Monthly Archives: May 2014

J. Roddy Walston

J. Roddy Walston

It’s not every day you get you chat about music with someone whose album is on your reigning Top 10 list. Someone who just finished playing Letterman and Conan. Someone who has insider knowledge of how Twix are made. I mean, c’mon.

I had that opportunity in March, when I talked over the phone with J. Roddy Walston for West End’s Best magazine. I haven’t gotten my hands on a hard copy yet, but I’m going to horde at least five, because this was a real treat. Get pumped for his Saturday show at the National and his May 30 show at Friday Cheers by taking a look here.

J. Roddy Walston & the Business — “Black Light” [Spotify/iTunes]

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Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley

When I was learning how to play guitar, I played a lot of Nirvana. Part of that was the timing — I was born in 1983 and picked up the instrument in middle school. The other part was the songs’ simplicity. Power chords, power chords, and more power chords. Three notes at a time? I could handle that. In fact, my first band was a duo that played pretty much nothing but Nirvana and Foo Fighters (we never made it out of my friend’s basement, but some glorious noise was made).

The irony is that while Nirvana may be perfect fodder for beginner guitarists, they’re an incredibly difficult band to cover. People do it, and some do it well, but it’s a tall order. That’s because both ends of the faithful-inventive cover continuum are boobytrapped. If you try to perform “Scentless Apprentice” exactly like Nirvana did, chances are you’re never going to match the throat-tearing, cymbal-smashing, strangely disaffected intensity of the original. Missing by just a little — not giving enough or screaming like an unhinged maniac — holds dire consequences (“dire” may be a bit overdramatic — you’d just be stuck with a smattering of awkward, tepid applause). Just as perilous is the idea of tinkering with a Nirvana song to put your own stamp on it. There’s a paradoxical quality to the emotional impact Cobain’s songs had. While the feelings he expressed were nuanced, with shades of depression, alienation, sarcasm and anger, his delivery was extremely visceral. Primal. Hovering just north of the human-subhuman dividing line. So jazzing up a Nirvana song — pouring intellect into something that’s nearly bestial — risks overcomplicating beauty that originated in a more basic place.

It’s a tiny sweet spot to hit, which is why Charles Bradley’s cover of “Stay Away” strikes me as so special.

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My Answer to Question #26

Remember when the video above was on People.com? I do. I loved it. Even though I went to the University of Richmond, I love the Peppas. They do a killer job, whether they’re serenading NASCAR fans in the rain or ratcheting up the excitement at the Siegel Center, and the added touch of pumping Miley Cyrus’ voice in through the PA before blasting the chorus one more time is just outstanding. I get goosebumps when I watch that video — I really do.

Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy Richmond’s pep band. Just this past season, I had the chance to take my mom to her very first live basketball game, and I made sure to brag about how our pep band’s director is David Hood from No BS! Brass Band. I even pointed him out, like you would a local celebrity or athlete who is poised become a big deal out of town as well. Plus, the recent Robins Center renovations have them repositioned in the center of the student section (they used to be tucked away in a corner at court level) — an improvement that vastly increases the band’s atmospheric influence. Will that result in a “Wrecking Ball”-type video in the future? With Hood at the helm, I wouldn’t rule it out.

So why am I talking about pep bands? A couple days ago, UR’s athletics department sent me a survey asking about the experience I had at the games I attended last season, and while I was most excited to complain about the food, everything changed when I got to this question:

Survey Question

They didn’t ask for a blog post, but they’re gonna get one.

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