Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Smart Studios Story Documentary Seeks Funding

March 25th, 2014


smartstudiosstory <i>Smart Studios Story</i> Documentary Seeks Funding

Madison filmmaker Wendy Schneider is hoping to fund a documentary on Smart Studios, the recording venue here that closed four years ago but helped give rise to groups such as Killdozer, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Death Cab for Cutie.

She has a Kickstarter campaign that has only a few days left but it woefully short of its goal.

Our alt-weekly, Isthmus, had an article on the project earlier this month.

Bands that recorded there, from Nirvana to Death Cab for Cutie, have inspired legions of other acts. After launching the studio in 1983, Butch Vig and Steve Marker went on to form their own hugely successful band, Garbage, in 1994. Former Smart staff are now some of the most sought-after sound engineers in town. Another ex-employee, Wendy Schneider, is a filmmaker on the rise. She’s been traveling the country, laying the groundwork for a documentary called The Smart Studios Story.

“[Smart] ended up starting a chain reaction that really did change popular music,” Marker recently told Isthmus.

Vig is proud of the quality work Smart produced, as well as the focus on local and regional acts.

“I think over 90% of the bands came from within a 100-mile radius,” he says.

Smart became so popular that it could have moved to New York or L.A., but Vig and Marker insisted on keeping it local. They had friends here, and a Madison address helped cement the studio’s indie cred.

“Being in the Midwest, we were always kind of left to our own devices. There was very little interference from corporate powers, even after we had some major-label success,” Vig says.

Plus, he and Marker simply loved Madison and its deep pool of musical talent.

“To be able to have…Clyde Stubblefield come down and do a session is just amazing,” Marker says.

Tonight at the High Noon Saloon the Madison institution, The Gomers, will be transforming their traditional live karaoke night, Gomeroke, into Smart Studioke where revelers can sing songs recorded at Smart Studios and donate to the project.

The Vagaries of Collecting

March 25th, 2014

When looking for shows to add to my collection, I like to take time to look beyond simply getting recordings by a particular band or a particular band’s tour. This isn’t to say that I don’t go after certain bands as I’ve spent the last couple months grabbing every IQ, Fish, and Fish-era Marillion show I can get my hands on. But it’s also fun to look for shows that are notable is some way.

One sub-category is what I call “first-last”. So, for instance, I have sought out the last Black Sabbath concert with Ozzy (before the 90s reunion) and the first Sabbath concert with Ronnie James Dio. The last in this case was the Sabs’ performance at the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 11 December 1978 while the first here is their gig at the Stadthalle in Aurich, Germany on 17 April 1980. Unfortunately neither of these shows is in general circulation if they were recorded at all.

While not every group has their final performance filmed by Martin Scorsese, finding last shows is much easier than first ones – at least for most of the bands that interest me. A band’s first gig ever was probably at a bar that no longer exists in front of a handful of people or in someone’s basement while last shows happen when these bands/artists are established. The attraction of first-last shows for me is part novelty but they are interesting because you can hear a band when they are just starting out – not too polished, hungry, and not signed to a major label – and then hear a band at the end and compare. How did they change over the years? Did they go out with a bang or a whimper?

Some notable last shows I’ve found are Jimi Hendrix’s final concert on 6 September 1970 at the Fehmarn Love And Peace Festival in Germany and Janis Joplin’s last public performance on 12 August 1970 at Harvard Stadium in Boston. (Or is that Cambridge?) There’s also the Sex Pistols last gig before they imploded which was on 14 January 1978 in San Francisco. The grunge era is fairly well-represented as the Smashing Pumpkins farewell at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago on 2 December 2000, a 4+ hour affair, was recorded as was Nirvana’s last concert on 1 March 1994 in Munich. Of more recent vintage is Dimebag Darrell’s final show on 8 December 2004 in Columbus, Ohio. It is the shortest bootleg I have coming in at about 1′20″. At about 20 seconds into Damageplan’s first song that night, a schizophrenic man named Nathan Gale ran onstage and shot him dead. You can hear the three shots Gale put into DD’s head and audience members screaming.

A last concert I don’t have and is in the hands of one person in the entire world is The Doors’ terminal show with Jim Morrison at The Warehouse in New Orleans on 12 December 1970. The performance was apparently recorded from the board but the tapes are thought to be in a vault owned by a former employee of The Warehouse named George Friedman. A documentary about the venue called A Warehouse on Tchoupitoulas was made and the segment devoted to The Doors’ last stand there is available on YouTube:



Another sub-category that I collect are shows that go wrong, have some notable event happen during the proceedings, or have fallen into legend for some reason. I suppose that every G.G. Allin show would fall under this category but I’m talking about artists and bands who don’t eat their own shit.

One famous incident in rock history was when Keith Moon passed out mid-show at The Who’s gig in San Francisco on 20 November 1973 and a teenager named Scott Halpin was brought onstage from out of the audience to play drums . This show was recorded. It’s neat to be able to hear it as opposed to just reading about this bit of rock history in a book by Dave Marsh. Another notable show is Jefferson Starship’s 19 June 1978 show in Hamburg where an inebriated Grace Slick called the audience Nazis, amongst other things. This blog post at The Hangar gives the scoop as well as some nice background on the band at the time:

Although recorded for broadcast on the German Rockpalast TV program, the show never aired. One thing Germany’s citizens did not need coming into their homes was the sight of a drunken American rock singer taunting the audience about World War II, calling them Nazis, sticking her fingers up audience members’ noses, repeatedly giving the “Heil Hitler” salute.

Onstage, as they were playing their solos, Grace groped and fondled Craig Chaquico, the young guitarist who had joined the Starship at its inception. And she was constantly needling Marty Balin, her vocal partner, who’d harbored a resentment toward Grace ever since the media began focusing on her rather than him when the Airplane first broke out nationally during the Summer of Love more than a decade before.

Although the video from this show has never been released, it is readily available on audio.

Another incident I became aware of only recently is when Eric Clapton gave an epic racist rant onstage. As near as I can tell, the date was 5 August 1976 and the concert was in Birmingham, UK. I grabbed his tirade from here which grabbed it from John Street’s book Rebel Rock: The Politics of Popular Music:

Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

Considering that a couple bits are indecipherable, this is a transcription but I haven’t been able to find a recording of this show.

Over on the prog side of things there’s Pink Floyd’s 6 July 1977 show in Montreal where Roger Waters spat on a fan. This incident would lead to the bass player’s realization that he had become completely distanced from his fans and, from there, he eventually wrote The Wall.

There are many other shows that fall into this rather broad category. Surely someone caught the likes of Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse too drunk to play or sing. And at least one of Courtney Love’s meltdowns must have been committed to tape. Did anyone record Ozzy biting the head off that bat or Alice Cooper throwing a chicken into the audience only to have the dismembered parts thrown back at him?

Back in January I decided to begin collecting all shows by major progressive rock acts that were recorded here in Wisconsin or the Chicago area. (Don’t ask.) It would be a nearly impossible task if it weren’t for dedicated fans putting together tour histories and putting them on the Web. I noticed on a Gentle Giant site that the band played in Stevens Point, Wisconsin on 2 December 1977. Stevens Point was at that time a small city of around 23,000 people. How did Gentle Giant get booked there? Considering that they played Milwaukee the following night I thought at first that it was an error and they really performed here in Madison. But it would seem that they did, in fact, play up in Stevens Point. How very odd.

When I started looking into Rush’s shows around these parts I learned that there is only one single solitary show from the Caress of Steel tour in general circulation. The Fly By Night tour is better represented in bootlegs. I also noticed that every show in Wisconsin and the Chicago area beginning with the Grace Under Pressure tour up to the present day was readily available with the lone exception of their show last year in Milwaukee. (This is frustrating as I was at that show and try to get copies of shows I attended.) It’s odd because about half of the requisite shows from the Signals tour were floating around and then suddenly beginning in 1984 every one was to be had. It made me wonder if Sony came out with a fancy new portable recording device in 1983 or some such thing. Or did Rush’s become just that much more popular in 1984? I suppose there is a whole host of other possible explanations. It was just odd because, prior to 1984 you’d find a show here and there and then, starting with this one particular tour, every gig was recorded.

I also discovered that Pink Floyd began the North American leg of the Dark Side of the Moon tour right here in Madison on 4 March 1973. Indeed, many of the big prog groups played here. Hell, many popular groups outside of prog played here but finding recordings of any of these shows is difficult to say the least. The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and The Doors all played here in the late 1960s yet I’ve never seen recordings of these shows available. It isn’t until 1970 that shows begin to appear, namely Hendrix’s gig at the Dane County Coliseum on 2 May. Curiously enough, there are three different recordings of this show which makes me think that earlier shows here were likely recorded as well.

Collecting shows from Madison can be frustrating. You’ll look at someone’s share and see the Minneapolis show and then Milwaukee and/or Chicago show with the Madison date missing. Or take a Madison band like Killdozer. I have found only one show from Madison. Similarly, when I look for Violent Femmes boots, I have never seen a single show from their hometown of Milwaukee. Recently up at Dime someone posted a mini-flood of Femmes concerts but they were all from Germany. (And I think half were FM broadcasts.) It’s just weird how Milwaukee recordings are so rare. Boots for regional bands that made it big such as Cheap Trick and The BoDeans are equally elusive.

Such are the vagaries of collecting.

The Yes Music Podcast

March 24th, 2014


yespodcast banner The Yes Music Podcast

I recently stumbled upon a Yes podcast called Yes Music Podcast. Perhaps not the most clever of names, but host Kevin Mulryne digs deep into prog geekdom.

Back in February someone at the Progressive Ears forum started a thread called “Did ‘classic’ Yes have another masterpiece left in them?” which got me listening to the results of the 1979 sessions in Paris. It was surfing the Net for more info on them that led me to the podcast. Mulryne has an episode devoted to the aborted session in which he pulls no punches.

Are there any other similar podcasts for other prog bands?

Yes: New Album, Old Album Remixed, and a Tour Stop in Madison

March 24th, 2014

Let’s start with the old.


yesalbum remaster Yes: New Album, Old Album Remixed, and a Tour Stop in Madison

The Yes Album is the latest Yes album to get the remaster/remix treatment from Steve Wilson.

…the CD features a completely new stereo mix, while the DVD-A features new stereo & 5.1 surround sound mixes all by Steven Wilson, a flat transfer of the original album master & a complete alternate album with tracks drawn from a mixture of singles edits, live tracks & an extended mix.

The CD version will include the studio version of “Clap” which, I believe, was on the 2003 remaster, and an extended mix of “A Venture”. The rest of the bonus material on the other formats:

Yours Is No Disgrace (Live, London 1971)
Starship Trooper (single edit)
I’ve Seen All Good People (Live, London 1971)
Perpetual Change (Live, New Haven 1971)
Your Move – single version, stereo
Clap – single version, mono
America – Live, London 1971
It’s Love – Live, London 1971
Your Move – single version, mono

It is scheduled to be released on 14 April.

Wilson previously remixed Close to the Edge (Here’s an interesting interview with him about that project) and the rumor is that Going for the One is next.

Yes also has a new album ready called Heaven and Earth and is due on 8 July. These days the band is Howe, Squire, White, Downes, and Jon Davison. The album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker who was with the band in Paris in late 1979 as they attempted a follow-up to Tormato. From what I’ve read, none of that material was resurrected for the new album and that newbie Davison has been active in writing new material.

Now, considering they’ll have a new album out in July, it seems odd that Yes are going to tour this summer and play all of Fragile and Close to the Edge for the main course with new material sprinkled in at the end for dessert. Do they love these albums so much that they want to go out and play them in toto or do they perhaps feel they can’t pack venues without some kind of back catalogue gimmick? And, with Downes behind the keyboards, if you must play an entire album, why not do all of Drama? It’s been around for 34 years – it’s classic Yes at this point.

Curiously enough, this tour will bring Yes back to Madison for the first time since 2002. They have a date booked at Overture Hall on 25 July. No Milwaukee date, though, but they were there last August.

If you are not familiar with the latest incarnation of the band, here they are doing “Starship Trooper” last year.



IQ’s Latest Out in May

March 24th, 2014


roadofbones cover IQs Latest Out in May

IQ have a new album coming out on 3 May called The Road of Bones. These are the first recordings with Tim Esau since 1989. There will be a single CD version as well as a double disc iteration with even more proggy goodness. Both are now available for pre-order.

Tracklisting:

Disc 1
From The Outside In
The Road Of Bones
Without Walls
Ocean
Until The End

Disc 2 (Bonus Disc):
Knucklehead
1312 Overture
Constellations
Fall and Rise
Ten Million Demons
Hardcore

At shows last year they previewed some new songs under the working titles of “El Bastardo”, “13/12″, “More 7″, and I believe one more. It’ll be interesting to see how these tunes were transformed in the studio.

IQ’s webpage has a new look in anticipation of the album and has this promo video up.



New Metallica Tune

March 24th, 2014

Metallica have a demo of a new song called “Lords of Summer”. Is Hetfield getting all pagan on us with lines like, “Lords of Summer bring the sun.”? Or is this an extended ode to summer tours?



Melt Yourself Down

March 24th, 2014

I heard these folks in a recent SXSW post mortem on All Songs Considered. Really good stuff. I love the dual saxes. This is “We Are Enough”.



Ian Anderson’s New Solo Album and A Passion Play Remix Coming Soon

March 24th, 2014


homoerraticus cover Ian Andersons New Solo Album and <i>A Passion Play</i> Remix Coming Soon

Ian Anderson’s new solo album, Homo Erraticus, will be out on 14 April. It will be another concept album and sees Anderson working with Gerald Bostock again>

For Homo Erraticus, Anderson is reunited with Bostock, using lyrics written by Gerald based on an old historical manuscript. The manuscript examines key events from throughout British history before going on to offer a number of prophecies for the future.

And here’s the tracklisting:

PART ONE: CHRONICLES
1. Doggerland
2. Heavy Metals
3. Enter The Uninvited
4. Puer Ferox Adventus
5. Meliora Sequamur
6. The Turnpike Inn
7. The Engineer
8. The Pax Britannica

PART TWO: PROPHECIES
9. Tripudium Ad Bellum
10. After These Wars
11. New Blood, Old Veins

PART THREE: REVELATIONS
12. In For A Pound
13. The Browning of the Green
14. Per Errationes Ad Astra
15. Cold Dead Reckoning

A trio of songs were recently played on Polish radio and then posted to YouTube. This is “The Pax Britannia”:



Here we have “The Engineer” and “After These Wars”:



I like what I hear so far. The songs sound very much in the vein of Thick as a Brick 2. A lot of what I have read about this album concerns Ian’s voice and the split or break he is taking from Martin Barre. It’s been 30 years since Ian had his voice problems. I wish some people would just move on from the fact that he is never going to sound like he did when he was 25 and he hasn’t for a long, long time. His voice sounds pretty good here. I’m not interested in getting into any argument over whether Floran Opahle is as good as Martin Barre, but I will say that he does share something in common with Tull’s longest serving guitarist – Opahle plays the right notes for the song. I like his guitar tone but wish his parts were mixed a bit higher at times.

Anderson and company will be touring behind Homo Erraticus with shows featuring the new album in its entirety plus classic Tull. It’s nice to see him have such confidence in the new material instead of just recycling “Aqualung”, “Locomotive Breath”, etc. While not all tour dates have been made yet, it seems likely that the closest stop for fans here in the Madison area will be a stop in Milwaukee at the Pabst Theatre.


passionplay cover remix Ian Andersons New Solo Album and <i>A Passion Play</i> Remix Coming Soon

In other Tull news, Steve Wilson’s long-awaited remix of A Passion Play is due on 13 June. The 2CD/2DVD configuration will contain the original mix of the album in 24-bit glory, a new stereo mix by Wilson, and a 5.1 surround mix. Wilson apparently found a couple verses from “The Foot of Our Stairs” on the master which weren’t on the original album and he’s put those in.

The really big news is that the entirety of the Château d’Isaster sessions are here. (In stereo and 5.1.) The tracklisting:

The Big Top
Scenario
Audition
Skating Away
Sailor
No Rehearsal
Left Right
Solitaire
Critique Oblique (Part I)
Critique Oblique (Part II)
Animelee (1st Dance) [Instrumental]
Animelee (2nd Dance) [Instrumental]
Law Of The Bungle (Part I)
Tiger
Law Of The Bungle (Part II)

I’m looking forward to reading the liner notes on this release to find out what, if any, of the fan speculation surrounding this material is true.

As I know it, the band went off to Paris in August 1972 to record the follow-up to Thick as a Brick at the Chateau D’Herouville. Technical problems, food poisoning, and homesickness all led to the recording sessions being halted in September after having gotten about three sides of a double album down on tape.

Tull began a U.S. tour in October of that year and “Left Right”, “Audition”, and “No Rehearsal” became regulars in the set list. Bits and pieces of songs from these sessions were carried over into A Passion Play while “Skating Away” and “Solitaire” ended up on 1974’s War Child.

“Scenario”, “Audition”, and “No Rehearsal” were released on Tull 20th anniversary box set with the explanation that these were the only songs to have survived. The material from “Left Right” onwards was eventually found and released on Nightcap in 1993. A bootleg of the first six songs here has been in circulation for many years and in that order which leads me to believe that that was, in fact, the intended order of the album’s first side. (This may explain why “Skating Away” starts off “Meanwhile back in the Year One…”) Some of the songs from Nightcap, “First Post”, “Look at the Animals”, and “Post Last” aren’t mentioned here and I am hoping that they’ve been subsumed by the second part of “Critique Oblique” or “Animelee (2nd Dance)”.

Not every song from these sessions was finished. Some are only backing tracks and would have had vocals added later had the sessions not been called off. For release in 1993, Anderson added flute to fill out the tunes and I wonder if that flute will remain here.

I am really excited about this as I adore the Château d’Isaster sessions. It’s fun to hear elements that would emerge over the band’s next couple albums and these songs have a certain playfulness and sense of humor that A Passion Play lacked. Hopefully the live show later this year will feature something from APP. I’m not expecting to hear Anderson attempt to sing any of it but it’d be hoopy if “Passion Jig” got pulled out of retirement.

Show #261: A Moveable Feast

December 30th, 2013


fish2013 10 02 Show #261: A Moveable Feast
(Photo by Jasper Bolderdijk.)

I’ve been listening to Fish’s A Feast of Consequences a lot lately and so I thought I’d post a show from his tour in support of the album.

The more I listen to A Feast of Consequences, the more I like it. It makes a nice counterpoint to 13th Star. That album was a dark, brooding affair that focused on the dissolution of Fish’s relationship with Heather Findlay and the aftermath. Feast continues his examination of his life in the wake of those events but also sees him return with a bit of humor and some commentary on the world. Plus there’s an epic suite about the Battle of the Somme, a topic near and dear to his heart. Plus the album is quite varied musically. There’s the proggy slow build-up of “Perfume River”, the more straight-ahead rock of “All Loved Up” and the title track, the brass band which invokes the early 20th century on “The Gathering”, and a reprise of the industrial feel of 13th Star on “Thistle Alley”. Quite a feast indeed.

Laid out for you here is Fish’s show from Effenaar, a theatre in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The gig took place this past autumn on 22 September. He gives us a hearty helping of new material and even reaches back to his early days in Marillion with a couple songs from Script for a Jester’s Tear. It’s nice to hear “What Colour is God?” as Sunsets on Empire is one of my favorite Fish albums. On the other hand he reprises the “Assassing” medley. Being a Genesis fan, I’m ambivalent about oldies medleys. But, if there must be one, it’s be nice if things were shuffled around a bit more with some more different songs involved. Having said this, it is heartening that Fish can go on tour without seeming to feel obligated to play “Kayleigh” and “Lavender”.

A couple things to note here: First is that the aforementioned medley does not include “View From the Hill” which at least one other show from this tour does. A nice surprise. Secondly, “The Company” was not played this night as an encore as was customary.

Setlist:

Perfume River
Feast of Consequences
Script for a Jester’s Tear
Dark Star
All Loved Up
What Colour is God?
Blind to the Beautiful
Mr. 1470
He Knows You Know
Crucifix Corner
The Gathering
Thistle Alley
Assassing / Credo / Tongues / Assassing Continued / Fugazi / White Feather /
Freaks
Lucky

Download show

Fish

There are a couple videos from this show up at YouTube and here’s one of them – “He Knows You Know”.



Show #260: R.I.P. Lou Reed

December 23rd, 2013


loureed rip Show #260: R.I.P. Lou Reed

Lou Reed passed away on 27 October at the age of 71. Reed was one of those giants of rock music whose influence and genius I recognize and admire but whose music has always been just outside my grasp. I like The Velvet Underground and understand they are hugely influential even if the quote about the few people who bought their albums having formed bands is apocryphal. Most of my experience with his solo work is Transformer and I like that album quite a bit, although I recall a girlfriend from college playing New York and Magic and Loss.

I enjoy Reed’s music (but don’t get me started on Metal Machine Music) but his work has a pathos that, for whatever reason, keeps me at arm’s length. There’s this New York-underground scene-with-drugs vibe that simply doesn’t resonate with me. He certainly deserves credit for introducing lyrical subject matter into rock music that was not not previously part of its lexicon. But his songs are like postcards from places that sound interesting but I’d rather not visit.

Despite my inability to really connect with Lou Reed’s work, his influence is undeniable and he did write some stunning music.

And so here’s some live Lou Reed from Wisconsin. I wasn’t able to find any evidence that he played here in Madison but there are at least a couple shows from Milwaukee in circulation and this is one of them. It took place on 20 January 1973 at Humpin’ Hannah’s. According to this site, Humpin’ Hannah’s was at 827 E. Locust on Milwaukee’s north side but is long gone.

This is an audience recording and, while the vocals are a bit distant, it’s still good.

The line-up was apparently:

Lou Reed – guitar, vocals
Eddie Reynolds – guitar
Bobby Resigno – bass
Vinnie Laterta – guitar
Scon Clarke – drums

Setlist:

White Light/White Heat
Wagon Wheel
I’m Waiting For The Man
Walk It And Talk It
Sweet Jane
New Age
Vicious
I Can’t Stand It
Satellite Of Love
Heroin
I’m So Free
Walk On The Wild Side
Rock And Roll
Sister Ray

Download show

Lou Reed

YouTube isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with live Lou Reed videos from this period. The choice was between some French TV footage from 1972 or ‘74 and I am going with the former. This is Reed with former VU bandmate John Cale doing the classic “I’m Waiting for the Man”.



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