Friday, November 17, 2006

Vicky's pick

My pick this week is the Seattle band Central Services. Their music ranges from laid-back indie pop to a harder, alternative rock sound.

I liked the band because of the layers in their songs. As well as a tight main melody, the music usually includes counter-melodies and variations in texture. The song I picked, “Get to You,” is one of their more rocking tracks.

The band stars songwriters Kevin Emerson on vocals and stand-up drums, Jeff Blancato on lead guitar, keyboardist Eric Goetz, bassist Mark Livingston and rhythm guitarist Ethan Jones. Emerson and Jones play together in another indie pop band, The Math and Physics Club, who recently released a full-length album with Matinee Records.

Go to the Open Mic page to read more!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Plug no more

Since I guess I'm the blog's liason to the greater world of radio, below is a link to talks at the Third Coast Festival (October) by NPR's Danny Zwerdling and Joe Richman, author of Radio Diaries (and specifically Thembi's Diary, which I've plugged earlier and will plug and plug til I can't plug no more)...

I turn the mic over to Third Coast's most recent info email:

For those who couldn't join us for our recent 2006 conference, and those who want a second helping, we've just posted all of the panels and breakouts for your edification and pleasure. Words of audio wisdom from the likes of Nancy Updike, Joe Richman, Rob Rosenthal, Daniel Zwerdling and Marilyn Pittman are just a click away.

- Adeline Goss

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

America on my mind

Admittedly, I’m the type of guy who’s so republican you could amputate my left foot, hide my crutches, and I’d still find a way to lean right. You can imagine the fun my constituents at NPR have been having as they continually remind me (predominantly in jest) of what is, in my mind at least, the most forgettable second Tuesday of November in the last 12 years. I call it that in a semi-serious tone, because I recognize the current congress and administration have not handled “political happenings” perfectly, and that some sort of change is not completely out of order. What happened Tuesday, however, was not exactly what I had in mind. So I’ve spent most of the last week trying to drown my sorrows, seeking solace from the never-ending well of comfort and wisdom that is the country music genre, and, true to country form, I got to thinking…

Maybe it was the incessant jabs from co-workers, maybe it was working the all-night election coverage, or maybe it was spending Veterans Day in Washington. Whatever the case, I’ve had America on my mind a lot lately. Now, I don’t have a Ph.D. in American history (I have a B.A. in English), and I haven’t read much of Sam Johnson, Thomas Jefferson, or any other political thinker. I wasn’t raised on C-SPAN, and I only subscribe to one newspaper. I don’t know the name of every representative in congress (though I do know the name of mine) and I can’t sing my state song from memory. There is a lot more that I don’t know about politics than I do. Indeed, I may not be the most “informed” American, but I can tell you this much—I am just as American as the most “informed” among us.

If I understand the constitution correctly, that means my opinion is no less or more important than the next American’s. It simply is what it is, and that is the beauty of it. It also occurs to me that being American means, among other things, that while I may never rise to prominence and I might never amass personal fortune, I have just as much responsibility for the fate of this nation as those who do. I have as much of an opportunity to speak out, and speak up for what I believe in, as anyone else. That’s the power of a vote. This past week Americans in all 50 states spoke, and the resultant change was substantial. Was the desire for change unanimous? The close margins of victory in several races leave that question open to debate, but one thing is certain—the system still works. The key to a successful nation is an active, involved citizenry. Americans called for change, and they got it. To everyone who exercised his or her right to vote I say thank you for speaking up, offer this reminder: just because the election is over, doesn’t mean you should cease to be heard.

I’m quickly running out of column inches, and I could go on and on about what it means to be American, but I will end, for now, with this (and what I’m about to say applies across party lines): Call me na├»ve, but I believe America is made up of people not that different from myself, and I believe the overwhelming majority of those people are good at heart. I believe most of us have the same goals, and we honestly want what we believe is best for our country. I think we witnessed that last Tuesday, and while I don’t completely agree with the outcome, I’m okay with it because that’s the way America works. I’ve had America on my mind a lot lately, and I think we’re gonna be okay.

-Josh Figueira, National Desk

Monday, November 13, 2006

Method Man in D.C.

Last Thursday I saw the legendary Method Man with Inspectah Deck, Mastah Killa and a host of Wu affiliates at the 9:30 club on V St. N.W. This was the third or fourth hip-hop show that I’ve caught at the venue and to be honest, I had some reservations about the $25 cover charge. I’m a fairly seasoned vet when it comes to live hip-hop. My experience has been that the only way to pull it off is to totally and absolutely transfer the stage energy to the audience. There is little live instrumentation in the traditional sense. Two turntables make up the entire rhythm section, so to get the crowd hyped the emcee really has to bring some stage presence. When done right there is no better live music to see; when done wrong, you wonder why you even listen to hip-hop in the first place.

So back to the Method Man show. He is currently on tour to promote his newest release 421: The Day After. I must say it’s a strong album, and there are very few mainstream hip-hop albums released this millennium that I would call ‘strong.’ What can I say; I’m not a huge fan of the synth-dominated dirty south movement that has dominated the radio waves for the last few years. I like the raw, boom-bap, sample-based beats of yesteryear (See: the RZA). And 421 brings back the boom-bap. Well, at least parts of it do.

So with high hopes I entered the club at 10 P.M. After making my way to the bar for a $5 Budweiser (on an intern’s budget…ouch) I reserved my little plot of standing room a few rows back from the stage. The opening act sounded pretty horrible and should never be allowed to grip microphones again. Luckily they did their thing quickly and got the hell off the stage (no offense, fellas). Next up was Mastah Killa. He did a few songs to get the crowd warmed up then turned the mic over to Inspectah Deck, who is actually one of my favorite members of the Wu. Deck did a decent job of building some momentum for the headliner, which seemed to be his goal. He definitely wasn’t out to steal the show.

As Deck’s set came to an end you could sense the crowd (which by this point was beginning to fill out nicely) start to buzz. Suddenly a chant of “MAKE MARIJUANA LEGAL! MAKE MARIJUANA LEGAL!” poured through the speakers. The beat drop and Method Man entered stage left. The energy level instantly quadrupled. He spit the intro verse to his newest album with intensity and the crowd erupted. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s good to see a guy have the same gusto for live performance 15 years into his career. As with any live show, the energy hit peaks and valleys. Strikes and gutters. However you want to say it, Meth put a ton of force into bringing the energy levels up when needed. And the crowd had no choice but to respond. Meth put his physical well-being on the line for the sake of crowd participation. The dude must have stage-dived at least four times (which was funny, although I’m not sure how I feel about being covered in sweaty rapper) and even used the crowd’s hands to walk and stand on. That was something I had never seen before.

At some point the pungent odor of pot smoke became apparent to my sensitive nostrils. If you’ve listened to Method Man before it shouldn’t come as any real surprise that 1) respecting laws and authority figures is not his forte and 2) the dude smokes copious amounts of weed. Now I’m not the type to either condone or impede the use of illegal substances amongst total strangers. Color me indifferent. But it let me know that this was Meth’s show, Meth’s crowd, and for the hour and a half he was on-stage, Meth’s 9:30 Club. At that exact moment and that precise time he was the authority.

At the end Mastah Killa and Inspectah Deck came back to join Meth and they kicked their verses from the classic ‘Triumph’ (which if you don’t know you undoubtedly better ask somebody). What impressed me most was Meth’s dedication to the crowd. On more than one occasion he let us know we paid a boatload of hard-earned money to see him and it was his job to entertain— a job that he took very seriously. In a time of self-serving musicians in both the underground and mainstream of all genres it was refreshing to hear this. He was also adamant about the current state of the music industry. His overall message was that in this era of internet and i-pods, the consumer has more control over the music than ever. Tune out the garbage on the radio (HEY! WHOA! Deep breaths, I’m pretty sure he was talking about commercial radio) and stop letting the record companies dictate what sells. I left in a very good mood and once-again reminded of the reason that I am such a rap nerd.

-Rob Charnley, Performance Today