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The Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Finishing a Dissertation: MUSIC

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Added 11-03 Jason Mraz
The source: Jason Mraz: Waiting for My Rocket to Come (2002)
How I came across it: Like everyone else, I saw the video for "The Remedy" played repeatedly on MTV and was intrigued. I've had this album since 8/03 when it was available in stores but only just realized I should add it here.
The gems: What's inspiring? Well, like Jack Black, he didn't learn how to play guitar until he was older, in this case, 18. Look at him now. "I'll Do Anything" is the greatest pick-up line song ever written. Jason took one concept, i.e., trying to convince a girl to leave the party with him, and created a charming ode to himself, a convincing argument for why the girl should leave with him. Aside from getting a kick out the song, I think it's a great example of good writing. Of course, in a thesis, we're trying to get our point across without too much flourish, but a little style never hurt. Anyway, I just love this album and have spent ample time perusing the official Jason Mraz site watching video clips, his journal, etc. Okay, I have a musical crush on him, and I think you will get a lot of work done while listening to him sing and play guitar. He's a unique talent and cute as a button. I read somewhere how his father said Jason got into music because he didn't want to work too hard and now he's working like a dog. I guess why I'm listing him here in the pop guide is because I think he's pop-culturally relevant and he's someone who loves what he does. Oh, and if you're not sick of "The Remedy" yet, it is a nice reminder not to get bogged down by the pitfalls of dissertation writing. Things will work out somehow. Look out for his appearance on Austin City Limits on December 20, 2003.

Added 1/04: Well, on my local PBS station, the Austin City Limits with Jason Mraz aired on 12/27/03. Hope you caught it. My cousin upstate said her station only airs ACL once a month instead of weekly so she hasn't seen it yet. Anyway, the music was great. At first I was thinking that the camera work wasn't musician-centric enough. You know how when you watch a band perform on a late night show, they always focus the camera on the lead singer and don't show the other musicians up-close unless they happen to be Jason Schwartzman on drums in Phantom Planet or Keanu Reeves on bass in Dogstar. On a show like ACL, I was thinking they'd be more conscious of the other players and at least of JM's overall presentation rather than just his face. I mean, I'll readily concede that he does have an adorable face with an equally adorable singing voice. I just love "You and Me Both." But when I really sat down and watched it, I saw ACL did hella good. I saw every musician's face and instrument for more than a millisecond. And as for the actual show, having never seen Jason Mraz live, it was a real treat hearing his interstitial chitchat and completely different renditions of familiar tunes not to mention a new song to my ears, "Unusual" I think it's called. Btw, for the record,I totally dig Phantom Planet's single "Is This Really Happening to Me" and look forward to the 1/6/04 release of their new album.

phantom planet 2004 the guest

Added 5/04: I can't believe I took this long to revel in the fact that I am seeing Jason Mraz live later this month. The show is Monday, May 24 at the Beacon. I trust that he will be as adorable as ever. I am looking forward to a new album from him. In the meantime, I recently ordered his live album from

Added 5/04: Here's my review of the Jason Mraz concert at Beacon Theater, NYC on May 24, 2004. Let me start at the beginning. We arrived late knowing we had assigned seats. We did not know that they had sold standing room only tickets. So in order to get to our seats, we fought through throngs of standing fans who, imho, were a fire hazard. But surprisingly, no one was in our seats when we finally found them with the help of an usher who bullied her way through with a flashlight. I went with my cousin and put it this way, we are both post-grad school. [Added 6/24: I was going to mention this earlier. Yesterday, 6/23/04, Jason Mraz turned 27, making him the same age as my cousin. So, it's not unreasonable that someone the same age as him would like his music, right? Anyway, read on...] We were surrounded by, I mean buried to our necks in, high schoolers. It was the oddest feeling. Honestly, the kids to our left had to leave before the end of the show in order to make their curfew! Plus, my cousin literally saw a baby in the restroom. At one point, one of the opening acts asked, "Who out there is over 18?" And even we didn't respond. LOL.

Another surprise to me was that it was an all acoustic show. I had misread "Curbside Prophets" and thought that was the name of Jason Mraz' band. I mean, he's supported by a band on his album and on Austin City Limits, Jason had a band behind him. And on Jay Leno, he was on tour at the time and again, he was with a band. So it was a nice surprise to see just him do a "me, myself and I" show. He said Toka was on paternity leave (my wording but same message). He was backed up on a few songs by drummer Jen Love. She was cool.

Jason sang a sweet and funny song for his mother about being on "Broadway" (even though it was Broadway and 74th Street rather than 42nd) and another song he had written for his sister. So sweet. He goofed around a lot. It appears he likes to make up lyrics and scat. He even joked about how every song begins the same way with an elaborate vocalization. He vamped on his guitar for a few minutes only to show us that he had recorded himself so he could play around with us and teach us how to scat. Very cute. He talked about his musical theater days when he was a "skinny dancer." There was a very amusing part when he tested out his operatic skills - pas mal, Monsieur Jason. I have to say, his "aw shucks" demeanor seemed sincere.

Jason's sense of humor was intact - he introduced one song as being completely new and original and if people happened to know the words already, it was through telepathy. Of course, the song was The Remedy. The surprising omission was I'd Do Anything. The loveliest new song to my ears was one he had written for the "beautiful girlfriend" with whom he had "recently parted." He said it was hard to date a New York City girl.

You and I Both was just as nice as it could be. Curbside Prophet was his encore and he brought a fan onstage for it. She said, "This is the best $40 bucks I've ever spent." Cute. The two openers performed acapella with him as well. That was very nice to see - his real support for these two guys who were singer-songwriters. The first guy was a bit schmaltzy for me but I recognized his talent playing guitar. The second guy was more my style - he noted he had just been signed by EMI. The dude was psyched. He also happened to be blind.

Overall, it was a fun and musically-oriented show. He sang Rand McNally which the girls in front of us went crazy for and I only knew because I recently received and listened to his live album. He said being on stage was his "therapy" and he felt like he was talking to god in the infinite darkness and that it seemed that god was 3000 screaming freaky girls and that was all right.

Funny memory: Jason started strumming and laughed at his mellowness and yelled, "I'm going to light-rock your asses off!" Then he said, "Does anyone really say, 'I like Adult Contemporary; I like Alternative?'" Well, I admit I say I like alt/indie music. I find that descriptive useful. I guess he was making fun of the categories he's been put in with his music. Anyway, after this riff, he played one of his favorites, The Rainbow Connection. I had seen a video of him performing this and heard he likes to play it in concert so it was quite enjoyable.

I really have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. I couldn't resist. If I get less lazy, I'll put an image up later. I just remembered another funny thing he said. He was talking about how he gets a lot of flack for writing love songs. Then he went on about how the same guys who complain to him are the ones who are always going where the girls are making them no different from him. He said he guaranteed that each and every one of them had made a mix tape and that maybe they hadn't even given it to the girl but just put in the cd player and pretended it was on shuffle and then kept saying, oh, isn't this a good song? LOL. So all that lead up to a "love" song he wrote for his best guy friend and he encouraged the guys out in the audience to tell their guy friends that they loved them.

jason mraz tee

All in all, it was very intimate, despite the large venue. Our seats were good. The sound was excellent. We definitely did not regret making the effort to see the show! After we got home, we watched highlights of Jason Mraz on Austin City Limits and his performance on Jay Leno. We also watched Sondre Lerche's performance on Conan about 5x and for good measure watched the scene in Scrubs over which Tammany Hall NYC's great song Cindy plays.

Added 10/05:
Read my review of the Jason Mraz concert at Avery Fisher Hall, NYC on 10/16/05.

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Added 11/03 spike jonze
The source: The Work of Director Spike Jonze (2003) (note: This is a dvd of his music videos and selected shorts. Also, just to be clear, the dude on the cover is a professional stuntperson.)
How I came across it: I looooooove the "Praise You" and "Weapon of Choice" videos. I love "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaption." I love the Beastie Boys and I love the videos Spike has done with them. I love Bjork and enjoyed the "Oh So Quiet" video. You get the idea. Given my appreciation and adoration of the work of Spike Jonze, my antenna went up when I first read about this dvd on Ain't It Cool News.
The gems:This dvd is worth the price just to have the footage of Spike Jonze dancing to Fatboy Slim's Rockafella Skank. Other gems include: the Beastie Boys' commentary; being able to watch the Praise You and Weapon of Choice videos at your leisure although we learn that Norman Cook/Fatboy Slim does not know the difference between Martin Scorcese and Abel Ferrer (yes, I'm that kind of snob); Bjork's commentary - love the hair and personally, I always liked that swan dress though Dancer in the Dark was a downer; the making of The Drop video by Pharcyde - I liked the interview with the linguist; Fatlip's intense interview (you will never listen to his verse on Oh S*** the same way again - start with one fine summertime sunday evening); and the "documentary" about the Torrance Community Dance Troupe. At least rent it. I promise you, you won't be disappointed. I suppose I should run down why I am recommending it on this particular guide. I think the creativity is oozing from it and the dedication and diligence of the artists involved are admirable and possibly motivating. At any rate, it's a stellar dvd through and through so I thought I'd show my love by writing about it here.

Watch clip from Work of the Director Spike Jonze.

Addendum: I thought of a perfect reason why this dvd belongs on this list: "The Oasis Video that Never Happened." As I mentioned in the Behind the Video blurb, Oasis fascinates me. In typical Oasis fashion, they completely reject Spike's brilliant idea for their video. But we lucky viewers get to see the groundwork for the video for the 1997 single Stand By Me. We see the impact of Oasis on the youth and perhaps all of London. We see how hard work on a great idea can result in nothing at first and then become something, i.e., a fantastic rarity/b-side in a celebration of one's work to date. Good job, Spike. You never let us down. Anyway, it's another example of how we don't know what life will bring us so we should stay tuned till the end.

Added 6/04: I keep meaning to add somewhere how a few months ago, I picked up Oasis' 1995 album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? and have subsequently become obsessed with it. It truly is a great album. I was a naysayer for a long time. I thought Oasis didn't have anything unique to offer. They were derivative and uninteresting. But, of course, I found their personalities and relationships completely riveting. But now I am so into this album! I must say I like discovering I like something 9 years after the hoopla has calmed down. It makes me happy that there are still old groups, albums and songs that are left for me to uncover in my own time. Anyway, I know Oasis was IT for a long time. I just wasn't ready to appreciate their music then.

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stand by me (single) be here now (album) (what's the story) Morning Glory

Added 11/03 michel gondry
The source: The Work of Director Michel Gondry (2003) (dvd of music videos, shorts & commercials)
How I came across it: As soon as I realized the magnificence of the Work of the Director Spike Jonze dvd (see above), I decided I wanted to get Michel Gondry's as well.
The gems: Michel Gondry is someone who pours himself into his work. His dreams, his memories, his streams-of-consciousness permeate all of his work. If he weren't the gifted artist that he is, this quality would be unwieldy, tiresome and unsufferable (I venture to guess). However, Michel Gondry is the person who came up with the White Stripes' Fell in Love With a Girl video with the legos (who didn't love that?). Michel Gondry came up with the Foo Fighters' Everlong video with the dreams, fairytales, rocking and rolling. He worked with the fantastic Bjork on Human Behaviour and 5 other videos. When you watch the interviews, you learn how Michel grew up on the edge of the forest. That fact alone explained so much to me about his thinking. Practically every thought, idea and memory expressed and described in the interview is accompanied by a short.

I feel like it's hard to convey my awe and fascination - if you've seen Terry Zwigoff's documentary Crumb or anything by Terry Gilliam, you get the idea of the fluidity, intensity and abundance in Michel Gondry's work. He is like James Cameron in that he will have a specific idea and then do the research and learning necessary to figure out feasibility, etc. of that idea. I'm also reminded of Steven Soderbergh and Robert Rodriguez. These directors learned how to write music, operate cameras, edit and even do special effects so that they could make the movies they wanted without any compromise. Hal Hartley is another one who has a hand in every aspect of his films (as director, writer, producer, composer).

crumb terminator the unbelievable truth el mariachi the limey 12 monkeys

Put it this way, I truly understood the meaning of an artist after watching Michel Gondry's life story as told on this dvd. Now, how will watching this dvd help you finish your dissertation? Well, don't you often feel like you are the one with the specific idea who then has the responsibility to carry out said idea and learn new and completely unfamiliar information and skills so as to fulfill the promise or desire to carry out this idea? This process is what we see Michel Gondry undergo time and time again. I could actually see his brain cells working.

Watch Fell in Love With a Girl video.

Added 1/04: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
I am looking forward to Michel Gondry's movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to be released March 19, 2004. It looks trippy. As well as being the director of the movie, Michel Gondry is credited as a contributing writer to the story although ultimately, Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay. It looks like a good performance by Jim Carrey. I keep waiting for another great Mark Ruffalo performance - he was so great in You Can Count on Me, and I feel lucky I can say that I saw him on stage in This is Our Youth before it became the "Young Hollywood" star vehicle of the month in London although I can't begrudge the amazing Kenneth Lonergan his day in the sun. Maybe this will be it. Human Nature was an oddity and didn't grab me totally and completely but it certainly had the Michel Gondry signature and I loved it visually and found parts of it really funny. Still, I have greater hopes for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

you can count on me human nature

Added 2/04: Walkie Talkie Man video

I just watched Michel Gondry's video for New Zealand's Steriogram's Walkie Talkie Man here. You must see it now! As of yet, it hasn't aired on MTV. In the most recent EW (2/13/04), Neil Drumming wrote up the video and quoted Gondry's reason for agreeing to make the video after receiving the tape of the single from the band. Gondry said, "It was the kind of stubborn energy that I like. The punk style made me think of the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten and how he had a sweater knitted by his mother - the contrast of this childlike look with this very violent music. From there, I decided to do everything with yarn." Lauri Faggioni, knitter and designer, and visual effects house The Mill assisted Gondry in carrying out his ambitions.

In The Mill description, they note, "Everything in the clip is knitted: from the band’s instruments, to their recording studio and even the film camera that Gondry uses in his cameos role. Sound waves, tape reels, film rolls and other little details are all represented by wool and yarn. The outside world doesn’t escape the woolen treatment either - cars, trees and buildings are all knitted.

As ever, Gondry pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved. Nearly all the woven elements were knitted for real and animated in the edit. The Mill NY lent a hand in helping to composite a couple of tricky shots that could not be achieved in-camera, including shots of the lead singer where his 'knitted' legs had to look like they’d been sewn on back-to-front."

What are you waiting for? Go watch the video now!

Walkie Talkie Man video

Added 5/05: cover The Steriogram album dropped on May 18th. I've been anxiously awaiting it. I will write more about it after I've had proper time to digest it.

I just watched The Making of Walkie Talkie Man a couple of times and then the video a couple of more times - I just can't enough of it. I like seeing Michel Gondry's son. So cute. He's the one who says, "1, 2, 3, 4" at the top of the song. He's also in the beginning of the Fell in Love With a Girl video.

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Added 11/03 faces down don't be shallow
The source: Sondre Lerche concert at Bowery Ballroom, NYC on 11/18/03
How I came across it: In my study of Jason Mraz' site, I noted that he listed Sondre Lerche's site under sites of "friends." I clicked on it because I had never heard of Sondre before. Then on that site I saw that Sondre had opened up for Jason on a tour of the US in August '03. I read a couple of reviews and saw he was some kind of wunderkind. I listened to a few clips and was not immediately moved but I was definitely curious about his exceptionally laudatory press. So, when I was checking the Bowery Ballroom schedule for the Tammany Hall NYC concert (see next entry), I was intrigued to see Sondre Lerche was playing the night before. And it was only $13. I mean, that's a hard thing to pass up. For less than the price of a cd, I could actually see this kid live? So without knowing any of his songs or even being a fan, I went cold to the concert. To be fair, after I got the tickets, I listened to a couple of more mp3's on his site and started to warm up to him and even decided I'd get his cd at some point.

The gems: In this section, I will give my review of the concert and conclude with a "lesson."

First impressions: Before the music even started, I saw Faces Down on sale next to his EP Don't Be Shallow, previously only available in Europe but now available in limited quantity in the US, so I plonked down the corresponding currency in exchange for the goods. The girl from Sondre's label,Astralwerks, was very friendly - if I hadn't already decided to get the albums, I would've been swayed by her - good hire, Astralwerks. She asked me if I'd ever seen Sondre live and said I was in for a treat when I told her I hadn't. I just knew I wanted this cd that everyone was putting on their best of the year list. That's the kind of person I am. I mean don't own every single well-reviewed album ever. But if it's the kind of music I know I like, I'll seriously consider a stellar review. That's how I ended up with Original Pirate Material by The Streets and No Doubt's Rock Steady and I had no regrets.

original pirate material rock steady

The crowd: I went upstairs to the stage area and found a good-sized crowd. I should say that before I saw the layout, I was having flashbacks to the Bjork concert where I had to share one square foot of a bench with another concert-goer so we could both see (I didn't know this other person, and every time one of us breathed, let alone tried to shake a groove thing, we were fighting gravity). But, at the Bowery Ballroom, I found a perfect spot right in the center of the room - great for acoustics and decent visuals.

post gling-glo

The concert: Sondre Lerche came on stage and introduced himself and I finally learned how to pronounce it: SON-dreh LAIR-key (if you go his site and listen to him introduce himself in the video of him talking about Faces Down, it sounds more like SON-drah LUR-keh but that's because it's kind of jumbled but this other pronunciation is what his label provides and I think they'd well). You pronounce every letter like in Latin and emphasize the first syllables. [Here's how it looks in Norwegian: S?dr?L?che.]

Okay, let me try again using the right tags. This is what it looks like in Norwegian: S?dr?L?che. 

Clearly, this kid (I believe he turned 21 on 9/13/03 and was 17 when he finished Faces Down; he wanted to finish high school before he released the album), was at ease on stage. The crowd loved him and he loved them back giving them charming banter and anecdotes. Since I didn't know any of the songs, it was an interesting experience. First and foremost, Sondre is a great musician with a beautiful voice. He sang his first notes and I immediately thought of Jobim and Gilberto. SL has said he likes Brazilian music but he seems to cite Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach more than the Brazilian influences. But clearly, there is a special quality to Sondre's voice that's expressive and sincere but with inflections that make it his own. If you've ever heard Gilberto Gil sing his lovely Volks, Volkswagen Blues, Caetano Veloso singing Billie Jean or Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim (and Elis Regina) sing Aguas de Marcas, you know how I felt. I'm not an aficionado of tropicalia (that whole bossa nova explosion) but I'm a fan.

tom and elis

I'm also a diehard fan of Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera; so, when I tell my friends that Sondre Lerche is the next Roddy Frame, they know I'm not kidding around. Having seen both in concert, I can now say that I think the guitar-playing, songwriting, vocals and charisma of Roddy Frame and Sondre Lerche are on par. I just hope Sondre doesn't go through that over-produced phase that Roddy did. Back to the concert: so, although he apparently has a band stashed back in Norway, Sondre has been performing "me, myself and I" plus his guitar. I've seen Bob Mould and Paul Westerberg perform with bare bones and of course, they were great. But Sondre definitely could hold a candle to them.

aztec camera

The funny thing is, I saw in an interview that Sondre said when he first came to the US, no one recognized him at all and it was such a strange thing since he was a huge star in Norway and I guess even throughout Europe (he is far too modest to say this last part about being "a huge star" but it's what he meant). It's sort of like when the HK stars first came to Hollywood, like Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo - to explain my fandom of John Woo would take another website - anyway, these were major players in Asia, who became faceless when they arrived in the US. But things are very different for them now. And it seems that Sondre's homegrown celebrity is starting to catch up with him in the US. The crowd, male and female, knew all the lyrics and were swooning and whooping with great energy. I have to inject that although it was a crowded room, I had a very nice air pocket around me - so unusual, maybe it was me. And there weren't any annoying, inebriated people PDA'ing throughout the concert (don't you hate when that happens - when it's not you?). I keed (as Triumph says).

the killer triumph

Anyway, you get the picture, I'm sold. Since the concert, I've put Faces Down and Don't Be Shallow on regular rotation in my audio schedule. And the next time Sondre Lerche's in town, I'll be there!

One more cool thing about Sondre is his attitude about his "art." He welcomes the idea of being a pop musician. Sondre and I have that in common- we love Justified!


The lesson: I took a chance and was rewarded manifold. In completing a dissertation, there are crossroads and minor forks in the road where one can make a choice or just go with inertia - sometimes that works out, too. But making a choice, taking a small chance, really can lead to undiscovered treasure and delight.

Added 2/04: two way monologue

Just a reminder that Sondre is releasing his second studio album on March 9, 2004 in the US. Earlier release dates are available on his site.

Added 3/04: sondre lerche I have Two Way Monologue in hand as well as tickets to Sondre Lerche's show at Irving Plaza in NYC on May 10, 2004. He's bringing his band Faces Down this time. Should be a memorable show! Below is a tidbit I sent to the lovely Sondre Lerche Yahoo newsgroup knowing if anyone, this bunch would appreciate my little moment:

Date: Sat, 20 Mar 2004 14:52:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject: SL in EW!
Earlier today, I was sitting on the bus literally listening to Two Way Monologue on my iPod reading my Entertainment Weekly when I suddenly saw Sondre Lerche's picture. I actually gasped outloud. It was pretty funny (to me but maybe odd if you were sitting near me). I know he's been featured in other magazines but it was cool to read about him in EW. It's the March 26th issue. The article doesn't say anything we all don't know from reading SL's blog which sort of gave me the impression that Neil Drumming wrote his article based on his study of SL's site. But it gave me an idea to email Conan O'Brien's show to encourage Conan to invite him on the show because SL was saying he's a big fan of American late night tv so a Letterman appearance would be great too. Anyway, I'm sure by the time I send this, more of you will have seen the picture and article. The picture is him from shoulders up wearing a red zipped up track suit against a red backdrop.

This is not the picture and article in question but David Browne reviewed Two Way Monologue for on 3/12/04:

sondre lerche "Like many indie-pop acts, this Norwegian has an inclination toward the fey: in his case, a winsome delivery, kicky arrangements that coyly mimic '60s psychedelia, and elliptical, often precious lyrics about fractured relationships. Unlike his peers, though, Lerche knows even indie singer-songwriters need hooks (and drums), and he doesn't appear to take himself too seriously (''Stupid Memory''). The result is a breezy, unexpectedly enchanting Two Way Monologue -- Nick Drake on Prozac."

Added 4/04: conan o'brien First off, my vision will come to fruition. Yay! This was posted 3/31/04 at "Don't miss out on a very Lerchey performance at Late Night with Conan O'Brien on NBC 11th May! For more info, visit the Conan O'Brien web site."

Next, Stupid Memory is hot. It amazes me that as a non-native English speaker, Sondre Lerche captures the nuances of the language in song so perfectly. That goes for all of Two Way Monologue. He has spoken of how he grew up listening to and loving English-language pop songs and how he attempted to write songs in Norwegian but didn't feel like they did the trick. I also love how he writes in his journal with slight non-English-isms. Very charming.

coverSpeaking of Sondre Lerche's influences, I must interject that I am greatly enjoying - even more so than I could've predicted - Caetano Veloso's latest album A Foreign Sound. I wanted to see Caetano Veloso at The Museum of Television and Radio on 4/13/04 but didn't quite make it. I did manage to see Darren Star at the MTR though on 3/22/04. The funniest thing Star said was, when asked about if he still procrastinates as a writer, "Yes, I pretty much wait until it's an emergency." Everyone laughed because, hey, we've all been there. We just don't get paid as much as he does.

Added 5/04: ew must list 4/30/04 ew must list 4/30/04 SL’s Two-Way Monologue made the EW Must List the week of 4/30/04. I’ve been meaning to mention it ever since I read it last month. It was ranked 8 out of 10 “must?see/hear/read items/events/artists of the week. Very cool to see SL’s talent recognized yet again by the influential Entertainment Weekly.

FYI, the full list was: 1) Arrested Development (such a funny show); 2) The Party After You Left by Roz Chast (book of cartoons from New Yorker); 3) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (Buddhist Korean movie I had tickets to at the New Directors/New Films Fest but had to's out in theaters now so I don't have an excuse); 4) Step Into Liquid (surfing documentary); 5) PBS' 'Boohbah' (I watched a few eps; very trippy); 6) Jesse Palmer on ABC's 'The Bachelor' (believe it or not, I don't really watch reality tv); 7) The first 15 minutes of 'Letterman' on CBS (still crazy after all these years); 8) Two Way Monologue, Sondre Lerche; 9) Shaolin Soccer (saw it with subtitles on dvd and liked most of it but there was some weird, juvenile stuff in the version I saw; I read that they tightened it up and dubbed it into English for theater release); 10) Black Sabbath's Black Box (I would gladly watch/listen to this but not run out and get it).

5/04 Concert review: two way monologue The ever-adorable Sondre Lerche’s Irving Plaza show on 5/10/04 was so fortifying and nourishing. I just wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home with me. His voice, his lyrics, his music, his banter, his comraderie with the band, his interactions with his fans, his stamina just washed over me totally and completely. Ultra-grooviness through and through. But let me start at the beginning. With the show being 16+, we expected a younger crowd. But lo and behold, the average audience member age was probably mid-20’s possibly a bit older. I didn’t take a poll but I feel confident saying that SL’s fans are certainly of all ages. In case you lost track, Sondre Lerche, erstwhile wunderkind but still a wunder no less, is now the ripe old age of 21.

I accidentally caught the opener (I know, I would've never heard of SL if he wasn't an opener for Jason Mraz but I hold on to my questionable concert-going ways) ?pretty voice capable of Broadway shows but not really of my personal taste in the pop/rock singer-songwriter front. Give me Liz Phair (SL and Jason Mraz were on tour with her in 8/03; wish I had caught that show!) or Juliana Hatfield instead. The break between opening act and SL was unexpectedly long. But of course it was well-worth the wait.

Gems from the show: At long last, the lights dimmed, and as Sondre Lerche entered the stage, the crowd went wild. From the opening note he played on his blue guitar with blue-starred guitar strap to his "bonus tracks" (what sweet Lerche-ness for him to call his encores that), he was everything you want and didn't even realize you wanted in a live show. I went with a first-timer, a friend I've been happily converting one song at a time, and she wasn't disappointed. Also, he was so cute when he introduced his "best friends," his band, The Faces Down, in their first US appearance.

Just for good measure, let me include this: Sondre Lerche came on stage and introduced himself pronouncing his name: SON-dreh LAIR-key (if you go his site and listen to him introduce himself in the video of him talking about Faces Down, it sounds more like SON-drah LUR-keh but that's because it's kind of jumbled but this other pronunciation is what his label provides and I think they'd well). You pronounce every letter like in Latin and emphasize the first syllables. [Here's how it looks in Norwegian: S?dr?L?che.]

Okay, let me try again using the right tags. This is what it looks like in Norwegian: S?dr?L?che. 

sondre lerche

I think we all liked the raucous song SL and Faces Down played that SL said they had recorded for Two Way Monologue but we had probably noticed was not actually on the album. SL called it "punk." His guitarist said "punky." While I enjoy all SL has put forth, it's so cool to hear an unreleased tune that is so different from what's out there in his body of work. I don't remember the title but I'm sure a more diligent fan put up the set list somewhere (try [I now know it's called Johnny, Johnny Ooh Ooh. Also, be sure to read/scroll to the end of this review for a complete set list.]

SL's interstitials were a bit practiced-sounding but cute nevertheless. It made me wonder what he said at his Norwegian shows. And as always, he told everyone, he'd be very sweaty, but enthusiastically wielding a black sharpie after the show to sign autographs. I don't have the patience or endurance of Sondre Lerche so despite my adoration of him and his music, I didn't stay afterwards this time or the time before. I've heard that the lines are very long although he chipperly speaks to all who wait and poses for pictures and signs autographs redefining the meaning of fan-appreciation. I have to say, I sort of regret it now as I'm typing. Maybe next time I'll bite the bullet and wait around. I did get a t-shirt though described by a somewhat reluctant SL as being "very nice" with "birds" and the name of "this guy" on it. He alluded to the fact that he was uncomfortable shilling his own ware. But he recovered nicely and said a big thanks to his sponsors. I thank them too because without their backing, there wouldn't have been this show for me to see and gush all over!

sondre lerche tee

I've skipped to the end. But let me add a few more words about the in-between. He mixed it up for us playing on his own on various guitars and playing with his band. We got the best of his talent. I think he played straight for 90+ minutes performing a fair number of songs from his known arsenal. I'm sure he has unknown stuff he's keeping on hold for now, prolific one that he is. I was thrilled to pieces to hear him perform Stupid Memory live. He introduced it saying something like, I'm sure you've all been here before. And I knew that it was Stupid Memory time. Woo-hoo. It's not the most rockin' song but it's so clever and appealing. Also, Two Way Monologue was fantastic. This is also what SL and Faces Down performed on Conan. Watch the video and see the aforementioned guitar and guitar strap or listen to the song in it's entirety here: (his label).

This is what I recall with detail: his "bonus tracks." He came back on stage without his jacket - it was a whole thing. He wanted to keep it on during the show despite the heat but said he'd be humiliated if he took it off. I killed that whole story. But it's hard to summarize: um, he said he couldn't remember the word; said he'd look it up later cuz he wanted to write a song about it; I kept thinking this was a set-up for his next song - it wasn't; then after the song he said, "I thought of the word; I don't want to take my jacket off because it would be too humiliating." He probably even blushed. But I am not mocking my beloved SL. I am just saying, he was funny and cute but at times I was waiting for the punchline. Too much tv maybe on both our parts? See how I just put myself on the same plane as him? LOL.

Okay, I totally digressed. He first played You Know So Well and Modern Nature by himself. Last time, at my first SL show, there was a song all the girls knew. It was Modern Nature. This time around, though I'm not much of a joiner, I found myself singing it with all the other girls. The thrall was unavoidable and not at all unpleasant. I told my concert pal that next time, she'd find herself singing along with the rest of us. She knew better than to protest the inevitable. Then the band came on stage and they all rocked out to Sleep on Needles. A typical show would end on that note. But SL chose to mellow out with Maybe You're Gone. He's so melancholy but upbeat about it. Then the show was over. But the next day I was still on an SL high. That's what I mean by how it was fortifying and nourishing. It fed me, it gave me energy. And it gave me non-stupid memories.

More ramblings on Sondre Lerche: I thought of some other note-worthy things. Mid-concert he said, "When I sweat this much, my hair gets curly," and that's when someone yelled for him to take off his jacket. Needless to say, he looked hot with his sweaty, curly hair! A dime all the way...

Near the end, he said, "I have a telegram from our sponsors," and proceeded to give his spiel about the merchandise for sale. Isn't that so cute, "a telegram"? So cute.

Added a few days later: Well, I've been searching for the perfect way to conclude this review and my cuz Julia provided it for me. She text-messaged me from SL's concert at Dante's in Portland, OR on 5/27/04, and I can't tell you how cool it was to know she was witnessing his endearing talent for the first time and sharing it with me. Of course, she went at my utmost urging and I'm thrilled she took my ardent efforts seriously! You rock, girl! Then she sent me a post-concert email with her review: "He had a fine show in Portland. It was very intimate. And all the Norway mates in Faces Down were extremely happy." My favorite part of Julia's email was the subject line: "Sondre says hi." I knew then I had found the perfect ending for this particular entry. "Sondre says hi."

Added 6/04: Julia said she was sending me a memento from the Portland concert. It arrived today and... it was a signed set list from the concert! She said she asked Sondre to sign it for her cousin - what a sweetie. Anyway, here it is for you to drool over...oops, that might've been me.

Sondre's set list

conan o'brien Let me not forget to mention Sondre Lerche's appearance on Conan O’Brien the next night (5/11/04).

Added 1/05: By request here is a kind of visual guide. FYI, the Faces Down are Morten Skage on bass, Ole Ludvig Krüger on drums and Kato Ådland on guitar with occasional background vocals by Morten and Kato.

sondre lerche with the faces down on conan o'brien 5/04

I would’ve loved to have ditched my earthly obligations and seen Sondre Lerche perform live on his favorite American late night talk show. But I had to settle for dvr’ing it ?and then watching it a few times in a row. [Note: ...and a few more times since...]

sondre lerche on conan o'brien 5/04

As a fan, I’ve made time to see Conan’s show tape live and it’s a good time for sure. But it’s also very time-consuming and difficult to do once you face up to the fact that money does not, in fact, grow on trees, sigh.

morten skage (bass) on conan o'brien 5/04

Anyway, I was glad to hear the announcer say his name correctly (or at least as correctly as us non-Norwegians will get to it). Then Conan tripped up a little on SL's name at the top of the show. But by the time he was introducing him, Conan sounded smoother.

ole ludvig kruger on conan o'brien 5/04

I was hoping that Conan realized what a fan of his Sondre was and how cool and talented SL was - as if I had anything to do with the hook-up. I only had the idea but this appearance was scheduled far before my brilliant plan was formulated. Modest much am I?

kato adland on conan o'brien 5/04

Then SL and his band played a tight rendition of Two Way Monologue - the radio edit I believe. They rocked. Conan appeared duly impressed. I'm sure SL was psyched to be there. Yay! I certainly was happy to watch it!

sondre lerche on conan o'brien 5/04

Added 11/04 Sondre Lerche and The Golden Republic

The source: Sondre Lerche Fest 2004
#1) Sondre Lerche Concert at Bowery Ballroom in NYC on 10/14/04
#2) Sondre Lerche Concert at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY on 10/19/04
#3) Sondre Lerche Concert at Paradise in Boston, MA on 10/24/04

Let me start with a nutshell review for those who want to know by don't necessarily want to read a stream-of-consciousness about my escapade as a no-holds-barred Sondre Lerche enthusiast. So here is what I like to call the "22 Short Films about Springfield" version:
What was it? It was my whirlwind experiment to sample SL's musical goodies more than once on this tour. Okay, totally straight, I had planned to go once like any reasonable person. Then the other two just fell into place.
Why did I do it? ...because I wanted to and because I could. I mean, I'd like to buy a villa on Lake Como, but my resources don't stretch that far.
How was it? Outstanding, amazing, entertaining, sweet, memorable, educational and just everything I'd want an experiment like this to be.
What would I change? I wish I hadn't been under the weather at the Bowery Ballroom show. And more significantly, I wish Sondre Lerche hadn't been under the weather during the Paradise show. He caught a cold in NYC and had to sip Throat Coat Tea the entire night.
The gems: Despite his cold and apparent fatigue - he actually said at the end, "I'm getting too old for this." Since he's only 22, he was in part kidding and in part indicating he needed to rest! - he couldn't help but give a fantastic show in Boston. He even prefaced that show with a warning that he'd be trying to keep his talking and playing of music to a minimum. LOL. Then midway, he said obviously he was failing at both. SL was vibrant and charismatic per usual.
What I learned: Sondre Lerche will never tire of his music because he loves it so and because he's such a true musical genius. Transitively speaking, we, the fans, will never tire of him or his music.

My cousin, who accompanied me to shows #2 and #3, said a couple of things that captured the essence of the Sondre Lerche experience. She said his joy and goodness stand out and make us feel better about the world but not in a saccharine way. Also, my cuz said when SL thanks the crowd, you really feel like he means it.

I should briefly comment on SL and The Golden Republic. First, solo, SL was brilliant, a star through and through. With The Golden Republic, he was cool and cute as ever. They seemed to have squeezed in rehearsal time in between shows and learned/rehearsed more songs as well as practicing the ones they already had performed. So all in all, after the initial shock of hearing an indie-alt band meshing with an indie, singer-songwriter pop artist, it was fun to witness.

Okay, end of the short review. For neverending details, keep on reading!
How I came across it: I don't try to hide the fact that over the past year I've become a true blue Sondre Lerche-head. He and his music define adorability and pop artistry at its highest form. It makes me so happy to be able to be a fan.

After slowly developing my appreciation for the magic of Sondre Lerche over his past two tours (remember I didn't know his music at all the first show - I went solely on his reputation), I reached that point of wanting to hear him play for hours on end. So this time around, I decided to work a couple of shows in. The Boston show was just icing on top of the cake. It was just how it worked out given what else was going on and I had no complaints.

So, let me be systematic here:
[I have a lot I want to include here but I don't have time right now so I'll just start with the set lists and return with details soon! The next week: I still don't have time, technically speaking, but since I find myself trying to figure out where and when the digital projections of The Incredibles are instead of other matters, I figure now is good a time as any to finish this up.]

Sondre Lerche and The Golden Republic #1) Sondre Lerche Concert at Bowery Ballroom in NYC on 10/14/04

The crowd: Let me say that Sondre Lerche played as part of the CMJ/Spin/Astralwerks showcase. So he was in the middle of a 5-act line up which included The Golden Republic. So, you can imagine, if you weren't there, the crowd seemed full of music industry types mixed in with regular ole fans of the artists. Sondre Lerche asked, "How many industry people out there? How many regular people like you and me?" Cute that he categorized himself as a "regular" non-industry personage. Then he said, "It doesn't matter. I'm happy to play for you music executives and Mr. Man-On-the-Street alike."

The venue: The Bowery Ballroom is an excellent venue for smaller shows. Great sound. Primarily standing room. Minimal seating and more standing room upstairs. It's where I saw SL perform for the first time (my first time, not his). So I have pleasant associations between SL and Bowery Ballroom.

The set list: I know I usually can't keep track. But someone asked on the SL Forum so I pieced it together. I had a few gaps at the time but what's below is the corrected version:

Solo (with a spiffy-looking gold guitar):
(roughly in this order)
*Track You Down
*Dead Passengers
*Days That Are Over
*new song - I Want to Call It Love
*On the Tower
*You Know So Well
*Wet Ground
*Two Way Monologue

Then The Golden Republic joined him on stage for:
*Don't Be Shallow - I was distracted by watching them play together so I didn't remember this at the time but got it the second time around.
*Virtue and Wine
*Sleep on Needles

The show: Let's talk about me for a second, I actually had a headache that night, a less than ideal state for a concert-goer. But after a couple of songs, I was able to step outside of my narcissistic mindframe and enjoy the loveliness of Sondre Lerche. He was amazing of course but the crowd seemed a bit stiff. Too many people there for work. But after he commented on how quiet we were, people were more vocally expressive of their enthusiasm.

Clad in flannel (you can see pix here) with the aforementioned gold guitar, SL gave very brief introductions to his songs. For example, he said (and I paraphrase per usual), here's a new song not on any of my albums. I wrote it a few years ago but I didn't know how to perform it until this past summer when I finally understood love [so we gathered he fell in love last summer]. That song was "I Want to Call It Love." SL also said, here's my usual rock song, and then performed "Sleep on Needles." Another song he said, this one is called...and he sang, "Wet ground..."

Another intro went like this: this is the first song I ever played at the Bowery Ballroom, and I'm not tired of it yet but maybe after this time I will tire of it but I don't think so (again, so cute ). Then he performed "You Know So Well." And that's when I had that epiphany about his appeal and posterity (to be - I realize he's still young yet).

As I wrote in the nutshell review above, SL loves his music, loves music as a whole and is a musical prodigy. I was going to say genuis but threw in "prodigy" because though I tried to retire his "wunderkind" label earlier this year, he does embody what it means to be a wunderkind. (Can I gush any more? Goodness. It's a bit much, I know. But it's true. And my adulation-spewing reminds me I do want to address the age old argument about whether or not we should separate the art from the artist. That's for later on. I have more gushing to do.) Thus, it is an impossibility that he will ever tire of any of his songs or of music in general. And as fans of SL, I don't see how any of us could tire of any of his songs past, present or future. I like to make dramatic statements like that, I know. But I only make them when I really believe them. It may be hard to believe, but I think I'm capable of writing about things that irk me and things I don't enjoy or respect, but I've chosen to limit my rants to a few sentences here and there. Let me be frank, I am quite the optimist. But I like to think I'm a pragmatic optimist. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah...

Then, and I am probably fusing stories from all 3 shows here, SL told us since they were touring together anyway, they thought they'd try to play a few songs together and introduced the Golden Republic, formerly the People and also former tourmates of SL, to the stage. I am sure it was an idea concocted by Astralwerks. SL said he had flown out to Kansas City, MO to rehearse with them and thought it was going to work fine. He hoped it would be to our liking or else they might end up staying in NY. He clarified that it wouldn't be a good thing to stay because he wanted it to go well so they could take their show on the road.

Anyway, they started playing and I was completely distracted by the meshing of styles. It wasn't until much later I recalled it was "Don't Be Shallow." Not that I could do better (I couldn't), but it did sound the tiniest bit awkward initially. I was suddenly transported to my high school's Battle of the Bands when all the garage bands (no wonder I'm such a Replacements fan!) came out to play. But mind you, we had really good bands (it was a hyper-competitive environment even when it came to something so straightforward as Battle of the Bands - check out the magazine section for more ruminations on my high school experience). So, I'm not trying to hate on them at all. I'm just making an observation and trying to capture what it was like to hear SL and the Golden Republic play that first time. Plus, I'll cut to the chase here and say that with every song and with every show - remember I saw them play 3x over the course of 2 weeks - they sounded more and more comfortable, more like they wanted to be on stage together and more like a collaboration we wanted to kick it with (I felt like a little old school slang was in order as SL likes to throw American colloquialisms into his act - this time it was, "Are you keeping it real?" and "I'm down." I know, aww.) Also, by the end, I was a label's ideal consumer - almost - I was digging the Golden Republic on their own too. But I didn't get their EP. I am enjoying their single,You Almost Had It, on the Astralwerks sampler cd though. You can dl it and the other Golden Republic tunes from the People EP at the official Golden Republic site.

Another intro went, I don't usually perform this song with my one-man orchestra, but this time out, I thought I'd try it, and then launched into "Virtue and Wine."

Sondre Lerche and The Golden Republic #2) Sondre Lerche Concert at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY on 10/19/04

The crowd: We were back to a self-selected SL-is-the-coolest crowd as he was the headliner. SL later mentioned that he had an especially good time at this show. Yay us! LOL.

The venue: Southpaw is another excellent venue for smaller shows. Great sound. Intimate setting. If you don't live in Brooklyn, it's a bit of a trek but worthwhile if you like the artist performing there. I mean, I don't think you'll regret making the effort.

The set list: I got it right the first time this time. It helped that I had the other set list to work from.

(again, kinda in this order)
*Track You Down
*Days That Are Over
*Dead Passengers
*You Know So Well
*Wet Ground
*Liquid Lounge
*I Want to Call It Love
*Modern Nature
*Stupid Memory
*No One's Gonna Come

With The Golden Republic:
*Don't Be Shallow
*Virtue and Wine
*Two Way Monologue

Bonus tracks:
Solo: Maybe You're Gone

With band:
*On the Tower
*Sleep on Needles

The show: As much as I always enjoy SL's show, the previous Bowery Ballroom one included, I found this show far more enjoyable because it was all about SL, and he was more at ease. The crowd was more loving and enthusiastic. He told us a long, typically endearing story about Modern Nature. In short, he said he wrote and recorded it as a duet. Then his first tour in America, the audience requested it and even started singing it. He was "afraid" to perform alone, but then when he played it, the audience helped him out. And thanks to his exuberant fans who happened to know his lyrics, he overcame his fear of playing Modern Nature. What was another cute story. He prefaced "I want to Call it Love" with that story about how he only started playing it now because he now knows what it means. Then much to my delight, SL said, I haven't been playing this much, but I feel like playing it now and went into "Stupid Memory." I like to think SL took my admiration of the song into consideration which I expressed on his forum right after the Bowery Ballroom show. Uh, phone call for Ego Centric. Yeah, here I am. The Golden Republic were in good form on their own and with SL. Ben (Ben?) from TGR kept saying, "he's so cute" meaning SL, kinda busting SL's chops but kinda meaning it. TGR also said, we know you came to see SL but we're happy to see you here too. Cute.

I bet you've been admiring my SL and TGR at Southpaw poster. It was the only one I saw. I know you can't tell from the picture but it's a very delicate shade of jade green. The other poster I added to my collection is yellow. I don't think that shows up either in the picture above (I think it's by the first review). There were a bunch of these spread throughout the venues. So though I am on a lifelong mission to streamline, I was not at all unhappy about my cool mementos.

SL and TGR stage set up at Paradise #3) Sondre Lerche Concert at Paradise in Boston, MA on 10/24/04

The crowd: Enthusiastic. Sympathetic. I've already mentioned that this entire show was colored by the fact that our little peanut, as my cuz likes to call him, had a terrible cold and was sipping tea in between songs. SL said last tour out, Boston was their favorite show. So those guys were happy to hear that. I'll add that is was a very busy time in Boston with the World Series and Head of the Charles going on. So all that AND a Sondre Lerche show?

The venue: Boston has many cool spaces for smaller, cozier shows. I mean, the artist can look out in the audence and see every single face out there. I was looking forward to seeing SL in Boston because I have fond memories of other shows. Paradise has a big stage - wider than it is deep. We sat on the upper level right next to the soundboard. It was very central with nice sound. The sound was not as good as at Southpaw. More of an echo when the band was playing - when it was just SL and his guitar, the acoustics were great. But the venue was more intimate than either Bowery Ballroom or Southpaw.

The set list: Solo:
(again, kinda in this order)
*Track You Down
*Days That Are Over
*Dead Passengers
*You Know So Well
*Wet Ground
*Liquid Lounge
*I Want to Call It Love
*Modern Nature
*Moonlight Becomes You by Bing Crosby- a cappella
*No One's Gonna Come

With The Golden Republic:
*Don't Be Shallow
*Virtue and Wine
*Two Way Monologue
*On the Tower
*Sleep on Needles

Bonus tracks:
Solo: Maybe You're Gone

The show:

It was incredible how flawless he sounded considering how terrible he seemed to feel and how out of sorts his speaking voice was. He came out and warned us he would be keeping his "stand up" and singing to a minimum. Then a bunch of stories and songs later, he said, obviously, I'm failing miserably at both. The boy can't help it! He was so charming and cute for someone with a cold. He couldn't help but give a stellar performance. I don't think it's in him to phone it in. The Golden Republic even added, when they came out, "We've been worried about him!"

SL told us how he had changed the name to his song "Faces Down" to "Dead Passengers" because he was fixated on the idea of calling his album Faces Down and he didn't want to put pressure on that particular song. Then he released the album Two-Way Monologue which is also the name of a song on the album. So he pointed out he realized he was being inconsistent and that as he's confused, he can only imagine how we feel. But of course the only thing we cared about hearing were his adorable stories and music. In another intro, SL said, this is one of the only songs in which the opening line is also the title, and then he sang, "Wet ground..."

Now I'm just repeating myself, but I think it's worth saying one more time, Sondre Lerche is fun to see because he's so genuine in his enjoyment of performing for and interacting with the audience. It is always a smooth, effortless show - even when all he wants to do is crawl into bed and drink his tea. So all in all I'm glad I got to indulge in my SL immersion. As SL says, there are far worse things to get into than, in his case, a possible lifelong addiction to Throat Coat tea and in my case, a lasting case of SL admiration. I will add here that despite my heartfelt feelings about SL's music, I had a self-imposed moratorium of listening to SL among other artists for the past few months. Over the summer, I had found myself listening to the same 300 songs over and over again. So I just went cold turkey and didn't listen to Sondre Lerche (and a bunch of others). So now I've let myself come back to SL and he sounds better for the break.

A pop culture addict's song analyses: I am going to come back later with a couple of explanations of why I like SL's songs. Now, I must return to what I was doing before this...

Okay, I'm back. I also wanted to say a few words (okay, maybe a paragraph) about separating art from the artist. It seems like they are inextricably entangled. But personally, I can respect an artist and dislike his or her art because typically in those cases, I can see potential for what's to come or still hold high regard for what once was. I can also respect the art without wholly respecting the artist because sometimes you can't deny the power of creativity and unique, innate talent. I'm not here to badmouth anyone so you can fill in the blanks with your own examples. HOWEVER, I think ideally we all want to like both. If I like a book, movie, song, etc., I want to like the author, filmmaker and actors, musicians, etc. respectively. But is it important? In a sense, yes, but in a sense, it's not imperative. Why am I bothering with stating the obvious? I guess I was thinking about how it sounds when I pour on the accolades for someone like say Sondre Lerche. I talk about how I love his music. I also talk about how he's an impeccable showman and his undeniable adorability. I don't expect that of everything and everyone crossing my pop culture radar. But I like it when I can honestly state I'm unequivocally into the art and the artist.

Stupid Memory: Last May, SL said that "Stupid Memory" was "like Oprah" and "something we can all relate to." It's his bitter relationship song but it's so sweet and cute just like him. I love the rockabilliness of it. It's a very pretty song musically-speaking. The lyrics are funny and relatable. Look at what a hit Maroon 5's "This Love" was - a bitter relationship song with an extremely catchy hook. I'm still not tired of it despite overexposure.

The "morale" of this story, as Sondre would say, is that you can be bitter, funny and lovely all at once as "Stupid Memory" is when you take in everything about it - the bitter yet humorous lyrics, the sweet delivery, the pretty melody and overall ingenuity of its composition. Incidentally, how many more times can I say "bitter?" What's a synonym for bitter...rancorous...resentful...acrid? Anyway, I'd like to point out that you don't even have to be in that particular state of mind to groove with "Stupid Memory." I mean, you can dig "Rubber Ducky" without being in the mood to take a bath. And we can enjoy "Modern Nature" without having a crush on anyone.

Modern Nature: "Modern Nature" is an easy song to defend liking. It's one that grows on you. The first time I heard it, it was live. I thought, look at these smitten girls (and some boys) singing this song with him [SL] - suckas! As I've said before, once I developed a true understanding and appreciation of our dear boy, Sondre, I happily joined in at the next concert and became a fellow sappy fan.

There are many cool elements to this song not the least of which is he wrote it when he was 15. This song is a slice of SL's life at 15. If I didn't know, I would've easily accepted he had written it this year at 22. But knowing it, I can listen to the lyrics and appreciate and hear the urgency, uncertainty and innocence ever-present in adolescent love. Listen to Kiss Me on the Bus by my darling Replacements. It is a great song that also perfectly encapsulates these sentiments.

To summarize, you can space out and ignore the lyrics or focus solely on the lyrics and still love both "Stupid Memory" and "Modern Nature" because of how they're put together and executed.

Some concluding remarks: It's clear that I could go song by song but I don't think it's warranted. I'll just add some tidbits. I just love the way Sondre Lerche sings "baby" in "I Know I Know" and "faces down" at the end of "Dead Passengers." It's all about the inflections in his voice. I love the line, "Is tonight suffused with love?" in "Suffused With Love." His delivery of "Things We Call Fate" also gets me everytime. His vocal range is amazing. And though it's superfluous to say at this point, I love his songwriting and guitar-playing. As SL sings in "Stupid Memory," even though "thinking about writing it down seems pretentious," we still do it because that's what it's about. If it's on our minds, yours, mine or his (!), we want to share it with someone in some shape or form. And lucky for us, there are people who want to hear about it!

Added 11/04: Sondre Lerche concert at Trilogy Lounge in Boulder, CO on 11/22/04
I was thrilled that my friend took a small crowd to Sondre Lerche's show in Boulder, CO. I was excited about hearing her review as she is a complete newbie to his music. Here's her review:

about Sondre Lerche last night: he did a solo show, was very cute, and had a beautiful voice. for a few of his more upbeat pop songs, he asked the opening band (Golden Republic) to come out and play back up for him. if i was 21, i'd have such a huge crush on him!

SL will conquer the world one new fan at a time...

Added 4/05:
The source: Sondre Lerche show at the Beacon Theater, NYC on 4/22/05
The review: I am so repentant for my playa hating ways. I saw Sondre Lerche Friday night at the Beacon opening for Elvis Costello. The crowd was polite but not as appreciative as I was expecting. I have become desensitized to the fact that many people have not discovered the wonder and beauty of Sondre Lerche's music.

After people started yelling, "Elvis!" in the middle of Sondre's set, I immediately felt guilty for any negative vibing I ever did towards an opening act. It is a tough place to be. But he was gracious and just said, "No, my name is Sondre Lerche." And he gave due respect to Elvis throughout his set.

I have never heard Sondre play so aggressively! He walked on stage right around 8pm all by his lonesome, plugged in and played the loudest, fastest version of Days That Are Over, I've ever heard him play (live or recorded). It was like the resurrection of Kurt Cobain with some Bad Brains tossed into the mix. Sondre Lerche: Speed Metal Troubadour was in full effect.

Here's an annotated playlist:

On the gold electric guitar he used on his last tour:
1) Days That Are Over - as noted, it sounded like he was on a mission with uncharacteristic in-your-face guitar-playing accompanying his trademark melodious vocals; then he introduced himself formally: "My name is Sondre Lerche (son-drah lair-kay)..." and some more stuff about how he would entertain us until Elvis Costello came out.
2) Dead Passengers
3) Track You Down - prefaced with a story about how 2 years ago in January, he woke up from this intense dream that inspired him to write this song.

He switched to his blue guitar with the blue-starred guitar strap:
4) You Know So Well
5) Wet Ground

a capella:
6) Moonlight Becomes You - prefacing it with him picking out the opening note on his guitar and telling us, "I don't know how to play this on guitar but I love singing this song so let me just sing it for you." Then much to my surprise, the lil firecracker threw his water bottle to the side - really Pete-Townshended the thing (if Pete Townshend bashed water bottles) and went straight into the next song.

Back to his gold guitar:
7) Sleep On Needles - Then he gave his promo speech directing us to his "merch table" where we could get his cds or concert tee. He said he wanted to spell out his name for us because clearly we already knew Elvis Costello's name. And he told us he'd play one more song before we heard, "The best show of our life," meaning Elvis. What a gentleman. Let me interject here that while I have long admired Elvis Costello, I was somewhat surprised he didn't thank his opening act, i.e., Sondre Lerche.
8) Two Way Monologue

The people behind us talked about how Sondre looked like Ed Norton, which is innocuous enough. But when Sondre said, I have one more song, someone said, "thank god." Grr. No respect.

So before I wrap up, here's a nutshell review of Elvis Costello: he's an old pro with a beautiful voice, catchy tunes, clever lyrics (not unlike our darling Sondre) who enjoyed performing to the crowd. Favorite moments include: 1) the theramin; 2) his brief Leonard Bernstein tribute ("I Feel Pretty" on guitar); and 3) and going back some: Sondre Lerche's tribute of wearing his red Converses altho' Elvis surprisingly did not sing (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.

So, while there were moments when I was like, I can't believe I'm finally hearing Elvis Costello play live after being a fan for so long, I must admit that my primary objective was to support Sondre Lerche. His music really is worth seeking out. I enjoyed hearing a different approach to his music but he didn't really flex his virtuosity on guitar in this show because he was playing so hard (we definitely caught the flavor of his skills though). But it was interesting to see how he is working hard to get his name out there. I guess it's to his advantage that he's still young, full of enthusiasm with amazing depths of talent. I didn't even feel suckered when I was moved to get yet another Sondre Lerche t-shirt - same design but different color (yes, I doctored the collar a wee bit).

Sondre Lerche concert tee

4/06 Sondre Lerche Concert at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC 4/6/06

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Added 11/03 buddy
The source: Tammany Hall NYC concert at Bowery Ballroom, NYC on 11/19/03
How I came across it: Short answer: Scrubs.

Long answer: I think it was a pivotal point in the career of THNYC when their song Cindy* played almost in its entirety in the 10/30/03 episode of Scrubs. To recap, JD is running from the hospital to Elliot's apartment to profess his love to her. He arrives at the apartment ready to pour his heart out only to see Sean (the ever-adorable Scott Foley) already being the playa in this scenario. As JD leaves with his heart in his hand and Elliot no more the wiser, the song Cindy continues to play out. It's really effective.

*Aside: Tammany Hall NYC has mp3's for their fans to dl and enjoy. Go to their site and click on "music." The Back in the Bottle version is the one on Scrubs but there's also a very nice version on Buddy.

scrubs soundtrack

So, when I was watching the broadcast of the show, I was oblivious to the existence of THNYC, but as soon as the song started, I was riveted. I jotted down the lyrics so I could do a search online. But I kept coming up empty and thus kept returning to that scene to rewind, re-watch and jot down more lyrics (I have that kind of cable where you can rewind live tv - very cool). By the time I was done, I had written out all the words that were played on the show. Still no luck! But, since you and I know, if you've seen it, heard it, thought of it, thought about it or even thought around it, you can go online and find someone who is like-minded. So, when my usual methods didn't work, I went to the Scrubs message board certain that I would have my answer soon.

After a few visits to the board and after reading many posts commenting on the song and inquiring about the specifics - title and artist, I saw someone responded that it was the song Cindy by Tammany Hall NYC and even included the url ( I was so happy, after I went to the THNYC site and watched the live action Cindy video (there's a cute animated one, too), I made the effort to join the Scrubs board just to thank this person for civilly providing info. Seriously, I love the idea of forums and blogs, but I get so turned off by rudeness and pointless contrariness. Anyway, by then, a bunch of other THNYC fans had helpfully reiterated the info. So it would seem this was a major coup for the band having a song played on a Must-See show.

But I quickly realized these guys were no amateurs. Their accomplishments before Scrubs included having two THNYC songs licensed by HBO for the station's promotions (Always on Sunday and Wait for You), soundtrack work and critically well-received albums. I went to Tower the next day and looked them up. I was looking for instant gratification but no luck. I returned to the band's website and ordered Buddy from there.

THNYC currently has the status of being an underground band that creates what could be mainstream music - in a good way; they're so talented, they could easily earn well-deserved, far-reaching, rock 'n roll acclaim and glory under just the right circumstances. In examining their body of work, it's clear that THNYC also joins a group of artists who manage to produce quality work outside the restraints of one genre.

The gems: So, right after I got the album, THNYC announced a concert date in NYC. It was such great timing for them and their fans, new and old. I had semi-retired from concert-going a few years back with the exception of The Replacements. But I broke my rule for THNYC. I was really excited to see them and it was like having them playing in my backyard. It was just too easy to pass up.


First impressions: It was raining pretty hard the night of the concert and normally, I would've been tempted to blow it off since it wasn't a big investment - if it were any other band. But I really wanted to give them my support, and I was totally craving some live music. So, I ignored the rain and went.

The crowd: From the chatter, I gathered that the room was filled with friends, possibly family, avid fans and last but not least, a group of new fans, like myself. I suppose there were people there to see the headlining band too (for the record, I think it was Flickerstick), but personally, I got there just in time for THNYC and ducked out as soon as they left the stage. For me, THNYC was the big show.

The concert: As a band on the cusp, unsigned yet with numerous credits to their name and nothing but good reviews, THNYC seemed to emanate pride, self-confidence and yearning for that next level of validity, recognition and establishment.

In Michael Winterbottom's docu-drama/bio-pic 24 Hour Party People about the rise and fall of the Manchester rave phenomenon, there's a great concert scene. Impresario Tony Wilson, played by Steve Coogan, breaks the 4th wall and turns to the camera to describe the deal. The Sex Pistols are on stage performing Anarchy in the UK in a dinky auditorium full of empty chairs and seemingly apathetic attendees. But the performance is charged to the max - there is nothing about it you can ignore. Tony Wilson tells us that though there are only a handful of people in the audience, everyone there will leave a completely changed person. The camera pans around the room while Tony says something to the effect of (I don't recall exactly), those guys are going to become Joy Division and then New Order who will find themselves performing to thousands of people in a stadium; those guys are going to become the Buzzcocks; those guys are going to become the Happy Mondays; and I will open the Hacienda and Factory Records. And then he returns to character and we are left to take in the scene.

24 hour party people

I can't imagine that anyone left the Tammany Hall concert unchanged, including the band. It was that good. If you are thinking I'm exaggerating, consider this, when was the last time you went to see a band and thought, huh, no wonder they're not signed (probably last weekend, right?). This time, I left thinking, I cannot believe these guys haven't been "discovered" by the masses. Though I started the concert with a touch of surliness (think 50 Cent meets Buttercup) (despite my anticipation, I really had no idea what fun I was in for), I found myself beaming. The band was exuberant and so, so good. The energy was, Spinal Tap fans, all the way at 11. The music was tight in all the right places and just loose enough everywhere else. The crowd was proud of them and psyched for the good time. At first the room seemed half-full, but by the 2nd song, people seemed to emerge from thin air to fill it in, and I found my way to the center of the room for my preferred point of acoustic and visual reception.

50 cent powerpuff girls this is spinal tap

Collectively and individually, they were on fire. But I must say, I was mesmerized by the lead guitarist, Matt Anthony. I could hardly take my eyes off his playing. I just barely play guitar (i.e., I learned a few chords in junior high) but I recognize a star when I see one. And he was so happy to be there and play every single note. The drummer, Dave Femia, was also so on. I think ?uestlove of The Roots gives a good live show. But this guy held my attention. And the bassist, not sure of his name [added later: Benny Z?], was also so jubilant. I know it sounds corny, but he was so essential to the groove of things and also, really happy. I just can't think of another word to describe the vibe on stage. And I mean in that innocent, joyful way not that unnatural join-our-cult way. Lastly, the lead singer and guitarist, Steve O'Reilly, spoke for the band and just seemed so sincere about his love and gratitude for the band, the music and the fans. He was thrilled to pieces to be up there with his crew doing what they all were born to do. And, if I may take the liberty to speak for everyone, we were all thrilled to bear witness to it all.

Again, if you are rolling your eyes thinking, this girl needs to get out more, maybe I do. But I stand by my words here. Seriously, I know if you're reading this, you have an interest in music too and I know that in your concert-going career, you must've seen dozens if not more opening acts. How many of them do you remember? I would say I could count them on my fingers. While I don't have the patience these days to go to music festivals, I have in my life, gone to concerts with numerous painful opening acts before the amazing main event. I know many big name artists began as opening acts and we all have to start somewhere. But THNYC, as an opening act, truly embodied the talent and charisma of a headlining band.

The lesson: So the lesson, the lesson... well, I can think of two. One: (get ready for the longest run-on sentence on the page) just when you think you've seen it all, seen the best, maybe given up hope for novelty, talent, something really great, something that will bring a smile to your face just by existing, when you are thinking, why am I spending the most energetic, cutest, healthiest years of my life pursuing a degree that will inevitably lead to a hard life of never-ending external and internal pressure not to mention less than competitive pay and trying to write a dissertation that couldn't possibly contribute something relevant to an already esoteric field and that even my immediate family members who love me and are reasonably intelligent won't understand, something like Tammany Hall NYC appears on your radar and allows you to believe once again that greatness is ever-unfolding and it actually just might be within your reach (yes, that's a Mats reference for the road).

Two: What I'm going to tell you next is truly my philosophy and the explanation for why I put so much effort into this website. Let me expound briefly on why I think art is important, why the movies, music, books, tv shows, magazines and websites I like so much are relevant to everyone. It's all about the universality of the human experience. Art and more specifically, pop culture, is an expression of and a way to experience our shared struggles, endeavors, emotions, desires, accomplishments and disappointments. It's important to go outside of your own existence for a while and enjoy something like the fact that Tammany Hall is full of talent and a good time for all.

The fact that the season of Friends right after 9/11 was the highest-rated and so well-received that it made the cast decide to re-sign for one last season of $1 million paychecks per episode is testament to that. We needed to laugh and feel unified in that laughter. My brother tells me not to say this to people, lest I sound like a pompous jerk, but this is also in part why I think Jackass: The Movie is some kind of masterpiece (but NOT appropriate viewing for the little ones or faint of heart, mind you). In Preston Sturges' movie Sullivan's Travels, the simple moral is that everyone's lives improve with laughter and that's why the film director/wrongly-imprisoned man in the movie finally embraces his talent as a creator of comedies. For some reason, I feel like this epiphany is the justification for all pop culture and its significance now and always even when we're talking about the dramas, the breakups and the serious stuff that are also a part of pop culture. Keep in mind Sullivan's Travels came out in 1941.

jackass sullivan's travels

It's a scientific fact that art and in particular, music develops your brain. Your language skills improve, your hand-eye coordination gets better, your neurons work harder when you're doing something artistic or even, IMHO, just enjoying and appreciating an expression of art in the form of a book, movie or album. "Embiggening" your brain can only only help you get through this ordeal called the dissertation. So listen to Buddy (or any of their other albums - I'm going to make my way through them too) and let it make you smart enough to push through your final defense.

Added 2/04: Well, now I have, in addition to Buddy, Back in the Bottle, the Eat This New York Soundtrack and Demonstration in hand so I thought I might comment on what it's like to have the library of THNYC and its offshoots on my iPod. I'm a weirdo in that not only do I appreciate a good cover (like Dinosaur Jr.'s Just Like Heaven, Red Hot Chili Pepper's Fire and even Aztec Camera's True Colors and Jump) but I like to hear it side by side with the original. I also like listening to different renditions of the same song, like the studio version and a live version, in the same sitting (as long as it's not New Order; they sound exactly the same! lol). You get the idea. So I made a playlist with all of the works of THNYC - only. You might say, why do I need to hear multiple versions of Always on Sunday, I Was Hoping, etc. all in one go? Well, I say, why not? It's a surprisingly diverse selection because there are many contributing factors to each recording that make them unique from each other. The most obvious difference is production value. Also, things only the artists can speak to but I can speculate as factors would be mindset, motivation, feelings about working with each other and the like - all the stuff they can talk about in their VH1 Behind the Music episode many years from now.

buddy back in the bottle eat this new york dinosaur jr. mother's milk backwards and forwards

Like any fan, I'm a sucker for demos. I love the demo on the Buffy the Musical soundtrack of Joss Whedon's wife singing Something to Sing About with Joss accompanying her on piano. Listening to it makes me think about all the ideas formulating in Joss' mind about this project. Also, it makes me think about how he must've presented the idea to his actors, etc. and the passion and conviction he must've had to sway them to put themselves on the line and do something that many must've said was a questionable if not outright terrible idea. Obviously, the fans, myself included, loved it. Joss was happy with the outcome. The entire Buffy gang seemed pleased with how it turned out and with its tremendous reception from the show's many diehard supporters. And now they can say they did it once and they could do it again - maybe on Angel or Firefly: The Movie. Anyway, that's how I felt listening to the songs on Demonstration. Same with listening to Back in the Bottle. It brings out a new admiration for Buddy as a whole.

I also enjoy having THNYC thrown into the mix with the rest of my tunes and having one of their songs pop up in my rotation. It's still a little treat everytime it happens.

demonstration buffy the musical angel season 1 angel season 2 angel season 3 firefly

Do I even need to draw any comparisons to dissertation-writing? We work and re-work the same material, making our IRB corrections, our advisor-propelled revisions, our midnight panic-filled changes. And eventually, it all makes sense. It's polished and it's a worthy record of our once-maybe-still-brilliant ideas and seemingly endless efforts.

Added 5/04: Tammany Hall NYC show at The Cutting Room, NYC on April 8, 2004

I'm not going to do a full review. Let me give the "22 Short Films about Springfield" version. The first act I had to divert my attention from with an intense game of hangman by candlelight while a smattering of people, mostly friends of the act, clapped politely. Then those people left and the real party people came in. When JJ Appleton started playing, we breathed a sigh of relief that he didn't suck. In fact, he was pretty cool. Then suddenly, the place was jammed with people. We were feeling pretty smug right about then for sticking it out through hangman girl and thus getting a primo table. Then, the real show began. What do you expect me to say? Tammany Hall was adorable. The music was hot. They have such talent and presence. The all acoustic set, performed by Steve O'Reilly (guitar and vocals), Matt Anthony (guitar) and Dave Femia (percussion), consisted of a couple of songs from the Eat This New York soundtrack, a song or two from the 6 new tunes encompassed on the album Shiner including Goodnight Song rounded off with oldies but goodies Back in the Bottle, Friday You're with Me and Cindy. I didn't take notes so I might be missing a title. Anyway, the crowd appreciated the show and was rewarded with an encore - Wait for Jane. I was thrilled to hear that the band was putting up mp3's of the new tunes for purchase on their site the following week. I diligently checked the site the next week and happily put out the buck and change per song. Listen to clips of the new songs here! For the record, my favorite segment in 22 Short Films... is when Apu goes to a party, gets lucky and gets robbed all in a Springfield minute.


Added 5/04: Here's a nutshell review of the Tammany Hall NYC show at CBGB, NYC on May 11, 2004. I think at this point in my fandom, I can honestly state that I love the music of THNYC and support the band all the way, but I admit I was still on a Sondre Lerche high from the previous night (read my exuberant review above). So my eyes and ears had to adjust to focusing on the music at hand. The energy was a bit weird because in the front of the venue, the audience on the right side of the room was seated and the left side audience was standing. So the people sitting, including my party, appeared, erroneously, to be blase about the show. It was like, "here we are now, entertain us." And I felt like the acoustics weren't as smooth as they were at the Bowery Ballroom concert in 11/03. But I was completely in the groove once Wait for Jane started (about mid-way in the set) and for the remainder of the show. By the end, I was almost like, Sondre who?

The place was packed. They have a lot of homegrown fans. Pretty cool. I don't recall the entire set list but they opened with To the Woman and then somewhere along the way they played I Was Hopin', Downtown, Be Safe, Cindy and Jello Song. No Goodbye Song this time around. The encore, or "bonus track," as Sondre would say, was Crazy for You. Fun stuff. I was totally converted again by the end of the concert.

Added 6/04: Tammany Hall NYC show at The Cutting Room, NYC on June 4, 2004
Ah, this show was the perfect antidote to my Jason Mraz experience. Don't get me wrong: I had a great time at Jason Mraz' concert but at that show, I realized, while my tastes sometimes (often?) run along those of 15 year olds, I don't necessarily want to be surrounded by them all of the time. Some of the time is cool. All of the time gets to be a bit much (I'm sure the converse is true, too). So after I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where the crowd ranged in age with a heavy emphasis on junior high schoolers (keep in mind these kids probably grew up with the Harry Potter books), I scooted over to the Cutting Room to catch THNYC. Because these Harry Potter movies are on the long side (btw, it was aces), I ran late. When I got to the show, Steve O'Reilly and Matt Anthony were already on-stage and were just starting Always on Sunday. I found a great table with a clean shot of the stage and nice acoustics. I think the whole room is well-designed sonically speaking and preferable to CBGB (see my unprofessional opinion above).

It was far less crowded than the last time they played the Cutting Room. At that performance, people were hanging off the rafters. This time around, it was about, oh, why quantify it, it was comfortably populated. The crowd seemed a mixture of long-time fans/friends, people who frequent the Cutting Room and newer fans like myself. Also, upon reflection, seeing as I've practically put up a THNYC fansite, I might have progressed to the next level of fandom.

While I like: 1) a raucous show; 2) to stand at concerts; and 3) the full-band sound and full-band performances of Tammany Hall, I really enjoyed the low-key, acoustic show delivered to me while I was seated, leisurely sipping my drink. I don't know what I missed in the beginning but what I caught was right on. They played something from their first album and I didn't recognize it. I think it was because I don't have the album "Getawayland" or it was because I just didn't recognize it. Still, I enjoyed the song, and I liked hearing the story of "Trabajo" or something like that from the Eat This New York soundtrack. I've heard them perform it 2 or 3 times but never knew what it was called (I just knew it had the line, "I'm so glad that we managed to stay friends"). It also happens to be the snippet I actually caught when I watched Eat This New York on the Sundance Channel way back when. Frontman Steve O'Reilly said it was inspired by a remnant phrase from his Spanish class days. What else do I recall...they played Cindy and Goodnight Song. Wait for Jane was the set piece and a fine one at that. It does it for me every time. It was a short, tight show and just long enough.

At some point on this site, I must've let on that both my brother (my favorite fellow film critic) and I think almost every movie is too long. We watch shorts and find ways they should've been edited. I recently read that Sondre Lerche (wistful sigh) thinks most concerts run too long. But you can't get the kid off-stage when it's his own show and frankly, I wanted him to set up camp when I saw him). But despite my adoration for the music of Tammany Hall, I felt like the show was exactly the right length. Maybe that's because I just sat through a 2.5 hour movie.

Nevertheless, I think it's cool that Tammany Hall can be at ease and sound seamless as a four-member band and as two and three-member acoustic permutations of the band. It's actually a relief to me that they know how to rock out effectively. It makes them more visceral and down-to-earth than if they only did the mellowness emitted on, say, Back in the Bottle. By the same token, I'm relieved they can chill and do a two-person acoustic set. This talent also makes them seem accessible and multi-faceted. There are enough one-trick ponies out there. I guess if pressed, I would say I prefer Buddy as an overall album to Back in the Bottle. However, as a fan, I love both albums. THNYC has yet to disappoint live or in the studio.

Added 7/04:shiner
The source: Tammany Hall NYC Concert at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY on 6/30/04
The gems:When I first heard THNYC on Scrubs last fall, little did I imagine that I'd incorporate them so much into this site. I mean, aren't there so many times when you hear a song somewhere and say, who sings that? And then you find out and that's that? Maybe you get the single or album, maybe you don't.

I guess it was fate that they happened to be NYC-based with a steady concert schedule as well as a bounty of songs I just had to own. I'll 'fess up and say that for some reason, when I first heard Cindy on Scrubs, I thought the sound quality wasn't that great but the greatness of the song still shone through. (I later figured out that it was probably because the version used was from Back in the Bottle as opposed to Buddy on which the production value seems higher.) And I immediately imagined the group in question to be an old[ish], long-haired Southern rock band along the lines of Lynyrd Skynryd. I can't explain why. Does Cindy sound like Free Bird or Sweet Home Alabama? Maybe. Maybe Steve O'Reilly kinda sounds like Ronnie Van Zant. Anyway, that is the image that was conjured by their sound.

I was surprised to learn they were a young NYC band. Of course, now it makes perfect sense. So, I'm probably spending too much time on this random thought. But just think I might've never heard of them. Then what would I be writing about? LOL. I mean, I do remember hearing "Always on Sunday" on the HBO promos and thinking it was the ideal song for that purpose but I wasn't motivated enough to look up the band. In fact, what went through my mind was, oh, it must be a new band that I missed but will catch later as they get hyped up on MTV, etc.

I guess I'm going down memory lane because I'm finding it sort of impressive that I've made it to ...let me see... five shows now. It just always works out that I can make it even though I keep saying, well, I just saw them; I can miss this one. I was meant to see this particular concert because seriously, I was tempting fate all night. First I went to see a relatively late showing of Spider-Man 2 (very satisfying), next had a fairly leisurely dinner although I did rush mes amis near the end, and then headed towards Park Slope knowing we wouldn’t get there until the show was half-way over. Still, when we got there, they were running way late, so we didn’t miss one note.

But my brain is ahead of me. I know why I’m reminiscing. During the THNYC concert at Southpaw last month, I felt like I was able to go back in time and re-experience that first concert I attended when I barely knew their music or who they were really. But this time, I was very familiar with their repertoire so I could enjoy it on a different level. That is, it was full-band in an acoustically high-caliber environment just like at the Bowery.

The next day, I was still thinking about how fun it was ?a friend went to see Prince in concert last week and probably won’t come out of that trance for a year. She said she couldn’t even focus on the NBA players standing next to her at the concert because she was busy envisioning herself as Mrs. Prince Nelson #3. Alas, my THNYC boost only lasted a day but still, the experience subliminally interjected music vitamins into my system. I like that ?when you don’t have to make an effort to have a good time because it just happens to you with the added bonus of lingering after effects.

Here is more or less what they performed somewhat in this order: To the Woman, I Was Hopin? Better Homes and Warmer Days, Downtown, Be Safe, Jello Song, Wait for Jane, Cindy, Marathon, Something About Some People and Buddy.

During the intro of Better Homes and Warmer Days (I think, I know, this story loses impact due to my inaccurate reporting), Steve O’Reilly said, “This is such a good song. This is not a bad song. This is such a good song. This is not a bad song.?And I chuckled because it reminded me of how on the De La Soul Live at Tramps album, as they start performing Me, Myself and I, they yell, “We hate this song. We hate this song.?And De La Soul fans know that they did in fact hate that song. But come on, it was a hit. Musical artists long for that hit. Of course, The Magic Number was a hit and that was SUCH A GOOD SONG! Anyway, you get my point. Both instances of artist commentary were entertaining. And one reminded me of the other. I still don't get the Jello Song. I feel like it's an inside joke that I missed out on. But I can't begrudge the band or their other fans the enjoyment of it. Cindy was cool as always.

de la soul at tramps 3 Feet High and Rising

I don’t really have anything else to say about the concert. But I thought since I never talk about what it is about songs that I really like on this page, I’ll briefly try to put it down in words for whatever it’s worth. Even as I type, I realize the reason why I don’t bother to go into specific appeal is because it’s just how it is. You hear a song, you like a song and it’s for personal reasons, for musical reasons, for personal musical reasons or for no reason other than it has that American Bandstand good beat.

That said, I’ll give two very brief examples. Upon repeated listenings, it occurred to me that I really liked Marathon. Why? It’s why I like good stories, books, tv shows and movies set in NYC. I love this city and I appreciate others expressing similar sentiments. One thing about living in and loving a place like NYC though is that it’s larger than life. To conceive of living up to it in any great way seems beyond reason and reach. But I feel like my life happens here. And the feeling of the song reflects that idea. Also, the line about being a chapter in our own New York story is so true. (The line goes,"We are finally a chapter in some New York Story that has been in my mind for a long long time....") That is what life is about. It is about your own story wherever you are, whoever you are, whenever you live. It’s all relevant. Not to get all spiritual, but I read this favorite quote of George Harrison’s that helped him the day that John Lennon was shot and it somehow makes sense even to the most cynical because it reflects my favorite theme - the universal experience of this thing called life (a Prince homage was in order): In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, "There was never a time when I did not exist nor you. Nor will there be any future in which we shall cease to be."

Through concert performances, Wait for Jane has become a favorite THNYC song and now when I hear it off the album, I am very happy. Even though I still don't know the words or what it's about exactly, I feel like it's one of those songs that you can love without being tied to the lyrics. Sonically, it has the perfect form. Just listen and you can hear the perfect musical arc in the song. The first movement of a sonata follows a very strict formula: exposition (introduction of main ideas)-development (increased musical drama; harmonic tension)-recapitulation (restatement of main ideas but with variation)-coda (a little something extra at the end) (that's the extent of my music theory knowledge - have I mentioned that I'm a dilettante?) and listening to Wait for Jane, I can hear it all.

In the true spirit of my first THNYC write-up, let me end with a Replacements reference: one of my all-time favorite songs is I Will Dare because of how it sounds and because of the lyrics. It's so simple but so true and so real! Peter Buck's guitar solo is unforgettable and so is Paul's performance on the mandolin. So what else can I say besides good luck with your dissertation and go listen to Marathon, Wait for Jane and I Will Dare (and don't forget The Magic Number)!

let it be

Added 8/04: Tammany Hall NYC Concert at the Knitting Factory, NYC on 7/27/04

You're probably wondering how much more can I write about them. Well, the main thing about this concert was that I got my cousin to accompany me to it. As a professional musician, she is a hard sell. But I gave her Buddy awhile back and she liked it immediately upon listening to it. She even caught the MTV's Made episode featuring THNYC's drummer, Dave Femia. I missed it but she was excited to tell me about it.

She was very impressed with all aspects of the performance. The high energy and enthusiasm of the band really left an impression on her. The execution was also given high marks. She said even though she already liked their music from listening to the album, seeing them live really brought home their talent and appeal.

Incidentally, forget what I said before about the Jello Song. I totally appreciate it and also, of course, I do know what Wait for Jane is about. I just meant that you can get it without getting it. You know?

I'll just add that I attempted to use my phone videocam and the footage just came out tiny with really strong bass lines. How cute would that be if I could change my ringer to a THNYC song? For now I am content with my Cypress Hill. When I walk down the street, I keep thinking I hear my phone ringing when it's really a car radio.

skull and bones

Oh, I know how I can end this one. A friend in the Hamptons e-mailed me that last week she saw Tammany Hall on tv. They were on Plum TV, a local station, and were performing on the beach. She found the segment entertaining and said Steve O'Reilly explained the origins of their name. He liked the idea of the unruly, outsider status of Tammany Hall (of the Boss Tweed/Gangs of New York era) and combined it with the fact that he loved New York. I have to say whenever I tell someone the name of the band, they always comment on it. That's the kind of name you want.

gangs of new york

Added 8/04: Tammany Hall NYC Concert at CB's Gallery, NYC on 8/6/04

Here's a little something about this concert. I got to introduce the music of THNYC to a good friend, who, despite the fact that I have intimate knowledge of her music collection because of her trust in my ability to do a High Fidelity-esque re-organization of it, was a skeptic. But in a way, that made the experience that much better. She was hooked from the first measure. I hadn't even settled into it yet when she turned to me and said, wow, he (Steve O'Reilly) has such a good voice. Then she proceeded to augment her compliments as the show progressed. We talked about Matt Anthony's guitar-playing, Steve O'Reilly's guitar-playing as well as his cute interstitial chatter and the overall charm and professionalism of the band (since it was an acoustic set, it was just the two of them).

high fidelity cover

If you haven't gathered by now, I derive great pleasure from "winning over" people to my corner when it comes to music, movies, books, tv and even food (maybe I'll tackle that next on this site). So I was happy to hear her say she was totally interested in getting a cd. So we gave our compliments to the band as they walked by and arranged for her to get Back in the Bottle and Buddy.

back in the bottle buddy

Here's a personal milestone alert (I know you probably don't care but it sort of fascinates me): I think I have now attended as many performances by THNYC as I have by the Replacements/Paul Westerberg/Tommy Stinson combined (I never saw Chris Mars or Slim Dunlap on their own). I just saw that Tommy Stinson cancelled his latest NYC show so it remains to be seen whether it will stay a tie or if THNYC reigns. By the way, I heard a rumor that VH1's Bands Reunited (a show I really enjoyed) approached the Mats for a possible reunion and Paul and Tommy told them to f*** off. [Note: I saw Tommy's show at Mercury Lounge in 9/04 and Paul's show at Supper Club in 4/05 thus bumping the Mats back in the lead. Next, I'm trying to rack up frequent flyer miles as a Sondre Lerche-head.]

So one final statement: I am happy to report that I got a power dosage of THNYC vitamins so I think I'm good for awhile. I can stop chasing that dragon... at least until the next show or new song. Oh, I should mention that they performed two new songs which was cool.

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Added 7/05:
The source:Tammany Hall NYC Concert at Mercury Lounge, NYC on 7/6/05

I am so enamoured with this band. Though I've seen them before, I feel like I never really heard them for what they were until now. They put on such a good show and it was pure joy to be there.

As evident, my m.o. is to cast a very wide pop culture net and check out what looks decent. Then I feast on what is tasty. Perhaps this is related to the universal fear of plateau-ing, not fulfilling one's potential, falling into a rut and staying there. At any rate, I love my old school music to no end, but staying open to what's new is the spice of my pop culture life.

The gems: Well, let me start with the venue. Everyone I know who's familiar with the Mercury Lounge loves it. It's intimate but not claustrophobic. The sound is always solid and it's easy to find a good place to stand. There is also some seating along the walls for those who'd rather engage in chair-dancing.

What makes Tammany Hall stand out is the song-writing and their undeniable talent which exudes on-stage (and in the studio). They aren't one of those bands where you're not sure where one song ends and the other begins because after listening to them for 15 minutes, their output still sounds like the same uninspired background noise. Also, it makes a big difference if you look like you're having fun and happy to be there. It makes the audience happy to be there. And the band was definitely having a good time. They have great presence and are very kinetic.

The show was to celebrate the release of their new album Marathon. I liked all the new songs. I sort of didn't consider the songs previously released on Shiner (an EP of sorts) as completely new so there were only a few songs I didn't know at all. I was very impressed with Beyond An Ocean. It has the "eternal present" concept that Gavin Smith and Richard T. Jameson spoke of regarding films that I reinterpreted to apply to pop culture (i.e., to quote myself, "Pop culture's 'eternal present' is all of pop culture influencing what's next and how what once was is still as relevant as what is and what will be."). As I listened to this song, first I felt, this is very of-the-moment and right now. Then the sound enveloped me and I thought, this song has real lasting power. I can't wait to hear it again to explore this reaction more. The other new song I can remember distinctly is Nightmare On The Make. I remember the title because it is in the vein of those catchy, upbeat, just-telling-it-like-it-is songs I have a penchant for (like Foo Fighters' The Last Song which I cannot get enough of). I have to hear it again to say more but I just remember being amused and being caught up in the music. What more do you want from a song?

I've already expounded on the title track Marathon. (Click here and scroll down to the end.) Suffice it to say that I think it has all the elements of a "crank it up so I can hear it full out" tune.

They are like me and like their old school as much as their new school so they performed a good number of older joints like The Jello Song which has grown on me over time along with Sullivan Street and Wait For Jane.

So this is full disclosure time: I felt like I could truly appreciate all the great aspects of Tammany Hall and their music after having taken a hiatus from them. I felt like my earlier gushing was justified. Anyway, this revelation made me reflect on life and realize (again) that this is what we aspire to do in our existence. We want time to pass and to be able to value and understand how people, places and experiences contribute to our time on this planet.

Nothing makes sense until it's over. - from Jean-Luc Godard's "In Praise of Love"

A good friend and fellow PCA recently asked me what my favorite books were. As a voracious reader with a terrible memory for plot (this may account for why I treat favorite books like favorite albums and read them over and over again), I said my list changes constantly. It depends on when you ask me. This is just a long preamble to telling you that right now, Tammany Hall NYC and their music rank up there among my favorite pop culture things. It's not over yet but it makes sense to me why I like them so much and I promise you, you will too!

Added 11-03 let it be...naked
The source: Let It Be... Naked by The Beatles (issued in 2003 from the masters recorded in 1969 and eventually released in 1970 as Let It Be after the breakup)
How I came across it: As far as I'm concerned, there isn't a Beatles album in existence that isn't worth owning. So when I learned of the release of a bare-bones Let It Be without the Spector production, I knew I'd be at Tower on that Tuesday with bells on (okay, I didn't have time until Friday, but I was thinking about it all week). I'm trying to pinpoint where I first read about it... as you might have gathered by now, I read so much entertainment news on a near daily-basis that it gets a little foggy. It could've been in Entertainment Weekly or that frivolous but oh so fun US Weekly or the more esteemed New York Times. I just don't know.

The gems: Let It Be was the second to last Beatles album recorded but last released because they couldn't agree on a producer. John liked Phil Spector much to Paul's disgust and asked him to finish up the album that would be Let It Be. Well, I can't believe I'm going to say this but toss your old version aside and stick to the new one. [Note: After some thought, I realized I still like the original Let It Be. Let me modify my praise: listen to both and enjoy!] This new version of Let It Be is so pure some of the tracks such as Two of Us (watch the video here) and Across the Universe bring tears to my eyes (okay, I admit I cry easily -any given episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer can make me a little verklempt, but this stuff is hot). Get Back sounds so good. It opens up the album full force and Paul just sounds so easy; there's no stress in his voice only joy. Get Back is probably my favorite track on this album. I already mentioned Across the Universe with John sounding like John. Sigh.

I guess what Paul despised the most were the instrumental and choral additions Spector added to The Long and Winding Road. There's talk of John's dreadful bass playing on this song. But stripped down, it still sounds like a song you won't ever forget. And the remix of the track Let It Be is nothing less that what you would expect. Did you know Paul asked Aretha Franklin to record a version of it and she did? And Dig a Pony...look, there isn't a song that I don't like. One After 909 is so cute -it's one that John and Paul wrote together when they were teenagers.

Before the Spector debacle, the main point of contention amongst the Fab Four was who should be their new business manager - Lee Eastman, Linda's dad, or Allen Klein. Everyone but Paul voted for Klein who is the one who heeded John's suggestion to work with Spector. During the recording of these tracks at one point George walked out in a huff and he later tried to explain it as a standard need for a breather. He said at the time, "I can see the Beatles sticking together forever." Oh well. Denial mixed with optimism. I've been there. Still there sometimes. And Paul was allegedly peeved throughout because of the hiring of Klein. And Yoko was sitting there by John's side the entire time because they couldn't stand to be apart for one second. The world knows how the band felt about that. (I must say that I think Yoko is cool; have you seen her art?) But listening to this album, all you hear is the chemistry that was the Beatles.

Playing it over and over, as I am compelled to do, reminds me of the times my brother and I used to sit on the floor of my room and listen to Beatles albums and talk about the guys like they were our friends. I feel lucky that we developed an appreciation of the Beatles at a young age despite the fact that, in terms of pop music, our parents only owned Beatle-mania and a bunch of Joan Baez albums - not to disparage Joan - definitely went through a folkie phase, oh and the odd Plastic Ono Band record. In this new release, there's also a bonus disc that lasts about 20 minutes of John, Paul, George and Ringo chatting and playing this and that in between takes - some of which was previously heard on the original album. You can hear snippets here. Word is that the movie Let It Be will be released on dvd in 2004 or 2005. So the snippets will make more sense in context.

Anyway, isn't it ironic that Phil Spector is in the news right now accused of murder? And now here's the rebirth of the music he supposedly killed. I am just too clever for my own good, aren't I. I feel like I don't have to try that hard to sell you on the brilliance of this album. I've been telling everyone I've talked to and seen since I got it to get it and so far my suggestion has been met with little resistance. I even had a chat with the kid behind the register at the music store about how it's such a no-brainer to get this cd.

This is what I take from this album and why I can justify its appearance in this particular pop culture addict's guide to finishing a dissertation: it was culled from 32 reels of material that Spector didn't use (or just didn't present in a way that Paul liked) the first time around. But, all of this music was recorded during the same sessions with the exception of Across the Universe which was recorded the year before in 1968. At any rate, my point is all of the core material already existed in raw form just like those pages and pages of lit review you've written thus far - I know you have far more than you're going to use, but you want to review the article just in case, right? I feel for you, I really do. But guess what, I have just elevated you to the same status as JohnPaulGeorgeandRingo.

Paul, George and Ringo agreed to the project of going through the takes they didn't use and remastering the ones they did in order to re-release the album in a form that they thought would be a truer representation of what they sounded like and what they were trying to achieve at the time which was a departure from the psychedelia of say Sgt Pepper and Mystery Tour and a return to the live sound of the four-piece band they were at heart. They left the editing, remixing and remastering to a team at the famous Abbey Road studios. Paul gave his stamp of approval to the end result without any suggestions. Now I'm sitting here listening to it and writing about it to you. Man, the recordings must've been so good to begin with.

So keep this in mind: whilst writing your dissertation, you might find yourself exercising poor judgment and "over-producing" your chapters. Don't despair. You've probably already written the good stuff and just lost it in the rewrites. If you're like me, you probably have multiple editions of each chapter saved in the case that you change your mind about revisions that seemed necessary at one time but then so completely wrong the next day. It happens to the best of us. It happened to the Beatles and all they did was return to the original material and ended up emerging with a treasure of their own creation. Take heart, you can do it, too.

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Added 11-03 leon fleisher recital
The source: Leon Fleisher Piano Recital at Union College, NY on 10/25/03
How I came across it: When hanging out with my cousin, a musician, she said, "Are you in interested in going to the Leon Fleisher concert at Union..." and before she finished, I said, "Yeah, totally!" and then she concluded, "cuz you know he plays with both hands now." I was like, "What? I totally missed this! We must go!"

The gems: Seeing as I've been describing this concert and how inspired I was by Leon Fleisher's story to everyone for a month now, I thought I should put it down on paper, or, er, virtual paper. It's so apropos to this page. I promise you, you will be as inspired as I was.

Leon Fleisher (b. 1928) is a classical pianist who began studying piano at age 4. He debuted with the NY Philharmonic at age 16. He was a star. Then at age 37, Fleisher was struck by nerve damage in his right hand (something called focal dystonia thought to be caused by repetitive stress). He was unable to play his beloved piano with his right hand anymore. Talk about a nadir. So during the next 30 years, he focused on teaching (I know a couple of people who had him as a teacher), conducting (my cuz was conducted by him at Tanglewood) and eventually concentrating on left-hand only arrangements and compositions so he could begin performing again. Thus, he became known for his virtuostic performances with his left hand. Thanks to him, many compositions, including those of Bach, Brahms, and numerous commissioned post-modern composers, now exist in the piano repertoire.

All this time, Fleisher explored every avenue available to cure his ailment. He tried Western medicine and Eastern medicine. This included acupuncture, hypnosis, steroid treatment and surgery. Nothing worked. Then, he began to see progress with some sort of deep tissue massage. Mind you, he also practiced like it was going out of style to build up the strength in his right hand.

Then, this is the part I missed, in 1995, at age 67, Fleisher gave his first two-handed piano concert in 30 years. Apparently, it was a quiet affair, something more of a personal triumph rather than public display.

So for the past 8 years, Fleisher has been building up his own repertoire again, still continuing his teaching and conducting, both fields in which he's found personal reward as well as critical praise. That's how I ended up at his recital one month ago, marvelling at his whole journey. He now performs a mix of traditional two-handed pieces as well as his signature left-handed pieces.

Let me list the program for those interested: Bach/Petri -“Sheep May Safely Graze? Koston - Message 1; Perle - Music for Left Hand; Kirchner - Music for Left Hand; Sessions - From My Diary; Brahms - Waltzes, Op. 39; Bach/Brahms - Chaconne (for left hand) from Violin Partita No. 2; Schubert - Sonata in B-flat, D. 960.

Apparently, this Union College concert was a preview of his Carnegie Hall performance in celebration of his 75th birthday. Lucky us! I'd much rather go to a small concert at a college than deal with the throngs at Carnegie Hall. Plus, the acoustics in the Union Chapel were very impressive.

Live music performances, any type, classical, jazz, rock, hip hop, really any kind, put me in a trance-like state where I find myself reflecting on my existence. It's a meditative experience. I mean, I'm not in that state the entire concert. I just slip into it for a bit. While I was lost in thought, I just kept thinking how happy Leon Fleisher must be. His destiny from the beginning was to be a musician, to find fulfillment in creating music and to honor the world with his gifts. You can listen to an interview with Fleisher about these thoughts here.

The lesson: The lesson here is clear. When you are faced with obstacles, even ones that seem tragic and insurmountable, don't give up hope. The trip is not over yet. So, when you're unhappy with the turn of events or lack of progress in your research and studies, you have to remember that your life is multi-faceted. Your dissertation will not be the definitive reflection of your whole person. A setback is a setback, but just take a break and don't be so hard on yourself. So many people meet with success later on in life. I have a friend who's a wildly successful author, and he didn't get started until his 60s, after he had retired from his first career.

Like I said in the Spike Jonze (b. 1969) blurb, just because something appears to be a failure at the time, like his "Oasis video that never happened," it may be recognized by you and/or others later as a success. And now that the average lifespan for Americans is something like 80 years, the chance of this happening during your lifetime is far higher than when van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe were alive and the average lifespan was 35 years. Those guys died destitute, unhappy and believing they were miserable failures. Wouldn't they have a laugh and a half now? On a more upbeat front, look at Sam Raimi (b. 1959), the cinematic genius behind Evil Dead (I recommend listening to the commentary on the original for guaranteed entertainment), who was visibly down due to lack of mainstream success, to even me, a mere fan who just followed his work with interest. Now he's the hit director of the Spiderman movie franchise. Believe me, he's relishing every moment. I hope this means a new Evil Dead is in the works.

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spike jonze vincent and theo edgar allen poe cover spiderman

Added 9/04:tommy stinson
The source: Tommy Stinson Concert at the Mercury Lounge, NYC on 9/15/04
How I came across it: "If you build it, he will come." There are some things I try not to miss. In particular, certain musicians, movies, books, etc., will be appreciated in full by moi purely if they exist.
The gems: I guess I'll comment briefly on everything. I caught some of the the opener - I missed the first one but the second one was actually quite good. I didn't know who they were then and neither did Tommy Stinson but he thanked them for loaning his band their bass amp. I can now say that it was Elizabeth Harper.

The venue was small but cool. The bar section was separated by a door and some modicum of soundproofing. The hall was square or at least rectangular so the sound could distribute evenly. It was all good until they really rocked out. I could tell I was getting that concert ear-ringing effect but I didn't do anything to change the situation. Kids, take care of your eardrums. Pete Townsend and Robert Plant have hearing issues for a reason. By the time I climbed into a cab, I could hardly hear myself give my destination. But about...let me think...18 hours later, I was good as new or almost new maybe.

The crowd was older and guy-heavy. But there was a small representation of the xx's and other ages. And you know it was a pretty die-hard crowd. Tommy joined the band when he was 12. Sorry Ma came out when he was 13. So think of how young we all were when we first got into the Replacements and how old we must be now... "How young are you? How old am I? Let's count the rings around my eyes." The last time I saw Tommy Stinson, it was right after he had appeared in Puffy's (as he was known then) Rock remix of the All About the Benjamins video. You might remember it - Lil Kim appears in a fluffy prom dress and then whips it off when she starts rhyming to reveal a more typical Lil Kim outfit if you know what I mean. That was Tommy on bass. Dave Grohl was on that remix too. I can't recall if Axl Rose had asked Tommy to join Guns 'N Roses yet at the time of the concert. By the way, that show was at the now-defunct Coney Island High.

replacements puffy/lil kim

Let's move on to the show. It was clearly running long before the main event was even underway, but just in time, I had a nice burst of energy from the Turkish coffee I had downed in preparation. Tommy came on and officially (more or less) told us they were running late and had arrived at the Mercury Lounge too late to do a proper sound check. He gave us his itinerary: first he would play some songs on his own, then he'd be joined on stage by his band Alien Crime Syndicate. Then the band would play on their own for a while and he'd re-join them after his "costume change" feeling all "refreshed."

I couldn't even tell you the set list. I'm not there anymore. I listen to his music in a more experiential way these days. Same with Paul Westerberg's solo stuff. My brother is still able to identify songs by title. Anyway, Tommy said he was bummed because he just found out that Johnny Ramone had passed away. In his honor, Tommy played the Partridge Family song that C'mon Get Happy one. He said it was important to revel in the legacy of the Ramones and not dwell in the sadness. I had just been thinking about Bob Stinson and that sad interview he gave in Rolling Stone I can't remember when...maybe when the group broke up in 1991. He passed away in '95 but he hadn't been in the group since being kicked out in '85. Tommy then said, I had to do that with my brother too. So it was pretty fresh on his mind. I mean, of course it was on his mind. It was on my mind and I'm just a fan. Bob was his older brother and a founding member of the band.

paul westerberg

I had never heard of Alien Crime Syndicate. They hail from Seattle. I have to say the first three songs all sounded the same or else it was one extremely long song. Still, they were fun to watch. And they were happy for our enthusiasm although at some point, someone asked what we were all thinking: When is Tommy coming back? They were, perhaps, a bit deflated and said they were going to play a couple more songs and then Tommy would be back on stage. Right before that, they had been saying how fun we were. Maybe antsy was more like it. To be honest, there were people in the audience who knew the words to the Alien Crime Syndicate songs so they obviously had fans present. Personally, I preferred it when they played Tommy Stinson's songs, but I could certainly appreciate their sincerity.

Tommy came out (in the exact same outfit he had been wearing earlier) and much to our happiness, went right into a nice long set. He told us he didn't even know that his Perfect album had been due to come out that week but he had learned it was released the previous day. Someone in the audience waved it in front of him. I'm not sure but I think it might be the album they cut after their EP came out around '97. So that means the album has been on hold for 7 years. Tommy had lots to choose from. He played material from his Bash & Pop days, his Perfect days and a lot from his current album. Sadly missing were any Mats tunes. He did play on Eventually, Paul's solo album from a time back indicating they were still on speaking terms. Despite that rumor about how they told Bands Reunited to f*** off, Paul has indicated that he'd be open to a reunion at some point. He said Chris Mars seemed to have moved on though. Well, I think it will happen. So no oldies for Tommy. And no encores either. He did invite everyone to the after party. No, I didn't go. That coffee had worn off by then and I was ready to go on my merry way.


So all in all, it was a time. It made me reflect on my youth and years thereafter. So it was a bit draining in that sense. Is that a girl thing? I'm not sure. But it was cool. The fans showed up. Tommy gave a good show. What else is there?

Added 10/04:
After eons (okay, maybe a year or so) of meaning to read through Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, a book heartily recommended by my brother, I finally got around to reading the section on the Replacements. It was cool, inspiring and sort of a downer. But it made me appreciate Tommy and Paul's solo efforts even more. Reading it also made me think that there really might not be a point to having a Mats reunion. Then again, while Bob Stinson was an integral member of the band, I think I can say that I still liked the the line up with Slim and the albums released by Warner Brothers without feeling like a traitor to the old regime. I remember hearing about a big shake up with their label, Twin/Tone, around the time of Don't Tell a Soul. Apparently, according to this book, the Replacements were terrible business people and never read their contracts or followed their record sales. Also, Twin/Tone was not getting paid appropriately by their distributors. So in turn, they weren't able to pay the Mats. Even then, the sales were barely enough to cover expenses so I guess they weren't exactly due the big bucks despite their undisputed talent.

There were lots of good parts but I loved this quote in particular because it seemed to sum up the band: "...Westerberg had to write for a tough, diverse audience: his own band. 'If it doesn't rock enough, Bob will scoff at it,' Westerberg said, 'if it isn't catchy enough, Chris won't like it, and if it isn't modern enough, Tommy won't like it.'" (p.208)

And then there's a story about how the band could not get with the more "introspective" tunes like "Within Your Reach," a really cool song in my book. Apparently, Paul just played all the instruments himself and recorded it for Hootenany all on his own.

I also like the stories about how contrary they were - like hearing about Joss Whedon deciding to make a dialogue-less episode of Buffy (Hush) when he was being critically praised for his dialogue (James Marsters, aka Spike, said this in one of his interviews). Bob Sullivan tells about how in Nashville, faced with an audience of country music executives, "[t]hey played all their punk rock - just as loud and fast as they could until they virtually cleared the room until there was nothing left but punks. And then then they played country music the rest of the night.

"...The more welcome we were, the more they pissed on the people that welcomed us. The more unwelcome they were, the better they played." (p. 214)

I suppose it's easy to make a statement here about The Replacements appearing to have been classically conflicted with wanting success but not wanting to "sell out." Paul says something about just wanting a decent van to take them from show to show. However, let's give them a break and say that they knew they were great but they were young, they embodied adolescence and they just wanted to rock.

Another cool thing was reading about the Replacements performing at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ back in the '80s. Tommy Stinson just performed there in 9/04. So that means, he played there as teenager and now, 20-odd years later, he's still performing there as a 30-something. Paul Westerberg is playing 10/19/04 to a sold out show in London at Scala. And he has some Twin City shows lined up with his old buddy Bob Mould. Folker is really awesome. The more I listen to it, the more I want to hear it. Well, no tour dates yet but after releasing an album, Paul usually hits the road for some shows so see you there!

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Added 3-05
The source: Paul Westerberg's Concert on 2/23/05 at Henry Fonda Theater in LA
How I came across it: Not to be lazy but here it is again: "If you build it, he will come." There are some things my brother and I try not to miss. Since I coudn't be there, here's his take. We really are two separate people. smiley face

Thu, 3 Mar 2005

Paul Westerberg rocks the Henry Fonda in Hollywood
by Chris Koh

Well over a decade ago, SPIN magazine proposed that Paul Westerberg, the former lead singer of the Replacements, was the “soul?of rock’n’roll. When asked to comment, Westerberg replied, “I don’t know about the ‘soul,?maybe just the heel.?For well over two decades now, Westerberg has been arguably the best singer-songwriter in American rock/pop. His insouciant combination of sarcasm and sincerity influenced generations of musical artists, many of whom might not have been as talented, but who managed to eclipse him in commercial success. Some of the Westerberg-influenced acts include Nirvana, Wilco, the Lemonheads, Ryan Adams, and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Last week at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood, Westerberg played two back to back shows on successive nights to packed crowds of aging ‘matsfans.[Editor’s note: hardcore Replacement fans like to refer to their favorite band as the ‘mats, short for placemats]. I caught Wednesday night’s show which was a three hour plus rock and roll extravaganza of old ‘mats songs, Paul’s solo career, and random covers like the theme to “Batman?and the Partridge Family’s “I think I love you?as well as such chestnuts like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode?and Elvis?“Return to Sender.? My guess was that the median age of the crowd was somewhere in the early 40s which made me feel very youthful indeed.

In truth, the show did not represent one of Paul’s finest performances. It was a pretty sloppy effort from a musical perspective. Paul was obviously trashed and often would begin playing a song ?only to play a few chords and stop because he forgot the lyrics. However, sloppiness and spontaneity are two benchmarks of a true rocker. One thing you could not say is that the show was predictable or lacking in energy. Though Paul’s music has become progressively more “mellow?with age ?he seemed hell-bent on proving that he was still a rocker at heart. He came out on stage adopting his cranky “Grandpaboy?alter ego- wearing sunglasses with big “X”s marked over the lenses and a loud green jacket. Later in the evening, he would throw tomatoes at the audience. At one point, he even threw his guitar into the crowd. There were guest singers like the British soul singer Terry Reid (sp?) and Lucinda Williams who looked like they just showed up to wish Paul well backstage but got roped into cameo performances on stage.

Above all, Paul’s passionate love for rock came shining through. His sarcastic jibes at hecklers and fans calling out obscure song titles (“there’s a reason they’re obscure!?he quipped) mask a deeper, lyrical sensibility and almost make you forget what a truly authentic talent he is. For a diehard ‘matsfan like myself, it was a treat to hear such nuggets as “If only you were lonely,??I will dare,?“Little Mascara,??Alex Chilton,?and “Valentine??even if it didn’t sound as tight as the good old days. Yes, there were times, I wish Tommy, Chris, Slim, and Bob were there up on stage too. [Editor’s note: these are the other members of the ‘mats].But you can’t have everything.

Added 5/05
The source: Paul Westerberg's Concert on 4/27/05 at The Supper Club in NYC
How I came across it: Well, I try to stay on top of his touring schedule. So I got the notice he'd be in town and I arranged my schedule accordingly. As I was typing, I just remembered how he started playing Freebird as a joke and stopped. Did he do any other covers? I don't recall at the moment. Anyway, here's my review:
The gems: So I went to the second show of a two-night gig for Paul Westerberg at The Supper Club in NYC. In short, it was awesome. I had a great time. The venue was beautiful. It was really hot though so I stood near the back where the airflow seemed better. Unless I stand right up front, my old m.o., my view is going to be the same no matter where I stand, so I figured, better to be able to breathe comfortably than see every single angle. I did walk by the stage beforehand to check out the many guitars lined up for the show. I didn't count them but there were rows and rows of them.

Paul was in a good mood. He didn't seem overly inebriated. He didn't throw tomatoes or anything else at the audience as he did when my brother saw him in LA. Also, he didn't put on his Grandpa Boy persona at all. I wonder if that's because he was feeling less crotchety than usual. Plus, he was there to rock out.

It was completely sold out. The crowd was psyched especially because Paul played many, many Replacement tunes. I felt like he drew heavily from Pleased to Meet Me. I must say I kept waiting for him to play Alex Chilton because my brother had told me he was very surprised when Paul played it. This is how it went: Paul and his band played for a very long time, went off-stage, returned for an encore set, left for a long time and then returned to play Alex Chilton. Then the house lights came on and it was really over.

I loved how he played I Will Dare the standard way and then finished it off with a punky version a la Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash. I must say one of my favorite songs off that album is Customer (say it all in one breathe: "I'm in love with the girl who works at the store where I'm nothing but a customer!). I loved the remembrance of days of blissful ignorance when he played songs like Valentine and Skyway.

It was like Paul was indulging all of us by playing old favorites. Although when someone yelled Bastards of the Young, he didn't comply. Also, it felt like with more time between then and now, it was more of a joy for him to reach back and pull out the 'Mats tunes. I enjoyed his solo stuff too. For instance, I thought the live version of As Far As I Know was very cute.

So, what's next is this typically tongue-in-cheek entitled best-of compilation: Besterberg due out May 17, 2005.

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Added 2-05
The source: My brother's dinner with Joseph Kahn in LA on 2/2/05
How I came across it: Considering we are probably among the few who actually listened to the dvd commentary on Torque, it's apropos that we would find a face-to-face conversation with the auteur of great interest. Anyway, I thought it was a good read so of course I am putting it here for you all.

The gems: Just read it all. It's very illuminating and entertaining (I'm so biased)! And be sure to visit where you can educate & entertain yourself as well as reminisce about the songs in question as you view some of Joseph Kahn's work. I should note that my brother hates how he looks in the picture he sent me. But he didn't say not to put it up, so here it is.

Dinner with Joseph Kahn
by Chris Koh
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005

At the tender age of 32, music video ace Joseph Kahn has already amassed 13 years of experience in the industry having directed major videos in nearly every musical genre for diverse artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Sisqo, DMX, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Moby, Eminem, Britney Spears, Ashley Simpson, Blink 182, and U2. In addition, he directed the feature film Torque starring Ice Cube released by Warner Brothers early last year.

chris koh and joseph kahn 2/05
Chris Koh (left) with Joseph Kahn

On Wednesday, February 2nd, Joseph joined ten 2nd year AMSA members and one friend of Chris Koh for a special dinner for 12 at Taylor's Steakhouse in the heart of K-town. You may ask, what can a MTV whiz teach a bunch of MBA students? The answer is plenty. Not only does Joseph know more about marketing and entrepreneurship than most of the population of Anderson combined, but he's completely self-taught and self-made. Extraordinarily articulate and candid, Joseph spoke for two hours to the group in between bites of grilled prawns and rib eye steak. He generously offered numerous insights and observations about marketing, sales, general business acumen, judgmental online film geeks, Hollywood backstabbing, Asian-American identity politics, and his personal theories regarding five dimensional film editing related to string theory.

Joseph recounted his modest origins and the Horatio Alger-esque path that led him to be featured on Cribs (which MTV forced him to do in exchange for promoting Torque). He combined hard work, talent, shrewd business instincts, ambition, chutzpah, and pure luck to achieve a classic American success story. He admitted that his initial interest in creating movies and videos stemmed from a desire to get the attention of girls in high school. However, the then would be auteur had no money and no connections to the film business. Furthermore, he had to drop out of NYU due to its exorbitant expense. Instead, Joseph worked a job making tacos in his native Houston, Texas. Gradually, he saved enough money to produce a music video for $2,000.

Oddly enough, it was his business skills that enabled Joseph to achieve his initial success. Saving himself thousands of dollars in student loans and tuition costs, Joseph instead read several business books inside local bookstores. He recalls the importance the books placed on having strong people skills such as dressing well, looking people in the eye, and conveying credibility with a strong presentation.

Determined to get hired as music video director, Joseph approached local gangster rap labels in Houston and offered his services as a director. He dressed himself in a suit, and presented himself as the head of a production company representing several directors even though he was only representing himself. Most importantly, Joseph showed his reel to the labels, telling them that he had shot it for $10,000. This was significant because he presented the work as having the production value of a $30,000 video. In effect, Joseph was offering an enormous cost advantage as his value proposition to these record labels.

By keeping his bids so low, Joseph made it easier for the rap labels to approve the budgets for the music videos. The only catch was that once Joseph won the bids, he was unable to hire any professional crew members because their rates were too high for his low budgets. As a result, Joseph ended up teaching himself how to do everything (shooting, lighting, editing) on a video. He said that the technical side of filmmaking is relatively easy since it is all based on 19th century technology.

Since this was over a decade ago before hip-hop became mainstream and there were scarcely any Asian-Americans involved in any aspect of filmmaking/music videos especially in Houston, Joseph was often met with skepticism and hostility by some of his potential clients. However, he was able to win them over with his resourcefulness, open attitude, and adaptability. Extremely honest and self-critical, Joseph confessed that his initial music videos were not very good because he had no understanding of the market. Once he gained an understanding of the artists' milieu, Joseph was able to create videos from an honest place that authentically represented hip hop culture. As he shot more and more of these low budget local videos, Joseph gained a deeper understanding of the hip hop market and the music industry dynamics.

Today, Joseph owns his own production company and actually represents other directors. As he described it, he is no longer the cheap third world brand offering a good value, but more of a Lexus brand offering premium quality and style. However, he no longer does everything behind the scenes because he said there's a point of diminishing returns as the scale and volume of production goes up. Instead, Joseph meticulously trains his crew to learn his style and technique.

joseph kahn and f.o.c.k. 2/05

Although it may be impossible to encapsulate all of the rich details that Joseph shared with us, here are some of the key points he made:

?Business skills are acquired skills that can be taught. Joseph admitted that he was initially a very shy person who had to force himself to become a business-oriented, market savvy extrovert.

?Understand your market. Joseph attributed a good deal of his success to being able to understand the specific traits and needs of each market he was addressing. By making so many different videos with such diverse artists in different genres, Joseph was quickly able to identify the key touch points of each market segment.

?Failure is the best teacher. Joseph is constantly analyzing his own failures and learning from them. He was able to learn from his bad videos and the disappointing box office of Torque to assess his strengths and weaknesses and how to improve upon them. In another example, he talked about a time when a fellow director's dishonesty got him fired from a major film project. Instead of being bitter, Joseph said the experience taught him humility.

Joseph also touched on an issue that particularly interested the AMSA crowd: how his Asian-American identity fit into the equation. He is, of course, aware of and comfortable with his Korean-American identity. However, he is also aware of the market place's attitude towards Asians. Since the world of music videos and movies tends to be a white dominated world, Joseph feels that it is impolitic to rub one's Asian-ness in the audience's face. He observed that demonstrating Asian pride often gets misinterpreted as being militant or anti-American. Instead, he would rather concentrate on making the best work possible. Joseph believes that his success in this realm will ultimately open more doors for Asian-Americans. Furthermore, he hopes more Asian-Americans get involved in the business side of entertainment, especially when it comes to green-lighting and financing films. Also, Joseph does believe there will one day be significant Asian-American movie stars. In his opinion, it is a matter of population demographics. As soon as Asian-Americans become a significant box office force, it will become viable for such a star to exist. However, rather than pursue an agenda, Joseph's aim is to be a popular mainstream filmmaker like one of his idols, Steven Spielberg. In fact, he is hard at work, developing a screenplay adaptation of a top secret project which he is attached to direct. Given his remarkable track record, we have no doubt that whatever Joseph does next will be a rousing success.

Joseph's new site should be up this week and will feature all of his music videos.


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