Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time Capsule Clutter

What you see in the photo to the side is a leap year miracle.

Actually, it is the contents of a sealed box that I found in my garage tonight. A reminder of my past that I had sealed in a box, forgotten, and then reminded of when my parents shipped it to me because they didn’t want it cluttering up their joint any longer.

I would have easily forgotten about the box, even after they sent it, but tonight curiosity got the best of me just like it did Brad Pitt in Seven.

There was no human head in my box, just some old music related garbage that I thought I would share it on this day that gives you the opportunity to live 24 hours longer.

As you can see, there are a few band stickers ready for sticking. At one time, I used to cover my stereo speakers with band stickers and the like. You’d get a ton of them if you worked in radio, and my punchy Acculab 4-way speakers that I purchased at K’s Merchandise back in 1983 were covered with ‘em. It was pretty punk rock back in the day, but when I turned into a Yuppie in the mid-90’s, I felt that I needed to do away with such nonsense so I scrapped them for a pair of Bose 301s.

Not that you give a shit about my speakers, I’m just sayin' that these were the stickers left over from when I began to think that my speakers looked tacky with them on it. Now, of course, I wish I still had those Acculabs. I’d blow out a tweeter or midrange speaker, schlep down to Radio Shack (a Tandy company), and buy a replacement.

You can see an awesome Barkmarket sticker (I also have a spare), a Mathew Sweet dinosaur from Altered Beast (got about four of those, all different colors), a Sonic Youth washing machine from, you guessed it, Washing Machine, and the obligatory Jesus Lizard sticker. I loved that band so much that I was too gun shy to put it anywhere. Hell, you could say the same thing about all of those stickers I guess.

Next up is a Beatles pin that I stole from the Wal Mart electronics department on the day The Beatles Anthology I was released. I remembered all of those promotional items that Capitol Records had back in the 60’s and I thought, “I’ll have a bit of that!” Of course, I’ll have to wait a few more years before this button will be worth anything, but I now regret not nicking another one just for good measure.

On the upper right hand corner is a promotional item for the Pixies. It’s a simple black and white postcard of the band, standing in front of a bar that shares their name. This would have been from their Trompe Le Monde record, and it’s the perfect example of a ridiculous expense that serves no purpose. Why Elektra records felt the need to print up hundreds of postcards and ship them to radio stations across the country is beyond me. It in no way provokes radio programmers to think “I should add that new Pixies single this week!” and it’s not eye-catching enough for anyone to save. Instead, I’m sure Elektra added the cost of such dim-witted ideas to the Pixies accounting so that they’re still paying them off today. Even though it wasn’t very eye-catching, I saved it because I love the Pixies.

In the center is the add that Spinal Tap took out in radio trade magazines to hype up Break Like The Wind, the band’s early 90’s reunion album. I thought the ad was hilarious, and they really did hold auditions as part of the promotion. If I recall, Mick Fleetwood won the competition. Incidentally, this piece of paper survived over 20 years, most of which was featured prominently on one of the tom toms on my drum kit.

There were other items found: local band fliers, a Grateful Dead bota bag flask, an official Beatles Yellow Submarine Zippo lighter, etc. But the strangest thing is probably that Squeaky Fromme collage sent to me by a friend. It has nothing to do with music (that is Charlie in the upper right hand corner of the small piece) and I have no idea why I saved it other than my irrational curiosity towards the Manson Family.

Even more inexplicable is why Paul Shaffer plays a keyboard solo during The Pixies’ network television debut on Late Night with David Letterman.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow

Until recently, we’ve had a mild winter in the Midwest. There’s been very few days where temperatures fell below freezing and it was the first time in years when there wasn’t snow on the ground during Christmas.

It was a challenge not to buy Kate Bush’s new album 50 Words For Snow when it was released last November, but I had to wait. I knew that someone would probably place it under the Christmas tree as a gift for me, as it’s well known around these parts that my love for all things Kate is quite pronounced.

Indeed: when that morning came, I found two copies of the record from different sources.

How strange then that when the moment arrived to finally dive into it, I felt restrained. Within the first few chords of the opener “Snowflake,” I began to consider that I might not be drawn to it in the same way that I was with other Kate releases. That feeling continued when I heard the first voice of the record.

It wasn’t Kate, but her son Bertie.

I tucked away 50 Words For Snow for a few weeks, and then in mid January we received our first snowfall. Suddenly, the fields transformed from dead blacks and browns into mysterious white. The snow dampened the sounds outside to the point where you felt like you could be the only living thing for miles around. The crunch of my boots became a cacophony of rhythm while the cold, blowing wind through the trees became an orchestra of strings.

It was at that moment when I felt ready to give 50 Words For Snow another listen.

I’m not suggesting that there needs to be snow on the ground before you can appreciate Kate’s 10th record, but for me it provided the necessary motivation. Like those cold and silent evenings where the elements forces everyone inside, Kate has created an album of such minimalism that it can force listeners into their own isolation as the music does not bode well in social settings.

The intimacy requires your patience, and with time, you begin to notice the flourishes with every quiet pause, each piano chord, and every twisted tale.

Suddenly, Albert’s voice becomes as high as the snowflake that’s forming in the clouds, Steve Gadd’s drumming swings with the slow pace of footsteps on snow-covered sidewalks, and Kate’s voice-deeper with age-becomes the focal point of arrangements that go past the ten-minute mark with intense and precise intent.

With so much time on your hands, you begin to notice things. For example, you discover that one of the album’s highlights (“Misty”) is about a woman who melts a snowman during a night of lovemaking. The following track (“Wild Man”) seems to be about Bigfoot, and the title track finds Stephen Fry reciting things like “avalanche,” “shovel crusted” and “ankle breaker” from Kate’s own personal thesaurus for the word snow.

“Snowed In At Wheeler Street” features Kate’s idol Elton John as her duet partner, a love song complete with melodrama and Elton’s penchant for throwing his back into the delivery without providing any honest emotional weight. It’s the album’s lowest point, which is expected when you consider the melodramatic garbage that Elton’s been releasing for decades.

The closer “Among Angels” is another disappointment, mainly for how out of place it sounds. It carries the same piano arrangement as the rest of the album, but thematically it’s off course considering the lack of a wintery theme and from the fact that the aforementioned title track seems like such a perfect ending.

In some respects, 50 Words For Snow is just as strange as The Dreaming, albeit for entirely different reasons. While The Dreaming relied on weird arrangements and challenging lyrical content, Snow lets the deceivingly strange themes stand right out in front of some very organic structures.

It’s a record that will definitely stand the test of time and it may rank as one her best pieces of work for some fans. But for me, 50 Words For Snow works best when the season that inspired it contains the right amount of wintery details to perfectly accentuate its primitive arrangements.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CocoRosie Seeking Film Submissions For Some Weird Thing They're Doing

From the endless emails comes word:

CocoRosie Needs Your Films and Videos!
A screening of short silent films with a live musical score.
Movies will be selected by Emma Freeman and Rupert Casady

As the donaufestival 2012 artists-in-residence, CocoRosie will present a music theatre, a dance theatre, and an all-stars concert, organise an exhibition, invite numerous guests, and debut a live film-music project: For “Harmless Monster”, CocoRosie asks you to send your short films and videos in any genre whatsoever.

Rupert Casady and the Australian filmmaker Emma Freeman will make a selection from the submitted films and videos, which will then be scored live during the festival by Coco Rosie and guests. The contributions should be no longer than five minutes long and naturally without sound – CocoRosie will take care of that!

The ladies will be heading back to the states on June 9 to play the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles. You can purchase tickets for this show here.

Send your submission using before March 30th, 2012, to:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Twenty Five Years After The Death Of Andy Warhol

Twenty-five years ago today Andy Warhol died.

It came as a bit of a shock. Andy always seemed more like a caricature than someone real. The stories just seemed amazing, and he always could be found in those black and white photos about town in the village voice. I’d read them in the lobby of the public radio station I worked at-they had a subscription for some reason-and then I’d check the apartment prices in the classified.

“What if?” I wondered.

But I’m too much of a chickenshit to leave Iowa and move to New York.

That, and I’ve met enough people, thank you very much.

It fascinated me that people from across the country traveled to New York City and, at any given moment could have walked right into Warhol’s factory and made their introductions.

Sounded like a good time, until that bitch Valerie Solanas messed it all up.

I liked his work.

Several years ago, I got a chance to take my son down to our city’s Czech Museum where they had a bunch of prints of Warhol’s work. I didn’t have a bunch of time to absorb all of it properly; the little shit kept running around.

Years ago, a girlfriend got me The Andy Warhol Diaries. His obsessive behavior was amazing and his notes really demonstrated a human side to him.

But by that point he had gone, so I was never really able to completely separate him from the more powerful caricature.

So for today, I’m content with those stories of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Screen Tests and the song that put it all in perspective.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Devo Live 1980

It’s strange watching younger folks getting into things you discovered decades ago. At the same time, it’s rewarding to know that at least some of the things you held dear to your heart can be just as inspiring as when you were young.

Such is the case for Devo, a band that was incredibly vital to rock music, yet often overlooked because of their image, or more importantly, how their image was received.

The irony is how Devo can be considered a one trick pony by some while being anything but that in reality. As they amped up their visuals, they left their political bent behind which ended up killing any hint of dangerous or subversive behavior.

Because Devo actually started out a bit dangerous and they carried just as much punk ethos as anyone else, but they were just too damn smart for people to believe them.

There is video evidence of this, and the amazing thing is how well it’s documented just at the point where the band found commercial success. Yes, even at the time Devo scored their biggest hit, “Whip It,” they could still lay down a very aggressive and wildly entertaining show complete with costume changes, weird David Lynchian moments, and tight arrangements that are on par with all of their peers, even the ones that may get a critical nod before them.

Devo Live 1980 catches the Spudboys during the Freedom of Choice tour in 1980 in what appears to be a large club filled with admirers. It’s hard to tell, as the video is obviously not something that was documented for commercial release, more probable is that this was just an in-house closed circuit job.

Not that it matters to you; it’s just that there is very little crowd material, which means that every lens is focused on the band as they hit on just about every single highpoint of their first three albums.

The video image is decent but not professional and the sound quality is cut from a mono source, but none of this takes away from the performance that is top notch. I’m guessing that this was a typical show from that tour, and if that’s the case, these guys were a very impressive band. If you’re a fan of Talking Heads Stop Making Sense film, then you should be able to see how Mark Mothersbaugh’s reach went as far as New York City’s David Byrne. It’s like a noisy run through of that critical darling.

The video features Booji Boy turning into a meaty disaster and the bonus features show Devo’s religious alter egos Dove playing some more spiritual spud material.

Live 1980 is a perfect place to get familiar with how good Devo could be left to their own devices and it’s the perfect place for fans to hold as a proud document of a frequently overlooked live juggernaut.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Motley Crue - Too Fast For Love

Believe it or not, when considering the parody that Motley Crue has become, the actually began as a straight-up dangerous glam-metal band who seemed intent on using their decadence for their own immediate gratification rather than parlaying it into a marketable image.

That notion would come later-thanks to some money-hungry music-biz types-but Too Fast For Love remains as an untainted debut from those early fuck-all days. The lyrics are dumb, the recording sounds off, and their performances full of more attitude than talent. Which is why Motley Crue’s debut sounds wonderfully out of place even today while remaining their most essential recording in both influence and sheer consistency.

I go a bit farther and suggest that Too Fast For Love is probably the best, true glam rock album of the 80’s and perhaps just as vital as those revered Iron Maiden records that everyone points to when compiling best-of’s and critically praised. We like those-myself included-because their creators would probably hold their own with us in a battle of brains, while the boys in Crue would merely come across as barely functioning half-wits, annoying to a fault and not at all clever, at least not until you learned that they’ve nicked your wallet, your girlfriend, or both.

I love how the opener “Live Wire” begins with the sound of a hot amplifier while Mick Mars waits for the signal from the control room to begin playing. As soon as the nod is given, he looks down towards his guitar and starts a riff that is equal parts punk and metal, an impressive feet for a guy that used the Crue to reinvent himself after a decade of barely making ends meet on the bar band circuit.

The good news, is that Mars’ transformation is complete as the rest of Too Fast shows how quickly he picked up on this alien genre, a style he most undoubtedly learned from his younger bandmate, Nikki Sixx.

Credit also has to go to drummer Tommy Lee, a lanky beater who plays the kit like someone with ADHD and a bad coke habit on top of it. Cowbells, crash cymbals and double bass drums arrive in the mix without notice, like Lee is concerned that this will be his last recording session ever, so he wants to make sure that every part of his kit is heard in the final results.

While Nikki Sixx now likes to portray himself as a misunderstood writer with legitimate underground credentials, his lyrics and bass performance on Too Fast For Love barely register above an 8th grade reading level. Not that this is a bad thing, because when you combine that fact with Vince Neil’s woefully inept vocal abilities, you have a perfectly executed piece of art.

Too Fast For Love is completely devoid of the clichéd posturing of the band’s later work and is closer to the gutter than anything else they ever recorded. It’s one thing to remind people of your street cred, but Too Fast For Love is the only Crue album that sounds like a credible-and incredible-band fresh off the Sunset Strip.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Michael Monroe - Sensory Overdrive

Approaching 50, former Hanoi Rocks lead vocalist Michael Monroe looks about the same as he did when his old band was just beginning to take off thirty years ago.

While this may do wonders for Monroe’s social life, the real gauge is how his music is holding up underneath all that pancake makeup and glam exterior. Sensory Overdrive is Monroe’s first solo record since Hanoi Rocks called it quits for a second time and it shows that his solo material is also full of vacuum-packed sweet ‘n salty rock, perfectly preserved in its “use by July 14, 1985” packaging.

Some of the credit must go to producer Jack Douglas, who layers Monroe in so much preservatives that it’s easy to overlook just how gnarly some of the riffs can be at times.

As far as Michael is concerned, he raps what occasionally sound like classic rock album titles into new material, fueled by riffs that you’re sure you’ve heard before.

Opener “Trick Of The Wrist” is a cleverly disguised “Raw Power” chord progression while Monroe acknowledges how little he’s changed in appearance while Iggy looks like death warmed over by comparison.

“Got Blood?” is-you guessed it-AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” warmed over with-swear to god-the riff from Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” mixed with some other familiar chord sequence for the chorus.

None of this, including Douglas’ heavy use of sweeteners, hinders Sensory Overdrive overall intent: to rock the piss out of a country so wrapped up in discontent that we’ve nearly forgotten how to let loose and have fun.

“We used to do just fine/In the good old fashion times/Now the times just blow our minds” observes Monroe in “Modern Day Miracles” before finally asking everyone to “Stop talkin’/You’re givin’ me a headache!”

And for that, I’m going to have to agree that Sensory Overdrive is delectably original despite all of its obvious lifting from other platters.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards has little to do with me, even though my age and beyond are probably the only ones left who purchase physical products. I suppose that my age bracket is looked upon as the ones that will propel this year's Mumford and Sons into the stratosphere and I'm sure that we'll oblige.

I'm also pretty confident that the Grammy's are the source of all of my parents new artist purchases.

What that means is that we may see another five months of 100,000 + sales of Adele's 21

But the generation gap is amazing when you factor in how my 8 year old son immediately asked "Who's that?" when LL Cool J came out as the evening's host. Moments later, he was the one singing a lot of the songs nominated when I had no idea what they were or who the artists were.

My four year old daughter could also identify the songs, and she also began shimmying her behind in front of her Mother and I during Chris Brown's performance.

"Chris Brown! He threw a chair once because he's got anger issues." advised my son.

How he obtained that bit of information is beyond me, and is a testament to how far reaching pop culture is among our youth, even in families like mine that seem to have a tight grip on their children's entertainment options.

But since he's shown a propensity for voicing his opinion on tonight's performers, I thought it would be cool to include his random ass comments from time to time because, the reality is, he's got a better perspective on some of this shit than I do.

From minute one, it became obvious that this was going to be a Whitney Houston love fest, all of which prompted me to catch up on her career. She had fallen so far off the radar for me that I had no idea that she released an album a few years back and that the tour was a source of anger among some of her fans due to how far her voice had fallen from years of abuse.

"What are Foo Fighters?" my little girl asked while I wasn't sure if they won something. They sounded like Foo Fighters to me, and I liked how the dude from Fear ended up on the Grammy's while Dave Grohl wore a Slayer t-shirt.

It was nice to hear Grohl carry on about how music is best when it comes from the head and the heart. It was even better to hear him get cut off before he got too long winded.

It was clear from both children that Adele was going to be the big winner as brother and sister would finish up "Rolling In The Deep" whenever the fucking commercial that featured that song would come on.

"She does not look like Rhianna anymore." explained my son while my daughter stated how "She said the "F" word." Meanwhile, my wife and I tried to figure out what was the Rhianna/Coldplay connection was.

Finally, Chris Martin from Coldplay came on stage while my son announced "Coldplay sucks!"

Brian Wilson looked sedated and it looked like someone else was singing his part during the Beach Boys reunion set. They sounded good, but I wondered how much of it was canned. It was cool how they followed the camera to Glen Campbell in the audience where Mike Love gave a nod his way for Glen's contributions to the Beach Boys back in the day.

Why so glum, Joe Walsh? Is it because you got stuck with Paul McCartney during his standards phase? Yeah, that was a bit of a bummer. I'm sure the performance was fine, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Holy shit. They gave an award to that woman beater.

Every time they mentioned Taylor Swift, I kept thinking of Taylor Dayne.

Was that Katy Perry routine supposed to do that? And why do I get the feeling that her time is over?

Meanwhile, how brilliant was it to have Adele start "Rolling In The Deep" A Capella? It took less than 10 seconds to hear how her voice is the same as it was before her surgery. Adele on the other hand is far from over. Here's hoping that she learned a little something from Whitney's passing.

Glen Campbell's gotten worse. I don't remember the words "gotten run outta town" in "Rhinestone Cowboy." As a matter of fact, there were a few extra words that I didn't know. Like the ending "...snd cowgirls!"

Bon Iver won best new artist and sounded really dumb during his acceptance speech. Check Rosie O' Donnell's tweets to see if she knows who he is.

Immediately after the performance, I noticed a Yahoo article how Bruce Springsteen said something insensitive. It was related to Whitney's passing, of course, but it also was one of those non-stories that someone puts together just because it's time for some ridiculous update.

There was nothing offensive that Bruce or anyone else said. It was the Grammy's for crying out loud. Besides, if we're actively looking for something truly offensive that was broadcast on Sunday night, we can start by talking about the bullshit "we take care of our own" speech from Grammy president Neil Portnow suggesting that we all work together as we strive to fairly compensate artists through physical and digital delivery platforms.

You can start by not suing us, Neil.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston R.I.P.


Didn’t expect Whitney.

I mean I knew she had problems, and the immediate “cocaine is a helluva drug” mean-spirited response would be totally inappropriate at this point. I don’t know the cause of death, but I did think that she’d outlive Bobby and I could picture her singing at Clive Davis’ wake.

It’s weird, but the Whitney Houston video for “How Will I Know” came on this morning and I didn’t turn the channel. I normally would have, but today I let it play.

You can probably tell that I wasn’t a fan of her music, but 48 is too young for anyone.

Jack Blades Announces Solo Album Proving You Can Still Schlock In America

Just how long can Jack Blades milk his limited contributions to the rock and roll landscape?

Forever and a day.

He wasn’t in the version of Night Ranger that I saw in the early 90’s. Instead he was parlaying his pop-rock tunes with the “supergroup” Damn Yankees. Most recently he teamed up with his old Yankees’ cohort Tommy Shaw for Shaw-Blades and nobody knows why Shaw got top billing on that.

Guess he noticed what Tommy did to Dennis De Young when he recently manhandled his old band from him.

Not that I’m a fan of Styx, just like I’m not a fan for much of anything Blades has done.

I’m merely fascinated how these SoCal arena alumni continue to eek out an existance from us even when they don’t have much of a catalog to pull from. And nobody wants to hear the new songs, so how can they get away from it?

For Blades, the answer has been to team up with those aforementioned alumni and rustle up another tour to pay the bills.

But what’s this?!

A Jack Blades solo album?!

The upside is how in his collage of back stage passes-including one from Sammy Hagar’s Three Lock Box tour-shows an incredibly geeky shot of Blades in glasses during his stint in Rubicon.

"New York, NY) - Much-beloved singer/songwriter/frontman/producer/bass player extraordinaire Jack Blades is slated to release his brand new solo album, Rock N' Roll Ride, on March 27th via Frontiers Records. The new record marks Blades' second solo release for the label. Hot off the heels of Night Ranger's celebrated 2011 CD, Somewhere In California, and a massive North American tour with Night Ranger as support for Journey and Foreigner last year, Blades shows no signs of slowing down with his buoyant new album. Of the new offering, Blades commented, Rock N' Roll Ride is an extension of what my music has been for the last 30 years. It has been quite a rock n' roll ride and I decided to lay it all down on a record!"

Rock N' Roll Ride features contributions from Blades' Night Ranger bandmates Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy, Joel Hoekstra and Eric Levy, as well as a special guest appearance by Cheap Trick's Robin Zander. Click here to download the cover art. The first single from the album "Back In The Game" will soon impact at radio. Please see below for the full album track listing.

Jack Blades is a frontman, lead singer, bassist, songwriter, and producer as well as a founding member of the highly-successful arena rock band, Night Ranger and supergroup Damn Yankees (along with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw from Styx) and the highly-regarded Shaw/Blades. Throughout his remarkable career Blades has sold over 25 million albums, performed in front of millions of fans worldwide and collaborated with some of rock's most legendary artists. With a career spanning three decades, Blades has recorded with, penned songs and produced albums for some of the music industry's biggest names including Aerosmith, Cher, Ringo Star, Alice Cooper, Roger Daltrey, Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, Styx, Ted Nugent, Motley Crue and Vince Neil. His music has been featured in movies such as Armageddon, Boogie Nights, Tommy Boy, television shows such as "South Park" and "American Dad," the hit Broadway musical (and soon-to-be released major motion picture) Rock of Ages and the wildly successful videogame series "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero". With Blades' songwriting, driving guitars, stage antics and on the strength of Night Ranger's songs "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," "Rock in America," "Sister Christian," "When You Close Your Eyes," and "Sentimental Street", along with the Damn Yankees hits "High Enough" and "Coming of Age", Blades' legacy continues to inspire generations while still being written."

Jack Blades Rock N' Roll Ride track listing:

1. Back In The Game
2. Rock N' Roll Ride
3. Hardest Word To Say
4. Anything For You
5. Love Life
6. West Hollywood
7. Born For This
8. Don't Give Up
9. Say You Will
10. Rise And Shine
11. Hey Now

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Memoryhouse Release Debut Album and Iowa City Tour Date

Sounding a bit like Rosebuds at moments, Sub Pop records is getting ready to release the debut album from Ontario's Memoryhouse. There's a couple of free MP3 up at the SubPop site, or check them out at either one of their two Iowa dates coming up.

"On February 28th, Memoryhouse will release their debut record, The Slideshow Effect, and kick off a 15-date North American tour, with stops at this year’s SXSW and a handful of European shows to follow. Because sharing is our middle name you can listen to 2 new cuts off he band upcoming release by clicking the track names below."

If you pre-order The Slideshow Effect by February 28th via Subpop, you’ll receive a limited edition photo scrapbook put together by the band! Click here to find more information out regarding this release and to pre-order the record."

Memoryhouse Tour Dates:

Feb 28: Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern
Feb 29: Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
March 1: Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
March 2: Ames, IA @ Maintenance Shop at Iowa State University
March 3: St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
March 5: Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
March 7: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
March 8: Boise, ID @ Neurolux
March 9: Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
March 10: Vancouver @ Waldorf Hotel
March 11: Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
March 13: San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
March 15: Santa Barbara, CA @ Soho
March 16: Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
March 17: San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Mar 23rd: Glasgow @ School Of Art
Mar 24th: Dublin @Whelan’s
Mar 26th: Manchester @ Deaf Institute
Mar 27th: Bristol @ Louisiana
Mar 28th: London @ Cargo

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shabazz Palaces Announce Iowa City Date

I got a tour schedule for Shabazz Palaces last week and Iowa was-as usual-not included on any of the dates.

Suddenly, a note from the revived-from-the-dead Gabe's Oasis that Shabazz has included an Iowa City date in late April.

Mark it: April 25 at Gabe's Oasis in Iowa City.

Here's the rest of the blurb:

"2011 was a stellar year for Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces, the sonic movement of Palaceer Lazaro (Ishmael Butler). The debut release, Black Up, was one of the most critically celebrated records of 2011, landing of the Best of lists at SPIN, LA Times, The New Yorker, Pitchfork and more. Shabazz Palaces has no plans to slow down in 2012, announcing the groups first official stateside touring, kicking off on April 3 in Minneapolis, with European dates predating their North American tour.

To remind you how truly awesome Shabazz Palaces really is, we thought we would share with you the new video for the groups song “Are You... Can You... Were You...? (Felt)“, which was directed by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 The Whole, Minneapolis MN (All Ages Show)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012 Mad Planet. Milwaukee WI

Thursday, April 5, 2012 Lincoln Hall, Chicago IL

Friday, April 6, 2012 Magic Stick, Detroit MI

Saturday, April 7, 2012 The Horn Gallery, Gambier OH

Sunday, April 2012 The Shadow Lounge, East Liberty PA

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 Lee’s Palace, Toronto ON

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 II Motore, Montreal QC

Thursday, April 12, 2012 Iron Horse, Northampton MA

Friday, April 13 2012 SOB’s, New York NY

Saturday, April 14, 2012 Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn NY

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Experience Has Made Me Rich: Madonna's Super Bowl Halftime Show

I know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting my thoughts on Madonna’s performance during the Super Bowl, just like you paid attention to my prediction that the Patriots would implode under their own press and how you should bet the farm on the Giants.

The reality is how the only reason I watched this year’s Super Bowl is for the rematch aspect that sports television kept repeating ad infinitum. Thankfully, the players did manage to deliver an epic game, making it easier for me to palate a game between two teams that I care nothing about.

I didn’t mind the idea of Madonna as the halftime entertainment, and I must confess that I didn’t quite understand why so many others threw a fit about her. I come from a generation where the halftime shows were generally lame-the Up With People kind-so the notion that a real live, fairly modern artist would be performing, then I’m already impressed.

Add to the fact that Madonna was ubiquitous growing up in the 80’s, only adds to the fact that I want to watch her, if anything to see how she’s holding up after 30 years.

It was pretty clear from the get-go that this was a canned affair. There may have been a few live moments during the slow intro to “Like A Prayer” but everything seemed to be on tape and Madonna looked to be made-up so heavily that it only ended up reminding you of how old she really was.

Kicking off with “Vogue,” perhaps the gayest song to ever grace a sporting dome, Madonna began a twelve-minute quest to remind the largest television audience possible that she was still hammering out tunes and-oh, by the way-she has a new record and tour coming out.

The new song, which evidently has people repeating her brand name over and over, wasn’t that bad. The question is: do people care about Madonna anymore?

I’m guessing that they do, but she’s losing them at a quicker step than she’s gaining them. Because as good as her Super Bowl appearance was-and I do think it was good-it’s the nonsense she’s pulling outside of her performance that has me worried.

Firstly, I don’t think her tour show would add to the money-shot performance of the Super Bowl. My money is on the fact that the high points of her performance were already broadcasted, and in a live set, these highlights would just be scattered across a 90-minute show.

Speaking of money, what’s with this shit about high-ticket prices?

Madonna recently remarked that $300 really isn’t that much for tickets and that she’s “worth it.” She drew up some comparisons how people spent this amount on money for frivolous things all the time, using the price of handbags as an example.

As someone who has turned his wife into a handbag connoisseur, I can attest to the actual need of that item. At the same time, my wife has something to show for it afterwards. With Madonna, the only thing I have left is the memory of her lip-synching her hits so that she can afford her extravagant lifestyle.

There are people struggling today, and the cavalier attitude that Madonna presents is inexcusable. “Material Girl” used to be nothing more than social commentary but it now seems to be her retirement package.

Madonna has gained enough from the financial windfall her work has provided her. It’s not her fan’s responsibility to fund her over-extended net worth.

While her Super Bowl performance reminded us all that Madonna still put on an enjoyable show, it was overshadowed by the drama of the event itself and her insensitive comments that showed us how far she’s really gone from her days as a hungry performer.

And no matter how svelte she looked on stage, it’s clear that Madonna’s ego is fatter than ever.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Low Opening For Death Cab For Cutie On Spring Tour

I like the band Low for many reasons, but I will share a couple of the most obscure ones.

For one: Mim and Alan Sparhawk are Mormons, which is a religion that I've actually spent some time with. Not in the church itself, but in researching in as I used to live minutes away from Nauvoo, Illinois, so it's a part of my own history in some respects. I even had the rare privilege of being allow in one of their newly completed temples once, which is something that even some members of the church never get to do.

Without getting too sidetrack, the Mormon history is very strange, and to have a couple of its members in a band like Low is equally strange.

I like that aspect of them.

The second reason is that they are neighbors to the north of us here in Iowa, which means that they must deal with the same-even harsher winters than we do and they are part of the Midwest polite conglomerate is reassuring.

I'm tired of Chicago, Minneapolis, hell even Omaha getting all the attention when it comes to hip alternative nation bands.

Give Duluth some!

True story: I once had a dream where I booked Low for a concert in Nauvoo, Illinois and only about 50 people came. I felt bad for them, but had excellent visibility.

Speaking of Low in concert:

"Beginning April 10th, Sub Pop recording artists Low will serve as main support for the first 12 dates of Death Cab for Cutie’s upcoming North American spring tour. These dates will bring the bands to intimate venues and historic theaters across much of the United States, as Death Cab for Cutie performs with San Francisco’s innovative Magik*Magik Orchestra. Low was specially selected by Death Cab for Cutie as main support for these dates.

Low are touring in support of their 2011 release, C’mon, which was recorded in an old church in Duluth, MN and mixed in Hollywood, CA with producer Matt Beckley working alongside the band. C’mon received warm accolades from such places as: SPIN, Blurt, Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, and NPR, who had this to say about their latest release:

Lush and beautiful in its simplicity…Longtime fans who've lived with Low will no doubt appreciate the return to form, while newcomers ought to fall in love with these songs and want to dig into the rest of the band's 18 years of passionate restraint.

Alan Sparhawk describes C’mon simply as: “Warm, pretty, large like Nashville without the country. Mim and I are talking to each other in the lyrics, sometimes it's not pretty, but it's as honest as love.”

See below for a full list of tour dates. For more information on Low please visit here."

w/ Death Cab for Cutie:

04/10/12 Denver CO @ Ellie Caulkins Opera House
04/11/12 Omaha NE @ Omaha Music Hall
04/13/12 Louisville KY @ Louisville Palace
04/14/12 Grand Rapids MI @ Covenant Fine Arts Center / Calvin College
04/15/12 Milwaukee WI @ Riverside Theatre
04/16/12 Chicago IL @ Chicago Theatre
04/19/12 Toronto ON @ Massey Hall
04/20/12 Montreal QC @ St Jean Baptiste Church
04/21/12 Boston MA @ Citi Performing Arts Center / Wang Theatre
04/23/12 Providence RI @ Veterans Memorial Auditorium
04/24/12 Buffalo NY @ Kleinhan's Music Hall
04/25/12 Philadelphia PA @ Tower Theatre

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flogging A Dead Horse: Why I'm Done With Daytrotter

"Success — you've been unsubscribed from Daytrotter Newsletters.
You will receive one last email confirming that we have unsubscribed you.”

I remember the first time I discovered the website Daytrotter. It was the same time when I discovered where Daytrotter was based out of-the perfectly named Rock Island, a quarter of the Quad Cities which is an often overlooked community when it comes to the hipster-quotient scale.
Rock Island isn’t a regular stopping point for most indie bands, which made Daytrotter kind of an anomaly. It’s strategically located right off the interstate, as is Iowa itself. I know, Rock Island is actually on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities, but we Iowans still count it amongst us because, let’s face it, Iowa will claim anything that isn’t Chicago, Minneapolis, or that crummy Omaha.
The idea that our little working class neighbor was grabbing the attention of fresh new artists that you don’t normally associate with the Midwest was kind of neat. I even offered my services to the website once in some kind of “You guys are really doing some cool stuff” email. It was unsolicited, but it was also a product of quick blurb that hinted how Daytrotter could always use some extra material-and since we’re both practically in the same neighborhood and since I always seemed to have some extra material, I dropped a few articles off at the head-Trotter’s main publisher type of guy.
I got nothing back. Not even an acknowledgement. Heck, even a ‘thanks but no thanks” would have been sufficient. But even in my naiveté I expected more from a fellow Midwesterner, particularly one that attempts to mesh our “aw shucks” values with hipster appeal. I saw the Daytrotter pony a file miles up the road from my home in the suburbs and it ignored me just like any other cleverly named editor at Pitchfork or Blender.
Fuck those guys.
I tried to get a feel for the website’s writing style, but all I came away with is the long-winded prose of the editor, trying to vaguely map his descriptive words with the band being featured. And you know what, not once did what he was saying prompt me to look at a band I wasn’t familiar with more scrutiny.
I guess that’s what the music on their sessions is supposed to do.
Recently, the website announced that they would begin charging for these sessions, that it simply became cost prohibitive to provide the music they’ve recorded for free to its visitors.
It made me wonder “Why now?”
I’m not entirely convinced that having an independent musical act stopping off in Rock Island, Illinois to record a few selections live in an unadorned studio for distribution on a website with vague articles and colorful illustrations would be a solid business plan. It’s a novel one, for sure, and something that appeals to the left side of my brain, but I’m not sure that it’s something that I’d bet the proverbial farm on.
If I’m not mistaken, Daytrotter was started as a labor of love. It required that those who manned the site devote an enormous amount of time and, yes, costs to keep the light bill paid, but it was a business model in which none of those involved planned to get rich from, just like it was a model where those envolved were ready for the site to be such a success.
I’m sure those site stats were please with the results and forced to make a decision of how to navigate the behind the scenes trenches with limited free time and even more limited financial resources.
But I’m sorry if I’m not automatically reaching for my wallet to pay for such an endeavor, to fund for the studio time of a few bands that I care to hear in such a setting while paying for even more bands that I could give two shits about.
Particularly if the idea is to get to me give two shits about bands I’ve never heard before. I mean, I don’t remember John Peel asking me for a few bucks just so I could learn about The Fall. Particularly when I’m sure there are dozens of record labels who would love for me to discover one of the bands they have decided to stop by for some exposure at one of the digital world’s most infamous sites for young upstarts.
What Sean and his cohorts at Daytrotter have done is create an admirable website with a unique approach to exposing new artists to like-minded fans, all at a cost effective price (i.e. free) that promotes a bullshit-free opportunity to get music you wouldn’t normally get to hear.
What I object to is the idea that, because they haven’t found a way to adequately pay for this-even after selling the name to a larger site that was needed to help cover Daytrotter’s own expansion and popularity. I’m not understanding why I have to be the one to foot the bill. Why are they asking me for financial assistance so that they get to chose what artists get to be recorded? Why am I funding to maintain the site’s seemingly unending schedule that overloads my hard drive with band I’m not entirely sure I need to pay to hear? I don’t need to hear how Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin attacks one of their old numbers in the Daytrotter studio because I’m not a fan enough to reach for my wallet.
I’m paying for their tastes, their visual arists, and their branding-in the same way that I would pay for a subscription to Rolling Stone (which I dropped on the issue that featured Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen on the cover, admittedly making the Boris Yeltsin comment a bit reckless), but only after Jann Wenner himself told me an increase in the subscription is needed because R.S.’s business model is failing.
So do what needs to be done to stay afloat (limit the sessions to a manageable number, reduce the amount of illustrations, spend more time addressing revenue issues instead of spending it on pointless prose that does little to tell me more about the artists you now want me to pay you to record). It just seems a bit rude to ask me for spending change so that you don’t have to assume a new business accumend that began as your hobby.
All of this sounds a bit bitchy, particularly when you consider the monthly cost that Daytrotter is asking for. But for me-like many others in this country at the moment-who is working through the unemployment of one of the breadwinners in our home and the tight budget that this has created for our family of four, the idea that we’re supposed to pick up part of the tab for someone else’s labor of love doesn’t set well.
After all, I would love for my own musical prose to be able to pay the bills, but the reality of life forces me to prioritize and cut back on the things I enjoy doing while I attempt to make good on the things that I need to do.
Maybe Daytrotter should have considered right from the get-go what they wanted to be: a hipster website fueled and paid for by their own passion or just another music website with a unique approach that should have contemplated their own financial goals with a solid business acumen before going live.