Ladies and gentlemen of central Virginia, start your engines. Race weekend in Richmond is upon us, and it’s got me all nostalgic about how, almost exactly one year ago, I rang in the spring NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway with my very first post about Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. Imagine my joy, having found a group that combined my love of soulful electro-pop and brightly-colored sports merch, just a short time before their revered namesake was coming to town for my favorite weekend of the year (keeping in mind of course that the weekend of the fall race is also my favorite weekend of the year). NASCAR in Richmond is a tradition that’s grown near and dear to my heart over the past half-decade, just as Dale Jr Jr has done over the course of the last 12 months.
I really like free stuff. I know this from years of experience obtaining free stuff, but I also know this because I recently had a coworker say to me, “You really like free stuff.” When I decided to write this post, I tried to remember the context in which he said this, but there were too many possibilities, and I gave up. Not so coincidentally, this same coworker and I have already updated our calendars with the best Richmond Flying Squirrels promotional giveaway nights, including the one in which they’re giving out an egg timer shaped like a pig, and the Father’s Day one, in which they’re giving the first 2,000 men 15 and older a visor that reads “Head Nut” (my love for the team’s marketing department knows no bounds). Neither of us has kids, but WHATEVER. It’s free!
Speaking of free stuff and nuts (A segue for the ages!), many of the folks who stormed their local haunts on Record Store Day had the chance to grab a complimentary copy of the fifth volume in Sub Pop’s Terminal Sales sampler series, entitled Mixed Nuts(there may be no better example of how one should keep one’s head on a swivel for free stuff than RSD). Having had a little more than a week to check it out — no, I will not rat out the record store that gave it out early — I can confirm that each of the tracks has that extra measure of sweetness than can be found in the complimentary Slurpees dispensed each July 11, or the free scoops handed out on Ben and Jerry’s Free Cone Day. That said, one gave me a particularly potent sugar rush — “Asha Gedawo” by Debo Band, an 11-piece, Boston-based outfit, led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, with vocals provided by a man named Bruck Tesfaye who, as far as I can tell, is not related to Abel Tesfaye of the Weeknd.
“…having a guy dressed as Beethoven in the balcony can’t exactly change the fact that the real guy died in 1827, but it does call attention to the fact that 4 people with instruments and some sheet music can bring a part of the German composer’s magnificently wired brain back to life, if only for the length of time it takes to play one of his works…”
Though I was talking about how Brooklyn Rider makes classical music accessible, the part about music providing an external, accessible image of a person’s consciousness is fascinating to me. And while every lyricist engages in this process by putting their thoughts to words, hearing Fiona Apple’s new song “Every Single Night” helped me realize that she’s in a class of her own in this respect.
Record Store Day is quickly fading in the rear view mirror, and now that we’ve had a couple days to strip off the shrink wrap, listen to the loot and digest the day’s events, I wanted to share a few reactions and a few songs. In lieu of a list of acquisitions (I’m a little scared to a provide the complete inventory, as my better half reads this blog, and I may or may not have some financial splainin’ to do), I thought I’d keep the superlatives theme from earlier this month rollin’ by handing out a few RSD Superlatives. Off we go…
The world is a tiny place. It used to be big. Huge even! So huge that we didn’t even know the fucker was round! Crazy, right? Now it’s so small that I can write a blog post about meeting the stepdad of a famous musician and hear back from that musician via Twitter in a matter of minutes. And it’s so small that we can be several places at once. Thanks to the world wide web of information, just as we can watch every single game of the NCAA basketball tournament, we can now attend music festivals from thousands of miles away, and last weekend was a great example. Throughout the weekend, Coachella was webcasting performances, 3 at a time, and I was in heaven. And though I’m not going to argue that watching on my laptop beats being there in person, there is one HUGE advantage.
I’ve been to Bonnaroo twice, in 2004 and 2005, and one of the most difficult things about the monster music festival experience (aside from not showering for 3 days and being around other people who haven’t showered in 3 days) is the decision-making. One band vs. another that’s scheduled to play at the same time. It’s downright painful in the moment, and there’s around a 95% chance that you will despise your decision a few years later (Jack Johnson over the Black Crowes haunts me to this day). But there I was on Friday night, zooming from Dawes to Arctic Monkeys and back in the blink of an eye. Like I said, heaven. But Saturday was a little more stressful. As I left the Trillions’ CD release show, holding two new CDs, one sticker and a whole mess of excitement, I was also lugging around a serious sense of urgency.
Because of the shindig I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to Saturday night’s Trillions CD release show at Gallery 5. And by the time I got there, I was pretty tuckered out and had already missed Kid Is Qual’s set (more on these fine folks to come in a future post). I definitely needed a pick-me-up, and having recently gone cold turkey on Red Bull certainly wasn’t working in my favor. But I’ll tell you two things that were working in my favor: Worthless Junk labelmates Black Girls occupying the second opening slot and the Trillions kicking ass/taking names.
This Saturday was a seemingly never-ending, “Did that really just happen?” day full of great music.
NOW, I’d venture to guess that I’m not the only dude with a music blog who’s going to saddle up to a laptop this week and write a sentence that sounds something like the one you just read. That’s because The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend in Indio, California — nicknamed, if you can believe it, “The City of Festivals” — and it sounds like Saturday’s lineup was exceptionally good. But what the intrepid, music-loving outdoorsmen who attended Coachella may not know is that another unforgettable day packed full of tunes was happening 2,516 miles away, in just-as-sunny Richmond, Virginia. My Saturday also rocked, and its events were split up into three distinct parts, like some benevolent, three-headed musical monster (think Cerberus and Falcor having a fluffy puppy with 3 adorable, boop-able noses). Before I get keystroke diarrhea and try to tell you about the whole day at once, let’s start at the beginning, at a late-afternoon party in a coworker’s backyard.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview RVA’s favorite team of #snuffrock specialists, Black Girls. It was a tremendous honor meeting and chatting with these 5 incredibly talented and gracious gents, and the resulting article is available now in the spring issue of RVA Magazine. I’m excited about how it turned out, as the band has had some wonderful things happen in the last few months, and I really believe they are destined for great things. If’n you’re interested, you can read the piece online here or, if you’re an ink and paper kind of guy/gal, you can pick up a hard copy of RVA Magazine for $0 at several spots around town (my favorite place to snag the mag when it comes out is Steady Sounds on Broad Street, but hey, that’s just me). In the meantime, you can sample Black Girls’ song “Get Off” below and, if you don’t have it yet, click here to pick up their kickass recent album, Hell Dragon.
One of my favorite podcasts in the entire universe is Radiolab, a show based out of WNYC that features all sorts of stories about science, not to mention some of the snazziest editing and production I’ve heard anywhere, ever, in anything. They can turn the painfully boring stuff that used to make your mind wander in the direction of bludgeoning your high school chemistry teacher into riveting radio gold.
In January, they did a show about the bad side of human nature, and spent some time talking about an experiment that was done at Yale in which (long story short) a psychologist named Stanley Milgram tested how much pain people were willing to inflict on other people in the name of science. While, on the surface, the experiment showed how obedient people can be, one of the most interesting findings was that when a white-coat-wearing authority figure told reticent subjects that they had “no other choice” but to continue administering painful electroshocks, 100% of the people told them to stick the experiment where the sun don’t shine. People really, really don’t like being bossed around. I didn’t realize it until hearing about Milgram’s experiment, but I feel similarly about negative record reviews.