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Archive for the ‘World Cafe Live’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 6, 2019] Steve Page Trio

I saw the Steven Page Trio about a year ago in Philadelphia.  When he announced that he was touring some more and coming to Bethlehem, I grabbed tickets for me and S. right away.

S. doesn’t really know his solo stuff at all, but she is a fan of BNL and has always said how much she liked his voice, so I thought it would be a fun, relaxing, seated event.

We were so close, we were literally right next to the stage.  When you’re standing, its a coveted spot, but when you’re seated, it’s terrible!  Luckily, they moved Dean Friedman’s giant monitor out of my way so I could actually see them all.  But in hindsight, sitting a few seats back would have been far preferable.

The weirdest thing is every time he picked up or put down his water bottle I thought he was going to talk to me (he didn’t).

I love being up close, the angles were just all wrong.  Any pictures I took were going to be of Steven’s crotch (!).   Fortunately, the vocals sounded fine.

I have learned from past experiences that seeing an artist a few months apart often means the same or a similar setlist.  And that’s what happened here.  Although when I look at other recent shows I see that he seems to have a kind of rotating setlist of some of the songs.  I saw that the night a few nights before us was amazing with “Alternative Girlfriend” (the song I really wanted to hear!) and “Someone Who’s Cool” an Odds cover!  They also played “Manchild,” my favorite new song of his and “Break Your Heart” both of which I have heart before but, come on, they are awesome.  Incidentally Odds opened for Steven Page in Canada.  Once again I wish I was above thee border not for political reasons. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 29, 2019] Man Man

I saw Man Man open for Gogol Bordello back in 2014.  I really enjoyed them and at that time I wrote:

It was an insane and wild show from start to finish from crowd to band and I would absolutely see them again.

It took five years for Man Man to play anywhere near where I was again and there was no way I was missing this show–seeing them headline in their home town was the icing on the cake.

I had assumed that Man Man would be the wildest act on the bill.  So it was amusing that they followed Sun Ra Arkestra–who has been doing wild for over fifty years.

Like Sun Ra, the guys in Man Man were all wearing decorative ponchos.  But unlike the Arkestra, all of their ponchos matched–indeed, so did all of the clothes under the ponchos, down to the fact that they were all wearing the same shoes. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHERRY GLAZERR-NonCOMM (May 15, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I loved the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes for.

But now that the sets are available to stream after the show, there’s no need to go.

The year I was going to go there were a bunch of artists I was excited to see.  This year there weren’t as many.

Although Cherry Glazerr is a band I’d like to check out.

Cherry Glazerr is a Los Angeles trio who formed in high school.  The blurb notes:

They’ve been known to keep a social and political message at the forefront of their songs, confronting the misogyny that’s too prevalent in their scene — and in our culture.   At one point, frontwoman Clementine Creevy turned her back to the microphone, leaned back limbo-style, jumped up and down — and didn’t miss a beat. That’s what frustrated feminist punk looks like in 2019 according to Cherry Glazerr.

They totally rock as well, cramming six songs into 20 minutes.

They open with feedback and drums that settles into “Ohio” –a distorted lumbering catchy song with Creevy’s vocals riding along the top.  I love the unusual riff that accompanies the song after the verses.  The solo is simple but very cool.

“Self-Explained” is slower with a cool vocal line in the verses.  It has a tempo that demands a big build up.  And the guitar solo fills that in really well.   “Wasted Nun” has some more great buzzing guitars and thumping drums over a simple but satisfying punk riff.

“Daddi” changes the dynamic of things with whispered creepy-sounding lyrics and a quiet guitar melody for the verses.  The big pounding chorus changes things up dramatically.

Those three songs come from their new album, while the final two come from their previous album, Apocalipstick.  “Apocalipstick” has a big powerful riff and turns out to be a rocking instrumental–it’s as good as the title of the song.

They end with “Told You I’d Be With The Boys,” a song with a cool riff and some nifty guitar licks as well.  I also like the vocal tricks that Creevy uses on this track.  And the way it ends is a total blast.

It’s a great set and makes me want to see them next time they’re playing more than 20 minutes!

[READ: May 27, 2019] “Ross Perot and China”

The title of this story was just so evocative.  I couldn’t imagine where Lerner would go with this.

And so as I started reading it, I had to wonder, is the main character Ross Perot?  Is that a young Ross Perot on a boat, drinking Southern Comfort in a man-made lake?  It sure could be.  Or maybe the young lady he’s with is Ross Perot’s daughter?

So that when the young lady slips off the boat unnoticed and he can’t find her, I wondered–where is this going?

Well, soon enough it is revealed that Ross Perot is not a character in the story, he is more of an abstract idea. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EX HEX-NonCOMM (May 15, 2019).

I really liked Mary Timony’s band Helium.  I’ve followed her over the years and now she has this relatively new band called Ex Hex.

Punk rock veteran Timony is known for her work in 90’s bands Helium and Autoclave, plus supergroup Wild Flag, while her co-frontperson in Ex Hex, Betsy Wright, also plays in Bat Fangs. The trio is rounded out by drummer Laura Harris, also of The Aquarium, and although they played tonight as a four-piece, they retained their effortless sense of cool.

Ex Hex is the most commercial sounding music she’s made and I found their first album a little boring.  They were kind of straight ahead punk pop songs that might have been revolutionary in the 90s but are kind of staid now.

The newer songs, however, are more a little more complex and more interesting as a result.

“Don’t Wanna Lose” comes from their first album. It’s got reverbed guitars and a simple melody.  It sounds a bit like Sleater-Kinney, which isn’t too surprising since Timony was in Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein before forming Ex Hex.

“Tough Enough” is slower and a bit more classic rock sounding.  In fact, all of the songs here feel more big riff classic rock than the simple punk of the first album.  “Rainbow Shiner” has a big metal riff.  It’s complicated and cool and makes you want to raise your fist in the air.

I don’t know if Timony is the only person doing guitar solos (it looks like Betsy Wright is also playing guitar). But “Good Times” opens with a lengthy guitar solo, which I assume is all Timony.

“Radiate” is a bouncy song with twin guitars and a quiet middle part.  They end the set with my favorite track, “Cosmic Cave.”  This one specializes in lots of reverb an echo with spacey flanging sounds at the end.

This set make me want to bust out rips again and see if I was missing something.  But also to get It’s Real where most of these songs come from, because I liked what I hear.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Chemistry”

A policeman told a crowd he was Looking for a retired chemist.  His daughter had dropped the man off at the cinema but when the movie was over he was no where to be found.

The crowd was in the Road House which stood next to the cinema.

I enjoyed the way the characters were set up.  The cook, Keith Lyon, felt mystified at his life.  He was in his forties and spent all day filling plates and having empty plates return.

It was as if a joke had been played on his life, thought he could see the humor of it and it hadn’t made him bitter.

A customer in the restaurant suggested the man got bored and left the movie early, “I might do that.”

“What you might do is beside the point,” said the policeman. “As you’re not missing.”

No one was a suspect in the Road House, the policeman was looking for volunteers to comb the nearby forest where they think the man went. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

I saw Adia Victoria do a Tony Desk Concert back in 2016.  I liked her and thought it would be interesting to hear her when she wasn’t holding back for a Tiny Desk.  And here she is rocking out.

her music is a little hard to pin down, she describes it as blues, but there’s a lot more going on:

her songs were structured like mainstream R&B hits, but in her most memorable moments Victoria turned away from the traditional styles of blues and soul, and turned instead toward something more macabre–like the moody trip-pop of Billie Eilish.

This sound is the direction she went in on her new album.

The set began with “The Needle’s Eye” as a pulsing synth morphed into a danceable rhythm (electric and acoustic drums).  Victoria sang in a breathy voice.  After the chorus, two saxophones provided a noisy distorted solo.  She sang “I’ve been a fool, I’ve been afraid, I’ve been asleep, but now I’m awake.”

She introduced herself “My name is Adia Victoria. This is my band. We done come all the way up from Nashville to play my blues for you.” Then, after a beat, “Lucky you.”

Her introduction for “Different Kind of Love” was brief and mirthless. “It’s about getting dumped,” she shrugged, without even a moment of heartache over the one who dumped her.

This song continues in that dark vein with rumbling drums providing most of the “melody” along with more sax.

Up next was “Bring Her Back,” which she called “a song for my ancestors.” This song used an organ to change the tone.

Victoria played “Heathen” at the Tiny Desk on an acoustic guitar.  I thought it would be better louder.  And it was.  Especially knowing its origins:

As she introduced her final song, “Heathen,” Victoria mentioned some of the frustration she experienced as a young woman with dreams of becoming a professional performer. “My little voice would break and my knees would shake, but I had this song and I made no mistakes,” she rhymed. Victoria explained that she wrote the song “after I realized that there were two sets of rules — one for men, and one for women. When it came time to gettin’ your freak on, I was very naïve. So I wrote this song. It’s a nice little ‘screw you’ to the patriarchy. We play it tonight for every single woman in Alabama right now who’s got these men trying to make moves on their body. We say, ‘That’s bullshit.’” Victoria had aimed her criticism at Alabama’s state legislature, which recently passed a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill…. “This song is called ‘Heathen’ and it’s about giving no fucks,” she declared before counting it off.

The song was much darker and more raw than the Tiny Desk version. It also felt a lot more bluesy than her newer songs (with a lot of sax blowing around the simple chord pattern).

She finished with a gritty chorus of improvised scatting; each syllable landed somewhere between a laugh and a snarl. Afterward, she addressed the Philadelphia crowd resolutely once more and gave a single deep bow. “Thank you, goodnight.”

Adia Victoria is an intriguing performer for sure and I’m curious how her sound will expand in the future.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Taking Pictures”

Two days ago I posted a story about someone stealing pictures.  Now here’s the title “Taking Pictures.”  They are not related in any other way.

This story is about a woman who has just gotten engaged.  And her relationship with Sarah at work–the bitch.

Sarah is

a washed-out sort of strawberry blonde with fine bones and small features.  She is fading to white.  She is constantly insulted by men.

Sarah at work also has a personality problem

Which is to say her problem is that she does not like other people’s personalities.

The narrator is surprised that Sarah is seeing someone.  Sarah says he won’t “do Saturdays.”  Maybe he’s a bisexual. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEALOUS OF THE BIRDS-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

I heard the band name Jealous of the Birds and I instantly formed an opinion of what they sounded like.

And this recording couldn’t be much further from what I imagined.

I assumed they would be bird-like and they are not at all.  This set rocks, it switches genres, it covers a lot of grown, but nothing at all bird-like.

Many artists live by the philosophy of creating the music that they want to exist in the world, but few do it in such a striking way as Jealous of the Birds. Northern Irish songwriter Naomi Hamilton has been making music under the moniker for a few years now, but each song we hear from Jealous of the Birds feels like a fresh new discovery — and anyone who was hearing the band for the first time today undoubtedly felt like they were experiencing something special.

Folks who attended last year’s NonCOMM music meeting may remember hearing a glimpse of the arresting single “Plastic Skeletons.” The song, which is not quite like anything else and not immediately accessible, is congruous with Hamilton breaking out of her local music scene in Northern Ireland and carving out an indescribable genre of her own. Since then, Jealous of the Birds has gone on to release two new EPs, The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep and Wisdom Teeth, which show the depth and range of Hamilton’s songwriting ability.

Driven by her love of language, Hamilton’s lyrics are intricate and poetic; musically, you can detect influences from Irish folk to psychedelic rock.

With her slicked back hair and laid-back demeanor, Hamilton makes it look easy, but her songs aren’t necessarily easy to listen to — hearing them once will only make you want to listen again and again to try to understand what the artist is getting at.

The first four songs are from their 2016 album Parma Violets.

Powder Junkie is a stomping, stop and start kind of song.  It’s bluesy but stops abruptly after just 2 and a half minutes.  It’s a great introduction to the band.  As is “Trouble in Bohemia,” a slower song with a folk feel. It showcases the softer side of the band, and is also quite short.

“Russian Doll” introduces a much more poppy sound to the band.  The chords are simple, but the highlight the clever lyrics

I took your compliments
I just struggled to believe
That I was worth loving
And you weren’t lying through your teeth
In truth, I’m a Russian doll
My egos shut inside
I painted them by hand
And I’ll never let them die

“Parma Violets” is slower and more acoustic-sounding.  It’s a ballad and a sad one a that:

Oh please
Don’t you swallow
Pills like parma violets
Again

I had to look up to discover that Parma Violets are a British violet-flavoured tablet confectionery manufactured by the Derbyshire company Swizzels Matlow.

The next two songs come from 2019’s Wisdom Teeth EP.  I like them both.  “Marrow” is a folk song, but “Blue Eyes” is a wonderfully weird rocking song.  It feels off-kilter with some unexpected lead guitar riffs at the end of each verse and some funky bass parts.

The final song, “Plastic Skeletons” comes from 2018’s The Moths of What I Want Will Eat Me in My Sleep.  It’s got a cool bass with some nifty guitar line to start the track.  The chorus is kind of staccato and lurching and quite a lot of fun.

These last two songs were my favorite of the set, and I’m glad to see they are the most recent songs. I like the direction they’re going.

[READ: May 15, 2019] “Peep Hall” 

I have read many many stories by Boyle and I like him quite a lot.  I like that he writes about so many different topics from so many different perspectives.  He is even unafraid to be sympathetic to people who don’t seem to deserve it.

It was somewhat unfortunate that I read this story and the previous one by him (written about 19 years apart) on the same day because they were both rather creepy and voyeuristic and sympathetic to people who necessarily don’t deserve it.

The narrator of this story, Hart Simpson, likes his privacy.  His phone is unlisted and the gate on his driveway locks behinds him.  When he sits on his porch, the neighbors can’t see him.  He works as a bartender at the local pub and is quite a visible person, but when it’s time off, he wants to be alone.  I mean, sure he hooks up once in a while, but otherwise he’s alone.

One afternoon, a woman came up his driveway.  She had been talking to his next-door neighbor (not his favorite person) in some kind of heated argument.  Then she came over to his porch. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JÚNÍUS MEYVANT-NonCOMM 2019 Free at Noon (May 15, 2019).

Júníus Meyvant is the stage name of Icelandic singer Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson.  His band is a soulful Iceland six-piece with outstanding musicianship.

The set started off strong with “High Alert.”  A cool bassline and organ propel the song forward with accents from trumpet and Sigurmundsson’s soulful voice.

The second song, “Holidays” is much slower as it starts with a wavering keyboard and groovy bassline.  It’s just as soulful though–possibly more so, with nice horn accompaniments.

“Across the Borders” showcased a psychedelic-jam side of Júníus Meyvant, as well as the pianist’s skills.  After some powerful trumpet, the song settles down into a slow groove.  Midway through, the drummer plays a cool little fill and the band launches into a fast keyboard-filled jamming romp.

“Love Child” is a sweet, smooth love song with gentle horns guiding the melody.

“Ain’t Gonna Let You Drown” had a rich, gospel sound to it, it’s his new single. He slowed down the tempo for their last song “Thoughts of My Religion,” a personal ballad with a catchy chorus.

It’s a lovely set which you can listen to here (for some reasons Night Two’s shows are much much quieter on the player).

[READ: May 15, 2019] “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” 

I have read many many stories by Boyle and I like him quite a lot.  I like that he writes about so many different topics from so many different perspectives.  He is even unafraid to be sympathetic to people who don’t seem to deserve it.

It was somewhat unfortunate that I read this story and the next one by him (written about 19 years apart) by him on the same day because they were both rather creepy and voyeuristic and sympathetic to people who really don’t deserve it.

This story is about a woman who chooses to take a three day train ride rather than a three hour plane ride to Dallas.   It wasn’t long after the school shootings.  The shootings had happened at her daughter’s school although the daughter was unharmed.  This had nothing to do with her choice of taking the train, exactly, but she felt it would afford her some down time.

At morning breakfast she was seated across from a young man–Eric–about her daughter’s age.  They had a pleasant light conversation–first about state capitals and “sexy” cities  and the dangers of Splenda “its made from nuclear waste.”  He soon revealed that he went to the same school as her daughter  And just to complicate things.  He knew the shooter. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

I have been hearing a lot about Y La Bamba lately and for some reason I didn’t realize that they sang in Spanish (which is why I thought it was an odd name for an English-speaking band).  I know WXPN has been playing some of their songs, perhaps I only heard “My Death” and “Orca” which are in English and which they did not play at NonComm.

But they do sing in Spanish and they bring a wonderfully diverse sound to these Spanish lyrics.  And they are not simply casually Spanish either, as their mission statement explains “BEING A CHICANA, MEXICAN AMERICAN HAS BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A STRENGTHENING JOURNEY. I AM LEARNING HOW TO CELEBRATE MY BEAUTY, HISTORY, BE AND HEAL FROM WITHIN IT.”  Nor are they exclusively Spanish. “I WRITE IN SPANISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SUNG, I WRITE IN ENGLISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SAID.”

Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza is the daughter of immigrants from Michoacán, and she has channeled into her music her Mexican-American heritage and her many frustrations with American culture.

And she demands the audience’s respect.  I would have found this particular set very uncomfortable as Mendoza, called out talkers in the back of the room, demanded silence and respect.  I’m all for silence and respect for bands during shows.  In fact I wish more bands would demand it, but this was really uncomfortable to listen to and I wasn’t even there.

Demanding silence form the drinkers at the bar, she said “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?” She waited for the crowd’s attention. “You hear me? […] OK. Because that’s real. I’m not here to be cool, to give you something that you think might be cool. I’m here to give you my parents’ story.”

This is all pretty awesome, but since nearly all of the songs they sang were in Spanish, I’m not sure how much the audience really got out of what she was singing.

The blurb describes their music as a “mix of indie-punk, música mexicana and raw emotional storytelling” while Mendoza sings and raps in Spanish and English, railing against misogyny, patriarchy, and white ignorance.

Y La Bamba were at their most intense last night when Mendoza rapped in unison with keyboardist Julia Mendiolea, including on their fiery opener, “Paloma Negra”(“Black Pigeon”).

There’s some gentle echoing guitars (Ryan Oxford) and some bouncy synths underneath their very fast rapping.

As the raging “Paloma Negra” concluded, drummer Miguel Jimenez-Cruz instantly slid into a sly tresillo groove that marked the introduction to “Boca Llena,”

Later, “Bruja de Brujas” introduced all kinds of cool sounds in the bass (Zack Teran) and the percussion.  It was funky and fun.  The song ended with a

a wash of echoing cymbals and guitars that finally coalesced into the arrival of “Cuatro Crazy,”

This was the first (and only) song sung in English.  It was quiet with the two singers singing in a gentle falsetto over washes of guitar.

A blend of phasers, distortion and delay lines infused the band’s guitar and vocal sounds with an electric energy, and helped Mendiolea’s synth provide a brooding ambient backdrop for the spoken-word “Santa Sal.”  This was spoken in English, but it had some echoing and it was a little hard to follow.

It was during the introduction to “Una Letra” that Mendoza started to get angry with the crowd.

As she introduced the ballad “Una Letra,” Mendoza explained to the crowd, “It’s about domestic violence. It’s about my mom writing a letter to me, wishing […] for me to have the good things that she couldn’t have. And if those don’t want to hear this story, and you’re here to listen, then I don’t know what you’re doing here.”  Mendoza and her bandmates gently repeated, “No se sabe. No se sabe, se comprende.” — “You don’t know. You don’t know and you don’t understand.”

Again, she has every right to be annoyed that she’s telling these personal stories and people are apparently ignoring her.  But again, it’s hard to “hear the story” if you don’t understand the language.

This is when she launched into her “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?”  tirade.  But It felt a little better when she sent her anger to someone who should know better.

“I’m very disappointed in Morrissey,” she went on to refer to a 2018 interview that Fiona Dodwell conducted with the former Smiths frontman, for which he has received intense backlash. In the interview, Morrissey aligned himself with a UK political movement known as For Britain and dismissed the many critics who have deemed the movement extremist and racist.  Morrissey performed at NonCOMM just a few hours before Y La Bamba on Tuesday night, before a crowd that presumably included some of the same listeners who attended the Y La Bamba set.  “I’ve been a huge fan of Morrissey and I just heard him talk,” Mendoza continued, “He thinks that ‘racism’ is just a childish word that we use against one another. He’s a white man with so much privilege! I am so disappointed!”

I had wondered if anyone would allude to Morrissey’s recent politics statements and thought no one had.  But Mendoza did not hold back.

I don’t know if Morrissey had anything to do with the next song but “Soñadora” shimmied ans swayed and Mendoza’s voice soared to new heights. “Corazón, corazón,” she and her bandmates chanted.

What is particularly unsettling is that on the recording, people sound respectful, but apparently she is unhappy with the crowd.

Before a gentle solo rendition of “Entre Los Dos,” she said

“I politely ask for everyone’s silence,” she said. But as the bar and the back the room remained noisy, she continued, “Because what are we doing here? … People wanna have their drinks, but I’m really asking — just giving benefit of the doubt — just everyone’s silence. To actually listen to what’s happening….  If you saw, ‘Y La Bamba is playing,’ and you saw what record I put out, and you got to read the story — you got to hear that it’s for women.” This prompted shouts of approval from several voices in the room, but Mendoza seemed intent on getting the attention of even more of the crowd. “You know? Right? Right? Isn’t that what we’re here for? … Let’s remember that, OK? Come on, we’re not children anymore. You know what I’m saying?”

She strummed her guitar softly and continued on with the song, but stopped singing again at one point to remind the room, “I’m not gonna play my song until everyone gets the point … I’m making my point, and I’m gonna make my point everywhere I go. It’s not really about like, you know, hearing me sing, it’s about listening. Like, yeah, if I get to sing, cool. But it’s about listening … and it’s really hard. Like, nobody even knows what I’m talking about back there. No one.” She then addressed those closest to the stage. “But I see you! I see those who are in the front. I see you. I hear you, with your heart.”

Of all of the comment she made, I though this was the most powerful and could be used in any context

After Mendoza completed “Entre Los Dos”, Jimenez-Cruz began a low drum roll and Oxford’s electric guitar shuddered back to life. Before the band began their final two numbers, Mendoza looked to front row of the crowd with resolve. “You guys wanna help me sing this song?”

“When I show up here, it starts right here.  When I ask for silence I really wanna be taken seriously.  When I am out there walking out on the street, I am not going to count on it. “

That’s pretty powerful and reasonable thing to say.  But she seems so pissed when she says it that it’ hard to know how to respond to her request that everyone sing a long to a pretty melody of “dadada da da da”  “Riosueltos” is a great rocking rap-filled song.  It was my favorite of the set, with its cool bass and guitar.

The set ends with “De Lejos”an upbeat dancey number with some great wild guitar work.

Before this show I was curious about Y La Bamba, but I can tell they are not a band I need to see live–I wonder if she’ll demand the same respect at XPNFest, when people are not there just to see them.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Green Ash Tree”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, since I wrote about the other two, I figured I should include this one as well.

Of the three, I feel like I “got” this one the least.

A tree never dies
except in our neighborhood.  Green ash,
stripped in old age, all branches
cleanly lopped by saws: a torso standing

Upon being aware of this poor specimen (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TACOCAT-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Tacocat are from Seattle and they are very happy to be here.

It sounds like that was another set that would have been a lot of fun to see:

An indie-punk four-piece from Seattle [singer Emily Nokes, drummer Lelah Maupin, bassist Bree McKenna and guitarist Eric Randall] walked onto World Cafe Live’s upstairs stage glowing—literally. Covered head-to-toe in bright colors and sparkles. The band brought an unwavering burst of energy to the first night of NonCOMM, performing a handful of songs from each of their three albums.

Tacocat wasted no time getting started as they jumped right into “Hologram” from their latest album This Mess Is a Place. Lead singer Emily Nokes started dancing with a tambourine in her hand and didn’t quit until the set was complete (minus breaks between songs to sip some tea—we hope she’s feeling okay).

“Hologram” puts a slight political spin (I assume) on their poppy punk songs.  Indeed, their identity seems to be one of snark and surf-pop, but with thoughtful questions underneath

Not so long ago, I used to feel like
I was too sensitive to be alive
But maybe now it’s the opposite
Too much to say
So I don’t say anything
Is numb even a feeling?
I just wonder how anyone falls for this anymore

“Bridge to Hawaii” is about seasonal depression–wouldn’t it be nice to build a bridge from rainy Seattle to beautiful Hawaii so that you could just walk there?  While “New World” wonders what it would be like to build a new world–like in sci-fi movies.

New world, new planet
No ugly buildings in my eyes
No paperwork, no jerks, no parking tickets
No beak to feed, no nine-to-five

“The Joke of Life” is about “when when things are too hard to make fun of anymore because they’re already making fun of themselves.”   Randall chimed in, “the death of satire.”  The song contains the chorus: “The jokes is that the joke is already a joke.”  This one features backup vocals from Randall and McKenna which perfectly complement Nokes’s raspy lead vocal.

At the end of the song drummer Lelah Maupin [who was sporting a checkered onesie and a toothy smile throughout all 7 songs the band played] said, “my whole life as a drummer has been building up to playing that song.”

“Grains of Salt” changes their sound a bit with some synthy solos.  It’s more poppy than punky but doesn’t feel too far away from their sound.

Randall says that they needed t pick a single for their album and “Crystal Ball” just didn’t make the cut.  “But we love it.  We love all our children equally.”

The final song, “I Hate the Weekend” is which is dedicated to everyone who ever worked in the service industry…  like you.  Let’s all be nice.  Let’s all tip well.  Let’s not throw up in the sink.”  It’s a ripping fast song with this nice section

Homogenized and oh so bleak
Got a hall pass from your job
Just to act like a fucking slob

before the chippy clap-along chorus.

I missed Tacocat when they came around, but I hope they open for someone I see real soon.  Stream this show on the media player.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Fake News”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one, which is subtitled “An American bodyguard forsees his death.”

How’s this for an opening line

Do I love my country less  than I pledged,
since I haven’t yet brought the tent top down
on this circus?  Head clown, I and the men

code call him, in small font, or else imPOTUS–

But if some fanatic
does attempt to off him (snipe him, stab him,

body bomb him), my Navy SEAL-trained nerves
will trigger a textbook-expert tackle–

block bullets with my skull, spine, sacrum

I have often wondered if we would ever see a day when a bodyguard would turn on him–for love of country since he is wrecking our so badly.  I assume not.  I can’t imagine what would have to happen to a person’s mind to act that way.

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SOUNDTRACK: MORRISSEY-NonCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Morrissey was (to me) quite a surprise performer at NonComm.  It seems way too “exposed” for him.  When I mentioned divas not mingling with fans, it was Morrissey I had in mind.  I don’t know if he mingled anywhere at NonComm, but, speaking of divas, he does not have a live stream available.

I had the radio on when he performed and heard a bit of his set.  I was impressed with his voice.  It doesn’t sound like it used to in his heyday, but it still sounds strong.  He seems to have modified the songs to allow his somewhat deeper, gravellier voice to work well with them.

I was supposed to see Morrissey last time he came to Philly.  I even had a ticket. But better than a Morrissey show, I got a Morrissey excuse–the show was cancelled.  On the night of the show!  So I don’t feel the need to see him now.  I wonder if he’ll actually make it to his show this summer.

Since I can’t re-listen to his NonComm set, I’ll have to rely on the (lengthy) blurb that The Key has written.

Morrissey was as cynical, self-obsessed and self-assured as ever at NonCOMM on Tuesday night. “I have to warn you before I begin,” he offered slyly as he took center stage. “I have never in my life been this close to another human being. So If I don’t do something illegal, I will do something extremely… enjoyable.”

The World Cafe crowd responded with a roar, and the band burst into a rowdy rendition of “Alma Matters” from Morrissey’s 1997 album Maladjusted. His croon was grave and full-throated, and the band matched his machismo with pounding drums and several wailing guitar solos early in the set. Morrissey strutted across the stage, full of pomp and in his element; he danced with his microphone stand, clapped along to the band, and took every opportunity to denounce his critics, including in song. “So, the choice I have made may seem strange to you. But who asked you anyway? It’s my life to wreck, my own way,” began his opening number. The Manchester native dressed himself in all black, with a t-shirt proclaiming “MEAT IS MURDER” (also the name of a 1985 LP by his former band, The Smiths) and dressed his band in blood-red tees that threatened “BE KIND TO SEALS OR I’LL CULL YOU.” (These shirts are also available on Morrissey’s website.)

But for all his sarcasm, egotism and brash political inclinations, the Philadelphia crowd still hoped to show Morrissey plenty of genuine affection. Dozens of fans standing in the front row reached out to hold his hand each time he stepped downstage; one of his most ardent fans attempted to climb onstage before being shoved back down by a security officer, and another fan got so far as to step onto center stage and lock Morrissey in an embrace before security managed to pull them away from the singer.

Did this really happen?  Is there footage?  He didn’t cancel the rest of the set?

The crowd enjoyed a set spanning Morrissey’s career, including “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” from 2009’s Years of Refusal, the Pretenders cover “Back on the Chain Gang” from 2017’s Low in High School, and the Jobriath cover “Morning Starship” from his upcoming album California Son.

Recently, as Morrissey has begun making public appearances to promote California Son, journalists and fellow musicians have criticized him for his outspoken support of For Britain, a UK political party that many have deemed extremist and racist. On Monday night, Morrissey appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform “Morning Starship,” and he wore a lapel pin featuring For Britain’s trident logo. On Monday night at NonCOMM, he wore no pin and made no mention of the controversy, although he seemed bent on repelling all those who might judge him (as usual).

I was very curious if anyone would say anything about him or to him about what he;’s been saying lately, but apparently not.  Left-wing Morrissey fans (like me) are able to turn compartmentalize.

In between two songs, he gave the crowd a snarky smile and chuckled, “As I thank you now, I have many critics. I have many critics. As you know, I have many critics,” he repeated, before concluding, “They’re all idiots!” With that, he exploded into his most contemptuous number of the night, “If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me.”  “See if I care! See if I care! See if I care!” he taunted in each verse. Growling lead guitar propelled this song toward its climactic finish, which was marked by Morrissey’s send-off, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” (These lyrics do not appear in the recorded version from 2009.)

Morrissey also performed one Smiths track — “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” from Meat is Murder — before finishing with “The Bullfighter Dies” and the menacing “Jack the Ripper.” During the closer, white strobe lights struck him as his deep laugh echoed through the hall. Then, while the clanging guitars faded and the stage smoke dissolved, he smugly proclaimed, “I love you. Goodnight.” He tore his shirt in two, ripped it off and tossed it into the crowd, then departed.

Wait, he tore his shirt off?  For real?

I need more pictures to see what really happened.  And I’d like to hear “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” to see if he or Johnny Marr now sings songs from The Smiths better.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Extinction Sonnets”

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one.

And it seems quite apt for Morrissey.

This depressing series of five poems is five sonnets written to extinct species.

The Monteverde Toad (Costa Rica)

This one offers some modicum of hope:

like fallen stars How lost the scientists
wondering where you went and why. Perhaps mist

there’s still hope that one day you’ll be found
like buried treasure: patient, underground.

The Baiji Dolphin (China)

[once] esteemed as a goddess: one glimpse then gone–

this time you’re drowned for real, will not return
no matter how much incense people burn.

The Black-Faced Honeycreeper (Hawaii)

The Honeycreeper is not yet extinct but is very close. Hence

rarest bird in the world

hidden on remote Haleakala

They say that you are “unusually quiet.”
Well, lonely as you are, why would you sing?
You pretty thing, pretty thing, pretty thing.

The River Otter (Japan)

Once abundant at as reeds in the waters
where you swam and played and raised your young for years,
you’ve disappeared victim of casual slaughter
because humans must wear fur.  Profiteers…

The Pyrenean Ibex (France and Spain)

extinction’s a mystery
we’ll never understand.  But full of guilt
or full of pride, we tried to fix history
by cloning you.  No luck.

The end of this poem summarizes the whole series and summarizes humanity, too.

The things we killed
can never be restored, we know that now.
What we don’t know is who dies next, and how.

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