Archive for October, 2008

Sea Em Jay Blog: My Personal Super-Sweet Sixteen Diary

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Oh boy, oh boy, so much to talk about. In the wee span of this day, I saw 9 (Count ’em, 9) bands. Lemme try and get it all down on uh, virtual paper before I crash and get a little bit of shuteye and then go out for another crazy day.

Got up around 9:30 AM, got all neat and pretty, had a bagel, set out for CMJ. We went to one very good panel today, entitled “Small stations, big obstacles”, featuring the promotions director for KCRW (An NPR affiliate associated with Santa Monica College, probably best known for the program Morning Becomes Eclectic), a staff person from this college station in Kalamazoo (which she whined only has 100 watts – boo-hoo), the creative director from East Village Radio (these are crazy motherfuckers who broadcast online – and used to broadcast illegally – from a storefront next to a pizzeria), and a fellow who works at YepRoc and the Duke radio station. Really a useful panel, these guys were strumming my pain with their fingers. I got some good ideas from the panel, but this is mostly boring business stuff, so I’ll save it for the DJs at the next All DJs Meeting.

From the panel, we got some pizza, then headed out to the Team Clermont party at Arlene’s Grocery, where we ran into KWUR alum Dan Milstein and those crazy KSLU cats. Up first at the Team Clermont party was St. Louis favorites Pattern Is Movement. You might remember these guys from KWUR Week last year, and if you went to that show, you know how good their live show is. What amazes me about them is their ability to make music that is rocking and fist-pumping and yet also moving and oddly intimate. You feel like you’re looking in on something private when you watch their show, and they make singing their songs seem like an act of great courage, just through their intensity. Great show, those guys have been touring all year, and are probably due for a nice long break. After that, my second favorite show of the day, Miniature Tigers, who sound like a slightly punked up, slightly indie-d Beach Boy revival. We’ve got the record in the station (in new releases, in fact, I think). It was good, toe-tapping music, the kind of thing that makes you feel warm and bubbly and happy about the world. It was especially up DB’s alley, I think, but he can tell you that himself. We might get those guys for KWUR Week, so check out their myspace, and tell me what you think. Then, I caught the first few songs by the Broken West. I wasn’t really excited for the show (that kind of fairly standard indie generally turns me off). But what can I say: they had good songs, and they played them really well (their bassist was especially impressive).

I took a brief leave of absence and then met up with the crew again at Bowery Ballroom, to catch Japanese Motors. By consensus, this was the only band we saw tonight we didn’t care for, which was kinda funny, because it was also the only one any of us had heard before (besides Pattern Is Movement). It was basically a punk takeoff on surf rock, which just felt unnecessary, because *punk* already did a punk takeoff on surf rock, and the drummer was just mediocre, which is never good in a surf rock takeoff. The lead singer was also obnoxious, so self-consciously rawk, strutting and spitting beer and generally being a big poseur. I don’t have much patience for that sort of thing.

DB, Kenny and I took off after Japanese Motors for the Knitting Factory. We stopped in Chinatown to have some coffee and Chinese pastries (Kenny got this weird thing that looked like a chocolate log). First band we saw at the Knitting Factory was Akimbo: pretty solid stoner metal, not my thing, but the kind of thing that would be my thing if it were my thing. After that, teh crazy! I went down to the Taproom, a smaller section of the Knitting Factory, not really expecting anything. All of the sudden, these nutso Japanese guys are strutting around the stage, spewing out garagey noise, swinging from the sprinklers, gripping the guitar between their teeth, running into the crowd, putting on a gas mask with a built in microphone and PLAYING THEIR DRUMS ON TOP OF THE CROWD. This is DMBQ. The music itself, I personally went back and forth on. It kind of sounded like the beginning and end of a garage rock song, but occasionally they got into a real cutting garage riff. It felt like a tribute to like, everything great about rock and rock and roll culture, or, alternatively, a noise parody of garage rock conventions. Really, really interesting stuff, a crazy show to watch.

Went back upstairs to the Main Stage and caught the end of An Albatross (not very memorable, but fully competent noisy psychedelic rock), and then watched the Mae Shi do their fun pizza-party punk with keys and chanting. These guys can lay down some vicious riffs and nutso drumming, and even get funky at times. It was one of the most positive shows I’ve ever seen, just smiles all around. At one point, they threw a big tent into the crowd. At another point, they shared birthday cake with us. One of the band members was wearing a t-shirt that said “I’m glad you’re alive”. Well, I’m glad you’re alive too, Mae Shi, alive and producing some happy music. At times, the set had long lags between songs, which I don’t like, but still, a good set.

Then, the best show of the night, Monotonix, a funk-punk, garage, MC5 sounding band from Tel Aviv. Let me tell you something about the kind of concert goer I am. I do not like heavy moshing or violent crowds and prefer to stay a way’s away from the pit. I really, really, really do not like having beer spilled in me. Well, I left this show with my eye hurting from having a trash can thrown at my face, and I’m covered in other people’s beer, but that was still one of the best shows I have ever seen. We knew it’d be a doozy when they set the drum set up in the fucking crowd (A short conversation between me and the girl next to me: “They’re setting up the drum set in the crowd? Oh my gawd…” “That’s what I said…”). I don’t think the band ever got on the stage. Nothing but hard hitting, crazy funk, and insane (really, like mentally ill) antics. Beer cans were thrown everywhere, a trashcan got thrown around (and hit me in the face), beer was thrown over the whole crowd, the band played in the crowd. They abused the shit out of the drummer. The lead singer poured beer on his head not once but twice, and at one point started playing an extra floor tom on the drummer’s head. The lead singer climbed a support pillar and was fucking around near a balcony, hanging precariously over the crowd, which led security to surround him and actually say to him “Get the fuck down”, which is the first time I have *ever* seen venue security tell the artist to get the fuck back on stage. They even moved the drum set mid set to where we were. The whole thing was madness, no escape anywhere, it really was a dangerous situation, with some people bleeding (including the drummer). The venue staff and security were clearly flipping a shit. But that only made it one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen. At the climax, the lead singer called for “All drums in the air”, and the crowd lifted all extant drum sets – and drummers – on their shoulders, while the drummers played. Incredible. When we left, I saw two squad cars worth of police, apparently called by somebody to quell the kerfuffle.

Well folks, I got a big day planned tomorrow, and I’ll blog about that one too when it’s done. I’ve got some great photos too, which I’ll post when I get back to the Lou. But I got to hit the sack now, it’s 4:30 over here, I’m writing like it’s 4:30 and I’m dooooone.

CMJ 2008 First Thoughts

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

What’s up everyone,
So, KWUR’s CMJ crew needed an inside man to get into 21+ shows. Apparently, besides DJ Meatface, I’m the only one over 21 on exec staff. This is indeed a disturbing universe.

Anyway, we arrived in town last night in time to catch the tail end of Thursday festivities. We went to Drom in hopes of catching some hip hop, especially if it’s hosted by dudes like Pharoh Monch. The bouncer said the event was 21+ since the venue wasn’t serving food (which would have made it 18+) – Dj DB, The Intern and Kenny bounced to get some food on a stick (NYC is awesome!). The only artist left on the bill at Drom was Empire ISIS, a female, North African (?) hip-hip/reggae MC who is in charge of so much testosterone on stage you’d think she manages gang bangs after her shows.

She had 3 male backup dancers, a drummer, bassist and DJ. Almost everyone was from a different country, which made the tracks interesting musically, and Empress Gangstress (as she is also known) engaged the audience well, as she is known as a good entertainer.

Ultimately, however, her performance fell flat, since Drom was thinly populated with people at the ends of their evenings. She tried hard to keep us from leaving, becoming “bored” performing her own songs. She also sounds like a cross between every female pop star’s voices combined with a little bit of extra mask to blast your face. I think she could either sound smoother and less forceful, or she should have more female members accompanying her on stage.

Her music varied from bouncy, active, party hip hop to a slow jam she dedicated to all the “gangstas” all over the world. Another track was about female solidarity and fighting for a woman’s right to party by her own rules. All around good message in her music, which was nice to hear compared to other female rappers who tell their listeners to bend over and get flexible for the next available cock.

A different message is welcome anywhere, and Empire ISIS is savvy, world educated (she’s lived many places and even biked through 7 countries – read her bio), and not afraid to do as she pleases. Given the venue (what the hell does Drom mean anyway?) and her growing maturity as an on-stage performer, I’d give her show last night a 6/10. She’s got good potential for the future (positive, emotional hip hop=win), but really needs to change her vocal sound. It is not attractive aurally, and probably strains her voice too.

The Byrds with Mr. Earl Scruggs

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

When I should be studying, I look for cool things on the youtubes.

Here is a video of the (post-psychedelic) Byrds playing with Mr. Earl Scruggs on banjo.

Just thought you might enjoy it.

The Saturday Evening Post-up

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Greetings, welcome, etc. to the inaugural edition of the Saturday Evening Post-up. A couple of things might be running through your mind right now, such as “What the hell is this?” or “It’s Tuesday, not Saturday.” I’ll get to the first question shortly, though as for the second, well… I don’t know. I didn’t feel like waiting until Saturday.

The Saturday Evening Post-up is a review of what we’re playing right now on KWUR, and will include new music reviews and charts (if I ever get around to posting them). Reviews are written by our very own, very talented DJs, and will be reprinted here as they are on the CDs laying around the station. There’s not much more to it than that – check back for every week (probably on or around Saturday) for a new edition. Now, without further ado, this week’s reviews:

Ra Ra Riot – “The Rhumb Line”

Great use of string instruments (violin and cello), works well with the guitar. Cool driving rhythms, but a bit derivative of their EP (for anyone who’s familiar with it). Not much change from EP to LP. Gets a bit pop sometimes, but the dark undertones in the lyrics make up for it.

Play: 1, 3, 4 (sad), 5 (e.e. cummings reference), 9 (delightful Kate Bush cover)

Dynamite Club – “Fusion Era”

Dynamite Club makes irreverent, bizarre, and at times obscene or disturbing noisy rock. This is along some of the same lines as early Boredoms hardcore with a splash of prog (guitar lines and rhythms are at times pretty complex). The vocalist gives a distinctly ESL edge to the weird-out lyrics.

Interesting: 3 (treatment of the reading of the digits of pi), 6 (a satirical prod at jazz fusion), 9 (longest – Mike Patton style disturbing spaz composition)

Marnie Stern – “This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That”

You wouldn’t guess it from the cover, but this album is full of crazy guitar riffs and pulsing beats and Marni Stern’s exciting voice. It’s a decent album – Sleater Kinney and PJ Harvey being a 10 and Michelle Branch and The Donnas a 1, Marnie Stern is something like a 5 or 6. The songs tend to sound the same, though. Very dance-y. Also, I thought the music would redeem the lame album title, but it did not.

Play: 1, 2, 4, 7, 10

XXTeens – “Welcome To Goon Island”

Band name: not great. Album title: not great. Album itself: excellent. Somewhere between spazzy art punk and just about every other genre out there. Lots of primal drumming, the catchiest damn guitar hooks I’ve heard in a long time, and sexy yelping vox. Maybe some room to improve (first time through is breathtaking, but doesn’t hold up well with repeated listens), but this is a solid first album.

Play: 1 (string intro, but don’t be fooled – this song rocks out), 3 (primal fucking shit), 5 (catchy, check the horns), 8 (weird electro, then art punk), 9 (best song, rockin)

of Montreal – “Skeletal Lamping”

Collection of instrumental sounds similar to past of Montreal work. Tons of mini songs within songs with abrupt shifts and transitions. Semi-distorted vocals. Less accessible than past CDs and more experimental. More noise focused than lyrical. Electric sounding hooks.

Play: 1, 3, 7, 15

Fucked Up – “The Chemistry of Common Life”

Noisy – and I don’t just mean loud (though these guys do kick up one hell of a racket) – hardcore. Each song is layered with at least… 30 guitar tracks, vocals honed on years of chewing glass, and pummeling drum beats. The effect is dense, LOUD – and melodic and beautiful too, in a way. Definitely merits comparisons to Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come, and hey, 10 years later, maybe this is it. That’d be just fine with me. (features cameos from Vivian Girls, Sebastian formerly of DFA1979)

Play: 1 (dense, kick-you-in-the-face hardcore, a lot of fun), 2 (check the bongo line), 7 (most accessible on record), 11 (kinda like a reprisal of track 1 – is that an acoustic guitar I hear?)

And the charts…

Rank Artist Recording Label User Supplied Version
1 RA RA RIOT The Rhumb Line Barsuk
2 WALKMEN You And Me Gigantic
3 BRIAN WILSON That Lucky Old Sun Capitol
4 OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW Tennessee Pusher Nettwerk
5 LYKKE LI Youth Novels LL
7 MERCURY REV Snowflake Midnight Yep Roc
8 PINK SPIDERS Sweat It Out Mean Buzz
9 ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS Another World [EP] Secretly Canadian
10 SPINTO BAND Moonwink Park The Van
11 RESTIFORM BODIES TV Loves You Back Anticon
12 BAND MARINO The Sea And The Beast Street Parade
13 SPIRITUALIZED Songs In A&E Spaceman-Fontana
14 FOR AGAINST Shade Side Sunny Side Words On Music
15 CAW! CAW! Wait Outside [EP] Slanty Shanty
16 STARFUCKER Starfucker Badman
17 AZEDA BOOTH In Flesh Tones Absolutely Kosher
18 SHY CHILD Noise Won’t Stop Kill Rock Stars
19 LOW LOWS Shining Violence Misra
20 WOMEN Women Jagjaguwar
21 BROKEN WEST Now Or Heaven Merge
22 WITHERED Folie Circulaire Prosthetic
23 PORTUGAL. THE MAN Censored Colors Equal Vision-Approaching AIRballoons
24 CLOUDLAND CANYON Lie In Light Kranky
25 BOUND STEMS The Family Afloat Flameshovel
26 WATSON TWINS Fire Songs Vanguard
28 TV ON THE RADIO Dear Science Interscope
29 COLD WAR KIDS Loyalty To Loyalty Downtown
30 DEAD CONFEDERATE Wrecking Ball The Artists Organization

Album Review: The Menahan Street Band, "Make The Road By Walking"

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Alternatively sounding like walking down a Brooklyn street on a warm Saturday afternoon, the best Booker T album never made, and a lost blaxploitation soundtrack, another gem from Daptone. Vibrant, upbeat, classy, late 60s sounding soul instrumentals, tighter than tight instrumentation. Sounds like RJD2, Budos Band…groove on it, mad atmospheric.

Play all, but esp: 1+++(sampled in Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys”), 3++(heppy), 4, 6+++(This should be on the best soundtrack ever), 7++, 8+, 10+++(See 6)