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The Wrong Kind of Music

Posted by on May 15, 2008

Last night, 11:00 pm. It’s still 80 degrees, and I’m still sweating from my Montecito Heights bike ride. We’ve got all the windows open and a fan going.

Sitting at the kitchen table, doing a puzzle together, occasionally swearing about the sticky, tongue-out, no-let-up heat wave. First of the year.

“Hey, can we listen to this record I got today?”

“Sure.”

So I throw it on. Nutty jazz music for a few minutes. Then moody synthesizers for, like, ten minutes. The: silencio. I think the record’s over, but every once in a while I’ll hear a pop from the vinyl. Then come the surges: terrifying, weird crashes of discord and clamor, stabbing through the speakers every 45 seconds or so.

It’s still hot as hell.

“This music is scaring me.”

And she’s right. It’s scaring me, too. I usually pride myself on choosing the right kind of music for the occasion, but man, when it’s a sweltering hot night, it’s really hard to chill out to David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive soundtrack.

The Slackers at the Mystic Theatre

Posted by on May 13, 2008

Vic Ruggiero, what a guy.

“Hey, howya likin’ the movie so far? Ya know those movies, right, where they got the guy who keeps talkin’ about stuff, an’ it goes on an’ on, an’ then you figure out there’s no plot or thread? You ever seen those movies? Like those Woody Allen movies, y’know, ‘So I was waitin’ for the bus. . ‘ An’ he keeps on talkin’ and talkin’ without makin’ no sense. Or like, whaddya call it, the French New Wave? Where there’s just a bunch of stuff an’ we’re supposed t’think it’s art?”

“Is this like that? Is this art, what we’re doin’ up here?”

The Slackers are a great band who know six zillion songs, and therefore, if you go see ‘em, they’ll play 12 songs you don’t know until they finally play one song you love. It’s worth the wait, and Ruggiero’s string of deep-Bronx nonsequitur banter is hilarious.

“Nice t’ be playin’ some of those tough-guy songs, y’know. For a long time everyone was out to kick our ass for bein’ the best band in New York. We were always playin’ Nightingale’s. ‘Member that place? Held about 25 people. It bred only the best! Blues Traveler. Spin Doctors. Tha’s why people were wantin’ to kick our ass, t’make sure of no more Blues Traveler!”

The show was fantastic. Everyone in the place was dancing. Only half-full, though, which is really too bad—I can think of two dozen people off the top of my head who would have loved it. Don’t miss ‘em next time they come around.

Trace Adkins at Konocti Harbor

Posted by on May 12, 2008 One Comment

As I walked from the parking lot up to the entrance of the amphitheater last Friday night, I overheard two employees—a shuttle driver and a kid directing traffic—chatting about the evening’s crowd. “It’s gonna get worse when people start drinkin’,” one said. “Yeah,” the guy replied, “there’s a whole lotta stupid goin’ on.”

I was, for the first time in my life, at Konocti Harbor, a place that’s been the punchline to many jokes about toothless women and shirtless men made by us big city Santa Rosa types. But I can now say with authority that these jokes are mostly unfounded; after a long, winding drive, I found out that Konocti Harbor wasn’t at all the chintzy Las Vegas atmosphere I’d always assumed it to be but a serene hamlet of beauty and fresh air. In fact, strolling past the trees, tennis courts and rustic cottages with a quaint view of Clear Lake, it recalled more the summer resort from Dirty Dancing, and thus every girl in high-rise jeans made me think of Jennifer Grey. There were a lot of ‘em, too—this was, after all, a country show.

I’ve been listening to a lot of country radio lately. Most of it’s terrible, but alongside all the bullshit like Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley, there’s this guy from Louisiana, Trace Adkins, that I’m a huge fan of. Those who know me might find this incredibly out of character—believe me, I was pretty surprised to find it out myself—but after immersing myself thoroughly in the subject, I can say that Trace Adkins has one of the most penetrating and compelling voices in country music today.

During his hour and a half-long set at Konocti, Adkins played hit after hit, demonstrating the versatility of style in his output. The lightshow-laden opener “I Got My Game On” kicked things off promising that “it’s gonna be a hell of a ride,” and from the tender moments of “I Came Here To Live” and “Every Light in the House” to the good ol’ boys romp of “Rough and Ready” and “Ladies Love Country Boys,” Adkins was clearly having a great time. “We’ll try to do some songs that we know pretty good,” he joked to the crowd early on, “so they won’t suck too bad.”

Adkins has a natural ability to be both serious and stupid, oftentimes in the same sentence. For example, the “American Man” tour, which hits casinos, state fairs and football fields, is named after a song that Adkins told the crowd was inspired by his dad: “He’s basically at the top of my hero list,” he said, speaking from the heart. “Real hard-noser, though. Someone said to me the other day, ‘Your old man reminds me of John Wayne.’ I said, ‘Hell, my old man makes John Wayne look gay.’”

When Adkins finds a song in the direct middle of these two extremes—the pensiveness of “You’re Gonna Miss This” and the crass yahooism in “Chrome,” say—he’s at his best. “I Wanna Feel Something,” one man’s plea to experience emotion in a numbing modern world, was one of the set’s highlights on Friday night. Occupying similar emotional ground was “Arlington,” which Adkins went out of his way to introduce with “nothing but the utmost of respect and honor.”

In the country world, “Arlington” sparked controversy when it was released as a single, probably because it doesn’t conform to the simpleminded let’s-fuckin’-kick-their-asses narrative of all the remedial Toby Keith fans in the world. Instead, it explores the complex point of view of a dead soldier sent back home from war who finds at least a small, final solace in being buried in the hallowed ground of Arlington Cemetery. The verses, in particular, represent some of Adkins’ richest singing, and at the end of the song, Adkins was visibly choked up.

“I gotta be honest with you, it’s hard to keep my mind on things, singing that song,” he said afterwards, explaining that his manager’s son was over in Afghanistan; two days ago, there’d been an attack which had killed at least two soldiers, and they still hadn’t heard from him. “We’re goin’ over there in September, though,” Adkins announced. “Funny thing is, we go over there to make them feel good, and you know what? They make us feel good! Now, I don’t give a damn if you support the war or not, but we gotta support the boys in the fields!”

(Of course, the crowd went crazy at this, but for as hot as Adkins is on soldiers’ issues, not all of his fans seem to share his concern. During the show, two women—a mother and a daughter trashily dressed in matching tube tops and pumps—walked next to me and stood directly in front of an aisle full of WWII veterans, blocking their view and blatantly ignoring their repeated requests to move. I went up and pointed out that their tickets were for a different section, and that they were upsetting a row full of old people, but they absolutely did not care at all; it was only when security came along that they haughtily strutted back to their seats. So much for war heroes, I guess.)

“Hot Mama” marked an end to the “wholesome part of the concert,” and Adkins talked a little bit about the song’s steamy video (“it was the first time since I got a record deal,” he said, “that my mamma was very disappointed in me”) and then went into a weird thing about the Bible and Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit. This all came back around to his big closer, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” which prompted everyone in the crowd, who had been standing the whole time, to completely get on down. I decided to walk around and watch all of Lake County’s finest—including, yes, a girl missing some teeth and an overweight guy wearing no shirt—shake their back-country asses to the most totally stupid and completely enjoyable country hit of the last few years.

The band vamped the song at the end, with Adkins finally delivering his send-off line.

“Lemme tell you,” he said, while the band played, “I didn’t get in this business for the fame, or the money—I got in this business for one reason and one reason only. . .”

The music stopped. Adkins threw his arms open wide.

“Badonkadonk, motherfucker!”

Like the man said: a whole lotta stupid goin’ on. But when no one’s takin’ it too seriously, and when an amphitheater full of people on the lake are having a hell of a good time, it’s hard to do anything but laugh your ass off and join in.

Not To Reason Why at the 600 House; J-Boogie at the Hopmonk

Posted by on May 9, 2008

It was the fucking awesomest one-song set.

It was 11pm. Three bands had already played. I was planning on taking off to Sebastopol, had already said my goodbyes, and was literally halfway out the front door of the 600 House when Not To Reason Why started playing. Awww, shit. After the first couple notes, I was lured, like a magnet, back into the living room. How could I leave? When it comes to Not To Reason Why, you can’t even pretend like there’s an option. Just give in.

The Carlo Rossi was flowing. Fools were juiced. And if you’ve never heard them, Not To Reason Why are on some heavy-ass, pulsing, move-your-body epic-type tip. The song: “Zeitgeist.” The living room heaved, hands shot into the air, and the band played intensely, furiously, like it was the end of the world. Howls of joy. Heads shook in disbelief. Jessie Mae jumped up on top of an amplifier. For six sweet minutes, miracles came true.

Then the cops came.

——————————————————————————-

People are always talking about how there’s nothing to do around here, but tonight was a pretty good example of why that’s untrue. Here it was, Thursday night of all nights, there’s a killer house party that gets busted by the cops and yet there’s still more to do. Juke Joint with J-Boogie. I headed west.

——————————————————————————–

I pulled up to the Hopmonk Tavern a little before midnight and saw, I kid you not, a guy and a girl, standing and squatting next to each other in the parking lot, both talking to each other and pissing on the asphalt, simultaneously. Love works in incredible ways.

Inside, J-Boogie had just started his set with a megamix of Stevie Wonder songs—it being Stevie’s birthday—and the place was hopping like mad. Bodies on the floor, busting some serious moves. Breakdancers in the corner. Girls dancing on the stage. Again, the magnetic pull erased any choice other than to get down. Even the wallflowers were dancing in their shoes.

Out in the beer garden, I ran into a buddy of mine and asked him how, in his opinion, a small town like Sebastopol was able to so overwhelmingly support a night like Juke Joint. “It’s new,” he said, citing that everything fresh and hip has its initial glory period. Having worked at now-defunct Barcode in Santa Rosa, he could be said to speak from experience. “It’ll die down,” he predicted.

He could be right. But judging from last night’s huge crowd, and judging from the hypnotic spell J-Boogie had over everyone, it was hard to imagine an impending lull on the near horizon.

I’ve dug J-Boogie for almost ten years now, and the bulk of his set—after the Stevie Wonder tracks, and before the Motown / Atlantic megamix at the end—was a slick reminder of why he’s so great. Crazy, rhythmic grooves from all around the world; none of them recognizable, all of them dope. Also, J-Boogie’s one of the few DJs who can drop a long three-minute drum break with intros on the upbeat and full-on long paces of total silence and still keep the crowd not only moving but hollering with excitement. Hell yeah!

More photos after the jump.

(more…)

What the Hell’s Wrong with Neil Young?

Posted by on May 7, 2008 One Comment

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.

In News

Tom Waits Tours; Eugene Hütz Wanders Off

Posted by on May 5, 2008

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.

In News

Collapsing Under the Weight of Loma Prieta

Posted by on Apr 23, 2008 One Comment

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.

Aye, I Must Capitalize Eighth Blackbird

Posted by on Apr 23, 2008

Which is a shame, really, since they’re one of the best damn classical groups in the country and yet they insist on being called.. . ugh. . . can’t do it. . .. eighth blackbird. For reasons too long to get into here, I’ll allow the privilege of decapitalization to fIREHOSE, but not to Eighth Blackbird; I will, however, say that they were great at the Healdsburg Community Church last week.

It takes a lot to get me inside a church on any day of the week—let alone a Sunday. I suppose some free Tanqueray and J.M. Rosen’s cheesecake at a party hosted by MF Doom with a Susan Hayward look-alike contest and the complete works of Joan Miró on display might do the trick. Either that, or a performance hosted by the fantastic Russian River Chamber Music Society, which for over 16 years has been presenting free chamber music performances in Sonoma County, taking a close second.

So after a visit to the Great Eastern Quicksilver Mine and a dip in the river at Camp Rose, I did the unthinkable and went to church. Eighth Blackbird was just starting, and I immediately realized I’d made the right choice. Their first piece was a wacky thing for violin, clarinet, and piano, and it was both painstakingly precise and yet totally off-the-cuff; the fourth movement, fittingly, was titled after an R. Crumb comic: “Cancel my rumba lesson!”

The next piece utilized a de-tuned viola growling like a UPS truck, and after that, a composition, “Musique de Tables,” was played completely by the rapping of hands, fingers, knuckles and arms upon a tabletop. “Coming Together” was a hilarious duo for cello and clarinet consisting entirely of glissandi, sounding, as introduced, like a conversation between two adults from the Peanuts television specials—the two players wandered around the room, “talking” to each other in a very convincing primal dialogue. And the final piece was pure insanity, another highly complex thing that left me wondering: how do they rehearse this stuff?

Here’s the deal with Eighth Blackbird. What they do, they could be hella pretensh about it, but they’re not; they laughed along with the crowd at the ridiculous moments, they concentrated along with the crowd at the complicated passages, and they came off as very personable and real. The next day I read a tepid review in the Chronicle about ‘em, which was too bad, because I couldn’t see anyone disliking them based on the Healdsburg show. [alas, they played a completely different program.]

Avant-garde music is usually the province of middle-aged intellectuals, but I’d wager to say that any 5-year old—or anyone with an open heart of any age—would easily be ecstatic with Eighth Blackbird. And to think that every composition they performed was written no earlier than 1987! Consider yourself lucky if you were there, and thanks to Gary McLaughlin and the RRCMS for booking ‘em.

Japanese Jazz

Posted by on Apr 23, 2008 4 Comments

I’d never really given much thought to jazz from Japan before, but I recently came into a few records that’ve instigated a full-blown obsession whose duration has yet to be determined. This stuff kicks ass! Here’s a few of my favorites lately.

Takehiko Honda – Jodo - The title track alone, a chilling 11-minute dirge, is out of this world and is the reason everyone should track down this record. Reggie Workman bows his bass maniacally, sliding all over the fretboard, while Honda plays these terrifying chords up and down the piano. The whole tune is either one big fit of tension or one big release; I still can’t tell which, but it’s great. It just goes on and on! I love it.

 

Terumasa Hino – Tera’s Mood - Everything I’ve heard from Hino’s group in the early ’70s—with Mikio Masuda, Yoshio Ikeda, and Motohiko Hino—has been top-notch, and this live record, from 1973, is my favorite. “Alone, Alone and Alone” lives up to its name as a sparse invocation, then “Taro’s Mood” rips into an ultrafast pace with Masuda killing it, and “Predawn” has everybody shredding, especially Motohiko Hino on drums.

 

Kosuke Mine – Mine - Yet again, the sense of discovery here is overwhelming. Like, who the hell is Kosuke Mine, right? But dude, it’s great! This seems to be the first record released on the Three Blind Mice label, which released a lot of jazz from Japan in its day. This one’s from 1970, and features a fine take on Joe Henderson’s “Isotope” with some out-there originals augmented by Fender rhodes and Hine’s angular saxophone.

 

Takao Uematsu – Debut - “Inside Parts” is your standard blues and “Sleep, My Love” actually contains direct quotes from “A Love Supreme,” but when Uematsu’s playing solos he’s his own man. A mostly mid-tempo record, Uematsu nonetheless blows the hell out of his tenor, even on ballads. A trombonist named Takashi Imai comes correct with some inventive playing, too. Nice version of “Stella by Starlight,” but wait. . .

 

Terumasa Hino – Live! - Hino takes the cake again with a way better version of “Stella by Starlight,” and you guessed it—it’s the same early ’70s group. “Sweet Lullaby” is a good example of Hino’s forte; it fills empty spaces with just the right jabs, and Side Two is one long jam called “Be and Know” that even gets into some boogie rock with Hino wailing in the upper register. It’s 30 minutes long, all on one side! Such a great band, this one.

Bikini Kill in Santa Rosa, 1993

Posted by on Apr 16, 2008 2 Comments

Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite shows in Santa Rosa was the night in 1993 when Bikini Kill, illuminated by a semicircle of car headlights, played in someone’s backyard in Roseland.

I’ve stopped trying to tell the story, partly because the eventual ascension of Bikini Kill to indie icons in the general consciousness taints any kind of retelling with the risk of a coattail-riding smarminess—especially, y’know, coming from a dude—but mostly because I really just can’t do it any sort of justice.

Luckily for us all, Leilani Clark hits the thing out of the park in this post about the show, with all the wide-eyed awe that just about everyone in the backyard experienced that night. Read it here.

In the year or so before the show happened—advertised only by hastily photocopied handbills a couple days ahead of time—me and all my friends had all played the hell out of Bikini Kill’s first EP, marveling at its economy of purpose. They used simple statements and actions to convey what a lot of Bay Area bands had been trying to say in words, words, and more words. I know it sounds like a cliché, but they changed my ideas about what a band could be—even when, in 1993, I was of the age where I’d prided myself (falsely, it would turn out) on seeing it all.

The Bikini Kill show in the backyard was inspiring, thrilling, and confusing, all at the same time, and it took me a few years to figure out just what the hell had happened. (The only thing that I can add to Leilani’s account is that my friend Andy went up to one of the band members afterwards, and said, “Hey, you guys were really good,” to which she shot back, “We’re not guys.”)

Last night I dug through some boxes and found some pictures that I took at the show:

I found the flyer too:

…and the setlist.

 



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