Monthly Archives: September 2015

TVD Live: The Landmark Music Festival, 9/26

Ex Hex performing at Landmark Festival 2015. 09/26/2015. Photo Credit: Clarissa Villondo

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS & CLARISSA VILLONDO | Since the days of Woodstock, the big destination rock festivals for years only occurred in England, Europe, and other exotic places. In the past decade or two, though, there has been a concentrated effort to create big annual music festivals tied to specific U.S. locales: Bonnaroo in Tennessee, Coachella in California, the Austin City Limits in Texas, the Lollapallooza setting shop in Chicago. New Orleans and Newport kept their distinction with their particular styles of music. Now every city seems to have its own fest, from Philly’s Made in America to Atlanta’s Shaky Knees and Dover’s Firefly.

And now so does D.C.

The first Landmark Music Festival occurred the last weekend in September while another music festival was going on in New York, the Global Citizen thing with Beyonce and Pearl Jam. Compared to that, the Landmark wasn’t a landmark at all; it was scarcely a blip. Its headliners were Drake and The Strokes and having spent most of their money on those, they apparently didn’t have a big pile of money left for the rest of the dozens of acts.

Either that, or I have much less tolerance for mediocrity than I once had, especially when you have to walk a quarter-mile back and forth between stages desperate to see something, anything good to hear (it’s not like turning the channel, believe me). Landmark, brought to you by the people who brought you Lollapallooza and other big annual fests, did seem to be very well-organized from past experiences elsewhere. So in addition to recordings repeating what to do and where to go at the gate, there were people with loudspeakers greeting you before they repeated where to go at what to do at the gate.

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Graded on a Curve: Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions of the Emerald Beyond

I don’t know what you do when you want to set your ears free to grokk nakedly in the Universal Aether, but I know what I do–turn on the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s like Miles Davis, circa Bitches Brew, minus all the annoying edge. Yes, the MO has filtered out all that nasty street that Miles insisted upon blurting all over his newfangled fusion, and left us with nothing but pure unsexed cosmos to explore.

Theirs was a carefully controlled experiment in defunkification, and it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest (er, make that tamest) expectations. While John McLaughlin’s guitar occasionally wanders into pure freakout territory, it’s always a freakout of the mind, rather than the balls. The Mahavishnu Orchestra threw the balls in the trash, then took up yoga. And hired a Frenchman to play violin. And an opera singer. It’s a wonder, really, that more people didn’t get hurt.

Of course, plenty of people like the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s interstellar hoo-hah, because the truth is, you never know what anybody’s going to like. Where some people hear pleasing chakra-massaging neo-jazz with an edge, I hear too little rock and too much spacy New Age hoodoo. The guy can play guitar like a God, as he proved on Miles Davis’ landmarks Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, just as Jan Luc Ponty, the French violinist I mentioned above, can play like blazes, as he demonstrated on Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats. But on Visions of the Emerald Beyond, whose title speaks volumes, they don’t want to rock your balls off—they want to transport you to a higher spiritual plane, or Indra’s Net, or wherever it is Gary Wright and the Buddha hang out, playing dueling keytars.

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TVD Video Premiere: Kate Copeland, “Far Away Place”

“I grew up listening to my parents’ record collections—we had a finicky old record player that would make all sorts of terrible scratchy noises unless you placed the needle on the record at just exactly the right time.”

“I was fortunate to have parents whose musical tastes spanned everything from Stravinsky to the Beatles to Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead. I remember the first time I heard “Cinnamon Girl” on my mom’s copy of the Neil Young & Crazy Horse album.

My seven-year-old mind was blown open and I couldn’t help but dance with wild abandon all around the living room. I will always smile at the familiar crackle of a needle making its first contact with vinyl.”
Kate Copeland

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The Best of Shell Zenner Presents

Greater Manchester’s most in the know radio host Shell Zenner broadcasts the best new music every week on the UK’s Amazing Radio. You can also catch Shell’s broadcast here every Wednesday at TVD.

“I’ll be investing some time and chatter in this week’s show catching up with the awesome TOPS who were over from Canada recently.

New Manchester music in the show today from Spring King, The Foetals, Brocken Spectre, Factory Acts, and Man Made! The Parrots on the bandstand and Chris Bye tips for us!” —SZ

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Graded on a Curve: Suburban Lawns, S/T

To gather a full understanding of the new wave era requires cognizance of Suburban Lawns. A Long Beach, CA outfit wedding spastic energy to an art-school approach, they scored modest success in the upside-down musical environment of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. The group’s fortunes were momentary however, and they’ve subsequently lingered on the edge of obscurity in part due to a lack of exposure. In a positive turn, Futurismo’s remodeled expansion of their eponymous 1981 full-length returns the vast majority of Suburban Lawns’ discography to print; it’s available now on LP/CD.

Suburban Lawns were formed in 1978 by bassist William Ranson and vocalist-keyboardist Sue McLane. Students at the California Institute of the Arts, they adopted the monikers Vex Billingsgate and Su Tissue and promptly hooked up with drummer Charles Rodriguez aka Chuck Roast and guitarists Richard Whitney and John McBurney, the pair adopting the handles Frankie Ennui and John Gleur.

That Suburban Lawns partially sprang from the fertile creative environs of CalArts is quickly apparent; unabashedly smart in a field often valuing submerged intellect, their focus was as much on ideas as musicality. It’s frankly an unsurprising scenario for an act riding the new wave, though the Lawns’ instrumental adeptness was quite clear and over the years has sporadically been assessed by some harsh sticklers as a fault.

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In rotation: 9/30/15

Manic Street Preacher donates rare vinyl to cancer charity: “Manic Street Preacher James Dean Bradfield has donated a rare vinyl record to raise funds for a charity which cared for his mother in her last days. He has donated an original 7-inch of Suicide Alley to Velindre. Only 300 copies of the band’s debut single were pressed and financed by the then unsigned band and relatives in 1988.”

Ten Bands One Cause: “Ten Bands re-issue their albums on limited edition pink vinyl, all for once cause…This year’s limited pink vinyl are from Run The Jewels, Sturgill Simpson, Ingrid Michaelson, Joey Bada$$, Between The Burried and Me, Chet Faker, Clutch, Al Green, Pierce The Veil, and Primus.”

Vinyl Lives: Streetlight Records – San Jose/Santa Cruz, CA: “The first Streetlight Records was opened in Noe Valley, San Francisco in 1975 by Robert Fallon. Originally a stereo components store, the store morphed into a record store as customers made it clear that they wanted to buy music. In 1979, Fallon opened a second store on Market Street in San Francisco. In 1981 he expanded to San Jose, and in 1997, a store was opened in Santa Cruz.”

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TVD Live: Yo La Tengo at the Lincoln Theatre, 9/25

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | I like to think it’s because of Ira Kaplan’s origins as a rock writer for the Village Voice and the old New York Rocker, that he and his wife Georgia Hubley have a vast record collection they constantly return to, examining old 45s and listening to B sides. Undoubtedly they also have good taste.

So every decade and a half in their band Yo La Tengo, they’ve come up with an album of mostly covers of obscurities and more widely known songs rendered in a generally loving, folkie style that makes them also re-approach some of their own material accordingly. What happened on 1990’s Fakebook is happening again on their recent Stuff Like That There, the tour of which landed at D.C.’s Lincoln Theatre Friday.

Less than 10 months since their last visit to town, with a 30th anniversary show at the 9:30 that blended their louder and more experimental forays with their quieter stuff, the theater show was a hushed, practically chamber rock affair.

The audience sat in their theater rows, rapt; the band stood, including Hubley, before her sparse standup drum set of snare, tom, cymbal, and barely heard kick-bass. This put her on equal line with her bandmates, and rightly so, since her ethereal singing has always been an appeal when she wasn’t tastefully harmonizing with Kaplan. Kaplan seemed to be experimenting with his own vocals too, singing as softly as the audience would allow. And the absolutely still audience let him go to whispers at times.

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The TVD First Date

“I grew up the youngest of 7 kids. The musical and stylistic influences were inescapable and I was driven at a young age to be taken seriously as a peer to my older siblings and their friends. With this came the need to do my homework on the movies, lingo, and music that they were into.”

“I spent a lot of time learning how to cue up vinyl copies of St. Pepper, Ghostbusters soundtrack, Billy Joel’s Piano Man, and my dad’s Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream (when I was curious).

These experiences dimmed as CDs quickly became the standard for musical intake and cassettes being reserved for shared mix tapes. The boxes of records in the basement were quickly upgraded to shiny compact discs and were long forgotten and discarded.

It fell silent for some years and it wasn’t until the emergence of iTunes that I got my own record player. It was the year that everyone got iPods for Christmas, but I received a Sony turntable. I ended up finding an old Akai amplifier and no name speakers that a neighbor friend was giving away. I was set up.

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TVD Premiere: Jodi Valentin, “The Radio”

“Vinyl is a romantic thought. It’s funny because my Mom has her record player from who knows how long ago… but she’s kept all her records in pristine condition. I love the crackle of a record player, and I do truly feel vinyl is a warmer sound.”

“I live in NYC and all of my favorite record stores as a child are now closed. It’s pretty sad. My Dad and I would make complete nights out of Bleecker Bob’s Records or Virgin Records. Even though Virgin was a megastore, it was quite possibly the coolest store I’ve ever experienced and had such an inspiring culture with the people it attracted.

When I wrote [“The Radio”] I had been dating an NYPD officer and the relationship was fire. There was always tension when we were around each other—some nights it would take hours before he’d really acknowledge I was there with him, but when he did it was incredibly focused, romantic energy. The song is about my frustration and confusion about loving him.

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UK Artist of the Week: Freja

Young singer-songriter Freja may only just be breaking into the music industry but she already seems to be finding her feet quite nicely. Her debut EP “Ghosts” celebrates Freja’s youth whilst also covering wiser elements of love, loss, and life.

Freja’s most recent release “Ghosts In The Snow” is a minimalist track, using only vocals and keys throughout. This simplistic approach allows us to really get a taste of Freja’s effortlessly authentic vocal, similar to Lauren Aquilina and Birdy. At just 20 years young, Freja has still got plenty of time to mould and hone her sound but “Ghosts In The Snow” feels like an extremely promising start for the budding songwriter.

Freja started writing songs at the age of nine and, as a result, has ended up with quite the catalogue of songs to choose from for her debut EP. “Ghosts” represents Freja’s coming of age with each song reflecting a particular memory that she’s ready to share with the world.

“Ghosts” is out on November 27th 2015 via ShimmerSun Music.

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Graded on a Curve: Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators, Happiness in Every Style

Aficionados of contempo soul in the classique mode may already know of Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators. The Brooklyn-born vocalist has resided in Helsinki for roughly a decade, and her association with the Finnish instrumental unit commenced in the early 2000s. Some may persist in making quick-trigger comparisons to Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, but within the parameters of neo-soul Willis’ blend of the sophisto and the funky persists in bearing a distinctive stamp. Happiness in Every Style is the third album from this union, and it’s out October 2nd on LP and CD via Timmion Records.

Nicole Willis’ status as a veteran spans back to the 1980s. Beginning her career in the New York groups Blue Period and Hello Strangers, in mid-decade London she took part in Washington Week in Review (alongside future members of Brand New Heavies). Back in NYC Willis was in an early lineup of fleeting dance-pop titans Deee-Lite and in ’89 was a vocalist on The The’s Mind Bomb tour.

Heading into the ‘90s she helped comprise the acid jazz/soul outfit Repercussions. Amongst their recordings: the ’92 club hit “Passion,” ‘94’s collaboration with Curtis Mayfield “Let’s Do it Again,” and a pair of full-lengths, ‘95’s Earth and Heaven and ‘97’s Charmed Life. In ’98 Willis contributed to UK electronic act Leftfield’s track “Swords” and entered the new millennium with a solo album.

2000’s Soul Makeover and its ‘04 follow-up Be It explore electronic funk-R&B with assistance from her musician-producer-arranger husband Jimi Tenor. A musically prolific couple, they’ve recently completed two records of house music as Cola & Jimmu. All this background contrasts somewhat with her work with the Soul Investigators, a team-up that announced its presence on the ‘03 single “You Better Change” b/w “Raw Steaks,” the a-side also appearing on Be It.

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In rotation: 9/29/15

Tom Ravenscroft’s Campervan of Vinyl Dreams: “In this charming one-off, Tom Ravenscroft explores the obscure reaches of the music industry as he talks to those who scraped together enough cash to record and release vinyl. Talking to Jan Newton of 70s prog rockers Grannie and Andrew McGibbon…”

Record-breaking: Vinyl sales on the rise, “People download their music, but that leaves them empty with nothing tangible,” said Jeremy Swisher, owner of Ojata Records, a record store in Grand Forks. “You see nice artwork and a cover, and that’s more appealing than nothing at all.”

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Music lovers gather at the Roanoke Music Collector’s show: “‘People want records. Records are cool now. People aren’t buying CDs anymore. A record’s fun to hold in your hand the way an MP3 or download is not,’ says Ian Little.”

Good numbers for Palmerston North record sale: “Sifting through piles of old records might feel like work to some, but for vinyl enthusiasts, it feels just like home. Record fans had the chance to do just that on Sunday at The Stomach’s record fair in Palmerston North , the first the city has seen for four years.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Robert Plant and
the Sensational Space Shifters, FirstMerit
Bank Pavilion, 9/23

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters ended their three-year tour in Chicago this past week. It was also FirstMerit Bank Pavilion’s final show of the summer season at Northerly Island, and it proved to be a memorable one.

At 67, Robert Plant still possesses a powerful and commanding presence. His voice has lasted through the years and he’s hitting notes with ease and regularity—notes that have made Robert Plant, well, Robert Plant. The Space Shifters are accurately named, effortlessly shifting from one sound to the next.

Plant has never been afraid to incorporate world music into his solo work, so it was interesting to see those influences appear in the Space Shifter’s reworkings of Led Zeppelin classics. The reinterpretations were, on a whole, skillful and savvy. The arrangements sounded more intricate, more eastern, and less straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, the results being Zeppelin Lite. Or maybe World Zeppelin. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s not.

With the Space Shifters, Plant has once again morphed his sound while still playing reverence to his roots.

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Garden State Sound
with Evan Toth

All jokes aside, New Jersey is a pretty great place. While it has a lot to offer as a state, it also has a rich musical history of which many people remain unaware. Everyone knows Sinatra and The Boss, but there’s much more.

Tune in to Garden State Sound with Evan Toth to explore the diverse music with connections to New Jersey. You’ll hear in-depth interviews with some of Jersey’s best music makers and have the opportunity win tickets to some of the best concerts in the state.

“Who wouldn’t like to return to their high school, with professional sound reinforcement in tow, and rock the house as a celebrity rockstar? Well, Joe Walsh gets to do just that this week (October 3) when he returns to his alma mater, Montclair High School to do a benefit for the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence. After graduating 50 years ago, Joe felt it was the right time to come back and do something good with his immeasurable talents and skills.

Joe Walsh isn’t your typical musician—he’s had a successful solo career, but has also been involved in some of the most amazing musical acts of the 20th century along the way. His solo sound is unique, aggressive, and full of excellent Beatle flavor and riffy psychedelic references. He’s another excellent musician with deep New Jersey roots.

When is the last time you heard a solid block of Joe Walsh? What are you waiting for? Click play already!” —EZT

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Whitney Rose,
The TVD First Date

“I thought when I heard Roy Orbison sing for the first time (on a recording, of course) that he couldn’t possibly sound better. Then I heard him on vinyl.”

“I move around a lot, and one of the only things that I take with me every time is my record collection. I’m not sure what it is about them that has such a hold on me, but my records are one of the few things that I’ve refused to let go of. I’m a dress lover but I somehow manage to shed a dozen or so of those every time I move.

And it’s funny because I don’t listen to them daily but when I want to listen to a record, I NEED to listen to a record. There’s nothing else that can take the place of the vinyl listening experience. It’s imperfect, and it’s real. And those are two things that I appreciate very much in life.

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