Friday, September 5, 2008

This Is Not America...NO

Welcome to St. Paul

As the subtitle of my blog suggests, this is a blog regarding Rawk-and-Roll and "Other Delights" Up until this point, It's been just the rawk, but after being placed in the center of the political world this week, I actually have some thoughts, mostly non-music related.

Man...I'm glad the conventions are over. I'm glad the riot police have left my quiet town of St. Paul. It was quite frightening to be in St. Paul this's as close to a police state that I'd ever been in and I never want to see it again. Sure, I understand that there were a couple of knuckleheads intent on damaging property, but if you were anywhere outside in St. Paul this week, it's hard to not think of the presence of police in my quiet city as "Overkill". Thousands of riot police with gas masks, M-16's, and other intimitating "equipment" on every street corner, staring your down to see if you were "different looking." Also, the snipers on the tops of some of the buildings left me uncomfortable.

I made it to the "Take Back Labor Day" rally at Harriet Island on Monday. I had a great time seeing a couple of my favorite singer-songwriters, Billy Bragg and Steve Earle. Unfortunately, hip hop acts were the headliners and the most talented guys started the day with very short, but nonetheless memorable sets, that were heavily inspired by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. I would estimate that there were around 25,000 people at the rally, which was very peaceful and inspiring. However, as the hip hop acts hit the stage and as the temperature was reaching 90 degrees, I walked over to the Mississippi river (still within earshot of the stage) and looked across the river towards downtown. There...a different scene altogether. There were at least 300 riot police, lots of teargas and smoke, and one ambulance after another taking people away. I understand that some of them were destroying property, but the contrast of scenes, from one side of the river to the other, was quite shocking. I didn't like it.

The next day, Rage Against the Machine, was supposed to play an "unnanounced" show at the State Capital, during a rally that included the rock band Anti-Flag. The rally had a permit to go until a certain hour. Say what you will about Rage Against the Machine and their fans (I did, read my previous post below), but they're just a rock and roll band....they're not terrorists.

Observers at the rally reported that riot police were asking the rally organizers all day, "Is Rage Against the Machine going to play?" as if they were terrified that a rock band would show up to a rock concert. When Rage Against the Machine did show up, well before the permit to rally was to expire, the police "held" the band members and prevented them from gettting to the stage. When the band finally made it to the stage, the police had cut all of the power to the stage so that they couldn't perform a "free show".


In response, lead singer, Zach de La Rocha, grabbed a bullhorn and the band performed A capella. You can see Minnesota Public Radio's video of what transpired below.

The next day, Rage Against the Machine, played a "sold out" show at Minneapolis' Target Center in front of 15,000 fans. Reports stated that 1,000 riot police showed up before the show and stayed until the last fan was run out of downtown. There were no reports of any damage caused by the Rage fans. Overkill?

Last night, while driving home from work, I caught a report on a local radio station that riot police had showed up to an Anti-War rally at the State Capitol and that there was "trouble brewing" I changed clothes and headed down to check it out. Reports stated that there was a standoff on the John Ireland Bridge that crosses Interstate 94. I parked my car by the St. Paul Cathedral and walked until I was turned back by riot police, FBI, and Secret Service. I made it to the corner of John Ireland Blvd and Kellogg Blvd. They had surrounded the Anti-War protesters on the bridge. There were hundreds, if not a thousand riot police all with "gas masks" on. I thought I was going to witness something bad. Soon, the police brought in "snow plows", lined up at each end of John Ireland Blvd. I thought they were going to plow the protesters off the bridge. My uneasiness in the presence of many hundreds of "storm troopers" got worse as "bomb squad" vehicles started showing up. An MTC city bus, had changed it's destination ticker to "Police Bus"...apparently, they needed a large bus to take not-yet-arrested protesters away.

An observer said that the riot police were upset when they were informed that tear gas is heavier than air and that if tear gas was dispensed on the bridge, it would fall down below the bridge and onto passing motorists on I-94. My vantage points was quite far away, so I wasn't able to view the exact tactics of the riot police, but I did notice that the Anti-War rally particpants had moved off the bridge quite quickly. As the protesters and the front-lines of the riot police had moved away from the bridge, I decided to head home. I followed live updates of the protest on a blog. Apparently, for the next three hours, the riot police had chased the Anti-War protesters around St. Paul, preventing them from heading to the ironically-named "free speech zone" near the Xcel Energy Center, where presidential hopefull, John McCain was going to be delivering his acceptance speech.

Around 8:00, live bloggers were reporting "tear gas" and "shock grenades" were being used on the protesters at University Aveneue and Rice St.

I couldn't stand watching Cindy McCain's speech about how she went to Bangladesh and saw a cute puppy/child in the window and how she wanted to possess that puppy/child as if it were simply an accumulation of compassion that she could parade in front of her country-club friends. I was getting sick watching these candidates parading their unwilling families (I'm mostly referring to the poor kid who knocked up the Alaskan Governors' daughter and now looks headed to an arranged marriage) around as if to say..."Hey, look at our family...we're just like you". Sorry, but nobody in my family has pet names, such as Trig, Track, Willow, Piper, and Bristol. My sister has a Shih Tzu named "Piper," however. While I was watching this, I stumbled upon a Vanity Fair article about the cost of Cindy McCain's "banana" outfit from Tuesday night. The outfit, according to experts who know high-end clothing, estimate that the outfit at costing over $300,000. Yes, Cindy....You and your husband, who has no clue how many houses he owns.....are just "regular folks" like me. Good grief.

So after nearly vommiting during Cindy's speech, I decided to check out what was happening at University and Rice. When I got there, there was still smoke in the air, riot police all over with many walking down the streets with M-16's. Marion St. was blocked off. I would later find out that they had over 300 people surrounded on the Marion St. Bridge. Everybody on the bridge was told to "sit down and put your hands on your head.....Everybody on the bridge is going to be arrested." There were 19 journalists on the bridge and they were arrested too.

Coverage of the Convention

I've been a political junkie for most of my life. I went to my first caucus (as a school assignment) in 1979 prior to the Carter-Reagan election. I've worked on three political campaigns in my life starting with Seattle Mayor Norm Rice's failed run at Governor of the State of Washington in the mid 90's. In 2004, I became a delegate for the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party in Minnesota and attended some conventions. It wasn't a good experience, as groupthink, rather than rational and logical decision making, was the name of the game. Follow the leader as they say, regardless if it's a good idea. I guess I've never felt comfortable in large groups as usually the dumbest people are generally the loudest (Bill O'Reilly?), and then the mob follows dumb.

So, during these conventions, I've been flipping around the various channels (PBS, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC), watching political talking heads "stay on message" and repeat their "talking points." It's mostly a frustrating excersise watching people repeat the same slogans, but occasionally, someone will say something insightful. I generally don't expect to hear anything insightful on Fox as Fox is the Pravda of the United States. Basically, a media empire with the job of providing propaganda for the Republican party. "Fair and Balanced" they are not. "We Report...You Decide" is another laughable slogan of the Faux Network. However, I still do watch the network out of pure interest in political strategy and how political parties present their message.

Fox News was basically made up of second-rate reporters, who didn't succeed elsewhere, but were willing "Republican Soldiers", ready to fight Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch (yes..the guy with a large hand in American politics is a foreigner) and Roger Ailes' media war. Brit Hume was on ABC, but his "droopy" personality didn't keep viewers tuned in. Bill O'Reilly came from the "gossip-celebrity" news show, "Inside Edition".....not exactly respected in the media world for their journalism. Sean Hannity was a Rush Limbaugh wannabee, who wasn't known before being hired at Fox.

Fox News basically chugged along, providing second-rate gossip-celebrity news combined with the Republican talking points, straight from the "Drudge Report". Like Drudge, Fox News is never shy about covering important news like the "Two-headed Indian Child" or the "Hot High School Teacher Having Sex With Her Students."

Why the rant on Fox News?

Because they've had a significant impact on today's media.....and I would argue that it's for the worst.

Fox News really became a player on September 11th, 2001. As a student of history, I'm very aware of the attraction of "Nationalism" when countries are experiencing tough times and uncertainty. Our country was under attack and Fox News' "nationalistic" coverage was highly appealing to many Americans.

Fox News' "nationalistic" and "opinionated" strategy was successful in the ratings game. Soon, MSNBC would fire the host of their highest-rated show, Phil Donahue, because of his anti-war and liberal views. His show was replaced by the loathsome human being and all-around far right-wing blowhard, Michael Savage, who would soon be fired for being a dickhead and saying something unconsiounable...surprise? CNN soon started hiring more conservatives to their already conservative lineup. Douchebag and flamboyant toe-tappers like Glenn Beck started getting their own shows and MSNBC went more conservative.

Schizophrenic Chris Matthews, who at one time was a conservative, supporting Barry Goldwater, before he became a staffer for Democrat Tip O'Neil, had once again become a conservative, gushing about George W. Bush and how "Bush belongs on Mt. Rushmore" following Bush's famous or infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo op on the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier. Yes...that dasterdly, liberal media had control of the airwaves.

Over the past couple of years, the Republican stranglehold of the media has lightened as failed Republican party policies, Bush's low approval ratings, mounting debt, and the public's unfavorable view of the Iraq War were catching the "suits" attention. MSNBC, offered up the liberal answer to Bill O'Reilly. Keith Olbermann was refreshing as a lone wolf, using "facts" and others' own words to make a strong case for the Democrats. Sure, his very powerful rants sometimes went overboard with faux disgust, but it's hard to argue with someone who uses "evidence" rather than rhetoric as his weapon. Schizophrenic, once again, Matthews, looked as though he had switched affiliations once again, after his "Mt. Rushmore" candidate had hit 29% in the approval polls. My guess is that he became more moderate, when he realized he had a hard time championing somebody that only 29% of the people liked. The media game is a business, and it's not profitable to be on the losing side.

Now to the conventions of the past few weeks.....Please kill me....I can't take it any more.

MSNBC looks like it's about to implode as they are turning in their journalist badges for cheerleader outfits. Chris Matthews, once again nearly trips over his tongue everytime he expresses his man-crush on John McCain. I nearly started a drinking game, in which I would take a drink every time Matthews said McCain is a "maverick", except I didn't want to be rushed to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. I've got news for you Matthews. When you vote 95% of the time with your party and the sitting president of your own party, that does not make you a makes you the opposite. "Conformist" is far more accurate of a term. In fact, considering that 29% of American's agree with McCain's positions, "Conformist with very bad judgement" might be even more accurate.
One Republican delegate had the misfortune of being caught in front of 45 million viewers displaying his mispelled "THE MAVRICK" sign. I'm guessing he was educated in the conservative-controlled south. My friend, Chris, who's a school teacher in that part of the country, told me that pencils are referred to as "writing sticks," but I digress.

Olbermann, on the other hand, is trying to counteract Matthews (with the exception of calling him on his use of the word maverick), by trumpeting his candidates with sligtly dimissive comments to his co-workers. Olbermann and Matthews have been going at it (I don't think I've seen Matthews as flustered looking and looking like he just got finished with the frat boy game of "follow the elephant" ever before). He looks disheveled and confused. Conservative Joe Scarborough has nearly come to blows with moderate David Shuster as well as Olbermann. It's a god-damn three ring circus over there at MSNBC, with the exception of the two most unlikely partners, Pat Buchanan and Rachel Maddow. Buchanan, who I've loathed for years, actually is fairly reasonable on his assessments (hate to break it to you liberals and conservatives, but Buchanan opposed the Iraq War), although Pat must have got the "fall in line" memo from the tuffs of the Republican party, because he changed his tune on Sarah Palin in unbelievably quick time. Rachal Maddow is also reasonable and does a good and most importantly "civil" job of making her points. She's very intelligent and it will be interesting to see how she handles her own show after taking over for "law nerd" Dan Abrams' spot.
Editors Update: As of September 8th, MSNBC has pulled the two cheerleaders, Olbermann and Matthews, from their election coverage host positions and replaced them with David Gregory. Olbermann and Mathews will still remain on as contributors.

CNN, although not the three ring circus of MSNBC, still has Wolf Blitzer as their main guy. Wolf isn't the most politically astute observer and constantly lets talking heads repeat their drivel, unquestioned, no matter how deceptive.

I have found a new person I respect at CNN and I'm quite shocked of who it is. David Gergen, who's been a political strategist for the Republican party for nearly 30 years, is actually one of the few voices on the major cable news networks that is actually reasonable and doing his job, which is to analyze the convention scientifically and not from a point-of-view and "civily". He doesn't fall in line with the mob...he wasn't blow away by the bible-thumping, flat-earth-society, book burning, aw shucks Sarah Palin's, sarcastic and non-informative speech. Gergen actually discusses issues, not personalities. He looks at facts, evidence, not trivial things. A mustached Republican talking head on CNN (I don't remember his name) inferred last night that Gergen was a traitor to the Republican party because he didn't fall in line with the "talking points."

David Gergen, although I'm his political opposite, is what America and more importantly the American media needs at this time, civility and fair-mindedness. Since the popularity of the Fox News network, the national media has been slouching with jingoism, controversy, party-based opinion, and uncivil discussion (I'm looking at you Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity...well hell...all of Fox News). During this time, America has become less focused on "the issues" and more focused on "personality". Unfortunately, I think this election will once again be based on personality and not issues. After all, do most Americans really support global-warming deniers, book burners, gun nuts, science haters, and abstinence-only progams? Of course not. On the other hand, if you put the issues aside, like the major media has done for the last week, you find a "personality" slightly attractive, tough-talking, "regular-kind-of gal" or "hockey mom" (whatever that means to the 95% of the country who woundn't know the difference between a blue line and a dance line). You also find a "war hero" and a so-called "maverick." You also find a great "orator." These are media-created personality traits....not issues or policy positions.

Over the last 10 years, this country has been slouching. NASCAR, a sport that involves automobiles making left-hand turns for hours, is now the "national sport". Ultimate Fighting is hugely popular. Reality television is hugely popular, where "regular" folks can unearth their dirty laundry for 15 minutes of fame.

Speaking of "regular folks"....why is it that being a "regular person," someone "who you could sit down and have a beer with" is now a requirement for the most important job in the world, President of the United States?


I want somebody "extraordiary" running the greatest country in the world. I want somebody who has accomplishments, did well in school, went to the best schools, and is "smarter" than me. We've slouched so far, that we now have a inferiority complex and think that anybody that is accomplished is an "elitist". If you were the President of the Harvard Law Review, you are now considered "elitist," who has a "fancy degree" and thus unqualified for President. People who don't think that chain restaurants, such as Applebees, are considered "fine dining" are now called "elitists". Barack Obama had to play the god-awful "mall country" music of Brooks and Dunn following his speech in Denver to appeal to the "envious" NASCAR crowd. This inferiority complex in the country has got to stop! We need higher standards for our leaders....being a "folksy" swell guy or gal...shouldn't be the basis for how we elect leaders.

Additionally, network news has become incredibly biased, uncivil, and absolutely unhealthy. As Jon Stewert told Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala a few years ago on CNN..."Stop it...Just Stop it....You're hurting America!!"

And to the people who think patriotism is controlled by one party and that meaningless slogans and whether a candidate wears an American Flag pin on their suit is important (in case you missed it, John McCain didn't wear one last night, which means, apparently, he is an unpatriotic sonofabitch)....I say this.

When you love want it to be the best it can be. You correct it when it deviates off track, you support it when it does well. You wish it to be the best it can be. That's the way I feel about this country. I love the United States of America, but this week was particularly sad for me as something I love desperately needs correction.

While standing on the corner of John Ireland Blvd and Kellogg Blvd watching men with gas masks, M-16s, bomb squads, prison buses, and snow plows, all ready to take on some relatively harmless vegan bohemians carrying paper signs stating their desire for peace, a loudspeaker behind me was blasting David Bowie's "This is Not America".

I can't get that song out of my head.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rage Against?

I recently read about some shenanigans that occurred at Lollapalooza last weekend. Apparently, according to some reports, hundreds or thousands (depending on your source) of Rage Against the Machine fans crashed the gates at the festival.

Correct me if I'm wrong, since I've never seen Rage against the Machine, but the impression I get from RATM fans, is that they're really not too different from Limp Biscuit fans...Young, testosterone-filled, and probably wouldn't know the difference between Chiapas and Chia Pets.

Break some shit!

Sorry about my gross broad generalization about a populace, but that aggressive testesterone stuff doesn't float my boat.

Maybe it's my hangover from the hippie festival (10,000 Lakes Festival) that I just attended, where people were polite, gracious, and far-from-aggressive. If people bumped into you at a show, they would apologize relentlessly. They weren't trying to bulldoze you with their chests stuck out like a rooster in a cock-fight. Seeing the photos of the gate-crashers and the people being suffocated really didn't seem like it was too much fun, but then again, maybe I'm getting old.
(Sipping on a Lemonade on a front porch) Sure...I remember being young and enjoying "slam-dancing" at Soul Asylum and other punk rock shows in the 80's. I guess the kids today call that "moshing"......Good Lord....I am old.

I just read a myspace post from Jim Walsh, author of the recent book (check it out) , "The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting" which seems fairly relevant to this post.

Read Walsh's full post here

He quotes from a local Yogi...and although, I'm not one for what Frank Zappa referred to as "Kosmik Debris", I think this is appropriate.

“With the Republican National convention beginning in Saint Paul September 1, there will be strong feelings and voices on all sides. As yogis active in the world, we can stay grounded in the virtues of “ahimsa” (non-harming) and “satya” (truthfulness to our own nature) to realize peace within ourselves and in the world. As the process of politics often creates divisions such as us and them, good and bad, conservative and liberal, we can stay aware of yoga (union), interconnectedness. This special practice session will incorporate a short dharma talk, a heart opening asana practice, and a metta (loving kindness) meditation. It will be a means to find a centeredness in ourselves and as a critical mass to send positive intention to our community. Remembering, as Mahatma Ghandi said, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beachwood Sparks to play first show in 6 years

The fabulous Beachwood Sparks, who've been idle since 2002, when they release the EP, Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, have reasembled for two shows, starting with a show this weekend, July 13th, at Seattle's Marymoore Park for the 20th Anniversary of Sub Pop Records, the band's label.

The alt-country heroes are also scheduled to play the "Folk Yeah" Festival in Big Sur, California at the Henry Miller Library on July 19th.

For the uninitiated, the Beachwood Sparks formed in 1997, forming from the ashes of alternative bands, Further and Strickly Ballroom.

Their sound could be described as similar to the Jayhawks' take on the Gram Parsons' band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, but took it much deeper into Parsons' idea of "Cosmic American Music".

They've toured with The Jayhawks, Black Crowes, and Red House Painters.

Since they went idle (not officially broken up), Brent Radamacher, Christopher Gunst , and keyboardis Dave Scher formed the psychedelic pop/surf band, The Tyde. Scher left the Tyde and went on tour with Interpol, while pedal steel guitarist, Farmer Dave, was featured on Gary Louris' latest solo record, Vagabonds.

Here's a fantastic version of "Canyon Ride" by Beachwood Sparks

Here's a video for the Burrito Brothers' sounding "Sister Rose"

Do yourself a favor, and pick up the two full-length records, Beachwood Sparks, and Once We Were Trees....must have's for any lover of alt-country.

Beachwood Sparks' fansite

Beachwood Sparks Myspace

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Announce Summer Tour

The Brian Jonestown Massacre have just announced their summer tour. While playing mostly smaller clubs throughout Europe, the BJM does have a number of high-profile gigs, playing the world's largest music festival, UK's Glastonbury Festival, along with other festival dates such as Norway's Hove Festival, Sweden's Accelerator Festival, France's Les Eurockennes and Garden Nef Party festivals, Scotland's T in the Park festival, Ireland's Oxygen Festival, and Spain's Benicassim Festival. Wrapping up the dates, is the lone US show in New York City, although more dates are expected to be announced.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre Summer Tour

06/21/2008 Copenhagen - Pumphaset
06/23/2008 Norway - Hove Festival
06/24/2008 Gothenburg - Sticky Fingers
06/25/2008 Stockholm - Accelerator Festival
06/27/2008 UK - Glastonbury Festival
06/29/2008 Oxford - Academy
06/30/2008 Stoke - Sugarmill
07/01/2008 Manchester - Academy
07/02/2008 Northampton - Roadmenders
07/03/2008 Paris - Bataclan
07/05/2008 Utrecht - Helling
07/06/2008 Belfort - Les Eurockennes
07/07/2008 Koln - Luxor
07/09/2008 Birmingham - Academy 2
07/10/2008 Nottingham - Rescue Rooms
07/11/2008 Leeds - Cockpit
07/12/2008 Kinross - T in the Park TBC
07/13/2008 Dublin - Oxegen TBC
07/15/2008 Barrow-in-Furness - The Canteen
07/16/2008 London - Forum
07/18/2008 Angouleme - Garden Nef Party
07/19/2008 Spain - Benicassim Festival
07/25/2008 New York, NY - Terminal 5

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hopewell perform "Oh Yoko" on NYC Public Transportation

The Brooklyn-based Hopewell has been one of my favorite bands of the past few years. I first heard about them in 2005 and a few people mentioned that they were worth checking out. I had heard that lead singer, Jason Russo, used to play bass for the fantastic Mercury Rev, which made me more interested. I heard about a scheduled show at NOMAD World Pub (formerly the 5 Corners Saloon) opening for a local band, Vicious Vicious. This was strange on a couple of counts. First of all, the NOMAD World Pub generally doesn't host "national" bands. Secondly, a critically-acclaimed band was opening for a local band. Strange.

Unfortunately, I had lost track of the date of the show, but to my fortune, while driving home, I happen to tune into the great local radio station, The Current 89.3, who was just starting an in-studio performance with Hopewell. I was completely floored by what I heard. You can listen to the show here:

Hopewell's In-Studio performance at The Current

I made it to the show that night and was again floored by what I heard. I'm sorry to say that I didn't stick around for the complete performance of Vicious Vicious. There was no band that night that could have followed Hopewell and succeed. I ended up buying their masterpiece "Hopewell & the Birds of Appetite" directly from Jason after the show. Still one of the best records I've heard in the last five years.

Hopewell has since come thru Minneapolis two times, once opening for The Black Angels at the 7th St. Entry and once, opening for Spindrift at the 400 Bar. Each time, their opening performance was spectacular, and each time the headliner had the misfortune of following Hopewell's performance.

Watch Jason and Lydon from Hopewell perform John Lennon's "Oh Yoko" on a New York city bus. Enjoy!!

by lablogotheque

Watch Hopewell perform an amazing version of Synthetic Symphony from their fantastic Hopewell & the Birds of Appetite

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Quarter After- Changes Near (Full Album Stream)

Well Folks. The new album by The Quarter After, Changes Near, was released yesterday. See Album preview in Upcoming Releases post below. I've already ordered my copy from The Committee To Keep Music Evil. In the meantime, the Committee has generously decided to stream the entire album free-of-charge. Enjoy!!

To purchase Changes Near, please visit
The Committee To Keep Music Evil

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Album Review

Hymns- Travel In Herds
Blackland Records
Rating: 8 out of 10

Approximately 20 years ago, a friend popped into the CD player, Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. Within a few seconds of hearing the opening notes of “Tangled Up in Blue,” I knew that I’d be in for a treat and listened to the whole record start to finish while eagerly awaiting each song. It was around the same time, that I had bought Lou Reed’s New York record, in which the liner notes stated the album, was “meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs) sitting as though it were a book or a movie.”

Ever since that day, I’ve been an album guy as opposed to a singles guy. I knew that bands could easily produce a catchy single, but the more important test, in my opinion, was whether that same band could make a great LP…start-to-finish.

In this day of the iPod, where listeners often rely on the shuffle function to play random tracks from their favorite artists, I wondered to myself, “Are bands still going to take the album seriously?” Although I already knew the answer, that answer was reaffirmed resoundingly after I got a chance to listen to Hymns soon-to-be-released record Travel in Herds.

Travel in Herds starts off with a bang with “NYC Nervous Breakdown.” The looping bass line chugs along with Rickenbacker-like country picking done by the Kinks.

“I Can’t Be What U Want,” takes the band into previously uncharted territory with fantastic horns accompanied by banjo that takes the listener on roads traveled by The Band and perhaps Dr. John.

I think it’s refreshing that while many indie bands have gone 80’s retro, almost using Moog synthesizers as a crutch, Hymns have enough guts to go against the grain and revisit more organic sounds...using horns, piano, banjo, and other old-timey instrumentation.

“St. Sebastian” rocks like Exile-era Stones while tackling Travel in Herds reoccurring theme of wide-eyed big city love and ambivalence. Hymns are from Brooklyn by way of North Carolina and, while they’ve clearly enjoyed their travels and time spent in big cities, you never get the sense that this band has forgotten their roots.

“Time Has Told Me” sounds like another great North Carolina band, Whiskeytown, meeting the Stones halfway.

The only minor slip-up on this record might be the fade-out ending to “LA, or Babette Sange.” I hate fade outs….a sloppy, ramshackle finish would have sounded more authentic.

“On the Run” seduces the listener with Hammond organ coloring, builds up momentum, and eventually launches to into an epic soulful blue-eyed soul song reminiscent of Van Morrison of the early 70’s. The perfect ending to a fantastic record.

The pace and sequencing of this album is nearly perfect, which is difficult when you make a record that touches so many bases. It’s not easy for a band to be this ambitious and still pull it off. Wilco did it with Being There and the Hymns more than succeed with Travel in Herds. Hymns cover expansive ground while keeping the listener comfortable in the familiar realms of Americana.

Sure, you hear some subtle and not-so-subtle nods to The Band, late 60’s Stones, Tom Petty (Blame it On the Mountains), and perhaps Gram Parsons (Off My Mind)…but Travel in Herds is a modern music-lovers album and is a record that any of those artists would have been proud to have made.

Despite this record being full of great singles, this record should be listened to start-to-finish in one sitting….you’ll be happy you did.

Travel in Herds has already solidified a place on my “Best Records of 2008.”

*Travel in Herds will be released on March 11th on Blackland Records.

Watch Hymns perform an acoustic version of "NYC Nervous Breakdown" live at the South By Southwest Festival.

SXSW 2008: Hymns, "NYC Nervous Breakdown"

Hymns chat with Spin . com's William Goodman after a quick acoustic set at the SPIN and MySpace San Jacinto Saloon, SXSW 2008.

SXSW 2008: Hymns

Watch the video for "Train Song" from Travel in Herds

Interview with Hymns' Jason Roberts

Photo courtesy of Hymns Mypace page

Question: First off…I really love the new record. I thought your previous record, Brother/Sister was one of the best records of 2006, but with Travel in Herds, the band seems to have taken huge strides. What are your thoughts on Travel in Herds?

Answer: I think that Travel in Herds is the album that we've always wanted to make. We’re so proud of Brother/Sister, but this album IS US! It’s a lot more lush, but still remains true to our direct sound that we're going for. Straightforward songs with horns, organ, banjo, etc. I also think the album was created by a much more mature hymns. We were just getting our start on the last album and figuring out the songs and the studio and how to work together. I think the new album shows that we've grown up a lot from touring and playing together so much.

Question: Tell me about the recording sessions for Travel in Herds and how that went down?

Answer: Well, we spent two weeks in our label studio, Vault Studios, doing pre-production on the album with co-producer John Kent. This is the studio in Texas where we recorded Brother/Sister. John and I co-produced the new album together, so we really went through all the songs and just made sure everything was perfect before we went into the other studio to record. We set out the parts and stuff, but tried to not overwork so that the songs would stay fresh. Then we went to Palmyra Studios in Waxahachie, TX for four weeks to record and mix the record. The studio is on 65 acres of land and it's a perfect place to make a record like this. We recorded and mixed to tape. We never left the studio. Slept in tents outside.

Question: According to the credits, most of the songs are Harding/Roberts. Is there a primary songwriter and someone that focuses on the music? Tell me how you guys work together.

Answer: Besides track 10, Brian (Harding) wrote all of the basic parts of the songs himself. Sometimes I would be there with him helping, but most of the time he would bring in a song that was already somewhat strong. Then we would go through the parts and try to really make them solid. He also wrote about 80 percent of the lyrics, but I helped with some of them and I wrote almost all of the lyrics on “Off My Mind” and all of the music on that one as well. It’s credited like that because we work together as a team with all of the stuff. I couldn't write the main song without Brian and Brian couldn't come up with the parts and arrangements without me…you know?

Question: A lot of music is coming out of Brooklyn these days. In fact, I counted over 100 bands from Brooklyn with scheduled shows at South by Southwest. You are not unlike a lot of bands over the past five years, having moved from North Carolina to Brooklyn to set up base. Describe the positive and negative aspects of having the band based out of Brooklyn.

Answer: Well, we love Brooklyn and it's a great place to be if you're a band, but it IS really hard because of all the competition. EVERYONE is in a band. Sometimes it can be really frustrating because your friends or some other smaller band starts doing well and you don't understand why you're not. On the other hand, it's way harder to get recognized in a small town because there are less industry people/clubs/etc.

Question: I had a conversation with a respected local DJ, who lived in New York for a number of years during the 90’s. She told me that, unlike Minneapolis, there really wasn’t a local music scene in New York, where like-minded bands played shows with each other, attended each other’s shows, and helped each other out. She said that New York was too big for a local scene to be happening. Taking her at her word, has New York changed? Is there a local scene there? If so, who are some New York bands that are amongst your circle of friends?

Answer: I totally agree with her, but we have been trying to get some kind of collective together since we've been here. We’d much rather play a show with our friends then some band we've never heard of just because they have some buzz, you know? We actually just did a residency at Pianos ( in the Lower East Side and it was up to us to choose the bands for each week and it was so fun to play all of those shows with only friends! Some bands we love: Young Lords, Blonde Acid Cult, Soft Explosions, Kieran McGee, Indyns.

Question: What are your plans for South By Southwest? What do you hope to accomplish there? Are there any bands that you’re hoping to see while there?

Answer: We have three shows so far at SXSW including or label party (Blackland Records). Our CD comes out the day before SXSW, so we're actually doing an in-store and a CD release party in Dallas that day since that is where our label is based. Our main goal for this year is to try and get a booking agent. We love touring so much and it's getting to hard to set that stuff up on our own! We love SXSW so much and its' so fun to go to Austin for that week and just hang with friends and see bands you haven't seen in a long time.

Question: I have an aquaintance in a New York-based band, The Soft Explosions. I discovered them via myspace in 2005, loved what I heard, and went to one of their shows on a visit to New York that same year. I loved and respected their music and they had listed Hymns as one of their friends. Consequently, I checked out your band based on their recommendation. What are your thoughts on the use of the Internet and sites like myspace and how that fits into your (Hymns) world? Do you have any thoughts on how sites like that have affected the music industry as a whole?

Answer: Ha. I just mentioned them! We’re HUGE myspace advocates. We’re addicted to our own personal sites and I can't believe how much having our Hymns myspace has helped us through the past years. Almost everything we get (shows, interviews, etc) is all through myspace. It’s really amazing that people can easily go to your myspace and hear you, see you, read about you, and see how well you're doing as a band. The only negative I think is that a lot of industry people will skip seeing your show or actually listening to your album because they just check you out on myspace. It’s good for them to come to the show and see how you REALLY are, you know?

Question: The first time I saw you, you opened up for the Lemonheads. Tell me the story about getting on that bill?

Answer: Well...I used to play in Ben Kweller's band with John Kent, who owns our label, and we got to know Evan Dando because he was friends with Ben. After we finished touring with Ben, Evan had John play drums with the Lemonheads some as a fill-in. So, when the Lemonheads started touring, John didn't feel bad about asking them if we could jump on that bill. Evan was into our songs and was cool with it!

Question: I read that Evan Dando joined you on stage in Boise. Tell me about that.

Answer: Ha. Yeah, we had played a lot of shows at that point, but he had never watched us, so that night he sat right in the front and watched our whole show. Then for the second to last song, we played a Neil Young cover- “Don't Cry No Tears”-and he jumped up on the front of the stage and grabbed the mic and sang with us! It was definitely a very cool moment for us!

Question: Jason, you mentioned that you played with Ben Kweller’s band. How did that come about?

Answer: I was in New York working at a recording studio called the Magic Shop and also at a club they owned called the Living Room. Ben had just lost his guitarist and was auditioning people and he had come to the Living Room to check out a guitarist who was recommended to him. I was on stage setting up stuff because I was the sound guy and Ben thought that I was the guitarist! So, he asked me to audition for him and I did a couple of days later and got the job!

Question: Ben Kweller got involved in the music industry at a very young age? Even though he’s still fairly young, he has a lot of experience…What did you learn about music and the music industry from him?

Answer: I really learned so much from him. He controls everything that happens with his music and his tour, etc and I saw how smart that is to make sure that everything goes the way that YOU as an artist want. It’s better to do those things yourself and have your vision come out the way you want instead of someone else who doesn't know what's exactly in your head. He worked really hard everyday to make sure everything worked the way he wanted it to. He was also really good at doing interviews and getting people excited about his music and shows. I was pretty na├»ve when I joined his band and I think I left his band a better musician and music businessman.

Question: In my opinion, the year Bob Dylan went electric, playing with The Hawks (The Band), is the most important period in rock music. I noticed that your publishing company is called “Dylan Goes Electric”…Would you concur with my statement? Why or why not?

Answer: That's Brian’s publishing company. We are huge Dylan fans and even huger fans of The Band (The Hawks). It definitely was an important time in music because Dylan really bridged so many things together by going electric. It said a lot to the music world when he did that and stuck by it even though there was a lot of criticism towards it.

Question: On the new record, I hear some sounds that remind me of The Band, just as I heard some sounds of Neil Young and Crazy Horse on Brother/Sister. Is it safe to say, that the band finds inspiration in those artists?

Answer: It is VERY safe to say that. Our goal with all of this stuff is to have songs that sound fresh and new, but always fall back on older sounds.

There are a lot of bands doing the retro thing, but it's hard to achieve in this time. I think we did the best we could on this new record! We’ll always love The Band and the Stones and Neil, etc and will probably always try to imitate them as best we can without copying them. It ends up being our OWN sound.

Question: According to the credits on Travel in Herds, Brian’s dad, Dr. John Harding, played on the record. Was he a big influence on Brian getting involved in music? Was his family musically inclined? If so, what kinds of records did he hear around the house?

Answer: Brian’s dad is an incredible trumpet player. He’s been playing his whole life and even has a Ph.D. in brass! He teaches at UNCC (University of North Carolina-Charlotte) and toured with so many bands throughout his life (James Brown, Bee Gees, etc.)
I think Brian got a lot of his talent from his dad and he grew up listening to ALL kinds of rock and jazz music. His dad has a HUGE HUGE record collection, so everything was available to Brian throughout his childhood. Brian’s dad has always played with us at shows in North Carolina and it was such an honor to have him on the record and I think it was cool for Brian to have his dad there in Texas for two days!

Question: I love the sounds of the horns on this record, they remind me of Van Morrison of the early 70’s or perhaps The Band. Prior to going into the studio, did the band have a clear idea of what those horns would sound like, or did you just let the horn section have at it?

Answer: Well, we pretty much knew what we wanted before we went into the studio. We had worked out most of the stuff during pre- production and recorded ourselves playing the parts on guitar so that John could hear them before he got there and write out some rough charts. We also knew what sounds we were going for (The Band/Elton John for ‘I Can't Be What U Want', the Stones for 'St. Sebastian', etc.)

The only song that we didn't expect to have horns on until the players got to Texas was 'Travel in Herds'. We had an empty gap there and just figured we'd fill it with a cool sax solo.

Question: Are there any plans on moving the band up to Poukeepsee and hunkering down in a house, like Big Pink?

Answer: That would be INCREDIBLE and Brian has brought it up, but we do love our apartment in Brooklyn! Ha.

Question: When I spoke with Brian in June (in Minneapolis), we talked about a number of things, including the song, “It’s a Shame.” I love that song, but it still bothers me to this day that I can’t figure out what specific Neil Young song that reminds me of. He had mentioned that before “It’s a Shame” had an official title, it was often called, “The Neil Young Song”. On Travel in Herds, there’s a song called “Blame it on the Mountains.” Was that song, at any point, called The Tom Petty Song?

Answer: Ha. It wasn't called the Tom Petty song, BUT it is very Tom Petty inspired. One day we were in rehearsals and Brian and I decided to stay behind afterwards to write a 'hit song'. Ha. We promised we wouldn't leave until we had something that we thought was really catchy. I had seen Tom Petty the night before at Madison Square Garden, so I was VERY excited about him at that point. Hopefully it doesn't sound too much like a rip off, but I think we definitely achieved what we were going for!

Question: When I talked to you guys last June, one thing that struck me is that your guys seemed focused and had some artistic goals you wanted to accomplish. Where do you hope Hymns will be in the next couple of years?

Answer: I think we're accomplishing some of our goals and I think this album was a big step for us. It sounds almost EXACTLY how we had pictured it sounding and we're very proud of it. I just hope we can keep making music that we're proud of and that sounds like US. Our only goal as of now is to get on tour so that people can hear these songs. Hopefully something will happen with this record and we can be headlining shows all over the country and Europe one-day soon.

Watch Hymns perform It's a Shame live on Fearless TV.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


The Replacements- Reissues
In Stores April 22nd. Rhino

Good news for Replacements fans as Rhino records is reissueing the band's Twin-Tone releases, Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take out the Trash, Stink, Hootenanny, and Let it Be. In addition to sparkling new re-mastering of those classic records, fans are treated to a ton of previously un-released material, which may surprise some fans who remember the notoriously self-sabotaging-band's stories of disposing master tapes in the Mississippi River.

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out the Trash


1. Takin a Ride
2. Careless
3. Customer
4. Hangin Downtown
5. Kick Your Door Down
6. Otto
7. I Bought a Headache
8. Rattlesnake
9. I Hate Music
10. Johnny's Gonna Die
11. Shiftless When Idle
12. More Cigarettes
13. Don't Ask Why
14. Somethin to Du
15. I'm in Trouble
16. Love You Till Friday
17. Shutup
18. Raised in the City

Bonus Material

Raised in the City (live, 1980 – demo)
Shutup (live, 1980 – demo)
Don't Turn Me Down (live, 1980 – demo)
Shape Up (live, 1980 – demo)
You Ain't Gotta Dance (live, 1980 – demo)
Get on the Stick (live, 1980 – demo)
Oh Baby (studio demo)
Like You (outtake)
Get Lost (outtake)
A Toe Needs a Shoe (outtake)
Customer (alternate take)
Basement Jam (rehearsal)
If Only You Were Lonely

Watch The Replacements perform Johnny's Gonna Die live at the 7th St. Entry. September 5th, 1981.



1. Kids Don't Follow
2. Fuck School
3. Stuck in the Middle
4. God Damn Job
5. White and Lazy
6. Dope Smokin' Moron
7. Go
8. Gimme Noise

Bonus Material

Staples in Her Stomach (outtake)
Hey, Good Lookin' (outtake)
(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock (outtake)
You're Getting Married (solo home demo)



1. Hootenanny
2. Run It
3. Color Me Impressed
4. Willpower
5. Take Me Down to the Hospital
6. Mr. Whirly
7. Within Your Reach
8. Buck Hill
9. Lovelines
10. You Lose
11. Hayday
12. Treatment Bound

Bonus Material

Lookin' for Ya
Junior's Got a Gun (outtake - rough mix)
Ain't No Crime (outtake)
Johnny Fast (outtake rough mix)
Treatment Bound (alternate version)
Lovelines (alternate vocal)
Bad Worker (solo home demo)

Let It Be


1. I Will Dare
2. Favorite Thing
3. We're Comin' Out
4. Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
5. Androgynous
6. Black Diamond
7. Unsatisfied
8. Seen Your Video
9. Gary's Got a Boner
10. Sixteen Blue
11. Answering Machine

Bonus Material

20th Century Boy
Perfectly Lethal (outtake)
Temptation Eyes (outtake)
Answering Machine (solo home demo)
Heartbeat -- It's a Lovebeat (outtake - rough mix)
Sixteen Blue (outtake - alternate vocal)

Gary Louris- Vagabonds
In Stores Feb 19th. Rykodisc

The former Jayhawks' frontman is releasing his first solo record since the breakup of the alt-country legends. The album was recorded in Los Angeles and a number of guests appear, including Farmer Dave (ex-Beachwood Sparks), Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles), Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), and Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley). The album was co-produced by Thom Monahan (Espers / Vetiver / Devendra Banhart) and Louris’ long-time friend, Chris Robinson.


1. True Blue
2. Omaha Nights
3. To Die a Happy Man Louris
4. She Only Calls Me on Sundays
5. We'll Get By
6. Black Grass
7. I Wanna Get High
8. Vagabonds
9. D.C. Blues
10. Meandering

Gary Louris Solo Tour

3/16: Seattle (Showbox)
3/17: Vancouver (Richard's on Richards)
3/18: Portland, OR (Wonder Ballroom)
3/20: San Francisco (Fillmore)
3/21: Los Angeles (El Rey)
3/23: Denver (Bluebird Cafe)
3/25: Minneapolis (State Theatre)
3/27: Madison, WI (Barrymore Theatre)
3/28: Chicago (The Vic)
3/29: Pittsburgh (Mr. Small's)
3/30: Toronto (Mod Theatre)
4/1: Boston (Somerville Theatre)
4/2: New York (Town Hall)
4/4: Chapel Hill (Cat's Cradle)
4/5: Atlanta (Variety Playhouse)

Hymns- Travel in Herds
In Stores March 11th. Blackland Records
*See Album Review and Interview Next Week*


1. N.Y.C. Nervous Breakdown
2. I Can't Be What U Want
3. L.A. or Babette Sange
4. Streets Alone
5. St. Sebastian
6. Time Told Me
7. Train Song
8. Blame It on the Mountains
9. Travel in Herds
10. Off My Mind
11. On the Run

Supergrass- Diamond Hoo Ha
In Stores March 24th (UK Release). Parlophone/Capitol

Supergrass is releasing the follow-up to the fantastic Road to Rouen. No word on if they'll continue down the path of meloncholy reflective songs featured on Road to Rouen, or if they'll revert back to their energetic Brit-pop of earlier recordings. I'm hoping for the former as Road to Rouen was one of my favorite records a couple of years ago.


1. Diamond Hoo Ha Man
2. Bad Blood
3. Rebel In You
4. When I Needed You
5. 345
6. The Return Of...
7. Rough Knuckles
8. Ghost Of A Friend
9. Whiskey & Green Tea
10. Outside
11. Butterfly

The Brian Jonestown Massacre- My Bloody Underground
In Stores March 31st. A Records

The Brian Jonestown Massacre are finally releasing a full-length proper album, titled My Bloody Underground. It's been five years since Anton Newcombe and the remaining cast released And This is Our Music, although the mini-album/ep, We Are the Radio was released in 2005.

A free demo version of My Bloody Underground has been available for many months on the bands website. Frankly, as much as I hate to say this, I'm not that high on this record. It's more avante garde than previous Jonestown efforts and was largely recorded by Anton himself, although Mark Gardener (Ride) helps out on a song. The post-apocolypic-sounding songs are generally layered electronic loops with a few songs sung in Icelandic. The record was recorded in Anton's new adopted home of Reykjavik, Iceland, as well as Liverpool, England.

Here's a podcast interview of the BJM's Anton Newcombe, courtesy of The Guardian. He discusses topics such as the chemical-inspiration for My Bloody Underground, Amy Winehouse, British Culture, and a couple of his favorite Icelandic bands.

You can download all BJM albums free-of-charge at

However, if you do like the records, please purchase the records from the Committee To Keep Music Evil.


1. Bring Me the Head of Paul McCartney on Heather Mill's Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs On The White House)
2. Golden-Frost
3. Infinite Wisdom Tooth / My Last Night In Bed With You
4. Kicking Jesus
5. We Are The Niggers Of The World
6. Who's Fucking Pissed In My Well
7. Who Cares Why
8. Dark-Wave-Driver/Big Drill Car
9. Monkey Powder
10. Yeah-Yeah
11. Black-Hole-Symphony
12. Auto-Matic-Faggot For The People
13. Ljosmyndir

The Quarter After- Changes Near
In Stores March 18th. Committee to Keep Music Evil

As many BJM fans already know, Anton Newcombe isn't the only talented musician in that band. A few years back, BJM multi-instrumentalist Rob Campanella and his brother Dominic formed the Quarter After, along with Brian Wilson's and Wondermints' drummer, Nelson Bragg. Their self-titled debut The Quarter After was a great collection of Gene Clark-era Byrds mixed with subtle nods to the psychedelic freakouts featured on Husker Du's version of "Eight Miles High".

According to Rob, the new record will still maintain their psychedelic sounds, however, a slight move away from Gene Clark-era Byrds to more Gram Parsons-era Byrds. In other words....a little more twang. Also guesting on the record, Eric Heywood of Son Volt.


1. Sanctuary
2. She Revolves
3. Counting the Score
4. See How Good It Feels
5. Early Morning Rider
6. Nothing out of Something
7. Changes Near
8. Winter Song
9. Turning Away
10. This Is How I Want to Know You
11. Follow Your Own Way
12. Sempre Avanti (Johnny Marr is Not Dead)

New York Dolls- Live at The Fillmore East
Available at shows, Official store release N/A. Mercury, Roadrunner

The legendary New York Dolls reformed a couple years ago after Morrissey requested they play the Meltdown Festival that he was curating. Shortly after the festival, the Dolls lost their fourth member as Arthur "Killer" Kane succumbed to leukemia. The band has carried on and has remained largely true to sound, which listeners should hear in the live recording from last November.


1. Babylon
2. Trash
3. Jet Boy
4. Personality Crisis
5. Rainbow Store
6. Looking for a Kiss
7. Puss 'n' Boots
8. Dance Like a Monkey
9. Pills
10. Lonely Planet Boy

Monday, February 4, 2008

Golden Smog Perform in Front of 20,000 at Obama Rally in Minneapolis

A sold-out crowd of 20,000 (an estimated 5,000 didn’t get in) were on hand Saturday for the "Stand for Change" Presidential Campaign rally for Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. Those 20,000 people were treated to an unexpected performance by Twin Cities' supergroup, Golden Smog.

Gary Louris and Jeff Tweedy warm up the Obama crowd

Golden Smog is a supergroup, who’s primary members are Gary Louris and Marc Perlman (Jayhawks), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum), Craig Jarret Johnson (Run Westy Run, Jayhawks, Iffy, etc.), and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo). Sitting in on drums in place of Jody Stephens (Big Star) was Greg Wieczorek from Joseph Arthur's band.

Due to a busy schedule with Wilco and other side projects, it was Tweedy’s first performance with the band in a few years. However, it wasn’t the first time Tweedy has played an event with the Presidential hopeful. Tweedy and Wilco have performed a number of times at Obama events and the Illinois Senator introduced Wilco at the 2005 Farm Aid Concert.


Looking Forward To Seeing You
Glad and Sorry (The Faces)
To Call My Own

Love & Mercy (Brian Wilson)
Beautiful Mind
Until You Came Along

Not played due to time constraints.

I Can't Keep From Talking

Easy to be Hard
What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding (Elvis Costello)*
Revolution Blues (Neil Young)

*Performed at soundcheck

Here’s a couple photos from the event, courtesy of Baby, You Got a Stew Goin' blog

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leonard Cohen to Tour US

2008 looks to be a prosperous and busy year for Leonard Cohen. First off....the highly influential singer-songwriter will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10th in a ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Well deserved, Leonard.

Secondly, Cohen, who hasn't had a full tour in nearly 15 years, is expected to tour the United States and Canada starting in May, followed up with a tour of Europe, according to his website.

Cohen holds a special place in my record collection.

Although most people who know me, know that I'm not a particularly religious person, I've always had a belief in a universal spirituality. I'm not great at explaining abstract spiritual concepts and I won't try and do that now. However, I can tell you that listening to the records of Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison give me that feeling of universal spirituality. Capturing the essence of the spiritual world of Leonard Cohen is a daunting task, but Kurt Cobain, comes as close as anybody when he sings in the song, Pennyroyal Tea

Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld
So I can sigh eternally

There is something about Leonard's poetry combined with the soothing and comforting voice of Leonard that takes me away. Don't forget that Leonard is a poet at heart. He began as a poet in Montreal, and continued after he combined music to his words.

To get an idea of what the voice of Leonard Cohen can do, watch this performance of Suzanne, recorded at the infamous Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

For proper perspective, you must realize that the Isle of Wight Festival was largely a disaster. It was essentially the last stand of radical anti-capitalism. Many in the young crowd felt it unethical to charge admission to the festival and thus crashed the gates and rioted throughout the event. Many in the crowd harassed the performers during their sets, unfairly characterizing the performers of profit-orientated bourgeois behavior, forgetting that many costs are associated with putting on a festival. Joni Mitchell finally got fed up with the naive crowd and called them "tourists". Bad vibes were all around, essentially a European Altamont.

Watch as Mr. Cohen had everybody's ear for this haunting and spectacular version of Suzanne.

I highly recommend watching the Leonard Cohen documentary, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man. The documentary features performances and interviews with admirers such as Beth Orton, Linda Thompson, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, U2, as well as the man himself.

Sometimes, when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, expecting victory after victory, and you understand deeply that this is not paradise... somehow we're, especially the privileged ones that we are, we somehow embrace the notion that this veil of tears, that it's perfectable, that you're going to get it all straight. I've found that things became a lot easier when I no longer expected to win. - Leonard Cohen

*Recommended Reading*
Beautiful Losers- Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recommended Rock Shows

Jan 26 2008 @ 400 Bar of the best rock and roll live bands around. Their albums don't come close to showing what a great band this is. However, early reviews of their new record, "Angels of Destruction" are claiming it the best since their solid, "Kids in Philly". Come see why Bruce Springsteen sometimes joins this band onstage.

**Editors Note** According to the band's website, their tour has been cancelled. Hopefully, they'll be able to sort out the issues within the band and re-schedule.

Watch Marah live from the Abby Pub in Chicago take a stab at The Replacements "Can't Hardly Wait".

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Feb 6 2008 @ Varsity Theatre

The former Drive-By-Truckers guitarist/singer was forced out on his own and it's benefited both parties involved. Isbell has proven that he's strong enough artistically to succeed on his own. Isbell's 2006 disc "Sirens of the Ditch" was one of the best records of the year. He should also have the very talented Derry deBorja (Son Volt/ex-Canyon) on keyboards, along with his fantastic MuscleShoals-based band, the 400 Unit.

Daniel Johnston
February 8 2008 @ First Avenue

The underground-hero, eccentric, mentally-unstable, singer-songwriter had his story exposed in the 2005 Sundance Award-Winning Film, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." The film is a must see for music wonks. Hopefully, a relatively stable and comfortable Mr. Johnston will show up, showing why everyone from Nirvana to Sonic Youth has championed his recordings.

Watch the trailer for "The Devil and Daniel Johnston"

Mark Olson w/ Janey & Marc
Feb 10 2008 @ 400 Bar

Like Isbell, Mark Olson is another singer that left a great band (The Jayhawks) and had enough talent to succeed on his own. He's been solo for 10 years now and doesn't show any signs of letting up. Opening the show is Olson's former bandmate in the Jayhawks, Marc Perlman, who teams up with Janey Winterbauer (ex-Astronaught Wife) for the folk-Americana duo, Janey and Marc.

Cat Power
Feb 11 2008 @ First Avenue

Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) is also an eccentric, mentally-unstable, singer-songwriter. She also happens to be very gifted and her 2006 record, "The Greatest" was one of the best records of the year. Fortunately, she's coming to the hallowed halls of First Avenue with a great backing soul band that will attempt to recreate the soulfull Memphis sounds featured on "The Greatest". She's now touring on the newly-released covers album, Jukebox. Hopefully, we'll be treated to a couple. Which Chan will show up? The one who has onstage meltdown/trainwreck-type shows or the one who will show why she is such a respected artist.

Watch Cat Power's video for "Living Proof"

Super Furry Animals
Feb 15 2008 @ Varsity Theatre

The Super Furry Animals are the greatest Welsh exports since Tom Jones. The SFA's have been a bit inconsistent on the album front, going from producing must-have masterpieces, "Rings Around the World" and "Fuzzy Logic" to the largely forgettable "Love Kraft". They are now touring on the new Rough Trade release, "Hey Venus!" which is getting good reviews. Additionally, the SFA's put on one of the best live shows anywhere, as I can attest to, having attended their great show at the Fine Line in 2005. They've been known to dress up as furry animals and spacemen and your senses should be overloaded with videos and lights, while playing great psychedelic rock. Not to be missed.

*The Super Furry Animals are also doing a free in-store show at The Electric Fetus at 3:00 PM*

New York Dolls
Feb 24 2008 @ Fine Line Music Cafe

Sure....Johnny Thunders is dead. Jerry Nolan is dead....and Arthur "Killer" Kane is dead. However, this is a legendary and influential band, and despite missing what many people consider the soul of the band, the remaining members, David Johannsen and Syl Sylvain, have assembled a respectable band, to perform the songs we all love and adore. Their 2006 show at First Avenue wasn't mind-blowing, but it was good enough for me to "Put My Arms Around a Memory" again.

Black Moth Super Rainbow
March 27 2008 @ 7th St. Entry

These guys opened for the legendary Flaming Lips last year at the Myth. Their intrumental, psychedelia impressed most of the Flaming Lips crowd....a hard task indeed. This band should be better suited at the Entry, however.

The Hives
Feb 28 2008 @ First Avenue

Yes.....another one of the "The" bands (The Strokes, The White Stripes, etc.) that came to fruition during the latest garage-rawk revolution in 2000. Although I only have one record by The Hives, Veni Vedi Vicious, I love everything about them...their attitude, their story, and of course the music. What good Garage RAWK is all about. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on the set times, they are playing a wall away from the current Garage RAWK kings, The Black Lips, who are playing The Entry.

Black Lips
Feb 28 2008 @ 7th St. Entry

Currently, the Black Lips, are one of my favorite bands. This Atlanta-based quartet was one of the last bands signed by the legendary Greg Shaw at Bomp Records before Shaw's passing. Shaw, like his late friend, Lester Bangs, always had a great ear for music, especially bands that fit into the garage/pyschedelia scene. The Black Lips have toured non-stop the past few years, and if you've ever seen them live, you know how exhausting that must be. They've also played the Late Night With Conan O'Brien show, and despite this exposure, they are still playing the cozy 7th St. Entry. This may be your last chance to see them in a venue this small. Warning....their shows can get a bit out of control......beware.

First Communion Afterparty w/ Gospel Gossip
Feb 29 2008 @ 400 Bar

I first heard about First Communion Afterparty a few years ago. I was going thru a deep addiction to the Brian Jonestown Massacre and their ancillary scene....and so were the Afterparty. I would see them at shows by the Jonestown, Warlocks, The Black Angles, Out Crowd, Dandy Warhols and what seems like a hundred other Anton Newcombe-inspired bands. I first saw them at the 7th St. Entry over a year ago and was totally blown away. I knew right then that this was the best band in Minneapolis...and probably the best band to come from here the last 5 years. I thought they were more inspiring than their musical compadres and much-more-hyped, The Black Angels, and their music was transcendent. I became aquainted briefly with now ex-drummer Mara Apple..sauce (now in the band Shy) and Liam Watkins. I've also had a chance to talk with lead singer, Mama Carin, at a recent Hopewell show. These young-energetic musicians are not only good people, they really know their rock and it translates to their music. This will be one of their last shows before the band heads down to Austin, TX for the South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival. Here's hoping that someone down there tunes into what we've known for quite some time....this is a great band. I've been hoping for a full-length album for quite some time. In the meantime, they do have a live record out, recorded at the Varsity Theatre last year. By the way, Gospel Gossip is a fantastic shoegaze-type band from Northfield. Here's your chance to see two of the best bands from Minnesota in one night.
* Photo courtesy of Tony Nelson

Bob Mould Band
Mar 5 2008 @ First Avenue

Just about 10 years ago, Bob Mould, prior to The Last Dog and Pony Show tour, told his fans that the tour would be the last time EVER that he'd perform with a full-on rock band. Apparently, hearing problems and references to Neil Young & Crazy Horse looking ridiculously old, caused the ex-Husker Du frontman, to pull up the stakes on loud rock-n-roll. Well....fortunately for us....he... like David Bowie.....has renigged on the promise. I've seen Bob Mould probably 20 times and although he's fantastic solo acoustic, there is nothing quite like RAWK Bob. Bob's shows are some of the loudest shows I've ever been too, so if you're a wimp, bring earplugs. His catalog matches up against anyone. This is going to be a great show.

Steven Malkmus & The Jicks
Mar 17 2008 @ First Avenue

I, like a lot of indie-rock kids in the 90's, loved Malkmus' band, Pavement. I haven't followed him much since he's gone solo, but I did get a chance to see him with The Jicks open for Radiohead at Alpine Valley in 2003. Although he went on early and I missed a third of the show, I was impressed.

Black Mountain
Mar 24 2008 @ 7th St. Entry

I'm pissed that I missed these guys the last time thru town. Fortunately, they're back six months later and I get a chance to see what the buzz is all about. All I know is that they're a fantastic heavy-psychedelic/garage band from Vancouver, coming out of the same scene that birthed bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Warlocks, and Dead Meadow.

Gary Louris
Mar 25 2008 @ State Theatre

Gary Louris did a fantastic job leading the Jayhawks thru their post-Mark Olson years. The loss of Olson seemed initially heavy, but the Louris-headed Jayhawks were just as phenomenal as before and they didn't miss a beat. After the final breakup of the legendary Jayhawks, Gary is releasing his first solo record, "Vagabonds" (in stores Feb. 19th) produced by his friend, Chris Robinson (Black Crowes). If the few songs I've heard on his myspace page and other blogs are any indication, this is going to be a great record, start to finish. Gary has been hanging out in the Laural Canyon scene lately, so expect to hear nods to that breeding ground of pyschedelia by way of the Byrds.