Music Tonight: The Mad Hatter in Covington this evening hosts a full lineup showcasing the new breed of "Power Pop" — young bands evolving from so-called "Pop Punk," embracing classic Pop/Rock songwriting and developing a sound that is potentially more timeless. Georgian band Cartel headlines, as they gear up for a new EP release (due next month) that will serve as the band's first since 2009's hook-feast, Cycles, which showed clear progress in songwriting and execution. Tonight's Mad Hatter show (the kick-off date on the band's brief
Midwestern tour) begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15. The Upset
Victory, Action Item, Don't Wait Up, 21st Streamline and The Getaway
warm things up.
Cycles capitalized on the attention the band received for its 2007 self-titled sophomore release. That album was recorded under some of the oddest circumstances of any album ever made. Like a musical version of Pauly Shore's classic flick Bio-Dome, the record was created in 20 days while the band lived and worked inside a literal bubble fitted with always-on webcams and an always-open observation window. The Dr. Pepper-sponsored experiment was made into an MTV mini-series and put Cartel's music and "brand" in front of a much wider audience. Oh, the things modern bands have to do to be heard these days.
Here's Cartel new single, "Lessons In Love," and one of their more popular recent songs, "Let's Go."
• This weekend is the big Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Southeastern Indiana, but if you don't have the guts to become a full-on "beardo," maybe you can go at least half-way and help bring back the mustache-sans-beard look. Tonight at Arnold's, you can get some styling ideas (or, if you're already moustachioed, strut your upper-lip stuff) at The Mustache Bash. The event (presented by Yelp, Arnold's and a shocking amount of corporate sponsors) will feature several prizes in categories like "Best Fake Mustache," "Craziest Mustache" and, the "Album of the Year" Grammy for mustache competitors, "Best Mustache." The free ’stache bash kicks off at 5 p.m. and the gathering will feature the Shutterbooth.com folks, drinks specials and live, local music throughout. Singer/songwriter Kelsey Skaggs plays at 5 p.m., followed by Roots/Pop/Rock act The Turkeys (7 p.m.) and Indigo Wild, a relatively new Indie/Folk/Pop band (8:30 p.m.).
For the uninitiated, here's some info about facial hair competitions from the AP in a piece on the IFC TV show, Whisker Wars.
(Leave your suggestions/promote yourself or your favorites by telling everyone about your favorite music event recommendations for the day in the comments below.)
Momentous Happenings in Music History for Aug.
On this day in 1990, a judge dismissed the civil court case filed against Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest alleging the band was responsible for the suicide of an 18-year-old man and suicide attempt of a 20-year-old because they had purposefully inserted subliminal messages into their song, "Better By You, Better Than Me" (a Spooky Tooth cover) from the band's seminal 1978 album, Stained Class. The parents of the two men claimed that the subtle insertion of the phrase "Do it" played backwards into the song — not drug abuse or teenage angst — led their sons to forge a suicide pact while drinking, smoking weed and listening to music a couple of days before Christmas in 1985. The pair went to a playground and the teenager died instantly when he blew his head off with a shotgun. The other man tried to do the same afterward, but ended up surviving (with his face seriously deformed by the incident; the second man died three years later from a painkiller overdose).
In a 1991 documentary about the trial, Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance Vs. Judas Priest, singer Rob Halford said that, besides the fact that the phrase "do it" is a very vague instruction (Do dishes? Do the nasty? Do your mama proud?), trying to deliberately kill off Priest fans would have been a horrible marketing tactic. Halford said he'd be more inclined to insert a message like, "Buy more of our records." Judas Priest's lawyers' defense in court was that there was no intentional backwards messages on the album; anything identified as such, they claimed, was mere coincidence.
On the 15th anniversary of the trial, The Reno Gazette-Journal talked with Judge Jerry Whitehead about the lawsuit, which he said was the first time a court was asked to determine if subliminal messages are free speech. "Because speech is basically the expression of thoughts and ideas that a person can reflect upon and accept or reject, but a subliminal message is a surreptitious attempt to influence the subconscious and, therefore, is not something you could reflect upon and accept or reject," he said. Still, the judge found no evidence the band intentionally included any messages meant to harm listeners.
"Backmasking" — the practice of running a phrase backwards while recording — was popularized by The Beatles, who experimented with various methods of rolling tape in reverse on Revolver (the single "Rain," is credited by some as the first time words or a message appeared on a popular recording "backmasked," though The Beatles were hardly being evil; the phrases were simply from the beginning of the first verse of the song). The practice also fed the "Paul is dead" myth. But the rise of the Christian right in the late ’70s/early ’80s led some fundamentalists to devote tons of time "discovering" and then illuminating the public about the backwards Satanic messages Rock musicians were using to convert America's youth to the dark side.
In the early ’80s, California passed a law making it illegal to distribute music with backmasking designed to turn listeners into "disciples of the Antichrist," while Arkansas tried to mandate that any album with such messages have a warning label (Governor Bill Clinton shot that one down).
The legacy of backmasking continues today, used not only in a variety of aesthetic ways (it's used by some outlets as a way to "bleep" objectionable lyrics for airplay), but also as a source of comedy. Pink Floyd got in on the gag early, sneaking onto The Wall a lengthy passage that, played backwards, began, "Congratulations. You have just discovered the secret message." Other artists who've spun backmasking into comedy gold include Weird Al (with messages like "Satan eats Cheez Whiz" and "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands"), Tenacious D ("Eat donkey crap"), ELO ("Thank you for listening") and Bart Simpson's boyband Party Posse ("Join the Navy").
Comedian Bill Hicks echoed Halford's sentiment in a bit about the Priest trial ("What musician wants his audience dead?"), Denis Leary had a routine in which he declared there needed to be more backwards messages in music ("Kill the band, kill your parents, then kill yourself") and the HBO program Mr. Show did a sketch about a fictional band that is sued after a fan tries to kill himself because of the band's hit, "Try Suicide."
And then there's the comedic Rock/Rap crew Bloodhound Gang and its song "Lift Your Head Up High (and Blow Your Brains Out)," which blatantly commands the listeners to kill themselves. During the only backwards section of the song, the group's message is more product-placement than Satanic call-to-arms: "Devil child wake up and eat Chef Boyardee Beefaroni."
Born This Day: Musical folks sharing an Aug. 24 birthday include Delta Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (1905); French New Age and electronic music legend Jean-Michel Jarre (1948); onetime singer for Thrash Metal giants Anthrax, John Bush (1963); Metal guitarist for Sepultura, Andreas Kisser (1968); and Jamaican "Dub poet" Linton Kwesi Johnson (1952).
Dub poetry is a form of spoken word that is laid over a bed of Dub Reggae rhythms. Unlike "toasting" (the Reggae-derived form popularized most recently in Dancehall, which, along with Dub poetry, was a precursor to American Rap music), Dub poets usually perform with a band playing original grooves designed to go with the poetry. The poems are also usually about social or political concerns. Since the ’70s, Canada, England and Jamaica emerged as hotbeds for Dub poetry and it still finds its way into contemporary music, notably on a few Dubstep artists' recordings.
Linton Kwesi Johnson is perhaps the most important pioneer of the artform, releasing his first album in 1978. Johnson's poetry was fiercely political, dealing with issues of racism, injustice and other social concerns in his adopted home, the U.K. Besides his influence on Reggae and music, Johnson is also celebrated for his written poetry. He is reportedly the only black poet to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics series and one of just three writers still alive whose work has been a part of the series.
Here's one of LKJ's biggest songs, "Sonny's Lettah," a response to England's stop-and-search policies, which caused a rising uproar that culminated with the Brixton Riots of 1981. And, given London's recent unrest, it still seems poignant today. Unfortunately.