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Archive for the ‘WXPN 88.5 FM–Philadelphia, PA’ Category

[ATTENDED: February 7, 2020] Garcia Peoples

I saw Garcia Peoples on New Year’s Eve eve at a Phish after party.  The show was great with them playing their new 30 minute song “One Step Behind” as well as a few others.  For that show, their original bassist Derek Spaldo was in town (after this Philly show I talked to Tom Malach and he told me that Spaldo lives in Chicago and tours with them when he can–sometimes they are a six-piece band).  That show was great.  It was the second time I’d seen them playing a short set and I really wanted to catch them as a headliner. So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle (even if I’d only seen them a month ago I wanted to check them out again).

When I arrived the place was pretty empty, but by the time Garcia Peoples went on, it had filled in nicely.  I was intrigued by the diversity of ages in the crowd–a lot of old Dead-heads and a few younger frat boy types as well as a lot of (drunk?) women.  I am also pretty certain that Chris Forsyth was in the audience.

The crowd was responsive and really appreciative whenever the guys played some impressive soloing (which was often).

I was intrigued to see that Spaldo was not with them this time but bassist Andy Cush was.  Cush played with them when I first saw them.  This means that there are two guys who know the bass parts to their songs. Pretty cool. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: J.S. ONDARA-Tiny Desk Concert #936 (January 24, 2020).

WXPN has been playing J.S. Ondara quite a lot since his album came out.  And while the DJs would often give some details about his life story, he gives a bit more here.

J.S. Ondara’s journey to the Tiny Desk is a fascinating one. From his home in Nairobi, he listened on his sister’s radio to American artists, including Nirvana, Jeff Buckley, Death Cab For Cutie and, most importantly, Bob Dylan. He wanted to be a folk singer, so he moved to Minnesota, Dylan’s home state.

In between songs he narrates his life in a wonderfully comically understated style.

Ondara told us his story. “I remember, at one point, someone told me about this contest that you guys do called ‘the Tiny Desk Contest.’ And I was, at the time, desperately trying to be a folk singer. And I’m not quite. I’m not a big fan of contests, but I like NPR. So I figured I’d give it a shot. And I’d just written that song, ‘Lebanon.’ So I made a video of me playing that song, and I submitted it. And I suppose that things didn’t go quite in my favor. So I figured I’d find a bit of a roundabout way to get here, which involved making a record and touring it relentlessly and stalking Bob [Boilen] all around South by Southwest. (I actually didn’t do that part.) I was thinking about it. And now I’m here. The journey would have been a lot shorter had I just won the bloody contest. It’s on me, not you, I suppose, I should have written a better song.  But in the very wise words of Miley Cyrus, ‘it’s not about how fast you get there, it’s about the climb.’  I can’t stop quoting that song, it’s one of those words even when I don’t want to.”

“Lebanon” is a slow ballad with Ondara’s unique singing style (S. and I genuinely didn’t know if Ondara was a man or a woman upon hearing his song “Saying Goodbye” because his voice is so multivaried.  I really like the passion of the lyrics and how it is countered with the slowness of the music.

In the water, fire
I’ll go wherever you go
In the valley, in the canyon
I’ll go wherever you go
Hey, love, I’m ready now
Can’t you see this riot
Inside of my veins
Hey love, I’m overcome
By desire
How must I wait?
Up next is “Days of Insanity” with this fascinating lyric

There is a bear at the airport, waiting on a plane
There is a cow at the funeral, bidding farewell
There is a goat at the terminal, boarding the C-train
There is a horse at the hospital, dancing with the hare
Somebody call the doctor, from the university
Somebody call upon the witch and the wizardry
Somebody call the rabbi, the pastor and the sheikh
Coz we are coming on the days of insanity
The days of insanity.

In talking about this song he says it is such a rich time to be a folk singer in America.  He wrote the song while making the record.  He was watching videos of kittens and puppies as he does every night before bed and the video suggested watching Stephen Colbert with John Mulaney.  Mulaney took a trip to Japan and described things in America as being like seeing a horse loose in a hospital.  It’s like something no one’s ever seen before.  Ondara encourages us to watch the clip and he is right–it is hilarious!

“Saying Goodbye” is the song that’s been getting the airplay.  It’s passionate and powerful and when he sings in the higher register it really is otherworldly.

This live version is quite a revelation.  His delivery is different–much more slow and deliberate.  But he can still hit that glorious high notes..

Amazingly, Tales of America was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Americana Album (not bad for a guy from Kenya).  Sadly it didn’t win.

[READ: June 2, 2018] Cleopatra in Space Book Five

It took Maihack seventeen months to make this book!  He says that sixteen of those months were spent growing the bear on his author picture.

This story is action-packed with some fascinating twists and turns.  Consequently, seventeen months is a long time to go between books.  Fortunately, Maihack’s quality of illustration and storytelling has maintained its high standards.

The book opens with a flashback to the moment when Cleo first disappeared from Gozi while they were having target practice (back in book 1).

The actual story has followed Cleo on her adventures.  But now we see what happened to Gozi.  He was attacked by … someone … and imprisoned.  Gozi believes that whatever happened to Cleo–it was her choice not to return and help him.

I have to admit I was more than a little confused as to just what happened next, [Gozi explains things later on].  IN the montage of events, there’s a spaceship and lots of cats (I suspect that if I had read the other books more recently this would be more clear).  In whatever happened, Gozi is badly burned and the pain never goes away.  He was wrapped in bandages but that didn’t really help at all.  Then we see exactly what happened to make Gozi tun into Octavian and to agree to use the Lion’s plasma to carry out the ruin of the galaxy. (more…)

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[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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SOUNDTRACK: THE HOOTERS-“All You Zombies” (1985).

WXPN played this song on the day after Halloween and the DJ said she couldn’t believe they hadn’t played it as part of their Halloween show.

It made me laugh about what people consider a Halloween song (and I know I need to let up on this).  Like so many other songs, the simple fact that there’s a monster reference in the title does not make the song a Halloween song.

Indeed, this song is about as far from a Halloween song as you can get.

The song itself is catchy as anything.  A great guitar riff and some tension-building synths support these rather dramatic lyrics:

Holy Moses met the Pharaoh
Yeah, he tried to set him straight
Looked him in the eye,
“Let my people go!”
Holy Moses on the mountain
High above the golden calf
Went to get the Ten Commandments
Yeah, he’s just gonna break ’em in half!
Interestingly, there’s no real chorus to the song.  The “All you zombies” part follows the same musical and vocal pattern.  The third verse is, like the first, Biblical.
No one ever spoke to Noah,
They all laughed at him instead
Workin’ on his ark,
Workin’ all by himself
Only Noah saw it comin’,
Forty days and forty nights,
Took his sons and daughters with him,
Yeah, they were the Israelites!

The Hooters guys say there was no explicit message to the song.  A 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune, co-writer Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) said

We really weren’t thinking at all when we wrote it. We were working on something else, and, true to the spirit of the song, it just came to us, like a vision. We were sitting there working on another song, and all of a sudden we started singing, ‘All you mmm-hhhmm-mmm.’ Then I heard something about Moses in my head, and I started singing, ‘Holy Moses.’

We just chased it down. We stopped what we were doing to go after this thing, and an hour later, the song was written, start to finish. We’re still trying to really understand the song. People ask us what it’s about, and while there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, the weird thing is we didn’t consciously put it there. Who knows? Maybe in some bizarre way it came from somewhere else through us.

Interestingly, it got banned on several stations and there were some Christian stations that refused to play it.

So, not Halloween-related at all, but super catchy and lyrically unexpected.

Also interesting is that Hyman and Bazilian went on to work with Joan Osborne on her album Relish, with Eric writing “One Of Us” another religiously themed song.

[READ: September 2, 2019] Dead Weight

I haven’t read a graphic novel by Oni Press in a while.  They were once my go-to comic book publisher.

Then they stopped doing single issues and started publishing only graphic novels.  Nothing wrong with that but I had been collecting single issues back then, not books, so they fell off my radar.  I have to get them back on my radar because I really do enjoy their books.

I didn’t know what this was about, but the title and cover art appealed to me, so I grabbed it.

This story is set at a fat camp–Camp Bloom.  We meet many of the kids who are there for the summer as well as the counselors who are there to help them get through the summer. (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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CHERRY GLAZERR-NonComm 2019 (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: 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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