Monday, May 31, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, May 2010

The clattering sounds of two giants jamming top our chart this month with John Cale and Terry Riley's Church Of Anthrax, followed closely by one of Neo's favorite Experimental Bunnies tracks, a barrelling gem from 21st century Wire, and a great Robert Wyatt song featuring the late Ivor Cutler smashing up the telly with what's left of the broken phone, and who can blame him after all? Leonard Cohen just nods and says "everybody knows".

We were very lucky to find a very rare vinyl copy of the Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada album and it's gratifying to see that Jill Fido's sultry psychedelic love ballad connects with our listeners, as do our own Granite Countertops and their smoochfest "Haystack". The Vivian Girls set the controls for the heart of the sun and ride a chord to infinity, while Slapp Happy's Dagmar Krause sings sweetly over a clattery VU-esque backing provided partly by Faust, who also make an appearance of their own with an extended epic jam.

Along with the Holy Sisters (as well as J Neo Marvin himself when you get right down to it), another group of veterans of the Santa Cruz scene are early 80s sax-bass-drums trio The Love Dogs. Dutch anarchist avant-gardeners The Ex show their quieter side, lo-fi wonders Wavves (who we first discovered via our sometime commenter Ian) make a showing with their catchy hit, Led Zeppelin appear from the distant past and still can't find the confounded bridge, SF's Society Of Rockets serve up some lush harmonies and promote new beginnings, and Robert Wyatt surfaces again with an expansive jazz setting of Alfie's poem about the woman wishing for wings.

Howlin' Wolf howls for his darling and, by proxy, for all of us and all of our darlings. Brian Eno and Cluster rhapsodize about the machinery, the Detroit Cobras put the pogo into the shing-a-ling, and Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity represent the Iraqi sound.

That's it for this month. Keep listening!

1. John Cale & Terry Riley - Church Of Anthrax - Church Of Anthrax
2. The Experimental Bunnies - Uncertainty - Music For The Integrity Tone Scale
3. Wire - Our Time - Read & Burn 03
4. Robert Wyatt - Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road - Rock Bottom
5. Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows - The Essential Leonard Cohen
6. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Beside You - Let's Get Acquainted
7. The Granite Countertops - Haystack - Crashing Into The Future
8. Vivian Girls - Out For The Sun - Everything Goes Wrong
9. Slapp Happy - Blue Flower - Sort of...Slapp Happy
10. The Love Dogs - Oh, I Have To Think - The Love Dogs
11. The Ex - Oskar Beck - Dizzy Spells
12. Wavves - So Bored - Wavvves
13. Led Zeppelin - The Crunge - Houses Of The Holy
14. Society of Rockets - Circulate and Sing - Future Factory
15. Robert Wyatt - September The Ninth - Shleep
16. Howlin' Wolf - Howlin' For My Darling - Howlin' Wolf: His Best (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)
17. Faust - No Harm - Faust/So Far
18. Eno, Moebius & Roedelius - The Belldog - After The Heat
19. The Detroit Cobras - Shout Bama Lama - Life, Love & Leaving
20. Daoud & Saleh Al-Kuwaity - Shwy shwy - Masters of Iraqi Music

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Red Devil Lounge Acts

We were at the Red Devil Lounge on Polk St. on April 11 with our cameras. Here's the best of what we got.

Deborah Crooks, "Let's Move":

Festizio, "Questions":

Monday, May 24, 2010

A mixture of greed and the smell of oil

The Rude Pundit cuts to the chase as usual:
The Rude Pundit can't get his mind around the fact that the well is still pouring out oil a month later. He can't grasp how BP executives haven't been arrested for, at the minimum, criminal negligence, if not manslaughter, and the well blown up and sealed. He can't understand why BP is even involved in any decision-making here, why any notion of protecting profits and shareholders has had any effect on the solution, why the Obama administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, fucking NOAA hasn't told BP to go fuck itself, that the well's not theirs anymore. And then order the Coast Guard to shoot on sight anyone from BP who gets near it.
But of course, it isn't playing out like that, and a major environmental crisis is metastasizing while we watch, helplessly, because nothing is more important than protecting the bottom line of a huge multinational corporation. I can't think of a more perfect example of our own profits-over-all system of laissez faire capitalism and where it leads. Our only hope of a solution is coming from a damn movie star. All right, Costner, you talk a good game. This better work.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The intellectual guru of the loyal opposition

Some things you may not know about Ayn Rand.

Warning: not for the squeamish, but absolutely essential if you want to understand what's behind the philosophy of the self-anointed "Real Americans" our allegedly liberal press can't get enough of.

Hat tip to Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, who offers a pointed argument on why we should keep a close watch on the Pauls, their followers, and their cracked belief system here. Winning comment on the thread, courtesy of Rick Massimo:
Libertarians try to make it sound like they’re explaining some complicated philosophy that hasn’t been tried before (or, alternately, a very simple philosophy that you’re too dense to understand). But they’re not. We tried it their way. It didn’t work. You could look it up.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Livin' in a world insane...!

As we continue our vintage punk binge...

Chris Bailey is one cool mofo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Identity is the crisis, can't you see?

Look what I found while poking my nose around the internets: a video clip of X-Ray Spex in their prime, doing "Identity". All right!


"Later, Clifford learned that his classroom had been searched. Republicans who had attended the convention called Principal Mike McCarthy to complain about "anti-American" things they saw there, including a closed box containing copies of the U.S. Constitution that were published by the American Civil Liberties Union."

Why do Maine Republicans hate America?

Thought experiment

What if the teabaggers were black?

Friday, May 14, 2010

These are a fraction of my powers

One of my personal favorite performances that we have filmed. Rob K, formerly of the Workdogs, backed by the Contractions at An Undisclosed Location, doing "Bad Gita". This is a truly slinky, elegantly bad-ass song.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I want one of these!

Years ago, I bought a khaen at an Oxfam fair in Berkeley. It's an awesome Southeast Asian wind instrument that sounds like a wheezy, twisted bamboo harmonica. You can hear it on some X-tal songs like Passing, A Lemon Song, and our cover of Crucifix's "Stop Torture".

Unfortunately, many years ago, I made the grievous error of leaving many of my instruments at the home of a certain self-destructive, self-absorbed singer-songwriter who shall remain nameless, and the khaen probably went up in flames along with her house later on.

I've been looking for a place that sells them in the Bay Area, but no luck so far. I'm a bit reluctant to order one online, sight unseen, because who knows if I'll be getting some crappy-sounding knockoff that's only good as a glorified decoration? (OK, I may be a bit paranoid.) But I want one of these again. Anybody out there have some recommendations on reputable khaen dealers?

"I often make the mistake of thinking that America didn't used to be so mean."

Digby writes about Kent State, 40 years on and after the latest not-so-surprising revelations. I was a little kid myself when this happened, and I remember being more shocked by the public response than the act itself. We haven't changed as much as we think we have.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nothing on my tongue but...

Three gigs, three days. Not as rigorous a schedule as last years Conspiracy Of Beards New York jaunt, but I have not felt idle.

Friday we convened at a park near Nassau and Manhattan in Brooklyn for a warmup. We gathered in a circle beneath a tree and stopped to drink in the ambient sounds around us: kids, dogs, traffic, Mr. Softee trucks. Under Daryl Henline's direction, we sang our exercises as quietly as possible, aiming our voices at a tiny point in the center of the circle until we became one instrument. Sometimes the warmups are better than the gigs themselves; we transport ourselves mentally to sacred space and ego vanishes, leaving nothing but breath and focus. Of course, these moments last a split-second and we're back to being our ridiculous selves, but the more we can reach that point, the more the Beards become something more than a novelty act. Every second of singing is a tightrope walk to find that balance. Sometimes we get there. This weekend it felt like we achieved it fairly often.

After warmup, we headed to a trippy Polish restaurant flanked by suits of armor on either side of the entrance, where we chowed down on borscht, cabbage, pirogies and hot comfort food and presented Daryl with a birthday card signed by all of us and a new pitch pipe as a gift. Daryl's precocious 8-year-old daughter Lola was along for the trip and charmed everyone with the cool, outspoken matter-of-factness that only a child raised among the Cacophony Society can command.

Picasso Machinery is a house concert/artspace situation not too unlike the House Of Love in San Francisco where the Content Providers played years ago. The small room was packed with beautiful young Williamsburgers and San Francisco expatriates. An old local acquaintance Pete Simonelli (ex-Shotwell, currently fronting the Enablers) turns out to be one of the main instigators of the event, but he was on tour, so we didn't run into him. Got into a chat with a woman who used to live in the Mission and now resides in Harlem. Uh-oh, I said. Are the hipsters displacing the black people? No, she insists, it's become a nice harmonious mixed neighborhood full of families. Two people (including ex-Beard Evan Rehill) read from their works in progress, then we got up and sang sweetly. A good opening show.

Saturday I answered the call to meet at the Chelsea Hotel. They now have a plaque on the front dedicated to Leonard Cohen. Before I got a clue and made a phone call, I expected that the boys would be coming down to the lobby, so I waited there and picked up a Village Voice, opening to an article on the new horror movie The Human Centipede, which I will refrain from describing. Suffice it to say I am now SCARRED FOR LIFE. Thanks a lot, Village Voice.

Finally got the word that the action was upstairs, where a tenant was holding a sale on the rooftop. Took the elevator up and made my way to the room number I'd been given, navigating a stairwell covered in an astonishingly detailed collage of CD covers, nudes, and other photos, passed a very old and very sweet dog at the top of the stairs and met a woman on the sofa who kindly directed me to a ladder that led to the roof where various bags and things were being sold. Met a few colleagues and hung out, then I videotaped all the flights of stairs which were covered with one great painting after another, on the way to a room where some of the boys were staying.

The posse took off for Washington Square Park, where we'd planned to warm up. Colorful yes, but probably not suited to the purpose. Lots of noisy competition, including a pretty cool acapella (well, they did have one standup bass, but otherwise...) doo-wop group doing their thing under the arch. (I videotaped them and got a CD. Hell yeah, they belong on the radio station.) Nevertheless, the boys rose to the challenge, working on the subtle approach. I waved my camera around like a cinema verite goofball, hoping I wasn't too distracting. I got some great footage.

A brilliant, spontaneous plan materialized. Steve, one of our baritones, knew a friend on the Bowery who was having a party that very moment. They were watching the Kentucky Derby and drinking mint juleps. Wouldn't it be cool if we all just showed up and sang them a couple of songs? We jumped at the chance to crash the party. After a long walk we buzzed in and took the elevator up in smaller groups, piling into this really sweet penthouse apartment that probably used to be a seedy residence hotel for the down and out once upon a time. Mint juleps were mixed and distributed, and we filed out to the back deck, where parents were playing with babies and dogs, little girls twirled hula hoops and the remnants of a barbecue slowly cooled. Across the way, we saw other groups of people hanging out on their decks, drinking whatever they were drinking and enjoying the balmy New York heat.

The boys gathered and sang "So Long Marianne", with Steve taking the opening solo to entertain his friends further. I sat it out so I could film it, then joined the gang on "Bird On The Wire". Applause broke out high above us from the neighbors. Awesome.

The Bowery Poetry Club was our scheduled gig for Saturday night, but it wasn't time yet, so some of us decided to get some pizza slices. Ended up at Ray's Pizza, where we had a good conversation with ex-Beard Peter Whitehead, who is now doing music for a new Mikhail Baryshnikov solo piece. Talk turned to the very first Conspiracy Of Beards New York jaunt, before I joined, where the group was booked at a notorious place called The Box (nothing to do with the Box in Oakland), which has already gone down in history as one of the most disastrous gigs in the choir's history. The club was some sort of elite after-hours decadent cabaret for the ultra-rich, filled with swells lounging at tables full of cocaine and premium champagne. The group was mistreated from the start and not let onstage until around 2 AM, after being told that it was highly unlikely they would be allowed to play a full set. Before the curtain was raised, the MC announced that the Conspiracy Of Beards were convicted child molesters who had to sing all over the country as their punishment. Rather than laughing, the audience was silent, which just made an already awkward situation insulting and eerie. The boys launched into a snarling "Everybody Knows", aimed at the creepy venue and punters, and Jeff, the tall snarky Alpha-bass with the massive Rasputin beard, did the only sensible thing under the circumstances and went full Iggy Pop on the crowd, walking into the audience, helping himself to the champagne, and taking off his clothes, at which point the set was forcibly stopped by management. Damn, I wish I'd been there.

Just like last year, the Bowery Poetry Club was a much more welcoming affair. Steve's fiancee Abby was good enough to film the set for us, and we acquitted ourselves well. Some of the gang wanted to continue the revels afterwards, but I jumped in a cab and crashed at the hotel, and a good thing too, considering I woke up at 10:15, realizing we were supposed to be at the Highline Ballroom in 45 minutes.

Which brings us to today. The Highline has an amazing sound system and very kind staff, but the earliness of the past two shows we've done there is weird. Nevertheless, we warmed ourselves up and were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by showtime at 1:40 PM. It was the debut of the octet version of "Anthem", which was my first-ever small group performance. I won't tell you if I made any mistakes or not. Esther Cohen, Leonard's sister, was there, a lovely 70-something woman who looks very much like her brother. The wife of the lead singer of the opening band brought an abandoned kitten with her that she had just rescued from her garden. He was absolutely adorable and clearly knew how lucky he was. Afterwards, we discovered the "highline" that the venue was named after, a former elevated railroad track that has been turned into a park that spans high above the meatpacking district. Another surreal New York treasure.

Oh by the way: I had to get a call from San Francisco to find out about the latest failed terrorist brouhaha in Times Square. Whatever that dumbass was trying to do, New Yorkers didn't even blink an eye. The residents of this fine city do not scare that easily.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A quick note

If you have been reading this blog, you have a pretty good idea how we feel about this ill-advised, pointless war in Afghanistan, but putting that aside for now, I am extremely grateful that my nephew is back, unharmed and doing well. We wish him all the best in his transition to civilian adult life.

New York is hot, but I like where I'm singing

Now, after the fact, I can spill the beans. The place Conspiracy Of Beards brought their voices last night is called Picasso Machinery in Williamsburg. It was a great show. We are in good voice, and ready for the Bowery Poetry Club tonight.

I have to cut today's intended New York diary short though, since I just received an e-mail that the boys are gathering at the Chelsea Hotel before we head to Washington Square to warm up this afternoon. Duty calls. Stay tuned.

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20, April 2010

Aspiring teenage surf guitarist Neil Young tops the charts with a totally bitchin' instrumental, followed by Prince at his most convincingly political ("We don't give a damn/we just wanna jam...fightin' war is such a fuckin' bore!"), Syd Barrett inviting you into a roomful of musical tunes, obscure post-punks Prag Vec sharing their nic fits, Gilberto Gil's take on a split Brazilian personality in living stereo, an unexpectedly sublime psychedelic instrumental from a band mostly known for novelty songs about Snoopy, another bit of genius from Junko Suzuki and Cyclub, and Mark E. Smith exhibiting middle-aged pride in his own inimitable way.

Somebody out there is digging the early no-commercial-potential work of Frank Zappa, putting not one, not two, but three ear-challenging tracks from the Mothers Of Invention on our charts. Maureen Tucker hitches her seminal thump to Sonic Youth as they take off together on "Chase", the Firesign Theatre serve up some vintage paranoia, Leonard Cohen covers a heartbreaking French Resistance ballad that sounds like he could have written it himself (while his own writing is represented by a gusto-filled version of "First We Take Manhattan" by R.E.M.), Joe Strummer shows us his wistful side, Yma Sumac does her thing all over you, Marlene Dietrich does Dylan (X-tal used to use this song as their walk-on music when they toured Germany in the 90s), Judy Collins offers another bleak one from her jarring art-song album In My Life (check this one out---it will change your idea of Judy Collins forever), and the Impact All-Stars serve a bit of audio theatre depicting two highly opinionated recording engineers debating about the proper way to create a dub mix.

We put up the music, but it is you the listener who create these charts. and what you come up with each month is endlessly fascinating. Thank you, and keep listening!

1. The Squires - The Sultan - Neil Young Archives Vol. 1: 1963-1972
2. Prince - Partyup - Dirty Mind
3. Pink Floyd - Bike - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
4. Prag Vec - Cigarettes - Wolf
5. Gilberto Gil - 2001 - Cerebro Eletronico
6. The Royal Guardsmen - OM - The Return Of The Red Baron
7. Cyclub - Let's Go On A Journey - Science Future
8. The Fall - 50 Year Old Man - Imperial Wax Solvent
9. The Mothers Of Invention - Dwarf Nebula Processional March & Dwarf Nebula - Weasels Ripped My Flesh
10. Moe Tucker - Chase - Life In Exile After Abdication
11. Firesign Theatre - Waiting for the Electrician - Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
12. The Mothers Of Invention - King Kong - Uncle Meat
13. Leonard Cohen - The Partisan - The Essential Leonard Cohen
14. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Willesden To Cricklewood - Rock Art and the X-Ray Style
15. Yma Sumac - Gopher - Mambo!
16. R.E.M. - First We Take Manhattan - I'm Your Fan
17. The Mothers Of Invention - What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? - We're Only In It For The Money
18. Marlene Dietrich - Die Antwort weiss ganz allein der Wind - The Essential Marlene Dietrich
19. Judy Collins - Liverpool Lullaby - In My Life
20. Impact All Stars - Ordinary Version Chapter 3 - Forward The Bass: Dub From Randy's 1972-1975