Saturday, March 14, 2009

Will I want some moe.? [Bonnaroo Countdown]

moe. will be at Bonnaroo this year, which in all honesty would have excited me much more at my first and only Bonnaroo back in 2005. There was a time when I was as geeked for moe. as any band out there. My first ever concert New Years was spent with moe. in Camden in 2003. They played "Let It Be" to ring in 2004 as the clock hit midnight. A few months later, my moe.-crush was at an all-time peak when the band rolled into Charlottesville for a gig at Starr Hill Brewery.

I'm pretty sure Starr Hill is closed now, which is a shame because it really was the best small-ish venue around for seeing live music. The combination of microbrewery/restaurant downstairs and 500-person concert hall upstairs was the perfect party atmosphere. moe. must have felt the same vibe, because when they took the stage, they announced that they'd be playing a special all acoustic show. They insisted that they had never done so before, and if there are any PhantasyTour wonks among you, feel free to look up the stats and prove me wrong. What's more, we had staked out a spot that basically put us on the stage nearly 2 hours before showtime. I suppose we did this because we weren't yet 21 and couldn't drink, but more than likely we were just that hyped for moe. The show inevitably ended up being the classic awesome live music perfect storms. Your high anticipation is placed in a perfect venue alongside great friends, and a unique twist is put on the show that allows you to feel ownership over the experience as something only you and a handful of others got to share. The music was great, as you can tell from the set list. Our proximity actually caused a bit of a concertgoer moral dilemma, as I had to try very hard at certain points not to look at what was coming next. Of course, there was no dilemma when it came to whether or not we were going to share with our new friend, who I'll simply refer to as Animal.

The only bad thing about the awesome live music perfect storm is that you can go your whole life waiting for another one that never comes, and this is what happened to me with moe. Every time I would go to see them after that night, I'd hold the show against the standard set by the Starr Hill perfect storm. Every time, it fell slightly short. I've had great live moe. experiences since Starr Hill '04, from the time Smellson, Wurm and I had to carry our friend out of Roseland Ballroom after she passed out without even drinking, to just last year when I fist-pumped out to their rendition of "America, Fuck Yeah" July 4th at the Stone Pony while fireworks exploded over Asbury Park, New Jersey. However, none of those shows compared with that night in Charlottesville.

Tough to top being this close to the action.

I feel like I've hung around with moe. for so long that I owe it to them at this point to stop by their Bonnaroo set, but I'm old and wise enough to know not to expect anything from them that I haven't already seen at this point. Maybe they'll reach into their bag of tricks one more time, prove me wrong, and transport me back to 2004. 88 days until we find out.

Rebubula - moe.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Miles away with no end in sight [Bonnaroo countdown]

Here we are, back where we started. 89 miles to go. Didn't really think about it too much when I decided to start this odyssey of a countdown, but Since I've committed myself to this beast, I'm starting to really ponder how slowly it will crawl along. It's a feeling not unlike the first sight of the festival car line. A joyous rush of utter jubilation is quickly ground to a literal and figurative halt, as you park your ass on the hot asphalt and begin your slow roast . You realize that you don't really know how far you have to go, or how long it's going to take. All you know is there's a line of hippies that stretches for miles, and that initial rush is replicated at random intervals when you move fractions of a foot at a time.

I actually think the countdown to summer is going to progress fairly quickly. Time tends to do that whether you're looking forward to something or not. When that moment comes for the final countdown, well... we'll know.

For now, let's meet Bonnaroo artist, MGMT. My wasted ex sent me this link to their music video for "Time To Pretend" late last night, and 21 is on right now. We've moved another 4 inches down the highway. MGMT, everybody. 89 days until Bonnaroo!

Learn all you could care to learn about MGMT by reading their head trip of an artist bio on the Bonnaroo official site (really excited to see which of these is the weirdest), or by visiting their head trip of a web site,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

90 days to Bonnaroo: Al Green [Bonnaroo Countdown]

I have to admit, as much as I love music of all types from all eras, I know next to nothing about certain artists who are recognized as "classic." Al Green is one of these. I'm already thankful that I started this countdown, because I can see that I'm going to learn a lot.

Before today, I could have sung you the chorus to "Let's Stay Together," and would have known "Take Me To The River" only because a cover version later became a greatest hit for another member of this year's Bonnaroo lineup (and one of my personal favorites). Beyond that, if you had said, "Al Green" to me before today, I would have had little response to offer besides the customary Jamie Foxx, "Al Green...Al Green, a-heeeeyyyyy!"

But look at all this great knowledge I have now... Al was the sixth of ten children. He had 4 Gold singles on his second LP, 1970's Al Green Gets Next To You. He became Pastor Al when he was ordained by the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976. He was assaulted by his crazy girlfriend in 1974. When he refused to marry her (even though she was already married) she doused him with a pot of boiling hot grits while he was (holy shit!) in the shower.

Knowledge, knowledge, everywhere, and I consider myself better for it. Of course, the only real way to get to know an artist is through their art, so I'm going to go ahead and put on the big headphones as and venture down Al Green boulevard. Whether you're a lifelong fan or a lame-ass n00b like this guy, sit back and enjoy this fantastically '70s rendition of "Sha La La" along with me. Ladies and gentlemen, the soulful stylings of Mr. Al Green!

UPDATE: Groovin to "Love and Happiness," picking up on the J5 sample. I knew I'd like Al Green. Don't worry, Smellson, I promise I won't miss his set.

Get your Green on :

Al Green's albums
Al Green Wiki
Al Green Official Site
Al Green Bonnaroo artist bio

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Bonnaroo Countdown is on!

The Jersey fists take over Manchester, TN in 91 days. Will you be there?

Today, Bonnaroo announced that this year, festivalgoers will have the chance to live their Bonnaroo dream. There will be over a dozen Xbox 360 kiosks set up in the Arcade Discotheque, which will allow yours truly to play Rock Band 2 on the big screen and wow tens of music lovers with my button mashing skills. The best party game ever comes to the biggest party of the summer. It was only a matter of time.

Speaking of which, it will only be a matter of time until the big 'Roo kicks off - in fact, June 11 is exactly 3 months from today. In just 91 measley days, the Schiff Happens caravan - space still available, inquire within - will invade Manchester, Tennessee, and I'll be damned if we don't have ourselves a good old-fashioned countdown from now until then.

Here's how it's gonna work. Every day from now until Bonnaroo, I'll pick a band from the lineup, maybe drop an interesting little knowledge nugget on you (some bit of trivia or anecdotal nonsense) and give you an audio track or a video sample of their work. With each passing day we'll get more acquainted with the musical company we'll be keeping at Bonnaroo until finally the big day will be upon us.

How much longer did he say? Only 91 days?

I have a feeling this endeavor will grow and change a lot over the course of the next 90 days. That being said, if you have a favorite band or song from among the vast initial lineup (more still to come, where are the comedians?) and you feel that you can hype them up better than I can, by all means let me know. Email me and we'll set it up. I'd love to see what others come up with.

So to kick things off, we're going to keep it real simple. With 91 days until Bonnaroo, allow me to introduce you to one of this year's headliners, playing Friday and Sunday night on the main stage... Phish! Phish are 4 dudes who started a band at the University of Vermont. Individually, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman are incredibly talented musicians. Together, they are a revolutionary band who pioneered a movement toward group improvisation and extended jam-grooves, and pretty much the most colossal touring force in the history of music. Or, as Rolling Stone calls them, "The most important band of the Nineties." They are defined by the aforementioned qualities, as well as blending genres from rock and jazz to funk and bluegrass, hiatuses (2 extended breakups during their more than 20-year history), hosting large-scale festivals for upwards of 85,000 people at a time, and their insanely loyal fans who are willing to follow the band anywhere, pay any price, take any risk, and ingest any substance in order to enjoy just one more Phish show. The band recently reunited almost 5 years after their last farewell show, the emotional but musically underwhelming Coventry festival in Vermont. I was one of those lucky enough to wade through the mud all weekend and hear Phish sob through half-hearted versions of their once-epic hits at Coventry. Wasn't quite lucky enough to attend this weekend's festivities in Hampton, VA. Whatever, at least I didn't have to hang out with these cretins.

Anyway, Phish are back in top form and ready to rock all of our summers, so as we embark on this countdown to Bonnaroo, Phish and I welcome you to return to this space each day for just a little bit more hype. It is in that spirit that I invite you to come waste your time with me. 91 days to go, friends (and today is almost over). As always, I only want to know one thing.

Who's comin with me?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

He's baaaaaack

The King rides again! And this time, he's a total pimp! Oh King, you sly boots....

I'd call this the return of the Mac, but I have way too much love for the Whopper to insult The King like that.

This photo, courtesy of @ELROSS, apparently depicts the festivities at today's grand opening of Burger King's first ever Whopper Bar at CityWalk, Universal Orlando Resort's shopping and entertainment complex. From USA Today:
There won't be any alcohol but there will be meat and lots of it.

Customers can customize their Whopper, Double Whopper or Steakhouse XT burger with up to 22 different toppings, including steak sauce, smoked bacon and guacamole. Burger King workers will add the toppings in front of customers for a sushi bar-like atmosphere.

No alcohol and lots of meat? Smells like a party at That Dick's place! (I kid, Smellson, I kid). Personally I fail to see how ordering your burger at a sushi bar-like setup is any different from ordering it at the usual cattle call-like setup, but if you know me, you know that if I were at all nearby I'd be right up in there now if for no other reason than this. (Whatever, @ELROSS - your free burger won't alienate people and make you famous, so suck on that!)

Which reminds me, it's lunchtime and I've still got this puppy in my wallet. Methinks it's time to commemorate the Return of The King.

(UPDATE: @ELROSS is apparently an even bigger Burger King fanboy than yours truly, and he was all over this monumental event, live and in person, as it unfolded. Check out his Twitpic photostream for the full experience. You have to admit you want a bite)

Burger King to Open First Whopper Bar
[USA Today]

The post that started it all: Because "People you may know" sounds nicer than "People you don't like"
The first update: Apologies for my absence, please accept my humble Whopper Sacrifice
The article: Friends, Until I Delete You [New York Times]
The fame: Schiff Happens in the New York Times [We're totally famous now!]
The beef: NYTimes facebook beef [Nontroversy]
The persistence: The King can't be stopped
The poor bastard: The King Works In Mysterious Ways [Another Whopper Freakout]

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It took me a long time to get back on the train

Sweet poster art by AJ Masthay

I've missed out on a lot this week, but if there's one way to end an unintended blog hiatus on my part, it's the end of Phish's latest hiatus. As I followed the action from Hampton, VA, two things really stood out.

First, the band appears to have rehearsed itself back into vintage form. There were some high points during their last run in 2004, but those highs were quickly surpassed by a monstrous first set Friday night, and from there the hits kept coming throughout the weekend. Yes, time flies by quickly -- it doesn't feel like it was that long ago when Schiff Happens (with younger bro in tow) was in the stands in Brooklyn, hailing the beginning of the end of Phish 2.0. However, by the time things finished up late last night, even the best of '04 felt like a distant memory. Phish 3.0 is officially here, and charging hard to regain the crown of "Most Powerful Touring Force in Music."

Photo by C. Taylor Crothers

Secondly, a shitload has changed (and happened in general) since the last time I or anyone else saw Phish live, at their now infamous "farewell" festival in Coventry, Vermont at the end of that same '04 tour. Back then, I couldn't even get a cell signal to call home and tell my parents, "Don't worry about me, I'm just hiking 10 miles through Vermont cow pastures after abandoning our car and all our gear on the side of the highway to go camp out in a festering mud puddle and watch a jamband play like a shell of its former self with a bunch of hippies for 3 days. Seriously, I'm fine, but I have to go -- I just had a brownie and it tasted a little funny." This weekend, I was following on Twitter as setlists and photos were posted in real time, and short of having an online audio/video multicast available (side note to Phish management: I would have happily purchased and watched this, pay-per-view style), watching the posts roll in on Twitterfall while listening to my favorite version of whatever song they were playing and checking out the live photos surprisingly put me in the middle of the action. It was the first time in my long, storied history of internet time-wasteage that I've ever followed a live event on the web like that and actually felt like I was in on the experience. Very different from following your team on the Yahoo gamecast, for example. I've always kept it pretty ghetto when it came to cellular telephone devices, but after this weekend, "Upgrade to iPhone/Blackberry" jumped at least 15 spots on the list of things to do before summer.

Other things have changed, too. It's tough to believe that Phish have been gone, lingering in the wings, for almost 5 years. In that time I have lived and traveled abroad, graduated from college, lived in 4 different places and had 3 different jobs in Stamford, CT and New York City, growing a little older and a lot more confused with each passing day. While Phish were getting their heads straight, rediscovering and reinventing themselves, I was attempting to do the same thing. Wouldn't it be nice if you could call time-out on life, Zack Morris style, go on a little life hiatus, work out all your issues, figure things out, then pop back in on life and come back with a vengeance, better than ever before?

Unfortunately, life has no set-break, and doesn't allow for such soul-searching hiatus periods. Seven days off from blogging is apparently as close as it gets. I could take this thought a lot further, and probably will at some point, but that's enough existential musings for one Monday. Not like you haven't seen it already, but I'm sure you're much more interested in the full setlist and a few more of these awesome pictures from this weekend's Phish concerts (see the rest of the official photos and setlists here). And in case you're interested, soundboard recordings of all 3 shows are currently available for free download on Phish's official music store, FLAC and CD options are also available if you're against free music.

Photo by C. Taylor Crothers

In closing, I'm bummed as hell that I didn't get to attend this weekend. Not only was it the return to top form of one of my favorite bands ever, but it would have been the perfect setting for a reunion with my old UVA cronies. For someone who isn't even from there, nobody gives more love to the big V-A than this guy. I guess I figured that karma would bring it back to me, but somehow I was the only one of my friends who didn't end up with tickets to like 7 shows. Not that I'm bitter or anything, just that much more geeked for June to get here already. From Camden to 'Roo Jersey, I'll certainly get my fill of Phishiness. As always, I only have one question: Who's comin with me??

PHISH Hampton 3/6/09

I see Trey. He looks glorious.

Set One

Divided Sky
Chalk Dust Torture
Sample In A Jar
I Didn't Know
Oh Kee Pah Ceremony
Suzy Greenberg
Train song
Water in the Sky
Squirming Coil
David Bowie

Photo by Jeff Kravitz

Set 2:

Backwards Down The Number LIne
Theme from the Bottom
First Tube
Harry Hood

Photo by C. Taylor Crothers


Bouncing Around The Room
Loving Cup

PHISH Hampton 3/7/09

Set one:

Back On The Train
Runaway Jim
Brian & Robert
Split Open and Melt
Heavy Things
Punch You in the Eye
Mexican Cousin
It's Ice
Halley's Comet
Beauty of a Broken Heart
Guelah Papyrus
Lawn Boy
Run Like An Antelope

Lawn Boy
Photo by Jeff Kravitz

Set two:

Rock & Roll
Limb by Limb
Story of the Ghost
Birds of a Feather
Wolfman's Brother
Prince Caspian
Mike's Song >

I Am Hydrogen >
Weekapaug Groove
Character Zero

"It was a Wolfman's Brother"
Photo by Jeff Kravitz


A Day in the Life

PHISH Hampton 3/8/09

Set One:

Bathtub Gin
My Friend, My Friend
Scent of a Mule
All Of These Dreams
She Thinks I Still Care*
Army of One
Cars Trucks Buses

Play it, Cactus!
Photo by Jeff Kravitz

Set Two:

Down With Disease^
Seven Below
The Horse >
Silent In The Morning
Moma Dance
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Wading In The Velvet Sea
Slave To The Traffic Light

"It's a guitboard."
"It's a keytar".
"Is it a keyboard or a guitar?"

Photo by Julia Mordaunt


Tweezer Reprise

*George Jones original, sung by Mike
**with Page on Keytar...(Schiff Happens: freakin' keytar!)