Monday, September 15, 2008

East Village Radio Fest

September 7, 2008
East Village Radio Fest w/Boris, KRS-One, Aa, and others @ Fulton Street Seaport
So Percussion @ Le Poisson Rouge

When I made my tardy arrival I was hoping the hip-hop act on stage was Devin the Dude who I had been looking forward to seeing. Alas, it was KRS-One. At first it was all right. He was doing some song with a chorus that involved shouting "Fuck Yeah!" and I could get into that. But soon it became way too conscious for me. His sidekick came on-stage and engaged in a very lengthy poetry slam-style tirade about presidential politics. My first reaction was, "Cool. They're talking about some issues to the kids. Using their pulpit to raise consciousness." But it just kept going and going. And it wasn't particularly clever or entertaining even. Just your typical blowhard stuff. I got tired of being condescended to and yelled at all at the same time, and realized that Aa, who I would have rather been seeing anyway, were playing on the side stage.

I'd been meaning to catch Aa for quite some time. The festival's second stage was in a cool gallery space. They were appealing but I wasn't really grabbed by what they were playing. Aa's sound is built on percussion, and so I wanted the music to be much more aggressive than it was. I'm not sure they've fully harnessed their powers as a band but all in due time.

Boris scorched the crowd with their sludge-filled psychedelic metal, as per usual. It was kind of interesting to see them in the context of a free outdoor show where the audience is much more diverse than their typical shows that are filled with hardcore fans who know what to expect. I wonder if Takeshi ever gets tired of jumping into the audience and crowd-surfing at every show.

After the East Village Radio fest I headed over to Le Poisson Rouge to see So Percussion who had seriously impressed me with their stunning set of meticulously complex rhythmic synchronicity at this year's Bang On A Can marathon. This show turned out to be a much different concept than the set they played at the marathon, which was more academic and classical in nature. At this show, they seemed to be working out a different identity as a rock band in the vein of Tortoise. But for a group that's already demonstrated their impressive grasp on playing incredibly demanding music, they weren't able to transfer that discipline into this new context, and it just sounded sloppy and ill-conceived. Maybe the sloppiness was an affectation to embody their vision of what rocking out sounds like, a concept on which their grasp seemed to be somewhat shaky. Afterwards, a laptop musician took the stage playing some very loud electronic beat-laden music. But I had to go home. My head had heard enough music for one weekend.

More photos of Boris from the East Village Radio Festival at Brooklyn Vegan.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Big O

Monster Island Block Party w/Oneida, Ex-Models, Golden Triangle and others
September 6, 2008
Secret Project Robot

The night started off earmarked for pathetic disaster. New York City had been put on notice to receive a hard rain from the runoff of Hurricane Hanna, which had been making its way up the eastern seaboard all week. The East Village Radio Festival, my original destination for the day, had been postponed due to the forecast, leaving me free to attend the Monster Island Block Party, which was prepared with an indoor location. This actually was auspicious because I had earlier been frustrated by the dilemma posed by 2 free outdoor music festivals on the same day – damn you NYC and your constant embarrassment of riches!! – and this relieved me from having to make an uncomfortable choice between the two.

Just as I was walking out the door to make my delayed departure towards the show around 8pm, my friend who was going to meet me there called to tell me that Oneida had already played at 5:30 (we had mistakenly assumed that they’d be the headliners and play last) and that he wouldn’t be coming after all. But, BUT, he told me that he heard that Oneida would be recording an album later in the evening and were inviting 15 people to join them in the studio for the recording. Only thing, all the tickets had been handed out at the beginning of the day. I almost turned right back around and headed home. I decided to press on, but at least 10 separate times on my walk to the subway I stopped in my tracks and stood frozen on the sidewalk, reassessing whether to make the journey. I’ve gone to my fair share of concerts alone, but this was billed as a party. What was I doing going by myself to a party where I’d know no one, that was supposed to be over right around the time I probably would arrive with vague intentions of crashing this album taping for which tickets had been handed out hours ago? But my momentum was unassailable. And it was so dramatic out, not quite raining, but windy and dark with an importunate drizzle and the air full of that portentous moodiness unique to having a tropical storm in proximity. I figured that at worse, I’d get to walk the desolate streets of Williamsburg that take you to the river and revel in my solitary thoughts like a little weather-battered shadowy moppet of the night. Or something like that. In any case, I soldiered on.

I was pleased to find that the event was still well underway when I arrived. The space (I’m not sure whether it’s called Monster Island or Secret Project Robot or Las Estacas or all of the above) is a converted warehouse located in a fairly uninhabited stretch of Williamsburg, right near the river, and functions as an art gallery, performance space, and as I learned, in the basement, a practice space and recording studio for Oneida. The event had the feeling of a “happening,” with freaky shit going on in every corner. There was some animalistic installation in the front room with sculptures made of leather, furs, and other organic-looking materials bearing horns and pelts…the works. In the main space, the lighting was all wrong for the scene. The bright fluorescent lights dilated everyone’s pupils and paradoxically, made for a much more psychedelic effect than the dark dinginess of a typical event of this sort. It was like 60 minutes on acid, man. At one point a parade of lissome young people nominally covered in diaphanous loincloths and covered from head to toe in some sort of white powder made a slow march through the space. Exposed tits and dicks - this was a good party!

Despite plenty of visual stimulation, the band was taking forever to set up so I wandered around aimlessly for a while before I realized that there was a basement, where The Ex-Models (which feature Oneida’s Kid Millions on drums) were just getting ready to start their technical issue-laden set in the basement. I was psyched to see them and what they were able to play sounded pretty good although they couldn’t really get things going due to the fact that their equipment seemed to be on the verge of bursting into flames. At one point a thin plume of smoke was rising from one of the amplifiers. Thankfully they turned that off, but I was still concerned that an explosion of some sort was nigh. They played for about 20 minutes before they gave up. The basement cleared out and everyone headed upstairs where Golden Triangle was getting ready to play.

The Ex-Models

Oneida was breaking down their equipment and moving it all into a room off to the side. I figured it was my chance. I walked up to Hanoi Jane and asked if they were playing again that night. “Yeah, we’re recording an album.”

“Oh cool!” I said, expectantly, enthusiastically, nonchalantly.

A pregnant pause and Jane asked, “Do you have a ticket?”

Mournfully, innocently, trying to make the most of my feeble hand, I responded, “No,” bowing my head with shame.

“Do you want one?” he asked.

I instantly perked up, my eyes widening like those of a manga cartoon girl. “Yeah yeah!” I said, my head athletically bobbing up and down.

“OK, but if I give you this ticket you have to promise to actually come,” he said sternly as he proffered a rectangular cardboard strip of paper featuring an eyeball with a metallic gold pupil.

I found his ultimatum laughable and asked him “Are you kidding?” After realizing he was serious, I wiped the smirk off my face, and solemnly agreed, “Yes, of course I’ll come.” (This exchange suggested to me that Oneida may not fully be aware that they are in possession of really big fans.) While I waited for the recording to begin, I went upstairs to watch Golden Triangle who were playing a raucous set encircled by fans and without significant demarcation from where the band ended and the audience began. It was hard for me to concentrate, excited about the oncoming performance by Oneida and not wanting to miss it since it was happening in a closed off private room and it wasn’t quite sure how I’d learn when it was starting. People kept peeking into the room and getting shooed out.

Golden Triangle

Finally they said they were letting people in. I entered timidly and was instantly greeted by a girl asking, “Ticket?” I nodded my head yes and before I could actually produce it, she thrust a can in my hand and insisted, “Beer!” I hesitantly walked further inside not knowing where to stand in the tiny cramped space full of instruments and equipment with a glass window looking into a small control room in the back since basically anywhere I stood would be impinging on the space of the musicians. Sensing my timidity, band members encouraged, “Come all the way in! Stand wherever you want.” There were maybe 10 spectators—some huddled in the back, a few sitting in the middle encircled by the band, and me in the back at the top of the steps leading up to the control room, looking out on the whole scene. Oneida informed the assembled group that what they were about to record was to be their “party album” and the deal of us being there was that everyone had to be partying at all times. They asked to make sure everyone had a beer and insisted that if at any time during the proceedings anyone needed a beer that we were to raise our hand and one would be brought to us. (Miraculously, this system actually worked.)

View From Inside The Ocropolis: Oneida channel The Feelies

Then they started playing, with each song getting more intense than the one before, culminating in a full on manic jam propelled by 2 drummers (inspired by the Feelies I later learned). Oneida play with an extremely joyous yet disciplined and serious intensity, and it was a powerful experience to watch and feel such energetic playing in such an intimate surrounding. It really made you feel like part of the experience. At one point the band popped open a bottle of champagne and started passing it around. Later someone said, “Bring out the dragon” and a pipe was passed around. It felt like a climax of my music-going career to be witness to such an experience. Anyone can go to a concert. Album-tapings are were the real professionals get their kicks. I learned afterwards they were recording what was to be the 3rd part of their triptych, "Thank Your Parents," for which they recently released the first part, "Preteen Weaponry." (The 2nd part will be released later next year.) Hey Oneida, can I come to all your recoding sessions from now on??

Fat Bobby steps away from his keyboard to mess with a bass for a bit.

Afterwards, I was completely elated. I felt this sense of being connected to all the people in the room who had shared in the experience. I think I was wrong and probably no one else cared to know who the hell I was, but I couldn’t shake it. I wanted to thank the musicians personally for allowing me to be a part of their album. They seemed confused by my effusiveness. I was shocked when one of the guys responded to my praise with diffidence, saying that he had been disappointed in his own playing and felt like it wasn’t as good as it should have been. I was able to obtain a copy of Oneida’s "Heads Aint Ready" 7” wherein they pay energetic homage to the frenzied, insistent instrumental lines of the Dead’s early arrangements of "Cold Rain and Snow" and "Cream Puff War" and listened to it a few times when I got home. (The next day I found several photographs and 2 live action videos that I had apparently taken with my digital camera during my trip home of my subway car on the G train, completely empty other than me, speeding through tunnels. WTF?)

I was still feeling the glow from last night’s experience with The Big O when I woke up. I visited the band’s website, Enemy Hogs, to spend some more time in their world and came across the phenomenally engaging tour diaries written by Kid Millions. I then went on to spend some of the most enjoyable hours in recent memory totally rapt by the extremely frank, funny, well-written journal of life on the road traveling across America and Europe in a rickety perpetually broken-down van, crashing on couches, and playing shitty, half-empty venues. They start off filled with enthusiasm and boundless energy and with each successive tour become increasingly more disillusioned and exhausted. For Oneida, the road is filled with loneliness, bad food, soul-crushing disappointment, ever-looming calamity, and accommodations so uncomfortable that the only way to deal with it is to get completely wasted. Anyway, if you have a day to spare, I highly recommend checking the Oneida tour diaries out. One of the best music reads I’ve enjoyed in a while.

I had told someone a story the night before about when I first fell in love with the Grateful Dead—how I rented the Grateful Dead Movie when I was 13 and sat in my parent’s bedroom home alone, watching in the dark, and had my expectations for what music could be totally turned on its head. That night years ago, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. As I watched the band play their hearts out, I was so moved I stood up on the bed and started sobbing. I remember thinking: all this time, all the music I’ve known from radio, MTV, records, I didn’t know that there were people out there who cared so much, who were willing to play so hard, to push the notes out of themselves and explore so boldly, venturing into such vast terrains of music—I was sad that I hadn’t known that’s what music could be up till that point and regretful of having lived so long with a false sense of the limits that existed on the possibilities of music. Well Oneida care. They play with that same intensity, and I don’t think it ever gets any less exciting when you find a band willing to play like that.

Download: Cold Rain & Snow by Oneida from the Heads Aint Ready 7"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Hoboken Sound

Benefit for Terry Karydes featuring: Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, Glenn Mercer of The Feelies, Dave Schramm, Ron Metz, and Al Greller of The Shramms
September 5, 2008
Hoboken, NJ

According to the 1985 documentary "The Hoboken Sound," one of the markers of the scene is that "Hoboken bands seem to smile on stage. You don't see that across the river in Manhattan." Maybe that explains why I always get so giddy when going to a show at Maxwell's. Something about the venue makes it seem like more of an authentic rock show experience free of any attitude or bullshit you encounter in the clubs in NYC. For one, it's probably the most intimate space to see top shelf acts and it really does feel like it's all about the music. The band tonight was definitely making true on the claim of a greater happiness present in Hoboken , as everyone seemed to be having a great time on stage, playing really loosely, and eating up the opportunity to play with one another. Attending this show felt like crashing a party of old friends. If there is a "Hoboken scene" I was definitely knee deep in it. Despite the number of heavy hitters on stage, the show seemed to be only attended by friends and family of the musicians and Terry Karydes, for whom the event had been organized to raise money for medical bills associated with her recent diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.

The band played an assortment of Yo La Tengo (eg The Summer, Stockholm Syndrome), Feelies, and Schramms songs, plus a number of classic covers by bands like The Rolling Stones (eg Stupid Girl voiced by the hammy song stylings of Tammy Faye Starlight, who dedicated the song to Sara Palin and her daughter, Bristol) and The Velvet Underground, providing an audio tour of the commonalities in influence that unite the sounds of the musicians' respective bands. Dave Schramm (original bassist of Yo La Tengo) tore it up on guitar and once again the Chocco Salo adage, "bands with 2 drummers shall always rule," was proven true .

Musicians in attendance: James McNew, creating a somewhat awkward moment (for me, probably not for him) when they played Stockholm Syndrome, which he usually sings, with Dave Schramm on lead vocals. My thoughts during the number: C'mon guys, just invite him up on stage why doncha?!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

You Don't Miss Your Water Till The Well Runs Dry

Sonic Youth
August 30, 2008
Last McCarren Pool Show Ever (?)

The chance to see Sonic Youth always seems like a lucky opportunity, and yet the excitement of the show was marred by the sad notion that this was to be the last concert at the abandoned mammoth pool that concert goers like myself have come to love over the last three summers for its mellow atmosphere and appealingly adventurous programming. But is it really the last show? Right up until the end, promoters announced from the stage that everyone should sign petitions to keep the place open and presumably stave off the plan to restore it to a functioning pool. You know, for swimming. Whether the renovation plan is a done deal or not, I'm not among the many who are choked up over the closing of the venue. I've enjoyed the hell out of the place maybe as much as anyone else and will be sad to lose it as a staple in my summer concert-going regimen, but people, they're turning it into a pool! It's not like they're paving it over and building condos. Pools are cool. There's a nice big public one (although only a quarter of the size of McCarren) near me, in Red Hook, and I regard the opportunity to swim in it, or bob in its cooling waters as the case may be, on a steamy summer afternoon with my neighbors to be pretty special. I have faith that new oases for live music will rise in the absence of McCarren Pool and the cycle shall continue.

As for the show, there was much wondering among my crew as to what Sonic Youth would play considering they had just done a huge free outdoor show at Battery Park almost 2 months prior. The answer was given when they opened the show announcing they were going to play a few new songs--songs so new that they didn't yet have titles and had just been written a few days before. Thurston Moore said that, in the absence of lyrics, they would just sing whatever came to their mind. That made everyone feel pretty good I think, implying as it does the continuous onward march of music production, which is surely one of the charms of Sonic Youth. The show rocked and sounded incredibly fresh, moving effortlessly from spare punkish rock, feedback laden guitar freakouts, and morose pop loveliness. Kim Gordon did her groovy helicopter arms dance. The band was joined onstage by Mark Ibold, bassist from Pavement.

I'll miss the pool. Presumably when it's ready for swimming in 2011, it shall be irrigated with the tears of a million morose hipsters.

The spooky noise artists, Wolf Eyes, played first and set the tone for an evening of arty musical exploration. This was my first time seeing them and it sounded interesting but it was hard to fully take in their keening industrial droning happening as it was in the middle of McCarren Pool social hour. The broad daylight felt wrong for the soundtrack. I'd definitely like to check Wolf Eyes again some time, preferably in a dark, dinghy basement club filled with reverentially silent listeners.

New Song (sung by Thurston)
New Song (sung by Kim)
Burning Spear
The Sprawl
Cross the Breeze
Hey Joni
Silver Rocket
The Wonder
Jams Run Free
Pink Steam
Encore 1:
Making the Nature Scene
Brother James
Encore 2:
Expressway to Yr. Skull

NY Times article and accompanying photo slideshow on the closing of the pool.

Photos on Brooklyn Vegan.

Addendum: I bought a copy of the SYR7 vinyl-only release at the show, the latest in Sonic Youth's series of experimental, raw EPs, which features the songs J'Accuse Ted Hughes and
Agnes B Musique, and a photograph of Thurston Moore aggressively wielding his guitar over his head in combative stance. I put it on, forgetting that I had been previously listening to a 45rpm single and should change the speed of the turntable. I listened to both sides of the record with great satisfaction, only realizing that it had been at the wrong speed the whole time after I put on a new, more familiar record. My only cause for suspicion was why they had let a young child sing a song with so many uses of the word "fuck" in it. I figured maybe it was a Japanese woman with a high voice singing. I've since listened to it at the proper speed and I'd just like to say, the record is fantastic at any number of revolutions per minute.


August 29, 2008
Fulton Seaport

Probably one of the most sparsely attended free shows I've been to this summer. No matter, Oneida killed as per usual. As they did for their show earlier this summer at The Yard, they played their wonderful new album, Preteen Weaponry, in its entirety, followed by an additional song, Double Lock Your Mind. It's always a joy to watch Kid Millions, who has been rocking the tie-dye lately (perhaps in honor of their recent Grateful Dead-covering 7", Heads Aint Ready), pound out the beat in a manically energetic attack of his drum kit.

Update: A recording of the show, along with a nice writeup, can be found at nyctaper. Awesome!

More photos at Prefix Mag and Brooklyn Vegan.

Another "poorly written review" from an "Oneida superfan"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Scream contest

August 28, 2008
Bowery Ballroom

Prurient, noise artist Dominick Fernow, opened the show with his aggressively noisy, shouty show. Keeping his back to the audience for the length of his set, he messed with knobs, wires, and assorted objects and deep-throated his microphone to create washes of loud, tinnitus-inducing cacophony. It was awesome.

Next up was Carla Bozulich's project, Evangelista. The beauty of Bozulich's deep, throaty voice was tempered by the dark crashes of music created by an able assemblage of strings (cello and violin), drums, guitars, and electronics that punctuated her sermonizing verses.

Xiu Xiu was the headliner. Although the room was twice as full for them as it had been for either of the previous 2 opening acts, I found them roundly intolerable due to the obnoxiously overemotive singing and uninteresting song stylings that seemed to be more referencing musical experimentation than actually engaging in it. But I recuse my opinion from carrying any stake because I ran from the room after about 5 minutes, screaming, "Nooo I can't take it." Sorry to end on a glum note. I do like how their name is pronounced "shoo shoo"--I think it's cute and provides a handy way to demonstrate that you're "in the know" since it's not immediately evident how to say it from the spelling. Also, Evangelista and Prurient were both awesome!

Musicians in attendance: Thurston Moore (who has collaborated with Bozulich in the past.)

NYC Taper has recordings of the performances from Xiu Xiu and Evangelista.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Read about music and stuff

--Profoundly weird article about the relationship between legendary founder of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, Genesis P-orridge and his wife, Lady Jaye--specifically their mission to become identical through plastic surgery. That's some freaky shit, man.
[Download: Just Drifting (For Caresse) from Psychic TV's first album, Force The Hand of Chance from 1982. Lovely melody, soaring strings, Korean karaoke bar drum machine beats. Its off-kilter authorship only tipped off by the ambling vocal delivery that tries to jam slightly too many syllables into each measure.]

--An interview with Kurt Wagner. New Lambchop album in October, yah!

--Setting the Woods On Fire, posted the original versions of all the covers from Yo La Tengo's Fakebook album in one handy place. (Thx, Ted!)

--The New York Times says the youngsters are into vinyl and music execs are looking to nurture the vinyl record market into a "profitable niche." They manage to make the trend seem annoying by advancing the oversimplification that in today's world where the internet makes it easy to assemble an esoteric, vast-reaching music library, the extra effort required to acquire, store, and play a record makes it stylish

--Jon Pareles feature on the new collaboration between David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Eno admits, "“We didn’t really talk to each other” during the making of the album, mostly trading musical ideas via email.

--Pareles on last Wednesday night's Nine Inch Nails show in Jersey:
At the Izod Center, where the floor level was standing room, Nine Inch Nails incited shout-alongs and mosh pits. There were also oohs and ahs. Walls of lights and video screens were the backdrops and sometimes a cage for the band members, with effects enveloping the musicians. Nine Inch Nails didn’t use video to blow up images of the musicians’ faces, but to surround the band in an abstract digital firestorm. It sometimes looked as if Mr. Reznor’s brain waves were radiating sparks.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jelly's Last Jam

Yo La Tengo
August 24, 2008
Final Jelly NYC Free Show at McCarren Pool
Brooklyn, NY

Jesse also posted a setlist.

Vanity Fair has no idea of what they speak. Nice snaps though.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008


August 21, 2008
Mercury Lounge

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Addis Chop Up

August 20, 2008
Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center
The Ex, from Amsterdam, with Ethiopian saxophonist, Getachew Mekurya
Ethiopian singer, Mahmoud Ahmed with Either/Orchestra
Ethiopian singer, Alemayehu Eshete with Either/Orchestra

Musicians spotted at the show: Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth collaborated with The Ex for the 2002 EP, In The Fishtank.)

More snaps from the show.

Monday, August 18, 2008


August 16, 2008
Central Park SummerStage

800 years of minimalism

August 15, 2008
Damrosch Park

Manuel Gottsching performs his classic electronic composition, E2-E4, with illumination from the Joshua Light Show. A performance of Rhys Chatham's composition for 200 guitars was supposed to be part of the bill but was cancelled due to rain. 

More on BrooklynVegan.

Photos from the rehearsal of the Chatham piece.

The Melvins

August 8, 2008
Music Hall of Williamsburg

Jared Warren doffs his captain's hat for a singing of the national anthem.

The Melvins played Bowery Ballroom the next night.

Tribute To Joel Dorn

Damrosch Park
August 13, 2008

Dr. John & Cornell Dupree

The Persuasions

Black Heat, who hadn't played together for roughly 30 years.

Mose Allison

Roberta Flack

Musicians spotted in attendance: Paul Shaffer

Sunday, August 17, 2008

James McNew on Becoming a Man

Yo La Tengo bass player James McNew pays tribute to the recently-departed Bernie Mac in the latest edition of his online column, "On the couch with James." Opening up about the impact made on him by Mac's film, The Original Kings of Comedy, James says:
To me, the movie was about growing up and accepting responsibility, and how it really ain't all bad — you can do it, we all can do it.
I'm not entirely sure I can do it, but I will take these comforting words of wisdom to heart. Thanks, James!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Bob Dylan
August 12, 2008
Prospect Park

The cheapest tickets for the show were something like $75--well over the amount at which I cap myself for purchasing concert tickets. And besides my personal exercises in fiscal discipline, I have a certain populist leaning that says that rock shows should be for the kids and that it's somehow wrong to charge an amount that only the wealthy can afford. Fine, the guy's a legend, one of the true godheads of American music, but this is rock n' roll and that should mean something, dammit.

All of this is by way of saying that although I did not purchase a ticket in advance to this sold out show I showed up anyway. I am a proponent of the "where there's a will there's a way" philosophy when it comes to these things, which usually turns out to be true. Well, not in this case. I think the dearth of tickets being sold outside the show, a fairly ubiquitous happening at just about any other show, stems from the older, economically comfortable demographic of the crowd. If people ended up with an extra ticket they probably were more likely to absorb the cost than to degrade themselves by scalping it outside.

The shame of spending the concert outside the 10-foot tall gates that had been diabolically erected around the outdoor bandshell to prevent the ticketless scum like me from sneaking a peak at ole' Bobby D was sublimated by the general righteousness of the situation. Here I was, among the orphans and vagabonds hovered outside the barricades trying to intercept whatever spare notes could waft through the sound-deflecting barriers while the fat cats sat comfortably inside with their plastic cups full of wine and their khaki pants and grey old-people hair. I mean, WE WERE BOB'S PEOPLE! You know, the ones from the songs and stuff. Well, that line of thinking made staring at the gates more palatable anyway stealing a few notes of "Rainy Day Woman" or "Lay Lady Lay." I could hear the people inside singing along to "Blowin' In the Wind" and they sounded dumb. Us real folk, and there were a ton of people outside who remained through the whole concert, danced and climbed trees to get a better overlook. Next time Dylan comes around and I decide to buy tickets, I guess I better take my diamond ring and pawn it, baby.

Photos where in you can enjoy Bob Dylan's awesome choice of performing attire, which causes him to look like an Amish pimp--a brilliant look if one ever existed.

New York Times review of the show

Jesse Jarnow's awesome review for the Voice

Artists in attendance: Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, whose band, Yo La Tengo recently contributed to the I'm Not There soundtrack with "Fourth Time Around" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover."

Related: I was listening to the Yo La Tengo version of "Fourth Time Around" with a friend who pointed out that it sounded like YLT were ripping off the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." I immediately swooped in to correct him that in fact it was a cover of a Bob Dylan song and that more likely the Beatles had ripped off Dylan. Once the embers of my ego calmed down (inflamed in part because, hey, how come I had never noticed the melodic similarity between the 2 classics?) I ventured to actually double-check my ill-informed assertion. To my dismay, "Norwegian Wood" had been released in on the Beatles' 1965 album, Rubber Soul, while "Fourth Time Around" came out the very next year on 1966's Blonde On Blonde. But the similarity was uncanny so I googled them both at once and in one of the most satisfying Internet searches I've ever conducted, a full explanation unfolded courtesy of wikipedia:
"Norwegian Wood" was considered an artistic leap for Lennon, as it was his earliest story-song and showed an obvious Dylan-influence. "4th Time Around" has been seen as either a playful homage, or a satirical warning to Lennon about co-opting Dylan's well-known songwriting devices. Lennon himself felt it to be a somewhat pointed parody of "Norwegian Wood". Lennon later told his biographer that he considered Dylan's effort to be more a playful homage. Still, the last line of "4th Time Around" can be interpreted as more bitter than playful: "I never asked for your crutch./ Now don't ask for mine." In the context of the Dylan-Lennon rivalry, this line can be interpreted as Dylan warning Lennon not to use Dylan's songs as a "crutch" for Lennon's songwriting.
This is probably old news for the well-informed Chocco Salo readership, but figured I'd share, just in case.

Download: a live version of Yo La Tengo covering "I Wanna Be Your Lover" with Chris Stamey sitting in from December 6, 2007, Night 3 of their recent Channukah run at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

All Points West

August 8-10, 2008
Liberty State Park
Jersey City, NJ

Radiohead, Night 1

Panda Bear of Animal Collective, Night 2

New York Times review
More photos

Music in Film

On the heels of the extremely rewarding Jazz Score series (on-going through September 15th) that has been showcasing original jazz composition in film for the last few months at the MoMA, comes a new music-based retrospective called Looking at Music running for the rest of the year at the museum's 2 movie theaters. The heady program features experimental works that explore the interesection of sound and image and includes compositions by the likes of John Cage, Terry Riley, Sonic Youth, and others.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Good God!

Chocco Salo correspondent, Chris Pascarella, on seeing King Khan & The Shrines at yesterday's McCarren Pool show:

"He's legitimately nuts -- like an Indian James Brown on LSD."

More photographic evidence available on Brooklyn Vegan.

African Guitar Fest

August 3, 2008
Prospect Park

Oliver Mtukudzi

Friday, August 1, 2008

YLT News

Yo La Tengo are my favorite band to see play live. So I'm pretty thrilled about the following:
  • Yo La Tengo will be playing the last free show ever at McCarren Pool on August 24th, with Titus Adronicus and Ebony Bones (link)...commenters on Brooklyn Vegan are already starting to queue up to make sure they get in!
  • Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan will play along with Glenn Mercer of The Feelies, Kate Jacobs, Tammy Faye Starlite, Dave Schramm, Ron Metz and Al Greller at Maxwell's on September 5th as part of a benefit for Terry Karydes
  • A new album, cleverly named, They Shoot, We Score, featuring a compilation of all the music composed for the film scores of Old Joy, Shortbus, Game 6, and Junebug
  • Ira Kaplan will be DJing on WFMU (91.1 FM) twice this weekend: on Friday (tonight) from 11pm to 2am and Saturday (8/2) from 1 to 3pm
Update: Ira played Dark Star on his radio show!

Evolution of the Music Biz

Fare Thee Well:

Casette tapes

Album liner notes

Concerts in the Pool


High-concept music venues

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ride Captain Ride

Rocks Off Cruise
July 26, 2008

The A-Bones played on-board.

"The millionaire and his wife" aka Ira Kaplan on keyboards as Georgia Hubley looks on.

Baseball! After 15 innings, the Mets finally succumbed to the St. Louis Cardinals :(

Monday, July 28, 2008

You can be my cock professor

July 25, 2008
McCarren Pool

More photos

Friday, July 25, 2008


July 24, 2008
Castle Clinton

With Megafaun and a mess of horns.

Castle Clinton, the pre-revolutionary stone fortress at the tip of the Battery that becomes an outdoor concert venue in the summer, was filled with a youthful, almost childlike, exuberance on Wednesday before that evening’s free Akron/Family concert that felt rare for a rock & roll show. I’m not sure if the crowd actually was demographically younger than at other rock shows, or if it was the effect of the early evening sunlight streaming in over the downtown skyline that made everyone look all shiny and dewy, but of all the free summer shows I’ve been to this summer, it sure felt like this was the one that was for the kids. When the band came out, I heard one young man near me say to his friend with what seemed like genuine awe, “Wow, that’s a lot of beards onstage. Do you think you could grow one like that?”

While the ascendancy of the beard among a certain subset of rock musicians is not unique to Akron/Family, the beards in this band are of a very distinct kind from other facial hair clogging stages across the land – this was the hippy beard. But it’s not just the beards (in fact, some of the 10+ musicians on stage were clean-shaven) – you can almost smell the hippiedom emanating off the stage in the back rows. But the brilliant part is that they manage to evoke this without being annoying (amazing, I know.) Because they are the kind of hippies that just love music, and playing it, and in doing so, have decided to let their freak flag fly, which is the cool kind. As such, they possess a cultivated eccentricity, at once taking their way of paying homage to classic Americana rock & roll very seriously while simultaneously evoking an incredibly silly sense of humor at the whole thing. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much at a show, well, ever. Not because there were Weird Al-style lyrics or comedic banter. It was more a joyous laughter, reveling at once in the intensity with which one experiences rock & roll and the absurdity of that intensity.

The Akrons transition from a capella crooning, with wheedling voices that evoke The Band and other classic Americana, to full-on jamming mode by hinging at the waist, turning away from their microphones with their backs to the audience, and bobbing their heads, long greasy locks of hair flailing in their faces. And they actually do rock out, which is cool. It’s clear they owe a debt of gratitude to the Grateful Dead with song lyrics that cite “mountains of the moon,” and at their last show at the Bowery Ballroom they flat-out covered both I Know You Rider and Turn On Your Lovelight.

If the audience has half as much fun as the band seems to be having on stage then they’re doing all right. And the audience seems to still know how to react to a band that’s jamming out - everywhere in view heads bop, arms flail, and fists pump the air. At one point the band coaxed the audience into a scream -off, counting off and then asking everyone to scream their heads off. A microphone was passed into the crowd so that everyone in the audience would be equally enfranchised with amplification as the band on stage. By the last song, Ed is a Portal, all hell seems to have broken lose, everyone's out of their head, the musicians are perched on each other's shoulders, and band and crowd have become one as everyone chants the lyrics, which everyone seems to know by heart, together.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In praise of old-timey music

I've been listening to a lot of radio these days--specifically WKCR and WFMU (88.9 and 99.1 on the FM dial in NYC, respecively). Both are free-form, non-commercial stations (the first, owned by Columbia, the other entirely listener-supported), meaning they essentially get to play whatever they want. What this programming freedom ends up sounding like is a mix of music mostly made from between 40 and 70 years ago. So unless the only people listening to these stations are me and a bunch of grannies in their rockers enjoying the popular hits of their golden years, I'm not the only one who thinks this olden-time music sounds, ironically, somehow relevant and exciting.

WKCR anchors its schedule with Phil Schaap's program, Bird Flight, which airs Monday through Friday from 8:20 to 9:40 am and is devoted to providing an exegesis of the music and career of Charlie Parker in chronological order. At the present moment we're in 1945 and through a combination of scratchy 78 rpm records, primitive bootleg recordings, and primary source stories, the birth of bebop unfolds in real time. Schaap typically plays each recording more than once and provides detailed notes on personnel, background, and zeitgeist of each one. One of his frequent exhortations is that this super close way of listening to music is how it used to be done back in the day, when the music was first being made. Aficionados used to gather together around the turntable for listening parties where they would replay records together, discuss the solos, and debate what it meant. I like that idea. Throughout the day, the station usually doesn't veer far from this time period in their music selection, devoting multi-hour blocks to 78 rpm recordings documenting the careers of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, or Duke Ellington on any given night.

WFMU, while aggressively eclectice across the board, definitely demonstrates a soft spot for late 60s-era garage rock and regional soul recordings. They pepper it with a healthy mix of 50s country, 70s african music, funk, and european prog rock, and early electronic music. Oh yeah, and they sometimes play new records too. But it helps if it was recorded using vintage equipment and a low-fi, hiss-laden aesthetic. WFMU even has a show called "The Old Codger Radio Program," where a curmudgeonly grandpa-voiced DJ yells at the "hippies with their filthy rock n roll" and plays all 78s by the type of bands that recorded in groups of siblings or went by minstrelesque nicknames like "Butterbeans."

Because I don't subscribe to XM, I regrettably can't access the program hosted by the ultimate American artist, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, whose tagline is "Themes, Dreams, and Schemes." But I take any chance that I can get to listen to recordings of episodes and consider it the ultimate American radio show. Every week, Dylan produces a program devoted to a particular archetypal theme such as Marriage, The Devil, or Mothers. He alternates songs by the type of cats he probably cut his teeth emulating like Hank Snow and T-Bone Walker with encomiums for the artist or commentary on the lyrics. It sounds fantastic - like he's recording in some anonymous studio in an abandoned building somewhere in the middle of nowhere in some nebulous time.

And of course there are the host of amazing music blogs. Whether it's the sites that devote themselves to a particular corner of musical arcana, such as the self-explanatory, or general interest sites whose picks tend to be decades-old just as often as they consist of newly released music. The curators of these sites seem to say, with all of recorded music at our fingertips (thanks in no small part to the Internet), why limit ourselves to stuff that's brand new?

One might be inclined to chalk this up to the isolated taste of a certain brand of retro-styled music listener that tends to inhabit noncommercial radio or start their own mp3 blog, but the trend seems to be a more wide-reaching one. According to the RIAA, the sale of vinyl records grew by 36% last year compared to a 17% decline in CD sales over the same period. Certainly one commonality that the radio programs and music blogs I've been frequenting share, aside from the colorful commentary with which they supplement their selections, is the occasional crackle and pop surface noise from the ubiquitous vinyl they play. So it's not just me who's in love with that vintage sound.

A lot of it probably has to do with a certain natal comfort - with every decade that one regresses in one's listening brings a retreat to the womb and beyond to an archetypal prehistory. To track the sound of Blind Willie McTell to Hank Williams to Bob Dylan is like understanding the winter thaw and the coming of Spring through the myth of Persephone - it provides a parable of causal relationships that begin to make sense of bewildering sounds that are just emerging and too new to be fully explained. Sometimes listening to a new artist or type of music can feel violent, confrontational, too much an indictment on your own life and what you surround yourself with--a challenge. Old music is cozy, intelligible, decodable. Then there's the thrill of the archive, which is very much apiece with our current googlized moment in time.

Smokey's Roundup

July 23, 2008

Smokey Hormel's western swing group plays for free most Wednesdays at Sunny's in Red Hook. With Smokey Hormel-guitar and vocals, Charlie Burnham-fiddle, Bob Hoffnar-pedal steel, Tim Luntzel - Bass. Konrad Meisner - Drums.

Jesse wrote about them for the Village voice .

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid

July 22, 2008
World Financial Center Winter Garden

Hippies vs. Hipsters

Jesse Jarnow wrote a fantastic article about the Grateful Dead's evolving place on the cultural approval matrix in this month's Relix magazine: How The Grateful Dead Got Hip (Again)

Related: Bill Stites wrote a similarly-themed essay for my former venture, Boomsalon. Since the article was so good and the website is now defunct, I figure I'd repost it here, so as to prevent it from being lost forever into the cyberether.

The Greatest Band Ever

Bill Stites

I can't remember when or how I first became aware of the Grateful Dead. Growing up in the 80s they were part of the cultural background static - a curiously recurring character in my developing American mythology, one that seemed to become more and more contradictory as it grew into focus over time.

As a child, I would see those mysterious red and blue skulls, and those oddly fruity dancing bears, on the t-shirts that the 'bad kids' wore - the ones with the long hair and the Visine droppers. And I regularly ate an ice cream called Cherry Garcia, which I (naturally?) assumed was named after one of those grown-up desserts - "Bananas Foster" or "Baked Alaska" - whose taste it presumably approximated. When I told that to my parents one day they shared a good laugh and informed me that in fact there was a person, Jerry Garcia, who had given the flavor its name (and how was I to know that?), but they never bothered explaining to me who he was, or why he had inspired such a damn good ice cream. Something to do with the 60s, they said. Come to think of it, they might not have known themselves.

Once that highly-charged name - The Grateful Dead - did sink into my consciousness, I understandably concluded that they must be some kind of metal band, somewhere between Dio and Iron Maiden on the I-can't-believe-people-listen-to-this-crap continuum. But that didn't jibe with the clips of ancient-looking men playing what sounded like country music that I'd occasionally encounter on TV.

Well before I knew what these supposedly grateful Dead were about, though, or, aside from the bearded fat guy who'd had an ice cream named after him, who they were, I became certain of one thing: I hated them.

I saw how their name was used as a punchline, guaranteed to elicit knowing chuckles from parents and late-night talk show audiences. Eventually, I learned that there was no greater insult that could be levied towards a person, no faster way to strip him of his credibility, than to tar him with the label 'deadhead.' Even the word itself sounded bad - certainly I didn't want, at such a tender age, to develop a dead head. And once I learned that these disreputable people - who actually allowed themselves to be called that nasty name - would devote months of their lives to following these fat old fucks around, attending every show, it was pretty much open season.

Why exactly that was so funny to me I can't quite remember. If I ditched out on my job tomorrow and embarked on a mission to visit every baseball park in America - something I dreamed of doing at around the same age - it would be nothing less than a sepia-toned journey into the heart of our great nation, a soulful and patriotic personal quest. I might even be able to publish a book about it when I got back. Obsession in and of itself is not necessarily cause for mockery in this culture; hell, it's one of our defining characteristics as Americans. But how could anybody be that obsessed with those ridiculous-looking old men in the tie-dyes on TV? How totally lame.

And so I repeated all the same tired bromides so many others did about a band that had never done anything to us: "You'd have to be on drugs to like that music," "I'll be grateful when they're dead," ho ho ho. You'd think the fact that I had neither been less than totally sober in my life, nor really heard any of the Dead's actual music, and yet still made such pronouncements would have alerted me to the fact that I was not expressing my own original thoughts. But you try telling that to a 14-year old and see how far you get. It's not like many of them have any original thoughts to speak of anyway. (I sure didn't.)

To my everlasting shame, I was even wannabe-punk rock enough that when Garcia passed away, 10 years ago today, I publicly rejoiced, delighted that this maddeningly inexplicable cultural icon had been felled, grateful that these Deadheads, and the contradictions they embodied, would at last be vanquished from the land. "Get a job, hippie! Victory is ours." Once again, never having had a job, and lacking any clear sense of what it meant to be a hippie in that day and age, did not deter me from siding with the elusive 'us' who had somehow been vindicated by the man's death. After all, everything and everyone around me, every cultural weathervane I could perceive, told me that the Dead were a laughingstock, utterly uncool, the very embodiment of all that is shameful and wrong.

So you can imagine my surprise when, only a couple months later, I first heard more than a few minutes of their music, and instantly fell deeply and irrevocably in love.

In love with Garcia's sweetly cracking voice, fragile and human, real in a way that I'd never known a singer could be. In love with Bob Hunter's lyrics, timeless and distinctly American - stories of misfits and losers, and the fleeting shards of hope that kept them going. In love with the improvisation, violently abstract and yet completely communicative. And, eventually, in love with the sheer anachronism of it all - the very fact that they had persisted so long, remaining more or less themselves as the whole world changed around them.

And yet, a decade later, we Deadheads - yes, I now wear that label proudly, so bite me - still all too often keep ourselves closeted, having internalized the embarrassment we're still told we should feel, its patent absurdity notwithstanding.

Well, fuck that. Here's how it is: The Grateful Dead are the hippest goddamn rock band there ever was, and if you don't get it, YOU'RE the one who's not cool. That is no longer my - our - problem. I am embarking on a campaign, starting now, to see to it that those brilliant bastards finally get the respect they deserve, and I shall beat it out of you, o reader, with every rhetorical bludgeon I possess should you attempt to resist me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Liars

July 20, 2008
McCarren Pool

Fuck Buttons opened
Liars photos on Flickr

After the Liars at McCarren Pool, which led seamlessly into post-show bingo in Greenpoint, and was capped off by devouring an entire pork shoulder Bo Ssam feast at Momofuku Ssam Bar, only 1 question remained: WHERE TO NEXT?!?! The show must go on, so we stumbled into Black & White bar on 10th street. When we first approached and the doorman said in an apologetic tone that they were hosting a private party, my normal pluckiness was placed aside and I was all-to-ready to take the dismissal as a sign that enough imbibing had taken place for one evening and head home. But just as I was about to thank the man and walk away, the doorman had a change of heart and said it seemed like we'd enjoy the party and should come inside. Well, fine then.

Just when I thought my fun quotient had been reached for the evening, this dancing queen kept me entertained for at least another hour into the night, as she got down to the DJ spinning records just outside the frame.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You aint nuthin but a hole

It's often a source of great amusement for me how dirty songs could be in the past. Not to say that there isn't plenty of smut in today's music. (As an amusing aside, a friend of mine who is a school teacher wanted to play hip-hop for his students as part of a cultural appreciation lesson plan and after much digging could not find a single track without some kind of obscenity marring its suitability for the chil'rens... not even in "indy" or "conscious" rap.) But somehow, it just seems so much more transgressive in the context of music from bygone eras. When stuff got bawdy back then, it felt more like an opening of the curtain on a common parlance that was normally supressed whereas today's dirty music seems to mine salaciousness for shock value and make a show of its oppressive rudeness. I guess what I'm trying to say is that older tracks that contain cursing or that work blue seem much more innocent, like the musicians were just cutting loose after the session and didn't realize the tape recorder was on.

The great mp3 blog, Boogie Woogie Flu has a 45 from 1957 by a singer named Mercy Baby called "Silly Dilly Woman." And while it's never nice to call a lady a slut, a cunt, or a whorebag, Mercy Baby seems to get a lot of mileage out of referring to the bitch in his life as a "hole." Enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Person Pitch still sounds amazing (especially on drugs)

Panda Bear's 2007 album is well on it's way to becoming a timeless classic. But to make it even better, some of its fans suggest trying it in on -- get this! -- drugs.

From a conversation on a music message board:
"if you are a fan of psychedelics try listening to this album in a k-hole(hate to be openly sketch). it will change your life."

I hate saying things like this on PT too but I have to agree with you on this. The last time I smoked DMT I listened to Person Pitch. It was amazing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cecil @ the vanguard

Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley
July 15, 2008
Village Vanguard

NY Times article
More photos