Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gimme Something Better

Just finished devouring Jack Boulware & Silke Tudor’s Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk. It’s a major tome and a great read. File it right next to Please Kill Me and Our Band Could Be Your Life as another great history of a seminal rock scene. Interestingly, even though I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years, I’m not steeped in the early punk rock lore of this town (Nuns/Avengers/Crime), nor was I ever invested in the Gilman scene (Green Day/Jawbreaker/Rancid/Operation Ivy). That said, I loved how this book was put together, the stories it told, and how it approached the music scene in a comprehensive way.

What sets Gimme Something Better apart from Please Kill Me or Our Band, is that the book moves beyond just the antics and the history of the bands involved. Yes, there are whole chapters devoted to The DKs, Green Day, Rancid, and plenty others. But much like the Bay Area scene itself, Gimme Something Better, focuses on the totality of the scene and the networks of people that brought us from the Mabuhay Gardens to world domination by Green Day. Gimme Something Better shines equal amounts of light on the mags and the zines; on the bars, clubs, warehouses, and house parties; on the roadies, the promoters, and the punk houses; on the radio shows, the labels, and the poster artists; on the politics, the politics, and the politics. All take center stage. As the scene moves deep into the East Bay, the scene itself becomes it’s own entity, as important as any one band. And Gimme Something Better does a great job reflecting that spirit. The book is very cool in that way. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rockin' The Car Stereo in 2009

Not particularly enthusiastic about a best of list for 2009. I didn’t feel like I heard all that much great new stuff this year. It’s funny, because last year was stacked with great releases, or at least great songs.

My friend Andy always asks me to put together a list and I oblige, since he often gives me lots of music. So here ya go. In a vague order.

If your reading this on Facebook, be sure to check out the post in the actual blog, so you can see all the embedded video!

Dinosaur Jr.—Farm
For real. It’s 1989 all over again. This record is awesome. If it had been released right after Bug, we’d all be calling it a classic. Not really any new ground covered. Perhaps less angsty. Perhaps more fun. Regardless, the licks are sweet. Like an awesome time machine rolling you back to your younger days.

White Magic—Dark Stars
Ok, I fully realize that this record didn't come out this year. I don't think it even came out last year. So apparently I'm breaking the rules for a "Best Of" list. But frak it. It's my list and I'm gonna do what I want to. I first heard it this year and I probably listened to this e.p. more than any other record on this list, so it's staying. I caught White Magic at an early show at the Hemlock earlier this year. Maybe I was riding a Chai high from my pre-show meal at Shalimar, but I swear it was a great show. I picked up the Dark Stars e.p. Constant rotation on the iPod. Winds might be the song I listened to more than any other this year. A bit Cat Powerish, a bit Sea and Cakey, a bit Damon and Naomi, a bit trippy, a bit spooky. All good. You can sample a bit here.

Dave Rawlings Machine— A Friend of A Friend
Sick of waiting for a new Gillian Welch record? Forget it. Just pick up this one by her guitarist Dave Rawlings. Great songs. Great guitar playing. And, if you still care, Welch sings on a couple of tracks. A really great record. You know those moments on Time (The Revelator) where Rawlings appears to be channeling an acoustic version of Crazy Horse? Well, you get to hear an awesome cover of Cortez on this one.

Flaming Lips—Emrybonic
I already wrote about this one when it came out. I don’t listen to it a ton. But as a refreshing blast, you can’t lose.

Dan Auerbach—Keep It Hid
I dig the Black Keys. This solo record strips it down and channels the ragged blues in just the right way.

Wooden Shjips—Dos
Looking for a Suicide/Spacemen fix? Look no further. The stoned, cold groove is on.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros—Up From Below
Just came across this one. Dusty, 70’s, LA hippies. Not cloying, irritating or, pretentious. Good music for a weekend at Joshua Tree.

Just picked this up last week. Not sure that it will have staying power, but I'm gonna put it on the list because I'm digging it right now. Poppy, girl-groupy, catchy. At times like The Raveonettes without the squalor. The Raveonettes unChained.

Chuck Prophet—Let Freedom Ring
Prophet goes to Mexico, records in a very old studio, doesn't die of the swine flu, and plays some rock and roll. What could be bad? I Just picked this up last week as well and it's sounding good. Love the production.

Califone—All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
Neko Case—Middle Cyclone

I like these people. Good records. Not their best. But I’ll pull these records on now and again and am glad when they crop up in the shuffle.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Time For Leaving

Here’s the music video I just finished up for No Depression style rockers McCabe & Mrs. Miller. The bulk of the video was shot in and around Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley. Each year the band plays at the Camper/Cracker Campout the first week of September. We’ve always stayed at the Yucca Valley Inn, a quaint and comfortable old school desert motel. This year, however, things were far from quaint or comfortable. The hotel was in foreclosure or bankruptcy status and we were greeted with the option of a room with no air conditioning or a room with no hot water. We opted for the air over the hot water. We had to switch rooms after finding an army of dead frogs in our bathtub. The pool was drained, caution tape was everywhere, and a generally desolate vibe was in the air. In other words, what a perfect spot for a video shoot! Especially a melancholy song about life on the road.

We hadn’t really planned on a shooting a video that weekend, and given that Alison and Victor were playing in about 6 bands between the two of them, I wasn’t sure that they would have anytime to shoot anything as a band. But since we were all going to be in the same place at the same time for two days, I brought a camera with me, just in case. While others drank beer, slept, or watched college football, I was wandering around shooting. We actually found two hours to shoot the band performing in the hotel room. Unfortunately that footage was unusable. I didn’t bring any lights and the room was just too dark and dank to look good.

When we got back to the Bay Area, we set a new shoot date for the band footage for November. Alison and I desperately started scouring the Bay Area for a hotel with a seedy, worn down interior. And let me tell you, that is no easy task in this day and age. Green shag carpeting and wood paneling are a tough order to fill. Off-white porcelain and neutral colors are the order of the day. Even in the cheap hotels. If it’s been remodeled after 1985, there’s little sense of style. Things were looking grim but on our last day of scouting we came across the perfect spot in San Mateo, California. We couldn’t have set designed it better ourselves. It had the shag. It had the wood panel. And the furniture was so flimsy we could move stuff around at will. Always a plus on a film shoot. The beds were even on wheels. An added bonus was this hotel had clearly bought its furniture from the same hotel supply store that the Yucca had bought their furniture from. It was a perfect match. Check out the opening shot of the lobby of the Yucca. Then take a look at the interior shots of the hotel with the band playing. Same carpeting. Same patterns on bedspreads and couches. What luck.

Special thanks to Chris Xefos for helping out on all the shooting in Joshua Tree and KC Smith for doing the great job lighting the hotel interiors.

In any event, I hope you enjoy the video. It’s a great song.

I wrote about their album a few months back. You can read that post here and download a couple of songs from the album there as well.