Category Archives: The Echoplex

The Evolution of Radiohead “Lotus Flower”

February 20, 2011
My living room

The King of Limbs

Radiohead: The King of Limbs

All day today I was under the impression that it was Saturday.  A text message from a friend confirming our dinner plans tonight was my first indication that today was indeed Sunday.  Another friend reminded me that next weekend is the Academy Awards.  The sum total of what this means to me is that February is over already.

I feel like I’m in some parallel universe, where the relationship with time is much more dynamic, much less linear.   As I play around in this sphere, the question that often arises is “what happened?”  Not because I’m concerned, but because I like it here.

In the midst of this, my phone rang.  “How are you?” the familiar voice on the other end asked.  “I’m listening to Radiohead,” I replied.

And that’s the answer.  That’s what happened.

Radiohead’s latest album The King of Limbs came out Friday, following an announcement just a few days prior that the album would be available for download on Saturday.   I’m on Radiohead time.

I’m not going to write about the album because I like people to have the space to form their own opinions about music and because I don’t want to limit it with something as concrete as words.  Listen to it a few times.  Get lost in it. Or run away from it.  Whatever it moves you to do – move and do it.

Which leads us to the video for “Lotus Flower” that was released Friday morning (US time), just prior to the album becoming available.  The video racked up a substantial number of “plays” and accolades early in the day.  My first thought was, “wow… look how Lotus Flower has evolved.”

I was thinking back to October 2, 2009, the first time Lotus Flower was played live for an audience.   Thom debuted the song during a “secret show” to unveil his new band, “??????“.  ?????? soon became known as “The Thom Yorke band,” and by “known” I mean: people didn’t have the attention span to say “question mark question mark question mark question mark question mark question mark” and needed something more tangible.  On March 1, 2010, Thom Yorke declared ?????? had been named “Atoms For Peace.”  As time is dynamic, so is Thom Yorke, Radiohead, and the music they compose.  Even the older albums feel to me like they evolve upon each new listen.

I managed to capture quite a lot of video during that first show, in October 2009, much to the dismay of some self-declared “traditional journalists” who felt they’d been scooped “by some bloggers.”  That’s the challenge isn’t it? They’re behind.  We’re living in different times now, to the rhythm of instant gratification.  The real, immediate, news is reported on Twitter, the “Nightly News” is simply a recap of the history of that day.

So here’s the “Nightly News” video recap of “Lotus Flower” – the first single off The King of Limbs:

“Lotus Flower” performed for the first time, at The Echoplex, October 2, 2009:

[Video playlist] ?????? Live at The Echoplex

Official “Lotus Flower” Video, released February 18, 2011:

Radiohead “Lotus Flower”/Beyonce “Single Ladies” Thom Yorke dance mash-up:

“Lotus Flower Rick Roll”:

(“Lotus Flower live at The Echoplex” video courtesy http://www.youtube.com/user/starfiterpilot)

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Nine Inch Nails: Another Version Of The Truth

April 11, 2010
This One Is On Us
The Echoplex, Los Angeles

Nine Inch Nails: Another Version Of The Truth

Nine Inch Nails: Another Version Of The Truth

On Sunday night fans inside The Echoplex went off. The energy in the room was higher than what you’d see at many live concerts. But there was no concert at The Echoplex Sunday night. Instead, there was a screening of a live, fan-created, Nine Inch Nails DVD project: Another Version of The Truth. This is among the most energetic live concert DVDs ever produced, which is not hurt by the fact that it features one of  the (if not the) best live bands in the world, Nine Inch Nails.

Here’s some background on the project as posted on the official website, ThisOneIsOnUs.org:
On 5th May, 2008, Nine Inch Nails released “The Slip” for free via their website, as a gift to their fans. Or as Trent Reznor put it: “This one’s on me”.

On December 13th, 2008, dozens of Nine Inch Nails fans recorded the last show ofthe Lights In The Sky tour at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas.

On January 7th, 2009, over 400Gb of video from the Victoria, Portland and Sacramento shows from the same tour were unofficially released by the band.

By working together, the Nine Inch Nails fan community have created “Another Version of the Truth” – a 3 disc release bringing together numerous editors, designers, and web programmers to create a professional digital film, followed by a physical release created by fans for fans.

NIN AVOTT

NIN AVOTT

For the past twenty plus years Nine Inch Nails has consistently pushed the boundaries, done things their way, maintained their integrity and the art of what they do, and in the process, have built a trusting and enduring relationship with their fans. Another Version of The Truth is one result of this relationship and should be an inspiration to bands and fans — this is how good it can get. This is what happens when you do it “right.”

March Of The Pigs

Every artist should strive for a fanbase as loyal and supportive as Nine Inch Nails fans.  Every music fan should be so moved by their favorite band that they will invest not only their money, but more important, their energy, their creativity, and their undying passion, in a long-term relationship with the band.  Every record label should pay attention. . . because this is what it’s about.  However, until labels figure out how to authentically build an enduring relationship between Artist and Fan (as opposed to getting in the way of it), thankfully there are bands like Nine Inch Nails and fan groups like This One Is On Us who know what they’re doing.

Head Like A Hole

Head Like A Hole

This One Is On Us did an amazing job with Another Version of The Truth.  It may be fan-created, but it is professional quality and absolutely brilliant.  They took hundreds of gigabytes of footage and created a piece that actually makes you feel like you’re at the show.  I am a live music junkie and I’ll be among the first to tell you that there’s no substitute for being there.  That said, I felt the drive, enthusiasm, and impact of the Nine Inch Nails Lights In The Sky tour – it felt like we were there.  The audience sang along, screamed along, cheered and clapped.  When I felt it was nearing the end, I actually got sad – I didn’t want it to end.  When it was over, I had that post Nine Inch Nails concert rush and “All That Could Have Been” was my soundtrack for the drive home.  If they truly don’t play live again and you never saw Nine Inch Nails, Another Version of The Truth will make you hate yourself for missing it.  For those of you who have seen NIN live, Another Version of The Truth will help you relive it.  I recommend watching it at least once a day.

Robin Finck

Robin Finck

The This One Is On Us organizers did an amazing job hosting this event.  The sound was great, the screen was placed at a perfect height so that the audience at the screening was watching from the same perspective as the audience at the concert.  When there were crowd shots, you were among them.  When the audience at the screening put their hands in the air, they were among the hands on the screen.  In fact, when I posted videos from the event on YouTube (see below), people emailed me asking if it was 3D.  The organizers secured The Echoplex for the screening which added to the energy of the event.  Nine Inch Nails played one of their final Wave Goodbye shows at The Echoplex last year.  You could still feel the energy of the band in the venue which added to Sunday’s event.

Nine Inch Nails Q and A

Finck, Cortini, Sheridan, Freese

As it turns out, several members of the band from the Lights In The Sky tour were in the venue and participated in a surprise Q&A following the screening.  Josh Freese, Robin Finck, and Alessandro Cortini sat on a panel and graciously answered audience questions about the tour, rehearsals, and the possibility of a reunion.  Rob Sheridan, Nine Inch Nails’ creative director, was also in the house to answer questions.  Sheridan shared a great deal of amazing information about the technology used on the tour, decisions that needed to be made based on budgets, what happened when things didn’t work, along with funny anecdotes about how Reznor and Freese worked with the technology.

Below are some videos of the screening itself.  Yes, that’s the audience at the screening singing, cheering and clapping along with the band and audience on screen.  Screenings of Another Version of The Truth are taking place around the world – check listings here.  And, since chances are Sheridan and the band may not show up at other screenings, I’ve also posted some clips from the Q&A.

There is another fan-created project to be on the lookout for as well: Nine Inch Nails: After All Is Said and Done, produced by A Tiny Little DotAfter All Is Said and Done will document Nine Inch Nails last show ever that took place at The Wiltern on September 10, 2009.  I was at that show (review, pics, set list and videos are posted here) and met the organizer of A Tiny Little Dot, “Synthetikz”.  He’s a really good guy who obtained some amazing footage. I posted the trailer below so you can see for yourself.

After All Is Said and Done Trailer:

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B.R.M.C. at The Echoplex Night 2: My 10-Year Love Affair Continues

March 12. 2010
B.R.M.C. Night 2 of 3
The Echoplex, Los Angeles

 Robert Levon Been and Leah Shapiro

Robert Levon Been and Leah Shapiro

You can read about my 10-year love affair with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as well as my review of Friday night’s show, here.  Last night was night 2 of 3 sold-out B.R.M.C. shows at The Echoplex and they did not disappoint.

They’re supporting their new album, Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, so naturally they played some of the same songs during both Friday and Saturday’s sets.  That said, having gone both nights, B.R.M.C.  managed to make each show feel entirely different.  It’s difficult to describe and I’m not sure I want to.  Just know that last night’s show made me want to go again Sunday night.   The music and their performance of it is simply, and consistently, that  good.

Peter Hayes

Peter Hayes

Some of my favorite moments last night included performances of “Sympathetic Noose,” “Steal A Ride,” “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo,” “Ain’t No Easy Way,” “Never Known You,” “Shuffle Your Feet,” and of course, “Open Invitation.”  As was the case Friday night, B.R.M.C. closed out Saturday night’s set in darkness, connected to the audience via a web of green lasers, with “Open Invitation.”  In case you don’t know “Open Invitation,” the lyrics include the lines “Pull me up, on either side. Don’t leave me standing alone in the light. . .”  The song in and of itself is beautiful and among my favorites by B.R.M.C, both lyrically and musically.  Add to it the intersecting web of laser lights, each beam of light connecting members of the audience with the band and each other, cutting through the darkness and stillness, and the effect you get is that you no longer feel the slightest bit alone.  And so my ten year love affair with B.R.M.C. continues.

Robert

Robert Levon Been

If you’ve missed them in L.A., you have one more chance to see B.R.M.C. this week and I highly suggest you do.  They’ll be returning to the Echoplex for their third performance Sunday night.  They’re also continuing on tour around the U.S., so if you live anywhere else in the country, check out their tour dates here.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Even after 10 years, I’m still learning new things about B.R.M.C. which lead me to love them even more.  During a visit to their merch booth I purchased some limited edition vinyl and picked up a postcard that explains, in detail, the band’s commitment to responsibly sourcing their merchandise.  In an effort to ensure they don’t support child labor in cotton fields around the world, B.R.M.C. has gone out of their way to research and partner with Continental Clothing for all their apparel merchandiseContinental Clothing uses only organic cotton and certifies its products are ethically produced.  Looking forward to another decade with B.R.M.C.

Videos from last night’s show:

It gets even better beginning at 3:04 – watch it all the way through.

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B.R.M.C. You Are Going To Get A Great Review!

March 11, 2010
The Echoplex, Los Angeles

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Oh guys, it’s been WAY too long!! One of my favorite B.R.M.C. memories is when I first heard their debut album, B.R.M.C. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, back in 2000. It may have even been an advance copy, and my colleague and friend, Brigitte, had just added it to the rotation at the office. “WHO is THIS?!” we all asked. “B.R.M.C.” Brigitte would respond as if to say, “Yeah, I know what’s up. . . ”  “What’s B.R.M.C.?” we’d beg for as much insight as possible. Brigitte would take a deep breath and then enunciate the words with purpose and precision: “Black. Rebel. Motorcycle. Club.” Their first album was aptly self-titled, and soon, you knew who they were.

Robert Levon Been

Robert Levon Been

My second favorite B.R.M.C. memory is when they played acoustic at The Hotel Cafe several years ago. It was after Howl which came out in 2005, so this was four or five years ago. To this day, that moment remains among my top Hotel Cafe memories. And, as you can see, it’s simultaneously one of my all-time favorite B.R.M.C. memories.

Peter Hayes

Peter Hayes

My most favorite B.R.M.C. memory is the show they played at The Echoplex tonight, 10 years after I was initially introduced to them. As stated on their website, “Somewhere between the five full-length albums and a decade-long road test across the highways of the world, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club found their way.”

Robert

Robert

I’d say B.R.M.C. found their way at the beginning, or knew their way all along.  Here’s a band that is exceptionally talented and they could have taken some shortcuts along the way, they could have sold out, they could have given up.  Instead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club maintained their art and their integrity and took some risks.  I remember when they released Howl and it was a departure from the B.R.M.C. “signature sound” fans became so familiar with.  It was during a time when several bands were veering away from the music they had become known for, and without fail, each departure was an absolute disaster.  But not B.R.M.C.  Howl was a standout album for the band, and a likely bridge to the wider audience that is now among their fans.  Howl became yet another proof point of just how talented the band is.

Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been, and Leah Shapiro were, simply put: fuckin’ great! They played everything from, one of my personal favorites, “Open Invitation” to “Berlin,” “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo,” “Bad Blood,” “White Palms,” “The Toll,” and “Ain’t No Easy Way.”   Robert did most of the speaking, which is ironic because one of the first things he said was, “I woke up this morning and had no voice.”  You wouldn’t know anybody wasn’t feeling up to par based on their performance.  It was one of the tightest shows I’ve seen in recent memory.  10 years ago it was one of the tightest shows I had seen then.

B.R.M.C. stuck it out through the de-evolution of record labels and the dissolution of other bands that began around the same time as they did.  B.R.M.C. haven’t compromised a thing, are better than ever, and are now playing 3 sold-out shows at The Echoplex – which gives you 2 more shows to get to.  No excuses.  See this band.

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Thom Yorke Band at The Orpheum, Night 1

The Orpheum Theater, LA
October 4, 2009

Anne Hathaway, Tobey Maguire, Woody Harrelson, Edward Norton, Colin Greenwood. . . where were they and 2,000 other fortunate souls? The answer, ironically, is: ??????

??????

??????

The Thom Yorke Band, ??????, took the stage for night one of their two-night stint at The Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.  The band came together approximately 3 weeks ago and is already blowing the minds of fans, friends, and yes, celebrities (seeing as these shows are the place to be) with their live performance.  Not many musicians can form a band and successfully hit the stage so quickly.  But we’re not talking about just any musicians – we’re talking about Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Flea, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco.

Tonight the Thom Yorke band played a set nearly identical to their rehearsal show at The Echoplex on Friday. They began by playing The Eraser, start to finish, in sequence.  The crowd sat down during the first 4 songs which felt strange, considering the talent that was on the stage and the music they were playing.  It must have felt strange to Yorke too because as soon as they finished “Black Swan” and before they kicked in to “Skip Divided” Yorke requested the audience stand up.

Skip Divided

Skip Divided

“You know when I was getting ready to do these shows, I was saying to a friend of mine, ‘Y’know I really hope they dance to this music.’  This was all about making a dance record. So if you do want to sit there like it’s a cinema, that’s ok. . .  But if you do wanna get up, well. . .” Yorke announced as the crowd (finally) stood up and cheered.

I’m happy he said something.  Otherwise, I was going to be that a$$hole who stands and blocks everyone’s view because I don’t know how to sit still for “Skip Divided,” “Atoms For Peace,” “And It Rained All Night,” “Harrowdown Hill” and “Cymbal Rush” (certainly can’t sit  during “Cymbal Rush”).  It was hard enough to sit during the first 4 songs (albeit easier to see).

Indeed, the show at The Orpheum had a different feel than Friday night’s intimate gathering at The Echoplex.  For one thing, The Orpheum is a seated venue which divides the audience, interferes with one’s ability to dance, and requires an immense number of security staff to ensure people stay in their seat and don’t step outside the black tape and into the aisles.  In this economy, it’s good to see there are jobs for such a large security team.  At the same time, it definitely impacts the vibe of the show and restricts the crowd’s ability to express their excitement wholeheartedly.

Waronker

Waronker

Regardless, the show was spectacular.  The percussion team of Waronker and Refosco put drum machines to shame as they somehow replicated and enhanced the beats heard on the recorded versions of the songs.  Yorke danced around on stage some, but seemed quite a bit more reserved than he did at The Echoplex, where he danced like this (and then some) during every song. Perhaps he restrained himself, realizing the crowd wouldn’t be able to join him as they previously could due to the restrictive nature of the venue layout (and security crew).

But I know Yorke wanted to dance more.  And he wanted us to dance more.  So if you’re lucky enough to be attending the show Monday night, at least pretend you know how lucky you are to be there. There may be a lot of guys and gals in bright yellow jackets. . . but there are more of us!

Videos from the show (watch in HD for a better viewing experience):

Here are some photos I captured:

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Thom Yorke at The Echoplex: “Kind Of A Rehearsal”

The Echoplex, Los Angeles
October 2, 2009

Tweet of the day: “Secured tix to the semi-secret Thom Yorke and friends show tonight. This is why I live in LA…they don’t do this shit in Kansas” (@brandonyano).

Thom Yorke and Flea

Thom Yorke and Flea

At 8:28pm Monday night, September 28, The Scenestar broke the news that Radiohead front man Thom Yorke had put together a new band and would be playing at The Orpheum in Los Angeles on October 4th and 5th.  Actually, let me rephrase – Yorke broke the news on Dead Airspace (although many of us heard about it first from The Scenestar), stating: “in the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting a band together for fun to play the Eraser stuff live and the new songs etc.. to see if it could work! At the beginning of October the 4th and 5th we are going to do a couple of shows at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. We don’t really have a name and the set will not be very long cuz ..well …we haven’t got that much material yet!”

Thom Yorke singing a new, untitled song

Thom Yorke singing a new song

Tickets for the October 4 and 5 shows went on sale Tuesday morning (September 29) at 10:00am and, as expected, sold out in minutes. Then, on Thursday morning (October 1), The LA Weekly posted a story surrounding a possible Thom Yorke and friends “secret show” at The Echoplex on Friday, October 2nd. Bloggers and fans speculated until Yorke posted another update on Dead Airspace late Thursday, confirming this additional, intimate show. Yorke’s post included a faulty link to purchase tickets, an announcement that tickets would go on sale at 8:15pm Thursday night, and the disclaimer, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  That post has since been edited, because Yorke’s suspicions proved true and tickets did not go on sale at 8:15pm Thursday night.  (Yorke also included a working link to buy tickets in his revised post.)

Kind of a rehearsal

The band with no name

Instead, tickets were sold via TicketWeb at noon on Friday.  The gap between the initial announcement and the actual on-sale gave scalpers (who later attempted to sell tickets for as much as $3,500 on eBay)  enough time to ready their troops.  Unfortunately, it seems TicketWeb may not have had enough time to ready their servers.  Just minutes after the clock struck 12, there were hundreds of Tweets complaining of TicketWeb crashes and claiming “TicketWeb Fail”.  I know it’s frustrating, but to be fair, some major ticketing sites (including Ticketmaster and Live Nation) have been reported to crash during high-profile on-sales. Furthermore, in this case, we’re talking about one of the largest artists in the world, playing at a very small venue (approx. 700 capacity).  If the system did indeed crash, it should come as little to no surprise. As it happened, I was stuck in the “processing” queue for 12 minutes before the “sold out” message appeared.

Kind of a rehearsal

Kind of a rehearsal

For the lucky friends and fans of the band who got in, well. . . we were lucky.  Prior to the show I heard several audience members discussing the “little miracles” that allowed them to be there. Indeed, it felt miraculous to be introduced to new material and the formation of a new band led by Yorke, in such close proximity to the stage. This show was billed as a “warm-up,” as Yorke put it, “kind of a rehearsal.”

Well, I always imagined Yorke held himself to extraordinarily high standards, but if that show was a rehearsal, then a “rehearsal” has made its way into my top concerts of all time.

The band is comprised of exceptional musical talents: Thom Yorke (of course), Joey Waronker, Nigel Godrich, Flea , and Mauro Refosco.  To kick off the show, the as of yet unnamed band played Yorke’s solo album, Eraser, start to finish.  Yorke also debuted some brand new songs, solo, during one of two encores. He then invited the band back to join in on the remaining three songs.

Yorke gives the bird to requests for "Freebird"

Yorke gives the bird to requests for "Freebird"

If you were fortunate enough to find a place toward the front of the venue (under the high ceiling), you were treated to great sound, enjoyed watching Yorke lose himself in dance (although, you likely couldn’t miss that, regardless of where you stood), and watched closely as Yorke masterfully created and replicated the magnificent sound he’s known for.  The intimacy of the venue was further appreciated as Yorke joked, interacted with, and flipped off the audience.

Yorke didn’t flip off everyone, just the handful of people who were requesting “Freebird!” between songs.  Surprised people still do that?  Well, so was Yorke, “Shouldn’t you be calling out Stone Temple Pilots or something more current? Freebird is so 80’s!”

Thankfully, ignoring the audience (after showing them how he felt about the “Freebird” requests by giving them the bird), Yorke kicked in to more of his own songs.  “That sounded great!” yelled a fan, following the next song.

“Thank you,” Yorke replied with a smile, “it’s my job.”  Then, with another smile (bordering on a smirk), Yorke added, “sometimes I get paid for it.”

And therein lies another small miracle of this show, tickets were only $20 each. Thank you, Thom and the unnamed band.  Seeing as that was the rehearsal, I think you’re ready for the shows on Sunday and Monday.

Videos from the show:

New Song “Skirting On The Surface”:

New Song “Open The Floodgates”:

Next time, dance like you mean it, Thom 😉

Since it was a special show, here’s the set list (via At Ease).
01 The Eraser
02 Analyse
03 The Clock
04 Black Swan
05 Skip Divided
06 Atoms for Peace
07 And It Rained All Night
08 Harrowdown Hill
09 Cymbal Rush

Encore one [Thom solo]:

10 Open the Floodgates
11 Lotus Flower
12 Skirting on the Surface
13 Judge, Jury, Executioner

Encore two [full band]:

14 Paperbag Writer
15 The Hollow Earth
16 Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses

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Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band

The Echoplex, LA
August 27, 2009

A few things were going through my mind as I entered the Echoplex tonight:

  1. In a week and a half I’ll be standing in this same room, watching Nine Inch Nails perform their last show ever. . . or until Trent changes his mind.
  2. I hope Conor’s show isn’t as boring as the last one I went to (several years ago). I want him to captivate me again.
  3. How is the sound in this room?
I know that victory is sweet. Even deep in the cheap seats.

I know that victory is sweet. Even deep in the cheap seats.

Here’s some history about Conor and me: I love Conor. I think he writes great lyrics. He’s written some of my favorite lyrics. Conor chooses words with precision and I have deep appreciation for that. Words are extremely powerful.  And while I believe it’s important to say what you feel, the words you use to convey that feeling are even more important. Just one seemingly innocuous word can mean something entirely different to two people, depending on each person’s perception of the word and the previous experiences and meaning they associate with it. This is why I’m a fan of non-verbal communication. . . and Conor.

So in 2003, in New York City, when Conor asked me if he could write something in my journal, I didn’t waste time saying, “yes” – I simply placed the journal in his hands.  He took a breath, looked toward the ceiling, looked back down toward the paper and wrote the following words before closing the journal and handing it back to me:

Never go to sleep. Always lie for love.

There’s a double entendre in there of course. For the past 6 years I convinced myself he meant one thing.  And then 3 weeks ago I understood it differently. And that’s the thing about words – their meaning in an individual’s life can change over time.

Sometime prior to that moment, we were sitting on a couch, vowing to stay awake until we die so that we wouldn’t miss anything.

Even after all that, I’m able to remain objective about his live shows. And I will tell you this – the last time I saw Conor play it didn’t move me at all.  In fact, I left the show early (which rarely happens).

Thankfully, he won me over again tonight. First with his lyrics, then with his band (unassuming talented musicians from around the country), and then with his lyrics again.

I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you

I know I'm alone if I'm with or without you

In fact, I was so in tune with the lyrics that when Jenny Lewis came on stage and performed “Portions For Foxes” with the band, I heard things in that song I had never heard before.

During dinner my friend and I (both having recently seen The Dead Weather) were talking about how shows really don’t need to be longer than an hour. Just give us one solid hour when every song you play hits hard.  The Dead Weather nailed that. But after seeing Conor again (and knowing that I’d like NIN to play all night), I changed my mind. Just as I changed my mind about the words Conor wrote to me in 2003. . .

“Cape Canaveral” live at The Echoplex:

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