August 24, 2012

so, Blind Pilot played at my house

On August 7th, the night after they opened for My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses in Kansas City, Blind Pilot hauled ass across some state lines in their sweet blue schoolbus and arrived at my place just in time for dinner. That night they played a living room show for about fifty of us, and I am so pleased to find out that it was recorded so I can share such a special night with you.

Ever since I first heard the richly colorful music of Blind Pilot back in 2009, I’ve wanted to get them in to do an intimate Fuel/Friends show. That Tuesday, as you will hear, was totally worth the wait. The thing that really stands out in this entirely acoustic setting is their voices: the velvety, resplendent way they all knit together. At several points during the night you can hear us just hoot out our zenith of joy, like someone was poking us with a giant electric prod of musical fantasticness.

AUGUST 7, 2012
Go On Say It
Two Towns From Me
The Story I Heard
Just One
Keep You
Things I Cannot Recall
Paint or Pollen
Half Moon
I Buried A Bone
The Colored Night
One Red Thread
Three Rounds and a Sound


Here are also two videos from the night, including one of Tyler Lyle, who flew out from California to open the show. The song he performs (“Ditch Digger”) was partially written at my house back in March, so it was a deep treat to hear it performed there again.

And a final farewell on their bus (which is so very cool inside, Partridge Family-style):

[thanks so much to my neighbor Mike Kimlicko for recording!]

June 22, 2012

Blind Pilot’s playing at my house (my house)

You’re blinded by the dazzling attractiveness of this sextet, no? Wait until you hear them perform a stripped-down, all-acoustic set at my house on Tuesday, August 7! And then add to the mix that Tyler Lyle is flying out from California to open the show, and I think you got yourself the house concert of the summer.

Blind Pilot has been a favorite of mine ever since I heard this song in 2009, via my friend Dainon. Since then, Blind Pilot has continued to release amazing music, and most recently I just saw them wow a crowd of thousands at Red Rocks, opening for The Shins and The Head & The Heart. You also know that Tyler Lyle is one of my favorite new songwriting talents, and I am beyond thrilled to have him coming back.

TICKETS ARE HERE. This will probably fill up (please see the “HOW IT WORKS” segment on the EventBrite page). Whee!

September 2, 2011

don’t keep me like you have me / and don’t kiss me like you don’t

Most nights for the last few weeks, I have fallen asleep listening to this song on giant headphones. “New York” is the closing track on the new Blind Pilot album, and it couldn’t be more somnolent, redolent, or perfect.

Stream the entire new album We Are The Tide over on NPR for a limited time. My heart is glad.

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June 30, 2011

we are the tide

I was pretty darn excited yesterday to get a glimpse inside the studio for the new Blind Pilot album, due September 13th. This is probably one of my most highly anticipated sophomore records from a band in a long time (except maybe The Head and The Heart, but patience is a virtue). Blind Pilot released their thoroughly superb, smokily-shaded debut album 3 Rounds and a Sound in 2008 — I loved it then and it has held fast as a favorite. Singer Israel Nebeker’s voice holds such a rich and knowing sweetness, and the themes of the album swim deep in veins of love and loss.

The new album is named after a song “We Are The Tide” that first surfaced live last year, and that I featured happily on my Autumn Leaves/Autumn Stays mix. There is something deeply autumnal about Blind Pilot, at least to my ears, so I can’t wait until this September. We’re trying to get them in for a Chapel Session this fall as well, so stay tuned. I can hardly imagine anything nicer.

We Are The Tide (live in Portland) – Blind Pilot

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February 24, 2010

Blind Pilot looks for Miss Ohio

blind pilot

I have “a thing” for this song — both the way Gillian Welch conceived of it and the way anyone else covers it. It is, quite simply, a sweet, sad, powerful song that oozes goodness. I have been known on occasion to drive around (in my Nissan Sentra, so no ragtop down) to this song on repeat, on roadtrips through the barren lands — singing how she wants to do right, but not right now.

To finally have a good quality recording of Blind Pilot performing it (one of my favorite newer bands) is just heavenly. Israel’s voice radiates an enveloping warmth, and an understandable melancholy.

LISTEN: Look At Miss Ohio (Gillian Welch) – Blind Pilot

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Fullscreen capture 2242010 104623 PMFrom their iTunes Live Sessions EP, out now, also worth it for the achingly to-die-for good version of “3 Rounds And A Sound” with ukulele, and the previously-unreleased track “Get It Out.”

You can also now order their amazing album 3 Rounds and a Sound on 180-gram vinyl, and I can think of very few albums released in recent years that sound as good that way.

September 5, 2009

Outside Lands returns triumphant


I can think of much worse ways to spend an August weekend than in the heart of one of my favorite cities (San Francisco), seeing an eclectic lineup of bands both headliner-huge and quirky-small. Last year’s inaugural edition of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival boasted a solid roster of national and local musicians, but was plagued by a few logistical snafus that ranged from the mildly annoying (no, you can’t go that way anymore, you have to walk all the way around) to the borderline panic-attack inducing (15′-wide gauntlets of death to walk through to get to Beck, crammed like a sausage with your neighbor who is pushing the other way). It made it hard, at times, to lose yourself in the music, as Eminem advises.

This year’s festival returned with with a shimmering bang last weekend, featuring an arguably stronger lineup than last year and straightened out details, continuing to play on the gorgeous natural setting with stages spread out amidst the cypress trees. The fest also showcased local wines and restaurants with some abnormally tasty selections for a festival, far better than your standard funnel cake (not that I have ANY PROBLEM with funnel cake).

Of course, as with any festival, when you take into account the human error fudge factor, heat and/or cold, interpersonal weavings, and the occasional Heineken, it can be awfully difficult to catch all the bands you wanted. But the happy flip-side of that is that you often end up stumbling into something even better.

My three days of musical happiness began with a band that is quickly becoming one of my very favorites – Blind Pilot. This Portland, Oregon band drew a huge crowd with their rich and bittersweet tunes layered with gorgeous instrumentation, and those rootsy leanings. Frontman Israel Nebeker’s evocative voice just keeps drawing me back, no matter how many times I see them live (this was #3 this year).

How I want that mystery / let me dive ’til I believe.”

Two Towns From Me – Blind Pilot



The only other time I’ve seen The National perform was at Coachella last spring, and it is a testament to this band and their potency that even in a festival setting, in broad daylight, they’ve managed to completely knock me flat in the best way possible. I can’t imagine what they’d do to me in a dark club. As I wrote about the Indio desert, “The National carved something out of me and put something back in, is the best way I can put it.” Their set was riveting, laden with songs that I could hardly have hand-picked better (except maybe, “Lucky You.” I’d add that one).

Matt Berninger looks every bit the refined GQ businessman in a large faceless city; gold wedding band on his hand, dark collared shirt, hair nicely trimmed. But with his baritone velvet voice, dark stories spill from his mouth of all the emptiest fears and the most acute longings that wake us in the night. The bright horns and the swells of melody twinkle and shine like a candle in a colander, putting a streak of beauty through the center.

Start a War, Mistaken for Strangers, the new Blood Buzz Ohio, Slow Show — and my favorite Secret Meeting… it was over far too soon.

Lucky You (live on Daytrotter) – The National




Next up in a magical bit of booking was Tom Jones, the Welsh crooner who can peel panties off people using only his cognac-smooth brogue. You would not believe the universal love that flowed from all sectors of the (hip-shaking) audience for his snappy set. All you need to know about the performance can be gleaned from these two pictures, and if you have more time to amuse yourself, my montage of Tom Jones facial expressions over on Facebook. As a friend texted me during his set, as I reported on the undies flying off 19-year-olds with dreadlocks and ironic t-shirts, “It’s like he went from cool to ironic back to cool.”

I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Arctic Monkeys cover) – Tom Jones



Friday night ended as not the best of times for me, although I did try to rally and catch Washington D.C.’s Thievery Corporation, with their Brazilian-dub-lounge groove (it looked like this, and sounded numbingly good floating through the night and turning off my brain).


Saturday started off with a double-shot of global awesomeness from different corners of the world; it was bands like these that illuminated the fest for me. First up was Extra Golden, a combo of half Kenyan-benga music and half American-study-abroad-student rock. You might remember when I wrote about these guys a few months ago, I mentioned “the sound that cut through the din,”and also mused how good they might sound live. I am pleased to report that they both stopped traffic of folks walking by (with their tribal beats and African-laced rock), and also put on a superb set. I would absolutely go see them again; I kept laughing out loud from joy.

Anyango – Extra Golden



Immediately following Extra Golden, we dashed over to the Sutro stage to catch Nortec Collective’s Bostich + Fussible, on the recommendation of my friend Julio, who is much-more-savvy than this white girl when it comes to all things south of the border. I’d never heard any nortec business, but it blew my mind — the crashing together of the traditional Tijuana sounds with effortlessly cool dudes twisting knobs to make ridiculously danceable beats. My friend nailed it when he said they could occupy the stage in the back of any Quentin Tarantino movie scene — they were just that badass. Another band I would see again live in an absolute heartbeat. I mean listen to this:

Aka 47 – Bostich + Fussible



Next was Bat For Lashes (rad British chanteuse Natasha Khan), with a set that created more buzz than any other band I saw at the festival. Everyone was talking about her afterwards, and it was my favorite set of the weekend. I was only casually acquainted with her music before seeing her live, but her rich satiny alto voice flowed like a warm golden river through the middle of the sexy, synthy danceable creations. Where she was competent and confident in her stage presence, her band was amazingly kickass too, and I fell in love with both the drummer and the rainbow zig-zagged guitarist.

And: random celebrity sighting, Josh Groban totally digs Bat For Lashes; he was right by me for the set. YES, Mom, Josh Groban. Omg.

Pearl’s Dream – Bat For Lashes

Use Somebody (Kings of Leon cover, live on BBC) – Bat for Lashes



And: random fashion note, the girls in the band totally share clothes.


After wasting away some hours of the evening with folks like The Ice Cream Man and the Free Heineken Man, the only other set I participated in on Saturday (sadly! festival fail!) was the scorching set from Dave Matthews Band. I forget how much I do love Dave, and a sailor I met recently on my ocean sailing voyage has reminded me how many steps I may have also missed in Dave’s development through the years.

Musical hipsters like to look down our noses at plebian jam-rock like DMB, but dancing my ass off alongside fellow not-afraid-to-love-Dave-ite Nathaniel from I Guess I’m Floating to “Lie In Our Graves,” “Two Step” and a particularly passionate rendition of “All Along The Watchtower,” I was reminded how good it can feel.

Lie In Our Graves – Dave Matthews Band

(“and I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves wondering if we had spent our living days well/ I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves dreaming of things that we might have been….”)




After two sunny warm days, when Sunday arrived grey and misty like SF likes to be in the summer (or any dang time), the layers I had fastidiously packed came in handy. Worn out from the two days already, a third day felt simultaneously like a gift (yay! more live music!) and also an uphill climb. But arriving to the festival to the pleasingly dulcet sounds of local San Franciscan John Vanderslice on the Presidio stage, I forgot my still-tired feet and smiled a wide smile.

Vanderslice is someone I have been delving more deeply into since he wowed me in Chicago at that show with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. Again on Sunday I was struck by how he could join a musical club with Nada Surf and Death Cab and they’d all nestle in perfectly side by side. It was pretty well-attended too for an early afternoon show on a second stage, perhaps due to the strength of his latest (great) album, Romanian Names.

Too Much Time – John Vanderslice


Whatever I needed to get my mojo back, I found it (of course, in droves) at The Avett Brothers fervent 3pm set at the other end of the meadow.

I had just seen the Avetts in both Boulder and Denver the weekend before (see pics and a video) and loved every raucous, earnest, sweaty second of it, but the recent satiation didn’t even matter when they took the stage before a very enthusiastic crowd. I had urged all the friends and acquaintances and other photographers I met at other shows for the first part of the weekend to make their way over to the Sutro stage at 3pm Sunday, and as I looked around, I saw an awful lot of smiles and the occasional yell-along. Their set was crisp and carried out beautifully over the meadow. They started with “Paranoia in Bb Major,” and then went right into the new “Laundry Room” and then “Die, Die, Die.” When they finished that triple-whammy, they moved into “Murder In The City,” and nearly killed me. Such a wonderful set from these brothers, in a near-perfect setting for their bluegrass punk.

Laundry Room (live on MOKB) – The Avett Brothers

PS – Get the full MOKB Laundromatinee session with Los Avetts.



Switching gears quickly from furiously-strummed banjos to yowling waves of rock, we headed clear over to the Twin Peaks stage to get in position to witness the detonation that is Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) and Alison Mossheart’s (The Kills) new band, The Dead Weather. This is the same second-stage I saw Wilco play on last year, and it was just as crowded – another act that could have/should have played the main.

Jack White coolly walked out behind dark shades and sat behind the drumkit at the far back of the stage and stayed there for the duration of the first three songs that we photogs get to have at it. Alison handily seized the mantle of being the face of the Dead Weather (fittingly), and paced and flailed and thrashed, leaning down in our faces and threatening to grab us by our hair, and hang us up from those heavens. For a small woman, she packs an intense punch — she was feral in an awesome, invasive way. All the members of this supergroup are mightily accomplished in their own rights, and together they are pretty amazing to watch, even on a bright Sunday afternoon.

Hang You From The Heavens – The Dead Weather




It’s not every day that a girl gets to see both Jack White and Jack Black in the same day, but before I did the Tenacious D rotation (and failed to get pics because I had the wrong lens), I danced as hard as I could muster to the third world democracy sounds of Sri Lankan supernova M.I.A., who puts on a marvelously enjoyable set. I saw her at Coachella last year — well, kind of saw her, whilst I was being crushed from the massive audience that poured into the smallish tent to see her. Her reputation preceded her.

This time around, after I shot the pics, I went to a vantage point where I could see the whole huge main-stage crowd dance and pump their fists in time to the three gunshot sounds in the chorus, and smile that she was finally on the larger stage she deserves.

Paper Planes – M.I.A.





So… in sum, a marvelous weekend.



May 12, 2009

Blind Pilot, Maker’s & me in Chicago


When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was able to combine business and pleasure into a few exceedingly lovely musical moments.

In addition to catching the sold-out Blind Pilot show at Schuba’s, I was also invited to come see the band record an intimate session for the superb HearYa Sessions. As we all shared a bit of Maker’s Mark in the late afternoon (and what better time for it, I might ask) Blind Pilot spun some pretty striking renditions of tunes from their debut album Three Rounds and a Sound, one of my recent favorites.

The Story I Heard (live on HearYa) – Blind Pilot

Get the rest of the session for free here.

Also, the HearYa guys shot fancy multiple-camera video of this same song which you can watch on their site but (like a tourist) I love this version because it’s mine.

Blind Pilot is on tour in the coming months with The Hold Steady, Counting Crows, Akron/Family, The Decemberists, and Andrew Bird, as well as playing Lollapalooza and Outside Lands in SF. Whew.

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January 16, 2009

Blind Pilot :: “Poor Boy”


This bittersweet song is weighing on my mind today, so it’s also on my speakers on repeat. It feels like laying in bed, at the tail end of a dream. Blind Pilot is from Portland, Oregon.

Poor Boy – Blind Pilot

poor boy, why don’t you try getting water?
poor boy, why don’t you try getting sleep?
I think if one of us is going to suffer
why shouldn’t it be me?

poor boy, your wife is in hard labor
the rhythm you know
is pulsing and drifting to the grave
when you come to
you’ll be asking yourself just one question
was I always this way?
was I always this way?

think back a year
when everything stood at the surface
a bandage you cut
’cause you don’t know what swims under me

hold tight
the bondage of this life is slipping
why shouldn’t it be me?
why shouldn’t it be me?

when I come back
you’ll be the brightest star
in the black
when there are days
that you want the call we’re all waiting for
think back

poor boy
life is in hard labor
go buy flowers you’ll leave on its grave
then with the goal of movement
now one this is different
you don’t want to change
I don’t want to change

Three Rounds and a Sound is out now.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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