Archive for the ‘Universities’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-University of Calgary (September 5, 1992).

This set is also them opening for Barenaked Ladies, just following the release of Whale Music.  It comes four months after the previous show online and I love that the set is almost entirely different.

It opens with a slightly cut off “PROD.”  I can’t believe they’d open with that.  AS they pummel along, the song pauses and the band starts whispering “what are they gonna do?  I don’t know.”  Then they romp on.

Bidini says they have three records out.  The first you can’t get, the second is called Melville and this is “Record Body Count.”

They’d been playing “Soul Glue” for a long time, this one sounds full and confident.  Then they introduce “King of the Past,” as “a song about looking for Louis Reil’s grave site. You know who he is, right?  Canada’s first and foremost anarchist.”  It’s a gorgeous version.

When it’s over they announce “Timothy W. Vesely has picked up the accordion!”  (Earlier Dave said that anyone who could guess Tim’s middle name would in a free T-shirt). They play a fun if silly version of “Whats Going On.”

“Legal Age Life” is a fun folky romp.  They get very goofy at the end with everyone making funny sounds and then Clark shouting “everyone grunt like a seal.”  Bidini asks “Is Preston Manning in the audience tonight?”  Clark: “No fuckin way.”  Near the end of the song they throw in the fine line “Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr!”

Martin almost seems to sneak in “Triangles on the Wall.”  This is a more upbeat and echoey version than the other live shows have.  The end rocks out with some big drums.

As they preapre the final song, Bidini says, “We’re going to play one more song and then we are going to leave like sprites into the woods.”  He asks if anyone knows “Horses” and if they wanna “sing Holy Mackinaws with us?”  But they need more than 1–we need at least 3.  The three “imposters” are named Skippy and His Gang of Fine Pert Gentlemen.  They are told to behave until the chorus or “I’ll get Steve Page to sic ya.”

Then, back to the audience he says, “This is a song about Peter Pocklington and what a fucking asshole he is.”  [Pocklington is perhaps best known as the owner of the Oilers and as the man who traded the rights to hockey’s greatest player, Wayne Gretzky, to the Los Angeles Kings].  The fans aren’t very vocal during the shouting, but the band sounds fanasttsic.  Just a raging set.  It segues into a blistering version of “Rock Death America.”

Not saying that they upstaged BNL at all, but that would be a hard opener to follow.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Quiet Car”

This is the story of a writer who had been granted a temporary teaching job at a prestigious University.  I don’t exactly know Oates’ history with Princeton, so I don’t know if she was ever in the same position as the character of this story, but I was secretly pleased when she mentioned the Institute of Advanced Study, so that it was obvious that the prestigious University was indeed Princeton.

But the story starts many years after he has left the University.  R— is standing on a train platform.  The story begins with this excellent observation: “nowhere are we so exposed, so vulnerable, as on an elevated platform at a suburban train depot.”

While R– is standing on the platform waiting for the train to New York City he notices that someone is unmistakably looking at him.  He has been recognized before–there’s a small subset of the population who really likes his books. And, in what is a wonderful detail that tells you a lot about this man: “if the stranger is reasonably attractive, whether female or male, of some possible interest to R—, he may smile and acknowledge the recognition.”

This detail proves important because as he gets on the train he begins to think about the stranger–he believes he recognized her face. (more…)


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CV1_TNY_05_24_10.inddSOUNDTRACK: PASSION PIT-Tiny Desk Concert #248 (Ocobert 29, 2012).

passionPassion Pit surprised the heck out of me with this Tiny Desk Concert.  The album that two of these songs come from is full of loud, brash synthy anthems.  But they totally dial everything back with just two performers–a synth and a guitar.

The blurb notes that

Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks.  Angelakos clearly saw an opportunity in bare-bones arrangements of his best-known songs — his 2008 breakthrough single “Sleepyhead” and two hits from this year’s Gossamer, “Take a Walk” and “Carried Away” — that he couldn’t explore with a full band.  With only his own falsetto, an electric piano, and simple guitar lines from Passion Pit’s Ian Hultquist, Angelakos gets to direct listeners toward his words, which blossom under scrutiny.

“Talk a Walk” is a poppy happy synth song.  An almost gleeful song about taking a walk.  Well, in this version, with everything stripped away, you get to hear just what a depressing song this actually is.  And when you hear this, you’ll never be able to hear that bubbly anthem the same way again.   It’s a rich, thoughtful sketch of an immigrant family’s experiences, expectations, dreams and disappointments.

Once my mother-in-law came
Just to stay a couple nights
Then decided she would stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children, play some board game in the kitchen
And I sit and pray they never feel my strife

“Sleepyhead” is from their 2008 album—their first hit, although I didn’t know it.  The keys are quiet and simple on this while the guitar plays the main riff.  It too is quite catchy.

“Carried Away” is also from Gossamer, and it’s another big, boppy sugary single.  This understated version does the same as the first song—you can really hear the words, but the melodies and catchiness remain, just much more quietly.

Even though these version are interesting and enjoyable.  I was mostly attracted to the sound of Gossamer, so I’ll stick with the originals.

[READ: January 25, 2017] “Your New College Graduate: A Parents’ Guide”

This piece is designed as a FAQ for parents on how to deal with their college graduate, once the commencement ceremony is over and “your child will be ready to move back into your house for a period of several years.”

This helpful guide answers questions about things like feeding:

Most college graduates are vegetarians and will become cranky or upset if offered meat. They also have irregular eating habits. Most prefer to skip family meals.

Or drinking:

Most require six to eight beers per night, plus occasional “shots” throughout the week.


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bythewaySOUNDTRACK: KAYHAN KALHOR-Tiny Desk Concert #203 (March 24, 2012).

kayhanWhy not continue February’s Resistance with an Iranian performer?

Kayhan Kalhor plays the kamencheh, a four-stringed fiddle-like instrument.  The piece he plays is a 12 minute improvisation.  It is otherworldly and unlike anything I’ve heard–although the blurb makes it sound like a fairly common instrument in his native country.  I don’t have much to say about the piece, so I’ll let the blurb do most of the talking:

For Persians, the New Year comes not in the dead of winter, but right at the vernal equinox. As spring renews the earth, people celebrate this fresh beginning as Nowruz, a joyous 12-day festival to celebrate beauty and abundance. We were lucky enough to have a master musician and composer from Iran, Kayhan Kalhor, visit us in time to celebrate with his gorgeous and deeply moving music.

As one of our interns observed during Kalhor’s mic check, Kalhor’s instrument does the dancing as he kneels with his legs folded beneath him. (This performance actually marks a Tiny Desk Concert first: having a musician perform on top of Bob Boilen’s desk, covered for the occasion by a rug, as Persian tradition dictates.) As Kalhor plays, his bowed, four-stringed kamencheh, a spiked fiddle, spins this way and that, swaying gracefully from side to side.

Before Kalhor played for us, I asked him what he was going to perform. He told me that it was to be an improvisation: “I don’t know yet where I’ll start, or where I’ll end up,” Kalhor said simply. That humble comment aside, Kalhor is a great master who embodies the core principles of this style of music: the ability to perform, entirely by heart, a huge amount of music composed over centuries — but then to take that tradition to new places through the art of improvisation. For us, he then proceeded to spin out a soulful, contemplative and beautifully moving improvisation in the mode of Nava.

The piece has been given the title: “Improvisation In Dastgah Nava.”

As the screen goes black, Kalhor asks: “Was this enough for you? I wanted to go on but I wasn’t sure how much time you had.”

[READ: February 1, 2017] Congratulations, By the Way

Children’s books will commence shortly. But as hatred continues to spread in Washington, one more post on kindness.

Have you ever read George Saunders’ convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013?  It is stunning and moving and profound.  And yet at heart it is so simple–be kind.

This book, much like David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, is a padded-out book version of Saunders’ speech.  (With illustrations of stars by Chelsea Cardinal).  I am generally opposed to this sort of cash grab book ($14 list price for content that is freely available), but as with Wallace’s book, the speech is so great that any way it can get into people’s hands is a good thing.

There’s not much I can say about the speech, because it is all true and beautiful and doesn’t bear me summarizing.  But I wanted to compare the wisdom of this speech with our horrifying new President and his band of hate-spreaders.  As you read this and know it to be true, wonder what in the hell happened to the people currently running our country that they have fallen so far from the common decency of this speech.

I was thinking how we are taught as children not to lie (Trump lies daily, egregiously) to study hard (Trump is unqualified and none of his cabinet picks are qualified–half of them are downright simpletons), to be kind and obey the golden rule (Trump is literally harming / hurting / damaging / ostracizing / potentially killing people every day with his executive orders).  How did a wicked liar actually win?  Why aren’t the good guys coming to take him out?  I am prepared to RESIST, but it get harder every day with every evil thing he and his minions do.  And watching our spineless elected officials (on both sides, but especially Democrats who were pushed around for eight years) cave to this dictator’s dreams is the most disheartening thing I have ever experienced.

And so, it takes someone liked George Saunders to lift you up.  To believe that somehow this will all be made right.  And to espouse try to kindness where you can.  Because it sure isn’t coming from anyone elected.

The full content of the speech is below.  Read it all, it’s worth it.  Share it with everyone.



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#20SOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-File Under: Easy Listening (1994).

fuelI  always thought File Under: Easy Listening was a very funny title.  But it’s possible that people took it too literally as it didn’t sell all that well. And in Mould’s autobiography he says he didn’t have much time to write songs for this disc and he thinks it suffered.  Of the three Sugar discs, this is definitely the weakest, although there are some great moments on it.

The disc opens with “Gift” which has some ragged distorted guitars. It’s got some noises and grungy sounding solos showing that FU:EL was a joke.  Although, the overall sound is kind of a cleaner version of the angry songs on Beaster.  “Company Book” is kind of a pounder, until the voice comes in and you realize…it’s not Mould!  It’s got a catchy chorus, but after the kind of underwhelming opener, it’s a strange place for a song that’s also not so dynamic.  Especially when it’s followed by “Your Favorite Thing” another great pop song from Mould—not top tier but a really strong second tier (although that bright, simple guitar solo is a real winner).  “What You Want It To Be” is a another decent song (the addition of that extra guitar playing the melody line really makes the song shine.  “Gee Angel” is also a high point.  A catchy song, but which never quite reaches the heights of the previous albums.

“Panama City Hotel” has the same feel as the opening of Beaster: bright acoustic guitars and a similar riff.  But it never really goes anywhere, and the 4 minutes seem.  The “do do do do’s” that open “Can’t Help You Anymore” are certainly the brightest spot on the album, and a big pop song as well.  “Granny Cool” has a nicely abrasive riff although it seems kind of mean spirited.  It’s funny that he tucked “Believe What You’re Saying” at the end of the album.  It’s a minor song but it sounds so bright on this album after the other songs. It’s really quite pretty.

And the closer, “Explode and Make Up” is one of Mould’s great angry songs.  Unlike Beaster, this one has a happy acoustic field—bnright guitars with that raging distorted guitar underneath.  It’s a great slow burner of a song and at five minutes it ends a somewhat lackluster album in a great way.

[READ: March 31, 2013] McSweeney’s #20

McSweeney’s #20 is an issue that I have read before.  At least I think I have.  My recollection is that it was the last one I read before I started writing about them on this blog.  I was hesitant to read it soon again, which is why I waited until now.  And while I remember the issue itself (with all of the art), I didn’t remember the stories.  So who knows if I actually read it six years ago.

Anyhow, this issue comes jam-packed with art.  Every fourth page has full-color artwork on it–many of them are quite famous.  It makes for a very beautiful book.

In between these artworks are a number of stories–ranging in size from 2 pages to 30-some pages.  There are no letters, and the explanatory and copyright information is on the cover of the book–which would be fine, except that it is covered up by a kind of 3-D artwork.  I wonder if the whole text is available anywhere?

The book also comes with a separate pamphlet–an excerpt from Chris Adrian’s Children’s Hospital.  I intend to read the novel eventually so I didn’t read the excerpt–although maybe if I put off the novel for six years I should just read the excerpt now. (more…)


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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACK:  PETER BJORN AND JOHN-Live at KEXP May 10, 2011 (2011).

pbjkexpPeter Bjorn and John play KEXP every couple of years.  This set is promoting their most recent album Gimme Some.  I haven’t heard much of Gimme Some.  I found the last album to be kind of dark, but this one seems to have upped the poppy quotient a bit.  I was surprised when they opened the set with “Second Chance” which is the theme from 2 Broke Girls (and is the best thing about the show, I hope they get a ton of cash from that!).  If you ‘ve seen the show, you may be surprised that there are lyrics, but there are, and it works as a full length song, too.

“Dig a Little Deeper” has a kind of reggae feel and an amusingly long drum opening because “Peter dropped his guitar”.  It’s a poppy catchy singalong with lots.  “May Seem Macabre” is a funny title for a song that is as poppy and danceable as this one.  “Eyes” continues that upbeat poppy flavor.   This is a very fun set and I’m going to have to check out the album as well.  Peter Bjorn and John have proven to be a consistently great band where every album sounds different. You can listen to this show here.

[READ: December 5, 2012] “Nighthawk”

Tony Earley’s essay in the food issue differs from the others because it is not about a specific food, but about cooking.  Or, lack of cooking.  It’s a pretty funny essay about a boy of a certain age and time who was, if not spoiled exactly, simply waited on–by his mother and his grandmother.

His mother would make on demand fried bologna and onion sandwiches (wow, that sounds gross but I’ll bet it’s pretty good), and his grandmother would have waiting for him anything he desired when they visited.  Even when he went to college, he lived close by so he just went home for meals.

It wasn’t until he moved to Tuscaloosa that he realized he had no idea what to do in the kitchen (the description of the muffin tin and his inability to even conceive of its use is very funny).  And then, like other students, he subsisted on frozen meals and whatever else he could whip together with his meager skills.  His point though, is that eating alone is okay, but it really takes a toll on the taste of food–no matter how much cheap wine you drink with it to appear sophisticated.   (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK:  JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD-Tiny Desk Concert #165 (October 8, 2011).

This was my first exposure to JEFF the Brotherhood, a rollicking duo who blast out the walls of the NPR studios.  The guitarist and drummer play simple, power punk (quite well) and they sound like a whole band, not just two guys.

“Diamond Way” reminds me of the Meat Puppets–echoey lazy-sounding punk.  ANd the oh oh oh oh oh is very catchy.  And then, after describing an NPR host as sounding like Ira Glass–if he were an old woman (and then apologizing if he offended anyone), they play “Bummer”–shirtless—presumably a first for the NPR offices.

“Bummer” is a mellower song and their sound doesn’t sound less full for the mellowess–especially when he kicks on the distortion pedal.  “Bone Jam” is one of my favorites–more ooh’s and the simple but wonderful lyrics “Gonna grind your bones to make my bread.”  It’ s amazing that two guys can sound this good.

[READ: August 17, 2010] “The Ruin of Amalfitano”

Natasha Wimmer has translated yet another posthumous work from Roberto Bolaño, this one called Woes of the True Policeman, due out this month.

This may already exist, but I hope someone is compiling a family tree of all of the Bolaño characters who have appeared in different locations.  For instance, the Amalfitano in this story appeared in 2666, indeed he has a whole chapter about himself.  And we know it’s the same Amalfitano because they both have a daughter named Rosa.  This story is set before 2666 and these fascinating events would shed some light on the state of Amalfitano when we do meet him in the novel.  Of course, Bolaño’s writings don’t seem to follow a conventional strategy so who knows if he intended any of this to be part of the “missing” Part 6 of 2666.

Anyhow, this story is about Amalfitano, but it opens with Padilla who decided to become an artist at the age of 13.  After dabbling in theater and film, he settled on poetry.  By 17, he was a sarcastic angry kid who could be easily provoked to violence (he claims that when fighting Nazis, anything is permitted).

At 18, he published his first book of poetry and when he was 21 he showed the poems to Amalfitano.  Amalfitano was a teacher of Latin America writers at the University.  He liked Padilla’s poetry, although he didn’t much like Padilla who didn’t come to class very much.  But once Amalfitano gave him praise for the poems, Padilla never missed another class. He even invited Amalfitanoto his house for parties.  After many such parties, the two became lovers.

Once the University learned of this, Amalfitano was fired.  (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: DEERHOOF-Live at CMJ Gibson Showroom (2008).

I don’t know much about Deerhoof (I certainly didn’t know they’d been around over a decade).  I heard them on Pitchfork TV (they had two videos on it about two years ago which I rather liked).  This set was recorded live at CMJ by KEXP.

The DJ is very familiar with the band, and the repertoire is casual and funny (although the Gibson joke falls flat).  They play four songs and each one is virtually an instrumental.  The voice is mixed so low on “Blue Cash,” I didn’t even realize she was singing until the third time I listened, so I don’t know which songs have words.  “Tears of Music and Love” is a bit wilder (with some great crazy drumming in the middle).  “Fresh Born” has a bit more of a sinister edge what with the intense riff and the scratchy feedbacky bridge.  It’s my favorite song of the set.  “Basketball Get Your Groove Back” sounds a bit like “Roadrunner” so it’s less than thrilling end to the set.

I expected the band to be a lot weirder than this, I admit, but it’s still a good set.  You can listen here.

[READ: September 20, 2012] How to Be Black

Karen at A Just Recompense posted about this book a little while ago and after just a few lines, I had to stop reading her post so I could get the book.  I had no idea who Thurston was before I read the book, but it sounded so good.  And it was.  Although it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

This book is a combination autobiography of Thurston and “how to” book.  Thurston went to a Quaker School and a black militant program at the same time and also went to Harvard before becoming a stand up comedian; he’s co-creator of Jack & Jill Politics and director of digital at The Onion (that’s some serious cred for a geek like me).  As I said, in addition to being his autobiography, this is also something of a how-to manual for being black.  It’s funny, but not cheesy-over-the-top funny (stereotypes are played with but also deconstructed), it’s “serious” funny, and it’s very enjoyable.  And it covers topics that one might not expect, like talking about the Nigerians he has met who are offended at his name.  Baratunde is a twist on a Nigerian name, although his family is not Nigerian, his mother wanted him to have a traditional African name.  And he is quite annoyed at the Nigerians who assume he doesn’t know what his named means.  He does (and the example he gives is very funny). (more…)


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