WBEZ | Music http://www.wbez.org/news/music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The first great album of 2015 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/first-great-album-2015-111391 <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/The-Decemberists-What-A-Terrible-World-What-A-Beautiful-World.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Let&rsquo;s get this out of the way right up front: Even if you haven&rsquo;t heard about their hometown naming next Friday &ldquo;<a href="http://www.oregonlive.com/music/index.ssf/2015/01/january_20_decemberists_day_portland.html">The Decemberists Day</a>,&rdquo; with an official proclamation to be presented by Portland Mayor Kyle MacLachlan.... er, Charlie Hales... at that craft-beer-and-Chemex-brewing, bearded-hipsters Mecca, or you didn&rsquo;t catch bandleader Colin Meloy announcing this new release by <a href="http://pitchfork.com/news/57193-the-decemberists-announce-new-album-with-colin-meloy-busking-on-brooklyn-street/">busking on the streets of Brooklyn</a>, he and his co-conspirators give the skeptical plenty of reasons to scoff.</p><p>Start with the cumbersome title of their long-awaited seventh album <em>What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, </em>and move on to capital-&ldquo;r&rdquo; Romantic lyrics that once again are rife with characters such as the gown-wearing Philomena (who prompts the unusually bawdy confession from our former English and Theater-major bandleader: &ldquo;All I ever wanted in the world was just to live to see a naked girl/But I found I&rsquo;ve quickly bored, I wanted more, I wanted more!&rdquo;) and the Cavalry Captain, a possible veteran of Tennyson&rsquo;s infamous Light Brigade, who &ldquo;is the remedy to your heart.&rdquo;</p><p>Then, too, you must wrestle with the usual bounty of musical filigree, from horn sections to doo-wop choirs, all decorating a Celtic/hill-country lilt to many of the songs that Meloy always credits to the cooler end of &rsquo;70s British folk-rock crossed with the Smiths, but which resonates just as much of prime Jethro Tull (think <em>Songs from the Wood</em>) and ELP in its &ldquo;Lucky Man&rdquo; mode.</p><p>None of that matters. As a geeky history buff with special passions for the Napoleonic and Victorian eras, as an English professor, and as an unabashed progressive-rock fan, I&rsquo;ve always lapped it all up. But even if I put on my cynical punk-rock glasses, I just can&rsquo;t condemn Meloy and his mates for their excesses, not when these are accompanied by such a healthy sense of humor, whether one thinks of the band <a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News2007/DecemberistsatMillennium.htm">performing with the Grant Park Symphony at the Bean back in 2007</a> and trotting out a <em>papier</em><em>-</em><em>mâché Moby Dick as a stage prop, or revels in the silly video for &ldquo;Make You Better&rdquo; or the lyrics to the new tune &ldquo;The Singer Addresses His Audience&rdquo; (which contains the lines, &ldquo;</em>So when your bridal processional is a televised confessional/To the benefits of Axe shampoo&hellip; We did it all for you&rdquo;).</p><p>&ldquo;We had to change,&rdquo; Meloy also declares in the latter tune, but the changes on the follow-up to <em>The King Is Dead </em>(2011) are minimal indeed: There&rsquo;s the most oblique of political references in &ldquo;12-17-12,&rdquo; the date of the Newton massacre; the unusually straightforward nature of the ballad &ldquo;Make You Better&rdquo; (which features Chicago darling Kelly Hogan on backing vocals), and an attempt to write a timeless folk/blues classic a la &ldquo;You Don&rsquo;t Miss Your Water&rdquo; in &ldquo;Till The Water Is Long Gone.&rdquo; But the overall impression is of familiar Decemberists terrain indeed. And that&rsquo;s fine, too, at least when every one of these 14 tracks boasts a melody as strong as any the band ever has given us.</p><p>That, ultimately, is why we love this group, and why we keep coming back. And your disdain of pretension and allergy to the thesaurus be damned.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Yb8oUbMrydk" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>The Decemberists, </strong><strong><em>What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World</em></strong><strong> (Columbia)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></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 or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 06:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/first-great-album-2015-111391 Legal hurdles cleared for Congress Theater redevelopment http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/legal-hurdles-cleared-congress-theater-redevelopment-111385 <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/1congress%20theater_Bey_0.jpg" title="The Congress Theater (Lee Bey)" /></div><p><strong>** UPDATED 10 a.m. TUESDAY</strong></p><p>Nearly a year after this blog first reported that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-01/sale-congress-theater-pending-109543">renowned developer Michael Moyer was poised to purchase the troubled Congress Theater</a>&mdash;and after 12 months of legal wrangling bogging down the sale&mdash;Cook County Circuit Court has removed the final hurdles, and Moyer and Ald. &ldquo;Proco&rdquo; Joe Moreno (1<sup>st</sup>) will hold a press conference on Jan. 24 to announce new plans for the 89-year-old, 3,500-seat Logan Square landmark.</p><p>Moyer is best known in Chicago for redeveloping the decrepit Bismarck Theater, transforming it into the Cadillac Palace. Just steps from City Hall, that theater has hosted prestigious Chicago productions including <em>The Producers, Aida, MAMA MIA, The Lion King,</em> and<em> Kinky Boots. </em>The theater is the centerpiece of a $120 million development that also includes the Bismarck Hotel. <a href="http://www.palmetllc.com/about/">According to the bio online with PalMet Ventures</a>, where he is a managing member, Moyer also has had a hand in development projects in Iraq.</p><p>Said a statement from Moreno&rsquo;s office: &ldquo;This long-overdue rehabilitation project [at the Congress] will not only renovate the theater&rsquo;s historic lobby and auditorium, it will also include the improvement of the ground floor commercial spaces and the modernization of the above-grade residential units into a small inn and residences.&rdquo;</p><p>Moyer will work with Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and W.E. O&rsquo;Neil Construction, according to the statement.</p><p>Following a series of contentious city hearings about numerous public safety, building code, and liquor violations, which began to mount after a sexual assault outside the theater in January 2012, controversial venue owner Erineo &ldquo;Eddie&rdquo; Carranza finally gave up his fight to maintain ownership of the Congress in January 2014. At that time, he signed a contract for the sale to Moyer, and accepted a payment of $500,000 in earnest money.</p><p>Although Carranza talked often and at length about his ambitious plans for the Congress, no serious redevelopment at the crumbling theater had taken place, and the venue has been shuttered to major events since the spring of 2013.</p><p>Closing on the sale and moving ahead on the redevelopment were slowed by two competing claims from concert promoters contending that they had the right of first refusal to buy the venue should Carranza sell. Sources say the oldest claim, by Chicago-based Jam Productions, was resolved with relative ease. But React Presents, the local electronic dance music promoters who subsequently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/sfx-entertainment-buys-react-presents-109765">sold out to the giant national corporation SFX</a>, pressed the fight in court.</p><p>&ldquo;The litigation thing is arduous,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/whither-chicago%E2%80%99s-historic-theaters-110273">Moyer told this blog with a sigh of frustration last June</a>.</p><p><strong>**</strong> The ruling could not be obtained last night, but sources familiar with its contents say that Moyer&rsquo;s settlements with both Jam and React/SFX have been approved by the court. Moyer <strike>now is the uncontested owner</strike>&nbsp; is set to close on the property in the next 60 to 90 days, and to move ahead with a redevelopment plan supported by Moreno and other city officials.</p><p>The specifics of entertainment offerings at the Congress will likely remain a mystery until the press conference, and Moyer declined to comment Monday evening. But theater may be part of the mix, along with music. &ldquo;Moyer will apply his expertise to the Congress to reestablish its reputation as one of the finest music venues in the nation,&rdquo; according to the statement from Moreno&rsquo;s office.</p><p>That may even include electronic dance music. As this blog observed, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/enough-%E2%80%98footloose%E2%80%99edm-nonsense-110684">the much-publicized restrictions placed by the city upon the Congress prohibiting EDM</a> were aimed not at that musical genre or even at that specific venue, but at Carranza as an irresponsible operator who racked up dozens of complaints.</p><p>Sources say it also was a tactic to prod React/SFX out of prolonging its legal fight. Rather than the city being anti-EDM, the move was pro-Congress, one source said. And React/SFX has been doing a thriving business at other venues with full city approval, ranging from the Concord Music Hall and the Mid to the city-owned Soldier Field, where it hosts the massive Spring Awakening Festival.</p><p>While some Logan Square residents initially rallied to Carranza&rsquo;s side during the early days of his long fight with city agencies, that support eroded as the details of the complaints against him were aired at public hearings. These ranged from <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-01/congress-theater-liquor-hearings-begin-undercover-cops-testimony-104950">security guards accused of seizing drugs from concertgoers, then reselling them to other patrons</a>, to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/congress-theater-safe-or-not-106931">&ldquo;hazardous and dangerous&rdquo; building code violations </a>unremedied for months, including standing water near bare electrical wires and non-functioning fire exits.</p><p>At least one longtime resident is supporting Moyer&rsquo;s plans. &ldquo;I am excited that the new owners have the security of the neighborhood in mind first, and that we will have a true safe and secure music venue in our neighborhood,&rdquo; Rick Sada is quoted as saying in the Moreno statement. &ldquo;I am also excited that Eddie Carranza will no longer be part of the Congress. For too long he got away with numerous criminal and building violations and I am glad Ald. Moreno helped us rid him of our neighborhood and is working with a new, truly viable owner.&rdquo;</p><p>The full text of the statement from Moreno&rsquo;s office follows. Meanwhile, Carranza is not yet entirely out of the theater game. He still owns the smaller Portage Theater in Portage Park, which is being leased by Charlie Burns, the former venue manager under Carranza at the Congress.</p><p>While Carranza&rsquo;s plans for another ambitious development surrounding the Portage on the Northwest Side have so far come to little, the theater<a href="http://www.theportagetheater.com/"> has been presenting a mix of film and music</a> for several months now, and the office of Ald. John Arena (45<sup>th</sup>) reports that there have been no complaints from residents.</p><blockquote><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;">&nbsp;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u><strong>January 12, 2015 </strong></u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>New Congress LLC, Chicago and Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, 1<sup>st </sup>Ward</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u><strong>For Immediate Release</strong></u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>New Congress LLC and Alderman Proco Joe Moreno (1<sup>st</sup> Ward) are pleased to announce the upcoming revitalization of the Congress Theater, a City of Chicago Landmark located at 2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.&nbsp; This long-overdue rehabilitation project will not only renovate the theater&rsquo;s historic lobby and auditorium, it will also include the improvement of the ground floor commercial spaces and the modernization of the above-grade residential units into a small inn and residences. The residences will be truly affordable residences under the City&rsquo;s Affordable Housing Ordinance- a request made by Alderman Moreno of Congress LLC.</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Michael Moyer, manager of New Congress, LLC, will lead the project.&nbsp; Mr. Moyer, one of the early pioneers in the revitalization of Chicago&rsquo;s Loop, renovated the block adjacent to City Hall, including the historic Cadillac Palace Theater, which received a Distinguished Building Award from the American Institute of Architects Chicago (AIA Chicago) with Special Recognition for Historic Preservation.&nbsp;&nbsp;Mr. Moyer has brought together an experienced and award-winning team with deep roots in the City of Chicago, including Woodhouse Tinucci Architects as the project&rsquo;s architect, W.E. O&rsquo;Neil Construction as general contractor and MacRostie Historic Advisors. &nbsp;&nbsp;</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Mr. Moyer will apply his expertise to The Congress to reestablish its reputation as one of the finest music venues in the nation.&nbsp; The renovation will draw on the diverse history and culture of the neighborhood and the innate character of the architecture.</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>The venue, which the City closed two years ago for dozens of unaddressed violations, originally opened in 1926 as a movie palace. Eventually it grew to host such diverse musical acts as Chuck Barry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Lauryn Hill, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, Toots and the Maytals, ZZ Top, Zoe&rsquo;, and Weezer.&nbsp; Under New Congress LLC&rsquo;s direction, the theater will once again host live music performances, managed by an experienced operator with local insight and national presence. Eddie Carranza, former owner of the Congress, will have no part, legally or otherwise, in the future of the Congress Theater.</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Alderman Moreno worked closely with the City&rsquo;s Departments of Buildings and Business Affairs to address the long-running problems of mismanagement and disrepair at the Congress Theater.</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>After scores of meetings and inquiries from parties interested in taking over the Congress Theater, Alderman Moreno is thrilled that New Congress LLC has been able to secure the property by contract and facilitate the resolution of litigation that has kept the theater dark.&nbsp;&nbsp;</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Rick Sada, lifelong community resident who lives near the Congress Theater and participated in the fight to close it down stated: &ldquo; I am excited that the new owners have the security of the neighborhood in mind first, and that we will have a true safe and secure music venue in our neighborhood. I am glad Alderman Moreno helped us rid the previous owner from our neighborhood and is working with a new, truly viable owner.&rdquo;</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Alderman Moreno is confident that New Congress, LLC will fully realize the potential of the Congress property and return it back to its full glory. He is equally confident that this renovation will also lead to a dynamic resurgence of this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue. Alderman Moreno stated, &ldquo;I am very excited about the future of the new Congress Theater. When completed, the new Congress Theater will be a world-class entertainment and commercial venue that our community will be very proud of. Just as important, this new theater owner, Mr. Moyer, will be a responsive and responsible owner and a true community partner.&rdquo;</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;"><u>Alderman Moreno and New Congress, LLC will host an Open House for the community to tour the Congress Theater on January 24, 2015 from 1-4 pm.&nbsp; Refreshments and light snackswill be served.</u></p><p style="margin-left:-27.0pt;">&nbsp;</p></blockquote><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 or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 19:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/legal-hurdles-cleared-congress-theater-redevelopment-111385 The return of D'Angelo and the Divine Styler http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/return-dangelo-and-divine-styler-111359 <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/angelo.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>The final weeks of 2014 brought two presents from two reclusive, idiosyncratic, and brilliant cult figures we never thought we&rsquo;d hear from again: the long-awaited returns of R&amp;B giant D&rsquo;Angelo and hip-hop innovator the Divine Styler.</p><p>Born Michael Eugene Archer in 1974 and raised as the son of a Pentecostal preacher in Richmond, Virginia, D&rsquo;Angelo seemed poised to set a new raw, gritty, and very real course for modern R&amp;B in the late &rsquo;90s with his neo-soul debut <em>Brown Sugar </em>(1995) and, especially, his towering masterpiece <em>Voodoo </em>(2000). He was even more powerful onstage than on record, leaving fans breathless during the long-running tour supporting the latter. But then&hellip; nothing, or very, very little, for nearly a decade and a half.</p><p>The artist, it seemed, had joined the ranks of frustrated/stymied auteurs unable to top a peak (see also: Kevin Shields, Syd Barrett, or Brian Wilson), instead just disappearing and leaving us hanging. Then, with minimal fanfare, D&rsquo;Angelo dropped <em>Black Messiah </em>on Dec. 15. And, even more surprising, it proved to be a very worthy successor to <em>Voodoo.</em></p><p>No, the new disc does not have its predecessor&rsquo;s sustained, swampy moody of mystical mischief. But the music, credited to D&rsquo;Angelo and the Vanguard but including some familiar collaborators from back in the day (superstar drummer Questlove and bassist Pino Palladino chief among them) absolutely follows in the tradition of real, soulful, sweaty grooves and slinky but potent melodies that marked the singer and songwriter&rsquo;s work in the past. And neither the new and timely political consciousness of some of the lyrics (&ldquo;1,000 Deaths,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Charade&rdquo;) nor the uncharacteristically sunny optimism of other tunes (&ldquo;Sugah Daddy,&rdquo; &ldquo;The Door&rdquo;) seem out of character for D&rsquo;Angelo in context, or out of place amid his more familiar updates on the classic Marvin Gaye mix of sacred and profane (&ldquo;Prayer,&rdquo; &ldquo;Really Love&rdquo;).</p><p>With the title, a concept addressed several times throughout the album, D&rsquo;Angelo isn&rsquo;t positioning himself as a savior or calling on supernatural forces to intervene in these troubled times. The primary message is one of spiritual self-reliance&mdash;&ldquo;We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah,&rdquo; he&rsquo;s said&mdash;and this philosophy is very much in line with that of Marc Richardson, a New Yorker born in 1968 who changed his name to Mikal Safiyullah when he converted to Islam, but who&rsquo;s better known in the hip-hop world as the Divine Styler.</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/styler.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Like D&rsquo;Angelo, the Divine Styler has been missing from the music scene for nearly 15 years. And if his masterpiece, 1991&rsquo;s <em>Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light</em>, isn&rsquo;t quite as celebrated as <em>Voodoo</em>, that&rsquo;s only because it never received the promotion it deserved during &ldquo;the Year Punk Broke,&rdquo; as well as the fact that its heady, spiritual lyrics and wildly inventive, genre-defying music were so out of touch with the then-prevailing trends in gangsta rap.</p><p>Richardson has said he dropped out of the hip-hop scene because of its stifling negativity; with heroes including Jimi Hendrix and Sun Ra, he preferred to strive for a utopian ideal rather than reveling in a nihilistic reality. With <em>Def Mask</em>, he gives us a concept album about the ugliness of a Philip K. Dick-like futuristic dystopia that is all too much like our present matrix. But hope can be found in ripping off the mask of the title, which, he says, &ldquo;keeps others at distance and creates a barrier between the wearer and the multiple realms of psychic pollutants.&rdquo;</p><p>Philosophical, intellectual, but agile in his rhymes, the Divine Styler is just as potent with his music, turning from the jazzier bent of previous work to craft hard-grooving but sonically challenging tracks with a tinge of industrial aggression that puts him in line with DJ Shadow and El-P, and making for a dark, ominous, but consistently rewarding ride from start to finish.</p><p><strong>D&rsquo;Angelo, Black Messiah (RCA)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><strong>Divine Styler, Def Mask (Gamma Proforma)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p><strong><em>Greg Kot and I reviewed </em></strong><strong>Black Messiah <em>on </em>Sound Opinions <em>on <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/473">Dec. 19</a></em>, <em>and we&rsquo;ll talk about </em>Def Mask <em>this week.</em></strong></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 or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/return-dangelo-and-divine-styler-111359 Pay to play is bad enough, but paying to get reviewed? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/pay-play-bad-enough-paying-get-reviewed-111333 <p><p>&ldquo;Pay to play&rdquo;&mdash;bands being forced to sell a certain number of tickets or cover the deficit with cash to perform at a &ldquo;prestigious&rdquo; club&mdash;long has been a reviled practice in the music industry, second only to the age-old scam of payola, or record companies shelling out to have a song played on the radio.</p><p>From time to time, music magazines also have been accused of giving more favorable coverage to bands or labels that advertise; hello, <em>Rolling Stone! </em>But shortly before the holidays, a practice putting a new spin on purchasing favorable notices got a lot of attention courtesy of <a href="http://www.popmatters.com/archive/contributor/348/">Zachary Houle</a>, an Ottawa-based contributor to the otherwise much-respected arts, music, and culture Web site <a href="http://www.popmatters.com/">PopMatters</a>.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><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/zachary-houle.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="Zachary Houle" /></div></div><p>I first became aware of the story via a piece in <em><a href="http://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/12/23/music-journalist-will-help-your-bandfor-a-hopefully-reasonable-fee">The Stranger</a></em>, which portrayed Houle as pimping himself out <a href="http://ottawastart.com/indiegogo-campaign-hiring-a-music-writer-who-wants-to-work-for-you/">via IndieGogo</a> to &ldquo;help new bands by reviewing them&hellip; for a reasonable fee.&rdquo; The Canadian critic does not elaborate on his prices, but here&rsquo;s a sampling of what he does say:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re still struggling to get heard and get the stars aligned for you, I can help you&hellip; I can listen to your demos and tell you what&rsquo;s great and the thing about your music or act that will twig the interest of the media&hellip; I will also tell you&mdash;quite honestly &mdash; what stinks and needs fixing&hellip; I can go to your shows and critique the live experience for you. I also used to do the odd Fashion article for the Ottawa Citizen. I&rsquo;m no Joan Rivers (RIP), but I can say a few things about your image and how you&rsquo;re projecting yourself&hellip; I can write a press release&hellip; I make no guarantees in terms of getting deals with publicists or labels, but I can point you in the direction of publicists who deal in various genres of music and might be receptive to your work. I realize this is information you can look up yourself for free, but that&rsquo;s time. Or you can come to me with your music for a hopefully reasonable fee, and I can recommend people based on your style and genre&mdash;and this is information I have, more or less, at my fingertips&hellip; I also can do liner notes.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>One imagines that Houle might also carry your gear, walk your dog, and clean your apartment, also for &ldquo;a reasonable fee,&rdquo; though he doesn&rsquo;t specify there. Now, even in lower-cost-of-living Ottawa, a writer&rsquo;s got to eat, and Houle does make it clear that he has standards. While he&rsquo;ll write your press release and give you a list of suggested recipients, he won&rsquo;t distribute it, &ldquo;because I&rsquo;m sort of in the journalism profession.&rdquo; And he issues a disclaimer, which we know is serious because of the repetition and the selective use of all caps:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;If you agree to use my services I WILL NOT, I repeat, WILL NOT review your album or EP for PopMatters.com. I have to maintain my journalistic integrity... WARNING: If you agree to hire me to listen to your music for honest feedback, that feedback is yours and yours alone. If I find my feedback as a quote in the press anywhere, I will get mad. You won&rsquo;t like me when I&rsquo;m angry. [Smiley-face emoticon] Seriously, you have to agree to protect my reputation.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Um, Zach, even in these times of journalistic lapses galore, I do believe your reputation now is toast. But I might just be old-fashioned that way.</p><p>A fair amount of online snickering followed<em> The Stranger</em>&rsquo;s piece, and while I&rsquo;m still waiting for Houle to be exposed as a mere prankster, I&rsquo;ve yet to see that happen. Meanwhile, I have learned of another scam run by the ironically named Web site <a href="http://www.theequalground.com">theequalground.com</a> that is even more blatant, if only because it sets some fixed prices for the reviews it&rsquo;s peddling.</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/Equal%20Ground.jpg" style="height: 141px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;theequalground.com is a collaboration of music enthusiasts who to want to share their thoughts about the music that is being released in our world,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/about.html">is how the site describes its mission</a>. &ldquo;We give honest opinions and guided descriptions to enable our readers to determine what they may want to listen to next as well as providing the artists with an insight as to what a seasoned music geek really thinks about their music.&rdquo;</p><p>How does that play out? Submit your D.I.Y. album to theequalground.com, and you&rsquo;ll receive the following email in response, which recaps the policies spelled out on the site itself.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Hi: You submitted an album to our website <a href="http://www.theequalground.com">www.theequalground.com</a>. The staff took a vote this morning and we decided to move forward with a review. If you are unfamiliar with our website, we only review submissions that we thought were at least favorable (details in our <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/about.html">&ldquo;about&rdquo; section</a>). Along with that, our reviews are honest, guided descriptions for our readers as well as insightful,professional critiques for the artists. Your review will either have a favorable, good or great rating, meaning a 3.0 or above. (We think it&rsquo;s a little more fun to keep the detailed rating a secret till your published date). In order to maximize the exposure to our audience we give the artist a couple of different options.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;Option 1 (Free)</strong> With this option your album will be included in our &ldquo;weekly roundup&rdquo; section. This section is published once a week (on Friday) and is a list of the albums we enjoyed <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/indie-music-album-reviews/weekly-roundup14">Here is an example of what it would look like.</a></p><p><strong>&ldquo;Option 2 ($25)</strong> With this option your album is featured as one of our daily reviews. One of our trusted writers who is a seasoned music geek within your genre will elaborate on the rating we have given. We talk about the genre of music, the tracks we felt were highlights, as well as any constructive criticism that will benefit the artist. This includes its own distinct URL, cover art, two links of your choice&nbsp; (Bandcamp, Website, ReverbNation, Facebook, record label, etc.) and a professionally written review (3 to 4 paragraphs, sometimes more). <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/indie-music-album-reviews/david-bowie-the-next-day">Here is an example of what it would look like.</a></p><p><strong>&ldquo;Option 3 ($35)</strong> This option includes everything from Option 2 and also includes a song or songs (your album) of your choice to be embedded from iTunes, Amazon, Soundcloud, or Bandcamp.&nbsp; If you want people to actually hear your music from our site while reading your review we can do that, too. The song or songs have to be uploaded to iTunes, Amazon, Soundcloud, or Bandcamp. We will embed it right on our page. <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/indie-music-album-reviews/ryan-horton-listen-alone">Here is an example of what it would look like.</a></p><p><strong>&ldquo;Option 4 ($40)</strong> This option includes everything from Options 2 and 3. It also includes a&nbsp; video upload. The video must be on Youtube and be a music video or live performance. <a href="http://www.theequalground.com/1/post/2013/05/half-light-things-to-figure-out.html">Here is an example of what it would look like.</a></p><p><strong>&ldquo;Process:</strong> No matter what option you chose we will need to hear back from you to confirm your review. (You will need to reply to this e-mail telling us what option you selected in the body of the e-mail.) If you chose Option 1 all you need to do is reply to this e-mail and put Option 1 in the body. Within a couple of days we will send you a follow-up e-mail confirming what day your review will be published. If you chose Options 2, 3, or 4, we will send you an invoice through Paypal for the option you selected in your e-mail (let us know if you want us to send the invoice to a different e-mail). Once the invoice is paid we will send you one last e-mail confirming the date that it will be published. For Option 2, 3, or 4, we will also need you to include the proper links for Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Youtube video, your mp3, etc. This review will be up on our website forever with its own specific URL. Feel free to put it on your website, use it in your press kit or send to fans.</p><p>&ldquo;Cheers&mdash;The team at theequalground.com&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>To be certain, ethical standards in the world of music journalism and criticism always have been, er, <em>more relaxed </em>than in the &ldquo;real-news&rdquo; racket (though arguably not in sports). Back in the day, my rock-crit hero Lester Bangs <a href="http://screamyell.com.br/musica/critic.html">openly bragged in print</a> of selling promo records to pay the rent and eagerly partaking of the free food, booze, and luxury accomodations during record-company junkets. Yet even at his flat-broke most down-and-desperate, I don&rsquo;t believe Bangs would have taken money to &ldquo;help new bands by reviewing them.&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/Lester.jpg" style="height: 303px; width: 300px;" title="Saint Lester" /></div><p>As for my reaction, even as someone who once lost an $85,000-a-year job as deputy music editor at <em>Rolling Stone </em>for objecting when <a href="http://www.citypages.com/1996-06-19/music/a-good-blowfish-is-hard-to-find/">Jann Wenner spiked a negative review I&rsquo;d written</a>, I can&rsquo;t top the verdict my old pal Jim Testa had when the veteran fanzine/blog editor, musician, and indie-rock super fan brought theequalground.com to my attention:</p><p><em>Sometimes I just want to kill myself. Or the rest of society.</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>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 09:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-01/pay-play-bad-enough-paying-get-reviewed-111333 It’s official: The Death Star controls Walmart on the Lake http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/it%E2%80%99s-official-death-star-controls-walmart-lake-111279 <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/Logos_1.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Making official the &ldquo;sources say&rdquo; reports that first made national news in October, Live Nation, the giant and voracious corporate Pac-Man of the concert industry, announced on Friday that it now owns a 51-percent controlling interest in the smaller but no less ambitious Austin-based promoter C3 Presents&mdash;thereby giving it control of Lollapalooza in Chicago and a major presence in the U.S. festival market.</p><p>Many questions remain, from why C3 talked such a good game about its loyalty to Chicago for so long, then sold out, to exactly how much the &ldquo;three Charlies&rdquo; behind that company made, and how much they&rsquo;ll still be around. But the deal is done. Here are the accounts in <em><a href="http://www.statesman.com/news/business/live-nation-buys-majority-interest-in-austins-c3-p/njXRk/">The Austin American-Statesman</a></em>, <em><a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/at-the-watercooler/2014/12/live-nation-buys-ownership-stake-in-austins-c3.html">The Austin Business Journal</a></em>, and <em><a href="http://www.pollstar.com/news_article.aspx?ID=815568">Pollstar</a>, </em>the primary trade publication in the concert industry.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-10/death-star-buy-walmart-lake-110907">This blog ran a list of 10 issues concerning Live Nation&rsquo;s ownership of Lollapalooza in October</a>, and they&rsquo;re repeated here again down below. But the one key thing to note as the mayoral campaign heats up is that Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s brother Ari has stakes in Lollapalooza both as the head of Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor (which now owns only 24.5 percent of the concert, since it used to own 50-percent in partnership with C3) and as a member of the board of directors of Live Nation.</p><p>Why is this more than a footnote? These corporations have an exclusive contract in perpetuity to present Lollapalooza in Grant Park, and that deal was renewed without competitive bidding and in violation of the mayor&rsquo;s pledge during the last campaign to appoint an independent negotiator to deal with C3 for Lollapalooza, given his brother&rsquo;s ties.</p><p>Add to that the fact that Live Nation won a bid-free sweetheart deal for a 30,000-seat concert venue on Northerly Island under Emanuel, and it sure seems like companies that Ari Emanuel is cozy with get a whole heck of a lot of good will from this administration, while the local music industry is pushed further and further to the margins in favor of those glitzy tourist dollars.</p><blockquote><p><strong><em>As noted earlier in this blog:</em></strong></p><p>Here are 10 things you should know about these companies and their dealings with Chicago city government and the local music scene. (And we should note that neither company has yet commented on the pending deal, which <em>The New York Times</em> quotes sources as saying is worth about $250 million, and which would give Live Nation a 51-percent stake in C3, making it one of the largest festival promoters in the world.)</p><p><strong>——</strong><strong>1. Lollapalooza&rsquo;s deal for Grant Park lasts </strong><em><strong>forever.</strong></em></p><p>Often misreported as a 10-year deal struck between the Park District and C3 Presents in 2012, a close read of the Lollapalooza contract (<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/city-releases-lollapalooza-contract-98324">which this blog posted in its entirety after filing a Freedom of Information Act request</a>) reveals that it is in fact a contract in perpetuity: When the agreement expires in 2021, Lollapalooza and the city are free to add another year after that year&rsquo;s festival&hellip; and the next, and the next, and the next, for as long as both sides desire, and free from public scrutiny or competition. Which means a Ticketmaster/Live Nation/C3 Lollapalooza in Grant Park forever.</p><p><strong>—</strong><strong>2. The original Lollapalooza deal reeked of favoritism.</strong></p><p>The first contract the Daley administration approved in 2005&mdash;and later amended in 2008&mdash;included an unprecedented and very questionable arrangement whereby the concert partnered with the Parkways Foundation, a favorite charity of Maggie Daley, and operated as a non-profit venture. Despite generating considerable income, it thereby avoided the city and county amusement taxes paid by every other entertainment event in Chicago that draws more than 750 people, costing taxpayers millions in lost revenue for the concert&rsquo;s first seven years.</p><p><strong>—</strong><strong>3. That deal was negotiated by then-Mayor Daley&rsquo;s nephew, and C3 recently repaid Daley and his kin with a big fat contract in Austin</strong><em><strong>.</strong></em></p><p>C3&rsquo;s hired attorney and paid lobbyist, Daley nephew Mark Vanecko, negotiated that first deal with the Park District, despite the obvious conflict of interest. Late last month, <em>Sun-Times </em>reporter Dan Mihalopoulos <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/ex-mayor-daleys-firm-profits-lollapaloozas-promoters-deal/tue-09232014-105pm">had a tasty scoop</a> revealing that C3 is paying the Austin Parks Foundation specifically to hire the former mayor&rsquo;s consulting firm to work on a $100 million project essentially privatizing an Austin park for major events like the Austin City Limits Festival, the predecessor of and model for Lollapalooza. It&rsquo;s hard not to see that as payback.</p><p><strong>—</strong><strong>4. The current deal is almost as sweet as the first one</strong><em><strong>.</strong></em></p><p>While the new contract generates more income for the city&mdash;around $3 million a year total&mdash;it contains a number of problematic concessions. The biggest: Lollapalooza has an exclusive lock on Grant Park, prohibiting any other promoter from staging a similar event there. It also fails to stipulate penalties or set deadlines for post-concert repairs (and these have been extensive in years with bad rain). Bottom line: The city&rsquo;s biggest and most prestigious public park now is handed to a private business for the third of the year with the best weather.</p><p><strong>—</strong><strong>5. When Live Nation becomes a co-owner of Lollapalooza, it will now have sweetheart deals for </strong><em><strong>two</strong></em><strong> lakefront concert venues.</strong></p><p>Live Nation initially got a sweetheart deal from the Daley administration in 2005 for a temporary, mid-sized concert venue on Northerly Island, where the former mayor had bulldozed Meigs Field in the middle of the night. In 2013, the Emanuel administration made the arrangement permanent, allowing Live Nation to build a massive fixed venue for 30,000 people&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/did-chicago-park-district-sidestep-competitive-bidding-northerly-island">all without public hearings and sidestepping competitive bidding</a>.</p><p><strong>6. Rahm&rsquo;s ties to Lollapalooza and C3 are even closer than Daley&rsquo;s.</strong></p><p>While C3 does all the work, Lollapalooza actually is co-owned in a 50/50 partnership by the Texas company and Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor, which is run by Rahm&rsquo;s brother, Ari Emanuel. (The concert&rsquo;s founder, Perry Farrell, sold his stake to William Morris back in the alternative era, and is now basically a corporate spokes figure&mdash;the Gorton&rsquo;s Fisherman of the music world.) <a href="http://www.livenationentertainment.com/leadership%20http://www.livenationentertainment.com/leadership">Ari Emanuel also sits on the Board of Directors of Ticketmaster/Live Nation.</a></p><p><strong>7. Rahm promised to appoint an independent negotiator to handle all city deals with C3 and Ticketmaster/Live Nation.</strong></p><p>In addition to his nepotistic ties with C3/William Morris and Ticketmaster/Live Nation, Emanuel received campaign contributions from 15 William Morris employees and the top two corporate executives at Ticketmaster/Live Nation, totaling $156,000 during his first mayoral campaign. In response to this blog&rsquo;s reporting on those contributions, then-campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-02-08/rahm-emanuel-pledges-hands-all-dealings-ticketmasterlive-nation-and-lo">&ldquo;Given his brother&rsquo;s position at WME [William Morris Endeavor] and on the board of Live Nation, Rahm would ask the City Council to appoint an outside negotiator to handle any negotiations with these companies so that there wasn&rsquo;t even a question of favoritism.&rdquo;</a></p><p><strong>8. Rahm broke that promise.</strong></p><p>As mayor, Emanuel failed to appoint that independent negotiator to oversee the new contract with Ticketmaster/Live Nation for Northerly Island or with C3/William Morris for Lollapalooza. The administration has claimed the mayor had no role in those deals, since they were struck by the Park District. But Emanuel hand picks the Park District&rsquo;s board and top executives.</p><p><strong>9.</strong><strong>—</strong><strong> Rahm is raking in the cash for his second run from C3.</strong></p><p>The real reason for the mayor&rsquo;s much-ballyhooed goodwill trip to Austin for South by Southwest 2013 <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-08/news/ct-emanuel-austin-fundraiser-met-20140308_1_campaign-fundraiser-charles-attal-lollapalooza">was revealed by <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporters John Byrne and Bill Ruthhart</a>: Emanuel made the trip to collect &ldquo;campaign donations at a fundraiser thrown for him by the promoters who hold the 10-year contract to put on the Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park.&rdquo; Doesn&rsquo;t this blatantly contradict the executive order Rahm signed forgoing political contributions from city contractors, the <em>Tribune </em>asked? Once again, mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton countered that the rule does not apply because C3 has its deal with the Park District, not with City Hall, a fine distinction many would dismiss.</p><p><strong>—</strong><strong>10. Lollapalooza never has &ldquo;played nice&rdquo; with the Chicago music scene, but Ticketmaster/Live Nation&rsquo;s been even worse.</strong></p><p>In addition to dominating the summer concert scene by its sheer size and scope, Lollapalooza wields unequaled power over the Chicago music world via the radius clauses C3 places on every act that plays its stages. These prohibit artists from performing for six months before the festival and three months after anywhere within 300 miles of Grant Park, which includes Milwaukee, Madison, Iowa City, Detroit, and Indianapolis. C3 claims it waives the radius clause for any band that asks; some artists have disagreed. Either way, the policy remains intact.</p><p>C3, which does not even have an office in Chicago, claims to be a good neighbor to the music scene by making sanctioned after-shows available to local venues. Some promoters and club owners have said that doesn&rsquo;t come close to compensating for the nights they now are dark, but they&rsquo;re almost always hesitant to speak for attribution lest they lose the handful of shows they do get.</p><p>For its part, Ticketmaster/Live Nation has been an even more problematic neighbor. Ticketmaster&rsquo;s egregious &ldquo;convenience fees&rdquo; and poor customer service are notorious, as are its exclusivity agreements with venues. (These mean artists must use Ticketmaster or they cannot play that facility.) Live Nation has aggressively bought up or driven independent local promoters out of business from coast to coast; Chicago is one of the few major cities that still has an independent competitor, Jam Productions, but court testimony has included statements by top Live Nation execs promising to &ldquo;crush, kill, and destroy&rdquo; its smaller rival. And Live Nation&rsquo;s radius clauses are as troubling as C3&rsquo;s.</p><p>Though Ticketmaster&rsquo;s merger with Live Nation in 2010 was roundly criticized by the music industry and legislators on both the left and the right, <a href="http://voices.suntimes.com/arts-entertainment/music/ticketmaster-live-nation-meet/">it nevertheless won the approval of the Obama administration</a>. (At the time, Rahm Emanuel was the president&rsquo;s chief of staff.) <a href="http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/06/breaking-illinois-attorney-general-investigating-lollapalooza-for-anti-trust/27523">And though the Illinois Attorney General investigated Lollapalooza and C3 for possible anti-trust violations in 2010</a>, the probe ended with no action taken. Complaints about the bullying practices of both companies have fallen on deaf ears.</p><p>Also worth noting: The city never has contracted for a thorough, independent Economic Impact Study weighing the benefits of the lakefront concerts staged by C3 and Ticketmaster/Live Nation against the detriments to local music businesses, especially the clubs and independent venues that operate here 365 days a year.</p><p>While the ramifications of the merger remain to be seen, two things are undeniable and don&rsquo;t augur well for the future: Under Ticketmaster/Live Nation, concert tickets and service fees have only gotten more and more expensive while customers have increasingly been treated worse, marketing has grown more obnoxious, and bookings have grown ever more conservative. And competition has dwindled while the giants have thrived, leaving music lovers with fewer alternatives all the time.</p></blockquote><p><strong><u>SOME OF THIS BLOG&rsquo;S KEY REPORTS ON THE SHENANIGANS BEHIND LOLLAPALOOZA, TICKETMASTER/LIVE NATION, AND THE CITY</u></strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/lollapalooza-gift-keeps-giving%E2%80%94-daley-110839">Sept. 24, 2014: Lollapalooza, the gift that keeps giving&mdash;to Daley</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/did-chicago-park-district-sidestep-competitive-bidding-northerly-island">May 30, 2013: Did the Chicago Park District sidestep competitive bidding for the Northerly Island concert venue?</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-03/city-oks-expansion-ticketmasterlive-nation-northerly-island-106215">Mar. 21, 2013: City OKs expansion of Ticketmaster/Live Nation on Northerly Island</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-08/lessons-lollapalooza-2012-101501">Aug. 6, 2012: The lessons of Lollapalooza 2012</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/city-releases-lollapalooza-contract-98324">April 17, 2012: City releases Lollapalooza contract</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/new-lollapalooza-deal-blown-opportunity-98257">April 15, 2012: The new Lollapalooza deal: A blown opportunity</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-14/lollapalooza-finally-will-pay-what-it-owes-97309">March 15, 2012: Lollapalooza finally will pay what it owes</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-14/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-02-01/county-lollapalooza-pay-96038">Feb. 1, 2012: County to Lollapalooza: Pay up!</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-14/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-02-04/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-01-29/state-rep-probes-lollapalooza-sales-tax-95937">Jan. 29, 2012: State rep probes Lollapalooza sales tax </a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-03-14/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-02-04/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-02-01/blog/jim-derogatis/2012-01-23/county-targets-lollapalooza%E2%80%99s-tax-exemption-95730">Jan. 25, 2012: The county targets Lollapalooza&#39;s tax exemption</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-09-18/another-pa-lollapalooza-92124">Sept. 18, 2011: Another pass for Lollapalooza: Restoring Grant Park</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-08-08/demand-builds-probe-lolla-sweetheart-deal-90218">Aug. 8, 2011: Demand builds: Probe Lolla sweetheart deal</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-08-02/rahm-city-will-review-lollapalooza-tax-exemption-90008">Aug. 2, 2011: Rahm: City will review Lollapalooza tax question</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-08-01/does-lollapalooza-hort-chicago-89911">Aug. 1, 2011: Does Lollapalooza $hort Chicago?</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-04-07/two-key-differences-between-mega-fests-dave-matthews-caravan-vs-lollap">April 7, 2011: Two key differences between the mega-fests, Dave Matthews Caravan vs. Lollapalooza</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-02-24/dear-rahm-how-quell-fears-about-your-ties-ticketmasterlive-nation-and-">Feb. 24, 2011: Dear Rahm: How to quell fears about your ties to Ticketmaster/Live Nation and Lollapalooza and fix relations with the Chicago music scene</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-02-08/rahm-emanuel-pledges-hands-all-dealings-ticketmasterlive-nation-and-lo">Feb. 7, 2011: Rahm Emanuel pledges hands off all dealings with Ticketmaster/Live Nation and Lollapalooza</a></p><p><a href="http://wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-02-07/rahm-emanuel-pal-thuggish-concert-giants-ticketmasterlive-nation-and-l">Feb. 4, 2011: Rahm Emanuel: Pal$ with thuggish concert giants Ticketmaster/Live Nation and Lollapalooza</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/jderogatis/2010/06/its-official-ticketmasterlive-nation-free-to-devour-the-concert-business/27048">June 21, 2010: It&rsquo;s official: Ticketmaster/Live Nation free to devour the concert business</a></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>.</strong></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 10:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/it%E2%80%99s-official-death-star-controls-walmart-lake-111279 Freud's goal: Keep Chicago's Lyric Opera relevant http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/freuds-goal-keep-chicagos-lyric-opera-relevant-111263 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP199355075472.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When Anthony Freud was 14, his favorite pastime was going to the opera in London and then, on the train ride home to Wimbledon where he lived with his parents, &quot;dreaming about how I could do it better when I ran a company of my own some day.&quot;</p><p>He&#39;s gotten his chance, not once but three times: first in Wales, then in Houston and now in Chicago, where he has been general director of the Lyric Opera since 2011.</p><p>Freud is only the fourth person to run the 60-year-old Lyric, and the first, after founder Carol Fox, who didn&#39;t come up through the ranks. Fox established the company&#39;s reputation for artistic excellence, but it was her successors, Ardis Krainik and William Mason, who stabilized its finances.</p><p>Lyric long enjoyed a subscriber base that was envied throughout the industry, but that has slipped in the wake of the economic meltdown. Changing tastes and competing demands on people&#39;s time also have contributed to a decline in ticket sales.</p><p>Despite these problems, Lyric ended last season in the black on a budget of more than $70 million. Meanwhile, the similar-sized San Francisco Opera and New York&#39;s Metropolitan Opera &mdash; five times as big &mdash; finished in the red.</p><p>But, as Freud was quick to point out during an interview last week in his office on the fourth floor of the Civic Opera House, though Lyric is financially sound for now, &quot;Stability is also fragile, especially post-2008.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Arts organizations the world over went through a period of existing in hermetically sealed bubbles,&quot; he said. &quot;We felt we were doing a good job ... and if it ain&#39;t broke, why fix it? Those assumptions gradually proved less and less reliable, to the point where they became almost irrelevant.&quot;</p><p>Keeping Lyric relevant is much on Freud&#39;s mind these days. And his proudest initiative is Lyric Unlimited, an outreach to cultural and community groups that previously had little or no exposure to opera.</p><p>For starters, he brought to Chicago a mariachi opera, &quot;Cruzar la Cara de la Luna&quot; (&quot;To Cross the Face of the Moon&quot;) that he had commissioned in Houston. It played one performance at the 3,600-seat Civic Opera House and several more in neighborhoods with large Mexican populations.</p><p>A second mariachi opera is to have its world premiere in March, and next year will also see performances in smaller venues of a klezmer opera commissioned in conjunction with performances in the main house of the Holocaust-themed opera &quot;The Passenger.&quot; Freud has also engaged composer Matthew Aucoin to create a children&#39;s opera called &quot;Second Nature&quot; that will premiere with a free performance in the Lincoln Park Zoo and then tour to schools.</p><p>&quot;The days when community engagement was thought of as, &#39;Here is La Boheme, come and see it, you should enjoy it&#39; ... that&#39;s what I call colonization rather than collaboration.&quot; Freud said. &quot;I&#39;ve been really clear with our board that the justification for investing in Lyric Unlimited is NOT to build our subscriber base. If we wanted to invest half a million dollars to sell more full-price tickets, we wouldn&#39;t do projects in economically deprived areas.&quot;</p><p>Not that he&#39;s neglecting the main house. Lyric&#39;s next season will include its first new piece in more than a decade, an adaptation of the Ann Patchett novel &quot;Bel Canto&quot; by composer Jimmy Lopez. That work has been nurtured by Lyric&#39;s creative consultant, soprano Renee Fleming, who also has sparked a collaboration with the improv comedy troupe Second City.</p><p>A series of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals that play after the regular season is proving a financial boon as well as bringing in potential new customers for opera. Last season&#39;s &quot;The Sound of Music&quot; played 30 performances and drew 71,000 people. More than 40,000 of those said they had never been to the opera house before.</p><p>He is also commissioning new looks at standard works, like the Robert Falls production of Mozart&#39;s &quot;Don Giovanni&quot; that opened the current season. Upcoming is a new production of Wagner&#39;s &quot;Ring&quot; cycle by director David Pountney, and on his wish-list for the future is Berlioz&#39;s epic &quot;The Trojans,&quot; never performed at Lyric, as well as the five-act version of Verdi&#39;s &quot;Don Carlos.&quot;</p><p>Overall, Freud is optimistic that Lyric and opera in general will survive, despite rapid changes in viewing and spending habits.</p><p>&quot;What is opera, after all,&quot; he said. &quot;It&#39;s telling stories through words and music. And that&#39;s utterly universal, transcending continents and centuries and cultures.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/freuds-goal-keep-chicagos-lyric-opera-relevant-111263 Gonzo holiday music goes Hollywood http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/gonzo-holiday-music-goes-hollywood-111234 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/nyiWDeKL15s" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em>Sound Opinions </em>has benefited from the expertise of its friend and champion Christmas music expert Andy Cirzan for&hellip; well, pretty much for as long as there has been a <em>Sound Opinions.</em></p><p>As usual, Andy delivered the goods in his inimitable way on last week&rsquo;s episode, <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/472">which you can stream or download here</a>, as well as making this year&rsquo;s collection&mdash;a set of wonderful holiday pop esoterica ideal for your spaceage bachelor/bachelorette pad&mdash;<a href="http://soundopinions.org/christmas">available for free download complete with artwork here</a>. But Chicago&rsquo;s Kris Kringle ain&rsquo;t done yet.</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%20cover%202014.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>The biggest news this season is that Andy features prominently in a new documentary by director Mitchell Kezin entitled <em>Jingle Bell Rocks!</em> With other appearances by the likes of Rev. Run from Run-D.M.C., Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, cult cinema hero John Waters, Dr. Demento, and, um, the hosts of the aforementioned <em>Sound Opinions</em>, the film digs deep into the weird underground community of hardcore collectors of tuneful Christmas strangeness. And, needless to say, the soundtrack is amazing.</p><p><em>Jingle Bell Rocks! </em>will screen at View and Brew at the Vic Theatre (owned, incidentally, by Jam Productions, the local concert promoters who thoughtfully give Andy a day job to fuel his crate-digging habits) every evening starting Friday, Dec. 19, and running through Christmas. <a href="http://www.brewview.com/">More info can be found here</a>.</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.JPG" style="height: 470px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Andy and his pal and Jam cohort John Soss also will highlight some of their more XRT-oriented faves on that station tonight, and they&rsquo;ll spin live at <a href="http://www.logan-hardware.com/">Logan Hardware</a> from 9 to midnight tomorrow (where director Kezin also will be hanging and drinking eggnog). Then Andy will spotlight his holiday jazz favorites on WDCB 90.9-FM with Barry Winograd on Christmas Eve, while, Soss will be a guest on WGN-AM on the new show hosted by my old <em>Sun-Times</em> colleague Dave Hoekstra from 10 to midnight Saturday.</p><p>Finally, if you&rsquo;re still curious about the roots of Andy&rsquo;s quest from Christmas craziness, here is a piece I wrote for the <em>Sun-Times </em>back in 2000, which was still early in his obsession, if not in the history of holiday music.</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%20mask.PNG" style="height: 258px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><blockquote><p>There are people who enjoy Christmas music. There are people who love Christmas music. And then there are people who are insanely, obsessively, perhaps unhealthily devoted to Christmas music.</p><p>Chicagoan Andy Cirzan is definitely in the latter group.</p><p>There is music in Cirzan&rsquo;s life that does not revolve around Christmas; his day job happens to be head talent buyer for local concert promoters Jam Productions. (He&rsquo;s the guy who cuts a deal with Pearl Jam to perform at the United Center, then works with the band from start to finish to see that the show goes smoothly.)</p><p>But Christmas music is Cirzan&rsquo;s true passion. For the last 13 years, he has spent 365 days a year scouring the dusty bins of used record stores to find the rarest holiday music ever recorded. He then compiles his finds on cassette, duplicating the resulting tape to send out in lieu of Christmas cards to a select group of friends.</p><p>Cirzan started the first year by dubbing five tapes at home. This year, he went to a professional duplicating house and made more than 300 copies of a compilation that he dubs &ldquo;Christmas Conundrum 2000.&rdquo;</p><p>I talked with Cirzan about his mania and this year&rsquo;s Christmas discoveries.</p><p>Q. I know about a dozen music nuts who make Christmas tapes each year, but you&rsquo;re the most ambitious. Do you trade tapes with a lot of other people who share your enthusiasm?</p><p>A. It&rsquo;s weird, but I&rsquo;m not involved in that little tape cabal thing. I trade with about five or six people. Most of the tapes that I hear aren&rsquo;t what I consider to be interesting. I don&rsquo;t want to hear David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing &ldquo;Little Drummer Boy&rdquo; again.</p><p>Q. Most Christmas collectors are amateurs, while you&rsquo;re sort of the Billy Corgan of the genre.</p><p>A. Don&rsquo;t dare say that! But now that this year&rsquo;s tape is done, next year&rsquo;s tape starts. It&rsquo;s that serious. Now, all the old vinyl shops will start to put out the holiday releases, so I&rsquo;ll go in there and pillage, but I can&rsquo;t use that stuff for this year&rsquo;s tape because it&rsquo;s already too late. I have to collect 365 days a year, every opportunity I&rsquo;ve got, and then usually around October or so I&rsquo;ll sit down and start to really whittle down. I go through and listen to everything. Literally, if I buy a hundred 45s and three of them end up being usable, that&rsquo;s about the ratio that it comes down to. And finding those hundred 45s is just obsessive behavior.</p><p>Q. So what did you come up with this year?</p><p>A. This year it&rsquo;s 100 percent vinyl, nothing from CD. I have 19 new songs on the tape, and all but three are from 45s from the &lsquo;40s, &lsquo;50s and &lsquo;60s. One of the highlights is a song on a homemade 45. Hallmark or whoever used to let you send in a reel tape of a personal Christmas greeting and they&rsquo;d slap it on a 45. Whenever I see those, I always buy them; every once in a while you just find one that&rsquo;s from another planet. This one is called &ldquo;My Santa Claus Has No Ho Ho Ho,&rdquo; and it&rsquo;s by a woman named Lynne Ostergren. It&rsquo;s a freakout. It has to be early &lsquo;70s, because there&rsquo;s some really unbelievable cheesy synth accompaniment that sounds like maybe her brother or sister are in the band&nbsp;--&nbsp;a budding Partridge Family-type thing&nbsp;--&nbsp;and Mom and Dad got the reel-to-reel out and let them wail. It&rsquo;s almost like a Daniel Johnston kind of thing&nbsp;--&nbsp;outsider art&nbsp;--&nbsp;right on that fine line between just awful and absolutely amazing.</p><p>I found this other tune called &ldquo;Santa&rsquo;s Magical Bag&rdquo; by Charlotte Sanders, and it&rsquo;s like a hippie-dippy song, a &lsquo;60s thing with psychedelic overtones that&rsquo;s all about what&rsquo;s in Santa&rsquo;s magical bag. I can&rsquo;t identify specific drug references or anything, but it&rsquo;s definitely that kind of &ldquo;Spill the Wine&rdquo; sort of thing with a breathy flute solo on it. How many Christmas tunes have Haight-Ashbury flute solos on them?</p><p>A few of the tracks on this year&rsquo;s tape are from 78s. One is called &ldquo;Yingle, Yingle Yumpin&rsquo; Beans,&rdquo; and it&rsquo;s by a guy named Ole Svenson. It&rsquo;s about this concoction that Santa Claus makes and feeds to the reindeer&nbsp;--&nbsp;it involves beans and various spices&nbsp;--&nbsp;and it&rsquo;s the fuel that makes the reindeer get into action. The next thing you know, Santa Claus is eating some of the stuff and he&rsquo;s going crazy. The song is real wound up, like carnival organ stuff. I had to buy a 78 player just so I could hear it. I still can&rsquo;t figure out how I rigged it up to my stereo, but I did it.</p><p>Q. You also have a &ldquo;B tape&rdquo; these days, right?</p><p>A. I started to do a B tape last year. The first side is a tribute to one artist&nbsp;--&nbsp;last year it was Little Jimmy Osmond. This year the tape is called &ldquo;The Christmas Artistry of Jimmy Boyd&rdquo;; he was a kid when he did these recordings in the &lsquo;40s, and he&rsquo;s got a voice like a baby bullfrog. The B side of the tape is the Twilight Zone Christmas, stuff that is just too weird and disturbing to put on my main tape&nbsp;--&nbsp;and that&rsquo;s saying a lot. It&rsquo;s the really, really outside-the-box Christmas stuff where it&rsquo;s almost impossible to listen to more than once. You just sit back and marvel that this stuff ever got made.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the beauty of Christmas music: One song can be a crazy, homemade, outsider pop thing like the Shaggs, another thing can be a totally smokin&rsquo; jazz tune, and another can be a hillbilly song</p><p>Q. Can you name some of the musicians who dig your tape? I&rsquo;m asking you, so it can&rsquo;t be construed as gratuitous name-dropping.</p><p>A. Most of the people who get the tape are friends, long-term people I&rsquo;ve known in the business, like R.E.M., Robert Plant, the Smashing Pumpkins, Beck and Tom Waits. Phish puts the tape on the hold music on the telephones at their office; that&rsquo;s something that makes me feel good. I got a note last year from Pearl Jam&rsquo;s Jeff Ament that he played it while he and his family were sitting down to Christmas dinner.</p><p>Basically, this is something that makes me feel good. I spend all this time making this thing&mdash;it&rsquo;s obsessive behavior on my part, and what I go through is really disturbing in a lot of ways&mdash;but if around the holidays people are listening to my tape and they say something like, &ldquo;Oh, man, I was driving around in my car the other day and I was just cracking up,&rdquo; that&rsquo;s all I need to hear. It&rsquo;s my outlet and my way to say, &ldquo;Isn&rsquo;t music interesting?&rdquo; If you think Christmas music is just &ldquo;Jingle Bells,&rdquo; wait till you hear &ldquo;My Santa Claus Has No Ho Ho Ho.&rdquo; You get a little view into a world that is way weirder than you can ever imagine.</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><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>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/gonzo-holiday-music-goes-hollywood-111234 Second City's 24 ­hour improv and music marathon http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/second-citys-24-%C2%ADhour-improv-and-music-marathon-111215 <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/Second%20City.jpg" style="height: 237px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div><p>Some of the most adventurous players in Chicago&rsquo;s music and improv scenes will once again join forces for a tuneful and very funny 24-hour benefit for the families in need helped by <a href="http://www.onwardhouse.org/">Onward Neighborhood House</a>.</p><p><strong>The Second City That Never Sleeps: 24 Hour </strong>celebrates its 13th year starting Tuesday at 6 p.m. and running through Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Second City e.t.c. Theatre, 1608 N. Wells. Among this year&rsquo;s participants: Kim Deal, J.C. Brooks &amp; the Uptown Sound, Robbie Fulks, Jeff Tweedy, Steve Albini, Fred Armisen, and Natasha Lyonne.</p><p>Tickets are $20 at the door throughout the event, which also will <a href="http://www.letterstosantachicago.com/">stream live here</a> (and accept donations via PayPal) for those who can&rsquo;t make it in person&mdash;though this is a party best experienced live, and the event also will include a number of special items and experiences up for auction.</p><p>The good-will partnership will continue after the holidays with the <strong>Our Living Room Show </strong>in the UP Comedy Club on Monday, January 5. That all&shy;star evening features sketch comedy and improv from <em>Saturday Night Live </em>cast members and Second City vets including Aidy Bryant, Mike O&rsquo;Brien, and Tim Robinson, as well as an intimate performance by Wilco&rsquo;s Tweedy. Tickets are on sale now via the UP Comedy Club box office (312-662-&shy;4562) or <a href="http://upcomedyclub.com/show.cfm?id=358419&amp;cart">http://upcomedyclub.com/show.cfm?id=358419&amp;cart</a>, <strong>with prices ranging from $75 general admission to $150 front row.</strong>*</p><p>(* Price listed incorrectly on an earlier version of this post.)</p><p><a href="facebook.com/secondcity24hour">More info on both events can be found here.</a></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><strong>.</strong></p></p> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/second-citys-24-%C2%ADhour-improv-and-music-marathon-111215 Reasons for Living 2014 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/reasons-living-2014-111177 <p><p>Yes, the time has once again arrived for the most sacred if clichéd of rock-critic tasks: the annual Year-End Best-of Albums list.</p><p>As I note annually, the following is my tally not of the year&rsquo;s most &ldquo;important&rdquo; or &ldquo;successful&rdquo; releases, however you define those terms, but of those I listened to and loved most, which kept me coming back time after time, and which I am most eager to hear again <em>right now&mdash;</em>and to share with you<em>.</em></p><p>So, working in reverse order from bottom to top, here are my Top 40 albums of 2014 (<em>drum roll, please!</em>).</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/40%20Cohen.jpg" style="height: 293px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>40. Leonard Cohen, <em>Popular Problems</em> (Columbia)</strong></p><p>Ranking second only to Bob Dylan as our greatest living songwriter, Leonard Cohen hasn&rsquo;t always gotten it right in the studio, sometimes yielding to pointlessly frilly productions that only detract from that monolithic baritone rasp. Here, at age 80, he keeps things mostly simple, the better to let his wit and wisdom shine. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/461/#leonardcohen"><em>Stream the review at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/39%20Sharon.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>39. Sharon Van Etten, </strong><em><strong>Are We There </strong></em><strong>(Jagjaguwar)</strong></p><p>The fourth album from New Jersey-bred, Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Sharon Van Etten is her lushest yet&mdash;in fact, it&rsquo;s almost baroque, with its synth bass, piano, organ, strings, harp, woodwinds, and the occasional backing choirist. Yet, as evidenced by the epic standout &ldquo;Your Love is Killing Me,&rdquo; she only has grown more powerful in charting the struggles of romance and uncertainty. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-05/sharon-van-etten-goes-baroque-110242"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/445/#sharonvanetten"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/38%20Lykke.png" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>38. </strong><strong>Lykke Li, <em>I Never Learn </em>(LL Recordings)</strong></p><p>On album number three, 28-year-old Lykke Li Zachrisson straddles a fascinating line between chart-topping pop diva and soul-baring underground darling with a set of gorgeous understated anthems which are anthemic nonetheless. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-05/lykke-li-does-heartbreak-well-110179"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/442/#lykkeli"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/37%20Lips.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>37. The Black Lips, <em>Underneath the Rainbow </em>(Vice)</strong></p><p>Capping a chaotic bender that now stretches through 15 years and seven albums, Georgia&rsquo;s bad boys the Black Lips add a bit more focus to the songwriting and up the wattage on the hooks, giving us the most tuneful set (in a <em>Nuggets </em>way) of the out-of-control bender that is their career. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-03/black-lips-hone-their-songcraft-without-getting-slick-109944"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/435"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/36%20Bells.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>36. Broken Bells, <em>After the Disco </em>(Columbia)</strong></p><p>The second offering from the stellar collaboration between Shins front man James Mercer and super-producer Brian &ldquo;Dangermouse&rdquo; Burton is a more understated affair than their debut; note that the title confesses that this is music for <em>after </em>the dancing. But that&rsquo;s fine by me, as Mercer never has sounded more soulful, and Burton only gets to revel more in his delightful take on Eno ambience. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/427"><em>Stream the review on</em> Sound Opinions</a><strong> </strong><em>or </em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/467"><em>listen to the band&rsquo;s interview and live performance.</em></a></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/35%20Lydia.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>35. Lydia Loveless, <em>Somewhere Else </em>(Bloodshot Records)</strong></p><p>What a better world we&rsquo;d live in if America&rsquo;s teenage girls admired this fearless Ohio cow punk instead of Taylor Swift. Lydia Loveless&rsquo; third is simply stunning, with her music and lyrics growing ever more mature without sacrificing an iota of that hell-raising attitude. <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-03/rimshots-powerful-stuff-two-alt-country-hell-raisers-109805"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/34%20Bob.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>34. Bob Mould, <em>Beauty &amp; Ruin </em>(Merge)</strong></p><p>Defiantly riding the third high of his post-Hüskers career, our curmudgeonly but lovable Uncle Bob continues the melodic adrenaline rush on his 11<sup>th</sup> solo album, once again fronting the powerful but empathetic rhythm section of drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, and raging valiantly against the dying of the light. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/uncle-bob-does-it-again-110375"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/448"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/33%20Olivia.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>33. Olivia Jean, <em>Bathtub Love Killings </em>(Third Man Records)</strong></p><p>On her first solo outing, moonlighting Black Belle and Third Man Records session ace Olivia Jean emerges as Lana Del Rey&rsquo;s worst nightmare, with retro-cool chanteuse seduction done right, sacrificing none of the self-empowerment or self-respect. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/olivia-jean-lana-del-reys-worst-nightmare-111060"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/32%20Weezer.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>32. Weezer, <em>Everything Will Be Alright in the End </em>(Universal Republic)</strong></p><p>For my money, this is the best Weezer release since <em>The Green Album </em><em>in 2000 because it&rsquo;s the most fun, as well as the best set of smart, well-crafted pop tunes</em>. And nobody muses on the joys of playing in a band and falling in love with music better than Rivers Cuomo. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/463/#weezer"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/31%20Girl.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>31. Got a Girl, </strong><strong><em>I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now</em></strong><strong> (Bulk Recordings)</strong></p><p>This may not be a collaboration with the pop wattage of Broken Bells, but actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead and producer Dan &ldquo;the Automator&rdquo; Nakamura nonetheless surprise and delight with this homage to French café pop and spaceage bachelor pad music. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450/#gotagirl"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/30%20Graham.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>30. </strong><strong>Edvard Graham Lewis, <em>All Under </em>(Editions Mego)</strong></p><p>The latest creative spurt in the long and intensely rewarding career of English art-punks Wire happily extends to the new solo offerings from bassist, lyricist, and sometimes baritone vocalist Graham Lewis, who describes the stronger of his two 2014 offerings as &ldquo;a song-based album that resides amongst the cracks between narrative and song, sound and music&hellip; [and which] conjures the spirit of Wire&rsquo;s experimental pop trajectory.&rdquo; And he&rsquo;s not exaggerating. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/solo-treats-wires-bassist-110620"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/29%20Eno.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>29. Brian Eno/Karl Hyde, <em>Someday World </em>(Warp)</strong></p><p>Also giving us two discs in 2014 was the iconic super-genius Eno, working in collaboration with electronic musician Karl Hyde of Underworld. This, the first, was the stronger and more pop-oriented effort, with Hyde completing unfinished Eno pieces revolving around Phillip Glass minimalism and enticing afro-beats. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/28%20Syd.jpg" style="height: 266px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>28. Syd Arthur, <em>Sound Mirror </em>(Harvest)</strong></p><p>Young Brits revive the Canterbury sounds of &rsquo;70s progressive-psychedelic-folk-jazz-rockers such as Soft Machine and Camel, with wispy vocal melodies, twisting rhythms, burbling synthesizers, snaking guitar lines, and soaring violin from Kate Bush&rsquo;s nephew. A geek-out joy. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/return-canterbury-110756"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/27%20Vaselines.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>27. The Vaselines, <em>V for Vaselines </em>(Rosary Music)</strong></p><p>The third studio album in 28 years from Scottish cult heroes and Kurt Cobain favorites the Vaselines was well worth the wait, with the trademark snark, linear rhythms, and unforgettable melodies as strong as they&rsquo;ve ever been. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/%E2%80%98v-vaselines%E2%80%99-very-very-good-110844"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/26%20Preatures.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>26. The Preatures, <em>Blue Planet Eyes </em>(Harvest)</strong></p><p>Preatures singer Izzi Manfredi&rsquo;s leather-jacketed, self-assured, coolly disaffected update on the classic Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde stance perfectly meshes with percolating rhythms that chart a tuneful course between Motown, New Wave, and modern electronic dance music, all with exquisite production by Jim Eno of Spoon. <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-10/preatures-walking-sunshine-blue-planet-eyes-110949"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/470"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/25%20Jack.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>25. Jack White, </strong><em><strong>Lazaretto</strong></em><strong> (Third Man/XL/Columbia)</strong></p><p>If the second album under Jack White&rsquo;s own name isn&rsquo;t quite the surprise of his solo bow, hearing him turn one-page short stories and plays written at age 19 into vital music for the here and now is no less a gritty, soulful, alternately hard-hitting and seductive/lulling joy. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/no-surprises-jack-whites-second-solo-album-110314"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em> or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/446/#jackwhite"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/24%20Rentals.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>24. The Rentals, <em>Lost in Alphaville </em>(Polyvinyl)</strong></p><p>Proving that he&rsquo;s no alternative-era footnote, Matt Sharp returns with his post-Weezer combo to revel in gloriously fat and glitchy Moog drones, a wonderfully endearing and otherworldly future-past melancholy vibe, and a bevy of memorable and infectious hooks.<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/remember-rentals-110842"> <em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/23%20Muffs.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>23. The Muffs, </strong><strong><em>Whoop Dee Doo </em></strong><strong>(Burger Records/Cherry Red)</strong></p><p>West Coast garage-popsters the Muffs may not be reinventing the wheel on their sixth album, the first in a decade. So what? As with Joey Ramone and his band of brothers, I never tire of Kim Shattuck and her fellow tuneful hell-raisers delivering the pop-punk goods. Then again, I may just be the weird boy next door immortalized in the opening track. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450/#gotagirl"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/22%20Angel.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>22. </strong><strong>Angel Olsen, <em>Burn Your Fire for No Witness </em>(Jagjaguwar)</strong></p><p>On her third album, St. Louis-to-Chicago-to-North Carolina transplant Angel Olsen summons not so much Patsy Cline-meets-Leonard Cohen, but rather a more rootsy, less pretentious early Liz Phair. And she simply slays while doing so. <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-03/rimshots-powerful-stuff-two-alt-country-hell-raisers-109805"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <strong><em>or</em></strong> <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/447"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/21%20Tuneyards.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>21. tUnE-yArDs, N</strong><em><strong>ikk</strong></em><strong>i N</strong><em><strong>ac</strong></em><strong>k</strong><strong> <strong>(4AD)</strong></strong></p><p>The third afro-pop gem from Merrill Garbus proves that her loopy methodology is no novelty, and the real source of her appeal is that powerhouse voice and an ever more sophisticated and nuanced global feminist perspective. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-05/tune-yards-delivers-its-third-gem-nikki-nack-110135"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <strong><em>or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/441"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/20%20Jewels.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>20. </strong><strong>Run the Jewels, <em>Run the Jewels 2 </em>(Mass Appeal)</strong></p><p>Honing in on age 40, Killer Mike and El-P may be great granddads by hip-hop standards, and they&rsquo;ve always been old-school in their subject matter and sonics. But such silliness only matters to the shallow. Show me a more passionate, angrier, musically undeniable rap release this year, I dare ya (and I&rsquo;ll bet you can&rsquo;t). <em>Listen for an upcoming interview and performance on </em>Sound Opinions<em>.</em></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/19%20Sinead.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>19. Sinead O&rsquo;Connor, <em>I&#39;m Not Bossy, I&#39;m the Boss </em>(Nettwerk Music Group)</strong></p><p>Sinead O&rsquo;Connor may be famously frustrated with the machinery of pop stardom and dealing with plenty of turbulence in her personal life, but her music rarely has suffered, and her voice never has diminished. Here she seems to be having a bonafide blast rocking out once more&mdash;even if it&rsquo;s a bit hard to buy her contention that this is &ldquo;just an album of&nbsp;love songs.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/sinead-o%E2%80%99connor-has-some-fun-her-boss-new-album-110662"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <strong><em>or</em></strong> <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/456"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/18%20Carr.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>18. Martin Carr, <em>The Breaks </em>(Tapete Records)</strong></p><p>Proving that he hasn&rsquo;t lost a step in 16 years, Martin Carr, the driving force behind &rsquo;90s Britpoppers the Boo Radleys, returns with an unforgettable set of songs about not fitting in, though that no longer means the systematic derangement of all the senses via psychedelics, but smoking pot before dropping the little ones off at school in the minivan. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/rad-return-martin-carr-110812"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/17%20Ty.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>17. Ty Segall, <em>Manipulator </em>(Drag City)</strong></p><p>Anyone tempted to argue that lo-fi garage-rock hero Ty Segall has at times been too prolific for his own good hasn&rsquo;t heard this concise, supremely focused, and exquisitely well-crafted set of psychedelic-pop/garage-rock gems, the finest single album in his bountiful catalog. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/ty-segall-prolific-brilliant-110755"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <em>or </em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/360/#tysegall"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/16%20Lucinda.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>16. Lucinda Williams, <em>Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone </em>(Highway 20)</strong></p><p>As much of a songwriting treasure as the aforementioned Leonard Cohen, legendary stonecutter Lucinda Williams gave us the unlikely gift of a sprawling, loose, and endlessly rewarding 100-minutes-plus double album, with more than enough strong moments to last us a decade, if she deigns to take that long before gracing us again. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/461"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/15%20Porn.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>15. The New Pornographers, <em>Brill Bruisers </em>(Matador)</strong></p><p>I&rsquo;ll confess that I&rsquo;d given up on being surprised much less thrilled by this Great White indie-pop supergroup ever again, but its sixth album is the best it&rsquo;s delivered, thanks largely to a return to the sunshine, an amping-up of the pure pop pleasures, and under-heralded heroine <var>Kathryn Calder</var><em>. </em>Plus, &ldquo;Dancehall Domine&rdquo; may be my favorite tune of 2014, second only perhaps to the Meghan Trainor guilty pleasure of &ldquo;All About That Bass.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/459"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/14%20Damon.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>14. Damon Albarn, <em>Everyday Robots </em>(Warner Bros.)</strong></p><p>Like Jack White, it took former Blur and Gorillaz front man Damon Albarn half a lifetime to give us his first solo effort, but when he finally stands naked and alone, he does it wholeheartedly, with some of the most quietly beautiful music of his career coupled with some of the most honest and introspective lyrics. And the title track is one of my favorite testaments ever to the solace and antidote to loneliness that can be found in music. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-04/damon-albarn-bares-his-soul-his-first-solo-album-110057"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/13%20Freedia.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>13. Big Freedia, <em>Just Be Free</em></strong><strong> (Queen Diva Music)</strong></p><p>Genre- and gender-hopping Freddie Ross/Big Freedia is as undeniable a force of nature as the hurricane that slapped his beloved New Orleans. To call it &ldquo;sissy bounce&rdquo; is to limit its sensual appeal, which to my mind knows no boundaries or limitations. Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law&mdash;so long as thou shall shake thy booty. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450/#gotagirl"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/12-Tweens.jpg" title="" /></div><p><strong>12. Tweens, <em>TWEENS </em></strong><strong>(Frenchkiss Records)</strong></p><p>The Cincinnati punk group led by Bridget Battle somehow merges girl-group doo-wop and Black Lips-style, no-holds-barred garage punk. And it absolutely takes no prisoners. <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/450/#gotagirl"><em>Stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions<em>.</em></a></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/11%20TVOR.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>11. TV on the Radio, <em>Seeds </em>(Harvest) </strong></p><p>Ending a break many thought would be permanent, Brooklyn-based art-rockers TV on the Radio mine the loss of their bassist for soulful catharis and quiet tunefulness that also extends to the best all-out pop song of their career, the gleeful &ldquo;Happy Idiot,&rdquo; a thinking hipster&rsquo;s answer to Pharrell&rsquo;s &ldquo;Happy.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/tv-radio-mines-sorrow-soul-111119"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/10%20Spoon.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>10. </strong><strong>Spoon, <em>They Want My Soul </em>(Loma Vista)</strong></p><p>How is it that indie-rock&rsquo;s most devoted minimalists only get better and better while rarely adding a new twist or turn to their basic ingredients of driving grooves, melodic drones, and laconic, charmingly alienated vocals? I really can&rsquo;t say, but the undeniable truth is that no group in rock does more with less to get under your skin and inside your head. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-08/spoon-has-soul-spare-110608"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <strong><em>or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/454"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions</a><strong>.</strong></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/9%20Courts.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>9. Parquet Courts, <em>Sunbathing Animal </em>(What&#39;s Your Rupture?)</strong></p><p>Deceptively ambitious slackers Parquet Courts continue their casual brilliance, combining Television and Pavement with a bit more of the former on a set that is more unapologetically art-rock and slightly less focused on song craft, with an epic centerpiece (the 7:13 &ldquo;Instant Disassembly&rdquo;) that&rsquo;s as much of a tour-de-force mission statement as &ldquo;Marquee Moon.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/most-ambitious-slackers-you%E2%80%99ll-ever-hear-110409"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/8%20Kelis.png" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>8. Kelis, <em>Food </em>(Ninja Tunes)</strong></p><p>Proving she has a lot more on her menu than &ldquo;Milkshake,&rdquo; the sixth studio album from Kelis takes us from electronic soup to neo-soul nuts, courtesy of spot-on production by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Saucy and sweet, but full of pride and power, and delicious from start to finish. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-04/kelis-cooks-delicious-feast-110081"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a> <strong><em>or </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/454"><em>listen to her interview and performance on</em> Sound Opinions</a><strong><em>.</em></strong></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/7%20Fucked.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>7. F*cked Up, <em>Glass Boys </em>(Matador)</strong></p><p>Lacking any grand concept this time around, the uncompromising, punishing, but ridiculously tuneful Toronto art-punks simply deliver the goods with a set of the best in this &ldquo;hardcore&rdquo; genre since the heyday of Hüsker Dü. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-06/fcked-fckin%E2%80%99-rules-110332"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/6%20Gotobeds.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>6. The Gotobeds, <em>Poor People Are Revolting</em> (12XU)</strong></p><p>Named for the enigmatic drummer in Wire but following in the stoned and starving footsteps of Parquet Courts, Pittsburgh&rsquo;s Gotobeds have less in common with either of those bands than with the sloppy brilliance of <em>Let It Be</em>-era Replacements and the postmodern-pop of early Pavement. And that&rsquo;s a fine, fine thing. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/slacker-rock-mudslide-continues-110740"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/5%20Shellac.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>5. Shellac, <em>Dude Incredible </em>(Touch and Go)</strong></p><p>The fifth time around turns out to be the most impressive from Steve Albini since he was at the height of his pummeling powers in Big Black. Together with his storied collaborators, he relies less on predictable, overly clinical math-rock precision and more on storytelling, songcraft, and dare I say melody. No, really! <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-10/back-shellacking-111023"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/4%20Aphex.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>4. Aphex Twin, <em>Syro </em>(Warp Records)</strong></p><p>The question isn&rsquo;t where Richard D. James has been, but why he&rsquo;s chosen to release music again as the Aphex Twin, lo these many years after his groundbreaking &rsquo;90s. I can&rsquo;t answer that, but I can happily report that he still delivers a more varied sonic palette and a more exciting listening experience on one track than many electronic artists who fill arenas now provide in an hours-long set. And he has a better, much more twisted sense of humor to boot. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-10/return-aphex-twin-110978"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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/3%20Butcherettes.jpg" style="height: 306px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>3. Le Butcherettes, <em>Cry is for the Flies </em>(Nadie Sound)</strong></p><p>Long though the wait was for her second album, Mexican art-punk Teri &ldquo;Gender Bender&rdquo; Suaréz returned with undiminished ferocity, ready to burn down a long list of offensive targets, from male hegemony to that vile wall between her country and this one. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-04/le-butcherettes-are-back-vengeance-110032"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></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%20Hex.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>2. <strong>Ex Hex, <em>Rips </em>(Merge)</strong></strong></p><p>A longtime underground heroine who&rsquo;s never quite gotten her due, even as the guitar-vocal foil to Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag, bandleader Mary Timony emerged anew fronting a power trio with drummer Laura Harris and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Betsy Wright, recording with &rsquo;80s hero Mitch Easter, and tearing through punky garage-rock that kicks harder than she ever has. The band calls it &ldquo;twelve songs about underdogs, guys stealing your wallet, schoolyard brawls, and getting bent,&rdquo; and it&rsquo;s simply unforgettable and absolutely essential. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-09/mary-timony-cast-spell-me-110849"><em>Read the full review on this blog.</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</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/2%20Against%20Me.jpg" style="height: 362px; width: 400px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>1. Against Me!, <em>Transgender Dysphoria Blues </em>(Red Distribution)</strong></p><p>Now based in Chicago and led by Laura Jane Grace, anthemic political punks Against Me! deliver a moving, deeply empathetic, and very much needed message to the transgender community, though by no means is the rousing music or the lyrical calls for humane behavior exclusive of anyone, anywhere. This is to say, this album was needed in Ferguson as much as in San Francisco, or indeed on the south and west sides of our Windy City. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-02/against-me-inspiration-everyone-109640"><em>Read the full review on this blog</em></a><strong><em>, </em></strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/428/"><em>stream the discussion at</em> Sound Opinions</a><em>, and listen for an upcoming interview and live performance on the show.</em></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/471"><em>Listen to Greg Kot and me each discuss our five favorite albums of 2014 on this week</em></a><strong><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/show/471"><em>&rsquo;s episode of </em>Sound Opinions</a>, <em>always our favorite of the year. And f</em></strong><em>ollow me on Twitter </em></strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</a><strong> or join me on </strong><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340">Facebook</a><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 12:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/reasons-living-2014-111177 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