Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Greg Schwartz’s picks

It’s been another bad year for the recording industry, but another great year for music fans. Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, as is the opportunity to see it performed live. Musicians can still make a living, but they have to hit the road and seize modern marketing opportunities. One thing that will never change is the public’s desire to hear great music. Bands that can deliver still have a chance to write their own ticket.

Top 10 lists are of course inherently subjective, and this observer’s faves will always lean toward the guitar-driven rock side of the music spectrum. I was certain that the debut album from the long-awaited Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band would be topping my list this year, especially after the slew of terrific new tunes they delivered in two stellar shows at the New Orleans Jazzfest back in April. But the album isn’t coming out until 2011. Here’s my take on the best albums and songs that were released in 2010.

10. The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast
This is just an old-fashioned, ’90s-style indie-alternative rock ‘n’ roll album that stands out with its energetic yet down-to-earth sound. No Pro Tools trickery going on here, just a band plugging into their amps and turning up the volume. It’s got loud guitars with melodic hooks, rocking piano and zeitgeist lyrics from singer/guitarist Joey Siara that tap into this modern era of Depression and discontent. “Working Part Time” is one of the great anthems of the year, while “End of an Empire” sounds like an alt-rock prophecy.

9. The Sword: Warp Riders
The Austin, Texas hard rockers deliver a blast from the past that is easily the best metal album to come along in some time. It’s like a cross between Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, which equals metal heaven. It’s chock full of great riffs, furious rhythms and tight metal mayhem with a twist of classic rock flavor.

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Lettin’ it ride in the Big Easy: Jazzfest 2010 recap, Part IV: Up all night

Part three in our five-part series, where Greg Schwartz literally pulls a triple shift, finishing the night shortly before the sun came up. Don’t let the number of entires fool you. One of these sets was almost three hours long.

Rebirth Brass Band, Congo Square Stage
A local institution since 1983, the Rebirth Brass Band has become one of the bands that personifies what New Orleans music is all about. Mixing heavy funk with old school second line jazz, the band entertained a huge crowd on another overcast but thankfully dry afternoon. A funky take on “It’s All Over Now” saw the big horn section used to great effect. Later, the band jammed on TLC’s “Waterfalls” for another highlight that had much of the throng dancing. Others sampled the great food and many craft selections that lined the area, including some stunning artwork such as stained wood paintings that retailed for $3,000. The overall crowd was much larger than the previous two days, due to it being Saturday and with Pearl Jam headlining. But a laid back vibe still permeated the air.

Band of Horses, Gentilly Stage
These rising indie rockers from Seattle have an intriguing sound that mixes orchestral pop influences with rock ‘n’ roll flavors that recall groups such as My Morning Jacket, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Shins and Pearl Jam’s more melodic side. The band’s new LP Infinite Arms leans to the atmospheric side, but they can rock out too, and they did for much of the set with vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell delivering an energetic performance. The laid back sound of “Factory” sounded nice, but it’s songs like “Laredo” that show the band at its most accessible, with an infectious melodic rock that makes it easy to see why Pearl Jam tapped the band to open their current American tour. I would have liked to stay for the whole set, but I had to get over to the main stage for one of the festival’s main events.

Galactic, Acura Stage
If there’s one band that personifies the modern funk rock sound of New Orleans, it has to be Galactic. Heavily rooted in the classic funk of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, the band mixes in a forward-looking acid jazz sound as well as classic rock and hip-hop flavors that have made them one of the planet’s most dependable party bands for over a decade now. But while the band can always be counted on to get the good times rolling, they also throw in an occasional socially conscious vibe that has also become a New Orleans trademark. The band distributed a little pamphlet called “Galactic’s Guide to the Planet of New Orleans – a guide to New Orleans music, food & fun,” filled with great recommendations from each band member. “If you happen to catch any of our shows, you will be seeing the band in our element: the place of Galactic’s formation, in our hometown city during a special occasion,” read the pamphlet. So an extra air of anticipation accompanied the band wherever they went.

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Galactic: Ya-Ka-May

RIYL: Greyboy All Stars, The Meters, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

As an instrumental band known for kicking down big jams in the live setting, Galactic is part of a jam band genre not particularly known for creating classic albums. But the New Orleans funk rockers used to have a singer (the Houseman) and have enjoyed collaborating with vocalists when they can. They’ve taken the opportunity here to bring in a bunch of local friends to create a real album instead of just a collection of grooves. The liner notes deem it as “post-flood musical reality from a 291-year-old-city that’s had a near-death experience.” It’s an apt characterization for what will surely be one of the most unique albums of 2010.

The album kicks off with a fellow who sounds sort of like Professor Farnsworth from “Futurama” talking over a groove about some of the creative science behind the band’s festive formula. And then it’s on like Donkey Kong, with Galactic and friends throwing down one fresh cut after another to create a genuine party album. The Rebirth Brass Band joins in for “Boe Money” and “You Don’t Know,” bringing the extra horns that signify a truly authentic New Orleans style fiesta. The latter song also features Glenn David Andrews singing the blues on a sizzling cut with funky wah-wah, sharp horn lines and snazzy percussion from drummer Stanton Moore, long the driving force behind the band.


One of the best cuts is “Cineramascope,” which features extra horn action too, thanks to Trombone Shorty and Corey Henry (trombonist from the Rebirth Brass Band.) Bassist Robert Mercurio and keyboardist Rich Vogel get a deep groove going with Moore, giving the trombones and saxman Ben Ellman a great platform to jam over. Henry played a number of shows with the band on their fall tour and the chemistry shows. This track is probably the closest on the album to what the band sounds like live these days. Another stand-out is “Dark Water” with John Boutte, which has guitarist Jeff Raines helping to conjure a gritty yet still ever-groovy vibe with some slick bluesy riffage. Irma Thomas brings some old school soul to “Heart of Steel,” while Big Chief Bo Dollis does the same in a more up-tempo way on “Wild Man.” Allen Toussaint guests on “Bacchus” and sings about getting with the future so you don’t get left behind. This is a concept that Galactic personifies, blending jazzy old school roots with their trademark future-funk. Legendary guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington also shows up to bring his patented old-school bluesy vibe to the slow burning “Speaks His Mind.”

Hip-hop out of the New Orleans subgenre known as bounce is featured on several tracks, with the band taking the opportunity to introduce several gender-bending “sissy rappers.” Big Freedia throws it down over a slamming beat in “Double It,” while Katey Red and Sissy Nobby dual with each other on the high-energy “Katey vs. Nobby.” But the best bounce song on the album is “Do It Again,” featuring Cheeky Black on a cut that’s so hot they reprise it at the end of the album. The ridiculous video for the song is to be avoided, but the audio track rocks. Using so many different guests could create a disjointed feel, but Galactic tie it all together with a cohesive vibe thanks to their ace musicianship that serves as the foundation. (Anti- 2010)

Galactic MySpace page


21st Century Breakdown: Greg M. Schwartz’s Top 10 Concerts of the 2000s

Yesterday I listed my ten favorite albums of the decade. (To view that list, click here.) As promised, in conjunction with our End of Decade series, here are my top ten concerts of the decade, again in chronological order.

Galactic, 6/10/00 @ The Warfield, San Francisco, CA
The New Orleans funk masters made the Bay Area their second home this decade, with one stellar show after another. This was the night they unofficially evolved from a good funk group to an amazing big league jam band. The evening concluded the band’s spring tour and they paid extra to extend the show past the normal venue closing time. This enabled a memorable three-set affair whose final set didn’t start until after 2 AM. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the band for that entire third set of acid jazz ecstasy. There’s nothing quite like seeing a band on a night when they know from the start that they’re going to drop “the bomb,” which Galactic clearly did since the event poster was a picture of an old school-style sphere bomb with fuse.

The String Cheese Incident, 8/7/01 @ Mt. Shasta Ski Park – Mt. Shasta, CA
The jam rock stalwarts often work with Peak Experience Productions to put on shows that transcend the typical concert experience. This time they went to an actual peak for two shows – Mt. Shasta is known as one of the Earth’s true natural wonders and is a genuine Earth power spot. (??? – Ed.) The mountain loomed behind the crowd of about 3,000 as the band delivered a monumental performance on this second night, topping a brilliant first night and matching the majesty of the wondrous setting. The huge version of the band’s classic “Rivertrance” is arguably the best ever performed. Thematic selections like “Windy Mountain” and “High on a Mountain Top” only enhanced the vibe further, and the “Midnight Moonlight” encore was perfect. It’s only a shame there aren’t more shows at this magical location. Stream or download free here:


The Other Ones, 8/04/02 @ Alpine Valley Ampitheater – Troy, WI
The four surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunited for the first time since 1998 with a pair of shows before 40,000+ at Alpine Valley in a weekend dubbed “Terrapin Station – a Grateful Dead Family Reunion.” Each of the members’ own bands delivered a set during the weekend, followed by a pair of two-set shows from the Other Ones. The first night was great fun, if a bit uneven. The second night was pure bliss, with a set list featuring only classic tunes and great chemistry from the band. Jimmy Herring ripped on lead guitar and the band gelled for what turned out to be a great 2002 tour, as bassist Phil Lesh was able to influence his mates to do things his way. This meant adventurous playing, bringing back the old songs that hadn’t been played in years and pushing the envelope like the band did back in the day. Stream or download free here:


Phil Lesh & Friends, 10/30/05 @ The Joint, Las Vegas, NV
Part of the Vegoose at Night Concert Series (late night shows at venues on the Vegas Strip following daytime festival performances at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl), the Grateful Dead bassist and his band threw down a huge three-set performance that started around midnight and lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The bass master has been at the height of his powers in his 60s, aging like a fine wine. This show followed a superb stadium set the day before where Warren Haynes sat in. “Don’t these guys ever fucking quit?” a bartender asked me during the third set that featured a monster “Unbroken Chain” and a bust-out cover of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” with Joan Osborne on vocals. Osborne, who toured with the Dead in 2003, was a last-minute replacement for Ryan Adams, and played the role of alchemist – everything she touched turned to gold, including Adams songs like “Hardest Part” and “Let It Ride.” Stream or download for free here:


Pearl Jam, 5/20/06 @ Quicken Loans Arena– Cleveland, OH
I’d always seen Pearl Jam in California, but being back home in Ohio going to grad school gave me the chance to catch them in my hometown for the first time, and did they ever deliver. The new tunes kicked ass. They threw down great rarities like “Faithful,” “Thumbing My Way” and “Spin the Black Circle.” They included plenty of fan-fave classics too. The crowd was absolutely amped and grew more so when Eddie Vedder mentioned that the band’s next stop would be in Detroit (the Cavaliers had just dropped a heartbreaking playoff game six to the Pistons at the Q the previous night and were headed north for an ill-fated game seven the next day.) The crowd started chanting “Pistons suck,” and got Vedder to say it once too. Before “Unemployable,” Vedder had commented on the dour economy in Ohio and invited the crowd to move to Seattle, where they would “be not only unemployed but also wet… but you’ll be out drinking with us.” Songs like “Alive”, “Why Go” and “Fuckin Up” all raged with peak intensity. It was Pearl Jam at their best.

The Black Crowes, 8/1/06 @ Lifestyles Community Pavilion, Columbus, OH
With no opening band on this particular night, it was an “evening with” show where the band took the opportunity to open with a stellar acoustic set and follow it with a superb electric set. Thank goodness I passed on the Cleveland show at the lame Tower City Ampitheater with two opening bands to see this one instead. The word is getting out that this gem of a venue is one of the Midwest’s best. With great sound and not a bad view in the place, it’s become a venue not to miss when one of your favorite bands is in the house. The second set opened with an electrifying cover of Eric Clapton’s “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” featured 18 minutes of rock grandeur with “Thorn in My Pride” and concluded with a “Sugaree” encore in tribute to Jerry Garcia’s birthday. Buy it here:


Smashing Pumpkins, 7/30/07 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
The Pumpkins re-opened the Fillmore in 1994, so seeing the band reunite to deliver a 12-show residency at what some have dubbed “the greatest venue in the known universe” was an unexpected and special treat. In egalitarian fashion, tickets for the shows were just $25. Two of the four original members had been replaced, but with Billy Corgan on guitar and Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, this epic three hour-plus show featuring a mix of classics and stellar new material was grunge bliss at its finest. New songs like “Doomsday Clock,” “United States” and “That’s the Way (My Love Is)” rocked with a live intensity that was at an entirely higher level above the studio versions. Corgan stated that this was a new band, but deep rocking on “Drown,” “Hummer” and “Cherub Rock” turned back the clock in the best way. Monster jams on “Heavy Metal Machine” and the 36-minute “Gossamer” that ended the show threatened to blow the roof off. Check out the If All Goes Wrong DVD for some flavor from this residency. Stream or download the show free here:


Sound Tribe Sector 9, 3/1/09 @ The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
STS9 were the closest thing to a house band for the venerable Fillmore in the first half of the decade, before outgrowing the venue and moving on to larger ones. But they returned this year for a four-night run that concluded with a scintillating throwback performance for the ages. The positive energy inside the building on this Sunday night was something special, yet another testament to the Fillmore’s timeless vibe. The ever-evolving band left their high-tech toys on the shelf for a night and featured their older material in a show that won such raves from the fan base that the band changed their policy on releasing the soundboards. The group had barred the normally-allowed audience taping for the run, ostensibly to use the shows for a new live album or DVD. But after this show, a fever pitch outcry from the fans saw the band reverse course within a week and make the soundboard recordings immediately available. The “Baraka” opener set the tone, “Tap In & We’ll Meet in Our Dreams” was groovy psychedelic bliss, while the “Hubble” encore was simply transcendent. Stream it for free or purchase downloads here:


Jefferson Starship, 7/3/09 @ Pearson Auditorium, The Roswell UFO Festival, Roswell, NM
With amazing new vocalist Cathy Richardson in tow since 2008, Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner has had this modern version of the band riding a new wave of artistic power. The band has sadly flown under the mainstream radar and had plans to capture this unique performance on DVD for mass consumption. But like a mind-blowing UFO sighting that doesn’t show up on video, the HD video feed crashed and left this spectacular show as just a memory. Kantner brought in former vocalist Darby Gould along with a slew of other special guests like bassist Pete Sears, guitarist Barry Sless and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten for a special performance that featured a mostly acoustic first set and a sci-fi themed, mostly electric second set. The four-part harmonies between Richardson, Gould, Kantner and David Freiberg on 1970’s “Have You Seen the Saucers” were truly out of this world, as were performances of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” the Dead’s “Dark Star” and Airplane classics like “Crown of Creation,” “Wooden Ships,” “Somebody to Love” and an electrifying “Volunteers” encore.

Phish, 10/31/09 @ Festival 8, Indio, CA
For their first Halloween show since 1998, the band combined two of their greatest traditions for the first time to create an unprecedented event – a Halloween performanc featuring an instant classic musical costume set, joined with one of their legendary multi-day festival events. The show of the year went down at the Coachella Festival site in Southern California, a gorgeous setting for Halloween fun, especially with the site tricked out with all kinds of psychedelic ambience. The three-set Halloween show featured a complete performance of the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, with the band joined by Sharon Jones and a horn section for a dazzling performance that took the crowd to “cloud 8” (it was the band’s eighth festival event.) “Torn and Frayed” was jammed to heights the Stones never dreamed, “All Down the Line” conjured a joyous dance party into gear and “Shine a Light” took on a truly transcendent flavor I’d never gleamed from the album. Buy it here:



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