Monthly Archives: February 2011

Zach Anner wins show from Oprah’s network. Go Zach!

Normally I don’t give a crap about celebrity and I’m not a big fan of reality shows, but I am thrilled that Austin’s own Zach Anner will get the travel show he’s always wanted to make after winning the Your OWN Show contest on Oprah’s new network. (Buffalo, NY wants to claim him just because he grew up there, but they can’t have him.) In fact, it was a tie. Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco gets her cooking show as well.

I didn’t see it coming, but I think Oprah made the right decision. She wound up with two people who were too talented to let go. They would probably just get picked up by some other network at this point.

I got a chance to see Zach in person last night at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar at a viewing party put on by his friends from Lark the Beard Production Company (the guys from the Wingmen series on Youtube). For a while I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. My pickup overheated in the traffic on Lamar and I had to pull over a couple of times and let it cool off. But I did make it and had a great time watching the show. They started off showing some of Zach’s videos and he made wisecracks and told how they came about. He also gave some great commentary during the commercials as we waited to see who was going to win.

“I want you guys to root for Kristina too,” he said. “We’ve gotten to be really close. Plus, she’s really cute and looks like Sandra Bullock.” I didn’t think about it till he said that, but she does, kinda.

I had a feeling in the beginning that Zach had it in the bag, but I was still on pins and needles as they showed Kristina’s cooking show pilot and it was really good. Of course Zach’s was also excellent. Then the surprise ending came and got a standing ovation.

Zach said he’s known that he and Kristina won since October. “I had to come back and lie my pants off and hope everybody still liked me once they found out,” he said. His mother also knew, but “nobody goes outside in Buffalo in the winter” so it was easier for her to keep the secret.

Zach said the travel show will begin sometime in summer and he will start out visiting places in the States at least for a while before venturing out of the country.

I appreciated that he took time to meet with everyone and pose for pictures after the show. I felt a bit awkward at first, since I was with a bunch of people who knew him personally and I was just an “Internet person,” but he seemed genuinely happy to see me. I didn’t have a Reddit T-shirt to wear, but I told him I was part of the “Reddit wave” that helped him win the online voting. (That wave for Zach is also what got me to quit lurking and join that frustratingly addictive site.)

I loved the way he dealt with the question about the online voting controversy last summer that turned out to be a tempest in a teapot (People noticed Zach’s total was dropping for a time — most likely it was just the tech guys working for Oprah trying to combat mass voting by mischief-makers from 4-chan, God love ’em).

“I didn’t really think about it,” he said. “There was so much positive news to think about. I don’t have any idea how the Internet works. As far as I know I still have Compuserve.” Funny and graceful as always. In fact though, I believe he does know quite a bit about how Internet culture works, a perspective that might prove valuable to people on Oprah’s network who are probably somewhat baffled by it.

Can’t wait to see Zach’s show. I know it’ll be great. I don’t have the premium cable channels, but I might have to sign up by summer.

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Daniel Knox’s Evryman for Himself to get full label release, tour with Handsome Family set for May

Just got some exciting news from Daniel Knox, one of my favorite recent discoveries. His album, Evryman for Himself, is getting an “official” release from Pennsylvania label La Société Expéditionnaire. I and some other fans managed to get hold of the album before this — and I’m already in love with it — but the album has been “revised, remastered and only slightly re-recorded” to become what Daniel considers its definitive form. Now we’ve got two versions for nerds like me to collect and hoard once he becomes as famous as he deserves to be. The official release is scheduled for May. Folks who bought the first version will get a discount on the new one.

Daniel is also planning to tour in the UK with Brett and Rennie Sparks of the Handsome Family and making an appearance at Amanda Stern’s Happy Ending Reading Series in NYC at Joe’s Pub. Late spring shows are planned for Chicago and New York “and more stateside dates to be announced soon.” (It would be awesome if “stateside” includes Austin…)

If you want to get an immediate Daniel Knox fix, check out the amazing album Disaster on Bandcamp. You can stream it, or download it for $1 per song or $8 for the album.

If you’re lucky enough to live in the UK, see if you can catch one of these shows:

05.09.11 SHEFFIELD, UK GREYSTONE
05.10.11 MANCHESTER, UK BAND ON THE WALL
05.11.11 GATESHEAD, UK SAGE (Hall 2)
05.13.11 NORWICH, UK ARTS CENTRE
05.14.11 READING, UK SOUTH STREET ARTS CENTRE
05.15.11 EXETER, UK PHOENIX
05.16.11 BRISTOL, UK THE FLEECE
05.17.11 LONDON, UK TABERNACLE

If you want to see just how crazy I am about Daniel Knox, read the post I wrote back in September:

Daniel Knox ‘s strange beautiful songs could be future American standards

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Down to the last two people: Zach Anner might just pull this off and get a show from Oprah

Gotta digress from the music for a bit and say congratulations to Zach Anner of Austin. I posted about him in June, after I saw his hilarious audition video. He made it to the Your OWN Show competition as a wild card after the Internet fell in love with him and now it’s down to only him and one other person. I think he’s got it in the bag, but we’ll find out next week.

I think he’s got a career in show biz coming whether he wins this or not. He’s got an amazing amount of charisma. Soon as he opens his mouth you forget he’s in a wheelchair. You just see a person with a lot of gumption and empathy — and a great talent for making people laugh.

His interview with Oprah Winfrey really shows what he’s made of. She interviewed him and he turned it around and interviewed her. Very good questions too. See for yourself. I think this guy is a star in the making.

 

Edit: If you didn’t know, Zach won, as did Kristina (I should’ve seen it coming, but I was surprised). I got to see the finale at a watch party in Austin and got to meet the new TV star in person. I posted about that here.

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Mistaken Eternity – Donovan inspires a new generation with soundtrack project

Just ran across a really cool video set to a song by Donovan called “Mistaken Eternity.” The video is sort of an Alice in Wonderland-meets-doppelganger story. Very trippy. Ally Rae James made it with her friend Molly Peters (the actress) for a competition. Donovan made a series of songs for something called Ritual Groove – a Soundtrack for a Movie Not Yet Made. The winners get a trip to Hollywood and meet filmmakers, as well as Donovan himself.

Here’s the entry. See for yourself:

I think the Ally’s video is amazing, especially considering she’s only 19! I also think she’s got an excellent chance of winning one of the top spots and a trip to Hollywood. Even if that doesn’t happen, I see a lot of potential. She ought to find a career doing something creative in my opinion. She’s also a musician, by the way. I first ran across her on TheSixtyOne where she posted a bunch of playful songs, her singing and accompanying herself on ukulele. I got a kick out of “Psychedelic Elephant” and her cover of Lil Jon’s raunchy “Get Low.” Her song, “Dear Mr. Leitch” was an early tipoff to her fondness for Donovan (Leitch is his last name). I’ll set aside my grudge against T61 for a while and link to her page there, since I don’t know where else you can find her stuff. Maybe LastFM?

I was born too late to see Donovan during his heyday, but I did get to see him play in a church at South By Southwest a few years back and enjoyed the hell out of it. He performed all the hits I knew of, plus some I hadn’t heard yet. He came across as a really sweet guy. Good musician too. Still relevant? Apparently so, if he can inspire someone Ally’s age (born in 1991!) to such creative heights.

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Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy win gives me hope

Big congratulations to Esperanza Spalding for winning Best New Artist of the year at the Grammys (even though it upset some Justin Bieber fans — too bad so sad). Interesting that her name means “hope” in Spanish. Could this be a sign of hope for the music industry that has been giving us one uninspired musical act after another? I’ve been following Esperanza’s career since she was a teenager, singing and playing bass with a Portland, Oregon group called Noise for Pretend. I thought back then she was headed for the big time and it looks like I was right.

I am glad Esperanza’s Grammy award is getting her solo work some attention, but I thought I would post a bit of her work with Noise for Pretend, which I fell in love with back in 2002. Check out their album, Happy You Near — full of blissful indie pop laced with jazz and Brazilian influences. I love every song on it.

This one is “Due to Lamplooking” from Noise for Pretend’s Happy You Near:

To be honest, I wasn’t as crazy about the stuff I heard from her first solo album Junjo. I’m a marginal jazz fan at best and not a huge fan of scatting and she did a lot of that. I preferred her Brazilian-influenced indie pop sound. Her more recent material has gotten more and more accessible, however, and apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed. I think she has the potential to be even bigger than Norah Jones, who can be pretty samey and wear thin after a while.

Here’s a great example of the kind of music Esperanza is making today: 

Beautiful music from a beautiful young lady.

It’s interesting the way things interconnect. I discovered Esperanza’s group Noise for Pretend because they were on an album of Bjork cover songs called Read: Interpreting Bjork put out by Hush Records. It was the first “e-album” I ever downloaded on the Internet — all mp3s, no physical product — a novel concept in 2002 (it did come out on CD in 2004). I liked Noise for Pretend’s cover of “Oh So Quiet” and decided to order their split EP with Blanket Music. While I was on the Hush Records website, scoping out their products, I saw an interesting album cover: an old-fashioned sailing ship, with ghosts floating into the sky. I thought, what the hell, I’ll order that too. It turned out to be Castaways and Cutouts by the Decemberists, long before they became the indie rock darlings they are today. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, a rule that applies to albums as well, but in that case it really worked.

I have immense respect for Hush Records and its founder Chad Crouch for helping to kickstart the career of those wonderful artists. Stop by sometime and check out some of their other talent. And you might give Chad’s own group Blanket Music a try. It took some getting used to — the vocals sound off key at first — but eventually you realize he’s doing it on purpose. Kind of comes across like someone relaxing in a hammock somewhere in the tropics, too chilled out or stoned to bother finding the exact notes to the song.

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