It's not often to walk into Irving Plaza to find, of all things, an open bar. Indeed, for such a large crowd, such indulgences are a rarity, especially these days. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised last week when I walked in to the Rolling Stone-sponsored event and was greeted with free beer.
All of this is to say that, by the time the music was set to begin, I was in quite a good mood, both from the beer and the fact that my wallet would remain full. I was, you might say, in the mood for rock.
Rolling Stone had invited two great acts to entertain those of us lucky enough to be there, and I can't stress enough that the first act on the bill, a southern-rock outfit from Saskatchewan known as The Sheepdogs, did not fail to deliver on their intent to rock. Apparently, they were band that came out on top of a popular vote, a "Choose the Cover" competition that ran this summer. These four dudes, decked out in true southen rock fashion, had their images plastered on the cover of America's favorite music magazine. I would have known this prior to the show if I was a subscriber to that particular publication. Guess I'm missing out!
The people have spoken about the Sheepdogs, it looks like, and while I might be one to question the judgment of large groups of people, in this instance they were on the money. The Sheepdogs' set was groovy. I write the word lightly, but I mean it and believe in its essence. Their grooves were almost visible; their aura was pure calm. Confidence is a virtue in this business, and these guys have the confidence to get up on stage and play live rock 'n roll at tempos slower than the average person would think wise.
Seriously, in this day and age, everyone tends to rush their rockingest songs. Who wants to go to a rock show and hear slow music? Right? So with the exception of the occasional power ballad, live versions of songs tend to be speedy, maybe even rushed. This was not the case with the Sheepdogs. I went home and listened to their most recent EP, "Five Easy Pieces," and was confirmed in my suspicions that they were playing their songs live at the same tempo that they had laid down on the record! Imagine my surprise. Can you, even?
Okay, so I wasn't that surprised, but I will say that I was pleased. It's not like their set suffered in the least. These guys can shred, and do so in the spirit of the great ones: The Allmans, Skynyrd. They even had a hint of 70s rock, a little Steely Dan perhaps? Their song "How Late, How Long," was a particular favorite of mine. Great riff, great harmonies. Lead singer and guitarist Ewen Currie has a clear and firm voice, well suited for this kind of music. Both he and guitarist Leot Hanses had confidence in their technique and took great solos. Ryan Gullen on bass and Sam Corbett on drums were rock solid in their holding down of the aforementioned grooves.
By the end of the set, the people were dancing. That makes it twice that the will of the people has been spot-on. I congratulate the collective unconscious of my fellow music fans, and will now learn to listen, sometimes, to things I read in Rolling Stone.
"Found A Star On The Ground," began as possible 25 minute opus but as the band actually began the recording process in Steven Drozd' home studio in Oklahoma City, the ideas began to flow well beyond all scope of epic proportions as one might expect from THE LIPS. A few days of recording blurred into a 4 week off and on process in-between regional and International concert appearances.
It became apparent to the band that this would be the perfect vehicle to foster a charitable component to raise and benefit local foundations that have been close to the hearts of the band for the past several years. The idea arose that THE LIPS could reach out to their fans via their official website and Wayne's by now famous personal Twitter following. For a donation of $100- fans would have their name appear somewhere in the song and feel good about contributing to a pair of worthy causes the band could share with their fans. Sean Lennon recently recorded the long list contributors' names to the recording.
The song itself will be contained within a newly-developed mesmerizing toy, THE STROBO TRIP.This unique devise has been called "A Light & Audio Phase Illusions Toy" to use used in conjunction with "Found A Star On The Ground" to create a complete Lipsian happening to be enjoyed by yourself or with other interesting people or pets. Honestly users, you'll just have to experience this multi-sensory phenomenon for yourselves to understand the concept.
Coyne says, "THE STROBO TRIP by itself is fascinating. I wouldn't be a surprised to hear about some people taking LSD or something, while listening to "Found A Star On The Ground," and playing with THE STROBO TRIP for hours and hours. We hope you'll enjoy them anyway you like."
If a single 6-hour-long song weren't enough, THE STROBO TRIP will also contain two more brand new -and much shorter) songs.
THE STROBO TRIP Track listing:
1. Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die 2. Found A Star On The Ground 3. Evil Minds
TheSTROBO TRIP will be available shortly.Keep an eye on www.flaminglips.com for details as they become available.
To date, THE LIPS have raised approximately $20,000 in proceeds from this project to be split equally between The Central Oklahoma Humane Society and The Academy of Contemporary Music at The University of Central Oklahoma. Coyne explains "The homeless animal situation in Oklahoma City is at an all-time high - the worst I've ever seen. A lot of animals are suffering and need help. It's all about being aware of this problem and just one way we can make an immediate impact now for The Central Oklahoma Humane Society. The Flaming Lips love all creatures - it's always been part of our philosophy." As for The Academy of Contemporary Music at The University of Central Oklahoma, Coyne adds, "When we were a young band starting out, we didn't have any kind of outlet to help us make necessary connections. This school helps provide the students with a connection to all aspects of a supportive music community.As technology progresses, this is a way for us to help provide the students with upgraded computers and equipment which as you know becomes obsolete quickly. They need to up to date to keep up with that progression to fuel their ideas in all areas in the creation and knowledge of music and art of music making."
THE FLAMING LIPS are currently on tour:
Oct 24 - Portland, ME @ State Theatre w/Kurt Vile Oct 25 - Rochester, NY @ Main Street Armory w/Kurt Vile Oct 27 - Norfolk, VA @ The Norva w/Kurt Vile Oct 28 - North Charleston, SC @ North Charleston Performing Arts Center Oct 29 - Asheville, NC @ Moogfest Nov 12 - Melbourne, Australia @ Harvest Festival w/Portishead, The National, Bright Eyes & more Nov 13 - Sydney, Australia @ Harvest Festival w/Portishead, The National, Bright Eyes & more Nov 16 - Adelaide, Australia @ Thebarton Theatre Nov 17 - Melbourne, Australia @ The Palace Theatre Nov 19 - Brisbane, Australia @ Harvest Festival w/Portishead, The National, Bright Eyes & more
In between touring, THE LIPS will continue to record new music to come in various unique formats to be released in the coming months.At this time we can confirm the rumors of a single 24-hour-long song are indeed insane and absolutely true. THE LIPS are recording the track this month. While lots rumors, speculations and "facts" have been circulating suffice to say official details will be announced once we really know how, when etc. Stay tuned towww.flaminglips.com for details.
About The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma:
The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO) is more than a music school, it's a connection. UCO has teamed up with the ACM of London to offer a music education that really is all about the music. Students are taught by accomplished musicians, production experts, and music business professionals, people who have been there. Not only that, but students will also receive master class instruction from some of today's stars from the world of rock, pop, gospel and country music such as Roger Daltrey and Jackson Browne. Through ACM@UCO, students will connect to the music industry through auditions, live performances, industry showcases, as well as a web-based database of talent. At ACM@UCO, our focus is on building the careers of our talented students through preparation and exposure. More info at ACM-UCO.com!