Sunday, December 2, 2018

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS with DRAB MAJESTY LIVE THE SYLVEE MADISON, WI NOVEMBER 28, 2018

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
with DRAB MAJESTY
LIVE
THE SYLVEE
MADISON, WI 
NOVEMBER 28, 2018

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS:
Jimmy Chamberlin: Drums, Percussion, Keyboard/Synth
William Patrick Corgan: Lead Vocals, Guitars
James Iha: Guitars, Vocals
Jeff Schroeder: Guitars, Keyboard/Synth
with
Jack Bates: Bass Guitar

Linda Strawberry: Creative Director

It finally happened and it was exceedingly more than worth the 25 year wait!!!!

Aside from the live event that was simulcast upon Twitter three months ago (which I covered extensively in the September 2018 section of this blogsite), never in the 25 years of my life being a devoted fan, have I ever seen The Smashing Pumpkins live in concert. It has simply been an event that never quite lined up smoothly with the goings-on of my life over and again throughout the years. In fact, I think that by this time, I had quietly and secretly began to tell myself that maybe the ship of seeing the band live on stage and in person had sailed as it just never seemed to be something that would float itself as a legitimate possibility.

So, imagine my utter surprise when opened my Facebook page to find that a friend had messaged me an announcement that The Smashing Pumpkins would not only be coming to my home city of Madison, WI but to a brand new venue called The Sylvee, which had just opened in September, has already hosted a slew of triumphant artists from Garbage, Kamasi Washington, Coheed and Cambria, Ghost, Gov't Mule, Bon Iver, Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists and more, and this is the most notable feature as far as I am concerned...The Sylvee is just a few short blocks from my place of employment. If need be, I could just walk there!!! It was as if the universe opened a door specifically for me, lighting a way to the inevitable. I purchased a ticket as quickly as I was able to do so as there was no excuse whatsoever to miss this performance!
 
On the late afternoon of November 28th, immediately after leaving my place of employment--a preschool located a few short blocks from the State Capital building--I drove and parked my car essentially one street away from The Sylvee. Yes indeed, it is a distance that I could've walked but as the temperature was 20 degrees at best, I found it preferable to stay warm for as long as I was able for my plan was to wait in whatever queue I happened to discover outside of the venue as this event was indeed a sold out show and my additional plan was to somehow, someway find my spot at the lip of the stage. Since this was to be my very first concert by The Smashing Pumpkins, then I wanted to be fully immersed in the experience.

Walking over to the Sylvee around 4:50 p.m., with the band's tour buses in sight and the booming sound check from indoors distinctly audible from the street  (I heard "Today," "Cherub Rock" and even the rarity "Speed Kills"), my excitement instantly began to mount higher than ever...but that was NOTHING compared to the small gathering already lined up, most notably, a profoundly boorish and boisterous couple from Canada (the less said about them the better...).

For the following 60 minutes or so, I waited on-line to gain entrance into the club, while moving my body to attempt to create, and/or keep, some sense of warmth on this increasingly frigid night. As I was attending the show alone, I soon found myself conversing with three line-mates; one who had driven from La Crosse, WI to Madison, a lovely young woman who lived nearby and finally, another woman who arrived from Virginia and has traveled around the country to see the band over and again. While our city's show was a SOLD OUT affair, I essentially thought that the patronage was exclusive to Madison itself, with possibly some attendants from Chicago. So, imagine my surprise when my new Virginian fiend informed me that at her hotel, she had heard that there were people from Alaska who voyaged to Wisconsin jut for this show!! Incredible!!!

By the point where it felt as if we could not withstand the cold night air any longer (especially as word had traveled down the line that supposedly the venue would not open its doors until 6:30 p.m. instead of the advertised 6:00 p.m.), The Sylvee at long last opened its doors, we quickly ventured inside, passed through the metal detectors and we were all on our way.

While in line outdoors, my line mates and myself pledged to try and get ourselves to the stage and since we were all solo attendees, we would save each other's spaces for bathroom trips and so on. While I wanted to find a spot on James Iha's side of the stage, Heather (from Virginia) opted for Jeff Schroeder's, leaving my new friends Chris (from La Crosse) and Hilary (from a walking distance away from the venue) along with me.

With spaces right at the stage secured, and a brief bathroom trip (during which I was indeed wowed by the striking rock and roll paraphernalia designed lavatory decor as well as the stunning wall sized, made entirely from cassettes portrait of Sylvia Frank, the late co-founder of Frank Productions and whose nickname is the moniker for this venue, which is housed directly outside of the bathrooms), I returned to my front row, standing only perch right alongside Hilary to my left, with Chris right behind us.

It was only a matter of time...

DRAB MAJESTY
Shortly after 7:30 p.m., the house lights went down and out onto the stage walked the two tall, thin, essentially identical looking leather clad, silver wig adorned figures who make up the evening's opening act Drab Majesty. The effect, even before one note was played, was undeniably eerie and even a little unsettling due to its immediate strangeness. One band member strapped on a guitar while the other set themselves up by a small set of synthesizers and after a somewhat pregnant pause, the music began.

Hilary had expressed to me earlier in the evening that after listening to some songs and samples, she felt that the music of Drab Majesty was reminiscent of something like what The Cure or Depeche Mode would have devised and once the band began their 45 minute set, I had to mostly agree with her assessment.

Yes, the goth aesthetic of The Cure and the grim electronic soundscapes of Depeche Mode were more than apparent. Yet, the band's synthetics, which flowed back and forth between feeling icy and warm also weaved an intoxicating spell that conveyed a darkly romantic and turbulent sensuality as conveyed through the pulsating bass and throbbing programmed percussive rhythms.

The deceptively simplistic visual display was greatly effective in assisting the weaving of the band's  somber spell. The gorgeous lighting found compelling ways to puncture the enveloping darkness which bathed Drab Majesty in a malevolent shroud. Musically, the entire set was beautifully seamless as each song was augmented by lengthy synthetic textures that, to my ears, recalled the hypnotic somnambulism that I have always drowned inside of when listening to Tangerine Dream albums. 
I can only imagine what it must feel like for artists placed in the position of being an evening's opening act, especially when, it could be argued, that a large amount of the audience is not there to see you and quite possibly are unfamiliar with you in the first place, much like myself. But I do have to hand it to Drab Majesty who indeed delivered a performance of wicked woefulness injected with a gloomy eroticism that did indeed captivate powerfully.

But now...it was time to ROCK!

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Around 8:40 p.m., after the road crew rapidly re-arranged the stage post Drab Majesty's set, the house lights faded and volume from the audience crested into a sonic wave as The Smashing Pumpkins took to the stage and immediately launched into the monolithic "Solara," the band's inaugural single from earlier this year signalling the opening shot from the reconstituted band featuring three of the original four members back together for the first time since 2000, plus longtime Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder. 

It was an opening of sheer, unadulterated awe as Pumpkins lead singer/songwriter/guitarist/singer William Patrick Corgan menacingly decreed to "bring down the sun" like an alt-rock Thanos, as a projection of a giant, slowly revolving silver sun gradually approached the band and the audience , threatening to engulf us all. 

With the peerless, epic sweep of Jimmy Chamberlin's drums propelling the hurricane force winds triple guitar attack of Corgan, Schroeder and James Iha, only to have the heroic efforts of touring member Jack Bates' bass work to ground everything into place, The Smashing Pumpkins immediately took over The Sylvee in a level of true rock and roll swagger, brashness, and vindication towards anyone who had ever counted them out as well as for all of us who continue to love and believe in them after 30 years. 

When the band next launched into the glam rock snarl that is "Zero," and we all sang the classic music question "Wanna go for a ride?" with Corgan, it was more than evident that we were in for a night to remember and then some.
Much like The Smashing Pumpkins' triumphant summer arena tour, this winter mini-tour is also designed to serve as a celebration of the band's 30 year musical legacy as well as herald the reunion of Corgan, Iha and Chamberlin. Yet, unlike the summer tour, we now have a experience that serves to greater balance the history of the band and the possibilities of its future. 

We are not only given the band's signature hits ("Bullet With Butterfly Wings," "Ava Adore," "Disarm," "1979" and the aforementioned "Today" and "Cherub Rock"), but also deep album tracks (the anthemic "Muzzle," the roaring return of "Heavy Metal Machine" and the rapacious surprise that is the punishing "Dross"), new cover songs (including Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again") and a full half of the band's new album "Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun." (released November 16, 2018) including the high flying gospel of "Knights Of Malta," the pensive inner journey of "Travels," which for me grew in its mesmerizing poignancy seeing it performed live, and the shimmering power pop of "Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)" complete with a foreboding spectral figure looming with ominous patience behind the band.
Also unlike this summer's tour, which ran a mammoth three hours and fifteen minutes, this new tour is a TIGHT two hours, including two encores. I guess that if I could utilize a cinematic analogy, I would say that if The Smashing Pumpkins' summer tour was more akin to a classic David Lean or Francis Ford Coppola epic, an experience that stretched out luxuriously and provided the requisite peaks and valleys to tell the impressionistic story of the band 's history, then this current tour is more like a classic Steven Spielberg blockbuster, furiously paced, relentless in its energy yet equal to the summer tour's overwhelming quality in its cumulative effect. 
Eschewed are many of the band's ballads and more elongated, languid soundscapes in favor of selections that are designed to deliver the goods harder and faster, making the night feel like an audio/visual speedball. But, even so, I wish to believe that even they knew that they could not venture through the evening without playing their greatest epic, the underwater masterpiece that is the still astonishing "Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans," which stretched to possibly 12 minutes starring Corgan's masterful guitar soloing and gorgeously surrounded by Creative Director Linda Strawberry's elegant, sophisticated, dazzling and again, cinematic, visual interpretations.
Before I turn my attention towards the band and the music itself, I feel compelled to keep singing my praises towards the staggering visual aesthetics Linda Strawberry has created for this production. Psychedelic, dreamlike and abstract and beautifully filled with the grandest color schemes, and even when the colors are solely black and white, Strawberry magically devised of ways to adorn each musical selection with its own idiosyncratic visual palate. 
The likes of "Heavy Metal Machine," "Muzzle" and "Cherub Rock" all contained black and white abstractionisms while "Dross" contained the almost grotesque shape shiftings of a beautiful woman's face into more monstrous and sinister creatures. "Ava Adore" contained artwork that found the creepy space between Art Deco and Edward Gorey. And when the visual exploded into colors, as during the aforementioned "Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans," in which our illustrated Zero figure continuously descends into his turquoise underwater dreamworld, or the landscapes of blues during "Never Let Me Down Again" and even lush display of reds, oranges and yellows during "Today" and "Travels," my eyes soaked in everything while also feeling a perfect synergy between image and song. 
And even then, Strawberry's work never felt to be grand just for the sake of being grand. It felt that she always instinctively knew when the simplest image would be most effective, like the "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" inspired moon child in "Tonight Tonight" or best of all, the fragile illustration of the child Billy Corgan holding a butterfly during "Disarm."   

Resplendent and magical, Linda Strawberry's vision perfectly extended the music into the visual realm, only deepening the power contained within the music itself.
And what music it was and how superbly performed.

As TIGHT as the pacing of the show was, the full performance between all five band members was even TIGHTER, again displaying to me, just as it did during the summer tour I witnessed upon the Twitter simulcast, that these individuals are quite possibly playing these songs even better now than when they first wrote them, which made for an astoundingly thrilling exhibition.

Jimmy Chamberlin proved once again that he is unquestionably the finest rock drummer of his generation as his foundation in jazz allows his to possess a lightness that accentuates and increases his walloping yet precise percussive force. For as flourishing as his drumming always is, he is exactly what any band would wish to have as the Ringo Starr inside of  him allows him to always listen to the song itself and perform only and exactly what the song needs to live, breathe and thrive. 

Touring bassist Jack Bates, son of the legendary Peter Hook (formerly of Joy Division and New Order and currently of Peter Hook and the Light), has performed the Herculean task of not only cementing a rhythmic foundation with Chamberlin but also internalizing the entire bass work of The Smashing Pumpkins' oeuvre with a quiet confidence that is so strong, you may almost be fooled into thinking that he has been a part of this musical unit for the entirety of their 30 years. 
Even moreso is Jeff Schroeder, member of the band for the past 12 years and one who has tremendously earned his Pumpkins stripes by weathering all manner of personnel changes and emerging as the one and only musician to stand shoulder to shoulder with William Patrick Corgan during a musically rich and turbulent period. It just feels terribly right that he remains in the band as an equal player with the OG Pumpkins, and from my front row vantage point, it was again proven to me that his interplay with Corgan and James Iha was a masterstroke as he deepens and stretches the guitar possibilities and soundscapes while also unleashing many white lightning solos to boot.
If The Smashing Pumpkins' summer tour essentially told the impressionistic story of the band as a whole, then this new mini-tour seemed to focus a bit deeper as throughout the night, I really felt that I was seeing the impressionistic story of the relationship of William Patrick Corgan and James Iha, two men whom for many years I absolutely, positively was certain would never, ever, EVER share a stage together again. And by certain accounts during interviews, it felt that way for the two men involved themselves.  

By these same interviews, all members of the band have stressed what a positive time this period happens to be as interpersonal relationships between the band family members have never been stronger, or more respectful towards each other. To me, those positive feelings truly extended themselves from the stage into the audience as all of the members looked as if they all wanted to be there and to be there with each other. Jeff Schoreder and James Iha would often share smiles and quick laughs back and forth across the stage. Iha would just as quickly make a visit to Jimmy Chamberlin. Corgan and Schroeder would clearly show affection towards each other and so on.
But with Corgan and Iha, the sight of seeing them together, the two figures who originated what would become this 30 year and counting musical legacy, in complete harmony was poignant indeed. Corgan would affectionately drape an arm around Iha in an embrace as they performed. The two would face each other, guitars in hand, locked in musical synergy. Iha applauded Corgan after his scorching solo during the concert ending "Siva." And for some brief stage banter, the two would laugh and joke with each other about the nature of rock and roll concert encores, remembered and forgotten Rush lyrics, now ancient Wisconsin debauchery and even some Green Bay Packers sports talk for the football fans in the audience. 

For as dramatic and ferocious as the songs could be, it was a supremely warm evening as the admiration and affection between themselves translated into genuine affection between the band and the audience, something that was not quite the band's course of action during the more combative 1990's. 

And the signposts all felt to be right in our sights. The new song "Travels" contains lyrics in which Corgan repeatedly sings "It's where I belong." Iha, the former Chicagoan who now resides in Los Angeles, when recounting his displeasure of having to scrape the mounting ice from his rental car, ended his tale by expressing that even with the cold and snow, right here upon the stage with his bandmates was where he rightfully belonged. And furthermore, when Corgan sang the now iconic "Tonight Tonight" lyrics "Believe in me as I believe in you..." while pointing to himself and the audience, I spontaneously felt a few tears leap from my eyes for the emotional connection was more palpable than I had anticipated.
William Patrick Corgan, while not terribly talkative with the audience this evening, indeed delivered his finest as his singing voice held as strongly as his guitar heroics all the while decked out in all manner of elaborate costumes, from his Zero circa 2018 black and silver garb to his alt-rock P.T. Barnum outfit plus combat boots, which made his already 6 ft plus frame even more imposing.  
Regardless of the long standing narratives concerning Corgan's persona, which truly need no repetition within this post whatsoever, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who attended this concert to find anything at fault with his level of charisma and commitment to the music that has  now become his life's work. 

In doing so, the evening was a continued testament to the fact that William Patrick Corgan is indeed one of the finest songwriters of his generation, supremely gifted with his sense of melodicism and poetry and is unquestionably a conceptualist cut from the very same cloths as the likes of Brian Wilson and Pete Townshend. Certainly he is our number 1 alt-rock anti-superhero but he is a songwriter and musician who has crafted a collection of songs that have brilliantly withstood the test of time to become timeless rock and roll standards. 

To bear witness and so up close and personal was a gift to say the least.
And now, I turn my focus to James Iha, the prodigal Pumpkin who has embraced his return to the fold in grand style and substance. Dressed in a smart black jacket that glistened with sparkles, Iha performed the role of co-frontman with his signature dry, droll wit with a warmth that instantly won over the entire audience and served as a counterpoint to Corgan's more dramatic, intimidating presence.

Again, any doubters of Iha's musical abilities should be permanently silenced as he proved over and again the breadth of his prowess. People, even with Corgan and Jeff Schroeder already in the band, James Iha is a BEAST of a guitarist, playing and singing more confidently and stronger than I ever remember from him via all of the concert footage I have seen over the last 25 years. Taking on a series of rainbow colored angular solos which stretched from the atmospheric to the crystalline to the blistering sonic fireworks he ignited during "Heavy Metal Machine," I was thrilled to literally be standing right at his feet, being able to watch him in action. 
And honestly, when James Iha led the band with a joyous cover of The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love," he had the whole of The Sylvee in the palm of his hands!

What a spectacular night! One that I had hoped and wished to see for over two decades and it finally happened at last, leaving me fully satiated and hungry to go back to Pumpkinland. In many ways, I have this feeling that perhaps what occurred, and has been occurring throughout this year, is how William Patrick Corgan, if not actually enjoys but creatively thrives. 

In more athletic terms and through the filter of his love of wrestling, The Smashing Pumpkins have always existed as a band that has been out of step, even within the genre they have continuously been lumped into. They are a band that sounds like no one else other than themselves, and it is via their singular aesthetic that has attracted and maintained generations of listeners throughout the years while also provoking a legion of detractors as well. It always seems that when people are ready to count the band out for good, they rise again even more powerful than the last time.

This time around, The Smashing Pumpkins came out swinging and never let up for a moment, deftly showcasing their hefty vitality and artistic relevance in an ever shifting 21st century musical landscape. Here's hoping that Corgan, Iha, Chamberlin and Schroeder can keep their good vibes flowing for I only wish to see them reach their 40th anniversary even stronger than ever.


A very special thank you to Hilary for allowing me to share your company and for not getting mad when I pounded your arm at the first notes of "Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans."

all text and photos copyright 2018 Scott Collins

SYNESTHESIA'S SESSION NOTES DECEMBER 2018

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:

Hold your loved ones as closely and as tightly as you are able.

Cherish those near and far as if you will never see them again.

Love until it hurts and then, love some more.

And always have music...and always...PLAY LOUD!!!

Friday, November 30, 2018

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS NOVEMBER 2018: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #150
NOVEMBER 7, 2018

1. "Just One Victory" performed by Todd Rundgren
2. "Rockestra Theme" performed by Paul McCartney & Wings
3. "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)" performed by Cheap Trick
4. "Genghis Khan" performed by Ace Frehley
5. "Perspective" performed by Skyline Sounds
6. "Soul Meets Body" performed by Death Cab For Cutie
7. "Feed The Fire" performed by Dawes
8. "Jason And The Argonauts" performed by XTC
9. "Emotion Detector" performed by Rush
10."Promised You A Miracle" performed by Simple Minds
11."Naked Eye" (live) performed by The Who

DJ Nightway (left), from WSUM-FM's "The MIxtape" and DJ Savage Scott (right)
SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #151
"HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY TO SAVAGE RADIO"
SPECIAL TWO HOUR EDITION WITH GUEST HOSTESS DJ NIGHTWAY OF WSUM-FM's "THE MIXTAPE"
NOVEMBER 14, 2018
(hour one)
1. "Birthday" performed by The Beatles
2. "Blackout" performed by U2
3. "Tutti Fruitti" performed by Phoenix
4. "Rock Me Right" performed by Susan Tedeschi
5. "King Of The Road" performed by Roger Miller
6. "Don't Be Cruel" performed by Billy Swan
7. "Ballad In 4/4" performed by The Dream Academy
(hour two)
8. "Road To Rondalin" performed by Matthews Southern Comfort
9. "Don't Call On Me" performed by The Monkees
10."In These Shoes" performed by Kirsty MacColl
11."The Collector" performed by Nine Inch Nails
12."Guns Of Brixton" performed by The Clash
13."Stolen Car" performed by Beth Orton
14."Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" performed by Queen
SAVAGE RADIO SPECIAL EDITION EPISODE 
WITH GUEST HOST JEFF PERRY OF WVMO'S "THIS WEEK IN MUSIC HISTORY
NOVEMBER 28, 2018
1. "Life Can Be So Nice" performed by Prince and the Revolution
2. "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke" performed by Queen
3. "1984" performed by David Bowie
4. "Piggies" performed by The Beatles
5. "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" performed by The Monkees
6. "Cuddly Toy" performed by The Monkees
7. "Think" (live 1962) performed by JAMES BROWN
8. "Two Bass Hit" performed by Miles Davis
9. "Lost In The Supermarket" performed by The Clash
10."Burning Bridges" performed by Pink Floyd
11."Dancing Barefoot" performed by Patti Smith Group
12."We Can Work It Out" performed by The Beatles
13."Red Sails" performed by David Bowie
14."All Dead, All Dead" performed by Queen
15."Purple Rain" (piano and microphone version 1983) performed by Prince

NOW PLAYING IN THE SAVAGE JUKEBOX NOVEMBER 2018

"MONUMENTS TO AN ELEGY"
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Released December 5, 2014
"RED ROSE SPEEDWAY"
PAUL McCARTNEY AND WINGS
Released April 30, 1973
"AN AMERICAN TREASURE"
TOM PETTY
Released September 28, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: It is more than enough to make you remember not only just how much you miss him but what an immensely gifted artist we have all lost. A beautifully curated, sequenced and executed project without question.
"JAZZ"
QUEEN 
Released November 10, 1978
"IN COLOR"
CHEAP TRICK
Released September 1977

Monday, November 26, 2018

DWEEZIL ZAPPA "CHOICE CUTS: DWEEZIL PLAYS FRANK-WORLD TOUR 2018" LIVE AT THE BARRYMORE THEATER, MADISON, WI NOVEMBER 17, 2018

DWEEZIL ZAPPA AND HIS BAND
"CHOICE CUTS: DWEEZIL PLAYS FRANK-WORLD TOUR 2018"
LIVE 
BARRYMORE THEATER
MADISON, WI
NOVEMBER 17, 2018

MUSICIANS:
Dweezil Zappa: Lead Guitars, Vocals
with
Ryan Brown: Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Cian Coey: Lead Vocals, Percussion
Scheila Gonzalez: Lead Vocals, Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Percussion
Kurt Morgan: Bass Guitar, Vocals
Adam Minkoff: Lead Vocals, Lead and Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion
Chris Norton: Keyboards, Vocals

I stood at the table next to the tour merchandise staring into the impossibly sky blue eyes of Mr. Dweezil Zappa as I shook his hand strongly while also attempting to gather some words together to express the fullness of what I had just experienced perhaps 30 minutes prior, at the conclusion of the three hour performance.

It was a position that I had found myself in once before, on the evening of September 25, 2015, to be exact, as I shook the man's hand after witnessing what I firmly believe is one of the top two concert performances I have ever seen. Yet, the difference this time is that Dweezil Zappa, while last time was gracious, gently quiet and really said not a word, was more verbally open this time around...and in some bizarre, impossible way, it almost felt as if he may have remembered me from before as his greeting felt to be familiar. Even one of some sort of recognition. At any rate, there I was shaking his hand and finally, I was able to find some words to speak.

"This is the third time I have been able to see you and the band," I began.
"Thank you," he said kindly, accompanied by a warm smile.
"Look...I just have to say that it is simply a privilege to watch you and this band play. It is a privilege!" I continued. Holding up the CD I had earlier purchased from the merchandise table, I continued. "I was reading the liner notes while in line and I really liked what you wrote about you trying to find 'The Zone' when you are performing. It is just a privilege to watch you find your way to 'The Zone' and then...to see you in it...I mean...'Drowning Witch'?! How????"
Dweezil Zappa continued to smile at me and very plainly said, "Yes. 'Drowning Witch." That song is extremely hard to play."
"I can tell!!!" I responded, laughing in astonishment as I remained in awe from the recent memory of this performance.

Yes indeed...it was a privilege.
Dear readers and listeners, I am unable to implore to all of you enough how imperative it is for you to try and really make an effort to attend an evening of music with Dweezil Zappa at the helm. It is a night unlike any other that you would experience, and it superbly succeeds on two distinct levels.

First, it is a continued testament that Frank Zappa was unquestionably one of the most dynamic, idiosyncratic and fearlessly original composers of the 20th century, making an evening of this sort akin to a night at the symphony and hearing the works of Beethoven, Mahler, or Mozart. Secondly, and on supremely equal footing as the first qualification, to be able to witness Dweezil Zappa and his peerless musical associates actually playing music this seemingly impossible and with such determination, agility, tremendous athleticism and unabashed glee. And yes, when this band finds itself within "THE ZONE," it is something to behold as it feels as if you are travelling through hyperspace for the sheer alacrity of the brilliance flowing through the theater as we all try to hang onto it for as long as possible. 
 

On this frigid evening, the weekend before Thanksgiving, I arrived at the Barrymore Theater about 30 minutes before the doors opened to find a small collective of men, also waiting yet unlike myself, were chain-smoking profusely, as if the clouds of nicotine would miraculously conjure the musical presence of the infamously chain-smoking Frank Zappa as some sort of blessing for the show we were all about to see.

Once blessedly indoors and away from the smoke, complete with Charlie Brown handstamp to gain re-entry should I depart the theater (I most certainly would not) and my General Admission aisle seat within the first third to middway on the main floor firmly claimed, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed a quick snack as I waited for the show to begin, my excitement gradually mounting.
On the previous two times I have experienced Dweezil Zappa and the band formerly known as Zappa Plays Zappa (a moniker forced into retirement due to inter-familial legal wranglings between the Frank Zappa offspring/siblings), they celebrated the 40th anniversaries of Frank Zappa's "Roxy and Elsewhere" (released September 10, 1974) and "One Size Fits All" (released June 25, 1975) via performances of both albums in their entirety, in addition to another two hours worth of Frank Zappa material.

This year's event, entitled "Choice Cuts," finds Dweezil Zappa and his associates undertaking the full breadth, and some of the most demanding, of his Father's compositions from the late 1960's to late 1980's, celebrating Frank Zappa's peerless, untouchable, wholly original catalog which spanned all music genres from doo-wop, rock, heavy metal, pop, funk, jazz, soul, orchestral and all the way to the furthest reaches of avant-garde, all the while creating material that can only be described as "Zappa-esque."

By 8:00 p.m., as the house lights faded with the roar of the audience rising powerfully, Dweezil Zappa and all six members of his band entered the stage and proceeded to open the show with the kaleidoscopic track "Andy," from "One Size Fits All," yet performed at, what felt to be a possible half-step slower than the song's normal pace...perhaps as to not expend all of their collective energy immediately as there were just under three hours to go in this latest tour stop.

From here, the show unfolded as a series of mini-suites or movements blending elements of Frank Zappa's oeuvre from the hits ("Valley Girl," "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow," "Uncle Remus") to the obscurities and Zappa fan favorites ("Suzy Creamcheese," "The Torture Never Stops") to songs that have never been performed live before, including "Absolutely Free" and the original version of "Florentine Pogen."

My first surprise of the evening arrived immediately after the cheerfully vulgar and vocally hallucinogenic one-night stand gone extremely wrong song, "Honey, Don't You Want A Man Like Me?" 
In a stunning sequence of material stretching from "Fifty Fifty" to "Call Any Vegetable" and reaching its pinnacle with the mountainous "Tell Me You Love Me," I was thunderstruck with the vocal hurricane that was housed inside of recent band addition Cian Coey.

Petite, even while wearing nearly thigh high go-go boots, Coey showcased a veritable one-woman vocal orchestra that was awesome to behold and by the looks of Dweezil Zappa's all-too-knowing grins directed towards her and then in turn, to the audience, his pride at having snagged a talent of this level to add to his already superlative troop was evident.

In this age of these television singing competitions where we are witnessing a  generation of talented vocalists who can seemingly hit every single note within the octave range yet sadly do not convey any real emotion, Cian Coey is the rarest of exceptions. She  unquestionably possesses power an range. But she contains a strict adherence to the complex dynamics of Frank Zappa's compositions which allows her to "stick to the script" while showcasing her gifts superbly, whether harmonizing brilliantly or delivering an explosion that can rival the full volume of the entire band.

He undeniably had that musical Ace up his sleeves with Coey and he was he so pleased to unleash it. Trust me, dear readers and listeners, if you have ever wondered what it would sound like if Janis Joplin fronted the Mothers Of Invention, Cian Coey is the powerhouse realization of that musical image. And as I was thrilled to tell her myself after the show, she is a ferociously welcome member to the band and I sincerely hope that they do everything in their power to keep her happy, because ANY band would be wise to snatch her right up!!!
Now certainly, I am unable to save all of my praise for the illustrious Ms. Coey, especially when she is just one member of what again felt to be a unit consisting of the seven finest musicians upon the planet.

At the outset of this posting, I remarked upon the band agility and athleticism, two qualifications that cannot be remotely understated as their level of commitment and ability to learning and executing Frank Zappa's deliriously impossible music did indeed, to utilize a sports based metaphor, recall something akin to witnessing the 1991-1998 two three-peat basketball winning champions, the Chicago Bulls, then led by the iconic Michael Jordan and Coach Phil Jackson (who always struck me as possessing a certain Zappa-esque appearance).

Or maybe an even better sports based metaphor/example resides in the classic 1970's version of the Harlem Globetrotters, then led by the immortal Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal. I mention both of these these awe inspiring sports teams as every time they performed, it was an awe inspiring experience to watch and regard these figures achieving the unthinkable over and again, and with such a gleeful abandon that every moment felt to be utterly effortless all the while knowing the sheer discipline essential to creating the illusion of effortlessness.

The experience of seeing Dweezil Zappa and his band perform the music of Frank Zappa is precisely like being in the presence of those sports teams as all seven members display that illusion of effortlessness as they sing and approach their instruments as if this completely idiosyncratic music was utterly natural to play as they all took to the stage and the three hours of material like a duck to water.

It was a joyous evening undoubtedly, with band members all smiles towards each other as well as to us in the audience throughout the night and even Dweezil Zappa himself, who has tended to be more reticent on the past two times I have seen him, was especially loquacious, spinning stories, wry asides, song explanations and best of all, one swift shut down of a couple of exorbitantly rude and impatient hecklers.

Keyboardist Chris Norton and Bassist Kurt Morgan were the perfect pictures of musical prodigies at work and play while relative newcomer Adam Minkoff, who provided lead vocals, keyboards, percussion and some blistering lead guitar work of his own, cemented his status within this unit so firmly in my mind that I was also excited to express to him after the show the exact same sentiments I delivered to Cian Coey. Honestly, his duet with Drummer Ryan Brown on the percussion only version of the absolutely ridiculous "Black Page #1," allegedly named for the sheer amount of musical notes displayed upon the page, instantly ascends him to the upper echelon of musicians working today.

For that matter, Ryan Brown demands a musical Medal Of Honor as far as I am concerned as he is the one member of the band, for whom you can inarguably witness the mammoth effort undertaken to performing this music. Over those three hours, my jaw was consistently agape with the demands placed upon him musically and how he never missed a beat for even a millisecond. It was as if his arms, wrists, legs, knees and feet were made of elastic yet also braced with the strongest steel. Just breathless in its astonishment and downright irreplaceable.

Incontestably, we now arrive at the essential, indispensable, glorious presence of original band member Scheila Gonzalez, who performs nothing less than saxophone, flute, percussion, keyboards and lead vocals and absolutely brilliantly in every conceivable area.

This evening, Gonzalez's shooting star turn was found within "Valley Girl" as she executed Moon Zappa's now iconic vocals with speedball aplomb, fully displaying the scorching satire in a song Dweezil Zappa explained was actually his Father's dire cultural warning against the rise of societal stupidity.  If there was a band member I had hoped to greet afterwards the most, it was arguably Gonzalez as she is a one-of-a-kind artist of the caliber I would imagine Frank Zappa himself would be utterly proud to have represent his artistry. 
And then, there was the man himself, the figure at the center of the stage, the one who dazzled and awed me again as his own commitment to performing the music of his Father, therefore continuing to keep it vibrantly alive in the world, only feels like a sacred pilgrimage. The devotional care he is clearly taking to this material cannot be denied, especially as his own guitar playing has only continued to grow, build, improve and soar and at moments, equals the guitar legacy invented by Frank Zappa.

Again, to just be able to sit and watch him find his way into "THE ZONE" while crafting an improvisational solo is akin to seeing lightning strikes being born and unleashed. Performing a nearly fretless solo during "The Torture Never Stops," the stinging blues fireworks of "More Trouble Every  Day," the crystalline beauty of "Zoot Allures," and the the cyclone, sexual fury of "Keep It Greasey" would have been more than enough. But for me, and I am gathering for most of the audience was the wonderment of one of Frank Zappa's most demanding compositions, "Drowning Witch," this time starring an eight minute plus guitar solo, augmented heroically by the full band, that stretched beyond description, split the ceiling of the Barrymore Theater and inspired a standing ovation!!!

It is a performance such as this one where the stories I have seen proposing a concert tour starring hologram of Frank Zappa become powerfully disturbing, disheartening and distressing. Despite the mercenary ghoulishness of such a concept, I feel that if one wished to feel the vibrancy and eternal qualities of Frank Zappa's legacy, then one should go directly towards purchasing a ticket to see Dweezil Zappa and his band perform LIVE and IN PERSON, again showcasing that we are not in the presence of a mere "cover band."

With Dweezil Zappa and his bandmates, we are completely in the presence of WORLD CLASS musicians performing the Herculean duty of presenting this spectacularly singular music to audiences worldwide with determination, diligence and meticulously joyful dedication.

I am simply unable to say it enough to you and to the band themselves. Being at this show, seeing them again for the third time, watching an d listening to them perform this music...

...It was a PRIVILEGE!!
  (l-r: Ryan Brown, Adam Minkoff, Scheila Gonzalez, 
Dweezil Zappa, Kurt Morgan, Cian Coey and Chris Norton)

all photos except group band photo by Scott Collins

Sunday, November 4, 2018

SYNESTHESIA'S SESSION NOTES FOR NOVEMBER 2018: THANK YOU

FROM THE DJ'S STUDIO DESK:
I am thankful. More thankful than I believe that I am able to fully express to you...but do take me at my written words.

I am thankful.

Beginning this week, Savage Radio will reach the first of two milestones. On Wednesday, November 7th, the show will reach its 150th episode, something I am just truly wrapping my head around because I do indeed find it hard to conceptualize that I left my home 150 times to go to the WVMO studios to broadcast the show for all of you. 150 times I thought about and cultivated themes and songs from my personal collection to weave into radio broadcasts from me to you. It boggles my mind whenever I think of that number and yet it is so true and so real.

It really happened.

On Wednesday, November 14th, Savage Radio will celebrate its 3rd birthday!!! Yes indeed, Savage Radio first hit the WVMO airwaves on November 11, 2015 and here it is, three years later, all in a flash, all in a blink of an eye. Another numerical value that feels so hard to believe but indeed it is real and true and it all happened.

And again, I am thankful.

As I am more than certain that I have expressed to you in the past, I feel compelled to do so again. For as much as I loved every moment of being a DJ during my college years for WLHA FM at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison, I can say that now, at this point in time, I deeply appreciate being a DJ more than I ever have for the simple fact that in life there are no guarantees, especially with any hopes of being able to return to the airwaves.

Thank you to everyone at WVMO for allowing me to join your ranks and become just a piece of the puzzle that has made us an award winning station so early in our young life.

Thank you to all of the local Madison, WI based bands and artists--Dash Hounds, Post Social, Skyline Sounds, Wood Chickens, Disq, Anna Wang, Trophy Dad, Slow Pulp, Gentle Brontosaurus and Kainalu--for allowing me to be a host and advocate for you and all of your music. If I was at all able to be just one more person to be able to give your music a push, then I am happy and will continue to do so in less than a heartbeat.

Thank you to DJ Nightway, host of WSUM FM's "The Mixtape," as we have forged a healthy friendship through mutual respect and musical geekdom, leading to special guest appearances that have proven to be absolutely sparkling solely due to her radiant presence and impeccable musical taste.

And of course, without question, THANK YOU to YOU, the listeners!!! For the regulars and to anyone who has just taken the time to hear even one show, I am thankful because in this world of endlessly increasing distractions, for anyone to choose to turn on their radios and invite me into your lives is truly a gift and a blessing and I am humbled to have earned your attention in this fashion.

I do not take any of this for granted whatsoever as it all could end at any time such is the nature of radio and for that matter, life itself. So for as long as I am able to have this privilege, I will cherish and treasure it properly, ensuring that I am delivering my very best to all of you each week and hopefully, I can still be able to write Thank You messages years from now.

And if that comes to pass, I will only be more thankful.

Please tune in...and if you do, remember to PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

SAVAGE RADIO PLAYLISTS OCTOBER 2018: WVMO 98.7 FM-THE VOICE OF MONONA

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #145
"REMEMBERING TOM PETTY AND MORE..."
OCTOBER 3, 2018

1. "Keep A Little Soul" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. "Consoler Of The Lonely" performed by The Raconteurs
3. "Indecision" performed by Eagle-Eye Cherry
4. "Beautiful Blue" performed by Mudcrutch
5. "Even The Losers" (live 1989) performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
6. "Drowned" (live) performed by Pete Townshend
7. "Little Black Submarines" performed by The Black Keys
8. "Caroline" performed by Jefferson Starship
9. "Have Love Will Travel" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #146
"THE MUSIC OF 2018: PART ONE"
OCTOBER 10, 2018

1. "Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
2. "Canyon On Fire" performed by Wild Nothing
3. "Evan Finds The Third Room" performed by Khruangbin
4. "Low" performed by Lenny Kravitz
5. "Hindsight" performed by Anna Wang
6. "Mayfly" performed by Paul Weller
7. "Me" performed by Jonathan Wilson
8. "Astral Drive" performed by Astral Drive
9. "Hey Angel" performed by Johnny Marr
10."Nothing Compares 2 U" (original 1984 version) performed by Prince

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #147
"THE MUSIC OF 2018-PART TWO"
OCTOBER 17, 2018

1. "Under Lime" performed by Elvis Costello & The Imposters
2. "Plastic Hamburgers" performed by Fantastic Negrito
3. "Connected By Love" performed by Jack White
4. "No Secrets" performed by Jim James
5. "Wish Upon A Satellite" performed by Sloan
6. "Great Destroyer" performed by Donny McCaslin
7. "Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino" performed by Arctic Monkeys
8. "Sorcererz" performed by Gorillaz
9. "Never Know" performed by The Lemon Twigs with Todd Rundgren
10. "Sticky Hands" performed by Post Social
11. "Despite Repeated Warnings" performed by Paul McCartney

SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #148
"ELECTION 2018"
OCTOBER 24, 2018
1. "Time's Up" performed by Living Colour
2. "Volunteers" performed by Jefferson Airplane
3. "We March" performed by Prince
4. "Time Is Running Out" performed by Steve Winwood
5. "He's Evil" performed by The Kinks
6. "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" performed by A Perfect Circle
7. "Primary/Ballot Or The Bullet" performed by Van Halen
8. "Public Servant" performed by Todd Rundgren
9. "Where Does It Go?" performed by Planet P. Project


SAVAGE RADIO EPISODE #149
"HALLOWEEN 2018"
OCTOBER 31, 2018
1. "In The Evening" performed by Led Zeppelin
2. "The Ghost" performed by Fleetwood Mac
3. "The Rhythm Of The Heat" performed by Peter Gabriel
4. "There There" performed by Radiohead
5. "Still" performed by Foo Fighters
6. "Glass And The Ghost Children" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
7. "Swamp" performed by Talking Heads
8. "Evil" performed by Stevie Wonder