Thursday, March 25, 2010

Concert Review: Muse sells out the Palace in Detroit

English alternative rock trio Muse played a theatrics-filled show to a sold-out crowd of 12,000-plus at The Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend.

Muse entered at 8:30 p.m. with a stage show that had the band performing on gigantic, elevated video platforms, amid a sea of laser lights. Frontman Matthew Bellamy oozes talent. He seems at one with whatever instrument he's playing, whether it's his Red glitter Manson guitar, piano or keytar.

The guys of Muse, who have been together over a decade, are longtime rock icons in the U.K. The band's popularity is spilling over to the states, and this is their largest-scale tour yet.

From ambient harmonics in "Undisclosed Desires" to fiery, blues-y guitar soloing in "Unnatural Selection," the night packed variety. Bellamy, hugging his six-string, has a way of delivering volatile, razer-edged guitar solos that are spastic, yet controlled. With confidence and charisma, he donned pinkish-red pants and glittery silver shoes, at times sliding across the stage and falling to his knees during guitar solos.

During the hour and a half performance, the crowd - sometimes standing mesmerized, sometimes pumping their fists - cheered for hits, "Uprising," "Supermassive Black Hole" and (closer) "Knights of Cydonia."

Muse uses pedal effects and techno-beats to color its sound, but it's doubtful anyone at the Palace would deny the members' artistry. Other highlights: classically-leaning piano soloing from Bellamy ("United States of Eurasia") and a meaty, rhythm section duet between bass player Christopher Wolstenholme, who favored a red-toned Fender jazz bass for the night, and drummer Dominic Howard.

With a mix of Brit-pop and neo-prog, some call Muse a new, amped-up Radiohead-- just more accessible and digestible.

Los Angeles alt-rocker Silversun Pickups opened at 7 p.m. The group is best known for its 2009 No. 1 alternative hit, "Panic Switch," and singles "Well Thought Out Twinkles," "Lazy Eye" and "Substitution." Lead vocalist Brian Aubert, bass player Nikki Monninger, drummer Christopher Guanlao and keyboard player Joe Lester fashioned an amalgam of rock, pop, folk and psychedelia and, judging by the between-act chit-chat, won over new fans.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Exclusive: Tool frontman chats comedy, new project

To say Puscifer - the side project of Maynard James Keenan - is a departure from anything the Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman has done before would be an understatement.

As Keenan describes it, Puscifer is not a rock band. Not even close.
"This has more in common with SNL or the Adult Swim network than it does Metallica," he said, chatting by phone last week.

Needless to say, gone are the dark, menacing aesthetics that permeate Keenan's work with Tool and A Perfect Circle. Instead, Puscifer is a comedy troupe. The production meshes music, videos and sketch comedy to create a very unique, very un-Tool like experience.

Puscifer reaches the Royal Oak Music Theatre on March 23 and 24, so I checked in with Keenan about the project and his new documentary, "Blood into Wine." To listen to the interview, click here.

Anne: Puscifer is comprised of a revolving door of performers. Who will be playing with you in Detroit?

Keenan: Each night will be different. I would guess one night will be Tim Alexander (Primus) and Matt Mitchell (Tool guitar tech) for the rhythm section, and the other night will be Matt McJunkins and Jeff Friedl from ASHES dIVIDE.

Anne: What's the vision behind this project?

Keenan: It's mostly that we had some ideas we wanted to express that were impossible to express in 1995. Some of the stuff we're trying to do would have been cost-prohibitive back them. Some of the videos we've been able to do because of technology. Back in '95, it would have been a half-million dollar video. Now we can do it for five, ten or fifteen grand.

Anne: When did the idea come about?

Keenan: In the mid-'90s, when we were doing sketch comedy at local comedy clubs (in L.A.). We wanted to expand it to film sketch, animation and various other elements including stage performance.

Anne: Do you think there's a comic side to you that people haven't seen?

Keenan: They've seen it, just didn't get it. I mean, come on: "Stinkfest?" If someone can't see the humor in some of those songs, then they're not listening or just choosing not to.

Anne: You have quite a few back-to-back dates on this tour.

Keenan: Yes, and those are always two completely different shows. Each night is a different performance with different sets and videos.

Anne: Cool. And this is not a rock concert, right?

Keenan: Exactly. This is not a band; this is a troupe. This is a performance, not a concert.

Anne: Cool. Let's talk about your documentary, "Blood into Wine." The film shows you living in a small town in Arizona and working at your vineyard. What inspired you to move to Arizona?

Keenan: I'm from a small town, so L.A. was kind of getting under my skin. There are a lot of great people and great opportunities out there, but there's also a lot of zombie-vampire activity. There are a lot of energy suckers and at some point, you see what people are really concerned about - things that they shouldn't be concerned about - and it kind of takes you back.

Growing up in Ohio and Michigan, you have to shovel the snow. That's a real problem. If you don't shovel snow in your driveway and get to work, then you won't have a job. In L.A., it's traffic and you miss your hair appointment. It's just kind of silly. So I moved to Arizona to get away from some of that disconnected feeling.

Anne: Are there any plans for a Michigan screening of the film?

Keenan: I would imagine at some point. It is a documentary, so theaters aren't going to be beating down the door to get the film on their screens. It's definitely not as visually stimulating as "Avatar." There won't be any 3-D "Blood into Wine" versions. But I would expect to have showings on some of the more local, independent theaters. The best thing to do is to go to and for new screenings.

Yours truly on TV

I just shot this commercial for Noise Magazine and had to share!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Exclusive: Silversun Pickups bass player talks 'Panic Switch,' women in music

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Silversun Pickups makes alternative indie rock, dripping with dream pop textures and catchy, sing-along melodies. Simply put, this is music that's less from the brain and more from the gut. Fans of My Bloody Valentine and the Smashing Pumpkins - you'll dig it.

The Los Angeles-based group's current full-length, "Swoon," scored it a No. 1 hit in the single, "Panic Switch," and a Grammy nom this year. Now it's on tour with alt-rock band Muse, which stops by the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, March 13.

Bass player Nikki Monninger was kind enough to chitchat with me about the band's Grammy nomination and what it's like being a girl in the rock world.

NOISE: How did the tour with Muse come about?

Monninger: We played with them once before in Los Angeles, and we're just a big fan of them. I'm not quite sure the mechanics of arranging this tour, but we feel lucky to be a part of it.

"Panic Switch" was a huge hit last year. Did you know that song had something special?

Monninger: It's always nice to hear and experience that kind of success, but it's definitely not something we expected at all. It was a very nice surprise.

What was it like being nominated for Best New Artist at this year's Grammys?

Monninger: It's definitely something that came out of left field. We've been together almost 10 years now, so it was funny to be nominated for Best New Artist. But I understand that it takes a while for a band like us to get under their radar, and it was a real honor to be nominated. We had a great time, and then it was back to normal the next week.

What's your favorite memory from the Grammys?

Monninger: I thought it was really cool to see Lady Gaga just a couple of rows in front of us and Beyonce a row ahead of us. It's so surreal being around all those people you're so used to watching on TV. We also went to a Kings of Leon after party, so getting to meet those guys was nice.

What's it like being a female musician on the national level?

Monninger: I definitely think it's geared more towards guys. Backstage there aren't many women-specific places. The woman's bathroom is usually turned into a guy's bathroom, and it's pretty lopsided. We're from Silver Lake (Calif.) where there are many girls in the music scene, and I always assumed that's how it was on every level, but I do find there are only a couple girls working in production or backstage. When we play at festivals, when I go onstage, people might say, "Oh, you can wait over here," and motion offstage. They assume I'm a (talent scout) or a girlfriend.

That's funny!

Monninger: Yeah, it happens all the time. I joke about it, and then it happens again. I laugh it off.
What will you remember most about this whole experience with Silversun Pickups?

Monninger: It's so nice to travel to different cities and get to meet everyone that comes up to us after shows. Just getting to see more of America and the world than we had a chance to see before is amazing. We're very fortunate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interview: Maynard James Keenan from Tool, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle!

Maynard James Keenan, the man behind Tool and A Perfect Circle, sums up his newest project, Puscifer, like this:

"This has more in common with SNL than it does Metallica," Maynard said, chatting via phone from Arizona. "This is not a band; this is a troupe. This is a performance; not a concert."

Fair warning! The production, which meshes music, videos and sketch comedy, hits a handful of US cities this spring, including Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich. on March 23rd and 24th.

This the the convo I had with Maynard last week. We talked about Puscifer, plus his new documentary, Blood Into Wine.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Free music: Soundgarden, the Pumpkins

In the midst of the free music fad, a few '90s alt-rock bands are releasing new stuff.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Deets: Billy Corgan is releasing all of the songs from his new series, Teargarden by Kaliedyscope, in a series of free music downloads and physical EPs. The first EP of the collection, containing four songs, will be available on April 20th.

That being said, the latest Smashing Pumpkins song, "A Stitch in Time," is now available as a free download:

Deets: Soundgarden is giving away a free download of a live version of "Spoonman," recorded in November of 1996 in San Diego, Calif.