Jesse Jarnow

Archive for April, 2007

the continuing adventures of irie acetone: yo la tengo at webster hall, 4/29

Yo La Tango: sic’cest ever!

Yo La Tengo at Webster Hall
29 April 2007
Oneida opened

I Feel Like Going Home
From A Motel 6
Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind
Last Days of Disco
The Room Got Heavy
The Weakest Part
Beanbag Chair
Mr. Tough
Song for Mahlia
Don’t Say A Word (Hot Chicken #2)
Styles of the times
Big Day Coming > (fast version)
Watch Out For Me, Ronnie
The Story of Yo La Tango

*(encore 1)*
The Race Is On Again
Dreaming (Sun Ra)
Tom Courtenay (acoustic version)

*(encore 2)*
Gates of Steel (Devo)
My Little Corner of the World (Bob Hilliard & Lee Pockriss)

paul williams on bob dylan

I love Paul Williams’ writing on Bob Dylan. Like the baseball columns of Roger Angell, it’s clear that Williams is a fan and can completely communicate that experience. Frequently, of course, he gets carried away. Nonetheless, it is always valuable. In the best stretches of his multiple books about Dylan, it really seems as if Williams holds the key to understanding what Dylan does.

Here, Williams unpacks what is amazing about live performances. He is speaking generally, though what says is more easily applicable to Dylan’s linear/one-man style than most other types of musicians:

The performance is a unit of time. If you think of a movie camera recording the painter’s every brush stroke from the moment and place where s/he starts on the canvas to the place and moment where s/he finishes, you will understand that every painting is a kind of straight line, a movement, a performance, compressed upon itself… as the painting compresses time into something that can be felt all at once, so the performance takes human experience and stretches it out so that instead of just feeling it altogether (as we do in life) we feel it a morsel at a time, in a sequence. (from Performing Artist, 1974-1986)

He resorts often to hyperbole, though it is of the most beautiful, infectious sort. On the July 1st, 1984 rendition of “Tangled Up in Blue” that I can’t really imagine being objectively very good (though am certainly willing to check it out):

The version on Real Live (from London, July 7) is so similar I’m not sure I can articulate what makes the two performances different; yet the difference is as unmistakable as that between an ordinary starry night and the same instant after a lightning bolt has shattered the sky. (from Performing Artist, 1974-1986)

Williams is passionate in his adversity, too, publishing a book-length defense of Dylan’s 1978 conversion to Christianity titled Dylan — What Happened?). Purportedly, Dylan purchased copies to distribute to his friends, letting Williams act as his surrogate. When most fans were abandoning Dylan, Williams committed to Dylan’s new music as hard as he could without becoming a disciple of Christ himself, and in the process teased out some great stuff about what it really means to be a listener. “Some people see this is a threateningly anti-intellectual move from someone they’ve always related to on an intense intellectual level,” he wrote.

The old thing of all of us being in the same psychic space at the same time listening to the same new record albums just doesn’t work anymore. Not that I think Dylan expects it to — but I think that’s what a lot of us still expect of Dylan, that he’ll bring us the news. And that’s why we’re so confused and upset about the news he brought us this time. We keep thinking his news is our news, you see. (from Watching the River Flow, 1966-1995)

around the campfire with yo la tengo

Yo La Tengo at Skirball Center, NYU
25 April 2007

Billed as ‘Around the Campfire with Yo La Tengo.’ Ira on acoustic guitar, Georgia on snare/hi-hat, James on bass. Q&A between each song.

Tom Courtenay
Our Way To Fall
You Can Have It All (Harry Wayne Casey)
Tiny Birds
Rocks Off (Rolling Stones)
Better Things (The Kinks)
Now 2000
Nowhere Near
Stockholm Syndrome
Autumn Sweater
Speeding Motorcycle (Daniel Johnston)

frow show, episode 18

Episode 18: First the Dishes, then the Revolution!
…(as seen over the sink at Rubulad)…

Listen here.

1. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” – Bob Dylan (from Theme Time Radio Hour #4: Baseball)
2. “Thou Shalt Always Kill” – Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip (from Thou Shalt Always Kill EP)
3. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
4. “Bird Flu” – M.I.A.
5. “Earth Intruders” – Bjork (from Volta)
6. “Boy Looka Here” – Rich Boy
7. “Je Veux Te Voir (Original Mix)” – Yelle (from Mashed III compilation)
8. “????” – Ike Reiko (from Kokotsu no Seka)
9. “Nega (Photograph Blues)” – Gilberto Gil (from Gilberto Gil)
10. “This Could Be The Night” – Modern Folk Quartet (from Back to Mono box set)
11. “Backwater” – The Meat Puppets (from Too High To Die)
12. “Stick Your Tail In the Wind” – Summer Hymns (from Voice Brother and Sister)
13. “Portrait in the Clouds” – Wooden Wand (from Second Attention)
14. “Painted Eyelids” – Beck (from One Foot In the Grave)

“thou shalt always kill” – dan le sac vs. scroobius pip

“Thou Shalt Always Kill” – Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip (download here)
from Thou Shalt Always Kill EP (2007)
released by Lex (buy)

Yeah, “Thou Shalt Always Kill” is novelty hip-hop, British, and dorky, but it also feels like an achievement, or at least something I’ve been listening to over and over and over. Sure, there are all kinds of clever pop references (“thou shalt not wish your girlfriend was a freak like me”), but there are just as many moments that just feel real (“thou shalt not fall in love so easily”). It’s one popped balloon after another, keeping it real as real, in the highly relatable dialect of music geekdom. I likes.

Incidentally, I found this tune via Critical Metrics, a site I’ve been doing some editing work for, which I whole-heartedly endorse as a dope way to discover new music. A track review aggregator, CM launched officially on Friday, via a BoingBoing interview with our grand poobah (and my ex-neighbor) Joey Anuff. Blender weighed in as well. (Here is CM’s page for “Thou Shalt Always Kill.”)

notes from the upper deck

o CitiField is emerging a few dozen yards from the outfield fence, a superstructure that looks not unlike the half-completed Death Star in Return of the Jedi. It’s certainly ominous. With nobody working on it during the weekend games, it looked like it could either be a construction or demolition project. Like a first trimester fetus in a sonogram, bits of what I imagine will be the first base bleachers are the only part currently recognizable as a ballpark.

o I’m deeply suspicious of the asymmetric layout of the new field. I dig Shea Stadium because it is Platonic: what a baseball field should look like in the best of all possible worlds. Allegedly, CitiField is to mimic old-time ballparks, with its facade imitating Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. But old fields’ dimensions were idiosyncratic because they were often forced into the confined footprint of a city block. It just seems false.

o Aha, another reason baseball is unique: its complete system of elegantly nested units. (Huh-huh, “nested units.”) It can be broken down into formal segments, growing larger and more complex: single pitches (their motion over the plate), at-bats (the full drama of how to work a batter), plays (individual sets of action), innings (slightly larger sets, with dramatic unity), games (the most basic currency of baseball), series (how two teams stack up during a given few days), and seasons (ultimately, determining who is best, and starting over). Matt commented about the micro-macro qualities of the game at this point last year, and he’s totally right. The relationships between the levels are unbelievably dynamic. As above, so below. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

o Likewise, there are all kinds of different levels one can pop back and forth between when talking during a game. Besides the formal elements, listed above, there’s also the matter of lore: individual player narratives, team rivalries, and the like, as well as the even grander arc of baseball history.

o One can employ any one of the elements to figure out why the fuck the Mets melted in the 7th this afternoon. For example, one can blame Shawn Green’s misplay of Scott Thorman’s drive into the right field corner, which should’ve been the third out. Or one can blame the evolution of relief pitching into righty/lefty specialists used for one or two batters, even if they’re clearly in the groove — Willie Randolph having pulled Ambiorix Burgos so Scott Schoeneweis could face Kelly Johnson (walked) and Edgar Renturia (three-run home run into the Mets’ bullpen). Or one can blame Schoeneweis for bad pitching, or anybody or anything else. Really, the Mets lost, another unit completed.

the gentrification tax

A reasonable/utopian proposal to rebalance the cultural ecosystem.

If it can be proved that:

1.) In a neighborhood…
a.) …there has been a recent boom in high-value residential real estate…
b.) …the average rent for a commercial property has increased.

2.) An institution in that neighborhood…
a.) …is of cultural value…
b.) …has been open for five years or longer…
c.) …was able to operate at the original rent…
d.) …cannot viably function under the new rent.

The neighborhood’s new residents should be made to pay a Gentrification Tax to cover the difference between the institution’s original rent and the current market value of the property, as well as any attendant costs for the legal enforcement of the law.

the curious case of sidd finch

Perhaps it is true of all sports, but magical realism/fabulism seems to go particularly well with baseball, from Philip Roth’s malfunctioning Ruppert Mundys of the Great American Novel to the entire career of W.P. Kinsella (who I’ll probably post more about as the season moves along). A good answer is suggested by George Plimpton in his own contribution to the genre, The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, about an aspiring Buddhist monk who can pitch 168 miles per hour (and does so over several games with the 1985 Mets):

Baseball is the perfect game for the mystic mind. Cricket is unsatisfactory because it has time strictures. The clock is involved. Play is called. The players stop for tea. No! No! No!… On the other hand, baseball is so open to infinity. No clocks. No one pressing the buttons on stopwatches. The foul lines stretch to infinity. In theory, the game of baseball can go on indefinitely.

On Finish’s first big league performance:

Sometimes in a stadium, if it is tense, and the place has a good crowd, enough people identify with the actual flight of the pitch ball — an exhalation of breath — so that the pitch is accompanied by a slight whoomph. With the first ball that Finch threw there was no time for any kind of reaction: we heard the slam of the ball driving the air out of the catcher’s mitt with a high pop! — audible, I suspect, in the parking lot beyond the center-field fence. This was followed by a high exclamation from Reynolds, a kind of squeak, as he stood up from his stance, reached into his glove, and began pulling the ball free.

the coast of utopia (in the end)

Several more thoughts about Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia, which I finished seeing last week, and finished reading yesterday…

o I could really go for another three parts. With the recent appetite for serial entertainment like Lost and Harry Potter, it’d be wonderful for a writer of Stoppard’s caliber to tackle a project as epic. Perhaps that’s exactly what Coast of Utopia already is.

o Three women next to us left after act I of part III. What the fuck? Did they make it all the way and give up? Were they tourists who just wanted to see a show at Lincoln Center?

o For numerous reasons — rhythm, dialogue, conceits — it could never translate to film. Does the fact that it can’t be mass entertainment make it pretentious? (It is, of course, but for other reasons, often indistinguishable from why it’s so grand.)

o Perhaps the most beautiful set in the whole show: perfectly vertical Christmas lights lowered from the rafters, creating the illusion (especially in the balcony) of being suspended in the midst of a hyperreal starry night.

o Throughout, Stoppard juggles characters, plotlines, philosophical arguments, and — in part III, Salvage — it was amazing to watch him bring them all to conclusions. In doing so, Stoppard sometimes stepped out of his usual voice. On paper, while supremely eloquent, some of the Big Speeches lack Stoppard’s usual multi-layered verve. But, on stage, calling on the audience’s collective experience with the characters, they were among the most dramatic parts of the trilogy. Alexander Herzen, reflecting:

I sat in this char the first morning I woke up in this house. I’d just arrived in England, and for the first time… for the first time since Natalie died… no, from before that, that I don’t know since when… but for the first time in a long time, there was silence. I didn’t have to talk or think or move, nothing was expected of me, I knew nobody and nobody knew where I was, everything was behind me, all the moving from lace to place, the quarrels and celebrations, the desperate concerns of health and happiness, love, death, printer’s errors, picnics ruined by rain, the endless tumult of ordinary life… and I just sat quiet and alone all that day, looking at the tops of the trees on Primrose Hill through the mist.

“backwater” – the meat puppets

“Backwater” – Meat Puppets (download here)
from Too High To Die (1994)
released by London (buy)

(file expires April 23rd)

It’s amazing how genres disappear with time. A few weeks ago, I caught a bit of the Kids In the Hall movie, Brain Candy, at a friend’s house, which I hadn’t seen since college. I couldn’t tell if Death Lurks, the faux-band fronted by Bruce McCullough’s Grivo, was supposed to be parodying grunge or metal. Likewise, a bunch of months ago, I put the Meat Puppets’ Too High To Die on my iPod. Nearly every time a track came up on shuffle, I thought “what vintage jamband is this?”

“Backwater” — their only charting single, not coincidentally, #47 on the Hot 100 — is still the best. It’s filled with sweet double-tracked vocals and rubbery/crunchy guitars that might launch into a Jersey Shore cover band version of “St. Stephen” at any moment. Plus, the album is called Too High To Die. Of course, the Meat Puppets were always hippies, and Meat Puppets II is at least as psych-country as it is punk. But they worked on the proto-indie circuit, and got a huge boost when Kurt Cobain featured them on MTV Unplugged, so they got lumped in with the alt-rockers, and people heard them differently. Whatever you wanna call it, “Backwater” still makes me happy.

my exciting weekend

o Got a book review about Phil Spector and Brian Wilson published in the London Times.

o Got called out by Wooden Wand over a review of his song, “The Pushers.” (My response is below his.)

o Accidentally got my eyelids stuck behind my eyeball, then made up a punk song about it with my buildingmates. I play bass and shout “1, 2, 3, 4.” (Via my lovely neighbor’s 365songbird project.)

“nega (photograph blues)” – gilberto gil

“Nega (Photograph Blues)” – Gilberto Gil (download here)
from Gilberto Gil (1971)
reissued by Water (buy)

(file expires April 20th)

For all the complexities offered to American listeners by tropicalia — musical, conceptual, cultural, and political — the pleasure of Gilberto Gil’s “Nega (Photograph Blues)” is its near-bubblegum bliss. It is simple, catchy, and doesn’t leave much to talk about. It’s just a song. Recorded during his early ’70s London exile, Gil’s second self-titled album was his first in English. Really, “Nega” is a silly love song, but Gil’s likeability is boundless, his voice open and joyous. Reissued by Water this spring, with a handful of live cuts, the album radiates good vibrations.

winter & the smelless girl, no. 1

(Sporadic fiction.)

Winter & the Smelless Girl: no. 1, no. 2

It was the winter of being a rube and, on the subway home, the smelless girl slept on my shoulder, my nose buried in her hair. Across from us, a drunk student fighting sleep was an automaton, her head lolling to the side before a mechanical reset in her arm jerked it back upwards. In the girl’s hair, I could not even detect the cigarettes from the party we’d been at it. Their staleness, I knew, clung to my clothing. I smelled nothing. I saw her most weekends just before and after the holidays. We got along well, though the comfort she provided was minimal. The night before, I’d been made a mark again. We’d gone out for the night, the smelless girl and I, though she hadn’t come home with me. I’d kissed her goodnight at her door, and made for the train. On the platform, I stepped on a man’s watch, or so he claimed.

frow show, episode 17

Episode 17: Transmission from Portland
…with guest host James Dunseth…

(Listen here.)

I’ve known James Dunseth, the rad geographer, for almost 10 years. As he has at various times over that period, he recently sent me a package of new music. This time, it included a fantastic mix of songs by his favorite bands local to Portland, Oregon, where he lives. Instead of just pilfering them for various Frow Shows, I figured I’d just turn the reigns over to him for an episode…

1. “Peein’ In An Empty” – Tom Heinl (from With Or Without Me)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Space Hole” – March Fourth Marching Band (from March Fourth Marching Band)
4. “Hands In Pockets” – Laura Gibson (from If You Come To Greet Me)
5. “Color Coded” – Heroes & Villians (from Heroes & Villians EP)
6. “Plagiarhythm” – Copy (from Mobius Beard)
7. “The Sleepless” – The Shaky Hands (from The Shaky Hands)
8. “Bottom of the Lake” – The Builders and the Butchers (from The Builders and the Butchers)
9. “The Pirate’s Gospel” – Alela Diane (from The Pirate’s Gospel)
10. “Very Much Alone Pt. 4: O, Fuck, I’m Fucked. Fuck.” – Drakkar Sauna (from Rover)
11. “Lux and Royal Shopper” – Blitzen Trapper (from Field Rexx)
12. “The Nights on the Absillian Sea” – Aidan Coughlan (from Mystery’s Mist)
13. “Aftershocks Anfter Afterthoughts” – Small Sails (from Hunter Gatherer)
14. “Hitman Blues” – Pentecost Hotel (unreleased)
15. “This Abdomen Has Flown” – Bark, Hide and Horn (from Bark, Hide and Horn EP)
16. “Storyteller is the Story” – Modernstate (from Highwater Moonboot)
17. “Seven” – Point Juncture, WA (from Mama Auto Boss)
18. “Seems To Calm The Baby” – Nick Jaina (from The 7 Stations)

& here are the notes James sentme with the original mix:

01_ Tom Heinl – Peein’ In An Empty

The king of ‘stereoke’… he plays his live shows karaoke style with his own living room furniture and stereo on stage. Plus he reads hilarious excerpts from his childhood journals.

02_ March Fourth Marching Band – Space Hole
Portland’s very own 35 piece renegade marching band.

03_ Laura Gibson – Hands In Pockets
Nice wintery music… I like her breathy vocals.

04_ Heroes And Villains – Color Coded
My friend Ali (originally from Long Island) plays piano and accordion.

05_ Copy – Plagiarhythm
Portland’s keytar sensation.

06_ The Shaky Hands – The Sleepless
Potentially the next big name to come out of Portland. Their live shows are really high energy. Their debut album comes out April 10th.

07_ The Builders And The Butchers – Bottom Of The Lake
My favorite band in Portland. Their CD just came out on Friday. Blues/Gospel revival rock. Their live shows are amazing!

08_ Alela Diane – The Pirate’s Gospel
Another nice folky type lady.

09_ Drakkar Sauna – Very Much Alone Pt. 4: O, Fuck, I’m Fucked. Fuck.
The only non-Portland band on this mix. They’re from Kansas but their records are put out by Marriage Records here in Portland. Delightfully weird.

10_ Blitzen Trapper – Lux & Royal Shopper
Fun indie pop rock.

11_ Aidan Coughlan – The Nights On The Absillian Sea
Lo-Fi E6 type stuff. Very mysterious.

12_ Small Sails – Aftershocks And Afterthoughts
Electro pop.

13_ Pentecost Hotel – Hitman Blues
This track comes from an album that probably won’t ever get released. Their other album is pretty cool.

14_ Bark, Hide And Horn – This Abdomen Has Flown
They write most of their songs based on National Geographic articles that they read. This song is about Honey Ants.

15_ Modernstate – Storyteller Is The Story
One man weird band.

16_ Point Juncture, WA – Seven
Indie Rock… Influenced by Radiohead & Yo La Tengo.

17_ Nick Jaina – Seems To Calm The Baby
Just a good singer songwriter type. My friend Ali plays in his live band and on most of his album as well.

satchel paige’s rules for how to stay young

In the Great American Novel, Philip Roth compares legendary Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige to Mark Twain’s slave Jim, from Huckleberry Finn. “Students of Literatoor, professors, and small boys who recall Jim’s comical lingo will not be fooled just because Satch has dispensed with the thick dialect he used for speaking in Mr. Twain’s book.”

Paige’s six-point list for “How To Stay Young” (first published in Collier’s in 1953 and reproduced by Roth) sounds like it’s straight out of Twain, though (I think) could be any one of Twain’s folk weirdoes, white or black. Or maybe I’m just a white liberal.

1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.

2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.

3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.

4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.

5. Avoid running at all times.

6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

I think often about #4.

wild night

“Wild Night” – Van Morrison (download here)
from Tupelo Honey (1971)
released by Polydor (buy)

(file expires April 15th)

Here’s Dad’s video for Martha & the Vandellas’ version of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night.” Originally animated for the pre-MTV NBC show Friday Night Videos. (The date at the beginning is incorrect, FWIW, the final credit of the previous clip on the reel.)

see also: Face Film, Cosmic Clock, Yak!

the coast of utopia (so far)

Two-thirds through Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia trilogy at Lincoln Center (thanks, G’ma!!). Some things I have loved, so far:

o The frayed scrim that drops almost to the stage, reflecting off the shiny floor to create a fairly literal illusion of coastline (which promptly disappears during the rising dystopian tides of part II: Shipwreck).

o Stoppardian zingers like “the whole Army’s obsessed with playing at soldiers” — spoken by deserting military student/future anarchist Michael Bakunin. I thought of it frequently as I passed through TSA checkpoints en route home from Minneapolis earlier this week.

o The woman across the aisle from us in the loge who brought her shaggy, craggy old black dog to the theater, who dozed peaceably under her seat throughout the performance and was quieter than many audience members (myself included) sniffling with mild late-winter colds.

o The ridiculously clever conceit Stoppard uses to establish that, while the play is English, the characters are speaking Russian. The first line, spoken at a dinner table scene on an idyllic estate north of Moscow: “Speaking of which — Liubov, say something in English for the Baron.” Later, the “English” dialogue is spoken with a thick Russian accent.

o The manner in which (as always) Stoppard is able to wrench fabulous emotion from potentially (and, probably, actually) pretentious plotlines — in this case, the entwined lives of privileged Russian radicals in the post-Decembrist/pre-Marxist period. The literary critic Vissarion Belinsky, played by Billy Crudup:

I’m sick of utopias. I’m tired of hearing about them. I’d trade the lot for one practical difference that owes nothing to anybody’s ideal society, one commonsensical action that puts right an injury to one person. Do you know what I like to do best when I’m at home? — watch them build the railway station in St. Petersburg. My heart lifts to see the tracks going down. In a year or two, friends and families, lovers, letters, will be speeding to Moscow and back. Life will be altered. The poetry of practical gesture. Something unknown to literary criticism!

Can’t wait to see part III next week.

“take me out to the ballgame” – bob dylan

“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (a capella) – Bob Dylan (download here)
from Theme Time Radio Hour, ep. 04: Baseball

(file expires April 12th)

I think baseball’s slowness, exactly what most people seem to hate about the game, is exactly what I love about it: being able to watch characters develop slowly, over (if we’re lucky) eight months, both in action and in repose, in micro (at bat by at bat) and macro (the story arc of an entire career), and having plenty of time between pitches to boggle about it all.

Of course, whenever I try to boil down why I love baseball and not other sports, it’s all sort of arbitrary — which isn’t to say unimportant, just more akin to a religion one is born into, and accepted as meaningful many moons ago. Except for the fact that baseball begins with the spring, and ends as the leaves die. Anyway, it’s April, and the Mets are 3-and-0, so here’s Bob Dylan singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from the fourth episode of his Theme Time Radio Hour.

frow show, episode 16

Hey everybody! Back! In one piece, even!

Here’s the most recent Frow Show.

Episode 16: In Which the Wall of Sound Goes to Europe
…& spring clothes, half-on!

Listen here.

Here’s some music by the Grateful Dead. Perhaps, if you have not liked the Grateful Dead before, you will like this. It begins with some noisy avant-garde electronics by Phil Lesh and guest keyboardist Ned Lagin. They are joined by the band, who eventually play florid hippie-jazz & a beautiful song about a doomed alcoholic.

1. “Introduction” – some French dude (from 4/17/1972 Tivoli Gardens)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Seastones” >
4. “Eyes of the World” >
5. “Wharf Rat” (from 9/11/1974 Alexandra Palace)