Jesse Jarnow

Archive for January, 2007

frow show, episode 12

Episode 12: Dig the ribbit!
Odds & ends & a spot of purdiness.

Listen here

1. “Waitin’ For A Train” – Beck (from Stereopathetic Soul Manure)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Freckle Wars” – Ecstatic Sunshine (from Freckle Wars)
4. “Masa Depanmu” – Ariesta Birawa Group (from Ariesta Birawa Group)
5. “Princess Knows” – Elf Power (from Treasures From The Trash Heap)
6. “Temptation” – The Sunshine Fix (from The Spiraling World of Pop EP)
7. “Trombone Dixie” – Marbles (from
8. “Now She Sleeps in a Box in the Good Soil of Denmark” – David and the Citizens (from David and the Citizens EP)
9. “Wizard’s Sleeve” – Yo La Tengo (from Shortbus OST)
10. “I’m Your Puppet” – Yo La Tengo (from Mr. Tough 7-inch)
11. “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” – The Beach Boys (from The Beach Boys’ Party)
12. “Verse Chorus Verse” – Nirvana (from No Alternative compilation)
13. “St. Judy’s Comet” – Paul Simon (from There Goes Rhymin’ Simon)
14. “I’ll Keep It With Mine” – Nico (from Chelsea Girls)
15. “Gone Beyond” – Akron/Family (from Meek Warrior)
16. “I’m Of No More Use To Me” – Sam and Simon (from Brudders)
17. “Time Passing” – Max Richter feat. Robert Wyatt (from Songs From Before)

“hey bulldog” – the beatles & songbook

“Hey Bulldog” – The Beatles (download here)
from Yellow Submarine OST (1968)
released by Capitol Records (buy)

For whatever reason (soundtrack cut, etc.), the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog” totally eluded me, and that’s rather awesome. There’s no reason to validate my love for the Beatles, or even to analyze what I love about “Hey Bulldog.” But it was pretty rad to discover, for me, what was essentially a new Beatles tune. If you’ll forgive me the rockist gushing, it reminds me of a Nick Hornby quote from Songbook, the warm ‘n’ fuzzy type of rock criticism that makes somebody like Hornby just as necessary as somebody like the Beatles.

In Victorian London they used to burn phosphorous at séances in an attempt to see ghosts, and I suspect that the pop music equivalent is our obsessions with B-sides and alternate versions and unreleased material. If you can hear Dylan and the Beatles being unmistakably themselves at their peak — but unmistakably themselves in a way we haven’t heard a thousand, a million times before — then suddenly you get a small but thrilling flash of their sprit, and it’s as close as we’ll ever get, those of us born in the wrong time, to knowing what it must have been like to have those great records burst out of the radio at you when you weren’t expecting them, or anything like them.

Hyperbole, I guess, but Cosby sweater/feel good hyperbole, and not entirely wrong. Beneath that, though, there is something a bit sad. The quest for b-sides, I think, can often be an attempt not to find out what something sounded like new, but to find something that might approximate an experience that one has worn out. It grows from the most atavistic of pop impulses: to want to hear more of what one liked before except, y’know, different. It’s not often that anything about the Beatles sounds new to me. Eventually, though, “Hey Bulldog” will dull, too. It will still be wonderful, of course, but that internalized, well-understood wonderful instead of that cue-and-recue-that-opening-groove wonderful. That’s maybe a little sad, because then I’ll (maybe) have no more Beatles songs to discover. For now, though: rawk.

cosmic clock & “the language of stationary travelers” – the olivia tremor control

“The Language of Stationary Travelers” – The Olivia Tremor Control (download here)
from Jumping Fences EP (1998)
released by Blue Rose (buy)

(file expires February 5th.)

Finally, some more of Dad’s animation on YouTube! Here, in the first of what will hopefully become a regular series, is “Cosmic Clock,” one my personal faves. Originally aired on PBS’s 3-2-1 Contact, “Cosmic Clock” is to linear time what the Powers of Ten was to physical space. For an alternate soundtrack, try the above “Language of Stationary Travelers” by the Olivia Tremor Control. (When the animation ends just, y’know, start the Olivias again.)

see also: Yak!

“okie from muskogee” – the grateful dead with the beach boys

“Okie From Muskogee” – the Grateful Dead with the Beach Boys (download here)
recorded 27 April 1971
Fillmore East, NYC

(file expires February 2nd)

“We’ve got another famous California group here,” Jerry Garcia announced without much drama midway through the middle night of the Grateful Dead’s five-night run to close out the Fillmore East in April 1971. “It’s the Beach Boys.”

And out they came, or the post Brian Wilson incarnation anyway, to join the Dead for five songs, and to play two of their own in the middle. Like many sloppy superjams before and many since, it didn’t quite add up, but remains rather amusing. There are some great moments, from Carl Wilson’s fucking baked-ass “hello” as he arrives onstage to the Deadheads’ cries of “bring back the Dead” between Deadless renditions of “Good Vibrations” and “I Get Around” (the former introduced by Bruce Johnston as “a song that reflects these really fucked-up times”) (wha?).

The most musical artifact of the set, though, is a rendition of Merle Haggard’s still-newish redneck classic “Okie From Muskogee” which finally gets down to business: hearing Garcia’s guitar dart between the Boys’ harmonies. The Dead had been grooving on Haggard all month (indeed, a lovely Garcia reading of “Sing Me Back Home” would be the encore that night), and the ease with which they play matches the laid back Californicana of the BBs’ severely underrated albums from that period. There, ever so briefly, the great straights from the south and the great freaks from the north clicked, and over what? Some tongue-in-cheek twang. Go figure.

links of dubious usefulness, no. 10

o Kottke ran a particularly geeky overview of iPhone facts and conjecture.

o This dude melted my mind, man, with his theory of “A New Sith,” in which he reconsiders the backstory of the original Star Wars movies in light of the prequels. If George Lucas intended even a quarter of the stuff detailed here, he’s way cooler than I ever gave him credit for.

o Charlie Kaufman’s next picture, Synecdoche, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, sounds ridiculously amazing.

o New Yawkers will soon be able to send cell cam images to 311 and 911. Hope I never need to, but cool innovation.

o James McNew from Yo La Tengo recently DJed a hip-hop set on WFMU.

“irreplaceable” – beyoncé

Time to revive the occasional Good Beat entry. What better way than to get back into it but with the newest single by Beyoncé, whose “Crazy In Love” revived my faith in pop.

week of January 27, 2007
#1 this week, #1 last week, 13 weeks on chart
(download) (buy)

(file expires January 31st)

The use of the acoustic guitar on Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” interests me. Specifically, it’s that in pop there’s nothing given about using one. The normal palette is so much wider than that. The song’s bed could just as easily be a reconstituted horn section and nobody would bat an eye. But here, the Norwegian production team Stargate has chosen to go into strum overdrive. The vibe, then (at least, as a white male accustomed to acoustic guitars), becomes more girl next door than melodramatic pop diva. Of course, it’s one shiny m’fuckin’ acoustic guitar. On first listen, the beat seems nothing more than an amped-up version of the bland drum machines many singer-songwriters normally employ. Considered as that, it’s way more complex, filled with lots of subliminal fills and cross-patterns. And, considered as that, Beyoncé’s vocal performance suddenly becomes more intricate, as well, vocals cooing and layering and harmonizing in a way no coffeehouse crooner could conjure. In creating a little box for itself (Beyoncé as singer-songwriter) and then using pop spit-polish to make it sound so much bigger than that genre, there’s a visceral excitement in “Irreplaceable.” It also reminds me a lot of Mike Doughty’s version of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” especially the “you must not know about me” refrain, which really is rather wistful. Or maybe it’s just Norwegian.

recent articles

Making ‘History’ With Nicholas Hytner” (profile of History Boys director, from Paste #27)
America On-Line” (, a trip to see the Dave Matthews Band in Central Park)
Engine 27’s Rational Amusements” (, feature on the defunct NYC sound art gallery)
Jackin’ Pop Ballot & Comments, 2006

Song reviews:
Suffer For Fashion” – Of Montreal (
Freckle Wars” – Ecstatic Sunshine (
Caledonia” – Ghost (
Welcome To My Room” – Vietnam (
Tas Var Kopek Yok – Bunalim (
The End” – David and the Citizens (

Album reviews:
Stages 2 – v/a (
Love – The Beatles (
We All Belong – Dr. Dog (Relix)

Live reviews:
Joanna Newsom at Webster Hall, 13 November 2006
Tenacious D at Madison Square Garden, 1 December 2006

Columns and misc.:
BRAIN TUBA: Gratuitous Post-Jamboree #4

Only in print:
o February/March Relix (Lucinda Williams cover): album reviews of Dr. Dog, What’s Happening in Pernambuco compilation, and Ghost; book reviews of Best Music Writing 2006 and Show I’ll Never Forget anthologies; DVD review of Nirvana.
o Paste #28 (The Shins cover): album review of Of Montreal; film reviews of An Unreasonable Man and Venus.
o Signal To Noise #44 (Comets on Fire cover): album reviews of The Diminisher, Icy Demons, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Jean-Claude Vannier.

idiocracy & “come to butt-head” – beavis & butt-head

“Come to Butt-head” – Beavis and Butt-head (download here)
from The Beavis and Butt-head Experience (1993)
released by Geffen (buy)

(file expires January 22nd)

The arguments that Mike Judge’s absolutely fucking hilarious Idiocracy is classist are probably correct. But, as a reason for not distributing the film (it never opened in New York) it seems far more cynical a statement than Idiocracy itself. In the film, Luke Wilson, utterly average dude, wakes up 500 years in the future to discover he’s the smartest man on the planet, the population having devolved owing to the fact that dumb people have more babies than smart people. Hilarity, of course, ensues.

Idiocracy‘s main problem, then, seems to be its form: a cheap-looking CGI comedy. Imagined on the printed page, the story is nothing more than dystopian political parable, connected to vicious satire like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and H.G. Wells’ own classist sci-fi devolution tale, The Time Machine. (Imagined as pop music it’s, uh, Devo.) That is, it puts the issue on the table. But were Fox really that afraid that the movie wouldn’t play in middle America? Isn’t that itself an insulting assessment of middle America? Or maybe the whole classism argument is a strawman, and the assholes in charge still just don’t get how brilliant it is (even after they did the same effing thing to Office Space)?

’cause, man, it’s brilliant: a whole nation of Beavis and Butt-heads, with Wilson and Maya Rudolph as the only sensible folks around. Indeed, much of the humor is drawn from the same wellspring as MTV’s preeminent cartoon meta-critics, from fantastic perversions of language (“we seem to be experimenting some techmerlogical differences”) to nearly Zen arguments (no spoilers, but watch for a joke about electrolytes). Like any dystopian fantasy, maybe it’s right. I don’t know which possible world is scariest: Judge’s vision, or the fact that it slipped through the cracks as it did.

Likely, it’s not a tragedy at all, and Idiocracy is simply a film built the age of the Long Tail, and it’ll just become a huge NetFlix hit. Speaking of which: it’s out now and, yeah, you should probably go put it in your queue.

Related: a good recent profile of Mike Judge, from Esquire.

“puzzlin’ evidence” – talking heads & 1986 nlcs, game 6

“Puzzlin’ Evidence” – Talking Heads (download here)
from True Stories (1986)
released by Sire (buy)

(file expires January 20th)

Watching 20-year old baseball games is way more fun that I’d suspected. In the case of Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series, a 16-inning epic between the Mets and the Houston Astros, the overarching drama yielded dozens of miniature entertainments. Framed by the hyperreal green of the Astrodome’s Astroturf and its roof’s impressionist light slats, there was the simple pleasure of watching the 1986 Mets operate. There were small moments: Keith Hernandez making a routinely amazing grab deep in the hole, and flipping effortlessly to Roger McDowell, covering first. And there were the crowd shots, flickering portraits of the same characters that populated David Byrne’s True Stories, shot and set in Texas that same year.

The first picture, perhaps, is titled: the Starting Pitcher’s Wife in the Top of the 9th. In this case, the starting pitcher was Bob Knepper, working on a two-hit shut-out against the Mets who — moments after this shot — pinch-hit with Len Dykstra, who would triple to deep center, thus beginning a three-run rally that would result (seven innings later) in the Mets’ clinching of the pennant. But she didn’t know that.

frow show, episode 11

Thursday is the new Wednesday. Here’s the Frow Show…

Listen here.

Episode 11: illegal shit
Highlights of bootleg plunderings from Turntable Lab and elsewhere. Also some things that can be legally acquired. But only some.

1. “Carl’s Anti-Drug Radio Spot” – The Beach Boys (from Endless Bummer: The Very Worst of the Beach Boys)
2. “Television is Crack” – Certified Bananas (from
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “TV on the Radio vs. Afrika Bambaata” – Diplo (from Hollertronix, v. 2)
5. “Music to Watch Girls Cry, part 13” – Andy Votel (from Music to Watch Girls Cry)
6. “Ensemble Melodica Intro” – Dr. Delay (from Psycrunk)
7. “°‹” – Trap Door II (from Trap Door II Mystery Mix)
8. “Naomi” – Neutral Milk Hotel (from the Joe Beats Experiment Presents Indie Rock Blues)
9. “Love Is How You Make It” – Gong (from Four Tet: DJ Kicks)
10. “Where I End and You Begin” – Radiohead/”Stay Fly” – Triple 6 Mafia (from Psycrunk)
11. “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” – Spinjunkies (from Jay-Z’s Dead)
12. “[Untitled]” – Andy Votel (from Songs In the Key of Death)
13. “Chove Chuva” – Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (from Jorge Ben: Tudo Ben, v. 1 [Rock & Soul])
14. “Soul Master” – Edwin Starr
15. “I Wish it Would Rain” – The Cougars (from Jamaica To Toronto compilation)
16. “Kokomo (Spanish version)” – The Beach Boys (from Endless Bummer: The Very Worst of the Beach Boys)

america on-line (greatest misses #5) & “brokedown palace” – the grateful dead

“Brokedown Palace” – the Grateful Dead (download here)
recorded 11 April 1972
Newcastle City Hall, Newcastle, UK
from Steppin’ Out with the Grateful Dead (2002)
released by Grateful Dead Records (buy)

(file expires January 24th)

It’s hard to find an excuse to publish a two-and-a-half year-old review of a show by a band I don’t like very much. But I’m going to, anyway, because it involved a pleasantly bizarre excursion to Central Park, and this thing has stewed on my harddrive for way too long. At one point, it was supposed to have run in the Interboro Rock Tribune, though — if it did — I sure never saw a copy.

And “Brokedown Palace”? Well, why not? Consider it a spoonful of honey for all the theorizing about Dave Matthews. Or maybe it’s just honey because honey is fucking delicious. Anyway, I came across this version tonight, recorded in Newcastle on April 11th, 1972, and I love it. For some reason, I can’t remember ever hearing a version from ’72 (or ’73 or ’74, my fave Dead period), though DeadBase swears there are plenty. Except for the high harmonies near the end, it’s all so perfectly assured, maybe even more than the American Beauty rendition, especially Garcia’s monstrously concise solo.


America On Line
by Jesse Jarnow

When guitarist Warren Haynes took the stage with the Dave Matthews Band during their massive free concert at Central Park on September 24th, few cheered. That was to be expected. Though Haynes is revered in some quarters as the ever-active guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s eponymous quintet, he’s mostly unknown in the mainstream.

After dueting with Matthews on a rendition of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer,” Haynes ripped into a soaring solo. It was typical Big Rock fare, Haynes’s fingers flying impassioned up the fretboard in a show of bluesy virtuosity, face scrunched in anguish and splayed across the nine jumbo screens to underscore the point. The solo blew to a volcanic climax, the tension released from Haynes’s body, and he stepped back.

And, again, few cheered.

This raises some questions. Likely, it wasn’t a show of displeasure. Nobody was booing, nor were people offering up any particular show of criticism. And it wasn’t abject boredom. Around me, on the fringe of the crowd, people seemed to be having a grand evening under the stars, laughing and smiling in all directions. So, what was it? Why hadn’t that old reliable, the Big Solo, ignited them?
On the surface, the Dave Matthews Band appear to have inherited the stadium rock mantle once held by bands like Led Zeppelin and, more recently, U2: an old-fashioned rock outfit (give or take) capable of creating best-selling records and filling impossibly large halls wherever they choose to roam. But, as the crowd’s reaction to Haynes indicated, perhaps not all is what it seems.

Beneath the same ol’, same ol’ exterior of the rock concert as suburban coming of age ritual, the practices of young concertgoers have subtly mutated. To say that they are having shallower experiences at the shows they attend because, say, their experiences are apparently non-musical is to miss the point. They’re still having a good time and they’re still, like it or not, coming of age. So, what is it that they latch onto?


Given the truly epic surreality of the event, from its conception to is execution – light years removed from the uncomplicated cause-and-effect of liking a band, hearing about their show, buying a ticket, and going (and even further from the vaunted free concerts of yore) – it’s right boggling to conceive of the AOL Concert For Schools as a teenager’s first rock show. Rock concerts have always been theaters of the absurd, but the dramatis personae seem to be changing of late. In Manhattan, anyway, ads had plastered subways and buses for several weeks. Typical copy depicted a picture of a row of school desks, the AOL running man logo branded onto the corner of each (a frightening thought), and the caption “Life needs a music lesson.”

Waiting on line, the acquisition of tickets seemed to be the most popular topic of discussion. Officially, they had been distributed for free via white AOL vans that parked at various Manhattan street corners throughout the week. But, being free and pretty much indiscriminately passed out – in a relatively mysterious way, at that, some seemingly arbitrarily, some after participating in contests – they quickly fell into other hands. We heard tales of a temporary black market that had sprung up to accommodate the distribution of tickets, funneling them out to the suburbs via EBay and co-workers and friends of friends with favors to call, sometimes free, but mostly not.

The line coiled through the park, a human Great Wall of China drudging in slow motion through Frederick Law Olmstead’s Arcadian landscaping, disappearing into the greenery at one end, stretching out onto Central Park’s bordering avenues on the other. On the east side, we had followed it south from the park’s entrance at 72nd Street with no end in sight, as Jon looked for somebody to bestow his spare ticket on.

A kid overheard us. “Do you have an extra?” he asked, with a slight accent.

“Maybe,” Jon replied

“Ya, I came from Germany,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I replied, glancing at his Ithaca College hoodie.

“Ya,” he confirmed. “I’m from Munich.”

“Okay, you got it,” Jon said.

“Oh, danke!” Munich Boy grinned, and scurried off, ducking under a barricade and cutting into the line.

“Do you ever get the impression that the way these kids act on line might be a good metaphor for the way they’ll turn out later in life?” I asked Jon.

He paused. “Nah, that’s stupid.”

We pressed onward. Near 70th Street, past a row of port-o-lets, the line suddenly changed directions, as if we had passed the equator.
“The line doubles back somewhere down there,” a girl groused.

“This sucks, I wanna go home,” a nearby cop grumbled. “I could be in class right now.”

“Down there” was 65th Street, just north of the Central Park Zoo. “Screw this,” Jon announced, and turned into the park, following the sidewalk along the thru-road. A hundred yards into the park, we hopped the small stone wall, climbed a grassy embankment, and looked down on the line, which we could see in the distance. We could see dozens of other dissidents, looking for alternate paths into the concert. I wondered how many of them were first-time concertgoers.

We cursed Munich Boy as we clamored through the underbrush after the hillside we were following suddenly dropped away. We roamed the Ramble, occasionally catching sight of the line. It was a lovely evening for a stroll, and we wandered up paths and down stairs and past the pond and the gondolas and rowboats peacefully adrift. At the Boathouse, men in white linen suits dined, seemingly unaware of the horde of teenagers milling on the other side of the treeline.

We slipped into line. “Hey, good idea, man!” a guy said, unbothered by the fact that we were blatantly cutting in.

“How long have you been here?” I asked a girl next to us.

“Five hours,” she replied.

“Man, I got here three hours ago,” said a kid standing next to her.

“Really?” said somebody else. “We walked up, like 45 minutes ago. Didn’t even cut.”

The line had broken down their sense of time, it seemed. Mine, too. I have no recollection of how long we were there. People talked. Besides how they got their tickets, they rarely spoke about the band they were there to see (unheard of at show by Phish or the Grateful Dead, two bands the DMB is frequently lumped with). They didn’t even speak with particular frequency about other bands, but mostly about movies or television shows.

While this might not seem worth remarking on at first, it seems some indication of the way the Dave Matthews Band (and, thus, the rock concert as an entity) might now be viewed by young fans: music as something undifferentiated from other pop culture mediums, as opposed to an autonomous experience that exists outside of the mainstream of American life. In other words: rock not as rebellion at all, but as a completely sanctioned experience. Though this has probably been the norm for some time, the concert form has seemingly transformed around this ideal.

We passed a row of ticket takers, a pile of confiscated lawn chairs and blankets (for a day in the park, at that), a thoroughly crouch-mauling patdown (hands placed and suddenly jerked UP), and a bag search (though, officially, they weren’t allowing bags in at all; terror, etc.). Though our tickets had been ripped, and word had come that the show had started, we still couldn’t hear any music. Abruptly, two girls in front of us shrieked, charged up a small hill in the vague direction of the concert field, and disappeared into the woods. There was a rustling, then silence.


The lush green of the Great Lawn sprawled before us, the stately regency of Belvedere Castle and the midtown skyline at our back. The music ricocheted between speaker towers in an echoed maze, bearing strange sonic resemblance to an avant-garde multi-channel sound installation. Six giant screens stood in V-formation, pointing towards the distant stage, which was adorned by its own screen. Though the field was half-empty (presumably, most were still on line), clumps of people gathered around each of the screens.

Each was mounted on an elaborate scaffolding which also included several banks of lights, and a smoke machine. The former flashed constantly, moreless indiscriminately (which didn’t matter, since the images were hardly synched with the music coming from the speakers). The latter, positioned below the screen, jetted smoke straight upward, thanks to industrial fans just beneath the chute. The lights and the smoke both came between one’s sightline and the broadcast images, which simultaneously drew the eye in and created the impression that one was, indeed, watching something real at the center. Crowds sat cross-legged at the bases of the scaffolding, goggling upwards.

A camera mounted on a crane swept over the crowd. Another camera stood on a smaller scaffolding that rose from the midst of the throng. With the exception of a few songs in the middle of the band’s set, the operator trained the camera away from the stage for the entire night, presumably for the DVD of the concert, already set to be released on November 4th. There was no shortage of striking images. A girl holding a bouquet of heart-shaped balloons of silver mylar wandered by, the balloons momentarily framed by smoke billowing from the screen.

Instead of the usual between song pandemonium, the air vacuumed to near silence after a brief smattering of applause. Despite this, the music was not an unimportant part of the event. There was dancing, though it was frequently directed at each other in clusters, like a school dance, as opposed to at the stage. There were singalongs, though only at preset moments, as opposed to when the mood struck. There were giddy screams when favorite songs were played, though they were usually followed by cell phone calls, as opposed to intent listening.

So, why is the Dave Matthews Band the premier party band of the early 21st century? Surely, part of their appeal is in their Joe Rockband quality. Matthews is, as Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called him, “the ultimate Everyman.” Their music maps to that description, too. Despite several long instrumental excursions, there was little extreme about the band’s performance. They played at comfortable tempos with no distortion. All of this accounts for the band’s accessibility, for the college following that was Matthews’ bread and butter in earlier years, but doesn’t explain why listeners seem to be applying different standards to Matthews’ music than previous generations.

Or does it?

Despite its size, despite the screens, the show in Central Park was as close to a non-spectacle as one could get at that magnitude. When soloing, bandmembers would make a point of stepping close to each other and making eye contact. Again, it was an old rock trick (e.g. Robert Plant drawing the crowd’s attention to Jimmy Page by moving near and watching him solo), but effective. But, when Plant looked at Page, he frequently did so with awe, putting the guitarist on a pedestal for the audience by temporarily playing low status.

By contrast, the Dave Matthews Band’s gestures were far more humble. By design or happenstance, each revealed the band as six men playing music in real time. In an age where jump cuts are the norm and linear performances are practically unknown in popular culture, that can be powerful good. It is well possible that the Dave Matthews Band appeals for the same reason that country music suddenly found itself in vogue in the late ’60s. There is not so much an authenticity to the Dave Matthews Band as there is an undiluted simplicity — which is a helluva thing to say about a rock and roll band playing music in front of an estimated 100,000 people at a concert sponsored by one of the biggest corporations in the world.

In this case, it’s not what the guitars are doing, but that there are even guitars at all. Through all, Matthews inspires a certain comfort level. And, hey, as an audience member, that feels great. It is precisely because the rock concert has become such an ingrained ritual that the Dave Matthews Band thrives: simply, at a Dave Matthews Band show, one doesn’t have to behave like he’s at a rock concert.

There are no pretensions of revelation, no high art or inflatable pigs, not even any obvious attempts to get the crowd riled up. Nobody was beat over the head being told that they were having the time of his or her life. Is that rebellion? Maybe so, maybe not. It’s definitely a “to each his own trip” philosophy, minus the drugs and writ large. Like every Everyman, Dave Matthews is a blank slate. Life needs blank slates.

Around us, boys approached girls awkwardly, smoking the second or third cigarettes of their lives, as the new template for a rock show burned itself into their heads. They had meaningful experiences.

“This is the place to be!” a guy in a turquoise Alligator shirt bellowed as he stumbled by. “These guys are the bomb, right?”

A moment later, he held his head and staggered towards the scaffolding, where he vomited. He removed his shirt, revealing a lacrosse uniform, wiped his mouth, and lurched back into the crowd.

“less than you think” (droneless edit) – wilco

“Less Then You Think” (droneless edit) – Wilco (download here)
from A Ghost Is Born (2004)
released by Nonesuch (buy)

(expires January 23rd)

I’ll be the first to defend the migraine-mimicking ambient construction tacked to the end of Wilco’s “Less Than You Think.” In its own way, it can be quite a cleansing listen (and when they opened their New Year’s show at Madison Square Garden with it, the noise became a wonderfully patient jam that resolved into “Spiders”). But, I also love “Less Than You Think” a lot — especially the Morse code-like piano tap-tap-tapping behind Jeff Tweedy — such that I might wanna put it on playlists and the like. This becomes a bit more of pain in the arse when there’s 12 minutes of drone affixed. For my (and your) convenience, here it is without.

james brown? james brown!

It occurred to me over the weekend that, before it is all over, James Brown could still be arrested for something. As my friend Bill is fond of saying: even in death, he’s James Brown. So far, he’s died on Christmas, been pulled through Harlem in a horse-drawn carriage, caused lines down the block when he lay in state at the Apollo (check Amy’s photo-essay), had the locks changed on his wife, been at the center of a paternity test, and isn’t buried, but literally chilling in a temperature-controlled room in his own house until the lawyers figure it all out. I can’t say how it’ll happen, but there really is a chance that James Brown will once again end up in police custody. It also sincerely and deeply warms my heart to note that, during the last week of the year, Brown topped Saddam Hussein and Gerald Ford on the Google Zeitgeist.

Dude’s still the hardest working man in show business.

Oddly enough, just before the holiday break, I read the best book about music I’ve read in ages, and it happened to be about James Brown: Douglas Wolk’s 33 1/3 entry on Live at the Apollo. Check his mesmerizing science drop on hypeman Fats Gonder’s introduction:

Fats Gonder ramps up his delivery from a salesmanlike incantation to rabid enthusiasm. He’s got a singer to sell. What’s the man he’s introducing done with all that hard work? “Man that sang, ‘I Go CRAZY’!” The snare smacks as the horn section blares a G-chord. It’s really “I’ll Go Crazy,” but Gonder’s determined to out-country JB’s enunciation. “Try ME!” G-sharp. “YOU’ve Got the Power!” A. “THINK!” A-sharp….

Gonder’s speech has been setting up a couple of subliminal effects. Starting with “You’ve Got the Power” and running through “Bewildered,” there’s a steady 6/8 rhythm to the words he accents and the band’s stabs — a tick-tock swing that’s at pretty much the same tempo as Brown’s ballads. There’s also a hidden message in those emphases — Crazy-me-you-Think-Want-Mind-Be-WILL-Lost-Night-Shimmy! This is a night for total abandon, the suggestion goes; for thoughts to become desires and then to simply be, through sheer will; a night to be lost to shimmying.

All that, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Chitlin Circuit. Well worth the read — but, then, what about James Brown isn’t? One couldn’t ask for a better subject. Philip Gourevitch’s “Mr. Brown” profile from the New Yorker is a must-read, too, and contains perhaps my favorite section lede ever:

There are no computers in the offices of James Brown Enterprises. “He’s got this strange notion that they can see back at you,” Maria Moon, one of his staffers, explained. “I guess he watched too many Russian-spy movies when he was young or something, but he thinks that they can see you and that they can track everything that you do.” Mr. Brown put it slightly differently: “I don’t want computers coming feeding direct off of me, ’cause I know what I got to tell a computer that it ain’t got in there, and I don’t want to. If the government would want me to be heading up the computer people, I would give ’em a basic idea what we should put in a computer—not just basic things, you know, but things that will be helpful in the future. We don’t have that, but I could tell ’em a lot of things.”

Jonathan Lethem’s Rolling Stone piece from last year ain’t nothing to sneeze at either. As Wolk points out repeatedly, the idea behind Live at the Apollo was for James Brown to sell himself as an attraction. Or, as the Tom Tom Club put it, in their “Genius of Love”: “James Brown? James Brown!” Even still, James Brown remains the answer to his own question.

wetlands/borat karma & “you enjoy myself” – phish

“You Enjoy Myself” – Phish (download here)
recorded 26 October 1989
Wetlands Preserve, NYC (soundboard)

Man, y’know, I hate to be negative & shit, but sometimes life requires it and this story is too good to pass up. Carole De Saram is the President of the Tribeca Community Association. As I found out when I saw the final cut of Wetlands Preserved, a documentary I worked on a few years ago, she was one of the prime movers in forcing the Wetlands Preserve out of Tribeca in September 2001. Call it gentrification or something else, but she displaced a very real community in the name of making her own newer, richer community a little blander. That it happened during a month when communities in Manhattan were needed more than ever only made it shittier.

But then there’s karma. Or, more accurately, there’s Borat.

Carole De Saram, as it turns out, is also a member of the Veteran Feminists of America, a group Sacha Baron Cohen interviews in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. When I saw the film, it was one of the few times where I groaned and thought, “gee, does he really have to fuck with these people?” And the answer, as the universe has pointed out to me, is: hell yes. My new theory is that anybody in Borat who appears innocent is actually atoning for some bad juju he or she previously unleashed on the world.

Anyway, there’s something positive to go along with it: a nicely mixed soundboard of Phish playing “You Enjoy Myself” at the Wetlands in October 1989. For non-Phishies open-eared enough to try, this is as good a place to start as any. If you don’t enjoy “You Enjoy Myself,” you probably won’t enjoy Phish. They’re not the story here, anyway, Wetlands is: a club that allowed this bizarre music to happen in New York.

Here’s a 12-story feature I edited, and partially wrote, about Wetlands on the occasion of its closing.

have read/will read dept.

o On New Year’s, the New York Times ran one of the periodic pieces about Jack Kerouac’s embittered, alcoholic post-Beat years in my hometown.

o Wayne Marshall is a pop ethnomusicologist who runs the great Wayne and Wax Blog. His “we use so many snares” piece about reggaeton, featured in Da Capo’s newest Best Music Writing anthology, delves into the genre’s genetics with highly readable academic aplomb.

o Cory Doctorow described neo-cyberpunk Charles Stross’s Accelerando as making “hallucinogens obsolete,” which is a bit of an overstatement. But, if you wanna trip nuts in 15 minute increments on the subway, bus, or wherever, Accelerando (once it gets going) will probably do the trick. It’s kinda like DMT without the exploding mothball smell. Stross, being one of them futurey robot-talkin’ types put the whole dang novel online. Buy it here, if’n y’want. (Thanks to RG for the recommendo.)

o Ypulse is a blog dedicated to teen culture; teens being way cooler than anything covered on Idolator.

o On Sunday, the Times ran a story about an amazing internet-age love triangle that is by turns both hilarious and horrible. Reads like a novel, or a Coen brothers’ script, or something way beyond reality.

“the weakest part” (slow version) – yo la tengo

“The Weakest Part” (slow version) – Yo La Tengo (download here)
from iTunes Session EP (2007)
released by iTunes (buy

(expires January 17th)

Though you wouldn’t know it by checking (at least, as of tonight), there’s a new four-song Yo La Tengo EP this week, available for $4 via the iTunes store. Along with a vaguely surfy instrumental, “El Es Gay” (like “El Es Dee”?), a by-the-books rerecording of “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind,” and a delighted cover of Love’s tribute to LBJ’s daughter (and “Twist and Shout” rewrite) “Luci Baines,” there’s also a rearrangement of Beat Your Ass‘s “The Weakest Part.”

Sufficently damn understated in its original incarnation, “The Weakest Part” is now practically invisible. As a solo piano ballad (with dab of feedbacky guitar), the slow motion melody stretches to a near flatline. It’s just atmosphere, Georgia Hubley’s voice disappearing into the sound of itself. It’s not much to sing (or even hum) along with, but it is lovely nonetheless.

Well worth the $4 (if only to burn to CD & re-rip to mp3), the iTunes Session EP is a nice addition to the two b-sides Yo La Tengo put out last fall.

useful things, no. 6

The sixth in an ongoing collection of functional webpages and dork tools (excluding any/all Google programs).

o Since the cat seems to be out of the bag, the coolest thing ever: Critical Metrics, a rated singles aggregator. It begins.
o OttoBib — An automated bibliography generator. Just enter ISBNs and click “Get Citations.” Man, I wish I had this when I was in school.
o BookMooch — Trade used books with peeps. (Thx, VB.)
o — Semi-permanent freebie web storage, up to 1 GB. (Word, Dean.)
o Writer’s Dreamtools — Their URL is no joke.

season ticket

Missing baseball, I recently spent some time with Roger Angell’s Season Ticket, which contains some of the best writing I’ve ever read about the pleasures of being a fan. That Angell’s fandom happens to be of baseball often feels incidental. Here is a rain-delayed in game in Toronto:

Then it rained — downward and side-blown sheets and skeins of water that streamed down the glass fronting of the press box, puddled and then pounded on the lumpy, too green AstroTurf playing field before us, and emptied the roofless grandstand around the diamond. Glum descendant clouds swept in, accompanied by a panoply of Lake Ontario ring-billed gulls (a celebrated and accursed local phenomenon), who took up late-comer places upon the long rows of backless aluminum benches in center right field and then settled themselves thickly across the outfield swamplands as well, where they all stood facing to windward, ready for a fly ball, or perhaps for a visiting impressionist French film director (“Quai des Jays,” “Toronto Mon Amour”) to start shooting.

(It also happens to be available for $1.00 from, or one cent from Amazon.)

“go where i send thee” – golden gate jubilee quartet

“Go Where I Send Thee” – Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet (download here)
from Gospel Music (2006)
released by Hyena Records (buy)

(file expires January 12th)

We can talk all we want about popcraft, but the most genuine hooks are those in folk music — real folk music, that is, the type that existed before recordings. In fact, after a song has been passed from generation to generation and continent to continent, all that’s left is what people can remember: hooks.

Like the Beverly Hills Teens theme song, “Go Where I Send Thee” — performed here by the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet — has been lodged in my head for most of my life without me ever owning a proper recording. I suspect I learned it from a lily-white Pete Seeger rendition, but I’m not really sure. (The 1937 GGJQ version is from Joel Dorn and Lee Friedlander’s awesome Gospel Music mix.)
In Folk Songs of North America, where it is labeled “The Holy Baby,” Alan Lomax traces it as such:

Versions of this ancient mystic song have been recorded everywhere in Europe. Archer Taylor (Journal of American Folklore, LXII, p. 382) suggests that its origin may be found in Sanskrit, but that all European versions are probably derived from a Hebrew chant for Passover (Echod mi Yodea, first printed in Prague in 1526). The earliest known English translation of the Jewish religious folk song appeared in the seventeenth century, but a number of distinct forms soon developed.

To my ears, “Go Where I Send Thee” — the melody at its core, anyway, the specific part that never left me — doesn’t sound particularly like any of these cultures, the American South included. The refrain, the little drop between “send” and “thee,” just sounds like something I remember, everything whittled away except for its exact emotional effect. To paraphrase Frank Zappa: Folk isn’t dead. It doesn’t even smell funny.

frow show, episode 10

And… we’re back. This year, the Frow Show will run every other Wednesday on the Ropeadope Podcast Network. Hooray for regularity. Insert joke about eating lots of bran here. (Thanks to Ace Cowboy for calling me out.)

Listen here.

Episode 10: the autumn rollover
An autumn mix burned for friends.

1. “Beverly Hills Teens Theme” – ??? (from the interweb)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Suffer For Fashion” – Of Montreal (from Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?)
4. “Mikes Jones vs. Britney” – Diplo (from Hollertronix, v. 2 EP)
5. “If I Were Only A Child Again” – Curtis Mayfield (from Four Tet: DJ Kicks)
6. “In A Different Light” – The Bangles (from Different Light)
7. “Divine Hammer” – The Breeders (from Last Splash)
8. “Autumn Sweater” – Yo La Tengo (from I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One)
9. “The Mountain Low” – Palace Music (from Viva Last Blues)
10. “All Downhill From Here” – Jim O’Rourke (from Insignificance)
11. “Sanddollars” – Why? (from Elephant Eyelash)
12. “I’d Love Just Once To See You” – The Beach Boys (from Wild Honey)
13. “She Smiled Sweetly” – The Rolling Stones (from Between the Buttons)
14. “Absolute Lithops Effect” – The Mountain Goats (from All Hail West Texas)
15. “Harvest Moon” – Cassandra Wilson (from New Moon Daughter)
16. “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” – Talking Heads (from CBS demos)
17. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” – Bob Dylan (from Biograph)
18. “Brokedown Palace” – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (from Pebbles and Marbles, 2004 summer tour)

engine 27’s rational amusements (greatest misses #4)

Happy 2007. Still recovering from various reveleries, but here is another Greatest Miss: a brief item circa November 2002 for a now-defunct (I suspect) NYC freebie paper whose name I don’t recall about the sound art gallery, Engine 27. I picked up copies for a few months after I submitted it, but never saw it in print and never heard back from the editor. I was a little premature in calling Engine 27 firmly established, it seems, but so it goes. Diapason is still kicking.

Engine 27’s Rational Amusements
by Jesse Jarnow

Lower Manhattan has long been rife with the so-called rational amusements: scientific dream factories like PT Barnum’s American Museum where exotic worlds might be conjured. And where Barnum displayed the curios of destinations fantastic, Jack Weisberg’s Engine 27 multi-channel sound gallery allows visitors to walk through jungle darkness, strange symphonies erupting from every corner. Housed in a decommissioned TriBeCa firehouse, the space open to the public is little more than a long, dark room adorned by 16 custom-built speakers. Below the floor, though, mind-bending technology hums and directs sound, creating what managing director Eric Rosenzveig calls a “physical three-dimensional landscape.”

Multi-channel sound-as-art has existed at least since Iannis Xenakis and Le Corbousier’s 1958 Brussels World’s Fair collaboration with Edgar Varése, but the form seems to have blossomed in the past two years, with the firm establishment of not only Engine 27 and Michael Schumacher’s midtown Diapason Gallery, but a nod from the Whitney, who included a sound room in their most recent biennial. “I think [one of] the primary directions in music in the past 10 years has involved breaking open the stereo field,” says Rosenzveig, who thinks “all music can work well in a multi-channel environment, if the artist is interested in addressing [one].”

Electronic musician Tetsu Inoue, who had never created for multi-channel before, sculpted the rich Active Dot (for 16 lines). Though he admitted having trouble adjusting to the new spatial palette, he claims that after his residency, “CD format is kind of boring, very timeline based.” Engine 27’s first batch of artists-in-residence, a “Noah’s Ark” of 30 composers combining invited guests and open-call applicants, tried to sample a multitude of aesthetics. As highfalutin as the specifics of Engine 27 are, the results played like rotating weekly features at one of William Gibson’s futuristic stim-parlors: magical, and all for a fair buck.