Monday, April 7, 2014

The Return of The Dark Stuff Podcast?

Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) signed my LP
Ever since I ended my podcast, The Dark Stuff, a few years back, I have been plotting its return. Initially, the idea was to make it similar to my weekly radio show. I would play music and offer commentary or insights about said music. That worked for a little while until I realized how non-unique the format was. There were a million podcasts just like it. 

So, I decided to change it a little bit by bringing in a co-host who had different musical taste than I do. That worked okay for a little while, but still left me unsatisfied. Next, I decided to add a new wrinkle to the show by focusing on obscure or under-appreciated bands from 1990s. I would interview someone from the band; and through their storytelling and my observations (as well as the music), these bands would be introduced to a whole new audience. It worked pretty well. I interviewed members of Swervedriver, Madder Rose, The Meices, Overwhelming Colorfast, and some others. The format worked well until my computer crashed and I lost the software I was using at the time.

The Dark Stuff podcast ceased to exist at that point.

Now, years later, I am in the early stages of bringing it back. I don't want to just repeat what I did in the past. That would be boring. Furthermore, it is very difficult nowadays to play music on a podcast without going through official channels and paying tens of thousands of dollars. So, I want to do an interview show.

I know what you're thinking....there are a million interview podcasts! That's practically all there is. Yes. This is true. But, in my mind, the key to hosting a successful interview show comes down to two things: the interviewer and the guests.

I think I am good interviewer. And I recently had this confirmed when I did an interview last week with Annie Clark (who records and performs under the name St. Vincent). I was supposed to get 5-10 minutes with her, but the interview ended up going on over 20. That is always a good sign. Later on that evening, I was told that Annie was pleased with the interview and had a good time with me. Great. This is someone who is interviewed multiple times a day and has a very low tolerance for stupid/boring questions. If I passed her test, maybe that is a sign that this whole concept is a solid one for me.

To keep the show fresh and to have a wider audience, I am planning on interviewing people from a number of professions and walks of life: entertainers, business people, religious people, restaurateurs, political figures, bands, whatever. I know all sorts of people, and most would be comfortable being interviewed by someone they know. Having a mix of "celebrities" and "regular" people would be unique, I think. Kickstarting the show with someone as high profile as St. Vincent would really get the name out there.

Anyway, this has been my long-winded of telling you keep on the lookout for the return of the Dark Stuff Podcast.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bob Mould "See A Little Light" on Letterman

Bob Mould performed on Late Night with David Letterman last night as part of his promotional tour in support of the 25th Anniversary re-release of Mould's solo debut, Workbook. He performed that record's first single, "See A Little Light." Enjoy. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Making Some Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

It's a pretty basic concept among businesses to have annual or bi-annual reviews of their employees to determine what if/any raise may be due to that person or if they are not due anything. We've probably all been there. Where I work, a policy was made to review everyone in January, because it was too time consuming to do it on the anniversary of an employee being hired. Okay. Makes sense.

This year, January came and went and I had not heard anything. I started to ask what was going on, and why this had not happened yet. Without getting too deep into the details, it basically came down to the bosses being forgetful -- there was no intent to avoid this process. By the end of February, I was beginning to get a little bothered since I had reminded those responsible for the reviews that they hadn't happened yet.

I started thinking that maybe this wasn't mere forgetfulness, but something of an ominous sign for my future with the company. In all honesty, I have wanted to leave for quite a while. But with the economy where it has been, and the fact that I just bought a new house a few months ago, I just didn't want to shake anything up financially. 

So, I decided to preempt a formal review and just ask - straight up - if the lack of review for me meant I was going to get bad news. I was prepared for it. If I had been told that no raise was forthcoming - not even a cost of living increase - than I would announce that I was leaving. I accepted not getting a raise during the height of the recession; but with the economy in recovery, this was not going to work.

Turns out, my current position is being phased out, and won't exist at the end of the year. I was told that I could remain throughout the year - with a modest raise, paid retroactively - but after that...done. Even before hearing this, I made the decision that I was going to tell my bosses that I would like to openly search for another job, while remaining employed with them. I didn't want to have to be secretive. I'd like to be able to post to friends on Facebook that I am looking, or maybe that an interview went well, or something like that. Though many do it, it is very difficult to look for a job while you still have one. The sneaking around is not something I'm comfortable with.

This worked. It is now known that I intend to leave by the end of the year, but it could be much sooner if I find something I like earlier than that. So, I guess it has all worked out. Now comes the truly scary part.

I don't have a fucking clue where to start in my job search. It has been eight years since I was out in the job market, and it is an entirely new world out there. The whole idea of going back out there to do interviews or blindly sending my resume to companies via some job website is a daunting one. Fortunately, I can ease into it since I have a few months to find a new job, rather than a few days or weeks. I'm only 43, but I feel really nervous about the whole thing.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Pavement Mini-Reunion (Omaha Edition)

I witnessed a very rare occurrence last Sunday night (Feb 16, 2014) while seeing Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks in concert at Waiting Room Lounge in Omaha. Towards the end of the show, Malkmus welcomed to the stage his former Pavement bandmate, Bob Nastanovich

Nastanovich supposedly lives in Des Moines, IA (apprx. 2 hours away from Omaha), and occasionally visits Omaha to see shows. When I arrived at the venue for the concert, I was told he was on the guest list. No more than two minutes later, I saw him and Malkmus walk right by me and head outside. I immediately started thinking, "Pavement reunion!"

Well, not exactly. I did, however, get to see 2/5 of Pavement reunite and perform the song, "Unfair" from the band's celebrated album, 'Wowee Zowee.' The track was perfect for this situation as it features Nastanovich on lead yelling. The raucous track got the crowd super excited, and once everyone figured out what was happening, there was a mad rush from the back of the club to the front of the stage. 

The "reunion" lasted for only one song, unfortunately. Still, it was a pretty great couple of minutes.

Friday, January 31, 2014

New St. Vincent Video - "Digital Witness"

I love, love, love St. Vincent. I'm super-psyched about the new album coming out next month. Not sure what to think about this white hair action on Annie Clark. She's gorgeous no matter her hair color, but still. I loved that black hair. New song is great, as usual.

Friday, January 17, 2014

My New TV Obsession - Orphan Black

Because I watch so much freakin' TV, I am always on the lookout for new shows to watch. For the most part, if a show is on one of the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox), I am not interested. There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between. My newest TV obsession is BBC America's Orphan Black.

I just watched the entire first season on demand in about three days (it was only 10 episodes). It was brilliant. The show is set in Canada, and centers around twenty-something British troublemaker, Sarah Manning. Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), an orphan raised in foster care, returns to the city where her foster mother lives to retrieve her young daughter who is living there. As she arrives in town, at a train station, she witnesses the suicide of a woman who is her identical twin. Freaked out, Sarah grabs the dead woman's purse and runs away.

By involving herself in the dead woman's life, Sarah is inadvertently inserted into a massive, international conspiracy involving human cloning and murder. Within 15 minutes of the first episode, I was hooked. Going any further into the plot would be serious spoiler to those who have not watched it -- and I want everybody to have the same positive experience seeing the storyline come alive.

The second season premieres in April. Can't wait.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

They Got Robbed!

The 2014 Oscar Award nominations are in. As expected, American Hustle garnered a lot of nominations - including Amy Adams for best actress. Frankly, I'd like to know what happened to the nom for Amy's cleavage?! That was the real star of American Hustle. Just sayin'.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How My Music Taste Was Forever Altered by a Teenage Crush on Susanna Hoffs

On my radio show yesterday, I premiered a new song by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs. The two have been making music together for years, and just released their third album of cover songs called, Under the Covers, Vol. 3. I've played Matthew Sweet on the show a number of times. His seminal 90s album, Girlfriend, still sounds as fresh as it did when it was released 20 years ago.

But listening to the new CD did not make me think of Mr. Sweet and his great albums from the 90s, it made me think of his collaborator, Susanna Hoffs.

Hoffs was/is a member of The Bangles, and that band's music had a pretty big effect on my younger days. For some reason, I haven't played them on my show (with the exception of their cover of Big Star's "September Gurls" which I played after Alex Chilton died a few years ago), but their original songs, especially those from the album, All Over the Place, deserve more attention on that score.

I tend to frame my discussions on The Bangles around my long-standing crush on Susanna. Sexist as it may be, I fell for her the second I saw her in the Bangles video, "Hero Takes a Fall." That crush did lead the 14 year old Dave to bike over to the record store and buy the LP. So, there's that.
In 1984, I was pretty much a metal kid. My record collection consisted largely of records by KISS, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, and some Rolling Stones to mix it up. True story: I special requested the song, "Looks that Kill" by Motley Crue, to be played at my Bar Mitzvah. That's how serious a junior high metal kid I was!

Obviously, the 60's influenced, jangle-pop of The Bangles did not mix well with what I was listening to at the time. Nevertheless, that All Over the Place LP was in regular rotation at my house that year. I used to think that hearing The Replacements for the first time (apprx. 1986) was where my modern music taste was really formed. But now, looking back, I think that Bangles record was really where it started.

In addition to "Hero Takes a Fall," tunes like "Going Down to Liverpool," "James" and "Tell Me" further altered my musical perception. Sure, I got some crap from my metal friends, but no one in Quiet Riot was as cute as Susanna Hoffs, and that ended the debate for me (again, I was 14 or 15, so my debating skills were not quite perfected).
Susanna Hoffs in the 80s (note the hair)
The next Bangles record, Different Light, also had a bigger influence on the teenage me than I have previously given it credit for. The record itself is not as good as the first one (the hit was "Manic Monday" a decent tune written by Prince), but it did introduce me to the music of Alex Chilton and Big Star. The band covered "September Gurls" a full year before The Replacements' song "Alex Chilton" introduced the indie rock world to the former Big Star frontman.

By 1988's Everything album, I had (for the most part) moved on from The Bangles. I remember buying the "In Your Room" 7" because it was an incredibly sexy tune from Susanna, but my musical world at that time was mostly about Husker Du, Replacements, Soul Asylum, Mission of Burma, Faith No More, and bands like that. The Bangles were bona fide pop stars by then, and songs like "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame" put them in a different place than where I first got into them years earlier.

The Bangles broke up the following year, and Susanna Hoffs went solo. I don't really remember anything about those solo records.

I imagine the longest lasting effect of my early interest in The Bangles is my total acceptance of women in rock. Yes, I initially got into The Bangles due to an adolescent crush (which still remains to this day despite being in my 40's), but without the accompanying good songs, I wouldn't still be thinking and/or writing about them. After The Bangles and Go-Go's, I went to groups like Babes In Toyland, L7, Seven Year Bitch, Savages, Throwing Muses, Dum Dum Girls, and many, many more.
Susanna Hoffs circa now
Wow. All of this reflecting and reminiscing just from seeing a current photo of Susanna Hoffs and hearing her sing "Trouble" by Lindsey Buckingham. The mind is a seriously bizarre instrument.

Hopefully, you got something out of this post. I have no idea if it even makes sense. But the new album from Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs is excellent. At least you can take that away after reading this. That, plus some teenage crushes never die.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Halloween with Living Colour

Living Colour's Cory Glover dressed as "Jason" for Halloween. Bassist Doug Wimbish is to the right.

Halloween has not been a favorite holiday of mine since I outgrew trick or treating when I was a kid. Since then, I've pretty much ignored the holiday all together. The last time I actually dressed up was in the 90s when I threw on a hoodie and black sunglasses and called myself The Unabomber (this was before the real unabomber was caught and people knew what he really looked like). So, last night when I got to see Living Colour for the first time since the early-to-mid 90s, I actually had a great Halloween.

The band is touring in celebration of its debut album, Vivid, turning 25 years old. Sadly, I remember exactly when Vivid came out. I was a senior in high school, and as soon as I heard the opening chords of "Cult of Personality," I was hooked. What a great band and what a real breath of fresh air it provided to a very stale late 80s hard rock scene. 

Vernon Reid (left) and Corey Glover 10/31/13 @ Waiting Room, Omaha, NE
I grew up a metal kid and cut my teeth musically on bands like KISS, Motley Crue, AC/DC, Led Zep and many others. But by my senior year, I was phasing out of hard rock and metal and finding myself drawn more to punk and alternative music. I still liked the aggression of hard rock, but I was tired of every song lyric being about banging groupies and partying all night. I had nothing against partying or banging groupies, per se, but I longed for a little more substance.

Living Colour provided that substance...and then some. The band's musical chops were beyond dispute. Vernon Reid was - and still is - one of the most original and talented guitar players of the rock era. The rest of the band matched Reid's talent and complimented his unique style. Singer Corey Glover possessed a range far beyond most rock singers, and he knew how to use his instrument. But beyond the musicianship (which can only go so far), Living Colour had something to say. The band told stories of urban decay, facing discrimination, racism, overcoming personal obstacles, and American hypocrisy. The lyrics were not heavy-handed or preachy, and it was quite easy to simply "rock out" without thinking too much, if that's your thing.

The band became wildly successful upon the release of Vivid, and that record sold millions of copies. After Vivid came 1990's Time's Up. This album was more aggressive, and less palatable to mainstream radio. Truth be told, Time's Up is my favorite LC record. It's hard to make a better guitar riff than the one from that record's first single, "Type."

After one more LP, the underrated, Stain, and lots of touring, the band called it quits. Though I continued to listen to Living Colour, I lost track of what the guys had been up to since the break-up. By the early 2000s, Living Colour reformed and began making new music again. In a different era, with the music industry in shambles, the new music didn't generate as much attention as the earlier output had. So, I was very excited when I heard about the 25th Anniversary of Vivid tour.
Bassist Doug Wimbish
Despite seeing plenty of "reunion" tours (Pixies, KISS, Dinosaur Jr, Mission of Burma, Guided By Voices), I am generally not a fan of the concept. However, Living Colour is different in that they reunited and made new music. To me, that shows the band is an actual band, and not merely attempting to cash in on past glories. This tour, however, was about past glories; but playing a celebrated album in full has a feel of honoring the past without exploiting it. Regardless, it has been 20 years since I had seen these guys and I was curious how time had treated the guys in the band.

They hit Omaha's Waiting Room last night and impressed the hell out of me. Despite the somewhat small crowd (I don't know if Halloween was the right night to book a band with an older fanbase), Living Colour rocked harder and better than during its heyday.

After opening with a Robert Johnson cover, the band tore into its biggest hit (and Vivid opening track), "Cult of Personality." Obviously, this was a crowd pleaser. But, for me, the best part of the show came after Corey Glover sarcastically said, "And now the other ten songs."

The Vivid album still holds up remarkably well after 25 years, and the guys played it flawlessly. They didn't merely mimic the recordings, either, they added bits and even changed some arrangements. Most of the show I stood right in front of guitarist Vernon Reid and marveled at how fast the man could move his fingers. He spit out insanely great guitar solos and made it look like nothing. He barley even looked at his hands.

The rest of band was impressive as well. Bassist Doug Wimbish (who joined after the Time's Up album) is a phenomenal bassist and performed a bass solo that did not cause me to hit the bar or bathroom, as most solos do these days. Drummer Will Calhoun did not miss a beat, either. Lead singer Corey Glover's voice was in mint condition and really shined on tracks like "Open Letter (To a Landlord)" and "What's Your Favorite Color? (theme song)." He had great stage presence (as he always did) and was really entertaining to watch.

For an encore, Living Colour played a few songs from Time's Up ("Under Cover of Darkness" was a highlight) and covered Lou Reed's "Walk On the Wild Side" as a tribute to the late rock legend. I had to bail during the last song and therefore didn't get a chance to meet the guys and get some stuff signed after the show. I heard from friends that they were all very nice guys.

I would recommend strongly seeing Living Colour on this tour or any future tour they might do. These guys have not lost a step over the years, and, in fact, may be better than they were 25 years ago. They have traded in their Bodyglove outfits for sports-jackets, but I find new look more appealing for 2013. They are not going to pretend as though they are still in their 20's. This is Living Colour circa now. Get used to it.

On a slightly off topic point, I wanted to acknowledge Living Colour's social media person. As I was taking pics of the band and posting them on Instagram and Twitter during the show, their social media crew was re-posting and re-tweeting them within minutes. Smart move. It showed an attention to keeping the fans current with their activities, and adds to the overall fan experience. Nice job, whoever you are.