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March 28, 2008

You Could Be a Winner!

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 3:23 pm

I recently received this email from the Barack Obama campaign:

Refusing money from PACs and Washington lobbyists makes this campaign different in one very important respect.

We are not beholden to anyone but you.

We’ve rejected the traditional Washington fundraising strategy — including countless dinners hosted by lobbyists — and put our trust in millions of Americans owning a piece of this campaign.

Senator Clinton and Senator McCain have a different approach.

Both have accepted millions from lobbyists and special interests, and both have relied on high dollar donors for the majority of their funding.

This campaign is different, and I’m looking forward to supporters like you joining me for a different kind of fundraising dinner.

If you make a donation in any amount between now and 11:59 pm EDT on Monday, March 31st, you could join me and three other supporters for an intimate dinner for five:

I respect that there’s no minimum donation threshold to qualify, but each time I read that pitch, I flash on “Win a Dream Date with Obama!” Could Be a Winner! digg:You Could Be a Winner! spurl:You Could Be a Winner! wists:You Could Be a Winner! simpy:You Could Be a Winner! newsvine:You Could Be a Winner! blinklist:You Could Be a Winner! furl:You Could Be a Winner! reddit:You Could Be a Winner! fark:You Could Be a Winner! blogmarks:You Could Be a Winner! Y!:You Could Be a Winner! smarking:You Could Be a Winner! magnolia:You Could Be a Winner! segnalo:You Could Be a Winner! gifttagging:You Could Be a Winner!

March 26, 2008

An Awkward Spot

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 3:34 pm

Since I raise the age issue with respect to the Jazz Fest lineup each year, it’s hard for me to carp too much about someone young and relatively unknown playing the festival. The festival could book a toaster oven on every stage and draw 40,000 people, and with almost 40 years of history, it seems like it could take a few chances.

Today a DVD of the single “Ain’t No Reason” by Brett Dennen landed on my desk accompanied by a note saying he’s playing Jazz Fest Friday, May 2. Sure enough, he is, at 12:55 p.m. on the Gentilly Stage – one of the festival’s two biggest stages. It confirms my sad feeling that the festival loves its blues, soul and folk music John Mayerized, and its world music, Paul Simonized. Awkward Spot digg:An Awkward Spot spurl:An Awkward Spot wists:An Awkward Spot simpy:An Awkward Spot newsvine:An Awkward Spot blinklist:An Awkward Spot furl:An Awkward Spot reddit:An Awkward Spot fark:An Awkward Spot blogmarks:An Awkward Spot Y!:An Awkward Spot smarking:An Awkward Spot magnolia:An Awkward Spot segnalo:An Awkward Spot gifttagging:An Awkward Spot

March 25, 2008


Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 1:36 pm

The other day I received Bushspeak Volume 2: Fore More Years (Shout! Factory), and I wish I found it funny. When Jacob Weisberg came out with the book Bushisms in January 2001, I was amused in a superior way by Bush’s lack of facility with the language. But he’s not a bumbler, and not only has he embroiled us in a war that has cost trillions of dollars and countless lives, but he has also declared war on knowledge, war on science, war on the constitution, and war on us. There’s almost nothing I value that he and his administration haven’t challenged, so a CD that presents him a good ol’ boy who’s tongue trips him up is certainly out of step with where I am right now.

… and speaking of misspeaking, calling Benny Grunch and the Bunch Benny Bunch and the Grunch is misspeaking. Asking for two pickets to Titsburgh (as the joke goes) is misspeaking. Hillary Clinton declaring that she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire in 1996 is not misspeaking. How tied does your tongue have to be to have that come out when you mean to tell people that “Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find”? (From Clinton’s book, Living History) digg:Bushspeak spurl:Bushspeak wists:Bushspeak simpy:Bushspeak newsvine:Bushspeak blinklist:Bushspeak furl:Bushspeak reddit:Bushspeak fark:Bushspeak blogmarks:Bushspeak Y!:Bushspeak smarking:Bushspeak magnolia:Bushspeak segnalo:Bushspeak gifttagging:Bushspeak

March 24, 2008

Al Copeland

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 2:21 pm

The world is a sadly more tasteful place since restauranteur (using the term in its most generous sense) Al Copeland died Sunday of cancer. I’ll have to develop a new Christmas tradition to replace the yearly visit my wife and I made to the celebration of seasonal excess he’d put on. So many people drove by, but you had to get out and walk among the light-wrapped palms, the lit-up Santa sleigh, the massive tree, the videos by the doorway, and his fleet of sports cars to appreciate just how far beyond too much he could go.

One year we were invited to his Christmas party, and only Hunter Thompson could have done it justice – the mid-level politicians, the thugs, the wannabes, the trophy wives, and the wannabe trophy wives. Everywhere we turned, another bad toupee, another bad boob job. And no one showed more signs of work than Copeland himself, who looked like he had been pulled, trimmed and tucked back to his 40s – 20 or so years younger than he actually was.

My one Copeland dealing came when we entered the party. There were a couple of women in line, then my wife, then me. He was at the door and, in keeping with the luau theme, he placed a lei around the neck of the women in front of me, then my wife. I stepped up, figured it was my turn, but he pointed me to his pregnant wife in a Morticia Addams chair flanked by young women in bikinis and grass skirts. It was their job to give me my lei. “I don’t do guys,” he muttered, and that moment made my night. Copeland digg:Al Copeland spurl:Al Copeland wists:Al Copeland simpy:Al Copeland newsvine:Al Copeland blinklist:Al Copeland furl:Al Copeland reddit:Al Copeland fark:Al Copeland blogmarks:Al Copeland Y!:Al Copeland smarking:Al Copeland magnolia:Al Copeland segnalo:Al Copeland gifttagging:Al Copeland

March 23, 2008

An Unmade John Hughes Movie

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 2:28 pm

The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (Atlantic/Rhino): Boy meets drugs, falls in love, and Molly Ringwald can’t get a bit part in his life. Unmade John Hughes Movie digg:An Unmade John Hughes Movie spurl:An Unmade John Hughes Movie wists:An Unmade John Hughes Movie simpy:An Unmade John Hughes Movie newsvine:An Unmade John Hughes Movie blinklist:An Unmade John Hughes Movie furl:An Unmade John Hughes Movie reddit:An Unmade John Hughes Movie fark:An Unmade John Hughes Movie blogmarks:An Unmade John Hughes Movie Y!:An Unmade John Hughes Movie smarking:An Unmade John Hughes Movie magnolia:An Unmade John Hughes Movie segnalo:An Unmade John Hughes Movie gifttagging:An Unmade John Hughes Movie

March 22, 2008

The Choices are Endless

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 4:06 pm

Yesterday I edited the listings for April through the end of Jazz Fest. If you want to go out and see live music at night during Jazz Fest, there’s jazzy jam funk, funky jazz jams and jammy jazz funk. Who could want for more? Choices are Endless digg:The Choices are Endless spurl:The Choices are Endless wists:The Choices are Endless simpy:The Choices are Endless newsvine:The Choices are Endless blinklist:The Choices are Endless furl:The Choices are Endless reddit:The Choices are Endless fark:The Choices are Endless blogmarks:The Choices are Endless Y!:The Choices are Endless smarking:The Choices are Endless magnolia:The Choices are Endless segnalo:The Choices are Endless gifttagging:The Choices are Endless

March 21, 2008

Don’t Mess with New Orleans

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 2:40 pm

SXSW and a few phone conversations we’ve had prompted John Swenson to fire off this email/editorial/rant/state of the union address. Rather than keep it to myself, I’m sharing it with you:

The deity of your choice knows how much there really is to complain about in New Orleans since 2005, but one gripe I’m sick of hearing about is how superior we are to Austin, Texas as a music town despite its self-proclaimed status as the music capitol of the world. The truth is that even if our music is better than Austin’s, our track record of promoting and expanding its appeal is dismal. Provincialism and navel-gazing, the two cardinal sins of New Orleans culture, are the prime reasons for our inability to keep up with Austin’s progress, and there’s probably a little old fashioned greed in the mix as well.

Austin was just another regional music scene before the South By Southwest music festival kicked off in 1987, but since then that city really has shown the way when it comes to marketing itself as a place to hear music. We have the Jazz and Heritage Festival, of course, which really is the best event of its kind anywhere, but Jazz Fest has lagged behind SXSW in building out from its core appeal. Where Jazz Fest inexplicably ties itself to tired suburban headlining acts with little critical credibility such as Rod Stewart and Billy Joel, SXSW always features the latest buzz bands, like Arctic Monkeys two years ago and Vampire Weekend this year. It’s not that these groups are so great, but people who fancy themselves as music aficionados want to see them because they’re the latest thing and will fork over big bucks for the privilege.

Then, of course, there’s the much touted French Quarter Festival, which has been turned into a mini-Jazz Fest while robbing it of the street festival quality that gave it its name. It’s no longer a charming celebration featuring small, listener friendly musical gatherings on the streets of the Quarter. The festival should now more accurately be called the Riverfront Festival at by virtue of its shift to the stages on the river. And that’s not all. Though asked to play for massive crowds, the musicians are compensated like street corner crooners. Musician after musician who’d played FQF in the past told me they were boycotting it this year because the organizers require the performers to arrange for their own sponsors in order to get paid. I’d like to be able to give their names, but these poor characters are afraid of retaliation by the so-called music lovers who act as organizers of this event. Way to go to promote your city’s music!

Too much of the official approach to New Orleans music is frankly insulting to the intelligence of the music fans who come here to listen to it. The blowhards who pontificate on the theme that you have to play the same eight songs over and over because that’s all the people want to hear reflect the kind of defeatist attitude that would relegate New Orleans music to a soundtrack for breast-flashing and puking in the streets.

New Orleans music is a precious resource that deserves not only to be preserved but to be placed in the context of the most vibrant contemporary music being made today. And supported, even if at the expense of Rod Stewart and Billy Joel. Trombone Shorty’s set at this year’s SXSW drew rave reviews from local Austin critics and demonstrated that New Orleans musicians are second to none when it comes to raw talent. Susan Cowsill’s performances on her own and with the Cowsills were the shows I heard some of the hottest buzz about from SXSW attendees. Glen David Andrews and Paul Sanchez lit up the Continental Club with a performance of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” that made the song sound like it could have been
written yesterday. If we want to keep pace with Austin, we need to put something more than lip service behind the artists who make up the lifeblood of this city, stop bleeding them and start to treat New Orleans music as the sound of legacy, not just heritage.'t Mess with New Orleans digg:Don't Mess with New Orleans spurl:Don't Mess with New Orleans wists:Don't Mess with New Orleans simpy:Don't Mess with New Orleans newsvine:Don't Mess with New Orleans blinklist:Don't Mess with New Orleans furl:Don't Mess with New Orleans reddit:Don't Mess with New Orleans fark:Don't Mess with New Orleans blogmarks:Don't Mess with New Orleans Y!:Don't Mess with New Orleans smarking:Don't Mess with New Orleans magnolia:Don't Mess with New Orleans segnalo:Don't Mess with New Orleans gifttagging:Don't Mess with New Orleans

March 18, 2008

New Stuff

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 12:59 pm

Stephen Davis’ Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend got me interested in the Doors. It didn’t make me like the Doors, but his depiction of a band that knew it was good being forced to deal with the singer who made them great is pretty compelling. They only played weekends because they knew they couldn’t get more than three good shows out of Morrison in a row, and he was still usually drunk and terrible for one of the three. The new Live in Pittsburgh 1970 (DMC/Bright Midnight/Rhino) literalizes the band’s task of waiting on Morrison. Time and again, you can hear them vamping, waiting to see what he’ll do next. At the end of lines, they’ll play fills to maintain a song’s form, but nobody rips into a solo because he could be about to step to the mic. That drama is far more interesting to me than all the faux gloom that mucks up their songs, and the waiting actually works in the band’s favor. It takes some of the bounciness out, so they don’t sound so proud of themselves for their/his transgressiveness. I still don’t like it enough to really like the Doors, but it’s the one Doors album I may return to.

Dame Shirley Bassey got a renewed lease on musical life when Propellerheads featured her voice on “History Repeating” in 1997, and she’s enjoying interest again because the Arctic Monkeys are fans. She has a new album, Get the Party Started (Decca), and the title cut is so divariffic it can turn any car, house or iPod into a gay disco. She also sounds more comfortable than Grace Jones ever did in the lushness of “Slave to the Rhythm.” Stuff digg:New Stuff spurl:New Stuff wists:New Stuff simpy:New Stuff newsvine:New Stuff blinklist:New Stuff furl:New Stuff reddit:New Stuff fark:New Stuff blogmarks:New Stuff Y!:New Stuff smarking:New Stuff magnolia:New Stuff segnalo:New Stuff gifttagging:New Stuff

March 17, 2008

Post-SXSW reading

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 5:39 pm

The two best post-SXSW things I read: a rip on the SXSW blow-by-blow (which makes me feel pretty crappy after having just written one, but since my eyes rolled back in my head reading some others, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong); and a hysterical review of SXSW band mp3s. It’s long, but worth the time.

Oh, and in the first notebook dump, I recounted an exchange between James McMurtry and a fan over the military leader who stepped down. I swear he said Peter Pace from the stage, but when he delivered a similar introduction to “God Bless America,” he mentioned Admiral William Fallon as the man who stepped down as the head of CENTCOM because he didn’t want to invade Iran. It was Fallon (I’m just now getting to the news), and in his resignation statement, he said he was stepping down not because he disagreed with Bush but because the perception that he did was becoming a distraction. Believe what you will. reading digg:Post-SXSW reading spurl:Post-SXSW reading wists:Post-SXSW reading simpy:Post-SXSW reading newsvine:Post-SXSW reading blinklist:Post-SXSW reading furl:Post-SXSW reading reddit:Post-SXSW reading fark:Post-SXSW reading blogmarks:Post-SXSW reading Y!:Post-SXSW reading smarking:Post-SXSW reading magnolia:Post-SXSW reading segnalo:Post-SXSW reading gifttagging:Post-SXSW reading

March 16, 2008

SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4

Filed under: Pop Life — Alex Rawls @ 1:11 pm

Actually, not a notebook dump. My pen broke during a James McMurtry set – lousy Spring swag pen! – and besides, I saw little new & was more into a relaxing day. I did see Anaheim’s Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, who served as a reminder that enthusiasm alone is never enough, and they were followed by New Orleans rock band Rotary Downs, who were everything they weren’t – subtle, dynamic, textured, hooky but with an element of privacy. Neither the music nor the band ever gave everything away.

I spent much of the day thinking about a running theme through this SXSW, and the easiest way into the thought is something our food writer Todd A. Price has been talking about – regionalism. Evidently this is a thought that is going on in some food circles, but the idea as I get it from him is that shipping food around the country and around the world has lowered our expectations for the flavor of the food. You can get a tomato all year around for instance, but if you get a tomato fresh from a nearby farm while it’s in season, it’s a remarkably different taste experience. Time and place count, but if you can get one anytime, anywhere, it’s easy to not know what you’re missing.

Here, we’ve spent a long weekend seeing musicians who, for the most part, can’t travel easily and cost effectively anymore. Roots duo Jeff and Vida have figured out how to live by touring regularly, but Vida said yesterday that when gas hits four dollars a gallon, they’re going to have to reconsider. Add more members, more equipment, more or bigger vehicles, and suddenly traveling becomes prohibitive except to places with the biggest pockets of fans. Or, traveling in some sort of stripped down mode. Last year Alejandro Escovedo played the House of Blues’ Parish as an acoustic duo, and that was cool, but that version of the music isn’t necessarily the music in his head, the music he worked to get on disc.

Perhaps it’s time to accept that we’re in a musical period of regionalism. If you want to see Jon Dee Graham, you have to come to Austin. If you want to see Chuck Prophet, you have to go to San Francisco. If you want to see the Soul Rebels or the Happy Talk Band, you have to go to New Orleans. The musical world wasn’t always a mobile one, and it certainly wasn’t always one that traveled from coast to coast with any ease. Recordings can now be distributed internationally instantaneously, but that may be the musical experience we have to satisfy ourselves with until we can get to the place where the music we want to hear is.

Not a cheerful way to think about music, but Jon Dee Graham joked that this year’s SXSW is sloganed, “The Tournament of Tears.” All this music, and no one can figure out how to make money from it. Notebook Dump, Day 4 digg:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 spurl:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 wists:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 simpy:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 newsvine:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 blinklist:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 furl:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 reddit:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 fark:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 blogmarks:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 Y!:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 smarking:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 magnolia:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 segnalo:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4 gifttagging:SXSW Notebook Dump, Day 4
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