I've never quite bought into the Radiohead hype. I think they've put out a few really good records (alright, "Ok Computer" is VERY good) and a few average ones. I do hear that they're amazing live, and I hope to see them one day.
If you haven't heard the news, the next Radiohead record will be released digitally on October 10th. And they'll be releasing it on their OWN. Yes, you are reading correctly. The wheels are in motion for major change.
Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build the big bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud
You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins
How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you Even Jesus would never Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand o'er your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead
So a friend of mine told me that he's a bit tired of Dylan because his roommate repeatedly plays "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", which has to be Dylan's worst song on a great Dylan record. No, I don't mean that it's his worst song overall; it's not even close, but it's likely one of the worst songs on one of his near perfect records. In other words, remove this from "Blonde and Blonde" and you have a perfect record.
Ok, now that I've taken way too many key stokes to explain that, let's get the point: When I heard this, I told him that I had to make him a Dylan mix. Similar to the Springsteen mix that I made for N, this was nearly impossible.
I wanted to limit this to 21 songs. Here it is:
She Belongs To Me It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) Shelter From the Storm Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues Don't Think Twice, It's Alright Not Dark Yet Masters of War My Back Pages Visions of Johanna Mississippi Ballad of a Thin Man Moonshiner Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts Just Like a Woman A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall It's All Over Now, Baby Blue Girl From the North Country Chimes of Freedom Oxford Town Desolation Row
I've never really wanted to know all that much about Nick Drake's personal life, as I've always found that it's best to let his music speak for itself. Nevertheless, whenever I'm afforded the opportunity to learn something, I can't help but take a look.
A beautiful interview with Nick's sister Gabrielle can be found here: http://www.sfbg.com/blogs/music/2007/09/gabrielle_drake.html
About two months ago N helped me put a map I'd just bought onto my bedroom wall. Once it was up, we both looked around at different places in the world. For some reason I'm always fascinated by what could be going on, if anything, in the seemingly quiet parts of the world. I find myself transfixed on the Northern parts of Russia or Canada. After a minute, Noreen's eyes landed on a country that was unfamiliar to me. She quietly uttered, "I can't believe it says Myanmar". I had little clue what she was talking about, so I inquired. See, I knew that N was born in Burma, but what was Myanmar? She went on to tell me that the present "government" or juntas changed the name to Myanmar once they took control. N only knew this country as Burma. It's where she was born. She was not born in Myanmar.
Amazingly, in the last week or so the Burmese people have joined in the tens of thousands to march for democracy and freedom. Evidently nine protesters were killed today (though many claim that the numbers are much higher) and peaceful monks are being seized by the government. This story gets basically ZERO coverage on the major US news organizations and this shouldn't come as a surprise. But this is a major world event taking hold. This is a country banding together to peacefully speak out. For me, it's remniscent of MLK's SCLC or even the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of the Civil Rights Movement. This is about justice.
I am pulling for these people to get their country back. I hope that the international community, and especially China, will step up and show their unwavering support.
I want the next map that I purchase to have a country that reads Burma.
I could make this entry long-winded and full of disappointment, but ya know what, it's just not worth it. Tonight's two-hour debate was just terrible. Aside from John Edwards, and perhaps Joe Biden, the candidates completely phoned it in. Barack Obama looked TERRIBLE. He was listless, predictable and all over the place. Hillary Clinton, whom I was starting to like a bit, threw me back to my original opinions on Hillary: stiff, too conservative and too aligned with the elites (and wait, she voted FOR the Iran resolution today. Is she kidding?). People argue that she can play the game and that'll help her get into office. Is that what this country really wants and needs? Just another caricature who can play the game? Maybe some do, but not me. We're in pretty desperate and critical times right now and we need something NEW. We need someone with heart, vision and curiosity. We do NOT need the same old.
And what about Tim Russert? What is your favorite passage in the bible? Should there be a smoking ban in public places? Yankees or Red Sox? Good work getting at the issues there, Tim. (I realize that the last one was in good fun, but man, where's Morrow when you need him. The U.S. mainstream media is beyond embarassing.)
This country desperately needs new blood in this race. Since Al Gore, unfortunately, appears to be out, my hope resides in a possible Bloomberg/Hagel ticket. I think it's a longshot that he/they enter, but if they do, I will give them strong consideration. While living in NYC, I was very impressed with Bloomberg. He speaks his mind and carries through with what he believes in. He did NOT pay attention to opinion polls, but rather went with policies that he believed were right for the people, and in most cases they were.
I am too tired to get out everything, and boy is there a lot to recap, but I want to get out what's fresh, so here it goes....
Our four day jaunt up to Oregon was likely one of the greatest vacations of my life. Not only did I experience some things that I never have before, but I shared it with a wonderful person who added to the experience ten times over. In addition, my ongoing self-discovery seemed to have opened up even more. In the past three months, I've learned more about myself that I have in the previous ten years or so, and this trip only opened up more.
Instead of recapping each day and what we did, let's just go with some of the memories that seem to bubble to the top:
Lithia Park, Ashland, OR: What a beautiful little nugget in a small town. The duck pond is literally FILLED with ducks. They're all over the pond, crowded on the banks, walking all over the grass, hanging across the street. They are EVERYWHERE. Once they seem to gain your trust (e.g., see you with food in your hand), they'll get within two feet or so. It's a tiny little pond, but there's so much to see. N couldn't get enough of this beautiful tree with BRIGHT yellow leaves. I was in my place with ducks and she in hers with this tree. It was perfect. As we slowly drove out, we witnessed a family of deer literally ON the curb of the street. We pulled over and watched them for about 15 minutes. I was making absurd noises to try and get their attention - they were having none of it. Man were they beautiful.
Crater Lake, OR: How could such a beautiful place exist? The water in the lake is crystal clear. If you walk about 40 yards from the lodge, the only sound you hear is the wind. The smells are like nothing that's hit your senses before. The air is as clear as one can imagine. It's all real. It's all what it's supposed to be. I almost felt guilty being there, because this is nature at its finest. See, Crater Lake was formed about 7700 years ago after a massive volcanic eruption. When everything settled, thus formed Crater Lake. And what a gift. I woke up Monday morning at about 7am. N wanted to sleep some more, so I picked up my ipod and camera and headed out. It was mighty chilly, but the experience of sitting in the woods, leaning back and putting on Bonnie "Prince" Billy's "Master and Everyone" is something that I won't soon forget. It felt like life.
Just so much more to share. This may require that I take a few weeks off work and write a short story or something. It impacted me that much.
Other short highlights: --N's hysterical laughter at a guy she thought looked like Goran Ivanisevic, when she actually meant that Goran guy from the show E.R. We also contrived a story about this guy's life, including his years in the Serbian War, his love affair with Brian (his fellow waiter) and his years as a soccer star.
--The owners of the Touvelle house in Jacksonville, OR: Gary and Tim, I believe. They showed us such a perfect night. They have four deer actually LIVING on their small plot of land. Every time I went outside, they were there somewhere. And if they weren't in plain site, I would find them. Also, when we first walked into the Bed & Breakfast, Josh Ritter was playing on the house system. What are the chances? Satellite radio will do that for you.
--N: It wouldn't have been half the experience without you. As always, you opened my eyes to so much. It's what you do, even when you don't know that you're doing it. Your smiles, passion, laughs and insights made this trip all the more wonderful.
I am now back in San Francisco. I am glad to be here, but at the same time, I want to return up North. I'll certainly remain here for some time, but a move up North certainly isn't ruled out. Nor should it be.
Tomorrow afternoon I leave for a four-day trip to Oregon. First stop is a roadside motel on the way to Ashland. We will then be spending a night in Ashland, a night at Crater Lake and a night in Jacksonville. I'm sure that the trip will provide many stories and photos that I shall share on this here blog.
This morning I sat in a meeting staring at the clock on my laptop. Around 958am or so I began refreshing the Ticketmaster page. At about 1001am the "Find Tickets" link popped up for the Springsteen show at Oracle Arena in Oakland. I first tried for two tickets and clicked "Best Available". No seats available. I then went for just one ticket. Denied. And again. And again. Then it went through. I was offered a ticket in the upper tier, behind the stage for $93.50. No way. I refreshed again. And again. All I could find were single tickets behind the stage. When I realized that Ticketmaster would probably add about $20 in fees, and I'd be sitting behind the stage, without my girlfriend or a friend, I passed.
If you've read my blog even once, there was probably a mention of Springsteen. His music is what broke through me and began my lifelong love for rock n' roll. When I first heard "Born To Run" at the age of about five, I somehow felt something. Whenever I hear "Jungleland" I still feel like a five year old. I'm now 33 years old and this song sounds just as sweet as it did in the late 70s. It may just be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Digress.
I wonder how these tickets went so fast? Could there REALLY have been this many people scouring for tickets at exactly 10am? Or did Ticketmaster (and perhaps the Bruce camp) have something to do with the scarcity of tickets? Could they have alloted a certain number of tickets to their corporate sponsors? Could Bruce finally have reached a point where he's leaving his fans behind? I just don't think it's possible. But I do wonder. I mean, he *is* signed to SonyBMG, and we all know about them. And does an artist of Bruce's caliber have to go through Ticketmaster? I mean, maybe he does, given how massive his tour will be. But aren't there other options? There have to be.
I have had MANY bad experiences with Ticketmaster. Granted, this morning's disappointment may have simply been the result of rabid fans. But maybe it wasn't. Nevertheless, the experience left me so frustrated that I no longer care about seeing Springsteen. I've seen him about 50 times in the past and I have memories that will never fade away.
Instead, my friend Scott will be in town and we'll be heading over to Cafe du Nord to see Kelly Willis. I doubt I'll have to pay $93 plus some absurd fees and have to stare at her back.
I normally do not like festivals, at all. I've actually only attended a few in the past. I went to the Fleadh Festival on Randall's Island about eight years ago and it was decent. I went to the Pitchfork Festival last year and it was TERRIBLE (awful sound, poorly laid out, disgusting grounds, weak bands).
What Kevin Arnold and Jordan Kurland did this weekend with The Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco was absolutely astounding. This is the first year of this festival and expectations were very unclear. The setting was on Treasure Island, an old Naval Base that separates San Francisco from the East Bay. It's basically a ghost town that almost no one ever visits. However, it has an amazing view of the city and it's almost shocking that nothing of this sort has taken place there in the past.
In addition to booking a solid list of acts, the real treat was how well the festival was organized and carried out. The scenery was beautiful. It was not over-crowded. They had two stages and the SECOND that the main stage act would end, the second stage would start up (and vice versa). Time slots were kept to a tee. There was PLENTY of food and beverages (including a lot of organic foods). The bathroom lines were more than manageable. Security was great. All told: The fact that this was their FIRST festival is remarkable. This festival gets an A+ for just about everything.
And the music? The highlights for me were M. Ward and Spoon. M. Ward's set, with full band, was just gorgeous. Ward switched from guitar to piano and belted out his beautiful throwback songs with heart and intensity. He closed his set with "Big Boat" which had me slamming my foot to the soil. Outstanding. Spoon, who have almost always been a disappointment to me live, put on a stellar set. They threw together the perfect mix of "Girls Can Tell", "Gimme Fiction" and "Ga Ga Ga..." and, after a few slip-ups early, sounded extremely tight. Britt Daniel took a song or two to get a hang of the guitar, but once he did, the songs took off.
Kevin Arnold, Jordan Kurland, Noise Pop and Another Planet should be commended. They've brought a near perfect music festival to a city that desperately needed one. When considering the future of music, the aforementioned two guys are playing a key role in its development and success.
Ever feel like there are hundreds of things you want to listen to, read or watch at the same time? This seems to be happening to me all the time lately. Right this very second I want to listen to the new Georgie James, the new Springsteen, some Gram Parsons, but I also want to watch the Yankees/Red Sox, the History Channel and my latest Netflix. I also want to finish this damn book on Rwanda that I've been slacking on. And I want to dive into my next read. And what about the Hillary Clinton piece in the recent New Yorker. Oh, and the records that I've yet to even unwrap. And YouTube's just endless.
"Please forgive me, if I can't learn to live in Generic America, where the wedding fields got paved, the kids are out looking for a rave, and the rest of us sat on a big fat ass, watching the Rose Bowl parade" --Blue Mountain ("Generic America" from the album "Homegrown", 1997)
This is a rant, I think. I mean, when I think of generic America, I used to think of the Midwest, the South and other more rural and suburban parts of the country. New York and San Francisco? These places were/are supposed to represent diversity, not just in race, class, sexual orientation, but in the individuality of people, outside of just these simple ways of identifying folks. But I'm seeing less and less of it.
When I left New York City on January 1, 2005, a good part of my reasoning for trying San Francisco was that NYC had begun to lose its edge. I had written off Manhattan in around 2002 or so when the city's small districts became unbelievably predictable. Upper East Side? Post-grad frat boys. Upper West? The elites. The Village? Hipsters. Manhattan had turned into few block squares of people of the same ilk. But I still had Brooklyn. Oh, not Williamsburg. This community was even worse than Manhattan. Williamsburg was jam-packed with the "ultra hipsters". Ya know, the kids wearing the ironic t-shirts, big sunglasses, tight jeans and pretending that they knew shit about music, books and culture. They all had their apartments stacked with Vonnegut books and the new Strokes record (until they became "uncool"). I had Park Slope. But even the Slope was turning the corner. I felt the need for a change, because the change occuring throughout New York City was not a good change.
Before leaving New York, I spent about six months in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There's really no need to even comment on how vapid this town is. There's a Wal Mart on every corner, a Home Depot within arms reach, a McDonald's on every block and 90% of the people are the same: right wing, beer guzzling, truck driving morons.
And now onto San Francisco. This is supposed to be the most progressive and open-minded city in the country, right? Well, in many regards that may be the case. However, just like New York City, I see a lot of predictability throughout this city. Head to the Mission and you'll see the tight jeans, tattoos, Bukowski reading fools. Stroll on over to the Marina and good god; it's the Upper East side of Manhattan copied and pasted right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. Make your way to the Haight and there's the pot-smoking, change-grubbing dolts that adorned St. Marks Street in Manhattan. Hop on the bus and you'll see every girl in her big sunglasses, slipper shoes and trendy bag. These people aren't different, they're all the same. The people in the Mission/Williamsburg are the same as the people in the Marina/Upper East Side. They follow a look and attitude and fall right in line with the rest.
This country does enough to try and force homogenization upon us. The corporations get bigger and buy up the smaller guys. Drive from coast-to-coast and aside from the beautiful countryside, you'll see the same things over and over. And over.
I realize that I'm grossly generalizing and avoiding mention of the many folks who do represent individuality. I know that there are many exceptions. The owner of Fillmore Grind up my street is incredibly unique. He's a purely genuine Palestinian man named Mike. He's in his late-50s or early 60s and every trip into his shop is a treat. There's new music, new stories and a different Mike almost every time I'm there, yet he's still the same. I just want more of this. I want more people to avoid trends and walk to their own tune. This is a country that was built on individuality. Let's not lose sight of that. Or have we already?
Aside from "The Office", this is the best show on television. Then again, I don't really watch any other television, aside from some history stuff, political crap that drives me insane, animal stuff and Yanks games.
One of the greatest aspects of the digital age is the ability to scroll through your library and quickly find a record that you'd forgotten about. Tonight I was searching for something new. Not new as in recently released, but something that I hadn't listened to in ages. After about five minutes of shuffling around, I landed on Chris Isaak's "Forever Blue". I haven't listened to this record in probably five years, but tonight it sounds absolutely fantastic and almost brand new. Hopefully tomorrow, or the next day, I'll find another diamond in the rough. In the meantime, if you don't own this record, pick it up; it was one of the best records of 1995.
The Clean "Anthology" Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan "Ballad of the Broken Seas" Robert Becker "Lot #99-0038" Josh Ritter "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter" Bruce Springsteen "Magic" Absentee "Schmotime" Joe Henry "Civilians" Okkervil River "The Stage Names" Spoon "Kill the Moonlight" Josh Rouse "Nashville" Neil Young "Harvest" Mark Olson "The Salvation Blues" Bruce Springsteen "The Ghost of Tom Joad" Yo La Tengo "Summer Sun" Palace "Viva Last Blues" Maps "We Can Create" Pavement "Wowee Zowee" The Arcade Fire "Neon Bible" The Modern Lovers "The Modern Lovers" M.I.A. "Kala"
From his days as a co-founder of The Jayhawks in Minneapolis, to the five-or-so year period with the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers in Joshua Tree, CA, and onto his present solo career, I've been a fan of Mark Olson's music for well over 15 years. If you haven't heard it, his new record, "The Salvation Blues", is one of his best works to date (and that includes his brilliant work with Gary Louris and company).
The following video is one of the highlights from the new record. Many of the shots in the video take place in my hometown (circa 1998-2005) of Brooklyn, NY. The imagery, combined with Olson's vocals, creates an odd sense of being home for me. I feel like I've sat in that exact subway seat over a thousand times.
It's late, I'm exhausted and I'm in need of a bed. But I did say that I'd post something about the Wilco show and I haven't. Simply put, this band may be at its peak. I've seen Wilco going on 40 (maybe 50?) times, and although they don't have the all-out abandon that they did in 1997 or so, they are extremely tight and the cohesive sound is unreal. Their new take on "Via Chicago" is one of the best live version of any Wilco songs I've ever seen. The tracks off of "Sky Blue Sky" are fueled with emotion and energy live. And Nels Cline is finally living up to his reputation as one of the best guitarists traversing the Earth today (god, that sounded awful, but you get the point).
Tonight was Okkervil River at the Independent. This was another fantastic show in a string of great shows. "John Allyn Smith Sails" is the best song released so far this year, and it was chilling live. I can't recall a song that so beautifully encapsulates a tragic story into a song full of life, sadness, euphoria and redemption. This song is a full damn novel thrown into a song that checks in at less than five minutes.
"A wise man knows, when it's time to go. So I fly into the brightest winter sun of this frozen town, I'm stripped down to move on. My friends, I'm gone" --Will damn Sheff
In preparation for Springsteen's jaunt out to the West Coast, my girlfriend asked me to make her a Springsteen mix. My initial thought was, "Wait, just one cd? You mean, like under 75 songs?" I chose to take on the challenge.
Thunder Road The Price You Pay No Surrender (Live '75-'85) Devils & Dust The River Backstreets Racing In the Street The Ties That Bind Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street This Hard Land 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) Born To Run (Live '75-'85) Darkness on the Edge of Town Jungleland