Showing posts with label Stone Temple Pilots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stone Temple Pilots. Show all posts

Jul 21, 2017

In Defense of Chester Bennington

 by Robert Dean

Today’s culture is weird. There’s this underlying, grim face of reality that people feel like they’ve got a license to be an unrelenting fucking asshole because they’ve got a keyboard.

I’ve done my fair share of shit talking, trolling, or arguing with strangers because I like provoking the idea that not all “snowflakes” need a safe space. But, for once this isn’t about politics. It’s about common decency.

Today, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park committed suicide. That’s sad. This isn’t a defense of Linkin Park’s music. It’s a defense that someone who is rich can be troubled, too. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’ve got all the answers. Because surely Chris Cornell, Marilyn Monroe, or Robin Williams, or Kurt Cobain didn’t have them, either or they’d still be alive. 

Suicide isn’t something to make jokes about, or talk about how bad Linkin Park sucked. I don’t like Linkin Park. I’ve always disliked their music. But this isn’t about my musical tastes or me: it’s about the need for proper mental health care and the stigma of depression to finally have a place in the public arena.

Chester Bennington left behind millions of dollars, a career that was still very active, and a family. Six kids and a wife now have to pick up the pieces of his death, and all some dork from Iowa who works at a 7/11 can do is think they’re witty by offering some inane perspective on bad music.

I hope some of you think better when cracking jokes. Not too long ago, it felt like a knife to the soul of rock and roll when Chris Cornell did the same thing. Now, it’s cheaper because the consensus of music-obsessed people doesn’t like the guy’s tunes? That’s a selfish way to process information.

Mental health needs to be addressed in this country. From school shootings to people hurting themselves because no matter how many people know their name, they feel alone. That’s not funny to joke about. Plenty of folks deal with things every day, and for a lot of those elitists who piss on this news, a lot of people you’re probably friends with got their start on Linkin Park. Why would you laugh about that? It’s cruel and not funny.

Being flat out mean is a pedestrian, asshole move. Millions of people found joy in Linkin Park’s music, no matter how irrelevant it may be to some of us. Robbing someone of those minutes of joy is sad because we all have our heroes who inspire us.  

Give Chester Bennington’s family time to grieve. And really, no one thinks your comments are funny. Chances are, Greg from Ohio, there’s plenty of shit wrong with you and just because your favorite obscure band is alive and kicking, doesn’t give you the thumbs up to be a cunt.

If Chris Cornell’s family respected this guy enough to let him sing at the memorial, that ought to lend him a little credibility. Even Stone Temple Pilots saw his abilities, despite public opinion.

Don’t wish ill on the dead. It’s not a good look, and no one thinks you’re cool.

Feb 6, 2017

New Blood: Penguins With Knives

New Blood: Penguins with Knives
by Robert Dean

New Orleans is known for music. Some of it is colorful, shiny, and makes you want to dance down the block. The brass swings and the grooves drop like the bodies that litter the daily news. There’s hip-hop in New Orleans that leans on cultural nuance and themes that extoll the virtues of inner city life. In New Orleans, music is the lifeblood of all things, all events, all moments have a beat. But, there’s one style of music that New Orleans is especially adept at churning out and when it’s done right, it aches personality and signature. That music is sludge.
There’s something about that humidity, the water, the scent of the air that affects band’s mentality in how they attack a song, how they pull on their guitars and get to work. Summers in New Orleans are miserable. The nights are sticky and refuse to let up. Because of that unrelenting heat, it scrambles the mental eggs, it morphs perceptions and equates to fluctuating views on the world at large. And because of all these factors, it goes right back into the blueprints of sludge. The groove is soulful. The attack isn’t for the jugular like most metal. It's more for hoisting beers and bobbing your head because it’s too hot to mosh.
The grand New Orleans tradition of heavy metal has lent us such luminaries as Phil Anselmo who’s fronted a bazillion bands, but most notably Pantera and DOWN. There’s Eyehategod, Soilent Green, Goatwhore (Admittedly not sludge), Thou, Mountain of Wizard, Exhorder, Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity (Pepper is from New Orleans, and Pepper era COC is the best COC), and Acid Bath.
The musical heartbeat goes deep, and it goes funky. Some of the bands maybe are or aren’t so deep on the spectrum of what one defines “sludge” but to drive a finer point, all of these bands aren’t just good, they’re titans of their respective necks of the woods. 
But, as the New Orleans scene continues, there needs to be new blood. And finally, after a long withdrawal of bands to count among those actualizing what the Crescent City sounds like, we’ve arrived at Penguins with Knives. Admittedly, it took me a while to get past the name. But, I’ve been known to enjoy the first two Korn albums, as well as don’t mind some Cracker or Toad the Wet Sprocket.
On their debut e.p. Penguins with Knives manage to lay a whole lot of history out in just a collection of songs. Think the riffage of DOWN, and maybe even some vintage DeLeo brothers Stone Temple Pilots mixed with vocal delivery of a more frantic, paranoid Acid Bath. On each of the four songs, they offer different looks into the band, allowing for a signifier of what’s to come. The battery is tight and the guitar work doesn’t feel bargained for, or that they’re trying to cram too much into a small space. A lot of times on the e.p. the less is more approach works rather than doing the impossible to come off cheesy in the admitted Sabbath worship that’s at the heart of the style.

Being their first batch of songs, the completeness of the concept is considerably there. That’s exciting. In New Orleans, bad music and bad food never last. If something doesn’t stand on its own, folks move on. There’s just too much delicious competition. This debut e.p. stands on individual merit against any and all comers in New Orleans, Southeastern Louisana, and the Gulf Coast.
Get Penguins with Knives on your radar. The band will be fun to follow as they progress. There’s little snapshots into faster more punk-y inspired stuff, and then on a dime, the vibe flips to a Blues vibe. The collective identity of being chameleons of the groove is intoxicating and as we see the band grow and develop, only time will tell where they go next.

Dec 4, 2015

R.I.P. Scott Weiland

I don't have any poignant words or deep insights on the passing of former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver lead singer, Scott Weiland. I just have memories and feelings. STP hit when I was a freshman in college so they were a part of the soundtrack of my formative years. Even though I was a fan of the supposed "intelligent" grunge rock of Pearl Jam and Nirvana back in the day, I loved STP just as much. Maybe the critic in me tried to push me toward Cobain and Vedder's more serious and self-important rock at times, but the music fan in me was just happy listening to Weiland and the boys play crunchy alternative rock with no pretense. They never got the acclaim or the respect of other bands of their generation, but that's not as important as connecting with fans. (hypocrisy alert!)

Weiland was a wildly magnetic frontman, a talented vocalist, and a solid songwriter. He was also a heroin addict, which is likely why he's no longer with us. So glad I got to see STP near the end of his time with them.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite tunes from STP and Velvet Revolver. RIP Scott. Addiction sucks.

May 5, 2011

Beale Street Music Festival: A Look Back

I enjoyed a full three days of music this past Friday through Sunday at Tom Lee Park on the banks of Old Man River. We started the weekend with nice temperatures and blue skies, an almost unheard of combination for the Beale Street Music Festival, whose name has become synonymous with rain, mud and rain. Still, the mighty Mississippi was swollen and forecast to spill over its banks within days so our watery backdrop was immense and threatening.


The first show we went to was Cage the Elephant. They were loud, obnoxious, young and pretty ragged, sound-wise. Of course, that fits their punkish persona and it worked well. The lead singer told us he was spaced out on pain pills due to a tooth extraction a couple days previous, but it didn't show. He was nuts, all over the stage and screaming his lungs out. We listened to about 8 songs, including "In One Ear," "Around My Head" and "Aberdeen" before departing to catch the end of Everclear's set the next stage down.

I'll never claim to be a huge fan of Art Alexakis and company, but I did enjoy several of their songs from the late 90's and early 00's. I can't say Everclear sounded especially enthused Friday night, but the band was tight and Art's voice sounded good. It was a greatest hits set-list, thankfully leaving out some of their dreadful cover songs. Curiously, their sound was a lot lower than other bands we heard and the mix was kind of flat. Still, they did a solid job with favorites like "Wonderful," "Everything to Everyone" and "Santa Monica," which Art said had bought him a couple of houses and a couple of divorces.

We took a beer break after Everclear, not caring to journey back down to see MGMT or B.o.B. and far from enthused by Slightly Stoopid. However, Stone Temple Pilots, the night's headliner was after the aforementioned stoner band, so we eventually pushed our way through beardy hippies and smoke-clouds to get a good spot for STP. While obviously a musically talented band, as evidenced by a couple of rocking songs, including a spot-on cover of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings," Slightly Stoopid stuck to the Sublime-meets-jam band sound that they've obviously built their career on. I'm sure for tokers and diehards, the band is great, but I didn't care for their set at all.

I'm an unabashed fan of STP. They weren't exactly on my "must see bands" list, but still, I don't see them as the faux-grunge garbage band as many rock snobs do. I didn't know what to expect from the recently re-formed group, given Scott Weiland's sketchy history on and off-stage. I'm happy to say they rocked Tom Lee Park. Sprinkling three songs from their newest self-titled album in with a ton of hits like "Plush" and "Interstate Love Song," STP was tight as they could be and sounded great. Scott Weiland was pleasantly weird, dancing around like tribesman by a fire and interjecting odd statements and prayers at a moment's notice. And despite a couple of audience members trying to bait him into a meltdown, he maintained his composure and vocals throughout. I'd have to count them among the best live hard-rock bands I've seen.


True to the rep of the Beale Street Music Festival, the rain came Saturday. Not much, but it continued a streak.

This was my first highly anticipated artist of the festival and Paul did not disappoint. He was funny, humble, soulful and a helluva entertainer. Peppering in self-deprecating jokes and homespun wisdom, Paul had the crowd engaged for the full set. Besides being a great singer and songwriter, he came across as a genuinely down-to-earth guy with an almost innocent appreciation for the attention he was being given and the artists he was sharing the stage with. His set included my favorite of his, "Love Scar," along with others like "A Lot of Good Reasons" and "I Have a Good Day." He and his band tore the place down with the rollicking closer "Mission Temple Fireworks Stand," leaving everybody wanting more than an hour and a half festival show could give us.

Do I really need to write anything else besides his name? The man's a freaking legend. While frail of body, a bit weak of voice and fairly rambling between tunes, The Killer put on an awesome show, proving there's still plenty of fire in the tank. He did all the favorites, a few classic covers and, of course, he ended with "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin'." He even summoned up the strength to do his trademark "playing while standing up" towards the end. Wonderful and unforgettable.

The band sounded great, performing nearly their entire debut album along with 2 or 3 new songs from the album they're about to record. They were tight as hell and very engaging with the crowd. Their performance is not so much the story here as their audience. It was by far the biggest crowd of the entire event, massive even. A friend of mine who'd seen Dave Matthews Band at Beale a few years ago said it was far larger than DMB's audience. Also, the crowd seemed to know every word and reacted to the songs like The Beatles themselves were on stage. I had no idea they were so popular. In a day and age of segmented tastes and fan-bases, this was the one act that seemed to bring everyone together. We'll see how that holds up in the fickle wind of pop culture.

Lucinda was in great voice and her band was tight. Her song selection, however, mirrored my general impression of her most recent work… it was tepid for the most part. She did "Joy," "Can't Let Go" and "Buttercup," among others, which I enjoyed. The rest was fairly bland; certainly not providing much excitement. I wasn't thrilled with the set.

John sounded awesome and his band was even better. They were thoroughly impressive. The theme of his set seemed to be flipping songs on their heads. The songs from his recent stripped-down album were played with bombast and vigor by the full band, bringing life to tunes that to me were just okay on record. The hits were played either stripped down or with completely new arrangements. It was very cool. The crowd ate it up, and John was funny and conversational. A side-note: I saw the well-known liberal and environmentalist the next day climbing into a massive black SUV to leave his 5-star hotel :).


The rain came in sheets Sunday, and the river was up another foot or so, now lapping at the sidewalks just beyond the side retaining walls of the park. Despite the weather and the impending flooding, the festival thankfully went on mostly as scheduled.

Farce the Music's house band started without the benefit of a soundcheck due to a tornado warning earlier. I and my listening party had hunkered down in a trolley stop, but we made it safely, but muddily to the concert on time. Ben Nichols admitted the sound was a "clusterf*ck" but it really wasn't bad at all. They were as solid as ever despite the lack of preparation and the weather-diminished crowd. They ran through what Ben termed as "our greatest hits…. or at least uh, local favorites" including "My Tears Don't Matter Much" and "Sixes and Sevens." They also threw in one new tune that will be on their next record called "Women and Work." It was even more in the Memphis R&B direction than most of the songs on their last release. Good stuff. Horn section and everything. Lucero NEVER disappoints.

Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of Gregg nor the Allman Brothers, but this was a nice show. He performed solo tunes and legendary favorites alike, including "Just Another Rider," "Whipping Post" and an especially moving rendition of "Melissa."

Some girls started mud-sliding during the end of Allman's show. It was very entertaining and some people even started a tip cup for them.

Another huge crowd for another hot band. The Avetts were loose, loud and awesome. The longest soundcheck I've ever endured yielded the best sounding set of the weekend. Seriously, I'm a fan, but The Avetts blew me away. They were energetic and lively and the crowd ate it up. Selections included "Shame," "Will You Return?," the Prine cover "Spanish Pipedream" and the lovely closer "I and Love and You." If you like bluegrass or newgrass or indie-folk, you owe it to yourself to catch the bros. Killer, killer show! (Another side-note: During the set, the crowd gasped as a river boat rolled by virtually right beside us - see photo.)

I'm assuredly on the Farrar side of the Jay or Jeff argument. However, Wilco this Sunday night made me stand up and realize the utter talent of the more commercially successful splinter of Uncle Tupelo. They were amazing. Forgive me for not knowing the guitarist's name, but he was stunningly good. I've seen some 80 live acts in my life and I'd count him as the best guitar player I've ever seen live (ahead of the likes of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Kirk Hammett). Wilco, despite a nearly 7 month break from playing live, confidently crushed a set that included "Shot in the Arm," "Monday," "Jesus, etc." and probably the best tune I've ever seen played live, "Impossible Germany." I'm not a big fan of the band's recent releases, but I'm now a huge fan of Wilco. Tweedy was great, in excellent voice and in harmony with the crowd. His best between-song line of the night was regarding the scent of barbecue and sausage wafting through the air, "We may become the anti-Morrisey after this. We won't play a show unless we smell burning meat." All hail Wilco.

Jeff Tweedy and crew


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