Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Warsaw Village Band is cookin' up some new tunes for us

Ooo-kay...guess I'm not the only one who's been phoning it in during the holiday season...but really, sorry about that. I 'm ready to step back up and give you the full length, well researched and over-illustrated Mama E Dub type posts you so richly deserve, OK?

So I downloaded the new Warsaw Village Band disc, Infinity, a few weeks ago, as well as their disc of remixes from 2005's Uprooting with the likely enough title, Upmixing. Yep, too impatient to wait for the U.S. release. They've been sifting around on my pod and my head the last little while, only the sounds, the feel, because of course, there is not a booklet!! I don' t know who the guest performers are, who produced what, who wrote what tunes fer cryin' out loud and a combination of business, life and being stubborn kept me from looking up such info online until today. Maybe to form my own impressions without reading what they want me to think first??

First thought in the ear buds was, "Wow, nice production values!" So clean, almost too clean? Gone are most of the big booming drums, leaving a lot of layers of vocals and the various fiddles, cello and dulcimer type instruments they use. Which is great, if you like that, and in the right mood, I do. But then I had to wonder, would this sound have got them noticed the way the big drums and the guest trumpet did on 2002's People's Spring? The whole thing sounds much more within one range, or less varied or more cohesive or something.

Being a fan of the Nordic roots type stuff, of course the tune that jumped out first was "Polska from Polska," which asks me "Which old Hedningarna tune is this?" every time I hear it. I still can't quite put my finger on it...something from Tra or Hippjokk, I decided. So then I listen to those songs. Hmmm....... somewhere between "Höglorfen" and that middle theme about a minute into "Dufwa (efter Anders Petter Dufwa)" from Hippjokk. Hmmm, a Google on that guy's name is getting me nowhere fast. All the references are to this tune on this album. Who was this old Swede? At least I have a physical cd to which I can run and check the liner notes now. Ok, Dufwa was from southern Sweden, don't know when, but the tune is a reel, not a polska. Huh. [For those not familiar with the classic Tra here is actually a pretty great rave review on, of all place. Scroll way down to where it says "most helpful customer reviews."]

Always loved that Hippjokk album artwork!

Anyway, what did I learn when I went to WVB's label's site and read up on what they were thinking when they made this disc? Um yeah, no wonder it sounds so cohesive. It's not a bunch of old Polish folk songs; while most of the lyrics are trad, the music is newly written material by two members of the band, fiddler Wojtok Krzak (aka "the guy with the dreads") and Maja Kleszcz (the petite cellist with the really low voice.) The year off the band took recently (their show at the Cedar a couple of years back in May was their last U.S. show) produced all this songwriting and the little blonde kid in these fun new band photos. In recent interviews, Krzak talks about the vastness as well as the intimacy of parenthood, and how that led to the album title Infinity. was in fact the birth of a little human being that became the direct inspiration and cause for the creation of this album. In such situations, certain moments come when, lying beside the child, you observe its breathing, and you start to think about the countless, nameless generations that preceded us. You imagine those for whom we ourselves are going to be just an anonymous past without a face. After all, we are all born in a particular place and time, and shaped by culture of our ancestors. We live in big cities, seek our place on earth, lose old gods and find new ones, people, shelters, pictures, so that later we can hand them down to our children, who are born in a particular place and time, seek their place on earth, lose old gods and find new ones, people, shelters, pictures, so that later.. You begin feeling it clearly the moment you call others into being. No matter whether you live in Japan, the US, England, Germany or Poland – behind you stand the same generations, which like the rings of a tree, have accumulated their every trace in music, art, language – in a word – CULTURE. You emerge from it, enrich it and then pass it on. Ad infinitum.

Can I just say here that I really get a kick out of the art direction for their photos. The vivid portraits for Uprooting were a lot of fun, too.

So that polska? Newly written as well and Krzak learned to play a little nickelharpa for that one. That tune's journey home from Sweden is probably one of the shorter ones taken on the new release. "Is Anybody in There?" is their version of a field holler, with three part harmonies over a swingy percussion groove. They call "Circle No. 1" a Slavic raga, celebrating the days when the Polish empire extended a lot further east (not quite to India, though...but who do you think kicked the Ottomans out of Austria at the Battle of Vienna in 1683? The Polish! ) and the likely origin of the suka, that wide necked fiddle that is played with the fingernails, handled in WVB since the early days by Sylwia Swiatkowska. Let's just not go with the Russian definition of the word suka, [СУКА] OK?

Wow, I do digress, don't I? Thoughts about the tune "1.5h" draw in some bigger issues, too. Know much about the history of the Jews in Poland and what happened there during WWII? Wonder why Jewish history and klezmer is huge in Poland right now although Jews are a miniscule minority nowadays? Very complex issues, here is a tiny piece of explanation. Anyway, this tune features "... the “ghostly voice of Krakow,” as Krzak puts it, singer and violist Tomek Kukurba of the popular klezmer-inspired trio Kroke evokes a lost world on “1.5 Hours,” drawing on Jewish, Middle Eastern, and his own unique approach to Polish music."

So in another way, Infinity is all over the place. The tunes are differentiating for me, and growing on me. There is some very nice stuff here, and I mean that as high praise.

And you know, I just like these pagan-lovin' kids from Warsaw, ever since the first time "Do Ciebie Kasiuniu" from People's Spring came galloping across the steppes into my headphones 5 or 6 years ago. I appreciate the bio-techno thing, I agree with what they're trying to do... so I would always be one to give their new stuff a listen.

And if you don't believe me, here are a couple of other reviews, from Songlines (need to scroll down a bit to it) and the Guardian. Sorry, I can't help myself, here is a simple B&W vid from the People's Spring days, and I like the energy here. Yah!

Cranes" from People's Spring (2002)

Upmixing is more uneven, as in a lot of Euro-reggae. Reggae remixes were what the band requested when they put out the call to djs but let's just say some of it works and some ... not so much. Here's one of what I call the Euro-reggae tunes, but I do kinda like the big plants that grow from his seeds later in the video. Watch for the various band members peeking through the magic frame near the end! The tune is called "Spiritual Revival" remixed by Studio AS One and it samples "Let's Play, Musicians."

Videos aside, two tracks are standing out for me at this point.

The British horns plus beats brothers Love Grocer do the best reggae style mix; their take on "Waiting at the Front of the Gates" is smooth and stylin'...the hammered dulcimer sounds right at home with the trombone.

For a less easily categorized mix, the standout piece is the Yezza remix of "Grey Horse." The vocals are sliced and diced over a brooding synth bass line, with bits of the fiddle lines and original percussion worked back in with a very light hand. Hypnotic, but way more agressive than trance. I have looked but cannot find out more about who this Yezza is! The only Yezza I can come up with is a Yorkshire hip hop mc who goes by "Yezza." His stuff does not to these ears, anyway, sound like the production happening on this tune. Plus his site says nothing about him doing any remixes. So that's what I get for being impatient.

This instant gratification of the download vs the waiting six months for the U.S. release and wanting all the information of the liner notes and booklet thing is hard for me!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year from Zuppa!

Zuppa is taking the week off from the blogging world to ring in 2009! Looking forward to an incredible 2009 season at the Cedar and the many world class musicians coming our way this year.

I stumbled upon this great video on the making of guitar strings - something we all take for granted because of their low cost and availability, but the center of much of the music we all enjoy in our lives.


Friday, December 26, 2008

More Year End Lists

As this is my last post before the new year, I figured I would follow suit and sum up the music from this year as best I can. My top ten albums of 2008 in no particular order:

Bajofondo - Mar Dulce
A fun, energetic record featuring a number of great guest vocalists including Julieta Venegas and Mala Rodriguez. This is the record I play that causes people to say, “Who is this?” and reach for a pen and paper to jot the name down.

Why? – Alopecia
The music is good too but it’s the lyrics on this album that stuck with me.
“I know a psychic who reads her own palms and her findings are personal. She sleeps on her side with her fists shut tight well maybe she knows something I don’t know.”

Dengue Fever - Venus On Earth
I think you have to listen to understand.

Emiliana Torrini - Me and Armini
She’s cute, quirky and Icelandic and the record provides a nice mix of light happy tunes with dark sordid ones.

First Communion Afterparty - Sorry For All The Mondays And To Those Who Can’t Sing
One of the members of FCAP was in my high school gym class. But even if that weren’t the case, the group’s beautiful take on the psychedelic 60s would probably still have made my top ten. One of the few on this list that I also got to see perform live this year.

Nomo - Ghost Rock
Another group I was able to see live. Probably the most fun I had at a concert this year. Paired with local openers Beatrix Jar and Solid Gold, I was almost dancing despite my strict midwestern upbringing.

Roma Di Luna - Casting the Bones
A local group I’ve loved ever since I saw them at The 400 during the dead of winter two years ago. They’ve since became very familiar faces around The Cedar and because they continue to grow and continue to write beautiful music they’ll be around in 2009 as well, curating a 416 Club in February (check the calendar).

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Ok, ok. I’m still a sucker for most anything released by Sub Pop. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel that guilty about it.

All The Saints - Fire On Corridor X
The latest addition to the list, All The Saints have been pulling at my head-banging heartstrings. There may have also have been air-drumming involved, but this cannot be verified.

And last but certainly not least, we have Dark Dark Dark - The Snow Magic
This is an album I have played repeatedly, and if anything it has grown on me. And wouldn’t you know it: I get to see them perform for the first time tomorrow night at The Cedar along with another local favorite Dosh. What a perfect way to close 2008.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I See Your Charlie Brown...

... and raise you one Charles Brown. As in Charles Brown's Cool Christmas Blues. As a fellow hater of Christmas music, it was always a relief to attend the Cedar holiday party throughout the Bill K. years, and find that Charles Brown was the only holiday cd laying out next to the sound system. [For further reminiscences of the Bill K. years, head back to August, for the very second post in this blog, entitled something like "Thanks for the Memories." Or you could search "Bill K." here, too.]

Brown did actually write "Please Come Home for Christmas," which has been extensively covered by a variety of artists over the years, but this 1994 collection from Rounder contains only one or two other songs you'd recognize and all of them done in an extremely laid back blues style. Whew!

OK, I've got furnace problems again. See you next week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Holiday Favorite...

Happy Holidays to you all and I hope you enjoy your time with friends and family in the coming weeks. This can be a stressful time of year for some, but nothing eases the pain of shoveling snow, fighting long lines at the stores or getting towed, like seeing live music with your friends and neighbors.

Every year at this time we have to endure horrible Christmas music whether it be on the radio or in the malls. It's inescapable at times and downright nauseating; especially the 'modern country' versions. (Carrie Underwood, I'm looking at you here!)

There is one record among thousands of Christmas records that stands the test of time and instantly reminds me of home, family and falling snow; Vince Guaraldi's 1965 album, 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.'

I could go on for hours about Vince's touch on the piano but it's better to hear it than talk about it. Here is his trio's take on a holiday standard, 'Greensleeves.'

This record is a classic and if you don't have it, I'd suggest hunting down an older copy before the remastered version from 2006. In the remastering process the warm 'hiss' of the original was removed and sparked a bit of controversy with fans.

Safe travels friends.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Few 2008 Discoveries

While so many are coming up with their "Top Ten" lists (see previous post by Zuppa di Banjo) of 2008, a practice I never could really get enthusiastic about, I thought that, alternatively, I would share some of my favorite musical discoveries of the past year. I won't try to come up with a nice, round number of them, or put them in any particular order, but here a few...

* Detektivbyrån: Earlier this year we were pitched by this band by Hedningarna's Swedish booking agent for consideration for the Nordic Roots Festival. All it took was a look at this YouTube video of a performance by them on Swedish morning television, and we were hooked:

Their festival performance was enchanting... since then they've been nominated for two Swedish Grammys. Let's hope we see them back here soon.

*Musée Mécanique: A Portland-based ensemble that I'm hoping we'll see come through in February. Quiet pop music with innovative instruments and creative arrangements. Their album, Hold This Ghost is just gorgeous, produced by the brilliant Tucker Martine (Laura Veirs, Decemberists, Jim White). Here's a live clip... but really, check out the record:

*Son Lux: This one comes courtesy of the NPR Music folks, one of those podcasts I talked about in my previous blogs, Second Stage. This was their pick for Best New Artist of the Year. This is a project by multi-instrumentalist Ryan Lott. I'll let Second Stage producer Robin Hilton describe:

"The thing that's great about this record is that it has this incredible range of energy and emotion. The songs have this great narrative arc. They may start off really quiet and intimate and solitary. And then they just kick you in the stomach. They just erupt. I feel sometimes, when I'm listening to this record, like the songs just grab me by the collar, throw me to the ground, and then apologized."

*Fredrik: Back to Sweden! This one was first brought to my attention by local music agent Paul Gillis, and I keep going back to it. It's a great record... let's hope they tour the U.S. in 2009.

Check them out:

Enjoy these, and have some fun over the holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shameless Promotion of Perfect Beauty

I know it's not my day to post, but I feel compelled to share this free download with all our readers so here you go. My sister passed this on to me in the wee hours this morning when she was supposed to be grading papers, I imagine.

So here is a link to a free MP3 download of that sweet cover of the Fleet Foxes tune "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Swedish singin' sisters duo First Aid Kit. If you've been reading this blog for a month or two , you may remember the video Mr. William Call put up in October of the two sisters sitting by a stream in the Swedish forest singing their hearts out on that song. Just a perfect piece of sheer beauty...and I don't even like that kind of music! But their harmonies are great, the woods are lovely, they are so earnest. The video is 3 minutes of perfect beauty in a sometimes dark world. (And hundred of thousands of people think so, too. 219,000 this morning...not quite viral status, but plenty.)

I won't embed the vid, because it's been here before, but here's the link for you if you like. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Readers Write In

Hey wow, some of our readers wrote in with their suggestions for world music podcasts . Although they all modestly posted as "Anonymous" I hope it's OK if I share their information with the greater blog world, as in those of you who don't go back and read the comments section after each post.

Reader #1 writes:
1. If you like latin music, you should check out the Ritmo Latino podcast. Neil Hohman (sp?), the host, has a very generous definition of "latin", from traditional tropicals like salsa and merengue to latin fusion from NYC, to Brazilian beats like samba or bossa nova, to Fado to flamenco to Rock en Español, to European bands with latin influence. Me gusta!

And I might add, here's the website. Playlists and other fun stuff to check out there beside the podcast.

Reader # 2 shared info about a relatively new 'cast out of the Pacific Northwest.

2. Another "world music" option is the show Spin The Globe out of KAOS radio in Olympia, Washington. They just started posting episodes at You don't get the entire show that's posted in their playlists, but it's a great burst of global sounds once a week (the show airs every Friday morning).

WOW! Went over and checked out the playlists from their last few shows...I'M THERE! They played Vilddas, fer crying out loud! I thought I was the only person around who had special ordered Haliidan from Digelius in Helsinki a few years back! [Hmmm...another one of those "Wonder what happened to" situations? Their website hasn't been updated in a while.] Oh wait, here's Vilddas lead singer Annukka Hirvasvuopio-Laiti demonstrating the differnce between singing and joiking.

Got that?

Spin the Globe played Faraualla , too ! And I thought I was the only one who had their first album.

Reader #3 shows us the way back to an old fave.
3. Do you know about Afropop?

Why yes, I do! That was the African podcast I wrote of last week that I had lost track of. And I did spell the host's name wrong; it's Georges Collinet. Here he is. This one is actually a PRI (Public Radio International) production, too. Whether or not you do podcasts, their website is worth a visit.

Here are a few more sites to try.

Global Rhythm magazine site has a monthly podcast called Global Beat. Find it here. They also have features, playlists, a monthly top 10, interviews and a fair trade download section. NICE! Look what I found in their features section: a little interview with Racheal Unthank. (She and her band The Winterset played the Cedar this past September and those who made it to the show were buzzing around their unusual take on North-of-England folk tunes. I could not make it to that show, but I will weigh in here and say "Whitethorn" (from The Bairns) is one freaky-cool dark folk song.

Here's one more podcast that I found which I plan to downoad and check out some more. A guy calling himself DJ Vladimir Pinocchio from New York City puts this one out once a month with stuff from all over. I mean really all over, as in combining Besh o droM, Sigur Ros, Dengue Fever, Di Grine Kuzine, and No Smoking Orchestra. Really worth a second look. Here's his MySpace.

And I'll leave you with that because I've gotta work a double tomorrow. 'Night!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Best of 2008's 'Best of Lists'

It's that time of year again when we look back on the best music of 2008. Generally I can't stand ‘best of ‘ lists and find the focus is too limited and often times 'hype' over-shadows 'musicality.' I'm thankful that there are resourceful folks who compile 'best of' lists so I can sift through a bunch of them and ultimately discover some new artists.

LARGEHEARTED BOY, a music blog, has been compiling 'Best of' lists since 2006. They have an alphabetical listing of 'Best of' lists from major blogs, newspapers, websites, magazines, radio stations etc. There are HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of lists at your fingertips to explore! Isn't the internet beautiful?!

I'd be interested to hear some 'best of 2008' lists from our readers. Post them in the comments below if you'd like.

Here are my favorite Cedar musical moments of 2008 - in no particular order:

1 Carolina Chocolate Drops
2 Deviated Septet's vocal performance of 'I am the Walrus'
3 Bo Ramsey Cd release - especially his reaction when a cell phone went off mid-song
4 Jacky Molard Quartet
5 2 Foot Yard
6 Orange Mighty Trio
7 Punch Brothers
8 Bill Mike Band cd release
9 Infamous Stringdusters
10 Eighthead

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cedar Story part 4

The ripple effect following September 11, 2001 was felt worldwide, including here on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Not only did live music become too much of a luxury for some Cedar patrons, the combination of airline restrictions, additional visa and passport control (as previously discussed here on the blog) and a general fear of flying made bringing international artists to the Twin Cities became nearly impossible. This led to the roughest season in The Cedar’s history. During the next three months, 30 shows had to be cancelled and many were not rescheduled.

Cedar staff responded with an open letter on The Cedar’s Web site , asking patrons to “Imagine a world without The Cedar.” Think about that. Can you do it?

While post-9/11 travel restrictions have eased up, The Cedar still needs your support. I wont say anything about the economy; you know how things are going. Many international artists do not see U.S. tours as being profitable enough to be realistic. However, packed shows at The Cedar are often highlights for artists. Whether you are a donor or a Cedar patron, your contribution is what makes this possible. With your support we can continue to bring you a diverse selection of music for another season, or 20.

Visit for the events calendar and for your chance to donate.

All of the following amazing international artists have graced The Cedar stage already this season. Let's keep 'em coming:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Continuing Quest for a Decent World Music Podcast

Responding to the Figurehead's recent post, I felt compelled to hold up the world music end of the podcast beam since that is sort of my beat, here at the Cedar blog. And I am a big podcasthead; probably have 30-40 different ones going on my pod at any given time. (Hey baby, when you've got 160 gigs, why be stingy?)

Unfortunately, I have tried all the world music podcasts I could find a year or two ago and was disappointed. I have stuck with very few of them, and none of them are anywhere near the "Oh goody, a new episode" excitement of say, The Savage Lovecast or Hardcore History. (OK, I cannot tell a lie, I am really a geek and have lots of academic and language podcasts.)

Attempting to be good sport about it all, I revisited some of the podcasts I tried and then dumped to see if there has been any improvement.

For sure quantity, you've got to appreciate Global Hit, the little music segment at the end of The World, the nightly early evening co-production of Public Radio International(PRI) and the BBC. They have to come up with something five days a week, so as you might guess, the results vary. Widely. They can range from interesting background information, such as the piece on Asha Bhosle, the Bollywood vocalist who became a household name outside of India through the popularity of the 1997 Cornershop hit "Brimful of Asha" (see Cornershop blog post down about a week right here) to "fun but I'm not running out to download this song" such as the one on Pistol Valve. Yep, a 10 piece all girl brass band with a fiddle player and turntablist from Japan defintely qualifies as fun.

But a lot of the time I feel like they are just searching around for something weird from some county not known for its music just to, I don't know, cover all the bases or something. We could also say for sure that they don't use the qualifier "World Music that Rocks" like one local record company here does.

Other times, I feel like they really don't do their research. Like the episode Marco Werman did on Shantel . He said something like "to go along with other Balkan acts like Gogol Bordello, Devotchka and Beirut, now here's Shantel," then proceeded to talk about last year's Disco Partizani album. He did not mention Bucovina Club. He did not mention Electric Gypsyland. He did not mention any of the other production and remix work that had made Shantel (Stephan Hantel) a household name among fans of Balkan music. Did he even Google the guy??? (By the way, I would not call any of those three bands he mentioned Balkan music. Just sayin'.)

"Disco Partizani" is a pretty fun song. Look.

Yow, over 2 million hits. Maybe he coulda done a little research? Like neglecting to mention that Shantel was the producer of important recordings of the genre like Mahala Rai Banda's self titled debut. Check out "L'est Sexy." No, we're not in Denver anymore.

Or of Boom Pam's also self titled debut? Hey look, it's "Bum Pam", the Aris San recording from the '60's that Boom Pam named their band after! Proto-Israeli-surf! Cool! (No video here, but great tune to listen to while you finish reading this, eh?)

But here's our Boom Pam, I mean the one that came to the Cedar a couple of summers ago on a sweaty June evening and had old guys in yarmulkes shaking it like at a wedding dance. Never seen tuba playing like that.

But I should quit whining because Marco and co-host Lisa Mullens have turned me on to some fun stuff over the years. Like Dengue Fever. Cheesy, but fun. Love the organ solos. The vid for their tune "Sni Bong" has embedding disabled, but follow the link if you like.

Because of the great variability and sheer volume of podcasts that pile up with a daily show, I don't subscribe to Global Hit. I just check it out on ITunes every once in a while and only download the episodes that interest me.

National Geographic used to have a rather lightweight world music interview podcast, which seems to have gone by the wayside since I dropped it. The world music section of their website, however, is pretty informative in a basic sort of way.

There used to be a decent podcast all about African music, with a very enthusiastic host named George Colinais (sp?) Can't find that one anymore either. Podcasts can be rather fly by night, can't they? I did run across several Irish music podcasts in my travels around ITunes, both for trad and pop. One is by BBC Radio Ulster, so you can follow the BBC link from the podcast featured providers list at ITunes.

Clearly I need to do more research, so watch for that some upcoming Wednesday. Before that though, I've got to weigh in on the Euro World Music Charts Top 100 for 2008 and review some new Polish music I got the other day. Now, though, gotta call it a night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time to Sleep In For The Morning Show Fellas

The Morning Show on 89.3 The Current ends it's 25+ years on air this Thursday with a live broadcast from the Fitz. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about this from other Cedar blogstars this week.
I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Morning show a few times over the last five years and have been thinking back to those early mornings. I think all the musicians who have passed through the doors of Studio M know how lucky we have it in the Twin Cities.

Despite having to wake up early to record the Morning Show segments, you get to perform in this room...

It sounds as incredible as it looks.

In 2006 The Morning Show crew packed up the wagon and took to the road to Jackson,MN to celebrate the town's sesquicentennial. The show was broadcast live from the Historic State Theater and a crowd packed in shortly before 6am. I remember talking to Morning Show producer Mike Pengra, who said that they had been up most of the night preparing. As you can imagine, it was nearly impossible to play effectively at 6 in the morning, but that's what coffee and doughnuts are for. With the veteran crew wide awake, things went off very well and they made sure none of the musicians nodded off! Dale, Jim Ed, Mike and the crew did a fantastic job bringing the show to the people of Jackson and from the smiles on the crowd's faces, I knew it was something the townsfolk would never forget.

If you can, get out to the Fitz this week and see the final broadcast - you can sleep in another day.

Morning Show final broadcast details

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Playing The Cedar

We get a lot of inquiries from bands and artists who are interested in being booked to play at the Cedar. So here's a general guide to this question, and what we look for when choosing artists to book...

The Cedar is committed to local and emerging artists; it is part of our mission, one we take quite seriously, and one which we all feel quite passionate about. That said, we are constantly reassessing our role in this realm, based on our own strengths and limitations, the resources we have available, and the other opportunities which have greatly expanded for artist development in our own neighborhood and greater Twin Cities community.

We're known primarily as a room for acoustic musicians, but we book a wide range of musical genres. We have a great dance floor, so dance bands are welcome. But what we generally look for is music that stands up to careful listening. We are, first and foremost, a listening room.

The Cedar is considered a medium-sized music venue. Our capacity seated is 450, and without chairs we can go to 650. Because of the way our space is arranged, and the flexibility we have with folding chairs, the room can feel quite comfortable with as few as 100 people in it. But a hall of our size is expensive to heat (or cool), staff and maintain, so unless there is some additional funding to provide specific support for an event, 100 people at a $10 ticket just barely covers the cost of opening our doors for an event.

Over the past few years, the number of small-to-medium music venues oriented towards local and emerging artists in the Twin Cities has greatly expanded. For acoustic music, classic stalwarts such as St. Paul's Half Time Rec and GINGKO Coffeehouse have been joined by Minneapolis Eagles Club and our new neighbors at Acadia Cafe. For more amplified sounds the options are too numerous to mention, but just within a few blocks of The Cedar there's Nomad World Pub, 400 Bar, The Triple Rock Social Club, The Cabooze, The Red Sea Bar & Restaurant and even Bedlam Theatre is now doing some live music.

That's a lot of options within just a few blocks, which is cultivating our Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, known to many as the West Bank, as the most active area for live music in the region. And it is a much larger number of live music venue options for local and emerging musicians than existed ten, or even five years ago. As a result, The Cedar is orienting itself more to mid-level artists that have built an audience at the smaller venues, and can bring a minimum base of 100-150 (ideally, more) to a Cedar show. Such as last weekend's great show with Haley Bonar. Haley built an audience at other venues before her first Cedar headline gig in 2006. Last weekend was her fourth and largest as a headliner, playing this time to a full house. And she sounded better than ever.

Haley Bonar plays a new track:

But if you're just starting out, The Cedar still has a couple of options for you: every second Wednesday we have an Open Stage (next one is this coming Wednesday, 12/10, hosted by Molly Maher), where anyone can play, and admission is free. Then there is our 416 Cub, where a local music luminary curates a showcase of 3-5 local acts. The next one is on 12/19, curated by Free Range Pickin'. In January Jim Walsh will curate on the 17th, and in February, Alexei Casselle of Roma di Luna will curate on the 27th. You'd contact the curators to see if they are interested in having you on their 416 Club bill.

Once you've established an audience base, many artists look to a Cedar gig for a special event, such as a CD release show. Having your act together for marketing greatly enhances your prospects... things like fan email lists, current high-rez photos, a performance video, and good graphic designs for posters and flyers. And it's in both of our interests to have you refrain from playing other local gigs for a decent interval before your Cedar gig.

As for opener slots, the same criteria apply. Because more and more national touring acts bring their own openers, opportunities for these are actually pretty rare, maybe one per month if we're lucky. And we have a long list of local artists waiting for those opportunities.

So, to summarize, what we look for in booking is:
-Artists with established audience bases of, at a minimum, 100-150 people
-Music worthy of careful listening
-Effective and current marketing material
-"Special event" such as CD release
-60-90 day pause of other local gigs before Cedar event

If you're there, please send your details to "booking-related questions" from our contact page. Best of luck, and thanks for helping make our community so culturally rich and diverse!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Give Detektivbyrån a Swedish Grammy already.

Attendees of this year's Nordic Roots Festival at The Cedar made some new friends named Detektivbyrån. While their performance was delightful, it was their bashfulness and silly sense of humor that kept their name in my mind for a festival favorite. I bet I am not alone.

Those like myself are in luck, as anyone able to access the Interweb (and seeing as you made it to the blog...) can vote for the boys to win a Swedish Grammy. They are up for the award in two categories, this year's best newcomer, and this year's best Folk (I'm assuming this means Folk artist, but as I said they are pretty charming). So whether you enjoyed their performance, or just feel like poking around a Swedish Web site, head on over to

It will ask you for an email address which you must then check and verify your vote. That's about all I can tell you, except that Rösta means "vote." That will come in handy.

For those unfamiliar with Detektivbyrån, try this one:

I don't get it, but I think I like it anyway.

A quick YouTube search will produce many more options. I suggest using the copy-and-paste-the-name technique unless you are really comfortable with your keystrokes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cornershop and Chalk

Hey wait, I was gonna write about bands that get their big break through TV commercials this week... (See the next post down)

No really, there I was Sunday afternoon, sitting with a large bowl of dough, rolling out hundreds of what we call "Pomanders" in my family, although yours might call them something like Rum Balls. So I had some football games on, watching the beloved green and gold team from the state to our east go down in defeat due to their Swiss-cheese-like defense, then watching the former quarterback of said team get his butt kicked by the Broncos. "Goodness!" as Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren say. [Bonus points to the first commenter to identify these two - WITHOUT GOOGLING!]

I had the sound turned off and was just reading the closed captioning, because the rest of my household was napping. There was this Nike commercial that kept coming on, showing various players clapping their hands together and getting chalk all over everybody. Once everybody woke up and I put the sound on, I heard the familiar strains of "Candyman", the everpopular mixtape fave from Cornershop's 1997 classic album When I was Born for the 7th Time playing along with the Nike ad. Remember that one? That bouncy descending bass line loping along? The multilingual rap by Justin Warfield about "the Vedas and Gitas and the Rig Beat, too" that namechecks Soul on Ice?

Wow! Cornershop? Whatever happened to those positive purveyors of Punjabi punk? What have they been up to lately? Last time I checked their Myspace Tjinder Singh was taking time off for his new baby, I think.

Here's the "Chalk Commercial" , aka "LeBron James Season 6" ... at about 125,000 views as I write this. The commercial was just released November 27.  Everybody's got a little bit of the magic.

Now When I Was Born... will be famous for something other than great lyrics such as "Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow" (from the tune "Brimful of Asha.")  One remix of that one went to #1 in England, while the album got up to #17. Not bad for a multi-culti band of outsiders.  Really, what other disc from 1997 contained, along with the tunes mentioned above, a Punjabi reclaiming  of "Norwegian Wood," a tune with Alan Ginsberg doing vocals, Indian  percussion and sitars mixed with a bit of the grungy psychedelic attitude seen on earlier releases such as 1995's Woman's Gotta Have It and 1993's Lock, Stock & Double-Barrel.  Remember "Wog Wog...this Western Oriental is going full circle..."  There was an anti-racist educational cartoon made with that song and an interview of  Tjinder Singh.  Even the band's name is an in your face anti-racist comment to those who think South Asians are only the guys running convenience stores.
As with many a big hit, there are a number of odd YouTubes out there of "Brimful."   Fatboy Slim did a slightly uptempo remix of it with a pretty fun video. Here.

You know, I used to have a 45 of that song. Really. I think it was orange vinyl. They were giving them away at a Cornershop concert at First Avenue one year on Thanksgiving night. The B-side was "It's Indian Tobacco, My Friend." Where are my 45s?! Anybody else at that one? They had to play "Sleep on the Left Side " twice because they were filming a video and it didn't take right the first time or something.

OK, this is a trip down memory lane. Here's "Lessons Learned from Rocky I to III", the best song from their 2002 release Handcream for a Generation. It's like all your favorite glam songs ever, rolled into one. Sing along..."Ooooooooh, whoooh-oooh. Yeah Yeah." Whee!

So I'm not going to write about bands making it big because of a tv commercial because the next post down addresses it quite well.  But I would love to see this ad propel Cornershop back into a bit of the limelight. They were always much bigger in their native England than over here. "Candyman" doesn't sound dated at all to these ears. To the contrary, it sounds really fresh and fun. Maybe they'll finish that album that was supposed to come out in early 2008. Or that big video project they'd been working on for about a decade. Or...or...or at least maybe a new generation of listeners will be Born for the 7th Time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Concert Tonight!...Featuring That Band From the iPod Commercial or Was It the Gap Commercial?

Television commercials are taking the reins when it comes to promoting a band to music lovers these days. From the long running holiday commercials of the Gap and Old Navy, to Apple and major automobile companies, new bands have found their careers exploding from thirty seconds on TV.

The idea of launching an artist’s career through music licensing isn’t new at all and many have had incredible success at it. (enjoy it Moby). We all remember when Nike used ‘Revolution’ by the Beatles for their 1987 TV campaign. It didn’t end well for Nike, having to discontinue using the song by 1988, after a year of intense legal battles. I'd guess that they sold millions of pairs of shoes after all the attention.

I remember hearing Minnesota’s own, ‘Low,’ on a Gap Holiday Commercial in 2000-1. It was their version of ‘Little Drummer Boy,’ from the Low Xmas record. It was a little bizarre hearing music from a record in my collection used by such a large retailer. I usually heard classic radio staples on TV commercials – such as the annoying ‘Like a Rock’ Bob Seeger commercials that Chevy has been using since 1991. They put that song to bed around 2004, but it is forever ingrained in my head every time I see a Chevy truck on the road.

What television has done for the younger generations, is put them inside the TV shows and commercials by borrowing from their personal playlists. Notice the shift from away from ‘record collections’ and ‘cd collections.’ Everyone now has a ‘playlist’ thanks to iTunes.

From Dawson’s Creek to Grey’s Anatomy to the Apple commercials themselves, television has not only used your favorite songs but they have introduced you to new artists that will soon become staples in your iTunes library. Apple is clever enough to use new artists like Feist, Yael Naïm, and The Ting Tings in their commercials and then offer their music for download from the iTunes site. Everyone gets a nice big pat on the back and most likely a very healthy paycheck.

This past fall the Cedar hosted Yael Naïm, who gained a good deal of her popularity from the MacBook Air commercials of last year. Local bloggers and reviewers spoke highly of the performance and the crowd left entranced by the music, but it would be interesting to find out what brought them to the show. Was it the commercials (most likely – her hit ‘New Soul’ reached #7 on Billboard); were they longtime fans?; or perhaps they were die-hard Apple supporters. Wherever you stand on the issue of artists licensing their music, it has become one of the most powerful ways to market yourself as an artist and I can’t see it going away anytime soon.

Here is a VW commercial from the early 2000’s, one that helped introduce a generation of young music lovers to Nick Drake.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beyond Radio: Podcasts

Last week I explored what I saw as the best options for new musical discovery on local terrestrial radio. But let’s get real… even at its best, terrestrial radio is only as good as the DJ’s talent and creativity (and mood that day), within the context of their usually quite restrictive format (...even “free-form” is often just a slightly expanded format). Then you have to be listening during their particular broadcast time, and be in the right place and right mood for taking it all in. Yes, there are devices that enable you to record live radio to time-shift at your convenience... I own one such device, called Radio Shark, which does this very efficiently, but that involves a level of commitment that’s hard to muster these days. Case in point: I haven’t actually used my Radio Shark in over a year.

That’s because there are now many better options. Satellite and HD radio greatly expand the offerings, but both are specialty-equipment dependent, and satellite requires an additional monthly subscription fee. Both are essentially a live medium, which means you’re often again dealing with supplemental technology if you want to time-shift.

Clearly, the internet has become the primary source for discovering new music. The problem is, it is a vast and largely unchartered universe. At last count there were over 8 million artists on MySpace alone. A great radio DJ serves as both a gatekeeper and tastemaker; a tour guide to that expansive universe of music. On the internet, it’s the bloggers and the podcasters which serve those functions.

There would be no Cedar music blog if we did not believe that blogging can be an effective tool for sharing musical discoveries. And in a future entry I’ll explore other music blogs that I find useful for this purpose. But the obvious advantage of podcasts (which refers to episodic audio “programs” that can be downloaded and played at your convenience on your computer or portable music device), is that it’s an audio format. The better music blogs include music and video streams, but that chains you to your computer to listen/watch. Podcasts can be taken with you, and listened to on the move, in a time and place of your choosing, which is a pretty essential feature in the modern age.

Before I share a short list of my favorite podcasts, I do have to mention The Cedar’s own. It’s largely an audio version of our monthly newsletter, but contains 30-60 second music clips of every band headlining at The Cedar that month. If you’re local to the Twin Cities, not only can that be a nice way to discover some new music, it’s all music that you have the opportunity to then see live. And one technical note: most of these podcasts are available as streams from the links provided, and also as downloadable mp3 files. Now on to my choices:

1. I consider the grandfather of new music podcasts to be National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered. Created as a streaming webcast years ago by former All Things Considered producer (and musician) Bob Boilen, this is essential listening for anyone curious about new, alternative music. I consider Bob Boilen to be about the most trustworthy music tastemaker in the country, and he regularly has other critics and bloggers on the program giving reviews and previews.
2. NPR Music also started another posting called Second Stage, which each day presents one song by a band that would be under almost everyone’s radar, but consistently has something very worthwhile to offer.
3. Similarly, a number of “alternative” stations offer a “song of the day” podcast (albeit with a more narrow rock slant), including The Current and KEXP in Seattle. KEXP also has a bi-weekly podcast worth hearing called Music That Matters.
4. The nationally syndicated radio program Sound Opinions is also available as a podcast. The show is hosted by Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, two Chicago-based music critics who provide entertaining banter and views. Again, it’s overly rock-centric for my tastes, but I find the music news segment at the beginning to the program alone worth the download.
5. I wish there were a podcast of Nic Harcourt’s Sounds Eclectic, but there is one of live in-studio performances on the daily Morning Becomes Eclectic (from which Sounds Eclectic is compiled). Harcourt is another trustworthy tastemaker, but he just left his post as host of the daily program and music director of KCRW, so we’ll have to watch and see what he’s up to next, and how his host replacement, Jason Bentley, fares.
6. I do listen each week to The Current’s Musicheads podcast, but not quite as enthusiastically since the format changed about a year ago. It used to be Bill DeVille and his two guests each picked an album for discussion for each program, which brought a good variety with the rotating guests. Now the three albums are pre-selected, invariably all in the same narrow range of alternative rock to which the station itself is increasingly limiting.
7. I feel the need to mention two non-music related podcasts here, because I think they happen to be the best-produced radio programs and podcasts in existence: the perennial public radio favorite This American Life from Chicago Public Radio, and WNYC’s Radiolab. Both of these hour-long programs manage to consistently inform and entertain thoroughly and effectively, with humor and thoughtfulness.

The biggest challenge, really, is finding the time to listen to all of these offerings. Like so many other things, there's just so much information and content out there these days, that even filtering out the best barely leaves enough time to do anything else.

So, what podcasts or internet sources do you turn to for discovering new music? Please post your's in the comments section!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bad choices with good results

This past Wednesday I did something unusual and probably ill advised: I sent my home address in an email to a complete stranger. The email specified when I would be home, and invited the recipient to send my address out to other people.

Don’t worry; the recipient of the email was a coordinator for a nation caroling tour. Julian Koster of The Music Tapes and Neutral Milk Hotel and a friend were touring the country, spending a day in each selected city, caroling at people’s homes. The opportunity came to me entirely by accident. Someone sent out the information to a listserv I’m on, and it happened to grab m attention. So I sent the email and waited. And waited and waited.

By Tuesday I figured they weren’t coming. But Wednesday on my way into work Mr. William Call encouraged me to check my email. He had also sent a carol request and had gotten a response that very morning.

Fast forward to Wednesday evening when I heard a knock on my door.

“Are you expecting carolers?”

What followed was more than I could have expected. He proceeded to play two songs on the saw, two on the banjo and one on a little plug-in organ for three of my friends and me.

“Caroling traditionally ends with a story.”

And this was no exception.

What was exceptional was how singular this performance felt. More than once a friend commented, “this will probably never happen again.” More than that, there was an undeniable feeling of community, though none of us had ever met this person before. We couldn’t take photos or even really applaud. It just didn’t feel right to separate ourselves from the “performer.”

While I probably wont make it a habit to send my address out to strangers, I can’t say I regret what it brought about this week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

At the end of my rainbow...lies Besh o droM!

Here I am in beautiful South Milwaukee in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning. A touch of "I'm in charge of the bird" jitters? Beer-related insomnia? Perhaps some "I spent all afternoon in the car with a four year old"-related dementia? Either way, I was lying awake, realizing I did not write my blog post, and while thinking about the blog, I was mentally reviewing the recent post about radio. And while I was thinking about radio, suddenly "Life is a Rock" popped into my head. You know, "Life is rock, but the radio rolled me?" Haven't you always wished you knew all the lyrics to that song? The Wiki article above lists the bands and people who are name checked in that song, with links to most of them. Gotta love the Wiki.

Oh what the heck, it's 2:18's the whole thing.

B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers
Lonnie Mack and twangin' Eddy, here's my ring we're goin' steady
Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire

Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction
Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin' hotter
Sammy's cookin', Lesley Gore and Ritchie Valens, end of story
Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama

Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry
Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin'

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

FM, AM, hits are clickin' while the clock is tock-a-tickin'
Friends and Romans, salutations, Brenda and the Tabulations

Carly Simon, I behold her, Rolling Stones and centerfoldin'
Johnny Cash and Johnny Rivers, can't stop now, I got the shivers
Mungo Jerry, Peter Peter Paul and Paul and Mary Mary
Dr. John the nightly tripper, Doris Day and Jack the Ripper

Gotta go Sir, gotta swelter, Leon Russell, Gimme Shelter
Miracles in smokey places, slide guitars and Fender basses
Mushroom omelet, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, stop and kick it

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa who
a whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Arthur Janov's primal screamin', Hawkins, Jay and
Dale and Ronnie, Kukla, Fran and Norma Okla
Denver, John and Osmond, Donny

JJ Cale and ZZ Top and LL Bean and De De Dinah
David Bowie, Steely Dan and sing me prouder, CC Rider

Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders
Eric Clapton, pedal wah-wah, Stephen Foster, do-dah do-dah

Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl and Little Honda
Tighter, tighter, honey, honey, sugar, sugar, yummy, yummy

CBS and Warner Brothers, RCA and all the others

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Listen--remember, they're playing our song!

Rock it, sock it, Alan Freed me, Murray Kaufman, try to leave me
Fish, and Swim, and Boston Monkey,
Make it bad and play it funky.
(Wanna take you higher!)

What lies at the end of your musical rainbow?

...and where is my old Fender Bass now? It was a 1975 Fender Precision, refinished bright red, although the guys at Willie's said they didn't make red that year and it had originally been ivory white.

Hope somebody out there is still lovin' them some P-bass!

Someplace near the top of my musical pot of gold of course is the the band I like to introduce as "The Hungarian Hoven Droven" to people who are not yet part of the wonderful world of Besh o droM. Here ya go.

...and they have a quirky sense of humor, too. Maybe that's just a Hungarian thing? When Little Cow was breaking out the giant bunny ears onstage at the Cedar a couple of months ago I thought, these guys are squirrelly. Was Bela Bartok so squirrelly?

There is a decent article on Wiki about them; their Hungarian Website is a bit pokey to download. The mighty Asphalt Tango records in Berlin distributes some of their stuff now, here's their bio.

What is it about these guys that makes people who don't even like Balkan music tap their foot under the table while playing cards in my dining room and say "What is this music?" Yeah, they have fun horns, but lots of bands have fun horns. Yeah, their arrangements are wild and irreverent, but lots of band's arrangements are wild and irreverent. Was it the fact I had to special order all their discs from Germany? That they have cd titles like "Macho Embroidery," "Gee!" and "Can't Make Me?"

cdRoots says
"Budapest based Besh o droM is a 10-piece electro-acoustic collective, combining turntable wizardry, deep ethnic folk roots and wild jazz improvisation to spectacular effect. Their sound exemplifies the vital creative energy that is flourishing throughout the region and fusing east and west in myriad new ways.

Besh o droM was founded in 1999. Their music is inspired by Balkan, Hungarian and Romanian Gypsy tunes and Middle Eastern traditional music. They interpret this music in their unique style, mixing various musical genres and backgrounds. Most of the tunes they play are traditional but they take the liberty to use any tunes they really like and enjoy. They have developed a very loyal following in Hungary and have started their carrier in the international world music circuit.

Besh o droM in Gypsy language means "sit on the road" literally, but its real meaning is "follow your path, get on with it". It is also wordplay in Hungarian meaning "I am rolling…" (a cigarette). Besh o droM's first CD entitled "Macsó hímzés" (again a wordplay with a local folk connotation, 'Macho embroidery' in literal translation) was published by FONO Records in October 2000. The band has teamed up with Hungarian scratch magician and top hih-hop DJ. Tradition meets the best of club sound, gypsy violin virtuoso with jazz improvisation, a fantastic brass section mixes with funk grooves. A 1000mph musical mayhem, a real audience pleaser with very strong musicianship. World music at its best – an absolute must. Dance shoes recommended.

Yay! Now you can get at least a couple of their discs here in the U.S. via cdRoots! Thanks Cliff!

Here's a blog post by some guy who fell under their spell. Sorry that he can't always spell.

Besh O Drom came out and the minute they started playing I could see I wasn’t going to be able to get away with just standing still (my favorite kind of dancing). The beat was hard and fast. It felt more like a balkan answer to techno than to funk. The energy was so high, I kept expecting a slower song, but one never came.
A link from Virtual WOMEX says it pretty well, too.
Besh o droM draws its musical basis form Transylvanian, Jewish, Afghan, Egyptian, Libanese, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek tunes presenting folk and electronic instruments simultaneously. The different types of music from nations which nowadays do not necessarily communicate well with each other appear together in peace and harmony. Their music is playful and serious, funny and touching, acoustic and electronic, authentic and urban, Western and Eastern, folk and above nations at the same time.

Wish they had a shirt available of this album cover for Nekem-tenemmutogatol ("Can't Make Me!") Or as my partner says "No pointers!"