Monday Sounds


Sunday Sounds



This afternoon I found out that my mother and stepfather bought a new house in Maryland. This news means that the home in which I was raised will offically leave the family. After my parents divorced in the mid-70s, I was essentially raised by my mother and stepfather in Allendale, New Jersey. For around 20 years, this white house, built in the late 19th century was my home. I grew up with my older brother, younger half-sister and I have thousands of memories from this three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Northern New Jersey.

My memories of New Jersey are essentially mixed. That said, I'm ready to bid farewell to this home. And I'm ready to bid farewell to New Jersey. There's little question that the years spent in this home shaped who I am today. We had a fairly tight family, though all told, it was a pretty quiet household. Over the past few years, since leaving New Jersey, I've actually grown a lot closer to my mother, stepfather, and most recently, my sister. I think we're all ready to bid farewell to the house on West Maple. We'll all take some great memories with us, but the time has come to move on.

When I spoke to my mother and stepfather today I could sense growth in their voices. I know they'll miss it, but it was clear by the excitement in their voices, that they're ready to move forward. I will head home one more time for my sister's wedding in the fall. Following that, my new home away from home, will be about 500 miles to the South. And at the age of almost 60, my mother finally has a swimming pool. She's dreamed of this day.

Howard Fineman on Al Gore

May 24, 2006 - In Washington the other day, I got a chance to tell Al Gore something I’d meant to say for a long time, which was that I thought his real strength, his real contribution, was as an observer—writer, explainer, outsider—and not as a politician.

The new movie about him was evidence of that, I said. He gave me a blank, dismissive look, and an “umm” for a verbal response.

I’ve known and covered Gore for decades, so maybe his reaction was inspired by Groucho Marx, who always said that he would never join a club that would have him as a member. But I think the brusque reply carried a different message: don’t assume that I’m ready to be put out to that pasture just yet.

Gore has a certain aura of nobility about him these days—a mixture of rue, acceptance and lofty goals that makes him almost, well, endearing. As I talked to him at the East Coast premiere of the documentary film about him (“An Inconvenient Truth”), I wondered whether his newfound sense of peace and purpose meant that he had given up the idea of ever running for president again—or whether that is precisely what, in an indirect, Zen-like way, he’s doing. My answer to my question: he’s available if fate decides to befriend him.

The premiere, at the headquarters of the National Geographic, had the aura of a Washington homecoming. But it was a nonpolitical political re-emergence after an (understandably) long, post-2000 convalescence. It didn’t feel like a fund-raiser or a campaign launch—just a chance to see an unusual film starring a fellow that everyone in the auditorium knew, and many admired.

It seems hard to dispute that Al Gore finally has built the life he wanted—and that it is outside of electoral politics. Davis Guggenheim, who directed the documentary, focuses on everything but. The core of the film is Gore’s famously apocalyptic slide showon global warming. But Guggenheim weaves around it the story of the former vice president’s roots and rising, starting with the summers he spent on his parents’ (now his) cattle farm in middle Tennessee.

Gore is depicted as a guy who learned to love the land, who was exposed to the pioneering work of an environmentalist at Harvard and who, seeing his older sister die from smoking cigarettes, came to despise the misuse of science in the name of commerce. Now he’s found his life’s calling in his missionary work: an itinerant preacher dragging a black wheelie and an Apple laptop through airports as he summons mankind to repel the Forces of Doom.

The movie works better—is far more inspiring—if you don’t think that Gore is running for president. And, at the reception afterward, he didn’t seem to be. He has lost a bit of his fastidiousness; all those globe-spanning trips through airports have left him on the portly side for the first time in his life. He was clutching a glass of red wine, not the early-evening drink of choice for a man prepping for a campaign marathon. Rather than work the crowd, the crowd worked him, and in the brief moments when there was a lull—when no one was pressing in on him—he was content to stand alone amid the babble.

If he is happy to be a selfless oracle, perhaps that is partly because he’s become a very wealthy one. I’m told that he has a ton of Google stock—he got in early—and that his investment firm is doing well and that its work dovetails very nicely (logistically and financially) with his more visible environmental evangelism. He’s always been a devoted family man; now he’s a doting grandpa.

So why would he even fleetingly consider politics again?

For one—to paraphrase a slogan once applied to Barry Goldwater—in his heart, Gore knows he’s right. He’s been ahead of more curves than a NASCAR driver: the concerns about global warming, the implications of the rise of the internet, the need to be wary of deadly friction along the faultline between Islam and the West, his early and deep opposition to the launching a war in Iraq. It’s an impressive record.

“The reason people don’t like Gore is that he has been right so damn many times,” James Carville told me with an appreciate laugh.

The Worst Band I've Seen...In a While

Good god was this band bad. I'd heard a bit of a buzz about these guys. I'd heard that they had a unique sound. I'd heard that they could be something special.

What I witnessed tonight at the Great American Music Hall was everything that's bad about indie rock. I can't recall if there were ten members or fifteen or fifty. I just remember that there were too many. And their whole schtick about switching instuments, along with a silly horn section was just laughable. The songs sucked. The stage presence was high school marching band at best. The outfits just made the whole extavangandza even funnier. The cliche lead singer with the cool cap. Throw in the hippie bass player, or whatever the fuck he was playing. Add the fat girl on the keys and the cool dude banging whatever was in arms reach. Ugh. This was so bad that I'm getting tired typing about it. Shit, I was so bored by these guys that I don't even care about correcting my grammar.

Ladies and gentleman, this was Architecture In Helsinki. Isn't that a cool name?

Triggers and Trash Heaps



I've seen so few places in my life that it's downright embarassing. I guess I've seen a good portion of the United States. In addition to living in NYC, Boston, NJ and now San Francisco, here are a few cities I've visited that spring to mind: Austin (loved), LA (some good, some bad), Seattle (short stop but liked), Minneapolis (one of my favorite cities), Chicago (good time), Philadelphia (LOVE), Orlando (HATE), St. Louis (fun time), New Orleans (blast), Las Vegas (eh), Cincinnati (most underrated city in the US), Cleveland (yuck), Raleigh (pretty fun), Jacksonville (yawn), Providence (not bad), Myrtle Beach (rednecks), and some others that aren't springing to mind.

Outside of the States, I have only been to Puerto Rico (blah), St. Thomas (I don't wear speedos), London (fun time but nothing extraordinary) and Amsterdam (absolutely beautiful).

Over the next few years, I would like to visit the following stops:

US: Joshua Tree, Portland, Albuquerque and somewhere in Alaska. Again, I don't wear thongs, but maybe Hawaii since it's close.

The real travel will be outside of the US. On the top of my list are the following destinations (hopefully one per year): Bangkok, Barcelona, Scotland, Melbourne, Brazil (roll out the sleeping bag, Newton) and Iceland.

I am looking to book my first trip outside the US in five years and one of the aforementioned places will be the city/country of choice. Leading the pack is Thailand, but I wonder, does Wilco tour there?



Oh Lord, Ain't No End

Seriously, does it get any more beautiful? When it comes to music, the unison of Gary Louris and Mark Olson elicits perhaps the most beautiful sounds on Earth. I've heard thousands of artists harmonize, but none blend like Louris and Olson.

Tonight at the Great American Music Hall, after a decade apart, I was finally able to see these two vocal and songwriter masters together. They played just about everything imaginable from The Jayhawks catalogue: "Settled Down Like Rain", "Blue", "Ain't No End", "Nothing Left To Borrow"...oh man could this list go on. They looked happy. They looked inspired. They looked like two singer-songwriters who were meant to be playing side-by-side.

It is damn near criminal that the room was only about half full. Dave Matthews Yawn and Coldplay can sell out Giants Stadium, yet two of the greatest singers and writers of the past 20 years can't fill a room that holds, what 600 people? I rarely get worked-up when I see a sparse crowd at a great show, but come on people, this is Gary Louris and Mark Olson. This is absolutely beautiful music.

Ok, I'm off to put on the latest Lenny Kravitz cd.

Jay Farrar

Back in 1995, while wading through my junior year in college, I was desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life. I was majoring in sociology, taking a lot of black studies courses, and thinking that my career would take me to a possible phd in sociology. Though I was passionate about this line of studies, there was something missing. I was looking for something that would take me to that next level. Something that would grab my soul and clear up my career uncertainty.

Right around this time I saw Son Volt at the Mercury Lounge in New York City for the first time. After watching Jay Farrar, Jim Boquist, Dave Boquist and Mike Heidorn play one of the most inspiring rock n' roll shows I'd ever seen, I left the venue that night knowing what I'd do with my life. Music. Something, anything in music. I went on to spend the next decade spending countless nights out seeing live music. Wilco, Steve Earle, Springsteen, The Gourds, Slobberbone, Centro-matic, Elliott Smith, The V-Roys, Whiskeytown, Kelly Willis, Richard Buckner, Bob Dylan, The Damnations, Joe Henry. I couldn't get enough.

My career started out doing a summer internship at Bar None Records in Hoboken, NJ. Since then I've worked my way through music publishing, music television, business affairs, mobile music, music management, and I'm now working with indie bands and artists in the digital space. For the most part, I've loved working in this world. It allows me to be closer to the art that fuels my soul.

Last night at The Fillmore in San Francisco, I watched the Drive-By Truckers tear the joint up, followed by Son Volt. When Son Volt hit the stage, my buddy and I headed right to the front of the stage. Jay's new incarnation of Son Volt isn't what they were back in the mid-to-late 90s, but it's still Jay Farrar. His music is one of the main reasons that music essentially shaped my career and ultimately, my life. "Chickamauga" closed the set. The houselights came on and I stood there with chills up-and-down my spine. It wasn't the first time, and it certainly won't be the last.

New Orleans, Hope and Bruce Springsteen

The following review was sent by my good buddy, and New Orleans native, Michael Pemberton. I find this review to be unbelievably important on so many levels. I think of the power of music, the hope that still breaths throughout New Orleans and the responsibility we have as fellow-citizens to help bring back this wonderful city.

I'm way beyond being objective about Springsteen,
but this was truly one of the most fantastic shows I've ever seen by
anybody. On any given night I'll put Bruce up against anyone in the world
as a live performer, but give him something to prove and he's nothing short
of phenomenal. Not only was he debuting a new band with a very different
sound and a new set of songs, but he was doing it specifically for New
Orleans, with all eyes on him. Most importantly, this was probably the
first time in 30 years he was playing in front of a crowd that wasn't
stamping at the bit to adore him. I really wondered how he would go over
with the thousands of sun-burned, stoned, drunk as hell Jazz Festers who
spend the whole Festival camped out by the big stage no matter who is
playing, slamming case after case of overpriced Miller Genuine Draft.

Halfway through "Mary, Don't You Weep" it was clear that he wasn't going to
have any problems. The sound was HUGE, Bruce was more animated then I've
seen him in 20 years, and everything was just...perfect. If anything Bruce
was over-pumped, I thought he oversang a few songs near the beginning. He
remains a master at pacing, I was worried that going into "Eyes on the
Prize" would kill the crowd, but if anything it brought things up even
further. By the end the crowd was more attentive than I ever thought a huge
Jazz Fest crowd could be. The ultimate highlight was a fantastic version of
"My City of Ruins." This was one of those moments when the crowd and
everything else fades away, and it seems like there's nothing but you and
the music. This guy coming to my town and playing this song at this
particular time in our city's history and in my own personal
was extremely powerful. 90% of the crowd hadn't heard the song before,
but they were still stone-silent as he started, you could tell people were
really listening, and they started to rumble to life as the song went on. By
the time it got to the "...with these hands" and the final "Rise up!", it
was overwhelming. There may have been some dry eyes scattered around the
crowd, but mine weren't among them.

At that point it was well after 7pm, and Jazz Fest never runs late, so I
figured that was it. But I guess you don't kick Bruce offstage, because he
went on for another 30 minutes. I'd heard that he had ended some of his
rehearsal shows with "When the Saints Go Marching In," which I was dreading,
because if there is one thing New Orleans doesn't need is yet another
version of "Saints." Bruce's soft, acoustic version was a revelation, he
brought it back to the personal prayer that it had been originally. Not
only that, but he sang two verses that were part of the song originally but
that are rarely heard any more, and that fit the moment perfectly:

(first verse)
We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before
And we'll all be reunited
On a new and sunlit shore

(last verse)
Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we'll see
But I'm waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

It wasn't a perfect show (some of the songs went on too long, his reworking
of "Open All Night" was clunky, and he didn't play "Erie Canal," my favorite
off the new record), but it was darn close. I really hope all of you see a
show this year that means as much to you as yesterday's show meant to me.