I’ve been attending big music festivals in Chicago every summer since 2005, but it’s been many many years since I arrived anywhere near early enough to see the opening wave of bands. There’s always bands I’d kinda like to see who play before 2:30pm but 3-day music festivals are work and you have to make sacrifices for your health and sanity.
Riot Fest scheduled Liz Phair to play at 2:10 on Friday this year. That’s early. Especially for a Friday. And even more so since I no longer live in Chicago. But I love Liz Phair, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her in concert. In fact, I had tickets to see her in Detroit on Thursday but once the Riot Fest lineup was released, I decided to skip it. But that made it mandatory to arrive in Douglas Park in time.
I didn’t need to worry. Getting in to the park this year was easier than ever before. In fact, we made it inside with plenty of time to see festival opener Speedy Ortiz, who coincidentally is opening up for Liz Phair on her current tour. They were fun and cool. And their 30-minute set flew by.
The best thing about Riot Fest is that it’s got a small enough footprint that you can run around from stage to stage in no time. Five or ten minutes is all you need to get from one to the another. Unfortunately, this also means there’s soundbleed from other bands if you’re not standing directly in front of the stage. But it’s great to be able to skip around and get a sampler platter of everything that’s happening.
Reporting on somebody’s Twitter comments seems a little silly, but I guess GLONO has a long history of writing about musicians’ unofficial announcements (see “Ryan Adams: New Whiskeytown Album?” or “Mooney Suzuki’s Souls Stolen by Satan”). Anyway, it’s 2015 and stalwart old establishments like Billboard and Rolling Stone spend half their time scraping Instagram and Tumblr for juicy celebrity gossip. What once was the domain of bloggers has been co-opted by the major publications and now passes for journalism. So it goes.
It looks like our beloved Liz Phair has been recording new music again!
On April 8, Phair tweeted that “in 3 days I’m going rafting in #GrandCanyon w no wifi, no toilet & no way out.”
"nnnnnggggghhhhhhh" sound my brain makes when think in 3 days I'm going rafting in #GrandCanyon w no wifi, no toilet & no way out
Almost two years after she self-released the album, Funstyle, Liz Phair finally got around to making a video for its best song, a hateful attack on Andy Slater, the man who convinced her to turn her back on her fans and work with the Matrix to re-invent herself as a second-rate, “20-years-later” Avril Lavigne. My reaction at the time was exactly like Duckie when Andie goes out with Blane. But here’s the thing: Slater was never like Blane; he was totally Steff. It pisses him off that he can’t buy people’s respect.
Anyway, just like Duckie, I threatened to stop caring about Liz Phair (“Maybe for the first time in your life I WON’T BE THERE!”). But of course, just like Duckie, I came back. When she released the outrageously quirky Funstyle, I got the joke and reviewed it positively. “And He Slayed Her” is one of the highlights of that album.
I mean, what kind of kid were you when you were a kid?
What kind of man would do what you did?
What kind of life did you think you were gonna live
When everyone in town put a price on your head?
In other Liz Phair news, she’s streaming a new song from an upcoming soundtrack album.
The movie is called “People Like Us” and its soundtrack is due June 19 on Lakeshore Records.
In even more potentially exciting news, Phair recently tweeted (to Ryan Adams of all people!) that she’s got some new demos and she’s “going home (Chicago) to record them old school.” So…feel free to get cautiously excited about that.
Two of my favorite artists released songs to the internet last weekend. Fiona Apple posted a song from her upcoming album to Soundcloud, while Liz Phair sent an MP3 to the administrator of her biggest fan site and announced via Twitter that it’s “a stand-alone track, not what new record will sound like at all.”
Apple’s official “leak” was clearly part of an established technique for rousing excitement for a new album, which now includes weekly updates to keep us thinking about her.
• January 22: Record label exec unexpectedly tweets “Welcome back Fiona!”
• January 24: Label spokesperson clarifies new album will “absolutely be this year”
• February 14: South By Southwest showcase announced
• February 21: “Mini tour” dates announced
• March 7: Album title announced
• March 14: South By Southwest showcase features new songs
• March 19-27: mini tour
• April 2: Album track list, artwork, release date revealed
• April 9: North American tour dates announced
• April 23: “Every Single Night” posted to Soundcloud
It worked, of course. June 19 can’t come soon enough. But it’s hard not to feel like you’re being played with each step in the process generating new tweets, blog posts, and news items.
Contrast that precisely executed digital marketing roadmap with the seemingly haphazard Liz Phair release. The prevailing narratives tell us Fiona is the uncontrollable artiste, while Liz is the calculating careerist. But Phair used her personal Twitter account to give away a free song for no particular reason. She’s got nothing new to promote. Funstyle came out close to two years ago, and while she’s apparently finished a new video for “And He Slayed Her,” this new song has nothing to do with that.
It would be unfair to fail to point out that Apple is constricted by a major label contract while Phair is free to do whatever she wants with hew new songs. But it’s cool to see an artist taking advantage of that freedom.
This is a mildly amusing song about a guy who suspects that his wife (played in the video by Liz Phair) is getting some service from a non-authorized dealer. The punchline is silly, but Liz looks great throughout.
I was at a party on Saturday night, and during a quiet moment alone I happened to check my Twitter (I know, I know) to see that Maura Johnston had retweeted something from somebody saying that there was a new Liz Phair album available at LizPhair.com. I downloaded it the next day and quickly realized that she is smoking assloads of weed again. Aloha, Ms. Phair.
James Mercer dumps his band to hang with Danger Mouse, and they end up making music that sounds exactly like what you’d expect. It sounds good, and Shins fans will certainly not be shocked or disappointed. Despite their claims to the contrary it sounds like a Shins album produced by Danger Mouse.
Anybody else notice that the chorus of this song has the same melody as the coda of a Liz Phair song whose title I’m spacing out on right now? Just me?
From the Broken Bells album, due March 9 on Sony, which seems a little strange since Danger Mouse’s “ongoing dispute with EMI” prevented the release of his collaboration with Sparklehorse‘s Mark Linkous, Dark Night of the Soul, to which Mercer contributed vocals. I guess they resolved their contractual issues.
Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis takes a look back to the promising music scene in Chicago in the mid-90s: The curse of alternative nostalgia: What the heck happened to the Class of ’93? For those of you too young to remember or too otherwise occupied to give a shit at the time, the Class of ’93 included Urge Overkill, Liz Phair, Veruca Salt, and Smashing Pumpkins. DeRo checks back after a decade and a half to see where they are now:
“Alternative to what?” we may once again ask, and finally the answer is obvious: “Absolutely nothing.” Like so many rock bands before them, 15 years down the road, the most promising members of the Class of ’93 are treading dangerously close to that sad but true scene in “Spinal Tap” where the aging metal legends find themselves playing at the state fair.
In your rush to pat these three pandering sluts on the heinie, you miss what has been obvious to the “bullshit” crowd all along: These are not “alternative” artists any more than their historical precursors. They are by, of and for the mainstream. Liz Phair is Rickie Lee Jones (more talked about than heard, a persona completely unrooted in substance, and a fucking chore to listen to), Smashing Pumpkins are REO Speedwagon (stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant) and Urge Overkill are Oingo Boingo (Weiners in suits playing frat party rock, trying to tap a goofy trend that doesn’t even exist). You only think they are noteworthy now because some paid publicist has told you they are, and you, fulfilling your obligation as part of the publicity engine that drives the music industry, spurt about them on cue.
Does rockcrit get any better than the phrase, “Weiners in suits playing frat party rock”? I’m going to incorporate that phrase into my everyday language.
Liz Phairtalks to Billboard about the Exile in Guyville reissue, and what’s changed since then:
Fifteen years ago, things seemed a lot more male-dominated, and now you get women busting out everywhere, so that’s good. But the way they are busting out is still very much within the constraints of what men want them to do. Maybe we don’t need to have as much anger as we did back then, but we still need strong women. I see all these young women on porn sites, all these sorority girls posting pictures of themselves giving blowjobs and thinking that it’s empowering, and I feel like they really missed the point.