LIVE Review: Cage the Elephant 5/8/11 Rams Head Live! in Baltimore, MD

Cage the Elephant ticket stubHaving been a fan of this band ever since I first heard the stone cold classic “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” in 2009, it’s been quite cool to see them grow as a band.  I saw them last year at the Recher Theater in February and then again in October opening for Stone Temple Pilots in Pittsburgh.   Both shows were quite fun and I was very much looking forward to this show at Rams Head Live…especially since my heroes Clutch have some awesome live videos recorded there.

First of all, Rams Head Live is my new favorite live venue. Just a really cool, open, multilevel atmosphere that must be a blast for bands to perform in.  Especially a band like Cage the Elephant with such an in-your-face front man.  I really didn’t know what I was in for, though.   As much as I expected a good show, what I saw and heard was a band becoming true seasoned pros right before our eyes. The most obvious difference was guitarist Lincoln Parish’s stage presence. Not that he wasn’t just fine before, but man he’s lost whatever shred of shyness he may have had and was working the crowd along with the rest of the band.

Cage the Elephant Matt Schultz Brad Schultz Lincoln Parish Daniel Tichenor Jared ChampionAs a band, they’re just plain tight and full of life.   From opener “In One Ear” through the entire set, the performance was right on the nuggets and a lot of fun.   Matt Schultz was his usual ball of unbridled energy…moving, dancing, flailing, diving and singing his way through the night in constant motion.   The band, quite frankly, is becoming a finely tuned machine.   Drummer Jared Champion and bassist Daniel Tichenor are fast becoming one of my favorite rhythm sections with just the right combination of power and touch.   Then there’s guitarists Lincoln Parish and Brad Schultz…who are fast becoming one of my favorite guitar tandems.   The chemistry between them and their attention to detail with guitar tones is just incredible.

Cage the Elephant Rams Head Live May 8 2011They covered all the bases with their hits so far, playing “In One Ear,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Back Against the Wall,” and “Shake Me Down,” but what I love the most about seeing these guys live is that the fans aren’t just about the hits.   It felt like everyone knew every word to every song, creating a real sense of togetherness, and it just feels so good to scream “Cuz you’re a robot!” at the top of your lungs during the chorus of “Tiny Little Robots.”

To hear the crowd singing along to every word of “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Shake Me Down” in particular (and to feel that energy) was just incredible.

Cage the Elephant Rams Head Live May 8 2011The band may hate me for drawing this comparison, but the visual that comes to mind is the band practice on “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with everyone just dancing and playing and having a great time doing it…albeit with more attitude.   Dance like no one’s watching.  It just happens that those who are watching and listening are loving every minute of it.  I just don’t think there’s any band having more fun with music than Cage the Elephant.   And it shows.   If they come to your town or anywhere near, don’t miss them!

Ultimately the best thing about the show was that there were songs like “Judas” and “Back Stabbin’ Betty” that I would have just loved to hear but weren’t on the night’s set list.   Why is that good?   Because just two albums in, they have so many good songs that at the end of the night it just didn’t matter.

Cage The Elephant Goes Wicked Platinum!

Cage the Elephant has received the platinum award for 1 million digital downloads of “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked!”

Congratulations guys!  This was the song that originally made me a fan and will probably always be my fave.  A stone cold classic.

Take a moment from your busy schedule and turn it up LOUD …


Cage the Elephant – Thank You Happy Birthday

2011 Relentless Records

As I’m writing this, the headphones are on, volume is way up and I have chills.   This is about the 20th time I’ve listened through to Thank You Happy Birthday, and I can’t stop.

I have to admit that when I put the disc on for the first time, lead track “Always Something” caught me completely by surprise and kept me off guard for the entire album that first time around.  I love albums like this…the ones that you have to listen to a second time (and more) to really appreciate, and that reveal new hidden treasures in the mix with every listen.   Said lead track quickly became a favorite whatwith the fun and daring attitude…oh yeah, and Daniel Tichenor’s bass lines bouncing the song over the top.

From song to song, everyone has a chance to shine.  You really must listen to this disc on headphones…the variety of textures and brilliance of the mix will blow you away and you will leave with  a real appreciation of guitarists Brad Shultz and  Lincoln Parish and their experimentation with (read: COMMAND of) guitar tones.  Their chemistry is something special.

Hooks for miles and surprises around nearly every corner, this in my opinion is one of the all-time great sophomore efforts for any band.   “Aberdeen” was the first song that clicked with me immediately with a chorus I can’t get out of my head, followed by “Right Before My Eyes” and “Around My Head.”   “Shake Me Down” is in there, too with its delightfully unorthodox approach.

There’s no attempt to rehash their debut and all of the experimentation sounds like a band genuinely in love with making music.   That’s why an abrasive song like “Sell Yourself” (the arrangement is a dimepiece) or the driving foreboding of  “Indy Kidz” can sit comfortably in the same space as something as immediately hooky as the aforementioned “Right Before My Eyes.”   Matt Shultz’s mini-monologue on “Indy Kidz” is just priceless (“…I gotta go down to the schoolhouse and get some shoes and get the right haircut.”) and his lyrical intelligence is once again on full display.

The album is really a clinic on guitar tones, arrangement, textures and sheer creativity.   Kickin’ drummer Jared Champion takes on every twist and turn in the music and makes sure that every song is loaded with groove to go with the power…check out “Sell Yourself” for a great example of this.   Champion is one of my favorite drummers, bar none, and he and Tichenor are just a dynamite rhythm section.

Cage the Elephant as a band is a brilliant pastiche of the best elements of rock from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s…and they’re miles above the self-loathing and/or self-importance of most of their modern contemporaries whatwith having more talent, creativity and guts than 99% of the newer bands of the past decade.

Forget emo, nu metal, alt punk, or whatever the flavor of the month is…Cage the Elephant is making timeless music that defies categorization (other than it’s ROCK) and will outlast 99% of the new stuff that’s out there now. There’s more heart, conviction, creativity and variety on this disc than most bands have in their entire catalogues…and it just plain works.  I can honestly see listening to this disc 20 years from now and still loving it.  If music keeps you young, CTE is my fountain of youth. lol  But enough about my age.

I have to include Cage the Elephant in with my favorite bands like Clutch, The Tea Party, Hot Head Show and Swell as the perfect antidote for the ear poison of much of today’s mainstream music.   And the masses are appearing to be ready for CTE, as Thank You Happy Birthday debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts.   Congratulations guys…now I’m going to have to find excuses to keep writing about you in the Sonic Abyss since you’re now some of the best music people HAVE heard!  Hmmm…maybe CTE will be the first entry in the Abysmal Hall of Fame.

Yeah, I know…I’m just raving on and on about these guys, but to have 5 people this individually talented and with this kind of synergy just does not happen very often, friends.   Jump on now and enjoy the ride.  Hopefully it will be a long one.

Rating:  5 out of 5


Weekly Abysmal Video – 12/1/10

I posted this a few weeks back when it was brand spankin’ new, but it really needs official WAV status.  This is the new song from Cage The Elephant’s forthcoming sophomore effort, “Thank You, Happy Birthday” which is set for release on January 11, 2011.

I liked it the first time I listened to it, and I like it even more now (50+ listens later).  It’s so cool to see such a young band that’s not a rehash of the trends of the day, but a modernization and individualization of damn near everything that’s good about classic rock.  I can’t rave enough about these guys, so I’ll let the music do the talking.

Oh, and enjoy Abysmally…



Cage the Elephant is back at last with new jam

As if I needed another reason to love this band, here they come with a brand new song that, on the heels of their debut album, just shows what an unbelievably diverse and mature bunch of songwriters these guys are. Sounds like nothing on their self-titled debut…and is as memorable as any of their songs.

And that’s saying a ton.

Here’s to a big year for Cage the Elephant in 2011.

Enjoy Abysmally…



Cage the Elephant – New Video for “In One Ear”

My apologies to Mr. Bill, Jared and the CTE boyz for not posting this sooner.  I thought I had posted this over a month ago…seriously!

As many of you already know, Cage the Elephant is one of my fave bands and their debut CD from last year is, in my opinion, one of the best discs of the past 20 years.   They have released a new video for the leadoff track “In One Ear,” and while I’m still partial to the original version (c’mon…Matt Shultz hanging upsidedown in a straightjacket and singing is a total riot!) this is a cool video in it’s own right.

Check it out below and prime yourself for Cage the Elephant’s next CD which should be out later this year.  And of course…enjoy Abysmally!



LIVE Review: Cage the Elephant 2/26/10 Recher Theatre in Towson, MD

Okay, you already know I’m a CTE homer and their live show this past Friday night at the Recher Theatre sealed the deal.

The evening started off great because I was there with my friends The DMC, Ryan, Kate, Mike and Brynn and they’re good company.   As soon as I saw the inside of the theatre, I was stoked.  Just a big ballroom with no seats and a stage at one end.   This is how I wanted to experience this band.

Before I forget, I’ve got to give props to Morning Teleportation and As Tall As Lions for both being excellent bands opening the show for CTE.  Please give props by clicking their names in the last sentence and discover their music for yourself.  There’s no surprise like knowing nothing about the two opening bands you’re going to see, and then thoroughly enjoying them both:)

When CTE took the stage, they took a nod from the Ramones and pretty much went from song to song.  As Joe Perry would say, they “let the music do the talking”…except for an amusing musing from frontman Matt Shultz about trading someone a Mark McGuire baseball card for a bunch of Cal Ripken cards some time back.   The Mark McGuire card “ain’t worth nothin’ anymore,” he laughed.

“Tiny Little Robots,” “Back Stabbin’ Betty,” “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked”…they played most, but not all, of their debut CD and some new ones as well.  It was really cool to just enjoy the new songs in the mix without introduction, and I have to say they all sat comfortably with their current selection of songs.   It would have been reeeeally nice to hear “Judas” live, though:)

I was hoping for a fun show from a truly dynamite up-and-coming band, but it was way more than that.  What I saw was what happens when good young musicians are influenced by Dylan, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Ramones and all the formative classics from rock to garage to punk.   They pick up on the GOOD habits, create their own blend and ultimately become a true band.   Cage the Elephant is, to me, ushering in a whole new generation of rock n roll.     Forget emo, screamo or whatever the flavor of the month is.   CTE is one of those truly special bands that is putting their own honest, youthful spin on the spirit of good old school rock n roll in creation of music that will sound just as great 10 years from now.

Matt Schultz is undoubtedly the center of attention on stage as the manic, spastic (I mean that as a compliment) never-stop-moving front man.  The younger generation needs its own Angus Young…someone with style who is truly relentless in letting the music take over onstage.   Matt Schultz is all that as a front man (‘cept he’s prettier…sorry Angus).    He’ll get even better with time, as he does tend to run out of breath singing at times.  Hell, I would, too, going crazy like that.   Don’t change a thing, Matt.

And the band…ladies and gentlemen, this is a true band.  Jared Champion (drums) and Daniel Tichenor (bass) lay down a tight and relentless groove that makes it easy to get lost in the songs.   Never overplaying but always slipping in some tasty licks when you care to focus in on what they’re individually playing.   Ya gotta have groove, baby, and these two are as fine of a rhythm section that any band could hope for as they combine both power and finesse.

And then there are the guitars…man, those guitars.   Brad Schultz and Lincoln Parish have ridiculous chemistry that’s all over their CD and translates quite well to the stage.  Do yourself a favor and slap on the ol’ headphones sometime and listen to the guitar work  on their CD.  Textures, rhythm, crunch, melodies and savvy that belie their young ages.    It was a joy to watch these guys live, as they both are obviously in love with the myriad sounds they can make with their guitars and ultimately the music they create.   If you haven’t seen this band live, it’s well worth your time to check them out.

It’s really sick that a band this young is this good.   One of my top 10 favorite new albums and bands of the past 25 years without a doubt.  And thank you Jared and Mr. Bill Champion for your kindness.   The CTE show was quite the loud, joyous, life-affirming experience I hoped it would be.   I will never ever forget this.

And as soon as I can successfully grab some still concert shots off my crappy camera, I’ll post some pics:)

Cage the Elephant Scores a Number One!

Congratulations to Cage the Elephant for scoring a well deserved Number One with “Back Against the Wall” on America’s Music Charts!

Check it out for yourself here

And while you’re at it, enjoy the vid.

Abysmally, of course.   There’s no place like gnomes.

Thank you, Bill Champion, for sharing the great news!



Cage the Elephant – Back Against The Wall

You really should own this album if you don’t already. And you just have to dig a band with gnomes in their video. These guys are becoming more and more well gnome. Enjoy Abysmally…and thanks to The DMC for letting me know about this vid.

And thank you Jared Champion for spreading the word of the Abyss. I have no choice but to award you an honorary doctorate. In the Abyss you will heretofore beknownst as Dr. Jared “Jaro” Champion, D.A.


Cage The Elephant – Cage The Elephant

Cage-The-Elephant-Cage-The-Elephant-437079 2009 Jive – R.E.D

Man these guys just crack me up like no other band right now.   Beyond the almost hysterical humor and witicisms of this bunch of kids is track after track of relentless hooks that will have you singing along and probably saying some things you never thought you’d say.

The infectious nature and good-time vibe of the music is undeniable, and I was hooked from the first time my bud Darryl Collins played me “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” (still my favorite track).    Then my friend Ryan Shelley played me “In One Ear,” and I revisited the disc and discovered one of my very favorite releases of the year.

And they’re from Kentucky of all places.  Maybe that explains the freshness of their sound.

The aforementioned “In One Ear” opens the disc with the band’s youthful naivety on full display acting as a perfect foil to the confidence that belies their young ages.   Matt Schultz is an irrepressible nut case throughout the proceedings and his hanging upsidedown in a straightjacket in the “In One Ear” video is an honest representation of what you can expect.  There ain’t no holding back with these guys.

The slide acoustic riff of stone cold instant classic  “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” is vaguely reminiscent of Beck’s “Loser” (and I mean that as the utmost compliment), capturing both the drunken abandon and wicked hummability that makes “Loser” a classic riff.   Yes, it’s that good.   Other faves on this disc are the rave-up “James Brown,” the hooky and almost serious “Judas,” slow-burner “Back Against The Wall,” and “Back Stabbin’ Betty,” which strikes a personal chord with me right now and is quite cathartic.

Funky, rockin’, fun, memorable and laden with (ahem) words that may offend some but for me, all I can do is laugh along with them.   I mean, the whole disc sounds like a party that simply cannot be prevented from happening (not that we would want to).

As I write this, they’re primed to play live on Letterman Thursday June 30th, so they may not be long for Abysmal glory.   These guys are making quite a splash and I can’t help but think they’re primed for big things.

Rating:  5 out of 5

CLICK HERE to buy Cage the Elephant