Occasional contributor and former Boho intern Lindsay Pyle sent this to us two weeks ago! We've finally had the time to put it up. One woman's impressions of the fest.By Lindsay Pyle
I’m not sure I am going to do the last 72 hours of my life justice. I sit here on Monday evening in the San Diego airport, covered in Indio desert dust, and still smelling like Friday’s sweat, waiting to amble onto my flight back home to San Francisco, so that I may fall into a cathartic sleep. I just read an article that described the Coachella Valley Music Festival, held every year just outside of Palm Springs, as something like falling into a rabbit hole… and obviously, still stunned I am, wide brimmed hat in hand, unable to read a book or even listen to my ipod, I agree.
This is my fourth year in a row braving the sometimes treacherous, occasionally aggravating, and always stimulating experience known as Coachella. Every year is good. For those that go, the weight of the desert heat, the constantly evasive meet-up spots, the running around from stage to stage, all hold a special place in the forever changed heart of the Coachella go-er.
Since this year was the first year that the event only sold three-day passes, rather than single day passes like previous years, it is not a shock that the festival sold out. Unfortunately, on account of this, it was seriously overcrowded… For acts like La Roux and Miike Snow, both of whom performed in the smaller tents… I could only peak a view and hear the sound from the outside. For those of us that have been to Coachella in years passed, and cherished the often intimate performances from some lesser known bands in those little tents off to the side, this was probably Coachella 2010’s greatest disappointment.
However, I would argue, that you don’t really experience Coachella until you go all three days. By day three, the desert has broken you. You know better than to fight with her at this point, because she is an awful bitch, and she will always win. While on the first day, it may feel worth it to complain about the heat, or the lines, or the wait, or the walk from the car, by day three, you may realize that all the complaining is in vain, and furthermore, no one is listening. So rather than fight with mother Indio and her Coachella festival… you just comply.
By day three, the walk from the car to the festival is mapped, measured, well-traversed. Traveler beers, drank from the car to the venue gates, are courteously finished as glass is not allowed on the grounds. The bag-check is systematic as we remove all large items from bags to show the volunteers in yellow shirts all the way to the bottom. Water is drank before dizziness ensues. And we simply do not mess with the sun: we find shade, we wear hats, we carry sunscreen.
But being broken by this vast and unforgiving desert, is a right of passage. By day three, shoes come off freely, so does clothing, and the hips and joints are well greased and the muscles are broken in so that dancing feels more natural than sitting still. Joints are passed freely, so are water bottles, and your ears ring in the anticipation of music when it all stops. Plus, by day three, there are certain things you wait for… the hunger that only comes when the sun goes down, the desert winds that blow after dark, the twinkling lights that decorate the palms surrounding the field that glisten and dance beneath a smoke and rose sky.
Going any less than three days would never allow you to experience all of this. Without time to wander, without time to lose yourself, and everyone that you came with, you might never really get into the rabbit hole. Without the full three days, I would have never found the Lucent Dossier experience in the dolab— a show that I would describe as cirque du soleil meets DJ Shadow in a Nickelodeon act of fire and water. I would never have found the best slice of hot pizza pie— cilantro, onions, jalepenos, cheese and chili flakes. I would never have danced with a man in a head to toe light suit, or played the 100 foot organ, or watched the tube of fire, or put on that woman’s large bear hat. But once the desert has broken you, you learn to survive, and life in the absence of a dire need for survival suddenly feels very carefree.
Even the hippest of the hipsters, who deck themselves out in this season’s “most blogged” cut loose. They realize that by day three, nothing that they’re wearing feels as cool as a smile and a good dance break, and all of their urban outfitters uber-retro clothing is as useless as one of those beer bottles we tried to sneak in on day one.
As usual, the talent was up to par. Out of about 90 bands, I got to see around 40… and this was with some considerable running around. Thom Yorke playing with Flea would be a definite highlight, along with Fever Ray, Phoenix, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Jay Z’s Friday night performance will live in infamy, as he began his set with a remix of “Wonderwall” which had every face in the crowd beaming and singing along. Probably more noteworthy, though, than Jay Z’s performance onstage, was his presence offstage. It became a game to find Jay and his wife, Beyonce, in the crowds of the indie rock acts in the smaller tents over the next two days. I saw him bobbing his head to the British duo “The XX” on Saturday, and I caught wind that he was also at Yeasayer on Friday.
There is something very refreshing about that. Where the newest, hippest, smallest, most obscure Indie rock bands are bookended between some of hip-hop's most revered talent (like De La Soul) and contemporary bluegrass (like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) right behind a long list of djs (like Dangermau5 and Tiesto). The list is so diverse, I ended up seeing an mind-blowing performance by Les Claypool that I actually thought was going to be a DJ set by some people called “Flying Lotus”. When I realized that I was in the wrong place, I didn’t care because he was actually slapping a stand-up bass in a top hat and sunglasses in the dark of the night behind a cool, blue light. I heard “Flying Lotus” was good, but they’d be hard-pressed to top that.
But this happens from day one all the way until the end. You hear of groups by word of mouth, or you end up in the wrong place, or you forget which stage you’re supposed to be going to, or you just get too tired and give up on getting there and stop where you are to catch an ear of something new. Often, I use Coachella as a jumping off point for finding new music. The reality is that the sets are too short to really enjoy bands you love, besides the headliners, and even still, I always leave feeling like I could have taken just a hit or two more. But with that comes the promise of new music and new life that has been once again breathed into my lungs like a hot shot of smoke, and I am ready to begin the summer festival season with fresh outlook… ready to tackle the rosters and see every one I missed last time around.
Anyone feeling like getting Coachella’d??
Saturday marked the third annual Record Store Day, the international holiday to preserve, promote and honor independent record stores (and physical music products in general). This year's exclusive release list was the biggest yet, with over 100 limited run singles and LPs from everyone from Elvis Presley to TV on the Radio. Big sellers locally were rare offerings from Dave Matthews, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Strummer, John Lennon, and the Rolling Stones. Among the elusive were the Joy Division box set and the reissue of Soundgarden's first single on SubPop. Judging from the smiling vinyl-heads and steady traffic throughout the day, this year seemed a definite success.
New acquisitions: Bruce Springsteen 10" single, Boz Scaggs"I think [Record Store Day] is a good thing. It's a way to get the albums back out there. Too many young people are buying it online. They don't get the physical property anymore, and I think that's kind of sad. I just enjoy collecting vinyl and playing it; it's just a nicer sound."
New acquisitions: Gorillaz and Them Crooked Vultures 10" singles"Probably 10 years ago I just started buying [vinyl]. The sound's warm. It's just a much fuller sound than the CD. I love Record Store Day. It brings a lot of much needed attention to the local record stores."
Employee of Watts Music
Recent acquisition: Man is the Bastard / Capitalist Casualties split single
Posing with: Ratt, Out of the Cellar"I came here in middle school and was addicted. Then I came in every day. I bugged [manager] Darin so much that he was like 'sweep or something!'"
Playing in store: Iggy Pop, Lust for Life (on vinyl, of course)"Record Store Day last year was huge, and this year looks like it's going to match it. They're our busiest day of the year now. Last year I got a ton of new customers. I get a lot of people from outside the area. My best customer today came from San Mateo."
Drabek: "We opened at 11, and there were tons of people here, just excited. It felt like that scene in Clerks. I just wanted to walk up and be like 'hey, is this guy not open yet?' Business has been great today."
Stephen Morris is so affable and naturally gleeful that it's hard to believe he was in Joy Division, the mythic Manchester band with distinctively bleak post-punk songs like "Dead Souls"&"Atrocity Exhibition". While Joy Division became New Order by way of singer Ian Curtis' suicide in 1980, the latter group's demise was awkward, with bassist Peter Hook's very public unilateral insistence that his departure was the definitive deathblow.
Thankfully, Morris (above, right) has returned as part of Bad Lieutenant, along with New Order brethren Bernard Sumner (left) and Phil Cunningham, Jake Evans (center), and Alex James of Blur fame. On the eve of their first U.S. tour, the drummer/keyboardist chats about revisiting his youth, putting a new spin on classics, and how being in a band really is like marriage.
DS: I definitely want to talk about Never Cry Another Tear, which is a tremendous album. But the last few years, you guys have been everywhere revisiting your past through two excellent films about Joy Division [2007's dramatization Control and rockumentary Joy Division]. Are you surprised that there's still so much interest?
SM: (laughing) It's a bit weird, really. There's been three films made about Joy Division. The first one was the Michael Winterbottom, 24 Hour Party People, which was a bit of a romp, really, because it was a comedy thing. It was quite funny.
DS: With Steve Coogan.
SM: Yeah, it was a bit of a laugh. And then Anton [Corbijn] made Control, which is really a story about Ian, and it's a completely different film. It's not funny really (laughing).
DS: Yeah, that's one of its strengths, I think. I remember when I saw it I was astounded by the one near-laugh being the line "I don't like hot dogs" -
SM: Oh, that's right! (laughing)
DS: - And I was like, "what a brilliantly dark film", because even with the one near-laugh, you feel guilty if you laugh about it, because it was a mentally challenged guy who said it.
SM: Yeah (laughing). No, Anton did a great job. The trouble with doing a film that's based on someone's life is that it's a film, it's entertainment, it's not...Okay, it's fact, but it's not the whole thing, it's not the whole truth. You know, if we put the whole truth in the film, it would be incredibly long and very boring. But it's still very weird seeing your life portrayed, well Ian's life portrayed, but the events you took part in, being made into a film. Very weird indeed.
And I never thought 30 years ago that that'd happen. I never thought 30 years ago that Joy Division would be as well-respected and as popular and influential, really, as they are today. I mean, I think it's fantastic. My own theory is it's because there hasn't really been...there isn't that much of Joy Division. There's three albums, well two albums and Still. There isn't that much, and I think we're kind of one of these bands...when I first got into music, it was like The Velvet Underground. You went around to someone's house and they said, "here's a record." You'd get turned on to a band, and then you'd have to find out about them for yourselves, because it's not all over the show, not widely known. It's great that Joy Division has still been kind of "cool", which is fantastic. And it's just kind of carried on without us doing anything.
DS: Was the documentary Joy Division a cathartic experience for you?
SM: Um...a little bit, a little bit, because it was all going on at the same time. They were making Control. And it was really odd to sit down and having to relive your life again for the benefit of the viewing public. I like the documentary. I think it works really well as a sort of sidepiece to Control. It's more about the band, and it fills in a few gaps that got left out of the film Control. Anyway.
DS: I think your Velvet Underground comparison is great, because both groups were subterranean, and through word of mouth it's a great discovery for the people. Did Ian Curtis have any idea about Joy Division's appeal before he died?
SM: Well, the thing was we all kind of knew it was going somewhere. Everything that we did, it was going somewhere (laughing). That was really part of the problem with Ian. I think, as we said in the documentary, that it really couldn't have carried on. It really couldn't.
The best thing we could've done was to say "right, just let's stop it now" and not carry on. But you can't do that. You can't. I mean, you can say that with the benefit of hindsight. But when you're four lads embarking on a journey and it's all you've ever wanted to do in your life, not doing it is the last thing you want to think about. So, yeah, I guess Ian...we well knew we were going somewhere, but at the same time, it was never going to happen, really.
DS: This is kind of a broad question, but can you compare the transition from New Order to Bad Lieutenant to that from Joy Division to New Order?
SM: (laughing) It's completely different. For me, it's completely different because Bat Lieutenant is basically Bernard and Phil and Jake, and they kind of wanted to do the album. I wasn't that involved for one reason or another. It wasn't that I didn't want to be involved. There was just a lot of personal stuff going on, so I wasn't really around that much while they were writing stuff. We did a couple tracks here at my studio, but I've more or less been brought in the album's been written. In some cases, the parts have already been played and everything, and it's like learning somebody else's stuff and changing it a bit.
DS: Do you think you'll be more involved with the next Bad Lieutenant project?
SM: Oh yeah, yeah. I would've been more involved, but I just had personal stuff I had to do.
DS: Do you guys write songs on the road? I know you're about to embark on a short U.S. tour.
SM: I'm looking forward to it. Writing is a funny thing. You see, in the early days, the great thing about Joy Division is that we wrote as a group. Songwriting was a cooperative affair. It was a bit of jamming, but we kind of got away with writing songs that kind of worked for everybody. And that kind of had to stop when we became New Order, because it really wouldn't work anymore. We didn't want to be "Joy Division Mark Two" or "Joy Division Lite", so we had to find a new way of writing, which is a little bit contrived but we managed to hit on something that worked again.
But as time's gone on, it's not a group thing anymore. Someone will have an idea, like Phil will have a guitar riff, and we'll all get involved and craft it. It's kind of become a long, drawn-out process, whereas with Joy Division it was a bit like doing a photograph, a Polaroid photograph. It all happened very quickly. What we've ended up doing lately with New Order and Bad Lieutenant is like taking a photograph, taking it and getting it developed, then putting it in Photoshop (laughs)...you know, that sort of thing. It's a process.
DS: What has your wife Gillian [Gilbert, former member of New Order and The Other Two, a duo with Morris] been up to? I know a lot of the longtime fans miss her. How is she doing?
SM: Gillian's fine. The reason she left New Order [in 2001] was because our daughter was really ill [from Transverse myelitis], and she had to look after her. But she's fine, she's actually (laughing)...with The Other Two's back catalog, well it's not a back catalog, it's just two records made and are being re-released. And she says she's going to sing on somebody's record, but she's been saying that for years. So I have a stick to...not actually beat her with, but I try to lure her into the studio to do a bit of work. But yeah, she's been quite content.
DS: So the first time you embarked on a New Order tour and said "Okay, I'll see you later, honey", she wasn't envious at all?
SM: Oh no, she was very envious. It's the worst thing in the world when something that you've been part of for as long as Gillian was...as soon as she was out of school she was in the ban...then when you can't do it anymore, you want it to stop, you want everything to stop, but it doesn't, and that's really, really hard, like, I don't know, some awful type of divorce. (Laughing) It's not a divorce, because she'd come and see us and everything, but it was very, very difficult for her.
DS: I imagine. Are you guys going to do another The Other Two album?
SM: (laughing) I think we might, yeah. We've got a load of soundtracks and stuff we haven't used for anything. And with some of the other ideas, it sounds like an album, so we probably will do another one.
DS: Any timeframe on that?
SM: Well, Gillian's been getting drunk and telling people it'll be finished in October, even though she hasn't done a stitch of work. (Laughing) It's good to have a deadline.
DS: You guys have always been so honest in the press, which I think is part of the appeal of Joy Division and New Order. You guys present yourselves as you are, just regular folks.
DS: And the whole Peter Hook controversy was definitely weird, but also unique when compared to other bands' in-feuding. You personally, Stephen, do you still speak to Peter? Is he still in the circle socially?
SM: Well, we've never really been big social animals, except within the group. We don't really see each other outside of the group anyway. But I try not to fall out with people. There's no point in falling out with anybody.
DS: So you don't know if he's heard the new Bad Lieutenant album or anything like that?
SM: Well, I actually would that he would've heard it (laughs). Um, yeah, I don't know. I don't really know.
DS: That's got to be incredibly weird, something you've spent all these highs and lows with, and how that relationship evolves. Would you consider band mates of this tenure to be like a marriage, like you said earlier about Gillian? Would you say that's an apt analogy?
SM: It is really. It is. I was reading a book by Bill Bruford the drummer for Yes and King Crimson. He's done an autobiography [entitled Bill Bruford: The Autobiography] and it's great and very funny, if you have a chance to read it. His take on it is, it always hurts when bits fall off bands. He's got this great thing about when bands fall apart, it's always heartache and harder than any divorce. It's hard to explain, really, but you are really, really involved in it, and there's no way it can not be painful.
DS: I imagine. How would you compare this new record to the last New Order record, which was [2005's] Waiting for the Sirens' Call? I've heard it described as a true "Manchester Rock" album.
SM: I think with Jake on board singing, being a singer, has helped a lot. And it's a bit weird having three guitars (laughing). We've got more guitars than you could shake a stick at. But Jake is really good, and he's got a lot of his own ideas and he's not afraid to let you know. Some people would be a bit in awe, I think, of Bernard, but he doesn't seem to be.
DS: You guys are still thriving and trying new things and are really vital, which a lot of veteran musicians cannot say. Do you think you guys just adapt to tragedy or changing circumstances better? Many musicians would've been disheartened after Ian's suicide and the loss of that momentum, but you guys kept going and you keep going now. What do you attribute that to?
SM: I can only speak for myself, really. My take on it is there's always something to learn, always something you haven't done. As long as it's still enjoyable, then there's a reason to do it. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, then there's something wrong, you're doing the wrong thing. Thankfully, being in Bad Lieutenant is quite an enjoyable thing. I've certainly enjoyed it thus far. I get to play the drums in a band. It's a very familiar environment (laughing). I know the singer quite well! But it's fun. We really do genuinely enjoy it.
DS: One last question, Stephen, and I thank you again for taking the time. What can we expect at the San Francisco show setlist-wise? You guys have so much material.
SM: Well, Bernard's thing about Bad Lieutenant live was he wanted to do a cross section of songs from his past, which was fine but he wouldn't tell us what they were (laughs). So we had to learn a lot of songs, which was really interesting. We did some Electronic songs [Electronic is Bernard Sumner's group with Johnny Marr]. He likes "Tighten Up" best, off the first album. And then I said "well, why don't we do 'Out of Control', that thing you did with the Chemical Brothers."
DS: Oh, wow. That's a modern classic.
SM: So we'll be doing that one. Some Joy Division ones, some New Order ones. It's about 50/50. Half of it is Bad Lieutenant. But we kind of reworked them, when we've gone back to a Joy Division song or a New Order song. We sat down and were like, "we have been playing this a long time; can we find a way to make it a bit more interesting for us?" I think the latest one that we've done that's had that treatment is "Atmosphere", and it works out really well. You shouldn't really mess with "Atmosphere", but...it's quite subtle what we've done to it, but it works really well.
DS: You mentioned the three guitars. Are the songs more heavily guitar-oriented?
SM: Yeah, that's the trouble. It's a bit of challenge when you do those sorts of things. You've got songs that weren't really written for three guitarists (laughs). And we can't have you just standing about doing nothing, so we'll have to think of something. The bits that we've come up with, they do kind of work.
DS: It must keep the songs fresh.
SM: Yeah, yeah, it does.
DS: Well, thank you so much, Stephen. We're looking forward to the San Francisco show. Give my regards to your wife-
SM: I certainly will.
DS: -and I'm looking forward to hearing some more The Other Two material.
SM: (laughing) Yeah, don't hold your breath. It won't be out in October, I don't care what she says!
DS: Last question, where are you calling from London? Do you live in London?
SM: NO, no, no, no, not in London. I'm just outside Manchester. In the hills outside Manchester.
*Bad Lieutenant will perform at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco next Friday, April 16. Run Run Run supports. Tickets are still available. *UPDATE FROM BAD LT.'S MANAGEMENT:Bad Lieutenant, scheduled to kick off their U.S. concert debut tomorrow night at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, have been forced to cancel the date due to this morning's volcanic eruption in Iceland that closed British airspace. The band members - Bernard Sumner, Phil Cunningham, Jake Evans, Stephen Morris and Tom Chapman - who all live in the UK, had been scheduled to travel today into San Francisco. When British airspace was closed this morning and all flights were cancelled, they were able to get last-minute bookings for tomorrow on a flight that would have put them into San Francisco late in the day; but just moments ago, American Airlines announced that that flight has also been cancelled.Bad Lieutenant is extremely disappointed in this bizarre turn of events as they had been very much looking forward to coming to the Bay Area. The band's management is doing everything it can to make an alternative flight itinerary for the remaining dates.Refunds will be available for ticket holders at the point of purchase.
Review & Photos by David Sason
Although their recurring "Face 2 Face" concert is by now one of the biggest grossing tours of all time, it's still impressive to see Billy Joel and Elton John onstage together. Piano-playing pop stars are still a rarity, and these two icons showed Oakland on Saturday night why their joint jaunt is such a smash (and one of the few tickets worth the hefty price).
Starting a little after 7:30 and wrapping at 11pm, the marathon run was a nonstop extravaganza of HITS, HITS, HITS. From opening classic "Your Song" through "My Life" and "Rocket Man"– which led the mostly middle-aged crowd excitedly rushing the stage – it was difficult to find a good bathroom break (even the album cuts were from their most celebrated albums). Joel & John traded couplets back and forth in a seamless survey of Billboard hits of the '70s and '80s. Nearly EVERY song of the night was instantly familiar from decades of radio and video play, and the sellout crowd gleefully sang along all night.
While classics like "Bennie and the Jets" and 'Tiny Dancer" suffered from Elton John's aged, deeper voice, his catalog undoubtedly shone the brightest that night, even forgotten 1980s numbers like "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues". The crowd compensated for the high notes anyway.
While his discography has never approached the sublime melancholy of "Daniel" or "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", Billy Joel's showmanship was astounding. Unlike John, he actually engaged the crowd with jokes, revolved his piano in an egalitarian gesture, and worked a snippet of Vallejo's own "Dance to the Music" into the middle of "River of Dreams". He also apologized for postponing the show originally scheduled for last November before celebrating the serendipitous Valentine's Day Eve replacement date. The throngs of lovers in the house cheered in agreement.
But even Joel can only do so much while sitting down. To really connect, Joel picked up a guitar downstage for a faithful "We Didn't Start the Fire" and tried his best mic-stand acrobatics for the perennially relevant "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me". Joel also introduced each member of his backing band throughout his set (something else Elton John sadly forwent, even with longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone bopping alongside him).
The showcase ended as it began, with John & Joel alone, sans backing band. The appropriate closer "Piano Man" brought a final frenzy with its slightly modified final verse: "You're a pretty good crowd for a Saturday, and the manager gives me a smile; because he knows it's been me you've been coming to see, to forget about life for awhile."
Mission accomplished. Thanks, guys.--David Sason
SETLIST (Thanks to Jim Harrington)
Billy Joel and Elton John:“Your Song”“Just the Way You Are”“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”“My Life”
John:“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”“Levon”“Madman Across the Water”“Tiny Dancer”“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”“Daniel”“Rocket Man”“Philadelphia Freedom”“I’m Still Standing”“Crocodile Rock”
Joel:“Angry Young Man”“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”“Allentown”“Zanzibar”“Don’t Ask Me Why”“She’s Always a Woman”“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”“The River of Dreams”“We Didn’t Start the Fire”“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”“Only the Good Die Young”
Joel and John:“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”“Uptown Girl”“The Bitch is Back”“You May be Right”“Bennie and the Jets”“Candle in the Wind”“Piano Man”
A New Perspective on Clouds, the Circus and How to Throw a Party (Grammy Weekend in L.A.)By Linda Ferro
So, I thought it would be nifty to take advantage of my membership with the Recording Academy and buy some tix to attend the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in L.A. (Folks in the industry refer to the Academy as “NARAS,” which stands for the “National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.”)
I was completely and utterly (which is a lot) sleep-deprived on the day I was to fly down there, since I had to set my alarm for 4 AM to make a 6:30 flight. As a musician and life-long nightowl, I’d much rather stay up till 4 than rise at that time.
Once in the plane, I was in a dreamy state from the droning sound of the engines (uh, propellers). Just after we climbed up out of the blanket of cloud-cover (one of my favorite things to do), I had a moment with a cloud. Yes, I did. There was a moment when I was flying eye-to-eye with this random piece of fluff. I pondered this perspective in metaphysical detail, and realized that I’m only accustomed to looking up at clouds or down at them when a plane rises above them. This whole thing really entertained me for a lot longer than it should have, and because I am prone to excessive anthropomorphism, I also assumed this cloud was traveling to L.A. just as I was!
As we flew on—me in an early morning stupor and the pilot hopefully not—I saw the most magical scene outside my porthole: Behind the plane was the almost-full moon in all its splendor and ahead of the plane was the muted crimson aura of a sunrise about to happen. I had trouble deciding which show to watch. (I probably looked like I was watching a tennis match!)
The rest of the flight was uneventful, until I got scolded by the fight attendant for not putting away my laptop quickly enough as we prepared for landing. In my defense, I had just bought my new Mac Pro and it was literally about the second time I had done a power-up/down. I hardly knew what I was doing, in terms of closing screens, making sure I had things saved, and navigating my way around the touchpad. The worst part about this mishap is that the attendant scooped up my coffee cup with my last sip that I was looking forward to. I know this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, except that I stopped drinking coffee a year ago and treated myself to just this one cup, so I’m thinkin’ that I had a pretty pathetic look on my face as the cup dropped into the garbage bag never to be seen again (at least not by me).
Fortunately, I soon had something else to ponder as the plane started to make the most incredibly steep bank to the right (my side of the plane) which, of course, made my head tilt accordingly, and as I looked out my window down at the ground, I was pretty sure that the entire perfectly symmetrical grid of square blocks of houses was dangerously close to sliding right off the face of the planet. Probably a good thing we’d be on the ground soon.
Maybe if I’d had that last sip of caffeine I wouldn’t have dropped the handle of my luggage as I was wheeling it to the baggage claim area. It kinda slammed down dramatically, my sleepy hands letting go while the bag stayed on the floor behind me, a pace or two back. Good thing I wasn’t trying to look cool or anything.
Got my bags without incident. Found the shuttle to get to my hotel. Also without incident. After the driver stopped to pick up more passengers, I got a little sampling of just how musical this weekend would surely be. One of my co-passengers began to whistle. That part was ok, except that the radio was on, and try as I may, I couldn’t find any of the notes he was whistling to be anywhere within the song on the radio. Couldn’t tell if he was indeed trying to whistle along to that song (the one we all heard), or if he had another one in mind. My ears gave up and I resolved to be happy for him that he was so cheery at 8 AM.
I had the rest of the day to scout around, get some requisite pampering, find a cool café, and meet up with producer/engineer friend Lenise Bent. Spent that last part of the evening enjoying my 12th floor corner window room, writing and pretty much resting-up for the BIG EVENT the next day.GRAMMY DAY: (sounds like some holiday for parents of parents….)
The Pre-Telecast Awards started in the afternoon and were presented in the West Hall of the L.A. Convention Center. It was an exciting and beautifully-produced awards ceremony, which featured nominations in 99 categories not covered during the telecast! It was in this room during this part of the Awards that Taylor Swift accepted her first Grammy of the evening. Most of the “big stars” didn’t come to receive awards here because, as we were told, they were preparing for the events later that evening. One of the presenters in particular was certainly hoping Beyonce would appear to receive her awards, but sadly, that was not the case.
After the 3 hours or so of the Pre-Telecast awards, I made my way over to the adjacent Staples Center. I was not happy to discover that the monitor for the section I was seated in was completely blocked by one of the main stationary cameras. So, I have to say this: If you watched the Grammys on TV then you got a better view than I did. Alas, next year I will pay even more to get better seats, because it is definitely worth it to be down closer to the action.
That being said, the entire evening was an incredible, almost overwhelming display of pulsing/flashing/glowing neon, dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and thumping live audio that I can only refer to as “galactic.” Sensory overload. It’s almost impossible not to get a thrill when so many favorite artists walk out onto the stage and are present. It was truly magical to be in the same room (if you can call the Staples Center a “room”) with such a glorious roster of entertainers. I absolutely loved watching the actual production of the show, seeing the awesome camera-folks racing around for the best angles, and watching the over-the-top set changes (one of the advantages of being up higher in the arena).
Where else but at the Grammys could you observe a dazzling pop star twirling and dripping water high above, listen to a dashing blind Italian tenor and a New Orleans Jazz quartet, and witness 5 award-winning bandmates confess to being wasted on national TV – all under the same roof? Nuff said.THE CELEBRATION: (The After-party, Which You Didn’t See On TV)
After the last award was presented at the Staples Center, we all headed for the exits and were corralled down the sidewalk back to the West Hall, where the Pre-Telecast awards had been presented. We all mooed and/or marched toward the entrance, drawn by the enticing glow of neon and the unmistakable sound of this party gettin’ started.
During the time that guests had been inside the Staples Center, the airplane-hanger size West Hall had been transformed into a dazzling 3-ring circus. Hard to imagine I had just been in this same building. I feel like I’m about 6 years old – like the “child within” really needed to go to a circus!
At the entrance, I am greeted enthusiastically and invited in (with full drama) by a circus “barker” sweeping his arms around in wide gestures and calling out from high above on his brightly lit platform.
A full-spectrum of color had been splashed everywhere since I had last been inside. Enormous “big top” canopies arched high above, creating a colossal carnival vibe. In the performance rings, which were strategically located, were clowns, aerial artists, weighted oversized hoop artists (I’m sure there’s an official name for this amazing performing arts form, but sadly, I know it not), contortionists and mimes in action.
Roaming about this insta-circus, are people-creatures hopping about on all fours, classic stilt-gents, as well as various an’ sundry rogue, rambling characters of all designs. (I learned later that this fabulous journey thru whimsy was designed and produced by “Along Came Mary Productions.”)
Somehow, I hadn’t managed to eat before the Awards ceremony and didn’t want to leave while it was still going on, so I’m now on a mission to find food. Don’t have to look far! There are so many banquet tables set up that the lines for this multitude of partiers aren’t long at all. The lavish, organic foods of Asian, New Orleans and American flavor have all been prepared by chef extraordinaire Wolfgang Puck. (Dang! What a gig for him!) Serving-dish upon serving-dish filled with fresh, organic delectables, too many to mention. However, what MUST be mentioned are the two 8-ft banquet tables in the building that are literally piled high with fresh cracked crab and prawns, all chillin’ on a bed of ice. Gotta take a picture of this. Crab is truly beautiful, although I must admit I prefer to see my crustacean brothers and sisters whole and swimmin’ rather than chillin’. (Speaking of parts of food, you’ll be happy to know, as I am, that all unused/leftover food would go to “Angel Harvest” in L.A., distributed through various programs. That’s beautiful and so right.)
With all the sensory stimulation I’m succumbing to, I’m not surprised that I am compelled to respond in Pied Piper fashion to a booming voice announcing the arrival of performing artist Ne-Yo to the main stage. We’re talkin’ R&B sensation, here: three-time Grammy winner. The Gentleman. He’s absolutely mesmerizing, sliding along from one side of the stage to the other in a flash. Workin’ us – workin’ the band. Being real.
He asks the audience: “So, any couples out there tonight? You know, like boyfriend/girlfriend, or husband/wife?” He looks out at us, and seeing the small show of hands, he responds with a wry grin: “Oh right. This is L.A.” He is so defining “smooth.”
Jamie Foxx just happens to be in the neighborhood and joins Ne-Yo onstage, reminding me that the former can really SING. (Definitely worth checking out YouTube postings of this show if they’re out there.) Jon Batiste Band, Soul Legend and Grammy winner Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave – you know, “Soul Man” and “Can’t Turn You Loose”) were so polished as they delivered hit after hit. I feel honored to get to hear such an iconic performer such as he, and his voice is still simply amazing.
The band is, well…let me say that at one point I’m lookin at a six-piece horn section, and seven keyboards, so you get the picture.
So guess who else happens to be in the neighborhood? Brenda Russell comes onstage and puts her heart out there singing with Sam and then performs the song she co-wrote: “None of us is free! (when one of us is chained).” So powerful!
Now then, here’s where the people-watching fun begins:
I’m on the dance floor moving and writing and all caught up in the production – mind and body transported by the music – when a gal next to me taps me on the shoulder, points and says with alarm, “That guy is PEEING!!”
Sure enough, Mr. “Bad apple” is standing right up at the base of the main stage right below Sam Moore and he decides that this moment, with glamour-gals dancing all ‘round, is a really great time to pee. Or, more likely, he didn’t think at all. Seems like the gal next to me and I are the only lucky ones to witness this. I decide right then and there that there should be some word much stronger than “disgusting.” Okay, it’s Grammy night. “It’s L.A.” Anything can happen.
Fortunately, I can get over it, and as the show is ending, Sam Moore’s manager calls out to him, ‘They want some more Sam Moore, Sam Moore!”
After the encore, I decide to walk off the pulsing dance floor (okay, the floor wasn’t pulsing, but the sound was bouncing off the walls, and so were the dancers. Ok, maybe they weren’t….)
I venture out into the hallway to check out the adjacent Petrie Hall venue that is turned into an authentic Jazz Club ala clown fun-house. So slinky and smooth and classy. This is definitely an alternate form of feel-good. Had a nice chat with a gal who was going skydiving the next day.
I check out the dessert table, and, lo! and behold, of all the awesome forms of sugar offered, my hand automatically reaches for the Rice Krispy Treats. Had to text my son Dave in Portland who had given me a Rice Krispy Treats cookbook for Christmas. (My addiction to them is legendary.) I am in my happy place with one in hand on the way to mouth.
After enjoying the Jazz and the vibe, I return to one of the performance rings in the main building. In the center of the ring, I see a forlorn-looking clown dressed in brown rag-clothes. He is on his knees looking up longingly at the nymph hanging by her ankles by long cloth ribbons hanging from the suspension apparatus high above. (I have heard this referred to as “Aerial Silk.”) The clown rises to his feet and with grand, exaggerated arm movements, throws fairy dust up at her as though he just might be able to transform himself into her celestial world, or bring her to him. Alas, he resigns himself to following her around the arena, fanning her with giant white feather plumes – worlds apart.
I turn away from the clown for a few moments to try to see what the crowd at another ring is cheering about. When I look back at the clown, he is suspended just a foot or two above the ground on his stomach, held around his midsection by the draping cloth cradle. He is flapping his wings furiously, trying his best to impress us. The look on his face tells me he knows he’s failing miserably. Just a shtick, but it was actually pretty poignant. (Or the Passion Martini was kicking in.)
As is usually the case at any event, there is never a shortage of entertainment provided by the people watching the show. Case in point: Across the ring from me, a pretty young brunette just grabbed both her breasts and lifted/shifted them. Looking down at herself, she seems pleased with the results.
I wander over to the Hard Rock Café memorabilia tent, and host Carlos sees me taking notes. He shows me around a little. My eye catches a most dramatic entry on display: a custom-made blue and white feather outfit worn by Charles Neville during 2 Mardi Gras parades in the 90’s. Then there’s a display case housing a black shirt worn by Jeff Beck “during many stage performances.” Oh, and a light blue jean shirt worn by James Taylor.
Moving from famous shirts to no-shirts, I wander over to one of the other performance arenas and see a half-naked, whole-graceful young lad hanging from his ankles by the silks. He has sparkles all over his body. Even his feet are sparkling! I absolutely can’t help but stare at his body (which, of course, I’m supposed to do). I notice a tattoo on his ankle and try to figure out what it is. Can’t tell. Looks like a blue blob. Have to go look at it when he dismounts from his perch. I CAN make out the prominent rather large star tattoo on his back, which flexes with his twists and turns. Every muscle in this young man’s body knows precisely what to do. Every one of mine hurt just watching him!
As he dismounts, I walk over and ask about the tattoo on his ankle. He shows me a planet earth (that explains the blue blob I saw) in its galaxy. How perfect for a guy who sparkles and flies around in the sky.
Okay, so not everyone is having a good time here. I am staring at an older woman who is slouched in her chair, arms hanging limply at her side, chin to her chest and deeply asleep. I imagine snoring, but can’t hear anything over the booming music bouncing around the room. I remember that I saw her just like this quite some time ago. She’s having a very nice nap not more than twenty feet from the stage.
In stark contrast to the apparently comatose figure in the chair, I see a vibrant woman in a wheelchair spinning around and being spun by her friends on the dance floor. Pam is simply radiant and full of joy. When she wheels back over to her table, I follow her and give her a high five with a big appreciative grin. She holds onto my hand briefly, and we wordlessly communicate about our perspective on life in that single moment. I tell her she is beautiful. (She senses, accurately, that I am not drunk!) She tells me that I am beautiful too and bids me farewell with “God is great!” I notice that she is holding a lavender hydrangea from the gorgeous floral centerpiece on her table. Pam tells me I should pick a rose out and take it home with me, which I will do.
When the bands are finished, DJ extraordinare Mick Boogie relentlessly stirs the dancers up into a frenzy. Or a froth…or something like that. I flail around for a while myself, but then decide that it’s time for another sampling of spirits. I find a table and a final snack. It is right there and then that I decide that I could die happy here, if I could just freeze-frame this moment when I have music in my ears, mango margarita on my lips and fresh cracked crab under my fingernails.
Absolutely, without a doubt, the best party ever!
Leaving the circus, it seems fitting that at the end of the evening, I should offer a report from the ladies room. I just closed the door on the stall and the next thing I know, an earsplitting, panicky young voice screams, “Where’s the f_____ toilet!” Nuff said about that, too.
Me, I’m just grateful to be in good-enough shape to remember which little round silver floor-number button to press in the hotel elevator….
Once in my room, I have a moment of panic as I realize that I had needed help from a housekeeper to zip-up my dress earlier that evening. I am truly grateful I can still feel my fingers, and hope that I could actually exit from the dress on my own. Mission accomplished. Soon, I’m more than ready to turn out the light, pleased to see one more time, on the nightstand, the circus-colored rose from Pam’s table.
Photos & review by David Sason
A couple days before my first Toots and the Maytals concert experience, a friend told me "when you see Toots in concert, you forget he has so many good songs; you hear a song and you're like, 'oh yeah!'". For me, this moment occurred halfway through the show, when the 63-year-old Jamaican legend and his crack band launched into "Sweet and Dandy", the divine Harder They Come soundtrack classic. Needless to say, I – and the sold-out, packed-to-the-rafters, all-ages crowd – went apeshit. Thus went the entire brilliant show, which kicked off with the apt "Do the Reggay" and the soulful and (synth) horn-heavy "Pomps and Pride", before leading into the especially timely "Time Tough". Though the group hasn't been "The Maytals" since 1981, the concert was a testament to the enduring talent of Mr. Toots Hibbert, from his rhythmic acoustic guitar mastery in tracks like 2007's "Don't Bother Me" to his pristine voice, which still packs enough gruff (an incendiary "Funky Kingston") and grace (a spot-on rendition of Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams to Remember") to record those classics all over again, and wielded an endless series of Freddie Mercury-worthy call-and-response moments. While he didn't move around onstage much, Hibbert's stage presence was enthralling, with a formidable positive energy that kept him smiling widely and professing love to the crowd non-stop throughout the 90-minute performance. A touching moment was when Hibbert – who is widely credited with coining the term "reggae"– invited a boy/girl middle-school band onstage during the encore. They were too shy to approach the mic, but Hibbert beamed like a proud grandfather when he announced "They play reggae music!", which was met with warm applause. Thankfully, so does Toots.––David Sason
For more info on some of the most SOULFUL, life-affirming music ever made, visit www.tootsandthemaytals.com.Setlist
Do the Reggay
Pomps and Pride
Reggae Got Soul
Don’t Bother Me
Take Me Home Country Road
Sweet and Dandy
Never Get Weary
[You got me feeling?]
Encore: I’ve Got Dreams to Remember
Love Gonna Walk Out on Me
54-46 That’s My Number
The crowd was hushed and somber as we entered the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Joni Davis sat at a piano, her voice washing over the audience like a piece of warm red velvet, as she swooped through the last song of the Reverent Sister's set, a new project made up of Davis and Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy. Definitely an act worth getting to the show on time to see, which I unfortunately did not. Hopefully they will be around these parts again sometime soon!
After a short break, we took our seats before a stage that resembled a child's playroom. A Fisher Price pull-a-tune toy, tiny handmade guitar, sticks, rocks, a pink plastic microphone, an old record player and a vinyl copy of "Solitudes," are just a few of the artifacts that surrounded local composer Jesse Olsen as he sank into a set of songs inspired by and recorded during a year-long sojourn in the high desert of New Mexico.
The high desert is a notoriously elusive environment to capture in tangible form. Thomas Merton, Georgia O' Keefe, N. Scott Momaday and Sherwin Bitsue are only a short lists of artists, poets and writers who have attempted to encapsulate the mythical/mystical sensation of that landscape.
Olsen's artistic interpretation, described as "fragmented songs, minimalist soundscapes, and lo-fi tape experiments," is an intriguing addition to that canon. A bit Gastr del Sol at moments, the thoughtful jerky turns of expression, the playful interaction between words and silence made for a thought-provoking and emotional night of music. Alternating between guitar, casio keyboard and music-box, Olsen played sweet little bubbles of pop loveliness like the song "Snow Day" and followed them with forays into meandering repetitive lullabies, odes to desert sunsets and studies of the interplay between silence and expression. On "Riperian Habitat," he sang about "relaxing into the cottonwood and sage," later singing "I would be substance," with the ethereal yearning that long stays in the desert seem to inspire, as one truly begins to feel the reality of being a tiny speck in a humongous universe.
Later in the set, Olsen was joined by Peter Bergquist, Maxwell Church and Ben Gustin, for rollicking songs like "Buckeye Jim," which could have been taken straight from a late nineties Will Oldham album, all galluping fun country rock sing-a-long. The addition of mandolin, piano, and horn to the set added a welcome liveliness, a reminder that even in a sparse landscape, life still breathes and pulses.
By the end of the night, the floor was littered with the children's toys, microphones, sticks, musicbox, cotton cloth and even a pair of socks that the barefoot Olsen discarded early in the set. There is a sense of catharsis in the crowd, as though we have all been on a journey into another place, and now back, we are surrounded by the collected detritus of the trip. It is a lovely feeling, a reminder of the ancient existentialism of certain environments, the strange hope that comes from realizing that in the scheme of it all, we are nothing but a collection of socks and sticks.
Well, the envelopes have been ripped, the gold record awards distributed, and it's time to announce the winners of the fifth annual North Bay Music Awards!
Thanks to all who came out to the Hopmonk Tavern last night and made it such a sweet evening, and thanks especially to the George Marsh Quartet, Arann Harris & the Greenstring Farm Band and Body or Brain for playing; to Noah D for keeping it live on the turntables; to Ricky Watts for doing live painting and helping raise hundreds of dollars for Face to Face and Food for Thought; to Brian Griffith and Bill Bowker from the KRSH for presenting; and to the Hopmonk itself for having us back for another great year.
This year we had over 2,000 people vote in categories that were sometimes very, very close. We're lucky to have such a wealth of talent in the North Bay, and we salute everyone—winners, nominees and non-nominees all—who continue to enrich the breeding ground of excellent music in the area.
Without further ado, then. . .Blues / R&B
SoulShine Blues Band
Volker StriflerWinner: Volker StriflerCountry / Americana
Aaran Harris & the Greenstring Farm Band
Poor Man’s Whiskey
Stiff Dead Cat
Trailer Park RangersWinner: Poor Man's WhiskeyDance / DJ
DJ Noah D
DJ Rob CervantesWinner: DJ Noah DFolk / Acoustic
Serf & James
Way-to-Go JoesWinner: Mr. DecemberRap / Hip-Hop
At All Costs
TruthliveWinner: At All CostsJazz
Wesla WhitfieldWinner: Jason BodlovichIndie Rock / Punk
Baby Seal Club
Body or Brain
Litany for the Whale
Not to Reason Why
Semi-Evolved SimiansWinner: Baby Seal ClubRock / Metal
The ThugzWinner: The PulsatorsWorld / Reggae
Zydeco FlamesWinner: Zydeco Flames
By David Sason This week the Beatles get an illuminating polish, while Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan re-ups with way too many people around.
While there’s no dearth of Beatles coverage this week, there’s only one question that matters for many: How much better does the remastered music sound? Well, in layman's terms, holy shit! What a tremendous upgrade not only in volume but in dynamics and details, from mop-top gems like “Things We Said Today” (which suddenly gains a melodic jangly rhythm guitar and expert hi-hat tapping by Ringo) to denser, later productions like “Something” (which gains Paul's sprightly bass accompaniment & whose strings bloom like never before). The vibrancy of the songs have always transcended any technological limitations anyway, but now they sound simply incredible.
The stellar remastering of the canonical recordings is no surprise to recording veteran Allen Wagner, co-founder of Turn Me Up!, a non-profit seeking to preserve dynamics in music recording. “Allan Rouse at Abbey Road studios and his team have taken great pains to ensure they don't encroach upon such a timeless piece of music history,” he says. “They are being careful to not even add any equalization where it's not absolutely necessary, or a truly positive addition to the tracks.”
Thankfully those entrusted with the job of all remastering jobs are also mindful of Turn Me Up!'s mission. “I've had the chance to work with Abbey Road as a music mastering house and they refuse to participate in the so-called "Loudness Wars",” Wagner says. “If you request to have your songs mastered in that manner, they will politely tell you to go somewhere else.” You MUST hear for yourself.
Before exemplary TV show The Wire, we had Raekwon’s 1995 masterful opus Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, a chilling & expansive chronicle of the inner-city drug game that remains the best hip-hop work to draw heavily from the Mafioso/Scarface aesthetic. It rivals only GZA’s Liquid Swords as the most celebrated Wu-Tang solo release, but the amount of people wanting to be involved with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…PT. II, which finally got released this week, is the album's biggest problem. Whereas the RZA’s cinematic production on the original added dramatic heft and cohesion to the songs (and foreshadowed his film score work), the sequel’s consistency suffers from its varying producers (Dr. Dre, the late J. Dilla) and non-Wu-Tang guest rappers (Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss).
Still, most tracks are high-quality tunes further exploring the facets of the criminal life. A highlight is “Cold Outside”, a standout track courtesy of Icewater’s wailing movie-horn production and an intense verse from Ghostface Killah, whose Tony Starks alias is actually a more memorable presence throughout than Raekwon himself, especially on the anxious “Penitentiary” and the hilariously brutal “Gihad”. PT. II’s eclecticism ultimately makes its 22 tracks reach tedium before Slick Rick’s clever hook on “We Will Rob You”. The biggest letdown comes with the RZA-produced “Black Mozart”, which squanders a keyboard interpolation of the Godfather theme song on an average joint with Inspectah Deck instead of a worthwhile & lengthy posse cut. The verdict: PT. II has some good songs, but the album as a whole is inessential.---David Sason
By David SasonHow the hell did Jay-Z get to be so revered? The Blueprint 3 offers clues into the Great Hip-Hop Swindle.
Although barely 40 years old, Jay-Z continues his strange midlife crisis this week with the release of The Blueprint 3, which goes backwards from the grown-up depth heard on 2006's Kingdom Come. It's the third installment in the milking of his highly acclaimed 2001 record (following the Blueprint 2 and 2.1). While no thematic link exists among the series, the new record reveals Jigga’s new-found humility (the down-to-earth “Thank You”) and a matured perspective on opener “What We Talkin About”, whose professional handling of the Damon Dash issue makes it the anti–“Takeover”.
Thankfully Jay’s trademark swagger, smooth lyrical flow, and top-notch backing beats are still there, especially potent on the Justice-sampling Swizz Beatz banger “On to the Next One” and the guitar-and-horn frenzy of No ID’s “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”. But while both songs decry the overuse of the trendy production technique, everything about the Blueprint 3– from the familiar hit-making producers (Neptunes, Kanye West, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz), to superstar guests like Rihanna & Young Jeezy, to the sometimes clever boasting about his success – is pretty much the same old safe shit.
Jay-Z hypocritically complains about the stale state of hip-hop music but doesn’t have the guts to do something novel about it like Kanye, whose polarizing 808s and Heartbreak album (ironically, an auto-tune orgy) was at the very least a courageously bold move. Combine this with his still-elementary lyrical content – and the fine line he walks between tribute and biting – and it’s clear why Nas won that battle at the start of the decade with the eviscerating “Ether”.
Jay may have the beats and the fluid vocal delivery, but not the weight and substance to justify his self-importance and authoritative scolding. “99 Problems” and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” are delightful songs, but will they inspire anyone like Nas’s “The World Is Yours” or “I Can”? Commercial success aside, how impressive is Jay-Z’s decision to not split the American Gangster soundtrack for iTunes when compared to Nas’s ambitious big-statement event albums like Hip-Hop Is Dead or Untitled (originally titled Nigger)?
On Blueprint 3, Jay compares himself repeatedly to Frank Sinatra, which is accurate due to his refusal to innovate. Jay-Z is not an artist but rather a businessman, whose very success makes up the bulk of his lyrical subject matter. In “Reminder”, he catalogs his sales figures & longevity, even ingratiating himself with the Beatles and Rolling Stones. The big business of the Stones, though, is based on their art – not only self-aggrandizement. Jay name-drops Obama throughout the record (even calling himself “a small part of the reason the President is black”) but he never mentions a specific political or socioeconomic goal.
It’s still a mystery how the singles-focused Jay-Z came to be mentioned as one of “the greats”. He puts so little of his genuine self into his purely reactionary & self-conscious lyrics, and he's never reached the level of empathy with his audience that 2Pac or Biggie Smalls had. Even the critically beloved original Blueprint was a mixed bag, with only a few standout tracks. Is hype really all that matters anymore? If an artist survives nine gunshots (50 Cent), or just happens to have a good memory (Lil Wayne), or releases a few great songs every couple of years while compulsively reminding everyone that he palled around with Biggie (Jay-Z), does this trump the merit of the art itself?
Nevertheless, the fact that the Beatles are sharing so much coverage this week with The Blueprint 3 is a testament to Jay-Z’s marketing prowess. While certainly not the best rapper of all time or best alive, Jigga just might be the best self-promoter of all time; he never really stopped hustling. He’s even surpassed Oasis at making people believe his own hype. No wonder Def Jam gave him the keys for a while. He unwittingly labels himself best at the album’s start: “The only rapper to rewrite history without a pen.”Download these: “D.O.A”, “On To The Next One”--David Sason