Friday, March 30, 2007

A note to the labels.

A note to the labels.

Hey, I'm all for digitally downloadable albums that are sent to me for review. It saves the labels / publicists / bands postage and all, and it gets the disc in my hands right away. But, and I'm looking at you RCA, home of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, I am NOT installing software on my computer in order to hear the fucking files. C'mon, who is stupid enough to trust a label for that sort of thing again?

STOP TRYING TO PROTECT YOUR FUCKING SONGS. It's hopeless. They're going to get out there. (While you're alienating me, I know for a fact that this particular album is available (WIDELY available) via numerous P2P networks.) Instead of trying to shackle the music, how about if you just get a fucking clue and redirect your business model to get in step with the times?

NO ONE wants to install proprietary software on their computer in order to listen to a song or an album. Get. A. Fucking. Clue.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tankboy mini-mix.

Tankboy mini-mix.

I think some folks misunderstood yesterday's call to action. I asked for three songs that you immediately think of when you think of me DJing. Instead most folks sent me three songs they think would be good in a DJ set. No problem, though, because now I've got a nice list of music to check out for inclusion in future sets!

Of those that responded the number one top song they think of when they think of me DJing? Can you guess? Can you?

If you said Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" you would be right. I did get A LOT of use out of that song, didn't I? And I continue to get use out of it in that Aggro1 mash-up version of it (right click/save as) that I love so much.

Anyway, I was under a deadline so I just had to choose a couple tunes by myself, and I decided to go for a snippet that might actually emulate ten minutes or so in one of my usual sets. It's not an actual mix, just five songs one might hear. I've numbered them to be played in the correct order, and they are:
  1. Yellow Note "Naked Drunk And Horny"
  2. Blur "Money Makes Me Crazy (Marrakech Mix)"
  3. The Jai-Alai Savant "White On White Crime (Shirkan Remix)"
  4. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion "Full Grown"
  5. Dolly Parton "9 To 5"
The songs are supposed to be a little playful, since the CD is also being used to promote a benefit show I helped put together and am DJing along with my Bomb Squad compatriots, but it's the sort of segment you might hear at the 1:10 mark of a five hour set.

DOWNLOAD: Tankboy mini-set

Actually, after looking at it, I can't believe I left off anything by Sloan or The Police. (Bowie was never in the running because one of the other DJs already had the glam angle covered on the disc we're making).*

*Don't worry Mr. Smith, I only play Michael McDonald when you're around.

The Economist makes a funny.

The Economist makes a funny.

I mean, just look at this headline.


We all know what it's referencing, right? No, not the Beatles ... the PRE-Fab Four!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

HELP! Advice needed ASAP!

HELP! Advice needed ASAP!

So I need to pick a few songs for a CD to go alongside selections with some of my compatriots, but me being the guy I am, it's impossible for me to just pick three songs.

SO, when you think of me DJing, what are the first three songs that jump into your head?

Lemme know NOW!

New Art Brut!

New Art Brut!

If you were lucky enough to snag tickets to the Art Brut April 20 SubT show here, you'll probably hear these tunes ... if not you'll just have to wait until the new album drops on June 26.

If you listen very closely, you can hear the ghost of Eddie Argos' long-departed mustache singing back-up vocals on these tracks ...

MP3: Art Brut "Nag Nag Nag Nag"
MP3: Art Brut "Pump Up The Volume"

Photo by Tim Soter

Classical gasses for the masses.

Classical gasses for the masses.

Last week NPR did a story about Igor Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring that I thought was fabulous (it's the first story on a podcast you can download from iTunes here or you can listen on NPR here). I played cornet and trumpet in concert and jazz bands all through grade school on into most of high school, so I'm not exactly a moron when it comes to classical music, but I'm nowhere near being an expert either.

Basically the NPR piece has an acclaimed conductor sort of do a commentary track over the main points of the piece, and the end result is kind of akin to an aural Stravinsky For Dummies, and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. While much of what was discussed was on the simple end, it was enough information to allow a layperson to possibly enjoy the music of a deeper level, or even just simply get a handle on what is going on int the composition for someone that might have absolutely no reference point from which to begin.

I hear lots of moaning about how classical music is dying, and that the youth of today just aren't learning anything about it (and feel free to extrapolate this to any musical genre enjoyed by a primarily older crowd (i.e. (at this point) classic college rock, anyone?)), but perhaps the folks complaining should try to engage the people they complain "just don't get it anymore" utilizing means the "just don't get it folks" are receptive to.

Think of it; most folks are now really used to DVD commentary tracks, right? So how about commentary tracks played over or alongside particular pieces of music pinpointing what particular movements mean, and underscoring historical importance (and original reaction) , anecdotal tales, and general guidance on what to look for in order to personalize one's overall experience with a more unfamiliar art form.

I'm betting some tools like this already exist, they just need to be made more readily available and adapt to the online environment to ease their dispersal. And they have to be kind of fun and engaging. They have to draw people in. Think of it this way: You've already got a pretty awesome product in the form of music that has stood the test of centuries (or decades, depending on your target crowd and chosen musical genre), all you need to do is get it back in the hands of the people, and today that is so much easier and more possible than it has even been in the past.

Just a thought.

You're right Paul, these French girls ARE sexy.

You're right Paul, these French girls ARE sexy!

And rockin' ... I have no idea what the Plastiscines are singing about, but I wanna dance to it anyway.


Plastiscines "Loser"


MP3: Plastiscines "Loser"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

System recovery.

System recovery.

Okay, I think I've had almost enough sleep to make up for the deficit suffered this weekend. The weird thing is I usually get by on four to six hours a sleep a night anyway, so you would think I would be able to bounce back more quickly, but I guess once you push the inner clock until its springs and coils are trembling under the constant workload, it's going to take a day or two to synchronize the system again.

Luckily, for me personally, this is a light week. No DJing. No shows I have to see. No unreasonable deadlines. The only thing that is even slightly torturous about the next few days is the realization that while Chicago experiences record breaking highs that translate into beautiful spring afternoons, I'll be stuck in an office behind a computer. Oh well, at least I like my job, otherwise that situation would be unbearable.

However, if you're looking for things to do this week, I gave a bunch of concert suggestions here, focusing on local talent that often gets criminally overlooked. Most of the shows are cheap, and some are even free(!), so if you get the itch to take in some live music and are open to discovering a great new band or two, you can't go wrong with these ideas.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Frank Black is Black Francis again?

Frank Black is Black Francis again?

Is Frank Black changing his name to Black Francis again? it might make sense considering how FUCKING AWESOME this new disc bluefinger of his is. Very much a return to form, and the added female backing vocals add a nice touch.

Also, and I'm going to write about this more extensively for Chicagoist, but why aren't bands like the ones that played last night not fucking huge in Chicago? I mean, during Dorian Taj's set, EVERYONE in the room was dancing and this one gal was so giddy she just kept spinning in circles. The guitarist for The Penthouse Sweets (which, by the way, are very Old 97s by way of MNNPLS so how can that go wrong?) spent the first song or two on the ground just rolling around.

WHY ARE PEOPLE MISSING THE BOAT?!

And here's an MP3 of one of the tunes I spun last night, as I promised one of the band members. It's the demo version of the tune, but i can't find the album right this second so hopefully it'll do. Now start a dance party in your car.

MP3: Men Women & Children "Dance In My Blood (demo)"

Dance everybody!

Dance everybody!

I'm functioning, but definitely suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation. Lucy the Dog decided I should get up after only two hours of sleep yesterday, and even with eight hours of sleep last night I think I'm still a bit behind.

Anyway, anyone who saw me DJ over the last two days will probably recognize the dancing style contained within the below video, since it eerily resembles my own personal "get down" style when I'm dancing to my own selections in the DJ booth.


See, aren't you bummed you missed out on that? So I'll see you next time I spin?

Thanks to Justin for directing me towards this.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The neverending reminder.

The neverending reminder.

Don't forget.

Tonight!
Tomorrow!

See you there.

P.S. I won't be playing the song below at either event, but don't you kind of wish I would, if for no other reason than to see the stunned reactions across the room?

MP3: Limahl "Neverending Story"

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tomorrow it is time to Drop, Rock, and/or Roll!

Tomorrow it is time to Drop, Rock, and/or Roll!

Yup, it's DJ Tankboy versus DJ Cowbell at The Continental tomorrow night. See the poster I made? I'm particularly proud of it 'cuz it's simple, clean, and gets right to the point visually.


Nice, eh? We're on from 11pm until 5am so none of youse has any excuse for missing it.

__________

In demand man.

I will also be lending my skills to a worthy cause Sunday night. This below is from The Trap Door Theatre:

The Trap Door Theatre has been invited to Romania to perform their production of Matei Visniec's Old Clown Wanted in May 2007!

Our 4th annual Spring Benefit at Martyr's ...
and we are very excited to have 4 great Chicago bands: MILK AT MIDNIGHT, TENNISCOURTS, THE PENTHOUSE SWEETS, DORIAN TAJ, and as a special bonus we are very happy to have DJ TANKBOY spinning for us, and Thax Douglas will read some poetry ...

SUNDAY March 25th, tickets are $10.00, and the event will start at 6:00 p.m.

I did not make this poster but it is very nice too.



BONUS BEAT! Since you've been kind enough to read until the end, here's what I believe to be a fairly rare remix of Wolfmother's "Love Train."

MP3: Wolfmother "Love Train (Chicken Lips Malfunction Vocal)"

Jermaine Stewart and Trans Am? It must be the return of the Friday Five.

Jermaine Stewart and Trans Am? It must be the return of the Friday Five.

I'm in a hurry to start my weekend so let's just dispense with too much discussion and just get on with some kick ass tracks to jump start your libido.

Paul turned me on to the Kreeps track "All I Wanna Do Is Break Some Hearts" and I haven't stopped dancing in my sheets to the tune yet.

MP3: Kreeps "All I Wanna Do Is Break Some Hearts"

Next we've got some classic Dandy Warhols hitting the AC/DC tip rather sinisterly.

MP3: The Dandy Warhols "Hells Bells"

It should be noted that while I enjoy the new Trans Am Disc, I'm not totally in love with it. Well, except for one track. The electro-funk of "Obscene Strategies" has totally won me over. It's simple, it's stoopid, and it's fun.

MP3: Trans Am "Obscene Strategies"

This one is meant to placate a certain Italian Hooker that got a little saucy when he thought I was dissing Billy Ocean. This band selection should show him that I truly care ...

MP3: Menudo "Hold Me"

And finally, a stone cold classic to get your weekend off to a BANGING start!

MP3: Jermaine Stewart "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off"

Aw jyeah!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Recently viewed in my home cinema.

Recently viewed in my home cinema.

The following movies have been recently watched upon my fifty-two inch HD LCD screen with UltramegaOK Surround Sound™.

The Departed
Finally, a movie wins Best Picture that really deserved to win. of course Martin Scorsese SHOULD have won years ago for much better movies that he's done. Even though this isn't his best work though (and you gotta feel sorry since all anyone wants him to make are mob movies when he obviously wanted to branch out for a while) it is Oscar-worthy. Every actor is just balls-out ON throughout the whole twisting, gripping, story line. If you're one of the three people out there that haven't seen this yet(there were four of us, but I finally watched it) rent it now.

Casino Royale
Honestly? this is the first James Bond movie I have really dug since I was thirteen or so. It's kind of funny that they had to turn to the first Bond tale in order to finally update the character and get it right. If they keep along this course I might actually pay to see the next one in the theater. And that opening chase scene? Unbelievable. The bit at the airport? Literally pulse pounding. I like the concept; it's an action movie with brains.

Clone High
I am a SUPER late comer to this, but I ordered a DVD of the whole series from Canada and think it's hilarious. Think 90210 with Joan Of Arc, Abe Lincoln, JFK, and a perpetually horny Mahatma Gandhi. How can that not be funny? how could it have gotten canceled?!

Clerks II
This was my second viewing of this, primarily so I could enjoy the commentary track. As far as the actual movie goes, it's a Kevin Smith film. If you dig Kevin Smith you'll like it, if you don't, you won't. Well, you might. It'd funny, foul-mouthed, dirty, and even a little touching.

The Prestige
It's got David Bowie (with some pretty great nods to the T. Edison / N. Tesla (serious) rivalry) so you knew I was going to watch this one. It's a Christopher Nolan movie so you know from the outset to watch for the clues that will help unravel the mystery. I figured out half the question about halfway through, and I solved the rest of the riddle shortly thereafter (although I admit I slightly mixed up where the, um, multiplying personalities ended up). You know a movie is good when you're so wrapped up in the story that not even Scarlett Johansson's marvelous breasts can't distract you.

Borat
Another repeat viewing, primarily for the deleted scenes. I'm amazed at how much I laughed out loud, even the second time around. And the Baywatch Parody tacked on to the DVD had me choking on my own tears as I gasped for breath.

This American Life
I'm writing about this in Chicagoist later today, but suffice to say I think they have so far succeeded in transferring the tone of the radio program to the television. In fact, I've already shared my views on this in an earlier piece. Keep an eye out for the Chris Ware cartoon in episode three, it's awesome.

So, that about does it. As you can see, the fare I've been taking in isn't exactly challenging, but keep in mind most of these films have either been viewed late at night or taken in under less than ideal mental circumstances on a Sunday afternoon.

Wild Things was also on the list but as I started writing about it I discovered that I (surprisingly) had more to say about it than would befit the mini-review format. Who would've thought?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Best Week Ever bummer.

Best Week Ever bummer.

Figures, I get a shout-out on Best Week Ever but they mistype the link so no one can find me and discover the Cheeseburger-y goodness I talked about earlier. Oh well.

You don't need a crowd to start a party.

You don't need a crowd to start a party.

So I DJed Monday night for that Fratelli's CD release party. I could fib and tell you the place was mobbed by mad power-pop fans, but actually it was kind of a bust, attendance-wise. I think I maybe brought in the most people (all ten or so loyal pals in my posse willing to brave going out on a Monday night).*

It was a motherfucking blast though.

Just about everyone that wanted one got a free CD and T-shirt. I had a lot of fun DJing. And the coup d'etat was the four man face off between Arturo, Arunas, me, and some guy who's name I forgot wherein we tried to outdo each other via "so bad they're good" pop music cuts. Arturo admitted he had no idea my tastes stretched that far since he only knew of me as a "rock" DJ, which is fair since he's only seen me spin at places like The Continental where I can't push the boundaries like I did at Rock and/or Roll Tuesdays or my near mythic Sunday sets at The Note back in '98 and '99. (You know, like the one time Eddie Vedder drew me a picture and sent it up to me because he so dug the tunes. Why didn't Pearl Jam ever take me on the road?)

The point is that turnout isn't always a gauge of a party's success. I've been to plenty of packed events that totally sucked. Last night was a good example of why it's the vibe that's important, not just the crowd. Every person in that bar had a good time and i was proud to have been a part of it. Hopefully Johnny Kesh vs. Arturo vs. Tankboy will take place again on a night a little closer to the weekend so more folks can get in on the fun too.

*It should also be noted that it WAS a Monday night and it was just a day after everone probably drank themselves green for St. Patrick's Day, so the timing wasn't perfect ... but the night of the party was determined by the album's actual release.

__________

Reconnecting with old friends.


So I hadn't talked to Dan Ryan in, literally, years. much of it had to do with my own internal issues, and my discomfort at discovering he was human, and mortal, after believing he was indestructible for most of my life. that coupled with my dad's loss made it very hard for me to talk to Dan. I know, it's totally selfish, and stupid, and I'm ashamed of it, but that's the way it was.

Well, I finally decided enough was enough and talked to him yesterday. Now I'm punching myself for not doing it sooner. What better way to overcome my own fears of human frailty than by talking with someone who's been through hell and continues to fight to move towards the light? Dan was told he'd probably never walk again, yet he can make his way around in a walker. He was told he was going to die, but he held out hope and ultimately got both a new liver and a pancreas*. His girlfriend the weathergirl leaves him beacuse she can't "deal," but he moves on and works his wiles on one of his physical therapists so they continue seeing each other long after he's done with her part of the treatment.

The only thing the man won't do? Become computer savvy. It's maddening.

The most important thing I took from this, though, is you just shouldn't put things off. What if all the above hadn't happened? What if Dan had dies before I had a chance to get over my own hang-ups? H9ow could I have lived the rest of my life with that level of regret? I mean, we can't blame ourselves for the things we didn't say when we don't know death is around the corner, but we have no excuse for not doing so when the reaper is practically sitting at a friend's feet.

I'm glad you're doing well, Dan, and I won't make the same mistake twice.

NOTE: The Avril lavigne photo has zero to do with Dan, but it came up while I searching Google Images for "Dan Ryan." Were he willing to connect to the internets, he would probably kick my ass for posting a photo of Avril Lavigne alongside something written about him. Hee hee.

*Weirdest side effect of this? He's no longer diabetic, although he says that sugary stuff tastes like shit to him.

__________

And now, a touch of levity.

Goldanged motherfrickin' rock and/or ROLL!

Goldanged motherfrickin' rock and/or ROLL!

Cheeseburger's first EP came my way a while ago. They were on the same label as Diamond Nights so I figured I'd give the unknowns a spin. From what I remember it was okay, but the band seemed to be lacking the fire necessary to sell rock of the "bug dumb" variety.

Time has passed and the band has obviously found it's mojo, since their debut full-length is overflowing with cock-rock that walks the walk with total conviction. The songs are simple, the themes are basic, and the effect is akin to listening to Danzig front AC/DC with a smirk and one hand down his pants.

I totally frickin' dig it.

MP3: Cheeseburger "Money For The Heart"
MP3: Cheeseburger "Easy Street"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A quick thought about Joss Stone.

A quick thought about Joss Stone.

I really do enjoy Joss Stone's new disc, as I've said before, but I'm surprised no one seems to be cluing into what I think is a pretty obvious observation. especially given all the press surrounding the disc lately.

It's not really so much an album that shows off her artistic maturity as it is a showcase for Raphael Saadiq's prodigious songwriting and producing talents. It almost comes across as Lucy Pearl V2.0.

Don't get me wrong, I think Stone has an astounding voice with a whole lot of character, and I think she brings a classic '60s-toned R&B sensibility into the new millennium without it sounding hackneyed. But she needed someone to construct the vehicle for her voice to ride, and I think Saadiq deserves the lion's share of that credit.

MP3: Joss Stone "Tell Me 'Bout It"

Yet another reason to hate media types that aren't me.

Yet another reason to hate media types that aren't me.

This poor woman was killed, but before her body was found her family started a blog looking for information. And then the media found out about it.

What dogs.

I got Police tickets!

I got Police tickets!

Photogal picked up tickets to the Wrigley Field show for me. If I could, I'd be running around the office screaming like a little schoolgirl right now.

One motivation for nomadic DJs, preceded by general thoughts on wit and criticism.

One motivation for nomadic DJs, preceded by general thoughts on wit and criticism.

I was listening to Peter Buck talk about music on Sound Opinions a few weeks ago, and laughed when he said he'd make a terrible music critic since he can't stand to listen to music he doesn't like. He said that when he hears music he thinks is bad he actually has a negative physical response to it, and reckoned that due to that he couldn't stand having to sift through all the crap that crosses the average music writer's desk.

Now I'm going to guess that Peter Buck's taste are more restricted than mine are. I don't think that means he's better or worse judge of music than I am (and judging by the groups he talked about his tastes certainly run to the more esoteric and display and encyclopedic knowledge of music in general) but he's probably right ion that he would find being a music writer a painful profession by his standards. I laughed, though, because I share his negative physical response to music I don't enjoy. At the same time, no matter what the band, I do try and place the work itself in the appropriate context. I think that's what helps make someone a decent critic. You can't slam something just because you don't like it; you need to work up a reasoning behind your judgment and support why it doesn't work.

Now, by that reasoning, I think Peter Buck would make a great music critic. He could probably dissect just about any song, show you where the roots of the piece grow from, and explain why it does or doesn't work. And I imagine, based on the quick wit he displays in interviews, he would probably be able to meld two disciplines rarely found in music criticism: he would be entertaining and illuminating. He'd be a natural.

I know that's what I strive for, and have been aiming towards over the past two decades, and I think I'm doing a decent job of it. Sometimes, due to space limitations, I don't always make the best arguments. I can accept that. But one of the things I've learned to love about writing for online outlets, that I didn't have back when my stuff had to wait (sometimes) weeks or months to appear in print, is the immediate response I get from readers and the opportunity to bolster my argument or even adjust my view when someone unearths a valid angle I hadn't considered. I think my openness to that, and the belief that while music criticism is a craft there are no immutably right or wrong opinions, is part of what has also turned me from the opinionated teen I was when I started writing about this stuff, into the reasonably able, and somewhat trusted, critic I am today.

The other thing Buck mentioned in his interview that particularly tickled me was his admission that he hates going to parties at other people's house because he has no control over the music. I think most music fiends have the same problem. I know that's one reason why, back in the day, I never went out to a party without a few decent mix-tapes in my pocket, and why today I've always got at least one iPod on me.

Y'know, just in case.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Fratelli's CD release at Darkroom tonight!

Fratelli's CD release at Darkroom tonight!

It's been a while since I've spun at Darkroom, and it'll be my first time teaming up with Arturo and Arunas, so I'm totally looking forward to spinning there tonight. I've been digging the Fratelli's disc for a few months now, and I'm pleased to see they're enjoying a boost from that iPod commercial their song appears in, so I'm happy to be affiliated with the Stateside release of Costello Music. I'm going to guess that the massive hangover most of you suffered through yesterday is gone, so this is an excellent way to kick off the week.

There'll be lots of giveaways too ... CDs, posters, T-shirts, etc. Make sure you get there early to take advantage of any other "specials" that may transpire.

TONIGHT
Fratelli's CD Release Party
DJ Tankboy
DJs Arturo Vs. Johnny Kesh

9pm - 2am

Darkroom
2210 W Chicago
773.276.1141


__________

Sonically related, somewhat.

I just found out Mystery Jets are FINALLY making their way to Chicago this June. I've been loving them ever since Karen sent me a pre-release version of Making Dens a few years ago, and have been dying to take in their live show ever since hearing that mind-blowing collection. Well, they're finally making their American debut in May with Zoo Time (most of Making Dens, along a with a few newer songs swapped in) on Dim Mak, and they're decided to play somewhere beside NYC, L.A., and Austin this time around. Even better? They're be in Chicago two nights in a row ... one at the Empty Bottle June 4 and another at Schuba's June 5.

I can't wait.

Keep track of them through their blog.

MP3: Mystery Jets "Diamonds In The Dark"

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Time to get loaded, time to get down.

Time to get loaded, time to get down.

After spending a full day inhaling paint fumes at our Michigan farm house, I should be in tip-top shape for the Beer Nuts show tonight.

See you there?

M4A: Beer Nuts "Woke Up, Tied Up"

Friday, March 16, 2007

Chicago Public Radio.

Chicago Public Radio.

I just renewed my Chicago Public Radio membership and feel pretty durn good about it. Have you pledged yet? If not, there's still time!

The day party is slowly bleeding SXSW dry.

The day party is slowly bleeding SXSW dry.

So I got a call from a long-lost friend (okay, not lost, we know where each other are) who moved to Austin years ago. He was hoping to meet up with me, but obviously I decided not to attend SXSW this year. He was psyched because he's going to see Public Enemy tonight, and it would have been fun to see that particular show with him, but it helped me start to formulate what it was that turned me away from traveling to Texas this year. This formulation crystallized after a day of talking to folks who were down there and reading posts and updates that spike up online between the day parties and the evening showcases.

A couple years ago, Chuck D was at SXSW pushing his Atomic Pop MP3 label -- which, by the way, is where I got one of my favorite T-shirts ever for free (it's the "I Want My MP3" one my friends constantly tease me for wearing too much) -- and I remember what a cool fucking idea it was. I think that was also the year I saw Tom Waits perform, but I might be wrong. The bottom line is, once SXSW represented a world of wonder and discovery. Granted, even when I started going people were griping about it being too corporate and it having sold out. However I don't think that's really the problem. If anything such a complaint is a knee-jerk reaction to any sort of change.

Here's where I see the real problem, and it's NOT with the SXSW festival organizers: The day parties and the social cliques that follow them have begun to seriously fuck with anyone who is not a 100% tied in scenester's enjoyment of the festival.

I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who has been writing about music for almost twenty years (!) and knows my fair share of industry types, so I realize that my criticism is not exactly a hurdle I myself would encounter. But to me SXSW was always more about people enjoying a broad swathe of music and making new discoveries, and getting so fucking stoked about this one band they'd never heard before but now can't wait to buy every record that band has ever released and want to run out and tell all their friends about their fantastic new discovery because they love them so much they want everyone else to love them too ... I think you get the idea.

When I used to cover it I would hunker down in the Kinko's downtown, type up a terribly garbled mess of observations (that my friend Darcell then reconstructed into something less Hunter S. Thompson and more Lester Bangs, at least as far as readability went), and then I'd run off to get in line for the first showcase of the evening. There were a few day parties, but they were casual affairs, primarily held for bands not playing in actual showcases. It was a lot of fun.

Well, now it seems the whole thing has turned into a battle over which bands will play which day parties, and a battle of the "cooler-than-you" crowd putting together the parties to attain some sort of (unattainable) crown as King of the Castle/Hill/self-promotional slag heap. Corporate thinking hasn't tainted SXSW itself (and now I actually understand why they held off releasing the line-up until so late) but the corporate desperation working outside of the SXSW structure proper are doing their best to turn the whole thing into something seriously resembling a high school popularity contest.

So that's that. That's the reason I didn't go. yes, I know it still can be a fabulous time, and there are certainly lots of people down there attending it for the right reasons, and next year I will go with an optimistic glint in my eye with the hopes that the whole day party thing hits critical mass this year (as it seems to be doing). And part of my argument is certainly weak since I let preconceptions keep me from attending and I could make a far better case had I actually been there. My only response to that is I know how my reservations on certain things can affect my enjoyment of activities, so until I actually had time to sit down a work this whole thing out in my head (as I've just done, so I'm a bit sorry for the rambling nature of this) I knew that I wouldn't have had a good time.

So, SXSW, you and I have a date next year. I'm coming to you hopeful. I want to dance. I want you to make me swoon. And I want to find a day party put together by some band from Nevada who couldn't get on a night showcase so I can sit in the sun drinking Shiner Bock while reeling from the genius of one undiscovered genius after another. And then I want to cap off my nights with frenzied travel between showcases checking out bands from Japan, or England, or Omaha, that never come through Chicago.

I want to love you again SXSW, and next year I'm not letting the cool kids deter me from that.

_________

I'm not Irish.

I'm not. Well, maybe a little. The funny thing is I identify myself as Bohemian, but my little brother identifies himself as Irish, and my other brother calls himself German. I guess we accentuate the portions of our family tree as we personally see fit, huh?

Anyway, I'm not Irish, but I love St. Patrick's Day. I used to hate it when I was younger, since all it represented was a bunch of frat boys puking green beer and slutty chicks kissing everyone because they were "Irish." But then I moved back to Chicago and discovered the Beer Nuts St. Patrick's day shows at Double Door. Here's what I wrote about tomorrow's beer Nuts show earlier in Chicagoist:

We never miss a St. Patrick's Day with the Beer Nuts. We decide to spend time with them partially because no weekend amateur/single-day Irish wannabe would be caught dead at a Beer Nuts show ... and if for some reason they accidentally stumbled into that particular party they would run screaming for their life shortly afterwards. But the real reason they get our green backs every St. Patrick's Day is because they, hands down, put on the most astoundingly fun, vibrant, life affirming, mess of a show you could possibly ask for. Plus? Lots of beer gets thrown around so you need only stand near the stage with your mouth open to get blasted for free.

Get there early, too, since my friend Kevin's new band are opening and it's their FIRST SHOW EVER.

Tonight I'm staying in and eating lots of starchy food so I can absorb all that booze tomorrow. However if you're going out, go see She's Your Sister at SubT tonight. I preview the show (and review the album that it's a release party for) here.

I'm sorry I'm missing it, since I only get to see their bassist Jenn once a year now since she moved out to Cali, so if you go, tell her I said hi and pinch her dimples for me. Here, I'll post an MP3 of there's to help you make up your mind, attendance-wise.

This one is off their new one.

MP3: She's Your Sister, "Sweet Sorrow"

_________

The Bomb Squad.

Just remember that phrase. The Bomb Squad.* And start clearing your Thursdays on your calendar. I can't divulge any details yet, but suffice to say it's the party Chicago's been missing.

Stay tuned.

*Yes, I'm aware that sort of bookends all these posts, what with the Public Enemy / Chuck D mention in the first movement, and the Bomb Squad of yore being the unbelievable production team behind the truly great Public Enemy discs. Honestly, I didn't plan it that way, but there you have it.

Top SXSW photo by Kevin Tamura
Second SXSW photo by Ariel Waldman
Third SXSW photo by Jason Schultz

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bits and blurbs.

Bits and blurbs.

I can tell it's going to be a busy day, so let's just hit a few bullet-points, shall we?

  • I see one of my oldest friends Jim is getting some great press. I also see he's owned his comic book shop for a decade now. Damn does that make me feel old. At the same time, via a quote in the article, I am pleased to see he still says "whatnot" quite a bit.

  • Check it out, I'm DJing the local Fratelli's CD release party Monday night. Don't miss it.

  • The Flaming Lips are coming out with a concert movie this summer. Watch the trailer.

  • Seven must have iPod apps. I haven't tried 'em yet, but they certainly seem useful!

  • Has anyone else noticed that it's sort of gotten a little quiet around the music internets since SXSW started? I still have the occasional pang of regret for skipping it this year, but I think I made the right decision. I really would have liked to see Sloan at that 857 party though. Oh well, they're coming through Chicago in May so I'll just be patient.

  • Still fucking digging the hell out of that Birds Of Avalon disc.

  • I'm considering a site redesign. Anyone out there have any thoughts on that? My current template is one I modified from a Blogger submission almost five years ago, so it might be time for an upgrade. On the other hand I've kind of fallen in love with my site looking a little weird and anachronistic. I know I don't want to resort to using a standard template, but don't know if I have the skillz to create a new one that's suited to all the new whiz bang gadgets and plug-ins of the day. Maybe I'll just stick with keeping things the way they are.

  • While I'm soliciting advice, anyone out there know much about vinyl emulation software? If so, does anyone have any recommendations? Keeping in mind most of my library is coded to M4A and I don't feel like re-ripping all my music? I'm thinking it might be a good way to resurrect my long dormant turntable skills.

  • Podcast recommendation of the week: If you're not listening to Kevin Smith's SModcast, you should be. Each week is a relaxed, profane conversation between Scott Mosier and Smith about, well, pretty much whatever comes to mind. Hilarious stories of youthful pitiful (and slightly homoerotic) attempts at being playboys, figuring an escape route that does not include protecting Alanis Morissette from a possible mugger, Jason Bateman's lunch, and the glorious genius of Alan Rickman. It's a great way to spend an hour each week. It's hat keeps my blood pressure low while driving to and from work. A man can't get angry when he's laughing that hard, right?

Hm, I feel like that was a little light, so why don't I throw in a song to get your day going? How about this slow burner from Betty Davis? Thursday's as good as any other day for gettin' your sexy mood on, huh? This song can't be denied. Wonder if it's about Miles though.

MP3: Betty Davis "Anti Love Song"

Y'know, now that I've listened to it again, it sounds kind of like Rach. Wonder if she's heard it?

Photo via Kitty de Medici

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Flosstradamus and Kid Sister are the next big thing? Duh.

Flosstradamus and Kid Sister are the next big thing? Duh.


Um, we all knew that here in Chicago quite a while ago, no?

We're glad to see the rest of the country is getting in on the party though!

Flosstradamus info here.
Kid Sister info here.

MP3: Flosstradamus "Unknown DJ Set"
MP3: Flosstradamus "Overnight Star (demo)"
MP3: Kid Sister "Let Me Bang (Flosstradamus Mix)"

Fun fact: Kid Sister is also babysits DJ BV's kids. I wonder if she test drives her rhymes on them? Maybe they can give me a preview of her album?

The sweet satisfaction of the undiluted initial listen.

The sweet satisfaction of the undiluted initial listen.

When I get new music to listen to, if possible, I like to ignore the accompanying press kit until after the initial spin or two. That gives me the chance to approach the record untainted and draw my own conclusions before being influenced by what their press agent has to say, or their biographical background. So I did just that when the Birds Of Avalon's debut, Bazaar Bazaar," showed up last week.

After popping it in I immediately started to make sonic references of my own. It sounded like Sloan gone psych. No, it sounded like Led Zeppelin gone pop. No, that's not quite it either. Black Sabbath meets The Beatles?

In fact it's none of those, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle of those comparisons. What appeals to me are the runny maple syrup melodies and the meandering guitar lines that coalesce into thunderous sledgehammer precision right when the riff needs to be heaviest. I've always been a sucker for heavy guitar rock I could still whistle in the shower and this is just the stuff that keeps my toe tapping while satisfying my sweet tooth.

Of course, a lot of this made sense once I realized the band's core was the guitarist couple from The Cherry Valence, but coming to my own conclusions helps to develop what I believe is a more honest, and more satisfying personal, appraisal of the band. I probably would have liked them had I known the background on some of it's members first, but it wouldn't have been such an initial rush the first time the disc started blasting out of my car's speakers the other day.

If you're in Chicago, they hit The Empty Bottle on April 23 or May 29. If you're not in Chicago, other tour dates are here. Don't miss it.

MP3: Birds Of Avalon "Bicentennial Baby"
MP3: Birds Of Avalon "Set You Free"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Police announce (almost) Chicago tour dates.

The Police announce (almost) Chicago tour dates.

It'll be at Wrigley July 5 and 6, and you can read all about it here.

Drawing a blank.

Drawing a blank.

This is usually the sort of morning I might go over some notes, or revisit unpublished drafts, in an effort to spike some sort of creative fix into the vein, but this morning everything seems slightly gray and slack. Part of this is because I already wrote up a SXSW preview for Chicagoist, but another part is probably due to the fact that the book I'm currently reading is taking a lot out of me. I picked up Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking on a whim a few weeks ago. I had heard a lot about the book, and it seemed like something I could digest pretty quickly for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks project (that I have already fallen behind in completing, but I am confidant I will regain my stride when summer hits).

Whoops, what a mistake. Seeing as how it concerns how Didion dealt with the death of her husband John Dunne, I should have known it might dredge up some residual stuff about how I dealt with my own father's death a few years ago. And how I guess I'm still dealing with it, even if it's not always on the surface. It is always there, bubbling underneath, waiting to snag a tear from my eye, or hitch my breath in my throat, whenever I least expect it.

This has of course also led me to reflect on my life, its progress, my accomplishments, past relationships, hopes for the future, possible roads to take, and all that jazz. The irony is that it has brought up a lot of topics that I want to write about and explore, but it's brought so many of them to the surface at the same time I'm having difficulty sifting through and deciphering which thought need to be unspooled first. Weird. It's kind of like I don't have enough material because I have too much material.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like the kids below and live in the moment, instead of constantly reflecting upon the meaning of the moment, and the following moment, and all the ones that came before that.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Minimalist Monday: Job Brion and Fu Manchu?

Minimalist Monday: Job Brion and Fu Manchu?

Jon Brion versus Fu Manchu. Well, not really, but me reviews of both shows.

And now I'm going back to bed. I think smoking too much this weekend gave me another frickin' cold. Boo!

UPDATE: I'm glad I caught both shows, but am now really wishing I had headed back over to Hideout to catch the end of Brion's set since I think that would have made a fascinating bookend to the evening.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Currently digging ...

Currently digging ...

... the album from whence this video came.

Cold War Kids fucking suck.

Cold War Kids fucking suck.

Tokyo Police Club? Still growing into their buzz. I love that EP, but they're not totally bringing it live. I can see the potential though.

Cold War Kids? So that's what the unholy union of Radiohead and Dave Matthews would sound like! I can see why they pack a room though. But I can also see why today's indie rock kid is what yesterday we would call a frat boy.

God, I need something to scrub my brain clean of the abhorrent experience of seeing Cold War Kids live. Something to totally distract me. Oh, here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse is working for the weekend.

Here's a nice little remix of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" remixed by Desert Eagle.

It kind of makes me want to go out tonight, so maybe I'll check out Sheklefest at The Mutiny tonight and skip the Hideout thing tomorrow to head out with Photogal on a motorcycle ride since it's supposed to be nice then.

Anyway, throw this on and let the weekend begin.

MP3: Amy Winehouse "Rehab (Desert Eagle Mix)"

BSG Podcast snafu?

BSG Podcast snafu?

Um, did anyone else notice that the podcast commentary for the as-yet-unaired ep of Battlestar Galactica "The Son Also Rises" is up? it just popped up in my iTunes subscription list and I see it's also on the BSG site.

Whoops!

Digging through the review bin.

Digging through the review bin.

I owe a couple long-form reviews to donewaiting, but I wanted to kick out a couple shorties here on stuff I've heard recently.

Joss Stone
Introducing Joss Stone


Paul turned me on to her new single, "Put Your Hands on Me," and that definitely whet my appetite. The album itself is better than her previous efforts, but is (like just about everything released now) about five or six songs too long. She sticks with the R&B she's known for, but injects a little more hip-pop into the mix. This isn't some sort of grand artistic achievement, but it's a fun to listen to when I need a pick-me up.


MP3: Joss Stone "Put Your Hands on Me"


__________

Kaiser Chiefs
Yours Truly, Angry Mob


Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon should file a lawsuit for plagiarism. I'll still pay to see 'em when they tour, since they totally kill on-stage.

(P.S. I actually do like the album, for what it is, but there's not an original bone in this band's body ... and I am totally okay with that as long as they keep churning out uptempo tunes to fuel their live show.)


MP3: Kaiser Chiefs "The Angry Mob"


__________

Illinois
What The Hell Do I Know?


I really wanted to hate this. A band from Pennsylvania named "Illinois?" Puh-leeze. However, the disc is actually a really enjoyable little mish-mash of indie-pop with some bedroom electronics thrown in for good measure. The whole thing ends up being pretty damn groovy and distinctive.

Plus, they have the sense to get the hell out after just seven songs. Are you listening, Joss?

MP3: Illinois "One On One"

__________

Maxïmo Park
Our Earthly Pleasures


This sounds just like their debut. That means they managed to make a second record and not fuck it up by "growing!" Seriously, though, they keep their manic Modishness fully fueled and end up turning in another set of hip-wigglers and finger-poppers.

MP3:
Maxïmo Park "Girls Who Play Guitars"

__________

Land Of Talk
Applause Cheer Boo Hiss


Loud, sloppy rock with girl vocals that sound like they're grasping to the edge of sanity? Whilst I'm still sad Giant Drag imploded, it's nice to know there's a band out there tailor made to step into that vacated space. This is a solid debut that earns bonus points for also having the sense to call it quits after seven songs! Y'see, when you do that, you leave the listener hungry for more, Joss.

MP3: Land Of Talk "Breaxxbaxx"

__________

Kings Of Leon
Because Of The Times


I haven't really dug anything that Kings Of Leon has done. I've listened to the discs, seen 'em live, and always walked away with a pervading feeling of "meh."And while this disc is still seeped in the same Southern-fried rock as their previous discs, something about it just seems to feel more true to me. I think before I was experiencing a band trying to fit into the mold they had built for themselves, but this outing comes off as a band living and breathing comfortably within the confines of the songs while allowing the songs themselves to dictate the direction of their musings.

And of course since this is the first disc of their I've liked, it's sure to be the one that all the other critics decide they hate. Sorry guys.

MP3: Kings Of Leon "On Call"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cheap Lolla tickets.

Cheap Lolla tickets.

I'm holding out for press passes, but everyone else should grab these $60 three-day passes while they can!

Thanks to Scott for the initial tip!

Throwing stones in glass houses.

Throwing stones in glass houses.

I make fun of geeks and tech bandwagon-jumpers, and folks that need to have the coolest thing RIGHT NOW. I tease these people mercilessly. I was reflecting upon this last night on the bus to my DJ gig, watching last weeks episode of Heroes on my video iPod.

Tune in tomorrow for content that is actually interesting.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

This is not a critical review of the new Wilco record.

This is not a critical review of the new Wilco record.

Heard the new Wilco? Of course you have. The band had an online listening party Saturday, and even if you didn't hear it then you've probably heard the webrip making the rounds. Considering how much I disliked A Ghost Is Born, and how excited I was when Nels Cline joined the band, it's fair to say that I've got a lot of expectations for Sky Blue Sky.

Now I've only listened to the disc once all the way through, so this is not a critical opinion; this is more a gut reaction.

It's not bad. Not bad at all. But it feels like a step backwards. The first time I heard Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot I knew immediately that those were great albums. I think Being There probably made the greatest impression, since it was completely out of left field and, honestly, it wasn't something i was aware Tweedy and company were even capable of producing.

Anyway, the new disc is very '70s AOR, and I think that's a step in the right direction. It's the sound of a band becoming a band, instead of a mouthpiece for one (or two conflicting) voice(s). It's not a challenging listen, it's not a life-changing listen, but it is a good listen.

_________

New DJ night: Back to the Office!



Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This American Live.This American Life ... live, and on your TV.

This American Life ... live, and on your TV.

Photogal and I saw a live taping for the This American Life (TAL) radio show last week. I've resisted writing about it until I got a screener of the first episode of the television show version of TAL so I can tie the radio and TV TAL's together. But, I've been asked a lot about my view on the whole moving of Ira Glass' baby from one medium to another, so I'll say here that I had my doubts, but based on what I've seen so far, people have nothing to worry about.


Well, except for one thing.


Many of the topics TAL covers are kind of uncomfortable, when you really think about it, and one of the main reasons we can listen without cringing at (or even casting judgment upon) the subjects is because we can't see them. The mind serves up a pleasant buffer to help us avoid facing certain truths. On television, though, we see the subjects, and sometimes that can cause the latent superiority I feel most NPR listeners secretly harbor to manifest itself more obviously. An inward sneer turn into an outward snicker, and the three-dimensional reality of the subject breaks down the semi-private cocoon that has allowed listeners to silently pass judgment on subjects over the past decade pr so.

That's why I'm excited to see a whole episode of the new TV version. Because sometimes the visual aspect can help take the sting out of some of the more acidic aspects of the show. For instance, Glass opened the live taping here in Chicago with an audio story about wannabe grade school television reporters and then switched on animation by Chris Ware to accompany the tale. The addition of the visuals brought the story to another level and brought a satisfying level of dark humor into what might have been simply a mouth-agape account of a ghastly affair.

Good radio, and good television, expose the darker and more confusing sides of humanity. Great radio, and great television, help guide you through some of these intricacies while refraining from telling you what to think about it or offering any pat answers. Oddly enough, i don't think I even focused on just how disturbing most of TAL's material was until I had to see it presented visually, but now I respect the show all the more since the mastery with which they deal with delicate situations has now been exposed.

__________

Also teevee related, but geekier.

Battlestar Galactica
killed off a major character in Sunday's episode. I had seen this coming for a while and my theory has long been that while this character dies, they will come back in a reveal that they were in fact a cylon the whole time. I was sure this was the plot device they would employ. However, after listening to the show's commentary track for this week's ep via the BG podcast, I'm beginning to think that the master plan I had in mind never existed, and the creators just wanted to let the story develop organically, and that meant killing off this particular character.

That above paragraph might just be, word for word, the dorkiest thing I have EVER written.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jon brion to play The Hideout!

Jon Brion to play The Hideout!

I just learned that Jon Brion is playing The Hideout this Sunday. between that and the SXSW fund raiser Saturday I may as well just ask Tim if I can crash upstairs!

Get your tickets now. Aw, it's all sold-out now, however, all is not lost! The Hideout says there will still be a limited number of tickets at the door beginning at 8:00 p.m. Sunday.

Fucking USA Today?!

Fucking USA Today?!

I am no fan of USA Today's editorial slant, or much of their content (though I do enjoy Pop Candy), but I have to admit that they may be the first MSM giant to finally start to get the idea of truly integrating and expanding their online presence.

Blogs, comments on all stories, online community building, and an honest attempt to link their readers to their content choices?

Impressive. Really, really impressive.

So that's what roller derby is!

So that's what roller derby is!

I've gotta admit, this whole time I thought the roller derby scene in Chicago was fun and I've supported it, but I also was under the impression it primarily consisted of tough girls who liked to party. I mean, honestly, that's the vibe they give off. But I think it sells them short.

After seeing a bout last night I walked away with a new found respect for the sport and the women that compete. I'm still not exactly sure how it's played, or exactly how points are scored, but I do know that as soon as that clock started ticking the floor was filled with athletes exhibiting definite mental strategy and physical skill. There is attitude on that track, but it's backed up with physical prowess and a respect for the game. That rules.

And the crowd? The place was packed with people that were REALLY into it. Folks really appreciated the effort put forth by the skaters and responded rather vocally. One dude got so into it he started a fight and the cops had to be called. Who knew the actual brawling would go on outside the track!

And Photogal did a great job DJing considering the minimal input she was given. As a matter of fact, that was the one sour note that sort of stuck in my craw about the night. Photogal didn't really get any feedback from the organizer. If I hadn't been there, roaming the floor, and sort of asking around, she would have gotten no feedback at all. It was a little weird to have her drive 40 minutes out there, not get paid, and not even get thanked for spinning. (Granted, she did screw up one of the intros, but that was primarily because of the minimal info she had to work on ... apparently she thought the national anthem would be sung before team intros ... ultimately though it WAS Photogal's mistake and she accepted responsibility.)

And when was the last time you heard musical chairs dictated by the Supersuckers version of "Hey Ya!" ... never?

So what did we learn last night? Roller derby girls don't just look cool, they work hard for their sport. Lynwood is way the heck out in the middle of nowhere, but the ride home is terrific if you've had a couple tall boys and you're the passenger (except for almost seeing that semi crush a car). And if one gets someone to donate their time as a DJ, one should let the DJ know its appreciated.

All in all, though, it was a pretty fun evening. If it was a little closer to the city I'd definitely go to another bout. Aw, heck, maybe I'll just swallow my distaste for Cobra and take the party bus to the next one on April 1 anyway.