Category Archives: Florida Times-Union

The 10 Best Jimmy Buffett Songs He Probably Won’t Play On Tour

Florida Times-Union — Jimmy Buffett has scored unimaginable bank as king of an empire that encompasses music, restaurants, apparel, shrimp, tequila, casinos and whatever industry puts blowup pools in the back of pickup trucks.

But before he was able to convince untold thousands of concertgoers in suburban amphitheaters and basketball arenas they were actually watching the sun drop in someplace like Tahiti, Buffett really was a struggling, easygoing and fairly well-lubricated storyteller from the Gulf Coast, a guy who came up in the early ’70s singer-songwriter golden age of John Prine, James Taylor, Steve Goodman and countless others.

It’s tougher to find that side of Buffett onstage after decades of sold-out cheeseburger parties, but it’s not impossible: For decades he’s ended his beach blanket blowouts with a solo acoustic number (we call it the Let’s Get The Hell Out Of Here Before These People Get In Their Cars song), his best chance to retune his guitar, rummage around in the song trunk and revisit some of the softer, simpler corners of the catalog. If you’ve gotten your fill of the songs you know by heart, here are a few lost treasures worth digging up.




Review: Dave Chappelle explains that whole thing about South Africa

Florida Times-Union — So how do you review a Dave Chappelle show in a newspaper most generally enjoyed by folks over their morning Cocoa Puffs? Well, first, you leave lots of it out, like the extended bit about the show “Cheaters,” or hilarious tale of an old fight with a crystal meth addict, or the series of stories regarding the gynecologist. Especially that last part.

But that’s easier to do than you think, because only about half of the first of Chappelle’s two sold-out shows at the Times-Union Center on Tuesday night fit the strict constructionist definition of comedy. Divorced for years from his insanely successful “Chappelle’s Show” and still clearly reeling from the bizarre media speculation regarding his self-imposed exile to South Africa, the Dave Chappelle who turned down $50 million from Comedy Central is a new animal these days, and much stronger for it.

Sure, on the surface, 2006 Chappelle is the same guy you watch on the DVDs, laser-quick with his trademark riffs on race relations, “Girls Gone Wild” videos and his own fragile reputation (“Rest assured, if you see ‘Half Baked 2,’ I ran out of money,” he cracks, probably not kidding). He’s sneaky with his smarts, masking them under dorm-approved comic riffs, and quick to diffuse whatever tension he builds by breaking himself up in fits of innocent-looking hilarity, rubber limbs flailing all over the place.

But there’s a fire in his more measured paces now, a bigger purpose, and it’s grounded in that bizarre exodus that sent him to Africa for an unspecified time. As pure his motives may have been – the explanation of which seems to be the point of his return to the stand-up circuit – there’s still something about a guy who turns down fat bags of cash to do a dozen episodes of skit comedy. Well, strike that – there’s something in America about that guy, and that difference provides the crux of an act that’s now grounded in “The Game,” which seems to have become for Chappelle what the obscenity trial was to Lenny Bruce.

That’s because after a typically rat-a-tat-tat opening set involving rumors of his own insanity (“When you read in Newsweek that you’re crazy, you start to think … maybe I’m crazy!”), the illegal immigration debate (“I only knew immigration was a problem when I started finding Mexicans in my hiding places”), and invading Iraq while North Korea waved nuclear threats around (“We don’t invade countries with WMD – that shit’s dangerous!”), Chappelle smoothly careened off of his comedy highway into a craggier, hard-to-predict and fairly astonishing monologue.

Fully getting into it involves way more ink than we have, and besides, it ruins the closure he provides at its end. But it proves a visceral riff on capitalism, American excess, the structure of language and the genesis of subtle stereotyping and it stars Iceberg Slim, a notorious Chicago pimp from the ‘40s. Chappelle spins this tale like a master storyteller, and though you know this is a guy who Richard Pryor christened the savior of smart comedy in America, his story of a pimp, a “bottom bitch” and a briefcase of cash transcends even those accolades, and blows the future of this onetime sketch comedian wide open. Most importantly, it concludes with the nature of The Game, and the real reason Chappelle fled to Africa. It’s a secret. But he knows. Just trust him.

Interview: Joan Jett puts a couple more dimes in the jukebox

Florida Times-Union — During its 11 years, the Vans Warped Tour has secured a reputation for breaking up-and-coming bands in the fields of punk, emo, hardcore and emopunkore, all of which are more or less the same thing.

But it’s also been a reliable means for vintage outfits to re-position themselves in front of a new demographic. No less punk royalty than the Ramones, for instance, visited the Warped stage in 1998. And the 2006 edition will see sets by L.A. punk forebears the Germs, the equally influential Buzzcocks and riot grrrl icon Joan Jett, interviewed here.

Interview: Rob Thomas’s holiday in Florida

Florida Times-Union — Long story about how we got there, but Rob Thomas and I begin our conversation with a brief discussion involving scabby punk icons the Dead Kennedys, the remaining members of whom played here at Fuel last summer. “You interviewed the Dead Kennedys and now you’re interviewing Rob Thomas?” he says, with what I can only call professional comic timing. “That’s a … mixture.”

Interview: Herbie Hancock’s endless possibilities

Headlining this weekend’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival: Herbie Hancock, who says of his work: “You have to feel it strongly within yourself,” he said. “Strength in your own conviction about what you want to project.” An interview with the legendary pianist.

And for all you hardcore purists out there, a column on the fest’s other headline: Mr. Kenny G.

Interview: Grace Potter’s magic


Florida Times-Union — If the name Grace Potter and the Nocturnals sounds familiar, maybe it’s because you caught the band opening for Robert Cray on Thursday night at the Florida Theatre. Or opening for Soulive a few weeks back at Freebird. Or opening for Cray last year. Or on the bill for this year’s Springing the Blues festival.

They call what the New England-based performer is doing “market saturation.” They also call it still a really good way to get people to remember your name.

• Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Nothing But The Water (1).mp3


All of 22 with an infectious giggle, Grace is out to make herself the world’s most famous Potter since that magician kid, gig by gig.

Reached en route to a New Orleans show on what sounds like a beast of a van ride (“We’re not a tour bus band yet,” she says with a laugh), Potter lets on that it’s a big night. She even bought herself a present for the occasion: a 1957 Gibson she picked up in Austin, Texas, a day prior.

“I only pay money in towns that I like,” she said. “I’m a Gibson girl, so I went in for a vintage one. I love it. It’s a really sexy little thing.”

Potter played guitar when she started about a year ago, but she spends most of her time these days behind the Hammond organ, which, not counting a crazy good a cappella performance of Nothing But the Water, is the main thing you take away from one of the band’s shows.

“According to the guys in the band,” she laughs, “there are no chicks in the country that knew how to play it. They said, ‘Come on, it’ll set you apart from all the sad girls with pianos.’ So it’s sort of become the centerpiece of the band.”

Potter gets compared to Norah Jones, but where Jones’ supple voice tends to quietly kiss her notes, Potter goes full steam ahead with her funky blues/rock, hence slots opening for Dave Matthews, Trey Anastasio and Derek Trucks. The production speaks to that, as well – she and the guys (guitarist Scott Tournet, drummer Matthew Burr and bassist Bryan Dondero) recorded their most recent, Nothing But the Water, in a New England barn. The work is a mix of gospel and funk and rock and plenty of the blues that helped secure her place in the Springing the Blues festival this weekend.

Jacksonville enjoys a special place in Potter’s heart. It was here that her band first opened for the relentlessly touring Cray last year, a performance that, by most accounts, brought down the house.

“[The 2005 Cray concert] was one of the most big-deal shows we ever had,” she says. “We were such a baby little band, and he called us up and said, ‘Hey, here’s a random opportunity to play in front of 2,000 people.’ ”

Until that show, Potter says, the band stuck mainly around its northeastern base. They formed at St. Lawrence University in New York, when they all met regularly to do what music people do when it’s too cold: plunder whatever vinyl shops they can find and sit around and play records.

Potter was into Joni Mitchell and Patty Griffin (“Total chick music” she says), but she already knew that wasn’t her direction. When she met “the boys,” she found her heart was in something a little more rocking.

“We all got into the same sounds, late ’60s and early ’70s rock that nobody, for whatever reason, was paying attention to anymore,” Potter said.

And once the band started picking up, she quickly pulled the plug on school – “I’d always planned on not going for the full four years,” she jokes – and the band relocated to its native Vermont, where it still makes its base.

“If we’re not touring, we all kind of sit around there. And if there’s no money to buy groceries, we have my mom make us up some catfish soup.”

There’s a little more money now. The band recently signed to Hollywood Records, which will re-release a spiffed-up version of Water on May 2.

“It’s not really a big-shot deal, but it’s a great opportunity for us to open up creatively and brush off this record that was recorded two years ago to see if there’s something about it that’s worth putting out again.”

Plus, it’s a pretty great prologue to a summer that’ll include a stop on Bonnaroo and more touring. World domination is still a ways away for the muggle Potter. But at least maybe her mom can take a break from whipping up the catfish soup.

SXSW 2006: Around the dinner table with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Florida Times-Union — SXSW is a moment of transition for the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, or, as they call themselves, “five poor country boys from Middleburg.”

“It’s music or die, basically,” says guitarist Elias Reidy. “We gave up everything to do what we’re doing.”

If all goes as planned, this weekend will begin the payoff. Red Jumpsuit is in the thick of their pre-release, buzz-building, occasional-steak-meal phase (“Do you know who pays for this?” bassist Joey Westwood asks earnestly). A show is slated for 11 p.m., but apart from that, it’ll be a weekend stocked with day parties and lively self-marketing. An evening with the Apparatus at SXSW.

Welcome to the Internet’s two billionth blog post regarding SXSW 2006

AUSTIN, Tx. – So here are some random musings from the 2006 South By Southwest festival (pronounced “South By” to sniffly big-shots), captured while trapped in the rained-out airport and surrounded by zombie-eyed band types – you can always tell the bands – getting in one more cup of coffee, industry types getting in one more meeting, or civilians nodding off awkwardly in those gray terminal seats that, if you sit in them long enough, will reorient your spine for you. Have you ever tried sleeping in one of those things? Heavens to Dashboard Confessional, you might as well try to nap on a pile of charcoal. I know – I’ve been trying for an hour. And all I can hear is the two guys behind me telling me how the Editors, who were the fest’s easy winners for Most Posters Per Square Foot, was, and I’m quoting here, “f—ing a-MAAAAaaaY-zing.” (Well, that’s not entirely true. I can also hear the ringing in my ears pretty well).

SXSW is a magnificent blur. It’s an exhausting mess of indie-rock and noise-pop and occasionally free beer and hairy people in vintage T-shirts and enough merciless walking back and forth from club to club that one morning I woke up to find my feet on the nightstand smoking a cigarette and calling me dirty names. It’s an insanely overstuffed festival (over 1,400 bands) perfect for the attention-deficit crowd, not one of those tie-dyed hippie fests that sport all the same bands but a showcase for the nation’s newest, hottest, most buzzed-about … OK, it’s a mammoth schmoozefest that’s entirely too damned crowded and has an irrational dependence on dissonant indie rock, but it does afford you the chance to see the Beastie Boys, Morrissey, Mates of State and Goldfrapp in under three hours.

Here’s what I took away: 1. I’m old. Know how I know? I shave, a hygiene choice of an unpopularity that’s hard to overstate. And 2. Most nights lacked real headliners who demanded immediate attention, but that allowed me to wander the scene of Austin with impunity. And barbecue. (Twenty bucks says next year a band named Impunity And Barbecue plays the Pitchfork day party).

The Beastie Boys held a rare press conference to promote “Awesome! I Fuckin’ Shot That!” a concert flick for which they handed out 50 digital recorders to fans at a Madison Square Garden gig and had them do the cinematography. (The movie’s certainly energetic but way too enthusiastically edited; still, it’s great to see Doug E. Fresh’s beatbox cameo on “Time To Get Ill.”) For 45 minutes, the Beastie men were subjected to questions by fans, questions that generally started with: “So, I have a Web site called, and we capture amateur video and lay mashups featuring the Flaming Lips and Ray Parker Jr. over them, and I was just wondering, uh, do you guys think that’s a good idea?” One girl began by announcing that she “really liked the album with, uh, ‘Girls’ and ‘Brass Monkey’ on it,” causing Adrock’s jaw to hit the stage floor and MCA’s beard like a billy goat to visibly droop. Best line: Responding to a query about how to write rhymes, MCA deadpanned: “Just don’t make some wack shit.”

The following night the Beasties turned up for their not-very-secret gig at Stubb’s. Their 7pm set was one of the fest’s biggest draws, but the show was a ragged (if often fun) mess; they’d obviously had no … rehearsal … since Brooklyn.

Speaking of skinny white rappers, Lady Sovereign, the diminutive hobbit from London, is Jay-Z’s latest signing and one of the fest’s liveliest acts: by my unofficial count she did no less than eight sets in three days. The finale was a seven-song banger at La Zona Rosa late Saturday that found her visibly drained but still able to work up a crazy lather on tracks like “Hoodie,” “Random” and “Public Warning.” Feminem, nah, but fun as hell.

Most satisfying set: Morrissey at the Austin Music Hall. Previewing material from his new “Ringleader of the Tormentors,” due April 6, Moz and his new band (the Tormentors, natch), blazed through material from the new record (first single “You Have Killed Me” is magnifique) as well as “At Last I Am Born” and Smiths standards like “How Soon Is Now?” and “Girlfriend in a Coma.” At 47, there’s a little more jiggling going on when he takes off his shirts, but the man knows how to make a crowd dance to his every flick of the hand. Morrissey told a SXSW panel earlier in the day that he turned down millions for a Smiths reunion. Second-most satisfying: Jersey’s Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, smart, raging punkers who stuff more fire, political and otherwise, into their three-minute epics than most bands do in a career.

Neil Young’s keynote address with Jonathan Demme, who directed the new Young concert film “Heart of Gold” was … er, not attended by me. Come on, it was at 10:30 a.m! (Judge me if you will, but it’s literally impossible to catch everything you want; in fact, it’s impossible to not feel, at any given time, that you should be somewhere else. Shows I missed: Norah Jones’ offshoot country project, the Little Willies, the Arctic Monkeys, a tribute to New Orleans featuring Allen Toussaint and Sam Moore and the Rhymesayers showcase featuring Atmosphere, P.O.S and Brother Ali. Morning-after meals are generally used for two things: 1 – Stuffing yourself full of breakfast tacos until your duodenum hurts and 2- Reading the local pubs to learn what you missed).

One of the draws of SXSW is the titillating buzz given to mystery performances. The Beasties were no surprise, but Ray Davies was – he was slated to appear Friday at the Music Hall after Morrissey. But no dice – Davies was rumored to have left in a huff after enduring some serious prima donna ‘tude from the Mozzer (“I get the bigger dressing room” kind of stuff). I’d have given up seeing every single show I did for two minutes of watching that happen. Other “special guests:” Lyle Lovett, Rosanne Cash, the Zutons, My Chemical Romance (?) and the ubiquitous-to-the-point-of-absurdity Flaming Lips, who are excellent musicians, nice guys and utter festival whores. Here’s a fun game to try sometime: hold a festival and see if you can keep the Lips away from it. I’ll give you $20 if you make it two hours. (The oft-rumored Neil Young secret gig never happened, though Demme brought him to a party to catch the M’s.)

Also winning a workaholics’ award, again: the Drive-By Truckers, who did four sets on Thursday alone, including a loose, swaggering acoustic one at the New West Records party where they previewed material from their excellent new “A Blessing And A Curse,” due April 18. The Truckers’ showcase set that night at La Zona Rosa (which followed a crisp set by Kris Kristofferson) was a little sleepier – it was 2:15 before Patterson Hood dropped the last riff on “The Living Bubba” but easily worth the walk.

And then there’s Billy Bragg, who turned in panel session before his packed showcase set at the Cedar Street Courtyard, which, bizarrely, unfolded about 15 steps down from a frat-tastic St. Patrick’s Day party on 5th Street. In addition to nuggets like “New England,” Bragg previewed the new “I Keep Faith” and mused that all of his hardscrabble political material was designed basically to get women to sleep with him. Bragg joined Joe Henry and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott for a little “hootenanny” on Saturday night that doubled as a Republican fund-raiser. Just kidding.

Other random notes: The singer of Austin-based band the Awesome Cool Dudes – who performed clad in matching track suits – closed an afternoon set by singing to passers-by outside and climbing perilously into the rafters. Nice job. Flying all the way in from New Zealand, the Bats closed Saturday night with ragged but endearing indie-pop. The Boy Least Likely To is a sunny, bouncing seven-piece from London who should be getting all the buzz levied to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who performed to a packed house at the InSound party despite not bringing too terribly much new to the table. Late of Belle and Sebastian, Isobel Campbell (along with ex-Vaseline Eugene Kelly, whose scruffy voice was the easy counterpoint) delivered dreamy pop to an adoring crowd in a venue that ate it right up; her sublime vocals got a little eaten up in the Dirty Dog. Head Automatica unleashed some trashy-pop on an unsuspecting La Zona Rosa audience; ex-Jurassic 5 DJ Cut Chemist followed up with a skillful if a little too-polished set. The Pitchfork party on Saturday featured approved hipsters like I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness and the Pink Flamingos; it was tough to hear the lyrics outside the massive, unmoving line, but the Flamingos sent lush pop into the afternoon skies. Ted Leo’s handpicked billmates included Tralala, a Brooklyn-based group that included four girl singers in the vein of the Shirelles and apparently some guys; they were messy and giggly and primally infectious. The Animal Collective at Fox and Hound found a way to sculpt melody out of raging, dissonant noise; the previous night at the same venue, the Brazilian Girls delivered a seductive set all about snaky, Latin bass. And this is about all I could make out from a notebook full of scribblings, scrawlings and smeared BBQ sauce. Thanks, Austin, let’s do it again next year.

Queen + Paul Rodgers: One escape from reality

If nothing else, you gotta love how the Internet connects artists with fans. My review of Fake Queen from a few weeks back got the attention of Brian May, who had it breathlessly sent to him by a local guy. I can only furnish the link to Brian’s site, because as he states in large bold type atop his grammatically entertaining blog:


So, sorry. Here you go; once you hit the page, search for Vrabel. (It’s shortly after the lengthy piece regarding edamame.)

Live from New York: Rock Hall plays some Skynyrd, man

Florida Times-Union — Bridesmaids since 1998, Lynyrd Skynyrd finally soars into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a Monday night induction ceremony in New York City. A report from the ceremony, held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. “We were actually the one band tonight that seemed to get along OK,” cracked guitarist Gary Rossington.

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