Friday, July 30, 2010

wait until Lucifer Rises

Kenneth Anger's film/commercial for Missoni

Maybe nobody cares about them any more but me, but I love Kenneth Anger's films. A lot. In my idealistic  college days I managed to help organize a screening of a worn VHS copy of his films (rented from a Blockbuster out in the suburbs) in the art school auditorium. People had heard of Scorpio Rising but were ultimately bored by it. I thought with sadistic glee, wait until Lucifer Rises! It takes even longer! 

Anyway, it appears the old devil still is kicking around and quietly making films like this little commissioned promo thing from the Missoni family to promote their fashion line. I haven't worn my experimental film nerd hat for some time so I might not be able to tell you what every little orgasmic splash of water or lick of flames means, but he's still got the stuff. Anger lives!

I've said it here before, but Invocation of My Demon Brother is my jam.

Kenneth Anger, Invocation of My Demon Brother. There is also a  version with commentary worth checking out.

juke joint tamales

Teddy's Juke Joint, photo by Frank McMains
Teddy's DJ booth. Photo by Frank McMains. It's like the Sign O' the Times cover come to life.

Matthew Dear, Black City
Gorillaz, Live in Damascus (streaming at NPR)

Media Announcement: My interview with Cohen Hartman, local song wizard turned label honcho turned recording engineer appears in the August issue of 225, hitting stands any second now.

I went out to Teddy's last night with a couple of friends to collect some sound and vision for a radio piece and its web counterpart. Nancy rustled us up some some juke joint tamales at 11pm on a Thursday. It's not a  bad life I have.

I shot this one.

If you cannot tell by contrast, Frank is a real photographer and I am a snapshotter. You should check out his site Lemons and Beans where he tries to take one good photo every day, and does. His food writing is totally on point as well.  Below is one he took of Swede, Teddy and myself, with Swede demonstrating his audio-gathering firepower. His arm has to be hurting by the time this was taken; Teddy's tells all of a story when he tells a story. I'm going to see into some funding to facilitate this crew to go with me everywhere I go. Ed. to add: I might budget for a copy editor as well.

Teddy's Juke Joint, photo by Frank McMains
Swede, Teddy, Me on the front patio at Teddy's.  Photo by Frank McMains

You LCD-oriented, post-disco niteclubbers out there, as well as you astute treadmill runners, should be on the lookout for the Matthew Dear record Black City in a couple of weeks. It's the business.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Come, Armageddon! Come!

The sky over the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College, among other things.

Richard Buckner, The Hill
End of the World: Joshua Cohen and Gary Shteyngart in discussion on Tablet
Morrissey, "Every Day is Like Sunday" (banjo version from The Late, Late Show, 2004) 
Keith Fullerton, Live Generators

Come, Armageddon! Come! 

In our building this morning, I ran the sound and video for a live webinar (that's web + seminar) targeted to high school science teachers. Shortly before broadcast time, a landscape crew set up a massive woodchipper, into which they loudly fed the decimation of two towering pine trees, right outside the window. The blackest part of my heart was all aflutter - this nice lady trying to tell a bunch of other nice ladies who'd either shown up and navigated the university's obscure parking procedure or were tuning in at home during the last vestiges of their summer, important but ultimately not-that-interesting information via the Internet Wonder was to vie for  attention with the oldest, most rickety woodchipper in the university's no doubt vast collection of rickety woodchippers. The rusted beast lurched to silence at one point and I peered out the window to see a guy half-hanging out the woodchipper's intake trough, banging on something inside to get it to work again. How do you not dare secretly wish for the worst to happen in a situation like that? Where would you point your camera in that situation? I felt a little sick with portent for what I thought I might have wished into happening. Then the roar or progress and the machine had been coaxed into running. Fortunately for all, no maintenance worker was eaten by machines that morning and the trees were stripped down to naked poles just in time for the webinar to commence and proceed without a hitch.

It's weird how it's vie and then vying. What about viing?

Check out that Morrissey video posted on my friends' site the Sound of Indie.  Then this. May God have mercy on our wretched souls.

Richard Buckner, live track from The Hill with Eric Heywood on lap steel. I saw them on this tour and it was devastating.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

valuable hit points

Thou's fancy vinyl

Thou, Baton Rouge, You Have So Much To Answer For
NEU!, NEU! (Box Set)
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist
Joshua Cohen, Witz

Media Announcement: My better-late-than-never review of the oft-reviewed Sam Lipsyte novel The Ask is up at thanks to Sheila for her professional insight to the novel's subject of philanthropy that fired up this review.

I'm typing this before I even heard the result of this week's Work of Art, but had Miles built his little punched out wall room and Jaclyn had left intact her little gauze studio in which she painted her masturbation painting and put them side by side I think it would have been really smart, in a Louise Bourgeois way. I dunno. I feel valuable hit points being drained from my character when I talk about TV even though I watch a lot of it, more than I generally portray on here. We were just remarking that the cool thing about this show vs. Top Chef and etc is that we can actually tell the people apart, and that is a pretty low bar for quality.

Case in point: I am making fun of the Pit Boss commercial while watching Confessions: Animal Hording.

Witz is kicking into gear in Book II. Those bloops and bleeps from the future of 1971 via Krautrock band NEU! still sounds like the future now. I had a Creamy Limeade Chiller from Sonic and it was good y'all.

I dream all the time

The snack shop at the pool is out of fried cheese and macaroni 'n' cheese. It is also not open. Kinda like how the mosque at ground zero is not at ground zero, and is also not a mosque.

Dr. John, Swamp Blues
Grinderman, "Heathen Child"

Lil Wayne vs. the "500 Days of Summer" Soundtrack, (500) Days of Weezy

Media Announcement: I have a short piece on Nashville legend Marty Stuart in this month's OffBeat. I also sing the praises of Boris, the Coney Island Cockabilly Roadshow, and Rudy Richard in this week's Record Crate blog for 225 Magazine.

I've had these immense cinematic dreams this week and am each time shocked awake mid-action, so much so that I forget what's happened. I'm not sure what's bringing this on; my dream-life is generally compartmentalized off so that I don't remember it at all. I assume I dream all the time.

My former corporate life has been on my mind a lot lately, so that might have something to do with it. Pathetic fallacy style, this thinking of mine made Kanye West rap a capella in a blank conference room at Facebook HQ like those I remember at the Important Software Concern in the Pacific Northwest.

Kanye West at the Facebook conference room

I will say the Concern's meeting rooms had better lighting in our building, but maybe because ours contained the Media Conference Rooms. I remember one evening catching on the news a snippet of the Concern's rather public founder and CEO speaking from a room from which, hours earlier, I'd swiped some bagels from the buffet table.

That Lil Wayne mashup is worth the one half-listen you will give it, but when you pop it in at the right party this weekend, you will be king of the room. The closest thing to Zooey Deschanel there will totally make out with you until her friends say her name, and then someone will put something else on and the dream will be over. See if you can at least hang onto the moment until track 5, "Please, Hustler, Please" where Weezy raps over the Smiths. There's a Hall & Oates meets "Lollipop" number as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the dinosaur above and the birds below

There's that baby.

Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust (NPR freebie) and The Town and the City

Media Announcement: My story about the barn dances at Lakeview Park & Beach RV Park in Eunice, LA is up on the Country Roads site. Lakeview Park has quickly become one of my favorite places ever, and I haven't even done the beach part during the day yet.

Portrait of the family as a music room.

We've been big on the Ed Emberley drawing books this week. I used to get those from the Scholastic catalogs when I was in grade school. We all can draw already, but we were having competitions to see who could do the steps the best and that turned into posters that are turning our house into one giant Ed Emberley book, like the dinosaur above and the birds below. We are one craft project away from going all Esty on y'all's ass, so watch out.

We love each other.

Speaking of, check out this tour of the charming nightmare that is Etsy HQ.

It reminds me of when I once had a meeting in the Hallmark corporate offices, whose vast halls were smartly marked with an impressive contemporary print and painting collection. Like we had to turn right at a Christopher Wool to get to the IT department, which was labeled by a lilac hanging sign that looked exactly like the one that tells you where the candles are in an actual Hallmark. On each desk - made of the same blond, polished wood as the counters in the stores - no matter how geeked out were furnished with Hallmark junk: a lamp whose base is a baseball player, a line of miniature vintage auto models, shit-tons of stuffed animals. It took a second to understand that this was a conscious realization of Hallmark totality. It was both calming and anxiety inducing, that just-pick-a-card-already nervousness. I can only imagine the forced march of quaintness that is Etsy HQ.

Los Lobos kicks ass.

everyone involved is a Pharaoh

The Pharaohs, "Damballa"

The Pharaohs, Awakening
Funkadelic, America Eats Its Young

I read the Eric Mercury from the last post was a member of the Pharaohs but I don't think it was this Pharaohs, which whatever. Everybody in this band, according to one set of YouTube annotation (and what data besides that are we to trust in this world?) everyone involved is a Pharaoh.
LP: Awakening (1972, Scarab Records)

Bass, Cowbell, Vocals - Pharaoh Ealee Satterfield
African Drums, Tumba, Flute, Congas, Cowbell, Vocals - Pharaoh Derf Reklaw Raheem
African Drums, Tumba, Vocals - Pharaoh Shango Njoko
African Drums, Cowbell, Congas, Tambourine - Pharaoh Oye Bisi
Quinto Drum, Saxophone [Alto] - Pharaoh Black Herman
Trap Drums, Tumba - Pharaoh Alious
Engineer - Brian Christian
Engineer [Recording Engineer] - Stu Welder
Guitar, Lead Vocals - Pharaoh Yehudah Ben Israel
Mastered By - George Horn
Mixed By [Re-mix Engineer] - Roger S. Anfinsen
Saxophone [Alto, Tenor, Baritone], Flute, Cowbell - Pharaoh Don "Hippmo"
Trombone, Bassoon, Brass [Baritone Horn], Drums [Big Black Drum] - Pharaoh (Big) Willie Woods
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Percussion, Vocals, Brass [Peck Horn], Woodwind [Africa Shawm] - Pharaoh Ki
Tuba, Tambourine, Brass [Baritone Horn] - Pharaoh Aaron Ifad Dodd

I'm not sure which sobriquet is better: Pharaoh Black Herman or Pharaoh (Big) Willie Woods. I'd be honored to live up to either. This Smokey Robinson cover speaks to the width of their light beam entering the Pharaohs' prism

The Pharaohs, "Tracks of My Tears"

and this one demonstrates how that light gets bent.

The Pharaohs, "Great House"

One of the great undersung Funkadelic masterpieces.

Funkadelic, "You Hit the Nail on the Head"

This just showed up out of nowhere, like I guess a rotary connection would do.

Rotary Connection, "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun"

Mr. Mercury played "Electric Black Man" and Rawat was hit by a pie

Eric Mercury, "Electric Black Man"

OK, this dispatch is brought to you courtesy of the contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire last night who was from a mining town that "mined millennium." I looked it up and the closest thing I saw was a International Millennium Mining Corp., so maybe her whole life she just thought it was a millennium mine. To her credit as a hostess, Meredith Vieira picked up on this possible history of errors and did not pose to her on national TV "Now, what is millennium?"

But this goose chased me into a rather extensive Wikipedia entry about

the Hans Jayanti (also dubbed Millennium '73) concert/revival held in the Astrodome by the Divine Light Mission and their sixteen-year-old leader Guru Maharaj Ji (now going by Prem Rawat.) I like massive cult events from a distance. I think they would be tedious and creepy and depressing were I up close, but from a distance they seem fabulous displays of shimmering hubris. As part of the entertainment, Stax recording artist Eric Mercury performed.
Rhythm and blues musician Eric Mercury performed during the dinner interval. Stax Records had negotiated an agreement with the DLM to make a recording of the event in exchange for showcasing Mercury, one of their new acts. They had already released an album titled "Blue Aquarius" in 1973 that was on sale at the event. Mercury, a Canadian of African ancestry and the only non-member who performed, played before an audience of 5,000 or fewer.[74] Stax recorded the performance and Mercury said at a press conference that he would give 50 percent of his royalties from the album to the DLM.[77] He later told a reporter that while he was interested in the message initially, he was put off by the pressure to join for what he perceived as an effort to gain ethnic diversity.[78]

I want to hear that Blue Aquarius record. I hope Mr. Mercury played "Electric Black Man" (above) or  "I Can Smell That Funky Music" (below) before the preachin' commenced.

It is worth noting that in Boston a few months before the show
Rawat was hit by a pie thrown by a person who was later attacked by followers.[47][52][53] Rawat expressed shock and regret at the beating and concern for the victim's welfare.[54]

Eric Mercury, "I Can Smell That Funky Music"

Monday, July 26, 2010


This shot was an accident while playing with my phone during the movies, but I like it.

Joshua Cohen, Witz
The Rolling Stones, Emotional Rescue

I feel a little like that R.E.M. song that goes

This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

up in here today. A little broody and ploddy about living the wonder life. The Rolling Stones, even in their disco decline, are always a handy remedy to such moods.

The Rolling Stones, "Dance (Pts. 1 & 2)"

I finished Book I of Witz this weekend; 5 more and 600+ pages to go.  I'm to review the thing when done and I keep having to look things up because of my general ignorance of ways and means of Judaism, upon and against which this book is built. With each Wikipedia link I keep thinking I should put that in the review whereas few passages of the actual book have inspired the same thought. Except this bit about cancer:
Because his mother had had cancers and his mother's mother had had cancers, his mother's father, too, then their own parents as well, and then their parent's parents had all had their own cancers and yadda and blah unto the most rarefied generations; everyone he's been related to all the way back probably forever since even Adam, he's thinking - who's death at one thousand years old isn't accounted for in the detail that would seem to befit the first death, naturally caused - had had cancers, and then died of them weakened and feeble at whatever unripe young age. (p. 48)

Each of Witz's zillion pages are as densely packed but the compressed, repetitive beat of this little passage captures the pant of this book's cant. So is culture a cancer? Is one's heritage terminal? Is being casually analytical about one's or another's heritage tantamount to being so about one's or another's cancer? I'm not sure. Let you know when I get through Book II. I do like this factoid about the Tanakh:

The name "Tanakh" is a Hebrew acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—hence TaNaKh.
Acronyms are always harbingers of rewarding mystery. Look at that Washington Post thing about all the secret agencies that maintain our freedom through obfuscation. It's an excellent read and I don't usually read these kinds of things. This line about interdepartmental competition and SCIF's (sensitive compartmented information facilities)
"They've got the penis envy thing going. You can't be a big boy unless you're a three-letter agency and you have a big SCIF."

reminded me of a meeting I was in when I worked for an Important Software Concern in the Pacific Northwest, about something that was maybe going to rise to inter-departmental importance. My boss said rather excitedly that we might get a TLA for this. They were all worked up about a TLA, and it went on for a while until I sheepishly piped in, "What's a TLA?" stopping the joy cold. "Thee-Letter Acronym." they replied. "An acronym for 'Three-Letter Acronym.'" It wasn't much longer until we looked to move elsewhere.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The scene at the Lakeview RV park in Eunice on Saturday.

Mountain Man, Made the Harbor
Louisiana Proud KBON, 101.1 FM
Bret Easton Ellis, Imperial Bedrooms
Peter Case, Wig!

My buddy Clarke and I hit the research trail this weekend, first to the barn dance at the RV park in Eunice which might be at the top of my list of indigenous wonders. I have a story about it in the next Country Roads. There was an amenity upgrade on this second visit - a massive firepit drunken swimsuit-clad campers circled on bikes. Fun, y'all.

We spent much of our trip in the dark roads that knit Acadiana together beguiled by the alien sisterhood that is Mountain Man. They are like if the Be Good Tanyas were so inside their deal that they failed to notice how hot they are. Really, if there is any justice, there will follow some Iron & Wine trajectories foe them, but we wondered what could you add to this that wouldn't ruin it? Maybe it will just pass like a cloud.

Mountain Man,"Animal Tracks"

We switched to the pan-Louisiana clatter of KBON. Usually I stick with the concert rule of not listening to what I am going to see on the way - we'd just taken in Kyle Huval and the Dixie Club Ramblers' twanged-out Cajun at the RV park and were headed a bout of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys vs. Pine Leaf Boys at Grant St.Dancehall in Lafayette. Mountain Man became too precious. KBON is full-on Louisiana self-celebration. Two gals at the Swamp Pop Festival where sportin' these last weekend.

KBON fans at the Swamp Pop Festival.

Anyway, Steve Riley was hanging with CC Adcock at the bar at Grant St. while Pine Leaf Boys tore the place up. I've always thought them a crack Cajun band but in recent years they've transcended that. At one point in a song, they slipped into a modal psychedelic interlude before slipping back into the waltz. Next song, the fiddle player pulled out a heartbreaking old country voice for a Hank Williams tune whose name escapes me right now George Jones' "She Thinks I Still Care,", and, damn it was good. The accordion player took up the fiddle in the tune, speaking to their consummate musicianship. like of course the accordion player can fill in on fiddle.

Pine Leaf Boys at Grant St. Dancehall

The RV park is relatively new. Grant ST. has been around forever - it has been over ten years since I've been there, maybe longer - and thinking about and writing about all of this is a push-me-pull-you of nostalgia and presence and persistence and rhythm and reverberation, all of which was experienced while darting through the first fifth of Imperial Bedrooms while Maya read a book about frogs at the Perkins Rowe Barnes & Noble.

Perkins Rowe from atop the parking garage.

Perkins Rowe is a monstrous mix use upscale shopping thing about which I am also mixed. Part of me hates that it exists at all, part of me hates that the only stores there that hold any interest for me are the bookstore and Urban Outfitters, which is a further conflict. I know one should hate UO for so many reasons but I like the stuff in there and it's post-headshop ethos. The rest of me likes Perkins Rowe. I've never been a big fan of Ellis. I think American Psycho is a conceptual triumph that is nigh unreadable, a better movie. This one, though, has something to it. It is consciously repulsive but it draws you in a little. Like a story, perhaps. I think I'm going to read Imperial Bedrooms entirely in bookstore trips, like I did that Miranda July book. The only way it would be better is if they had it at Urban Outfitters.

Speaking of, the contemporary BEE Tao Lin's book Shoplifting From American Apparel used to be on the tables at UO but now it isn't, and nobody else in town carries it. There seems to be a bit of a schism involved in getting it from Interlibrary Loan - like I'd be missing the point of its pointlessness altogether. Maybe I'll just see if I can get a torrent of it, or maybe somebody has it as a pill.

Friday, July 23, 2010

a milli, a milli

 From here.

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III

Baton Rouge is just about right on the 35 MPH line. Last time we had a hurricane hit us (Gustav, 2008), I was sitting in the dark reading a just-published article I'd written about when Baton Rouge's population doubled on a week after Katrina hit in 2005 and was seeking air conditioning and outlets at the mall, making a bunch of frenzied posts from my phone like
Just like in the remake of Dawn of the Dead, we hearty survivors of Gustav are up at the mall, and I am a veritable.... 
What happened after the ellipses is a blur. Maybe a zombie got me. Maybe my parents. Here are some pics.

This piece about Lil Wayne I posted not long after the lights came back on captures my mindset at the time. Weezy totally got me through that week. It was awful, and just to keep in perspective, an infinitesimal cakewalk made of small potatoes compared to what New Orleans went through in 2005 and after. And in many ways, still. I still feel a little sheepish complaining about it knowing what people I know went through, but yeah, awful.

Lil Wayne, "A Milli"

A hawk!

I need a better camera, I know, but look! A hawk!

Mott the Hoople, The Hoople
Faces, Long Player
Lou Reed, The Blue Mask

On the way to the bus stop I looked up the difference between bravado and brio because I wasn't completely sure on the difference between them despite being fond of using both words in my writing. Bravado is foolhardiness, the pretense of bravery whereas brio is enthusiastic vigor, verve. Bravery is whatever bravery is. Then when I got to the bus stop, a hawk lit on the branch above my head and started making the awesome hawk sound. We have hawks here - one lives high up in one of the massive oaks behind our house, but their presence is usually detected by how quiet all the other birds suddenly get. Suddenly, yesterday, the things were everywhere.

Maya took a picture of this feather on the sidewalk while walking to lunch.

 Know who I like? Mott the Hoople.

Mott the Hoople, "Alice"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ick souns boring

Maya sent me a bunch of emails while I was sitting through a meeting this morning.

Nation of Ulysses, 13 Point Program to Destroy America
New York Dolls, New York Dolls
Sweet, Desolation Boulevard
Mott the Hoople, The Hoople

Her response when I told her I had only one hour left. The kids are alright, I think.

Nation of Ulysses, "Spectra Sonic Sound"

Sweet, "The 6 Teens"

this is not a Fugazi post

My office building used to be a hotel and in the hallways are  inset mirror niches so you can check yourself out, so check me out.

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist
Fugazi, In on the Kill Taker

Red Medicine is supposed to be the album that makes one sputter with inability to express how fundamentally awesome Fugazi is to yahoos who have somehow muddled through their dull, muted existences without ever once tasted the.... annnyway, In On the Kill Taker is the first Fugazi CD I wore out and it still sets my compass to Magnetic Fugazi.

Fugazi, "Facet Squared" circa 1998.

Guy Picciotto's riff after the whole sonar blip intro is teenage ability in the face of inability incarnate. I guess every fast guitar riff is that, but this one nails it, and then come the thunder of drums and bass and the whole band and the ALL OF US IN THIS TOGETHER C'MON and then Ian Mackaye yelling about what he's yelling about staggers me every time.

But this is not a Fugazi post. It is a continued admission to thinking about that stupid Bravo Work of Art show. I'm glad Peregrine finally showed what she was made of. When we lived in Kansas City, her work was everywhere, little cherubim fluttering around the margins of the Pitch, coyly cornering the attention at group shows. Hers always embodied art-student art to me: cute expressions of her then with little depth to it. Now, I get it*; it's always that way to some level, we just grow into something with enough depth so that our art has something to embody.

All I know is Miles better get run through the mill soon. I want that cocky judge to accuse him of filling the gaps in his aesthetically controlled art with his behavior: the naps, the refusals to really do the challenges, the easy reversals he kicks around, his dopey tree-house and Christmas light booty dream of the hot sculptor girl with the weird piled on hair, etc.  I want to smash him! Which means I totally buy into what the show is trying to do. I play to their rules, man. I'd make a great cop.

Fugazi, "Great Cop"

I do like the new Blogger editor, but that probably doesn't help my coolness a bit.

* Not because of the show; I figured this out a while back on my own. Just saying.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nut up, writers

Tommy McClain, "Before I Grow Too Old" at the 2010 Swamp Pop Festival. Watch for the finger guns at the end.

Earl Hooker, The Moon is Rising

Media announcement: My praise of the Art Melt (finally getting its act together) and the Swamp Pop Festival are up in this week's installment of The Record Crate blog for 225.

Re: writerly concerns and a brewing hubub in the write-o-blogosphere - I feel for the guy whose work got accepted by the Paris Review and then was cut by a new editor who took over the position of the one that accepted his piece because this happened to me once. I told everyone I could find once I heard a particular story of mine was getting published in a prominent magazine. I would do the same thing should a writer's-bio-line-item magazine like Paris Review give me some attention, and was devastated when I got the news that it was cut from the issue.

It was a story that, at the time, felt like an arrival, writing-wise. In some ways I still feel that way about it, but I had to come to terms with it being cut, and can now see why it was. I still enjoy a good relationship with the magazine, and perhaps a better one with my writing because the incident hammered home that the whole thing is not about me, it's about the work. The work is what a magazine wants, despite the hero worship and sniping that goes on among writers at all levels. The readers are also what a magazine wants - they actually need both - and a good editor builds the best possible bridge between them, even when it involves making some seemingly cold-blooded choices.

Nut up, writers. There is a saying about academia that applies here: the tensions are so high because the stakes are so low. It seems like the end of the world, end of your career, a nullification of all that your heart wants, but it isn't. It's just not what one person wants at that one time, and it's up to you to do something with it from there. I'm telling myself as much as anyone reading for when it happens again.

Happy trails, cowboy

No, I'd never heard of Fred Carter Jr. before this obit notice, but I'm on a Louisiana music tear today and am always a sucker for rockabilly. Carter was a guitarist for the Louisiana Hayride, and according to various sources, a mentor to Robbie Robertson and a one-time member of the Hawks (the band that preceded the Band.) He also was the guitarist on Bob Dylan's Self Portrait. Happy trails, cowboy.

"Freeloader," "Not I Pretty Baby," "Happy Tears," "Too Much Love is Spoiling You," and "Honky Tonk Angels"

dwelling in the slim recesses of lightning and bad luck

Lightnin' Slim, "Hoodoo Blues."

Lightnin' Slim, The Best of Lightnin' Slim

R. L. Burnside, Wish I was in Heaven Sitting Down

Musically, I'm a digital non-apologist but, for real, I love videos of people playing records. Little else in the digital now bespeaks the love of a subject as succinctly. My buddy Clarke and his Facebook put me in this OG Baton Rouge blues direction this morning. There's no video for it that I can find, but you should check out Slim's version of "Bad Luck and Trouble", different from that made famous by that other Lightnin' cat from Houston.

Lightnin' Slim, "Bad Luck and Trouble"

As one invested in the blues of this area and how it is played, a large, vocal part of me asks in apparent futility: where are the dudes doing this spare Lightnin' Slim and Slim Harpo stuff? That stuff is ours; we should do something with it.

Slim Harpo, "Baby, Scratch My Back"

But then, dwelling in the slim recesses of lightning and bad luck will eventually bring one to the souped-up, cashed-in, problematic, post-authentic blues of the latter part of the late Mississippi bluesman R.L. Burnside's career. One is tempted to declare this mishmash heresy, and maybe it is, but last I checked, the blues was never exactly a bastion for the sacrosanct. Thing is, it works, which is the point. This stuff manages to be then and now at the same time, which is how you keep a tradition truthfully alive. I'm not saying you have to go all Dr. Dre Lite on every blues track but that is one way to do it. So however you are going to do it, do it already.

R. L. Burnside, "Bad Luck City"

Speaking of here and blues and apostrophized names and alive, here is some footage I shot of Baton Rouge bluesman and former Howlin' Wolf (and everybody else) sideman Henry Gray at the Richard Sale Barn in Abbeville, doing "Little Red Rooster," a song written by Willie Dixon which Gray and Wolf recorded in 1961, on the subjective list of those that helped form this thing called rock 'n' roll, which in turn created everything.

Henry Gray & the Cats, "Little Red Rooster"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

tracing the tracer

Cargo doors of the sculpture building.

Jane Mendelsohn, American Music
Richard Swift, The Atlantic Ocean
Felt, Poem of the River
Big Star, #1 Record/Radio City
Julian Cope, Autogeddon

RIP Big Star's Andy Hummel. Here he is at the Alex Chilton tribute in Austin with the remaining Big Star Jody Stephens, my favorite female singer Susan Cowsill backed up by the Watson Twins.

Susan Cowsill, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens, and the Watson Twins, "September Gurls"

OK but really, I listened all the way through the endlessly augmented special edition of Space Oddity all morning before I got to these albums. I have more memories of a free festival than any soul who actually attended.

David Bowie, "Memory of a Free Festival (Part 2)"

Also, child that I am, apparently eager for your validation, I report to you that that I finished American Music at lunch. I wasn't so sure it was for me - an exploded romance - but it won me over by the end. I also ate all my grapes at lunch.

As for the rest of this stuff: Richard Swift is the grandson of Randy Newman trying to be the Magnetic Fields, which doesn't sound like too bad an idea on paper; Felt is my carbonized teenage heart plucked from the ashes like Shelley's was (thanks to Jerri for that one); and Julian Cope is the last stocky football player to burst through the tattered paper banner and enter the field, indistinguishable from the others except that during the National Anthem, he can be seen staring squarely into the sodium glare of the stadium lights, tracing the tracer of every mosquito in the bug halo, becoming sightful in his temporary blindness. He will soon quit the team and grow his hair out, hole up in the library and read all lunch hour and when you try to talk to him, he'll make you a mix tape that has that one actually good Randy Newman song on it and tell you about Shelley's heart.

Julian Cope, "Autogeddon Blues"

Your 'Dead Flowers'

The Futurebirds jumping around the stage at Chelsea's on Saturday night. I ran into one of the Myrtles, a band whose rustic whiskey pathos meets indie racket in an arguably similar manner to the evening's entertainment, outside on the way out and he asked what I thought. I told him, "Your 'Dead Flowers' is better than their 'Dead Flowers.'"

Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
David Bowie, Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Edition)
Various Artists, Mississippi Records Tape Series, Vol. 57 – Roqc Folqc Psych (Music From Québec 1969-1979)

OK, I'm lukewarm about the Gorillaz record but the song with Bobby Womack is understated and inspired, pointing their considerable arsenal at the fading sun instead of the mirror.

Gorillaz, "Cloud of Unknowing"

I started in on LCD and Gorillaz again after half-listening to them yesterday and then thought why, when I have actual David Bowie right here? Space Oddity is such undersung bounty. The title track rightfully gets all the attention - all you have to do is go "Can you hear me, Major Tom" and the whole room will involuntarily join in shoulders asway, just like when you do anything from a Monty Python skit - but the rest is a banquet of skittish wonder. "Unwashed and Slightly Dazed" is blooze rock unstrung and laid out on the deck like when they catch those giant squids. "Cygnet Committee" hoots like loons on a hidden lake.

When I was a college DJ, I was told by someone that if you played "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" it would make the music director's day when he reviewed the dropsheets, and so I did, and by the exclamation points circled on the playlist returned to my little DJ cubby, it did. With the strings and Sinatra-esque dynamics, it's not the easiest song to work into a set of late-80's alternarock, but the guy came in from having a crummy college boy day that day, like a fight with the girlfriend or a bad drug deal or one of those trips to the ATM that revealed the awful truth so it was worth the effort.

David Bowie, "Wild Eyed boy From Freecloud"

Thank you once again. Mississippi Records, but how did you miss the opportunity to use "psyqc?" Or is that part of your obscured wisdom at play?

Finally, for no other reason than its own magnificence, I offer the Kinks' "King Kong" as animated by Tadanori Yokoo.

The Kinks, "King Kong"

Monday, July 19, 2010

seen while

Quonset hut on campus seen while taking the back way to the bank. Look inside.

Big Boi, Sir Luchious Left Foot... the Return of Chico Dusty
Saul Williams, Saul Williams
Mike Ladd, Nostalgialator
Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening

Things are peachy today: I got the good word on a story's publication and somebody remarked on how trim I look - my secret is the $7 "athletic fit" t-shirts at Target - but one must keep one's fortune in check. After reading this article about the vast office spaces used in the top-secret national security complex, I am reminded to be thankful to work in a place full-up with oak trees, age, and quaintness. I'm also thankful to not be a content reviewer for social networking sites.

Sign seen while cutting through the geology building on the way back.

Mike Ladd, "Housewives at Play," though the song I really like is "How Electricity Really Works."

giant mirror ball in the 4-H hall

Swamp Pop Music Queens, past and current, at the jambalaya booth.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Two Way Family Favorites
Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure
The Believer 2010 Music Issue + CD
Jane Mendelsohn, American Music
M.I.A., /\/\/\Y/\ (or are we all calling it MAYA now?)

Loading up to Flickr a metric squillion pictures from the weekend, I noticed they range from 480K to 818K in size. Why? They are all taken with exactly the same iPhone camera. (Ed to add: I figured someone would know. See comments, and thanks, Dave.)

Most of these pictures were snapped at the Swamp Pop Music Festival in nearby Gonzales, about which I will have more to say in this week's 225 blog, but here's a taste. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Warren Storm.

Warren Storm, "Seven Letters"

I love the temerity of swamp pop more than I love swamp pop itself. My general theory is that there is little separating it from oldies/variety music besides the concerted embrace of a particular community, and that is enough to make it a thing. Fast forward to the end just to see how many people were out there swaying to the oldies under that giant mirror ball in the 4-H hall.

Warren Storm makes me want to trim down the sides of my mustache and invest heavily in hair care products. I don't think you get a glimpse of his shiny white bucks in this video, but it's kind of like how that one mortal woman was disintegrated when she spied Zeus in his godly form. I plan to interview him for my book and I hope it happens while he takes me shirt shopping at the big and tall menswear store of my dreams. Speaking of the book, I got an extension on the deadline (it was two weeks from now) so we proceed with less anxiety, more action.

I maintain, contrarian as this sounds, that I like everything about M.I.A. except for her music. This new album of hers is a little more abstract and less a dancefloor deconstruction, which I like, but I'm still not finding a foothold with it. It is possible that I am just being stubborn about it. As she states in the title of track 8, it iz what it iz.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gaze into my tomato salad

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, Two-Way Family Favorites

Gaze into my tomato salad and you will learn all my secrets, for this is what I eat for lunch just about every day, along with a sandwich and a piece of fruit, and on the days that I eat lunch out, I wish I'd gotten tomato salad instead of what I ordered.

I am not a cover versions guy - I do not consider doing a clever version of someone else's song an artist's most noble goal, and I realize I might be alone in feeling this way, but it is how I feel deep in my tomato salad-fortified bones. So how surprised was I when I finally held my nose to hear this CD by sorta folkie Amy Rigby and sorta punker Wreckless Eric do that very thing - they do warhorses like "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and "Fernando" - and it is genius. Radiant. Enamorable. A really good record. I wish I could share their doing the Who's "Endless Wire" or Tom Petty's "Walls" with you because they kill, but you'll have to suffice with them winding up guitar cables and doing Johnny Cash. Simple, but simply right.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

to zzzzzzzing, to slooooooosh

Kate Mendelsohn, American Music
Ali Akbar Khan, The 80-Minute Raga

Each morning while I get dressed for work, I set my phone down on the cymbal of Maya's drumkit (our house is an old one built before the modern need of Copious Storage Everywhere and my clothes are in the music room and... nevermind) hoping that the vibrate will go off. I have a million notices set to the same vibration: incoming email, incoming texts, incoming Facebook comments, news alerts, my turn in Scrabble, etc. My phone, busy little bee, never stops vibrating. It has buzzed at me three times so far while typing this.

I set it on the cymbal because I want it to go off and rattle the cymbal, giving the myriad communication tethers I have with this world a momentary grand flourish. Instead of the dull plastic buzz, I want the world's missives to zzzzzzzing, to slooooooosh, but it never happens. No one needs my attention at 7:15 A.M. CST evidently, except this morning. I was shocked from half-awakened-ness to a polite yet tactile crrrrrriiiiiiinnnnng! from a text from one of you dear readers. The spalsh of sound matched the tone of the message perfectly, small and kind and sweet. I like when things work out that way.

It made me think of Alvin Lucier's Music for a Solo Performer, where amplified brain waves cause percussion instruments to rattle and hum.

It made me think of Walter Cianciusi's Email Sonata for Alex V. Cook, a conceptual music score I wrote on a Fluxus mail list years ago that composer Walter Cianciusi graciously realized. (available at UBU Web) According to Walter's interpretation:
[It] uses exclusively the default Outlook Express (Microsoft) sound for signaling the incoming mail. Performed for the first time by the composer Alex V. Cook, the score prescribes a repeated post of email messages from an account to the same account (an autoreferential system). The musical results (greater or minor density in time of the sound) can vary according to the simultaneous presence of users on the server in a particular moment.
Also, it made me think out the big meaning in the book I'm reading, Kate Mendelsohn's American Music, which has as one of its fiction components cymbals but moreso, touch and resonance, so thanks for that too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

however curious the means

My pong example is looking FIERCE.

Media Announcement: I sing the praises of These Children, Phosphorescent, the Laptop Orchestra of Louisiana and the Incense merchants in this week's Record Crate blog for 225.

I am wiped out from teaching this video game design class this week, though I really like my students. A few of them are acolytes in the Way of the Code and therein may actually become producers of the things they want as opposed to mere consumers of them. I'm gonn try to go swimming later. Outside of that, I got nothing.

Oh, I do have something. Justice Yeldham. He's a noise artist who makes an ungodly racket by pressing a piece of glass against his face and making noises. The vibrations are picked through a contact mic on the glass and then run through a bunch of effects pedals on his belt and then amplified for no doubt, baffled audiences. I don't know if it's good - that might not exactly be the court in which this guy is shooting hoops - but it is also an example producing the results you want, however curious the means.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

RIP Nunu's

The scene at Nunu's in Arnaudville, 2007

I'm more than a little heartbroken over news about the fire that destroyed Nunu's/Town Market Centre in Arnaudville, LA over the weekend. Loved that place. Town Market Centre was (and I guess still is) a key place in my book in how it balanced maintaining tradition with revitalization. My thoughts go out to George and his crew in hopes that they find a way to rebuild, and understanding if they don't. I did a story on it for Country Roads back in 2007 that I couldn't find it online so here is the unedited copy. Here's the pics from that trip as well.
Making a New Tradition at Nunu’s
George Marks and the experiment in Arnaudville.

When we talk of attractions, we like to think that they are naturally occurring phenomena waiting there for us to discover them. That’s the perverse, egotistic joy of exploration: think some roadside restaurant or perfect riverbank or stretch of scenic highway has been just sitting there, muddling along waiting for us to happen along and complete the circuit. It’s a fallacy, of course, but one that works in everyone’s favor.

The truth is, most destinations come about as a mix of happenstance and determination. Someone has a place, an idea and then the river flow of the Universe turns it into what it will eventually become or washes it away. We, the travelers, are part of that river, with each paddle stroke, each time we pull over to shore, we help direct that river.

There is something to find at every destination for good and bad. On my way to Arnaudville to check out the scene artist George Marks has set up, I stopped at the Tiger Truck Stop in Gross Tete to witness the “live tiger exhibit” I’ve seen advertised from the highway for years but have always been too afraid to stop at. The truck stop is just that, a fuel-up station with a staggering assortment of beef jerky available at the counter, which would make it a favorite in my book were it not for the tiger pacing in the cage exposed to the elements, out between the trailer of trucker showers and the frontage road. It’s a painful tableau to witness, and while I have no doubt that the tiger is adequately tended to and cared for, this is the kind of attraction I can do without.

George Marks’ complex in Arnaudville is more what I was after. It started when the artist moved back to his hometown as a pit stop on his way to New York, and never left. He opened his gallery/studio in a building right on Highway 31, just before the bridge across Bayou Fuselier, titling it Town Market Centre. They opened a kitchen in the back (serving beer, wine and delicious pressed sandwiches. I got the grilled pork and despite the order from my taste buds, I couldn’t finish it) and started booking Cajun and roots bands in the cavernous main room, and Nunu’s was born.

The place has a smart, theatric yet homespun design that sets it apart from any Cajun dance club I’ve been to. Artwork from Marks and some of the other artists adorns the walls, and the dance floor, with its track light perimeter and black background is weirdly glamorous. “Preserve, promote and perpetuate, without becoming a theme park” Marks says of his club. “We want to be true to the area without being contrived.”

The locals seem to buy in. Nunu’s holds a table de Français on the last Saturday of every month for French speakers of all ages to meet, and gossip. “We had 73 people signed in.” says Mavis Frugé. “L.J. Melancon brought in his accordion and Louie Michot brought his fiddle and we had an impromptu performance.” This kind of spirit permeates the way Marks runs the business. “We had one group come in that asked if they could have a mandolin player join in on their Cajun group. I said, ‘Sure, why not?” and it was a hit with the audience.”

The truest test of community acceptance was passed that evening when the Lost Bayou Ramblers kicked in with their first waltz, the dance floor immediately filled up. I saw a number of familiar faces from other Cajun dance clubs in the area, mixed with a lot of younger people, some barefoot some in cowboy boots but all moving in that beautiful way the accordion commands of its listeners. The Lost Bayou Ramblers mirror Nunu’s in a lot of ways, they are definitely steeped in the traditions of where they are from, but they have a more playful, relaxed approach to it. Cajun bands often seem like they are trying to out-tradition each other, catering to the hotshots on the dance floor, but the Ramblers’ rhythms hover more toward mid-tempo, and was frankly more inviting than I’m used to. At one point, a line dance broke out with some joining in while others orbiting in two-step formation. It was a beautiful sight.

Marks says that Nunu’s and Town Market Centre is set up for possibilities. “We are talking about building a big screened in porch out back, and possibly having some floating kitchens out on the bayou,” he says. “One of our regular performers has mentioned wanting to barbeque out back, and I can picture him entering the dance floor discarding his apron and chef’s hat and taking his place on the stage. We are always trying to encourage people to do something they wouldn’t normally do.”


Monday, July 12, 2010

the molasses of Realization

Owen Pallett, Heartland
The Mountain Goats, The Coroner's Gambit
Nick Drake, Pink Moon

Last night I went to an Irish Film Festival held at Phil Brady's, a blues bar walking distance from my house, so I walked. I do like walking to a bar, but I like walking home even more. The combo unease of the dark + making use of the evening's special on Guinness makes it adventurous. The locus of the evening was my dear departed friend Terry Kennedy's unfinished documentary on Angola prison. Terry explained to me once that he used experimental editing and it does: scenes collide into each other mid-story, the voices sometimes are garbled beyond recognition.

The real meat of the thing though, were these extended slow-motion stretches of the infamous prison rodeo. They are shot from the bleachers with the support columns for the roof rendering the images as diptychs and triptychs in sync with the drama of stumbling prisoners and a batshit angry bull, all moving through the molasses of Realization. During one part where he watches an ecstatic gospel concert unfold, I swore I saw one person up in the stands who, in shadow looked like an A superimposed against the sky, and another couple sitting together that looked like an N. I probably could've found the rest of ANGOLA had I kept looking.

A number of stories by aging prisoners rattled off were accompanied by a distant din of wind chimes - for whom the bell tolls, perhaps and hallways and cells were shot with a lean to the left, as if the camera were becoming too much of a burden to keep straight under such narrative weight.

It goes on, much like the filmmaker would, but I think the hypnotic, even monotonous segments might be crucial in trying to imply the truth of prison. I'd sen most of it, or at least one version of it, with Terry when he was still alive. He was concerned about the editing; it apparently had put his impromptu test groups to sleep. I told him I thought that was a good sign - we are lulled into complicity with things like law and justice and the obscured mechanics by which they are run. No one fell asleep last night anyway, so that's something.

Got some really encouraging feedback on an article submission this afternoon, so we'll see. Also, because of that damn Nick Drake/fake-Christo & Jean Claude AT&T commercial, I have had it in my head to do a version of "From the Morning" except with brushed drums and cymbals replacing the guitar part. I don't know where the idea came from, but I have been walking around with it burning a whole in my potentiality. I do have a drumset at home... I don't know if this is a good idea, but ideas are good for something even when they aren't.

Here is Nick Drake impersonator Nicked Drake doing a more faithful version.

hard day for old bastards

RIP Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs

RIP Harvey Pekar

It's a hard day for old bastards. The rest of you old bastards: stay out of sight until the coast is clear.

Sugar Minott, "Lovers Rock"

I don't know if Sugar Minott was a bastard, but he died too.

out of the same shade of blue

The scene at Club LA

Peter Case, Wig!
Jan Mendelsohn, American Music

I know it's a terrible picture but the above accurately paints the scene of a backwoods zydeco club like Club LA in Cecilla, LA. The only light was a bare bulb over the pool tables in back and a clamp-on work light over the shots bar set up by the band in the murky distance, cut beautifully here by an old man rooster-walking the bar in a cowboy hat. Squint hard enough and you can see the five or six tension cables strung over the empty dancefloor holding the place together. The particular occasion was the dance after the Ropin Pen Riders's trail ride, which I did not attend because I don't have a horse. All I got to say is the soft jam zydeco variant provided by J. Paul Jr. and the Zydeco Nubreedz might be my favorite kind. A keyboard and a modicum of booty call harmony goes a long way to extend the loveability of the old chank-a-chank. More dark pics.

Chubby Carrier

We also hit zydeco longtimer Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band at the Blue Moon in Lafayette, a markedly more kinetic take on the music. His washboard player is hypnotic to watch. More of that scene.

The evening was a living counterpoint between black Acadiana and white, how a single peculiar thing like zydeco is fractured on that point and channeled in radically different ways. My buddy Clarke and I were struck that at the two bars we visited, within 30 miles of each other, involved in the same music yet there was so little crossover. We wondered if anyone at either place had even heard of the other, much less been there. It's also the kind of evening that makes one look at how racist one actually might be (speaking for myself) making such deductions and broad assumptions, which is good too. The closest similarity between the scenes I could see at both was there were accordions involved and each cost $10 to get in.

The next day I was reading American Music, the new Jane Mendelsohn book (I've never read the old one though a lot of people have, I guess) in the blinding heat beside the pool, wearing down the vestiges of my earache. It's good (both the book and the earache, in varying degrees); about the evocation of stories/false memories/alternative realities through human touch and while reading it, I got a sudden flash to call someone I hadn't spoken to in some time. I used to think this kind of impulse was a throb of the collective nervous system, an autonomic response that one should heed immediately but have learned that, no, these things just happen and you should stay the course and besides, my phone battery was giving out. I couldn't if I wanted to.

Then, on the last shaded part of that battery I checked Facebook and saw that very person, out of the same shade of blue, responded to a post about the very scenes depicted above. A little freaked, but not too much, I dogeared the page and got in that pool, earache be damned.

Independent of scene and my place in one, I cannot get enough of the new Peter Case record.

Peter Case, "Dig What You're Putting Down"