It’s the summer festival season, which is my favorite time of year. For someone who has an arbitrary limit of both ticket price and venue capacity, I have an enduring love of festivals. Mostly because an outdoor festival is devoid of most of the shit I hate at music shows: I can avoid the crowds if I want to by skirting the edges and sitting in the trees, I get lots of variety in the acts for the price, I fucking LOVE falafel and cheap beer, and there’s the fresh air.
One thing I don’t like about festivals is the preening and pretense you sometimes encounter, just like at an indoor show. You know the dudes who walk around shirtless and waxed and the gals wearing high-waisted cutoffs cut so high you can see their ears? Yeah…that.
And so I was genuinely delighted to stumble across this clip of a bro getting down to some Uptown Funk. It’s a display of pure, uninhibited joy. And he doesn’t even seem wasted!
Seeing this kid get down in the middle of T in the Park lets me know everything is going to be just fine. And I hope to see some of this unbridled funk at Wildwood Music Festival this weekend.
We grew up hearing snippets of the stories: first joints, flying tents, incorrect memories of the acts who played, and even a fabled master recording from the sound board secreted away in a friend’s basement (recently rediscovered). The event was more legend than an established piece of Michigan history, but staged almost exactly one year after Woodstock, the Goose Lake International Music Festival did indeed happen and it was glorious.
Annoying music bed and even more annoying local commercials aside, this 30 minute documentary has an oral history from organizers and attendees with fantastic archival footage of Michigan’s entrant into the 60s and 70s music festival culture.
This video has long been my go-to mood enhancer. Of the many, many amazing performances Prince has recorded over the years, this is the one I go back to again and again. There are so many reason why, but a few that come to mind are:
If I could play guitar like anyone it would be Jay Bennett, George Harrison or Prince. This hits two of the three
Prince’s inclusion elevates the performance from a tribute from pals (famous and talented ones, at that) to a celebration of a song and its writer who inspired and affected so many people
Prince absolutely mops the floor with his solo
His guitar disappears at the end. Seriously, where did it go?
The look on Dhani Harrison’s face throughout Prince’s solo is pure gold
Prince’s Guitar Solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the 2004 Hall of Fame Inductions
There are few celebrity deaths that would affect me personally—unlike that of a family member or friend, I might miss their artistry, but not their person. Prince’s death has affected me though. I am genuinely sad to hear of his passing. I think it’s because his public persona, the character he’s created and refined throughout his years as a public figure, is exactly what we want musicians to be. Yes, he was successful financially. More importantly, he was unique but cognizant and respectful of what had come before him. He confounded us with genre mash-ups and confusing name changes. He was the guy who wrote “Darling Nikki” and then extolled the virtues of being a Jahovah’s Witness. He was…interesting. Endlessly interesting.
He really seemed to exist on a higher plane.
If anyone felt music, it was Prince. You can see it in his face and his body. He created the wavelengths and then let himself be taken by them. He had that golden combination of science and soul. I don’t think Prince ever once in his life simply ran scales.
So yes, I am sad today and will genuinely miss Prince’s existence in the world. And I’ll lean heavily on my go-to mood enhancer to get through it.
I’ve recently taken to posting confessions on Facebook. Nothing too salacious or embarrassing, just acknowledgements that may be unexpected to my legion of followers. Things like my arbitrary cap on concerts: $50 ticket, no venues larger than 1500. The reasoning behind this cap is a topic for another post, but I’d like to use this opportunity to make another confession:
I’m bored with Wilco.
Given my own personal history with the band and GLONO’s long trail of coverage, this is not easy for me to write. And I want to be clear that I am very happy the band is as successful as they are now—and that’s not some lame qualifier before I launch into a scathing criticism (which I won’t). I really am quite happy that a band from Chicago, who I’ve followed from its earliest days, and who represents everything great in independent music, is successful. We don’t have enough of those success stories. And I love several songs on every album they’ve put out.
But I haven’t loved a whole album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
I think about this a lot and while there are a number of factors, it basically boils down to two things:
I want more songs from Jeff Tweedy—not soundscapes or word play, I want songs. I want structure and melodies and harmonies and stories. The bits I have liked from recent albums all fit this mold.
Simple production. A couple mics, acoustic instruments and capable hands behind the desk. Put a guy like David Rawlings, T-Bone Burnett or even Jack White in the producer role and I’m in.
This isn’t a pipe dream; this could happen. John Mellencamp did it on No Better Than This using a 1955 Ampex portable recording machine and only one microphone. Hell, Uncle Tupelo did something similar on March 17 -20, 1992. And more recently, Wilco recorded an NPR Tiny Desk concert that sounds exactly what I am talking about.
I know I sound like the old man yelling about how great the old days were on this, but I only do it because I care. So please, Wilco: won’t you do an old fan a solid and sit down in front of a couple mics and just play some songs? I promise to shut up for a couple years.
I’m going to tell you something most Oregonians don’t want you to know for fear that it will remove the final barrier that keeps even more people from moving out here: It doesn’t rain out here nearly as much as you probably think it does. In fact, the summers can sometimes be long, dry affairs that leave you praying for rain come September. The temperature will inch up to the triple-digits some days and the western sun feels more intense, but that may be my imagination.
It was over a three-day stretch like this that my family and I again made our way to the West Valley to the small town of Willamina, Oregon. We were in the middle of a welcomed break from a stifling summer when the weather report showed a slight return to the upper 90s. You guessed it: during the three days that covered the Wildwood MusicFest.
I am generally torn when it comes to my favorite defunct bands reforming. Sure, I am as easily swayed by nostalgia as the next guy, if not more so. But I am also keenly sensitive to the concepts of legacy and expectation, and we all know what can happen to the former if you miss the latter.
And so it’s with cautious optimism that I’ve been waiting for the return of The Likely Lads. The Libertines have been maybe my favorite band of the last 15 years. They personified so much of what I love about music: Punk attitude with smart lyrics and even smarter melodies, all wrapped up in a dream of Albion.
Today marks the beginning of the test with the release of a new video and song, “Gunga Din,” which is somewhat appropriate in the context of the relationship between Peter Doherty and Carl Barat. The Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name is about an English soldier in colonial India and his water carrier, who eventually sacrifices his own life to save the soldier…despite abuse. Without getting too analytical about it, let’s just say the two have had swings of abuse and intense love over the years that seems to have returned to a place of genuine appreciation, respect and brotherly affection.
The video finds our heroes stumbling and sweating their way through crowded streets in what I am guessing is Thailand, where the band wrote most of the new album as Doherty was completing a stint in rehab.
The 12-track record will be titled Anthems For Doomed Youth and comes out on September 4. Info on the various version is available on the band’s website.
There are a lot of music—what? Not purists, exactly. And not scholars. I guess music…grouches—out there crowing about the recent ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell re: “Blurred Lines.” I love Marvin Gaye as much as the next guy and also believe artists should be compensated for their work, but this verdict is nonsense. And the scale of it borders on dangerous.
The core of the case seems to be centered on whether Thicke and Pharrell “stole” Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up” as the foundation for the massively popular “Blurred Lines.” A jury sided with the Gaye estate and awarded them a $7.3 million settlement. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the music industry the last decade-plus but I can tell you making $7 million on any one song is quite a feat. The award basically negates any original contribution Thicke and Pharrell brought to “Blurred Lines.” You can find lots of debate about song structure, melody and scales elsewhere. The important thing to consider is that songwriters now need to document and compensate any and all sources of inspiration or face legal jeopardy.
Now back to those gloating about another upstart “entertainer” (vs. artist) getting what’s coming to him. Consider the number of songs from your favorite (read: legitimate) artists that might not be here if held to the same standard applied to “Blurred Lines.” You can Google how many times Keith Richards has acknowledged nicking riffs from Chuck Berry, and I won’t even get into Led Zeppelin’s long history of “borrowing” from their idols. Just consider two songs from our most beloved band, The Beatles.
If that riff doesn’t sound familiar then you need to go back and listen to “I Feel Fine” again.
I finally saw Future Islands last night and am now ready to say I am absolutely a fan of this band. I’m kinda ambivalent about the music—I like electro-pop and disco beats as much as the next guy, but it’s not blowing my mind or anything. What is blowing my mind is the effect this band has on people and it’s about goddamned time someone dropped the pretense and just let their freak flags fly.
The Crystal Ballroom was decked out in some kind of weird prom-like theme in support of local radio station KNRK’s annual December to Remember concerts series. There were thirteen shows in this year’s roster with the likes of The War on Drugs, KONGOS, Cage the Elephant, TV on the Radio and Alt-J being among the Indie heavies. Despite an astonishing year of hype and national TV appearances, Future Islands only scored an opening slot. Spoon topped the bill, but our man Samuel T. Herring was the must-see.
He did all of his moves, and did them with gusto. There were bizarre snake dances and gorilla chest thumps and even the bent-knee Mashed Potato and it was beautiful in its awkwardness. And that’s what makes this band special, because not three feet away from me were three dudes one would not mistake as hipsters or scene makers just JAMMING with our man Samuel. They had their own awkward hand-claps and slight hip twists and would occasionally look around the room to make sure it was cool. And you know what? It was cool. Portland is not known for it’s grooviness but to see most of the room stumbling happily through the night in a blissed out psudo-prom…well, it was heart warming.
Samuel T. Herring is not a good dancer. He’s terrible. He’s the Elaine Benes of front men, but he owns his goofiness. He moves where the music takes him and it’s usually to some pretty freaky places. As long he stays true to himself and never, ever edit his moves, I will follow him there.
The connection between music and memories is as fundamental as that between heart and soul. We write songs about things we’ve done and people we’ve loved and those songs remind us that we are human. To be robbed of either is heartbreaking, to be robbed of both is tragic.
Glen Campbell has been frank about his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He announced his affliction in 2011 and embarked on a farewell tour—one that he had to take while he still could. If you love songs but aren’t familiar with Campbell’s work then you are missing some of the 20th century’s most endearing music. The towering shadow of his career is summarized in just the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:
Campbell has released more than 70 albums. He has sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA Gold albums, 4 Platinum albums and 1 Double-Platinum album. He has placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, the Billboard Hot 100, or the Adult Contemporary Chart, 29 in the Top 10 of which 9 peaked at number one on at least one of those charts.
And now he has one more song and album. His 78 years are reflected in this video, his last.