Gigs: Summerland Tour-RAGBRAI-Filter & Sponge

Waited a long time to see this group live. They delivered

Waited a long time to see this group in person. They delivered

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The Summerland Tour (link) is making its way through the States as I type this and Des Moines, IA was fortunate to be included in as a tour stop. Not only did we get quality bands like Sponge, Filter,  Live, and Everclear; the show was put on for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) and no admission was required to see this great event. Filter was the main draw for me as they have been one of my favorite bands for a long time. Their first two albums are pure gold (Short Bus & Title of Record) and they easily fall in my top 10 albums from the entire 90’s decade. What has sadly gone unnoticed around these parts is that they are still putting out top-notch music (as made evident by their new album) and their efforts to reach out to their fans is second to none.

I ended up being very impressed by the entire event as a whole. There was no shortage of good food stands and craft brew tents for all of the spectators. It has been 16 years since RAGBRAI last stopped in Des Moines and with their ability to host an event of this capacity compared to any other city in Iowa, I hope they consider coming here more often…even though I’m not a biker whatsoever and in general have the disposition that they’re all like this guy…

Sponge was the first act and played only 5 songs. Sponge was mainly known for their debut album Rotting Pinata. The majority of the songs they played were from this album. However, frontman Vinnie Dombrowski (dead ringer for Scott Weiland in my opinion, looks and voice) has kept the group going all the way since their arrival in ’91. They’ve continued to produce music the whole way and have came out with seven total albums. They sounded great live and they capped their stage time with their biggest single “Plowed”. I was glad they played one of their lesser known, but still great tracks that was the title track of their first album and is posted below for your enjoyment. They were a great lead-off act.

Then it was time for the headliner (for me, anyway). Made my way to the front of the stage and was probably about 10-15 rows of people back. Ironically, my fixation over discovering new music and keeping up with the industry has not resulted in me catching as many live shows as I would like to. Geography plays a small part in that, but overall I’ve been slacking on seeing top bands perform live.

Filter is currently touring and promoting their 6th studio album, The Sun Comes Out Tonight. It’s a fantastic album, filled with plenty of heavy hitters and a few ballad style tracks as well. It’s vintage Filter and it’s awesome that Richard Patrick is still keeping the project going and making an effort to hit as many cities as possible. He’s never sold out and he knows that ultimately it’s his songwriting ability and the talent around him that keeps the fans coming to see their shows.

Their lead-off track came as a surprise to me…they started things off with “Trip Like I Do“, which was a collaborative effort with The Crystal Method. It’s a killer song and got the crowd into it right off the bat. The energy level was high and it continued into the next three songs that were off their new album. The highlight of those for me is their track, “What Do You Say”.  A medium paced heavier song that has lots of Patrick’s signature screaming and an awesome post chorus with the Oh-Oh’s. It’s simply not possible to rock any harder than this…

After that, they had to do their obligatory pleasing of the masses and play some of their biggest hits. Rich was very genuine and funny just before this part (got a kick out of “are you excited to see the Filters?” line).   I was fine with them doing “Hey Man, Nice Shot”, but I wished they would have taken a pass on “Take a Picture”.   It’s a great song, no doubt, but I thought it took some of the energy away from the crowd. Ideally, they would have played “The Best Things” or “The Only Way is The Wrong Way” if they were looking to take a break from their heavier stuff.

After their set, Rich announced that he was signing autographs at the merch tent. I could not have been more impressed by what a class act he was, signing multiple items for each fan and snapping photos for anyone that asked. Very personable and courteous to everyone that waited in line to talk with him. Clearly, he is doing what he loves and takes the time to thank all the fans who help make it possible. Next time Filter is performing around the Des Moines area, I highly recommend that you check them out. If you’re already a fan and want to see them in your city, you can help to make that possible by contributing to their world tour here. You are rewarded for your efforts as their are many perks to contributing such as signed posters, albums, apparel, or perks all the way up to meeting with band members, choosing the setlist, and even playing with the band. Trust me, they put out a quality product and are doing all the rights things to get as many fans involved as possible. Kudos to this superb group, they are the epitome of what a great rock band should be.

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Quick Hitters: Buzzworthy Tracks

Although my taste has evolved over the years, I will always have a place in my collection for the artists that made me feel alive. Good music that gets me excited or instantly gets me up and moving is not easy to come by. And while I strongly feel that indie rock is the most intricate, well-written music  available on the market, it is not a genre you go to to get pumped up. A much better style is energy infused rock that, if pulled off correctly, takes you for a trip and makes for memorable moments in life (Just discovering them is an experience all in itself)). However, a lot of bands fail at this and the final product is just some hard rock garbage that has been done a dozen times before. Bands like Nirvana, Silverchair, and Collective Soul would be the ones I consider the best at creating this type of high energy in their rock. Other groups like Linkin Park and Chevelle are near misses. While they do produce songs that are heavy and carry lots of emotion, they generally lack that higher level of complexity and songwriting that the better ones possess.

But the whole point of this blog is to expose you to the songs/artists you may have missed at some point along the way. So I will not be posting any Nirvana today; although if you can’t get psyched up after listening to “Breed” with the volume cranked, I would start worrying because there’s a good chance you don’t have a pulse. This first offering is from a group that most people have likely never heard of. Their name is The Exies and they have produced a few albums in their run over the last decade. I first heard this song on guitar hero, coincidentally. Since guitar hero is not a place I would look to find new music (not to say that no video games contain original quality tunes, because they do), “Hey You” was a rather nice discovery. I had heard their other hit “Ugly” and was never a huge fan of it. Too defensive and ho-hum for me. “Hey You” I liked from the beginning. It’s starts out with a subtle guitar line and escalates into a catchy riff. The song gets very interesting at the bridge (@0:29) and gets chaotic and grungey at 0:38. Then all of sudden the song goes into a different, exciting direction for the chorus. It contains a serviceable guitar solo but I think the strong point of the song is how well it harnesses and releases the high energy that is prevalent throughout the whole song. Frontman Scott Stevens vocals are smooth and while I think he over-sings in some of their other songs, he keeps it in check here which goes along with the flow of it all…that of a just a straight up cool tune.

I simply cannot get enough of Richard Patrick’s ongoing project Filter. Unlike most hard rock groups, I find them to be listenable. Patrick’s anger (which I normally only like in small amounts) is expressed so well and his song writing talent is the main factor in that. He may not be quite as bad-ass as his brother, Robert (see here for example), but his body of work speaks for itself. Filter is a tricky group to classify. They are harder than almost all alternative groups but are so much better than most hard rock line-ups. They have been labeled industrial rock before but Patrick has dissuaded that as many of their songs do not have an industrial sound to them whatsoever. “Heavy alternative” would be the closest tag I could place on them.

Along with liking their music about as much as humanely fucking possible, I’ve always enjoyed the theme’s behind Filter’s album artwork

The song I have posted is “Take Another”. It is one of several raw, gritty tracks available on Short Bus. And in my opinion, it is the best right up there with “Dose”.  It starts out with some sad, almost indecipherable lyrics and quickly picks up shortly after (@0:42). After looking at the lyrics, it appears to me that Patrick is expressing his remorse or regret for some happening yet he is not able to discontinue going back for more. I’ve never really understood the meaning all that well. The strength of this song lies in Patrick’s vocal range and the guitars during the chorus (@2:29). Together they create a angst-driven, heavy aura that I find to be brilliant. Fortunately for me and many others, this was just the beginning of something great.

Probably the most poppy of out of these three by far would be the next track. It is “Hunting for Witches” by Bloc Party. If you’re not familiar with Bloc Party. they’re an English indie group that produced their first album back in 2005. They feature a nice blend of punk, electronic, and indie influences. This track is off their ’07 release A Weekend in the City. The reason I think it connects to the previous tracks is because of the fast paced, energetic flow that the song carries. It’s much softer than the other two but it’s more unique and crafty. It contains a clumsy, yet  intriguing intro and outro with some very scrambled audio . The guitar carries a funky guitar riff that almost seems to whine at you until the chorus where the rhythm guitar joins nicely (@1:14)and climaxes @1:23. This song also holds some fun lyrics. Kele, the leas vocalist, describes his need to prey on this long feared supernatural force. Perhaps the “witches” represent some form of symbolism but some of the lyrics appear to sound more literal which makes me think otherwise. My favorite set of lyrics wold easily be  ” I was sitting, on the roof of my house, with a shotgun…
And a six-pack of beer,” If that’s all witch-hunting entails, sign me up! Nobody’s gonna fuck with a guy in that position, not even the ghastliest of enchantresses…

Ewww…wouldn’t want to get mixed up with them. Except Sarah Jessica Parker, who I think appears more attractive as a witch in this movie than she does in real life.

All joking aside, enjoy “Hunting for Witches”