Saturday, April 19, 2008

Record Store Day, April 19, 2008: Final Score

(photo by Smart Wife)

The Take from Offbeat Records, Durham NC, 4/19/08

Warpaint - The Black Crowes
Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus - Spirit
Will the Circle Be Unbroken - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume Two - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Stronger - Carlene CarterBe Still Please - Portastatic
Coast to Coast Carpet of Love/Standard Gargoyle Decisions - Robert Pollard
Take a Good Look - Fleshtones
The Sound of Sound - Luaka Bop sampler
a gift CD for a friend, the title of which I cannot divulge here
Merge 7" 45 of "Madame Butterflies" - Destroyer b/w "Prodigy" - Wye Oak
2 buttons with the peace symbol in black and white

What a great day! Some stuff I know (NGDB, Spirit), some bands I know ('tones, Crowes), some labels I like (Merge, Yep Roc, Luaka Bop), a record I'm on (Portastatic) and two entire records by Pollard (whom I figure I should really be more familiar with, considering his prodigious output and impressive melodies and guilt-by-association with Tommy Keene).

Plus the two buttons, which I got because the baby likes to grab at my Pretenders lapel button, which is also black and white. I figured she might enjoy the change.

Now, the rain is falling, and I'm doing what I've done since I was a kid-poring over my purchases, tearing off shrink-wrap (and those infernal top wrap stickers), reading every liner note, anticipating the first notes of the first song up.


By way of clarification, when I use the term "record", I mean the content and not necessarily the format. To me, a record is its songs and its cover. Much like an album is a collection of songs, a la photo albums. I won't quibble about CD or vinyl or reel-to-reel or Edison cylinder or download (well, maybe download, if you don't get the art and notes) as long as the presentation and sequence is the same. Technically, I only got one vinyl
record today which was the 45. As I have no turntable at present, it behooves me to use a format (compact disc) which I can hear and enjoy, rather than just admire. The little Merge 45 will get played at some point in the near future, as I have discovered that I really want a USB turntable, or maybe just a record player. For now, however, it'll have to sit silent on a shelf for a while.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Record Store Day, April 19, 2008

Saturday is Record Store Day.

All my working life, when I wasn't playing music, I worked in record stores (or music departments of stores). It was the perfect job for a music geek like myself. All that incredibly trivial knowledge of songs, albums, bands, musicians, producers, liner notes and catalog numbers became valuable stuff, certainly better than boring people at parties with it. I was in my element. I could foist my own tastes on others, dissuade people from buying Chuck Berry's hits on Mercury Records and Everlys remakes on Warner Brothers. I got first dibs on the copy of Paris 1919 that came into the store. I could study the Phonolog and the Schwann catalog. I could do displays for Marshall Crenshaw's debut album after work and, as I stapled posters to the wall, know that Marshall, were he in my position, would undoubtedly be doing the same thing for me. The music mattered, and I got to be the conduit to the general populace, armed to the teeth with new releases and fabulous reissues.

When The dB's were on the road in the 1980's, we always tried to get to record stores in towns where we played. The folks who worked there were inevitably informed and cool, many of whom are great friends of ours to this day. Will and I, in particular, hunkered down over rows and rows of LP's, and we looked forward to our in-store appearances as it provided us with much-needed time for shopping afterward!

Now, with the state of things being what they are for music, I might have to sit down and explain to my two younger children what 'record stores' were and possibly not have physical evidence for them to understand what Dad worked at.

We just lost Schoolkids Records in Chapel Hill, a fine record store with a vast history.

Fortunately, here in Durham, I am able to shop at Offbeat Music at Brightleaf Square. There's plenty of vinyl there, both new and used, in and amongst the CD's and DVD's (and posters and shirts). I will be there tomorrow to show my support for something that has always meant a lot to me, especially after losing all my 45's in Hurricane Katrina.

A record store is the irreplaceable gathering spot for those to whom music means everything. Even if we shop in different aisles, and you're buying the new Larry Carlton and I'm buying the first Can album, we're drawn together in there, and neither of us is able to satisfy our musical needs and wants with the twenty titles that Wal-Mart thinks are what we should buy. It's our general store, our salon, our think tank and our love nest.

Meet you there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My favorite note

It's hard for me to list a favorite album or song or singer because, truly, I love a broad swath of music. There are so many talented people out there, living and dead, whose songs have ingrained themselves in my soul that I'm sure I'd forget half the ones I'd put on a list.

But I do have a favorite note. It's one note, and it's a doozy. Watching Happy Feet with the four-year-old reminded me yet again how wonderful the note is, even if my son's too busy watching penguins doing synchronized swim moves.

In the beginning of the second verse of "Do It Again" by the Beach Boys, there is a rising tonic note that starts under the vocals and eventually eclipses everything in the mix for a moment before it subsides again near the end of the verse. It may be an organ, but I'm not absolutely sure. Maybe one of you people who know the inside workings of Brian Wilson's mind can help me with this.

Whatever it is, it just radiates throughout the track like a sunrise or a space heater turning on. It brings a warmth to the song that I bet 98% of its listeners feel without knowing where it's coming from.

When I first hear the drum/bass intro to "Do It Again", I find myself grinning in wild anticipation of the rising note. Anyone around me at that point is clued in that the note will happen shortly, and I guide the listener's attention to the rise and fall as it happens, smiling madly.

The rest of the song, hammers included, is great, and "Do It Again" may well be my single favorite Beach Boys' tune. But it's the effect of that note, that sound of soaring, searing summer embodied, that still moves me, some forty years after the tune was recorded.

That's what music's supposed to do to you, isn't it?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Music in the air

"Music in the Air" is the first song we learned to play on our Tonettes. About sixty little people all tooting along on their quarter notes, some in tune but many not. I can still hear it on dark cold nights when my mind plays tricks on me.

But most other nights, I just listen for music in the air.

I'm lucky. I've lived in places where you could hear it. New Orleans was always that way; when I lived in Lakeview, one could hear the sounds of Jazzfest and Voodoo Fest. People with their car radios turned way up loud, passing by. The calliopes on the steamboats could be heard all the way up to the lake. You kind of expect that from New Orleans, with its historical devotion to its own music.

New York, also, is full of music. I used to stand over the Max Neuhaus installation in Times Square, the eerie pipe tones that competed with taxis a story above on the street. The percussion of the pace of life there is a symphony of its own, how fast you walk, what accents you hear, birds and bus brakes.

So I can safely say that tonight, after the fun gig with Sea Cow, I rocked my baby daughter to sleep and heard, through the closed windows (pollen madness outside) the chords and melodies of a band playing somewhere near us. Frat party, maybe. The songs are pretty unidentifiable, and they wash in and out of range, punctuated by the periodic car coming down our street. But it's a band, a rock band, and they've been playing for at least half an hour now. It's a tiny and comforting muted ruckus out there, in the Durham air.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A gig on Saturday night with Sea Cow

I have been prompted by my friend Jeff Hart to give the correct information, so this post has been corrected.

I have been invited by my friends in the band Sea Cow to open their show at the Broad Street Cafe on Saturday, April 12. They have also asked me to play with the band, so I'll be their guest for a lot of the set.

If you haven't heard Sea Cow, you should. Their new CD The Vast Uncharted is a perfect introduction to a cool new band. They have a playful compositional streak a mile wide--fine, fun lyrics and twisted passing chords, all the sort of stuff I love to hear. Thus you may enjoy them too, so come down and listen as I get to add notes and tones, hitherto unimagined/unimaginable in the Sea Cow canon, but hopefully to the band and the audience's liking.

I'll start pretty much straight up seven o'clock, and the band will follow.

This show is a benefit for fifth grade students at Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School who are raising money for an overnight excursion to Camp Don Lee.

Monday, April 7, 2008

San Antonio/Bongo Joe

I flew into San Antonio, Texas this evening, later than planned due to weather in Florida that affected my flight from RDU via Memphis somehow. My Delta flights got moved to Northwest, a partner airline. Armed with a brand-new used copy of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and a charged-up iPod, I flew with college basketball fans from the Bluff City to the finals of the NCAA tournament.

My own heart was heavy, aching from last night's spanking of the Tarheels by Kansas.

I tried watching the game but became horribly crushed about five minutes into the first half and turned off the television.

(Please bear in mind that I'm a Carolina fan that isn't of the rabid variety. I don't watch a lot of their games, and the ones I see are usually incomplete. But Tarheel basketball is as close as any of my friends come to seeing me as having some diluted form of a regular guy's understanding and love of sports.)

Curiosity and, dammit, hope made me flip the set back on with about five minutes to go. Right when the 'heels had pulled within four points. Then it spun out of control again, and Kansas won.

I've spent the past twenty-four hours doing all the 'ah, well, they had a great season' and 'ah, well, they won the ACC tournament' kind of bullshit you have to do when your team loses like that. Hell, even Roy Williams somewhat discounted the conference tournament's value lately.

So it is bullshit. They lost.

They don't get to play Memphis tomorrow when we're playing outside in the parking lot. How about that angle, then? Now it doesn't feel so weird to be playing so close to the championship game that we can't attend, since there's no Carolina playing inside. Does that feel better? Um, no. I'm proud of everything the team accomplished this year, but I'm still so distraught about the way the game went, it'd take winning the lottery to take the hurt away.

It would've been nice to have cruised into town with a stake in the finals, but here I am anyway so I'll just enjoy the music and breakfast tomorrow, and maybe I'll buy some PowerBall tickets, too.


An old friend (from Memphis, no less) came here once, and, when visiting the Alamo, had the unique experience of hearing George "Bongo Joe" Coleman. Coleman, who died in 1999, was a street performer who whistled, sang and beat on oil drums with maraca-like mallets of his own construction. His songs defy description--the rhythm is alluring and meaty, the stories odd but entertaining as hell, and the whistling like a human thrush. He played Jazzfest in New Orleans nine times.

I wish I'd seen him, but I'm glad my friend did. I think we both probably still take every opportunity to point people toward Bongo Joe, his album for Arhoolie.

As I've noted before, I don't do mp3's on this site, but you can hear samples at eMusic, which will make you want to buy the album immediately.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mod Podge

Mod Podge is forty years old, unchanged from its original packaging. I love the logo, mod as anything you can find on a shelf in 2008, and the colors of the label are bright enough to jump off the shelf by themselves.

When I was in elementary school, one year our Christmas project was to make a box for our mothers, decoupaging a picture onto a small plywood rectangle we'd already painted. We used Mod Podge, and we used lots of it. It would have been a very new product at the time, so we were among the earliest users.

My mother still has the box. Much like a lot of what my parents owned, it's out on display in the tv room. The Mod Podge is intact, forty years later like a cockroach's shell. They kept cigarettes in the box for years, though its two compartments were probably supposed to be for decks of cards. Now there's a collection of seashells my mother picked up at the beach. I'll spare you a picture of it, but take my word for it, the durability of the hardened Mod Podge coating is its chief artistic quality. You could hurl it at a brick wall with a pitcher's speed and the box would break, but the coating would hold the broken parts together.

Upon going to the Mod Podge home page, I see that there are lots of different variations on the original 'glue, sealer and finish all in one' including a puzzle sealer. There are crafters worldwide who've undoubtedly known of the range of Plaid Products this whole time. I'm stunned by the vastness of the Mod Podge experience in the 21st century. I guess I'd thought it had slipped off the shelves years ago, maybe not made the millenium.

Maybe I'd just stopped going to those shelves.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Will's blog entry

Please be aware that Will Rigby, drummer for The dB's, has contributed a lengthy and interesting blog entry at the very fine Boogie Woogie Flu. Will's a talented writer, as you will learn from this entry.

Somehow, it's vaulted "Kissy Boys" by Little Diesel into the top 20 tracks at the Hype Machine. I don't know how long that status will last, but better late than never.