Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Presley, Lennon and...Rockwell?

Sunday was a day for reconsidering. With Mom in town for Thanksgiving, we decided to head into DC for brunch and to visit the National Portrait Gallery, which is hosting two good shows. The one that we thought Mom would enjoy was a retrospective of Norman Rockwell works, both sketches and finished oil paintings, all from the collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

I went in thinking I would have to stifle my annoyance so as not to spoil Mom's fun. Rockwell, after all, is known for those highly sentimental Saturday Evening Post covers and cutesy-wootsy kids in oversized uniforms, dripping with nostalgia for an era of innocence and honor that didn't actually exist. 

And while there was a hint of that stale air and musty sentiment in the room, I must admit that the guy's technique was stunning. The care that went into his composition was painstaking and his mastery of oils is remarkable. Even more surprising to me, after Grad Girl came home from a previous visit with talk of his implied sexism ("all the women are dumb blondes or frumpy housewives"), I found Rockwell's women to be on equal footing with the men - sometimes dippy but often strong. All told, a revelation.

And now, at risk of pissing off the classicists out there, I'll admit to never being a huge Elvis fan, either. I like some of the songs, but I never got the idol worship.  Trouble is, I was too young to see Elvis in his youthful glory and a little bit of Fat Elvis goes a long way. (BTW, check out the reading matter in the picture above - an Archie comic book!)

That impression, too, was brought up short by the exhibition of photographs taken by Alfred Wertheimer when he tagged along with Elvis at his prime on a trip to NYC, before the big hits, before the mania, before the adulation. 

First off, I'll admit, the guy sure was pretty. I'm not a pompadour and curled lip lovin' kinda girl, but there's no denying Elvis was a looker. And these photos caught him in such unconscious poses as this, sharing some of his new music with a former girlfriend...

 I liked this shot (below) for showing Presley taking a break from his fan mail. We can all relate to not wanting to do our homework, right?

 In this shot, Elvis is on the train ride home to Memphis, listening to the songs he recorded in New York...
 Now, zoom in and check out his little toy-like record player. Remember the world without iPods!?
 Of course, showing you these little pics here is no substitute for seeing the show yourself if you're in the DC area. The prints are big and beautiful and the text plaques give you much more background, albeit often with that hagiography that drives me mad. (from the introduction: "When Elvis Presley walked on stage in 1956, time stopped and the world exploded. The earth shook on its axis, and the beat of everyday life was jolted. In an instant, mainstream America's culture of complacency was shattered.")

Much more interesting to me are the little stories like the one told for the set of shots above. On the ride home to Memphis, Elvis requested that the train let him off at the suburban stop that was walking distance from his home. He saved an hour by not going into Memphis and having to cab ride back out to Audubon Avenue. And here the text made sense: "It would be among the last uncomplicated stops on Elvis' journey to stardom."

"Elvis at 21" runs at the Portrait Gallery here in DC until January 23, 2011 and then will tour, at these locations.

And finally, to John Lennon. Anyone who knows my atheist husband knows that Lennon is closest we've got to a god around this house. And so, we sat down to watch the American Masters production of "LennonNYC" on our local PBS station Monday night with a warning to my mom that this was like going to church - reverence, please.

Perhaps her mind was changed in a manner akin to my reconsideration of Rockwell. The show was extremely enlightening as to the reasons for John & Yoko's deportation fight and a somewhat frightening/reassuring reminder of how America has weathered great civil unrest in the past. The studio clips were fascinating, the interviews actually contained new Lennon/Beatles' insights and there was little revisionist redemption (hey, Yoko *is* much cooler than many of us gave her credit for at the time).

Most of all, for someone like myself, who loves the Beatles, but didn't share Husband's life-changing response to them (again, I was just shy of the curve; I had the Monkees), it was a great reminder of why Lennon holds such a special place in his heart. He and I often argue about whether being a great artist excuses a person from striving to also be a good human being. (He has it can; I say it shouldn't.) John Lennon made mistakes and could be a difficult guy, but he wasn't an arrogant prick. And when he sometimes did something arrogant or pricky, he seemed to regret, learn from it and try to do better. And he was one hell of an artist. So, I highly recommend "LennonNYC" as well.

And hey, everybody - Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When in doubt, crank up some Christmas

So, for reasons that we won’t go into here (diddly interpersonal family stuff), I got thrown off course today and needed to feel productive while also doing something to cheer myself up. Voila! Time to work on the 2010 edition of “Cool Yule,” the annual holiday mix CD that I’ve created every year for the past 20 or so years (and yes, it was initially distributed on cassette). While I try to hold back on getting wildly Christmasy before Thanksgiving, attention must be paid early to the “Cool Yule” imperative if I am to get songs selected and sequenced, discs duplicated and in the mail in time for my audience to enjoy it.

The "Cool Yule" collection is, if I may say so myself. quite a popular annual event with those Close Personal Friends who get it each year, so become a follower, send me an email and maybe you, too, will get a puffy envelope full of holiday tunes in the next few weeks.

And therefore and henceforth, with a reheated Starbucks holiday latte at my side (it’s “BOGO” between 2 and 5 pm through the weekend, so I doubled up), I’ve been checking out some of the new zip files that have come in over recent weeks with Christmas music (not much Hanukkah action yet) in ‘em and have started making a bigass playlist from which to pick this year’s top 20+ selections.
One of the tracks that might make the cut, and which I can share as a free download, is this version of “Santa Baby” by the Puppini Sisters. 
 Whoa. Just checked my emails and discovered that I received my first publicist note about this album on August 31st! And even then, it was second after an even earlier announcement of the Indigo Girls’ first holiday album. So much for me jumping the gun!

At any rate, I needed a little Christmas and I got it. I feel better already. Hope you do, too.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Attempt to Kickstart Back Into Blog Action

“Special thanks to all my friends and family without whom I would have been snooker loopy by now.”
Kathryn Williams, in liner notes for “Dog Leap Stairs,” 1999.

Those are words I can relate to and as good a way as any, I would say, to dive back into the ongoing bit of snooker loopydom that I call the O/CD Tally. The last time I bothered to add to the count of new albums - physical or digital - coming into the Close Personal Friend music library was March (!?) of this year, and the batch of used CDs I purchased then brought my calculated (not actual) tally to 61. Add in the 5 albums I mentioned in the (now abandoned) effort to move the Tally to another section of the blog (it’s up top, a page called “Hey, What Happened to the O/CD Tally?” that’s not gonna work for me) and we’re at 66. That doesn’t begin to tell the tale of all the music that’s come my way - and gone away.

I’ve started lists repeatedly throughout the year to keep the tally tallying, but my sad mantra in that effort appears to be “often begun, never done.” Well, I’m trying to kick start my way back into regular blogging. One way to clear the decks and text is to pull up one of those lists and Post It the *&^% Up Already...

Here’s from a document I call TITTS (the unfortunate anagram for “Taking It to The Stores”), a list of albums that were acquired but then “recycled” back to the CD trade-in store for the various reasons you’ll see here.

Sometimes I get perfectly good CDs, full of great music, that I nonetheless trade away. Case in point:
1. DIRE STRAITS - Making Movies (Warner Bros.)
I interviewed Mark Knopfler in the studio when he and the band were working on this and heard one track (“Romeo and Juliet,” I believe) while they were mixing. Knopfler was so gracious, especially when my tape recorded malfunctioned and we had to redo most of the conversation, that I developed a bit of a crush on him. (Not so producer Jimmy Iovine, who was kind of a dick about the whole thing.) Anyway, I love the music on this album but, after getting a CD copy to replace my vinyl version, through the Swaptree site, I realized I didn’t need the physical disc. After putting the songs on my “Enchilada” hard drive, I am sending this one back into the marketplace.

I’m also getting a little fussy about CD packaging, If there’s nothing special about the case, I might as well digitize the sounds and save space, as I did with these:
2. LUKA BLOOM - Dreams in America (BigSky Records)
3. BOB SCHNEIDER - Lovely Creatures (Kirtland)
4. JODY PORTER - Close to the Sun (EngineRoom Recordings)
Porter’s in one of my favorites bands, Fountains of Wayne, but he’s not one of the songwriting team that give the band its bite. His solo album, as to be expected, has the power pop snap of FoW, but not quite the same lyric heights.
5. JUSTIN CURRIE - The Great War (Rykodisc)
The main man behind the once glorious Del Amitri released another solo album earlier this year with a dark and somewhat cranky sound.
6. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - Original Television Soundtrack, Vol. 2 (Arrival/Scion Music Group)
A nice collection of tracks like “Percussion Gun” (one of last year’s greatest tracks, a  song from one of my favorite (new to me) bands, the Avett Brothers, and other miscellaneous people I like - John Doe, AM, Sufjan Stevens.
7. 90210 - Various Artists (CBS Records)
Here’s where the packaging makes the difference. I ripped all the songs into iTunes for future exploration and there’s a bunch I’m sure I’ll want to keep --  but the artwork - silly little photos from a TV series I never intend to watch - isn’t worth the paper and plastic casing it came in.
8. The DANCE PARTY - Touch (Hell Ya! Records)
There’s catchy disco/pop happening here but the cover is so skanky, with grab-ass shots of various types - girls touching themselves, hands down pants, lacy pantied butts and more - I just want to get rid of the thing before my kids see it - and they’re not even impressionable children anymore! The band no doubt think they’re being cute and coy and clever, but it’s cheap and classless and will bother me even as I bop my head to the sounds. Promo FAIL.
9. EILEN JEWELL - Presents Butcher Holler: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn (Signature Sounds) A few years ago, I hosted a casual BBQ for Eilen (rhymes with “feelin’”) Jewell and her band when they were playing a gig at the upstate NY lake resort town where my mom has a summer home. She’s a sweetheart and a fine performer, just so you know.
10. MARK CHESTNUT - Outlaw (Saguaro)
Another covers album, this one of classic country tunes, produced by the esteemed Pete Anderson. I’ll grab a few tracks, but country’s generally not my bag.

Speaking of not my bag, here’s the rap cast-offs:
11. VADO - Slime Flu (Entertainment One)
Here’s a guy dropping the n-word and “bitches” and all the rest and I feel bad for the publicist listed on the press release ‘cause I remember how she used to work indie rock bands with genuine enthusiasm and now has to promote this (self-dubbed) slime.
12. DWELE - W.ants W.orld W.omen (E1 Music/RTMG)
I thought maybe I’d give this one a listen since the cover showed a guy busting stereotypes in a tryptic view, including one dapper suit shot. Then I opened it up and saw a photo of him lounging in bed with two women and a video camera. And I said, nah.
13. FAT JOE - The Darkside, Vol. 1 (E1 Music)
This one’s got a track called “Money Over Bitches.” Next!
14. SLUM VILLAGE - Villa Manifesto (E1 Music/Ne’astra)
15. 8 BALL & MJG - Ten Toes Down (Push/E1 Music)
16. DEVIN the DUDE - Suite #420 (E1 Music)
Hey, I’m a middle-aged white woman who loves in the suburbs. I can’t pretend it’s talking to me!

Stuff I’m Just Not Gonna Listen to Again:
17. JOHN JORGENSON and ORCHESTRA NASHVILLE - Istiqbal Gathering (J2 Records)
Two tracks feature the Turtle Island Quartet, whom I have liked on other recordings, but this is just too MOR for me.
18. STICK MEN - Soup (self-released?)
Tony Levin was in King Crimson, so I won’t argue his pedigree or chops. I just don’t like this ersatz jazz noodling thing.
“How We Love” is a good song for my funeral mix (yeah, I’ve started a list of songs I want played at my funeral. You mean you haven’t?) Other than that, as much as I feel bad for her going through some bad health issues, her backstory doesn’t endear this very sentimental material to me.
20. GRANT DERMODY - Lay Down my Burden (self-released)
I’m not much for hard-core folk, either.
21. THUNDER BUFFALO - S/T (Sarathan/Fontana)
Slow, loud sludge. Probably fine for people who like that kind of thing.
22. KELLER WILLIAMS - Thief (SCI Fidelity)
After an explanation of how the money will be shared with the songwriters, thereby not making him the titular villain, Williams warns that it would be a “DOUBLE hit to your karma” if you “achieve this record for free, or simply burn it for a friend.” Not leaving well enough alone, he includes a boxed “KARMA WARNING” that threatens, “If you thief this record in any way, your body will be used as a butt plug for an elephant” and goes on to explain it in more detail including the website where there’s a Art Crumb style illustration of same. TMI, Keller and the attitude is enough to make me feel better about passing the CD off to my retail contact. That, and the unattractive mug shot-style photos, and music that’s more novelty than novel. Less bluegrass than hackey-sack doodling on covers like “Rehab,” “Se and Candy” and “Teen Angst.”
23. HOPE SANDOVAL & The WARM INVENTIONS - Through the Devil Softly (Nettwerk)
I kinda liked Sandoval’s other band,, Mazzy Star (again, in short bursts) but a whole album of this melancholic, drowsy music makes me...melancholic and drowsy.
24. The LOST FINGERS - Lost in the 80s (Tandem)
This band plays classic, and not-so, pop potboilers in the style of Le Jazz Hot. It’s a better-than-average gimmick which makes for fun in a track here and there, but a whole album of such novelty numbers wears thin quickly. I wonder if the band also get tired of using its considerable skills performing what is essentially the same trick over and over.
25. THRICE - Beggars (Vagrant)
I can sense that this band has grand ambition, and may well be able to bring it to fruition, but it’s a more aggressive style than I care for.
26. FALLING STILL - May All Magic Guide and Change You (Peace, Man)
27. MIDLAKE - The Courage of Others (Bella Union)
Great press for this, but I find it a little bland.
28. TRANSIENT SONGS - Cave Syndrome (Indian Casino)
One of those albums I would like better if I didn’t speak English. There’s a laid-back psychedelia to the music, like Pink Floyd or Flaming Lips, but the lyrics are pretty lame.
29. HOT CLUB of COWTOWN - Wishful Thinking (Proper)
I saw this band perform a few years back at the Barns of Wolf Trap, after writing them up for the Post, and I had a fine time, especially watching the older audience members who knew how to dance genuine two-step to the country swing. This album, however, didn’t have any spark.

Sometimes, I’m just dumping garbage, pure and simple:
30. 20 BEST ROCKIN’ 60’S - VARIOUS ARTISTS (Madacy Entertainment)
I hate when this happens. I buy a CD of oldies and, as I’m listening, I’m thinking, “did it really go like that?” Then I check the fine print: “New stereo recordings by the original artists.” Bah! I’m sorry if people like Tommy Roe, Lou Christie, Gary Lewis and “Paul Revere” got ripped off in their original deals, but that’s really no excuse for ripping off the fans years later. Into the reject pile!

And so, we have a new
O/CD Year to Date Tally: 96

Friday, October 15, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not - the Citysearch concert previews that didn't run

One of the reasons I don't blog here as much as I would like (besides inertia) is that I've been doing a weekly concert preview thingy for Citysearch DC. It's been a great outlet and a chance to talk about acts I like that are coming to town, so it steals some of the energy from this enterprise.

Citysearch is undergoing some changes these days and the listings system is being traded for a blog style. In working with the new format, there were some logistical glitches with my proposed column for this week. The national editors are out of the office today (Friday), so it won't be posted until Monday, which not only makes moot about half of the shows I wanted to mention, but kills my intro/outro, which marvels at the every night/sometimes two each night offerings of this busy week.

Rather than toss the column into the scrap heap, here's what I wrote....

You could be out and about every night this coming week and still kick yourself for missing out on something. Yep, it’s one of those blessing/curse kinda times when an abundance of options makes for tough choices.

On Friday night (October 15), Thermals and Cymbals Eat Guitars bring the noise – of a melodic, rocking kind – to the Black Cat. Meanwhile, the Sensitive-in-a-Paul-Simon-kind-of-way Charlie Mars starts off a stretch of great shows at Jammin Java. It’s also worth making the trek to that Vienna venue to see a rare acoustic appearance by Irish rockers Bell X1 on Sunday (October 17), along with a bright newcomer, James Vincent McMorrow.
Remind me to tell you the story of seeing Bell X1 in Dublin, when they were just a baby band, and then having dinner/drinks with them many years later...

The weekdays at Jammin Java bring a trio of female singer/songwriters all worth your attention. Tuesday’s (October 19) attraction is Susan Cowsill – yes, the same little girl from those “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” Cowsills, but now she’s all growed up and playing her own stuff, like on the new “Lighthouse” CD with special guests like Jackson Browne, Cowsill brothers Bob, Paul and John and Vicki Peterson (Bangles/Continental Drifters). Wednesday (October 20) is for Jill Sobule, “songwriter, guitarist and gypsy” who kissed a girl before Katy Perry made it chart-worthy and recently opened for Fountains of Wayne. Now she gets a headline set of her own to display her quirky humor and well-crafted songs. Finally (at least for the Vienna visit), Thursday brings Catie Curtis, a veteran artist with a catalog of warm, rainbow coalition pop/rock material.
Do you think Susan Cowsill will sing "The Rain, The Park and Other Things"? No one wants to live in the past, but it's such a great song!

While music is the main thing we’ve been previewing here, comedy is also a good bet when you’ve got the caliber of talent coming to town this weekend. But oh, how to choose?!
On Saturday (October 16), all you fans of public radio’s smart and silly news quiz, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” can catch regular contributor Paula Poundstone at the Birchmere . But then you’d miss out on seeing the real king of late, late night when Craig Ferguson brings all his cheeky monkeyshines to the Warner Theatre. My mom joins me in being crazy about this Scottish-American scamp, but I wouldn’t bring her to the show – you just know that, without the CBS censors looking over his shoulder, Ferguson is gonna talk a blue streak.

Craig Ferguson is adorable. Case closed. That man is on my 15-minute list.

Sara Bareilles turned in a fine set earlier this year when Lilith Fair came into town, including a fine, flirty take on “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” She’s got plenty of catchy material of her own, like (who made you) “King of Anything,” from her new CD, “Kaleidoscope Heart,” and she’ll get to play it all when she stops at the 930 Club  on Monday (October 18) with Greg Laswell opening. The club site lists this show as sold out, so hit the alternate ticket market if you want in. Tickets are still available for Richard Thompson on Tuesday, though, and you can never go wrong with this classic singer/songwriter who also knows how to shred a guitar without histrionics.     

Ten shows in seven days? Literally can’t be done. But aren’t you glad you live in a city with such an embarrassment of riches?

 Richard Thompson, class act.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last weekend, Part One: Honor By August, The Bigger Lights and The Kin at 9:30 Club

I am slowly catching up with the photos and such from last weekend's 3-Shows-in-3-Nights DC marathon.
A vicious head cold threatened to ruin my weekend, but I fought back, using the time spent on the couch to see some movies ("The Station Agent" is wonderful, "The Matchmaker" not so much) and satisfy my craving for comic punditry (Stewart, Colbert, Maher, etc). More to come, but this to start...

Honor By August, The Bigger Lights and The Kin at 9:30 Club, 9-11-2010 - Washington DC concert photography |

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Four Shows in One Week. Not Bad.

One week ago tonight, I was at the lovely Sixth & I Synagogue for a show by Airborne Toxic Event, an LA-based quintet that is in the midst of a short "acoustic" (actually, they were plugged and plenty loud) tour with a string quartet. It was one of the shows I had touted in my weekly column for Citysearch DC - along with Blondie, The Dirty Projectors and others - which led to a pair of tickets from the publicist, which led to attending/greatly enjoying the show, which led to the following photo gallery:
The Airborne Toxic Event at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, September 7 - Washington DC concert photography |

Hubby and I just got back from a four-night stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in DC. He had to work at his annual convention, but I got to play, exploring the city by day and going to shows at night. It became a 3-day weekend of 9:30 Club outings:
Saturday - The Kin, The Bigger Lights, Honor by August
Sunday - The Young Friends, The Drums, Surfer Blood
Monday - Janelle Monae, Of Montreal
and I took pictures at all of them, got set lists from a few.

So, after a period of recovery, mails snail and e-, unpacking, laundry and such, I will be back with more.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Bigger Lights and I get our hair done.

I will write a real post soon (you've heard that before!) but I think I just discovered that a mere click will send material from my site to here.
In which case, you can amuse yourself with this:
The Bigger Lights are coming back to town.

Funny thing is, the reason I was revisiting the article is that I met three members of this band last night, in unusual circumstances.
Because I've been writing for Citysearch DC, I was invited to a party/makeover event (Me Get Pretty One Day) at the Sassoon Salon in Tysons. After all the girly fun, as we were getting ready to leave and the place is way past closing time, in walk three tattooed rock dudes [note: I'm told only one band member actually has tattoos, but he has enough for all of them ]- Christopher "Topher" Talley (singer) Chris McPeters (guitarist) [tattooed guy!] and Ryan Seaman (drummer) - from The Bigger Lights.

Though the band is originally from Northern Virginia, it turns out that Chris is now living in Kentucky Louisiana and makes a point of coming to the salon whenever he's in town to get his hair cut by his favorite stylist. I've heard of secret club gigs before, but not afterhours haircut gigs! I chatted with the guys for a while, told them I'd seen/photographed/written about them and said I'd send a copy of the story.

And that's what sent me to the DC Concert Photography Archives this morning.
Anyhoo, the band is playing this Saturday (September 11) at the 9:30 Club with local heroes Honor By August and a fine NYC-based duo called The Kin. I think I'll be there.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Not Dead. Yet.

No, I haven't been posting here in a while. (Just looked at the archives and see that the entire month of July passed without a peep.) However, if you've glanced at the "Yep, I'm Tweeting!" column to the right, you'll see that I have been writing - not so much for (that may change) but now at a new outlet - Citysearch DC, where I post a weekly feature on Concert Picks for each coming week. A new one is up today.

And I've been to a lot of shows, some of which led to picture galleries on my Facebook page. I will be moving to Flickr soon to share upcoming shows with the Big Bad Web but for now, here's a picture to show that I am, indeed, still breathing. It was taken with the lovely Andrew Belle when his Three Out of Tenn tour stopped at the IOTA a bit ago -

So, if you want to know whassup with me before I get back to more/better blogging, please sign on for Twitter feeds @mariannemeyer, or read my stuff at Citysearch and

Hope you're having a cool (in all ways) summer!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Athlete - live and on

A quick hello. I just posted a new story to the examiner site, an interview with Stephen Roberts, drummer for the fine British band Athlete.  And here are some shots from the band's appearance earlier this month at Jammin' Java. That is all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In My Other Life...

For the past few months, I've been pretty busy working on a video project for the American Institute of Architects. That's not an excuse for being absent from the blog, but it did make me some money which is something that the music writing doesn't do all that well.

So, if you're fan of architecture, Apple stores, gorgeous homes for wealthy people with taste, check out the video tribute to AIA's 2010 Gold Medal recipient, Peter Bohlin...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

7,000 words (in pics) plus mp3s from Morningbell

 One of the great things about this job/hobby (I can never tell but my accountant, if I had one, would say it's the latter) is that people send me free music I might never have heard otherwise. Morningbell's "Sincerely, Severely" came in as a digital download from a publicist I've dealt with for many years. He was looking for some press and I said I'd give a listen. And I loved the album - varied, smart, well-played and produced and hooky as hell.  (BTW, it's marked "explicit" but there's only a few naughty words)

So, I went off to the show Monday night at the tiny (a full house is about 30 people) Galaxy Club and was impressed yet again. The band travels with its own "$100 Light Show" that made for fun picture taking, too.  I'm free to share two mp3's -"Hello, Dali" and "Marching Off To War."
I'm going to do an email interview sometime next week with frontman Travis Atria for a short feature, so check back later for more. I obviously still don't know quite how to get this new Blogger picture/word interface working...

There's a reason I haven't posted much lately...

I've been kinda busy saving the world...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

7,000 Words (in pictures) about Sarah Borges

Not sure how to deal with the new Blogger photo uploading system...So, until I figure it out, here are some shots of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, as they appeared at Jammin' Java on Friday night, June 4th. .And if you decide you want to check 'em out, here's another new deal for Blogger - the amazon "monetizing" link. So, yeah, I recommend the album. Go ahead and get it and make me rich.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Video Fun - Owl City Parody: Key of Awesome

I've been readying some photos from the Laura Marling show at IOTA last Sunday, but this just came to my attention, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's blog, and I had to share it.
I LIKE Owl City, but this is right on, too:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Sweet to Be An Idiot

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with Sarah Palin.
To those who followed the classic British comedy of the early 70's, a guy named Neil Innes was (is) a musical hero who worked with Monty Python and was a member of both The Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band and The Rutles. He appeared last week at Jammin' Java and I popped in to see his one man show, a mix of classic Python numbers like "The Philosophers' Song," Rutles favorites (in a piano medley) and new tunes, some of which were actually more poignant than novelty numbers. I meant to write an in-depth review, but time is tight and I'm off to Toronto Friday morning, so I'll give you some photos and odd bits between.

I recently pulled out a factoid from an UNCUT magazine compendium of rock trivia that fits here and now. There's a popular indie band that took its name a Bonzo Dog Band track. The title of the song – and the band’s name - comes from the lyric: “Death cab for cutie/Someone’s going to make you pay your fare.” So now you know.

“I've suffered for my music,” he famously said once, introducing a song. “Now it's your turn."

The picture above was taken from a song that mocked Elton John, the one below shows Neil leading the crowd in blowing raspberries.

"How Sweet to be an Idiot" was performed at the piano, with duck chapeau.

If you want to see Innes in action, here are the remaining dates on this tour:

Neil was very nice about hanging out after the show and signing all sorts of fan collectibles. I brought a vintage Rutles ad from the Rutland Dirty Weekend Book. (I am not in the habit of destroying my books; the glue had lost its stick'em and the pages were loose.)

And so ended the evening for two "veterans" of Back in The Day. Take that, you young whippersnappers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Banksy and Beiber and old skool VHS

In Sunday summation, my past few days in music, movies and old skool video:
On Friday, the Hubby and I saw a screening of “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” the new film by British artist/provocateur Banksy. It has been, as Hubby put it, “tickling our minds” ever since. While "Exit..." is presented as straightforward documentary, I have my suspicions; after all, this is Banksy. He appears – a hoodie covering his face and his voice electronically altered – to say that this is the true story of an obsessive videographer who documented the illegal street art scene before becoming the artist known as Mr. Brainwash, but I’m not buying all of it.

My personal theory is that the first half of the film is an accurate depiction of how a Frenchman named Thierry Guettathe became chief chronicler of a scene that included Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Space Invader, Borf and others. But about midway through, when the previously un-artistic videograher begins to create his own, highly derivative pieces for a massive LA exhibition fueled by hype and the name-dropped power of his friends, I began to believe that Mr. Brain Wash is a new Bansky creation and his biggest prank yet on the art community. (In looking up Mr. Brain Wash's real name just now, I see that one reviewer wrote that Sundance viewers were guessing that maybe Spike Jonze actually directed!)

For me, the film might well be a cerebral, art-themed “Spinal Tap.” I’d break it down as 60% true, 40% bullshit and 100% brilliant, moreso if it is, indeed, created from whole cloth (or canvas?). Looking forward to seeing it again when College Girl, a huge Banksy fan, returns from school. In the meantime, be sure to see it and get back to me with your theories.

Risking intellectual whiplash, and the backlash of more discerning (snobbish?) readers, I will now discuss my second favorite cultural event of the week – Justin Beiber on “Saturday Night Live.” There have already been aghast comments on my Facebook page for saying that I muchly enjoyed The Kid. Yes, it's a big switch from making joyful, drunken fun of him at a New Year’s Eve party full of cynical revelers who couldn’t believe this unknown (to us) little pipsqueak was a featured performer.
When the Easter Bunny left a copy of My World 2.0 in my candy basket, it was a joke, inspired by the fact that writing about JB for earned my greatest number of reader hits yet. But by then the scales were already tipping in the teen sensation’s favor. I wrote about the takeover of the Funny or Die site (“Beiber or Die,” along with other April Fools pranks by musicians (Coldplay’s new fragrance, Angst, and the super-deluxe 176 disc reissue of “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” The latter, alas, has been removed from the Backstreets site.)

But The Kid (shall I trademark the nickname?) won me over with his self-mocking display of video diva-dom on FoD and, when I actually listened to the disc during a Wii sports workout (I am the Joan Jett of bowling, Hubby says), I liked its pop smarts. And I’ve since learned that Beiber was not concocted in the test tubes of the Disney music laboratory but earned his first break through YouTube exposure. Good on you, JB.
For a mere 16-year-old who just happens to share my March 1 birthday, Beiber was an MVP on SNL, appearing in skits and doing right by his dual live performances. In the second, during “U Smile, I Smile,” he even ad-libbed a sweet little shout-out to Tina Fey and held his own with my comic heroine in a wildly inappropriate – and all the better for it – teacher/cougar sketch.
So, yeah, I’m on Team Beiber. And all the snotty older white male music critics who would deny my rock credibility as a result can go back to their own ridiculous/childish entertainment choices and KISS my ass.

As for today’s musical adventures, it started innocently enough with the perpetual cleaning of the basement/rec room/media storage facility and the viewing of some vintage VHS tapes. I started with the family home movies, which need to be organized and labeled in hopes of eventual conversion to editable digital video (anyone out there have any good ideas of how to do this at home, cheaply?). Watching them has been a delightful, sometimes moving peek back to the past, complete with adorable children and views of since-departed loved ones. It’s gonna take a long time to get through them all, but I’m looking forward to it.
Along with the family tapes, there’s an unhealthy bunch of music/TV videos – concerts, SNL segments, MTV award shows and other remnants of LBT (life before TiVo) as I recorded things to watch later and then didn’t record over them. I pulled one random tape out to survey as I began typing this, thinking that I could send it off to the Thrift Store after confirming that there wasn’t anything of a personal nature on it. But now I’m having second thoughts.
The first third of the tape consisted of live performances taken from SNL and some MTV show that featured in-studio appearances from the likes of Hole, L7, TMBG, Cracker, Blur and Liz Phair (who pretty much butchered “Supernova"). Then the tape switched to a History channel show on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. At this point, I was fully confident I could toss the tape with no regrets – or offer it to anyone reading this blog who might want to claim it.

Even as the History channel show gave way to some old MTV clips, I didn’t feel any attachment. If I want to see Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” again (how did they get away with that crucifixion imagery back then?!), I could always call it up on online.
But then, after a Beastie Boys clip cut short, I’m looking at Michael Stipe hosting “120 Minutes.”
I used to love that show, the Sunday evening (right?) two-hour block of music that really excited me at the time. Here’s Weezer (“Buddy Holly”) and PJ Harvey (“Man-Sized”), Soul Asylum in a clip with Kevin Smith, Grant Lee Buffalo (like “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Mockingbirds” was directed by Anton Corbijn and is even more bizarre), where-are-they-now stars like James and Luscious Jackson and, of course, vintage R.E.M. Other highlights are Flaming Lips’ “She Don’t Use Jelly” (Wayne Coyne with bright orange hair), a B-52s video I don’t even remember (“Revolution Earth,” looking like MGMT with zebras) and “Supernova” again in its video version, where Phair can sorta hold her notes.
Even with its smattering of people I didn’t relate to (Samiam, Dink, Bad Religion), the show is great fun to see again and Stipe is a host unlike others. Changing his shirt for nearly every new segment, his deadpan intros are initially off-putting, but then he seems to warm slightly to the task, as when he introduces Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and I remember why he was such a major figure in my life at the time.
Damn. Looks like I can't let go of this one.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

We Get Out - Norah Jones

So, that column I keep asking you to subscribe to doesn't pay worth a damn, but it's always been less about making money than staying in the loop. And, there are the delicious perks - not just the free music, but comp tickets, too. Having done a short piece about Norah Jones' fine album, "The Fall," late last year, I was emboldened (though not necessarily entitled) to ask her publicist if there might be tix available for the concert in DC, Friday night at the 'luxe Warner Theatre.To my pleasant surprise, she sent back a confirmation and the hubby and I were in for a real Friday night date (as, it seemed, were many other couples!) The opening act was Sasha Dobson (seen in the photo below, at right) who sings with a lovely, Jones-like voice and plays guitar, also helping out in NJ's back-up band. Dobson's short set - marked by beautiful contributions by her two sidemen (a graceful guitarist and a pianist/xylophone-ist?) and largely dull songs - sent my head back, eyes closed, as I nestled into the comfy Warner seats and nearly fell asleep. Contrary to what some of her detractors might say, there's nothing sleepy about Norah Jones in concert. She actually spent more of her time onstage playing guitar and, as the songs on the latest album push a little harder and deal with a love gone wrong, there's more bite to her music than you'd suspect. Three songs into her set, she moved to a keyboard to play the delightful "Chasing Pirates" and, awhile later, sat at a piano for some other highlights, including a most moving, "Back to Manhattan" and a reworked "Don't Know Why" that kept things fresh for the players while displaying the melodic hooks the fans wanted to hear.
During the encore, Jones came out with a handful of players, all bearing acoustic instruments, and they huddled around a single mike, looking more like a folk quartet than a jazz or soft rock outfit. It was a charming end to Date Night Friday.