Friday, July 31, 2009

Release Me

Does anyone still get excited about release dates?

Just this week I was guilty of coercing a friend to share an advance copy of an album that will not be released for a couple months. And yet, I am eagerly anticipating two album releases set for next Tuesday; Zak Sally's Fear of Song and Fruit Bats' The Ruminant Band. One, a local favorite. Another, an opening-band-turned-long-term-favorite.

You can listen to clips from both records on Amazon through the links above (a trick I have only recently discovered). And here is a up-tempo version of one of the Fruit Bats' older tunes.

I guess it isn't surprising that I still cling to release dates, even when I can listen to some or all of the album in advance. I've always found that having something to look forward to makes drudging through the everyday a lot more tolerable.

Other music news:

Saw The Dead Weather on Monday and to quote a co-worker, "It was everything I expected, and more." It was a rock show for the ages. Plus, despite the fact that I have a major celebrity crush on Jack White (who doesn't), I had never seen him perform before. Boy howdy.

Another treat: Screaming Females, the night's opening band. I heard lots of name-dropping comparisons: Sleater Kinney, Meat Puppets, Grand Ole Party, but my overwhelming impression was how much they reminded me of local buzz band Gospel Gossip.

I think the comparison is mostly based on the leading female in a dress with downcast eyes while shredding on her guitar. The difference being that while Screaming Females's vocals and crazy guitar stylings kept my eyes and ears occupied, the bass literally had me by the throat. Not only did I feel strangled, but I felt as though something was pressing down on my lungs. It was awesome.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Well of Today

Our reporter Veronica Fever went deep cover in the Facebook world for four months. 198 'friends' and innumerable pet pictures later, she filed this report:

It ain't Las Ramblas in Barcelona, but Facebook is a terrific people-watching center. And if you let it, you can discover something about yourself as well.

I think of Facebook as a highly-customized virtual newspaper. One's home page is an aggregation of friends' experiences, opinions, and media favorites (e.g. newspaper articles, blog links, and YouTube videos) all deemed interesting enough to share. You can learn a lot about your acquaintances by what they contribute to this endeavor.

Some friends sign up but rarely (or never) sign in. Some lurk. Some comment on others' postings but post little or nothing themselves. Some post selectively. Some have no filter.

As a semi-professional hermit with an agricultural background, I have several carefully cultivated and nurtured neuroses. One such is the fear of being in a social situation armed with nothing whatsoever of interest to say. So it is with Facebook; there is something chronically counter-intuitive about being a part of a virtual social network that depends on the experiential contributions of its members for content. I can't be the person who typically posts, 'Firing up the barbecue' or 'My cat just hocked a major hairball.'

(Not that I judge those who do. I do wonder, though: are these postings highlights? Or is this more of a 21st-century Descartes thing: 'I over-share, therefore I am?')

Just as I must use humor as a defense to distract observers from the utter banality of my life, so I must find a Facebook role that is acceptably diverting. So I go with either political op/ed or outright silliness. The two tend to form a Venn diagram with a disconcertingly large common-features creme filling.

So. Two questions arise:

1) Does Facebook have a killer app?

2) Why am I going on about a ubiquitous social network in a music blog?

The answers mingle thus: if you have a significant number of Facebook friends with similar avocations, you can be a part of a community of taste-makers. For instance, my two primary interests are hermit-crab racing and music. While the former isn't big here like it is in the tropics, the latter is almost universal.

My friends list abounds with ex-music industry types (and boy, does that 'ex' seem redundant), and the variety of their vid postings is pretty boggling. Here was my very first, a little something from my second favorite live band of all time:


Facebook is also very big on activities like quizzes and personality tests for its users, lest they become bored and threaten to do something nutty like pick up a book. It seems, though, that the music lovers have their own unique way of coming up with fun little honey-do's for each other. Here is a recent fave, 'My Life According To...' The game is to answer a dozen questions using only the titles of songs by one artist. Try it. Mine was the Beach Boys:

Are you a male or female: Farmer's Daughter
Describe yourself: I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
How do you feel: I'm Waiting for the Day
Describe where you currently live: In My Room
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Here Today
Your favorite form of transportation: Little Deuce Coupe
Your best friend is: Barbara Ann
What is life to you: Long Promised Road
Your fear: God Only Knows
What is the best advice you have to give: Don't Go Near the Water
How you would like to die: Good To My Baby
Your motto: Please Let Me Wonder

Other custom-crafted time-wasters have included 'Hit 'random' on your iPod and list the next fifteen songs that come up' and 'Pull fifteen 45s out of your collection and list them.'

Best of all: if you are an active music listener, you always have something to post for your friends to see in your status update. For instance, right this minute I could be writing, 'On the Box: 'Gimme Danger' by Iggy and the Stooges. Which reminds me: have you heard The Ig's latest? The man has gone Serge Gainsbourg! Honestly, I could play that album for my 83 year old mom. She'd love it and, hopefully, ask what else I have by that nice man.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wish I Had a Brass Band

Sometimes I fantasize about putting together an amazing festival of brass bands. A whole weekend of instrument cases and tubas laying about, players warming up in the bathrooms and hallway and lots of folks in stocking caps on stage at once. Ooh, and what would the afterparty jams be like?!!

So I was driving my sister around Milwaukee this afternoon, going to pick up amazing take out from the always reliable Bombay Sweets. I got to pick the tunes, so I was doing the "No, listen to to this bit, right here" to her with last year's Kocani Orkestar disc The Ravished Bride. There is a chorus in "Papigo" where the joy of big band brass harmonies just rings through and I have to sing along, and      ...well, she said it was OK, but watch my driving because it's only 35 mph on 13th St.   


So yeah, Kocani gets my vote for the classic Balkan Brass band slot. Not as slick and showy perhaps as Fanfare Ciocarlia, but way more tubas. Boban Markovic Orkestar would be a close second. (Anybody remember that Wednesday night a few years back when Boban and the boys about blew the Cedar walls down? I have a hazy recollection of Serbian U students carrying each other aaround of their shoulders while pounding Beck's. A good time was had by all.) Uh oh jeez, what about Mahala Rai Banda? They have the perfect combo of older generation horns with hip youngster clarinet, percussion and vocals.  Their 2004 debut disc was SO great and they finally have a follow up coming soon. Ths category is difficult for me...

In the category of irreverent Eastern Euro mix and match, it would have to be my Hungarian bad boy favs, Besh O droM. Imagine the irreverence and "try anything once" attitude of say, Brave Combo in an 8 piece brass band with trad percussion and drum kit, plus a nimble bassist. Yah. Go there.
Now in the funky/ soul category I would not go for the obvious choice of one of the many fine New Orleans second line brass bands. Nope, I'd head north all the way to Staten Island to bring home the Budos Band. They can do Afrobeat, they can get funky, the organ player can go soulful or's all there. Looks like they just put out an EP of unreleased material from their first Daptones records disc.

Check out the Budos guys doing "Up from the South" at the Southpaw in Brooklyn a couple of years ago.  So tasty!
What category do we put Nomo in? Lower Michigan homemade-junk-gamelon-sampling loops avant funk with Afrobeat drumming. Probably the band on this list most likely to actually appear at the Cedar. But this is my imaginary festival, and I'm dreamin' big.

Nomo falls in behind the amped and effect-ed thumb piano.

In the really what-the-heck-do-we-call-it category, I gotta bring in those Finnish madmen in Alamaailman Vasarat. See blog post a couple weeks ago (July 12) for more info and a review of their most recent disc. They swing, they groove, they change tempo, key and genre unpredictably, they have the E flat Tubax and they are mighty frisky while doing all that.

And they won't let this poor guy eat his chips in peace in this old (and retro looking) vid.

We get a marching band, of course. I'd like to bring in Portland's March Fourth marching band because they are crazy bad asses with costumes, a drum major, a complete drum line, fire twirlers and a marching bass player.

Here's a fun 9 minute TV feature made on the March Forth gang a few years ago.

Because od wood and brass really can beat the shiz out of modern day instruments, to quote Alamaailman Vasarat.

What do you mean you never dream about stuff like your own brass band festival? Clearly you were never in marching band.  ( Or watched all the extras in Drum Line. )

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pretty Voice

Here's the deal...

I am the Cavy Collector and I have been asked to contribute to the Cedar Blog. I'm a guy that used to know a lot about music before jobs and kids and a rapidly shortening attention span brought me crashing down to earth. Occasionally something will come by that gets past the latest guinea pig crisis, school homework, bikes, playdates and the less rarified stuff that is exciting to me but doesn't lend itself to interesting reading in a music blog. I think that the music that crawls through all that and manages to survive is the stuff that I'll cover here.

There's an amazing music blog called Heartache with Hard Work that I check in with now and again. It's a remarkable blog that has exposed me to tons of new music. One of the finds I've came across there is a band called Windmill that had just released Puddle City Racing Lights. The really cool album cover and the reviewer's namecheck of my favorite Flaming Lips release, The Soft Bulletin, set the hook immediately. I obsessed over this more than anything I'd heard in years. Puddle City Racing Lights is a lot of things but it is not slight or casual music. It's big music and it's up to you whether you're willing to take it on. I can't tell you how many late nights this release has suppllied the soundtrack for.

"What's the problem?" you might ask. "Why don't we all know about Windmill? We're an enlightened bunch." In spite of all the pluses, the brains of the group, Matthew Thomas Dillon, has a voice that could kill at 20 paces. It's a unique instrument, I think it's remarkable, but it's not for everybody. Check this out and report back.

There's a new release coming out that's a concept album called Epcot Starfields. I'm hoping for the best.

The reaction I'd get when exposing friends and cohabitators to Windmill reminds me of what used to happen when I'd play one of my favorite 70's bands, Pavlov's Dog, for people I knew. Pavlov's Dog had a singer named David Surkamp with a voice that would make Geddy Lee blush. Their song "Julia" is both ridiculous and heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time. If you want the full force of The Dog, just jump ahead to about 2:40. But why do that. Listen to it all... Enjoy the mellotron, tolerate the flute, bask in the glory of that voice....

I do think it's important to mention that the producer of the album that spawned "Julia," Pampered Menial, was produced by Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman, the producers of almost all of the Blue Oyster Cult CDs. Of course, you all know that Christopher Walken (who is mentioned in the lyrics of one of the best Fountains Of Wayne songs, Hackensack) played the producer of Blue Oyster Cult in the Saturday Night Live More Cowbell sketch. I think that just about ties everything together....

Also, I mentioned that I have kids and guinea pigs... Did anyone else catch the Loudon Wainwright III's cameo in G-Force (in glorious 3D, I might add)? He had a cool hat.

That's it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sucked (or Suckered) In

I'm doing a bit of time-shifting here, as this entry will actually post while I'm attending my second Canadian folk festival of the summer (this time Calgary). What's going on with these Canadian folk festivals? Winnipeg featured Iron & Wine, Okkervil River, Neko Case and Elvis Costello. This weekend in Calgary I'll be enjoying The Decemberists, The Mekons and Mavis Staples, among many. Like our programming at The Cedar, these festivals are expanding beyond a narrow genre definition of the music they present. There's just a lot of great music, the main criteria seems to simply be music that the programmer(s) have deemed worthy of listening to. My hats off to them; that's exactly the way it should be.

I may regret this, but Ms. Veronica has set the bait twice now, and I can no longer resist: the cowbell thing. I'm not going to go as far as name a website after my feelings on the subject, but surely there are other music instruments more worthy of being picked on? Or how about an effects pedal? Surely the wah-wah, veritable aural icon of the 70's porn industry, has been more overused and distracting?

Here's the thing... the first record I ever bought with my own money (after many Beatles records I made my parents buy me) was this single in 1968:

Of course, for many The Beatles themselves had already settled this question three years before with this classic:

As far as I'm concerned, those two songs are all the instrument needs to justify itself. Now shut up already.

* * * *

Global Roots Part Three

Saturday night, September 26: I'm happy to report that we're finally bringing a great Ethiopian singer to The Cedar to open this evening of music. The Twin Cities has one of the largest Ethiopian American communities in the U.S. (for years we've tried to get the great Aster Aweke to perform here) so it's high time. The singer is Minyeshu, and she takes Ethiopian tradition and brings with it a modern, European sensibility (for many years she has lived in Belgium and The Netherlands).

Headlining the evening will be the iconic Brazilian band Os Mutantes! They are touring to support their first record in 35 years, being released on the uber-hip Anti- label in early September. Here's an archival clip from the late 60's:

It will be another evening with an open dance floor (third in a row- a Cedar record, which will of course be broken the very next night...).

Friday, July 24, 2009

For Mama E Dub: Long overdue

Working one night at The Cedar, Mama E Dub was raving about a new CD she just couldn't get enough of. Strangely enough, I had the same one at home sitting on a pile of CDs to review for a radio program. Put that review up on the blog! was the gist of the response I got. "Review" however, has a few different meanings. While I imagine she envisioned me toiling away, crafting beautiful prose to describe an indescribable record, I had a different task in mind. To write a review for the radio, I simply listen to the record and select which tracks I think we should play. Not really a blog worthy process. Hence the slight delay.

The album in question is Kasbah Rockers and Bill Laswell (self titled, as you might guess), and while I really wasn't kidding about it being indescribable. I can say this:

1) The record inspired someone to post a youtube video of himself listening to the group on their myspace page.
2) Their myspace page introduced me to my new favorite genre, based entirely on its name since I'm not really sure what it means: Rai'n'B
3) I really do love this record. I wont attempt to tell you why it is good, I will let you make a decision for yourself. Hopefully your computer speakers are better than mine:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Or Maybe Eggshell?

For some music lovers, there is no such thing as aural wallpaper. Such folks notice even banal background music in public locales.

For instance: grocery stores. Safeway lost me for a time because they insisted on piping yowling divas through the PA, with relief only to be found with the occasional feedback burst and 'Jake, cleanup on Aisle Six.' They came off the blacklist only when I was in one of their stores under duress and heard Paul Brady's 'Nobody Knows.'

Back when I allowed myself to lounge in Starbucks's overstuffed chairs (i.e. up until the time I learned of all the dust mites), I used to marvel not just at the quality of music they were playing but also at the complete indifference of other loungers. How could they not be rapt with attention?

Dentists' offices. I was getting my weekly checkup the other day and while the hygienist was whaling away with her medieval torture apparati, I was pondering the strains of a Sirius XM soft-rock station. Coincidental to an earlier post on these very virtual pages, I found myself wondering: 30 years ago, could Phil Collins have imagined that his music would one day be considered taupe?

Yes, for some music lovers, there is no on-off switch. It's sorta like living the life of Oda Mae Brown in 'Ghost.'


Confidential to Gin Soaked Barroom Queen, Memphis: Sure, you would pick 'Honky Tonk Women' as an exception to the 'no cowbell' rule. The verdict: Nope. Not budging, in spite of the song's obvious merits. The key to modern discourse is to stake out a position and yell the loudest. And don't get me started on 'facts.' They're lazy, they're late, they come with points of view, and they don't do what I want 'em to.


Was sorry to read of staff disappointment in the wake of the Fountains show. This got me thinking about the days when I was in the position to meet the occasional pop luminary. Who was the most fun and accommodating?

My vote goes to Rosie Thomas. She is a Seattle singer/songwriter/comedian (which, in a way, makes her a North American Juana Molina) who sometimes collaborates with her pal Damien Jurado.

Simply put, she is as adorable as her songs. I was at a convention dinner and wanted to talk about my exciting third-place finish in a fantasy baseball league. Rosie was seated directly opposite me and had the charm to get me right off the baseball talk. And the next day, during a label presentation, she made me the butt of much of her entirely goofy and good-natured comedy routine. I was hers in the moment.

Truth be told, I was predisposed to being putty in Rosie's hands because she once starred in one of those ever-rarer moments of record-store serendipity.

One day I was in my beloved and sadly-defunct Hear Music. I happened upon a listening post which included her then-recent release, 'When We Were Small.' I pressed the button and on came track one, '2 Dollar Shoes.'

Hook. Line. Sinker.

OK. Click on the following link and navigate to the middle of the center column where it says, 'Listen.' Select '2 Dollar Shoes.' But before you do this, try to forget about the day's snark and think instead about puppies and rainbows and falling in love.

Rosie Thomas - Sub Pop Records

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acoustic Metal vs. the Unthank Sisters

Yeah! Wouldn't that be a sight to see! Hurdy gurdy, fiddle and gaida vs. minor vocal harmonies on depressing folk songs.

No really, I'm checking out the recent acoustic metal disc from my Swiss faves Eluveitie and have a little news to report (and comment on) from the Cedar's favorite pair of Geordie sisters.

Well, the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the phrase "Acoustic Metal" is some really bad ballads. Remember in the early days of XM satellite radio they had a show called "Ballad Salad" which was plugged as something like "a tasty mix of ballads by your favorite hair metal bands." OK, and I am so running screaming from the room...

Eluveitie's new disc is none of that. Certainly nothing I would call a metal ballad. Even in their loud metal form they really had this Celt thing going, and Evocation 1: The Arcane Dominion is an unplugged extension of what they were doing with their previous disc, Slania. What you get is more of band leader Christian "Chrigel" Glanzmann's fascination with the ancient Helvitii tribe and the their Gaulish language. Most of the lyrics are in Gaulish, from the tiny bits of it that survive on artifacts. They don't give any translations, commenting that any translation would be probably somewhat inaccurate, but give us a few ideas about what's probably going on in order to set a mood.

The Helvetii won this battle over the Romans > > >

Does it work? More importantly does it rock?

Well, yes and no.

To anybody with a nodding aquaintance with Celtic folk music, some of the ground covered is pretty familiar. The arrangements are a little pedestrian, mostly in common time and major keys. The result is less dark and moody and more, say ... triumphant? That's not quite it either, hmmmm. On the positive side, fiddler Meri Tadic and hurdy player Anna Murphy do most of the singing, and they both have decent voices. The one time the guys try to sing in this acoustic setting it is just pretty painful. Of course on the one track where the gals try to get freaky vocally, it just sounds a little like Veruca Salt.

Here's the "Omnos" vid, in which Tadic and Murphy spend some time in around a cool graveyard.

I listened to a couple of my favorite "heavy folk" discs afterwords to see how this measures up. You know, nothing can really hold a candle to Hedningarna's classic Tra (if you follow this link, scroll down to "most helpful review" - it's a doozy), although Żywiołak's Nowa ex-Tradycja gives it a whole hearted attempt. These discs do use some electric instruments and effects in a mostly acoustic lineup, but they sure rock a lot harder! The arrangements are just so much more complex and interesting.

This is not to say that instrumental chops are not present on the disc. The guitar playing is plenty complex without all the usual metal amplification and effects, but it does make me wonder about some of the production choices. It's recorded in such a way that you can hear the cranking and clicking of the hurdy, the indrawn breath of the flute player and the guitarist's fingers sliding on the strings. I really wonder why would they do this. And why are the drums and bass so far down in all the mixes?

I'm making it sound worse than it is; tracks like "Brictom" and "Memento" are good, high energy fun and I think the live versions would work well, especially preceding a full metal set as they plan to do on their fall tour. No word yet if they are coming stateside. Plus they do get big concept points for doing a whole album in a dead language about a long vanished culture. Maybe the sound's just not what I wanted it to be, and therein lies the disappointment.

* * * * genre shift warning! * * * *

Now, here's what the Unthank gang has to tell us. Their press release is the white text, all the comments in red and highlighting are mine.
The Unthanks are preparing to risk it all with another audacious step sideways.

While the abbreviated name reflects the long-established reality that the band is co-fronted by Rachel Unthank's sister Becky Unthank, the real development sees an extended line-up that includes string quartet, brass, percussion, tuned percussion, bass, and The Unthank's producer Adrian McNally taking on piano responsibilities from Stef Conner who returns to a PHD. Winterset key member Niopha Keegan continues on violin. [NO way! A string quartet?? Brass? Percussion? Please don't overdo it! One of the best things about The Bairns is all the "white space."]

New album Here's The Tender Coming will be released in September, ahead of a 42 date UK tour that begins on October 10th, [There are really 42 different places to play just in England? Yes, smart ass, look at the schedule on their MySpace.] followed by overseas tours early next year. [Um, ahem, Main Figurehead.] The album title is taken from a track on the album, in which the tender coming is the boat coming to press men into war, but the title also serves as a metaphor for the shift in mood from The Unthanks.

Here's The Tender Coming is a calmer, melancholic, warmer colour of sad than the intense bleakness of its predecessor; The Bairns, [But I liked the intense bleakness!] nominated for the Uncut Music Prize and Mercury Music Prize as one of the top ten British albums of the year.

Here's The Tender Coming is a hugely different album to The Bairns, though hopefully no less intimate and minimal for all the extended arrangement ethic. It is the sound of a creative team with no interest in resting on the laurels of a critically and commercially successful formula. [Well then. If you say so. Can't wait for the stateside release!]
You know, this reprinting press releases and making comments to them thing could make blogging so easy...oh, wait, isn't that what the mainstream media is for?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Clearly I am wicked, lame *and* blogging with myself...

Video for some of my mix CD artists

There's an awesome clip on youtube of the AStronauts in a 1963 Surf movie, but the blog couldn't accept a "movie clip." Ugh.

The Barracudas

Don Walser (R.I.P.)

Summer Mix CD for the kids in the car

At the end of school this year I made a Summer music mix for my small kids. I want them to hear all types of music, and it's so fun to see what catches their attention.
It Must Be Summer - Fountains of Wayne
Drive My Car -Beatles
Drivin’ My Car - Ralph Covert
813 Mile Car Trip - They Might Be Giants
Highway Café of the Damned - Austin Lounge Lizards
Car Trouble - Music For Aardvarks (David Weinstone)
Car Hop - Los Straitjackets
Devil in My Car - B-52s
Our Car Club - The Astronauts (60s SURF BAND from Colorado!!!) *see below video
Rock Lobster - B-52s
Moonlight Drive -Doors
Driver 8 - REM
Cruel Summer - Bananarama
Summer Fun - The Barracudas
7 Days of the Week - They Might Be giants
The Elements - Tom Lehrer (let's throw in something educational!)
New England - Jonathan Richman
John Deere Tractor - Don Walser
Road Trip - Ellis Paul
Conjunction Junction - Schoolhouse Rocks
Mama Look a Boo Boo - Harry Belafonte
Senor el Gato - Kelly Hogan (from The Bottle Let Me down comp.)
Cheesecake Truck - King Missile
Don’t Wipe Your Face on your Shirt -Cornell Hurd Band (also from The Bottle…compilation)
You Are My Sunshine - Ellis Paul

If you are a parent and would like to try some music that will not rot your brain, I highly recommend the They Might Be Giant DVDs (ABCs and 123s), David Weinstone, and the new Ellis Paul Children's CD The Dragonfly Races, And the compilation The Bottle Let Me Down on Bloodshot Records.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Personalities and Musicians

We all have music heroes. Some fall from grace because of perceived "artistic differences." For example, I used to be a huge fan of early Genesis, even sticking with them for an album or two after Peter Gabriel's departure (in fact I would still list A Trick of the Tail among my top twenty favorite albums of all time). And I still think that Phil Collins was a great drummer and solid singer. But they lost me in the 80's. Mind you, that's when both the band and Mr. Collins enjoyed even greater successes, so clearly there are many millions of people out there who do not share my opinion. And that's fine.

The harder thing is when your musical heroes show real signs of having unattractive or difficult personality issues. An obvious example would be Keith Jarrett, one of my former heroes, and undeniably one of the most brilliant pianists of our time who pioneered the art of solo improvisational piano concerts. But he is almost equally famous for his intolerance, and, well, dickish-ness (mostly for audience noise and recording devices of all kinds during his performances). It would be hard even for a hardcore fan to enjoy any concert when the headline musician comes on stage and opens the evening with something like this:

(Yes, ironic that this was captured on video, probably a cell phone, and lives forever on YouTube).

Over the past few weeks some of my concert experiences have been effected in both directions by personalities. The first was not positive: the vaunted, sold out Fountains of Wayne show here at The Cedar. Now, I'm well aware that we're a bit spoiled here... being a relatively small venue means we don't book many artists that have had to deal with the trappings of fame and success. So in the grand scheme of things, FOW's attitude and actions were by no means over the top.

But by Cedar standards, there was way too much of that prima donna Rock Stars thing going on with them, and it made the entire staff's experiences with the band less than pleasant, pretty much killing the enjoyable aspects of the music and their set. (Also I must say that it did not help that their sound tech was obviously more accustomed to big arena rock shows, and gave us what I call a "tinnitus mix:" much too loud with way too much high-end, a mix that only someone with tinnitus would like... which pretty much took away the real opportunity of an intimate "acoustic" show).

How many times have you seen a band that you only knew through recordings, only to be put off by personality or attitude? Maybe the lead singer was too much the poser, for example?

On the other hand, it can also go the other way. Last weekend I attended the fabulous Winnipeg Folk Festival, and one of the bands I looked forward to seeing there the most was Iron and Wine. Initially I was a bit disappointed when it became evident that it was not going to be a full-band performance, but rather just a solo acoustic set by Samuel Beam. But he seemed to be sincerely amazed that over 10,000 people would come to an outdoor festival to hear "folk music," and managed to charm me with his basic modesty. It only drew me in more, and I ended up with an even greater appreciation for his singing and his songs.

Speaking of Winnipeg, one of the highlights came during the set by Cedar regulars, Punch Brothers. A rain and wind storm had rolled in during their set, but we were rewarded for enduring when the sun came back out and a brilliant rainbow appeared framing the arch of the stage...

Love those magical moments...

* * *


Previously on this blog I announced the opening night of the Global Roots Festival, September 24-27, 2009 at The Cedar with the South African group BLK JKS. Now it's on to Friday night the 25th... which will open with the hot "Tango Electronico" ensemble from Argentina and Uruguay, Bajofondo:

...followed by another great Tuareg electric guitar quartet, Terakaft:

Should be a great evening! This show will also be an open-floor affair.

Global Roots Festival tickets will go on sale July 31.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer in the City

Folks, I am pleased to tell you that my favorite summer event begins in just three days. Every year, as the complacency of everyday July starts to sink in, Summer Music & Movies comes along and gives me something to look forward to every week. (Well, besides looking forward to free music at The Cedar every Thursday night. But Cedar Outdoors is still new; I'm still getting used to having that to look forward too).

For anyone who has not yet attended Music & Movies, you are in for a treat. Twin Citians of all kinds walk, bike, and drive (not recommended due to the tricky parking situation) to Loring Park every Monday night, for a free concert and movie screening. This summer, all the films feature Paul Newman (see the above link for the full calendar listing of films and musical performers).

It also just so happens that the musical performances tend to be local favorites. While I have yet to be disappointed by any of the selected acts, I'm particularly excited to see Roma di Luna, Halloween, Alaska on the bill this year.

That's about all you're going to get out of me this week. I just realized that I have a picnic to plan, and I only have three days!

Pretty tempted to make this cake...and these sandwiches.

Would anyone like to join me?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Know Your Know-It-All

It's been five weeks and the feedback cards and letters have been voluminous. As most of them seem to comprise music blogger-cred litmus tests, I thought I'd trot out a sampling and answer 'em:

Q. Dear Veronica: What is the greatest piece of music ever written?
A. Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Q. What musical instrument would you gladly live out the rest of your life without ever hearing again?
A. The cowbell. I don't know of its origins as percussive embellishment, but I'll just bet PDQ Bach was behind it. (It should be noted, however, that Talking Heads' 'Crosseyed and Painless' is the exception that proves the rule.)

Q. Pull a random 45 out of your collection. What is it and why do you have it?
A. 'Into the Mystic' by Johnny Rivers. I have it because I like it (of course) but also because I have never found the single edit of the track on CD. This would make for a fun Q&A segment on its own ('What songs sound better to you in their 'edited for radio' form than in their original cut?'), but let's travel in a different direction:
Everyone has their musical guilty pleasures. I have dozens; I can still happily listen to Karen Carpenter, 'My Fair Lady,' and all six sides of 'Yessongs' (that's 272MB at 256kbps VBR for some). But what of the other side of the coin? What seemingly universally loved artists have you never taken a shine to?
My number one example is Van Morrison. Sacrilege, yes. In different times I'd have had my skin flayed for such an admission. I won't go into the whys and wherefores; it's a matter of taste and my apparent lack of same. Let's just say I've been waiting 40 years for him to make 'Astral Weeks' again.
But this doesn't mean the man can't write a great song. 'Into the Mystic' is a beauty. And I love what Johnny Rivers did with it.

Q. What do you find the most challenging aspect of music exploration in the age of the Internet?
A. Some labels and artists seem to require a goodly bit of hoop-jumping from their potential listeners. I am a big believer in one-stop shopping; I have my list of wanna-hears and want to find as many as possible without site-hopping. This was Tower Records' calling card for awhile; they were as close as one could get back in the days when a retailer could squeeze most of recorded musical history within the walls of one building.
I beat the drum for on-demand streaming services. It is simply the easiest way to audition music. But I know if I'm reading reviews and, say, a Drag City label release looks interesting, I'll have to pass it by because it won't be there. It's not laziness on my part; I consider myself pretty intrepid. But there is SO MUCH good new music to be found that I can readily cut bait on some.
There is no right or wrong here. Drag City has its philosophy. I have mine: I'm a speed-dater. At the outset it's all about triage.

Q. Who is your favorite living male vocalist?
A. Toss-up. Sometimes I'd say Mark Lanegan. Since the end of his Screaming Trees days I have purchased every solo and collaboration release of his, and I have never been disappointed.
But today I'll go with David Eugene Edwards, formerly of 16 Horsepower and now fronting Woven Hand. If you aren't familiar, his is a country Gothic sound. I'm out of my depth the moment I touch on any matters spiritual, but he seems to have a Pentecostal, Old Testament vibe. A precursor might be some of the Violent Femmes' more Appalachian-themed folk music. Nick Cave lovers: take note.
Here we have Edwards and Woven Hand performing 'Your Russia.' 

Sunday, July 12, 2009

When you inherit that insect collection... might want to think twice before you share it and the accompanying travel journals with the local prog/punk/metal/brass/klezmer band. Read the following true story and see why.

Remember when cds first came out and they were going to be indestructable? Like after nuclear warfare it was supposed to be the cockroaches and the cds left hanging around. WhatEVER. That myth didn't last long, did it?

So here I am looking sadly at my Alamaailman Vasarat - Huuro Kolkko disc that got about 2 plays on a real stereo with speakers before it got stuck in my car disc player and injured in the rescue attempt. Yeah, it's on the computer and I can burn another copy, but I guess I'm old school enough to be a little bummed. Sheesh. And the copy won't have the image of Huuro Kolkko's insect collection on it.

Guess it's a bit what happened to old Huuro Kolkko himself, he was somewhat damaged in the attempt. As the A.V. website explains "A Finnish explorer from the early 1900's, Huuro Kolkko was never recognized by his fellow scientists but nevertheless rambled many continents on his own without any official funding or promise of fame among public let alone his peers. During his travels, he made extensive studies of local cultures, drew maps of areas never visited by man and collected specimens of insects, flora and wild life....Sadly, Huuro Kolkko was lost somewhere in Morocco during the First World War, believed dead and gone. But his legacy will not be forgotten. "

So these crazy Finns who like to keep almost everything in the bass clef scored an album about various events they imagine took place in the explorer's life, based on what they read in his journals. Thus it's difficult to listen to the disc without imagining it as a film soundtrack. What's happening now to poor Kolkko now? What's going on in this tune here? Luckily the website provides a track by track guide from his first crazed dreams of exploring the world to his funeral afterparty. This is the first time I've been able to listen to the disc and read the liner notes simultaneously, and it's great fun to see if what I imagined was what the composers were thinking.

Not only do I love the concept, (who does concept albums like this?!) I totally love the tunes. Well, OK, the opening track is a little like heavy circus music, but get past that and it's a swashbuckling, swaggering soundtrack to adventure. I really don't know how these guys get all those low end instruments to sound so light-footed and frisky, but nobody else does it like they do. In anybody else's hands, two cellos, a trombone, a pump organ, and various saxes ranging from sopranino to the contra bass E flatTubax would plod and thud, but they never do here. In occasional forays into higher registers they actually play melody lines on their theremin, rather than just using it to make scary noises in the background the way most bands do.

This is wonderful, crazed, unclassifiable music. Should I let the band describe it? On their Myspace they comment,

"In the Alamaailman Vasarat music you can find traces of tango, klezmer, jazz, psychobilly, cabaret, circus music, new age, progressive avant-garde and heaviest of heavy metal. It is fairly typical to hear the band sail between creepy “Christmas-songs-for-the-poor”-type melancholic Finnish melodies and hot desert mirages of Ancient Persia. Journey might take you head-banging through the deepest mosh-pits of trashy dish factories of modern India, maybe ending up chilling out in a long-lost jazz dive of 20’s Harlem.
" For countless occasions, Alamaailman Vasarat have proved that old wood and brass can really beat the shiz out of any modern day instruments. It is just a matter of attitude and clever arrangements and compositions. But do not mistake the band to be just a master of Wall of Sound – it is just as important to play Silent. According to loyal fans, the most breath-taking moments are in fact those creepiest bars when the band plays so quiet and so petite you can almost hear the dead moaning six feet under! And when the distorted cellos kick in once again…
Since we're all writing about breaking down those "World Music" categorizations anyway here, I'll just tell you to listen for yourself at their MySpace. I recommend "Tujuhuju"(attempting to explore a haunted mountain) and "Lautturin Viivat"(at the funeral afterparty.)

One more weird A.V. tidbit. A few years ago they did a full length soundtrack to the 1932 film Vampyr and you can watch it in 10 minutes chunks on YouTube. This is pretty great, too, although fans of the film are hating it in the comment section.

* * * * * * * *
And in the "We have to be extra Minnesota nice to these guys" section, I was reading Watcha Clan's blog about their adventures in Chicago and Madison last weekend. Poor kids. Lost luggage in Chicago, kicked out of a hotel in Madison for smoking in their room and the event organizers there did not have the proper power converters so they didn't really get a sound check...seems like they had good shows nonetheless. They were also amazed at how many of the big cars they drove past had only one person in them.

Not to sound like John Kerry in 2004, but WE (as in the Cedar) CAN DO BETTER! I hope so anyway...since W.Clan is closing down Global Roots this fall for us on September 27.

Friday, July 10, 2009

You know you're a music head when...

...while watching a television show (name left unmentioned due to writer's tendency to get embarrassed) with a friend you realize that you are more interested that one of the main characters is listening to Tuvan throat singing and Cambodian music in his car than what was occurring in the program.

At least I wasn't alone. Friend's reaction at the conclusion of the episode: "I don't get it."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Inexplicable Love

Further to dancing about architecture: never harbored a desire to be a music critic, myself. Every time I tried I felt a form of cognitive dissonance: why am I trying to translate visceral reactions into words? Perhaps this is an outgrowth from youthful scars; e.g. a time a college girlfriend was trying to get me to talk about my feelings or some such crap. I recall opening one response with, 'I think I feel...' and she interrupted with an outburst of laughter over the absurdity of the juxtaposition.

But the music critic's job is an important one; we explorers need all the direction we can get, even if the destinations are sometimes cul de sacs. A couple of people I trust are Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic, and Jack Rabid, publisher of The Big Takeover. Also, a website that has been climbing my chart is the one operated by Other Music, a small specialty retailer in Greenwich Village. Subscribe to their weekly email update, which never fails to uncover releases worthy of investigation.


Q. So, Veronica, got an example of music for which you have an unexplainable love?

A. OK, hozzabot this: Sun Kil Moon's most recent album. The songs are long, monochromatic, with litttle dynamic range and a vocal style that can be difficult for the uninitiated. This album, April, might be my favorite from the past twelve months. I don't get it, and I sure can't explain it. Here is a sample:


Presumably these pages will soon feature some Fountains of Wayne afterglow and smoke-rings blown to the ceiling. Great band, great songwriting. Co-founder Adam Schlesinger first caught my attention with his songwriting for the Tom Hanks' movie, 'That Thing You Do,' including the title track. His beat out Dwight Twilley's effort, which says a lot right there.

Anyway, as the new kid who acts as if the beginning of time were June 11 of this year, I get to post this terrific Robbie Fulks novelty tune while blissfully unaware that everyone has heard it multiple times. To recap: Robbie sings in the role of a frustrated songwriter who has hit a wall on a new track he is working on. So he turns to the only songwriters' service he can trust:

The Fountains of Wayne Hotline. (Click on the little player at the end of the three paragraph editorial)


An irregular Thursday feature will be my choices for the sounds I'd like to hear wafting through the floorboards and down into my secret Cedar cellar, if tour itineraries, bankability, and diva demands weren't factors in scheduling.

Today I'd pick Pink Mountaintops. They're a side project for Black Mountain's Stephen McBean. They fall somewhere in the psychedelic folk category, which has been big in this household ever since Espers came along. The following is from an intimate live setting, and while the vocals are rather lost in the mix, their vibe comes through nicely:

To Mama E Dub, re Tell No Lies: keep working on it. Worth it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I Still Love Georges Collinet

Well, I was going to finally get around to reviewing that amazing new Alamaailman Vasarat disc this week, just in time for them to be rocking all the Hammerheads at Roskilde. You know they have a rule that musician can't cross the border to leave Finland unless they demonstrate amazing instrumental and compositional chops? No, really.
Finnish band fights to play the lowest notes

Then I was just going to write about some of the summer music that is sounding so good to me right now.

But before I do any of that, I have to give another big shout out to the amazing Georges Collinet and his Afro-Pop Worldwide crew. You see, I've been doing a rather tedious project at my day job all week, so I've been plugged in to the pod all day long and catching up on some podcasts. I did an Afropop Worldwide marathon this morning of shows from earlier this summer, checking out recent shows on summer tours for 2009 (Orchestra Baobab is on tour and they are supposed to be in Minneapolis August 4!) Aaaaagh!!! I will be in Maine. You all have to go and enjoy these Senegalese legends for me, OK?) and oldies from their archives (Georges' "you are there" account of Cesaria Evora's New York City debut in the early 1990's.)

The guy is so even handed and enthusiastic about all the genres he promotes and he's always sneaking in the cultural history. An interview snippet from Hilda Tloubatla of the Mahotella Queens about the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison? C'mon, what other podcast is going to have such gems? He was loving him some BLK JKS on an episode from a couple of weeks ago...lucky us as they're coming to the Cedar for Global Roots this fall!

Good stuff, people. I've plugged his show before and it still matters. Good podcast, wish one of our public radio stations would pick up the whole show from PRI and broadcast it every week because I can't sit still long enough to stream it, and the podcast is just a quick teaser for each week's show. We do have our own local version, though, with Salif and Charlie doing their African Rhythms show every Thursday afternoon on KFAI. Those guys do a great job of promoting African and Latin music at the Cedar and all over town.

As for that summer listening, Nomo's Ghost Rock is in heavy rotation. I'm trying to like their new one, Invisible Cities, but it's just not as good. More wanking, fewer grooves or something. I don't know, Ghost Rock just cruises along with this incredible energy and drive. Great horns, cool samples, great percussion...pretty good for the crew from Ann Arbor. A shout out to the amazing Angel of Rock for turning me on to these guys.

Michigan kids made good

I've also been giving Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara's Soul Science a lot of plays this week. The folks who put together the European World Music charts love their collaborations and I finally decided to check their stuff out. I'm always a little leary of those Anglo-African collaborations, but much of this one works. The electric guitar and spike fiddle combo jams, baby, except when Adams sings. Don't do that. Even though that "Hand Jive" tune ("Ta Ya Kaaya") is a little hinky, the fiddle just burns the solo. Just grabbed their new one, Tell No Lies, which I'm not sure I like as well. Initially it feels like the energy has been dilluted somehow, but I need to listen more.

That blasted Finnish disc is stuck in my car's cd player. Luckily I uploaded it to pod the minute I got it, but annoying anyway. Not like the poster who lost a bunch of her hard drive...OUCH! My sympathies! But really, I'll review it next week. I had to leave this global music behind and dance to Lady Sovereign and Santogold all afternoon. Sometimes you just gotta.

If you get the urge to drive south this weekend, I hear Watcha Clan is playing at a Bastille day festival in Madison, a mere 250 miles away. I would SO be there but for a family reunion. Mom vs. Watcha Clan? Mom wins.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It Always Used to Be Better

Picking up on yesterday's Angel of Rock post, with the idea that arts criticism is somehow in a state of crisis and quickly deteriorating...

Unfortunately, the full text of the article from the Columbia Journalism Review can no longer be viewed by non-subscribers, but the subtitle "Can arts critics survive the poison pill of consumerism?" and the quoted complaint by a critic that the world of rock music criticism is victimized by a high-school level competition to stay cool, is indicative of the concern being expressed. This feels to me like yet another one of the many, tired complaints being spurred by new developments (usually spurred by technology) by the "old guard" that (fill in the blank) is now going to hell in a handbasket (see "text messaging is killing interpersonal communications," "music downloads are ending musical creativity," "the designated hitter is destroying baseball," etc.).

In one of my former lives, I aspired to be a popular music critic. I even designed my own college-study program towards this goal: taking courses in journalism and music history and theory at the same time at Boston University. One of my professors at B.U. connected me with Steve Morse of the Boston Globe. Steve was passionate about music, and willing to speak his mind even when he was going against the prevailing "cool." But back in 1978, the Globe was one of only a handful of influential daily newspapers, and few of them had critics of his caliber covering pop music. Back then, even with pop magazines like Rolling Stone (Spin didn't even come on the scene until 1985), you could count the number of intelligent voices in the field of popular music criticism on two hands (with valid arguments about the last few fingers), and very few of us had access to more than two or three at any given time.

While it's true today that even stalwart publications like The Boston Globe are fighting for their own survival, and arts critics in such publications are being laid off left and right, what has emerged with the internet is access to many more voices. Now, some argue that this tends to drown out the "virtuosos" like Steve Morse (and I can just hear Steve laughing at being referred to that way), but at the end of the day, I prefer having more voices. I can use my own filtering system and seek out the voices that I personally find the most valid... just give me access to those voices, please.

At the heart of this argument is whether we are better served with a small handful of "arts critics" who are paid by a theoretically neutral media outlet, which is the old model, or an unlimited number of "amateur" critics who write or blog freelance for little or no money, but may be beholden to commercial interests or other pressures (such as the need to be "cool"). It should be no surprise which side of the argument a non-compensated blogger such as myself will come down on!


Miss Hell has already waxed eloquently on this blog about the powerhouse pop of Fountains of Wayne, but in preparation of Tuesday's Cedar gig, I'm going to leave you with a YouTube preview from another recent acoustic show of a great song from their latest album "Traffic and Weather" with typically clever lyrics:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Music Criticism Crisis

I recently read an essay by David Hajdu, a music critic for The New Republic and an associate professor at Columbia's graduate journalism school.

The essay was not specific to music, but rather to arts criticism. A critique of criticism of sorts, but also a speculation of where arts criticism may be headed. You can read it here, but here is one highlight:

Quoting an anonymous critic: "The world of music writing is becoming a lot like high school. Writers do not write about music so much anymore. Their job is to look cool and to align themselves with the right albums at the right time so that they're not belittled or kicked out of the cool club. I think that has really become a problem. People are afraid. There's this fear that you could hurt your career or your image if you go out on a limb and say, 'I don't like The Hold Steady or Arcade Fire.' So, for various reasons, people have decided to focus on the positive and be of good service to the readers."

Unnerving. But it seems about right, doesn't it? Of course one of the most popular sources of music criticism these days is Pitchfork, known for scathing remarks and dolling out few album reviews that score above a 7. And according to an article in Slate magazine, the site is provoking on purpose. Check it out here.

Going by Hajdu's rubric though, it doesn't seem like Pitchfork provides criticism any more real than these others. They are simply creating a new cool club.

In other news, I have a new favorite Brazilian artist (a favorite among many): Marcio Local

His new album Marcio Local Says Don Day Don Dree Don Don is worth a listen just for the opportunity to say the title. But if you need another reason,

He who doesn't like samba isn't a good guy.
He's rotten in the head or sick in the feet.
-Dorival Caymmi

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A to Z

Still digging out from a hard drive crash that took 40% of my working music library with it. So you gotta sit still for the predictable preaching: music liberated from hard media can be ephemeral. Defrag. Back up. Backup your backup. That is all. See you next week.

Eh? More? Really? Sheesh, what does it take to earn that six-pack of Yoo-Hoo around here? Okay, but my head is spinning like a cat in a tumble dryer.

A recent post by Mr. Figurehead (with whom I hope to someday have a close enough working relationship to refer to by his first name) brought a smile of deep satisfaction. The subject was the demise of 'genre' and the resultant liberating effect. And yes, Waterloo in Austin was ahead of the curve. I never talked to the shop's owner about that philosophy, but it always seemed like a practical matter: fewer time-wasting backroom arguments about where to file an artist.

Dance music, for instance, was always susceptible to micro-categorizing, which seemed to be done more with the record store section owner in mind than the non-DJ customer. Here's a bit of a hoot: have a look at this All Music page that lists known Electronica sub-categories.

This reporter once spent a bit of time on an Americana advisory board that convened in Nashville. The board's charter was to heighten awareness of this 'genre.' The whole time, it was never clear what 'Americana' actually was. In general, it seemed to comprise roots music with twang but without Billy Sherill strings. Or something like that. Best I could figure, the prevailing attitude was that Americana is to country what alternative is to rock.

Still, even as 'genre' fades, more are invented. Their propagation seems mostly intended as placeholders for reviewers who can't bear to write one more 'if you like Explosions in the Sky, you should try If These Trees Could Talk.'

'Post rock.' Still don't have that one figured out. Oh, the sound falls within the grouping, generally, but the origins and meaning of the term are a mystery. 'Post-punk.' Eh? I'm still grappling with 'emo,' although it does come in handy as a way of avoiding over-wrought vocalists.

And yet...and yet...I do seek out certain placeholders myself. Two, in particular, that never fail to grab my attention are the related 'shoegaze' and 'dream pop.' The former had its heyday in the first half of the 90s. The latter seems an acceptable way of referencing its louder predecessor. (Oh, yes. Loud. Saw Curve at the I-Beam in SF in '92 and am still awaiting the resultant tinnitus).

'Dream pop' seems to have these characteristics in common: a simple melody with a reliable hook, gauzy vocals (often with a Brian Wilson influence), and a widescreen arrangement. And it is likely that every dream popper listened carefully to My Bloody Valentine.

My favorite practitioner is a Rhode Island band called The Brother Kite. Coming up we have a song from their 2006 release, 'Waiting For the Time To Be Right.' Next is Engineers out of London, who have a new album releasing next month. The track below, 'Come in Out of the Rain,' is from their eponymous 2005 release. And finally, Maps, a 'band' comprising of an English gentleman named James Chapman. His sound falls more on the electropop end of the dream pop spectrum...and I'm going to stop here before I do even more to prove Mr. Figurehead's point.

Fave recent Onion headline: Sixty-Year-Old Hippie Pitied by Forty-Year-Old Punk.' Cheers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Guitar Tourturers Never Die..

...they just have Fender create customized guitars to their specs!

No really, I read the other day that this being the 30th year since Sonic Youth started gigging, Fender is creating a custom Thurston Moore guitar and a Lee Ronaldo version, all tricked out to their specs. Ignoring the irony of custom Fenders for guys who started their career abusing pawn shop guitars with screwdrivers on stage, reading this just took me back.

A long way back, say about 20 some years ago when I thought Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising was the coolest album in the world. It was back in that era discussed in the blog recently when people bought music based on cover art. Then it was so exciting to get home from Iowa City or Minneapolis or wherever we'd road tripped to a big record store and see what it actually sounded like.

Once of my housemates at the time was a little punk alterna-guy and our other three were very, very mainstream. After one play of Bad Moon Rising up in my attic bedroom, the cool housemate and I looked and each other and went "Whoa!!" or something similar. The other housemates yelled up from downstairs "Who's being killed up there? What the hell our you two listening to?"

You need to understand, even though we were in a band together, a band that covered a Sonic Youth song and a Joy Division song, it wasn't a very good band, and the punk scene in Cedar Falls, Iowa wasn't much of a scene.

The punks from Iowa City were just so much cooler. They had bigger hair, sharper jewlery, more holes in their clothes, the names of bands we'd never heard of spray painted across their t-shirts and actual Doctor Martens, back when they were really orthopedic looking. Cedar Falls punks just had army boots.

They also had their underground shows at a place called "the Church" a funky old church sans pews that could be rented really cheaply. We had our shows at Dean's Parkade Lounge, a ratty bar downtown that had a long room on the side where people had wedding dances.

So when I saw one of the Iowa City punks had on an actual store-bought Sonic Youth t-shirt I had to ask. They had played at "the church" a few months ago. She described it as "A religious experience."

The next time they came through the Midwest, it was at First Avenue so a carload of us roadtripped up after classes. Of course we got there at 8:00 and the show didn't start for hours. The thrill of the night was when Kim Gordon walked past our table with her bags of shopping in downtown Mpls. The place was empty, Sonic Youth seemed grumpy about that and the show wasn't really that good. I wasn't really into their next album, Evol, and never really into Sonic Youth after that, although of course the rest of the world was, soon enough.

And that Iowa City punks vs. Cedar Falls punks thing? I can't think of any of the Iowa City bands of the mid-1980's who ever made it very far. From Cedar Falls, of course, came the mighty House of Large Sizes, who definitely played around for over a decade. They still do a few reunion shows every year. (Remember, OK, this was all pre-Slipknot, and they were from Des Moines, anyway.) No custom Fenders for Dave and Barb of HOLS, but I did run into them last summer in Cedar Falls. Raising a son, living out in the country, growing vegetables and running their vintage shop.

Sounds just about right to this old Iowa punk.