Buddy Guy and BB King (August 29th '09): The King has gotten old. His teeth are falling, he's going senile and probably has attacks of debilitatingly intense incontinence. The seventy-or-something-minute performance on the slowly rotating stage was half hearted at best. It included lots of boring conversational pieces about music, beauty and love to the accompaniment of a staid rhythm that could have been generated by drowsy amateur musicians on autopilot mode. The angry outbursts ("Shut the fuck up and sing you old man") from a row or two behind confirmed NF's suspicion that this sentiment was shared by many.
Verdict: The thrill is gone. Totally.
Contrast this, however, with the positively brilliant Buddy Guy performance who (technically) "opened" for the grand old man. His remarkable wit, sharp humor, awe-inspiring stage presence0 and excellent song selection confirm his stature as the best Blues musician alive today. So much charisma in a seventy three year old in a loose shirt and polka dotted guitar is unfair - obscenely so.
Porcupine Tree (Sep 24th '09): Nanga Fakir had been taken in by the awesomeness of the band when he was in 3rd year in S'kal and PP had come one arbit day to announce his latest favorite rock fetish. "Arriving Somewhere..." had been a bolt from the blue from which Nanga Fakir, in some sense, never completely recovered1.
The concert was at Terminal 5. Despite a couple of setbacks2, Nanga Fakir managed to enjoy the show which comprised mostly of songs from the new album - a decidedly heavier sounding record, it's melody notwithstanding. Right now, NF opines that Porcupine Tree are one of the very few bands at the extreme frontier of heavy-metal-fused-with-progressive-tendencies that are able to maintain a semblance of melody in the presence of heavy and harsh sounding guitar work. Much of that credit must go to the frontman Steve Wilson's mellow and somewhat dreamy, mellifluous voice.
An out and out excellent concert but for the presence of the random bastard who kept shouting Free Bird after the end of each piece.
Indian Ocean (October 09th '09): At Times Square's B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill. Credit goes to Somnath Pal for bringing the concert to NF's notice which he attended with a friend from the nearby Rutgers University (which by the way, is supposedly one of the most boring places on earth). The great John Turturro, apparently a big Indian Ocean fan was in attendance somewhere in the dark hall.
As is usual with their concerts, Indian Ocean impressed with their improvised jams, their new songs (yes! finally) and their rather bawdy, in-your-face and rustic brand of humor3. The funniest thing was the presence of white chicks in search for an exotic Indian sounding band that they could put up as their latest new authentic musical discovery on Facebook. Nanga Fakir had a hard time controlling his laughter as they swayed/swung their heavy round asses to the sounds of Hille Re.
Among other, relatively minor adventures are the Friday night Jazz Jam sessions in the University Cafe and the Mongolian throat singing concert that The Horse (who's name has now been changed to 'Sama') took NF to.
The final stage of this series of adventures includes NF's killing blow - his upcoming appearance at Phish's reunion concert on 2nd December in Madison Square Garden!
The most breathtaking, the most versatile and definitely the best band of the '90s - Phish had blown NF away when he was in the seventh block in his 3rd year in S'kal. He had recently discovered the Grateful Dead and had overheard some conversation in which Phish were compared to the Dead. An immediate download of songs followed by an instant conversion to their cult had happened. Now with the benefit of hindsight, NF can definitely assert that although Phish must have started out as a major Grateful Dead inspired group, not only did they find their own voice totally distinct from The Dead, but in fact, they beat Dead at their own game - long improvisational jams that seem to continue forever (especially if you were high on grass).
Their break-up in 2004 had brought on an existential crisis for a lot of their phans4 including Nanga Fakir who gave up hoping to ever see them together. But the fat lady sang, and sang far better than Susan Boyle. And how Grateful are their Dead Phans to see them back!
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0. Actually "stage presence" is technically a misnomer since he jumped around so much - frequently running up the rows, coming back down, going off again - all while doing his guitaring calisthenics Hendrix ultimately got so famous for.
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1. Porcupine Tree is the last great rock band NF got hooked on to (along with Radiohead). After that, his musical education came to a standstill. Despite entreaties by juniors and fellow music geeks to follow Opeth, Tool or Death Cab for Cutie, NF has felt too sapped and enervated to follow any band in earnest ever since.
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2. A couple of friends NF went with were thrown out of the venue for drunken/disorderly behavior; how NF survived is another story altogether. He claims his impeccable behavior and extraordinary tact and cool saved his ass. But we know enough to not believe him when he talks about himself, don't we?
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3. Quote-Unquote: (Translated from the street-level Hindi they usually speak)
"Next year we'll play at Carnegie Hall. But we probably won't see you there (since you won't be invited?). (Nudge-nudge-wink-wink.) <*Oohs and aahs from the audience*>. But for you, we'll be back next September at this same place. How about that?"
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4. The comparisons with the Grateful Dead are long and well reasoned. Just like the Dead, Phish had a huge community of fans who would follow them around on tours and these dedicated, hardcore followers, had a special name (the Deadheads in the case of Grateful Dead) - Phans.