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March 31, 2009

Who’s Coming to Town?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 4:18 am

 

After yesterday’s post on Jazz Fest marketing the out-of-town talent in its Jazz Fest advertising, Belyin wrote, “Actually, I have no problem with out-of-town acts being prominent part of the festival. The J&H are the only entity in town with the resources to bring the world to us.” 

I didn’t say more yesterday because I’m still working through my thoughts in this area. I agree with Belyin in this case, and although there are a number of bookings that I don’t care for on a number of levels, there are also some I’m pretty pleased with. If Guy Clark has been in New Orleans in the last 15 years (as long as I’ve been paying attention to him), it escaped my notice. 

Swenson’s take is that there’s a sort of bait and switch going on here, a thought I semi-agree with, though for many who come to see Bon Jovi and Neil Young, they’ll camp out at the Acura Stage and see little beyond the show or shows they came to see. 

What I find interesting is the tacit admission that as much as Festival Productions and the Jazz and Heritage Foundation believe in Louisiana music – something I don’t question – and put forward the argument that this is some of the greatest music in the world, their advertising suggests that it’s a beloved music that doesn’t draw, or that Sugarland, Wilco and Ben Harper will draw better. They’re probably right, but that doesn’t the issue less awkward.

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March 29, 2009

New NO Mixtape

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 10:01 am

 

Jealous Monk’s Jermaine Quiz has a new mixtape online for download here. There’s a lot going on here and the source materials are pretty high profile, but it’s nice to hear the Meters/Nevilles and Lil’ Wayne meeting on equal footing in modern NO funk recordings.

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Draw Your Own Conclusion

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 9:53 am

 

John Swenson pointed out to me that of the 40 names listed on the ad for the 40th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, only 9 of them are from New Orleans.

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The Hazards of Concept Albums

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 9:50 am

 

Funny – the narrative and efforts made to segue one song into the next only underscores how underdeveloped the songs are on the Decemberists’ Hazards of Love. Tracks rely on good riffs, familiar refrains and Colin Meloy’s so-clever writing, but I could really use a chorus and bridge – a fully developed song as opposed to a movement. Their prog-folk remains often engaging, but here it’s rarely satisfying.

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March 27, 2009

Essence Festival Day-by-Day

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 6:23 am

 

Here’s the day by day lineup for the Essence Music Festival, which takes place in the Superdome over the July 4 weekend. Little on the main stage speaks to me, but there’s a lot of fairly interesting music in the superlounges.

 

Friday, July 3:  Main stage: Beyoncé, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Salt N Pepa, DJ Soul Sister,Superlounges: Eric Benet, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Solange, Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Keri Hilson, Marva Wright, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Preservation Hall Jazz Band Revue, Dwele DJ Captain Charles, DJ Jubilee, DJ Dynamite Dave Soul and DJ EF Cuttin.

 

Saturday, July 4:  Main stage: Maxwell, Anita Baker, Robin Thicke, Charlie Wilson, Jazmine Sullivan, DJ Soul Sister, Superlounges: Ledisi, Janelle Monae, Zap Mama, Irvin Mayfield, Dan Dyer, Little Freddie King, DJ Captain Charles, DJ Jubilee, DJ Dynamite Dave Soul and DJ EF Cuttin.

 

Sunday, July 5:  Main stage: Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Lionel Richie, Al Green, Teena Marie, En Vogue, DJ Soul Sister, Superlounges: Raphael Saadiq, Lalah Hathaway, Melanie Fiona, Ryan Leslie, Blind Boys of Alabama, The Knux, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave All Stars, Rebirth Brass Band, DJ Captain Charles, DJ Jubilee, DJ Dynamite Dave Soul and DJ EF Cuttin.

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March 25, 2009

Tone Deaf or Sending a Message?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 1:38 pm

 

I’m editing listings for this week, and playing Sunday on the Northshore is Zydeco Ray and the Creole Night Riders. Does the reference to night riders no longer mean anything beyond a kitchy show with David Hasselhoff?

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March 23, 2009

Eddie Bo Memorial

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 10:01 am

The memorial service for Eddie Bo’s family, friends and fans will be held at the Rock ‘N’ Bowl on Wednesday April 1 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Performers (right now) include Allen Toussaint, Joe Krown and Marva Wright. Speakers include Nick Spitzer and Jan Ramsey.

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A Telling Difference

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 6:44 am

One morning during SXSW, I walked through Flatstock, the show of music poster art. Once, it was dominated by images from drive-in culture: Betty Page and pin-up girls, hot rods, the walking dead from EC Comics. Now, posters for shows by the Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie and the like are illustrated by Chris Ware-alikes. 

… and for more SXSW coverage, go to SmoothJazzSuperstars.com. I try to avoid cross-posting.

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March 22, 2009

SXSW: Day Four

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 7:06 am

Saturday started with Houston’s Allen Oldies Band playing an outdoor show on South Congress. The question you have to ask yourself while watching the Allen Oldies Band is if singer Allen Hill is touched, if he grew up under powerlines, or if he’s a conceptual artist a la Andy Kaufman with 100 percent commitment to his character. Whatever the case, he sings classic garage rock hits with all the subtlety of a wrestler and with an inventive mind that every prop comic in America would envy. Anything he touches can be made a source of entertainment. And they rock.

Saturday on South Congress has a bit of a meeting of the tribe feel, but pretty much all SXSW is a yearly reunion of like minds – at the Continental Club for Mojo Nixon’s Pancake Breakfast, the day-long event brings together the monsters of college rock – Mojo and Dash Rip Rock – and some of their inheritors. The middle of the show each year are a couple of artists who don’t quite fit, but for many at SXSW, it’s the one chance they get all year to see Jon Dee Graham and James McMurtry. This year’s set by Graham was among the most emotional – and emotionally complete – shows I’ve ever seen. He was physically warm with the rest of the band and wiping his eyes after songs about life’s disappointments. Before the first instrumental break in the hushed, bleak “Have You Seen the Change in Me,” he instructs the band, “Leave nothing standing” as they crash into a passage that hinted his rage at life’s betrayal. But he finished the set with the equally vulnerable and equally hopeful “Something Wonderful,” and it was as thrilling as the rest was sad.

The rest of the afternoon was a typical SXSW Saturday afternoon – a little music (with Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts) and a few margaritas with friends as the urgency to see more starts to fade.

After dinner and a short time out, I stopped in a Japan Night showcase, which is always another kind of uplifting. The young bands traveling to Austin from Japan treat the shows like Madison Square Gardens or Wembley Stadium, and their enthusiasm is charming. When the all-girl Stereopony finished, the singer gestured that she wanted a photo, so she and the other girls crouched onstage with their backs to the audience so a photographer onstage could shoot them with the audience as the background – to which everybody enthusiastically agreed.

Then to PJ Harvey and John Parish debuting new material and occasionally referring back to their previous album, 1996’s Dance Hall at Louse Point. The material echoed that album’s texture-heavy/melody-short material, but she was riveting. Often though, she sang quietly with so much reverb on her voice that it became so atmospheric as to disappear behind everything else onstage. Since there were points where she was also clear and crisp, it wasn’t ineptitude behind the board; it was an artistic decision, but one that was a little distancing at the outdoor show at Stubb’s. 

Partway through, I slipped out to see the Knux, the L.A.-based hip-hop duo from New Orleans East. They had a DJ, a bass player, keyboard player and hype man onstage with them, and they generated a lot of funky energy onstage. But, it was also a typical SXSW occasion – a mediocre 6th Street venue with no good sightlines and a soundman who didn’t seem to notice that Krispy was the lead voice, but he was often low in the mix. Not so much that it ruined the songs, but we weren’t getting the songs the way they made them sound on record. 

After that, it was time for a cab, though I did stop out of curiosity into a good-sounding British showcase to see Bish, who was dressed in a leather Xena outfit with racing stripes. She played an electric sitar over dance pop, and that was a perfectly odd and appropriate way to end SXSW.

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March 21, 2009

SXSW: Day Three

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 7:29 am

 

Yesterday was a long day that ended as eccentrically as it began First musical stop was a Berlin party, where I saw M.A.N.D.Y. and CLP. Both were highly entertaining, though at least partially for “Is this for real?” reasons. The former recalled early 1980s downtown NYC dance music with a techno overlay, and the latter featured two Germans on the laptop techno with a rapper and a flamboyant lead singer with straightened hair and a Jiffy-Pop jacket. Part of Jiffy-Pop’s brilliance was that he was a bad dancer and he fancied himself a good one. In both cases, more songs caught on than you’d expect from reading this, and the crowd got pretty involved with CLP, even if it was in a playing-along way.

From there to South Congress and the Yard Dog for the Bloodshot Records party. I sort of heard Ha Ha Tonka, but the general bustle and maybe the band itself made it hard for me to focus on them. Then the Louisiana party started across the street at the Continental Club. Shreveport’s Peekers opened and were exceedingly cheerful, but they could actually sing the harmonies that brightened the songs, and the songs had an appealing complexity. I want to hear them again. Then CC Adcock, Lil Buck Sinegal and Kenny Bill Stinson played with a couple of Adcock’s friends from Texas and a horn section that included a Dickie Landry and a couple of Iguanas. It all felt a bit off the cuff – the band signaling or calling out keys for each song – but it was still a fun set of R&B, blues, swamp pop and rock ‘n’ roll. The Iguanas followed, but I shot back to the Yard Dog for the Waco Brothers. When the crowd was too much to settle into that show as well, I opted for dinner.

The evening session started with the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra at an outdoor show. This time he added horns and female backing vocalists to the lineup and played more or less the set he has been playing on tour this past year. As such, it felt a little familiar, but it gained urgency as the show went on. I cut out before the end to see Theresa Andersson at Antone’s. I wanted to see her in a bigger room than she’s played in New Orleans and see her in front of an audience that isn’t pre-sold. By the second song, she had the audience mesmerized, and a held note near the end of “Birds Fly Away” was one of the most exciting moments in this year’s SXSW. John Swenson observed the dearth of charismatic front people in this year’s indie rock crowd; Andersson was easily the most charismatic performer I saw yesterday, and she’s further made her one-woman show into a dance and figured out how to toy with the looping mechanisms, drawing attention to the method of musical production.

Rather than make work, I went to see Tricky, who was on before Devo at the Austin Music Hall. Considering I was bored by Tricky’s recent album, I was pleased that the show was as relentless and private and dark as ever. The live show sounded contemporary in a way that the album didn’t. Finally, Devo came out in gray jumpsuits with crossing guard vests and played three promising new songs. In typical Devo fashion, traditional tropes were inverted in one chorus where the blues boast “I’m a man” became a whimpering completion to the thought, “Don’t shoot.” Then the set became a pretty compelling greatest hits show with “Girl U Want” and “Uncontrollable Urge” standing out. Live, the fractured drums and guitar lines were particularly noticeable and impressive. “Satisfaction” and “Jocko Homo” suffered a bit from the lack of the distinctive, damaged sounds on the original recordings and were a little one note for it, but the odd element of the show was its lengthy encore – four or five songs most of which came from the B-list. The energy in the room started to flag as the set suddenly wandered, and by the time of “Wonderful World” sung by Boogie Boy, it was time to let it go. Night over.

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