Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year, Y'all!

There are plenty of superlatives that come to mind when it comes to describing the 12 month-long clusterfuck that was 2016, and not that many of them are all that positive. The year cruelly robbed us of so many music icons, and I think most of us can agree that it's a great feeling to (finally) be saying "hit the road jack" to 2016 and to be welcoming 2017 with cautiously optimistic arms.

You know that "Auld Lang Syne" is a favorite around these parts, and I've hunted around for some renditions both old and vintage of this timeless treasure. Have a listen while you ponder your resolutions for the year ahead, and while you guzzle champagne as the clock strikes midnight.  

[posted 12.31.16]

Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #3: Emilyn Brodsky + The Unlovables, 11/8

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

It wasn’t just a Tuesday night. It was THAT Tuesday night and I was stoked to vote Emilyn Brodsky for President after what felt like an eternity. As is always the case when one is eagerly looking forward to something, the opening band, while pleasant, seemed to play forever.

She was solo last I saw her years ago and this time she was accompanied by bass guitar and drums. They were mostly accoutrements, like decorative buckles on a leather jacket. It would be a mistake to construe that as a derogatory statement towards the band. Far from it, it is precisely their contribution that compels one to put on the jacket. However, I want instead to emphasize the significance of Emilyn’s undeniable presence.

There’s actually no need for me to review her music or performance. While that’s certainly important and merits lengthy discourse over lovely cups of tea, her banter during the set is easily worth the price of admission on its own. This may not seem remarkable until one sees over four hundred bands and notices that the overwhelming majority of musicians do not talk much on stage beyond the obligatory mention of merch or to fill the silence while tuning between songs. I don't blame them. Public speaking is frightening and is a bona fide skill.

Emilyn speaks like an old lady telling kids to get off her lawn. Whether she’s sharing dating anecdotes or providing background on her songs or praising Hallie of The Unlovables or the myriad of subjects that constitute her experience, Emilyn demonstrates the wit and brilliance of a confident and accomplished woman that knows her worth and isn't afraid to show it.

A woman genuinely comfortable in her skin is the pinnacle of beauty. Of power.

As the country burned in voting for a bigot that represents the gross product of the privileged patriarchy, Emilyn’s nature proves even more inspiring given the systematic oppression she encounters daily. She is empowering all women simply by being herself.

The Unlovables is irony at its best given they are anything but. While unable to outshine Emilyn's set that preceded, it would be a crime not to give them credit in enriching my night. The four piece exemplifies the summertime school's out attitude of pop punk, especially Hallie with her bubblegum popping vocals. Grab your skateboard or water gun and blast it on high.

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Emilyn Brodsky by The Paper]

[posted 12.31.16]

The Untitled Interview #221: Starring Little Big Bangs

Whilst doing some coverage of this year's Secret Stages, I came across Missourians Little Big Bangs and was instantly hooked on their raw, rabid shredding and messy grit. 

The foursome of LBB graciously answered some questions, read on to delve into the color-outside-the-lines world of Lucy, Colin, Eric, and Ryan. And make sure you check out their Bandcamp to hear plenty of their noise.   

Fuzzy Logic: How do you do?
Eric: Hi.
Colin: Well-met!
Lucy: No, that's not me.
Ryan: Backwards on the toilet.

FL: What was the last song you listened to?
Lucy: I just made up a song called "Baby's gonna drink the water."
Eric: To Parter.
Ryan: Something on 100.3.
Colin: The hum of an industrial dishwasher, dogs playing just outside...

FL: Playing music is:
Ryan: This thing I can't quit doing.
Lucy: Like drinking water.
Eric: Like a mule with a spinning wheel.
Colin: One of three methods left to me for approaching the divine; a swing at playfully escaping the police (broadly defined) in our minds (broady defined).

FL: What album most made you realize you wanted to make music?
Lucy: American Water.
Eric: Listening to In Utero in 6th grade.
Colin: The Shaggs Philosophy of the World.
Ryan: Probably Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins, but that was a long time ago.

FL: Beatles or Stones?
Eric: Beatles!
Colin: The Kinks. Or Gong.
Ryan: Beatles.
Lucy: Let 'er Bleed Sarg.

FL: What’s your first music memory?
Eric: Listening to the American Graffiti soundtrack with my Dad in our first house, that's one of the few memories I have of the place. I still have that record.
Colin: Earnest sing-alongs, bucketfull of beer in my hair - Against Me! in eighth grade.
Ryan: Probably singing in church. Disgusting.
Lucy: Dripping water.

FL: Top 5 albums (of now, of this week, of ever):
Lucy: Meat Puppets II, Mesopotamia (B-52's), Alpha Centauri (Tangerine Dream), Dirty (Sonic Youth).
Eric: White Light/White Heat (Velvet Underground), Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth), Title TK (The Breeders), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel.
Colin: Lately - The Fall Perverted by Language, Getatchew Mekuria Negus of Ethiopia Sax, Fripp & Eno No Pussyfooting, Dung Lung Highe Fantasy/Horror/Animal, Alice Coltrane World Galaxy.
Ryan: Forever Changes - Love, Pet Sounds, Phonography - R Stevie Moore.

FL: Favorite music-related movie?
Lucy: Alice in Wonderland.
Eric: Dazed and Confused.
Colin: Michael Nyman scores? I've yet to watch the film on the Minutemen.
Ryan: Favorite implies things are better, I like different things for different reasons. But Rocky Horror Picture Show.

FL: Half-full or half-empty?
Colin: The draught beer appreciation society never dries up.
Lucy: Half water.
Ryan: Yes.
Eric: It's rarely either. If a liquid is in front of me, and it's potable I compulsively drink it down.

FL: What's the first thing you think when you wake up in the morning?
Eric: Coffee!
Lucy: Where's the water?
Colin: Oh bird song so dear, oh social condition so drear.
Ryan: Changes day to day.

FL: Little-known Little Big Bangs fact?
Colin: Well, the songs seem to write themselves...
Eric: We played for a year without a real drummer. Me, Lucy, and Ryan took turns. Lucy was the best at it.
Lucy: Averaging 57% water.
Ryan: Aliens.

FL: The greatest record store in the world is:
Ryan: The internet.
Lucy: On the waterfront.
Eric: Suicide Notes (formerly Good Vibrations).
Colin: The Love Garden of the past.

FL: What was your first show, either in a band or as a fan?
Lucy: Foo Fighters/QOTSA.
Eric: Smashing Pumpkins on the Mellon Collie tour.
Colin: The great bandstand.
Ryan: In a band - I was in a terrible pop punk-inspired band.

FL: Your boots were made for:
Lucy: Crawling.
Eric: Rain and snow.
Colin: Polishing; walking backwards.
Ryan: Hiking.

FL: Shaken or stirred?
Lucy: Smoked, pickled, chopped, spiked, cracked, and swirled.
Eric: Extracted.
Colin: I already said the draught. Poured, if you will.
Ryan: I like to shake but I like to stir.

FL: What’s the longest flight you’ve ever been on, and where to?
Lucy: I can't get off the plane.
Eric: NYC to London.
Colin: I couldn't sleep or breath, Spain.
Ryan: A few hours to Detroit.

FL: If you weren't in a band you'd be?
Eric: I'd like to write comics, not that being in a band is stopping me, but maybe I'd put more time into it.
Colin: Be "useful" but the whole point is to be beyond use!
Ryan: Only playing Tetris.
Lucy: Soaking in the tub.

FL: Favorite spot in St. Louis?:
Ryan: Cementland maybe.
Eric: Sunset Park near where I grew up in North County. The river is magical there. One time we actually found this weird spell someone wrote out on notebook paper and hid under a rock.
Colin: The fields, alleyways, caves, mansions of our past imaginings!
Lucy: First you walk downtown and find the spot where the stone has been rubbed smooth, make a left. Take another left at the problematic symbol on the wall. Keep going until you can't look down anymore & YOU'RE THERE.

FL: If you were so inclined, whom would you form a tribute band in honor of?
Eric: I'm not...
Lucy: Butthole Surfers.
Colin: Tangerine Dream.
Ryan: B-52's.

FL: Best song ever written?
Lucy: The Sprawl.
Colin: "The music of long before returns in old age. It is sharp, gleaming, undiminished... and as wounding as a steel barb."
Ryan: Probably a song with a great melody, memorable hook, tight bridge, weird key change, and a sick coda.
Eric: Ryan's got the right idea on this one.

[posted 12.31.16]

Friday, December 30, 2016

Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #4: k pasa USA, 5/13

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

The dichotomy of weird and normal has fascinated me for years. The implication that there is a "normal" out of seven billion is absurd. We may share certain stories but likely manifest them in different ways. This was self evident to me when it pertained to people but I didn't realize I was guilty of applying it to concerts until my conversation with Diane regarding PWRBTM.

I had remarked that I found the glitter/makeup of the duo over the top. Diane retorted compassionately that it was a show, suggesting something greater like theatre. She later expressed gratitude for friends who taught her to heal in unconventional ways. In hindsight, those were very profound thoughts.

This is about k pasa USA, though. Their set started out fairly standard. Vocalist and DJ dancing around. When Melina asked the audience for a men's shirt, it fell within the confines of my expectations of a concert. She proceeded to put on a fake mustache, the generously donated flannel button-down shirt and other pieces I can't recall. Deconstructing gender. Cool.

For the next song, she started to strip, naked except for her bottoms. I have seen Gash before so while that really made my jaw drop given its unexpected nature, it still fell within my preset notion. Besides, giving the finger to the shaming of a woman's body should always be encouraged and celebrated.

Black electrical tape followed. She started to wrap it around her head. She worked really fast, conveying a sense of impatience more than urgency and moreover, she did so with the vigor of one unleashing anger. The energy on display alone made it mesmerizing but grew exponentially as she wound the tape over her mouth multiple times, sealing it shut before continuing to her nose where she repeated the loops, effectively cutting off all her avenues for air.

If I had caught on fire at that moment, I might not have noticed. Melina started convulsing, her arms waving agitatedly in the air and her head rocking in all directions. I vaguely remember my mouth going dry and a million thoughts racing through my head yet I was fixated by the scene transpiring two footsteps away from me. I guess everyone was in the same state because no one stepped in.

It probably lasted half a minute before her hands started to claw at the tape. Then the surprise struck like lightning. Watching her intake of breath did not bring relief at first as one might expect. Instead, it brought a sense of wonder, an admiration at having witnessed the courage it sometimes takes to give birth to art. K pasa USA was not done.

For their last song, the band asked the audience to sit on the floor and turned all the lights off. We waited in the dark for several minutes, wondering and preparing for the next surprise. There was no preparing for what happened next. Barefoot and silent, Melina, clad in a black maxi dress, entered the room from the back, deliberately trampling over those in her way as she drunkenly moved towards the microphone up front. Still eerily silent, I could barely breathe as she picked it up.

Then she starts to belt out Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

Void of the electro pop nature of k pasa USA's sound, I instantly noticed that she has an amazing voice. Obviously no Whitney but very respectable. All of a sudden, Thompson interrupted the lovely singing with the synthesizer blasting noise. Literally noise. He stopped just as suddenly and we were returned to serenity. A few lines later, he interrupted again with noise. However, everyone's attention was on Melina.

She had stopped singing and was instead spasming. She proceeded to stumble forwards into the front row with those seated there helping to steady her. They stopped when blood* erupted from Melina's chest. She continued to stumble further into the audience, her arms waving wildly as more blood splashed around while a recorded Whitney lovingly coos in the background.

The iconic voice of Whitney appeared enough to bring Melina back to her senses and she joined the recording in loudly singing the chorus. At the end of "yoooou" she lost control again and started spilling more blood. The cycle repeated one or two more times. Finally the song came to an end and we found Melina on the floor drenched in blood as if dead. Needless to say, I had and still have no words.

Even as I write this, I still have no idea what it means and I doubt I ever will. I do know however that my narrow expectations for a concert are problematic. I want to thank Diane for bringing it to my attention. K pasa USA wonderfully demonstrated that one does not have to subscribe to any narrative, be it gender, sexuality, concerts, or anything else. If any reader knows of other bands who challenges the concept of normal, please let me know!

*It was chocolate syrup which apparently passes exceedingly well for blood in the dark. Also, no pictures of the awesomeness because too busy holding jaw duh.

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of k pasa USA by The Paper]

[posted 12.30.16]

Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #5: Rainer Maria + Snail Mail, Ottobar, 8/12

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

When you have to walk miles in the summer heat because your car got towed and you don't even care afterwards, the show definitely deserves a spot in any top ten. I was in Baltimore Friday for Otakon, but was really there for Rainer Maria later that night. By the time I got back to where I parked my it was half past six so I was officially carless until Monday morning. In keeping with my Otakon tradition of representing a band from Charm City, I had worn my Thrushes tee and it was soaked after the arduous three mile trek. Even worse than the physical exhaustion, I spent the entire walk in half panic and full stress. If I couldn't find a usb port to charge my phone I would have no way to get home.

All of my anguish disappeared the moment I entered the Ottobar. Lindsey's saccharine voice has a punk edge to it or maybe it's vice versa. Either way, its infectious cadence proved enough to erase all my worries. It helps that Ray, who books lots of house shows around my neighborhood, sits behind the drums. Add Ryan's bass to the mix and it's a party. I have seen Snail Mail multiple times before and I never tire of its pop sensibilities. They saved the best for last with Lindsey closing out the set solo.

I was glued to my phone while waiting for Rainer Maria to take the stage when a woman leaned in and said, "I like your shirt." Looking up, my eyes widened in surprise as I saw Anna. Or the vocal/guitarist of the very band whose shirt I was wearing! Suffice to say, that was beyond cool.

Mere seconds into the set, I had an epiphany. I had seen Yui hours prior at Otakon where she sang to a piano backing track while a keyboard sat on stage. Rainer Maria provided a sharp contrast in their approach to making and playing music. The former put on a performance whereas the latter brought music to life before an audience.

I had the immense fortune to stand right below Kaia and the manner in which their fingers touched, glided and plucked the strings is enough to incite anyone to wonder about how those tools of art would feel in more intimate places. Caithlin's maudlin and pensive voice remains the trademark sound that defines the band so many years later. And then there's the eternally passionate William who spares no emotion on the drums.

Seeing the Brooklyn triforce reminded me why live music is so euphoric. It's lovemaking with instruments. Can a car do that?

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Rainer Maria by The Paper]

[posted 12.30.16]

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Tribute to George Michael (1963-2016)

I'm still finding words a bit challenging when it comes to talking about George Michael. Admittedly, over the years I became less of a fan, though certainly in my younger days (when his music was everywhere), I was not immune to those stonewash hipshakes, aviator shades, and 80s Elvis-esque bouffant coif. 

When I was a young lass, George Michael was one of those fellows that could have been considered mad, bad, and dangerous to know (though perhaps not so much once he officially came out). The honest, openness of his voice is hard to match, and his lyrics are damned fine. With his passing, there is a strangeness to the world. For people in my generation, he was one of those ubiquitous figures of modern pop music. He was ever-present. And that was ok. More than ok. He was playful, at times rebellious. Once Wham! was in the rearview, he really seemed to take over the world. 

It was surreal to hear of his death. And on Christmas, no less. The holiday he was somewhat synonymous with (y'all know the high regard in which I hold "Last Christmas"). One more twist of the knife, one more tearful farewell. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will be revisiting George's music, and wondering why we didn't spend more time with it when he was alive.     

[posted 12.29.16]

Guest Best of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #6: Casket Girls, Songbyrd, 6/11

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

I didn't know it then, but the Casket Girls show held more meaning than it did the night of the actual show. My first surprise was roughly halfway in the set when they each took out a black marker and small posterboard. Facing each other, they proceeded to draw while singing into the microphone. They continued the stunt through the entire duration of the song. It was more surreal than impressive and more impressive than entertaining. How many hours of practice did that take?

At the conclusion of the song, each of the women handed her drawing to an audience member. I wasn't chosen likely because I was recording the event on my phone leaving me with no hands. So very, very sad. Nevertheless, it's an unique feat I doubt any other band could boast.

The second surprise was even sweeter. Again, during a song, they stepped off stage and started approaching each person to offer a hug. Something else I have never seen another band do! Each of them worked one half of the room and I wish I could tell them apart but I will guess Elsa hugged me.

It wasn't a polite greeting kind of hug. She embraced me with the sincerity of an old friend, as if we've known each other since kindergarten. Apparently, this is a trademark of theirs. Looking back, I am amazed that such a brief gesture could convey so much between two complete strangers. It was certainly a very lovely and touching moment. If only I knew.

The concert was on June 11th and I went to bed filled with warmth. Imagine waking up to news of the Orlando shooting at Pulse which is a mere two days after Christina Grimmie's tragedy. I took some time to dwell on the hug from the night before, trying to relive the peaceful tenderness and more importantly, the unconditional acceptance. People have a tendency to gravitate towards labels and categories which leads to more exclusion than inclusion. And it's mostly driven by fear of the unknown. Casket Girls takes a risk each time they hug a stranger yet they continue to do so. Thank you Phaedra and Elsa. 

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Casket Girls by The Paper]

[posted 12.29.16]

Video of The Day #208: The Courtneys

There's a bunch of videos out there. Some of them are good. Some of them are a cut above. I like to think my picks for Video of The Day are a cut (or two) above.

Clever video tricks abound in the video for the glorious little ditty "Silver Velvet." The Courtneys, the Vancouver outfit with a penchant for the 90s, have an obvious sweet tooth for the label their second record is to be released on - the one and only Flying Nun. A sunny day and backwards everything give complementary visuals to the jangling grit of the song. I pretty much love everything about the sugary blue sky fuzz of "Silver Velvet" and I can't wait to get my hands on the band's new record.    

[posted 12.29.16]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #7: Kittyhawk, 6/1

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

There are few pleasures in life greater than discovering a new favorite band. This is especially true when the band is Kittyhawk. Like the hundreds of the bands I saw this year, I knew nothing about the four piece from Chicago going into the show. Unlike them, it was love even before a single note was played. The sound guy had inquired about balance among the various instruments to which Kate replied with "me me me." Then she proceeded to repeat that refrain a few more times in checking the level in her monitor. Her unabashed diction was immensely refreshing. All of which foreshadowed my continued and dramatic fall into love.

There's a magical property about Kate's voice that transcends language and logic and even love. It's the perfect harmony of dreamy warmth, capable and endearing. Every syllable that appears to start deep down in her stomach and then rises through the lungs and floats out of her mouth overflows with palpable emotion. There is singing and then there's communicating. I really felt she was standing before me, talking, whispering, purring, gasping, pleading, and every other enunciation that feelings may produce. Sometimes there's a yearning in her voice, other times a hopeful quality but it was always emo. Kate was literally breathmaking  infusing each breath with art.

The band is really good too. Guitar fuzzy like yours truly's favorite music blog coupled with longing keyboard and supportive drums were delightful in a kind of forlorn grace and hypnotic in bittersweet regret.

I am still kicking myself for discovering Kate and company so late. I have looked up flights to Chicago because my heartache grows each passing day that I don't see them. Researching the band afterwards reveals, somewhat unsurprisingly, that Kate actually interviewed a band that dear readers will find later on my top ten. Finally, I also want to personally thank Kate for her kind generosity with merch.

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Kittyhawk by The Paper]

[posted 12.28.16]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #8: Chargaux, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, 9/9

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

Not that I would turn down free music, I was sold instantly when Chargaux tagged their performance at NextNow Fest in the program guide with #BlackGirlMagic. A portmanteau of Charly and Margaux, the duo from New York comprises of violin and viola respectively. Yep, read that again. I remember noticing that one of the violins was significantly bigger than the other. Upon examination, I noticed it sounded different as well! Two idle instruments alone do not make a marvelous combination, however. Beneath the dazzling lights at Kay Theatre, they shone brighter with each successive bow stroke and pizzicato pluck. I still remember the tingly sensation of blood rushing to my cheeks which happens whenever I am awestruck.

That said, the music wasn't the key reason they were so breathtaking even if fusing strings with hip hop has been a weakness of mine since Original Pirate Material. The rapport between the two is not unlike an amalgam of a chemical reaction. The witty manner in which they banter with each other easily reveals a partnership that no amount of rehearsing could replicate. They were two entirely distinctive personalities bonded intimately into a greater element. Watching the process catalyze made the performance such a joy to witness. Actually, now that I have the leisure to reflect, their interaction is the definition of a magnificent performance.

As if the music and performance were not amazing enough, their ability to connect with the audience is beyond charming. It's typical for people to barf at unsolicited advice yet in between the G string [of the violin] and college loans, I never felt patronized in the slightest. Sarcasm remains the quickest way to my heart, so when Charly introduced herself as Travis with a perfectly straight face much to Margaux's chagrin, she became my favorite. She also left us a gem towards the end of the set. She proudly proclaimed herself a genius as though it was the most natural statement to make, then proceeded to tell the audience that, they too, should consider themselves geniuses.

#BlackGirlMagic, indeed.

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Chargaux by The Paper]

[posted 12.27.16]

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Good Cover Version: Future Islands Does Wham!

Pulp gave the world the song "Bad Cover Version." But seeing as I'm a sonic optimist, I'm of the belief that there's more likely than not more good cover versions floating around than bad ones. Good Cover Version celebrates the good, and leaves all that bad and ugly stuff alone.

Y'all know what an apologetic fan of Wham!'s "Last Christmas" I am. I just happened to find this here version of the classic (yes, I said classic) as done by Future Islands. They've kept true to the 80s pop vibe (and those jingle bells), while throwing in some tech-y vocals and a strong bassline. It's hard to listen to any version of this song and not feel the holiday spirit.    

[posted 12.24.16]

Singles Club: Blink

20 odd years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Irish band Blink live.

22 years ago, the band released the long player A Map of The Universe by Blink. On this record was the song "Christmas 22" which is now being released as a Christmas single (with a slightly longer title).

The song is some serious good time Britpop, frothy and full of jingle jangling vim and vigor. Brings back memories...   

[posted 12.24.16]

Singles Club: My Darling Fury

Hows about a little pretty chamber power pop for your holiday weekend?

My Darling Fury's "Just One Thing" is just the kind of song I want to snuggle up in front of a fire with. It tingles with an anticipatory thrill of the holiday season, while plaintively attempting to cozy up to the one and only Mr. Claus.

It's a splendid nugget from the Richmond outfit, and well worth spending some time with this weekend (though this one will sound just as good all year round).   

[posted 12.24.16]

Xmas Gift Guide 2016: Save The Music Donation

It's beginning to look a lot like the time of year that requires a lot of gift giving. We all know that not everyone is easy to shop for, so I'm racking my brain to help you help yourself and find a great gift for the music snob that maybe already has everything...but maybe not this.

Maybe the person you're hunting for a super last minute gift for doesn't want a gift at all. Maybe nothing would make them happier than to have you make a donation to a pretty good cause. In that case, why not think about a donation to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation? I think we can all agree how important music is, and providing kids with instruments and teaching is a wonderful thing to do. 

And if that's not your favorite cause, please consider donating to another cause. There are so many people, animals, places, and movements that need help. If you are able, please extend a little financial assistance. Or volunteer some time. Or all of the above. Spread some humanity this holiday season, because sometimes it feels like human kindness is in short supply. 

[posted 12.24.16]  

Video of The Day #207: Deep Cuts

There's a bunch of videos out there. Some of them are good. Some of them are a cut above. I like to think my picks for Video of The Day are a cut (or two) above.

80s vibes and plenty of bitterness - what else could you possibly want in a Christmas Eve video? Pour yourself a pint of eggnog (don't forget the whipped cream and nutmeg, y'all) and get down to Texans Deep Cuts and this here clip for "Comatose Come Christmas." It's the right thing to do.  

[posted 12.24.16]

Guest Best Of Top 10 Live Shows of 2016: #9: Rakta 7/19

While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.

Sometimes good music is like pornography.

It's impossible to articulate its excellence but one knows it when one hears it. Or perhaps one can judge by how early people line up. The crowd had dissipated at the conclusion of the previous three sets only to return upon soundcheck or when the first song started. That same crowd started to jostle for a good spot in the cramped and humid basement shortly after Rakta moved their gear into position, long before their set would begin.

Speaking of which, I distinctively remember being annoyed at checking the time multiple times. Because it was a house show, music needed to end by ten and they were not ready until after the sun had already retired for the night. What soon followed would wake anything from slumber.

In the dim lit space at twenty till ten, the three women appeared to glow with a mysterious aura. Their music was far more captivating. I lack the poetic prowess to fully convey the gravitation force that transfixed me to the spot. I just remember two things. It was cool when the keyboard player switched over to the two extra floor toms standing before the main kit. It added another head banging layer to the sonic experience. Finally, I was so absorbed in the ferocious yet measured combination of notes and rhythm, I failed to realize some of the sounds I picked up were actually rain drops hitting the window/pavement/something in the thunderstorm outside. It was rather fitting as Rakta roared like a force of nature.

At ten after, everyone huddled at the door, unwilling to venture into the mayhem falling from the sky. I figured the dash to my car at the end of the block wouldn't be too bad. I was drenched to the bone in that ten seconds. Peeling off my shirt, I wondered when it started pouring and how I could not have noticed. Perhaps there is no need to articulate the greatness of something. It speaks for itself when it compels one to listen.

This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.

[words and photo of Rakta by The Paper]

[posted 12.24.16]