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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Neko's Vanishing Case … Solved!

There's been rampant — and silly — speculation around town regarding the strange and sudden disappearance of one Neko Case from the New Pornographers' show this past Friday at Higher Ground. Did she quit the band? Did she pass out in a drug crazed stupor? Did one of her stalkers show up? (Don't look at me, I was at Nectar's.)

I wrote briefly on this in tomorrow's column. But other than noting that she was a no-show, there wasn't much left to report. The folks at Higher Ground were as baffled as the rest of us. Further inquiries to the club and the reps for both the New Pornographers and Case were not returned. That is, until just after the column went to the press. Of course. [That sound you hear is me shaking my fists skyward, cursing the rock and roll gods.]

HG's Alex Crothers writes that Case was — Are you ready? Can you feel the tension? Deep breaths, deeeep breaths — stricken with food poisoning. Yuck.

Here's hoping Ms. Case is feeling better.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Tao of Tao, Part 2

And without further ado, part two of my two-part conversation with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, this time around focusing on art, philosophy and the curious importance of Nirvana. Check out part one here.


TaoSeegerBand SEVEN DAYS: You said that you're hesitant to call yourself an artist. Why is that?

TAO RODRIGUEZ-SEEGER: Well, because what we do is kinda commercial. And I guess I feel like art and commerciality don't mix too well. I'm sure there is an inevitable co-existing that they have to do. Otherwise, how can we continue to do it? But it always makes me a little uncomfortable when people call us "artists." "Commercial creators," I prefer. Of course it's not as graceful.

7D: [Laughing] No, that's a bit of a mouthful.

TRS: People like to call us artists, and I guess that's OK. I just don't feel very comfortable calling myself an artist. There is artistry in it, for sure. But there is also artistry in motherhood. And cooking. And yoga. But would people call a mother an artist? Doubtful. But they should. The great mothers of our time have created the artists. So why aren't they the artists? It's a semantic quibble and I don't argue it with people when it comes up. But I do think about it. "Is this really art?" "Is Michael Jackson truly an artist?" Or was he?

7D: I actually think he was.

TRS: So do I. I would have to say Michael Jackson actually was an artist. He brought commercial pop music to a really artistic level, at times. Not always. But when he did that first moonwalk on MTV, that was pretty rad, right?

7D: Sure, but was that art? He also forever revolutionized the way music videos were done and what they could be. I'd say that was pretty artful.

TRS: Yeah. And I would say Madonna was even more of artist than Michael Jackson, because she pushed people's assumptions about women, sexuality. I guess that's what it is. Art should make you think, and it should make you a little uncomfortable. Not really uncomfortable, maybe. But a little bit. Because without that level of discomfort, it's harder to get the brain pushing in a new direction than it normally would. People are lazy and they don't want to make leaps of faith. Sometimes it takes someone thinking outside the box and doing something a little weird to make people go, "Oh wow. I never thought of that. It makes me feel uncomfortable. But I think I like it." So yeah there is an argument to be made for what we do as art, for sure. But I don't think it's safe to assume that all musicians are artists.

Continue reading "The Tao of Tao, Part 2" »

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tao of Tao, Part 1

As mentioned in this week's upcoming Soundbites column, a Q&A I recently conducted with songwriter Tao Rodriguez-Seeger unfortunately wouldn't fit in the music section due to space limitations. However, in the wild and woolly expanse of the internet, no such constraints exist, meaning I can offer you the full, (mostly) unedited transcript of our conversation, rather than the heavily condensed and edited version that would have appeared in print.

In this case, that's actually a very good thing. Because as I found out, in the Seeger family the apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree. And Tao is every bit the engaging, witty, insightful and eloquent person you might expect the grandson of legendary American folk songwriter Pete Seeger to be.

So, in advance of the Tao Seeger Band's performance at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday, here is part one of my interview with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger. Part two will appear Wednesday.


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SEVEN DAYS: So, I hear through the grapevine that you play a Creston guitar.

TAO RODRIGUEZ-SEEGER: Fuck yeah, dude! Why wouldn't I? Those things are incredible.

7D: Agreed. How did you find out about Creston?

TRS: It's funny, I've never met him. We talked on the phone and I get his emails with all his new toys. But we've never actually met. I think we're actually gonna meet for the first time at this gig, because he said he's gonna come, which is gonna be awesome.

Anyway, he built a bass for Zack Hickman, who plays bass in Josh Ritter's band. And at the time, he was playing bass in my fiddler's solo project. And I admired the bass. And I said, "Where'd you get that thing?" [Chuckles] And he told me the story. So I called Creston and was like, "Hey, can you make me Bruce Springsteen's Telecaster?"

And he laughed and said, "Well, you know, it's not a Telecaster. It's an Esquire." Which I didn't know.

7D: Me either.

TRS: Anyway, he said he'd love the challenge and he built me this beautiful guitar out of Vermont butternut. It's my main guitar now. I used to be all about acoustic guitars and now I'm all about this electric guitar. I hardly ever play acoustic guitar anymore.

7D: That wasn't the guitar that cracked at the inauguration, was it?

TRS: No. The guitar that cracked at the inaugural was my longtime, sweetheart 12-string guitar made by a good friend of mine, Bruce Taylor, who's been making guitars for my grandfather for years. I had that guitar repaired actually, and I'm still playing it. I mean, Obama signed it. "This land is your land, Barack Obama." I kinda have to play it, don't I?

7D: I think you do.

TRS: I put it on the wall for about a year. And I was sort of, "What do I do with this guitar?" It's this heirloom now and I've never really been into heirlooms. I feel like people who buy Stradivarius and put them on the wall … that's sacrilege. They want to be played. So I had it repaired and actually just took it Colorado with me, which was more of an acoustic-y affair. But the band that's coming with me to Burlington, that will be a loud electric affair.

Continue reading "The Tao of Tao, Part 1" »

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Summer Summertiiime

As I mentioned in today's column, Burlington's Villanelles will be celebrating their new album with a release party at Radio Bean this Saturday. This is despite the fact that they, um, probably won't actually have the record in hand just yet. (It's cool though. I was once in a band that had at least two "release parties" before we actually had the CD available. It happens all the time, actually. Moral of the story: Get the CD back from the duplication company first, then book the release show. It always takes longer than you'll think.)

Anyway, in lieu of the whole disc, Villanelles were kind enough to send over the album's lead track to tide us over. It's breezy little cut, aptly titled "Summertime Hit." Enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shafts, Can Ya Dig It?

I've spent the last two weeks or so digging into Revelation Skirts, the new album from VT ex-pat Dean Wells, otherwise known as the Capstan Shafts. The album, his first proper studio release and first with another musician, hits stores on August 24. So I have a short feature on Wells and his new musical partner Matt Lemay — who, incidentally, was the critic who first reviewed Wells' music for Pitchfork back in 2007 — in this week's paper.

Anyway, in doing some poking around for the piece, I stumbled across this video from Wells' first-ever live show, an acoustic performance at the Stannard Church, shot by Brian Murphy of late, great False 45th renown. It's a good one and, especially in light of the polished brilliance of Revelation, provides a fascinating contrast and a glimpse at just how far Wells has come. Enjoy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Take Only What You Neeeeed From It

Anyone else been whistling the lead lick from "Kids" today? I have been all morning. I honestly can't stop, and I think my coworkers might jump me at any moment. But before they do, a few observations from last night's MGMT show.

- Man, I do love me some shows on the waterfront. And dammit, I want more. It's a beautiful setting, it's convenient and easily accessible. There really isn't a downside. Which reminds me …

- Last year, I wrote a sort of tongue-in-cheek open letter to Phish, asking them to consider turning Waterfront Park and Burlington at large into an enormous hippie carnival for a weekend, mostly 'cuz we could use the influx of cash. Obviously, that plan was not without major (and potentially fatal) flaws — like my floating stage idea, for example. But am I the only one who thinks we're well beyond the point of needing a legit outdoor concert venue? Or even just a legit arena-sized venue? Something like whatever-they're-calling-the-Tweeter Center in Mass. these days would do it. Or better yet, the Fleet Pavilion. And here's a great example of why it should happen …

- Raise your hand if you were psyched to learn that LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells are coming at the end of September. Keep 'em raised if you were equally crushed to learn they are playing in the concrete acoustic nightmare that is Memorial Auditorium. As much as I enjoy both bands — and would REALLY be looking forward to seeing Sleigh Bells — I can't in good conscience recommend anyone pay good money to see a show there. Yes, it's really that awful a venue. It's a shame this couldn't have been slated for the waterfront too. Talk about an epic end to the summer/beginning of the fall. 

- Back to the point, MGMT played well last night. Really well. And the stuff from Congratulations translated much better live than I would have thought. My only quibble is that the mix seemed off the mark all night, everywhere but dead center. In particular, vocals, both lead and backing, were buried so deeply they were often virtually inaudible in the crush of synth and guitar. It's funny, because earlier that day I had a conversation with a friend who recently caught them along the waterfront in Brooklyn and expressed the exact same frustration I would experience later that night.  And no, I don't think the water is the common factor here. Speaking of water …

- Why don't I own a boat? I mean, besides being broke. The party boat scene in Burlington Bay during the show looked like an absolute blast. [Note from the Solid State legal team: Please boat responsibly, and always have a designated captain.]

- Back on land, it was a really interesting crowd. Kind of a funny mix of older hipsters, frat guys, and teenyboppers and their parents. I heard there was a very similar crowd at Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros a few weeks ago. And it can't just be hipsters gobbling up the new Billboard-topping Arcade Fire album, right? So is this recent mass acceptance of "indie" music proof, as NPR recently suggested, that indie rock is the new classic rock? Maybe. Or maybe people are starting to understand that good music is good music regardless how skinny your jeans are. Just a thought. A hopelessly naive thought. (What's more likely: TV commercials are the best exposure for up-and-coming bands since the dawn of the music video.)

- There were also a mildly surprising number of hippies in attendance, perhaps further illustrating indie and dance rock's continuing crossover appeal. But can I offer a potentially pissy observation? Noodle dancing doesn't work for every style of music. Just sayin' …

- Of course, there are already vids from the show making the rounds — thanks, Internet! Here's one of the better ones.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thanks, the MGMT

It seems y'all are pretty psyched for this evening's MGMT show at the Waterfront, which kicks off the 2010 Lake Champlain Maritime Festival. It's no surprise that it sold out, of course. But, perhaps as an illustration of just how much folks in the BTV are looking forward to it, my girlfriend, Plus-One, informs me that her hipster kickball league has moved the start time of their games this evening — playoffs, I should add — ahead an hour to accommodate players heading to the show. On a related note, be advised that a swarm of curiously clad pseudo-athletes on bicycles will be heading north on the bike path from Oakledge Park around 8 p.m. Seek an alternate route. [Also, to my pals on team Danger Zone, best of luck. You can be my wing men (and women) any time.]

Of course, this means those folks will miss the opening band, NYC-based trio Violens. I admit being fairly unfamiliar with the group, so I've spent this lovely morning digging in. I doubt I'll make it down in time to catch them either, as I'm otherwise engaged until about 8 p.m. myself. But those of you with a taste for retro, Smithsian dance pop would do well to get to the tent on time. Here's a sneak peek:

Violens // "Already Over" from Violens on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Take This Job And …

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Bieber Fever

It's hard to believe, but the Champlain Valley Fair is right around the corner. Though it's easy to overlook amid the maelstrom of funnel cakes, pig races, giant veggies and carnies, the fair offers a sampling of music unique among the typical fare found gracing area stages the rest of the year. This year should prove to be no different. The lineup includes country star Keith Urban, legendary comedian/parental guru Bill Cosby, Weezer (really?) and Lyle Lovett.

But of course, the biggest little star in the Midway this year is none other than tween heartthrob, Justin Bieber. To that end, I humbly submit the Great Seven Days Justin Bieber Preview of 2010. Enjoy. [Note from the Solid State legal team: Hilarious or not, 7D in no way endorses hurling projectiles at underage pop singers.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blues Brotherly Love

Mark_bill300 Local harmonica master Mark LaVoie is a pretty happy guy this week. And with good reason. A track from his latest collaboration with Delta blues legend Bill Sims Jr., American Roots Duo, was recently picked up by Dan "Elwood" Akroyd's "House of Blues Radio Hour." The duo's version of the Henry Whitter classic "Going Down That Road Feeling Bad" is the featured song on the nationally syndicated radio show's weekly "Blues Break" segment. Below is the clip of Elwood Blues himself introducing the cut — which he correctly points out is "as rich as maple syrup" — followed by a quick commercial interlude, and then the song. The program originally aired over the weekend all across the country and is currently streaming on the HOBRH website.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Map Quest

Hey, hey, Solid State! Just a friendly reminder that Chicago's Maps & Atlases will be at Club Metronome this evening with Laura Stevenson and the Cans and blog sensations du jour, Cults. Here's a taste:

Maps & Atlases - Ted Zancha (Live @ AEMMP Records Industry Night 2009) from The Belmont Sessions on Vimeo.

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