Shots ring out on Wednesday July 1, 2009 from 10am-Noon (that’s tomorrow morning). Tune in or log on for the annual Uncontrollable Urge Independence Day Shootacular Songs About Guns.
Uncontrollable Urge, 88.1fm KDHX, Wednesdays From 10am-High Noon, that’s when I reach for my revolver.
Why do we mourn Michael Jackson? Why did the Internet itself slow to a crawl, why did Twitter virtually shut down, why are commercial radio stations that haven’t touched the man’s music in 25 years playing it non-stop, why are TV stations talking about this man hour after hour?
Between 1970 and 1982, whether with his brothers in the Jackson 5 (later the Jacksons), or as a solo artist, Michael Jackson made some incredible music. Not the only incredible music in those years, but between the ubiquity of it all – the J5 dominated soul and pop charts for a couple years, and they were on TV both live and animated; there were hits and then there was the mega-hit to beat all mega-hits, the album “Thriller” – and the frequent high quality of the records, Michael Jackson managed to affect a greater segment of the world’s population than any other pop artist in that time.
At this point, if you are between the ages of say 30 and 55, it’s virtually impossible that you didn’t fall in love with at least one record by Michael Jackson during his prime years, and if you didn’t fall in love, you probably had at least one that you liked. And the music you love during your adolescence, you love with an intensity and a conviction which is rarely matched in adulthood – there’s too much nuance in your listening, too much awareness that there are other good records out there.
So, the death of Michael Jackson pushed some other stories off the news cycle. This bothers some people, the type of people who want to believe that human beings should only concentrate on “important” things. The revolution in Iran, the political arguments over health care, the problem of global warming. These are all important, and we need to pay attention to them. But, two things come to mind: First, we cannot directly affect any of these issues in the way that Michael Jackson at some point directly affected virtually all of us. And secondly, I personally don’t want to live a life which doesn’t have room for pleasure in it, and the loss of someone responsible for that pleasure is going to make me want to share my feelings and those of others similarly coping.
I don’t care which it is – the bubble gum soul of “ABC,” the passionate yearning beyond any possibility of comprehension of “I Want You Back,” the baroque funk of “Heartbreak Hotel,” the slick seduction of “Rock With You,” the joyful dance of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” the rock/funk collision of “Beat It,” on and on and on – but Michael Jackson brought enjoyment to our lives. It was and is music which gets straight to the heart of the matter – in the zen mantra of American Bandstand Rate-A-Record contestants, these songs had good beats and you could dance to them.
And, these songs brought people together. In grade school, I bonded with African-American students over Jackson 5 records. One of the first gifts I remember receiving from a non-family member was a Jacksons album. And, it is impossible to tell those who weren’t there how overwhelmingly ubiquitous “Thriller” was – punk rockers, funk fans, pop fans, virtually everybody who listened to music at all found something to like in that record. (For me, it was his last gasp, his weakest good album; perhaps there was something a little too controlled, too studied in all that shattering of the market divisions. I don’t know, but I do know it was a damn sight better than “Bad,” which was a damn sight better than “Dangerous” which was the last Michael Jackson record I listened to all the way through.)
I can’t say for certain, but if I had to guess I would say that many programmers here at KDHX have a longing to fill in on other shows at the station. Hard to say how many, but I’d guess it may be somewhere in the neighborhood of 73%. I’ve heard fellow programmers on many occasions say, “Man, I’d love to fill in for so and so”. I must confess that I too have designs on many of my fellow programmers’ shows. I’ve already had the privilege of filling in for so many wonderful shows on KDHX; Afternoon Delight, Back Roads, Down Yonder, Emotional Rescue, Feel Like Going Home, International Pop Overthrow, Memphis To Manchester, Record Sto and The Underworld.
Recently, I was chatting with valis who brings 40 years of psychedelia to the airwaves every Tuesday morning from 5 -7am on Trip Inside This House. We had already expressed our mutual appreciation for each others’ shows and had said that if either needed a sub we’d call the other first. So, I’m not saying we’re like the Cal Ripkens of radio or anything, but neither one of us has ever missed a shift – I’ve got streak of 45 going and valis is right behind me with right around 40 or so. I know, I know that’s less than a year of shows each. So valis suggests we not wait for one of us to need a sub, that maybe we should just switch for one week – in fact we had each already begun putting together playlists so we’d be prepared when called upon. He’d do Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst and I’d do his Trip Inside This House. So, we ran it by the Management who agreed to let us do it this once.
I tend to like those occurrences when I hear a well-prepared, enthusiastic sub on one of my favorite shows – especially if it’s someone from another show I like. I really dig the blending of the two shows – keep the core from the show you’re subbing for, but try and mix in something of yourself that still falls within the parameters of that show. And that is what I will attempt to do on Trip Inside This House on Tuesday July 7th, and being familiar with valis’ show I know he has the knowledge and appreciation for what I do to keep listeners of Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst more than happy on Thursday, July 9th.
So tune in between 5 and 7am on July 7th and 9th to hear…Trip Inside This Beat Bubble House or…Pop! The Bubble House Tripped or…just tune in please.
Where to begin with this one… I’ve been to a fair amount of shows in my twenty years, but never one quite like last night’s at The Firebird. Prior to the show, I was excited to see Crocodiles, whose first record “Summer Of Hate” was recently released on Fat Possum, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that KDHX’s very own Mabel Suen and Joe (of Spazztick) were one part of the drum+guitar duo Spelling Bee. Things got off to an unfortunate start with Thunderkid, a local electronic duo who play vaguely chip-tuney dance. The thing about dance music, though, is that you’ve got to keep it going – minute long interludes of silence between songs aren’t going to cut it. I’m not sure if the band was having technical difficulties or just need more practice (I would like to say the former, but I’m not sure). What they did play wasn’t bad, somewhere between Dan Deacon, Black Moth Super Rainbow and Adventure, but the set as a whole was not well sequenced.
After about 30 minutes or so (a little after 10PM), Thunderkid cleared out and Crocodiles began to set up. At 10:15, they donned their sunglasses, picked up their guitars, and kicked up a nice little drone. At 10:17, they told the crowd of about 30 that the sound was awful, killed their lights, and started packing up. At this point, it was unclear what was happening. The crowd stood around awkwardly, while the sound guy came up and tried to reason with the band. They (truthfully) claimed that it was impossible to hear the drum-machine (I was standing up front, stage-center, and couldn’t hear it either). The crowd slowly dispersed toward the bar and seating area, and the lights on stage came up.
No one really seemed to know what to do next – one of the band members (Brandon) stood near the back of the club, chatting with a few of the concert-goers, while Firebird staff spoke with the other (Charles) outside. About a half hour later, Spelling Bee got the green light for their set, and blasted through 25 minutes of noisy, sludgy punk, which redeemed the night, at least in my eyes. Unfortunately, by that point, most of the venue had cleared out.
A lot of people seemed pretty pissed about the Crocodiles set (or lack thereof) – I understand that the Firebird is offering refunds to those concert-goers who felt cheated – but I’m more disappointed than anything. I really enjoy “Summer of Hate,” and I was looking forward seeing it played out live, and to sacrifice the show over a sound glitch seems a bit… silly to me. The situation begs a comparison to the Wavves’ Primavera Festival meltdown (both are signed to Fat Possum, coincidentally), but Wavves have only been around for a couple of years (if that), and are far less experienced than Crocodiles. These guys have been playing in bands for years (Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, among others), and should know how to deal with sound issues. Both parties (Firebird and Crocodiles) were apologetic to those in attendance, but couldn’t seem to reach an agreement with each other. I don’t think it would be appropriate to blame either, but all the same, I went to the Firebird last night to see Crocodiles play, and left disappointed that I did not.
Written by: Kenny Hofmeister
Q: You bring up some film parallels to Jimmie Rodgers in the book.
B: We’ve just been talking about my background. It’s quite natural and easy for me to do that because I’m equally comfortable talking film language. But, I also felt it was a good way to get outside of the usual conversations of musical authenticity. The title says it, about shaping the pop music of the century. This is a book in some serious kind of way, and I hope in some light, readable, fun kind of way, about pop culture. And I think Jimmie Rodgers is a part of that. Before we get ourselves all serious and official, and I start turning it into a folklore museum piece about America’s great natural resource, God knows he never thought of himself as anything like that, and would have been astonished that anybody did. He was out there doing the best he could singing for people and making a living in show business.
So, part of the reason I go for correlations between music and movies is I think it’s sometimes a little easier – I hope it worked this way – of seeing the kind of push and pull, and even the cultural changes over time, if we step aside and say look what happened in these movies. And the parallel makes it easier to see what I’m talking about because I’m not stuck in the specifics of the music.
Q: It was interesting when you say that he combined Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaplin. When we think of 20s film comedy, these are who we think of. They were the giants.
B: And we don’t talk about the bad ten-minute reels that would also be on the bill.
Q: And there’s a lot of that with music, too, in that we remember Jimmie Rodgers, we remember the Carter Family, we don’t listen to Vernon Dalhart.
B: Right, we don’t. That’s all absolutely true, but it wouldn’t have done me any good to compare to what people don’t know.
Q: But, what I’m really getting at is this: Is there something about those four people, Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, and Rodgers, that above and beyond the fact that they were probably better than the people who were their contemporaries, but that makes them recognizable?
B: Yeah, I think so. I think you can’t read Meeting Jimmie Rodgers without a sense that I feel like I’ve found something that powered the legacy of Jimmie Rodgers – his music, his image, people’s idea of what he was as a performer in relation to them. And it had the power to push forward, which is what you’re asking me now. Why does it continue. So, I think there is something there.
I don’t say this from the context of not having looked. This is back again to the context of the Great Man, in a way. It parallels it, anyway. Is every genre that I go into in this book a construct? Is Of course it is, commercially they have to be. They find a way. You find something people respond to, you get more things like it, they keep buying. That’s pretty much what a genre is. It’s after the fact that you discover the reality. If it’s two years it’s a fad, if it’s thirty years, it’s a genre.
Barry Mazor is a familiar name to those who like to read intelligent, passionate, and informative writing about popular music. Born in 1950 and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Mazor was attracted from a very early age to what he calls “simple, American roots music.” After spending the ’70s working by day in the publishing business and on the side writing reviews and features for such noted music press outlets as Crawdaddy and the Soho Weekly News, Mazor gave film school a go and wound up editing a high tech magazine called Advanced Imaging.
An early immersion in an online music community, as Mazor puts it, “changed where I live, what I do for a living, where I met my wife. It changed everything.” As the senior editor for many years at No Depression, the alternative country magazine, and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Mazor became one of the leading music writers of the last decade. And, as the online community he enjoyed was the same one that founded Twangfest, the annual roots festival now run by KDHX itself, Mazor has been a regular visitor to our fair city, and has appeared more than a couple times on the station.
Mazor’s first book, Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century, has just been published by Oxford University Press. It’s nothing less than an examination of the ways American popular music has changed over the last 80 years, with a close look at the constantly changing status and appropriations of the work Jimmie Rodgers, often called “The Father of Country Music” did between 1927 and 1933.
I sat down recently with Mazor to discuss the book and ideas raised in it.
Q: You said this book came about when an editor came to you.
BM: Yes, there’s also part of this story that I did not know myself until the last few weeks. Paul Bresnick was a very well-known New York editor, and he stopped being an acquisitions editor because it’s not the cool job it used to be. He became an agent on his own trying to package things together, because he could come up with ideas for projects. He was running around asking a bunch of well-known music writers if there was some way there could be a 21st century look at the music of Jimmie Rodgers so he could become a household word in the sense that (Johnny) Cash and (Hank) Williams are. It’s very touching that a bunch of very well-known writers kept bringing up my name. I think the thing they may have been thinking of was the Gene Austin piece that I had done in No Depression. They saw that I had a comfort level with that big leap in time, that I could feel it as contemporary, which is necessary to do this. And I think of it that way. I feel that Jimmie Rodgers in some ways is our contemporary still. He wanted a book that could speak to people that weren’t on to it, or into it. He called me and asked me to do it and I said yes.
You can take it as gospel: Opera Theatre St. Louis’s gory and gritty production of Salome is a superbly executed tour de force.
One of the highlights of Salome is watching OTSL favorite Kelly Kaduce take the reins of the production and never let go. She commands the audience with one of the most fearless performances of the season, adapting her vocal range to convey the wide array of emotions displayed by the enchanting yet scary, Salome. The linchpin of this opera is the legendary Dance of the Seven Veils. Every interpretation of Salome defines itself by the presentation of this dance. Kaduce’s interpretation is saucy and seductive yet tasteful and transfixing. Kaduce doesn’t slow down here. As the body count rises, she again holds court over a captive audience at the end of the production when Salome undergoes a complete psychotic breakdown.
The supporting cast is not too shabby either. Michael Hayes is wonderful as Herod. Obviously, there’s little fun in playing one of the main villains of the bible, yet Hayes lives up to the challenge. He juggles the duality of the tetrarch, moving seamlessly from a lecherous tyrant to a tortured leader. Hayes’s finesse is exciting to watch. A fine OTSL debut is also turned in from by Gegory Dahl as Jokanaan. His voice is the perfect counterbalance to Kaduce’s and gives the duo a genuine chemistry onstage. Eric Margiore and Maria Zifchak round out the cast with solid performances.
You can tell a lot about a band by its vehicle. In the case of the brothers Felice, their ride is a Winnebago, circa 1978, as white and long and wounded and harpooned and doomed as Moby Dick. How it would get them back to New York is anyone’s guess. Thursday night was the end of a long spring tour. Their idea of a celebration is a post-playoff riot in the streets.
Led now by just two bros, Ian and James (Simone, the band’s drummer and third singer and songwriter, has gone off to start the Duke and the King), the band includes bassist Christmas Clapton, drummer Searcher and fiddler Greg Farley. The latter threatened to derail the evening with excessive wigga pronouncements from stage (no white kid talks like that unless he’s got a mic in his hands), but eventually I succumbed to his MC antics, waving and hollahing with the rest of the 80 or so folks in attendance. The Firebird is a dingy little club, but the band invited everyone to crush up to the stage, get sprayed with water, and rock with them.
And though they’re the most dynamic of the backwoodsy blues freak folks out there, the Felice Brothers are a rock band, surging and clamoring through every song, even quiet burns like “Cooperstown” and exploding on “Run Chicken Run” in a spasm of accordions, fiddles and Fender amps. They covered Townes Van Zandt’s “Two Hands,” tried out some new songs, and ultimately wrecked the place. With the last chords of the last song of the encore, Farley dove, literally, into the drum kit, then dusted himself off and smashed his washboard to splinters. It was cathartic and fun and one of the best shows I’ve seen all year.