To commemorate Arcade Fire’s amazing performance at the Xfinity Center (formerly Great Woods), I offer a few brief thoughts and a scrapbook worth of photos. This was my first time seeing them, definitely a band that had been on my “bucket list.” I knew it would be something grand and theatrical, but what I experienced went far beyond my expectations. The intensity of their music in that acoustically ideal amphitheater and the awe-inspiring stage show combined to create a breathtaking evening.
Category: Music News (Page 2 of 5)
For those of you who enjoy a behind-the-curtains look at today’s music business, there’s a new podcast you should know about. Darren Rose, best known for his previous on-air gig on Alt 98.7 KYSR in Los Angeles, has just inaugurated Darren Rose Radio – Inside Radio & Records. It’s an unedited and uncensored series of conversations with people from every corner of the music business — artists, managers, DJs, producers, label executives and others.
In these hour-whatever conversations, it’s no-holds-barred discourse about people’s careers, world views and insights into this
sketchy sophisticated industry. Darren has a great resume for doing a show like this, as he’s interviewed many people in the biz at 98.7 and enjoys a casual rapport with them, which always makes for great conversation. Judging from his first four podcasts, this is going to be a real eye-opener, a rare look at how the music business operates today.
Thus far, he has featured Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event, Pete Galli of The MGMT Company (who manages Airborne, Andrew W.K., The Bravery and others), his friend Josh Venable, Radio Programmer and DJ at Z104.5 in Tulsa (and formerly with Alt 98.7 and 102.1 The Edge in Dallas) and producer Andy Rosen (a.k.a. Dr. Rosen Rosen). Here are my initial thoughts.
His friendly chat with Mikel – This 75 minutes is like a rushing river of information after a particularly long dry spell for Airborne news. Mikel has a tendency toward major snarkiness if an interviewer 1) doesn’t know anything about the band and clearly hasn’t done their research or 2) asks the stock questions (“So tell us about the name”). This was a casual chat between friends, unguarded to the point where Mikel spoke about what he’s been doing the past six months, his home studio, what his plans are for the next Airborne album, how he and the band work together, his writing process, his thoughts on radio singles, his favorite artists, his health and workout regimen, his lifestyle, marital status, personal introspection, the music industry, you name it. For the Airborne fan, it’s an exhausting, exhilarating, gluttonous feast.
Music Business 101 with Pete – It’s a 30 minute crash course on today’s music industry and what a band has to do to get noticed, from one of the most savvy people currently in the business. Pete shares his four steps for breaking an artist (great songs and recordings, a good story, band identity, live show). He talks about the importance of blogs, radio, major labels and gives an extremely valuable insider’s perspective. It’s also heartwarming to hear him get totally geeked about Airborne and their huge hit, “Sometime Around Midnight.” After many years in the business, he still has that youthful passion and enthusiasm and isn’t completely jaded. Great stuff.
His two-hour gabfest with Josh Venable – This one’s an extremely interesting and thoroughly depressing look inside today’s commercial ‘alternative’ radio station
travesty industry. It takes some effort to get beyond their gushing over Coldplay and their defense of Clear Channel (I suppose it’s understandable for a pair of working DJs, as CC has absconded with the bulk of U.S. radio stations). But there’s some really funny shit here. Their conversation veers recklessly from an extremely precise look at DJing as a career, ratings mechanisms and the inner workings of a rock station to behind-the-scenes gossip and endless stories from two chummy radio DJs who are survivors of the industry’s implosion and almost complete annihilation of independent stations by corporate giants. As the “interview” winds on, things eventually disintegrate into a gloriously unedited drunken frat party.
His tête-à-tête with Dr. Rosen Rosen – The conversation veers from home renovations and parenting to his remixes, recent production work with Meg Myers, what it takes for a band to be successful, the role of radio, the importance of artist interviews, live shows and stage production, his process of becoming a producer and his favorite artists. Timbaland? Uh, no thanks. Hearing about his experience as a songwriter and producer in the music biz? Yes, please.
Damn, this is going to be good. Best of all? The podcasts are free to stream or download from his site. Here’s to many happy podcasts, Mr. Rose.
As he says himself, “Over the last 15 years, the music industry has seen more changes than any other time in history. One of those changes in recent years has been the near extinction of the long form interview. Enter Darren Rose Radio, a chance to connect and understand the business from artists and industry insiders far beyond their social networks.”
Priscilla Ahn, a multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, harmonica, ukulele, banjo) with an angelic voice, is new for me but has been performing for more than a decade. She has toured with DeVotchKa, Willie Nelson, Amos Lee and others, and has collaborated with Tiesto (“I Am Strong”) and Ashtar Command (“The Breakup Song”). She released her fifth album, This Is Where We Are (Universal Music), back in July.
At her core is quiet introspection with the focus on her beautiful voice, softly accompanied by wistful, delicate piano and acoustic guitar. On her latest album, she incorporates electronica and beats (and sprinkles of fairy dust), though fortunately this adds to the appeal of her intimate and haunting vocals. While artists with less talent hide behind electronics, Priscilla Ahn uses the technology to further color her already quite colorful inner world.
4/29 New York, NY – Highline Ballroom
5/1 Cambridge, MA – T.T. the Bear’s Place
5/3 Washington, DC – The Hamilton
5/4 Philadelphia, PA – Tin Angel
5/6 Toronto, Canada – The Drake Hotel
5/13 Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
5/15 San Francisco, CA – Yoshi’s San Francisco
5/30 Los Angeles, CA – Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
I ask a lot from my music. A strong beat, something tuneful or catchy, isn’t enough for me. It’s not enough to hold my attention, and it’s not enough to inspire me to write. There has to be philosophical inquiry, social observation, searching, or struggling, scathing commentary, yearning, mourning, hunger. If it doesn’t provide me with answers, at the very least it has to ask the right questions. Whether it does this in words, in music, or both, I really don’t care. But it has to do something.
I don’t know if Lorde can be trusted. Is she the youngest philosopher of our time, or a savvy business woman light-years beyond her earthling age? In either scenario, if she indeed is the author of these coming of awareness tales, precociously making her social observations and spewing her venom towards mainstream culture while starkly framed by the skeletal remains of modern tribal electronica, then she’s a genius.
While enjoying the bands at the recent Boston Calling Festival, I happened to glance over to the side at a super-animated woman gesturing wildly out to the audience, in time to the music. At first I had no idea what this was, but soon realized it was an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter. I had seen this before at other shows, and became fascinated by these “unsung heroes.” Some were as entertaining as the musicians, dancing and gesturing and fully absorbed in the music and the moment.
Entertainers in their own right, they bring the joy of the performance to audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing. Clearly I’m not the only one who’s been noticing these folks. Earlier this year, The New York Times did a great piece on one such interpreter at Lollapalooza in Chicago.
It was because of my appreciation for these special music lovers that a recent email caught my eye. It was about the Deaf Professional Arts Network (D-PAN), an amazing organization whose mission statement reads as follows: “D-PAN aims to make music and music culture accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community, and to give recognition to deaf and hard of hearing artists everywhere.” They’re based in Detroit and spearheaded by hip-hop artist Sean Forbes. Founded in 2006, they released their first ASL music video for “Where’d You Go” (by Fort Minor), which generated over half a million hits on YouTube. Their 2008 DVD “It’s Everybody’s Music,” which sold over 10,000 copies worldwide, featured videos for James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” (performed by Sean). Their unusual and imaginative videos created quite a buzz. This brilliant one for The White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends” (see below) was featured on The Today Show, CBS.com and The Huffington Post.
For their second music video collection, “It’s Everybody’s Music” Volume Two (with songs from The White Stripes, Owl City, Carly Rae Jepson, The Clark Sisters and an original song from Sean Forbes), they’re been taking it on the road with concerts nationwide. On 11/9 (tomorrow night), they’ll be in Los Angeles for their DVD Release Party. Learn more about D-PAN’s activities on their official site. For a serious dose of inspiration, check out Sean talking about his project back in 2009 on CNN. Truly awesome.
Saturday, May 25
Fun. ~ The Shins ~ Marina and the Diamonds ~ Matt and Kim ~ Portugal. The Man ~ Cults ~ Ms Mr ~ Bad Rabbits ~ St. Lucia
Sunday, May 26
The National ~ Of Monsters and Men ~ Young the Giant ~ Andrew Bird ~ Dirty Projectors ~ Ra Ra Riot ~ The Walkmen ~ Youth Lagoon ~ Caspian
So I would be remiss in not acknowledging and commemorating the City of Boston’s very first music festival. Boston Calling is a 2-day extravaganza being held May 25 & 26 at City Hall Plaza, right in the center of Boston. For anyone who attended WFNX’s ‘Best Music Poll’ show back in 2009, this is a really cool location for live music. They also happen to have a pretty stellar line-up, no doubt due to the involvement of the National’s Aaron Dessner, who helped to curate. There are two local bands on the bill as well (which doesn’t always happen at these sorts of things — instrumental group Caspian (from Beverly) and Bad Rabbits (from Boston).
Unfortunately, after I’ve just hyped it like that, regular tickets and passes are completely sold out. However, if you’re well-heeled and enjoy the ‘Rock Star Treatment,’ you can still get single day or weekend VIP passes, which include your own entrance, VIP lounge access, food and a private bar, private restrooms and some festival swag. See the line-up below and check out a few of the featured artists performing. Happy Festival, Boston!share this:
Ok, that was pretty corny, but inevitable. The Airborne Toxic Event release their teaser EP called The Secret today (3/11), just ahead of their third full-length studio album, Such Hot Blood, which might be out April 16 (no formal date from Island Def Jam). The album was recorded at the legendary Blackbird Studios in Nashville with producer Jacquire King (Of Monsters and Men, Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, Buddy Guy, Cold War Kids, Dawes).
I will be reviewing the new album, so stay tuned. But for now… The Secret, locked inside feverish memories, with a sense of urgency and the madness of a remembered love; you can’t hide, and everyone knows everything anyway… Timeless, the enduring soul, visitations from spirit; a close bond that transcends time, ageless, ancient, celebratory, defiant… The Storm, a wistful longing, the yearning not to be alone… Safe, lost in one’s thoughts, in a half-forgotten dream; the past is relived in the telling of a story, with words repeated like a chanted meditation. These songs feel more than ever like a sleepwalk into the pages of a novel, into the author’s memories with a small, focused light left on to guide you. This is poetic folk music infused with a pounding heartbeat and the dramatic flourish they’ve become known for.
After so many years away from the public eye (and so many years after I’ve uttered such a phrase, and not in this digital medium), it feels downright strange to type “here’s a new Bowie video, from his soon-to-be-released album.” But well, here it is. Called “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” it’s both disturbing and hilarious. A man who is happily (boringly?) settled into a comfortable though uneventful life is besieged by fashionably dressed stalkers. Though of course in Bowie’s case, these are fashionista monsters of his own making. His wife is portrayed by Tilda Swinton, and Norwegian model Iselin Steiro does a dead-on reading of a young ‘Thin White Duke.’ Keeping with the whole androgynous theme, models Andrej Pejić and Saskia de Brauw play the stalker couple. Just brilliant.
“Stars are never sleeping / dead ones and the living // We will never be rid of these stars / but I hope they live forever.”share this:
Tim Hardin once said “My songs aren’t personal. They sound it ‘cos it was me who revealed them, but it was my head that got the lightning shot through it.” It’s an eloquent way to describe the inspiration that guides truly great songwriters. James Timothy “Tim” Hardin (1941-1980) was a “musicians’ musician,” writing and performing songs that were deeply heartfelt and communicated soul to soul. It is sad that while he was alive, he never achieved the level of success as the many artists, classic and contemporay, whom he influenced—Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, Scott Walker, Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, Nico, Echo and the Bunnymen, Paul Weller, Leon Russell, Doc Watson, Robert Plant, Bob Seger, Marianne Faithfull…
There is now a new generation of musicians to carry Tim Hardin’s masterpieces into the future, bringing his vision back to life. Reason To Believe—The Songs of Tim Hardin is a celebration of Hardin’s music, performed by artists such as Smoke Fairies, Okkervil River, Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), The Phoenix Foundation, Diagrams and Hannah Peel. On this special collection, Hardin’s classic folk tunes are lovingly resurrected with each band’s unique creativity, modern sounds and sensibilities. The album’s artwork is by Miles Johnson at Third Man Records, with liner notes by Rock’s Backpages music critic and author Barney Hoskyns.
“I’ve always been haunted by the devastating voice and beautiful songs of Tim Hardin. I can’t imagine anyone hearing him and not feeling the same.” – Mark Lanegan