November 25, 2010
Before we get on with our familiar Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s all pay thanks for a man who helped push the parameters of electronic music. Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson who helped define the sound of Throbbing Gristle with mostly his manipulation of tapes has died. According to TG’s website, he passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 55.
Starting out in the world of music in the mid-70s as something of an art-project, Throbbing Gristle would later come to define industrial music. Christopherson would also play key roles in bands like Psychic TV and Coil. He was also a designer in Hipgnosis, famous for some of the most interesting album covers in rock history (see Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Genesis, etc.).
Sleazy worked on another level of the creative arts and set the stage for so many other more popular artists through his work as a pioneering member of TG. We should all be happy he left his mark or else the music would have never had bands ranging from Stereolab to Nine Inch Nails.
I leave you with something that should reveal the confounding presence of Gristle during the English post-punk movement of the late 70s:
November 23, 2010
Today, Nov, 23, Churchill’s Pub and Dangerfun will host The Bends: A Radiohead Tribute. Several local bands will take the stage to play their favorite Radiohead tunes. Among them Andy Christ, Lindsaybell, Ian Michael, Rebel, Xela Zaid, boxwood, Triple Gem, Gonzo Danny, Jackie Ransom, Joikels, Johnny OneTwo,
BadAss (edit: BadAss has cancelled due to illness, I am told by Churchill’s. Eric Schwartz will fill in) and DJ Saul Good.
The doors open at 8 p.m., and the show begins at 9. Those below drinking age will need to give up $5 to get in, and anyone over 21 is expected to drink. Here’s Xela Zaid’s take on “Paranoid Android,” which I love, only because it sounds so distinctly Xela-esque– only he can make an acoustic guitar sound so luscious and noisy at once, but if any of the songs are going to be as loosely interpreted as this, drink might help:
I might make it out to the show. I do love me some Radiohead. Actually, they have come to be one of my all-time favorite bands but totally by surprise. I never thought I would be a Radiohead completist (as far as songs go– not formats– those people are crazy), but it turns out I have all their albums on vinyl, including the fancy version of In Rainbows pictured below.
To top it off, I recently completed my new Radiohead collection of deluxe editions (the double CD+DVD versions). I wound up with practically brand new sets of Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief at reasonable used prices (just under $20 each thanks to wherehouse.com).
In the wake of these purchases, I had noticed an odd sort of backlash against the band, probably prompted by “Spin Magazine”’s Nov. 9, 2009 cover issue. “16 Rock Myths Debunked.” Well, here was the leading myth by Chris Norris:
Rock Myth No. 1: Radiohead Can Do No Wrong
Reality: Radiohead kinda blow
Now, I shan’t fault him for his view, nor all the others he invited onto his Radiohead haters bandwagon. His key argument is that they put him off because they behave so dang pretentious. I’ll admit the band seems to rationalize every release, looking for a purpose or reason to release an album. “So they’re a band, making records. Why all the newspeak? Does Radiohead’s every move have to be without precedent? Must they define a new music language?” he moans. Look, fine, I’ll go with that. A true artist will know humility and be happy with it. Yet, it does seem Radiohead strain to be vital with each and every release, sometimes quite self-consciously changing up their sound (most especially with Kid A and Amnesiac).
Whatever the rhetoric they may couch their logic for releasing an album, it does nothing to detract from how consistently interesting each of their releases have been since Pablo Honey in 1993. With every release, Radiohead has impressed me, but the band never won me over as a dedicated fan until Amnesiac. Now, don’t misinterpret that. As a college radio DJ, I was there in 1993 when the “Creep” single first made the rounds on college radio and later started appearing on heavy rotation on MTV’s alternative rock show “120 Minutes.” I also caught Radiohead live on Miami Beach opening up for Belly at the intimate Cameo Theater, where I also got Thom Yorke’s and Jonny Greenwood’s autographs*.
But I was a very casual fan then (my passion then was for Stereolab more than Radiohead. Ironically, I’m more interested in what Radiohead is currently doing than Stereolab). I went to their show with Belly only because the college radio station I worked for, Florida International University’s WUFI, then on 540 AM, had free tickets. I remember my date and I screaming “Lurgee” between songs, whenever we had the chance, as that was my favorite track on Pablo Honey. Still, they never played it that night. Even later on, when we clarified by yelling “I feel better,” the song’s opening line, Yorke just responded with “good for you.” Clearly, this is not the kind of guy who likes being told what to do or satisfy any expectations, even back then. After I met him and Greenwood, I asked Greenwood why they didn’t play “Lurgee,” he said, “I don’t why we didn’t play it. We usually do.”
Anyway, back then it was all just a freak encounter. I loved their layers of guitars, which back then sounded like an easier to digest My Bloody Valentine. It was all fun and interesting, but my interest in them was only casual. When it came to bands with layers of guitar noise, I preferred Kitchens of Distinction’s work (a more obscure band, I know, yet they did the lush layers of guitar noise as early as ’89) to Radiohead. Once again, I’m quite over the Kitchens’ now dated sounding work in comparison to Radiohead’s. In the meantime, Yorke became amused by the two pretty Miami girls hanging off him on either arm.
When OK Computer came out, critics began comparing Radiohead with Pink Floyd and Genesis and other prog rock artists of the early 70s. Probably most lazily due to the sound of the Mellotron on “Exit Music (For a Film)” and the lengthy, time-shifting “Paranoid Android,” which became an MTV hit at the time. I thought the Bends had been a strong follow-up to Pablo Honey for sure, and had bought that CD soon after its release. But OK Computer was the first of their albums to totally blow me away and feels like my favorite album.
Then came the two albums almost designed to push away the casual fan: Kid A and Amnesiac. I bought Kid A soon after its release. It was a curious departure as it melded the avant-dance-oriented break beats of Aphex Twin and rock. It wasn’t so much a new sound, as it harvested certain music schemes that came before it (it wasn’t too different from what Moby or even Brian Eno only a few years earlier). It wasn’t a perfect album, as only one song grabbed me immediately: “Morning Bell,” but it would casually grow on me over the years as amazingly atmospheric songs began to take shape like “Everything In Its Right Place” and “How to Disappear Completely.”
Then came a fateful trip on train, crossing the Czech Republic with a class from FIU, during my studies for a Master’s degree. It was an overcast day and the grassy countryside spotted with modest cottages zipped past my window. One student had offered to loan me his CD copy of Amnesiac, which I had not got around to buying, skeptical after Kid A‘s then seeming half-assed quality. Then, “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box” started up on its metallic beat. With my attention on the adventurous development of the song, as I stared out at the passing landscape, my love for Radiohead had solidified.
With every subsequent release, I was there as a fan, even if Hail to the Thief felt a little weak upon first listen. It did grow on me, much as Kid A had. Then came In Rainbows, which I downloaded for free from Radiohead’s website, since they said I could pay whatever I wanted. My experience with their prior albums merited that price. They would have to earn my appreciation and money. However, it only took a few listens before I knew I would pay more than $80 for the aforementioned deluxe version on two 45 rpm vinyl LPs in a hardbound case with fancy abstract art book and a bonus CD of outtakes, along with the CD of the album.
I have no regrets. I dare say In Rainbows, may finally be that Radiohead album that ideally melds their electro tendencies with guitar-oriented rock. It leaves me looking forward for the new album, which I hear they are close to finishing (see Greenwood’s post on their official site here).
*You’ll notice I handed Thom a notepad asking him a couple of questions, as my editor (a not-much-older faculty member) wanted me to write an article about the then rising trend of moshing (the small bits of research thankfully never amounted to anything more than this humorous autograph). It was noisy there in the alleyway outside the club, so I asked him just to fill it out. I saw that he signed it, so I just thought “what the heck” and handed the pad to Jonny, so he might autograph it. I now keep the autographs below the CD tray of my Pablo Honey CD, which I got for a few cents from the BMG club later on.
November 22, 2010
“Biting Your Tail” was just one of several new songs Iron and Wine debuted the other night at the Miami Beach Fillmore. I did not take any pictures, and only ventured among the crowd for the one-song encore that was “Biting Your Tail” to make the above video. My knee had swollen up due to an injury from earlier in life and standing up at too many live shows recently has taken its toll. I decided to sit through this one, right next to the sound board. That meant I could barely see frontman Sam Beam between a pair of heads of one couple when they weren’t snuggling. However, though I could not take videos, someone else captured practically the entire show (you’ll seem them below, plus a detailed set list).
First, some perspective: I’ve seen Iron and Wine live five times now, and each time Sam Beam has offered something distinctly different. Three of those times I saw him were during his unknown phase in Miami, back in 2002. I first heard him at the illustrious Churchill’s Hideaway in the Little Haiti neighborhood of North Miami (during this Fillmore show the chatty Beam compared Churchill’s to the bar in Star Wars [see the beginning of the “Trapeze Swinger” video below]). It was just him on electric guitar and another local and then more famous musician Rene Barge on drums. The sounds they produced fit well in the post-rock vein of Tortoise and the like, and gave nary a hint of the folksy rock Beam would later achieve notoriety for.
I would then see him at a low-key private showcase for what would soon become his record label, Sub Pop Records. He brought his sister Sarah Beam to sing with him while he played acoustic guitar. Under pressure of the CEO’s attendance, which also included Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, who wanted Sam to open up for his band Ugly Cassanova on an up-coming tour, Beam would flub his songs, as he tried to play his complex lines on his guitar. A few weeks later, after the CD the Creek Drank the Cradle had been pressed by Sub Pop, Beam played a show at a now defunct restaurant in Miami’s then up-and-coming Design District. It was just him and his guitar with mostly some students from the college where he taught film in attendance. But, man, did he play his heart out. His fingers danced on the strings of the guitar, which would spill forth some of the most achingly beautiful lines an acoustic guitar could produce, as he sang his hushed colorful words.*
The first time I saw him as a star on the indie rock scene, was at Revolution Live, in Fort Lauderdale, back in April of 2008. This was during his tour for the Shepherd’s Dog. It was the beginning of Beam’s more band-oriented work. His re-workings of older songs at that performance showcased his growing turn from the folksy man-and-his-acoustic-guitar. See this version of “Upward Over the Mountain” I recorded that night, which breaks off to a full-on jam halfway through:
The show last week, seemed to have captured Beam’s evolution over time in one comprehensive set. He started the show alone and played his first song of the night practically a capella. He would sporadically, almost unnoticeably strum his acoustic as he sang “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.” I never heard the venue more hushed, as the audience paid intense attention to his every word. Though I was barely able to make any videos, someone else did, from right up front. Here is “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” from FnCatalinaWineMixer’s view:
Beam would clearly hit his guitar for the next two numbers, however, but the audience continued in their hushed reverence. Guess what? FnCatalinaWineMixer caught those two, as well:
The final video captures just how chatty Beam was that night. It also shows how supportive the audience was toward Beam– cheering him on despite the “You Suck” curtain** and then acting as hushed as can be during the songs. Clearly the area’s serious Iron and Wine fans had shown up. It was nice compared to having all the yappers heard throughout most of that 2008 video I made, at Revolution.
For the next song, a selection for the Shepherd’s Dog, he of course brought out a few of his band members to accompany him:
He would finally offer a preview of his new repertoire with “Half Moon”:
“Half Moon” offered the most distinguishing turn in the music with some doo-wopping backing vocals. Still, the atmosphere was there from Beam’s colorful lyrics and the rambling of a banjo, underneath Beam’s punctuating guitar strumming. Then it was on to a clear classic, “Naked as We Came,” though it featured the same, if not too similar backing vocals as “Half Moon”:
Another older tune followed, when two drummers were added to the line-up:
The first song missing from the show, and apparently caught by no one on YouTube, was the obscure “Morning.” That was then followed by “Carousel,” another one of the night’s ultra-hushed numbers. The video below starts a little after the song begins (Maybe FnCatalinaWineMixer’s trigger finger had begun to tire with all the videos recorded so far).
OK, I’ll admit, I too am getting tired with recounting the show. It was good, but nothing mind-blowing. Beam is clearly getting more band-oriented. But is to the benefit of his craft or its detriment?
Clearly what made him a breakout artist back in 2002/03 was the atmospheric, acoustic-based bedroom recordings that became the Creek Drank the Cradle. Some of the stuff he debuted last night had this weird augmentation of synths and perky backing vox (see the “Naked as We Came” and “Half Moon” videos above). What does this portend for next year’s upcoming Kiss Each Other Clean, which will get distributed by no less than Warner Bros. Records in the US (4AD will do the honors internationally… yes, the Sub Pop relationship is over)? Well, if the new songs featured in this post is not hint enough, Iron and Wine has offered this teaser video, which captures some dreamy layers of singing and instrumentation unheard of on prior releases:
As for the rest of the show last week, it continued with these videos, in this order– with horns, too! (thanks again to FnCatalinaWineMixer for the videos):
(“Monkeys Uptown” missing)
(“Summer in Savannah” missing)
(“Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” missing)
.. and then was the encore song that tops this post.
*These early 2002 memories have already been well-documented in an earlier post.
**That was how Beam referred to the curtain that was drawn on all the upper level seats and the bottom half of the lower level. Still that was not as weakly attended a show as Wolf Parade, earlier this month.
November 18, 2010
After decades of familiarity with Pink Floyd’s the Wall my way of hearing the album has been changed forever thanks Floyd founding member Roger Waters’ new live show. I really want to be absorbed by the show, so I forwent any video recording or picture taking (Lourdes Herrero, a friend who sat next to me, shot all the pictures in this post). Experiencing the album’s key songwriter and his band reproduce the concept-album-to-end-all-concept-albums live over the weekend added much more to an album that I had thought I knew inside and out.
But indulge me one negative: I thought Waters’ attempt to socialize the themes of psychological Oedipal distress inconsistent, unnecessary and a bit heavy-handed. He seemed to have devised this reasoning in the announcement of the tour back in April. As Waters said in the post, he felt the need to tour behind this 1980 Pink Floyd album to “draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament,” especially in this age of supposed higher avenues of communication thanks to the Internet, he continues. As great a work of art the original album is at inviting interpretation by the listener, to revise the meaning of the album without some re-writing, seems a stretch.
Not that I would have condoned changing a note of the original album, but Waters need not excuse himself from finally rendering the album live in its entirety when it is well known Pink Floyd had only performed a handful of live shows soon after the album’s release.* All Pink Floyd fans care about is that the main man behind the album is performing said album live, in its entirety, and he certainly did it justice on Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Let it be known, that I count myself among those who have stuck by Waters since he quit Pink Floyd and subsequently sued the remaining members after they decided to continue on as Pink Floyd without him. After former frontman Syd Barret lost his marbles and left the band, Waters, to me, was the leader of Floyd henceforth and forevermore. I would prefer to see him do the Wall live as a solo artist over the rest of the band members (listen to how cheesy the Wall tracks sound on the live album Pulse, for instance). Any other Pink Floyd work, after the Final Cut, never amounted to the masterpiece that was the Wall. None of it was even as adventurous, albeit as messy, as the Final Cut or as good as the albums that preceded the Wall.
With those biases in mind, the memory of the show this past Saturday, has grown warmer as the time has passed (those whistles from that asshole who kept shrilly peeping after every line of “Mother” have faded and the bloody ocean projected over the wall during “the Thin Ice,” has grown more vivid in my memory).** The only moment I recall Waters’ heavy-handedness in altering the original inspiration for the concept album becoming totally off-putting, was sucking the darker soul out of “Mother” by replacing the character of the mother with the idea of the government as oppressor.
Yes, the crowd certainly responded to the new metaphor, especially to the line “Mother, should I trust the government?” and the words “No fucking way” suddenly appeared projected on the wall. The audience roared and applauded like a Tea Party rally. But what’s so dark about the original song is the intimate blood bond between son and mother, and her well-intentioned, albeit misguided, oppressiveness. Adding to the inconsistency of this attempt to fit this new metaphor into the story is the representation of the mother as a humanoid during “the Trial.”
This did not haunt me throughout the show in the least, however. The show had so much going on visually and the sound and the performance was so immaculate, I was mostly left in awe. I was experiencing an undeniable piece of rock ‘n’ roll canon by the man who wrote it. I am certain bands will even keep this album alive long after Waters has passed away (a la the Australian Pink Floyd‘s recent rendition of the Wall at the Miami Beach Fillmore, not too long ago).
Just as in the old days of Pink Floyd’s live version of the Wall, the titular object would grow on stage as the songs progressed. Stagehands would fill in spaces in the Wall with large white (most likely foam) rectangular bricks, as the band progressed through the piece. By the end of the first half, the Wall had completely sealed the band away from the audience.
Once the Wall completely hid the band, I had feared how exciting the show might be. During “Hey You” spotlights overhead would shine on unseen persons behind the wall, in time to the parts. This only provided an establishment of the idea of the protagonist, of course played by Waters, behind a wall. Soon enough Waters would engage with the wall in full view of the audience while projections on the wall, would warp the perception of the massive set piece. Some bricks would sometimes disappear, and during “Comfortably Numb” the wall would even swirl and twist into darkness, capturing the feeling of being inside the wall. The outside of the wall had transformed into the inside.
As I said at the beginning, the live show certainly sealed the themes of album powerfully. No more so than solidifying the flow of the more chaotic second part of the album. Then there were the worms, seemingly eating at the wall by actually winding through the virtual bricks.
After all these years, I never noticed how key the 30 second track “Stop” was to the transition from the fascist concert to the trial. After all the bombast of “In the Flesh,” when even a giant remote controlled black pig with raging red, glowing eyes floated from beyond the Wall, right next to our seats, the stage was reduced to a tiny spotlight focused on a small, pink dummy sitting on top of the Wall.
All the anger directed at humanity during “In the Flesh” is of course a channel for the anger inside our hero. It is when he sings “Stop,” that the scared little self makes a true appearance, and then “the Trial” begins with the famous lines:
“The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do.”
It was an ingenious moment during the show that certainly highlighted the album’s themes well. I had often felt “the Trial” felt too literal a theatrical bit on the album, the Alan Parker-directed film, and even in Waters’ live version with an all-star cast in Berlin back in 1990. But its rendition during this live show, finally sold the song to me. Waters stalked the stage, dressed in black, singing the parts of the players: the teacher, the mother, the girlfriend and judge to various affect, as all the massive puppets hovered over him. I never noticed him look out at the audience during this number. He would just sing hunched over, holding the microphone in his two clenched fists. It all vividly brought to life the schizophrenia of perceptions that haunted the protagonist to shutting himself off from the world.
As important as the stage show was, and I am not going to complain about the seats I got during the pre-sale,*** I have mixed feelings about maybe seeing a little more of what the musicians were doing. Even when the wall was partially built, at the start of the show, I could not see the drummer. The band was also all dressed in black, clearly keeping a lower profile to the stage show, but adding a fitting color scheme when they donned the red arm bands for the fascist rock numbers.
There is something also to be said further about the projections on the wall. Gerald Scarfe’s artwork for both the album and the film version, were a key component to this live show. All the animations from the film were here, projected onto the giant wall and also on the circular screen above the band. If anyone ever wondered what was going on below the flowers’ eerie dance during “Empty Spaces” in the film, you’ll see that in the digitally added roots projected along the wall. Also, the marching hammers have grown in menacing number for this show. Then there were the moments Waters interacted with the Wall and allowed the projections to do the “talking,” which often brought cheers from the audience, especially during the anti-war messages. Waters– as is the hero of the Wall— is a product of growing up fatherless due to war, after all.
Finally, there were also some great moments with the props: the teacher and girlfriend/wife unfolded from the ceilings promptly and menacingly danced in their corners during their various numbers.****
All in all, it was all something much more than a rock show, truly bringing justice to one of Pink Floyd greatest works.
Update: Waters returned for a second Wall show on June 15, 2012 ar the same venue, and I reviewed it for “County Grind,” one of the blogs on the “Broward/Palm Beach New Times” website. This time, they secured a pair of tickets for me, and I got a view from the floor. You can read that review and see lots of close-up pictures through the logo below:
*The only live dates for the album as Floyd occurred Feb 7-13, 1980 in LA and Feb. 24-28 in NYC. Europe would not get the Wall live until a year later for several dates in Germany and a final series of dates in England ( p. 185 Pink Floyd: In the Flesh – the Complete Performance History by Glenn Povey and Ian Russell).
**To that douche bag who kept whistling throughout many of the songs and yapping with his entourage for practically half the show, though he may not be reading this: a big “F U.” Pardon my fascist tendencies, but there should be a contract signed by all attending concertgoers to be still and reverent to such a performance and have police at every door to drag them out should they not show the courtesy to give the show the attention it deserves. Maybe a kick to the mouth would be justified, too.
***I was practically above stage right, in the second level of seats, in the first row. Sometimes, I leaned on the rail and rested my chin on my crossed forearms in rapt attention. During his thanks to the crowd, Waters even turned and pointed up to me and said “especially you.” Or maybe it was my friend who started our side in the hammer salute or it might have been that whistling asshole.
****Though I heard that during the second show, which my friend who took the pics attended but I did not, a technical glitch prevented the girlfriend puppet from coming down from the rafters.
November 12, 2010
The turn out was epic in its minutiae when Wolf Parade played the Fillmore in Miami Beach the other night, and keyboardist /singer Spencer Krug would remind the audience of the fact throughout the set. He even said, “This is our first time in Miami and probably the last” citing concerns no promoter would ever have them down again. “Someone lost a shit ton of money,” he added.
Still, the indie prog-rock influenced outfit would not skimp on the energy when it came to their songs. Despite Krug’s bitching in between several songs, these boys from Canada tore into their music with some of the highest energy I have seen on that stage.
Still, it was a worrisome site when I arrived uncharacteristically late to the venue (almost an hour after doors had opened). There were so few people inside the Miami Beach Fillmore– the site of sold-out performances for MGMT, Vampire Weekend and Phoenix just last month– that one could hear the barmaid in the corner of the hall from across the room mutter to herself: “Shut up. This is Awful,” as she looked up from texting on her smartphone at the smattering of 50 or so people who wandered to the front of the stage when opening band Ogre You Asshole started their set.
Here’s an image of the stage just a few minutes before Ogre You Asshole took the stage with said barmaid in the corner (on phone):
But, wouldn’t you know it, the bands played with more heart than most I saw during Rocktober. Though playing to only about 50 or so people in a theater designed to hold 1,000, Ogre You Asshole charmed the audience almost immediately with their hyper-melodic and intricate songcraft. The four boys from Japan were amazingly tight and melodic and held everyone’s attention even while singing entirely in Japanese. The band members played with exacting precision and little flash (there was no set dressing on stage whatsoever except for a large fan, only there to serve a practical purpose).
Despite, the fear-inducing name of the band, Ogre’s songs were nice and meandering—almost cute. Their MySpace page features many songs across their three-album plus career, which mostly other indie US musicians have appreciated, being a band’s kind of band.* Krug would later acknowledge this was Ogre’s first US tour. I was able to capture “Balance” on video:
Turns out it ain’t easy getting their music in the US, so I was glad I picked up the vinyl for their second album, Alpha Beta vs. Lambda. The whole band was at their own merch stand, which was crowded with new appreciative fans. I had them sign the album cover after I bought it (yes, and they are smart enough to include a CD copy, as well):
After Ogre played there was a lengthy pause before Wolf Parade came out (probably in hopes of a larger audience). Still, the maximum number of audience members probably would not exceed 150, and it looked like half of those were with dates who did not really want to be there. Still the Miami Wolf Parade fans responded to the Canadian quartet’s angular, prog pop with an enthusiasm that made up for their lack of numbers. Here are a couple of pictures I took that captured that energy:
Here, a fan can’t contain his enthusiasm while riding on another fan’s shoulders:
One the first videos I made was for one of their punchier new songs, “Palm Road”:
Krug may have sounded dismal between songs (at one point he noted how pretty the giant chandeliers high overhead were but how he had to avert his gaze from them to keep from feeling depressed about the turnout). But his band tore into their catalog with ferocity.
May I present a pretty sped up and enthusiastic version of “Ghost Pressure,” also off the new album Expo 86:
It was all about the music and Krug and fellow vocalist/guitarist Dan Boeckner pushed their voices and slammed on their instruments reaching for the high empty balcony seats (notice the echo in the video). If they had a set list, they must have damned it because, in the end they even invited requests. Here is one they took, “Oh You, Old Thing”:
After that new number off Expo 86, the band reached into their back catalog to close with the lengthy 10-minute finale off 2008’s At Mount Zoomer, “Kissing the Beehive.” It offered a great range of dynamics and changes, true to Wolf Parade’s undeniably prog-roots (one hip chick called them “King Crimson-y”). Here is “Kissing the Beehive,” captured in its entirety:
It looked like there would have been no encore. The house lights went on soon after Wolf Parade left the stage, and the recorded music came on, yet the crowd, which had diminished even further would not let up cheering. The band came out and Krug said “We weren’t planning on coming back out,” but he expressed some genuine gratitude and the band played a song Krug introduced as a song he heard several members of the crowd scream out for: “Fancy Claps.”
That was it for the encore, despite another attempt by fans to get the group out, chanting “One more song, one more song!” Hopefully, this truly does not mean the end of Wolf Parade’s visits to the Miami-area. There are an array of venues that could appear packed for these guys, should the promoter choose the right spot. There is certainly a passionate Wolf Parade following in South Florida. Maybe they need one of their songs featured in a TV commercial to get noticed by the other Miami “indie” hipsters.
*According to the All Music Guide, Modest Mouse’s bassist Christened the band, and I had personally first heard about them on the blog of Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound). Apparently, Atlas Sound had toured with Ogre in 2008, but in Japan.
November 9, 2010
On Feb. 3, 2010, the 43rd anniversary of Joe Meek’s death, Miami-based dancer and choreographer Ana Mendez presented Tribute, a performance art piece dedicated to Meek, a cult rock icon who made his name as a recording engineer in the UK. Pablo Pagan of Pagan Films was there to document the event on camera. On Nov. 16, Sweat Records, in Miami, will hold a screening of the results (click image at right for magnified information).
I was fortunate to see this extraordinary production in person. It had the Center for Visual Communication filled to capacity with more than double attending than the seats could hold. People crowded and sat on the floor right up to the edge of the stage.
As the lights dimmed to near darkness, a pair of arms (belonging to Mendez) drifted through a curtain of magnetic tape to play a piercing, high-pitched drone on a Theremin for several minutes (thankfully, Pagan’s film version diminishes the abuse to the ears). When her arms slipped back into the darkness of the film, the curtains were drawn and smoke wafted from the stage as an army of Joe Meek clones wearing dark shades and black suits and ties tore into a powerful rendition of “Johnny Remember Me,” a Meek-produced pop song by John Leyton that made it to the top of the British charts in 1961. I have placed this part of Pagan’s film on YouTube, with the blessing of the filmmaker himself:
The film carries on with a soundtrack of abstract tape loops performed by Richard Vergez, who also donned the iconic Meek look. Vergez perched himself on what seemed to be a reproduction of Meek’s bedroom-based laboratory. Vergez, who has been composing experimental/ambient music on the Miami scene under the name Drowning the Virgin Silence for several years, said the music was both inspired by and contained music produced by Meek. In an email, Vergez explained how he concocted the soundtrack:
“When originally asked by Mendez to join the project, I set out to create something close to Meek’s concept album I Hear a New World, only somewhat abbreviated to fit the structure of the show. A lot of it contains actual elements from Meek’s recorded work, manipulated to fit the score I was working with. Stuff from New World is included, mostly looped in certain sections and then me adding guitar and analog noise on top. I wanted to find a way to highlight and reconstruct the more experimental techniques Meek used in his original recordings. “Telstar” and a few others of his more pop productions appear chopped, delayed, reversed, etc. within my soundscapes. Most of the music I composed is electro-acoustic and more on the ambient side. For the show, I used playback on the material I had prerecorded, but also improvised live in sections using a shortwave radio and a few tape machines run through effects.”
Accompanying the strange soundtrack, and the true centerpiece of the event was an abstract dance featuring the same musicians who performed “Johnny Remember Me” and Vergez identified as Federico Nessi, Liony Garcia, Alex Puentes, Ricardo Guerrero, Rick Diaz and Sleeper.
Garcia, Vergez pointed out, was the only classically trained dancer of that group. “Alex Puentes and Ricardo Guerrero play together in the band Animals of the Arctic,” Vergez stated. “Guerrero’s solo project is This Heart Electric. Rick Diaz plays in Ha Ha Help, occasionally collaborating with Guerrero as well. Nessi and Guerrero, along with Ana Mendez, founded the performance troupe Psychic Youth Inc., which has expanded to include many different members and collaborators, such as myself.”
For the next 30 minutes or so the Meek clones took to the stage to perform Mendez’s choreographed tribute to Meek. As ignorant to the world of dance as I am, I shall not feign the ability to describe what I saw. Suffice it to say, I witnessed a form of controlled chaos in movements that varied between spastic fits to calculated stomps, not to mention the precise birth of a pentagram on the stage via masking tape placed by several of the dancers during the routine. Mendez would later join the troupe dressed in flowy ethereal white for the climax of the performance.
This performance-art “séance” eerily unfolded on the anniversary when Meek murdered his landlady and then shot himself. The dark circumstances surrounding his death, not to mention his growing irrelevance to pop music at the time of his death, left him an obscure footnote in rock ‘n’ roll lore. As England’s pop scene– a pale copy of the teen idols and surf bands produced by the US– began to be overshadowed by groups of songwriters who recorded and performed their own music (think the Beatles), Meek’s stamp of over-compressed quirky sounds became trite and irrelevant.
When recalling the sixties sound, Americans like Phil Spector and Van Dyke Parks became touchstones, not Meek. Even the revival of lounge music in the nineties celebrated people like Mexico’s Juan Garcia Esquivel over the UK’s Meek.
All this in mind, it was quite a surprise that Mendez and her Miami-based Psychic Youth Inc. art collective staged a production in tribute to such an obscure music icon like Meek. The production values, for a one-night event were extremely high. Thanks to Pagan, who also had a hand in the staging, the event was immortalized on video and will finally have a public screening at Sweat. The UK-based Joe Meek Society has rightfully acquired a copy of the film, Pagan has informed me.
Also available on the night of the screening and for a very limited time, is the soundtrack to Tribute by Vergez on CD. “I will be including all the music I created for Tribute on the soundtrack, even one piece which was not actually used. Also on the soundtrack will be the original version of ‘Johnny Remember Me’ as well as another Meek production, ‘Tribute to Buddy Holly’ by Mike Berry & the Outlaws, which is quite appropriate considering Meek and Buddy Holly died on the same date, February 3, also the date of Tribute. This last song was used to close out the show.”
The screening, which also includes live musical performances that followed the show by Harry Merry (Netherlands), The Electric Bunnies, and Dino Felipe, begins at 8 p.m. There will be complimentary cocktails, as well.
I leave you with Leyton’s hit version of “Johnny, Remember Me” (with a video montage that includes Meek, as well as Leyton’s TV performance):