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Seven Days Blogs: Solid State Music Blog

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.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Link Dump: The Best Show I Never Saw

Word to the wise, if you ever check out a show at the new House of Blues (formerly Avalon) on Lansdowne Street in Boston, don't buy tickets for the Mezzanine. The mammoth nightclub's second floor balcony wraps around the sides and rear of room but has seriously limited sight lines. Unless you are among the first, say, fifty or so people there lucky enough to get a spot along the railing, there is literally no vantage point to actually, y'know, see the show.

So it was that I experienced Spoon at HOB this past Saturday, alternately trying to hop above the four and five deep rows of almost comically tall people in front of me for a glimpse of the stage, and craning my neck at a projection screen simulcasting the concert that was just delayed enough to be annoying. It was sort of like watching a Red Sox home game on TV at the Cask and Flagon, the famed Lansdowne Street bar that is literally twenty feet from Fenway Park — if you've never done this, imagine hearing a David Ortiz home run thirty seconds before you see it. I'm exagerrating a bit. But you get the idea. Thank God for the surprisingly reasonable Narragansett tall boys. And the sound. Good lord, the sound.

I honestly can't remember the last time I saw, er, heard a show with sound so crystalline and balanced. I've long thought that Spoon's Jim Eno (drums) and Rob Pope (bass) form rock and roll's coolest rhythm section. But I have a profound new appreciation for their work having heard them like that. It was electrifying. The same goes for keyboardist/percussionist Ed Harvey. As for lead singer Britt Daniel? Well, I still want to be him when I grow up. All in all, it was the best show I never saw.

*******

Speaking of Britt Daniel, did you know that he used to be this guy?

And speaking of assumed names, Stephen King's kid might just be, well, the next Stephen King. Or would that be the next Richard Bachman?

Are you a local musician wondering how Obamacare will affect you? Our old friend Casey Rae-Hunter at the Future of Music Coalition is here to help.

Your pledge dollars at work! NPR currently has Dr. Dog's new album, Shame, Shame — the band's first for Anti- — available for your perusal here. The record hits shelves, real and electronic, on April 6. And here's an interview I did with bassist Toby Leaman about the record in January.

Finally! The guy responsible for Battlefield Earth apologizes.

The old gray lady of rock ’n’ roll rags, Rolling Stone, unveils its list of "Best New Bands of 2010" this Thursday. Chief among them are none other than our own Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, who got their start in, um, 2002. Nice that someone is finally paying attention to them. (BTW, it's just a coincidence that Thursday is April Fools Day, right?) Anyway, here's a new video for "Tiny Songs," from their forthcoming self-titled album, which is scheduled for release on June 6.

Last but not least, the Montreal Jazz Fest has just announced another slew of concerts for this year's edition. They have also apparently adjusted the scope of the term "jazz" to include the likes of Andrew Bird, Lou Reed, Lionel Ritchie and Steve Miller. On a related note, the Burlington Discover Jazz Fest now has a Twitter feed where they are soliciting suggestions for this year's lineup. I mean seriously, who wouldn't want to see Lionel Ritchie at the Flynn? 

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thumbs Down, Phoenix!

Bridgetburns_2

A few days ago, web lady extraordinaire Cathy Resmer sent me a link to a feature by the Boston Phoenix in which they weighed in on the best musical acts in each of the fifty states.

Here is me weighing in on the feature: It blows.

I didn't read each state's wins. But I did read those of the four states I have lived in. And of course, I paid particular attention to the choices from our great state of Vermont.

And so without further ado, here they are:

All-Time Best Band: Phish
All-Time Best Solo Artist: Rudy Vallee
Best New Act: Yvel

Let's break this down one category at a time, shall we?

Ok. Phish. We've discussed this before. And while I'm not a Phish fan myself, I get it. They were huge, and they came out of Vermont. If notoriety is what makes them best, then yes, they are the best. Job well done, Phoenix.

Rudy Vallee, on the other hand . . . are you freaking kidding me? I have nothing against Rudy Vallee as an artist. I would even go as far as to say that I admire his work, and have an appreciation for his influence in early to mid century music.

All that said, dude's not a Vermonter.

Ok, yes, he was born in Island Pond. But he spent all of his formative years in Westbrook, Maine. And his music career? That took place in New York. I mean, I guess if he was schooled in Vermont and then moved to New York I would kind of get it, but the guy's birth is literally the only thing connecting him to our state. He's even buried in Westbrook, proving that "home" to him was always Maine.

Phoenix, are you suggesting we've had no notable solo artists in residence?

Best New Act: Yvel. See above? I get that some people move away to make it big. And I get that this guy is good and hey, he came out of Vermont! But, Phoenix, COME ON. You are within four hours of Burlington, and two of the Vermont border. You seriously couldn't find someone who lives IN STATE and is talented? It's insulting.

You know that part in "Wedding Crashers" when the dick-head fiance yells, "CRABCAKES AND FOOTBALL! THAT'S WHAT MARYLAND DOES!"

Well . . . isn't art (i.e. music) what Vermont does? Or at least what Burlington does?

I went to Maine over the weekend and ran into Chris Gray who writes a column for the Portland Phoenix. I immediately asked him what was up with this feature. And also what motivated a Boston paper to assume responsibility for naming the best music acts in 49 states in which the paper is not distributed.

"Bridget, do you have any idea how much web traffic that feature drives to the site?"

Ooooooh. You mean like the additional traffic I just sent them by linking to it in my blog? Got it. Chris went on.

"Have you seen the thing they do where they name the 100 Unsexiest Men? The content is nauseating. But everyone reads it."

Yeah. I have seen that thing. Because blogs as big as VH1's Best Week Ever link to it. I was just too naive to realize that the main point was to drive people to their site.

I guess I shouldn't waste any more time being put off by the poor choices assigned by the Phoenix, all in the name of web traffic... but I still am.

After all, MAPLE SYRUP AND ART! THAT'S WHAT VERMONT DOES!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shut The Fuck Up . . . Please.

Last night, I swung by Higher Ground to check out indie-folk songwriter Jose Gonzalez. It was one of those increasingly rare opportunities for me to go see live music with my critical brain turned off and simply enjoy the show. I wasn't attending as "Dan Bolles," Seven Days Music Editor. Just Dan, a dude who really likes Jose Gonzalez — deep down I'm a sensitive guy, I swear. And I was really looking forward to it.

Gonzalez' performance was stunning. And yes, I'm writing that statement from the biased perspective of a fan, not a critic. Though I'm typically prone to rolling my eyes when I read some lazy blurb about an artist being "the next" anyone — Dylan, The Beatles, Gram Parsons, etc. — I can almost get behind Gonzalez' designation as "The Latin Nick Drake." If you can get past the fact that he's actually Swedish — though he's of Argentinian descent — the  phrase actually does an adequate job of summing up his sound. In fact, there were moments during last night's show where he could justifiably be accused of aping Drake. Sometimes we  lowly scribes get it right. Sometimes.

Though Gonzalez was a pleasure to behold, the crowd was something else entirely, to the point where actually listening to the music became a frustrating challenge. I don't mean to get off on a rant, but . . .

Why the fuck would you spend 17 bucks to see a show, and then spend the entire evening talking? And I don't mean just whispering to your friends in between songs. I mean full-blown, outside-voice conversations about subjects entirely unrelated to the music (By the way, if some guy named Jordan is reading this, that cute brunette you've recently started dating finds you too effeminate and isn't really in to the "hugging thing." Sorry, dude. Just something I overheard.).

Throughout the night, from the opening act — Twi The Humble Feather, who would likely be a lot of fun to see at a venue like Radio Bean or The Bakery, but were virtually inaudible in the Lounge this night — through Gonzalez' encore, the din of conversational chatter was impossible to escape. It didn't matter where I tried to watch the show. I stood ten feet from the stage. I stood in the middle of the room. I stood on the sidelines and in the back by the bar. Everywhere, people talking incessantly.

I get that people go see live music for vastly different reasons. Some folks go just to be "seen." Others go because it's something different from just going out to the bars. Some people go to meet people with similar tastes. And some people even go just to LISTEN TO THE FUCKING MUSIC. Perish the thought.

At this point, some of you are probably saying to yourselves, "Hey, dickhead. It's my 17 bucks and I'll comport my self however I choose when I go out. This isn't grade school. I'll talk whenever and as loudly as I want." To which I humbly respond, "Go fuck yourself."

Other people pay hard earned money to see shows too. And the reason they're willing to shell out big bucks for tickets and overpriced drinks is because the experience of seeing your favorite artists in person can be transcendent. But only if you can hear it. (At one point in the show, Gonzalez finished a swelling torrent of fiery classical guitar work by descending into an intimately gorgeous bridge. Most of the crowd followed along and for a beautiful moment, the idle chatter ceased . . . except for the massive tool loudly discussing the nuances of strumming open chords in drop D tuning. Thanks a lot, douchebag.)   

Some crowd noise at a loud rock show is no big deal. The raw energy of an ass-kicking live band largely negates it. But mellower shows such as Jose Gonzalez have a subtle, but nonetheless powerful, energy of their own. Too bad so many people there last night missed it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Screw You, Marathon

I was having such a good weekend. Nay, a great weekend. And then something went horribly awry . . .

I caught a new (to me, anyway) band at Red Square on Friday evening — Lendway, who pleasantly surprised me with a sound reminiscent of under-appreciated late 1990s Detroit alt-pop outfit The Waxwings. I had a nice, if somewhat bizarre, dinner at the Green Room with my girlfriend before she left town for the weekend — I say bizarre because the joint apparently doubles as a waiting room for What Ale's You after 9 p.m. . . . ugh. I followed that up with drinks at Flatbread and then caught a great set by Ryan Ober with The Jazz Guys at Metronome. All around, a solid night.

Saturday, I took full advantage of having the house to myself for the first time in months by settling in on the couch with my furry life-partner Buckley for a delightfully greasy dinner from Beansie's. I topped that off by watching my beloved Celtics pummel the Pistons for dessert. Again, a great night.

But the next morning, things would take a decided turn for the worse. There I was, nestled all snug in my bed while visions of NBA titles danced in my head when . . . BAM! I was sucker punched by Kid Rock.Kid_rock_2 Not literally, of course. But what roused me that morning was so indescribably and offensively loud, I woke up nearly certain the dude was playing in my bedroom.

It took me a moment to grasp the situation. As comprehension slowly dawned and I realized that it was Marathon Sunday and as I live practically on top of the start line at Battery Park, I resigned myself to getting out of bed, figuring that I must have overslept. After all, no one in their right mind would blast music over a loudspeaker — especially music as indefensibly sucktacular as Kid Rock — before, like, 10 a.m., right?

Wrong.

As my bleary eyes fell upon my alarm clock, I did a triple take. Seven? SEVEN? Are you fucking kidding me?! I strolled into the living room to find Buckley whimpering on the couch, his head quite literally buried under the back cushions — this is something he does quite frequently and leads me to believe he may actually be part ostrich.

I peered out the window to discover Battery Park positively coursing with very skinny people wearing very short shorts and nipple tape. Slackjawed, I descended the steps to my back yard just in time to catch a middle-aged man — in short shorts and nipple tape — urinating on my fence . . . my chain link fence. Aghast, I wasn't sure if I should I should look away in embarrassed modesty or yell at the guy. I went with the latter.

"Oh, come on!" I exclaimed. "Aren't there, like, 50 port-o-lets across the street?" There were. And they looked simply lovely framing the park, I must tell you — you haven't lived until you've seen the sun setting over the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain and 50 bright blue plastic shitters.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry," he said before smiling and trotting away in that obnoxiously smug manner that hardcore health nuts largely seem to possess. Nonplussed, Buck trotted over to the fence and peed on it, marking his territory, all the while staring at our discourteous interloper as if to say That's my fence, pal. My fence.

By this point, the noise from the park had gone from suck to blow as two blithering yahoos from a local talk radio station simulcasting the event began to describe the proceedings — at near painful volume — and reminisced about the weather from past marathons. Remember when it snowed that year? Yup. Man that sucked. Yup. Sure is nice out today, though. Yup.

Some sporting events are wonderful on radio. For example, if given the choice, I'd almost prefer to listen to baseball than watch it. Other events like, say, NASCAR, don't translate as well — "And here comes Dale Jr. . . . I think he's gonna turn left  . . . yep! He turned left! Great left turn there from Junior!" Marathons appear to fall under the latter category.

I have to say that I was at the end of my rope by this point. Enraged, I did what any rational citizen would do and called the police — whose station I can see from my kitchen. Here's how it went down:

BPD: Burlington Police.

DB: Uh, yeah. I'd like to file a noise complaint.

BPD: OK. Against who?

DB: The Burlington Marathon, please.

BPD: The Bu . . . what?

DB: Yeah. I'd like to file a complaint against the marathon. It's seven in the morning, they woke me up and I can hardly hear myself think. I want to file a complaint.

BPD: You can't . . . I mean, there's nothing we can do. It's been advertised for months. You should have known.

DB: I should have known that I would be ousted from a dead sleep at 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning by some schmuck blasting Kid Rock? No way. You guys need to tell them to turn it down and you need to do it now.

BPD: I'm sorry sir, but this is a permitted event . . .

DB: I'm sure it is. And I'm also sure that on that permit there is a noise regulation. I'm even more sure that if you were to measure the decibels in my bedroom right now, they would be in violation.

BPD: Well I . . . um, would you like to speak to the officer on call?

DB: OK.

Clicking sounds as I'm transferred . . .

BPGD: You've reached the voice mail for Officer I. Dontgiveashit (not his real name, for privacy reasons). I'm unavailable to take your . . .

I hung up.

Resigned to the fact that I was left no recourse but to wait it out, I poured myself some iced coffee and returned to the back yard. As I sat down, the radio morons were introducing Miss Vermont, who was set to sing the national anthem. I groaned audibly.

In fairness, "The Star Spangled Banner" might be the most difficult song to sing in the history of music. The phrasing is awkward, the melody is ugly and spans an octave and a half. Few singers have the talent to pull it off. Poor Miss Vermont is not one of them.

She got about as far as "By the dawn's early light" before going painfully flat. By the time she got to "Whose broad stripes and bright stars," she was in a new key entirely and still slipping. By the end of the song I was seriously considering applying for Canadian citizenship.Ashleywheeler

Her saving grace was resisting the urge to Mariah Carey up the ending. Though that didn't warrant the radio announcer's comment that she "knocked it out of the ballpark! Alright!"

I have nothing against the marathon or marathon runners, per se. It's a huge event and a boon for the local economy. I suppose this would be part of the story where I claim that "some of my best friends are marathon runners" — actually, that's true. I know a few people who ran this year.

But it seems to me that the marathon organizers should take greater care to minimize the impact of the event on the people who call Burlington home. If that was a rock band playing in the park, the police would have been all over it. I've even seen them tell bands to turn down the volume and I can almost guarantee it will happen again this summer when the Thursday night concert series resumes.

But because the marathon a big freakin' event with the mayor in attendance, the best the police can do for agitated citizens is voice mail. There oughta be a law.

Oh wait, there is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Scarlett Fever

Some of you are likely aware that husky-voiced blonde bombshell, Scarlett Johansson, has been recording an album of Tom Waits covers — with a little help from Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie, no less — due out next month. Actors turning to music — whether out of boredom, the need to stave off "Where Are They Now?" status for a few seconds longer or laboring under genuine delusions that they posess actual musical talent — is hardly a new phenomenon. But that doesn't mean it should be allowed to continue.

To wit, who could forget gems such as Tony Danza's The House I Live In? Or Alyssa Milano's Look In My Heart? (We're still waiting on records from Judith Light or Danny Pintauro to complete the "Who's The Boss" hat trick of ignominy). Better yet, whose collection could possibly be complete without Bruce Willis' The Universal Masters Collection? Seriously? He has a whole fucking "Masters Collection?" Die hard indeed. Joey Lawrence box set anyone? How about a Scott Baio Complete Masterworks?

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. William Shatner's spoken word stuff, while not explicitly "good," per se, is at least oddly entertaining. Billy Bob Thornton is actually pretty decent as well — though he was a musician long before Sling Blade. And Zooey Deschanel's work with M. Ward as She & Him is simply fantastic. Generally speaking though, the forays of actors into music are almost always embarrassingly awful, bringing us back to Ms. Johansson and Tom Waits.

Like any number of red-blooded, heterosexual American males, I love Scarlett Johansson — though not in a creepy Internet-stalker kind of way, mind you . . . ahem. And like any number of superficially depressed American high school students, I was weaned on Tom Waits — in particular, The Early Years Vols. 1 & 2. The gravelly voiced saloon troubadour was a staple on practically every romantically motivated mix-tape I made from the time I was 16. Perhaps that explains why I never had a girlfriend in high school . . . but I digress.

In any event, I adore Tom Waits. Every serious music fan has certain artists they hold as "untouchable," songwriters for whom it is near sacrilege for anyone to attempt to cover — ironically, those are exactly the types of usually iconic artists whose songs are most often done by others. For me, Tom Waits is that artist. Go ahead and hack up Dylan. Release a box set of Beatles tributes. I couldn't care less. But don't mess with Tom.

****
In order, the ten most egregious offenses of Waits-icide — in my opinion, a crime worthy of punishment by death or a career writing jingles for Burger King — are as follows:
10. Rod Stewart -"Downtown Train"
9. Everything but The Girl - "Downtown Train"
8. Mary Chapin Carpenter - "Downtown Train"
7. Patty Smyth - "Downtown Train"
6. The Manhattan Transfer - "Foreign Affair"
5. The Walkabouts - "Yesterday Is Here"
4. Bette Midler - "Shiver Me Timbers"   
3. Meatloaf - "Martha"
2. Rod Stewart - "Tom Traubert's Blues"
1. Hootie & The Blowfish - "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You"


****

Given my affection for both Scarlett Johansson and Tom Waits, I view the former's upcoming release with a conflicted morbidity. The karaoke scene in Lost In Translation proved Johansson can sing. But does anyone really believe she's artistically capable of pulling off a Waits cover album? Of course not. That's like asking Marylin Monroe to do Sinatra . . . or algebra, for that matter.

Sadly, judging by "Falling Down," the first video from the album posted today by Pitchfork — who couldn't even bring themselves to "Pitchfork" it, fer chrissakes! — my suspicions/fears appear to be confirmed. Check it out and see if you don't agree. Sigh . . .

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to Baio's "How Do You Talk To Girls?" on repeat and have myself a good cry.
Albumcover    


 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lauer vs. Keys, Round 1

Bridgetburns_2

As part of my new "twenty-five and time to get my shit together" routine, I've been waking up an hour earlier each morning. It gives me a chance to fold some laundry, drink some coffee, and get a little work done on my biz-naz, all to the over-caffeinated background noise of Matt Lauer and the Today Show team. Or Diane with Good Morning America. Whichever has the more interesting guest.

This morning I chose Today, for an interview with Amy Poehler, and was then treated to the first of their "Summer Concert Series". Today's performance was by Alicia Keys, who busted Matt for calling it a "Summer Concert Series" when she had to be bundled in a parka to perform. I had to agree.

I'm not an Alicia Keys fan. I've listened to her songs at the gym without realizing I'm listening to her songs at the gym, but really the most I know about her is that she interrupts my coveted episodes of The Hills with something they call a "micro series". And it blows.

But this morning I felt akin to her.

After she banged out one piano power ballad, Matt joined her on stage to ask a few questions, the most notable of which was seeking clarification on the statements Keys allegedly made to Blender magazine in which she called Gangsta Rap "a ploy to convince black people to kill each other."

Googling the story on my laptop, I found that the alleged quotes, and Keys' claims that she had been misrepresented by the magazine, had already been beaten to death over a week go by a variety of news sources. So I could sympathize that Keys might be feeling frustrated with the continued attention on the negative.

Last Thursday I organized a benefit show for Michelle's Earth Foundation, the nonprofit established in memory of Michelle Gardner-Quinn. As a friend of Michelle's, the continued negative press about the upcoming trial has been hard to deal with. Especially knowing that there is so much good being done in Michelle's name that no one cares to cover. Because it's not what people want to hear about? I have a hard time believing that because I try to have faith in humanity, but that's what I'm sometimes told.

Anyway, Michelle's mom and I worked together to send press releases to all Vermont media, and I was thrilled when Fox 44 called to meet me outside the Monkey for an interview. And then immediately fell into a sweat thinking that the interviewer might dare to ask me about the murder or the trial or god forbid, Brian Rooney, and I would have to look him in the eye and tell him to shut the hell up. Not really the image my philanthropic label is going for.

Luckily the interviewer did no such thing, but later that night I was more than disappointed to watch my piece cut down to a three second clip, while Brian Rooney's trial took top slot. Coverage improved drastically on Thursday, but Wednesday night I left the Monkey in tears.

This morning on Today, Matt Lauer pulled a similar one on Keys when he immediately asked her about her comments to Blender magazine, while Keys had really come on the show to promote a variety of other things, including her documentary about the plight of the people of Africa.

You can watch a video clip of her response below - just skip ahead to around 1:12. Even with a mouth full of toothpaste, I gave her a little "woot" for it.

I really have no opinion on Keys' alleged comments. My only opinion is on the media's coverage of the scandal, and the media's coverage of all things negative, in and out of the music world. All news stories, good or bad, warrant coverage. But sometimes, when the horse is long dead, you just have to give the bad news a rest. Especially when there's plenty of good to replace it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Post-Industrial Doodlings

Bridgetburns_2

I ran across an interesting link the other day that will make some of you laugh, and some of you cry — especially if you review music.

Check it out here.

The ‘article’ was actually written back in 2001. I can’t find any information about the site it’s on, but the fact that someone took the time to compile a list of phrases that could easily be lifted and placed in any review of technical music is totally depressing. And also amusing. My personal favorite is “they are shooting for ‘ambient techno’ and the result is ‘post-industrial doodlings’.” God, that’s good.

I once tried my hand at reviewing music, but even a list like this one could not have masked my failure.

I like music for two reasons. Either I identify with the lyrics, or it makes me dance. If I don't like music it's usually because it makes me cringe. And there's no thesaurus extensive enough to turn either of those statements into a full-out CD review.

I've always loved researching bands and writing about what in their lives inspired certain songs. I think the highlight of all the interviews I've ever done had to be when I finally asked Dave from Saves the Day who Anna was, a name that reoccurred in several of their early recordings. And right after Dave told me it was his sister, Anna called his cell phone. But anecdotes like that aren't enough to convince someone whether or not to buy an album. At some point, facts have to take a backseat to the reviewer's opinion.

And the sad fact is, when it comes down to it, many of those working to review music can't deliver much more than... well... 'post-industrial doodlings'.

Which is why I so admire those who do it well. Those that can listen to a CD and write a synopsis that is not just the same old regurgitation of the same old phrases.

Because I have to admit, it's gotten to the point where I go into reading any review with some amount of skepticism that it will tell me anything at all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Radio Killed the Radio Star

Bridgetburns_2 We all know Clear Channel is both evil and the death of independent radio.

Thankfully we have enterprising locals like Lee Anderson and Jim Lockridge to keep local independent radio alive.

But while we’re passing the time until January when I can tap into The Radiator's online stream at work, how about a little story about my own ‘too close for comfort’ experience with Clear Channel? It’s one of those stories perfect to tell on a first date, and let’s face it, we’re now on date number four. Or five? Heck, I’ve lost count. We’re in a full out relationship.

About a year and a half ago, I decided to try my hand at business. I won’t get into here, because you've heard it all before. But I will ask you not to tell me it won’t work, because if you do, I will have to put one of my Veterans on you.

Anyway. In trying to secure a business loan, I got myself a business counselor. A man who, with the best of intentions, set up a meeting for me with one of his good friends. Someone who ‘used to work in the music industry’. It wasn’t until about ten minutes into my meeting with the friend that I asked him what part of the music industry he had actually worked in.

“I headed up Clear Channel,” he said, with a bit of a gloat, and not one ounce of the shame my shocked face was trying to impose on him.

I was speechless. And frankly, a bit panicked. This man was more monster than mogul and I had willingly entered a meeting with him. I tried to remember if there had been a sign on the door on my way into the room. You know, something along the lines of, “If you enter this meeting, Clear Channel will officially OWN YOUR SOUL.”

For the next twenty minutes, I allowed the man to talk to me about how I should raise the proposed salary on my business plan so that I could reward myself with a little sports car and how if I decided to become a nonprofit, I could simply pay myself a large bonus at the end of every year with any profit that the company had cleared.

EVIL.

I interjected once or twice with my business’ actual mission, trying to convince the man that the whole point was to fundraise for other organizations, but he wasn’t having it. Or maybe he just wasn’t capable of conceptualizing it?

In the end the meeting did help me. It gave me a lot of advice on exactly how not to write my business plan. And convinced me to get a lawyer.

It also made me that much more wary of Clear Channel-owned radio stations, and all the more excited for small ventures like The Radiator. Best of luck to you guys! I’m excited to hear what your hard work turns out!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MTV. Not Just For Hormone Fueled Reality TV Anymore

Good morning-ish, Solid State. As promised, here's a post about music! I know, I know. I'm as shocked as you are. Anyway, this particular cyberspace brain-dribbling is from Seven Days very own Office Manager and all-around swell gal, Bridget Burns. And it's a good one, so perk up, dammit!

Take it away Bridget . . .

Has anyone else noticed MTV’s recent tactic for promoting new music?

Oh, no one here watches MTV? Everyone is much too hip to be bothered with back-to-back episodes of The Hills? You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s no way you’re so hip you can go a full day without knowing at least one more possible culprit of a sex tape rumor. I got that shit on my Netflix.

In any case, it seems everyone’s favorite youth marketing brigade has decided on a new musical assault tactic in which they adopt one band at a time for intense over-promotion. They call it their “Artist of the Week.” I call it . . . awful.

The first “Artist of the Week” I noticed was Paramore, the devout-Christian power pop foursome that adopted a camping theme for their week in the spotlight. During each commercial break, there they were, singing around a campfire, searching for a beach, playing boomerang with drumsticks or talking to a fake bear. The featurettes were supposed to pique my interest in the band, but they pretty much just made me do this:

“Wait… what?”

Since noticing “Artist of the Week,” I’ve witnessed the same weird mix of live performances, music videos and bizarre skits by several other bands, including two of my personal favorites, Rilo Kiley  and Tegan and Sara.

And that’s when it started to bum me out.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bands finally getting the recognition they deserve. I’ve never been the type of fan to let go of a band as soon as a major label picks them up.

But there’s something depressing about a band making it big because of guerilla marketing tactics. “Artist of the Week” basically slams a band down your throat with such repetition that you wake up humming its songs and buy the CD with a glaze of Kool-Aid on your eyes. Sort of in the vein of Burlington’s own “Buzz Cut.”

And why should a listener buy the new Tegan and Sara CD just because they saw some skit of the duo driving through seagulls in a Toronto parking lot? I mean, shouldn’t the fact that they are lesbian Canadian twins be enough?!

Good thing there’s been good post-season baseball to distract me to another channel.

Oh, SNAP! You guys totally thought you were going to read an entire music blog entry without mention of the Sox! Yeah, right. Like I could possibly utter more than two sentences to anyone without gushing about how Jacoby Ellsbury is so totally my new husband.

Wow, I’m not even bummed about MTV anymore. Jacoby, baby, you do the trick every time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sticks And Stones . . .

I'm not sure how often you folks check the comments for each blog post, but I do fairly regularly. I guess that kind of makes sense since this is sorta my blog.

Anyway, I wanted to pass along this little gem because I'd hate to think it had been overlooked.

Here it is, from "Ted," in response to a post entitled A-Hole:

Who let this loser be a music writer? Its bad enough that we have to endure his idiotic musings in the paper every week. Now he's editorializing about A-Rod? Glad you think he's a total douche. Why not fill up this space with other original red sox fan opinions like "Jeter Sucks, A-rod swallows"? I could go on endlessly about how a certain loud mouthed red sox picher is by far the douchiest player baseball has seen in decades...but I'll save that debate for when I'm sharing a beer with my buddies, and leave this space open for those who want to discuss local music.

Well, "Ted," I'll be the first to admit that I don't always write about music, local or otherwise. In fact, it seems to me that Solid State has a fairly long-standing tradition of branching out beyond the stated "ramblings of a musical kind" to cover a wide variety of subjects. Casey liked "House," I like baseball. Deal with it.

I'm happy to spend more time discussing local music. But only if I can fit it in between writing my idiotic musings — you know, the ones about local music. Surprisingly, being a loser takes up an awful lot of free time.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and read this. I think it'll help.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

RIP, R.A.W.

Wilson05322_1 Sad news has filtered through the ether: Robert Anton Wilson — author, visionary, psychonaut, skeptic and cosmic prankster — has passed away.

Thanks to Max for the tip.

R.A.W. was one of my main dudes; hope his bardo-hopping goes smoothly.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Coughing it up.

Damn this cold. I never get sick. Oh, well. Gives me an excuse to stay in and watch Bergman films with the old lady.

Music? Who friggin' knows. There's that Project Object show at Metronome tonight. The Le Duo seems pretty psyched. Not sure if I've got the stamina.

I really wanna bitch a blue streak, but will refrain from doing so. My malaise starts with a B and ends with an N. I'm sure you know the score.

Been filling my earholes with the following:

Mark Fry — Dreaming With Alice

The Pretty Things — Parachute (Thanks for reminding me of these guys, Josh).

The Psychic Ills — Dins

Cornelius — Sensuous (Gotta love Amazon Japan).

Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Pictures at an Exhibition (Ewww!)

Aufgehoben — Messidor

How's that for eclectic? I'd post some tunes, but I'm feeling lazy. Gotta call the DMV and see about getting legal behind the wheel once again.

Madonna thing on Saturday. I'll be there. Hope it's worth it.

I plan on doing some recording this weekend. Should provide temporary distraction from geographical agitation.

Having offered up the contents of my head, I shall leave you in peace.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dream a little dream...

I've been having intensely vivid dreams lately. They involve everything from 18th century tales of familial vengeance to modern espionage scenarios. Peripheral aspects include religion, suicide and plane crashes.

This Clipse song suits how I've been feeling:

Clipse — "Nightmares"

Minus the bits about slingin' crack cocaine, of course.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More industry force-feeding.

Here' s the latest so-called "indie" band to not like: 120 Days from Norway.

They're pretty much the nazz with bloggers, NYC clubbers, after-party goers, and underfed hangers-on.

A certain pleasant-but-aggressive US publicity company recently took the band on as clients. Another artist on their roster is the unyieldingly hyped Lady Sovereign, which should tell you something. Also, they're on Vice, which might tell you something else.

I've been innundated with requests to review 120 Days for my other "outlets," to use a lame music biz phrase. Surely, I'm expected to just fall in line.

120 Days are touted as a "modern-day krautrock band," or some such nonsense. Fuck that. The sound like The Strokes with analog keyboards.

First of all, krautrock was a genre marked by idiosyncracies: most of the groups were wildly different from one another in process and result. Bands like 120 Days, on the other hand, seem to adopt whatever aesthetic happens to be in fashion.

For the original krautrockers -- a post WWII generation of defiant art-school dropouts -- it was important to work outside the realms of "polite" European classicism and borrowed American blues. Obsessed with rhythm and repetition, they drew inspiration from African music as well as emerging audio technologies. This sound later found its pop mark with New Wavers like the Talking Heads and "reformed" proggers such as Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp. Bowie and Eno (who pretty much founded the New Wave) were both early champions.

Krautrockers sought to challenge preconceived notions of Germanic music, which had taken on some unfavorable associations. They traveled several sonic avenues, from the cold, motorik pulse of Neu! to the limber, pan-global grooves of Can. But some people assert that, with such a variety in sound, there is no real kratrock. This is a valid argument.

Anyway the little boys in 120 Days are about as far from Faust as a group can get. And that's what I told their publicist.

No matter -- they'll no doubt get more exposure than I could give 'em by rocking those sponsored parties for Microsoft's Zune MP3 player.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not too good, actually.

Spent the weekend "leaf-peeping" with Brooke's folks as our 1 year, 3 month-old cat Natascha was dying in the closet. Today at 3 p.m. we'll likely make the choice to put her down.

My back is totally is busted, so walking Shelburne Farms on Saturday was a treat. The leaves did look pretty sexy, though.

Fun: Before work, I caught the video for Eddie Murphy's sole '80s hit, "Party all the Time" on VH1 Classic. Everyone's favorite crack smokin' funk monster Rick James produced the tune, and also appeared in the video. It's awesome in many ways. Check it out.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bad, awful, shitty rotten luck.

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Brooke and I aren't particularly lucky with cats. Our first baby boy, Loki (the kid I'm mugging with in my blog photo) died of bizarre brain seizures. Now our little girl, Natashcha, is suffering from a mystery bone ailment.  Thankfully, Brando, our other boy, is strong like ox.

It began when we noticed  Natascha  only using three legs to walk. We brought her into the vet last night, thinking she may have sprained her paw wrestling with Brando. Because that dude is large, in charge and has periodic spells of jerkitude.

Sadly, the vet examined her in the very room in which we recently put Milla down. That cat belonged to my ex, Leda. She had been our dear kitty for years. It truly sucked.

Anyway, back to our present shit situation. The doc said that Natascha might have a sprain or a hairline fracture, and instructed us to bring her back the next morning for X-rays. Which we did.

I just got a call from the vet saying that she's got bone degeneration in her wrist. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be repairing itself. Possible causes may include viral or fungal infection (rare) or bone cancer (also rare, particularly in a one year-old).

A piece of her bone was removed, and is being sent to some lab for further testing. This takes 1-2 days, meaning we probably won't know until early next week what the next course of action should be.

Thankfully, she isn't in too much pain; she just doesn't use that paw to get around. But I wonder: what are we supposed to do if it's bone cancer? I can't bear to watch her suffer, but I'm tired of having to euthanize these poor little creatures.

So that's today's fun.

On a happier note, ex-Burlingtonian Brad Searles made the mother of all James Kochalka Superstar posts over at Bradley's Almanac.

UPDATE:

Thanks for the comments... Isn't this supposed to be a music-related blog?

Natascha is all doped up on doggie painkillers, (for real — that's what they gave us) and is having a blast. They're non-drowsy, which means she's mobile. But I'm woried, 'cause she thinks she can run on her bum paw. But I'm glad she's happy.

We saw the X-Rays, and could totally make out a weird grey area over two bones in her wrist. The doc doubts that its cancer, but she's also never seen a fungus of this sort before, so who knows?

The bill was like, $500, though — yikes.

We'll get the tests back from the lab soon.

Other than that, things are OK.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Nobody tells me anything.

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I was at City Market this morning when I saw a nice poster for all-ages venue 242 Main. It was partially covered up by an ad for "transcendental wellness and past-life regression."

Gingerly moving the New Age thingie, I discovered that my favorite avant-metal band, Kayo Dot, is coming to town on September 1.

I'm not in the habit of checking the 242 website, because there have been long spells with no updates. And, with so many venues to list each week, I rely on the club owners, promoters, and lastly the bands to get me the info.

Also on the bill are Carrigan, Tell No One and Junius, who didn't alert me either. Should we all just surrender to MySpace? No way. I don't have the time to trawl through every band in my "friends" list to see who's playing where. Nor can I look at every single "event invitation" that comes down the pike.

Nevertheless, I'm psyched to see Kayo Dot again. I may even give the show some editorial love.

Maybe they just don't want me to list the shows. That way it's more underground. Well, tough luck — you're getting some free friggin' publicity, kids.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Flaming Lips controversy rages on.

Well, not really. But I did get an e-mail from Ben of the band Farm, regarding my initial post. It reads:

Hello Casey,

I was listening to At War With the Mystics when I read that Pitchfork thing.

"Hippies n' sequencers": Two of the biggest features of hippy stuff, in my mind, are its lack of clarity and a sort of quasi-mystical/we believe in anything-positive worldview. The Flaming Lips are pretty much atheist/physicalist and fairly direct with their music. What's the Casey Rea/Flaming Lips/Hippy Connection?

We're still recording. We've got about 10 tracks with meat on their bones. Some kid just gave me a pirate copy of Sonar 4 producer's edition. I'm trying to learn its ways.

Please, excuse my grammar and "clarity" — I've got about a half a gallon of Dayquil in me right now.

Hope everything is good with you,
Ben

My response:

I give the Lips shit mostly because they were the first of the so-called "alternative" bands to embrace giant hippie festivals. Now everyone's doing it. Also, I'm a bit tired of high pitched bleating about robots and the like.

I'll admit I did listen to them back in the day. They always sounded good on pilfered pharmaceuticals. But somehow the relationship soured. I believe it was back when I was working at Pure Pop and the consonant-averse, mouth breathing burnouts were rocking "Yoshimi" like it was a live Phish album.

Sonar, eh? No idea how that sucker works. Good luck!

Yours in Dayquil abuse,

-Casey


Further commentary is, of course, welcome.

PS: Remember the other day, when I said that I'd be "all set" if Stevie Nicks joined Sunn O)))? Well, the next best thing has occurred. One of my favorite spooky-Americana performers, Jesse Sykes, is featured on Sunn O)))'s upcoming collaboration with Japanese noise terrors Boris.

While I can't quite imagine what that'll sound like, I look forward to hearing her
syrup 'n' sandpaper coo on some evil fucking drone.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lolla What? Flaming Who?

It's rare that I care to read a PitchforkMedia article, and even rarer that I don't want to scrub myself raw with a steel wool loofah afterwards.

But today's review of Lollapalooza 2006 is priceless. It makes a great many points I feel need to be made. Here's one of my favorite bits about Flaming Lips, or Hippies N' Sequencers, as I like to call 'em:

The biggest flop of all was reserved for the Flaming Lips, whose music has become simply an excuse for Wayne Coyne to play with his props and sermonize in front of crowds. His injections of whimsy and beauty into dour, late-90s rock were crucial and welcome, but he's since become indie rock's Carrot Top, waving gigantic hands in the air like a Michel Gondry video come to life and relying on the same tired confetti and nun-puppet schtick.

No fooling. Read the rest of it (if you haven't already, haters) here.

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