Where The Wild Things Were: Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub

October 15, 2009
Troubadour, Los Angeles

A movie I really wanted to see – Where The Wild Things Are –  opened at midnight and I forgot all about it.  The Flaming Lips were playing a “secret”  show at a pop-up store in Hollywood and I didn’t care (although I did wonder how they would fit that big bubble in there).  I haven’t slept (much) in days, but I wasn’t tired.

Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois, the man who produced some of my (and your) favorite albums of all time, was playing at Troubadour last night and that’s all that mattered.   Considering the room was so packed that it became impossible to navigate through the crowd to get to the bathroom or the bar, I’m not the only one who felt that way.

Lanois does more than produce – he’s a songwriter, musician, and quite possibly stylist to The Edge.  He epitomizes “cool” and may even love music more than me.  Well, he certainly loves music more than he loves me, but he may also love music more than I love music.  If that’s possible, Lanois is the one to do it.

Lanois’ Black Dub features Brian Blade on drums, Daryl Johnson on bass, and Trixie Whitley adding vocals, keys, and more percussion.  Whitley is the daughter of the late great blues guitarist and singer, Chris Whitley.   On June 10, 1997, I stood wide-eyed in the center of the Troubadour, as Chris Whitely made me question my taste in those whom I had previously thought of as good musicians.  That night, twelve years ago, Chris Whitley opened my eyes to another level of musicianship.

Similarly, Lanois’ Black Dub reminded me of a band I’d stumble upon in New Orleans.  If you haven’t been to New Orleans, here’s how it works: you can walk into any club (often without paying a cover), at any time of night (literally), and see a level of musicianship you didn’t know was possible, by a musician you’d never heard of.   You’re left standing there, as the words “music” and “musician” are redefined before your eyes and you’re not sure how you’ll listen to anything else again.   I know this about New Orleans, yet every time I’m there I text my friends in the middle of the night: “THIS is music.”

Trixie Whitley, Daryl Johnson

Lanois, Whitley, Johnson

Lanois’ Black Dub IS music.  I didn’t have to text anybody last night because my friends and a room packed with people who “know” music were there, in complete agreement.   Trixie Whitley belted out songs as if that’s what she was born to do.  She picked up the guitar and played as if that’s what she was born to do. Then, mid-song, she’d move to the drums and play as if that’s what she was born to do. Next thing you know, Whitley is hammering away on the keyboard as if that’s what she was born to do. Whitley IS music – no matter what she’s doing, playing, or singing – and her stage presence exemplifies passion.

“Passion never goes out of fashion,” Lanois said between songs.  He then went on to share his gratitude for the gift of music.  He also shared his gratitude for those who are not musically gifted, but who play the supporting roles necessary to help ensure the music is heard.  Although they call themselves Lanois’ Black Dub, it didn’t feel like the night was about Lanois.  “I love singing harmonies,” Lanois explained before launching into the harmonies of  a song called “Sing.”  “When you sing harmonies, there’s no room for ego.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the blend.”

Black Dub: The Perfect Blend

Black Dub: The Perfect Blend

Last night’s show was about the blend.  Whether they were playing “The Maker,” a rockin’ version of “Ring The Alarm,” or a song I’d never heard, the spotlight wasn’t on one person – Johnson, Blade, Whitley, and Lanois shined equally.  It was some of the most talented musicians looking at each other with admiration, as if to say, “Holy sh!t! I can’t believe you just did that!”  In fact, Lanois spent much of the night playing with a huge smile on his face.  Lanois’ Black Dub is a group of musicians who are playing music because it’s fun, playing music because they love it, playing music because they can’t live without it, and playing with each other because they can.


The Maker

Response to Where The Wild Things Were: Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub

  1. You write like I feel! I so wanted to be there (from Seattle) but could not make it work. Thanks for validating my fandom…

  2. Saw them in Brussels a few weeks ago and have the same feeling…This IS music…….I’m still (after three weeks) floating on a cloud…

  3. Pingback: Brian Blade » Blog Archive » Where The Wild Things Were: Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub

  4. I couldn’t agree more – it was music at the highest level!!!

    I have been searching youtube everyday for any clips that people may have shot so I can relive bits and share with friends. Yours is the first, but it’s not working at this time. Do you have any other clips?

  5. Pingback: Black Dub @ Troubadour Los Angeles 15.10.2009 -

  6. Awesome show! Daniel has created yet another brilliant sound with Black Dub. The power trio under Trixie singing is better than anything out there today. Can’t wait for the album.

  7. Love it !!!!! I’m a big Chris Whitley fan and to see Trixie coming to the stage and delivering such an intense and sincere music is a wonderful thing ! Can’t wait for her records to come !

    As for Mr Lanois I really liked the way he was producing the Neville Brothers on Yellow Moon album. His own records are also really great source of inspiration !

  8. Your review is spot on! A friend and I “dumped” our tickets to see Bob Dylan and opted for Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub. What’s really ironic about this is that Lanois has probably produced some of Bob Dylan’s best work. “Oh Mercy”, “Time Out Of Mind”, and a majority of the cuts from “Tell Tale Signs/ The
    Bootleg Series Vol. 8″(alternative or unreleased takes from the “Oh Mercy” and “Time Out Of Mind recording sessions)

  9. hi, a a Brian Blade’s fan since i saw him playing with joshua redman, and i saw trixie whitley on his web site. i thought ” CARAMBA” (BRAZILIAN WOW) and since that day a bacama a trixie’s fan too!
    i whish i was in this place.
    thank you!

  10. Pingback: Club Spaceland » Thursday 12.03.09: TRIXIE WHITLEY

  11. Very jealous of your evening out – I saw Trixie play in Brooklyn a couple weeks ago, very very bright future for this intense young musician – and, oh, the company she keeps!

    There were eerie echoes of her late dad – a favorite of mine – all OVER the place. Yet she stands original. I’m watching out sharply for Black Dub, can’t wait. There are YouTube videos by Black Dub from the studio, by the way, and they are what got me out to Trixie’s show, quite good stuff too.

  12. thanks for the uber kind words. I’m lanois filmmaker friend, the guy filming on stage that night, working angles from my postage stamp of a stage position. I have to apologize, i deprived people of hearing brian blade hit his 26″ spez, he stopped playing it after hitting my hand a few times.
    there are a few pieces we filmed at daniel’s house of the band, doin it live off the floor!

    and more here http://www.youtube.com/adamckvollick

  13. Pingback: Live: Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub “Experiment” « Rock Is A Girl's Best Friend

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