Saturday, February 26, 2005

Now Ain't the Time for Your Tears

This is a great article from The Guardian that explains the circumstances behind the Bob Dylan protest song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll". This is timely since I just watched Don't Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker's famous documentary that captured Dylan on his 1965 UK tour along with his then girlfriend Joan Baez, Donovan, his manager Albert Grossman and others) and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is one of the songs that was featured in the documentary.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Beauty Deluxe

This is an article about the Neko Case/Sadies/Visqueen Valentine's Day that I attended and wrote about last week. All I'll say is that anything involving the word "sapphic" in the same sentence as Neko Case and Rachel Flotard means that I have to excuse myself now. :-)

Skin Deep Town (or how I went to Florida with my parents and survived and I didn't even get a stinking t-shirt)

I know it's been a while since I've updated this site, but here's the thing. I was away all of last weekend without access to e-mail. Now why was I away, you may ask? Well, my cousin Michael got married last Sunday in Hollywood, Florida (where his wife Tami's family is from) and I attended the wedding. Now keep in mind that I'm not normally a big fan of events like this that involve my extended family. However, I felt obliged to attend because even though I've never even met Michael, his father Daniel attended my Bar Mitzvah (I may be self-centered but at least I remember things like that) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1988 (he was living in Los Angeles at the time and still does). Plus, I have a few pretty cool cousins from that side of my family that I looked forward to seeing.

Now, instead of flying down there, like I would if I was actually sane (or much wealthier), I decided to drive down with my parents (I don't have a car) and take a flight back on President's Day since I had to be back here for work on Tuesday and I already took a day off last Friday and wanted to save up more vacation time. They're still there since they rented a condo (which has a separate guest bedroom, so that's why I decided to stay with them to save $) right on the beach and then they're going on a cruise, so they made an entire vacation out of it.

So anyway, without getting into any personal details, everyone managed to get along and we even managed to have some interesting conversations, though we did get in a few arguments from time to time. It was just tough because it made feel like a teenager or younger when I used to go on trips with them since there was only 1 room key and one car, so I was completely dependent upon them for the short duration of time (we got in Saturday night and I left on Monday morning) that I was there. We started driving on Friday morning (from my parents' house in East Brunswick) with me and my dad taking turns driving (the next day, I took turns driving with both my mom and dad) and we made it down to Florence, South Carolina by 9 PM or so, we decided to get rooms there.

Of course, I got my own room and it was good to finally get some alone time. Plus, they had HBO and I got to catch the season premier of Real Time with Bill Maher. Although I don't particularly agree with his attitudes towards women, I think he's generally awesome. He was talking and joking about the White House Jeff Gannon sex scandal that no one is reporting (God bless him for being one of the few who is; of course it was Clinton this would be front-page news ala Monica Lewinsky) as well as frightening statistics about how little regard U.S. teenagers have for personal freedoms that every American (hell every person) should hold sacred, such as the right to dissent and offer controversial opinions. He had Sen. Joe Biden from Delaware, who was a good guest and Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and the former White House health secretary under Bush's 1st term. Of course, Thompson was a complete tool, blindly defending Bush adminstration policy and lauding Bush's role in the Iraqi elections, whereas Biden (despite also being blindly partisan and naive on certain things) made a great point when they were discussing the remarks made recently by Harvard's president about women not being as good at math and science as men are. This is a topic that hits close to home for me since I have an advanced degree in a technical field and I teach math. Anyway, Biden said that over half of all college math degrees are awarded to women, but far less end up using their degrees. Partly, he said the "mommy track" was partly to blame (and he's right), but he also said that there's something else happening, which is that women are discouraged from pursuing careers in technical fields, which is something that Maher (who seems to think that men are inherently better in math and science) refused to acknowledge.

After that, I caught a shitty VH1 movie about Jimi Hendrix and then went to sleep.

On Saturday afternoon, we stopped for lunch in Jacksonville, Florida. What a strange place. On the street where we stopped to eat, there was a Christian study center right next to a gun store and on the next corner was a strip club. Guns, God and titties. You gotta love the dirty South. If I only had a camera on me at the time. Incidentally, Graham Parker once wrote a song called "Ill Never Play Jacksonville Again". I wonder if that's why. :-)

With that said, mad props to Friendly's for having really tasty (and bunless, low-carb friendly) burgers and very tasty low-carb ice cream. We ate the night before at Shoney's, a large and extremely ubiquitous Southern cooking chain (there was one on almost every exit from North Carolina all the way down to Northern Florida) which I loved as a kid (there was one in Baton Rouge that I used to go to all the time with my dad), but which left me less than satisfied. I hadn't eaten in one for at least 11 1/2 years and the seafood buffet left much to be desired, though of course buffet food in general is less than stellar, so maybe that was the problem.

Well, we finally made it down to Hollywood (which is about 20 miles north of Miami and a few miles south of Ft. Lauderdale) at about 9 PM or so and we were all completely tired.

The next day, we had brunch (luckily the complex has a cafe on the main level) and I relaxed in the heated outdoor pool (it was a bit too cold to go into the Atlantic, though at 77 degrees, still considerably nicer than it is here in New York). And then, it was time for the wedding. It was in an old synagogue and frankly, the ceremony was beautiful and again, it was nice to see my cousins who I don't get to see too often.

And just like that, after flying out the next day out of Ft. Lauderdale, my short trip was over and I was back in Manhattan by about 6 PM on Monday. It took me a few days to get back to reality, however, after so much time spent in the car and an ever so short amount of time relaxing in Florida.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tittybong, Australia and other fun sites

This will make you piss your pants laughing, at least if you're into juvenile humor like I am. I'm just surprised that Lake Titicaca (in South America) and Dong Rack (on the border of Thailand and Cambodia) weren't included, but otherwise, this is amazing.

Check the record, check the record, check the guy's track record

Here are links to a couple of sites where you can find a recent show by The Fall:

The files are in Real Audio/Video format. Enjoy!

Crush on Radio

I went to go see the amazing Visqueen open for Neko Case and The Sadies last night at Bowery Ballroom. I arrived there early and met up with a few friends who had also arrived early to catch Visqueen's opening set. They went on at 8:30 sharp and absolutely tore it up. They play with a fire, energy and zeal that most bands just don't have or aspire to have or wouldn't conjure even if they sold their souls to the devil. It's a real shame that they were the openers and that there were only 20 people or so watching them. Rachel Flotard is the obvious star of the show, as the one who writes all of the songs and sings them (and plays guitar as well), but Ben Hooker absolutely blew me away with the intensity of his drumming. 3 or 4 drumsticks went flying through the air and one almost hit Rachel. I haven't seen anyone hit 'em that hard in a long time. Wow. Anyway, they played mostly stuff from their latest record, Sunset on Dateland, which if I would've gotten it sooner, would've been higher on my Best of 2004 list. They also did some stuff from their first record, King Me, as well. After their set, I ran into Rachel and told her that I liked the show and what not. She was really nice in general, though she got a bit weird when I asked her where in New Jersey she's from (Closter, it turns out). Regardless, she signed the setlist I snagged and put a nice Valentine's Day message (as well as a Visqueen sticker) on it for me. It's hanging proudly in my office now.

The Sadies were kind of ho-hum country-rock with a couple of guys who can't really sing. The highlight of their set was their cover of the Byrds/Gram Parsons song "Lazy Days".

Nevertheless, I thought that they would be a better backing band for Neko Case than they were on their own and I was right. During the first half of the set, Neko (one of the hottest women on the planet) and The Sadies played a bunch of songs from her live CD The Tigers Have Spoken and the title track from her brilliant 2002 album Blacklisted. Though it was all good, midway through the set, it got a bit on the boring side, though they did bring out Garth Hudson (!) to play accordion with them for about half of their set (which didn't include an encore, but include a break between sets, though the 2nd set only lasted about 3 or 4 songs). They did a gospel song, a Hank Williams song and a bunch of newer songs (she's recording a new album now) that I didn't recognize. Neko joked around a lot about Valentine's Day, Bad Company (they played "Feel Like Makin' Love" so many times over the PA that I don't think I wanna hear it again for years now) and Blue Oyster Cult.

Oh, and before the 2nd set started, Neko had Rachel from Visqueen come out and they engaged in a mock St. Valentine's Day massacre complete with fake blood, knives and a fake punctured heart that Neko pulled out (ruining a Sweet "Teenage Rampage" shirt that she said she'd had for 12 years and that she looked incredible in, if I may say so myself).

After the show, I talked to Ronnie Barnett, Visqueen's new bass player as well as the long-time bass player for the similarly-inclined Muffs. Real nice guy. I can't wait to see them again in a few weeks at Maxwells, where they'll be opening for Shonen Knife.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Shooting at the Walls of Heartache

On Friday night, I saw Scandal. That's right, I said Scandal. Yeah, "bang bang, I am the warrior" and all that shit. Now how did this happen, you may be thinking? Well, simple. My friend Ian got 10 free tickets for this show and since I'm a casual fan of theirs (I have both of their records on vinyl, though I play 2 songs on each of them) and it was free and a bunch of other people we know came out as well, I decided to go. The club that it was at is a place called The Starland Ballroom, which is located in Sayreville, NJ (the hometown of Bon Jovi and Overkill, among others, and generally the heavy metal capital of Jersey; it's known as "Slayerville" if that gives you any idea). Now, I've been there twice before (I saw Fountains of Wayne there for free and then a few months later, a really sucky Psychedelic Furs show, though The Alarm, who opened, were surprisingly fantastic), so they do book good acts sometimes.

Anyway, as you might imagine, going in there for a nostalgia show like Scandal (apparently it was their 2nd show together after 20 years) meant that you were going into a time warp. I saw more feathered hair, mullets or quasi-mullets, teased-up hair, moustaches and other styles that haven't been popular for 15+ years there than I've seen in many years. Between acts, they were playing late '80s hair metal band videos of bands like Britny Fox and Warrant, many of which I admittedly recognized from watching way too much MTV in the late '80s and which made me realized that I'm glad that Nirvana, et al. killed that entire scene (or at least didn't make it so prominent).

Oh and let's talk about the beer situation. The only things they had on tap other than Bud (ok folks what do American beer and having sex on a boat have in common? Give up? They're both fucking close to water. ha) was this monstrosity called Red Hook (at least that's what I think it was), which later made me feel not so good later in the evening since I discerned that they probably didn't clean the tap properly.

As for the band, well none of the songs were memorable other than their 4 most-known ones (opener "Love's Got a Line on You", "Goodbye to You", "The Warrior" and "Beat of a Heart"). They were never a particularly great band, but I think they had some good songs (the ones I mentioned) back in their day and straddled the line between early '80s new wave and AOR much like The Plimsouls, The Romantics, The Motels and bands of that ilk. It was good to see Patty Smyth so into it and prancing around on stage (and she still looks fantastic, too) . Unfortunately, the rest of the band had the stage presence of cement and played like it, too. Honestly, they were competent, but sounded like a cover band. Oh well, sometimes you get what you pay for.

And last night, I started off at The Underscore, a new club on the Upper East Side (it was nice to see more punk and ska kids in the neighborhood where I work in than they probably ever see in one place ever!) where 3 ska bands were playing. My friend Sue had told me about the show since the saxophonist of one of the bands (Rudie Crew) lives in her neighborhood in Brooklyn. I met him before their set and he told me that in addition to playing with the Stubborn All-Stars, he was one of the horn players that Rancid took on tour with them in 1996 when they were on the Lollapalooza tour, so that was pretty cool. Another cool thing about this show was that the Hub City Stompers ("Hub City" is a nickname for New Brunswick) were playing. Some of their members were in another New Brunswick, NJ based band called Inspecter 7, who I used to see play all the time when I was in college and what not. I hadn't seen any of them in years, so it was nice to talk to one of them before the show. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for their set since my friend Norm's band Gold Streets was playing downtown and I had promised Norm that I'd go, so I left after Rudie Crew's set and tried to catch them.

Again, unfortunately, because the 4 and 5 trains have been messed up all weekend, it took ALMOST AN HOUR AND A HALF for me to get down to the Financial District where they were playing (a bizarre venue called The Pussycat Lounge, which is a pretty cool rock club upstairs and downstairs, a lame modern day Manhattan strip club where there's a 6-foot barrier between the customers and the strippers, who aren't even allowed to be fully nude, and the clientele seemed to comprised of a lot of Wall Street types, which makes sense given the neighborhood that it's in). Needless to say, I missed their set and by the time that I got there, the band who played after them had just finished. I did manage to catch Battery (an all-girl trio who sound a lot like Sleater-Kinney), however, and I ended up hanging out with everyone afterwards. After helping to unload their gear and after getting some food, we ended up at this surprisingly (because of the neighborhood it's in) great and un-trendy (I love neighborhood type bars and I hate packed, cramped, trendy places) bar on E. 6th St. where we essentially completely occupied the place, got free shots, danced like maniacs while great music (Social Distortion, The Clash, early Pretenders, Billy Idol, etc.) blared. All in all, it was a very fun evening.

Well today's the Super Bowl, so go Eagles! Man I hate the fucking Patriots, but that's for another time (after the game).

Friday, February 04, 2005

Back in my day... (must be said in Dana Carvey's old-man voice)

This is an article that I saw earlier today that definitely struck a nerve with me. I love my CDs and vinyl and cassettes, but as we delve further into the age of downloading and mp3s and what not, are we losing something in the process? I can definitely relate to the author here since I used to go to the one decent record store in my town every Friday and buy a different album ($4 each) in the back section where they kept all the used vinyl and mixed the punk/hardcore stuff (what I liked) with the metal records and that's how I got the 1st Clash Lp, Minor Threat's "Out of Step", Shudder to Think's "Funeral at the Movies", MDC's "Smoke Signals", the 1st Suicidal Tendencies album and others. Oh and when I first started college, I remember going back there one night and acquiring a 2 Lp Velvet Underground German gatefold sleeve compilation of material from their 1st 3 Lps and a New York Dolls gatefold sleeve double Lp of their 2 albums in one. Some of these records and bands are still all-time favorites today and I often wonder, did it mean more to me back then (and consequently, even now) than it does now, when everything is so much easier to acquire and the physical product as a medium for recorded music is becoming a thing of the past? Comments?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

V-Day Bears (or why I'm not PC)

Well, with Valentine's Day coming up soon, I thought that I'd share the following links:

This really makes me think that the advocates for the mentally-handicapped have no sense of humor and really need to lighten up. Well, I thought that it was pretty funny at least.

Furthermore, I saw this in the Onion a few weeks ago. I mean that's funny as hell and if I was a woman receiving it, I would fine it cute and not offensive.

Fire Isn't Free (or Rebellion...Lies...whichever you prefer)

This was the title of a craigslist post regarding tickets for one of the 2 shows that The Arcade Fire recently played here (last night at Irving Plaza and the night before at Webster Hall) and boy was it true!

After missing the onsale date in December partly because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it (how nice of my school to not let me know of my teaching schedule until LAST FRIDAY when the class I'm teaching this semester started on Tuesday), I decided to try to get a ticket to last night's show. After coming up short on craigslist and waiting outside for hours and coming up empty, I finally found a guy willing to sell me an extra ticket for $65 (keep in mind that the original price of the ticket was $15 plus fees and furthermore, I talked him down from his original asking price of $80).

Now, ordinarily, I wouldn't pay such an exorbitant figure to see a show, especially one where the original ticket price was much cheaper, but after waiting for hours, I just didn't care anymore and wanted to get in. I'd love to be able to pout off some righteous screed right about now with the headline "Fuck you scalpers" and while I find the practice deplorable and have never sold a ticket above face value and fees in my entire life, the truth is that if people are willing to pay for it, the practice will continue. It's just supply and demand folks. There were others outside at 10:15 (3o minutes before they were scheduled to go on) last night still waiting and hoping to get in and I'm sure someone else would've offered the guy I got the ticket from an equal or even greater amount of money.

Anyhow, after waiting in line for the coat check (luckily I was the last person whose coat and bag they took; after that they had no more room!) and a bracelet for alcohol, I finally got upstairs and within about 10 minutes, they came on and man were they awesome. There must've been about 9 of them, each of them just going nuts and creating an enveloping and at times completely overwhelming wall of sound that's a feast for the eyes and ears. At times, so much was going on that I could barely keep up. I mean, just envision a male singer/guitarist who occasionally plays keyboards occasionally along with a female singer/keyboardist/occasional lead singer and their supporting cast of Blue Man Group members (not literally, but at times, 2 different percussionsists wore helmets, hit each other with drumsticks, were banging cymbals against the monitor and banging on a kick drum), a violinist and a great rhythm section. Oh and they switched instruments almost every couple of songs and it wasn't just for a gag, either. It's obvious that they're all very talented musicians that can play whatever's put up in front of them. And the energy in the place was unbelievable, not just the kind where everyone in the audience knew that they were seeing a great band with the potential to be really big like The Shins (who I saw there about a year ago), but a combination of that with just the feeling of being blown away by a band's energy, movements and songs. Anyway, here's the short version: if you chance to go see them, do it before they startheadlining Hammerstein and Radio City Music Hall like Interpol (don't get me wrong; I love Interpol, but I just prefer seeing indie bands in smaller venues; there are very few bands who have a big enough sound to fill out a space like Radio City Music Hall, though eventually The Arcade Fire may be among them because they sound gigantic and epic).

Anyway, for the encore they finished with "Rebellion (Lies)" and then brought out David Byrne (!!!), who sang their version of The Talking Heads' great "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" with them. What an amazing sight and an amazing night. Oh and I didn't wanna admit this, but I feel like I have to when I say that I almost cried during "Crown of Love".