After yesterday’s post on Solomon Burke, Eyedea and Ari Up, Chris points out what I should have remembered: Don’t forget that Marion Brown also died recently.
Not that I can say anything that his music didn’t already say on its own. I can, as these things go, remember when I first discovered him via his eponymous ESP album. Crossroads Records on Hawthorne, in Portland, Ore. The cover was black-and-white, no title. I was just getting back into jazz. It didn’t really stick out from most other ESP stuff I was finding at the time.
But Brown’s name popped up time and again. Most notably, on Coltrane’s beast Ascension and Archie Shepp’s Fire Music, two hallmarks of the avant-garde. You could take the boy out of Georgia, but you can’t take Georgia out of the boy, and his series of records inspired by his home state find his vision coming complete: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun is an actual avant-garde outing on the now-pulseless ECM, and Geechee Recollections on Impulse is gracefully biting.
The only other thing to say is that yes, I found out about his death from Superchunk’s Twitter feed. I still think it’s fantastic that the archetypal indie-rock band would record a track called “Song for Marion Brown,” because I am into people listening to all kinds of music no matter what style they happen to excel at playing. And anyway, the lines are blurring more and more each day. Robert Plant’s most recent album contains two songs by Low. Mavis Staples recorded her latest album in Wilco’s recording studio with Jeff Tweedy. And Big L, from once-budding hyphy group the Pack, is putting out experimental spoken-word records on the same label as the Sun City Girls and Yellow Swans. Genres don’t exist anymore.
Somehow this all ties into me buying tickets for and then deciding not to go see Best Coast tonight. I’ve blown hot on Crazy for You and been entertained by its hooks, but ultimately, I feel perplexed that the world’s so-called discerning music listeners are elevating something so stringently unoriginal. If I were a female songwriter, I would be especially frustrated, because Bethany Cosentino has now proven that lifting the Shirelles’ schtick, rhyming the same words over and over, sticking to the same themes of longing and loneliness and adding in a few references to cats and weed are all it takes to achieve stardom, apparently. I love me a good jingle, and Crazy for You is shameless fun, but if I’m going to get really hyped on something it better be more variegated. In that dept., Marion Brown: 1. Best Coast: 0.
Finally, Warpaint’s new album The Fool was released today. Listen to it here.
Noting the passing of a celebrity is like celebrating a pennant win in the bottom of the seventh; there will be two more, according to the self-fulfilling maxim. So when Solomon Burke died at the Amsterdam airport two weeks ago, I held my breath, hoping the next one would be more prepared to go. Someone like Eddie Fisher or Tony Curtis. I didn’t get my wish. Eyedea and Ari Up were gone within two weeks.
Most people online will see photos of Ari Up, née Arianna Forster, read a few lines and assume she was just another screamer in a punk band—especially if they see the cover photo for the Slits’ album, Cut, which shows Forster and her bandmates topless and covered in mud. But the Slits couldn’t have been further from the bedraggled screams of punk, or of X-Ray Spex, who they were often compared to. Juxtapose the roughshod reggae-disco of Cut against records by the Rapture and M.I.A. and it’s clear Forster was really, really ahead of her time.
Eyedea, from the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, was just 28 when he was found dead last week. I did the math, discovering he was still a teenager when his massive statement of purpose, First Born, was released. The triple-album is essentially Exhibit A in the case for the personal/political torch of punk being rekindled in indie hip-hop. Naturally compared to Atmosphere due to geography and pigment, Eyedea expressed a pensive examination of the world and the individual’s place therein with humor, cleverness and heart.
And then Solomon. I was among a few hundred people who once waited over an hour while Solomon Burke was stuck in San Francisco traffic. It was 2005, a free show at Amoeba, and his fans were adhering to the title of his recent record, Don’t Give Up On Me. Patience was rewarded when Burke was led to his red velvet throne and began singing—the huge store was silent while he commanded the afternoon. At one point, a front-row fan shouted a request for Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and in a lightning-fast move, Burke pointed in their direction and immediately went in: “I was boooooorn…”
If there’s any good to come of all this, it’s that you now have three masterpiece records to check out: The Slits’ Cut, Eyedea & Abilities’ First Born, and Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up On Me. It’s rainy season. Enjoy.
This just makes the most sense in the world: Tom Waits is releasing a 78 RPM single next month.
The purveyor of all things arcane last year collaborated with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to record his own take on “Tootie Ma Was a Big Fine Thing” and “Corrine Died on the Battlefield,” both old New Orleans songs that exemplify early examples of Mardi Gras Indian chants. Originally released on a benefit comp to help, um, preserve Preservation Hall, they’re getting pressed on the fastest-spinning slab of vinyl money can buy.
How much money? 50 bucks, sucker. But hey! It benefits Preservation Hall! I can speak from personal experience (i.e. poking my head in the window on a road trip) that Preservation Hall is culturally important. And if you’re a hoarding record collector like me and have way too many weird 78s in your garage but no way to play them, for just $200 you’ll get the record—and a portable 78 RPM record player to play it with!
The record goes on sale Nov. 19 at the Hall itself and Nov. 20 at this here site. They’re only making 500 of ‘em, and I imagine they’ll be snagged up quick, so don’t delay. I mean, jeez, it’s a 78! It’s an idea so novel, it’s amazing John Fahey didn’t think of it first. (Oh wait! He did.)
In related news, I have to tip my hat to Black Swan for releasing his album, In 8 Movements, on goddamn Reel-To-Reel Tape. I told my friend Dan and he joked that someone putting their music out on wax cylinder was next, and lo, just days later, IT HAPPENED. Take that, cassettes!
Also, the Waits/Corbijn book looks like a monster. 200 portraits plus 50 pages of Waits’ images and words. Check it out. And if you hadn’t heard, Waits is now officially nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Zone Music in Cotati may have closed its doors last month, but as promised, new stores are opening in its location.
I stopped by the Vinyl Zone last week, run by a local musician named Jim Cassero. Still in its formative stages of getting stock out of the floor, it features all vinyl—no CDs—and appears to specialize in 1960s records; a banner of Jimi Hendrix hangs in the front window. Jim was pricing records and filling the bins, while the already-stocked walls showcased more collectible records by Can, the Misfits, the Who, Bo Diddley, John Coltrane and many more. Jim’s not new to the vinyl business; in 1999 he moved to Wisconsin and ran a store in Green Bay called Amazing Records, which you can get a local-news taste for by watching a video here. I didn’t ask how many trucks he filled with records when he moved back to open in Cotati, but he’s got a ton of boxes and seems happy to be home in California. (Years ago, Jim played guitar in the metal band Vicious Rumors, although he seemed surprised when I mentioned this fact to him.) He’s shooting for an official grand opening in October, but in the meantime feel free to stop by and see what he’s got. I picked up a Dodo Greene record on Blue Note, along with some Ron Carter and Young-Holt Unlimited LPs from the dollar bin. Not bad!
Of pressing concern to most who patronized Zone Music, of course, is the promised new music store opening on the premises. Longtime Zone employees Neville Hormuz, Tim Haggerty, Marie Parker and Randy Quan are in the process of getting Loud and Clear Audio & Visual up and running in a slightly smaller space at the old Zone Music location. Though their behind-the-scenes specialty will be audio and video installation, the storefront will carry all the basic necessities Zone had—strings, pedals, cables, picks, drumsticks, heads, microphones and much more. I talked to Hormuz, who said he’s thrilled to see a music store still at the site, and to still be working with the public. “I can’t help it, my heart’s in retail,” he said, mentioning that while Zone was going through their recent troubles he actually worked a month at the store for free. Not wanting the new place to have the in-and-out feel of a convenience store, Loud and Clear will also carry a wide and ever-changing selection of consignment guitars and amps to keep the place interesting. Ironically, Hormuz and the others hadn’t even thought of opening the store until they read Zone owner Frank Hayhurst in the press talking about Zone’s demise, and promising that a new store would open in its spot!
Loud and Clear opens with limited hours on Sept. 22, and an official grand opening follows on Oct. 1. Still in full swing at the site are Zone Recording, a full-service recording studio run by the experienced and capable Blair Hardman, and Backstage Technical Services, the dependable, perpetually cluttered repair shop run by longtime soldering-gun wielder Kent Fossgreen.
The news hit earlier today as the featured story on the front page of the Press Democrat website: “Concerts Banned at Phoenix Theater.” The reality is that there’s nothing to be alarmed about; the Phoenix is going to be up and running again next week after they provide the fire department with a light list of compliance and protocol to some very normal, regular ordinances.
Tom Gaffey, manager at the Phoenix, seemed calm when I talked to him. “I’m happy to take a weekend off, quite frankly,” he said.
What is alarming is that the initial newspaper article, which only quotes the Petaluma Fire Department’s side of the story, states that the shutdown is due to circumstances at the Smashing Pumpkins show on Wednesday, where “no one in an official capacity kept track of the number of people admitted, exits were blocked and some people entered without paying.”
That’s simply not true, says Jim Agius, who books the theater. He says that between the will-call list and the hard tickets taken at the door, the Phoenix kept a clear record of the number of people admitted to the Smashing Pumpkins show. “Their allegations in the newspaper are false,” Agius says. “There were four police officers here, they walked the building, they took pictures. They asked Tom about the capacity.”
Agius says that while the police officers were at the show, they didn’t express any concern about apparent blocked exits or other dangers. As such, he was shocked the next day to find that the show was allegedly “in flagrant disregard of the California Fire Code and laws designed to protect public safety.”
“If that was the case,” reasons Agius, while the police officers were there, “why did the show not get shut down? The whole thing doesn’t really add up to me.”
In stating that people were let in without paying (that’d be a media list, which I was on, and which hard tickets accounted for) the Fire Department implies that security was lax; in fact, there were 30 people working security that night, and I saw them with my own eyes doing their job—patting people at the entrance, searching bags, busting people who lit up.
The Fire Department also claims the police that night used a “pitch counter” to determine attendance, which sounds like a snazzy piece of crowd-estimating technology but is really just this. Sometimes staff stands at the door to a venue and uses it to count people as they come in. I didn’t see any police officer using one at the door, and I was there for several minutes, checking in as media. Neither Gaffey nor Agius saw one either.
I also walked around the entire perimeter of the floor at the show, and entered and observed the balcony. At no point did I see an overcrowded or unsafe venue. The Fire Department says there were 900 people at the show, 180 over capacity. “As the night went on, I counted up the will call and tickets,” says Gaffey. “I don’t believe we were over capacity.”
It gets fishier. The Fire Department gave Gaffey the notice at 3:30pm on Thursday—Gaffey looked it over, and saw that the Phoenix was already in compliance with most items on their list, such as having a security protocol on file with the Fire Department. Yet the department claimed they have no such thing on file. “We actually did file that,” says Gaffey. “We, as a board, filed that together. It got dropped personally off at their office.”
As for the rest of the list? Simple things to deal with, said Gaffey. “I said, ‘Great, I’ll have this to you tomorrow,'” he says. Only one problem: the Fire Department informed him that all city offices were closed on Friday, and that he would have to cancel any scheduled shows over the weekend.
Here’s where the pieces fall together. The Police Department in the past has been vocal about their opposition to rap shows, and particularly about Andre Nickatina. Coincidentally, the Phoenix had Andre Nickatina booked for tonight, raising some eyebrows about the timing of the Police Department’s data-collection and the Fire Department’s subsequent notice. The Nickatina show has been postponed.
(The last time the Phoenix was forced to put a hiatus on hip-hop shows in 2008—similarly causing the Press Democrat to use the linkbaiting but incorrect headline of “Phoenix Theater Bans Rap Concerts”—what was the first show to be rescheduled? Andre Nickatina.)
“Our hands are tied, no matter what happened,” says Jim Agius. “All we can do is comply with their list.” Both Gaffey and Agius said they were confident the theater would be open again as normal next week.
[UPDATE: The Press Democrat talked to the Phoenix and updated their story.]
The Healdsburg Jazz Festival is back. And so is Jessica Felix.
After the outpouring of support for Felix, the current Board of Directors of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival has voted unanimously to reinstate Jessica Felix to the Board and to elect her Chairperson. All five members of the current Board are resigning, effective immediately. Felix will book a jazz festival in 2011, and will form a new Board.
This isn’t just great news—it’s incredible news. How rare is it that an entire Board of Directors resigns over public outcry? Over a small little town’s jazz festival?
I called Felix, who’d just returned from signing papers and putting her name back on the bank account. “I’m so glad,” she told me. “I’m just overwhelmed by all the support. It’s been heartwarming to know how much people care.”
As reported earlier, Felix was fired five weeks ago from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, which she founded in 1999, and the Festival Board announced a hiatus for the 2011 season. Multiple media outlets covered the actions taken by the Board, including this one, and comments protesting the decision piled up at the festival’s website. The Board bluntly erased them all, apparently oblivious to Google cache; this only prompted more online comments from fans and musicians alike, including George Cables, David Weiss, Charlie Musselwhite, Bennett Friedman, Adam Theis and many more.
Key among the responses were those from Kathy Martin of Santa Rosa Systems, pledging to cancel her annual $25,000 sponsorship, and Babatunde Lea, who vowed without Felix not to participate in the Operation Jazz Band program in area schools, the only activity the Board had planned for 2011.
Felix said she heard the news by email.
“We have a victory—we’ve got a festival back with a tremendous debt,” she laughed. “It was a fight for jazz, and jazz won, and we haven’t won the battle yet, but jazz really won out here.”
Winning the economic battle means erasing the $30,000 debt that the festival faces, and to that end, Felix is planning the 2011 Festival as a benefit. She also says she’ll increase her outreach to area restaurants and wineries. “Now people realize finally that this festival cannot be taken for granted, and that it meant something,” she said. “That’s what shocked me. How much it meant to people.”
I spoke with Ray Manzarek this week about settling into the Napa Valley and playing the Napa River Festival this weekend (he’ll be doing a few Doors songs with the Napa Valley Symphony). He’s always kept his ears out for new bands, and had nothing but praise for Napa’s own Body or Brain, in whose video he’s made a memorable cameo. They filmed it at The Shop in Sonoma, and Manzarek’s really pretty excellent in it:
“I’m just some psychedelic guy from the ’60s.” Ha!
Of course, I also had to ask him if he remembered anything from the legendary night the Doors played the Grace Pavilion at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds in 1968. He couldn’t recall much other than the band played in a boxing ring, apparently left over from the night before. “That was the only time the Doors ever played inside a boxing ring,” he confirmed. “What in the world was it doing there?”
There are some photos from that show here (scroll down), and apparently it was the first show filmed for the Doors documentary Feast of Friends. So . . . some footage must exist somewhere, right?
After a Bohemian article in March of this year, quite a few readers found resonance in the outsider music of Jack Attack, a.k.a. Jack Springs, a high-functioning mentally retarded heavy metal fan who works rounding up shopping carts at G&G Supermarket in Santa Rosa. The story of his trials growing up and finding catharsis in music was incredible to me, and his music, posted previously here, even more so.
So it makes me happy to share more of Jack’s music today. I’ve gotten his most recent recording, and along with themes about his soul no longer being destroyable, his rights being violated and his position as a singing God, he includes a timeless warning to the arachnid species.
Dear readers, here’s Jack Attack’s newest hit, “I Hate Spiders”:
As reported earlier, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s Board of Directors last month fired festival founder and artistic director Jessica Felix. And guess what? People were mad! Musicians who played the festival vowed to return only if Felix was back on as artistic director, sponsors who contributed $25,000 per year pledged to cease their financial support in Felix’s absence, and fans lamented the very plain and obvious fact that firing Felix is tantamount to ripping out the heart of the festival.
All this happened in the comments section of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s website. It was a lively forum of voices—mostly smart, some funny, all of them upset—but apparently, it was too much for the Board of Directors to handle. All the comments were removed from the site yesterday. Says the home page: “For further comments, please email us at [email protected]”
I’ve made my opinions on the matter of Felix’s firing pretty clear so far, but this latest action of erasing people’s public comments is completely atrocious. So with the aid of Google cache, here’s the collected 46 comments that were taken down from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s site. Click through below to read them all, and feel free to continue to comment below.
[UPDATE: It worked! Felix is back and so is the festival. Read here.]
This Just In: Smashing Pumpkins are playing the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Wednesday, September 8.
The Phoenix is among the smallest venues that the band is playing on their current tour, which sees them visiting 17,000- and 18,000-capacity stadiums after they leave Petaluma. Founding member Billy Corgan is the only original member in Smashing Pumpkins. (He tends to ramble at Smashing Pumpkins shows.)
Tickets, at $40 a pop, go on sale to the general public this Saturday, 10am, via InTicketing. A 101.7-FM “The Fox” presale happens on Friday at 10am. If you really want to be guaranteed a ticket, lining up outside the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for an old-fashioned cash-transaction hard ticket is recommended. The store opens at 10am.