October 15, 2011

have i come here to play jesus to the lepers in my head?

So all I could do was lay on my living room floor and listen to this version over and over. Hearing the way Damien Rice softly and darkly teases this song into something shatteringly his own, there’s not really other appropriate responses or actions while listening.

One (U2) – Damien Rice

From the forthcoming Q magazine compilation covering my favorite U2 album, I found it especially amazing how Damien totally changes this song just through switching a few pronouns from “you” to “me,” and the hesitancy in his voice, the inhalation of breath. With a few twists of vocabulary, he shifts all the blame and redemption woven through this song squarely onto his shoulders. I heard it in a way I haven’t heard this song in a long time.

i asked you to enter, and then i made you crawl
and you can’t be holding on
to what i’ve got

when all i’ve got is hurt

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August 11, 2009

(New contest!) It might get loud.


To get you all riled up and excited like I am for the opening of the new film It Might Get Loud (opening in coastal NY/LA theaters Friday), I have a sweet poster signed by director Davis Guggenheim to give away.

I got little goosebumps of excitement when I saw this trailer, and I might have even uttered a profanity (sorry Mom).

Blue Orchid – White Stripes

From the clips I’ve seen, this movie draws me in because all three guitar players (Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page) truly, humbly love music and feel called to express part of themselves through the guitar. I love watching what flits across their faces as they watch each other play — the hint of a kid-like smile at seeing their idols at work.

The movie also seems to delve into how it can be almost like another language, this guitar playing — one that I can understand the meaning of when heard in the street, but I failed grammar class and could never speak a lick of it myself. As White says, “We’re all attempting to share something with another human being.” The Communication major in me thought that angle was pretty cool, and I can’t wait to hear more.

TO WIN THE POSTER: Leave me a comment saying which one of the three guitarists you are most interested to see and hear from and watch in this film, and why. I’ll pick a winner on Friday! (and sorry but you must be a U.S. resident to win)

sftri611In one of the press clips of the film that I got to screen, Jack White talks about how he came into making music through a Detroit co-worker (Brian Muldoon) at an upholstery apprenticeship he did in high school. The band they formed was fittingly called The Upholsterers, and their first 7″ was Makers of High Grade Suites (2000).

Even in these blisteringly raw tracks, you can hear the rumblings of what was to come from Jack White:

Apple Of My Eye – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)
I Ain’t Superstitious – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)
Pain – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)

threepackjackThe documentary also shows the making of a U2 single (I saw clips of The Edge out at a beach home, noodling), has original music from Page, and yields a new song written on the spot by Jack White for the film (his Fly Farm Blues single is out today on Third Man Records).

It might get loud, indeed.

May 2, 2009

U2: “Jesus Christ” (Woody Guthrie)


For a bunch of Irishmen, U2 has always been capable of throwing down a pretty darn soulful gospel jaunt in my book. Rattle and Hum is one of my favorite U2 eras (along with Achtung Baby. And maybe, oddly, Pop. I like Pop).

My friend John just brought this 20-year-old U2 cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ” to my attention, an mp3 I had in my iTunes library but had let settle to the bottom of the unlistened pile. Today is a grey and drizzly Saturday in Colorado, after a very long and difficult week, and this bit of handclapping, foot-stomping folk gospel is just the right medicine.

U2 originally recorded this in 1988 for the Woody Guthrie tribute album Folkways: A Vision Shared along with a pretty formidable collection of other artists. If this jubilant cut sounds reminiscent of Rattle and Hum, it’s for good reason — it was recorded during the same sessions.

The vinyl single of “Jesus Christ” was released as a promotional single in the Netherlands only.

Jesus Christ (Woody Guthrie cover) – U2


The original Woody Guthrie recording of this song was first captured on tape as part of the 1940 Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax — the first recordings of Woody Guthrie ever, that I am aware of. When I was trawling around in the Library of Congress audio archives last May (talkin’ to rad people) I remember seeing these in the  American Folklife Listening Room. I could have gotten permanently lost there, happily.

Jesus Christ (ripped from vinyl) – Woody Guthrie

[release info via U2wanderer]

February 18, 2009

U2 is forever yours, faithfully


The new U2 album No Line On The Horizon leaked wide last night, and on first listen it’s filled with appropriately epic guitar riffs, and Bonoisms about love that sound very important when sung in upper register.

Also, the song “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” totally contains the triumphant riff that everyone knows from “Faithfully” by Journey. So much so that it makes me want to drink Czech liquor and sing karaoke with arms around friends; the Journey effect. Srsly.

Maybe go listen and then come back and we’ll discuss.

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February 6, 2009

Eddie Vedder does karaoke at the Best Western in Mesa, Arizona

I hate singing those songs like “Where The Streets Have No Name” for karaoke — those long musical intros will kill ya. What do I do with myself for those 45 seconds? I’ll make awkward conversation with the audience, and shuffle my feet. Maybe let out a “whooo!” of anticipation before the lyrics begin.

He also sang “Yellow S(C)ubmarine” (gotta love the guy in the audience trying to sing “Hunger Strike”), and duetted with a girl for “I Got You Babe.” Vedder is in Arizona for the 2009 Cubs Fantasy Camp.

He loves the Cubbies.


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April 13, 2008

Contest updates: U2/Africa winner, and a new one for the ladies with Tristan Prettyman

Thanks to everyone who submitted a story about Africa, U2 –or even Bonalmost– for the contest to win the In The Name of Love CD of U2 covers by African musicians.

Boyhowdy’s story was an early favorite (make your wife read that, boyhowdy!) and so many of you shared great tales of the ways U2 has been present at different memorable moments in your life. However the winner is Russell, because of the way I loved this paragraph he wrote about seeing U2 in 1980:

“There was real glory in an Edge solo – a dazzling scattering of light and energy that detonated dreams. Exhilaration. Running from that concert in the rain to catch a late night train remains vivid and gleaming: music mattered, life mattered. Everything was potentially magical.”

Russell, thanks, and let me know where to send the winnings. Enjoy.

NEW CONTEST: Tristan Prettyman is a musician from the San Diego area with a lovely sunrise homespun voice, and an approachable acoustic sound that I dig.

She’s designed a cool music-oriented tank top for the ladies, picturing the chord breakdown of her song “Hello” (the title track of her album, out this week). Stream the tune on her MySpace, and please leave me a comment if you’d like to win the shirt (via Elwood Clothing). The folks running the contest would like entrants to leave an email address to opt-in for Tristan Prettyman news in the future, but it’s up to you.

LISTEN: Here’s a cover Tristan did of French-Israeli artist Yael Naim‘s “New Soul” – that catchy ditty from the MacBook Air ad.

You’ll be “la la la“ing all day long.

New Soul (Yael Naim cover) – Tristan Prettyman

Also, you can stream the full album here, and her single “Madly” is the free iTunes download of the week.

March 31, 2008

Bono gives props to Africa; Africa returns the favor

I was fascinated with this concept album when I first read about it: Twelve artists and musical groups from all parts of Africa gather together to cover U2 songs with traditional African instrumentation, percussion, and even languages. In many cases, the songs are completely restructured into something you can feel rising from the ground up, the beats thumping into your deepest hollows.

In The Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 features artists like Angelique Kidjo (previous post), Les Nubians, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and an oddly affecting cover of “Love Is Blindness” by Angola’s Waldemar Bastos. Mali bluesman Ali Farka Touré‘s son Vieux contributes a rich cover of “Bullet The Blue Sky” with the spoken bridge segment done in his native language. The songs are really different than how you’re used to hearing them. If you love U2 as I do, sometimes it takes a minute to get past the shock. But there’s a beautiful spirit and soul shining through this amazing collection.

The album is released tomorrow through the good folks at Shout! Factory, and all proceeds will benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Stream samples of all the songs here.

And you know — I think that this is how the type of love that Bono originally sings about is supposed to sound; like a well rising, voices joining together.

Pride (In The Name of Love)Soweto Gospel Choir

NEW CONTEST! One winner will get a copy of In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 just by leaving me a comment with either a good U2 story, a good Africa story, or both. I’ll pick a winner and send the booty on its merry way.

PS – I checked, and I ain’t got a Monday Music Roundup in me.
Not today.

January 28, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

Well for pete’s sake. GO SEE U2 3D.

That was the absolute coolest thing since, well, since Captain E.O. (sorry MJ). I had a huge silly smile plastered across my face for at least the whole first song, barely able to breathe but not realizing I was holding my breath.

From superclose Bono yelling the opening count-off of Vertigo (in that creative Spanish), you feel like you’re inches from the real live sweating tiny mofo. You can see the limber flex and vibration of Adam Clayton’s bass strings as he plucks them, you can count the freckles on the Edge’s arms while he nails a killer solo. You hover over the stage like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, looking over Larry Mullen Jr’s shoulders while he beats out his robot-hybrid beats from an impossible vantage point. I almost felt like I would knock over the mike stand sometimes, or get hit in the face with Edge’s guitar (I wouldn’t mind). The gliding shots over the enthusiastic Latin-American crowds were also like something out of a flying dream. It was mindblowing in the childlike wonder it instilled in a whole audience at once.

You also get to wear extremely fashionable glasses that are worth at least five minutes of pre-show entertainment.

I know it must be expensive to everyone but U2 to make a movie like this, but with technology that lets Bono kneel on the side of the stage, draw in the air with his fingertip, and create a hovering light-trail image floating inches from your face, well heck . . . I wish every band I loved would do this so I could get closer than close for only $9.

Music this week!

Don’t Ever Do That Again
Golden Shoulders

There’s a snaking, crunchy opening riff that sucks you into this smart song from CA Gold-Rush-country band Golden Shoulders. Originally released in 2005, the Friendship Is Deep album is seeing the light of re-issue; when it first came out, British tastemaker Mojo magazine wrote that they were “grungy slackers catching up on ‘Rubber Soul’ pop.” The drawl in the delivery hearkens that for me, but I also hear a good echo of Fuel-favorite Cake (whose former drummer Todd Roper is featured on this album), and also that riff from that Weezer-side-project tune “American Girls.” It’s a pleasing mishmash of influences that sounds addictively fresh and ready for adventures.

The Hands

There’s something slightly off and unnerving in the melody and rhythm here from the Pacific Northwest band The Hands – just a half-second syncopated, or too fast. Either way, it feels like about seven cups of coffee in the morning (thank god I’m back on the stuff after my successful vegan detox week) — all jittery and yowling, but anchored by a more classic rockin’ feel with those Jaggeresque vocals. An exciting combination, I want to keep replaying the opening notes to figure out what’s going on there in those first thirty seconds. The self-titled album is out February 19th on Selector Sound, and wisely features, well, a hand on the front.

Dancing For No One
Hello Stranger

For a song released in 2006, this has a borderline guilty-pleasure tinge of sounding like something I would have liked in the ’80s, but better. Hello Stranger is a band from Los Angeles [previous post] fronted by tall red-boot-wearing Juliette Commagere and featuring Ry Cooder’s son Joachim. They sounds a little like Blondie, a little punk, and a lot like something that you want to sing along with. Indie film fans might recognize this song from the excellent and quirky Lars and The Real Girl. Hello Stranger has toured with Kings of Leon, Rooney, and looks like they’re opening some Foo Fighters shows in the coming weeks. Their 2006 self-titled album is out on Aeronaut Records, and they are currently back in the studio working on new material.

Be Not So Fearful (Bill Fay)
Jeff Tweedy

I remember hearing this song memorably used in the Wilco I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary and then having to seek out a live version of it for my collection. This is a cover of a folk song by British musician Bill Fay, and feels so perfect in its simplicity. It’s almost a benediction, this telling of “Be not so fearful, be not so pale / Someone watches you, you won’t leave the rails.” It’s heartening and lovely, one of my favorite acoustic Tweedy covers, something I’ve been listening to a lot lately.

Love Ya
Paloma Faith

I read about Londoner Paloma Faith on this blog while I was looking up SF show information, they mentioned she had “a Billie Holliday voice and a Betty Page look.” Retro is so hot right now — I can always dig more of this Amy Winehouse vibe, with less of the self-destruction. While on Paloma’s MySpace page I was also excited to see that she had a cameo in that other fantastic Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip video, “The Beat That My Heart Skipped.” Since I always like watching this dude rhyme, enunciate, and gesticulate (like he will be doing at Coachella!) watch Paloma shake her thing here:

[UK download]

BONUS MONDAY TIMEWASTER: Try the addictive Traveler IQ Challenge. I am on a mission to beat my somewhat shameful Level 6 (and my friend, who clearly must have cheated and got Level 12).

January 6, 2008

Stay, and the night would be enough :: U2 in San Jose 4/20/2001

April 19th 2001 was a Thursday night, grey and raining as I recall. I had been working at my first job out of college for about four months and was still getting used to not being a student anymore. Living in a tiny tiny apartment right in the heart of the ghetto next to an Asian karaoke bar, it was downwind from a fish market, with the occasional crazy person attacking the lobby door with a crowbar. Home sweet home.

Upon getting home from work that ordinary Thursday night, I retrieved a phone message from KFOG radio, letting me know that instead of Friends & ER that night, I was going to be seeing U2 in San Jose — winning a contest I forgot I’d entered. Not a bad exchange. On such short notice, everything feels more exciting and more wonderful because you’ve had absolutely no time in your mind to build it up or form any sort of anticipations, you’re just grabbing your coat and heading to Will Call for a night that stuns you in its intimacy despite being shared with 20,000 other people.

The Thursday night show was incredible, U2 are probably the best stadium showmen alive, and I say that having not yet seen Bruce Springsteen. Everything from the into-the-crowd peninsula of the heart-stage setup on that tour, to the surprising range of material they pulled out — all seemed crafted to transcend the artificiality of the arena show and feel, surprisingly, much more like a smaller venue. I was struck by how personal it felt. I left the show much more engaged and blown-away than I had during the fantastic orgy of the Oakland PopMart tour in 1997 with Oasis opening. That was glitz and sparkle, swagger and neon; this was something altogether different.

Thursday night’s set didn’t have a single song that I wish they’d left out; even the radio hits that I’ve heard so many bajillions of times that I (admit it) will often flip the station when they come on, those tunes were invigorated as if they hadn’t been sung over and over for the last twenty+ years. 2001 U2 was a band at the very top of their ever-heightening game. Just listen (for example) to the rev and tug of the guitar breakdown that the Edge inserts into Friday night’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” shortly after the 4 minute mark. It’s like an engine turning over, still ready to tear out of there.

However, the night I was there didn’t include the unique gem that came Friday, one of the reasons that I love this 4/20/01 boot instead: U2 played a wistful acoustic version of “Stay (Faraway So Close)” for the first time ever in the U.S. that night. In fact, they tell me that it was the first time a song from Zooropa had been performed on U.S. soil.

“Stay” is such a different song without the clattery drum beat and the Zooropa-era sheen to it, but I honestly savor the perfect simplicity of this rendition and the way Bono wraps up all the late-night longing with just an acoustic guitar. Similar to the first time Pearl Jam played “Leash” in over 12 years (in Boston, May ’06), I especially get a thrill listening as the crowd catches on to the moment.

Favorite moments on this boot also include a sweetly heartfelt acoustic version of “In A Little While,” performed on the edge of the heart and dedicated to Joey Ramone (who had died 5 days before) saying, “This is a song Joey Ramone loved, and we loved him, so…” Starting from there and going through that 4-song lineup of In A Little While/Angel of Harlem/Stay (Faraway So Close)/All I Want Is You, finishing with the crowd singing along with all that was in them — whew. That’s a pretty unstoppable 15 minutes. And then since I am a complete Achtung Baby pushover, the one-two punch of “Mysterious Ways” and “The Fly” did me in as well. The buoyant “Kite” also saw its live debut this night.

The quality of this boot is excellent; this is the audience recording rather than the soundboard one that is also floating around out there, because I like hearing the crowd noise. Thursday’s setlist had many similarities to this boot below (but I got to see “Even Better Than The Real Thing” and thought I might die of happiness). Since contest winners can’t be choosers, and since it would have set me back $85 to actually *pay* for my ticket to Friday’s show, I’ll have to satiate myself with this fantastic boot. Easy to do.

Elevation / Creep (snippet)
Beautiful Day
Until The End Of The World
New Year’s Day
(live debut)
New York
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday / Get Up Stand Up (snippet)
Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Band Introductions
In A Little While (for Joey Ramone)
Angel Of Harlem
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
(U.S. debut)
All I Want Is You
Psalm 116 (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
Mysterious Ways / Sexual Healing (snippet)
The Fly
Bullet The Blue Sky / Whole Lotta Love (snippet)
With Or Without You
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Walk On
(halle, hallelujah…indeed)

ZIP FILE: U2 IN SAN JOSE (re-upped 2010)

[Thanks to U2Start for a lot of this, and to Otto Kitsinger and The Chronicle for some great photos]

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November 29, 2007

Fools rush in (where angels fear to tread)

During the hellishness of living in a war zone, what can music possibly bring to the equation? Through its primal power, can it be a hand to reach out and pull us away?

When the Bosnian War and the siege of the city of Sarajevo was unfolding in the early Nineties, I never could wrap my mind around the ethnic cleansing, the infighting, the murders of civilians under the auspices of war. It all seemed so very far removed from my world (despite my grandmother being full-blooded Yugoslavian).

After just finishing Bill Carter‘s book Fools Rush In, it still doesn’t make full sense to me what was causing the bombing and sniping and destruction between neighbors Serbs, Croatians, Bosnians, Bosnian-Serbs, Bosnian-Croats, Bosnian Muslims – like one of those spin-the-wheels color combination games — how many combos can we come up with that can kill each other? Then again I don’t know how much sense it made to anyone involved, inside the city or outside looking in (or outside ignoring it).

Bill Carter is a twenty-something from the West Coast who begins his journey into the Bosnia region as a man unmoored. From his earliest memories of abuse at the hands of a terrifying, nauseating, damaged father, he begins his book by telling of his lifelong gravitational pull to places half a world away. He remembers getting a map of the world in National Geographic magazine as a child growing up in California’s Central Valley:

I stuck the world, measuring three feet by five, on the wall next to my bed with a few strips of tape. At night, on the top bunk, I would secretly stretch out across the world. If I extended fully I could put my toes in the jungles of Sumatra, my navel at the tip of Argentina and my head in the Indian Ocean. Most nights I would place an ear against the the map, my hot flushed cheek touching the imaginary cool deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. I think I was listening for the sound of breaking waves. Instead most nights sounded the same.”

When he reaches his early twenties, he finds a temporary harbor of amazing intensity in Santa Cruz in the arms of a girl named Corrina who fills exactly one year of his life with fervor and heat, understanding and laughter. His writing about his relationship with her held my nerve endings up against a white-hot flame, reminiscent of how Rob Sheffield wrote about Renee in Love Is A Mix Tape only with more grit and sexual honesty.

After losing Corrina, Carter’s trajectory spins him to a war zone on a humanitarian mission. I felt like he was searching to numb the pain inside of him by immersing himself in even greater pain around him. Life in the seven-mile-by-one-mile oval of land in the heart of Sarajevo is under siege — a killing zone from snipers in the hills and in the tall buildings, shooting at anything that dares to move. But Carter finds that people do dare to move; they dare to play blues music and rock ‘n’ roll in clubs where you have to duck your head and run from the incoming shrapnel to get in the dusty side door. They dare to hold art gallery openings and go dancing. They share meals in their homes (away from the vulnerability of the glass windows), they laugh, they make love — and live in the moment because tomorrow may actually never come.

As Carter says in an interview on Dutch television, “When I got there, it didn’t take very long for me to realize that this place was … timeless. When you entered Sarajevo, in that war, you entered a time zone. There was no past, no future. The past is gone, it’s obliterated. The future is how much longer I have to sit here with you before a bomb comes in the window. So what we have is right now. I was living right in the moment, which was a huge relief for me.”

Carter fills his days with distributing food through a French group called The Serious Road Trip, lives in a bombed-out office tower in the center of Sarajevo, and they occupy many nights sitting around drinking cheap Eastern European vodka mixed with powdered lemonade, trying to make some sense of what is going on all around them. Carter’s journey in this book is honest, and reeling, and confessional. All the foreigners in this story seem, to some degree, to be trying to find a home and a purpose and a community on the other side of the world.

Carter’s hesitation mixes with the brashness that we are so prone to in our twenties; the hubris pressed hot against the earnestness, with the passions all bleeding red into our uncertainty. One other Serious Road Trip member remarks to Carter one night, “I am beginning to believe the worst part of being here is knowing this might be the best thing I ever do in my life. I mean I’m only twenty-six. What am I supposed to do for the rest of it?

Dealing with the death all around them, Carter appraises his own pale flesh in the mirror one night and writes, “Sometimes I think it is easy to forget we have blood in us until it starts to leak out.” He loses friends and acquaintances to the war, and in between his humanitarian work he photographs the people he meets and the horrors (and joys) that he sees each day.

Then one night he arrives upon a whim that can only be described as ludicrous, but that plays out into a surreal reality. Carter wants the world to know what is going on in this strip of land that seems to have been forgotten by the international community, rendered invisible by the political double-speak and the obscurity of another war, another country. Not my problem. For some reason he thinks of U2. He thinks that U2 might understand and sympathize with what is happening in Sarajevo because of the parallels between their own Irish history and their passion for social justice. And amazingly enough, Carter calls it right.

A big part of this story then also becomes the relationship he forms with U2 from the center of this bombed-out city, and the way he is ultimately able to connect the Sarajevans and their stories with hundreds of thousands of European concertgoers attending the ZooTV Tour in 1993 via live satellite. The Edge and then Bono relate with what Carter is experiencing and filming, and the result becomes the award-winning documentary Miss Sarajevo, for which U2 pens a song by the same name. The double-edged sword of pop celebrity here becomes an asset through which people begin to take notice of the slaughter, setting into motion a chain of awareness and events that seem to ultimately help quell the horror in Sarajevo through NATO action.

Carter’s book is about a quest for redemption; for a people, for a city, for himself. It’s a riveting read on so many levels, saturated with feelings and uncertainties that I could absolutely relate to even though I’ve never lived in something like he describes. I was encouraged how one confused, passionate, grieving, flawed twenty-something started a rumble about an injustice in this world, even as he struggled with so many things. He captures a rare joy in this story. And plus, the book mentions Pearl Jam two times, so you know, it’s clearly worth it for that alone. Pick it up here and read a U2-related excerpt here.

Sunday Bloody Sunday (live in Sarajevo) – U2
The Sarajevans invite U2 to play Sarajevo and Bono seems ready to go in immediately, but is reined in through the obvious security concerns. It takes four years, but they eventually come to Sarajevo in 1997 on the PopMart tour

Miss Sarajevo (live in Milano) – U2
Bono sings the Italian lyrics here instead of Pavarotti; a gorgeous song with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights read over the ending

Angel – Pearl Jam
This is just a Heather-addition, a song not mentioned anywhere in the book but one that fits this story as perfectly as if it were part of the official soundtrack, on so many levels. Listen to it as accompaniment to reading, and tell me I’m not crazy

[all photos credit Bill Carter]

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Bio Pic 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

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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