Whole Lotta Lez: Lez Zeppelin at Musica, 3/24/12

I’ve often wondered about tribute acts. What’s it like to devote your life to recreating the sounds of another band? Don’t you ever want to play your own material? The tribute groups I’d seen before were Beatles acts, and though some of them were very impressive (I’ve seen Rain twice, and I’d like to see them again), they attempted to slavishly recreate everything about the band, which included adopting fake Liverpudlian accents and calling each other “John” or “Ringo.” Inevitably, a little something was lost in translation. As Lez Zeppelin took the stage at Musica here in Akron, Ohio, this past Saturday, I was curious to see how they would attempt to recreate the sound and fury of Led Zeppelin, especially since their gimmick is that–as their name implies–they’re an all-girl band.

Turns out, their gimmick isn’t so much a gimmick. From the moment they launched into a ferocious “Immigrant Song,” all of my questions seemed suddenly irrelevant. Lez Zeppelin rocks so hard that you don’t want to think about why they would perform the music of a decades-gone band; you just want to revel in the how. And how, indeed. Musica is a pretty small place, one that would seem more suited to opening act Thom Chacon, a Dylanesque singer-songwriter. Yet those close quarters played to the band’s strengths. I’m sure they can kick up quite a ruckus in a larger venue, but at Musica, the audience simply found itself dwarfed by sheer, glorious noise.

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So You Think You Can Gobble: 8.02-03, “NY/SLC/LA Auditions”

Three hours of So You Think You Can Dance audition goodness this week. Wednesday night we got to see what Salt Lake City and New York had to offer, each giving us some good and some not-so-good. And Thursday night brought us the final auditions show, from the mythological Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. And the ol’ Orphic Mysteries were in full effect, because LA was a panoply of dance magic this season.

And…cue music!

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Ringo Starr, Keeping the Beat for 70 Years

We had a show on Paul McCartney’s birthday, but no dice for Ringo; as always, the man gets no respect. But wait! Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday, and I am determined to honor him! He is a wonderful drummer; his technique during his time with the Beatles went from the simple, pleasurable backbeat of Please Please Me to the complex, sophisticated drumming of Abbey Road. Like fellow Beatles John, Paul, and George, the growth he experienced over six or seven years was remarkable. And for 40 years now, ever since the band broke up, he has quietly released a steady stream of solo albums. Some are pleasant, a couple–Ringo, Liverpool 8–have been excellent, and though most are mediocre, the fact that he’s had a recording career for close to half-a-century is a terrific accomplishment. (Plus he’s never released anything as ear-bleedingly awful as John’s Life with the Lions or Paul’s Liverpool Oratorio, so props for that, Rings. Can I call you Rings?)

So in celebration, I present to you Ringo’s Top 5 Beatles Songs!

I could probably take a broader view and determine Ringo’s best Beatles songs by taking into account his actual drumming (in which case, I’m thinking “Rain,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” would likely be contenders for the top spot), but I’m only going to count the songs he sang. There were only 12, but all are worthy additions to the Beatles catalogue.

5. “What Goes On,” Rubber Soul (1965)

I met you in the morning, waiting for the tides of time. But now the tide is turning, I can see that I was blind.

Rubber Soul is an album fraught with girl troubles, and even the usually happy-go-lucky Ringo finds himself at odds with a lying, cheating girl. As with many Ringo songs, “What Goes On” has a country-and-western flair, though I doubt many C&W songs sport anything as lovely as John and Paul’s background harmony. Paul’s stabbing bass provides a nice counterpoint to George’s clean guitar lines, nicely capturing the song’s mood.

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Hey, Mr. AJ: Pavement, Emeralds, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Bettye LaVette, Eminem

Album reviews are divided into six sections: MAXIMUM GOBBLING for the masterpieces; GOBBLE IT for the merely great; WORTH GOBBLING for other good releases; GOBBLE? for those albums which aren’t really good or bad, just sort of okay; DO NOT GOBBLE for the shitty; and RUN, DON’T GOBBLE! for the awful.

QUARANTINE THE PAST: THE BEST OF PAVEMENT
by Pavement

As with most compilations, you could quibble as to why Quarantine the Past exists; Pavement only had five albums, and all the early EP’s were compiled on Westing (By Musket & Sextant). But let’s not quibble, shall we? After more than a decade, Pavement, the seminal 90’s indie band, came together for a reunion tour this year, and Quarantine the Past serves as both a celebration for long-time fans and a primer for new listeners. It’s all here, from Pavement at their most accessible (the sing-along almost-hit “Cut Your Hair”) to the band at their most obscure (“Unseen Power of the Picket Fence,” a track singing the praises of R.E.M.); from ephemera (EP cuts like the noisy “Debris Side”) to essentials (like the majestic “Grounded”). And yet for all the weirdness, all the guitar fuzz and noise, Pavement never lose their keen sense of melody. Leader Stephen Malkmus’ lyrics are largely inscrutable; what are you to make of a line like, “And all the sterile striking, it defends an empty dock you cast away”? What you’re to make of it, I presume, is what you make of it. The words may sound nonsensical out of context, but in the way that Malkmus’ voice intertwines with the music and plays off of it, they convey all you need to know. Like any great band, Pavement means different things to different people, and it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. My Pavement will likely always be the Pavement of the 1992 masterpiece Slanted and Enchanted, represented here by several great cuts including my two favorites, the oddly wistful “Here” and the glorious “Summer Babe (Winter Version).” But it all works, and despite the growths and strong personalities of each of their albums, it all sits side-by-side perfectly; I hesitate to call it a document because documents are boring, locked rigorously into certain perceptions of time. That’s not Pavement. Pavement remain free of such shackles, their music alive and full of color after all these years.

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