Thursday, February 28, 2008

You will be graded on this

After a few insightful emails between myself and Mr. Walsh of Rockturtleneck fame, waxing poetic on the premise and tenets of rock music, I thought it appropriate to post this entertaining and satiric view of the music biz from the perspective of indie insiders.

I don't know all that much about Yo La Tengo, except to say they have been making good music for decades. Obvious to the fact they have never fit into the mainstream corporate rock mold, they have carved out a niche of a band true to their sound, who consistently deliver to a dedicated fan base.

And remember people, the Foghat principle. You're fourth album should be double live.

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Are you receiving me?

Blast 1

Blast 2

Blast 3

Blast 4

Blast of XTC

To coincide with rockturtleneck's first 'Hi Fidel-ity' posting, and the inclusion therein of XTC's two stellar contributions 'Living Through Another Cuba' and 'Generals and Majors', I invite you to follow the link below to have a blast. Subsequent blasts to follow.

The revolution will be simucast.

I'm just sayin'.

Blast 1

Monday, February 25, 2008

Teenage dreams- etched in stone

John Peel. Heard hundreds of thousands of bands. Ten times as many songs. Influenced countless millions of listeners with his inimitable BBC show/sessions, etc.

So what was his all-time favourite song?
You would think it a tough question. Just one songs out of the millions? A single piece of music that was able to bend an ear that was permanently twisted. The answer and the explanation are amazingly simple.

It was 1978's adolescent punk anthem 'Teenage Kicks' by The Undertones.

The Derry Ireland outfit sent their debut EP to Peel back in 1978. Former lead singer Feargal Sharkey : "Our only hope was John Peel, and we sent him a copy - that was the only copy we sent anyone". Thanks in part to Peel's exposure, the song's repetitive, infectious chord structure, lyrics as honest and vulnerable as a horny, pubescent boy, and Sharkey's warbling vocal, the single made it to #73 on the UK charts, but for Peel it became an all-time #1.

When asked in 2001, just three years before his untimely death, Peel mused "I've never yet come up with an answer that pleased me much, falling back each time on: 'There's nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it.'

So pleased with the song was Peel, he requested the lyrics be engraved on his headstone,which was finally erected a few weeks ago at his grave in Suffolk, GB.

John Peel may be gone but punk's not dead.

I'm just sayin'.

MP3: Undertones-Teenage Kicks

MP3: Nouvelle Vague-Teenage Kicks

Chicago- Feelin Stronger Every Day

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Supertramp - The Logical Song

Band of Horses/Is There a Ghost (Live)

Horses in the Temple- Dirty on Purpose/Band of Horses 02.14.08

Sometimes hidden signs are the most evident.

C train. Fort Greene landmark. Never been. Two of my current fave bands. Dirty on Purpose. Band of Horses. Never seen.

The place is amazing. I've come to realize I love these tired old spaces as much as the bands that play in them. I don't have many friends, much less ones belonging to a secret society, so it's fair to say I have never seen the inside of a Masonic Temple . Kinda neat and creepy in a crazy cult with wacky hats sort of way. Don't know the handshake, just here for the tunes.

DoP were a little shaky first few songs. But they got into a groove and tore through most of the songs on their new EP 'Like Bees'. Good stuff. But my money is still on their first release ' Sleep Late For A Better Tomorrow'. They need a chick in the band again. Will help with the vocals. The shoegazer stuff. So damn catchy. I glanced down at the crowd from the balcony and in unison as if mesmerized, you could see little packs doing the sway. Very People's Temple. The main reason I got the tickets in the first place was to see DoP. I had missed their gig at McCarren Pool last summer and have really wanted to catch them live. I wasn't disappointed except to say I would have enjoyed a longer set. Planning on seeing them again in April in the city. Headlining? Pass the Kool -Aid.

End of the set. Place starts to fill some more. Since BoH was almost an afterthought, I am not 100% on staying through the entire set. Blasphemy says you. In of all places, a temple. But I'm a working stiff. Ads don't concept themselves you know. So on comes Ben Bridwell and the rest of the band and my first impression is that they have no personal grooming utensils on the tour bus whatsoever. He is sporting the biggest, bad-ass Grizzly Adams this side of West Virginia. I mean this thing was straight outta Deliverance. Same deal with Tyler Ramsey. Reminded me of George Harrison circa 'All Things Must Pass'. Crazy face fur. Perhaps an homage to the borough's resident Hasidim?

They dive right in, opening with the sonic question 'Is There A Ghost' from Cease To Begin, one of the egregious omissions of my top 7 of '07. But that's for another time. Check the vid, captured by my concert buddy Leslie, from up in the cheap seats.

I tell you these boys can rock. Swear Ben's voice sounds just like:
A. Roger Hodgson
B. Geddy Lee
C, Neil Young
D. Perry Farrell
E. All of the above

They played most of the latest LP as well as the selections from their first release 'Everything All the Time'. Love the southern twang attached to otherwise straight ahead verse, chorus, verse rock. Catchy without asking for too much commitment.

Mid-way through the set, like an electrified, tremeloed E minor chord, it hits me. In the gut. A sign. Some mystic symbol. Can I get a witness? This was an incredible show. These bands are just hitting their stride. Both at that crucial sophomore period of their careers. The make or break album. Separating the wheat from the chaff and all that. Given another half hour they'd have exhausted their entire catalogs. In fact, BoH blew the room away with an amazing encore of Chicago's 'Feelin' Stronger Everyday'. I have never heard that song covered live. Hell, I haven't heard that song on the radio in 25 years. Great tune.

All in all, the show was sublime. I didn't learn anything more about Masons, But I know Mason Reece and man, I'm feelin' like some deviled ham right about now.

I'm just sayin'.

MP3: Feelin' Stronger Every Day

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

via Chicago

What's tougher? The Chicken Kiev on an American Airlines non-stop or making it to Chicago to see Wilco?

I never thought focus groups could offer perks, until it happened to me. Find out two weeks ago I am headed to the Windy 'bitterly arctic, sub-zero freezing, I don't believe in global warming' City for message testing on some crap drug that will be draining all of my time in the next three months. Fine, no problem, I got over selling out to the man way back when all my art school buddies were pimping themselves out as pattern makers and children's book illustrators trying to make a buck. Ok, so no problem I gotta go to Chicago in February. Another dark room, the bowl of m&m's, for those of us in the marketing biz, this is a mulligan.

So it's Friday before, scrutinizing plans, flights, accommodations the whole nine. Through an absolute moment of pure kismet, I find out through an email string that a friend of a friend and his wife are headed to Chitown to see Wilco for two performances of their 'Winter Residency' at the famed (read: dilapidated) Riviera Theater. I figure what the hell, time to call in a favor. Wishful thinking? It was only two Saturday nights ago that I was summoned to create some last minute design for Warner's After-Grammy Party. So this is worth a shot. Love Wilco, gonna be in town, let's mix a little business with a whole lotta pleasure. First attempt solicits the response "Are you kidding, that show was sold out before Uncle Tuepelo broke up". Well I took the shot. It was a long shot.

An hour later, I get the email. Will call for Wilco, one ticket. Perfect. I'm in. Unfortunately, I had already mentioned the possibility of the show to the Mrs., so although I was thisclose to seeing Mr. Tweedy & Co. I had to figure out how to really work this thing. SO, I think to myself, if I want IT where do I go, where does anyone go to get IT? Ebay, of course. OF COURSE. And there IT was, one lonely GA ticket for Monday's show, and better yet from a seller in Brooklyn. More karma flowing my way. IT could be counterfeit, but what the hell, I took the shot. It was a long shot. I've gotten this far with just a few phone calls, so I go for IT. Seller can do overnight FedEx, I go for broke and book Laura's flight. Airline to heaven. Well if nothing else, she'll go to Wilco and I'l hang back in the room. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Saturday morning, second mug of Dunkin Donuts, kids watching 'Toon Disney, I pour over set lists, Wilco is to play their entire catalog across the five night stand! Wow, I think, in order? Alphabetically? Chronologically? Soundscan? Giddy with anticipation. Can't stand it. Door bell rings, FedEx, ticket. Looks real, smells real. We're in. Now there are only 725 miles separating us from Wilco. Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway, this rock and roll road trip is on.

Not quite as sexy at 39, with 5yo twins, but nonetheless we are going to rock, rock very hard, and finding adequate care for the kids is as close as a 10 minute drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Drop the kids at noon, chill a little to avoid the separation anxiety (ours, not theirs), then a car to LaGuardia, American non-stop to O'Hare. Damn delays, We listen to the entire Troutdale show on the flight, then some. We land. 6:20pm central. Still have an hour till show time. Presidents' Day so traffic is light. More karma. Loving our first and 16th presidents. Marriott. Can't jam the electronic key in the door fast enough. Bags dumped it's another 25 minute drive along the lake, left toward Racine. My mind races, Their entire catalog? I relive the chase scene from Blues Brother. Then finally, The Riviera. A lot like the Beacon, only after a bad fire. Love the character. Short will call line for industry folks which I swear I'm not, Only through association, but I know it's thin. We're in, bee line towards the floor, I can hear the mellow tones of an acoustic guitar. I identify it to be 'Blue Eyed Soul'. Sweet. Two minutes late, not bad considering the journey. Problem, this show is sold out. Way over sold out if you ask me, we're stuck in the back behind the bar, great acoustics and a stunning view of the peeling WPA murals that circle overhead. Hate it here. The frustration mounts. We've come so far to stare at cracked plaster? Well I took the shot. It was a long shot. But I can almost touch the brass ring, can't quit now. Within 15 minutes we've squeezed into a staircase on the second balcony. Clear view, amazing sound. Karma. Jesus, etc.

And now the review.

What's to say really, has anyone ever given them a bad review? They went on promptly at 7:30 and played non-stop until quarter after nine, when Jeff announced they were taking a little break, 'like the Dead'. They returned and tore it up until after 10:30. Blistering. Soulful. On and on and on. Although his banter with the audience is fairly scripted, at least I've heard the same type of back and forth, stuff like the cute jabs at those calling out songs, Jeff Tweedy and entourage certainly make up for it when they play. And play they did. I was struck by just how richly textured and varied the Wilco songbook really is, Song after song, I thought how corny it seemed, but each was like a friend. New and old. And they make that relationship apparent as they effortlessly flow from delicate ballads to straight on three chord rock. It certainly wasn't my first Wilco show, but it was my first Wilco show in Chicago. Midway through the second set, I had an epiphany, this is the best rock band in world, Right here. Right now. I thought about how they were so in their element, as if it was predestined. They belong to Chicago and they belonged at the Riviera. I couldn't help but think how awkward and aloof they seemed at the Grammy's just a few weeks ago. Deserving they are of accolades, a look at the tour calendar confirms they reward themselves almost every night. I tried to think about the last time I felt so good about a band that was making everyone feel so good. REM comes to mind, but they always kept their fans at arms length. Not through their music but through their accessibility. They had their airs about them. The were the pioneers of college rock, and they had to hold onto that mantle. It paid off for them, catapulting them to worldwide fame and some valuable radio airplay. But with Wilco, the honesty is almost as overwhelming as the music. I recall the scene in 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' when Jeff is puking from a combination of migraine and stress brought on by Jay Bennett and the record execs. There is no pretense there, never has been. Then I thought to myself, must be fun to be him. Then I thought better, it must be satisfying to be him. Like a big thick ChicagoLand steak dinner, the show was ultimately satisfying. Next time I'll skip the meal on the plane and go for a second helping of Wilco.

A big shout out to Diane H. and Susan M. from WMG and the security guard who set us up on the second balcony. Outtasite!

I'm just sayin'.

Wilco-Winter Residency, Feb. 18th, 2008 The Rivera Theater, Chicago Illinois
Set list:
01. Blue Eyed Soul
02. Remember The Mountain Bed (w/ Andrew Bird)
03. Bob Dylan's 49th Beard (w/ Andrew Bird)
04. Hesitating Beauty (w/ Andrew Bird)
05. That's Not The Issue (w/ Andrew Bird & Pat on banjo)
06. Wishful Thinking
07. You Are My Face
08. Side With The Seeds
09. A Shot In The Arm
10. We're Just Friends
11. Kamera
12. Handshake Drugs
13. How To Fight Loneliness (w/ Andrew Bird)
14. Jesus, Etc (w/ Andrew Bird)
15. Should've Been In Love
16. Pick Up The Change (w/ Andrew Bird)
17. Theologians
18. Walken (w/ Horns)
19. I'm The Man Who Loves You (w/ Horns)
20. Via Chicago
21. Impossible Germany
22. She's A Jar (w/ Andrew Bird)
23. Say You Miss Me
24. Box Full Of Letters
25. I'm Always In Love
26. Hate It Here (w/ Andrew Bird & Horns)
27. The Late Greats (w/ Andrew Bird & Horns)
28. Red Eyed & Blue (w/ Andrew Bird & Horns)
29. I Got You (w/ Andrew Bird)
30. Monday (w/ Horns)
31. My Darling
32. Can't Stand It (w/ Horns)
33. Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway(again)