Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Saturday AT Bar Pink: Deep Time

 Deep Time (formerly Yellow Fever from Austin, TX.) is playing a free, early show at Bar Pink this Saturday.     Get there early or you'll miss it. (SAN DIEGO READER)

Show Review: La Sera, Magic Trick & Foxxygen

Show Review
La Sera
Magic Trick
& Foxygen
@ Soda Bar, San Diego, CA.

07 20  Los Angeles, CA - The Echo
07 21  San Francisco, CA - Phono del Sol Music and Food Festival
07 26  Portland, OR - Doug Fir
07 27  Seattle, WA - Barboza
07 28    Vancouver, BC - The Biltmore

   This was the first night of what I would call a "west coast jaunt" with La Sera and Magic Trick, with Foxygen thrown in instead of a local opener.   La Sera is fronted by bassist Katy Goodman of The Vivian Girls, Magic Trick's main man is Tim Cohen of San Francisco's, The Fresh & Only's.  Magic Trick is arguably the side-project to Tim Cohen's side project (his solo records) but I'm going to say something controversial here and make the case that Magic Trick is actually a more compelling act then Fresh & Only's.  I know, I know, we're talking about comparing a band that has 750k last fm plays to a side project with less then 20k last fm plays, but I'm willing to state the opinion and suffer the consequences.

  The Soda Bar was "half-full" last night, certainly not a success or failure but with an eight dollar ticket price, the attendance seemed low.

  The first band,  Foxygen, whom the Secretly Canadian distributed label Jagjaguwar seems VERY EXCITED ABOUT.  They played to an indifferent Audience, most of whom chose to watch from the bar.  It was quite obvious that there were only two people there who had "heard of" Foxygen before, but they were literally singing along in front.   Foxygen is billed as a "bi-coastal songwriting duo" but they performed with three other players last night, including a young woman who did tambourine and keyboard squiggles.  Watching them, and being not a scholar of either band in question I was trying to decide whether comparing them to the Kinks or the Byrds was more appropriate, but the Jagjaguwar website chooses the Kinks so I'll go with "Kinks influenced song-writing."   Of course, being able to write compelling songs is more then half of it, and the songs were strong.  The delivery needs work, but presumably that's one of the reasons for doing this tour, since they all looked young.    I would probably adopt a more stripped down touring act at this point, and add members as needed.  If you are a song writing duo, don't be afraid to tour as a duo, that's my advice.  With only eight thousand last fm plays, they have a lot of room to grow and experiment with what works best without worrrying about not meeting Audience expectations.

  Katy Goodman put out a 7" on Art Fag Recordings under the project title All Saints Day.  All Saints Day was a collaboration between Katy Goodman and Gregg Foreman, of Delta 72, Cat Power,  Obviously, Katy went with La Sera, and Hardly Art.  Magic Trick also has a new album out on Hardly Art Records.  That is interesting because Tim Cohen's other band has their next record coming out on Mexican Summer, in September.  That is a pretty neat trick to pull if you are Tim Cohen.

  Magic Trick played second, this is Tim Cohen singing and playing guitar with two women who sing back up and play guitar and bass, and the band is rounded out by an experienced drummer.   They have a new record out that was just released on Hardly Art.  It's called Ruler of the Night.  Got a 6.7 on Pitchfork.
 Record labels crave ballads, and Magic Trick carries the possibility of a much larger Audience then the psych fuzz rock of Fresh & Only's. Most of the songs last night were ballads or ballad-like.  Good for Tim.  I think his future lies in writing and publishing more then in the rock club circuit, where the work ethic and dedication to the craft are drowned out by blog buzz and impatience with established musical idioms.  Magic Trick is an important step in that direction.

  Magic Trick is touring with fellow San Franciscans Sonny & The Sunsets:

08 09  Chicago, IL - Schubas
08 10 Lakewood, OH - Mahalls 20 Lanes
08 11  Toronto, ON - Silver Dollar
08 12 Montreal, QC - Il Motore
08 13 Easthampton, MA - Flywheel
08 14 Somerville, MA - Johnny D's
08 15  Hoboken, NJ - Maxwells
08 16  New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
08 17 Philadelphia, PA - PhilaMOCA
08 18 Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands

  Tim Cohen is one undeniable hit song away from being hailed as an American treasure.

  La Sera headlined with Katy Goodman doing her thing backed by a conventional rock trio, all male.  The Audience seemed excited to see her perform.  I was surprised not to see more of the people who were at the Vivian Girls show last weekend, but that may be a Casbah/Soda Bar issue.   With over 800k last fm plays, La Sera/Katy Goodman doesn't need to apologize for anything she does, we're talking about an Artist who has close to two million plays on Last Fm if you add La Sera to a third of the Vivian Girls- which is the same size as Dum Dum Girls, for example.   I would think based on the size of her last fm Audience that she would have drawn more people to the Soda Bar on a Thursday night, but I don't know what the final count was at the door. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

D/Wolves Main Man Joel "Kynan" Williams Starts New Band

    With some guy named Nathan Williams. Project is called Sweet Valley, and the new track sounds like a Heavy Hawaii cut.  Bodes well for that forthcoming Heavy Hawaii LP on Art Fag Recordings.  You can get all the deets- album is on Fools Gold, etc. etc. (SPIN MAGAZINE)

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Book Review
Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
published in 20 part serial form 1847-1848
read on an Amazon Kindle

   Vanity Fair was a  huge hit for William Makepeace Thackeray.  Over a twenty year period of producitivity as a working Novelist, he could produce only one work that makes its way into the 2006 edition of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, which was also his most popular work during his lifetime.  Calling William Makepeace Thackeray an "English" Novelist without adding the word "Victorian" into the mix rather misses the point of reading Vanity Fair: To get an example of a good, early Victorian satire.  Vanity Fair also possesses a convoluted narrative that seems to derive partially from the requirements of serial publication and partially incipient literally modernism.  

  The two elements blend together in his use of the third person narrator together with letters, digressive stories and passages of physical description to create an impact that is more powerful then most of the work of his greatest peer, Charles Dickens.   Of course, Charles Dickens has 10 works on the 101 Books To Read Before You Die list, and William Makepeace Thackeray only has one, so.... that's a win for Charles Dickens.  It's not like Thackeray was unpublished.  By the count of Wikipedia he published 13 plus Novels (in addition to other, non-fiction works) over the 20 years between 1845 and 1865.

  One of his works, Barry Lyndon, an early picaresque novel, also written by William Makepeace Thackeray, is more famous in its film incarnation where an adaptation was filmed by a young Stanley Kubrick in 1975.   Certainly more people know the phrase "Vanity Fair" through the American magazine of the same name then know the phrase via this Novel.   Arguably more people have seen the 2004 Mira Nair directed, Reese Witherspoon starring film adaptation by Focus Features (Cost 23 million, grossed 18 million.)

  Vanity Fair, the novel, is savagely, brutally funny in a way that directly appeals to a modern sensibility.  You get the sense that Thackeray was a man ahead of his time, too clever for his own good, like he would have been better off doing Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes in 2009 then writing serial novels in the 1840s and 1850s.   Vanity Fair, the novel, goes on and on like any self-respecting serialized Novel from the late 1840s (see Charles Dickens)  these guys had pages to fill, and it shows, with long digressive passages and superfluous dialogue and scenery. 

  Thackeray is certainly a minor player in mid century English literature, with one major work to his credit.  It's a shame the movie was a bomb- but what about the costumes????

Reese Witherspoon playing Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (2004)

This is Reese Witherspoon playing Becky Sharp in Mira Nair's 2004 movie.  This is a good example of Reese Witherspoon giving the mid century Victorian equivalent of Ben Stiller's BLUE STEEL in Zoolander.

  Here is Gwyneth Paltrow giving the same look in Emma, in the 1996 film adaptation.

Ben Stiller, Zoolander, giving "Blue Steel" Look

  Ok so the juxtaposition of these three images is supposed to be funny.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Book Review

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
originally published in 1843
Read free Amazon Kindle Edition

      Man, what do you even say about an immortal hit like this one?  Christmas Carol was a success in every way measurable except financially, for the Author, who published it in a time before movie adaptations and strong copy right protection.  Charles Dickens was frustrated by his failure to capitalize financially on the success of A Christmas Carol, but the enduring tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge and the visit he's paid by the Ghosts of Past, Present & Future has to be one of the most successful literary efforts of the 19th and 20th centuries combined.

Ebeneezer Scrooge

   First of all, it is a "Christmas Story" published at a time when "modern" Christmas traditions were being established.   Second of all, it's short- only 100 pages on my Kindle.  Third of all, it has plenty of what people in the music business call "hooks"- witness Ebeneezer Scrooge's "BAH HUMBUG" or the character of Timothy "TINY TIM" Cratchit, crippled son of Scrooge's long suffering clerk.  Charles Dickens had hits for days but rarely does he pack them into such a small space and hook the narrative up to a holiday as popular as Christmas would become during the 19th century.

Other Posts About Charles Dickens On This Blog

Book Review:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens11/20/14
Book Review: Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of Novel Criticism Since 1836 by George H. Ford. 3/25/13
Book Review: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, 3/17/13.
Book Review:  Dickens Worlds by Humphrey House, 3/8/13
Book Review: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, 9/21/12
Book Review: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, 8/23/12
Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 7/17/12.
Book Review: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens, 6/19/12.
Book Review: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 6/7/12.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers/ Les Trois Mousquetaires
by Alexandre Dumas
p. 1844 in serial form
Kindle Edition

    Alexandre Dumas' career is a case in point in the explosion in Audience size for Novels (in serial form) during the 1840s and 1850s.   He is well known for taking a "work shop" approach for his Novels, i.e. using helpers who did things like, oh, I don't know... write the books that were published under his name.  In this way he is a very "modern" figure.  Dumas also had a Romantic artist side- he was of mixed race ancestry, and spent a life in flux with episodes of high living, political activity and what today we would call Hemmingway/Byron-esque adventures.

   Alexandre Dumas is an excellent example of an Artist who was working in one field and moved to a related but different field, with a larger Audience.   Alexandre Dumas literally explodes into the nascent field for serialized novels at the end of the 1830s. He wrote a lot of books but clearly The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Christo and The Man In the Iron Mask, which is itself merely the part of a sequel to the original The Three Musketeers, are the three that most often stand in as his representatives on Canonical lists.

  The very popularity of The Three Musketeers virtually ensures problems "in the translation."  The biggest problem is probably the sheer scope of output by Alexandre Dumas and his little elves.   The Three Musketeers, by itself, is extremely long, and the best naughty parts are excised in most English language translations.   I wasn't particularly keep in the edition that I read for free on my Kindle, but I've read enough Sir Walter Scott influenced fiction to recognize the historical/romance/adventure novel genre in fine form.

  The Three Musketeers, written in the 1840s, is set in the 1620s or thereabouts: In the midst of the Wars of Religion that convulsed all of Europe.  Alexandre Dumas was a political guy- he was intimately involved in multiple shifts in power in France during his life time, and he came from a political family- his father was a General who fell out of favor, and The Three Musketeers isn't just a dumb adventure story- even though that is how it is most often received.

   I think, properly treated, The Three Musketeers presages the spy or espionage novel more then it echoes the historical romance model of Sir Walter Scott.

  Right after I read The Three Musketeers I watched the disastrously bad 2011 film of the same name.  It is notable in that it stars Clive Owen, Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovocich as the main villain, the cleverly named Milady.  Which I think is her actual name?  I don't know, I feel that is a joke of some kind, or it could be that they just call her that as a term of respect and he uses it as a literary device.  One success of the 2011 The Three Musketeers film is the costumes of Milady:

Milla Jovovich as Milady in 2011 The Three Musketeers

   Generally speaking, the costumes are excellent and everything else about the 2011 movie is terrible.  Hilariously, they set it up for a sequel at the end, which is fine- Dumas himself wrote sequels to the original book- it's hilarious because WHO WOULD MAKE A SEQUEL TO THIS FLOP OF A FILM.  Nice try, Hollywood.


Show Review: Three Nights At The Con Vivian Girls, Grass Widow, The Babies, Dunes & Teenage Burritos

Show Review:
Three Nights At The Con
Vivian Girls,
Grass Widow,
The Babies,
& Teenage Burritos
@ The Casbah, San Diego, CA.
Presented by The Casbah & Impose, curated by Art Fag Recordings (CASBAH WEB SITE)

   I've literally never seen so much of Tim Mays as I did over the Three Nights At The Con event.  He was there every night from beginning to end.  It was a sight to behold.  Co-Presenter Impose was represented by a large blanket with "IMPOSE" stiched into it stretched across the back of the stage,  a hand held videographer with a powerful, powerful light source on the camera and one of the many, many, many people who snapped photographs on something other then a smart phone.

  Three Nights At The Con was a triumph for all involved, and Friday was the best night.  It was especially triumphant for Vivian Girls.

Teenage Burritos

TEENAGE BURRITOS:  I missed this band, through no fault of my own, but I def. want to catch the show next time they play.  They have a witty tumblr. (TEENAGE BURRITOS TUMBLR) and a facebook page.

Stephanie Chan and Dunes

DUNES:  The audience "filled in" during the Dunes sense which must be an interesting experience for the performers- starting a set with a half empty audience and ending it to a full house.  I've never been so aware of this phenomenon happening at a show as I was at this show, for whatever reason.  It was like a slow moving wave of people entering the main room at the Casbah, specifically the area in front of the stage.  Unlike Thursday night there were not a lot of drunk bros talking loudly at the Bar.  Dunes is stuck at under 100k listens on Last FM- which is lower then it should be, I think because they are college students and don't want to do the touring necessary to make a larger foot print.  Regional band by choice, I suppose you could call it.  Watching them though it occurred to me that this is precisely the kind of music that is in vogue with indie rock types, flowing sound,  odd time signatures, jazz influences, atmospheric, charismatic lead performer.  One thing DUNES does not have (by design, I imagine) is hits.   I thought they obtained a positive response from the Audience.

The Babies: Photo Credit LA Music Blog

THE BABIES:  were a pleasant surprise, though seeing that they are above 400k plays on Last Fm means that I shouldn't have been surprised at all.  According to this 2010 post from Fader, The Babies includes Cassie Ramone from The Vivian Girls and the bassist from Woods.  As should be perfectly clear from the profiles of both generative bands, The Babies are an indie rock Fleetwood Mac of sorts- in terms of conception.  Obviously, the issue is that both "main members" have other commitments and, I suppose the fact that Pitchfork doesn't really like the project, which is important if you consider the role that Pitchfork "Darling" status has played in the Ascension of Woods to Canonical status.

I approached the performance from a position of total ignorance, and I liked what I saw.  I'm not a fan or either Vivian Girls OR Woods, simply aware of them and their position in the galaxy of indie rock, but The Babies gave a really strong performance, the crowd responded well to it.  To the extent that there is some kind of existing question over the merit of Cassie Ramone's vocals, this was a crowd that was firmly in the 'pro' camp.   The song structures were particularly strong and the Audience responded to the strength of the songs.  The fact that Pitchfork doesn't like them is a problem, but not that big a problem- not with close to half a million last fm plays.  That denotes widespread recognition of the project.

Grass Widow

GRASS WIDOW:  Last time I saw Grass Widow (2009, Art Fag Fest) I didn't like what I saw, but this time I did.  They had tough, catchy songs that really reminded me of Tiger Trap, which is an often mentioned band by people who never saw the band perform live.  Their new record is selling well on Midheaven.  They are a good example of band that is self-releasing in a successful fashion and their example ought to emulated by other bands.  I very much doubt that they are getting rich, but they are continuing to exist and improving.

The Vivian Girls

THE VIVIAN GIRLS:  I think the narrative of The Vivian Girls is best encapsulated by this Show Review from June 2010 where Best Coast OPENED for The Vivian Girls.  If you look at the respective size of the two acts two years later, The Vivian Girls are stuck in place and Best Coast in zooming towards a "Major Label" audience size.   Which is not to say that The Vivian Girls are stuck in a bad place, with over 3 million last fm plays, they are a viable, international touring rock band.   I mean, during this show, I was literally looking at the 94/9 Ampitheater Jam where Best Coast is main support to Fiona Apple.

     So, all the baggage aside, they put on a really strong show, and they drew 200+ to watch, which is a good showing for a band that was essentially heading towards broken up status.  Here are my suggestions for The Vivian Girls: switch record labels- they aren't going to be front burner at Polyvinyl until Japandroids cool down (which won't happen for a year plus.)

   I think, aside from all the NYC scene drama bullshit, the only other "problem" with a band that has 3 million plus last fm plays is the song writing.  During one particularly strong song I heard echoes of the recent Frankie Rose Interstellar album, and I mentioned it to someone who told me that this particular song was written by Frankie Rose.  It certainly gave me an opportunity to see a lot of Cassie Ramone.

  Cassie Ramone needs the career equivalent of when Lou Reed went to London and recorded with David Bowie and Mick Ronson.  Cassie Ramone is Lou Reed, and I will accept nominations for David Bowie and Mick Ronson,.

David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson & Marc Bolan (Iggy T-Shirt)

Blog Archive