Thursday, September 22, 2005

DJMC Music Marathon 

It's the first DJMC Music Marathon. No badge required!

Four gigs in eight days: September 24 and 27, and two—two—on Rocktober the first. Are you ready to do the bus stop?

Tuesday, September 27
9 p.m. till...

929 Columbus Ave. between 105th St. & 106th St., NYC

Tipsy Tuesday specials all night: $4 cocktails, $3 draft beers, $2 Rheingold bottles.
Hitchhike, bus, or yellow cab it. Or take the 1, B, or C to 103rd St.

Saturday, Rocktober 1
12 noon - 6 p.m.

257 Elizabeth St. at Houston St., NYC

Mike C.'s long-awaited retail debut!
Sip Bloody Mary tasters and dig the threads at this boutique clothing shop.

Saturday, September 24 & Rocktober 1
10 p.m. till...

936 Park Ave. at 10th St., Hoboken

Mods and rockers welcome.
Rocktober 1: The Gefkens afterparty. Get tix for their reunion show at Maxwell's.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sis-Sis-Sis-Saturday Night (Not Sus-Sus-Sussudio) 

You have no weekends left in your summer share in Beach Haven, so you have no excuse not to rock out somewhere this Saturday.

I'll start with the obvious: I'm spinning quality rock & roll tunes at my regular Saturday haunt, Hoboken's own Goldhawk, starting at 10 p.m. As always, no cover, friendly bartenders, and far less B.S. than pretty much any other Hoboken bar.

If you find yourself on the other side of the river, kick it old school at the last-ever Tiswas at Don Hill's. A venerable club night that began at the height of the Britpop craze in the mid-'90s, when it was rare for anyone to dance in a New York City club if the DJ was spinning anything other than hip-hop or some form of techno, Tiswas reminded an entire generation that it was ok to shake your groove thing to guitar-based rock & roll like Blur, The Clash, The Beatles, early Stones, The Spencer Davis Group, Pixies, and Pulp.

Apparently the club night founded and still run by DJ Nick Marc will live on, but this Saturday is the last one at the Don Hill's locale where it's been a staple for so many years. I usually DJ myself on Saturday nights, so it's been a couple years since I've made a Tiswas night, but I never had anything less than a ton of fun at one. It may have been eclipsed for hipster cred by newer nights like Misshapes, but Tiswas is the club night that paved the way for rock & roll to be cool again in NYC clubs. For that, it deserves eternal respect.

Back on the mainland, this Saturday also sees the return of Tris McCall to the Brennan Courthouse, 583 Newark Avenue in Jersey City. This time, he's bringing fellow Jersey rock kids Crayon Rosary and Joe Condiracci with him to make it a killer bill at the courthouse. Cover is $8, show's at 8 p.m. Insert your own "take no prisoners" joke here.

And on the topic of Saturday nights, set aside the following one, October 1, for the first live show in years from one of the definitive Hoboken bands of the '90s, The Gefkens. The original three members will be recreating their groovy power-pop magic at Maxwell's on a bill that also boasts Marjorie Fair and The Redwalls. It's a 9:30 show, and another bargain $8 cover. Get yer ducats at Ticketweb. After the show, walk all of one block downtown and three blocks west to The Goldhawk for the band's afterparty, where yours truly will spin music that's got a backbeat you can't lose it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The dB's at Maxwell's 

So, that was fun. Chris Stamey, Gene Holder, and Will Rigby look like older versions of themselves, but if it weren't for the voice I'd swear that the guy with the mustache and shaved head standing where Peter Holsapple was supposed to be wasn't him. Not that I'm one to talk; some people I haven't seen in years have had trouble recognizing me since I shaved my head, too. Peter doesn't look bad at all, he just looks way different. Aside from that mildly surprising visual aspect, The dB's neither shocked nor disappointed in their triumphant return to Hoboken last night.

Opening with "Ask For Jill" and "Big Brown Eyes" and leaning heavily on material from their classic first two albums, Stands For Decibels and Repercussion, the boys soldiered gamely through sound problems that got so bad that at one point they threatened to take a break just five or so songs into the set. Things improved, and though there seemed to be some tentative moments onstage, by the time they closed the set proper with "Neverland," they were locked in. Disappointingly, nothing from the classic Holsapple/Stamey album Mavericks made it into the set. Of the three new songs they played, the two in the encore set "That Time Is Gone" and "Something Real" really stood out as strong material. Photos here (not mine; my digital cam broke) and a great fan review here.

Set list (via A Penny's Worth):
Ask For Jill
Big Brown Eyes
Black & White
Hang Around With You (new Stamey)
Purple Hose
Lonely Is As Lonely Does
If And When
Molly Says
She’s Not Worried
Living a Lie
Cycles Per Second
World To Cry
I’m In Love
Love Is For Lovers

That Time Is Gone (new Holsapple)
Something Real (new Stamey)

Monday, September 19, 2005

If I Wanted To Read, I'd Go To School 

The CMJ Music Marathon is a great idea, but I couldn't bring myself to go to any of the shows this year. I've had too many bad experiences at CMJ shows in the past—inattentive and overly loud audiences, crowded venues, problems at the door—that it's just not worth bothering unless there's a band playing that I just have to see. Call me crazy, but I didn't see any of those among the hundreds playing this year's fest. Surely I missed out on some great shows, but I can live with that. For those of us who sat it out, My Blog Is Poop's CMJ Awards is the only summary anyone needs. Via Brooklyn Vegan, who of course did a thorough survey himself. Extrawack! was there, too.

Speaking of Brooklyn, the planet responds: two bands I've played on my show, Secaucus' beloved Wrens and NYC's Harlem Shakes, join They Might Be Giants, Tony "24 Hour Party People" Fletcher, and more at Katrina benefits at Southpaw this Wednesday and Sunday. Very generous entertainment value for a $15 cover each night.

Power-pop gods The dB's, with all four original members in tow, return to Maxwell's tonight and tomorrow for their first shows in their spiritual homebase of Hoboken in several centuries. The shows are sold out, but the band's website has a free download of the new track "World To Cry." And get their cover of the Motown classic "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted," with proceeds going to Katrina relief.

Edwyn Collins update: he's made major strides since his two brain hemorrhages in February, but his wife Grace's latest report is that he's still battling physical and mental difficulties—he can't move his right hand, he has trouble expressing his own thoughts and comprehending the words of others, and he has memory loss. The message board on Edwyn's site is the best place for up-to-date info, but this BBC profile back in August was good. What better way to wish Edwyn well than by purchasing the spiffy new reissue of his old band Orange Juice's early recordings, The Glasgow School, as well as the fine debut album by Little Barrie, which Edwyn produced.

An update on Lookout! Records in the wake of the Green Day pullout. Of note is this story's mention that Bloomfield, N.J.'s own Ted Leo is apparently financially aiding the label that ought to be paying him. Via Velvet Rope.

Can't quibble with too many of Stylus' top 50 basslines of all time, but where the heck were The Jam's "Town Called Malice," Steely Dan's "Peg," "Cannonball" by The Breeders, "Rain" by The Beatles, and The "Barney Miller" Theme? Joe Jackson's "Got The Time" and Pretenders' "Mystery Achievement"? Anyone, anyone, Bueller?

"Bet You Didn't Think Stereogum Would Be The Place To Tip Me To A New Republic Article Department": some thoughts on rock snobbery in the iPod age. I need to read this again before I decide how much I agree with it.

Pandagon's Jesse on The Thirty-Five Percent Rule: "When Democrats agree with 65% of America, they are no longer hyperpartisan, traitors, dangerous idiots, or anything else that can be found on the cover of an Ann Coulter book. Thirty five percent makes you an ideological minority, and insulting the overwhelming majority of American people really isn't a smart idea."

Go Yanks!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Letter Of The Week 

Please, Please add a new show to Itunes. The best show I have found so far. As you are aware there is a majority of "Corp" crap out there. Help

I am listening from Sacramento CA. After spending an exorbitant amount of time sampling Itunes podcasts and wading through the crap;I stumbled across your show. I listen to Little Steven's underground garage on the internet. Your show has that same cool enthusiasm for real music with a soul. I have your show on my mp3 player, and am able to listen(loud)in my car, and at work. Thanks Mike It gives me faith in humanity that there are others who appreciate independent music.

- Thomas, Sacramento, CA

If y'all keep it up, maybe I will bring the show back...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ABC at Canal Room 

New Order, Erasure, and Duran Duran have all played New York City in 2005, and all have gotten rave reviews. I missed each one of those '80s new wave icons, but I more than made up for it by catching a scintillating set Friday night by one of the genre's most notable groups and a personal favorite, ABC. It was their first New York show in more than 10 years.

Formed in Sheffield, England when the '80s were knee-high to a grasshopper, ABC's goal was to fashion transcendent, danceable pop music by melding the ideals of New Romanticism and post-punk with disco and R&B. Singer and lyricist Martin Fry openly embraced gods of punk like The Clash and The Sex Pistols as well as soul standard-bearers Smokey Robinson and Earth, Wind & Fire. It was an uneasy musical alliance that defied easy categorization, and with the racist, homophobic "Disco Sucks" movement still very much alive in 1982, it's a wonder that ABC's debut album The Lexicon Of Love did as well as it did; this is but one testament to its brilliance.

A formidable song cycle of desire and heartbreak worthy of the finest moments of Roxy Music, Lexicon stands tall as one of the most fully realized albums of the first half of the 1980s, if not all pop history. It's also among the very best debut albums in rock history, with perhaps only the first Pretenders album rivaling it for supremacy in that category. Like The Human League's Dare, which came out a matter of months before Lexicon, the album was a sterling example of the pop side of what my good friend Pat Pierson calls "1981 and a half"—that fleeting moment when post-punk and new wave collided and transcended time and space to create some of the best and most exciting music of the rock era, right before the now-clichéd later-'80s trends toward over-production and cheesiness sapped so much out of the musical landscape. Lexicon is its parts, the sum thereof, and a dance floor full of more, more, more.

Alas, an album so iconic is hard to follow up. ABC did make many worthwhile songs as their career progressed, but they never matched the all-encompassing fabulousness of their debut. Their biggest U.S. hit actually came five years later, when the well-intentioned but rather corny soul tribute "When Smokey Sings" went to #5. Members of the original five-piece band left gradually, with guitarist Mark White lasting alongside Fry until the early '90s. Now with original drummer David Palmer back in tow, a nine-city U.S. tour just completed, and the first new album in eight years promised to be on the way, on at least some level ABC is back.

Walking past the venue a half hour before the doors opened, about 25 fans were already lined up outside the velvet rope of Canal Room, a few clearly hoping to land autographs as they clutched their precious vinyl copies of Lexicon and How To Be A Zillionaire. The club is cozy, intimate, and refreshingly devoid of the worst NYC club clichés; given what goes on in so many clubs of this sort in the city, it was downright startling not to get hassled at the door, at the bar, or by the bathroom attendant. This is the sort of place where you hand over a $20 bill for a bottle of Heineken and a glass of domestic merlot and are actually pleasantly surprised when you receive $4 change.

The room was lively and energy ran high just before the band took the stage, but the show wasn't sold out, so it was pretty easy to move to within the first five or six rows of standing-room fans in the general-admission setting. Classic soul and disco set the mood well; Chic's "I Want Your Love," probably one of the ten best disco songs ever and a song that surely influenced ABC, led off a mix that also ran through "Car Wash" and some obligatory Smokey ("Going To A Go-Go"), misstepping only by including the shop-worn "Respect" and "I Got You (I Feel Good)." Lights went down, symphonic music reminiscent of the opening strains of Lexicon filled the room, Palmer and four ringers took the stage, and the debonair Martin Fry made his grand, grinning, elegant entrance.

Fry, looking for all the world like a perfect combination of Bryan Ferry, Simon LeBon, and James Bond, swaggered in his white sport jacket, but not arrogantly. The band—guitar, bass, two synths, drums—were in the pocket, and though standing so close to the stage and a huge speaker made it difficult to pick out individual sonic elements in the mix at times, overall the sound was very crisp, and so was Fry's voice.

The well-paced 75-minute set featured all the hits and key album tracks any fan could reasonably expect to hear. Fry was a gracious host for the evening. When one fan passed him a homemade poster with various photos of him and the band, Martin wistfully said, "That's the story of my life there!" and said he'd be happy to sign it for the fan later; at the end of the show, he did.

He introduced "Poison Arrow," only to have a technical problem with one of the keyboards cause the start of the tune to be delayed by about a minute, somewhat sapping his introduction of its impact; the crowd predictably rallied as soon as the song finally began, indiscriminantly dancing with themselves and each other and providing the evening's first en masse singalong. In the lead-up to the chorus, Fry curiously left out the reply "That's stupid!" which comes after the line "You think you're smart" on the recorded version, and it seemed like a pointed omission. Does he now view that as an unnecessarily nasty line?

Aside from such miniscule vocal tics, nearly every song was arranged faithfully to the original versions, with the notable exception of the band's best post-Lexicon song, 1985's "Be Near Me." An extended but hardly indulgent keyboard intro laid down the song's chords at a subtly but nonetheless significantly slower tempo than the hit version. The originally bouncy pop number was not quite turned into a ballad, but the already unabashed love song became even more poignant with this slight rearrangement.

In all, six of the nine full-length songs from The Lexicon Of Love were performed, with the ballad "All Of My Heart" fitting perfectly as the penultimate song of the set proper. Martin said it was time to go, "But we have to do one more song." Thus began a stirring live rendition of the greatest song in the history of pop music, "The Look Of Love (Part One)." (I realize that both Stevie Wonder's "If You Really Love Me" and The Five Stairsteps' "O-O-H Child" were mentioned as candidates for the honor of "best song ever written" just a couple posts ago—and they still are. But my "greatest song of all time" designation has continuously rotated among a dozen or so songs over the last 10 to 15 years, and this week "The Look Of Love" is the winner. Deal.)

A singular-sounding production with lyrics that straddle the fine line between clever and stupid and a musical-emotional buildup that begins with the song's almost-tentative opening notes and explodes in an urgent, crazy, messy climax three and a half minutes later, simulating a fast and furious orgasm, minus the heavy breathing. That's what "The Look Of Love" is, and that is exactly how it felt when the song was played at this show.

People freaked. I freaked. It was insane. Hearing that song performed live was an experience that in some ways I had been waiting for since I was 10 years old. Oh, I adored most of the English synth-pop MTV played around that time, though I was sadly clueless as to how to find it on the radio; tragically, WLIR eluded me. I got distracted by Huey Lewis before diving into classic rock worship as a full-time high school occupation, and it wasn't until toward the end of college, around '93, that I was able to admit I really liked this music. So it's not as if seeing ABC has been on my to-do list since age 10, but "The Look Of Love" is a song I never stopped loving, and it's immensely gratifying to know its singer and composer can still belt it out.

If I'm not mistaken, both the set and the encore began with new songs, another smart move, and I'll tell you why. Fry introduced most of the songs by name, but opening the sets with these songs that weren't quite familiar yet still sounded very much like ABC avoided the dreaded "This next one is a new song" that often prompts people to head for the bar or the toilets. After opening the encore with a new one, Fry told the audience that he didn't think the performance of "Poison Arrow" was good enough, and the rabid audience ate it up when he cued the band to strike up the song again. A funny, unexpected, bold, and therefore rock & roll moment. Who says disco sucks?

inexact set list:

[new song]
Show Me
Poison Arrow
How To Be A Millionaire
That Was Then But This Is Now
The Night You Murdered Love
Date Stamp
Be Near Me
Tears Are Not Enough
One Better World
Rolling Sevens
When Smokey Sings
All Of My Heart
The Look Of Love (Part One)

[new song]
Poison Arrow (again!)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

This Is Not America 

So now we all know the dirty and horrific truth is that our government has no effective plan to deal with a major domestic catastrophe.

If it did, thousands of National Guardsmen would have been paratrooping into New Orleans and the rest of the worst-hit areas by Tuesday morning, each one with a case of bottled water and a bag of Happy Meals strapped to his back. The Bush administration's failure of leadership has been so catastrophic that even right-wing hacks like Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough have pointed their fingers at Washington and more or less said, "What the fuck?"

I know I'm not the first to vent, and I'm certainly not the most eloquent. But as someone who lives a few blocks away from the Hudson River, who travels through the Lincoln Tunnel twice a day, who works in midtown Manhattan, and who stood at the Hoboken ferry dock and watched with my own eyes as the first tower collapsed four years ago next week, I feel less safe than ever. Clearly, the Homeland Security Department is not prepared to deal with a worst-case scenario like this.

The fact that the Bush administration cut funding that could have protected New Orleans from this, and that Speaker Hastert has publicly wondered aloud whether we should even bother to rebuild the place, and that the FEMA head dude who couldn't even hold down a job running the International Arabian Horse Association had no clue about the thousands of refugees at the Convention Center until a member of the press mentioned it to him...ok, I'm out of breath already. Most of you know all of this, if you are the sort of person who would care to. Here are the numbers, if you haven't seen them. Though he softened his stance somewhat after some help finally began to materialize, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's Thursday night comments stand as the most courageous and honest statement anyone has made in the wake of all this.

Anyway, yes, give to the Red Cross, despite the fact that it's an organization formerly run by Elizabeth Dole. Or give to Oxfam America, or maybe even the at-least-formerly-corrupt United Way; I don't know. That's probably the best most of us can do in the short term.

Though it won't immediately help anyone stranded on the roof of their apartment complex or standing barefoot in a pile of human feces outside the Superdome, music business sage Bob Lefsetz has a better idea, one that makes a whole lot of sense for our society moving forward.

Bob is a no-bullshit veteran of the rock & roll industry whose mailing list is read by most of the biz big shots, as well as some of its worker bees, like me. His numerous columns on the changing nature of the music business boldly challenge the record labels to think in new ways, particularly to embrace online file-sharing and simply monetize it. He also often writes about rock & roll new and old with a passion and personal touch rarely read in most modern music mags. He doesn't dabble in politics all that much, but when he does, he usually gets it right.

In a message to his mailing list Friday night, Lefsetz called out this administration for its inability to take responsibility for this tragedy, pointing out that Bush's plea for Americans to contribute to charities misses the point. We don't need charities; as Bob says, "We need a government." With Mr. Lefsetz's kind permission, I reprint his Friday night column here in its entirety.

Driving in Santa Monica earlier today I heard George Bush on the radio. He said to send cash. To the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

I want to send cash. But I want to send it to the government.

The head of FEMA took the right wing position yesterday. He blamed the predicament of those in New Orleans on themselves. They just didn't follow instructions. They needed to LEAVE when warned.

But it's not easy to leave if you're dirt poor and have no transportation. I was just about ready for some Republican to tell those in New Orleans to HELP themselves. Isn't that their position? Your life situation is of your own doing? And you should prepare for the inevitable disaster? By saving?

That's not very Christian.

My understanding is Christianity is about being compassionate, helping your brother.

Although I share those values, I don't happen to be a Christian. So, I'm not exactly happy with placing all charity in the hands of a religious organization. I'd rather place my faith in the government.

We need a government. That's what the tragedy and lawlessness in New Orleans evidences. We need a police force. And services.

Services. They don't come free. You've got to pay for them. And you do this through TAXES!

The Republicans have succeeded in making "tax" a dirty word. To the point where nobody can run for office on a platform of increasing individual financial liability to the government. What do they say? It's YOUR MONEY? We don't want to take it from you?

Well, why don't they then say you now won't get services. That's what taxes give you, a government that renders services.

I'm gonna let you in on a secret. You can't spend money without wasting it. It can be simple. You can buy the wrong paper for your printer, one that doesn't render the proper finished product. But does that mean you should shut your business down, stop printing, because you blew $3.50?

If the government begins a program, money will be wasted. It's INHERENT in the process. But that doesn't mean we should eliminate all programs. We should do the best we can to eliminate waste, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The individualist philosophy that has invaded out country has lowered our quality of life. Let's not pay for education in the inner city, we don't live there. Then again, who ends up doing the work in your neighborhood, the stuff you don't want to do?

I've been paying insurance on my domicile for THIRTY YEARS! I've never collected once. But I keep paying, fearful a disaster COULD take place. That's how reasonable people run their lives. We think about consequences. But we can't protect against ALL disasters. I don't have a stockpile of groceries in my house, of medicines, if an earthquake occurs, I'm counting on the government to take care of me, at least get me through. That's why I'm paying income taxes and taxes on a whole host of other things.

I'm happy to pay a percentage of my earnings for services, for protection against disaster. It's an insurance policy just like the one I have on my house.

I want to drive the streets knowing that potholes will be filled in a reasonable time.

I want bridges inspected so they don't collapse when I'm on them.

I want education funded so people can get reasonable jobs and not become drug addicts and a scourge on society. Making me fearful every time I leave my house.

I want to pay for not only law and order, but a better place for ALL of us to live. I want to know there's a safety net for those hit by misfortune that is unforeseeable, whether it be a hurricane, earthquake or medical problem.

Contrary to what the rich believe, flying in private aircraft, vacationing in private enclaves, living in spacious apartments with doormen, we're all in this together. And if the poor people weren't buying your product, you wouldn't HAVE these creature comforts.

Screw collecting for charity. Raise taxes tomorrow. On ALL of us. Because we're all going to be affected by this tragedy. Just watch the price of gasoline.

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