02 December 2007

Oh! It's like that Falcon

All of a sudden the spaceship styled bar stools and the moonscape murals made sense. The Falcon is not just yet another Denver music venue named after a bird. (Bluebird, Meadowlark, et al.)

Somebody told me that they heard owner talking about wanting to have a model of Han Solo's famed spacecraft crashing through the front of the building. That would be cool. But, alas, to run a business, priorities must be made, and undoubtedly to use anything Star Wars, royalties would have to be paid. Fortunately The Falcon made good choices in its priorities for opening night. Bowling was not operating, but the brand spankin' new sound system was set up so musicians on stage could hear each other and the audience got a refreshingly clean clear sound as well. Cowboy Curse broke in the new stage with an energetic and tight performance, a pleasure, as usual.

There didn't appear to be food yet, but the bar was stocked and the tenders of it were nice. My main complaints? Way too much light at the bar, it's like Denver Diner bright, and that's just very unsettling. The stage area was acceptably dim, but it's got the Larimer Lounge set up of being way at the back and I've noticed that setup seems to keep the timid away from the music. Though by the time the second band, Dirty Sweet, hit the stage a number of people who'd spent a bit of time at the bar were lured to the back with some familiar-ish 70s rock sounds.

It'll be interesting to see how this venue develops and what sort of niche it carves out for itself. One thing I'm sure of, if they keep good music on the stage they won't go too far wrong.

30 November 2007

Hooray for new venues!

There really are never enough all ages shows or even 16+ shows around. It has always been the case as far as I can recollect from all those shows I snuck into when I was underage. But I sure hope this new venue is a good one for music and sticks around. Music, bowling, food...sounds promising for fun times. I'm interested to see what it's like and mean to check out their debut show tonight. One thing I'm certain of, I do love hearing them Cowboy Curse songs.

The Falcon is just a few doors down from the Gothic on S. Broadway.

21 November 2007

Denver Music Matters

No, Denver is not the next Seattle, because no place is, but damn, saying it gets people talking. Really, it's an impossible task to analyze a scene and call it about to become national. But people sure get excited thinking about the possibility.

I have friends who moved their band to Seattle in 1986 and everybody was like, Seattle? Why Seattle? When one of my friends moved back to Kentucky a couple years later he said it was a surprise to see people wearing t-shirts of one of his favorite old "local bands" in Seattle, Mudhoney. (Fun little article here about an earlier sparsely attended Lexington Mudhoney show at Babylon Babylon.) I gather it really wasn't obvious then that Seattle was about to become what it did.

I've heard a number of different people who listen to Denver's local music and have been listening here for a while say that it feels like something special is going on here right now. And that's very cool. The Denver artists I consistently make the effort to see perform, I really truly love. What gets me out there is that when I listen, I feel like it matters. It sounds sophomoric opining to say it, but when you first hear music that matters, the world is irretrievably changed. It feels extraordinary. It feels great. And you never want it to end.

So when all these people living in Denver who listen to the music talk and write about it, word travels. Denver gets some looks and listens from people who don't live here, people looking for good music. They listen and hear excellent music being crafted here and they also get excited. There are always discerning music listeners who will search the best stuff out, and then there are those who are always looking for stuff they can package and sell. Some people do happen to be both. We could make a Venn diagram showing the little intersection of quality music and marketable music. There's overlap, definitely, but don't forget the two attributes are not correlative.

The only other thing that gets people as agitated as bandying about "the next Seattle" is saying there is such a thing as "the Denver Sound." I think even people who say it know better. There are so many people creating so many different sounds in Denver that one person couldn't keep up with it all (though I know a couple who make a good effort at it) much less have it contained in one descriptor. For instance, some of the many Denver bands I love to see like Porlolo, Cowboy Curse, Bright Channel, Tarmints, Nathan & Stephen, Overcasters, Bela Karoli, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, George & Caplin, Bad Weather California, just to name a very few, don't sound anything like the others. There are circles that cooperate and collaborate with each other, but they can not honestly be grouped into one.

I understand the marketing value of being reductive, but when it comes to a music scene, it positively makes me cringe to hear about a place having one sound. What happens is that it starves everything and everyone that doesn't fit in the "sound" by feeding that and those which does. When the grunge wave got to tidal proportions there were many other talented Seattle artists who didn't sound like the others who were left cold in its shadow. Not to mention some who gained the most distance from the wave only ended up drowning in it.

Even so, no place can be the next Seattle for a number of reasons. One, it was unique, but also things are not like they were in the 80s. The music industry is just not like it was 20 years ago. I can't imagine major labels have many bulging suitcases of money to hand out for the "next big thing" because, I think, there really isn't going to be a "next big thing" more than there are going to be more a number of " next pretty big things to this group or that group sort of things."

My unsolicited advice: If you are in a position to be wringing your hands over whether you want major label attention or not, keep sight on what you are making your music for in the first place. If you want to make money running a music-making business, think about bringing someone in who knows how to run music-making businesses to help you. If you want to make music and definitely don't want to make a business out if it, don't. But either way you must pay attention to the music first, the incidentals last. That's the only way any of it will continue to matter.

16 November 2007

Nathan & Stephen, Dan Craig Band at the Lion's Lair

Before last night I didn't realize Dan Craig is a very funny guy. Yes, he does smile a lot when he's strumming for Nathan & Stephen, thus exhibiting a good humour, but after thanking fellow N&S band mate Phil for playing trumpet on his opening song by announcing "Phil's in another great Denver band" and pausing to let those at the bar chuckle and smile at the rest of Nathan & Stephen in the audience, Dan continues, "...Born in the Flood." And then after delivering an especially folksy rendition of "Happier" he credits the cover by encouraging the crowd, "You all should really get out to see that Photo Atlas..."

Funnies aside, I am glad I made it out to this show. Lately I've been reluctant to get out much, cold weather, being tired and well, as much as live music elates, sometimes being at a show is too overwhelming for me. So, I almost didn't go, but the Thursday show at the Lion's Lair was more than just a show, it was a benefit for Prax(us), an organization that works on fighting human trafficking in Colorado. I'm all for any effort against exploiting people as commodities. The added social pressure got me to head to Colfax instead of going home and crawling in bed for more sleep than I actually need. I got a music fix and got to feel all warm and fuzzy that my $8 cover was going to a good cause.

My anti-social tendencies have had me feeling like I'm a little out of the loop lately, and last night I received affirmation that, yes I am. The spoken word and slam poets were just finishing up their part of the evening when I was looking at the flier for that evening's event. I asked Stephen Till if he knew the Dan Craig band. He looked at me a moment, maybe trying to figure out if I was kidding or really that dense, before kindly replying that, um, Dan Craig is in Nathan & Stephen. Oh. Yeah. Of course. That's why that name looked familiar.

The Dan Craig Band is more on the folksy, singer-songwriterly side of things than the indie-pop fare of Nathan & Stephen. I'm not one who can decipher lyrics very easily in a live setting but the gist of the songs feel like they dwell in the sphere of those angst-y human emotions. Though that ground is well worn and all too often comes out as annoying and self-indulgent, Dan Craig isn't. I held my breath when they started in on Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" because I'm tetchy about covers of songs I love already. But even without saws, they pulled out a fairly true to original and very pretty version that I could enjoy. Excellent mandolin, cello, accompanying vocals, drums, five string bass, and trumpet made a really beautiful surrounding for Dan's songs. I think they are playing at the Meadowlark next Friday night. If any of this description sounds the least bit interesting you'd be happy to give a listen.

Nathan & Stephen always make me smile. They radiate good will. It is really astounding to me. When a band can harness positive energy and make it into catchy songs, it generates a force of its own. A good one. Even recovering from a lost voice, Nathan McGarvey sang with no less than he ever does. Sincerity goes a long way with me and Nathan & Stephen are chock full of it. I haven't heard them play in a while and I noticed that the songs on the EP are all played spot on professional, though even without looking I could tell that Stephen Brooks wasn't on the skins. And even the newer songs are clearly gems that with a little more polishing will be as glowing as the rest. Denver, even if Nathan & Stephen isn't your thing, we are lucky to have these kids around.

12 October 2007

if i felt better, i'd be there

lifted from The Donnybrook Writing Academy 12 October "Problem of Leisure" post:

Anton O Masia says (in poetry, as usual):

Not because it’s in an out of the way warehouse. So exclusive.

Not because you heard these are exceptionally cool bands. Tho it’s true.

But because you tire of the drone, the void of the dive scene. So sedative.

Because being really excited about live music is too long overdue.

Go ahead. Wear your heart on your sleeve and give a real listen.

Or do whatever else, and never know what you’re missing.

Undersea Explosion
American Relay
Cowboy Curse

1401 Zuni, Unit C
Saturday 13 October 2007

04 October 2007

28 September 2007

Bad Weather California, Ike Reilly at the Larimer Lounge

I didn't really know so much about Ike Reilly Assassination before last Thursday, vague memory of a few reviews over the years, and a little listen on the myspace. He had one of his bigger fans playing with him on this night too: Johnny Hickman, who you might recognize as the guy who's been playing with David Lowery over the past number of years in Cracker. Ike Reilly brought in a fair sized crowd for the Larimer Lounge, not too crowded but filled up and enthusiastic. Hickman described Reilly as the "one of the greatest songwriters around these days," but I think I'd concur more with Joe Sampson and describe what I heard as more of "a really good rock n roll band." Definitely good, but not as cutting edge or original as that songwriter claim had me set up for. No undiscovered paths to cut through, but a nice ride down a smooth and familiar highway. But then the Ike Reilly Assassination was following a performance of what I consider to be a singular talent: Bad Weather California.

I can count on one hand the number of bands that I start to miss if I haven't seen them in a while. And I like hearing live music. When it's good, it makes me feel alive. When it's mediocre, it's still better than television most nights. But the bands I itch to see are the few that go above giving a good performance, they affirm that Music Matters. Not that I need convincing, it's just like the faithful going to church, but it feels good.

Bad Weather California is one of those Denver bands that I keep an eye out for when they are playing. They have always made me feel it...that music matters. To hear Chris Adolf sing his songs is to know that this songwriter is for real. This is subjective judgment, yes, but it's one of those things that you know when you see it.

Though Chris has been making music for years, I first heard him only about a year ago. It was at the 2006 Post UMS. He was playing an afternoon solo set at Mutiny Now. The sun was bright shining in the window, it was hot outside and I think Nathaniel Rateliff and Joe Sampson had just finished playing some songs. Chris sat down with a guitar and a handful of papers with lyrics which ended up falling off his lap in the excitement of delivering his songs. It took near to the end of the first song to realize I had been holding my breath. I was so astonished I forgot to breathe. It wasn't long before I got my hands on The Love Letter Band cd. And it's one of my favorites.

Since then I've seen Chris perform with a variety of arrangements, from solo to full bands with a rotating cast of talented friends. You never knew what to expect, except that it has always been good. But lately Bad Weather California looks like it has settled into a regular lineup of Joe Sampson on bass, Adam Baumeister on pedal steel and on drums, agh, I keep forgetting his name [just checked, yes his name is Xandy Whitesel, (sorry Xandy)] and sometimes Nathaniel on guitar too. It sounds very good. Still a textured variety of sounds, xylophones, recorders, rhythms on a loop pedal but with a consistent structure of players to build up from. I, for one, can't hardly wait for the next show.

02 September 2007

countdown over

expectations uncountable. zero disappointments. I wrote that on the Overcasters Myspace page early this morning within hours after their first public show.

The September 1 show at the Tarshack promised to be a memorable event. There was: artwork (equal parts beautiful and eerie layered glass paintings by Monofog's Doug Spencer); the world famous DJ, Tyler Jacobson (who didn't like my musical requests but played them anyway); knife throwing demonstrations (yes, really, knife throwing, and no, no injuries); the always interesting and and ever eclectic sounds of Pee Pee; and the formidable and impressive sounds of the hard working Mothership. All this would make for one good night if it ended right there, but at the top of the night was what I was most anxious to witness: the debut of the Overcasters.

I've been waiting patiently for a good many months to hear this band. Well, actually I've not been entirely so patient. Hearing about these songs for weeks (and weeks) but never having the opportunity to hear an actual note of any one of them...I began to get a little tetchy. I teasingly dubbed them "the Overpracticers."

But it was worth the wait. Over-rehearsed they are not. Talented and together is what they are...the result of time and effort well spent. Erin and Jeremy construct a rhythm section so tight you couldn't slide a piece of onionskin paper between the sounds then John and Kurt's guitars make a palpably dynamic layer floating just above that. You find yourself moving without thinking about it. And the vocals--lemme just say to those who've only heard Kurt sing a Tarmints song, you might be astounded at the downright pretty treatment he can give a song.

As happy as I was to finally hear them for the first time, it feels like I'll find more to love with multiple listens. And I hope that number will be beyond count.

30 August 2007

i'm not missing this one

Denver Bands Never Die,

they just go on "indefinite hiatus"

i am really sad to add bright channel to my list of bands i love to see that i probably won't get the chance to see anymore. (though i look forward to hearing what those kids'll come up with next.)

NO UPCOMING SHOWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- 8-26-07: We are sorry to announce that Bright Channel will be going on indefinite hiatus. Thanks to everybody who has helped make this such a great ride. Flight Approved Records will be bringing you more music in the very near future - stay tuned for Jeff's new Moonspeed lineup, a third Pteranodon record and more! We'll be posting updates and new music samples over the next few months on flightapproved.com, and on our myspace sites (myspace.com/moonspeeder +++ myspace.com/flightapproved +++ myspace.com/pteranodon). See you in the future ...

it's a reminder: if you like what someone is doing, if their music moves you, don't shrug off the chance to see them perform reckoning, "aw, i'm tired, i'll catch them next time" and definitely if they make the effort to record their music--buy it.

21 August 2007

I went to the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase

Days later and I am still smiling thinking about some of the truly fabulous performances at the 7th UMS. It was only my second Post showcase, and as much as I loved last year's, I think this one was better. There were more bands and venues and all, but I the reason I think it was better for me is that the little more I know about the local music scene made it all the more amazing to see many diverse bands in one place at one time.

Nobody got to see all 80 bands and performers. If they came close they missed out on another experience…spending some quality time and attention to music you love. I had a little itinerary marked out on my line-up sheet, and came close to following it, but it didn't quite work out to schedule. I meant to listen to more stuff in the category "heard good things about them but haven't seen them myself" but ended up being drawn to more familiar favorites. There're reasons why I love what these folks are doing and I just didn't want to miss seeing them.

Here's what I did. Monique and I arrived around 2:00 I think. We wandered around and there wasn't much going on yet and we were hungry so we went up to Senor Burrito for, well, burritos. When we headed back down Broadway there were some sounds of Jack Redell coming out of Fancy Tiger and it sounded pretty good but I wanted to head across the street to Kozo Fine Art Materials store to catch Ben Bergstrand do his solo stuff. I love Cowboy Curse and hearing some of their songs in a quieter presentation was interesting. I imagined kind of a reverse look into the forming of a song.

Next I went down to Indy Ink for the full band version of Porlolo. I think this is the point of the day when I really started smiling. Even the pre-school set was dancing while clutching their sippy cups. I was sad that my kids' vacation at their grandparents had to overlap with this weekend because there were a lot of great all ages shows going on that I think they would've really liked to see. Anyways, I was there and glad to see one of my most favorite bands play songs I still love as much as when I first heard them.

One band I hadn't seen before but got to catch a few songs of were the Frontside Five. It was hard to miss them as they were the only band actually playing in the street. Yeah, like ON Broadway in front of Thrifty Stick, which was hilarious and fun to see.

Then I went up to Fancy Tiger to catch some Joe Sampson and Nathaniel Rateliff singing. It was nice and warm inside the store with all the people, but nobody seemed to mind much. Joe looked pretty cool in those ray-bans he found on the bus. And I love hearing those songs.

I skipped back over to Kozo to listen to a little bit of Monofog's Hayley and Doug. I wished I could see and hear through the glass windows better, but what I could hear sounded cool. Kozo looks to be a nice little quality art store, but unless you made it inside the ten square feet of space between the counter and the band you had to stand on the sidewalk and lament that the big pane glass windows opened. I couldn't hear to well and didn't want to push past people to squeeze inside the store.

But by then it was 5:00 and the 21+ shows were starting up. I crossed the street again to get to the Hi-Dive for another one of my favorites: Cowboy Curse. They sounded good and it was good to get another chance to hear some of those newly written songs. The CC is a dynamic band that knows how to put together a set list properly so you have a nice ride up and down through fast and slow songs and end strong. And boy, they know how to play 'em.

Went down to the 3 Kings to see when Bad Luck City was going to play and heard a little bit of the Widowers, talked to friends and then tried to make it back up to Kozo in time to hear Nathan & Stephen (just Nathan McGarvey and Stephen Till, not the full nine member band of Nathan & Stephen) but ran into John Moore who informed me that they were all done. Might've been my most disappointed moment of the day.

Bad Luck City. I have to admit to a personal partiality to this set. Yes, my boyfriend is in this band, but even if Jeremy weren't playing with BLC, I'd still go out of my way to see them. A great range of captivating sounds in songs that very cleverly draw you in to paying attention and listening a little more than closely than you might've thought you were going to listen. And a very cool moment when Hayley (Monofog) joined Damian in that demon hunting song.

Whew. I was tired after that. Dinner at Swift's. So happy to stop and have a little bit of quiet time (and a cheeseburger.) I was much revived and although it'd already been a full day of music, there was stuff ahead I didn't want to miss.

Tried to get into Kozo's again to hear Jeff Suthers but it was too crowded and I couldn't even hear through the glass, like earlier in the day owing to somebody cranking up the stereo in the apartment building across Ellsworth. Lame. But then I remembered that Bela Karoli was across Broadway again and squeezed in the very very warm Fancy Tiger to listen to one of the most stunning new bands I've heard in recent memory. Double bass, violin, accordion and drums sound amazing together and put that together with Julie Davis's beautiful voice and well, to describe it would sound like I'm gushing. Because I would be.

Porlolo/Joe Sampson/Little Paia/Bad Weather California/Roger Green were at the Irish Rover. Sometimes it's hard to tell where one set ends and another begins because of all the intermingling with these folks. But that's a good thing. They all know each other's songs and clearly appreciate what each other is doing. They slipped out the back door and came in through the front door with tambourines and the like in a truly festive and celebratory style. It felt super special to be in that place at that moment. It did because it was.

When Chris said "this is our last song" I looked at the time: a quarter past ten. Oh no, I was missing the Tarmints. But I wasn't. I was just in time. Lucky for me they are sticklers for getting their sound right before they play. When you work as hard as they do on their tone you can't blame them for taking the time make sure it sounds how they want it to. And lucky for all their listeners too. I see people come out to Tarmints shows that I don't usually see at the usual scene places and shows. Ten years of playing together and people still look forward to their shows. If you've seen them, you know, if you haven't you should.

Having seen them both before, I was pretty sure the Hot IQs and Born in the Flood were about to put on some great sets, but I knew the Hi-Dive would be packed if not at capacity and figured I'd let the rest of Denver see them that night. Although perhaps there was more I might've liked (Pee Pee is always interesting) I was dizzy tired and called it a night.

So good to hear so much good music.

So good to see so many people I love.

15 May 2007

Why I am not a Music Writer

First thing: this is not a coy denial to encourage the "oh, of course you are" response. I am venting and do not wish to be comforted or coddled. Sure, I am writing this right now and therefore could be called a writer. But we live in a predominantly literate society where really everybody knows how to read and write. By that fact, pretty much everybody is a writer. But did not say I am not a writer, I said I am not a Writer.

Norman Mailer once said something about the difference between a professional [W]riter and an amatuer writer is the ability to work on a bad day. That makes a lot of sense to me. Anything someone has a thought on can be written up nicely given the time and space to do it. But to come up with thoughts everyday and articulate them as fast and naturally as the rain falls down...I can't do that. I can't really write on rainy days, so to speak.

But I also said I am not a music Writer. I put that adjective in there because this is the type of writing I most often decide to make public, in a zine or a blog, and music Writer is what I am sometimes called (not by me.) But I am not a music Writer because I don't always have something to say. Sometimes I don't even really have much of an opinion about something I hear. But then nobody is expecting me to have one. Nobody is counting on me. If I don't have something I think is relevant, new or interesting to add to the conversation, I just don't write about it.

Why do I write about music when I do write? Because like every other music writer (and music Writer) I can make the corny but true statement: music has saved my life. Music saves my life. Repeatedly. I could not live without it and probably neither could you or you wouldn't be reading some music fan's blog.

Why do I have these blogs going? Because every once in a while I have a thought I do want to share. And I presume if you don't want to read it, you won't. You don't have to. It's a great thing about blogs.

And why do I write for zines? I wrote for zines in Kentucky that covered the local music scene there when I lived in Kentucky because I loved it. I now write for zines in Colorado because that's where I live now. And I love much of what is going on right here. Recordings are great and essential and good music comes from everywhere, yes, but you live where you live and the music that is made there could only come from there, at least exactly as it exists. It would be different if it came from somewhere else. Maybe just as good, but it would be different.

I write for zines because they support and exist in the local music scene, whatever state that scene is in, and local music scenes are the only sort of place that's ever felt like home to me. I don't make music, but I do possess the common skill of writing sentences. Occasionally a good one. So I keep writing and try to do my little tiny part for whatever it's worth. Times are that I think maybe it's not worth too much and I maybe I won't write anymore. But then I do it again.

But still, I am not a Writer.

10 May 2007

elvis costello & the imposters

Elvis Costello is important. Everybody knows it. It's true. Just last year I was standing around waiting for my kid at the house of one of his friends when I saw, on top of a stack of stuff to be returned to the library, a copy of This Year's Model, the Rhino re-release. I was looking at it when the mom walked up. I asked who was checking out EC. She said that she had picked it out for her daughter to listen to because "you know, Elvis Costello is so important she should know who he is." I nodded and thought, yeah he is, but although I couldn't put my finger on exactly why...it felt more than a little weird. I recalled that weirdness and felt it amplified at the Elvis Costello show at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver last Sunday. The tee-shirts hanging in the merch booth said "30:10" and next to it was a little sign explaining the meaning of this: thirty years, re-releasing the first ten. And indeed it was the theme of the night. Drums, keys, guitar and an almost audible bass dialed it back to 1977 starting out the show with "Welcome to the Working Week" the first song on the great My Aim is True. The cover of that album, with the checkerboard pattern spelling out a repeating message of "ELVIS IS KING" and the indelible image of EC in that knock-kneed pose, signature chunky black glasses and cradling his Fender, was retro-50s in the 70s and now thirty years later, I wonder what it is now...retro retro? Because here we were in 2007 hearing the old songs rolling: "Less than Zero" "Watching the Detectives" "Alison" off My Aim is True; "Lipstick Vogue" "The Beat" "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" off This Year's Model. Looking around it was clear that all the songs are very familiar both with the portion of the crowd who looked like they might've caught the songs the first time around and the younger set who's just getting to them. They are great songs and the talent on the stage wasn't lacking in delivering them. But just as much as they are great songs, and ones I have listened to in recent years, there was a weirdness in hearing them delivered live, as the focus of the show. The Imposters are not out to promote Elvis's new stuff, they are out on the road to play the old stuff. And that feels a little like trying to re-kindle a love affair with your sixteen-year old crush. I know there's no shortage of artists touring on their old great stuff and they have every reason and right to do so. If there's re-hashing going on the original artists should be the first in line to cash in on the interest. Especially artists who were underappreciated in their time but became "musician's musicians" and got fabulously popular after their time. It's not new either. Seen it before and sometimes actually had fun with it. But though I was glad to see him again, I for one couldn't enjoy the nostalgia on this particular night in spite of my love of old Elvis songs.

04 May 2007

head like a kite - larimer lounge

One of the amazing things about computers and music is the astonishingly vast realm of sound one person can pull together on their own. But sometimes what makes for a great recording just doesn't translate to the live performance realm. Knowing this, I was a little bit nervous about seeing Head Like a Kite live. I really like Random Portraits of the Home Movie, a lot, and didn't want anything to spoil it. Head Like a Kite is basically a one man creation, (albeit with a stellar contributing guest list) and although I knew that Dave Einmo tours with the talented and likeable Trent Moorman, I wasn't sure how a live performance would actually look and sound. I headed to the Larimer curious and with my fingers crossed. A sigh of relief. Obviously Einmo and Moorman have put a lot of thought into it because in spite of the invisible musician aspect of a laptop and such other devices, which in other situations have left me a little cold and uncomfortable, HLAK put on a warm and dynamic performance that had me appreciating the songs even more, kinda almost dancing. I got a serving of fine musical victuals, just the kind of sustenance that has kept me getting out to shows for decades. Not surprisingly, seeing the performance of songs from Random Portraits with the super 8 footage the songs were inspired from running in the background made a cohesive and more complete impression of the work as a whole. I've seen film running behind the band at a live show before and when thoughtfully done, it can really work out for a spectacular embodiment of the music. HLAK definitely fits that categorization. The few who made it out to the show experienced a treat. Sorry if you missed it, I'll try to spread the word better next time.

01 April 2007

cranky cracker

Delivering barely a goldfish sized performance at the Twist & Shout in-store David Lowery solidified my previous impression that he is now officially a cranky old man. Nevermind that he's not all that much older than me, his attitude seals it. First let me say that I really really love the Twist & Shout in store performances. The Silversun Pickups delivered a high energy and sweetly personal performance a few weeks prior. It was packed with enthusiastic fans that had seen them the night before as well as those who didn't get to the show and were grateful for the extra chance to hear a few songs performed live. I took my kids down to the grand opening in store when DeVotchKa played a great little set that made a big impression on my son Colin and his friend Ian (who have since started their own band.) The in-stores, although not a replacement for a whole show, are a fabulous addition to the scene. They are low key, personal and special. I am super glad that the Twist & Shout folks put forth the effort to make them happen. All the more reason why I was disappointed in Cracker's appearance. Lowery still has that endearing twangy whine of a voice that I am actually fond of from back in the Camper Van Beethoven, Vampire Can Mating Oven days. (Though I think he lost a sense of humor that had back then.) Even so, Lowery kept the rhythm together while Johnny Hickman executed a fine showmanship of guitary skills. Although the lyrics were a bit too far on the bitter side of disappointed love and loneliness for my taste, this is not a bad band. But bloody hell, twenty minutes of fussing with the microphone stand (I'm surprised Adam was able to exercise enough restraint to not hit David upside the head with it) and two songs in less than ten minutes before a "sorry folks, but we've got a show to get to" left a medium sized crowd a little puzzled and disappointed.

26 February 2007

Beck? You're asking me?

A few weeks ago I was working in the coffee shop when my one of favorite music conversationalists on the bookselling side of the store comes up and asks me "So, Linda Ruth, what's the deal with Beck?"

"Beck?" I laughed. "I think I'm probably one of the least useful people to ask about the dude, because 'though we're the same age, I've been ignoring Beck since I first heard him." But then I thought this might be an interesting thought to explore. "Tell you what Jim, it'll be the subject of my next blog."

So that was well over a month ago. But to my defense, I've been thinking.

Many months ago, weeks before The Information came out, I was given an advance review copy. I did intend to write a review of it, but every time I picked it up to unpeel the shrink wrap I suddenly thought of something else to do.

Since back when "Loser" was as ubiquitous and unavoidable as parks and churches in the suburbs, I've held a grudge against Beck's music. 'Twas catchy but not cool to my way of hearing. I reckoned he'd be gone and forgotten before too long. But while other musicians were dropping out of the scene or checking out of the world altogether Beck remained. Dammit.

I thought he was too easy to listen to. Lame and uninventive. But I'm willing to reconsider things I first blew off. Maybe the problem was mine, at least partly. The experience of music is reception as much as transmission after all.

I went home and saw as a sign of fate the November 2006 issue of Paste Magazine with you-know-who on the cover. British writer Steve Turner was taking it on. So I read it.

Turner starts out the article describing Beck's London performance…with puppets. Groan. The gist: Is he putting us on, or is he serious about this shit? Hm. On to a short bio of Beck's poor immigrant upbringing, his dislike of interviews (which he claims to not read) and charmingly quirky family members. Okay, this is all pretty likeable stuff. But there are a number of people who I like personally but don't necessarily respect.

I'm not going to recount the whole article 'cos it's out there if you're interested. But the thing that stuck with me (since I was searching for why I don't like Beck more than wishing to be convinced that I should like him) the observation that got to me the most was that among all the loads of bands influenced by the Velvet Underground and Joy Division sound (yeah, that's all up my alley btw) that Beck dared to be influenced by other stuff like funk and Mexican bands. Music ignored and discarded and made into something new and delightful. Like the middle class kids scooped up the good stuff and the poor kid sifted through the trash and made something nobody else thought was worth it. But it was.

Maybe. It's a nice story, but I'm still not convinced. I am a little stubborn in my grudges. But damn, that interpretation hit me in a weak spot. All that's totally punk attitude, which I thought Beck totally lacked. I looked again at the cd cover, blue graph paper, and opened up the sheet of stickers. DIY album art. Definitely a cool idea, but riding the line of cool to the point of contrived. But maybe that's the point. I still don't know, but my research brought me to this point—I still don't like Beck's music, but I respect him better. I guess the deal with Beck is that it appears he's probably doing about exactly what he wants to do and succeeding at it to boot. Dregs to diamonds and all that. And well, creating what you intend is better than many striving artists can say.

Hope that helps answer your question Jim. Thanks for asking.