One For The Roadie: The End of R.E.M. As We Know Them

There’s a lot of sad news coming out of Georgia today, but what we’ll focus on in this space is the breakup announced today by the band that made “alternative” music what it is today: R.E.M. The group, which was formed in 1980 by four music fanatics who grew up listening to punk and Avant-garde groups like Television and Patti Smith. The now-three bandmates released this statement today:

“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”

The main reason that we feel so bad about this here at OfTR is that R.E.M. is one of the last popular bands who made their bones by touring out of the backs of vans. There weren’t any Pitchforks or Gorilla vs. Bear to pump up their music like so many Bloc Parties or Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs have over the past 11+ years. To put it in further perspective, they were touring the south and mid-Atlantic states supporting their music before college radio stations became synonymous with playing the likes of, well, R.E.M. throughout the day. They were the flag-bearers of a movement that gave us the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. If you don’t believe me, check out these clips from a 1982 performance in Raleigh, and a 1985 jam in Germany. Watching these is akin to seeing DNA form in your iPod.

One For The Roadie: Anthrax Represents For The Bronx

Though they’re usually associated with coming from Staten Island, New York, a few members of the seminal thrash metal band Anthrax—like drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello and lead guitarist Rob Caggiano—are actually Bronx-born. It’s why, in preparation for their September 14th Big 4 concert at the New Yankee Stadium, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. proclaimed an official declaration making September 14th “Anthrax Day in the Bronx.”

In the video below, Diaz Jr. reads the announcement, which peppers in song titles from Anthrax’s catalog like “Bring The Noise” and “Persistence of Time.” One of my groomsmen and best friends, Staten Islander John DeSio, is the communications director for BP Diaz, Jr., and I know he had a lot to do with this. I call that using his power for good!

However, this is the cherry on top of the mound of awesomeness called the Big 4 Concert: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. Playing in the Bronx. There was an earlier US incarnation of the concert held post-Coachella at the Empire Polo Field in April. For some reason, however, I feel this will rock even harder. It will probably have to do with the lack of 100-degree temperatures. Banging your head is a lot easier when you’re hydrated.

One For The Roadie: Kasabian Will Sing To New York On 9/11

As someone who lived through 9/11 in New York City, I tend to be cynical whenever it’s brought up to promote something. However, I didn’t get that vibe when Brit rockers Kasabian (who I’ve seen twice) announced that they would be playing a gig on top of a building during the weekend commemorating the events in New York a decade ago. They will be performing during a break in their European tour at a soon-to-be-disclosed location.

It was that day band front man Tom Meighan said changed his path in life. “I was at work and remember hearing 9/11 unfold on the radio. I remember going home and being in absolute shock. My mum had it on the news. It was… awful.” He realized how easily things could be gone, and he decided to make a run at music, and now he’s at the top of the UK music scene. And while he’s now celebrating successes, he knows what’s at stake with so much attention now placed on him and his band.

“It will be strange for us playing in the city on such a big weekend for New York people,” he told The Sun. “It will be emotional.” It will be a heavy burden, with this heavy anniversary coming on the heels of a near disaster like Hurricane Irene. As long as he understands that New York just wants to keep it real with his rock, then everything will be okay. Everyone loves an underdog.

Five Things I’m Looking Forward To In The 2011 NFL Season

So here we are, the start of September, fall (except in Texas, where it’s still very much summer) and another glorious NFL season. I guess I should start with the best thing I’m looking forward to, and that’s the NFL season itself. It was touch-and-go there for a second with that all that lockout business, NFL.  Now, let’s promise never to talk about it again and get into some fooootbaaaaaall!

1. Are the Philadelphia Eagles really the team to beat in the NFL this season? The offseason addition of Nnamdi Asomugha to create a three-headed hydra of cornerbacks, and the $100 million contract given to Michael Vick, has made people believe that the title will head north this season. However, given how much Vick regressed over the end of the season last year and rising questions about the offensive line, has to give you pause. Only for a second, though, and then you realize how ridiculously stocked they are at the skill positions and can only see them playing late into winter.

2. The Detroit Lions are the next big thing in the NFL. To which you’d probably retort—the same Lions who went 0-16 a few years ago. They’re the next big thing. To which I’d say, absolutely… barring anything happening to their quarterback Matthew Stafford again. They have one of the better O-Lines in the league and stocked at the skill positions, with Calvin Johnson catching the ball and the soon-to-bust-out-if-he-doesn’t-get-injured-again Jahvid Best rushing. Once rookie Nick Fairley, the darling defensive end from Auburn’s championship run, comes back from early season foot surgery, they should also have one of the best defensive front lines thanks to the pairing of Fairley and the one they call Ndamukong of Nebraska. That makes for quite a formidable core of players whose oldest member is only 26.

3. Who Is The Best Team In Texas? Is it the old-time powerhouse Dallas Cowboys, with their famous star quarterback, Kardashian-dating first receiver and knuckleheaded-but-brilliant second receiver? Or do we have to go down I-35 to Houston, and a Texans team that stocks the leading rusher in the NFL last season, a perennial Pro Bowl receiver and a quarterback that regularly throws for 3,800+ yards? The key to breaking the tie may be their defenses. Dallas made a play for Asomugha this offseason but didn’t succeed, so they will return to a unit that ranked in the bottom half of the league last year. Enter Wade Phillips, the man who used to coach the Cowboys, for the tie-breaker. The defensive Guru headed down that I-35 corridor and landed in Houston and is looking to change up a stagnant crew by shifting Mario Williams, Jonathan Joseph and Brian Cushing to a 3-4 scheme. Only time will tell if that will work, but it may be what could push them over the edge and bring the state its first NFL title since the ‘90s.

4. Speaking of the Texans, which injury entering the season will hurt its team more—Arian Foster’s hamstring or the Colts’ Peyton Manning’s neck? Sure Peyton is the lynchpin of that offense, but Arian Foster exploded onto the scene early (ironically against Manning’s Colts) and ran away with the NFL’s rushing title in 2010. But a hamstring has got football fanatics (both fantasy and not) wondering if Foster can sustain his output, or if the team will swap him out for Ben Tate, his talented back-up who may or may not be able to replicate a 1600-yard rushing season.

5. Which team is ready to make the bigger leap—San Diego or Atlanta? Philip Rivers now has no excuses not to perform—he has Vincent Jackson in camp, as opposed to holding out; a great two-headed rushing machine in Mike Tolbert and Ryan Matthews; and, of course, a beast of a tight end in Antonio Gates. More importantly for the team, several changes in the special team rules that could have saved them in 2010 when their third unit was so horrendous. Down in Hotlanta, Matt Ryan now has a new toy in Julio Jones, who the team spent a lot on in terms of draft picks traded, to compliment Pro Bowler Roddy White. Many believe this was to open up the passing game after their horrendous showing in last season’s beatdown in the NFC title game against Green Bay. Both teams’ defenses are a might suspect, but I believe one of them will be playing in Super Bowl XLVI if things break right for them.

One For The Roadie: 20th Anniversary Of “Nevermind” Brings Rare Concert Footage, Other Goodies

For many who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Nirvana were the once-in-our-early-lives rock band, like the Beatles in the ’60s and Led Zepplin or The Who in the ’70s. Alas, Nirvana as a band couldn’t make it past the ‘90s due to the death of front man Kurt Cobain. So there won’t be any reunion concerts for people who couldn’t catch them when they were the end all (and saviors) of rock music, and took the negative connotations away from “alternative music.”

For those that’s true for, a rare treasure will be released on September 27, the 20th anniversary of the release of their opus, Nevermind. In the Super Deluxe Edition, a five disc set, Geffen will release a DVD of the only concert Nirvana performed while being filmed in 16MM (it was for the “Lithium” video). That means that it’s the only time they will ever been seen in high-definition, because 16MM was the only film stock around back then—that wasn’t cost-prohibitive to shoot with—which can be transferred to a high-res format.

Besides the fact that that we can hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Breed” over our 5.1 surround sound set up is that it is a sentimental concert film. It was shot at Seattle’s Paramount Theater, one of the most iconic and historical venues in America, right as Nirvana-mania took off in 1991. It’s about as pure as a piece of rock history you’ll see, up there with the Beatles at Shea or Hendrix at Woodstock. YouTube has a video that can’t be viewed outside the site (click here to see), but it’s worth it for a 30-second taste of what is sure to be money well spent.

For those Nirvana-heads who have XM-Radio, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart will be hosting a two-hour sit down with former members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, and the producer behind Nevermind Butch Vig. It will run on September 24th on the specially-branded Nirvana Channel that will run on the satellite-radio provider from 9/23–9/28.