Monthly Archives: May 2012

Dead Fame

Frontiers

It’s incredibly satisfying when a band you’re seeing for the first time meets the expectations that took root when you listened to their recordings. You know what’s even better? When those expectations are totally obliterated, the band is even better than you could have hoped, and you walk away feeling like this.

I’d been trying to make it to a Dead Fame show for months, and the big moment finally came last night, when supporters of Richmond Playlist packed the Camel for the blog’s super-fun birthday party (yes there was cake, and it was delicious!). DF took the stage as the second of three bands, installing a snazzy light show that included a roving, green laser that, while the band was working out a few technical difficulties, became the subject of a fantastic English-majors-talking-about-science conversation between my wife and me about how the laser seemed to be moving the smoky air it touched, and whether this was actually possible. Our conclusion? We have no idea what we’re talking about.

Dead Fame’s set got underway a few minutes later and, within the first few moments of “Glass Jacket,” I was floored. Blown away. Gobsmacked.

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Happy Birthday, Richmond Playlist!

There are a zillion reasons why everyone and their second cousin should head out to the Camel tonight for Richmond Playlist’s blog birthday party. I’ve listed a random sampling of 5 of these reasons below, organized in no particular order…

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A Physical Playlist

The best music conversations are the ones that never really end. They live on in the reminders you enter into your phone’s notes application — a band name you don’t want to forget or the title of a documentary that needs to be added to your Netflix queue. They pick back up thanks to the follow-up emails, tweets and texts in which the recommendee shares a reaction with the recommender, or the recommender finally remembers the album name that a few too many beers spirited away. They leave traces, like the stack of records that flew out of the crate because they demanded to be played (you can only talk for so long about how Exile on Main St. was recorded before you’re morally obligated to put it on).

Mrs. You Hear That and I hosted some friends from out of town over the long holiday weekend (the same friends who clued me into Moon Hooch a little while back), and our many music conversations — exchanges about Exile, the George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World, Jack White’s Blunderbuss and the mention of King Sunny Adé in Pitchfork’s vicious Body Faucet review — are still bouncing around the front of my brain, just as surely as the above-pictured records are still leaning against the side of my TV stand.

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M. Ward

A Wasteland Companion

“Unique” is an abused word. It’s not quite in the same red headed stepchild territory that “like” and “literally” occupy (full disclosure — I’m doing some serious glass-house stone throwing right now, being both a card-carrying abuser of “like” and “literally” AND a red head), but “unique” finds itself being used to describe music far too often by my count, and I generally try to steer clear of it. But after seeing M. Ward perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. two Sundays ago, I can’t help believing that he stands apart from the rest of the musical landscape in ways that feel totally deserving of the word. Two of these ways were espcially striking…

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H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y

If you’ve been reading this here blog for a while, you may have seen me mention my friend, the musical sherpa, Clay. Well last August, Clay gave me one of the best birthday presents I’ve gotten in my entire life: a generous starter collection of 45’s, cradled by a 7-inch Peaches record crate. This is a short video of my reaction upon being given this gift. There was tons of great stuff in there — everything from Queen to Radiohead and back again — and in the nine months since, I’ve had lots of fun exploring and expanding this collection (probably too much fun on the expansion front, but WHATEVER). So for Clay’s birthday, I’ve done the only reasonable thing — I’ve assembled a tactical playlist from my seed set of 7-inch records entitled “H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” (you’ll see why), accompanied by a quick, solo game of Adjective Battleship for each one. Let’s do dis!

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Pretty & Nice

Imagine for a moment that scientists working 500 feet below the Franco-Swiss border got a little tipsy and loaded up the Large Hadron Collider with concentrated musicianship quarks, particles of perfect pop intuition and a brand new, multicolored pack of highlighters that was taken from the lab’s supply cabinet. Imagine that these punchy scientists then flipped the switch to “ON,” sending the three aforementioned types of matter careening toward one another at an energy of 7 teraelectronvolts. Somewhere inside the accelerator’s 17-mile, ring-shaped tube, there would be a dramatic collision. And, by my calculations, that collision would look and sound exactly like the video posted above.

Shot in one take (!) in a brightly bedecked attic located in the band’s hometown of Boston, MA, this Love Drunk Studio-helmed performance video of “Yonkers” offers a wonderful glimpse of what makes Pretty & Nice so special.

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Carolina Chocolate Drops

There are two types of music nerds. There are the nerds who derive pleasure from holding their knowledge over your head, periodically using that knowledge as a bludgeon against the less-initiated. Think Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity. And then there are the big-tent music nerds. They’re the ones who delight in telling you everything you want to know about a song or artist, sharing their enthusiasm freely and without pretension. Take a wild guess as to which nerd genus I’m more fond of.

I was reminded of this (admittedly oversimplified) dichotomy two Fridays ago, when I saw Carolina Chocolate Drops perform on Brown’s Island in Richmond, VA. There may be no more inviting group of big-tent music aficionados than this Durham-based old-time string band. A decent percentage of the songs they played were covers or traditionals (“Jackson” was a personal favorite), and they took the time to explain the origin of almost every one. Who wrote it. When. What style it represents. I love hearing this stuff. Not only do these pre-song explanations serve as a preemptive Wikipedia lookup, they foster this wonderful atmosphere of inclusion — an even playing field where everyone can participate fully and enthusiastically.

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