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Friday, October 31, 2003

  Think I'm gonna make the same mistake twice

It's the first rain of the school year (appropriately on el dia de los meurtos), and with this christening comes the first rainy day play list of the school year. In my 5-CD player to inagurate the precipitation season:

- Paul McCartney, McCartney
- Radiohead, The Bends
- Vince Guaraldi, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
- Nick Drake, Pink Moon
- Elliott Smith, Either/Or

Have a happy and safe Halloween.
Rebecca C. Brown 11:10 AM

Thursday, October 30, 2003

  And I will sing a lullaby

Congratulations to Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, who have given birth to their first child.

The name? Beatrice Milly McCartney.

Was the name inspired by Much Ado About Nothing? I was hoping so, but Beatrice takes her first name from Heather's mum, and her middle name from Paul's aunt Milly.

Hmm John and Paul have aunts Mimi and Milly, respectively. It was destiny, eh?
Bren 11:51 PM

  Where's My Beautiful?
in which brendan gushes about Lennon Murphy

(scanning archives . . . ok check)

When Evanessence started having their label bribe Clearchannel hitting the radio waves earlier this year, I was upset. I wasn't upset because the boys and girls of Evanessence had apparently turned their backs on their evangelical Christian musical roots (as a monstrous agnostic, I wouldn't have a problem with that). And I wasn't upset that their singer had little-to-no part in the songwriting process.

Nay, I was peeved that Evanessence was blowing up, because they are the Diet Snapple version of Lennon Murphy.

Lennon Murphy, or just Lennon, is a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Nashville, who combines the lyrical frankness and brutal honesty of Fiona and Alanis, an undeniable ear for hooks and melodies, and some crunchy hard-rock goodness, to create a unique and awesome sound to go along with her knockout voice. She was about to break big in 2001, when a one-two-punch stifled her career just as it was beginning:
1) Her mother died suddenly of an allergic reaction, and
2) Her debut album, 5:30 Saturday Morning, was released on 9/11
Arista records refused to go to even moderate lengths to promote her album, and she soon left the label, and is now shopping around her sophomore record, I Am, expected to be released early next year.

You can listen to songs from 5:30 Saturday Morning here. Some of the better songs are the ones where she wraps her pipes around a good melodic hook, such as on "Brake of Your Car", "My Beautiful", and the dramatico-industrial "Couldn't Breathe". The ballad "Asking You" is also a sure standout.

Lastly, one more thing on lyrics. I really appreciate Lennon as a lyricist because she is honest and brutal about what's on her mind (mostly her failed relationships, her mother, and her independence), which is very refreshing compared to the strings of trite platitudes found in the lyrics of Evanessence and most other mainstream hard rock acts (let's call it Linkin Park Syndrome). Those acts can sometimes insult the intelligence of their listeners with such pointless vaguery.

Lennon's upcoming second album features a new version of the aforementioned "My Beautiful", as a duet with Travis Meeks, formerly the frontman of the highly capable Days of the New. And yes, her late mother named her after Beatle John.
Bren 2:42 PM

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

  !Blip! Worthy pornography? !End Blip!

Seattle. Music. Nirvana. Pornography?

The New Pornographers. Any good? Promising. Estatic? Maybe. Except for all the filler. It's crapped out all over the place in between the truly good songs. Good points? Quirky. Reminiscent of Talking Heads, TMBG. Buy? Shrugs. I did.

Gary 6:44 PM

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

  You Know They're Loaded

Who knew that Rush Limbaugh and Courtney Love had something in common?
Prosecutors Tuesday charged singer-actress Courtney Love with two felony counts of drug possession.

Love -- leader [of] the alternative rock band Hole and wife of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain -- was arraigned in Beverly Hills Superior Court after voluntarily surrendering to authorities. She stands accused of possessing painkillers -- Hydrocodone and Oxycodone -- without a prescription.

Paul 10:04 PM

  REM on TV

On the day of their best-of release (which Ill remark on in a bit), REM will be playing Leno tonight (technically tomorrow morning, but who's counting?), according to RockOnTV. Enjoy.

More REM - trying to find out what the other new song on the best-of is (which one, Paul?), I came across REM HQTV, which is showing videos, interviews, and live whatsit from all 20+ years of REM. Worth a look - everything from Michael Stipe with hair to Michael Stipe in dresses!
Andy J 3:42 PM

  Via Crooked Timber, Terry Rogan played the new, Spector-less version of "Let It Be" on his BBC radio show this morning. For what is probably a limited time, you can hear the broadcast by going here, clicking on "Listen Again to this Show," and skipping ahead to the 35 minute mark. The song begins at about the 39 minute mark.

It's not that dramatically different, especially over the radio. "Let It Be," of all the tracks, isn't the one that we'd expect to sound extremely different on the new version of the album. It's "The Long And Winding Road" that I want to hear. Also perhaps "Across the Universe."
Paul 1:27 PM

Monday, October 27, 2003

  Crank it to 11

My friend Alex from Sonoma State (who also wrote reviews for the currently-on-hiatus Section M Magazine) recently alerted me to a subtly-satirical classic-rock-inspired band taking the UK by storm (though perhaps subtle is the wrong word). They're The Darkness, a 4-piece swinging-genitals hard-rocking combo from Suffolk. Their sound evokes all that was great and excessive about stadium rock in the 70's, but with a musical expertise and near-sincereity not found in the work of Mssrs. St. Hubbins, Tufnel and Smalls. Of course, one can find nothing but sincerity in tracks like "Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman". Singer Justin Hawkins was discovered after belting a pitch-perfect rendition of "Bohemian Raphsody" at a karaoke pub, so that should give you an idea of what's going on here.

Feel free to check out their video section, where you can view full clips for classics like "I Believe in a Thing Called Love", "Growing On Me", and the aforementioned "Get Your Hands...". Lots of pink spandex and endless stacks of Marshalls are to be found.
Bren 12:21 PM

  That there
That's not me

Rolling Stone, in the Grammy-like tradition of thinking the year ends months early, has started its reader poll for the best of 2003. Act accordingly.

My question is this: Regarding the picture on the main page that links to the poll, doesn't that little Clay twit from American Idol kinda look like Thom with a shave and a more vacant, bright disposition?

That's as much a sign of the apocalypse as anything going on down here in SoCal, where we have just received an emergency order not to breathe, pending new orders.
Bren 12:07 PM

Sunday, October 26, 2003

A great site with TONS of independants posting their music. Good server, never seems to lag and get bogged down.
Gary 9:48 PM

Friday, October 24, 2003

  Working Undercover for the Man

There's no question that I prefer Amoeba, but it's hard to beat this deal from BMG. That's CDs for $6.99 and free shipping. Tax should work out to about 75 cents per CD.

I feel kind of dirty...but that's a good deal, no two ways about it.
Paul 12:19 AM

Thursday, October 23, 2003

  Expect to see a guy with a radio instead of a head, and a leopard that can't hear

In case you missed it, last week Fark had an "illustrate the band name" Photoshop contest. From the looks of it, it's 20% laugh, 55% groan, and 25% lame, but still worth a look.
Bren 8:11 PM

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

  All The Young Punks, Part 2

Not satisfied with having a site inferior in appearance to our own, the folks at A Guy 4 Gals, apparently lacking much else to talk about, have taken another shot at us with a bit of prose valiantly striving for coherence:
OMG OMG OMG!!!1!1!1111!
LIEK, GUESS WUT!!?/!1!?/

The colours on "If six was nine" remind me of puke. They must've made a theme to their website!

Oh wait, wait, I think I've got another. If six was nine, maybe THEN one of them would have good taste.


I don't know about the rest of you, but I think we should just admit when we've been beaten. We're obviously out of our league with this one.

Special kudos to A Guy 4 Gals blogger Lauren, however, for a kind (though in honesty, unnecessary) apology in the comments below.
Paul 9:34 PM

  The New Simon and Garfunkel? Albeit more ROCK, less SOCK

I suppose the article title is a tad too extreme, but this comparison was immediately the first that came to mind when I first listened to the latest album from the Pernice Brothers, Yours, Mine, and Ours.

Visit this link [Yours, Mine, and Ours - Stream] to stream full songs from the latest album and I think you'll see why S&B came to mind.

Since I'm double posting, I'll keep this one short. In a nutshell, this album = easy listening. It isn't aggressively innovative and at its roots the album is rather quite formulaic - pop refined. You can't go wrong with this album unless you want something you can blast when a car pulls up next to you with the volume cranked up to Outkast.
Gary 8:25 PM

  Overlooking the Indies (1)

Cry For Me

Self proclaimed alternative brit-pop group hailing from Chicago, IL, brings something quite interesting to the table with this CD release. Granted, I’ve only listened to the first three songs, but from those tracks I’m impressed with their overall sound. I don’t know much about brit-pop, so I can’t vouch for that label the group has given themselves. Personally, upon listening to the first three tracks in order, I would tend to classify this group as alternative rock, with elements taken from a goth-rock influence with some thrown in electronic ambience to fill out the sound.

The result is a promising debut for this emerging band. The lead female vocalist is haunting over the often heavy laden music provided by a biting electric guitar, scratchy bass and other electronic effects, and sharply accentuated drums, providing an element of surrealism that really pulled me into each track. A perfect example of this is the track, Cry for Me. Backup vocalists also perform well to push and shape the dreamy atmosphere of every song.

The band exercises versatility by toning down the drums and swapping lead electric for lead acoustic to create a contrast between the first song and the second. Paramour is an astoundingly beautifully crafted song, with a lead acoustic guitar strumming quietly backed by softly played drums, maracas, complete with electronic and bass filler. A minute into the song, you know you’ve reached something classic when the piano adds in to the mix, pushing through all the murky music to help finish off an illustration of surreal at its finest. The electric guitars make an appearance as the song goes to a close, aptly reminding the listener that it too can be just a beautiful and elegant as its acoustic brother.

Catharsis delivers more of what Paramour began, carrying over the haunting lead vocals and the rich, full atmosphere which the band is apt at creating through scratchy bass, scratchy electric guitar, and persistent drumming highlighted with electronica. I can’t get enough of these few songs and I am anxiously awaiting new material to be released. Check this band out. You can download a few songs for free and pick up their album by following the appropriate links.

*Visit Artist Page - Breather for a few available .mp3 downloads.

*Visit Breather Music for 6 available song streams.
Gary 8:09 PM

  Elliott Smith

Dead at 34, of an apparent suicide. Very sad. Here are some thoughts from his website. If I have time today, I'll dust off my old copy of Either/Or.
Bren 10:37 AM

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

All The Young Punks
When They Kick At Your Front Door, How You Gonna Come?

A Guy 4 Gals says this of our humble establishment:

Alright, So we may not all always have time to post even the smallest thing on our sites but.. atleast our site looks good and it still gets posted on. I stumbled into this site a few mins ago and thought 'even though these people have no life and seem to post on their site EVERY DAY.. at least ours looks better!'. ..

I don't think much reply is warranted. I do think, however, that even a cursory visit to this other site will be sufficient to allow you to settle the question of which site truly "looks better."

We report, you decide.
Paul 11:40 PM

  Dave Matthews Band
Some Devil

The roads of rock and/or roll history are littered with that dreaded phenomenon, that "First Solo Album By A Member Of A Band With A Sound So Unique It Will Be Hard To Overcome".

Yes, we have seen many of these FSABAMOABWASSUIWBHTO's. Sometimes they play all the instruments on their new records, and sound almost exactly like their prior bands (Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl). Sometimes they just sing and they sound exactly like their prior bands (Natalie Merchant, Richard Ashcroft). Sometimes there's a lot of drugs/booze involved (Scott Weiland, John Frusciante, and uh, David Lee Roth). Or a lot of primal scream therapy (John Lennon). And sometimes it takes ten years to finish, and even that isn't enough (ahem, Axl?).

Upon hearing that Dave Matthews, South Africa's greatest white export since Tolkien (totalling approximately two good things white people have done there), would shun the band and be releasing his first studio solo record, I had a pretty good idea of how the new album's sound would be categorized. While they have produced much magic and joy in the past decade, DMB has long been constricted by its components, with its songs requiring relatively equal parts for a guitar, a bass, a drum kit, a sax and a violin, without room for much more. Without said constrictions, I expected that Some Devil would be musically diverse to the point of excess, with a sound full enough to make Phil Spector blush. With the notable exception of Ben Folds' masterpiece Rockin the Suburbs, such albums are often nothing more than a bloody mess.

The verdict on Some Devil? Yes, it is a variety act. And yes, a few of the songs are a shade too cluttered, notably "Save Me". And the presence of filler techno-ish beats on a number of songs suggests that the DMB member Dave misses most on the album is drummer Carter Beauford.

But the one thing that really ties the album together is Dave's voice, which has evolved over the years from a mid-range sarcastic quackishness to a weathered, baritone growl. And not surprisingly, Some Devil is most effective when the arrangements allow Dave's pipes to come to the fore and bear his pain. This occurs in three places. First is the lead single, "Gravedigger", with its meditations on life and death and immortality, complete with a haunting "ring around the rosey" bridge. Second is the bare-bones tearjerker "Some Devil", which sounds like a Jeff Buckley outtake -- a really really good Jeff Buckley outtake. Third, and perhaps most impressive, is the magnificently quaint acoustic piece "Stay or Leave", in which our hero ponders life following the departure of his beloved.

Special bonus points go to the album for ending with an acoustic-only reprise of "Gravedigger", which made me ponder whether or not I was watching the ending credits of a movie.

If you're a Dave fan, you'll enjoy the album just fine, and if not, hop on the iTunes gravy train and download the three above songs. And if you're looking for sax-violin interplay, this is not for you. Dave fans should also know that the limited edition album comes with a bonus cd of Dave performing five songs with frequent stagemate Tim Reynolds. You'll hear great updates of Dave standards "Grey Street", "When the World Ends", "Jimi Thing" (about 9 minutes, no less) and "Seek Up", along with a swell rendition of the Some Devil track "Stay or Leave".
Bren 6:00 PM

Monday, October 20, 2003

  The Best Music You’ve Never Heard
Volume 1

I for one can say without hesitation or any sense of unoriginality that my favorite musical group of all time is and will forever be the Beatles. Joining them in the top ten are Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and, despite my quest to be so un-mod, Radiohead; yes, folks, I enjoy popular music. I eat up the classics like delicious vegan candy.

However, I must alert you that there dozens of other artists in my CD collection who have drifted into obscurity or who only retain cult fandom. (Occasionally, one of my “secret” favorites will drift into the mainstream, and boy does that tan my hide.)

My most prized secret group is XTC, who has been churning out English gold since 1977 (or maybe about 1984…I’m not too keen on their proto works). If you are a fan of the Beatles, the Kinks, the Flaming Lips, Blur, the Talking Heads, Radiohead, or any other rock artist who combines intriguing lyrics with sophisticated melodies with a twist of self-conscious irony, I would call you a fool (a damned fool!) if you neglected to give XTC even the slightest listen.

I shant bore you (as I had planned to do) with an album-by-album analysis of XTC’s evolution from a bouncy new-age semi-punk Brit Pop group in 1978 to a bouncy-but-also-sullen-but-never-without-intensity 1960s-throwback semi-rock Brit Pop group in 1986.

What I shall instill into your psyche, however, is that you should listen with open ears to the eighties’ finest masterpiece: Oranges and Lemons, from 1988. A smattering of psycadellic undertones, undeniable Beatle-inspired licks, and vague tribal influences (you need to trust me on this one) combine for form a complete and dramatic music experience. No album so carefully employs the entire emotional music spectrum (just as only XTC can) while never failing to create an engaging auditory background for witty lyrics, including one song about the author’s man-tool.

That’s right. I said man-tool.
Rebecca C. Brown 9:01 PM

  Share the Music!!

Being a tech geek (and a Mac geek) second only to being music geek, I feel obliged to mention that Apple's iTunes is now available for PC. Download it. Now you can use iTunes Music Store to buy digital tracks legally and support your favorite artists blah blah blah...

Yeah yeah yeah. The music store is fine and dandy, and Im ashamed to admit how much Ive spent since it came out for Mac in April.

But the truly great thing about iTunes is the music sharing feature. Using Apple's Rendevous technology, you can easily stream music from anyone else on your network (apartment, house, dorm) also using iTunes. Just download and install iTunes, go to "Edit->Preference->Sharing" and click "Share my music" and "Search for shared music". No other configuration necessary - From then on, when you have iTunes on, you have access to the music of everyone else who has iTunes on. Im in the library listening to "Ben Temchine's Music" (who has pretty good taste in music) just because we're on the same network. Its really cool - makes me wish I was in the dorms with access to 1000 other people, instead of just my roommate. Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell anyone who might ever be on the same network as you.

On top of that, I guarantee iTunes is a better way to handle the music on your computer than anything else your using.
Andy J 12:43 PM


This past Saturday, I went to the 21st birthday bash of one of my closest high school friends. He is Punjabi, and he loves to bhangra! In fact, he is currently the captain of Cal Poly Pomona's Bhangra group.

The party was held in a hall, which was just barely big enough to fit the +250 people who attended. They were mostly Punjabi and Indian, and I think I was one of three non-Indian people who were there. Ha! Still, I had a great time, and even tried my best to bhangra with the best of them. I have no doubt that I failed miserably. I think I have even worse rhythm than Tony (Paul), from what I remember from our Senior Dinner Dance. =p Can anyone tell me if he has learned to dance now?

Anyway, I love bhangra! From the familiar "danka danka danka danka" of the techno beat to the hipping and hopping of the dancers with their arms outstretched in the air, it was a sight to see about 50+ people at all times dancing on the floor once the party got going.

Somehow I was coerced to get out of my seat and onto the dance floor to try and bhangra. It looks so easy from 30 feet away, but when I got up there, I felt like a moron. But I didn't care! Arms flailing and legs bouncing I joined the circle of men going around the beat boy (a young boy, maybe 9 or 10, playing hard on a two sided drum over the techno music in the background). No one seemed to care that I stunk - I don't think that really mattered. They knew I was an old friend of Sandeep's, and I guess that was enough to fit in for the night. At least for Sandeep, my efforts were appreciated. I can't say about the many other people who had to watch me. Although I suppose I gave them quite a good laugh.

All in all I had a great time. If you're curious about bhangra, search online or visit Bhangra Omega.
Gary 11:04 AM

Friday, October 17, 2003

  South of Our Border

Café Tacuba
Cuatro Caminos

I'm not a HUGE fan of mariachi (and they ALWAYS seem to be playing the Fender Museum everytime I go) - which is why I adore this album. Bordering on experimental, this group has managed to do on this album what R.E.M. could not with Reveal - merge electronica and production with good raw tunes. And you can't go wrong with a topping of Spanish flair (vocally). Music styles from all over (see Irish Indian folksong) and different eras (see classic Clash) find their way into the mix.

The album content is fairly diverse - I have yet to find any coherency musically, and my Spanish is terrible so I have no clue what is going on. The best I can do is translate the song titles, and only very slowly.

Still, this was a fantastic listen despite some lapses during songs. Next to Kran, this is my #2 non-English album of the year (which makes sense, considering that this IS the 2nd non-english album I've heard all year).
Gary 11:40 PM

Thursday, October 16, 2003

  Sunshine Of Your Liver?

More music headline scariness, this time from Billboard.

Quickly, without thinking, read this headline:
Bruce Recovering from Liver Transplant
Before you go over and check if Eric Alterman is having a candlelight vigil or something, you should probably know that the "Bruce" they are referring to is Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Thanks to Billboard's lazy (or perhaps, calculated) headlining, we now have a situation where the average music fan treats this story with a disproportionate amount of relief.

But in all seriousness, Mr Bruce is wished a speedy recovery. Though if he could get Eric and Ginger in the same room with him, with instruments strapped on, and discussing a for-the-money reunion tour, that would really be a feather for the proverbial cap.
Bren 10:07 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

  Imagine All The People...

...spontaneously breaking into over-choreographed song-and-dance numbers. From Rolling Stone:
Yoko Ono has given her approval for a Broadway musical based on the songs of John Lennon. With the working title The Lennon Project, the musical would draw from more than thirty of Lennon's solo songs as a backdrop to a story exploring the tumultuous 1960s and early 70s.


The actors, who have not yet been cast, are expected to portray different aspects of Lennon's personality.
The show is scheduled to open in 2004.
Paul 9:48 PM

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

  I dont wanna get pegged as the "British Music Guy", but music from the other side of the pond is so good compared to a lot of whats over here. Anyway, the new CD by The Rapture "Echoes" is online. Its wild - Cure vocals over Stone Roses beats with jagged guitar lines and crazy bleeps and boops (which are becoming standard in "challenging music" - I blame Radiohead). "House of Jealous Lovers" is my personal fav, but its all pretty damn good.

Listen Here
Andy J 4:42 PM

  I've got a secret....

So I'm watching VH1 this morning instead of going to Economics lecture (I don't know which is worse, missing lecture, or watching VH1) and they have their top 20 countdown or whatnot. And then the hostess says:
"Did you know that Matchbox Twenty didn't used to be 'Matchbox Twenty'?"

So I'm excited because I figure she'll tell us something interesting about their history, because, despite being pop wuss rockers, they are rockers, so maybe they have torrid little secrets and skeletons in their closets!
"No, their original name was Matchbox 20, like the number, not the word!"

Do they really pay people to look up stuff like that!? Who are their fact checkers?! Because, if you look closely, Matchbox 20/Twenty used to be... Tabitha's Secret

Now maybe no one cares (which is ok), but, the history of how Tabitha's Secret became Matchbox 20 is a lot more interesting than the story of how Matchbox 20 became Matchbox Twenty. I understand that VH1 is not trying to enlighten the masses, however, PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING NEWS/BITWORTHY. Like, how about bringing up the fact that MB20 was the spin off group of Rob Thomas, Brian Yale and Paul Doucette, who parted ways with the other 2 members of Tabitha's Secret when they couldn't agree on signing the same record deal? How about MB20 being sued by the remaining members of Tabitha's Secret when they passed 3AM off as their own and then didn't distribute the royalties to all the songwriters (i.e. the non-MB20 members)? Isn't that a lot more torrid and interesting than changing your name from "Matchbox 20" to "Matchbox Twenty"?

Jeez, music television bites.
Camille 10:29 AM

  Semi-automatic, for the people: a post in two movements

Just a disclaimer, this has nothing to do with REM. I just like the way "Automatic for the People" sounds. So this is a post in two parts, watch out or you'll miss it!

Part One: Hot Water Corn Bread
No, I'm not talking about cooking, I'm talking about one of Cal's newer hip-hop/funk/jazz bands. Think MTV's "Da Band", only with more talent (about the same number of MCs + the obligatory singer), AND they play their own instruments and write their own songs. You can argue that Da Band writes their own songs, but we'll leave that discussion to be continued. So HWCB played in Putnam Hall (Unit 1 ResHall) last Thursday with terrible sound equipment, and yet they managed to rock my socks off. Despite a somewhat slow start and unreliable microphones, they managed to root themselves right in your stomach with a backbeat and keep you hooked throughout the show. The drummer and the bassist (the only non-vocal instruments featured) were off the hook. With basic jazz/blues movements, classic rock progressions on the bass and innovative drumming on a 7-piece drum kit, it was sometimes hard to pay attention to all the fun going on lyrically and melodically just because the instrumentation was so good.

And here's the fun part: they've only been together rehearsing for about a month. Keep your eyes open folks, this is a band to watch big time.

Part Two: Bay Area Open Mic Venues
So I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked if I knew any good open mics in the area because he wanted to get back into playing. I'm from the East Bay, and prior to coming to Cal I was open mic'ing (not well mind you) for a few months. So here are venues:
In Berkeley
The Freight and Salvage Coffee House
I can't say enough good things about F&S. Firstly, they sell tea and coffee and cookies in this huge coffee house/warehouse type thing -- that alone does it for me. Don't let the term "coffee house" fool you, though, this is at least 2.5x the size of the Center Street Starbucks at 1/2 the price and 30x the value. F&S is known for THE best sound system in the entire Bay Area. That's probably because it's true. They're really awesome, hospitable, helpful, friendly and crowds come just to hear new people play. A lot of their regular folk artists play at open mics also to try songs out before they have to perform, or to experiment with "non traditional" playing styles. They also have a piano if you need one, so you're not limited to guitar. And if your acoustic doesn't plug in, it's all good, they have great mics for that. Also, if you bring a tape, they're usually more than happy to record your performance for you so you can listen to it, improve, etc. Oh, and it's all ages. And it's a non profit. And fun people play here, so go!
The Starry Plough
If bigger venues scare you, the Starry Plough may be for you. It's small, intimate, fun, and if you're a drinker, there's food & alchy.
Blake's used to do Monday night Open Mics. Then they found a regular to play every Monday. Will their open mics come back? Maybe if the blues group they have booked then gets bigger/moves along/finds another venue. Until then, hiatus.

West Coast Songwriters (WCS) Bay Area Open Mics: Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, Napa
I used to be a member of WCS (back when it was NCSA), so I'm a little partial, but they usually book SWEET venues and coordinate really nice open mics. The only hitch is that you have to be a member, and that costs a yearly $$ fee. They do offer student discount memberships (with ID) and lots of other songwriting workshops, panels, conferences, etc so if you're hardcore (or want to be) it's worth the investment.
The Sweetwater Saloon, Mill Valley
The Sweetwater is amazing. That doesn't do it justice. It's a GREAT venue, and if you get to play there your life will be 100x better. It's a 21+ venue, though, so come prepared.
Sacred Grounds Cafe, San Francisco
Haven't been, but I hear good things. It's down by SFSU though, so a car is probably beneficial.
The Hotel Utah, San Francisco.
The Hotel Utah is really gross. Like really gross. I've never been to their Open Mics, but I saw Ari Hest play here and there are a few things to know: the stage is tiny and elevated, but there's not a lot of space move around, the sound system is not so great, it smells funny, and the food/drink is not good. It's also 21+ and you're only entitled to one song if you sign up.

And google says that the Bear's Lair holds Monday open mics -- does anyone know if that's true? I wouldn't think so since most people would probably have heard about it by now, but I could be off base, or google could be outdated.

Are there other places to play? Yes. Have I been? Eh, not really. Do I recommend going? Sure, try anything out. If you're a homebody there aren't many more venues besides the above except Ashkenaz in Albany and The Gilman (aka the Caning Factory if you believe the outdoor sign) over in northwest Berkeley.
Camille 10:15 AM

Monday, October 13, 2003

  ...And an REM/Berry almost-fakeout

Rollingstone had another don't-keep-your-hopes-up headline on their site today:
"Berry Drops In on R.E.M."
And your average fan sees this and probably says to himself, "It's probably nothing. Peter is probably just having an affair with Halle Berry."

But no, it's true! Drummer Bill sang backup vocals on "Radio Free Europe" and got behind the kit for another song ("Permanent Vacation") at a show last week in North Carolina.

I doubt this will lead to anything, but hey, at least Berry hasn't spontaneously combusted or choked on someone else's vomit. And then again, I like the trio stuff as much, possibly more than the quartet stuff. And now I have a section to run to, bye!
Bren 5:13 PM

Saturday, October 11, 2003

  So Alive

Has anyone heard anything about the new Ryan Adams album(s)? I havent read anything about them, other than the release dates. Rolling Stone called it "Llor n Kcor" and "Rock n Roll", the website says Love is Hell, Parts 1&2. Camille told me they were the record the label wanted him to make and record he wanted to make, respective to the dates being released. has them listed as EPs, which doesnt sound very Ryan Adams-y - the man usually hemorrhages material, and wouldnt release 2 EPs when he could release 2 albums. But Im baffled by the lack of coverage about the albums - anybody know anything?

That said, the first single off the album, "So Alive" (Ill mp3 anyone who emails), is quite good. Its not the old Ryan Adams fare, but its not the garage-rock I had read about. Gone is the any semblance of country twang, replaced with rocking guitars and a hint of piano. What remains is the Ryan Adams yelp and the great lyrics - slightly observational, kind of regretful, but very restless. Im looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.
Andy J 10:32 AM

Friday, October 10, 2003

  Obiemincent 50 'Em?

Is it just me, or do Eminem, Obie Thrice, and 50 Cent all sound exactly the same? I know 50 Cent is being backed by Eminem, so that's no surprise. But what about Obie? Why Obie why?
Gary 7:40 PM

  Your every-few-years Cat Stevens fake-out, courtesy AP

On a recent trip to, this headline leapt out at me:
Former Cat Stevens back on stage
And just for a brief moment, a glimmer of hope flashed across my soul. How long was it, Commander Data?

"Zero seconds, six tenths, 8 miliseconds, 17 nano--"

Thank you, Data.

I should have known better, as it's the usual fare, with Yusuf reciting messages of peace onstage and "maybe" playing songs, for an Islamic non-profit in Malaysia.

Nuts. I guess if I ever want to hear "Father and Son" live, I'll just have to listen to the Flaming Lips rip it off. Ah well, life goes on.
Bren 2:26 PM

Thursday, October 09, 2003

  I Got The News

Paul 5:19 PM

  Young Liars EP

With psychic ability, piece the nativity. Simply diminishing, stifle that flinch. Ooo ooo ooo ooh, young liars!

The Brooklyn based trio, TV On the Radio, has garnered quite a bit of local buzz and I happened to run across a review of the band during my random searches for indie bands on the internet. Their 2003 EP release Young Liars makes for what could be a very promising debut.

The premise is simple: two of the three members spend their time crafting the music, and the last member spends his time writing and delivering the vocals. At first listen, you would think this band would be a bore to see live, because the album is definitely overproduced. That would seem to be their style. The singer's vocals are layered multiple times over to give the effect of reverberation and having backup, and you can tell much of the music has been compiled together chiefly with computer tools. The liner notes make point to list the add'l musicians playing live instruments on the tracks.

However, from the reviews, this band is supposed to be a kick to see live, and you get what you expect. At the one live performance I had the opportunity to read a review about, the trio came onstage with a boombox, and the show primarily consisted of the lead singer crooning over pre-recorded tracks. As far as I can gather from the EP, I would have been estatic just to be there for that.
Gary 7:59 AM

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


John Cale's new album, HoboSapiens, is out, at least in the UK. If you want to hear it (in its entirety, I believe), go here. I'm reluctant to listen before I've found a hard copy, but the reviews have been very good, and most of you probably haven't heard much Cale before, so the preview would be worthwhile. Cale's EP released in May, 5 Tracks, was intended to give the world a taste of the direction he was going to go on his next album, and it was excellent. All of that being said, Cale is something of an acquired taste (although if you like the Velvet Underground and/or Brian Eno, you've got a head-start.)
Paul 8:34 PM

disclaimer: I know this post is totally superfluous, but that happens after watching people on TV. At least for me anyway.

So, thanks to Brendan's update, I watched Rufus tonight after four solid hours of studying, none of which were for my midterm tomorrow. The hysteria will set in soon, I promise.

Was it just me or was he cleaned up and looking a little meatier than usual?
Was his ensemble not huge?
Was he not totally singing through his nose (as per usual) and not in time with a style that he could carry (not per usual)?
{as an aside: He's playing in Paris on my birthday, which I think is nice because he always struck me as very Parisian. I don't know why this is; I've never been to Paris and the only thing I've heard in French is Edith Piaf.}

Granted I haven't heard his new album, so I can't necessarily judge it from this single. BUT, if I could judge it, I would say: Rufus, where did you go!?

I want cigarettes and chocolate milk.

[insert cool time warp/subject change faze effect here]
Is anyone going to go see Howie Day? His new album should be arriving shortly. By shortly I mean on UCMail time which is 2 years after USMail. I'm not feeling his first single, and I'm worried about him playing with a full band. Will this ruin everything good and great about Howie, or am I freaking out a la Chicken Little?

And finally, I feel obligated to bring up the fact that it's election day, so if you didn't already vote early or absentee, go do it. Now. I'm serious. Get offline and vote.
Camille 12:48 AM

Monday, October 06, 2003

  Living In Clip

It turns out that I'll be going to Ani DiFranco's show at the Greek Theatre here in Berkeley at the end of the month. Before the Steely Dan show, I was able to prep by listening to every one of their albums (in chronological order, no less!) In DiFranco's case, I own not a single one of her albums, a problem I intend to fix before the end of the month.

As it happens, I'd always intended to buy at least two of her albums - Living in Clip and Not a Pretty Girl - on the basis of positive word-of-mouth. (I actually document these things for organizational purposes, by the way. Too many albums worthy of acquisition to keep track of in my head.) Now that I've got a special reason to buy at least one, and possibly two, of DiFranco's albums within a week or so, my question to all of you is, What DiFranco album(s) are most worth picking up?
Paul 9:02 PM

  Anything TiVo-worthy?

Howie Day on Conan friday night . . . Merle Haggard on Letterman thursday, perhaps something Cash-related? . . . Oh, and Rufus Wainwright on Letterman tonight, nice.
Bren 11:28 AM

Sunday, October 05, 2003

  Countdown to Ecstasy

Of all the bands named after sex toys, I think I can say with some confidence that Steely Dan is the best.

Courtesy of an early Christmas present from two of my uncles, my girlfriend and I found ourselves with two tickets to see Steely Dan at the Chonricle Pavilion in Concord. Yes, that's right, Steely Dan, one of my all time favorite bands. For those of you not in the know, the Dan is comprised primarily of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, but in the studio and especially on tour they are accompanied by some of the finest musicians in the business.

The setlist was killer:

Time out of Mind
Caves of Altamira
Black Cow
Babylon Sisters
Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More/Band introductions
Home At Last
Janie Runaway
Hey Nineteen
Haitian Divorce
Lunch With Gina
Everything Must Go
Parker's Band
Kid Charlemagne
Don't Take Me Alive
My Old School
Becker took lead vocals on "Daddy" (Becker: "Daddy may not smoke his fine cigars, but I know where the smoking is going on...right up here at the front of the house, that's where.") and "Haitian Divorce," and the ladies doing backup vocals took over "Parker's Band." Can't Buy a Thrill, the band's first album, was not represented, but Aja, the band's masterpiece, was played almost in its entirety. The only rarity was the non-album track "FM." I probably could have done without the lyrically under-impressive "Don't Take Me Alive," but even the relatively simple "Daddy" was more fun than I would have expected.

I understand that some Dan purists don't care for "Peg," but as far as I'm concerned that was one of the best singles of the 70s. It was also the first song to get a substantial number of people up on their feet and dancing. I'm not much for dancing at concerts, but it definitely helps the vibe to know that you're surrounded by thousands of people who are letting loose and really digging the music.

On the songs from Aja and Gaucho the band seemed to be emphasizing the funk and soul elements of the music in lieu of the jazzy intricacies, which are probably harder to recreate on stage. (I was thus hoping for an ultra-funky rendition of "The Fez," but to no avail.) And if you weren't singing along to "Hey Nineteen," the person sitting next to you should have checked you for a pulse. (Why is it not surprising that one of Steely Dan's biggest hits would we be an ode to tequila and cocaine?)

All of the musicianship was top-notch, especially Becker and Jon Herington on guitar. And I don't know if Donald Fagen can actually make the keytar a cool instrument, but he comes awfully close. Special mention to bass player Tom Barney who kept up the groove the entire show, but was shown on the jumbo video screens exactly zero times. (Note to video crew: this guy has played with Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and Aretha Franklin; show some appreciation, people!) Also, my girlfriend suspects that one of the video guys has a crush on Carolyn Leonhart, since for the first 20 minutes of the show she was on the big screens about half of the time.

All in all it was a fantastic show, easily one of the best, if not the best, I've ever seen. (It's in close competition with a They Might Be Giants show I caught in San Francisco in July of 2002.)

No doubt about it: I'm a lucky guy.

Update: Katie, my girlfriend, rightly points out to me that bass player Tom Barney did get some face time on the big screens...during the introduction of each individual musician. For the rest of the show, when the video people were not obviously obligated to show him, Barney was woefully neglected.
Paul 2:08 PM

Friday, October 03, 2003


Kran Dodir 2003

I absolutely LOVE this straight up hard rock band from… Croatia. Yes, you heard me – Croatia. If there are more bands this good in Croatia, then I am definitely planning a trip there in the near future. This band is definitely KICK ASS. All lyrics are in traditional Croatian which makes for some interesting lyrical melodies and sounds. The lead vocalist has a very appealing voice, and their music is perfect for blasting out the speakers as you drive down the freeway in 5th or 6th gear or for easy listening while sipping a margarita out on your front lawn (I'm just listing a few things I have done while listening to their songs) - all in all I cannot get enough of this band, and I am trying to figure out how on earth I can order this CD as well as their two previous.

The band has their webpage in both Croatian and English (how thoughtful) but for some strange reason, the .mp3 downloads they host can only be downloaded from the English version. Strange. Also, they mention it is possible to buy their CD for just $5 plus shipping and handling; however they neglect to tell you exactly how to order it. I guess I could email them, but eh, well, I suppose that’s the best way to find out – assuming they can understand me. If they can understand me, and they happen to run across this review, I’d like to shout out to them and tell them that they are FREAKING GOOD and they need to come here to America and tour.

The band as it exists today consists of Vlado on the mic, Igor on the drums, Hren on guitar, Neno on bass, and Boris on guitar (I can probably imagine some people are laughing already). This is hard driven rock angst music fueled by politics and a disregard for authority and organized government. Vlado has a perfect voice for belting out what must be protest songs against the injustice of commercial capitalist corporations around the world – if only I could understand Croatian. Guitars blazing, alternating between hard sawing to methodic sawing, between typical strumming to soft plucking to even some REMesque jangle at some intermittent points - this band reaches just about everywhere to get their points across. The bass can be uncharacteristically prominent at times, beating loud and hot, and the drumming at times is very striking and stimulating. This band has a great sound that has managed to impress me greatly.

Make no doubt, they are politically charged, especially against the music industry - they firmly believe that all good things in life are free which is why they offer 5 of the 8 songs on this CD on their site Band Kran.

I would like to end with the words of Dr. Hren: "...CD is the best and only cure which provides resistance for your brain against brainwashing sickness..."
Gary 9:56 PM

  Dear Michael Stipe,

First of all, "Bad Day" sounded great on Letterman, and nobody wears a black hooded sweatshirt better than you do. (eat your heart out, Kaczynski)

But can you, or anyone else for that matter, explain the blue stripe you had painted horizontally across your face?

Were you on your way back from an audition for the Blue Man Group, but didn't quite wash everything off? Or since it was a "bad day", was it meant to signify that you were "up to your ears" in something?

I always love singers that keep me guessing.
Bren 11:23 AM

Thursday, October 02, 2003

  "School of Rock" lives up to its name, my anticipations

This site of course is not a forum for film reviews; however, I've unilaterally decided that reviews of movies about music can qualify. Thusly, I must confess that "School of Rock" handily won my stamp of approval, both as a cinematic event and as a soundtrack set to film. Foremost, the movie succeeds by making sure that Jack Black (will his star ever stop rising?) is not absent from the screen for any more than ninty seconds at a time. At every point I wanted him to make one of his signature faces or exaggerated body guestures or semi-clever phrases, he supplied my demand. The plot was predictable and the characters stock, but both facilitated Jack Black's stunning talents so well that I refuse to fault the writers or producers for taking advantage of thier little gem. Dammit, is that man funny!

But onto the second-best actor in "School of Rock": the music. Seeing Jables (as Mr. Black is often referred) dole out CD-listening homework assignments to his students was like reliving my formitave years with my step-father Travis, who is about the same age as Jack. The albums of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd (especially reference to that howling vocal solo on "Big Gig in the Sky"), Yes, Rush, and, most importantly, AC/DC defined my youth. Travis would in fact occasionally insist that I take a break from my homework in order to listen to a specific guitar solo or chord change; I imagine Jack Black would adopt similar parenting techniques, just sans all the responsibilty rolemodeling Travis showed me. Furthermore in the film are a few of Jables' own tunes, which, like his face and jokes, are so simply and predictably wonderful and satisfying.

I unexpectedly saw Tenacious D open for Weezer (Weezer who?) about two years ago, and to say that it was the best half hour of my life would be only moderately offensive to my boyfriend. If you are not familiar with hard rock/heavy metal from 1973 to 1984, then you may not necessarily enjoy J and K's unique brand of pseudo-parody music. Or if you simply don't think the idea of two overwieght men, one of whom is bald, galbouting around stage in their sweats spewing out death rock from acoustic guitars is funny, you probably will not appreciate Tenacious D.

But back to the movie. I have a sneaking suspicion that a good number of you have yet to be exposed to AC/DC or Led Zeppelin or Rush, and I would highly recommend that you enroll in the "School of Rock."

Also, I think Travis might have Jack Black's email address. Dude.
Rebecca C. Brown 12:05 PM

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

  If Wishes Were Trees, The Trees Would Be Falling

R.E.M. has a best-of coming out on October 28. The album, In Time, covers 1988-2003, and is intended to collect the best of the band's music on Warner Bros. thusfar. I've got no intention of buying the album, despite its including two new recordings of old (but good) songs. Still, I've got to gripe about the track-listing:

1. Man on the Moon
2. The Great Beyond
3. Bad Day
4. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
5. All the Way to Reno
6. Losing My Religion
7. E-bow the Letter
8. Orange Crush
9. Imitation of Life
10. Daysleeper
11. Animal
12. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
13. Stand
14. Electrolite
15. All the Right Friends
16. Everybody Hurts
17. At My Most Beautiful
18. Nightswimming
The band deserves credit for resisting the urge to put the songs in chronological order, but what the hell were they smoking while they were picking individual tracks? Maybe I shouldn't be surprised - Michael Stipe has always been partial to the band's worst, most contrived songs (e.g., "Walk Unafraid," "Saturn Return.")

Granted, it's also to the band's credit that "Shiny Happy People" didn't find a place on the album (as Mike Mills has conceded, nobody wants to be remembered as "the band that played 'Shiny Happy People'"), but is "Stand" really any better or less goofy? "All the Way to Reno" should be dropped, and "The Great Beyond" needs at the very least to be moved away from the too-similar-sounding "Man on the Moon," preferably off of the record altogether. With those two songs and "Stand" out of the way, suddenly there's room for some of the songs that were inexplicably overlooked.

If "Everybody Hurts" deserves to be on the album (and it does), then so does the vastly lovelier "Find the River." And an R.E.M. best-of without "Country Feedback" is hardly a best-of at all; it's easily the most powerful song on Out of Time, and rivals anything on Automatic for the People (or any of their other albums, for that matter) in terms of humanity and raw, if obfuscating, honesty.

All of which leaves one slot on the album open. I've always liked "Chorus and the Ring," but that song probably seems so good in part because of unconscious comparisons to its company on Reveal. "World Leader Pretend," maybe? "New Test Leper" or "Drive"? I'm undecided. Anybody else have any feelings on the matter?
Paul 6:34 PM

Studying to: Pet Sounds, The 'Mats

Blog: The Facts Machine

Email: camstar(at)
On Rotation: Elliott Smith

"Too sweet for TV"


Blog: CalJunket

Upcoming Album Releases:
Ani DiFranco - January 20
The Coral - January 27
Moby - February 3
Jonny Greenwood - February 24
The Hives - February 2004
Melissa auf der Maur - February 2004
Garbage - Early 2004
The Vines - Early 2004
The Who - Spring 2004
Wilco - Spring 2004
Beck - Summer 2004
Ben Folds - 2004
Chemical Brothers - 2004
Eels - 2004
Interpol - 2004
PJ Harvey - 2004
Queens Of The Stone Age - 2004
R.E.M. - 2004
U2 - 2004
Coldplay - Late 2004
Paul McCartney - Late 2004
Oasis - Late 2004

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