Wednesday, September 29, 2010

American: The Bill Hicks Story @ The Friars Club Film Festival 9.26.10

I first encountered Bill Hicks via a doc called Just A Ride that I'm pretty sure I saw on Comedy Central. Coming straight out of Austin, his iconoclastic pro-drug, anti-establishment ranting resonated with me in a way that few comedians had previously. Given the role the Letterman show played in his ascension to infamy, it confounds me that I could have missed all of his performances on Late Night, but either way, post-Ride I made short work of making up for that lost time. In the time-tested JS-NYC adherence to obsessive compulsion, I ended getting all the Hicks material in short order. In delving into his history, it was both intriguing and disappointing to find how much of his act has been stolen outright by comedians like Dennis Leary and how much of a loose cannon he was perceived to be by NBC, to the point where his last performance was actually cut from broadcast after network censors deemed it too inflammatory. Cap the whole thing with his death at 32 from cancer, and you have a tragic story that is impossible to ignore.

The Hicks family have done much to keep Bill's name out there since his passing in 1994. The Bill Hicks Live DVD that dropped a couple years ago packaged live material with the Just A Ride doc and sold real well. Rykodisc has re-released all his comedy albums and DVDs in recent years, including the CD/DVD box set of heretofore unseen, and for the most part unreleased, material called The Essential Collection that dropped a couple weeks ago . Look for a JS-NYC review soon.

Recently, my boy Eric and the good folk of the Second Annual Friar's Club Comedy Film Festival added American: The Bill Hicks Story as a spotlight documentary. As pleased as I was to find that the Hicks name was still on the lips of the populace at large, I had to wonder what new insights the doc's makers would bring to the table. What bade well was that directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas were (and are) Brits. While Hicks had a decent Stateside following in his day, his overseas presence was much stronger, especially in the UK. Family and childhood friends are the primary storytellers, offering warmly personal insight into both the man and the myth. The chrononology is punctuated by animation that fills in the gaps where pertinent footage doesn't exist. Now, if I had read that animation would be present previous to attending this performance, I would have chugged a healthy amount of hater-ade. As I rolled in ignorant of the fact (and in a slightly enhanced state of consciousness) the unexpected animation proved both a surprising and strangely compelling addition to the doc. Little burnishments like these added to the recollections from his mother, brother and best friends establishes American: The Bill Hicks Story as the pre-eminent encapsulation of Hicks' life. Personally I would have liked to have seen some Letterman insights, as well as more exploration of the parallel orbits that he and Sam Kinison inhabitated. To that end, no doc to date has really addressed the Leary plagarism or talked to any of his female companions, but even without such matter being addressed, American: The Bill Hicks Story is still a fine piece of work.

The doc was received ecstatically to a full room at The Paley Center, but like many independent documentary releases, the BBC-funded American: The Bill Hicks Story is looking for stateside distribution. Harlock and Thomas were in town to drum up support for the project, introducing the film and participating in a post-showing Q&A. For the concerned, the Hicks family is in full support of the project, attending the Friar's Club screening and participating in the Q&A and domestic promotion for American. Go the the official web presence here and see how you can help. The night was a huge success, and major props are due to The Friar's Club Comedy Festival for putting together an unprecedentedly great nine days of the best in independent comedy film. The second year of the Fest was a huge success, and hopes are high for an even more auspicious third year. Go to the Friar's Club Comedy Film Festival web presence here to see what you missed and how to be a part of it next year.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Superchunk - Majesty Shredding

Nine years. That's how long it's been since we've had ourselves a new Superchunk record. No wonder it's been so shitty for me this last epoch! With the Chinese Democracy precedent of diminishing returns and the low-key manner of '01s Here's To Shutting Up, my hopes were not especially high for an up-tempo keyboard-free Chunk release, to the point where I hadn't even listened to the record a day before the team rolled into town. The Leaves In The Gutter EP bade well, but I was in too fragile a place to find that the new Superchunk disc was a disappoinment.

Dropping the laser on Majesty Shredding, I am happy, nay ecstatic, to report that Superchunk are back to rock your lame ass in a pronounced fashion. Even by Superchunk standards, this little firecracker is a good one. The first single, "Digging For Something" has a great whoa-oh hook and has been featuring stage invasions by Mr. John Darnielle of late, so you can safely assume that realness is being kept with our heroes. Wonderfully enough, it's the tip of the rock iceberg, as a solid 85% of Majesty Shredding is head and shoulders above 99% of the rock that has dropped this year. The other 15% is probably just head above, but regardless a virtual or actual trip to your favorite music purveyor is most definitely in order. Here's a link to Merge. If you are of a mind to see if the new stuff translates live, musical godsend NYC Taper has the whole MHOW set for free here.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Live: Superchunk with Todd Barry @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg 9.19.10

Day two of the weekend du Chunk, this one in Colonial Williamsburg. I would have made the usual trip over the bridge regardless, but the Todd Barry as the first opener made me more punctual than usual. Of course, Todd was on by the time I made it in, but was great as always. Stand-up gigs opening for rock bands are some of the toughest, but luckily Todd Barry gives less than a fuck if people are enjoying his sets, pointedly announcing that he was going over length to just irritate bored people up front. He went over well, with a ton a new material that I hope appears in some sort of recorded form very soon. Here's hoping that more good comedians appear (bumping terminally mediocre bands) in these kind of slots in the future.

Some not especially remarkable band had the middle slot, I assume they were a Merge band, but they were not nearly remarkable enough even for me to check out who they were after the fact. Luckily, I hooked up with the Brothers Johnson and the lovely Jina and our heroes were up in short order. Team Chunk have an exceptionally great new record out called Majesty Shredding, itself the reason why we had North Carolina's finest gracing our fair city. Night two was pretty bad-ass it's own self, with John Darnielle making an appearance and Todd Barry playing drums on an encore of Horror Business. Good times all around, even though it went later than my old ass would prefer on a school night.


01 [introduction]
02 Unbelievable Things
03 Skip Steps 1 & 3
04 [banter/guest intro]
05 Digging For Something*
06 [crowd]
07 Rosemarie
08 Art Class (Song For Yayoi Kusama)
09 Hello Hawk
10 [banter]
11 Fractures In Plaster
12 [tuning/banter]
13 So Convinced
14 Iron On
15 My Gap Feels Weird
16 Crossed Wires
17 [banter]
18 Mower
19 From The Curve
20 The First Part
21 Everything At Once
22 [encore break]
23 Horror Business (Misfits)**
24 Cast Iron
25 Slack Motherfucker
26 Precision Auto
*with John Darnielle backing vocals
**with Todd Barry on drums

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Live: Superchunk @ Bowery Ballroom 9.18.10

The one-two punch of Superchunk and not having to ride over the bridge would have made this the best show in months even if it wasn't pretty damn great. Historically, if I have to wait seven years between a band's releases it's going to be a disappointment, but I'm pleased to report that the new Majesty Shredding is a great record, even by Superchunk standards. Look for a review soon.

This show had sold out way in advance, and embarassingly enough, I had missed out on getting a ticket. Luckily through the good graces of the Bros. Johnson (the other half of said team whom had saved my ass on the soon to be disappointing Hold Steady show at the Beacon), I ended up with an extra ticket. Motor City proved to be the staging area for a couple hours of warm-up (and convenient missing of openers). Our arrival at Bowery was pretty much coincident with things jumping off and jump things did. Here's the set list:

Learned To Surf
Burn Last Sunday
Detroit Has A Skyline
Digging For Something
My Gap Feels Weird
Like A Fool
Hello Hawk
Crossed Wires
For Tension
Song For Marion Brown
Watery Hands
Punch Me Harder
Cast Iron
Everything At Once

Driveway To Driveway
100,000 Fireflies
Slack Motherfucker
Hyper Enough

Throwing Things

It was pretty great all-around, as you might surmise by the amazing set. The new songs are so good, and it's nice to see the Chunk back in guitar mode. An ill-advised post-set stage invasion found me chastised and stripped of my newly purloined set list by their new roadie personnel, but even that didn't taint the evening. Hear me now and believe me later: Superchunk are the best. The rest are just pretenders.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walter Schreifels review @ PopMatters

Ladies and Gents:

My review of the new Walter Schreifels record is currently up at PopMatters. Here's a link.

Thanks to Sarah Zupko at PopMatters!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Live: RVIVR with LIttle Lungs, The Measure (SA) and The Fish @ 538 Johnson Ave

Night two of the NYC RVIVR dates was out at 538 Johnson. A bit of a hike, but with The Measure and Little Lungs on the bill, it was more than worth it for $5. In hindsight, I would have avoided shredding my back wheel on a fucking plastic bag during the whole endeavor, but not so bad all around.

So I limped into port, got inside and immediately realized that I was indeed in a different space than the Iron Chic show last week, and though built out more than the last time I was there, very probably where I saw Fucked Up a couple years ago. I caught the last three or four songs from The Fish, but could have done without. Co-ed line up, guy singer who has a sort of third-rate Dylan thing going on, not especially remarkable.

The Measure (sa) were up next. They have a new record coming out on No Idea that is purported to be pretty awesome and have been ramping up the live shows accordingly. I like them very much, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: what is up with Fid and his relentless youth crew jumping? Really. It is so incongruous with the rest of the band, and really most of the songs that I really do hope that he is the best guy on Earth so I can relegate the whole thing to endearing rather than maddeningly slappable. Exclusive of that, The Measure (sa) really are a good time. They aren't the best band, but there is a definite sense of both craft and individuality to the proceedings. There is a record release party for Notes 10/15 at Coco66, but there is very little chance that you will catch JS-NYC falling for the okey-doke at that time warp anytime soon. You should see them anywhere else early and often (unless you think they are best appreciated at 1am midweek).

Man, how great are Little Lungs? I always forget how great they are until I see them live and now they very well be my favorite local band. They have swapped bass players since I've seen them last, tipping the gender majority back to the male advantage, but are no less awesome. The crowd thought so, too. They played pretty much all the stuff from their stellar Hoist Me Up and were damn awesome doing it, I must say. Angie does one hell of a job singing and playing guitar and the rhythm section more than holds its own, live or recorded. Little Lungs were so good, in fact, that I didn't even stick around for RVIVR, just in case I had to call an audible and find a train home. All props due to RVIVR, see them if you can, but as they will be overseas, and live in Oly, look out for Little Lungs and see them ASAP.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Banner Pilot - Resignation Day remaster

It's been just a hair over two years since Banner Pilot released Resignation Day on Go-Kart. They have signed to Fat in the interim, releasing the solid, but arguably not as good, Collapser and garnering a fair amount of well-deserved props beyond the basement scene that spawned them. They don't tour out this way all that much, only twice in their existence that I've been aware of, which makes for kind of a bummer when one of them was last year's twenty minute CMJ set. Listening to the remastered Resignation Day, the fact that Banner Pilot need to get out East for a proper show can't be asserted more clearly. Damn! This is one hell of a good record, by 2008 or 2010 standards. The Fat remaster tags the two tracks from the Kiss Of Death split with Monikers to push the record that much closer to awesomeness. Make Fat Mike and four solid dudes from the Twin Cities a little happier and snap this bad boy up with the quickness. Here's a link.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Live: RVIVR with Bridge and Tunnel and Matthew Berry and The New Sound @ Lulu's 10/16/10

This show was the first of an old school 'out for the week' rock series. One might lend credence for my having stood in the room at 10:45 the evening previously while various Measure members and merch people milled around at CoCo 66 waiting for a five band fucking bill to start before riding back home in disgust.


How this makes sense, especially with touring bands, on a Tuesday night confounds me.

But I digress. I made it from my art opening/pig roast to Lulu's in time to catch Matthew Berry and The New Sound. Not that I wanted to, but whatever. They were ok, with points for ok banter, but definitely seemed to capitalize on some scene cred, as they were decent, but nothing to write home about. While I hate, hate, hate unannounced lineup changes, by this point in the evening I was willing to let it slide. It's a bummer, as I've missed out on Bridge And Tunnel a couple times now owing to the ridiculous start times in this burg. RVIVR flew out West for a couple shows before flying off to Europe for a month of dates. Borrowed gear and early tour dates aren't always the best combo. Add yourself a short set into the kitty and you've got kind of a bummer situation. It was a good time, but they have definitely been better. Questionable haircuts aside, RVIVR are still better than most, and when it's free and all, I can't hate too much. Matt mentioned an EP coming around the end of the year, so look out here for signs of that dropping. Euro friends can find tour dates here.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grabass Charlestons/Toys That KIll split 7"

Your friends at No Idea are always good for bringing the coasts closer together, whether it be through The Fest or through slabs of wax like this little dilly that unites home team heroes Grabass Charlestons with Pedro powerhouses Toys That Kill. Not a bad pairing at all to these ears. I enjoyed what I saw of the recent Grabass show at Lulu's and had made a mental note to revisit their back catalog. While said note has gone unheeded, someone's looking out, as this just popped up at JS-NYC HQ. Five songs, four new and a Flavored Onion Rings cover. I'll give the lead-off track Sad And Beautiful World the nod for the best of the lot, but the East Coast represents respectably for their side.

On the flip, San Pedro's Toys That Kill continue their D4 resurrection to digitize five tracks of garage-y punk, albeit with some tracks from '05. Same deal with the tracking, although TTK opt for a Rocket From The Crypt-ian revisitation of a Joy Division chestnut. It's decent, especially the closing I'm Foaming, but I continue to try to reconcile my love for Come Home Smelly with my ambivalence with the entirety of their back catalog. Either way, you should probably get this. Here's a link to your buds over at the No Idea. Wise consumers would do well to act with haste before things get lost in The Fest.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Off With Their Heads - Trying To Breathe 7"

I think that maybe I'm falling back in love with Off With Their Heads. The show recently with Dear Landlord was good and the new record In Desolation is solid. Trying To Breathe is the first single from their Epitaph debut. It's a touching little ditty about doing too much coke that will no doubt be the toast of the prom theme set. The b-side is the study in eloquence called I May Be A Lot Of Things But At Least I'm Not A Rapist Like You that rocks pretty nicely. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy this, but it's a good listen.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Live: Shellac with Helen Money @ The Bell House 9.7.10

When I first moved into my own Manhattan apartment in the early 90's, my roommate was your textbook over-educated rock guy from Buffalo, with record-collection to match. I know that's how I heard Shellac for the first time, but I'm a bit hazier as to when I saw them for the first time. I'm pretty sure it was at the Houston St. Knit with Rodan. I definitely saw them after that behind At Action Park at the Leonard St. Knit. Regardless, a live Shellac show is a proposition not to be missed.

I didn't even know that Shellac were coming through town, but blundered upon the Bell House listing and snatched up a ticket. As the date grew nigh, I suddenly remembered the show was coming up and thought that maybe I had missed it, but ginkgo was on my side and I made it to Bell House with little incident. Shellac have evidently garnered quite a following with the cycling set, as there was no parking to be had for blocks. The show was sold out, and The Bell House was full both in the live room and in the bars. Hooked up with Aaron and caught a good part of the Helen Money set. Ms. Money is a solo cellist who loops and distorts in the manner you might expect from a Chicago solo cellist opening for Shellac. Good stuff. Aaron bought the record, so look for a review soonish. She seemed to be well-received, so I'd expect a solo show in town soon.

Shellac were on a little after 10 and tore the place up in their time-honored fashion. Trainer still sets up on the lip on the stage and the identical amps and Travis Beans are still in evidence. Weston works the crowd nicely (as evinced by the 90+ minutes of banter compiled here by Henry Chunklet), but had me at the Aqua Teen Ignignok and Err wristbands. No mention of any new release, but there haven't been a ton of dates behind Excellent Italian Greyhound, so I guess we'll call this promotion for same. I would have liked to have heard The Rambler Song, but most of my favorites popped up in the set. It went maybe a song or two long for a school night, but this show marks as one of the best sets of 2010 nonetheless. The team is off to Europe for a week or so, but no other US dates seem to be on the docket and I'm not sure where you would find out if they were playing more shows, as Shellac have no formal web presence that I've discovered. Free to point out the error of that statement and I'll print/bookmark accordingly, but in the interim see this crew if they come within a couple hundred miles of your earholes.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rah Digga - Classic

Rah Digga is definitely one of the nicest female MCs out there. Like most of the other Flip Mode crew, she got caught up in whatever ridiculousness Busta is wrapped up in contractually and has been without a full-length release since 2000's Dirty Harriet. That's some Rakim time off the mike, and in the mercurial world of hip-hop that can be a death sentence. Digga had a deal with J Records, but the record that was slated to drop in 2004 (Everything Is A Story) went the way of Saigon, RA the Rugged Man and a gang of too many others that had entire albums shelved indefinitely through label ridiculousness.

It's a real shame, as there have been a dearth of female MCs out there worth their salt. Trina is ok, but Foxy and Kim have more than overstayed their welcome in my eyes. Shawnna does alright, as is Diamond sometimes, but I would say they are much more rappers than MCs. Jean Grae is a titan, but I'd like to hear here do more boom-bap stuff. Currently, Nicki Minaj is the brightest hope out there, here's hoping that she doesn't leave the MC skills behind with this whole Barbie thing she's got going for her. Digga could be argued to have been the Minaj of her day, playing the Black Dorothy in that De La video and playing the gutter card with the video for her debut single Imperial. It will be interesting to see how she's received by the heads in 2010. The entirety of this record is produced by VAs Nottz. It's well done. I'd expect that the boom-bap set will embrace her readily, but I'm not sure that there will be a huge single behind Classic to get Digga into the mainstream limelight. I'd argue the moniker is more aptly applied to the Digga style than her sophmore release, but tracks like Backin' Up do yeoman duty in reminding the hip-hop scene that Rah Digga is still a force to be reckoned with. The remix with Redman is defintely worth checking out, too.

Classic drops on 9/14. While you're waiting, read the Rah Digga webblog here that your boys over at HHDx are hosting in the days before it becomes a lot harder for self-proclaimed femcees in 2010.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Marked Men - On The Other Side 7"

Two songs recorded in Dec 2009 while Jeff Burke was home for Christmas. Or so the 1-2-3-4 website says. Lest I start internet misinformation, I should point out this is on 540 Records, but I can't find any web presence. I can't say I am or was the hugest Marked Men fan, but there are a bunch of people out there I know (read: hot chicks) that go buck nutty for such things, and the artwork is by Mr. Tim Kerr, so I picked it up. Shockingly enough, On The Other Side sounds like Marked Men: competent enough garage rock that is probably a lot more fun in a small Texas room with a couple Shiners in you.

I don't think this release is any harbinger of an official MM reunion. Erika saw them at this year's Chaos in Tejas, but I don't think that was more than a convenient maximizing of Jeff's time in from Japan. Can't find anything on the interwebs either but I'm going to leave that bit of sleuthing to those that care. If you number in that lot, buy On The Other Side here.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Live: Iron Chic with Young Livers @ 538 Johnson Ave 9.3.10

Iron Chic have a new record out called Not Like This. I like it very much. As such, it seemed prudent to get back from terrorizing the bass population of Newburgh with my pops early enough to get out to 538 Johnson for one of the record release shows. IC have a pretty die-hard local following, and they should, as they are a bright light in the sea of overrated crap rock here in town.

I locked up and got in as Young Livers were setting up. They are from Gainesville and sound like it. It was my first time seeing (hell, hearing!) them and I wasn't disappointed. Amp nerds will be pleased to find that YL travel with a raft of Acorn goodness. They aren't afraid to use them either. All in all, a respectable set with great sound for a house show. Not sure when the renovations took place, or whether the actual space was different last time, but it seemed markedly smaller than at Ergs and Fucked Up shows I had seen there previously. It's gotta be tough to be their neighbor. Everybody seemed totally respectful, but it was loud and smoky for the duration, both in the space and in the hall. And did I mention fucking hot? It was Black Hole Of Calcutta style, the place was full, but not packed yet hot enough for twice the number. Add some amps and whatnot, and I was soaked to the skin for the duration.

Iron Chic were up in short order, which makes me wonder whether there was a lineup switch. I saw Rachel during the YL set, but there was no mention. I like Bridge & Tunnel a bunch, so I was kinda bummed, but given the temperature, I was more than willing to cut to the chase. They like themselves some beer, preferably canned, cheap and in some quantity. Their crowd does, too, leading to the requisite crowd lurching and unnecessary (not to mention poor executed) crowd riding. Iron Chic were tight, boding well for those who intend to see them on the tour. Dates are here. Lots of stuff off the new record, with a couple dips back into their first nine songs. In an ideal world, big things are forthcoming for the IC boys. Of course, I said the same thing about Bridge and Tunnel and now they are out with Asslight Anthem, so it's sort of a double-edged sword. Either way, if you are in the South and/or Midwest, do yourself a solid and check out Iron Chic live.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Off With Their Heads/No Friends split 6"

Possibly released to commemorate their recent tour dates together, this split 6" pairs Twin Cities' juggernaut Off With Their Heads with Richmond Orlando axis powers No Friends. One cover from each band. One might be able to figure out from the cover art that Pegboy and Dag Nasty are the honorees. Two guesses how that splits up. Good showings from both parties, but I'll give the crown to OWTH by a hair. This is all around a good time so posi up and buy it here from No Idea.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

D4 - The Bootleg

Here we have a(nother) Dillinger 4 bootleg of undetermined origin. I appropriated this by typically illicit means, as this only available on 12", and in looking at the virtual back cover (right) was initially pretty stoked and then confused when the track listings didn't match up. Then I got bigger cover art and saw the little caveat. Advantage D4. There are only four songs here, all allegedly from a BBC Session. They are well-recorded and you'll recognize all of them, but a bootleg without Paddy's banter seems lacking. Whether you'll want to pony up $14 for 4 songs is your call. It's available from all your favorite online distros, but why not go No Idea? Just a thought.

In related notes, while poking around the corners of the interwebs trying to find the fake tracks, I did find this exceedingly awesome blog called Besides Asides that has this awesome comp of d4 rarities he's put together. Peep it here.