ARCADE FIRE : BARCLAYS CENTER 8/23/14

It’s hard to believe, but I’d been trying to see this band for ten full years!

I knew that seeing an arena show was not going to be like seeing them at any of the unusual or tiny venues they played before they became real “rock stars.” So many times in the past I’d either been too late to buy tickets, wasn’t cool enough to know they were playing some invite-only event, or was away (in the case of the recent secret Reflektors shows). So when Barclays dates were announced, I was determined to buy great seats & make sure it was going to finally happen.

The show was great, making incredible use of live video, effects, and live editing! At one point Ned counted 18 people on stage. The band and audience gave their all. In fact, I felt like AF were really pushing themselves to give a fuller than normal arena experience, even to the point of keeping the venue open for an extra hour, turning it into a giant disco/dance party. “This was expensive to do, so enjoy it!” said Will Butler before leaving the stage.

I’m not sure how comfortable they actually are being rock gods. There are clues to their take on “celebrity" in recent videos, and in the show itself, including giant parody heads of themselves. It’s very clear that they made every effort to try and make this arena tour feel as intimate as possible. No easy task.

I know this is a very unpopular view, but for me each release of their four albums got stronger, with James Murphy’s magic touch on their last being by far my favorite. That might simply be due to my love of 303’s, analog synths & dancebeats, and Murphy’s immaculate taste and skills with them. I’d actually had hopes that Murphy was going to make a guest appearance, however it was great fun seeing guest Marky Ramone & the band tear through a couple of Ramones classics. I found this link of the appropriately shambollic covers.

THE OLDEST BOOK I'VE EVER HELD.

Stephen Romano, one of the galleries in my office building in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has an exhibition that I simply do not have the vocabulary to describe. It is fascinating and bizarre.

The work that caught my eye was the gallery owner’s own cool Kris Kuksi piece. However, It's the book in the images below that so excited me. It’s called the "Hieroglyphica of Merkbeelden der oude volkeren," or the Hieroglyphica or icon images of Ancient Peoples, described by Romano as "a well known emblem book and sourcebook for classical mythology and its iconography.” It is the oldest book I've ever seen and the pages are full of icons, some of which evolved into modern “logos."  It was written and illustrated in 1735 by Romeyn De Hooghe (1645 - 1708). You can actually scroll through the book here. Exhibition is on till the end of August.

EXTRAORDINARY SLEEVE DESIGN : Pt 1

Since my two main passions are music and art, and it makes me very happy when the two beautifully merge together, I’m going to start posting designs for records that I consider worthy.
Below is the CD for FKA twigs' debut album, LP1.
The art is by Jesse Kanda. It was very kindly gifted to me by Ben & Patrick of XL Recordings. I’m not 100% sure if this is the final design, as there’s no text at all, so it might be a mock-up for approval.

If you’ve yet to discover the fantastical world of FKA twigs, check her videos out..



ROCK BOTTOM BOY (ANGRY, SAD &) LIVE AT BOWERY ELECTRIC 6/22/14

What really excites me in art is when I see an artist using their medium, whether it be fine painting or graffiti stickers, as a way to deal with personal problems (eg, the canvas or the streets become the place where the artist purges his or her issues).
It’s a little more unusual to find it raw and unhinged in these days of corporate sanitized music, but a few months ago I stumbled, via FaceBook, on a musical artist whose life is literally turning to shit around him. Rock Bottom Boy is dealing with it by raging publicly against those he’s perceived as wronging him. Here’s the YouTube channel dedicated to playback of voice messages, starting with his wife telling him she’s leaving him for his own guitar teacher.

He's recruited family members that have not turned against him (nephews, I think) and formed a naïve, but tight little punk rock outfit.
Every song is like shock/scream therapy. One’s heart can not help but go out to him when he sings about how he’s been fucked over, but at the same time cringe with embarrassment that it’s all so public. One song is about how he “Hasn’t Been Hard” in 15 days.
The live performance is hard to watch, in the same way it's tough to watch an old man crying on a crowded subway train.

John comes from some sort of corporate day job and looks like he came straight from work to the stage. One of the songs is about what he describes as "a secret epidemic: office bullying."
His attire would be uber Normcore if it wasn't the real deal, right down to his clip-on belt phone holder & Bluetooth ear piece.
One aspect I’m not clear on is who & what BIGMUNENTERTAINMENT is, other than the production company behind all his PR & promotion. I wonder/worry that it’s some sort of Svengali in the company that’s exploiting him simply for the sensationalist headlines, and going to push him over the edge.

One can follow the who saga unfold on Rock Bottom Boy's FaceBook.



UNEXPECTED MODEL EXPO STRASA ITALY 6/12/14

While on a family vacation in Stresa, Italy, the last thing we were expecting to see among the gracefully aging Italian & British tourists was a serious sprinkling of metal & goth types. Stresa is a magical place, built hundreds of years ago, barely changed, on the side of Lake Maggiore, whose waters I think also touch the Swiss Alps on the other side of the lake. We also noticed that there were many groups of men. Also strange, the age of these male packs ranged from their twenties to their seventies. I finally stopped one and asked why they were here, and he pointed to a sign that said "World Model Design Expo 2014."

Hidden behind one of the hundred year old, over-the-top, opulent lakefront hotels was a modern convention center with thousands of men, all showing their prowess and undeniable skill at creating all manner of models. The main difference between this and a Comic-Con type of convention was the lack of technology, or for that matter any screens at all.

The majority of the models focused on characters or scenes from famous wars, hence the men in their seventies. I’m guessing the younger creators & collectors were bringing the fantasy to the culture. I normally make every effort to credit all creators of work but in this case these were not marked or credited at all, except with a coded number. So here are just few images of the bizarre model makers' world. Some of the dioramas were so much like a work by Jake & Dinos Chapman called "Hell", it was unintentionally comical. I wondered If the Chapman's used any of these guys to create it.

JACK WHITE LIVE IN LONDON 7/3/14

On the night before Fourth of July, a very independent Jack White rocked London. He played at the Eventim Apollo, which was called the Hammersmith Odeon when I was growing up here. I think even if a large section of the younger crowd were unaware of the venue's incredible rock n' roll history, the older ones, even Jack himself, knew. He opened with a welcoming quote, "Bass for your face London!”, which comes from Public Enemy’s legendary 1987 live recording there. It was great fun taking Max to the gig. He's now nearly fourteen, and old enough to appreciate, (or at least not be bored) of me telling him about a few of the shows that I’d been to at the venue back in the 70’s & 80’s. He seemed interested that I’d seen James Brown, The Ramones (Rocket to Russia tour), Johnny Guitar Watson, Frank Zappa & ABC with full orchestra performing "Lexicon of Love.” The venue's main difference between then and now, other than the pathetic name, is that all the seats from the main floor have been removed. This means they can ram a lot more people in there, so if you're not pushy, you’re not getting to the front. 

Max and I had seen some of Jack's set at Governors Ball last month, but this was different. Tonight Jack and his whole band were on fire! I’d seen The White Stripes many times & while I do miss the naïvete of Meg's no-frills style, I was transfixed by Brooklyn-based drummer Daru Jones. He was conversational with his drumming, adding a whole new feel and dynamic to the simplicity of some of the White Stripes' catalog. 
The set was a mix of the strongest tracks from Jack's two solo albums and a ton of White Stripes hits, that were born 17 years ago! He also threw in Dead Weather’s “Cuts Like A Buffalo" plus a truly great rendition of The Raconteurs' “Steady As She Goes,” which went to #1 in the UK.
In fact most of Jack's songs were much bigger hits in the UK than they ever were in the US The White Stripes broke and were massive in England almost from the get go, and they never really had the same star power in the US until their last couple of albums. 

During the gig there were times I wished this band was a leaner, stripped down rock n' roll unit. I would have preferred it as a four piece, losing the two violin players, one of whom is his female backing singer, the other of whom played theremin, slide guitar, harmonica & vibes. That would have changed the dynamic and vibe completely though. 

After an hour and twenty minutes, when the curtains closed, I was a bit worried Max was tired after standing for that long, being bumped into by drunks, etc. However when the band came back on for encores and played another blazing forty minutes, and ten songs, he seemed right into it. Then, after a full two hours of being "too hot," when he asked if our friend Richard Russell was able to get us back stage, I knew he was having a great time.  The length of Jacks career was evident in the crowds age diversity. Its one of the few gigs I’ve been to recently, when I’ve not felt like I’m the oldest guy in the room, with kids staring at me.

I think I’ve been a fan of Mr. White for over 16 years now. One of the real peaks of my DJ career was being on the bill for Coachella 2006, the same year that the Stripes played it & also started to really break mainstream in US. 
So massive shout-out to my pen pal Patrick of Technique PR for sorting the guest list out for Max & myself!
Max turned as I shouted his name.
Completely drained after the show.

BOATING, ART & FOOD IN NJ.

Friend, and amazing artist, James Hyde invited Max and I to go out on his boat, along with his wife Liz, & son Silas, as part of Silas's birthday weekend.

Neither Max nor I are what one would call boat people, and I was a little concerned about whether this was going to be a dingy, or some sort of leaky, rowing contraption. So I was relieved and happy to see a very tasty little Cobalt speed boat, called the Blue Pigment.

What a great day it turned out to be.

First, James showed us some new awesome finished works, then we boated out to New Jersey for a feast of burgers, ribs, fish & chips, wings, and more! Then we went up the East River and got to view New York from a totally different perspective. Seeing the Domino Sugar Factory from the river, up close and personal, with the fantastic structure adorned with beautiful graffiti, was a real treat!

Retuning at high tide in the Gowanus Canal was interesting when we went under a bridge.

JUNGLE LIVE AT THE WICK BROOKLYN 6/21/14

I don't remember exactly when Ned White & I stumbled on JUNGLE via their Soundcloud but it was before they got signed to XL Recordings.

Once XL is involved, you know this is potentially a game-changing artist, so we've been paying close attention, really enjoying each consecutive new song.

Ned got guest-listed for a secret TUMBLR show at the Wick & I gratefully tagged along. JUNGLE's sound is hard to describe. Its closer to 70's funk than anything currently popular. While the live show is cool now, what will be exciting is when they have the resources to bring a big badass brass section like Tower of Power on tour with them.

The whole thing does feels a little branded, marketed & controlled, but the bottom line is, its wicked music & better than every other branded, marketed & controlled thing that's out there!

Here's one of my fave tunes.. 





THE WAR ON DRUGS - BROOKLYN 6/15/14

Until about three months ago I don't think I knew anything about War on Drugs other than that they were the Philly band that Kurt Vile had left.
So when my friend Greg Hoffman came into work raving how their new album was the most important American record of recent years, I thought I'd better give it and them a listen.
I am now one of the faithfully devoted!
On Friday, Greg mentioned he had a spare ticket to see the band at the Northside Festival in Brooklyn, and I gratefully jumped at the chance. What a wonderfully strange and extraordinary show; strange simply because I was able to gradually walk to the very front of the massive stage, through the most polite and subdued crowd of any show I’ve ever been to. Also strange because, by all the normal accounts, this is a band that should not be having success in 2014. To me, they feel completely out of time and place, and really don’t fit in this era. Their obvious influences are Springsteen & Tom Petty in the 80’s, when they & producers of big American rock first started using synths. But I also feel Adam Granduciel (who is really War on Drugs) is channeling some true guitar love from the 70’s, such as Dave Gilmore, with more effects pedals than I’ve seen in a couple of decades. He also sings in a very Dylan-esque style. Nonetheless, I love that they do exist and, by all accounts, are finding an appreciative fan-base now. Anyone who loves oceans of reverb, with untold layers of echo & delay, The War on Drugs are for you.
Adam Granduciel taking a Polaroid of the crowd.

Here’s one of my fave tracks if you want a taste..