Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday follow-up and rule 4

Well... as is important in the field I work in... you get a much needed lesson in humility from time to time. My interview with Maia Sharp seemed pretty cool. She was fun and the story about the oboe sounded like pay dirt, like a little anecdote she didn't often repeat, like I was getting a real treat --except, I wasn't. The Daily Mail ran pretty much the same bit with maybe a slightly variant on the focus and if they got it and I got it, everybody gets it. Ta-da! It's fucking magic.

So, rule 4 -You're always getting leftovers. 9 times out of 10, you're going to find yourself asking the same questions others have always asked a dozen or a hundred times. This means you will often get the same answers, the same stories that have been repeated a hundred times. While repetition, to a degree, is expected, even necessary, the goal of music writing is to try and bring something new or new to the reader out. It doesn't have to be world changing, but it should stimulate a little. Old material, parroted too often, tends to gloss over.

I liked my article, but I kind of failed...

In retrospect, there was one question I should have asked but didn't. This would be the question: Has sexual politics been a help or hindrance with getting your music across to musicians? Basically, how hard is it for a talented lesbian to get a song covered by the Dixie Chicks or Trisha Yearwood? I think I could have gotten a better bead on Country music's brain, which may not match the image they project.

I'll scratch that one up to be completely charmed by her oboe story and the Darth Vader t-shirt, which I do covet. My own damned fault. Sometimes, I suck.

Still, even if I had gone that route, chances are it's already been covered and many times. Probably, the Advocate article(s) on her have wailed on the subject, but the average Gazz reader likely hasn't picked up a copy of the Advocate in a while.

Meanwhile... Marcia Ball. Well, she was a sweetheart and warm on the phone. I just wished I liked her album, but I don't. I even sent notes to friends who might be able to explain to me what I wasn't getting. As it happened, they were just as puzzled as I was about anyone being excited about her music.

I don't know. She might be hell on wheels live, which is what I'm betting. Otherwise, the folks at Mountain Stage wouldn't keep inviting her back.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday follow-up on Friday

I had a couple of stories this week in the Gazz. Sorry, I've been slacking more with blogging in general due to the work load. I. Am. A. Slave.


John Legend/India.Arie --Really, a hell of a show. The music was swell, but the spectacle and the energy level were off the charts. I've seldom seen a crowd that into a concert and was pleasantly surprised that India.Arie was as good as she was. I also expected more political stuff out of her than she gave, but she was charming. Legend was as good as his hype and really the whole show felt about three or five times the size it was. In a place like the Clay Center, it makes you feel like you're really in the thick of things, even if you're up in the nosebleed seats -which is where I was.

Suburban Graffiti -A local band. I don't do enough local stuff and I'm aware of it. I was impressed with their musical direction and the shape of what they're trying to do. Naturally, they're not going to stick with it. All of them are pretty bright, are going to decent schools and will figure out a career in music is nearly as rewarding as a career in writing. Still, I liked what I heard and they had a nice naivete about them.

Gary Puckett- Hmm... well, can't say this was a great one. He was amiable and I knew his music, but I was never much of a fan. Lady Willpower and Young girl were played a hell of a lot on the oldies station I had to listen to at the pizza parlor where I worked when I was about 20. I got sick of it, but the interview came off okay. Just nothing new revealed to me other than Prince Charles was a bigger goober than I thought.

James Price -modestly bitter about the falling out with Ralph Stanley, who, by several reports, is kind of an asshole. He had a nice origin story, but I'd have given five bucks if he'd said something like, "that motherfucker Stanley fired my ass."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday follow-up

All of this stuff refers to this morning's Gazz section and my contributions.

John Legend - Not much to add. He wasn't particularly engaged and not exceptionally talkative. He wasn't evasive, just didn't have much to say until we got onto the subject of his charity, then he lifted off.

Ben Kweller -A genuinely funny guy and possibly stoned when I spoke to him. It was hard to tell with the easy going Texas drawl and the way he spun out his stories. The main thing I wanted to know was how he convinced his parents going to Europe with Faith No More was a good idea. The general idea was he was like a frog in a pot of water. The temperature built up and nobody noticed the water was boiling before it was too late.

Dave Alvin -He was a last minute addition. I didn't plan on talking to him, didn't really know who he was and staggered into the interview under prepared. However, we still managed to find some decent common ground and I was able to stay away from the things I did know about him that weren't particularly important: Alvin was one of the founders of The Blasters, a punk rockabilly band from the the early 80s, sort of a forerunner to a lot of things I got into like Mojo Nixon and the Reverend Horton Heat. The Blasters were also in the movie Streets of Fire, which is mostly crap, but has a couple of cool songs on the soundtrack.

Anyway, none of that really meant much in the context of his new band. So, we didn't talk about it and still had a pretty good time.

Bobcat Goldthwait -I love this guy. Who I think is cool is very different than who other people think is cool. I've thought Bobcat was funny for as long as I can remember (The Twisted Sister Videos, even Police Academy). We had a good conversation (in a normal, even tone), but I got him to laugh. He joked with him about getting a job directing the next Harry Potter film or possible product tie-ins for one of his movies. I have really bad ideas for a 7-11 slurpie cup for "Sleeping Dogs Lie" and a happy meal for "World's Greatest Dad."

It was fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Good 2

I'm still working on how to phrase the story, but it boils down to this: the music is great. It's a fantastic venue for music. The sound is good and having the two stages side by side makes for quick transitions between major and minor acts. It flows marvelously with very little waiting around. The staff is mostly helpful and the vendors aren't completely trying to fuck you over. The prices were inflated, but probably less than the state fair. I even liked the food.

The festival is an experience. I recommend it.

Highlights of my one day visit:

Todd Snider is amazing live. It's crazy how much better he sounds live than on the album.
Les Claypool is probably nuts, though his new album based on a mostly failed video game he wrote the soundtrack to sounds like it might be fun.
Galactic was OK.
I would have liked to have seen all of Bob Weir's set, but what I saw was pretty good.

Single, but important warning.
Don't bring your kids. Sure, sure, the website makes a deal about family camping and activities for the kids, but that clashes with the central purpose of All Good, which is to get stoned and listen to hippie music.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

All Good

Well, off to All Good this weekend.

I haven't been to a big ass music festival in years. The last one was the very weird, traumatic, but life changing Woodstock 99. I went alone, was miserable and sun burnt most of the time. I spent way too much money and ultimately ran for the hills when the cops showed up to quell a riot.

I still saw some amazing performances including (in no particular order): The Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fatboy Slim, Korn and Creed (yes, Creed did not suck live). I watched Trainspotting in a converted air force hanger while I was a bit under the influence, saw naked people until I was sick of looking at human skin. I played an overturned trash can with an iron pipe and along with others made savage music. I went to a rave.

It was a strange kind of communion and seriously, it changed my life. Choosing to go and to go alone was a big deal at the time. Afterwards, I wasn't so afraid to go it alone, to do things without committee approval. I found out I could get by just fine among a quarter million strangers and remain a stranger if I wanted to. I could work out the details as I went along. I wasn't a child. I wasn't an adult. I was just me and I was okay with that.

That was really the point when I became comfortable in my own skin again, after a long time of not being comfortable at all.

I don't think it will ever happen again, but this weekend, I'm off to All Good. It's smaller, not as loud or as plain crazy as Woodstock was, and I'm bringing company with me. I don't know if there are any lessons to gather. I don't know if I'll learn anything or if my partner-in-crime will get anything out of it other than some music. Still, just music isn't a bad thing.

Thursday morning notes

Some thoughts on the stories I wrote for this week.

Artimus Pyle- About him being a child molester... I don't know. Maybe/maybe not, but he does seem to make the noises appropriate for a guy who pissed off his girlfriend and got pinched by the system.

Pyle plead to a lesser charge, rather than face the possibility of a high profile trial, which likely would have ruined him regardless of outcome. Not just that, if he'd lost, he'd have faced the possibility of going to jail for the rest of his natural life. Quite possibly, he was advised to do that to just make it go away. It may have made sense at the time. He was given eight years of probation, but no jail time.

Laws about sex crimes have evolved, become more punitive (particularly in Florida) and 16 years ago, the internet was still mostly a toy. Information, particularly the bad kind, wasn't nearly as free lowing as it is now. 16 years ago, it might have only been a problem if he got arrested for something. Now, it dogs him like a shadow.

I have no idea whether he was guilty, only that he plead it out, but I could see why he might have under the circumstances. If he's innocent, I hope he does clear his name. If he's not, I guess I'm a little perplexed as to why the state of Florida offered him a plea deal in the first place.

Anyway, what he thinks about Skynyrd, he's might be right. They're a band stuck in amber, caught on the day before they plane crash.

Todd Snider -A genuine pleasure to talk to this guy. We joked about both of us not being sure whether we'd spoken before. As well as having a pretty generic face, I also have the quintessential generic radio voice. I sound familiar to everybody, but I couldn't remember if we'd actually spoken. Sometimes it all runs together.

Anyway, he was fun and probably not stoned when I spoke to him. He had a lot of nice things to say about Mountain Stage. I genuinely like the folks on Mountain Stage, but occasionally piss one or more of them off with these things I write. They're very protective of what they do and the people involved which is hard for some people to understand. I get it. So, does Snider.

"Mountain Stage is more than a show," he said. "The best part is backstage. Andy (Ridenour) has built a family back there. When you go play the show, you get to be part of that."

It really is like that.

Maya Nye -Really genuine. I liked what she had to say and hope she gets over her fear of debuting her own stuff.

I want to do more local musicians and people, but the trick is figuring out angles. Her article was a straight-up profile, which is fine, but one of those a week and people would be so damned sick of them.

I wish Freaktent would give lessons on marketing to other bands. Say what you want about their music, Scott Bailey is very good at coming up with things for me to write about.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Since there is no Regatta in Charleston this year, why not go to Multifest?

Ok, so far, there's not a lot to see.

On the upside, at least the food is decent --even if there's not much else going on. I have no idea who The Whispers are. Never heard of them, which isn't all that surprising. I grew up listening to redneck classic country, redneck classic rock and heavy metal then moved into punk, stoner rock and alt. country after a brief flirtation with bubblegum pop in the mid 1980s (I was hoping to get laid).

I'm sure I'll get a strongly worded e-mail about all their fine accomplishments and contributions to music. They were probably giants about thirty or forty years ago. I am and will always be a philistine.

The only little problem I have with Multifest is that as white bread as Regatta often was (and it was), Multifest is primarily an African-American event with a half-hearted nod to a few other communities. Credit where credit is due: a couple of years it looked like they reached out a bit (belly dancers, a booth for an Islamic center handing out copies of the Koran, somebody selling some vaguely Asian food), but the major entertainment is usually soul, R&B and some flavor of Hip Hop --which is fine. I'd love it if they'd bring in Public Enemy, but so would a lot of middle-aged white guys who still listen to Rage Against The Machine and get nostalgic for smart, aggressive and political rap.

Fat chance on that one, whitey, if their budget affords The Whispers as their headliner (by now, I've read their bio, their wikipedia page, and will venture, regardless of their many fine hits, I still have never heard of them).

Still, a little more diversity on the stage would be nice. I won't be going for the music. I'll get some fried fish or maybe some ribs. If I luck out, they'll have a reggae band plunking away on a Saturday afternoon.

That's not terrible and given the long haul to next year's FestivALL, you have to soak up whatever passes for a party in Charleston.