Sometimes finding out about a band late is torturous. Like when the group just broke up or is on a clear creative decline. Or, worse yet, when one or more of the founding members have died and the band is touring around the country like a zombie version of themselves. In all these cases, you can still listen to tunes from the glory days, but you have to accept that you’ve missed out on something that simply can’t be recovered. Other times, though, being the last to know isn’t so bad. Under the right circumstances, discovering an artist after everyone else can feel great, like you’re walking into a party that’s already in full swing. That’s just how I’d characterize my first two weeks of listening to Bobby Bare Jr.
When I first heard about Bare, I was a few days away from heading to his hometown of Nashville, TN for a friend’s wedding. Not to get too touchy-feely here, but c’mon; what’re the odds of me hearing about him right before my first trip to the center of the country music universe? (Bare’s father is country veteran, having charted albums for decades and written, according to Wikipedia, the world’s one and only Christian football waltz — “Dropkick Me Jesus (Though The Goalposts Of Life).”) Did I mention that I heard about him from a friend who, at the time, didn’t know I was going to Nashville? As far as happy coincidences go, this was a pretty crazy one.
I have a few more things to share about my trip to Nashville (I promise they don’t involve vomit or Jack White), but I have to butt in and right a writing wrong that I, myself, have perpetrated. It’s been 302 days since I last wrote about Animal Collective. How the hell did this happen? AC and I certainly aren’t feuding or anything. As Big Boi once said of his distinguished colleague, André 3000, “Not clashing, not at all.”
I guess one reason might be that they haven’t released a conventional* LP since Merriweather Post Pavilion, but that wasn’t that long ago, right? Let me just check Wikipedia and find out when that wa… January of 2009? WTF?!? There’s no way 40 months have passed since that album came out. It just can’t be true. The songs still feel fresh, despite the fact that I’ve heard them god knows how many times over the past few years. In fact, I’m pretty sure the album hasn’t left my phone’s iPod, and I’ve had at least two phones since January of 2009. The more I think about it, the more it seems like this is a major indicator of an album’s greatness — the amount of time after its release that it stays in the front of your mind (and on the smaller hard drive of your primary listening device).
What do you get when you mix a nasty hangover, yellow tinted windows and a celebrity encounter? Me almost throwing up, that’s what. There I was this past Friday, walking out of the shop that occupies the southernmost sliver of the Third Man Records facility in Nashville, TN, holding a black shopping bag that itself held the spoils of a shopping trip that was truncated by a sallow lighting scheme that somehow magnified the gastric consequences of a night spent cavorting on Broadway, when I came close enough to Third Man founder Jack White as he was backing out of the parking lot in his Mercedes to projectile vomit all over it. Given how close I came to giving White’s black Benz an unwelcome paint job, I believe not having done so qualifies as “keeping my cool.” Clearly, I shouldn’t be allowed around famous people. Especially famous people I hold in such high esteem.
I’m just plain bad at celebrity sightings, partly because I tend to doubt my own eyes, chalking most encounters up to having seen “someone who looked just like” famous person X. But not this time.
If you would have told me in September of last year that central Virginia would see the establishment of three brand new music festivals in 9 months, I would have said, “That’s just cray.” But you would have been right! In the time it takes to make a human child, RVA Magazine has hosted RVA Music Fest (my coverage here and here), Style Weekly has put on the Shadrock Music Festival (Cheats Movement’s coverage here), and now — and I really do mean now, as it’s already started — we have Charlottesville’s Tom Tom Founders Festival, a month-long, SXSW-style music, arts and innovation conference that culminates in two amazing days of music this weekend. More than 50 bands will be performing on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12, and the lineup includes a wonderful mix of heavy-hitting national acts (Those Darlins, Futurebirds, Josh Ritter and J Roddy Walston & the Business to name a few) and VA-based artists that promise to showcase the amazing pool of talent found in the area (Dead Fame, Eternal Summers, The Hill & Wood and No BS! Brass Band among them). Have a look at the full list of performers and their set times here. Though several jump out as must-sees, two in particular have me worked up into an anticipatory tizzy, the first of which is Nelly Kate.
Not enough of you fine people are bananas for Doug Paisley. Wanna know how I know? On April 17, I got an email from his record company announcing that Paisley’s new 5-song EP, Golden Embers, was being released. Being a man of action, as well as a huge fan of Paisley’s previous effort, Constant Companion, I did the only reasonable thing — panic and call every record store in town to see if they had a vinyl copy of the new EP. Not a single one did. One even told me the store’s system indicated that the record wasn’t available to be ordered by independent record stores. WTF does that mean? Fortunately, I could buy the release directly from the record company’s website, but having done this makes me feel a little Mugatu-ish, in retrospect.
The word “timbre” has been rattling around my brain for the past week or so. Z’that ever happen to you? Songs getting stuck up there is more common, but single words get lodged from time to time, bubbling to the surface at seemingly random and uncomfortably frequent moments. I can source the start of this particular affliction to the fact that I’m making my way through This Is Your Brain on Music, by psychologist Daniel J. Levitin. The book starts by defining some familiar terms — “sound,” “melody” and “scale,” to name a few — and my reactions have ranged from “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought that meant” to “Whoa. I’ve been using that word inappropriately for years.” Timbre fell somewhere in between.
I had a vague understanding of what it meant, one that’s suffered because it seems to be one of the harder musical concepts to explain, but Levitin’s definition is as clear as it gets: “Timbre (rhymes with amber) distinguishes one instrument from another when both are playing the same written note.” Our brains decode the distinctive frequencies that different instruments produce, so we can tell a guitar from a piano, a saxophone from a flute, etc. Some like to call it sound’s “tonal color.” It’s one reason rock music and classical sound vastly dissimilar, especially when the two are juxtaposed. It’s also the reason Goldrush’s We Don’t Have To Worry EP is one of the most intriguing recordings I’ve heard in a while.