Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Manu Chao: Live in Rivas, Madrid

With each "Hasta siempre Rivas!!" (Rivas being the town in the suburbs of Madrid where he played), Manu Chao and his merry band left the stage followed by the shouts and howls of the thousands in attendance. Four times they returned, stretching out a concert that I thought would be a little over an hour into a three hour marathon of amazing music: the funky sounds of when cultures intertwine, borders drop, and people come together. When we finally left the show, in the midst of a surprising May cold snap that had us shivering in the Spanish night, we were exhausted: legs cramping, vocal cords shattered, shoulders hurting from holding off the hordes. But even now I can still hear Manu shouting "Oy yo yo yoooo!", imploring us to keep up with his fierce energy.

Manu for me was a top two show I had to see, right up there with the indomitable Outkast. Manu's music was a big reason for me wanting to learn Spanish and, in some ways, for moving to Spain. Although he still hasn't made quite the same name for himself in the US, Manu's kaleidoscopic mix of different sounds have made him a legend in Latin American and many European countries.

After enjoying a few beers at the feria of Rivas before the show with my girlfriend and great buddy Tobes, we joined the masses to walk the quick jaunt to the gigantic auditorium of Rivas, a Spanish white elephant if there ever was one. What happened the next three hours is still a blur: a beautiful mix of different styles, influences, political messages, waved Western Saharan flags, and Manu. Songs took on lives of their own; the most obscure song would suddenly turn into a mammoth rallying call for the crowd to mosh with a passion. The only breaks Manu, his sound effect guy (another living legend), drummer, and guitar player took were the encore breaks, slight eyes of the storms of music and dancing. Jumping around from his monumental solo catalog and his work with Mano Negra, there is no song that I wish he had played but at the same time no song sounded exactly as I had heard it the hundreds of times before. The songs, rather, become notes in a amazing symphony that Manu was playing: each had its time to shine yet never became more important than the composition as a whole. The three hour symphony made us sing, dance, think, yell, and was a true musical experience-the closest thing this atheist will get to going to church-there with a couple thousand other music lovers, jamming at the alter of Manu.

For a taste of the show, check out Manu's live album from 2009, Baionarena! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tribute to a Funk Master: Rick James

I have a confession to make.  I think that Rick James is one of the funkiest musicians of all time. 

My brother Moose has been bumping his jams for years.  However, I never really liked him until last week.  When I thought of Rick James, I thought of the mythical song “Super Freak,” which I have heard about 10,000 times and I think really sucks. 

However, one song I do love is Rick James’ 1981 classic, “Give It to Me Baby.”  I know that most of the readers have already heard the song before because it has been featured in a few movies.  Back in the day, it reached #1 on the R&B charts.  However, I would like to use my bully pulpit (JamandaHalf) to implore you to give it another listen.  It is truly funky.

The first song on the playlist is “Give It to Me Baby” followed by a recording of Rick’s epic concert in Long Beach from 1981.  If I could go back in time, I would, if only just to go to that show.  It was a true party complete with a tribute to the late, great, Bob Marley, who had just passed away.  

"You paid too much money to come in here and sit on your ass!... Raise your left hand, raise it up high.  Now pretend its the KKK and smack the shit out of it!  Now keep the groove up!"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JamandaHalf Interview: Kjel Keast and Isaac C

Kjel (pronounced “Kel”) Keast and Isaac C are two musicians from the south of England.  When this duo teams up, Kjel picks up the acoustic guitar and carries the choruses.  Isaac adopts a more central role taking responsibility for the verses.  Both Isaac and Kjel have separate projects and have only played together on a handful of occasions.  Recently, Kjel has spent his time playing solo gigs and bouncing around a number of bands, while Isaac has recorded a mixtape and just released a single entitled “Getaway” on iTunes.  Both are sick musicians but they are very different. And I think their contrast is what makes their joint project so special.

When the two get together, they cook up something quite pleasing. Isaac provides the main course of a great voice, conscious lyrics, and a polished flow. Kjel garnishes Isaac's verses with felicitous guitar rhythms and light, sweet vocals. The two styles stand in sharp contrast although when they come together they do so in surprising harmony. It is a zesty and refreshing combination to hear some rap without a thumping baseline.

I interviewed the garnisher, Kjel, a few weeks back and he enlightened me on a few topics.

Who are you and what do you do?
Me, myself, I was born in Cornwall, England.  So that makes me Cornish, English.  I'm a singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, engineer...
So, you're a music freak?
Well...yea...I like to get involved with it as much as I can.  I sing and I play the electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, I do sound engineering...but now I am playing a bunch with my acoustic guitar.  It depends on my mood.  But I'm definitely a musician.  That is what I do.  On my Facebook it says 'musician slash entertainer.'
What are your musical goals?
If I sold out shows around the world I wouldn't complain.  But I would be happy if I could live off playing my own music.  To write music that makes me happy and makes other people happy.  Music connects on many different emotional levels and music makes people feel like nothing else really can.
How did you start working with Isaac?
I saw Isaac in this YouTube video, which features Isaac C with Michael Collings, a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent.  I know what I like and it is really hard to stand out in England because there is a lot of talent and I heard the song and I was like, 'this guy is really good.  I loved his tone, style and everything.'  So I saw that he had collaborated with a bunch of people and I sent him a message basically saying, 'hi, you don't know me but I'm a musician and live close by.  Would you want to meet up some time and play some music or do a song?'
And then I went to Turkey for a few months and when I got back I sent him another message.  It was a little bit iffy, we were gonna meet up and didn't.  Then one day we did.  Isaac told me that he wanted to play some of his songs from his mixtape in an acoustic setting and asked me if I might be able to do it with him.  And I said 'yea definitely.'  I took the songs home, listened to them, wrote all the chords for all the songs in one night and I sent it to him the next day and he loved it.  That was the second time that we had ever met.  We met a third time to practice and the fourth time we met was in the studio to record.  
[I wanted to switch topics so I decided to ask...] And what do you do when you are not playing music?
I enjoy being with my friends and having a good time, playing some football, a bit of sport, a bit of health...whatever.
[pause] A few....
A couple?
Well I like fruit more than vegetables.  I just bought some bananas the other day.  I like strawberries, grapes, pears, apples...
What about Brussels sprout, or cabbage?
Naaaaaawwww.  No.  I could eat a fruit salad....but I couldn't eat a vegetable salad.  I guess I don't really like all vegetables....I do eat some vegetables, I just don't eat every vegetable.
Especially not in salad form?
Well I love onions!  I love onions....I don't mind a few carrots....But I cant really do cucumbers.  No green and leafy, ewwwuuuggghhh.
Did you know, that cucumbers are actually fruit, technically.
Is it?  Is a cucumber like a tomato?  But you wouldn't have a cucumber in a fruit salad, would you?

We shot the shit for a good while, laughing about this and about that, but the bottom line is that Kjel and Isaac's project is good.  It is refreshing and new.  Kinda like taking a bite out of a fresh fruit...maybe even a cool cucumber.

Both Isaac and Kjel are currently running around trying to make a name for themselves. However, I feel like, together they have struck gold.  I hope they realize it too.  The duo plan to head into the studio in June to finish the album…and we will be waiting.

In the mean time here is a sample of what Kjel and Isaac do.

Talk Too Much


Friday, June 7, 2013

Stuff-Live at Montreux '76

Whatever you're doing today, whether it's counting down the minutes at work while the weekend beckons or hurtling your way through a paper which should have been written a week ago, it's never bad to have something that helps you carry that load. Let today's Bastaixo for you be the funky sounds of the band Stuff. A work buddy of mine (and a gnarly bass player himself) passed me along this video of a live set of them playing at the Montreux (Switzerland) Jazz Festival in 1976 and it's the perfect way to make an hour fly by today. Based in NYC, Stuff were great musicians in their own rights and had five albums go Gold in the US (and one went Platinum in Japan!). They were also sought after backing musicians and played with artists from Paul Simon to Aretha Franklin and John Lennon.

Stuff show off their incredible musical range and dabble in classical jazz to funk to jamband while sounding amazing the entire time. While you listen along, keep track of the audience. The frigid Swiss at first appear to be a hostile crowd yet eventually find themselves unable to deny the funk. And finally, it doesn't hurt that their drummer reminds me of this guy when he gets going.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Daft Punk-Doin' it Right

Like the ribs at RedHill BBQ in Rancho Cucamonga, California (my favorite BBQ spot in the world and a must visit if you ever find yourself lost in the concrete madness that is the Inland Empire) I musically let the new Daft Punk album smoke gently for hours. Good things come to those who wait and the perfect example is BBQ: only after a seemingly endless amount of time do the subtle flavors of the wood and marinade come out. Like a lot of you I followed every masterful video and teaser, all those subtle hints that turned an album by a (relatively little known 5 years ago) French electronic duo into the biggest album release of the millennium. After managing to ignore almost every preview and first impression post that plagued the blogosphere for those first weeks after the album dropped, I let the album do the talking and I think I can finally taste it: that subtle sweet tang of a track that will stay with me for years.

"Doin' it Right" is most likely the simplest track on Random Access Memories: a repetitive, echoing, loop based jamandahalf that is guaranteed to change this face as Ricky Rubio once said. Building and fading, "Doin' It Right" never loses that undeniable quirkiness that will have me going back to it for years, just like those innumerous trips to RedHill during our college years. 

Download Daft Punk Doin' it Right

Monday, June 3, 2013

Win One Month of Spotify Premium and JamandaHalf Stickers! (Updated with a winner!)

Thanks to everyone who participated! The winner of our first raffle (picked by random), out of 135 total entries is...Miriam Psychas! Email us at Jamandahalf.com for your free month of Spotify Premium. Be on the lookout for more raffles coming soon. 

Spotify and other music streaming applications have changed the way people consume music as well as the face of this blog. Coming up with the playlists for our around-the-world trip posts would have been impossible even ten short years ago and would have likely involved digging through the cruddy back alleys of sites like Kazaa (shudder). With Spotify you have the world's music at your fingerprints, and although it still has a little while to go (especially when it comes to search and organization), it's safe to say that it's changed the way that Griff and I listen to and discover music. To celebrate the end of the "trip" and the beginning of a new era for JamandaHalf, we're running a little contest to give the best that Spotify has to offer: one month of Spotify Premium, a month of unlimited ad-free music, everywhere you go (with their mobile and desktop applications). To sweeten the deal, we'll send you three JamandaHalf stickers (wherever you may be). To enter this contest, you have various options below to get "raffle" tickets by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, tweeting about this contest, writing to us about who you think should appear in the next JamandaHalf post, and adding a comment to this post. This contests runs till 5/31 and we will announce the randomly picked winner then! Enter to win in the widget below and good luck!