Great Northern kicked off the evening with songs and a performance that sucked you in like a good novel. It almost felt like a trick; a welcome trick. The songs went places I didn’t expect them to go, not because they were new to me, but because they actually had an arc, momentum, story, and fervor to them that (I feel) is becoming a lost art in both mainstream and indie music.
Becky Stark took the stage next and cooed songs about love. Optimism and naivety were in a constant dance. On the surface, rose-colored glasses. Yet Stark allows you to peer through the window, and deep into the uncertainty that sparks a once silent prayer into a song.
Next up was one of my favorites, Daniel Lanois. Among the things I love and respect about Lanois:
He’s a kind, wonderful person
He’s a brilliant musician
He has produced some of my favorite albums
His instrumental songs express more than many songs that have lyrics
He is a reminder to make sure we let people know how much we appreciate them, every time we have the opportunity
Lanois sounded amazing. His shows are always a treat. They will spoil you, as you constantly feel you’re being rewarded, just for being there, just for being alive. If you don’t think you’ll remember to check his website for shows in your area, set up a Google alert. If you’ve seen Lanois before, see him again. And again. And again.
Father John Misty’s entertaining set concluded the night. This was my first time experiencing Josh Tillman’s solo endeavor, though I’ve surely heard the buzz. At this point, buzz makes me skeptical so I’ve been cautiously and intentionally avoiding Father John Misty. Last night’s performance was a buzz killer – in a good way.
Tillman’s voice, his expressiveness, the content of his songs and the improvisational way that he delivers them is refreshing. Tillman is an artist who’s adept at integrating the current environment into his show, giving me confidence that although I’ve only seen him once, every show is unique. The audience’s enthusiasm often sparked banter, mid-song, that Tillman artfully wove into his performance, so that it was additive rather than distracting.
Tillman’s quick wit is as admirable as it is entertaining. It requires full presence and awareness in each moment, while he is simultaneously lost in song. I look forward to seeing him again.
Well, beginning 8:30pm ET today, you can see for yourself. Black Dub will be streaming their Bowery Ballroom set live on Ustream.
If you’ve never been to The Bowery Ballroom, then you’ll get to see 2 great things for yourself.
Just remember – “seeing” is only scratching the surface. Eventually, you’ll need to experience it for yourself. The next time Daniel Lanois’ Black Dub is playing anywhere near you, go check ‘em out. And the next time you’re in the New York area, stop by The Bowery Ballroom – regardless of who’s playing – it’s one of my favorite venues on the East coast.
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, 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.”
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
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.