WBEZ | Music http://www.wbez.org/news/music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Snoop’s keynote, Courtney Barnett, Ultimate Painting and Jacco Gardner http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/snoop%E2%80%99s-keynote-courtney-barnett-ultimate-painting-and-jacco-gardner <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/Snoop%20good.jpg" title="Snoop at SXSW (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP)." /></div><p>AUSTIN, TX&mdash;No one who knows the name will be surprised to hear that Snoop Dogg started late when delivering the keynote address Friday morning at SXSW 2015. By his own admission, he prepared for his chat with manager Ted Chung by sparking up backstage.</p><p>Marijuana is still illegal in conservative Texas, fo shizzle. But Snoop could not care less, and that was only one of many charms he displayed during a relaxed 45-minute talk that hit on his musical awakening (listening to records his mom played at parties, like Curtis Mayfield and Al Green, but also &ldquo;the ones I wasn&rsquo;t supposed to listen to,&rdquo; like Richard Pryor); the damage Reaganomics did to his hometown of Long Branch in Southern California; his new hobby of abstract painting; giving back to the community via his youth football league, and of course a bit of hype for his upcoming projects, including an HBO series about Long Branch when he was growing up directed by Allen Hughes (<em>Menace II Society, The Book of Eli</em><em>)</em> and a new album called <em>Bush </em>produced by Pharrell Williams <strong>and </strong>due in May.</p><p>Squaring the affable and accomplished fellow onstage with the public menace described by preachers, older artists, and other guardians of public morality early in his career&mdash;&ldquo;like I&rsquo;m the worst black man ever created,&rdquo; as the rapper said&mdash;was impossible. But then he didn&rsquo;t hit upon more troubling aspects of his story or legacy, such as his many brushes with the law or his undeniably demeaning to women videos.</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/Snoop_Doggs_Hustlaz_Diary_of_a_Pimp.jpg" style="height: 367px; width: 250px;" title="" /></div><p>What advice did the thousands of aspiring young musicians at SXSW take away from the session? Well, there wasn&rsquo;t any. But the conference has long since moved from keynotes that actually address the reason for this event to bursts of not-really-keynotes-at-all celebrity-entertainment interviews. And Snoop was nothing if not entertaining.</p><p>Much of my afternoon was taken up by a panel I sat on called &ldquo;Should Music Mags Survive or Get Killed Off?&rdquo; (previews <a href="http://schedule.sxsw.com/2015/events/event_MP34892">here</a> and <a href="http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2015-03-20/playback-sxsw-news-and-sightings/">here</a>; my answer: Depends on the magazine!) and phoning in a radio report to Justin Kaufmann, guest-hosting WBEZ&rsquo;s <em>The Afternoon Shift </em>one more time before riding off into the sunset (god speed, amigo!). But I made it back to the convention center in time to catch the artist who may be the single biggest buzz of the conference, <a href="http://courtneybarnett.com.au">Courtney Barnett</a>, performing on the Radio Day Stage.</p><p>Like Remi, the rapper I wrote about earlier, Barnett hails from Melbourne, Australia. She began turning heads in the States after a series of EPs and some impressive performances at the CMJ Music Marathon in 2013 highlighted her searing guitar playing, impressively sophisticated songwriting, and often ferociously funny lyrics, but she absolutely <em>owned </em>SXSW. The late Friday afternoon show was her eighth and last of the conference, and she took the stage just a few hours after playing outside in the rain earlier in the afternoon, fronting a vice-tight trio.</p><p>Though her debut album <em>Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit </em>won&rsquo;t be released until Tuesday, many in the packed crowd could already sing along to every word, and they showered her with love. &ldquo;I think you&rsquo;re all my friends and lovers,&rdquo; she said, basking in the glow. &ldquo;But maybe you&rsquo;re not&mdash;maybe you&rsquo;re like the friends you don&rsquo;t really like.&rdquo;</p><p>Whatever her real feelings toward her fans, they certainly adored her. Someone had brought an inflatable kangaroo and perched it on the edge of the stage, and after her bassist tossed it into the crowd midway through the set, it was bounced overhead like a beach ball as she continued to deliver one churning number after another, evoking a young Patti Smith as a Seattle rocker circa 1992, or perhaps Joe Strummer crossed with the more focused, early-Hole Courtney Love, only without the mean streak and more self-effacing.</p><p>Then again, maybe only half of that is true. &ldquo;Put me on a pedestal and I&#39;ll only disappoint you,&rdquo; Barnett sang in &ldquo;Pedestrian at Best.&rdquo; &ldquo;Tell me I&#39;m exceptional and I promise to exploit you.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/o-nr1nNC3ds" width="560"></iframe></p><p>My rain-soaked final night at the fest ended with two fine psychedelic-rock bands. The first, <a href="http://ultimatepainting.tumblr.com/">Ultimate Painting</a>, is a London-based group led by Jack Cooper and James Hoare that specializes in gently lilting, somewhat melancholy, but generally expansive and quite lovely pop songs. Their self-titled debut was released last October, and it just jumped to the top of my play list.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/NaLj8Yw_Nso" width="420"></iframe></p><hr /><p>Dutch multi-instrumentalist and producer <a href="http://jaccogardner.com">Jacco Gardner</a> mines similar but spacier turf; as the fan who turned me on to him said, think of the Zombies crossed with <em>More</em>-era Pink Floyd. A new album called <em>Hypnophobia</em> is due on Polyvinyl in May, and I can&rsquo;t wait.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YDSiImxP6Vw" width="560"></iframe></p><p>My only disappointment of SXSW 2015? I wasn&rsquo;t able to get up and out in time to catch <a href="http://tblsh.com/">the Bright Light Social Hour</a>, another brilliantly melodic and delightfully airy psychedelic-pop band, playing a radio gig at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. Friday. The group, an Austin band comprised of actual Austin residents who just released their second album <em>Space Is Still the Place </em>via Frenchkiss, did not have an official SXSW showcase. But, hey, there&rsquo;s always next year!</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dACcTbb3l8s" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong><u>My earlier coverage from SXSW 2015</u></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/ryley-walker-sweet-spirit-speedy-ortiz-and-more-111715">SXSW Dispatch #1, Tuesday wrap-up: Ryley Walker, Sweet Spirit, Speedy Ortiz and more</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/soak-girlpool-remi-blossoms%E2%80%A6-and-frank-sinatra-111727">SXSW Dispatch #2: Soak, Girlpool, Remi, Blossoms&hellip; and Frank Sinatra?</a></strong></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/rock-economics-paul-krugman-plus-ting-tings-sun-club-and-bully-111740">SXSW Dispatch #3: Rock economics with Paul Krugman, plus the Ting Tings, Sun Club and Bully</a></strong></p><p><em>And listen to <a href="soundopinions.org">Sound Opinions</a> next week for more at SXSW 2015 from Greg Kot and me.</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 or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 03:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/snoop%E2%80%99s-keynote-courtney-barnett-ultimate-painting-and-jacco-gardner Rock economics with Paul Krugman, plus the Ting Tings, Sun Club and Bully http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/rock-economics-paul-krugman-plus-ting-tings-sun-club-and-bully-111740 <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/Krugman.jpg" style="height: 480px; width: 640px;" title="Paul Krugman." /></div><p>AUSTIN, TX&mdash;With 2,000 bands traveling from across the country and around the world to perform at South by Southwest, one question that always hangs over these proceedings is how many of them ever will find it possible to support themselves solely by their music.</p><p>Now more than ever, post-digital revolution, is this even a remotely realistic goal? Might it not be like the misguided idealist leaving graduate school and expecting to land a high-paying job as a poet? Are the odds of finding a successful merger of art and commerce in music as much of a long shot as winning the lottery?</p><p>At the Austin Convention Center on Thursday, by far the most interesting and relevant panel of the day and of the conference so far was entitled &ldquo;The Celebrity Economy in Music,&rdquo; featuring not only Nobel laureate, Princeton University economics professor, <em>New York Times</em> columnist, and <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/313/#paulkrugman">former <em>Sound Opinions</em> guest Paul Krugman</a>, but brothers Win and Will Butler of Arcade Fire, a group that has succeeded against all odds to rise from the deepest underground to filling arenas.</p><p>These three voices alone would have been more than enough to fill the session. Unfortunately, moderator Rembert Browne of Grantland squandered too much of the time allowing other participants to self-servingly prattle on; from them, we learned only that &ldquo;data&rdquo; is the big buzz word in the industry this year, as if tracking digital clicks is a valid measure of artistic worth. And we got yet more talk about how authenticity is a bogus concept and artists partnering with corporate sponsors is just swell. (<em>Sigh. </em>Again.)</p><p>Nevertheless, there were words of wisdom from the trio hailed earlier. Krugman cited the work of a Princeton colleague who found that even at the height of the CD boom in the &rsquo;90s, artists earned an average of 7 times more from live performance than from the sale of recorded music. So it has always been&mdash;&ldquo;from time immemorial,&rdquo; Krugman said&mdash;and so it likely always will be, since &ldquo;nothing can top the experience of being in a room&rdquo; with the performers, though he did grant than in the live arena as in the rest of capitalist America today, most of the money is earned &ldquo;by the top 1 percent.&rdquo; (Hello, Bono and Madonna!)</p><p>Win Butler underscored that point by noting that even though Arcade Fire &ldquo;has the best record deal in the world,&rdquo; with the independent label Merge, &ldquo;we make more from one big festival performance than everything else combined&rdquo;&mdash;sales of physical product, broadcast plays, streaming audio, and all the rest.</p><p>Afterwards, on the Radio Day Stage, <a href="http://thetingtings.com/">the Ting Tings</a>, the electronic duo from Salford, England, highlighted songs from <em>Super Critical, </em>the strong new album they released in January, as well as playing their signature hit &ldquo;That&rsquo;s Not My Name&rdquo; from 2008. Though they certainly are still very deserving, the lack of buzz/excitement here this year for vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Katie White and her multi-instrumentalist partner Jules De Martino underscored another point the Butler brothers made about the ever-increasing pace of the digital music world, which consumes and discards artists far too quickly, as well as robbing them of the chance to develop naturally by playing and learning from all those &ldquo;awful gigs in Iowa City.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/k7U8Q6qCZsY" width="560"></iframe></p><p>The other panel of note Thursday was &ldquo;Festival Best Practices: Industry Insiders Share,&rdquo; though the participants really didn&rsquo;t share all that much, never considering, for example, the question of the impact their mega-events have on local music communities. Especially disappointing was how Matt Frampton, vice president for sales with Pitchfork Media, never mentioned the words &ldquo;R. Kelly&rdquo; when asked about the biggest challenge/controversy the music festival has faced in its 10 years in Chicago&rsquo;s Union Park. Though he&rsquo;d earlier waxed on about the extraordinary efforts by organizers to make everything, from events like onsite book readings and an indie record fair to the food offerings, &ldquo;really good&rdquo; and in keeping with a certain ethic and aesthetic, that apparently does not extend to considering the ethics of booking an <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php">artist who has done significant damage to many underage women</a>.</p><p>As for the rest of the music on day three, it was an evening devoid of notable discoveries, with two exceptions.</p><p><a href="http://sunclub.bandcamp.com/">Sun Club</a> is a lovably goofy quintet formed in Baltimore in 2012, with a strong pop sensibility to their pseudo-psychedelic weirdness&mdash;think of a slightly less hippie Animal Collective, or a more focused and together Foxygen. The band released its debut EP in January, but its wiggy good cheer is even more infectious onstage.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kZo6cFAbME4" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Waiting for my final pick of the night, I caught enough of the set by much-lauded, Virginia-born, Nashville-based singer and songwriter <a href="http://natalieprassmusic.com/">Natalie Prass</a> to confirm that I wasn&rsquo;t wrong about my intense dislike of her recent debut album. My pal Todd Martens of <em>The L.A. Times</em> compares her music to that of a Disney heroine like Cinderella; he means it as a compliment, while I cite it as quite the opposite.</p><p>Then there was <a href="http://facebook.com/bullythemusic">Bully</a>, a Nashville quartet led by the ferocious frontwoman Alicia Bognanno. I first was alerted to the charms of the group&rsquo;s self-titled 2013 EP by one of my students in Reviewing the Arts at Columbia College Chicago&mdash;<a href="http://blogs.colum.edu/reviewing-the-arts/2015/03/01/recordings-bully-bully-ep-self-released-2013/">Jenn Raymo wrote a fine review you can read here</a>&mdash;and she rightly cited the band&rsquo;s roots in &rsquo;90s alternative rock by the likes of the Breeders and Veruca Salt. But there&rsquo;s nothing retro in the band&rsquo;s energetic assault or Bognanno&rsquo;s barely constrained raging against male hegemony and the apathy of too many in her generation. Need further proof of the band&rsquo;s buzz worthiness? It&rsquo;s already been announced as part of the lineup at this summer&rsquo;s Pitchfork Music Festival.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RMeL9WS02bw" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/rock-economics-paul-krugman-plus-ting-tings-sun-club-and-bully-111740 Soak, Girlpool, Remi, Blossoms… and Frank Sinatra? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/soak-girlpool-remi-blossoms%E2%80%A6-and-frank-sinatra-111727 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wendys-bacon-portabella-melt-earned-it-large-7.jpg" style="height: 360px; width: 640px;" title="Nothing quite says rock 'n' roll like a Wendy's commercial." /></div></div><p>AUSTIN, TX&mdash;Unlike many (most?) of the journalists who cover the South by Southwest Music Festival, Greg Kot and I generally skip the daytime parties&mdash;which may be fewer this year, but still are myriad&mdash;in favor of covering the panels at the Austin Convention Center, which often offer valuable insights into the state of the music industry, or at least the stray bit of a different kind of entertainment.</p><p>Our time at the convention center was cut short on the first full day of sessions because we had to do some radio at KUTX and KUT&mdash;no complaints; Austin&rsquo;s hometown public radio stations are among the biggest supporters of <em>Sound Opinions!&mdash;</em>but as a result I only caught two discussions of note.</p><p>The first talk was called &ldquo;Branding Ovation: Advertising Creatives Talk Music,&rdquo; a.k.a. the inevitable annual session on selling your music to the man. As in the past, I was a lonely skeptic in a room full of managers and label folks eager to get their artists on the soundtrack of a Wendy&rsquo;s or Garnier commercial. And as in the past, I left feeling vaguely sick to my stomach as a dais full of self-professed music lovers-turned-advertising execs never once entertained the question of whether this in any way cheapens the music. Instead, they maintained that it&rsquo;s all about &ldquo;spreading the love,&rdquo; meaning money for the artists and exposure for their product&hellip;. er, art. <em>Sigh.</em></p><p>More entertaining was the second full panel I caught later in the day, &ldquo;Sinatra: An American Icon,&rdquo; a tribute to Francis Albert, who was born 100 years ago at home in Hoboken, N.J. to mom Dolly, a low-level local Democratic fixer who also performed illegal abortions.</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/sinatramug1.jpg" style="height: 503px; width: 640px;" title="Frank Sinatra's infamous 1938 mug shot. He knew a thing or two about juvenile delinquents." /></div><p>This and many other salacious facts about the great singer and sometimes bully of wayward female croupiers and wait staff were, perhaps not surprisingly, never mentioned as a panel including Frank Sinatra, Jr. and fellow famous Jerseyans Max Weinberg and Steve Van Zandt of the E Street Band, &ldquo;Conan,&rdquo; and &ldquo;The Sopranos&rdquo; waxed rhapsodic about Old Blue Eyes&rsquo; musical and cultural accomplishments during three key eras, with Columbia Records in the &rsquo;40s, Capitol Records in the &rsquo;50s, and Reprise in the &rsquo;60s.</p><p>Me, I&rsquo;ve got a love/hate relationship with Frank: I&rsquo;ve read too many books about the man to emulate his image in any way, as all of the panelists did to varying degrees. But I was born in the same hospital in Jersey City as daughter Nancy, had some of my formative experiences on Frank Sinatra Drive in Hoboken, and did a lot of stories in my early days as a beat reporter about the barber who went to kindergarten with Frank and sang his music as he cut hair, Frank&rsquo;s fondness for fresh mozzarella from a particular local deli, and his visit to the St. Ann&rsquo;s Parish spaghetti dinner with some guy named Ronald Reagan (the President ate the food the Secret Service provided, but Frank ate the old Italian ladies&rsquo; home-cooked meatballs, which made them rapturous). So it all was a guilty pleasure.</p><p>The truest words came from Van Zandt early in the discussion: &ldquo;He was not the kind of artist you&rsquo;d see at South by Southwest&hellip; He was this skinny kid from nowhere who reached these incredible heights&rdquo; through sheer talent and force of will.</p><p>For that reason, Frank <em>should </em>have appreciated the 2,000 bands who&rsquo;ve traveled to Austin for SXSW XXVIII, though he probably would not have. Why? Recall these famous comments during an interview with the Associated Press in 1957:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;My only deep sorrow is the unrelenting insistence of recording and motion picture companies upon purveying the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression it has been my displeasure to hear&mdash;naturally I refer to the bulk of rock&rsquo;n&rsquo; roll. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people. It smells phony and false. It is sung, played and written for the most part by cretinous goons and by means of its almost imbecilic reiterations and sly, lewd&mdash;in plain fact dirty&mdash;lyrics&hellip; it manages to be the martial music of every side-burned delinquent on the face of the earth. This rancid smelling aphrodisiac I deplore.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Yes, indeed: Frank nailed everything I love about rock &rsquo;n&rsquo; roll! And revisiting that diatribe reminded me of many of the things I spend my time at SXSW searching out and applauding. Which brings me to the music on day two.</p><p>I caught two acts of note during the day. <a href="http://israelnash.com">Israel Nash</a> is a New York-to-Austin transplant who performed at the ungodly hour of 9 a.m. during KUTX&rsquo;s live broadcast from the Four Season Hotel (once upon a time the sole domain of major-label weasels, none of whom have those Platinum Amex cards&mdash;or jobs&mdash;anymore). Nash&rsquo;s Americana formula is to quote as many as three Neil Young songs in every one of his own, with the occasional Pink Floyd interstellar guitar solo thrown in for good measure. Original? Heck no, not in the least! But there are worse sounds to imbibe along with free Illy coffee early in the Texas morning.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mAUuOCDpAYI" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Later in the day, a rapper named <a href="http://remikolawole.com/">Remi</a> from Melbourne, Australia took to the International Day Stage at the Convention Center with his drummer and DJ, Sensible J. &ldquo;We recorded an entire album in my bedroom,&rdquo; Remi said, &ldquo;so being here at SXSW is pretty incredible.&rdquo; His enthusiasm was contagious, whether performing upbeat jams such as &ldquo;Sangria&rdquo; and urging the crowd to two-step, or unfurling darker tales about his hometown&rsquo;s distressing problem with &ldquo;ice.&rdquo; (&ldquo;You call it meth,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and while it may not sound like it, this is an <em>anti-</em>drug song.&rdquo;) Remi has been championed by the likes of Vic Mensa, De La Soul, and Damon Albarn of Gorillaz, and his skills are undeniable, if not quite enough to forgive the land down under for Iggy Azalea.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YNUD19rgB6g" width="560"></iframe></p><p>As the first stop on the evening&rsquo;s musical rounds, it was back to Mohawk for <a href="http://girlpoolmusic.com/">Girlpool</a>, a guitar/bass dual-vocal duo from L.A. The pair&rsquo;s short, strikingly minimalist, and seemingly fragile tunes could erupt in surprisingly cathartic explosions, as when the musicians&rsquo; exhortation, &ldquo;Tranquilize me with your ideal world,&rdquo; yielded to a guitar solo that was as violent as it was furiously focused and climactic.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xWqzp3JGrRY" width="560"></iframe></p><p>From there I hit the British music showcase at Latitude 30. <a href="http://wwww.blossomsband.co.uk">Blossoms</a> are a quintet from Stockport (though you want to say Manchester) that play an especially energetic brand of early &lsquo;90s British shoegaze/psychedelic pop, heavy on the Charlatans U.K., thanks to a delightfully warbling and wheezing organ. Again: Original? Hardly. But I could have ridden their groove all night.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4vAndQWZfjU" width="560"></iframe></p><p>A little too much on the twee side, the London quartet <a href="http://facebook.com/gengahrband">Gengahr</a> didn&rsquo;t do nearly as much for me. But <a href="http://soakmusic.net/">Soak</a>, a singer-songwriter from Derry in Northern Ireland, had come highly recommended by the legendary Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records, and she did not disappoint.</p><p>Only 18, Bridie Monds-Watson has both a soulful voice and a probingly confessional way with her lyrics that belie her youth. Opening with several songs performed with only vocal and guitar, she succeeded in silencing&mdash;and stunning&mdash;a packed bar, much of it filled with rowdy Brits. Based on this unforgettable set, her forthcoming album now is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. And diminutive as this skinny kid is, she probably could&rsquo;ve kicked the skinny young Sinatra&rsquo;s butt from here to Hoboken.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VgaRm9j8SQI" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/soak-girlpool-remi-blossoms%E2%80%A6-and-frank-sinatra-111727 Ryley Walker, Sweet Spirit, Speedy Ortiz and more http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/ryley-walker-sweet-spirit-speedy-ortiz-and-more-111715 <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/IMG_0414.JPG" style="height: 480px; width: 640px;" title="Ryley Walker (right) at SXSW 2015." /></div><p>AUSTIN, TX&mdash;If South by Southwest 2014 was the saddest in the 28-year history of this cornerstone event for the music industry&mdash;as much for the corporate soul-sucking and horrible overcrowding as for <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-03/fatal-vehicular-assault-mars-sxsw-2014-109848">the tragic and fatal car accident</a>&mdash;2015 promises to be an attempt to scale back a bit and refocus on the independent musical discoveries that were the original goal of the festival, but which have been harder and harder to enjoy as the event has gotten bigger and bigger.</p><p>Texas writer Andy Langer does <a href="https://medium.com/cuepoint/the-state-of-sxsw-music-2015-f90ac1073fb3">an excellent job in this piece for Cuepoint</a> assessing the state of SXSW today and the &ldquo;damned if they do, damned if they don&rsquo;t&rdquo; situation that organizers find themselves in, and I find his reasons to be hopeful convincing, even if McDonald&rsquo;s has replaced Doritos as a big, obnoxious corporate presence. But then I&rsquo;m always hopeful at the start of the conference, the success of which comes down to this: How much great music I was able to see and how much aggravation I had to endure to see it.</p><p>The first act of the first night was by far the biggest revelation for me: <a href="http://ryleywalker.com/">Ryley Walker</a>, a Rockford native who performed on finger-picked acoustic guitar and vocals at Mohawk, a venue usually more hospitable to electronic acts. With the Spartan but perfect backing of keys, electric guitar, and standup bass, the now Chicago-based singer and songwriter briefly managed to silence the din at the club by sheer force of will. He&rsquo;d come recommended by my friend and colleague Doug Reichert-Powell in the English Department at Columbia College Chicago as a purveyor of &ldquo;Nick Drakey acoustic freak-outs,&rdquo; and that description is pretty much spot-on, though Walker also branched out from psychedelic folk for a more soulful and spiritual cover of &ldquo;Fair Play,&rdquo; the opening track from Van Morrison&rsquo;s 1974 classic <em>Veedon Fleece. </em>Walker&rsquo;s debut album <em>Primrose Green </em>will be released at the end of the month by Dead Ocean.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H7MsF75ucxo" width="560"></iframe></p><p>From there I caught most of a set by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sweetspirittheband/info?tab=page_info">Sweet Spirit</a>, an Austin sextet fronted by the charismatic Sabrina Ellis that plays a punkie brand of indie-pop. Their 35-minute set was a bouncy good time, but hardly revelatory, which is the same thing I&rsquo;d say of most of the rest of what I saw on opening night of my 22<sup>nd</sup> SXSW.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/pIgVv5ieb5A" width="560"></iframe></p><p>My <em>Sound Opinions </em>colleague Greg Kot highlighted <a href="http://www.waxahatcheemusic.com/">Waxahatchee</a>, the Philadelphia-based indie-pop group led by Katie Crutchfield, on a <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/400/#waxahatchee">Buried Treasures episode of the show</a> in 2013. The group seems to have stepped up its act a bit after two releases on Don Giovanni, now that it&rsquo;s signed to Merge for a forthcoming April release, but the sound was a bit too genteel for the SXSW/St. Patrick&rsquo;s Day chaos in Austin.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/O2BpdpmqkDA" width="420"></iframe></p><p>In contrast, <a href="http://speedyortiz.bandcamp.com/">Speedy Ortiz</a>, a quartet from Northampton, Massachusetts, hasn&rsquo;t done much for me on record to date. But the group&rsquo;s enthusiasm was infectious back at Mohawk, and I intend to give those discs another shot after a strong (though not mind-blowing) set.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zTQPiO25TQc" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Finally, discounting stray bits of noise caught on the run here and there, my evening ended with <em>Sound Opinions </em>favorite Angel Olsen, who <a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/447/#angelolsen">performed on the show in 2014</a> and who garnered a rave review from both Kot and me for her stunning album <em>Burn Your Fire for No Witness. </em>My goal in Texas this year, moreso than ever and in keeping with the renewed focus on up-and-comers, is finding those killer new sounds. But at the end of a long day of travel and re-emersion into the SXSW lunacy, I needed something I knew I could count on, and Olsen delivered as always.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DwwMz9EErbU" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/ryley-walker-sweet-spirit-speedy-ortiz-and-more-111715 Lollapalooza: First Chicago, then the world http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/lollapalooza-first-chicago-then-world-111660 <p><p> <style type="text/css"> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Courier New"; 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text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} @list l0:level7 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:4.0in; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Symbol;} @list l0:level8 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:o; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:4.5in; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:"Courier New"; mso-bidi-font-family:"Courier New";} @list l0:level9 {mso-level-number-format:bullet; mso-level-text:; mso-level-tab-stop:none; mso-level-number-position:left; margin-left:5.0in; text-indent:-.25in; font-family:Wingdings;} ol {margin-bottom:0in;} ul {margin-bottom:0in;} --></style> </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/C3-Live-Nation.jpg" title="" /></div><p><a href="http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/music/2015-02-26/c3-presents-and-live-nation-team-up/">In a recent interview with Austin Chronicle music editor Raoul Hernandez</a>, Charles Attal, one of the &ldquo;three Charlies&rdquo; behind Austin-based Lollapalooza promoters C3 Presents, spoke for the first time about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-12/it%E2%80%99s-official-death-star-controls-walmart-lake-111279">why the company sold a controlling interest to international mega-promoters Ticketmaster/Live Nation</a>.</p><p>In short, C3 wants to rule the live music world&mdash;or at least the festival part of it. And this corporate global invasion plan started in Chicago&rsquo;s Grant Park.</p><p>Asked if there was &ldquo;a notable event that pointed the way&rdquo; toward the company&rsquo;s ambitious expansion program&mdash;it already stages Lollapaloozas in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Germany, in addition to the Chicago concert and the Austin City Limits Festival in its hometown&mdash;Attal said:</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;Lolla Chicago [2005]. That was a massive show. It was a big undertaking. We took a lot of punches at first, working downtown in the city. They&rsquo;ve been great with us over the years, and we&rsquo;ve learned how to operate in the city of Chicago. They&rsquo;ve embraced it. It took a long time to embrace the festival there, and it&rsquo;s running better now than it ever has.&rdquo;</p><p>The &ldquo;running better&rdquo; part is, of course, debatable. As an artistic endeavor? Well, we all have different opinions about that. But as a massive, lucrative business venture? As such it&rsquo;s an undeniable success&mdash;for the promoters, though not necessarily for the rest of the Chicago music scene, which scrambles for crumbs in its shadow for a good chunk of the year, thanks to its exclusionary radius clauses.</p><p>As for &ldquo;learning how to operate in the city of Chicago,&rdquo; that&rsquo;s handy code for the company figuring out how it could get everything it wants from two city administrations. It began its original tax-free deal with Mayor Richard Daley by hiring his nephew as its attorney and paid lobbyist. Then it solidified its lock on Grant Park in a contract that runs through 2021 (though it can be extended in perpetuity after that) by cozying up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose brother Ari oversees the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, which happens to own a chunk of the concert in a mostly silent partnership with C3.</p><p>Now that 51 percent of Lollapalooza is owned by Live Nation, with the three Charlies and William Morris splitting the remainder 49 percent, ties are even tighter, since Ari Emanuel also sits on Live Nation&rsquo;s board of directors. <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/emanuel-cashes-big-lakefront-concerts-111486">As this blog reported last month</a>, the Charlies, their wives, the regional head of Live Nation, his wife, Lollapalooza figurehead Perry Farrell, his wife, and assorted William Morris employees all are among the donors to Emanuel&rsquo;s reelection campaign.</p><div><div><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sweethearts.jpg" title="C3's 'three Charlies'--Jones, Attal, and Walker--plus Ari Emanuel (WBEZ file)." /></div></div><p>&ldquo;Yeah, so what? Politics as usual. I just wanna get drunk in the sun and listen to tunes in the park,&rdquo; the disinterested music fan grumbles. &ldquo;Why should I care?&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/music/2015-02-26/c3-presents-and-live-nation-team-up/">The answers are all in the Hernandez interview</a>, though one has to parse Attal&rsquo;s polite corporatese and read past passages of good ol&rsquo; boy chumminess about standing side by side watching bands at Stubb&rsquo;s BBQ and how the small-minded music lovers in Austin don&rsquo;t adequately appreciate C3&rsquo;s business genius.</p><p>Here are some of Attal&rsquo;s most notable comments and what they really mean.</p><p><strong>On why C3 sold out</strong>: &ldquo;Live Nation wanted to buy it, because we&rsquo;re growing in the festival market and they wanted to grow in that market as well. We needed each other.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Translation</strong>: &ldquo;We want to rule the festival game worldwide. So does Live Nation. Together, we&rsquo;re an unbeatable Axis of Evil!&rdquo;</p><p><strong>On what the influx of capital means</strong>: &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ll probably take a little more risk. We took a lot [of] risk [back] in the day. And then we kind of sat back for a minute and got nervous about taking risk, because we&rsquo;re like, &lsquo;Hey, we&rsquo;ve got kids. We&rsquo;ve have families.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Translation</strong>: &ldquo;Thanks to Live Nation, we can now be as reckless and move as quickly as we want! Get ready for global festival blitzkrieg!&rdquo;</p><p><strong>On why festivals are so important today</strong>: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about the live space. Eighty-five percent of a band&rsquo;s income is live, so everything now revolves around how to promote a record around a tour. A lot of bands launch their record around Lollapalooza&hellip; So we&rsquo;re now the product managers. The live space is the product manager.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Translation</strong>: &ldquo;Silly you; you thought it was about music? It&rsquo;s about product, product, product! Ticketmaster/Live Nation pioneered the whole thing about the concertgoer merely being a target for synergistic cross-promotion, and we love that and want a bigger piece of it!&rdquo;</p><div><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/michael_rapino.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino (WBEZ file)." /><strong>On a small, &ldquo;independent&rdquo; company&rsquo;s fit with a global conglomerate</strong>: &ldquo;[CEO] Michael Rapino is the reason we did the deal, and Live Nation is a great company. He understands our business. He knows the nuts and bolts of our business. He&rsquo;s great and we get along with him well. We already did before. It was just an easy fit&hellip; He&rsquo;d always been mellow, great. He&rsquo;s a great CEO of a company.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><strong>Translation</strong>: &ldquo;Yeah, sure, a thousand articles have been written about Rapino&rsquo;s ruthless, voracious ways&mdash;and there was that lawsuit filed by a smaller promoter in Chicago about how he wanted to &lsquo;crush, kill and destroy them,&rsquo; as he&rsquo;s done with so many other independent promoters in so many other cities&mdash;but hey, he&rsquo;s a cool dude, and we think exactly the same way! <a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News2008/LOLLACharliesrespond.htm">Plus, the piranahas Charlie Jones keeps in our office really liked him, and he bought us a keg of beer.</a>&rdquo;</p><p><strong>On if the festival bookings will change</strong>: &ldquo;No way. We&rsquo;re only going to book what we want to book, and that&rsquo;s what Michael wants us to do&hellip; Festivals are big revenue generators&mdash;big business&mdash;so there&rsquo;s no reason for them to start force-feeding bands to mess up the vibe of the festival&hellip; [But] I would love to be able to lean on them if they have the relationship [with a bigger artist]. We haven&rsquo;t gotten into that yet, because it&rsquo;s so new and everything&rsquo;s booked, but I&rsquo;d love to be able to make phone calls to some of the people that are managed by [Live] Nation and say, &lsquo;Hey, are you interested?&rsquo; and have that direct line of communication.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Translation</strong>: &ldquo;Wouldn&rsquo;t it be cool to have a bunch of Lollapaloozas all over the world headlined by Live Nation products Madonna and U2? Good times!&rdquo;</p><p>You&rsquo;ll forgive this veteran observer of C3 and Ticketmaster/Live Nation for being a little flip about the lack of context in the Hernandez interview, as well as the many substantive questions that he failed to ask Attal during what the writer proudly called &ldquo;an exclusive.&rdquo; Here are just a few of them:</p><ul><li>Live Nation&rsquo;s predatory business practices were widely vilified by a long list of artists from all corners of the music industry <a href="http://www.jimdero.com/News%202009/ChicagotoWashington.htm">when the federal government held congressional hearings weighing the proposed merger with Ticketmaster</a> in 2009. Doesn&rsquo;t that give you any cause for concern?</li><li>Because of its horrible customer service and egregious tacked-on &ldquo;convenience&rdquo; fees, Ticketmaster is the most reviled entity in the entertainment world. But Ticketmaster is part of Live Nation. Will you now be selling tickets &ldquo;the Ticketmaster way,&rdquo; even if you don&rsquo;t use their service?</li><li>How are a dozen or more Lollapaloozas scattered across the face of the globe good in any way for those regional music scenes, or for the diversity of the bookings at those festivals? Be honest: You just want to have a focused list of headliners each year atop all of your festivals with a lot of filler below, don&rsquo;t you? These global tours are how Live Nation always has worked.</li><li>What about those radius clauses? Isn&rsquo;t your end goal to create a stable of &ldquo;C3/Lollapalooza/Live Nation artists&rdquo; who are locked in and then unable to play with any other concert promoter?</li><li>And how do you feel about Live Nation&rsquo;s vaunted philosophy of promotional synergy? That concertgoers all exist primarily as targets of advertising? Or do you just want to admit that you&rsquo;ve always seen Lollapalooza in that light anyway?</li><li>Call me naïve, but why&mdash;really&mdash;is bigger unquestionably better, in music or in any other business? Why are you guys not just the Walmart of the music world?</li></ul><p>Valid questions, one and all. But don&rsquo;t hold your breath waiting for the answers.</p><p><em>Follow me on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><s>@</s>JimDeRogatis</a>, join me on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340">Facebook</a>, and podcast or stream <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/">Sound Opinions</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 09:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/lollapalooza-first-chicago-then-world-111660 R. Kelly headlines another festival—and prompts another controversy http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/r-kelly-headlines-another-festival%E2%80%94and-prompts-another-controversy <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/Kelly_0.jpg" title="" /></div><p>R. Kelly, the ever-controversial &ldquo;Pied Piper of R&amp;B,&rdquo; has been booked to headline another major regional music fest&mdash;<a href="http://www.fpsf.com/">the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston</a>&mdash;and he&rsquo;s being met by another controversy as members of the local music community protest his inclusion atop the early-June bill<em><strong>.</strong></em></p><p>As <em>The Chicago Sun-Times </em>documented over a decade of reporting, and as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2013-07/timeline-life-and-career-r-kelly-107973">WBEZ recapped when Kelly was tapped to headline the Pitchfork Music Festival two summers ago</a>, the superstar singer and producer consistently abused his position of wealth and fame to pursue illegal sexual relationships with underage girls, leaving dozens of ruined lives in this city&rsquo;s African-American community.</p><p>Kelly was acquitted in 2008 in a case that focused on narrow charges of making child pornography, but &ldquo;not guilty&rdquo; doesn&rsquo;t mean &ldquo;innocent,&rdquo; and the controversy over dozens of civil lawsuits filed by underage girls lingers.</p><p>Part of an attempt to salvage his career by reaching out to a young, mostly white, and vaguely &ldquo;alternative&rdquo; audience, Kelly&rsquo;s performances at Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, and Coachella in the summer of 2013 caused little controversy. However, after Chicago music journalist Jessica Hopper questioned this blogger about the ramifications of cosigning Kelly&rsquo;s music if one hates Kelly&rsquo;s misdeeds <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php">in a <em>Village Voice </em>article that went viral that December</a>, many music lovers began to rethink their positions on the artist, as well as on others such as Woody Allen and Bill Cosby.</p><p>Last July, when Kelly was booked to headline the Fashion Meets Music Festival in Columbus, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2014-07/columbus-cans-r-kelly-110568">the Ohio music community rose up in opposition and eventually forced the promoters to cancel his appearance.</a> Some Texans are hoping the sponsors of the Houston fest, <a href="http://www.freepresshouston.com/">a monthly alternative print publication and Website</a>, will do the same.</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/freepresssumfest.png" style="height: 235px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div><p><a href="http://www.girlsrockhouston.org/">Girls Rock Camp Houston</a> is leading the attack, which includes <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cancel-R-Kelly-at-FPSF-2015/1038039909543996?sk=info&amp;tab=page_info">a Facebook page</a> and the petition posted below. Response on Twitter and other forums has been considerable, and opponents already have met with the promoters once, reporting that &ldquo;the lines of dialog are open and ongoing.&rdquo; Their cause also is garnering local media attention from rival publications <a href="http://www.houstoniamag.com/arts-and-entertainment/on-the-town/articles/backlash-grows-against-r-kellys-free-press-appearance-march-2015">Hustonia</a> and <a href="http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2015/02/sizing_up_the_fspf_2015_lineup.php">Houston Press</a>.</p><p>According to the activists&rsquo; petition, Kelly is &ldquo;a pedophile indicted on 21 counts of child pornography [who] has filmed video footage of himself engaging in sexual acts with underage girls&mdash;teenage girls he would prey on outside of their gospel choir class at Kenwood Academy in Chicago&mdash;leaving long lasting emotional and psychological trauma&hellip; The girls of Chicago are the girls of Houston, and they matter&hellip; R. Kelly should not be able to continue to profit from performances that glorify his persona of sexual predator.&rdquo;</p><p>The promoters response to date? <em>Free Press</em> publisher Omar Afra told Houstonia, &ldquo; &ldquo;We&rsquo;re pretty much in the listening stage right now. We never preclude dialogue. If somebody&rsquo;s got a concern, we&rsquo;re here to hear that.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/11018858_1038048059543181_2556214920745120257_n.jpg" title="" /><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></div></p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 10:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/r-kelly-headlines-another-festival%E2%80%94and-prompts-another-controversy Fall in love again with Alison Moyet http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/fall-love-again-alison-moyet-111640 <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/AlisonMoyet1.jpg" style="height: 301px; width: 640px;" title="" /></div><p>The occasional and exceptional celebration of a Patricia Arquette aside, popular culture&rsquo;s tendency to discount female artists once they hit the second third of their lives and careers is despicable, and it leads to missing far too much great art. Case in point: The resurgent voice of &rsquo;80s synth-pop icon Alison Moyet, who thundered back from the theatrical stage into the pop realm with a brilliant album called <em>The Minutes </em>in 2013, and who provides as strong a career recap and argument for a renewed celebration of her musical accomplishments as can be imagined with the recent concert set <em>Minutes and Seconds&mdash;Live</em>.</p><p>Moyet always has had a powerful, boundlessly emotional voice much more impressive than more celebrated and younger Brit phenoms like Adele and Amy Winehouse. And rather than reveling in retro poses, the Essex native always has employed her incredible instrument via a forward-thinking approach that represents the perfect merger of woman and machine, synths and soul. On this 13-track live set, the 53-year-old singer choose gems from throughout her 30-year catalog, returning at some points to her Yaz roots (but with added depth and maturity) while elsewhere reverse-engineering more recent material recorded with a traditional band&mdash;&ldquo;reworking organic songs into a programmed format rather than the other way around and sparing me the niggling suspicion that I was in danger of inhabiting my own tribute act,&rdquo; as she&rsquo;s said.</p><p>The result is a seductive, infectious, and unforgettable testament from a pop presence who is as vital now as she was when we first heard her.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/p0NjxQ5cdAg" width="560"></iframe></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/Moyet%20cover.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p><strong>Alison Moyet,<em> Minutes and Seconds&mdash;Live </em></strong><strong>(Cooking Vinyl)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p><p><em>Follow me on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike></em></strong><strong><em>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em>, join me on </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em>, and podcast or stream </em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em>.</em></p></p> Mon, 02 Mar 2015 06:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-03/fall-love-again-alison-moyet-111640 I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/i-hated-hated-hated-hated-hated-movie-111610 <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/la-et-mn-whiplash-review-20141010.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 640px;" title="Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in 'Whiplash.'" /></div><p>&ldquo;So, what did you think of <em>Whiplash?</em>&rdquo;</p><p>As a drummer, as a music critic, and as a sometimes curator of great films about music (via the occasional <em>Sound Opinions </em>movie nights), it&rsquo;s a logical question to toss my way, and I started getting it long before J.K. Simmons took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor Sunday night, when the film began its limited art-house run last fall. My answer, then as now:</p><p>I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie.</p><p>I do not invoke my heroic former colleague Roger Ebert&rsquo;s infamous assessment of <em>North </em>lightly. While I never discussed that review with him, <a href="http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/north-1994">it should be obvious to anyone who reads it</a> that his problems with the 1994 movie go far deeper than what he calls a lapse in director Rob Reiner&rsquo;s usual skills as a filmmaker&mdash;&ldquo;To call it manipulative would be inaccurate; it has an ambition to manipulate, but fails&rdquo;&mdash;striking at the core theme that parents should slavishly dote on their child prodigy or face dire consequences. The notion that any child would &ldquo;lightly separate from their [loving but human] parents&rdquo; is what really prompted Ebert to declare that he &ldquo;hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like [the movie], hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.&rdquo;</p><p>So it is with me and <em>Whiplash.</em></p><p>While Simmons is undeniably impressive playing a brutal fascist even more monstrous than the character he portrayed in <em>Oz</em> crossed with a drill instructor even more sadistic than the one R. Lee Ermey played in <em>Full Metal Jacket</em>, to think that this man has anything at all to contribute to the act of music-making stretches credulity past the breaking point. This is a film that mistakes excelling in the arts with the competitive mindset that &ldquo;winning isn&rsquo;t everything, it&rsquo;s the <em>only</em> thing&rdquo;&mdash;which ain&rsquo;t even true in sports, at least when they are pursued the way they should be (and shame on any of you Little League coaches who stray from that ideal).</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/simmons%20nazi%20oz.jpg" title="Simmons as a Nazi gangleader in 'Oz.'" /></div><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/10/movies/in-whiplash-a-young-jazz-drummer-vs-his-teacher.html?_r=0">As Tony Scott wrote in <em>The New York Times</em></a>: &ldquo;This story of an ambitious young striver and his difficult mentor could easily have been a sports movie, and structurally, it resembles one. There are montages of grueling practice scattered among scenes of tense competition, all of it building toward a hugely suspenseful (but also, to some extent, never in doubt) championship game moment of reckoning.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/high-fliers-3">Added Anthony Lane in <em>The New Yorker</em></a><em>:</em> &ldquo;Whether <em>Whiplash</em> tells us much about music, despite a fine rendition of Duke Ellington&rsquo;s &lsquo;Caravan,&rsquo; I&rsquo;m not sure. It&rsquo;s more about power than it is about jazz, and the fetishistic close-ups&mdash;of blood and flying sweat, as well as of tears&mdash;suggest a blend of boot camp, football coaching, and pornography.&rdquo;</p><p>Verisimilitude allegedly was important to writer and director Damien Chazelle, who based Simmon&rsquo;s hard-ass conductor at a New York conservatory on his time with the relentless music teacher who led the Princeton High School Studio Band in New Jersey. He even cast a real drummer, Miles Teller, as the driven jazz student, then made him take several months of lessons to get the playing exactly &ldquo;right.&rdquo; But many, many details are embarrassingly wrong.</p><p>A few of note: the alleged reverence with which Teller&rsquo;s Andrew Neiman holds Buddy Rich (a showboating bully with bountiful chops but little creative genius); the drums and cymbals themselves, which are off-brands that might be seen in a school rehearsal room but certainly not at Lincoln Center; all of that blood (only a drummer who doesn&rsquo;t really know how to play or hold his sticks would spray those geysers of gore all over his cymbals), and, most importantly, the story that provides the central metaphor for the film and the justification for Simmons hurling a folding chair at his student, WWE-style.</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/whiplash%20bloody%20sticks.jpg" title="" /></div><p>As noted by many jazz historians (<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/whiplash-getting-jazz-right-movies">here</a> and <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/10/11/whiplash_charlie_parker_and_the_cymbal_what_the_movie_gets_wrong_about_genius.html">here</a>, to cite just two examples), Papa Jo Jones never threw a Zildjian at Charlie Parker&rsquo;s head with the aim of decapitating him; he tossed a cymbal at Bird&rsquo;s feet to playfully &ldquo;gong&rdquo; him when the sax giant was lost in a free-flying solo. And flying&mdash;together, in collaboration and communication with others, not in macho moments of solo glory&mdash;is the only reason to play jazz, or indeed, any music. I&rsquo;ve never met any teacher or conductor whose primarily goal isn&rsquo;t to instill that love of music. <a href="http://www.kcet.org/arts/artbound/counties/los-angeles/drummer-peter-erskine-on-whiplash-film.html">Here&rsquo;s jazz drumming great and musical educator Peter Erskine on the subject</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve played under the baton of stern and demanding conductors, as well as the critical ears of some pretty tough bandleaders. I&rsquo;ve always experienced equal amounts of praise and criticism from the toughest of them. A conductor or bandleader will only get good results if he or she shows as much love or enthusiasm as the discipline or toughness they dole out&hellip; I&rsquo;m disappointed that any viewer of the film will not see the joy of music-making that&rsquo;s almost always a part of large-ensemble rehearsals and performances. Musicians make music because they LOVE music. None of that is really apparent in the film, in my opinion.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Note that Erskine lauds equal measures of love and enthusiasm, discipline and toughness. Innumerable cultural think pieces over the last decade have rightly criticized the millennial-parental mindset of &ldquo;everybody gets a trophy.&rdquo; And Simmons&rsquo; Terence Fletcher deftly skewers the kind of thinking that leads only to universal mediocrity: &ldquo;There are no two words in the English language more harmful than &lsquo;good job.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>In the end, though, Fletcher/Simmons produces a drum machine, not a musician, an artist, or a better human being. Virtuosity and technical excellence devoid of personality and self-expression&mdash;that ineffable quality we call &ldquo;soul&rdquo;&mdash;is meaningless. And because of that, <em>Whiplash</em>, a 106-minute look at the act of making music, ultimately is one of the most anti-music, anti-art films I&rsquo;ve ever seen. So no, &ldquo;hate&rdquo; is <em>not </em>too strong a word.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7d_jQycdQGo" width="560"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mVt_1lGTUcg" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><strong>Follow me on Twitter </strong></em><a href="https://twitter.com/JimDeRogatis"><strong><em><strike>@</strike>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/i-hated-hated-hated-hated-hated-movie-111610 Dodos are a rare bird indeed http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/dodos-are-rare-bird-indeed-111602 <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/dodos-right-size.jpg" title="" /></div><p>Celebrating a decade of swirling, atmospheric sounds based on a unique approach to shoegazing indie-rock, the Dodos sound as passionate as ever on their sixth studio album <em>Individ. </em>Rarely has a band made music this lush and enveloping with such a simple sonic palette: Most songs rely only on Meric Long&rsquo;s dreamy vocals and intricate, semi-acoustic finger-picking and Logan Kroeber&rsquo;s minimalist but colorful drumming. With the exception of an occasional cameo (Brigid Dawson of thee Oh Sees sings on &ldquo;Pattern/Shadow,&rdquo; filling the role here that Neko Case played on <em>No Color </em>in 2011), that&rsquo;s it. But the duo shows no shortage of inspiration in mining these basic ingredients, compensating for the sometimes vague and impressionistic lyrics of songs such as &ldquo;Bubble&rdquo; and &ldquo;Competition&rdquo; with sweet vocal melodies, jangling guitars, and African-inspired rhythms that are never less than enchanting.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GY_-rTV4Y34" width="560"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.lh-st.com/Shows/03-06-2015+The+Dodos"><em>The Dodos perform at Lincoln Hall on March 6.</em></a></p><p><strong>The Dodos, <em>Individ </em>(Polyvinyl)</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"><strong><em><strike>@</strike></em></strong><strong><em>JimDeRogatis</em></strong></a><em><strong>, join me on </strong></em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-DeRo/254753087340"><strong><em>Facebook</em></strong></a><em><strong>, and podcast or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 06:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/dodos-are-rare-bird-indeed-111602 Lupe Fiasco gives us another winner, Bjork slightly less so, Father John Misty a pointless hype http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/lupe-fiasco-gives-us-another-winner-bjork-slightly-less-so-father-john <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1421815144_012015-Music-The-Rundown-Lupe-Fiasco-Tetsuo-Youth-Album-Cover-Art.jpg" style="height: 253px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Catching up with some recent reviews on <a href="http://soundopinions.org"><em>Sound Opinions</em></a> that haven&rsquo;t been posted on this blog, the clear winner is <em>Tetsuo &amp; Youth</em>, the fifth album by Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco. Despite his contentious relations with the major-label system and his vacillating convictions about whether he even wants to be part of the hip-hop game, the proudly intellectual (some would say, less kindly, &ldquo;nerdy&rdquo;) artist never has sounded more vital or necessary, giving us a nuanced and humanistic portrait of the joys and troubles of life on the streets&mdash;specifically Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, but it could be any big, segregated American city&mdash;that is all the more powerful for its refusal to pander to gangster clichés. Lupe says more about the problems in America today in a few lines in &ldquo;Deliver&rdquo; than many other rappers and political commentators could say in an hour. (&ldquo;The pizza man don&rsquo;t come here no more/Too much dope/Too many niggas on the porch&hellip; Too many niggas getting shot.&rdquo;) And he rarely skimps on the humor, either&mdash;just try to name another rapper who can so effortlessly name-check Morocco Mole and Secret Squirrel.</div></div><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1i90DrK5sFk" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Lupe Fiasco, </strong><strong><em>Tetsuo &amp; Youth</em></strong><strong> (Atlantic)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 4 stars.</strong></p><p><a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/479/#lupefiasco"><strong><em>Hear the full review on </em></strong><strong>Sound Opinions.</strong></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/Bjork-Vulnicura1.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Meanwhile, the good news for longtime Bjork fans on <em>Vulnicura</em>, her ninth solo album, is that she&rsquo;s passionate again about just making music, following several years of digital tomfoolery and multi-media experimentation with the <em>Biophilia </em>project. The bad news is that, while her vocals are a bit more straightforward and less operatic than on her last few releases, we&rsquo;re still a far cry from the rock fury and pop sweets of her best albums (say, <em>Post, Homogenic</em>, and <em>Vespertine</em>). Then, too, the much of the album tends toward the monochromatic as she ponders the heartbreak from the end of her long romance with American artist Matthew Barney, only really coming to life as she chases the glimmers of hope in songs such as &ldquo;Atom Dance&rdquo; and &ldquo;Mouth Mantra&rdquo; during the last third of the disc.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/J51Fpwu_pnc" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Bjork, <em>Vulnicura</em> (One Little Indian)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 3 stars.</strong></p><p><a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/479/#bjork"><strong><em>Hear the full review on </em></strong><strong>Sound Opinions.</strong></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/Misty%20cover.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Finally, for all of the laurels being heaped upon <em>I Love You, Honeybear, </em>the second album since indie-rock veteran and former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman embarked on his fabled West Coast psychedelic odyssey and reinvented himself as Father John Misty, the hurdles toward liking much less loving this disc&mdash;the saccharine Laurel Canyon over-production, the at-times plodding rhythms, the allegedly humorous but really passive-aggressive love and loathing (both self-directed and, more troublingly, toward womankind), and the pretentious logorrhea (berating a girl for her malapropisms one minute, pleading &ldquo;Save me white Jesus&rdquo; the next)&mdash;not only prove insurmountable to this listener, but leave him wondering what the hell his fans are hearing that I most certainly am not.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JODshFyKHuA" width="560"></iframe></p><p><strong>Father John Misty, <em>I Love You, Honeybear </em>(Sub Pop)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the 4-star scale: 1 star.</strong></p><p><a href="http://soundopinions.org/show/481"><strong><em>Hear the full review on </em></strong><strong>Sound Opinions.</strong></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 or stream </strong></em><a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/"><strong>Sound Opinions</strong></a><em><strong>.</strong></em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 06:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2015-02/lupe-fiasco-gives-us-another-winner-bjork-slightly-less-so-father-john