Thursday, August 28, 2003

As part of its college life feature, the October issue of Spin features the "First Annual Spin Campus Awards." Among the designations, they denote Spring Fling at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, as the best fest.

On one hand, having worked with both the local and touring bands that have played Fling, I'm proud of the legacy I helped create. On the other hand, I can't give much credence to the praise considering Spin's history of lazy fact-checking. The blurb mentions bands that have played Fling, including Run-DMC. Run-DMC has played at Penn twice, but in the fall as part of the regular concert bookings, not during Fling.

Eleven years ago Spin ran a tour diary of the Pixies opening for U2. The writer's dated entry for the Philly stop said that it was a Sunday and there was nothing to do. A quick check of a calendar would have revealed that the date in question was a Tuesday.

Maybe Spin's fact-checking is only lazy when it comes to Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I always thought Garbage was a rather generic band saved by a spectacularly charismatic frontwoman in Shirley Manson. My suspicion was backed by the ongoing indifference towards Fire Town, essentially a pre-Manson Garbage, whose CDs are now out of print. But I discovered that their style is just distinctive enough to be ripped off. I hate to begrudge a local band who has been working hard to build a following, but Kill Hannah's "Kennedy" is recycled Garbage, "Only Happy When It Rains" to be specific. Besides, Kill Hannah were already doomed when they chose the title since there's no way it could equal the Wedding Present song of the same name, although KH's lyrics do at least relate to the political family.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ah, the internet, tool of the perpetually curious. After watching the VH1 doc on Warren Zevon, I started thinking about his ties to my hometown of Philly, in particular when he was engaged to local DJ Anita Gevinson.Philadelphia Weekly devoted a cover story to this last year.

If I get into full research mode, maybe I'll even track down an MP3 of his alternate version of "A Certain Girl" that he did as a promo for her radio station. The lyrics I remember:

There's a certain girl who's on vacation from 'YSP
What's here name?
Oy vey

Monday, August 25, 2003

By his doctor's best estimate, Warren Zevon's new album, The Wind, should have been a posthumous release. It comes out tomorrow, a year after he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and given three months to live. If there's one good thing about the death sentence of terminal illness, it's that everyone gets their chance to say their good-byes rather than realizing until too late that they missed their opportunity. The Wind is Zevon's good-bye, but it was also the chance for his musicians friends to give him his due send-off. He was the rare acerbic talent to emerge from the hedonist L.A. singer/songwriter scene of the '70s, and many of his bigger-name acolytes joined him the studio to help out.

VH1's (Inside) Out documentary chronicles this past year in Zevon's life, including clips from his gallows-humor-heavy appearance on Letterman from last October.  It reruns on Tuesday, August 26 at 1:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Jill Sobule, Abbey Pub, Sunday, August 24

To many, Jill Sobule is remembered as a one-hit wonder with a lesbian novelty song, 1995's "I Kissed a Girl." I had the good fortune of seeing Sobule for the first time mere hours before the video premiered on MTV; in introducing the song, she talked about working with Fabio and avoiding revealing the song's subject matter. It was a particularly fruitful opportunity because I was exposed to the breadth of her songwriting, not just her one popular song. Her characters include the popular high school classmate turned porn star, the anorexic workout-obsessed woman at the health club, an elderly acquaintance with a fascinating past and a deluded mind. With cheerful pop melodies, she mines the minutia of life:

One of these days and it'll be real soon
I'm gonna kick some ass
Gonna clean my room

Sobule has a new album out tomorrow, The Folk Years 2003-2003, available only at her shows and on her web site.

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze headlines the evening. He should be interesting, but it means enduring Jeffrey Gaines in the middle of the bill. Having suffered through too many his sets when living in Philly, I can only say Jeffrey Gaines, Our Loses.

Jill Sobule plays with Jeffrey Gaines and Glenn Tilbrook at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773.478.4408, at 8 p.m. on Sunday, August 24.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Clearly it's meant to be be inflammatory and I don't necessarily agree with many of the selections, but it's funny and it thought-provoking.

One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Get the hell back to Michigan!

Ted Nugent called Illinois residents "spineless, apathetic, embarrassing wimps" because we have elected officials in our representative government who passed legislation that he, a Detroit native, doesn't support. He was invited onto a radio show to discuss the Second Amendment, but he should have been busy praising the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of ignorant idiots to show off their ignorant idiocy. I have no problem with musicians or other celebrities voicing their political opinions any more than any other citizen, especially when their logic is so easily deflated.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Concert Review: Goose Island Fest, Friday, August 15

I should get this advice posted in time to prevent today's WXRT air personality from getting booed as Marty Lennartz was yesterday: Try for some honesty. Sample script:
Hi, I'm the guy from the radio station that's on the advertising for this concert. Although I may personally be a fan of these bands, we don't actually play them on our station for fear of alienating our target demographic and reducing advertising revenue. This means that I'm insulting the bands by trading on their credibility to promote our station without doing anything for them in return. Let's face it, any money we paid for sponsoring the show goes to the promoter, not the bands. And I'm insulting you, the audience, because I'm telling the thousands of you that are enthusiastic about these bands that your taste doesn't matter. So thank you for allowing me to indulge in hypocrisy. If you really want to hear these bands, you should listen to your local college radio station that plays them all the time but can't afford to be on the concert advertising because they can barely get enough donations to cover their operating budget.
But back to the show itself. Missed all but the end of Yakuza and wasn't upset that I didn't hear more of their noise.

The Waco Bros. are just a damn entertaining band. They're tight, they're spirited, and they have fun. I don't know what they put in the water in Leeds, but I admire the tenacity of natives such as Mekon/Pine Valley Cosmonaut/Waco Brother Jon Langford and David Gedge of the Wedding Present and Cinerama to keep crafting great music even after widespread commercial interest has waned.

Especially because I'm fed up with the indie rock aesthetic, I must point out that Bob Mould looked great. His t-shirt fit, and it didn't look like he slept in it, a criticism that could be lobbed a good chunk of any indie rock audience. Bob was also looking quite fit himself, his paunchy, flannel-shirted days a distant memory. The guy is quite a gifted songwriter, but his set lacked dynamic variation. Whether he was bashing away on his acoustic 12-string or an electric guitar, it all started to run together and it wasn't loud or precise enough. Wouldn't have minded hearing him with a full band, and I guess he's decided that Modulation, his venture into electronica, was a failed experiment.

This was the third time I've seen Guided by Voices. I fail to see what the big deal is.

Sonic Youth are forging a new genre: prog grunge. While I admire them for continuing to experiment well into their career, for following their own creative muse, the fact is that they were too short on songs and too heavy on wanking. It is far less precise and more visceral, less overintellectualized than King Crimson, but it was still wanking.

Despite my criticisms, at least it was a night of outdoor music that didn't entail a trip to the evil Tweeter Center. For this, I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Today at the public library where I work, a young woman came up to me. She was wearing a t-shirt with a straight edge slogan on it, which would imply that she's somewhat of a rock music fan. She asked me if I knew what R.E.M. sounded like because she had only heard of them.

R.E.M. were a staple of my college years. College rock when we didn't have a good name for what came after punk. They earned their fan base with constant touring and college radio support when they were a little too weird for the commercial stations. A DJ on Princeton or Penn or Drexel's station referred to their fourth album as Stipe's Rich Parents, which was funny as a insider joke, that you knew the password, rather than for any real statement about the lead singer's family's financial status. The band whose only concession to mainstream sensibilities was that Michael Stipe stopped mumbling, although even that led to debates of whether they were selling out. A band so big with the youths that references to them were plot points in two episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. The American band of the '80s who are unequivocally headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But she'd never heard them.

I am officially old.

Monday, August 11, 2003

It sounded like fun: the Human League at an outdoor street festival. Resurrecting fond memories of men in eyeliner, women in dark streaks of blush and the early days of MTV. With only a $5 suggested donation, it wasn't too guilty a guilty pleasure, and it also provided the chance to enjoy the summer weather a street fair. New wave nostalgia and fried Twinkies: how could it go wrong?

Egad! The idea was appealing to far too many people, and Northalsted Market Days was just a sea of humanity. It's one thing to enter a mosh pit and tacitly agree to be bumped into, but there was nowhere to avoid being constantly jostled. The massive quantities of flowing alcohol didn't help, but most of the problem was just the sheer volume of people. I came close to telling one guy who did some inappropriate touching as he pushed past me, "I don't care if you're gay. I don't want strangers grabbing my ass."

The unbearable crowds were unfortunate because the performance was showing promise. It was unnerving how much Philip Oakey sounds like Alison Moyet, but he, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall were all in fine voice. "Mirror Man" and "The Lebanon" were the anticipated and necessary reminders that there was more to their career than "Don't You Want Me." But the sheer unpleasantness of being part of the audience made it impossible to stick around for their biggest hit.

One advantage of the $20 entry fee for the Goose Island Fest with Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices, Bob Mould, Yazuka and the Waco Brothers is that it should limit the crowd size. Here's hoping.