Furthur Takes the Dead Further into the Future

The Grateful Dead‘s legacy continues to linger, if not thrive, even these many years on. The sub-culture that Jerry Garcia and company created and nurtured is alive and well, savoring every little Dead-related morsel they can find. Enter Furthur.

 

Phil Lesh and Bob Weir realized there was still gold in them there hills when they came together at a Grateful Dead reunion in 2008. By the following year, they’d amassed a new crew of musicians to form Furthur with lead guitarist John Kadlecik (of Dark Star Orchestra), keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (of RatDog), drummer Joe Russo (of Benevento/Russo Duo), and back-up singers Sunshine Becker (of SoVoSó) and Jeff Pehrson (of Box Set and The Fall Risk). Percussionist Jay Lane was on board for a year or so, as well.

 

With Furthur, Lesh and Weir took a cue – and their band name – from Ken Kesey’s fabled 1964 journey across the United States with his Merry Pranksters. Their trusted steed was a 1939 International Harvester school bus done up with psychedelic paintings and nicknamed Furthur, as a tip of the hat to their destination which was always just beyond the horizon.

 

And so it is that Furthur takes the Dead’s music further into the future by performing the classic tunes in not necessarily a new way, but certainly in a new setting.

 

As so many Dead doings have done, the Furthur project started in the San Francisco Bay Area, kicking off on September 18, 2009 with three nights at Oakland, California’s Fox Theater. An instant hit, the band tacked on other shows in other places and, before they knew it, they were on tour in 2010 hitting festivals and theaters across the U.S.

 

One event, the Furthur Festival, took place in Angels Camp, California, over Memorial Day weekend. During the course of the weekend, Furthur played six Grateful Dead albums top to bottom. Later that summer, Furthur hit San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, then embarked upon another round of touring in the West with a Furthur stop at Red Rocks Amphitheater as part of the itinerary. Then, in the fall, they hit parts east, including a performance at Madison Square Garden.

 

For 2011, the guys kept hitting the road with smatterings of dates sprinkled throughout the year with more plans on the horizon. Las Vegas and Furthur will find each other at some point with Los Angeles on Furthur’s agenda, as well. The Grateful Dead’s vast catalog provides a wealth of material from which to draw and Dead Heads will always show up to listen. Lesh and Weir keep things lively, though, by mixing in new material, as well as arrangements of tunes by other artists.

 

A recent show in Eugene, Oregon, featured two sets:

 

Set 1
Truckin’
Good Lovin’
Operator
Hell in a Bucket
Don’t Ease Me In
Mason’s Children
No More I Do
Just a Little Light

 

Set 2
Lost Sailor
Saint of Circumstance
Dear Mr. Fantasy
St. Stephen
Mountain Song
Let It Grow
Unbroken Chain
So Many Roads
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
We Bid You Goodnight

 

Encore
Touch of Grey

 

Long live the Dead! Furthur and further on.

Basic Music 101: Definitions A-L

Basic Music 101: Definitions A-L

You don’t need to be a professor of music to download albums or to buy cheap concert tickets. Nonetheless, your enjoyment of pop, rock, country, hip hop, alternative, heavy metal and other genres will be enhanced if you know some of the basics of musicology.

 

Below are definitions and examples of a dozen frequently used music terms. Reading the following information won’t make you an expert but it is a solid introduction to the fascinating subject of music theory. And remember, knowing a little bit about the mechanics of your favorite song will help you better appreciate its artistic qualities.

 

A cappella
Definition: A piece of music that contains only singing and no instrumental accompaniment. This type of music is usually performed by choirs, barbershop quartets and doo-wop groups. In Italian, “a cappella” means “in the manner of the church.”
In A Sentence: “Since the band isn’t going to show tonight let’s sing “Stairway To Heaven” a cappella.”
Examples: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, and all the contestants on NBC’s The Sing Off.

 

Beat
Definition: The beat is the basic unit of rhythm for a piece of music. In rock and pop songs, the beat is easy to hear because it’s almost always played by the drummer. However, all music, even works without percussion, has a beat. Attend a live symphony concert and watch the conductor waving her baton. She’s actually keeping the “beat” for her orchestra.
In A Sentence: “Hey drummer, give me a beat and make it funky!”
Examples: “Beat Surrender” by Paul Weller, “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from the Broadway musical Hairspray, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.

 

Cadence
Definition: A cadence is a series of chords that concludes, or resolves, a musical phrase. In popular music, a cadence usually ends a song and does so quite convincingly. When a listener hears a strong cadence they know the song is over. It’s the musical equivalent of an exclamation point.
In A Sentence: “Instead of ending the song with everyone just stop playing, let’s write a cadence.”
Examples: “Revolution” by The Beatles, “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who.

 

Chord
Definition: A chord is two or more notes played at the same time although they are generally comprised of three notes. The four most common types of chords are major, minor, diminished and augmented. The use of chords is prevalent in Western music, especially in rock ‘n roll.
In A Sentence: “Country music is nothing more than three chords and the truth.”
Examples: “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, and just about every AC/DC song.

 

Chorus
Definition: Chorus means both a group of singers and the refrain of song. In popular music, the chorus is typically catchy, repetitious, and often includes the title of song. Some music theorists believe a chorus is actually a new musical phrase distinct from the verse while a refrain actually resolves the verse’s melody.
In A Sentence: “Let’s write a song with a verse followed by a chorus, followed by another verse, which is then followed by a chorus.”
Examples: “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles, “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba, and “Rock and Roll All Nite” by KISS.

 

Coda
Definition: Coda is the ending of a piece of music and the final studio album by Led Zeppelin. A coda convincingly finishes a piece of music and is at least a few measures long. It also must be different from the other parts of the song—guitar solos or repeating the chorus several times don’t count. Most pop songs end with something called an “outro” or “tag.” In Italian, the word coda means “tail.”
In A Sentence: “Since I want to end the song on a high note, I think we should practice the coda again.”
Examples: The piano part from “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos, the end of “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles, and the very end of “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub (as the song fades out).

 

Counterpoint
Definition: Simply stated, counterpoint is two or more melodies played at the same time. Chord progressions technically fit this description but they are generally not considered counterpoint—the melodies need to be independent of one another. You’ll hear counterpoint in classical music and sometimes when you have Broadway tickets. Musicology 101 decided to include it in our list of terms because it’s often misused.
In A Sentence: “If you sing your melody and I sing mine, we’ll have a nice counterpoint going on.”
Example: Johann Sebastian Bach is universally regarded as the master of counterpoint.

 

Dynamics
Definition: Dynamics refers to the loudness and softness of a song or piece of music. In musical notation, “forte” means to play loud while “piano” means to play softly. Classical music and Broadway show tunes are generally quite dynamic while most rock and pop songs are not; they are usually either loud or soft.
In A Sentence: “Let’s play the middle of this song soft and rest very loud so we can have at least one dynamic song on our set list.”
Examples: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “At Least It Was Here” by The 88, and “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings.

 

Falsetto
Definition: Falsetto is basically when a man sings in a high pitch voice like a woman. The word “falsetto” means “false” in Italian. Technically, falsetto is singing or talking in a register that is one octave higher than one’s normal voice. One of the most famous falsetto singers in popular music is Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons.
In A Sentence: “Since we don’t have a female vocalist tonight, let’s have Bob sing her part in his best falsetto.”
Examples: “Sherry” by The Four Seasons, “Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens, and “Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones.

 

Harmony
Definition: Harmony is when two or more notes are played to together while accompanying a melody. Harmony usually connotes a pleasing sound which is why the concept is governed by several rules. It’s often said that harmony deals with the “verticality” of music while counterpoint deals with its horizontal aspect. Harmonies can be played on one or more instruments but in popular music the word typically connotes two of more voices.
In A Sentence: “Let’s each sing a different part of this chord so we can have a nice harmony in the chorus.”
Examples: A lot of early Beatles tracks, quite a few Beach Boys songs, and several Simon & Garfunkel tunes.

 

Leitmotif
Definition: Leitmotif is taken from the German word “Leitmotiv” and was made famous by the operas of Richard Wagner. A leitmotif is a musical phrase that’s associated with a character, an idea, a prop, a place, or an event. Every time (or nearly every time) that character, idea, prop, place, or event is seen (or mentioned) in a production, the same musical phrase is heard.
In A Sentence: “Let’s have the orchestra play this riff every time the bad guy walks on stage.”
Examples: The music in Star Wars, Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” and the score to the 1938 film, Robin Hood.

 

Libretto
Definition: The libretto is basically the lyrics of an opera or a musical. The word “libretto” usually connotes an operatic work while “lyrics” are normally associated with musicals. Librettos and lyrics are frequently written in verse and often independently of the music. “Libretto” is a form of the Italian word for “book” but it should not be confused with a musical’s book. A musical’s book contains spoken dialogue and stage direction.
In A Sentence: “If you write a libretto I’ll set it to music and in no time we’ll have an opera!”
Examples: Metastasio, W.S. Gilbert, and Bertolt Brecht.

Jay-Z and Kanye: the Throne on Tour

It was the fantasy album that mainstream hip-hop fans had always dreamed about. When Jay-Z and Kanye West got together and created Watch the Throne, it was like hip-hop had been re-invented. The album debuted at the top of the iTunes Store chart in 23 countries, as well as the physical version debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart.

Not only has this record-breaking album been selling like crazy, but the reviews are positive, too. Critics have given the duo, formally calling themselves the Throne, glowing praise for their collaboration. It may be surprising that two such well-defined solo artists, each with his own unique style, can come together with such great results, but the magic is definitely there. The only thing that’s left now, of course, is for Jay-Z and Kanye to take their show on the road and prove that they can recreate the same magic on stage that they did in the studio.

The journey to the Throne concert tour, however, has not gone as smoothly as the album release. Initially the tour schedule called for a September 22 start in Detroit, with subsequent shows following on in cities like Houston every couple of days, through the middle of December. At the beginning of August, however, Jay-Z came out with the news that the tour dates were going to be shifted around.

According to the official story that Jay-Z reported during a New York radio station interview, the start of the tour, including cities like Boston, was being delayed due to the pre-order ticket hotlines getting “jammed.” Jay-Z claimed that the system glitches caused the Throne to push the start of the tour back to the end of October, with the confusing and rambling explanation that starting the tour late would actually enable them to schedule in more dates overall, and would open up the tour to a wider range of cities and venues

The rumor mill, however, told another story. Sources close to the dynamic duo said that there was a lot of infighting, that egos had clashed on more than one occasion, and that at times the two artists were barely speaking to each other. Jay-Z did not deny that there had been squabbles, he admitted that at times he and Kanye could be heard fighting over artistic decisions, but he insisted that neither he nor Kanye would let personal issues get in the way of the music.

In fact, Jay-Z claims that the fighting, as vicious as it may seem to the people witnessing it, is a significant part of what makes the Throne great. The multi-platinum-selling rapper says that in order for artistic collaborations to maintain a certain level of quality, the collaborators constantly have to be pushing each other to the limit. This, Jay-Z says, causes friction that may seem like trouble, but really it pushes both artists to be the best they possibly can be.

The fact that Jay-Z and Kanye so frequently disagree on what “best” means is neither here nor there, Jay-Z claims. The important part is that in the end, the two come together with respect for each other’s opinions, a respect that both have said is bigger than either of their respective egos (if you can imagine that).

So now, finally, the tour is set to begin on October 29 in Atlanta, with the missed shows from September being moved around to other dates. The Throne will make its way up the east coast and then down again through the midwest in cities like Chicago, and into the south. The west coast will get its chance to see the duo perform in December, with the tour finishing up in Vancouver on December 17 and 18.

With such a short tour, the energy level is bound to remain extremely high. The Throne will not have time to get tired or suffer from tour exhaustion, and both of these performers usually bring a lot of enthusiasm to the stage anyway, so with the two of them feeding off each other, it should be an explosive and memorable performance.

Both Jay-Z and Kanye have proven themselves time and time again on stage, and if they can keep their respective egos under control, this tour should be one of the highlights of the fall concert season. Expect huge amounts of showmanship, flair, and of course raw talent.

Sting Feeling Young and Ready to Tour

 

It’s hard to believe, but Sting, former frontman for The Police and successful multi-platinum artist in his own right, is turning 60 next month. In true rock star style, he has a huge celebration planned for October 1, the day before his actual birthday, and the guest list includes the likes of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and newer stars like Lady Gaga. The stars will be performing for an audience, and the event will actually be a benefit concert, with all the proceeds from ticket sales to be donated to New York City’s Robin Hood Foundation.

Sting has laughed off the milestone, saying that he doesn’t feel 60, and that he’s still just as able to rock the house as he was in his 20s. He also said in recent interviews that he really enjoys celebrating his birthday, no matter what the number may be. He claims that as a child, he wasn’t given much attention, causing him to have a craving for the spotlight that led him to be a rock star. Loving to have all eyes on him, Sting is looking forward to celebrating his special day with his rock star friends, singing and performing for a good cause.

But it isn’t just the singer-songwriter’s birthday that Sting is celebrating at the moment. There’s also the 25th anniversary of the beginning of his career as a solo musician (which was actually 26 years ago, go figure). The last quarter-century of Sting’s music is being commemorated with a new box set simply entitled Sting: 25 Years. The set includes both hits and rarities, and features remasters of many of his earliest songs. The release date for the box set is September 27, and is highly anticipated by fans and critics alike.

As if that weren’t enough, Sting is also preparing to go an an anniversary tour starting in October. The “Back to Bass” tour is going to start in Boston on October 21, and slowly make its way across the country, entertaining audiences from coast to coast.

The name “Back to Bass” refers to a return to a more stripped-down style for Sting. Gone is the big power sound of The Police era concerts – Sting will be touring with only a five-member band, including two guitarists, a drummer, and two violinists.

Sting admits that normally this kind of electro-acoustic lineup would be a risky move in terms of touring strategy, but given that his fan base is so dedicatedly loyal and his popularity so well-established, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which he won’t play to sold out houses across the country in cities like San Francisco.

For Sting, the point of the tour is not to prove anything or try to relive the past, but rather to keep evolving and hopefully to bring a new generation of fans along for the ride. Sting’s music has stood the test of time, and although his newer work may not have gotten as much press, there’s still a lot to explore in terms of his newer material.

So what’s it like for a 60-year-old to be preparing for a nationwide tour? Sting doesn’t seem bothered by it at all. In fact, he seems more youthful and energetic than ever, which he attributes to a healthy lifestyle and living in the moment. He recently said in a CNN interview that he does not feel his age, and that in many ways he still feels and acts like a teenager.

This bodes well for audiences on the west coast, for example in Los Angeles, who will be seeing Sting later in the tour. Given the laid-back nature of the band’s lineup and Sting’s seemingly endless fountain of youthful stamina, the last show of the tour should be just as energetic as the first. Sting is a real showman, so even with the stripped-down band, or maybe because of it, these concerts should truly showcase the talent that made Sting the success he’s been for the past quarter of a century.

There’s no official word on the setlist yet, but concertgoers should expect an eclectic mix of older hits, jazzier newer stuff, and probably a few Police songs, as well. Regardless of how familiar you are with Sting’s work, if you’re ever going to catch Sting live, now would be the perfect time. As young as he’s feeling, he’s still not going to perform forever, and with a finite number of tours left in him, fans would be smart to go see him now while he’s still at the top of his game.

Welcome Back to Musicology 101

We’re the new owners of Musicology 101 and we’re as dedicated to music as the last owner. Check back here for regular updates about current concert tours and artist information. We’re going to write about upcoming or ongoing concert tours. Whether it’s rap or hip hop tours, rock and pop, country, jazz or almost any kind of live music you can think of, we’ll probably be writing about it at some point. For now, check out the sites in our blogroll, including this live music blog.