The Legacy of Shakedown Street
The summer of no live music. Might as well not have summer barbecues or camping trips or baseball. Well, we can have all of those, which is all fine and dandy. Baseball looks like it’s on the way to the chopping block, but a summer without live concerts hardly feels like summer at all. We’re not talking parking lot shows, livestreams, or any of that jazz. We’re talking real shows. Side by side packed into your local venue or outdoor park, sweating and channeling your inner James Brown.
We can’t help the nostalgic rush, and with that comes a yearning for the community that comes with live music. It’s the camaraderie we miss, the friends you never knew you had, that atmosphere of live shows, and the magic on stage. But most of all, we miss the community. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at the greatest live music community in history: Shakedown Street.
The Grateful Dead in the traditional form, as with most classic-era mainstays, are gone. And with that closes off more than just the music, the live concerts, the mystique surrounding the rise and fall of long-winded tours, and the slew of characters that followed behind. At any given Grateful Dead, The Dead, Furthur, The Other Ones, Jerry Garcia Band, New Riders of the… okay, there were countless offshoots and side projects of the Grateful Dead, and along with their closing (aside from Dead & Co. of course) largely brought an end to the community and spirit of their tours. Granted, at any given show, festival, or backyard happening that involves tie dye and hippie-era music, the spirit of the old days lives on, but the community of Shakedown Street has never quite been the same.
Art, clothes, food, tickets, music, knickknacks, trinkets, and, of course, drinks and drugs of all sorts could be bought, sold, traded, seen or had within the tightly-knit traveling troupe known as Shakedown Street back in its heyday. They called the parking lots at Dead shows home and they traveled wherever the group went with or without tickets. If you’ve seen or experienced it, you know. It existed long before the song or album of the same name came along, and you can still experience it in all shapes and forms around the world. Though gone in its former glory, it will never be forgotten. We can’t wait to relive the spirit of Shakedown Street again, and hopefully soon. Onward and upward.
Four Tet - Sixteen Oceans
With twenty years and ten full-length releases behind him, Kieran Hebden of Four Tet continues down a path etched by his own making. It’s not an easy feat to stand out in a scene saturated with like-minded acts, let alone carve out a career spanning two decades, but Four Tet has done more than just stand out: he’s created a subgenre entirely by himself.
Unique has always been the term used when describing Hebden’s work, but that seems empty, uneventful and plain boring to be honest. How about iconic? Monumental? Pioneering? That sounds more appropriate when you have droves of artists modeling their work after your every step. And for this step with Sixteen Oceans released earlier this year, contemplation comes to mind. A reflective, inward ode that doesn’t necessarily look forward, perhaps back at the path that brought him here. With titles like “School,” “Baby,” and “Mama Teaches Sanskrit,” Sixteen Oceans seems like an homage to all the sounds and samples that lead Four Tet to Four Tet.
Sixteen Oceans and 2017’s New Energy were both stepping out of sorts from the Four Tet of a decade ago and established some distance between the high-tempo house music, clubby days of 2013’s Beautiful Rewind and 2012’s Pink. Don’t kid yourself, Sixteen Oceans is very much a Four Tet record; it’s dreamier, spacier, and meditative with the usual heavy dosages of field recordings. And in classic Four Tet fashion, Hebden layers textures of ambient hiphop backbeats sprinkled with flutes, drums, chimes, and harpsichord samples on numbers like “Teenage Birdsong,” and “Romantics” along with cut-up vocals by Ellie Goulding on “Baby.” The entire record is a deeply simplified and relaxing step back into nature that interweaves between downtempo beats and sounds of the forest, emphasizing the subtle touches that makes Kieran Hebden Four Tet.
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall II
If there’s one thing that these unprecedented times have brought us, it’s certainly been time and space from each other and to create. There may not be a true light at the end of the tunnel yet, but there’s definitely light within the tunnel, and with that brings new opportunity. The fruit of that cannot be better represented than a surprised release of unheard material from My Morning Jacket’s recording sessions that resulted in 2015’s The Waterfall. The Waterfall II, released earlier this month, is exactly what we need as music lovers: quality tunes resulting from the opportunity to dig back into unfinished business, which is exactly what Jim James and co. did.
News had swirled in 2015 about an excess of material from The Waterfall time period. Possibly a double album, even a triple release, or a quick follow-up sister album. Regardless, it never came to fruition with supporting tours for The Waterfall, solo endeavors, and James’ releases as a producer. But now, in the darkest days of a pandemic, comes the surprise we all knew existed but never expected.
A psychedelic, jammy, subdued, and toned-down version of The Waterfall is here and also produced by Tucker Martine (R.E.M., Modest Mouse, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, The Avett Bros). Sounding less like a b-sides release and more of a double album, II is straightforward and hammers the point as to how the band sounds in this place in time. It’s one of the most scaled-back releases of their catalog and is the foremost reflective, touching on their hectic past on the road (see opening line: “I’ve been wrong for so long/ Risking my life for the sake of the song”). And with the cherry on top, the songs “Magic Bullet,” “The First Time,” and “Welcome Home” find a proper release and formal seat on an LP.