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Rock the Casbah: Famous Music Venues

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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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Songs Through Time: I Go to Sleep

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Certain songs have an inherent appeal that makes them popular covers. They infect the brains and resonate with artists of any era, inspiring their own rendition. It's one of the purest examples of imitation as flattery. One of these reliable, time-traveling songs is The Kinks' “I Go to Sleep” – a 1960s classic that has survived through time to pop up every now and then with wildly different and interesting versions.

The original is a haunting bare bones piece with nothing more than a distant, methodical piano played like a ticking clock. It's a lonely song, but the expression of that emotion is subtle. It feels more like someone drifting through life, numb and isolated, rather than a tortured soul.

Then when The Pretenders did it in 1981 – what a difference. They add in drums, bass, guitar and Chrissie Hynde's seductive vocal work. It's really a version that cashes in on all the emotional potential that The Kinks set up. Whereas their strategy was to play it restrained and methodical, The Pretenders indulge. It's most evident in the way they create a climax on what was once just a normal bridge – “I was wrong/I will cry/I will love you/ 'Til the day I die” – is suddenly a small rock out session. Here in modern times, the logical step after The Pretenders' version is Australian pop-jazz singer Sia, who sang the crap out of the song in 2008 backed by a soulful jazz ensemble. This is a version that makes pure sense. Of course, a song about the longings of love would have a heavy mood, riffing vocals and a lounge singer aesthetic. It's the cleanest, most obvious way to play the song, and it's a wonder that it hadn't been done sooner. We are now so far removed from the original that people forget it was The Kinks who made it in the first place. A year later, S. Maharba joins the conversation with the most experimental and hardest hitting version yet. Reappropriating a cover by Marion, he applies his lo-fi electronic style to a heavy, almost industrial-sounding beat. This is a song that sounds like a slow fight. Each version slightly tweaks the meaning and spirit of the song, and this one is concerned with unsettling its listeners. There's an eerie drone in the background, and every kick drum is a gunshot. It's not the way love songs are supposed to sound, and that's precisely what makes it a thrilling reimagination. But things have a way of working in cycles. The most recent version, a 2010 offering by British and German singer-songwriter Anika, is at once experimental and in keeping with the original. Sia and The Pretenders made it accessible and beautiful, S. Maharba gave it some bang, and Anika imagines what the song would sound like if it were created today. It's as low key as the original, except it makes decisions to keep you on edge. It's still paced with the same restraint, but the timekeeping piano has been replaced by a loud, pitch black bass. Anika's distinct singing style heightens the otherworldly quality found in the original and maintains an emotional disconnect, playing off the lyrics' inherent wild passion. If I were to count all the covers of this song, I would say that number would be comparable to the population of Nevada. The Applejacks, Cher, Peggy Lee – the list goes on. A good cover isn't merely just an artist's performance of a cool song. It has got to change the angle of the song in some way, to reveal hidden secrets of the original that can only be caught when you refract the light.

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This Week In History

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1964: The Rolling Stones arrive in New York City for their first U.S. tour. The first date of the tour lands on June 5th in San Bernardino, California.

1969: Jimi Hendrix appears on the cover of Rolling Stone, which is sold at a reasonably priced 35 cents.

1970: The Kinks' Ray Davies makes a 6,000 mile round trip from New York to London to record one word. Davies changes the word "Coca- Cola" to "Cherry Cola" on the bands forthcoming single 'Lola' due to an advertising ban at BBC Radio.

1977: The BBC announces a ban on the new Sex Pistols single "God Save The Queen" saying it is, "in gross bad taste." A warning is issued to radio stations stating that playing the single would be in breach of the Broadcasting act. The single reaches No. 2 on the UK chart.

1984: Wham! have their first No. 1 hit with "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go".This George Michael-written jam was inspired by a note Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley left for his parents. Ridgeley originally intended to write "wake me up before you go" but with "up" accidentally written twice, he wrote "go" twice on purpose. “Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo” was Michael’s own contribution. 1985: Prince & The Revolution start a three-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart with Around The World In A Day which features everyone’s favorite song about a hat, “Raspberry Beret.” 1997: Singer Jeff Buckley’s body is discovered floating in the Mississippi River. A passenger on a tourist boat spotted the body near the southern tip of Mud Island in Memphis, Tennessee. The singer/songwriter had disappeared during a spontaneous night swim a week before on May 29th. 1998: Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, announces she is quitting The Spice Girls saying, "This is because of differences between us. I am sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best." The group’s 1997/1998 reunion tour grosses more than $70,000,000. 2005: White Stripes singer Jack White marries girlfriend, British model Karen Elson, (a red head, of course), in a canoe on the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil. 2008: VSQ favorites Death Cab For Cutie are No. 1 on the U.S. album chart with their sixth release, Narrow Stairs, which features the lead single stalker anthem “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Be sure to check out: The String Quartet Tribute to The Rollings Stones Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Jimi Hendrix Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to Jeff Buckley Available now at iTunes and Amazon The String Quartet Tribute to The White Stripes Available now at iTunes and Amazon Ghost: The String Quartet Tribute to Death Cab for Cutie Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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Top 10 Bands That Should Reunite

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Reunions are all the rage in the last few years, and bands are coming out of seemingly nowhere to take any high paying offers to do one-off shows or entire tours. Any band that has had a mild hit has pretty much reunited, unless a member has died. Luckily, there are still many great bands that have resisted the color of money to reunite, but here’s to hoping they still see the light.

10. The Fugees

Who doesn’t remember watching the video for “Killing Me Softly”? These guys did have a way with words, and Lauryn Hill is Roberta Flack’s long lost sister.


A great DC band that retreated once they began getting a bit of recognition. Both guys were amazing multi-instrumentalists that inspired a lot of bands today.

8. The Kinks

Will the Davies brothers ever reconcile and do a reunion? They both say it’s very bloody unlikely.

7. Fugazi

Another hugely influential DC band that has been on an “extended hiatus” for quite some time now. I think after 8 years we can safely say they are no more, but what a reunion that’d be.

6. The Smiths

The king of broody music, Morrissey, wouldn’t be caught dead on stage with Johnny Marr and the rest of the Smiths, not for millions of dollars. All the pre-emo children will rejoice if this ever happens, so keep that mascara handy.

5. Talk Talk

Most people remember this band for their hit “It’s My Life” that No Doubt covered many years later. The fact is, these guys basically started the post-rock movement and did some amazing things when everyone was still stuck listening to INXS.

4. At the Drive In

If you’ve ever caught video of an old ATDI show, you’ve seen how dangerous it was to be a spectator. There is no band that even touched these guys in ingenuity and energy. This reunion could happen someday, but Jim Ward and the Mars Volta guys will need to play nice.

3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor

In an era of financial ruin and war at every turn, what better soundtrack is there than a series of symphonies spelling the end of days? No one did it better than this Montreal collective.

2. Neutral Milk Hotel

Jeff Magnum may never feel the need to play in front of a crowd again. If he ever wakes up one day with a desire to let hipsters everywhere die happy, he could gather the other Elephant 6 guys and play “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” from front to back.

1. Talking Heads

David Byrne doesn’t need the rest of the Talking Heads, at least that’s what he’s shown in the past 10 or so years since they’ve disbanded. But the magic that Stop Making Sense shows when all four of them played together is undeniable, though the reunion may never happen. Honorable Mentions: Wham! Mr. Bungle Uncle Tupelo The Dead Kennedys Velvet Underground DFA 1979 The Postal Service Sleater-Kinney

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