Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Raspberries at B.B. King's 

Treating an adoring room of fans to a generous two-plus hours of visceral, pop-driven rock & roll, vocal melodies that sounded like they were lifted straight from records cut more than three decades ago, and musicianship that propelled a sturdy, shimmering bunch of songs to a new level of explosiveness, the original lineup of The Raspberries triumphantly kicked ass this past weekend in their first New York shows in more than 30 years.

Combining Beatles and Beach Boys style harmonies with sharp mod riffs a la the early Who and Kinks anthems, the 'berries scored four Top 40 hits from 1972 to '74 before the band fell apart and singer Eric Carmen pursued Adult Contemporary stardom with more than a little success. The band's breezy pop confections, especially the hits "Go All The Way" and "I Wanna Be With You," had few peers when they were released outside of the semi-popular Todd Rundgren and the super-obscure Big Star. Splitting the difference between Cheap Trick and (some people will give me hell for this comparison, but I swear it's apt and, moreover, nothing to be ashamed of) Meat Loaf, the band was just a few years ahead of its time.

Featuring all the hits and most of the key album tracks, and garnished with covers of '60s classics the boys cut their teeth on in their early days, The Raspberries' current stage show is the rare nostalgia fest that doesn't feel hokey, forced, or lame. Dignitaries in attendance Sunday included Jon Bon Jovi and Jeopardy! king Ken Jennings, as well as Hudson County rock glitterati like Maxwell's owner/booker Todd Abramson and WFMU DJ Joe Belock. Sweet.

Set list:
I Wanna Be With You
I Can’t Explain
Play On
Hard To Get Over A Heartbreak
Should I Wait
Nobody Knows
Makin' It Easy
If You Change Your Mind
Party’s Over
Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)
I Can Remember
It Seems So Easy
Let’s Pretend
Last Dance
It’s Cold Outside
I Don't Know What I Want

first encore:
Please, Mr. Postman
You're Gonna Lose That Girl
Twist & Shout
I’m A Rocker
Go All The Way

second encore:
Slow Down
Roll Over Beethoven

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

You Are Blind As A Bat And I Have Sight 

Everyone's aware that Passaic's own Joe Piscopo will be in our midst tomorrow, right? Joe's performing "A Tribute to Hoboken's 150th Anniversary" Thursday night at 8 p.m. at the St. Ann's Italian Festival. It's unclear how much of that tribute will involve music, or comedy, or bodybuilding. Surely there'll be some Sinatra schtick.

The St. Ann's feast is also famous for booths of good, often cheap Italian food. There's this one booth I've been to in past years with some of the best meatballs I've had this side of mom's. If I find them this year, I'll point them out. I recall another booth offering small servings of penne vodka for a buck, which is notable if only because it's a buck.

Another potential entertainment highlight of the festival, which starts tonight and runs through next Tuesday, is Tavares ("It Only Takes A Minute," "More Than A Woman," "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel") on Sunday. Original members? Who knows, but it was always a family act—the five Tavares brothers (Ralph, Antone, Feliciano, Arthur, and Perry)—so there's hope. They're on Sunday night at 8.

Then Monday it's Beginnings - A Tribute To Chicago. Since I've already had one friend ask whether the Chicago in question was the band, the city, or the musical, I'll give you a hint: it's the one that used to feature Peter Cetera. Let's hope Beginnings' name is indicative of the period of Chicago®'s music they'll draw upon most heavily for their set.

You can probably find the festival if you follow the noise, the pedestrians, and the smell of zeppoli—but in case you can't, it's located on the blocks surrounding 7th & Jefferson in Hoboken.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Dungen at Maxwell's 

It was one of those shows where you crane your head around the room, look into different people's faces for a split second, and think with more than a little bit of amazement, "That person is here to see Dungen. Cool."

You wonder where these people come from. How did they find out? Who hipped them to this? Where do these people live? And why aren't more of them coming to my dj gigs?

Sure, there are always some people in the place who are just along for the ride, willing to accompany their friend who can't stop raving about this Swedish "dude that is a band/band that is a dude" who plays melodic psychedelic stoner rock like Steppenwolf crossed with Todd Rundgren. But the vast majority of the hipsters in the sold-out back room of Maxwell's—the ones who pumped their fists during the chorus of "Ta Det Lungt" and nodded their heads to "Festival"—all caught the buzz somewhere, clearly.

It started last year on the big MP3 blogs; I first heard about Dungen from a Stereogum post. Pitchfork had embraced them, lending instant cred among people who still cared what Pitchfork deigned to say in its CD reviews. (I only read Pitchfork for the release dates and tour news—honest.) When it was still an import on Swedish label Subliminal, I bought the CD Ta Det Lungt (which apparently translates to Take It Easy) at Kim's and was fairly blown away. I played them a couple times on my podcast. Rutgers grad and former Yeah Yeah Yeah scribe Brandon Stosuy interviewed the man behind the band, Gustav Ejstes. Kemado Records picked up for domestic release. Next thing you know, Gustav, backed by three musicians capable of reproducing his one-man rock attack, is selling out small clubs and playing at indie rock festivals sponsored by Pitchfork and The Village Voice.

He did all the key songs from Lungt and a few others that were unfamiliar to most. There were a couple long instrumentals. Gustav was mostly on guitar, but he played keys on a few tunes, including some longish psychedelic instrumentals. He busted out the flute on one song. The crowd could even see his face behind his long hair, most of the time anyway.

You can see him Saturday in Coney Island at the Siren Festival, along with a hunka hunka buncha other hip acts. Catch him while he's in the neighborhood. There's no telling when he'll be back.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Surfin' Safari 

Nice to see Music Cherry digging The Lost Patrol after hearing them on this month's Hoboken Rock City Podcast. They also conveniently point out that you can purchase The Lost Patrol's latest CD High Noon at CD Baby, which is the sort of info I usually try to include in my show notes but neglected to do this time.

The Vegan links to this fine piece on music bloggers versus music journalists by Jason Cherkis in Washington City Paper.

The Daily Pomposity gives love to Jersey bloggers—well, sort of. I'll note here for the record that the politically conservative bent of many of the sites that comprise The Carnival Of The New Jersey Bloggers is the main reason I'm not setting up a booth in that otherwise-well-intentioned roadshow. Via Snitch, who scored two mentions in the Times story.

While we're talking about conservative bents, Greg at The Talent Show succinctly pinpoints that what makes Fox News completely unwatchable is not so much its right-wing bias (though that's annoying enough); it's the smug condescension of the channel's anchors. Gotta see if Shepard Smith will own up to that the next time he stops by The Goldhawk for a drink; it's been months since he was spotted bending an elbow there.

And sure, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, but Greg's latest Rove post is also money.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rock & Roll All-Star Break 

I'm the type of guy who always stays at the game until the last out is made. Like Yogi said, "It ain't over till it's over."

So when it comes time to wrap up the year and make those annual best-of lists, I tend to lag behind much of the crowd. Certainly it's more forgivable to tally the 10 best albums of the year a few weeks before New Year's than it is to choose the top 10 news stories of the year before December is out; witness last year's tsunami. But even when it comes to rating and ranking music as us geeks love to do, I hold out a little longer than most, certainly always until the time period being evaluated has completely elapsed.

No matter how long I wait to make any top-however-many list, I know I'll end up wanting to change its order and contents within months after making it. Despite that knowledge, I'll always delay the submission of any such lists as much as I can, usually until right before the deadline. So it's not out of character that it took me until mid-July to get around to a short and informal mid-year list, a solid couple weeks after estimable peers like Brooklyn Vegan, Anthony Is Right, and Rajeev and Jason at One Louder offered their interesting takes on the best of the first half of 2005.

I want to add to the conversation, but it feels too early for me to put forth a ranked list of favorites from the past six months. Oh, I have a super-tentative top 5 in my head, but I'm just not ready to spill that onto the screen. Besides, I'm saving up a year's worth of wit and wisdom for my annual January roundup. What I will share now is a fast and dirty listing of 2005 albums I haven't heard yet but that I want to hear.

Every year I keep a running list of CDs I want. I keep buying them, and nice publicists and industry friends send me them, but more new ones come out every damn week. The futile truth is that there are always dozens of albums still on that list at the end of every year. Some I'll get eventually, some I won't. Hey, I listen to a lot of stuff—already close to 100 albums and reissues released in 2005 so far—but there's always more out there.

The current fantasy is that making this list at the mid-year point will motivate me to wrap my ears around these particular records in the next five to six months. I'm restricting this list only to albums that were released before the end of June, though though not all of them have hit shelves yet in the U.S. These may not be the five best albums of the year I haven't heard yet, but they are the five I'm most interested in hearing. And so...

Mike C.'s Top 5 Albums Of 2005 I Haven't Heard Yet

1. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Fierce Panda)
The almost-shambolic-sounding South London five-piece's debut album begins with "Formed A Band," their classic Fall-esque first single that I probably underrated when I ranked it the 14th best song of last year. But other than the "Band" b-side "Bad Weekend," I haven't heard any of the other tracks on their first full-length effort, which came out in the U.K. in late May.

2. The Vanity Project - The Vanity Project (Flagship)
Barenaked Ladies co-frontman Steven Page and The Lilac Time's Stephen Duffy have been writing songs together on an occasional basis for more than a decade now, but this is their first album as a duo. I'm hoping the collaboration that gave birth to "Jane," "Everything Old Is New Again," and "I Live With It Every Day" returns to form here. (Also peep the hyper-literate Page's "Music You Should Hear" on Amazon.)

3. Esthero - Wikkid Lil’ Grrrls (Warner)
Her Breath From Another was one of the most tuneful trip-hop albums of the late-'90s, but she's barely been heard from since. Guests here including Andre 3000, Cee-Lo, and Sean Lennon hint that this may be a rather different sounding affair.

4. Idlewild - Warnings/Promises (EMI)
Like Glenn McDonald said, there is absolutely no good reason why this has not been released domestically yet.

5. The Chemical Brothers - Push The Button (Astralwerks)
I figured these guys were done, but the single with Q-Tip and the many word-of-mouth recommendations I've gotten on this record have me thinking I gave up on them too soon.

Bonus: 10 More I Need To Hear

Shelby Lynne - Suit Yourself (Capitol)
The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree (4AD)
Mundy - Raining Down Arrows (Camcor)
Ed Harcourt - Strangers (Heavenly/EMI)
Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm (SuperEgo)
Eels - Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (Vagrant)
Buck 65 - This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2)
Emma Bunton - Free Me (19/Universal)
Fischerspooner - Odyssey (Capitol)
The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (Frenchkiss)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Harmonic Convergence Of "The Fifth R.E.M.": dB's And Posies At Maxwell's 

The reunited dB's are playing Maxwell's on September 19 and 20, a Monday and Tuesday night. (Via Pitchfork.) Get yer tickets for this Hoboken homecoming that's gonna sell out faster than $10,000-a-plate seats to Karl Rove's farewell roast.

The following week, The Posies play the same venue. This means that Peter Holsapple (dB's) and Ken Stringfellow (Posies), the two guys who have most prominently filled the role of "the fifth R.E.M." as an extra touring member of the band, will be playing in town just a matter of days apart. Weird.

Electric Six, who to my knowledge have never been referred to as "the sixth R.E.M.," are also playing there in late September (and I really should be back at school) too. Damn. The hits just keep on coming.

Faces Of Rock 

Or, Catching Up With Mike C.'s Camera. Finally had the chance to go through the photos from shows I've been to over the last month. All apologies for not getting these up sooner.

AJ Azzarto and The Hoboken Five at The Goldhawk, Hoboken, July 6

Frank Sinatra's granddaughter fearlessly tackles The Great American Songbook with aplomb, backed by her smart quintet. The intimate back room of The Goldhawk suits her style to a T, so it's good that she plays there pretty regularly. Unmissable, every time.

Hamell On Trial at Satalla, Manhattan, June 29

"I'm rockin' like The Clash/It's acoustic kinda meanery/I'm as bad as Nine Inch Nails/Except I don't need machinery."

Dave's True Story at The Brennan Courthouse, Jersey City, June 17

Hey Webster's, put this photo next to your definition of "cool."

Tris McCall at The Brennan Courthouse, Jersey City, June 17

All the news that's fit to sing.

Skanatra at Sinatra Park, Hoboken, June 11

The rockingest rock-steady beat of Hoboken.

You might forget your manners: Erni "The Other Kid From Hoboken" Contri gets into the act with the Skanatra boys.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Calling London 

Would've written this immediately, but I would have almost felt selfish. Now that's it been a few days, I'd like to humbly ask any Londoners who read the blog or listen to the show to send a quick note and let me know how you're doing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Music For The Masses 

Still trying to figure out how to listen? If you have iTunes version 4.9, this is all you need to do. Mondo thanks to Mr. Snitch for the kind encouragement, and for creating this handy visual.

Hoboken Rock City - Show #10 - July 2005 

Brendan Benson, The Ponys, Pernice Brothers, American Watercolor Movement, The Lost Patrol, The Jessica Fletchers, True Love, Tall Days, The Figurines, Lip Service, Permer, and Smart Brown Handbag come back, baby: Hoboken Rock City never forgets. At long last, it's Show #10 - July 2005.

iTunes users: Subscribe for free at the iTunes Music Store. Let's get Hoboken Rock City into iTunes' Top 100 Podcasts chart.

Everyone else: Download the show right here.


Less Sophistication, Rainbow Quartz, 2005
The five-piece Norwegian rock band kicks off summer in the Rock City. They're just finishing a U.S. tour with Dressy Bessy in support of their just-released second album, Less Sophistication, which features one of the imaginative CD booklets of all time. I'm not giving away the secret here—you'll have to buy it and see for yourself.

Get Black - THE PONYS (pictured above)
Celebration Castle, In The Red, 2005
On the heels of my #5 album of 2004, The Ponys are already back with a fine Steve Albini-produced album that includes this "summer in the city" song. They're playing Rothko in NYC on Friday, July 15, and this year's Chicago-only version of Lollapalooza on July 24.

Discover A Lovelier You, Ashmont, 2005
Joe Pernice and Co. had been based out of New York City for the last few years, but with the band members recently scattering to various corners of the continent, I was surprised to hear they had a new studio release coming out this June. The group whose last album Yours, Mine And Ours topped my 2003 albums list has never disappointed, and they don't this time out either. Their tour starts July 15 in their original Massachusetts stomping grounds. They play the North Star Bar in Philadelphia on Friday, August 12 and NYC's Bowery Ballroom the following night, Friday, August 13. Also check out Joe Pernice's Indie Rock Cribs.


Cold Hands (Warm Heart) - BRENDAN BENSON
The Alternative To Love, StarTime/V2, 2005
An album has to stand the test of time before it's fair to call it a masterpiece, but Brendan Benson's The Alternative To Love may prove worthy of the title. This album has dominated my CD player and iPod more than any other over the last six weeks. Benson is playing The Village Voice Siren Festival in Coney Island on Saturday, July 16, and some west coast dates later in the month.

Demo, no label, 2005
An unsigned five-piece out of NYC, featuring the songwriting and vocal talents of SooJin Yi. See them at Lit Lounge on Thursday, July 28 and at The Cutting Room on Thursday, August 25.

High Noon, no label, 2004
An unsigned Central NJ four-piece who should appeal to fans of Cowboy Junkies, 10,000 Maniacs, and Mazzy Star. Playing the NJPAC in Newark on Thursday, July 21 at 5:30 p.m. for the Sounds Of The City Festival. Also playing at Triumph Brewing Company in beautiful New Hope, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 30.



web exclusive, no label, 2005
The Jersey City art-rock band will have a new album out soon. Here's a new song of theirs that I'm told will be downloadable from their website. They play Maxwell's on Wednesday, August 3 and Pianos in NYC on Friday, August 19.

I Was Accident, Not Lame, 2003
Hoboken-based trio who rose from the ashes of Shake Appeal. Recorded at The Pigeon Club in Hoboken. Yeah yeah yeah!

Remember When - LIP SERVICE
Lip Service, no label, 2005
Brooklyn does not have a monopoly on the post-punk with attitude vibe; Lip Service rock straight outta Union City. Catch 'em at The Loop Lounge in Passaic Park this Friday, July 8 and again on Friday, August 12.

Be Somebody - TALL DAYS
Long Time No Talk, Snack Music, 2004
Like an all-male White Stripes, this Essex County duo of Graham Hartke and Joe DeAngelus crafts a fine, rockin' sound on their EP. They play frequently at places like Don Hill's and CBGB in the city, The Loop Lounge and The Court Tavern on the Jersey side, and at The Hook in Brooklyn. They're already working on their next CD.


Summer Can't Come Soon Enough - SMART BROWN HANDBAG
Little Things Are Everything, Stonegarden, 1999
Summer lovin', had me a blast. Or, maybe not. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Smart Brown Handbag is the most criminally overlooked rock & roll band on the planet.

Summerday - PERMER
Summerdays Attract The Pain, Hidden Agenda, 2002
To close out this month's show, it's another Scandinavian summer song, this one from Sweden. Permer is currently working on the next album by his band Waltz For Debbie.


Hoboken Rock City is produced with the cooperation of the artists and record labels whose recordings appear on the show. Thanks to all.

New fans, old friends, and artists yearning for Hoboken Rock City airplay: send me a note.

Thanks, and I'll see all y'all in August for Show #11...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Show Tomorrow 

So tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for Mike C. The first new Hoboken Rock City podcast in more than two months, Show #10, will be here tomorrow. All I have to do is, um, record it. Here's hoping I can marshal enough of my strength and my voice, both of which were severely challenged by a fun but draining holiday weekend of sleep-deprived Vermont campfire singalongs.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hate It Or Love It: iTunes 4.9 

Apple brought podcasting into the mainstream this week, and some podcasters can't come to grips with the good fortune this has delivered to them.

On sites where podcasters talk amongst themselves (I'll pick a topic), there's some moaning and groaning about the new iTunes version 4.9 software that directly incorporates podcasting. In fairness, many podcasters are expressing appreciation that iTunes has already brought them bigger audiences in just a few days (I'd link to posts on Podcast Alley, but the site keeps going down for maintenance—must be swamped this week), but it's hard to believe that anyone could complain about the obvious benefits Apple is bestowing upon those of us who fancy ourselves MP3 radio stars.

iTunes' embrace of podcasting is the single greatest thing to happen to the medium in its short history. Who cares if it "dumbs down" the experience a little. The availability of podcasts like mine for free download from the iTunes store is exactly what podcasting has needed since it launched about a year ago: a more user-friendly interface. I cannot tell you how many people have expressed genuine interest in listening to my show, but found the technical aspects of it confusing. It's all pretty simple, really, as many of you did figure out. But I understand that people are busy. They have lives. While they might want to hear my show, they don't have time to spend figuring out how to download or subscribe to it.

Outside a small cadre of tech-minded geeks (like many podcasters) and those who aspire to be tech-minded geeks (like myself), most people still don't know what a podcast is, how to download one, and how to listen to one. As explained here and elsewhere, a podcast is just an MP3 file, albeit a large one. My show typically contains 12 to 14 songs, with my exciting and witty banter linking it all together. But it's not 12 to 14 files to download; all the songs and chatter are contained in one convenient file. It's portable, TiVo-esque radio in a convenient package.

iTunes 4.9, just released Tuesday, makes it all about as simple as can be. Podcast subscriptions through iTunes passed the million mark in just two days. If you're an iTunes user and you haven't downloaded version 4.9, download it this second. Be Jack Bauer about it: DO IT NOW!

There's a whole section of the iTunes Music Store dedicated to podcasts. You can get to it by clicking "Podcasts" in the Source column on the left side of your iTunes application, or you can reach it through the iTunes store.

If you go in through the Source column, click "Podcast Directory" and you'll get the iTunes Podcast home page; if you go through the graphic on the home page of the Music Store, it'll take you directly to that same Podcast home page. On that page you'll see listings for the Top 20 Podcasts and categories like "New & Notable," "Public Radio," "Indie Podcasts," etc. A lot of shows are filed in the wrong categories—they put mine under "Audio Blogs" instead of "Music," for some reason. Do a search for "Hoboken Rock City" and up will pop my show. Download all 9 episodes directly from the store. It's easy like Sunday morning. See?

Another development is that, with iTunes seemingly already taking over as the biggest source of podcasting downloads by far, it will be much easier to gauge which podcasts are the most popular. iTunes lists the 100 most popular, with the pecking order obviously determined by the number of downloads. Previously, popularity in the podcast community was measured by who had the most "votes" as cast on Podcast Alley. This was a really, really lame system, and I couldn't be more thrilled that it has been instantly rendered obsolete. Sure, downloads from Air America, KCRW, WNYC, and other established media outlets may dominate iTunes' chart right now, but indie podcast staples Coverville and Dawn And Drew are on the chart too. On Tuesday, the first day 4.9 was available, my most recent show was downloaded about ten times more than it had been any day in the last few weeks. And that's a two-month-old show.

My show's been on hiatus since late April, but that break ends this Wednesday, July 6. Hoboken Rock City Show #10 will finally be released that day, the debut of the program in its new monthly format. The plan is to release a new show on the first Wednesday of every month.

With the new iTunes software, you can download episodes of the show individually. Or, subscribe with the click of a button, and iTunes will automatically download my show for you each time a new one is released. Tell two friends who have iTunes to subscribe, and they'll tell two more, and you know how it goes.

Go on, spend the holiday weekend practicing. On Wednesday, July 6, I'll have an all-new show packed with cool indie music and Jersey rockers. You don't want to be the last one on Washington Street to hear it.

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