From the MoSS? Pit: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire

 

Last November I had the misfortune of having to work out of town for a few weeks in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. I had a nice 10-hour drive to collect my thoughts and listen to music. One of the albums I was listening to a lot then was Arcade Fire, Reflektor. It was while driving up north that I got the great news that Arcade Fire was going on tour. I pulled over and while freezing my beans off in my car I was able to scavenge enough cell signal to score a pre-sale password and purchase two pretty good seats to the show at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. It seemed like a million months away but the thought of an outdoor concert at the end of April helped warm me up as the first of many snowstorms to come covered my car. As the concert date got closer, Mrs. MoSSTodd (the owner of ticket #2) and I kept our fingers crossed for decent weather and a good show. Little did we know that we would get everything we wished for and more.

The weather was perfect all day before the show as we shopped for vinyl (stores were pretty picked over due to National Record Store Day the week before but I was able to snag a few treats) in the Volker Neighborhood, KC’s hipster district. The area was really buzzing that day. It seemed like everyone we chatted with was also going to the Arcade Fire show. The neighborhood was lousy with dudes in hillbilly beards and handlebar mustaches escorting their tattooed suicide girl wannabe girlfriends around the local boutiques looking for proper attire to wear to the concert that night. You see, in an attempt to make their concerts more fun and create a party atmosphere, Arcade Fire issued a dress code. The clothing requirements were printed on the tickets, “Please Wear Formal Attire or Costume.” We already had our outfits worked out. Let’s just say there was a lot of sequins and leather involved.

As show time approached, the temp was still a balmy 74 degrees and holding steady. We were set for a perfect night of outdoor entertainment with not a drop of rain in site. After we parked the car and started walking with the crowd to the theatre, it was apparent that this would be no regular old concert. It was as if we were all circus performers walking to the big top. I’d say that the vast majority of concertgoers chose to follow the dress code. While most people went with some version of formal attire, there were plenty of interesting costumes. You name it, we saw it:

Dude dressed like Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes- Check
Alien Hooker- Check
Little Bo Peep- Check
Guy in full size rabbit suit- Check that 9 times

The closer we got to the theatre entrance we could hear music getting louder. I just figured it was the opener, which I thought was going to be Concert TreatsBaltimore musician Dan Deacon. We came a little late because I wasn’t incredibly interested in seeing him live. That’s when I started recognizing one of the songs coming from the stage. It was “Gangsta” by tUnE-yArDs. tUnE-yArDs was opening?!?!?! I grabbed the wife’s hand and we hurried though security (luckily they missed several mini-bottles of vodka and a flask full of rum stashed in my jacket pockets) and made our way down to our seats. My ears were not deceiving me as we confirmed this happy surprise. We caught the tail end of the tUnE-yArDs show and both of us were amazed at how leader Merrill Garbus created drum loops on the spot, and layered these with impromptu hand claps, ukulele, and vocals. This made for a very entertaining and danceable opening act. I just wish we could have seen the whole set.

Arcade Fire SitesAfter tUnE-yArDs left the stage, the road crew started preparing for the Arcade Fire set and DJ Kid Koala spun some records to entertain us from a side stage. I thought this was a pretty original idea. It was a lot better than having to hear Nickelback or Kid Rock over the PA system. You could watch Mr. Koala do his thing live on the jumbo screen and listen at the same time. Dude was pretty amazing as he spun 2-3 records at a time creating some great beats.

Just as the sun went down so did the house lights. I’d done my research before the show and looked at several set lists from previous Arcade Fire shows. The opening song from every one I checked was the title track from their last album,“Reflektor.” That night they shook things up a bit and played “Here Comes the Night Time” first. Based on the setting they couldn’t have started it off any better. The song has a real party feel and further pumped up the already pumped-up crowd as we all sang the opening lyrics.

When the sun goes down,
When the sun goes down you head inside
Because the lights don’t work,
Nothing works but you don’t mind

Here comes the night time

Midway through, giant cannons shot confetti and streamers over the entire venue and lead singer Win Butler urged the crowd to Arcade Fire 2move up and dance in the aisles if they wanted, “Just be friendly to security.” During a lull in the song Win addressed the crowd again saying, “We’re going to give you guys everything we’ve got tonight. You give us everything you have.”  From that point on the crowd including the Mrs. and I didn’t stop dancing until the last song.

They played a nice mix of new and old songs and kept things interesting by throwing in a few surprises. During the song “Afterlife” from the new album, a guy in a reflective costume mysteriously appeared on a stage that just happened to be a few feet away from us. The theatre lights shown down on him and he rotated like a human disco ball. Check out my short video below.

[In typical Todd-written MoSS? Pit form, my videos are less than great. I forgot to clear space on my phone before the show so I was unable to record very lengthy videos. I’ll get it right on one of these MoSS? Pits.]

During the next song Win’s bandmate and wife Regine came out to the same stage and sang “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus).”

Throughout the tour the band has been opening their encores with a cover song. Most times it has some association with the city they are located. In Minneapolis they covered a Prince song. This night they performed a cover of Kansas’ “Dust In The Wind.”  The band played on until Win cut them off: “Guys, that was really beautiful, but that’s a Kansas song and we’re in fuckin’ Missouri. That’s gonna kill when we play Lawrence, though.” Watch below courtesy of Stereogum.

They closed the show with the anthemic “Wake Up” from their first album Funeral. The perfect song to one more time unite the crowd as we sang along with the “Oh,Oh’s’ during the chorus and even more confetti rained down on us.

Arcade Fire Confetti Shower

I doubt anyone walked away from this show thinking they didn’t get their money’s worth because as Win said at the beginning, “They gave us everything they had.” I hope the band felt the same about us.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Festivus: Sam’s Airing of Grievances

Editor’s note: Remember that guy who wrote about Kiss? Sam’s back with some Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musings. I think this guy is passing the audition. Mainly because he mentioned the Cure again, which keeps him in my good graces. Plus, he writes one fucking thing and sets a one-day high in Music or Space Shuttle? traffic! This tells me that Sam has awesome friends who click stuff he shares on Facebook, AND that Todd and I need better, more-likely-to-click-our-links Facebook friends. (By the way, you can find all MoSS? posts at our Facebook page. Click the “Like” button on the right side of the page.) –Chris


rock and roll hall of fame exterior

I’m obsessed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually, I’m obsessed with all Hall of Fames in general, I guess. I pissed and moaned for days a few months ago when my main Houston Astro, Craig Biggio, missed induction. You see, it takes 75 percent of the votes to earn induction. He got 74.8 percent. They don’t round up. So after the number of ballots cast was made public, it was determined that he missed the cut by two votes.

Two!

One Hall voter came out and said he left his ballot completely empty except for a vote for ’80s pitching ace Jack Morris, justifying his refusal to vote for anybody who played during the “steroid era.” Jack Morris, who pitched in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. In the American League. Which means he pitched, at some point in time, to Jose Canseco, the only guy proud to admit before Congress that he willingly took steroids. Take a bow, genius.

Even more insane, every fall, I spend a crazy amount of time obsessing over a thing called the Survivor Hall of Fame. Yes, a Hall of Fame for the CBS reality game show. For weeks, I solicit (they would probably say troll) the hell out of former players on Twitter. I argue about it on message boards. I’ve even had my own personal rules for induction criteria published. However, there’s no physical building or artifacts. No pilgrimage to see your favorite players enshrined. Really, the Survivor Hall of Fame is essentially just a blog, with a few photos and some online interviews. You know what? I don’t care. I love Survivor so I want it done right. I care. WAAAAYYYYY too much. Sorry, Gordon.

But there’s nothing that saps my time and energy like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed by how much it matters to me. But it does. And it’s never mattered more to me than this year, because the first truly revolutionary band (Nirvana) of the generation that defines my age group (Generation X) came up for induction and got in on the first ballot. Even more significantly, after years of crying to my poor, poor friends and colleagues about the injustice of the snub, the band that helped shape my pop cultural existence (Kiss) finally got in after having to wait for 14 years. The ceremony was a couple of weeks ago now, and it’s still all I think about. I really need a life.

I engaged in plenty of back and forth on social media this season, and was fortunate to gain lots of insight from a few people much more informed than I am (check out Brian Ives, Tom Lane, and the endless resource that is Future Rock Legends, for starters). Plus, after the illuminating blog by Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, I feel like I understand better how much politics can ruin something that represents an entity that’s supposed to be about rebellion like rock and roll.

So, in the wake of all that, the following diatribe may read like a butthurt plea supporting some of my favorite bands that don’t have a chance in hell of ever being inducted (hell, even a few I don’t really care about at all but still appreciate their significance). But the time has come for the airing of grievances … and I got a lot of problems with all of you.

ONE:

MC5 shirtless

MC5, also known as T-Shirt Zero

For me, maybe the hardest thing to reconcile with that institution are the bands that get inducted because of how “important” or “influential” they are. It can become very hypocritical (and I admit, I love most of bands that qualify in this rant) to declare something “adored but never accepted by the masses.” The Sex Pistols had one album. One. Their entire existence is one album and a tour. They imploded within two years. So where is the MC5? They had THREE albums, they had the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and many knowledgeable people would say they’re amongst the godfathers of both punk AND metal.

Also, bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges are in, some might say because their frontmen (Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, respectively) became rock legends later down the road. But both of those bands, when they were actually happening, never sold any records and never had any hits. But everyone who did like them started their own bands (I know, this is not an original thought, but it’s true).

runaways group photoOK, so by that rationale, who fits the bill? The Runaways. No one, and I do mean NO ONE, bought their records (except for Japanese teenagers), but …  a frontwoman who went on to greater fame solo (Joan Jett)? Check. (Not to mention Lita Ford, often considered the first lady of heavy metal). How many all-girl rock bands formed in their wake? How many of the ‘90s riot grrrl bands cite them as primary influences? Plus, “Cherry Bomb” is more recognizable than any song the Stooges ever put out (I love the Stooges, by the way). And OK, “Cherry Bomb” is one song. But my two-word rebuttal: Percy Sledge.

There’s been a lot of talk about Joan Jett going in solo (or with the Blackhearts) and the other night – fronting a reunited version of Nirvana at both the ceremony and the soon-to-be-legendary secret show they played afterward at an underground Brooklyn metal club – did a TON to help her cause. But like Linda Ronstadt, Jett’s biggest songs are cover tunes. I’d still rather see her go in with the Runaways. It will never happen, though. They’ll forever be seen as a gimmick and I don’t think they can ever get out from under that. But they belong in the argument.

And while we’re talking about influences … with all the Seattle bands coming up for induction, Motorhead should be considered. Black Flag should be considered. The Melvins should absolutely be considered. Watch some documentaries and listen to the words coming from the musicians themselves: Who introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic? The Melvins. Who invented that mud tone that became grunge? The Melvins. If some of these other bands get considered for trivial reasons, so should they. They’ve been around for over 30 years now. But will they get in? Absolutely not. I think the closest they’ll come is frontman Buzz Osbourne getting namedropped by Novoselic and drummer Dale Crover getting praised by Grohl during Nirvana’s induction (it must be noted that Crover played on enough songs that ended up on both Bleach and Incesticide to be considered one of the band’s pre-Grohl drummers, but he, like Chad Channing, gets left out in the cold. More on this later …)

go-go's on rolling stone coverTWO:

Women are shamefully underrepresented in the Hall. I was worried about a lot of the divas getting the shaft…that is, up until the induction of Donna Summer. Her induction opened the doors for Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey in a huge way (all three are ridiculously talented singers with mountains of No. 1 singles, but who write little and play nothing). But if those two DON’T get in, you can absolutely forget about the likes of, say, Britney Spears (hey, stop laughing…I’m just trying to think of big stars down the road). Will Mary J. Blige or Missy Elliott be there? Is Carly Simon worthy? Because she’s not in.

The Go-Go’s or the Bangles should get a fair look, but they won’t…either not enough big hits or they weren’t together long enough.

BenatarBut the Go-Go’s do have historical significance on their side—the first all-female band that wrote and performed their own material to have a No. 1 album. They deserve a shot, because without one, will other critically adored all-girl bands such as Sleater-Kinney have a chance?

And you know who should be in the talk, especially now that Ronstadt got in? Pat Benatar. People forget just how huge she was in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The hits, the massive exposure at the dawn of MTV, the multi-platinum records and Grammys…they speak for themselves.

THREE:

The bias against hard rock and metal drives me insane. Off the top of my head, the only bands identified as heavy rock or metal that are currently in are Black Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and now Kiss. OK, maybe Aerosmith and Alice Cooper, too (sorry, I don’t count Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix or the Who).

Maybe I’m just annoyed that rap seems to get preferential treatment.­ To me growing up, rap and metal were truly kindred spirits—the extreme branches on the rock and roll tree, so much so that they merited their own specialty shows on MTV, metal being the extreme offshoot of rock, rap the extreme offshoot of R&B/soul. So why is one more important than the other? Look, I love Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy as much as the next guy. Love them. They absolutely deserve to be in. But why is it that the rap groups always get in on the first ballot, but a groundbreaking band like Sabbath—who invented an entire genre of music—had to wait 10 years? It’s disrespectful.

Paul Stanley really hit the nail on the head in his induction speech: fandom means nothing to these people. All that matters, it appears, is critical acclaim, something metal rarely gets.

The British godfathers of metal (Sabbath—in, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead) and the Big 4 of American thrash (Metallica—in , Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax) deserve consideration. And I’ll say it again: Deep Purple on the outside looking in is a joke.

FOUR:

Speaking of Deep Purple, let’s pretend they get in next year. Who’s getting inducted? Will it only be the Mark II version of the band, the version behind “Smoke on the Water,” “Highway Star,” “Speed King,” Space Truckin’,” and “Woman From Tokyo”? (Seriously, how are the fuck are they NOT in already?) Because I think they’re up to at least Mark VIII or IX by now, right? That’s a lot of guys over 40+ years.

That seems to be the big controversy (and rightfully so). Who decides who’s getting in? Why did Parliament-Funkadelic get all 957 of its members inducted, but Kiss had to settle for the four original members, even though they had at least four other guys with decade-plus stints consisting of multiple gold albums and world tours? Both bands were garish theatrical groups on the Casablanca label in the ‘70s. Is it because Parliament got sampled on lots of g-funk rap albums in the ’90s? Who knows?

But there needs to be some consistency. Sammy Hagar gets inducted for his stint fronting Van Halen, but Ronnie James Dio can’t get the same for his time reinventing Black Sabbath? (I think this stinks of Sharon Osbourne, but that’s just a hunch.) Rob Trujillo (one album in a five-year stint at the time) gets to go in with Metallica, and 32-year-old Josh Klinghoffer, who had been in the band for about two-plus years and had played on exactly one album, gets to go in with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But a guy like Gilby Clarke, who made significant contributions to Guns N’ Roses, gets left out? (After reading the Frantz blog, it’s much more clear: where the Talking Heads had Seymour Stein, Metallica and the Chili Peppers had Cliff Burnstein (he manages both AND sits on the nominating committee).

Chad Channing played drums on Nirvana’s debut album, as well as several other b-sides and live cuts. He did the early gigs and tours. He participated in the early sessions for Nevermind and wrote several drum parts that Dave Grohl willingly admitted that he just copied in the final product (kudos to Grohl for saying this during his actual Hall induction speech, by the way). Oh, and he actually IS on Nevermind, albeit in a minor role (and especially now that the early demo sessions recorded by Butch Vig have been released on the album’s anniversary deluxe edition). He didn’t get in. Yet every drummer who ever played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers got in (obviously, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke the Hall of Fame). I can’t wait to see how they handle the Pearl Jam drummer situation. Jesus…

FIVE:

Finally a few passing thoughts: Woefully missing are the alt-rock and new wave bands of the early ’80s. To name but a few … The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Cars, Duran Duran, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Husker Du. As for rap, I don’t really care…and I’ll tell you why: Eventually that’s the stuff that gonna take over this thing. Eminem. Kanye. Jay-Z. It’s coming. They’re the biggest rock stars of the post-Napster era when the record companies started losing a little bit of their influence (I mean, we’ve got a LONG time before the White Stripes and bands like Arcade Fire become eligible). With that in mind, just give me NWA, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, 2Pac, and Biggie. Those were the rappers and crews that shaped my era. After they get in, I don’t care.

As far as my best guess for the bands of my generation…I personally don’t think a band like, say, Motley Crue has a prayer. Even with solid membership, lots of legitimate hits, a strong touring history, and the greatest story ever told, I think they’re immune even if believers in poptimism gain more influence in the nominating committee.

motley crue all glammed out

A lot of girls from Chris’ hometown looked a lot like Vince Neil does in this photo.

But you know what…says who? Motley Crue doesn’t have a shot because Rolling Stone doesn’t like them? A band shouldn’t base their legacy solely on a handful of critics with too much influence and power telling them how awesome they were. Isn’t that kind of what killed Kurt Cobain? Pretty sure he hated what that did to his band. I’m not advocating their enshrinement, but one thing everybody should respect about a band like Motley Crue—even if you think their music is either awesome or shit—is that they have no fucks to give when it comes to what anyone says about them on a critical level. It hasn’t stopped them from their decades of sold-out shows and platinum records.

(I’m well aware that someone somewhere will say the same thing about Nickelback in 20 years, but that becomes a question of eras…you know what: I’ll deal with that when it happens …)

But a band from that era that should get considered is Def Leppard, the rare band from the ‘80s glam metal period that garnered critical acclaim on top of massive commercial success.

Nick Drake holding guitar

Nick Drake, true artist. Way more acclaim after death.

As for the ’90s, come on. Pearl Jam is a mortal lock (I can’t believe they haven’t had their eligibility period waved). Radiohead is a lock. Beck is a lock. Green Day is a lock (eligible next year, actually, and I’ll be stunned if they have to wait). I have a hunch Rage Against the Machine is a lock. Eventually, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Smashing Pumpkins are all major contenders and all will be there over time. And I think Oasis has the most obvious shot of representing Britpop. And I keep reading about people saying bands like Blur and Pavement, for example, are shoo-ins, but I don’t know, I gotta see it first before I believe it.

And finally, my own personal snubs…well, now that Kiss is FINALLY in, I’m going with Deep Purple (too many anthems to ignore), Chicago (Jann Wenner reportedly is to them what Dave Marsh was to Kiss), Nick Drake (maybe the most perfect discography of all time) and the MC5 (seriously, the Stooges are in and they are NOT? Come on. “Kick Out The Jams” is bigger and certainly more iconic than ANYTHING the Stooges did. They are the first band associated with the sound that is considered punk rock) …

Sheesh, I feel like a battered wife after that. Why do you hate me, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when I want to love you so much?

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: April 2014

april 14

Side A : Chris’ Picks

Side B : Todd’s‘ Picks

From the MoSS? Pit: Nine days, three shows, one wish

julianna barwick

Julianna Barwick performs in Danforth Chapel on the University of Iowa campus. (Christopher Clair)

April Fool’s Day 2014 was wonderful. I didn’t fall for any Internet pranks; my colleagues didn’t put my hand in warm water while I napped. (Kidding! I can’t nap at work; I usually consume about 128 ounces of caffeinated soda during the workday.)

That night I saw Warpaint at Gabe’s, and the show was fan-fucking-tastic. And so began my 2014 Mission Creek Festival, which is arguably the most wonderful time of the year in Iowa City.

Warpaint is absolutely in my wheelhouse: female musicians, moody tunes, lots of energy. The band sounded great (yeah, in Gabe’s, no less), seemed genuinely happy to be there, and played a nice mix of songs from the two albums and early EP. They played my favorite song, “Bees,” during the encore (probably because about halfway through the show, I punctuated every between-song moment with shouts of “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!”) They ended the whole night with a marathon jam on “Elephants” from the EP. The girl from the movie “The Rules of Attraction,” the one who kills herself because James Van Der Beek ignores her, was in fine form. American Psycho’s brother should have paid more attention to that one. Our crew (me, MoSS Todd, Travis, Annie, recent MoSS guest Sam, Ian) certainly did.

warpaint

Warpaint dominates the opening night of Mission Creek 2014 with a killer set at Gabe’s.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Gabe’s was a packed house for the show. It had a similar vibe to the Wild Belle show from last fall: good crowd, all enjoying the groove laid down by the band.

Upon show’s end, I immediately validated the band’s performance by going on Facebook and making this profound statement: “WAR. FUCKING. PAINT. Your move, rest of #MissionCreek.” (Yes, I’m one of those guys trying to make hashtags happen on Facebook.)

Fast forward three days, and I’m standing outside the Englert waiting to go inside for The Head and the Heart’s sold-out show. The band’s most recent album, 2013’s Let’s Be Still, pretty much snuck up on me. I didn’t even realize there was a new album to be had until the lazy days of Christmas break; by then, I’d already put out The Definitive List of the Greatest Albums Released in 2013™. Thankfully the band was able to withstand this egregious snub and sell every ticket for the show within a matter of days (hours?).

This show always was going to differ from the Warpaint event: much different style of music, radically different venue, reduced alcohol intake. But it was glorious. For one, the opening act, Basia Bulat, was so wonderful. I was unfamiliar going in, but I find that a good strategy for openers. If they suck, well, openers sometimes do that. If they’re great, it’s like going to two concerts for the price of one.

Bulat was a good fit as an opener for the Americana of TH&TH (even though she’s Canadian!), both in musical stylings and as a magnetic personality to warm up the crowd for the headliners. At one point early on, she picked up an instrument that looked quite familiar: the autoharp. I recall playing one in grade school music class, accompanying my classmates as they sang hymns found in our Glory & Praise songbooks. Safe to say Bulat looked way cooler playing the instrument on her songs than I ever did strumming along to “Be Not Afraid,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” or anything else of that sort.

the head and the heart on stage

The Head and the Heart perform to a sold-out crowd in the Englert.

As enjoyable as Bulat was, The Head and the Heart was on another level. The six-piece was tight; their relative youth an odd sight when paired with the quite mature music they create. The interplay between frontmen Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell was seamless, but the crowd was (justifiably) most moved whenever violinst/vocalist Charity Rose Thielen took her turn at the mic. (Sondra went to this show with me. Her lone criticism? “The drummer…I couldn’t decide if he was really into it or if he was just an annoying bro.”)

They played pretty much everything from their two albums, but I’m sure everyone in the audience would have stuck around for another hour or so to hear the band perform covers. I think I still prefer the first album (total music snob move!) but hearing the new songs live really upped my appreciation for the latter. “Another Story,” “Josh McBride,” and “Shake” sound superb alongside first-album gems like “Rivers and Roads,” “Down in the Valley,” and “Ghosts.”

This performance was crazy-good. Didn’t hurt that we had front-row balcony seats from which to observe. The only bummer: Misson Creek’s Friday night was PACKED. I don’t regret my choice, but had I not secured TH&TH tix, I would have bounced over to Jason Isbell or Weekend (my most regretful miss of the festival) or !!! (which I could’ve hit after TH&TH, but fuck, man, I’m old). Gotta spread those out next time.

Mission Creek wrapped up Sunday, April 6, but the post-Mission Creek withdrawal lasted just three days. April 9 brought another show to see: Julianna Barwick in tiny little Danforth Chapel on the University of Iowa campus. Perfect home for Barwick’s ethereal tunes. MoSS Todd and Sara (the supplier of the “blue” for our Breaking Bad party last year) joined me for this one; due to the intimate setting, we occupied about 8 percent of the capacity ourselves.

I reviewed this show for my friends at Hoopla. Some excerpts:

Julianna Barwick's hands during a showIt’s one thing to hear [Barwick’s] end product via a recorded album (and if you haven’t heard her catalog, you really should); it’s quite another to watch her create on the spot. From the spartan Danforth “stage,” Barwick would sing and record a snippet, loop that segment while singing and recording a second snippet (often different from the first), loop the second segment, and so on. This seemingly effortless exercise yielded a lush chorus that filled the cozy venue, all the more impressive after learning that Barwick was dealing with some serious allergy issues on this night.

Barwick is a humble performer, nodding to the crowd and whispering “thank you” at the end of each song. Heck, she even came out after opening act Vasillus concluded its set to personally let us know that she’d need about 10 to 15 minutes to set up, almost as if she were asking our permission or forgiveness. A relatively short wait, and well worth it to hear her perform.

The opener, Vasillus, the moniker of Brooklyn-based artist Ahmad Bilal, entertained the crowd from the drop. The key element to the music was Bilal’s soulful voice, which simply soared over the sinister synths (“synthister,” if I may create a new word) and drum machine dirge. He was clearly enjoying the performance, so much so that he caught himself joyfully cursing in church. No sin in having fun, my man.

I praised Barwick’s renditions of “One Half” and “Crystal Lake.” I left out of the Vasillus paragraph that he was wearing a great T-shirt: it said “The Smiths” across the front but rather than a photo with Morrissey and Johnny Marr, it showed Will Smith and his family. I want one.

I guess I’m writing all this because Todd and I like to document those moments when we can tear ourselves away from our adult lives, our parenting roles, our responsibilities, and go out and enjoy live music. But I wanted to sum up this wonderful “three shows in nine days” period to ask a question: why can’t it always be like this?

The answer, perhaps, is “we’re getting there.”

I think the Iowa City scene is doing a better job booking and attracting good stuff outside of Mission Creek season. Part of that is due to the work of SCOPE, a UI student organization that books a handful of concerts each semester. They delivered Sleigh Bells, the Avett Brothers, James Blake, Best Coast, and many others in the past couple of years. They booked the Julianna Barwick show, and would have had Sky Ferreira the other night had she not been bested by illness.

The Mill somehow manages to book bands despite having jack squat in terms of amenities (the inverse of Blue Moose, which has great stage/sound but can’t book a damn thing without Mission Creek). And Gabe’s upcoming calendar looks solid. Between now and when May runs its course, Gabe’s will have hosted Cloud Nothings, Perfect Pussy (with Yamantaka//Sonic Titan opening), Mirah (I like her), and Blitzen Trapper. I compared this run with what High Noon Saloon in Madison has going on over the next six weeks—surprisingly we got ‘em beat. (I say that because it seems like every article announcing a band tour includes a High Noon date.)

Give these bands a reason to keep coming to Iowa. Go to the shows. Keep the vibrancy of Mission Creek going whenever you can. I’ll see you there, as often as I can.

Record Store Day Returns Along With My Music Hoarding Habit

Record Store Day 2014This weekend marks the return of the annual Record Store Day. As luck would have it, I recently started buying vinyl albums. While collecting vinyl is new to me, the act of collecting music is not. I’ve owned music in pretty much every format over the years but I was a bit too young to ever actually own my own records as a kid. Growing up in the ‘80s, I jumped right into the cassette tape era. My first tape (Men at Work, Cargo) was a present for my 8th or 9th birthday. I can’t remember which; these things tend to get a bit fuzzy as of late.

What I do remember is the joy of actually owning a physical copy my favorite band’s recording.

Men at Work Cargo

The tape that started it all

That’s right, for a short period in 1983, Men at Work was my favorite band. So what?!
“Settle Down and Eat Your Peas and Gravy, My Boy.” What lyrics!
“This is the story of Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive.”  What imagination!

Not all of my cassettes were the proper studio pre-packaged release. Most of my tapes were homemade mixes filled with songs recorded from the radio. They didn’t have lyrics sheets or cool covers but it was still a physical possession. Plus, there was an enormous amount of fun that went along with my secret cassette naming and cataloging schemes. Only I could know that OMD’s “If You Leave” was on Side B of the tape labeled Radio Goo Goo Ga Ga. It was the song after Paul Hardcastle’s “19” but right before “Somebody’s Watchin’ Me” by Rockwell.

Whether it was cassettes in the ‘80s or CDs in the ‘90s I truly enjoyed the music collecting process. I loved it all, especially the anticipation of the trip to the music store. A lot of forethought went into these trips. This is a typical example of the pre-trip deliberations going on in my head or with friends:

Q: Are you going to buy Led Zeppelin I or II?

A: I like more songs on Led Zeppelin II.

Q: Aren’t you kind of tired of it though? You’ve been listening to my copy a lot lately.

A: Ok, Led Zeppelin I it is.

Q: What if the store doesn’t have Led Zeppelin I?

A: Well, then maybe I’ll have to look at the new Cult album with “Fire Woman” on it.

Q: That’s a great song! Any other good songs on that album?

A: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just stick with Led Zeppelin. Physical Graffiti is awesome.

Q: That’s a double disc. You have enough money?

A: Ooh. No. Well maybe I’ll get that Love and Rockets album. You know, the really good one.

Q: Earth, Sun, Moon. Yeah that’s great. You can almost never find that one in the store though. What if they don’t have it?

Recent Record Store Score, Led Zeppelin ll

Recent Record Store Score, Led Zeppelin ll

And on and on and on, until the fateful day that I made it to the music store and all that planning went completely out the window when I bought the last copy of Alice Cooper’s Trash album because they played the song “Poison” over the store’s overhead speakers.

The process was easier in the early 2000s as I got older and my musical tastes matured along with my wallet. It wasn’t unheard of for me to walk out of the store with 3-4 CDs. I often stuck to the old adage, “Something old (Al Green, Greatest Hits), something new (Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin), something borrowed (Used copy of The Sugarcubes, Stick Around For Joy) and something blue (John Coltrane, Blues Train.)

Things went on smoothly like this until I started relying more and more on my computer and iPod for entertainment. Pretty soon, I had any song in the world available to me. Complete discographies of forgotten artists could be on my hard drive in the click of a mouse. That’s when a different form of music collecting took over my life. I was a full on file hoarder. No amount of MP3s could satisfy my hunger. I downloaded album upon album of songs that I’ve still never listened to. If I ever feel a need to visit the collected works of Thin Lizzy, I can. That day probably won’t come but… you never know. Every now and then, I think that I should spend some time and clean up my disc drives but I can’t ever seem to delete many files. That copy of Everclear, So Much for the Afterglow isn’t hurting anything in there. I’ll probably never play it but again…you never know.

Up until last year, I still had many of my old CDs, cassette tapes and even a few albums I picked up along the way from friends and family.

MoSS? Todd digging for records at Vinyl Renaissance in Kansas City.

MoSS? Todd digging for records at Vinyl Renaissance in Kansas City.

Mostly, these items just collected dust in my basement. I had an old turntable but ended up giving it away to a relative in need. Knowing this info, my mother bought me a new turntable as an early Xmas present. I had a pretty good time spinning my old records but didn’t really think about collecting again. On a whim, I stopped into an old record store, actually it was the very store I used to buy all of my CDs back in the 90s. I asked the guy at the counter if they had any vinyl. He chuckled and waved his arms like Vanna White, drawing my attention to the entire store.

“Look around you, man. We have vinyl everywhere. Old. New. Whatever you want.”

He was right. They had it all. Before I knew it, I had spent an hour digging through record shelves and I was holding a stack of albums both new and used. The rest of the day I had an oddly pleasant feeling rooted back to my record store experience. I’d forgotten how fun it could be searching through the bins for anything that piqued my interest. I’d forgotten the excited feeling you get after you leave the store with your purchases. I’d forgotten how I always removed the items from the bag as soon as I got in my car and looked over the album cover and read the liner notes. Something had been awakened inside of me.

Digging

MoSS? Todd and MoSS? Todd Junior digging at Kiss the Sky Records in Batavia, IL

In the months since then, I’ve made multiple trips to different record stores. If I’m ever going to be out of town, I frequently look online the day before I leave to see if there are any stores in the area. In my travels, I’ve found that there are basically 3 types of stores:

1. The stores that have used albums at a decent price and sell new albums at ridiculously high prices.
2. The stores that have new albums at a decent price and sell used albums at ridiculously high prices.
3. The stores that reek of incense or patchouli and sell everything at a decent price.

All three types of store can suit your album collecting needs depending on what you are after. My favorite store is type #3. I prefer purchasing quantity over quality and have a high tolerance level for overpowering fragrances designed to mask the smell of the “sticky icky.”

Now to be clear, I’m not one of those hardcore audiophile weirdos. Many of the albums I buy are less than perfect. I don’t minds a few pops and hisses. The imperfections can actually make the listening experience a bit more enjoyable. I also don’t that think the MP3 is inferior or that vinyl is the one true audio format. I love technology as much or more than the next guy. My wireless SONOS system probably gets more use that my record player. Sometimes you can’t beat the ease and versatility of digital formats.

With Record Store Day 2014 is coming up this weekend, maybe this would be a good time for many of you readers out there to pop into your local record store (if you can find one) and dip your toe into the album collecting pool. (I really can’t recommend The War On Drugs, Lost in the Dream enough. Great sound on vinyl.) Like me, that one visit could be the spark that ignites an album buying habit you though had long been burnt out.

Why Sam loves Kiss (a piece by Sam)

Editor’s note: Chris and Todd know this one guy named Sam who likes to talk about Music or Space Shuttle? type topics. Perhaps you’ve seen his comments under some of our posts (he’s “sambob25”). He wanted to write a couple of things for our blog. We agreed. Suddenly this love letter to face-painters appeared. We decided not to rescind access to our platform. We are nice.

OK, intro over. Please enjoy “Why I Love Kiss,” by Sam. Not Chris or Todd. 


Have you ever realized how much Kiss has in common with the Beatles?

beatles with kiss makeup

Don’t look at me like that.

Get it of your system. I can wait.

OK, once you’re done laughing, take a minute to think about it.

Both bands had four guys – two guitars, bass and drums. All four guys wrote and performed their own material within said structure. All four guys, at one point or another, were the lead singer.

(While it’s easy to remember that every Beatle has a big hit on their résumé, one might not realize that every member of Kiss sang at least one Top 20 Billboard hit. Gene Simmons had “Rock and Roll All Nite,” Paul Stanley had “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” Ace Frehley  had “New York Groove,” and Peter Criss had “Hard Luck Woman” … and some other song that was the biggest hit the band ever had. More on that later.)

Every guy had his own distinct personality within the band …

One had the cute one. The shy one. The sincere one. The funny one.

One had the Demon. The Starchild. The Spaceman. The Catman.

The timelines of the original bands even kinda line up. Yes, they had been around for a couple years beforehand in Europe, but America was exposed to the Beatles when they touched down in February 1964 for their historic turn on The Ed Sullivan Show. They broke up in 1970. Kiss released their first album in February 1974 (with a pair of memorable coming-out appearances on Dick Clark’s In Concert and The Mike Douglas Show). The original band ended with Peter’s exit in 1980.

Both had a dominating pair of songwriters fronting the band (Lennon/McCartney and Paul & Gene). But they also had a third guy providing solid material that resulted in a few hits. And when they were finally left to their own devices and made solo albums, the best ones came from those guys – George Harrison with All Things Must Pass, and Ace’s 1978 disc while he was still in the band, which was the best-received and best-selling of the bunch and produced the most enduring songs.

Finally, the oft-maligned drummers that provided the quirky, off-the-beaten-path tunes. While Ringo Starr added oddball charm with tunes like “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden,” Peter Criss had “Beth,” the band’s first Top 10 hit which almost single-handedly catapulted its album, Destroyer, to platinum status.

A Hard Day’s Night …
Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park …
OK, scratch that one.

And both bands, at one point or another, could claim they were the biggest band in the world. The Beatles literally, and Kiss somewhat literally but mostly hyperbolically.

Now I realize my MoSS? brethren are already gasping for air behind my back. But come on, give me a break … I’m not comparing the musical legacy of Kiss to the effing Beatles. I’m well aware that the entire Kiss catalog is full of songs about nothing more than partying, being famous, and hunting trim. You put Gene Simmons in the same room as the Beatles and I’m fairly certain it would resemble something like Salieri hearing Mozart for the first time (and Gene’s pretty much said as much himself). But I can’t think of two other bands that had so much in common from a marketing standpoint and in terms of the trajectory of the original band.

But I will say this much and I’ll say it without shame: Kiss is MY Beatles.

My mother was 13 when the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan … and I’m pretty sure her knowledge of pop culture doesn’t extend past that day. I mean, this is the woman who, when I was kid, actually believed Kiss stood for “Knights in Satan’s Service.” Yup, she was one of THOSE. She handed down some pearls of wisdom, too … well, actually it was some wonderful talk-show nonsense I’ll never forget:

“Do you know what those devil worshippers do? They take poop and, and … pee … and blood … and they mix it together and, and, and … they eat it.” (I think she caught that gem on 20/20 or something.)

Oh, and my favorite …

“I know what that song means. ‘Lick It Up’? Oh, you can’t pull one over on me.”

“Oh yeah, Mom? What does it mean?”

“Lick It Up? What do you think? Lick up the drugs.”

Classic stuff. Makes me a little misty, because a child never forgets the moment when they realize their parents don’t know EVERYTHING. I was 10. Sigh.

But let’s give Mom a little credit here, too.

In 1978, I was 5. I didn’t know music from anything. I only remember listening to Barry Manilow 8-tracks in the car before that. But then I remember the dudes at the lake resort we used to visit every summer in Minnesota blasting Kiss in the bait shop. Then I remember wanting a Gene Simmons doll for Christmas. My brother wanted an Ace Frehley doll.

But we were not made of money. Wasn’t gonna happen. Mom bought us Rock and Roll Over instead.

kiss in 1985

The devil incarnate

(I guess she hadn’t picked up on the whole devil worshipper thing yet … that didn’t come until after they’d taken the makeup off and they were about as threatening as the bunch of Golden Girls-lookalike drag queens that their ‘80s personas resembled. I told you she was a little slow on the uptake, pop-culturally.)

But I digress … I wore that record out. Literally. You should have seen how warped that thing was before it finally died.

And whether she knew it or not, buying me that record turned me into the music junkie that I became.

Who else sounded like Kiss? Oh, I see. Van Halen. Def Leppard. Quiet Riot. Night Ranger. Motley Crue.

Eh, over this stuff. I need more. Give me some AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses. Metallica. Some Iron Maiden. Some Slayer.

Oh, you like Kiss? You should check out who influenced THEM. That’s when Led Zeppelin entered my life. That’s right … after Kiss. BECAUSE of Kiss.

I need more. What’s this new stuff? Alice in Chains? Nirvana? Smashing Pumpkins? Soundgarden? Pearl Jam?

It all led to the here and now, hundreds of concerts and thousands of records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and MP3s later. All because I liked Kiss first.

Because of Kiss, I became enthralled with MTV when I was 9 years old. We got it the last day I was in third grade and was so happy to have Martha Quinn in my life. That summer, I swear to God, I watched it for eight hours every single day. I found all this stuff that I didn’t know was out there.

I fell in love with the Go-Go’s and the Pretenders.

I saw Duran Duran and thought they were the coolest chicks I’d ever seen. (I’m a good sport, leaving this in. —Chris)

Seeing the video for “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that was filmed in what looked like the side of a mountain.

I saw a video called “Let’s Go to Bed” by weirdos called The Cure. There were bands out there like THAT?

I watched a show called IRS: The Cutting Edge (i.e. the precursor show to 120 Minutes by more than a decade) and saw this band called R.E.M. sing “So. Central Rain.” It wasn’t my cup of tea (at the time), even though a college guy whom I idolized while helping out in the elementary school library that summer told me they were “it” (his opinion mattered because he was a Kiss fan when he was my age, you see). Again, I was just 10.

Oh, and let’s not forget Michael Jackson. And Prince.  And a girl named Madonna, writhing on the floor with her wedding dress coming up over her head during a live performance when I was 10 years old. Let’s just say I didn’t care much about G.I. Joes after that (my mom’s legendary response that night? Very succinct … “She’s naughty.”)

I got all of that from MTV. And despite all of that, the real reason I was actually watching it all day every day was for the outside chance I might finally catch “Lick It Up.” No lie.

I love Kiss. I have for as long as I can remember having conscious thoughts. Because of them, I love music. They were my gateway drug to everything cool. Because once I started spinning that one record on my tiny Fisher-Price record player as a 5-year-old, I went through a worm hole I never want to be rescued from.

That’s why Kiss matters.

Kiss HOF

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final Results

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

I can hardly believe it! I sat down to write a post about another Guns N Roses MoSS? Madness Championship. A victory that looked like a sure thing after checking the voting status last night. A victory that would have been heralded through all the land.  But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Today, while checking the final voting numbers, I discovered a massive influx of votes for Nirvana.  With 61% of the vote, this late run of support pushed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the lead for Nirvana’s first MoSS? Madness Championship!

Help us celebrate Nirvana’s win by watching the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video below and remembering just how kick-ass it really is as your favorite “Side One, Track One.”

Thank you all for voting. Unfortunately, now it’s back to the daily grind. Back to work with no silly competitions or brackets to distract us. You may be wondering,  “What will my bosses think when I’m all of the sudden productive at work again?”   I have the solution. If you feel as though you are doing too much work or maybe going above and beyond your normal daily tasks, stop what you are doing and watch this awesome shot-for-shot remake of the Bosom Buddies opening credits featuring Paul Rudd and Adam Scott. See you all next year!

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Finals

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

The Final 4 votes have been tallied and we are down to the last two songs! Neither of the match-ups were particularly close. Both winning songs collected roughly 75% of the votes. In the final round, Guns N Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”  will match-up against Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Wow. This is going to be a tough decision.

Final round voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Over the Top.  In this clip, formerly deadbeat father Sly Stallone competes for his son’s love and arm wresting glory in a tournament where “Winner Takes It All.” Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final 4

moss-mad-16 2014

The Elite 8 votes have been tallied and we are down to the Final 4 songs. We lost another #1 seed as #2 Rolling Stones bumped off Jimi Hendrix in the closest voting of the round. They will go up against Nirvana, who handily won their match-up against Led Zeppelin.  On the other side of the bracket, Prince advanced in yet another close match-up as he narrowly beat The Doors. He will go head to head with Guns n Roses in his bid to advance to the finals.

Final 4 voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Bloodsport  in which a bevy of bloodthirsty martial artists  “Fight to Survive” the illegal underground tournament known as “The Kumite.” Look for cameos from Ogre, Forest Whitaker and the Jean Claude Van Damme testes squashing split. Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: March 2014

march 14

Side A : Todd’s‘ Picks

Side B : Chris’ Picks