Category Archives: Shorties

C-19, Music & a Gratuitous “Hamilton” Gloss

As Disney+ has brought Hamilton to screens across the country, there is one character who has a standout performance and he is the guy who, presumably, we are supposed to love to hate: King George III. Here’s a guy who got the throne in 1760 and before too long, the ornery Americans started acting up and caused him all manner of trouble. In 1781 General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, and then in the following year, the Treaties of Paris were signed, thereby putting an end to the UK in America, at least until February 7, 1964, when the Beatles landed in a Pan Am flight from Heathrow at JFK. Since then, British musicians have pretty much taken back what Cornwallis lost.

COVID-19 has had an effect on the UK. just as it has on other countries. In fact, the UK government has done a particularly poor job of addressing the pandemic (well, not as bad as the U.S. government, but that is a whole mess onto itself), and even Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized, having contracted the virus.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center the UK is seventh on the list of countries with confirmed cases and third on the list of deaths from the virus. (Yes, the U.S. tops both of those lists by a considerable number: as this is being written the number of deaths in the U.S. is 129,438, which is more than double that of Brazil, at 61,884. What was that about “Great Again”?)

As can be readily imagined, the music industry in the UK has been hammered by the virus. So a campaign has been established named “Let the Music Play” and it is arguing that it needs “the Government to help the music industry, which contributes £5.2 billion to the economy annually and sustains almost 200,000 jobs to ensure it remains world-leading following the damage caused by this pandemic.”

George III would certainly like that “world-leading” bit.

Continue reading C-19, Music & a Gratuitous “Hamilton” Gloss

Reports from Right Now

When you hear people say, “The world has certainly changed since—” the timeframe is generally more than 20 years. But things—even though as we endure the seemingly endless COVID-19 conditions, which make one day seem pretty much like another and so time takes on a different dynamic from our personal perspectives—are accelerating such that what is arguably recent history at most seems like a quainter period of time.

Case in point: in London, on March 10, 2003, Natalie Maines, lead singer of the band then known as the Dixie Chicks, said to a concert crowd, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

The war she referred to was the Iraq War, which overthrew Saddam Hussein. It was the war that was part of the search for WMD. It was the war that included pronouncements from Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf that were so absurd and disconnected from reality that he became known as “Baghdad Bob.”

Here we are 17 years later, when the current president says things—at home and abroad—about his political foes, people from other countries, the media, judges, elected officials, and others that make Maines’ comment a case study in “Why was that a big deal?” Who talks about things like the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that makes what Baghdad Bob was saying seem as though it was sage, thoughtful commentary.

Maines’ comment in 2003 pretty much tanked the band’s career for a number of years because it was taken to be the height of insult, something that just wasn’t said, especially when one was in a different country. (Maines was born in Lubbock: one would imagine that proud Texans would have vociferously stood up for one of their own. After all, George W. Bush may have moved to Texas, but he was born in New Haven, Connecticut.)

Seventeen years seems like a century—or more—ago.

Continue reading Reports from Right Now

New Brendan Benson: Dear Life

Video: Brendan Benson -- “Dear Life”

Brendan Benson - Dear Life (Official Video)

Directed by Brad Holland. From Dear Life, out now on Third Man.

Brendan Benson’s got a lot of cool gear in his home studio in Nashville. Which is a good thing during stay-at-home orders, right? Lots of fun toys to keep you busy.

The last time we checked in on Benson he was telling that it was good to be alive. And now he’s sharing a couple verses about people who are barely hanging on.

Some days, it comes over me
And I can barely breathe
All this fury pressing down on me
I don’t ever want to leave
It’s got me hanging on
To dear life

“There’s something about this record,” Benson says. “A friend of mine called it ‘life-affirming.’ I thought it was a joke at first but then realized, well, it’s about life and death for sure. I don’t know if that’s positive or optimistic or whatever, but that’s what’s going on with me.”

Brendan Benson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Erasure: Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)

Video: Erasure -- “Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)”

Erasure - Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)

From The Neon, out August 21 on Mute.

Sometimes you need to take a break from the grind of the 24-hour bad news cycle and never-ending doomscrolling, and put everything bad out of your mind for a few minutes and dance. Or, if you aren’t able to physically get up and shake what the lord gave you, at least stop and listen to some dance music. And nobody makes dance music quite like Andy Bell and Vince Clarke who have been cranking out undeniable jams for 35 years.

Walk through the city singin’ hallelujah
Wish for a lover’s touch
Wore out the mirror, but it can see right through me
I gotta get the look

I’ll admit I haven’t followed their career too closely after their first twenty hits, but I did get the chance to see them live a couple years ago, and it was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever been to. So great. The next time they tour I may drop everything and follow them around like the Grateful Dead.

And now they’re back with a new album just when we need it most.

Erasure: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

“If Music Be the Food of Love. . .”

Last week, more than 600 musicians and comedians signed a letter sent to Congress on behalf of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). In this letter, asking for aid, there is the following sentence: “We will know America is ‘back’ when our music venues are filled with fans enjoying concerts safely.”

Given what is happening out there, it seems as though America is not going to be back any time soon.

And according to the NIVA, “Due to the national routing of most tours, this industry will not recover until the entire country is open at 100% capacity.”

Again, 100% is a lot to shoot for unless you’re a craven politician who cares nothing about health and just adulation.

So what does the NIVA ask for? Things like the RESTART Act (S. 3814), which does things like provide money to businesses that is equal to six months’ payroll, benefits, and fixed operating costs. Up to 90% loan forgiveness for businesses that have fewer than 500 FTE (full-time equivalencies, as in people with jobs), and a 7-year payback period for the loans. Tax credit relief for a percentage of refunded tickets. Rent/mortgage tax credit (as in the Keeping the Lights on Act (H.R. 6799). An employee retention tax credit for shuttered businesses that have obtained PPP loans that runs until the business is back and at 100% capacity. And tax credits as described in the Clean Start Act (H.R. 7079) for cleaning businesses and providing PPE for employees and customers.

All of which is to say that (1) the independent venues that the NIVA represents are looking to the federal government for money to stay in business and (2) the NIVA is clearly somewhat optimistic about a 100% return of patrons to their venues in a foreseeable future.

Music and entertainment venues are not the only facilities that are on the brink of partial extinction.

Continue reading “If Music Be the Food of Love. . .”

New Public Enemy: State Of The Union (STFU)

Video: Public Enemy -- “State Of The Union (STFU)”

PUBLIC ENEMY - State Of The Union (STFU) featuring DJ PREMIER | OFFICIAL VIDEO

Directed by David C. Snyder. From the forthcoming Nothing Is Quick in the Desert. Single out now.

Happy Juneteenth. And what better way to celebrate than a new Public Enemy song? Chuck and Flav, back together again, express their dissatisfaction with our orange fuhrer.

Vote this joke out or die tryin’
Unprecedented demented
Many presidented, Nazi gestapo
Dictator defended
It’s not what you think it’s what you follow
Run for them jewels, drink from that bottle
Another four years gonna gut y’all hollow

Yeah, tell it like it is!

And you can get a free download from PE’s website in exchange for your email address.

Public Enemy: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Of Masks and Money

Unless it is a beach community or a tropical island, both places where the norms tend to be different than in land-locked and less temperate locales, there is a rule that is either openly stated or known so well that it need not be announced:

“No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service.”

While you could conceivably go to a bar in Hawaii sans shirt (assuming male gender) and shoes, were you to try to do the same in, say, Iowa, you would probably be summarily asked to leave—and the asking might not be of the please-and-thank-you nature.

The Three No’s are essentially a rule of decorum that everyone knows. It is a situational rule. For example, even if one were to be flying from Kona to Honolulu you couldn’t board without wearing a shirt. This is not only predicated on the fact that odds are the person would not be a specimen that people would want to have to look at, there is also the fact that no one would knowingly want to sit in 24C after that person spent time in it.

At the present time there is extensively researched recommendations that people should wear face masks (ideally properly wear face masks, which means not having them below one’s nose as that—which seems to be a surprise to some people—is a feature that one uses to breathe, or wearing them around one’s neck, as though it is a bit of fashion flair on an elastic band). So maybe what we need is to add a fourth No to the three (although it would, admittedly, break up the assonance).
Yet there is tremendous push-back by some people on wearing of a mask as it seems to be some sort of admission that the coronavirus not only exists, but that it passes from person to person. Go figure.

During the period of lock-down in several states there were those who rose up and maintained their constitutional rights were being violated because they couldn’t get a haircut. Life, liberty and the pursuit of a razor cut.

Which brings me to a stunning state of affairs that is presently occurring. Some music promoters, who are finding that restrictions against crowds, are suing state governments. For example, one suit has been filed in Ohio against the doctor who had been running the state’s health department by festival organizers, whose ability to put on events is being impacted by such stipulations.

The basis for the suit? Violation of the plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In case you’re wondering, the Fourteenth is the one about equal protection under the law.

Continue reading Of Masks and Money

New Bully: Where To Start

Video: Bully -- “Where To Start”

Bully - Where To Start [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Alan Del Rio Ortiz and Alicia Bognanno. From Sugaregg, due August 21 on Sub Pop.

Alicia Bognanno isn’t having any of your shit.

Running your face through ice cold water
Quick sugar rush, blood in the shower
I read your mind through the flash in your eyes
There’s nowhere to go, out of reasons to try

The song has an unexpected origin story.

“I was listening to ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba and picking apart the melodic structure and sort of trying to mimic that,” Alicia Bognanno told Rolling Stone. “I’m not even joking; it still makes me laugh to think about. But let’s be real, that is undeniably a solid song.”

Is it though? Really?

Bognanno says her song “addresses the frustration that comes along with love having the ability to fully control your mood and mental state for better or worse. It was therapeutic to funnel some lightheartedness into what can be an otherwise draining state of mind.”

One thing we can say for sure is that you are never gonna keep her down.

Bully: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bully: Where To Start

New Blitzen Trapper: Masonic Temple Microdose #1

Video: Blitzen Trapper -- “Masonic Temple Microdose #1”

Blitzen Trapper - "Masonic Temple Microdose #1" (Official Video)

From Holy Smokes Future Jokes, due September 11, 2020 on Yep Roc.

“Let’s do the world a favor, yeah, let’s all go extinct.”

Can’t argue with that! In the meantime, though, we’re all going to have to keep on keeping on and there’s no better soundtrack to that the choogling groove of Blitzen Trapper.

Eric Earley says, “This song is about American apathy and the nihilism that emerges from the bogus idea that complete personal freedom should be man’s ultimate goal, when in fact man’s ultimate goal should be ecological balance, all things follow from this. Comedy and horror combine on this track, teenagers dropping acid in a masonic temple at the end of the empire, the American consumptive death-drive laid bare as a desire for extinction.”

Whatever you say, homie.

Blitzen Trapper: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Blitzen Trapper: Masonic Temple Microdose #1

The Bubble

Although you may have missed it, there was a boxing match on Tuesday, June 9, at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Although Vegas is generally thought of in the context of gambling and of performing artists who have passed their prime and are looking for a place where they can considerably cash in without having to do too much in the way of heavy lifting (i.e., odds are that if they are performing at Caesar’s or The Bellagio or wherever, they are comped a room such that they don’t need to worry about doing too much in the way of traveling, outside of an elevator ride), the Strip is all about boxing (which goes along with the whole gaming experience but which doesn’t go to the point of tired acts because old boxers aren’t in the game).

While I’ve never been to a bout live, I’ve seen some televised events and the thing that always puzzled me is why the people who are dressed to the proverbial nines have seats closest to the ring, given that the boxers tend to throw off as much perspiration as they do punches, so even in a world that doesn’t have a pandemic, that effluvium doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that one would like to be doused with: Wouldn’t they be better off, say, in row 10?

Tuesday’s card was organized by a company named Top Rank that has been in existence since 1966 and has been behind 9,000 fights and 1,500 cards. Bob Arum, Top Rank founder, was early in the closed-circuit and pay-per-view models for fights. Presently it has a contract with ESPN to provide free boxing (well, at least free for those who have ESPN as part of their cable package, presumably).

In its self-definition, the company states flat-out: “Las Vegas-based Top Rank stands as the country’s premiere boxing promotions company for one reason: We take care of our fighters and our fans.”

And that “take care of” is more essential now than ever before.

To pull off the event, there was a comprehensive COVID-19 protocol for all those invited. According to ESPN, “Once fighters land in Vegas, teams are transported in a sanitized vehicle to take a PCR test, the results of which will take six hours. If a fighter or anyone on their team tests positive either at this test or at the test following the weigh-in, he or she is immediately quarantined, and the fight is off.”

If they are OK, “They’ll be taken up a back elevator to a designated floor in the hotel for Top Rank. No access will be granted by elevators for other hotel guests, and all movement to and from the floor will come from a back-of-house elevator.”

Then there is regular testing and isolation from the outside world.

The bouts took place with without fans. The people calling the fights were not in the immediate space of the ring. The fighters were, in effect, in a “bubble.”

A bigger bubble is planned to be inflated next month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando: this for some 1,500 people associated with the National Basketball League.

The tentative schedule is for the players, coaches, etc. to arrive July 7 and then playoffs starting on August 17. Families and others will be permitted to arrive on August 30. The NBA Finals is expected on September 30.

During this time there will be, not surprisingly, comprehensive testing of everyone.

There will be no fans in attendance.

One consequence of this is that the phrase “I’m going to Disney World!” may end up having a whole new, somewhat dystopian, edge to it.

The point of all this is to consider the future of concerts. Coachella and Lollapalooza, both outside events, unlike boxing or pro ball, have been cancelled.

Continue reading The Bubble