April 21, 2012

Playlist Week of 4-21-12

Mikael Akerfeldt 2012-04-16b

* Miles Davis: The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel (d.2a-3) (Columbia/Legacy 8CD)
* Herbie Hancock Quartet w/Bobby Hutcherson: The Barbican, London 7-03-03 (FM 2CDR)
* Anthony Braxton: GTM (Iridium) (2007) (Vol.1 Set 1) (New Braxton House FLAC>CDR)
* David Torn: Prezens (ECM CD)
* Levin Torn White: Levin Torn White (Lazy Bones CD)
* Emmylou Harris: Stumbling Into Grace (Nonesuch CD)†/‡
* Lucinda Williams: World Without Tears (Lost Highway HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips Vol.2 No.3: Wall Of Sound (d.1) (GDP/Rhino 2+1HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Road Trips 2011 Bonus Disc (12-06-73) (selections) (GDP/Rhino HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Palladium New York, NY 5-04-77 (SBD CDR)†/‡
* The Band: Music From Big Pink (Capitol/Mobile Fidelity SACD)
* Amon Düül II: Phallus Dei (Repertoire/SPV CD)
* Amon Düül II: Yeti (Repertoire/SPV CD)
* Gentle Giant: Octopus (Alucard/EMI CD)
* U2: The Unforgettable Fire (Deluxe Edition) (d.2) (Island/Universal 2CD)
* U2: The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Universal 2CD)
* Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Fat Possum CD)
* Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun (KScope CD/DVD-A)
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner CD/CDEP)†/‡
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville/Icarus CD)†
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)† 
* Opeth: Deliverance (Music For Nations/KOCH CD)†
* Opeth: In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall (d.1) (Roadrunner 3CD/2DVD)†/‡
* Opeth: Watershed (Roadrunner CD)
* Opeth: Heritage (Deluxe Edition) (Roadrunner CD/DVD)(†/‡)
* Katatonia: Last Fair Deal Gone Down (10th Anniversary Edition) (Peaceville CD/CDEP)†
* Katatonia: Viva Emptiness (Peaceville CD)†
* High On Fire: Death Is This Communion (Relapse CD)†
* High On Fire: Snakes For The Divine (E1 Music CD)†
* High On Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis (E1 Music CD)
* Agalloch: The Mantle (The End Records CD)†/‡
* Agalloch: Ashes Against The Grain (The End Records CD)†
* Agalloch: Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore CD)†
* Mastodon: Crack The Skye (Reprise CD/DVD)
* Mastodon: The Hunter (Reprise CD) 
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse CD)† 
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse CD)†
* Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam (Domino CD)
* Animal Collective: “Peacebone” (Domino CDEP)
* Animal Collective: Water Curses (Domino CDEP)



“Mountains & Metal Tour 2012” was simply amazing. Although I have lived here since 1997, I had not been to the Smoky Mountains, a mere four-hour drive from Nashville. Sort of like living in Boston for sixteen years and never going to Cape Cod. Well, the Opeth/Mastodon/Ghost concert in Knoxville on April 16 provided a good excuse to spend the weekend in Gatlinburg, just an hour or so further down the road. We stayed at the Lodge at Buckberry Creek, a rustically luxurious place located just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nestled on a wooded hillside, the twenty-nine acre property offers deluxe rooms with spectacular views, a half-mile hiking trail and fine dining all overseen by a relaxed and friendly staff. There were signs that said “BEWARE OF BEARS” and I half-jokingly remarked that I wanted to see a bear while we were there. Actually, our experience vastly exceeded my wildest expectations and I can’t wait to go back sometime for an extended visit. Here’s the view of Mount Le Conte as seen from our porch:

View from the Lodge 2012-04-16

Sunday was spent exploring the park. It was a beautiful, clear day so we drove up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, just over the border in North Carolina. From the parking area, it’s another half-mile walk up to the observation tower, 6643 feet above sea level. A sign warned visitors that their bodies might not be used to the high altitude, stating: “frequent rests along the way are advisable.” I thought, “Hey, no big deal!”—but boy, was I in for a shock! Not fifty yards up, my heart was pounding and I could barely catch my breath; I honestly thought I might pass out! Whoa! We sat down at one of the strategically placed rest areas and I managed to recover enough to keep going. Geez, I’m out of shape! Well, I wasn’t the only one struggling, believe me. We eventually made it to the top and it was truly awe-inspiring to be on top of the world, with our heads literally in the clouds, shivering in the crisp, cold breeze. My photographs fail to capture the grandeur, but you can see where the Smoky Mountains get their name:

Clingman's Dome 05

Back down the mountain, we headed over to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a narrow one-way road meandering around the side of Mount Le Conte, where we leisurely drove around and got out of the car to hike on a couple of trails. We didn’t see any wildlife, but we could hear beautiful, unfamiliar bird songs up in the trees. Later, we took the tram up to Ober Gatlinburg and turned around and came right back down (amusement parks are not really our thing). It was a fun ride, though, with lovely views of the scenery. After eating some tasty barbeque, we were completely exhausted. As soon as it got dark, we went to sleep. 

Monday was another gorgeous day so we decided to go over to Cade’s Cove, a popular park destination with open grasslands attracting a variety of animals—including bears. At one point, we caught a glimpse of one up in the trees several hundred yards away, but even with my telephoto lens, he was but a speck. Mostly, I experimented with the ultra-wide angle lens, with limited success:

Cade's Cove 01

As we were headed for the park exit, I loudly expressed my disappointment in not seeing a bear “up-close.” Of course, I was half-joking about this, since bears are big, dangerous animals and, as I had learned on Clingman’s Dome, I am not in the best physical condition. I wouldn’t stand a chance is the wilderness! But as we were coming around a bend, we noticed a bunch of people crowded into a nondescript turn-out.

“What is up with this?”

 “It’s a bear!”

I pulled over, grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car. There she was: a baby bear cub chowing down on the low-lying vegetation not twenty feet from the side of the road, completely unperturbed by the people and their clicking, flashing, whirring cameras. It was a magical moment, watching this wild animal in its native habitat. At the same time, it occurred to me that mama bear was no doubt nearby; so I took a few snaps and headed back to the car. The resulting photos are not very good, but I’m overjoyed to have gotten the opportunity to take them:

Bear Cub

Now that my Great Smoky Mountains experience was complete, we headed up to Knoxville. Our hotel room at the Hilton was crazy: a conference room on the top floor temporarily converted into an ludicrously oversize bedroom. It was hilarious – and actually fairly inexpensive for one night, making it somehow even funnier! After admiring the view for a while, we went out to wander downtown. The venue was just a few blocks away so headed in that direction, stopping in the legendary Yee Haw Industries for its (heartbreaking) going-out-of-business sale. As we were walking around, I saw Martin Mendez, bassist for Opeth, with his crew out on the street. Cool! Deciding to have an early dinner, we went to the Downtown Grill & Brewery—little knowing this was the place to be. There were a number of folks who were quite obviously going to the concert—and, a little while later, in walks Brent Hinds from Mastodon! Wow! Genuine rock stars! As we were leaving, he was just hanging out on the patio so I told him we were really looking forward to the show. Then we gave each other the “devil horns” salute—what a hoot! This was going to be a fun evening.

The Tennessee Theater is a pretty fancy place for a heavy metal show: a 1928 movie palace recently renovated as a thousand-seat concert hall, it is an art-nouveau gem. The beer was flowing and I was wondering if the barbarian metal-heads would trash the place. As it turned out, the audience was remarkably subdued (it was a Monday night after all), but also respectful and attentive. These folks listened to the music intensively: there was no moshpit—not even much headbanging for that matter. Folks were buzzing about Ghost, the anonymous Swedish Satanists and I have to admit: their schtick is pretty amusing. “Papa Emeritus” parades around in a clerical robes and a bishop’s mitre, his face painted as a death mask. Meanwhile, “The Nameless Ghouls” bang away at their instruments cloaked in enormous hooded shrouds, like Satanic monks. Great theater, for sure, and their catchy little hymns to the Anti-Christ are funny as, um, hell—or are they?

Ghost 2012-04-16a

Mastodon were, as the name implies, a force of nature. They pummeled their way through a diverse, seventeen-song set in a mere hour and ten minutes. No chit-chat, no lengthy tunings, just boom-boom-boom. Sadly, that’s what it sounded like: a boomy, noisy mess. Thankfully, we brought along earplugs! It was really a shame since I could tell the band was super-tight and singing well—but it was all buried in layer upon layer of overdriven sludge. And I was really looking forward to hearing Brann Dailor play — one of the finest drummers I’ve ever heard — but even the drums were virtually inaudible!. Oh well. They looked cool, though—especially when Hinds brought out this custom-built double-neck guitar. Now, that is what RAWK is all about!

Brent Hinds 2012-04-16

As for Opeth, well, I am completely smitten with this band and, therefore, cannot be objective. But they were, in a word, sublime. Unlike the previous bands on the bill, the sound quality was superb: dynamic, spacious and crystal clear—even when things got “heavy” at the end. I tossed the earplugs and reveled in the glorious sound. Sure, I might quibble about changes in the setlist (I was really looking forward to hearing “Face of Melinda” and “Deliverance”) but the recent addition of “Lines In My Hand,” one of the best songs off the new album, more than made up for it. Mikael Åkerfeldt was, as expected, completely charming, offering some hilarious, expletive-riddled banter between some of the numbers. But mostly, they were all business. All of the songs from Heritage were given authoritative readings while deep tracks like “Windowpane” and “Burden” were breathtakingly beautiful. The set-closing “Grand Conjuration” was almost unbelievably intense—make no mistake: Åkerfeldt’s growl is as forceful as ever. Their hour-and-fifteen-minute set seemed to fly by far too quickly.

Opeth 2012-04-16

After the show, we headed back to the Downtown Grill & Brewery for a nightcap. Who knows? Maybe more bandmembers would show up (besides, I was thirsty). Sure enough, Brent Hinds and Troy Sanders were there, chatting it up with fans and, as we were leaving, Hinds stuck out his hand and I shook it—I told him how awesome they were and that I’d “see him next time.” What a cool scene!

As we were walking back to the hotel, I said to Liz, “The only thing that would make this night any better would be to meet Mikael Åkerfeldt.”

"Look," she said. "There he is!"

Well, lo and behold: here he comes bounding down the street with his entourage, obviously headed to the Brewery for some well-deserved libations. Holy shit!

I told him, “You guys rock my world!”

He gave me a big smile and said, “Thank you!”

Gosh! What a thrill! I felt like a teenage fan-boy. That's a good feeling to have when you're pushing fifty.

We could hear a loud cheer go up behind as Åkerfeldt entered the bar—no doubt the party was just getting started! It was tempting to go back, but it was getting late. Having got my last wish, I went back to the hotel and happily crashed. It was a great night and a perfect ending to our "Mountains & Metal" mini-vacation!


 Hmm. I see Baroness is playing here in Nashville next Friday. Should I go?

1 comment:

Sam said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip! You were definitely at the right place at the right time....several times!

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2012-04-23:

*John Cage: Music for Keyboard 1935-1948/Morton Feldman: The Early Years (disc 2)
*John Cage: 2007-09-28: Milano Musica Festival, Event 8 (Cage/Donatoni/Cardew/Rzewski/Castaldi) CDR
*Han Bennink & Derek Bailey: Post Improvisation I: When We’re Smilin’
*Anthony Braxton Ensemble: 1976-06-27 Newport Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall (CDR)
*Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: 2010-09-10 Firehouse 12, New Haven CT (CDR)
*Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1967 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 1) disc 3
*Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: Spirit Moves
*Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins
*Duke Ellington: Live at the Whitney
*Oliver Lake/Jimmy Lyons/Henry Threadgill Trio: 1980-08-16 Austria (CDR)
*Ingrid Laubrock: 2009-08-01 The Stone, NYC (CDR)
*John McLaughlin: Extrapolation
*Myra Melford's Happy Whistlings: 2010-04-09 Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT (CDR) disc 2
*Roscoe Mitchell LRG Ensemble: 1998-04-27 Tribeca Performing Arts Center, NY (CDR)
*Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory: 1999-06-11 Hothouse, Chicago (CDR) disc 2
*New Loft: 2012-03-26 “Love Doesn’t Whisper” (wav)
*New Loft: 2012-04-02 “Distraction Action” and “A World Unbaked” (wav)
*Sam Rivers' Rivbea All-Star Orchestra: Culmination
*Beck: Odelay
*Boston Spaceships: Zero to 99
*Boston Spaceships: Planets Are Blasted
*Boston Spaceships: Our Cubehouse Still Rocks
*Boston Spaceships: Let It Beard
*Grateful Dead: 1971-12-05 Felt Forum, Madison Square Garden, NYC (CDR) “Dark Star Jam”
*Grateful Dead: 1972-04-29 Hamburg (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-04 Paris (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Grateful Dead: Europe '72 Vol. 2 (disc 2)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-18 Munich (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Paul McCartney: Kisses on the Bottom
*Pink Floyd: A Saucerful of Secrets
*Stock, Hausen, & Walkman: Ventilating Deer
*Tad Thaddock: A Minute of Kentucky
*Tad Thaddock: 5000 Attitudes/Live at P.B. Kelly’s 1985-09-29
*Various artists: WSAM: Sixty Hippies (CDR compilation)
*Weather Report: Sweetnighter
*Yoko Ono: Fly

Reading List 2012-04-23:

*Kirby, Jack, et al. Essential Thor (started)
*Rosenbaum, Ron. Explaining Hitler (in progress)
*Stephenson, Neal. Reamde (in progress