Latest News: R.E.M

Rock the Casbah: Famous Music Venues

By 13

The spirit of the infamous but now defunct New York music club CBGB will be reborn this summer, in the form of a music festival and movie. Originally intended to showcase the music styles it was named after (Country, BlueGrass, and Blues), CBGB became a breakout forum for Punk and New Wave bands like The Cramps, Ramones, Misfits and Talking Heads after it opened in 1973. Many mourned its closing in 2006 – but six years later, its death inspired a movie (coming to theaters in 2013) directed by Randall Miller and starring Alan Rickman as owner Hilly Kristal, Rupert Grint as Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome and Malin Akerman as Blondie’s Debbie Harry. The first CBGB music festival was also born this year, which will take place July 4 - 8 and will feature Cloud Nothings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Guided By Voices and The War on Drugs. Here’s a look at some other infamous U.S. rock venues: Whisky A Go Go Location: Los Angeles, California Opened: January 16, 1964 Notable Acts: The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love were regulars, and The Doors used to be the house band (until the debut of the oedipal lyrics in "The End" got them fired). Many British bands invaded the Whisky for their first headlining performances in the area, including The Kinks, The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Oasis. One night…: The Doors opened for Van Morrison's band Them during a two-week residency in June, 1966. On the last night of the residency, the two Morrison bands (one headed by Jim, the other by Van) jammed together on "Gloria," a song written by Van Morrison that The Doors did their own sexually-charged cover of years later. Fillmore East Location: New York City, New York Opened: March 8, 1968 Notable Acts: Classic rock legends Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Led Zeppelin (opening for Iron Butterfly!) played this historic venue during the brief three years it was open. The Allman Brothers Band played so many shows there that they were sometimes called "Bill Graham's House Band," after venue promoter Bill Graham. One night…: Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys was recorded live at the Fillmore East on New Year's Day 1970. What some people wouldn’t give to have been there… Red Rocks Amphitheatre Location: Morrison, Colorado Opened: 1906 Notable Acts: From opera singer Mary Garden in 1911 to The Beatles in 1964 (the only concert not sold out during their US tour), this natural amphitheatre has hosted many bands throughout the years. Many more bands have recorded live albums there, including U2, Neil Young, R.E.M., Phish and Coldplay. There’s just something about Red Rocks… One night…: During a 1971 sold-out Jethro Tull performance, about a thousand fans showed up without tickets and were directed by police to an area behind the theater where they could still hear the music but not see the band. Growing unsatisfied with what they were given (as humans often do) the fans charged the amphitheatre and were met with clouds of tear gas from the police. The winds blew the tear gas over the gates and into the amphitheatre. This "Riot at Red Rocks" led to a five-year ban of rock concerts at the venue. But they couldn’t keep the rock out of Red Rocks for long…

Be sure to check out

The String Quartet Tribute to the Doors Available now at VSQ Online Store, iTunes and Amazon

and also:

The String Quartet to the Who's "Tommy"

The String Quartet to Led Zeppelin

The String Quartet Tribute to Coldplay

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We Hardly Knew Them

By 18

I hate to see a good band go. It sucks when they're big players, like the end of R.E.M. or Rilo Kiley, but it's even worse when a band break ups on the cusp of breaking out. At best, we get an album, maybe a few EPs, to remind us of the potential and nothing more. These are the bands that will come up when I set my iTunes to shuffle and think, “They really could have had something.” Big enough to be missed, but too small to warrant a reunion. These are the bands that split before their time. Harlem Shakes could have been huge. I say this because whenever I play  “Strictly Game” or “Sunlight,” for someone two songs from their only album, the listener wants more almost without fail. It was high energy, emotive substance with lyrics and melodies that begged you to sing along. That's because they aimed to stuff their songs with wall-to-wall hooks, which isn't everybody's idea of perfect music, but it was massively accessible and fun. They toured big on the album, selling out venues, but all that goodness was for naught as they eventually mysteriously broke up. The lack of reported reason usually steers towards internal friction. The Sound Team song that made waves in music fans was “Movie Monster,” the title track of their album, which sounds a bit like a darker, more textured and downtempo Interpol. A distorted bass synth fills the foreground, overpowering even the vocals, which is a uniqueness that sticks with you. But it's not representative of their sound as a whole, and if we're reading into the creative differences that contributed to their break up, maybe the different directions of their album was a sign of their tension. Still, they broke up in an interesting fashion: A couple of guys dropped out to pursue their education, they had a big tussle with their label over pricing, and then released all their songs for free and digitally soon after calling it quits. Finally, when I think of victims of the music blogosphere, I think of Voxtrot. They had a string of highly buzzed about EPs full of great lyrics laid on top of a traditional guitar-driven sound that was completely satisfying. They got what any indie band wants before the release of their first album - a strong fanbase, blogger hype and comparisons to The Smiths. But when their first full-length arrived, it was as if they suffered from early-onset sophomore slump. They pushed forward on their sound and aimed for an evolution that may not have yet been in their grasp. It's always tough to be raised up and then unceremoniously dropped. There were hopes of retooling, maybe a more back to basics approach, but the story is the same here as on all the others. Voxtrot lives on in a single self-titled album, a handful of EPs, and the lead singer's solo project.

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Lessons Learned: 2011

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I learned a lot this past year. For example, did you know that Nicolas Cage could have been Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings? Crazy. But for more substantial learnings about life, let's turn to this year's music, and what it told us along the way. 1. Surprise People. 2011 in music was a year of surprises and generally stepping out of one's comfort zone. Usually this was in the form of collaborations – Kanye West reached out to reigning indie king Bon Iver, and Jack White worked with Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and even the Insane Clown Posse just to screw with you. Sometimes it came out as wild ideas like The Flaming Lips producing a 24-hour song. Certainly, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn't always produce fantastic results, but sometimes the act itself is all the incentive you need. As the saying goes, the only reward of the easy path is that it's easy. 2. Two Great Tastes Don't Always Taste Great Together. Metallica and Lou Reed taught me that you can't just smash two things together and hope for the best. In the event that you do decide to smash two wildly disparate things together, avoid the hubris of talking it up in interviews. Do not, in any situation, tell people that this is the best you've ever been, especially if both of you happen to be legends in your respective field. I know I said surprise people – but do it in a way that is self-aware of the surprise, either with humor or humbleness. 3. If You're Amazing, You Will Last Forever In 2011, everything old is new again. It seems like every year, high quality box sets and reissues of classic material ramp up, and this was no exception. Whether it was The Smiths, U2's Achtung Baby or the mythological Beach Boys' Smile, there were enticing pieces of music history given new life in today's market. Maybe you lived through their heyday, or maybe it's all new to you. The lesson here is that the past doesn't quit, and that there will always be value in yesterday's best. 4. Know When, and How, to Quit. This year saw the end of Rilo Kiley, R.E.M. and LCD Soundsystem. Each had at least a healthy amount of success, especially R.E.M., so it's not like we didn't get to enjoy them while they were around. But things happen, and there's no shame in quitting. It's just a matter of how it ends. For Rilo Kiley, it was an ugly dissolution of relationships described as “deception, disloyalty and greed.” For LCD Soundsystem, it was a case of going out on top, and they did it in supreme fashion with a sold out Madison Square Garden. As the year ends, you'll be reflecting and evaluating how it went, and what emotion you want to attach to its passing. Here's hoping your year warrants more of a last hurrah than a quiet fade out.

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R.E.M.'s Greatest Hits

By 15

September 21st marked the end of an era. No, we’re not talking end of summer, we’re talking the end of the world as we know it; after thirty years together, R.E.M. has decided to disband. In an announcement on their website, the group said, "We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished." These accomplishments include millions of fans, dozens of hits and15 albums including the classics Murmur, Automatic for the People and Out of Time. In honor of the groups thirty years of groundbreaking, cerebral rock music, we celebrate some our favorite R.E.M. hits here.

"Radio Free Europe": R.E.M.’s first single made them the darlings of college radio in 1981, and set them on their path towards being the first successful alt-rock band. In 2010, this song was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry for setting "the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio in the face of mainstream radio's general indifference.”

"The One I Love": This 1987 hit from Document was R.E.M.’s first big mainstream radio hit. Although the classic song is often interpreted as a love ballad, Michael Stipe has called the song “incredibly violent” and said "It's very clear that it's about using people over and over again."

"Stand": This 1989 song from R.E.M.’s Green was a hit song, but most importantly, it was also the theme song to cult TV show “Get a Life,” which starred Chris Elliot.

"Losing My Religion": This classic from 1991’s Out of Time was R.E.M.’s biggest MTV success, based on the song’s infamous music video, which was stylistically influenced by Hindu deities and the works of Caravaggio. The clip won six MTV video music awards, including the top prize for best video of the year.

"It's End of the World as We Know It": This 1987 Document track is known for its ridiculously fast-paced stream of consciousness lyrics that can seem so convoluted even Stipe has forgotten them.  ("Eye of a hurricane /  Listen to yourself churn / World serves its own needs /  Regardless of your own needs.”)

"Driver 8": This fan favorite from 1985’s Fables of the Reconstruction has been covered by some big names including Hootie and the Blowfish, Death Cab for Cute, The Walkmen and The Old 97s.

"Mine Smell Like Honey": This track is from the group’s final album, Collapse Into Now. Until the inevitable reunion, this will stand as the last great single R.E.M. ever releases. Be Sure to Check out: The String Quartet Tribute to R.E.M. Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to R.E.M. Vol. 2 Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Seven Things to Know About The Decemberists

By 13

Vitamin String Quartet will release an album of Decemberists covers this coming March. The track list for this album is as follows:
  1. Down By the Water
  2. O Valencia!
  3. Sixteen Military Wives
  4. HereI Dreamt I Was an Architect
  5. The Rake’s Song
  6. This is Why We Fight
  7. The Mariner’s Revenge Song
In honor of these seven songs, we give you seven facts about The Decemberists. 1.The Decemberists formed in Portland, Oregon in 2000. The band is fronted by singer/songwriter Colin Meloy. The other members are Chris Funk (guitar), Jenny Conlee, (organ, accordion, melodica, piano, keyboards, harmonica), Nate Query (bass guitar, string bass), and John Moen, (drums, backing vocals, melodica, gutiar). 2.The band’s name refers to the Decembrist Revolt, an uprising that took place in Saint Petersburg, Russia on December 14, 1825. The revolt involved Russian army officers leading a revolt of 3,000 soldiers in a protest after Nicholas I’s assumption of the throne. The protesters were defeated and deported to Siberia. 3.The band raised the money to buy studio time for their first EP 5 Songs by playing for hours at a hotel the night before they were set to record. They recorded 5 Songs in less than two hours and self-released the EP in 2001. 4.The band’s album and cover artwork is produced by Meloy’s wife Carson Ellis. The couple has one child and is currently working on a children’s book about a talking cat. 5.The band’s 2006 album The Crane Wife includes two song cycles. The eponymous cycle is based on a Japanese folk tale. The other cycle, titled The Island, is inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The album was produced by Tucker Martine and Death Cab for Cutie bassist Chris Walla. 6.R.E.M. appears on three tracks of The Decemberists latest release The King is Dead. Meloy has cited R.E.M. as a significant influence on this album. 7.The Decemberists will play at May’s Sasquatch! Music Festival in Oregon and Tennessee’s Bonnaroo festival in June. The Decemberists – “Sixteen Military Wives”

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VSQ Employee Mixtape #1: Marketing Department

By 23

We created this unofficial series to help you uncover the precious gems that are buried in the depths of our impressive and seemingly endless catalog. While creating our lists we've found tributes we didn't even know existed and we'll be sharing this valuable information with you in weekly installments of playlists from the experts themselves, The VSQ Staff. So get your headphones ready because we're about to take you on a tour through the best, the classic and the weirdest Vitamin String Quartet tributes to be found.

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