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What the Hell’s Wrong with Neil Young?

Posted by: on May 7, 2008 | Comments (1)

For what has literally been decades of anticipation, Neil Young fans have been waiting for the ultimate Neil Young box set. Years have rolled by. All of his comrades and co-workers released box sets. Even Buffalo Springfield released a box set. Nothing from Neil.

This week, Neil Young announced that he’s finally satiating the thirst for his massive treasure trove of old recordings by releasing a huge 10-disc set this fall—hell yes, finally!

Here’s what sucks: the Neil Young Archive, as it’s called, is only coming out on Blu-ray.

Do you own a Blu-ray player? Yeah, me neither. They’re $400.

The set, announced as the first of five volumes, will contain 128 tracks, 500 photos, letters, old papers, and additional material designed to be viewed on the screen while listening to the music. In his press conference, Young encouraged his mostly middle-aged fans to buy a Sony Playstation 3 in order to be able to “experience” the box set. “We want people to spend the same hours on it like a video game,” he said.

You know what? Neil Young has been beating this misguided audiophile horse for far too long. He’s latched onto DVD audio like it was the second coming of Christ and saturated the market with awkwardly-shaped and utterly confusing versions of his albums—many of which get returned by customers who can’t listen to them, and which go back to collect dust on warehouse shelves or clog up landfills. His belligerence with the technology is a waste, and the world is not going to get in step with him on the idea. It’s expensive, it’s ego-driven, it’s elitist, and I think it’s pretty much the last straw.

Tom Waits Tours; Eugene Hütz Wanders Off

Posted by: on May 5, 2008 | Comments (0)

Living, as we do, in the same area as one of the greatest songwriters to ever live, we here at City Sound Inertia HQ heard through the grapevine long ago that Tom Waits was touring this year “through the south.” And knowing, as we do, of Waits’ propensity to keep the king away from his castle, so to speak, we didn’t hold our breath for a Bay Area show.

Waits announced his tour this morning. A round-trip ticket to Phoenix, AZ is $240. We’re seriously considering it.

June 17 – Phoenix, AZ | June 18 -Phoenix, AZ | June 20 – El Paso, TX | June 22 – Houston, TX | June 23 – Dallas, TX | June 25 – Tulsa, OK | June 26 – St Louis, MO | June 28 – Columbus, OH | June 29 – Knoxville, TN | July 1 – Jacksonville, FL | July 2 – Mobile, AL | July 3 – Birmingham, AL | July 5 – Atlanta, GA

In other news, correspondents tell us that Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz totally fuckin’ rocked the walls off the French Garden restaurant on Saturday night in Sebastopol. To finish off his time spent at the Herdeljezi Festival, Hütz lined up a bunch of shot glasses along a table, filled them with strong liquor, and imbibed to his Romani heart’s content while climbing on top of chairs and powering through a fiery set of traditional gypsy tunes. (You can read David Sason’s Bohemian interview with Hütz here.)

Hütz had been spending the weekend staying at his buddy Les Claypool’s house, and someone close to the Claypool family informs us that Hütz’s wandering spirit must have overtaken him after the show on Saturday.

He never came home that night.

Collapsing Under the Weight of Loma Prieta

Posted by: on Apr 23, 2008 | Comments (1)

I heard some of the final mixes of Loma Prieta’s new full-length last week. I can’t even describe it. It’s insane.

I’m not the first one to note the disconnect between the band members’ calm, collected personalities and Loma Prieta‘s unhinged, ballistic hardcore, I know, but it’s still shocking to hear them play like electrocuted behemoths on PCP. The album, from the songs I heard, is a sprawling, crazed fury of invention, and holy crapballs, the band is actually touring Europe next month. Europe!

The record, called Last City, comes out May 9. A record release show happens that night at the Bike Kitchen in SF.

Outside Lands Festival – Full Lineup Announced

Posted by: on Mar 25, 2008 | Comments (2)

Just got back from the Warriors game. Seven separate heart attacks. Baron matching Kobe point-for-point. Behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder layups and insane hail marys. Last few minutes, the lead dribbles back and forth. Bell: tied. Overtime. Place is in a frenzy. Came down to four seconds left. Monta gets a whistle and it’s bullshit. Kobe sinks two from the line and it’s over. Lakers 123, Warriors 119.

After pounding for three hours, my heart wasn’t even strong enough to break.

You see a game like that, you think you’ve seen it all. But no. I got home and caught the just-announced full lineup for the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park on August 22, 23, and 24. Have you taken a look at everyone that’s playing this thing?!

I’ve got my own draft picks for the festival: Broken Social Scene, M. Ward, Manu Chao, Radiohead, Sharon Jones, Black Mountain, The Cool Kids, Lyrics Born, Tom Petty, Two Gallants, Nellie McKay, Primus, Steve Winwood, Beck, Little Brother, The Coup, Drive-by Truckers, Cafe Tacuba, and K’naan is where you’ll find me.

Also on board for the weekend: Wilco, Ben Harper, Widespread Panic, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Regina Spektor, Jack Johnson, Devendra Banhart, Cold War Kids, Andrew Bird, Steel Pulse, ALO, Matt Nathanson, Dredg, Grace Potter, Donovan Frankenreiter, Mother Hips, Sidestepper, Goapele, Bon Iver, Ivan Neville, Sean Hayes, Felice Brothers, Rupa & the April Fishes, and Back Door Slam.

Here’s the turnaround: 3-day general admission tickets are $225.50 – before service charges. I’ve got a feeling that single-day tickets will be available before too long.

Check the full details online here. Tickets go on sale this Sunday, March 30.

Chalk up another slam dunk for the folks at Another Planet, who in addition to booking the Independent and the Greek Theater are also forging ahead with the return of their excellent Treasure Island Festival in September.

Music fans: stoked. Warriors fans: hosed.

The Last Record Store

Posted by: on Mar 19, 2008 | Comments (0)

There are certain things we say in life that we never thought we’d ever, ever say. Things like, “Let’s go out to sushi,” or “I’ve been kinda into reggae lately.” And today, I find myself saying one of those unthinkable things. After 14 years, I have worked my final day at the Last Record Store.

Maybe “worked” isn’t the right word, since my last day at the store on Monday was full of telephone calls and people stopping in, wishing me well, shaking my hand, reminding me of the first record they bought off me, telling me how much I’d helped them out in different ways—basically flashing 14 years of my life before my eyes. It was an overwhelming display of what I’d meant to the store, which is something I’d never really thought about, because the store always meant so much more to me.

I started coming to the Last Record Store in 1988, when I was 12 years old and used to ride my skateboard all over downtown Santa Rosa. My mom would give me $5 for food, but of course I starved myself and bought hardcore records instead. In fact, I still have the first record I ever bought there—a 7″ compilation called ‘We’ve Got Your Shorts.’

As time went on, I guess I grew to be a familiar face around the store. I was hooked on records, buying everything from DRI to Sinatra, and bridging the styles by recording ‘Punk Piano’—punk rock songs played easy-listening style—to sell in the local demo tapes section. The store also stocked my zine, Positively Fourth Street, and sold records by my band, Ground Round. I still distinctly remember asking a fairly bewildered Scott if it was okay to put up a flyer bearing the phrase “In the Name of God, Fuck You.” Then, in 1993, a miracle happened: I got asked to work there.

I didn’t know, at the time, that everyone in the world wanted to work at the Last Record Store, but at 18, I definitely knew that it was the place for me. I loved the atmosphere, the freedom to be myself, and the fact that Hoyt and Doug really ran the place in their own anti-corporate and unconventional way. I began a crash course in every single section, starting with a heavy jazz infatuation, going through a deep country phase, diving headlong into hip-hop, eating up everything and finding myself surprised at every turn.

Oh, I learned a lot about life, too. Things like how to treat people properly, and how not to be a snob, and how actions and achievements mean more than opinions and ideals. But I dug learning about music most of all; my co-workers, naturally, being founts of information, along with most of the customers. Eventually I was put in charge of the vinyl annex, which opened up whole new possibilities for listening, be it crazy international music, old blues records, new electronica stuff, the standard classical repertoire, any classic rock I might have missed. There was always one threshold, however, that I refused to cross: I never, ever listened to reggae.

It’d be impossible, and would definitely get some people in trouble, to list all of the amazing things that happened at the store while I worked there. Nevertheless, interesting stuff seemed to happen every day, like the time that Doug rigged a huge PA speaker up on the roof and blared Mule Variations at midnight, all over downtown Santa Rosa. The day that Seth walked in and plopped an owl on the counter, very beautiful and very dead. The crazy half-naked stripper who invited me to dinner, or the many other solicitations one gets when they work at a record store, none of which need to be retold here.

The strangers who met in the aisles and would later start coming in together. The beautiful girl who I met in the aisles, fell in love with, and married. The bands that made flyers out of vacuum cleaners and folding chairs, the folks who dropped off their insane flyers and zines and mix CDs, and the people who brought us free things like cake and chocolate and beer and movies and tickets to shows and chicken casserole. Why? Just because.

I’ve also seen the Last Record Store skillfully adapt to a lot of changes over the years. Getting a cash register, for one. Closing the vinyl annex. Moving to Mendocino Avenue. Getting a computer and an email list. Weathering the mp3 storm. Weathering the economy and the changing face of the music industry. Watching Musicland, the Wherehouse, and Tower Records all go under. And yet, through it all, standing strong, because in mine and many other people’s opinions, it’s still the best and most amazing record store in the world.

For the last four years, I wrote the Last Record Store Newsletter every week, which, if you’re interested, can be perused here. But I’ve also for the last four years been writing more and more for the Bohemian, which is where I’m going to be full-time from now on. For those lovable ones among you who are going to miss my dependable presence behind the counter—my misguided recommendations, my unintelligible blathering, and my failed jokes—well, hopefully it’ll translate in print. Between you and me, I’ve actually been kinda into reggae lately. Just a little.

So thanks to Doug and Hoyt for giving me a job and treating me like a son for fourteen years. Thanks to all my awesome co-workers for the camaraderie. Thanks especially to all the wonderful regular customers who I’ve met over the years—you, more than anyone, and more than you know, made it worthwhile. I’m gonna miss the shit, for sure, but another door has opened, and it’s time to move on.

Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz Coming To Sebastopol!

Posted by: on Mar 19, 2008 | Comments (0)

People at Gogol Bordello’s typically frenetic and crazy show at the Warfield Theater last week might have been too caught up in the mayhem to notice, but amidst the gypsy-punk rollicking and flailing bodies, singer Eugene Hutz announced to the crowd that he was going to be part of some sort of Gypsy festival in Sebastopol. With his Eastern European background, surely, he must have meant Sevastopol, the Ukranian city on the Crimea peninsula. Right?

Sonoma County, get out your herring and borscht: confirmed by Voice of Roma—the group who puts on the yearly festival—Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello will appear as a guest DJ at this year’s 12th Annual Herdejezi Festival at the Sebastopol Veterans Building on Friday, May 2nd. Also on the bill for the rest of the weekend’s festivities are Yuri Yunakov, Vadim Kopalkov, Petra Safarova, Reyhan Tuzsuz, and Brass Menazeri. Crowd-surfing on top of a marching bass drum is optional.

For those who don’t know, Gogol Bordello is one of the most mind-blowing live bands in the world right now, recalling the raucousness of the Pogues, the passion of the Clash, and the endurance of a young Bruce Springsteen. Hutz, the band’s enigmatic frontman, also has a show-stealing role in the wonderfully off-kilter film Everything is Illuminated.

Thanks to Caitlin for the heads up.

Sonoma Jazz Festival Announced

Posted by: on Mar 1, 2008 | Comments (3)

The lineup for the Fourth Annual Sonoma Jazz Festival has been announced. Let the bickering begin!

Thursday, May 22: Kool and the Gang
Friday, May 23: Herbie Hancock
Saturday, May 24: Diana Krall
Sunday, May 25: Bonnie Raitt, Keb’ Mo

Yup—as in each of the first three years of the festival, there’s a couple of acts in the Memorial Day Weekend lineup who could hardly be classified as “jazz.” At this point, it’s a local tradition that seems frivolous to argue, but it nonetheless consistently succeeds in getting hardcore jazz fans riled up to the nth degree.

Steve Winwood and Boz Scaggs, both headliners at the 2005 inaugural festival, rose the eyebrows early. Steve Miller and B.B. King stoked the fumes in 2006. Last year may have been the harshest of all: LeAnn Rimes and Michael McDonald.

Maybe that’s why festival directors have changed the name – slightly. Much like the Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park became “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass,” the Sonoma Jazz Festival is officially known as “Sonoma Jazz +.”

As residents of the “Jazz” arena, both Diana Krall and Herbie Hancock are making return appearances at the festival, with the indefatigable Hancock recently handed a what-the-hell Album of the Year Grammy Award for his Starbucks-friendly sort-of-Joni-Mitchell tribute River: The Joni Letters.

Kool and the Gang, Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo are gonna have to be content with the “+” category, although after scoping out the crowd in previous years, I hardly think that the average Sonoma Jazz attendee will mind all that much. As for the expensively-dressed and well-Chardonnayed woman sitting behind us last year who continually talked on her cell phone, well, I doubt she’d even notice.

But I have to personally hand it to the directors of this crazy weekend festival. Whatever your take on their choice of booking, they’re bringing world-class talent to an event with an impeccably well-run yet laid-back atmosphere—I mean jeez, it’s held in a tent on a baseball diamond, fer cryin’ out loud. The mood around the festival is jovial and swank, the shows are often sold out, and everyone generally leaves happy.

Here’s another thing you can’t argue with: to reward local residents, tickets go on sale in the town of Sonoma on Saturday, March 8 at the Sonoma Community Center from 2-6pm. Out-of-towners, positively hungry to boogie down to “Ladies’ Night” and “Celebration,” have to wait until the nationwide release of tickets, two days later, on March 10. Pricing and ticket info for the general public is served up here, but the March 8 pre-sale for locals is a strictly in-the-know kind of thing. Cool deal.

Healdsburg Jazz: Off the F’n Heez for ’08

Posted by: on Feb 25, 2008 | Comments (1)

The lineup for the 10th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival has just been announced, and it’s totally out of this world. Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, and Joshua Redman together. The Bobby Hutcherson Quartet. Bennie Maupin and James Newton playing Eric Dolphy. The Cedar Walton Trio. Even Don Byron, in some configuration or another, makes an appearance.

It doesn’t stop there: also dropping in this year are Eddie Palmieri and Pete Escovedo, Fred Hersch and Kurt Elling, the Julian Lage Trio, the John Heard Trio, a Sunday morning concert of gospel spirituals, the awaited return of Marc Cantor’s killer jazz films, and an All-Star Alumni Band on the festival’s last day.

The looming question: who is the secret “beloved and internationally-acclaimed saxophonist” performing on May 31 whose name, for contractual reasons, cannot be unveiled until April 1?

(Pssst. . . be a flatfoot: Check SFJazz’s lineup and find the guy playing with Jason Moran, Eric Harland and Reuben Rogers, all of whom have been announced in Healdsburg without their headliner.)

So kudos to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and stay tuned to City Sound Inertia for further coverage.

Anywhere She Lays Her Head

Posted by: on Jan 30, 2008 | Comments (1)

Between possibly getting engaged, starring in movies that aren’t as good as Ghost World, getting hot and steamy with Justin Timberlake, and acting as a modern-day Betty Grable visiting the troops in Kuwait, it’d seem that Scarlett Johansson’s dance card is totally full.

But in news that pretty much has the entire world’s panties in a bunch, Johansson’s been busy putting the finishing touches on a solo album. No big deal, you say? Then smoke on your pipe and put this in: it’s a solo album of ALL TOM WAITS SONGS.

To the casual observer, this in itself is pretty nuts. But to longtime Tom Waits fans, it’s even more insane, like Jesus coming back and ordaining Waits as the official MC for the resurrection. To further spark those indie-nerd juices, Johansson hit the Louisiana studio with the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner on guitar and TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek on production.

The track listing’s not been made available yet, but speculating about the hundreds of song choices available is half the fun (“Pasties and a G-String”? “Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis”? “Better Off Without A Wife”?).

Mark your calendars: the album, called Anywhere I Lay My Head, is due out on May 20 via Atco Records.