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Date Time Event Description
Jun-24-17 09:00 PM Evan Dando with Jason Loewenstein
Evan Griffith Dando formed The Lemonheads with two high school buddies in late winter '86, in their senior year at Boston's tiny Commonwealth School. A few months later, they spawned what is now one of the most sought-after punk relics of the 80s, the indie EP Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners. Boston-based Taang! Records immediately picked up on The Lemonheads, with three college radio pleasers to follow: the LPs Hate Your Friends (1987), Creator (1988), and Lick (1989). In 1990 Atlantic Records took notice of the massively expanding Lemonheads fanbase in Europe (where they toured in 1989) and America by signing the band and releasing their well-received (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) fourth LP, Lovey.Even by this time, The Lemonheads lineup had been volatile: more than a dozen different configurations over a period of just five years, all sorts of bit parts and reshuffles, with Dando as the only constant. At one point it got so confusing that an ex-drummer, just a week after getting kicked of the group, answered The Lemonheads' ad to replace himself. By a conservative estimate, the band has had more than ten bass players and at least a dozen drummers over the years.But out of this primordial chaos came a veritable Golden Age for The Lemonheads. A 1991 tour brought Evan to Australia, where by chance he met songwriter Tom Morgan and future Lemonheads bassist Nic Dalton. Their collaboration made all the difference for the next Atlantic release, It's a Shame About Ray (1992), a concentrated blast of pure pop perfection that clocks in at just under 30 minutes. Thanks to songs such as "Confetti", "My Drug Buddy", "Rudderless", and "Ceiling Fan in My Spoon", Dando hit a whole new audience ("they're getting younger," he confessed to Kathie Lee Gifford at the time).Mainstream media hype of The Lemonheads shifted into high gear, with lots of wild speculation as to the exact nature of the relationship between Dando and long-time friend Juliana Hatfield (who played bass and sang on Ray). It also didn't hurt when a 1993 People magazine spread devoted a full page to Evan as one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world. That news came to Evan in New Zealand, on his 26th birthday. When a magazine rep called to tell him he was among the "fifty dishiest people", Dando recalled, "I thought she said busiest". And I thought, 'kin right!" With all the traveling, I was busy!"Atlantic released a smash follow-up, Come on Feel The Lemonheads, in October 1993. The album brought Dando a genuine charting single ("Into your Arms") as well as instant classics such as "Great Big No", "Down About It", "Being Around", and "You Can Take it with You." In winter 1993/1994 Evan Dando was in your living room, thanks to live appearances on the Letterman and Leno late night network TV shows. Inevitably, in Warrington, Pennsylvania, a 20-something named Jeff Fox published the first issue of his backlash 'zine Die Evan Dando, Die.Two years of brutal touring for The Lemonheads followed, which Evan punctuated with some high-profile personal meltdowns on various continents that caught the imagination of a press ever eager for negative copy. Still The Lemonheads (now with Boston friends John Strohm on guitar and Murph on drums) managed to crank out a defiant 1996 release Car Button Cloth, with some of their best melodic pop/punk to date: "It"s All True", "If I Could Talk I"d Tell You", and "Tenderfoot". After a year promoting the record, Dando announced at the 1997 Reading Festival that he was disbanding The Lemonheads. Atlantic released a Best of The Lemonheads album in 1998, and a lot of geezers surmised that that was that."I just decided to duck out for a while", explains Dando of his self-imposed exile from the scene. "I didn't have it in me. It took until I met my wife in 1998 until I got back into making music." That would be Elizabeth Moses, Newcastle-born English supermodel and musician. Once married in 2000, Dando started to come alive again like Frampton, first with a 2001 live album Live at the Brattle Theater/Griffith Sunset, and then in 2003 with a well-received solo LP, Baby I"m Bored.In 2004 Evan Dando found himself fronting the MC5, the most incendiary rock band of 1960s America, as lead vocalist in a 41-show tour. And it was hard to miss Dando during 2005 and early 2006, as he toured widely in North America and Europe with various bass players (Juliana Hatfield and Josh Lattanzi) and drummers (Bill Stevenson, Chris Brokaw from Come, George Berz of Dinosaur Jr), and occasionally as a one man electrical wrecking crew. Memorably, in September 2005, Dando, Stevenson, and Lattanzi played two instantly sold-out shows in London as part of the Don"t Look Back series, where they rocked through It"s a Shame About Ray from start to finish.In 2006 came The Lemonheads, released on Vagrant records and recorded with Bill Stevenson and Karl Alvarez of The Descendents. Stevenson co-produced with Dando, and wrote or co-wrote three of its eleven songs, while long-time collaborator Tom Morgan added another two. There were cameos from bassist Josh Lattanzi ("Poughkeepsie", "Rule of Three", "In Passing"), Garth Hudson (of The Band, who plays keyboards on "Black Gown" and "December"), and some real foot-on-monitor guitar work by Dinosaur Jr's J. Mascis ("No Backbone", "Steve's Boy")."We started out in Jam and Buzzcocks territory," explained Dando at the time, "We got some psyched-out country on there as well, but all of it is squarely in The Lemonheads tradition."Following a Rhino reissue of ...Ray in 2008, complete with stripped-down demos, next up for The Lemonheads was a covers LP, Varshons. The idea for the bands new covers record was inspired by Gibby Haynes, ringmaster of the Butthole Surfers, who for years has made mixes for Dando, a longtime friend. Making a good mix is an art, and Gibby has it down, says Dando. I thought it would be fun to share these songs with other people like he shared them with me. So I picked the greatest hits from his mixes and covered them, along with a few other songs I always wanted to play.Varshons was produced by Haynes and features Dando along with Vess Ruhtenburg (bass) and Devon Ashley (drums). The collection is filled with strange bedfellows - from G.G. Allin to Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt and garage rockers The Green Fuz. The Lemonheads make each track their own, with help from actress Liv Tyler, singing back up on Leonard Cohens Hey, Thats No Way To Say Goodbye, and Kate Moss, who sings over the dance groove of Arling & Camerons Dirty Robot, which also features lead guitar by John Perry on loan from The Only Ones.Varshons unearths a pair of psychedelic treasures with Yesterlove a song recorded in 1969 by the group Sam Gopal featuring future Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister and Dandelion Seeds from July, record collectors Registered Landmark Band. For Layin Up With Linda, the band filters Allins cold-blooded tale through the swaggering country-honk of The Stones Dead Flowers.Filled with obscure nuggets, the tracks on Varshons cut a wide swath, jumping from early British psychedelic to Dutch electronica and like all good mix tapes, you never know what is coming next.
Jul-05-17 09:00 PM Rooney with Run River North, ROMES
Jul-07-17 08:30 PM (Sandy) Alex G with Japanese Breakfast, Cende
At the end of Poison Root, the opening track on Alex Giannascolis new album, Rocket, the 23-year-old artist repeats the phrase Now, I know everything again and again, his voice seething over a clatter of banjo, violin, and acoustic guitar sounds. Its difficult to ascertain the exact tone: does he really think he knows everything? Or are these incantations a form of self-assurance, covering up insecurity? The tension between ambition and self-doubt in this closing refrain is typical of Rockets fourteen tracks. Over musical backdrops that effortlessly jump from sound collage to country pop to dreamy folk music, the cast of characters that Alex G inhabits have fun, fall in love, develop obsessions, get into trouble, and burn out. Rocket illustrates a cohesive vision of contemporary experience thats dark and foreboding, perhaps especially because of how familiar, or to use Alexs word, unassuming, the settings are.With a goat-adorned cover painted by Alexs sister, Rachel, Rocket is the Philadelphia-based artists eighth full-length releasean assured statement that follows a slate of humble masterpieces, many of them self-recorded and self-released, stretching from 2010s RACE to his 2015 Domino debut, Beach Music. Rockets sessions began shortly after Beach Musics ended, with Alex tracking songs at home, by himself and with friends, in the gaps between a hectic 2015 and 2016 touring schedule. Both albums were mixed by Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Bass Drum of Death), who lent them a fine-tuning that retains the homespun personality of earlier efforts.Amid the process, in the fall of 2016, Alex made headlines for reasons outside his own releases. He had caught the attention of Frank Ocean, who asked him to play guitar on his two 2016 albums, Endless and Blonde. More than any stylistic cues, what Alex took from the experience was a newfound confidence in collaboration. I always have a hard time letting people play on my stuff, he says, but I saw how comfortable [Ocean] was using other peoples playing. Alexs previous albums are largely solo affairs, but Rocket wears this collaborative spirit proudly. Touring band members Samuel Acchione and John Heywood contribute guitar and bass, both soloing on County; Samuels brother Colin plays bass on two songs as well. Emily Yacina, a more frequent collaborator, sings on Bobby and Alina, and Molly Germer shows up throughout the album on violin and vocals. Germers violin was a game-changer, as the instrument added a texture that I cant get on my own, Alex notes.The looser, collaborative approach helped cultivate the variety of musical styles that Rocket presents. The dense, folky cluster of Poison Root leads to the bouncing country-rock of Proud, which is followed by the sophisticated harmonies of jazz-pop tune County. Later, the freaky, frantic Witch unsettles the albums pop sensibility, while instrumentals Horse and Rocket set a more placid moodthat is, until the distorted, beat-driven Brick destroys any feelings of serenity exuded by the surrounding songs. Rocket ends with a rollicking free-for-all, Guilty, that in its numerous contributors and blaring saxophone synthesizes the albums communal feel and restless sense of musical experimentation.In addition to its fluid network of musical styles, Rocket showcases Alexs ability to project the perspectives of several characters while maintaining a strong personal voice. Whereas Beach Musics lyrics outlined vague situations, with Rocket Alex was trying to create narratives that anybody could still inhabit, he says, but that had a more concrete quality. He takes on the voice of memorable personalities such as what seems like an over-confident boy (Powerful Man), an alienated schoolgirl (Alina), and a couple with a creepily ambivalent relationship (Bobby). Their stories are at turns heartbreaking, puzzling, and hilarious; yet no matter the setting or the way he manipulates his voice, you always get an ineffable sense of (Sandy) Alex G as well as what he refers to as an American perspective.Proud, the albums longest (and perhaps catchiest) track, depicts a guarded, potentially disingenuous conversation. Im so proud of you, the narrator says. But later, their sincerity falls away: I wanna be a fake like you, they add. I just wanna play the game. The chorus strikes an earnest notethat the person singing works not to play the game but to provide for their baby. Yet Alex makes sure that its never perfectly clear whos talking, or who believes what, casting doubt over an otherwise personable, inviting song. Track eight, Sportstar, traces another uncertainthough, in this case, one-sideddialogue. Here, the narrator is an obsessive fan of the titular sportstar who, with pitched-up vocals and atop a melancholic piano lead, recites stalker-like requests that range from benign (Let me tie your Nikes) to violently sexual (Could you hit me too hard). That the sportstar remains anonymous speaks to Rockets open-endedness. Even if the stories are grounded in specific ideas and real experiences, Alex paints pictures that leave room for listeners to share in the eventsto interpret them however theyd like, without regard for a right answer.I want [Rocket] to be completely unassuming, Alex says. I wanted it to be full of these characters that dont know how crazy they are. Rocket doesnt have a pointed theme so much as these general feelings of unsteadiness and incomprehensionfeelings we remember from growing up and that creep into the everyday life of adulthood as well. In some ways, the albums title encapsulates this sense: I like the word rocket because it sounds immature, attention-seeking, Alex explains. But while rockets certainly make a big impression, they also burn out. On Rocket, the myopic characters teeter between the initial explosion and the ultimate burning out. Alex himself, though, in a collection of songs thats both his tightest and most adventurous, is poised only for the ascent.
Jul-08-17 09:00 PM Mother Mother
With the world roiled by fear and division borne out of politics, economic uncertainty, and terrorism, perhaps there is no better time for the arrival of music underpinned by the belief that love wins. Into the maw of anxiety comes Vancouver's indie synth-rock band Mother Mother and their new album 'No Culture,' which posits that society uses negative byproducts of culture -- such as narcissism, hedonism, and addiction -- as a means to nurture its fears of the unknown. "If we can strip back the culture, or the masks, attitudes, and stories that feed our differences, and just connect as people we might be more united at a time where we really need to be," says Mother Mother's frontman, guitarist, and lyricist Ryan Guldemond.To amplify the themes on 'No Culture,' the album's cover art depicts a painted-white baby doll dabbling in black paint, suggesting the immediate imprint society makes on us once we enter the world. As its creator Molly Guldemond, Ryan's sister who sings, plays keyboard, and makes all the art for Mother Mother, puts it: "The idea for the image came from careful consideration of what culture is and how it is used in society as a form of self-identification and belonging. What would it be like to be clear of this? How much of our identity is placed on us from the environments we are born into? A baby, shiny and new, is without culture. It is the tabula rasa, the clean slate. Slowly through immersion in domestic and social environments, it is painted with the brush of other people's ideas, fears, and beliefs ... it is imprinted with culture."For Ryan, stepping away from cultural influences was crucial to his ability to write Mother Mother's new album. Unless he did so, Guldemond was afraid he'd never be able to write another song, much less an album -- a significant concern given that Mother Mother fans were expecting a follow-up to 2014's 'Very Good Bad Thing,' which hit No. 1 on Canada's Alternative Albums chart. In 2015, the band, which also features singer-keyboardist Jasmin Parkin, drummer Ali Siadat, and bassist Mike Young, was nominated for a Juno Award for "Best Group" and toured the U.S. extensively, including dates with Imagine Dragons and AWOLNATION.When it came time to write, Guldemond retired to a home studio he had built in the woods on his dad's property on Quadra Island off the Eastern coast of Vancouver Island where he and Molly grew up. "It was so perfect and quiet that it became deafening and self-defeating," he says. Three months before heading there, Guldemond put down a long habit of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. After a few months of sobriety, the honeymoon wore off and he fell into a depression and "a regression back to the shit that I was trying to avoid when I was a kid," he says. "That stuff just lies dormant."A debilitating period of writer's block ensued, which inspired anthemic first single "Love Stuck." "It's about the condition of overthinking and how it creates blockades against creativity," Guldemond says. "I wrote this on my birthday at the height of my funk and so, always having believed in the magic and synchronicity of the universe, despite not feeling it at the time, I told myself that some element of cosmic numerology would inform the birth of a song."As a result of his paralysis, Guldemond was forced to write autobiographical songs for the first time in his life. "I was having my own identity crisis at the time so I couldn't help but write about it, despite not wanting to," he says. "So I really had to capitalize on everything that I was going through. The clean-living experience surprised me with a lot of discomfort and confusion, and a loss of confidence. I was second-guessing everything, what my intentions were with the music, what good was, what bad was, what authentic was. I had grown used to conducting myself with a kind of intensity, and sobriety seemed to take that ability away from me. I found myself more open and softer, which allowed for more authentic connection."It turns out that exploring life, songwriting, and his own identity -- and being clear of mind and substances during the year that 'No Culture' was written and recorded -- resulted in Mother Mother's most emotionally honest, vulnerable, and least cynical album to date. Guldemond says he felt free to explore lyrical concepts unfiltered by persona, a move away from the allegorical and conceptual writing the band was known for on its five previous albums. "The Drugs" is about the euphoria, or "high," that one gets from being in love and replacing one source of dopamine with another, with love being the "true" path of light and health. The piano ballad "Letter," a song Guldemond sat on for years as he searched for a deserving chorus, morphed from a simple idea rooted in unrequited love into a lament for the past: "a case of toxic nostalgia, which I directly related to, being in my own state of longing, looking back on the good old days and indulging their mythological qualities," he says. On "Baby Boy," Guldemond delivers confessional verses that admit his penchant for self-destruction and deceit, while Molly takes the lead with a melodic intervention, singing: "Baby boy, baby brother, we're losing you to the gutter." Molly also shines on the album's closing track, "Family," which began as a fairly caustic take on the Guldemonds' family dynamic, but eventually softened into something that celebrates the idiosyncrasies of kinship.But just because the album's themes skew dark does not mean the sonic mood of 'No Culture' is gloomy. "It's not a down record," Guldemond says. "There's never a dark theme that isn't accompanied by an answer or a way out. And it was crucial to take introspective themes and prop them up with energized and optimistic music. Sometimes sadness is better carried in a vehicle of happiness." On their new studio album, Mother Mother continue to honor their synth-driven sound with aspects of alternative pop, creating a shimmering blend of strong hooks, big beats, ethereal vocals, and sing-along choruses, with an injection of punk-rock energy. The listener is taken on an epic sonic journey that is filled with emotion, similar to Guldemond's experience during the writing process. Now he's relieved to have some distance and to be able to represent his journey from a place of objectivity. "I think a story is better told when you're not so entrenched in living it," he says. "I look forward to performing these songs from the vantage point of having moved on from what led to their creation in the first place."
Jul-11-17 08:30 PM Sir Sly with SHAED
Since forming in 2012, Sir Sly have forged their singular sound by drawing upon each member's long=honed musical talents: Jacobs's introspective yet infinitely searching lyricism, Suwito's in-studio ingenuity, and Coplen's sophisticated musicianship and sense of songcraft. Orange County natives and friends since high school, Jacobs and Coplen connected with Suwito through the local music scene. Their early collaborations yielded songs like "Ghost," a Neon Gold release that quickly earned buzz online. After making their Cherrytree Records debut with the Gold EP in 2013, Sir Sly put out You Haunt Me (which reached #14 on Billboard's Alternative Albums chart) in September of the following year.Sir Sly will be releasing the follow up to their debut album this year on Interscope Records.
Jul-12-17 09:00 PM Pokey LaFarge with The Deslondes
In three partsI. Reshuffling the DeckII. Ten Daggers on the TableIII. The SongsI. RESHUFFLING THE DECKDay after day, pencil in hand, always dressed in blue. Never feeling satisfied. Itchy. Incomplete. Attired halfway between a businessman and a janitor, Pokey LaFarge tries to make sense of trouble hes seen and trouble hes been in. This is the Great Why of his unending passion for songwriting. An unquenchable need to be heard in a world where everyone is talking and nobody is listening. The songs on Pokeys transformative new album MANIC REVELATIONS demand your attention. Here, you get the feeling this man is constantly reshuffling the deck in favor of some outcome or other. Each chord, each riff shades the stories he sets up in his lyrics. But make no mistake - no matter how the cards lay, he is searching for the purest truth; he loves laying in the muck. Whatever it takes to serve the song. He wouldnt know what to do if his life were any other way. Sit with him over a cup of coffee at The Mud House on Cherokee Street in South City St. Louis, and youll see for yourself: he easily is uneasy, pushing one squalid thought away to make way for another, sometimes darker one. Its not that hes a miserable guy; quite the opposite. To lay it plain: you simply dont get songs like these without becoming very friendly with the darkness in your head, and with the social distortion of the day. These are the currents Pokey dips into to create his songs. In conversation, hell stare right through you as you speak. They call it the Quiet Eye. Its that uncanny ability the best athletes in the world have; its what sets them apart. Pokey has it too. You see this with pitchers in Pokeys beloved game of baseball. A guy can look at a complex scene and instantly focus on what he needs to do to get a strike. In a noisy stadium, theres a focus from the mound to the catchers mitt. Thats the game. In a flash, the ball moves at 90-some-odd miles per hour, and the fate of an entire city hangs in the balance. When that pitchers focus delivers, a game is won - and a banged up old Midwestern city like St. Louis is instantly elevated to an all-century high. Taking a sip of his ever-present cup of black coffee (switched out for red wine every day at sunfall), Pokey is the pitcher who breaks his stillness, winds up, and fires off the final strike of a shutout. At the table, he eventually tips his gaze to you, inhales, and launches back into the conversation. In these moments, Pokeys as likely to agree with what youve just said as he is to turn the table upside down. Knowing that music is as influential in todays jagged American culture as the countrys favorite pastime, its powerful to see Pokey locking into and emerging from his Quiet Eye stance. Again, you dont get songs like these without a little fire. And when the conversation turns to the heat that brews in his own belly, Pokey leans in, stares straight ahead, and offers this: The darkness? The anger? It comes out in my singing. With a beautiful lyric and a beautiful melody. It comes out in the passion.All these opinions out there he trails off, looking over his right shoulder at a painting of Woody Guthrie hanging on the wall. Its about getting people to feel something. Other than anger.Plenty of feelings reveal themselves in the 10 forlorn, haunting melodies on MANIC REVELATIONS. Each one of these songs is the culmination of a decade of hard work in what has become something of a bellwether city. And with the release of these 10 songs, St. Louis will have something more than World Series wins to mark a moment in time. But Pokey has no intention of winning any accolades with his music. He just wants to get more at home with the noise in his head. Comfortable would be nice, but nobodys ever heard Pokey speak of a dream of an easy life. Those types of songs are for somebody else to sing. Pokey LaFarge makes good truck out of this thing that he pushes against - whatever it may be in a given moment.Thats what the records about: confronting, says Pokey. For me, this whole album is about composing and confronting.II. TEN DAGGERS ON THE TABLE Pokey LaFarge is a musician. He is a storyteller. He is a feeler of feelings. He is a narrator of the messy, unkempt American experience. He sits, he watches, he writes. Everything thats worth happening happens in his songs. Like the long line of writers and performers he descends from, music isnt something Pokey does - its something he is. This is why MANIC REVELATIONS shines like 10 daggers laying on the kitchen table in his St. Louis home. From that vantage point, in the center of this vast continent, Pokey takes long looks from shore to shore, feeling the direction of social winds, ingesting sights and sounds from all around, observing the news of the day. And so he was ready for the evening when a sociological tinderbox caught fire. Mere minutes from his front door, night after night, social unrest caused everyone in America to stop and wonder which side they were on. In the face of this upheaval, Pokey took to his studio and began writing. Thats how artists deal with uncertainty: they bleed on paper until the pain subsides. Soon, he found that one song led to the next. He couldnt put it down. One manic revelation led to another. In the thrall of it all, an album started to appear in front of him.The manic revelation is the state where artists create, says Pokey. I got to the point in writing these songs where I felt like a house on fire that just kept burning.But long before he caught fire, he started on the smallest stage one could imagine: playing by himself on street corners. He moved to the west coast to follow the ghosts of the Beat writers, and Steinbeck before them. He began to ply his craft in the bitter cold of Madison, Wisconsin; in Kentucky, he learned the mandolin; and in the sweltering humidity of Asheville, North Carolina, he learned the fiddle. Thats where he met a few guys who would urge him to come to St. Louis to play; soon after, they would become his backing band, the South City Three. And now, thousands of shows on four continents later, we find ourselves here, on the eve of release for Pokeys most powerful album. Ive always felt that the live shows were the best representation of our music, he says. Only now do I feel that Ive made a better record than the live performance.This is the one where the style of music recedes, as the foreground swells with evidence of Pokeys observations of pain, joy, confusion. This one is where his artistic character shines. And where we see that artistic blood on the page, unvarnished and raw. MANIC REVELATIONS is the second coming of an artist who, over the past decade, has taken the workaday approach to building a body of work, and a worldwide fanbase. After a decade of struggle, its all paid off here. And its all riding on this album.A lot of things havent gone my way, says Pokey. Ive havent become successful in spite of the things I had to overcome, rather, Ive become successful because of what I had to overcome. Its all made me better. And now theres no going back.True to this statement, there are no lookback songs on MANIC REVELATIONS. This album is all about looking outward, looking forward - and weve never seen Pokeys observational craft in a more stark relief. This hasnt happened by chance. Artists who write from real life experience have no choice but to change themselves if they want to progress their art. With this in mind, Pokey has been hard at work pushing out the corners on himself. This album is about confronting yourself, explains Pokey. Its about confronting your city, its relation with the world, and all its people. In the pursuit of making myself a better person, I create better art. Which hopefully makes the world a better place. Still, at times, I need to get away from it all.III. THE MUSICMANIC REVELATIONS kicks off with a cold open. A crack of the snare and an insistent upright bass riff are the clarion call. From there, Riot in the Streets throttles up, ripping MANIC REVELATIONS wide open. Halfway through the song you realize this storywhere the rich and the poor alike line up to riot, or peacefully protest, while TV news anchors somewhat unreliably narrate the sceneis reported judiciously; he isnt swaying the listener to one side or the other. Look, Im an opinionated person, says Pokey. But that doesnt extend itself into my writing. Ive always been an observer. Telling a story isnt always about having an opinion. Its about painting a picture.In Must Be A Reason, people fall into and out ofand back intolove. On this song, and all over the album, he shoves in the crying wherever he can. Not because he thinks its entertaining. Because hes lived it. And he knows that others know this sadness, too. On an album filled with personal and cultural pressure release valves, this tune is the one about the politics of romance.In a relationship, says Pokey, you run out of stories to tell. You run out of excuses. You run out of ways to get her back. Sometimes youre on the precipiceshes getting ready to leave. But I always remember someone saying: the only way to stay together is to fucking stay together.Bad Dreams illustrates a classic wherever you go, there you are story: lovers leave home to travel the world. They want to escape the friction at home. Some call this pulling a geographic. When they return, its clear that changing location didnt help; the real problem is still staring them in the mirror. You realize youre coming home, Pokey explains, to the same problems that caused you to go away in the first place. Its not the city. You cant get away from yourself.Now, if you listen to only one of these manic revelations, it should be Silent Movie. He wrote this one in 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That decade of looking and writing and traveling and playing culminates in this song. And truth be told, weve never heard this kind of song from this guy. Silent Movie is on par with the best social narratives of Nilsson, Campbell, Kristofferson. As a lone guitar line drags the song along, Pokey pulls focus on a kid adorned in headphones on a Chicago El train. He may be on his way to school, or he may be on his way home. Regardless of the position of the sun in the sky, the world outside the windows is too much for this kid to take in. Cover your ears and watch the world go by, Pokey sings, Thats how we survive. A clarinet drizzles a saddening pattern over the entire scene, and we begin to wonder: where are we headed if a whole generation is growing up feeling this way? Shoving in the sadness. The song goes on: Growing up is a scam / The truth is a lie / Better off staying a child / Till the day you die / Stay inside your mind / Or go outside and find a place to hide.The song is about shutting out the noise, says Pokey. Coming up with your own soundtrack, in this country where theres more questions than answers, it seems.Never feeling satisfied. Always dressed in blue. Diving into the darkness. Turning the table upside down. Wherever you go, there you are. Fucking stay together. Better off staying a child. This album is an epoch for Pokey LaFarge. You feel it all over these 10 revelations. Now Ive found my groove, says Pokey. I dont have to overcompensate anymore. Nobody looks and sounds like me. And Im OK with that.END
Jul-13-17 09:00 PM Beth Ditto
It's tempting to set up a grand introduction for Beth Ditto on the occasion of her solo debut after disbanding the Gossip, but this native Arkansan can say so much in a few swaggerful lines over a pounding kick drum and bone-rattling bass guitar: "Two sisters, four brothers/Hard worker, like my mother/Not bitter, so sweet/Strawberry ca-ca-canned peach!" Those lyrics (from the Jacknife Lee cowrite "Oo La La") contain the fundamentals of Ditto's album Fake Sugar: family strength, punky grit, unabashed Southernness and the rural-rags-to-rock-royalty story of our hostess, who here turns strive and strife into music that is honeyed and familiar. Over an overhauled mashup of driving blues, malt-shop pop, swooning rock and countrified soul produced by Jennifer Decilveo (Andra Day, Ryn Weaver), Ditto approaches love, loss, looking back and moving forward with all the sexiness, poignancy, power and beauty you'd hope to hear from such an iconoclastic artist.To say Fake Sugar was born of change is understatement. "It's my divorce, isn't it?" asks Ditto. "I was going through a breakup with the loves of my life. Gossip was the longest relationship I'd ever had." At the same time, she got married, literally, to her best friend since she was 18. And while Ditto and her new wife did settle somewhat into domesticity at home in Portland their two cats, Tofu and Butters, and Ditto's crochet habit are well documented on Instagram the singer was busy doing much more than singing. Sure, she recorded with Blondie, disco legend Cerrone, and drumstep DJ Netsky, and even moonlit as a wedding singer with Cat Power, but Ditto also made strides into fashion. She launched her eponymous plus-sized luxury line with a Jean Paul Gaultier collaboration, posed in an Alexander Wang portrait series, modeled for Marc Jacobs on the runway and in print, and appeared in Tom Ford's Oscar-nominated Nocturnal Animals. "I don't think about that stuff like, 'This is good for my career.'" says Ditto. "It's like, 'This'll be hilarious fun.'"But all that paved the way for the fierce voice and strutting presence that opens this album. On "Fire," Ditto intones "get up-up-up if you want my love," before belting the song's title across a grinding mass of guitar, drums and keys cut with psych-pop and dubby effects recalling the deft touch of Danger Mouse. Fake Sugar's obvious passion is what'd been missing from Gossip's attempts at a sixth LP. After 17 years of kicking out increasingly dancy garage-punk, "nobody's heart was in it," says Ditto. Cofounder Nathan Howdeshell moved back to Arkansas, and she found herself in L.A., alone, meeting with songwriters about the band's next move. For better and for worse, she knew she'd become the focal point of the group. "I felt like if we fail, it's my fault and if we succeed, it's my fault," she says of her predicament it was time. "The decision was basically made for me." She calls what came next "speed-dating," meeting with producers and writers to see what/who stuck. Some did, like Jacknife, but Decilveo became Ditto's main partner, someone to interpret her sonic vision and balance out her punk bias with pop flare and perspective. As Ditto puts it, "She was the rollerblades to my roller skates. We'd argue all day long and I loved it." They hired session players to sound out her ideas too. "I'm used to sitting there forever in a band trying to get it right," says Ditto. "With them, it was like performing miracles." She wound up with 80-odd songs, which explains Fake Sugar's lack of filler, and its range. There's "In and Out," a hip-shaker that sounds like a '50s girl group channeling Karen O on "Maps." And "Savoir Faire" with its disco stomp pushing Ditto's crackling rock vocal. Or "Go Baby Go," a tribute to Suicide's Alan Vega decked in black leather, racing down an interstellar aural highway. On "Oh My God," Ditto's rawness, quaver and cool splits the difference between Tina Turner and Bobbie Gentry. "I wanted this album to sound more Southern than it does," she says, "but when I try for an idea and don't succeed, it usually ends up better." If her roots don't always show in the music, they're there in spirit more than ever. Ditto was raised rural and poor in a town of 2,000 called Judsonia. Her mom was superhuman: a nurse, single, raising seven children. "People ask me where I get my confidence," says Ditto. "Talk to my mother. She'll tell ya she hasn't s*** alone since she had her first child at 15.'" Her dad was a different sort of hero: a honky-tonk sound man who, when it was his weekend, would take her to work, hop her up on Black Jack gum and Cherry Coke, and teach her to two-step with her feet on his boots. And then there was Granny Ditto, who chopped wood for her stove, canned the food she grew and never once had indoor plumbing. Ditto was surrounded by badasses, but it wasn't so simple back then. She had countless reasons to light out of town at the first chance and she did, at 18, with her future bandmates to the musical hub of Olympia, Washington, where they joined a community of punks, queers and noisy weirdos."I was running away from the bad parts of Southern culture," says Ditto. "I'm old enough now and so grateful for my family that I can finally embrace the good in where I grew up." The lyrics of Fake Sugar are full of such allusions, from rhymes cribbed from schoolyard handclap games, to slang like "Yankee dime" (a kiss) and folkisms like, "I get so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired" in other words, "s*** my aunt Linda Gail would say," says Ditto. A pivotal moment in the LP's creation came went she went to Graceland with her sister. Amid marital strife, she became obsessed of the Paul Simon album you can hear its echoes in the breezy folk-pop of the title track which, incidentally, could sit comfortably on a trop-house playlist and wanted to make a pilgrimage. It was at that local shrine to Southern flamboyance and music history, of all places, that Ditto reconnected with her past and found some of the peace and strength she needed.Which brings us to the family Ditto is building out West. "The first year of marriage sucks and no one tells you that," she says. "We were best friends, so we had to re-meet each other as wives." It wasn't rosy. Touring took a toll, disconnection crept, trust broke down. Ditto's insecurities pour out on the sober, expansive "Lover," but the couple found their footing, and Fake Sugar paints a broader picture of love that's as indulgently romantic ("We Could Run" is a U2-level epic call for getting swept away) as it is tenderly realistic: "Love in Real Life," with its lush bed of eerie Gary Jules-style piano-pop, finds Ditto cooing, "What more could we ask for, some kind of fantasy? / When there's no one I want more, more than anything." She considered calling the album Music for Moms in joking reference to the Gossip's 2009 LP Music for Men and her own settling down. "This is adulthood baby," Ditto quips. "You fought for marriage equality, now you gotta live in it."Of course, as our heroine herself points out, punk takes many forms: "To some people it's liberty spikes, to others it's Hot Topic. Some think Green Day, others think K Records. All are correct." To that, we'd add a few more definitions: marrying someone you legally couldn't just three years ago; bridging an old school upbringing to a progressive future; going it alone after spending your entire career in only one band; and delivering your own grown version of loud and proud badass weirdo rock 'n' roll to, potentially, the largest set of open ears you've ever faced. Basically, being Beth Ditto. "I've never been in the band that I'd love to listen to," she says. But, with due respect to her back catalog, perhaps the issue was that Ditto was confined to a band in the first place.
Jul-15-17 09:00 PM Woods
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