Category Archives: Music

Tonight’s Assignment: The Feed at Schuba’s

I’m heading with a couple other Halfstack staff members tonight to Schuba’s on Southport to see St. Louis power pop band The Feed.  They sound a bit like Brendan Benson’s solo stuff, with a lot of hand claps and “woo-woo”s.  Summer calls out for acts like this.  I’ll post my review and interview with them as soon as I’m done with it.


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Here’s My Interview with The Deltaz

I teased this yesterday, and the following is my conversation with roots band The Deltaz, who are playing again in Chicago at Moe’s Tavern on Milwaukee Ave. tonight.  They have an open, austere sound with real dirt to it, and lyrics that recall the demons of country’s past.  Plus they were gregarious and a blast to interview.  Here’s singer-guitarist Ted Siegel on their recent trip to New Orleans.

“We saw two guys get jumped in New Orleans, like, bloody. That was kind of strange. It was horrific. We were coming out of a gig in New Orleans. We’d heard about how New Orleans is kind of crime ridden with violence. We didn’t think too much of it. You know, you can be kind of ignorant when you’re in a new place. We were coming out of a show and all of a sudden these two big guys, big touristy looking guys, come running up to us and they were covered in blood. It looked unreal. They were like, ‘Oh my God, we were just jumped and robbed. Someone call the police.’ They were covered in blood. It was actually kind of a frightening experience.”
Read the rest of the interview at Halfstack Magazine.

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BFI’s Greatest Films of All Time 2012 List Revealed; I Feel Like a Know-Nothing

If you consider yourself a movie buff like I do, you probably make an effort to see the films noted by critics and filmmakers as the best.  In the last few years, I’ve made great strides in expanding my horizons in that regard.  As of my most recent count, I’ve seen 248 of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (albeit the now slightly outdated 2005 edition), and I feel like I’m relatively educated on the subject of cinema.

That is, of course, until I saw the British Film Institute released their once-a-decade Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time list yesterday.  Looking at the top 10, I felt I’d done pretty well.  I’ve seen Vertigo, Citizen Kane, La Regle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), 2001: A Space Odyssey, and 8 1/2.  Quibbles about the worth of La Regle aside (Maybe I’m a dumb American for not appreciating it, but I think Robert Altman did a far more interesting version of the rich-people-and-their-servants-stuck-together-in-a-big-house story with Gosford Park — “BLASPHEMY!” I can hear you all yelling at me), I felt pretty good about myself.  Then I read choices 11 through 50.  In total, I’ve seen a meager 16 films on the list, and haven’t even heard of a large portion of the entries.  Once again, I’m humbled, and for the umpteenth time in my life, I feel this is appropriate.

What should you take away from this?  I guess it would be the un-profound, “Don’t be a know-it-all, because you don’t.”

And now, I’m left wondering what my own top 10 would be.  I’m too indecisive to rank them by worth, so it will have to be of the “in no particular order” variety.  This is something that could change by the hour, and some of these don’t necessarily reflect my feelings on the “best” cinema has to offer; rather, they are the ones I most enjoy and can watch multiple times.  Entertainment value plays a huge role.  So, here is my list of favorite movies (Thank you, Josh, for the formatting idea).

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – dir. Stanley Kubrick.  I could really go with 2001, The Killing, Paths of Glory, or The Shining here, but this one is the funniest, so it makes the cut today.

Boogie Nights – dir. Paul Thomas Anderson.  This is the movie that made me say, “I want to make those.”

Ghostbusters – dir. Ivan Reitman.  It’s both sentimental — when I was a toddler, it served as my babysitter while my mom took care of my little sister — and still really funny.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – dir. Steven Spielberg.  This week, it edges Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Ask me again next week and it’ll probably be the opposite.

Ran – dir. Akira Kurosawa.  This is the newest addition, as I only saw it a week and a half ago; see what I mean by the evolving nature of this list?

Goodfellas – dir. Martin Scorsese.  Like Kubrick and Spielberg, this could be any number of Scorsese’s films, particularly Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – dir. John Huston.  Bogart goes unhinged and gets desperate while Huston explores the depths of human greed without neglecting entertainment.

Bronson – dir. Nicolas Winding Refn.  This is my generation’s (improvement on (here come the “BLASPHEMY!” charges again)) A Clockwork Orange and features Tom Hardy’s portrayal of an earthquake of a character.  Perhaps the finest film of the last five years.

Chinatown – dir. Roman Polanski.  A movie without fault.  Its story, characters, and themes create one of the greatest stories ever put to celluloid.

Fargo – dir. Joel and Ethan Coen.  In this, the Coens show a rare affinity for a character — Marge — and play with noir conventions in an Elmore Leonard way.  I watch it every six months or so, which is what helps place it above Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink on my list.

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A Decade Spent Listening to Brendan Kelly

ImageSka music plays an important — if short-lived — role in many lives.  I bet you’re shocked to learn, given my background growing up in a safe, white neighborhood, that I, too, went through my own ska phase.

That phase lasted from about eighth grade through my freshman year of high school, just like everyone else who likes the genre.  I think it has something to do with not being able to drive.  When I wasn’t giggling at goofy uptempo songs about murderers, I was learning how to skank (Seriously, dude?  Seven minutes?) and sewing Slapstick patches into my ratty green hoodie.  I was cool.

I’m glad I had those Slapstick patches and album, because few artists outside of The Beatles have stayed in my life for such a long time.  Yes, I compared Slapstick to The Beatles. Don’t get me wrong, Slapstick’s angsty songs about girls and metalheads in parking lots aren’t great, but they’re still fun to hear every now and then.

However, there’s more to that one band than some nice horn-inflected punk.  They spawned enough music to rival the Elephant 6 collective.  To varying degrees, I enjoy all of the “Slapstick Family Tree” bands, like Tuesday, The Honor System, and Alkaline Trio, but it’s singer/songwriter Brendan Kelly whose music has meant the most to me as I’ve grown older.

The teenaged Kelly’s songs in Slapstick all belied a viewpoint somewhat similar to my own: That of eye-rolling world-weariness, wondering about why we do the things we do.

As he aged, he formed bands like The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, groups that stuck with me as I slid past my ska/punk days and grew marginally more eclectic. Kelly’s worldview hardened into a haze of alcohol and political anger, two things that get any teenager’s blood going, and it worked like a charm for me.

Kelly’s raspy vocals and ramshackle lyrics are the definition of Midwestern punk to me.  His eye for local Chicago flavor helps me when I’m feeling homesick, even if those lyrics depict alcoholics shouting at people.  His work isn’t all piss and vinegar, though.  Kelly’s stage presence is one of gregarious fun, with jokes cracked left and right.  He knows how to put on a show and it’s nice to see a musician who loves the way he makes his living.

As is my wont, I spent some time today perusing the A.V. Club’s Undercover list and wondered if Kelly had contributed any covers for the series.  While disappointed to see he hadn’t, I started a-Googlin’ and found some of Kelly’s newest work.  I was thrilled to see he’d branched out further with bands like The Falcon and his latest enterprise, Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds.

I already knew about Kelly’s interest in roots rock based on some Lawrence Arms hidden tracks, but these days he’s really taken to the traveling troubadour stuff.  It suits him quite well.  Much of the subject matter is the same, but he’s incorporated a pop sensibility he’s never had much time for in the past.  See?

In the 10 years since I first heard him, my appreciation Kelly’s music has not faded.  Here’s to a decade of fandom, and to many more.

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Solomon Burke, R.I.P.

Soul music lost a giant today, as Solomon Burke died at the age of 70 of unknown causes.  The man had many great songs, like “Cry to Me” and a song made famous for its inclusion in The Blues Brothers, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”  My favorite, though, was introduced to me in the pages of High Fidelity, though, as “Got to Get You off of My Mind” is Laura’s favorite song in the novel.

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Band Pimping: Tapes ‘n Tapes

I'm dating myself a little here: Tapes 'n Tapes!

I don’t care if the buzz band of the moment, circa 2006 (what’s up, 17-year-old me?), is no longer the buzz band of the moment, I still like Tapes ‘n Tapes.  Ignoring the blogosphere’s inevitable backlash of the group they propped up as gods when I was in high school, I popped the Minneapolis band’s debut album, The Loon, into my car’s stereo this afternoon and remain blown away by their stuff, whether it’s the weird Pixies-indebted offerings like “Insistor” or bluesy instrumentals like “Crazy Eights,” the album works for me.  The masterpiece, though, is “In Houston,” with its strange circus-inspired lyrics and doom-laden guitars.

Awesome, eh? Listen, enjoy, comment, etc.

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How Did I Miss This? Cee-Lo’s Newest.

I don’t know when it started, but it was certainly before the Gnarls Barkley days when I first heard Cee-Lo Green.  The song was “Closet Freak” and it set my soul-loving heart on fire, as Green’s throwback voice and horn-laden orchestration was phenomenal, and now he’s apparently got a new viral hit on his hands called “Fuck You.”  Obviously the song shouldn’t be heard by children and all that jazz.  You’ve been warned.

How awesome is that?  It’s like Johnnie Taylor stayed up all night getting really drunk and bitter before laying down a freestyle track.  Even the “video” is Sixties-rific with its pop art colors and lettering.

I don’t know how it’s eluded me for this long, but I’m glad it’s finally crossed my path.

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Band Pimping: Talking Heads.

Man, I want to dress like them.

For the last week, I’ve been on a Talking Heads kick, thanks to Dhani Harrison and thenewno2’s — a great band in their own right — “Psycho Killer” cover at Lollapalooza, and I feel now is a good time to shed some light on one of the oddest mainstream acts I’ve ever heard but never truly appreciated until lately.

Take this song, a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To the River,” which gives a spin on a soul classic that has arguably made the ‘Heads version more famous than the original.

David Byrne and company turned that soul standard into a hipster anthem for the ages, which is no small feat.  But that song pales in comparison to this doozy, “Road to Nowhere,” which is funky-gospel-“hooray”-inducingly great.

‘Nuff said.  Enjoy, comment, et al.

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‘Party In The U.S.A.’ Drinking Game, Huzzah!

I spent the weekend in Champaign, IL, home of the University of Illinois, cows, and alcoholism, and Friday night I learned of a delightful way to get drunk fast: play the “Party in the U.S.A.” drinking game!

In this lovely — I just died a little inside by saying that — video by one Miss Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray, many things happen repeatedly.  My friend Greg laid out the rules for the game, which are as follows:

1. Drink whenever Miley touches her hair.

2. Drink whenever Miley kicks at the dirt.

3. Drink whenever anyone does an acrobatic move (flips, spins, etc.).

Now, you wouldn’t expect this to be a very effective way to get your drinking done, but trust me, if you follow the rules, you will finish a can of beer during the three minutes and 21 seconds. And when you play the game repeatedly, it’s a good way to warm up for the night.

Following the game, my friends and I had a conversation about the lyrics.  Clearly, we are deep.  Anyway, someone mentioned how they heard Miley had actually never listened to Jay-Z before.  I’d bet that’s true, because you know the Cyrus household had one thing, and one thing only, playing on a continuous loop.

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Free Lollapalooza, Hooray!

One of the best free days I've ever had.

It’s been a good few days: Saturday night, my girlfriend and I were told by our friend Kelly (now officially known as The Coolest Girl On The Planet), a St. Louis radio station employee who happened to be working this weekend’s Lollapalooza music festival, that she had been able to procure some free passes for us to get into Sunday’s final day to see the bands thenewno2, Perry Farrell, MGMT, and the headliners, Soundgarden.

As a huge music fan who lives in Chicago but was always too poor to buy tickets, I was extremely giddy.

We arrived at Grant Park around 2:30 p.m. and met The Coolest.  She gave us our “Media” wristbands and we walked in and headed straight for the Kidzapalooza stage, where my girlfriend’s one true love, Dhani Harrison — George’s son — was playing with his band, thenewno2.  That’s right, a The Prisoner reference to bring out the geek in me.

Despite Harrison competing for the affection of my girlfriend, he and his band mates put on a hell of a show, with a short set that consisted of an amazing cover of The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” which had me grinning and dancing like the nerd I am.

It was then when Lollapalooza founder, Jane’s Addiction, and Porno for Pyros singer Perry Farrell came onstage to play with Harrison and his band, playing his Porno for Pyros song, “Pets,” which was very good, if a little odd for Kidzapalooza for its use of the word “fuck” in the lyrics, but that’s neither here nor there, especially with the amount of weed I smelled in the air, most of it coming from the kids’ negligent parents.  And thus concludes the parenting advice section of the article.

After an amusing anecdote about growing up idolizing Lou Reed, only to meet rock’s grumpiest man face to face, Farrell and co. launched into a great rendition of “Sweet Jane.”

After some food, we went to the sweet media area and hung out with The Coolest and watched her kick out a fence jumper.  Then she gave us free beer!  And given the $7 beers being hawked at all the other festival goers, I was even more pumped.

Then we headed to see MGMT, and the New York band put on a very good show, even though we missed the beginning and were stuck on the very edge of the crowd.  Their live versions of “Time to Pretend” and “It’s Working” are not to be missed.  If you have a chance to see them, do it.

We knew seeing MGMT would mean sacrificing a great spot during Soundgarden, but I was so excited to see the newly reformed grunge gods that I wouldn’t have cared if I’d been set on fire for the entire set.  We went back to the media area for more free beer and had a pretty awesome view of the main stage, and then the band erupted onstage and dazzled me for sure, and everyone else seemed pretty jazzed too.

It was more than just a greatest hits set, but the biggest cheers were reserved for songs like “Spoonman” and “Fell On Black Days” and, of course, “Black Hole Sun.” The band looks great, but with one of my main man crushes, Chris Cornell, leading the charge, I couldn’t expect anything less.  Seriously, the man is pushing 50 and is in better shape than I am.  They also seem to be getting along, which is always a plus for a band that hasn’t been together in more than a decade.

After seeing Soundgarden, I was no longer torn about having to miss Arcade Fire, another band I really like, who were playing at the other side of the park.  I was especially glad to find out rumors of an onstage collaboration with David Bowie were unfounded.

As you can probably tell, my first time at Lollapalooza was a pretty kick-ass experience.  I might even pay for it sometime in the future.

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