WBEZ | Music http://www.wbez.org/news/music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 Savages join Bo Ningen and have a (Hugo) ball http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/savages-join-bo-ningen-and-have-hugo-ball-111126 <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/savages%20bo%20ningen.jpg" style="height: 151px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Drawing energy from/reacting to the chaotic horrors of World War I, many of the performers at Hugo Ball&rsquo;s Cabaret Voltaire, ground zero for the Dada movement, experimented with brutal, spontaneous, and uncompromising forms of clatter that they called &ldquo;sound&rdquo; or &ldquo;simultaneous&rdquo; poetry, sometimes resulting in patrons at the Swiss nightclub angrily storming the stage.</p><p><em>Words to the Blind, </em>a collaboration between Japanese noise-rockers Bo Ningen and English art-punks Savages that attempts to bring those Dadaist concepts into the New Millennium, is not an easy listen, but it&rsquo;s unlikely to result in anyone rioting. More likely Savages fans will be surprised that the group has abandoned the minimalist concision, laser focus, and camouflaged melody that made <em>Silence Yourself </em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/savages-drop-startlingly-powerful-debut-107065">the best album of 2013</a> in favor of&hellip; well, pretty much the exact opposite: a sprawling, unapologetically messy, occasionally tuneless, sometimes sleepy, sometimes explosive art-project detour/jolly good time, spread out over one 37-minute-long track.</p><p>Of course, as much as it boasts hallmarks of both bands&rsquo; strong and distinctive sonic calling cards (gawd, that Gemma Thompson guitar!), <em>Words to the Blind </em>shouldn&rsquo;t be judged as &ldquo;a new Savages album&rdquo;&mdash; or as &ldquo;a new Bo Ningen album,&rdquo; for that matter. Rather, it&rsquo;s a record of a moment-in-time collision, much like a lot of what Eno (another big fan of Hugo Ball) did with unlikely collaborators in the early &rsquo;70s, what Can and other Krautrockers tried to achieve via what they called &ldquo;spontaneous composition&rdquo; (and it&rsquo;s worth noting that Bo Ningen also has collaborated with Damo Suzuki and Faust), and most of all <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-05/wire-rock%E2%80%99s-greatest-super-geniuses-after-eno-106948">what Wire preserved for us as <em>Document and Eyewitness</em></a><em>.</em></p><p>Essential listening? Certainly not. Pretentious but fun and artsy but appealing clangorous self-indulgence? You bet! And this unrepentant prog geek cheerfully accepts it as a holiday gift that will make the wait for that second full Savages album overdue for 2015 seem just a little bit shorter.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ZCPOy3pSuO8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Savages &amp; Bo Ningen, <em>Words to the Blind </em>(</strong><strong>Stolen Recordings/Pop Noire)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3 stars.</strong></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><em>Facebook</em></a><em><strong>, and podcast </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/">Sound Opinions</a><em><strong> and </strong></em><a href="http://jimcarmeltvdinner.libsyn.com/">Jim + Carmel&rsquo;s TV + Dinner</a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 07:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/savages-join-bo-ningen-and-have-hugo-ball-111126 TV on the Radio mines sorrow for soul http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/tv-radio-mines-sorrow-soul-111119 <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/tvotr_seedslp01.jpg" style="height: 620px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>In the spring of 2011, as they geared up to tour in support of their last album <em>Nine Types of Light, </em>then-Brooklyn-based art-rockers TV on the Radio suffered the loss of their 36-year-old bassist Gerard Smith to lung cancer. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-04-20/tv-radio-bassist-dies-metro-gig-cancelled-85467">The tour was cancelled</a>, the group went on indefinite hiatus, and some fans wondered if we&rsquo;d ever hear a full set of new music from Tunde Adebimpe, Dave Sitek, Kyp Malone, and Jaleel Bunton again, given their other interests in film, session work, and producing.</p><p>Now to the surprise of many comes the sixth album from these versatile multi-instrumentalists (who have not permanently replaced Smith), and <em>Seeds</em> is as strong a record as they&rsquo;ve given us, as well as being their most soulful. To be sure, there always has been a fair amount of that sound in TVoR&rsquo;s mix, thanks in part to Adebimpe&rsquo;s extraordinary voice, as well as the entire group&rsquo;s inimitable sense of groove. But these 12 songs are as close to the avant-R&amp;B of Solange, Frank Ocean, and the Weeknd as they&rsquo;ve come.</p><p>Much already has been made of this being the group&rsquo;s &ldquo;mourning&rdquo; record, a la <em>Tonight&rsquo;s the Night </em>by Neil Young or <em>808s and Heartbreak </em>by Kanye West. Yet if the loss of Smith can be heard looming over the electro-shoegaze swirl of &ldquo;Quartz,&rdquo; &ldquo;Careful You,&rdquo; or &ldquo;Trouble,&rdquo; the band has always had its energizing/cathartic side, too (&ldquo;Wolf Like Me&rdquo;!), and it&rsquo;s also giddier here at times than it&rsquo;s ever been. Witness the gleeful rhythms of &ldquo;Lazerray&rdquo; and the last half of &ldquo;Ride,&rdquo; or even more strikingly, the single &ldquo;Happy Idiot,&rdquo; which could be heard as the thinking hipster&rsquo;s answer to Pharrell&rsquo;s &ldquo;Happy,&rdquo; and which takes on an even goofier dimension in the <em>Speed Racer</em>-inspired video.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been through a lot of stuff in the past few years that could have stopped the band cold,&rdquo; <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunde_Adebimpe" title="Tunde Adebimpe">Adebimpe</a> has said but I&rsquo;m glad we got it together and took stock of the unique connection we have between each other because the record is, 1,000 percent, without a doubt, the best thing we&rsquo;ve ever done.&rdquo; And I wouldn&rsquo;t disagree.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/OaKVy-FlaUA" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>TV on the Radio, <em>Seeds </em>(Harvest) </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 </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> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/tv-radio-mines-sorrow-soul-111119 Aaliyah deserves better than her Lifetime biopic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 <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/mgid_uma_video_mtv.com_1097146.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah with Clé Bennett as R. Kelly (Lifetime)." /></div><p>We might expect a considerable number of flaws from an unauthorized biopic crafted on the cheap for Lifetime, the Hearst- and Disney-owned cable TV channel that once branded itself as &ldquo;Television for Women.&rdquo;</p><p>But Aaliyah Dana Haughton, one of the most distinctive voices in R&amp;B in the last two decades, deserves much better than bargain-basement production values, wooden acting, a dismal soundtrack faking tunes that are no substitute for her own music, and a script that ignores many of the key facts in her story.</p><p>Most importantly, the many fans for whom she was and is a role model for self-empowerment deserve better than the sanitized, soft-pedaled version of her disturbing sexual relationship with Chicago producer R. Kelly when she was 14 and he was 27&mdash;a coupling that court documents annulling their brief and illegal marriage and interviews with people close to the ingénue portray as one of abuse and victimization, far from the &ldquo;puppy love&rdquo; seen in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>.</p><p>The Lifetime film, which debuts on Saturday, has been controversial from the beginning. Aaliyah&rsquo;s family never gave the project its blessing (they&rsquo;re planning an alternate big-screen take), and the first actress cast for the starring role, the Disney Channel star Zendaya, dropped out of what <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2014/07/zendaya-coleman-explains-exit-from-aalyiah-biopic/">she called a shoddy production</a>. The movie&rsquo;s future was in question until Alexandra Shipp (<em>House of Anubis</em>) signed on as Aaliyah and gossipy talk-show host Wendy Williams joined as executive producer, shepherding the movie to completion.</p><p>Williams spent a lot of time jawing about the Aaliyah/Kelly controversy in her days on talk radio, and <a>she has said she pushed for the &ldquo;true&rdquo; story to be told in the film</a>: &ldquo;The Aaliyah movie was already being produced and&hellip; they were doing things wrong. I was like, &lsquo;Look, if you&rsquo;re going to make this Aaliyah movie, you gotta get it right, Lifetime. I love you, you&rsquo;re good at wives who stab their husbands movies, but you gotta get this Aaliyah movie right.&rsquo; I was very popular on the radio for Aaliyah&rsquo;s rise and untimely death. I want to hear about R. Kelly&hellip; Don&rsquo;t skate over it. This needs to be a big plot line.&rdquo;</p><p>The film doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;skate over&rdquo; relations between the &ldquo;street but sweet&rdquo; young singer and the self-proclaimed &ldquo;Pied Pier of R&amp;B&rdquo;; it spends half its length taking Aaliyah from Catholic grammar school girl, to ambitious student at Detroit&rsquo;s High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, to stardom and platinum success following her 1994 Kelly-produced debut<em>.</em> (That ascension is overseen by her uncle and Kelly&rsquo;s manager Barry Hankerson, played by Lyriq Bent, a veteran of several <em>Saw </em>films.) But the well-established truth of what happened between Kelly and Aaliyah is almost entirely missing on screen.</p><p>Working from the flimsy 2002 book <em>Aaliyah: More Than a Woman </em>by Christopher John Farley, Williams, screenwriter Michael Elliot (<em>Brown Sugar</em>), and director Bradley Walsh (whose credits include episodes of<em> Beauty and the Beast </em>and <em>The Listener</em>) give us a guileless ingénue in Shipp as Aaliyah, and she promptly develops a schoolgirl crush on her producer. For his part, Clé Bennett (<em>Rookie Blue</em>) plays Kelly as an innocent charmer from humble beginnings who falls deeply in love with his earnest young protégé, perhaps because he sees something of his beloved mother in her when they share a Chicago-style pizza after recording.</p><p>The fictionalized couple secretly marries, but when they travel to Detroit to break the news to Aaliyah&rsquo;s parents in her childhood home, her father&mdash;Sterling Jarvis playing the kind of dad who takes a sugary soft drink out of his kid&rsquo;s hand and proffers an apple instead&mdash;says they must annul the union immediately, lest he ask the police to charge Kelly with statutory rape. (At the time of the marriage, she was still 15, nearly half Kelly&rsquo;s age). With heavy hearts, the couple separates, never to speak again, while Aaliyah pouts for more than five years about the loss of her first &ldquo;true love.&rdquo;</p><p>The artistic triumph of Aaliyah&rsquo;s second, Timbaland and Missy Elliott-produced album and the promising start of an acting career that would have seen her appear in the two sequels to <em>The</em> <em>Matrix </em>barely lift her spirits. She&rsquo;s finally buoyed a bit when she begins dating hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash. Then, tragically, she dies at age 22 in a plane crash in the Bahamas, on Aug. 25, 2001.</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/Aaliyah-r-kelly.jpg" title="The real Aaliyah with R. Kelly (WBEZ file)." /></div><p>This version of events with Kelly at the center of the film is deeply offensive not only as a hoary &ldquo;frustrated lovers&rdquo;/Romeo and Juliet cliché, but as a flagrant whitewashing of criminal sexual abuse. As Abdon M. Pallasch and I laid out in a series of unchallenged investigative reports for <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>spanning several years, and as I recounted in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/timeline-life-and-career-r-kelly-107973">a much-cited timeline of Kelly&rsquo;s crimes for WBEZ.org in July 2013</a>, these are the facts:</p><ul><li>When Kelly first met Aaliyah, she was 12, and he already was widely rumored in the music industry to &ldquo;like them young,&rdquo; abusing his position of wealth and fame to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls.</li><li>According to a civil lawsuit filed in 1996, which he eventually settled with a cash payment, Kelly had already had at least two sexual relationships with underage girls, one 15 and the other 16, in the years before he met Aaliyah. One of those girls slit her wrists when Kelly ended the relationship and began sleeping with the then-14-year-old Aaliyah, as well as writing and producing her debut album, which he titled <em>Age Ain&rsquo;t Nothing But A Number</em>.</li><li>Shortly after the album&rsquo;s completion, on Aug. 31, 1994, Kelly married the now-15-year-old Aaliyah at the Sheraton Gateway Suites in suburban Rosemont, having procured a falsified Cook County marriage certificate listing her age as 18. Some sources have said Aaliyah was pregnant. The singer&rsquo;s family, including a furious Hankerson, separated the couple as soon as they stepped off a plane in Florida for their honeymoon, and Kelly and Aaliyah never spoke again. (Aaliyah did not have a child.)</li><li>In October 1994, the marriage was annulled in Detroit and lawyers for both sides reached a settlement that was sealed in Wayne County Circuit Court, though a copy was obtained by the<em> Sun-Times</em>. The court documents provided a nominal payment of $100 from Kelly to Aaliyah, with Aaliyah promising not to pursue further legal action because of <strong>&ldquo;emotional distress caused by any aspect of her business or personal relationship with Robert&rdquo;</strong> or <strong>&ldquo;physical injury or emotional pain and suffering arising from any assault or battery perpetrated by Robert against her person.&rdquo;</strong></li></ul><p>That language alone indicates that the relationship was far from innocent, but years later, Aaliyah&rsquo;s mother told the <em>Sun-Times</em>: &ldquo;Everything that went wrong in her life began then [with the relationship with Kelly].&rdquo; And while Hankerson did not split with Kelly until more than five years after the marriage, and he&rsquo;s never spoken about what happened between his niece and Kelly on the record, his attorney did share with the <em>Sun-Times </em>a letter that he sent to Kelly&rsquo;s attorney. In it, Hankerson stated that he believed Kelly needed psychiatric help for a compulsion to pursue underage girls, and that Hankerson was in denial about that even after Kelly seduced Aaliyah because he didn&rsquo;t want to believe the worst and Kelly was a master manipulator.</p><p>None of the facts above appear in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B, </em>nor is there any hint that Kelly became the subject of dozens of legal claims from underage girls just like Aaliyah charging that they had been hurt by illegal sexual relationships with him. Also missing: The fact that Kelly was tried and acquitted in 2008 on charges of making child pornography in a notorious video that allegedly depicts him having sex with and urinating on a girl who was 14 or 15 at the time.</p><p>To be certain, many of the specifics of the Kelly/Aaliyah relationship remain a mystery, and neither side is eager to address them. But the facts that <em>have</em> been well-reported make the story even more dramatic: Aaliyah had the strength and the support system to recover from her relationship with Kelly and record two more brilliant albums (<em>One in a Million </em>in 1996 and the self-titled <em>Aaliyah </em>in 2001), as well as making significant inroads as a leading woman on screen even in the face of Hollywood&rsquo;s aversion to African-American leads.</p><p>More significantly, with the false and phony version of the relationship presented in <em>Aaliyah: The Princess of R&amp;B</em>, Lifetime, Williams, and everyone involved with the film missed the opportunity to provide a stark example and a cautionary tale of how even smart, strong, and self-assured young girls can be victimized by older sexual predators, especially if those men are rich and famous.</p><p>In this way, the cycle of sexual predation is perpetuated, and it&rsquo;s hard to imagine a greater insult to Aaliyah&rsquo;s legacy than that.</p><div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"><div style="padding: 4px; text-align: justify;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="288" scrolling="no" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:uma:video:vh1.com:1097146/cp~id%3D1732368%26vid%3D1097146%26uri%3Dmgid%3Auma%3Avideo%3Avh1.com%3A1097146" width="512"></iframe></div></div><p>&nbsp;</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, 10 Nov 2014 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/aaliyah-deserves-better-her-lifetime-biopic-111082 There is no love in this world anymore http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/there-no-love-world-anymore-111070 <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/Buzzcocks.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Rare in recent years among the plethora of reunited bands from the punk or alternative eras returned for a second act, the Buzzcocks have stood tall. While the hyper-melodic first-gen punks haven&rsquo;t quite improved on the first three albums from their original era&mdash;and it would be hard if not impossible to better the material so memorably collected on <em>Singles Going Steady </em>(1979), that rare rock best-of that, no exceptions, <em>everybody needs to own</em>&mdash;then the music they&rsquo;ve released post-comeback has at the very least maintained the exuberant energy, indelible melodies, and sheer joy in streamlined speed to a point where many of the newer songs provide an only slightly inferior rush on disc, while they sound every bit as good onstage sandwiched between classics such as &ldquo;What Do I Get?,&rdquo; &ldquo;Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn&rsquo;t&rsquo;ve),&rdquo; and &ldquo;Harmony in My Head.&rdquo;</p><p>That is, until now.</p><p><em>The Way</em> is the sixth album singers, songwriters, and guitarists Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle have released with various new rhythm sections since first taking the band back into the studio in 1993, but it&rsquo;s the first where they often sound tired and devoid of inspiration. Diggle&rsquo;s voice is aging more roughly than Shelley&rsquo;s, but both men have lost considerable range and oomph in the vocal department, in addition to slowing down tempo-wise in general, sacrificing a lot of that sarcastic sense of humor, and narrowing the scope of their sociological commentary.</p><p>This is to say, complaining about the limitations of communicating via Twitter or meeting dates online (&ldquo;Virtually Real&rdquo;) is a lot more predictable, tired, and unambitious than succinctly summing up the existential angst of the modern condition in a mere 14 lines of lyrics (&ldquo;I Believe&rdquo;).</p><p>Add to this the fact that some very minor melodic ideas are stretched way past typical Buzzcocks breaking point (&ldquo;Third Dimension&rdquo; doesn&rsquo;t justify half of its 4:32-length, while &ldquo;Saving Yourself&rdquo; goes on for a full 5 minutes), and that other songs lack even the beginnings of a vital hook (&ldquo;The Way,&rdquo; &ldquo;Out of the Blue&rdquo;) and you have the rare album from these gents that you&rsquo;ll find yourself reluctant to ever play again.</p><p><a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News%202006/BuzzcocksJuly14.htm">Asked about the success of his band&rsquo;s second act in 2006</a>, Shelley told me, &ldquo;After 30 years, if you don&rsquo;t get it right, you must be doing the wrong thing!&rdquo; Well, the Buzzcocks did everything right for a good long time. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/SNujcFvHDRU" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>The Buzzcocks, <em>The Way </em>(PledgeMusic)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 1 star.</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 </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> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-11/there-no-love-world-anymore-111070