Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Old Ceremony at Forest Theater



I dragged myself to Chapel Hill today to see the Old Ceremony (Myspace) play an afternoon show at Forest Theater. I do mean dragged, because I spent about an hour stuck in stand-still traffic due to the work on I-40. I came really close a couple of times to just turning around and going home, but I'm glad I stuck it out, because the band put on a really great, comfortable, Sunday afternoon show. Forest Theater is an idyllic spot anyway, and the band had lots of family and friends there, with kids and dogs and elderly folks all having a good time. Check out my videos and you'll see what I mean about the kids. As soon as I turned the camera on, they all started running in front of me, and I know they were doing it on purpose because that's exactly what I would have done back when I was that age.

The Old Ceremony from Mann's World on Vimeo.



Old Ceremony from Mann's World on Vimeo.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Los Straightjackets and the Iguanas



It has been a long week, and I'm too wiped out to say much of anything about Los Straightjacket with Big Sandy, Wednesday at Cat's Cradle. The concept was that they would join forces to play '70s Mexican hit songs, which were themselves covers of '60s U.S. hits. That was great in theory, but I actually enjoyed Los Straightjackets more when they were sans Sandy and doing their own thing. New Orleans' The Iguanas opened.

Check out the videos.

(Videos removed)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Check out this new blog

Quick, like a bunny is a new blog by Kim Gray, who is one of the good folks behind 307 Knox Records in Durham. Check it out!

An interview with Django Haskins


photo by Trevor Oswalt

OK, I know this is bad, but I've never seen The Old Ceremony (Myspace), despite having many opportunities to do so. That's going to change this Sunday when the band plays an afternoon (4 p.m.) show at Forest Theater on the campus of UNC. In advance of the show, I took the opportunity to interview band leader Django Haskins (Myspace) via e-mail. In addition to getting his answers back to me in record time (just over two hours), he graciously allowed me to upload one of the band's .mp3s to the site. It turns out using the little Flash player is incredibly easy, so I'm planning to put a lot more songs with my posts.


Q. I have not seen Old Ceremony live, and I'm really looking forward to the show on Sunday, mainly because I keep hearing that you guys are "theatrical." What the heck does that mean? Are you guys "theatrical"? Do you have anything special planned for Sunday's show? Forest Theater seems like a pretty enchanted place -- how did you come to book a show there? Finally, you know it's going to be about 90 degrees at 4 p.m. on Sunday. How are you guys going to stand up there in suits without roasting?

A. I've been told we're "theatrical" too, but i'm not sure exactly what that means. I suppose it means that we don't dress in t-shirts and we try to work with lighting when we can. And maybe that some of the songs are stories, rather than all being first person confessionals. The forest theater is a really cool place; we played there for a similar show last year because we were looking for a place to do an afternoon show where families could come see us play. We'd heard so many people saying "When are you going to play at a reasonable hour? When are you playing so that I can bring my kids?" so we found the forest theater. As long as it doesn't rain, I'm okay with the heat. Though I generally roast in my suit even in a normal club show, so I may have to be wrung out and line-dried after the show.


Q. Are you recording right now? Thinking of recording? If so, where and with whom?

A. We are recording now, at our studio in Durham, Studio M, where we did our last record. Thom Canova is doing most of the engineering again. So far, it's been a really interesting process; we're taking a lot more chances on this record and taking more time to find the right sounds and feels, rather than making a more or less live record, which is what "Our One Mistake" was essentially.

Q. Lyrically, the songs on Our One Mistake seem romantically confrontational. They seem to be the thoughts of someone who has been holding in a lot of frustrations about his relationship, and the songs are the first salvo in what could be a major romantic battle. Am I off the mark here? Can you clue us in as to what you were thinking when you wrote them? Are you in a differnt place emotionally now?

A. Romantically confrontational? I like that one. I was definitely going through a lot of frustrations at the time I wrote some of those songs. But also, I think I'm more interested in writing about the friction points rather than the long stretches of pleasantness. In retrospect, it seems that the last record was a lot about communication or lack thereof. "Talk Straight," "Reservations," "Prove Me Wrong," "Baby, What is Going On," etc. all seem to hit on that.

Q. What's the most embarrassing record in your collection?

A. I've got lots of records that I wouldn't necessarily bring to a party of people I didn't know. Maybe Billy Joel or something - I heard his stuff so much from my older sister growing up that I have a soft spot for some of his early records. I realize that he's not Pitchfork-approved, but the man could write a melody.


Q. When you're on the road, what do you miss most about Chapel Hill, and when you're in Chapel Hill, what do you miss most about the road?

A. When I'm on the road, I miss Weaver Street Market because it's such a struggle to find healthy food. The best we can do on the highway is Subway, but that gets old pretty fast. When I'm home, I miss the novelty of waking up in a different city every day and of meeting lots of new people all the time. But honestly, we haven't been home for long enough stretches of time lately to really miss much about being on the road before we leave again.

Q. Language is obviously very important to you. Can you explain what draws you to various languages? Which languages do you know, and what do you appreciate most about each of them? Do you write in English for convenience, or do you truly find it to be the most evocative, descriptive language?

A. The thing I love about foreign languages (I've studied Chinese, French, Japanese, and Spanish, but I'm only really comfortable in Chinese and Spanish at this point) is that they are a perfect microcosm of a culture and worldview. They show how people relate to each other, for instance. In Japanese, the various levels of politeness convey an incredibly subtle awareness of one's place in relation to whomever they're talking to. Chinese (Mandarin) is an amazing language - difficult and obtuse, but also incredibly rich and rewarding. And the characters themselves are so beautiful to write and read. I also like how everything is determined by context in Chinese; there are very few connector words and no conjugation of verbs, so you have to infer a lot. I write in English because it's hard enough for me to write lyrics in English - if I wrote in any other language it'd come across like a depressed first-grader.


Q. Off-topic here: I'm currently learning German, and I love how logical it is. I truly don't know how anyone manages to learn English.

A. Yeah, English really is full of crazy exceptions. I'm glad I learned it as a kid rather than starting now.


Q. Have you ever written a lyric that you couldn't find a melody for, or vice versa? Can you explain a bit about your songwriting process?

A. I've got scraps of lyrics and music all over the place that haven't found (and probably won't ever find) a home. But I think the more you make the effort to just write, the more chance that they'll find a place in a song. It's rare for me to have a song appear fully-formed. There are a few of those on the last record - "Papers in Order" and "Reservations" come to mind, but in generally there's a lot more gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair involved.

Q. You grew up in Florida. Do you have an innate appreciation for Lynyrd Skynyrd or do the opening bars of Gimme Three Steps just make you want to vomit?

A. It makes me sick. I do, however, often point out that Tom Petty is from my hometown, Gainesville.

Q. Hit shuffle on your ipod and tell me the first five songs that come up. If you don't have an ipod, what's in your CD player right now?

A. I don't have an ipod, but looking at the stack of cds by my cd player, I've got Etta James, The Band, Thelonious Monk, Eels, and Josquin Deprez. I'm not very modern.


Q. I understand you were named for Django Reinhardt. Has his music inspired you in anyway? Obviously you come from a music-loving family. Tell us a bit about them, and about your experiences with music while growing up.

A. I've always been aware of Django's Reinhardt's music, but only in the past few years have I really spent a lot of time with it. He's definitely inspiring. My parents were a folk duo in the 60's and did some travelling around and performing. I had a really musically rich childhood - we used to spend evenings around the piano all the time, and I was introduced to a lot of music - old jazz, folk, rock n roll, you name it. It definitely started me on my road to pig-headed eclecticism. I'm just not capable of making a bunch of music that has the same sound over and over. It's a weakness in some ways, but it's also what keeps me interested in what I'm doing.

Q. What have I missed? Is there anything you really want to say?

A. Not really. I like your questions - they were much more insightful than our usual "how long have you been playing" and "how do you describe your music." thanks a lot.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Red Fang and The Fucking Champs



I'll just go ahead and say it: Red Fang blew away both Birds of Avalon and The Fucking Champs Saturday at The Pour House. If you're not familiar with them, Red Fang is from Portland, Ore., but includes former locals David Sullivan (Shiny Beast) on guitar and John Sherman (Mercury Birds) on drums. They make really heavy stoner rock that doesn't get too mired in sludge. Check out the video.

Red Fang from Mann's World on Vimeo.






I got BOA during the Kings closing, so I skipped them this time. As for TFC, as I've said before, I can really take or leave them. A lot of their stuff I love, and a lot of goes in one ear and out the other. Still, for the hardcore fans, here is a video.

the Fucking Champs from Mann's World on Vimeo.

Dexter Romweber and Robbie Fulks


Thursday I was able to catch the first set by Dexter Romweber, who played solo at Sadlack's. Dexter is truly one of this area's legends. I've long said that Jack White ripped off at least part of his schtick from Dexter. I prefer him in a duo, because then he really gets crazy, but solo is good too. Here's the video.

Dexter Romweber from Mann's World on Vimeo.



Dexter started at 7, which allowed me to run over to the Hideaway and catch a packed show by Robbie Fulks. I'd never seen Robbie before, and honestly I think he's a bit too much of a novelty singer for me. But he is a damn fine player. When he just simply played, he was awesome. I couldn't get any photos in the Hideaway, but I did get two videos, including one of Robbie and Terry Anderson.

Robbie Fulks from Mann's World on Vimeo.



Another one by Robbie Fulks from Mann's World on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

WMG seeks BAND

OK, I'm not in the business of musicians personals, but I am willing to put the word out for this one particular person. Eric Shepherd, best known around here for his stint in Greensboro's Geezer Lake, has moved back to North Carolina from Boston and is looking for folks to jam with. as for what exactly he wants to do, here's what he had to say:

i'm dead serious about getting something together, or joining something interesting. but a few things i want to stress is the fact that i'm not looking to do a geezer lake mach II. my musical tastes are all over the place. my last band in boston was more of a americana/indie kind of thing. hell, i've even been thinking of writing some pop songs. i don't know at this point. the other thing i want to stress is that due to family and work, i'm not looking to get into a band with folks who want to rehearse twice a week and do weeknight shows in athens. done that. but that shouldn't discount the fact that i want to be involved in a project that is serious, with goals of playing out some and recording something with the intention of having it heard.

I think it would be awesome to see Eric in another band around here, so if he fits what you're looking for, please e-mail him at eric.shepherd@gmail.com, or check out his personal myspace, or the myspace for Geezer Lake.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Totally digging Filthybird



Never heard of Filthybird? Neither had I until a few days ago, even though both Grayson and Grady have given them props. That shows I need to start checking out something on the Web besides TMZ. Filthybird is a Greensboro woman-led quartet, with a new CD out on Durham's Red String Records, which has also released a CD by The Nein, among others.

I put on their latest CD, "Southern Skies" early this morning, and literally can't stop listening to it. Singer/keyboard player Renee Mendoza has a smoky-sweet voice and a passel of emotionally rich lyrics. Check out "The Gospel as Judas Told it to Me":
I was born to sing. It's all I know to do. It takws all I've got to do the things I know I should do. My mother was born to sing, and her mother too, but they lost their voices singing in a world that was cruel.

Mendoza's mother, it turns out, was a member of a Texas garage-rock band called Southern Skies, and the CD includes a song written by her -- "Sing." I didn't even have to look in the CD booklet to recognize former Geezer Lake trumpeter Chris Clodfelter on this song.

Filthybird has been compared to Cat Power, and that's not really a wrong comparison, but personally they remind me of two of my favorite female-led bands, lyrically, vocally and musically: Midnight Movies, because of the husky, breathy vocals and dark psychedelica; and Geraldine Fibbers for the lyrical trippiness and vocal androgyny. Seriously, I wasn't sure until looking at the credits if it was a man or woman singing.

Musically, it's a little jangly, a little swampy, a little psychedelic. Effects-laden and a little trippy. Good stuff, but the vocals are what makes it shine. "Fightsong" is the best song, though "Warm Womb", "Sing" and "Sunshine" give it a run for its money.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Big downtown concert -- club show later



Yesterday's big concert downtown was mostly a success. I probably would have stayed to see Hobex if it hadn't been raining. I really hate precipitation in all its forms. I know the farmers need it -- my garden certainly needs it -- but hate standing in it. the other downside is that I didn't take my camera because the last time I did, I was refused entry. But yesterday they didn't check my purse, and lots of people were snapping photos. If I find any photos from yesterday on Flickr, I will link to them.

Anyway, The Never were great. They have such lush, beautiful harmonies, and such broken-hearted songs. Big City Reverie is one of those bands that just isn't my thing, but I recognize that they're good, and really have a shot at becoming huge if they play their cards right. They remind me a lot of Train. A Rooster for the Masses was fun as always and worked the crowd expertly. Kudos to them for talking about Darfur in front of a crowd that was already half-drunk off of drinks that came in big, carved coconuts.

Later last night, I ended up at Slim's to catch Joe Swank & the Zen Pirates -- despite my original plan to see Viva La Venus at the Downtown Music Hall. I really intended to see both, but Joe was so good, I decided to stay at Slim's. The movie I got was from the first set, but their second set was actually much tighter. I think Alex got some footage of that, and I will bug him about it.

(Video removed)

Youtube find of the day

I've realized that whenever I get the urge to hear something in particular, it's easier to search for it on youtube than dig through my record and CD collection -- which I haven't bothered to reorganize since moving seven years ago! Anyway, here's a link to a ratty black & white boot of Robin Trower's "Day of the Eagle," from a 1975 concert in San Francisco. I would embed it here, but the owner has apparently disabled embeds -- something I didn't realize you could do.

UPDATE: Here's a better one, from something called "Rock goes to College," and it does have an embed.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hick'ry Hawkins at the Hideaway

Hick'ry Hawkins from Mann's World on Vimeo.



Hick'ry was great last night at the Hideaway. He's got Dave Quick, of TCB 56 playing guitar now, and Quick really wailed. Here's a post I did about TCB 56 and others at Elvisfest in January. Quick is the guy that I thought looked like Prince William. Seeing him a second time only confirmed that opinion.

The opening band left me cold. They essentially had one song and played it over and over, as fast as they could, as loud as they could. Even the covers all sounded like the same song.

Only got a couple of Hick'ry photos, and they didn't come out well. Neither did the video. I really need a new camera. Maybe I should set up a paypal account and make a call for donations on myspace. If everyone on my friends list donated $2, I'd be able to get a Canon Rebel, which I truly covet.

Looking forward to the big show downtown today, but not likely to get any photos. Last time I tried to get into one of the downtown shows with a camera, I was turned away. It's too bad because I'd really like to get some footage of Hobex and The Never. I love The Roosters as always, and am looking forward to Big City Reverie. Haven't seen them since Dive Bar in Dec. 2005!