Friday, December 28, 2007

Juno and RudeGirl...Girl Power, as they say...

Well, hello there. It's been a while. It's been a whirlwind. All those people I know and love that live far from here are !BOOM! and the funtime never stops!

Just saw Juno finally last night and guess what? It's fucking GREAT. It really, really is. And you know, anticipation has a habit to set you up for does overhype and overexposure. But, a wonderfully written, beautifully acted and directed movie can't help being awesome. So see it, and decide for yourself...I would be surprised if you didn't like it. Oh, just make sure you buy your tix in advance and show up early. Dude at the ticket booth told me it's been sold out, every night since the damn thing opened. Fuck Little Miss Sunshine. This is where it's at. (I only say that because *everyone* keeps saying it in the same breath as Juno and yeah, I get it, but this movie is FAR BETTER, people.)

It's a story that you think you might be predictable or hokey or too simplistic about a big-deal-issue: 16-year-old gets preggers and shit--what do you do? Well, it's handled so well in the film--I marveled at it. It's still a *movie* of course, but the realistic bits are good n' plenty enough to make it hit hard and feel true.

My one and only complaint: the music throughout the movie *sucked*. A lot. Whew. It's chiefly made up of songs by the Moldy Peaches. Yeah, I'd heard of the chick...but had no idea how shitty the music was. All of the songs are annoyingly sing-songy, the lyrics are full of child-like simplicity and it was so bad to me, it was actually *distracting* at times. Just really weak and disappointing. I guess it's supposed to be cutesy and we're meant to assume it represents what "Juno would listen to," but that doesn't ring true for a second. One of the best little bits in the movie for me was when Jason Bateman's character (a music man, actually, who hails from the School of 1993 Grunge) is trying to describe the appeal of Sonic Youth. Juno then cites her "top three" fave music acts (this is a radically accompanied by black white photos flashed quickly on the screen): Iggy and the Stooges, Patti Smith and The Runaways. Fucking right on!!! She says that music was magical and perfect in 1977 and loves the punk rock, clearly. So, why, I ask, do we NEVER hear any punk? It's a goddamn shame.

Ellen Page is a damn revelation. She is the Jodie Foster for her generation. Smart, pretty, sassy, (maybe gay?) fantastic young actor, she is ideal for this role. And good fucking job, Ms. Cody. I had my doubts, I won't lie. I have been reading about story (sorry) for YEARS now, and I wondered what the final product would be like. It's a beaut. It's something I could see again and again, too. It's so layered and filled with that pure sugarpop culture dialogue that just pops and crackles and flows and *works*. It's not Clueless. It's far more creative and far more *real* than that. For as slick and clever as the words that flutter fast as fire from Juno's mouth, there's real moments of awkwardness. Other characters have their very own way of speaking, too. She's a great screenwriter! Bring on the backlash, my ass. Arctic Monkeys, Diablo Cody, bring it on! Bring on the praise and the opportunity.

You deserve it.


Also--I did this little thing on Saturday...I was lucky enough to participate in the Rude Girl project: An all female tribute to the Clash! This group of women who put it together are a total inspiration. Emily B on guitar has only been playing the axe for 4 months! How punk rock is that!? She fucking rocks. Well, all the chicks rock and they were so kind and welcoming to me...I only made it to two rehearsals, and it was such a great experience...really kinda magical. Just that whole playing and singing punk rock in a basement kinda thing. Such a glorious thing to be a part of--something I always wanted to...try.

We played the Triple Rock and a lot of people actually showed up! I sang the closer, the Clash cover-version of "I Fought the Law." What a fun song to sing. I used to sing along to that bad-ass anthem when I was just a wee lass. It was totally on those Time Life cassettes I worshiped. 1965, totally. Bobby Fuller Four. Awesome. Then, the Clash does their kick-ass version with some more dangerous lyrics--I just had to wear sunglasses on stage.

Check out photos and the review here, at

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Power to the people, right on.

THIS rocks.

December 18, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
The Obama-Clinton Issue

Hillary Clinton has been a much better senator than Barack Obama. She has been a serious, substantive lawmaker who has worked effectively across party lines. Obama has some accomplishments under his belt, but many of his colleagues believe that he has not bothered to master the intricacies of legislation or the maze of Senate rules. He talks about independence, but he has never quite bucked liberal orthodoxy or party discipline.

If Clinton were running against Obama for Senate, it would be easy to choose between them.
But they are running for president, and the presidency requires a different set of qualities. Presidents are buffeted by sycophancy, criticism and betrayal. They must improvise amid a thousand fluid crises. They’re isolated and also exposed, puffed up on the outside and hollowed out within. With the presidency, character and self-knowledge matter more than even experience. There are reasons to think that, among Democrats, Obama is better prepared for this madness.

Many of the best presidents in U.S. history had their character forged before they entered politics and carried to it a degree of self-possession and tranquillity that was impervious to the Sturm und Drang of White House life.

Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones. He was forged by the process of discovering his own identity from the scattered facts of his childhood, a process that is described in finely observed detail in “Dreams From My Father.” Once he completed that process, he has been astonishingly constant.

Like most of the rival campaigns, I’ve been poring over press clippings from Obama’s past, looking for inconsistencies and flip-flops. There are virtually none. The unity speech he gives on the stump today is essentially the same speech that he gave at the Democratic convention in 2004, and it’s the same sort of speech he gave to Illinois legislators and Harvard Law students in the decades before that. He has a core, and was able to maintain his equipoise, for example, even as his campaign stagnated through the summer and fall.

Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country’s future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. Though Tom DeLay couldn’t deliver much for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi, so far, hasn’t been able to deliver much for Democrats, these warriors believe that what’s needed is more partisanship, more toughness and eventual conquest for their side.

But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.

Obama did not respond to his fatherlessness or his racial predicament with anger and rage, but as questions for investigation, conversation and synthesis. He approaches politics the same way. In her outstanding New Yorker profile, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that Obama does not perceive politics as a series of battles but as a series of systemic problems to be addressed. He pursues liberal ends in gradualist, temperamentally conservative ways.

Obama also has powers of observation that may mitigate his own inexperience and the isolating pressures of the White House. In his famous essay, “Political Judgment,” Isaiah Berlin writes that wise leaders don’t think abstractly. They use powers of close observation to integrate the vast shifting amalgam of data that constitute their own particular situation — their own and no other.

Obama demonstrated those powers in “Dreams From My Father” and still reveals glimpses of the ability to step outside his own ego and look at reality in uninhibited and honest ways. He still retains the capacity, also rare in presidents, of being able to sympathize with and grasp the motivations of his rivals. Even in his political memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” he astutely observes that candidates are driven less by the desire for victory than by the raw fear of loss and humiliation.

What Bill Clinton said on “The Charlie Rose Show” is right: picking Obama is a roll of the dice. Sometimes he seems more concerned with process than results. But for Democrats, there’s a roll of the dice either way. The presidency is a bacterium. It finds the open wounds in the people who hold it. It infects them, and the resulting scandals infect the presidency and the country. The person with the fewest wounds usually does best in the White House, and is best for the country.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

don't look back ... in anger

Went to see the new Todd Haynes Dylan extravaganza, “I’m Not There” last weekend.


And, I am hoping to see it again soon.

It might be up there with “Ray” for me (and that's saying a lot)…an absolutely brilliantly imaginative, dizzying approach that dramatizes the life of an extremely well-known musician (icon, really) who seemed almost untouchable. Haynes succeeds at making someone as enigmatic, reclusive and misanthropic as Bob Dylan accessible, raw and vulnerable (at moments). Simultaneously, he upholds the legendary status and the mythology that Dylan, himself, created. You could say the movie has some layers going on...

I thought it was fucking brilliant and crazy. And it *looked* so damn cool. There’s a few scenes, one in particular, recreating London in the 60s that so perfectly captures the look and the vibe of everything I’ve ever seen documented from that time and place—it felt like a perfectly preserved slice of life. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen more attention to detail, or “feel” than this film in that way.

Using the 6 different actors (Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw and Richard Gere), Haynes was taking a major risk--no doubt. But, the thing is, he's a fucking brilliant director and he knows what he's doing. Although it is *sprawling*--it's never too chaotic or cluttered. The segues between times, places and the characters portraying Dylan are seamless and sublime--the editing is sweet and neat.

I was lucky enough to have a CSCL prof in college who was in love with Todd Haynes and everything he stood for. He made us watch "Poison" and "Safe" in class (he was so gay and so radical and so cool. sigh.) which, of course, caused me to watch "Velvet Goldmine," and "Far from Heaven" and then promptly fall in deeply in love with the flaming, oddball rebel.

Marcus Carl Franklin, an adorable, mature, talented young boy, does a doozy of a job playing a, yes, *version* of Dylan as a young runaway who is enamoured with the Dust Bowl era and calls himself Woody Guthrie (yep, just like Zimmy did as well as Strummer). He does an amazing job of capturing the sly, myth-making, tall-tale-tellin' ways of Early Talkin' Blues Dylan and is part of one of the most amazing scenes of the film. The only bit that brought me to the brink of tears--where the young lad visits a dying Woody Guthrie in NYC. The actor that plays the folk rebel legend looks astonishingly like him and it was a trip to imagine a similar scene taking place when Dylan actually made that pilgrimage to see the dying Guthrie. Another powerful and musically thunderous scene: lil' Woody playing "Tombstone Blues" with a couple of ol' black blues men on a porch. Totally anachronistic. Totally makes sense and had me stompin' my foot.

The beautiful Christian Bale plays Jack Rollins, a super-earnest version of Dylan in his "Times Are A-Changin'" phase as well as the latter-day born-again Christian Dylan. The only real gem for me was seeing the recreation of that stunning footage of Dylan do a benefit show with the faces of older black men in overalls in a field. The voice we hear is that of one of Minnesota's finest: Mason fucking Jennings. Trippy. Awesome.

The only one that didn’t sit quite right with me was the idea of the film actor character of later-era (Blood On the Tracks-era) Heath Ledger. Although it provided some wrenching moments of insight to the break--up of his marriage and a searing use of "Idiot Wind" to give the complete feel of disintegration of love (perhaps one of the most brutally hateful songs that I could actually admit to enjoying for some sick reason).

Another weak point was the (unobtrusive, thank goodness) ineffectual Whishaw doing “Arthur Rimbould” as a version of (the poet, yeah, kinda) Dylan being interrogated by a “committee” that resembles the questions that the press fired at a young Dylan in the beginning of his career. The bits of his monologues come quickly and serve as a little, messy quote-machine and not much more.

The haggard (but fitting choice) of Richard Gere as Billy the Kid-survived/cowboy Dylan is a strange departure, but still serves as a good tool to play off the kinda of stories of a post-motorcycle crash mythology.

The stunning, the brilliant, the dead-on, (and the actress I most admire right now) Cate Blanchett doing Dylan in 1965 London mode...and it is........Wow. Wow. Wow. I never, for a moment, questioned her portraying him. In fact, her still-present feminine presence is just right. At that time, Dylan was popping speed and was a tiny, slip of a man. The nice, white skin and cool, sexy cheekbones were there, too (Blanchett comes in with those traits--nicely). Her mannerisms are perfect, not overdone. Her attitude is just right, and she brings a sensitive, empathetic actor's (artist's, actually) portrayal to the idea of Bob Dylan we've only seen glimpses of in "Don't Look Back" and "No Direction Home." She nails it. At times, she strips away that surly, sinewy anger and angst and reveals a real kid, someone who is bewildered by fame and examination. It's truly a revelation.

During that era and those scenes I was treated to those bigger-than-life moments that I have been reading about for years. Although I am definitely a fan of the man and his music, I do not consider myself any kind of Dylanoligist. But, I certainly have picked up a lot of tidbits from the magazine gems like Mojo and Uncut, among other various sources that musicheads like me devour. Some of my favorite bits were the visual or dramatic references not only to specific life moments but also the fantastic rendering of song lyrics and images. That was so much fun for me to soak up.

The life bits were amazing to see on the big screen, too. Most notably for me was seeing those two crucial, infamous moments that are the stuff of pop culture legend. When we see Cate-as-Bob take the stage at a "version" of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festival we see a quick peak into a perfect metaphoric rendering of what took place: Bob and the boys open fire with real (imagined) machine guns on the unsuspecting folk-fanatics. In the very next moment we see a rendering of the real event, as they rip (LOUD) into "Maggie's Farm" and the disgusted, pained faces of the folkies plugging their ears and booing. We see a Pete Seeger-character wield an ax over his head threatening to cut the cables bringing the "evil" sounds of "mainstream" and "corny" rock music to the kids. Subsequently, they show the London theatre where a kid stood up and shouted "Judas!"
to the stage. Cate-as-Bob sneers, "I don't belieeeeve you." I fucking ate it up!! I love it. To see
this all played out, so imaginatively, both playful and intense, was a thrilling movie-going experience.

Hearing the MUSIC was also what truly got me off. The great covers, by Jennings, John Doe (my boyfriend), the Black Keys, and, at the end, a stunningly beautiful arrangement of Knockin' On Heaven's Door by the great and spooky Antony and the Johnsons
--killer. But, what's most fun, as silly and obvious as it might sound, is to hear the man himself sing his own songs throughout the film. It sounds bigger and better than ever, because it's the first time I've *heard* that shit on the big screen. You know what I mean. It's rad and it hits your whole body. Hard.

Seeing Bob Dylan, the icon, being remembered, honored, criticized and examined in such an artful, obsessive and detailed manor is just about the best kinda smack you can offer a popculturejunkie like me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


My brain can barely process this.

The Verve to headline Glastonbury 2008?

Richard Ashcroft says it will be a 'travesty' if they don't
3 hours ago
The Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft wants the band to headline Glastonbury 2008.

The star insisted it would be a "travesty" if they didn't take centre stage at the event - though the recently-reformed band faces serious competition for one of the coveted slots.
Speaking to XFM, Ashcroft said: "I think it would be a travesty if we didn't. Because I think what's missing from a lot of the headliners is we're one of the few bands that can jam without sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd on a bad night, so we can actually take people on a proper journey, rock 'n' roll-wise.

He added: "I think that's what's great. If you can do that on the big stage, the big tunes can get 60,000 people singing but you've also got the capacity to change a standard rock gig into something else.

"I suppose that's what's been exciting about playing and we'll be excited about playing then."
Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis was spotted at one of the band's London Roundhouse shows last week (November 6), fuelling speculation the band will play the event for the first time since 1995.

However, Emily's dad and festival boss Michael Eavis recently told NME.COM seven acts were in contention for the three Pyramid Stage headline slots.

Acts who could be in contention include Muse, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, REM, Led Zeppelin and Kylie Minogue.

The 2008 bash takes place between June 27 and 29

Monday, November 05, 2007

"...ain't no sin to be glad you're alive"

First, a caveat: writing about Bruce Springsteen is simultaneously the most exuberant and daunting thing a music head/Springsteen head/music writer can do. Whew. So there.

Last Friday night marked my 9th time seeing the greatest rock performer alive in front of the greatest rock and roll band to rove the planet.

After hours of being in various holding cells (with some free time to bop around downtown St Paul) my dad, Fitzy and I (along with our various Springsteen characters/friends who would weave their way in and out of our evening) were thrust into that magical pit of pits...(I always think of good ol' Rancid. "See you in the pit" was inscribed on every album's liner notes, y'see...more on that later.)

When you're that close, see, when those lights that are shining on the stage are also shining on's another reality. Another *realm*. The energy, the adrenaline, the electricity in the air is so fucking powerful--you feel that you and those 18,999 other people surrounding you could power a city...or elect a just president...or take over the world...

On the Daily Show, about a week ago, John Stewart did a rare thing and opened on a personal note. He told the audience that he had gone out last night and seen a show...and it was "The greatest night of my life." He then added, rhetorically, "Do you like Joy? Are you a fan of Joy?" (clip can be found on Fitzy's touching, brilliant review that finds the recent convert gushing about his experience...) He gets it.

So, I will say first that, music for me is as important as any human relationship I have and as important as eating food to function, etc. I do not kid. I mean it. Anyone who knows me, knows this is true. (And hell, if you're reading this, you fucking better well know that. You're probably sick to death of reading that. heh.) My father raised me all by himself and it's one of the things that closely bonded us. Every since he took my to my first concert at age 2 1/2, live shows have been one of the only things in life I look forward to with unprecedented *joy*. Every close friend I've ever had has also been a freak for music in some way. It's usually a key subject of conversation... And it's one of the most magical (and consistent) things I can share with the man I'm in love with. Music permeates my mind and my life--everyday.

OK--after saying that, Bruce Springsteen shows are the Ultimate Affirmation of all that love and all that music worship. The ultimate showman, the ultimate crowd participation and the ultimate changed state of mind once you leave the venue.

At first, tension abounded as all the diehards who had been waiting for hours were getting antsy and testy. You can't blame us for feeling restless, but some were more feisty than others and, for a brief moment, my whole excitement level was threatened by some majorly petty bullshit that was surrounding me. (Basically people getting shove-y and territorial. Hell, I was territorial--no doubt.)

But, of course, as you can imagine... as soon as the stage surged with life, that radiant presence and glorious sound--all pettiness must be forgotten. That is *not* to say I felt a tangible camaraderie with my fellow Springsteen lovers. Although you share that space and you're singing at the top of your lungs with these strangers, it's not necessarily about a community with each other, it's more about taking it all in. Truly, everyone is so absorbed with the Big Show, it's not exactly Rancid at First Avenue. But that's OK. Because, as you look around you (which you are bound to do: the lights are bright, as I mentioned) and above you, to the rafters, it becomes a point of visual interest: EVERYONE is fucking INTO it. Everyone has their arms in the air, their fists pumping. People are dancing, they're bopping, they're hopping--we're talking ages 8 to 83 (and you know I ain't kiddin'). Every face you see is covered by a child-like grin, and, most importantly, everyone is totally absorbed with the show. With the man himself and that hard-working, dazzling rock band that works their collective ass off, along side him.

The set itself was a work of art. Springsteen kicked it into high gear right away using his standard, pulse-affirming shout, "Is there anybodayy ALIVE out there!!!????" that he usually waits for at least an hour before pulling out. Of course it was appropriate due to the song "Radio Nowhere" where he finally uses his Phrase in a song. Perfect.

But, I think something else happened for me. It was, I can safely say, the most *intense*, emotionally powerful experiences I have EVER had seeing Bruce Springsteen. (and that's saying a lot.)

It just might be the political climate (uh, yeah). It might be because the last time I saw the E Street Band, it was Vote For Change and since then, things got a lot worse. This time was a muthafuckin' RECKONING, as they say... The whole show, Bruce seemed very aware and almost taken aback by the crowds unprecedented hunger and appreciation. He actually said, "We didn't expect all this FUSS!" which to me meant, "We sure didn't expect Minnesota to act like New fucking Jersey!" And, despite Patti's absence (total bummer!) Bruce seemed in lifted spirits. He was grinning like a kid, and totally *flirty* with the ladies in the crowd! Making the eyes at 'em, raising those eyebrows and shit! Cute.

There was more Strummer-like *anger* in Bruce than I had ever seen before. When he spat out "Badlands" and he sang one of my fave lines of all time: "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," it had more URGENCY than ever before. The crowd ate it up. They were fucking starving and rabid for it. When he hit us with that carefully constructed (that's why it's not TOTALLY punk...) whammy of "The Rising," into "Last to Die," into "Long Walk Home," into "Badlands," it was a straight-up narrative that spoke to every person in that arena. It addressed the last 6 years of American life we have been entrenched in and watching in nothing else can: with forceful, poetic language, killer rock music and 19, 000 "regular" people *participating* in the musical act of art meets political rally. As he always says, *we* get to *join* Bruce and the band in concert. We're part of it.

And as I saw Bruce sweat, spit, blow snot forcefully out of his nose and bite into a wet sponge to douse his neck and quench his thirst quickly, I thought, yeah--Bruce is total punk as fuck, dude. There just ain't no doubt about it. I mean, I always knew that he loved the Clash and Stummer loved Springsteen, but here it was the clearest I had seen. Jim punched me in the arm (as he tends to do..that punk) and just looked at me wide-eyed and said "Strummer. So Strummer."

Yeah, yeah, I know I said that about seeing Madge, too. But it's so true. It's attitude and the key elements I NEED in a concert that changes me and my outlook on life: *sweaty, bouncy, glee* as it's happening--just being involved in that passionate, purposeful music that's a blast to move your body to. Fucking pogo, please. (Bruce did! Jim and I took great delight in that)

Back to that set list... lordy, was it a trip to hear those opening, rat-a-tat-tat drums by Max explode into "Night"! I don't think I had ever seen them do it, I love that damn song.'s hard to admit this..."Dancing in the Dark," following the exuberant, full-on crowd participatory-lights-on-"Born to Run," was sheer BRILLIANCE. I could not deny its pop power. The way people were dancing, *gleefully* like fools just cannot be beat, I tell ya. I've had a new outlook on that song ever since I saw Ted Leo do it at First Ave, anyway. Makes me happy. And, I really didn't think it was possible...but...when I looked over at Fitzy and saw him pumping his fist in the air to "Badlands," or smiling in awe, or dancing up a storm...I think I fell in love with him AND Bruce's music just a lil' more.

Oh, and then there was "Thunder Road." Used to be my fave song of all time. Only the second time he's played it on this tour. It was a "request" he told us. A young woman ( several other beautiful woman around us) next to me kept rubbing her arm. Her goosebumps just wouldn't go away. She wasn't alone with that problem.

At the bitter end, Bruce shouted, "Long live happiness!" and it seemed unscripted. It was, of course, exactly what everyone was thinking as they stumbled out, sweaty and dazed... re-energized to face the real world and all its troubles...and just ...happy.

here's the full Setlist:

Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Your Own Worst Enemy
Incident on 57th Street
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thunder Road
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Life always.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made me glad to be alive like almost NOTHING else in this world can.

here's what Backstreets had to say, for starters: (my words to follow soon)

11/2, ST. PAUL
A fun, high-energy show for a great crowd in the Twin Cities, which went nuts when necessary and quiet when called for (and it was called for, Bruce shushing the crowd a few times for the "Reason to Believe" harp intro). A bunch of teenagers were right up front, and Springsteen seemed to be having a great time playing to them. Basically, it was a classic example of what Bruce means when he talks about the crowd and performer being "in concert": He was into the crowd, they were into him, and they just fed off each other. Setlist-wise, nothing to raise eyebrows, no tour premieres... but "Incident on 57th Street" was an amazing performance, they played the pants off it. Garry Tallent in particular was a wonder to behold as the song's solid bedrock. Going from "Incident" into the all-out goofiness of "Working on the Highway" was the epitome of "from the sublime to the ridiculous"... but it worked. Garry even stepped up for backing vocals on "Highway" -- go Funky!

Other notables: "Gypsy Biker" was an early stand-out, as was "Reason." No Patti tonight, so Soozie once again took over the "Magic" duet. And "Thunder Road" still has life in it yet, played by "special request" -- with Bruce wielding the Fender Esquire from there into "Born to Run." Kudos to management and security at the Xcel Center for a phenomenal job with the GA process; especially considering there were 1,135 fans wristbanded for the lottery, the entry was organized, orderly, safe and smooth. That certainly didn't hurt the vibe in the arena. "Thank you, Twin Cities. You've been a fantastic audience," Bruce said at the close of the show, and he offered a benediction: "Long live happiness!" And as the lights came up and fans read what was on the screens, there was one more thing to be happy about: "Bruce returns March 16. Tickets on sale November 10 at 10 a.m."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Live a way

I got a shock of a night for Halloween. An extremely pleasant one.

Fitzy and I saw Gov't Mule at the O'Shaughnessy last night and there was buzz that one of their sets was going to be the Zep album, "Houses of the Holy" played all the way through.


I was so not expecting that.

Now, I'd heard some of those brilliant Phish Halloween album-cover-tributes before...and I had always wanted to experience a band playing an entire album the whole way through...LIVE. Granted, the first time I saw the Who the were doing their "Quadrophenia" tour. That was quite a thrill... My only real other whole-album-straight-through would be the magical experience I had of seeing my friend John play with a hodge-podge of musicians from the local bands Self Evident and (his old band) Align crank out The Police's "Synchronicity" in a dingy basement. I still bore my loved ones with that tired (but close to my musical heart) story.

Anyway--sure enough, as the second set began, the Mule busted out "The Song Remains the Same," and...I shit you not...Warren Haynes did his very best Robert Plant impression and...I was impressed. Now, he didn't *sound* like him, exactly--he just did the songs (and Mr. Plant) justice. Rock and roll justice. Also, standing beside Haynes was a tall, lanky feller with a curly fro. He was doing an AMAZING Jimmy Page guitar tribute, my friends. Those ever-so-familiar songs (that have been imprinted in my brain since the age of 14, mind you) are like gospel to me and man, did this guy know his shit. I just kept thinking, this guy must've *learned* to play the fucking guitar to Zeppelin records. For real. So, I had to tap the shoulder of the headbanging gentleman in front of me to find out who the fuck this guitar prodigy was. It was a name I had never heard before and what a name it is: Audley Freed of Black Crowes fame. Mr. Freed continued to amaze and dazzle and later Haynes told the crowd that he had flown in just to play that set for us and that was that. Dang.

I was a happy fucking camper. It was pure joy to see those songs on a theatre stage as intimate as O'Shaughnessy's and I took delight in singing along with every word and flailing my hair as much as possible.

Now...can we get the Lads to do "London Calling"? Who can I put a request in to for that...?

P.S. Tomorrow... I see Bruce Springsteen. 'Nuff said.

Monday, October 22, 2007

saying it brilliantly

Entertainment Weekly does it again. Damn. I am such a sucker for that rag.

Just picked up the latest ish and there was this lovely piece on "My So Called Life." (The complete 6-disc set is out now. Uh-oh.) It made me made me revisit the devastating age of 13...oy.

I love how Mr. Tucker *perfectly* makes the allusion to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye..."a portrait of adolescence." Both Salinger and MSCL's Winnie Holzman possess that gift that certain adult writers have of -going back- to their own youth and pulling out those inner monologues that ring true for both the young and the old(er?)...He also touches on how the style of the show may have turned people off (I still know peeps my age who just didn't dig it the way me and my MSCL-head friends did) because it was not plot-driven, but instead was "designed to be a fluid mood piece." Oh, and dig that dreamy lede. Fuck yeah.

Have at it:

DVD Review My So-Called Life: The Complete Series (2002)


[above]Claire Danes and Jared Leto in My So-Called Life; the show that turned teen angst into poetic TV drama retains its moody appeal on DVD
By Ken Tucker

''I'm in love. His name is Jordan Catalano. He was left back. Twice. Once I almost touched his shoulder in the middle of a pop quiz.''

These are some of the finest lines ever composed in the history of television, in their context. That context was My So-Called Life, which ran for 19 episodes on ABC, and now stands, in the six-disc My So-Called Life: The Complete Series collection, as a portrait of adolescence equal to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye or any other meditation on this most evanescent formative period of life.

MSCL was executive-produced by Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (the pair who'd previously given us thirtysomething), but the series' true author was Winnie Holzman, who wrote the pilot, penned many subsequent episodes, and maintained creative quality control. Holzman had her 15-year-old protagonist, Angela Chase (Claire Danes), speak, via voice-over narration, the lines I quoted up top; in the pilot, she's gazing dreamily at Jared Leto's Jordan, a sensitive bad boy who doesn't even know the intelligent, radiant, but shy Angela exists. The yearning in those words, the ache in Danes' voice, let you know this was a perfect conjoining of subject and actress, and that Holzman and Danes were going to take you on a painful, familiar, exhilarating journey...and then MSCL was canceled by ABC after a mere single season.

The fact that book-smart Angela is drawn to a ne'er-do-well like Jordan — that he will be the unconscious catalyst for rebelling against her parents (the amazingly subtle Bess Armstrong and Tom Irwin) and for seeking out new, offbeat friends (the beguilingly quirky A.J. Langer and Wilson Cruz) — dramatizes the push and pull of teen angst. The show's ratings doubtless suffered in part because it wasn't plot-heavy; rather, it was designed to be a fluid mood piece. The genius of MSCL was that it permitted Angela to remain as self-absorbed as any average teen, while opening up subplots for the parents' own arrested-adolescent struggles. And the series was positively revolutionary in its nuanced depiction of Cruz's Rickie, a gay teen who was alternately effusive and despairing. (See what Cruz told recently about his experiences working on My So-Called Life.)

The extras include the mini-doc ''My So-Called Life Story'' and commentaries on six episodes, the best being an analysis of the pilot by Holzman, Herskovitz, and director Scott Winant. Danes, now shimmeringly adult, provides both an audio commentary and a separate, candid interview. Many young performers are anxious to leave their early work behind, but Danes recognizes what an extraordinary experience she had in her first starring role, and seems to treasure it as much as we do. A

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday Record Shopping Ritual Revisited

Recently I have been missing...and craving the ol' ritualistic record hunt that I used to religiously perform every Saturday with E-Beth and Erica. It was something we each *had* to do (weekly) and could always share our nerdy enthusiasm with each other, unashamed.

Since I became smitten with Fitzy (and Saturdays used to be the only *day* we could spend together ...once upon a time), and since my two coffee-clatching, musichead buddies have since skipped town, I have neglected my need and have only sporadically purchased music in the store, proper.

But this week I realized I had the pocket change to splurge and get the drugs I needed. Fitzy joyfully accompanied me on my mission and I scored 5 discs and one piece of vinyl!

Oh, and to address you, mystery blogger: one of my purchases included the phenomenal "Naturally" by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Fitzy had just acquired his fave single of late, "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?", had me hear it that morning and we danced. And I fell in love with it, and knew I had to buy it that day along with these other treasures:

The new Dan Wilson, "Free Life." Natch.

The 'Mats "Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?" Just cuz. I got the fever and I never properly owned the two new singles. Right.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, "This is Somewhere." I know I was superfucking lazy about writing about Austin...Grace Potter and her boyfriends (ha) were one of those pleasant surprises of a festival find. Soulful vocals, wailing guitar solos and scorching sexual stage chemistry -- I had to follow up.

Gov't Mule, "Mighty High." They headline a show with Grace on Halloween! Homework (the best kind.)

The vinyl? Arctic Monkeys (shocked?) 10" single for "Fluorescent Adolescent" which contains three (!) songs I have never heard. Righteous.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

music is power

This morning on the bus, a young Somali woman (with a bright red headscarf) has was sporting a gray AC/DC hoodie.

I couldn't keep the grin from spreading on my face.

Meanwhile, my iPod has been so fucking comforting (as always, I guess) on these rainy, gloomy mornings. I have been loving the latest Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings record, "100 Days, 100 Nights." She is dynamite and that band is so stellar--straight up James Brown, working crew of musicians--ellos en fuego. I kept wanting more after hearing their stuff on the Current. And then I read this piece about her in the Times. It got me *needing* the record. It's funky, soulful "throw-back" style R&B with a hint of gospel. They achieve that magic, though--that kind of magic that makes throw-back sound fresh. I so dig the record's packaging, too. Ms. Jones (former prison guard at Rikers Island New York), in all her short, packed, stacked glory is decked out in a 60s-style, gold lamé lookin' gown--striking a pose. The CD looks like vinyl and the astrological signs of each Dap-King are listed after stating which instrument they play. Love it.

Speaking of the beloved Current, Mary Lucia just had Dan Wilson on this week to play and promo his new solo record. The two of them sounded like ol' buds and he played one of my most favorite songs of the past year, "Easy Silence." I was lucky enough to see him play it in a very un-crowded Hoot, last spring. He introduced it as a song he "wrote with the Dixie Chicks" and I really didn't know what to expect. I dig the Chicks, actually, but didn't know what it was gonna be. I certainly didn't expect to cry like a 'little bitch,' which is exactly what I did. It was *so* intimate, *so* quietly powerful, it blew me away. It was partly those Chicks' lyrics, I guess--but I think what caused me to produce tears was the eloquent *melody,* it cut right to the bone. Dan Wilson has one of those rare, *perfect* pop voices that remains rich and full even in the most quiet circumstances. He also has a knack for writing ridiculously catchy, insidious hooks that latch themselves on to you immediately and stay there for-freakin'-ever.

This is another one of those--the melody is pretty, simple and infectious.

Easy Silence

by Dan Wilson, Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison

When the calls and conversations Accidents and accusations
Messages and misperceptions
Paralyze my mind
, cars, and airplanes leavin'
Burnin' fumes of gasoline and
Everyone is running and I
Come to find a refuge in the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Monkeys on the barricades
Are warning us to back away
They form commissions trying to find
The next one they can crucify
And anger plays on every station
Answers only make more questions
I need something to believe in

Breathing sanctuary in the
Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Children lose their youth too soon
Watching war made us immune
And I've got all the world to lose
But I just want to hold on to the

Easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The easy silence that you make for me
It's ok when there's nothing more to say to me
And the peaceful quiet you create for me
And the way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay for me
The way you keep the world at bay

Friday, October 12, 2007

to honor Fitzy

(it's his b-day today)

AND he happened to write a fucking *SUPERB* re-telling of our ACL Day 2 Expereince.

I am shamed and refuse to write about it, now.

Check this shit out:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
ACL Festival Day 2
The Ike Reiily Assassanation is a band that, whenever possible, doesn't hit the stage until after midnight, so when I saw that the IRA would be performing a noon set at ACL, I was both thrilled and appalled. Granted, the other bands slated to play the days bigger slots probably had more fans than the Chicago five piece group, but Ike's brand of rock and roll is faster and more rowdy and more deserving of late night billing than most. So, being a smaller fish in a pond of...well, whales, Ike's band was relegated to an all too brief half hour set to kick off Day 2 of ACL. Arriving at the festival just before noon on Saturday, there was already a crowd of a couple hundred dedicated and excited fans hovering around the Ausin Ventures stage where the IRA would soon tear through a handful of songs. There we sat waiting in the hot sun for them to start, and when the band started it was apparent that these were tried and true Ike fans. Many people sang along, and after the set flew by, the band was out in the crowd socializing with old freinds who made the trip from the Chicago area and meeting old fans for the first time who said things like "I saw you guys for the first time in New York a few years ago and have been a huge fan ever since." We were hoping we'd get to spend some quality time backstage with the one band we had connections to at the festival, but alas, the IRA had their first ever gig in Mexico that very same night and couldn't stick around. So we said our goodbyes and dove into some shade.

After a little break from the sun, we saw a bit of the set from former Mavericks frontman Raul Malo. The Mavericks were a pretty cool honkytonk country band with a bit of a Latin flavor. My favorite songs by them were "What a Cryin Shame" and "Oh What a Thrill". Unfortunately, he didnt play either of those songs. But, he did cover a Dwight Yokum number called "It only Hurts Me When I Cry". Very uplifting indeed. This was really cool because I had seen Raul's voice compared to Dwight's before, and Mr. Yokum is one of my favorite country artists. He also sang that "Besame Mucho" (kiss me much) song that Sanjaya sang on American Idol. Sadly, that is the only way I know that song, which I probably should not admit, but it's true. Again, the diversity of bands at this festival was astonishing. This particular act drew out thousands of older country music fans and their children. In Fact, this was by far the most kid-friendly festival I have ever been to, and not only did parents bring their youngsters, but they allowed their tweeniebopper kids to go to the festival also, as there were thosands of fresh faced youngsters wandering around in packs.

The legendary Soul Stirrers were next on our agenda, and they were absolutely fantastic. Hailing from a small town in Texas, the band has undergone many lineup changes since they started out around the year 1930 (not a typo!). They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and are the only Gospel quartet that can boast of that honor. Once fronted by the late great Sam Cooke, this is a band that had Christians and athiests alike praising the power of music. Soul, gospel, faith and emotion came togehter masterfully when Willie Rogers, the current leader of the Soul Stirrers belted out "A Change Gonna Come" after paying tribute to the man who wrote that brilliant preotest anthem, Sam Cooke. Rogers displayed more soul in his singing than anyone I had ever seen, and it was inspirational to be in the prescence of a group that has had so much impact and positive influence on several generations of muscicians. Another highlight from their set was when Wille Rogers left the stage to start a train of fans around while leading a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In".

Stephen Marley, the second son of Bob, was already playing on the main stage when the Soul Stirrers finished. He has got to have one of the biggest, most genuine and contagious smiles of anyone I have ever seen. Maybe it was all the Ganja being openly smoked throughout the crowd, but the energy surrounding the stage and the music was overwhelmingly optimistic and positive. Stephen sang some of his fathers most poignant and well known reggae classics like "No Woman, No Cry", "Jammin", and "Could You Be Loved", along with lesser known gems like "Punky Reggae Party" and "Duppy Conquerer". Back over in the Revival Tent where the Soul Stirrers had just played, New Jersey bluegrass outfit Railroad Earth were sawing away on fiddles and various other stringed instruments. Packing the tent to the gills with their east coast take on bluegrass, RRE is a really fun band to see and were the one band I had already seen earlier in the year, at 10KLF back home in Minnesota.

Next we very briefly watched a very old and tattered looking Steve Earle, but it wasn't all that great so we moved on and tried to get a good spot for what was our most anticipated show of the day, Arctic Monkeys. When the White Stripes, who were scheduled to be Saturday night's headliners, cancelled at the last moment due to Meg White's "Acute Anxiety", we, along with thousands of other fans, were very disapointed, but with so many other great bands playing, it was easy to get over that and instead focus on what we would be seeing.

Arctic Monkeys were origianlly going to be palying head to head against Muse, another English band that is far bigger overseas than they are here. Unlike Arctic Monkeys though, Muse had played the ACL festival before, and had impressed the important people enough that instead of playing their set at the same time as Arctic Monkeys, they were invited to fill in for The White Stripes on the Main Stage a couple hours later. What this meant for Arctic Monkeys is that there really was no other significant act playing at the same time, so by default thousands of extra people came to see what all the fuss over these young lads was about, altough it was clear that many of the people in the crowd had never even heard of Arctic Monkeys. "Where are they from?" one young man in the audience asked another. "England?" his buddy responded unsurely. Allow me to ever so briefly recap the Arctic Monkeys rise to international (but not American) prominence. Following what many called a "deafening buzz" on the internet about the band, their debut album sold an unbeleivable 118,000 copies in the first day and beat the Beatles to become the fast selling album in UK history. Since then they have continued to grow in popularity around the world, and when their second album came out in May of this year to critical and popular accalim, they were cemented as leaders of England's new school. Arctic Monkeys have been touring to support the new record, full of Alex Turner's clever wordsmithing and the unique sonic experience of thundering drums and quick, heavy guitar riffs, and this year they have headlined the biggest fetivals in Europe like the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Back in Austin Texas, however, Arctic Monkeys were seen by many as a bunch of overhyped young foreigners, and not given much of a chance. I can symapthize a little bit. Their sound is so different from anything else out there, and the lyrics are so quick and insightful that they may seem pretentious, or just incomprehensible, to the uninitiated. Turner sings (or does he speak/rap?) with a strong accent and his British slang is often jumbled to make it difficult to decifer, but he is a genius of observation and has a very dry, fast moving sense of humor to go along with the pace of the set and songs.

Fresh from headlining Englands 35 year old masterpiece of culture, Glastonbury, it was clear that these young musicians were not used to this kind of uninterested, dissmissive crowd. Glasto, as its known overseas, sells out its 160,000 tickets in minutes, but here the energy level in the crowd was unbelievably low. Alex pressed on with the set and managed to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing. It was almost dusk, and when the sun began to fade for the night, you could feel the collective sense of relief as it cooled down to a more comfortable temperature. "Can you cheer up a bit now, the sun's gone down?" Alex said, and I remarked that he was probably up on stage thinking to himself "What a bunch of cranky wankers!" Then without warning they launched into a song proclaiming "They say it changes when the sun goes down around here...". These are some of the coolest picures ive ever taken, the way that the clouds were parting as the set came to a close, allowing the sun to break through and shed some proverbial light on the Arctic Monkeys, as if to illuminate their presence to the thousands of unimpressed onlookers. It was fantastic. I wished so much that everyone at that show could have felt the same way I did, like I was witnessing the landmark gig for the Arctic Monkeys in America. This was perhaps their biggest stage yet in America, for though they have played on SNL, Letterman, and have made other t.v. appearances, this seemed like it could be the breakout performance that had people in America buzzing about them.

Absolutley knackered after that intense show, it was time for a brief break before heading over to what would be another highlight of the weekend, Muse. Muse just opened the new Wembley Field in England with a two night stand, and here at ACL, they rocked my fucking face off. More than any other band in recent memory, I was astonished at how cool they sounded, and they are only a three piece band. The stage show was equally mind-bending. It was face melting area rock complete with a full visual assault from two jumbotrons. There were colors floating from the stage as the band laid waste to thousands of unsuspecting fans who probably thought there was something of an ordinary rockshow in store for them. Maybe it was the blaring sun we had to contend with all day that had everyone feeling wiped out, but it looked like many of those people who were leaving the main stage long before Muse's set finished simply could not take the assault on the senses anymore. the visual effects were stunning. At one point I turned to Brianna and just to clarify asked, "They *are* bending time and space right now, aren't they?" I really wanna explore that crazy band and delve into them a bit, they were fascinating. These are not my videos, but they give an idea of what the show was like. Whew, as I said, I was blown away by these guys and it was an awesome treat because I knew absolutely nothing about them going into the show and had no idea what to expect. We had survived another insanely hot day in Texas, and still had an entire day of music to go.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

John Kerry/Bruce Springsteen

This is it. The song [see below] on "Magic" that made it happen for me. It nestled its way into my brain and it took hold, and it won't let go. KILLER hook and fucking powerful use of Kerry's testimony and Bruce's knack for making *pop*/rock songs about shit that matters: war, death, real/flawed love and people's lives. Using the Vietnam ref in a song about Iraq works, for obvious reasons, but it's the Kerry + Springsteen connection that hits me so hard every time I hear it...I think of Vote for Change and how relevant it was then. Now, it's almost 4 years later and we're in a *worse* spot. Makes me sick. But, as always, Bruce is there. By asking us to join him in his disgust and rage and then to party to the pop--it makes us not forget or ignore the horrors that exist, but to keep the sanity. And, I have FINALLY realized that all of "Magic" is doing just that and the show on Nov. 2nd will be the most cathartic therapy one could hope for.

P.S. "Anger can be power/do you know that you can use it?" also applies....Strummer, wish you were here.)

Here's that killer:

Album's version

We took the highway till the road went black
We'd marked, Truth Or Consequences on our map*
A voice drifted up from the radio
And I thought of a voice from long ago

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The kids asleep in the backseat
We're just counting the miles, you and me
We don't measure the blood we've drawn anymore
We just stack the bodies outside the door

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The wise men were all fools, what to do

The sun sets in flames as the city burns
Another day gone down as the night turns
And I hold you here in my heart
As things fall apart

A downtown window flushed with light
"Faces of the dead at five" (faces of the dead at five)
Our martyr's silent eyes
Petition the drivers as we pass by

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Darlin' your tyrants and kings fall to the same fate
Strung up at your city gates
And you're the last to die for a mistake

Friday, October 05, 2007

ACLF Highlights (apologies for the delay..there is more to come)

Austin was magical. We were able to make the most of our time there and I really do dig the city. But, I gotta tell you, MPLS still kicks Austin's butt when it comes to a *cool* music town--of course, I'm superduper biased...but still.

I must say that the festival boasted some of the most rabid, passionate music lovers I have ever stood next to at shows. I think I saw the most musical tattoos in those three days than I have ever seen in my life. It was also the most international festival I'd ever been to--the line-up and the fans were from all over the globe. I admit it, I closed my eyes and dreamed I was at Glasto a few times. Afterall, the headliners at Glasto: Arctic Monkeys, Bjork and the Killers were all at ACL. C'mon! Incredible. Our very own Euro festival.

I actually got to have a quick chat with a bloke from Manchester (!!) who had been to Glasto this year. I spotted him sitting in the shade, where I was headed (the heat was brutal), and he looked like he was in rough shape. Nursing a beer, no water in sight, his face was the same color as his crimson White Stripes shirt. He was speaking to some kids about his defiant White Stripes-shirt-wearing "statement" (they canceled, as you may have heard--a huge disappointment to him and the rest of us) and that distinctive Northern accent hit my ears like a familiar song. To my sheer delight, he told me how the Glasto crowd (yep, all 177,500 of 'em, my friend) sang *every word* of those lyrics along with Alex Turner. He called Turner a "young genius with words" and then stated, very matter-of-factly: "They're the best band since The Smiths." This coming from a Mancunian! Nice.

The heat was rough for me, I admit it. Any time there was a low point for shows, I wanted to retreat to the shade or the glorious, misting fans that were scattered throughout the park. Fitzy and I kept remarking about how well-run and organized the festival and was. There was hardly a moment that we had to wait in line too long, or felt overwhelmed by the crowd. Bottled water was $2, which is downright cheap in the festival world. And I can actually only cite a few times(during the sets of The Killers and Ziggy Marley) that made me feel crazy-claustrophobic-like. We mainly stuck to "Our Side" of the stage, which meant where ever the masses *weren't* flocking to. This worked beautifully. For big, headlining acts like Bjork, Bloc Party, Bob Dylan and more, we were able to get extremely close to the stage and have a great perspective with lots of room to breathe. Ahhh, it was niiice.

Now, on to the music.....

Bloc Party was, unfortunately, my biggest disappointment--and I still generally enjoyed what I saw of their set. (Maybe it had something to do with their time slot--4 in the afternoon, the hottest muthafucking hour of the day. oy.) I have loved their two records and listened to them a million times. I've poured over reviews of shows and interviews with them in the NME and Q. Maybe it's just the ol' Alex Turner truth: anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment (I'm *kinda* experiencing that a bit with the new Springsteen album right now, believe it or not...I'm confident this will change after repeated listens, of course. A-hem. Right.) So, although Kele was handsome, charming and in great spirits ("Howdy, y'all!! We're not gon' let a bit of sun and heat get in the way of having fun, now are we!?" he enthused in his clipped Brit accent) the rest of the band seemed bored and it showed in their playing. The sound was muddled and I never fucking say this, but I felt wasn't *loud* enough!

So, I made a quick decision. This was one of the worst double time slots for me--Lucinda Williams was playing concurrently at the opposite side of the park. I knew we had to make a dash for it. I wanted to see her in a very bad way but my logic was: I had seen her before (at First Ave, it was incredible) and her new material has been too downy clowny for me...I had never seen Bloc Party--the choice was clear. But, their set was lacking, so I made my way over to the sweet sounds of Lucinda. She was drinky, rockin and wearing a "U.S. vs. John Lennon" t-shirt (with the classic, "WAR IS OVER if you want it" cover her back). Most excellent. As we were heading over, I heard the familiar guitar and bass lines of...the Doors' "Riders on the Storm"!!! So kick-ass for a festival, I thought. Later, she made some rambling, but well-intended anti-war statements and had a particularly spicy dig at organized religion before she played the "Gotta Serve Somebody"-esque "Get Right With God."

Speaking of gettin' saved...Fitzy and I were lucky enough bear witness to the Legendary Soul Stirrers in a revival-like setting--the one and only hot, crowded tent. Formed in 1927 (I shit you not) they were the gospel/soul group that Sam Cooke belonged to before he went secular and made the music we mainly associate him with. Willie Rogers, the lead vocalist nowadays, was *the* most moving, passionate, *soulful* vocal performers I have ever seen and heard. As soon as he mentioned Mr. Cooke and began to sing, "A Change Is Gonna Come," I was...gone.

I cried like a little bitch, man.

***I had to just post this, so I will be inspired to *finish* telling the tale. So, obviously, there's more to follow.........***

Friday, September 28, 2007

couldn't believe my eyes...

Is this a dream?
Whoa. My *fave* Arts writer....My *fave* musician...

Springsteen, interviewed by Times *movie* critic, Tony Scott. Crazy awesome. Dig how much of a fan he is and I love the light self-deprecation about his yuppie (or...older-uppie?) lifestyle and how it juxtaposes with Springsteen themes. The fan-dom is especially touching when he comes right out and states, "I spent my teenage years in the thrall of punk rock and its various aftermaths and came to Springsteen late, past the stage of life when his great anthems of romance, rebellion and escape might have had their most direct impact. As a result, I associate his work with the sorrows and satisfactions of adulthood; it’s music to grow up to, not out of. "

Of course. Tony loved punk. And, of course, he verbalizes exactly how I feel...sigh.

Even more exciting, he says the new one, "Magic," is "musically, one of the most upbeat, accessible records he has made, even as its themes and stories make it one of his most political."


September 30, 2007

In Love With Pop, Uneasy With the World
Asbury Park, N.J.
IT was the last day of summer, but on the boardwalk here it seemed more like a perfect morning in early July: the Atlantic Ocean sparkled under a cloudless sky; the humid air was soothed by a soft, salty breeze. I looked down the empty beach, past the souvenir shops and snack bars with their fresh paint and new green awnings, toward the proud Victorian hulk of the old Casino, and felt that I had walked into a
Bruce Springsteen song. (Oh, I don’t know. Maybe “Fourth of July, Asbury Park.” Or is that too obvious?)

The feeling, no less potent for being self-induced, had been with me all morning. Bright and early, me and my girl — my wife of nearly two decades, that is — had let the screen door slam, dropped off the kids at school and set out on the open road, blowing through the E-ZPass lanes on the Garden State Parkway in our Volvo station wagon. We had an advance copy of Mr. Springsteen’s new album, “Magic,” in the CD slot, and most of his back catalog in reserve on the iPod. And now we were driving down Kingsley, figuring we’d get a latte. One more chance to make it real. Tramps like us, baby!

Our purpose was not to fantasize but rather to observe the E Street Band in rehearsal, and then to hear what the man himself had to say about the new record, the coming tour and whatever else was on his mind. “Magic” is, musically, one of the most upbeat, accessible records he has made, even as its themes and stories make it one of his most political. Once again he is hitting the road as a presidential election heats up.

“I like coming out on those years,” he would tell me later, when we sat down to talk in a backstage dressing room after the rehearsal. “Whatever small little bit we can do, that’s a good time to do it.”

At an age when most rock ’n’ rollers, if they’re still alive, have become either tributes to or parodies of their earlier selves, Mr. Springsteen seems to have settled into an enviable groove, with new musical forms to explore and an existing body of work that never seems to get old, with plenty to say and an audience that hangs on his every word.

In which — as if it weren’t already obvious — I include myself. I’ve been listening to Bruce Springsteen for a long time, but I can’t pretend that he provided the soundtrack for my youth. I spent my teenage years in the thrall of punk rock and its various aftermaths and came to Springsteen late, past the stage of life when his great anthems of romance, rebellion and escape might have had their most direct impact. As a result, I associate his work with the sorrows and satisfactions of adulthood; it’s music to grow up to, not out of.

Mr. Springsteen’s best songs, it seems to me, are about compromise and stoicism; disappointment and faith; work, patience and resignation. They are also, frequently — even the ones he wrote when he was still in his 20s — about nostalgia, about the desire to recapture those fleeting moments of intensity and possibility we associate with being young.
Moments that tend, not coincidentally, to crystallize within a certain kind of popular song. A song, let’s say, like “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” which arrives smack in the middle of “Magic” and which the E Street Band was in the middle of playing when my wife and I tiptoed through the doors of the Asbury Park Convention Hall. It was a little after 10; the band was about an hour into its morning rehearsal, preparing for a tour of North America and Europe that kicks off on Tuesday in Hartford.

The Convention Hall is a battered, pocket-size arena where, as a teenager, Mr. Springsteen saw bands like the Who and the Doors. This morning it was filled with a shimmery, summery sound, as if we had traveled back 40 years into the mid-’60s sonic landscape of
Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and the Byrds. Steve van Zandt was strumming a 12-string guitar, and the vocal harmonies, the chiming keyboards, Clarence Clemons’s saxophone and Soozie Tyrell’s violin combined to produce a lush orchestral cushion for Mr. Springsteen’s voice, which swooned through a lyric as unabashedly romantic as the song’s title.

“I wanted one thing on the record that was the perfect pop universe,” Mr. Springsteen said, once the band had wandered off and he had finished an early lunch of granola with fresh fruit and soy milk. It was two days before his 58th birthday, and he looked trimmer and tanner than he had the last time I’d seen him, which was on the JumboTron video screen at Giants Stadium a few years back. “You know, that day when it’s all right there; it’s the world that only exists in pop songs, and once in a while you stumble on it.”

Not that “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” is untouched by melancholy. Its narrator, after all, stands and watches as the girls of the title “pass me by.” “It’s the longing, the unrequited longing for that perfect world,” Mr. Springsteen continued. “Pop is funny. It’s a tease. It’s an important one, but it’s a tease, and therein resides its beauty and its joke.”

And much of “Magic,” on first hearing, seems to unfold in a similar spirit. There is a brightness of sound and a lightness of touch that are not quite like anything else Mr. Springsteen has done recently. In the past five years he has released four albums of original material, a zigzag through new and familiar styles and idioms. “The Rising” (2002) brought the E Street Band back into the studio after a long hiatus (their sound updated by the producer Brendan O’Brien) and answered the trauma of 9/11 with the defiant, redemptive roar of solid, down-the-middle rock. With “Devils and Dust” (2005) Mr. Springsteen picked up the thread of Western stories and acoustic ballads that stretched back through other non-E Street projects like “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Nebraska” (as well as some parts of “The River”). “The Seeger Sessions,” released last year, was an old-time old-lefty hootenanny, with a big, unruly jug band rollicking through spirituals, union songs and Dust Bowl ballads.
All of those discs were infused with Mr. Springsteen’s bedrock populism, but none was quite what you would call a pop record. Pop, though, is the term he and his band mates use, again and again, to describe “Magic.” Mr. Van Zandt, who has been playing and arguing about music with Mr. Springsteen for 40 years (scholars cite Nov. 3, 1967, as the date of their first meeting), noted that in the past Mr. Springsteen’s more tuneful, playful compositions tended not to make it onto albums.

“It was nice on this one to start to be a little bit more inclusive,” he said in a telephone interview a few days after my visit to Asbury Park, “with a little bit more of the poppier side of things, without losing any of the integrity, or any of the high standards. That was a nice surprise, a nice change of pace to include those things and integrate them into the album, rather than having them be fun to record and then cast them aside.”

For his part, Mr. Sprinsteen said that in writing the songs for “Magic,” he had experienced “a reinfatuation with pop music.” “I went back to some forms that I either hadn’t used previously or hadn’t used a lot, which was actual pop productions,” he said. “I wrote a lot of hooks. That was just the way that the songs started to write themselves, I think because I felt free enough that I wasn’t afraid of the pop music. In the past I wanted to make sure that my music was tough enough for the stories I was going to tell.”

The paradox of “Magic” may be that some of its stories are among the toughest he has told. The album is sometimes a tease but rarely a joke. The title track, for instance, comes across as a seductive bit of carnival patter, something you might have heard on the Asbury Park boardwalk in the old days. A magician, his voice whispery and insinuating in a minor key, lures you in with descriptions of his tricks that grow more sinister with each verse. (“I’ve got a shiny saw blade/All I need’s a volunteer.”) “Trust none of what you hear/And less of what you see,” he warns. And the song’s refrain — “This is what will be” — grows more chilling as you absorb the rest of the album’s nuances and shadows.

You can always trust what you hear on a Bruce Springsteen record (irony, he notes, is not something he’s known for), but in this case it pays to listen closely, to make note of the darkness, so to speak, that hovers at the edge of the shiny hooks and harmonies. “I took these forms and this classic pop language and I threaded it through with uneasiness,” Mr. Springsteen said.

And while the songs on “Magic” characteristically avoid explicit topical references, there is no mistaking that the source of the unease is, to a great extent, political. The title track, Mr. Springsteen explained, is about the manufacture of illusion, about the Bush administration’s stated commitment to creating its own reality.

“This is a record about self-subversion,” he told me, about the way the country has sabotaged and corrupted its ideals and traditions. And in its own way the album itself is deliberately self-subverting, troubling its smooth, pleasing surfaces with the blunt acknowledgment of some rough, unpleasant facts.

“Magic” picks up where “The Rising” left off and takes stock of what has happened in this country since Sept. 11. Then, the collective experiences of grief and terror were up front. Now those same emotions lurk just below the surface, which means that the catharsis of rock ’n’ roll uplift is harder to come by. The key words of “The Rising” were hope, love, strength, faith, and they were grounded in a collective experience of mourning. There is more loneliness in “Magic,” and, notwithstanding the relaxed pop mood, a lot less optimism.
The stories told in songs like “Gypsy Biker” and “The Devil’s Arcade” are vignettes of private loss suffered by the lovers and friends of soldiers whose lives were shattered or ended in Iraq. “The record is a tallying of cost and of loss,” Mr. Springsteen said. “That’s the burden of adulthood, period. But that’s the burden of adulthood in these times, squared.”
In conversation, Mr. Springsteen has a lot to say about what has happened in America over the last six years: “Disheartening and heartbreaking. Not to mention enraging” is how he sums it up. But his most direct and powerful statement comes, as you might expect, onstage. It is not anything he says or sings, but rather a piece of musical dramaturgy, the apparently simple, technical matter of shifting from one song to the next.

On the Convention Hall stage, the band handled the new material as deftly as the chestnuts — after 35 years together, communication is pretty much effortless — pausing to work out an occasional kink or adjust the sound mix. But they must have gone over the segue from “The Rising” to their next number at least a half-dozen times.

“You’ve got to let that chord sustain. Everybody!” Mr. Springsteen urged. “It can’t die down.”

The guitarists had the extra challenge of keeping the sound going while changing instruments, a series of baton-relay sprints for the crew whose job was to assist with the switch, until a dissonant organ ring came in to signal a change of key and the thunderous opening of “Last to Die.” It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Mr. Springsteen’s take on the post-9/11 history of the United States can be measured in the space between the choruses of those two songs. The audience is hurled from a rousing exhortation (“Come on up to the rising”) to a grim, familiar question: “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake?”

“That’s why we had to get that very right today,” he said later. “You saw us working on it. That thing has to come down like the world’s falling on you, that first chord. It’s got to screech at the end of ‘The Rising,’ and then it’s got to crack, rumble. The whole night is going to turn on that segue. That’s what we’re up there for right now, that 30 seconds.”
But the night does not end there. Onstage, “Last to Die” is followed, as it is on the album, by a song called “Long Walk Home.” In the first verse, the speaker travels to some familiar hometown spots and experiences an alienation made especially haunting by the language in which he describes it: “I looked into their faces/They were all rank strangers to me.” That curious, archaic turn of phrase — rank strangers — evokes an eerie old mountain lament of the same title, recorded by the Stanley Brothers.

“In that particular song a guy comes back to his town and recognizes nothing and is recognized by nothing,” Mr. Springsteen said. “The singer in ‘Long Walk Home,’ that’s his experience. His world has changed. The things that he thought he knew, the people who he thought he knew, whose ideals he had something in common with, are like strangers. The world that he knew feels totally alien. I think that’s what’s happened in this country in the past six years.”

And so the song’s images of a vanished small town life (“The diner was shuttered and boarded/With a sign that just said ‘gone’ “) turn into metaphors, the last of which is delivered with the clarity and force that has distinguished Mr. Springsteen’s best writing:

My father said “Son, we’re
lucky in this town
It’s a beautiful place to be born.
It just wraps its arms around you
Nobody crowds you, nobody goes it alone.
You know that flag
flying over the courthouse
Means certain things are set in stone
Who we are, and what we’ll do
And what we won’t”
It’s gonna be a long walk home.
“That’s the end of the story we’re telling on a nightly basis,” Mr. Springsteen said. “Because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. And that’s not the way it is right now.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I know

it's pathetic!

I haven't written about the wonderful, magical experience that was ACLF.

My excuse: I have been working crazy-ass hours (some 11 hour days) and haven't had the will to come home to write.

The progress so far: I have copious notes, and I've started writing in blog-form about it.

I want to. I just haven't had the goddamn time. But, that's no excuse! I must make the time.