“Every day becomes better when listening to Queen.”
This quotation was culled from a tweet posted by the esteemed proprietor of Richmond Playlist, and I have to say that truer words were never spoken. When is the last time you heard a Queen song without your mood improving? I mean seriously, whose day was ever ruined by “Don’t Stop Me Now” or “Under Pressure“? And don’t get me started on “Fat Bottomed Girls,” a song that’s so awesome I had a hard time believing it was real the first time I heard it. Well just yesterday, a friend sent me a link to videographic evidence that conclusively proves this assertion beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the above clip, a drunk Canadian man sits in the back of a Royal Mounted Canadian Police car, having been arrested for, well, being drunk. But does he take that shit lying down? Hell no. He dusts off his vocal chords and performs “Bohemian Rhapsody” IN ITS ENTIRETY. Take that Mounties! This brave performer (who looks like the illegitimate love-child of Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers) clearly comes out the better man in this scenario and most certainly has some serious Internet stardom coming his way. The moral of the story? Queen makes everything better. So try not to get arrested this weekend, but if you do end up in the back of a cop car, you know what to do.
Queen — “Bohemian Rhapsody“
You know what’s fun? Getting a sneak preview of something. There’s nothing like mixing exclusivity with instant gratification. Simply deee-vine. In just a second, I’m going to pass along a not-so-sneaky trick for getting your grubby paws on new tunes before they’re released, one that doesn’t involve going around the artist’s back and finding an involuntarily leaked copy.
Here’s the totally above-board trick… if it’s feasible, go see the band whose album you’re salivating over. Not only will you probably hear how the new material sounds live, you may even walk away with the album in hand. This happened late last year at the RVA Music Festival, when the Trillions were selling advance copies of their new album (which is fantastic), and it happened again his past Saturday night when I saw Dana Buoy open for Youth Lagoon at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington D.C. During his set, Buoy proprietor Dana Janssen, who is also the percussionist for a group called Akron/Family, announced that even though his debut solo album Summer Bodies isn’t out yet (it won’t be until May 8), advance copies were available for purchase at the merch table.
So last Wednesday’s show at the National was quite the hootenanny. I already wrote about how much I enjoyed the outstanding headlining act, the Head and the Heart, but I have to say a few words about the fine work done by Black Girls in their opening set. There’s nothing like catching one of your favorite bands on the perfect night. Homecoming shows are always special, but this was the RVA group’s first stop in town after their most packed string of dates yet, having spent March on a trans-American/Canadian tour with the above mentioned, Seattle-based headliner. The atmosphere on Wednesday was appropriately celebratory, and Black Girls’ music fed off the welcome-home-y energy throughout, sounding equal parts powerful and joyful. And it wasn’t just who started off the evening but what as well, given that having “South Carolina” at the very top of a setlist is akin to waking up in the morning and immediately downing one of those giant Red Bulls that only truckers and people who sell Red Bull to truckers drink. From these first few moments until the closing notes of “Broadway,” the band channeled all the energy in the room into what may have been the best performance I’ve seen them give. You often hear about how busy concert schedules like the one they had in March render a band tighter or more polished, and this is undoubtedly the case for Black Girls, as well. But two of the band’s greatest strengths are a loose, confident swagger and a willingness to take chances, and the road seems to have, somewhat paradoxically, nurtured these qualities as well. As precise as each member’s performance was, it seemed like I was also hearing some additional layers and stylistic flourishes that I hadn’t before. Gillihan’s vocal improvisation was as far-reaching and captivating as I’d ever heard it, and the use of synth felt bolder and more emphatic than I remembered, shining a light on an aspect of their recently released album Hell Dragon that I absolutely loved. As a side note, this post doubles as an official, 5-alarm, all-hands-on-deck Merch Alert. I snagged the above pictured t-shirt just a few minutes after they concluded “Broadway,” and I was not the only one clamoring for one. I suggest grabbing yours at the earliest opportunity, as they appear to be too fly to last long. And even though iTunes technically has an infinite number of Hell Dragon downloads left in stock, I encourage springing into action on that front as well, given how great the album is. Get a taste of the #snuffrock awaiting therein by previewing “Broadway” and “St. Simons” below.
Black Girls — “Broadway” [Spotify/iTunes]
Black Girls — “St. Simons” [Spotify/iTunes]
So this past Friday night, I spun at a super exclusive club. So exclusive that only two people were allowed in. I bet you’re dying to know which club it was, right? OK, OK, I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell ANYBODY. It was… my living room. That’s right, the two people in attendance were me and Mrs. You Hear That, who was sleeping peacefully on the couch the entire time. Sounds bumpin’, huh? Awww yeah! Because my set was so underground, I wanted to share some (11, to be exact) of the tunes we — OK, I — listened to while we — OK, I — watched college basketball. If you want to consider this a basketball playlist, go right ahead. Just know that it has nothing to do with basketball and would probably ruin even the most well-intentioned Final Four watch party. Just for fun, in spite of my sub-par photography skills (Glare? What glare?), I snapped pictures of all the records I played. What can I say? I’m a sucker for album art. Hope you enjoy!
My introduction to the Head and the Heart came courtesy of an RVA Magazine interview with drummer Tyler Williams, who took a leap of faith a few years back by moving from Richmond to Seattle to join the group. He did so at the suggestion of another former Richmond resident, Jonathan Russell, who is half of the band’s founding partnership (he also happens to be a former high school friend of Williams’). File what I’m about to say under “Small and Mostly Meaningless Coincidences,” but I read this article in the midst of my own westward journey, aboard my very first cross-continental flight, bound for Portland. As tenuous as that connection may have been, I was pretty damn excited to see what the west coast was like, and reading about these fine Virginia gents heading west made me feel adventurous as well (so much so that I bought the 7-inch single of “Down In The Valley” while in Portland, even though I had no idea what it sounded like).
Reliving that adventurousness is one reason I was so excited about heading to the National this Wednesday evening to see the Head and the Heart in person (another reason being that Richmond’s outstanding Black Girls was one of the two opening acts — more to come on their performance in a separate post). And there was so much to love about the headlining set — singer and violin player Charity Rose Thielen’s impressive voice and magnetic personality won the crowd over completely, and Russell playing a solo acoustic tune to kick off the encore was a treat — but it was the last song of the night that best illustrated why I love the Head and the Heart so much.
Back in early February, good friend of the blog Greg and I played a game called Adjective Battleship, wherein we tried to sum up songs we liked using 5 words or less. There were some fun similarities in our descriptions, the spookiest of which being that Future Islands’ tune “Balance” made us both think of elephants. Hmm. As weird as that was, I think the most meaningfully similar descriptions belonged to Daniel Rossen’s dark and beautiful “Saint Nothing” (mine was “Rainy days are pretty too” and Greg’s was “A smile buried alive”). I had no idea how close we were to the truth until last Monday, when Pitchfork posted a brief but revealing interview with Rossen, who spends most of his music-making hours as one quarter of the brilliant, brooding Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear. In the interview, Rossen talks about how alienated he felt after finishing an especially long and grueling tour with the Grizzlies, saying things like, “I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and if I really even wanted to make music anymore.” Heavy stuff. The rest of the interview focused on Rossen’s stunning and highly recommendable solo EP, Silent Hour/Golden Mile, which just came out yesterday. Please don’t let the gloomy introduction fool you. There’s a reason both Greg and I alluded to positivity in our descriptions of “Saint Nothing.” One of the things I love most about the EP is how tantalizingly close each dissonant moment comes to a blissful resolution that hovers just inches out of reach. The natural urge to obtain that shiny, withheld joy results in a deeply enthralling and rewarding listen. It also results in kids getting stuck in those claw game machines. I mean, who hasn’t that happened to, right? Start your own claw game by sampling Rossen’s “Up On High” and “Silent Song” below. If you dig ’em, click here to buy Silent Hour/Golden Mile on iTunes. Who knows what you’ll snag!
Daniel Rossen — “Up On High“
Daniel Rossen — “Silent Song“
Let me start by saying that if you haven’t watched/heard Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech from SXSW, you absolutely, positively must watch/hear it. Go on, I’ll wait. Done yet? Great! Wasn’t that amazing?!? Using Elvis performing on the Ed Sullivan show as a jumping-off point, the Boss gives a fascinating music history lesson, walking us through his development as a musician, how popular music has evolved over the past 50 or so years, and the fractured yet hopeful nature of today’s musical landscape. And while I could spend all day writing about takeaways from his speech (and probably will at some point), I wanted to share with you one thing he said that rang so true that me and Chris Tucker did this when he said it. After commenting about how heartfelt musical expression can’t be confined by genre or instrumentation, Springsteen let loose the following thesis, set off in its own paragraph for dramatic effect…
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is underway, and twelfth-seeded VCU scored a big win over fifth-seeded Wichita State last night, upping the Rams’ two-year tourney record to 6-1. That’s just bonkers. Shaka Smart is a total badass, and VCU’s was easily the most exciting game of the day. And I say all this from the perspective of a University of Richmond grad who is currently licking his wounds from a pretty cruddy season that didn’t even come close to resulting in an NCAA tournament berth. But the Rams’ win over Wichita State has me feeling like it’s 2011 all over again. I’ll never forget how supportive the city of Richmond was of both teams last year, when UR made it to the Sweet 16 and VCU plowed ahead into the Final Four. It was so much fun to cheer for VCU after UR was knocked out, so it feels totally natural to do the same now. I watched last night’s game with a friend who’s a grad student at VCU, and once the win was secure, he had what I gather is a fairly typical reaction — he snagged the nearest AUX OUT cable, plugged it into his phone and blasted “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa (I was told to mention here that VCU’s colors are actually black and gold, but I’m pretty sure everyone’s cool overlooking this particular technicality in this particular context). While this victory anthem played and my Twitter feed started filling up with ecstatic posts (a welcome break from the jealousy-inducing SXSW tweets), I started searching on Hype Machine for a remix of the song that could keep the celebration going. As you can see, there are a zillion of them, and no one of them could truly capture the excitement in the air, so I did the only reasonable thing — I played every one I could get my hands on at the same time and recorded the ensuing din for posterity. Without further ado, I present to you, in honor of Shaka’s 6 tourney wins in just 2 years, 6 remixes of “Black and Yellow” being played simultaneously. These include [taking a deep breath] the “Morsy Bklyn Booty Mix,” the “Big Gigantic and Samples Remix,” the “Go Periscope Remix,” Xavier Pryce’s “Wack And Yellow,” a version from DJ Kue, the “Mister Gray Dubstep Edit,” and last, but certainly not least, something called the the “DJ Smerk Transition.” By making it through the whole thing, you’ll be displaying the exact same fighting spirit that has earned VCU their impressive tournament record. You may also be damaging your hearing. Listen below (I’ve also included the original to cleanse your aural palate afterwards), and best of luck to the Rams in Saturday’s game against Indiana!
DJ You Hear That — “Six Remixes Of Black And Yellow Playing Simultaneously“
Wiz Khalifa — “Black and Yellow“
I’ve mentioned this before, but when I started writing You Hear That, I had no idea how much amazing music is being made right here in Richmond, VA. During the course of the past year, I’ve been completely blown away by RVA’s homegrown tunes, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to blogs like Richmond Playlist and Sounds of RVA for pointing me in all the right directions. And as inspired as I’ve been by outstanding groups like White Laces, Black Girls, Goldrush and The Trillions, there’s so much more to discover — especially when it comes to RVA hip hop. The Cheats Movement blog, which is a tremendous source for information about local rap artists (not to mention a seemingly bottomless well of positivity and enthusiasm), has helped me take a big step in that direction by posting the video above, which is the first in the series of clips that will document an event that took place on October 21, 2011 called RVA Hot Sauce. Much like the graffiti photos that got me hooked on Marc Cheatham’s blog several months ago, this video is a wake-up call as to the staggering amount of creativity flowing through this city, and I can’t wait to see the additional installments and hear more from performers like Black Liquid. Watch him and several other talented RVA folks in action in the video above (seeing Brian McDaniel from Dirty Richmond freestyle is particularly awesome), listen below to an older Black Liquid tune called “Life,” and keep an eye out for more RVA Hot Sauce videos down the road.
Black Liquid — “Life“
Late this past Saturday night, I received a pair emails, which Gmail dutifully grouped into a conversation, notifying me that my friend Tex, with whom I’d been real-life conversing just hours earlier, had gifted me some music via iTunes. 2 albums worth, to be exact. This is a picture taken of me moments after reading those emails.
As if that wasn’t awesome enough, one of the albums he gave me came with a set of listening instructions. I love when this happens. It always makes me think about Almost Famous and the note William Miller’s big sis leaves him about lighting a candle, listening to Tommy and seeing his entire future. Maybe because my own big sis was a similarly powerful musical influence when I was William’s age. Hmmmm. Anyhoo, Tex’s instructions for listening to Balkan Beat Box’s conveniently named album Give were as follows: “Listen to it backwards and let me know what you think.”