Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bloggy Went A-Courtin'

But What Does That Buy Them in 2012?
(Vulture Music)
(Wall St. Journal)
(The New York Times)
(The Quietus)
(Flavorwire Music)

(Washington Post)
(KCRW Music Blog)

(Village Voice)
(KCET Blog)
(Pitchfork Media)
(San Jose Mercury News)

(KCRW Music Blog)
(WFMU Beware of Blog)


(West Coast Sound)

(Seattle Weekly)

(Los Angeles Magazine)
(Pitchfork Media)
(Under the Radar)

(Aquarium Drunkard)

(Pop Matters Music)

(Slicing Up Eyeballs)
(Indiana Public Radio

(Pitchfork Media)
(The New Yorker)

(Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches)

(Jazz Toilet)

(The New York Times)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Cline Brothers -- In Color!

Gearing up for next month's Angel City Jazz Festival 2012: Artists & Legends concerts, the folks at Angel City Arts are at it with the Kickstarter campaign again. This time it's to raise funds to film the upcoming performances that KCET decided (at the last possible moment) not to broadcast this year on its Live at the Ford series. Check out a personal message from drummer Alex Cline (who just played with NY saxophonist David Binney at the Blue Whale Tuesday night) on the aims and goals of the project, which is currently at $3150 with 0 hours left.

Meanwhile, Alex's intrepid guitarist brother Nels Cline just gave a radio interview with KUNM's Afternoon Freeform show. (He's got a new trio called Eye Bone with pianist Teddy Klausner and drummer Jim Black -- where does the guy find the time?) Check it out here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Beast on Newsstands Now

After a considerable, uh, "hiatus", The Beast finally sees its name again in PPJ (Paid Print Journalism) in the October issue of Los Angeles Magazine, which just came out this week. In the "Culture" section towards the front is a brief interview/profile of one of the elder statesmen of jazz guitar, Dr. Kenny Burrell [pictured below as a young pup] Feel free to go out and buy a copy -- if not for us than for the provocative, non-jazz related cover.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CULTURAL MASH-UP: Frank Ocean & Bon Iver [*UPDATED]

Let’s say there’s two small communities nestled on separate sides of a mist-covered mountain range. One is like one of those rustic, quasi-European villages you’d see in a 19th-century woodcarving, with long fat sausages hanging in the butcher’s window and lamplighters making their rounds at dusk; the other is a more cosmopolitan affair, with lots of neon and purring nightclubs, designer drugs and sleek cars and sexual/racial intermingling. The people of both, inured to their surroundings, nevertheless feel a lot of angst. Occasionally, villagers from either town venture to the other, dazzled by the sheer differences in lifestyles. Then they go back to their cottages in their respective hamlets and make music about bridging the surface differences by capturing something psychically elusive that links both not by their location on the same mountain, but by the fact that inhabitants of both breathe the same air and have the same deep longings that they struggle to put into words.

The Beast imagined these two little towns when we watched L.A.-based neo-soul singer Frank Ocean’s performance on SNL’s season premiere last week and puzzled/marveled over the complex, idiosyncratic things Ocean was trying to do musically while recognizing that we'd heard something like it before: in Bon Iver, the chamber-folk ensemble headed by our fellow Wisconsinite Justin Vernon.

At a very fundamental level, let’s place Ocean and Iver in the newest chapter of a group we call “The Meanderers.” “Meanderer” has a bit of a negative connotation, but it illustrates our point perfectly, meaning in verb form “to follow a winding course” and in noun form “a winding curve or bend of a river or road.” (We prefer it to “The Dilly-Dalliers.”) They include a hazily defined group of artists like Flying Lotus, Cat Power, Jim O’Rourke, Grizzly Bear, Antony and the Johnsons, Richard Buckner, Animal Collective, Portishead, Erykah Badu, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Tricky (an early mentor to Ocean), Lana Del Rey and, what the hell, let’s throw in TV on the Radio while we’re at it. Each in their own freak-flag way create atmospheric, muted cinemas of sound that slip the bonds of song structure and even genre and seem to capture the in-the-moment thought patterns and emotional digressions of the artist(s) singing it. It’s an aesthetic not just confined to music but literature and film, like the meandering but psychologically intense movies of Wim Wenders or Paul Thomas Anderson and the detective noir of Sweden or Denmark, where, not surprisingly, Bon Iver’s second album debuted at No. 1.

There’s a long history of musical Meanderers, mostly in the acoustic idiom, from the stream-of-consciousness talking blues of Furry Lewis and Charley Patton to the hermetic folk of Michael Hurley and Nick Drake. Minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich (the latter of whom Vernon has dutifully name-checked in interviews) took the looooong road not traveled in their extended works In C and Music for 18 Musicians, paving the way not just for the ambient 1970s works of Brian Eno but for nearly the entire Windham Hill catalog of the 1980s. Neo-soul pioneers like Maxwell, D’Angelo, Prince, Shuggie Otis and Maxwell (all of whom Ocean’s music has drawn comparisons to) even added meandering to their slippery and sexually pantheistic inter-genre excursions.

In terms of Vernon’s music, The Beast sees an antecedent in the first (and for a long time, only) solo album by David Crosby, 1971’s aptly titled If I Could Only Remember My Name…. Crosby, a tightly wound egotist disguised as an avowed hippie, wrote these billowy, pretentious, nearly formless songs like “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinnevere” and “Wooden Ships,” and his solo album continued this trend with “Song with No Name (Tree with No Leaves”), “Cowboy Movie” and “Laughing.” (The choir chorus of “Orleans” sounds like a blueprint for Vernon’s multi-tracked chamber chorales.) In our ears, this record – barely anchored by Crosby's fluttery, easily dissolved tenor that somewhat resembles Vernon’s – are like being steeped in an Aquarian nightmare, where one takes a journey that ends up where one started but everyone is too fried on STP to care. Drool running out of a junkie’s mouth was more interesting—and at least real.

Yet, appreciating that was over forty years ago and a new generation with no direct memories of the excesses of the ‘60s and ‘70s (of which Crosby was an active and willing participant) might have a different take on said excesses. So when someone like Frank Ocean hears the Eagles’ “Hotel California” he hears it with new wiring: He likes the slow, languid beat, the lyrics about the gorgeous decadence of Southern California, or, like Crosby’s album, gorgeous decadence disguised as Utopianism. Never mind that it was made by a bunch of rich post-hippie millionaires posing as denimed urban cowboys; Ocean rewires the song for his debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. He throws “Bluegrass” and "Death Metal” on his own iTunes profile as a joke play on how little genre means in the Age of the Download. “Most modern music that’s worth shit isn’t any one genre. That shit got played out in the 90s,” Ocean told Black Book just after the release of his first (proper) solo album channel ORANGE. “Now everything’s affected by everything, and we’re all affected by one another.” In another interview, Ocean – whose outspokenness matches Vernon’s and is not just limited to his much-ballyhooed decision to come out as gay on Tumblr  – even decried R&B as “so racial” and preferred to see himself as “a singer/songwriter.” Vernon, on the other hand, has claimed, as he did to an interviewer in 2007, “I am into more black singers than white” and named Marvin Gaye, D’Angelo, Sam Cooke and Prince as admired artists. And then there’s that baffling but thrilling collaboration with the polymath Kanye West, who used a thread of Vernon’s song “Woods” in his song “Lost in the World.”

Interestingly, West has been the lynchpin for these two artists, collaborating with both Vernon and Ocean. (He was a mentor of sorts to the latter during the final productions stages of channel ORANGE.) All three share a video director in the form of Nabil Elderkin, who did Bon Iver’s “Holocene,” West's "Mercy" and just unveiled the ambitious eight-minute video for Ocean’s “Pyramids." But it’s not Kanye where the intriguing parallels halt. Both tour with versatile mixed-race bands: Vernon’s ensemble can take on the muted guise of a soul band, and Ocean has a double-guitar backup whose soft and deliberate interplay recalls the work of Bill Frisell or Daniel Lanois. Despite being catalogued as “neo-soul,” the bass on Ocean’s songs is almost nonexistent, the percussion cinched to mere electronic blips. Despite being categorized as “neo-folk,” Vernon peppers a song like “Beth/Rest” with horns and keyboards that wouldn’t sound out of place in a 1980s R&B song; he also built most of his early tracks with Auto Tunes, which is mostly associated with Hip Hop and Dance. Ocean often writes from female as well as male perspectives; Vernon has emphasized the influence of female singer/songwriters like Rickie Lee Jones, Nina Simone and Indigo Girls. Both often sing in a squinched, whispery falsetto (Ocean sometimes sounding like Miles Davis when he used a mute on his trumpet). Both compose songs with mysterious titles: "Voodoo," "Flume," "Novocane," "Perth," "Michicant, "Monks." (We challenge you to guess who wrote which—no Googlin’!) Both released their debuts independently after stumbling into creative and personal bottlenecks. Both are 21st-century laptop composers, creating painstaking music in comparative isolation, and who even seem isolated surrounded by a whole band onstage (Vernon either sits in a chair or stands on a carpeted riser; Ocean begins his concerts sitting on a stool).

They have slightly different approaches to arrive at similar destinations: Iver uses technology to augment warm, mysterious fugue states; Ocean surrounds himself with digital fairy dust (no puns please) while decrying technology's contributions to our modern anxiety and alienation (“Every single record, Auto-Tuning/Zero emotion, muted emotion, pitch-corrected computed emotion”). For his second record, Vernon dropped the Auto Tunes and began his compositions first with melodies before writing words that only made themselves apparent to him after repeated listens. For channel ORANGE, Ocean dropped his previous reliance on samples and went with a full-band sound, composing his confessional lyrics to complement the sometimes-improvised musical ideas of his main collaborator Malay. (Oddly, Ocean tracked the album before recording it.) But in describing his process, he sounds tantalizingly close to Vernon’s: “My process is more about imagery than it is about anything else when I’m writing,” he told journalist Alexis Nadeska. “Trying to get the imagery through the lyrics and the melody is my main focus when I’m writing any song. I’m visualizing each song as I go along, line by line, or section by section, just trying to make sure that the photograph continues, the imagery continues, and you get visuals for the whole ride.”

But most of all, both plumb the depths (or scale the heights?) of subdued arrangements, elusive, oblique lyrics and idiosyncratic, almost conversational song structures that don’t conform to the traditional pop frameworks—like P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, they seemed composed not from pre-written lyrics but straight from the emotional forms of the music itself as it goes along (this is the trick), zigzagging through its creators mood swings, pit stops, cul de sacs and hidden quirks. (The New York Times’ Jon Pareles described Ocean’s music as “melodies that hover between speech and song, asymmetrical and syncopated.”) Music critics, of course, have played the devil’s advocate to the genuflecting over the “originality” of Vernon and Ocean’s music. Jody Rosen, in particular, seemed turned off by the floatiness of both artists. On Ocean, he wrote for Rolling Stone: “Sometimes, [he] is less a songwriter than a purveyor of formless grooves; his lyrics, which at their best whiplash from the mundane to the metaphysical, dissolve occasionally into New Agey goop." On Vernon, he somewhat infamously jibed on Slate: “Justin Vernon can obviously make pretty sounds, but his marble-mouthed singing, and the drooping-wet-sock formlessness of his songs, are maddening. As for the lyrics, they’re gibberish.” Rosen is only a year younger than the Beast; we get it -- we're the old wiring.

Personally, we’d pay 47% of Mitt Romney’s bank account to find out if Frank Ocean and/or Justin Vernon ever heard David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name...—and, if they did, could they remember what they thought of it.

UPDATE 9/25/12: Apparently, Vitamin Water and Fader Magazine agree with us. They just sponsored a joint concert between Frank Ocean and Bon Iver last night in New York. The pics below are from Pitchfork Media's Ebru Yilditz. Notice any further similarities?


Monday, September 17, 2012

A Brief History of Our Music Tastes (2 of 2)

Age 24-26 Buy Los Lobos’ KIKO upon move to L.A.; album winds up being soundtrack to our introduction to disorienting maw of the city; we watch the live beating of Reginald Denny at Florence & Normandie with the title track playing on the boom box behind us. Northwest music explosion catches up: prefer Pearl Jam’s muscular, groove-laden interplay over Nirvana’s sour, angry noise—although impressed when the latter demolishes the SNL stage after “Territorial Pissings.” Obligatory copy of Singles soundtrack. Hella purchases: Sailing the Seas of Cheese, BloodSugarSexMagik, Siamese Dream, Bandwagonesque, Last Splash, American Thighs, Meantime, Ill Communication, Goo, Rid of Me, Slanted and Enchanted, Live Through This, Naughty by Nature & Cypress Hill’s debuts, 3 Years 5 Months & 3 Days in the Life of…, Screamadelica, Pills Thrills ‘N’ Bellyaches. Intrigued/terrified of American Music Club; briefly appropriate lead singer Mark Eitzel’s porkpie hat-with-goatee affectation. Regret getting first Stone Temple Pilots record but second makes us pause and reconsider. Switch from masturbating to Madonna to Bjork and Jeaneane Garofalo. Love the concept of rap-punk hybrid via Ice-T’s Body Count while secretly hating the music, although we get to see Ice-T tell a reporter to “suck my dick” at the first MTV Movie Awards and are the only one in the press pool to laugh out loud. Missed first Lollapalooza entirely, first of many Never Got To See Live regrets (original Pixies, J. Geils Band w/ Peter Wolf, Joe Jackson on the Big World tour). See Lyle Lovett & Large Band at the Roxy. Endless replays of Frank Black’s first solo album. Like “Loser” video but don’t like Beck; think he isn’t “ready” yet. See Primus with the Melvins in a dingy old ballroom. Americana jones continues unabated with The Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall, Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Spinning Around the Sun and Bob Dylan’s “acoustic comeback” Good As I Been To You, which we hold close to our breast to this day. Convinced that the Mavericks’ “What A Cryin’ Shame” is the greatest country song of the last 25 years. Briefly adopt the watch-cap-all-black look of Cypress Hill’s B-Real during poverty-stricken graduate school years. See members of the Violent Femmes play a free-jazz freakout at blue-collar saloon on Milwaukee’s River West district and think, hmmm… Sugar’s Copper Blue, Beaster and “Needle Hits E” makes our cuticles tingle; the Bobster can DO NO WRONG. Miss seeing Bob Mould play acoustic show in Madison in order to take mom to the hospital for an overnight procedure; later hear from friends that Mould was sick (again) and invited fans up onstage to sing while he strummed, which leads to endless daydreams of what we would have sung: “Heartbreak A Stranger”? “Man on the Moon”? “Explode and Make Up”? Or something more obscure to prove we were a “real” fan: “Can’t Fight It” or his duet w/ Vic Chestnut on Gram Parson’s “Hickory Wind”? Join CD collection with blind date/eventual wife upon post-collegiate cohabitation, discover many bands we like (Afghan Whigs, Tori Amos, A House) and many others we don’t (Barenaked Ladies, Phish, They Might Be Giants). Watch/tape entire Woodstock ’94 simulcast while studying for Master’s Degree final and see the torch being passed: Nine Inch Nails (the Mud People!), Green Day (the mudfight!), Primus (probably the best set they ever played) with Jerry Cantrell, the Rollins Band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers wearing giant light bulbs for heads, creating a spinning-shirt shitstorm for “Higher Ground” and dressing up like Hendrix for an encore of “Fire.” Don’t think Zingalamaduni is that bad of an album. Creeping boredom with Tom Petty. Nirvana performing acoustic “All Apologies” on constant rotation on MTV during the weekend of April 8-10, 1994; video for “Heart-Shaped Box” too upsetting to watch.

Age 27-31 Kurt Is Dead, long live the post-Grunge Hype Hangover, dovetailing perfectly with Endless O.J. and a series of low-paying office-drone jobs, including one where the only music allowed is the local “Adult Alternative” station. Many, many featurelessdays in dingy, grey-and-beige office at crappy outdated computer station hearing the following blared out of the intercom on the office phone until they pierced the back of our skull: “Roll to Me,” “Who Will Save Your Soul,” “Follow You Down,” “Lighting Crashes,” “Zombie,” “You Oughta Know,” “Everyday is A Winding Road,” “Santa Monica,” “Runaround,” “Closing Time,” “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life,” “Smooth,” “Sex and Candy,” “One of Us,” “Don’t Speak,” “Everything Falls Apart,” “6th Avenue Heartache.” (Guilty pleasures: Matchbox 20’s “3am” and Lit’s “Gone.”) Eventually have a breakdown and start sneaking in Discman to work; busted by boss listening to Bongo Fury, busted again by office manager listening to The In Sound From Way Out! Only saving graces: Dion Farris’ “I Know” (especially the sweeping vocals at the end), Oasis’ “Roll With It” (which gave us shivers), Luscious Jackson’s “Citysong,” the Latin Playboys’ first album, Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Hearts Beating As One, Son Volt’s Trace & Wilco’s Being There, Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire. See Barenaked Ladies in Ventura and think they’re dutifully hilarious, but prefer happy accident of having Syd Straw as the opener. See Dave Matthews at Universal Amphitheatre and become Under the Table and Dreaming acolyte until we read lyrics to “Ants Marching” and realize it’s about our sad life as office drone. E tu Dave? Forget Madonna exists for a few days. Win radio contest to see/have dinner with Bush and opening act the Toadies at the Mayan Theatre; Bush fails to show up for dinner, but the Toadies do and they are awesome to hang with; not surprisingly, they later blow Bush off the stage. Bored by Sting. Energized by Odelay; apologize silently to Beck while we listen to “Devil’s Haircut” and “Hotwax” at one of those cheesy old Blockbuster Music “listening stations.” Immediately buy everything Beck has ever recorded. As some sort of physiological reaction to current state of career stagnation/urban alienation, morph into Americana primitive and leave Shitbirdworld for a life as a freelancer; soundtrack to this transfiguration: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (and its attendant bible Invisible Republic, which we read in one sitting on the banks of the Hudson in Nyack, NY); The complete 5-disc bootleg of The Basement Tapes, which reignites Dylan/Band obsession (re-watch The Last Waltz way past the point of being healthy); the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers; the High Lonesome anthology, the Alan Lomax collections Southern Journey and Sounds of the South; Steve Earle, Smithsonian Folkways’ Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia (a perennial fave), Tampa Red, The Flatlanders, Clarence Ashley, Uncle Dave Macon, Dock Boggs, Gillian Welch, Buck Owens, The Bristol Sessions, Roscoe Holcomb, Johnny Cash (forgive us, John), Bill Monroe, The Louvin Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Nearly pass out shaking Charlie Louvin's hand backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Ever-so brief mating dance with electronica: Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, The Orb, Orbital, Tricky (only the last really sticks). Round out acoustic blues collection with Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Charley Patton, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis. Keep hearing about a local guitar whiz named Nels Cline—said to be L.A.’s answer to Thurston Moore—and think, hmmm… Watch live kidney transplant while surgeon listens to Allman Brothers box set.

Age 32-36 The rap-rock/boy band/jailbait ingénue period of American Pop. Established music labels beginning to crumble in favor of the free-exchange utopia of the World Wide Web. Join the Buena Vista Social Club and O Brother Where Art Thou? bandwagons. Have lethal panic attack interviewing celebrities the red carpet for the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards and calm self down by humming Los Lobo’s “This Time”; make mental note to thank them if we ever meet them someday. In midst of Latin explosion (Ricky, Enrique, Christina, Marc, J-Lo.) man the red carpet for the Grammy Awards outside of Spago Beverly Hills. Interview the follow in blurred succession: Tony Bennett, Courtney Love, Sting, Destiny’s Child, Andy Garcia (whom we impress with a question about his producing albums by the Cuban bass maestro Cachao); watch Puff Daddy and J.Lo (this is the year she wears The Dress) arrive and get mobbed but they don’t take questions; Watch young chirpy ingénue reporter from Entertainment Weekly flirt her way past the velvet rope and secretly resolve we have to get out of this fakakta racket. Decide to collect everything Ryan Adams records, no matter how shitty or embarrassing (see also: Billy Corgan). Attend second Coachella (the Electronica One) and get a massive headache, but dutifully impressed by Mos Def, who along with Kool Keith, OutKast and Aceyalone seems to be the saving grace of literate Hip Hop. Love of outmoded electronics and acoustic folk dovetails quite nicely in the careers of Granddaddy, Radiohead, Sparklehorse and Jim White. Interview Nels Cline and his twin brother Alex Cline and they clue us in on the “secret” L.A. world of experimental/creative jazz/new music/avant garde/noise underground, which becomes a tonic and an obsession. Discover Horace Tapscott just after the Man dies—another great interview opportunity/experience lost. Start haunting Club Rocco; drop Vicodin with fellow journalist and catch L. Stinkbug, Wayne Horvitz, Vinny Golia, Andy Milne and Crater in a sparkly haze. Midlife crisis, expressed through carrying around copy of Please Kill Me and adopting of attendant attitude. Punk roundup: Suicide, Ramones, Iggy, The Screamers, NY Dolls, Pere Ubu, Television (our favorite!). Mired deep in Ornette and Ayler. German minimalist roundup: Neu!, Can, Kraftwerk, Faust. Post-punk roundup: DNA, Neu!, Can, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Swans. Post-everything roundup: Jim O’Rourke, The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Sunburned Hand of the Man, LA Free Music Society, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, Sunn O))), Jandek, John Weise. Mine Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for all hidden 9/11 meanings; leads us to the decidedly nonmusical, lonely and alienating Conet Project box set, the perfect soundtrack to 2001-2008. Almost fall asleep to Beck’s Mutations but wake up again with Midnight Vultures. Arcade Fire yes; Decemberists, no. Tall blue aliens with large doe eyes emerge from giant Ice Ship and begin to play instruments, call themselves “Sigur Ros.” Struck dumb by Cat Power’s recording of “Sweedeedee.”


Friday, September 14, 2012


Check out the Beast's blog post for Los Angeles magazine about Los Lobos' recent performance of their album KIKO live at KCRW Studios in Santa Monica here. Check out the whole broadcast here.

1. Dream In Blue
2. Wake Up Dolores
3. Angels with Dirty Faces
4. Kiko and the Lavender Moon
5. Saint Behind the Glass
6. When The Circus Comes
7. Short Side of Nothing
8. Whiskey Trail
9. Just A Man
10. Peace

KCRW was kind enough to send over some pics of this memorable morning, snapped by their house photographer Larry Hirshowitz. Enjoy!

La Herencia (From L): Enrique "Bugs" Gonzalez, Conrad Lozano, David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Steve Berlin


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Brief History of Our Music Tastes (1 of 2)

Not that anyone asked. . .

Age 0-7 No idea. 'Well, I was rather young at the time…' Probably children’s music on Sesame Street (favorites: “P is My Favorite Letter,” “I Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green,” the “Phenomena” creatures and the wah-wah pedaled Sly Stonish funk that accompanied the animated pinball machine sequence: “one-two-three-FOUR!-FIVE! / six-seven-eight-NINE!-TEN!”) and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, at school (favorites: “I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing” and “Free To Be You and Me”). Our first spoken word (save for “mama” and “dada”) is reportedly “rica pia,” referencing tiny toy Fisher-Price record player. Also “incidental” music: Parents watching The Lawrence Welk Show, the giant organ and warbling elderly-lady choir of our local Episcopalian Church, and father’s distinctive collection of record albums: Count Basie, Sy Zetner, Wagner, Beethoven, The Heath Brothers, Richard Strauss, The Ink Spots (whom we are thrilled to meet at a parade in Elkhorn, Wisconsin until we are later informed all the original members were dead), The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Schubert, Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Chuck Mangione (particularly the epic three-disc The Children of Sanchez), comedy albums by Woody Allen and Beyond The Fringe and Golden Age of radio compilations like The Shadow Knows and Arch Obler Presents. Think theme to Sanford & Son is hilarious. Musically inclined older sisters – one an opera singer, another plays autoharp in a bluegrass band – who bring home records by Judy Collins, Joan Baez (ugh), We Five, Buffy Saint-Marie and Andrés Segovia. Raid older brother’s collection of classic singles: “American Woman,” “Incense and Peppermints” “Magic Carpet Ride.” The Beatles, of course, are everywhere, like air or water; when they all go off to college, my siblings leave behind Beatles ’64 and A Hard Day’s Night for me to ponder. Our Social Studies class watches a documentary on trains hosted by Johnny Cash and marvel at his dark clothes, weird hair and wavering voice (‘Therrre arre mannny stooories in the sooound of a traiiin…’), but when he opens his mouth and sings we can’t stop laughing even after the teacher stops the film. This is redolent of a peculiar and disquieting hostility towards country music, as seen when father settles down on Saturday nights to watch the Grand Ole Opry and make fun of the bad hairstyles and wacky rhinestoned suits of Porter Waggoner and Hank Snow. Nurse secret love/fascination with Easy Listening Music while family is in midst of turmoil; sneak downstairs at the crack of dawn to listen to the inimitably strange DJ Ron Cuzner on WEZW (get it? “E-Z”?) spinning gorgeously creamy and calming fare by Roger Whitaker, Lenny Dee, Slim Whitman, Burt Bacharach and that master of the massive wooden speakers, Montovani.

Age 8-13 Rica pia really comes into its own during these inbetweenie years, now focused mostly on records of classic comedy routines from Groucho Marx, Abbott & Costello, Fibber McGee & Molly, Fred Allen, The Battling Bickersons, Baron Munchausen and Burns & Allen. (Meanwhile, outside our bedroom window, the 1970s continues unacknowledged.) Held in great regard are gifts from sympathetic grandmother thrilled to have her grandson be a fan of the stuff she liked as a girl working in the coal mine/sweat shop/tuberculosis ward, including a Spike Jones & His City Slickers box set, a Jonathan Winters live album, a recorded transcription of Laurel & Hardy’s Sons of the Desert, and one of those Bloopers records from the days of unedited live TV and radio—although most of the cultural references sail right over our heads. Library card exploited to check out dated and worn records from Bad Company, ELO, Kansas, Kenny Loggins, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney—although sometimes we are more transfixed by the album cover art than the music. (ELP’s Brian Salad Surgery and ANYTHING by the Ohio Players are faves). Also more interested in rock music thanks to Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, Soundstage, The Midnight Special, SCTV and Saturday Night Live—all of which we aren’t allowed to watch because they're on past our bedtimes. The Muppet Show becomes the de facto place to go for music, including guests like Alice Cooper, Elton John, Kris Kristofferson, Carol Channing (you heard us--she fuckin' rocked), Jean-Pierre Rampal, Lou Rawls, Debbie Harry and Paul Williams. When old enough to sneak downstairs to watch late-night TV, we are shocked right into young adulthood: The B-52s, The Ramones, The Specials, The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, The Police, Captain Beefheart, The Plasmatics, Frank Zappa, The Jam, The Pretenders, The Tubes. Ambivalent, fringe member of the KISS Army. Purchase first legitimate rock album with own legitimate money: Rod Stewart’s Foot Loose…And Fancy Free, the one with “Hot Legs” on it. For a brief period, Rod is God. Can’t pick up his follow-up Blondes Have More Fun (the one with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”) because we watch a live TV performance of the song and it horrifies our parents. (Also: sperm-swallowing rumors abound in 5th grade.) Other main music obsession of this period is Henry John Dutschendorf, another blonde blue-eyed German kid who later changed his name to "John Denver." Get every album of his we can get our hands on, from Greatest Hits to Windsong to Spirit to Autograph; favorite is Back Home Again, a concept album about rural living (for a multimillionaire) that had “Thank God I’m a Country Boy." Even dress in denim shirts stitched with sunbeams and wheat stalks and take to wearing round gold eyeglasses and saying “Far out!” a lot. Get to sing “Country Boy” and “Eclipse” in front of class and later get beaten up for it. Purchase The B-52’s first record (after a lot of arguing with parents), Hall & Oates’ Voices and the two American Graffiti soundtracks, whose twin discs each give great primers in ‘50s rock & roll and ‘60s pop. Begin to attend the local Skatetown USA, where DJ spins MECO, McFadden & Whitehead, Grandmaster Flash, Billy Joel, Queen, The O’Jays, Pat Benatar, Peaches & Herb, The Spinners, The Bay City Rollers and the Flatt & Scruggs theme to The Beverly Hillbillies. Obligatory copy of Saturday Night Fever. The school dance, of course, begins to assert itself, with the orchestrated sexual panic of Air Supply, REO Speedwagon and the Little River Band providing an apt soundtrack for pre-teen crushes and perpetual embarrassment. Discover Dr. Demento piped in from Chicago and the glorious world of novelty/outsider records like “Fish Heads,” "Junk Food Junkie," “Kinko the Clown,” “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” and “The Crusher”; hear live radio debut of “Weird Al” Yankovic and his first monumental single “Another One Rides the Bus." Two significant incidents surround Pink Floyd’s The Wall: Threaten a student walkout on the poor substitute Music teacher when she lets us play “Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 1)”; Health Class instructor plays “Comfortably Numb” (complete with poorly transcribed lyrics on the transparency machine) as part of an anti-drug lecture and makes us want to have as many drugs as possible the first chance we get. Transfixed by the lyrical mystery inherent in Supertramp’s “The Logical Song,” Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” and the Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac’s “Hypnotized.” Watch the world premiere of KISS Versus the Phantom of the Park against parent’s directives. (To this day still can’t believe we were scared by it.) Possess three Village People records, including the first one with its gritty B&W Fire-Island-gay-biker-porn cover. (Have no idea; love the percussion and the strings.) Lose call-in radio contest for a signed copy of Styx’s Pieces of Eight. Convince friends for one twisted and triumphant day that The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash is a limited-edition recording of all of us singing with studio backup; lose all friends by sundown. Think theme to Taxi is oddly melancholy for a TV sitcom.

Age 14-18 VERY important years in two respects: (1) A time when one’s music tastes are still open enough; and (b) a time the painfully self-aware teenage brain begins to shuff off what it feels are “childish things.” So so long John Denver! Radio now is everything, the conduit that we pick up from the world (or, more accurately, bribed deejays). Early half is involved with sifting through everything and anything that comes through the tinny speakers of our Radio Shack alarm clock, mostly from local Milwaukee and Chicago stations. Record collection by this time increases to include copies of Wall of Voodoo’s Call of the West, Madness’s One Step Beyond…, Missing Persons’ Spring Session M, The Sherbs’ Defying Gravity and Peter Gabriel’s Security. (We later regretted only two of those purchases.) Don’t realize at the time that this new phenom called "MTV" is making all of our purchasing decisions for us. Lift the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll from the school library and read it front to back, then switch to the Rolling Stone Record Guide (blue cover) and read it back to front. Pass though a strange phase of disliking Hendrix (“It’s just feedback!”) and the Beatles (radioplay overkill) in favor of The Clash’s Combat Rock and U2’s Boy. First hear The Time’s “Wild & Loose” and The Gap Band's "You Dropped A Bomb on Me" on black cadets' boomboxes at military school; befriended by the son of jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis at same school. Worship at the altar of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Dead Kennedys have fun album covers but they are a little much. Brief but potent Ska phase with The Specials and The English Beat -- our antidote to resentful Metalheads in our small town. MTV proves its mettle when bizarre videos lead us to the glorious yawps of The Minutemen and the Violent Femmes. See The Blasters, Devo and the Sir Douglas Quintet on Fridays and flip out. Iggy Pop is just a strange name on the edges of all this, waiting for his entrance...The Big Ones: Bruce, R.E.M. and U2, but occasionally mucked up by chaff like The Alarm, Industry, Guadacanal Diary and Aztec Camera. Develop a serious jones for the Blues in usual white suburban manner: hear Cream, Steve Winwood, The Yardbirds, The Animals, The Stones, Zeppelin—basically every British rock act of the ‘60s—and work backwards. Since Chicago is only two hours South, start buying up vinyl from “import” or “cut out” sections of local Mainstream Records (mainly a head shop disguised as a record store): first Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and then the Southern Sinatra of the blues, B.B. King. Attend double feature of D.A. Pennenbaker’s Don’t Look Back and Martin Scorcese’s The Last Waltz and become an avowed Dylan/The Band freakazoid. (Hence Before The Flood’s frequent appearance on our first “adult” turntable.) Music snobbery born: Discover Joe Ely's Live Shots in a $1.99 cassette bin and keep it to ourselves. First live stage appearance in basement of friend’s friend’s house party when lead singer has to cut out for work; we jump onstage for an impromptu version of “Louie Louie” and get booted offstage in less than 30 seconds; eternal status as audience member ensured. Madonna masturbated to—Wait, she makes music?! Seething outward hatred of British synthpop, especially Depeche Mode, while inwardly admiring Yaz, The Human League, The Pet Shop Boys and ABC. Pilgrimage to Milwaukee to see midnight showing of Stop Making Sense; later recreate David Byrne’s twitchy “Once in A Lifetime” shtick in various regional "air band" competitions. Best friend lends a copy of Astral Weeks and we will always remember exactly where we were, what day it was and what we were wearing when we sat listening hypnotized to the entire album, over and over and over….

Age 18-23 First flush of college in Minneapolis, the music city of the 1980s: Husker Du, Soul Asylum, The Gear Daddies, The Replacements, The Jayhawks and of course, Mr. Prince. Serious Velvet Underground flowering and obligatory Lou Reed obsession, despite the fact the latter is putting out shitty, heavily synthed pop at the time. Nevertheless, adopt Lou’s mid-80s, Honda Scooter-commercial look: faded blue jeans, black boots, leather jacket, sunglasses; probably look like a tool. See Dylan with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and still run into people who swear they were there. Big on stuff on radio: Crowded House’s first album, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Fine Young Cannibals. On a trip to NYC, transfixed by an extremely long instrumental version of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart” on the cabbie’s radio—this was our introduction to the kangol-hatted days of sampling and remixes. Hate License To Ill until we get drunk at dorm parties and then it's the greatest album ever made. First flowerings of pseudo-hippiedom with first Grateful Dead show, where we realize music is only ¼ of that experience. Beatles come back with a red-hot vengeance with the release of entire catalog on compact disc; listen to nothing else for at least a year. See Red Hot Chili Peppers at First Avenue on the Mother’s Milk tour and have never seen anything like it since. The Meat Puppets are one of the only bands we take away with us from our indie college DJ days. Catch Bob Mould on his first solo tour—both of us sick with the flu. At first off-campus tenement apartment, begin getting into serious Bohemia with the lit candles and empty wine bottles; dovetails perfectly when Columbia Records re-releases their classic Jazz catalog on CD (‘Orignal Jazz Masterpieces’—the ones with the blue-bordered covers). Absorbed Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie (an old fave), Louis Armstrong. Heavy Coltrane/Monk/Bird period ensues, with a lot of pointless teeth-gnashing over who we like better. Nurture strange Euro-pretensions with The Style Council, Alison Moyet and Bryan Ferry. XTC’s Skylarking, Stan Getz’s Café Au Go Go and Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits on a loop on the communal CD player. First LSD experience listening, unfortunately, to “Drugs” by Talking Heads. Blues love continuing unabated with the “discoveries” of Robert Johnson, Albert King, Otis Rush, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Mississippi John Hurt, Hound Dog Taylor, Buddy Guy. Shock friends into silence when we announce the purchase of Janet Jackson’s Control. Abiding love for Lowell George and Little Feat, especially the live "Mercenary Territory" from Waiting for Columbus with Lenny Pickett's protean sax solo. Marvel at brand new, soon-to-be-obsolete transparent prerecorded cassettes of favorite albums that always smell like grapes. Brief flirtation with twee British alt-pop like The Sundays, The La’s and Cocteau Twins. See James "Blood" Ulmer at Walker Art Center feel changed for it. Cannot understand the appeal of major label-peddled “alternative” hot-artist-of-the-minute acts like Poi Dog Pondering and Tanita Tikaram. Continued masturbation to Madonna. A Tribe Called Quest, Guru, De La Soul and Digable Planets finally open up our hearts to the Hippety Hop; “It Takes Two” and “Bust A Move” are admittedly great songs on tha dance flo’. Also hear “Fight The Power” in Do The Right Thing and think, hmmmm… Big streak of Soul singers: Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and of course James Brown (the live “There Was A Time” a favorite). Begin Zappa obsession here, with Hot Rats. Brief, nostalgia based recurrence of John Denver fandom, mostly kept to oneself. Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung on nightstand (read: milk crate) for two straight years.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Read Our Rejected McSweeney's Column

Dear Editors of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern:

The following can be described as a “Column from the Future” of sorts, inspired by a persistent question I’ve heard in blogs, on TV and from many of my friends and colleagues of similar age: “What kind of music are we going to be listening to when we’re old?” Below is an expansion on the answer, which takes the form of a transcript of an oral history recording.
Thanks for reading!

Dispatches from YurtCity, A Gen-X Retirement Community

by Resident #831-935-044-CEC
Yurt #23A, Colony 07

"Hello? Helloooo. Is this goddamn thing on? It’s supposed to be voice-activated…[unintelligible]
…Okay, this is me in the StoryYurt. I only have 30 minutes at a time, so I’ll get right to the point. I’m recording my thoughts not for posterity but for our generation in the past—just in case CalTech or Stanford stumbles upon a time-travel scenario that doesn’t turn people into tiny pyramids of burnt goo. I’ve written some stuff down here on a very valuable piece of Hammermill white bond… [sounds of fumbling, throat clearing] Okay then, here we go:

‘The first thing you’re probably wondering is what we all wondered as we reached our mid-forties: Will the loudspeaker play Muzak or Public Enemy? The second thing you’re probably wondering: How does it feel?

‘On that second thing, it sort of veers between Not As Bad As You Think and As Bad As They Say. You catch a glimpse in a mirror of your furrowed, spotted gnarls of knuckles, raised rivers of blue-sugar veins and purple blood bruises on your hands and wrists—the very same you presented tanned and sweat-beaded at the second Lollapalooza for that long-ago henna tattoo. Then Getting Old comes on, frankly, like a m----------r. The body that once rappelled triumphantly down a rockface during the Summer of ’94 is now a collection of sharp bones pushing their way past papery hairy flesh. The cock that you wielded with such expert, virile aplomb with Tara Whatwashername after the No Blood For Oil march of ’91 is now useless and pliant and your balls are making their way steadily towards the floor like they’re being eased down by elevator cables.

‘Unfortunately, here you’re surrounded by Dorian Grays – pun fully intended – all reflecting your old ass with their own peculiar infirmities that resemble the damaged powers of elderly superheroes. My roommate Binx, for instance. Born in 1967, the year of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, he now holds onto his memory—faded by a rigorously maintained bong and Ecstasy regimen during the Clinton Years—by remembering what he was doing according to each 007 installment. Yell out, “Binksie! Octopussy!” and he’ll yell back (because he always has his iEars turned down), “Workin’ for the local public-access tapin’ intramural soccer matches!!” Say “The World Is Not Enough!’ and he’ll spell out the letters “D-I-V-O-R-C-E, numero dos!” I love Binx, the jack-of-all-trades, the Harry Smith of YurtCity. I wouldn’t want to watch my feet grow into unsightly, barnacled claws with anyone else but a former weed-dealer. We’ve been Facebook friends since 2005, forty-three years, my oldest one.

'In YurtCity, these things are still the same: Topless golf caps and white hair turned yellow by the sun, skin that looks like cigar wrappings, Play-Doh tires around our waists, endless conversations on the same topics (Medication Side Effects, Unappreciative Offspring, The US of A vs. Everyone Else, What’s That Smell?) that could last for hours, insane weeklong games of iMonopoly, iBoggle and iScrabble (or the XGameYurt for the hardier souls), sun hats and water wings, alcoholism disguised under the banner of Sports Enthusiasm, obsessive diets, litanies of encroaching infirmity, heavy colognes and perfumes.

‘The main difference now is no one goes to Florida. That ended decades ago with those Boomers, who are oh so particular, and with the ratifying of the Facebook Seniorcare Bill of 2035, which President Z. pushed through Congress with the stirring words, “America’s concern for its cherished elders has reached an all-time low, a national embarrassment; we have condemned our valuable heritage to die demented and alone, surrounded not by family and a strong support system, but by cats and piles of mildewed newspaper—and I feel entirely responsible.” That last line pushed it right over the top into Greatness. (Binx and I have the speech framed as a floating hologram.) And we all benefited.

‘Which brings me to our setup: A massive series of interconnected yurt colonies based on the Chinese model just outside of Beijing. You walk into the Yurteria for the morning buffet and there’s all your Friends moving in wrinkled, bent-over formation to the mixmasterings of Chigolo, the ex-club DJ from the Windy City with a giant cauliflower nose who works the deck with a BioProsthetic. So there’s your answer on that first thing: Acid Jazz, Downtempo, orchestral Disco and Chill Out are our version of Muzak. Your ears really can’t handle Death Metal (headaches), Ska (heart palpitations) or certain harsher brands of Hip Hop (headaches, heart palpitations, unlawful grinding)—although some of us who live here haven’t yet admitted that. For my part, I used to do a pretty darn good music blog, and after 75 years of trying to keep current, I am starting to “get” Schubert.

‘Back in the old days they called us “Slackers” or “Generation X,” the latest variation on The Lost Generation. Now, they call us the “Copelanders,” a cloying term we despise. I even got into it with a lady in the breakfast line this morning with a bandage taped over her right eye and a dyed-blue-and-pink punker wig she was failing to pull off. “I’m so X that I bought Douglas Copeland’s Generation X book when it first came out!” she said, all high hat-like; I retorted with, “Yeah? I’m so X that I bought Generation X when it first came out and I still haven’t read it.” My posse liked that.

‘Most of us prefer “X” or just merely “Transitionals,” named after a bestselling iLecture on the topic by a 100-year-old Tom Brokaw, now deftly claiming the chair long vacated by Studs Terkel. Brokaw (or, probably his research assistants) described our ranks as the generation “with one foot in the past and one in the future,” “who wasn’t supposed to grow old” or, my personal favorite, “the shock troops for the current technological advancement of mankind.” Hell to the yeah! Scholars (mainly, oral historians) and the media are fascinated with our wide-ranging responses to the digital bleatings of El Mundo Nuevo: How many of us embraced it; how many more of us, frustrated at things that became obsolete the second we learned they existed, withdrew into permanent off-the-grid status (now called “DeZo”) or cocooned ourselves in pop culture mementos (let’s face it, pop culture was always what we ran to for comfort, more than our own parents) that halted around 2005.

‘Personally, the thing I feel almost desperate to import is that pining for our youth is less important than you’d think. Getting up in years, you discover things about yourself—besides the things that started going wrong or shutting down on your body—decades after you figured everything on the inside had been accounted for. A few months ago, Binx, who is in a hydraulic wheelchair that walks for him, chided me to go down to the MediaYurt to check out a mammoth sea epic released at the turn of the (last) century. He and I, along with Shel Swiderski and Tim Delacroix—the latter ex-Google and the former an ex-CFO of a company specializing in Earthquake Kits, both relatively sedate and unobtrusive acquaintances from Colony 08—were not so much surprised at how good the miniseries was but fascinated by our own reactions to it. I had never liked seafaring epics—never! Yet by the third chapter, we were like drooling, excitable teenage boys in the froth of a particularly long Terminator or Jenna Jameson marathon.

‘By the last two episodes, our viewing party threatened to become a wrinkled, snow-haired riot, the four of us crowded in the MediaYurt’s iTheatre, hopping up out of our chairs (save for Binx, of course) and sofas to clench a fist at the latest unexpected plot twist, bellowing like sidelined halfbacks, laughing and shaking our furrowed heads, even employing high-fives that left some with numb arms and sore elbows, stomping our slippered feet (again, save for Binx) in a raucous unhinged display of geezers being belligerent for no reason. After the series finale, Delacroix even thought he was having chest pains and a MediPing was attempted but recalled when he breathlessly admitted it was pure overexcitement. He made the rest of us cackle like parrots when he suggested, gulping down the proffered cone of cold Water™, that the four of us steal the YurtTrans and go and find some young ‘uns to beat the hell’s bells out of.

‘But now, old Tim is gone—a burst aorta in his sleep last week—and Shel carted off to the HospiceYurt to contend with the finals stages of pancreatic cancer. (Yes, we still have “the emperor of all maladies” and he’s still a greedy d-----bag that continues to pound the snot out of the human race.) Suddenly, it was just me and Binx. I knew better than to suggest we re-rent the DVDs and bring in Dingo, the retired art professor and Ornette Coleman fanatic, and Bubs, the ex-BBQ Pitmaster. In fact, both of us rarely spoke of those clubby and ticklish afternoons until some of the batwitches from the Ladies’ Colony lodged a formal complaint at what they whined was “the mess” that we made of the iTheatre. One of them marched right into our yurt without knocking and started wagging her finger at my Binx, speaking in a metallic purr provided by the DigiVoice in her neck. Imagine how hilarious this looks: a woman with no trachea trying to talk to a man who’s hard of hearing.

‘Binx, God love him, had no idea what she was talking about. When she said “Do you think that room is for you guys only?” he exulted loudly in her face, “For Your Eyes Only? I was flippin’ burgers at the Big 10 Subshop!” [recording shuts off]

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Septembender [***UPDATED]

Sept. 1-2: FYF Fest @ L.A. State Historic Park....Sept 1-3: African Music & Arts Festival @ Leimert Park Village....Sept. 2: Onaje Murray, Takahito Mori, Jeff Littleon & David Cowan @ Hal’s....Sept. 1: Luciana Susana w/ Larry Koonse, Darek Oles & Scott Amendola @ The Broad Stage....Sept. 2: Open Gate Theater Presents: The Other Tree & Slumgum @ Eagle Rock Center for the Arts....Sept. 6-9: Jacaranda Music Series Presents: The John Cage 100 Festival @ various Santa Monica venues....Sept. 7: Michael Dessen Trio @ The Hammer Museum....First Friday Jazz Presents: Justo Almario Quartet @ East L.A. College Recital Hall....Gerald Wilson w/ The Anthony Wilson Nonet @ LACMA....Sept. 8: Billy Childs, John Clayton & Jeff Hamilton @ Vitello’s....A Tribute to John Coltrane w/ Azar Lawrence, Alphonse Mouzon, Bill Henderson & Henry Franklin @ The Mint....Sept. 9: Dwight Trible and the Cosmic Band w/ Nailah Porter @ Agape Spiritual Center....Charles Wright & Friends at Catalina’s....Sept. 11: Alan Ferber Expanded Ensemble @ The Blue Whale....Swans w/ Xiu Xiu @ The Henry Fonda Theater....Sept. 12: Charles Owens Quartet @ The Lighthouse Cafe....Sept. 13: Theo Saunders Quartet @ Crowne Plaza LAX....2 x 3: Duos + Trios w/ Hans Fjellstad, Ted Byrnes, Andrew Tholl, Devin Hoff & Corey Fogel @ MIA....Sept. 14: Vinny Golia Sextet @ Hammer Museum....Kamasi Washington & The Next Step @ LACMA....Sept. 18: The Gaslamp Killer & Friends @ The Mayan....Sept. 19: Band of Skulls @ The El Rey....Sept. 20: The Wild Beast Concert Series Presents: Voices and Echoes w/ Akio Suzuki, Gozo Yoshimasu & Otomo Yoshihide @ CalArts....Ross Hammond Quartet @ The Blue Whale....Sept. 21: Aram Shelton Quartet @ Hammer Museum....Double Naught Spy Car @ TAIX....Sept. 22: People Inside Electronics Presents: Trees and Branches: Cage, Jarvinen and Tempwerks....Sept. 23: Animal Collective, Flying Lotus & Huun Huur Tu @ Hollywood Bowl....Sept 25: David Binney Quartet w/ John Escreet, Eric Revis & Alex Cline @ The Blue Whale....Sept 27: Gavin Templeton Quartet w/ Matt Politano, Hamilton Price & Brian Mayall (8pm show) @ Curve Line Space Gallery....Sept. 28: 10 Year Anniversary of Light in the Attic Records w/ Rodriguez, Shin Joong Hyun, Michael Chapman, Stephen John Kalinich, and DJ Sipreano @ The El Rey....Daniel Rosenblum Quartet @ South Pasadena Music Center....Miles Davis House ("the ultimate jam session") @ Dim Mak Studios....Kim Richmond Ensemble w/ vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia @ Private Home Concert (RSVP: or 818-368-8839)....Sept. 29-30: The 31st Annual Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival & 36th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festivals w/ Ndugu Chancler, Munyungo Jackson, Azar Lawrence, Patrice Rushen, Justo Almario, Bobby Rodriguez @ Watts Towers Art Center....Sept. 30: Wilco & Joanna Newsom at the Hollywood Bowl...Bonnie Barnett w/ Anders Nilsson @ Battery Books & Music...East Side Story w/ The Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble @ Club Mayan

FYF @ L.A. Historic Park (9/01-9/02)

Ooh, this’ll be a pickle of a Labor Day weekend wonnit? Luckily they’re not that far from one another. (Downtown → The Crenshhaw…perhaps another L.A. Relay is in order.) We’ll get right off by saying that the one FYF act we’d love to see is Desaparecidos (7:55pm Sunday, Main St. Stage), alongside Grandaddy one of the most unlikely reunions of 2012. Their only album Read Music Speak Spanish was released back in 2002 to mixed reviews, mostly due to the critical genuflecting over Lifted..., lead singer/Robert Smith impersonator Conor Oberst’s “legitimate” release under his Bright Eyes moniker. Well, we loved the side project more then and we love it even more now; it has a surreal, brutal, dashed-off quality, containing many of the Oberstian tropes we now know and love (especially atmospherics recorded snatches of banal conversations with plenty of tape hiss) and some pretty terrifically unhinged songs like “Manana” (where Oberst’s shrieking vocals remind one of an unholy union between Trent Reznor and Jack White) and “Greater Omaha” as well as new (!!) material like "Backsell" and  “MariKKKopa." But to make a synth-driven punk concept album charting the urban sprawl of Omaha, Nebraska drives it right into influential status (The Suburbs, American Idiot….anyone? anyone?). Oh yeah and there are some other bands and stuff: Sleigh Bells (8:55pm Saturday, Main St. Stage), Fucked Up (5:25pm Saturday, Spring St. Stage), Chromatics (6:35pm Saturday, Spring St. Stage), The Vaselines (4:55pm Sunday, Hill St. Stage), Red Kross (3:10pm Saturday, Spring St. Stage), Nite Jewel (5:15pm Saturday, Broadway St. Tent), Dam-Funk (11pm Saturday, Broadway St. Tent), John Maus (2:40pm, Saturday, Broadway St. Tent), HEALTH (8:20pm Spring St. Stage) and Aesop Rock (4pm Sunday, Hill St. Stage). Then there’s the anti-comedy of Maria Bamford, Eric Andre, Neil Hamburger and the late-added David Cross, who undoubtedly will lay into the pierced-and-tattooed hipsters of the first and second rows, so bring your thicker skin.

African Arts & Music Festival @ Leimert Park Village
Also this weekend we suggest a trip south to Leimert Park Village for the African Arts & Music Festival, which has expaned this year to three days and is wonderful counterpoint to the swath of Pitchfork-inspired indieness downtown. Among our picks: rap/spoken word sista Medusa (3pm Saturday), the quintet of the newly engaged sax-fiend Azar Lawrence with vibist Onaje Murray, bassist Trevor Ware, drummer Alphonse Mouzon and percussionist Munyungo Jackson (3pm Sunday), no doubt ‘shedding for their upcoming John Coltrane tribute a week later, Kamasi Washington and the Next Step Big Band (3pm Monday) and The Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra (5pm Monday) closing out the final day. Stick around each night after the fest closes for ‘Leimert Park After Dark,’ where local haunts like the World Stage, the Barbara Morrison PAC, Adassa Café and Mavericks Flat throw open their doors to patrons until the wee hours. And it’s all free. Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Charles Wright & Friends @ Catalina’s (9/09)
Who is Charles Wright you ask? One who does not go gently into that goodnight, for one. His songs have been covered by Wilco (“Comment”), sampled by N.W.A. and have popped up as pivotal deep-cut backdrops for films like Boogie Nights (the tense, jumpy “Do Yo’ Thang” plays over William H. Macy’s New Years’ Eve murder/suicide) and One Day In September. The eccentric bandleader of the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, who reportedly refused to work with electronic drum machines because he felt they were evil and a health hazard (he blamed them on causing his heart attack), is celebrating the release of his new CD. The only problem: It’s an exclusive listening party, not open to the public – but has that ever stopped any Angeleno before? In their heyday, Wright’s & Co. were groove improvisers—jazzbos disguised as funketeers—whose in-the-moment vamps were hammered out into actual singles like “Ninety Day Cycle People,” “Doin’ What Comes Naturally,” “Love Land” and the buoyant hit “Express Yourself” that amounted to a lost link between the 60’s hippie-soul of Sly Stone and the harder-edged funk-isms of James Brown. (In fact, the Beast just watched the band’s terrific drummer James Gadson—who had amazing hair—demonstrate how Brown’s drum patterns influenced musicians of his generation in Pasadena last month.) Less craftsmen than inheritors of the scrappy, record-in-the-studio-that-morning-release-it-that-night ethos, the 103rd St. Band predated the hard ‘70s L.A.-based funk of War, Shuggie Otis and Rufus. The night will be hosted by Garrett Morris and has an impressive array of drop-ins including Bobby Womack (who just got the career resuscitation that’s currently owed Wright), Little Richard (!!), Sly Stone (!!!!) and Barbara Morrison. Looks like the Beast will need break out the “Catalina Bus Boy” disguise from the closet.