Ever wonder why radio sucks? Check out this great Salon article and you’ll soon see exactly why:
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Leroy Bach, Edward Burch and John Stirrat at the Hideout. March 5, 2001
Everyone has that bar that just fits. Maybe it’s only for the summer or your junior year in college, but it is exactly where you want to be on any given night. The Hideout in Chicago is that bar for me right now. The hideout has a long reputation for being a great place to see country-ish music and it is still a premier venue for club-sized concerts. But what makes the Hideout MY Place is the genuine neighborhood feel you get when you walk in the door.
A group of us made our way to the Hideout last night to see Wilco’s John Sirrat and Leroy Bach play with other local fave Edward Burch. Since Wilco is a Grammy nominated college chart fave and the patron saints of folk rock here in Chicago, I expected a smoky, packed bar and annoying frat guys, the likes of which we had at Jeff Tweedy’s final performances in the now closed and sorely missed Lounge Ax. Instead, what we got was a completely un-miced acoustic performance similar to those taking place in countless rec-rooms, college dorms and back porches across America.
As soon as we walked in we were welcomed by Bach who told us to get a beer and have a seat. It was standing room only, but just by the Hideout’s front room standards. There were maybe 30 people in attendance and the seating arrangement was quickly fixed when the affable bartender told us to go get some more stools out of the back room. We stumbled clumsily past Bach and Burch to find our seats and drag them back to the front. They waited patiently until we were comfortable before starting in on another of their old timey folk tunes from the Carter Family or Louvin Brothers. Their voices blended nicely in loose harmonies. Occasionally we’d miss some words over the chiming of Burch’s 12-string guitar, but the mood was right and I was ready for some Pabst.
PBR $1.50 bottles. “I’ll take two and save myself a trip.”
Soon, Wilco bassist John Stirrat, ambled up to the front and played a few selections from his recently released little record, “The Green Hour” from his side project The Autumn Defense. The songs were pretty with a definite 70s AM radio, singer/songwriter influence. Stirrat’s voice was a little shaky, but that was understandable given his un-miced performance and the increasing din of the patrons enjoying Pabst.
Come midnight the dread of another Tuesday at work was weighing heavy and after Burch and Bach’s second set I meandered out to my car and drove home happy to have spent another night living in Chicago.
Michael Goldberg’s Insider One March 2 opening article talks about media marketing and the manipulation of youth culture. Am I being optimistic or naïve, or are the kids smarter than that? Actually, isn’t the piece really just talking bout the zombies of the teenage population who are no more programmable than their Gen X and now Gen Y counterparts? Surely he doesn’t mean all teens.
The piece is a fictional account of how Viacom honcho, Sumner Redstone, pays consultants to observe “typical” teenagers and then makes programming recommendations based on their behavior. Goldberg cites MTV’s Jackass as a prime example of this kind of research’s output. He also mentions groups like Backtsreet Boys and Incubus as examples of “product” that can be marketed to different demographics within the teenage ranks: BSB for the mall-walking, cutie pies and Incubus for the aggressive, angst-ridden tough guys. But this is no different than the type of marketing directed at older age groups. I mean, since when is it OK for 30-year-old men to wear orange cords and ride scooters? Since Gen-Xers hit the wall, Old Navy opened up and the Razor scooter became the dotcom-preferred mode of transportation in the city. Believe me, it’s all about the marketing.
But, are the kids really more susceptible to marketing ploys than anyone else? Can their opinions be that easily molded? Last fall I was outside the Metro in Chicago as an all-ages early show let out. Hundreds of youngsters streamed into the street. As I was there to hand fliers for a friend’s band, I ended up talking to some of the kids and asked them who it was they were there to see. Surely it was one of the groups I’ve seen on MTV. Judging by the staple punk wardrobe (docs, safety pins, plaid, pants cut off just below the knees, etc.) I knew it wasn’t J-Lo or any of the other unlistenable “R&B” groups that dominate the 3:00 to 7:00pm slots on MTV. The place was devoid of neon or high-soled platform shoes, so it was a good bet that Carson Daley and his ilk were not to be found. Who were they there to see? It must have been one of the ultra-marketed major label touring acts that pitch for Burger King or Sprite? Right? It was the Get Up Kids, a melodic EMO band who’s signed to Indie stalwart Vagrant Records. As far as I can tell, the only exposure this group has had is the occasional mention in SPIN and a one-time appearance on MTV’s never-watched (anymore) 120 Minutes.
Now, the Get Up Kids have a substantial following and certainly have the pop sensibilities to become MTV darlings, but they’re not yet. And the kids love ’em. Why? Perhaps it’s because the tunes are catchy and the energy from their live shows will sweep up the coolest of punks into a bona fide ass shakin’.
So, it seems the kids aren’t as dopey as Sumner and Goldberg think. Maybe they actually just like the music they like and that’s that. Maybe it’s all about good music getting to kids and shaking them to their scuffed docs. Maybe I’m just remembering how much my dad hated NWA and I want to stand up for the kids as not being so easily manipulated by marketing. But then again, NWA was marketed to the suburbs and white kids and there are even allegations that the heated disputes on wax and in the videos between NWA members was all a ruse to drum up sales for solo products (See the Feb. 28th posting by Jake Brown regarding NWA). After all, four top 10 albums are better than one and I started drinking malt liquor because I wanted to be like Cube. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to pop in my copy of Straight Outta Compton and run down to the Gap to get some baggy Khakis.
You can see the Get Up Kids touring with Weezer now. Check out their website www.thegetupkids.net.
I am ready to open this can of worms. It’s an ugly can with a torn label. When I open this can it won’t open cleanly. The lid will still be attached and the jagged edges will surely cut the shit out of hand and the worms will twist in their muck and my blood, but here it goes.
Sarah Vowell should be banned from radio.
I know, she’s is a great writer and a great interviewer and all around cool chick, but radio is a medium of sound and the sound of her voice is killing me. Radio personalities should have a smooth voice. Listen to any classic rock DJ, they are the best voices in radio. The soundwaves that flow from their mouths are smooth and long and rounded with deep, deep valleys of bass. Sarah Vowell’s are sharp, jagged and harsh like a bent up cheese grater. The insides of my ears actually get chapped if I listen to her with headphones.
Now, I acknowledge her talent and don’t wish her ill will, I just want her off the airwaves. She is a witty and insightful writer and should certainly pursue that medium for her excellent music reporting. But please, don’t give her a microphone. Just as the old joke goes—That lady has a face made for radio—Sarah Vowell has a voice made for magazines.
The importance of being earnest: Sanoponic at the Beat Kitchen 02/24/01
Why do we hate bands that take themselves too seriously? We appreciate real conviction and dedication to art, yet we are thoroughly irritated by pretense. Sanoponic is pretentious and it bugs the shit out of me.
I like a lot of what Sanoponic does. I am a fan of Radiohead and so is Sanoponic. So much so that their singer has adopted many of Thom Yorke’s mannerisms, not to mention his voice. But that’s not the problem. I like bands who steal from other bands—most notably Fortune & Maltese, the late 90s garage rock phenom who have stolen sounds, riffs, lyrics and hairstyles from everyone that made the hit parade in the years 1964-69. I don’t even believe in the possibility of complete originality, so that’s not my issue with Sanoponic.
It’s not that they have an attitude. First of all I love bands with “attitude.” The least interested they seem to be in me the better. But I also like nice people and nice bands who are genuinely appreciative when fans pay to see them perform. Sanoponic is a group of really nice guys, even COOL guys. I sat with them for a couple of hours after their show Saturday and we laughed our asses off. That’s what makes it hard for me to NOT like this band.
The lyrics are pretentious and the vocals are WAY too affected. I can’t get into the music because I am so irritated by this guy’s singing, which isn’t bad at all, but it’s like acting: you never know when a good actor is acting. This guy is always acting and I keep waiting for him to flub his lines.
Musically, Sanoponic does some really interesting stuff. The rhythm section is tight with creative drumming and melodic bass lines. Even the song structure is interesting, but I’ll be damned if I can tell you what any ONE of the songs was about. I couldn’t concentrate because I was so embarrassed for the singer. He’s a cross between Crispin Glover and Thom Yorke and brother, that is bad medicine.
I’ll go see Sanoponic again because I like the guys personally, but I’ll be sure to hit the $1.75 PBR several times before I belly up to the stage for more of Crispin Glover’s antics.
Jeff, you should check out At the Drive-In. They are a wild bunch from Texas that kick it out Detroit-style. They have a real MC5 attitude and great hair. I don’t know what the Gallaghers are up to these days besides getting divorced. I reckon they’re sitting around listening to Abbey Road, which would be a great influence for their next record if they can’t get off the Beatles’ tips, and who can what with the fab four hitting #1 30 odd years after their demise. Judas Priest that’s a long time. Have you heard “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants?” It came out a little over a year ago I guess. Maybe longer, I don’t recall.
Now, thanks to Jeff, I have just invested twenty five hard earned dollars in “Hot Burritos!: The Flying Burrito Bros. Anthology 1969-1972.” Anyone who has not heard this music should set aside a weekend and take it in. Forty three songs spanning three years of music from the architect of alt.country. This is where Gram stretches his theory on cosmic american music. Some of the songs venture so far from Nashville that they really can’t be considered country. It really was a new style of music. More on this to come…
Goodnight, Irene. I can’t believe you guys. Do you think this will all seem rediculous in five years? Or will this be where the credibility of Britney Spears will be hammered out? I am as big a fan of pop music (especially that created by Nords—Dancing Queen is my favorite song after all…) but really, folks, this just doesn’t ring my bell. Why? What am I missing? I find Britney Spears to be utterly annoying. That little Rock in Rio freak out of hers just added fuel to the fire. Had we heard some little hussie in the mall bitchin’ like that in the mall we would have sneered and shaken our heads because we hate those people. We sure wouldn’t be high-fiving and pointing to it as proof of her coolness. These are the girls we hated in highschool. Is that why you love them now? What is the psychology behind it? And don’t say it’s the music, Jake, because you really did defend Britney Spears like a teenage girl in the LOST LETTER. I think there’s something deeper. Dig it up and smell it.
Ah yes, the soft, warm flow of GP slipping into your brain and numbing your “bad thoughts.” I know that feeling. I listened to the double CD of GP and Grevious Angel for months on end when I first bought it. It would have been very interesting to see what Gram would have done had he lived longer. Can you imagine the late 70s GP? How “cosmic” would he have gone? What about the 80s? Would he have signed to Geffen records and then lost his mind exploring the muddy two track roads of American music like Neil did? Perhaps that’s what Neil was up to in those weird years. He was looking for cosmic american music with his daliances in traditional country (Old Ways), techno/electronic (Trans), Rockabilly (Shocking Pinks) and Blues (Neil Young and the Blue Notes). Fucking David Geffen was trying to kill Cosmic American Music! David Geffen is the enemy!
I listened to Sweetheart of the Rodeo on my way home from GR (after Brutus) and just smiled and sang real loud all the way. That’s how infectious that music is. It turned a band of over harmonized, hippy-dippies into a band of Louvin Brother, Acuff/Rose lovin’ long hairs hell bent on “taking back” Nashville. Wait until you hear the Blue Ribbon Brothers. It’s on again.
Did anyone else catch the Osmonds’ special on ABC last night? It was so amazingly pandering I couldn’t believe it. Here’s a sample of the dialogue:
After being told of a death threat against the Donny-led Osmonds, an FBI agent informs the boys that they’ll be under observation.
OSMOND LACKIE: I guess you’re not famous until someone wants to kill you.
FBI AGENT: The Osmonds have become a national treasure.
National Treasure?!?!?! Haven’t these people HEARD Crazy Horse? Sure, one bad apple is a great song sung in true J5 fashion, but please…