“I once was Canadian”

September 30th, 2008


cred: me

My radio show, “I once was Canadian”, is on KZSU starting at 3pm. Tune in.

Listen in every Tuesday, from 3-5pm Pacific on KZSU 90.1 FM in the Bay Area or you can listen online.

During my show you’ll be able to follow along online with my playlist.

Update: Here’s how the playlist worked out:

  • Yo La Tengo - Ashley
  • Silian Rail - Awake
  • the New Year - X Off Days
  • Pedro the Lion - the Bells
  • Seam - Berlitz
  • Low - Lord, Can You Hear Me?
  • Tom Thumb - Lifeboat
  • Samamidon - Tribulation
  • the Lightning Bug Situation - Kris Duggen
  • Breathe Owl Breathe - Toboggan
  • Sufjan Stevens - In the Devil’s Territory
  • Matt Pond Pa - A Well of Tires
  • The Avett Brothers - Tear Down The House
  • Horse Feathers - Curs In The Weeds
  • Johnny Flynn - The Wrote & The Writ
  • Neil Halstead - A Gentle Heart
  • Fleet Foxes - Oliver James
  • Or, The Whale - Fight Song
  • Death Vessel - Exploded View
  • Stereolab - Vortical Phonotheque
  • French Miami - The God Damn Best
  • Noah and the Whale - Two Atoms in a Molecule
  • Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook
  • Boy In Static - First Love
  • The Notwist - Gravity

indie rock shirts, a personal catalog

September 30th, 2008

Inevitably it happens. On the street or at work or at some social gathering: “What’s that shirt about?” “Oh, it’s a band.” This happens a lot.

Even after I pruned my t-shirt collection down by about a dozen shirts last year and earlier this year (and my parents chucking a few dozen when they moved last year), I still have far too many. And a lot of them are rock shirts. I like giving artists money and sometimes I already have their album so I’ll get their t-shirt. Or sometimes it’s just an amazing design and I really want it.

Anyway, I wanted to catalog my shirts here; these are all the music related shirts I have as of the end of September 2008. I didn’t do anything fancy to take photos of them, just hung them up on hanger and snapped a shot. And, yes, some of them are a bit wrinkled.

bands

  • shirt: Pedro the Lion w/ blurry blue photo
  • stock: white Hanes heavy weight 50/50, L
  • when/ where obtained: concert in Cambridge, Ma, 2001?

  • shirt: Soft Drugs circle
  • stock: grey American Apparel, L
  • when/ where obtained: Undertow webshop, 2007?

  • shirt: Centro-matic hawk
  • stock: grey Gildman heavy cotton, L
  • when/ where obtained: at SxSW (Friends bar), March 2008

  • shirt: Laura Veirs, Saltbreakers
  • stock: blue/ navy American Apparel 3/4 sleeve baseball, M
  • when/ where obtained: concert, June 2007, Cafe du Nord

Read the rest of this entry »

old-timey vs. bluegrass vs. folk

September 28th, 2008


old-timey musician Tommy Jarrel

With Hardly Strictly Bluegrass approaching, I thought this might be a good time to step back and explain a little bit about the differences between old-timey, bluegrass and folk musics. With things like the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack mixing the three fluidly, it’s not always obvious.

I’m speaking with some amount of generality here. This is more of a primer than an in-depth look at the differences.

Old-timey: Old-time music is a pretty general genre of music mostly from the Appalachian mountains, though music from the Ozarks and other regions is referred to as old time as well. It’s largely derived from Scottish, Irish and English influences, but the banjo, on which much of the music is played, and some of the rhythmic components come have their origins in Africa.

Tunes can be with or without vocals. The instrumentation is varied: from acapella vocals to a full set of string band instruments, but typically, it may have fiddle or banjo and guitar. The banjo may be played clawhammer and the guitar flat-or-finger-picked.

Vocals are often solo (without harmonies). The instrumental melody line is often carried in one instrument throughout while the other play chords or all are in unison. The harmonic structure is often modal rather than following chord progression as such.

Frank Bode and Tommy Jarrell – Susannah Gal (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Charlie Higgins and Wade Ward – Willow Garden (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Bluegrass: Bluegrass music is a fairly modern invention, dating from the late 1940s. While it hasn’t always been popular, it is pop music in that it’s been recorded for and broadcast to the masses essentially since its inception.

Bluegrass songs usually have vocals characterized by strong harmonies (especially the high vocal line). While the instruments are similar to old-timey, their function differs: instruments trade off the melody and soloing between vocals lines. They switch roles (lead, backing) rather than being more constant throughout.

The guitar is usually flat-picked and the banjo is usually played Scruggs-style (or three-finger style). Songs follow a more pop song structure (verse, chorus, bridge) than old-timey music.

Bill Monroe – Shady Grove (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys – Traveling the Highway Home (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Folk music Folk music has a lot of different connotations for different people.

My teacher George Ruckert gave me the best definition of folk music that I have heard. According to this definition, a song must have:

  • anonymous authorship
  • multiple versions

I’m not talking about Folk revival or folk rock or indie folk, but folk, in it’s most broad and most original sense. It’s also a sense which doesn’t preclude music from around the world–Japan or India or Senagal can equally have folk music in this definition.

As such, folk can overlap both old-timey or bluegrass music, though bluegrass tends to have a lot more composed songs.

A good example of an American folk song is “John Henry”. It seems no one knows where the song came from or if the earliest version of it were in song or in written form–though if you follow balladry, we know that stories like Robin Hood were mostly passed down by song. As you can hear below, there are many versions of this song. It’s important to note that while these versions sound different, the songs are also different in content and lyrics. In fact, in ballad study, like the Child Ballads, song versions are only cataloged by lyrics.

Leslie Riddle – John Henry (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Bill Cornett – John Henry (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ed Lewis – John Henry (mp3)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

mission bateria

September 27th, 2008

The soundtrack to my lunch (taco de pollo) with friend at La Taqueria this afternoon was a Brazilian-style bateria across the street at the Mission Cultural Center. They were really great and kept up their engaging polyrhythms for quite a while. It was an unexpected musical experience. Now if they can only play every day.

Not to be confused with the similar but unrelated Outer Mission Sambanista Battery.

on film: Treasure Island medium format shots

September 26th, 2008

For last weekend’s Treasure Island, I took out my 60s era Yashica A TLR with some slide film. Here are the results (click for bigger versions). For more words and photos check out my and Edwin’s coverage.


Or, the Whale


Lindsay and Julie of Or, the Whale


Christian (right), managing editor of the Bay Bridged, and Joe, Bay Bridged writer and guitarist for the Dont’s


John Vanderslice striking a pose


John Vanderslice rockin out


Van of Port O’Brien


the Morning Benders


Robin and Christian of Fleet Foxes


Fleet Foxes


Ferris wheel and crowds


dancing monsters


people dancing badly to Vampire Weekend

song obsession friday! (for the week ending 9/26)

September 26th, 2008

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
Magnolia Electric Co. – Hard to Love a Man (mp3) (buy)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

My goodness: what a gorgeous song? At some point (around What Comes After the Blues) I sort of wrote off Magnolia Electric Co. After last year’s breathtaking Sojourner, I’ve been coming back and finding even more good stuff.

This song has no only Jason Molina’s trademark warble but great female harmonies and the best slide guitar I’ve heard in a while to make the melancholy on this song magnificent. Incidentally, the slide guitar reminds me of Yo Yo Ma’s cello theme in Crouching Tiger. This doesn’t detract from the song at all.

Keith:
The Camaromance – Your Biological Clock is Giving me a Headache (mp3) (buy)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I’ve been participating in a random mp3 show with a few other WMBR djs as someone abandoned a noonday slot. Here’s a fun little tune that popped up which I didn’t even know I had, buried on a record that I purchased for the love of one song. Guess I should pay a bit more attention to the rest of the disc!

on sale soon (09.25.08 edition)

September 25th, 2008

Posted every Thursday, 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, Shoreline, and other Livenation venues, the Warfield. Another Planet booked venues like Greek Theatre @ Berkeley, Palace of Fine Arts, etc. Bimbo’s.

On sale now/ Thursday September 25:
10/10 Bag of Toys, Pat Jordan Band, Dogman Joe @ Great American

11/6 the Dodos, Kelley Stoltz @ Bimbo’s

Pre-sale Thursday September 26:
11/15 k.d. lang @ Paramount Theatre

On sale Saturday September 28:
10/21 the Killers @ the Warfield
10/25 Neil Young, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, ZZ Top, Sarah McLachlan, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, Cat Power @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
10/26 Neil Young, Jack Johnson, Josh Groban, Norah Jones, Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, Cat Power @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
10/29 Jenny Lewis, Beachwood Sparks @ Herbst Theatre
10/30 The Black Keys, Dr. Dog @ The Fillmore

11/5 Little Feat @ Great American
11/5 Enanitos Verdes @ The Fillmore
11/7 Rogue Wave @ The Independent
11/9 TV on the Radio, the Dirtbombs @ the Warfield
11/10 Alice Russell @ The Independent
11/14 OneRepublic @ Nob Hill Masonic Center
11/17 Groundation, DJ Stepwise @ The Independent
11/21 ohGr @ Slim’s
11/21 El Guincho @ The Independent
11/22 Kraak & Smaak @ The Independent
11/23 Matisyahu, Flobots @ the Warfield
11/24 The Rosebuds @ The Independent
11/28 Culann’s Hounds, Eoin Harrington @ Slim’s
11/30 The Herbaliser @ The Independent
11/30 The Birthday Massacre, Tub Ring, Creature Feature @ Slim’s

12/2 Blitzen Trapper, The Parson Red Heads, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band @ The Independent
12/19 The Vandals @ Slim’s
12/19, 12/20 The Mother Hips @ Great American
12/24 Oakland Interfaith Gospel Ensemble @ Slim’s

1/17, 1/19 Jonathan Coulton @ Great American

Double check all information as venues and promoters often change on-sale times and days up until the last minute.

Treasure Island day 2, my recap, photos

September 25th, 2008

While Edwin was providing ipickmynose’s coverage for both day 1 and day 2 at the second Treasure Island Music Festival, I just went Sunday a little bit incognito. I also lucked into a photo pass. Here are my thoughts about the bands and the festival.

I was excited by the line up going into Sunday afternoon: John Vanderslice; Or, the Whale; the Morning Benders, Port O’Brien, Fleet Foxes, the Dodos and Dr. Dog. Most bands I’d enjoyed seeing before but a few ones that I hadn’t seen and was looking forward to.

The Bands

Or, the Whale (myspace) were the first band up for the day. Their set was impossibly short, but managed to jam in some new tunes (“Rusty Gold”) as well as some of my favorites (“Fight Song”, “Call and Response”). It was a solid set and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I didn’t hear more good things from other people about any other band that day than about Or, the Whale.

John Vanderslice (myspace) was up next on the big stage. It seemed like forever since I’d seen JV in a full band set up. He and company were ready to rock hard and they did on old tunes (“Pale Horse”, “Exodus Damage”) and some new ones (“Too Much Time”). From the sounds of it, the awesome seems like it’ll be awesome.

After JV, Port O’Brien (myspace) was up on the small stage. As much as I wanted to be tired of their thing, I enjoyed the set–it was a fun time. Of course it ended with “I Woke Up Today” but how could it not?

After Port O’Brien, Tokyo Police Club was on the main stage. They sounded thoroughly ununique to me.

The Morning Benders (myspace) took the small stage and promptly got my head bobbing along. Their sunshiney pop sensibilities seemed to fit in well with a young, cloudless afternoon in the middle of the Bay.

Okkervil River was next on the main stage. They put on a decent set, though I still don’t see the necessity of the Cult of Will Sheff. That said, songs like “Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe” were fun. Also, Sheff made very deep philosophical arguments for clapping along. He convinced me.

The critics’ darling Fleet Foxes were up next on the main stage. Their pastoral hymn folk came across well live–their vocals and harmonies were spot on. They’re also pretty funny with their banter. They managed to make their set feel long by prematurely ending it a couple times and then starting up “one more song”. One of my favorite songwriters, J Tillman now plays drums and sings with them. As nice as the Fleet Foxes set was, I would have rather seen Tillman.

Spiritualized were up next on the name stage. I didn’t want to hear this music but it was loud enough that I had to.

The locals on the meteoric rise to fame, the Dodos (myspace) were up next on the small stage. Reports were that the sound was bad near the stage, but farther back, where I was, I liked the mix–I could hear Joe’s parts well (vibraphone, toy piano, trash can) as well as Meric and Logan. They played an intense set, like every time I’ve seen them, but not quite as intense as some of the club sets that I’ve seen.

Vampire Weekend was up on the main stage next. How little do I care about Vampire Weekend?

Dr. Dog (myspace) took the small stage and went all out on their performance, while accompanied by Graham and Pat of Rogue Wave. Their set was solid and induced head-bobbing. It was a nice accompaniment to the sun setting, but not revolutionary.

The strains of Tegan and Sara as I was heading out didn’t entice me to stay.

the Scenes and Recap

When I first hear about Treasure Island I was very skeptical of the logistics. In the end, the logistics were pretty well worked out–the shuttle buses were comfortable and reasonably efficient.

The stage set up–two stages at right angles, a few hundred yards apart–worked out well. One could see all the bands if one wished despite bands starting immediately after one another on alternating stages.

As much as I liked the line up for this chunk of the day and as much as I appreciate support of local bands, the overall line up was pretty predictable and one might even say stale. Another issue is the cost: it’s clever to give a lot of the people writing prominently about the festival free tickets, because at $65 plus ridiculous fees plus an expensive drink or two plus an expensive meal (both of which are pretty much required if one was to stay for a whole day), one’s looking at $100+ per day of music. For me that’s still ~$14 per band that I wanted to see. I could see most of these bands for that price or cheaper in smaller venues.

But not having to pay for a ticket, I had a much better time than I expected even though I’m not a big fan of open air festivals.

Treasure Island day 2 (Port O’brien, Morning Benders, Tokyo Police Club, Okkervil River, Fleet Foxes, Spiritualized) by Edwin

September 23rd, 2008

Here’s another day of Treasure Island coverage by sometime song obsessions contributor and fellow KZSU DJ Edwin. All words and photos by him.

Crowds at Treasure Island
crowds at Treasure Island

Back on the island the next day, I unfortunately missed John Vanderslice and Or, The Whale, the first two acts. I did catch Port O’Brien and The Morning Benders, both playing for enthusiastic but laid-back crowds, and both inviting us to sing along in choruses of “Yeahs” and “Ohs”. The Morning Benders seemed a little disappointed in the lack of energy of the crowd, but everybody seemed to be having a great time. Inbetween them was another solid set by Tokyo Police Club.

the Morning Benders and crowds
the Morning Benders

Back on the main stage was another highlight of the festival – a great performance by Okkervil River. After his guitar cord puttered out near the beginning of the set, lead singer Will Sheff said, “Some of the other sets here have been really professional, I hope you appreciate the difference.” He didn’t know what he was talking about though, because the rest of their set was as good as any other at the festival. Their group dynamic was superb, and they really seemed to be enjoying themselves and the audience. Lauren Gurgiolo’s lead guitar sounded especially excellent.

Okkervil River
Okkervil River

Fleet Foxes sang some perfect harmonies after that, and then came the performance I had been looking forward to the most – Spiritualized. After hearing a stripped down show by them last year, I really wanted to hear the sound of the full band in concert. They did not disappoint, playing a set that spanned their albums and a nice mixture of their pretty ballads, like “Shine A Light” and the noisy ones, like “Come Together”, which ended the set in a blaze of psychedelic fury. Still exhausted, I decided to end the day there, on a high note, and headed back to the leather seats and air conditioning of the buses back into the city.

Spiritualized at Treasure Island Music Festival
Spiritualized

The festival was great overall – the performances of course, but also the obviously meticulous planning, especially in the transportation to and from the island. The setup of the stages was also an excellent move, and helped keep downtime to a minimum.

Ferris wheel and crowds
the Ferris wheel

(full disclosure[1])

listen to my radio show, “I once was Canadian” on KZSU

September 23rd, 2008


cred: me

My radio show, “I once was Canadian”, is on right now. Tune in!

Listen in every Tuesday, from 3-5pm Pacific on KZSU 90.1 FM in the Bay Area or you can listen online.

During my show you’ll be able to follow along online with my playlist.

Update: Here’s the final playlist:

  • Roy Orbison – Crying
  • Bobby Darin – I Ain’t Sharin’ Sharon
  • Dion and the Belmonts – A Teenager in Love
  • Dusty Springfield – I Only Want to Be With You
  • The Angels – I Adore Him
  • Johnny Cash – Cry Cry Cry
  • Elvis Presley – Flaming Star
  • the Beatles – You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
  • Herman’s Hermits – Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter
  • Bob Dylan – House Carpenter
  • Joe Pug – I Do My Father’s Drugs
  • The Avett Brothers – Tear Down The House
  • Fleet Foxes – Oliver James
  • Death Vessel – Exploded View
  • Lewis & Clarke – Blasts Of Holy Birth
  • Johnny Flynn – The Box
  • Neil Halsteadl – Elevenses
  • Noah and the Whale – Give a Little Love
  • Or, The Whale – Fight Song
  • Erica Wheeler – Maryland County Road
  • Dodo Bird – Nerds
  • The Morning Benders – Loose Change
  • Julie Ocean – There’s A Place (In The Back Of My Mind)
  • Jens Lekman – The Opposite of Hallelujah
  • Electric President – Ether
  • Boy In Static – First Love
  • The Notwist – Boneless