WBEZ | DeRogatis http://www.wbez.org/tags/derogatis Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How to make $136,000 onstage—and still lose 12 grand http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/how-make-136000-onstage%E2%80%94and-still-lose-12-grand-111172 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HIPalbumartFINAL.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The obnoxious indie-rock duo and YouTube sensation <a href="http://www.pomplamoose.com/">Pomplamoose</a> first turned my stomach during this holly-jolly time of year back in 2010, when its series of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/why-i-never-will-buy-hyundai">cuter-than-cute, tweer-than-twee car commercials</a> were annoyingly ubiquitous on television. Now the twosome is at the center of a hot &rsquo;n&rsquo; heavy social media debate in the indie-rock world stemming from <a href="https://medium.com/@jackconte/pomplamoose-2014-tour-profits-67435851ba37">a piece for Medium.com penned by bandleader Jack Conte</a>.</p><p>While claiming it &ldquo;isn&rsquo;t a sob story,&rdquo; Conte&rsquo;s piece nonetheless argues that the touring circuit in 2014 is such a tough slog and challenging grind that these Bay Area <em>artistes</em> made $136,000 in ticket sales, merchandise, and a corporate sponsorship during a month-long jaunt&mdash;and <em>still</em> managed to lose $12,000.</p><p>Ever since Robert Johnson stood at the crossroads and sold his soul to the record company&mdash;I mean, <em>Satan</em>&mdash;live performance has been the primary source of any musician&rsquo;s income. This is more true now than ever, given the precipitous decline in the sale of recorded music that <a href="http://time.com/3578249/taylor-swift-interview/">Taylor Swift has thankfully recently brought to light</a>. But Pomplamoose claims it&rsquo;s not just as easy as crooning a few tunes and passing around a hat to collect the coins.</p><p>&ldquo;Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business,&rdquo; Conte writes. &quot;In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>In the interest of transparency, and to make a point about the challenges facing what he calls &ldquo;the creative class,&rdquo; Conte gives a detailed accounting of all the numbers. What he doesn&rsquo;t do is question the logic behind any of those expenses.</p><p>Remember, this is a group that has achieved its fame as a duo talking about needing to hire four musicians, two crew members, and a lighting rig&mdash;<a href="http://www.lh-st.com/Shows/09-18-2014+Pomplamoose">to perform at some venues as small as Schubas</a>! Why? &ldquo;It was important at this stage in Pomplamoose&rsquo;s career to put on a wild and crazy rock show,&rdquo; Conte writes. &ldquo;We wanted to be invited back to every venue, and we wanted our fans to bring their friends next time. The loss was an investment in future tours.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Pomplamoose%20Fillmore.jpeg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px;" title="Pomplamoose at the Fillmore in San Francisco." /></div><p>I certainly have my own opinions on this idiocy, and they&rsquo;re not ungrounded. As a veteran of cross-country indie-rock van tours in the late &rsquo;80s and early &rsquo;90s&mdash;including one as an opening act for 22 sold-out shows (average capacity: 1,000) where my band only earned $100 guaranty per night plus a pizza but still managed to break even&mdash;I say you have to be pretty spendthrift in order to come out behind the eight ball with numbers like those charted by Pomplamoose. The core of its problem is trying to throw money at the fans instead of relying on, you know, <em>talent</em>. (And an interesting counterpoint to much of what Conte says can be found in <a href="http://www.natalydawnmusic.com/2012/05/21/is-pomplamose-really-okay/">this 2012 blog post about the foolishness of being hamstrung by expectations</a>, written by his musical and romantic partner Nataly Dawn.)</p><p>But far more illuminating (and balanced) than my ranting were the comments I saw on Facebook by my old pal Andy Peters, an indie-rock vet who did sound for years at the venerated Maxwell&rsquo;s in Hoboken and Club Congress and Solar Culture in Tucson; tour-managed and ran sound for the Feelies, Luna, Girls Against Boys, Fred Schneider, and others, and who still flies in to man the mixing board and oversee the business at the occasional rare reunion show by the Feelies circa 2014. When I asked Andy if I could quote some of the points he made online, he instead wrote the following insightful essay.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/andy_peters_maxwells.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Andy Peters at the soundboard at Maxwell's." /></div><blockquote><p>I see two points of view which both oppose this band&rsquo;s tour financial problems. One: &ldquo;They should have made money on the tour, and they&rsquo;re idiots.&rdquo; Two: &ldquo;What is this &lsquo;building the brand&rsquo; crap, anyway?&rdquo; They are related. The following makes arguments both for and against the band&rsquo;s decisions.</p><p>The band&rsquo;s principals clearly view the tour as a loss leader intended to get their name out there (and that has succeeded). The guy in the band apparently has a day gig running some kind of business which brings in sufficient income so he could finance that tour on his credit card. (This is no different from major-league baseball players or actors or best-selling authors financing tours from their personal wealth.)</p><p>This is entirely a different approach from the young band doing a punk-rock van tour. To that end, the decision to tour as a six-piece band, thus they need to hire the four extra band members. These musicians have no skin in the game: They will not benefit from the &ldquo;brand expansion,&rdquo; they will not see money from royalties or publishing, or any other income stream a full-time band member might see. Therefore, they need to be paid for their services on the tour. However much salary they were paid is between the corporation which is the band and each musician. Nobody should be surprised by this.</p><p>The band decides it needs two crew members, a tour manager, and a front-of-house mix person. Again, since the crew are contracted for the tour, they require a salary. There are those that argue that one person can do both the [tour manager and front-of-house sound mixer] jobs, and that is true, and quite common. But that&rsquo;s a tough gig. The FOH guy has to deal with technical issues while also dealing with the promoter and the band itself. After the show, the TM needs to settle up with the promoter while also trying to strike band gear from the stage and FOH mix area.&nbsp; After doing all of that work (mixing a show isn&rsquo;t a passive job), he&rsquo;s as tired as any band member, and is now faced with driving a large vehicle at night. With two people, the TM can rest during the show and deal with the promoter as required, and then he&rsquo;ll be fresh enough for the drive. Who hasn&rsquo;t heard stories of van crashes at night because the driver fell asleep?</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1%2AdxH968DMarAUwlvDNy2_ng.jpeg" style="height: 337px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Next is the issue of the tour vehicle itself. A lot of people believe they were touring in a bus; the pictures I&rsquo;ve seen show a Mercedes Sprinter van and a trailer. People see &ldquo;Mercedes&rsquo; and think, &ldquo;Wow, that&rsquo;s an expensive van.&rdquo; The truth is that the Sprinter van costs the same as a 15-passenger Ford van, but the Sprinter has a lot of advantages. As supplied by <a href="http://www.bandago.com/">Bandago</a> (a company that rents vehicles to touring bands), these vans come with a back end build for holding cargo, which might often be enough space to avoid a trailer van. They are comfortable to sit in and drive, and get excellent mileage (diesel). Bandago will also allow band and crew to sign onto a Bandago liability insurance policy. Remember that a lot of musicians and crew people who live in big cities may not own a car, so they won&rsquo;t have liability insurance. Good luck getting any of these sorts of services from U-Haul or other vendors.</p><p>Some might argue, &ldquo;Why not buy a van?&rdquo; (That Sprinter van is $44,000, which is expensive, and most punk bands buy used vans anyway.) If they were touring nine months out of the year, it would make perfect sense to buy a van. But they live in the Bay Area, and it doesn&rsquo;t seem like they tour all that often. This means any van they buy will have to be garaged, and it&rsquo;s expensive to park a van in a big city! Plus the van needs to be insured and maintained. Renting is the right choice.</p><p>Others have complained that the $20 per diem is too much. One guy argues that $10 is sufficient. (Ten bucks was the per diem in the early &rsquo;90s.) They say the band should have the venues and promoters pay for food or provide money for a buyout (which they do), but one good meal a day is not enough. Everyone knows road food is bad, and truck-stop and fast food are terrible. Spend the extra few bucks on decent food.</p><p>Now if this was a punk-rock van tour where it&rsquo;s all for one and one for all, then one might expect that per diems are skipped entirely. But it wasn&rsquo;t: There were six hired hands who deserve to be able to eat decent food. And the hotels. The punk rockers will say, &ldquo;Sleep on the floor at someone&rsquo;s house!&rdquo; Sure, that makes sense if you&rsquo;re in tune with the punk-rock couch circuit and you know people in every city. Lots of bands have done this. And these bands have all learned that when you say with fans or friends in each city, the hosts always want to stay up all night partying with the band. We all know what this means. And at some point bands learn that hotels are a worthwhile expense. A good night&rsquo;s sleep does wonders. People are rested, so they don&#39;t get sick. They get hot showers, so they feel human.</p><p>It can be argued that four hotel rooms a night is excessive. That&rsquo;s one person per bed. Every punk band has crowded six people into a room. But, again, Pomplamoose has hired six people, and since those people are not in the band, they shouldn&rsquo;t be expected to put up with sleeping on a floor. Give them their own beds. Okay, hotels in big cities aren&rsquo;t cheap, but decent hotels outside the major metro areas can be had for $75 a night. And being away from the big city means that it&rsquo;s less likely your trailer or van will get stolen.</p><p>Now, this is where I stop defending the band. Mr. Conte talks about spending money on road cases and other equipment. Bands at that level shouldn&rsquo;t be buying instruments and cases for just one tour. Those costs are a necessary part of being a band. He might have well added the cost of rehearsal-space rental to his tour tab. It makes no sense. The musicians and crew hired for the tour should already have their own kit with necessary cases.</p><p>Much has been made of the band&#39;s choice to rent lighting equipment. Like hiring the extra musicians and the crew, lighting kit doesn&rsquo;t come for free. Plus it has to be schlepped from venue to venue. This means renting the trailer when it otherwise might not be necessary. The trailer and the added weight due to the equipment means reduced fuel mileage. It also adds two more axles, which can mean a significant increase in toll costs. It may also mean that the vehicle is not allowed on certain roadways, which increases travel time due to the need to find alternate routes.</p><p>The lighting and the expanded band were meant to make for a &ldquo;wild and crazy rock show,&rdquo; because they &ldquo;wanted to be invited back to every venue, and [they] wanted fans to bring their friends next time.&rdquo; This just shows that they&rsquo;re delusional. They&rsquo;ll get invited back to every venue if they sell a lot of tickets. That is the only criterion.&nbsp; As for their fans, one would think that the fans don&#39;t care whether they see a six-piece band with a crazy lighting system, or just the two band members and their laptops. That doesn&rsquo;t enter in a fan&#39;s thinking at all.</p><p>The cost of extra salaries and the extra gear is just money pissed away.&nbsp; In fact, if the two members of Pomplamoose were smart, they wouldn&rsquo;t hire the musicians, the crew, or the equipment. Instead, they&rsquo;d get Volkswagen to give them (for promotional consideration, of course), a brand new Jetta Sportwagen TDI for use as the tour vehicle. The duo can stuff their kit and some merch into the car and drive to each gig. As noted, the fans won&#39;t care that they&rsquo;re only a duo. The ticket and merch sales will be the same, and they&rsquo;ll come home with $125,000 in cash AND a new car!</p><p>Finally, there&rsquo;s the whole notion of &ldquo;building the brand.&rdquo; We can both think of many bands which bought into that notion, that you need to spend more money, hire the extra musicians, do this, do that, all to get to the &ldquo;next level,&rdquo; and rarely do the bands get to that &quot;next level.&quot; It&rsquo;s all horse---.</p><p>So that&rsquo;s what I think. I hope it makes sense.</p></blockquote><p>It does indeed, my friend. It does indeed.</p><p><strong>UPDATE: A few readers already have pointed out that Conte is a founder of a crowd-funding Web site called Patreon, which he lauds in his essay, and the whole thing really was just promotion for that venture, his day job. (See these articles at <a href="https://medium.com/@andrewchoi_56138/the-article-is-actually-an-advertisement-for-the-website-patreon-which-he-clearly-states-in-the-3b99f28adce0">Medium</a> and <a href="http://www.aux.tv/2014/12/sob-story-from-band-that-lost-11000-was-actually-a-marketing-stunt/">AUX.tv</a></strong><strong>.) I did not mention that because I did not want to give him another syllable of free promotion, and because it does not change the inherent wrongness of his whole spiel.</strong></p><p><em>For more on the business of being a band in the new millennia, see the five-part series &ldquo;Wrangling with the Web: How one smart band does it,&rdquo; which ran on this blog last year. <a href="http://bit.ly/1HN0LlP">Or come and hear Greg Kot and I discuss &ldquo;Why Fans Rule the New Music Industry&rdquo; at the Old Town School of Folk Music at 8 p.m. on Dec. 10.</a></em></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/"><strong>Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 14:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/how-make-136000-onstage%E2%80%94and-still-lose-12-grand-111172 Lady Gaga collaborates with R. Kelly http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-10/lady-gaga-collaborates-r-kelly-108981 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1KellyGaga.jpg" style="height: 459px; width: 620px;" title="R. Kelly and Lady Gaga. (Andrew H. Walker/Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)" /></div><p>Stefani Germanotta is as well-known for championing female self-empowerment and an enlightened vision of sexuality (including gay rights) as she is for charting the cutting edge of modern dance-pop name under her better-known stage name, Lady Gaga.</p><p>So how does she square those causes with &ldquo;Do What You Want,&rdquo; her musically awkward collaboration with Chicago R&amp;B star R. Kelly on her fourth album <em>ARTPOP</em>, due Nov. 8th?</p><p>Never reluctant to talk to the press, Gaga has yet to say how this pairing came about. But she hasn&rsquo;t been hesitant to play into the Kelly mindset: The cover art features her posterior clad only in the tiniest of (thoia?) thongs, while the tune&rsquo;s lyrics find her in an unusually submissive frame of mind: &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t have my heart and you won&rsquo;t use my mind but/Do what u want with my body, do what you want with my body&hellip; Don&rsquo;t stop, let&rsquo;s party.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/celebrity/aboutlastnight/chi-lady-gaga-r-kelly-do-what-u-want-20131021,0,1162457.column"><strong>UPDATED: </strong>The Tribune sheds some light on how Kelly and Gaga hooked up for their duet.</a></p><p>Perhaps, despite all the time she spends in Chicago to be near her boyfriend Taylor Kinney while he&rsquo;s filming <em><a href="http://www.nbc.com/chicago-fire/">Chicago Fire</a></em>, Gaga never has been exposed to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/kelly-conversations-more-questions-answers-about-r-kelly-headlining">WBEZ&rsquo;s extensive coverage of Kelly&rsquo;s troubling history</a>. Or maybe, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/pitchfork-2013-here-we-are-now-entertain-us-108129">like the promoters of this summer&rsquo;s Pitchfork Music Festival</a>, she just doesn&rsquo;t care about the harm the R&amp;B singer has done to so many of her beloved &ldquo;little monsters.&rdquo; And that&rsquo;s a sad notion indeed.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/eHI9tcKFWos" width="420"></iframe></em></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong>@JimDeRogatis</strong></a><strong> <em>or join me on </em></strong><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><em><strong>Facebook</strong></em></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 22 Oct 2013 09:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-10/lady-gaga-collaborates-r-kelly-108981 Pitchfork 2013: Here we are now, entertain us http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/pitchfork-2013-here-we-are-now-entertain-us-108129 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20130721_3120.JPG" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="R. Kelly performing at Pitchfork Music Festival. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p><strong>UPDATED with a correction below *</strong></p><p>As hopefully was made abundantly clear in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/kelly-conversations-more-questions-answers-about-r-kelly-headlining">the Kelly Conversations</a>, the Pitchfork Music Festival&rsquo;s booking of Chicago superstar R. Kelly as 2013&rsquo;s ultimate headliner raised a lot of complicated questions.</p><p>I didn&rsquo;t expect to find answers in Union Park about the big issues of separating the art from the artist and the music from the man&rsquo;s misdeeds. But it did help narrow down what the presence of the self-proclaimed Sexual Super Freak and Pied Piper of R&amp;B meant to one of the most important music festivals in the world in year eight (or nine, if we count year one as Intonation).</p><p>Neither is positive.</p><p>My first conclusion is that the appreciation of Kelly by Pitchfork&rsquo;s powers-that-be and by some (not all) of the paying customers was indeed fueled by irony. All you had to do was look at some of the unofficial Kelly merchandise for sale onsite to see that.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1%20Kelly%20Merch%201.JPG" title="Unofficial R. Kelly bumper stickers for sale at Pitchfork (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>&ldquo;Irony is a low-lead brand of gasoline that may be ecosound and gov&rsquo;t approved but it sure won&rsquo;t put a tiger in your tank, nor take you as far as either moxie or rage or conscience (even that crap!) or even crassness,&rdquo; the late rock critic Lester Bangs wrote in 1972.</p><p>To be sure, there was crassness at Pitchfork: Allentown, Pennsylvania noise-punks Pissed Jeans covered that loudly and very nicely, thank you.</p><p>There was moxie: A strong set by Mish Way and Vancouver&rsquo;s modern-day riot grrrls White Lung kicking things off on Saturday was the very definition of that word.</p><p>There was rage (thank you, Metz) and conscience (hello, El-P and Killer Mike). And, best of all, there were a few examples of both combined.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1JB.JPG" title="Jehnny Beth of Savages (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>Only an idiot could deny that this year&rsquo;s festival belonged to Savages. As powerful as London-based guitarist Gemma Thompson, bassist Ayse Hassan, drummer Fay Milton, and vocalist Jehnny Beth are on their brilliant debut album <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/savages-drop-startlingly-powerful-debut-107065"><em>Silence Yourself</em></a><em>, </em>they are 100 times more ferocious, potent, mesmerizing, and dare I say life-changing in concert.</p><p>These four smart and passionate women, each making an indelible and unique contribution to the sound of the whole, packed the field in front of one of the two main stages, and the number of mouths left agape in awe after their cyclonic assault was rivaled only by the number of those who seemed genuinely frightened.</p><p>The only other act that came anywhere close to that level of intensity and sincerity (such an old-fashioned word!) was one of Savages&rsquo; inspirations: first-generation art-punks Wire. Aging legends they may be, but there was none of the phoning-it-in nostalgia witnessed in the considerably younger Breeders&rsquo; set.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Colin.jpg" title="Colin Newman of Wire (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, and Robert Grey plus upstart addition Matt Simms were as galvanizing in their minimalist way on classic older tracks such as &ldquo;On Returning&rdquo; and &ldquo;Drill&rdquo; as they were on the new material from the riveting <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/wire-rock%E2%80%99s-greatest-super-geniuses-after-eno-106948"><em>Changes Becomes Us</em></a> and other new-millennial releases.</p><p>But Pitchfork also had irony aplenty.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1PC.JPG" style="height: 295px; width: 620px;" title="Parquet Courts (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>Saint Lester didn&rsquo;t make a distinction, but irony can be a useful literary tool like any other, if used correctly and sparingly. Texas-to-Brooklyn transplants Parquet Courts did exactly that as they rattled off a list of things minor (high thread count) and major (people die) that elicit the same ambivalent response: &ldquo;Forget about it!&rdquo; They hit the stage hard with their subway-train rhythms and dueling guitars, playing the songs from their great second album <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/parquet-courts-gives-us-reasons-be-cheerful-105173"><em>Light Up Gold</em></a>, and they never let up.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Mac.jpg" title="Mac DeMarco (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>A cheaper and much more annoying brand of irony was displayed by Canadian multi-instrumentalist Mac DeMarco, who wasted half his set with dumb and painful covers of J.J. Cale/Eric Clapton, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Beatles, and Metallica, mocking the whole festival experience even as he took the festival&rsquo;s money and played to an eager festival crowd.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20130721_3174.JPG" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="R. Kelly (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>Then of course there was the ironic appreciation of R. Kelly&rsquo;s exaggerated sex jams, with hipsters bumping and grinding to soft-porn cartoons such as &ldquo;Sex in the Kitchen,&rdquo; &ldquo;Flirt,&rdquo; &ldquo;You Remind Me of Something,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Fiesta,&rdquo; gleefully unconcerned about the real harm Kelly has done to many girls, some of whom lived within walking distance of Union Park.</p><p>As Kelly shows go, the singer was on good behavior, with no sign of the giant bed or the captive women in a cage that were for years staples of his concerts.</p><p>Instead, Pitchfork was treated to an army of white dove-shaped balloons released into the sky during the set-closing &ldquo;I Believe I Can Fly.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20130721_2766.JPG" style="float: left; height: 192px; width: 190px;" title="Lil B (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>For blatant and offensive onstage misogyny, Internet hype rapper Lil B was a much bigger villain. Kelly just seemed to be on auto-pilot, his voice cracking, his set padded with snippets of covers by Kanye West, Young Jeezy, and Nick Cannon, the crowd not connecting to stepping tunes like &ldquo;Happy People&rdquo; and &ldquo;Step in the Name of Love,&rdquo; and most of his songs being delivered in truncated versions of a verse and a chorus or two.</p><p>It was underwhelming, but his shows generally have been for the last decade, with little of the evidence of the genius boosters find on record or in the ever-twisting and never-ending &ldquo;Trapped in the Closet,&rdquo; which played on the loudspeakers after he left the stage.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SchrieberKaskie.jpg" style="float: right; height: 162px; width: 300px;" title="Pitchfork Music Festival organizers Ryan Schrieber and Chris Kaskie (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>The very mundanity of Kelly&rsquo;s performance leads to my second, sadder conclusion about his presence at Pitchfork: That the <strike>formerly Chicago-, now Brooklyn-based&nbsp;</strike> <strong>(*see correction below)</strong> brains and businessmen behind the festival and the Webzine, Ryan Schreiber and Chris Kaskie, just don&rsquo;t think that the music we embrace means anything at all in the real world. It&rsquo;s just a cool, digitally stored backing track for your oh-so-hip and groovy lifestyle at home, and every bit the ideal tool in concert for marketing and money-making that we see at the festival&rsquo;s larger corporate cousin, Lollapalooza.</p><p>Why talk about ruined lives? It just brings the party down. But this lack of soul or conscience wasn&rsquo;t always the case at Pitchfork.</p><p>Perhaps it&rsquo;s just the nature of the Old Country Buffet smorgasbord model that as a festival becomes increasingly successful, well-established, and ever more commercialized, the ethos upon which it was founded becomes increasingly obscure. The greater meaning, if ever there was one, slips further and further away. Any role that the fest had in both reflecting and stimulating a musical community inevitably erodes. And everything is reduced to mere entertainment.</p><p>Savages, Wire, and White Lung; Mac DeMarco, Lil B, and R. Kelly: There&rsquo;s no difference; it&rsquo;s all just show biz. Pay your money, get your kicks, enjoy the tunes, or just wait until the next set starts in 20 minutes. &ldquo;I feel stupid and contagious,&rdquo; some indie dude sang a million years ago. &ldquo;Here we are now, entertain us.&rdquo;</p><p>That poor deluded fellow was sneering at the very notion that music&mdash;especially underground music&mdash;ever could be dismissed as anything less than the essential lifeline tethering us to this mortal coil. Now that was irony well-employed! But that sort of idealism is lacking in many on the current scene (and, truth be told, it was lacking in many during the alternative era, too, and in every rock movement before it).</p><p>So was Pitchfork in year eight (or nine) at least entertaining? As always, it depended in large part on how much you were there for the music and how much you were there for the high-five-me partying, bro.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20130721_2553.JPG" style="width: 310px; height: 206px; float: left;" title="(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>I have long said that live music is best appreciated indoors at night. Why?&nbsp;Beyond the usual havoc wreaked on outdoor shows&mdash;scattering the best sounds to the wind, roasting people under a blazing sun, the dubious joys of dehydration, etc.&mdash;Mother Nature struck Pitchfork with a vengeance on Friday night, cutting short Icelandic goddess Bjork&#39;s performance, and dousing those enjoying heartfelt troubadours Belle &amp; Sebastian on Saturday evening (though they at least got to finish their set).</p><p>No matter how you cut it, those performances and the other highlights cited above all would have been much better experienced at Metro, Lincoln Hall, the Riviera Theater, or, really, pretty much anyplace else. And at any of those places, minus the now ethically vacant Pitchfork imprimatur of cool, maybe the music would have meant something, too.</p><p>At a time when an audience can find irony, entertainment value, or both in the music of a man who has hurt so many women, I remain undeterred in the conviction that music matters and there is meaning to the sounds we embrace or eschew. Go see Savages, and maybe you&rsquo;ll believe, too.</p><p><strong>* CORRECTION: Pitchfork Music Festival publicist Jessica Linker points out: &quot;Pitchfork&#39;s headquarters are still Chicago. 50% of their staff is here, which now also includes The Dissolve. More so, Chris Kaskie continues to live in Chicago, down in Beverly. He is not a New Yorker.&quot;</strong></p><p><strong>I regret that error. Also, I could swear Wire played &quot;On Returning,&quot; but an even bigger Wire fan than me, Aadam Jacob, says it was &quot;<span class="st">Map Ref. 41&deg;N 93&deg;W. </span>&quot;</strong></p></p> Mon, 22 Jul 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/pitchfork-2013-here-we-are-now-entertain-us-108129 Catching up on our rock reading: The Beats and Rock Culture http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/catching-our-rock-reading-beats-and-rock-culture-107332 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beats.jpg" style="height: 750px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><p>Most people at this time of year are compiling their stack of books to bring to the beach, so what say we music fans catch up on our reading and take a look at some of the best recent rock-related tomes?</p><p>Topping this list is <strong><em>Text and Drugs and Rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture</em></strong> (Bloomsbury) by U.K. journalist and University of Leeds lecturer Simon Warner. The goal is a noble one: to explore the historical intersections between poets and novelists Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and the rest of the Beat gang of the &rsquo;40s and &rsquo;50s with the rockers of the &rsquo;60s and later eras, as well as the influence of the Beats&rsquo; prose on the rockers&rsquo; lyrics. And with an academic thoroughness that doesn&rsquo;t hamper the flow of his own pen, Prof. Warner does make dozens of illuminating connections between the two worlds, some obvious (Dylan and Kerouac; Ginsberg and his various brushes with the Beatles; later-day Beat rockers Patti Smith and Jim Carroll) but many much less so (we also get a discussion of Cream lyricist Pete Brown, a consideration of Kerouac, Tom Waits, and the song &ldquo;On the Road,&rdquo; and a look at Burroughs in the work of Genesis P-Orridge).</p><p>Unfortunately, for such a heavy read (it checks in at more than 500 pages in hardcover), Warner slights some Beat/rock connections that deserve a lot more discussion, including the admitted influence of Beat writers on pioneering rock critics Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer; the way that Burroughs&rsquo; cut-and-paste methodology was adapted by Kurt Cobain (who pops up only very briefly), and the enduring allure of <em>On the Road </em>as a sacred text and a way of life for three generations of young musicians who&rsquo;ve climbed in the van to cross America on indie-rock tours and/or indulge in the never-ending &ldquo;quest for kicks.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sanders.jpg" title="" /></div><p>As you might expect, Warner does spend quite a few pages on the Fugs, including a moving tribute to Tuli Kupferberg. I&rsquo;ve expressed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-11/return-original-freak-folks-fugs-104059">admiration for these legendary &rsquo;60s weirdoes in this space before</a>, as well as for bandleader Ed Sanders&rsquo; must-read tomes <em>Tales of Beatnik Glory </em>and <em>The Family </em>(the best book on the Manson clan). Now comes Sanders&rsquo; first-hand history and celebration of his group, <strong><em>Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the F*ck You Press, the Fugs, and the Counterculture in the Lower East Side</em></strong> (Da Capo).</p><p>Sanders&rsquo; recounting of the early &rsquo;60s through 1970 is episodic but always charming and engaging. &ldquo;In this book of remembrances I decided not to drain to its dregs the urn of bitter memory, to paraphrase Shelley&rsquo;s famous line,&rdquo; he writes. Instead, &ldquo;I have chosen to accentuate the energy, the wild fun, the joyful creativity, and the schemes of Better World derring-do and to consign as much bitterness and bad memories as possible to the halls of darkness.&rdquo;</p><p>Fair enough, and, really, how scholarly, encyclopedic, or &ldquo;objective&rdquo; would we want the auteur who helped bring us &ldquo;Group Grope&rdquo; and &ldquo;Boobs-a-Lot&rdquo; to be? The lingering buzz of what we do get is more valuable: A deeper appreciation, sans Baby Boomer/Sixties clichés, of a period of anything-goes, no-rules creativity, and the feeling that, damn, it must have been a lot of fun to be there.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Yo%20La.jpg" title="" /></div><p>I actually <em>was there</em> for a different happening in a different era some years later: the burgeoning indie-rock scene across the Hudson River from the Lower East Side in the Hoboken of the early and mid-&rsquo;80s. Recalling those particulars, as well as the broader nationwide underground they typified (and which would in turn nurture the alternative-rock scene of the &rsquo;90s) is one reason to revel in the pages of <strong><em>Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock</em></strong> (Gotham) by Brooklyn-based music journalist, DJ, and musician Jesse Jarnow.</p><p>The other reason is, of course, to chart the history of the long-running band led by guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley. Having seen their first shows at Maxwell&rsquo;s in 1985, I for one would never have thought that I&rsquo;d be looking forward to seeing them again for the umpteenth time 28 years later at this summer&rsquo;s Pitchfork Music Festival, let alone that they&rsquo;d have given us 13 wonderfully consistent albums in that stretch (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/yo-la-tengo%E2%80%99s-enduring-intimacy-105209">including the latest, <em>Fade</em></a>).</p><p>Regardless of one&rsquo;s familiarity with the band in its many incarnations, there&rsquo;s plenty to learn in these pages. Not that these musicians are especially forthcoming: Kaplan and Hubley never have been big talkers, and they&rsquo;re never more reticent than when chatting about themselves. Yet Jarnow knew that in some ways, they&rsquo;d be the least interesting part of their own biography, and a more colorful, less Everyman band might only have distracted from the bigger story of indie-rock as it morphed and developed for better or worse from the nascent days of post-punk fanzines and college radio stations to Pitchfork, podcasts, and corporations looking for cool tracks to pilfer for hip TV commercials.</p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis">@JimDeRogatis</a> or join me on Facebook at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340?ref=hl">Jim DeRo</a>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 12:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/catching-our-rock-reading-beats-and-rock-culture-107332 Pondering some of my favorite concert double bills http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/pondering-some-my-favorite-concert-double-bills-106440 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F86256685&amp;color=00bdff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1BeckFlamingLips.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 620px;" title="Beck records for public radio with the Flaming Lips." /></div></div><p>When WBEZ listener and blog-follower Patrick Gallagher found himself wondering about the best double bills ever hosted on our local concert stages, like many a stumped Chicagoan before him, he turned to the fine folks at the <em><a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org">Curious City</a> </em>project. But this query is a bit different than others about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-nike-missile-sites-around-chicago-105087">hidden missile silos</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/laugh-your-troubles-away-105619">long-gone amusement parks</a>, because there really isn&rsquo;t a definitive answer.</p><p>For one thing, no master list exists of concert pairings on the city&rsquo;s many stages from the last seven decades&mdash;and that&rsquo;s if we&rsquo;re restricting ourselves to the rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll era. Sure, we could go to the library and comb through a century of dead-tree media, looking for concert listings, ads, and reviews. But that&rsquo;s assuming every show made the newspapers, not to mention it&rsquo;s a heck of a lot of obsessive research, even for a fact-finding super-heroine like my colleague <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/jbrandel-0">Jennifer Brandel</a>.</p><p>Another, even bigger problem is who gets to define &ldquo;best&rdquo;? All any music lover can do is talk about the shows that meant the most to us&mdash;the ones we saw that moved us most deeply, to the point that we still recall them with a vicarious thrill 10, 15, 20, or more years later.</p><p>For me, this sometimes was a pairing of artists who shared similar styles and influences, but not always; on occasion, complete opposites made for the most satisfying experiences. (Think chocolate and peanut butter.) I have not limited my list to only two bands; if a great double bill is worth celebrating, what about one with three, four, five bands or more? In some cases, the two artists were of equal stature, though this was not always the case. On occasion, the artists collaborated before, during, or after touring together&mdash;though, again, that didn&rsquo;t always happen.</p><p>I told you this <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org"><em>Curious City </em></a>query was a tough one! This blogger will take part in a segment devoted to the topic today on <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift">The Afternoon Shift</a>. </em>But here&rsquo;s an early look at some of the multi-band bills that stand out for me during 21 years on the pop-music beat in Chicago, listed in chronological order.</p><p>&bull;<strong> The Rollercoaster Tour at the Riviera Theater, Oct. 24, 1992.</strong></p><p>Obviously inspired by the second year of the original day-long touring Lollapalooza, which they had been a part of through the summer of &rsquo;92, Scottish noisemakers the Jesus and Mary Chain extended their stay in the U.S. that fall and headlined their own more intimate package tour with Curve and Spiritualized, presenting three different but equally amazing takes on modern psychedelic rock.</p><p>&bull;<strong> Lollapalooza at the World Music Theatre, <strike>July 3, 1993</strike> July 16, 1994**.</strong></p><p>For my money, year three of Lollapalooza was the strongest of the festival&rsquo;s original incarnation, with main-stage acts the Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, the Breeders, A Tribe Called Quest, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the Boredoms and second-stage performers the Flaming Lips, the Frogs, Guided by Voices, and Shonen Knife. One factor was the incredible breadth of musical diversity; another was the impromptu collaborations that occurred either on tour, as the artists shared each other&rsquo;s stages, or afterwards.</p><p>Snapshots I&rsquo;ll never forget: watching Billy Corgan play basketball backstage with the Beasties, and standing beside the Flaming Lips in a mostly empty arena as they saw the Boredoms for the first time and had their minds well and truly blown. (The Lips later would record with the band&rsquo;s drummer and pay tribute to her with the character in and title of <em>Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots</em>.)</p><p>** Corrected for the right date. You know what they say about the &rsquo;90s: If you can remember them, you weren&rsquo;t really there!</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Patti%2BBob.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Bob Dylan and Patti Smith." /></div><p>&bull;<strong> Bob Dylan and Patti Smith at the Beacon Theater, New York City, Dec. 11, 1995.</strong></p><p>Sadly, this show never came to Chicago show&mdash;the two only did a handful of East Coast dates&mdash;but it was too great not to include, and reviewing it was one of my few proud moments during a brief and miserable stint as deputy music editor at <em>Rolling Stone. </em>(<a href="http://www.expectingrain.com/dok/set/95/9512/951211rs.html">A Dylan fan site has transcribed and posted that review here</a>.) On one hand, we had two giants from two different musical movements and two different eras, both of them children of the Beats. On another, we had two defiant nonconformists determined to avoid easy nostalgia: Dylan was at the height of his mid-&rsquo;90s guitar-slinging powers, rewriting his classics onstage every night, while Smith was in the full flush of her early comeback, reintroducing herself as a still fiery though obviously older godmother of punk. And it all ended with a killer duet of &ldquo;Dark Eyes.&rdquo;</p><p>&bull;<strong> The Area: One Festival at the Tweeter Center, July 25, 2001.</strong></p><p>As the original Lollapalooza tour petered out into mediocrity in the early days of the new millennium, that lovable techno-pop imp Moby revived the concept of a bounty of musical diversity in one day-long traveling jaunt. This one featured the Roots, Outkast, the Orb, and the man behind <em>Play</em> presenting dramatically different but equally rewarding takes on the power of the groove.</p><p>Unfortunately, Moby lost his shirt as the concert-going public began to embrace the new model of massive &ldquo;destination festivals&rdquo; with a hodgepodge of acts booked with little rhyme or reason&hellip; and that of course is how we got to the new Grant Park-based Walmart on the Lake.</p><p>&bull;<strong> Radiohead with the Beta Band, Hutchinson Field, Grant Park, Aug. 1, 2001.</strong></p><p>Speaking of shows that paved the way for Lollapalooza Mach II, this was the one that convinced a formerly recalcitrant city bureaucracy to let the rockers into Grant Park again. Performing on a stage refreshingly devoid of corporate logos, our Oxford-bred art-rock heroes delivered pristine sound while upping the intensity of their recordings and challenging a mass audience with their enigmatic soundscapes. It was the perfect set in the perfect setting, and the Beta Band opened by snarling at promoters who hassled fans for bringing their own water, as well as entrancing us with their hypnotic grooves, just like in that scene at the record store in <em>High Fidelity </em>the year before.</p><p>&bull;<strong> Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with Neko Case at the Chicago Theatre, April 26, 2002.</strong></p><p>Touring with the Bad Seeds, one of the most subtle bands in rock, in support of the stellar <em>No More Shall We Part</em>, Cave transformed himself into the characters in his songs, acting out their tales of murder and mayhem. There&rsquo;s nothing like two hours of gore from the master of dark and literary mood music to leave you feeling giddy and cheerful&hellip; especially when it comes after a beautiful and uplifting set from alt-country chanteuse Case. Nothing beats that mix of sweet and sour, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-06-27/neko-and-nick-don%E2%80%99t-suck-true-blood-kinda-does-88372">Cave and Case later would collaborate on a cover of &ldquo;She&rsquo;s Not There&rdquo; by the Zombies for the soundtrack of <em>True Blood.</em></a></p><p>&bull;<strong> Beck and the Flaming Lips at the Chicago Theatre, Oct. 18, 2002.</strong></p><p>This was an unusual pairing in many ways: Where alt-rock icon Beck always shielded himself behind a cloak of irony and an affected cloud of angst, the Flaming Lips celebrated their sincerity in voicing the joys of being alive. The two brought out the best in each other as they shared the stage throughout the show, with Beck providing the Lips a forum for showing the depth of their talents as musicians, and the Lips giving Beck a welcome antidote to the cathartic material from his dark but wonderful <em>Sea Change </em>album. For Generation X, this combination was the equal of Neil Young pairing with Crazy Horse or Bob Dylan joining forces with the Band.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1jaymary.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>&bull; <strong>Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige at the United Center, April 26, 2008.</strong></p><p>The idea was obvious: Bring together the top talents in hip-hop and R&amp;B for a triumphant arena tour that raised the bar for the concert experience in both genres, with one artist who really speaks to the ladies, and another who all the fellas emulate. The Heart of the City jaunt with Hova and the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul rolled into town for two nights at the United Center with exquisite staging, a kicking big band, and the two headliners performing at the peak of their abilities, together and separately, just as they have numerous times on record.</p><p><strong><em>Have you got a favorite double bill or a pairing for the ages? Let me and Curious City know by commenting below.&nbsp;</em></strong></p></p> Wed, 03 Apr 2013 07:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-04/pondering-some-my-favorite-concert-double-bills-106440 Shout Out Out Out Out (and more than a few other things) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/shout-out-out-out-out-and-more-few-other-things-106131 <p><p>AUSTIN, Tx&mdash;Commitments and reality beckon, and as you read this, my last dispatch from my 20<sup>th</sup> trip to South by Southwest, I&rsquo;ll be trading bright sun and 85&deg; for rain and a high of 35&hellip; to say nothing of no longer hearing two dozen bands a day. But, hey, Spring Break can&rsquo;t last forever.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Shout.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 199px; float: left;" title="Shout Out Out Out Out." /></div><p>Best things first: My musical highlight Friday, and the second best show I saw after <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/i-saw-god-andor-savages-106114">Savages</a> throughout the festival, came courtesy of a six-piece band from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with the unwieldy name of <strong><a href="http://www.shoutoutoutoutout.com/">Shout Out Out Out Out</a></strong>. (Read it as if those last three &ldquo;Out&rsquo;s&rdquo; are slap-back echoes.) If I have a problem with a lot of electronic dance music today, it&rsquo;s that it&rsquo;s ahistorical: EDM should not be slavishly tied to the past, but often things hailed as groundbreaking were done 30 years ago, and ideas hinted at then but never fully explored still offer more adventurous new sonic worlds than the ubiquitous unsa-unsa crap.</p><p>With an endearing love for the rich analog sounds of vintage Moog synthesizers and the tremendous visceral power of not one but two great live drummers, plus an obvious devotion to cutting-edge rhythms and digital technology, Shout Out Out Out Out has been creating a bridge between Krautrock (heavy on the Hawkwind, Neu! and Kraftwerk) and next week&rsquo;s hippest grooves over the course of three albums since 2006, including last year&rsquo;s <em>Spanish Moss and Total Loss. </em>And the power of this very human manipulation of machines and technology in the sweaty, loud and immediate present is absolutely undeniable onstage.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/eFOA5YkWX2Y" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Shout Out Out Out Out&rsquo;s afternoon set at the International Day Stage in the Austin Convention Center came after a panel called <strong>&ldquo;Inside the Artist&rsquo;s Studio&rdquo;</strong> where <em>Hits </em>magazine president Karen Glauber channeled James Lipton and coaxed an array of artists to talk about the creative process in their songwriting, from lyrics they avoid and problems that have taken them months or years to work out, to those wonderful bursts of inspiration where a timeless tune comes fully formed in five minutes.</p><p>The highlights were acoustic performances (and the ensuing stories behind the songs) of &ldquo;Black Like Me&rdquo; by Britt Daniel of Spoon, a new tune that may or may not wind up being called &ldquo;I Hate Music&rdquo; by Mac McCaughan of Superchunk and &ldquo;Something Came Over Me&rdquo; by Chris Stamey of the dB&rsquo;s and the fine new solo album, <em>Lovesick Blues</em>. These bursts of musical brilliance were very much needed to reaffirm my faith in the power of art to transcend commerce after the panels I attended earlier in the day.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Building an Optimal Partnership Between Brands &amp; Bands&rdquo;</strong> was another of the six sessions in the last few days touting the idea that corporate America and the advertising world are, in effect, the new and better music industry. This one had an executive from Coca-Cola on it&mdash;&ldquo;Music is a tremendous passion point for fans,&rdquo; he said, noting its ideal role in helping sell caffeinated sugar water&mdash;and it was distinguished from the panel entitled <strong>&ldquo;The Future of Cultural Branding&rdquo; </strong>only by the fact that that discussion was sponsored by Pepsi.</p><p>In the panelists&rsquo; view, the world works like this: Drake likes Sprite; Sprite likes kids; kids like Drake. Sprite gives Drake money to help sell Sprite. Everyone wins! Except, of course, the kids who should be drinking fruit juice or water.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Drake2.jpg" style="height: 280px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><p>One of my favorite careful-what-you-wish-for stories came from Brad Haugen, chief marketing officer of Scooter Braun Projects, also known as Justin Bieber&rsquo;s managers. Before the Biebs became a star four years ago, he was using Proactiv to clear up his skin, Haugen said. The managers called the company and tried to get a sponsorship deal, but the company wasn&rsquo;t interested. Then Bieber blew up big with the release of <em>My World 2.0</em>. Proactiv came begging and Biebs cleaned up with a lucrative sponsorship&hellip; which he cancelled a year later when he grew embarrassed that everyone thought he had acne.</p><p>Alas, one can never escape the decision to optimize that allegedly ideal brand/band partnership. Maybe that&rsquo;s why young Justin&rsquo;s been so troubled of late.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/gd2zAtmgjNk" width="420"></iframe></p><p>Apparently, poking fun at the Biebs or in any way questioning his validity as an artist, to say nothing of maintaining a belief in the evils of &ldquo;selling out,&rdquo; marks this critic as an elitist snob: If one wasn&rsquo;t listening carefully, one would think that was the message of the discussion called <strong>&ldquo;Guiltless Pleasures: Imagining a Post-Snob World.&rdquo; </strong>But while chatting after the session, twenty-something participants David Greenwald of <a href="http://www.rawkblog.net/">Rawkblog</a> and <em>Billboard</em> and Simon Vozick-Levinson of <em>Rolling Stone </em>(who had been joined by Lindsay Zoladz of <a href="http://www.canonballblog.com/">Cannonball</a> and Pitchfork via Skype) pretty much agreed that my definition of criticism is the same as theirs: an attempt to intellectually convey your emotional response to a work of art.</p><p>The good critic would never tell someone, be it the 11-year-old Belieber or the 70-year-old Rolling Stones fan, not to listen to something said critic dislikes; he or she is just giving their emotional reaction to that music, with all of the context, insights and evidence they can muster to get the discussion started. (For the record: This critic isn&rsquo;t big on Bieber, thinks the Rolling Stones were pretty great up through <em>Some Girls </em>in 1978, but would be hard-pressed to say which he would dislike more if imprisoned at Guantanamo and forced to choose between listening only to post-&rsquo;80 Stones or present-day Biebs.)</p><p>In their zeal to laud the &ldquo;pop omnivore&rdquo; who&rsquo;ll listen with equal diligence and write with just as much insight about underground or mainstream acts, &ldquo;Gangnam Style&rdquo; or <em>Amok </em>by Atoms for Peace (to use the examples Dave Grohl cited in his keynote), these sixth-generation rock critics could be strident at times with their doctrinaire declarations, especially about the &ldquo;false god of authenticity.&rdquo; Yes, authenticity is a phony construct. But who among us really can deny that Thom Yorke has more of <em>something </em>very important than Psy? (I&rsquo;d call it &ldquo;soul.&rdquo;)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><br /><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1certificate.png" style="height: 386px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div></div><p>Still, it was great to hear these issues being wrestled with. Even better was hearing Zoladz end the session by pondering whether bragging of omnivorous listening is in fact the new snobbery. (One used to jockey for hip points by claiming one was first to hear Hüsker Dü play for six people at a small club in the &rsquo;80s; now it&rsquo;s bragging that you really, really like Ke$ha as much as Grimes.) But best of all was hearing the panelists agree with both me and <a href="http://music-mix.ew.com/2013/03/14/dave-grohl-sxsw-keynote-speech/">Grohl</a> that Pitchfork is not only often too narrow in what it chooses to review and what it ignores, but that the influential and formerly Chicago-based Webzine is just no darn good as a model for what music criticism should aspire to be. (Plus, editors there are unfamiliar with one of the most basic rules of grammar&mdash;the punctuation goes <em>inside </em>the quotation marks. Learn it!)</p><p>But enough inside-baseball on the dirty business of rock criticism: Let&rsquo;s wrap up with some final lightning-round observations of other musicians whose paths I crossed in Texas, delivered concisely but (to be certain) absolutely non-snobbishly.</p><p><strong>Parquet Courts: </strong>I wanted to see if these Brooklyn slackers possibly could be as good onstage as they are on <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/parquet-courts-gives-us-reasons-be-cheerful-105173"><em>Light Up Gold</em></a></em>. Were they? Fuggadeaboutit! (That is to say, &ldquo;Absolutely, yes!&rdquo;)</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/UHdXXbvC8N0" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Merchandise: </strong>I prefer my shoegaze with less gloom and no Brooklyn grooves (though these lads actually hail from Tampa).</p><p><strong>Mikal Cronin: </strong>He&rsquo;s toured with Ty Segall&rsquo;s band, but his own music is a lot more melodic, less ferocious&hellip; and not nearly as engaging live.</p><p><strong>Dawes: </strong>Perfectly pleasant, sunny West Coast jangle. Wake me when it&rsquo;s over.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><u>My complete coverage of SXSW 2013</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/i-saw-god-andor-savages-106114">I saw god and/or Savages</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/more-sxsw-day-two-social-networking-and-music-pumcayo-106110">More of SXSW Day Two: Social networking and the music of Pumcayo</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099">Foo fighting: Dave Grohl&rsquo;s keynote address</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090">Laura Stevenson, Holydrug Couple, Foxygen and more</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Imaging, jingle-crafting, crowdfunding and &lsquo;Born in Chicago&rsquo;</a></p></p> Fri, 15 Mar 2013 21:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/shout-out-out-out-out-and-more-few-other-things-106131 I saw god and/or Savages http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/i-saw-god-andor-savages-106114 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1savages2.jpg" style="height: 437px; width: 620px;" title="(Facebook/Savages)" /></div><p>Austin, Tx&mdash;Ah, yes: THIS is how South by Southwest is supposed to work! Your feet ache from running around nonstop for the past 14 hours, then hiking two miles to yet another crappy venue with a lousy sound system. Your stomach is funky from too much meat. The mediocre to dreadful acts today have far outnumbered the good ones (four to one, to be precise; thank you, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/more-sxsw-day-two-social-networking-and-music-pumcayo-106110">Pumcayó</a>).</p><p>And then you see god.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1savages.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Jehnny Beth of Savages at SXSW (photo by my pal Jim Testa)." /></div><p>Based in London, <strong><a href="http://www.facebook.com/savagestheband">Savages</a> </strong>are a group of four young women on guitar, drums, bass and vocals who play with a galvanizing ferocity. Their influences, especially in terms of the unrelentingly minimalist approach to song structure, melody and image, are obvious: Wire, Gang of Four and the Slits. But there isn&rsquo;t a hint of imitation here; no whiff of anything but pure personality. You may as well never have heard another punk or post-punk band before, because that&rsquo;s the way you feel after these four finish assaulting you songs such as &ldquo;Shut Up,&rdquo; &ldquo;She Will&rdquo; and &ldquo;Husbands,&rdquo; which finds singer Jehnny Beth, a.k.a. French native Camille Berthomier, wailing, &ldquo;God, I wanna get rid of it, yeah/Rid of it/My house, my bed&hellip; my husbands!&rdquo;</p><p>And all of this in half an hour that seems to last about five minutes.</p><p>The group has just been signed to one of the best indie labels in America, with the announcement coming next week, and hopefully an album shortly thereafter. You&rsquo;ve been warned.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xUqDckQuqcg" width="560"></iframe></p><p>After a set that exquisitely satisfying, you know that nothing else you hear this evening will even come close. Thankfully, the other great band I saw played just before Savages, at a venue almost as horrid as last night&rsquo;s Hype Hotel or the always wretched Stubb&rsquo;s. Dubbed 1100 Warehouse, this was yet another temporary club set up in a hangar-like space that reportedly usually serves as a poultry slaughterhouse.</p><p>Matt Korvette took the stage and cheekily announced that the Foo Fighters were backing David Bowie at a no-badges-needed surprise show with tons of free beer a block away, and he thought it only fair to tell everyone. None of that was true&mdash;at that moment, Dave Grohl was jamming with Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield across town as part of his Sound City All-Stars revue&mdash;but Korvette clearly wanted to rid the room of anyone who wasn&rsquo;t worthy of the punk-rock fury that his band <strong><a href="http://www.whitedenim.com/pissedjeans/">Pissed Jeans</a> </strong>was about to unleash.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1pissed-jeans.jpg" title="Pissed Jeans (Sub Pop)." /></div><p>This Allentown, Pennsylvania-based quartet has recorded four merciless albums to date, the last three&mdash;including the recent <em>Honeys</em>&mdash;for Sub Pop Records. But it&rsquo;s an experience best appreciated live, where Korvette channels early Jello Biafra in the way he throws himself about the stage, and the band&rsquo;s powerful pummeling may be rewarded with an old-school &rsquo;80s-style mosh pit like the one that erupted at 1100 Warehouse.</p><p>Come to think of it, the place&rsquo;s alleged past as a slaughterhouse may have been exactly the right setting for both Pissed Jeans and Savages.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/0B2Gww3ywDA" width="560"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><u>My complete coverage of SXSW 2013</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/more-sxsw-day-two-social-networking-and-music-pumcayo-106110">More of SXSW Day Two: Social networking and the music of Pumcayo</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099">Foo fighting: Dave Grohl&rsquo;s keynote address</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090">Laura Stevenson, Holydrug Couple, Foxygen and more</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Imaging, jingle-crafting, crowdfunding and &lsquo;Born in Chicago&rsquo;</a></p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 23:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/i-saw-god-andor-savages-106114 More of SXSW Day Two: Social networking and the music of Pumcayo http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/more-sxsw-day-two-social-networking-and-music-pumcayo-106110 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1networking.jpg" style="height: 429px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>AUSTIN, Tx&mdash;While finding one&rsquo;s own voice as a musician was the noble theme of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099">Dave Grohl&rsquo;s keynote address</a>, the words I&rsquo;ve heard mentioned far more often than any other during the daytime panels at South by Southwest 2013 are &ldquo;creating your brand.&rdquo;</p><p>The more calculated side of this endeavor includes potentially troublesome things like selling your music to advertising, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">as chronicled yesterday</a>. But there&rsquo;s a benign and human aspect to this meaningless jargon, too, as was made clear by the tirelessly fan-friendly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Amanda Palmer</a>, as well as by the super-social networking-savvy participants in a Thursday afternoon session entitled <strong>&ldquo;Internet: How to Not Go Crazy Being Everywhere.&rdquo;</strong></p><p>Any band that&rsquo;s the least bit ambitious in 2013 absolutely needs the following, and in this order, the panelists agreed: a Facebook page; a YouTube page; a SoundCloud page; a Twitter account and a Tumblr account. Optional but also potentially useful: SonicBids, BandCamp, BandPage... and Pintrest, but only if you want to reach moms in the Midwest. Oh, yeah: You also need an old-fashioned Web site, and maybe a blog.</p><p>To maintain all of this Internet presence, an artist should spend about an hour a day online&mdash;though how that can be accomplished while juggling a day job, eating, sleeping, slacking and, you know, making music was left unaddressed.</p><p>All of that seems daunting, if not depressing. But at its core it just means reaching out to people who might be interested in your music and then developing a relationship with them by staying in touch. Most artists have been doing this instinctively for centuries, long before Al Gore invented the Internet to house all of these platforms and apps.</p><p>Case in point: A few weeks before the festival, I got an email from Federico Díaz de León, a musician in Guadalajara, Mexico, a fan of <em>Sound Opinions</em> and an astute fellow who knew how to push my buttons: &ldquo;We play [psychedelic] prog-infused Mexican folk-rock,&rdquo; he wrote. With the band playing three official showcases here, and who knows how many other gigs, how could I not check that out?</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1pumcayo.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The pitch and social networking only will get you so far, however: A band must then deliver the goods, or someone will tune out quicker than they can hit &ldquo;delete.&rdquo; But Díaz de León&rsquo;s band <strong><a href="http://pumcayo.com/">Pumcayó</a> </strong>absolutely lived up to his promises during a showcase at the International Day Stage, rising above the challenges of sound problems and another schedule running way too late to hypnotize with an unexpected magic mushroom idyll.</p><p>With a Spanish name roughly translating as &ldquo;thump! it fell,&rdquo; the group merges the genteel, folkie beard-rock sounds of indie heroes such as Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear with an older, freakier psychedelic/progressive-rock fondness for elaborate arrangements and virtuosic solos (think Renaissance, the Incredible String Band, or very early Genesis) and here and there the occasional spice of native Mexican folk music. It&rsquo;s a rich and mighty musical mole&mdash;and I really need to go like all of their pages and accounts right now.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/M8qLJkbciiU" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong><u>My complete coverage of SXSW 2013</u></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099">Foo fighting: Dave Grohl&rsquo;s keynote address</a></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090">Laura Stevenson, Holydrug Couple, Foxygen and more</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Imaging, jingle-crafting, crowdfunding and &lsquo;Born in Chicago&rsquo;</a></p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 16:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/more-sxsw-day-two-social-networking-and-music-pumcayo-106110 Foo fighting: Dave Grohl’s keynote address http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Dave Grohl delivers the keynote address at SXSW 2013. (AP/Jack Plunkett, Invision)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1AP717239888990.jpg" style="height: 442px; width: 620px;" title="(AP/Jack Plunkett, Invision)" /></div><p>AUSTIN, Tx&mdash;In the summer of 1993, I spent several days in Seattle waiting to be summoned for an audience with Kurt Cobain and enjoying quite a bit of quality hang time with Krist Novoselic as they waited for the release of Nirvana&rsquo;s third album <em>In Utero</em>. As a drummer myself and a fan of Dave Grohl&rsquo;s postpunk John Bonham thrash, I repeatedly asked both of his band mates, &ldquo;Shouldn&rsquo;t I speak to him, too?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Heck, no; why?,&rdquo; came the reply, and more than once. So I settled for watching Grohl play a reunion gig with the D.C. hardcore band Scream at the Crocodile Café.</p><p>Two years later, when I queried Courtney Love on her perception of Grohl&rsquo;s role in her husband&rsquo;s band, she burst into that infamous evil cackle. &ldquo;What you have to know about Dave is he was the guy who&rsquo;d enjoy going out back to set his farts on fire with Steve Albini. That&rsquo;s Dave.&rdquo;</p><p>I relate these anecdotes with no sense of malice but in the spirit of the engaging, heartfelt and often very funny string of historical reminiscences with which Grohl traced his career from D.C. punk to alt-rock superstar to Foo-Fighting superstar while delivering the keynote address Thursday morning at South by Southwest, all building to the always-welcome conference fail-safe messages of do-it-yourself&nbsp; independence, &ldquo;the musician comes first&rdquo; and &ldquo;find your own voice.&rdquo;</p><p>Grohl entertained by scat-singing Edgar Winter&rsquo;s instrumental &ldquo;Frankenstein,&rdquo; a childhood favorite that introduced him to the world of rock, and by demonstrating how he&rsquo;d use two clunky cassette recorders to improvise his own multi-tracked recordings as a young teen.</p><p>Much of the written-out speech&mdash;delivered from behind a pair of reading glasses Grohl claimed to have purchased at the drug store&mdash;centered on his epiphany in Chicago during the family&rsquo;s summer vacation in 1982. His older cousin Tracy had become a punk-rocker, and she introduced him to her endless stacks of snarling 45s. He soon discovered the Wax Trax record store, he saw Naked Raygun play at Cubby Bear and his course in life was set.</p><p>&ldquo;I wanted to be someone&rsquo;s Edgar Winter,&rdquo; the musician said. &ldquo;I wanted to be someone&rsquo;s Naked Raygun.&rdquo;</p><p>Miracle of miracles, his accomplishments exceeded both. The tale of how <em>Nevermind, </em>a record everyone expected to sell 35,000 copies in its first six months (if they were lucky) soon was selling 300,000 a week and &ldquo;forever changing the music world&rdquo; now is rock mythology. And Grohl offered no more insight into how that happened than Cobain or Novoselic did: &ldquo;Maybe it was timing&hellip; Maybe it was a generation of kids sick of Wilson Phillips.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1grohlcartoon.jpg" style="float: left; height: 376px; width: 300px;" title="Dave Grohl (caricature by reelsinmotion/Flickr, Creative Commons)." />Then came the Foo Fighters, a band one could legitimately champion on its first album, a cathartic garage-rock record that Grohl recorded on his own &ldquo;as therapy,&rdquo; just like those teen experiments with multi-tracking. But from there, it promptly became an example of the worst sort of pandering modern-rock band unleashed by the alternative era, one that would play any corporate-rock radio festival, one that essentially beat the same tired song into submission over and over again through a seven-album discography, and one that has less in common these days with Nirvana than it does with Rick Springfield (a hero inexplicably lauded in Grohl&rsquo;s <em>Sound City </em>documentary, as if the man behind &ldquo;Jessie&rsquo;s Girl&rdquo; is equal to greats such as Neil Young, Tom Petty and Dr. John, who also recorded at that now-celebrated studio).</div><p>Who is the real Dave Grohl&mdash;the one of those anecdotes at the top of this post, or the one who spoke so movingly at SXSW? I don&rsquo;t know, and I&rsquo;m not sure it matters. Authenticity, after all, is a fake construct, and the most soulful sounds at SXSW or anywhere else are always in part show business. In any event, Grohl gave a heck of a keynote&mdash;every bit as good as the one last year by Bruce Springsteen, with whom he told us he recently dined in preparation for his big moment at the podium.</p><p><strong><u>My complete coverage of SXSW 2013</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090">Laura Stevenson, Holydrug Couple, Foxygen and more</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Imaging, jingle-crafting, crowdfunding and &lsquo;Born in Chicago&rsquo;</a></p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 12:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/foo-fighting-dave-grohl%E2%80%99s-keynote-address-106099 Laura Stevenson, Holydrug Couple, Foxygen and more http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/laura_stevenson_and_the_cans_6_515.jpg" title="Laura Stevenson and the Cans." /></div><p>AUSTIN, Tx&mdash;The best-laid plans tend to quickly go awry at South by Southwest, especially with these epic crowds. Yet if I missed catching a few acts I&rsquo;d hoped to see on night one&mdash;Merchandise, the Black Angels, Guards&mdash;I did have a couple of great surprises in the clubs.</p><p>The first of these was a Brooklyn singer-songwriter named <strong><a href="https://www.facebook.com/LauraStevensonandtheCans">Laura Stevenson</a></strong>, who performed with her band the Cans under a tent outside a club called Holy Mountain off Seventh Street. Think of a less intense, sweeter-voiced Sharon Van Etten, but with a two-guitar, bass, drums and accordion lineup capable of unexpected eruptions of noise a la the Velvet Underground or Neil Young with Crazy Horse.</p><p>Music is in Stevenson&rsquo;s blood: Her grandfather was a composer who made key early recordings of the Christmas standards &ldquo;The Little Drummer Boy&rdquo; and &ldquo;Do You Hear What I Hear?,&rdquo; while her grandmother sang with Benny Goodman. But Stevenson has a voice all her own, honed over the course of three indie albums including the latest, <em>Wheel, </em>released on Don Giovanni, the label that brought us Screaming Females. Hopefully she and the Cans will make just as much noise.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KeH2-XA1k6Q" width="560"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/6871685494_86245e72b7_z.jpg" style="float: right; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="The Holydrug Couple (Flickr/PUMA LABS)" />I was heading out the door after Stevenson&rsquo;s set when another band playing on the smaller indoor stage at the same club stopped me dead in my tracks. <strong><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Holydrug-Couple/103071603419">The Holydrug Couple</a></strong> is a duo from the apparently burgeoning psychedelic-rock scene in Santiago, Chile. Ives Sepúlveda and Manuel Parra expanded to a trio for this gig, showcasing a sound that force-feeds that mellow &rsquo;70s West Coast folk-rock sound newly resurgent in some circles (a primary culprit: Dawes) through a freaky and evil psychotropic blender, with striking results.</p><p>Most impressive was a stunning track called &ldquo;Follow Your Way&rdquo; that began as a rough cover deconstructing Todd Rundgren&rsquo;s &ldquo;Hello It&rsquo;s Me&rdquo; and became a full-on interstellar-overdrive freak-out.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/hMsX5vvyhAc" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Most of the rest of the night consisted of unremarkable mediocrities, plus one truly dreadful act, Alabama-reared, Brooklyn-based EDM/folk-rock hybrid <strong>Phosphorescent</strong>, a.k.a. Matthew Houck, whose set was all the more painful for taking place in a big, uncomfortable, corporate-sponsored temporary party space called Hype Hotel, and for starting 40 minutes late, thereby screwing up the schedule for everything that followed.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/foxygen.jpg" style="height: 305px; width: 620px;" title="Foxygen (Jagjaguar/Angel Ceballos)" /></p><p>I stayed put because I was eager to see <strong>Foxygen</strong>, no matter the delay or the unwelcoming surroundings. And the core Los Angeles duo of vocalist Sam France and guitarist-keyboardist Jonathan Rado plus assorted friends did not disappoint as they rendered onstage the brilliant tunes from <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-02/pastiche-or-parody-foxygen-much-more-sum-its-parts-105631">We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace &amp; Magic</a></em>.</p><p>To be sure, the acoustics of the cavernous concrete space worked against the band&rsquo;s intricate and sometimes delicate arrangements, as did the scent of the foul fast food being handed out by Taco Bell, one of the corporate sponsors. (Taco Bell&mdash;in a Texas city with another great mom-and-pop taco joint every 15 yards!) But if Foxygen could deliver in circumstances like that, no doubt it can do infinitely better anywhere else.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KtdWGGpvY1s" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong><u>My complete coverage of SXSW 2013</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/imaging-jingle-crafting-crowdfunding-and-%E2%80%98born-chicago%E2%80%99-106087">Imaging, jingle-crafting, crowdfunding and &lsquo;Born in Chicago&rsquo;</a></p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 01:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/laura-stevenson-holydrug-couple-foxygen-and-more-106090