New Lower Leisure Class video: Oxygen

Video: Lower Leisure Class – “Oxygen” (Tiny Desk Contest)

The Lower Leisure Class – Oxygen – Tiny Desk Contest 2019

Stories from the Lower Leisure Class is out now on Leppotone.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My old college band, The Vantrells, is reuniting to open for The Lower Leisure Class. So, you know…I’m obligated to say nice things about them.

When Jake decided to go to Kalamazoo College, I was skeptical. I had never been to Kalamazoo, despite growing up just 45 minutes north on US 131. Being a terrible student in high school, my undergrad fortunes were primarily tied to my better friends and I was angling for a free place to crash at the University of Chicago.

But then we discovered Leppotone Electrical Recordings, a collective of friends who banded (literally) together to create their own scene. The Lower Leisure Class is the latest product of that union and is made up of members from the most influential bands of my youth, including The Sleestacks, The Sinatras, Twister, Triplemint and King Tammy. The result is somehow, incredibly greater than the sum of its parts.

“Oxygen,” recorded for the Tiny Desk Contest is a prime example of why I love this band. Ron Casebeer is a short story writer with a knack for melody. He tells stories about neighbors and neighborhoods and the relationships we make and maintain, trivial and profound. He makes me cry a lot. To see this group shape their music around those stories is where things take off. There’s a joy in being together and playing together. There’s a power in being creative in your basement. It feeds your soul, it keeps you alive. It’s your oxygen.

And Ron’s just one of the songwriters. The combination of these bands and talents creates a unique sound they’ve dubbed “Michicana,” which I love. It’s new, but steeped in nostalgia and references any good midwesterner will recognize.

And so, after nearly 20 years being away, I am back in Michigan and excited to be reuniting with old friends to play some old songs. Who says you can never go home?

Lower Leisure Class: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Sleater-Kinney video: Hurry On Home

Video: Sleater-Kinney – “Hurry On Home”

Sleater-Kinney – Hurry On Home (Official Lyric Video)

Directed by Miranda July. Single out now.

Normally lyric videos are pretty lame, but this one is great. It has a story!

And how about the song? It’s been almost six months since we found out Sleater-Kinney was back in the studio and being produced by St. Vincent, and “Hurry On Home” was the worth the wait. It’s everything you could have hoped for in a collaboration like that.

And that’s not the only development in S-K news. Filthy Friends, Corin Tucker’s supergroup with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, has a new video as well. “Break Me” is a jangle pop classic with Tucker’s super dry vocals right up front in the mix. It’s fascinating (for nerds like me) to compare the way different collaborators bring out different elements in the sound.

Sleater-Kinney: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sleater-Kinney video: Hurry On Home

New Raconteurs video: Help Me Stranger

Video: The Raconteurs – “Help Me Stranger”

The Raconteurs – "Help Me Stranger" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Yasuhiko Shimizu. From Help Us Stranger, out June 21 on Third Man.

A funky little groove with Jack and Brendan singing harmonies throughout, “Help Me Stranger” is gonna be lit live. Shades of all the genres that made Detroit a hothouse for any variety musical pollinators in the late 60s and early 70s.

The video is more of the symbolism of life in a broken land we’ve seen of late. Whether it’s Jack holden a baby in what appears to be an abandoned Asian city or images of that baby then smoldering in Jack’s arms, things are not well.

We might as well dance.

The Raconteurs: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Riot Fest 2019 Lineup

How cool will it be to see both Slayer and the Village People at the same festival? And why not? Don’t be uptight. Have fun, bang your head, and shake your ass.

Riot Fest continues to be the only major music festival that cultivates a unique identity. Why other fests have fully embraced the idea of taking everything popular on Spotify and playing it on shuffle, Riot Fest continues to attempt a bit of discretion and taste.

Punk rock is a big ass tree trunk and Riot Fest seems to take a perverse pleasure in pursuing all the different branches and roots, going as far out on the limbs as they can manage while still staying true to their mission.

What do the Village People have to do with punk rock (or anything, really) in 2019? Well consider, as my homegirl Samorama pointed out, that it’s the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night, when Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl encouraged a bunch of fun hating rednecks to destroy all their records that appealed to black folks, women, gay dudes, and other groovy people who like to dance. While punk indeed has its own history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, it’s pretty radical for Riot Fest to book the ultimate disco band.

Along with Slayer and the Village People, my personal must-see list this year includes Bikini Kill, the Raconteurs, Flaming Lips, Patti Smith, Rancid, Descendents, B-52s, Anthrax, Bob Mould, Guided by Voices, Nick Lowe, Sincere Engineer, Skating Polly. And of course Andrew W.K. and GWAR are always fun.

Continue reading Riot Fest 2019 Lineup

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 34

Rolling Stone issue #34 had a cover date of May 31, 1969. 40 page. 35 cents. Cover photo of Jimi Hendrix by Franz Maier.

Features: “Cash and Dylan Tape TV Number in Nashville” by Patrick Thomas; “Muddy Waters Week in Chicago” by Don DeMicheal; “Johnny Cash At San Quentin” by Ralph J. Gleason; “Delaney & Bonnie” by Jerry Hopkins; “Festival in Black” by John Burks; “Fuzz Against Junk: The Saga of the Narcotics Brigade, Installment Two” by Akbar Del Piombo.

News: “Janis and London Come Together” by Jonathan Cott and David Dalton; “A Decency Rally Fans the Flames”; “An Unpleasantness At Venice”; “Hendrix Busted In Toronto” by Ritchie Yorke and Ben Fong-Torres; “The Ballad of John & Yoko”; “Free Music”; “Ash Grove in Ashes After $40,000 Fire”; “Magical Mystery Non-Benefit”; “Fuzz Against Junk” by Akbar Del Piombo. And Random Notes.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 34

New Dressy Bessy video: Fearless

Video: Dressy Bessy – “Fearless”

Dressy Bessy – Fearless (Official Music Video)

From Fast Faster Disaster, due June 14 on Yep Roc.

There was a cinder block cube of a bar on the west side of Grand Rapids called Putt Putt’s. My uncle tells me that when I was little he used to take me there and set me up on the ice machine while he played pool. He bought me Shirley Temples and taught me to make noise when the other guy was about to shoot. You can’t get mad at a little kid for wrecking your shot, right? This was the 70s, so who knows?

My other childhood story of Putt Putt’s involves my dad getting arrested there after getting into a bar fight. I’m not sure whether this is an actual memory or that the story is so vivid that my brain concocted a visualization, but I can picture myself looking through the back window of a car as my dad is hauled out of the bar in handcuffs, struggling, and the cops macing him in the face before they shoved him into a patrol car. The unfairness of getting maced while cuffed still infuriates me, forty year later.

Why was I there? Who’s car was I in? My mom’s? Did somebody call her from a payphone to come pick him up? No idea.

But since then I’ve never really hung out in pool halls. Dressy Bessy makes it look like a lot of fun though!

Putt Putt’s is still there, by the way, but it’s been overhauled. It now has windows and food and outdoor seating. It looks respectable. Their burgers get good reviews online.

But I’m never going there. I know there are ghosts.

Dressy Bessy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Purple Mountains video: All My Happiness is Gone

Video: Purple Mountains – “All My Happiness is Gone”

Purple Mountains "All My Happiness is Gone" (Official Music Video)

Film by Brent Stewart and Matt Boyd. From Purple Mountains, due July 12 on Drag City. Single out now.

Jeez, has it really been ten years since David Berman pulled the plug on the Silver Jews? I guess it has. Wow.

Well he’s back and just as twisted as ever. The fact the one of the greatest lyricists in rock and roll spends the first two minutes of his public reintroduction strumming and humming wordlessly is quite a trick. I was fooled on first listen.

Spoiler: Once the song kicks in it’s as good as anything he’s ever done. Over a melody as poppy as “I Melt with You” by Modern English, Berman explores the idea of aging in a world where “the fear’s so strong it leaves you gasping.”

Friends are warmer than gold when you’re old
And keeping them is harder than you might suppose
Lately, I tend to make strangers wherever I go
Some of them were once people I was happy to know

As a fellow sufferer of the middle-aged-white-guy blues I can vouch for the accuracy of this sentiment.

Purple Mountains: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Mavis Staples video: We Get By

Video: Mavis Staples – “We Get By” (ft. Ben Harper)

Mavis Staples – "We Get By" (feat. Ben Harper)

From We Get By, due May 24 on Anti.

Mavis Staples is a great American hero. I want her to adopt me so she can be my kid’s grandma. She is the absolute best.

“We Get By” is the title track from her new album featuring songs written and produced by musician and skater Ben Harper.

Mavis’ optimism is inspiring. If Mavis Staples can still believe that things are going to get better, who the fuck am I to sit around moping and grumping about the sorry state of the world? “It’s what I love to do,” she says in the intro to this video. “To sing a song that’s going to help somebody, to sing a song that’s going to bring somebody closer.”

Thank you, Mavis. Your songs do help. And your Vans are super dope, too!

Mavis Staples: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

“Don’t Take The Brown Acid”

At the Woodstock Festival that occurred 50 years ago this coming July the performers included Creedence Clearwater Revival; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Jefferson Airplane; the Grateful Dead.

For reasons that probably have more to do with lucre than love, there is Woodstock 50 planned for this summer. There has been a considerable amount of more notoriety of this event as regards the financing than the acts, but the roster is nothing if not robust.

If we go back to the opening paragraph of this, know that among the performers are John Fogerty; David Crosby; Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady (a.k.a., Hot Tuna); and Dead & Company.

Fogerty is 73. Crosby, 77. Jorma, 78. Casady 75. And just to pick one still there and still alive, Bob Weir 71.

At this point you might expect one of my typical rants about old musicians hanging it up.

But I’m not going to do that.

Rather, it simply strikes me that back in 1969 there was an event that had a certain music-changing magnitude (I’d argue that all of the variants of the “Star Spangled Banner” that are now heard at NASCAR races and sporting events go back to Hendrix taking what had theretofore been something of an untouchable icon and molding it into something completely different) that has never been equaled. It was a phenomenon. While it certainly wasn’t the first music festival, nor will it be the last, it was something that had far more cultural resonance than anything that was there before or after, and much of this has to do with the spontaneity of the events on the ground as they transpired and changed the entire dynamic of what was to be into something that was more representative of the age: a whiff of anarchy.

Yes, there are music festivals. Yes, there should continue to be music festivals.

But what are the organizers thinking is going to happen? Are they going to catch lightning in a bottle, or are they going to be working out—as seems to be the case right now—how much they’re going to be able to capture in terms of monetary value? Is this a music festival or a payday?

Continue reading “Don’t Take The Brown Acid”

New Phosphorescent video: C’est La Vie No. 2

Video: Phosphorescent – “C’est La Vie No. 2”

Phosphorescent – C'est La Vie No. 2 (Official Video)

Directed by Jordan Halland. From C’est La Vie, out now on Dead Oceans.

I wrote all night
Like the fire of my words could burn a hole up to heaven
I don’t write all night burning holes up to heaven no more

As you get older you mellow out. Life has a way of tamping down the passion of youth. When you’re young it’s easy to feel destined to make a huge impact on the world. But grownups tend to eventually figure out that it’s hard enough to get out of bed in the morning. So it goes.

Matthew Houck gets this. “C’est La Vie No. 2” is a song that explores this loss of faith. It’s heartbreaking but it’s also liberating. When you accept the fact that God is never going to answer you, you don’t feel compelled to stand out all night in empty fields waiting to hear his voice. You just live. And that’s all there is.

That’s life.

Phosphorescent: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock and roll can change your life.