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Tom Waits to Release 78 RPM Single

Posted by on Oct 12, 2010

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.

The Thing Fred Eaglesmith Said Last Saturday at Studio E

Posted by on Oct 11, 2010

“When my Dad lost the farm to public auction and he went into real estate, he couldn’t believe what he discovered. It was all just numbers. Just numbers. People worrying about their property values going up and down. I’ll tell you, we got a little farm in Canada now, and the best day of our lives was when we started thinking about it not as a piece of real estate but as a home. That’s what matters. A place to go home to. A place to eat dinner with your family. We stopped mowing the lawn that day, and the neighbors got mad at us. I said, ‘What’re you mad about? We’re lowering your taxes!’ They don’t understand. That farm, some days it’s worth a million dollars, some days it’s worth $250,000—I don’t care. It’s our home, that’s what it’s worth to me. I can guarantee you right now that I’m the wealthiest man in this room. Of all the people in this room, no one’s wealthier than me. Do you know why? Because I have enough. I have enough. And once you have enough, no one else can have more enough than you.”

On the Stereo: Playoff Season

Posted by on Oct 10, 2010

RVIVR – S/T: Ah, this record completely shreds. Purchased from Matt outside Thee Parkside in S.F. while he was changing his strings, sitting cross-legged on the oil-stained asphalt. I couldn’t stay to see the show, unfortunately, but brought the record into Tommy’s Joynt on the way home and read the lyrics over a BBQ sandwich. I’ve played this album ten times since. Anyone with a soft spot for unapologetic, passionate shit plus blazing guitar solos and a dash of Fuel’s Take Effect EP should get on board. I mourn the fact that the record covers are recycled, unsold jackets from Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live LPs, but other than that everything about this record is killer.

 

Conlon Nancarrow – Studies for Player Piano: I got down with this after interviewing Jason Moran, who included one of this unique composer’s works on his latest album, Ten. Nancarrow had a curious working method. In the days of player pianos, someone would usually play the piano while the paper roll “recorded” the performance via holes punched in the paper. Nancarrow would just cut holes in the paper himself, manually, by hand, creating dense, fast pieces that would be impossible for a human to play. Think of it as a papyrus remix method. This collection, a good one, boasts on its cover “A tour de force of musical imagination – unbelievable sounds!” and it’s not lying.

 

Converge – Jane Doe: In 2001 I was mostly comparing every hardcore band to Econochrist or Born Against, and in all honesty I still do. I feel the margin for hardcore is slim in most people’s music-listening experiences, and whatever you’re exposed to in that slim timeframe is the measuring stick by which you measure all other hardcore being made. This album by Converge was a wonderfully glaring exception. I heard it just once nearly ten years ago right after it came out, but in that one listening, I realized that hardcore could in fact be taken to new places. Few hardcore records have had the same effect on me since. Deathwish reissued it on vinyl earlier this year, and when I put it on—yep, same amazing record, hasn’t aged one bit. Thanks!

 

Archie Shepp – The Magic of Ju-Ju: I talked to Fred Eaglesmith recently and he joked that critics have called every record he’s made a departure from his previous work. I didn’t want to tell him I thought that was a somewhat incorrect assessment since he was kind of joking anyway, but that’s what I think of when I think of Archie Shepp. The guy has some downright R&B albums, some straight jazz albums, some real avant-garde stuff but it’s always tinged with Shepp’s personality. I was lucky to meet him once, on my birthday. He smelled like weed. The title track of this record is a wonderful, 19-minute marathon of out-there drone.

 

Samothrace – Life’s Trade: Watching Neurosis transform from a hardcore band to a creepy, slow, glacial, hypnotic metal band is an experience I am glad I can claim in life. Most people now only know and/or enjoy the music they made post-’93 but their first three albums are undeniable works of art and I’ll defend them to the death. Live back then, they were revelatory. After the drum-circle jam on Enemy of the Sun I was off the train and only in the last five years have I been able to enjoy records like Times of Grace. Anyway, when I first heard Leviathan by Mastodon I was confused as to why it sounded exactly like Neurosis and then I realized that Neurosis actually influenced every single band in this genre that they basically single-handedly created. This record sounds like Neurosis with some subtle blues riffs thrown in.

 

Rusko – O.M.G.: So as far as I can tell, dubstep is defined by basically just this one certain bass sound. That’s nice for stoned people in England but I say we demand more idiosyncratic qualities before we christen a new genre. Then again England seems all too ready to christen, shower and elevate their own with ridiculous platitudes on the cover of NME every single month. “Hottest Band in the World!” becomes a country’s music scene that cried wolf, although I did actually like Alphabeat. Rusko seems like one of the dubstep scene’s hobos, hopping trains into different genres; his production on ///Y/ was incredible while this LP is so-so.

 

Louis Moreau Gottschalk – Works for Piano: Seriously one of the greatest piano composers of all time, Gottschalk was revered in his day but no one seems to talk about him much now. Lots of praise gets heaped on the usual American composers like Copland and Gershwin who combined jazz and folk forms into their pieces but Gottschalk was born in New Orleans in 1829 and was bringing Creole rhythms to Europe in the middle of that century, which would seem to override Gershwin’s status as a pioneer at least in that regard. There is so much flavor and romance in these pieces it’s nuts.

 

The Roots – Illadelph Halflife: I love it when you give an album another chance and it shows you some new side of itself because your ears are tuned a little differently with age, but this is still such a strangely weak album in the Roots’ discography. Strange because it’s from back when this band was hitting hard, sandwiched between Do You Want More? and Things Fall Apart which are both total masterpieces. But sometimes a band makes an album that’s just simply there, against the odds. Usually I keep returning to said albums, hoping to find some gold. I listened to this again today, and like the girl in Fame, I felt . . . nothing.

 

Chris Connor – Sings Lullabys of Birdland: I saw Lee Konitz play and conduct a jazz clinic last week in the Green Center at SSU. There’s been millions of dollars sunk into the Green Center which has been the subject of much controversy, debate and scorn, but I must say, the hall looks impressive. Konitz unpacked his horn, played a few notes, and looked around the large building. “Too much echo,” he grumbled. “You gotta fix this room.” This, of course, produced knowing laughter from the crowd, because here’s a guy who’s played with everyone and I mean everyone in the jazz world, and he’s saying this multimillion dollar room is substandard. Soon I realized that Konitz can just be kind of a grouch, though. He chewed out a photographer on three separate occasions and told her to fuck off, he got into an argument with a girl who remarked that she didn’t like Bach, he refused to introduce the players in his band, he called someone out for yawning, it was weird. He eventually lightened up, but mostly I just kept my eyes on the ground hoping he wouldn’t call on me or interpret something about my demeanor as an insult to his presence. Just when it couldn’t get any stranger, a girl with whom Konitz had an awkward exchange about race accidentally tripped and completely fell on her face on the way out of the room. So anyway, Lee Konitz played a plastic reed on an alto with a rag stuffed in the bell, and one of the songs he played was “What’s New,” which I first heard on Sinatra’s Only the Lonely album. Mel Martin was there, and it turns out Martin was one of Konitz’s students at one point. He reminisced that Konitz once told him that to play saxophone well, one should listen to Frank Sinatra. That struck me as interesting because whenever I think of Mel Martin, besides those Listen LPs you see everywhere, I think of how Mel played just one solitary beautiful chorus of “Goodbye” by Gordon Jenkins to end Mel Graves’ memorial tribute last year. “Goodbye” is also on Only the Lonely, and I immediately pictured Lee Konitz and Mel Martin in another time and place smoking weed and listening to that Frank Sinatra record and playing along with it, not knowing that years down the line it would come back to them in the form of memorial tributes and jazz clinics conducted in the middle of the day at a college campus. The long and short of it is that I love Chris Connor, but though her version of “Goodbye” on this album is very nice, it’s never going to compare to Frank Sinatra’s, or Mel Martin’s for that matter, and I’m sorry to say unkind things about Lee Konitz but you could ask anyone who was there and they’d say it was weird too.

It's Been a While

Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 One Comment

Hey, I know. What have I been up to?

Much of my time was spent writing a cover story for the Bohemian about Roseland, and how it’s not a part of the official city limits of Santa Rosa, even though said city limits surround and extend well beyond Roseland in all directions. Roseland has the highest concentration of Latino residents within Santa Rosa, who, because of their non-city status, have no political voice in the city and no amenities such as parks, libraries and community centers. I spent a couple weeks interviewing city staff, county supervisors, residents, business owners and more to find out what’s really going on. You can read it here. I feel it’s important; I hope you will too.

Simultaneously, I was planning the North Bay Music Awards, something the Bohemian has organized for six years now. This meant that I was contacting nominees, booking bands, arranging a schedule, finding a DJ, downloading and editing winners’ mp3s, combing through exported voting data for fraudulent ballot-stuffing, printing envelopes, making ten gold record awards from scratch in my garage, loading in bands and emceeing the event. Winners are announced in this week’s Bohemian, along with details about myself being tied to a chair and showered in lingerie, which yes, actually happened.

I took this past weekend off to root for the oh-so-frustrating Giants. Driving down to the Saturday game with Lena, my small daughter, I was yet again bowled over by Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” Is it a perfect song or what? I think I’d heard it four or five times before realizing that it’s not a plea for love, but rather, to not be loved. To just hang. To be close, and to probably sleep together (“I know what’s on your mind / There will be time for that, too”) but above all, to avoid the perils that emotional involvement so inevitably attracts. The stunning effect in the song is that Robyn sings this warning to herself as much as to anyone else; the tone she uses reveals she’s been on the other side too often. The acoustic version is better; hear it here.

When I got to the game, they were playing Radiohead’s “Idioteque” over the P.A., which is a bizarre jam to be playing in a sports arena to promote getting pumped on the competition at hand. Also, Barry Zito walked in two runs. Boy, you would not believe the vile things I overheard people shouting at him. I was beside myself too. Just in a stupor. I’d bought a standing-room ticket, it was a beautiful day, and Lena, who’s 14 months old now, was even at one point up on the Jumbotron. I couldn’t allow myself to be excited about it, though. Here all the Giants had to do was win one lousy game to clinch their division and they were blowing it, hard.

But then a great, weird, amazing thing happened. The P.A. started playing the inescapable “Don’t Stop Believin’,” when surprisingly, the Jumbotron showed Steve Perry, former lead singer of Journey, rocking out to his own song . . .  in the stands at the game! ROARS FROM THE CROWD. You’d think Babe Ruth had come back to life and hit number 715. Steve Perry! This is, of course, the year of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” thanks to Glee. (It comes in handy at weddings, too.) So of course people are gonna go nuts, but it was still pretty great, especially considering Perry’s strained relationship with the other band members who still go around playing as Journey without him.

The Giants lost. Lena and I drove away, already dejected, when I got a phone call that my best friends’ dog Oly had been hit by a car the night before and died. My favorite dog in the world. The day just could not get any worse. I drove to Amoeba. Records took my mind off things for a little while. Drove home on 101 while listening to the Good Life album, Black Out, which is what I wanted to do.

Of course, things got better over the weekend. The Giants clinched. I went to a good movie. I fixed my bike. I repaired the gutters on the house. I visited friends. I kept busy.

But mostly, I listened to this Valerie Simpson song called “Fix It Alright” over and over.

I know the song is aiming to be comforting in its lyrical content, but it was actually the bass playing that reminded me that there is beauty all over the world, in the most unexpected places. Christ, this is a bass player if I ever heard one. His name’s Francesco Centeno, and as it turns out, this was his first recording session, from when he was 15 years old. File him next to Deon Estes in the Overlooked Bass Player Hall of Fame. He did a lot of work both with Valerie Simpson and Ashford & Simpson, who you probably know from that not-really-interesting hit song from the ’80s, “Solid (as a Rock).”

Patti Smith once said that when her husband Fred Smith died, she listened to those two Bob Dylan albums of old folk songs from the ’90s over and over, World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been To You. The timeless beauty of the songs got her through the pain.

Anyway, I don’t know what happened, or how, but listening to the song on repeat with its timeless, beautiful basslines made me feel a little better about Oly. That, and I also remembered that Ashford & Simpson played at Live Aid in 1985 and brought out Teddy Pendergrass for his first public appearance since his car crash. I was nine years old when Live Aid aired, and had no idea who Teddy Pendergrass was or why he was in a wheelchair and crying, but I remember this televised moment really vividly because I could completely feel that something important was happening.

And maybe it’s not the knowing but the feeling that matters in life, and Oly made me feel really wonderful while she was alive, and somehow Francesco Centeno’s bass playing reflected that greatness to me, and we all live on somehow either in what we leave behind or chance reflections of our spirit after we’re gone.

It’s Been a While

Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 One Comment

Hey, I know. What have I been up to?

Much of my time was spent writing a cover story for the Bohemian about Roseland, and how it’s not a part of the official city limits of Santa Rosa, even though said city limits surround and extend well beyond Roseland in all directions. Roseland has the highest concentration of Latino residents within Santa Rosa, who, because of their non-city status, have no political voice in the city and no amenities such as parks, libraries and community centers. I spent a couple weeks interviewing city staff, county supervisors, residents, business owners and more to find out what’s really going on. You can read it here. I feel it’s important; I hope you will too.

Simultaneously, I was planning the North Bay Music Awards, something the Bohemian has organized for six years now. This meant that I was contacting nominees, booking bands, arranging a schedule, finding a DJ, downloading and editing winners’ mp3s, combing through exported voting data for fraudulent ballot-stuffing, printing envelopes, making ten gold record awards from scratch in my garage, loading in bands and emceeing the event. Winners are announced in this week’s Bohemian, along with details about myself being tied to a chair and showered in lingerie, which yes, actually happened.

I took this past weekend off to root for the oh-so-frustrating Giants. Driving down to the Saturday game with Lena, my small daughter, I was yet again bowled over by Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” Is it a perfect song or what? I think I’d heard it four or five times before realizing that it’s not a plea for love, but rather, to not be loved. To just hang. To be close, and to probably sleep together (“I know what’s on your mind / There will be time for that, too”) but above all, to avoid the perils that emotional involvement so inevitably attracts. The stunning effect in the song is that Robyn sings this warning to herself as much as to anyone else; the tone she uses reveals she’s been on the other side too often. The acoustic version is better; hear it here.

When I got to the game, they were playing Radiohead’s “Idioteque” over the P.A., which is a bizarre jam to be playing in a sports arena to promote getting pumped on the competition at hand. Also, Barry Zito walked in two runs. Boy, you would not believe the vile things I overheard people shouting at him. I was beside myself too. Just in a stupor. I’d bought a standing-room ticket, it was a beautiful day, and Lena, who’s 14 months old now, was even at one point up on the Jumbotron. I couldn’t allow myself to be excited about it, though. Here all the Giants had to do was win one lousy game to clinch their division and they were blowing it, hard.

But then a great, weird, amazing thing happened. The P.A. started playing the inescapable “Don’t Stop Believin’,” when surprisingly, the Jumbotron showed Steve Perry, former lead singer of Journey, rocking out to his own song . . .  in the stands at the game! ROARS FROM THE CROWD. You’d think Babe Ruth had come back to life and hit number 715. Steve Perry! This is, of course, the year of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” thanks to Glee. (It comes in handy at weddings, too.) So of course people are gonna go nuts, but it was still pretty great, especially considering Perry’s strained relationship with the other band members who still go around playing as Journey without him.

The Giants lost. Lena and I drove away, already dejected, when I got a phone call that my best friends’ dog Oly had been hit by a car the night before and died. My favorite dog in the world. The day just could not get any worse. I drove to Amoeba. Records took my mind off things for a little while. Drove home on 101 while listening to the Good Life album, Black Out, which is what I wanted to do.

Of course, things got better over the weekend. The Giants clinched. I went to a good movie. I fixed my bike. I repaired the gutters on the house. I visited friends. I kept busy.

But mostly, I listened to this Valerie Simpson song called “Fix It Alright” over and over.

I know the song is aiming to be comforting in its lyrical content, but it was actually the bass playing that reminded me that there is beauty all over the world, in the most unexpected places. Christ, this is a bass player if I ever heard one. His name’s Francesco Centeno, and as it turns out, this was his first recording session, from when he was 15 years old. File him next to Deon Estes in the Overlooked Bass Player Hall of Fame. He did a lot of work both with Valerie Simpson and Ashford & Simpson, who you probably know from that not-really-interesting hit song from the ’80s, “Solid (as a Rock).”

Patti Smith once said that when her husband Fred Smith died, she listened to those two Bob Dylan albums of old folk songs from the ’90s over and over, World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been To You. The timeless beauty of the songs got her through the pain.

Anyway, I don’t know what happened, or how, but listening to the song on repeat with its timeless, beautiful basslines made me feel a little better about Oly. That, and I also remembered that Ashford & Simpson played at Live Aid in 1985 and brought out Teddy Pendergrass for his first public appearance since his car crash. I was nine years old when Live Aid aired, and had no idea who Teddy Pendergrass was or why he was in a wheelchair and crying, but I remember this televised moment really vividly because I could completely feel that something important was happening.

And maybe it’s not the knowing but the feeling that matters in life, and Oly made me feel really wonderful while she was alive, and somehow Francesco Centeno’s bass playing reflected that greatness to me, and we all live on somehow either in what we leave behind or chance reflections of our spirit after we’re gone.

In News

New Things Happening at Zone Music

Posted by on Sep 17, 2010 6 Comments

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.

In News

Phoenix Theater Weathers Another Beating

Posted by on Sep 10, 2010 8 Comments

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.]

Live Review: Smashing Pumpkins at the Phoenix Theater

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 One Comment

Well, color me impressed. Over the course of an immersive, nearly two-hour Smashing Pumpkins show last night at Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater, the ageless Billy Corgan unreeled a nonstop stream of gauze-soaked distortion, a generously crowd-pleasing handful of the band’s hits—and said barely a word at all to the crowd.

To those who caught the band’s residency at San Francisco’s Fillmore last year, pockmarked by long, self-centered rambles from Corgan and obscure, calm material, the Smashing Pumpkins on stage last night might have seemed like an entirely different band, and that’s for the better. Simply put, the Pumpkins kicked ass, and then kept kicking ass, and didn’t cease kicking ass until the final feedback-laden tones of the long set closer “Gossamer” came to an abrupt halt and the strobe lights finally stopped pulsing. Even the band’s new material sounded great last night, which was almost as strange as being at the Phoenix Theater and seeing hardly any teenagers.

The sold-out crowd, nearly all in their 30s, went crazy for hits like “Today,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Cherub Rock” and a solo version of “Disarm” that had hundreds of camera phones hoisted in the audience and Corgan singing karaoke-style to a backing track. Not that Corgan, the only original member of the group, rested on his laurels. Instead, he culled from the classic rock trick bag with a Hendrix-inspired “Star-Spangled Banner,” played by his teeth, and a foray into Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” followed by a long drum solo by new recruit Mike Byrne punctuated with the obligatory crash of a gigantic gong. For “Ava Adore,” he unleashed pure Stratocaster pyrotechnics; during “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” he gestured in an actual cage of lighting scaffold and two giant windmills; and throughout the set screeched his trademark growl like a bonafide rock star.

All of this—plus cock-rock openers Big City—showed that Corgan’s intentions have always lied in arena rock and not, as the 1990s painted him, as “alternative.” The Smashing Pumpkins’ best moments seem to happen when Corgan reconciles the two. Last night, the nonstop barrage of lighting and fuzz couldn’t have been described as “accessible,” yet the continuous unease seemed to clear a space for the band to actually enjoy playing radio hits they’ve played thousands of times. After the line “No matter where you are / I can still hear you when you scream,” from the Singles soundtrack single “Drown,” the Phoenix crowd erupted in a scream, and if you were watching close enough, you could see Corgan allow himself a sly smile—still, after all these years.

Set List:

Astral Planes
Ava Adore
Drown
As Rome Burns
A Song for a Son
Today
Eye
Bullet With Butterly Wings
United States
My Love Is Winter
Cherub Rock
That’s the Way (My Love Is)
Stand Inside Your Love
Tarantula
Tonight, Tonight
Disarm
Freak
Gossamer

Live Review: On Land Festival 2010

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010

What we have in the On Land Festival, presented annually by Root Strata, is four days’ worth of darts aimed in whatever direction and occasionally, surprisingly, hitting the bullseye. That the acts generally have “Noise / Drone / Experimental” anointing their begrudgingly active MySpace profiles implies that their aesthetic has no true trajectory, but of course there must be some involved intent. I knew what to broadly expect, and I was not disappointed, aside from having to miss two of the four days and arriving late even so.

Pete Swanson appeared entirely consumed by his music, his eyes and mouth especially. When his white noise began, people walked out. Thing about Pete’s music is that your ears tune out the white noise and these wonderful submerged melodies reveal themselves. I placed my head against the wall and stared into the back of his wooden reel-to-reel. He sang a little. It was intense. Then it was over after, like, 15 minutes. Way to leave people wanting more.

White Rainbow looped some staggering beat that didn’t make sense as he started to build it but cohered over time and you’re like, oh, of course. I knew nothing of him before Friday night and he won me over fully. Certain noises would affect him like a stab in the ribs; he’d double over in pain and return for more. Had people in stitches over his iPad animal noises. Seems like a fun-loving guy. Maybe he can tell me what happened to Watery Graves.

Oneohtrix Point Never delivered solid programming on the same frequency as his latest, Returnal, which I recommend. Hypnosis among the crowd. It was packed in there. Cafe du Nord isn’t comfortable when it’s full, but OPN essentially spread a blanket over everyone and sang some comforting lullabies. Time-space synth noise lullabies, but lullabies nonetheless. During a quiet interlude, someone, no doubt accustomed to jumpy rock bands, yelled, “Do something!” This seemed as pointless as yelling at Aubrey Huff to hit the ball when he’s out playing left field.

Dan Higgs, at Sunday’s show upstairs in the wonderful wooden Swedish American Hall, was good old Daniel (Arcus Incus Ululat) Higgs Interdimensional Song-Seamstress and Corpse-Dancer of the Mystic Crags. He stomped on a box. He played the banjo. He laughed heartily for a very very long time, or what seemed to be a very very long time for laughing in the middle of a song, but the song was also long, and unique, and definitely improvised on the spot.

Grouper:

In News

Jessica Felix Reinstated for Healdsburg Jazz Festival; Current Board of Directors Resigns

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010

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.”