Friday, April 30, 2010

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning

Funny how one day of vacation leaves me chock full of bloggy inspiration, isn't it? Must be a sign that work really sucks lately. This stress just ain't healthy for the body or the mind. Doesn't make me special though; I think most of us struggling in this crap economy are in the same boat.

Anyway, here I am again at the internet ice cream parlor on 8th Ave. and 21st St. in Chelsea, blogging like a mofo with horrible pop music blasting in the background, killing time before this year's first Conspiracy Of Beards gig in New York which will be taking place tonight at an undisclosed location in Williamsburg, about which I am sworn to secrecy as there is apparently only a 75 person capacity. I'll tell y'all how it went.

Some of the boys are staying at the legendary Chelsea Hotel itself, which is just a stone's throw away from here. I expect them to really shine on that tune this year (certainly I know the words better now):

Any local lurkers on this blog should know that we will be at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery at E. 1st) on Saturday May 1 at 9:30 pm, and at the Highline Ballroom (431 w. 16th St at 9th Ave) on Sunday, May 2 at 1:00 pm. You'll recognize me because I'm the one with the suit, beard and/or hat.

The man with the loudest voice...

...surely must have the most to say, right?

This was quite a thing to see on the tube last night. Yeah, if you just keep talking and keep that smug look on your face, you're sure to win the argument, aren't you? I mean, it works on Fox, doesn't it? Kudos to Rachel for not letting go of the reins and letting this fool hang himself with his own words. "The Southern Poverty Law Center has no credibility"??? This is what happens when you forget there is a difference between an assertion and an argument and get too used to everyone around you taking your words at face value. The guy got out 50 words for every one of Maddow's, but all he did was dig a deeper hole for himself and his own foul beliefs.

Most of the mainstream media are so in love with any loudmouthed bully that comes along that it's easy to think their vicious rants represent the views of the whole country, but it ain't necessarily so, folks. The world is heading for another shift, and we are living in interesting times indeed.

The real struggle is between those who understand language and those who labor to twist words until they mean the opposite of what they once meant. This is how good people get caught up in evil schemes. For instance, one quote Rachel pulled out basically stated that society is in danger because stupid people breed faster than intelligent ones. Now, on a surface level, I happen to believe this myself! Mike Judge made a brilliant movie based on this premise. However, the catch is that for this particular crowd, the word "intelligence" itself has been turned into a racist code word, thanks to books like The Bell Curve. (Note also, how the acronym FAIR has been stolen from the media critics in the link above by these odious Arizona racists.) I mean, we're all in favor of "intelligence", right? But when we have prominent people who do things like defining "intelligent" as "white", our language is degraded to the point where we cannot even have a conversation anymore. This is a feature, not a bug. It's intentional, and designed to divide us while the oligarchs scoop up all our resources and money with no regard for any sustainable future. And they made a lot of progress in the first 8 years of this century. But I think there is change afoot, and change is not just to be found in the form of one handsome, powerful black guy in the White House who has already made way too many compromises. Obama is just riding the wave as far as I'm concerned. It's up to us to be the rain.

The sane people of the world see serious problems and demand well thought out solutions that will not backfire in the long term. We are up against an opposition that is relentless, tireless, and has no qualms about lying through their teeth and stirring up livid, confused passions to enact their agenda. But we have integrity and a better sense of humor, which are more powerful things than they may appear to be. We are alive!

Anyway, here's part two of Rachel's interview with Dan Stein. Note how she never cuts his mike, instead she persistently and politely keeps coming back with simple questions. Bill O'Reilly is notorious for making his targets look bad by cutting them off and talking over them. Rachel Maddow doesn't need to resort to such transparent tactics; in fact, the more she lets Stein talk on and ignore her every time she asks a direct question, the worse he looks. The more these people are exposed outside of their own cozy right wing echo chamber, the better.

Humanoid Boogie

It was telling that the ads for Neil Innes' appearance at Cobb's Comedy Club didn't mention the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band at all, instead reading "Neil Innes (Monty Python, The Rutles)". In fact, the marquee itself billed him as "Neil Innes from Monty Python & The Holy Grail". In commercial terms, it makes sense of course, and one hopes that this strategy served to turn some less-informed Python fans on to the Bonzos. The people around us, though, needed no such introduction, cheering with recognition not only for the Bonzo numbers, but even for "How Sweet To Be An Idiot", the sentimentally histrionic (imagine John Cale with a duck on his head) title song of Innes' first solo album. This was a small but hardcore crowd of Innes fans who knew exactly who they were in the presence of. The warm reception must have been gratifying to Neil, who tantalized us with great stories of the early days of his one of a kind berserk psychedelic Dada trad-jazz combo.

Which is not to say that Neil Innes is resting on his laurels. Switching between various guitars, ukulele and keyboard (the last of which he could have spent more time on---I would've been happy to hear him play piano all night), he brought forth a wealth of good new material, some of which was downright stunning. One in particular, "One Of Those People", is definitely going to be added to Ear Candle Radio as soon as we get a hold of it; it really struck a chord with me. Unfortunately, Neil was all out of merch, having sold the lot at previous dates on this tour. But his newest, Innes' Own World: Best Bits, includes the aforementioned "One Of Those People", as well as "Imitation Song", the poignant Rutles swansong whose video we posted previously, and the rousing nose-thumbing anthem, "Ego Warriors". We're seeking it out at this very moment.

I remember Innes' post-Bonzos, pre-Rutles solo output from the 70s as being rather uneven as he made great efforts to prove himself as a More Serious Songwriter, but it's good to see he has found his own voice as a solo artist in the ensuing decades. The new material hits the perfect balance and showcases his matured talent for witty buffoonery that can touch on a serious point amid the silliness if he chooses to. At times, he was like a less misanthropic Stephin Merritt, with an encyclopedia of genres at his fingertips.

Still, a comedy club was the right place for this multi-faceted artist, and Innes delivered the laughs. The most hilarious moment for me was probably the ridiculously spot-on Elton John parody. In what could have been mistaken for an outtake from Madman Across The Water, he captured both Bernie Taupin's pseudo-profound word salad lyrics and Elton John's weird vocal tics and florid piano, resulting in something irresistible to both fans and non-fans. ("GodFREY DAAAANiels, he ain't done nothing wrong/Let him go back to Ohio or wherever he belong") The sweetest moment was either "Imitation Song", the Rutles' "Cheese And Onions", or possibly the faux-French ballad of mundane-yet-deepening love purred through a fake mustache. The most fun aspect of the evening was what he called "band shouts", aka audeince-participation singalongs. The show was a delight, and more than lived up to the Bonzos' legacy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

While we're on the subject of Bonzos

Just got our tickets for Neil Innes at Cobb's Comedy Club in SF next Wednesday. I'll be flying to New York at the crack of dawn Thursday morning with the Beards, so there won't be much sleep in between, but I'll probably spend the flight half asleep, dreaming silly, melodic dreams.

Here is a poignant animated video of a recent Innes recording, said to be the last-ever Rutles song.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Let's go back to your childhood...childhood...childhood...

A BBC documentary on the late great Vivian Stanshall from the 90s, filmed towards the end of his life and aired shortly after his passing. Like many great humorists, he lived an often tragic life, and his death (passed out drunk in a burning house) was horrible. But let's remember him for his sweet irreverence, his joyful twisting of language, and the hilarity and glee he brought to the world.

Keep your eye on the backing band in the musical segments. Yes, that is the Mekons' Susie Honeyman on violin and keyboards. How cool is that? (Not to mention: the great Bonzo hornman Rodney Slater on bass saxophone. My failed youthful forays into attempting to learn to play sax were inspired by Rodney Slater and Ian Underwood.)

With the recently reissued Bonzo Dog Band albums raising their profile higher than it's been in years, it's good to see Vivian Stanshall getting renewed attention. Don't miss this.

And once you get hooked, The Doo Dah Diaries is a new website devoted to chronicling the complete history of the Bonzo Dog Band. Here is where you go next when you've run out of Monty Python references. Pull up your trousers and take a deep whiff of the sweet smell of giraffe.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Extra Action

Last night I was in Oakland, along with fellow Beards Daryl Henline and Joshua Warren, doing some vocal overdubs for the next Extra Action Marching Band record. Great stuff. I hope they finish it up soon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Your house is on fire and your children are alone

We shot this footage of the Conspiracy Of Venus, an eclectic a capella women's choir and sister ensemble to the Conspiracy Of Beards, at San Francisco's Make Out Room. They opened their set with a sweet version of Tom Waits' "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" that illuminates some new corners of a familiar song. Hey little bird, fly away home!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Diego's Umbrella at the Mezzanine, May 30, 2009

Local Gypsy punks featuring violinist Jason Kleinberg, who we used to see playing with Rico Bell's Snakehandlers on a regular basis (back when Rico still lived in San Francisco). This was filmed when they opened for Sila & The Afro-Funk Experience last May. Davis Jones also shot the intro where we see the boys psyching themselves up for the gig backstage. You used to call yourselves WHAT, again?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: March 2010

Our new playlist is up and running (finally!), and about 95% complete. The last month of broadcasting was a random shuffle, and the charts are a combination of old and new stuff.

The brilliant, energetic and foxy Subtonix just can't stay out of the top 20, taking the number 1 spot with their awesome Screamers cover. We also say goodbye to great songs from PiL, Lavern Baker, and Joe Strummer from the old playlist, as well as Jonathan Mann's excellent tribute to Paul Krugman. (Google the Youtube video; it's a charmer.)

The Deletist CD is something we actually picked up at the Raincoats/Viv Albertine show at the Mezzanine last year, where the artist responsible for the infamous comic book Bitter Pie was selling her wares. (And like many people who make dark, disturbing art, she turns out to be really nice in real life.) Turns out she's in this murky, rumbling, electronic-flavored band. We picked a track with her chanting sternly "We don't believe the media!" over and over, and this is the second time it's shown up in the charts. Must be striking a chord with the folks.

We have more return appearances of old playlist highlights by the Clash, John Cooper Clarke, ESG, the Bonzos, the Temptations, Eddie Izzard, Bert Jansch, and the Animals. And we welcome new tracks from Curtis Mayfield (and why are we still needing to point out that we gotta have peace? Hello?), Yoko Ono (more words of wisdom), 60s Japanese beat group the Mops ("But I don't care of them/so I am just a mops!!!"), Bongwater ("What keeps you going? Great radio!"), and X-tal (a track from their final German release that is destined to be included in a new Ear Candle compilation really soon).

Last but not least is an old favorite from lesser known 60s San Francisco band the Serpent Power, a classic psychedelic tale of a nightmarish bad trip of a train ride with a twist at the end. We found out bandleader David Meltzer is alive and well and focusing on his poetry in the East Bay. We dropped him a line and he came back with a very gracious and appreciative reply. Good guy, good song.

After nearly six years of this, it's astonishing that there is still so much great music out there to hunt down, dust off and share with you all. Hope you are digging it. Keep giving us your feedback, and by all means, keep listening!

1. Subtonix - Vertigo - Tarantism
2. Public Image Ltd. - Rise - Compact Disc
3. LaVern Baker - Jim Dandy - Soul on Fire: The Best of LaVern Baker
4. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Bhindi Bhagee - Global A Go-Go
5. Jonathan Mann - Hey Paul Krugman - Song A Day
6. Deletist - Blakelok - Relive
7. Curtis Mayfield - We Got To Have Peace - Roots
8. The Clash - Police On My Back - Sandinista!
9. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band - Healing - Between My Head And The Sky
10. The Mops - I'm Just A Mops - Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond
11. Bongwater - Great Radio - The Power of Pussy
12. John Cooper Clarke - Beasley Street - Snap, Crackle & Bop
13. ESG - Get Funky - A South Bronx Story
14. Bonzo Dog Band - Rhinocratic Oaths - The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse
15. The Temptations - Masterpiece - Psychedelic Soul
16. Eddie Izzard - Great Escape - Dress To Kill
17. X-tal - I Was A Teenage Christian - The Conqueror Worm
18. Bert Jansch - Courting Blues - Bert Jansch
19. The Animals - Baby Let Me Take You Home [Mono] - Absolute Animals 1964-1968
20. Serpent Power - Endless Tunnel - Serpent Power