Friday, December 31, 2010

I was given the paperback version of Patti Smith's "Just Kids" by my wife for Xmas was instantly drawn to reading it (as opposed to putting it on the pile till Summer as usual). And I am loving it!

Most of all I'm in love with the language which hits me like Leonard Cohen's -- obviously coming from the perception of and expressed via the verbal prerogatives of a poet. I don't mean that everything is expressed in overwrought poesy, but that many things viewed from that skewed, penetrative perspective that belongs to the poet.

But I'm happily wallowing in her her chronicling of the 60/70's boho culture in NYC -- when it was significantly populated by working and lower middle class kids with artistic ambitions taking advantage of cheap rents in crappy apartments and plenty of menial jobs to pursue their dreams of becoming vital artists, rather than a buncha
trustafarians. The sense of style also highly beguiling -- when "style" just meant applying artistic ambitions to your basic living enviroment, dress sense etc. utilizing thrift store finds and the basic precept that every moment of your life should be lived as excitingly as you can manage.

Being a consumerist swine this is leading me to inventory my Patti swap: alla albums in the most updated versions I could manage, vintage vinyl bootlegs. 12" singles with non-LP B-sides, "Piss Factory" single (but the Sire re-issue, not the original on MER), Lenny's release of Patti and he in '71 and an autographed copy of her "Witt" book of po'ms that Jim Testa found cut-out at Strand Books. A signed David Gahr print of her and Sam Sheppard posing on a balcony at the Chelsea Hotel.

I recall the first time I saw her -- Spring '75, playing George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, a "hometown" gig for Lenny Kaye who's from North Brunswick (I'm pretty sure). This is just before they had a drummer and right after they'd released "Piss Factory" on their own MER label. Still one of the best gigs I've ever seen. They manifested the aura that ANYTHING was artistically possible at any moment -- in the best sense there was no rhyme or reason to the set, nothing was pro forma or predictable. Patti and co. flowed like Mercury from sweet and sassy Ronette street pop to Keef Richards toughiness to mad poetess and traced the line of ecstatic visionary that slithered through all of those. I've still got a handbill from that show with biographical notes that someone had scribbled on the back to prep me to interview her. And THAT'S a whole other story.

The New Brunswick connection was a funny thing. Years later Ivan Kral and his wife ran a video store in New Brunswick, Tony Shannahan, Patti's regular bassist once she came back from Detroit, lived around there and used to run the "Slaves of New Brunswick" revue on Tuesday nights at the Melody Bar (the house DJ was a cat named Matt Pinfield) -- he'd play a set and then back all comers. Every so often we'd be walking down Route 27 and Lenny Kaye would come running up to say "hi."

The pic this is illustrated with is by Robert Maplethorpe. It's pretty close to the Witt cover. if you can afford it you should buy some Maplethorpe art.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

full circle line

Monday morning we were up early, packed, made bad coffee with the "pod" coffee maker provided by the hotel. Then Amy decided to go out for oatmeal from the Starbucks at the Sheraton on Canal Street. We bundle up, head out and notice lots of trucks on St. Charles with side doors opened. You could see drawers fulla stuff. We figured that this was a service getting ready to decorate the streets, hotel fronts etc. Or someone filming something or other. New Orleans has a municipal department whose main job is to encourage film industry work here and they're notably successful. Lotsa things shot here. Damn "Salt" a film obstensibly about dirty business in the CIA and revolving aroudn their HQ in Langley managed to work in a segment in New Orleans - on Royal Street at Ursulines!

We go to Starbucks, get our stuff, head back to hotel and as we get to that block note a dolly filled with director's chairs. We take a peak: "Simon," "Zahn"... Man with a clip board comes up and says "We're filming for a TV show called 'Treme'." Turns out they filmed a sequence at the hotel's restaurant, Luke. The scene is actually set in NYC where the character based on Susan Spicer has relocated and is in the process of "cooking her way back to New Orleans."

As we entered the lobby we noted lotsa folks with garment backs ducking out doors, jumping on elevators...

And next thing ya know we're in a cab headed to Louis Armstrong Airport.

BuhBye! Sigh!!

Louche dei

Sunday of this trip was pretty laid back. Went to choich. Lollygagged around the hotel a bit, walked down Decatur Street, stopping at Louisiana Music Factory to pick up a second Eureka Brass Band CD and swing by Faulkner House book store to see if there were any tomes that gave any in depth look at the etymology of Mardi Gras Indian chants (there weren't! - in fact, on returning home I reached out to someone cited as an authority on Caribbean culture and he affirmed that such work doesn't exist to date) and then down to the end of the French Quarter and Coops.

Years ago, on one of our first trips to NOLA we were wandering haplessly down Royal or Chartres and stumbled into a very downhome eatery whose name now escapes me. Looked VERY dicey but we really didn't know WHERE to stop so gave it a shot. And they had some amazing fried chicken. After The Flood it closed and we've been searching out for comparable experiences. One local guided us to Fiorello's, also down at the end of Decatur. And this was a worse dive than the first. Dirty, in attentive staff. There were roaches crawling around on the walls. And they took their sweet time in delivering the chow -- but it was all pretty much worth it. Great chicken, served up hot, freshly made. Last time we went there, ordered up the grub asked for wine and were told by the waiter -- "there's nothing here you'd wanna drink!" But we insisted. And he insisted! He finally gave in and brought some nasty chablis -- can't say he was steering us wrong! But the food's the point. Haven't been back since. (I should point out that Willie Mae's is very neat and clean and if the staff seems overwhelmed they are always polite and make you feel at home - hell, one year a waitress pinched me for putting my elbows on the table!)

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal (which Mrs. W. reads religiously) had mentioned Coops as one of the great foodie bargains in the French Quarter. So we tried it last year and it's OK so that's where we wound up that Sunday afternoon, Saints game on the telly. I gotta say the chicken -- to my taste -- is nowhere near Willie Mae's. The breading is much thinner and nowhere near as crunchy and flakey. Smaller portions too. But the coleslaw it's served with is fresh and spicey and refreshing. The rabbit and sausage with rice was filling and occasionally tasty but kinda bland.

On the way back to the hotel Amy decided to try Cafe Beignet on Royal Street instead of Cafe Du Monde on our friend Joy's recommendation. We'd eaten there in years passed but didn't think too hard on the experience. The big difference is that Cafe Beignet is indoors, intimate and far more civilized that Cafe Du Monde. In warm weather (the temperature dropped into the 50's this day), there's a sweet little garden area immediately abutting the police station. So there's less waiting for a server to find you -- or to find a single clean table than at Cafe Du Monde. Otherwise, the victuals are comparable.

We napped again and pondered dinner. We lamed out and opted for the Gumbo shop in the French Quarter. Nice enough atmosphere - kinda downhome touristy. But peronable wait staff, good service. Food was all on the bland side tho. I got blackened chicken and expected a bit of heat coming off 'em but the spices mainly made the chicken taste like beef. OK but. WTF.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Chief 3

Tom and Arion had told us that there'd be a Second Line on Saturday and agreed to meet us and be part of it. We walked down Bourbon Street at about 11AM -- probably the only time to do with without drama. It's shocking how much is going on even at this hour! There's even a few dudes staggering around still nursing last night's bender. But overall it's pretty civilized.

Considering the national image of Bourbon Street as one continuous bacchanal going 24-7, the reality is decidedly different. As you enter from Canal Street, things start out decisively classy with big fancy hotels, expensive restaurants and the first of Larry Flynt's Hustler clubs. As you proceed things get more down home and rambunctious with more and more dacquiri and hurricane bars (basically a wall full of churning clear plastic vats filled with various colors/kinds of high test booze-slushee), some are basically just a kiosk right on the street, no seating - you takes yr plastic alien fulla frozen hooch and stagger on), cheapie souvenir shops and the like. Eventually you come to the residential zone which is shockingly, quiet, sedate and frankly quite beautiful. Lotta little homes, fronting right on the sidewalk, no front lawns. Remember, these were literally "town houses" - the real home was in the country, on the plantation. These places were essentially a parlor for entertaining and a place to crash out when you'd eaten and drunken your fill either at home or at another town house.

Passing out the end of the Quarter we walked West to Arion and Tom's apartment - a charming little place in a larger subdivided house. High ceilings, aged, planked flooring. Tiny kitchen. Kinda Manhattan style - basically it's a clothes closet and place to flop because - the city is your living room, kitchen, dining room etc. We ambled down Esplanade and then crossed on Decatur to Elysian Fields.

The Second-Line was sponsored by WWOZ-FM featured the Treme Brass Band leading the parade, then the New Wave Brass Band sitting in the center, and a third (didn't catch the name) bringing up the rear. Most of those participating were on the bourgie side (like us!) and the parade route was thoroughly tourist friendly - up Decatur, West on Esplanade, South on Royal, across to Decatur and then North to the end of the French Market. Nonetheless -- a LOVELY experience. It took a minute to find a groove for dancing while walking, especially to a brass band beat -- frankly this is one of the great, unique beats going; easily as attention grabbing and addictive as classic DC GoGo or Mississippi Hill Country blues if ya ask me -- but finally got it and just had a merry old time along with everyone else second-lining.

Amy appears at 1:33 on right hand side

we're at 1:08 to the far side, boogying

There were moments when it seemed pretty surreal - a big old second-line of largely middle-aged white folks being cheered, photographed and filmed by their peers but also a significant number of black folks. Dunno what they made of it. They could have thought it was pretty funny, but then again I saw folks coming out of restaurant kitchens having a look and then start dancing along and shouting encouragement.

I'd like to think that this is part of a strange kind of transition. It's no big secret that the Louisiana State gov't was all to happy to see large swathes of New Orleans poorest neighhoods depopulated by The Flood and made no effort to try and repatriate those residents to their home. As people move back into New Orleans and more and more white, middle class bohemian types. Which of course aids the evisceration of the indigenous culture. EXCEPT for the fact that many of these immigrants hold that vanishing culture in high regard and would appear ready to do whatever's in their power to help perpetuate it. I'd speculate that this is not lost on the original inhabitants of New Orleans that remain or have managed to make it back and I'd like to think that they see that there're alliances to be made to everyone's advantage. Some of these white invaders are those people who'd most support initiatives to restore historically black neighborhoods like the 9th Ward, Treme, etc. That's an outsider's perspective. I could be wrong; undoubtedly I'm oversimplifying. Mea culpa. I hope y'all can see some positive intent beneath it all.

All that being said -- it was a GAS to be sashaying 2 miles sandwiched between two great bands. I could mainly hear the New Wave Brass Band and they were kicking it, hard! I'm surprised at how many selections I recognized.

When we finished all four of us retreated to the Market Cafe in the French Market. I think the ladies had fish and Tom and I split a Muffaletta. This of course is one of the signature dishes in New Orleans. The night before J.R. had mentioned that it was originally known as the "wop" sandwich - oh boy! But eventually Italians came to be treated more respectfully and they came up with Muffaletta. Basically this is a hoagie, sub, etc. but served on a big round loaf of crusty bread - basically a whole one would cover a small dinner plate. The key ingredient is a slightly, spicey, vinegary relish made with various pickled vegetables - the components vary from place to place. Green olives are a main ingredient in some places. Here it was carrots, peppers, cauliflower. In Philly the big downhome food controversy centers on who originated and who now makes the best cheese steak - Pat's on Passyunk has the best claim to originating it but there's a passionate division between folks who favor Pat's as opposed to Jim's (on South Street) or Geno's (near Pat's actually). In New Orleans there's various places claiming to make the best Muffaletta tho most agree that Central Market on Decatur is the originator -- tho I recently had a friend claim that Central Market is owned and operated by the same folks as own Frank's - a short distance down Decatur and thus their muffaletta is just as good though not commonly given the same glory.

Afterwards, we sauntered down Decatur to Cafe Du Monde for the usual. Today entertainment was provided by a brass band of 12 year olds. The performance was not great and it seemed that they floundered about trying to catch a groove. Nonetheless, very cool to see a buncha pre-teens working to master actual instruments, let alone brass (as opposed to sitting at home playing Guitar Hero) and learning a repertoire whose roots could likely be tracked back a century or more. And here's strange facet of New Orleans culture in full effect -- kids could be doing ANYTHING on their day off. There's certainly other part time jobs to be had that take a lot less training and discipline and are a lot more contemporary. That anyone chooses this option is kinda extraordinary.

Then it was back to the hotel for another nap until we headed off into the Arts District to do unspeakable things. After that...
Some friends took us deep into the Bywater to Bacchanal. This is a place that could ONLY exist in New Orleans. The main building seems like it was a garage or storage shed; it's just two big, low ceilinged rooms (painted concrete, plaster?). Decisively ramshackle. Rudimentary kitchen in the back room, front room covered in raw wooden racks full of wine bottles, one wall covered in second hand refrigerator cases, the last wall being a crude bar. Out back there's a buncha beat up looking tables and white resin chairs strewn around. Two piece band playing on a rickety wooden platform in one corner. Pretty humble looking.

ONLY - the wine selection is extensive, canny, adventurous and eminently affordable (Amy got a glass of dry Spanish sparkling wine - a wineglass full, not a flute - for $4.50). Meanwhile, if you walked out back, and hung a right you found a tent rigged up where you could order up entrees of beef shoulder with fingerling potatoes and seasonal vegetables or a roasted quarter chicken with braised greens and rice - $12 a plate! And granted, it was served on a paper plate but -- frankly this is fine cuisine on a par with any place with a maitre d up front and linen on the table. Teh cheese platters were impressive too -- nice selection of distinctive cheeses served with a variety of breads and crackers -- enough to fill up the kinda serving platter you'd bring out a turkey on.

We spent some quality time here, then got a ride home.

In the Land of Fleur di Leis 2

Blundered through this day thru the mist of hangover. No doubt y'all no what that's all about so won't tediously belabor the point...
We caught a taxi out to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, on St. Ann in the Treme. Noted that the levelled projects are starting to be replaced by "mixed" income housing. That means developments built at one time by one developer but comprising a mix of building styles, serving different sized families. But all built from the same basic materials. So essentially an obvious simulation of an organically growing neighborhood with naturally occurring varied architecture. Still, I'm sure they're nice and if the gov't pointedly brings back the original inhabitants of the neighborhood it'll be all good.

Arriving at Willie Mae's we see that they've now installed a velvet rope outside to form a line; once you get in, you then get on the second line inside in the back room. We lucked out and proceeded directly to the second line and were seated in about 15 minutes. Lunch was as spectacular as we'd hoped - a big old platter of piping hot,crunchy,heavily crusted (distinctly salty but not obnoxiously so) Southern fried chicken, done to perfection as well as platter swimming in creamy butter bean puree. Yeah, easily the best fried chicken we eat all year tho it could be that what my pops used to whip up in his younger days might prove competition -- tho he didn't achieve the thickness and tastiness of coating that seems de rigeur here.

We taxied to the corner of St. Ann's and Rampart with the intention of visiting Congo Square -- where enslaved people's were allowed to meet, dance and recreate back in the bad old days. Yes, we should have done this 10 years ago but frankly, the richness of New Orleans culture, history and experiences on offer make it tough to really get to everything quick -- it takes time. Turns out that Louis Armstrong Park - wherein Congo Square resides, a little ways South of the main entrance - is closed for renovations; it'll re-open around the time of Jazz Fest. One of our local friends told us that it's been getting renovated for years now, being closed then opened then closed on an ongoing basis. I'll note that the temperature was in the low 70's F -- a delight for someone coming from the mid-Atlantic states where the temperatures had plummetted the day we took off for New Orleans.

Since we were already on Rampart Street it seemed a convenient opportunity to walk over to St. Louis Cemetery #1 off Basin Street. This is one of the old cemeteries in town and notorious for the acid trip scene shot for "Easy Rider" there -- which cause the immediate and eternal ban on further filming there by the Catholic Church which owns it. It's also the reputed final resting place of Marie LaVeux. Her name doesn't appear on the crypt in question but every tour guide and would be hoodoo practicioner obviously recognizes it as such. The crypt is covered in "XXX" and offerings of bottles of rum, wine, coins, beads etc. litter the ground in front. As we wandered about -- always a somber, calming experience -- came across another crypt that was even MORE heavily "XXX"ed than LaVeaux's with offerings of full glasses of wine, coins, beads and electronic hotel room keys piled up. As hoodoo practice is about practical, tangible results you hadda wonder who was interred here and what service the worshippers were hoping for: hotel keys?

Leaving St. Louis we walked across the French Quarter to Decatur Street and Café Du Monde. Yes, it's another touristy cliche -- but like many things like this there's a reason for it. Their coffee (with chicory) is simply my favorite; when I have a supply at home this is my weekend morning treat. Dark, distinctive, with a bit of acidic bite, but a lot of body. And the beignet's – as Amy says "Deep fried dough and powdered sugar; what's not to like?" The effect is like fresh zepoles or funnel cakes but lighter and somehow really not greasy - the accounts of Krispy Creme's history hold that their doughnuts are made with a beignet recipe acquired in New Orleans. The location is prime: it's beginning of the French Market, across the street from Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral with the Mississippi River behind it. People watching the folks streaming down Decatur Street (not to mention IN CDM itself) is always prime. The downside is that the place is pretty much packed 24-7; literally. The place is crowded, the ground (the bulk of the seating is outside on a huge covered patio)is covered in powdered sugar, spilled coffee and beignet scraps and usually thronged with pigeons looking for a meal. So...ya toughen up and enjoy.

Today, the Tornado Brass Band was playing out front to my great delight. Now I'll admit something right here; no doubt there's been brass bands outside Cafe Du Monde, or in Jackson Square or on Royal Street I've just passed by and ignored in years passed. Previously this all seemed a bit hokey and utterly contrived to appeal to tourists' sense of nostalgia. One of the gifts of "Treme" has been to give us some insight into the cultural engines that drive and have driven New Orleans. Of course the brass bands DO appear cute and old-timey and suggestive of simpler times to the out of towners (like me!) At the same time the urge to honor and preserve and make dynamic use of traditions like brass bands, Mardi Gras and such is a basic principle of local culture and has been for the odd century or so.

SO...the Tornado Brass Band played an estimable set, playing the modern standards of the genre (which I can now recognize from Rebirth Brass Band albums), as well as their adaptations of more pop tunes to this artistic mode -- following in the footsteps of Jelly Roll Morton and the like who likewise "jazzed up" church music, French dance tunes and blues and established the process we've called "Jazz" ever since.

Warm weather, live brass band music, warm doughnuts -- a nice trifecta of humble creature comforts.

After walking back to our hotel in the Business District we took a long nap. Upon waking we grabbed up cab up Magazine Street to Truckstop, a vintage men's clothes store run by J.R., former frontman for the late great Blackfire Revelation (imagine Blue Cheer playing MC5 songs -- yep, they were that good!) He's got a nice stock of vintage flannel and western shirts (I bought one embroidered with playing cards on front and with three desperadoes playing poker on the back), Frye boots and some new stock (the problem with vintage is -- most pieces are one of a kind and you never get one style/color in a selection of sizes). Cool place. All raw, red brick inside, decorated with vintage metal gas station signs, pinball machine and suchlike. Mecca to Southern boho types.

When the store closed we met up with J.R.s lady, Candice, who is the mastermind behind the Trashy Diva empire (multiple stores and locations in town, different store with different specialties - undies/corsets for instance) and their lovely little boy, Jackson. Drove over to Garden District Books which is located in a little mall on Prystania (Anne Rice used to have a shop in here) for a book signing by Sean Ysseult, former bassist of White Zombie/current leader of Rock City Morgue. She explained her raison d'etre for creating the book (basically, she pulled all her diaries and photo albums and such from storage to contribute to the book accompanying a White Zombie box set -- then Geffen did the most bare bones packaging possible), read some passages from the book (all very funny or poignant), and then signed anything anyone waved in front of her. In typical New Orleans style, there was a nice turn out from members of the community: club owners, folks from myriad local bands including Pepper Keenan late of Corrosion of Conformity, currently with Down.

Next we drove to MidCity for chow at Venezia. This is a big, noisey, family-style restaurant done up in a very 60's style of modern, ergo quaint. Decent prices, decent food (admittedly living across the Delaware from Trenton and 30 minutes North of Philly we're pretty blase about getting good Italian cuisine). Most fun was ordering a bottle of wine and some glasses at the bar and taking that out on the street to drink while we're waiting for our table -- drinking openly on city streets remains a source of ongoing amusement for us!

itselfbought coffee and beignet mix, bought a Saints at at Jackson Brewery. TGhere was a brass band playing in front of Café Du Monde while we were eating – bought their CD
Dinner with John and Candice – took taxi to John’s store Truckstop – which looked very cool – yakked a while, bought a western shirt from him.
Candice, John and Jackson drove to to Garden Book store – the mini mall that Anne Rice store used to be at for Sean Ysseult book signing – she talked a bit, read from the book and signed books.
Met Rik from Phantoms, owner of One Eyed Jacks and Pepper from COC
Then drove to Venezia in mid City on Canal Street – waited there a fairly long time – ok chow. Nice time talking. Candice thinking of opening a Trashy Diva in Austin. Her clothes are going to be used in True Blood again
They say to check out Tracey’s on Magazine Street - the original owners of Parasols (Parasols now owned and operated by folks from Florida)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Louisianna Bound pt 1

I've spent this year obsessing over New Orleans - went in April and then "Treme" commenced at the same time so it was like not really leaving for a LONG time. The experience is hard enough to let go of normally, but being reimmersed on a weekly basis made it much much worse. Leading me to do some pointed investigating of NOLA music and culture starting with finally listening to the Jelly Roll Morton interviews recorded at the Library of Congress in the lat 30's. And with his powers as a raconteur, his utterly delectable voice and sultry piano playing underneath it all equalled FURTHER immersion - and this leading to some small appreciation of how a love of continuity and tradition flavors the local culture. If I might be so bold to venture -- one of the few places where the folks at the bottom of the capitalist economic strata have a genuine appreciation and love of their history and a will to propagate it. Once Republican administrations took music lessons out of public school (and the classical programs in public schools were THE breeding pools for just about all the greats of modern jazz; so what's the result of ELIMINATING those programs?...)

So I spent a lot of daydream time on the streets of New Orleans this year and finally, here we were.

Thursday, December 2
Arrived at Louis Armstrong Airport mid afternoon. It was largely deserted. I think ours was the only plane debarking at the time. So perhaps spooky, perhaps comforting as its a lot more tranquil than say Philly's airport.
Taxied to the Hilton on St. Charles which used to be The Monaco under the Kimpton aegis pre-Flood. And it's still much the same. Perhaps could be touched up here and there and it'd be nice to get HOT water, but overall, nice.
Then we walked over to the French Quarter and up Chartres Street to Napoleon House. This place was built in the 1700's, was intended as the hiding place for Napoleon if they coulda snuck him outta Europe but that never happened. As it noted in many places, not much has been done to update or upgrade the facilities in the centuries since. This is no re-creation of 18th century environs -- it's the real thang with things like electric lights and electric heaters basically added on as an afterthought as time's passed.
This is a ritual moment for us. Sit down, order a glass of wine and Pimm's Cup (for Amy) and a cheese board. Take a sip and just LET GO OF EVERYTHING ELSE in our lives. Here we are. The New Orleans charm and identity is as in your face as possible here. And all talk shifts to what we'll do in the days to come.
We walk out of here slightly buzzed (when I gave up regular boozing my tolerance plummetted - 2 glasses and I'm honestly good for the night!) and headed East to Decatur Street and Louisiana Music Factory. This is a great, beat up mom and pop record store that specializes in Louisana music (not that there's not other stuff as well). It's NOT the place to find Mystikal or any other No Limit releases but it's the only place I know of where you'll find SECTIONS devoted to Mardi Gras Indian chanting, New Orleans brass bands, and bin cards for the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Kid Ory. After consultation with a friendly staffer we picked up

Jelly Roll Morton "Last Sessions"
Eureka Brass Band "In Rehearsal 1956"
Flaming Arrows "Here Come the Indians Now"
Storyville: The Naked Dance DVD

Now most of these you COULD find online, or via Amazon - the Morton is on UMG, the Storyville on Shanachie. Though at the same time, I've found stuff at this store's website that appeared no where else online - not even a mention at AllMusic. MORE IMPORTANTLY -- it's simply easier to DISCOVER music unknown to ye when you're digging through physical piles of records, especially when you've got knowledgeable record store staff there to advise you. There's certainly enough Jelly Roll Morton records available online but not easy to discern which one has the most vocal performances. Or brass bands...not only is the online selection spotty but not easy to figure out the BEST and EARLIEST recorded examples available via the Internet.
And frankly, I never would have thought to look for documentaries on the infamous NOLA red light district spontaneously but here we were looking for the music and there's the documentary on display. A neat way to make additional connections for the non scholars among us.

Swag in hand we sauntered over to Tom and Arion’s on Esplanade at the end of Quarter. These are folks we'd met online and had some mutual interests, or had known professionally for years, and only found out by accident that they'd moved to NOLA 6 weeks earlier. We got off Esplanade and into the nicely quiet streets of the Marigny and made our way to Frenchman Street, looking to chow at Adolfo's. Putting our name on de list we proceeded to have a jolly olde time just jawing away on the little bench outside the restaurant, sipping wine (no open container laws in New Orleans so easy enough to get a drink at a bar and take it outside). We were having such a good time that we didn't hear them call our names (if in fact they did!) so after about 1 1/2 hours we went next door to Yuki. Had more wine, some Japanese appetizers and then grabbed a taxi to Vaughan's which is deep in the Bywater (area North of the Marigny, which in turn in North of the French Quarter), almost in the 9th Ward. Thursdays are the night of trumpeter Kermit Ruffin's regular gig. Got there, settled in, more wine (generous portions to boot) and the band soon appeared and announced that Kermit was in NYC with Trombone Shorty (turns out this was a Red Hot AIDS benefit concert devoted to NOLA music), so we (ill advisedly in my case) quaffed our drinks and got another cab to a spot called Loveless. And here my memories fail me. No need to recount this -- y'all know what it's liked being trashed, kinda weaving while walking and speech slurred to the max. OY! But made it home all right and frankly the good fellowship and neighborhood cruising were well worth next day's hangover.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

base consumerism

I'll confess, for all my transcendental affectations, I'm still a creature of American consumer-culture. Ergo, I do occasionally derive overmuch pleasure and sense of accomplishment from just buying stuff. Sigh. Maybe I'll get in right in my next incarnation!

The place I indulge in this most exultantly is Positively Records in Levittown, PA. This is about a 15 ride away. It's tucked in a seedy little strip mall, and one that runs down a side street off New Falls Road. So as non-prime or hip a spot as you could imagine. But this place is heaven! Kind of beat up, rough around the edges and a tiny bit grimey. CDs and DVDs stacked and packed as tight as possible. The front counter is 6inches deep in DVD - so the counter surface is all DVD case spines. CD's are arrayed in a couple rows of bins and then a couple shelves about the bins and 3-4 rows BENEATH the bins. The selection is great if kinda erratic. If you're looking for any of the dozens of albums Fairport Convention have released since the 60's they're ALL here -- sometimes in pirated editions of things that are out of print. If you're looking for obscure death metal, garage rock, that's all here. No dance music, small reggae and hip hop sections. BIG used section (lotta current extreme metal in here as well loads of U2, etc.) But my favorite section is the cheapie bins - $2.99 titles. ANd there's a HUGE section and it does my corrupted heart much good just to go digging thru this. It's a wonderful opportunity to muse over the rise and fall of careers in the mad mad world of "pop" music and even of au courant underground music -- you'll find just about every Britney Spears record in here, NSync, etc. as well as stuff like Collective Soul, Hootie And the Blowfish, Semisonic and such. AND THEN...
*Screeching Weasel "Emo" - only given this a cursory listen so far but it's tuneful, noisey, spirited and I warrant every bit of rockin' fun as what's being written about in Alternative Press this month -- only these guys are 20 years or so older than what media pays attention to.
*Ashley Hutchings "The Guv'nor" Volumes 1 & 4 - of course this guy was a founding member of Fairport Convention and jumped ship when they got too rock and formed Steeleye Span and has kept leaving and forming bands on a regular basis; this series anthologizes work from throughout his career.
I grabbed these to hear his work with the Albion Band as that discography is a bit too daunting to want to tackle head on. I figured that the Fairport tracks I'd have -- but in fact as soon as "Some Sweet Day" kicked in it was noticeably NOT the version I already had on the Fairports BBC box - so I grabbed my other albums and - damn! - these are all previously unreleased recordings! So worth the price of the admission right there. Then I note that the Etchingham Steam Packet (his band with Shirley Collins) track is another unreleased gem. The bulk of the other cuts are all pretty prime whether they're unreleased or not. Clearly this guy is an auteur of the most puissant sort and galvanizes whoever falls into his clutches.
*J. Henry Burnett "The B-52 Band" - haven't cracked this yet but J. Henry's better known these days as T-Bone. This recording is from '72
*Godflesh "Pure" - I had something by these guys back in the day but dismissed 'em as Swans wannabees and occasionally do regret dumping the stuff that came into my paws when Earrache Records was being distributed by Columbia Records for a few years. Listening to the first few tracks -- I'll need more time. Big thumping beat, noisy guitars. Seems fine enough, but...
*Jesu "Silver" EP - more recent work by Justin Broadrick of Godflesh. Most folks have pegged that as ponderously slow, monumentally heavy slunge -- more Swans wannabee-ism? But this knocked me out. It's much more like shoegazery but with an admittedly HUGE, megalithic bass underpinning. Up top - there's a thick porridge of multiple guitars, keyboards and restrained vocals all doing their best to have THEIR melodic content be heard above the rest of the din. And no one wins that battle! Making the resultant stew all the more intoxicating.
*Ministry "Anomositisomina" - I know that conventional wisdom is that Al lost it after the album with the indecipherable title that starts with "NWO" but lemme tell ya my brothers -- t'ain't so. The brother's kept making distinctive, ass-kicking records subsequently -- the last few lovely in their bold-faced frontal attacks on George Bush Jr. And if the shock of innovation has worn off over the years...well, time to grow up and get over needing that as an essential part of your listening experience. Music's just music and context, expectation, career trajectory are just bullshit metrics made up by folks who don't have ears so they can say SOMETHING that makes 'em seem niscient without having to listen too close or too long.
GETTING TIRED so here's just a list
*Sinead O'Connor "The Lion & The Cobra" -- the introduction of weirdie war-whooping to pop vocabulary, or perhaps the reintroduction after Kate Bush backed out her careering and decided to make art at her own pace.
* Rolling Stones "Voodoo Lounge" - this is one I've owned and dumped. So the secret is -- EVERY Stones album that followed "Goat's Head Soup" has been touted as a "return" to a more ballsy, basic, rockin' Stones. Which seems strange. That implies that the preceding album, in turn was NOT ballsy, etc. So how can each be a return to something that they all seem to be embraced as? The answer is -- they're all pretty solid, ballsy, basic, rockin' -- it's just that NONE of them engender that initial shock of discovery that Stones albums had up to "Exile On Mainstreet" Largely because the generation that came of age with the Stones just grew out of that phase where this band crystalized their hopes, fears and sense of solidifying self.
*Al Anderson "Pay Before You Pump" - solo album from NRBQ's lead guitarist of yore. As you'd expect, great peppy, tuneful, rockin' songs -- but vocals are serviceable in a strained, shaggy dog kinda way.

*Joanna Newsom "Have One On Me" - just curious. I loved her debut (which bespoke her inspiration by she-who's-name-cannot-be-spoken-by-hipsters -- MELANIE), Vs. just seemed this is a triple CD for $20. what the hey.
PS now that I've listened - can't say there's anything here you can't find on a Kate Bush album. Nothing wrong with that. If you need a faux Kate Bush album.
*Metallica "Live At Grimeys" - 2008 live performance they're only selling through indie record stores. $9.99 (and I'm sure bigger indies sell it cheaper). Canny move by canny band/mgt. team. This is from one live show so they only had to pay for recording stuff for one show -- and being as this record store's in Nashville ya figger it wasn't an effort to find reasonable studio rentals. The booklet lists the albums that the studio versions appeared on -- so it's a nice retail sampler. They got the front page of Billboard Magazine without it being an advertisement. Probably boosting their street cred. And let's face it -- there's still a good million hardcore Metallica fans who's buy anything they put out. So chances are their net will be quite respectable as well.
PS this sounds fine. If you like Metallica you'll like this. I don't know that I'd trade it for "Binge And Purge" tho.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mr. Cohen BACK in the day

I've been watching "Bird On A Wire" Tony Palmer's film on Leonard Cohen's '72 tour. And I LOVE the music of course, but equally mesmerizing are the offstage moments - Leonard being interviewed, talking to band members, female admirers etc. - because his perspective and handling of EVERYTHING is couched in poetry.It's not pretentious at all and his language is not high falutin,' it's obviously geniunely the way he looks and deals with the world and that perspective is shocking in its beauty, wisdom, humility and perceptiveness. But actually you encounter that in ANY of the films made on Leonard ALL of which I'd recommend are worth viewing. And "Bird On A Wire" captures him being amazingly FUNNY - mocking his own image, making up songs onstage about the "tragic poet" and "skulls" being lowered from the rafters as stage props and so on.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Neville Alert

I've written about Ivan Neville before, mainly in conjunction with his band Dumpstaphunk. I was touted their "Listen Hear" EP at the Louisiana Music Factory in April and was utterly, immediately smitten [check out this link of them playing there - CRUCIAL:]. I've seen them twice since - both times at free festivals. There's no questioning the chops this band has or the passion they bring to their playing, but I must admit that the newer material they play live and recorded for their full length debut "Everybody Wants Sum" is not overly exciting to me -- a lot of it's expertly played jazz-funk, technically amazing but not especially engaging 'lessen yr drunk and dancing with a topless lady in the mud somewhere methinks.

Now I've picked up a couple live sets from past performances at Jazz Fest [which you can find here:] and noted that there were a number of songs they played in the past that have not turned up on either Dumpstaphunk release. Checking Amazon for Ivan Neville releases I noted that he recorded and released several solo albums before forming Dumpstaphunk. I've since picked up "Saturday Morning Music" a 2002 release and lo and behold the first two songs wound up as part of the early Dumpstaphunk repertoire - the very soulfully funky "What Do You Want From Me" and then "Ugly Truth" which is another soulfunk gem that presaged the best tracks on "Listen Hear." The latter has a great crunchy guitar hook that coulda come from a vintage Family Stone album or the Fishbone record that coulda followed "Reality of My Surroundings" if Kendall (the original guitar player and a key writer for the band) hadn't left the band for his dad's Jesus-cult. The track is almost worth the price of admission alone and if you can stand MP3 fidelity I'd advise ya buy a download immediately.

Tin Angels with Wings

The last time the Chapin Sisters played Philly it was at the Green Line Cafe in West Philly. Small crowd, rudimentary sound system. Very intimate and DIY. It was Lily and Abigail's first touring and done without half sister Jessica who had recently left the group amicably to better focus on her roles as wife and mother. In the time since, the ladies have toured extensively, working as backing singers on tour with Harper Simon at the beginning of this year and then with She & Him throughout the Spring and Summer.

They've been touring as headliners since September and the release of their album "Two" - a reference to this being their sophomore release and their now being a duo.

As they took the stage at the Tin Angel (with mom and dad [Tom] Chapin in the house -- they'd driven down from Piermont NY to lend them a car to drive to East Coast dates with) it was clearly a much more seasoned Chapin Sisters. While they had not in any way becomed slicker or pat, they'd clearly picked up a lot experience and stage craft.

Abigail and her sister were obviously at home stage, joking between songs to cover tune-up time, sharing tidbits about their year of living on the road and otherwise engaging the audience's attention and never letting it slacken.

Their singing was powerful throughout with their harmonies being flawless and often quite daring. Rather than harmonies with simple, obvious intervals most often Lily would stake out the lower registers and sing in obvious counterpoint to Abigail's high flying vocals -- letting them pretty much cover the same amount of vocal territory as they had as a trio.

As usual one is struck by their writing - lots of catchy tunes but the lyrics consistently, dark, rueful, ironically witty. So you get a nice balance between the sweet and bitter as opposed to most other latterday Ladies of the Canyon who basically are spinning cotton candy through and through.

Pee? Oui!

We went to the first night of preview performances of Pee Wee's Playhouse on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theater. Mrs. W. is a BIG, longtime fan, owns the complete set of TV shows on VHS, has watched the original HBO special dozens of times (our personal dialect is richly seasoned with one liners taken therefrom), seen all the movies and have a respectable, not-quite-disturbing amount of merch on display or stuffed in crystallite tubs in the basement. There really was never a question of whether we'd go to this or not.

The production was a comfy mixture of elements from the HBO special with characters and bits from the TV mixed in as well as a certain amount of new material. There was a respectable amount of original actors returning to recreate their roles (Miss Yvonne! -- most lately seen as Charlie's dissolute mom in Every Day's Sunny in Philadelphia -- Jhombi, Mailman Mike)and the Playhouse set was likewise based on the original Groundling Theater set up but with the fuller realization that those visuals got on the network morning show.

From the moment Paul Reubens stepped on stage as Pee Wee it was clear that he was playing to the converted as the audience immediately broke out in frenzied applause. And in fact throughout the evening every time a familiar character made their first appearance the crowd went wild. Every familiar bit or verbal trope evoked tumultuous laughter. Lotta nostalgia involved and the production clearly was designed to speak to that. As the original stage show never played outside of L.A. it certainly was legitimate for an East Coast audience to be thrilled to actually be seeing this in the flesh. Still -- the L.A. production and the morning kids' show were genuinely innovative, cutting edge artistic statements, it was a little disappointing to see this work presented a comfy walk down memory lane, albeit a cool and definitely surreal memory lane.

Happily the new material that was worked into the show was strong and genuinely funny especially the sequence wherein Pee Wee gets online for the first time quickly becomes obsessed with acquiring as many Facebook Friends as possible.

What also kept the show lively and engaging was the minor slips and problems occurring as this was the first ever performance in front of a live audience at the Sondheim theater: at a point where Conky was supposed to hand Pee Wee the card with the Secret Word it, it'd slipped from the actor's hand and lay on the floor behind him, but Reubens noticed it on the floor, scooped it up and ad libbed without missing a beat. At another point the under skirt of Miss Yvonne's dress came loose and she deftly just tore it off and gaily tossed it away, again, without losing the rhythm of the show. Seeing the actors coping with these minor technical problems and thinking on their feet brought an added air of spontaneity to the production and a little edge of aesthetic danger that was one of my favorite parts of the show.

I did note that Reubens wasn't quite able to voice the Pee Wee character with all the high notes he was able to hit decades ago, but honestly, I think that once he's had a chance to live in the character a while that he'll adapt to his middle aged vocal cords and make appropriate adjustments with fine results.

Word is that after the month or so this production is slated to run on Broadway that Reubens starts production on a new Pee Wee film and on the basis of this show, I must say that my hopes are high.

Dulli Impressed

Johnny Brenda's is the nicest place I've ever seen Greg Dulli play in Philly. Good sound, nice sight lines all around. Decent red wine at the bar. What more could you want? Absolutely NOTHING.

'cause Dulli's always got game no matter what format he presents himself in and honestly they're all pretty consistent in sound and concept and the variations hsbr little bearing on the final affect. You start with that sandblasted voice of his -- not the most tuneful out there but no worse than Dylan's or Hendrix's and he's always been canny enough to be able to coax something moving and memorable from it.

This was touted as a solo acoustic tour and indeed instrumentation tonight was himself and Craig Rosser on acoustic guitars, Rick Nelson on violin and cello and a percussionist. But both guitars were plugged into FX boxes so you got the full rockin' assault Twilighters and Whigs fans are accustomed to with acoustic textures broken out when appropriate. Additionally, one of Dulli's trademarks is to construct a wall of sound wherein the end product is somehow bigger and grander than the sum of its parts and tonight's set was no exception. By the time they hit
"Bonnie Brae" your brain had adjusted to the smaller line-up and the overall effect didn't really seem significantly different from what he would have whipped up with a 5 or 6 or 8 piece ensemble.

Nice set list - drawing from Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins albums as well as the Afghan Whigs including covers from the "She Loves You" set and more recent additions.

This definitely whetted my appetite for the new Twilight Singers album due out next year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Swans stuff

Swans' Michael Gira meets Steve Buscemi backstage at Brooklyn Masonic Temple
and there's a buncha killer new live videos from the just completed US tour you'll find at in the Swans playlist
this one's my favorite!

Friday, October 8, 2010

random dithering

1) I'm sitting here listening to Robbie Basho's "Venus In Cancer" for the first time and am powerfully struck by how much Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons resembles Basho vocally -- the selfsame soaring, tremelo heavy choir boy voice. And no shame in that. Not like Antony was copping from Nick Lachey

2) RL Burnside -- I am SUCH a bandwagon jumper on this one. It was only when I was working a project or two for Fat Possum and they sent me a care package that I was hipped to their roster of Mississippi Hill Country worthies including the late Mr. Burnside. I contented myself with "Burnside On Burnside" and "First Recordings" for a long while -- and those are both PRIME! Eventually I purchased "Ass Pocket Of Whiskey" and all too soon found the obtrusive presence of Jon Spencer (whose Blues Explosion provided backing here) a bit too much to take and moved that down to the basement archives. I picked up "Too Bad Jim" and that was another great one! Recently found used copies of "Come Right In" and "A Bothered Mind" and both wound up being frustrated listening. Each has a couple great tracks of RL solo or with a band throwing down, but the majority of tracks feature "remixes" with various folks taking stabs of creating tracks using the odd Burnside sample.

In the documentary "You Don't Know My Mind" Fat Possum owner Matt Johnson counters complaints from Blues "purists" about these efforts of updating RL for the wider marketplace - saying there's not enough Blues purists to support releases like that. And I do believe there was intent to raise RL's earning power (there's a great sequence where Johnson advise RL to contact social services and have them stop sending benefits checks as he was earning much too much from record sales and performances to qualify -- but RL ain't having none of that!) but -- jeez, these experiments just stink! Neither fish nor fowl and they totally dilute the power of the essence of Burnside's art, the hypnotic/obsessive riffing, that strange, rolling Hill Country beat - that whiskey-scorched voice!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swans songs Philadelphia 9/29/2010

Swans' set list from opening date of U.S. tour, the Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA 9/28/2010

No Words/No Thoughts (from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To the Sky)
Your Property (from Cop)
Sex God Sex (from Children Of God)
Jim (from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To the Sky)
I Crawled (from I Crawled 12")
My Birth (from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To the Sky)
Beautiful Child (from Children Of God)
Eden Prison (from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To the Sky)

This set list perhaps explains my shock and delight at this first Swans performance in some 13 years at Philadelphia's Trocadero. A nice chunk of their excellent new album and a healthy helping of earlier songs from their distinguished canon. When I saw them at The Ritz at the time "Greed" came out, and then at the Mercury Lounge touring behind "Soundtracks For The Blind" my experiences (no doubt clouded by alcohol!) were that Swans tours were to showcase live recasting of their current body of work. So this set was a surprise, and one I'm certainly not complaining about! I honestly didn't expect to see the magnificent "Sex God Sex" performed live again in my lifetime (been experiencing a lot of reverse deja vu these days!)

The reactivated Swans consists of:
Michael Gira / guitar / voice
Norman Westberg - guitar
Christoph Hahn - lap steel guitar
Phil Puleo - drums, percussion
Chris Pravdica - bass
Thor Harris - drums, percussion, vibes, curios, etc etc...

...and they made a mighty noise! It wasn't the monolithic, impossibly dense, impossibly loud SLAB of legend... it was leaner, more economical and more focussed. And STILL accomplished what the mightiest Swans live performances also have -- creating an immersive sonic enviroment that can allow the audience to encounter trance states, hopefully tending towards the ecstatic. A number of songs might remind one of Gira's participation in some of Glenn Branca's early guitar symphonies (and Michael played on his "Symphony no. 3")but more powerfully recalled the live versions of the repertoire from "Soundtracks For the Blind" - the Swans at their most symphonic.

Other songs traded heavily in crushing beats driven home by Harris and Puleo smashing into their kits double-fisted and in tandem buttressed by throbbing bass guitar chords voicing primal, jagged riffs. Yes, it was heavy. Yes, heads were banged.

I came to this show not knowing what to expect but honestly it wasn't what I encountered -- which was far better than anything I could have dreamed up!

Phunkin in Camden NJ

So yes, I have an unhealthy obsession with New Orleans' Dumpstaphunk. Got both their regular released records, some of the downloads of live sets from Jazz Fest (I likes 2008 and 2006 especially well) and such. And yes, I've complained on numerous occasions about the lack of opportunities to see them 'round these parts (how killer would it be for them to play John & Peter's in New Hope - you KNOWS Dean Ween would be sitting in on that shit!) And yes, I likes 'em enough to actually check their website every couple weeks (fug, I don't even check my own website that often!) So I go on the website -- note that they haven't changed anything on it since April 2010 and proceed to the one area they do update - the tours. As usual, no Philly date but...they're playing the Camden Backyard BBQ, on Labor Day weekend, for FREE! Their site says they go on at 6PM, the festival's site says the thing starts at 2PM.

To make a long story short, we drive down and get there at 5PM, find a schedule taped to the sound booth and discover they're on at 9PM (making us glad that we didn't take the Light Rail from Trenton as originally planned as the last train North leaves at 9:01PM - OY!) We thought to bring lawn chairs not knowing what seating arrangements would be (good thing too as there were some bleachers kinda far back and everyone else was flopped on the grass -- and 5 hours of sitting on the ground ain't kind to my back no more). But didn't think we could sneak in wine...tho obviously the cannier folks attending were hip to that fact and enjoying a bit of tippling while they sat through acts like The Radiators (yawn), Marcia Ball (good pipes, clearly loves what she's doing but I don't know that white ladies oughta be singing about chawing watermelon in Camden) and enjoying the view: the festival was right on the banks of the Delaware River with a gorgeous view of the Philly cityscape. Perfect weather too - balmy.

We killed some time by trying to get some chow. We waited on line at the one BBQ kiosk (tho festival organizers had advertised food vendorS, and it was a BBQ... the alternatives were a hot dog/hamburger stand and a funnel cake/french fries stand) for an hour -- and having reached the counter were told that chicken wouldn't be ready for another 20 minutes and to come back to the front of the line then. The wait wound up being another hour! And that chicken WAS good -- just not that good.

Finally Dumpstaphunk hit the stage and pretty much reprised their set in DC. Clearly the "Listen Hear" repertoire has been retired from the live set which is kinda disappointing but then again I shoulda been paying attention to these guys in 2007!

Cooked power

I seen Iggy & The Stooges at Max's Kansas City back in the 70's. A mighty fine show and one that's one of my golden standards for a great gig.

The second version of the reborn Stooges - with James Williamson stepping in on guitar since Ron Asheton's untimely death a few years ago - started playing big festivals abroad at the beginning of this year (maybe late last year) and this Summer began playing headlining shows in the U.S. I was thinking of seeing them at ATP over Labor Day weekend, tho dreading the festival-goer traffic compounded by the holiday weekend traffic. So I was exceedingly relieved to find them gigging in Atlantic City - a scant hour and a half from the greater Trenton area we call home.

The show being on a Friday in late August, we left mid afternoon to avoid weekend shore traffic and made good time. We checked into the Sheraton there (even buying the hotel room thru it was NOT cheap and it's easy to see why AC's tourist business ain't thriving during this recession -- TOO EXPENSIVE), crashed for a while, then walked through the phalanx of name brand outlet stores that line the route from the Convention Center to the boardwalk; as Stooges bass player mike watt might opine: BOUJ!

After winding our way thru the strategically designed maze of some casino (they're MEANT to keep you walking in circles from slot machine to gaming table and back of course) to the beach and strolled to the House of Blues which is at the far Northern end of the boardwalk. It's a trippy little trip with your typical slightly seedy South Jersey shore shops and pizza joints interspersed between the huge facades of the various themed casinos. Being accustomed to the Northern beaches -- and Wildwood which invests considerable resources in maintaining their beachfront -- ACs is kind of a shock -- a TINY sliver of sand; standing on the boards you could chuck a nerf ball into the ocean.

The House of Blues is your typical establishment swimming in faux culture -- made to look elegantly run down and funky; why not. I've seen gigs in far worst places.

So the Stooges take the stage and immediately start kicking serious ass pulling out the classic tunes from "Raw Power" - one of the great rock (as opposed to rock 'n' roll) albums ever in my book (and I know this is not an esp. unique or novel position). I've seen Iggy a number of times over the year and listened to the bulk of his solo of the most immediately striking things about this performance is that he's obviously authentically invested in it, feeling it and believing in what he's doing. And when Iggy's into it, he's one of the greatest rockers out there. There were times when he appeared to be consciously "performing," doing his Iggy act, pulling the poses and routines that the audience came expecting/hoping to see. But there were as many times when he was clearly grooving on his bandmates, inhabiting the truth of the lyrics he was singing and basically being the primal gas-gas-gas his legend is based on.

No doubt having this band to work with makes this task viable. Scott Asheton remains one of the definitive drummers of the Detroit high energy school of rock. James Williamson's guitar was concise and explosive. By leaving music and carving out a successful job in the square-john world (something to do with Sony's computer shit), has allowed him to avoid the ennui and cynicism that he might have developed if he'd spent that time going to thru the motions trying to eke out a career in music with ever diminishing returns. mike watt -- to my mind -- is the perfect bassist to complete the equation. Technically dazzling -- one of those guys who can translate what's in his head directly to his fingers -- his love and reverence for the Stooges's legacy channels all that expertise into playing what those songs need i.e. some of the greatest hard rock riffing the world's ever known (courtesy of the late great Ron Asheton who played bass on the "Raw Power" songs) delivered in a state of utter ecstasy. Watching watt playing, clearly entranced by Iggy, then Scott, then James was a lovely treat. Oh yeah, Steve Mckay, saxist from Fun House was present and accounted for too.

Besides playing the "Raw Power" repertoire, they played songs from the first two albums (Ronnie refused to play the "Raw Power" stuff -- STILL miffed at being demoted to bassist, tho honestly - he was far more proficient on the 4 strings in my opinion) as well as songs written before, during and after the "Raw Power" sessions like "Johanna" which was especially thrilling to me as I never expected to hear any of those songs played live during my lifetime, ESPECIALLY not by the Stooges themselves. (yes, I know Iggy's played "I Gotta Right" as a solo artist over the years)

All in all -- a great night!

phunkin in DC

I've spent much of the Summer obsessing over New Orleans music, FINALLY gaining some small appreciation for its diversity and also the interrelationship between the various indigenous styles that've coexisted there over the past century or so. One of it's aspects that emerged as key and quite unique to this musical history is a continued respect for tradition and a desire to preserve and cultivate it -- while also innovating within it -- and that goes right back to Jelly Roll Morton and contemporaries like Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, and then continues on thru the likes of Rebirth Brass Band, DJ Jubilee et al.

I've majorly obsessed over Dumpstaphunk, a band led by Aaron Neville's son Ivan Neville - whose played keyboards with an interesting range of people including Keith Richards and of course the Neville Brothers. Checking on their website: (you should visit - once you enter it automatically plays a series of great live recordings -- I love the fact that the top item on their news board reads: "The newest feature of our message board is that it is now 100% pornography free!!") I bemoaned the apparent lack of regular touring that'd bring 'em close to Trenton or Philadelphia (my primary stomping grounds nowadays).

I was preparing for a trip to Baltimore and a visit to young Wuelf in Rockville, MD and trying to work the day job double-hard so I could afford the day off this would entail. It was BLAZING hot and I succumbed to turning on the air conditioner in my office, which only is effective if I shut the room's door- cutting me off from the stereo in the next room. So's I visit to use their sound feed for background music, casually look at their tour dates - and see they're playing a free show at the Museum of the American Indian in DC the same weekend we were planning on visiting!

That weekend, we planned too busy an itinerary leaving minutes to spare to go from city to city, event to event. And to make an overlong story slightly shorter -- we got stuck on the dreaded Metro waiting at Woodley Park station for 20 minutes with no indication that we'd ever start moving again. So at the time Dumpstaphunk were scheduled to start playing, we bolted out of the subway, hailed and taxi, burned rubber and arrived about 30 minutes late. The area looked utterly deserted and I feared we'd missed their set, but as we neared the Museum, funky sounds started slipping around its corner and as we closed in we could see the overflow of crowd spilling out onto the street.

It was a glorious set up - a lovely late afternoon in late Summer in the courtyard of the Museum, fountain bubbling off to one side of the stage helping to cool the breezes blowing over the audience, lovely golden glow bathing the stage. And Dumpstaphunk throwing down in fine style!

They concentrated on tunes from their new album "Everybody's Wants Sum" which tend to be jazzy instrumentals or more straightforward soul as opposed to the rock inflected P-Funk of their debut EP "Listen Hear." These guys are all world class players -- but who evince that not by instrumental pyrotechnics per se (tho there was some of that at some points) but by the effortless grace of their playing; they were clearly totally engaged with the meaning and feeling of their music, not having to give conscious thought to their playing. Hard to ignore that they're Ivan and the two bassists are also powerful and distinctive vocalists and no slouches at tight, soulful harmony singing.

They closed the show with a hot ready of Sly's "I Want to Take You Higher" joined by all the Native American performers they'd shared the bill with and then of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" - frankly the best version I've heard live or on record. This show was video'ed and you can view it here:,_Stevie_Salas,_Murray_Porter_Dumpstaphunk

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chapin Sisters at the Living Room

There were a lot of comments about the heat and humidity at the Living Room last night - but hell, it's Summer! And the Living Room, is a comfy, lived-in kinda venue and you expect it not to be a highly artificial, climate-controlled enviroment. Honestly, I prefer situations that are what they is and is in synch with the seasons and the time of day etc rather than some abstracted, homogenized version of "ideal conditions."And oddly enough, last time I saw the Chapin Sisters at the Living Room it was back in early Spring during a freak heat wave, so the temperature thing seems like a tradition already!

Since that last show, Lily and Abigail have logged in MANY woman-hours singing on big stages as backing singers for She & Him. And the road work has paid off handsomely. They had lovely, expert voices to begin with - developed from years of singing together, and that within the context of a highly musical family of jazz players and folk revival singer/players including their Grammy Award winning pops, Tom, and their late uncle, Harry. Pretty much constant gigging with She & Him and then opening for them in their own right, playing their own headlining dates etc. has honed their vocal abilities to awesome levels of expertise.

In the Chapin Sisters, Abigail and Lily (and their half sister Jessica early on), tended towards the ambitious in structuring their vocal harmonies; their command of the basics is authoritative and this leaves them hungry for challenge. Their melody lines start standard and sweet then swing to more daring territory - high, wild and free. Last night they attempted a lot of pretty nervy singing, jumping octaves, running thru all sorts of tricksy harmonic intervals and nailing each and every one with stunning power.

They begin with a very cool combination of Abigail's higher, brighter voice and Lily's lower and duskier - so they cover a lot of melodic and timbral ground even with just two voices. They introduce further variety by starting out a capella on "Sweet Light" (from the upcoming album "Two"), both picking up acoustic guitars (which they tend to pick rather than strum -- owing to the old folkie traditions they grew up saturated in), Lily occasionally putting down her guitar to wield a tambourine or banjo.

After rendering songs from their debut "Lake Bottom LP" they did up their bravura acoustic reading of the Britney Spears' hit "Toxic" -- Abigail mightily impressive with purty courageous vocal acrobatics -- followed by Doc Watson's "Long Journey." This is the firt time I'd seen 'em tackle, "Toxic" -- originally recorded at the urging of their brother Jonathan Craven as a lark -- won them the attention of KCRW and other radio programmers right at the outset of their career and it was a treat.

Eventually they brought out a rhythm section including Gang Gang Dance drummer Jesse Lee who co-produced "Two" and a stand up bassist -- a nice complement to their sound.

The Chapins ended the set with "Digging A Hole," a stand out track from "Two" that is typical of their ouevre -- minor key melody, mid-tempo beat -- lyrics that evince romantic fatalism, but from the viewpoint of women who don't fear being alone rather than putting up with an unsatisfactory relationship. Some of their songs are forthright kiss offs, bidding their guy to leave and find someone who'll love 'em. Others document indulgence in a temporary fling owing to a little too much booze, or a brief respite from isolation or even just caprice. You sense these ladies are fans of love and romance but not at the expense of other matters as or more important to them.

This could have been more detailed but after the show we headed around the corner to San Loco and had some great chow and I had one of their lethal sangria's -- clearly red wine, fruit and some serious LIQUOR.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Channelling Chilton set list

Glenn Morrow, who curated the Channelling Chilton tribute show and benefit for Gulf Coast Recovery along with Stephanie Chernikowski, has valiantly offered to supplement my swiss-cheese-like recall by sending a detailed set list:

Kangaroo- Chris Stamey, Sondre lerche, Laura Chilton, Jeremy Chatzky, Anton Fier, Elenore(?)

Yo La Tengo (Ira, Georgia, James)
Take Care Yo la tengo
Windows Hotel-Yo La Tengo
My Baby Just Cares For Me-Yo la Tengo
Bangkok-Jon Spencer w/Yo la tengo
Rock Hard-Jon Spencer w/Yo la tengo
Rubber Room-Alan Vega w/ Yo la tengo
Dreambaby Dream-Alan Vega w/Yo la Tengo

Boxtops (Bill Cuningham, gary talley w/Terry manning and Richard Dworkin
Free Again-Bill
Choo Choo Train-Terry Soul Deep
Neon Rainbow Gary
Cry Like A Baby- Gary
The Letter- gary

Doug Garrison and Rene Coman (with Gary and Fran)
Walking In The Rain Ronnie Spector and a cast of thousands
Baby You're Okay Ronnie Spector Fran Kowalski et al.
Guantanamerika with Marshall Crenshaw
Dalai Lama-Marshall Crenshaw
Little GTO- Marshall Chrenshaw
Tinaninanoo- Danny Kroha of the Gories
Downs-Lesa Aldridge Chris Stamey
Jesus Christ Lesa Aldridge Chris Stamey

Big Star (Jon Auer, Jody Stephens, Chris Stamey, Gene Holder, Terry Manning)

In The Street-Chris Stamey
When My Baby's Beside Me- Terry Manning Back of A Car-Jon
Way out West--Jody
Night time- Evan

Thirteen-Jon and Bill (bass) terry
Ballad of El Goodo Sondre Lerche w/Jon
Blue Moon-Jody
September Gurls Jon Auer
Alex Chilton-Jesse Malin

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Channelling Chilton

I might well have devoted a decade to two to abject worship of the works of Alex Chilton. I actively pursued serious TMI about LX at a time before computers, cell phones etc. So this was a community effort that functioned via letters written on paper and sent via USPS, strategically placed "long distance" phone calls and the like. And it was a nice community wherein most folks shared a taste for music that was economical, tuneful yet spiked subtley ambitious rhythmic or melodic ploys and knowing lyrics. Through this I got to know a bit about the odd and persistently rebellious arts community that's persisted in Memphis for decades and made various levels of acquaintance with some of the people involved - The Grifters, Gus "Tav Falco" Miller, Elizabeth Hoehn nee Leesa Auldredge, Randall Lyon, Jody Stephens and yes, Mr. Chilton. I highly recommend you try and research the "Dream Carnival." A wonderful point of entree into the saga of Memphis underground art scene.

I did see Big Star at Max's Kansas City in the early 70's (I know that if EVERYONE that's claimed to be at those shows had been the place woulda been packed instead of empty), saw the reformed Big Star play at the Austin Music Hall a couple years ago. When I lived in DC and was playing in Half Japanese we (the rhythm section) got a call at home asking if Panther Burns could crash at our apartment and after ascertaining that Alex WAS in the line-up of course we welcomed them. It wound up being a short visit tho in that after a short while, Alex asked if anyone had any pot -- we didn't, but a mutual friend who was hanging out with us was more than glad to drive Alex someplace where they could obtain it -- and that's the last we saw of him until Panther Burns hit the stage the following night.

This is all offered to put the following in context.

We attended the Channelling Chilton concert benefitting Gulf Coast recovery last night at City Winery (as Mrs. W. sez -- a rock club DESIGNED for old people! -- that meant approvingly!).

Glenn Morrow (owner of Bar None Records and an intergral part of the NY/NJ avant pop scene for some 3 decades now) and photographer Stephanie Chernikowski (noted NYC photog who'd snapped some highly iconic shots of LX back when he was mingling in the early NYC "punk" scene) company did themselves proud. We didn't really know what to expect from this -- my expectations were not high actually, but...

The show was very cleverly arranged in segments, each broadly addressing different distinct phases in Chilton's musical career and each featuring a different house band augmented by other singers and musicians. I gotta say upfront that I didn't try to keep track of all the players so can only indicate personnel very spottily.

The opening segment was devoted to Alex's most overtly avant-garde phase -- the work he did with his NYC band The Cossacks, other work from that time, and work done with friends made during that time. Performances and backing were provided by Yo La Tengo who's lead singer Ira Kaplan had been witness to Cossacks performances back when he was writing for the East Village Eye and other publications. They rendered a properly heavy hitting version of Alex's abstract-garage rock masterpiece "Bangkok" with Blues Explosion's Jon Spencer singing lead, the unreleased Cossacks' gem "Windows Hotel" among others. Then Alan Vega came out to render Porter Wagoner's "Rubber Room" (which LX had recorded for Black List -- I think) and Suicide's "Dream Baby Dream" (which the pair recorded with Ben Vaughn).

The following section looked at this works with the Box Tops and featured BT bassist Bill Cunningham and Terry Manning, a veteran Memphis musician who'd known Alex from childhood among others. With lots of wry remembrances of the the comments Chilton made during Box Tops performance during the 60's and then during more recent times, all present acquitted themselves quite nicely on chestnuts like "The Letter," "Cry Like A Baby," "Soul Deep" and lesser known numbers like "Neon Rainbow" ("our psychedelic pop hit") Lotta warmth, lotta love in evidence throughout the performance.

Chris Stamey and keyboardist Fran Kowalski (from Trenton!) among others addressed songs from Big Star's noir-classic "Third" aka "Sister Lovers" with Leesa Auldredge (one of the sisters referred to in the album title) guesting on vocals on "Downs" (not included on the original album, but cut from the same cloth) and "Jessus Christ."

...this is where things get a little fuzzy thanks to back to back glasses of an indifferent Malbec and the house Pinot Noir...

Then a big old batch of folks came out to address the notorious Feudalist Tarts/No Sex/High Priest phase -- blues covers, jokey loose-limbed R&B flavored groaners like Slim Harpo's "Ti Na Nee Na Noo," the original "Dalai Lama" and then a 50's style ballad, an otherwise undocumented (even in the bootlegs) Cossacks' song "Baby You're Okay" which eventually morphed into "Like Flies On Sherbet" The lyrics are supposedly about Lux Interior - sez Glenn)with Ronnie Spector guesting on vocals alongside Kowalski.

The show ended with the classic Big Star repertoire rendered by Jon Auer (of the Posies and reformed Big Star), Jody Stephens, Chris Stamey, Gene Holder (Stamey's mate in the dBs) and Kowalski along with Terry Manning. Sondra Lerche guested on lead vocals on a number or two (I wasn't taking notes -- damned if I can remember which ones!)

I must admit that this is the part where I got the goosebumps and started to choke up especially when Jody mentioned the recent death of Big Star's original bassist Andy Hummel, a lifelong friend, and then did Andy's composition "Way Out West." Another stand out of this mini set was Jody's poignant lead vocal on "Blue Moon" from "Sister Lovers."

The show ended with Jesse malin performing the Replacements' paen to Alex "Big Star." A perfect touch with it's ironic refrain "children by the millions think of Alex Chilton" - IF ONLY.

I've skipped a buncha stuff (Ronnie doing "Walking In The Rain," The Gories' Danny Kroha covering "Little GTO," Evan Dando doing a solo spot, but hopefully you get the gist. (PS - I've updated this according to info from Glenn and then checking out the Billboard review)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stooges at Max's Kansas City

...they started out loud and fast and thick and visceral. The point was the group sound and it's cumulative emotional wallop more so than the playing or parts of any given player. And still -- Ron Asheton's bass playing was phenomenal - it came forth as rolling thunder, like a tank's treads forcibly chewing through or over any and all terrain. Ron was fast but focussed. Fit a lot of notes in but fit 'em into densely compacted riffage that could carry a song all by itself. In fact on the live disc of the new Stooges box set it practically does that -- being the highest thing in the mix next to Iggy's vocal. Having heard how Ronnie hated playing second fiddle to Williamson I'm suring he's smiling at the irony of Williamson's reuniting with the Stooges being heralded by -- a testament to his bass playing!
James Williamson's guitar work - especially the rhythm playing - was gutteral but wonderfully articulated. Thinking back on it you, can see what ideas came outta The Who and Rolling Stones but were ingeniously refined, retaining the essence of the blues and R&B in shaping and beat but trying to move beyond obvious reference points.
That Rock Action was able to effectively anchor this electronic stringed maelstrom was an achievement any drummer should be in awe of.
And actually took a couple years of listening to his "5'1" before it dawned on me that the dude's a midge. That night he appeared enormous, lithe, primal. Someone experiencing the electrocutional thrill of the life force raging through his corporeal self 100%.
He sang he heart out. He walked thru the crowd balancing on the backs of the folding chairs we were seated in. He leaned right on down into folks' faces howling "penetraaaaaaaate me!" (my friend, the late, great gay essayist Ted Witomski tried oblige by putting a cigarette out on his torso but I dissuaded him).
I must admit -- they didn't quite look right. Iggy was fine shirtless, black Speedos, thigh high boots and Ronnie fit in with his WWII outfit, but James' glitter-tat (no doubt bought by a Mainman stylist at some pricey London boutique) was a bit too precious for the sound they was puttin' down.
Fair to say, this sticks in my mind as one of the great shows I've seen in my lifetime (other would be Ramones at CBs in 75, Big Star at Max's in 73/74, Jeff Buckley at T-Bird cafe in Red Bank, Minor Threat at the 9:30Club in '81...I could go on: PS if any of these years are wrong, I'm sorry about that. Too hot to go and research)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club must mean many things to many people. It's existed in two different incarnations since its inception. Currently it's a well respected venue-brand, located at "U" Street NW with good sound sytem, nicely appointed and with wise booking policies.

Before to set the scene...

When I moved to DC in 1975 I was kinda heart broken. I was born and raised across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Jersey City. Throughout my youth I took the subway under the river to NYC to buy records (at EJ Korvette's at Herald Square), help produce a radio show (on WBAI-FM, called "Watkin's Rock," an hour long trifle hosted by a hi school chum who's dad taught me to work the turntables and tape machines), and just bum around 14th Street. But it'd never seemed that cool. But in 1974 rumblings of the "loft scene" started showing up in the Village Voice - shows put on outside of the club circuit by exotic sounding artists like Television and Patti Smith. Then this place called "CBGB's" opened up and that sounded even cooler. All this seemed like a the realization of the rocktopian vision promulgated by Creem magazine, then the Bible for troublemaking music upstarts the world over; aka "punk." So NOW I gotta move hundreds of miles to this pretty but dead-assed town! It really did irk me.

The short version of what I found is -- cover band clubs that'd tolerate punk rockers on an off night that'd be dubbed "punk night" (ala The Keg), original music clubs that you could book into occasionally (The Childe Harold, Psychedelly) and various one-off gigs -- either test runs for some down-at-the-heels bar considering instituting a "punk night" (sigh), or someone would get ambitious and set up a show at a Knights of Columbus Hall or high school gym.

The shows were always exciting to play and attend, to see a community starting to crystallize was heartening...but it was always so draining to have to constantly be hustling, and then have to function within a cultural context that was tolerant at best and often mildly inimicable.

In the mid 1970's, the 900 block of "F" Street NW was decisively on the seedy side. Further up the street you had a few big, fancy department stores that'd survived the flight of many retail businesses to the suburbs (following the white middle class population), probably by virtue of custom -- they were where you HADDA shop for special occasions like Christmas, wedding anniversary etc. At the far northern end of the street you had the Treasury building. But around 930 "F" street you had a number of small, not especially reputable looking businesses. Ergo, real estate was cheap. So some old cat (his name escapes me now) took over the Atlantic Building and started running a restaurant in it, focusing on the lunch business -- FBI HQ was a block or two away as was one of the big art galleries, the Treasury etc.

Somehow, one of the local underground musicians met up with this gent and inveigled him to let the band he was developing practice in the basement in return for them performing occasional shows in the restaurant area in hopes of attracting some music lovers into making the trip down to "F" Street and drumming up some additional bar business. The price was right!

This was the Atlantis Club and while there were eventually some cool shows there (Pere Ubu, Cramps, Real Kids), there was always a level of tension between the venue management and the patrons -- management really didn't understand the cultural matrix that was trying to gel and didn't really like us overmuch. At times it got outright ugly. But that's a whole other story. Leave it suffice -- the underground music scene was still being tolerated for what revenue it could produce.

Then the Atlantic Building got sold and the Atlantis Club closed. Word was that it was being remodeled...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Raw Power meant to me

Having acquired and then begun listening repeatedly and regularly to "Raw Power" I began to do what research I could on this band and their frontman. I read about him in that acme of great rock 'zines Creem Magazine (who's function as an engine of positive societal/cultural change has yet to be approximated, let alone matched). I joined the fan club (I still have the materials I rec'd in the mail - some postcards: Iggy with his dick out I thinks; a xeroxed newsletter). I sought out and purchased copies of the first two Stooges album; in '73 these had already become relatively collectible -- I think I bought "The Stooges" and "Fun House" on different occasions at Cheap Thrills in New Brunswick, NJ for about $10 each -- very price for a broke ass college student. But a sound investment nonetheless.

Suddenly it was announced that the Stooges would play a week's residency Upstairs at Max's Kansas City. Those being kinder, gentler times, even the arts editor of a college paper could get on the Columbia Records guest list (+1 no less! thank you Arnie Handwerger!), getting to attend on one of the last day or two of the residency.

I dunno how many folks remember that club -- I'll tell ya, it was pretty neat (for a corndog from NJ at least). The upstairs club was a separate entity from the notorious scenester hang out situated on the first floor (where folks from Warhol's Factory, situated nearby, would hold court along with folks like the immortal Danny Fields, visiting hep dignitaries of the day like Lou Reed, Bowie, etc.) You went up a long, narrow staircase to the second floor and there was some open space, then a narrow hallway to the stage area where there was enough room for 10 rows of folding chairs, 10 to a row (as I remember it -- mighta been a few more per row, but not many).
For some reason the club was also very generous towards college paper arts editors and comped me to many a great show (Howlin' Wolf, Charles Mingus, Manhattan Transfer, Fanny, Richie Havens performing with his a capella doo wop group, John Martyn, OY!). It was a pretty cozy and very friendly atmosphere.

The night of this Stooges show was a bit different. There was a BIG ASS line out front of the club, winding down Lexington Ave. -- a couple hundred folks waiting were clearly not going to get in. I had some nervous moments until a lady from Columbia Records (it might have been Marilyn Laverty) walked down the line asking after people on the label guest list and in we went (I was in the company of a high school chum, the great Gay essayist Ted Witomski -- RIP, bro).

The place was buzzing with anticipation and some morbid curiousity. A day or two into the residency, Iggy, famously, rolled around the stage atop glass shards from a broken bottle and gashed himself up pretty good and was taken to the hospital to be stitched up; at the time this was unheard of and deemed fairly extreme. So the last few dates including this one had been postponed a bit.

We took our seats toward the back (i.e. 7 rows from the front of the tiny stage). I started looking around and started to sense a disparity in the demographics represented here. Plenty of rock intelligentsia and downtown hipsters present, but -- on overhearing some conversations -- evidently significantly less sophisticated folks, some kinda desperate kids who appeared to be operating on a heightened/lowered level of consciousness, likely accessed via some kinda nasty street drugs. Some of these folks who not make it to the end of the concert, suddenly erupting in a blind frenzy out of their seat, charging the stage and quickly being subdued and tossed out the door by the club staff.

And out came the Stooges...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roar Power - ruminations on the Stooges

This one's going to take a while and multiple posts. So, Columbia Legacy has released a Deluxe version of Iggy & The Stooges "Raw Power." There are several editions available. They all feature a remastered version of David Bowie's mix on one disc, a live show from Atlanta on another, as well as two studio outtakes. The super deluxe version which you can only buy off some Stooges' website also includes a third CD of more outtakes and several alternate mixes, two of which are from Iggy's '96 remix of "Raw Power." And this special edition also features a documentary DVD with a buncha recent interviews and one recent performance by the current Stooges line-up: Iggy, James Williamson on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, mike watt on bass (he's been in the Stooge's line up since 2003) and Steve Mackay (who played on FunHouse). And there's a booklet full of vintage pix and recent short essays and testimonial quotes from the likes of Henry Rollins, Marky Ramone, etc. AND a little envelope of facsimiles of vintage photographs AND a 7" single - a facsimile of a Japanese release. The package is 7" x 7" and reproduces a worn copy of the vinyl album cover.

It's all very nicely done, lots of attention to detail. SO... this is music that's been part of my life almost 40 years now. I do own a small stack of Bomp! and Skydog releases revolving around it - rehearsal tapes, live recordings, alternate mixes, radio airchecks of still more alternative mixes etc...

It all started at Rutgers College where I was the Arts Editor of the daily student paper, The Targum (fellow staffers included Larry Sutton who's bounced from the NY Daily News to People Magazine to the NY Post, and Jim Testa, the editor of venerable NY/NJ underground music journal Jersey Beat -- STILL going strong 30 years later!). Some guy walks in, asks for me, and hands me a typewritten review; his dad was a music critic for some local paper and he regularly grabbed the rock albums from pop's stacks. He was reviewing something called "Raw Power" by "Iggy & The Stooges." I'd never heard of 'em. But, man, his review made this sound like something else! Primal, explosive; maybe as rocking as Led Zeppelin! So I called up my contact at Columbia Records and asked them send me a copy.

It arrived about a week later and I probably rushed back to the group house I lived in then, right after dinner (I'm postulating - don't actually remember). I do remember plopping it on my roommate's stereo, sitting back on my mattress and... OUT BLASTS "SEARCH & DESTROY." And I underwent a paradigm shift -- I understood that this was the most vital music I'd ever heard (and it'd turn out to be amongst the most vital I'd EVER hear). It felt like a pure expression of the life force pulsing thru flesh, animating it, moving it to quest, search, strive, seek experience.

And like taking opened a door that couldn't be closed. It changed my experience of being alive, made me aware of levels of intensity of experience that were not the norm but were attainable if you knew what to look for, were willing to make the effort to attain it and to pay the price for having such experience.

The rest of the songs were amazing as well...they seemed to examine and reveal different realms of existence and experience that all seemed novel and exotic to a lower middle class kid from Jersey City; utterly tantalizing, powerfully seductive. And now my life was changed in oh so many ways...
(a lot more to come)