Monday, April 28, 2008

My New 3G iPod Nano

Well, on Saturday I bought my new 8GB iPod 3G Nano. It is not quite the same as attending Coachella, but what's a guy to do. I saved up money from my articles in the Tompkins Weekly. And man, what a cool new iPod this is. It's the replacement for my 4GB 1G Nano that I have had for several years. In planning this purchase I really had trouble for a while deciding whether or not to spend a bit more for the 80GB Ipod Classic. It has huge storage for sure, but I wasn't convinced by having a hard drive based iPod. The Nano's flash drive is faster and less susceptible to bumps. Also, the Nano is so cool looking and small. I really love the new design. As far as capacity goes, I felt like I could utilize playlists in iTunes to manage all of my music. I have in fact been doing this for a while with my old iPod, so it is pretty natural to me now.

The other major item to think about was the color. Wow, so many choices: green, blue, pink, red, silver, and black. What to do? It was my wife who really helped me decide. (And I must interject that ever since I insisted that the color we were painting our living room ceiling was going to be this great red—and it came out as bordello pink—I have relied on her for color advice. Needless to say we repainted the ceiling and I am now officially banned from choosing paint colors.) This is why I went with the black—simple and timeless.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Fort Hood and The Things That Carried Him

So here's a quick Friday post. I am still totally digging Mike Doughty's latest Golden Delicious. He just released the video for Fort Hood, a song about soldiers in the Iraq War. Also, please check out this article from Esquire Magazine called, "The Things That Carried Him." It is the amazingly powerful true story of the return of a soldier's remains to his family. It certainly helped me remember why I oppose the war.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Felice Brothers to get Rockin’ and Rowdy at Castaways

The Felice Brothers are a four-piece band the fits into the broad categories of Americana and perhaps alt-country. But with a band this great, categories don’t matter, the music does. When I got the chance to ask James Felice some questions he gave me his take on categorization. “Ray Charles said that there are two kinds of music. Good music and bad music. I'd like to think ours is the good kind.”

One of the elements integral to making the music really work is the way each band members’ part comes together to form the whole. James told me that the writing and arranging is “all about what sounds good. And what we can play, or figure out how to sort of play it for that part or song.” Well it works and man, can these guys play and rock. And they rock really hard. If you don’t think some combination of accordion, acoustic bass, banjo, acoustic guitar, piano, washboard, fiddle and drums can make you dance, I challenge you to go to The Felice Brothers Show at Castaways on April 24 and stand still. That said, they also play some seriously lovely tunes that make you want to grab your sweetie and dance slow. The show starts at 8 PM and tickets are available at the door.

Part of what makes their live shows so fun is that after they moved from the Catskills to New York City they played on the streets and subways in the city to make a living. In fact, they were discovered while busking in the Brooklyn Farmers Market. “When you busk you have to draw people's attention to make money. You have to be aggressive and a little rowdy,” James Felice said. In addition, they don’t plan out what songs they are going to play during their shows. “We don't write set lists. That’s like wearing briefs. . . .” There was an additional line from James in this quote, but as this is a family paper, I had to leave it out. Use your imagination.

I wanted to know if the fact the band’s three Felice Brothers (James, Simone, & Ian) grew up in the Catskills had any influence on their music. “I don't know, to tell you the truth. We never grew up anywhere else, so I couldn't tell you if it influenced us. It probably did. It's a great place to grow up, though. I'll tell you that.” The forth member and bass player is simply known as Christmas.

While I don’t generally like to use comparisons with other bands, I am going to go against my general rule here. If you like the Horseflies, The Sim Redmond Band, or Old Crow Medicine Show, you’re sure to dig The Felice Brothers. This is also an incredible opportunity to see these guys in an intimate venue, as they will be heading to Europe in May and then playing large festivals in the US all summer. And at $10.00, it is a bargain. I, for one, am looking for a baby sitter.

Also Noteworthy:

There are some bands you remember exactly where you were the first time you heard them. For me Soul Coughing is one of those bands. I was living in Chicago and a friend of mine hipped me to them. The first song I heard was, “Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago.” I was hooked and I have been listening to Mike Doughty’s work ever since. That said, it was with great anticipation that I opened Doughty’s latest solo CD, Golden Delicious, (released February 19 of ATO Records) and popped into the CD player. I was brought back to the hooks and turns of phrase that initially grabbed me back in, gulp, 1995. The album’s most powerful track is the sublime anti-war track, “Fort Hood,” a song about soldiers going to Iraq and returning home. The power of this song is increased by the melding of serious lyrics with very danceable music and contains a “sample” of “The Flesh Failures (Let the Sun Shine In),” from Hair. One of the major strengths of Mike Doughty is he brings a super eclectic blend of music to the mix. You never know where he is going to take you on his journey—but it’s always going to be a good and funky and rockin’ place.


Monday, April 21, 2008

My Migraines Part 2

So operation get rid of, or at least significantly reduce, my migraines is underway. I have begun acupuncture again, which I love. I am also trying to get off of caffeine, which is sucky and hard. It’s not like I even drink coffee anymore, I’m a green tea man. I mean really. I have already forsaken alcohol—wine in particular. For crying out loud, what more can the migraine gods require of me? What’s next, bacon? Ice cream? But I did claim that I was willing to give up anything except my family, God, and Music. So here we go. And this mug of red zinger tea I'm drinking right now is pretty tasty.

So it seems that Alejandro Escovedo’s song "Arizona" from his amazing record, The Boxing Mirror, is appropriate.


Friday, April 18, 2008

And change is what I believe in: REM”s Lifes Rich Pageant

Another musical touch point came when I was 15 going on 16 and R.E.M. released Lifes Rich Pageant. I distinctly remember seeing the video for “Fall On Me” on MTV (Back when you could watch videos on MTV.). I was not only struck by the beauty of the song about air pollution, but also the corresponding images in the video. It was a departure of both sound and visual from what was happening at the time. In addition to “Fall On Me,” the album contains so many great tracks and many are very political, such as the “Flowers Of Guatemala” about the US involvement in that country during the 1980s. This fit the continuing development of my political self, which I talked about in my article about Joe Strummer.

Other songs on the album (full of great songs) that stand out for me include “I Believe,” which is a great driving song, especially singing the lines “I believe my throat hurts” at the top of my lungs. “Swan Swan H” still stands as one of the prettiest songs in the REM catalog. And it fits the overall political content of the album since it is about the Civil War.

But beyond the songs, and this album in particular, the sound of REM is what makes them so great. The combination of the players and the way they interact is wonderful. From the chiming guitars of Peter Buck to the vocal harmonies of Michael Stipe and Mike Mills, the band had its own sound. Additionally they helped lead the charge of bands coming out of Athens, GA—some more successfully than others.

But one of the most important aspects of Lifes Rich Pageant is that it brought me into the REM fold, buying all of their records and listening for the past 20-some years. Just this morning, in fact, I was listening to the record, and I do mean the record, on my turntable. And judging by the reaction that they got to their recent performance at SXSW, the band is still vital.

Here is the video for “Fall On Me” and a live performance of the song from MTV Unplugged.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone passed away April 15, 2001. Nothing I can write, can do justice to Joey and The Ramones. So here's a little live video. As Joey sings in this classic song, "Hey, Ho, Let's Go!"


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Sun Shine On and On

Here is another entry in my, "That’s Why Headphones Exist” category. I have currently been totally obsessed with Nada Surf’s song, “Are You Lightning” from their new album, Lucky. I listened to it the entire 30-minute bus ride home yesterday. I love the way the lyrics turn the notion of lightning from something negative and destructive into something positive and hopeful or loving. This song is really lovely and the ending line, “The sun shine on and on,” reminds me of looking at my wife while she is out gardening and carefree—looking so beautiful.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Review: Hotshot's Boy from The Panderers

Here’s an artist it’s likely you’ve never heard of. But if there’s justice in the music industry, you will be hearing more of him. Scott Wynn, who performs under the nom de rock The Panderers, is great—no two ways about it. The music is sort of a mix of old-time, rock & roll, Appalachian, Johnny Cash lovin’ goodness. The Panderers have just released the EP Hotshot’s Son. And the only real problem with the CD is that it is only five songs long. Check out the band’s first video.


Monday, April 7, 2008

The first is Venus On Earth, the third album, from the band Dengue Fever. When I first heard this band I thought to myself, “Hmm . . . Yeah . . . Cool.” And it is not too often that I get that reaction from hearing a new band. Dengue Fever really doesn’t sound like anything else out there. This is in part due to the fact that many of the songs are sung in Khmer by Cambodian lead singer Chhom Nimol. There are other elements to the bands music that add to its unique mix. The way they use their sax player is great. In the band he plays the role where samples might be used in another group. Dengue Fever’s sound is an incredibly pleasing fusion of Cambodian music, rock and roll, 60s surf, and electronic music and Venus On Earth is a great place to enter into their wonderful soundscape.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

The New Pornographers and Okkervil River at the State Theatre

This post orininally appeared in the April 7 edition of the Tompkins Weekly.

If Neko Case’s January 26 show at the State Theatre didn’t give you enough of her incredible singing or if you just want to see a killer live show, you’re in luck. On April 13, The New Pornographers, featuring Neko Case on Vocals, will be performing at the State Theatre. This is important to note, because as most New Pornographers fans know, Neko Case does not always tour with the band.

Formed in 1997 in Vancouver, BC, The New Pornographers are often described as an indie-supergroup, as all of the members have other musical projects. And just in case you are wondering, leader and main songwriter, AC Newman came up with the band’s name after watching the 1966 Japanese film, The Pornographers. In addition to Newman (Lead Vocals, Guitar), the eight-member band is made up of John Collins (Bass), Dan Bejar (Vocals, Shakers, Guitars, Piano), Kathryn Calder (Vocals, Piano, Wurlitzer), Kurt Dahle (Drums, Percussion), Neko Case (Vocals), and Todd Fancey (Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin). It is this combination of instruments and vocals that makes the band’s music so memorable and worthy of all the accolades they have received, which have been many.

The New Pornographers have recorded four albums, each one gaining them a wider audience and further acclaim. They are currently touring behind 2007’s Challengers. This album was on virtually every best of list for 2007.

What is going to make this an extra special night is Okkervil River opening the show. Founded in 1998 in Austin, the band takes its name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya. The band really first started to make a buzz when it was admitted to play the SXSW Festival in 2000 based on their EP, Stars Too Small To Use. It has been onward and upward since then. To Date they have released four full-length albums. 2007’s The Stage Names is the record that has begun to bring them to a much wider audience. They even have a concert featured on the truly excellent music site from National Public Radio,

Like the 8 piece New Pornographers, Okkervil River is a large band—made up of 7 members playing an eclectic array of instruments, including electronics. The band members are: Will Sheff (Vocals, Guitar), Scott Brackett (Trumpet, Keyboards), Brian Cassidy (Vocals, Electric guitar, Mandolin), Jonathan Meiburg (Vocals, Keyboards, Accordion), Travis Nelsen (Drums), Patrick Pestorius (Electronics). This combination of instruments and strong songwriting makes for some truly magical tunes.

There are times when the pairing of the opening band with the headliner is very awkward. Regardless of the intentions of the band whose name is in the large letters on the marquee to promote an up-in-coming group, the combination of the music does not always work in a macro sense. There is often no connectivity in the musical approach. Not so with The New Pornographers and Okkervil River. The approach to music making and the sonic nature of the two bands should add continuity to the evening that will enhance the experience for the audience. Additionally, it is not often, that two bands of this stature make it to Ithaca, so take this opportunity to see two great bands in your own back yard.

The concert starts at 8 PM and tickets can be purchased at the State Theatre Box office, online at, or by calling 27-STATE.

Also Noteworthy

New York City-based band The Slackers come to Castaways on Thursday April 10. This great band on the Hellcat Records label deftly blends old blues, 60s soul, rock, and R & B as well as reggae, rocksteady, dub, and Ska into a great rockin’ blend that the New York Times called, “The Sound of New York.” These guys have been playing together for a longtime and this is a not-to-be-missed show so you can say I saw The Slackers back when. . . .

Ticket information available at


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My Headaches

I suffer from migraines. This morning, for the third day in a row, I awoke with a head-crushing headache. It’s sort of a akin to feeling like my head is in a vice and someone is inserting a drill behind my left eye. It was so painful it made me stagger when I got out of bed. It is the kind of pain where I would give up anything—save my family, God, and music—to get rid of these headaches. So I choked down my migraine medicine and by the time my family was up an hour later, I was feeling pretty good. But man, it’s a drag and I certainly know that I can act like a real sh*t when I have a headache. And for this I am truly sorry to my family who bears the brunt of this.

But, despite these headaches, I am truly blessed. I have an incredible family and a wonderful life. This morning I decided to give my headaches a name. I am going to call them, “Trouble.” So here is a song going out to my migraine headaches. It’s Elliot Smith’s incredibly beautiful cover of “Trouble” by Cat Stevens. This version can be found on the soundtrack to Thumbsucker.