Never thought I'd see those three bad brothers, ya know so well onstage or at any capacity so this was super special & incredibly rewarding not to mention it taking place in Brooklyn. We also check in with Cypress Hill, Mike Doughty, the current Experience Hendrix Tour featuring Doug Pinnick & more.
Beastie Boys Story - April 8th - King's Theater - Brooklyn,NY
“When Adam died, we stopped being a band.”
That was a line spoken by Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz near the beginning of Beastie Boys Story at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre on Tuesday night. It was the second hometown presentation of the Spike Jonze-directed two-man show, which saw Ad-Rock and Michael “Mike D” Diamond unfolding the storied history of Beastie Boys. Ad-Rock’s somber sentence was referencing their absent third member, the late Adam “MCA” Yauch, who died in 2012.
“Being a band was Yauch’s idea in the first place,” added Mike D.
While Beastie Boys Story played out essentially like a staged recap of the group’s 2018 memoir, Beastie Boys Book, those early words by Ad-Rock and Mike D served as something of a sub-thesis for the production. Playful, funny, enlightening, and at times a bit messy, the two-act story provided a truly fun and fascinating look into the creativity and career of Beastie Boys. You were likely to leave either far more knowledgable about your favorite group or a bigger fan than ever. But the most prodigious takeaway is what a remarkable talent MCA was, and how integral he was to making the group the legends they are.
The anecdotes recounted throughout the show painted a thorough and thoroughly astonishing picture of how three weirdos from New York City became hip-hop luminaries. As they discussed their earliest days meeting each other at punk rock concerts and their first encounters with the likes of Rick Rubin and the Dust Brothers, archival images of their younger selves were projected behind them. Perhaps most memorable were the photos from the Los Angeles house they rented out around the recording of Paul’s Boutique, where they discovered a wardrobe of wonderfully absurd ’70s attire that became their daily dress.
Footage periodically screened as well, like the grainy punk music video for “Holy Snappers”, or the band’s first attempt at rapping on stage while reading rhymes off the back of homework assignments. Jonze pulled out some of his more interesting directorial tricks around the use film. At one point, the camera seemed to follow Ad-Rock offstage as he recited the tale of a particular MCA prank that took a decade and a half to reveal itself. Later, a graphic breakdown of the samples used for “Shake Your Rump” illustrated just how wild the creative process around the Boutique era was.
Less successful were the tangible theatrics, where Jonze employed largely forgettable uses of props and costumes. Seeing Mike D dressed as an English bobby was more awkward than anything, even if his British accent wasn’t all together terrible. Some elements worked, though, including Michael K. Williams’ Bob Dylan impression and a recreation of MCA’s first homemade looping contraption — a two-reel tape wrapped around two mic stands and a chair. The night also saw the infamous inflatable penis from Beasties’ first headlining tour re-erected, and Ben Stiller popped in to defend the group’s sophomore effort.
Even with these flourishes, Ad-Rock and Mike D mostly had the stage to themselves. Lines were read from large teleprompters at the back of the audience, leading to some stilted delivery. Still, the whole thing was meant to feel a little loose, a little wonky, as that’s the sort of energy that defined Beastie Boys. There was space for improv, making it charmingly obvious when the two were working on unscripted bits. Although Ad-Rock’s growing disappointment with a Tuesday crowd that wasn’t as into sing-alongs and call backs as previous audiences could be distracting, he admirably kept the story moving.
As it did, touching on landmarks like opening for Madonna or putting out Grand Royale magazine, the pair also made time to take ownership of some of their low points. More than just admitting their first appearance on American Bandstand was less than artistic, they addressed their history of misogynistic tendencies. They expressed sincere chagrin for kicking founding member Kate Schellenbach out of the group when they transitioned to “aggressive rapper bro[s],” and groaned at their own lyrics in “Girls”. They even distanced themselves from Russell Simmons, a man facing numerous sexual assault allegations but inherently connected to the band’s early rise.
Despite the missteps along the way, both in its truth and its telling, the Beastie Boys Story remains deeply impressive and effecting. So often, that’s because of Yauch. While MCA’s wizardry — his discovery of the “Sabotage” bass line, the fixing of an old aviator helmet microphone to record a song, his use a 360-camera to capture the Paul’s Boutique cover — was well highlighted, it was clear his friendship had an even greater impact on the group. Ad-Rock choked up multiple times while recalling the Beastie Boys’ final show at Bonnaroo 2009, and during the final moments, he gave some of his speech to Mike D rather than speak through tears.
Watching two musical icons explain their growth from world touring partiers to innovative artists isn’t your typical theatrical experience, but Beastie Boys weren’t your typical rap stars. Their story is one for the books (literally) and their earnest, goofy retelling of it on stage proved just as sensational.
Cypress Hill - February 22nd - House of Blues - Dallas, TX
Recent Hollywood Walk of Fame recipients Cypress Hall returned late last year with Elephants on Acid, an eccentric title with beats to match that's the first since 2010's Rise Up and only their second since 2004.
This time around speaking of the Beastie Boys (see above) they return with Mixmaster Mike, the innovative turntablist that took the B-Boys to next level business with 1998's Hello Nasty and in the words of B-Real, he wanted Mike to "do for us, what you did for them".
As one of the true grandfathers of west-coast, hardcore hip-hop, Cypress Hill has undeniably paid their dues to the music industry for over three decades. 2019, thirty years after the band formed in 1988, and Cypress Hill is still going strong. New music, a new tour, and some new surprises The crowd, already electric, bellows in glee as the notorious triad takes to the stage. Eric “Bobo” Correa, percussionist extraordinaire, appears behind a massive percussion rack. The smooth one, B-Real glides across the stage with all the power and swag of a west coast legend. Sen Dog appears from the shadows, stage left, wearing his brim low in mystery mode. Mike hits the table, Bobo follows as B-Real breaks mic silence with is infamous twang on Band of Gypsies.The crowds response is immediate and a venue wide, hip-hop dance off ensues.
Bobo and Mix Master kept the groove tight and in the pocket while Sen Dog’s vocals boomed the hook through the venue speakers. New material was well received by the fans and CH pushed forward with “Put-em in the Ground,” “Latin Thugs,” and a most memorable performance of “Tequila Sunrise.” Mix Master Mike and Bobo engage in a percussion/table dual that highlight’s the mastery of both of these seasoned musicians. Sen Dog an B-Real return to join forces for the mega-platinum hit Insane in the Brain.
Band of Gypsies
Hand on the Pump
Throw Your Set in the Air
When the Shit Goes Down
Put Em in the Ground
Roll It Up, Light It Up, Smoke It Up / I Wanna Get High / Cisco Kid / Dr. Greenthumb / Hits from the Bong
How I Could Just Kill a Man
I Ain't Goin' Out Like That
Insane in the Brain
Mike Doughty's 25 Years of Soul Coughing's Ruby Vroom - March 28th - Club Dada
Doughty came out first to a hearty applause and opened with a solo rendition of “Circles” from 2000’s critically acclaimed, El Oso. After a bit of a warm up, he was joined on stage by Klass, Brown, Milligan, and Andrew “Scrap” Livingston on electric upright bass. “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago” elicited one of the most hype, visceral reaction from the audience as they proudly sang along to the chorus.
For fans of Soul Coughing and Doughty’s solo material, it was a real treat to watch him work his magic, commanding his musical troops with his distinctive hand motions. Anyone familiar with Doughty’s discography is aware that he can produce a stunning amount of material, all uniquely his own but with a diverse flair for jazz, hip hop, R&B, and rock. To keep things fresh, he chose to do live remixing of some songs, opting to omit certain instruments on a whim to create a whole new sound for the songs fans adore.
This approach went over brilliantly as the crowd could still sing along and participate in the call and response of songs like “Casiotone Nation” that remind us how rewarding it can be to engage with the artist in real time.
The set seem to fly by as both the band and fans were having an incredible amount of fun. Mike and Andrew (who sadly lost his voice) shared in witty banter and random anecdotal stories that were a palate cleanser between songs. Inevitably, we all knew when the end of the show was drawing near since everyone is familiar with the track list. But they handled it brilliantly by joking about the nature of an encore and pretended to be surprised by our cheers for the last song, “Janine.”
It was more than nostalgia for a specific era of alternative music. It was a testament to the staying power of both artists’ desire to keep creating music. For fans looking for more, Mike Doughty has a Patreon page where he posts a new song every week exclusively for patrons.
Dug Pinnick as Hendrix @ Red Bank,NJ
It’s pretty much universally agreed that one of the greatest rock guitarists — if not the greatest rock guitarist — of all-time was the legendary Jimi Hendrix. Looking back on the history of rock guitar, few players truly took the instrument to the next level as boldly and quickly as Jimi did during the late ‘60s, when he introduced the use of feedback, wild solos, and flamboyant showmanship to the world of hard rock, on the strength of such classic tunes as “Purple Haze”, “Fire”, “Foxy Lady”, “Voodoo Child”, and “Machine Gun”, among others.
And despite Jimi having passed in 1970, demand for his music remains as strong as ever — so much that over the years, “Experience Hendrix” tours have been assembled, featuring a wide variety of musicians paying tribute to this one-of-a-kind musical figure. And this year, the lineup was particularly attractive to headbangers, as several players with true metal ties were included — Dave Mustaine, Joe Satriani, Zakk Wylde (albeit not for the entire tour, so he was not present this night), Dweezil Zappa, and King’s X singer-bassist Doug Pinnick, as well as bassist Billy Cox, who was a member of Jimi’s Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, Band of Gypsys, and the final version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
NYCB Theatre in Westbury, Long Island, is one of the more interesting venues to take in a concert, as it is “in the round” — which means the stage is in the middle of the venue, and the audience surrounds it completely — while the stage also slowly revolves, so the crowd gets various viewpoints throughout the evening. As a result, the musicians have to enter and exit through the same aisle as audience members!
Also, taking a gander at the makeup of the audience, it became quickly apparent that there was a wide variety of ages represented — from children to long-haired/white-haired rockers, some of which may have actually been lucky to have seen Jimi onstage back in the day. But it was certainly remarkable to see the youngsters who must have just discovered Jimi’s music, hopefully serving as a promising sign that future generations will continue to discover the classics, and not just settle for whatever trendy musical pabulum is being churned out at the moment.
Taking the Stage: Jimi’s step-sister, Janie Hendrix (also president and CEO of the Experience Hendrix company), first took the stage, explaining what Jimi meant by his famous phrase, “electric church music,” before the night — which was split into two halves, with an intermission in the middle — kicked off with “Freedom,” performed by Cox (who also provided vocals), Zappa, and drummer Chris Layton (Steve Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), who provided the beat for almost the entire evening. Various musicians and singers would come and go throughout the evening, including Eric Johnson (whose rendition of “Are You Experienced” was a highlight, as you could see how Jimi probably created the “scratching” sound effect in the song… by rubbing the side of his hand across the strings over the pickups), bluesman Taj Mahal, and Indigenous guitarist Mato Nanji, among others.
But the most pleasant surprise of the first half was undoubtedly Jonny Lang, who provided highly inspired lead vocals and guitar work on “All Along the Watchtower”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Spanish Castle Magic”, and “Fire”. However, the standout of Lang’s portion was “Spanish Castle Magic”, where he traded off solos with Nanji, and it seemed like he was pouring every ounce of strength into both singing and soloing. If you have never seen Mr. Lang live before, it’s hard to not walk away being extremely impressed by his talents.
But for the heavy metallists in the crowd, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine joining the gang was a highlight — collaborating with Lang on “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Fire”, and then continuing on as the main guitarist on “Purple Haze” and “Stone Free”. While there’s no denying Mustaine’s immense instrumental and compositional talents (heck, he played a major role in the creation of thrash metal, and has penned countless metal classics), his playing came off a bit technical here — which isn’t meant as a slight at all, as Megadeth’s riffing demands precision. But it’s just that Mustaine’s soloing wasn’t as bluesy as say Lang’s was this evening. Still, Mustaine’s appearance on “Purple Haze” and “Stone Free” (with vocals provided by Henri Brown) remained standouts of the night — as he played a sleek-looking black Dean V, which was painted to look similar to a Gibson Flying V Jimi played.
After the intermission, the audience was treated to veteran bluesman Taj Mahal, who provided rootsy renditions of mostly blues compositions that Jimi covered – “Killing Floor”, “Catfish Blues”, and “Hey Joe”. After Cox reappeared for renditions of “Red House” and “Changes” (the latter serving as another highlight of the evening), the crowd was finally rewarded with what many had had anticipated seeing most, as judged by the raucous reception upon their entry to the stage — a newly-formed/unnamed power trio, comprised of Pinnick on vocals/bass, the Westbury-born Satriani on guitar, and Kenny Aronoff on drums.
Back in the early ‘70s, the term “power trio” was used to describe such acts as ZZ Top, Beck Bogert Appice, and Rush, who took the trio format of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and beefed up the volume and musical muscle further. Well, the Pinnick-Satch-Aronoff lineup may be best described as “a power trio on steroids,” because the intensity and groove they mustered during their all-too-brief six-song set (comprised of “Crosstown Traffic”, “Manic Depression”, “I Don’t Live Today”, “If 6 Was 9”, “Third Stone from the Sun”, and the night-closing “Voodoo Child”) was simply astounding. One can only hope that this trio remains together and tours further, offering the masses a full night of Jimi — because trust me, their performance is a must-see/must-hear, as it appears as though each member pushes the other to new heights (particularly Satriani, whose playing was extraordinary this night).
At the very end of the night, all the participants came back out for a final bow. And one thing you couldn’t help but realize by this point — the music of Jimi Hendrix will seemingly live on forever, and continue to inspire future generations.