Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon pitches in to help the Dropkick Murphys support a good cause

Jonathan Papelbon (Photo credit: Andre Lambiase)

Jonathan Papelbon (Photo credit: Andre Lambiase)

Note to self: when choosing people to hurl tomatoes at you while you’re on stage singing karaoke, be VERY careful who you allow on the firing line.

Otherwise you might end up like Dropkick Murphys’ bassist Ken Casey, who during a recent charity event put on to benefit the Claddagh Fund,was put on his back thanks to a tomato fired from the hand of Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon (see photo).

The fearsome pitcher was just one of many celebrities to appear at the event, dubbed the “Rotten Tomato Karaoke Party,” which was held July 21 at the Barking Crab restaurant in Boston, Mass. Also on hand was Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, famed boxer Micky Ward, and Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick amongst others.

Together the athletes and musicians joined forces to help raise money for non-profits that champion the causes of children, veterans and those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

While Casey may have taken it on the chin this time, at least he did it for an organization that he himself founded. And plus, it wasn’t like this was la tomatina festival in Spain.

Now that could have gotten messy.

Watch video of Papelbon’s fateful toss during the Rotten Tomato Karaoke Party here:


For more information on the Dropkick Murphys or to see future tour dates please visit www.dropkickmurphys.com.

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Alison Krauss and Union Station help fans ‘beat the heat’ at Mountain Park

Live_(Alison_Krauss_Cover)Sunday was the day the “heat dome” officially broke over the Northeastern U.S. And what better way could there have been to celebrate than to finally venture out from the safety of central air conditioning in order to catch a show at Holyoke’s Mountain Park Amphitheater.

Fortunately, this past weekend saw the start of the summer season at the venue, and after an opening night premiere featuring alternative country legend Lucinda Williams and singer/ songwriter Amos Lee, the stage was set for Alison Krauss and Union Station to play on Sunday evening.

Beginning their set shortly after 8:30 p.m., the renowned bluegrass group opened with the title track to their latest release Paper Airplane, which landed in record stores in April.

From there, the word of the night quickly became musicianship as each member of the band, Krauss included, took their turn in the spotlight during the 2 hour and 22 song concert.

Though guitarist and singer Dan Tyminksi waited until near the end of the show to unleash his crowd-pleasing favorite “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow” from the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, an early standout moment was his duet with Krauss on the ballad “Wild Bill Jones.”

Since the tone of that particular track was a bit depressing, Krauss felt an explanation was in order after the band finished playing it.

“We’re sad people,” she said. “So we really like that last song because it gets everything in there that we could possibly want.”

“It has somebody getting dumped, and somebody riding a lonesome train. Somebody drinking, probably smoking, and then somebody kills somebody. And then somebody else is about to die. So it just gets it all wrapped up.”

Fortunately, not every moment during the concert was wrought with such potentially dour material.

One joyous highlight from later on in the night was dobro player and audience favorite Jerry Douglas, who remained on stage while the rest of the band took a short break so he could play an instrumental set, which he introduced by lamenting his loss of an opportunity earlier in the day.

“I really wanted to take a ride today down in this really nice park down here, but the tire on my bicycle went flat. What a drag. I should’ve brought it to one of you, you could’ve maybe fixed it. But too late now.”

AKrauss-LonelyRunsBothWaysOf course, after Douglas’ turn in charge the attention, as always, quickly returned to Krauss, who not only recreated the sound of such studio-recorded songs as “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “Let Me Touch You for Awhile” with near-perfect accuracy, but also joked with the crowd in between numbers.

For instance, upon introducing banjo player Ron Block as being from Torrance, California, Krauss quickly quipped, “Where they make all the vegetarians,” before mocking Block’s occasional lapses into the eating of bacon and ham.

Eventually as the show wound to a close, the group exited the stage only to quickly return in a super-stripped down fashion to play standing close together on a corner of the performance area.

In front of a large backdrop, which played a video of a train puffing its way down the track, the encore began with versions of “When You Say Nothing at All,” Down to the River to Pray,” and “Your Long Journey” before closing with “There Is A Reason.”

Interestingly, given the fact they were playing in an outdoor venue, one could almost hear a pin drop during these closing moments as those in attendance sat silently appreciating the skilled musicians in front of them. A token of respect definitely, but as I’m sure those who were there would tell you, I also couldn’t imagine a better way to beat the heat.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day opening act Jeremy Lister provided a brief but enjoyable set of tunes that consisted of him singing and playing acoustic guitar while his brother Richie sang backup. Though his start was delayed by what he claimed was “3 hours of traffic,” the Nashville native showed a lot of promise and likely earned some new fans in the process.

For more information on Alison Krauss and Union Station or to see future tour dates please visit www.alisonkrauss.com. And to find out more about Jeremy Lister please visit www.jeremylister.com.

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British songstress Amy Winehouse found dead at age 27

Amy Winehouse - Back to BlackAccording to U.K. news source the Guardian, the critically-acclaimed soul singer Amy Winehouse was found dead Saturday morning in her London flat.

Officials currently list the reason for her death as “unknown,” but the news comes just over a month after Winehouse was booed off the stage during a concert in Serbia and only a few short years after she battled serious health problems.

Though most popularly known for the release of her award-winning 2006 album Back to Black and its hit single “Rehab,” the troubled singer has become synonymous in recent years with her battles against drugs, alcohol and the law.

Watch the video for the song “Back to Black” off the album of the same name here:

While the jokes during a time like this are too easy and the condemnation to come from critics will no doubt be heavy-handed, the truth is what happened is a tragedy and sadly one that easily could have been avoided.

One can never truly know how the power of fame will affect a person and unfortunately, as the past has proven, the more artistic of us are usually the most susceptible and/ or sensitive to its charms.

Like many others, I was hoping for a comeback one day Amy. But maybe now you’ve finally found some peace instead.

For more information on Amy Winehouse and her work please visit www.amywinehouse.com.

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Alison Krauss and Union Station tour for Paper Airplane glides into Mountain Park

alison-krauss-union-station-paper airplaneIn honor of Alison Krauss and Union Station’s upcoming appearance at the Mountain Park Amphitheater in Holyoke on Sunday, the Underground proudly presents a list consisting of our top five favorite tracks that feature the critically acclaimed bluegrass artist.

Though not every song features the members of Union Station, their presence has definitely been an important part of Krauss’ career.

Or according to an interview in Rolling Stone magazine, where she described her time with the group, Krauss said, “Working with this band is where I really find out what’s going on. The five of us have something that is meant to stay together.”

Judging by the fact that she’s been with the group since 1989 and recorded numerous albums with them, I think the sultry songstress might be on to something.

Keep reading below to see if your favorite song made the list, and if it didn’t, please chime in with a note in the comment section.

5. “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You

A great single from the album that shares its name, this song is actually a cover. Written in 1967 to be the debut release by British soul band the Foundations, the original version was a hit overseas but found new life when Krauss’ take took the country charts by storm in 1995. It would also go to win the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1996.

 

4. “Trampled Rose

Originally written by experimental musician Tom Waits, this number appears on Krauss’ 2007 collaboration with former Led Zepplein singer Robert Plant Raising Sand. While Plant himself doesn’t appear on the track, Krauss seems not to need the help. Instead, she masterfully holds a listeners attention for over five minutes, sometimes without even using actual words.

 

3. “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby

Appearing on the hit soundtrack for the 2000 film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” this traditional tune also features the vocals of music stars Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch (who is scheduled to appear at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton this November). Performed largely a capella, the three artists voices combine to transform a potential lullaby into an entrancing call of seduction. Who said Americana couldn’t be sexy?

 

2. “When You Say Nothing at All

First appearing on a tribute album to the late country singer Keith Whitley, this song received so much unsolicited airplay that the label for the record was forced to release Krauss’ version to radio in 1995. Also popping up on the retrospective release Not That I’ve Found You: A Collection, the single was a huge hit and is cited by many as the reason that Krauss’ career started to take off. For the new listener, this is probably the best track to start with but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

 

1. “Whiskey Lullaby

Recorded as duet with country star Brad Paisley for his album Mud on the Tires, this haunting ballad tells the story of a couple torn apart by infidelity and alcoholism. Former Silver Spoons star Rick Schroder stars in the video, but its Krauss’ vocals that steal the show. If one could distill sadness and longing into a single phrase, the lingering refrain of “la la la la la la la,” is probably as close to pure heartbreak as you can get.

 

Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas with opener Jeremy Lister perform July 24, 7 p.m., $35-75, Mountain Park Amphitheater, Mountain Park Access Road, Holyoke, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com/ mountain_park.

For more information on Alison Krauss and Union Station or to see future tour dates please visit www.alisonkrauss.com.

And don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter and YouTube:

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Cass McCombs invades Iron Horse Music Hall for journey to Wit’s End

Cass McCombs - Wits EndCass McCombs

Wit’s End

(Domino)

While flipping through the liner notes of the latest release by singer and songwriter Cass McCombs, one immediately notices two things.

First, the album’s lyrics are printed twice – once in English and again in German. Since McCombs himself was born in California and his surname is of Scottish descent, the reason behind this dual listing is unknown.

Secondly, throughout the booklet there are pictures of distorted figures and animals. Though at times appearing grotesque, these creatures are also unique in their disfigurement – like a misshapen bird’s red body shown flying without a head or a yellowish man whose midsection more closely resembles a collection of scraps culled from the bottom of the ocean than it does a human form.

Alas, those looking for the stories behind these mysterious observations in the record’s music will be sorely disappointed. And that’s just the way McCombs likes his audience – intrigued but ultimately confused.

Musically what this means is a collection of songs featuring dense arrangements that, despite using simple words retain their ambiguity even upon dozens of repeat listens.

For example, album opener and first single “County Line” includes numerous lines about coming home and the sights one sees. But the heartache that comes with such a return is only alluded to, as is the inspiration for the leaving in the first place.

Elsewhere, standout number “The Lonely Doll” tells the bittersweet story of a girl and the drunk who loves her, but does so with incredible delicacy over the hushed sounds of a celeste and Hammond B3 organ.

Watch the video for “County Line” here:

Indeed many tracks on Wit’s End retain an almost lullaby-like quality with soft repetition and instruments used to heighten the hypnotic nature of the work.

Take for instance the finale “A Knock Upon the Door.” Stretching out over nine minutes, the song features such varied sounds as a chalumeau, banjo, portative organ, miniature acoustic guitar and even the percussive ‘knock’ of the title.

Though at times the rhymes within the song feel a bit forced (“The tired minstrel, leaving town, heard the Muse’s weeping / He turned up the Elvis tape is his grey car, creeping”), as a musical journey the piece is gateway to another world.

And apparently it’s a world McCombs knows well, as he described his music in a letter to the website Stereogum, “I made this because this is what I make, that’s Folk, and it’s about people I know and how we’re living. It comes from the heart and it’s not intended to be sold, it’s just intended to be traded, like a Dead tape.”

Plus he added, “I know people get lonely because I do, so that’s what I end up writing songs about, how you get lonely sometimes and come up with these big ideas that give you meaning for a second but then leave you like everything else leaves you.”

Depressing? Maybe. But also art. And to hear McCombs say it, art done for the right reasons.

“Money,” he concludes. “Is bullshit.”

Cass McCombs with openers Lower Dens perform July 19, 7 p.m., $12-14, Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com. For more information on Cass McCombs or to see future tour dates please visit www.cassmccombs.com.

Also, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground. And check out concert footage featuring artists like Dinosaur Jr., Garland Jeffreys, and more on Northeast Underground’s official YouTube page.

US women reach World Cup final and Weezer go nautical

Hope Solo

US goalie Hope Solo (Photo credit: John Mena)

Every once in a while a sports moment comes along that unifies the public consciousness through a display of heartfelt emotion and patriotic pride.

For example, there was the “Miracle on Ice” with the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey team triumphing over the Soviet Union in 1980. There was the exploits of the “Dream Team” in ’92, which took the reputation of American basketball to new heights.

And now, after an exciting 3-1 victory over France on Wednesday, the members of the United States Women’s Soccer team (including goalie Hope Solo, see photo) are headed for a moment of their own as they approach the 2011 World Cup final, where they will play Japan for the championship on Sunday.

Though both teams have inspired their countries with spirited play and defeats of much more heralded opponents in the tournament’s quarterfinals (Brazil for the U.S. and Germany for Japan respectively), the one area where the Americans appear to have a definite advantage over their Asian counterparts is in their choice of soundtrack.

True, the unofficial anthem “Represent,” which was written by Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo, was first used to honor the U.S. Men’s World Cup team from a year ago. But the song still holds up, and remains miles ahead of Shakira’s official tune from last year’s event. Sure, Shakira is better to look at than Rivers, but her song’s title makes me think of Fozzie Bear every time I hear it.

Watch the video for “Represent” the unofficial U.S. Soccer anthem written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo for the men’s team in 2010 here:

Song or no you can bet I will be watching on Sunday. You should too.

And speaking of Weezer

According to a report on BackstageRider.com, Rivers Cuomo and company will be taking to the high seas this January as part of a “floating festival” cruise, which will also feature appearances by Western Mass. faves Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh as well as Gene Ween, Yuck, the Antlers, Wavves, and The Nervous Wreckords.

In between trips to the buffet, Lou Barlow and J Mascis will also turn in solo sets during the four-day trip. However, no word yet on who’s more likely to break into a cover of “I’m On A Boat.”

My money’s on Barlow.

Don’t miss the action this Sunday (July 17) as the U.S. Women’s Soccer team takes on Japan at 2:45 p.m. EST on ESPN. For more information please visit www.espn.com.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on Twitter @NE_Underground. Plus, check out concert footage featuring artists like Dinosaur Jr., Garland Jeffreys, and more on the Underground’s official YouTube page.

40 years on Jim Morrison and The Doors: still dark, still strange, and still hot

The Doors

As any longtime music fan might observe, there are a certain number of artists a person encounters in their life that they return to repeatedly, like some sort of weird psychic center.

For example, the Beatles are one of the bands on this writer’s personal list. So too is the mighty Nirvana, and the psychedelic pioneers of Pink Floyd. The Clash, Oasis, Led Zeppelin – I could go on and on.

However, the group resounding most strongly in my head right now is none other than The Doors.

Today, just over 40 years after the death of Jim Morrison, the music of the Lizard King and his three comrades in arms – Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore – remains as relevant as ever. Don’t believe me?

According to BBC News, hundreds of Doors’ fans recently joined members Manzarek and Krieger as the two lit candles and laid flowers on Morrison’s grave on July 3 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the singer’s death in Paris.

How’s that for staying power?

In 2009, a documentary about the band “When You’re Strange” was released featuring narration by actor Johnny Depp and received much critical praise.

Included in that film was footage from an experimental film made by Morrison and photographer Paul Ferrara, which while widely available in bootleg form on the Internet has never been made completely available to the public.

Though many now associate the band with the 1991 Oliver Stone biopic that bears their name, there is a deeper story to the group than anything Stone’s fiction factory could hope to produce.

So why bring them up again? Why play their records over and over even when one has heard them all before?

Maybe because I’m already older now than Jim Morrison will ever be. Or maybe, it’s the dark magnificence of the men themselves. Stoned immaculate, electric shamans, orators of orgasmic rock – call them what you will. The music itself remains.

Perhaps drummer John Densmore described the power of the group the best.

He said, “People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music. I`ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn`t commit suicide because of this music. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That`s not for rent.”

A game called go insane? Maybe. But first you have to listen.

For more information on The Doors please visit www.thedoors.com.