Apparently, I’m not the only person whose mind wanders to concert etiquette while I’m at a show. A friend of mine dug up this early Questionable Content cartoon strip. Click on the image for the full list.
eMusic is soliciting questions for Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer), whose album Trouble in Dreams came out this month and who is currently on tour. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org before this Tuesday, April 1st, and keep an eye out for the interview, scheduled to be on the eMusic homepage during the week of April 21st. Bejar’s lyrics are notoriously obscure – now’s your chance for some enlightenment. What I really want to ask about the New Pornographers’ concert in Boston last fall: “Dude, was that really an orange in your hand when you wandered onstage to sing?”
Freezepop is the band that dragged synthpop out of the 80s and into the 21st century. Their third full-length release, Futurefuturefutureperfect, is as perfect a piece of danceable electronic songwriting as you’ve ever heard. But they are really at their best live; I saw them a few weeks ago, in front of a full house at the Middle East, and it was the most fun I’ve had at a concert in ages. The show featured duelling keytars, a shark-encased microphone, and generally playful behaviour from the band, especially the aptly-pseudonymed Liz Enthusiasm. They did a brilliant live version of “Melon Ball Bounce,” a jingle that Raymond Scott wrote for Sprite (which they recorded as a bonus track on Fashion Impression Function). One of the highlights was the Duke of Pannekoeken‘s virtuosic theremin performance on ‘Frontload.’ Sadly, the Duke (Kasson Crooker) has severely curtailed his touring with the band; his day job is keeping him pretty busy.
As if Rachael Ray liking Holy Fuck wasn’t bad enough, Entertainment Weekly decided to take a kick at the indie-rock can with their special supplement on The Indie Rock 25. The format – exactly one release from each year since 1984 – is pretty much tailor-made to invite disputatious responses. It’s worth checking out, if only to contrast the picture of REM in 1986 (the picture in the dead-tree version is dorkier still) to their rock’s-elder-statesmen cover photo on April’s Spin.
Got a disputatious response of your own? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.
EDIT [May 10, 2008]: Looking for some listening suggestions? Check out these posts:
Already into indie music? Use the comments to tell us what you’re listening to!
Dan Kennedy is clearly a man who knows how to make the best of a bad situation. He realizes a lifelong dream of working in the music business, only to discover that he’s just gotten himself a deckchair on the Titanic. The year is 2002, the company is Warner, and the record industry is imploding. Warner itself is about to be bought by ‘the billionaire grandson of a man who made the family a fortune in booze and chemical dealings,’ resulting in hundreds of layoffs, including Kennedy’s. Fortunately for us, he turned his experiences into a acidly funny memoir, Rock On: An Office Power Ballad. This book certainly made me laugh, and it also made want to loudly cheer the ongoing demise of the traditional record industry. However, my favourite part of the book was a lengthy, loving account of an Iggy Pop concert, possibly because Kennedy was writing about something he loved, not about something he had to be self-protectively cynical about:
…Iggy is everywhere at once. He flies like a computer-animated god-beast deity in an unhinged and hijacked Lucas film. You suddenly realize every punk band you thought was blowing your mind back when you were sixteen was simply a cute little messenger delivering a wadded note to you from this man, wherever he might have been that night.
You can see a promo video for the book here, and Michael Azerrad wrote a review for the New York Times, here. You can also download audio of Kennedy telling a story from the book at a Moth gig in Seattle.
[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA; March 22, 2008]
Montreal-based Miracle Fortress played a sold-out show at the Middle East Upstairs, opening for fellow Canadian scenesters The Most Serene Republic. Based on their single ‘Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart,’ I expected them to be quite a bit more ethereal than they were, especially given their fairly dreamy start – frontman Graham Van Pelt began with a solo piece. Instead, driven by Jordan Robson-Cramer’s propulsive drumming, they turned out to rock quite a bit. Their set was mostly drawn from their first full-length release, Five Roses (which, if you grew up in Canada, doesn’t evoke music so much as it does baking), as well as some new material.
[embedded YouTube video; if you can't see it, click here]
[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA; March 21, 2008]
I wrote about Holy Fuck the last time I saw them – they are utterly phenomenal live. You can look at the clips on YouTube, but they don’t really capture the experience (that’s why that’s a video above, not a live clip). Unfortunately, they are wrapping up their North American tour – but if you happen to live in the UK or Ireland, you should definitely try to catch one of their shows.
This looks awesome. Altamont Now is having its world premiere tomorrow, March 22nd, at the Boston Underground Film Festival. From the director: ‘it’s the story of a mysteriously square journalist who happens upon a cult of rock and roll revolutionaries living inside an abandoned nuclear missile silo with little idea of what they are “revolutionizing” against.’ Shot inside an actual underground silo, it’s an absurdist, satirical look at how youth rebellion borrows from its past.
Well, I totally failed to post anything about either of the Mountain Goats shows I went to last week, so here’s a taste of what John Darnielle is like in concert – this is their cover of Ace of Base’s 1993 hit, “The Sign“. A quick YouTube search reveals that The Mountain Goats have played this song live many times. The MP3 below is from yet another version, in which Darnielle alternately threatens and encourages the audience, and it still makes me laugh, even after scores of hearings.
Destroyer‘s eighth album, Trouble in Dreams, could be the perfect album from the 70s that you never heard. Like John Darnielle‘s, Dan Bejar’s distinctive voice polarizes listeners; if you didn’t enjoy his previous album, Destroyer’s Rubies, you probably won’t like this one either, although the vocal acrobatics are less in evidence. But Bejar writes songs that are both listenable and interesting, both lyrically (inventive phrasing about time-honoured topics, like women) and musically, foregoing the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, but still remaining – well, catchy is probably too strong a word – but certainly you’ll hear his songs in your head. This characteristic of his songwriting came home to me when I realized that, despite my devotion to the three-minute pop song, my favourite song on the album was the eight-minute long epic “Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night’s Ape). Bejar is widely compared to David Bowie, although I have to say that this album sounds more like early Roxy Music to me – in a good way, not in a boringly derivative way – especially “The State.” Trouble in Dreams definitely holds up to repeated listening and is worth checking out.
I’m a little late blogging this, but Seth Godin, a marketing guy, posted a transcript of a talk that he gave to a roomful of music company executives. This is the stuff I wave my hands about and try to explain to everyone I know, when I talk about why I have a music blog and how the music industry is changing. Godin starts by summarizing the factors that made the traditional music industry so sweet (the ubiquity of Top 40 songs, music as a physical artifact that was coveted and which wore out, free promotion via radio and TV, an oligopoly of record companies, and so on) and then makes the case that they are all gone:
Music is not in trouble. I believe more people are listening to more music now than any time in the history of the world. Probably five times more than twenty years ago…that much! But, the music business is in trouble. And the reason the music business is in trouble is because remember all those pieces of good news?…every single one of them is not true anymore….
Having explained how all these factors have disappeared, he goes on to discuss how record companies now have to change the way they do business:
There is a lot of music I like. There is not so much music I love. They didn’t call the show, “I Like Lucy”, they called it “I Love Lucy”. And the reason is you only talk about stuff you love, you only spread stuff you love. You find a band you really love, you’re forcing the CD on other people, “you gotta hear this!”. We gotta stop making music people like. There is an infinite amount of music people like. No one will ever go out of the way to hear, to pay for, music they like.
The final point that Godin makes is that music creates tribes of people, who want to interact with each other and the musicians, who want to go to concerts – nobody who really loves a band wants to be a passive consumer. Godin persuasively argues that the music industry has to start thinking about ‘tribal management.’
I’m not convinced that record label industry execs are the people who are going to make the transition (Nettwerk aside) but hey, at least they invited the clue train to visit.
via Boing Boing
What This is Spinal Tap is to heavy metal, Hard Core Logo is to punk – both of them are mockumentaries following a band on tour. As befits its different genre, however, Hard Core Logo foregoes the silly jokes of Spinal Tap and instead walks an edgy line between humour and bitterness. Based on the book by Michael Turner, and brought to the screen by Bruce McDonald, the movie is widely seen as an allegory of the death of punk (although that makes it sound very boring, while it is in fact funny and sad, and has great music). The cast is stellar, with Hugh Dillon (the lead singer of The Headstones) and Callum Keith Rennie (now probably best known as a Cylon) playing the leads, and guest appearances by Vancouver punk legends DOA and by Joey Ramone. This is just a terrific movie for anyone interested in music, bands or punk.
Stars, who sing perfect Smiths/Belle and Sebastian-style pop songs, performed a live set on NPR‘s Studio 360. The show aired yesterday, and the segment is available for streaming or download. They also did a live bonus version of “Personal”, which is archived below.
MP3: Stars on Studio 360 (interview + live set)
I should add to my previous post that The Main Drag endeared themselves to me forever when they chose to cover LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” for Coke Machine Glow (I kind of like that song). Their version loses the staccato piano and swaps out James Murphy’s world-weary but assertive voice for the straight-up emotion of Matt Boch and Adam Arrigo.
Boston-area’s The Main Drag played last night with Freezepop and The Information and they were phenomenal (actually, all the bands were terrific). They first impinged on my consciousness in late 2006, when they won the Salon Song Search with “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter.” (Boston was well represented, with another local band, Hallelujah the Hills, taking third place). The Main Drag’s second album, Yours As Fast As Mine, came out last year – I can only presume that they spent their $5000 in contest money wisely. ‘Jagged’ and ‘gorgeous’ are both excellent descriptors of their string-laden songs.
Well, I had a terrific time guest-DJ’ing on WMBR this morning. Emphasis on the ‘guest’ – I got to do all the fun parts, like choosing all the songs and talking. Keith handled the control panel with gracious professionalism, and made me feel very welcome and less like the total newbie I am. I decided to focus on Canadian indie music, just because I know it pretty well and I needed a theme to narrow down the universe of possibilities. You can listen to the stream (.m3u file) for the next two weeks (until the morning of Thursday, March 20th). Note that I don’t come in until about the half-hour mark; Breakfast of Champions, WMBR’s morning show, runs from 8 to 10 and I was officially in from 8:30 to 9:30 am.
EDIT [March 20, 2008]: If you missed the streaming, but still want to hear it, feel free to contact me at debcha at gmail dot com and I can hook you up.
Here’s a copy of my notes from this morning; you can guess what I thought was the most important thing to remember (click on image to see a PDF).
Treble Charger: Red (NC-17 version)
Destroyer: The Leopard of Honour
Les Breastfeeders: Tout Va Pour Le Mieux Dans Le Pire des Monde
Leather Uppers: Say It In French
Mother Mother: Touch Up
Caribou: Melody Day
The Besnard Lakes: Devastation
Miracle Fortress: Hold Your Secrets in Your Heart
Immaculate Machine: Dear Confessor
Tokyo Police Club: Nature of the Experiment
Born Ruffians: Hummingbird
The Awkward Stage: Heaven is For Easy Girls
Broken Social Scene: I Slept with the Bonhomme at the CBC
Broken Social Scene: Love and Mathematics
[Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge MA; February 29, 2008]
Toronto-based trio Born Ruffians played at the Middle East Upstairs on Friday night. They were astonishingly tight, especially considering that it was only the second night of their tour. Luke LaLonde’s jagged, warbling vocals were ably backed by both bassist Mitch DeRosier and Steve Hamelin, the drummer, leading to an almost 50s vibe, with barbershop-quartet-style harmonies. The cheerful-sounding music belies dismal lyrics, however, like these from “Badonkadonkey”: The disappearing kindness/that I show for you, I know/the loving that you gave to me/was wasted too. Their new album, Red, Yellow and Blue, is slated for release on on Tuesday, March 4th (I nabbed a physical CD – complete with lyrics sheet – at their concert).
Link to MP3 download page: Born Ruffians – Badonkadonkey