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Music Twitterings Hither and Yon

Posted by: on Dec 20, 2008 | Comments (3)

Woke up yesterday and groaned at Pitchfork’s top albums, unsurprising since they lost all credibility with The Knife in 2006. Read about the recording industry’s strange new stance on downloading, which is to rely on Internet providers to do their dirty work for them. Was amused at the Phoenix Theater announcing the banning of hyphy shows, which is a brilliant maneuver, on par with announcing the banning of raves.

Flipped on the radio for Face the Music with Scott Mitchell and Frank Hayhurst, on KRSH. Laughed at the end of the show, when Frank presented Scott with a golden kazoo, since, alas, Scott is headed over to BOB-FM and will soon be replaced by Brian Griffith as the morning guy on the KRSH. Brian’ll be good and Scott’s been good, but man. I still miss Doug Smith.

Went to the downtown Post Office, where the holiday season has brought radio privileges for the counter staff. Was glad that instead of “Wonderful Christmastime” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the clerks were stamping packages to “A Simple Twist of Fate,” by Bob Dylan. Dodged a car driving by playing the Youngbloodz-Procol Harum portion of Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals.

Got to work and read this wonderful piece of writing, regarding Leon Russell, by my friend John Beck. Felt the best kind of jealousy—I suspect that John is much more bound to editorial direction than myself, occasionally forced to write about music that he can’t personally get that excited about, and I love examining how he navigates total cowshit and turns it time and again into flowers. He’s good at it.

Read about the heavy metal singer who stabbed her guitarist for messing up a solo. Downloaded DJ Malarkey’s new Holiday mix to listen to while scouring club listings for New Years’ Eve information. Came across this lovely Christmas video of a drunk family partying their asses off around the tree, circa 1962, set to June Christy’s “The Merriest”:

(If you’re looking for a fantastic jazzy album of non-religious Christmas originals, call your local record store and pick up June Christy’s This Time of Year, just reissued a couple years ago.)

Had lunch at Hang Ah Dim Sum with the Love Level crew. Thought about Chinese opera and talked about Darker than Blue: Soul From Jamdown. Was reminded, by Mark and Gary, about KOME-FM and their street-sign stickers. Chatted about Backdoor Records. Thought about the late KPLS-FM and their even later cowboy-hat VW Bug.

Came back to work and gawked at the amazing Kate Wolf Festival 2009 lineup, with Emmylou Harris, Dave Alvin, Richard Thompson, Patty Griffin, Mavis Staples, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Wrote a little bit about Adam Theis and his upcoming SFJAZZ show, whose excellent Spring season was also announced this week: McCoy Tyner, Allen Toussaint, Bill Frisell, Kenny Barron, James Carter, Tinariwen, Roy Hargrove, Chris Potter, Brad Mehldau, Mariza, Kenny Burrell, Michael Feinstein and Branford Marsalis, among others.

Went to dinner at Fitch Mountain Eddie’s with my dad, where Richelle Hart and John Youngblood performed songs like “Summertime” and “Women Be Wise.” Talked a lot of shit about Ticketmaster, only to have the guy at the next table introduce himself as a guy who works for Ticketmaster. Wished him luck with that whole massive-debt-and-getting-dumped-by-Live-Nation thing.

Then: headed to the Raven Theater for the Bobs, who were as entertaining and awe-inspiring as they were when I last saw them at the Raven Theater in 1989. Was billed as the “Sleigh Bobs Ring” holiday show, containing plenty of Christmas numbers—”Christmas in L.A.,” “Christmas in Jail,” and an insane new song sung from the point of view of the Virgin Mary, “What Is This Thing Inside Me?”

Old chestnuts were dusted off, like “My, I’m Large” and “Boy Around the Corner,” and all the new ones like “Get Your Monkey off My Dog,” “Title of the Song,” “Imaginary Tuba” sounded great. Closed with “Christmastime is Here,” which I’m glad is becoming a holiday classic. Haven’t paid much attention to the Bobs in the last 20 years, but I was simultaneously buckled over with laugher, googly-eyed with amazement, and heartened that they still hang out in the lobby afterwards, chatting with all their weird fans. Thanks for keeping it up, guys.

Came home and listened to Booker Ervin, Madlib, No Age and Lucy Ann Polk. (Not Van Morrison, like grouchy Joel Selvin.) Wondered if real life was more important than music, or if the two are actually the same thing. Opted for the latter. Did the dishes and hummed Frank Sinatra. Went to bed.

Does Aretha Franklin Make Up For Rick Warren?

Posted by: on Dec 17, 2008 | Comments (1)

This is what we’ve been waiting for. Forget the Cabinet picks. The real question has been: Who will Obama pick to perform at his inauguration?

The inauguration schedule is in, and the winner is Aretha Franklin.

Does the Queen of Soul make up for Obama’s pick for the ceremonial invocation? Rick Warren, anti-gay, pro-life, co-conspirator in the fake “cone of silence” debate? No, it doesn’t. Picking one of the greatest singers ever to live (the greatest, if you read Rolling Stone) to sing at the inauguration is a classy move, but Rick Warren? Wha th’ fu?

Also performing are Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and the usual collection of military bands and childrens’ choruses. Full schedule here.

Thorns of Life to Play at Gilman on Jan. 31

Posted by: on Dec 10, 2008 | Comments (1)

It’s official: According to whispers in the wind this last week and now confirmed on Gilman’s booking calendar, Thorns of Life are playing Gilman on January 31. The full lineup includes Thorns of Life, Hunx & His Punx, the Revolts, and Off With Their Heads as part of Punk Rock Joel’s Birthday Bash. 8pm. $7, plus a $2 membership card if you ain’t already got one. Get there early.

Aaron Cometbus has been on the West Coast for the last week or so; you can hear an excellent interview with him on WFMU (with ex-KALX DJ and hip-hop fanatic Billy Jam) by clicking here. He talks about his fantastic new issue of Cometbus, the reasons why he doesn’t dwell on the past, the possibility that most bands only have one good 7″ in them, and gives evasive answers to anything Internet-related. Even Jesse Luscious gets on the line for a while! Aaron also talks a bit about Thorns of Life:

“Well, there’s some inter-band dispute about the name of the band. So let’s keep it… I’m not… we’re not sure about the name yet. I always feel like music is basically a war or a romance between a guitarist and a drummer—with the bassist as sort of collateral damage—and me and the guitarist are still deciding about the name, we’ll just put it that way.”

I agree. The name doesn’t fit. Sorry, Shelly.

As for shows, Aaron says “we will be playing as many as possible. But we’re kind of avoiding the clubs, and just playing odd spots—houses, restaurants, readings, whatever—just to keep it kind of low-key, and avoid the doormen, and the IDs, and what not. But we are planning on recording either in the middle of this winter or in the early spring. We already have a bunch of songs.”

There’s a short interview here with bassist Daniela Sea, where she confirms that Thorns of Life are going on tour. And it’s unrelated to the band, but if you haven’t seen it yet, Blake Schwarzenbach’s Rate My Professor Profile from his students at Hunter College is totally entertaining. Now all we need are some lyrics, and we’re set. I’ve gotten a few speculations from friends. So far, the winner is “O denigrated hue of glass-lipped Huggies / I ask, hast thou prometheated veins?”

My full and completely speculative take on the band is here, and Gilman is one of the greatest and most amazing places in the world. Stoked.

Blue Note Reissues LPs With CDs Inside

Posted by: on Nov 29, 2008 | Comments (6)

In an all-caps explanation about “YOUNGER, MORE ECLECTIC-MINDED POP CULTURE FANS” so crazy over Penguin shirts and Amy Winehouse that they’re “DELVING INTO ALL THINGS RETRO,” Blue Note records has announced the reissue of twelve best-selling titles on vinyl with a bonus CD inside.

Titles include: Cannonball Adderly, Somethin’ Else; Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue; Dexter Gordon, Go!; Joe Henderson, Page One; Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder; Horace Silver, Song for my Father; Art Blakey, Moanin’; John Coltrane, Blue Train; Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage; Hank Mobley, Soul Station; Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil; and McCoy Tyner, The Real McCoy.

(No Out to Lunch? Tsk.)

The titles run about $20. Truly an idea whose time has come. Oh wait—it already did. Get with it, Impulse!

Live Review: Marnie Stern’s Kissing Booth

Posted by: on Nov 15, 2008 | Comments (41)

I had heard about Marnie Stern’s Kissing Booth idea a couple hours before tonight’s show with Gang Gang Dance in San Francisco, and sure enough, when we arrived at Bimbo’s, we discovered this sign at the merch stand:

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Apparently, in addition to the speeding tickets, some seatbelt violations were involved as well, which can get pretty expensive (“Michigan, man,” said Stern). Discriminating kissers will note the detailed price breakdown: $3 for a peck on the cheek, $10 for full lips, and $100 for the big-spender French kiss.

So — were there any takers?

At the end of Marnie Stern’s set, a sizable group of people crowded around her side of the stage, declaring their love and asking for hugs. But to my dismay, I went out in the lobby later on and witnessed a similar group of people just, uh, standing around. And though the kissing offer was literally on the table, they were just, uh, awkwardly talking to Marnie Stern. And, um, buying a shirt, I guess. And, do you. . . think I could have another hug?

It was excruciating. Goddamn indie hipsters are a bunch of pansy-ass Holden Caulfields who can’t get over their own imagined degradation of giving a girl $10 for a kiss, I grumbled to myself. Whatever happened to all the fun in the world?!

But after about 10 minutes, a good sign walked into the room. To be precise: a tall mid-20s boy, with a slender face and large eyes. Lanky, plaid shirt. He approached the table and conspicuously pointed to the sign.

“Is the kissing booth open?” he asked.

Finally! Marnie Stern jumped up, pointed her arms in the air and let out a “whoo-hoo!” while doing a small, excited dance. A customer!

The boy pointed to the “lips” option, and handed a $10 bill to Stern, who was more than willing to deliver the goods. Boy, did he get his money’s worth:

Yowza!

I chased him down afterwards. “I had to,” he told me. “She’s beautiful, you know? It was awesome.” He was beaming from ear to ear.

Please, indie rock nation: more kissing booths!

Schwarzenbach, Cometbus, and the Thorns of Life

Posted by: on Nov 14, 2008 | Comments (15)

Well, shit, here we go: Blake Schwarzenbach has started a band with Aaron Elliott and Daniela Sea called the Thorns of Life. No joke. There’s photos posted here from the band’s grand debut at the Jerk House in Brooklyn this past weekend.

What does the band sound like? According to a recent punknews.org post, Blake is said to have written via Facebook that “I can say only that it’s loud and tender and we’re called the Thorns Of Life. whether it’s more Jetsesque or Breaker-like I honestly don’t know; It sounds like a storehouse of fond hatred from the last few years and in the now.”

It’s tempting to pessimistically predict that they’ll play three more house shows, record a 7″ and then break up; however, in a message to fans recently, Blake said he looked forward to coming “to a town near you.”

Needless to say, this is exciting news.

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UPDATE, 11/15: Thorns of Life played again last night at another house show in Brooklyn. There’s three videos below. More on the band by clicking here.

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UPDATE, 1/31: My interview with Blake regarding the band is here.

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Free Tickets: No Age in San Francisco

Posted by: on Nov 13, 2008 | Comments (0)

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.

Everybody is a Star

Posted by: on Oct 29, 2008 | Comments (0)

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.”

The Sly Stone Show: Behind the Scenes

Posted by: on Oct 23, 2008 | Comments (15)

The insane circumstances surrounding Sly Stone’s bizarre appearance in Santa Rosa last Friday, Oct. 18, were told to me by several people involved with the show. Crazy doesn’t begin to describe it. Here’s how it went down.

The morning of the show, Sly Stone is in Los Angeles. He fires his business manager. Sly tells the promoter that he’s his own boss now, that he’s the one who’s going to get paid at the show, and that he needs $3,000 wired to the bank account of an Iranian BMW saleswoman before he’ll even get on the plane to San Francisco.

And about that plane: it was supposed to arrive from Los Angeles at 11:30am. No Sly. The limo waits at the airport. Sly’s next flight becomes 1:30pm, then 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 5:30pm. No one can get a hold of him at all. The promoter drives to the airport in the slim hope that Sly might walk through one of the gates.

Finally, at 7:30pm, with his young Japanese girlfriend in tow, the 65-year-old Sly shows up at the airport. He’s an hour and a half away from the show—which starts in a half hour—and he demands to go to the hotel. The young girlfriend finally talks him out of it, and he agrees to go to the show, but he’s still talking about getting paid.

He sleeps all the way to Santa Rosa.

Sly doesn’t hit the stage at the Wells Fargo Center until 10:30pm, during the fifth song of the set. He walks off the stage 25 minutes later, in the middle of “I Wanna Take You Higher,” telling the crowd, “I gotta go take a piss. I’ll be right back.”

But Sly never comes back. The band continues on without him, killing time for 30 minutes. During the last song, a man appears on the stage, whispering into band members’ ears.

Meanwhile, backstage, Sly is demanding to be paid. The show is still going on, and the promoters are telling his handlers to get him back out to perform more. But his handlers know the drill. It’s been this way for years. What can they do?

Before the show is over, Sly is out in the parking lot, still in his white suit, trying to get into the promoter’s car. All the doors are plainly locked, but he keeps trying. Finally, a woman drives by, picks him and his Japanese girlfriend up, and they whiz away. Word of his departure gets inside.

It’s not too hard to figure out what the man on the stage was whispering to the band. How about: Sly’s making a getaway? How about: Sly’s driving off right now? How about: You’d better chase after him if you want to get paid?

And after quickly finishing the song and exiting the stage, that’s exactly what they do.

The band members pile in their cars and find Sly precisely where they thought he’d be—at the Fountaingrove Hilton. Except he’s not in his room. All the rooms are reserved under the business manager’s name, who Sly fired that morning. So Sly’s there, fuming about not being able to get into his room, when the rest of his band suddenly pulls up.

“Get me out of here,” he’s heard telling his driver, and they peel out.

It is not an uncommon sight to see cars racing down Mendocino Avenue on a Friday night. But it’s a different story altogether when the lead car giving chase contains an absolute funk music legend, pursued by five more cars driven by band members, some of whom have played with him for 40 years and are actual, literal family members. Six cars race down the street, weaving in and out of lanes.

Finally, past midnight, Sly’s car is cornered at a gas station. A long stand-off ensues between him and the band while the young Japanese girl cries hysterically in the car. A gas station on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. That’s where it all falls apart.

At press time, no one can get a hold of Sly Stone—not his management, not his band mates, not his family. The last anyone sees of him, he’s headed south on Highway 101. Everyone’s got a pretty good idea how he’s spending the money, but no one knows where he is.

And no one ever wants to play with him again.

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To read a review of the Sly Stone show, click here.

Hank Williams, Jr. Sings for McCain

Posted by: on Oct 14, 2008 | Comments (0)

I’m trying to keep away from campaign-related postings here, because if I started, there’d simply be no end. But I think sharing this video of Hank Williams, Jr. singing at a McCain rally this week in Virginia is important. I’ve given ol’ Bocephus a pass before, but not after mangling his one good song into a propagandist scheme for McCain’s venomous course of campaigning. Watch as he sings about Obama’s “radical friends”—in addition to making the preposterous claim that Democrats ruined the economy and that Bill Clinton himself forced lenders into bad loans. Meanwhile, he calls Sarah Palin a “good-lookin’ dish.”

A fat, ignorant washed-up son of a genius who can’t sing anymore endorses McCain and Palin. In related news, just about every good musician in the known universe is for Obama.