Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mind if we dance wit' showdates?

Saturday, 2.11.2012 - Stoogeaphilia @ the Wherehouse w/Mike Haskins Experience, Fungi Girls, Doom Ghost
Sunday, 2.26.2012 - HIO @ the Cellar w/Sarah Alexander & Julie McKendrick
Sunday, 3.25.2012 - HIO @ the Cellar w/Darryl Wood
Saturday, 4.14.2012 - HIO @ Incense & Peppermints (Oak Cliff)
Wednesday, 4.18.2012 - Stoogeaphilia @ Lola's (our 6th anniversary: two sets, free)
Saturday, 4.21.2012 - HIO @ Doc's Records (Record Store Day) w/Darrin Kobetich (CD release), Clint Niosi, The Panic Basket, Kavin Allenson
Sunday, 4.29.2012 - HIO @ the Cellar w/JoCo
Sunday, 5.27.2012 - HIO @ the Cellar w/TBD

JATSDFM - "North Sea Symphony No. 1"

Here's Hickey's soundtrack to T. Horn's new short film. Incestuous enough for ya?

The Black Keys' "El Camino"

When I first heard of these guys, I thought, "Oh great. Just what the world needs: _another_ fuckin' two-piece blues band. Feh." That was seven albums ago, and I only just actually heard them a few weeks ago, when Frank Cervantez laid a copy of Brothers on me and shut my mouth. With album art evocative of Howlin' Wolf's This is Howlin' Wolf's new album, Brothers was a nasty blast of bloozy Rawk, redolent of all manner of '60s-'70s stuff I dig, from Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac to Funkadelic to the Jeff Lynne-era Move to T. Rex, with the sickest 2011 guitar tones this side of St. Vincent, proof positive (as if any more were needed) that Ohio is truly the secret music capital of America.

Black Keys frontguy Dan Auerbach just might be the best American rock singer in a generation or two, his voice alternately channeling the spiritually blasted masculinity of P. Green (who, alone among his '60s Brit peers, recognized blues as an existential state rather than a musical form, and gave us some of the most emotionally naked statements ever made via pop song), the rasp of Move/ELO/Traveling Wilburys popmeister J. Lynne, and the enervatedly effete vibrato of T. Rex's doomed star Marc Bolan -- sometimes within the same song. And he's got a library of minor-key riffs that infuse his songs with the proper amount of grit, no matter how catchy and hooky they become. For an example of how this can work, dig "Gold On the Ceiling," with "Lynne" and "Bolan" voices in full effect and a guitar break consisting of a single repeated figure that drills its way into your brain.

Speaking of songs, the ones on El Camino were all written in the studio, in collaboration with producer Danger Mouse, and they're uniformly uptempo: Apparently, the size of the crowds the Black Keys have been playing to in the wake of Brothers' success freaked 'em out a little, and they responded by speeding up their jams a bit. "Lonely Boy," f'rinstance, starts out like it might be a stoner rock apocalypse before drummer Patrick Carney comes in with a fast, blood-simple bumpa-chicka rockabilly beat that takes it somewhere Entahrly Other, confounding the listener's expectations. It's a remarkably effective gambit. Make no mistake: This is 21st century pop music, but it's 21st century pop music built on a rock-solid foundation that reaches from Charlie Patton to Led Zeppelin. (Dig the second half of "Little Black Submarines," which could be a Presence outtake, down to the sloppily precise guitar solo.)

That said, in more ways than just Auerbach's vocal similarity to Jeff Lynne, the proximate model for much of El Camino is ELO, after that Move spinoff ditched '67 Beatles copyism to take on the pop (and R&B!) forms of its day around Face the Music time -- not a period I'm particularly keen on myself, but I think the analogy is apt. Rather than merely providing an auditory bath for listeners to immerse themselves in, the Black Keys are now using their raw materials to craft memorable tuneage to engage the ear and backside a la ELO. (Just listen to "Run Right Back," "Sister," or the closing "Mind Eraser.") "Money Maker," on the other hand, is an invigorating blast of Estrus Records-like garage-revival grunt that includes a head-spinning, electronically altered solo. "Dead and Gone" and "Nova Baby" add some Motown to the mix, and make me want Danger Mouse to produce the next Scott Morgan album.

At this point, the Black Keys seem just about unstoppable. I can't wait to hear what they'll do next. More to the point, I need to investigate their earlier work. Gee, it's nice to have a mainstream -- cover of Rolling Stone, even -- rock band to root for again. (Released on Nonesuch Records, which I remember from childhood as the label that released all the Renaissance recorder music my big sis used to listen to, now better known, I suppose, as Wilco's label.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

1.29.2012, FTW

My rule of thumb is that if 50 people say they're coming to your Facebook event, 12 will show up, and none of them will be the same people who said they were coming. HIO had 30 people (including the musicians) respond affirmatively to our social networking schmatter for the first "Improvised Silence" at the Cellar, and we had an inordinate amount of press (Fort Worth Weekly, Dallas Observer _twice_, Star-Telegram).

Nevertheless, the band boys were laying bets on how many people would actually show. Hickey said one, I said three, and T. Horn said five, which wound up winning, based on our audience consisting of Cam Long from Merkin and four people that Darrin Kobetich brought. (Bar-sitters don't count; they would if there was a cover. My sweetie predicted ten, but she's an optimist and very kind.)

Still and all, it was a success, by HIO standards; Hickey even opines it was our best live performance ever. In Mark Kitchens -- Terry's Stone Machine Electric bandmate, now an "associate" member of HIO, along with Big Marcus -- we've finally found a sympathetic, _listening_ percussionist, who doubles on cigarbox guitars (he's another instrument builder) and electronics (which he didn't employ on this particular occasion). Our guest performers for the evening were Darrin Kobetich on sitar and cumbus and Giri Akkaraju on mrindingam and other hand drums; both were interactive and responsive in the best possible ways.

At different times, I was cuing off Mark and Darrin, playing a fretless Six Flags guitar Terry brought, which I tuned D-A-D-E-B-E and alternately fingerpicked and played with eBow and slide; the electric kalimba, broken autoharp, and plastic recorders; and a metal sculpture that was in the "stage" area, which I played with beaters after attaching a contact mic. Terry performed on turntables, laptop, and percussion, while Hickey functioned as "bassplayer" on electric gopichand. Our first set lasted an hour and 17 minutes; our second was 45 minutes, I think. Terry, Hickey, and Kitchens all documented at least portions of the evening. Film, as they say, at 11. And we made ten bucks at the end of the night. Hooray!

Next "Improvised Silence" will be February 26th with Dentonites Sarah Alexander and Julie McKendrick; it's always the last Sunday of the month at the Cellar, starting at 9pm. HIO is also tentatively booked to play at Oak Cliff printshop/gallery Incense & Peppermints on April 14th, and at Doc's Records on April 21st (Record Store Day) with Darrin Kobetich (CD release), Clint Niosi, The Panic Basket, and Kavin Allenson.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Improvised Silence in the Star-Telegram

The Star-Telegram's Preston Jones gave us a shout-out. (It's in the last paragraph.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mo' Jass

I don't pretend to be a jazz expert. I remarked to my sweetie this afternoon that the way I listen to jazz is comparable to, say, someone who keeps reading Ulysses and Moby Dick over and over, and nothing else. It's taken me 40 years to absorb Ornette and Cecil, and now I'm really just getting started on the AACM. For shame. A few other way stations on the journey:

1) FZ. I've written elsewhere about how Weasels Ripped My Flesh prepared me to hear Ascension. Other important gateways were Waka/Jawaka and the second side of The Grand Wazoo. Listening to live bootlegs of Zappa's '72 "music music," one realizes how at sea he was, on the mend from near-fatal injuries in between the end of the Flo and Eddie band and the one with George Duke, Ruth Underwood, and Napoleon Murphy Brock that caused his cult to balloon.

2) Fuzak. Being a rockarolla of a certain age, I was once a sucker for what St. Lester referred to in print as "Mahaherbiehancockorea." Jeff Beck's Blow By Blow alerted my high school guitar mentor and me to the idea that maybe we should learn how to play good. We were wrong, of course, but the ex-Yardbird (whom I admire as much for Truth as for anything else) did go on to become a Zen master of guitar in spite of us. Personally I found John McLaughlin, Beck's avowed inspiration in this move, to be a mixed bag: I liked his early albums Extrapolation and especially Devotion (with Buddy Miles and Larry Young) fine, but to my then-less-feedback-scorched ears, the Mahavishnu Orchestra sounded like nothing more than the music one would hear in an elevator descending to Hell. (In this regard, it was not unlike King Crimson.) That said, I liked his drummer Billy Cobham's album Spectrum real much, especially a tune called "Stratus" that Beck actually covered on his Live At Ronnie Scott's DVD a couple of years ago. During my three semesters at SUNY Albany, I attended performances by Weather Report (the Alphonso Johnson lineup) and Larry Coryell's Eleventh House (my friends and I were obnoxiously drunk and yelled "ROCK AND ROLL!" throughout the opening set by violinist Michael Urbaniak and his scat-singing wife Ursula Dudziak; Larry -- who had once foolishly thought he could cut Hendrix with his bebop chops -- used a device called a Mu-Tron excessively, while his drummer Alphonze Mouzon ran laps on his double bass pedals). Later, I witnessed the New Tony Williams Lifetime with Allan Holdsworth. Tony was the loudest drummer I ever heard until I met Jon Teague; it wasn't until I heard him on Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro and Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch that I came to appreciate his musicality. Holdsworth -- whom we have to blame, at least in part, for Eddie Van Halen (and Bill Pohl) -- was technically astonishing but also kind of monochromatic. Probably the best of this bunch was the Gateway Trio that teamed guitarist John Abercrombie with the ex-Miles Davis riddim team of Dave Holland (bs) and Jack DeJohnette (ds). Abercrombie was a little more subtle and slippery than Beck, McLaughlin, Coryell, or Holdsworth. I hear echoes of him in the latter-day work of Nels Cline and Bill Frisell, who both emerged in the late '70s but didn't enter my consciousness until much, much later. Holland was the leader on Conference of the Birds, an era-defining sesh that teamed AACM figurehead Anthony Braxton with Blue Note/loft eminence Sam Rivers, and now leads a big band of note. DeJohnette went on to make lots of interesting records, my favorite of which is New Edition (not the boy band), with David Murray and Arthur Blythe (see below).

3) The Fifties. What a year 1959 was: Kind of Blue, Giant Steps, Mingus Ah Um, The Shape of Jazz To Come and Change of the Century. I love the Sonny Rollins of 1957, the Miles Davis Quintet of 1956, and all of Thelonious Monk. But I'm not an aficionado of the period. I remember a coworker at a record store where I moonlighted in the late '90s asking me what my "favorite obscure Blue Note album" was. I muttered something about Fuschia Swing Song, busied myself stocking CDs, and went red.

4) Ornette alumni. As important a figure as he's been in my life, I'm ashamed to say I've never seen Ornette Coleman live. I had tickets to see him once in New York but the show was canceled, and when he and his harmolodic progeny were regular visitors to Caravan of Dreams, I was busy being in the Air Force and starting a family. But I did see Old and New Dreams the first time I visited New York after moving to Texas. I'd been a Don Cherry fan since hearing Eternal Rhythm (Don and Sonny Sharrock with European free improvisers in 1968, and an important influence on my part, at least, of HIO), Brown Rice (which was simply called Don Cherry when I had it on vinyl ca. '76, a funky harmolodic world music record with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins), Relativity Suite (with the Jazz Composers Orchestra), and the first Old and New Dreams record on Black Saint (which I recently found on CD while crate-digging at Recycled). Charlie Haden, who grew up playing in a family bluegrass band like Matt Hembree and whose daughter Petra has made a couple of records that I really like, recorded a great series of duet albums back in the '70s: Closeness and The Golden Number (mentioned in a previous post), As Long As There's Music with pianist Hampton Hawes, and Soapsuds, Soapsuds with Ornette. I missed out on his Liberation Music Orchestra records until the G.W. Bush-era Not In Our Name, and now like Ballad of the Fallen even better. My favorite Haden, though, remains Haunted Heart, the '92 release by his L.A. noir-themed band Quartet West which I was able to buy in an Air Force base exchange the year I got out. Ronald Shannon Jackson, who drummed in Ornette's original Prime Time and one of Cecil Taylor's most demanding and rewarding Units, made great records throughout the '80s with his own Decoding Society, including Eye On You, Mandance (which remains a regular spin at mi casa), and When Colors Play. He's still playing and composing here in the Fort. I never really "got" James "Blood" Ulmer's '70s albums, and didn't hear his magnum opus Odyssey until many years after its '84 release.

5) "Great men." Before there was Wynton Marsalis, CBS tried to market Arthur Blythe, a good alto saxophonist from California via Lower Manhattan, as the Next Big Thing in Jazz. Blythe made good records, too. His major label debut Lenox Avenue Breakdown was a breath of fresh air in '79, a marriage of exploratory freedom and accessability; you could even dance to the title track, if you were so inclined. The follow-up collection of standards suffered from an ugly, shrill mastering job, but Blythe's masterpiece was probably his third album, Illusions, which alternated selections by a band featuring tuba, cello, and electric guitar with a straight-ahead quartet featuring Air's rhythm team of Fred Hopkins (bs) and Steve McCall (ds). Hopkins is all over the Wildflowers set referred to in a previous post, and I was a fan of Air's Air Lore (wherein they reimagined Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton) when it was new; since then, leader Henry Threadgill has gone on to do even more interesting things. (Burn me that Zooid album, Terry?) The best recorded performance I've ever heard by Hopkins and McCall is "Miss Nancy," a track from Blythe's Illusions. While I was stationed in Louisiana in '91, I somehow managed to stumble on a copy of Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages, simultaneously a great guitar record (the master of skronk had really gotten his tone together in the '80s -- see his overdubbed solo Guitar) and the closest thing you could find at that late date to a new Coltrane record (Elvin Jones and Pharaoh Sanders in full effect, along with Charnett Moffett, whom I'd once seen levitate the Recovery Room in Dallas with his brothers when he was _almost_ in his teens). The records Sharrock made with Last Exit (which also included Shannon Jackson and saxophonist Peter Brotzmann) are almost too intense to listen to, in the same way that Fushitsusha is. It's sad that Sonny passed in 1994, on the verge of signing with RCA. Another improbable find of my last year in the Air Force was Joe Henderson's Lush Life, the estimable tenorman's tribute to Ellington's collaborator Billy Strayhorn, and So Near, So Far, wherein he explored Miles Davis' music (having had the shortest tenure in Miles' band of anyone since Sam Rivers) in the company of ex-Miles sidemen Al Foster and John Scofield. Speaking of Miles, while his '80s resurgence never really did it for me, I became a fan of his '73-'75 period my last year on active duty, when I heard Agharta and Pangaea for the first time and discovered Pete Cosey. Finally, I've heard a smidgin of the prodigious recorded outputs of David Murray and David S. Ware, but I'm more impressed than moved by their achievements. Maybe I just haven't heard the right records. Now back to trying to parse George Lewis' very select AACM discography.

Peter Helms Feresten: "my mind wanders to the south side of town"

Christopher Blay sends:

This exhibit is a composite vignette of Peter Feresten’s labyrinthine portfolio. The works in this exhibit focus particularly on the photographer’s strong affinity for the south side of Fort Worth and his anthropological drive to document the marginalized and unfamiliar parts of the city. Feresten’s work is an irreplaceable document of where he lived and an honest portrait of the city.

“Peter was born June 15, 1945, in Fall River, Mass., to Wanda and Morris Feresten. He was trained in the social sciences and studied comparative religion at Columbia University, as well as fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design. Arriving in Fort Worth in 1975, he dedicated himself to public education and developed a program for the serious study of photography at Tarrant County College. He brought his unique vision and the art of his photography to so many in the Fort Worth area. In addition to the people he touched through teaching, Peter left a significant body of photographs of the Stockyards of the 1970s, as well as the churches and blues clubs of Fort Worth's African American community." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 20-21, 2007)

This exhibit is free and open to the public. The Art Corridor II Gallery at TCC Southeast (2100 Southeast Parkway, Arlington) is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The show opens February 2nd and runs through March 8th.

Improvised Silence in the Dallas Observer

Dallas Observer scribe Jesse Hughey also gave a shout out to HIO's impending gig.

ADDENDUM: But wait, there's more -- T. Horn talked to the Observer's Audra Schroeder.

Jass: The Devil's Music?

I've already blogged at length elsewhere about my obsessions with Ornette, Cecil, and Mingus, but lately, after reading George Lewis' AACM book, it seems like all I want to hear is jazz from the '70s -- the stuff I was into when I briefly gave up rock 'n' roll in favor of Monday night wrestling, and became a jazz snob.

So I've been re-reading Gary Giddins' Weather Bird: Jazz At the Dawn of Its Second Century, a collection of his essays from the decade-plus (1990-2003) when I got out of the Air Force and, by degrees, back into music -- for it was Giddins' Village Voice scrawl, more than any other scribe's (although I was also an avid reader of Rafi Zabor, Francis Davis, and Howard Mandel), that helped me begin to get a handle on jazz from '75 (when I dropped out of college, my head full of chemicals, Harry Partch, and Captain Beefheart) until the early '90s, when I finally let my Village Voice subscription lapse.

I've also been revisiting The Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson's bloggage on '73-'90 jazz, which reminded me of some things I'd forgotten, and pulled my coat to some others I'd missed. (Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds and Billy Hart's Enchance, for just two, and more surprisingly, two Charlie Haden albums that slipped by me when they were new: The Golden Number -- a much better record than the earlier Closeness, which I failed to realize when I had both as a teen -- and The Ballad of the Fallen.)

A couple of triple CD anthologies got me started down this road. The first one is Jazzactuel, a compendium of material released on the forward-looking French BYG label between '69 and '71, curated by noted obscurantists Thurston Moore and Byron Coley. (It's currently Amazon-available for about 40 bucks, although I've seen copies at Recycled in Denton recently for less. Recycled is also your best Metromess source for the Italian Black Saint label's catalog. You heard it here first. Next time I'm in li'l d, I need to hunt for Muhal Richard Abrams' Hearinga Suite and Blu Blu Blu.) The BYG sessions -- which Lewis describes as "ad hoc, impromptu, even insouciant" -- captured a particular moment when the '60s American avant-garde, including familiars of Ayler, Coltrane, Ornette and Cecil as well as AACM expats and Sun Ra, was at its zenith in terms of international esteem, and the label was as important in its way as ESP-Disk, Delmark, Nessa, Blue Note, and Impulse at documenting the new music.

More to the point as a listening experience (to these feedback-scorched ears, at least) is Wildflowers: Loft Jazz New York 1976, an audio snapshot, produced by Alan Douglas of "dead Hendrix" fame, of a week-long festival at Sam Rivers' Studio Rivbea that I had as a download before iTunes took a dump and obliterated 70% of my downloaded music; I recently scored a CD copy for about 20 bucks. Wildflowers features a nice mixture of '60s veterans and the Chicago, St. Louis, and California crews that arrived in New York in the early '70s to revitalize (artistically, if not commercially) the jazz underground there. A few leaders are featured on both sets (Anthony Braxton, Dave Burrell, Cecil Taylor Unit mainstays Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons, Art Ensemble of Chicago founder Roscoe Mitchell, Sunny Murray). Wildflowers participants like Braxton, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, and Rivers himself went on to make some of the most intriguing music of the '70s and succeeding decades, which I continue to investigate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

JATSDFM - "Schematics"

That busy beaver Hickey gots another single out. How on Earth does he do it?

ADDENDUM: It's also here in downloadable form.

Improvised Silence in the FW Weekly

This week, the Fort Worth Weekly's "Hearsay" column includes a blurb about Improvised Silence, HIO's new monthly gig at the Cellar on Berry St. Read all about it, then c'mon. Starts at 9pm, and it's free.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nels Cline's Rig Rundown

Jeff Adcock and Frank Cervantez are rekindling my equipment lust. Thanks, fellas.

Monday, January 23, 2012

1.23.2012, FTW

Finished reading George E. Lewis' A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, probably the best music book I've read since Lloyd Bradley's Bass Culture. Lewis combines an insider's insight (he joined the AACM in 1971) with extensive interviews he conducted with fellow members and an academic's perspective (he's a Columbia University faculty member) to tell a story that's particularly compelling to one as obsessed with the idea of music-as-community-fulcrum as your humble chronicler o' events.

Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians germinated in the mid-'60s in response to the demise of the local club scene there. Creative musicians who'd developed their skills through a combination of private teaching, high school programs, and autodidacticism (working with recordings, seeking mentors from among more experienced players, practicing with peers) sought to find performance venues for their original music, which deviated from the dominant fixed performance model (standard repertoire and small group instrumentation which was cheaper to book because it didn't require extensive rehearsal), by becoming their own promoters, relying on grass-roots funding as well as the Cold War-spawned government arts bureaucracy.

Their cooperative aesthetic flew in the face of the "great man" theory of jazz, typified by the heroic solo, and the competitive model of music making typified by "best musician" polls. They sought to erase the dichotomies between composer and improviser, and "high" and "low" art.

In Chicago, they had an organic connection with their community as teachers (the AACM ran its own music school) and role models of Afrocentric pride and economic self-determination. Founding AACM members achieved international success when they traveled to Europe -- where their popularity could be seen as a reflection of local attitudes toward the political turbulence of the day -- and New York, where they were forced to compete economically not only with the mainstream but with the previous generation of the avant-garde. Expatriates not only from Chicago, but also St. Louis (home of the Black Artists Group) and California (where Horace Tapscott's L.A.-based Union of God's Musicians and Artist's Ascension performed a similar role to the AACM and BAG) were a vital part of the New York jazz underground during the late-'70s "loft jazz" era (a label they reject).

Their economic fortunes flagged with the coming of the '80s, when Wynton Marsalis and the neoconservative "young lions" that followed in his wake were anointed the arbiters of "real" jazz by the critical fraternity and Ken Burns. (Lewis quotes Dr. George Lipsitz: "Struggles over meaning are invariably struggles over resources.") The most prominent -- AACM founder Muhal Richard Abrams, the musicians in the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill -- retain their undeniable stature. Lesser-known latter-day members maintain the AACM tradition in Chicago.

On a much less exalted note, I've been borrowing Ray's Gibson SG-1 since the last Stoogeshow. It was burnt up in a fire, and he's chosen to leave the neck unfinished, while the body is painted a Sherman tank olive green, and he had James Atkinson install a humbucking pickup in place of the original single-coil in the bridge position. Its action reminds me of SGs I had when I was young, which has been motivating me to practice guitar at home again, something I almost never do.

With my Hughes & Kettner -- consigned to HIO gigs since I bought Cody Yates' Twin -- I can get a decent saturated tone at a volume that won't disturb the cats, and I've been woodshedding on rock stuff I can't play in the Stoogeband (although I'm trying, so far unsuccessfully, to persuade Richard Hurley that we need to break in Blue Oyster Cult's "Hot Rails to Hell"), like Steve Hunter's intro to "Sweet Jane" from Uncle Lou's Rock and Roll Animal. I doubt it'll change the way I play with the Stoogeband, but as my sweetie points out, it's just nice to be able to enjoy playing again in a setting other than onstage with a band.

Carey Wolff


"Our Song":

Friday, January 20, 2012

FZ, Roxy '73

It's been five years now since the ZFT posted these two songs, from the shows that produced the Roxy and Elsewhere album. While it's highly unlikely that a DVD release is imminent, it'd sure be welcome. The Brock/Duke/Fowler/Fowler/Humphrey/Thompson/Underwood lineup was something special.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My statistically insignificant ballot from the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll

...is here. I'm ashamed of voting with the crowd on the Tom Waits, but happy I could give some play to New Fumes, the Fungi Girls, Mark Growden, the Great Tyrant, and Allen Lowe. Surprised I was the only vote for Rocket From the Tombs and Boris. Oh well.

St. Vincent 4AD Session

Courtesy of Jeff Adcock, who once brought a suitcase full of fuzzboxes to my house (bless him). I swear, this woman gets the sickest tones of anybody this side of Nels Cline, and her latest album Strange Mercy is the best latter-day American psych this side of the Flaming Lips. But don't take my word for it, spend the next 15 minutes watching this.

1.17.2012, FTW

The li'l Stoogeband had a better-than-average show at the Cowtown Bowling Palace in River Oaks last Saturday night. It's a surprisingly good sounding room (we borrowed Pablo & the Hemphill 7's PA), we had a decent crowd (some of which we lost by taking a too-long break between sets, something I'd forgotten about since our aborted residency at the late Black Dog Tavern back in 2006, but we thankfully gained a few newbs for the second set), only alienated a few of the regs, and got the payout we were promised before Tyler Stevens had to split to go see her better half jammin' out with Confusatron at the Wherehouse.

The presence of two off-duty River Oaks police officers made some folks antsy, but they were just there getting paid like we were (the place is open 24 hours and they don't want to get jacked, I reckon) and were congenial enough, although I don't imagine they really dug our jams. Only non-snazz aspect was the inability of Rat and Calvin from the Asian Media Crew to rent bowling shoes (Rat thinks "They don't have Asian size").

Hembree opined that our unfamiliarity with our surroundings probably caused us to be more attentive than usual to what we were doing, despite the fact that 80% of the band was under the weather (Richard was "only mentally ill") and I had the worst onstage headache of my life -- a blinding skull-splitter -- throughout the second set. Teague did point out, however, that all of us started "TV Eye" on different beats -- "I was waiting to hear two people who were together so I could join them, but it never happened" -- which the audience, thankfully, didn't seem to notice or care about.

At the end of the night, I think the Stoogeaphiles were collectively happier than I've ever seen us after a show. We'd do it again. Next: the Wherehouse on 2.11 with the Mike Haskins Experience, Fungi Girls, and Doom Ghost, a dream show of sorts for your humble chronicler o' events.

Currently reading George E. Lewis' A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, a scholarly tome by one who was there that explores musical developments in the context of frequently ignored racial, economic, and gender issues, and invites the reader to rethink conventional critical wisdom in the same way as Joe Carducci's Rock and the Pop Narcotic or Allen Lowe's volumes of historiography.


If heavy makes you happy, Fort Worth is a pretty good place to be right now, with bands like Vorvon, Unraveler, china kills girls, Southern Train Gypsy, Stone Machine Electric, the resurgent Garuda, and FTW treading the boards.

Myself, I've never been a big fan of heavy. Back in high school, when my age cohort were going apeshit over Black Sabbath (and Grand Funk Railroad), I was digging the Yardbirds and John Lee Hooker. Who'd have guessed in 1970 that Sabbath would prove to be the most durably influential rock band of that year, 40 years on? I once wrote a review of an Electric Wizard album that started with "I hate this fucking record" and ended with "There isn't an amount of marijuana on Earth that would make this listenable." The era of stoner sludge jogged some memories -- what did Soundgarden sound like, besides Ronnie Dio fronting Sabbath? -- and during the Wreck Room's heyday, Jon Teague taught me to stop worrying and love the doom via Boris' Akuma No Uta and Sleep's Jerusalem. Still, I've walked out on Nebula three times, more than any national band.

But Sean Vargas, whom I've seen at shows around the Fort for ages and whom I recently learned is FTW's frontman, laid a copy of his band's self-released four-song CD on me the other night, when the li'l Stoogeband was playing two sets in a bowling alley in River Oaks, and this morning, I slipped it in the player while I was washing dishes. It started skipping in the middle of the first song (our CD player is getting senile), but I thought enough of what I'd heard to rip it to iTunes so I could hear the whole thing.

Even if you're not a fan of doom metal, you've gotta admit that these guys know what they're doing. Guitarist Jonathan Hill and bassist Nick Huff lock in with thunderous unison rifferama and fuzz-and-wah laden solo excursions, while drummer Mike McBride pounds his kit like he was driving coffin nails in the best Bill Ward tradition. Up front, Vargas -- who recorded all his vocals in one take -- tortures his tonsils like a hybrid of Dio and Matt Pike, a soul-wrenching squall of anomie and melody. He's not just screaming, either -- cat can hit them notes, making him a contender for the most powerful vocalist in the 817. In fact, there's just enough passion and blues (read Joe Carducci and Charles Shaar Murray on the [d]evolution of blues to metal) in FTW's grooves to make a believer out of a skeptic. Check 'em out.

(Their web presence is apparently limited to a Facebook page, so look for the one from Fort Worth and ignore the imposter FTWs from Manchester, UK, and Burlington, MA.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Peaking Lights

Another boss find from Cervantez. Have to investigate these folks more.

Peaking Lights live on WFMU from WFMU on Vimeo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stoogeaphilia, Mike Haskins Experience, Fungi Girls and Doom Ghost @ the Wherehouse, 2.11.2012

Nervebreakers - "Face Up to Reality"

One of my favorite bands on Earth, and part of the reason why I am in Texas, rides again. Video by Frank Campagna.

The Nervebreakers - Face Up to Reality from Bob Childress on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tyshawn Sorey's "Oblique-I"

I first became aware of Newark-born composer-drummer-pianist-trombonist Tyshawn Sorey back in 2009, when I reviewed Fieldwork's Door, on which he drummed, and Koan, his second album as a leader, for Fort Worth Weekly. Of the former, I wrote, "Sorey comes as close to dominating the proceedings here as Tony Williams did on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch and Miles Davis’ Filles de Kilimanjaro," while Koan, I noted, was "clearly a composer's record, a work of minimalist formalism."

Sorey combines the cerebral with the visceral like no one since the teenage Williams (who recorded the reflective Life Time at the same time he was propelling Miles Davis' quintet into the stratosphere), and like Williams, on his own dates, he's a composer first, with an interest in exploring the concepts of space and repetition pioneered by Morton Feldman. His first album, 2007's prodigious That Not, was a double CD that offered an additional 70 minutes of music via download. Its highlights included a 43-minute Feldman homage, "Permutations for Solo Piano." Sorey's also an in-demand player: the website for Pi Records, which released Sorey's new album Oblique-I back in September, notes that he's appeared on more of the label's releases than any other drummer. Besides Fieldwork, he's also a member of Paradoxical Frog, another cooperative trio.

Sorey's interest in composition has been nurtured in academia by prolific reedman, composer, and avant-garde icon Anthony Braxton at Connecticut's Wesleyan University, where Sorey earned a master's degree, and at Columbia University, where he's currently enrolled in a doctoral program under the tutelage of trombonist and Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians eminence George Lewis. The ascendancy of the AACM, of which Braxton was also a member, to the academy means that certain collegiate jazz programs, rather than training further legions of Maynard Ferguson-aping scream trumpeters or Wayne Shorter-inspired composing saxophonists, are committed to continuing the creative concepts of the '60s and '70s jazz avant-garde -- a welcome development that your humble chronicler o' events, at least, couldn't have foreseen.

To these feedback-scorched ears, Oblique-I -- I believe that's a Roman numeral and not a first person singular -- recalls the masterworks of the avant-garde wing of the early '60s Blue Note stable: not just the aforementioned Dolphy and Williams sides, but also classics like Andrew Hill's Point of Departure and Sam Rivers' Fuschia Swing Song. Those records still sound vital half a century after their release, when all of the principals that produced them, I was recently astonished to realize, are deceased.

The ten pieces on Oblique-I were inspired by a 2002 conversation Sorey had with Braxton, written between 2002 and 2006, road tested at venues around New York City, and recorded in a single 13-hour session in June 2011. Watching Youtube videos of this group performing back in October, one notices that the musicians are all reading charts with a high degree of concentration. Make no mistake: This is challenging music. In his liner notes, Sorey acknowledges the influence of Braxton, Mingus, Schoenberg, Bartok, Threadgill, and his former bandleader Steve Coleman, rejects the separation between composer and improviser, and indicates that his pieces are intended to be transformed in performance.

"Twenty," "Forty," and "Twenty-Four" feature jagged, angular melodies over ever-shifting soundscapes, with solo voices rising above, then falling beneath the roiling rhythms. "Eight," "Twenty-Five," and "Thirty-Six" are reflective, abstract pieces (the first of which Sorey cryptically cites as an example of "strata logics in relation to layered rhythm and tempi"). "Thirty-Five" juxtaposes slowly unfolding chords with contrasting melodies played by saxophone and guitar. "Fifteen" is a tour de force of shifting moods and tempi, at first relentless, then pausing a moment to regroup before taking off in another direction, gradually building in intensity to a new apex, then winding down to an abrupt conclusion.

Throughout, altoist Loren Stillman is the dominant solo voice, even performing unaccompanied on "Eighteen," while pianist John Escreet is a wonder on acoustic, Rhodes and Wurlitzer instruments. Guitarist Todd Neufeld employs a crystalline tone and precise attack to convey his ideas, and particularly shines on the turbulent, churning "Seventeen," where he plays skronky, spiky lines on an acoustic axe in the manner of Marc Ribot, or Liberty Ellman from Henry Threadgill's Zooid (who coincidentally mixed and mastered the album). Even at his most thunderous, Sorey subordinates his considerable technical prowess to the demands of his material. With Oblique-I, he confirms his status as an artist to watch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HIO hosts "Improvised Silence" at the Cellar

Starting this month, the last Sunday of every month at 9pm. Us and a guest artist. This month, we'll be joined by Darrin Kobetich and Giri Akkaraju. C'mon! (Click on the image to make it big.)

Stoogeaphilia - "Rich Daddy" @ the Basement Bar on Matturday (9.16.2011)

Song originally by the Dicks. Video by Asian Media Crew.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

St. Vincent

I can't remember the last time a guitarist knocked me for a loop the way Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, has. Frank Cervantez, whose opinion I trust in all things guitaristic, pulled my coat, then through the wonder of social networking, I got turned on to a _lethal_ version of a song from my favorite Beatle album (courtesy of my Stoogeband singer's girlfriend), as well as covers of songs by Big Black and the Pop Group with which I'm unfamiliar. She plays the fire out of a guitar that looks a whole lot like my beloved Silvertone 1478 from high school.

Who is she? Born in Oklahoma, grew up in Dallas, roadied for jazz duo Tuck & Patti (he's her uncle) as a teen, went to Berklee, dropped out, went back home and joined the Polyphonic Spree, then toured with singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens before releasing her first album in 2007. Looks like I'm gonna have to hunt down a copy of her latest album Strange Mercy, which 4AD released in September.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bilzen Jazz Festival 1969

Two and a half hours of the best Brit (and Euro) rock had to offer at the ass-end of the '60s. Thanks to T. Tex Edwards for the link!

Dig this lineup:

SHOCKING BLUE - August 22, 1969
Venus + interview

DEEP PURPLE - August 22 1969
Wring That Neck - Mandrake Root

BONZO DOG DOO DAH BAND - August 22, 1969
Big Shot
You Done My Brain In
Hello Mabel
Urban Spaceman
Quiet Talks And Summer Walks
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
Canyons Of Your Mind
Trouser Press

TASTE - August 22, 1969
Blister On The Moon
Sugar Mama

MOODY BLUES - August 22, 1969
Tuesday Afternoon
Have You Heard (Part 1)
The Voyage
Have You Heard (Part 2)

SOFT MACHINE - August 22, 1969
Moon In June + interview

My World Is Empty Without You Babe

BRIAN AUGER & THE TRINITY - August 22, 1969
I Just Got Some

STEVE SHORTER & TILLY SET - August 22 1969
Move On Up

HUMBLE PIE - August 24 1969
The Sad Bag Of Shaky Jake / I Walk On Gilded Splinters

LIFE - August 24 1969
Baby Please Don't Go

BLOSSOM TOES - August 24 1969

THE MOVE - August 24 1968
Sunshine Help Me

Belgian TV - BRT

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Rolling Stones' "Some Girls Live in Texas '78"

The Rolling Stones, a band about which I've always been ambivalent (Con: overhyped and preening; Pro: the template for '60s-'70s white rock 'n' roll), have been well represented cinematically.

Their early R&B cover band phase is documented in The T.A.M.I. Show, where they had the unenviable task of following James Brown, but their lead singer rose to the occasion, stealing some of Mr. Dynamite's moves, if not the show.

The moment of their apotheosis as Everyhipi's Embodiment of Evil was caught in Jean-Luc Godard's One Plus One, which juxtaposed the recording session that produced "Sympathy for the Devil" with staged vignettes depicting the social upheaval o' the times, while the Maysles Brothers' Gimme Shelter captured the moment when that image collided head-on with the reality of 1969 America. While the latter's a great concert film, its most memorable sequences are those that show the Stones at their most impotent, watching the Hell's Angels murder an audience member and then viewing the footage of the event after the fact. (For my two cents, the Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin put every other musician onstage to shame that day, entering the crowd to try and stop the carnage and getting his lights punched out for his trouble.)

The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus, filmed for British TV in 1968 but not released until almost 30 years later, showed the Stones as a shell of a band, with Brian Jones on his last legs; the film is mainly valuable for the opportunity to see the Who ramping up for their own operatic apotheosis with "A Quick One While He's Away," and to a lesser extent, a lip-synching Jethro Tull with Tony Iommi (!) on guitar. A more satisfying document of the 1972 Exile on Main St. tour -- an apogee in retrospect -- was filmed at four concerts in Houston and Fort Worth (where Jagger had sworn never to play again after being served cold hot dogs backstage in 1965) and released theatrically as Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones in 1974.

Which brings us to the artifact in question, filmed in my adopted hometown the year I moved to Texas, when Some Girls was an important part of my summer's soundtrack. (Sure, there are subsequent tour documentaries, including one directed by Martin Scorsese, but who cares? The Stones' historical Moment had passed. They even gave indications that they realized it, titling a greatest hits collection Sucking in the Seventies. Proof: Can you name one Stones song from any album after Tattoo You?)

At the time, Some Girls seemed like a return to form after three crummy albums, the most memorable songs from which were 1) a song that sounded like Santana (no, not "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'," the _other_ one), 2) a ballad about David Bowie's wife, and 3) a disco track with a backward guitar solo by, um, was it Harvey Mandel? Quite a comedown for the avatars of teen rebellion who'd once tossed off generational anthems like "Satisfaction" and "Get Off of My Cloud," whose '69 live incarnation was the model for just about every band I was hearing when I first picked up a guitar in 1970.

In contrast with its enervated predecessors, Some Girls had more of a Noo Yawk City street vibe, the Stones' riposte to the punk and hip-hop developments that were making them seem old hat. And it was _funny_; in songs like "Miss You," "Some Girls," "Respectable," and "Far Away Eyes," it really seemed like ol' Mick was taking the piss out of himself.

When the Stones hit Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, site of the '65 cold hot dog debacle, on July 18th, I'd been in Dallas for about three weeks, and was trying to hold onto the money I'd saved over the past year and a half to escape from Lawn Guyland, so attending the show wasn't an option. Truth be told, I might not have gone anyway: I was never a Stones fan per se. I found their "world's greatest rock and roll band" hype as hollow as the Clash's "only band that matters" (and I _liked_ the Clash), and thought Jagger was a joke as a singer and dancer. (Isolating his vocal track would be a cruel trick.)

Some things don't change: I laughed out loud for ten minutes watching Mick flounce around with an obviously unplugged guitar, which he wears for a surprising amount of the Will Rogers set. My favorite description of him comes from the comedian Richard Belzer, who said he looks like "a rooster on acid." Watching Some Girls Live in Texas '78, it was impossible to ignore the physical resemblance between Jagger and...Don Knotts. (There, I've said it.) In my mind's eye, I imagined I was watching Barney Fife on acid.

I'd forgotten, too, how trebly the sound on Some Girls was. There's a lot of twang in the Stones' sound -- which at this point owed as much to Gram Parsons as it did to Chuck Berry -- and when both Keef and Woody are playing lead (as they often do), the sound borders on the shrill. It's a stripped-down band, minus the horns but with both Ians (Stewart and McLagan) on keys, a good thing. Still, you really miss the horns on "All Down the Line," which sounds like a shadow of the Exile original.

In fact, the Stones don't really hit their stride until midway through the set, when Mick apologizes for the band's lack of energy, which he attributes to their being "busy fucking last night." (Gasp!) Then they tear into "Respectable." "Far Away Eyes" is straight country, with Woody on pedal steel, still a piss-take, but elevated by Doug Kershaw's fiddle solos. "Love In Vain" is fine, but not the tour de force it was on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out; Ron Wood's a competent slide player, but his sound doesn't flow like liquid silver the way Mick Taylor's did. The five song sequence that starts with "Tumbling Dice" and ends with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is the gold here, the band energized and on fire.

My favorite moment is when Keef steps up to sing "Happy." He was awaiting trial for his Toronto drug bust then, and the Stones' future looked uncertain. He'd even written a song about it for Some Girls, "Before They Make Me Run," but he didn't sing it in Fort Worth. He probably figured it would have been too maudlin. He did sing it, though, when I saw him the following year at the Tarrant County Convention Center with the New Barbarians (on the "conditions of probation" tour). My ex-wife, who was also there, denies it, but I swear I saw him toss his cups onstage that night, while he was singing. No Johnny Thunders run back behind the amps for this boy; he just leaned over away from the mic and let it spew. Uh, rock 'n' roll, I guess. He looked like warmed-over death in '78, but he'll still probably outlive all of us.

In 1978, it would have been impossible to imagine a rock 'n' roll future where Black Sabbath was the most influential '70s band, most up-and-coming rockers wouldn't know a I-IV-V progression if it bit them on the ass, Sir Mick Jagger's a knight, and Keef Richards is a best-selling author. But that's the world we live in today, half a century since the Rolling Stones' scuffling bohemian beginnings. If you don't own any Stones DVDs and are looking for consumer guidance, I'd probably stick with the classics (that'd be Gimme Shelter and Ladies and Gentlemen), but I'm glad I have this for the second half of the show and the views in the opening sequences of the city I love around the time I first set foot in it.

BONUS FEATURE: By now you probably think I'm a negative Nelly when it comes to the Stones, but there are actually lots of things about 'em I like. Let me count the ways.

1) The influence of Brian Jones' hairstyle on everyone from the Yardbirds' Keith Relf to the guy in the Shadows of Knight to legions of teenage American boys, including Ron Asheton.

2) The guitar interplay between Keef and Brian on the first side of 12x5.

3) The Rolling Stones, Now!, which is probably the strongest LP by any of those vintage '63-'64 Brit R&B imitators, of whom I consider the Stones the weakest.

4) Their version of Larry Williams' "She Said Yeah," a blaring, fuzzed-out garage-punk explosion that opens December's Children.

5) "19th Nervous Breakdown," the evilest-sounding single of 1966, and their overuse of fuzz tone in general.

6) The "little" songs on Aftermath: "Doncha Bother Me," "Flight 505," "High and Dry," "It's Not Easy."

7) The second side of Beggar's Banquet, especially "Street Fighting Man" (the cassette-recorded cardboard box drums), "Factory Girl," and "Salt of the Earth."

8) From Sticky Fingers: "Sway" and "Moonlight Mile."

9) Driving across the Whitestone Bridge in NYC and the Mississippi bridge in Memphis with "Rip This Joint" from Exile blasting on the cassette player.

10) The second ("mellow") side of Tattoo You.

So there.

The New York Dolls' "Lookin' Fine on Television"

My Missouri pal Phil Overeem pulled my coat to this release. I'd previously viewed the Morrissey-curated vid of the reunited Dolls at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004 -- a disappointment, as the shades of the departed Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan loomed too large -- and the poignant 2006 documentary New York Doll, which focused on the trials 'n' tribs of hapless Dolls bassist Arthur Kane, an unlikely convert to Mormonism who died shortly after the first run of reunion shows. (A high point of the second film was hearing Kane's coworkers at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Center declaring, "We're New York Dolls fans!")

Ace NYC rock photog Bob Gruen and wife Nadya Beck's grainy B&W video of the Dolls was previously released in "home movie" form, with whole song performances included as a DVD extra, back in 2005 as All Dolled Up, but Lookin' Fine on Television presents a more fan-friendly cut of the material: full performances of songs, with visuals edited together from multiple performances, interspersed with interview snippets. Watching the cobbled-together performance vids, one is struck by how consistent the Dolls' meter is, as is David Johanson's phrasing. For a band whose, shall we say, _casual_ attitude toward musicianship was one of their hallmarks, these guys were remarkably tight in their own ramshackle way.

The lo-fi quality of the visuals doesn't detract at all from the viewing experience. In fact, these performances are infused with more of _the correct spirit_ than the more "pro" vids from The Midnight Special and The Old Grey Whistle Test that you can find on Youtube. It's especially refreshing to see Johnny when he was young and not yet strung out, full of piss and vinegar, with the best hair in rock 'n' roll. He didn't add a lot to his sonic bag o' tricks over the years, so it's all here, in a much better representation than some of the voyeurish latter-day stuff that's out there, when he was wasted and openly contemptuous of his audience.

The interviews remind you of how the Dolls won over the collective rockcrits of the world, if not the mass-ass audience. They're streetwise charmers, the Dead End Kids wearing women's shoes: David the amiable wiseacre, Johnny the sweet-dumb ex-baseball jock, Syl Sylvain the corkscrew-haired moppet, Jerry the lovable lug, Arthur just strange. A bonus feature has scenester/journo Lisa Robinson interviewing David, and David interviewing Johnny, on the sidewalk in front of CBGB's, just before Johnny left with the Heartbreakers to join the Sex Pistols on the Anarchy Tour.

Too Much, Too Soon wasn't just the title of the Dolls' second album. It's also a fairly accurate description of what they represented, given the musical tastes and sexual mores of the time. (Not even remotely effeminate, they were just fashion-forward fellas on the make who realized that girls _liked_ guys who wore women's clothes, and sounded like the Rolling Stones trying to impersonate the Shangri-Las.) Lookin' Fine on Television, on the other hand, is just enough, just in time: the definitive video document of the Dolls.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

JATSDFM - "Singles, Etc. (2011)"

So it looked for a minute like Hickey was going to acquiesce to the idea of a live Joe and the Sonic Dirt from Madagascar performing unit, before he remembered that he hates performing live, rehearsing, etc. No matter. You can download this six-song sampler of his single releases from last year -- including my favorite song of 2011, "Capt. Saddo and Twig" -- for free via Bandcamp. Ain't the intarweb grand?