Saturday, August 29, 2009


The Cedar's 21st season begins this coming Labor Day weekend, with two local CD releases by political hippity-hoppers Junkyard Empire and Olive Oyl impressionist Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles, kicking off an extremely active fall schedule.

Last year we printed a special Season Highlights brochure to launch our 20th. We started down that path again a few months back for the new season, but decided instead to opt for upgrading our monthly newsletter to an all-color piece on whiter paper (still recycled stock, don't you worry). September's is now in the mail and at all of our usual newsletter distribution outlets:

Because we book the season on an ongoing basis, any schedule that extends beyond the next 30-45 days becomes obsolete before it arrives in peoples' mailboxes. So the monthly format makes more sense for us, although of course the best and most up-to-date way to keep up with our activities is the website.

People are always asking me to make sure to let them know if there's a Cedar show I think they "really need to see." But our bookings are diverse enough that without having a truly intimate knowledge of another person's taste in music, that is a pretty impossible request.

However, everyone once in a while a show gets booked that seems to charge the Cedar office with unanimous excitement, and we just put tickets on sale yesterday for one such show coming November 11: Dirty Projectors. Their most recent CD, Bitte Orca, is one of those rare recordings which is in heavy rotation with every member of my family (plus a few good friends), and if I ever actually made "album of the year" lists, I'm sure this would be on top in 2009. Ticket sales were strong in the first 24 hours, so I suggest snapping some up soon if you want to see these guys. Here's an arty video for the "hit single:"

Once the season is underway, I'll try to get back to alerts on shows in the coming week which I think are of particular interest.

A new development which will impact our programming for the 21st season is the addition of high-definition video playback capabilities and a brand new 10-by-20 foot screen behind the Cedar stage. Those of you who came out to see Béla Fleck host his excellent filmed documentary "Throw Down Your Heart" got a taste of the possibilities of a music film being shown in a venue with an actual music sound system.

We'll have an even better opportunity to show it off when we host the final day of this year's Sound Unseen Music and Movie Festival. Among the films we're slated to show: a documentary on the "gypsy punk" band Gogol Bordello called Non-Stop Gogol Bordello:

Look for more film/video programming to be added to the mix this season.

Meanwhile, everyone lift your glass in appreciation of The Cedar's 21st! But no beer bongs, please.

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Apology

A co-worker and fellow Cedar staff blogger may have caught me singing (rather loudly, I'm ashamed to say) in the office on Wednesday. So, I have three things to say:

1) I'm sorry.
2) I really thought everyone else had gone home.
3) I was listening to Julie Doiron. I can't help it.

So. Infatuated. With. This. Lady. Seriously. Pretty sure I already wrote about her on here, but she's just that good.

In other news, it is almost September. I am desperately seeking some fall jams. The summer jams seemed especially good this year, but I am anticipating that they wont sound as fresh in the crisp autumn air. This is an active search. I don't expect the jams to come to me, however there are a few sources that I am counting on:

-A mix CD from a new friend
-A friend's band's new album (released on cassette tape!)
-Suggestions from my blogger friends
-A new season beginning at The Cedar (Check out the calendar here)

At least one of these has to come through for me, right?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Resort Fee

Burns: And to think, Smithers, you laughed when I bought Ticketmaster. [imitating Smithers] Nobody's going to pay a hundred-percent "service charge."
Smithers: It's a policy that ensures a healthy mix of the rich and the ignorant, sir.

Good reading in the mid-August New Yorker. A feature article titled 'The Price of the Ticket' touches on several subjects: the changing economics of the music business, concert pricing logic, orgaznized scalping (euphemistically referred to as 'the secondary market'), and how Bruce Springsteen got caught up in a related mess at least partially of his own creation.

(An abstract of this article is available to non-subscribers)

Back in the day, the worst aspect of record-store work was the ticket window. One challenge was defending the usurious 'convenience charge.' The clerk had to deflect ('It's not us, it's BASS (or Ticketron)') while avoiding the obvious temptation ('Hey, Mac, if you think the spread is better uptown then please, go bet uptown'). This after having gone through eight iterations of possible view-lines for 'Disney on Ice.'

My favorite moment: opening up a record store on the Sunday morning after a Saturday night rap festival had been cancelled at the last moment due to security concerns. The ticket agency weenie in his sensory-deprivation cubicle at a distant undisclosed location suggested I give the demanding customers mail-in refund chits.



For the same issue, The New Yorker's music critic wrote a shorter and rather unfocused (but interesting) article about the emergence of CD-quality music files available for sale and download on the web. He mentioned two sites in particular: Pristine Classical and HDtracks. To this I can add a third: HDGiants. Specialty labels are doing this as well.

It's a coming standard. We'll know it's building when an aggregator comes along who offers a CD-quality-songfile search interface that returns results which redirect the searcher to the specialists who carry it. And then, someday, Apple will decide that inferior compression rates are no longer enough to maintain their stranglehold...and downloadable CD-quality songfiles will be as common as internet porn.

Admittedly, I couldn't see this from my one-year-ago vantage point. But now...heck, my plain vanilla DSL can bring in a 320kbps hour-long album in under ten minutes. I've just started using the Netflix on-demand service through the household wireless network, and am able to stream near-DVD quality movies without a hiccup to the living room big screen. The other night, I couldn't help but think, 'So THIS is why Al invented the Internet...'Spaceballs!'

Anyway, a line in the aforementioned article inspired a comical double-take: it was about the too-ready availability of more music than anyone could listen to in a lifetime. The author suggested that the mini-resurgence of the vinyl LP is partly due to 'a modest rebellion against the tyranny of instant access.'

Read. Discuss. We'll circle back in future.


Random play: Have you heard Songs of Green Pheasant? It's the nom de musique of one Duncan Sumpner, a Sheffield-based fellow who has a sound that could be placed somewhere in the psych-folk realm.

Yeah, seemingly thousands are tilling that soil. So why this guy? Atmosphere. Imagine yourself on a hike in rugged terrain when a downpour sends you scurrying for cover. Up ahead, a cave. You scamper in, shake off, and and a soft firelight are emanating from further in. You follow...

Go here. His whole first album (recorded in 2002, released three years later) is available to stream. I love the whole thing, but to get a good feel for his sound, start with the second track, 'Nightfall,' which was written for and inspired by Boris Pasternak.


Thanks to Mr. Figurehead for posting the link to info about the upcoming Beatles remaster issues. Yep, like Tommy Lee Jones, I'll be buying the White Album again. I had my appetite whetted by the 'Love' soundtrack...loved the new sparkle in the sound and yes, even the mashups. I'm ready.

The bummer: why are the mono remasters available only in their own boxed set? Presumably this will one day be rectified with individual issues, but the wait should be unnecessary. I am mightily curious about the Sgt. Pepper mono mix: those who purport to know say there is much more layering and depth to be heard that way.

'Twist and Shout' to 'Tomorrow Never Knows.' It's been said many times: that is one helluva journey to make in three years.


Finally, to those who would revive the heretofore Propofol-subdued kowbell kontroversy, I say this: 'Can't help about the shape I'm in. I can't sing, I ain't pretty, and my legs are thin...'

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

High kicks, benefits, webcasts and a farewell

Where to begin? Lots of little bits of news and not much time to write.

First let's give some credit where credit is due, like to Scott and Nan and the Bloodshot Records crew. Their 15th Anniversary Party event at the Cedar on Sunday was a really fun - if long- day. What other record companies throw such a party for their fans? Plus there's nothing like being the person serving the free food to make a gal feel really popular.

Re: the same event, I pretty much have to declare here that Jon Langford is The Man. The guy looks almost like a kindly grandpa, with his thinning silver hair and the twinkle in his eyes. But strap on that blue Stratocaster, and stand back folks! He's got stage kicks like Dobet Gnahore (well, almost), and the rockin' energy of an 18 year old. His set with the Waco Brothers provided a loud, late hour of delight to a couple hundred old punks and rockers at the Cedar Sunday. (Yes, I include myself in that old group.) Looking around, the crowd really looked like one at First Avenue 20 years ago. Even Cedar Operations Manager Dave P., a man whose rock credentials are right up there, turned to me and said, "Wow. Jon Langford on the Cedar stage!"

* * * * * * *
Another guitar player with a twinkle in his eye who has graced the Cedar stage dozens (if not hundred) of times of the years is not doing so well this week. Local promiscuous (with his guitar, that is) jam/Celt/jazz/world guy Dean McGraw is having a bone marrow transplant. His numerous pals have begun to organize benefits and the first one is this Sunday, August 30 at the Celtic Junction in St. Paul. A website has been put together to keep people posted on how our man Dean is doing and what's going on with the benefits. It's called Do The Dean, so check it out. Dean has certainly donated his time to the Cedar over the years, and is a singular kind of personality with his stage antics, not to mention the aftershow goofiness. Ever seen his Geman television sex ad imitations or the way he tears off the outside of a samosa to eat only the filling? (Says it's greasy...) Anyway, send this important guy in the local music community some good vibes or a donation or hit the Junction Sunday. (I'm sure tempted to put in a comment about health care reform right here, but I won't.)
* * * * * * *
What're you doing Friday night? If you're hanging around on the computer at some odd time in the wee hours you can can check out a free live webcast of our folk rockin' Swedish pals Hoven Droven streaming live from the Shrewsbury Folk Festival in England. Here's the link which explains the deal. Sax man Jens Comen will be back in the lineup after his summer break for paternity leave. Congrats to Jens and Sara on their new addition.
Team Hoven plus some pals on their way to watch the Twins at the Metrodome during last fall's Nordic Roots fest. Jens is waving the tickets, and there's Sara in the red scarf.
* * * * * * *
It's a sad day for ethno-techno fans. Italian techno-folkers Fiamma Fumana, one of the standard bearers in the Martyn Bennett-style beats-n-folk music, have decided to pack it in. Co-founder and accordion/guitar player Alberto Cottica was the last member remaining after bass/flute/pipes gal Lady Jessica Lombardi decided not to return after her maternity leave. Programming and sampling wiz Medhin Paolos departed a few years ago, and the band had toured with several singers since Fiamma Orlandi herself left to do solo work. A new programmer and a drummer played on their last U.S. tour. Alas. It was a good run, gang, including several very fun nights at the Cedar over the years. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

Here's a classic Fiamma Fumana vid from 1999, "Tres Sorelle." That's "Three Sisters" to you and me. Holy cow they look young!

I think that about does it for Mama E. this week. Except this little notice to that cowbell-hater. I have seven words to say to you. know the Low Rider.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Return of Beatlemania, 40th Edition

While way too much hype has surrounded the very recent 40th anniversary of Woodstock, another 40th anniversary passed this week with little fanfare: 20 August 1969 was the last time all four Beatles were together in the same studio (recording "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" for Abbey Road).

Well, brace yourself for what promises to be the biggest Beatles marketing blitz since the original Beatlemania of the 60's: on 09/09/09, Harmonix in partnership with Apple Corps will release The Beatles: Rock Band:

In a rather interesting and extensive article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, the aspirations for this launch are nothing short of bringing an entire new generation (that would be old farts like me) to the video game format.

On the same day, Capitol/EMI will release the first completely remastered digital versions of The Beatles catalog on CD in a variety of flavors (way too much detail can be found here).

And if that were not enough, it is widely believed that an Apple (that's the computer company one) announcement scheduled also for 09/09/09 will unveil the long-awaited availability of the entire Beatles catalog on the iTunes Music Store.

It's going to be interesting to see if The Beatles can have yet another significant impact on pop culture after all these years. I'd say never count them out! If the cover of the new Rolling Stone is any indication, it's already starting.

Inevitably there will be new video clips revealed, maybe even another "lost track" or two will pop up. Fearing that this may already be developing into a typical, 2009-style media over-saturation campaign, I thought I'd get this little tidbit out there, discovered while reading the on-line version of the above mentioned New York Times Magazine article... enjoy it before it's too late!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Too tired to music

Sorry blogosphere. I am saving my energy for tomorrow, when I will spend the day cycling between here and here. Free music from noon til 2 a.m. This is why I love Minneapolis.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Quest for the Perfect Segue

I had the dream again last night. In it I'm doing a shift at the old radio station, manning the turntables, and continually missing segues. I'm running around looking for an LP I can't find while the song I'm playing fades out. One factor is constant in every recurrence of this nightmare: observers' total lack of concern. I'm pretty sure this is my subconscious mind reminding me just how convenient a low-set bar can be.

(BTW: ever notice how Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap never had to wear headphones or even hear the music to perfectly cue a song? I could never fathom that.)

The dream reminds me of my favorite segue from that life: Roxy Music's 'Sentimental Fool' into Led Zeppelin's 'D'yer Maker.' Try it: buy yourself a couple of Technics 1200s (don't forget the felt pads) and a Mackie 1402 and have a go. If not now, at least by noon tomorrow.

While you're at it, drop by your local vinyl emporium and grab a copy of The Atlanta Rhythm Section's 'Champagne Jam' album. When you get home, play 'Imaginary Lover' at 45. At that speed, the vocalist sounds remarkably like pre-reconstruction Stevie Nicks.


The foregoing geezing was inspired by this dandy Vanity Fair article about the decline of cultural snobbery. As folks draw the blinds around their personal iPod and Kindle-filled spaces, we are less able to make snap judgments about their tastes and, similarly, trumpet our own.

Also, as media content becomes intangible, we cannot readily display our patently superior collections. For instance, I've owned thousands of LPs and CDs in my life, none of which are now in evidence. The living room here has no CD player, no discs of any kind, and only the stray music magazine to betray the nature of my primary avocation.

Oh, blogging and virtual community have done much to take up the slack. But the serendipitous meeting of the cultural minds is becoming a dying phenomenon. Yes, there are still folks proudly blatting almost uniformly bad music out of their roided-up automobile sound systems (windows rolled down, of course), but these have always been fleeting glimpses into the tastes of people you surely do not want to meet.

(Or who don't want to meet you. The other day I was strolling a pedestrian crosswalk when I walked in front of a car driven by a young woman enjoying the strains of The Ting Tings' 'That's Not My Name.' This particular song was my number one Summer '08 repeat-play fave, so as I walked in front of the car I almost flashed a smiling thumbs-up. But I quickly placed myself in her flaps, looking out the windshield and seeing this smug boomer displaying (presumably) ironic derision just inches from her grill. Who knows what kind of a day she was having and how leaden her accelerator foot was?)

Yes, I love my tens of thousands of song files and their associated delivery gizmos. I just bought my first e-book and found reading on an iPod Touch to be...satisfactory. But I do miss the analog opinion-swaps in record and book store aisles.

At least we still have art galleries and museums.


Remember Twin Peaks? I was crazy for the show at the time, and I dutifully bought the DVD sets when they arrived. What really stays with me through the years, though, is the music. The three Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks (including 'Fire Walk With Me') and the two Julee Cruise albums comprise a whole genre of mood music unto themselves.

Perhaps we should add Bohren & der Club of Gore to that elite grouping. This German quartet first formed due to a shared love of death metal, but what resulted from their collaboration was what they called 'doom-ridden jazz music.' This is Fender Rhodes and sax and brushes played at a glacial pace in an all-hours club (The Roadhouse? The Black Lodge?) somewhere in the vicinity of infinity. Try this. There's lots more where it came from:


Finally, a music pen-pal forwarded a link to an interesting 1995 article about a then-thriving record label that was at once forward-thinking in its embrace of cutting-edge music media yet reticent about newer forms of electronic communication.

I took particular interest as I used to know one of the label's principals. I've long since lost track of him; as I understand it he years ago moved to Sweden to worship at the feet of a Scandinavian snow princess.

Read on. Cheers.

Spin Doctors

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Definition: Oud

I decided it's time for some self edification, time to learn about some of the more unusual instruments in the music I love. Now when you see some of the "global roots" type touring bands on the Cedar stage this season, you, too can talk about instruments beyond the guitar and fiddle in an informed and worldly manner.

Because I can't get enough of the amped and effect-ed oud used on recordings like the Kasbah Rockers disc as well as fun stuff like Speed Caravan (just listen to "Galvanize", OK?) and Ping Kong (try "Genjiskan"), this week's instrument is the oud. If there can be bad-ass hurdy gurdies, there can SO be bad-ass ouds.

Picture the medieval bard strumming the lute and you're pretty close; they are basically the same thing. Arabs most likely brought the instrument to Spain with the Muslim expansions in the 8th century, and oud became lute.

I think I got turned on to alternative oud music via Vilddas, the Finnish / Sami group from a few years back. That was some of the madmen from Slobo Horo with Sami vocal and a non-traditional set of acoustic instruments including the lute. Wait! UPDATE - Vilddas are still together and are releasing a new disc sometime this year. The new singles on their Myspace sound darker and less atmospheric than their old stuff. This new material has got somebody playing what I thought was a cello, but turns out to be a bowed lyre. Cool.

Wish Slobo Horo were still together. Coolest Finnish-Turkish-Balkan bald rock freaks ever. Sigh.

Then there is the acoustic work by Jean-Pierre Smadja, better known as DJ Smadj. Loved what he did with the last two Burhan Ocal and the Trakya All-Stars recordings, adding tasteful electronics to full-on Bulgarian/Turkish brass band tunes. He's now half the oud power in Ping Kong, along with Medhi Habbad who rocked the Speed Caravan disc.

Here's the complete Wiki write up on the history and origins of the instrument.

For just the quick and dirty basics, I copied this section for you. (Their links probably don't work here, so go to the full article to follow them.)

Defining features

  • Lack of Frets: The oud, unlike many other plucked stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato. It also makes it possible to play the microtones of the Maqam System. This development is relatively recent, as ouds still had frets in AD 1100, and they gradually lost them by AD 1300, mirroring the general development of Near-Eastern music which abandoned harmony in favor of melismatics.
  • Strings: With some exceptions, the modern oud has eleven strings. Ten of these strings are paired together in courses of two. The eleventh, lowest string remains single. There are many different tuning systems for the oud which are outlined below. The ancient oud had only four courses - five by the 9th century. The strings are generally lighter to play than the modern classical guitar.
  • Pegbox: The pegbox of the oud is bent back at a 45-90° angle from the neck of the instrument. This provides the necessary tension that prevents the pegs from slipping.
  • Body: The oud's body has a staved, bowl-like back resembling the outside of half a watermelon, unlike the flat back of a guitar. This bowl allows the oud to resonate and have a more complex tone.
  • Sound-holes: The oud generally has one to three sound-holes, which may be either oval or circular, and often are decorated with a bone or wood carved rosette.
Feeling somewhat more oud-savy? Then my work here is done.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Steal This Blog

An article in last Monday's New York Times reported on the folks from Lego blocking the inclusion of this video, made by a 14-year old in 2007, of a Lego version of Spinal Tap performing their hit "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" from an upcoming live DVD release:

The article states that "As final editing was being done on a concert DVD... which included footage from the video projected on stage, Lego declined to grant permission to use its figures, which are protected by copyright."

Now, it's not completely clear as to whether Lego would have the legal authority to stop what could potentially be protected as "fair use" under copyright law. And it is worth noting that the video continues to exist on YouTube (and, therefore, embedded in this blog), because both Lego and Spinal Tap have deemed it counter to their interests to demand that YouTube remove this particular video to protect their copyrights.

As you probably know, such is not the case with many thousands (millions?) of videos that YouTube has removed because of copyright challenges. To many, the real-world tendency towards heavy-handed copyright law expansion favors corporate interests, often poorly perceived and/or shortsighted, over healthy creative expression. One famous example of this was the squashing of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, a mash-up of Jay-Z's The Black Album and The Beatles' White Album by EMI, the company that holds The Beatles' rights. And some believe that copyright hubris on the part of the major record companies is the primary reason behind the entire downfall of the record industry.

One of the more vocal and rational opponents to the over-reach of copyright in the age of free-flowing information is Stanford professor and lawyer Lawrence Lessig, whose website and blog provide extended discussion on this and related subjects. Lessig's latest book, Code v.2 is a 400-page treatise on copyright in the internet age, and he invites anyone to download the PDF for free.

Also recommended related to this subject (and more): the most recent episode of Wisconsin Public Radio's program To The Best of Our Knowledge, called Remix Culture. At this link you can stream the episode or link further to the podcast.

This is a discussion which will only become more critical as electronic data transmission and storage continues to become easier, faster, and cheaper. How far do you think copyright laws should go?

Global Roots Festival Switcheroo

Terakaft, the Tuareg band descended from Tinariwen and originally scheduled to appear at the Global Roots Festival on Friday, 9/25, have canceled their fall 2009 U.S. tour. Appearing in their place, following Bajofondo, will be Forro in the Dark, a New York band which blends the traditional Brazilian musical style of forró with modern genres.

This means that Friday night at Global Roots will be a no-holds-barred South American dance party!

Friday, August 14, 2009

BM&A bringing home the proverbial bacon

I was recently introduced to a number of compilations of brazilian music released by a label called BM&A - Brasil Música e Artes, which, from what I gather, is a nonprofit that aims to promote brazilian arts and culture.

The compilations, The New Brazilian Music and BAFIM, are among a few that appear to be offered as free downloads on the BM&A website, The Brazilian Music Export Office. The only catch is that you have to enter an email address to be added to their mailing list. That doesn't seem like so much to ask though, especially when most everyone has a junk email account anyway, right?

I am still loyal to my physical CDs and the artwork and information that comes with them. But these downloads come with a full bio, contact information, and Web sites for nearly every artist, making CD booklets fairly unnecessary. Both discs have nearly 40 tracks, but whereas BAFIM has 2-4 tracks from most of the artists, The New Brazilian Music has a single song from each artist. Some artists appear on both compilations, including one of my favorites, Andreia Dias.

I can only imagine how long it will take me to get through all these tunes...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Golly. Has anyone else noticed that the 40th anniversary of Woodstock approaches? In case you know not of what I write, here is a helpful link to a Wikipedia entry about this legendary event. Go along now. Shoo.

OK, now that we cognoscenti are alone together, can we talk? Am I the only one who finds all this Woodstock hyperbole a bit tiresome? Yes, I realize all the bands were unerringly great and there wasn't a bad seat in the house. But the bit that burrows under my skin is how attendees and historians trumpet the non-violent nature of the event.

Yes, 400,000 people hung out in the mud for three days and didn't kill each other. Could this have had anything to do with the pharmaceuticals then in vogue? I submit this rhetorical question: How would Woodstock have transpired had crystal been the drug du jour?


Thank you, Les Paul.


July 31 marked the end of the fiscal year here at Feverland. During August we close up shop to cook the books, enjoy some quiet time with the animals, and ride the rides without standing in those long lines with the hoi polloi. We also use the break to assess the musical hits and misses of the prior twelve months.

Now, every year we lament hundreds of criminally overlooked releases. We shake our heads ruefully, but then we pound down a shot of single-malt, slam the empty glass on the bar, and move on.

Every now and then, though, there'll be one that really sticks in our craw. Such as: Rocco Deluca. He's a blues-rock dobro player with a wide-ranging and expressive voice. His first release came out a few years ago surrounded by a whole lot of hype, including the enthusiastic backing of Kiefer Sutherland. Remember? Neither did I until I looked it up.

The follow-up emerged about six months ago. It was produced by one Daniel Lanois, which allows for this connection:

You'll recall Chris Whitley's fantastic debut album, 'Living With the Law.' It was produced by Lanois associate Malcolm Burn, and it still stands as one of the great updates to the blues rock sound.

This reporter suggests that Rocco Deluca's latest is, in its way, an update of 'Living With the Law' and deserves the same accolades. Here we have an official-release music video of his (and evidently Kiefer is still a fan). Oh, and you gotta visit YouTube for this, as embedding is not available for some undoubtedly pointless reason.

Rocco Deluca & The Burden

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

But How Can I?

Remain calm, that is...when I just found out that one of the brass bands I touted very highly a couple of posts ago ("Wish I had a Brass Band") will be opening for one of the other brass bands to which I sent a whole lotta love in the following week's post ("From Vacationland") one Friday evening in late November here at the Cedar.

I'm jumping up and down and hollering for joy at the thought of these two bands playing together in our hall, but cannot divulge their names until tickets go on sale next week or so.

Trust me, mark Friday November 20 on your calendar right now and plan to stay up late at the Cedar.

Back to bigger and more beautiful posts next week when I'm out of the post vacation slump and back into the working groove.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Please Remain Calm

If you haven't heard, Guy Clark is going to be at the Cedar on September 17th. How cool is that. I saw Guy Clark in another life (back when I knew things about music) along with Townes Van Zandt. I should wear this as a badge of my hipness but to be honest I can't remember a thing about it. I've been able to conjure up an image of Guy playing LA Freeway, and I believe that Townes was sort of hunched over (Yeah, I know, that describes all Townes and Guy shows...). I've talked to the guy I went with and have verified that I was there and enjoyed it, but that's all I've got. I'd love to say it changed my life and I never looked at music the same way again, but it was a long time ago and it was the first time I'd seen either one of them. My inability to remember any of this makes me look at myself and wonder why I know that Patti Smith co wrote "Debbie Denise," but I can't remember a gig I attended with Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt performing.

When my eldest was about seven I was looking for songs about trains and found "Texas-1947" on the live CD called Keepers. It's a gem and it sums up what it's like to have your whole world view changed in an instant. My eldest was completely taken by it and still lists Guy as a favorite and listens to the real dramatic stuff like "Desperados Waiting for A Train" and "The Last Gunfighter Ballad." I love the fact that he's a Guy Clark fan and if I can tear him away from whatever console he's in front of, we'll be there and I bet I'll remember this time.

Another Guy Clark classic follows. You guys probably know it, but it never hurts to be reminded.

That's it

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Go North

My two journeys to Canadian folk festivals this summer contrast sharply with reports of friends (and family members) from U.S. summer music festivals such as Coachella and Pitchfork. Perhaps it's different philosophical approaches overall, perhaps different financial models are at work, or maybe there are inherent cultural differences between Canada, "folk" festivals, and America and "rock" festivals. Probably all of these factors are at work.

But the truth is, the Canadian festivals are much more comfortable, music-oriented and family-friendly affairs than the U.S. festivals. For example, even though both Friday and Saturday were sold out at Calgary, there was always plenty of room to move around, stretch out on a blanket and enjoy the music:

... and anyone who wanted a close view of someone like The Decemberists just had to go up to either side of the stage at the designated dancing/standing areas and check them out.

Contrast that with what appears to be the "how many people can you pack into a city park" approach that is typical of the U.S. festivals such as Pitchfork:

...and my daughter's report of the frustration of having to rely on one of her taller friend's blow-by-blow description of The Flaming Lips show there, to the point where she just gave up and left.

(BTW, notice how many more smiles there are in the Calgary photo?)

My hats go off to the Canadians. Their summer festival tradition, which is 30 years old now, have given them the opportunity evolve what appears to me to be the best string of music events in the world. They all involve their entire communities, are ecologically responsible (for example, both Canadian festivals I attended use reusable plastic plates for which you put a deposit on when you purchase your food, and return for the refund when you're finished eating), have an admirable diversity of musical talent, and are structured with musical discovery at their heart. They've simply got the summer music festival thing down to an art.

I've stopped being envious and trying to work out how to bring this approach to "The States," and instead have joined the fraternity of "North Americans" and decided to just get my ass up to at least one or two of these each summer from now on.

Global Roots Festival, Closing Night

In previous posts I've talked about the first three nights of scheduled performers for our inaugural Global Roots Festival, September 24-27, 2009, at The Cedar. Here's a post about our closing night, Sunday the 27th.

The evening will open with an exciting new project from the Tuvan throat singers, Huun Huur Tu. These guys have performed The Cedar no less than ten times over the past 15 years. But for this festival they are bringing a special new project just completed with producer and electronic musician Carmen Rizzo (Alanis Morissette, Paul Oakenfold, Kate Havnevik, Temposhark, Jem, Niyaz, and Esthero), which they call Eternal:

And finally, we'll close with my favorite act from Globalfest 2009 last January in NYC, Watcha Clan. Based in Marseille, France, this is extreme, high-energy global mash-up at its best:

Once again, this will be an open dance floor evening. Trust me, you'll need it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't know it, but I like it

"My first thought was 'this is amazing' and my second thought was that you would love this."

This conversation took me by surprise. I don't know what qualities of the music or my tastes made an impression on this particular person, but I'm awfully glad they did.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Old Man and the CD

Just back from a Borders visit. Favorite potential impulse buy: The White Album jigsaw puzzle. Seriously.

Every time I am in a Killer B store I stand in quiet amazement that any specialty media retailers exist any longer, particularly of such size. The customer in me is grateful for the sensory experience and the instant gratification, should I seek it. The business person wonders how it's going for them, what with financing their operations hand-to-mouth with returns while constantly pushing for better terms from suppliers who are certain they are going to get creamed sooner or later.

More often than not, I walk out without buying anything.


A scene from a paradigm shift, as seen by an OML (Old Media Luddite):

This past Monday, the single-copy price for the San Francisco Chronicle went up to a dollar. This, it turns out, was my breaking point.

The Chronicle is in deep trouble. Oddsmakers have San Francisco one day becoming the first major US city without a daily paper. I say it already is.

This was once the go-to-source with columns by Herb Caen, Charles McCabe, Stanton Delaplane, Art Hoppe, Terrence O'Flaherty, and music reviews by Ralph J. Gleason. Now? The Chron is so thin you could read a newspaper through it.

A buck? That's nuts.

So, Tuesday morning I grabbed my coffee and my web-ready PDA-like device and cycled to a known free wi-fi hotspot, where I accessed the Chronicle's mobile edition which, by the way, is cost-and-ad free.

The experience was entirely satisfactory. I was able to recreate the running order of the actual paper by section, and I found online-only content from some of my favorite writers.

In the record store business, the semi-equivalent was putting an artist's new release on sale for below cost while charging full price (which was sometimes nearly twice as much) for that artist's older catalog titles. That worked out well, I thought.


Another such scene:

Quite by accident I noticed there is a new release by Christy McWilson, a fave singer currently touring as a member of Dave Alvin and The Guilty Women. It is available on Amazon not via a label and/or mp3, but on-demand CD-R.

Maybe this has been going on for awhile, but it's new to me. And it brings back memories of record retail brainstorming sessions. The thing I always wanted to see was in-store CD-burning of out-of-print material...the stuff the labels kept in the vault because it wasn't financially viable to press up a bunch to spread around to stores.

Of course, my wish foundered due to (then) prohibitive hardware and infrastructure retooling, and the cost-ineffectiveness of pursuing licenses for fringe material. Plus there was the question: why stop with OOP stuff; why not make any title that was out of stock available on demand? Or, for that matter, why not everything, period?

Recounting this evokes a favorite memory. For a time there was a partnership effort among brick-and-mortar music sellers to offer in-store and online mp3 downloading options to consumers. We spent a lot of money and it went essentially nowhere, but the meetings were interesting.

One day we were pitched by operatives of the company that forged this union. During Q&A, I tossed this one: 'What portion would you expect full albums to be of the overall download business?' The answer: 'About 90%. People want full albums.'

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From Vacationland

I am blogging from an undisclosed location in another state, far from the Midwest. So, this is just a little post, just a way to send some love to all the other brass bands and brass-enhanced bands who have played in our fine city within memory.

Close to home (like right here in the 'hood) show some love for The Brass Messengers. They play on the light rail, they play at the Ice Shack art thing, they play at May Day, and their cd release last winter shook the Cedar until sometime after midnight.

Let's give some love to Brooklyn's official brass band for all kinds of fun occasions, Slavic Soul Party. Hopefully Matt will bring the gang back through town sometime; I think we're trying for early November. This time I'll supply the cognac, Eva!

"Lumba Lumba!"

Whatever happened to Madison's wild men (and Anna) of Reptile Palace Orchestra? Still making it happen down there, although they have not been to our town in while. Nobody does "Devil Went Down to Georgia" like Bif leading the Reptiles.

Who loves Balkan Beat Box? The Cedar does. OK, they only had the dueling sax players this time around; no trombone or anything, but it counts, OK?

"Everybody scream for peace in the Middle East!"

How many feet of brass does it take to count as a brass band? If one tuba does it, I send big love to Boom Pam, Tel Aviv's premier surf/tuba/balkan/wedding band.

Check out "Tuby" up close!

A reader wrote in responding to last week's post, with this lovely vid of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble doing "War." Nice! Thanks!

What makes any rock band rock harder? A horn section! Imagine my surprise and delight the first time I was dragged over to the Triple Rock for my first Chooglin' experience a couple of years ago. Micheal didn't tell me about the horns, and when they ran out halfway through the set, I was so lovin' the Chooglin'! They will bring down Palm Fest over at Palmers later this month in all their rockin' brassin' Chooglin' glory. Plus I think it's free!

Palm Fest is all afternoon and evening on Saturday, August 22 then the Bloodshot Records Anniversary Party is all afternoon and evening at the Cedar on Sunday the 23rd. Not sure if camping will be allowed on the sidewalk between the two venues or not.