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July 29, 2009

A Little History(?)

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , — Alex Rawls @ 2:31 pm

 

I’m not going to assume that novels are historically accurate, nor that Ignatius Reilly was a keen judge of art. Nonetheless, A Confederacy of Dunces was written in the 1970s, and here is Reilly’s encounter with Jackson Square artists, for what it’s worth:

He belched violently during the silence that followed. The ladies pretended to the study the sky and the little garden behind the Cathedral.

Ignatius lumbered over to the picket fence, abandoning the hopeless cause espoused by the wagon, and viewed the oil paintings and pastels and watercolors strung there. Although the style of each varied in crudity, the subjects of the paintings were relatively similar: camelias floating in bowls of water, azaleas tortured into ambitious flower arrangements, magnolias that looked like white windmills. Ignatius scrutinized the offerings furiously for a while all by himself, for the ladies had stepped back from the fence and formed what looked like a protective little grouping. The wagon, too, stood forlorn on the flagstones, several feet from the newest member of the art guild.

“Oh my God!” Ignatius bellowed after he had promenaded up and down along the fence. “How dare you present such abortions to the public?”

“Please move along, sir,” a bold lady said.

“Magnolias don’t look like that,” Ignatius said, thrusting his cutlass at the offending pastel magnolias. “You ladies need a course in botany. And perhaps geometry, too.”

“You don’t have to look at our work,” an offended voice said from the group, the voice of the lady who had drawn the magnolia in question.

“Yes, I do!” Ignatius screamed. “You ladies need a critic with some taste and decency. Good heavens! Which one of you did this camelia? Speak up. The water in this bowl looks like motor oil.”

“Leave us alone,” a shrill voice said.

“You women had better stop giving teas and brunches and settle down to the business of learning how to draw,” Ignatius thundered. “First, you must learn how to handle a brush. I would suggest you all get together and paint someone’s house for a start.” 

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July 27, 2009

Wanna Play Jazz Fest?

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 12:44 pm

 

Today we received the following email:

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell (April 23 – May 2) will accept press kit submissions for bands wishing to perform at the 2010 Festival through October 1, 2009.

The mission of the Festival is to preserve, promote, perpetuate, and encourage the culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. Approximately 90% of the bands chosen to perform at the Festival are Louisiana-based attractions. Competition for the remaining slots at the Festival is highly competitive.

All qualified applicants may submit their press kits by October 1 to:

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell
Attn: Music Production
336 Camp Street, Suite 250
New Orleans, LA 70130

Or by visiting www.nojazzfest.com/apply2010

Be sure to include a recording, bio, photo, press clippings, contact information and a current email address.

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Choices Preview

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 9:55 am

 

Friday night, Terence Blanchard plays the Taylor Library at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. He recorded his new album, Choices, there this spring. Blanchard premiered music from Choices this past weekend when he played New York City. In the New York Times, Ben Ratliff reviewed the show:

This is a band whose lineup changes have become significant — they swing attention toward young musicians — and as of this year its tenor saxophonist is Walter Smith III, who seized a couple of spots on Thursday to improvise with furious continuity. Mr. Smith’s own song “Him or Me,” with surprise rests, odd phrase lengths and opaque harmony, became the show’s peak: everyone in the band, including the pianist Fabian Almazan, the bassist Ben Street and the drummer Kendrick Scott, smoked through all that complexity. Mr. Smith’s solo ran through a few choruses with dam-breaking force and binding logic, using tension and release and working up to split tones. Mr. Almazan played a dense and imaginative solo, improvising with both hands around the center of the keyboard. The music already felt lived in, and open enough to keep changing.

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July 25, 2009

Jimbeaux’s Update

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 5:52 am

Yesterday we received the following email from Rocky, one of the partners in Jimbeaux’s on Frenchmen (formerly the Spotted Cat):

friends, romans & countrymen, please forgive me but please discontinue advertising my bar because my simple minded business partner closed it 7/15/09. i can’t allow myself to advertise bands knowing the bar may not even be open. please discontinue all advertisements until further notice which, hopefully, will happen sooner rather than later. i’ll continue to update y’all. best of luck & thank you. rocky

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July 24, 2009

The Quarter: Past and Present

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

 

I have a lot of issues with the invocation of tradition and history where the French Quarter is concerned because I suspect much of what people believe isn’t historically accurate. Or their history is sanitized for their own protection. I suspect that those who love the idea of preserving an artists’ bohemia envision a Vieux Carre that was once full of NPR listener-types who also wrote and painted. Gay – sure. Drinkers – sure, but all outrageous in moderate ways and decorous to a fault. Not, by my understanding, what the Quarter was like at all.

Today, New Orleans City Business reported that:

 Judge Ivan Lemelle with U.S. District Court denied the artists’ motion that the city’s ban on the sale of prints infringed on their First Amendment rights. He sided with the city’s argument that the prohibition is designed to preserve the “tout ensemble,” or the overall feel and historic nature, of Jackson Square and the French Quarter.  

Thank God the artists’ colony that is Jackson Square is saved from print makers. Now the artists who’ve found that they could create hundreds of meaningful, artistic variations on the fleur de lis are safe. Those who see the social condition in poorly drafted illustrations of Quarter buildings are free from the threat of decently drafted prints of Quarter buildings.  Those artists with hands of stone for whom the brush is a mysterious, uncontrollable object more than likely to produce refrigerator-quality images of T-shirt shop cliches are free to peddle their wares and honor the tradition of Jackson Square.

Most of the works I see on the fences at the Square are simply expensive souvenirs, and I also wonder if it hasn’t always been like that. I wonder if the image of Jackson Square as an idyll for artists isn’t as historically inaccurate as other notions of the Quarter. I’m sure talented artists have displayed their work there – and still do – but I suspect that people have also been churning out hackwork for dollars for as long as there have been tourists and suckers. In that sense, Judge Lemelle’s ruling does preserve the “tout ensemble” character of the Square and the Quarter as the site where commerce and the sideshow meet.

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What Makes Voodoo Producers Swallow Their Gum

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 6:18 am

 

This press release from Jane’s Addiction was reported in the L.A. Times:

Jane’s Addiction’s management has confirmed that percussionist Stephen Perkins has been admitted to the Infectious Disease Ward at Cedar’s-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for treatment of an infection in his elbow. Doctors expect to keep him there for the next few days for further diagnosis and observation while anti-biotic treatment continues.

Fans are being asked not to worry as a full recovery is expected over the next few weeks.

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July 22, 2009

The Case of Now v. Then

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alex Rawls @ 12:33 pm

 

This afternoon, I interviewed Ari Up from British first-generation punk band the Slits. OffBeat.com will run some of that interview later this year when the band’s new album, Trapped Animal, is released. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the interview was her regular use of the word “revolution” to describe the British punk moment circa 1975-1976.

It’s not that I disagree. Through the ’80s and ’90s, I said a number of times that if you missed 1976 punk, the culture must be very confusing thing. Punk sparked so many artistic and intellectual trains of thought that its remote effects could be seen in such American network television shows as Moonlighting and Late Night with David Letterman. (Now I suspect that the effects of punk have been a part of the culture long enough that they seem normalized and not disorienting at all.)

Nor do I question that it felt like she was fighting a revolution. She has talked about being stabbed, about being harrassed by the police, about being in constant conflict with Teds and National Front racists, and other punks of that era have told similar stories. Now that pop music is so thoroughly commodified, it’s hard to imagine Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil going to prison for making it wrong, and it’s hard to imagine a country up in arms over the thoughts and music of “200 people, tops,” she says.

The oddity of her use of “revolution” came in her way of talking as if time hasn’t passed. She was pleased when I said the new CD sounds like a natural continuation from Cut, then talked about time and the future in a way that I want to save for later (sorry), and throughout the interview, there was little sense of Ari Up circa 2009 reflecting on Ari Up, 1976. That made me wonder how much of  her revolutionary consciousness is modern and how much of it she had then. Has she made herself seem wiser than she was?

She couldn’t make herself seem more ahead of her time than Cut already does. It remains one of the few punk albums that truly invented its own music – something apart from fast pop-rock. The structures and melodies are atypical and personal, and its reggae pulse is far more integral than it was for any punk band until Public Image, Ltd.

… and she spoke a language New Orleanians would understand when she bemoaned the state of the music punk reacted to: “Where’s the bass? Where’s the bass?”

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July 20, 2009

We Take Two

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 7:32 am

 

UPDATE: Tuesday, July 21.

The New Orleans Press Club Awards took place Saturday night at the Harrah’s Hotel, and OffBeat took home two awards. John Swenson won for Best Critical Review for his piece on Terence Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (Requiem for Katrina), and Jan Ramsey, Joseph Irrera and Alex Rawls won for Best Email Update for “The Weekly Beat” (subscribe to it here).

In Best Entertainment Feature, Rawls took second for his profile of Susan Cowsill, “Decisions, Decisions,” and Swenson took third for “Off the Record.” In Best Critical Review, Rawls received an honorable mention for “The Blues’ Dark Past,” his review of Marybeth Hamilton’s book In Search of the Blues.

In Best Feature Photo, Owen Murphy took second place for his shot of Earl Palmer to accompany Ned Sublette’s tribute to Palmer, “Hiding in Plain Sight.” Rawls took an honorable mention for this blog in the Best Features Affiliated Blog category.

Congratulations to all the winners and honorees.

Update: As John points out in the comments, he won for his review of Dr. John’s City That Care Forgot, not the Blanchard review. That was last year. Sorry about that.

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July 19, 2009

Return to Twitteration

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , — Alex Rawls @ 1:20 pm

Last week, I mentioned Twitter 101, an introduction to all things Twitter at Loyola. I now feel semi-hosed and apologize to anyone who got involved with this through me and shares that feeling. Really, I came away with the impression that the whole event was a ploy by Naked Pizza to get 150 people to try their pizza, and anything having to do with Twitter was secondary. It was only discussed for its marketing possibilities (for as long as I was there, but some who stayed say that remained the thrust), and one of the things that most needed to be addressed wasn’t. “Twitter expert” Tiffany Starnes spoke of how to Twitter, but no one I heard talked about how to read Twitter.

Those who are skeptical can’t see the forrest for the reports of what someone had for breakfast. I think of Twitter as a scanner or CD radio – a lot of information’s being put in the world through it, and if you try to follow it too closely, you’ll get lost in the details. I tend to monitor it, skimming – something easily done when the posts are 140 characters or less.

In this way, Twitter mirrors the Internet, where the interesting and valuable is surrounded by continent-sized clumps of trivia. It also, like much of the Internet, represents efforts to get conversations started by putting thoughts into the world and hoping for a reply. I won’t argue with anyone who considers this a lot of talking with little listening, but since listening is also a dying art, I wouldn’t hold the marginal coherence of the tweets crossing your screen against Twitter; what you’re reading is a few hundred people trying to start conversations at the same time.

Carl Wilson at Zoilus.com wrote of his preference for Facebook, and I find it more satisfying in ways. But because I know everybody who is following me on Facebook, it feels insular. We might not all share values and backgrounds, but I know what values and backgrounds I share with each of my Facebook friends. There are more people I don’t know following me on Twitter than people that I do know, making the experience closer to a reach out into worlds and communities I don’t know. That doesn’t automatically make the twitterers’ breakfast interesting, but there’s also the possibility that it might be.

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July 15, 2009

A Note to Local Funk Bands

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: , , — Alex Rawls @ 8:49 am

 

Coming up with song and album titles that play on the close relationship between the words “funk” and “fuck” is funny for seconds and really, only witty on a Beavis and Butthead level. This comes to mind because each day I look at my stack of CDs to be reviewed, and see the spine of Zigaboo Modeliste’s Funk Me Hard – Live, and it doesn’t get cleverer with age.

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