This just in: No Age is playing a launch party for Shockhound on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Rickshaw Stop, and tickets for the show are FREE.
All you have to do is click here, fill out a simple form with your name and email, and you’re on the list +1.
Are you down? I’m down. Everybody’s Down.
I’ll keep this post up for as long as tickets seem available.
Mary Wieczorek has been sitting on this bench, outside the Phoenix Theater, since Monday afternoon. Wrapped in a sweatshirt and red coat to keep away the evening chill, she’s first in line to see Hanson, who are playing here Wednesday night. All told, from the time she arrived here yesterday at 2pm, with a sleeping bag, to the time Hanson plays their first note on stage, she will have waited 56 hours in front of the Phoenix Theater.
Sound strange? She’s not alone. There’s people here lined up from Los Angeles, from Gilroy, from the other side of the country, all camping out on the sidewalk for the Hanson show tomorrow night.
Mary is from Vallejo. She doesn’t go to school. Instead, she drives around the country seeing Hanson; this will be her 51st time seeing the band. Explaining why she would wait for so long in front of a venue for a show that is definitely not sold out, she offers two simple words: “Front row.”
Mary first heard Hanson during the “Mmm-bop” era. On August 16, 1998, at 1:54 in the morning, she met Taylor Hanson outside of a hotel in New York City after she and her mom followed the Hanson tour bus for three hours. He was wearing a tight blue shirt, dark blue tight cords, silver boots, and had a red rubber band in his hair. Ten years later, he’s still her favorite Hanson.
Sitting on the same bench, wrapped in a coat, is Mary’s mom. She stirs some takeout soup in a Styrofoam container, keeping warm. “It’s fun,” she says.
How does Mary think this Hanson show in Petaluma is going to be any different than the 50 or so shows she’s already seen? “There’s not a big crowd the night before,” she says, looking down the length of the sidewalk. “And there usually is. So yeah, I’m, like, wondering what’s going on.”
Getting ready to sleep on the next bench down is Nicole, from Philadelphia, who has been following the band for the last two and a half months. By the time Hanson takes the stage in Petaluma, she will have waited 30 hours outside the theater. Nicole, who does not want to give her last name, estimates that she’s seen Hanson 300 times.
Explaining what she would be doing back home in Philadelphia were she not following Hanson around on tour, she, too, offers two simple words: “Being sad!”
Like Mary, Nicole has met the band numerous times; they often recognize both girls. She says that she likes all of the band members equally, but that her favorites sometimes change: “It depends on the day,” she says, “and their attitudes.”
Nicole admits that most Hanson shows are the same—“they throw in a curveball every now and then,” she says, “but for the most part, it’s pretty standard.”
So. . . why is she camping out overnight for the show?
“They’re the greatest band ever!” she gushes. “They make me happy.”
It’s too bad that you didn’t come down to the Crooked Fingers show. I didn’t like their new album at first, either, but it started sinking in these last few days. The big question is: why did we convince ourselves that they’d only play a bunch of new songs? The show was amazing, and they played stuff from every album.
Eric Bachmann came out, strapped on his nylon-string and played “You Must Build a Fire,” from Dignity and Shame—a beautiful start. The band picked up their instruments for a completely reworked rock version of “Bad Man Coming,” from Red Devil Dawn, then “Crowned in Chrome” from the first record, then fucking “Islero,” and then “Man of War” from To the Races!
I’ve got this thing sometimes where if I know that a friend of mine would have really, really loved a show, I try to downplay how wonderful it was, you know, “Aw, you didn’t miss much.” But I can’t lie, man. Crooked Fingers last night was something very moving and special.
I know that you’re a big Red Devil Dawn fan—me too—and part of what’s great about that album is that it’s so serious; it’s a real deep meditation on love and redemption. That’s the way it hits me, at least, and it coulda just been the time frame that it came out and what was going on in my life and all—Perfecting Loneliness and Tallahassee were both around the same time—but anyway, Crooked Fingers weren’t all super-serious onstage, and it was cool.
Eric Bachmann announced that he’d hit a deer in the van last night, and everyone at the Great American Music Hall sighed this big “awwwwww” of sorrow, which made him laugh. “Yeah,” he said, “this is San Francisco. I’m from North Carolina. We’re like, jaded.” (Or maybe he said, “Didja eat it?’” It was hard to tell.)
They had this really cool girl, Miranda Brown, in high-rise jeans and brown leather boots playing bass and singing; there was this other girl Elin Palmer who I think’s been in the band a long time playing violin and singing, too, and occasionally, for songs like “Sleep All Summer” (which was fucking AMAZING) they’d stand like angels with their hands behind their backs, cooing wordless backup vocals while Bachmann was all, “Why won’t you fall back in love with me?”
The high-rise jeans girl sang this funny tune between songs about cocks and balls being strung across the ocean, which I guess was her response to the front wheels falling off of their tour van or something, it was pretty funny.
All in all, they only played five songs from their new album, which come on, it’s not that bad. Please listen to it some more. Oh, and the Great American was only half-full, which was sad, in a way. At one point, I stood at the back, during “New Drink for the Old Drunk,” looking at the sparse crowd, thinking, “Can this be for real? Like, am I wrong, or is this one of the world’s greatest songwriters and performers here right now and, like, only 150 or so people are here?”
It coulda been that it was a Tuesday night, maybe, or I wonder if it has anything to do with Crooked Fingers currently not having a label that could give them some good tour support. It’s interesting and all that they did their own record, but c’mon. Merge! Why would you leave that?!
Oh, shit, I almost forgot, they did three Archers of Loaf songs. “White Trash Heroes,” which was really great, and “Harnessed in Slums,” fuckin’ a, and believe it or not, “Web in Front.” Dude! They closed the night with “Little Bird,” and it was so sweet and awesome.
I hate to rub it in, but you really missed out. Maybe you could drive to Los Angeles to see ‘em tonight, it’d totally be worth the eight-hour drive.
Anyway, see you around. Interpol still blows.
When I arrived at Warren Auditorium tonight, there were already more than 20 people standing in the hallway outside the theater, craning their necks to see through the doors. There were additional seats, full of people, placed behind the stage. There were speakers going out into the lobby, where even more people stood.
You shoulda seen it, Mel. You shoulda seen it.
It is unfortunate that one of the greatest listening experiences to be had in Sonoma County all year had to come with a tinge of sadness. Mel Graves, the great bassist and composer, died on Saturday of terminal cancer, just one day before the big farewell concert that he’d organized and looked forward to. The music heard tonight—presented by Mel’s alumni, close friends and colleagues—was so incredible, so blossoming and full of life. It was an utterly fitting tribute for a passionate, funny, smart, brilliant man.
I was lucky to be able to hang out with Mel a couple times in the last year. He was a no-nonsense soul who was at equal ease discussing the difference in the 1964 and 1965 versions of Charles Mingus’ “Meditations” as he was accepting life’s ultimate key change. The last time I stopped by his Petaluma home, his girlfriend Pam was taking care of him with what was obviously a great deal of love. He was surrounded by notes, preparing for this farewell concert, suggested by his friend Jessica Felix and which he himself titled, in pure Mel fashion, “Movin’ On.” He was at peace.
My only wish is that he could have seen the gales of love that were showered on him tonight. Hopefully he felt it.
Among the highlights: Denny Zeitlin, recalling the phone call he received in 1968 from a young Graves who said “I’ve just come out from the Midwest, and I love your stuff on Columbia, and I want to play with you.” (Graves and Zeitlin would go on to play together for 40 years.) Zeitlin sat down, chalked up his hands, and played a commanding, emotionally charged improvisation which led into “What Is This Thing Called Love” before it ended, hanging in air, unresolved.
Mel Martin, recalling the inconvenience of working so often with someone who shared his name. Both Mels eventually discovered that Martin’s Melvyn was spelled with a Y; Graves’ Melvin with an I. “He’d call me up, and say ‘Hey there, Y,’ and I’d say, Hey, I.’ I will miss that.” The band then kicked into “Flamenco Sketches,” and Martin played a razor-sharp cascading solo.
One of Graves’ specific requests for the night’s program was for Zeitlin and guest pianist Art Lande to sit together and play a four-hand piano duet, and he would have been bowled over at the results. Assuming the “missionary position” with crossed arms, the two oscillated from battling each other to cooperating on the keys in what was the night’s most freewheeling and humorous moment.
But most of all, every player on stage seemed to exhibit a certain extra empathy. There was a lot of listening going on between the players, and perhaps this was why they were so wonderful to listen to. During the final number, a solitary chorus of Gordon Jenkins’ beautiful ballad “Goodbye,” each member of the bandstand was united in the cause to properly bid farewell to their friend. The standing ovation from the full theater was overwhelming.
Aw, you shoulda seen it, Mel. You shoulda seen it.
We went to the polls and filled in the small rectangle with the weird purple pen they gave us. Stared at it for an extra second, and then an extra five seconds, just to let the sight sink in and burn in our memory.
We tried to go to work like it was just another ordinary day. Threw the idea out halfway through. Needed to share in the experience. Stopped by the bike shop, the deli, the record store, the coffee stand, anywhere there were other people to see. The buzz. In the air.
We glued ourselves to the news, and we waited. The TV, the Internet, the BlackBerry, the iPhone. Each little drop hitting like an IV drip. It had been years. Years. Years. Years. Years. Years.
We made brownies, cake, pizza. Baked pies. And we watched it come: Pennsylvania first. Then, Ohio. Sweet Lord. Yes we can.
We screamed. We threw our arms in the air. We danced in the streets. We kissed complete strangers. We cried on our couches. We howled at the night. We called our loved ones. We shook with excitement. We lit off fireworks.
We did it. We stood up and said no to the criminal abomination of the Bush presidency. To the war that never, ever made sense. To the damnable offense of torture. To the contemptuous campaign of McCain. To the farce of the Palin pick. To the wrongheaded policies. To the outright lies.
We had a long, amazing night. And then we woke up, lagging a little. Did it really happen? Glugged down some coffee, threw on the new People Under the Stairs record. Opened the blinds. Slowly realized it wasn’t a dream. The world is new. Goddamn.
We did it.
I woke up early this morning, beating the alarm clock, for a very simple, excited reason.
Today is the day that the United States will elect Barack Obama as its next president.
The sun has just barely come up, but I know this with my entire being. I don’t know this because of the polls, which are surely in his favor. I don’t know this because almost every single pundit in the country is predicting an Obama victory.
I know this because I’ve known it since 2004, when I watched Obama’s indescribably brilliant speech from the Democratic National Convention. Like most people who saw the speech, I was floored. And I knew.
Shortly thereafter, the New Yorker ran a posthumous tribute to Richard Avedon. It consisted of an unfinished portfolio by the photographer called “Democracy,” and one of the portraits was of Barack Obama. I ripped it out of the magazine and put it on the refrigerator.
“Who’s that?” my wife asked.
“That’s Barack Obama,” I said—I pronounced his name “barrack” instead of “bar-rock”—”and he’s staying on our refrigerator until he becomes our president.”
For someone who genuinely loves America, the Bush administration has been utter psychological torture. It’s made me so angry, so constantly, that I moved to that rare and horrible place beyond anger. Cynicism is nothing more than the defense mechanism of the truly beleaguered, and apathy nothing more than its illusionist, forever cloaking the unbridled rage deep down inside.
I knew I wasn’t alone. I also knew that Obama had the same effect on others as he had on me; namely, that after watching his speech, I felt my anger slip away to be replaced with hope. After years of despair, I lifted my tired head and smiled to strangers on the street. I felt connected to my fellow man, and I knew that caring for the well-being of others and the direction of this country was not, as previously demonstrated, a cold, dead artifact of the 20th Century.
It’s been a long election cycle, but one in which my faith has never wavered—even as the Bohemian goes to press this very afternoon with a music column of mine that hinges entirely on an Obama victory. But I know.
And yes, it’ll feel strange when this day is over. When the confetti is swept up, and when the Champagne bottles are recycled, and when the real task of getting America back on track is at hand. For now, though, I’m going to ride my bike down to the polling place to cast my vote, sing a few verses of “The Land of Hope and Dreams,” and go to work.
The rest is history.
She died over the weekend in Los Angeles. A recluse. Fixated on the 1950s.
There’s plenty of great Yma Sumac records to remember her by—Voice of the Xtbay and Legend of the Sun Virgin are her more famous—but to hear Yma Sumac’s 1971 hard rock album Miracles is to know the true melting pot of America: a Peruvian-born singer with a five octave range singing for a heavy metal band arranged by Les Baxter. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime albums; there’s nothing else like it, and in a way, Sumac’s piercing wails amount to what Rob Halford and so many other heavy metal singers tried to achieve afterwards.
There’s a pretty good representation of what Yma Sumac was all about in this video. Unfortunately, no videos of the Miracles era seem to exist online, so I dug out my copy of the LP for your listening, uh, “pleasure.” Here’s the first song, “Remember”:
Even Joe the Plumber, who just announced he’s signing a recording deal with Aaron Tippin. Can he sing his way out of a paper bag? No. Can he play guitar? No. No big deal. Nothing ProTools can’t fix.
I can see it now. The album, called Unlicensed to Ill, will feature such songs as “Lyin’ to Obama In Order to Not Really Prove a Point,” “Wow, I’m an Expert on Israel All of a Sudden,” “Maybe I’ll Make Over $250,000 From This Song,” “Back Taxes Suck and I Hate Payin’ Em,” and “Don’t Take My Word For It, But Wait, Actually, Maybe You Should, Even Though I Don’t Know Anything, So Don’t Ask Me Who I’m Voting For, It’s Private, Wait a Minute, Where Are You Going, Don’t Go Anywhere, I’m Gonna Endorse McCain, as if That’s News to Anyone Who Has Half a Brain and Hasn’t Figured Out That I Was Hella Lying and Being Antagonizing to Obama All Along, Please Keep Me in the Spotlight, Please, So I Don’t Have to Actually Get My Plumber’s License.”
Comments received this morning—all from the same IP address, all from Yahoo accounts—on the City Sound Inertia post “Ralph Stanley for Obama”:
wes p | firstname.lastname@example.org | IP: 220.127.116.11 | Oct 29, 7:45 AM
I would like to make known my deep disappointment with Mr Stanley reguarding his blind support for Barack Obama. When one looks at Senator Obama’s voting record and his direction for America, it is obvious that he does not have Southwest VA’s best interest in mind. There are a lot of small business owners in VA that are going to be severly affected by Mr Obama’s tax plan. His radical associations (even with known domestic terrorists) and others raise serious questions about his loyalty. I have been a long time fan of Ralph Stanley’s music, however his recent claim that Obama will be good for the people of SW VA, in my opinion shows poor judgement. I think that Mr Stanley’s judgement and reputation will be severly damaged if Obama is elected.
Annissa Cauble | email@example.com | IP: 18.104.22.168 | Oct 29, 8:00 AM
I cannot believe as a good southern boy you would be in support on Barack Obama!!!!! John Mccain has served his country in all capacities and has weathered many storms.. Shame on YOU!!!!I will never listen to your music AGAIN!!! Barack Obama’s tax plan will not benefit VA and he does not have anyone’s best interest in mind except his own and the wealthy! I think you have “LOST YOUR MARBLES” not to mention your judgement is impaired.
Kim Duckworth | firstname.lastname@example.org | IP: 22.214.171.124 | Oct 29, 8:07 AM
I have to say I was disapointed when I heard RS was a supporter of Obama. You should know better. What are you thinking, this could hurt your repatation. I am a firm beleiver in the good ol boy system. OBAMA – BADIN YOU BETTER BE CAREFUL!!!!!
OSAMA – BINLADIN
This is what it’s come to for these morons—creating multiple Yahoo addresses in order to leave comments on some tiny, inconsequential music blog in California. The factual, logical and grammatical failures on display here only highlight the obvious fact that those trying to fight Obama with racism are entirely at the end of their rope. A desperate act for a truly desperate campaign.
Feel free to add your comment here.
Goldenvoice is a concert promotion company that grew out of the Los Angeles punk rock underground of the 1980s into a huge entity that today essentially dominates the market in the greater Southern California area. They’re now doing shows in San Francisco at the Regency Center Grand Ballroom, and they have brought everything that’s wrong about Los Angeles with them. I nominate that we send them back home. I’m not alone.
The Grand Ballroom (don’t confuse it for the old Avalon Ballroom, which is next door, on Sutter Street) is a beautifully ornate venue with tall ceilings, a wrap-around balcony and elegant chandeliers. One can only imagine how great it’d be in the hands of, say, Another Planet, because it’s clear that Goldenvoice is blowing what could potentially be a great venue.
First off—it’s hard not to be irritated by the very imposing security presence. There’s the usual pat-down, what’s-this-you’ve-got-here at the door, but once inside, it’s all hey-where-are-you-goin’ and being told not to walk or stand in what appears to be wide open, unrestricted spaces. The sense of authoritarian rule isn’t in-your-face, but it’s constant, and it makes for a lousy experience when you feel like you’re constantly being monitored.
Second—I understand that the Grand Ballroom is a difficult room for sound, but it’s not an impossible room for sound. It’s the same dimensions as the Fillmore, which has great sound. The problem is that the sound equipment isn’t permanent; Goldenvoice has to bring in all their speakers, boards, monitors and stacks for each individual show and get everything dialed in each time. It’s an extremely limiting situation, and it leads to the bands sounding utterly horrible.
Third—Goldenvoice takes a 20% cut of bands’ T-shirt sales, and a 5% cut of their CD and LP sales. This is unspeakable. There is no respectable reason for promoters to take a cut of a band’s merchandise. Especially their music. It’s not unusual among the more sleazeball promoters, and it’s the norm for huge concert promoters like Live Nation, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Fourth—tickets for the Grand Ballroom are sold through Ticketmaster, which I think is totally inexcusable considering the far more fan-friendly ticketing options available these days. Ticketmaster is like the Bush presidency—a series of failed policies and “screw you” attitudes—and it needs to die like the embarrassment that it is.
The first time I saw Against Me! at 924 Gilman Street, obviously none of these issues were a problem. That was five years ago, and a lot has changed for Against Me! since then—not the least of which is selling way more records and playing way larger shows, for better and for worse.
The pivotal moment came when I saw them at the Warfield just before New Wave was released, shoved onto an awkward major-label co-billing with Mastodon. They seemed bored, and the new songs were awful. Imagine my surprise when they got more popular than ever, and New Wave, a slickly produced pile of crap, became Spin‘s Album of the Year.
And yet I couldn’t completely abandon Against Me!, as much as I certainly tried.
I still remembered the time they came to Santa Rosa on their first tour and stopped by the Last Record Store. They cruised the aisles, and bought some records, and then one of them asked, “Yeah, um… we’re a band on tour, and we’re playing a show at a place called Jessie Jean’s tonight, but we don’t see any flyers for it at all. Do you think you could maybe tell people to come?”
“Sure, ” I said. “What’s your band’s name?”
“Against Me!,” the guy replied.
I lit up with excitement. “You guys are reinventing Axl Rose!” I said.
“Yeah… how d’you know that?”
“We carry your record over here, look!”
And then one by one, they all filed over to the ‘A’ section, and held up their record, amazed. That’s the Against Me! that I still see in my head: four guys just totally stoked to see their own band in a record store on the other side of the country.
Last night, Against Me! played a fair balance of songs old and new, ensuring that longtime fans still had something to shout about. The older songs got most joyous reactions, naturally—”Cliché Guevara,” “Walking is Still Honest”—but one of the reasons I like seeing Against Me! live is to be reminded of songs like “Borne of the FM Waves of the Heart,” which is a highlight of New Wave.
Sure, new clunkers abounded. Despite its well-intentioned subject matter, “Anna is a Stool Pigeon,” from Tom Gabel’s new solo album, sounded forced and uninspiring, fulfilling the cliché of most solo album material. And I still can’t bring myself to buy New Wave, simply because I’d be picking up the needle and skipping songs so much that it wouldn’t be worth it.
The band’s gigantic banner draped the back wall of the stage, but the hall was half-empty. Though Against Me! is one of the most energetic and cardiovascular bands in the world, lots of people past the first 10 rows just stood there, like they were watching a cooking show or something. It felt a tad like much ado about little, until the encore, “We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules,” which proved yet again that Against Me! knows how to close the hell out of a show.
First people from the crowd began jumping on stage and singing along. Then, ditching his drums to help lead a huge clapping breakdown, Warren ran and stagedove into the crowd—flying through the air right exactly on the downbeat when the band, with a guest drummer who appeared out of nowhere, kicked back in and finished the song. It was fuckin’ nuts, and so totally fun, and the best part is that the overzealous security guards on the other side of the barricade were going crazy. Ha!
Made me love ‘em all over again.