Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

The Sasquatch Music Festival organizers announced that Sarah Silverman will be hosting. My first thought is whether that is really necessary at an event like this? Anyway, beyond her comic observations, there will be, of course, some music. A resurgent Polyphonic Spree and Earl Greyhound are among the performers that also include the Beastie Boys who will be doing both a main stage set and also an instrumental performance. I wonder if they'll be breaking out the guitars and amps from the old days?

Radiohead issued a statement through their management company that they are NOT negotiating a deal with Starbucks for their next record:"Radiohead are currently in the studio working on their next record. They are not negotiating a new record deal with anyone, and will not even consider how to release their new music until the album is finished. The rumour that they are about to sign with Starbucks is totally untrue." While Radiohead is a good candidate to opt out of the major label program, I believe them when they say they aren't going to go the Starbucks route. It doesn't make sense for them. A strong indie or even their own release given their infrastructure on the web and all the new tools available would be the better choice.

MP3 Offerings:
The Electric Soft Parade: If That's The Case, Then I Don't Know
The Electric Soft Parade: Kick in the Teeth
Low: Breaker
The Shins: Know Your Onion
Illinois: Alone Again
Annuals: Brother
Ted Leo: The Living Kind (Live on WOXY)
Ted Leo: Bottle of Buckie (Live on WOXY)
A Night in the Box: The Thief

Modest Mouse is soaring on the charts with their latest release, but not everyone is happy with the new material. The folks over at Coke Machine Glow have the judged the work a bit too familiar and conservative: "Diminishing returns are making themselves felt here; old formulas have grown stale, songwriting quirks have become rote, and all the band's musical choices point toward safety and stability."

Bono was awarded with an Honorary Knighthood from "Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" - but don't call him Sir Bono. Since Ireland left the UK Commonwealth in the 1940s, its citizens are not eligible for the "sir" title. No worries for Bono, as this is just a stepping stone toward the real title of his dreams: St. Bono.

Illinois Eats Up New York City's Cake Shop

By: David Schultz

Not Midwesterners, the confusingly named Illinois seem ready to rise above such pithy discussions over their geographically inapposite moniker. With What The Hell Do I Know?, their recently released EP, and their subsequent buzzworthy performances at this year's South By Southwest, the rawboned rockers' music has become omnipresent on the Internet, even if Google tends to divert interested parties to Sufjan Stevens or Fighting Illini web sites. Earlier this week, Illinois, who hail from the Philadelphia suburbs of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, came to the equally misnamed Cake Shop - they don’t have cake or any other deserts for that matter - for a brief Monday night set.

Fronted by Chris Archibald, who rotates between guitar, keyboards and most interestingly, banjo, Illinois played a hard hitting set that possessed an edginess and excitement that doesn't immediately come across from the mp3s circulating around the blogosphere. Illinois focused their set on material from their current EP, playing with such fervor that many of the songs didn't end; they just ran out of steam. The gloriously ragged band matched their surroundings perfectly.

Named one of ten best rock clubs by Playboy magazine, Cake Shop, a basement dive with an excellent beer selection, makes up in attitude and intimacy what it lacks in nearly everything else. The place emits a distinctly Lower East Side charm even if the dimensions posed some unique difficulties for guitarist Andrew Lee who managed to get his guitar tangled in the Christmas tree lights that decorate the low ceiling of the stage. To get the distanced megaphone sound Illinois applies to a couple of their songs, Archibald uses a modified mike gimmicked into a phone. On a larger stage, it gives a nice theatrical effect, matching well with the lyrics; in Cake Shop's basement, only those up close really caught the stagecraft. Plus, Archibald didn't quite need it to get the subtly distorted effect; the Cake Shop's sound system is far from first rate.

The excitement of Illinois' live performance far exceeds their recorded output, which is but the tip of the iceberg of their vast catalog. Archibald is an entertaining front man, showing his charisma while bantering with some friendly hecklers. His banjo gives Illinois something radically different: Archibald uses it as an instrument of rock and doesn't trying to force a bluegrass or country twang where it doesn't belong. Without a trace of hillbilly, Archibald works the banjo nicely into the mix with the rest of the band, meshing really nicely with often time band mate Kyle Goldbach's Dobro. When not providing backing vocals with bassist Martin Hoeger on the Sixties-pop "Screen Door," Andrew Lee retreats into himself, dry humping his guitar while cranking out heavy riffs. Perched above his drum kit, JohnPaul Kuyper keeps the beat with his entire body, his body moving herky-jerkily in time with the band. He comes at his kit from nearly every angle, the most intriguing being his affinity to sideswipe the drums.

Recently signed to Ace Fu Records, Illinois will play some sporadic shows along the east coast before heading out west to commence a cross-country tour opening for The Kooks.

10,000 Lakes Festival Confirms Zappa Plays Zappa, The Tragically Hip and Particle

Adding to their already great lineup, The 10,000 Lakes Festival announced they've aded Zappa Plays Zappa, the Tragically Hip and Particle to the bill for this year's event taking place July 18 – 21 at the Soo Pass Ranch in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

The bill already includes: Bob Weir & RatDog, Trey Anastasio, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's McGee, moe., Keller Williams, Gov't Mule, Little Feat and The Derek Trucks Band. You can get the full line-up here.

10KL is also looking to minimize its environmental impact this year as well. Through a partnership with CLIF Bar and NativeEnergy, the 10,000 Lakes Festival now allows patrons to offset the CO2 emissions of their automobile or airline travel up to the festival by purchasing "Cool Tags" at the online ticket check out. Each Cool Tag bought equals a $2 investment in NativeEnergy's WindBuilders program, helping the Rosebud Sioux Tribe build a wind farm on their reservation in South Dakota.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oasis Overrated?

Usually Noel or Liam Gallagher is the bloke making headlines insulting some other band or artist. But, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party has apparently turned the tables on Oasis. Okereke is quoted as saying: "I think Oasis are the most over-rated and pernicious band of all time. They had a totally negative and dangerous impact upon the state of British music."

Not content to leave the commentary there, Okereke also reportedly mocked the Oasis brothers' oft attempts to link themselves to the Beatles' legacy. He's further quoted as sniping: "They claim to be inspired by the Beatles but, and this so saddens me, they have failed to grasp that the Beatles were about constant change and evolution. Oasis are repetitive Luddites."

"...repetitive Luddites" - now that's not an insult you here everyday. Surely, one of the Gallaghers will respond. I'm betting they won't be able to help themselves.

Videos, News and Notes

Nashville's Be Your Own Pet is going to hit the road this spring with the Arctic Monkeys. Last year the teen sensations were arguably the most coveted unsigned band not named Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and will likely be the Cold War Kids of 2007. BYOP's debut for XL Records is due out in the summer.

Modest Mouse may not be so modest after their latest disc has debuted at #1 on Billboard. We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank sold 128,565 copies in its first week of release. The chart toppers will hit the road for a tour that kicks off April 15th in Seattle. Brooklyn's Love as Laughter will open.

Video Links:
Elvis Perkins: All The Night Without Love
Arctic Monkeys: Brianstorm
Klaxons: Golden Skans
U2: I Will Follow (Live on SNL 2006)
Backyard Tire Fire: Crack Alley (Live @ Schubas)
Robert Randloph: Thrill of It
Earl Greyhound: S.O.S

Missy Higgins, who Earvolution first featured and interviewed in the summer of 2005 has a new EP coming out. Steer hits Australian music stores on April 14th. There is no info on a US release date at this time. But, Steer is just a preview of a full length album On A Clear Night that will follow later in the year.

The "Rock the Bells" New York show with Rage Against the Machine quickly sold out the presale this morning. Meanwhile, Tom Morello keeps popping up in different places. MTV reports that The Nightwatchman took over the drumkit for a performance of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" with members of Distrurbed and Scott Ian of Anthrax the other night at the Keyclub in LA.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Via Large Hearted Boy, I noticed that the Shins front man James Mercer made a great observation about the music industry that a lot of young bands seem to not get: you don't have to be a superstar to be a star or more importantly make a living playing music. Mercer is quoted saying: "You can have a real niche audience these days. A small percentage of the population is buying your records, but you can make a living off that. We sold out Madison Square Garden theater and the caterers don't know who the hell we are!"

The University of Nebraska has sent a bill to the RIAA seeking reimbursement for their troubles in helping the record labels track down alleged illegal downloading on campus. The RIAA tells them to go jump in a lake.

Aquarium Drunkard takes a look at Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back - 65 Tour Deluxe Edition. The DVD set includes includes the remastered classic film by D.A. Pennebaker, a brand-new, hour-long look at Dylan, and the original 168-page companion book to the film. AD says: "65 Revisited allows Pennebaker to efficiently paint a parallel universe of the tour illuminating, what, in my opinion, constitutes a more lighthearted side of Dylan than how he was ultimately portrayed in the '67 release of Don't Look Back. This makes perfect sense as dark, brooding, characters, whether it be fiction, documentaries or "reality tv," always make more compelling/interesting viewing."

Mp3 Offerings:
Fair to Midland: Vice Versa
Ruby Isle: Teenage Riot (Sonic Youth cover)
Dead Heart Bloom: Chelsea Song
U-Melt: 415
Pawnshop Roses: Fadin' Out

Black Crowes brothers Chris & Rich Robinson will be performing two "Brothers Of A Feather" shows in Atlanta: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 at Center Stage & Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 at Variety Playhouse. For tapers, be warned that these are NO TAPING performances. The Crowes new studio record is set for an April release as well.

Blabbermouth reports that Guns 'N Roses are now in the "mixing stage" for their Chinese Democracy release. How long that will take, only Axl Rose knows. Meanwhile, the current version of Guns is scheduled to headline South Africa's My Coke Festival in Johannesburg on April 27 and Cape Town on May 1. Just think it wasn't that long ago when it wasn't cool to play in South Africa.

Déjà vu Of The Sweetest Kind: Tea Leaf Green And U-Melt Destroy Irving Plaza

 By: David Schultz
Tea Leaf Green photos by Sugaree.
U-Melt Photos by Alison Holmes.

A little over a year ago, San Francisco based Tea Leaf Green sold out a two night run at New York City's Knitting Factory featuring hometown foursome U-Melt providing an eye-popping opening set. With U-Melt's irresistibly catchy grooves and Tea Leaf's polished mélange of all that's right about music, the scene seemed too large for The Knit to contain. This past Saturday, history wonderfully repeated itself when both bands showed how much can be done in a year before a sold-out crowd at the 1,000 person capacity Irving Plaza.

Tea Leaf Green manages to be a jamband without belaboring a single musical passage beyond the point of interest and into an experimental abyss. Tea Leaf's nicely timed instrumental breaks leave much room for improvisation, rarely running astray. That ability was very much on display this past Saturday night as was their versatility: their set list contained nearly three hours of their greatest hits while still providing a couple surprises.

With green lights twinkling amidst the crowd, Garrod, who would occasionally slip into a dreamy trance, led Tea Leaf through a powerful reading of "Taught To Be Proud," their Jammy winning Song of the Year, keyboard fueled rockers like "These Two Chairs" and "Morning Sun," the country-tinged "Faced With Love" and "It Wasn't For The Money" and an ardent, steamy run through "The Devil's Pay." Tea Leaf's heavy side comes through when guitarist Josh Clark steps forward on vocals. During the second set, Clark laid his measured, impassioned rasp over the bluesy stomp of "Dragonfly," let loose on the rowdy "Criminal Intent" and perfectly gave the right feel to AC/DC's "Have A Drink On Me," the night's one cover.

Not only is Tea Leaf's fan base growing, they are becoming much more attuned to the band's musical cues and segues. Once Scott Rager began the drum kick that leads into "Franz Hanzerbeak," the crowd burst into cheers well before Ben Chambers walked in the song's ridiculously funky bass line. Given the familiarity, Tea Leaf's inversion of the "The Garden, Part III" and "The Garden, Part II" brought loud applause. Even those introducing themselves to the band this night needed no back story to find the band's segue from Garrod's leisurely "Trouble" into a reprise of "Criminal Intent" intriguing. Making the transition between the songs with the same precision as an Indy race car driver speeding quickly into a toughly banked turn, Tea Leaf showed an impressive dexterous tightness that needs to be heard to be appreciated.

Making their first of what will likely be many appearances on Irving Plaza's stage, U-Melt triumphantly debuted before a great deal of fans who arrived early to catch the much-buzzed about band. With their fast-paced, high-octane fusion of electronica, rock, funk and jazzy intrigue, U-Melt gave notice that their sound is ready for bigger and larger arenas.

Guitar heroes always attract attention and Rob Salzer is no exception as his stunning solos continue to dazzle without shattering the framework of any song. The balance isn't solely a factor of Salzer's impressive skills, Zac Lasher on keys, George Miller on drums and Adam Bendy, who dropped a magnificently funky bass solo into "Air," thrive on pushing each other to loftier heights, nicely showcasing their singular skills without ever disrupting the groove. Their hour-long set included Salzer's "Different Things" and Miller's "Air" from The I's Mind, recently written tunes like "A Robbin's Tale Part I (Marx Marvelous Moans)" and "Clear Light" and splendid cover of "Once In A Lifetime." The brevity of the opening set only served to whet the appetite for what U-Melt has to serve.

U-Melt's next New York City gig will be on May 12th, when they return to the main stage at the Knitting Factory, a venue that seems that much smaller every time U-Melt revisits. The same hype currently swirling around U-Melt feels oddly reminiscent to the buzz that surrounded Tea Leaf Green at this time last year. Unsurprising, as both bands follow the credo of broadening their fan base with constant touring, winning hearts with their amazing live performances. The only thing keeping U-Melt from catching Tea Leaf Green seems to be the relentless pace the San Francisco rockers are setting. However, as David Letterman has always been fond of saying, "it's an exhibition not a competition, please no wagering." But, if you must gamble on being blown away by a band, laying down money to see either Tea Leaf Green or U-Melt may be the surest bet of all.

Monday, March 26, 2007

MP3s, News and Notes

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, fortunately, had no clue that David Bowie wanted Satan out of his swimming pool, Iggy Pop ate nothing but German sausages for about a year or that Ozzy Osbourne reportedly went directly from rehab to a local pub. Breyer flunked the "pop" quiz on a weekend appearance on NPR. Hopefully, he still knows a bit about "separation of powers" and the "checks and balances" inherent in our system of government that some seem to have forgotten.

Tori Amos has a new record coming out. BuzzSugar has a new tune up that may be the first single for the disc that will hit stores in May and aptly notes that Tori, unlike Liz Phair, has stayed true to what fans initially liked about her.

The Noisettes are set to kick off a tour with TV on the Radio, but before they do they'll do a solo date in NYC. They'll play the Mercury Lounge on Monday, April 23rd. And, if you haven't gotten tickets for your preferred date with their pairing with TV on the Radio, you might be able to win some here.

MP3 Offerings:
Noisettes: Scratch Your Name
Neva Geoffrey: Corduroy Boy
Vandaveer: However Many Takes It Takes
Hayward Williams: Problems With Hemmingway
Martha Berner: Ten Tiny Little Pieces
Martha Berner: Sunday Morning
(Velvet Underground cover)
The Scourge of the Sea: Smitten Kitten
Scourge of the Sea: Waterwings

Andrew Bird, who put on a solid set at Stubbs during SXSW, is featured on Studio 360. If you're unfamiliar, Studio 360 is weekly show hosted by novelist, journalist and co-founder of Spy Magazine Kurt Andersen.

John Lennon's sun glasses will be part of a charity auction to benefit Music Rising. The charity was co-founded by U2 guitarist The Edge. The auction will also include items from Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. Some of the items will be exhibited in Los Angeles from tomorrow, then in Dublin and London before Julien's Auctions conducts the live sale (online bidding too) in New York on April 21st.

Clapton Organizes 2nd Crossroads Guitar Festival

Three years after Eric Clapton organized his first Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas to benefit his Antigua based rehabilitation clinic, Slow Hand will gather some friends together for another go-around. The 2nd Crossroads festival, which will take place in Chicago, IL will include B.B. King, Robert Cray, Albert Lee, John Mayer and Jeff Beck, country stars Willie Nelson and Vince Gill as well as Clapton's former girlfriend Sheryl Crow.

We can only hope that the fact that Britney Spears spent only one day of a rehab stint at Clapton's facility isn't a motivating factor behind the benefit.

The Kinks Fight To Preserve A Corner Of Their Legacy

Ray and Dave Davies are taking issue with the new owner of The Clissold Arms, the London bar where The Kinks played their first show in 1963. In a scenario derived from their 1983 hit "Come Dancing," the venue's "Kinks Corner," a shrine including guitars, records and other souvenirs, is about to be removed to make room for an upscale eatery.

"I would urge whoever has bought the pub to retain some reference to The Kinks so fans all over the world can retain it as a sense of 'place,'" Ray Davies reportedly pleaded. His brother Dave echoed his brother's sentiment to form a new variation of the Village Green Preservation Society. "Why on earth can't they have their posh gastro grub and still keep a part of it for tourists, Kinks fans and the curious?" he said. "I am sure that if this had been The Cavern and The Beatles' history that was being disturbed and got rid of, it would have been brought to the attention of the House of Commons, the Lords and the Queen herself." The new owner, Caroline Jones, remains determined to renovate the premises, "The new pub will be quite different and it won't be the kind of place you would expect to see (memorabilia)."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Green Apple Music & Arts Festival Lineup Grows

The Green Apple Music & Arts Festival continues to take shape. Produced by Relix Magazine and Peter Shapiro, the 2nd annual celebration of Earth Day will take place April 19-22 with concerts in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco.

Anchoring this year's festivities will be free Earth Day concerts featuring Bob Weir and Ratdog in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, a double bill of Umphrey's McGee and the Disco Biscuits at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo and children's star Laurie Berkner performing in New York City's Central Park. The Lincoln Park show will also feature Jeff Tweedy and Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & The Monsters.

Each city will host a series of live shows throughout the long weekend with Chicago's slate of bands proving the most varied: in addition to separate performances by Umphrey's and the Biscuits at the VIC Theater, The Decemberists and Andrew Bird will play sets at the Riviera Theater and J.J. Grey and MOFRO and New Monsoon will perform at the House of Blues. In California, Tea Leaf Green and the Yonder Mountain String Band will respectively play the Fillmore on successive nights. New York City will feature two nights at the Lions' Den by The Radiators, a Zero reunion show with Steve Kimock at the newly opened Gramercy Theate, Particle returning to the Bowery Ballroom and a Beacon Theater concert by . . . Taylor Hicks.

New York's GAMF will open with at the Lower East Side's Tonic with two acoustic performances by the Benevento/Russo Duo and will close with Joe Russo participating in the reunion of Fat Mama.

A Man Of His Word: Jay-Z Pays Off On Bet

Hip-hop mogul Jay Z is nothing if not a man of his word, receiving praise from Blender's music editor Rob Tannenbaum after paying off $1000 from a bet they made in 2003. At odds of 50-1, Tannenbaum wagered $20 with the rapper that he would ultimately record again when Jay-Z announced his retirement.

With the release of Kingdom Come last year, Jay-Z surprised Tannenbaum by remembering the bet and delivering the proceeds of the forgotten bet to his office. "Jay-Z is a man of his word," said Tannenbaum. "I just bought a plasma TV with the money, and the first thing I'm going to watch on it is a Jay-Z video."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Us Magazine now reports that Joan Jett is NOT sleeping with Carmen Electra. Wait...they actually don't go that far. They simply say they are not "a couple." I wonder if that's like Bill Clinton saying he "did not sleep with that woman"? I don't know who started this rumor, but anytime you've got Carmen Electra even remotely possibly bedding another woman we at least have to fantasize about consider the possibility. And, when that woman happens to be a rock star, we get to write about it!

U2 is putting out a new "DVD Collectors Box." The double disc documentary set will feature rare footage and exclusive interviews. Street date is set for June 5, 2007.

Fishbone is set to put out their first record of original material in six years. The disc Still Stuck In Your Throat drops on April 24, 2007. The band is also scheduling a national tour to start around the same time and will hit select stops on this year's Warped Tour.

Lou Reed has added a third UK show to his "Berlin 2007" European tour. Reed, performing his 1973 record Berlin in its entirety, will appear at the
Manchester International Festival on Friday 29th June, followed by two nights at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on 30th June & 1st July. Reed will be joined by a 30-piece ensemble including his band, a string and horn section, and a children's choir.

Mp3 Offerings:

Joshua James: Soul and the Sea
Daniela Cotton: Make You Move
Nicole Atkins: Carousel
Ron Sexsmith: All in Good Time
Oakley Hall: Living in Sin in the USA
Kaki King: Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers
Rush: Far Cry (Streams) Real / Windows
Central Services: Four Letter Word

Lily Allen hates America. Or at least its population, according to quotes circulating on the web. She reportedly says "I can't really speak for the American population - I'm so far away from anything they are and stand for." Actually with her beer and cigarette stage act she fits right into the parts of the country she denigrates. But, ok if that's how you feel go home and take your records with you.

Buzzsugar reports that the Flaming Lips are Broadway bound and smartly featured Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' "A Bottle of Buckie" as their song of the day yesterday. And, if like me, you are still on a SXSW buzz, check out their SXSW gallery of pics including some nice shots of Pete Townshend and Amy Winehouse.

McCartney Signs to Starbucks

Paul McCartney and Starbucks made a big splash yesterday that ought to have some record label executives more skittish than they already are. Starbucks has signed McCartney as the first act on their own "Hear Music" record label. For McCartney, the record will be his first record of completely new material in almost two years. Not a bad way to take the next logical step in their move into entertainment.

Starbucks isn't going into the record biz blindly. They've partnered with Concord Music Group who have some significant experience in putting out records. But, Starbucks probably didn't need the help given they've got what up until a few years ago something only the major labels could deliver: a large scale distribution system. With record stores withering on the vine, Starbucks emerged as a major player the last few years for brick and mortar distribution. It makes perfect sense to stock the shelves with some of their own product.

What's next Wal-Mart records? Borders? If they do it, expect some major label heads to start jumping out of buildings. Don't be surprised if someone with half a brain at one of these big labels approaches Borders, Barnes & Noble et al with some partnership offerings. If people at those outlets have half a brain they'll realize they don't need the help and can simply hire a few key people to get in the game.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

Amy Winehouse is beginning to rival Axl Rose in the show cancellation department. Winehouse's latest cancellation came at LA's Spaceland this week. The singer was apparently "too sad" to perform, apparently still stung from a recent break up. Amy is the "it" act for self-important hipsters here in the US so I'll refrain from "Whinehouse" type puns for fear of disapproval from the cool crowd.

Star Magazine reports that Joan Jett and Carmen Electra have become quite the couple. Electra is set to perform with her all-girl burlesque group, the Bombshell Babies. Electra's visit coincides with the annual Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, a hot spot for girls in love. "They've been dating since before Thanksgiving," says a Star source. "They don't co-habitate, but they do spend a lot of time together." Rock on Joan!

Mp3 offerings:
Parlor Mob: Bullet
The Atari Star: This is Where I Often Pause
Apollo Sunshine: Magnolia
Target Market: The Beat
Army of Me: Going Through Changes
Oakley Hall: Lazy Susan
Asobi Seksu: Thursday
Hoots & Hellmouth: Home in a Boxcar
Modest Mouse: People As Places As People

Gene Simmons agreed to have some eye surgery filmed as part of his reality series Family Jewels. PR reps for the show say some of it was too graphic to air, but kosher enough for YouTube. View the clip here.

Amoeba Music is releasing a limited EP of TV on the Radio. The four-track disc, TV on the Radio Live at Amoeba was recorded at Amoeba's Hollywood location in September of 2006. The songs, "Blues From Down Here," "Wolf Like Me," "Province," and "Wash the Day" are live versions of tracks from their latest album, Return to Cookie Mountain.

The new Modest Mouse record We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank is out. You can check out the video for "Dashboard" here. MM will kick off a tour April 15th in Seattle.

Schultz By Southwest: Earvolution Goes To Austin

By: David Schultz

A March tradition that could rival St. Patrick's Day and the NCAA Tournament for alcohol fueled excitement, the South By Southwest festival once again attracted every facet of the music industry to downtown Austin, Texas. For those in the business, a portion of SXSW is just that: panel discussions and trade shows abound and this year featured keynote addresses by the likes of Pete Townshend and David Byrne. Technically an industry conference, the 5 day, 4 night festival is so much more than a boondoggle; it attracts press, fans and most importantly, musicians from all over the country.

Billing itself as the music industry's largest gathering, SXSW brings more than 1,300 artists to play at hundreds of official and unofficial parties and showcases. The SXSW sanctioned showcases take place at night, with each invited act getting at least one official chance to ply their craft. For every official appearance made over the week, each artist will give many more performances at the various parties and unofficially sponsored showcases which magnificently inundate SXSW. Wherever there was room, someone put on a show. For the 2007 SXSW, Earvolution joined the fray, sponsoring what will ideally be the first annual showcase at Emo's (IV) Lounge on the corner of Sixth Street and Red River Street.

While fun and games for those in the audience, much work goes into getting singers and bands onto these stages. Managers fight hard to secure slots for their acts, signed or unsigned, on as many showcases as possible, there being a premium on being seen, being heard and generating as much as buzz as you can. For the musicians, the stakes can be large: potential managers, publicists and labels use the occasion to gauge interest in the band not only by the fans but also by their competitors. Killing at SXSW can create ripples that emanate loudly throughout the biz. The typical showcase set runs about 40-45 minutes, leaving little time for building up a rapport with the crowd. As a result, most acts get right down to business, putting everything they have into the limited time they're given. Making it at SXSW shows that you can play, but the larger question raised after SXSW is can you sell?

Given the large industry presence, it's easy to look at SXSW, (or "South By" as one badge wearer could be overheard instructing another), with a cynical eye. Quickly though, it becomes obvious that with so many quality musicians playing that week than physically possible to see and hear, to remain skeptical and suspicious just makes yourself your own worst enemy. Amongst the many things I learned at my first South By – besides picking up the lingo – comfortable shoes are a necessity, especially if you plan to take in full days of music. A game plan for the day, whether you follow it or not, also helps.

Tuesday, March 13

Our SXSW contingent consists of myself and Earvolution founder Jeff Davidson and we arrive on Tuesday evening. Our landlord for the duration, local filmmaker and Austin native Mike Mann, offers to take us into the downtown area to scout out Emo's and give us the lay of the land. The Emo's complex is staggering both in size and efficiency, with four separate stages, an open courtyard and live music emanating everywhere. In New York City, such a facility would be simply unfathomable: getting past the space restrictions, a Manhattan version would charge at least a $20 cover charge regardless of the bands on stage. At Emo's, when there is a cover, it goes straight to the band and many nights simply being old enough to enter gives you access to at least a dozen bands . . . and this is just one of a couple dozen venues that populate the Sixth Street downtown area. No wonder the Austin music scene thrives.

With our guide Mann pointing out such local tidbits like the bouncer being the lead singer of The Crackpipes. We also caught part of set by Ume, a trashy little power trio. Ume's heavy sound may be a bit standard but their guitarist, the remarkable Lauren Larson, is not your typical riot grrrl. Petite and ladylike, Larson simply shredded her guitar with a skill and proficiency you wouldn't expect from a lovely blonde, especially one sharing the stage with her husband on bass. After tearing through a dozen or so of dead-on punk rock guitar riffs with her long locks swinging wildly in front of her face, she daintily picked up her purse and walked demurely off the stage. In briefly speaking with her after her set, I prepared for a coarse Courtney Love like demeanor only to have my stereotype shattered by Larson's Southern-style hospitality.

Only hours in, I'm already hooked on the Austin music scene. We stay at Emo's a bit longer for the Good Times Crisis Band before heading over to another stage for Brothers & Sisters, a Sixties-style outfit fronted by a hefty Gregg Allman look-alike, who wore a muumuu (possibly a poncho) while leading the band through some traditional classic rock style compositions before a packed room.

We leave Emo's and amble around Sixth Street for a bit and it becomes clear why Austin is considered one of the preeminent cities for live music. Unlike Manhattan, where the music remains barricaded behind close doors, Austin's venues entice you by letting you hear what's going on inside. As a result, a walk down Sixth Street exposes you to the multitude of blues, country, metal and rock that keep the Austin machine well oiled. With an abundance of BBQ and beer and a cornucopia of music ahead, Austin will not only be the epicenter of the music world for the rest of the week, it will be sensory and auditory nirvana.

Wednesday, March 14

Wednesday afternoon marks Earvolution's introductory foray into SXSW at Emo's Lounge. Like everyone who descends on Austin for the festival, Earvolution had a slightly self-interested motivation for hosting a day of music: generating awareness and interest in Pawnshop Roses, an old-school, classic-rock inspired quartet from Philadelphia, PA cut from the mold of bands like the Black Crowes and Exile On Main Street era Rolling Stones. They also happen to be the first artist signed to Earvolution Records.

The couple hours leading up to Joshua James' just after noon-time opening set are a bit daunting. In a form of opening night jitters, we frankly worry that no one will show. Fears of an empty house are quickly allayed: throughout the day we are joined by Justin Ward of the Live Music Blog; local, music-loving Austinites (possibly Austinians), a good number of laminate-bearing industry types and someone who looks conspicuously like Rolling Stone's David Fricke. James and Wes Hutchinson give different variations of the singer-songwriter motif, showing how much can be done with just an acoustic guitar. After his set, Hutchinson accomplished the not inconsiderable task of meeting nearly everyone who came to hear his set, making new fans with his personality as well as his music.

Our friends from Brooklyn, The States, woke everyone up with an early afternoon set heavy on material from The Path Of Least Resistance, their upcoming album which is in the final re-mastering process. At the close of the set, a father approached Chris Snyder, the States’ lead singer and guitarist, with his two young children in tow. Explaining that his kids really loved The States' set, he asks for autographs while his son and daughter shyly loiter close by. Even though the scene is way too precious, I go off in search of some promo cards while a sweaty but always affable Snyder, clearly flattered by the praise, chats with the family. When I return, he signs autographs for the beaming children, making them fans of The States for life.

Pawnshop Roses deliver a set that pulled in a good number of interested people off the street and I notice an individual who looks conspicuously like the ageless David Fricke. While fellow Philadelphians Jealousy Curve entertained a growing crowd, I learn that the gentleman in the sunglasses is not Fricke covering our showcase for Rolling Stone but rather is here in support of the two Philadelphia bands. I learn later that the Fricke look-a-like is Roger Hale, father of Halestorm's Lzzy and Arejay Hale. A band I would seemingly see just about everywhere during my stay in Austin.

After Toledo's We Are The Fury cap off the inaugural Earvolution SXSW showcase with a tight set of glam-rock in the mode of the New York Dolls, Live Music Blog's Justin joins us in a celebratory Jameson toast and we hang with Pawnshop Roses' Kevin Bentley talking music and basking in the glow of the successful showcase. While we wax philosophic on all things musical (i.e. discussing who we've seen live lately), the BBQ buffet for the Sub Pop party taking place that evening gets going. Curious as to who will be on the Sub Pop showcase, we grab one of the time sheets and discover that Emo's has made a glorious mistake: they designate the night's entertainment as the "SXSW Earvolution Party." Oh yes, I do love this town.

Next I was off to one of the official SXSW "badge events." The badge itself is an interesting object. More than just an entry pass, the badge, bearing the wearer's photo and company information, gives you a sense of security; for all intents and purposes, the festival is your oyster. The laminate, which costs upwards of $500, turns out to be the de rigueur accoutrement for SXSW. For some reason, it is required that anyone in possession of a laminate prominently display it around their neck. Even if optional, I sense that no one would choose to hide their badge as "access" plays a not-so-insignificant role in this business. On the first night of the festival, the failure to laminate ourselves, or acquire its cheaper, lower-access equivalent, a $175 wristband more suitable for those with no interest in attending any of the panels, frustrates our attempt to see The Rapture at the Free Yrself showcase at La Zona Rosa.

Not tarrying outside La Zona Rosa any longer than necessary - there are too many other showcases not requiring a badge and other bands playing for free to fret over missing one - we ambled back down 4th Street pondering the importance of the badge. Initially, I debated whether I was envious of the privileged laminate-owning masses or whether I was committing a truly indie-level, rebellious act and by remaining "unlaminated" I was doing my part to fight the power. Rationalization can be quite fun. I will experience moments of laminate-envy over the next four nights, but they are relatively brief. As it turns out, with some shrewd foresight and a little cash (much less than the cost of a laminate and a little less than a wristband), you can pretty much see any act you wanted to catch.

Jeff and I decide to check out the Fado Irish Pub, where Pawnshop Roses will be playing tomorrow afternoon as part of the Industry of Music showcase. A traditional Irish pub, Fado has an outdoor stage area reminiscent of a backyard patio and I quickly recognize "not-David Fricke" amidst the crowd. As I brood over being followed around, albeit preemptively, we bump into Roses' lead singer Paul Keen, who explains the complex Lost-style connections between the various Philadelphia bands down in Texas this week. As one of the Philly bands turns out to be Halestorm, the presence of "not-David Fricke" at Fado now makes sense.

Fortunate enough to come all the way from New York to catch an uninspiring set from Brooklyn's Locksley, we decide to scout out the potential of getting into the Beauty Bar to catch Illinois as part of the Ace Fu showcase. Our motivation disappears after hearing the dual guitar assault of Paul Ritchie and Dave Rosen and the Robert Plant quality wail of Mark Melicia of New Jersey's Parlor Mob, who follow the same Seventies-style Sabbath-driven heavy metal vision as Wolfmother. After an hour of energetic Zeppelin-ized blues, Halestorm takes the stage with Lzzy Hale leading the hard-rock quartet on to the stage with an a capella burst of vocal theatrics comparable to Melicia's.

As the final act reflects a "very special guest," we make the mistake of sticking around in case something exciting happens. Even though there are rumors abounding of a Rage Against The Machine reunion somewhere in Austin this night, we are not delusional that we are in its presence. Before the "special guests" appear, we sit through an interminable set from the Gore Gore Girls, who seemingly played the same song for a half hour straight. The song titles changed and one had a harmonica break, but the three chord drone remained constant. After toughing out the set, hopes were dashed as we learned that "special" is a term that can be thrown around rather indiscriminately: the mystery artist is revealed as Amsterband. In wandering back down 4th Street, we become enthralled with the Spazmatics playing outdoors at the Cedar Street Courtyard. Dressed as...well...spazzes, the geeked-out band-o-nerds had a full house rocking with a Violent Femmes medley. With nearly every other band in Austin making an effort to stand out with their original music, the Spazmatics looked backwards with their ultimate New Wave 80's Show, showing off their style or rather, lack of it, by closing the night with a cover of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer."

Thursday, March 15

With landlord Mike Mann leading the way, Thursday begins with a noble SXSW goal: finding free lunch. With the allure of "free BBQ, free beer and free metal," we head to the Soho Lounge on Sixth Street only to find out that it's a laminate-only event. Though sparsely filled, we are denied entry, but since we weren't married much to the "free metal" idea, we don’t put up a huge fight. As we regather to formulate a plan, I learn that there’s more to SXSW than simply official and unofficial parties, there are also invitation-only private parties. The laminates might have been the most common skeleton key but they by no means opened every door; the private parties ratchet up the exclusivity level. Most of the invitations for the private parties are a little bit bigger than index cards; like the laminates they are designed to be worn around like necklaces. Anyone with private invites proudly wore them in addition to their laminate like Mr. T baring his chains. I imagine that whoever got the most invite cards around their neck wins SXSW.

Calling a quick audible, we make it to the Fontana Distribution party at The Lava Lounge in time for some Iron Works barbecue and Ian Moore. Basking in the sun of the outdoor patio, we quaff some local brews while Canadian Ron Sexsmith ran through an extremely short set before turning the stage over to Kiefer Sutherland's favorite guitarist and co-star of I Trust You To Kill Me, Rocco Deluca. With his backing band The Burden, Deluca was one of the many artists running themselves ragged this week playing numerous showcases. Deluca' afternoon set came with no frills: accompanied by Ryan Carman perched upon the nifty drum box he used to provide the beat, Deluca played a dazzling set on his Dobro steel guitar allowing him to focus more on his Jeff Buckley like vocals.

Once Deluca finished his set, we made a quick scamper to the outskirts of Austin for Peter And The Wolf's set at The Peacock Lounge, one of the more contrived concert spaces in the Austin area. A cozy little space with a small outdoor deck and a comfortable collegiate style living room area, the venue was far from ideal for a SXSW showcase, much less one for the modestly sized band fronted by local musician Red Hunter. Using every bit of the available space, Hunter and a choir led by Dana Falconberry loped through a relaxing 20 minute set of lo-fi, atmospheric, Grizzly Bear styled folk better suited for a late evening than a sunny Texas afternoon.

On the way back downtown to catch Rachel Fuller's and Pete Townshend's Attic Jam at La Zona Rosa, I learn that the music scene's saturation of Austin life even permeates the transportation industry: our cab driver was extremely fluent in all forms of music and knew the city's clubs and their denizens quite well. Getting to La Zona Rosa at the same time as the Attic Jam was scheduled to begin, we encountered a short line to get in. The venue dropping the price of the show once Townshend played turns out to be a bit of a mixed blessing. While we wait unnecessarily in line, Townshend opens the show with an acoustic version of "Drowned." The cashier dutifully dropped the price while cheerfully making sure everyone knew that Townshend would be coming on and off for the next 2 1/2 hours. Further reason to keep calm: when Townshend is in the building for an Attic Jam, there is but one closing act.

Hosting a bill that caused her to blurt she was so excited "she could pee herself," Fuller welcomed Alexi Murdoch, Willy Mason, Martha Wainwright and Joe Purdy with lavish introductions. Each performer played a song before Townshend and Fuller would join them on stage. Without exception, each musician had a look on their face that expressed their amazement that they were not only on stage with the legendary guitarist but that Townshend was accompanying them on their material. Purdy opted for one of Townshend's songs and their acoustic duet of "Let My Love Open The Door" transformed the song from a cocky demand to a yearning plea. Ever the comic, Townshend kept the mood light, good-naturedly letting the various singer-songwriters shine while letting his star provide the glow. Due to running late, Townshend's closing set may have been cut short and although possibly historic, proved slightly disappointing. Accompanied by Fuller, Townshend sang "In The Ether," the weakest effort off of The Who's recent Endless Wire before picking up the guitar and closing the show with what he believed to be the first ever public performance of "I Can't Reach You" from The Who Sell Out. Given the wealth of material at his disposal, the performance of an obscure track from 40 years ago felt a tad anticlimactic.

The Attic Jam abutted nicely with an evening showcase anchored by the Cold War Kids. Even though they have reached a level of success that makes their appearance at SXSW seem gratuitous, Cold War Kids put on a simply astounding performance that blew away everyone in attendance. Having been eminently impressed with the California foursome on a couple other occasions, their forty-five minutes at SXSW left me speechless. The comfortably filled La Zona Rosa that existed during Elvis Perkins' stellar opening set slowly hit maximum capacity during the break. By the time the Kids took the stage and launched into "We Used To Vacation," there was hardly any room to breathe much less move in the 1,200 capacity hall as it felt like the entire festival crowd packed themselves into the spacious warehouse.

As opposed to many of the other sets throughout the week where experienced crowds showed appreciation but never real excitement, Cold War Kids brought out everyone’s inner music fan. When the opening bass line of "Hang Me Up To Dry" echoed throughout the cavernous room, the hall erupted. Going off the board a little bit, Elvis Perkins and his band returned to the stage and the two groups collaborated on a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," during which Nathan Willets' emotionally fragile voice turned the soulful tune into a Cold War classic. With Perkins and friends providing the percussion and horn blasts that make up the auditory chaos underlying the chain-gang chant of "St. John," the set closed with one of those "Oh My God" moments that keep people attending shows night after night. The unrestrained, unapologetic and decidedly unindustry response was phenomenal . . . and quite cool. Equally as impressive: once the Cold War Kids left the stage, so did a great number of people. The Cold War Kids were clearly a destination event.

Returning to Fado, where Pawnshop Roses played an early afternoon set, I catch The Gay Blades, an East coast guitar and drums duo that is a pair of double Ds short of The White Stripes. The Blades tore through a fun set notable for Clark Westfield's rifling guitar, quick wit, an impulsive announcement to give away everything at the merch table to anyone in the industry using the honor system and an unintended contribution by Sam Bey, Parlor Mob's drummer, that scored big numbers on the unintentional comedy scale. Grabbing a cowbell, an overly inebriated Bey continuously staggered on stage without bothering to take off his bulky backpack to lend additional percussion while provoking wagers on whether he would fall off the stage or tumble into the drum kit. Bets were taken off the board when the tambourine he kicked off the stage hit the bouncer in the head resulting in his prompt escort from the premises.

Hoots & Hellmouth, a raucous acoustic string band overcame the difficulties inherent in following the previous calamities with an upbeat set that seemed torn from a mountainous backwoods. Opening with a romp through the Grateful Dead's "Samson And Delilah," the foursome led a genuine hootenanny. Substituting foot stomps and energy for a rhythm section, Hoots & Hellmouth generated one of the rare instances of actual dancing at an SXSW event. The mostly hirsute Philadelphia quartet finished their hillbilly run through Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" by walking amongst the people, stomping, clapping and exhorting everyone to join along like crazed hippie camp counselors.

The evening concluded at the Cedar Street Courtyard with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals warming the slight evening chill by previewing selections from their upcoming album This Is Something. The winsome Potter, fast on her way to becoming the sexiest, hippie goddess in rock, led the Nocturnals through a rootsy, soulful set punctuated by guitarist Scott Tournet's increasingly killer guitar solos, Brian Dondero's finely honed bass and Matt Burr's straightforward, powerful drums. Rather than try to put into words the extent that the Vermont natives conquered SXSW, let this tale suffice. In the 21 years that I have been attending concerts the one thing that I have always ached to see, but never have, is a true encore. Without fail, once the planned encore ends, every crowd immediately shuffles off like lemmings, leaving the very intoxicated and consciousness-expanded few to scream fruitlessly for more. When Potter and the Nocturnals finished their set, few left the Courtyard. Even though the curfew had passed, the band upstairs and the power turned off, the crowd howled for more. Potter came back to the stage, seemingly questioning whether they could heed the request for "one more song" only to be told no. Over the protests of the venue's staff, Tournet came running down the stairs with an acoustic guitar and he had Potter played a brief but rollicking "Mystery Train." With Potter spilling her whiskey while she bopped and sang next to Tournet, the two played what has to be every musician's dream – a true encore. In talking with Matt Burr after the show, he said that it's every band's desire to kill at SXSW. Well, Potter & The Nocturnals didn't kill at SXSW – they devastated it.

Friday – March 16

Running from show to show, it can become easy to lose the forest for the trees so Friday was spent making an effort to soak up the SXSW atmosphere. Starting the day by catching our friends The States making some new fans at Darwin's Pub on Sixth Street, we lingered to catch the Tyrone Vaughan Band. The son or nephew of Stevie Ray Vaughan, which also implicates Fabulous Thunderbird Jimmy Vaughan's genes, Tyrone showed the power of good breeding, leading his foursome through some nice Texas style blues-rock.

Possessing vague directions to Antone's, Jeff and I progressed to our only intended destination for the day, the EMI Publishing party featuring Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Given Randolph's stature and our perception of where he was playing, we imagined the "Hendrix of the pedal steel" to be playing an outdoor locale. Arriving at the cozy confines of Antone's, we were overjoyed to merge with the excited crowd bopping along to Randolph's funkified gospel and soul. Remaining firmly entrenched behind his pedal steel, the low stage allowed Randolph to play inches from the front of the crowd. The intimate surroundings also allowed the personable Randolph to play around a bit: during an instrumental version of Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Something," he invited people from the audience to handle lead guitar and he made sure that a group of young kids right up front not only had a fun but also had a memorable afternoon. Due to the unexpected absence of Marcus Randolph, The Family Band welcomed Vinnie Amici of moe. who sat in with the band on short notice. As SXSW provides such a limited opportunity to present each band's skills, Amici's inclusion into the Family Band brought a bit of the communal, lets-see-what-happens spirit more commonly found at jamband festivals than SXSW. While the musicians are all enormously supportive of each other, once on the stage, the artists have to sink or swim on their own at SXSW.

Later that evening over at Stubbs Ampitheater, Tom Morello stole the show and 99% of the crowd in attendance never knew it occurred. Starting on Stubbs' interior basement stage within seconds of Badly Drawn Boy closing his set on the main stage with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Morello, formerly of Audioslave and past and presently of Rage Against The Machine, played an impassioned half-hour acoustic set chilling in its political acuity and directness. Making reference to the appearance of Slash at his set at The Parish the night before, Morello immediately informed the intimate assemblage that this evening it would be just be him, The Nightwatchman, before tearing into his six song set. Like an even more pissed off Johnny Cash, Morello previewed songs from his upcoming album, One Man Revolution, and resurrected "Guerilla Radio” for those who won't be able to "scale the walls at Coachella." In song, Morello gave voice to the economically disadvantaged and politically disenfranchised with lyrics calling for the President to drown the next time a Southern levee breaks. Pity George Bush that his leadership has awakened the slumbering beast that is Rage Against The Machine. If Morello's performance at Stubbs is any indication of the fire fueling the upcoming reunion, Rage Against The Machine are about to become the most dangerous band on the planet.

Morello's performance was tucked between sets of a Friday showcase that featured Perry Farrell's Satellite Party, Andrew Bird, Pete & the Pirates, Badly Drawn Boy and his fellow British brethren The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Farrell's latest project, featuring former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, pieced together a nicely varied set that flaunted the mocking tone that greeted the project's recent album. Farrell's voice and image have matured over the years but one thing hasn’t changed: he still imagines himself one sexy beast.

Gorgeously playing traditional violin as much as treating the delicate instrument like a guitar, the multi-talented Andrew Bird, whose band included another multi-instrumental talent, Martin Dosh, drew waves of appreciation for his quirky, ambient repertoire. Before diving into every 80s music fans wet dream of a finale, Badly Drawn Boy pulled a couple Ryan Adams diva stoppages and showed a feisty edge that you wouldn't imagine from his music.

The night's headliner, The Good, The Bad & The Queen came across as the most polished arena-friendly act but over the course of their hour on stage, nothing seemed to take hold. Damon Albarn's latest "supergroup" never seemed to do anything really super. Damon Albarn moved between the keyboards and center stage but never seemed to captivate the crowd. The efforts of Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong and drummer Tony Allen can't be faulted but given the firepower at their disposal, their performance came off mundane.

Saturday – March 17

I tiredly and ruefully make my way out of Austin on a midday flight back to New York City. As I relaxed before my flight with a cup of coffee and a breakfast taco (no McMuffins, 8 places selling breakfast tacos: go figure), the scope of the SXSW Festival hit me like Pete Townshend's guitar nailing an unsuspecting amp: even the airport had a showcase.

All total, I caught roughly 30 of the 1300 bands that played here over my 3 1/2 days in Austin ...and not once did I hear anyone cover "Crazy." There is hope for us all.

The Fratellis Seek To Conquer America With Pete Townshend As Their Guide

The Fratellis are going to have to conquer America with their talent cause frontman Jon Fratelli isn't getting off to the best start with his diplomacy skills. Claiming that they are "too lazy" and "not bothered" about finding fame in the States, Fratelli believes The Fratellis would be reduced to "bland stadium rock" in order to tailor the band's sound for America.

"We are not that bothered about being lauded in America. I don't mean it to sound like we don't appreciate Americans liking us, but we're not the Romans out to conquer everywhere," says Fratelli. "We don't have that mentality because if you think like that you start writing songs with that in mind, trying to sound like you want to conquer everywhere and the music becomes bland stadium rock. We are too lazy for that. Maybe we'll conquer everywhere including America by mistake and it will be a complete fluke, just like everything else that has happened to us."

If The Fratellis are looking for a big break, they surely received one in the form of Pete Townshend, who has taken an interest in the Scottish band and sat in with them on "The Seeker" at this year's SXSW festival. If you're looking to conquer America, Townshend may be the proper guide.

White Stripes Tour Info Is An Internet Hoax

Jack & Meg White are blaming an Internet hoax for last week's announcement that they are embarking on a massive American tour later this year. Although they will tour in support of their upcoming Icky Thump, the dates that have appeared on a number of sites are not correct. A statement from their management reads, "The White Stripes have yet to confirm their North American routing as of yet. But we are happy to say that it will include all 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada, as well as the remaining 16 states of the United States the band have yet to play."

The hoax should have been clear on its face as it seemed to be missing the creepy, patronizing tone that White uses for his missives to his fans. Right children?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Out Of The Woods And Into The City: Grizzly Bear At The Bowery Ballroom

By: David Schultz

David Lynch built his reputation on the art of presenting idyllic scenes of mundane suburban bliss that teems with an undercurrent of mysterious seedy menace. If the idiosyncratic director was searching for a house band for his unsettling cinema verite, he need look no further than Grizzly Bear. Like Lynch's owls, the Brooklyn-based quartet's relaxing, ethereal melodies aren't always as peaceful as they seem. This past week, Grizzly Bear returned to their home base of New York City for a pair of midweek shows at the Bowery Ballroom, enrapturing two sold-out crowds that swayed in tune with the hypnotic lull generated by the lo-fi foursome

For a band whose latest album appeared in the top 10 of many in-the-know critics' lists, Grizzly Bear hardly seems like a band drunk on their own success. Many "indie" bands will bombard you with sound; Grizzly Bear seems to bask in the quiet, drawing you in quite easily with their simple but deep melodies. Rather than force themselves upon you, Grizzly Bear goes leisurely about their business making you feel comfortable in their space. Their simplicity is striking, nearly to their detriment. The band's deliberately slow pacing, deftly captured on Yellow House, gives their material a warm, inviting nature that could initially be mistaken for plodding or psych-folk meandering. Listening to Yellow House, you might be puzzled; listening to Grizzly Bear live, it all makes sense.

Lined up across the stage with guitarists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen in the center, Grizzly Bear adroitly moved through an hour long set that perfectly suited the late hour. In addition to the autoharp and recorder passages, a good number of the ghostly melodies originate with Droste. Along with Rossen, he handled the majority of the airy vocals, although drummer Christopher Bear and Chris Taylor, who fiddled around with various electronics and the odd woodwind, join in to create the band's lush four part harmonies. Grizzly Bear doesn't rush through any of their material, patiently letting each song unfold. Over the course of the set, they hardly wasted a note.

The songs are soft but not precociously delicate. Rather their peaceful vibe gives a misleading veneer to the unsettling, oftentimes disturbing lyrics being softly crooned over the precise atmospheric instruments. With razor sharp simplicity, Grizzly Bear gets to the point: "On A Neck, On A Spit" deals with the ever changing dynamic that can degrade a relationship, "Colorado" becomes a metaphor for a lover adrift and the lilting "Knife" is little more than a slightly ambiguous threat to a disloyal lover. They encapsulated their surreal dichotomy in their cover of The Crystals' 1963 misstep "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)." Wrapping the surreal misconception of spousal abuse for affection in soaring melodies, they brought the misguidedly written tune out of the realm of shunned obscurity into an appropriate ironic context.

With simple chords that reverberate naturally, Rossen guides "Knife" and "Colorado" into measured, controlled outbursts that seem volcanic in comparison to the breezy, opening verses. Instead of keeping simple time on the drums, which given the purposeful pacing of the songs, might be the only the option, Bear (a coincidence) plays with an agility that keeps things interesting and fresh. The two paired up nicely for an encore of "Deep Blue Sea," a tune derived from an American folk song and adapted nicely into the Grizzly Bear motif.

Mainstream success doesn't seem to be an attainable goal for Grizzly Bear; their sound doesn't have that tincture of appeal that's going to catch on a grand scale, but then again neither did the Velvet Underground. However, discerning listeners that find them and make the effort to understand what they are trying to accomplish are going to be fans for life. Pink Floyd built a storied career on material enjoyed just as much in the quiet of one's mind as in a stadium setting. In their early stages, Grizzly Bear are showing that they have the ability to create a modern day version of Obscured By Clouds and might possibly have a Dark Side Of The Moon lurking somewhere within them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Earvolution SXSW Day Party

stop on in!

Top 5 Reasons for no Chinese Democracy

Guns 'N Roses fans were anticipating a March 6th release of the fabled Chinese Democracy record. By now you know that Axl Rose set that target date last year after a decade of speculation. Lore has it that Axl and the various forms GNR has taken over the years began working on the project as early as 1993. Fans in Italy have protested the delay by shutting down a long running fan site at But, maybe Axl has good reasons? Maybe he's been busy with some other things?

Here's our Letterman inspired Top 5 (too lazy for a top 10!) reasons that Chinese Democracy was not delivered on March 6th:

5) Axl is still trying to decide whether to join the Alliance or the Horde;

4) Axl is hoping to time the release with cornrows coming back into style;

3) Axl is waiting for Charlie Manson to finish lyrics to his "Look At Your Game, Girl" follow-up;

2) Axl didn't want to steal the spotlight from Britney and Anna Nicole Smith;

and the number one reason for the latest delay...

1) Axl is in training for Rose-Hilfiger II.

Libertines Reunion?

The Libertines showed flashes of greatness even during some wild days for Pete Doherty. The off stage problems doomed the band from reaching their full potential, but there is still a glimmer of hope for future collaboration among the principals Pete Doherty and Carl Barat.

Barat is quoted as saying he'd be up for a reunion: "We're not doing very different things but at some point I'd be happy to work with Pete. Our relationship hasn't really faded away." Of course, Doherty has Babyshambles and Barat has Dirty Pretty Things. Who knows, maybe they'll be the wedding band for Doherty's nuptials with Kate Moss?

Wolfmother Speaks to Guitar World

Wolfmother may sound like a bit of a throw back to rock's glory days, but don't try to put a that label on the Australian power trio. In an interview that appears in the May issue of Guitar World, they reject the specific label of "retro-style heavy rock."

"I just call it rock and roll, and rock and roll is part of our culture in Western civilization?we don't have anything else," guitarist Andrew Stockdale tells Guitar World. "It's not like we're Greeks and we play the pan flute and dance around in [expletive] leotards and do a do-se-do. This is Western civilization: we go to rock shows, we get drunk, we go to mosh pits, we try and get laid, we take drugs...or at least some people do."

Wolfmother also recorded their self-titled album at the Sound City studios in LA where Nirvana recorded Nevermind. The band found some inspiration from Cobain and crew. Stockdale says: "...[Nevermind] knocked Michael Jackson from the No. 1 spot! If that doesn't inspire bands to kick ass, then nothing will."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Eddie Van Halen Goes To Rehab

The ill-fated Van Halen reunion tour now has some explanation behind it. Eddie Van Halen issued a statement to saying he is looking to "clean up his act." So, first Lindsay Lohan, then Britney Spears and now Eddie. Who's next on the rehab bus?

It also appears that Eddie will not be joining his band mates at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. That now clears the way, as I predicted before for David Lee Roth and/or Sammy Hagar to possibly perform with Velvet Revolver who are reported to be doing a tribute to the band. Eddie's absence will also likely take some tension out of the air.

Seriously, good luck to Ed. Who knows maybe some drying out will clear his mind a bit and clear the way for a reunion tour later this year?

Even More Mp3s, News and Notes

John Popper of Blues Traveler seems to be preparing for the apocalypse, or at least a weekend BuzzSugar has the scoop on John's penchant for heavy artillery, as well as some info on Lilly Allen's foray into the virtual world of the Sims with her new song recorded in Simlish. Now that is target marketing! And, if you're a fan of Bright Eyes tune into NPR to hear some guest DJ-ing by the indie wunderkind.

Gym Class Heroes will be joining Gwen Stefani down under. Th lads will support Lady Gwen in Australia on a handful of dates in July and August. Meanwhile stateside, the boys have sold out most of their shows on their current tour.

The Ropes, who played our Earvolution Summer Jam last August at Sin-E have posted a new video for their song "Kill Her off." The video was directed by Aubrey Edwards who has worked with Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Social Scene and Hot Hot Heat. You can check it out on their MySpace page.

Des Ark: Lord of the Rings
The Swear: The Sleep Inside
Cassette: Ladybug
Ben Davis: Gorilla Bot
Cassette: Shaved
The New Trust: Evolve Into Nothing
The Sammies: Falling Out
Che Arthur: Dead Trajectories
The Sammies: Caretaker
Harlan: Computer Games Under the Sun (video)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers want you to shoot their next video. In the latest entry into the "fan participation" web 2.0 marketing world, the RHCPs launched a contest on YouTube giving you the opportunity to create the official video for their song "Charlie" from Stadium Arcadium. The winner gets $5,000 and a trip to meet the band at their show in Paris, France on July 6th. If you win, bring your own sock.

Shortlist Nominees Announced

The Shortlist nominees for 2007 have been announced. The Listmakers include Franz Ferdinand, KT Tunstall, Wayne Coyne, Panic! at the Disco, Regina Spektor and Last Year’s Shortlist Winner Sufjan Stevens.

Listmaker Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol calls this year's Long List "an incredible list that looks like my own iPod." Lightbody describes Regina Spektor's "Begin to Hope" as "a gorgeous record which is simple and devastating in equal measure." Also among Lightbody's favorites are the "sublime, blissed out elegance" of Band of Horses, the "sweeping swooning carnival" of Beirut, and the "twisted, warped pop" of Mates of State.

Mp3s, News and Notes

Revolver Magazine has a new readers poll. The winners include, Best Band Ever: Pantera; Album of the Year: Sacrament, Lamb of God; Hottest Chick in Metal: Lacuna Coil frontwoman Christina Scabbia; Breakthrough Band: Trivium and Who Should Be The Next President: Rob Zombie - he couldn't do much worse than what we've got now!

John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) - who recently donated some music to the MusicForTroops project that Earvolution is supporting, has put together a charity-driven video upload site where you can submit a video for the song "World" from his recent disc Two Lights.

Mp3 offerings:
Wilco - What Light
Pawnshop Roses: Goodbye Sarah K
Basement Kids: Barefoot in the Rain
Sister Vanilla - Jamcolas
Basement Kids: Cold and Tired
Skeletons and the King of All Cities: Don't Worry
Let's Go Sailing - Icicles
Idlewild: In Competition for the Worst Times
Aqualung: "Pressure Suit, In The Studio" Video:
Quicktime | Real Player | Windows Low | Windows High

Yoko Ono is reportedly blocking a documentary on John Lennon. E! reports that "The world premiere of Three Days in the Life, comprising two hours of previously unseen footage of the late Beatles icon, was canceled Tuesday after Yoko Ono's lawyers warned the film's producers that she hadn't authorized the project for public viewing." I'm glad they did the silly "Let it Be" pun, because it stopped me from doing it!

Speaking of lawyers...Experience Hendrix, LLC, the company founded by Jimi Hendrix's father, filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Craig Dieffenbach and his companies saying they have unlawfully used Jimi Hendrix trademarks to promote the "Hendrix Electric" vodka brand.

Speaking of mind altering substances...George Michael has made DoubleViking's list of Most Awkward Interviews for his chat about pot where he says it keeps him sane and happy, but you shouldn't light up until you've achieved all your goals. Well if having sexy time in a public restroom is a goal, then light up George! Paula Abdul, of course, makes the list as well. And, I actually saw the Vanilla Ice clip with Jon Stewart on MTV when it first aired - quite scary!

Assembly Of Dust: Recollection

By: David Schultz

In describing Assembly of Dust's sound, Reid Genauer coined the term "hick-funk." Oxymoronic as it may be, it is an apt term to describe the sound of the band Genauer formed two years after leaving the Vermont jam-rockers Strangefolk. Recollection, their third studio album and second on Hybrid Records, has more of a country/upbeat folk feel than their live performances. By pulling back the reins, Genauer gives Assembly Of Dust space to work and in so doing keeps the focus on the songs and the lyrics.

With Nate Wilson inserting timely and deliciously funky keyboard lines and Adam Terrell handling lead guitar, Assembly of Dust sound like an East coast, latter-day version of The Eagles on Recollection, only without the decadence, drugs or Don Henley's pompous attitude. With his songwriting, Genauer (and Wilson) travel down the same trails blazed by Robert Hunter and the Grateful Dead, creating working class characters and populist motifs on "Telling Sue," "Bootlegger's Advice" and "Samuel Aging." The rhythm section of Adam Herrick (drums) and John Leccesse (bass) nicely work their way through sections spanning from jazz to seventies-era light funk in a subtle manner.

Assembly Of Dust is not a band that captures your attention by trying to overwhelm you. However, Recollection effectively captures their inviting laid-back style. Much in line with the Assembly's demeanor, Recollection's charms don't immediately jump out; rather, they blossom and unfold much in the same way the world unravels itself in their songs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mp3s, News and Notes

The Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis announced that his guitarist brother Ben has left the band. Ben will start a new project called School of Seven Bells. Meanwhile, the remaining Machines will hit the studio in May to begin work on their follow up to Ten Silver Drops.

Ela: Checks Getting Cashed
Nicole Adkins: The Way It Is
Swati: 2 O' Clock in the A.M. and Blackjack
Astrid Swan: Good Girl
Haley Bonar: Captain Captain
Cynthia Mason: Like a Lifer Out for Good

The latest news in the Van Halen saga is a report that the band will not perform at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction. Velvet Revolver is rumored to be doing a tribute to Van Halen. I have no doubt that David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar will both contemplate jumping on stage with Slash and crew. If they do, I'd love to see the look on Eddie's face.

Reuters is reporting that the payola probes have benefited indie music. With big labels left with less ability to blatantly bribe radio stations to play certain songs consumers are reportedly getting more variety and the playing field is seen as somewhat more level for smaller indie acts and labels. The story also reports that "Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. have agreed to a consent decree that includes a $12.5 million payment to settle payola allegations raised by the [FCC]." It would be nice to get more variety from radio - but if they won't give it I guess that's why mp3 blogs were invented!

Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

By: David Schultz

Since exploding in the aftermath of the success of Funeral, their debut album, Arcade Fire became the art-rock band of choice for the literati and cognoscenti; with their sophomore effort, Neon Bible, the friendly Canadians are about to belong to the world. They are trying their best to cling on to their connection with their audience, previewing the album in intimate venues in London, Montreal and New York City.

If TV On The Radio are channeling the heady days of David Bowie, Arcade Fire are keeping his artsy side alive. Funeral sprang from the feelings of loss in the aftermath of the death of band members' relatives. While Neon Bible doesn't present a happier, sunnier Arcade Fire, it does have them living them in the moment, even looking forward into the uncertain abyss of the future. In typical Arcade Fire fashion, they seem bewildered and quite frightened by what they see.

Although they keep the strings and horns that dotted their initial release relatively restrained on their latest, they are no less grand or spacious. Instead they are more prone to use mandolins and pipe organs than guitars. Given their relative absence, the shuffling upbeat guitars of "Keep The Car Running" are more pronounced than they might be otherwise. Rather then revert to traditional instruments or arrangements, Arcade Fire emulate the Radiohead philosophy of keeping things fresh by trying something novel. The music is only half the story. Never straying into trite pop aphorisms, the lyrics remain true to the album’s general theme. Even though the Quebecois will slip in an unnecessary French phrase or two, the power of "Windowsill," "Intervention" and "Antichrist Television Blues" remains undiluted.

Neon Bible thrives on Win Butler's earnest sincerity. With many of the songs in a lower register than those on Funeral, Butler seems able to put more feeling into the vocals, wringing out every bit of emotion. His wife, Regine Chassagne, shares the vocals, getting a sassier feel with her energetic delivery. While many CD's seem to frontload the disc with the best songs, Neon Bible saves them for the end. With its Eighties-style sheen, "No Cars Go," a rerecording of a song that's been in the Arcade Fire repertoire for a while (live video), explodes in modernized new wave frenzy. "My Body Is A Cage," with Butler singing of the corporeal restrictions inherent in human existence over the funereal strains of an organ, closes the album uneasily.

Many artists become overly ambitious with their sophomore release and Arcade Fire are no different. Unlike many of their predecessors, Neon Bible seems to reach their lofty aims without drenching the result in pretentiousness. Much of Neon Bible possesses a low level sturm und drang, but by not overpowering the mix with unnecessary drama, Neon Bible carries off its weighty momentous intentions with an understated brilliance.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Old Knit Remains Tight: Celebrating 20 Years Of The Knitting Factory

By: David Schultz

Over the past decade, many of the historic venues in New York City have been forced to close their doors as the economic feasibility of operating a small, musician-centered venue decreases with each passing year. CBGB has been the most publicized casualty, but the changing Metropolitan musical landscape has become littered with the corpses of the likes of The Bottom Line and The Luna Lounge. Given the logistical and artistic perils to operating a modestly sized venue, the 20th Anniversary of The Knitting Factory deserves recognition and admiration. To celebrate the milestone, Michael Dorf, one of the Knitting Factory's original founding members, gathered a handful of the artists who benefited from and best exemplified the adventurous spirit of the "Old Knit" for a one-night concert at Town Hall.

The path to the Knitting Factory's China Anniversary began at its original home of 47 Houston Street before moving to its current home on Leonard Street in TriBeCa. The genteel surroundings of Town Hall may not have entirely captured the feel of the Knit's past and present home, but the music did. Throughout the night, the performances acted as a microcosm for The Knitting Factory, reflecting its eclectic and experimental nature: the strings of Rebecca Moore and Pinky Weitzman found common ground with electric guitars; DJ Spooky worked splendidly with Lee Ranaldo's avant-garde guitar work and everyone seemed to get a chance to try something new or celebrate something old. Not simply cashing in on the notoriety and goodwill of the venue's name, all of the net proceeds from the night were earmarked for The Stone, an East Village, not-for-profit performance space dedicated to freedom of expression.

Mike Doughty, who worked as Dorf's doorman at the Knitting Factory while Soul Coughing was in its formative stages, nicely summed up the appeal and allure of the venue. Relating back to his own interest in various musical styles, Doughty explained that The Knitting Factory was one of the few stages where you could hear and experience a wide breadth of musical textures. Doughty seemed genuinely touched to be included on the bill, taking delight in telling a couple anecdotes of his time as a Knitting Factory employee, including a tale of Don Byron setting his tip sign on fire. In contrast to the reserved demeanor of the majority of the other graying artists, Doughty's enthusiasm proved refreshing.

In celebrating the liberating, experimental atmosphere fostered by the Knitting Factory, the Town Hall performance featured the ingenuity of some of the musicians responsible for the venue's reputation. John Zorn coaxed squeaks, yelps and chirps out of his saxophone and Lee Ranaldo seemed to do everything with his guitar but strum it: swirling it overhead, tapping it with drumsticks, hovering it just above the stage and generating feedback while DJ Spooky providing backing rhythms that moved between Iron Butterfly and atmospheric Pink Floyd.

The first act featured a couple ensemble performances from some Knitting Factory stalwarts. The evening commenced with a jazz collective including Roy Nathanson and Don Byron and later, trumpeter Steve Bernstein and guitarist Marc Ribot anchored a slightly avant-garde assembly though a brief set. The brevity of time allotted to each of the performers worked to their advantage with most able to leave their mark before wearing out their welcome.

Lou Reed, the night's most well-known performer, concluded the first act with two tracks from his 2000 album Ecstasy. Accompanied by longtime guitarist Mike Rathke and cellist Jane Scarpantoni, Reed's stripped down performance focused on his streetwise poetry and crisply precise guitar riffs. After the title track, John Zorn joined Reed for their first ever pairing on stage on "Rock Minuet," melding wonderfully with Scarpantoni to give depth and heft to an otherwise straightforward tune. His lady friend, Laurie Anderson followed him, opening up the second set with a mix of atmospheric keyboards, campfire monologue, dry witty humor and caustic political observation.

Like all experiments, some fail. The promised Medeski Martin & Wood appearance fell one Wood short of occurring, with Oren Bloedow playing bass in his stead. After a jaunty run through "Queen Bee" featuring Medeski moving between his various keyboards, they became mired down in one of Bloedow's originals. Without Chris Wood, the Medeski and Martin set fell disappointingly flat and the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" finale seemed unrehearsed and was barely held together by the lyrical thread and Doughty's rowdy excitement. The show also suffered from the expectations raised by billing the appearance of surprise guests. Late February saw a number of remarkable collaborations: Pete Townshend and Lou Reed played Velvet Underground songs at Joe's Pub as part of an In The Attic show, Michael Stipe and Patti Smith sang "Everybody Hurts" at the Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall and Ray Davies and Debbie Harry joined up for "Lola" at the same show. Hence, the admittedly anti-climactic appearance of guitarist Gary Lucas and vocalist Jennifer Charles for the final ramble through the Beatles tune came nowhere near meeting unnecessarily raised hopes.

As Dorf's vision for honoring the Knitting Factory differed from his fellow board members, he organized his concert at Town Hall as opposed to the Leonard Street locale. It also won't be the only celebration. Over the course of this year, the Knitting Factory will organize special 20th Anniversary shows featuring Jonathan Richman, Robyn Hitchcock and other artists with a connection to iconic venue. They will also make a move onto XM Satellite Radio with Live From The Knitting Factory on XMU, on XM's indie/college music channel (#43). The new show kicked off this past Friday with a performance by The Boy Least Likely To and will feature Art Brut later this week.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!