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Episode 67: Billy Strings
Seth and Rob had an opportunity to sit down with a young man who is setting on fire the traditional music-flavored wing of the jamband world, Billy Strings. The hosts in advance of the interview discuss Billy and his touring band, and then throw to the interview - conducted backstage at Terminal West just before Billy and his band performed there (all of the LIVE music you hear in the episode is from the Billy Strings show that night). Billy first picked up the guitar at the age of 4, and we learn about some of the many things that influenced him...
Episode 66: Stanley Clarke
Seth and Rob set the table with a talk about Stanley Clarke and all of the musicians he has worked with over the years. Clarke is an innovative jazz-and-beyond bassist who even had a bit of hit with the title track of his Stanley Clarke Band record, “School Days” in the 70s, and with the landmark fusion band, Return To Forever. We learn about when the now-iconic “School Days” bass line came to Stanley, and about how RTF-band-mate Chick Corea convinced Stanley to start writing years before that.
Seth and Rob had one night together before they won’t see each other for several weeks, so they fired up this spontaneous episode. After a nod to Ben and Jerry’s new “It’s Ice…..Cream” flavor, Polay and Clark, Osiris and the Alternate Routes podcast, the hosts announce that friends of the show Great Peacock and Infamous Stringdusters will be doing four dates together March 27-30. The hosts talk about Great Peacock and play their recent track “Rattlesnake,” which features Tom Blankenship of My Morning Jacket on bass.
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Check out Rob's most recent review of Patty Griffin's performance in Duluth, GA for Relix Magazine in the August 2018 edition below
DISCLAIMER: This review includes my opinions and mine alone. Please do not take the publishing of this as some sort of suggestion that said these opinions should be taken as any sort of a “definitive.” However music hits you remains valid irrespective of what anyone else has to say about it. This goes for almost any music. Should you find that you would like to comment upon this, or add your own thoughts to the discussion, please send an email to email@example.com. Anything sent will be considered for inclusion on this page.
My Reaction To Umphrey’s McGee’s “it’s you” release
By Rob Turner
Last week Umphrey’s McGee continued the ongoing celebration of its 20th Anniversary by releasing it’s you, in sudden and unannounced fashion. This is a collection of songs culled from the same sessions that gave us it’s not us earlier this year. While the band has built a deserved reputation for being one of the most “fan friendly” in all of music, the assertion on the band’s website that, “it is not us, it’s truly you, the fans” while accurate, does not strike me as the theme of this record. This lyrically cohesive, musically, and particularly harmonically adventurous release seems to come with its own message, and one that to some extent revisits the theme of one of its most celebrated songs, “Divisions.”
The songs of it’s you are filled with themes of finding common ground, paying attention to detail, looking beyond one’s frame of reference, coming together, connectivity, compromise and the importance of individualism over the parroting of dogma. The lyrics in this package strike me as the band’s most direct to date, and they speak to me as a comment upon how strident and polarizing the discourse of today can be - be it in personal relationships, or on a societal level. Our country has become increasingly dominated by opinions derived from inflexible, uncompromising, sometimes even extremist frames of reference.
The lyrics of it’s you seem to address this, and as such this release resonates with me more than any other Umphrey’s McGee studio release. This is so despite that fact that this band’s music in general, and specifically the lyrics of Brendan Bayliss, were a vital part of my own coping with the emotions associated with my divorce.
It doesn’t hurt that in it’s you the band touches upon themes addressed by my most cherished lyricist, Bob Dylan - the self-reliance in “Trust Yourself” (“What We Could Get,” “Attachments”) and the side-choosing, and sense of being in the wrong place of “Desolation Row” (“Triangle Tear,” “Push and Pull”). In fact we are in that territory very quickly, as the lead track, “Triangle Tear” begins lyrically with Bayliss singing….
“Whose side are you really on, there maybe be one last chance to turn it all around
Whose right who already left, if you’re asking me what did you expect?”
The voice speaks of a solution being buried while the world keeps on with its so-called “evolution” - with many too accepting of easy answers and being too eager to win the approval of the people within similar social circles than they are in looking within (“I’ll take a nibble if it’s free and it comes with a gift”) - people being more interested in arriving at an opinion, than in careful examination “a scribble to the side line, maybe you missed.” This in turn blindly leads us into increasingly dangerous territory, “we bury the solution, we don’t know why.”
The song also seems to comment on how the net result is that we become further mired in our own camps, in a time when we should be efforting more to understand each other. “I realize where you’re coming from, but do you understand it only works for some?” We advance ourselves through compromise and finding common ground, not by shouting at each other from positions of inflexibility. “There’s three sides we need to cover, there’s yours and their mine but there’s got to be another.” People aren’t looking for higher understanding, they are just digging their heels in the ground, “decisions gotta be, what was already made.” It is important to note that Joel Cummins’ keyboard work is pivotal, at times echoing the Bayliss vocals, other times merging with Jake Cinninger’s typically tone-perfect, at times acrobatic guitar work to underscore the urgency of our situation and the darkness of our plight as the third point of the triangle continues to tear away, or is it bringing tears? Either works for me.
Opportunism and finding one’s self beyond the talking points seem to fill the lyrics of “What We Could Get,” a track which immediately joins the “best ever” conversation regarding the annals of recorded Cinninger compositions. The voice of the song seems to be speaking to someone who has gotten themselves boxed-in and is in such a rut that (s)he has lost her/himself. “Walk through the empty walls alone and find yourself.” Subtle effects lend a sort of ethereal anguish to Cinniger’s vocal as he sings...
“Never looked beyond the lines that keep us in
You know its strange to you
Always wanted the best of what we could get
Given to you”
I initially thought the ensuing, “Push and Pull” was going to be about surrendering to apathy, but the lyrics below suggest that the voice is trying to break someone free of the chains of his/her own closed mind and the associated hollow and curious joy he/she gets from flaunting it.
“I still don’t know what it might mean, but I’d meet you somewhere in between
I won’t plead no I won’t beg, but I can’t look the other way.
The truth is I’m still confused, but I don’t hope the same for you
Heaven always knows the right line and when, to write it down.”
The voice of the song brings forth what may be the thesis statement for the record, ““The truth as far as I’m concerned, without an open mind you’re never gonna learn.” There is something to be learned from EVERYONE - if you remain aware of this, then common ground should not be impossible to find, and your interests should lie beyond merely winning arguments.
“Whatever happened to, these people that I thought I knew
this isn’t where I thought we would be.
I turned to look around,
everyone I knew is gone before we even had a chance to breathe.”
We can argue even about the reasons why this has happened, but too many people have, in the blink of an eye, become completely lost in themselves and in their own world perspective.
By the time we get to “In The Black,” the hard-driving rhythm section of Kris Myers and Andy Farag, and muscular bass from Ryan Stasik each serve to suggest an increasing and unrelenting urgency. “Don’t misread what the signs all say, it’s not up to you anyway.” You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant and desperate to arrive at broad, inflexible decision points. “We never even have a say, the plea however has to be made.” Yes, it is great that the powerless now have a voice in this world, yet the voice of this song is begging for this power to be used carefully.
The importance of careful evaluation of one’s position “don’t be afraid to live again, no” and the reality that there is no fear in compromise, in fact it should be your goal, “the in-between is where you’ve got to get, we’re all the same here in the end though” each are also addressed.
The bombast in this song, like that which is on much of this record, is purposeful. It serves to underscore how we are on a very dangerous precipice, and too many people are too completely lost in themselves to see it. It’s almost as if Umphrey’s wants to coax with thoughtful lyrics, and shake sense into people with occasionally aggressive music. The frantic nature of the bridge is particularly exemplary of each. The voice (is) couples its own compromise offer with an expression of frustration, repeating “maybe it’s me and I’m misunderstanding you, but lately it feels like I’m never getting through” toward the end of the song - which ultimately merges with a closing instrumental that harbors as much elegance as it does power before closing with a return to the central riff of the song.
“Xmas at Wartime” is a lilting instrumental with a subtle march, which seems to suggest that we are slowly and quietly marching ourselves to our own death. The title suggests that bastardizations of, and arguments about religion are a large part of this parade toward our own demise.
The title of the next song “Seasons” also comes with its own suggestions. Here it is the passing of time, and the way the truly introspective person’s sense of self can evolve. There is self-examination within the urgency here, the voice throughout the song is looking within with one eye, while the other eye is fixed on the clock as it runs down.
“So if you’ve got a better song
Then I can’t wait to sing along
But how long do we have to wait?”
The sleepy fire with which Bayliss sings suggests the voice of the song’s bemusement, perhaps with the situation, perhaps with whom the voice is singing to, perhaps with himself.
“So I look beyond the mirror, ‘cause I know I can’t forgive
All my indiscretions - I’m still learning how to live”
Again we hear about the “facts and opinions and the differences they share,” but this one seems like a person not wanting a personal relationship to be infected by the divisions of the world, first with, “I’m just trying to tell you so that you know I still care” and then later with, “so if it’s possible, to make myself responsible - I’ll set the table if you’ll make yourself available.” This is a call to togetherness. An olive branch being extended within a storm. This is a key song in the collection, as it exhibits that the message of this record is not being sent with any sort of haughtiness.
The voice wants to get beyond the surface, so how appropriate for a chunky-riff laden song like “Nether” to follow. Ominous vocals (including a most stridently exuberant “haaa-eeey” out of Jake) are juxtaposed with those which are more melodic, in Opeth-like fashion. Cinninger is at once relating a sort of anger and despair. Again, the hard-driving music highlights how imperative the need is. Cinninger is borderline yelling when he says “to see into your future” and then Bayliss takes over the vocals to croon a reminder which includes “it’s not about who’s wrong or right, the situation’s yours and mine” over a music backdrop which somehow harbors both breeze and brawn. Then they return to the almost industrial feel from earlier, resolving in tandem with the declarative “time, let’s go.”
“Hanging Chads,” written by Stasik, is another suggestive title, here indicating misrepresentation. Many Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election were misinterpreted due to “hanging chads” on the ballots. The “I fucking hate you” lyric and Guinness-soaked Flogging Molly’esque Irish punk feel seem to almost mock the stupidity of how hatred has evolved not primarily from actual hateful behavior, but mostly from the pathetic over-reactions and overt distortions of opinions. Sometimes it isn’t even the opinions themselves, but presumptions of the motivations of the opiner (if this wasn’t a word, it is now, my friends) which seem to motivate these attacks.
One quick personal note here. I have been listening to, and seeing Umphrey’s for 17 or so years now. Quite frankly, more often than not my enjoyment of their songs comes with time. Many of the ones I now treasure did not “reach” me much initially….sometimes not at all. The appreciation for me often comes with the benefit of time and from experiencing live versions of the songs multiple times either through recordings or seeing them performed live. I mention this because I found it of great personal significance that this record which has resonated so clearly with me ends with two songs, each of which I enjoyed from the very first time I heard them - each of which are also wildly improved from outstanding studio treatment.
“Attachments” begins the summarization of thesis.
“Really there’s no obligation
When everything is left to your own motivation
And even if you can’t ever find it
You know it never hurts if you gotta redefine”
“And while we’re on the subject
Aint nobody perfect
Somebody will always lose
And the last time I checked it
We’re all still connected
Even through different views”
The band’s message should be clear as a bell to even the most casual listener at this point. We are all flawed, we are all in this together, so why would any of us try to push anyone away with inflexible thought? Bayliss is singing at points with borderline frantic desperation, but the melodic chorus and metallic lilt to the rhythm keeps the song from losing inviting qualities. Why would anyone choose to blindly attach themselves to the words of another? Ironically this can isolate people even from themselves, as it only provides, “empty shade” from the light of higher understanding. We need someone to believe in, but we should hold onto that belief loosely. The song closes with measured Cinninger guitar work and hard-driving Kris Myers drums bolstering the repeated lyrical resolve of, “don’t be so ungrateful if you know you’ll never use it at all,” which gives way to a superb, “think this shit over” guitar solo from Cinninger.
Then the sweet relief of the delicate acoustic guitar and “what is that gorgeous sound?” accompaniment introduction to a song which became among my favorite songs EVER from the very first time I heard it in St. Augustine a few years back, “Upward.” Absolutely superb production and moving lyrics drive the song….with Myers deftly handling the tempos, some varying with subtlety, others more radically. The lyrics start with arguably one of the great tragedies of all of this…..the loss of our ability to make each other laugh - which when taken appropriately actually builds bridges, …..something so obvious to some of us….yet something becoming increasingly rare. Hypersensitivity is eroding this. However the voice of the song efforts to make this vital message palatable by again looking within for his own errors in his ways.
“Wit and wisdom used to visit now and then
‘Cuz I wasn’t talking I was listenin’
My overthinking tendency is a burden here
The instance is a technicality I’ll forgive.”
The song also speaks to how the “system isn’t working right,” and how there is “too much space” (the table-pounding extremists have too much of a voice?). The song, and it turn the record ends with a call to step away from feeling entitled (“you know as well as I, deserve’s too strong a word to write) followed by a classic Umphrey’s build, with the band swirling with increasing strength behind the brilliant Cinninger guitar work. Then it returns to the “system isn’t working right” stanza and offers one final energy burst before slowly fading away into the ether and we are left to ourselves and our decisions on how best to interact with those with whom we disagree moving forward.
As we were reminded in “Push and Pull,” - “If this is one mistake you know we only have ourselves to thank.”
- Rob Turner, 05/23/2018
Our program's co-host and producer, Rob Turner, shares his thoughts on various releases, webcasts and eventually anything he experiences. Thanks to Nugs.net, Rob has been able to watch and review many of their webcasts. He reviews some of those, and other webcasts, here (and elsewhere). Please check out these and his other reviews. If you would like a webcast reviewed, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dead & Co.
A lovely Wednesday evening in Atlanta, GA saw Dead & Co. hit their stride as a band, with exceptional takes on 'Bird Song' and 'Viola Lee' at Philips Arena.
Dead & Co.
Two nights after Thanksgiving, Dead & Co. head to Columbus, OH for the first time in two years to continue their streak of Bob Dylan covers and a ballad out of China Cat.
Dead & Co.
capitol one arena
A trip to our nation's capitol right before Thanksgiving served as an example of how Bob Weir's penchant for 'slow-tempo' can be a very, very good thing for Dead & Co.
DEAD & CO.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Returning to the site where their performance career began approximately two years ago, Dead & Co. performed a two-night stand at one of the world's most iconic venues.
PREVIOUS wTnS LIVE EVENTS
4:19...Got A Minute to Give? Charity Auction
Inside Out wTnS host & 'Your Rocktioneer' Seth Weiner will be hosting an upcoming live (and silent) auction at the SweetWater 420 Festival in Atlanta, GA on April 20-22,2018. Seth will be also coordinating live games, Rob will be on site for live podcast interviews and some of our Osiris friends are traveling to Atlanta to share in the fun at the SweetWater Experience Tent for the weekend!
SweetWater 420 Fest Band Charity Auction benefiting SweetWater 420 Fest performing artists’ charity of choice.
Auction items include concert tickets, signed memorabilia, photos, meet & greet with artists and more. Details on these auction items and exciting live onsite experiences during 420 Fest weekend coming soon. Mobile bidding begins April 17 and lasts through 420 Fest weekend April 20-22 available to 420 Fest patrons and anyone with access to mobile platform.
Bidding Platform Registration:
Mobile Registration: TEXT 420Fest to 24700
The SweetWater 420 Fest Charity Auction is produced by Seth Weiner Your Rocktioneer, Georgia Auctioneer License Number: AU004320. Seth Weiner combines his comedic and engaging on-stage personality with the traditional live-auctioneer excitement resulting in bidding amounts which often exceed expectations.
Seth Weiner is the owner of Shimon Presents, Inc., a company established in 1998 that has been providing a variety of music festival services such as the Work Exchange Team, LLC, and the festiVOL™ volunteer management software. Through these programs Seth has helped thousands of eager music enthusiasts work their way not only into music festivals, but into the music business as well. Today many of them work in prominent positions throughout the industry. Much of the success of Seth’s company is born out of his own innovation based on his unique view of the music world.
In addition to his businesses Seth has been the Activities Coordinator for Cloud 9 Adventures for the last 16 years, creating their unique artist involved activities and serving as Emcee and host. These artist driven activities include activations such as live poolside interviews, artist and fan interactive games, meet-and-greets, and entertainment on full charter cruises and resort events across the globe (My Morning Jacket's One Big Holiday, Zac Brown Band's Castaway, Widespread Panic's Panic en la Playa, Jam Cruise, Holy Ship, and more…). These activities are often spoken of as event highlights by the upscale music fans, which regularly attend these “destination concerts.”
Seth is also a licensed auctioneer that helps raise money for NPOs, Schools, and other organizations. With his comedic personality his auctions are fun and exciting and are an unforgettable experience. Seth knows how to rise up those bids! He also is a motivational speaker and accepts requests to share his insight and experience with students at Universities across the US.
Ever since discovering Boston radio legend Larry Glick on his bedside tiny transistor radio sometime in the early 70s, Rob Turner has had a relentless fascination with radio. Music would soon afterwards become an obsession, and after seeing Frank Zappa in Boston in 1981, adventurous rock music quickly became a favorite. A graduate of Boston University’s College of Communication, and perpetual student of many aspects of the media world, Rob has, as he says, “skittered on the fringes” of the music industry for decades. He has consistently been a rabid supporter of live music, having seen roughly 100 shows a year from across the musical genre spectrum since the 1980s. He has also at times been accused of being a journalist, writing for print magazines like Relix, Guitar One, Honest Tune and Hittin’ The Note as well as countless internet vehicles.
Rob has lived in Atlanta since the summer of 1999 and very much found a home in the Atlanta music scene. He has worked in various capacities at many local venues, most notably The Variety Playhouse and his current Vip Host position at The Coca Cola Roxy Theater in Atlanta. His many oft-uncompensated contributions to various web sites, most frequently news items on jambands.com, were offered with the intention on shining light on music artists from Atlanta and beyond. He has been a tireless and shameless grass roots promoter since moving to Georgia, and was for a few years a key part of an organic music-based specialty show which aired on Atlanta’s 50,000 watt FM Station WZGC. Rob selects, researches and quarterbacks the interviews, and produces the podcast.
Questions, comments, concerns...don't hold back! Let us know.
Is Rob steamrolling Seth?
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Is there a new band you'd like for us to check out, and interview?
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