April 27, 2008

4/20 Rogue Wave St. Louis Show Review:

This is a week's delay (as in I started writing this the day after the show, last Monday) and I broke my hand on Friday and can't finish typing, so...here goes nothing. My apologies in advance.
---------------------------------------

I left my home, nearly 25 miles away from WashU’s Gargoyle Club around 8p, when the show was slated to start. After circling the parking areas twice, I decided to park in the faculty/staff parking right up front. I rushed in to find an insignificant amount of listeners and I couldn’t figure out if it was because of the bands being late, an printing error of the time on the bill or the crappiness of the venue. The Gargoyle Club is tantamount to a typical St. Louis summer; hot, humid, and despite its overall depressing quality is intriguing and one can’t help but to give in and see what it has to offer. My attitude going in was great, though rushed, but I wore extra deodorant and was ready to sweat.

I scanned the nearly skeletal crowd for some familiar faces and found none. Of course I found nearly everyone there complaining of the heat and the considerable delay. I completely forgot who was opening and I asked fellow show-goers who it was and nobody else knew either. Great. Around 9:10p the opening band came on. It was an intimate affair but that made the treat that much sweeter; we were paid back for the delay with San Diego’s Grand Ole Party. The audience was abuzz with, perhaps most trivial albeit valuable information, how hot lead singer, Kristin Gundred was and her resemblance to Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In my experience, both as a musician and a listener, bands that have their drummer playing double duty as the backbone, heartbeat, pulse and so on as well as providing the vocals as the lead singer suffer in skill and overall decency. Grand Ole Party may not be overtly complex in the percussion department, but that doesn’t mean that the drumming is simplistic or boring, and it certainly doesn’t suffer. Kristin’s vocals don’t suffer either; her voice is a thrilling mix, the likes of Ann Wilson of Heart and (observably, rightfully so) Karen O.

Complaints were devoured by the surf rock-ish sounds provided by Grand Ole Party and the group began to dance, clap, shout and cheer both with and for them. GOP kept the crowd focused and exceedingly content. The set felt as though it abruptly ended just about as abruptly as it started. While the sound of Grand Ole Party may be a bit too undemanding or straightforward for some, they know how to get groups, whether it be an irritable group or a desiring crowd, up and dancing.

Grand Ole Party’s equipment was being taken off stage and I was prepared to hear rapid grumbles regarding the heat and humidity. To my surprise nearly the whole crowd was alight with Grand Ole Party. I turned around a few times during GOP’s set to find the audience getting a bit larger each time and unexpectedly the audience was considerably larger (by around 60 or so people). Sadly, though, the buzz about GOP was put to the wayside and the crowd was growing impatient waiting for Rogue Wave.
Around the peak of irritation, audience members thought they were hearing things; acoustic guitars playing a melodious and familiar tune. Heads were turning all around in attempts to find out where the sound was coming from. No one was on stage! The crowd was outraged by their confusion until they realized that three members of Rogue Wave came in from the common entrance armed with their acoustic guitars. The three (Gram LeBron, Zach Rogue and Pat Abernathy) got comfortable in the middle of the crowd and for nearly two minutes gave a beautiful rendition of a song from Descended Like Vultures until the bass drum kicked the start of the next song from the stage.

This is where I left off and I broke my hand…so, as you can imagine the show was pristine, like a jewel glinting in the sun. I loved it, had a great time and couldn’t be more thankful to Gram LeBron for the great night. Sorry it’s not better than it is…but there’s not much you can do with a broken hand.

April 26, 2008

Taking issue

Like Jenn mentioned, the Tokyo Police Club LP dropped. Apparently, the denizens of other music sites thought that meant somebody dropped a turd in a pool.

Basically, the knock is that it's too commercial and that it basically isn't the EPs. Or, they had a bigger budget and used the money to sound a little cleaner. You know, like most bands do.

That's like saying, "You know, I totally loved My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything. It was raw and rough. But Loveless... I'm not feeling it. It's too nice."

There's always this notion of letting music stand up on it's own, being a meritocracy where the wheat is separated from the chaff, and letting the art speak for itself: sometimes that's bullshit. It's a business and sometimes business gets personal. Some great bands can't get signed because their sound isn't selling; if their sound sells TOO well, the fans run them out of town for being overly commercial and "selling out."

It's a fun album, with great songs, and loads of energy. No, it's not perfect: the vocals tend to flat-line. It's grown up from the days of asking to speak to the President of the world, which is always a good thing. Ironically, reviewers knocked that naivety when writing about the A Lesson in Crime EP. Don't let negative, cynical music critics and journalists spoil what could be the driving-in-your-car album of 2008.

April 23, 2008

Just in case:


So, just on the off chance that you haven't heard or you live under a rock or something...yesterday marked the release of the newest Tokyo Police Club album, Elephant Shell. I can assure you that it's everything everyone hoped it would be and more. "Tessellate" actually made me get out of my car tonight; it was the perfect setting with the wind calmly blowing, a cool night and being stopped at a red light that is known for taking nearly 3 minutes to complete the rotation and turn to green. I let the music and the words just sink in and I got out of my car and danced. Damn. Is it dancy? No, not necessarily, but it makes you feel damn good. Damn good enough to get out of your car and move.


Courtesy of Ben O'Neill, friend and local artist.

Also, check out the show review from The New Pornographers/Okkervil River and/or the SCINTILLATING interview with Gram LeBron of Rogue Wave. My show review from the Grand Ole Party/Rogue Wave show will be up soon, after I read Henry VIII by The Bard of Avon for my class tomorrow.

April 22, 2008

Happy 100th Post to us! Rogue Wave Interview! Yay!

Sunday afternoon St. Louisans were treated to a Rogue Wave in-store performance at Vintage Vinyl before the real thing later that night at WashU's Gargoyle Club. The guys were running a bit behind due to a late start in Chicago that morning. I had an interview lined up with frontman Zach Rogue and once they arrived I was informed that Zach was feeling under the weather and I'd be scheduled to meet up with guitarist/keyboardist Gram LeBron instead. The show started promptly at 3:30, as was rescheduled and couldn't have been better. Had I not been informed of Zach (and the rest of the bands) extreme depravity of sleep I never would have guessed due to their remarkable performance. Four members outfitted with acoustic guitars and the drummer equipped with various percussive items, as well as a suitcase keyboard.

Drummer, Patrick Spurgeon (L) goofing with Gram LeBron (R).

Here's what transpired in the back room, poking and prodding for information while gram randomly drew on album covers and signed posters:
SDS: Thanks for meeting with me today! Great set by the way.

GL:
Thank you! It was not what we were expecting to do ourselves, but we were late so what you saw was a last minute thing.

SDS: Well, it really was great. So, I read in a recent STL Today interview that you played the Duck Room and it was a less than desirable experience (with the sound tech dinking around on his laptop). How often does that happen and does it leave a bad taste in your mouth for that venue, city or state?

GL:
[laughs] Every time we’ve played there (twice) there hasn’t been very many people there, and that’s fine. Every time we’ve played there (at the Duck Room) there has always been another good band or a big band playing in town that same night. I think both times we’ve played at the Duck Room that’s happened. It’s hard to not get mad or upset, but that place is weird. Yeah, that guy just had his laptop up there with the board and just sat on the internet and something will be feeding back or going wrong and we’ll be asking for something to be changed and we’d look up and he’d just be [taps on table, looks at imaginary laptop] on the computer. We’ve always played there with good bands, I mean it’s been a good time, but that place has definitely never been more than half full when we play there.

SDS: Do any of you hang out together outside of touring/recording? Is there much practice that goes on outside of touring/recording?

GL:
Oh yeah. Well, Pat and I were friends before and he saw our post on Craig’s List and we sent him a CD, he got the CD and Pat joined up, like, right away. Yeah, we still hang out a lot and before tour we practice a lot before tour and we practice generally when we’re in the mode of like, recording or touring or practicing. We usually practice four or five times a week, at least. Since we all have been able to quit our jobs, like, this is what we do now. So, you know, we’ll have five or six hours of practice each day about four or five times a week and it’s more of a mellow, laid-back kind of job [laughs]. It’s great, you just feel it, it’s more fun and you get to just stay a band. It feels less like “Oh man, we’ve gotta go practice again” and more like “Oh yeah, cool, let’s get together again!” It’s a lot less forced.

SDS: Forced, that’s a great word. No one wants to be forced to do a job that they don’t like.

GL:
Definitely! [laughs] Get a job you like!

SDS: So, what questions are you sick and tired of being asked? I’m sure the “How did you get your name?” comes up a lot.

GL:
Hmm…”How’d you get your name?” That’s old. And “How was it” or “What was it like being on Sub Pop?” Um, “How’d you guys meet?” or “How’d you guys start?” Which, I mean, is fine, but if those people would go online and search for “Rogue Wave Interviews” or whatever, those people would see that all of those questions have already been answered. Yeah.

SDS: Well, I did notice a particularly interesting question from an old interview. It was concerning the prevalence of birds and themes focusing on birds. I noticed that a lot of you have bird tattoos, too. Is there any actual relevance to that or is it just coincidence?

GL:
[laughs] Ok, yeah, I don’t know. And we’ve also been covering a song by Neil Young called “Birds” (laughs), so, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think so, it’s just a fascination that we have. And Zach also named his daughter after a bird, yeah. I don’t know, certain imagery just really sticks out to us I guess.

SDS: So, I know Zach is from Oakland and is a huge A’s fan. Are all of you from Oakland?

GL:
Well, this is Pat [points to bassist Pat Abernathy] and he’s from San Francisco, but everyone else is from Oakland.

PA: There's a Giants game today? Go Giants! Beat the Cardinals! [laughs]

SDS: So, do you all follow the A’s?

GL:
Oh man [laughs], not really. I mean, Zach really does. Pat and I went to an A’s game once with Zach and he and I (Pat) ran around like little kids in search of hot dogs and beer (acts like a running child and screams “Eeee!”). Oh yeah, Zach will tell you all about it. He could name the whole team, every one of them. He was born and raised in Oakland, so he’s been following the A’s since he was a little kid. He doesn’t really even care about baseball outside of the A’s.

SDS: Well, speaking of bands and baseball I know that Two Gallants are from San Francisco and pretty big fans of the Giants.

GL:
Those guys are great and we toured with them a few years ago. One of our first big headlining tours we took them out there with us. They were really cool guys.

SDS: Other people of interest from out there would be John Vanderslice. I read that he’s a big hugger and I did not know that. But, then again everyone seems to have a John Vanderslice story. What's up with that? Do you have any stories?

GL:
[laughs hysterically] Oh man! Yeah, yeah he is! He’s so funny, he’s just like the sweetest, nicest guy ever. He’s been so supportive and he actually sang a little bit on our last record.

SDS: So, do any of you ever read on the road? What books are you currently reading?

GL:
Yeah, right now I’m reading a book called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pond and it’s about the corn industry and how it’s destroying our ecosystem and our culture and food and how it’s totally changed in the last 50 years since Nixon signed the Farm Bill. So, now everyone just makes corn instead of having tons of different crops, like they used to, so now everyone just makes corn. And we always read a lot of books about bands, we are always kind of doing a lot of research and studying, like about The Beatles or the Stones or whatever. There’s a book called “Here, There and Everywhere: My Story with The Beatles” and it’s a really good book by Jeff Emrick who was the engineer and had just as much to do with their sound as George Martin did. As far as reading on the road, yeah, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes I’ll crack a book open and other times I won’t. Other times I’ll open a book and then just close it again right away because I’m thinking of sleeping.

SDS: So, what are some of your favorites? Would you consider Emrick’s book one of them?

GL:
Oh yeah, definitely definitely. We continually go back to them (books like those), especially when we’re getting ready to go to the studio to record and how it has to do with the music we make or how we want it to sound. “The Band’s Biography” is another really good book. Zach reads a lot of fiction, I don’t know what he’s reading right now, though. We read a lot of music magazines, we’re always reading magazines and trying to keep up with what’s going on.

SDS: Is anyone into any classic fiction or anything?

GL:
Yeah, I’m trying to think of what everyone is reading now. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and I also just got a book by one of those really famous Japanese authors. I just got it and I haven’t started it yet, but I can’t remember the name of it. I’m sorry! A friend just recommended it to me and I just can’t remember who it is or what it’s called. I’m a big Tom Robbins fan. Dominic is reading a book on The Clash right now and Patrick is reading a book by Beth Lisick who is a comedian and writer from San Francisco and is a good friend of ours, it’s called “Helping Me Help Myself”. Yeah, Pat’s continually trying to finish Neil Young’s biography, “Shakey”. It’s like 400 pages and he reads just a little bit at a time.

SDS: That’s cool.

GL:
Yeah, it’s definitely good to read. More than anything, though, we’ve been talking a lot, too. I think more than ever we’re just enjoying each others company, which is good. Having Dominic is really awesome, too. He’s only been in the band for about 6 months or so and he’s really freshened us up a bit.

SDS: So, we’ve covered reading on the road. Is there anything you typically eat while on the road?

GL:
We try to go and eat whole foods as much as we can while out on the road. We don’t ever go to fast food and we try to eat as healthy as we can.

SDS: Is there anything or anywhere that you’re just really tired of eating?

GL:
[laughs] Bread. I’m trying to not eat so much bread and there’s always bread around. I mean, a lot of times it’s really good, but sometimes it’s just like [grunts]…I don’t know. I realize that sometimes we’ll just sit around in the van and stuff our faces all day. It’s like you eat food to have energy to do stuff and then we don’t do anything (laughs).

SDS: Outside of eating healthy and whole foods, is there anything that you just really love to eat or have around to snack on?

GL:
Hummus! We love hummus and just veggies and fruit.

SDS: If you are near a Trader Joe’s get the Chipotle Hummus, it’s really good and super delicious.

GL:
Oh yeah? Yes! There’s a White Cheddar Popcorn from Trader Joe’s that comes in like, a salmon colored bag…it’s really amazing. Try it.

SDS: My last question is about The Fillmore in San Francisco. Zach claimed in an old interview that you guys all loved playing there because it felt like “home” and “it smells like all of music history”. Could you explain what music history smells like?

GL:
Oh yeah. Totally. No, it’s funny. You just stand on that stage and you look out, like [gazes in wonderment] and you think of everyone else who has played there. I remember the first time we played there, we were opening for Spoon four years ago and Zach’s parents were there. [sighs] I mean, it was just a really big deal. After we finished our set we just ran around crying, hugging each other, just…all those people were out there screaming for us. We went backstage and Zach’s Mom was crying. We all just couldn’t believe it. So, now we’re finally headlining there on May 3rd. We’re really excited.

SDS: Thank you so much for taking your time to speak with me. I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight!

GL:
Awesome, thank you. Good job, too. See you tonight, luckily it's not too far and we have a lot of time.

April 21, 2008

4/19/2008 - St. Louis: The New Pornographers/Okkervil River Show Review


As I set off for The Pageant Saturday, all I could think of was what songs and in which order Okkervil River might play their songs. It wasn’t until I pulled up to The Pageant that I remembered that The New Pornographers were playing, in fact they were the headlining act. My friend and I waited a very short time in line and once inside we made ourselves comfortable. We both looked around and slightly worried that the crowd wouldn’t thicken up much more and if it did it wouldn’t be until TNP came onstage. We couldn’t have been more wrong, and I must say that I’ve never been happier to be knee deep in people both young and old at this show. Okkervil River had the crowd they deserved and definitely paid the listeners back twenty fold.

Both acts were as solid as groups of their size and caliber could possibly be. Though, even playing an extremely tight set, The New Pornographers seemed almost a bit too perfect. The quirky and upbeat group came to impress, which they most definitely did. They played a good portion of material from the newest album Challenger (though they did not play my personal favorite, “Mutiny, I Promise”). All the kids who talked their parents into taking them to this show to hear their Rock Band favorite, “Electric Version”, were not disappointed and treated to an overall great experience. Erupting out of nowhere for the encore, ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” came from the stage and brought the crowd to a deafening roar. To close out the night, The New Pornographers treated everyone to the live rendition of the University of Phoenix commercial, playing “The Bleeding Hearts Club”.


However, due to The New Pornographers lack of offensive, imperfect or grimy material it seemed too rigid, predictable even. A solid performance is undoubtedly welcomed by an audience, especially one seemingly full of ostentatious rock and roll fans. In spite of the unadulterated, fun bubbly performance put on by The New Pornographers, Okkervil River absolutely stunned the crowed.


Okkervil River did exactly what an opening band should do and beyond. The six-member outfit took hold of the audience with a casual entrance and continued to captivate the audience with a balanced set, pure and solid in performance with its own unique rough edges, and old and new songs. Will and company interacted with the audience with minor commentary, but what genuinely spoke to the listeners Saturday night was the presentation, the proverbial “whole package” of lyrics, melodies and harmonies - guitars, vocals, drums and keyboards. Perhaps most enthralling of the night was “A Stone” from Black Sheep Boy. Not a single other instant throughout the show Saturday night resonated quite like “A Stone” – the audience was absolutely still, all eyes on Will. You could nearly see each and every single member of the audience leaning in, clinging to every word that dripped out of Will’s mouth, yearning for more stories to be sung and more instruments to play an active role in the storytelling.

Needless to say while The New Pornographers merely entertained, Okkervil River shone brightly throughout their one hour set. The pure and conventional set imparted by The New Pornographers was sadly put to shame by their astounding and absolutely spectacular opening band. I know many an audience member walked out of that show as a new found Okkervil River fan, as well they should have.

April 20, 2008

Great News, Everyone!

Slamdunk Stalin (or SDS when we're using shorthand, lolzers) has some big news on the horizon, like, turning slightly more legitimate than my last post would seem to indicate.

We're looking to start doing interviews and, shockingly, have our first one lined up. We're going to be chatting it up with Rogue Wave tomorrow and are, frankly, at a loss for words. We're very excited to pop our interview cherry with a band like Rogue Wave, who surely tire of hearing "play that Zune song!" and idiots asking what a rogue wave is and, if they knew far enough ahead of time that it was coming, if they could ride it.

April 18, 2008

It takes all kinds.

Cursive played live at WOXY studios on April 9th and they have just posted the link to it on their myspace page, but you can find it here. It’s hard to believe that “Happy Hollow” came out two years ago and now the guys are scattered across the country (with Matt living here in MO). The guys played two “oldies” and two new songs (out of a mere eight they are “comfortable playing at this moment in time”. Apparently, Tim has been tinkering with screenwriting and has completed some work. Also, personal note: I fucking love Ted Stevens, always have and always will.

Catch Okkervil River on April 24th at 3p on WOXY (http://woxy.lala.com) or here in St. Louis on Saturday. Whatever, your choice.
----------------------------------


Gnarls Barkely are offering their new album for free online. Unlike Radiohead’s online offering “stunt”, there is a catch. It’s in reverse, in the form of a 38 minute long mp3. Go here to get it. Also, some blogs are giving away posters from the GB concert in New York last week with Santogold.
----------------------------------




Also, this Saturday is National Record Store Day. THE Vintage Vinyl in The Loop is giving away free Pabst Blue Ribbon (sorry to all the beer elitists, but free beer is free beer), free and live music (acoustic, electric AND dj sets), FREE MERCH (all random and dependent on what is available) and no sales tax. It’s going to be amazing. Come on out and enjoy yourself for a cheap or free day full of booze and music – a.k.a. only the best kind of day. The New Pornographers will be doing an in-store set at 3p before their show later that night at The Pageant. The only other local music stores to be participating in National Record Store Day are certain Slacker's locations in St. Charles and St. Louis. Go get some!

Long post aborted

I completely forgot what I was going to say. I'll just embarrass myself with my lack of film elitism instead.


I was doing laundry and watched "The Lake House" on one of the many Cinemax's earlier. Critics hated it and I probably should have, too. But part of me likes romantic movies (the Notebook) and their romantic comedy brethren(ex: Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually). I even like kind of bad ones, like Just Like Heaven... which may be unintentionally funny; I haven't determined.
And you know what? At the end, when Kate (Sandra Bullock) is feverishly scribbling a note to Alex (Keanu Reeves), trying to get him to not go to that plaza, I'm sitting there tearing up, screaming "Dammit, Ted Theodore Logan, don't you fucking go there! You're going to die!" Then you get the fuzzy resolution and all is right with the world. This marks at least two time travel movies in Keanu's repertoire. One more and I think we get to send him back to 1989 to give himself career advice.


Jenn and I were watching the Office, being generally perturbed by Michael Scott's completely shallow relationship behavior, when that white male Adonis, John Krasinski, starts joking about proposing to Pam. Then what does he do? Whip out a ring. Both sets of eyes were misting like we just got done watching Ol' Yeller get put down. Or when you realize that the coalition of the five different cliques in "The Breakfast Club" was broken on Monday morning when the first bell rang.

Aside from a minor grease flare up when Jenn and I were trying to make lemongrass pad thai, it was a good, albeit personally embarrassing, day.

April 13, 2008








Apparently Okkervil River is a pretty big hit with the 20-something teacher set. As I was speaking with a fellow classmate/teacher friend of mine, he asked what shows I have on my calendar. I got to April 19th and explained that The New Pornographers were coming to town and I didn’t know who I was more excited about, the opener, being Okkervil River, or The New Pornographers. It turned out that he wanted information on Okkervil River because that has apparently been the buzz with his fellow teachers in the English department (all between 22-29).
Anywho, if you’re looking for a good story or you’re totally into storytelling head to Okkervil River’s website. Their biography is pretty unbelievable. In fact, I thought I was being outright lied to by reading the story – and I’m still not sure if I’ve been misled or not. At any rate, the writing is pretty poetic and comforting.

April 19th, Okkervil River and The New Pornographers at The Pageant. Doors at 7p, show at 8p.

-----------------------------------

Author and NPR broadcaster John Green is releasing his newest novel, Paper Towns, due out October 16th. Readers will have their choice between two different covers for the novel. Green’s reason for this? On his blog he explains to his teenaged self that it’s essentially a marketing scheme. The purpose for two different covers is to speak to a different audience, for readers to give the novel a chance and to grab different target markets attention. I finished Looking for Alaska recently for an Adolescent Literature class and was exceedingly moved by it. Certain readers may not appreciate his general lean towards young adult literature, but he is certainly brilliant and should be considered by people of all ages.

Also, I totally share Green's 11th Grade Self perspective on Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself".

------------------------------------

Moby may be 40-something, but he still likes to party a good deal. CNN has an interview here about the dance music mogul. He also speaks about his new music video for the song "Disco Lies" from the forthcoming album "Last Night", which he claims to have “not known” until after it was shot that it was a pro-animal rights video, goofy as it may be. View the video for "Disco Lies" HERE.

April 7, 2008

Things You Learn at Shows

You know, the Gargoyle really bugs me. It's hotter than hell in their venue, they know it, and they KEEP ALL THE OUTSIDE DOORS CLOSED TO PREVENT ANY KIND OF VENTILATION. I know it's on a college campus, that most of the students at Washington University don't want to be distracted from their studying, or whatever it is rich kids at private schools do on Sunday nights; but if you're charging $15 for people to step foot in your venue, you need to be a little more accommodating than hiring shitty cockhead security guards to come around at 11pm and try and kick everybody out.

So Many Dynamos opened up the show at 8 pretty much on the dot. They played some new tracks and one of them sounded like Ryan, their guitar player, really wanted to channel Battles. Which is fucking awesome. I think Ryan and I have a pretty similar affinity for Mirrored and I think Norm was using drum effects. That, or he's so good at getting different drum sounds that he has me fooled into believing he's using effects. Either or. They were in good form, Aaron made some witty banter, and I enjoyed the tinnitus I received in my left ear. I think they're still peddling around to labels, which blows for us all because that means even longer until we all get to hear the recorded fruits of their labor. Maybe Team Love will be on the case.

Capgun Coup was noisy dual vocalled guitar driven indie rock. I can't claim to know much about them because I don't know anything about them. Their singer/guitarist wore a sweater and I think he regretted that. It was far too sauna like for a sweater. They seemed like neat dudes (most midwestern band dudes are) but I just wasn't feeling their set. The vocals were of that purposely out of tune, high pitched caterwaul variety that just really doesn't do it for me (unless it's Black Eyes). Sorry.

Cursive came on and played a lot of new songs. "The Casualty" made a triumphant appearance. "Big Bang" and "Bad Sects" were there, as was "Art is Hard" and "Gentleman Caller". They opened with something new and somewhere they unloaded "Sierra". That, or Kasher kind of doing what he does. Most of the new tracks were fairly straight ahead and seemed to kind of lag and didn't seem very distinct. As new songs, they aren't entirely finished products (songs can be entirely remolded before it gets sent to the studio) so I'll give them the benefit on the doubt on that one. Honestly, before the encore of "Sink to the Beat", "The Martyr", "Some Red Handed Slight of Hand", and "Dorothy at Forty", it was kind of ho-hum. It could have been the heat zapping all the life out of the place... and honestly, that wouldn't surprise me. I was starting to get dizzy and that could explain the lack of enthusiasm. All of the positive energy of such a killer encore was pretty drained when people started moshing. The Warped Tour called, they want their brahs back.

I also learned that Greenpoint in New York is on it's way to becoming/is the new Williamsburg as a soon to be gentrified Mecca for white young sub/urbanites across the land. This is not news that effects me.

April 4, 2008

On a horse made of crystal he patrolled the land...

I got my errant day off request sorted out (asked for Saturday, meant to ask for Sunday, took until today to make the change official).

With that sorted, I will be at the Cursive/So Many Dynamos show. I'm very excited because of getting the chance to maybe imbibe (in moderation) with the Dynabros and Tim Kasher. Jenn has got to drink with Cursive before and Tim Kasher remembers Jenn every time he sees her; I've driven Griffin's drunk ass home after a house party at a friend's apartment a couple summers ago. The opportunity to possibly combine both things with great music is beyond exciting.

Cursive with Capgun Coup and So Many Dynamos will be at the Gargoyle on the Washington University in St. Louis campus Sunday April 6th. Doors at 7:30, $15. Sorry young'uns, it's 18+.

April 1, 2008

Welcome to Pretentiousdome

Back-to-back posts by jenn and =p= about female pop artists have kind of gotten me thinking about the ideological underpinnings of the "girl group". This is going to hurt when I read it back, and kill me when I hit "publish," but why the hell not? Has the "girl group" hit postfeminism? Did it in fact help CAUSE postfeminism? Are female solo artists subsumed by the same artistic trends? I'll just throw out a few bits of analysis and hope something sticks.

First, let me set the terms. "Feminism," in the sense I use (and embrace) it, is the concept that gender is a value-neutral concept. You're a man or you're a woman, but ethically you're on an equal playing field. With literal anatomical differences excepted - like, the fact that women are uniquely equipped to have babies and men are uniquely equipped to, I don't know, teabag - "male" vs. "female" is a moot argument. In this construct, success is a meritocracy. A good feminist pop symbol would be Joni Mitchell. In a more classical vein, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, who both acted "like men" and frankly didn't give a shit, represent early feminist archetypes in music.

"Postfeminism" is the notion that on a truly level playing field, individuals have free reign to use any tools at their disposal to get ahead. In the case of women, this can involve reverting to old ploys of vamping up sexual features and playing coy to manipulate the weaker among us. The appearance is of a devolved attitude, but postfeminists accept it ironically. It's a game just like working harder in the office if you're more disciplined or running faster on the track if you're... faster. Postfeminism in music might be best personified by early-90's Madonna, who obviously used her sexuality aggressively as a marketing tool but who, in hindsight, proved shrewd enough to generate a good amount of her own material and succeed on the business end at several times the clip of many of her male contemporaries.

The "girl group," which had its genesis in the 1950's and hit its popular stride in the 1960's, transitioned uneasily from pre-feminism to feminism, found its construct unsuitable to then-current notions of female liberation, and then eased back into popularity in the 1980's. Right now, we may or may not have a bit of a renaissance on. Time will tell. But you really can't identify much of the current musical landscape without at least some point of reference vis-a-vis the girl group. After all, The Ronettes and The Crystals were the two most famous products of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound", which created most production templates for baroque pop, orchestral rock, Pet Sounds, ornately-arranged soul and therefore both funk and disco, etc. And The Supremes were the best-selling group on the entire Motown roster, male or female. But the history of the girl group as an artistic unit is checkered: the three above examples did not compose all but a few of their own songs (none in the case of The Crystals and Supremes), controlled very little of their business, and individual members were liable to be hired, fired, and sexually exploited (even married, if you're Ronnie Spector) by their production teams. The Shangri-Las were slightly more successful in this respect because, if nothing else, they challenged more cultural norms with the subject matter and presentation of their songs - they sang about death, runaways, and probably rape (on "Past, Present, and Future") - but ultimately the girl group proved overly susceptible to the svengali/ingenue dynamic imposed by the kind of crazy producer who would think it a good idea to keep a motorcycle revving in the recording booth while having bell chimes play chromatic scales over minor chords in the strings (looking at YOU, Shadow Morton). Diana Ross became so liberated that she didn't need Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard anymore to cut records, Mary Weiss became a J.D. Salinger-facsimile in Manhattan, and Ronnie divorced Phil before he could murder her.

So, fast forward to the early 1980's, when all-girl rock bands weren't insanely uncommon owing to The Shaggs, The Slits, The Runaways, The Go-Go's, etc... and heeeeeere's BANANARAMA. Perhaps unfairly maligned due to the lightness of "Cruel Summer," and "Venus", the group deserves some props for at least trying to bring relevance to the art of girl group-form. I mean, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols got them their record deal. They sang a song about Travis Bickel and rape and its inhumanity and put it in the British charts. But they were still treading cultural water at the margins of feminism because the group's image was tightly governed by the production team of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman that took over the group's management after their self-titled second album stalled behind the single "Rough Justice." The artistic merit of girl groups was perhaps revisited at this time, and there was a bit of a revival on both sides of the Atlantic by groups like En Vogue in the U.S. (quintessential postfeminists, perhaps pioneeringly so... re: "Free Your Mind" and "Don't Let Go", though initially a vehicle for the songwriters Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy) and The yes jenn here you go Spice Girls in the U.K. who, ironically, fired the manager who assembled them and found themselves saddled with typical girl-singer designations like "Sexy," "Posh," and "Sporty"via the British press and not label promotions.

Both groups evince postfeminism in their presentations as liberated but sexually-desiring and -desirable women. Both groups participated in their own songwriting. At the end of the day, there's not a lot of irony read into the material of either act, but the overall construct of the girl group kind of got neatly reversed by the business models and musical M.O.'s of acts like the above two.

Now we're absorbing a more literal revival movement in which aggressively retro acts like The Pipettes, who write all their own material and revel in the irony of using bygone notions of fashion and comportment as positioning tools for their product, are gaining popularity by nontraditional media channels while groups like The Pussycat Dolls are (correctly) critically reviled for essentially failing to advance beyond the exploitationist business model of the old "retrograde" girl group. It might just be that the girl group is finally incorporating the influence of female solo performers - a thing it has failed to do in the past, which doomed Bananarama after the rise of Madonna and Annie Lennox and doomed the girl group movement of the 1960's with the beginning of feminism as an ideology - and allowing artistic currents to more actively involve message with music and image...

Or maybe I'm just a nerd who overthinks everything and then overtypes those thoughts.

Anyway, I'm sort of excited by all of this. I guess that's the whole point, here.