Thursday, December 09, 2004

(Thirsty Ear Records)

Describing Charlie Hunter is an arduous task. He’s a guitar innovator, that’s for sure, and he’s an expert improviser who can seamlessly switch from bop to hip-hop to ambient music. And there’s no telling who he’ll bring along with him for the ride.

The only thing you can ever truly expect from any of Hunters projects is the unexpected. The only constants are his seven-string guitar, on which he plays the bass lines and guitar melodies simultaneously, and the fact that anyone he works with is going to be a top-notch boundary-breaking musician.

On his latest project, Groundtruther, Hunter again collaborates with electronic drummer Bobby Previte. The resulting CD, “Latitude” is the first in a trilogy in which the duo works with a third musician for each project. Alto saxophonist Greg Osby is the guest of honor on this project, which, according to the liner notes, is “played 99 percent live and 100 percent improvised.”

As with any Hunter project, his guitar playing is the star. It’s simply mind-boggling the sounds he’s able to coax out of that thing. Each of the songs on “Latitude” is named for, you guessed it, a latitude beginning with the North Pole and ending with the South, but the music would be right at home in some sort of comic sci-fi movie. “North Pole” is spooky and minimal. As the band moves south, they journey through funk, slinky R&B, drum ‘n’ bass, cool jazz and crazy space-age sound effects, ending with what sounds like the mating call of a swarm of sick mosquitoes (which, incidentally, sent my dog into a barking frenzy every time I played it). Those with little patience for minimalism or skronky jazz should stay away from this one. But if you appreciate improvisational give-and-take and can hear Hunter, Previte and Osby are headed, you’ll probably enjoy the journey.

I'm not a huge Pantera fan, but this is too sad and crazy to be believable. Even more spooky, yesterday was the 24th anniversary of John Lennon's murder.
Metal world mourns death of 'Dimebag' Darrell

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Here's an interesting article from The Washington Post on what musicians really think of the whole file-sharing debate. According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly half of the artists surveyed think unauthroized file-sharing should be illegal, yet they don't feel that such sharing will have much of an effect on their own bottom line. In fact, many artists think such sharing could be helpful in exposing their music to a wider audience. I haven't had a chance to fully digest this report yet, but it seems to suggest that such artists want to enjoy the obvious benefits of file-sharing as long as they, personally, don't lose any cash.

In related news, Cat's Cradle is now offering Internet downloads of select shows at But how would participating artists feel if their shows ended up on Soulseek? I'll invetigate further.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Small Faces Posted by Hello

Here are a few thoughts that went throught my head during The Cover-up at Kings:

My digital camera sucks.

Cheetie is an AWESOME guitar player.

I never knew the Little River Band had so many hits.

Who the hell are these guys? (re: The Small Faces)

I think Alice Cooper's wearing my pants.

Having missed the first night of the Cover-up (Jessica says Pentagram rocked), I wanted to get there early and see as much of night two as possible. The Little River Band (Torch Marauder plus the guys from Razzle) were already on stage, surprising the hell out of a bunch of hipsters who didn't realize they knew so many of the band's songs. I never thought I'd see a sing-along to "Lonesome Loser" at Kings, but then, I never thought I'd see that same crowd belting out "Anyway You Want It" when that Journey tribute band came through town a couple of years back.

I've seen more than my fair share of tribute bands. The best ones are either dead-on both musically and visually (like some of the better KISS tributes), or they give it a serious twist (Renelvis, the midget KISS band, any of the all-girl metal tributes like the Iron Maidens), or they cover some band that no one would ever think to do (Roxotica, the aforementioned "Little River Band"). Finally there's the entertainingly bad. I doubt The Monkees are actively trying to become a working tribute band, so I don't feel bad about putting them in that last category.

Who is this man? Posted by Hello

The Small Faces, on the other hand, could go on the road today with their act (that is, if there was actually a demand for a Small Faces tribute band). But the most frustrating thing about them is that I can't find out who they are! I know John Howie, most recently heard as the foghorn-voiced singer in Two Dollar Pistols, was playing drums. Someone told me that the keyboard player was Mike Walters from Jett Rink. I've seen "Ronnie Lane" and "Steve Marriott" around, but no one seemed to know who they are in real life. I've enclosed a photo, so if you know who they are, send me an e-mail. It's really starting to bug me.

 Posted by HelloAlice Cooper

It was about this time that my digital camera decided to be temperamental, so I didn't get any photos of Blondie, which featured Matt Gentling of Archers of Loaf on bass and a super-sexy Deborah Harry (I think she was from The Comas). When I would try to snap a picture, either nothing would happen, or it would take so long to focus that whatever I was trying to take a picture of was no longer happening. That's how I ended up with lots of blurry photos of people looking away.

I did manage to get a few shots of Alice Cooper, who was the highlight of my evening. I left afterward, missing The Talking Heads and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers. At that point the club was so crowded that I could hardly breathe, which always puts me in a bit of a panic situation. Husband-and-wife team Paul Siler and Cheetie Kumar, who have been in several bands -- including The Cherry Valence, played guitar. I've always known Cheetie was a good guitarist and bass player, but watching her playing "Billion Dollar Babies" and "School's Out" solidified my opinion. Not that Paul's any slouch, mind you. It's just that Cheetie totally rocked.

Are these my pants? Posted by Hello

Anyway, I kept thinking that Alice's (Craig Tilley from El Boa and The Weather) vinyl "snakeskin" pants looked a lot like a pair I took to the Salvation Army not too long ago. I sent a note to the El Boa band page on myspace asking where he got those pants, but so far haven't heard anything. My first thought was, "damn, those pants are cool. Why did I give them away?" Then I thought, "because you haven't been able to pull them up over your butt in five years."

As I said, I left after Alice, but got the word today that The Talking Heads were phenomenal and The Heartbreakers were pretty good too.

Cool photo of Paul  Posted by Hello

Saturday, November 13, 2004

 Posted by Hello

I finally got a chance to see the Cartridge Family tonight at Sadlack's. They're an offshoot (along with The Loners) of one of my favorite bands to ever call Raleigh home: Big Joe. But whereas The Loners are stripped down (just guitar and drums), The Cartridge Family includes a keyboard player, and so is a bit more lush. I realized as I was on my way home that I forgot to put some cash in the tip jar, so I'm going to send them this and another crappy phone photo to hopefully make up for it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

 Posted by Hello

Cool upcoming show alert: Widow (pictured) will be at Kings in Raleigh on Saturday, Nov. 27. I took this photo at last month's Metalfest, where they completely rocked. A couple of the members used to be in Sorrow Bequest, which was a cool death metal band from Wake Forest (I think that's right -- maybe just some of the members were from Wake Forest).
You can download some of their stuff HERE.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Here's the letter I wrote to the NY Times about the article "The Rap Against Rockism," which appeared in the Oct. 31 A&E section. Go here to read it (registration required).

Kelefa Sanneh's Oct. 31 article "The Rap Against Rockism" was enlightening. It offered the best explanation I've seen for that term, but it also forced me to confront my own rockist tendencies.

However I'd like to know why Sanneh didn't explore one of rockism's biggest contradictions, heavy metal. Here's a genre of music that's created by and appeals to an overwhelmingly white male audience, and it's a genre that usually values technical ability over style. If you're a crappy musician, you're just not going to gain the respect of most metal fans.

Yet aside from a few groups like who take an ironic approach to the music, metal is almost universally derided by music snobs. Those who wouldn't be caught dead at an Yngwie Malmsteen show will gladly bob their heads to The Fucking Champs, who do just as much guitar wanking, only they don't throw their guitars up over their heads while they do it.

As for the argument that metal is sexist, homophobic and sometimes racist, you can make the same accusations against quite a few in rock's legends.

The difference is that metal traditionally appeals to a blue collar audience, so in addition to rockism, there's a healthy dose of classism behind those music snobs' derision.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I have officially become an old fart. Last night I was riding in my car, listening to Queen's "Somebody to Love" on WRDU (that's proof of old fartdom right there). As Brian May (No. 2 on my list of greatest guitarists of all time) launched into a majestic solo, I thought to myself, "why should I even care about new music when I can listen to this all day long." Then I realized what I'd done and just about cried. The fact that I'm going to be 38 in just a couple of weeks compounded my misery.

The whole thing reminded me too much of my old guitar teacher, who looked just like Jeff Lynne and told me I'd never be a good guitar player because I was a girl and my fingers were too short. When I played him a tape of "Crazy Train" and told him I wanted to learn it, he just rolled his eyes.

"That guy's not playing," he scoffed. "If you want to hear some real playing you need to listen to Spyro Gyra." To this day I have deliberately avoided listening to Spyro Gyra.

So that's what I've become. The type of music snob who thinks these young whippersnappers don't know real playing. I'm going to try and correct that by making more of an effort to seek out music outside of my comfort zone.

That old anger at my guitar teacher has also inspired me to restart project AC/DC, which is my ongoing attempt to learn to play "Back in Black" straight through, solos and all. (So much for venturing out of my comfort zone.) I had made good progress, having gotten all the rhythms and a couple of solos down -- except for "Let me put my love into you," which proved to be more difficult than I thought. But for various reasons, none of them really good, I quit practicing and got a bit rusty. So here I am publicly declaring I will practice and be able to play the entire album -- at least passably -- by March, after which I will work on my long-time dream of forming Mannhandlyr with Jessica on vocals and a drummer who will only use one arm.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I'm a little late in writing about the BQs, who I saw Thursday night at Kings. BQ is Brian Quast, a multi-instrumentalist who has been in several local bands, including The Cherry Valence and Regraped. The band also includes former Polvo guitarist Ash Bowie on bass and Erik Sugg, formerly of Dragstrip Syndicate, on guitar.

When I've seen them before, the band just didn't do that much for me, so I hadn't gone out of my way to see them in a while. They were just straighforward, but not particularly memorable, pop. I don't know what happened, but now they've got a really cool Humble Pie vibe. Erik is one of those naturally gifted guitarists who can come up with an awesome riff seemingly off the top of his head. Some of that musicianship must have rubbed off on Brian, who has gone from being pretty good to damn good. But I still think Ash -- one of the most inventive guitarists ever to emerge from this area -- is being underutilized.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The coolest things only happen when I'm out of town!

If you're in Raleigh this weekend and you love bhangra and Bollywood music, you really should catch Panjabi Hit Squad at Regency Park in Cary this weekend. If I'd known this in advance, I probably would have changed my plans (seriously). And speaking of Regency Park, that's where I saw C.C. Deville plant a smacker on Jessica's lips last year. Everyone I tell that to asks if her shots are up-to-date

Anyway, here's the info from DJ Marco, who is truly an expert on this sort of stuff.

PARTY 1 (11am-8pm)
Koka Booth Ampitheatre at Regency Park
8003 Regency Pkwy - Cary NC 27511
Event is from 11am-8pm, PHS hits the stage at 6pm
Since their beginnings in the 1990s club scene, British production team Panjabi Hit Squad have written the book on hiphop and bhangra fusion. Between their weekly radio show on BBC Asian Network, releases on the AV8 and Def Jam UK labels, and remixes + production work for artists such as Gunjan and Beenie Man, there is no doubt that PHS are the Don Rajas of the desi beats scene! Don't miss this VERY RARE US PERFORMANCE!!!

And make sure arrive early for the rest of the festival, too. The 2004 Cary Diwali is dedicated to celebrating Taal - Beats of India. Experience the food, entertainment, and fun of India as well as register for hourly raffle drawings. Arrive early to receive FREE phone cards!

The best thing? Admission, including the PHS performance, is FREE!!!

PARTY 2 (10pm-2am)
MASALA BEAT CLUB at Berkeley Café
217 West Martin St. - Downtown Raleigh NC 27601 - 919.821.0777
Doors open at 9pm, music starts at 10pm
$5 admission
After Panjabi Hit Squad and the fireworks at Cary Diwali, make your tracks directly to North Carolina's ONLY monthly desi dance party! We're moving things to Raleigh tonight to give the Capital City a taste of desi beats for real. DJ Marco will provide the heaviest bhangra, hiphop, + bollywood sounds while DJ Mogambo throws down hectic South Asian drum'n'bass and electronic heat.

We plan on having some VIP desi celebrity guests in the house that are too hot for us to even mention, so keep the party going all night with the Masala Beat Club crew! And remember, even if you plan on catching Shankar & Gingger with Zakir Hussain at Page Auditorium at 7:30 tonight, you'll still have plenty of time after the concert to party with us!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Kung Flude Dudes Posted by Hello

Last night I experienced Kung Flude Dude, a fast hard-rock trio that reminded me a whole lot of the late Grande Prix -- Goofy lyrics, goofy costumes, crowd-participation stage antics, and cool, catchy music. According to the singer, the song "Knuckle Sandwich" is about his two favorite things -- eating and getting punched. He also said another song, "Here Come the Jerks," was "so damn good we had T-shirts made for it!" Indeed he and the drummer were wearing T-shirts with the slogan. Maybe the bass player thinks that song sucks.

Here they are doing karate kicks with particle board, which then ended up strewn all over kings. H-bomb got called onstage, and apparently got wacked over the head with another sheet of particle board, but I was looking down trying to figure out my damn camera phone when that happened. (Much like how I missed C.C. Deville planting a wet one on Jessica at last year's Poison concer because I'd gone to the other side of the stage to get a better view.)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Johnny Ramone 1948 - 2004 I feel like I should write something about Johnny Ramone's death. But truthfully, even though their music is a significant part of my teen-age soundtrack, I'm not really a Ramones fanatic. But then again I'm not a Beatles fanatic, so you can take that for what it's worth. So I'll leave the eulogies to someone with a greater appreciation of his music, and just say good bye to a real music legend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I didn't think it could get any better than Vandenberg -- but then they played a double shot of The Specials! Woo hoo!

Just a quick note to say how much I loooooove VH1 Classic. Since I had digital cable installed, I've been treated to a whole slew of forgotten videos from my youth, not the least of which is Vandenberg"s "Burning Heart."

Tonight I even saw "I Know There's Something," the solo video from ABBA songstress Frida (the dark haired one). When I was in high school, I got a boyfriend to admit he was cheating on me by calling the local radio station, pretending to be the girl he was cheating on me with, and dedicating that song to him. I timed it so that we were riding in his car when the song came on the radio, and I made sure to pitch a most hellacious hissy fit. Poor guy. I had him in tears by the time the song was through.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Living after midnight.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Black Sabbath was a bit of a disappointment last night. How could they possibly not be? They'd been blown completely off the stage by Judas Priest, who gave one of the best performances I've ever seen anywhere by any band, metal or otherwise. And I have the aching neck and ravaged vocal chords to prove it.

The day began auspiciously when Jessica managed to snag box seats that were much closer to the stage than the tickets I bought (for $65.00 each) way back in March. I probably could have gotten a good bit of cash for those old tickets, but I decided to sell them cheap to Monty. The only bad thing about going with Jessica was that she had to work, and wouldn't be able to go until later in the evening, leaving me to spend a few hours out at Alltel Pavilion by myself.

As luck would have it, my Slayer-fanatic cousin and her best friend pulled into the parking lot right ahead of me. I hadn't even noticed them, being so distracted by the sight of Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis riding by on a golf cart (they spotted Kerry King riding in another cart). The irony of the situation is that this is the same cousin with whom I saw Judas Priest in Greensboro, way back in 1982 -- the first metal concert for us both. Somehow it hadn't occured to either of us to call and find out if the other one was going to the show.

Pantera offshoot Superjoint Ritual was playing when we got in. I'm afraid I don't have much to say about them. They made absolutely no impression on me whatsoever, except for the fact that Hank Williams III really knows how to flip his hair around when he's banging his head. I kind of liked the country stuff he did a few years back -- stylistically he's a whole lot closer to his grandfather than his father. Plus, I used to be obsessed with The Jesus Lizard, whose guitarist, Duane Denison, was Hank III's guitar player. But, I digress.

Aside from Judas Priest, the band I was most interested in seeing was Norwegian black metal group Dimmu Borgir. I know it's cheesy, but I just love that stuff -- the "corpse" paint, the horror movie pipe organ, the Cookie Monster vocals. Personally, I prefer Emperor and Ulver, both of whom are more inventive but not nearly as cheesy as Dimmu Borgir (acutally, Emperor may be a little cheesier, but they're also a better band so it evens itself out). By this point, I had met up with another person I know who gave me another set of tickets, this time for Gold Circle seats, so we had a great vantage point for Dimmu Borgir's full cheese attack. And boy, was it cheesy. I once described the sound to someone by telling them to imagine the Cookie Monster singing The Phantom of the Opera while being attacked by a million bees. Now visualize him covered in leather and spikes, his blue fur dyed an inky black and his face painted in a bad imitation of King Diamond. My cousin was completely unimpressed.

"This is such a cliche," she cried. "I can't believe you actually like this." When Slayer came on, she leaned over and yelled at me, "Can't you hear the difference between that band and this band?"

Actually, yes I could. "South of Heaven" is one of my favorite CDs ever, but now I can't listen to them without imagining my boyfriend, Danny, cringing like the Wicked Witch as she's being melted and crying out, "they're soloing out of key!" I'm not a good enough guitar player to know if they're in key or not, but I was perplexed as to why Tom Araya and Jeff Hanneman kept running off stage in between songs. Were they changing instruments? If so, all their guitars and basses look exactly alike. I couldn't see what they were doing, but I could see a roadie wiping off Kerry King's bald, tattooed head with a towel. I wonder if that's specifically in his job contract.

So, to make a long story short, Judas Priest rocked, Rob Halford sounded better than ever and Glenn Tipton is still hot. I would definitely put him and Tony Iommi (who actually looks better with age) in the sexy seniors category. I tried out my camera phone, which I bought for the express purpose of sneaking photos at concerts, and got a couple of cool, arty shots of K.K. Downing, including the one on this page. Monty called me right as I was trying to take one photo, so I just flipped open the phone and screamed as loud as I could. It was in the middle of "Heading Out to the Highway," so it's not like he could hear anything else. He was still rubbing his ear when I ran into him after the show. I also ended up running into a former neighbor who, as far as I knew never listened to anything heavier than Gordon Lightfoot. Geez, the guy has a beard and wears Teva sandals. Whoda thunk he liked Judas Priest?

This leaves me back where I started: back at the box, exhausted and sore, and amazed that Black Sabbath could make the song "Black Sabbath" even more dirge-like than normal. Jessica, who has a lot more stamina than I do, managed to actually get in the pit for Black Sabbath, so she was happy. I, on the other hand, was just happy to get home.
Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

Last night I had the opportunity to check out Kolyma, Russ De Sena's new band, at Bickett Gallery. Bickett's a great place to hang out -- comfortable atmosphere, cool people, good art (usually) -- but it's just not my favorite place to see live music. The main room is a deep L shape, which means there's really only a small area in which you can actually see the band. The acoustics are too echoey and it's too well-lit (it is a gallery, after all). It truly is too bad that the neighborhood is so down on them having shows outside, where they have a gigantic open yard and a nice stage.

The result is that, even though I saw and heard Kolyma (though not for the entire set), I didn't really get a good feel for them. Before the show, guitarist/singer Crowmeat Bob described their sound as "a French car-wreck" and then said something about a Norse pagan ritual. From what I heard, the car-wreck part is an apt description (not that that's bad). Bob and Russ (best known form his stint in The Chickens) are both talented, creative players who specialize in controlled chaos, some of which was amazing, and some of which went in one ear and out the other. I'd like to hear them in a better-sounding situation, but maybe that would just defeat the purpose.

Without a doubt the most interesting bit was Jennifer Thomas' tortured vocals and manic stage presense. She stomped around, seemingly oblivious to everyone else in the room, collapsed, jumped up, and collapsed again to beat on the floor with a stray drumstick, all the while screaming like a troubled child who hadn't gotten her proper dose of Ritalin.

The opening "band" consisted of two guys creating ominous trance-like soundscapes with a bunch of pedals, a guitar, a lap-steel and a sound-effect toy found at a thrift store. It was cool to hear; deathly boring to watch (though it did go on a little too long for my taste). It would have made a good sound track to some sort of silent black and white sci-fi movie. In fact, it kept reminding me of such created by one of Xopher's friends. I would suggest that they get in touch with Xopher and show that film at their next show, but it already has a soundtrack of its own.

Check out my story on Rob Halford in today's edition of The News & Observer. As a long-time Judas Priest fan, I was honored to get the chance to interview him. He was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to. I told him I got his autograph in 1982 following a show in Greensboro, and he thought that was funny. Actually it kind of made me (and probably him) feel a bit old. He told me he hoped the band's show Tuesday at Ozzfest brought back a lot of good memories. I'll report back and let you know if it does.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Here's my take on Velvet Revolver.

Genre: Rock
Band: Velvet Revolver
Title: Contraband
Label: RCA
Release date: June 2004
Rating: Two stars

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Axl Rose. Even with his Botoxed face, goofy hair extensions and inner demons, I’d take him back right now as the rightful singer of this Guns ‘n’ Roses spin-off. Sure, it’s true that Velvet Revolver isn’t just made up of old G’n’R members (specifically Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum), but the pre-release hype sold the band as “Guns ‘n’ Roses with the guy from Stone Temple Pilots on vocals,” so it’s understandable that comparisons will be made. Scott Weiland, “the guy from Stone Temple Pilots,” is a better singer than Rose, who always sounded like a cross between Ethel Merman and a cat fight, but his voice isn’t as distinctive and his lyrics aren’t as good. Slash, one of the best rock guitarists ever, manages to appropriate several Led Zeppelin riffs on this CD, making Velvet Revolver’s music sound derivative and unoriginal. The overall result is a lot less than a band this talented is capable of.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I owe my friend Monty an apology. He kept insisting that absolutely nothing would be happening at the Office Friday night before 1:30 a.m. That's when breakbeat DJ Baby Anne from Orlando was scheduled to play her set. Certainly, I thought, that was a bit of an exageration. If I got there around 11 or so, something would be going on. That's how I ended up leaning on the bar, watching two kids in visors and baggy polo shirts half-heartedly moving on the dance floor.

Bored out of my skull, I dedided to take an anthropological look at what the kids were doing. As the floor gradually began to fill up, I saw a variety of moves, many of which looked like a strange mixture of the Moonwalk, Sufi whirling and Tai Chi. The boys danced alone, while the girls danced together in a circle. And I do mean boys and girls. I was easily old enough to be these kids' mother. As I was watching an impromptu breakdance battle, one whippersnapper looked over at me and said, "You don't come to things like this very often, do you?" I'm going to lie and tell myself he meant that I was too classy to be at an event like that.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Here's a more thought-out review of TV on the Radio:

New York trio TV on the Radio is the kind of band that leaves reviewers scratching their heads. Their sound is fresh, and the songs are catchy, but they absolutely refuse to be pigeonholed. That forces us to describe them by throwing together a bunch of other bands, you know, like “Peter Gabriel meets Art of Noise, meets Sonic Youth all standing on a corner singing Doo Wop with Mahalia Jackson.

There’s no denying that singer Tunde Adebimpe sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel. Judging from some of the pretentious lyrics on the band’s mesmerizing debut CD, “Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes,” he thinks he can write like him too. But, regardless of what he’s singing, his voice has a bluesy, earthy quality that contrasts perfectly with the band’s otherworldly, swirling melodies and syncopated beats. On the CD’s best track, “Staring at the Sun,” Adebimpe and guest vocalist Katrina Ford wail like two choir members who are really feeling the spirit. Underneath is a clanging mass of electronic beats and handclaps, throbbing bass and ringing guitars. Other songs, like the opening track, “The Wrong Way,” and “Don’t Love You” follow the same formula, sounding like selections from some futuristic hymnal. Perhaps that’s the key for those of us who still want to fit them into a niche. It’s gospel, but from a Bizarro world.

To see and hear for yourself, go here to see the video for “Staring at the Sun.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I've had the privilege of seeing two phenomenal shows lately. On Sunday, May 9th, Miss Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played at Kings Barcade. They were at Local 506 in Chapel Hill the evening before and the scenesters were a-buzz. This was a show not to be missed.

I didn't quite know what to expect, despite the fact that Mr. X had played their new CD for me earlier in the evening. Evidently it just went in one ear and out the other because I didn't even remember hearing it. The same certainly cannot be said about the show. Sharon Jones is an old-school Tina Turner-style soul wailer. She has a helluva voice, and she knows how to work the audience. She whooped and hollered, shimmied and shook while her backing band (three horns, drums bass and two guitar players -- one of whom, my friends and I agreed -- was really hot) kept a tight groove going. Even the most jaded scenesters were sweating and dancing their asses off. I found out later that after most of us left, the band came out and did another full set.

This past weekend was Artsplosure, the downtown Raleigh music and art festival. We missed Bobby Rush, but were just in time to see the Charlie Hunter Trio. Mr. X has seen them before, and he's a huge fan. I had never seen him before, and hadn't listened to much of his music. I did know that he plays both the bass and the melody on a crazy eight-string guitar. I can barely manage either of those, so I can only imagine the skill and discipline it takes to keep it all together.


Now I know dancehall is taking over America: The new Skippy commercial features a bunch of animated elephants dancing around a Carribean scene while another one toasts over a dancehall beat. It's a good marketing move on Skippy's part. What's better to eat when you're stoned than a peanut butter sandwich?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

I have now confounded at least two co-workers by telling them I like Mike Cooley's songs more than those of Patterson Hood in the Drive-By Truckers. Co-worker No. 1 was left slackjawed and nearly speechless -- he literally said, "I don't know what to say about that." Co-worker No. 2 laughed uproariously when I told him about No.1's reaction, then stopped suddenly and said, "I'm a bit astounded too."

All this has come about because I saw Drive-By Truckers for the third time two nights ago at Lincoln Theatre. I need to start writing in this thing as soon as I get home from a show, because I had so many brilliant ideas upon which to ruminate, but now can't remember that much. Anyway, my opinion, as expressed to Co-worker No. 2, was that I just like Cooley's deep countrified voice more. Plus Hood's songs seem too self-consiously redneck to me. In some ways his songs remind me of the writings of Clyde Edgerton, whose work I simply can't stand. Both come off as Southerners from priviledged backgrounds trying to write from a white trash perspective. Of course, I don't know Patterson Hood. He could have grown up dirt poor in a trailer for all I know. But even if that's the case, his songs still feel a little bit contrived. Co-worker No.2 countered that Hood is a storyteller; things are going to go over the top occasionally. Considering the brilliance of the Southern Rock Opera, I had to concede.

Unlike my feelings toward Clyde Edgerton's novels, I generally do like Hood's songs, especially when he's performing them live. DBT are at their best on stage because that's where they seem most at home. Thursday's concert felt like a homecoming, with fans making their own videos and recordings, and Hood giving props to people he knows in the area. They were even loose enough to perform a rocking version of "Hey Ya." The band's musicianship, which took a flying leap when guitar player Jason Isbell joined the band, has been bolstered even more with the addition of former Muscle Shoals session bass player Shonna Tucker. Co-worker No. 1 and his wife were at the show, staring raptuously at the stage and bobbing their heads to the music. I didn't want to shock him again by telling him that when it was Cooley's turn to sing, it reinforced my preference for his songs.

Friday, May 07, 2004

So, Franz Ferdinand. ... Jagged Scottish new wave reminicient of Gang of Four, Mission of Burma and Drums 'n' Wires- era XTC. Mr. X says it's nothing he hasn't heard before, and he's right. But it's something I personally haven't heard done well in the last 20 years or so. I actually like the similar- sounding Radio 4 better, but Franz Ferdinand's CD is something fans of the aforementioned bands should check out. Haven't heard much from Hot Hot Heat, though they also draw the same New Wave comparrisons.

The band I'm really excited about, though, is TV on the Radio. Unlike Franz Ferdinand, this is something I have not heard before. The only way I can describe it is techno doo wop blues. The closest comparrison I can think of is Television

According to the liner notes on their CD, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, the band itself consists of three guys, one on vocals and loops, one on vocals, guitar and loops, and the third on "music." Guest musicians sing, and play drums, flute and guitar. The music has kind of an ambient, industrial feel, while the vocals are soulfully confessional. The band's weak point is lyrics, which the band seems to have learned at the Michael Stipe School of Pretention and Vaguery. Here's a sample:

Cross the street from your storefront cemetary
Hear me hailing from inside and realize
I am the conscience clear
in pain or ecstacy
and we were all weaned my dear
upon the same fatiuge.

(Check out the cool video for Staring at the Sun, whose lyrics I just quoted.

Uh, yeah. Thank goodness singer Tunde Adebimpe has a good voice (a review on compared him to Peter Gabriel).

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On Friday I saw Prince at RBC Center with Mr. X. It was an experience that left me completely astounded -- not at Prince's performance, though my respect for him as a guitarist is renewed now that I've seen him live. No, I was astounded at the completely chaotic, in fact downright anarchic, traffic situation at the venue.

If you've been to the RBC Center, you know the place is massive with acres and acres of parking lots surrounding it. I've seen two other concerts there, AC/DC and Backstreet Boys (my friend had to write about it and wanted moral support during the show). During both shows, as well as several Carolina Hurricanes games, I was able to drive right on up and go in with minimal fuss. The only problem I've had there is trying to find my seat once I was actually inside.

The show was to begin at 8 p.m., so we left my house at 7:30, thinking we'd have plenty of time. We took 40, and planned to exit onto Wade Avenue. About a mile from the exit, traffic started slowing, then creeping, then finally coming to a full stop. Mr. X was a little nervous. He's seen Prince before, and knows that he doesn't include supporting acts, and is notoriously punctual about starting his shows on time. As the minutes ticked by, our mood went from mildly agitated to downright panicky. He called his friend Joyce, who was having a slightly easier time of it -- though not by much -- approaching on Hillsborough Street.

When we realized that after 45 minutes we had only traveled a few hundred feet, we consoled ourselves with a bit of insider info: After the show, Prince was going to go over to the Lincoln Theatre where he was going to jam with Corey Parker, son of his horn player, the legendary Maceo Parker. People are still talking about the Prince's show at the now-defunct Plum Crazy, where he went after his Walnut Creek performance six years ago. If we missed the show, I reasoned, we'd still get to see him in a relatively intimate setting. That was just about the only comforting thought I had as we finally pulled into a parking space, two hours after leaving home and an hour after Prince hit the stage. The ultimate indignity was having to pay $7 to park. I'm still not sure what the hold-up was. Say what you will about Walnut Creek's Nazi-like security, but they have parking down to a science.

So, about Prince. ... I've never been a big fan of his, but after seeing him live, I might just have to add him to my list of favorite guitar players. The amazing thing about Prince is that he is a complete package: He's a killer guitarist, he writes intricately catchy hooks that somehow appeal both to the masses and music snob critics, and he's a showman who knows how to mesmerize an arena full of people. I was looking forward to seeing how he'd work a small club crowd.

Well, he never showed up -- at least not while I was there; from what I understand, he spent the wee hours holding court (and not playing) at The Office. There was an announcement after the concert that the after-party would be at The Office, but we went down to The Lincoln Theatre anyway -- along with hundreds of other people who had heard the same thing.

The evening wasn't a complete bust, though. Opening for Corey Parker was a local Michael Jackson tribute band called "Who's Bad." The singer, being a black male, obviously looked more like Terrence Trent D'Arby, but he had Michael's moves down, and if you closed your eyes he sounded approximately like him. The backing band was full of young guys who probably weren't even born when Thriller was released, but they played passionately and without a hint of irony.

Friday, April 09, 2004

I may have unravelled the mystery of the COC show. According to Todd, Peter said that "the original COC" was practicing in his living room right at that moment (keep in mind, I did not see the Monkeytime episode in question). When I mentioned this to Danny Hooley, he looked perplexed, then said that the Ugly Americans had been practicing in Peter's living room, and some COC folks were hanging around with them. I don't know where the disconnect came from, but I don't want anyone to go to the Guitartown shows thinking they're going to see some hardcore.

Last night was my first experience with Ugly Americans (yes, I know, kind of bad for someone who supposedly reviews North Carolina music). According to the old-timers, the show was awesome. And there were quite a few old-timers hanging around: You could have told the history of N.C. rock music just by pointing out people in the audience. The band seemed stiff for the first few songs, which is to be expected, but then really let loose. Danny Hooley's rock faces are almost on par with G.E. Smith -- though not quite as good as the Ghost of Rock's drummer, who truly looked like he was in agony throughout the show. Until last night, I had only seen bass player Chris Eubank in quirky Wifflefist projects (Polycarp, the Hee Haw/Lawrence Welk Show) and improv jams (too many to list). Mr. X made a point about "musical body memory," meaning that no matter how long you've been sitting on a chair to play, once you pick up an electric bass and get on stage in a rock club, the old moves come right back.

For a detailed review, I'm going to defer to Mr. X, who saw the band back in the day and can better assess their performance (though he has already said it was "awesome.")

Also, I invite comments on my list of favorite guitarists, as I'm sure everyone has a list of their own. I also meant to mention at the end of my Rolling Stone gripe in the last post that a former colleague, Eric Bates, is now a top editor at the magazine, and I can already see his positive influence. Not only has the magazine returned to harder-hitting political and investigative stories, there are a lot fewer scantily clad women on the cover. I'm not a prude, but it had begun to seem like the only way a woman was going to get on the cover was to be in a bathing suit, in her underwear, or naked. Eric probably had nothing to do with that, but it is nice to see better covers.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Damn it! I just heard Rainbow's "Man on the Silver Mountain" on a beer commercial! First Sweet, now Rainbow. I guess UFO will have to be my new favorite semi-obscure British band. Next wel'll hear "Too Hot to Handle" on a KFC commercial.
Currently listening to: CNN's analysis of Condoleezza Rice's appearance before the 9/11 commission

Thank God basketball season is over. Having been raised in both Raleigh and Darien, Conn., Mr. X was in a conundrum during the entire tournament about whom to support. Duke getting knocked out made it easier for himI'm a little disappointed that Duke didn't end up in the final, but I have to tip my hat to UConn for winning both the men's and women's championships.

The big news 'round these parts is tonight's Ugly Americans reunion show -- or, at least, it's big news with a lot of the local musical glitterati. Former frontman Simon Bob (who supposedly now works in law enforcement in LA) is in town for a visit, so the original line-up will play a 20th anniversary show at Kings. I didn't have the pleasure of seeing them when they were playing, but Mr. X saw them many times in Connecticuit punk clubs, and so he's one of the musical glitterati looking forward to the show. I expect it will be a bit of a family reunion for the original Raleigh hardcore crew. It'll be funny to see guitarist Danny Hooligan's N&O colleagues mixing with that crowd.

According to Todd Morman, whom I chatted with last night at Bar Metro, "the original COC" will be playing this weekend (he wasn't sure which day) at the Pour House as part of the Guitartown Rock 'n' Roll Revue. Aparently local scribe/man-about-town Peter Eichenberger made the announcement on Todd's Monkeytime show. Given that Guitartown is an alt-country discussion group, and that the line-up for the shows is skewed heavily in that vein, I find this just a tad bit odd. But since Simon Bob was also in COC, and the Pour House has nothing on their schedule for Sunday, it does make sense.

So, why is Rolling Stone running these Top 100 lists so often? In recent months we've had the Top 500 Albums, the Top 100 Guitarists and now the Top 50 Immortals. It's fun, but what does it really achieve to read why other people thinks certain artists or albums or songs are the best? Sure, it stirs a little controversy, gets discussion going among readers. Plus, in this Web-savy world it gives readers short chunks of information to digest in a hurry. But with so many list items to cover, none of them get the detailed analysis they deserve. I'd rather read longer articles on the 10 Greatest Guitarists than a bunch of smaller articles on the 100 Greatest. Each article could include sidebars of quotes from other artists, archive photos and maybe a CD of the music included with the magazine, or a refer back to the Web site for an interactive multimedia presentation on each.

I'd also like to know a little more about the judging process. What do they mean by the "Greatest"? Do they mean most influential? Most technically accomplished? Most inventive? Top selling? Coolest? All of the above? Are they including jazz and blues guitarists? What about classical guitarists? Picking on the Guitarist list a little bit here, I would probably have different lists for each of the above criteria.

Most influential (in no particular order): Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton
Most technically accomplished: Eddie Van Halen, Robert Fripp and Randy Rhoads
Most inventive: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Robert Fripp, John Fruciante
Top selling: Elvis, John Lennon, Trey Anastasio
Coolest: Keith Richards (he would be 1-10 in this category.)

Karen's personal favorites

1. Jimmy Page: The first guitarist who ever blew me away. It's because of him that I gave up listening to Andy Gibb and fell madly in love with rock 'n' roll at age 12.

2. Brian May: He gets the most amazing tone from a guitar that he made from a fireplace mantle when he was a kid.

3. Gary Moore: Based solely on his performance in the Thin Lizzy live in Sydney video. Scott Gorham was prettier, Brian Robertson was probably a little bit better, but Gary was always the coolest. (With appologies to my metal-loving friends who worship John Sykes.)

4. Steve Gaines: He truly rejuvenated Lynyrd Skynyrd. I can only imagine what he would have accomplished if he had lived.

5. Michael Ammot: Former Carcass guitarist, now with his own band, Arch Enemy. A lot of death metal guitar leads sound fairly bland to me. They're all scales and no soul. Ammot is one of the few who gets it right.

6. Keith Richards: Just because he's Keith Richards.

7. Angus and Malcolm Young: Angus gets the glory, and rightly so: He is a truly amazing guitarist. But Malcolm is the one who really holds it together, providing a rhythmic base on which Angus can shine. Malcolm gets my vote for most under-rated guitarist ever.

8. Slash: Slash is like all the best guitar players rolled into one. He's awesome at both lead and rhythm, he writes great hooks, and he's almost as cool as Keith.

9. John Fruciante: Funky, soulful, jammy and unobtrusive. He's a great player in a band of great players, so he knows when it's time for him to step back and let the other guys take over.

10. Joe Perry: Simply because he looks better now in his 50s than he did when he was 25.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Currently listening to: Gluecifer, "Automatic Thrill"

Hmmm, I just don't quite know what to make of Gluecifer these days. Their 2002 "Tender Is the Savage" CD is one of my all-time favorites. I love the dirty Thin Lizzy meets AC/DC hooks, Biff Malibu's manly swagger, the call-and-response background vocals. I actually wore out my first copy of it within six months. I have never worn out a CD before; to do so within six months, well, you can imagine how much I had been playing it.

So when "Basement Apes" was released the same year, I tried to like it, really, I did. But it was just so sterile sounding compared to the loose rawk they had perfected on previous CDs. But eventually I just couldn't deny it: It sucked.

Did the fact that they had signed with Sony have anything to do with it? What about bass player Jon Average quitting the band? Did they make the fatal mistake of believing their own myth? Likely it was a combination of factors, much of it having to do with signing to a major label and then either being coerced, or making a conscious effort to produce a hit. The fact that their distinctive background vocals disappeared indicates that Average had been a vital component in their sound.

Now they have a new CD, "Automatic Thrill." Like many of their fans (if you believe what's written in their guestbook) I was truly hopeful that they would go back to that heavier sound. Well, they did. It's loud, it's fast, and it's pounding -- and it still manages to go in one ear and out the other. "Tender" (itself considered a sell-out by their earliest punk-loving fans) gripped me right away and wouldn't let go. "Automatic Thrill" has yet to do that -- even after repeated listens. It's pleasurable enough when it's actually playing, but when it's over, there's nothing that makes me say, "damn, I've got to hear that again." None of the riffs stick in my head and bug me the rest of the day (though "A Call from the Other Side" and "Put Me on a Plate" come close). In other words, I doubt I'll ever wear this one out.

One problem, oddly enough, seems to be too much volume. In their quest to turn it up to 11, they've muddied those great hooks into a wall of feedback. The music in general seems uninspired, as if their main goal was to make a CD that's better than "Basement Apes," as opposed to a CD that's good on its own terms and makes the listener forget comparrisons altogether.

Of course, I'm willing to admit that I may have turned into the kind of fan I always hold in derision: One who can't stand it when a favorite artist tries something new.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Currently listening to: The Duke - Georgia Tech game

If you know anything about North Carolina, you know how rabid we are over basketball. Or, rather, how rabid most of us are. I enjoy watching a good game, but I almost never make a point to watch a particular game. This year, because we're covering the ACC Tournament at work, I've had to watch the whole damn thing. Luckily it's been pretty exciting. Tech's last-second, game-stealing score against UNC even had me up on my feet cheering. I have nothing against UNC, mind you; I just like to root for the underdog (and, yes, I know Tech was higher-ranked, but in North Carolina, anyone but UNC or Duke is an underdog).

I got off on that tangent as a segway into discussing the Esquire article that names Raleigh as the fourth most rocking city in the U.S. It's not out yet, so I haven't had a chance to really look at it and determine how informed their decision is. But the general consensus among local scenesters is two-fold: 1. Why did they pick Raleigh and not the Triangle in general, and 2. Why the hell is Pittsburgh No. 1?

I've never been to Pittsburgh, so I can't say if the accolade was deserved. Don Caballero is from there, and I understand the city has good Polish food (something you definitely can't find in North Carolina). With a quick Web search, I found, which perhaps offers a few clues.

On the Raleigh issue, I'm a little more qualified to pontificate. Esquire reportedly cited Ryan Adams, Ben Folds Five and Cherry Valence as the reasons Raleigh is on the list, which doesn't make much sense to me. Cherry Valence is an obvious choice. They're easily the most popular band in Raleigh, and, thanks to their constant touring, their national profile is beginning to rise. Ryan Adams is a little less likely. Though a lot of people hate to admit it, Whiskeytown really did put Raleigh on the map with the alt-country crowd. But since he's gotten famous, he's had almost nothing to do with the local music scene. And, really, why should he? If you can hang out with Keith Richards, there's not much to gain from hanging out at the Jackpot. Ryan is a product of Raleigh (really, Eastern North Carolina) but he's been molded by so many other experiences that you really can no longer call him a Raleigh artist. Just like you really can't can Axl Rose a Lafayette, Indiana, artist.

Ben Folds Five is the real puzzle here. Folds himself is from Winston-Salem, and the band really got going in Chapel Hill. Now Folds lives in Australia. Evidently the Esquire folks picked Ben because the band had a No. 1 hit. If that's the case, they should have added Squirrel Nut Zippers -- another top-selling Chapel Hill band -- to the list.

The thing is this: Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill all have distinctive musical communities, as do Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington and Asheville. But the Triangle cities are so geographically and spirtually close together that they're really more like different neighborhoods in the same town. They feed off of, and rely on, one another. Ten years ago, the idea of a Chapel Hill sound was pretty silly to those of us who lived here. Now the same can be said about Raleigh.

So, who should have been on the list? For the life of me, I can't figure out why Austin wasn't No. 1 on the list. Not only is it chock full of bands, clubs and creative people in general, the town itself holds SXSW, one of the biggest music-industry events in the world. And what about Detroit, which has a storied history and is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the White Stripes.

My guess is that the Esquire folks decided upon their favorite musicians and then decided to see if there was a geographic link. I'm willing to bet that three staffers -- one a 40-something jazz fan, one an urban hipster and one a Dave Matthews Band fanatic -- sat down and brainstormed ways to deal with a special music section that was foisted upon them by the higher-ups. This is their compromise, which will sell issues and garner publicity, but won't do much for their cred.

David Menconi did a good job of explaining the hubub in his N&O article, which, by the way, also includes a pretty cool slide show and audio of some of the bands who really are the best around here.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Last night we saw Corey Parker at Kings. He's added a guitar player, which added a little edge to the funkiness.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Nicky Band, which is a white-boy R&B/funk group led by Nick Whitley of The Cherry Valence. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I somehow had the idea that The Nicky Band was lead by Nicky from Mercury Birds and Taija Ray, who is a black woman, not a white guy. Previously I'd only seen Nick Whitley sweaty and shirtless, pounding the drums and screaming like a madman with Cherry Valence. He's actually a pretty good guitar player and has a nice, soulful voice. I bought the CD, but haven't had a chance to give it a good listen.

Mr. X and I got into a discussion about bands that are better live than on record, and vice versa. I'd have to put Cherry Valence in that category. It's not that their records are bad, they just don't capture the band's live energy, which is its greatest strength. I'd love to see them put out a live record. Mr. X mentioned Chapterhouse, a shoe-gazer band that he loved on CD, but hated live. I posed this question on the Triangle Rock community on Orkut, so it'll be interesting to see some of the responses.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Still listening to Probot. I'm not quite sure what to say about it, and, judging from the reviews I've read so far, neither do most other reviewers. If this album had been made by your average no-name metal band, no one would give it the time of day. It's not bad, but neither is it very distinctive. Dave Grohl is a fine musician, but he really doesn't quite have the metal chops to pull this off. I found myself wanting to listen to the musicians' own bands rather than their Probot contributions. Still, it's obvious from his choice of collaborators that Dave truly loves metal, and I think he's done quite a public service by introducing these folks to a wider audience who might not have taken a chance on them on their own.

Last night I saw The Dynamite Brothers, Roxotica and part of Valiant Thorr at Kings. Dragstrip Syndicate was supposed to play, but unfortunately they broke up just recently. That's a shame because they're just the kind of band I like: fast, pounding, Southern-bluesy guitar rock with plenty of virtuoso leads thrown in. After I saw them, I felt like I'd been kicked repeatedly in the chest, which is always a good thing.

As far technique goes, The Dynamite Brothers are one of the best bands in this area. They're a trio, and both the drummer and guitar player sing. Singing drummers are fairly rare, so I always like to see someone do it, and do it well -- as long as they're not wearing one of those cheesy headset microphones. For some reason those things bug the hell out of me. No one looks cool wearing those things, unless they're Peter Gabriel, in which case their artiness outweighs their pretension.

Anyway, all three of the Brothers are amazing musicians, and I was spellbound watching them. But afterward, I had trouble remembering the particulars of the music. Like Dragstrip, The Dynamite Brothers are fast, heavy and bluesy, but with a little more garage rawness. But they don't offer anything significantly different than Dragstrip, or many of the other bands out there doing the same thing.

They didn't stick in my mind as much as Roxotica, even though they're musically light years ahead. Roxotica is the local tribute to Rock Goddess, an obscure all-girl English rock band from the '70s. Since I've never heard Rock Goddess, I can't say how faithful Roxotica is. What I heard last night was kind of sludgy, kind of poppy, kind of like Girlschool, but with hints of Deep Purple.

We only stayed for one Valiant Thorr song, but that one song reminded me of Gluecifer (call-and-response lyrics, double guitar leads, dynamic, testosterone-happy frontman). Speaking of Gluecifer, I've ordered their latest "Automatic Thrill," from, so I'll let you know what I think of it. A friend who really loves Gluecifer gave it nothing but high marks, saying it was a return to form after the tepid "Basement Apes."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Currently listening to: Probot, the new Dave Grohl metal project

Dave has an impressive list of metal luminaries on this CD: Lemmy, Cronos from Venom, Tom G. Warrior from Celtic Frost, King Diamond, Raleigh's own Mike Dean, just to name a few. I'll give it a proper review after a few more listens.

Mr. X took me to task for saying that Urge Overkill was "serious." After a friendly debate about the whole thing, we agreed that Urge Overkill was more ironic than serious, while The Darkness is satirical. The next logical step would be to call Satanicide a parody, especially since, according to rumor, Satanicide was told they couldn't play with The Darkness because Satanicide is a parody and The Darkness isn't. I read an interview (which, unfortunately I can't find right now) in which Justin Hawkins said The Darkness wanted to get the music note-perfect so they could goof off with the lyrics and the image.

A couple of weeks ago, The Independent ran an article on the death of Chapel Hill musician Randy Ward. Ward, who was best known as a guitarist for Family Dollar Pharaohs and Metal Flake Mother, died in late January after a short bout with cancer. I didn't know Randy, but I am still a big fan of Metal Flake Mother, who, for my money, was one of the best bands ever to emerge from this area. I've been listening to their CD, Beyond the Java Sea, and remembering a time when people actually thought Chapel Hill was going to be the next Seattle. Two MFM alums, Jimbo Mathus and Tom Maxwell, went on to form Squirrel Nut Zippers, whose success led local Hep Cat Records to re-release Beyond the Java Sea in 1997 (it was originally released on Moist Records in 1991). Several local benefits are planned in memory of Randy.

Also recently, well-known local metal promoter Dio (not Ronnie James Dio) was injured during some sort of altercation. I don't know exactly what happened, but I will say that Dio is one of the nicest, most unassuming people I've ever met. A benefit is planned for March 7 at Lincoln Theatre to help defray his medical costs. A who's who of local metal, including G'n'R tribute band Appetite for Destruction, is scheduled to play.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Currently listening to: "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," Public Enemy

Actually, I'm scrolling through my MP3s, and just listening to what comes up. A weird transition just happened: Pantera's "Cowboy's From Hell" to Public Enemy's "911 Is a Joke." I love digital music!

A few quick words: I can't open a magazine these days without seeing The Darkness, which usually means I won't be seeing much of them at all after about two more months. Remember The Hives? The Vines? I have noticed, though, that The Darkness' "Growing on Me" reminds me of Urge Overkill's "Sister Havana." In fact, both bands kind of similar image-wise in their faux pomposity, though there's never been any indication that Urge Overkill were anything but serious.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Currently listening to: Subliminal Souls, Corey Parker

Corey Parker is one of the best musical surprises I've had lately. I knew that Maceo Parker lives here in North Carolina, but I had no idea that his son has his own R&B/hip hop trio over in Durham. His CD, "Subliminal Souls," is smooth and jazzy, yet 100 percent funky. Corey plays keyboards, but his real strength is his deep, soulful voice and easy lyrical flow. His drummer brother, Damon, offers further proof that the whole Parker family is steeped in musical talent. When I saw him play in December at The Pour House, his band featured a jaw-droppingly great bass player who, unfortunately, isn't credited on the Web site or the CD liner notes. Imagine Flea's funkiness crossed with Geddy Lee's precision, and cover it in soul, and you get a close approximation. Even bass-snob Mr. X was blown away.

On Friday I went to my first drum 'n' bass party at The Office here in Raleigh. A guy I know has his own company, NC Fathom , and he puts on these shows about once a month. This guy is, in a lot of ways, like a kid brother: half the time we laugh and joke around, and the other half I want to strangle him, which just fills him with glee. Imagine my surprise when I get to the club and find out that, rather than shivering in line with at least 100 other losers, I can just mention this guy's name and be escorted right on past the velvet rope. I had to admire the skill with which he used his cachet to get drunk sexy girls throughout the party to pose for pictures. I guess now I'll have to treat him with a little more respect.

The place was packed, so there wasn't much room to dance (and, truthfully, I've never figured out exactly how to dance to dnb anyway). Out in the "tent" area, another DJ spun house music, while a couple of local breakdance teams engaged in an impromptu contest -- that is, before one of the aforementioned drunk sexy girls, apparently not making the connection as to what was going on, bumped and grinded her way out onto the floor and nearly got kicked in the head by some kid doing a headspin.

Dieselboy was the headliner along with MC J-Messinian, whose incessant yelling got the crowd, and eventually my nerves, worked up. My knowledge of drum 'n' bass is severely limited, shaped mostly by what I hear on BBC's 1Xtra , but even I could tell that Dieselboy's set wasn't as varied or smoothly executed as that of the guy before him, a local DJ named Jade. From what I understand, Jade has a show on WKNC and promotes his own events, but I wasn't able to confirm that before writing this. He even threw in a little garage, a sort of techno-dancehall hybrid that, until then, I hadn't really been able to conceptualize. Whereas Dieselboy's set was heavy and pounding, Jade seemed to flow through a variety of tempos, instrumentation and beats from heavy to trancelike. Basically, he managed to make my inexperienced ears hear the distinct differences in songs and styles throughout the set. Dieselboy only really caught my ear when he played the break from Slayer's "Angel of Death," which, if he wanted to throw in a little Slayer, wasn't the most original tune he could have used.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I realize I'm a bit late on the draw on this, but I just had to say something about John Lydon going on a reality TV series. Unlike "aging punks everywhere," I'm not really surprised. Considering that he's reformed the Sex Pistols twice, it's not as if he has much credibility left to shred. But I have to say, at this point, it's just about the most punk rock thing he could do. Whether or not they want to admit it, the aging punks who used to listen to songs about fighting The Establishment have now become The Establishment. They have careers and mortgages and kids whose musical tastes they don't understand -- just like their parents before them. Lydon is as much of a sacred cow to these folks as the Queen or JFK were to their parents. He seems to understand this, and is as willing to skewer himself as he was to skewer the Queen. The fact that he's going to get some attention, and maybe some cash, out of this thing is just icing on the cake.

According to the latest Vanity Fair, metal heads are out, which is a relief because now people won't assume I'm just trying to be cool when I listen to Iron Maiden. Lately I've been listening to a lot of The Darkness, whom I love simply because they remind me of the summer of 1978, when I was 11 years old and just starting to get into music. I read somewhere that they're like "a gay AC/DC crossed with a straight Queen." Personally, I think they sound like Foreigner, whom I like a lot more than I really should admit. There's nothing intellectually redeeming about them: Their lyrics are juvenile, and their cock-rock posturing puts David Coverdale to shame. But I've always felt that there are really only two kinds of music: music for thinking and music for getting laid. You can't think too much about The Darkness.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Currently listening to: Master of Puppets, Metallica

You know, I'd forgotten how much I loved Metallica, back when they actually rocked and weren't hell-bent on suing their fans. Lars Ulrich is quoted in the new Rolling Stone as saying, " I can't say that it bothers me anymore," regarding illegal downloading. If that's the case, then I congratulate him, and I hope that he will now use his spare time helping to develop and promote easy, inexpensive ways to legally download music from the Internet.

Speaking of downloads, I FINALLY got Windows XP and iTunes to work together on my computer. But now I find that I use iTunes the same way I used to use Napster and KaZaa: If I have a song stuck in my head, or want to check out a band I've heard about but haven't heard, I just listen to the free music snippets. Usually that's enough to satisfy my curiosity. I've yet to actually purchase anything, but lately I've been on a Chic kick, so I'll probably start with them. Mr. X is convinced I can learn to play funk guitar, and Nile Rodgers is one of my favorite guitarists.

I'm posting again because I made a new year's resolution to actually do something with this thing. At various times I've wanted it to be a guide to local (North Carolina) music, a place to ramble about music in general and a place to showcase some of my published articles in hopes of getting more freelance assignments. (BTW, here's the latest thing I did for the News & Observer.) I've been frustrated with Blogger's service; apparently they are no longer offering upgrades to Blogger Pro, and there's no way to upload photos on the free service. Supposedly they're going to offer some of the Blogger Pro features for free, but there seems to be no time table for when they're going to do this, and I really don't feel like waiting. I'm currently thinking about going to LiveJournal, going to Happy Robot, or simply buying my own domain name and putting up my own site, which I can do, but I'm not sure I want to do that much upkeep. Regardless, I'll make an effort to write more.