Category Archives: Music Writing

No Phones at Concerts? Bob Dylan May Be Onto Something (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

“Stop tweeting already”

 

The Loop / Golf Digest — Bob Dylan did a weird thing at his concert Monday night at the IU Auditorium in Bloomington, Ind. Well, he did a ton of weird things. He did nothing but weird things. He played a mostly spoken-word version of “Tangled Up in Blue,” then warmly growled half-dozen old-timey Sinatra standards from the back of the stage while wearing a white dinner jacket. It was a curious evening, is what I’m saying. We never had this problem at Jimmy Buffett.

But the most weirdest of weird things was that Dylan issued a comprehensive cell phone ban and dispatched a surprisingly remorseless staff of IU sophomore volunteers to enforce it with the militant fire you usually only associate with students smuggling flasks of Mad Dog into football games (which actually doesn’t happen at IU, they’re just happy to have people there). These security people were ON IT. I tried to take a picture of the stage — just the stage, with nobody on it, with the house lights on — and two red-shirted valkyries descended on me like I’d just tried to jack Dylan’s trunk of bolo ties. In short, the ban worked — there was nary a telltale blue light in sight. It was impossibly odd to scan the crowd and see actual blackness, a bracingly strange moment of nostalgia, like being in a restaurant where people are smoking.

Which led us to wonder: Is Bob Dylan onto something?

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Slightly Confused Review: Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples at the IU Auditorium (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Indianapolis Monthly — A longtime Bob Dylan–fan friend of mine recently made this very good point: For all of Dylan’s reputation as an inscrutable recluse, a sly mystery, some mythic brand of unknowable stringy-haired wraith, he’s not that hard to catch.

I don’t have the exact math on this—God save anyone who does—but Dylan is on the road so much that everyone gave up and started calling it the “Never-Ending Tour.” He releases an album maybe every other year; the most recent is a set of three CDs. He’s up to 13 editions of his ample “Bootleg Series,” the latest of which comprises eight discs chronicling his still-not-unweird Christian-flavored “Gospel Tour.” (It accompanies the just-released documentary “Trouble No More,” which features gobs of new footage.) To recap: That’s eight archive CDs for a weird spell that produced two albums that people mostly did not like. And while he’s hardly a cover model or anything, he’s good for a major interview or two every year, which was at one time considered an appropriate amount to hear from famous singers.

Point is, if you’re looking, Dylan is about as hard to find as a bag of Doritos. Armed with this revisionist knowledge, I attended my first Dylan concert in 12 years on Sunday night at the IU Auditorium, and found him … pretty much an inscrutable recluse. The full review at Indianapolis Monthly. 

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This is Definitely Not a Review of ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ (via Backstreets)

Backstreets — We’re bound by decades of theater-media tradition not to review Springsteen on Broadway while it’s in previews, making the October 5 performance I was lucky enough to witness off-limits for setlists, spoilers or critical interpretation.

For instance, I can’t say “Holy (redacted)-ing (redacted)”; I can’t tell you how many times my hair stood on end, how many tears fell, or how many times I had to stuff a Playbill in mouth to stop from screaming “HE’S PLAYING (REDACTED) ON (BLANK)” and getting booted right into Dear Evan Hansen. On the other hand, for hours after after I left the Walter Kerr, the best I could come up with is “Gah,” and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t need to be redacted.

So instead of reviewing a show I can’t review, or listing a setlist I can’t list, I’ll instead share these few key pieces of safe, functional, non-review information for those Backstreets readers who may consider attending Springsteen on Broadway.

Can I bring a backpack?
The nice people at Jujamcyn Theaters, which is a word I cannot say (every time I try, it comes out “calvary”), ask in a pre-show email to “Please avoid bringing large bags or backpacks” and later to “Please refrain from bringing large bags and backpacks.” As you may have determined, these are less “hard restrictions” and more “polite requests.” I brought in a backpack containing a portable charger, a notebook, my wife’s backup shoes and a bag of airline almonds I’d totally forgotten about. But the seats are a tight enough squeeze that Jujamcyn probably has the right idea.

The answers to all your burning questions here. 

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Tom Petty: This One Hurts (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

The Loop / Golf Digest — Tom Petty was not a particularly handsome guy, he’d be the first to tell you. He had the same floppy haircut for, as near as I can tell, approximately 45 years, that iconic mix of hippie sweep and Florida dust that I suspect he never regarded in the slightest. Aside from the Mad Hatter video, which can throttle me with nightmares now and I’m a grown adult, or the one in which he danced with the corpse of Kim Basinger, I don’t remember a lot of costumes. Bruce Springsteen is idealized masculinity, a consciously maintained sculpture of the Best of America. Mick Jagger is, you know, Mick Jagger. Prince was essentially sex in the form of a four-foot-tall Minnesota magician, David Bowie an alien from space. Tom Petty watched some TV in Gainesville, Fla., decided he wanted to be a musician and that’s pretty much it, really. Iconic rock stars, particularly those we’ve recently lost, shaded their images by maintaining a thick barrier of pre-social media distance and mythology between themselves and their fans. Petty was a guy, and that was his power, and that’s why his out-of-nowhere loss hurts all the more.

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Happy 33rd Birthday to CDs, Terre Haute and “Born in the USA,” Not in That Order (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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The Loop / Golf Digest — Thirty-three years ago today, an event of monumental cultural significance took place just down the road here in Terre Haute, Ind., a quiet, unassuming southern Indiana town known primarily for smelling like a barn full of tire fires.

The event: The first-ever production of a music compact disc—a.k.a. the CD—which occurred on Sept. 21, 1984, forever burning in Indiana’s place in music history, alongside (rifles through papers) Michael Jackson and Cole Porter and Axl Rose and Hoagy Carmichael and John Mellencamp and David Lee Roth and Wes Montgomery and yes I get me a little defensive about Indiana. You guys make your flyover-corn and Fat Bob Knight gags, but without us, there would be no “Mr. Brownstone” and that is a Hoosier fact.

All the warm birthday wishes here. 

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U2, power, nostalgia and the arms of America at Lucas Oil Stadium (via Indianapolis Monthly)

Photo / Tony Valainis

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Indianapolis Monthly — First things first: It is futile to resist the first 45 minutes of the tour marking the 30th anniversary of U2’s The Joshua Tree, a nine-song block of monolithic power so expansive and relentless that it’s profoundly insane to put it at the beginning of a concert. This is a show that schedules “Pride (In the Name of Love)” fourth, because the rest of the set is frankly already too crowded.

On Sunday night at a packed Lucas Oil Stadium—with the roof wide open, because outside it’s America—U2 mobilized the assembled force of its history to deliver two hours of sturdy argument for the best show of the year. The first half nearly did it alone: Unfolding more or less chronologically, it fires to life with the militant bangs that open “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and going through “New Year’s Day,” the glistening “Bad” and the flight-worthy “Pride (In the Name of Love)” before the stars-coming-out riff of “Where the Streets Have No Name” directs things to the task at hand, which, you’ll remember, is the start of an album that then serves up “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “With or Without You,” and “Bullet the Blue Sky.” It’s a good 45 minutes before you really have a chance to mull another drink.

The full review at Indianapolis Monthly.

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Attn Fellow Old People: This is What ‘Despacito’ Is (via The Loop / Golf Digest)

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Golf Digest — Over the weekend, the global reggaeton smash “Despacito” became the most-viewed YouTube video of all time, a cross-cultural milestone that came as a total shock to the vast percentage of us who have never consciously heard “Despacito.” Released in January and now boasting more than 3 billion views, the track unseated the previous most-viewed thing in the history of Earth, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again,” which unseated the previous previous winner, and there’s no way to accurately get across how hard we’re sighing while typing this, “Gangnam Style.”

“Despacito” is performed by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, two very famous and accomplished musicians whom we would not recognize in the slightest. And while we are experiencing strange sensations of cultural optimism about how America’s wall-happy culture still allows for global-reach music performed in “other languages,” we have no idea what this song is. So, for those of us who confess to being out of touch with this particular milestone (read: are old as hell), a primer to “Despacito,” as written by a guy who will hear it for the first time in approximately 15 seconds.

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The All-Ages Genius of Rockabye Baby (via the Washington Post)

I ain’t sorry.

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Washington Post — Pro tip for aspiring PR executives: If you’re ever announcing a Beyoncé-themed baby product, try to do so just days before she Instagrams her pregnancy.

Such was the most recent stroke of good news in the potent, enduring tale of the Rockabye Baby series, which for 11 years and 78 albums has tried to alleviate one of the worst parts of being a parent — the music — with lullabied instrumental covers of songs from, you know, real bands. The Beyoncé version is the latest in a list that includes Prince, the Beatles, Springsteen, the Pixies, David Bowie, Eminem, the Cure, Guns N’ Roses, Rush, Kanye West, Radiohead, Adele, Cyndi Lauper, Tool and Iron Maiden. (If you think you had a weird day at work, imagine trying to coax “The Number of the Beast” out of a harp and glockenspiel.)

A look inside the world of the planet’s dominant Kanye West lullaby-making machine.

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How the Lumineers Took Over Folk-Rock with Two Sounds and a Snappy Pair of Suspenders (via Indy Star)

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Indy Star — Rarely have clomping feet and two onomatopoeias made a bigger splash than they did in “Ho Hey,” the evocatively old-timey and globally ubiquitous single from the self-titled debut by the Lumineers — you may remember it if you turned on a music machine in 2012. In not even three minutes, the world’s leading melancholy folky foot-stomping breakup anthem both threw more coal on the folk-Americana fire and vaulted the Lumineers from the Denver coffeeshop circuit to arenas, other continents and festivals full of people who like to clap and stomp together. Jeremiah Fraites — the one without suspenders — spoke by phone from an early tour stop in Chicago about “Ophelia,” opening for U2’s “Joshua Tree” tour and how to make a hockey arena feel like a Colorado coffeeshop.

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The Head and the Heart on “Signs of Light,” ’90s Videos and Bob Knight (via Indy Star)

the-head-and-the-heart

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Indy Star — Tyler Williams, drummer for the Seattle-based folk-rock outfit The Head and the Heart, can remember every single show his band has played in Indiana. He’s got good reason: His parents hail from Columbus, his mom is an IU graduate and his dad’s decorating tastes are heavy on the Hoosiers. “(My mom) was there for (former coach Bob) Knight’s undefeated season in ’76,” Williams said. “And my dad still has a shrine to Knight in the basement.”

The Head and the Heart has been enjoying plenty of acclaim of their own since the release of their 2011 self-titled debut, which quickly settled into a prime spot in the post-Mumford artisan folk-rock scene and became the best-selling debut for Sub Pop records in years. That album produced “Lost in my Mind” and “Down in the Valley,” which continue to appear on your Pandora stations, as well as a studio version of the band’s stirring, gospel-kissed “Rivers and Roads,” which had served as their walk-off song for years. The 2013 follow-up “Let’s Be Still” was maybe a little more intimate and refined than its predecessor, but it enjoyed a warm reception and kept the band plenty busy on the road. The full interview at the Indy Star.

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