Tonight on TCM! Rediscovered Silent Film with Score by Quasar Wut-Wut

Trailer: The First Degree, 1923 (score by Quasar Wut-Wut)


Via Chicago Film Archives.

How cool is this? A couple years ago Chicago Film Archives discovered a 35mm print of a lost silent film in their collections, buried under agricultural and sponsored films from Peoria. Turns out, it was The First Degree, directed by Edward Sedgwick and starring Frank Mayo, originally released in 1923 and probably not seen since then.

Chicago Film Archives hired our pals Quasar Wut-Wut to compose and record an original score. As you may recall, several years ago the Quasars had been commissioned by Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art to write and perform an original score for Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent masterpiece The General.

The first screening took place at the Gene Siskel Film Center last year with live accompaniment by the band. The Chicago Tribune described the score as “an intriguing spell of contrasts, eerie electronic loops interwoven with more traditional melodic waltz-time themes played on piano.”

The band has played a few more screenings since then (in Madison, Cleveland, and Ann Arbor), but if you couldn’t make any of those appearances you will get your chance tonight on Turner Classic Movies.

The First Degree will air at 10pm Eastern/9pm Central as part of TCM’s 24 hours of programming for National Silent Movie Day, Wednesday, September 28.

So set your DVRs, your VCRs, or your alarm clocks, because you’re not going to want to miss this!

Quasar Wut-Wut: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Tonight on TCM! Rediscovered Silent Film with Score by Quasar Wut-Wut

New Nora O’Connor video: My Heart

Video: Nora O’Connor – “My Heart”

Nora O'Connor - My Heart {Official Video}

Directed by Joey Garfield. From My Heart, out October 7 on Pravda.

Was Nora O’Connor’s last solo album really 2004’s Til the Dawn on Bloodshot? And was that really 18 years ago? Yes, yes it was. How time flies…

Since then, O’Connor has kept herself busy touring and recording with the Decemberists, Neko Case, Kelly Hogan, Mavis Staples, the New Pornographers, the Flat Five, and more. But it’s nice to hear her voice all up front and on its own. “My Heart” has a Badfingery vibe where the heartache lurks just underneath the bouncy melody.

Check out the charming video for cameos from legendary Chicago musicians John Langford, Janet Bean, and Jason Narducy.

Nora O’Connor: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock Around the World

One of the things that is almost taken for granted is that for rock and roll, the language of the lyrics is in English. This is not to say that there aren’t songs written and performed in French, German, Tagalog, Romanian, Spanish, etc., etc., etc.

In India there are 22 different “official” languages and more than a 100 more; Hindi is the number-one official language with English in second place. There are some 1.38 billion people in India, so even if only 24% of them spoke English it would be as many English speakers as there are in the U.S.

There are some 300 languages in China, with the main ones being Mandarin, Wu, Min and Yue. There are 1.4 billion Chinese, so it would probably be comparatively easy, numbers-wise, for a band to go quadruple platinum with a recording in Yue.

There are several theories about the dominance of English when it comes to rock. One of which is that it is fairly well accepted that rock was established in the U.S.

I was in a bar in Dresden, Germany, a few years after the Berlin Wall fell; the entire bar was full of what would be considered in the U.S. kitschy decorations: Elvis, Marilyn, Harley-Davidson, mainly in DayGlo.  It was clear the former Ossis were all-in on what is arguably one of the greatest American exports of all time.

Continue reading Rock Around the World

Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)

Arguably the biggest cohort of people who attend concerts—which seem to be the means by which a number of performers are finding to be the means, perhaps the only means, by which they are able to make a sufficient amount of money to keep the lights on—are students, and directly after them are those who have recently been students.

According to FinanceBuzz the average ticket price for classic rock acts between 2017 and 2021 was $119.14. Pop: $100.65. Rock: $85.94. Then within those categories, the performer with the highest average ticket price during a single tour for Classic Rock was Bruce Springsteen, at $508.93. Pop, Lady Gaga: $337.43. Rock: Metallic: $229.31.

These numbers are enough for one to shout Jesu!

Which then might lead to a solid financial move, in that the least expensive musical genre is Christian, with the average ducat going for $39.38.

That’s a third of the average price of a ticket for Classic Rock.

The Christian performer with the highest average ticket price was Laurent Daigle, at $58.64.

That’s about 12% of the price of a ticket to see the Boss on Broadway.

Which brings me back to students and those who have recently attended organizations of higher learning.

A recently conducted survey by Morning Consult based on the fact that the federal student loan payment moratorium is going to disappear in 2023 found that 30% of the respondents said that they would “probably not” be able to afford their student loan payments and another 28% said that they’d “definitely not” be able to pay.

Continue reading Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)

No Riot Fest for us this year :(

We’re supposed to be pulling into Chicago right about now. On the Skyway, driving into the city.

We’ve gone to each Riot Fest since 2016, the year we finally gave up on the bloated Lollapalooza. Compared to what Lolla had become, Riot Fest was a breath of fresh air. An independent music festival that featured lots of guitar bands (“punk-adjacent” is how I describe it to my normie dad friends), and they seem to care about its attendees (plenty of port-a-potties, relatively cheap food options, lots of room, chill security). It was cancelled in 2020 because of covid but came back last year after it was proven that you could safely do that if you required proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Remember those hopeful months before omicron? Back when we still believed that immunity would last at least a year and possibly a lifetime, including from mild cases. Shouldn’t even need boosters. Remember that? Oops.

But that’s science for you, always learning, always updating. New variants change the rules. So it goes.

Continue reading No Riot Fest for us this year :(

New Titus Andronicus video: An Anomaly

Video: Titus Andronicus – “An Anomaly”

Titus Andronicus - "An Anomaly" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Patrick Stickles. From The Will to Live, out September 30 on Merge.

Patrick Stickles can seem like a pretty serious fellow. Intellectually ambitious to the point of being heavy. But then when you’re least expecting it, he goes to Paris and throws down the funk bone! His moves — especially during the guitar solo — will assure you that Stickles doesn’t take himself that seriously after all. His groove is like your uncle at the wedding reception who’s been enjoying the open bar and is really getting into that one Lady Gaga song.

The lyrics, on the other hand, aren’t as silly as the video.

It was God that made our bodies but the devil made our brains
And we revel in our autonomy as we drive ourselves insane
They say God can make no error so it must have been his plan
To create a world of terror by the instruments of man.

Whoa. Heavy, right?

Stickles talked to Rolling Stone about the song:

The titular anomaly is that the natural world is quite a violent place. If these dogs didn’t have guardians providing them food, what would they do? They would go kill a rabbit or something. They don’t mean any harm, it’s not evil. That’s just the way it is. In the same way that, dare I say, the Covid-19 virus is not an evil thing. That’s not to say I’m a fan of it, we shouldn’t try to protect it. But it’s a living organism, it has the will to live, and it’s going to do whatever it takes to prosper.

Much of the time the will to live is translated into the physical world in some form of violence or brutality. This is true of humans, but at a certain point, humans stopped being part of the natural world — they weren’t in the food chain anymore. So this violence ceases to have utility. But it seems to me that those impulses haven’t gone away, even though we don’t need them anymore. That’s translated into more advanced, effective, and atrocious forms of violence, up to and including the atom bomb. That’s fairly anomalous, isn’t it? There’s nothing natural about the atom bomb, or a self replicating nanobot that will eat the Earth. That’s evil in a way that a dog eating a rabbit is not. If the Devil is real, that’s it.

While you’re reading that, feel free to open another browser window so you can see him dancing in your peripheral vision. It balances out nicely.

Stickles is clearly a complex guy: thoughtful but still goofy. I like that in a person. And in an artist. It’s also amusing that he’s totally embracing the Big Dumb Rock sound of Def Leppard and Boston. Still sounds like Titus Andronicus, of course, but passing through a Rockman X100.

God damn!

Titus Andronicus: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Phoenix video: “Tonight” (ft. Ezra Koenig)

Video: Phoenix – “Tonight” (ft. Ezra Koenig)

Phoenix - Tonight featuring Ezra Koenig (Official Video)

Directed by Oscar Boyson. From Alpha Zulu, out November 4.

Am I just getting old or have all the years before 2020 become a hazy blur? I remember when “Oxford Comma” and “Lisztomania” were new and exciting (and I still love those songs), but the time since then has all blended together. Well, leave it to Phoenix and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig to make it seem like it was only yesterday.

Not sure what exactly Koenig brings to the table here, since I’m sure Thomas Mars could’ve sung those parts himself and we’d barely notice the difference. But he certainly makes the video more fun with a split-screen showing him checking out the least Japanese parts of Tokyo while Mars and his band navigate the streets and puddles of Paris.

Let’s roll!

Gibson Guitars for Good

One of the things that is nearly inexplicable in our time is that there is a land war in Europe right now and although we have more access to information with more immediacy than the last time that happened to this extent and global consequence—back when Elizabeth II was still a princess—it seems as though that it something that we all once sort of knew about but which has been replaced in our infosphere by things of another sort. Most people probably know more about what’s happening in Mar-a-Lago than in Kharkiv. One is a continuation of the clown act that could have some devastating repercussions. The other is a place where, as I write this, the BBC reports: “On Saturday, the Russian-appointed head of Kharkiv region, Vitaly Ganchev, said his troops have started to evacuate civilians in Kupiansk and Izyum.” The Kharkiv region is Ukraine sovereign territory; the Russian-appointed head has absolutely no right to evacuate “civilians” from Ukraine–except that those “civilians” are undoubtedly members of the Russian army.

But there it is.

What’s more: Do we think that those people left homes, schools, stores, restaurants, infrastructure and the rest in anything but shambles?

While I have been critical—to say nothing of puzzled—of and about auctions of rock-and-roll-related memorabilia, from October 11 to November 11, 12 and 13 there will be an online auction taking place that is being organized by Gibson that is titled “Guitars for Peace.”

100% of the monies raised by Gibson Gives, the instrument company’s philanthropic arm, through this program will be donated to humanitarian undertakings for the people of Ukraine.

This auction goes far beyond someone being able to have something on display in their rec room. This auction matters. Matters as in life or death. Literally. Russian troops aren’t evacuating civilians in the Kharkiv region because they’re being nice.

Luthiers at Gibson have created four special Les Paul guitars that are painted with the azure blue and gold colors of the Ukrainian flag.

These guitars are being used by a wide array of touring musicians–Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones,  Slash, Fher Olvera of Maná, Nile Rogers of Chic, Mark Knopfler, Lzzy Hale, Margo Price, Alex Lifeson, Blossoms, The Fratellis, Kasabian, Madness, Maisie Peters, Paloma Faith, The Charlatans, The Vaccines, Toyah, My Chemical Romance—and the instruments are accompanied by autograph books that the musicians sign (thereby not having the guitars covered with Sharpie ink).

Continue reading Gibson Guitars for Good

New Hallelujah The Hills video: God Is So Lonely Tonight

Video: Hallelujah The Hills – “God Is So Lonely Tonight”

God Is So Lonely Tonight - Hallelujah The Hills [Official Video]

Single out now.

Watch Ryan Walsh galivant around Paris in the video for the brand new Hills song, “God Is So Lonely Tonight.” This one has a chorus that sounds like it was written expressly to be shouted by a bunch of sweaty people in a club, raising their drinks and spilling all over their neighbors. If you’re in the Boston area you might get the chance to test out that theory because the band is playing some shows: one tomorrow (September 10) at the Jamaica Plain Music Festival and then on October 8 at the Lilypad in Cambridge with Cassie Berman. If you go, report back on whether my shout-along prediction comes true!

You’d like to spend time with your loved ones
There’s big problems that you really oughta to solve
But he needs your prayers more than you need yours answered
You know that God is so lonely tonight.

Still no official news on a full-length follow-up to 2019’s I’m You, but if the latest singles are representative it’s going to be worth the wait.

Hallelujah the Hills: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Girlpuppy video: Destroyer

Video: Girlpuppy – “Destroyer”

Girlpuppy - Destroyer (Official Video)

Directed by Matt Swinsky. From When I’m Alone, due October 28 on Royal Mountain.

I’m a sucker for a song with a chugging acoustic rhythm guitar track. If it reminds me at all of “In Between Days,” I’m in. “Destroyer” has a bit of that. And an all-American rodeo video to go along with it!

My mother-in-law used to have a “Say no to rodeo” bumper sticker on her car, which, to me, is the funniest protest angle I can imagine. I’m sure there is plenty to dislike about the treatment of animals on the rodeo scene, but I find it hard to believe that it was ever that big of an issue here in Michigan. But who knows?

None of the animals in the “Destroyer” video seem to be being mistreated…except, I guess, for the bull with the strap around it’s balls, but other than that, they all seem to be pretty well loved. Lots of horses and Becca Harvey frolicking in pastures. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Girlpuppy: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock and roll can change your life.