Eight years ago, guitarist/vocalist Justin Ringle relocated from his native Idaho to Portland, Ore., and very quickly shifted his stylistic allegiance from the aggressive Rock he had played at home to the gentler Folk sound that pervades the Northwest scene. Ringle formed Horse Feathers to pursue his newfound acoustic passion and garnered rabid fans and critical acclaim with his first three albums — 2006’s Plug Award-nominated Words Are Dead, 2008’s House With No Name and 2010’s Thistled Spring — with reviewers consistently pointing out the wonderful tension between the dark poignancy of Ringle’s lyrics and the expansive beauty of the music that surrounds them.
On the fourth Horse Feathers album, the just-released Cynic’s New Year, Ringle pushes his sound in a few fresh directions, incorporating 11 musicians and new instrumentation to create a dusty Chamber Pop atmosphere reminiscent of Eef Barzelay, Joe Pernice and Gomez (in its unplugged moments). At the same time, Ringle and his rotating crew don’t stray impossibly far from their established sonic profile, somewhere in the ballpark of Eddie Vedder playing an acoustic seance and collaborating with the ghost of Nick Drake. Regardless of Ringle’s choice of musical translation, his lyrics consistently strike a heartfelt chord as bruised confessional odes or reservedly optimistic lullabies that breathe and haunt and shimmer like friendly but far from happy manor ghosts.
For the current tour — which hits Northside's The Comet tonight for a free, 10 p.m. show with opener Matt Bauer — Ringle and this iteration of Horse Feathers will be operating as a quintet, so the stripped down personnel will offer streamlined arrangements of the new songs and more fleshed out versions of the older, sparser material. Either way, prepare yourself for an emotional journey.
Here's the video for Cynic's track "Where I'll Be."
On this day in 2000, brilliant Icelandic musician/singer/composer Björk won the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her starring role in Lars von Trier's gloomy "musical" Dancer in the Dark. The film also won the festival's highest honor, the Palme d'Or.
The movie is amazing but also difficult to watch because of its emotional weight. Björk played an impoverished Czech immigrant who moves to the U.S. with her son and gets a job at a factory. Her character, Selma, is going blind and she's sure her son will also inherit the disease that caused it, so she saves all her money to pay for an operation for him. Through a series of unfortunate events, she gets the money, but at a high price — she ends up being sentenced to death.
The genius of the film is in Björk's character's daydreams, where she imagines her life is like the Hollywood musicals she so adores. The singer wrote and recorded the soundtrack, which was released as Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack Dancer in the Dark. Reportedly drained from her physically and emotionally demanding performance, Björk announced that she'd always wanted to do a musical and that was the one — she said she was retiring from acting forever. So far, she's kept the promise.
Here is a clip of the film featuring the song "I've Seen It All." On the album, Thom Yorke of Radiohead sings the male lead. Here it's sung by co-star Peter Stormare.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 21 birthday include pioneering Jazz/Blues pianist Fats Waller (1904); Jazz tuba player (who appeared on Miles Davis classics Birth of Cool and Sketches of Spain) Bill Barber (1920); Jump Blues singer (and huge influence on Little Richard) Billy Wright (1932); influential British Folk singer and guitarist Martin Carthy (1941); Cincinnati native and hugely influential singer and songwriter with The Isley Brothers (and beyond), Ronald Isley (1941); successful ’70s Pop singer/songwriter ("You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," "When I Need You") Leo Sayer (1948); dynamic guitar wizard Marc Ribot (1954); singer/guitarist for noisy, influential Shoegaze outfit My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields (1963); singer and guitarist for cult faves Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil, Blake Schwarzenbach (1967); half of Hip Hop twosome Mobb Deep, Havoc (1974); current hitmaker ("Somebody That I Used to Know") and satirist target Wally De Backer, better known as Gotye (1980); and slain Rap superstar Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G. (1972).
Biggie would have been 40 today had he not been murdered in 1997 when he was just 24. Here's a rare live clip recently discovered featuring B.I.G. and Jay-Z performing together.
And here's an interview with the Rap legend discovered last month.
What's your favorite Biggie jam? Pop Crush is running a poll; vote for your fave here. And here's a short interview with the late MC's mother reflecting on her son's legacy (from The Source).
Tonight, the Venue Formerly Known As The Southgate House hosts its first big show. The Thompson House — as it's now called after a family dispute went to court and resulted in the longtime operators getting the boot and the owners of faux-strip club the Brass Ass taking over — opens its doors tonight to the public for a 7 p.m. concert headlined by modern Ska/Reggae revivalists The Aggrolites.
A recent Enquirer story about the "new" venue drew an avalanche of comments, the vast majority of which suggested that those who were fans of the Southgate House despise the look and direction of the Thompson House, with its purple decor and Rock star murals. Check out this pic from the Thompson House's website:
But the new venue's origins and the relative abruptness of the closing of the Southgate House is angering people more than the color scheme. The wall colors are just purple icing on the cake, so to speak.
The Thompson House has been developing a schedule that seems to be attempting to mimic the eclectic nature of the old Southgate House — a little Jazz, some open mic stuff, a Hard Rock band, some Metal, some Country. Often, the Southgate House's eclectic nature harvested a following whose tastes crossed over. And as diverse as the bookings were, rarely were there shows at the old club that made you go, "Why would they bring THAT show to the Southgate." For much of its run, whoever was booking the Southgate House seemed to have good and, more importantly, consistent taste in a wide-range of music. They wouldn't just book a random Country band; they'd book an interesting, great or unusual one.
The Thompson House bookings so far seem like they will be able to attract a varied audience. But can the people who, say, go to the Blue Wisp Jazz Club every couple of weeks and will probably enjoy the local Jazz lineup at the venue feel at home going to the same club as the younger music lovers who used to hang out at The Mad Hatter (or its current occupier, Bangarang's of Covington) to watch Hardcore and Death Metal bands? We'll see.
I have clubs that I like to go to more than others, but I have never gone to a concert because of where it was being held. And I've never not gone to see a concert at a venue I don't feel as comfortable. But I would be less inclined to frequent a venue if I have a bad experience and I'd be less likely to just roll the dice and take a chance on a show at a venue in which I don't feel comfortable.
I understand the passion of the Southgate lovers who insist they'll never set foot in the Thompson House, but if a band comes to town that you'd like to see, or your favorite local artist is performing in the "Rock Star Lounge" some night, you'll be hurting those artists as much as the new owners. Over the years, I've had club owners or promoters be dicks to me and occasionally have reached the point of anger where I momentarily think, "Screw them, I'll never write about one of their shows again." But it passes quickly. I've never "blacklisted" a club or promoter, no matter how big of an a-hole their employees are, because I've always felt that it would be unfair to both the musicians that work with them and the music fans who would like to know about the concerts they're promoting.
Like I said, I can totally understand the urge to boycott — I haven't stepped inside Clifton movie theater The Esquire since they "banned" CityBeat and its film critic from the theater after we reported how the operators had censored a raunchy part of a film without permission and without informing the audience of the edit. It's just one of those "principled" stands we all take and whether they are "rational" or not is relative and personal. (I'll admit that not going to the Party Source for several years after a manager was a jerk to me there was a little silly … but it made me feel a little better.)
Perhaps the hope is that if all these people who say they'll never go to the Thompson House actually don't, the club won't survive. But, from the bookings so far, a big chunk of the Southgate House's old clientele would never have been interested in the Thompson House bookings anyway. And if the Thompson House fails, someone might just come in and turn it into a Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill.
Me? I'm leaving the door open. I won't be there tonight, though I am a fan of The Aggrolites (and local openers The Ohms and The Newport Secret 6 are excellent, as well). I just have other plans. But, out of sheer curiosity alone, I will step foot in the Thompson House. And when there's music there I want to check out, I'll step foot it in it again and again. I miss the old Southgate House as much as anyone and I really appreciate the efforts of the previous owners, but I'm not going to deprive myself of a good concert experience. I mean, I never stopped going to Bogart's, even when it was the source of some of the worst concert experiences I've ever had.
Although when the Thompson House starts hosting the "Thompson House-produced country (music) revue show, 'Through the Years,' " as the Enquirer reported, I'll probably pass. I'm loyal to Kings Island when it comes to cheesy musical revue numbers.
Tickets for tonight's show are $13. You can buy them here and pick them up at Will Call (or buy them at the door). Click here to see who else is performing at the Thompson House, as well as some of the specialty nights.
Though today he is known as one of the strangest characters on "celebreality" TV, Gary Busey was once thought to have the potential to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. On this date in 1978, The Buddy Holly Story — featuring Busey in the title role — premiered. The film covered Rock legend Buddy Holly's all-too-short life, up through when he died in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22. Busey was 34 when the film came out, but his portrayal was very strong. In fact, it earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Busey never quite had that kind of critical reception again, going on to appear in such films as D.C. Cab, Predator 2, Point Break and the upcoming Piranha 3DD. Busey is known to younger generations as the "out there" guy from Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Apprentice. Is there a Celebrity Mental Institution yet?
There is allegedly a "Buddy Holly Curse" that may explain Busey's jagged career path since starring as the singer. This site details some "proof" of the curse, including the deaths of many artists who had some connection with Holly (Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ronnie Smith, Cowboy Copas, David Box, Joe Meek and many others.)
Busey was involved in a serious, near-fatal motorcycle accident after he completed filming on the Buddy Holly movie. The film's screenwriter Robert Gittler committed suicide just prior to the movie's release. (The Who's Keith Moon made his last public appearance at a preview screening of The Buddy Holly Story; he was found dead the next day.)
Luckily, only Busey's career has suffered since the film and his close-call wreck. Here he is in his greatest role doing "Oh, Boy!" Busey was praised for singing his own parts instead of lip-syncing over Holly's originals. I have to agree with that praise. Maybe Gary needs to make a Rock & Roll album?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 18 birthday include one of the men most responsible for Rock & Roll ("Shake, Rattle and Roll"), Blues shouter Big Joe Turner (1911); founding guitarist with Art Punk greats Wire, Bruce Gilbert (1946); singer/songwriter/producer and pops of The Strokes' guitarist, Albert Hammond (1944); keyboard wizard for Prog kings Yes, Rick Wakeman (1949); cofounder of New Wave renegades Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh (1950); Country legend George Strait (1952); Power Pop/New Wave rocker "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World") Wreckless Eric Goulden (1954); singer with Christian Rock band dc Talk, Michael Tait (1966); Hip Hop artist ("It Takes Two") Rob Base (1967); and two Easy Listening giants of two very different eras — Perry Como (1912) and Jack Johnson (1975).
Como and Johnson both had/have a very easy-going way about themselves, musically and personally. That opened them up for a pair of pretty funny parodies on television.
In 1981, the brilliant late-night sketch comedy show SCTV ran the skit "Perry Como: Still Alive," which presented the way laid-back host making a Disco comeback. Eugene Levy — known today as "the dad from American Pie" — does a brilliant borderline comatose Como.
Former surfer (because what else could he be?) and smooth Pop singer/songwriter Jack Johnson has gotten the business from another late-night NBC program. (Cargo shorts) Saturday Night Live's (soon to be gone?) Andy Samberg has played the super-mellow Johnson in a few sketches, notably as the host of his own talk-fest The Mellow Show. (Flip flops.) Here, "Jack" interviews fellow mellow yellows Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz, as well as Ozzy Obsourne (played pretty well by Mr. Matthews himself). (Vegan cookies.)
Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.
In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.
Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.
To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.
“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.
Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.
Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.
Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.
Today is the 46th anniversary of one of the most memorable "heckles" in entertainment history. And the response was pretty classic, too.
In July of 1965, Bob Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival (where he was virtually a god after performing the previous two years) by performing "electric" and with his full band. Those who wanted to hear solo, acoustic Dylan booed as the group launched into "Maggie's Farm," though some in the audience cheered the bold move. He finished the set with a solo, acoustic encore. Lore has it that the boos were from those upset Dylan was playing electric, though his organist Al Kooper said it was because the sound sucked.
Still, Dylan would deal with such polarized reactions for the next year or so as he continued to rock electrically (the sound couldn't have been bad everywhere, right?) for part of his sets. On May 17, 1966, Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. As documented on bootlegs, film and the official release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, which came out in 1998 (the "Royal Albert Hall" referring to the common misconception that the notorious show was in London), one disapproving fan shouted "Judas!" Dylan responded to the reference to the New Testament tale of Jesus betrayer Judas Iscariot by saying, "I don't believe you, you're a liar." The strange yet perfect response may have been a come-back to the "Judas" yelp, but some believe he was responding to another less audible heckle: "I'm never listening to you again, ever!" Which makes more sense. Sorta.
The young man who shouted the heckle broke his silence after three decades and did a few interviews, calling the moment "embarrassing" for himself. The man, Keith Butler, was also interviewed right after the concert, footage of which popped up in the Eat the Document documentary. The then 21-year-old told an interviewer, "Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He's a traitor!"
Video of the "Judas" moment was discovered and featured in the biographical documentary film, No Direction Home. Go to the 56-second mark of the clip to hear it.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 17 birthday include original bass singer for The Spinners, Pervis Jackson (1938); eclectic Blues legend Taj Mahal (1942); drummer for Prog heroes King Crimson and Yes, Bill Bruford (1949); Irish New Age goddess Enya (1961); keyboardist/songwriter for Phish, Page McConnell (1963); hunky New Kids of the Block star Jordan Knight (1970); former Stoner Rock pioneer with Kyuss turned Hard Rock star with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme (1973); original vocalist for Florida Metalcore band Underoath and current frontman for "Southern Metal" crew Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Dallas Taylor (1980); and Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor (1965).
Reznor — an Ohio native — was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award last month for his work in music over the past 25 years. Presumably not including his time with the early ’80s Cleveland Synth Pop acts Exotic Birds (which opened for Culture Club!) and Slam Bamboo, which sounds nearly identical to Howard Jones.
Pretty fun stuff, actually. The haircuts … not so much.
Today in history was not kind to some major Pop Culture icons. Today we lost the Master of Muppets, Jim Henson (in 1990), Andy Kaufman (1984) and lead "Untouchable" Eliot Ness (1957). On the musical tip, we lost masterful, hugely influential Hot Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1953), Rat Pack singer/performer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990) and, just two years ago, Metal superstar Ronnie James Dio.
Fun fact: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which featured Dio on the mic after Ozzy left, was hugely inspired by Django; both had finger injuries that forced them to adapt — and redefine — their playing styles. Things didn't turn out too badly for either.
Rest in peace, all!
On this date in 2000, frontman for Punk/Pop band The Offspring, Dexter Holland, testified on behalf of Jello Biafra, leader of Punk pioneers Dead Kennedys and both a friend of and huge influence on Holland. Biafra was being sued by his former DK bandmates for allegedly mismanaging royalties from their back catalog and failing to promote their music. Many felt the lawsuit was the result of Biafra not allowing the band's song "Holiday in Cambodia" to be used in a commercial for Levi's, though his former bandmates denied it. (Why Levi's thought that song would be great for selling khakis is another story …)
Holland was on hand at the trial to testify that, in his opinion, if a Dead Kennedys song was used in a commercial, it would taint their legacy and credibility.
"The punk-rock movement was supposed to be a very rebellious movement," Holland told the court. "Anything that connects the band to what is considered mainstream goes against what the band stands for."
While Biafra claimed his solo work and spoken word gigs were, in essence, promoting the Dead Kennedys catalog, and that he himself had never been properly compensated in terms of royalties, the jury agreed with his ex-bandmates. Biafra was ordered to pay $200,000 to the other band members. A later appeal was denied.
The "Dead Kennnedys," minus Biafra, began doing "reunion" shows in 2001, originally replacing Biafra with Brandon Cruz, the former child star of ’69-’72 sitcom The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Biafra responded in song, collaborating with The Melvins on the track "Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 15 birthday include union organizer and Folk singer/poet Utah Phillips (1935);’80s/early ’90s Country star K.T. Oslin (1942); Prog-to-Classical-to-Electronica-to-New-Age instrumentalist Mike Oldfield (1953); leader of Goth Rock stars The Sisters of Mercy, Andrew Eldritch (1959); Rap music pioneer Gradmaster Melle Mel (1961); founder of shocking Grindcore favorites Anal Cunt, Seth Putnam (1968); and musician/composer/producer Brian Eno (1948).
From his early ’70s time with Roxy Music and his thrilling solo works that came after he quit the band in ’73 through his endlessly adventurous solo and collaborative works since and his revolutionary production jobs, most notably with Talking Heads and U2, Brian Eno is one of the most important figures in contemporary music in terms of influence. Today's Modern Rock, Indie, Dance music and Electronica landscape is filled with artists who might sound differently were it not for Eno's work. Although known as the godfather of Ambient music, Eno's influence goes beyond that. Eno's legacy is more about sound, mood and feel.
AllMusic says that Eno "forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence."
In 1996, Eno literally became a part of a lot of people's everyday lives when he composed the six-second start-up sound for Microsoft's Windows 95 OS. Meaning every time your PC crashed (I've used a Mac forever, but from what I understand, that was/is a lot), you heard a little Eno. (Ever the rascally rascal, Eno told BBC radio he created the sound on a Mac because he doesn't like PCs.)
And, yes, people still need Brian Eno, now that he's 64. Eno has never stopped releasing or producing new music in some form. Last year, he released Drums Between the Bells on the Warp label. (Pitchfork — which has numerous Eno releases on their "Best of the Decades" overviews, in multiple decades — described Eno signing to Warp as like being The Beatles joining the Elephant 6 collective). The album was a collaboration with poet Rick Holland.
And this past Sunday, Eno won his first BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for his soundtrack work (something else for which he's very well known) on the BBC Channel 4 mini-series Top Boy.
Below is a playlist featuring several of Eno's Ambient works, plus a clip from his earlier, ingenious "Art Pop" days.