Thursday, December 08, 2016

Background Beats Reprise: X-Mas UNTZ Edition

Need something that's Christmasy but kinda downtempo and funky? It's time to get down with the XMAS UNTZ and some Christmas Background Beats. It's the perfect background music for office parties, fun holiday gatherings, waiting in line at airports, or getting down and dirty with someone on a cold December night.

The Background Beats started as a series of mixes curated by Jonas Otto here on the blog. Six years ago, Jonas posted the original Background Beats: XMAS UNTZ Edition 2010. Three years ago, the Joker re-upped the mix. And now it's time to post it once again.

Here's what Jonas wrote back in 2010...

If you have any holiday parties coming up, make sure you download this mix. This special edition of Background Beats features DJ Matt J Loya who has made many incredible mixes over the years, but is especially talented in making Christmas mixes that are guaranteed be a big hit at any holiday party. 

This mix is one long track, and unfortunately I do not have a track-list, however the mix brings the same downtempo, funky beats that the Background Beats series has always provided, only with a Christmas twist.


The tracklist is unknown, but it's one continuous mix that's roughly 74 minutes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The MORE Project

Video by Kelly D. Morris.

Here's what she wrote:
After witnessing Phish's performance of this song in Las Vegas on October 29, 2016, and in light of the difficulty 2016 has brought with it, I was inspired to make this video to help make sense of it all. I hope it brings you some lightness. (continued...)

Thank you Trey Anastasio for writing such a powerful song, and thank you Phish for every note, every show, and every dance. The beautiful circus surrounding you is a testament to the joy you have given to all of us. My life is so much better because I've grown up as a phan. So lucky.

I looked for a website where anyone could go to volunteer and discovered If anyone wants to do more, it's a great place to start.

"There is no darkness so dense, so menacing or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light."

Monday, December 05, 2016

Krautrock: Can, Soundtracks (1970)

A few years ago a writer for The Guardian asked the musical question “Can: the ultimate soundtrack band?

The article was occasioned by the appearance of a few Can songs on the soundtrack of the 2010 Japanese film Norwegian Wood to which Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood contributed the film’s score. As it happens (the article notes), Can’s music had cropped up several times over the years in the movies, including in films by Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodovar.

In fact, the title of Can’s first album unsubtly evoked a certain variety of popular cinema -- Monster Movie. And it’s second LP was a compilation of early tracks that had actually been used in various German films (all quite obscure now), the collection suitably titled Soundtracks.

The record appeared after the band had parted ways with its original singer, the American Malcolm Mooney, replaced in 1970 by the Japanese-born Damo Suzuki. Suzuki is featured on five of the seven tracks, and Mooney the other two.

I mentioned last week Mooney’s status as a Syd Barrett-like figure in Can’s history thanks to his important role in the band’s initial development and his absence from the group during its later triumphs.

There was a touch of madness thrown in as well, with stories of Mooney acting erratically including one involving him repeating the same refrain from a song for three straight hours during a show -- even while the band took breaks and after it had finished for the night -- as though he’d worrisomely short-circuited.

Such stories got exaggerated later on, according to most, but in any case Mooney did make his way back to New York after parting ways with the group, and after a brief period Suzuki took his place (more on his introduction to Can later).

As you might guess, a record with seven tracks from five different films featuring two different lead singers is a bit disjointed, and a result Soundtracks sounds more like a brief detour between Monster Movie and the monumental Tago Mago that followed than a coherent whole.

The first three songs were all used in a spaghetti western, the first of which shares the film’s title, “Deadlock” -- a moody, electric dirge. “Tango Whiskyman” follows, a quieter, almost-folksy, softly-sung track with Velvet Underground-like percussion and noodling, followed by a short instrumental version of “Deadlock.”

Next is “Don’t Turn the Light on, Leave Me Alone,” a song that appears repeatedly in a mostly tame, mostly lame softcore comedy titled Cream - Schwabing Report (a.k.a. Secret Life of a Schoolgirl Wife). The tune is pleasant and rhythmic with a recurrent, descending chord progression -- not bad in the background, though doesn’t really demand close attention.

The first of the two Mooney tracks, “Soul Desert,” then rounds out the first side, taken from the thriller Mädchen... nur mit Gewalt, a.k.a. The Brutes. Just a brief bit of workmanlike faux-blues.

The real highlight of Soundtracks comes after flipping the disc over, the spacey 14-and-a-half-minute slice of psychedelia “Mother Sky” featured in the 1970 drama Deep End starring Jane Asher (Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend who inspired a few early Beatle hits).

With metronome-like percussion, a simple and repetitive driving bass, a howling electric guitar constantly rising and falling, and Suzuki’s haunting vocal describing the the madness of “mother sky,” it’s a must-listen even for undergraduate Krautrock students, uniting as it does both meditation and mania in a fashion much explored subsequently by the genre’s greats (including Can).

The closer, “She Brings the Rain,” from the sci-fi flick Ein großer graublauer Vogel (English title: Bottom) provides a groovy coda to Mooney’s involvement with early Can, a smooth jazzy number that sounds like a different band entirely.

I personally would be more quick to think of later Can -- particular the post-Suzuki, often instrumental output -- when imagining them as a soundtrack band. And in fact, some would be more likely to pick out other Krautrock acts (Tangerine Dream springs to mind) as better known contributors to the silver screen.

But there is still certainly something unmistakably “cinematic” about this group -- there’s film in the Can.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Krautrock: Can, Monster Movie (1969)

Julian Cope’s list of “50 Kosmische Classics” features works by 20 different artists. From the 20, those unfamiliar with Krautrock have probably heard of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. However, the band more often cited as a seminal starting point for the genre is probably the Cologne-based group Can who has no less than five albums on the list.

The original group was formed in 1968 and consisted of an eclectic line-up with an impressive pedigree. Irmin Schmidt (keyboards) and Holger Czukay (bass) formed the group’s core, both having studied under electronic and experimental music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen. One of Czukay’s students, Michael Karoli (guitar) of Bavaria, was also part of the original line-up, as was Jaki Liebezeit (drums) of Dresden whose background was free jazz and mathematics. Rounding out the original quintet was a black American sculptor dodging the draft in Germany, Malcolm Mooney, who would be the group’s original vocalist.

Can’s primary output consists of 11 studio albums released from 1969 through 1979, with additional compilations filling out the discography along with a reunion album in 1989 and other ephemera. That first decade is usually split into three distinct periods -- the “early” titles with Mooney (featured on the debut Monster Movie and a couple of tracks on the compilation Soundtracks); the “classic” middle period featuring Japanese vocalist Damo Suzuki (also on Soundtracks, as well as Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days); and the half-dozen albums of the “late” post-Suzuki period starting with Soon Over Babaluma and ending with Can.

The five albums we’ll be discussing all come from the “early” and “classic” periods, although I’m a big fan of the “late” titles, too, marked by a lot of inventive instrumentals and even ambient moods. First up is the debut, Monster Movie, which thanks to Mooney’s involvement is somewhat distinct from every other Can album, although sews many seeds later harvested by the group’s relentless experimentation.

Mooney actually is said to have named the group. He would subsequently say it was originally meant as the verb (as in “I can do it!”) although later would come visual puns such as the can of okra on the Ege Bamyasi cover. Later on, explained Mooney in an interview, others took it as an acronym standing for communism, anarchy, and nihilism.

Mooney is a little like the Syd Barrett of Can, in a way, having been there at the start only to disappear and not be part of the band’s greatest triumphs. In fact Mooney was described as having had a nervous breakdown of some kind that led to his leaving the band (a story that has probably been exaggerated somewhat over the decades).

Mooney didn’t become a rock casualty like Barrett, though, and in fact made a surprising return to be part of the 1989 reunion album, Rite Time. In any case, Mooney’s contribution to Monster Movie is significant, with his energetic, earnest vocals helping unify the memorable sound of the group’s hard-rocking debut.

From the start the band adopted a recording technique that involved a lot of improvisation and jamming, with sessions captured live on a two-track machine then via post production edited down into readily-consumable album tracks.

The most immediate analogue for Monster Movie is the Velvet Underground, particularly “Black Angel Death’s Song” and “European Son” (from The Velvet Underground & Nico) and all of White Light/White Heat. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone familiar with the Velvets’ first two albums not thinking of them when hearing Monster Movie for the first time.

Side one features three cuts, starting with the urgent, hard-driving “Father Cannot Yell” that relentlessly pounds away from start to finish with Mooney talk-singing over top, a song that also makes me think a little of early Beefheart (the long form stuff). Next is “Mary, Mary So Contrary,” a slower jam based around the nursery rhyme and Karoli’s intense guitar gradually building to a crazed climax. The side closes with the brief rocker “Outside My Door” with Mooney’s harmonica hook cutting through an exhilarating garage-psych sound.

The 20-minute improv “Yoo Do Right” that comprises all of the second side is said to have been culled from a six hours’ worth of recording, which given the group’s experimental underpinnings isn’t hard to believe. The VU affinities are strong in this percussion-heavy track featuring mantra-like, repetitive lyrics. The organ fading in and out of the mix also makes the track sound even more like a not-too-distant relative of “Sister Ray.”

Monster Movie’s influence on later Krautrock -- not to mention punk, post-punk, and other prog to come -- is unquestioned. Of Can’s overall oeuvre, I’m probably more apt to spin the “classic” and “late” titles, but always find the debut refreshing and remarkably prescient whenever I come back to it. Like the best monster movies, it’s scary-good fun in a rollercoastery kind of way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Krautrock: Ash Ra Tempel, Join Inn (1973)

After their sojourn in Switzerland to record with Dr. Timothy Leary, Ash Ra Tempel went back to Germany to the famous Dierks Studio in Stommeln to record their fourth LP, Join Inn, which like others by the band was released on the Ohr label.

The record also signaled a return of sorts for the band to an earlier sound and ethos insofar as it reunited the original trio of Manuel Göttsching (guitar), Hartmut Enke (bass), and Klaus Schulze (drums and synths). Also joining in on Join Inn with a spoken-word contribution on the second side is Göttsching’s then-girlfriend, Rosi Müller.

The recording of Join Inn occurred during breaks from another, more ambitious project, the tremendous double LP Tarot by Walter Wegmüller to which Göttsching, Enke, and Schulze all contributed (also part of the “50 Kosmische Classics” we’ll eventually be covering here).

Like the band’s self-titled debut, this one features two side-long improvisations, starting with Side 1’s “Freak’n’roll,” a stripped down, free form jam perhaps recalling Hawkwind, Cream, or the Dead. (It also echoes early Can, whom we’ll be taking up next week.)

Schulze’s excellent, relentless drumming gets spotlighted, as does Göttsching’s manic rhythm guitar. It’s a sinuous, off-the-cuff seeming exercise without a lot of structure or progression -- pleasant, though not hugely memorable.

By contrast, Side 2’s softer “Jenseits” is a genuine delight, with Schulze’s droning synths providing an aural bed over which Müller quietly delivers her sparse, spacey narration in German. Göttsching’s shimmering guitar begins peeking through starting about halfway through, adding to the surrounding warmth.

The title means “beyond” and the narrative is suitably abstract, evoking in an impressionistic way ideas of childhood innocence and prelapsarian nature. Although the speaker seems fixated on the past, the mood is incongruously futuristic, suggesting a kind of vaguely fearful sci-fi soundtrack rather than a pastoral idyll. It’s one of the better meditative compositions in Krautrock.

Join Inn closed the door on the original Ash Ra Tempel, with Schulze moving on to solo stardom and Enke leaving music altogether. Göttsching would carry the “Ash Ra” name forward through a few different incarnations, starting with a follow-up with Rosi titled Starring Rosi, a much less Krautrock-seeming disc full of structured pop songs.

As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to later Ash Ra/Göttsching output, do check out his two solo efforts Inventions for Electric Guitar (1975) and New Age of Earth (1976), a couple of immensely satisfying guitar-and-synth instrumental exercises I’d include on my own alternate “best of” Krautrock list.

Meanwhile, check yourself into Join Inn:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Phish Vegas, Part 4: Halloween Hazy Cosmic Jive

When shit gets that heavy, so heavy that you're getting crushed by the weight of your own despair that there's only one thing to do... get on a plane, fly to Las Vegas, and rage hard four-straight days. Your problems ain't going anywhere and if the world is gonna explode in the near future, then you might as well dive head first into hedonism for a full-blown bacchanalian bender. I mean, if you're gonna die, you might as well go out in fucking style and die in Vegas.

Part 4: Halloween Hazy Cosmic Jive

By @taopauly

Hustle City, USA. If you're not hustling, then you're getting hustled.

If you walk into the room and don't spot the sucker....then you're the sucker. I heard that cheesey line in a poker movie a long time ago and it's more true than you will every know.

The Phish hustle continues. Seven and a half years and counting since Hampton in March 2009. I won a big score playing poker many moons ago, but blew all my winnings on Phish in 3.0. At least I didn't lose it gambling on basketball or donk it off to Scandis playing PLO or buying material things like a Porsche. Instead, I blew it on shitty drugs and Phish tickets. Choices, man....choices.

Like I wrote earlier... I've either reached rock bottom, or I'm at the top of Everest. You have your own opinions, but the fact that I think it's a coin flip means it's been one wild ride.

Last night of tour is crazy in itself. It's always the EVERYTHING BAGEL show and you do whatever drugs you have leftover that you can't fly with. You also bump into strangers who need to dump their stashes so you can literally show up empty handed and walk away a lit fucking monkey. Then add the fact it's HALLOWEEN and party people kick it into the highest possible gear. Plus the costume thing allows introverts to let down their inhibitions, so as a result the crowd is super schwasted with a extra schwilly sauce. Oh like LiLo said in Mean Girls, "Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it."

The final night of a four-night Vegas run has its own challenges because some people were out of gas.  And when you crash in Vegas after a multi-night bender, you crash disastrously hard. It's like a scene from Westworld when workers in hazard suits are hosing down bloody corpses while a muzak cover on a Radiohead song plays slowly in the background.

Add the fact that it's Halloween, then you had people pushing themselves to the outer limits of sanity and sobriety. The dark side of Vegas alters the magnetic vibrations on everyone's moral compass, so you're pretty much fucked if you're trying to find your way out.

If you can't conjure up the mojo naturally on Halloween, then there's plenty of other ways to jump-start your night. You ain't missing it for the world, so you pop a few Adderall to wake up, swig a couple of painkillers so you can dance through the pain, chomp down on moon rocks, club pressies, gay ninja molly, and whatever leftover shit you had from tour. In a city of iniquity like Vegas, there's no shortage of powders, elixirs, pills, and injections that will help keep you raging until you lose consciousness, pass out, and completely yard sale it in front a craps table at the Mirage before you end up a meme on Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook Hunters as security guards wake your ass up with a cattle prod to the nutsack.

By the fourth day of Phish and the morning of Halloween, shit morphs into a surreal hyper-reality of weirdness... even for Vegas standards. Adorable couples who couldn't handle their drugs had already broken up. Friends stopped answering phones a day earlier, if they hadn't hocked it already to cover blackjack loses and/or gave it up for pennies on the dollar to one-lucky-ass coke dealer. Sensible people with mortgages and 401Ks turn into zombified wooks and ignored the eye in the sky by railing lines off empty seat at the Bright Diamond slots. Spacekids got so jacked up on whiskey-tango-trailer-cooked desert-meth-molly that they ran off naked down Tropicana into the muted glow of the Vegas night. And then you get so fucking spun that the Monopoly Man started following you around and screaming, "Drain the fucking swamp. DRAIN IT. Burn it all down!"

Hey, we've all been there. No matter how much landing gear you've taken or no matter how many joints you've smoked, but you can never fall asleep in your hotel bed, so you go downstairs to the casino and start gambling at the Pai Gow table and order a cocktail because it's Vegas on a Monday morning and that's how the script goes. At some point, you've eaten so much molly that you've cleaned three rooms for the maid on your floor, while you let her take a break by smoking weed in your room and sweat her bet on the World Series (*Anita was all-in on the Cubs).

I got the Colorado crew together for a group meal at the Wicked Spoon. Sort of a last hurrah before Halloween. Everyone was on the ropes, but ready to rally in time for Halloween.

My phone was blowing up with texts about the show. I had forty-five conversations similar to this...
TEXT: What's it going to be?
ME: Ziggy Stardust.
No really?
That's what I'm told, but you never know.
Like what else, man?
Maybe Prince's Batman soundtrack.
How about Zappa?
Zappa rumored too.
And how about Zeppelin?
Maybe so, probably not.
How about the Grateful Walking Dead!
Let Trey Sing.
With Weir and Zombies!
Keep smoking ketamine, son.
How about Ziggy? It's gotta be Ziggy then!
Hey, brah, since you know so much already then why the fuck are you texting me? Just sit tight and wait four more fucking hours until the first rail rider gets in and snaps a photo of the Playbill.

My first Halloween show was Vegas 1998. I didn't know what they would play until a girl with pink dreads shoved the Playbill into my hands and I noticed the cover to Velvet Underground's Loaded. I saw every Halloween since then, but the last five in 3.0 had been spoiled by social media. Twitter told me the Stones album at Indio and twice again in AC (Little Feat and Wingsuit). And yeah, 2014 and 2016 Vegas were spoiled by a pic of the Playbill.

We were in the middle of the preparty in my room when we got the kangfirmation about Ziggy and Phish. My source was right. After getting the initial tip, @change100 and I listened to Ziggy Stardust front to back at least once a day in LA. I only knew the popular songs on the album and wanted to brush up on the lesser known tunes. I'm not a David Bowie fanatic and my favorite Bowie album is Young Americans when he hoovered so much blow that he thought he was a black soul singer from Philly.

Costumes at Phish shows are always a notch above the rest. Clever. Intricate. Time-consuming. And that's not even for Halloween! On Halloween, many phans rise to the occasion and crush their outfits.

Then you get the folks who don't even bother trying and just show up in civilian clothes. I can respect that, more than half-assing a costume (which I've done on many occasions). Then again, sometimes you come up with a cool costume that is hot as fuck to wear for three sets, or just not logistically possible to maintain for three sets while fucked up to the gourd. Walking into the Halloween show is always the optimal time because that's before costumes go awry and people start to get so fucked up they forget where they are, let alone what costume they're in. After four days in Vegas, a slew of people didn't need costumes to look like extras from The Walking Dead...after four-nights on whatever Ketamolicane they were boofing, they smelled like rotting corpses.

I had an affinity for anyone who got dressed up from Stranger Things. I saw a slew of "Elevens" and that was my original costume but I couldn't find a pink dress in my size. Instead, I helped a friend out with a pseudo group costume. Back in 2014 Halloween, Wildo went as Phish Ditka, which was a huge hit and he almost won the costume contest. He wanted to reprise Phish Ditka but kick it up a notch... so I volunteered to be Jim McMahon to help fill in the 1985 Bears. Our significant others opted to be spun-out referees. And then to spice things up, our Boulder friends showed up as cheerleaders (like the duo from Saturday Night Live). We had a loose football theme going, but the goal was to help Wildo win the costume contest as Phish Ditka.

The Chicago Bears played the Vikings on Monday Night Football. Wildo stepped into the sportsbook and everyone went nuts over his costume. He wore such a eye-catching costume that everyone stopped for a selfie or photo. Both civilians and Phishy folks dug the costume once again.

I liked being Jim McMahon. Practical. I sweat my ass off so the headband was clutch. And I got to wear sunglasses all night so no one could see how fucking lit I really was.

While waiting to get an official photo, my Twitter friends @Felicified and @Meaarf were right in front of me. Felicia rocked an intricate costume: NEVER MISS PHISH. While Meaarf's crushed it with a lumbersexual lumberjack and his special-designed I SAW IT AGAIN saw.

Our buddy Dusty went to the show a Trump supporter. He couldn't find Crocs at the last minute, but he was a walking cliche: jorts, build-a-wall t-shirt, fanny pack, and a red hat that said GRAB THEM BY THE PUSSY. I should have known Trump was going to win when so many non-Phish people stopped him to chat about their support for Trump. Sure, I'm no Nate Silver and that polling was done by super-spun me but eight days later, we were surprised to learn that the costume predicted the election.

For the Halloween show, we assembled a small group in the same section with the Colorado crew. I spotted LazyLightning55 sitting in the next section. I had an aisle seat and hung out with a guy in stairs with hotdog costume and a painted Bowie face (Rob from SF was cool as fuck and we were on the same page with practically every song).

First set kicked off without a 2014 Halloween tune. Waited until the second song. The opener was a Carini that referenced Trey's Gucci shirt that caused an uproar in Phishdom. (My hot take: who the fuck cares? He probably got it for free, but I'd rather see Trey blow $700 on a shirt than blow $700 on opiates and blow. You precious 3.0 snowflakes whine about Show of Life encores, but you have no fucking idea the wookshit swamps that Oxy-Trey dragged us through in 2.0 like a Secret Smile encore...I don't hold many grudges but I'm still salty about the E Centre gig in 2003 and that kick in the nuts from Big Red after 4-song second set).

Phish opened the three previous shows with a nod to Halloween 2014, yet My Pet Cat popped up second on the final night. The Joker's beloved cat Emilio lost a fight with feline cancer and passed the day before. Phish finally played homage to Emilio the coolest cat from Denver.

Gordo roid rage squishy bass all over Free. Dirty and nasty and dark and greasy like the buffet at Circus Circus.

If you want to pretend to be a poker pro and learn how to read people, then just do some people watching during What's the Use. You will quickly find out people's emotional ranges. Vapid fashionistas snapped selfies. The drunks rushed for the pissers and reloaded the booze. Adderall chompers chatted their neighbor's ear off. The stoners huffed a doob. Coke fiends were already shoveling key bumps before Possum ended. The haters posted directly to PT from the floor, while jaded vets fired up Twitter and snarked about it. The baffled noobs nervously tried to find a way to dance to it. Anyone rolling tits danced through it like they were running through Walmart on Black Friday. Bisco ketaminekids drifted away into a k-hole like a Tenderloin junkie mid-nod. The serious acid heads were motionless as they navigated vibrational planes. And the one friend you brought along that didn't know Phish too well...well it was the perfect opportunity to see what made them tick. If they "got" WTU, then you knew they could be trusted.

If you bet on it, Phish busted out a 6+ minute Tube. Barely passed six, but they got dark and weird and sideways. Snuck Ass Handed in there before Petrichor. I have mixed feeling about it. Feels like three different songs and two of them need work. I got hooked on "And the rain" part so much so I drove the wife nuts singing it nonstop for two months since Big Boat got leaked by the infamous Russian hacker LEO69pussywagon.

My bud Dakota got so spun at the end of the first set he began speaking in alien dialects. I suggested he sit down and rage in my seat for Antelope. The seven-time JamCruise veteran was on ropes during the setbreak. Sometimes when you're down the rabbit hole, you get ambushed and sucked into another hole...and you're stuck there until you find a way out before the liquid sunshine wears off and then you're stuck in the upside down world from Stranger Things for the rest of eternity. That's why you always need a tripping buddy.

By the time the lights went down for Ziggy costume set, Dakota was out cold and slumped in my seat. He missed the entire Ziggy set too! Dakota got stuck in that spin cycle between Earth and Pluto. We kept feeding him sips of water and took turns giving him a thirty second back rub every five minutes. He was down, but not out. Like what Trey said in that interview about the band being in a lifeboat. Well, Dakota was "wook overboard" and fell out of the boat. We were in tumultuous Vegas waters, so shit got a little rough, yet we pulled him back into the boat. We all had each other; he got through it. By set three, he was still superspun, but speaking human languages again. By the start of Backwards he flashed a hearty thumbs down which meant he was back to being a snarky jaded vet. I ignored Phish's LSD Concussion Protocol and put Dakota back in the game for the rest of the third set. I know I was risking player safety, but this was the fucking SUPERBOWL, brah! By 3am, Dakota was back to his old self and hitting on a smokin' hot Harley Quinn at the secret pizza joint as Cosmo.

I went into Halloween with low expectations, but I really dug the short and sweet Ziggy Stardust set. I just hoped those spiders from Mars didn't haunt me in my dreams. You knew the vocals weren't going to be spot on, but the background singers helped immensely. I got way too fucked up for the Haunted House set, so I was in much better headspace to appreciate and pay attention to the intricacies of the Ziggy set (sans jamming). Everyone in my section was jacked up for it (aside from Dakota, but he was smiling on the inside). I remembered the contentious vibes that infected my section at the Wingsuit show in AC... folks were visibly irked then. In Vegas, the schwilly zombies in my infected area lapped it up. Every. Note.

Moonage Daydream was when it really sunk in...everything... the party favors and the mind funk and that weight of the world I wrote about in the first sentence. I had achieved peak fuckedupness and reached cruising altitude. Gordo pulled off Starman with Trey on acoustic and the lovely ladies on background vocals. That was the closest Gordo will ever get to being a real pop star and he reveled in every second. It Ain't Easy was a cover I think, but super short but it was one of the songs that would have been an amazing vehicle for some series cosmic-funk-jamming.

Page has been secretly singing Lady Stardust at karaoke clubs in Koreatown for decades. He was ready for the moment, stepped up to the plate, and went deep.

Phish put in a valiant effort, but they couldn't pull off the precision speed of the punk-infused Hang On to Yourself. They would destroyed that in 1995 when they could stop on a dime and blast off into a different orbit.

Leo locked up booty in perpetuity with his rendition of Ziggy Stardust. Months ago, during a band meeting, Page was like, "No discussion. Ziggy is mine. I got this one, gents."

I think Suffragette City might make it into the covers rotation, right? It has MSG night 2 encore written all over it.

The third set was all gravy. Sand and 2001 got the spookiest. Aside from that, it was really a long blur once 46 Days kicked off the last set of the Vegas run. At the end of Twist, the other three brahs jumped on Fishman's kit for a drums gangbang. Trey got off the most. Scintillating 2001. Dunno why it stuck out little more than the other ones I caught last couple of years, but the Vegas one had a little extra oomph.

During 2001, a shirtless schwilly bro screamed: "Yeah Trey!! You got the POWER again!"

Crushed the Slave to end the third set. Waited 4 days and 9 sets to finally hear it and knew we'd get one. Still always fucking pumped when they finally busted out my favorite song. Sometimes they rush the end of it...but took their time with this Vegas Slave.

Everyone I know was betting on a David Bowie (by Phish) encore, but instead Phish delivered another acapella rendition of Space Oddity. I'm from the school of thought it should a been a one time thing at Wrigley. I caught one in San Francisco this summer and it was cool to hear it again. But the entire crowd would lost their collective cookies and mud if Fishman went to the high hat for the start of Bowie.

I sorta checked out in 2016, which is a passive-aggro way of saying I got CRUNK'D up motherfuckers and did not give two shits. I curtailed the social media flow and refused to participate in the divisive bullshit. In high school I had a Latin teacher that used to say, "Close the books, open the minds." I moved his letters all around and came up with "Shut off the phone, and clear the mind." I said fuck Sun Tzu and I kept my friends close and refused to keep enemies closer because I had no time to waste on the emotional vampires, brainwashed sheeple, and social-media-likes-addicted crackfiends.

I spent large chunks of time away from the internets. Hung out with old friends and made some new ones. I dove head-first into books and re-wrote a novel twice (and it still sucks, gah). I strategically spread out work projects so I could party down, rage it up, and get twisted. It had been nearly five years since I went on a legit scorched-Earth bender that spanned several weeks (damn, I missed living in San Francisco but that year was a blur). I went harder than usual during culminating in several peak-psychedelic moments during West Coast summer tour. Controlled chaos.

I sensed a massive shift coming. Call it the looming apocalypse or the purge, but the disturbance in the force worried me. Before shit blew up, it was time to get my ya-yas out. I decided to celebrate the now and push life to the fullest in the most decadent and cheesiest manner possible -- in Las Vegas -- while staring down the inevitable double-barrel of a shotgun loaded with impending doom and tragedy. And this was before the election turned out the way it did.

I don't need any aspect of my life validated...especially my decisions, but I'm fucking thrilled I checked out in 2016 to focus on the things I'd want to do if I knew I was going to die tomorrow... books, music, making art, making people laugh, and partying it up with friends. This epic 2016 bender is coming to a close, but Vegas Halloween truly marked the beginning of the end.

It's been a tough year for a lot of people. I didn't waste the last year of my life screaming into the void and getting into nonstop fights with friends, relatives, bots, and strangers. Instead, I sought out sincere connections with people. The love of music brought us together...specifically Phish. That's why you're reading this. We're connected by a semi-unhealthy extreme fanaticism/borderline cult worship of this bizarro band from Vermont that's named after a short dude in a dress and the bass player is weirder than fuck, but the lead singer is an ADD-ginger with a penchant for painkillers and the piano player pulls in as much tail as Sinatra did in his glory years.

David Bowie said he imagined Ziggy Stardust as the leader of the most popular band on the planet five years before it gets destroyed the at apocalypse. I joked with everyone that Phish was hinting that they would break up in 2021, or the world blows up. We're on the clock either way. Let's not burn the last bits of daylight.

I felt fantastic stumbling out of the Halloween show as thousands of costumed freaks flooded the floor of the MGM Grand Casino. Bunch of us lucky fucks beat Vegas and walked away huge winners. When it happens, it's the best fucking feeling in the world. Why? Because it's fucking VEGAS....and out of seven billion suckers on this planet, you were the lucky one. The chosen one. The star child. Most of the time, the gambling gods totally fuck with you, but if constellations align just right, you catch a hot streak and you ride that fucker as far out into the cosmos as it goes. It's easy to lose your mind in Vegas and get batch-drowned with a sea of assholes, but if you catch the right wave, then you can actually walk on water.

That's a feeling that I'm not going to forget for a very long time.

* * * *
Phish Vegas Halloween 2016 Recaps

Part 1: All These Dogs Just Want To Play

Part 2: Page EDM

Part 3: The Latch Was Left Unhooked

Part 4: Halloween Hazy Cosmic Jive

If you dug this series, the check out my book Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Krautrock: Timothy Leary & Ash Ra Tempel, Seven Up (1973)

By late summer 1972, Dr. Timothy Leary had been a fugitive for nearly two years.

A countercultural hero, Leary had been advocating the use of psychedelic drugs for personal growth for several years, disseminating his famous “Turn on, tune in, drop out” message via writings and lectures. He was becoming an influential, much-followed guru to many and “the most dangerous man in America” to then-president Richard Nixon and others.

Leary attracted a large enough following to embark on a half-serious run for governor of California in 1970 versus the incumbent Ronald Reagan. His campaign’s slogan was “Come together, join the party,” and in fact John Lennon’s “Come Together” started out as a campaign song for Leary, although ultimately only used the title phrase as a hub of sorts around which to spin the surreal lyrics of the Abbey Road opener.

The campaign quickly halted, however, when Leary was arrested for possession of marijuana -- just a couple of roaches -- and after additional counts were added he was given a prison sentence totaling 20 years. In March 1970 at the age of 49, Leary began his sentence at the minimum-security California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Six months later, Leary found a way to leave the facility a bit earlier than scheduled.

“The escape was spectacular,” writes The New York Times in their 1996 obituary. “Mr. Leary hoisted himself to a rooftop and up a telephone pole, shimmied along a cable across the prison yard and over barbed wire, and dropped to the highway.”

Subsequently aided by the left-wing, chaos-creating extremist organization the Weathermen (a.k.a. the Weather Underground), Leary made his way to Algiers where he stayed with Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers who had there established a kind of American government-in-exile.

Eventually Leary found himself under a different kind of “revolutionary arrest” imposed by Cleaver and so left Algiers, hiding out in Switzerland where he remained for a while before moving to Afghanistan. It was there Leary was finally captured in 1973 and returned to the U.S. He’d serve three more years in a California prison before finally earning his freedom after being pardoned by first-year governor Jerry Brown.

It was during that interim period in Switzerland Leary hooked up with Krautrockers Ash Ra Tempel, collaborating with them along with fellow acid-guru Brian Barritt and several others on the group’s third LP, Seven Up.

Producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, founder of the German label Ohr (means “ear”) for whom Amon Düül, Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru, and others recorded, brought Ash Ra Tempel to a Switzerland studio where they met up with Leary in August 1972 to record the bulk of Seven Up, with some overdubs added later in Germany before the record was released in early 1973. The record’s complicated backstory includes the easy-to-accept detail that much of it was recorded under the influence of LSD, with the title in fact referring to acid-spiked 7-Up soda consumed during its production.

Side 1, titled “Space,” features four distinct songs connected by appropriately “spacey” whooshing effects, with Leary on lead vocals. The songs -- “Downtown,” “Power Drive,” “Right Hand Lover,” and “Velvet Genes” -- are blues-based rockers of varying tempos, and the effect is a little like tuning some sort of weird radio dial, landing on music occasionally amid the hallucinatory fog.

Side 2, titled “Time,” begins in a similarly noisy fashion before dissolving into quieter effects with some spoken narration drifting in and out. There are three tracks listed -- “Timeship,” “Neuron,” and “She” -- although it’s hard to pin down when each begin and end. The vibe is much closer here to other Ash Ra Tempel than is the case on the first side, with Tangerine Dreamer Steve Schroyder’s organ providing a magic carpet upon which Manuel Göttsching’s gentle strumming and other sounds comfortably ride.

Of the four Ash Ra Tempel discs included among Julian Cope’s “50 Kosmische Classics,” Seven Up is the one I dial up least often. The novelty element of Leary’s contribution makes the first side seem a bit gimmicky for me -- interesting initially, but not so much on subsequent listens. The second side is more enduring, coming closer to simulating the kind of drug-induced epiphany being sought so earnestly by those involved, with the white noise washing up over the final minutes actually kind of epic.

All of which is to say, while there’s some obvious historical value here with Leary’s on-the-lam story crazily intersecting with the Krautrock narrative, for true musical transcendence I’d direct you elsewhere among the Ash Ra Tempel catalogue.