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“She’s a Rainbow” a farewell to Kristin Wiig on Saturday Night Live

by on May.20, 2012, under Good Music, Video

I have not updated here in a while because, frankly, I don’t care anymore. But I still want to share stuff that moves or irritates me. And this definitely moves me…

That’s the farewell to Kristin Wiig on last night’s Saturday Night Live. (After seven years, she is leaving the show with Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg, as well.) As you can see, everyone in the universe was there. Mick Jagger, The Arcade Fire, the Foo Fighters, Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Jeff Beck, Steve Martin…I don’t even know.

It’s really good to see this kind of emotion on network television.

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The Chase Empire vs. The Four Tops – “Christmas Delight”

by on Dec.12, 2010, under Good Music, Video

Being around the holidays, I simply cannot resist posting this classic from PerlePictures.

The music is from the Four Tops.  The video was created by the generally very amusing Chase Empire.  You may also recognize the guy with the beard as Jeff Maynard.  He was the musician / songwriter behind The Standstill and Skippy and the Bellbottoms.  Also, the dude with the guitar is better known as DJ Modifi or Simon Belmont.  Be sure to download his Chrismix from a few years back.

Be sure to pass this one around for the holidays!

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Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear – Washington D.C.

by on Nov.01, 2010, under Good Music, Video

Yeah.  So I went.  A LOT of people did.

It was kind of silly, very innocent and ultimately quite prolific.  There were a ton of musical artists involved.  Let’s see if I can remember them all.  The Roots, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, uh…Kid Rock, The O’Jays.  Even Colbert and Stewart did a little musical number with Jeff Tweedy.  Sam Waterson, R2D2, a seven year old girl,  and a giant, armed, Stephen Colbert monster also made appearances.  There were a few others which are hazy to me and I don’t feel like looking it up.

Anyway, here’s some really decent amateur footage of some of the amusing shit they did with some of these guests:

So yeah.  “Peace Train” ended up a decently dressed cliche.  Other music / performance art / comedy type of goodness ebbed and flowed over the three hours.  I’m not going to say it was all totally awesome musically, but it was definitely well rounded and well paced. That’s all I really have to say about it from a strictly entertainment point of view. It was lovely, for sure.

I’m hoping Comedy Central reruns the broadcast.  However, see it or not, at least take with you Stewart’s closing statements:

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Lavoisier – Fake Rappers

by on Nov.29, 2009, under Bad Music, Good Music, Video

I haven’t been updating during this holiday weekend, obviously. However, I can’t leave people hanging, either. And so, please enjoy this insightful lecture from Lavoisier regarding fake rappers.

It gets the rare categorization of both good music and bad music. Good for Lavoisier…bad for radio rap. Enjoy!

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Charlotte Gainsbourg & Beck – “Heaven Can Wait” video etc.

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Good Music, Video

Just in time to combat the soul depleting evils of Beyonce and Lady Caca, Beck and Charlotte Gainbourg have released this stunning video on Beck.com:

The song is called “Heaven Can Wait” and it’s the first single from Gainsbourg’s upcoming release, IRM, which was written and produced by Beck. Judging from this track, there are some very good things around the bend. January 26th, specifically…in the states, that is. December 8th everywhere else, damn it.

Also in Beck news, later today Beck will also release a new track entitled, “Harry Partch,” a tribute to the late composer of the same name. The song will apparently employ Partch‘s 43 tone scale. That, too, will be delivered on Beck.com.

Lastly, in Beck news, and again on Beck.com, they are releasing videos and goodies to commemorate the ten year anniversary of his Midnite Vultures.

And you thought the Record Club was it? Pshaw. (Though it’s about time he started releasing the Skip Spence stuff he did with Wilco!)

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The Black Eyed Peas on SNL – Seriously…What the Fuck?

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Bad Music, Video

“Must get boring for the other two guys in Black Eyed Peas. How many hours a day can one spend thinking up awkward dance moves?”
                                                —Christian Finnegan

Back in college, I used to get together with my friend, Conan, for no other reason than sharing hip hop and rap music. To be honest, he would do the majority of the sharing, and as we smoked and talked in front of a computer, I learned a lot. Most of what he shared with me has since risen to higher heights. Perhaps none as much as the Black Eyed Peas.

I bought their 1998 release, Behind the Front, within days of my introduction to them. I was drawn to them for the same reasons as Conan. They were conscious, positive and completely against materialism and hype. They were real. They were part of the good side in the balance on which rap and hip hop teetered at that time. Would it end up there, embracing something earthy, unifying and mentally evolved? Or would the whole thing collapse into a racially degenerative, socially destructive, new age Amos and Andy dressed up as a fashion show?

I think we all know what the outcome of that was. In case you are fortunate enough not to keep up with such things, I present to you exhibit A: The Black Eyed Peas on last week’s Saturday Night Live.

Okay. Maybe I’m being too much of a hater. The Black Eyed Peas are fun, right? Sure! And so is Hannah Montana. So is Britney Spears. I’m not hating on the fun. I’m pointing out the absurdity. I mean, what the fuck is this? It looks like a bunch of kids singing karaoke.

Of course, it’s not just karaoke…it’s backwards karaoke! Where in karaoke, the vocals are real and the musical accompaniment is canned, with the Black Eyed Peas, the opposite is true! There are musicians actually playing their instruments (presumably), but the vocals, if not lipsynched, are certainly autotuned. Either way, it’s completely brainless.

Why is this cool to anyone? Shouldn’t the band be in the spotlight since they are the only ones actually doing anything creative? Who are these four jackasses jumping around and blocking them from the cameras? Is this really what entertainment has devolved to? Better ask a 12 year old, I guess. I’m sure that’s what a Black Eyed Peas focus group would tell you to do.

And look at those stunning and pricey fashions. So much for being real. I guess they are the kind of “rappers” that are only against luxury, so long as they are unable to afford it. Obviously, these worries have gone away from them now…and taken with them all sense of purpose, depth and imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s call a spade a spade. This is pure pop…brought to you by Dr. Pepper. Just try to find a casual snapshot of the Black Eyed Peas anywhere online. You can’t. All that exists out there is glossy, air brushed and tightly controlled PrOPaganda.

Don’t get me wrong. Music and money can be a beautiful thing together. Look at all that this combination has allowed acts like The Flaming Lips, Beck and of Montreal to throw down over the years. A part of me even wants to believe that the Black Eyed Peas really do want to be tuned into that ultracreative wavelength. But you know, it’s pretty fucking difficult to have an interest in their confetti without some kind of parade or circus to back it up.

Here is their third and final song from SNL:

Deep shit, huh?! Not at all. Not even interesting shit.

There was another song they did between these two, but I can’t find it online anywhere. This is most likely because, as hard as this may be to believe, it was even more embarrassing than the other two. “Frontman,” will.i.am, even picked up a keytar (yes a fucking keytar) and pretended to play it. Thank God he had on his big, douchebag sunglasses so we didn’t have to look him in the eyes. Now that would be awkward.

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Nellie McKay – Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day

by on Nov.12, 2009, under Good Music, Video

The evolution of Nellie McKay has been one of the more intriguing stories to follow in the world of music. Her first record, Get Away from Me, is a critically lauded classic, considered the antithesis of Norah Jones’ release at that time, Come Away with Me. Initially, Get Away from Me was to be a single LP but became the first double disc debut ever released by a female after McKay charmingly, but forcefully, schmoozed Columbia record execs into seeing it her way. She tried the same thing with the follow up, Pretty Little Head, but with far less success. This lead to a long delayed self release of what also ended up being a double disc, and then a subsequent reissue of the discs back on Columbia where she started. The on-again/off-again relationship produced a final product that had some definite gems, and more good songs than bad, but also a few tracks that really maybe should have been left on the cutting room floor. She took these lessons well for the release of her third and finest album, Obligatory Villagers. It was concise, raw, and very in touch with her jazz roots. Alongside of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, it was easily one of the three best albums of 2007. Musically, she was exactly where she needed to be. So what now?

Well, now is the release of her fourth studio venture, Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. As the title implies, the disc is comprised primarily of songs once sang by Doris Day (with one original). As to be expected for something like this, McKay’s volcano has cooled since Obligatory Villagers. Everything is nice and minimal, laid back and soft. While this may be off putting for the Nellie fans among us who were hoping she would grow her balls bigger and bigger, rather than chopping them off completely, it’s still an intricately touched, beautiful collection of songs.

Let’s be clear. This is technically a jazz album. From the album art to the actual content of the disc, it smacks of Susannah McCorkle or…well…Doris Day. At its heart, however, McKay makes these songs her own and wears them well. She is, after all, not just a vocalist, but a musician as well. This gives her an additional connectivity to the music that a vocalist alone might not always have at her disposal. The result is a collection of pointed arrangements that accomplish a lot within a small amount of space. Yes, this is technically a jazz album…but it sounds like something just slightly beyond the genre.

The two more upbeat tracks, “Crazy Rhythm” and “Dig It,” are infectiously swingin’. She visits Sioux musical interpretations on “Black Hills of Dakota.” She seems to border on surrealistic dreamscapes of sound on “Meditation” and the quaint “Send Me No Flowers” while tapping into something darker, but more awake on “Close Your Eyes.” The sole original, “If I Ever Had a Dream,” fits seamlessly among these classics. The whole meal is peppered with ukulele, brass, violin, mostly light percussion and some masterfully dizzying guitar by Jay Berliner.

From here, I’m hard pressed to wonder if McKay will continue in this vein, or move back toward more irreverent and monumental musings. While I have always hoped for the latter in the past, I can now delight in the knowledge that, really, either direction would be just fine. It seems that young McKay’s golden touch gets a bit stronger with each passing year, anyway. Of course, it’s doubtful that she would follow an album of covers with another album of covers next time around. (But wasn’t it doubtful that she would follow a double disc with another double disc, too?) So while her take on more classic notions of music is so very welcome and so wonderfully executed, no matter where she ventures next with music, I definitely look forward to hearing her rattle off a few swear words.

Here is some video of her being all cute and talking about the new album…

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Ween – Knoxville, TN – 10.28.2009

by on Oct.30, 2009, under Good Music, Video

weenknoxville10-28-2009As I was purchasing my ticket to this show at Knoxville’s Valarium, the dude behind the counter at the record store mentioned to me, “Hey, you know Ween is sober now, right?” Given Ween’s reputation as a hard partying act, one which I have seen barely able to finish a set coherently at times, this was a bit startling to me.

“Sober?” I asked, “Like, completely?”

“Yeah. They don’t even drink anymore because they think it will lead back to worse things.” Interesting, and what was not to believe? Though I have probably seen Ween play live more than any other band out there (except maybe Wilco, who might be equal in this regards), it had been some time. Since before La Cucaracha was released actually. I had no idea what was up with them these days.

I bought the ticket, went to the show, and quickly noticed a few differences from the last time I had seen them. For starters, Gene Ween is kind of looking like Daniel Johnston these days. Also, they’re stage show has become filled with lots of fog accompanied by an expensive and powerful light show. Lastly, they have stepped their musical performance up to a level far beyond that which I have ever seen them at before. This was easily, the best all around Ween show I had ever seen.

It’s not that they did anything especially novel or different than any other Ween show. It was simply that they played really well. They also played really long, topping out at almost three hours with no set breaks. As always, they hit on many favorites as they crossed this expansive amount of time, pulling songs from each of their albums but The Pod. This night, there seemed to be a particular propensity toward Chocolate and Cheese and The Mollusk. Of particular note was a rather booming version of “Ocean Man” on which Gene played a mandolin. They also finally delivered a “Roses Are Free” that worked as a worthy visitation to the studio version, whereas usually this song falls flat live when compared to the one found on Chocolate and Cheese. (Phish’s recorded live cover of the track may have set the bar high for Ween, ironically enough. At this show, they certainly cleared it by miles.)

As mentioned, they came this time with a ton of fog and lights. Their liberal use of both made for an incredibly surreal visual experience. The downside is that the haze often obscured Claude Coleman on the backline, which is unfortunate since his powerhouse drumming is something to see. The trade off, though, was a very good light operator who was obviously familiar with the material. Hence, his contribution to the show was also something to see, indeed.

When all was said and done, Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) hit the road immediately. I was, however, permitted to go back stage to attempt to interview Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) for this blog. I figured, after such an intense show, three simple, irreverent questions wouldn’t be too intrusive. Perhaps I could make three question interviews a regular staple of this site. I sat down catercorner to him, introduced myself again (it was the second time I had met him, actually), explained the deal, then fired the questions:

1. What are you listening to currently?
2. What is the one influence you’d like to keep away from your son?
3. What are you going to be for Halloween?

He looked at me blankly as I rattled them all off at once. Then he broke eye contact, shuffled his head around and mumbled something like, “I don’t know…whaaa mmuuhh hhnnnn.” The girl to his left answered two of the questions for him. According to her (though I question the authenticity of these answers) he was going to be a banana for Halloween and he was listening to…Belinda Carlisle? Yeah. I don’t know.

I tried to thank him for an excellent show, letting him know I had seen many and this was the best. A slightly disturbed look came across his face as he mumbled something else through more slurred and discombobulated speech.

“Well whether or not it felt to you like you did a good job,” I consoled, “from the objective viewpoint of an audience member, it was fantastic.” It still didn’t seem to register with him. Just more incoherency.

The announcement then came that the bus was rolling out and it was time to go. I exited without any of my interview questions really formally answered (though maybe he is being a banana for Halloween and maybe I misheard Belinda Carlisle). However, I did have a larger, more pressing question answered for me and I didn’t have to say a thing.

Is Ween sober these days? Absolutely not.

Here is some video from the show:


Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)


Fat Lenny


The Mollusk

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The Ghastly Dreadfuls – Atlanta, Georgia – 10.25.2009

by on Oct.26, 2009, under Good Music, Video

ghastlydreadfulsAround Halloween, my girlfriend, myself and another couple traditionally venture down to the Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta, Georgia. It is perhaps the largest, most professional and damn scariest haunted house in America, and well worth the visit. This year, however, we decided to cram in a few other festivities for the weekend. On Sunday, this included a visit to The Center for Puppetry Arts to see a performance by The Ghastly Dreadfuls. The official title this year is actually, The Ghastly Dreadfuls II: Handbook of Practical Hauntings and Other Phantasmagoria.

When the idea to check this show out was presented to me, I apathetically agreed to doing so but left it at that. A puppet show…okay. Sounds good. Whatever. I soon learned that the Ghastly Dreadfuls are far more than a puppet show, and far more entertaining than I had initially imagined. The Ghastly Dreadfuls, themselves, are a group of seven vastly talented musicians, actors and puppeteers. Their show combines all three of these art forms into a very slick, very engaging performance.

On the music front, they move around their instruments with a skillful ease. No one seemed to miss a beat. Using keys as the backbone, they dealt out a number of macabre originals, as well as more popular songs, both classical and contemporary. Everyone shared in the singing duties, though their soprano, Reay Kaplan (as Lady Dreadful) stole the show numerous times. Also of particular note is their absolutely affecting string section, comprised of Scott Depoy (as Dizzily Dreadful) on violin and Kristen Jarvis (as Daftly Dreadful) on cello. These two elements added immensely to the dynamics of the sound. Said sound, itself, resonated around the room with crystal clear acoustics. Sound designers, Elisheba Ittoop and Mimi Epstein, were wholly on top of their game in this regards.

As for the acting and puppetry aspects, they basically depicted several spooky stories from around the world, including some originals. These stories were largely predictable, mainly because most people have heard similar versions of them already at one time or another. This was no matter, though, for the execution was fantastic. There was a large variety of puppet mediums used, from hand puppets to marionettes to large cardboard cartoons. Sometimes the puppets and the people interacted with each other as part of the storyline. Whatever the case, there was no lack of emotional gravity. Mostly, it was humorous, but they also delved into some disturbingly sad material (The Deep End of the Pool) and also displayed moments that were downright touching (11:59).

The whole thing culminates into a finale (“All Hallows’ Eve”) that manages to be eerie and uplifting at once. As strange new lights appear, the performers console us: “Open up your eyes / Take a look around / No one ever dies / What is lost is found.” The effect is stirring and a perfect close to the show.

The Ghastly Dreadfuls’ performances are running until November 1st at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. If you are anywhere near the southeastern United States, this is completely worth your time and money. It should be noted, however, that the material is not exactly for children.

Co-writer, Jason von Hinezmeyer, put together this sampling of last year’s show. It’s out of focus and certainly doesn’t convey the quality of the actual show, but it might give you an idea of what you are missing…

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Kid Koala / Modifi / Telepath – Knoxville, TN – 10.10.2009

by on Oct.12, 2009, under Good Music, Video

kid koalaAs far as multi-act live shows go, it’s rare that one comes along that is definitively awesome from beginning to end. Sometimes the acts may all be quality, but the in-between time breaks the flow of the evening. Sometimes the headliner is all that’s worth giving one’s time to. Sometimes it turns out to be the same case for the supporting acts. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like a show, so much as just some stuff going on. Audience can play a part, too. Sometimes a lack of audience enthusiasm can wreck the energy of the thing. And yet sometimes too much enthusiasm can distract from the thing on the stage. I’m so very glad to acknowledge that not one of these circumstances played out as such the other night at Knoxville’s Club Catalyst.

modifiEverything kicked off a little after 10PM with local DJ, Modifi. I have followed Modifi for several years now. At least since his humble beginnings in garage rock bands around town. I’ve watched him evolve from a decent guitarist into an incredibly skillful turner of the turntables. (You can download one of his earlier releases, as DJ Simon Belmont, here.) On this evening, he had at his disposal two said turntables, a laptop and the necessary mixer. Perhaps he was harboring more on that table, as he’s been known to use an MPC and other goodies from time to time. I couldn’t elevate my perspective enough to tell for certain. Whatever he had, though, he used it well.

Without veering hard into pop territory, Modifi kept the music moving as any good DJ should. There was a touch of M.I.A. and T.I. here and there, but never as a standalone. The more modern servings were cushioned all around by Modifi’s own signature beats, as well as elements of classics and obscurities alike. As his set went on, it became difficult to discern what was coming from where anyway.

After a relatively swift and smooth transition, Kid Koala took the stage. His set up was mostly minimal. Three turntables and a mixer. No computer. No beat machines. Not even headphones. There was, however, a video projector displaying his set up (and all that he did with it) on a large screen above his head. This allowed for a more defined audience focus on his ability, pure and simple, and not just the music, itself. We were not in a position to merely dance, but to admire and be awed.

His set moved primarily between rock, hip hop and jazz. Meshing it all together, he did some tricky maneuvers. There was the usual exchanging of records and sliding of faders one would expect. Also, though, there were drops and juggles that could only be executed by a man who knows his music very very well. When I say, “knows his music,” I am not intending to pay respects solely to a knowledge of songs. Sure, he has good taste, but he literally knows his music. He knows not only what is tonal with what, but specifically where on his records those tones occur, bouncing the needle appropriately.

Among the more memorably novel aspects of his set were an ode to Louis Armstrong, an onstage remix of the White Stripes and the spacey, ambiance drenched work over of “Moon River,” dedicated to his mother. There was also the matter of a girl named Dawn. Dawn was celebrating her birthday at the show by heckling Kid Koala. Apparently she was expecting something more pop and less “turntable crap,” and so the Kid bantered with her from the stage. This lead to her taking to the stage, barely saving herself from a potentially nasty fall, and actually turning off one of the turntables by accident. The crowd booed her, but Koala was endlessly diplomatic and gentlemanly toward the southern, drunken birthday girl. By the end of the set, she was dancing her ass off like everyone else, even returning to the stage again to prove it.

telepathThe aforementioned “Moon River” closed the set out. After another brief, seemingly seamless intermission, Telepath took to the stage. Their equipment (guitars, drums and electronics) had already been set up on the stage, allowing them to dive right in. Their music complimented Modifi and Kid Koala well, as did their fairly decent light show. Where Kid Koala’s act was very forward and driving, Telepath worked it down into something that sat back and grooved. The dancing bodies continued to dance, but now without having to think or focus as much. It all drifted into the realms of a casual love in.

There’s not much to say about Telepath aside from the fact that it’s great music (and their guitarist has crazy Eraserhead hair). I hesitate to label them as a “jam band” though they obviously do jam around in their songs. If they are of such a classification, though, they are of a new school. This is not the sleeper shit popularized by the Grateful Dead and driven into the ground by Widespread Panic. No. This is tolerable. This is good because it’s really good…not because you are on drugs. (Though I couldn’t imagine the drugs not helping, I guess.)

Walking away from that show, I felt as though I was leaving some big shit event. It felt like something people attended with absolutely no doubt about its freshness. Call it an energy in the air. Call it an exceeded expectation, or a perfect surprise for some, perhaps. Whatever it was, it all equated out to a perfect storm of entertainment and a truly stellar evening for all involved. Even Dawn.

Kid Koala’s Ode to Louis Armstrong:

Kid Koala’s interaction with Dawn, the drunk heckler:

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