Monthly Archives: October 2010

Top 5 songs about death

Or maybe not the top 5, just 5 songs I like a lot and could think of on short notice (and could find videos for on Youtube). I saw someone making a list like this on Facebook and figured I’d do one myself, sort of an addendum to my recent blog post, Almost Halloween — time to harvest those beautiful dark songs.

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy- “Sister Death”

Ralph Stanley – O Death

Robyn Hitchcock – When I Was Dead

Alan Parsons Project – Can’t Take It With You

Legendary Pink Dots – This Could Be the End

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Get ready for work on time playlist #1

I have never been what you call a “morning person.” I can get up early if I absolutely have to, but on most mornings, I hit the snooze a few times, stumble out of bed all bleary-eyed, try to get to the bathroom without stubbing my toe, and get cleaned up and dressed and breakfasted in a haphazard manner whilst piddling in various ways, till suddenly I notice I’m gonna be late if I don’t hurry. Then rush off in a pissed off mood that gets pissier still when I get into the morning traffic. Too early to say for sure, but that habit might be a thing of the past.

Recently I came across a list of “life hacks” with some good common sense advice to make life easier. One hack is to make a playlist that lasts as long as it takes to get up in the morning, with songs that get faster as you go along. I finally got around to making a playlist like that and I’ll be damned if it’s not working.

Here’s my playlist, which is just about an hour long. Starts off with ambient, has various types of soul and indie rock and finishes with good old-fashioned hard rock. When I hear AC/DC, I know my ass needs to be headed out the door.

Voice of Eye – Transcendence
Lacrymosa – I Was Once (Oh)
Jon Bryant – The Hallelujah
Brothers Johnson – I’ll Be Good To You
Laudanum Forest – Snail
Lee Fields & the Expressions – Last Ride
Legendary Pink Dots – Zoo
I Fight Dragons – Don’t You?
Wire – I Am the Fly
Humble Souls – Tomorrow’s People
ZZ Top – Heard It On the X
AC/DC – Problem Child

So far it’s gotten me out of the apartment on time and in a decent mood. I’ll make another one when I get tired of it and I’ll post new playlists from time to time. I’d love to see other morning playlists as well.

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Social Networks: Good? Evil? Probably neither.

I don’t like it, but it’s undeniable: Sometimes the best, most important things come from total assholes. Knowing that fact doesn’t make the assholes’ accomplishments any less important. I’ve always known that, but watching The Social Network really brought it home for me. I realize the movie was a fictionalized account of Mark Zuckerberg and the other co-founders of Facebook, but I can’t help but believe it captured something of his character, or lack thereof.

I also think he must be a visionary as well as extremely ambitious. He did what he had to do, no matter who he had to screw over. And if he hadn’t, we might not have Facebook. You could argue that the world would be better off. I personally avoided drinking the Facebook Koolaid for as long as possible. I didn’t necessarily want tons of people — even friends and relatives — knowing all my details all the time. I had privacy concerns. Still do.

But just when I had decided Facebook was a fad that I wanted no part of, TheSixtyOne (another remarkable website started by brilliant guys who turned out to be assholes) changed from an innovative music site with a vibrant community into a glorified web radio where artists and listeners could no longer communicate. Friends were suddenly cut off from one another as site owners James Miao and Sam Hsiung made a radical redesign with little regard for the artists and listeners, in exchange for investment capital. (I think it was also a disastrous business decision, but time will tell.) When that happened, Facebook became our lifeline, the best way to get back in touch with one another.

And at the moment it looks like the old T61 community still exists, waiting for another virtual homeland to come along and fill those needs for friendship and music discovery. Kind of ironic that the refuge is Facebook, a website started by a guy who might make T61s founders look like sweethearts by comparison.

But a good idea is a good idea, wherever it comes from. I guess in the end, sites like Facebook and T61 aren’t good or bad. They’re morally neutral. Like the Internet itself. I hate some of the changes the Internet has given us, but I don’t think I would want to go back to the way it was before.

Here are a couple of posts I wrote about T61 right around the time of the big site change, just in case you’re new to my blog or you’re feeling nostalgic:

Lessons we learned from T61 (that the owners did not)

T61′s redesign – from DABDA to hope

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Joe Peña and Greyhound Soul bring rootsy ‘Desert Rock’ to Central Texas festival

A few days back I interviewed a really cool guy named Joe Peña, who has an Arizona-based group called Greyhound Soul. He’s about to come back to his home town of Elgin, Texas for the annual Hogeye Festival on Saturday, Oct. 23 and I can’t wait to see him.

I expect Hogeye to be a blast, by the way. If you’re going to be in the Austin area this weekend, you should make a short drive out to Elgin and check it out. Maybe you’ll see me, snapping pics of everything for the local newspaper, the Elgin Courier. There’s all kinds of stuff planned, including a lot of other bands and lots of food, games, a parade, etc. This town is famous for its barbecue, especially sausage. In fact, people call Elgin the Sausage Capital of Texas. You really can’t beat these little small town festivals.

The following interview is pretty close to the one I ran in the Elgin Courier‘s Oct. 20 edition, except I put the cuss words back in. I love the way he talks, all laid back and hip, but I toned it down for the paper – it was a bit too rock ‘n’ roll for a small town. I interviewed him via text message. First time I ever did that. Worked out pretty well I think. What I really find interesting is the family aspect. He’s the third generation in his family to play music professionally – his father did it (still does) and his grandfather. And they’re all named “Joe.” Also, Joe IV’s brother Jeremy Peña is a reggae artist who plays around Austin.

…..

Talk about family tradition. Guitarist and singer/songwriter Joe Peña IV, who will perform at Hogeye Festival with his band Greyhound Soul, grew up surrounded by music. His father and grandfather (both also named Joe) were both professional musicians. His father still plays keyboards with a band. Joe grew up in Elgin. He left Texas around the ninth grade and wound up in Arizona, where he got a band together and developed a following for the rootsy brand of music he calls desert rock.

“I guess we sound like a Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Sonny Boy Williamson wannabe band, cuz that’s what I dig,” he said. Growing up, he cut his teeth on the music being served up in Elgin night clubs, including his grandfather’s club, Dos Amigos. “I was fortunate enough to be around in the Kung Fu Inn days. Ol’ Charlie Brown’s Place on Ave. C [Kung Fu Inn] and across the street was my grandpa’s place. Between the two you had blues and R&B, soul, country & western, jazz and Tejano bands having some of the best moments of their lives. Being 12, 13, 14 years old in and out of bars was my life. Hell, still is. And being witness to that shit is solid gold bro.”

Having professional musicians in the family was tough, but it also made him who he is today. “Growin’ up with music going on day and night, Dad playing his stuff, Gramps puttin’ in his two cents and then me getting it from both sides wasn’t easy. They were always tryin’ to teach the right way to do stuff. Always the right way, all ol’ school, all these chords gettin’ me dizzy. I’d be like screw this, I’m gonna play football. Well, never played football. Now I’m ol’ school and diggin’ it. Somewhere down the line I guess it just stuck and I just can’t seem to get it off my shoe, haha.”

Even after touring around the U.S. and in Europe, Joe is excited to come back to Elgin for Hogeye. “Coming back to play in my home town is fuckin’ awesome,” he said. He’s also excited to see Malford Milligan on the bill, performing with Chloe and the Crossroads band. “That’s just too cool man. We used to pass each other on our way to school back in the day,” he said. “I’m sure he doesn’t know who the hell I am, but he will goddamn it.”

Joe Peña III has played in blues and Tejano bands all his life, learning the trade from his father, who performed Spanish big band music. Although Joe III will be performing in Fort Worth during Hogeye, he encourages Elgin to turn out and watch his son play. “He has five CDs out. He tours Europe. He writes his own material and he will be playing the electric guitar my dad got for me,” he said. “He’s influenced by everything from country music to Paul McCartney. You have to play a little of everything to entertain people nowadays.”

Check out Greyhound Soul’s “Layin’ Down Lost.” Sounds kinda like  good alt-country to me…

And in case you decide to check out Hogeye Festival, here’s a schedule:

Hamtastic Events

Lindsy Kay Wing Memorial Children’s Costume Contest and Pet Parade

Registration 8:30 a.m., judging 9 a.m. followed by parade
Hogalicious Dessert Contest

9 a.m. turn in entries–Awards 12:30pm

El Maguey Restaurant
Pearls Before Swine Art ShowJewell Arts Photography – 119 2nd Street @ Avenue C10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Road Hog Car Show

Awards 2:45 p.m. at Nofsinger House City Hall

Gordon Swenson Memorial BBQ Pork Cook-off

Awards 4:30 p.m. at the Chamber

In a Pig’s Eye Dart Contest

Regulator’s Sports Bar and Grill 12 p.m.-4 p.m.

Celebrating 20 years of Main Street

Union Depot Museum 10 a.m.-5p.m.

Acme Brick Toss

Depot Plaza 10 a.m.-5p.m.

Cow Patty Bingo

4 p.m. on Depot Street

Bands and live entertainment

2nd Street Stage

10:30 a.m.  Monty Thomas Family Band

11:45 a.m.  Soulphonics

1 p.m.  Chloe & the Crossroads Band

2 p.m.  The Sowpremes

2:45 p.m. Grupo Agresivo

4 p.m.  Greyhound Soul

5:15 p.m. Mark Winston Kirk

Depot Stage at Veterans’ Park

10 a.m.  Jungle Jill & the Jaybirds (interactive children’s show)

11 a.m.  Royal Coronation with the Sowpremes

11:55 a.m. Lost Pines Cowboy Church Band

1 p.m. December’s End

2:45 p.m.  Tje Austin and The Experience

4 p.m. Lucretia Alvarez & the Dance Studio

4:30 p.m.  Golden Bear

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Val Davis – The Texas Sky

I am such a sucker for anything to do with Texas. Texas musicians or musicians singing about Texas. Big thanks to Radio Paradise for turning me onto this song:

Kinda reminds me of Peter Gabriel. There’s more to Val Davis than just this song too. Check his website: Val Davis Music

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Filed under indie, indie pop, music, one to watch, Uncategorized

Approaching the end, or just the end of an Age?

Horrified yet enthralled. That’s the best way to describe my state of mind as British Petroleum’s broken well gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico.  The well was capped and it didn’t turn out to be the apocalypse, though people living on the Louisiana coast might beg to differ–their lives will never be the same. But it was still a pretty clear sign that our civilization is overextending itself. Essential resources are getting scarcer and harder to reach. It can’t go on like this forever.

The disaster reminded me of a novel: Ian MacLeod’s The Light Ages.

The novel revolves around a substance called aether that’s pumped out of the ground by huge engines. Not the stuff doctors once used to anesthetize people, but a flowing substance with magical and industrial purposes–closer to the stuff alchemists and early scientists once believed flowed around our planet, a medium containing stars, comets and angels.

Aether powers a great civilization that uses it for everything from construction to medicine to communication. Important magic spells are jealously protected by guilds that control various industries. It’s a civilization of great beauty and great ugliness. Improperly handled, aether is poisonous and pollution is widespread. Aether is absolutely essential to civilization. And it is running out.

I wouldn’t call MacLeod’s novel allegorical, but there are definite parallels to our civilization. Aether’s analogue in the real world is obviously petroleum. The civilization in the novel is perched on the edge of a great crash. Yet the crash doesn’t lead to the end of the world. Just a new Age. Kind of scary but in a way optimistic. (The sequel, House of Storms, describes a new Age, also powered by aether, and a different kind of crash. The novels are self-contained and I highly recommend both.)

Like MacLeod’s fictional aether, oil is terrible yet essential. It has allowed us to create works that previous generations — and maybe generations to follow — would call magic. Works that will likely end when the oil runs out. And it’s only one of the vital resources that are running out. When it happens, will it mean the end or just more change? It’s possible that another fuel for our civilization will turn up. Humans are pretty resourceful. Not much we can do except wait and see.

I have seen MacLeod’s novels referred to as “steampunk,” (again with the labels!) a blending of science fiction and fantasy that usually involves an alternate history where civilization reaches great heights using “old-fashioned” means. If you like to read and that appeals to you, check out The Light Ages and House of Storms. I would also recommend The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, a novel about high level computing during a strange alternate version of the Victorian Age; and Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, a steam-powered civilization so bizarre you can’t really describe it as alternate (or possible), that is dark, rich in detail and fascinating.

There is also a budding musical scene (fad?) called steampunk: Check out this article in the Guardian. The name describes the lyrical themes more than the style of music, which in the examples I’ve heard are basically cabaret. The Clockwork Quartet is one of those groups:

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Tame eclecticism: Think outside the box inside this box

Friends have picked on me before, saying, “He’ll listen to any kind of crap!” Meaning they thought I enjoyed some music that was unquestionably bad. Far from it. I judge music just like anyone else does: Is this good or does it suck? In fact, some of those people enjoy bands that I would describe as sucking. What they REALLY meant was I liked some music they didn’t see how anybody could like. I will cop to that.

I love a wide variety of music and often describe my musical tastes as eclectic. A friend recently noted however that the term eclectic seems to be evolving into a genre of sorts, one that doesn’t exactly have the same meaning I give it. He describes it as “liking music no one can deny has some universal quality.”

He bases his observation largely on a KUT radio show called Eklektikos (on Austin’s NPR station on 90.5 FM) and an online station called Radio Paradise (which describes itself as “eclectic rock radio”). I’ve listened to Eklektikos a lot more than Radio Paradise, but I can say I enjoy both immensely. I can listen for as long as I have time, and I will hear music I might not have heard otherwise. I can also just about guarantee I will like every song they play.  And the fact that I do like every song makes me think my friend might be onto something.

While they do play a lot of different types of music — especially Eklektikos — I know in my bones that If I subbed as a DJ and played what I wanted to play, I would very quickly put something on that would cause the people in charge to say, “Don’t you ever play that again.” (I’m thinking of things like Coil, Lustmord, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or even Mr. Bungle. If I found people who wanted to play those, I’d probably piss them off by wanting to play the Eagles or ZZ Top. That’s how I roll.)

There does seem to be a restriction on those examples that i can’t exactly put my finger on. While the fans of Eklektikos are very open-minded and enjoy being exposed to new music from unexpected directions, there are probably some directions most of them wouldn’t want to go. I think what it might come down to is the music shouldn’t be too challenging.

My mind is now open to the point that I don’t just enjoy listening to music from many genres or from genres I didn’t expect to like, I actually get a big kick out of artists who give me something I actively hate when I first hear it, who are able to convince me that I should love it. I like to be challenged. Of course there are times when I like to stick with old favorites and things that sound good from the beginning, but if that’s all I listen to, I will eventually get bored. My brain has to be spanked occasionally or I’m not happy.

I’m not sure if the two examples I mentioned are enough to judge whether eclectic is becoming a genre or not. In the spirit of questioning labels, however, I’m not going to cede the territory. Until I can think of something better, I’ll continue to call myself eclectic and mean what I think it means.

And don’t get me wrong. I highly recommend both the Eklektikos on KUT (and other great KUT shows as well) and Radio Paradise.

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