The Insomniac’s Playlist
On a sleepless night, a podcast that spreads its magic and fills your headUpdated: Jun 02, 2017 17:37 IST
Tuesday night. It’s been six hours after an intercontinental flight deposited me at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and I can sense the onset of jet lag. Flying west to east is the worst, they say, and I’m realising that as I toss and turn trying desperately to fall asleep. The melatonin capsule I dropped seems to be a placebo with no effect – it did squat to regulate my sleep cycle or readjust it to IST; I’m tired but wide awake. Music is what I turn to. I choose an episode of the Endless Boundaries Jam Radio, a Philadelphia-based FM radio programme whose podcast is available on the Internet. It works. No, it doesn’t get me sleep but then I’ve already given up on that – instead, it fills my late-night wakeful hours by making things less fitful.
Endless Boundaries is a weekly podcast that is typically over three hours long. The host and RJ who goes by “Jaybird” speaks between segments but not too much. He introduces some of the music he’s going to play or provides the background of a new artist or band that you may not have heard of. “Endless” is the key descriptor of the podcast – the music he plays is often characterised by long jams performed by new and old acts alike and more often than not the tracks are from live performances. The episode I heard on that sleepless night was #924. It opened with the San Francisco-based project, Tycho, which makes ambient ‘chillwave’ music using vintage synths. It was a great start. That was followed by the Acorn Project from Bellingham, Washington, whose music is described by the band as “deep electro-funk” and is sure to quickly catch the fancy of anyone – you could like classic rock; progressive rock; jazz, blues or funk; and Acorn Project would appeal to you. Jaybird followed that up with a classic, The Allman Brothers Band’s Whipping Post from their Live at Fillmore East album (1971). Clocking in at 32 minutes, it’s a time-tested winner. As that extended jam winded down, came a track by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. I hadn’t heard this project of his. Russo, drummer and part of the Benevento/Russo duo formed this (mainly) Grateful Dead tribute band a few years back and the track Jaybird chose was their version of Fire on the Mountain – a fresh twist on a jam classic. Jaybird put on the real thing next: the Grateful Dead’s own The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) from the seminal band’s eponymous first album in 1967.
You might have guessed it, but Endless Boundaries hops back and forth through the eras. In the same episode that kept me company during that recent bout of insomnia was the iconic and mainly acoustic Bron-Y-Aur Stomp from Led Zeppelin’s third album; a great version of Eric Clapton’s Old Love (from the Unplugged Chronicles); and Jimi Hendrix’s Hear My Train A Comin’. These, along with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s superb acoustic version of Pride and Joy, formed the middle segment of the podcast, which was titled the Smokers’ Lounge, before it segued into the truly long jam segment.
That’s when the fun began. I discovered TAUK, New York City’s four-piece instrumental band. TAUK are a talented bunch made up of A.C. Carter (keyboards), Matt Jalbert (guitar), Isaac Teel (drums), and Charlie Dolan (bass). TAUK take jazz, funk, rock and hip-hop, whip them up and serve all of that wih a garnish of pop – what’s not to like about that?
By now, sleep was farthest from my mind. That’s when the marathon podcast brought on Prince’s hitherto unreleased Deliverance from an EP whose release has been embroiled in a legal battle. Impeccably produced with horns, strings and hints of a synth, it was captivating. And, just as I thought it wasn’t going to get better, came The Claypool Lennon Delirium, a collaboration between maverick bass-slapper Les Claypool and Sean Lennon. It was the duo’s excellent cover of Pink Floyd’s Astronomy Domine. The two musicians make for an eccentric pair and their cover of that song from Floyd’s debut album, Piper At the Gates of Dawn (the only album made under Syd Barrett’s leadership), spreads a glow of psychedelia.
Nearly half of the episode was still left and yet to come were old jam band favourites such as a medley by Phish; a track from one of Trey Anastasio Band’s gigs this April; a new band called Jazz is Phish where a jazz ensemble covers Phish songs (similar to how Jazz Is Dead does Grateful Dead tunes); and tracks off recent shows by Lotus and Sound Tribe Sector 9.
Endless Boundaries has a seemingly bottomless archive of its weekly shows online, easily accessible, free, and, as I discovered, immensely therapeutic. The right fix for a fitful sleepless night. Download an episode or stream it, lie back and enjoy. One thing is guaranteed, though: you’re not going to be sleeping.
- Mr. Wright by The Claypool Lennon Delirium
- 2.5-hour live set by TAUK
- Pride and Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Get Lucky (cover) by Acorn Project
- Hell in a Bucket/Shakedown Street/ In Memory of Elizabeth Reed (covers) by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
- Little Wing (Live at the Albert Hall) by Jimi Hendrix
From HT Brunch, May 14, 2017
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First Published: May 13, 2017 20:44 IST