hold steady @ slim’s

May 31st, 2007

[Once again no photos due to restrictive camera policies!]

Given JV’s recent recommendation, I was a bit sad when I showed up and realized I’d missed all of Blitzentrapper; I came in opener-2nd band change over lull. I realized I hadn’t been to Slim’s in a long time. (According to my records it’s been almost two years.) It’s an odd venue: a big box with poles in odd places, including right at the stage (part of the band is to the right of the pole, part is to the left).

Illinois (myspace) was up first after I got there. I’d heard these guys before, having reviewed their EP and even including them on my April mixtape.

Off-putting things if you’re a relatively unknown opener or middle band:

  • charging $10 for a 7 song EP
  • charging $20 for a t shirt
  • when people aren’t clapping enough for you, involking the name of the headliner e.g/“Come on San Francisco! The g*d-damn Hold Steady!@”
  • doing the previous approximately ten times
  • Name-dropping the headliner e.g. saying things like “This next song is [headliner’s guitarist’s] favorite song off of our record.”

Recommendation to openers and middle bands: play your music well, put a lot of energy into your show and leave it at that.

I took a moment between sets to check out the crowd. It seemed to be a significantly younger crowd than the last time I saw the Hold Steady, but there was still the older couple in dressy leather jackets, the older couple in ill-fitting t shirts and the older guy with tattoos and shirt with the sleeves ripped off. There were people who looked like they never went to concerts and others that looked like this was their third of the week. There was the girl who was probably from Minnesota and was wearing a Twins hat, but obviously doesn’t care about baseball, hadn’t worn that—or any—hat before. There were the pair of hight school/ early college girls who, once the music began, pogoed up and down and attempted to sing along to all of Craig Finn’s vocals (failing to do so, of course).

The Hold Steady (myspace), were, of course, the headliners. The band came out. Craig Finn, who sings/ talks, gesticulates and holds a guitar. Tad, the guitarist. The keyboardist with funny mustache, the younger bass player and the drummer guy. (I could look up their names, of course…)

Craig looked, and acted, drunk. He wasn’t stumbling around the stage, but let’s say he wasn’t walking around like a sober guy. He gesticulates wildly and mouths words off mic, reminding me of my friend John in 2nd grade who would mouth the words he just said right after he said them aloud, as if to double check what he said. Tad looks like a mid-30s father that happens to have tattoos and is able to play the big riffs on the guitar. They put a lot of energy into their shows and it was fun.

The mix was slightly better than the Great American show last year, but the vocals were still too quiet for a band whose lyrics are so important.

I thought a bit while they played. Boys and Girls in America is a pretty good album, but I’ve realized that Separation Sunday is an excellent album with a lot more depth. Tad says that the best way to experience the Hold Steady is live; I think I may experience them in future recorded and mostly just Separation Sunday.


May 31st, 2007

I’m currently reading Chuck Klosterman‘s Killing Yourself To Live and there are some choice quotes in it. I thought I could hold off posting anything about it until I finished reading it but this quote is just too much:

Eric Clapton has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on three separate occasions. He’s been inducted as a solo artist, as the frontman for Cream, and as original guitarist for the Yardbirds. He’s been inducted on four separate occasions if you count the 2004 inclusion of Traffic, a group he was not a member of and has no significant connection with beyond the fact that they suck in the same generalized manner.

Burn! I’ll be posting a review once I’m done. (It’s about rock and roll deaths so that’s close enough to be included in this blog, right?)

on sale soon, 5.31.07 edition

May 31st, 2007

On Sale Soon is a weekly series of the tickets going on sale that weekend.

Where to get tickets: The Independent, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Fillmore, Warfield, and other Livenation venues.

On sale Saturday, June 2:
8/3 Sounds of the Underground, Gwar with The Number 12 Looks Like You, Darkest Hour @ Event Center at San Jose State University
9/21 Luis Miguel @ Sleep Train Pavilion

On sale Sunday, June 3:
6/23 J-Boogie’s Dubtronic Science / Return to Mono / Yoko Solo, Dopestyle @ Slim’s

7/10 Rocco DeLuca & The Burden @ the Independent
7/10 Chris Cornell @ The Warfield
7/10 Page McConnell @ The Fillmore
7/11 Klaxons / Fist Fite @ Great American
7/12 Chow Nasty, The Heavenly States @ the Independent
7/13 Corbin Bleu, Aly & AJ, Drake Bell with Bianca Ryan @ Sleep Train Pavilion
7/14 Rupa & the April Fishes / MC Rai / Les Croques Notes @ Great American
7/14 Ani DiFranco with Anais Mitchell @ The Warfield
7/14 Loquat, Rondo Brothers @ the Independent

8/3 Rufus Wainwright with Sean Lennon, A Fine Frenzy @ Nob Hill Masonic Center
8/5 Paid Dues Tour, Felt with Living Legends, Brother Ali, Cage, Mr. Lif, Blueprint @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
8/5 The San Francisco Zoo: “An All-Animal Variety Show” featuring Cookie Mongoloid, The Zoopy Show @ Great American
8/24 Psychic TV @ the Independent

9/14 John Coulton / Paul and Storm @ Great American
9/23 The Fucking Champs / Pride Tiger / Birds of Avalon @ Great American

10/27 Caribou, Born Ruffians @ Slim’s

Updated with Slim’s/ Great American shows.

nervous white guy talks (sort of) about hip hop and mixing it with indie rock

May 30th, 2007

With the recent surge in indie rock’s popularity, I suppose it’s inevitable that other genre’s would take on elements of indie rock. Particularly, I’ve noticed recently that either mash up artists or MCs themselves are taking indie rock and mixing it with hip hop vocals.

Just in the last few days, I’ve noticed a few of these things:

Pitchfork has a really fun Hood Internet track mixing the crazy tapping guitar of Marnie Stern with the stomp-clap-rapping about being chased by boys of Lil Mama. The result puts a smile on my face.

Spine Magazine has a new single from Lupe Fiasco (featuring Kanye and Pharrell) that samples (or, really, they just rap over the whole song, it seems) Thom Yorke’s “Erasure”. You can hear it off of Spine’s frontpage or here.

Granted, this isn’t a new thing, even to someone somewhat oblivious like me. Gorilla v Bear pointed me to this guy, Dert, who did an album mixing Jose Gonzalez with hip hop vocals. I like it. There’s something nice about the soothing-but-rhythmic nylon string guitar along with these rap lines on top.

Dert – The Light (Common & Erykah Badu v Jose Gonzalez) (mp3, from the artists’ site)

You can actually get that whole album at Dert’s virb page.

Also, sort of in the same category, I must admit that I was a little taken in by Gym Class Heroes’ Cupid’s Chokehold. It’s fun stuff. They’ve been described as “hip hop for the indie rock crowd” (but I can’t find that reference right now).

Honorable mention (no indie rock really, but close enough): who doesn’t like some Biggie Smalls with Elton John (by Girl Talk of course)?

Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life review

May 28th, 2007

After a few mentions, I picked up Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers a while back. I finished it this weekend.

It’s basically a snarky guy’s indie rock story. Joy Division, Smiths, Pavement, Guided by Voices, etc. Bad music growing up blah blah blah Smiths speaking to me blah blah blah crying on the floor listening to Joy Division blah blah blah holy crap Pavement! blah blah blah holy crap Guided by Voices! blah blah blah.

There are reasons I’d like this book: it has “indie rock” in the (sub)title (I like indie rock), he makes lists (I make lists), the guy likes drinking beer and is from the Midwest (I like drinking beer and I grew up in the borderline town of Pittsburgh), he likes using footnotes[1]. I can like rambling, self-conscious, self-referential writing (I love Dave Eggers).

And this wasn’t a bad read, it’s just that it wasn’t very engaging. The footnotes were, at times, entertaining, but others rambling. It didn’t really seem to have a plot and the climax of the story seems to be writing a letter. I probably would have forgiven some of this if I’d been more invested in the bands he was mentioning, but: Joy Division (like them about as much as ever other white, college-educated indie rocker likes them), Smiths (ditto), Pavement (never really got into them), Guided By Voices (listen to them sometimes). I mean, that’s not to say I’m not into some of staples of indie rock: Sebadoh’s Bakesale was my first indie rock CD; Superchunk was the first show I saw once I moved to Boston—good show. Mac et al went on past midnight because Mac was across town at the then Fleet Center seeing the Boss earlier in the night; I considered flying to Chicago for the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary weekend for more than 10 minutes more or less just to see Seam; I love just about everything Eric Bachmann does (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers, solo). It’s just that I’m into a different set of bands.

Also, naming the book after an album by a band that’s hardly mentioned in the book? Doesn’t really win you points with me.

If you’re into those big four bands I mentioned, you might overlook some of the downsides of this book.

[1] I like using footnotes.

what I’m actually listening to: Kings of Leon’s Because of the Times

May 28th, 2007

I try not to put on airs on this blog. I’ll try to talk about the stuff that I’m actually listening to and enjoying. If something is slipping through the cracks, I might try to readjust things with a “what I’m actually listening to” column.

I was on the fence, but I ended up buying it. We were in Amoeba while my friend Dave was in town. I was undecided and on Dave’s recommendation, I got King of Leon’s (myspace) Because of the Times. (not remembering that he’s sometimes an unreliable[1] recommender).

I’m not a hardcore fan of the Kings of Leon, having first heard them shortly after Aha Shake Heartbreak came out and I was reviewing it for the station (though I had heard of them: they had a signed photo in my favorite pizza parlor in Boston going back to probably 2001 or 2002). I didn’t know enough about them to know that I shouldn’t, as a friend put it, like that record, so I just listened in ignorance, enjoying the catchy music.

Similar to the way I’m not a hardcore fan of the band, I wasn’t blown away by this record, but the one thing I will tell you: in the three weeks I’ve had it in my 6-CD changer in my car, I’ve found myself pressing the button for this CD more than any other. I just keep going back to it. It’s just good music to listen to. On the rougher days, I blame it on needing comfort music, but on other days, I just enjoy the catchiness, the interesting vocals and the riffs. In some ways, I think of these guys in the same camp as the Hold Steady: bands unashamed of using big riffs and other ‘classic rock’ strongholds.

“Knocked Up” is the 7 minute lead-off track to this album. I like the way the instrumentation comes in: drums, then bass, then harmonics on the guitar, then another guitar—the full palate of them making a nice bed for the story of a guy, well, knocking up his girlfriend.

Kings of Leon – Knocked Up (mp3)

Because of the Times is available from insound.

[1] Seriously, he just recommended the new Clientele—I’ve listened to 3 of the last 4 Clientele albums and at least one of their 7″s all multiple times and not enjoyed any of them.

Tiny Telephone “tour” and JV takes me to the Emerald City

May 27th, 2007

It started last August. I’d met up with John Vanderslice (note: hilarious outcome if you go to jv.com instead, expecting some Vanderslice) outside the Great American Music Hall, before I went in to see Black Heart Procession[1], and we were chatting. We were going along and then he looked at me, “I should give you a tour of Tiny Telephone sometime! You’d love it!” I told him I think I would love that.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to organize a tour, seeing JV play twice, chatting with him at a few more shows and hanging out with him at his Stanford show last fall, we finally worked out this past Thursday as a time for a Tiny Telephone tour.

I arrived a little before the appointed time, found some parking and wandered down. The complex looked nothing like I’d imagined. It’s an industrial complex in the Outer Mission, but I thought it might be more of a warehouse or something. I eventually found the studio amongst the car repair places and around the corner from the silk screener.

Dave Douglas (drums/moog in both the John Vanderslice duo and quartet versions) arrived right on time. He didn’t have keys and no one was in the studio yet, so we just hung out outside and chatted. He’s a really nice guy and we talked about the relative merits of various baseball stadiums and about how to get a reasonable ticket to Fenway without paying exorbitant prices.

The rest of JV and the Suburban Kids w/ Biblical Names arrived shortly after. We had (with top secret nickname, position in the group): John Vanderslice (“JV” or “J Vers”; lead vocals, guitar, piano, wurlitzer, niceness), David Broecker (“Broecky”, bass), Ian Bjornstad (“I dog” (pronounced “ee dog”); Wurlitzer, moog, piano), Dave Douglas (“Dave”; drums, moog).

JV had to run back home to get his ear plugs and the band started setting up. I knew they were going to rehearse that day, but I didn’t know why. I soon found out: this weekend they’re playing all nine tracks from Emerald City, his next album, live, tracking it and videotaping it. They’re going to split up the nine songs into nine live videos and give one each to nine bloggers. While JV was home, I chatted with some of the guys, but mostly left them alone to set up their gear. I wondered around the studio a bit to check it out and to snap some photos.

When JV got back, he looked a bit preoccupied, probably because of this upcoming recording and his girlfriend finally getting into the country/ town the night before. I realized that I wasn’t going to get a proper Tiny Telephone tour and I was a little disappointed. But, in the next few minutes, when the band started getting set up for rehearsal, I realized they were going to let me sit through a rehearsal of the new album. (Mentally, I was jumping up and down, giggling and clapping, but I played it cool…)

(See the column on the left of the photo? I was sitting on the steps right there for most of the session, arms-length from Broecky and I-dog. I have long arms)

They started with “Kookaburra” which, I think, is going to be one of the standout tracks from the album. Just a great tune with a very singable chorus. It starts with guitar, keyboards, vocals and bass for quite a bit until this amazing Dave Douglas drum beat locks everything together. Another future favorite is, I think was called (they weren’t like “hey, Adrian, this song is called [blah]”) “The Party”, which I would have called “Be Calm” after words in the refrain. The refrain line is really nice and the harmonies were nice. “Time to Go” was another good one, but I can’t remember what it sounds like (they ran through it just once.) “Tablespoon of Codeine” is a dark and distorted song and has JV offering up some wild feedback, at least in this live version. All told, I think I heard six of the nine songs with “White Dove”, “the Minaret” and “Central Booking” being the ones I didn’t hear. I think this album’s something to look forward to, certainly.

Something else that I realized from this rehearsal: JV gathers pretty amazing musicians around him. Broecker plays the bass rock solidly and when they ask him to change his part, even to something more difficult, he gets it right without missing a beat. Ian plays some pretty complicated, syncopated and off-beat patterns on two keyboards at once while singing harmonies. Dave Douglas’ drum parts add a ton to the songs. After a run-through of a song, he would also say things like “I think the harmonies would sound better if they did [x] instead of what they’re currently doing.” I thought it was a bit odd at first, that a drummer (no offense drummers!) would say something like that, but I soon realized why he could get away with that: he was right almost every time.

All in all, it was pretty amazing to get to be a fly on the wall for this rehearsal of new songs. Thanks, JV! You rule.

See below for more photos.

View the full photo album.

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current top 10 most played songs in the last year (approximately) according to iTunes

May 26th, 2007

Current top 10 most played songs in the last year (approximately, I got this computer last June) according to iTunes (and note, I don’t always play music through iTunes, because of my car, the radio show, ipod, etc.)

  1. Scenic World – Beirut
  2. Where Gravity is Dead – Laura Veirs
  3. Bridges and Balloons – Decemberists
  4. Sister Winter – Sufjan Stevens
  5. Flight 180 – Bishop Allen
  6. The Mistress Witch from McClure – Sufjan Stevens
  7. Triggers and Trash Heaps – Centro-Matic
  8. Fire Island, AK – Long Winters
  9. The Devil is Beating his Wife – David Bazan
  10. Put a Penny in the Slot – Fionn Regan

The list ranges from 83 plays to 41 plays (again, only in iTunes).
It’s not much of a surprise that a lot or most of those songs are in my mixtapes. It’s a circular thing: I listen to a song a lot so I put it on a mixtape and then I listen to it a lot because it’s on a mixtape (test listens and then also just because I like the mixes).

Also, I was obsessed with a lot of these songs and I’m sure I would have put them in my song obsessions column had I had it then.

the Vanderslice bag

May 26th, 2007

I warned you that it’ll be all Vanderslice all the time here. And there’s more to come. But, seriously, if there was one guy to devote an entire music blog to, even temporarily, it’d be John Vanderslice

JV was selling this shirt a couple tours ago (last spring, perhaps?):

(that says “Vanderslice” on the bag, by the way)

So I thought it’d be cool to make one of those bag. Medic and other army bags are pretty cool anyway, so why not make a “Vanderslice” one. So I made a stencil out of a transparency using an army font I found online:

And I spray painted it onto the bag:

The comparison shot (and I didn’t actually realize until taking this photo that I hadn’t matched the colors on the cross and circle around it. Oops!) :

I made two, one for myself and the one you see was for JV. He said it was “the tits.”

SF Chron on NPR musician interviews

May 25th, 2007

I like where someone distills something to it’s bare essence—ask me about what they call “Adrian jokes” sometime. Anyway Jon Carroll has a funny article in today’s Chron about NPR’s musician interviews. I mostly listen to NPR music stuff in relation to All Songs Considered (and their concert series) but I’ve heard some interviews like this:

Interviewer: Suck up suck up suck up name of new album suck up suck up suck up name of best-known album suck up suck up suck up and welcome, musician.

Musician: Aw shucks aw shucks aw shucks name of new album aw shucks aw shucks aw shucks name of new album aw shucks thank you for having me.

Interviewer: Tell me about name of new album.

Musician: Name of new album is an exciting departure for me. Name of new album has elements of reggae, hip-hop, jazz, techno and one kind of world music you’ve never heard of. Biographical fact. Another biographical fact. Getting back to my roots.

Interviewer: You got to play with this guy I never heard of. Tell me about playing with this guy I never heard of.

Musician: I’ve always wanted to play with this guy you never heard of. I heard him first in this American city, and then in this European city, and of course he played with Bill Evans/Earth Wind and Fire/Funkadelic/Miles Davis.

Interviewer: And what was that experience like?

Musician: We were on the same wavelength. We matched each other’s personalities. He gave me new ideas. It was as though we’d been playing together all our lives. Fact illustrating person you’ve never heard of’s well-known eccentricities. Joke.

Interviewer: (laughter)

Musician: (laughter)

Visit the link for the full “interview”.