Monthly Archives: February 2009

Play Guitar Hero on Your PC, at Work!

(Video included) I’ve come across a lot of time-killing websites in my time, but JamLegend has to be one of the best. If you like Guitar Hero, it’s a must. Or, if you’ve never played Guitar Hero, here is your chance to try it out from the comfort of your computer, for free.

It works like this – songs play and, using your keyboard, you play along. The number keys are used as the guitar frets (or buttons on a Guitar Hero guitar) and the “Enter” key is to strum. You can play just by pushing the numbers, or the strumming version – which is much more fun. There are three levels, and like the video game, higher levels require using more buttons. You play against Roxanne, a computer, and at the end of the song the one with the most points wins. But if you create an account, you can play against friends.

The songs aren’t exactly the best, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just plain fun. Hopefully in the future they will start adding more songs. By the way, I highly recommend playing guitar style with your keyboard, using the function keys as your fret board. You’ll see what I mean.

Below is a brief video showing how it works. It’s a screencast – but on the website the action is much smoother.

Late Night Roundup: Willie Nelson, White Stripes and More

(Video included) It was a good week in late night television music, all leading up to a White Stripes reunion on Conan O’Brien’s show. But in an unexpected twist, the White Stripes ended up being outshined by the rest.

Jay Leno, nearing the end of his reign on The Tonight Show, had a couple of great guests this week, including Lisa Harriton, the English-born keyboardist and vocalist who recently joined The Smashing Pumpkins. She displayed her musical chops with a table-top style accordion, but really shines with her soft, breathy voice reminiscent of Natalie Merchant.

A personal favorite and Chicago native Andrew Bird played Leno this week too, showing his mastery of his own style. He’s an incredible talent, demonstrated in both his music abilities, his command of a stage and his melodies. He invokes feelings of Lyle Lovett and Elvis Costello but remains completely original. Below, he performs “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” from his new album “Noble Beast.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkWELUdKPY4[/youtube]

David Letterman featured the venerable Willie Nelson, playing with Asleep at the Wheel, recent collaborators and touring partners.

What can you say about Willie Nelson? He embodies country music, timeless authenticity … and America. Combined with Asleep at the Wheel is a powerful combination. The performance was good ol’ country blues, with some bluegrass thrown in, Willie with his beat-up nylon string acoustic guitar, some tabletop slide guitar and, unfortunately, a spastic Paul Schaffer on keyboards. Below is their performance of “Hesitation Blues.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjXtCmg638Y&feature=related[/youtube]

Finally, Conan O’Brien had long-time friends The White Stripes. It was a reunion of sorts – they haven’t played together since Meg White deep-sixed a 2007 tour due to anxiety issues. O’Brien and The White Stripes have a history together, prompting Conan to introduce them as, “Our good friends for many years, The White Stripes.” They played Conan’s favorite, “We’re Going to be Friends,” an innocent-sounding, wonderfully rhythmic song – except they managed to strip out all of the rhythm. Sure, they haven’t played together in some time so you might expect them to be a little off. But there was something else different about this performance. Jack White appeared to have some real emotional struggles with this one, looking as if he was coming close to tears at several points. His and Meg’s relationship has been subject to scrutiny and speculation throughout the years, speckled with problems, and it appears that whatever it is, they aren’t past it. It was a busted performance by a broken band, in what very well might have been the final performance for The White Stripes. And the moment wasn’t lost on Conan, who leaned into Jack White after the performance, saying “That means the world to me.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijh3sUu7kEc[/youtube]

The Decemberists New Tracks and Tour Dates

thedecemberists(Audio included) The Decemberists are starting to release tracks from their upcoming new record, The Hazards of Love. The most recent release is the title track “The Hazards of Love 1.” Previously they released “The Rake’s Song,” which you can hear below.

On first listen, they are sounding more sophisticated than ever before – a complete departure from the “O Valencia” days, thankfully. Personally, I’m not a huge fan but these new songs are promising. They seem to have achieved a sound that takes them away from a poppy, one-hit wonder type to a full-fledged band. You can expect one of these new tracks to get the dril-it-into-your-brain radio treatment that “Valencia” enjoyed. Check out their MySpace page for the new song and you can hear “The Rake’s Song” below. Also listed are their upcoming tour dates so far.

May 19 – Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA
May 20 – Fox Theatre – Oakland, CA
May 21 – McDonald Theater – Eugene, OR
May 24 – Wilma Theatre – Missoula, MT
May 26 – Fillmore Auditorium – Denver, CO
May 27 – Uptown Theater – Kansas City, MO
May 29 – Riverside Theater – Milwaukee, WI
May 31 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
June 1 – Lifestyle Communities Pavilion – Columbus, OH
June 3 – Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
June 4 – Memorial Auditorium – Raleigh, NC
June 5 – The National – Richmond, VA
June 6 – Tower Theatre – Upper Darby, PA
June 9 – Bank of America Pavillion – Boston, MA
June 10 – Radio City Music Hall – New York, NY
June 11-14 – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival – Manchester, TN

Late Night Roundup: Heartless Bastards, Dan Auerbach, White Stripes

Pretty good week for late night TV music last week. Dave Letterman had the Heartless Bastards, Conan O’Brien had Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys, performing a track from his solo album) and it was announced that Friday (2/20/09), Conan O’Brien will have a reunited White Stripes for his last show.

The Heartless Bastards are new to me. They were brought to my attention by opening for The Black Keys in New York not too long ago. So far, I like what I’m hearing. They are signed to the same label as The Black Keys, thanks to Patrick Carney forwarding a demo to the label. Musically they have some similarities, although lead singer and guitar player Erika Wennerstrom’s gritty voice sets them apart. They have a nice garage-type sound with some outstanding and simple rhythms. Sort of makes me think of a cross between PJ Harvey and The Pretenders.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71mt0FcgGI8[/youtube]

Auerbach performed “My Last Mistake” from his new solo record, Keep it Hid. It’s interesting to see Auerbach with a full band – and it sounds much different than The Black Keys. There’s a lighter sound here, it even has a hint of pop in there. But, you can still here the blues influence, and Auerbach’s voice still dominates, of course. To see the performance, click here, then click the second dot from the right on the video progress bar. And don’t miss the White Stripes on Conan’s last show this Friday.