin flew off Eddie’s bow as they grew in familiarity into the unit they once were. Freed of keyboard constraints, the violin, bass and drums trio lit up the sky. But only for ten minutes.

Side note: the next show is already canceled. Major gear problems being solved hopefully.

Setlist on bootleg below.

Message to Jobson: bring a real keyboard rig. Although all original sounds were meticulously sampled, the results definitely were not consistent. At least have some rack mounted gear ready backstage. A large vintage keyboard or two is also a good idea. Your fans deserve better.

Monster Magnet in 2018-Nature’s Got a Way Brothers, Of Scraping the Bowl

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“Say man, you got a joint? It’d be a lot cooler if you did”

No band in the history of rock has been able to assimilate their high school years and portray it as vividly as Monster Magnet. They lived like many a stoner kid in 70’s America: smoking bowls, taking shitty acid, staying out all night, wearing army coats, going to tons of concerts and listening to the classics over and over. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith, Judas Priest were the more familiar signposts, but these Red Bank area New Jersey kids had their finger on the pulse. Less familiar bands like Captain Beyond, Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust, UFO and Hawkwind were also strong apostles for the devoted. With CBGB’s and New York City a short ride away, the mysteries of proto punk residue (MC5 and the Stooges) and the more alienatingly tangible sounds of the Ramones, Suicide, Richard Hell and the punk wave of the mid 70’s were there for the grabbing. Of course this often meant riding bicycles for miles to grab some weed, stealing beers whenever possible, blasts of nitrous, robitussin chugging, tripping to stay awake for longer road trips and occasionally waking up in dumpsters on the lower East Side. Staying elegantly wasted full time…was a full time job for Dave Wyndorf and this pack of sketchy high school and post high school kids.

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It was easy to want to emulate this drug fueled dissident behavior (think Linklater’s 1993 Dazed and Confused film), but you could only take this so far. Heroin grabbed and planted many of those who couldn’t get to the finish line successfully-many yearbooks of the era had memorial pages in the beginning with photos of those who had died tragically before graduation. (Mine had three) But there was an allure for many to aspire to be (or at least hang out with) the scuzziest drug ball in the neighborhood-they were badasses with the best record collections, knew they were cool, had access to the best drugs, scariest cars and were a beacon to those who wanted to rebel. (Another good comparison are the roller blade hockey kids from Kevin Smith’s Dogma-a Red Bank resident who witnessed all this stuff)



Shrapnel circa 1979-1980-Wyndorf center
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Not to be confused with pacifist hippie bands

Where could one go next? Grow old and outgrow your army coat? The answer was easy: start a band. Loading up on a bunch of Stooges and Sabbath, Shrapnel (earlier known as Hard Attack-a band known for putting weed in their flashpots so the final explosion filled the auditiorium with pot smoke that couldn’t be traced) assaulted high school dances, dressed in army togs and even paraded out a cardboard tank toting Dave Wyndorf around. (future Monster Magnet guitarist Phil Caivano was a part of this outfit)

The public wasn’t ready for a GI Joe inspired band of New Jersey lunatics rolling around in tanks, pointing guns everywhere and pounding out the theme to Underdog as their signature moments. They did make local TV though (see above)

So Scream as Loud as You Can, I’m Not Here, Man I’m Gone

Wyndorf laid low while plotting the perfect band: Monster Magnet. They were to be the synthesis and monument to all the wide variety of decadence that any kid who grew up in the seventies had witnessed: scoring drugs, taking boatloads of said drugs and the ancillary carnival-like madness that few who haven’t been on the inside can imagine.  The band coalesced around Wyndorf, guitarist John McBain and drummer (future sound/light/manager) Tim Cronin. They submitted demos, got rejected, changed their band name, re-submitted similar songs, got rejected, changed their band name again. Finally Glitterhouse in Germany was willing to take a chance on them, named now after a 60’s toy, releasing the self titled EP in 1990. It was a glorious paean to all the excesses of drug use:  Tractor (‘Well my buddy Jo gave me a laughing pill..Well it tasted like shit and it gave me the a hole in my arm, when I’m driving the tractor on the drug farm’), and the debut of their perhaps all time classic, Nod Scene:

Bought another copy of Fragile
Seeds were bustin’ up the spine
I think I cracked my skull doin’ airplanes
Not too many buds, just fine
Pussy scratching sniffin a Playboy
Christ I’m a good looking man…
Fifteen miles to cop on our stingrays
Boys we’re gonna ride tonight
Goofball’s and 70’s nipples
Gotta get our heads just right
Sit me on the lap of the god’s babe
Cover me with skin and hair…
Bought another copy of ZoSo
Seeds were bustin’ up the spine
I think I wet my pants doin’ whippits
Not too many buds, just fine
Sit me on the lap of the god’s babe
Cover me with skin and hair
Ride a number one on the home train
Screw you if you think I care………

This one song encompasses their whole Monster Magnet universe: weed, acid, nitrous, airplane glue, getting wasted, getting laid, giving the middle finger to cops, jacking off, riding bikes to score drugs, cranking Yes and Zeppelin…what more did a kid need? Propelled by a monstrous riff nicked from Time We Left This World Today by Hawkwind, everything that is essential to the band is in this song. (an odd aside-in interviews lately, Wyndorf claims he quit doing drugs around  age 22, or right as Shrapnel was starting to break in 1979. I’d hung with the band more than a few times at shows both backstage and on the tour bus in the 1993-1999 period, and find this statement a bit hard to believe, as well as hard to reconcile with the overwhelming drug themes that pervade their classic albums)

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Rare photo of John McBain in the band

The universe slowly opened: the Tab EP featured the instant classic 30 minute title song with Wyndorf whispering and yelling deep back in the mix entreaties to galactic madness and specific illegal behaviors. (the band once said they played this song for 45 minutes as their whole show on their first Europe tour if they didn’t like the club or audience) Highly recommended. And then…

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1992 saw the release of  Spine of God, the all time masterpiece of stoner rock, before the genre even existed. All of the excesses of the previous two releases were refined into a nine song bible of drug fueled entertainment-a well thumbed guide to life based on the 70’s life of a Jersey stoner kid that still holds up today as the pinnacle of the whole stoner genre. Sure they ended up lifting wholesale songs from bands you’d never heard of and reworked them as their own (Captain Beyond and Sir Lord Baltimore got hit up), but 26 years later, this is still one of the most important releases of the 1990’s, in any genre.  This is the essential album if you are only going to have one.

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Not sure why you guys keep asking about drugs

The follow ups, Superjudge and Dopes to Infinity saw the departure of McBain and the entrance of the hypnotic Ed Mundell on guitar. The band coalesced quickly with Ed and the rhythm section of Jon Kleinman (drums) and Joe Calandra (bass) and plowed similar territory as their masterpiece, and yielded the minor hit Negasonic Teenage Warhead in 1995. (this was the era of the ‘School Free Drug Zone’ shirt) 

1998 was the year they crashed the big time, with the unlikely titled ‘Space Lord Motherfucker’ hitting #3 on the US charts, and their following expanded exponentially. Fame and fortune are fickle though, with the dissolution of the classic line up in the early 2000’s, things headed south. Kleinman and Calandra departed after the disappointing God Says No. Shrapnel guitarist Phil Caivano had come on board as second guitarist, freeing Wyndorf up for more visual madness.

The mid 2000’s were lean years: label changes, lineup changes, money drying up, until Wyndorf’s overdose in 2006 brought the proceedings to a halt. The band focused their efforts in Europe, and US appearances were sparse.

Monster Magnet/Electric Citizen Live at the Sinclair Boston October 2018

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Which brings us up to the present day. The band has had mixed live reviews-one main complaint is their 80 minute set of the same 12 songs every night is a little paint by numbers. I had seen them in Williamsburg NY in March of this year and was underwhelmed. Dave looked like he couldn’t wait to get offstage, and the set ticked in well under 90 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, they were good, but it wasn’t the madness of the 90’s, it was a well rehearsed blast of psychedelic stoner metal-but far too short. And then they went off to tour Europe, and returned for a US tour. Boston was the last night of the tour, and things this night were quite different. The band consists of the rhythm section of Atomic Bitchwax (Ed Mundell’s side project that he somehow managed to get himself kicked out of) Bob Pantella and Chris Kosnick on drums and bass, with Garret Sweeny on guitar rounding out the quintet with Dave and Phil. This time the set was devastatingly powerful-New York was like a blueprint while seven months later Boston was like a fully built and tricked out house. Guitars crackled, with Caivano bringing a sharper edge to the sound than Mundell’s more psychedelic bent. A few times it was apparent that Sweeny was buried in the mix and significantly quieter than Caivano, but that is only a minor quibble. The setlist hit all the classics with the accent on their earliest material. Powerful, crisp and psychedelic-the band has shed some of it’s Hawkwind influenced meanderings (despite dipping into Brainstorm for a bit), and maybe that’s not for the better. The hits are behind them, and perhaps some old school explorations might perk up things. Still, this was light years better than their spring show.

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Black Sabbath? Never heard of ’em

Openers Electric Citizen sounded like they had sliced up every Black Sabbath riff into six second snippets and re-assembled them in a fashion that resembled originals. Their stuff was derivative but energetic with a female vocalist stalking the stage. After their third pass through a re-imagined Children of the Grave with some Run to the Hills lingering in the background I began to wonder: “Is rock and roll really dying?”

Dave recently had this to offer:

“…at one point, rock really meant a lot to a lot of people. It was a way to talk about things that people were uncomfortable talking about. There was a lot of poetry and a lot of weird cultural insight to it – but as our culture changed, people started wanting less and less from music. They started getting what they needed by other means. People just don’t have the time anymore… they don’t read poetry.”

So the weed is gone, and there’s only a blackened pipe left. Scrape and scrape and you will find one last hit, because nature’s got a way you know?

Summer 2018 Concert Round Up-Dead, Ween, Belly, Slayer, Yes, Mastodon, Mule, Magpies, Primus, ZZ, K-Joke, Daltrey, n (Black)more

Once again, for the third year in a row, the Carwreck party went on the road for a full schedule of summer shows. Most venues were outdoors, the best place to see a show during summer in any reality. Let’s kick off the wrap up:

Primus and Mastodon, Blue Hills Pavilion Boston May 29

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The summer kicked off early this year-May 29th actually-with the double headlining bill of Mastodon and Primus. I thought this an odd pairing, but it seemed like well over half the crowd was there for Mastodon. Mastodon is a band that has gone on a strange trajectory-from the heavier than hell Leviathan in 2004 this band has become downright peculiar. Prog tendencies in metal bands usually have mixed results. Coheed and Cambria sometimes can pull this off, and Mastodon has similar uneven results. The recent album Emperor of the Sand is a good example of this schizophrenic approach-they are capable of being dazzlingly brilliant and godawfully painful not only in the same set, but sometimes in the same song. Think REO Speedwagon trying to do Rush and you are close. Setlist here.

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Primus hit the stage to Danny Elfman’s iconic Clown Dream from Pee Wee’s Playhouse fame, setting the vibrations to weird from the get go. Once the horn helmet hat came out, things phased from normal to delightfully surreal. The middle of the set featured their newest album, The Desaturating Seven, a quick 35 minute rundown based on an Italian children’s book. With Tim Alexander back in the fold, this band is now more telepathic than rehearsed. Somehow they have become considered a ‘jam band’, despite exhibiting few of the necessary Dead-like noodling characteristics. Primus has always sounded like a spastic version of early 1990’s King Crimson-precise when they need to be, and cacophonous spontaneously. Primus were consistently on point where Mastodon were a bit scattered. A solid evening. Setlist here.

Dead and Company, The Meadows Hartford June 13

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Weir no longer monitoring Mayer every second

The thought of John Mayer in the Dead has finally transitioned from horror to a tacit acceptance. Since the legendary Fenway Park 2016 show, Mayer has managed to quiet the critics with his palpable enthusiasm and toning down of his more annoying characteristics. (no more shoulder pads in his jacket, appropriately scruffy outfits). The ninth show of the tour saw them land in Hartford. For the first time, I had actually arrived in time for the parking lot scene. Illegal vending is always interesting, and the beer cooler guys were selling the holy grail of beer, Vermont’s Heady Topper. Unfortunately, this was one of the highlights of the day. The setlist trended towards ordinary following a ferocious Hell in a Bucket opener,  but there were flashes in Viola Lee Blues and China->Rider. Two songs after drums and space and the show was over early. Still, an average Dead and Company show in 2018 is comparable to average Grateful Dead shows of the early 90’s, and light years beyond their sputterings of 2015

Roger Daltrey with the Boston Pops does Tommy, Tanglewood Lenox MA June 15th

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No fiddling about please

Two nights later, a jaunt across the whole state of Massachusetts to Tanglewood, the home of the Boston Pops/BSO on the New York border. Last year this was the site for Pete Townhend’s orchestral version of Quadrophenia. But where Quadrophenia functioned as a fully formed classically arranged symphony, Daltrey brought a full solo band to back him up, resulting in more of a rock band playing Tommy with orchestral flourishes than a realized classical piece. Daltrey was in fine voice this evening on the lawn: a sea of blankets, wine bottles and dinners covered this jewel of Massachusetts al fresco venues. The familiar themes of Tommy are some of the Who’s strongest material, and Daltrey kept the energy high, and it was a headlong rush to the end with Who Are You and Baba O’Reilly (including an insane violin solo so often neglected) to cap the evening.  Comparisons to Townshend’s performance last year are inevitable-one managed to shoehorn Quadrophenia into a genuine classical piece while Daltrey mainly used the orchestra as window dressing embellishment. However, Daltrey did get the rock vibe going much better. Who won? ‘Us’ would be the best answer.

Yes Hampton Beach Club Casino NH July 11th

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Image result for yes 50th hampton beach 2018 or YES featuring Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman?

Wither Yes?

This one is an interesting conundrum. Yes is on their 50th anniversary tour. Twice actually. For those unaware, there are actually two versions of Yes currently touring-first Howe, White, Downes and replacement parts. The second version with founding vocalist and face of the band Jon Anderson along with iconic Rick Wakeman and 80’s star guitarist Trevor Rabin. Club Casino has seen the version led by Howe take the stage in the past in this relatively small venue. This evening the lineup was again the former: Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood, Jon Davison and replacement drummer Jay Schellen. Actually there was a surprise in store for us in the third set, founding keyboardist Tony Kaye showed up.

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I’d popped tix for this on stubhub for $6.25 each. Cheaper than their 1970’s shows. Weird.

 tony kaye

A quick thirty seconds or so of traditional taped warm up Firebird Suite led to Close to the Edge as the opener. Downes has some difficulty reproducing Wakeman’s more challenging lines from time to time, and it showed here. Howe’s acoustic solo guitar piece Mood for a Day showed that he is still a master of the fretboard, and his electric guitar work on set one closer Heart of the Sunrise carried the whole band on his shoulders. Billy Sheridan on bass sometimes had a challenge in mimicking Chris Squire’s dominant bass lines. Oddly he’s never once strapped on a Rickenbacker 4001 bass, the signature sound of Yes. (Anderson’s version relies heavily on the Rick for bass).  For the second set, Alan White came out for the closer. He is now borderline infirm after several back surgeries, and only plays on the last four songs of the set. On Awaken, he was solid in his snare and cymbal work, but some of the trickier tom fills have to be omitted. Kaye came out for the final three songs of the encore. He still has the annoying habit of only playing with his right hand while the left hand waves in the air. Good Hammond work does require some mashing with both hands to create the proper effect. Very odd that he resolutely refuses to do this. At the end of the night I compared notes with friends and the consensus was that Yes is no longer able to accurately reproduce their own material. While this sounds harsh, one has to remember that Yes wrote some of the most challenging rock music in history. Downes and Sheridan, relatively capable musicians both, often give the impression that they are slurring their way through things that are too difficult to play precisely. I had the good fortune to meet the whole band after the show, and got to speak to each member one on one as they sat at the long autograph table. I had to bite my tongue several times, I had plenty to say-White appeared frail, Kaye affable, Sheridan offhanded but pleased, Schellen quietly ecstatic, Howe prickly and distracted. But in front of Jon Davison, the singer they had grabbed from a Yes cover band, I had to comment:  “Do you ever wake up in the morning and think ‘I am the luckiest motherfucker on the planet?’ I mean seriously, you are not opening for your dream band, you are IN your dream band? Unreal” He nodded and said ‘Oh yes I know, I do know’. Great ending to an uneven but overall fun evening. In the end, which version of Yes you prefer is up to the readerSetlist

Gov’t Mule, Avett Brothers, Magpie Salute Mansfield MA July 14th

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The light show,  Floyd style

Gov’t Mule brought their ‘Dark Side of the Mule’ set to Great Woods in Mansfield. Although one would think they were doing Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd in its entirety, only seven of the fifteen Floyd covers were from Dark Side. Echoes part two, The Nile Song and Pigs on the Wing were some highlights. Warren Haynes, who never seems to have an off day, was masterful on guitar. A dazzling light show complemented the set which contained only two actual Mule songs. Before this tour, Mule had only done this Floyd adventure twice-Boston for Halloween in 2008 and at their own festival Mountain Jam in 2015.  Setlist here

Openers Magpie Salute featured the remnants of the Black Crowes, and rocked out old school. Harder and faster than the parent band, Rich Robinson, Sven Pipien and Marc Ford provide the core of something that has a rawness similar to 1987 Guns n Roses with elements of dangerous Rolling Stones and a strong heavy Crowes vibe. This is a band to watch.  Needless to say, their set was far too short. The middle band, the Avett Brothers had a large contingent in the crowd. I was a bit dumbfounded-they sounded like the Jonas Brothers on a good day mixed with any generic Christian Rock band minus the Jesus lyrics. I was bored to tears. Fortunately Warren had lined up a memory cleansing set of Floyd to send the posers to wing. He did.

Blackmore’s Night  Academy of Music Northampton MA July 21st

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Renaissance Festival? Where?

Ok this one is hard to believe for those who are unaware. Ritchie Blackmore, the notoriously difficult iconic guitarist for Deep Purple decided one day to start a band with his then girlfriend Candice Night. The band name is cleverly a play on both the names of the founders and one of Purple’s more iconic songs ‘Black Night’. Though they’ve been around since the late 90’s, many still don’t know that Blackmore has created an acoustic band that bears zero resemblance to Rainbow or Deep Purple. I was warned ahead of time that fans show up in renaissance costume. I wasn’t prepared for said fans gathering at the front of the hall and engaging in spirited group dances of Elizabethan times.

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Next one to yell Smoke on the Water is getting battle axed.

I’d have to say I was solidly impressed. I mean what the hell, Ritchie Blackmore, who is on a short list of rock guitarists who stand as the founders of heavy music as we know it comes to town? Townshend, Hendrix, Gilmour, Clapton, Page, Beck? Blackmore is right in there timeline-wise and talent-wise. This is a living legend. But as long as you don’t expect any Purple, you are in for a treat. The band sounds very close (nearly identical) to the Annie Haslam led band Renaissance who ruled the floorboards in the seventies. Night has a similar vocal range as the operatic Haslam, and the band is fluid on their plethora of acoustic instruments. Oddly, barely recognizable versions of Rainbow, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep obscurities dotted the set. On other nights Renaissance and Mike Oldfield songs will make appearances. I thought this night might be a disaster, but I would go again in a heartbeat.

Ween Waterfront Park Burlington VT July 29th

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Ween Burlington 2018 Hampton Crop
Boognish in five parts

Ween end of summer tour show. Lake Champlain for the background? Are you kidding? You could smell that this would be a special one from a long way off. From the opening notes of Did You See Me? things were loose and fun. Claude bloodied from playing drums with his hands, a half assed cover of Black Sabbath by Sabbath, China Cat by the Dead, three of the five Stallions….holy crap this was perhaps the best Ween show I’d seen since 1999. The location was perfect. We are gonna keep this one light on words and heavy on ‘watch and see what the fuck they did’. See below for video evidence of the mayhem:











Many online agreed, this one was special. The band all switched instruments for a song. Multi Stallions-always the sign of a special show. No seats, just a field. One of the best days of the summer. Sun sets over the lake literally just behind us. For me, this was the best show of the summer by a longshot. Long live Boognish. Setlist here.


Slayer Albany Times Union Center Albany NY August 1st

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More propane used tonight than most houses use in a month


You actually have to say their name three or four times in a row, or it doesn’t count. Somewhat like Bloody Mary. So Slayer announced that they are on their farewell tour and packing it in. To go out in style, they packed the bill with legends of thrash and death metal.

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I was on the way into the arena very early in the bill when I saw a kid leaving the event in a Venom shirt. Kind of early. Clearly he’d only come for Napalm Death who’d replaced Behemoth a few days before the show. Once inside, I realized it had been a while since I had been at a show where I could be in genuine danger. (Venom last year in Boston but in reality Butthole Surfers in 1990 would take the cake for uncontrolled mayhem). I’d missed some of the opening acts, coming in towards the end of Anthrax. Wandering around looking at various concert T shirts was highly entertaining-beer bellies stretching vintage shirts of 80’s bands long forgotten: Exodus, Overkill, Carcass, Megadeth, Obituary, Kreator…I’d forgotten about some of these bands. This show was another one I’d popped on stubhub for dirt cheap, $7.00 for loge seats. Lamb of God had a large following there, yet I couldn’t really find anything in their set to grab on to. First, bands that spend much of their time onstage with members having an arm in the air at all times? Play yer damn guitar. Plus the singer standing on the monitors often, posing, posturing and yelling WWF style? The aluminum bleachers backdrop also lended to what could easily be confused with a choreographed wrestling match theme. I was bored.




And then came Slayer. (Slayer…Slayer…Slayer…). Very quickly these guys established why they are the kings of thrash and death metal. Precision riffs created large incisions in the sweaty air of the former Pepsi Center, drums spitting artillery shells at machine gun rates, flames bursting front and back and sideways. It was mayhem on the stage, and the mosh pit circled menacingly, taking up a large fraction of the floor. Violence was tangible in every turn. But somehow these songs showed a spirit and swing that Lamb of God couldn’t achieve. Hell Awaits, South of Heaven, Raining Blood, Chemical Warfare led to the finale of Angel of Death-all at impossibly loud volumes and impossibly fast tempos. Brutality and catchiness intersected in a tribute to all that is metal. Glorious. Hell awaits indeed.

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No Caption Needed. Slayer

Belly,  The Royale Boston MA August 23rd

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Don’t Get Too Close To My Fantasy-Still Coquettish After All These Years

I’d wanted to see Belly since their second album came out in 1995, never have. My time with them went back to the Throwing Muses era, when I’d seen that band a half a dozen times in Cambridge before they were signed and they only had a cassette out (to this day, still their best release by a long shot). Belly’s second album, King, was a masterpiece of perfection, musically and in the timing. It was sublimely different from much of the ‘chick rock’ that flooded the market in the 90’s. But Belly were different. The riot grrl movement, Liz Phair, L7, PJ Harvey, Hole, The Breeders, Kim Gordon? These girls were dangerous, could mess you up. Or even worse, ignore you completely. These were their themes-boys and love not needed here. Belly and Tanya Donelly were something very different. They sang about the things that concerned many hipster 90’s twenty somethings the most. Dating as a full time activity,  and love….found and lost. Wistful and romantic in a good way, there is heartache and longing described in vivid terms–in poignant but easily understood terms-the spectrum is covered from highs to lows in impressionist wordplay.  Emotionally closer to Emily Dickinson than Bikini Kill, Belly is able to cut to the heart of relationship gamesmanship. Twenty years later, this album still stands as a masterpiece. Yet somehow the band only existed for three years and two albums-packing it in by 1996. Here is them doing their signature song, Red, back in ’95:



At the Royale, the band looked like they hadn’t lost a step since 1996. Tanya, who has to be pushing 55, still looks every bit the indie rock goddess-Dorian Gray’ed by the Gods and Goddesses of rock n roll. But make no mistake, she has an ability to use her voice in ways few singers could. Whispers to shrieks to country trills to breathy entreaties to guarded dive bombs from soprano to zero-Donelly has a unique and powerful vocal presence that Kristin Hersh never let her show in the Muses. The band still prowls the stage like there is a threat in their missives. Who could forget this pose:

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Gail Greenwood, the Lemmy of Indie Rock

The band had their kids there. Their progeny hosted an onstage drawing for a raffle and hogged the stage in a fashion that would make the cynical cringe, but was slightly endearing and a dose of perhaps needed reality:  ‘Hey we got kids and are not 22 anymore folks’. But the air of family that the Muses once nascently carried back in a long burned down club in Cambridge was now fully formed, a maturity has descended upon an era once innocent and adolescently hopeful on the love front. In some ways, their weighty and heady successes are frozen in time, along with any fans memories. It was a special time. ‘Don’t get too close to my fantasy’ a wise philosopher once said. Fair dinkum. Setlist here.

ZZ Top, Indian Ranch Webster MA August 26th

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My first concert year (underage), I had seen Rick Derringer in Salisbury Frolics. I was way too close to a PA that would easily deafen Madison Square Garden in a room the size of a small lecture hall. They tuned the monstrous PA up with some radio tunes. ‘Heard it on the X’ was the first song. I was intrigued. ZZ Top they said. I waited decades without seeing them, grabbing a few of their early albums. Why? I knew they had had a Texas history that went back to the days of the 13th Floor Elevators. But somehow they never had they crossed my path, and too many lunkheads were into them. I filed them away.

I’d had tickets two years ago to see ZZ Top when the bass player Dusty Hill wiped out drunk on the tour bus and broke his hip, pooching the tour. I had then given up all hope in ever seeing them live. Scanning the concert calendar, I discovered a day ahead of time ZZ Top playing within 50 miles of home. I had no idea that the Indian Ranch is located on a rather famous lake, one made famous in the Guinness Book of Records as longest name for a lake ever: Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Or: ‘you fish on your side of the lake I’ll fish on my side of the lake and nobody fishes in the middle’. I’d memorized this in elementary school but never knew the damn lake was in Massachusetts. (a plaza with a convenience store has the name over it. It covers all of the stores from end to end.)

Top came out and delivered a perfunctory set-no surprises-some obvious omissions-that lasted perhaps 75 minutes to the predominantly biker crowd. Little time for jamming and mostly getting things done quickly  was the order of the day. Some songs just fell apart at the end as if they were unwilling to let the song go another bar. Cheap Trick also operates this way lately, pre-programmed set that will not be deviated from under any circumstances, and an 80 minute target endtime. Bands on auto pilot that play the same set every night aren’t the best thing to see, but I was happy to finally witness these guys decades after I’d written them off with Eliminator. Setlist here Some footage:



Killing Joke and Pig, Paradise Theater Boston September 11th

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The summer ended on the ominous day of September 11th. I’d seen Killing Joke 5 years ago at this exact venue. Unlike many long lived bands, Killing Joke is currently constituted by their original 1978 lineup: Jaz Coleman, Youth, Geordie Walker and Paul Ferguson. This alone should reap them accolades-seriously a punk band that still has the same lineup for this long? Unheard of. And this was their 40th reunion.

Most Americans have no idea who Killing Joke are. They made zero impression in America during their heyday. With a sound that could be categorized as ‘standard 1980 brit punk’ with a heady Hawkwind edge-well you can see why nobody in the States would get it. But Youth? Few know he is the god of bass in KJ, but even fewer know he is a producer of rather impressive stature. Paul McCartney? The Verve? Alien Sex Fiend?  U2 and Depeche Mode? Yep, Youth.

Jaz Coleman is even more enigmatic. Often missing off planet, or perhaps in the Sahara, Coleman can be hard to pin down. He is famous for being an idealist, conspiracy theorist, truth teller and yet another famous producer. He rose to fame in 1995 with Symphonic Pink Floyd, a classical re-arrangement of Floyd classics.

With that in mind, seeing them in Boston was once again an amazing experience. They are so on top of their game that they could, like ZZ Top and Cheap Trick, phone one in. But they are made of sterner stuff. They briefly noted that it was September 11th and left the rest hanging, and quick comments on Trump were followed by ‘you guys watch out for us, so we are in it together’. For better or worse was politely left out. The set contained four songs from their debut lp from 1980. Setlist here

Pig, the opening band were entirely confusing. Seven musicians were coming out of the PA but only a guitarist, drummer, and engaging vocalist were onstage.

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Raymond Watts, an integral member of KMFDM, is the central figure of <PIG>. One can be forgiven for thinking this is an offshoot of Pigface (the industrial rock scene is the most incestuous of any rock scene ever-everyone has been in each others band at some point). As a front man, he is hypnotic. Dazzling stage gestures can be hypnotic to engage a crowd at first. After a while though? Repetition grows stale when computers are actually playing most of the instruments and your band members aren’t. Notsogood. Would go down a storm in a NYC bondage bar though.

So, that brings us to the end of the summer run. Distance traveled to shows: 1,890 miles traveled. 11 shows: $373.00 total ticket cost.

Cats Down Under the Stars for sure.

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2017 Concert Roundup here

2016 Concert Roundup here

Hawkwind-Road To Utopia Review, or Cricket Test Match Implosion: Disaster Overtakes Starship Hawkwind

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Fans were wary when Hawkwind announced they would be doing an album with strings for their 30th lp release, Road to Utopia. I mean that when a rock band not known for any strings in their songs decides to do an orchestral album, it is usually a signal that it’s finally over. It is the musical equivalent of wearing sweatpants in public–you gave up. (the only rung lower is a Christmas album) Which makes it so puzzling that Hawkwind, who had been riding a streak of victories with their last two studio albums would decide to engage in what is usually perceived to be a musical white flag of surrender. Then the album cover was released:

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I was gobsmacked. Were they kidding? I canvassed long term Hawkfans, and most honestly thought this was a parody-couldn’t possibly be real, right? Cricket cartoons in a folk art style? Very ill advised was the kindest comment I heard.(cringeworthy on an ELP Love Beach level) So what went wrong? First up, fingers must be pointed at Mike Batt of the Wombles, who orchestrated this collection of yet again more (all) Hawkwind remakes. The Wombles were a Brit children’s 70’s TV show featuring the band in fuzzy costumes (see above). Even odder was Eric Clapton guesting on The Watcher. This seemed like a confluence of bad decisions of epic proportions, like an acid trip that despite the best intentions, ends up spinning further out of control at every turn until there is an uncomfortable and painful thud.

First off, more covers of their older classic material is not what Hawkfans have been salivating for. Hey the first cover of Quark Strangeness and Charm in the 90’s was kind of cool, but little did we know that this was to be the blueprint for the next decade and a half. Their propensity for revisiting their older material has gone from eyebrow raising to a genuine problem. And their remakes never capture the magic of the originals, this is also the case here. Early statements tried to assuage fans by stressing that this was not an album of Hawkwind playing with an orchestra, but a Hawkwind album augmented by string and horn arrangements. True, it’s more variety show glitz arrangements than a full on orchestral treatment, but in the end this splitting of hairs matters little. The songs are sapped of whatever power they once contained and vary from semi-successful curios to downright look away embarrassing. Psi Power is vaguely interesting but Batt’s propensity for 1970’s over the top horn arrangements mar even this one slight success. The Age of the Micro Man is haunting but slowed tempos make it eventually sound like they are walking through viscous toffee. Some cool guitar from Brock manages to find its way past the wicket when Batt wasn’t looking in the grand finale. But by the end of the second pass through the album, I could no longer take the histrionic horn flashes intruding like a hamfisted attempt to insert some pep in their step but end up destroying everything-a Vegas inflected big band Hawkwind? Ugh. Things looked so bright when 2016’s The Machine Stops came out. Into the Woods kept the engine running smoothly. But this album pours sand into the oilpan and the whole colossus shudders to a frightening halt. We took the wrong step years ago? A bit more recent than years ago I’m afraid. Avoid.

Makes you wonder: ‘what would Lemmy have said?’

update Hawkwind live at the Palladium, London, November 2018: So the orchestral Hawkwind Palladium London shows have come and gone, and how did they do? Remember, this was supposed to be ‘Orchestral Hawkwind’ as opposed to the album, which was ‘Hawkwind with horn and strings in background’. In the end, there wasn’t much of a distinction.  Like this album, this show was a polarizing event-from those who thought it was the greatest thing they’d ever witnessed to those who yelled out ‘this is shit!’ straight from the crowd right at the band-there was little middle ground. Both the Telegraph and Financial Times in London panned it as straddling a passable/borderline disaster thin line.

The whole show is on Youtube currently in seven parts shot from the crowd, and judge for yourself. The six songs where Hawkwind are alone without accompaniment? Ok stuff. This quartet isn’t their strongest lineup, and it can show (Haz Wheaton’s departure is particularly felt). Brock holds things down nicely, exuding charisma and that ‘something’ Hawkwind always has on guitar and vocals, and they delivered workmanlike versions of some classics like Shot Down in the Night, some uneven versions (Damnation Alley and Spirit of the Age) while in the same breath Arthur Brown butchered (or drastically re-arraanged depending on your point of view) the Lemmy growl of the Watcher. The orchestra seemed superfluous at most stages. The opening orchestration piece was borderline excruciating-the worst of Aaron Copland meets some outtakes from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Center of the Earth meets casual ‘hey let’s throw in some Gil Evans here’ moments. The orchestral backing to Arthur Brown’s version of The Black Corridor and the classic Sonic Attack injected treacle and haphazard classical hackwork where some Ligeti inflected menace was required. (Nik Turner was openly missed on these two…Sonic Attack resembled the Atom Heart Mother orchestra working out early rehearsal bugs while Brown struggled to read the words and maintain any semblance of tempo). Down Through the Night suffered from horn blasts straight from an Italian 70’s variety show before picking up a bit towards the end-look up Prisencolinensinainciusol when you get a chance.

Overall, Mike Batt’s orchestrations seem like taping on a false moustache to Sean Connery: ultimately, not only is it just not needed, it actually detracts from the whole thing. In the end, this whole event was a noble failure that could have been predicted. Orchestral versions of progressive rock? Maybe. Orchestral versions of space rock? No. It’s antithetical to the whole genre. While the mid 90’s symphonic Pink Floyd lp courtesy of sympathetic kindred spirit Jaz Coleman was a reasonable success, Mike Batt has little feel for Hawkwind’s music and the final effect is like leaving Doc Severinson from Johnny Carson in charge of arranging an orchestral evening of Amon Duul II on short notice-two styles that would never mesh even under the best of circumstances forced uncomfortably together. It wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great. And really, nobody wins in that scenario. Let’s move on.


Behringer Deepmind 12-A Review For Those Who Have Played A LOT of Analog Synths

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This review is written for people who have seen a ton of analog synthesizers in their past. How does this thing SOUND? The lowdown on the Behringer Deepmind 12 (Note: this was written after seven days of playing this) : 

I don’t think more ink has been spilled over a synthesizer either before or after release than the Behringer Deepmind 12. Not the Moog Voyager, not Korg’s Arp Odyssey, not the Little Phatty. Much of this hand wringing has to do with the brand name on the case, Behringer. Known by some for their borderline patent infringement copies of some famous gear and questionable quality control, people had this thing written off before a prototype version had even hit the streets. The rumor that it was going to be a remake of the iconic Roland Juno 106 caused endless debates of skepticism. News then filtered out that it was to be manufactured in China-well this sealed it for many who verbally dug their heels in and posted final judgements without ever touching one in real life. It has polarized the synth community in opinion like no synth before ever has.  Is this kind of judgement worthy or overblown hyperbole? Let’s take a look at this beast.

So let’s first look at what happened in the major synth forums: Behringer lit up the synthesizer boards online with news that they had planned to clone the Juno 106 in August 2016. Folks were skeptical to say the least. Many online judged it and poured out missives without hearing a single note-“It’s a Behringer, it’s going to suck. I want no part of it” was a comment seen in many guises over and over. When it hit the shelves in January 2017, it was buggy. But it needed to be noted that this wasn’t a Juno 106 clone, it was a lot more. Another oscillator, arpeggiator, and most importantly, onboard high quality effects. Quick revisions of the OS (currently 1.1.2) have cleared up many of the quirks. Many will be surprised to hear that the Behringer is surprisingly solid.

First off, I am not one of those Behringer huge fans or one of the  ‘haters’. I have had several Behringer pedals (meh) and mixers in the past, and still use a mixer nearly two decades later. (ps: this mixer I gig with regularly: throw it in a milk crate uncased, throw it onstage and throw it back in the crate. And it has never failed) But Behringer has a reputation in some circles for gear that is only borderline acceptable. A full on analog polyphonic synthesizer? (these hadn’t really existed new anymore until the DSI Prophet 08 was released a decade ago.–I’m ignoring the Andromeda, no one could afford that—More expensive analog polys today trend towards $2,500. For a cheaper analog alternative today, outside of the mini keys Korg ‘minilogue? Not much out there.)

And for this to be your company’s first foray into synthesizers? This can be tricky ground. Look at Arturia’s Minibrute-another company that debuted an analog hardware synth as their first dipping of their toes into the musical instrument hardware water. The Arturia received mixed reviews (personally I thought it was too harsh sounding) and as a made in China provenance, few were surprised that it had a nearly series wide defect of a broken middle C key. The Microbrute revision released later was an improvement but sported mini keys, a deal breaker for many. People were wary of a brand new company making their first synth.

How Does It Sound?

Too many reviews of this thing are not much more than a recitation of the Deepmind 12 promo sheet of its specs. Few reviews get into what this thing has going for it: the unique sound. It sounds like a few synthesizers.   For a cliff note version, here is a starter formula for you to work with:

Juno-106  70%                                                                                                                                                        Alesis Ion 10%                                                                                                                                                        Waldorf Micro Q 10%                                                                                                                                 Korg Prophecy 10%

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Roland Juno 106 -1984. The biggest inspiration.                            Analog/hybrid
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Alesis Ion-2003. Virtual Analog Poly
Image result for waldorf micro Q
Waldorf Micro Q- 2000. Virtual Analog


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Korg Prophecy-1995. Virtual Analog

Some of the more astute will note that three digital virtual analogs are mentioned as close to how this sounds. Let’s get more specific.

The Korg Prophecy was designed in the mid 90’s as a bone to throw to the engineers who wanted a project mostly for themselves to be entertained-a digital synth that sounds like a monophonic analog synth of the 70’s. In reality, it didn’t sound much like an analog synth-you could hear this distinctive digital buzziness like fine sandpaper on wood in most sounds. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great–but it did have a fairly distinctive resonant nasally sound that would be the signpost for much virtual analog to follow. I had one for a while and it excelled in swirling soundscapes-but sketchy and scratchy outputs made it unreliable live.

The Waldorf Micro Q was a lower priced sequel to their flagship virtual analog monster, the Q. These guys had gotten down to brass tacks in synthesizer gestalt-buy a castle in Germany, move in, and create a company dedicated to making synthesizers Tangerine Dream would walk through burning buildings for. Not a bad original idea, and these guys are really good at what they do. The Micro Q was a very high end take on virtual analog-it has a very unique digital spin on analog. Crystalline high end bordering on…it’s hard to put in words, but it’s damn good. The micro Q still sports a sound today 18 years after release that is appealingly unique as well as easily identifiable. Waldorf digital synths have a certain something that makes the keen observer pick it out in a mix quickly. Great arpeggiation and clean and precise articulation are the hallmarks here. I have valued one of these in the rig since 2001.

The Alesis Ion was a latecomer to the game. It was all metal and solid feeling with a strength in a distinctly digital take on virtual analog. Formant sounds (a way of making a synth sound like it is vaguely talking) and very thin nasal swirling and sweeping resonant leads are the distinctive and easily identified signature sounds from this beast. The screen in the middle is able to show much information: BPMs, a pictorial of the envelopes, filters  and knob setting numbers for starters.  This was a ton of information in 2003, almost overwhelming for one weaned solely on 70’s and 80’s analog synths. I had one of these for a few years, but it had two live drawbacks, the labeling of knobs and buttons is literally invisible in most lighting situations, and it is much heavier to lug around than one would guess.

The Roland Juno 106 was the big analog polyphonic synth of the 1980’s. Hundreds of bands featured this thing-both pro and amateur. This keyboard was all over MTV styled euro bands-Most Duran Duran songs use the more expensive but very similar version of the 106, the 60. Pet Shop Boys and a-ha helped make this a staple of the airwaves while Tangerine Dream and Vangelis made wide use of the strings. It hit all the right notes for many synth enthusiasts-just old school enough, just modern enough, and affordable. DCOs instead of VCOs gave it a stability older synths lacked, but its single oscillator boosted by a sub oscillator limited what it could do. The lack of an arpeggiator or even the hold button from the SH-101 made for some complaints. This synth is widely considered to be a classic these days-it fetches around $1000 on the used market. I’ve had one for five or six years. The chorus on it can make some string sounds untouchable-hence its wide demand.

(further reflection months later)    I’d be tempted to add that there is a dash of the Korg Poly 800 in there too, the only affordable analog polysynth of the 80’s.

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Let’s Put All the Pieces Together

First reaction (five minutes of scrolling through patches) – Holy shit!! This is the most AMAZING synth I’ve heard in thirty five years!!

Second reaction (twenty minutes, 40 patches)-Hmmm most of these patches seem to be  awash in delay and echo…..

Third reaction (forty minutes-90 patches)– Wow a lot of these patches really sound alike. This thing is kind of samey. I don’t know….

Things changed. The second day, I had a similar reaction at first, but began to see deeper into the beast-reaction # 1 hung in there longer-impressive. By the end of day two, I had discovered something echoed by other commenters on various boards. I just started fiddling with sliders to see what I could do to each pre-set. At the end of an short noodling session, I had not just created a cool new patch, I had created a fully vibrant evolving motion soundscape that could function as a full on song on its own. Remember this synth has no splitting the keyboard to have two sounds at hand, no layering and no ‘combis’ that push patches together as a single sound source. It is all one single patch. This is pretty amazing for any synthesizer (even my behemoth Prophet 10 monster has difficulty creating full blown soundscape pieces this easily). By day four this had happened several times-random sliding of parameters leading to that ‘oh yeah’ moment of multi dimensional sonic universes unlocking. I began to wonder if the perception that the patches were sounding samey was because the programmers had made soooo many amazing sounds-an overload of cool sounding shit that overloaded the senses? This does seem to be the case.

How does this theoretical ingredients list play out? The Deepmind 12 sounds like a very clean Juno 106. It has essentially the same layout and many of the key and famously iconic pad sounds of a 106. It then has the large screen information display very similar to an Ion, with some of its signature formant sounds-albeit analog in source instead of digital. It also excels at the thin nasal resonant mono leads the Ion showcases. It has the clipped precision of the Micro Q in the arpeggiations, and many of the Deep Mind patches-even though this is an analog synth-have the distinctive character of the Prophecy’s evolving soundscapes and more straightforward analog emulated leads. It has a dollop of some of the straightforward bland but effective analog of the Poly 800. There are many patches on here I’d identify as digital virtual analog on first hearing. Most of that is a function of too many effects on a single patch, as when stripped of the reverbs, many patches revert to sounding clearly analog, if a bit vanilla. Overall, the percentage of sounds you’d pick as clearly analog matches roughly the original ingredients list-about 7 out of 10 would get the nod. (There are 1,024 patches in the beast). Perhaps “greater than the sum of its parts” would be an accurate quick take.

Oh My God The Fan

Some early and vocal reviews put the kibosh on this synth because it has a fan (actually two) in it. I couldn’t understand the fuss. I’d grown up with Kurzweils, both keyboard and rack, and never thought of a fan as something to give a second thought to, except if it stopped making noise. All of our computers and laptops have had fans forever. For those who think this is an issue, there is a setting in Global to adjust fan speed. Is the fan audible at full speed? Yes. My version had the fan factory preset to a very low setting of 64, where it was nearly inaudible. Engineers at Behringer say that those who are freaked out and can’t handle the fan can set theirs as low as 34. You can even turn it off if your studio isn’t currently doubling as a sauna.

A Quick Rundown of Most Common Complaints

Build quality is excellent. All metal and wood, this thing is built like a brick shithouse. A sturdy gig bag would be recommended to protect the sliders, as the sliders are slightly wiggly. But so are the sliders on my Juno 106 (just went downstairs to check, the 106 faders wobble side to side, not as much as the Deepmind, but still wiggly). The revised Deepmind 6 has smaller sliders that feel much tighter. The keybed is good, not great, but this would be a place to save a little money in the manufacturing. Me? I ain’t Keith Emerson going to town, but I had no beefs.

Unwanted clicking sounds. Yes this is true, there are some occasional quiet clicks and pops in the sounds. Some seem to be residue from the effects, but some do seem to be noise generated unintentionally. Not often enough to be noticed much on my unit, but they are there.

Noisy fan. As noted above, this isn’t really a problem at all.

Relies too much on effects. Well this one depends on your viewpoint. It is true that some patches are absolutely slathered in reverb, making the sound recede in a wash of repeating digital echoes. But remember, the Juno 106 made its name on a particular sound, a sound often generated by engaging its distinctive chorus. Somehow effects integral to the vintage inspiration get a pass but on the newer version are now a sticking point? Weird. (not to mention that no one said boo in 1988 when the Korg M1 had effects built into many patches) Think of it this way-a patch has certain settings that build the architecture of the sound-envelopes, cutoff etc. The effects are just one more ingredient to the madness-another essential piece of the puzzle. What usually is never mentioned is that in a live setting, you no longer have to carry around an echo pedal, power supply for it, and two patch cords. This really streamlines setup time. Plus the effects are sourced from TC Electronics, known for their high end delay units and Klark Teknik, a high end British sound processing outfit. These aren’t cheap add on effects. (These companies have been absorbed into the Behringer family.)

The analog strings are too thin You see this complaint a lot on various online boards. And if I only gave this a cursory run through, it is possible that one could get that impression. Many string patches (there are hundreds) do sound like they are missing something. But keep looking-you will find some massive string patches (about ten or so) that would make Juno 106 aficionados weep openly. There is one patch in the A bank I need to revisit (forgot to write it down stupidly). It is the most massive string sound I’ve heard in a while-Roland Jupiter/Yamaha CS in depth.

It has no low end for huge bass Well this is just straight up incorrect. Even the smaller six voice Deepmind 6 is capable of bowel loosening sub bass–foundation shaking bass.

Final Judgement

In the end, this is more a synth you’ll play around with and discover things you’d never imagined more than something to sit down and willfully program. Subtle tweaks produce galactic results you’d never expect. At the new price point of $699, the Deepmind 12 is really a no brainer. It can do some things that even the Oberheim OB 6 and Prophet Rev2 cannot do. Are both of those famous and top shelf synthesizers inferior to the Deepmind? Of course not. But at $3,000 and $2,000 respectively, they require a serious financial commitment. If you are looking for a synth that does deep Moog soundalike patches, piano, orchestral instruments, and conventional style instruments, look elsewhere. If you are looking for something that oozes Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Cluster, Berlin school, Jean Michel Jarre and deep ambient vintage analog synth textures?  Look no further. Hell this thing could also fit nicely in a Hip hop, funk, techno, prog metal or jam band.  If you have experience getting sounds out of a Roland SH-101 (my first synth) then you will feel very much at home instantly programming this. The blinking LFO lights in particular are an invaluable guide for those who know where to go to find the exact sliders to fine tune weird sounds.

At $899 these were already worth it. Now? Well what are you waiting for? Open a new window and order one now. And get a Deepmind 6 while you are at it.

addendum: I’ve owned quite a few vintage and later era synths in my time and this thing hangs in there very well with all of them.

Gear list: Moog Voyager, Minimoog Model D, vintage Moog Source and Micromoog, Moog Sub 37, Moog Sub Phatty, Moog Grandmother, Moog Slim Phatty; vintage Arp Odyssey Rev 1 and Rev 3 and Arp Axxe, vintage Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 and Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, DSI Prophet 08, DSI Evolver, DSI Mopho keyboard, DSI/Pioneer Toraiz; Kurzweil K2000r, K2500r, K2000 keyboard; Korg Arp Odyssey, Korg Ms 20, Korg Karma, Korg Monologue, Korg Ex-8000; Waldorf Streichfette, Waldorf Micro Q, Waldorf Pulse, Waldorf Pulse 2; vintage Waldorf Microwave ;  Roland SH-101, Roland Juno 106, Roland Alpha Juno, Roland MKS 50, Roland MKS 70, Roland JX 10;  Roland/Studio Electronics Se 02, Studio Electronics SE-1;  Doepfer MS 404;  Cwejman S2; vintage Oberheim Matrix 6 and Matrix 6r, Oberheim Matrix 1000 and tons of gear traded in over the past two decades. And now, add in Behringer Deepmind 12 and Deepmind 6.