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September 30, 2008

The Industry vs. Music, Pt. 4,196

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 11:13 am

The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones writes succinctly about the sad story of Muxtape, the mixtape/playlist streaming site that has met the sort of fate you’d expect when someone thinks creatively about sharing music. Follow the Muxtape link for a longer, more infuriating version of the story. Trent Reznor takes his swings at the music business in my interview with him for OffBeat, and really, what positive can be said for a business that treats its enthusiasts as criminals? If music consumers are treated as nothing more than markets to be exploited and policed, it’s no surprise that many have no moral issue with unauthorized downloading.

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September 29, 2008

Voodoo Schedule Up Now

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 8:34 am

The schedule for this year’s Voodoo Music Experience (October 24-26, not the Halloween weekend as it has been in the past). You can find it here.

The Voodoo Web site also has a pretty fine library of video from previous Voodoos, with the sound and video from the projection system. As such, it’s generally pretty strong. Go here for footage of the Stooges, the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, the Pixies, the Polyphonic Spree, M.I.A., Kings of Leon, the Drive-By Truckers, My Chemical Romance, the Flaming Lips, and many more. Galactic’s version of “The Immigrant Song” from last year’s Voodoo with Boots Riley, Lyrics Born and Chali 2Na is a powerhouse.

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Michael P. Smith

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 7:56 am

Professor LonghairPhotographer Michael P. Smith passed away last Wednesday [Note: it was Friday, not Wednesday]. It’s hard to overstate his importance as someone who documented and chronicled New Orleans’ music-related cultural practices. Mardi Gras Indians and second line photographs are almost cliches now, but they weren’t when he shot them. Many of his shots presented the image that we now hold in our minds of certain musicians. Certainly that’s the case with this shot of Professor Longhair. Go to his Web site for a generous sampling of his work.

 

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September 24, 2008

Banksy update

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 5:20 am

In the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the Banksy pieces on display around town. See them while you can because they won’t be there forever. Another one has bitten the dust, though it doesn’t look like Fred Radke’s responsible. The child flying a refrigerator like a kite on St. Claude has been whitewashed over, returning that wall to its pre-Banksy state.

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September 23, 2008

The Power of Guitar Hero

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 9:08 am

In our September issue, we have a piece in Fresh on the Guitar Hero phenomenon. How big is it? Metallica released its new album, Death Magnetic, as a CD and a Guitar Hero download at the same time. Here’s how you can get yours.

Ironically, many fans have decided the Guitar Hero version of the album is preferrable because of the extreme compression on the official release. Here’s one analysis, complete with visual aids; there are other articles on this online, but they all seem to refer back to this one.

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Earl Palmer obit round-up

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 7:11 am

I expect that we’ll start getting some good, meaty obituaries and appreciations for Earl Palmer coming in shortly–because of how close his passing came to our deadline, we have something more in-depth in mind for our November issue than we were able to get together for October–but here are some of the better Palmer obituaries so far:

The Telegraph in London provides a fairly detailed, colorful recounting of his younger days:

As a boy Earl relished the marching bands that accompanied the funerals in New Orleans. From the age of five he had a tap dancing act – accompanied by his mother on the road in Ida Cox’s Darktown Scandals Revue, he came to realise that a sudden influx of “aunts” consisted of his mother’s lesbian lovers. New Orleans was tough, and Palmer remembered seeing two women take knives to one another; meanwhile, “a top pimp wasn’t an outcast, he was a big shot”.

Pitchfork’s obituary is pretty perfunctory, but it does link to video of the opening to New Orleans Drumming with Earl Palmer. In it, he’s playing Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’” with Allen Toussaint on piano, Bill Huntington on bass and Red Tyler on sax.

The Los Angeles Timesobituary is fairly typical, letting Palmer’s lengthy list of credits do the talking. It does, however, address the central issue in the Palmer story for New Orleanians: Why did he trade something groundbreaking here for a faceless, conventional role in Los Angeles? Backbeat, his memoir with Tony Scherman, helps address the question (and it is mandatory reading). Here’s another take:

“When you’re working in the studios, you’re playing every genre of music,” Hal Blaine, his friend and another prolific session drummer, said in an interview Saturday. “You might be playing classical music in the morning and hard rock in the afternoon and straight jazz at night. . . . That’s where they separate the men from the boys. If you’re going to be a studio musician, it’s the top of the ladder. You can’t go any higher than that in the music business.”

 

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September 22, 2008

Picking Up the Spares

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 2:11 pm

I just received the nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and frankly, I don’t know why I still pay attention. I feel like I’m in high school again, where rock equals classic rock, good equals dexterously talented, punk is suspicious and disco sucks. This year’s nominees: Jeff Beck, Chic, Wanda Jackson, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Metallica, Run-D.M.C., the Stooges, War and Bobby Womack. Who’ll get in? Beck (dexterity), Metallica (they rawk!), War (soul but not disco, and in their day, everybody talked about Lee Oskar’s talent, which equals dexterity) and probably Run-DMC, just to prove the Hall voters aren’t anti-hip-hop. Besides, with Aerosmith they rawked! If someone else gets in, it’ll be one of the oldies acts.

Since Metallica, Chic, Run-DMC and the Stooges affected the music that followed them, I’d vote them in. But more interesting than the ‘who goes in’ debate is what this list tells us. The only artists on that list who might be in their first year of eligibility are Metallica and Run-DMC; everyone else has been passed over before. That does call up a vision of a future in which everybody eventually gets in the Hall, as one first-time-eligible artist is surrounded by a number of musicians and bands previously deemed unworthy. 

Or, the idea has always been a reinforcement/re-enactment of the Rolling Stone history of music, and the story of music as the product of great bands is reaching its natural, short-sighted conclusion.  

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September 20, 2008

Voodoo Preview

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 10:18 am

The Bingo! Parlour returns to the Voodoo Music Experience this year. At the Bingo! Show blog, Bingo members are posting short features on the bands that will perform in it. You can go and see a pleasant surprise from the wilds of Austin.

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September 19, 2008

More Banksy: Why See Them?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 4:40 am

If you haven’t taken the Banksy driving tour yet, you’ve already missed a piece, but not to Fred Radke unless he has drastically changed his style. Someone spraypainted over the boy swinging in the life preserver at Claiborne and Reynes in the Lower Ninth Ward. That’s unfortunate, but it also underlines part of the excitement of public art – it’s temporary nature. Time, the weather, mischievous hands or other forces will likely claim all of his work here eventually.

His work is not only worth seeing because it’s a cool moment in New Orleans cultural history, but because his pieces do what smart graffiti does; it reanimates an otherwise mundane public space. Gang-related graffiti and tagging – if you assume taggers are connected to gangs – do so in a negative way, putting a sign of possible danger in an otherwise neutral space. There is a stenciler whose work has been intriguing, as he/she has stenciled Pee Wee Herman on the Tchoupitoulas Street flood wall, an angry cat in a party hat on Frenchmen Street, and the Pope on a power line pole. His/her work makes spaces more mysterious, asking passersby to figure out the relationship between the work and the space. Radke has eradicated much of the stenciler’s work, but recently, he/she has started stenciling Radke’s likeness on walls with a voice balloon. Why the voice balloon? Is it to suggest that Radke don’t say nuthin’, he just keeps on rollin’ along, or is it a space left for other graffiti artists to fill in the blanks? 

Banksy also makes his works with stencils, but they’re more sophisticated, allowing for multiple colors, and he has more technique. The painter on Clio and Carondelet is stenciled on the wall, but the illusion of wrinkles in his cover-alls is created by zigzagging white paint horizontally down his torso. His work also has a clear agenda. Unlike the stenciler whose working in a dada style, throwing incongruous images in public spaces, Banksy is clearly sympathetic to the underclass and suspicious of authority. The best of his work uses images, not slogans, to politicize public spaces. Because they went up seemingly overnight, they also gave us pause to reconsider our relationships to those spaces. How long have they been here? Has this been here a while and I just missed it? That was certainly my reaction to the looting National Guardsmen at Elysian Fields and Decatur near the OffBeat offices. 

But if all that doesn’t speak to you, then the pieces are simply resonant as works of art. They’re clever, provocative and well-executed. When I see the silhouetted pieces, they bring to mind silhouettes left after another manmade disaster – those left on the walls of Hiroshima after the H-Bomb was dropped. Whether he intended that reference or not doesn’t matter; the works speak intelligently and echo in a lot of directions. 

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September 15, 2008

Banksy Driving Tour

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 6:37 am

Doug MacCash’s story on the public/graffiti artist Banksy’s New Orleans works is now up at the Times-Picayune Web site and the locations of the pieces are in the paper and on the Web site. Here’s a driving tour to see all of the ones highlighted in the paper and one that isn’t.

1. Cross the Claiborne Ave bridge into the Lower Ninth Ward. Once you cross, look to your left for an abandoned tire store and a green building on Reynes Street. There’s a boy on a life preserver swing on the side of the green building.
2. Take Reynes toward the river to St. Claude, then turn left to Forstall St. Look for an old guy in the rocker on a moldy green-colored building.
3. Take St. Claude toward the Quarter. At the point after St. Roch when the road veers left, there’s a large white wall in front of you with the boy flying the fridge/kite.
4. Continue to Kerlerec and turn left. On the corner is a girl with rain coming from under her umbrella.
5. Go down Kerlerec to a street you can take left back to Elysian Fields. Take E. Fields toward the river, then loop around to Decatur to the lakebound lane and find the looting National Guardsmen on the corner.
6. Go back to Rampart heading toward Canal St. Once you pass Armstrong Park, turn toward Basin Street and follow it lakebound as it becomes Orleans. Turn right on the first street after Armstrong Park, and on the left side of the street on a damaged wall is a girl afraid of rat. You have to get out to see that the rat is partially composed of a damaged spot on the wall.
7. Take the next left to Claiborne, then turn right on Claiborne and go to St. Bernard, where you turn right. Look to the lakebound side of the street once you turn the corner and you’ll see the real life Bart Simpson on the side street. It’s on a one-way the wrong way, so you have to go around the block to get next to it.
8. From there, get back to Claiborne heading toward Canal St. Turn right on Orleans and get on the I-10 West, then get off at the Canal St. exit. The offramp will bring you face to face with homeless Abe Lincoln.
9. From there, take whatever route you like through the CBD and Warehouse District to get St. Charles and Clio. Turn right at Clio and once you pass the Big Top/3 Ring Circus on the left, look right for a painter painting over sunflowers. This one has been defaced with a gray blotch covering what was once a sunflower. The work of Radke? Seems unlikely since he doesn’t tend to leave jobs half-done. The work of Banksy? Possible, but since he has brown patches that simulate roller marks, it seems odd that he’d also do a gray-out job in the Radke style. More likely someone trying to frame Radke, I suspect. Or, maybe that gray patch was already there – the only hint of the sunflower is a flower pot and a small, uncovered petal – and Banksy painted to it.  

[Oct. 2 Note: Today I found a photo of this piece on flickr.com that shows a pre-defaced version. It looks like Banksy grayed out part of one sunflower Radke style, but the second sunflower marked out with a tan paint was done by someone else.]
10. Take a right then a right and head for Tchopitoulas. On Tchop, go to Jackson and turn right. In the second or third block, look at the riverbound side of the street for the side of an abandoned fire house at 512 Jackson. On the river side of the building, a painter is painting over a horrified stick figure. 

Banksy’s Web site shows a few that aren’t included in this tour because no one I know has found them. It also includes a marching band playing in gas masks. That one was on Oretha Castle Haley, but the building’s caretaker painted over it.

When he wrote of coming here to challenge “the Gray Ghost” – Fred Radke’s nickname – that struck me as dramatic and a little silly, but this project demonstrates how largely Radke’s anti-graffiti efforts loom in the consciousness of the underground arts community. A British artist knows of his efforts, and anyone I talked to about the pieces feared that Radke would get to them. In MacCash’s video accompanying his story online, an interviewed subject wouldn’t mention where he was when admiring the girl with the umbrella for fear of giving away its location to Radke. My suspicion is that if these are defaced or disappear, it won’t be at Radke’s hand. They’re more likely to be marked up by those who want to discredit Radke’s efforts, or they’ll be painted over at an owner’s request – though many but not all of the buildings are abandoned – or someone’s going to try to figure out how to preserve the pieces and get them off the walls because Banksy’s art sells. Still, time and exposure means these are impermanent pieces even if Radke never gets to them, so see them while you can.

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