Portland’s John Heart Jackie (along with Justin Harris from Menomena) take on Prince’s 1980 lovesick ballad, weaving a swanky little few minutes of atmosphere, in the middle of a tour no less. Impressive.
On Friday night I had the special experience of watching Prince thrust maniacally on the (very) large screen out under heavy-laden rainy skies at Red Rocks. As part of their wonderfully conceived summer Film On The Rocks series, myself and hundreds of other vocally enthusiastic moviegoers got to bask in the glow of the tiny one’s sweaty brow, glistening chest hair, ruffled poet shirts, blindfolds, fancy studded purple jackets and wispy moustache in none other than (yes) Purple Rain. From the opening echoey benediction of “dearly beloved,” to the completely nonsensical plot and downright giggle-inducing sex scenes, to the triumphant final performance of the title song . . . wow, that was awesome. I needed a cigarette or something after all that. And I don’t even smoke.
Tunes for this week:
5:05 Paul Westerberg Oh, delicious mystery. As previously mentioned on Fuel/Friends, our beloved favorite sloppy punk drunk Paul Westerberg recently released a new continuous single-mp3 album on Amazon called 49:00 for 49 cents. Problem is, when you downloaded it you found a somewhat baffling total length of 43:55. This led ‘Mats nerds everywhere to freak out quietly, wondering where the other 5:05 ran off to. A few days ago, the rest of that audio surfaced for purchase on TuneCore without much explanation. After an extended 45-second intro that sounds for all the world like Cartman, that trademark Westerberg strum and yowl begins and I’m happy (even as the song closes with the yelling of profanities — as it should be). If you haven’t already downloaded 49:00, well . . . I can’t help you with that either since it looks like the download link has been pulled, after solidly positive reviews on sites like Aquarium Drunkard and Pitchfork. Go figure.
Tu Es Ma Came Carla Bruni Why won’t anyone take Carla Bruni seriously? Oh, that. It’s hard having been a model in a former incarnation, dating rock stars and ultimately running off with the president of France. Yes, sultry songstress Carla Bruni is now married to Nicolas Sarkozy, and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and wager that her music is the most lovely, sexy, smoky music ever made by someone who was the first lady of anything. Following her surprisingly good 2002 album Quelqu’un M’a Dit, much of which she wrote herself, Bruni is back with a new album Comme Si de Rien N’Etait (out now on Downtown Recordings/US). This tune is a bluesy, intimate bedroom song that sounds like Bruni strumming her guitar on the corner of the comforter as she unwinds that bewitching alto.
Two Silver Trees Calexico While I was watching Prince gyrate on Friday, the classy people were in Boulder at the night festivities of the AAA Records and Radio Summit that I left earlier, watching eclectic Tucson foursome Calexicoat the Fox Theatre. After being beamed into space as a wake-up song (in what sounds like an oddly fitting move), and recording those great contributions for the 2007 I’m Not There soundtrack, Calexico is finally releasing an anticipated new album Carried To Dust on 9/9 (Touch and Go Records). There are touches of Latin American influences all over this new album, after the band was finally able to do some long-desired exploring of Chile and Argentina in the past year. “Our last record was more political,” says vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns, “but this record reads more like a travel journal.” Sam Beam from Iron & Wine is also featured, following their gorgeous recent collabs.
No Deliverance Toadies So you totally remember that song “Possum Kingdom” from Fort Worth, Texas alt-rock band of 1994 Toadies, don’t you? Listen. You do. That aggressive riff still gets under my skin a little bit in a good way, and makes me feel instantly fifteen. Toadies are preparing to release their first album in 7 years, and this song is dirty and growly, reminding me of someone like Nick Cave or Jon Spencer. They’re out on tour, hitting Denver’s Gothic Theatre on September 24th, and No Deliverance is out August 19th on Kirtland Records. And I’m still not gonna lie, I won’t be a gentleman, behind the boathouse.
Song For The Magpie Sea Wolf Thanks to some dodgy anonymous tipster (it’s the Feds!) this new song from Los Angeles indie artist Sea Wolf popped into my inbox recently, as featured in Augusten Burroughs‘ new audio book A Wolf At The Table. The work is a collaborative effort between Alex Church of Sea Wolf, Patti Smith, Ingrid Michaelson (who I just saw Friday), and Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara). The musicians each read the book and came up with an original song for use in the audio version; a very cool intersection of reading and music (like this ole podcast). Sea Wolf’s contribution is a nuanced orchestral dirge that spreads like warm alcohol through my chest, with hints of Rufus Wainwright in the elegant and elastic waver of the verses.
The waves of radiating heat by midday arrival at Coachella on Saturday felt the most heady of the three days, but perhaps it was just the swell in the crowd numbers in anticipation of The wee sexy Artist. More people = more body heat. Although I was excited about so many acts that day, the gild was off the lily-fresh novelty of Friday and I kept finding myself jammed into overpacked tents with too many hip dudes in neon sweating on me. This was the day I wanted to spend the most time in the Do Lab so that guy above could spray me with his cooling mists of the gods, in time to the pulsating electronic music. In that crowd, you cease feeling hot, and just feel blissful.
I started my rounds over in tent village wandering from French synthpop band The Teenagers over to the Gobi Tent for the music of Mick Jones’ (the Clash) side project with Tony James of Generation X, Carbon/Silicon. Their sound is true to those (slightly idling) punk guitar jags and the cockney drawl, but my friend kept shaking his head in dismay at Mick’s pink button down dress shirt. “Joe Strummer would’ve beaten him up for that shit,” he muttered under his breath. Ah, but we all age. Not all still sound as good as these guys did; it was an enjoyable afternoon set.
Denver’s “indie rock with a circus-polka-cabaret-Eastern-European spin” Devotchkawas next, and not only were they all dressed up like a symphony in their (surely godawful hot) dress blacks, they brought acrobats and tubas.
I love how you can see the whole stage and the crowd reflected in Jeanie Schroder’s tuba, and who doesn’t want flailing spandex-clad women swinging from large scarves in time to their live music?
After Dwight Yoakam (Dwight Yoakam!) and his hillbilly muuuusic –which seemed to go over quite well, as a testament to the variety of this festival– I headed over to get trampled at Hot Chip. The photo pit was as packed as the tent, spilling out into the open air, all of us sweating, weeping for a good shot of the band, and trying to deny that the rhythm of Hot Chip was indeed, in the end, going to get us. Those beats were just as delicious and tightly-woven as I had expected and the crowds were out in full force to be a part of that.
P.S. – You need proper athletic wear to survive Hot Chip (below). I also saw 5 grown men dressed only in matching Speedos and hip packs and it made me die a little inside.
If I thought I was trampled at Hot Chip though, my goodness it was just preparation for M.I.A. I found it interesting that the two most buzzed and frenetically attended sets of the whole festival that I saw were out in the Sahara Tent (bet it woulda been three if I made it to Justice). Traditionally, I understand that’s been the dance/DJ tent but it seems to me that maybe genres are bending and next year the organizers shouldn’t assume that the dance kids will all fit inside it. Under the stars at the outdoor stage would have been so much better. But nonetheless, M.I.A. was stomping and bright, a dizzying set causing complete crowd chaos from this Sri Lankan wundergirl.
In between Hot Chip and M.I.A. I swooned a little over Jenny Lewis, who charmingly dug out the same outfit she must have worn for her tap dance recital in 1988, and whose fellow Rilo Kileyans sounded warm and perfect in the setting sun:
Golden confetti during The Moneymaker as the sky darkened….
Portishead was alternately mournful and sexy and numbing and thrilling all at once. Under the starry desert sky Beth Gibbons’ voice floated like a ghost weaving in and out of the trance.
Also worth noting that Portishead’s set possessed the magical ability to completely jam the cell phone text messaging network, leaving thousands of us stranded, wandering with a dazed look in our eyes as we sought our friends. It was a near tragedy of Herculean proportions. You just don’t DO that to techno-addicted younguns. How did I survive festivals before texting? It was brutal.
Finally – Prince! You do not take pictures of The Artist. You take pictures of the screen showing the artist. Only Prince’s “personal photographers” were allowed in to the photo pit, much to mine and everyone else’s chagrin. I wanted to see how tiny he was from 15 feet away. But it was okay because his essence radiated all the way back to where I ended up on the field and I felt the heat, baby. One only needs to watch him play guitar like he’s in The Throes of It All to see why women flock to him (not this one, but some women. So I hear).
He was moody and sensual, I never could figure out what he was going to do next, he changed clothes in the middle of his set and played an hour after noise curfew with little concern for silly rules. And really, who was going to tell him to stop? And he pretty much blew the standard for future headliners sky high. I am not a huge Prince fan with the exception of a few undeniable favorites (Never Take The Place Of Your Man? P Control?) but this man was in charge. His cover of Radiohead’s Creep was one of those wtf moments where I looked around and said, “Wait, is he actually doing this?” – the ways he changed the lyrics eviscerated the song of a lot of its insecure meanings, and I didn’t care for that, but he made it his own. One thing Prince does not do is wish he were special.
As the final notes of Prince’s set vibrated off into the sexy oblivion where all of his performances are stored ad infinitum, one of my friends commented that people were going to be talking about that set for years. And indeed, everywhere I went I overheard conversations, starting with one at the table behind me when getting bagels the next morning.
“He kept changing what he called us!” Young Man With Visor #1 remarked. “Like, first it was [slight falsetto] ‘Hello Co-ah-chella!” then he switched and was all, “Y’all are the coolest, Cuh-chella. Unh!” When he achingly closed the sentence with that perfect Prince “unh,” I almost spit out my coffee trying not to laugh because then they would’ve known I was eavesdropping. Their conversation then veered into hypothetical situations that amused me so much I had to get up and leave: “So, if you had a nipple on your forehead, would you just wear a beanie all the time? Or a sweatband?”
On that thought-provoking note, we headed out into the ghostland observatory of Coachella on a sparsely populated Sunday . . .
Well, I am safely back from my work trip/junket to sunny California with a touch of a sunburn and a smile on my face. My flight home was canceled once we had already boarded the plane Friday night, so we all unwedged ourselves from our tiny seats, waited in an immense line for rebooking and our $400 travel voucher, and then proceeded to heartily make the best of it with some cool fellow young-’un passengers and the help of a cheesy bar at the hotel they put us all up at. It was like LOST, minus the crashing part, the black thing in the jungle that eats people, and all the freaky “coincidences.” But we had the camaraderie. And I apparently have brought back a slice of Cali with me because it is pushing 70 in Colorado today, and that is something to pause and enjoy. Life is good, kids.
Black Sweat Prince Oh yeah, I just posted Prince on my blog. Truth be told, the Great Tiny Sexy One kind of scares me (in the same vein as David Bowie in the underrated ’80s classic Labyrinth), but this song is funky and sexy and should make you stand up in your cubicle and kind of grind a little bit. Feel it. Just make sure the boss isn’t looking. From his upcoming album ’3121′, out on March 21.
I Need Someone John Davis (formerly of Superdrag) Okay, now stop gyrating your pelvis from the Prince bizness immediately because John Davis has found God and cleaned up his act. And he has been making some pretty dang sweet music since then. This is a live track from Maxwell’s on 4/8/05, right after the release of his self-titled album John Davis, which is just laden with harmonies, lovely piano, and some intelligent and introspective lyrics.
Sugar Blue Too Jeff Finlin This one comes courtesy of wonder-fan Vangelis who sends me good stuff from the scenic shores of Greece. Jeff Finlin was featured on the Elizabethtown soundtrack (I still have not seen that movie! Argh!) – and I like Finlin’s folksy Dylanesque-ballad Americana sound with the piano backing. The lyrics talks about ‘walking the streets so dark,’ and that is exactly what this song makes me think of. From his 2005 CD Somewhere South of Wonder. Thanks for everything, Vangelis.
Better Way Ben Harper This is the new one from Ben Harper, off his upcoming new album Both Sides of the Gun, due March 21. Ben Harper is one of my first and deepest musical loves, ever since he sang me a song for my 16th birthday. Yeah, we go way back. This song has a slightly middle-eastern feel to it, and listen to Ben crank it out towards the end. Check him out on tour, he is always amazing in his passion and his virtuosity with that Weissenborn.
Ghost Ryan Adams from the Technical Cowboy Services Sessions I think I love Ryan Adams the most when his voice cracks because he is not worried about perfection, he is worried about expressing his emotion. And that is a beautiful thing (and exactly what is wrong with most of the contestants on American Idol – the exception being Taylor Hicks – but that is an embarrassing sidenote best kept to myself, eh?). Thanks to Jennings for unearthing and posting the Cowboy Technical Services (mini) Session with Ryan Adams, containing this and two other great songs.
Now, doesn’t all that make the upcoming week seem a little bit brighter, tiger?
Name: Heather Browne Location: Colorado, originally by way of California Giving context to the torrent since 2005.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel." —Hunter S. Thompson
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