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..



FEW HIGHLIGHTS FROM NADA NY 2014

Just a few works that if I had the money, I think I’d want.

"Best in Show" for tiny works goes to Sally Webster for her “Yes No" collaged drawing on newsprint. 

Also love this very small bear doing housework by Joke Schole. Turns out that SHOW ROOM, the gallery representing both these artists are my BK neighbors. I like their tastes.  

Simon Cole of Cooper Cole also showing fantastic works by the amazing Sara Cwynar.

I got drawn into these strange pairings by Marlon Wobst.

Who wouldn’t want a machine that would smoke the cigarette for you?

Don’t want to own this Marko Mäetamm but I strongly identified with the message & sentiment of the work!

LIARS AT THE WICK BROOKLYN 5/9/14

I have to admit I was a hater of the early output from Liars, it just went way over my head. However when they started experimenting with dance beats, I fell madly in love. Their last two albums have both been, and still are on heavy rotation in my shuffle. The three piece band was incredible, all playing a verity of both analog & new school gear.

Many thanks to my friend Scott Porter, for showing us around his his whole operation over there, which includes the spectacular venue The Wick, another connected venue, The Well & recording studio Room 17. The Wick, where the Liars played is kind of like my dream venue, raw, cavernous & loud.

For anyone still not familiar with Liras, check these..




A FEW FUN, OR INSPIRING WORKS FROM FRIEZE NYC 2014

For the three years that Frieze has come to NY, Gary Pini has kindly been my hook up to get into the press preview. A game we play at art fairs is spotting unintentional themes that sometimes emerge. 

Gary started taking photos of guitars & cats, & half way though the massive quarter-mile tent, we noticed there was also a gazillion other animals.

When I looked at my photos from the day, I noticed that I’d been unconsciously picking up on mirrors, orange & neon, sometimes together.

Mirror works Simon Fugiwara, two Jim Lambie’s, and Zhan Wang.
In this neon orange set are Greg Bogin, Possibly my fave Erik Parker ever , Slavs And Tatars, Sarah Lucas, & of course Barry McGee.
Another fantastic Yinka Shonibare MBE to feature guns.
Kris Martin.
Another huge McGee.
Fiona Banner.
Andew Lewis.
Detail from a massive Kara Walker.
Two Jack Pierson's.

& finally a perfect a Boris Lurie to end with.

THE HORRORS LIVE AT HOUSE OF VANS 4/29/14

One sad reality of both a full family life and an aging body is that I go to way fewer shows than in years past.  A band that I still make every possible effort to see live are The Horrors. When I heard they were doing a secret show in London next week, I jokingly wrote to my pen-pal mate Patrick Johnson at XL, the band's label, telling him he should convince the powers to fly me to London for the gig. He instantly responded saying he could possibly get me into the NY show tomorrow night!  

While I still think of them as a relatively young band, they’ve actually now been together for close to ten years and are releasing their forth full album, Luminous, next month. They are a perfect example of a band not afraid to both clearly love & reference past genres, distorting & blurring the lines of what those genres are, while also pushing hard to create something sonically new.
Truth be known, when they first exploded I largely dismissed them as UK press hype. I wrongly thought it was simply hype based on their wicked image & the fact that legendary director Chris Cunningham offered to direct their now punk anthem, Sheena is a Parasite. So when XL signed them I was surprised & thought there must be more to them than being stylish, neo-goth punks. How true that has turned out to be. They’re able to fuse 60’s California Garage Psych with 80’s Synth Pop into something wonderfully original.               The new record, the first produced solely by the band, is still too new to me to know if I love it as much as their Skying album, but it's so sonically dense that I’m devouring it simply for the production right now.

Below is the first song that dropped from Luminous, & below that is "Still Life," which has possibly now gone into my top ten songs of all time.      

Live performance is also great, part Shoegaze, and by projecting real 16mm film loops on hung sheets for a screen it's part DIY hippy Warhol/Factory vibe. My only criticism of last night was that the sound was akin to a dustbin, with some of the band playing in another room. I’ve no idea if that's simply the norm for the House of Vans--which is an awesome skate room but not necessarily a great venue for a band that obviously cares so much about sound. But because it was some kind of secret/industry gig, Ned & I were able to place ourselves dead center in front of the stage. :)