Thursday Morning Music News: R.E.M. says goodbye, Neil Young says hello and Radiohead says see you next year


After 31 years, R.E.M. is kaput. Read the statements from the band.

Tony Bennett is about to have his first No. 1 album.

NPR has put together a list of 50 artists who inspired Kurt Cobain. The cloud isn’t big enough yet for the converse.

The story of Miles Davis’ home in East St. Louis is dispiriting, to say the very least.

Champaign, Ill. indie Polyvinyl celebrates 15 years in business with a sampler and a concert.

Neil Young already has a very good biography. Now comes the autobiography.

KDHX has hosted some terrific in-studio sessions this week. Bands include: Those Darlins, Mariachi El Bronx, An Horse, Vetiver and Eric Johnson of Fruit Bats. Hear them all.

RIP blues great Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

The week in St. Louis concert announcements includes dates for Paul Simon, Mastodon, String Cheese Incident and Trampled by Turtles.

Guns N’ Roses is touring again. The closest they’ll be coming to St. Louis (so far) is a November 12 date in Kansas City.

Watch some gorgeous video footage of Warpaint’s Rough Trade Sessions. speculates on how Facebook’s real-time feed will affect music sharing.

The classic lineup of Guided By Voices is readying a new album, “Let’s Go Eat the Factory.”

If you really want to hear that six-hour Flaming Lips song, you can.

It must be getting close to Christmas, as the box set frenzy is heating up. Ray Charles and Leonard Cohen are the latest subjects.

If Thom Yorke is to be believed, Radiohead will, in fact, tour in 2012.

Watch the new, low budget video from Hole — but not if you’re squeamish about tattooing or shaky cameras.

Pandora has a new look and a new take on listening caps.

The great Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto has just received a MacArthur genius grant.

Stream a new song by Joe Henry from his forthcoming album, “Reverie.”

Listen to MGMT cover Bauhaus.

Elbow is helping Jimi Goodwin of Doves go solo.

Bon Iver covers the gentle giant, Don Williams, at the Ryman in Nashville.

Pretty much a non-shocker, but Arcade Fire has walked away with the Polaris Music Prize.

Chris Thile and Yo Yo Ma will jam together on a new album.

You heard about that Lou Reed and Metallica album, right? Take 30 seconds out of your day and preview it.

An Under Cover Weekend video playlist

In anticipation of seeing some excellent St. Louis artists cover some of the best artists on the planet during An Under Cover Weekend (an event welcomed by KDHX), I threw together a list of favorite songs by the artists who will be honored on September 9 and 10 at the Firebird.

September 9

AC/DC “Back in Black”

Aside from the fact that it contains one of the most recognizable riffs that ever exited a Marshall stack, the story behind “Back in Black” is what makes it my favorite AC/DC tune. It was written as a tribute to former vocalist Bon Scott, who had died six months prior to its release and was sung by new vocalist Brian Johnson, whom Scott had previously requested replace him if something should ever happen to him.

Marvin Gaye “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”

Although this song was written in 1971, the words sound as if they were pulled from today’s news stories. As timeless as Marvin Gaye’s tunes are, I almost wish this one was a relic of the past.

Cake “Short Skirt Long Jacket”

Cake is one of those bands that you can’t truly appreciate until you see them performing live. This ode to workplace lust has everything you need: A catchy hook, driving drums, and a vibraslap.

Stevie Wonder “Superstition”

Stevie Wonder is a master at everything he does, but his funkier works are my favorites. This song always reminds me of the silly superstitions that my grandmother used to believe.

Electric Light Orchestra “Do Ya”

I don’t think it’s possible to hear an ELO song without nodding your head. The crunchy guitar riffs in this one get me every time.

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Breaking: Fitz and the Tantrums to play Taste of St. Louis, September 24

Fitz and the Tantrums by Jon Gitchoff

Jon Gitchoff

Well, news to me anyway. According to Taste of St. Louis, the soul pop band is coming back to the river city this fall. The last time Fitz and friends were in town they sold out the Duck Room, right after playing live in the studios of KDHX. And they didn’t even need an electric guitar to do it.

Listen to the complete Live at KDHX session from February 12, 2011.

A master and a masterpiece: Pablo Casals and the Bach ‘Cello Suites’

Pablo Casals


Editor’s note: 57 years ago this month, Pablo Casals, at the age of 77, gave a remarkable performance from Bach’s legendary “Cello Suites” in an ancient abbey in France. The recital was filmed, resulting in a rare document of the maestro.

Tom Healy reflects on Casals and the “Cello Suites” in this review of a recently reprinted, classic study of Bach’s masterpiece. Amazing video of Casals playing in the abbey after the jump.

“The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece”
Eric Siblin

Grove Press, 2011 reprint, 336 pp.

“The difference between the reputation Bach enjoyed in his lifetime and that which he accumulated posthumously is one of the remarkable phenomena in the history of music.” – Percy M. Young

I consider J. S. Bach’s “Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin” the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Like nearly all of my (sadly limited) favorite classical music, Bach demands many hours of attentive listening. An appreciation of him is all the more rewarding because I used to live in fear of Bach and the possibility that his music was beyond my comprehension; his was the exalted realm of people I held in awe: Yngwie Malmsteen and Yo Yo Ma, the torment of my musical inadequacies made incarnate.

At any rate, after a slow initial sneak attack, Bach’s “Cello Suites” still challenge me. With one instrument to focus on, in time I am confident that I am hearing nearly everything, whereas in a symphony of voices, I am easily lost.

For musicians Bach can be an ideal frame of reference for harmony and tonality. Working within Baroque and Lutheran liturgical constraints that are severely limited by today’s standards, he constantly finds unforeseen avenues and manages to sound fresh 300 years later. You could do worse.

With Bach, the moment we presume intimacy, materials shift and re-assemble to generate new twists and new expectations which are in turn, unfailingly, crushed. Here is an unusually detached means of our watching our little minds at work, struggling with the defeats of our incessant, spontaneously-generated assumptions. Sometimes Bach, obviously the consummate music listener, seems a mischievously amused presence.

Most of what I know about writing music stems from songwriting, where what starts as in impenetrable confusing mass gradually recedes, (though things unforeseen and serendipitously magical remain.) An eventual familiarity is attained, though something, with any luck (if it is good), is left deliberately resistant to interpretation — some calculatedly non-resolving and non-resolvable stuff — some of it in the lyrics.

With Bach’s violin “Sonatas and Partitas” and similarly with the “Cello Suites,” I am not sure it is possible to feel a secure orientation, or even to remember entire sequences and transitions, at least not without complete immersion on a scale akin to practicing them every day as cello legend Pablo Casals did. They deepen.

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Video: Head and the Heart perform in-store at Vintage Vinyl, Monday, June 13

The Head and the Heart – Lost in my Mind from Jarred Gastreich on Vimeo.

The Head and the Heart came straight to St. Louis after Bonnaroo and put on an unforgettable, heartfelt, energy packed show. But before the sold-out show at the Duck Room they played a stripped down version of the band (only Josiah, Jonathan and Charity) at Vintage Vinyl for free. The approximately 30 minute set was very intimate and they treated us to a new song, not on the CD, called “My Friends” (if I heard correctly).

Video by Jarred Gastreich and Abby Gillardi

Shot of Love: Bob Dylan 70th birthday party highlights + video

Shot of Love finale at Off Broadway

The Shot of Love finale. Photo by Ben Mudd.

I try to be gracious when folks thank me for helping to organize these KDHX benefit and tribute nights. But it’s mostly selfish on my part. There’s nothing more purely fun and gratifying than being in a packed club, surrounded by friends and fans of KDHX, and hearing a slate of terrific St. Louis bands sing the songs of my heroes.

Friday night, May 27, 12 bands/artists played the songs of Bob Dylan for nearly five hours. They only scratched the surface of such a catalogue, but the scratches were deep and lasting all the same.

My highlights from Shot of Love, in chronological order.

Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine (aka Beth Bombara) singing “Corinna, Corinna” early in the evening. No, Bob didn’t write that one, but it’s a song that still demonstrates the not-so-secret origins of his music. Morgan captured the tone beautifully.

Elly Herget and Evan O’Neal of the Skekses tackling the little known “Billy,” an outtake from Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Emcee Cat Pick noted that the melody is identical to Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.”

Ryan Spearman filled in at the last minute for an injured Riley James. And he did so with a sweet and serious version of “The Times They Are a Changin’.”

Joe Stickley and Sean Canan turning in an elevated and swinging “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”

Rough Shop tackling the rarely covered “Isis” and Anne Tkach really getting into the vocal delivery.

Cumberland Gap doing the wonderful waltz “Wallflower.” Greg Silsby is one of the best singers in St. Louis.

The return of Rebecca Ryan to the stage in St. Louis as lead singer of the Sparrows. To say the band’s version of “I Want You” was sexy is to somewhat understate matters.

Magnolia Summer getting all the rock lead out for an angry and loud “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”

Dave Grelle of the Feed owning “Simple Twist of Fate” with a precise and beautiful piano melody.

Pretty Little Empire rocking “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” as hard as it’s ever been rocked. Video evidence below.

Karate Bikini rising to the occasion with a loud, thrilling “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Bothers Lazaroff swinging all the way through “Summer Days” and then leading everyone in “I Shall Be Released” and an unsanctioned but delightful “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.”

If you missed the party, fear not. We’ll have video and photography for you soon, and who knows, perhaps we’ll do it again in a few years. Happy birthday, Bob.

KDHX Harvest Sessions week three with Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley

Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley at Harvest Sessions

Sara Finke

Harvest Sessions, presented by 88.1 KDHX, is continuing every Saturday morning this summer and fall at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. I had a fine time this Saturday with Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley, plus a special performance by Circus Flora at the fountain.

Check out Sara Finke’s photos from the day here and here and get the schedule at KDHX. See you next week for a session with acoustic blues maestro Tom Hall.

Video: KDHX Blues Band at Midwest Mayhem


The bunny rabbit meets Steve Ley. Photo by Roy Kasten.

Was a party ever more aptly named than Midwest Mayhem? I think not.

I had an excellent time running up and down stairs, seeing a bunch of great bands, meeting KDHX fans and sharing beers with fellow DJs. Last night was epic.

Thanks to all the hardworking KDHX staff and volunteers and musicians and dancers and City Museum staff and roller derby and hula girls and on and on. That’s what I call community. Special shout out to one of KDHX’s newest staff members, Chris Ward, who made for a great event coordinator and rabbit.

Video of the KDHX Blues Band (featuring 88.1 DJs John McHenry, Art Dwyer and Ron Edwards) rocking the party below. And mucho more video, photography and recap to come. Also check out A to Z Blog for some fun interviews with partygoers.

See you next May!

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