Monthly Archives: April 2016

On the Horizon: Levitation psych fest in Austin, 4/29 – 5/2

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Just say Roky! Just say Black Angels! Just say, “Free your mind and your ass will follow you all over Austin, or at least all over the Carson Creek Ranch this month…”

Text/Photos by John Boydston

If you’re looking for an upgrade in your music festival experience, check out Levitation in Austin later this month.   It’s the consistently solid and unique celebration of weirdness and music in Austin, now going on its 9th year.  It’s coming up April 29th – May 2nd.  It brings together performers from around the world that will never share a weekend anywhere else, including Brian Wilson – doing Pet Sounds LP, Ween, Arcs, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Allah Las, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Night Beats, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Parquet Courts, Twin Peaks, Courtney Barnett, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, The Black Angels, Thurston Moore and other bands I dig.

But every year its the acts Ive never heard of which end up making my weekend; this year being Animal Collective, Flying Lotus, Slow Dive, and Super Furry Animals, just to name a few.

Levitation is hand-crafted, and carefully curated delight that is redefining what festivals should be.  Full of personality and always striving to be different, and good.  I’m not reading from a press release either – this will be my fourth trip to this.

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Levitation happens on the 58-acre Carson Creek Ranch on the banks of the Colorado River, tucked between downtown Austin and its major airport.  Three stages, one of which backs up to the river for a pretty, pretty, pretty cool scenic backdrop, especially when they get the light show going on the trees across the water.  This ranch actually is part of the festival and they creatively use it as such, and includes a big camping area which is its own little world.

These photos are from my previous good times there with a camera, starting in 2013, when it was still called Austin Psych Fest.  APF was started in 2008 by the Reverberation Appreciation Society (which includes two members of The Black Angels) to celebrate all things wild, colorful, fun, and weird about music and culture in the 60s. Their idea – quoting here – was ‘to create their vision of a music festival, aiming to present innovating and captivating musicians and legends from the past, present and future.’   I have heard it said they simply plan the festival they would like to attend and that’s what we get. They’ve expanded too, with Levitations in Chicago, Vancouver, and France now. [Below: the mighty Black Angels, festival founders]

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And that’s the point and beauty of this festival. It gets a little bigger every year, it’s on everybody’s radar now, but it remains all about the music, without going mainstream.  This year Brian Wilson is probably the most famous act of the weekend, maybe in the history of the event, performing the classic LP ‘Pet Sounds’ in its entirety. What a treat, and how cool it is bringing that to a new legion of fans several generations removed.

Below, view some of Dr. Boydston’s lysergically-induced photographic memories of Levitations past. Check out this full lineup and schedule and see you discerning music fans there:   http://levitation-austin.com/

Crowd Shot, 2014

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Brazil’s Boogarins

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Raveonettes 2013

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Crowd watching (more like going nuts for…) Thee Oh Sees 2015

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Iceland’s Dead Skeleton 2013

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Black Lips’ soundboard 2014

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Riverbank crowd 2013

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Peter Hayes of BRMC 2013

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Night Beats at Mohawk’s pre-weekend party 2014

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L.A. Witch 2015

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Temples 2014

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Dead Meadow 2014

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Jacco Gardner 2014

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Cyril Jordan of Flamin’ Groovies 2014

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Tim Presley of White Fence 2015

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UPDATE: Springsteen Cancels NC Show in wake of HB2 anti-LGBT “Bathroom Law”

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One of the more shameful episodes in North Carolina political history continues to have ripple effects. Earlier this week PayPal pulled out of a major financial deal with the state too.

By Fred Mills

“Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true / Or is it something worse?”

Nearly 15,000 ticketholders for the upcoming Sunday (April 10) Bruce Springsteen concert at the Greensboro, NC, Coliseum won’t be queuing up for entry – he last played in North Carolina back in September of 2014, prompting this BLURT review by yours truly – instead, they’ll be filing for refunds, as the Springsteen camp this afternoon canceled the show. The reason? To demonstrate “solidarity” with those in the Tarheel State who oppose the recent passage of HB2, aka the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.

As anyone reading this already knows, the Act essentially legalizes discrimination against LGBT citizens in North Carolina, so we won’t recap what’s likely the top political news in America this week, or debate its implications. Below, read the entire Springsteen statement, as posted at the artist’s site.

The concert has yet to be rescheduled, and most observers feel it will not be, given the trajectory of Springsteen’s current The River tour.

Worth noting: CNN Money reports that, according to the Greensboro Coliseum, this is the first cancellation they’ve heard about thus far, and that both Justin Bieber and Dolly Parton are slated to appear in upcoming months. It’s hard to picture the Biebs actually taking a stand on anything other than matters related to his own whims and conveniences, so no way is he going to give up a payday for something as ephemeral as morals and values.

Still, Dolly has always been her own woman, and she has spoken up at points over the course of her career about social causes that were important to her. So we’ll see.

It’s worth noting that when, for the Detroit Metro Times, I interviewed her peer Loretta Lynn in 2003 about Lynn’s Jack White-helmed Van Lear Rose album, the whole George Bush-Dixie Chicks flap was still in the news, and Lynn gave the Chicks a solid tongue lashing, coming down firmly in the Toby Keith-powered “shut up and play your guitar” camp. (Feel free to request the actual transcript of my Lynn interview.) Country music performers in recent years, though, have gradually been steering away from the so-called party line and actually thinking for themselves rather than just mouthing the usual America/God platitudes. So, as I said,  we’ll see how this plays out.

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As you, my fans, know I’m scheduled to play in Greensboro, North Carolina this Sunday. As we also know, North Carolina has just passed HB2, which the media are referring to as the “bathroom” law. HB2 — known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden. To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Sunday April 10th show is canceled. Tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.

UPDATE 4/9: Springsteen subsequently posted a second time to his Facebook page, following the initial announcement, posting a link to Common Cause and urging, “Voice your opposition of discriminatory legislation like North Carolina’s HB2 by contacting your elected officials. Find them here: http://bit.ly/22iOvks”

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone spoke with Steven Van Zandt last night at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, who echoed The Boss’ sentiments: “We just felt the issue was just too important. This really vile and evil discrimination is starting to spread state to state and we thought, ‘We better take a stand right now and catch it early.’ It’s unfortunately the only way people understand. You have to hurt them economically in order to have them do the right thing morally, unfortunately.”

Worth noting here is that Van Zandt’s wildly popular “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” syndicated radio show is sponsoring a tour featuring The Sonics, The Woggles and Barrence Whitfield & the Savages – which hits North Carolina, at Asheville’s Orange Peel venue, on May 5. Given that the NC date is a month out, it’s probably on a wait-and-see status for the time being. It would be hard for Van Zandt to justify the tour going through with that show, though, the closer we do get to the May 5 date.

Listen to New DJ Shadow Track

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From eagerly awaited new Shadow album, due this summer.

By Barbi Martinez

Talking recently to  Pitchfork  DJ Shadow advised, “Sometimes records are a struggle. This record, I knew exactly what I wanted to get across.” The record he’s referring to is The Mountain Will Fall, set to be released sometime this summer. He hasn’t put out a full length in nearly 5 years, in fact; 2011’s when The Less You Know, the Better arrived.

Below, listen to the forthcoming title track, which sounds to some of our staffers’ ears like a pisstake on synth-“god” (term used loosely) Vangelis, but hell, what do we know? At least Jon Anderson’s not singing….  Seriously, Josh, all respect.

 

Merle Haggard 1937-2016 R.I.P.

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The original Okie from Muscogee has left the building.

By Fred Mills

The country music world – and probably the entire music world – is mourning the lost yesterday (April 6) of Merle Haggard, who died at home in California, on his birthday at the age of 79. According to CNN, it was due to complications from pneumonia, as verifiied by his agent Lance Roberts. The former petty criminal and prison inmate (terms used both literally and figuratively) rose through the country music ranks in the ’60s and ’70s to become one of the true living legends, part of the vaunted “Bakersfield sound” even as he notched number one hit after number one hit.

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As his Wikipedia page notes, he continued to tour and release solidly selling albums for the rest of his live, getting inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.

Below, let’s review.

Michael Gira Writes the Ultimate (Final?) Swans Article

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By Uncle Blurt

God love ‘im, that Michael Gira, ever-irrepressible leader of the ever-impenetrable Swans. Most artists record a new album, scribble a few notes about it for their label handlers, and then retreat to the conference room to await the parade of ever-impressionable journalists seeking fresh quote-bait with which to regale their readership. Not so Mr. Gira. In advance of what is billed as possibly the final Swans album (at least, “final” in its current form, which of course has changed “forms” about 10 times since the NYC no-wave noiseniks first surfaced in the early ’80s), The Glowing Man, he has penned a nearly thousand-word opus on his band and the album that pretty much obviates the need for any subsequent interviews. (No doubt he would prefer not to sit for the tape recorder anytime soon, in light of the recent media dustup with his former Young God labelmate Larkin Grimm.)

The album is out June 17 via Young God. Here’s a teaser:

Read Gira’s entire commentary, below. Meanwhile, go HERE to read our review of a 2014 live Swans review, and HERE for a review of that same year’s To Be Kind album – not to mention our 2012 interview with Gira.

““In 2009 when I made the decision to restart my musical group, Swans, I had no idea where it would lead. I knew that if I took the road of mining the past or revisiting the catalog, that it would be fruitless and stultifying. After much thought about how to make this an adventure that would instead lead the music forward into unexpected terrain, I chose the five people with whom to work that I believed would most ably provide a sense of surprise, and even uncertainty, while simultaneously embodying the strength and confidence to ride the river of intention that flows from the heart of the sound wherever it would lead us – and what’s the intention? LOVE!

“And so finally this LOVE has now led us, with the release of the new and final recording from this configuration of Swans, The Glowing Man, through four albums (three of which contain more complexity, nuance and scope than I would have ever dreamed possible), several live releases, various fundraiser projects, countless and seemingly endless tours and rehearsals, and a generally exhausting regimen that has left us stunned but still invigorated and thrilled to see this thing through to its conclusion. I hereby thank my brothers and collaborators for their commitment to whatever truth lies at the center of the sound. I’m decidedly not a Deist, but on a few occasions – particularly in live performance – it’s been my privilege, through our collective efforts, to just barely grasp something of the infinite in the sound and experience generated by a force that is definitely greater than all of us combined. When talking with audience members after the shows or through later correspondence, it’s also been a true privilege to discover they’ve experienced something like this too. Whatever the force is that has led us through this extended excursion, it’s been worthwhile for many of us, and I’m grateful for what has been the most consistently challenging and fulfilling period of my musical life.

“Going forward, post the touring associated with The Glowing Man, I’ll continue to make music under the name Swans, with a revolving cast of collaborators. I have little idea what shape the sound will take, which is a good thing. Touring will definitely be less extensive, I’m certain of that! Whatever the future holds, I’ll miss this particular locus of human and musical potential immensely: Norman Westberg, Kristof Hahn, Phil Puleo, Christopher Pravdica, Thor Harris, and myself mixed in there somewhere, too.

“I wrote the song ‘When Will I Return? specifically for Jennifer Gira to sing. It’s a tribute to her strength, courage, and resilience in the face of a deeply scarring experience she once endured, and that she continues to overcome daily.

“The song ‘The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black’ uses some words I wrote in 1982 or so that Sonic Youth used for their song ‘The World Looks Red’, back in the day. The music and melody used here in the current version are completely different. While working up material for this new album, I had a basic acoustic guitar version of the song and was stumped for words. For reasons unknown to me, the lyric I’d so long ago left in my typewriter in plain view at my living and rehearsal space (the latter of which Sonic Youth shared at the time) and which Thurston plucked for use with my happy permission, popped into my head and I thought “Why not?” The person that wrote those words well over three decades ago bears little resemblance to who I am now, but I believe it remains a useful text, so “Why not?”. Maybe, in a way, it closes the circle.

“The song ‘The Glowing Man’ contains a section of the song ‘Bring The Sun’ from our previous album, To Be Kind. The section is, of course, newly performed and orchestrated to work within its current setting. ‘The Glowing Man’ itself grew organically forward and out of improvisations that took place live during the performance of ‘Bring The Sun’, so it seemed essential to include that relevant section here. Since over the long and tortured course of the current song’s genesis, it had always been such an integral cornerstone I believe we’d have been paralyzed and unable to perform the entire piece at all without it.

“‘Cloud of Forgetting’ and ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ are prayers. ‘Frankie M’ is another tribute and a best wish for a wounded soul. ‘The Glowing Man’ contains my favorite Zen Koan. ‘People Like Us’ and ‘Finally, Peace’ are farewell songs.”

Posies Announce New Album

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First full length in six years; major tour of “unconventional spaces” also announced.

By Blurt Staff

Solid States is the name, and the Posies are in the game – for the first time in six years, it turns out, as Solid States is the long-overdue followup to the power pop icons’ 2010 album Blood/Candy. It’s due out May 20 on the MyMusicEmpire label.

In a statement, co-founder Ken Stringfellow noted, “So many things have changed, either by choice or by circumstance, in the six years between this album and the one before it. We’ve had two bandmates die, a divorce and remarriage, a transoceanic move … There’s been good things and difficult things, but nothing is in the same place for us.  So it makes sense that this record would sound different from its predecessors.”

His bandmate and co-founder Jon Auer agreed, adding, “I think it’s our most adventurous record to date. There was the conscious idea to strive for something different from the Posies of past, to use different colors and flavors. That was the plan, but then life had its way with our concepts and schedules, and threw many profound, out-of-the-park curveballs in our direction. By this point, we’d already painted ourselves into a musical corner, which ultimately left us no other option but to figure our way out, bit by bit, wave form by wave form.”

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Also in the mix this time around: drummer Frankie Siragusa, who’s also currently touring with the band, along with ex-Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock and singer Gizelle Smith, as well as Auer’s wife Tiz Aramini and Stringfellow’s daughter Aden.

There is to be a Solid States Secret Shows tour of the U.S., launching in scenic Van Nuys, Calif. on April 28 and wrapping in Oakland on May 29 (dates below). The actual venues, however, will only be revealed to ticketholders! Meanwhile, let’s traipse back to the past for just a few moments….

Thurs., April 28 – VAN NUYS, CA

Sat., April 30 – LOS ANGELES, CA

Sun, May 1 PHOENIX, AZ

Wed., May 4 – AUSTIN, TX

Thurs., May 5 – DENTON, TX

Fri., May 6 – MEMPHIS, TN

Sat., May 7 – LAWRENCEVILLE, GA

Sun., May 8 – CHAPEL HILL, NC

Tues., May 10 – WASHINGTON, DC

Wed., May 11 PHILADELPHIA, PA / SOUTH JERSEY

Thus., May 12 – NEW YORK, NY

Fri., May 13 BOSTON / SOMERVILLE, MA

Sat., May 14 – NEW CANAAN, CT

Sun., May 15 – PITTSBURGH, PA

Tues., May 17 CHARLESTON, WV

Wed., May 18 – NASHVILLE, TN

Thurs., May 19 – CHICAGO, IL

Fri., May 20 – INDIANAPOLIS, IN

Sat., May 21 – MINNEAPOLIS, MN

Sun., May 22 – RAPID CITY, SD

Tues., May 24 – BOISE, ID

Wed., May 25 WALLA WALLA, WA

Thurs., May 26 – SEATTLE, WA

 

 

Ken Sharp’s Cheap Trick Biography to Get Reprinted

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By Blurt Staff

Written by Mike Hayes with Ken Sharp, Reputation Is A Fragile Thing: The Story of Cheap Trick was published two decades ago, notched plenty of great reviews, and promptly went out of print. Now longtime journalist Sharp has announced he’s republishing the book in a limited run.

The details:

With such classic songs as “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me” and “Dream Police,” Cheap Trick captured the ears of the world with their apocalyptic brand of super-charged melodic rock and electrifying lie performances. chronicles the colorful, topsy-turvy career of rock’s hardest working band. Featuring a foreword by Roy Wood of the Move, the book is illustrated with over 175 photos—many never-before-seen—and rare memorabilia, the book contains a comprehensive band history, charting their evolution through such pre-Trick outfits as Fuse, Sick Man of Europe and The Paegans. A Complete U.S. discography and core set list spanning 1973 to 1997 round out this definitive portrait of a rock and roll cartoon come to life.

 

 

Yes, That IS a Flamin’ Groovies Guitar & New Song

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Thanks for asking!

By Fred Mills

Because we are BLURT, we can do whatever the hell we want to do, rock ‘n’ roll wise. Ergo: last week’s post of a new Flamin’ Groovies song now gets repurposed as a (semi-) fresh post to incorporate longtime contributing scribe Barry St. Vitus’ pics of the band when he caught the band in Oakland about a year and a half ago. The first photo, indeed, is Cyril Jordan’s fabled guitar… Mr. St. Vitus, of course, is a true monster. A revved up teenage head at times, even, or so we are told…

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On to the new song. It’s called “Crazy Macy” and it’s the first officially released new Flamin’ Groovies songs since 2013’s “End of the World” track and, before that, 1992’s Rock Juice album. Check it out, below. Burger Recs plans to release it as a Record Store Day single this year, backed with a version of an early Cyril Jordan/Chris Wilson song, “Let Me Rock.”

 

“Crazy Macy” is one of the songs that Jordan played for yours truly over the phone when I interviewed him a couple of years ago. At the time the Groovies had been back together for about a year and were not only in the middle of rehearsing and recording new music as well as enjoying a touring comeback. Jordan prefaced it by describing the song as a rocker about “a gun moll who robbed banks.”

The single will also be available as a cassette and can be preordered HERE. There will be a Rhino Records Side By Side series 45 as well, Warren Zevon/Flamin’ Groovies each doing “Werewolves of London” as a split picture disc for Record Store Day.

Andy “Thunderclap” Newman 1943-2016 R.I.P.

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Something was indeed in the air… and not just his pipe smoke.

By Blurt Staff

Sad news for fans of British rock, as well as outsider music and general cult artists: Andy Newman, keyboard player of the UK ’60s/’70s band Thunderclap Newman, has passed away at the age of 73. He apparently died on March 29, according to The Guardian. The cause of death has not yet been announced.

The group of course was responsible for the album Hollywood Dream and the ’69 No. 1 hit “Something In The Air,” which the UK paper describes as “a gently euphoric anthem to the prevailing mood of social and political change, it somehow found room for Newman’s jazzy piano solo, a mix of honky-tonk and boogie-woogie styles incorporating crafty rhythmic shifts. The song rushed to the top of the UK charts and stayed there for three weeks. ‘It just happened to be the right moment for that particular song,’  Newman reflected later.” The song went on to become a staple of sixties-themed movies and compilations for decades.

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In addition to Newman the group featured songwriter Speedy Keen (vocals, drums, guitar) and Jimmy McCulloch (guitar). They split in 1971, Keen going on to a solo career under the patronage of Pete Townshend, although Newman put the band back together in 2007.

Mastodon: Gibson Guitars are “wankers”; Epiphone, “thanks!”

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Guarantee: no hip-hop artists were harmed in the making of this news item. Meanwhile, neither Drake nor Chris Brown has issued an official comment. Watch the official video, below.

By Blurt Staff

It’s one of those classic rock beefs: no one gets nailed in a drive-by, and nobody gets called a bitch. Instead, we have Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds jumping out of his tinted SUV to label Gibson Guitars a bunch of wankers, while giving props to his homies at Epiphone.

Stereogum reports: Hinds “had been working on a deal with Gibson that didn’t go through as he points out in the [below]  photo’s caption: “Gibson you will not be getting thanked by me as you guys are a bunch of wankers.” The Epiphone guitar is black and white and features Hinds’ signature skull logo on the neck.

And so it goes….

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Hinds wrote on Instagram: “Got my Proto type B.Hinds signature series Epiphone guitar in the mail today.maybe one day I’ll be good enough on the guitar that they’ll make the one I actually play made by Gibson custom shop and it’s a silver burst custom Flying V .it only took them (epiphone)4 years to get this one wrong but at least they got it done. And the mistake was they painted it wrong instead of silver burst it’s black on black which I’m in love with now so it’s a great mistake ..dealing with “Gibson” trying to get this signature series thing to happen with there custom shop proved Impossible given the nature of how difficult and flaky the people at Gibson custom shop are.thanks Epiphone for finally coming thru ..Gibson you will not be getting thanked by me as you guys are a bunch of wankers .”