Saturday, April 30, 2005

Quote Me

Doves: (l to r) Jimi Goodwin, Andy Williams, Jez Williams

Drummer Andy Williams of the Doves on the influence for recording their third album Some Cities in a school:

"We’re really big fans of Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Sessions and how they recorded in a church. We were like, 'Let’s do our Cowboy Junkies.
It’ll be good fun to play.'"

Extra! Extra!

The May issue of Chicago Innerview is now available on-line:

I contributed a Q & A piece with Andy Williams of the Doves:

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Extra! Extra!

The official lineup for the 2005 Lollapalooza Festival was announced on April 22.

The following is a link to an article by Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times and an article by Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune. Each article discusses festival details and the city's deal to bring rock and roll to Grant Park this summer.

Pixies, Weezer, Widespread Panic headlining Lollapalooza

By Greg Kot
Tribune music critic

April 23, 2005

Lollapalooza announced 38 bands Friday for its July 23-24 festival in Grant Park, including headliners the Pixies, Widespread Panic, Weezer, the Killers and Liz Phair.

Two-day tickets for $85 also went on sale at, even though the city has not officially approved the festival. Promoters are still working out crowd control, safety, traffic management and beer-sale issues with the city. But Parks Supt. Timothy J. Mitchell said the festival "absolutely will happen."

"Everyone is working closely together," he said in an interview. "Within a week, I expect the permit to be approved."

Promoters still aim to add about 30 more bands to play the festival on five stages, said Charles Attal, talent buyer for Capital Sports & Entertainment, the Texas marketing and management company that bought the Lollapalooza name last year.

Lollapalooza is expected to draw at least 50,000 fans over two days to Hutchinson Field on the southern edge of Grant Park, though promoters said attendance could climb as high as 100,000. Mitchell said capacity issues were still being resolved, but that 30,000 to 35,000 fans per day "sounds reasonable."

The festival, scheduled to run from noon to 10 p.m. each day, is expected to bring at least $250,000 into park coffers. Though the city has turned back rock concerts on the lakefront in recent years, including the Smashing Pumpkins in 1998 and Grateful Dead spinoffs the Other Ones in 2002, Mitchell said the dooris open to a long-term relationship with Lollapalooza.

"I can't speak for the decisions made by my predecessors," he said, adding that he's intrigued by the idea of creating "a world-class music festival in Chicago. The hope is that we could continue doing it."

Perry Farrell, the founder of Lollapalooza in the '90s when it was a traveling alternative-rock festival, said he and the promoters settled on a single destination for the festival this year to avoid playing in "sterilized environments." "We're not cookie cutter," he said. "We needed a grand city for a grand festival. We visited 25 cities and we all ended up saying Chicago is the spot."

Plans are in the works with several clubs, including House of Blues, to host after-hours parties and concerts involving Lollapalooza performers.

Farrell said that, after a national Lollapalooza tour was canceled last summer because of poor ticket sales, "I had no expectation of ever doing it again." But he later forged a partnership with Capital Sports and Entertainment, which produces the Austin City Limits festival in Texas. Executive producer Charlie Jones said the Lollapalooza name still has merit: "It's the most recognized brand in music today."

The rest of the lineup announced Friday includes Ambulance LTD, the Arcade Fire, Billy Idol, the Black Keys, Blonde Redhead, Blue Merle, the Bravery, Cake, Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Changes, the Dandy Warhols, Dashboard Confessional, Death Cab for Cutie, DeSoL, Dinosaur Jr., Digable Planets, G. Love & Special Sauce, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, Los Amigos Invisibles, Louis XIV, M83, the Redwalls, Tegan and Sara, the Walkmen, the Warlocks, World Leader Pretend and Z-Trip.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Left Behind: A Feature Interview With Broken Social Scene

The Lost Summer Line-Up: Lollapalooza 2004

In honor of Lollapalooza returning, here is a trip back to early June of 2004 when Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene spoke with me for an interview set to appear in the July issue of Chicago Innerview, which was planning on featuring fellow Lollapalooza acts. Then on June 22 came an announcement: Lollapalooza was cancelled.

This summer Chicago will host Lollapalooza on July 23-24. The fesitval lineup has been announced, and The Pixies appear as the only remnant from last year's bill. Organizers have stated that additional acts will be added to the festival's bill over the next couple of weeks. Will Broken Social Scene get a second chance? There's no sure way of knowing...

In the following interview, Brendan Canning spoke about the success of Broken Social Scene's You Forget It In People, a close call with authorities, and the prospects of Lollapalooza 2004:

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and Brendan Canning is sitting in his home in Toronto. While the topic of the phone conversation surrounds his work with Broken Social Scene there’s a lingering thought that seems to be floating in the Canadian air, almost hanging in the balance for Canning: Greece vs. Spain in the European Championship series—futbol, better known to Americans as soccer.

“I went from wanting to be a professional soccer player to wanting to be in a band,” says the soft-spoken Canning. Whether or not Canning saw picking up the guitar a safer move than slide tackling on-coming opponents on the field at full speed isn’t quite clear. The crystal ball was out to that shop that afternoon. But what is certain is that he and Broken Social Scene have grabbed a couple ears since their last release, 2002’s You Forget It In People, not to mention earning the award for “Alternative Album” at the 2003 Juno Awards--the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys. The delay in its initial release following their first album, Feel Good Lost (2001), put the band in the position to play catch up. Canning and company just recently took a trek through Germany and will be on their way to tour Europe before joining up with the Lollapalooza tour. “It went pretty good,” says Canning regarding the German tour dates. “We did a couple cool little festivals. I think my favorite show was in Vienna. It’s a little funny cause we’re sort of starting over there, again, because we made a couple deals in Europe that, maybe, weren’t the most prudent, as far as career wise. So, it ended up with the record being delayed.”

“As much we could complain about it, we’re glad that we’re being given the chance to tour Europe.”

For Canning, these second chances have been blessings in disguise. As a visible figure in the Toronto music scene and someone who has been in his fair share of bands—hHead, Spooky Ruben, By Divine Right, and Cookie Duster to name a few—Canning feels he has found the right vehicle to reach a new level artistically and musically. “Broken Social Scene is the first band where I really felt there was quality being made, and there weren’t any exceptions to the rule,” says Canning. “There was definitely an indie rock thing where we only played a couple shows but it was with some friends, and that was kind of in the mid 90’s. I sort of thought back then I was getting closer. But I think after being through so many bands over the years; being through major label deals and indie label deals, a good long while, like a good eight years in the business, Broken Social Scene, the whole idea behind it, came at a good time: able to do something creative on our own terms.”

The band has a very open sound, not your average straightforward rock band formula, but strongly due to the band’s evolving lineup and size; ranging up to fifteen musicians on You Forget It In People. There’s an exploration of sound through many different approaches; instrumentals, a minimalist mindset, and often times studio experimentation to develop densely, layered, spacious pieces of music. Whether a song calls for lyrics or not depends greatly on the moment. “Songs can start from a very loose idea,” says Canning.

Feels Good Lost, the band’s first album, was the first major step to where the band finds itself today, free of boundaries. “Feel Good Lost was sort of a test pattern. There was a couple records prior to that under the name K.C. Accidental that Kevin (Drew) and Charles (Spearin) had done which is what led me to want to work with Kevin, and I didn’t even know Charles at the time. So, I guess I ultimately wanted to work with Kevin and Charles, and everyone in there; like a family. I liked what they were doing,” says Canning.

Feel Good Lost was here’s some ideas, we’re not writing these to play live or anything, we’re just putting down some ideas and approaches to how we want to make music. So, I just think, when we took it to a live forum, we weren’t doing songs from that recording, we were just making up new songs.”

Suddenly, the chat takes a slight detour as Canning says, “Why is there a cop car in front of my house? I don’t think it’s for me. I hope not.” He pauses for a moment. “No, I don’t think he’s coming over here. I wonder what he’s doing.” He then steps away from the phone to investigate outside his window. The interview had been rescheduled once before. Would it have to be rescheduled again? Canning returns to the phone with a report. “There’s two cruisers, and one’s parked in front of my house. All of a sudden I'm feeling guilty for taking my neighbors’ plants from next door,” he says breaking out in laughter. “They moved out! It’s ok! I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong.”

“I’ll testify on your behalf,” I say. Now back to the music.

Canning is anxious to get back into the studio with the band. The current state of limbo has him a bit antsy. I ask him where the band is at with material for the next album. “We did a bunch of stuff at the beginning of the year. We need to do a whole bunch more stuff, but there’s at least half a dozen songs that, right now, looks like, would make the record,” he says. “We’ll see in the fall. That’s a question that would be easily answered at the end of October, but we’re all assuming that we can finish up this record before we have to start shopping for Christmas presents, hopefully.”

And what about participating in this year’s unique Lollapalooza lineup consisting of acts like Morrissey, the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, and Wilco?

“We were sort of curious if it would draw the numbers it needed to draw to play the big venues because there’s not any million selling artist on it. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of numbers it draws and what kind of people—to see how strong the indie community is, as it were, as opposed to the big rock bands.” But for Canning, he couldn’t be prouder to be sharing the bill with bands he respects and looks forward to an exciting summer.

After a relaxing conversation, I politely thank Canning for his time, and vice versa, but not before he cheers into the phone, “Oh, and Greece just scored! Now we got a game.”

But, alas, the game would end in a tie.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

On Track

Weezer - "Beverly Hills" Make Believe (Geffen)

Rivers Cuomo has turned being ironic in three minutes or under into an art form, and it's brought Cuomo and Weezer success. In the post-Nirvana 90's, Weezer was labeled the voice of the geek, the outsider, and no one could have expected in ten years this band sitting at the cool kids table.

So, what happens when the geeks try to be somebody they are not? Well, "Beverly Hills" is the result. The theme of insecurity runs through many of Cuomo's songs. Never good enough. Never part of the crowd. But in the course of ten years and five albums you'd think people would have gotten the point by now. Rivers, you had me at "Tired Of Sex." On the band's self-titled album (the Blue album), producer Ric Ocasek (The Cars) helped give Weezer the polished pop sound with a harder edge that The Cars slipped away from during their career. That sound hasn't changed much. If anything, Weezer has adopted the trappings of arena "rawk" with big drums, big guitars, and big, anthemic choruses.

"Beverly Hills" could have been written while Cuomo slept in-between classes at Harvard. The delivery is straight-forward and simplistic, a formula Weezer has perfected. The difference this time is that the band isn't doing anything extremely interesting. "Beverly Hills" is an edible song that doesn't leave much of a taste in your mouth afterwards. Maybe that's how you get radio to play your songs.

Does "Beverly Hills" pull Weezer's fifth album Make Believe into the trash with the scraps? No. But when Weezer films a music video at the Playboy mansion and sings about being a "no-class, beat down fool" the irony gets old. Scott Lucas of Local H expressed a sentiment that possibly many non-West Coast folk hold deep down, "We know you love L.A./There's nothing more to say/Please no more California songs."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Side Tracks

Which British Band Are You?
I was born into a Beatle family and ended up to be a proper fookin' madferit Mancurian. Cheers!

Friday, April 08, 2005

On Track

Oasis - "Lyla" Don't Believe The Truth (Epic)

"Calling all the stars to fall," declares Liam Gallagher in his sneering voice at the start of the new Oasis single "Lyla." The band's first single in three years isn't anything Oasis fans haven't heard before but just the fact Oasis are gearing up in 2005 is enough for them.

Don't Believe The Truth is set for release on May 30 and marks their sixth release, not counting 1998's The Masterplan, a collection of B-Sides, or Familiar To Millions, the band's live document of their July 21, 2000 performance at Wembley Stadium.

"It's The Soundtrack of Our Lives doing The Who on Skol in a psychedelic city in the sky," said the always straightfoward Noel Gallagher about the inspiration for "Lyla." He's not lying. The Soundtrack of Our Lives were tour support for much of the 2002 Oasis campaign, while The Who invited Oasis to share the bill for the 2002 Teenage Cancer Trust charity shows at the Royal Albert Hall. So, needless to say, Noel had time to do his homework.

"Lyla" has an uncanny sound that leans more towards The Soundtrack of Our Lives, specifically "Confrontation Camp" from the Swedish group's first album Welcome To The Infant Freebase. Perhaps it's also a knod to The Kinks' "Lola" as well? Maybe "Layla"? But through Liam Gallagher's voice anyone else's song becomes an Oasis song. For good measure, Noel even resurrects his past lyrical work. The line "Catch me if I fall" also appears in "I Hope, I Think, I Know," from the band's third album, the only album Noel might put an asterisk next to in the Oasis catalog, Be Here Now. And let's not forget the Beatles association. The timeless arguments that Oasis have made a career off the mopped-topped Liverpoolians can now be laid to rest with the addition of Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey as their new drummer, replacing longtime member Alan White.

Everything that makes an Oasis song are at work in "Lyla" but with little variation. Attitude has always been the key component to their songs regardless of the narrow subject matter Noel Gallagher is writing about. "Lyla" is a good rock and roll song--no more, no less. Noel Gallagher is a mirror to the past. His songs will always breathe with a flash of The Beatles, The Who, T-Rex, and The Rolling Stones. What the hell does "Yellow Submarine" mean today? He's a hit or miss songwriter, and he'll be the first to admit he's not an English scholar. But have polished skills in poetry ever been a requirement to write a rock and roll song?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Queens of the Stone Age @ Vic Theatre (4/5/2005)

Screaming Lullabies: Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

There are those who pose, and there are those who are the real deal. Queens of the Stone Age are by far not a group of fakes. A sold-out crowd at the Vic Theatre looked past the fact that long time bassist Nick Oliveri was no longer a member of the band and gathered for what they've come to expect of the band--a mucky cesspool of blistering metal and hard rock.

The ousting of Nick Oliveri created a stir among fans. Although Queens of the Stone Age is unmistakably Josh Homme's band, Oliveri--Homme's partner since Kyuss--was a collaborator that provided a stable face amidst a cast of changing characters. When Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters lent their services to the Queens the band's profile entered the super-group stratosphere with 2002's Songs for the Deaf. On stage, the band have proven worthy of the hype as torchbearers of the brand of rock paved by the likes of Black Sabbath and AC/DC. On Lullabies to Paralyze, Queens of the Stone Age head forward to a familiar grueling beat.

It would be unfair to judge the group's performance having never seen Oliveri with the group, or for that matter Grohl or Lanegan. The theatrics on stage were minimal aside from a white curtain that dropped from their ceiling as soon as "Someone's In The Wolf" ignited the show. Anyone on the dance floor that was able to keep their cup of beer from flying away deserved a medal. Pockets of moshing erupted but didn't stop the overall crowd from focusing on the stage. Well, there was a notable fan whose eagerness to have a good time became unbearable to the point that four fans grabbed him and led him to the awaiting security in the front. Sometimes being overly enthusiastic and inebriated don't sit well with others.

That lone incident aside the show never missed a step. With 50% of the set consisting of tracks off Lullabies to Paralyze, the band went to Rated R and their self-titled debut album to give the fans a mix of the past with the present. "Earlier today, I was supposed to take one teaspoon of this codeine cough syrup," said Homme regarding the noticeable vocal strains. "I drank almost the entire bottle. So, for every one of you, I see an extra four of you."

Although slightly hampered by a cough Homme did his usual howl and croon at the microphone. In between songs, Homme was loose with his chatter and joking with guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen. Homme took a moment to dedicate "Burn The Witch" to recently deceased comedian Mitch Hedberg. There was never a sense throughout the show that the band ever felt self-important but predictability surrounded their performance. In the world of Queens of the Stone Age there are two speeds: fast and faster. The transitions from the fanatically fast ("Medication") to the hypnotically fast ("Monsters In The Parasol") became almost mind numbing. It was like riding the crest of an ocean wave one second and then suddenly falling to its very bottom the next, only to be shot back to the top. Their flawless machine-like precision was explosive during "Song For The Dead," definitely a show highlight. Drummer Joey Castillo worked his drum kit like a team of oxen. If there had to be a song that epitomized the kind of flat out steady, weird smoothness Queens of the Stone Age are capable of, it was "Long Slow Goodbye." The show's closer "Regular John" could have ended the night on a high but instead saw Homme and Van Leeuwen trade off guitar solos; maybe one solo too many that didn't seem to go anywhere extraordinary.

Queens of the Stone Age may only have one trick up their sleeve but how they pull it off remains to be their strength. They are just a loud rock band, and to Homme and his bandmates, that's maybe all they want to be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pilgrimage Gains Momentum: R.E.M. Reaches 25 Years

R.E.M. Fresh Out Of The Kudzu: (l to r) Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Bill Berry, and Michael Stipe

There will never be a way to understand the mystery that is fate. Who would have known twenty-five years ago that the house band playing your friend's birthday party would go on and become one of the most important rock bands of the past thirty years? Certainly not the band.

On April 5, 1980, R.E.M. performed for the first time during a friend's birthday party in Athens, Georgia. Seven months and twenty-five days later that same year, during a blizzard in Chicago, I was born (nearly named after Ringo Starr, too). It's funny to think that the band that changed my life has existed as long as I've been breathing. I was 13-years-old when I felt the impact of R.E.M.'s music. My aunt randomly selected Lifes Rich Pageant as her gift to me for my 13th birthday. It was the first CD I ever owned. Everything just changed after that.

All things Seattle were dominating music at that time. I liked Pearl Jam. I liked Nirvana. But neither of them hit me over the head the way R.E.M. did with just that sole album. My mornings before school began with "Begin The Begin." All I talked about in 7th Grade was this band called R.E.M. I read every article I could about them, learned about their beginnings, soaked in their words, and soon was caught up with the stories. I listened to Lifes Rich Pageant so much that I knew Peter Buck's guitar changes by heart, and I didn't even play guitar...yet.

By the time I turned 14, I owned all of their pre-Warners Bros. albums. I even wrote a letter to R.E.M.'s home office in Athens, GA asking if they could visit my grammar school for Career Day. I wish I knew where I put the letter they sent back, politely declining because they were busy making what became Monster. Yes, I was a geek, and still am.

The very same aunt responsible for my teenage awakening also provided my first guitar--a classical guitar from Mexico. It may not have been the 12-string Rickenbacker guitar Peter Buck played, but it was the first step in the right direction. I felt free. Once I understood chord shapes I would hunt down the guitar chords and learn practically each album. Upon discovering how to play the songs I would say things like, "All he's playing is a D chord!" and "They wrote a song with three chords?" It was probably the closest to the punk mentality I had ever gotten to by that point. It was that idea that anyone can do it.

Let's not forget the 8th Grade school play. And pray tell what was my audition song? "Fall On Me" from Lifes Rich Pageant. My voice, already plagued by puberty, allowed me to cover Michael Stipe's lead vocals and the bridge sung by Mike Mills. To my shock, I was given one of the lead roles. When it came time to work on dance steps for my part I borrowed from Stipe's moves in the video for "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" Enough said.

Then that crucial musical moment finally happened--the first rock concert. The night before my 8th Grade graduation I stood with a sold-out crowd on the first of what was a three night stand at the Rosemont Horizon, June 2, 1995. That night still makes me smile.

This was the band that mattered the most to me, and they still do. I still remember hearing the announcement on WXRT in my dad's car that Bill Berry was leaving R.E.M. You always hear about the other bands that breakup or lose a member but don't ever think your band will turn into those other bands, other people's favorite bands. It was a reality check. All I could do was wait and see what happened next with R.E.M. When the decision was made to continue without Bill in the band it was tough to accept. Like a fan, I think I was more concerned about the band's legacy than the band. But was it better to not have R.E.M. anymore?

Just as I--and I'm sure many others--never imagined the band losing a member, I never imagined actually meeting one of them, let alone two of them. It was July 2002 at Metro. The Minus 5, Tuatara, and Cedell Davis were touring together that summer. I brought my copy of Lifes Rich Pageant to the show with the hopes that Peter Buck would autograph it. I had met Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5/The Young Fresh Fellows two months earlier at Schubas for a show he performed with his wife, Christy McWilson. Somehow he remembered me when I approached him after the show, and he helped me get my CD signed by Peter. Away I watched Scott leave to the dressing room with my CD. Just as he disappeared, Peter appeared from outside the club asking where Scott was to which I told him where Scott had gone. My first reaction to that quick meeting was, "I just gave Peter directions." I couldn't hold back the geek in me.

Peter entered the very same room Scott had, and, soon, Scott reemerged with my autographed CD. I humored him with the significance of the CD. Scott had joined up with R.E.M. for their '95 tour. At that moment, we were just two guys talking about a band we both loved a lot. With Scott's assurances I stuck around the lobby of Metro for Peter to come back out so I could personally thank him for the autograph. Meeting your musical hero is a scenario where you ALWAYS play it cool in your head. Your words don't stumble over each other, and you keep your geek-hood in check. Telling Peter that R.E.M. was my first concert, the night before my 8th Grade graduation, with my entire family didn't really fall into the latter category. At least for a brief moment I got to say my thanks to the one person who opened my eyes to so much I never knew was there inside me.

While I reserve the right as a fan to criticize and praise the work they have amassed since then I always hope for the best. I see a correlation with R.E.M.'s current commercial status with that of Queen's in the early 1980's. Like Queen, R.E.M. control an exceedingly vast level of success globally except in North America. It's frustrating to think that R.E.M. are not appreciated in the U.S. anymore as they were in 1995. I guess in some way the band saw it coming. They knew that perhaps they may never be in such a position again where their popularity would be so high. But they are in fact far more popular outside of the U.S. than they have ever been.

Winning the popularity contest was never R.E.M.'s game. There's a reason why they are celebrating a body of work that spans twenty-five years. R.E.M. has outlasted the bands that were supposed to be better than them. There remains an audience that wants to hear what they have to offer. That in itself matters more than record sales. If the work continues to make me believe that there's still plenty of music left in the tank, then I say go as far and as long as you guys want.