For Test of the Boomerang III, I retired to a simple cottage in the Welsh countryside to reflect. This post was done acoustically.

Hey gang, today I have brought three shows for show and tell. Each has been dredged up from the depths of the Live Music Archive. They’re all totally different, but they’re all 100% live and ready to be streamed, shared, downloaded, burned, and loved.

Kawabata Makoto Live – June 18, 2008, Hemlock Tavern, SF

A solo gig by Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple which I, like Gandalf, will not speak of here, other than they have my vote for the greatest album title of all time: STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK SABBATH.

This is not your ex-girlfriend’s Spiritualized CD. This is not your college roommate’s experimental guitar noise project he put together for his Music Appreciation class and got a C+ on. These are serious hyperdelic drones from the vast depths of space. This is what Terence McKenna’s self-transforming machine elves listen to on their little self-transforming turntables. Do not listen to this while driving or while operating heavy machinery, lest you become one with the heavy machine figuratively and spiritually, man.

Makoto explains his interstellar muse:

“Music, for me, is neither something that I create, nor a form of self-expression. All kinds of sounds exist everywhere around us, and my performances solely consist of picking up these sounds, like a radio tuner, and playing them so that people can hear them. However, maybe because my reception is somewhat off, I am unable to perfectly reproduce these sounds. That is why I spend my days rehearsing.

Where do these sounds come from? Who is sending them out? That is not something for me to know, and neither is there any way that I could find out. I simply believe that they come from the ‘cosmos’. (Maybe other people would call God the source). Since I was a small child I have been prone to hearing ringing sounds in my ears and other sound phantasms. At the time, I believed that these were messages aimed directly at me from a UFO, and so I would gaze up at the sky. But once I started playing music myself, I came to feel that these noises were a kind of pure sound. And I promised myself that one day I would be able to play those sounds myself. It is only recently that I have begun to feel that I have been able to come close to reproducing these sounds in my solo guitar work, and in my INUI project.

However, in June of 1999, I finally discovered my own ‘cosmos’ and I experienced an instant of total union with it!! That ‘cosmos’ is still tiny in size – although any cosmos can, by its very nature, be infinitely huge or infinitely small. The energy and vibrations contained within that it far exceeded my imagination in scope and beauty. I can only describe the miraculous instant when my ‘cosmos’ accepted my consciousness as MAGIC.”

Heavy stuff. While you’re listening to these sonic slabs of transcendence, might I suggest browsing the NASA Astronomy Pic of the Day — and hey, if you happen to have some DMT laying around, well, you probably don’t need it for this trip.

More Kawabata Makoto can be found at the excellent Mutant Sounds blog and more Acid Mothers Temple can be found at the Live Music Archive.

My Morning Jacket, December 14, 1999, Bunbury Theater, Louisville, KY

The earliest days of Summer 2008 reminded me a lot of 1999. Instead of everyone gearing up for The Phantom Menace, we were all gearing up for the release of the new My Morning Jacket album! Remember way back in 2005? All the hype before Z came out? It was just like that, but bigger and better this time. My Morning Jacket were everywhere! Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, doing anti-drug spots, dating your mom, they were everywhere!

The only thing missing was a fast food tie-in, which would have been awesome — “I’d like a My Morning Breakfast Toasterella with some Two Tone Tommy Tots.”

Okay, well, maybe it wouldn’t have been so awesome. I actually really enjoyed The Phantom Menace when I saw it in the theater. I don’t think I could sit through the whole thing now, but just like My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges, the anticipation, the epic set at Bonnaroo this summer, their now-legendary June 20, 2008 Radio City Music Hall performance, were much more exciting than the actual product.

Don’t get me wrong, Evil Urges is a fine album, and My Morning Jacket is a great band, I’m just still a little burned out from watching Okonokos twice in one sitting. That’s a lot of Jacket. But back to why we’re here. This is a sweet little performance from a radio broadcast back in December of 1999. The text file provides the following information:

My Morning Jacket

Bunbury Theatre

Louisville KY

December 14, 1999

“Live at the Bunbury”

Simulcast Concert via WFPK, listener supported public radio

featuring John Gage, Moon, and My Morning Jacket

Pre FM source from WFPK -> CD -> EAC -> shntool tracks -> shorten v3.4

Extracted and seeded by Jason Neely (bondibox)

Videotaped by Jason Neely for Canon XL1S

Intro, At Dawn

Heartbreakin’ Man


The Bear

Old September Blues

Honest Man

The interviews are great. There’s a “Sleepwalk” tease before “Old September Blues,” which is fun. All the tunes played have a very intimate feel except for the rockin’ bluesy stomp of “Honest Man.” Check it out. This unfettered, bright-eyed look back at the earliest days of The Jacket gives me enough reason to give Evil Urges a couple more spins before summer runs out.

I just realized that yes, I just wrote a blog post about My Morning Jacket. Next I guess I’ll start posting about that one movie where, you know, Jack Black is going around with an air pump and stealing people’s milkshakes and Tommy Lee Jones enlists the help of an autistic priest played by Kevin James to stop him. That movie was incredible.

An American Festival – San Francisco Symphony with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Vince Welnick, Bob Bralove, and Michael Tilson Thomas (conducting)

Sunday June 16, 1996 Davies Symphony Hall, San Francicso

There are two files. One is a crystal clear soundboard recording and the other is a very crisp audience recording. This is Bobby, Vince, Mickey, Phil, Dead sound guru Bob Bralove, and conductor Michael Tilson. The audience recording features an introduction to the project: “A celebration of Maverick Music Making” and the “West Coast way of thinking and living.”

Jerry had been gone almost a year, and the band hadn’t done anything since. So the excitement of the crowd is absolutely palpable as the boys take the stage with the orchestra. This reminds me of Phil’s more experimental leanings (1974’s Seastones with Ned Lagin and his current Telstar project with Steve Molitz and John Molo). It’s an improvisational “space” exploration and the farther out they go, the audience goes wild.

It starts out innocently enough, with Weir on guitar, Mickey on congas and everyone else doing some MIDI-fied strangeness. Vince haters will totally cringe when they hear his trademark dated-sounding “Casio” patches. It really gets cooking when Phil leads the band on a cool melodic jam and the chaotic pianos and percussion start following suit. There are some crazy screaming noises that sound like calliope music being played at 1000 rpms that are especially jarring. It sounds like a bazillion tribal warriors running through a psychedelic jungle with their heads on fire. Just when it sounds like Bobby could jump into “The Other One,” it all comes to a close — then applause.

Here’s a section of the interview David Gans did with Phil about this piece.

Gans: One of the things that I brought in for us to listen to this evening is a performance that you and some of your bandmates did with the San Francisco Symphony last year.

The Friday and Saturday programs were that long John Cage thing [“Renga with Apartment House”], but on Sunday, you guys got together with Michael Tilson Thomas. Let’s talk about that a little bit.

Lesh: Well, that was the second program in Michael’s “American Festival,” and it was a marathon performance. It started, I think, at 2:30 in the afternoon and went till about 8:00, and it was a program of mostly short pieces, by local — well, international, but centered around local/East Bay/West Coast/California maverick composers who weren’t really considered part of the so-called mainstream. Lou Harrison was one of them, Varese was another, Steve Reich…. Meredith Monk performed, and there were several piano pieces performed that were written by Henry Cowell, who was, in a way, the sort of patriarch of this whole West Coast experimental scene. He was writing outrageous tone-cluster music at age 17 in the early part of this century, in the ‘teens and ’20s.

At the end of it, Mickey, Bob, Vince, myself, and Michael Tilson Thomas collaborated on a group improvisation, which was based on themes that Henry Cowell had composed, and that had been heard earlier in the program as part of the regular performance. This was a great deal of fun to do, especially to watch Michael really cut loose. I don’t think he gets a chance to cut loose, playing the piano, very often.

Gans: Tell us a little about Michael Tilson Thomas. He’s new-ish to the San Francisco Symphony —

Lesh: Yeah, he’s been the music director here now for — this is the end of his second season coming up. And he’s been a guest conductor here many times, through the ’80s and early ’90s. In a way, he’s a protege of Leonard Bernstein; he was involved with the Tanglewood conductor’s course, back in the late ’60s, early ’70s. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and he comes from a long line of performers and artists who I think are originally Russian. Their name was Tomashevsky, originally. He’s been conducting all over the world for 25, 30 years, and he really brings a considerable amount of flair and panache to the San Francisco Symphony, which was, in my opinion, sorely in need of the same. The music director previous to Michael, Herbert Blomstedt, was an extremely competent and well-versed conductor, especially with the meat-and-potatoes Central European repertoire. That was his forte, and that was what was performed most often during his tenure, although there was a lot of contemporary music as well, to Herbert’s credit.

But Michael now has — in his first season, for instance, in every concert that he conducted there was an American piece performed, which means essentially contemporary music, because most American concert music dates from, at the earliest, the end of the 19th century. Michael is the kind of guy who has rhythm; he has rock’n’roll in his soul, whether he really plays it or not. And I think you’ll hear that in this performance. I have certainly been enlightened by his interpretations of classic works from the late 19th century/early 20th century, because of this groove that he’s able to elicit from an orchestra…

That’s right, baby. The orchestra grooooooves…

About the Author

Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

View All Articles