Friday, September 30, 2005

Les Breastfeeders

Sometimes it takes someone in Indiana to remind you of a gold mine in your own backyard. penne all'arrabbiata has a post up today about a few bands that sing in french and one of those bands is Les Breastfeeders from Montreal.

JD of penne all'arrabbiata had turned me onto these ne'er-do-wells earlier this summer before I started this blog. They would have been a good choice for a post over the last few months since they hail from our nearest major city and rawk! But I blew it and am now playing catch up.

Their sound is best described as garage rock or as the Québécois would say "rock garage". However, it's a bit more polished, arsty and poppy than a couple of knuckleheads banging out the tunes in their parent's basement. Their name is stupid but we'll let it slide since they bring that 60's garage sound so well.

There are two songs available on penne all'arrabbiata and a third song is available on their site. There is also a video for "Mini-jupe et watusi" ("Miniskirt and Watusi") on thier site. The best part of the video is the very end when their tambourinists flashes a little martial arts tambourine action at you.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Montpelier WebCam

Montpelier has a new blog called Terrapin Gardens (transplanted from DC) and they have a gift for all of us.....a webcam. So, now we can check out the view from somewhere above Brooks Pharmacy (or there abouts) looking across Main St to the fire station.

Directly across the street from that fire station is the guerilla garden (not visible in the picture) that I posted about a few weeks ago. That's how close the fire station was when the building on that lot burned down. (I've heard all of the fire chief's explanations but it still amazes me.)

By the way, on a music note, Rick and Sarah have a music recording company currently called Capital City Studios; although, according to their blog, they are thinking of re-naming it since moving from DC.

Welcome to Montpeculiar!

Vermont Music Update

It's been a while since I did an update on the top albums people are buying and what Vermonters are listening to over the last week. So, courtesy of Seven Days, here are the top albums sold at local indie shops:

Buch Spieler - Montpelier

  1. Various Artists -- Remembering Rachel: Songs of Rachel Bissex
  2. Nickel Creek -- Why Should the Fire Die?
  3. Patti Casey -- The Edge of Grace
  4. Ray LaMontagne -- Trouble
  5. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals -- Nothing But the Water
  6. White Stripes -- Get Behind Me Satan
  7. Jack Johnson -- In Between Dreams
  8. Willie Nelson -- Countryman
  9. Ween -- Shinola Vol. 1
  10. Van Morrison -- Magic Time
Pure Pop - Burlington

  1. Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon -- 66 Steps
  2. Ween -- Shinola Vol. 1
  3. New Pornographers -- Twin Cinema
  4. Killers -- Hot Fuss Ltd.
  5. Jack Johnson -- In Between Dreams
  6. Various Artists -- This Is Americana II
  7. Steve Kimock -- Eddemonic
  8. Slug & Murs -- Felt II: Tribute to Lisa Bonet
  9. M.I.A. -- Arular
  10. Willie Nelson -- Countryman
Exile on Main Street - Barre

  1. Delbert McClinton -- Cost of Living
  2. Neal McCoy -- That's Life
  3. Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon -- 66 Steps
  4. Guns N' Roses -- Appetite for Destruction
  5. Trick Pony -- R.I.D.E.
  6. Dane Cook -- Retaliation
  7. Foo Fighters -- In Your Honor
  8. Staind -- Chapter V
  9. Nickel Creek -- Why Should the Fire Die?
  10. Ween -- Shinola Vol. 1
Vermont Book Shop - Middlebury

  1. Mike & the Ravens -- Nevermore
  2. Staind -- Chapter V
  3. Green Day -- American Idiot
  4. Audioslave -- Out of Exile
  5. Tom 24 & Dan Wills -- Dear Lucy
  6. Tides -- Resurface
  7. White Stripes -- Get Behind Me Satan
  8. Ween -- Shinola
  9. Missy Elliot -- Cookbook
  10. Pink Floyd -- The Wall
Ween's Shinola Vol. 1 is the only album to appear on each list. Pretty impressive. When I had looked at these stores a month or so ago, there wasn't any single album that made all four lists. Therefore, it isn't surprising that Ween's show at Higher Ground on Sunday night is sold out.

The White Stripes, Willie Nelson, Staind, Nickel Creek, Jack Johnson and Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon are the only artists to appear on two of the lists.

Did I miss something? How did GnR make the #4 slot at Exile on Main St? Barre just marches to a slightly different drummer.

As for the top artists that members of the Vermont group on Last.FM are listening to, here is that list:

1 Death Cab for Cutie
2 The Beatles
3 Pixies
4 Belle and Sebastian
5 Kanye West
6 The Decemberists
7 Explosions in the Sky
8 Iron & Wine
9 Broken Social Scene
10 The Clash

To demonstrate the disconnect between the 26 members of this group and the record sales charts above, Ween doesn't even appear on the Top Artists list (300 artists).

It's interesting to see Explosions in the Sky show up in the top ten. I wasn't familiar with them until earlier this week when a friend recommended them to me. This is now more evidence that I need to check them out. And as always, The Beatles remain in the top ten.

Here is the link to my page. It isn't entirely accurate because it doesn't capture everything that was listened to on my iPod but, in general, it's a good barometer of what I'm listening to these days.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

First Review

My first music review for Seven Days hit the streets today. It's for an album called Meat and Electricity by a local band called Dirtminers.

Reading the review now, I don't think it accurately describes how I feel about the album. It's not a good album and I don't think that comes across very well in my review. When I read the article it sounds like I enjoyed it but felt there were a few flaws. However, the songs were so bland that I deleted the songs off my iPod shortly after finishing the review.

But it was my first one out of the blocks and a good chance to learn. I'll try to do a better job of expressing my points in the future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Split Lip Rayfield

Hey look! Clint Mathis has a band!

OK, it isn't Clint Mathis circa banging one in versus Korea...but it sure does look like him.

Split Lip Rayfield is a bluegrass band out of Wichita that I would put in the boat with Old Crow Medicine Show. Bluegrass with a bit of a sneering punk attitude. They just played the Austin City Limits music festival to good reviews and are going on a nationwide tour. However, the closest they are coming to New England is Troy, NY. Too bad, it would have been interesting to hear what a bass made out of an old gas tank sounds like live.

When I started this post, I was planning on using some links from thier website to share a few mp3 files. However, I just realized that the links are now dead. So, in place of that, you can go to their MySpace page and stream a few tunes. I'd recommend the song "Hundred Dollar Bill".

Laura Being Dumb

Michael Martine has a funny post up about a video of a bad dance practice. Martine's comments are spot-on so I won't try to add anything.

Monday, September 26, 2005

False 45th Design

There was another part of last Saturday that made it a great day. However, I purposely didn't mention it before because it deserved its own post.

At the farmer's market on Saturday, Bo of Eat More Kale shirts had a surprise for me. He said he had been reading this blog and it inspired him to design a shirt for me. That's the shirt in the photo.

I love it. Simple and accurate. Plus, it's a great feeling to have someone do something so nice for you; not to mention being the inspiration for something artistic. Bo, you're a great guy and thank you very much.

Bo also said if anyone wants that design, he'll lay the stencil the other way so the music notes are going the correct way. He said it was just an accident on this shirt. However, there is something about the notes going the other way that I like.

The Pernice Brothers - Higher Ground - 9/24/05

After a fun morning and afternoon, my wife and I headed out to see The Pernice Brothers at Higher Ground in South Burlington. Before the show, we tried out Toscano in Richmond for dinner. Nice place. Comfortable atmosphere and the food was interesting and delicious. It's amazing how Richmond has three great restaurants for a town of 4,000 people. I guess it helps to have an exit from I-89.

We then headed over to South Burlington for the show. I had never seen The Pernice Brothers before and was fairly excited to see them. Back in the mid-90's, I discovered Joe pernice's former band, The Scud Mountain Boys, via the Pavement mailing list. A bunch of the jam kids were raving about them so I gave them a try and fell in love with Massachusetts. That led to Chappaquiddick Skyline and Overcome by Happiness. All great albums. The new album hasn't done it for me but there are a few songs I like.

We arrived at Higher Ground in time to meet up with jds of Latitude 44.2N and see the opening band, Tim Fite. However, as we pulled into the parking lot, we immediately knew something was wrong. There weren't any cars in the parking lot. Heck, we parked in the exact same spot in front of the club that my wife had parked in on Thursday afternoon when she stopped by to buy the tickets. Normally, I'm parking in one of the side or rear lots. My first thought was that we had the date wrong but I checked the tickets and we were there on the right night. Unfortunately, nobody else was.

We walked in and there were less than a dozen people in the place including the bartender and the guys selling merchandise. Oh, sweet Jesus, why does this keep happening? Two empty akward shows in two weeks. Are my tastes that out of line with the rest of New England? Was something else going on that night that I was missing? Are The Pernice Brothers that unpopular? Have I allowed my love for their songs to blind me to their obscurity? What the fuck?

After running those questions through my head, I took the optimistic approach and figured that more people would arrive after Tim Fite finishes. The other weird thing was the age of the few people that were there. At 37, I'm usually one of the older folks in the room. However, last night, I brought the average age waaaaaaay down. Do The Pernice Brothers have some promo deal with AARP that I haven't heard about? Seriously, the majority of the crowd seemed to be in their late 40's or early 50's and I didn't see a single UVM student there. If I hadn't seen Joe Pernice walk by I would have checked my ticket again.

Tim Fite came out and immediately tried to bring the few people there up close to the stage. I've seen bands do this before and it always seems akward to see a band begging and cajoling the crowd to move within their comfort zone. Regardless, it worked and most of the people moved up. While I wasn't enthralled with Tim Fite's music (one song was fairly catchy but the rest was bland), the performance was memorable. The band is actually Tim Fite, another guy singing back-up & working the A/V equipment and a video projection of Tim Fite playing another instrument & singing back-up. Fite never looked back at the video of himself but everything was perfectly coreographed. The video of Fite always came in right on cue. It certainly was interesting to watch. Musically, it was half folk-rock and half carnival barker/southern preacher.

Well, Fite finished and time passed but nobody else really showed up. As you can see from the photo, by the time The Pernice Brothers took the stage, it was embarrassingly empty. If you are a fan of Joe Pernice, it has to hurt a little to see that picture. However, the sparse crowd didn't seem to bother Joe Pernice. He even admitted to being under the weather all day. So, I give the guy a lot of credit. He probably knew how bad the advance sales had been and was feeling like crap but he still showed up and played a very professional show.

The band sounded good and they played a nice mix of tunes from their various albums. The new song, "Status Quo", from Discover a Lovlier You has been stuck in my head all day since the show and hearing "Monkey Suit" from Overcome by Happiness made me happy. They played for about an hour and then left without an encore which was completely understandable. The small crowd detracted from the show but my wife and I had a nice night out without the kids which is always enjoyable regardelss of what you are doing. It was good finish to a nice day.

After seeing the tiny crowd The Pernice Brothers drew, I'm curious to see what kind of a crowd shows up for Lou Barlow on Friday, Oct. 7th. Both shows are on weekend nights and feature indie artists that were more popular in the 90's than they are today. I'm guessing that Lou Barlow will have a larger crowd but I'm not making any guesses after these last few experiences.

Great Day

Saturday was a great day here. The weather was perfect...low 70's...tons of David Berman sings, "It's sunny and 75. It feels so good to be alive." So, after the farmer's market and my daughter's nap, we headed out to Brookfield for some apple picking at Liberty Orchard and playtime around the floating bridge.

The apple trees were packed although from the dozen or so I've eaten so far, I think they could probably use another week on the tree. They're crunchy and crisp but a bit too tart. Another week may sweeten them up a bit. Regardless, we had a blast and the scenery was beautiful. The foliage hasn't turned at all yet which is unusual but the views were still enjoyable.

The floating bridge in Brookfield is an oddity and a fun place to hang out. The bridge spans a large pond and isn't anchored to anything underwater. It's connected to the two sides of the pond and just floats. The part of the bridge where the cars drive sits about six inches underwater but then sinks another inch or two as a car passes over it. It's not something to cross in your fancy tricked-up lowrider but most car are able to pass without a problem. On some cars you can hear the sound of sizzling water as the underbody of the car touches the water. My father-in-law refuses to drive over it in his Camry but he just needs to show more faith in our forefathers' engineering skills.

The original floating bridge in this spot was built in 1820 and has been replaced six times since then. This version of the bridge was built in 1978. There are always people hanging out and fishing on the bridge. Plus, my kids get a kick out of watching the water rise up around the tires of the cars and then jumping out of the way of the splashes. And that's not even to mention the scenery which is some of the best in pictaresque central VT.

Overall, it was a great day.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Shadow Percussion Project

Brian Udelhofen is a music teacher at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota. Despite the picture of him to the left, he seems to be a pretty cool and creative fellow. Earlier this year, he adapted a pair of songs of of DJ Shadow's breakthrough album, Endtroducing, for the school's percussion ensemble and named it The Shadow Percussion Project. The two songs are "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" and "Changeling".

Well, as you can see from the video, the kids did a great job with it. It isn't as subtle as the original version but it great to see it performed live. I remember once seeing the Randolph High School band cover Outkast's "Hey Ya" and it was so bad, it was embarrassing. This performance falls on the other end of the spectrum.

Thanks to spinichdip nyc for the tip on this video.

Kasey Keller Named Player of the Week in Germany

US goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, held his amazing recent form this past week as he was named player of the week in Germany's Bundesliga. The guy has been blistering all through World Cup qualifying for the US and is the main reason that his injury-riddled German club, Mönchengladbach, is able to remain in the middle of the table.

Hopefully, this form will hold for at least the next ten months. If the US is going to get out of the first round of next year's World Cup, Keller is going to play a large role in that success.

This is also good chance to share a link to Barcelona's song about the balding netminder. It isn't the best song but it's fairly entertaining and we can't be too picky. How many songs are there about US soccer players?

Barcelona - Kasey Keller

Friday, September 23, 2005

New American Analog Set

My copy of the new American Analog Set album, Set Free, is still on order so I can't comment on the whole album but the early reviews are not very kind.

Pitchfork said:

Set Free is ultimately just another American Analog Set album-- and probably the least essential at that.

All Music said:

American Analog Set have been accused of writing the same song over and over - and over - again, and Set Free isn't immune to that.

PopMatters said:

The American Analog Set have discovered what they do well: brief, general lyrics that vaguely allude to people and stuff (junk like that) backed by whispered vocals and simple instrumentation. The vagueness, however, is distracting at times, and the gentle pace often leads to tedium.

Wow. The rest of the album must really suck because the three tracks I've heard from the bands' site and other blogs have been good tracks. I understand the point about the fact that these tracks sound similar to their last two albums but why does a band have to constantly reinvent its sound? I guess it depends on whether you were tired of that sound yet or not. I'm fairly new to AmAnSet but I'm not satiated yet.

American Analog Set - Immaculate Heart II
American Analog Set - Cool Kids Keep
American Analog Set - Born on the Cusp

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Soccer Blogs

Grant Wahl, the soccer writer for Sports Illustrated, has put together a nice list of soccer blogs. There are a lot of good sites to bookmark on his list. My two favorites on his list are du Nord and We Call It Soccer. Both of those blogs carry themsleves with a bit of a swagger that is generally missing among US soccer fans.

Speaking of soccer, the U-17 World Cup is currently being played down in Peru. The US team has won their first two matches over North Korea and Italy and sits on top of its group. Their next match is against Ivory Coast tomorrow. The match will be shown live at 4:30pm on Fox Soccer Channel.

If the US wins or ties, it will win its group and play the second-place team from Group D in the quarterfinals. If the results of Group D go to form, this means the US would play Brazil which is always a tough match. However, Gambia beat Brazil 3-1 earlier in the tournament so they aren't invinceable and the US squad looked great in its match against Italy. That match would be played on Tuesday.

Orange Juice's The Glasgow School

Penne All'arrabbiata has a good post on Orange Juice's The Glasgow School. I don't have anything to add to his post but wanted to direct your attention to it.

Apple Picking Season

It's that time of the year again. One of the last signs of summer around here is apple picking season. It means heading out to a local orchard, paying a tiny fee and then picking more apples than any family could possibly consume.

Our favorite orchard is Liberty Orchard in Brookfield. They keep the trees small and low to the ground which makes it easy for our kids to pick the apples. The orchard sits on the side of a mountain which yields nice views across the valley. Plus, the orchard is close to the floating bridge in Brookfield which is always a fun place for the kids to play after apple-picking.

Foliage season is running late this year since we haven't even had our first frost yet. We usually wait until peak foliage before heading out to Liberty Orchard but there are a few good reasons to go this weekend instead of waiting. 1) The apples are ready. 2) The weather on saturday looks good. 3) The following weekend is the Bi-centential Celebration of Montpelier being the state capital (parade, "Taste of Vermont" on the state house lawn, etc.).

A full listing of all of the orchards and cider mills in Vermont can be found here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Clap Your Hands Signs Distribution Deal with Warner

According to this article from Billboard, "unsigned internet success story" Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have signed a distribution deal with Warner Music Group. CYHSY is remaining independent of any record label but will use Warner to distribute their records to stores nationwide. This is only the second time Warner has ever contracted directly with a band (the other band was jam band O.A.R.).

This is pretty heady stuff for the quintet from Brooklyn. In mid-June, amid a burning internet buzz, they started selling their debut record on their website (and a handfull of stores and Since then, the buzz has grown and grown to the point where they have now sold 25,000 copies of the album. All without the help of any record label marketing machine.

In the article, their manager claims they pay a little over $1 per CD to have the CD's made. So, after some postage and handling, their $12 price per CD is yielding them about $250,000 in profit (before fixed expenses and income from t-shirts and concerts) over their first three months. Not bad for some true do-it-yourselfers.

The reason I find all of this so interesting is that it stands in startling contrast to what I'm reading in Jake Slichter's book So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life. Slichter was the drummer for Semisonic back in the 90's. I was never a fan of Semisonic and the only song I know from them is their hit "Closing Time". However, I was in the airport looking for something to read and Slichter's book looked interesting. It's a very frank report of his dealings with record labels during his time with Semisonic. I'm not done with the book yet but, so far, Slichter has been very open about the financial arrangements they had with their various labels.

In the book, Slichter explains that MCA advanced them all of the money they needed to record and promote the album. Then that recoupable debt is paid back out of the band's fee per album which was only about $1 per CD (in contrast to CYHSY's $10 per CD). The problem was that MCA got to choose which song would be the single and then, without consulting with the band, how much to spend on independent record promoters to get the album airtime. Well, MCA chose "Down in Flames" despite the band's wishes for a different single. Then MCA spent $500,000 on record promoters which did nothing for the band since the single flopped and received very little airtime. So, after the recording costs and record promotions, Semisonic had to sell about 600,000 copies of their debut album before they started receiving their $1 per CD fee.

If they hadn't had the hit "Closing Time" years later, the deal wouldn't have netted them anything. Slichter compared their record deal to the ones he would sign with Columbia House Record & Tape Club as a kid. Great stuff upfront with a miserable back-end of the deal. However, as he points out in the book, he couldn't get out of this deal by having his mom write Columbia House a nasty letter.

Contrast that scenario with CYHSY's situation without a record label. It makes you wonder why someone would sign with a record label if they believed they had a very strong record. Thanks to the internet, if a band has a great album and is confident in its quality, they may be better off following CYHSY's lead rather than Semisonic's.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How Random is Your iPod?

One of my favorite features on my iPod is the shuffle. Putting the iPod on shuffle is the equivalnet of creating the finest radio station that is perfectly taiolred to your tastes.

However, I've often found myself scratching my head as multiple songs from the same album have popped up within a few tunes of each other. That album may represent less than 0.3% of all the songs on my iPod but somehow three of six songs in a sequence are from that album. It just seemed like something was wrong with the random number generator.

Well, Wired has a good article on this phenomenon this week. There seems to be two parts to the answer of the question: "Is iPod's shuffle random?"

The first part of the answer would seem to indicate that it isn't random:

One hint came from my computer science friends. They told me how hard it is for a PC, which is designed to do things in predictable ways, to generate a string of numbers that are statistically random. Try as they might to compile a list of numbers at random, computers frequently spit out digits that have discernible patterns to them.

To compensate for this shortcoming, programmers have devised code recipes called algorithms that churn out large banks of numbers that, for the most part, are completely independent of each other. Scientists refer to the algorithms as "pseudorandom number generators" because they do a good job creating unpredictable lists but can break down in some circumstances.

However, the second part of the answer is that we often has unreasonable understandings of what is random:

The problem, it turns out, isn't that the programs aren't randomizing my playlists. They are. According to Jeff Lait, a mathematician and author of randomm3u, it's what's happening between my ears, specifically, in my expectations of what it means for something to be random.

To illustrate his point, Lait referred to a phenomenon statisticians call the birthday paradox. Roughly stated, it holds that if there are 23 randomly selected people in a room, there is a better than 50-50 chance that at least two of them will have the same birthday. The point: Mathematical randomness often contradicts our intuitive expectations of randomness.

What we want, Lait says, isn't a list that's been randomized, but one that's been stratified, or separated into categories that are weighted by a listener's preferences. A stratified playlist might select songs randomly but would be smart enough to throw out choices that, say, would repeat a band within 10 songs.

Interesting. So, I guess I'm not nuts and there may be a problem with the iPod shuffle's randomness but, overall, I should just accept that sometimes random means hearing three songs from The Go! Team in a row.

Shorts & Docs

From last weekend through this Thursday, the Savoy Theater in Montpelier is running a mini film festival. It's basically three different features running at various times.

The features are:

MANHATTAN SHORT FILM FESTIVAL: Friday to Sunday, Sept 16 to 18

SHORT CUT TO NIRVANA: Monday and Tuesday, Sept 19 and 20

WINTER SOLDIER: Wednesday and Thursday, Sept 21 and 22

Since I was away last weekend, I missed the first feature and I'mm be busy tonight and tomorrow. However, I'm hoping to make it to Winter Soldier on Wednesday or Thursday. All of the discussion during the last presidential election about their anti-war efforts has peaked my interest in their story.

Additionally, there are two other promising films coming to the Savoy over the next few weeks. Next weekend, Bill Murray's Broken Flowers will open and then The Aristocrats comes to town on Oct. 7.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Best Beer Ad Ever

Courtesy Candleblog, here it is...the best beer ad ever.

Pernice Brothers Coming to Higher Ground 9/24

Next Saturday, September 24th, Joe Pernice will be bringing his misnomer of a band, Pernice Brothers, to South Burlington's Higher Ground. I think Joe's brother, Bob has played on one or two of their albums but not for awhile. The mainstays over the years have been just Joe, bassist Thom Monahan and guitarist Peyton Pinkerton.

Joe Pernice developed a bit of a cult following back in the mid-90's with his former band, The Scud Mountain Boys. Their album Massachusetts is a dark, mellow, acoustic pop gem packed with tales of drunken sorrows and easily one of my top ten albums of the 90's.

While Joe's stuff with Pernice Brothers has never risen to the same heights as Massachusetts, he's still been putting out sweet country-tinged sad pop tunes ever since. His latest album, Discover a Lovlier You, makes a few clumsy attempts to introduce electronic elements into his songs which makes the album rather lumpy. However, there are still a few trademark Joe Pernice songs to make the show worth attending. A few tunes from the album can be streamed on their site.

By the way, I also saw this amusing bit of fame for Pernice Brothers on their website. The song they wrote for the Red Sox's knucklehead outfielder Manny Ramirez got mentioned on the back of Manny's baseball card this year.

There's a few other entertaining items on their site. Joe used his home recorder to film his own episode of MTV's Cribs. Joe also filmed himself calling a company to get insurance for his band's equipment before they headed out on tour.

See ya at the show.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shark vs. Octopus

After a weekend of hanging out with some friends who would argue over which animal would win a fight between an alligator and a polar bear, I came across this amazing video.

I still don't know who would win between an alligator and a polar bear but the shark vs. octopus debate is pretty well settled.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Going to the Chapel...

I'm heading down to Beach Haven, NJ for a friend's wedding this weekend. I'll see you on Sunday night.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Brendan Benson

Brendan Benson doesn't like being called a "singer / songwriter" despite the fact that he sings, writes and plays all of the instruments on his albums. It's certainly an accurate description but I can understand why someone wouldn't want to be called a "singer / songwriter". It conjures up images of Gordon Lightfoot and if you don't sound like Gordon Lightfoot, then you don't want that label hung on you.

Benson is more of the "singer / songwriter" in the Ted Leo vein. He's folkier than Ted Leo but still works with a bigger sound than a folkie. Hell, Benson's "The Pledge" sounds like it came right out of a Phil Spector studio session.

Benson is playing Main Hall on Monday night (9/19) in Montreal as part of his neverending US/Europe tour in support of his 2005 album Alternative to Love. I'd love to see the show but I'll be travelling all weekend for a friend's wedding in NJ and will be too fried to make the trek up north.

Brendan Benson - Alternative to Love
Brendan Benson - The Pledge
Brendan Benson - Spit It Out (Live on KEXP)
Brendan Benson - What I'm Looking For

(links courtesy of My Old Kentucky Blog)

The videos for "Spit It Out" and "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)" can be found here.

Amandine - UPDATE

Last month, I posted a few words and mp3 links for a Swedish band named Amandine. At the time, they hadn't completed their debut album. Well, they have now finished the album (titled This Is Where Our Hearts Collide) and will be releasing it on October 17th in the US. They have also posted a new pair of mp3 files from the album on their site.

Amandine - Halo
Amandine - Blood & Marrow

Swinging Steaks

With a name like Swinging Steaks, they sound like a crappy, bloated, Texas cover band that would play GOP fundraisers. But these guys are actually from Boston, play their own alt-country tunes and even performed for Al Gore prior to one of his debates. Although a few of those guys in the back do seem a bit bloated.

Their sound isn't anything unique from the rest of the alt-country field. They remind me a lot of The Health & Happiness Show in fact. But their tune "Light of the Moon" entertained me the other night as I waited for hours in the airport. They got the "repeat" treatment for a while.

Swinging Steaks - Light of the Moon (file courtesy of songs:illinois)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

VT Bands @ CMJ

Casey at Seven Days has a brief piece this week about the VT bands that are heading down to NYC for this week's CMJ festival. Four area bands are playing the festival on Thursday and Friday nights. It's a fairly diverse representation of VT music. Alt-country to indie rock to hippie chick to retro new wave. The most successful local act is Grace Potter who seems to be everywhere these days and will probably sound the most different from the rest of the CMJ line-up. However, I think Andrew Smith Disaster is my favorite.

Buffalo Springsteen - Rodeo Bar - Thursday @ 9pm (alt-country)
Andrew Smith Disaster - Rockwood Music Hall - Thursday @ midnight (indie rock)
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Lion's Den - Friday @ 9:30pm (hippie chick music)
The Static Age - Delancey - Friday @ 10pm (retro new wave)

If anyone catches any of these shows, I'd be curious to hear about it.

Capitol Music Hall

Do you know what the second most important country music hall (after the Grand Ole Opry) is? Neither did I until I visited Wheeling, WV yesterday.

I had to go to Wheeling for work yesterday & today and while having dinner with a guy from our client's office, I learned about the importance of the Capitol Music Hall. I'm not a fan of current pop country music but I like learning about music scenes in general. So, I found this interesting.

Every saturday night since 1933, a radio program featuring country music artists has been broadcast from the Capitol Music Hall. The show is called Jamboree USA. Obviously, I knew about the importance of Nashville to country music but I didn't know Wheeling, WV was such an important stop for country stars too. It's an economically depressed town but they at least have a music scene.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hip-Hoptober Fest

How are your rapping chops? Think you're the top MC in the Green Mountains?

Well, on Oct. 1st, you're going to have your chance to compete against everyone else that feels the same way. Halogen Records in Montpelier is throwing Hip-Hoptober Fest at Positive Pie 2 and part of the evening is going to be a local hip-hop showcase.

If Casey Rea of Seven Days and the other judges think you're busting the best rhymes, you'll take home $100, bragging rights and the opening slot at the next big hip-hop show at Positive Pie 2.

According to their post on Casey's solidstate, Halogen is still looking for 3-5 more local MCs for the showcase. Plus, there are more details on their post about how it'll all work.

As you can see from the flyer to the left, the main performers at Hip-Hoptober Fest will be Scratch, Dezert Eez, Lee & S.I.N. w/ DJ Cre8. Plus, that weekend should be peak foliage and, as everyone knows, nothing caps a long day of tree peeping better than hip-hop show.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sufjan Stevens - Cabaret La Tulipe - 9/9/05

Last night, my friend, Josh, who writes Latitude 44.2 and I headed up to Montreal to catch Sufjan Stevens sing to the Canadians about the US (Any Canucks stepping up to do the "13 Provinces Project"? I'm looking at you Black Mountain). Since I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep following the CYHSY/National show, I thought my ass would be dragging but I actually felt pretty good.

However, I still made two mistakes. 1) I thought the show started at 8:30 rather than at 8:00 and 2) I missed the exit for Autoroute 10. Those two screw-ups cost us seeing Laura Veirs open the show. This was disappointing since I had been enjoying Year of Meteors. Conversely, the earlier start time meant we'd be getting back to VT a little earlier which made my body happy.

The show was at Cabaret La Tulipe which is a 90-year-old theater that was recently renovated and re-opened a year ago as a music club. It's a great venue and perhaps my new favorite venue in the area to see shows. The space is tiered with three or four levels plus a balcony. The upper levels have tables and chairs while the lowest level is SRO. Plus, there are multiple bars throughout the space so there aren't any long waits for drinks.

However, the biggest reason for my love of the place is the sound system. It was one of the sharpest and cleanest sounding concerts I've ever heard. When they renovated the place, they must have dumped a lot of money into the system. And hearing Sufjan Stevens in a place with such a great sound board made it one of the best shows I've seen this year. Every instrument could be heard distinctly and Sufjan's vocals were as clear as they are on his albums.

Sufjan and the Illinoise-makers came out on stage in their Univ. of Illinois cheerleading outfits and immediately went into "The 50 State Song". Fun, fun song. It put an immediate smile on my face.

Shortly thereafter, he did his rendition of "The Star Bangled Banner" which I had never heard before. It's amazing and the best version of the song I've ever heard. Fuck Whitney. Sufjan blows her away. I've never even heard anyone attempt the song in this manner. It's a complete re-thinking of the song and yet another testament to Sufjan's brilliance.

The rest of the set focused mainly on Illinois, as expected. We heard "Jacksonville", "Chicago", "Man of Metropolis", "The Tallest Man...", a few cheers and other tunes I've forgotten now. I want to give a lot of props to the crowd. There was not a "chatty Cathy" in the bunch. Nobody talked during the songs. Everyone was there to listen which was a huge pleasure because a number of his songs are soft enough to be ruined by some gum-chewer dronning on about some inconsequential matter. Think about it...great sound talkers...Sufjan Stevens...great combination.

For the encore, Sufjan came out alone dressed in jeans and a Michigan t-shirt and said that he had forgotten about Michigan all night. So, he then played a beautiful version of "Romulus" on the acoustic guitar. I would have like to hear more tunes from his incredibly tight band but "Romulus" was a good way to end a fine night of music.

A few random notes:

  • Sufjan introduced himself by pronouncing his name as Su-fi-an. When we entered Canada, the Canadian border guard asked us what concert we were going to. I said "Suf-yan Stevens". However, after learning the correct pronounciation, I was able to tell the US border guard on the way back, "We saw Su-fi-an Stevens". It turns out that the border guards in both directions are indifferent to the pronunciation since we sailed through both times.
  • I like the fact that the band was dressed in cheerleading uniforms and performed choreographed cheers throughout the show. It's a bit of performance art and a bit silly but I've seen enough rock bands in jeans and t-shirts play shows without ever thinking about how they are entertaining the crowd. Sufjan gives you a full night of entertainment for your buck.
  • I just checked Cabaret La Tulipe's website again and it did say the show would start at 8:30. We got there around 8:45 and Laura Veirs was already done. So, she must have started earlier. Therefore, I'm not taking full responsibility for missing her.
  • I apologize for the crappy photos. Sujan had a smoke machine blowing throughout the show which made using a flash the equivalent of driving in fog with your brights on. But despite the crappy quality, I think you get the idea.
I found mp3 files on other blogs for live versions of "The 50 State Song" and "Star Bangled Banner". Enjoy.

Sufjan Stevens - The 50 State Song (courtesy of Welcome to the M!dwest)

Sufjan Stevens - The Star Bangled Banner (courtesy of Welcome to the M!dwest)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Clap Your Hands & The National - Iron Horse - 9/8/05

I've see tons of shows in my life but I never saw what happened last night at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton. I actually got to witness what happens when a band gets caught in the wake of another band's success.

The show was billed as "The National with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah opening for them". However, with the steamroller success of CYHSY, it wound up being "CYHSY with The National closing for them".

I got down there shortly before showtime and headed straight to the bathroom after the 2-hour drive. The bathroom situation at the Iron Horse sucks. Two single-toilet unisex bathrooms for the entire crowd and with Smith College nearby, the shows there have a high percentage of ladies. This all adds up to some long lines snaking through the basement. Well, as I got towards the front of the line, CYHSY's Alec Ounsworth comes sheepishly up to the front of the line and says "Uh, I have to play upstairs soon. Do you mind if I cut in line. I don't know what else to do." Of course, everyone lets him go to the front and do his business. On the way out, I asked Alec if he was starting right away and if I'd have time to make it to the bathroom. He stared at me for a moment, laughed and said, "I'll wait for you. We won't start until your upstairs." It was kind of funny and true to his word, I didn't miss a single note of the show.

I don't think the place was sold out but it was close. There were a lot of people there and the energy in the room was pretty high. They opened with a new song but as soon as they launched into "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" the room started bouncing. They sounded great. I had read the review on Said the Gramaphone about their show in Montreal being kind of tired so my expectations were lower than they had been. However, I didn't see any signs of them being tired or bored. As they poured through about 40 minutes of songs from their album and three new tunes (all three sounded as good as the released tunes; no "Satan Said Dance"), you could tell that people were very familiar with the album and there to see CYHSY. What I wasn't expecting was the mass exodus following their set.

I know CYHSY are very hot right now but The National has a damn good album out which I was excited to hear live. But I was in the strict minority. About 3/4 of the crowd emptied out of the place taking with them all of the juice out of the atmosphere. What had been a fun raucus show quickly turned into the equivalent of a band practicing for a handful of friends. Hell, the band members of CYHSY probably made up about 10% of the remaining crowd. I haven't seen an exodus like that following an opening band since Neutral Milk Hotel opened a Merge showcase at The Knitting Factory after the release of On Avery Island. But that was more understandable since it was part of CMJ and people are expected to float from show to show.

After about 20 minutes, The National took the stage and played a decent although a bit understandably unenthusiastic set. It's a shame because they are a good band with good songs. A lot of their songs are slow build-ups into loud finishes which can be tough to pull off live if the song gets rushed. But they showed a lot of control and did really nice versions of them. They played most of what I wanted to hear off of Alligator except for "Mr. November" and "Looking for Astronauts". One note about The National, lead singer, Matt Berninger is one tall dude. He has to be the tallest front man I've seen since that guy from Archers of Loaf towered over crowds in the 90's.

However, the most interesting aspect of the show was the akwardness between songs when it was painfully silent. Silence in startling contrast to the rowdy whoops, shouting and applause that CYHSY received between tunes. You could even hear the sound of the mic being placed back into the mic stand; it was that dead between songs. Plus, people continued to file out throughout the show.

Well, it came to the end of the set and as the band left the stage, Berninger left the stage, went out the door and just kept going. There was enough of us clapping to bring the rest of the band back for the obligatory encore but the akwardness from earlier became downright embarassing as we watched the band try to figure out what had happened to Berninger. Finally, one of the guitarists went to look for him. A minute later the guitarist returned empty-handed saying, "I checked out on the street but I didn't see him anywhere". This was followed by more uneasy moments as the band tried to figure out what to do. They saw Alec from CYHSY sitting at the bar and asked him to sing with them but he declined. They finally decided to do a number just instrumentally but I guess the drummer didn't want to so he got up and left. The bass player then sat behind the drum kit and the remaining members did a brief instrumental number before getting out of there themsleves. You can see the scene in the last picture here. They could call this line-up a side project...The National Doughnut...basically, The National with a big hole in the middle.

It was kind of sad to watch but also amazing. It was like the scene in Spinal Tap at the Air Force base dance when the band members started quiting on stage. It certainly had the "car wreck watching sensation" going on.

The thing I keep thinking about is that this is the beginning of a tour that is going to run across the country for the next month and a half. If this was The National's reaction to it now, what happens when they've dealt with these kinds of crowds for thirty straight days. This tour could turn out to be a mess. Perhaps they could flip-flop the bill and let The National open for CYHSY. Didn't that happen with a Cheap Trick tour following the release of Dream Police?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Leslie Hall in the House!

Oh, this is too friggin' weird. Last week, I posted a few sentences about and a link to Leslie Hall's website where she sells and models her own line of sweaters. Well, after that post, I thought I'd never see or hear about her again. Oh, was I wrong.

802 Online and Candleblog have all of the details. It appears that this weekend, Leslie will be rolling into Burlington in her RV to hawk her Gem Sweaters. Plus, her band, Leslie and the Lys will be performing on Friday night at the South End Art Hop.

And after seeing that last detail, I finally remembered where I had seen Leslie before. A few months ago, the man who runs extrawack! had shared a video of Leslie and the Lys that is simply outstanding. Now it all comes full circle.

So, in the end, this is a another top-shelf show on an already crammed week of shows. But I think I'm going to stick with the Sufjan Stevens show in Montreal.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

7D Looking for Bands that Played WRUV

Have you or anyone you know ever played on WRUV's show Exposure? If so, Casey Rea at Seven Days would like to talk to you for an article he is writing on the long running show.

For more info and contact info, check this post on Casey's blog solidstate.

Andrew Bird

Hey! Who's up for a whistling violinist?

OK. That's a crappy, although accurate, description of Andrew Bird. "Whistling violinist" conjures up images of someone who would have visited Mr. Rogers. Bird brings it better than any of Mr. Rogers guests that I remember.

Bird has been putting out albums annually since 1997 but this year the release of The Mysterious Production of Eggs really caught my fancy. He does whistle and he does play violin but he also plays guitar and xylophone and sings. The cool part is that he does it all himself live too as you can see in this concert video. He does sub-contract for the drums and keys though (which are played by one guy simultaneously).

You can stream the entire album here (click on the Quicktime box on the left). The album is solid the whole way through but if you want to jump to the highlights, you can fast forward to "Fake Palidromes", "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" and "Skin, My Is". Or if you want to download one for later listening, his site offers the mp3 of "A Nervous Tic Motion...".

The other nice thing about Bird is that he'll be at the Iron Horse on Nov. 14 (more show congestion...see below).

Andrew Bird - A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Black Keys Coming to Montreal

Bust our the air guitars. The Black Keys are coming to Montreal on Nov. 17th (Cabaret La Tulipe's schedule is smoking these days).

I posted about these gangsters and their brand of foot-stomping blues rock back in July but if you don't want to dig for the song links, here they are again.

The Black Keys - 10A.M. Automatic
The Black Keys - All Hands Against His Own

Monday, September 05, 2005

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard

This isn't a political blog and I don't want it to be but this clip from Meet the Press was so remarkable, I thought it was worthy of a post.

I can't remember the last time I cried but I actually started crying watching this clip. The man's tale and plea is devastating.

Tim Russert must be one cold-hearted fellow to not be the least bit emotionally shaken as he smoothly transistion from Broussard sobbing to a sterile interview with the political hack, Haley Barbour.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the clip and picture.

Video - Jefferson Parish President Broussard (follow the link)


I've been posting so much about Swedish pop bands, I started to feel I was selling short our own homebred pop masters. So, here's Detroit's answer to Sweden...PAS/CAL.

PAS/CAL is a Motor City quintet channeling Ray Davies and Belle & Sebastian. It's bright cheery summertime pop with harmonies, handclaps, tambourines and enough hooks to keep your head bopping all afternoon.

So far, they've released a pair of EPs (I'd recommend Handbag Memoirs) but are creeping closer and closer to completing their debut LP. They have released the track listing for the LP on their website which would seem to be a good sign.

The first track below is from Handbag Memoirs while the second track is from Oh Honey, We're Ridiculous.

PAS/CAL - The Bronze Beach Boys
PAS/CAL - What Happened to the Sands

US Downs Mexico...AGAIN!

Over the last few months, Mexico has been playing some pretty impressive soccer. However, despite a chippy first half, they didn't give the US much more trouble than an average CONCACAF team.

The 2-0 US win clinches the US' fifth straight trip to the World Cup and gives them three remaining qualifying matches to test out a few new young players. On Wednesday, they'll face Guatemala in Guatemala City (ESPN2, 10PM EST).

The win also moves the US to the top of the standings and ahead of Mexico. And Mexico isn't taking it well. You can read a good post about the nasty post-game comments here.

Eat More Kale

There are many reasons why I often wish I had a band but one of them is so that I could hire Bo at Eat More Kale to design my band's concert shirts.

That's an odd way of saying that Eat More Kale, another great independent central Vermont business, has some of the best simple designs I've ever seen for t-shirts. Plus, the designs sit on good thick cotton shirts that hang really well off your shoulders.

My favorite design that's available on the website is the mirrored pair of ravens. However, if you visit Bo at the Montpelier farmer's market, you'll see an even wider variety of designs. Regardless of the design though, I often get positive comments from folks when I'm sporting one of his shirts. They're simple but attract a lot of attention.