moments before the wind.

May 5, 2007

can still burn your fingers

Filed under: authenticity, country, folk, indie, live shows, music, news, rock, writing — alimarcus @ 8:00 am

Last night’s Elvis Costello show at the Sunset Tavern was a benefit for 826 Seattle, the quirky, fun, and incredibly dedicated tutoring center fronted by a Space Travel Supply Store.

Quirky, fun, and incredibly dedicated? Sounds like 826 has found their musical counterpart. I’m not sure if the idea for the benefit came from 826 or was a secondary decision, but there could not have been a better chosen figure for celebration in their presence. And I feel like I am qualified to say this because not only am I a huge Elvis fan but also I am an 826 volunteer.

Think about it this way. What would you expect the audience to look like at an 826 benefit? Bookish, plastic frames, slightly less casual clothes, clean-cut-yet-subtly-hip seriousness of people who appreciate serious art. Add a tie and there you have it – the audience you’d expect at an Elvis Costello tribute concert. A marriage made in heaven.

It was a packed house, sold out in under an hour. There were 15 bands, each doing one to three songs. Even the selection was hyper-indie selective, only rarely would a group allow the audience the pleasure of doing one of Elvis’s smash hits. Highlights:
-both versions of “Indoor Fireworks”
-“Living in Paradise” sung in octaves with an acoustic guitar
-“Miracle Man,” because it’s currently hanging on my wall also
-The intense wordiness that I hear as Costello’s magic touch, filtered through all these other bands…it was like American Idol, seeing how the various singers would attempt to do what seems to come so naturally to the writer. Some did a really awesome job. It reminds you od Elvis’s brilliance, because you don’t realize how complex the music is until you try and perform it yourself.
-This beautiful Gibson guitar that one of the performers used. I think it was a Hummingbird.

By the way, 826 Seattle is one of the best things. Period. If you don’t know much about it or what they do, please visit their site and check it out. Space travel is just the beginning. They are always, always looking for volunteers in one way or another, and I have never had a more rewarding experience. I was not asked to make this statement. It’s really true.


May 1, 2007

but i’m gonna stay

Filed under: architecture, authenticity, folk, live shows, music, news, rock, writing — alimarcus @ 9:51 pm

Here’s something cool. So last week I spent all this time at the EMP listening to lectures and pondering music, and this week I get to play my own music in the same space.

And I thought I was getting better at the whole world collision thing, but now they collide in the same space in the same fortnight. That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Thursday, May 3

Not only is the show free, but the whole EMP and SFM are open to the public from 5-8PM. Also the Old Bay Warblers, my old-time outfit, will be making a brief appearance. Check it out!

April 23, 2007

EMP Pop Conference #16 – End Bits

One thing that I continually find entertaning is the feedback loop at the conference, presenters quoting writers to help support their point, and those writers are literally sitting in the audience listening to their own words spoken back to them. This kind of validation (or cancellation?) is a kind of black hole, a weird moment in time when the reasoning behind an argument starts to sound circular. For some reason the fact that the original writer is in the room listening sort of serves to render the intellectual capacity of the argument null and void. Like anything that is circular, you have to wonder whether it’s useful to end up where you started. Of course it can be. And of course it can’t be.


There seemed to be an exceptional amount of political commentaries built into the arguments I saw. The theme of the conference, “Waking Up From History,” propelled many writers to arrive at the concusion that we should actually wake up TO history, to learn from history, and to draw conclusions between the cultural sphere that our work covers and the political sphere of which we are citizens.

Some examples:

-Robert Bennett on the Jazz Diplomacy program and the things we should learn from it.
-Scott Nelson’s timely mention of “abortive gun policies” in the paper about John Henry’s exhumation – I’m not sure how he managed to reference the VA. Tech shootings in that conversation but at the time it made perfect sense.
-Brendan Greaves’ talk of Terry Allen’s border politics and the ways in which the Texas/Mexico border is treated by the government versus the inhabitants. 
-There was also an entire panel about New Orleans, as well as a smattering of other related papers throughout the weekend, all of which contained a fervent expression of the power of music and solidarity and the essential character of the city.

In general, as there seems to be in more and more things these days, there was a real sense of urgency that was more palpable than in previous conferences. It may have been the effect of the theme, but in general people’s research was very much rooted in the grim realities of life and music’s ability to help maintain and even create hope where all seems quite hopeless.

April 20, 2007

i heard there was a major chord – introduction

Ahhhhhhh. So nice to be back. The continual decline of the EMP’s institutional gravitas only makes this conference all the more sweeter. Oh, how imminent demise doth make the heart grow!

But in the lovely Seattle springtime, everything feels like a rebirth, and so this weekend we embark on the eternal journey of speculation and debate, insight and confusion. Does this stuff matter to anyone else? If it doesn’t, does that matter? And if it does, then what are we doing here?

We are analysts, we are critics, we are artists: I cannot think of a more potent combination of inspired and cynical people who must against all odds maintain faith in this crazy work we do. For me, the conference feels like a yearly pep rally. So lets get to it. Thanks for reading!

April 18, 2007

there’s a wind that comes in from the west

Filed under: architecture, authenticity, music, news, reviews, rock, writing — alimarcus @ 9:35 am

The 2007 Pop Music Conference comes back to town this weekend. Keep an eye on these here pages for the goods. Check out my my Rivet post.

March 14, 2007

eviscerate your memory

Filed under: authenticity, music, news, rock — alimarcus @ 2:59 pm

I just want to take a moment to say how proud I am of REM. The night they got nominated for the Hall of Fame I was in Concord, NH. After a some raucous games of foozball and a pitcher of beer that appeared out of nowhere, I popped $5 into the (digital!) jukebox and played as many REM songs as it covered. Boy that was great.

But they deserve this. There are a lot of REM haters out there, and there’s no need to really jump in and defend them because it’s just so obvious how great they are. I am an adoring fan, I admit it. I want to add that my appreciation for the band only grows with time. Grows and grows and grows. Patti Smith got all the attention, but I raise my glass (pitcher) to the weirdos in the corner, face paint and all.

Funny to see Patti Smith as a diva though, even if reluctantly. And the Phil Spector drama, gotta love the Phil Spector drama. Him and MJ will have some kind of showdown one day, but I’m not sure about what.

March 12, 2007

keep your silver shined

Filed under: authenticity, business, country, distribution, folk, indie, live shows, music, news, reviews, writing — alimarcus @ 12:14 pm

Times are slow on this here blog. It seems to be to inverse of reality, which actually probably explains the situation.

I went to see Deadwood Revival over the weekend, a folk/country duo from Port Angeles. Coupled with the recent Josh Ritter show that I saw the week before (see this review), I am full of inspiration. When I spoke to them, DR seemed a little out of their element in a quiet performance space, even though on stage you never would have known. I can understand that, because the general string band/old-time/folky crowd here in the Northwest is largely dance-based.

Now I don’t know what’s going on, because the traditional stereotype of Northwestern residents is that they don’t move at all – the rowdiest rock show will only produce a few head-bobbers and such. But it’s true, all the dancers come out with the banjos. I’ve seen it. What’s interesting is that where I come from back in Virginia, there’s plenty of the quiet listening shows for this kind of music. Deadwood Revival strongly reminds me of what I call Virginia Folk- namely Eddie from Ohio, the Nields, John McCutcheon. Music that I grew up with, from locally based artists who all now have these huge national audiences. But there is a sound about them that screams Virginia to me. Here’s what I wrote once on this here blog:

The “Virginia Folk” thing is a bright streak in my musical tastes, from stuff like EFO and the Nields to a few  select years of the Pat McGee Band, and of course the Dave Matthews Band. Living in Charlottesville as a college student put us in the path of many a frat party band aspiring to fame, including the early days of O.A.R., Virginia Coalition, Dispatch and Georgia Avenue…This is definitely not Virginia as in Carter Family, Galax and Appalachia and all that, though the ghosts are there, mainly in the acoustic guitar-ness of it all, the swingy country rhythms and the preponderance of tight harmonies.

DR is originally from Georgia, which could be part of the reason why there are so many similarities. And I am willing to bet that they are familiar with EFO- the Julie/Robbie dynamic runs very strong through Kim and Jason. I have been to literally countless shows for all of these bands, and they run the gamut of locales, but generally tend towards the “listening” rather than dancing situation. It depends on what you are out for. In general though, if I really want to pay attention, I am going to want some quiet. I know that as a performer these situations feel like you are being put on the spot, but that is sort of the point too. It’s a privilege to get people to shut up and listen – and it’s precisely the challenge to succeed that makes it fun.

But this is all my own opinion. The original point is that I just wanted to say that Deadwood Revival rocks. You can tell how on point they are, how well rehearsed, and how much detailed attention they pay to the arrangement and execution of their songs. They cover great songs (“Cold Rain and Snow,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,”) they write great songs, and they keep you interested all the way through. Listen to and buy there CD here.

And speaking of how important it is to buy independent music, have you bought my album yet? I am not sure if it fits into the “Virginia Folk” category, but then again I will never hear my own music the way that you would. You tell me.

February 10, 2007

fifteen miles on the erie canal

On an article in today’s NYT:

A woman curates a show called “Not For Sale,” in which artists are showing pieces that are not for sale. Very interesting things, to read about the various reasons artists hold on to or don’t hold on to things. The conclusion of the article:

“I’m not insisting that all these artists are in any way pure, whatever that is,” she said. “I just want to show people art that can be made and exist apart from the market for reasons that I hope still exist, even in this kind of market.”

But then, expressing her allegiance with the Ray Johnsons of the world and unable to stay completely away from the pulpit, she thumped the table with her hand. “We are talking about religion here, aren’t we?” she said, smiling fiercely. “We’re talking about God.”

A curious mix of righteousness and independence. It seems very clear that this woman knows exactly what she thinks, and while she is not going to force it on anyone else, she is going to make it very clear, and leave the choice up to the individual.

This sounds a little bit familiar. How ’bout here:

Turtle Rock is not a record label that is trying to compete with – or even criticize – the practices of other record labels, major or independent. It is simply going its own way.

Nevertheless, the materialism of our culture has become an ecstatic caricature of itself, unabashedly reveling in its own greed.

The same sort of back and forth coming from me. And Turtle Rock practices are shifting a little bit, with a new record out that actually costs money, people are asking questions. But people are also buying, so it can’t be that horrible. Things like integrity or value can’t truly be measured but they can be felt. So as long as we are still paying attention to that, then things should be OK.

Did I mention the record is for sale?

Did I mention that the website is rebuilt?

Did I mention that half of the album is still completely free?

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