Thursday, April 22, 2010

This afternoon (Thursday, April 22, 2010) I'll be lecturing at Williams College on Iggy and the Stooges, presenting material taken from This Ain't the Summer of Love. A reporter for the Albany Times Union did a brief email interview with me to preview the talk; here's a link:

The talk will be at 4:15 in the Brooks-Rogers recital hall at Williams, if anyone is able to make it on such short notice.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Boy it's been a while since I've posted anything here. It's been a busy stretch, during which I've seen some great music. The Hold Steady played here a little over a week ago and were quite fine. Singer Craig Finn exuded way more charisma on stage than I would have expected, of a funny nervous sort, but very entertaining nonetheless. I love the fact that a band so entrenched in '70s arena rock has somehow managed at the same time to gain so much indie cred. They cop Springsteen's best moves so well they almost make me want to listen to Springsteen himself. But then when I do I'm reminded that I've never liked him all that much. Hold Steady is like Springsteen cut with a heavy dose of AC/DC and then a strong sprinkle of angst put on top. Works for me.

More recently I was in New Orleans, for the annual IASPM-US conference (that's International Association for the Study of Popular Music - U.S. chapter for those who don't know). Good conference, and nice that it coincided with the French Quarter Festival, something of a lead-in to the massive New Orleans Jazz Fest that's about to start. Last Friday I cut out of the conference early and made my way to the Festival. It was an absolutely beautiful spring day in New Orleans, about 75 degrees, sunny, and hardly any humidity (!). Spent lots of time wandering between stages and around the French Quarter. Amidst it all, two bands stood out.

The Zydepunks are, as the name would suggest, the sort of hybrid creation that would only exist in a place like New Orleans. These guys (and one gal) have the look of a modern punk band, with tattoos all over and downtrodden hipster fashion sense. But their instrumentation tells a different story: the standard rock rhythm section of electric bass and drums, but on top of which are two burning fiddle players, an accordion player, and one guy who switched between fiddle and accordion, seemingly equally comfortable with each. The sound was like great Cajun music on amphetamines and full of good spirit.

Even cooler were the 101 Runners, a heavily funky jam band-esque group that featured a great expanded lineup of two electric guitars, bass, organ, tuba, drums, conga, timbales, and three bona fide Mardi Gras Indians. I'd never seen Mardi Gras Indians live in the flesh and it was a real treat to see them in their home setting - the head Indian in this case being someone named Monk Boudreau, not a familiar name for me but apparently well known locally. In case anyone's not aware of this particular local custom, for about a century certain neighborhood groups of African Americans in New Orleans have made it a practice of donning very elaborate faux-Indian costumes for Mardi Gras, and compete to outdo each other in the magnificence of their outfits. The masquerade aspect has intermingled with the city's music and dance culture, most notably in the 1970s, when a group of Indians made a killer album in collaboration with the superlative New Orleans funk group the Meters under the name the Wild Tchoupitoulas. That album from 35 years ago was straight-up New Orleans funk with Mardi Gras Indian chants and lyrics added on top. The 101 Runners were also very funky but with a lot more rock thrown into the mix; the hairy guitarist in one of the pictures above, Anders Osborne, played some sweet slide guitar solos throughout their set. I danced, I rocked, I was wowed by the crazy costumes of Monk and his crew. What more could you want from a set of music?