Friday, October 27, 2006
So tomorrow morning I am leaving on an early flight to the city of sin….Las Vegas! Awesome! I have never been, and am looking forward to my first visit there. Not only does one of my favorite childhood friends (Ann) lives there, but I’ll be doing something I have yet to do…musically that is. I am going to go to Vegoose!
You might be asking, “What is Vegoose?” Well according to their website:
”Vegoose is a Halloween festival extravaganza that draws inspiration from its
I will not be in costume. It ain’t my thing, y’know? But this will be the first large scale music festival I will have ever gone to. I’m pretty excited because looking at the schedule there are plenty of acts I want to see, and best of all they don’t overlap! Which I think is pretty rare.
I am not attending on Saturday, because like I said I have never been to Vegas so I want to explore it some. Plus there are only three acts I would want to see (The Raconteurs, Cat Power, and Tom Petty) that day, and I’m okay not seeing them at this type of event. Sunday has more acts I want to see, and some acts that I have already seen before (sometimes multiple times), but wouldn’t mind seeing again. I hope to see Band of Horses, Built to Spill and Fiona Apple. I have already seen Guster, Jenny Lewis, and Ben Folds. Phil Lesh & Trey Anastasio are on the same time as Jenny, so I have a feeling I'll end up going to see them. I need to be accommodating to the other people who will be with me, and I think Phil and Trey will win out. But they would be a good act. Plus when do you get to see a member of The Grateful Dead and Phish perform? So I know I’ll be blown away.
I plan on coming back on Tuesday. Monday night I am going to see Widespread Panic (WP) for the 4th time this year. Say what?!?!? Yup, that’s right. I had never heard of WP until my friend Paul started doing lights for them. And whenever I and our friends get the chance to see Paul while he’s on the road, we end up seeing WP. They are a fun band. Not really my thing, but they have a following—The Spreadheads. Cute, huh? I do like one of their songs a lot. It’s called “Second Skin.” Kinda long, but really good.
When I get back I’ll give you all a full report.
Vegoose web site: http://www.vegoose.com/2006/
P.S. As we all know the weather has cooled down a bit. Couldn’t we have had a longer Indian Summer? Oh well. One album that I find myself going to these days is “Post-War” by M. Ward (the “M” stands for Matt).
This album is perfect for walking around on a cool, crisp day looking at the leaves change. It’s also great to listen to while sitting on your couch under a blanket, with a warm beverage. Themes of love, loss, life after war, and well life in general make this an album that you can’t just listen to once and then put on the shelf. These songs will seep into you. And you can listen to the album over and over and over again…all the way from start to finish.
Some of my favorite tracks include a cover of Daniel Johnston's “To Go Home” featuring Neko Case, “Chinese Translation,” and “Magic Trick.” And as I was typing out these three songs I was like, “But wait! You like “Rollercoaster” and “Poison Cup” too. And how could you leave out “Right in the Head”? How could you? And what about the others?” Which always tells me that if I have a hard time picking out a favorite song on an album, then the whole thing must be pretty good.
M.Ward’s web site: http://www.mwardmusic.com/
Video for “Chinese Translation”
Sunday, October 22, 2006
“Walk out into velvet…”
I finally made it to Roseland Ballroom on Wednesday the 18th . To see the glamorous and sexy Goldfrapp. Remember how I said the shows I went to so far the crowds have not danced? Well at this show they were dancing, dancing, and dancing. Yay!
Roseland is a pretty big venue and I got there 15 minutes after doors had opened. It was a large open space, and everyone was supposed to stand. But to the side of the main stage there was a smaller stage. I noticed people going up and sitting on it. So I went up there too, and little did I know I would have the best spot in the place. I was in the front and elevated above the crowd. As the room was filling up, I was able to see the stage perfectly and not have to worry about people pushing on me as they were trying to get to the front.
The opening act were two guys, who were going to DJ. They never said their names, and there was no mention of them on the ticket. And they never utter a word to us. They began their set with some electronic dance music, and soon I realized they were just playing songs off of CDs. Nothing that you wouldn’t see on your normal night out. However, their selection of songs didn’t quite mesh well with the Goldfrapp fans. They played “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead, “Nuthin' But a "G" Thang” by Dr. Dre, and other random songs you haven’t heard in a while, but the last time you did it was probably at a club where people would have been grinding on each other. The crowd was growing restless. The DJs were booed, flipped off, and had things thrown at them. They just laughed and continued their set. Finally when they were getting off the stage the crowd cheered. I felt bad for them, but they really should have known their audience before agreeing to this gig: women and gay men. Motorhead and booty rap songs were not good choices.
After 30 minutes of waiting, the crowd was soon appeased once they saw Goldfrapp take the stage. And like many lead singers, Allison was the focal point. She is a petite woman, who was in a dress that essentially was a shirt, and in heels that had to be at least 4 inches high. Her curly blonde hair, her porcelain looking skin, and her siren like voice had the crowd hypnotized. If it weren’t for the synth and drum beats we would have just stood there in awe. Instead bodies were moving, but our eyes were fixed.
During certain songs there were four female dancers who came out in costume. For one song they wore bikinis and wolf masks.
Another song they wore white spandex suits and silver masks.
For “Ride a White Horse” they wore leotards, fringe boots, had horse tails, and giant mirror ball heads in the shape of a horse heads. All very interesting.
The set list covered all three of their albums: “Felt Mountain,” “Black Cherry,” and “Supernature.”
Goldfrapp music, if you have never heard it is actually used in many commercials and on TV shows. Diet Coke, Nintendo, Motorola, Nip/Tuck, and Grey’s Anatomy have all used a Goldfrapp tune. Their music is sexy. That is the best way I can describe it.
I really am glad I went to see Goldfrapp. I mean I missed the season finale of Project Runway for it! But it was well worth it. This was the last show of the tour, so if you didn’t get a chance to see them this time, ha ha. Hopefully, they’ll head back to England and get started on a new album, after some long needed rest of course. In the meantime pick up their albums, and feel beautiful.
Video for “Ooh La La”
Goldfrapp web site: http://www.goldfrapp.co.uk/
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
“But when I sell out and leave Omaha, what will I get?”
I have been waiting at least 5 months to see Jenny live, and it seemed that every time she rolled into the DC/NoVA area I couldn’t make it. So I was very happy to get the chance to see her here in NYC. Her opening act, The Little Willies, unfortunately had to cancel the New York shows. But they are worth checking out if you get a chance, and why yes, that is Norah Jones http://www.emimusic.ca/thelittlewillies/
Instead, Willy Mason performed for us. He is currently working on an album in New York, and was able to make it out to play us some songs on his guitar. Willy has been surrounded by music his entire life (both his parents are folk singers), but he started to receive more attention after he got a ringing endorsement from Connor Oberst (of Bright Eyes). His voice was strong, full of emotion, and he had some great songs to sing If you like that whole guy with a guitar thing I would suggest checking him out.
Willy’s site: http://willymason.com/
After Willy performed we waited about 30 minutes for Jenny to come on stage. Maybe this is a Town Hall thing. Why was there such a long unnecessary break? They did this for Sufjan too. Anyway the crowd was getting antsy and finally when Jenny and crew arrived on stage it looked more like they were members of a wedding party (the girls in black dresses and bare feet (bridesmaids?) and the guys in slacks, collared shirts, and sport jackets) rather than a band coming to perform for us. Armed with her guitar in hand (it seriously was half her size) she started to sing “Long Black Dress”
During the black dress portion of the show, she sang the slower songs off the album, and had us all swooning with delight. There was a little more crowd involvement than the Sufjan show, but over all everyone was pretty tame. Except for the guy who kept yelling, “I love you Jenny!” in between songs. And he did it through out the show. At least his love was unwavering.
Then the ladies left the stage as the rest of the band played on. They played this very upbeat tune, and then the guitarist Jonathan Rice (he played Roy Orbison in Walk the Line, has his own solo album, born in Alexandria, VA (woot!), and is currently Jenny’s boyfriend) introduced the band in a very announcer-esque way. Then he gave a pause and introduced the Watson gals and “…Then all the way from Las Vegas…Jenny Lewis!” All three ladies came out in sequined mini-dresses and sang the song “Fernando.” No, not the Abba one…
The next series of songs are a bit more upbeat, and at least some heads were bopping along in the crowd. She also played some new songs and got us all wanting more as her set was coming to a close. With one album out there is only so much material you could do. But I think we would have stayed all night listening to the same songs over and over again if we could have.
She left for a brief moment, but then returned to the stage solo for the encore of “Rabbit Fur Coat.” Which she did beautifully. For the last song she and the group sang “Handle Me With Care,” the song on the album that has Jenny calling in favors from those musicians she has lent her vocals to over the years. She sang Connor Oberst’s and her parts, Jonathan sang M. Ward’s part, and the Watson twins sang Ben Gibbard’s part. Before they started she asked for us to stand. Since this is an upbeat song and just demands that your body moves. However, more than half of the crowd in the venue that night was lacking a pulse. There was very little movement. Hello there?! Do the crowds that go to Town Hall shows not dance? I didn’t care. I had to move!
Jenny and Jonathan
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, and the band accompanying them, put on a great show. And right now on a fabulous NPR show, All Songs Considered, you can hear Jenny and crew live from their DC show this past Sunday: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6254742
The set list isn’t exactly what I heard, but it’s very close. And this will give you an idea of what she sounds like live. Also, you are able to listen to this show (and any of their archived shows) as often as you would like. So listen away!
Jenny’s solo site: http://www.jennylewis.com/
Monday, October 09, 2006
Named after the Chicago neighborhood, home to hipsters and artists, this film is a remake of the French film, L'Appartement. The main character is played by Josh Hartnett, and it follows his obsession with a woman he believes is his long lost girlfriend. It is deemed a psychological thriller. Strangely, I have seen this film…more than once. Hey! I have HBO now. But that is besides the point I am trying to make. Before I had even seen the film, or really knew what it was about, I had bought the soundtrack. The main reason was to have a version of The Postal Service’s “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now).” Yes, the song originally recorded by Phil Collins. This song is ‘effin brilliant.
But this is not the only song worth getting this soundtrack for. On it are other great bands such as The Shins (hey remember them from Garden State?), Broken Social Scene, The Stills, and Snow Patrol before they went all Grey’s Anatomy. It also has Aqualung’s “Strange and Beautiful” on it, which was the first time I had heard and immediately fell in love with this song.
I know that this suggestion is coming two years too late. But I was watching this show on Fuse (yes, the Canadian MTV) called The Dive (which is the only thing worth watching on that channel) and they played the video for The Postal Service version. Then that got me thinking…
Here is the reason I wrote this entry. You can even see clips of the movie. Too bad you don’t get to hear the greatest line in it, “Things don't have to be extraordinary to be beautiful. Even the ordinary can be beautiful.”—Matthew (Josh Hartnett). *Sigh*
Sunday, October 08, 2006
“I feel like I’m playing for my family…”
The event was titled, “PJ Harvey talks with Hilton Als: A Conversation with Music.” Hilton interviewed her back in 2001 for The New Yorker, where he is a staff writer (duh!) and theatre critic. Most of the conversation/interview included questions about how she got her start, why art college never worked out for her, and her influences. I was very luck to be a stone’s throw away from her on stage. I sat on the side of the stage in this VIP-esque area where I met some new friends and fellow fans. Sometimes it helps to go to these things alone, because it’s easier to sneak in somewhere by yourself.
She was very humorous, soft-spoken, and honest. She considers herself a shy, private person, but yet on stage when she performs she is an extrovert. She shared stories of growing up in England, her first band, deferring art college, and how funny it is running into Tricky on the streets or in the grocery stores of LA: “We’re both from Bristol, and here we are now both in LA…”
After the formal conversation with Hilton, the audience got a chance to ask some questions, and she politely answered them. Many of them all started out with, “Omigod! I love you some much…I can’t believe you’re here…” But at least the people pulled it together enough to get around asking the question.
After the Q&A, Hilton excused himself so that she could take the stage solo to perform. What a treat! Just her, her guitar and piano, and us, the hopelessly devoted. When she stood in front of us she said, “I feel like I’m playing for my family. I can’t stand up here and be all rock star. You’ve just seen me as a person.” Very sweet. She played some familiar favorites that included, “My Beautiful Leah,” “Rid Of Me,” “Man-Size,” and “The Desperate Kingdom of Love.” Then she allowed us to hear some of her new songs, which were played on the piano. She said she received a piano as a gift 3 or 4 months ago, and after first being intimidated by it, she slowly warmed up to it, and now most of her new songs are on the piano.
After an hour, yes just an hour (she was the early show…we had to leave for Randy Newman), she waved good-bye to a standing crowd. I really hope to see her again, once the new album is finished. I think seeing her be all rock star would be fantastic.
New Song: “Bitter Little Bird”
My favorite PJ Harvey album is “Stories from the City, Stories form the Sea” This is one of my quintessential New York City albums. It’s all about NYC, being in love, and being in love in NYC. All of the songs have a depth and an emotion to them that just make you feel like you are experiencing the city for the first time…even if you have never been!
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Good Fortune” I had to include the video:
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
“Normal people did not listen to hardcore, and we liked it that way…”
I have been in NYC for almost four months now, and as much as I say I miss the DC area, I do have moments that I realize that I’m in a cool place. One instance was two weeks ago when I went to see the documentary film “American Hardcore.” It was only playing in one city, in one theater in the entire United States…and it happened to be the place I now currently reside. How cool is that?
“American Hardcore” if you get the chance to see this film, it is definitely worth watching. I don’t care if you are into the music or if you were in diapers when this scene was at its peak. If you have an interest in music and where some bands you like today got some of their influence, then you must see this movie.
This film follows the underground hardcore punk years from 1980 to 1986. It tells the story of each scene in each city, starting from its birthplace, Southern California. Then it follows the story (and the bands) to DC, Boston, NYC, the Midwest, and so on. The film interviews the usual suspects: Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Greg Ginn, and Mike Watt. But then you also get some insights from Flea, Moby, and Phil Anselmo.
I never quite got into hardcore punk as much as my brother did, but I like to think I had a hand in him discovering it. My sophomore year of high school a new kid had come to town, and with him he brought this “I’m cooler than you because I don’t listen to that MTV mainstream sh*t.” attitude. His name was Jason Arnold, and even though he was only at my high school for a year before moving back to Colorado, he opened my eyes to a world of music undiscovered. He let me borrow a mixed tape full of bands I had never heard of: Black Flag, Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX, and the Vandals to name a few. What was this music? Why were the songs around two minutes each? Why was it so full of adrenaline and energy? Why did it make me want to raise my fists in the air and yell, “Whoo!”? I immediately shared it with my brother, who felt more of a connection with the music, and went out and got the albums of these bands. Then I had access to the music and in turn could expose it to others. See how important it is to share the gift of music?
Like I said, if this film makes it anywhere near you…GO! You will be entertained, amazed, and educated on a short-lived but influential musical movement.
The official site for the film: http://www.sonyclassics.com/americanhardcore/
A cool walking tour to do if you are ever in DC…the monuments haven’t changed sine you were there last time. Learn something new: http://yellowarrow.net/capitolofpunk/
Ian MacKaye’s label Dischord: http://www.dischord.com/
Why I never visited it while I was in DC, I’ll never know…
Want to get a good idea of what life was like on the road during those days? Check out Henry Rollins’ book, “Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag.” This book is a day-by-day journal that lets the reader into the world of punk first-hand. It also shows the highs and lows of being in a band and all that comes with it.
And just because I had to…the first Black Flag song I ever heard...“TV Party”
P.S. Ken thanks for letting me be a “goofy fan” around you.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Thinking outrageously I write in cursive...
I went with my “friend by default” Sam. I know he hates when I say that, but we are friends because he is really good friends with my roommate. But since I have been in NYC, Sam has become my friend too, and the only person who responded to my mass e-mail months ago about seeing this show. So the rest of you missed out! Start kicking yourselves now…
The opening act is no stranger to the Sufjan family. My Brightest Diamond (moniker for Shara Worden), has toured in Sufjan’s band, and appears on his recordings. Her backing band, are also members of Sufjan’s (it’d be hard to travel with two sets of string and horn players…so I understand). The highlight of her performance was her version of “Feelin’ Good” from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd, or you may be more familiar with the Nina Simone version that appeared on the second Six Feet Under Soundtrack. In any case, My Brightest Diamond’s version was great. The rest of her songs were okay. Nothing that really stood out to me, but some of the stories and meanings behind the songs were ummm how shall I say? Oh yes…interesting. Like when she shared a story of working in a restaurant and the annoyance of making sure people had their margaritas. Then she envisioned these people as horses, and if they were bad they would get sent to the glue factory. But she would come, like Tom Waits (and she did a Tom Waits impression) in her big blue beat-up pick-up truck and save them from the glue factory. Then she would take them all back to her place in Brooklyn. Then she went into the song, and I don’t think she even mentioned horses. Oh well. When I was listening to her I couldn’t place her voice, but it sounded familiar. At times she sounded like a younger sister version of PJ Harvey, but then it hit me that she sounded more like Sinead O’Connor, but not as intense. I’m not sure how much My Brightest Diamond will do solo touring (not right now anyway), but I can see why Sufjan had her open for him 1) her album just came out on his label, Asthmatic Kitty and 2) he needed her for his show! But I’m sure she found an audience last night, and will do well in her own right.
After My Brightest Diamond left the stage, there was minimal set up. In addition to the normalness of guitars getting tuned or the microphones being checked, someone came out to put up these bird kites around the stage.
After waiting another 20 minutes the show began. The backing 14 members of his band came out with butterfly wings on, and then Sufjan joined them with a feathered mask and bird wings. He started out at the piano, and started to play “Sister.”
Then he welcomed the crowd, and began with the songs we all know and love. For this tour he is just playing songs from “Michigan,” Seven Swans,” and “Illinois” as well as some new songs.
There were many highlights during the show, and unexpected surprises. One was when he played “Jacksonville” (which Sam guessed right away, but I told him he was wrong, but then he was right….there Sam! Are you happy? I admitted you were right!). It is one of my favorites on the “Illinois” album. Sufjan mentioned that Jacksonville, IL does a lot for the deaf and blind, so some of members would be wearing sunglasses due to that. Then about half of the band did.
Then when he played a new song, “Worst Christmas Ever!” (from his album to be released this year, “Songs for Christmas”) blow-up Santas were distributed throughout the crowd and tossed around.
This tossing around of blow up items also came out when he performed, “Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts” and blow-up Supermans and Superman hammers floated through the crowd.
And on the screen was the band’s visit to Metropolis, IL where they took photos behind the Superman backdrop and statue.
He also played a crowd pleaser and one of my favorite songs of all time, “Chicago.”
Sufjan was very friendly throughout the show and interacted with the audience well. Before he played, “The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!” he shared the story behind it. About he and his friend at summer camp, and how this giant wasp was circling around them when they were out late one evening. They were scared, and how to this day he still fears the giant wasp. However, during the part of the song (which is my favorite) the sound system made this horrible electrical noise, resulting in the song stopping and ears being covered. Sufjan recovered by saying, “See the wasp is out there!” But then they picked up where they left off.
I was really pleased to finally get a chance to see Sufjan live. If you have heard any of his albums, you might think it would be difficult to recreate the sound live, but he did. It had just as much feeling and emotion.
Sam and I both thought the crowd was very polite. Everyone was respectful, applauded when the songs were over, and I heard no singing along. Well there was some reaction when he mentioned New York in the song “Chicago,” and in between songs you would hear, “I love you!” being screamed. There was movement during the faster songs, but not a lot. And I don’t think anyone stood up during the set at all. Just at the end where we gave him an ovation. But the crowd reaction/participation didn’t take away from the show. Maybe everyone was entranced? Under some Sufjan spell? We were all intoxicated on melodies, harmonies, and emotions? Who really knows?
I would highly recommend seeing Sufjan live. He is phenomenal and worth whatever cash you have to shell out. Which by the way at the show t-shirts were $10, and all of his CDs were also $10. See, you can sell merch at a reasonable price! Also, it is sold on the Asthmatic Kitty site for the same price…
Bye bye Sufjan! Thanks for a great show! See you next time!
However, I hope he gets his butt back to the studio or visits another state to work on the next album. Incase you don’t know, Sufjan has made a very lofty goal of creating an album for all 50 states (what? No love for DC? I know it isn’t a state, but the music you could make about that city!). And the joke was after he released “The Avalanche” (which were outtakes and extras from “Illinois”), was, “How was he ever going to move on if he can’t get out of Illinois?” The rumor is the next state to be done is Oregon or Rhode Island. However, Minnesota has been mentioned due to a song he has just written and performed live called “The Maple River.” Also, Arkansas is mentioned in his song, “The Lord God Bird.” So who knows what state he’ll do next? I just have a feeling Oklahoma will be close to last. I mean we already have a musical! And he has jokingly said that he will probably not do Texas. I hope it was a joke…
To give you an idea of what the show was like:
The start of the show, with Shara singing “Sister”
Part of the song, “Chicago.” On the screen were images of Chicago…can you see the John Hancock Center? I heart you my First Big City Love!
A new song called, “Majesty Snowbird.” Sufjan said this melody was trapped in his head for 10 years, and this song has become the theme song for this tour. I think it is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.
Song I wish he played: “Casimir Pulaski Day” (maybe next time!)
Sufjan on his label’s site: http://www.asthmatickitty.com/musicians.php?artistID=5