Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Hold Steady at Littleton High School

Both of those links are to videos of The Hold Steady playing at Littleton High School, one directly adjacent to Columbine (yes, that Columbine). Below is an article explaining it and an interview dealing with it. Proof that Rock and Roll can have a positive affect on the youth of America.




Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Musical Story

I don't really have a topic type for this article, but I had to write this for a class and its very music related and its good to be reminded sometimes what music is all about.

By the way, in case I actually have any regular readers, leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you have any general suggestions or things you would like to see, or just to say you like what I write or maybe that I suck, whatever you want. While I'm not really doing this for money or attention or anything, its nice to know that people are reading, so let me know.

Alright heres the article finally:

Everyone, whether they know it or not, has a musical story to tell, one that has helped define their musical tastes and feelings. It could be a person that has influenced you or maybe a concert that you will remember forever, or simply a song that touched you with its melody or message. One of the best musical experiences I have ever had happened over two days at the 2007 Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park.
For those that do not know, Lollapalooza is a three day music festival that happens every summer in Chicago. Seven stages are set up and groups play on the different stages from 11 AM to 10 PM, the idea being to walk around and see the bands you like when they happen to be playing. I highly recommend going if you have the chance.
After hearing how much fun all my friends had Friday night at the show, I decided to go see what all the fuss was about. After spending $80 dollars for the one-day ticket, I was expecting something great. I was not disappointed.
I consider Saturday my ‘New Music Discovery Day.’ I saw bands like Cold War Kids, The Hold Steady, and Muse that I either did not know or was vaguely familiar with play amazing shows that made me fall in love with them instantly. There is something about seeing a band play live that makes the music really come alive. It gets your blood pumping, your heart racing, and before you know it you’re jumping up and down yelling every word. There really isn’t anything like it. But music can also amplify more than just feelings about the chords being played or the words being sung. When shared between two people, music can create an atmosphere of perfect harmony and the feeling that you are the only two people on earth despite being surrounded by thousands of screaming fans.
I was fortunate enough to have this experience Sunday. After getting the opportunity to see two of my favorite bands up close and personal, I thought I may never be happier in my entire life. Then I met up with a girl who is a good friend of mine in time for Pearl Jam to play the last show of the festival, and I proved myself wrong. While neither of us are big Pearl Jam fans, the music combined with the magic of Chicago at night flipped a switch in both of us, sending us into an alternate dimension where time and space had no bearing on either of us, all that mattered was that we were together, floating along in a sea of our own feelings for each other, letting them and the music engulf us. It was a sense of calm despite being encompassed by chaos.
And as we walked out together, the magic of music and how it can affect people hit me square in the face. I realized that despite all of the problems I was having in various facets of my life, I had never been happier. It was like a vacation from real life that had completely washed away all my depressing thoughts and innermost fears, and as I thought about it more, I realized that music was the only thing that has ever had that sort of effect on me, and looking at the other people filing out of the show, I was sure I was not alone.
H.A. Overstreet once said,I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality.” I cannot even begin to explain why this is, and I think as a society we will never be able to. But one thing remains true: no matter what happens to you or me or any of us, music will always have the power to bring people together and express what words cannot.

-Kid Zeppelin

Sunday, August 26, 2007

You Like This Band, You Just Don't Know It Yet: The Hold Steady

“I've said a number of times that people think of songwriting as a very personal thing: A guy gets up there with an acoustic guitar and he sings his heart out, bares his soul. What we're doing is more cinematic. No one goes up to Quentin Tarantino and goes, "You must shoot a lot of people. You must do karate all the time." And yet, I think in the context of what we do in rock, there is this expectation that it's somewhat autobiographical. These things haven't happened to me, but they're stories of things I've been around that I package in characters.”

-Craig Finn (Pitchfork)

One of the fastest rising bands in the music scene right now, the Hold Steady are bringing back no-frills rock n’ roll and everything that music should be about. The Brooklyn-based band (though 4 of the 5 members are from Minneapolis) is a hard-rocking, endlessly touring, group of normal looking guys with one of the best live shows on the planet, doing it without fancy lighting techniques or pyrotechnics like a lot of bands do. Their local bar-band style highlighted with frontman Craig Finn’s story-telling, talk-sing lyrical style makes you want to bust out the air guitar and start riffing while singing along to the easily understandable lyrics.

The band started because another ended. Craig Finn and lead guitarist Tad Kubler are both former members of the group Lifter Puller, which was very popular in the Minneapolis area, but did not have many fans elsewhere. The band broke up because, as Finn says, “We set out to play shows and make records and we felt like we had accomplished that. At the time I really felt that it had reached its maximum potential. I may have been wrong about that. (Indieworkshop)” After the breakup, the band members went their separate ways, with Kubler going to Los Angeles and Finn to Brooklyn. After a couple of years they reconnected, by way of Finn inviting Kubler to play some filler music with him in between comedy sets his friends were doing. The band simply grew from there, “That's kind of how the Hold Steady grew, focusing more on writing good songs than on how we wanted to appear to people, what scene we wanted to be a part of. (Pitchfork)”

Quickly Finn and Kubler found more pieces to the Hold Steady puzzle, adding former auto mechanic Bobby Drake on drums, Franz Nicolay on keyboard, and Galen Polivka on bass, completing an odd-looking rock band. Nicolay could win a Groucho Marx look-alike contest, especially at Lollapalooza in 2007 when he came out in a suit and bowtie. Polivka seems like he would be more at home teaching kindergarten, and Drake just seems too quiet and nice to fit the rock star mold. But the oddest two are Finn and Kubler. With both wearing thick-rimmed glasses and neither in the best shape, they look more like the guys you would expect fixing your computer than up on stage blowing you away with explosive guitar riffs and lyrics any teenager could relate to on a personal level.

Finn’s lyrics and his talk-sing style are what make this band stand out from other hard rock groups. Finn clearly isn’t the best singer to grace the rock n’ roll landscape, but he more than compensates for it with what he is saying. The songs tell stories of teenage abuse of alcohol, sex, and drugs, usually revolving around central characters. But while a lot of times rock glorifies the party lifestyle, these lyrics show a different side of the story, “I’ve known people who have had drug and alcohol problems and I don’t think its funny. I don’t think it’s something to be glorified. It’s just a story I’m telling… I think the people who are really paying attention realize that. I can tell you that the people who are fucked up the most are singing those lines the loudest. There’s a bit of an irony there. (Aversion)” The stories and characters portrayed are people or at least bits of people we’ve all known in our lives, and its weird to think that a band whose lyrics generally deal with the downsides of drugs and alcohol could be up onstage rocking out to largely drunk audiences, even having a beer or two themselves while playing.

But there they are, dishing out pure head-banging bliss with all the pure joy and excitement that seems to be missing from the music scene in this day and age of greedy record labels and shallow MTV manufactured fame. The Hold Steady represents everything that music should be about, the music and the joy it can bring to the masses. They’re not out there preaching that we should all be sober or that we should all get drunk and high as hell. They aren’t out there for money or fame or groupies. They simply love playing music, and it comes out in every show they play, “Last year we said this was the most fun we’ve ever had before 3 PM. I think this is the most fun we’ve ever had.” I heard them say that at Lollapalooza this year, and as I watched at the end of their show as Polivka jumped on top of the bass drum and started banging relentlessly on the drum set, and Finn and Nicolay jumped off the stage to give high fives to the front row, I realized that any band can say something like that, but not many can truly show it like The Hold Steady do. That is what truly makes them the greatest rock band around.

-Kid Zeppelin


Line up:

  • Bobby Drake – drums
  • Craig Finn – guitar, vocals
  • Tad Kubler – lead guitar
  • Franz Nicolay– keyboards, accordian, harmonica
  • Galen Polivka – bass guitar


  • Almost Killed Me (2004)
  • Separation Sunday (2005)
  • Live at Lollapalooza 2006: The Hold Steady (2006)
  • Boys And Girls In America (2006)

The band also just announced new tour dates with Art Brut:





Thursday, August 2, 2007

When I'm Sixty-Four: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

"Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out."

-Timothy Leary

The hippie counterculture was in full swing in the 1960’s San Francisco, with young people from all over America coming to join the movement. Bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and most notably, The Grateful Dead, fueled the music scene and aided in the entertainment of the “Acid Tests” put on by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, where they would have large parties with everyone taking LSD. The idea was to see what would happen when people took the drug in a situation with no rules or boundaries. However as the government began to view the hippies as only druggies and trouble makers the laws became stricter, including the illegalization of LSD in October of 1966. This new pressure brought on the need for advocates of LSD and the counterculture to come to the forefront.

Timothy Leary was one of those advocates. He was a psychology professor at Harvard, until he tried psilocybin mushrooms and became so obsessed with psychedelics that he was dismissed for giving them to students through his experiments and other activities, though the official reason was he wasn’t giving his class lectures (1). He continued to experiment with LSD and its effects on others, and became extremely popular among the counter culture movement, participating in numerous gatherings such as the Human Be-In in San Francisco.

He argued that LSD helped open up the mind to new experiences and ideas and helped people have deep religious and personal awakenings, and conducted numerous studies and experiments on anyone willing to participate, including clergymen. However with all the government resistance to LSD and the hippie movement at large, he needed a catchy phrase to help popularize the movement, and he came up with “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”

The saying was meant to urge people to join the counter culture and tune into their inner selves. He explains it in his autobiography Flashbacks:

"'Turn on' meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. 'Tune in' meant interact harmoniously with the world around you - externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. 'Drop Out' meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean 'Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity.'(2)"

The reason I use this as the title of my blog has nothing to do with drugs or getting in touch with your inner self, but rather getting in touch with your musical self and in touch with music you may not have heard of, old and new. For my purposes, Turn On means get involved with music and the music scene, Tune In means find your kind of music and new stuff you haven’t heard yet, and Drop Out means rid yourself of MTV and over-hyped “popular” music and find the real music that still exists under the surface.

As the idea behind these history posts is for you to learn something, I hope you did just that, and hopefully learned something new about this blog and its author. And remember to Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out.

-Kid Zeppelin

Cited Sources:

  2. Leary, Timothy F. Flashbacks. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1983. 2 Aug. 2007.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You Like This Artist, You Just Don't Know It Yet: Sufjan Stevens

"Its a Muslim name. I was sort of born into a Subud cult that has ties to Islam and Indonesia and Middle Eastern spiritualism. My parents were kind of trial-and-error when it came to religion."
-Sufjan Stevens (AV Club)

Sufjan Stevens is one of the leading musicians in the resurgence of indie and folk music. His extremely versatile style and seemingly unlimited songwriting imagination has vaulted his music to international acclaim, though his announced intent to release an album in all 50 states hasn't been ignored either. His soft, melodic voice brings about similarities to Elliott Smith, but with a dozen more instruments behind him, all of which Sufjan plays himself when he records albums, using multi-tracking techniques to put them all together. This gives the music a different sound than most folk music or any music really, as guitars, banjos, pianos, trumpets, violins, and sometimes oboes (yes, oboes) flow together with lyrics combining elements of places such as Flint, Michigan with his own religious and personal experiences

Sufjan was born on July 1, 1975 in Petoskey, Michigan. His name is Armenian and means "comes with a sword." He supposedly was named by the leader of Subud, a nonreligious, interfaith community where he was born. This environment growing up along with many different religious and family experiences has greatly impacted his own religious thinking and more importantly, his music. "The religious environment I grew up in was so varied, so inconsistent, and had so many faces. (Soft Revolution)" He considers himself a Christian, and while a lot of his music has to do with his spirituality, he has trouble expressing it, and usually tries to stay away from talking about it "I don't like talking about that stuff in the public forum because, I think, certain themes and convictions are meant for personal conversation. (Comes with a Smile)" He lets his music speak for him, sometimes even doubtingly about the subject:

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

What makes his lyrics so diverse and interesting are how he mixes his deep religious base with the events, people, and places. He has done this primarily in his first two albums of his 50 state recording goal, Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State (also known as Michigan) and Come on, Feel the Illinoise! (also known as Illinois). In the lines above from the song "Casimir Pulaski Day" he uses the odd Illinois holiday as the date in a deeply emotional and religious story about the death of a loved one. Its this kind of deep and thought-provoking music that has won him numerous awards, such as the 2006 PLUG Independent Music Award for Album Of The Year (Illinois), Best Album Art/Packaging (Illinois), and Male Artist Of The Year. Paste Magazine named Illinois as the editors' choice for best album of 2005, and also received the 2005 Pantheon Award for albums selling 500,000 copies or more.

What further makes his music so unique is his multi instrumental talents. Most of his songs include a variety of odd instruments not normally used in popular music. He is most known for his banjo playing, but his musical repertoire also includes guitar, piano, drums, etc., the most unique being the English horn and oboe. He uses all these instruments in many of his songs, giving them an eclectic, "symphony-like" effect, setting him apart from other folk artists.

Sufjan is a truly gifted musician and songwriter, and it comes through in every single song he creates. His songs are so relaxing and soothing, yet your ears are so awakened by all the different sounds and melodies that it doesn't put you to sleep. The lyrics delve into the crevices of our innermost thoughts and feelings on death, family, and religion, with the possibility to keep you up all night trying to understand it. Illinois is a must have for any fan of music. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

A Sun Came - 2000
Enjoy Your Rabbit - 2001
Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State - 2003
Seven Swans - 2004
C'mon, Feel The Illinois! - 2005
The Avalanche - 2006
Songs For Christmas - 2006

Cited Sources:
AV Club Interview

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This May Be Love: Arctic Monkeys- Favourite Worst Nightmare

One of the biggest challenges for a band is trying to follow a great first album with an even better second album. The expectations are so high that when the band doesn’t live up to those expectations, the fallout is immense. The risks are great, but the rewards are even greater, for if they succeed in pleasing the masses, the sky is the limit for their popularity.

This is the crossroads that the UK sensation The Arctic Monkeys faced with the release of their sophomore album Favourite Worst Nightmare. The band burst on to the scene with their first album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not with hits like “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor” and “A Certain Romance” and received numerous Best Album of the Year Awards including the prestigious ranking of 5th Greatest British Album of All Time in the January 2006 edition of NME magazine. With all the hype and accolades that their first album racked up, the band had to come up big for their second album.

Unfortunately, this new album doesn’t come close to measuring up to the first. The first album was hard-rocking, head-banging, good ole’ fashioned anarchy. The songs were catchy, they made you want to get up and create havoc. The lyrics were easy to catch on to and about everything we love about rock music songs: bouncers, booze, and broads.

Nightmare lacks the good beats and fun lyrics of Whatever People Say I Am. Instead of heavy and fast guitar distortion with thick British lyrics, you get awkwardly clean guitar with light, haunting singing and complicated lyrics, resulting in no clear cut great radio single or any song to really get excited about. The song that more closely resembles their original sound is “D is for Dangerous” which may be the best song on the album, but not many others really do it for me.

However there is plenty to get excited about here in the evolutionary sense of the band. The lyrics give the most evidence of the growth the band underwent in between albums, as here they are more poetic and dark, while the first album’s lyrics are much simpler. They also seem to be experimenting much more here, as their songs change speeds and styles frequently.

Considering this, the best of the Arctic Monkeys might still be on the horizon, as they get older and wiser and fine-tune their skills. It still will be difficult to beat the popularity of their first album, and they may never beat it, but like most humans, sometimes you have to go through an ugly transition before the best in you comes out.

Overall, i give it 3 guitars. Its worth the buy if your a fan already, but plan on listening to it a lot before you start to like it.

-Kid Zeppelin

Album List:

  1. Brainstorm– 2:50
  2. Teddy Picker – 2:43
  3. D Is for Dangerous – 2:16
  4. Balaclava2:49
  5. Fluorescent Adolescent – 2:57
  6. Only Ones Who Know – 3:02
  7. Do Me a Favour – 3:27
  8. This House Is a Circus – 3:09
  9. If You Were There, Beware – 4:34
  10. The Bad Thing – 2:23
  11. Old Yellow Bricks – 3:11
  12. 505 – 4:13
Heres a sample in WMP format:
Fluorescent Adolescent

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Note on Album Reviews

Something you have to know about me is when I like a band, its because I like how they sound and their general style. So when bands come out with new music that deviates from that, i tend not to like it as much.

Case in point, the White Stripes new album Icky Thump. I loved their hit single Icky Thump and the bag pipes were great, but i wasn't crazy about the rest of the album. Songs like "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)" are so different from how they normally play it threw me off and thus I wasn't enthralled by the album as a whole. Don't get me wrong it, was still good and worth the money, but that is just something I wanted to warn everyone about when I do album reviews.

Also I forgot that i should probably use a rating system, so here it is, can't think of anything original so here ya go:

5 Guitars
4 Guitars
3 Guitars
2 Guitars
1 Guitar
Mm Bop

Any album that gets a rating of "Mm Bop" should be bought for the sole purpose of burning it.

-Kid Zeppelin