Spoon/Bright Eyes, The Orpheum Theatre, Omaha

Even when I go see my favorite bands live, I have an incredibly short attention span for the sets.  I get tired of standing really easily, my ears get tired of loud music easily (even with earplugs, sometimes), and I more often than not wish the sets would end about 20 minutes earlier than they usually do.  I’ve felt this way while watching Death Cab For Cutie, Radiohead, The Faint, Superdrag, and in particular, Built to Spill.

However, once in a while, I see a band perform that doesn’t bore me at all, and actually leaves me wanting more.  Some of the best concerts I’ve ever been to are Jimmy Buffett (my very first concert at 12 years old, and at the time, I was OBSESSED with Jimmy Buffett), The Streets (ultimate dance-party), and now, Spoon/Bright Eyes.

There were two other opening acts; Willy Mason and David Dondero.  I missed Willy Mason because I showed up a little bit late, but I caught most of David Dondero’s set, and it was great- he played beautiful folk songs that were both funny and sweet, and he was accompanied only by a drummer, which added great dynamic.  THEN!  Spoon came on!  WOWOWOWOW

Spoon recently became one of my favorite bands ever, and the fact that they happened to be playing a show with Bright Eyes at one of Omaha’s best venues (The Orpheum) was just awesome.  Plus, I had Orchestra seats, and was four rows back from the stage.  Spoon started off the set with the first track on their newest album, Gimme Fiction, which is the song “The Beast and Dragon Adored.”  People went nuts.  They played at least a few songs off of each of their last three albums, and I knew and sang along to every song.  Their energy was amazing, their performance was immaculate, and Britt Daniel is so very, very cool.  Everyone else was just a little guy compared to him (I believe Britt Daniel is 50 feet tall).

After they were done, I went and got a drink, drank it while in line for the bathroom, and by the time I had finished totally bathrooming, Bright Eyes came on.  The first time I ever say Bright Eyes, it was just Conor, and he played songs off of albums that hadn’t come out yet (Wide Awake and Digital Ash)… while it was a good show, I like to sing along.  The second time I saw Bright Eyes, it was in support of Digital Ash after it had come out, and it was a great show, but out of all Bright Eyes records, it’s my least favorite (even though it’s still really good).  This time, however, he was accompanied by two drummers, a harp, a trumpet, a clarinet, a bassist, a lap pedal guitar, and a keyboardist.  They played songs off of every album, and it was a great mix.  The literal show stopper, though, was the encore: he came back out and sang a few songs, and then for the last, last song, the whole band played “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved).”  It gave me chills.  The song is a big epic of a song with about 50,000 words, but it was amazing, high energy, and I WAS FLIPPING OUT!!!111111111

Anyway, this show was easily in the top three shows I’ve ever seen, if not #1.  Wowie!

History of Bike, part II

So anyway, Nate and I formed our first band, Merona. At first, Merona
consisted of Nate (Bike), Cory (Shacker, BP), Mike Papagni (Sexual
Jedi), Yale Ensminger, and Josh Boys. Yale eventually quit, and Josh
did too, because I don’t think either of them were super interested in
being in a “serious” band- Josh had a billion other obligations, and
Yale just wasn’t feeling it… we recorded two CDs as Merona: “Travels
and Adventures,” which was named after a little diary I wrote lyrics
in, and “If I Could Write This in Fire, I’d Write This in Fire.” For
the second record, we had with us Jesse Gifford (Aegis) who moved to
Ventura from Minneapolis.

Merona was a joke band, kind of- we had songs named dumb stuff like
“Tractor Beam,” “AWAP” (All Women Are Pyscho, ha ha ha ha jay kay), and
“Skelly Bones.” We were really into Primus, Weezer, and The Pixies.
We were also kind of a serious band in the way that we all loved music.
Ironically enough, Mike Papagni had only been playing drums for a few
months when Merona formed and Jesse Gifford got his bass maybe a few
months before joining, and now they’re super talented. Meanwhile, I
listen to Weird Al.

Anyway, I wrote a lot of the songs, but Nate wrote a lot of them too,
and he usually focused on repetitive, beautiful themes (he was super
into Sparklehorse and Spiritualized at the time, and his favorite band
is/was Radiohead). He didn’t sing at the time, so he would write these
pieces and we’d add melodies and words later.

After Merona broke up when I went to college, Nate continued to write
and record his music, coming out with albums like “Johnny Popular Makes
His Mark” and “Have The Terrorists Won?” Meanwhile, I was doing my
thing with Shacker/The Remnants. Sooner or later, Nate thought he’d
buy himself about 1,000 robots so he could force them to make out with
each other and record it…

THE CONCLUSION, PART III, COMING SOON…

History of Bike, part I

When MFR released Nebraska Verses, the MFR audience got a pretty good
taste of the history of MFR and how it related to Crete/Doane
College… but, since the last track on Nebraska Verses, there have
been a few people who have been very important to the identity and
image of MFR.

The first project on MFR to be released that had no involvement from
either Howie or Cory was Bike’s “How Is That Possible?” Bike, or Nate
D., is someone I met during my junior year of high schoo, after I had
moved back to Ventura from Coloradol. I met Nate through a mutual
friend from elementary school, and we quickly became friends. In fact,
the first thing Nate every really said to me was a comment about one of
the bands I had written on my backpack (The Pixies). He was surprised,
because he was the only one he had met so far who liked the Pixies, or
had really even heard of them.

We also used to draw little donkeys and bears on each other’s notebooks!

At this point, I had about two years’ worth of guitar experience under
my belt, and I wasn’t too great. Nate had about a year or so, and he
was already as good as me. He taught me how to play Quake, and I
taught him how to do a barr chord.

After we had gotten to know each other better, we decided we were going
to start a band, which would be the first band for both of us…

TO BE CONTINUED…

signs.comets, dance parties, and ambition

This blog is going to be three fold, as cleverly suggested by the title. 

The first musing I have is on the howie&scott (or as I like to call them, Scott Money Big, or S$B) double-disc, signs.comets.  I have listened to the CD plenty of times, and although I know they were seperated into two CDs for a reason, I still listen to them as if they were a whole work (like, I won’t usually listen to just one or the other; usually it’s the two right in a row).  I remember being at Howie’s house, helping him EQ some of his uncle band’s songs, and Howie mentioned something to me about the “signs” disc from signs.comets being, in his opinion, the single most important artistic achievement he has made thus far. 

To Howie, signs is not just a better CD musically- it meant more to him to write, I believe, and from what it looks like, it sounds like he’s poured just about 100% of himself into signs, emotionally.  Not that he didn’t with any other musical effort he’s done, but I know what he means- there are some moments when you write a song, and you can’t believe how accurately it describes how you feel.  It doesn’t happen often for me that I write a song and say, “Holy sh*t- this is EXACTLY how I feel!”  Language and music are tough to manipulate sometimes, but for Howie, it sounds like he was able to do just that for the creation of “signs.”

Final paragraph on signs.comets- I was listening to “comets” a few weeks ago in my car on the way to work, and I had a realization that went against what Howie had said, at least at first, and my realization was this: that “comets” was probably the better record of the two.  I know this probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to most people, but it’s a rare occurance when I don’t agree with Howie on which albums are better, especially when it comes to the records we’ve written.  For example, “Prove It” > “Mixed-Up Head.”  But I bet even Scott Stapp could tell that.  Actually, for some reason, I bet he would like “Mixed-Up Head” better.  Anyway, the point is, I believe that there’s a good chance that “comets” is the better record- it’s more accessable without being too accessable, the lyrics and songwriting are wonderful, and it’s cohesive in a way that signs doesn’t accomplish.  But after mentioning this possibility to Howie, and thinking about it afterwards, I came to the conclusion that just because “comets” might be better than “signs” doesn’t mean that “signs” shouldn’t mean more to Howie as the songwriter than “comets.” (as an aside, Howie should feel free and, well, obligated to correct or amend anything I’ve written here). 

Dance Parties-  Sometimes I get bored at my favorite band’s concerts.  I’ve gotten bored while Cursive, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, Nada Surf, Ben Kweller, Bright Eyes, and countless other “favorite” bands have played.  Why is that?  Because at a live show, I need something more than just the songs.  I need an atmosphere.  I need energy.  I NEED HEART.  And that’s why, out of all of the concerts I’ve ever been to, stupid punk shows and ESPECIALLY hip-hop shows have been the best.  Even if I don’t know the song, I usually enjoy watching an Honorable Mention song live better than watching some Bright Eyes songs.  The best concert I’ve ever been to was The Streets- it’s the only one that I was never bored at.  In fact, I was PUMPED.  It was awesome.  So much energy, and I was dancing the whole time.  What do you guys think?

Finally, ambition.  Is it wrong to want everyone in the world to hear your song or read your cool, funny Noose article?  Is it wrong to want to consider demo-submitting and/or newsletter advertising to get your name out there?  When we step on stage to perform a show, we are not only silently admitting that we believe our songs are worth listening to- we have taken it upon ourselves to make sure that people DO listen to our songs.  We’re making these songs for more than just ourselves.  Although the songwriter should be the only one truly concerned with his or her own work, it doesn’t really work like that- after all, why would MFR even bother to post our music if we didn’t believe it ought to be heard by others? 

Is ambition in music a bad thing?  I think these questions can all be answered by studying motives.  Some people start bands because they want to “make it big.”  Others start bands because they want to create new, original exciting music.  These two types of people blur in a lot of ways.  I’m perfectly happy to be a part of the MFR community, giving away music, but really (and possibly hypocritically), if Robb Nansel from Saddle Creek called me tomorrow and said “I want to sign Benjamin Axeface,” I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Mostly because I want as many people to hear my music as possible.  Plus, imagine the possibilities- if Benjamin Axeface or any other MFR artist got signed, that opens a door for every other MFR artist as well.  Also, a small part of all of us (no matter how focused on what really matters in music, I believe) would like to spend our days reading and writing music and volunteering and doing things that matter to the world, rather than working crappy 9-5 corporate jobs that don’t do too much for the good of society.  Maybe this sentiment is tainted with an unhealthy kind of ambition, but I can’t lie about how I would act if the opportunity presented itself.  Maybe the difference is in whether being signed or getting big is the main goal or simply a by-product of music.

I know there’s a lot in this blog- please feel free to pick and choose what to comment and/or reply to.  Just some thoughts for a Sunday night.

Cory Alan

Random thoughts for a Wednesday-

I was going to do another blog about hip-hop, but instead, I wanted to write a blog that facilitated more discussion, because I like it when that happens.  So, I am going to lay out a couple questions I’ve been kicking around, and you can tell me what you think, MFR fans.

1.  You know when musicians say that they are creative because they take drugs, and that they need drugs to write the music they write?  Is this valid, or a bunch of crap?  And why?  Is there any middle grounds here?

2.  Should you ever judge an album in the context of prior experiences with the band?  Simply put, should I judge the new Spoon record as a thing in itself (as if it were the only Spoon record ever), or should I hold it up to the bar that has been set by their previous albums?

3.  If an artist starts sucking, (a), do you think they realize that they suck, or are they oblivious?  More importantly, (b), should they care?  Do they have an obligation to quit making music?  What if it’s enjoyable for them, but not for anyone else?  Because they could theoritically keep riding the money-machine-mobile long after they’ve exhausted their originality/creativity (see Paul McCartney), or they could cash out when they know they probably couldn’t do anything else worth recording (see Jay-Z, IF he really retired), or they could go out in a blaze of glory at a young age, leaving your music catalogue pretty much immaculate and safe from being tainted by possible crappy works in later years (see Elliott Smith, John Lennon, Buddy Holly, and countless others). 

Discuss.  I’ve love to read comments and hear some intense discussion.  Go!

Benjamin Axeface makes their debut

So, last Saturday, Tucci and I were one. Well, we’ve always been ONE,
but what I mean to say is, we played together at Meadowlark Coffeehouse
in Lincoln, NE.

Originally, it was supposed to be Beach Puppy, but my feeling is that
once you add a member to a solo group and the band member writes their
own parts, it becomes a band, right? Anyway, it was cool, and we
played as “Church Directory Photo Starring: Benjamin Axeface.”

Impressions: We played well. We were buzzed enough to be relaxed, but
not sloppy-buzzed. We were on point, precise, and we played our songs
pretty well. There were about 20-30 people there, and some of of them
were myspace friends that I’d never met before, which I thought was
awesome.

There was a dude who was observing us, and once in a while, he’d write
down some stuff on a pad of paper.

One dude in the corner had his headphones on the whole time.

They kept making smoothies in The Loudest Blender Ever, which was kind
of crappy.

Blane played with us, and he sounded terrific.

My mom had a latte and two coffees, and I think she was visibly
vibrating at the end there…..

We didn’t get paid, but it was really fun to play. Annie will play
with us next time.

Cory Alan

Car Ride Music

I drove up to Minneapolis this weekend to visit my Uncle, Emerson Biggins, and to visit/record some hip-hop freestyle battles with Mr. Furious.  This is what I listened to:

On the way there:

The Return; Danger, Danger Silent Stranger
Kula Shaker; I forget, but the record with “Mystical Machine Gun” on it
Simon and Garfunkel: Greatest Hits
The Streets; A Grand Don’t Come For Free
Dumb and Dumber Soundtrack
Kara’s Flowers; Stagg Street Recordings

On the way back:

Spoon; Girls Can Tell
Elliott Smith; XO
Built to Spill; Perfect From Now On
Footloose Soundtrack
Kanye West; The College Dropout

That’s all I can remember.  The two soundtracks were a weird fit, but the Dumb and Dumber one is genuinely good, I think, with some tracks by Echobelly, Pete Drodge, Crash Test Dummies (I like them; get over it) and the Butthole Surfers.  Footloose was put on because Lara sings “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” like it was her job.  My favorite record to listen to was either Spoon (because it’s new) or Kara’s Flowers (because I hadn’t heard it in a long time). 

Favorite quote:  “No one wants to hear what you dreamt about unless you dreamt about them” – Made Up Dreams, Built to Spill.

First Blog in a Long Time

I want to take this opportunity to introduce a possible new MFR artist, even if we don’t release anything for another year.  We don’t have a definite name yet, or a commited drummer (although we know a guy who said he would do it, so as soon as he e-mails me back…).  We have ten songs, and by ten “songs,” I mean three or four that are roughly finished, and about 6 or 7 that are still just kind of ideas. 

We have a guitarist (John), a bassist (Tucci), a keyboardist who’s never technically played keyboards before (Tucci’s sister, Gina), and then me (Cory).  I think I’ll be focusing mostly on vocals, because this is going to be a very atypical project, by which I mean I’ll probably be singing a lot louder and wackier than I ever did in Shacker. 

Before when I was in bands, the point of the band was to create something original, exciting, and beautiful.  Not so much so with this band.  While we definitely want to do something “new” as in “not trite,” we’re not looking to break any ground here.  We’re looking to be a party rock band (kind of like The Remnants, but even more so).  The music is fast and loud, the guitars are distorted and aggressive, and there is literally a kick-ass, thumping, hardcore drum breakdown in almost every song (theoretically).  Before, in my musical efforts, songs were mostly chord-based.  Now, we’re focusing on riffs and accents to make the party get started.

This band’s purpose is to rock.  We, the band, want to flipping blast people’s heads clean off, and get people jumping around and singing along to the chorus.  We want to slack on the overall progression of music, and beef up on the sheer fun-factor.  We want the audience to have a blast, even if they don’t necessarily remember any of the songs we just played, after it’s all said and done.

Yes, we want to have a rowdy rock band, and we want to blow the doors off of any party or club we play.  We count our influences as Modest Mouse, The Faint, Queens of the Stone Age, NIN, and others.  But I’ll be the one doing the singing, so I promise at least some of it will be simple-stupid catchy.

Cory Alan