Monthly Archives: May 2011

Report: Echo & Bunnymen Live in SF

Ian McCulloch and Will
Sergeant of Echo and the Bunnymen re-pledge their allegiance to the Doors at
the Warfield in San Francisco
on May 19.


By Jud Cost


The ten-minute walk from the Fifth and Mission parking
garage to the Warfield Theatre, two blocks west on Market St., slices through
the southern border of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a hardscrabble  district notorious for hookers, muggings and
drug dealers. During the warm months, the walk is made more palatable by a
large group of men playing chess close to the Powell St. BART station.


No chess players on this brisk, damp evening, however. About
75 yards from the Warfield’s front door, a garish ad shouts out from the window
of a cut-rate shoe store: “Now Is The Time For Ruffles,” illustrated
by a photo of three men’s shoes, each with a broad, colorful ruffled-up ribbon
attached where the shoelaces ought to be. On the sidewalk in front of the shoe
store, a young black man is sitting in the middle of every piece of
garbage-orange peels, hamburger wrappers, beer cans, fragments of stale
doughnuts, banana peels, plastic bags of dog excrement-he’s meticulously
removed from a concrete  trash container.


The abrupt transition to the glowing interior of the art
deco-era Warfield, already perfumed with incense for tonight’s return of Echo
and the Bunnymen, is jolting to the nervous system. It might require an
adjustment period in a hyperbaric chamber used by deep-sea divers to keep from
getting the bends.


There’s no denying that for a brief period in the ’80s, Echo
and the Bunnymen were the best band in the world. Great neo-psychedelic songs
performed by a dynamic vocalist and superb guitarist, swathed in moody,
dusty-parlor arrangements. Even the stage lighting, low beams of light stabbing
upwards through a confusing network of what looked like hemp fishing nets was
spectacular. Each of their first four album covers found the group, bathed in
surrealistic light, in a different natural predicament: stumbling around a
forest on bad acid; outlined against a cloudy beach skyline as seagulls swarm;
peering over an icy abyss; and stranded in a boat on a frozen purple grotto.


Frontman Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant, founding
members of the Bunnymen in 1978 along with bassist Les Pattinson (who is not
here tonight), are slated to play Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here, the band’s first
two albums, from 1980-81. A murky roomful of dry-ice fog and a stage lit only
by gloomy yellow streetlight-like structures make visual identification
impossible. It’s not until 50 minutes later that the house lights briefly
reveal there are six people onstage. Oddly enough, high above the crowd is a
series of high-voltage strobe lights rigged up to the drum kit to flash like an
interstellar cruiser whenever the percussionist plays a fill. Maybe somebody
figured it might give the light-sensitive (as well as those prone to epileptic
seizures) fair warning if they have a decent sense of rhythm.


The boys waste no time digging into Crocodiles, a milestone of the post-punk landscape, every bit as
important at the time as the sullen, beautifully depressed ruminations of Joy
Division. Some songs have been expanded enough tonight so that the debut album
takes up almost the entire hour of the first set. Each number is punctuated by
McCulloch uttering “thank you” just as the final chord is decaying
about him. Cue the applause.


The obvious connections the Bunnymen have always had with
the Doors (morose lyrics sung by a supercharged baritone accompanied by a
guitarist who does not play the obvious “rawk” licks) is made
perfectly clear tonight when McCulloch segues into a delightful fragment from
Jim Morrison & Company’s “Roadhouse Blues” (“Well, I got up
this morning and got myself a beer”). He’s changed “Ashen lady, give
up your vows” to “San
Francisco lady” just for tonight. It answers once
and for all the question: What would it sound like if the Bunnymen cut a Doors
cover album? The answer: pretty effin’ good.


Mac begins to lose the thread a bit when taunted by some
ex-pat football hooligans up front who apparently are railing at him about his
allegiance to the Liverpool soccer club. He
exchanges brief, indecipherable banter with the lads before congenially
admitting, “Manchester U has been the best team for years, so good luck to


A connection even more curious than their link to the Doors
appears when the Bunnymen play their 1985 single “Bring On The Dancing
Horses” which displayed moments of pre-Beatles British instrumental stars
the Tornadoes, famous worldwide for their Joe Meek-produced 1962 Space Age hit
single “Telstar.”


Mac punctuates the end of the first set by declaring,
“You go and smoke whatever you’ve gotta smoke, and I’ll go have a drink.
See you back here in ten minutes.” But the incense has done its work on
this allergy sufferer. Reckoning it couldn’t get much better than the first
hour, I split for home and hearth. Also I’m having second thoughts about
whether it really is “time for ruffles.” I wonder if that shoe store
is still open.





Watch New Yellowbirds Video


“The Reason” from
their most recent album.


By Blurt Staff


Back in February, the band Yellowbirds, featuring Sam Cohen,
formerly of Apollo Sunshine, released their album The Color (Royal Potato Family). It rapidly became a critical
darling, and now Cohen & Co. have released
a terrific new video for the song “The Reason.”


 It was created through a stop-motion
collage using ten years worth of notebook drawings and sketches given to
him by illustrator Michael Arthur (NY
Times, New Yorker, Brooklyn Vegan
, etc.) Check
it out below – you will definitely be entertained.


Watch: Live Levon Helm DVD


Vanguard release Ramble At The Ryman shows the erstwhile Band member,
accompanied by a slew of guests, in fine form – and ready to ramble.


By Lee Zimmerman

Reports on Levon Helm’s imminent demise are obviously
exaggerated, if the visual and audio evidence provided by Ramble At The Ryman is any indication. Rumors were rife that the
71-year old singer, drummer and multi-instrumentalist was suffering from
assorted age-associated ailments and his vocals had become the first casualty.
And yet, here he is, anchoring an otherwise unwieldy outfit with a full horn
section and various big name guests to boot. Although the presence of Sheryl
Crow, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Billy Bob Thornton and Sam Bush add star power
to the proceedings, and could have possibly upstaged its star, Helm is clearly
in command, revisiting classic songs from the Band songbook (“Ophelia,”
“Evangeline,” “The Shape I’m In,” and the obvious signature stalwarts like “Rag
Mama Rag,” “Chest Fever” and “The Weight.”) as well as selected offerings
plucked from a traditional template. His rugged authority and respected
reputation as an Americana
icon are further affirmed with the down home designs of Buddy Miller’s “Wide
River To Cross,” the folk finesse of “Anna Lee” and the sturdy blues of “Fannie
Mae” and “Baby Scratch My Back” in particular.



Yet, even while the music provides the set’s homespun
embrace, the interaction between the artists onstage, as well as audience and
entertainers, makes this performance all the more memorable. The intimate
environs of the Ryman (“Ain’t no better place to play than the Ryman
auditorium,” Helm asserts prior to ending the evening with a remarkable read of
“The Weight”), provide the most natural of settings for this sometimes-ragtag
revue. Consequently, while the DVD offers little more than a ringside seat to
the proceedings, the opportunity to watch Helm – perhaps the best singing
drummer in Rock ‘n’ Roll – strut his stuff by vocalizing and drumming
simultaneously, and then making it look like a breeze besides, is alone worth
the price of admission. With varying camera angles highlighting the enthusiasm
of the players, there’s all the inducement needed. With Levon Helm still at the
helm and hitting his stride, this Ramble rarely falters.


Zombie, Mason, Whitesnake Sue Universal Music Group


Don’t make this man
above angry. All because of that doggone rapper Eminem – such a troublemaker!



By Fred Mills


As expected, more fallout from the Eminem-Universal Music
Group lawsuit, this time involving quite a disparate cast of characters:
goth/metal king Rob Zombie, his band White Zombie, ‘80s hairspray metal combo
Whitesnake, and ‘70s classic rocker Dave Mason have joined forces in a
class-action lawsuit against UMG alleging they are owed considerable sums of
money for sales of digital downloads and ringtones.


Recall that not long ago a US Appeals court ruled against UMG and held that digital downloads count as “licenses”
as opposed to straightforward “sales” and thus quality the rights-holders to
the songs (in this instance, Eminem) for a higher royalty rate – typically 50%
as opposed to 15%. The US Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear UMG’s
appeal, leaving the lower appeals court’s ruling to stand. Then this past April
the estate of Rick James
filed a class-action suit against UMG; the suit has
yet to be litigated.


The New York Times is reporting that
Zombie, Whitesnake and Mason’s suit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court
(San Francisco),
alleges “their record company violated their contracts by counting a digital
download as a sale instead of a licensing, which would result in a
substantially higher royalty… The class-action suit accuses Universal, the
world’s largest music company, of unfair business practices by knowingly
miscalculating royalties. The suit claims the label ‘analyzed internally the financial
consequences of its misconduct and cast it in terms of the additional profit to
be made by UMG by avoiding its contractual obligations.'”


The amount UMG might have to cough up should the suit proceed and be won by
the plaintiffs is estimated to be in the area of “tens of millions of dollars
or more each year.”


UMB, not surprisingly, issued a statement pledging to “vigorously defend”
against the lawsuit, which the label deems to have “serious flaws and


Uh-huh. Like we suggested at the top, industry observers have been
predicting for months that a wave of lawsuits would come in the aftermath of
the Eminem case
. Some artists, such as Cheap Trick,
have apparently already settled out of court with their labels; another prominent artist filing a suit against its label was the Allman Brothers.


That stampeding
sound you hear in the distance? It’s thousands of lawyers, galloping to their
fax machines, preparing to send out documents to their clients and to their
clients’ labels….

SF JAZZ Center Breaks Ground


Improvisational legends and SF
JAZZ donors brave the elements in San
Francisco groundbreaking for new concert hall.


By Jud
Cost / Photos by Jenifer Cost


by tons of smashed concrete, twisted girders, broken brick and the heavy
machinery that demolished the two auto body shops that once stood here, an
oasis of sanity, fenced off from the industrial rubble, has attracted about 100
invited guests for a much-anticipated celebration at 4:00 in the afternoon.
It’s the May 17 groundbreaking ceremony for the SF JAZZ Center, a
state-of-the-art, 700-seat permanent home for San Francisco’s
wildly successful jazz festival to be erected in the Hayes Valley
neighborhood at the corner of Fell and Franklin Streets. Of the $60 million
needed for the project’s completion, $46 million is now in the bank.



Just as
another round of late-spring rain begins to fall, San Francisco’s Bourbon Kings
Brass Band (pictured above, who,
unlike Tony Bennett, left their heart in old New Orleans) begin to wail on a Crescent
City-style trad number. It doesn’t take long for the nine-piece outfit – two
tenor saxes, two trombones, a trumpet, a cornet, a tuba, a snare drum and a bass
drum-to switch gears and dig into Sonny Rollins’ post-bop classic
“Oleo.” The crowd, as instructed, has brought festive, brightly
colored umbrellas and a few Mardi Gras beads to twirl and shake at the Bourbon
Kings as they high-step it through the mud puddles as if they were marching
down South Rampart Street.


The foul
weather this afternoon has no effect on the beaming Srinija Srinivasan, current
chair of the SF JAZZ board of directors. “This will be the first structure
of its kind anywhere in the country, a stand-alone facility dedicated
specifically to jazz,” she says. “When Randall spoke to the board
about finally getting construction under way, he was literally moved to tears.
We’ve all been working on this for so long. But Randall is the one with the
persistence, almost the damn craziness, to pull it off.”



is SF JAZZ’s Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline (pictured above, with the author), the man whose missionary zeal and passion for what has been called
greatest cultural achievement” founded this non-profit jazz festival in
1983. SF Jazz today, with a spring and a fall season that almost overlap,
embraces all facets of creative, improvisational music in over 100 concerts a
year. From the rhythm & blues of Solomon Burke, the Portuguese fado of Ana
Moura and the tropicalia of Caetano Veloso, to the classic raga of Ravi
Shankar, the  country gems of Rosanne
Cash and the bossa nova of Joao Gilberto, SF JAZZ has something for every


course, the surviving heroes from jazz’s golden age abound here, as well:
Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Ahmad Jamal, Archie Shepp, Etta James, Pharoah
Sanders, Randy Weston, Cecil Taylor, Dave Brubeck, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz,
Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner, along with the Rushmore-like icons of Ornette
Coleman and Sonny Rollins have all played the festival in recent years.


Up until
now, SF JAZZ has used multiple venues spread throughout the City: Herbst
Theatre, the Masonic Auditorium, Davies Symphony Hall, the Palace of Fine Arts
and many others. With its permanent home to be completed by  the fall of 2012, scheduling the mammoth
event should become somewhat easier.


membership director Barrett Shaver foresees the new facility as having a broad,
inclusive policy towards its use. “We want this place to be open year-round,
every night if possible,” he says. Randall Kline agrees heartily,
envisioning artists being able to spend three or four nights in the Mark
Cavagnero-designed showplace rather than play a one-nighter in a larger hall.
“Without the musicians, none of this would be possible,” adds Kline,
almost drowned out by an emergency police siren. “If Ornette Coleman wants
to play here for a month – great!”



vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson (above,
with family members)
speaks movingly to the crowd, jammed together even
tighter under a plastic marquee as the rain gets heavier. “I remember so
many things: playing the Jazz Workshop in North Beach
and the Both/And on Divisadero, where I first met my wife, selling tickets
there at the time. I had just come from New
York and thought I was big stuff, but she’d never
heard of me. When I played Keystone Korner in North Beach,
opening for (stand-up comedian) Professor Irwin Corey, he said to the crowd,
‘Who’s Bobby Hutcherson?’ And my young son piped up and said, ‘He’s my


Handy (pictured below),  a mainstay of the Bay Area jazz scene even
before his potent alto sax first swapped titanic passages with tenor saxman
Booker Ervin in Charles Mingus’ landmark band more than 50 years ago, is
visibly moved afterwards at the prospect of a permanent home for SF JAZZ.
“It’s going to be amazing what will take place here,” he says.
“And remember, remember… this is all happening right here-in America.”










Black Lips Album Streaming Online Now


If you just can’t wait until June 7…

By Blurt Staff

As we’ve pointed out a few times now, the new Black Lips album, Arabia Mountain, drops on June 7 via Vice. A couple of songs have already been released online, including “New Direction” which we posted last week.  But since every hipster blogger on the planet was apparently threatening to upload the entire record to their favorite torrent site, the band decided to go ahead and stream it.

Pop in at Grooveshark
if ya wanna listen to some smokin’, Mark Ronson-produced garage skronk…





Free John Walker Lindh


Listen to “John Walker’s
Blues,” below. Ten years enough. The national hangover should be clearing away
by now.


By Fred Mills


Editorial: In December
of 2001 a 20-year-old man named John Walker Lindh entered the public’s
consciousness by virtue of his having been rounded up in Afghanistan as
an enemy combatant who also happened to be an American citizen. I don’t have to
tell you the rest of the story; Lindh, as the de facto “face of treason” became
our official scapegoat for 9/11 and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.


I emphasize the term “scapegoat” because that’s exactly what
many of us believed then and still believe – including the great songwriter and
activist Steve Earle, who wrote the song “John Walker’s Blues” for his album Jerusalem – since we couldn’t put our
hands around Osama Bin Laden’s neck, he sufficed for the time being.




Yet in the rush to achieve some measure of grief relief, a
lot of people may have not bothered to look more closely at the Lindh case –
his conversion to Islam, for example, did not necessarily translate into an urge
to wage war against the West. (For that matter, he wasn’t even convicted of
plotting to kill Americans; he only pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban and
carrying weapons.)




He was also a young man, and someone’s son. (The photo above
is how he looked a few years before he left to go overseas.) So in an op-ed
piece in this Sunday’s
New York Times titled “Bin Laden’s Gone. Can My Son Come Home?” and penned by Frank Lindh – John’s father – we are given new food for thought. In the piece, Lindh talks
about visiting his son in prison a couple of days after President Obama
announced we had killed Bin Laden in Pakistan. He provides some of the
backstory for his son that people overlooked or ignored, including the details
behind why John was in Afghanistan
in the first place.


He adds that despite the ten years in prison, John “remains
idealistic and spiritual, and a practicing Muslim. He once told me he thought
Bin Laden had done more harm to Islam than anyone in history. As I said farewell,
we both felt a sense of closure. I saw grief in his eyes over the pain he has
caused himself and his family.”


Mr. Lindh then presents a very straightforward plea: “Now
that Bin Laden is dead, I hope President Obama, and the American people, can
find it in their hearts to release John, and let him come home. Ten years is


Amen. It’s more than enough. Our national 9/11 hangover
should finally be clearing away. Perhaps as we approach the terrible tragedy’s
tenth anniversary, we can move forward, and I can’t think of any better place
to start than to let this idealistic once-young/now-moving-toward-middle-age
man out of prison. The punishment never fit the crime anyway – if in fact there
ever was a real crime committed.


Think about it. Listen to the Steve Earle song again. And then
write President Obama if you agree.




“John Walker’s Blues”


I’m just an American boy raised on MTV
And I’ve seen all those kids in the soda pop ads
But none of ’em looked like me
So I started lookin’ around for a light out of the dim
And the first thing I heard that made sense was the word
Of Mohammed, peace be upon him

A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
There is no God but God

If my daddy could see me now – chains around my feet
He don’t understand that sometimes a man
Has got to fight for what he believes
And I believe God is great, all praise due to him
And if I should die, I’ll rise up to the sky
Just like Jesus, peace be upon him


We came to fight the Jihad and our hearts were pure and strong
As death filled the air, we all offered up prayers
And prepared for our martyrdom
But Allah had some other plan, some secret not revealed
Now they’re draggin’ me back with my head in a sack
To the land of the infidel

A shadu la ilaha illa Allah
A shadu la ilaha illa Allah



Massive Attack & Scarlett Johansson Team Up

“Summertime” – just in
time for summertime.


By Fred Mills


The name of the movie is Days
of Grace
, and the description for the Mexican production suggests
nothing less than, er, soccer noir. (“Mexico City. 2002, 2006,
2010. A cop. A hostage. A wife. Corruption, violence, vengeance. Three
destinies, during 30 days, during three Soccer World Cups. Three ways to fight
in order to survive.”)


Awesome. But the even more awesome news about the Everardo
Valerio Gout-directed indie film, which just premiered at the Cannes Film
Festival, is that Massive Attack and Scarlett Johansson collaborated on the
song “Summertime” for the soundtrack (via the NME).


Johansson, of course, is no stranger to music, having
recorded a so-so collection of Tom Waits tunes in 2008 (Anywhere I Lay My Head) as well as 2009’s Break Up, which teamed her with everyone’s favorite five o’clock
shadow rocker Pete Yorn. More recently, however, she redeemed herself with the
tune “One Whole Hour” for the soundtrack of the Wretches & Jabberers film, so here’s hoping that the Massive
Attack connection continues to up her game.


Big Ears Festival “Will Return” 2012

After celebrated gatherings
in 2009 and 2010, the adventurous, eclectic Knoxville-based event took 2011


By Steven Rosen


Even as AC Entertainment head Ashley Capps prepares for his
company’s biggest event of the year, the massive Bonnaroo Music & Arts
Festival in Manchester, Tenn., on June 9th-12th,
he’s announced that the smaller, artier and cutting-edge Big Ears Festival will
return next year.


That will be the third edition of the festival, which mixes
adventurous rock with New Music, jazz and various experimental strains of pop.
It skipped 2011, after occurring in late March of 2010. It is held in Knoxville, AC’s headquarters and a city it is trying to
help make a Tennessee music-tourism
destination like Nashville and Memphis. It uses numerous downtown sites,
including two historic, restored theaters – a 1920s-era movie palace called the
Tennessee and
the smaller, jewel-like 101-year-old Bijou.


The three-day 2010 event featured Terry Riley, a pioneer of
Minimalist classical music, as its spotlight artist-in-residence and had such
guests as the National, Joanna Newsom (pictured
Vampire Weekend, the Books, Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Clogs,
Nico Muhly, Dirty Projectors and the XX. Bryce Dessner, member of the National
and the Clogs, served as its guest curator.


Capps made his commitment to the return of Big Ears during
an interview with this writer (for
about the similar – but much smaller – festival that Dessner curated this month
in Cincinnati,


“I’m really interested in the concept of boutique
festivals,” Capps said.  


He said it was too hard to put Big Ears together for 2011,
since he had also started another indoor festival called Moogfest in Asheville,
N.C., that pays tribute to the late synthesizer pioneer (and Asheville
resident) Robert Moog and also features an unusual mix of acts. (BLURT was a
cosponsor of the event.) It was held over Halloween weekend last October and
was a big success, Capps said.


“That’s coming back this year with a vengeance,” he said of






First Look: New My Morning Jacket LP


Released next week by ATO Records,
it sounds completely of a piece, and sets the stage for one of the summer’s
potentially best tours.


By Hal Bienstock

In the
chorus of Circuital‘s title track,
Jim James sings “Right back in the same place I started out.” While that may be
literally true – this is the first album the band has recorded in its home
state of Kentucky
since 2003’s It Still Moves –  it’s not exactly a return to the old days. If
anything, it’s more like the musical version of someone who goes back to his
hometown after a few years away. The town may be the same, but the person
certainly isn’t. So while Circuital has
the warm, folk-based sound that characterized the band’s early work, it also
makes room for the experimentalism of its more recent albums.  


In fact,
the most interesting thing about Circuital – and MMJ itself – is the way it manages to sound completely of a piece, while incorporating
tons of different sounds. Opening track “Victory Dance” sounds like Neil Young
& Crazy Horse performing with an orchestra, while the title track combines
the galloping beat of U2 with Grateful Dead harmonies. There are also steel-guitar
ballads (“Wonderful”), psychedelic funk-rock (“Holdin’ On to Black Metal”) and
catchy, alternate-universe radio hits (“First Light”).



Overall, Circuital is a strong album that stands
a notch below MMJ’s best (Z and It Still Moves). But as anyone who has
seen its live shows will attest, albums aren’t really what this band is about.
There are a lot of songs on here that should kill onstage. For now, think of Circuital as an enjoyable set of coming
attractions for what should be one of the best tours of the summer.


Credit: Danny Clinch]


Tour Dates:



Louisville Palace


Wakarusa Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Wakarusa Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Wakarusa Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Mountain Jam


Bonnaroo Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Bonnaroo Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Bonnaroo Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Bonnaroo Festival
(Schedule to be announced soon)


Riverside Theater


Auditorium Theatre


Pantages Theatre


Fox Theatre


Paramount Theatre






High Sierra Music
Festival (Schedule to be announced soon)


High Sierra Music
Festival (Schedule to be announced soon)


Santa Barbara Bowl


High Sierra Music


Kool Haus




Latitude Festival


Somerset House


The Pageant


Uptown Theater


Red Rocks Amphitheatre


The KahBang Festival


The KahBang Festival


The Lawn at White River
State Park (w/ Neko Case)


LC Pavillion (w/ Neko


The KahBang Festival


Stage AE (w/ Neko Case)


The KahBang Festival


Merriweather Post
Pavillion (w/ Neko Case)


The KahBang Festival


Bank of America
Pavillion (w/ Neko Case)


Meadow Brook (w/ Neko


PNC Pavillion at Riverbend
Music Center
(w/ Neko Case)


Verizon Wireless
Amphitheatre (w/ Neko Case)


Time Warner Cable
Uptown Amphitheatre (w/ Neko Case)


Austin City Limits Music Festival