Saturday, December 29, 2007


thick with inertia over here. back from tour. a million thoughts and experiences to process and a million more to prepare for as i prepare to resume life as it was.

since i've been back, everybody asks me how this experience was. have lamented to my girlfriend that each time i've been cut off soon after i've begun to answer. no one seems to want to hear more than one anecdote, more than one impression or angle. but really, it was a month's worth of experiences, with all the ups and downs that that would entail.

i can tell you the greatest feeling easily. sometime earlyish in '07, my bandmate Joe and i stood by the stoop of his Greenpoint apartment discussing the idea of getting serious about Stay Fucked, pushing it further, allowing ourselves to own up to what we really wanted it to be. our goals were pretty modest, but not simple by any means. we wanted a record out on a label and we wanted to really head out on the road, to capitalize on all the contacts we'd made, to test out an idea we suspected was true--namely that our band did in fact measure up.

returning from the tour last Saturday, after an absolutely hellish drive from D.C. during which we averaged about 15mph, we were unloading Joe's stuff from the van onto the very same stoop. i felt totally exhausted, residually ill--i was sick with flu-like symptoms for the majority of the tour and still haven't fully recovered--just completely zonked, but i was able to relish the moment for a second. there we were, back in the same place, having simply done what it was we said we were going to do: 26 shows coast-to-coast in 29 days; released an awesome-sounding, awesome-looking CD via a cool label that sold pretty damn well on the road; hell, we even made our own T-shirts. it is weird that it's so hard, but it is, to simply come up with an idea and do it.

i have no idea how to summarize this experience. some observations:

1) Myspace makes booking a fun and even solvent tour really, really easy. I mean sure we had to bother people over and over again and sure some of those people totally flaked on us, but for the most part it was a breeze. all you have to do is find bands you'd like to play with in whatever city and just ask nicely for a show.

2) You can get a lot more for your money in other cities. The awesome John Delzoppo, of the killer Cleveland-based avant-shred duo Clan of the Cave Bear, is proof of this. For less than i pay for my tiny Greenpoint bedroom, he inhabits a palatial loft complete with practice space, recording studio and a totally sweet Guitar Hero rig. We spent two of the funnest days of the tour hanging at--and envying the shit out of--Chez John.

3) Waffle House is quite good! The waffles themselves are kind of average and sub-Eggo, but you can't beat those hashbrown options such as Scattered, Smothered (w/ onions), Covered (w/ cheese), Peppered (w/, uh, peppers), etc. Has anyone noticed that the veteran noise-rock Unsane has an album ("Scattered, Smothered and Covered") that was very likely named after this exact menu quirk?

4) If you ever go on the road for a long time, you should bring a lot of stand-up comedy. All Stay Fucked members have a nearly limitless and omnivorous appetite for tons of different music (i personally tripped hard over late Zeppelin on this trip--big ups to "Presence," like our old bassist Andres said), but after a while, you just long for words and sentences, especially of the absurd variety. a book on tape might be hard to concentrate on, but the bite-sized format of stand-up really did the trick. We got some serious mileage out of Daniel Tosh's "True Stories I Made Up." Imagine the even more super-sarcastic and cutting offspring of Seann William Scott (Steve Stifler of "American Pie" fame) and Ryan Reynolds ("Waiting," anyone?) and you'll get an idea of where this guy is coming from.

5) Every truckstop tape rack contains two or three incredible oddball selections. Always buy them. An '06 Big A little a tour yielded a selection from the illustrious discography of everyone's favorite lovably tame African-American comedian, Sinbad. This time, we had a few outstanding finds, including the ripping King Crimson live record "USA"; Shudder to Think's way-underrated second major label effort, "50,000 BC"; "SST Acoustic," a totally improbable compilation featuring unplugged tracks from SST groups like the Minutemen and Saccharine Trust; an album of Dudley Moore's New Age piano music (!?!?); and last but not least, the true find of the trip: "Disharmonization" by Carbonized, a Swedish avant-death-metal group that sounds like a combination of Voivod, late Black Flag and primitive grindcore. truly out there stuff; am trying to find some tracks to post...

6) Tallahassee, Florida, has an incredibly advanced and fertile music scene. we played an intensely fun show at a cavernous yet awesome-sounding venue called the Beta Bar with four very diverse bands including the powerful, Isis-esque trio the Western Hold and the riotously awesome math-rock&roll outfit Spike Mott and the Blackest Knights of the Darkest Apocalypse. then we hung deep w/ members of the latter band and talked prog and jazz till dawn and marveled at the seething eccentric creativity of these dudes, all of whom were in like six other bands, including the UNREAL tech-metal quartet Spiketrain and the gorgeous post-rock group Dead Legs. go there and play if you are a weird band.

7) two best sandwiches of tour were at Kevino's Hot Dogs and Sandwiches in Atlanta and Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh. the former was a very unassuming looking spot in a strip mall right near Lenny's Bar, where we played. the cuisine was advertised as Chicago-style, which was odd, considering that we were in the south. this place totally came out of left field with a crushing onslaught of flavor. Joe scored a tilapia bite, Tony a bulbous cheesesteak and me a glorious "Chicago style beef" number, dripping with jus and seasoned with an amazing concoction of pickled peppers and carrots. total sumptuousness. Primanti's meanwhile, is more of a known city landmark in Pittsburgh. pretty basic hot deli-ish sandwiches served on thick white bread, but with the added awesomeness of FRENCH FRIES mixed into the sandwich itself. definitely a trip.

8) coolest venue of tour may have been Detroit's Big Gray Shack. imagine a punk house combined with a ski lodge and you'll start to get an idea of the cozy electricity of this joint. incredibly nice people too. check out the totally brutal avant-grind band Letters in Binary; they slayed and were some of the warmest folks we encountered.

9) it was a huge personal thrill for me to play in front of a few of my musical heroes on this tour, including Will Scharf and Joe McTighe of Craw, Nick Sakes of Dazzling Killmen and Thymme Jones of Cheer-Accident. these dudes are all sine qua nons of the music i play now. though some of them are more modest than others, they're all geniuses and pillars of American underground awesomeness.

10) biggest mindblowing laffs were courtesy of the Crazy Dave Tape II and the "Office Hours" cartoon by Brad Neely. the former was a DVD handed off to us by a disturbed-seeming indie-scene guru in Cleveland. we laughed it off until we popped it in on a lark and were blown away by its hysterical barrage of skillfully segued gore and porn clips interlaced with weirdo cartoons and intensely unlikely celebrity clips from the netherreaches of pop culture. a truly committed artwork that we must've watched ten or more times over various tour stops. "Office Hours" is simply a masterpiece of freeform comedy. it simultaneously makes no sense and some deep form of unprecedented sense. please watch it here (note: my browser doesn't seem to like to play videos from this site, Super Deluxe; let me know if it plays okay when you click it):

i'm going to let all that suffice for now. so much more experienced, so much more to say. thanks to all dear friends for housing, support, company on the road, help with T-shirts including: Laal, Russ, Anna, Tom and Abby, Eli, all my family and friends in KC/Lawrence, Maya and her family in L.A., my aunt Sandy and Uncle Jon, my cousin Casey, the astoundingly nice and hospitable Dave Erb and his band the Yoleus of St. Paul, Tin "Above and beyond" Cagayat of San Diego, Shane Perlowin, Gideon, Sean, Craig/This Is My Condition, Eric in Madison, Sammy and Burgers of Lubbock, the dudes and dudettes of the Yukon, Calabi Yau and The Felon Wind and Muscle Brain and Lemp and Motion Turns It On and I, Octopus and A. Armada and Thrips and Capillary Action and Robots vs. Villages and Barkitecture and Flesh Epic and Thy Mighty Contract and Agape and Pincer and Good for Cows and entourages and all the other incredible bands we played with and Vanessa from War zine for interviewing us and the good folks at KFJC radio in Los Altos Hills and all photographers (pic above is from Chicago by Nick Shamblott) and anyone i'm forgetting. whew!


for the curious, here is where we went and who we played with:

Friday, 11/23
BALTIMORE, MD - Ottobar w/ Yukon + Monarch + Jason Dove and the Magic Whip

Saturday, 11/24
PITTSBURGH, PA - Garfield Artworks w/ Puma Barrier + Bacchus

Sunday, 11/25
CLEVELAND, OH – Now That’s Class w/ Pincer + Clan of the Cave Bear + Defeatist + Black Ladies

Monday, 11/26
DETROIT, MI – Big Gray Shack w/ Slicer Dicer + Letters in Binary + Dean Machine

Tuesday, 11/27
MADISON, WI – Cafe Montmartre Eric’s U. Wisconson art studio w/ Capillary Action + Bastard Trio

Wednesday, 11/28
ST. LOUIS, MO – Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center w/ Muscle Brain + The Sacoth + Waxwork of a Dynasty

Thursday, 11/29
CHICAGO, IL – The Mutiny w/ Behold! + Goodbye Satellites

Friday, 11/30
ST. PAUL, MN – Big V’s w/ The Yoleus + Kontrol Panel + Arctic Universe

Saturday, 12/1
LAWRENCE, KS – The Replay Lounge w/ This Is My Condition and Dan Kozak + Cave + Monobrau

Sunday, 12/2
DENVER, CO – Rhinoceropolis w/ They Will Use Your Bones for Tools + Spellcaster + Kitchclub

Monday, 12/3
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Red Light Books w/ Agape + Cathexes

Wednesday, 12/5
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Thee Parkside w/ Hammer Horror Classics + Thrips

Thursday, 12/6
OAKLAND, CA – 21 Grand w/ The Devin Hoff Platform + Weasel Walter/Kyle Bruckmann/Moe! Staiano Trio

Friday, 12/7
SAN DIEGO, CA – Scolari’s Office w/ Fkenal + Secret Fun Club + Hialeah

Saturday, 12/8
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Smell w/ Good for Cows + Grandpire

Sunday, 12/9
LONG BEACH, CA – The Que Sera w/ National Sunday Law + Cossack

Monday, 12/10
PHOENIX, AZ – Trunkspace w/ Harlequin Babies + James Fella

Wednesday, 12/12
LUBBOCK, TX – La Panza’s house Jessica’s house w/ La Panza + The Numerators

Thursday, 12/13
HOUSTON, TX – Super Happy Fun Land w/ Stove Blow + Thread Atlas + Motion Turns It On

Friday, 12/14
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Hi-Ho Lounge w/ I, Octopus + Tchoupchoupacabra

Saturday, 12/15
ATHENS, GA – Caledonia Lounge w/ Caledonia Social Club + A. Armada

Monday, 12/17
ATLANTA, GA – Lenny’s Bar w/ Thy Mighty Contract + The Lasch + Ski Club

Tuesday, 12/18
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Beta Bar w/ Spike Mott and the Blackest Knights of the Darkest Apocalypse + Tron + The Western Hold + Thank You Kindly

Wednesday, 12/19
ASHEVILLE, NC – New French Bar w/ Robots vs. Villages + Doom Ribbons + Flesh Epic

Thursday, 12/20
CHARLOTTE, NC – Yauhaus w/ Calabi Yau + The Felon Wind + The St. Peter Pocket Veto

Friday, 12/21
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lighthouse w/ Barkitecture + Double Dutch + Hindges + Stymphalian Birds and White Stags

Monday, November 19, 2007

En road

getting ready to head out on the road with my band, Stay Fucked--whom you see above-- for a month (!). very excited, stressed, happy, tired, etc. should be a fun tour. check out the itinerary here and come on out to see us if we're playing your town. if anyone has done this before and has tips re: what to bring or what not to bring, i'm all ears.


suffice it to say, i won't be on here much at all through New Year's. i leave you with a few updates and recommendations:

1) re: my upcoming writing stuff... had a fun time researching and interviewing Gene Ween re: his band's new album and career and all that stuff. check the Time Out site next Thursday, 11/29, and you'll be able to read that.

2) also, in a few weeks' time (not sure exactly when), my 2007 Top 10 (i.e., CDs i liked best this year) will be published via same mag, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested.

3) re: that list, one CD that isn't on it is "Nothing But Change" by the Octagon. believe me, it wasn't left out due to it not being an absolutely awesome rock album. it would, though, seem kinda dubious to plug it via my day job, simply b/c i am old friends with those boys and once played in a band w/ frontman Zack Mexico. however one slices it, it's an outstanding disc--raucous yet efficient, wrenchingly sad yet goofy at times; very, very raw yet poetic; daring; honest, even scarily so. i wonder what it must be like to play such emotionally up-front music. it's real and new and smart and, yes, extremely catchy. special nod to one of my drum heroes, Will Glass, who manages to make REAL jazz know-how and kit-tone sound at home inside punk-spirited indie rock--no small achievement (if you are really listening, you will hear Ed Blackwell and Levon Helm for sure). buy here, at the website of Serious Business, a label owned and operated by my also-bud Travis Harrison.

here's one of my fave tracks from that record:

The Octagon - Lee Harvey

4) "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a viciously exhilarating picture. was not really prepared for the rawness and the relentless downward spiral, emotional wringer, etc. of this one. kind of feels more like a play than a movie in parts, but it is admirably single-minded. it just wants to show you what life looks like as it is just completely tanking--methodically, excruciatingly tanking. beware but don't miss, if you get my meaning.

5) am still working on my freelance piece on the remarkable percussionist Cleve Pozar. more news in early '08. meanwhile...

6) and i leave you with a gem. this is the theme song to Robert Altman's insanely weird winged-serial-killer drama/farce "Brewster McCloud" by one John Phillips, late of the Mamas and the Papas. surreal, scary, lush and like the movie, utterly fucked up. [this track was recorded around the time of "Jack of Diamonds," Phillips's second solo LP from the early '70s, which was not released at the time, but has just come out in CD form--this song appears as a bonus track on said CD. my thoughts on that disc will also be in the next issue of Time Out NY.]

John Phillips - Last of the Unnatural Acts


have an awesome holiday time. i will see you in '08...

[though i reserve the right to jump back on here around Christmastime if i feel it necessary.]

Monday, November 12, 2007

Beheld... the future

feeling utterly screwed thanks to the flu. no doubt it would be even worse if it weren't for Skullgrid, the new opus by NYC prog-metal titans Behold... the Arctopus. while tossing and turning last night, i had this one on--yeah, for some reason, i like to fall asleep to death metal--and it was just the thing. took me away from my illness and thrust me onboard a superfuturistic space cruiser. this is serious, serious science fiction as filtered through metal. i have no words to express how strange, advanced and completely crucial this CD is. you will envision 4-D alien architecture, posthuman technology, the flowering of cyborg civilization, etc. etc. listening to this, you'll be truly astonished at how far the team-up of humans and instruments has come.

my band had the great pleasure of opening for these dudes on Saturday night and dear God, did they slay. people were freaking.

speaking of my band, we have a new CD out, and we're embarking on a monthlong U.S. tour starting 11/23. please check here for all tour dates and come see us if we're coming through your area, which we most likely are!


quicklike: No Country for Old Men is splendid entertainment. Coen Bros. choose not to fuck w/ McCarthy's cometlike--read: righteously brisk/curt--novel and emerge with a, well, righteously brisk/curt film. the film pretty much cruises. maybe invincible archvillain Chigurh was a tad goofier than i'd've liked, but Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin (Brand from Goonies!!!) were completely at home in their roles. as many have pointed out more eloquently than i, Coens really got out of the way of this one and just let it roll. read the book too, for sure.


quickerlike: overheard at Thursday's brutally efficient Enslaved/Arsis show at B.B. King's (read Kelefa Sanneh's likewise brutally efficient, and expertly calibrated NYTimes preview thereof here):

curly-maned teenage Arsis fan [addressing equally curly-maned--and severely denimed-out--Arsis bassist, Noah Martin]: Great set, man!

Noah Martin: Thanks, man!

C-MTAF: Can I ask you a weird question?

NM: Sure, man.

C-MTAF: Uh, [points to NM's curly mane] so, do you condition?

NM: [smiling proudly] Yeah, actually I do!


not much you can really say about that, huh?

also, some guy took the break between the Enslaved set proper and their encore as an opportunity to get up onstage and actually PROPOSE to his girlfriend, who was absolutely NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. she eventually came running up toward the stage, but it was too late; the dude was already slinking away from the mike, deeply ashamed. incredibly awkward times down at B.B. King's, lemme tell you!


Enslaved definitely ripped it. meat-and-potatoes Norwegian black metal, seasoned w/ plenty of RAWK and some goblet-raising prog grandeur. nothing too flashy, just killer riffs and good times. apparently the dude next to me thought so too, as he kept whipping me in the face with his own curly mane. thems the hazards of headbanging, right there...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What's "My Name..."?

as promised, here's my take on "My Name Is Albert Ayler," opening tonight at Anthology Film Archives. any Ayler fan really needs to see this.

also, have been very much digging the new ESP reissue of Ayler's Hilversum Session--tape is a little wobbly (there are some weird panning effects happening), but the playing is insane. for my money, this was Ayler's best group: the "Spiritual Unity" trio plus Don Cherry.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Don Ayler, R.I.P.

just heard the sad news of Don Ayler's passing at this excellent Albert Ayler site. funny, since i just reviewed the very strong new Ayler doc--which features extensive interview footage of Don and a lot of info on the brothers' tumultuous relationship--for Time Out. that issue will be out Thursday and i'll link to the piece here. (Don's on the left above, btw.)

here's an mp3 that might be of interest. it's from Don Ayler's only Albert-less recording, a triple-LP set called "In Florence 1981." all info on this session is here. some of this stuff is surprisingly straight-ahead, but this track is pretty out there (i snagged Volume 1 from Church Number 9 before it went belly-up; anyone have parts 2 and 3?). some nice Ayler soloing after the reedist has had his say:

Don Ayler - The African Song
rec. 7/18/81 in Florence

same Ayler site led me to this fascinating clip of evangelical saxist Rosie Haynes. the Ayler resemblance is pretty intense:

also in more Ayler-universe news, check out this flyer advertising a new Sunny Murray large group--performing only in Luxembourg, unfortunately--containing an insane array of talent: Odean Pope, Khan Jamal, Bobby Few and Sonny Simmons, for starters--hot damn!


p.s. - if anyone happens to read my Nate Wooley live review in this month's Wire and can't figure out why parts of it don't make sense, it's due to some editing snafus. drop a comment here if you want to see the corrected text--don't think the mag would be cool w/ me posting it here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Anything said

forgot to link to my Say Anything preview in Time Out, which resideth here. tho it kinda don't matter too much, since the show in question was *tonight*!

attended w/ Laal. had great deals of fun. this one was a first on several levels. had not seen Say Anything before, but had also not been to Hammerstein Ballroom before. i generally despise the vicinity of my office, so i bolt as quickly as possible, but tonight i had to stick around b/c the Hammerstein is like four minutes from where i work. for those who have not had the privilege, picture Webster Hall reimagined as an airplane hangar and you're part of the way there. this place is fucking HUGE, cavernous, etc. i felt like i was at a track meet or something.

it would have been dumb not to expect a raging teenybopper crowd at this one, but the whole MySpace Music Tour thing caught me a bit off-guard. i had kinda half-registered the fact that the site was sponsoring the tour (other bands were Hellogoodbye and Polysics, both of whom i missed, and the godawful Young Love, who were like a lobotomized version of the Cars or somethin.). i name-checked MySp in my article above, but it was sort of more a reference to the whole emo zeitgeist than a specific nod to that online community. but lo and behold, there it was: manifested in a gargantuan MySpace-logo-festooned tour bus parked on 34th St and in actual MySpace-equipped kiosks stationed throughout the venue. as if people need another excuse or opportunity to fucking go online...

and there were of course references sprinkled throughout the set. one of the guitar players was like, "So how's everyone enjoying the MYSPACE MUSIC TOUR?!?" he was totally serious. Max Bemis (lead singer) was a bit less tacky; asking if people had checked out the songs from their new album, he said, "If you've checked our MYSPACE page anytime recently, you might have heard this one." his tone was gently mocking, but yeah, the pluggery was intense. (as was the camera-phone-video proliferation. jesus christ, you can probably view every second of this show from like 7000 different angles on YouTube as we speak...)

as was Say Anything's set. the band is a joy to watch. Max really works the crowd and sings his guts out, but he's got a lot of help in the form of, count 'em, FOUR guitarists, all of whom double on vocals. yeah, a lot of motion of the stage. all the guys look so young, especially the drummer, who couldn't have been 20.

the band was in total crowd-please mode setlist wise. about 70% of the tunes were taken from "...Is a Real Boy," Say Anything's 2004 breakthrough disc, which over the past few months i have come to regard as one of the catchiest, funniest and most insanely ambitious things ever to emerge from the alt-rock movement. "Belt," "Woe" (Laal's fave), "Every Man Needs a Molly," "Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat," "The Futile" and of course the two biggies, "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" and "Alive with the Glory Love." the audience was screaming along with every word, and i gotta say, it was pretty amazing to hear "Alive," dealing as it does with the Holocaust--my oh-so-eloquent preview sez the song "recasts [Bemis's] grandparents’ persecution in Nazi Germany as a teenage sex romp--screamed by a bunch of young'ns: "Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love!"

a few tunes from the new disc, "In Defense of the Genre," were played, and i gotta say, i'm pretty happy it was only a few. the disc (actually it's two discs) has been sort of dudlike for me. out of almost 30 songs, i only really like two or three, which is pretty paltry. it's still very ambitious and grandly conceived, but a lot of the awesome self-deprecation and quirky humor that makes "Real Boy" so great is just totally missing. as are the badass hooks. though the song "Shiksa (Girlfriend)"--currently spinning at, whaddya know!, the band's MYSPACE PAGE, which (OMG!) actually has a scan of my frickin article--is fucking killer, a really vicious slice of sexually intoxicated emo. hope i come around on the rest of the disc b/c i've fucking worn out my copy of "Real Boy."

you've got to hear that CD. if you haven't checked the two "hits," please do so.

(that one is absolutely hysterical! brilliant, presumably autobiographical lyrics about a vegetative phone-sex addict:
"If I die and go to hell real soon / It will appear to me as this room / And for eternity I'd lay in bed / In my boxers, half-stoned with a pillow under my head...")

and "Alive..."--a less-inspired video, but a song for the ages, no b.s.:

that one gives you a nice view of the long-maned bassist's epic hair-flips, which were in total daredevil effect tonight.

cool show, and so short! less than an hour start-to-finish.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

At the Helm

Laal and i checked out the Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm Studios last night! definitely a trip. basically the deal is this: Levon Helm, former drummer of the Band, has built himself a studio/performance space in a big, beautiful barn in Woodstock, NY, and every few weeks, he puts on concerts there.

i'd known about this for awhile and though i'd wanted to catch Levon forever, i avoided it b/c it was too damned expensive. but the stars (cough, press perks, cough) aligned this time and everything worked out. it was definitely a pilgrimage sort of thing--i was really happy to be able to check Levon off my list of Idols Witnessed in Person.

we flaked and did not bring a carved pumpkin, as was requested. but many other attendees came through as you can see above (photos weren't allowed inside the show, so this is all i got). i thought it was a little funny that someone chose to carve the "Last Waltz" logo given Levon's very public disdain for that concert and production (the full story is in his incredible memior, This Wheel's On Fire, but Levon's basic position is that the Band's breakup was a money-grabbing stunt perpetrated on the other members by Robbie Robertson), but the pic still gives you an idea of the homey vibe happening up there.

so it really was a barn, for real. people brought all sorts of chips and cookies and potluck sorts of things that were laid out on the first floor. the studio was upstairs--all unpainted wood and brick. modern-looking but very classy. the ceilings were high but space was pretty limited. if i had to estimate i'd say about 100 people fit in there. though they could have, they didn't oversell the thing. most of the folding chairs were taken, but there was plenty of room for dancing and whatnot.

we watched from the balcony for most of the set. Levon's band came out after a few opening acts, which we missed for the most part. he's got a pretty excellent little group, with two guitarists--one of whom, Larry Campbell, produced Helm's new album and happens to be the brother of this dude who was my boss at an old temp job--a stand-up bassist, a trombonist, a saxist, a pianist and a few guest singers: one a female country singer and an excellent blues singer/harmonica player, Little Sammy Davis. [sorry for the sketchy personnel info; can't find all these folks' names.]

Levon's voice is hoarse, but very much there. he sang lead on about half the tunes, and drummed on all but a few--getting up for some mandolin numbers in the middle. the setlist was probably 70% old-timey blues, country and rock & roll (songs like "I Want to Know" that i hadn't heard, but that felt very familiar), with a few Band songs ("Ophelia," "Rag Mama Rag," "The Weight" and--probably the highlight of the night--"Chest Fever," w/ Campbell doing a really solid lead vocal and a great guitar imitation of Garth Hudson's famous organ part) and a few Dylan songs (including a great version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry").

this isn't intended as an insult, but Levon's music post-Band is not rocket science. he's not a songwriter in any sense, and he's not really interested in expanding his repertoire; he just likes to groove and have a good time, and this show reminded you that his real gift is entertaining. being a drummer, i obviously had my eyes glued to him the whole time, but i know i wasn't the only one. he just exudes good cheer and pure rhythm and the bounce and groove were heavy all night.

in some of the Band videos, especially "The Last Waltz," Levon's performance has an almost dire vibe, with a lot of grimacing and visible effort. here though, he was all smiles. there was rarely a minute when he didn't have this huge grin on his face--his hair is silver, but he looks totally sharp. he was winking and nodding his head to various audience members--i think i even got a nod at one point and felt totally blessed--and just generally holding court. the sound was absolutely excellent and though it was a little chilly right near the entrance, the studio was really, really cozy and awesome.

back to the drumming, though. i'm sort of stalling on this part of my account, because it's hard to evoke it accurately. let's just say that his chops and groove are completely intact and that i was totally digging the copious classic Levon licks he was busting out. his fills were minimal yet epic as always; there's that great little move where does a little press roll moving from the hi-hat to the ride and gives that little snarl. and then there's his awesome syncopation, the way his cymbal hand generally follows his snare hand--totally busting up the idea that drumming is all about limb independence. there were many times last night where he was playing the exact same thing on the cymbal, snare and bass drum, and the pocket was just insanely deep. he was also throwing out those awesome one-handed rolls--he never uses back-and-forth sticking unless he needs to. also, i was thrilled to hear maybe my favorite rhythmic figure in rock played live: that cavernous syncopated bass-drum thud in the outro of the chorus of "The Weight"--duh / duh / duh / duh / duh --***boom***... kang. i felt that so deeply last night.

listen, if you're a fan, you've got to go check this out at least once.


made contact with another phenomenal drummer on Friday, Mr. Cleve Pozar, alive and well in Clinton Hill. i'm working with Cleve on his oral history, portions of which are scheduled to be electronically published soon. i'll keep you posted! absolutely fascinating cat. details were sketchy when i posted on him awhile back, but i'm getting the full story from the source! short list of heavy players Cleve has worked with: Bob James, Cooper-Moore (then Gene Ashton), Eric Dolphy, Bill Dixon, Jimmy Garrison, Peter Ivers. many crazy tales, i assure you...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lance Hahn is dead

just heard some really fucked up news, which is that Lance Hahn from J. Church died on Sunday of kidney disease. it seems petty to write myself into this story, but i was just listening to the band yesterday at work; i even poked around for some info on what they were up to and heard about Lance's illness, but man, nothing about this...

i don't know what to say about J. Church (which, for all intents and purposes, was Lance, with whomever he happened to be playing with at the time)... they were one of my favorite bands in high school, one of those bands that seemed to completely transcend the genre they were tied to. i guess you could call them "pop-punk" but this music was just so much more real, honest, intelligent, etc. like there was a time when i would've applied those adjectives to Bad Religion, but i've long since outgrown that phase. not so w/ J. Church, who still sound real to me.

Lance's lyrics were incredibly personal, incredibly poetic... i always liked this verse, from "Foreign Films":

"She comes around on a Thursday night,
With a six pack of Becks and a lot on her mind,
I’ve got to work tomorrow at eight A.M.,
I find two glasses that have not been used,
She follows me into my room,
She plays that same R.E.M. record again"

it doesn't look as good typed, and might even appear self-consciously arty or whatever. but there was just this sense listening to J Church that you were listening to the sound of someone sort of scraping by, getting through. and not in a woe-is-me way: actually sort of celebrating the marginal aspects of their existence.

Lance was always very upfront in his songs about the almost gravitational force that work was in his life. he wrote about it often, as in the song "Bottom Rung," which really captured the ecstasy and despair of the five-day work week, something of which i knew nothing when i first heard the song, but which now makes almost too much sense:

"Friday night I went out for a drink.
Saturday and Sunday I was free.
Free to sleep.
Free to read.
Freedom from security."

jesus, amen. on a similar theme, there's a really interesting little treatise on that topic here, which seems to amount to a reversal of Hahn's earlier position. in that blog entry, he claims that "I sort of feel all musicians should also have a day job." he describes a period when he was only touring and how he felt sort of guilty or useless. maybe it's just that without the daily grind, he didn't have much to write about. he wasn't a mope, but existential despair was pretty central to what he did.

beautiful singer, beautiful melodies, extremely literate, always rattling off philosophy and free-jazz references in an extremely nonperfunctory way (check out the Hahn review of Bill Dixon's Odyssey that's archived here--it's listed as "In the J Church Listening Room"), definitely a classic punk-rock lefty--he wrote for Maximum Rock & Roll and was not above scene politics. but he always took a feminist stance that was very appealing: a sticker on his guitar read "overthrow cock rock and idolize your girlfriend."

anyway, speaking of work, that's where i've gotta go, so i'll leave you with two of my favorite J Church tracks:

Tide of Fate
[meditation on futility: "I can sleep under open skies if I'm back at work by Monday / Swim against the tide of fate if I'm back at work by Monday." whew...]

Contempt for Modesty
[beautiful minute-long relationship parable]

J. Church forever. thank you so much, Lance. peace. Great American Artist for sure.

[lots of great J. Church info is here, as it always has been. i strongly recommend the albums "Prophylaxis," "Arbor Vitae" and "The Precession of Simulacra."]

Monday, October 22, 2007

And for the record...

thanks to Olympia's TWIN, Brooklyn's Animal and L.A.'s Veer Right Young Pastor, as well as the awesome venue Goodbye Blue Monday and the booking expertise of Susie Deford, it was still possible for us to have an awesome show on Saturday night that had absolutely nothing to do with CMJ.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hyper, ballad

some of my thoughts on CMJ are here, interspersed with reports from my Time Out colleagues. highlight was Ruins Alone at the Knit on Friday, hands down. (HEALTH and Aa completely slayed at same show too, tho.)

and apropos of absolutely nothing, a really intense performance of a truly gorgeous song:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dear flabby


i sent a letter to Pitchfork today. this might seem like a trifling point, but it's been bothering me for a while. the context is that there's a review of the new Nels Cline Singers disc on the site today. or should i say "recent" Nels Cline Singers disc--it came out in ***late June***. i brought up a similar point a while back when they reviewed the latest USA Is a Monster disc three months late. it might seem stupid, but i find it disrespectful, as if they were using these esoteric records as arbitrary and haphazard seasoning in the indie-rock stew. hopefully the Animal Collective analogy i use in the letter makes the point more clear. i'm not faulting the writer--the review is reasonably well-argued and astute. i just take issue with the editorial ethos behind it.

anyway, here's what i sent:

Dear Pitchfork,

As an avid jazz listener, I appreciate the fact that this genre is not really within the scope of what Pitchfork regularly covers. But it frustrates me when you run jazz reviews many months after a record's release date--it shows a blase attitude toward the style and makes it difficult to view this coverage as anything other than tokenistic. In the jazz world, a new Nels Cline Singers CD is at least as important as, say, a new Animal Collective CD is in the indie-rock world. Whether one agrees with your assessment of "Strawberry Jam" or not, the fact that that review ran on the day of the album release is at the very least a statement that you are engaged in a serious way with your subject matter. The average Pitchfork reader probably has no idea that you're reviewing the new Nels Cline CD four months after its release, well after the jazz community (not to mention many mainstream outlets such as "The New York Times") has already has its say. But if you want to engage with the wider music community outside the indie-rock bubble--as opposed to just throwing the odd bone to an esoteric record--you've got keep your coverage in those areas fresh. Running CD reviews on time would help me to take your jazz coverage more seriously.

Thx for listening,

Friday, October 12, 2007

In pieces

here's that article on Alex Ross's new book i promised, with interview snippets. had fun with this one--enjoy!

also some thoughts on the superweird new Neil Young disc. this one ain't too solid, but i'd highly recommend listening somehow to the tune "Ordinary People." it's kind of insane.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Showed up

Laal and i have been spending all our damn time in rock clubs of late.

1) tonight 'twas Qui at the Mercury Lounge. a case of "be careful what you wish for." the general vibe seemed to be "let's bait David Yow into doing something 'edgy,'" which amounted to throwing debris onstage and poking him punily. i guess everyone got what they came for, b/c he freakin' barfed midset. and you know what? it really wasn't the least bit funny. it was pretty depressing actually. the set started off really powerfully, with Yow prancing and shitkicking and really bellowing. he is a simply phenomenal vocalist. but alas, this band is lacking a certain pizzazz. despite their abrasiveness, the songs are really sort of stiff and static. warmed-over '90s ideas performed in an uncharismatic, workmanlike way. sorry, sorry, but this is how it is to me. plus there seemed to be some tension between Yow and the guitarist--the latter did not seem entirely down w/ the former's unhinged vibe, kind of a problem when you've invited one of the most reckless performers alive into your band. oh well...

2) last night was Cheer-Accident at the Cake Shop. outstanding trio set, with a guest vocalist (she was at the last Chicago show i was at--i keep forgetting to get her name). highlights included three "Enduring the American Dream" classics: "The Reenactment," "A Hate Which Grows," and of course, "Dismantling the Berlin Waltz," the latter featuring some outstanding drum work from Dave Bodie of Time of Orchids (they played a really intense and emotional set afterward), who had apparently first heard the tune only days before. additionally, there was a nice long trance-out on "Filet of Nod." the band grooves so hard on that--i could base a religion on Thymme Jones's left-hand hi-hat pattern. anyway, a very warm, warm vibe as tends to be the case when C-A hits town. (plus, Thymme was kind enough to bring me a copy of "Trading Balloons," a CD-R release from '97. one 52-minute song: a kaleidoscopic montage of rad that shows off all sides of the band. whirlwind brutal prog, melancholy drone, ecstatic singalong. gorgeous stuff.)

3) Saturday was Melvins/Big Business (depicted above) at Luna. since i always insist on standing in the front, we had to contend with some ridiculous mosh-type activity throughout but that sorta made it comical. at one point the dude next to us seemed to be having some sort of nervous breakdown right in the middle of the set--people kept bumping into him and he started clutching his head and screaming. kinda freaky. anyhoo, had seen the new MLVNS lineup (now featuring ALL of Big Business) and though this set wasn't as disgustingly bludgeoning as the one at Warsaw last year, it still kicked hard. they seem to be digging real deep into their back catalog these days and two highlights were "Let God Be Your Gardener" from "Ozma" and "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," an Alice Cooper cover from "Lysol." the latter was stretched waaay out w/ a verse i've never heard before and sounded truly epic. if Yow/Qui was an example of a somewhat ungraceful aging, this was the exact opposite. i'm not sure there's ever been a more confident, ungimmicky band in the world. Buzz and Dale are sounding as good as they ever have and they will not slacken. killin' it.

(in looking up the song title to that "Ozma" tune, i found this insane repository of live Melvins mp3s. dear god...)


so yeah, i'm sick of hanging out in rock clubs, but if you're not:

this Thursday, 10/11

Child Abuse

Stay Fucked
Upsilon Acrux
Extra Life

8:30pm-ish, $CHEAP
Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow bet. Stanton and Rivington
Noo Yawrk

Friday, October 05, 2007


man, it's been hard as hell to find time to blog recently. i feel like i'm going to have to go into super-efficient digest mode for this one. i'm going to do a LIST of things i have been finding awesome of late, with potential for elaboration.

1) finally recording w/ Aa. was such a unique joy to play in this band and i was always worried that my contributions to the sound would go undocumented. but i finally went in last night and got a few things tracked. some astounding musical minds in this group--John, Aron, Nadav and now Josh, and formerly Sean and Mike. it's a real pleasure to collaborate with folks like this, especially since what i play in Stay FKD is so utterly different. so... thanks to these dudes and all best of luck in future endeavors (which hopefully will involve me at least intermittently!).

2) Nate Wooley. have loved this guy's trumpet playing for awhile now. he plays as though musical ideas were calories and he's gotta watch his weight--a real efficiency. never moves on until he's really exhausted a concept. i just get a feeling of intense, poignant concentration, even meditation when i listen to him. caught Nate's set w/ Paul Lytton and David Grubbs (!) at the Festival of New Trumpet Music on Sunday and it was really fascinating. look for a published review soon. in the meantime, definitely check out the Lytton/Wooley CD on Broken Research. i don't see it listed on that page yet, but apparently it's out soon. anyway, it's an exemplary document of experimental improv circa '07. brief pieces, very listenable, and again with that deep sense of listening and honoring the ideas you introduce. Lytton sounds NOTHING like he does w/ Evan Parker in this project. check it! (i also love Wooley's 2005 solo disc "Wrong Shape to Be a Story Teller" on Creative Sources. extremely tense, quizzical, almost scarily FRAUGHT music. pins and needles the whole time.)

3) the new reissue of Peter Brotzmann's "Machine Gun" on Atavistic, which was sent to me out of the blue yesterday (thanks, dudes!). how effing easy is it to underestimate Brotzmann? c'mon, raise your hands, you've all done it. yeah, "burly, blustery German tenor in the post-Ayler vein," blah, blah, blah. i'm as guilty as anyone. i've always considered his work as having a ceiling due its perceived one-dimensionality. and i always thought of this record as being basically ground zero for why i and so many others think that way about him. but it's kind of bullshit, i'm realizing. this is a very, very diverse, not to mention deliberate session. the title track has a blowout aspect, sure, but it's also got incredible plotting and pacing. it's a real episodic piece. and the other cuts on the record (one by Fred Van Hove and one by Willem Breuker) are so damn odd and so diverse. "Responsible" even has this sort of calypso thing happening! the live take of "Machine Gun" is also great; it doesn't have that crazy bomb-shelter sound of the original, but you can really hear what's going on so it's a good reference. great tactile playing throughout all this stuff, especially from the basses. so gritty. but so much more spacious than i'd ever thought! i thought i knew this record, but i absolutely did not. it's a RECORD, not just a gesture of brute catharsis.

4) Say Anything. basically my favorite band right now. a more, er, formal expression of this sentiment is brewing, so i'll shut up. but i feel like a damn teenager in anticipation of their new album and upcoming tour. Laal and i may be the only ones there over 12! (is "...Is a Real Boy" one of the greatest rock concept albums ever made, or is it just me?)

5) "The Rest Is Noise," Alex Ross's history of 20th-century classical music. huge fucking ups on this one. this was one of those books that i'd wished someone would write: i.e., a challenging and thorough, yet totally accessible intro to a subject i'd wanted to explore forever. just dipping my toe into Messiaen, Schoenberg, Feldman, Reich and others, but i'm so glad i have a road map. was fortunate enough to be able to interview the author, so i will wave a flag when that piece is readable online.

6) Ben Ratliff's new "Coltrane" book. mentioned this in my previous post about my little '65 Coltrane phase, which is still going strong. a very fascinating, insightful and extremely idiosyncratic book. unlike the Ross tome, i can't say i was waiting for another Coltrane book, but that's sort of what's so amazing about it: Ratliff actually writes the book from the perspective of being weary of all the mythology surrounding Coltrane and so he just methodically dispels it. his approach is not so much cold as incisive. i could never write the way he does, but i really admire the book's economy, the fineness of its points. plus i'm hugely envious of Ratliff's excellent grasp on jazz theory, something i'm a bit of a dummy about. he really helped me understand, at least in broad terms, Coltrane's journey from chord-change playing to modal to free. i have to say that my favorite sections of the book, though, were the ones that dealt with Coltrane's assimilation of Albert Ayler and other avant-garde players.

Ratliff writes that Coltrane "had a baseline authority. He was a master bebop player. The overwhelming percentage of jazz lovers, who as a rule do not like to hear screaming through the horn, would never have tsk-tsked him about not having come to terms with Ayler. He could simply have ignored him." Coltrane as perennial student is one of the major themes of the book. he apparently was able to see the good in just about any musician and Ratliff lets you feel exactly how revolutionary an approach this was.

i found the first section of the book--the step-by-step unpacking of the recordings--a bit more meaty and engaging than the second, which examines the evolution of Coltrane's reputation over the years. but overall, i marveled at Ratliff's unique confidence as a critic. there's no pretension to definitiveness in this book whatsoever. every sentence is a personal statement. it is an extended riff, a work of pure criticism--Ratliff sifting through all the documents and constructing his personal narrative of this man and his myth.

as with "Machine Gun," you might think you've thought enough about Coltrane, but reading "Coltrane" gets you thinking not just about Coltrane but about the way you're thinking about Coltrane. it's a deep book, more a hip philosophical treatise (Ratliff is a critic first, a storyteller second and a fan third) than a jazz-history book. this guy is such a wry, curious writer. his turns of phrase just jump up and bite you. i loved the way he described certain Monk tunes, such as "Four in One," as "gnatlike." anyway, deeply engrossing book and an awesome counterweight to the sumptuous history presented by Ross.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Promises" kept // Thunderkiss '65

saw "Eastern Promises" w/ Laal. a fun night at the movies for sure. it's gruesome, yeah, but in an almost comical way. i don't think i was the only one laughing when Viggo Mortensen stabbed his would-be assailant in the eye with a curved dagger.

anyway, if you--like me--thought the first hour or so of "A History of Violence" was ultra-badass, you'll have fun with this one. if there's one thing Cronenberg does well, it's the depiction of menace: of amoral characters brutally barging in on meek, conventional lives.

Viggo's Russian gangster is hilariously slick and disaffected. his accent is just shy of a caricature. it's a really meaty role, one that calls for a lot of suggestive smirking, priceless lines like "i am driver. i go right; i go left" and even some naked kung fu.

the plot--involving a sex-slave ring and an orphaned baby--is a little cumbersome and depending on how you read it, even sappy. Naomi Watts really doesn't have much to work with in the female lead. but whenever the bad guys are on screen, the movie is great wicked fun.

p.s., anyone seen Viggo in this obscure horror flick "The Reflecting Skin"? amazingly creepy movie and he's awesome in it. rent it if you like scary and surreal.


moving right along... i wouldn't hesitate to call John Coltrane one of my favorite musicians, or more specifically, i would call the pairing of Coltrane with drummer Elvin Jones one of my favorite musical phenomena.

despite my great affection for Trane, though, i don't throw on his music that much. i have the sound in my head, and it's almost as if i don't need to refresh it that often. it's just sort of permanently there. but sometimes the music finds me and i'm just sort of like, "jesus christ, this shit is intense." this happened the other day when i was listening to the Coltrane birthday broadcast on WKCR...

i've often spoken of "Interstellar Space," Coltrane's February '67 duo recording w/ drummer Rashied Ali, as my favorite of his discs. it's a mindblower--completely and scarily austere. but i'm realizing that there's another record, or era really, that i like just as much.

that's 1965, the year of some of the last recordings w/ the fabled quartet of Coltrane, Jones, bassist Jimmy Garrison and pianist McCoy Tyner. the latter pretty much sounded hopelessly out of place at this point (at least to me), often coming across during his solos as this straw man for Coltrane to bulldoze when he re-enters. and people often talk about how Jones was getting uncomfortable too, but that was really when Ali was brought in late in the year as second drummer.

anyway, so i started thinking hard about this period when WKCR spun the following bootleg performance on Sunday and have thought even harder about it since i've been digging Ben Ratliff's excellent new book on Trane, which i'm about halfway through. Ratliff makes a point of highlighting '65 as a landmark year, and this bootleg from April '65 cemented that for me. this track comes from a few days after the recordings that were recently released by Impulse as "One Down, One Up." that shit smokes, but this is even better:

Untitled Original
Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison, Jones - April '65, live at the Half Note

much has been made of the novelty of Elvin breaking his bass-drum pedal in the middle of the tenor-drums duet that appears on the aforementioned "One Down, One Up." that's a quirky little piece of trivia, but the fact is that it's actually really annoying and tantalizing to listen to: here you have Trane and Elvin alone and Elvin is without one of the main weapons in his arsenal, namely his lethal right foot.

anyway, the recording above sounds a bit like crap, but you can totally hear the thunder and the fury. Trane and Elvin go at it MAJORLY duostyle in the middle, from around 7:00 minutes to around 10:00. it's pretty clear here that whatever tension it was that caused Jones to leave the following year wasn't around in '65. this is absolutely gorgeous, volcanic creation.

Jones is like this hurtling, rumbling engine. (when i hear Jones in this mode, i can't keep from thinking of that word "hurtling"--it seems to capture that precarious skipping speed that only he can muster, that white-hot percolating pulse.) the velocity these two summon is completely unreal. (there's also a really nice duo section on part three of the live version of "A Love Supreme" that was issued a little while ago as a bonus disc to the regular record on Impulse. not to be blasphemous, but all this '65 live shit blows "ALS" away in my opinion.)

"Sun Ship," recorded in August '65, is a little more reined in--mainly due to the studio setting w/ shorter track lengths, etc.--but still totally ripping. like the piece above, many of this record's themes are brief, almost maniacally repetitive melodies that Trane just fusses over and then blows to bits.




Dearly Beloved

from "Sun Ship" - same band as above, a few months later

"Amen" starts off a little more placid than the brutal first track on the album (the title track). a longish Tyner solo follows the minimal head. don't feel bad for fast-forwarding to around 3:35. Jones is already whipping up a storm in anticipation of Trane roaring back in, and man he just re-arrives and starts tearing shit up. Tyner's over there frantically laying down chords and Trane and Elvin are just kicking it out. this is slash-and-burn jazz of the absolute highest order.

"Dearly Beloved" is a whole other thing: an almost unbearably gorgeous free-time ballad. i love the little studio patter excerpt at the beginning. Trane tells someone--Jones?--to "keep a thing happening all through," says "ready?" and then launches into this insane rubato ballad thing. Tyner is totally at home in this setting and Elvin breaks out the mallets and the whole thing is just like this sea of sound that Coltrane is swimming in. this is like the current ballad paradigm--no steady pulse, just a miasma of tone and a soloist sort of fighting to stay afloat. check the last track on Sonny Sharrock's "Ask the Ages" for another amazing example of this, also featuring Sir Elvin...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Axel: foley

large-group jazz/improv can really make me sort of sad. sometimes it's more like mad, but i think sad is the more accurate word, simply because it really bums me out to not be able to discern individual voices.

at times this feeling moved close to outright despair during Globe Unity Orchestra's set at the Shabazz Center on Thursday night. the group, around since the mid-'60s, is strangely named since it's really a largely European group, convened by pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach and featuring the cream of the Euro and British free-improv scenes. the band played uptown as part of the very cool Columbia/Harlem Festival of Global Jazz. (that name, and the festival's way-uptown settings, seems to be an attempt to reconcile the current academic slant of jazz with its roots in Harlem.)

the lineup was sort of a mystery beforehand. there were a few legends in there: saxist Evan Parker, Schlippenbach himself, drummer Paul Lytton; as well as some leading lights of the current scene: drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, trumpeter Axel Doerner. they played for what felt like about 90 minutes--it was a rough but enjoyable set with sublime highlights.

the issue i raised earlier was a recurring problem for me. there's something really powerful about hearing a ten-piece band blow and bash their guts out simultaneously--for about five minutes. then it just becomes an almost tragic matter--here you're looking at some of the most distinctive instrumental voices in the world (Evan Parker is the most obvious example) and you simply can't hear what any one of them is playing. this was due to a lot of factors: the microphones didn't do the saxes any justice, and also Nilssen-Love didn't seem to adjust to the room's boomy acoustics--he simply played way, way too loud for a lot of the set. i think he's a great drummer, but at times, this was sort of inexcusable for me.

a few of the players took it upon themselves to pierce the wall of sound. there was a solo mike set up and each player stepped up in turn, some simply riding the wave (Parker; trumpeter Manfred Schoof, who played a really fleet, steely, powerful and agile solo). when Doerner stepped up, though, time straight up stopped.

Doerner has been known for his sort of deconstructionist trumpet solos over the past decade or so--he's one of the innovators of the new school of minimal, pure-sound playing that also includes dudes like Nate Wooley and Greg Kelley. i couldn't really say who was doing what first, but that's the general vibe we're talking about.

anyway, so he's this short, sort of wispy, almost creepily composed dude. and amidst the cacophony, he just sort of strolls over to the mike and begins making the strangest fucking noises with that horn. he was playing a slide trumpet with an upcurved Dizzy Gillespie-style bell, but if you closed your eyes, he might have been playing the plumbing. even more than, say, Peter Evans, Doerner's playing just sounds wholly alien, but somehow scientific--it has a very cold and almost menacing quality. his solo was like a catalog of extended techniques--at one point he unscrewed one of the valves and was using his fingers to control the air flow--but somehow it was clinical in just the right way. it almost seemed like he was sternly reminding his colleagues to listen.

it had that effect on me. your ears get totally desensitized to that large-group soup, which can lead to lazy playing and lazier listening. but it was like a veil being removed when Doerner started in on his conjurings. simply put, nearly everyone shut up. i can't remember if he was on his own or if the drummers were keeping up a textural commentary, but damn, he just woke that scenario up in such a commanding way. my ears were very, very grateful.

suddenly there was Schlippenbach, with his curious, stabbing chords, each one mouthed like a fish; there was Parker, with gruff, at times abstractly bluesy statements. there was the trombonist Jeb Bishop, working really hard to get to the center of his horn. Paul Lytton understood what was happening: his accompaniment to later sections of the piece was busy, yet crisp, never just straight-up loud. i'm all for loud, but not when it seems to come at the expense of hearing, as with some of Nilssen-Love's work at this show.

when the band did roar itself back to full strength for the outro, the beast made more sense. this blast wasn't instead of hearing--it was more like an invocation. after the group had been atomized--spurred on by Doerner's heroic solo--i was happy to hear it rage again. but i don't think i'll ever prefer large-group improv to smaller ensembles. or maybe those moments of detail are all the more precious when they're harder to come by.


wanted to keep my own thoughts my own, so i haven't checked out Steve's account of the show yet, but i'm headed there now. he knows this music cold.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cee Deez?

your current shopping list, in a perfect world:

Octis (Ocrilim) - Neerdeth CD-R
over an hour of state-of-the-art SOLO (yep, no drum machine) guitar from Mick Barr. completely lives up to whatever astronomical expectations you might have. made to order by the artist and available only at his myspace page.

Muhal Richard Abrams - Vision Towards Essence
over an hour of state-of-the-art SOLO piano from Muhal Richard Abrams. read more from me on this here.


and for free: a mix-tape of sorts from Vijay Iyer over at Destination Out. fucking cool idea executed brilliantly. act quick: i think this is only up for a few more days.

also, i really like the new Thurston Moore album. have never been a huge Sonic Youth fan, but this one hit me right.

What a Rush

there's something nerdy about attending any sort of entertainment event by one's self, no? there's also something nerdy--or at least i'm told--about being a fan of the band Rush, no? so therefore it must be considered an exceedingly nerdy act to have attended a Rush concert alone, which i did tonight.

however history might judge me, i had an awesome time. (tenth row seats at Madison Square Garden certainly didn't hurt.) my enjoyment was, as you might imagine, proportionately greater than it was the time i went to see a screening of a Rush live DVD at the Union Square movie theater. yes, i was also alone then. (and yes, it's somewhat liberating to admit in such a public way to such socially freakish behaviors.)

anyway, it's been a decade and change since i last saw Rush. that show--the only one i'd attended before tonight--was on the "Counterparts" tour which had to have been sometime in '94 or '95, which would have put me smack dab in the middle of high school. i remember little about that concert, other than that it was awesome and that the band closed with the blistering instrumental "YYZ," as they also did tonight.

nostalgia was a big factor in my enjoyment tonight, of course. several times during the show, it occurred to me as i sang along and air-drummed with dogged precision for how many years i had been singing along and air-drumming to these songs. a few selections in particular literally brought me to the verge of tears, namely "Mission," a meditation on the creative process from the "Hold Your Fire" album, and "Subdivisions," a meditation on the inherent pathos of a suburban upbringing from the "Signals" album. both songs are in some sense (i.e., the socially acceptable one) quite cheesy. in another sense, they are utterly true and poignant. i guess it's easier to tap into that latter sense when one is by one's self.

i remembered falling asleep to those songs in high school; i remembered listening to "Subdivisions" driving through actual subdivisions late at night thinking about how the line "up lighted streets on quiet nights" had to have been written about kids growing up in Leawood, KS, as i did; i remembered the countless times i'd listened to "Mission" on headphones and felt that tug, that inescapable poignance that i never really felt anyone else would get.

and then there's this awesome, overwhelming sense in which this show--and really no Rush show, save the 30th anniversary victory lap of a few years back--ain't a nostalgia trip at all. the band has a new album, "Snakes and Arrows," their 18th (!) full-length, and they played a whole bunch of songs from it tonight. it's certainly not all great, but goddamn it, it's very, very sincere. this band does not slack. even as their music has gotten less ambitious, less baroque, less--say it with me--progressive, it has never felt untruthful or dispassionate. when i first heard the new disc, i was pretty bummed. listening to it over and over again recently, i can definitely see myself welcoming these songs into future live sets, as i welcomed "One Little Victory" from the second most recent disc, "Vapor Trails," tonight.

i've said this so many times but i can't say it enough: Rush is the only classic-rock band that isn't a living fossil. they've never reunited, because they've never broken up. they've never stopped making albums. they play all their hits in concert, but they also play a ton of recent material, and you know what? the fans love that mix.

no b.s. with these guys. you should've seen the sincerity with which Geddy thanked the crowd--i lost count of the times he said, "we really appreciate it!"--or with which he took some video of the audience "for his friends back home in Canada." onstage, he and guitarist Alex Lifeson are goofy, joyous, entirely lovable, while Neil Peart is an utter workhorse. when he finally smiled at the end of the set, it was incredibly heartwarming. what a genius, genius musician...

there is something so happy, so joyful in this experience of loving a band over time and seeing them play. you just want to hug someone each time they start up a new tune that you've loved for years. i almost did just that during the intro to "Natural Science"--after texting a few of my buddies that they were playing this unbelievable piece, i just started beaming and i turned to the middle-aged guy next to me and i was like, "man, i can't believe they're playing this song!" he was less demonstrative then me, but his contented smile told me that he too was a lifer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Stranger" days // Vandermark-ed

a lot of things that i found unsurpassably cool in high school--"Tropic of Cancer," for example, or smoking cigarettes--now seem passe. but Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" is not one of them. i was reminded of this over the weekend, when Laal and i checked out the new Criterion DVD of said indie film classic.

when i first saw the flick, i was struck by a million sumptuous details: the wry, eerie string music on the score; the shabby beauty of the setting; the arty fades to black after each scene. but what really got me, i must say, was the effortless sense of cool projected by the characters. the way they dressed absolutely slayed me: this kind of '20s-chic fedoras-and-suspenders kind of thing.

the leads--"Fishing With..." John Lurie as Willie and Richard "What country do you think this is?" Edson--are these sort of small-time, nobody hustlers who behave as if they have places to be and things on their mind. their hipsterfied snappy dress is really all there is to that image, but it's such a powerful, intoxicating look. it's the epitome of empty style.

i don't know about you, but for me, high school was about seeking out the dark stuff, from "The Satanic Bible" to Nine Inch Nails to the Coen Brothers to Rimbaud to Morbid Angel. and i suppose this flick sort of fit into that continuum, given its somewhat noirish tendencies. but when i see it now, i see it as a comedy, and also as a sort of discourse on personality types.

the character of Eva provides this awesome sort of counterweight to Wilie and Eddie's self-important loserdom. she's always chipping away at Eddie's tough-guy facade, asking him what the hell is up with his TV dinner and proclaiming the football game on TV to be "really stupid." she doesn't seem to be dissing for the sake of it--it's that she's honestly trying to see the value of American culture, but just can't. of course, Willie's edginess isn't helping matters.

speaking of that edge, it really struck me this time around. really the film is about how Willie's bipolar personality governs the trio's collective mood. it's actually a pretty dead-on portrait of how much social power moody people wield, and how much it sucks when they abuse that power. Eddie cowers at Willie's mood swings and lets himself be pushed around, but even Eva, who's not buying Willie's b.s., is pretty powerless to alter the bad vibes he's emanating.

look, it's really just a gorgeous, poetic movie. you know all those recent films where young, arty, shabbily attractive people sit around and yap about nothing? this is the genesis of that genre, but it displays a wry, self-deprecating warmth that you don't find in much of that later indie cinema, which always seemed to tack on a moral or some other fake closure.

the documentary on the DVD is great too. it's a portrait of Jarmusch and his circle right around the opening of "Stranger." the doc discusses Jarmusch's debut feature, "Permanent Vacation"--which looks, from the excerpts i've seen, to be a self-consciously arty, overly precious version of the "Stranger" template--as well as the making of "Stranger." probably the coolest thing is just listening to the director speak--he's a remarkably poised dude with an intense knowledge of film history and he cuts one of the most striking hipster figures you'll ever see. that silver pompadour and those fat lips; he's just like total fashion, and it's so funny b/c he never actually appeared in any of his early films.

also, via interviews w/ Jarmusch's actors--Edson, Lurie, Chris Parker from "Permanent," etc.--you really get a flavor for the weird, woolly place that was New York in the early '80s. these folks all seem slightly cracked out and wild. you get a sense that they're very much drifters, perhaps junkies, or in any event, just sort of strung out in the spiritual sense. Jarmusch sort of presides over them w/ this beatific calm, like he's the only one grounded enough to harness their creepy energy.



also went to Two Boots w/ my pal Russ to take in a screening of "Musician", a new doc on the avant-jazz everyman Ken Vandermark by Daniel Kraus. Vandermark was there and he played solo before the film. kinda burnt right now so i can't give the full story, but i guess what i'd say is the evening was pretty cool all around, but maybe nothing spectacular.

it's interesting to find Vandermark, a player known for his workaholic tendencies, as the subject of this doc which purports to depict the saxist's art as mundane labor. (this film is part of a series, along with "Sheriff" and some others, which documents the daily working lives of a variety of Americans.) Vandermark's music often carries the flavor of labor rather than inspiration: he seems to take great pains to conceptually ground his music and map out its goals, limits, structures in advance in an almost control-freakish way.

take for example his habit of dedicating absolutely every piece of music he does to another artist. many folks have done this throughout the years--Steve Lacy comes to mind--but few are as diligent and vocal about it as Vandermark. during the short solo set, he cited Albert Ayler, Evan Parker and Anthony Braxton, heavy cats all. to be honest, the way he always cites his sources strikes me as somewhat stifling, i.e., if you mention Evan Parker's name and then begin to play a shrill solo on clarinet utilizing circular breathing, it's hard to shake the feeling that you're listening to an imitation rather than a work that truly uses Parker as a jumping-off point.

something to think about: there's definitely some form of anxiety of influence going on w/ Vandermark that can make it hard to locate the soul of his music.

that said, the dude can really kick some serious ass when he wants to. i wrote on Dusted about some nice Vandermark records of a few years back here. and i really dug the footage of the Free Music Ensemble (FME) in the film, so i went back and checked out their recent disc, "Cuts", and found it to be quite badass. the group--Vandermark plus bassist Nate McBride and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love--really gets into some savage and gritty stuff on this disc. it's very turbulent, kinetic music, but with a lot of groove and heart. i'd say this and the Territory Band are my favorite Vandermark projects--the Vandermark 5 has always left me a bit cold--and i'm *really* interested to hear the forthcoming Territory Band disc featuring Fred Anderson.

don't mean to come down too hard on Ken here. just wanted to point out, for one, how that practice of obsessive dedication might not always work to his advantage...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yow to // British are coming

many highly anticipated scenarios in life fail to live up to one's expectations, but talking to David Yow on the phone is not one of them. i was fortunate enough to interview the singer--late of Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard and currently of Qui--for a Time Out piece a few weeks back and he was pretty awesome to talk to.

yeah, he's a pretty raunchy dude as you might expect, but i was also really struck by his sincerity. he sounded really psyched to be learning how to actually sing (apparently the Qui dudes are pretty up on their theory) and to be really pushing his vocals past what they were in the Lizard--the new Qui record is a real showcase for what this guy is capable of. (anyone who knows "Zachariah" from the Lizard's "Liar" knows that the notion of Yow actually singing is no joke at all.) also he was very frank about the pressures of living up to his wildman reputation. all in all a very honest, funny, down-to-earth guy. hopefully that comes through in the conversation, which can be found here.


in utterly disparate musical realms, i'm obsessed with the following track by U.K., a progressive-rock supergroup with a weirdly generic name from the late '70s. Thymme Jones from Cheer-Accident turned me onto them and Mr. Steve Smith (maybe the galaxy's foremost King Crimson expert?) was kind enough to loan me their debut disc.

by far the raddest thing about these guys is that at their inception, they included two beasts from the sickest of the early-'70s King Crimson lineups: bassist-vocalist John Wetton (above) and drummer Bill Bruford. rounding out the group are violinist and keyboardist Eddie Jobson and guitarist Allan Holdsworth (a well-known fusion wanksman). this is really Wetton and Bruford's show though. the keyboards are a tad garish, but still, check out how gorgeously lean, soulful and funky this track is once it gets moving:

U.K. - In the Dead of Night (released 1978)

this is the sound of prog inching its way toward pop and the rest of the disc moves even further in that direction. but nothing else on the record has the righteous focus of this track. i'm no Crimson completist; my favorite stuff is the really heavy, raunchy stuff like "Lark's Tongue in Aspic, part 1" and "Easy Money," and Wetton and Bruford obviously made huge contributions to the ballsiness of that music. Wetton in particular may be the grittiest, most powerful vocalist in prog. i love me some Geddy and Jon Anderson, but Wetton has really got a pair--he sings from the throat and the heart, not to mention from the abacus--this tune is wicked complex and he makes it sound so natural! i can't get that damn verse melody out of my head. oh, and damn if he isn't fucking ripping on bass simultaneously...

god bless prog--this is a real apex of the form: concise, catchy, hugely funky in its way, brutal, sinewy, and wizardly in its design. dig it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Birthday Jones

as birthdays go, i had a pretty good one. Thursday featured a nice karaoke excursion, with highlights including backing John on a stirring "Deacon Blues" and having a second go at my new fave feature, "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.

Saturday through (extremely early) Monday was spent in the excellent company of Laal in the excellent environs of Chicago with an eccentric assortment of coconspirators, including T-Bonz Kelly (ex-Stay Fucked, current Northwestern law, Super Lucky Cat 4 Life), Jeff Wall (whose rather dazzling photography exhibit we saw at the Art Institute of Chicago) and the good Thymme Jones.

if you've spent any considerable time with me (or reading this blog) over the past year or so, you know who he is, namely a Great American Artist who drums, sings, pianizes, trumpets and conceptualizes for the long-running Windy City factory of creative musical and conceptual brilliance that is Cheer-Accident.

Thymme (the longhaired fellow in the pic up top) gamely agreed to dine with me--Indian buffet, no less--as we together embarked on an open-ended phase of Cheer-Accident research conducted by yours truly with cooperation and assistance from him. i'm unsure what form this is all going to take, but let's just say i'm interested in helping to canonize this group as one of the most important and unique forces in experimental music over the past few decades.

so we chatted a bunch and laughed frequently and talked about prog drummers--Chris Cutler is a biggie for Thymme--and prog albums--he recommends the first U.K. disc and Henry Cow's "Western Culture." and also about Cheer-Accident. he said some particularly awesome things regarding the band's long-running fascination w/ absurdist conceptual humor and cited Martin Mull as an influence. again, this material will see the light of day in some form, someday. will keep y'all abreast. in the meantime, thanks to Thymme for taking the time to chill with me and answer some questions.

also while i was there, i filled in most all the gaps in my Cheer-Accident CD collection. the pick of the litter is definitely "Sever Roots, Tree Dies," which is actually their first full-length, not to mention one of the most sophisticated, elaborate and compelling debuts i've ever heard; it's just been reissued by a German label called Freakshow which seems to have no web presence whatsoever. i'd contact the band and i'm sure they can get you a copy.

the trip culminated in a trip to the Double Door to see C-A play! had a total blast at this one. the show was like a grab-bag, all sorts of personnel shifts and mood shifts and juxtapository actions and elaborateness. the set started off w/ Thymme solo onstage doing one of his patented comedy happenings. an offstage announcer intro'd him as the world's greatest improviser and proceeded to feed him random word pairings--like "a football and a garbage can lid" (that wasn't really one of them, but just to give you a flavor)--to which Thymme was supposed to respond by improvising a sound with his mouth. each time, he'd mull over the words and then produce the exact same sound: a sort of loogie-hocking thing. anyway, this was sort of like the conceptual performance equivalent to the band's marathon "Filet of Nod" sessions.

many excellent tunes were played, including "Dismantling the Berlin Waltz," sung by Carla Kihlstedt of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (who headlined the show), and that awesome breakdown from the middle of "Salad Days." there were also excerpts from the "Dumb Ask" record and a really great rendition of the dirgey "All Over" from the new "What Sequel?" disc (featuring Kihlstedt's violin). various horn players came out for various tunes and a guest female vocalist i didn't recognize sang on the last tune, announced as a new one. Todd Rittman, of U.S. Maple and now Singer, wore a bandit mask and did some pretty impressive drumming, not to mention provided a willfully incongruous tambourine click track at various points. otherwise, the lineup was what you see above, minus the woman second from the right, who i *think* is Sheila Bertoletti: (from left to right) Andrea Rothschild on trumpet, keys, flute, etc.; Jones on drums, vocals, keys, trumpet; Alex Perkolup on bass; Jeff Libersher on guitar; and Todd Rittman on all that stuff i mentioned.

all in all an excellent set, but the highlight for me was definitely Jones's solo version--well, there was that tambourine...-of "Production," the first track from his gorgeous piano-and-voice album, "Career Move." can't wait till they come here in October (10/8 at either Cake Shop or the Knitting Factory w/ Upsilon Acrux and Time of Orchids)!

here's the "studio" version of "Production"; watch out--this one is melancholy as hell...

Thymme Jones - Production
from Career Move