Lord Huron–Live at the Georgia Theatre

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I’ve been interested in Lord Huron since a coworker introduced them to me, and even more so upon their release of Strange Trails in 2015, my favorite CD of the year, in equal parts due to the music and lyrics about creepy love.  They’ve been through town before, but the timing never worked out.  This time, the timing was good; it just required a drive the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA.  Translated: It makes for a long day.

Lord  Huron Athens concert review

We arrived at the venue before the doors opened which worked out perfectly.  The Georgia Theatre has generally been rated a great concert venue nationally by people who like doing such things, and I hadn’t been to a concert in Athens since I saw an acoustic Neil Young show in the University of Georgia’s gym back around 1984.  That show and venue was dreadful, but Athens is considered a music hotbed of sorts, so it (probably) deserves better.  And they have it.  The building was constructed in 1889, and has served as a YMCA, a music store, a Masonic lodge, a furniture company,  Sears, and a movie theater among others.  It’s been a concert hall now for almost 30 years.  Today, it doesn’t look or feel old due to complete renovations following a fire in 2007.

Upon entering, observing hordes racing up the stairs, we smartly followed. Immediate reaction:  Wow.  Capacity is ~1,000, and it has curved tiered balconies where barstools are placed against railings well suited for placing feet and beverages.   So, we scored front row seats (at the 3rd level).  Still, that’s great, both for the view and the avoidance of standing for hours.  Not to be left unmentioned, overhead fans and solid air-conditioning were welcome on this 92o day, and the sound system was very good for a rock venue.  As a last observation, Athens apparently is burgeoning with young adults even in summer, and it was nice to attend a show where I was an elder in attendance rather than the youth movement.  In other words, Lord Huron’s heyday is now, not the 1970’s.
 Lord Huron Athens concert review

Waiting for the show, we observed what appeared to be a westerly wind bearing moisture across the stage, to the point of wondering if it damaged electronics.  This is apparently a trademark “fog” that the band prefers, though it never really fogged.  At the beginning of the set, various noises thought to be birds (possibly with a guest appearance by R2D2) set the tone for this band, possibly classified as folk-rock.  And thus begins the strange tales of Strange Trails, their last CD which the band is still touring to promote.  And this was my worry.  I already have a difficult time in deciphering leader Ben Schneider’s vocals in the carefully controlled sonic spectrum of their CD.  How would it work out live?

Lord Huron concert review athens ga

At the outset, not so well.  Five songs into it, the band didn’t sound like their recorded selves.  It turns out that vocal effects matter.  Schneider isn’t a bad singer; he’s just not a compelling singer… without the reverb effect.  About five songs in, he sang a spot relatively unaccompanied which alerted someone to note that, “hmm, the reverb switch must be off.”  After being fairly let down, the music I came to hear was heard.  This didn’t seem to matter to the sell-out crowd, who were very enthusiastic from the start.

To the band’s credit, they do color outside the lines, extending several songs or otherwise making minor changes.  The band is more about an overall sound and harmonies than it is particular instrumentation. Of note was bassist/keyboardist Miguel Briseno working the Theremin on “Way Out There,” where sounds are generated by waving hands through electromagnetic fields.  This wasn’t nearly as fluid as the recorded version, but it’s apparently a challenging instrument to execute.

lord huron concert review athens ga

Otherwise, despite the animation of Schneider and the band’s guitarists, percussionist Mark Barry was the visual focal point for those with an elevation advantage, supplementing the music forcefully or barely audible, as the songs required.

lord huron concert review athens ga

The set included a good mix of songs from both of their albums, plus a few others that were on EPs or descended from elsewhere.  Strangely, the closing song and both encore songs were not as strong as others in the set, like “Fool for Love” Overall, this was a good show, but I find myself more interested in what they will record next than the next opportunity to see the band live.  A Blu-ray concert recording with clean sound, though… I’d do that.

A Theremin – you’re curious, right?:

Set list:
The World Ender
Time to Run
Lonesome Dreams
The Birds Are Singing at Night
Ends of the Earth
Dead Man’s Hand
Way Out There
Meet Me in the Woods
Fool for Love
The Night We Met
The Stranger

The Ghost on the Shore
She Lit a Fire

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Santana – IV

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I like Santana… but my interest also has a limited shelf life.  Throw me back to Abraxis, Santana III, Caravanserai or the band’s 1974 live album, Lotus – there’s a lot I really, really like.  BuSantana IV CD Reviewt the band changed, and despite Carlos’ Santana’s sizzling trademark guitar, his body of work has really gone nowhere outside of a surprisingly narrow space of peace, love, and harmony.  For that reason, unless I find a re-mastered old CD in a used bin… for cheap…, then Viva Santana, a best of type selection, has been a steadfast placeholder for the rare mood that I find Santana appropriate.
Carlos’ Santana’s (often preached) commitment to the worldwide spiritual consciousness (etc.) is both what makes him extraordinary and repetitive.  He’s all about positivity, and while he may venture out and explore jazz or “psychedelic” jams, his guitar tone and note choices are always going to point towards a happy place.  That’s a good thing and has worked well for him, but variety is necessarily difficult lacking, oh, say, a brooding or sinister guitar solo.  They lyrics on this album reflect, in much simpler terms, the deepest romantic thoughts of 8th graders written for an audience of 7th graders.  “Love makes the world go round.”  Repeat four times.  It doesn’t get better, and it doesn’t get worse.  The good news is that, whether in English or Spanish, it doesn’t really matter.  They’re serviceable to Santana’s cosmic feel good approach… which leads to great guitar work.

Santana IV features a return of the early 70’s era band lineup, which is at their best, and picks up 45 years later.  By all accounts, this was a happy occasion for the musicians with much of the recording captured in just a couple of takes.  That’s short for saying that most everything is clicking for the band, and with an added dose of musical maturity (not lyrical, gah!) and studio recording quality, the album as a whole is a joy. 

Guitarist Neal Schon, who with keyboardist Gregg Rolie, left the band after Santana III to form Journey, adds a much needed voice to challenge Santana’s tendency to retread his guitar licks.  The result is often superlative for both.  

The album includes a generous 75 minutes of music and there are musical gems everywhere, even if buried in some of the less interesting songs.  I could trim some from my playlist and will over time, but the Santana “mood” usually isn’t satisfied with a single song.  “Black Magic Woman,” “She’s Not There,” and even “Smooth” usually end with a desire for a little more.  The songs here work as well here for a jogging soundtrack as they do for driving in rush hour traffic.  Whatever mystical place Santana imagines, the reality is the music has to fit the activities we have, and for that, I give the CD high marks. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb

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Funky Buddha Brewery

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I’m used to trying breweries before or at the same time as others in my beer enclave.  That was not the case for Florida’s Funky Buddha, at this point perhaps the brewery that competes for thFunky-Buddah-Gear-Patrrole State’s 2nd place in recognition, some distance behind Cigar City.

In any case, better late than never.  This brewery wrestles with the dichotomy of inspired creations and the flight from boredom. My first flight sample intended to satisfy my sweet spot: hoppy drinks.

Below we have, clockwise from the lower left, More Moro Blood Orange IPA (with an orange flavor lacking subtlety and at the cost of any tasted IBUs, but still enjoyable), Cornholio IPA (a surprisingly tasteful beer for one so clear, perhaps due to being brewed corn grits?), Hop Stimulator Double IPA (a fine example of the style), and, a No Crusts Peanut Butter and Jelly Brown Ale.  It doesn’t really have a Gulf oil spill sheen as suggested below – there’s a reflection from the blue lights illuminating the company’s brewery tanks.  It tasted like my wife’s PB&J sandwich, not mine as I prefer more jelly.  To call it a brown ale speaks more to the color, I suppose.  It’s already apparent that this isn’t the place for those yearning for authentic German lagers or is otherwise horrified by adjuncts.


Speaking of those blue lights, here they are, a portion of the production area visible from the bar area.


Back to business.  The second sampler, again starting in lower left, includes one of their staple beers - Doc Brown Ale,  Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout (very good, free of any brewmaster curve balls), 42 Truths Pale Ale (perhaps they were bored making flavored beers and overindulged in the pale) and On Top Blonde, a beer far more suggestive in title than it is in taste, which is regrettably ordinary.


Elsewhere, I tasted the Hop Gun IPA, their flagship IPA, which is suitable at a bar where other local beer offerings are limited, and the Floridian Hefeweizen, which is a style that I don’t favor but a friend who does likes it a lot.  Those with me tried the Blueberry Cobbler Wheat Ale, the Bonita Applebum, and the Pineapple Pilsner among others.  They would probably be happier at a beach rum bar, but perhaps that’s why Funky Buddha frequently shops in the fruit section.  I prefer a hint of these things; the brewery obviously has an audience who prefers bolder tastes. 

This comes from a brewery that doesn’t look funky at all but blends in with the South Florida utilitarian building design approach of “here today, may be gone tomorrow.”


I don’t think they’re going anywhere, given the sizable tasting room and ample offerings.  Overall, I’d expect to find this brewery in Orlando, where the tourists seek the thrill rides, but I guess Ft. Lauderdale shouldn’t be without its own attraction.


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