Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bruce Springsteen "Save My Love"

I think the first album I got with a special bonus track was R.E.M's "Eponymous" Best Of collection, which didn't have the version of "Radio Free Europe" that we were all used to. It had the "original Hib-Tone" single mix---a kind of lost, alternate version. It was an interesting artifact.

In the years since, the interesting artifacts have taken over. Now, any album of any renown eventually gets remastered and reissued, with a host of (sometimes dubious) bonus material.

In fact, this year, R.E.M. reissued "Fables Of The Reconstruction." The remastered original album sounds great! But am I really ever going to listen to that second disc, which contains the not-quite-realized demo versions of all the songs on the record? Nah.

But we do have a thirst for this stuff. Our "Behind The Music" desires must be satiated.

So when a truly BIG album gets reissued, it doesn't just come with a remixed track, or even a bonus disc. It comes with a live concert and a whole dern movie!

The making of "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" was a pretty tumultuous time for Bruce Springsteen, and it was at an interesting crux in his career.

So this Fall, he's getting the full treatment. A documentary! 2 concert DVDs! 21 unreleased songs! Never! Before! Seen! Footage!

Bruce has never been known for keeping it short, has he?

The package isn't out until later this fall (though you can pre-order it from Amazon), but one of the Never! Before! Released! tracks is available for streaming.

Check it out. Does it merit the hoopla? Or is it just a relic from the attic?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Southern Culture On The Skids "Dirt Track Date"

It was called "7 Maples" and it's where I called home for five years in that stretch of the 90s when I lived in the most western part of the state of Virginia.

The farmhouse had come with the acres purchased by our artist landlords, who had built a beautiful studio at the top of the hill. "7 Maples" was the original homestead on the land, with parts of the structure dating back 100 years.

It was called "7 Maples" because the land had 6 maple trees on it, but the original owners thought "7 Maples" was more poetic-sounding than "6 Maples."

It was rickety and rustic and just right for as a space for a pair of 20-somethings to live in. It wasn't too nice---we couldn't really do anything to ruin it. And it had space for me and my roommate.

And one more.

Throughout our tenure, we had a rotating array of 3rd roommates. They were always close friends, but always changed the dynamic from the consistence of the two of us.

The sprawling layout was charming in the daytime, and would have been as charming at night, if we'd never heard the story of the murder/suicide that had occurred in our front room, early in the century.

At night, when the mind plays tricks, the house could be a bit scary, with its creaky floors, and maple branches brushing the roof, and the quiet, quiet countryside of southwest Virginia.

And then there was the creepy appeal of the 2nd floor room that we gave to the rotating 3rd roommate.

The room itself was fine, but it lead to a large walk-in closet. The closet was only partially finished. And off the walk-in closet, was another totally unfinished space.

A room, within a room, within a room. Like a panic room. Or a place you'd hide a body.

As I said, Roommate #3 was always the wild-card. And one night, I came home to find a certain #3 passed out on the couch.

Not unusual. Roommate #3 liked to take a drink. Or five.

Climbing the stairs to my bedroom, I had to pass by her room. And from the room I heard breathing.

Not unusual. Roomate #3 liked to take a drink or five and bring home a guest from the bar.

I worked the night shift those years, and sometimes, on my way in well after midnight, I'd pass some stranger, on his way out.

But this one was breathing loudly. I shouldn't be able to hear breathing through the closed door, should I?

I inched closer to the frame. Heavy, heavy breathing.

Mechanized sounding breathing.

There was something strangely robotic about this heaving, in and out, in and out.

It's after midnight. It's dark. I'm alone, except for a passed out roommate on the couch downstairs, and whoever is behind the door.

In and out, in and out.

Breathing from the creepy room.

I'm a reasonable, rational human being. What is there to be afraid of?

I stood there for another full minute, hoping I could come up with a good excuse.

Failing that, I thought I'd better look in the room.

The hallway light was harsh, entering the bedroom that was completely dark, except for the tiny glow of a stereo light.

A stereo that was playing. Counting. Spinning on low volume.

I'd been haunted by the ghost of Southern Culture On The Skids album "Dirt Track Date."

At the very end of the album, when the title track fades out, you are left with a sound. The sound of a dirt track.

Cars, vroomming around the track past a microphone. The doppler effect making the pitch rise and fall.

Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . .
Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . .
Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . Vrooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . .

It goes on for 5 minutes or so, this mechanical pulsating of cars roaring by, which, when turned low on your stereo, sounds a lot like mechanical breathing.

Jump ahead to 3:21 on the Youtube video, to hear the song end, and the cars/creepy breathing. (they fade it out; it actually goes on for 5 minutes on the record)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whale "Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe"

Here's another weekend post:

I'd totally forgotten about this wacked-out gem that just screams "Hey, I Was A Random MTV Single From A Distinctly European Outfit In The Mid-90's!!!!"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

PJ Harvey "Down By The Water"

Here's another weekend post:

Never mind that this song is creepy because it seems to be about infanticide . . . isn't it strange that by attempting to make her more traditionally beautiful---with make up and a red dress and flowing hair---this video actually makes PJ Harvey, and the song, seem more creepy?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rodrigo Y Gabriela "Tamacun"

When to love an aritst, you want so badly to share them with people you think will love them as much as you do. But it's hard, sometimes, to win people over.

I went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriela (with Ryan Montbleau as the opener) at the Opera House in Boston last night, and I brought my friend Dana.

He's a huge music fan, and a very open mind when it comes to discovering new things.

I think it's can be really hard for certain people, to go to a concert where they don't know the artists, or a single song, and really get something out of the experience.

But I felt good, two songs into the night.

After blazing through "Hanuman" and another track from the album "11:11" that had a dead-stop ending, there was a slight pause.

And before the music started up, before the audience started clapping, from the darkness beside me, I heard a little:

"Heh heh."

A small, spontaneous bit of laughter.

When the next song ended, Dana let out a "Whooooo!"

By the middle of the show, he was full out clapping and laughing and smiling and shouting.

"They're unbelievable."

He left the show a fan, ready to check out their records.

They were awesome, and I felt like I had successfully shared. Victory!

If you're on the Vineyard, Ryan Montbleau is playing at Nectars on Saturday, 8/28!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

John Mellencamp "Small Town"

On Tuesday I wrote about Josh Ritter's "The Curse" and on the mvyradio Facebook page, I was asking for feedback. One of my concerns is that the song was too long.

mvy listeners Michele commented:

I say run it. I think MVY listeners are appreciative of good song writing. It's sad to think it wouldn't air b/c it's too long. What does that say about us as music lovers.

I thought about the phrase "too long" and I realized that I wasn't asking if the song WAS too long. I was asking if it FELT too long.

While DJ's live and die by the length of a song---I can make it to the bathroom and back during John Mayer's "Why Georgia" but not his "Who Says"---actual song length doesn't probably register to most radio listeners.

But time is elastic. Songs can FEEL long.

Sometimes it has to do with tempo. Sometimes it has to do with a repeated vocal or musical phrase.

When we played Lucinda Williams' song "Are You Alright?", while the song was popular with some listeners, it seemed to get under the skin of others. It's no longer than, say, "The Weight" by The Band. But it felt longer to those listeners who complained, because of the repeated refrain.

And going way back, people used to make fun of John Mellencamp's "Small Town" because it seemed to endlessly say those two words. The song is only 3 minutes and 41 seconds long---which is pretty much dead average for a song on the radio---but it drove listeners nuts.

So nuts, that irritated folks would call up, just to let me know just how many times he says the phrase "Small Town." Care to count for yourself?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ted Leo "Bottled In Cork"

A good decade ago, my friends and I were mocking the entertainment news of the day: Coming to Broadway, was a musical adaptation of James Joyce's "The Dead."

Really? Joyce's "The Dead"? As a musical?

The Irishman's wordy, dense stories of introspection just did not seem ripe for musical adaptation.

We joked about future musicals:

Death Of A Salesman: The Musical
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being: The Musical
Atlas Shrugged: The Musical

It all seemed fairly ridiculous. But little did we know, that now everything was open to musical adaptation.

In the last decade, musical movies, non-musical movies, kids movies, punk albums, brief encounters of Rock N Roll Legends and absurdist British comedy sketches from the 1970s have all be adapted into musicals.

And this trend fans out to other media, with TV shows based on Twitter feeds and blockbuster summer movies based on great literary sources like, um, the board game Battleship.

So, this parody video---featuring an awesome, non-parody song---is probably a decade late of sharply observing a strange, lame trend.

But it's hilarious all the same.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Josh Ritter “The Curse”

What do you think of this track?

I’m trying to decide if this song should go into rotation at mvyradio. I’d love to hear your opinion, because I have split feelings about this song.

Listen once. And listen closely. Don't do anything else while your listening. Really absorb the lyrics and the story.

Lindsey Reid, an independent record promoter who’s talking to me about this song, said something along the lines of (not an exact quote here), that he thinks this is one of the best songs Josh Ritter has ever written.

And I have to agree.

We’re fans of Josh Ritter here at mvyradio. I think his songs really stand out. And Barbara, who interviewed him a few years back, will often say when the name Josh Ritter comes up, “He’s a special guy.” Just a real talent, and seems to be a lovely person.

And, for me, what can lift a song from being good, to great, is to ask, “Could anyone else have written this?” I mean, the story of an archeologist and a mummy, and their life long love? Not many people could pull this song off, sans irony, and have it feel so deep and beautiful.

It’s very, very effect. (And that is one hell of a video, too.)

Okay, now, listen to the song again. But this time, don’t listen closely. Go do something. Write an email to a friend or pay a bill or make a sandwich while the song is on in the background.

Did you find that the song seemed to go on a really long time? Was the piano phrase very, very repetitive, maybe even drone-y? Did the tempo become a little too lulling?

When picking songs for the station, we always talk about the tempo. Will a slow song drag everything down? Songs that feel like they go on too long, are real buzz-kills.

And herein lies an ugly truth. Josh Ritter can write what may be the best song of his career, but because most people are listening to the radio in the background, they may never know it. An active listen to this song, is a real joy. A passive listen to the song does not reveal its wonder.

A great song is not the same thing as a great radio single.

So yes, the converse in another ugly truth: Inane, shallow songs, can make great radio singles, because they are fun to listen to, without having to take your brain away from sending an email or paying a bill or making a sandwich.

But this is MY read on “The Curse.” When you listened passively, did you like it? Were you engaged by it? Should mvyradio be playing it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Soul Coughing “Unmarked Helicopters”

I had two little moments converge last Thursday, and a song popped into my head.

Funny how that happens. If just one, or the other, thing had happened, the jukebox in my mind might not have kicked out the song.

I was in the studio, and I had a long set of music on. Usually, at about 2:30 or so (I’ve been in since 9am), I get a little hungry. Pull out a snack and put on a longer set of music. And I turn my mind off for a few seconds, by reading something non-music/radio related.

I check out the site The AV Club pretty much every day. And I enjoy its TV Club page, which feature many, many blogs by the AVC staffers, devoted to TV shows. I kept up with Treme and Lost, by reading along. And they have TV Club Classic, where a reviewer goes back and watches an entire series on DVD.

So I was checking in with the X-Files blog, because they were writing about one of my favorite episodes, "Jose Chung’s From Outer Space." Just reading quietly.

Around the time I had decided I was hungry, unbeknownst to me, President Obama was boarding Marine One, the Presidential Helicopter, just across Vineyard Sound, in Falmouth at Otis Air National Guard Base.

As I was reading about Men In Black and government conspiracies and shadowy figures, above my head I heard Thwump Thwump Thwump Thwump of helicopters above the mvyradio studios.

We’re in the flight path of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, just a mile or so from the runway. It’s not unusual to hear planes overhead.

But these were helicopters with sidewinders. They were flying in formation. The President was on one. The others were diversions, decoys and/or protection.

I was thinking about the weird world of Presidential security, and all the logistics of keeping our leader safe, while reading about The X-Files.

And I remembered this track from the X-Files soundtrack.

It’s hard to imagine that there is a perfect song to go along with reading an X-files blog while the President of the United States flies over your office in a heavily armed helicopter. And yet, there is.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dink "Green Mind"

Last week's guest blogger, Lori Bargeron, reminded me of this song and my feelings about it. And her memory sparked the idea to do these weekend posts.

She remembered that, while I liked this song, I was always uncomfortable with the band name.

I don't know if it's a regional thing, or a country-wide thing, but where I come from a "Dink" is slang for the male anatomy. And it just felt weird to say that.

So in all its 90s glory, and without having to say the band name out loud, here's Dink!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

dEUS "Suds And Soda"

Well, it IS called Every Day I Write The Blog. Not Every WEEKDAY I Write The Blog.

So I'm going to start posting 7 days a week. But for these weekend posts, I'll be offering some shorter, simpler entries.

Quite frequently, I come across a song that I haven't heard since my early days of being a DJ, hosting a modern rock specialty show.

And I'll think: I should write a blog entry about this song . . . what does it remind me of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


There are a lot of great songs from the last 20 years (and before) that I don't have a full EDIWTB story for, but are great to haul out of the mental storage facility. So I'll use these weekend posts to do that.

For instance, I'm sure few of you out there remember this track from dEUS. And fewer still have heard it any time in the last decade. So here 'tis.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Taylor Swift "Love Story"

This week, guest blogger Lori Bargeron writes about 5 Celebrity encounters where she works, at Bobbie's Dairy Dip in Nashville, Tennessee.

Do you find it hard to take pop idols seriously? What if they're country crossovers? Is it even more difficult then? I call it "The Shania Twain Problem." It's like a flash in the pan-- you don't know how to categorize them, or how long their success will continue.

What I don't like about Taylor Swift's success is that some people (some of my friends, even) are so quick to dismiss it. She sings songs that are catchy, that girls the world over latch onto, identifying with her love-torn heroine character. And isn't that the goal of pop music? To create something that your audience can relate to, something that makes them feel at home for 3 minutes & 20 seconds. "Taylor gets it, Taylor gets ME," is what her audience thinks, and it's true. Taylor does get it. She's a pop idol with staying power. And all the while a gracious and classy young woman.

Taylor Swift has sold millions of records and won countless awards, and she is still amazed when she receives such acclaim. It is a dream come true for her, and she continues to be humble about it.

Not to mention that when Nashville flooded earlier in May of this year, Taylor donated half a million dollars during a local TV station's flood relief telethon-- the most by any one person or corporation. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Taylor's philanthropic efforts. In 2007, she helped launch a Tennessee government-sanctioned campaign to protect minors from online sexual predators. She has donated to the Australian Red Cross for relief efforts made during the 2009 Victorian bushfires, and given money to the BBC's annual "Children in Need" telethon which distributes donations to various children's organizations all across the UK. Now, that's a superstar with good in her heart. So, it bothers me when people make fun of her "surprised to win a Grammy" face. And it bothers me when I hear people dismiss her as just another candy-coated tool of record label mass consumption tyranny.

Here's Taylor singing her "signature" song, "Love Story." It's like a diary entry. Taylor has been quoted as saying that her goal is to never write a song that her fans can't relate to. You should take her seriously...I definitely do (even though she does enjoy rainbow sprinkles).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Emmylou Harris "Not Enough"

This week, guest blogger Lori Bargeron writes about 5 Celebrity encounters where she works, at Bobbie's Dairy Dip in Nashville, Tennessee.

How can I say I live in Nashville and not be a fan of Emmylou Harris? She’s as uniquely Music City as the Dip is. I know, I know. It's just, folk music has never been my thing. But I do have a particular fondness for Emmylou as a person-- "my thing" or not, her talent really is beyond words. And there's no denying that she puts countless efforts into bettering the community. She is a blessed woman who radiates kindness.

Activism is a large part of her life as she annually organizes a benefit tour called Concerts for a Landmine Free World, which benefits Veterans of the Vietnam War. She took part in an anti-death penalty concert called Journey of Hope, and also featured Jackson Browne and Steve Earle, among others. And of course, Emmylou rode in the feminist wagon touring with the Lilith Fair several times.

But I think what impresses me most is housed in Emmylou's own backyard. Her love for animals inspired her to turn part of her property into a shelter for homeless or unwanted dogs, a shelter she has dubbed Bonaparte's Retreat (named for her late poodle mix, Bonaparte, who was her constant touring companion). Emmylou takes in some of the dogs the Nashville Humane Association just doesn't have room for, and with the help of a network of foster volunteers, homes are found for the animals.

I myself adopted a dog from the Humane Association, and I whole-heartedly support any organization that will keep animals from shelters that will euthanize them if not adopted.

"Not Enough" is a song Emmylou wrote in tribute to her beloved pal Bonaparte. With lyrics so heartbreaking and personal, you could be led to think Emmylou is singing about a lost friend, a loved one---a human nonetheless. I'm with you, Emmy. My pets are amazing, and I love them more than I can describe. Ever so often I hug my dog and cat, telling them, "Ok, here's how it is. Y'all can't ever die." It’s this kind of shared love for something that gives you a sense of connection with celebrities; the kind of thing that helps you realize just how normal they actually are.

"I still have your memory.
One or two pictures of you and me.
Life is long and life is tough,
But when you love someone,
Life is not long enough."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tonic "If You Could Only See"

This week, guest blogger Lori Bargeron writes about 5 Celebrity encounters where she works, at Bobbie's Dairy Dip in Nashville, Tennessee.

I have a habit of screaming "Hits of the '90s!" whenever I hear, well, a hit of the '90s. My excitement erupts when I hear a song that takes me back to the era which culminated my love for music -- the era which birthed musical styles my heart hungers for today. It's probably the biggest thing my husband and I have in common, an acute appreciation for the culture of the decade. In fact, we wouldn't have even met if wasn't for a '90s band called Self.

My story today centers around Emerson Hart, hunky lead singer of the band Tonic. Emerson had been coming to the Dip on quite a regular basis with no one recognizing him as anything more than a mere Nashville studio musician. You see, you can spot those guys from a mile away with their perfectly sculpted bed heads, western shirts, and Beatle boots. He'd come by every other day and order the same thing: a chocolate ice cream cone covered in chocolate sprinkles with an extra cup of sprinkles on the side for dipping. And when we asked his name (to call him when his cone was ready), he'd grin and answer, "Just say 'Mr. Sprinkles'". One day, noticing his actual name on his credit card, and having the knowledge that he just looked like a musician, we decided to investigate. Lo and behold, there he was staring at us through Google search! The next time we saw him, we were giddy -- not only because he is one of our nicest, most favorite customers, he reminds us of a time when we actually enjoyed turning on pop rock radio.

So here's to Mr. Sprinkles, and to nostalgia.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Martina McBride - "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden"

This week, guest blogger Lori Bargeron writes about 5 Celebrity encounters where she works, at Bobbie's Dairy Dip in Nashville, Tennessee.

Throughout the tabloid age, we have nosed ourselves into the lives of celebrities making their business our business in a way that could be innocent or could be creepy depending on your own perspective. But none of that is more apparent than now, when information is so readily available through the likes of the Internet Movie DataBase or Wikipedia -- dare I neglect to mention the "straight from the horse's mouth" appeal of Twitter or Facebook.

Not only have we taken an interest in our favorite stars, we have "friended" them -- giving us the ultimate in transference of emotion. We can actually communicate with them beyond the realm of any fan club. Not only are they a part of our daily lives, ohmygosh! We could be a part of their lives!

So here's where it's weird for me. I work in a job where I get to see many children grow up. Year after year, families come for ice cream all summer long, and I witness the all after-effects of a winter of babies learning to walk or boys' voices cracking or girls starting to wear make-up. I feel special to be a part of their lives, to be a spectator in their maturation. I feel like I know them, that I've experienced their special moments along with them.

The first time I saw country singer Martina McBride at the Dairy Dip, she was pregnant. That had to have been 3 or 4 years ago. The next time I saw her, she had had an adorable baby. The time after that, toddlers-ville. When telling the "a celebrity came to my restaurant" story, I always remark on how impressed I am with how lovely and well-mannered her children are or how charmingly goofy her husband is. Every time, I feel like I gain more and more of a sense of knowing them. It makes me feel special.

So I guess, what I'm posing is, why do we care so much with celebrities do normal things like eat hamburgers or have children who grow up? Why do I feel so lucky to witness the McBride children's growth into young adulthood? Are they any different than my favorite students at the Catholic school two blocks away?

Martina sings some songs about growing older, but what I want to share with you today is a cut from her record "Timeless," on which she sings all classic country hits. It fits right in to our aesthetic at Bobbie's, where we play songs of all genres, but only from the 1950s-60s (and some ‘70s when we feel like it).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ben Folds - "Rockin' The Suburbs"

This week, guest blogger Lori Bargeron writes about 5 Celebrity encounters where she works, at Bobbie's Dairy Dip in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Holy Grail of any Nashville music celebrity sighting is, of course, the mighty Jack White. While I haven't been fortunate enough to run into this elusive figure, we at the Dip did enjoy the patronage of his fellow Raconteur Brendan Benson. It's really too bad that story isn't colorful enough to write about.

However, I will talk about the time I met Nashville's other celebrity Holy Grail (if there were such a thing). In the wintertime, Bobbie's is closed, so I was working in a coffee shop my big boss also owns. At the time, my husband (then fiance) lived in South Carolina, and I only got to see him every so often. On this particular day, the door to the cafe opened, and I greeted the person who walked in with my usual smile and "hello," momentarily gasping, "Holy cow! Andrew's come here to surprise me!" I started to run around the counter to give him a big ol' welcome smooch. But as the man said "hello" back, immediately my smile fell. I thought to myself, "Oh. That's not Andrew. That's just Ben Folds."

Whenever I hear this song, my husband’s favorite, I will forever think of that day when I was actually disappointed to meet one of our songwriting heroes.

(By the way, it’s not like Andrew looks especially like Mr. Folds. I think it was mostly the glasses style and boyishness they share that fooled me. Andrew’s much taller.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Small Factory "The Last Time That I Talk To You"

I was not particularly experienced. Or interesting. But they asked, so I came.

I had only been a DJ for a short time, when one of the local Middle Schools invited me to come speak to a class, during career day.

I was living on the Virginia/Tennessee border, hosting a nightly modern rock show. I was in "Country" Country, so the weird stuff I was playing was pretty alien to most folks.

I wasn't much of a public speaker at that time, so after a few questions about how much I got paid, and several inquiries into whether I had brought everyone free CDs (uh, No), an uncomfortable silence started to settle in.

There was a hand from the back of the room.

"Yes? You have a question?"

"Uh, yeah. I just wanted to say that I really liked that interview you did with Small Factory the other night."

I had interviewed an independent band on the air a few nights earlier. I didn't expect that anyone had listened, or cared.

The Middle Schooler's name was Lori T. Being in Middle School in "Country" Country and loving indie rock was not something you could share with a lot of people.

We took Lori in.

Lori would run Casey Kasem's program on the weekends. And when she was in high school, she started fill-in airshifts, eventually taking over my Saturday night iteration of the modern rock show.

You are on the air sometimes, wondering if anyone listens, or cares. And then you think about someone like Lori T. who absorbed that weird music that her peers would never listen to, and who grew up to be a cool cool person, in part, because there was someone on the radio who spoke her language.

Lori T is now Lori T B, and she and her husband live in Music City: Nashville, Tennessee.

Next week, she's going to be the guest blogger on this page. Here's a preview from Lori:

"Briefly, I have a real kick ass job. Bobbie's Dairy Dip is a unique piece of Nashville history, an original drive-up hamburger and soft serve stand (you know, like the ones the Beach Boys sing about). The building has been around since 1951. It's a special place with a very special clientele-- families, hipsters, and even some famous folk from time to time. Here are songs I've picked representing my five favorite celebrity encounters while working at the Dip."

Check it out all next week, as Lori serves a cone to Emmylou Harris, Ben Folds, Taylor Swift and others. Yum! And Yeah!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Janelle Monáe "Tightrope"

I'm pretty absorbed in a particular musical world. Granted, the music that comes through mvyradio's doors is pretty eclectic---I hear a lot from the world of rock and blues and folk and soul, etc.

But there are genres that just don't make it over the wall---Jazz, heavy metal, dance, to name a few---that have rich landscapes that I never survey.

I mean, we get the Norah Jones/Diana Krall Jazz songs, but those are "crossover" songs/artists. They are not the hardcore, steeped-in-it genre tracks.

Occasionally, something that is not a crossover lands in the disc player, from the R&B world. It's probably not new to, say, your kid who watches MTV. But if mvyradio is the kind of music you listen to, you may not have run across Janelle Monae.

About once every 3 or 4 years, a song like this---one that's undeniably, indescribably good---leaps the fence, without actually doing anything to crossover. Songs like Outkast's "Hey Ya" and Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" come to mind as recent examples.

I know you might not usually listen to a track like this, but the insane bassline alone is reason enough embrace this track, whether it's your style or not.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Beatles “Daytripper”

There are geographical peculiarities about every place. And vocabulary peculiarities that go along with it.

The title of this song probably doesn’t mean anything special, or particular, to someone from, say, Butte, Montana.

But I was on a Steamship Authority bus, just about to get off at the Woods Hole terminal, to go back to the Island on a hot August day, when this song came on the bus driver’s iPod, which he was running through the radio speakers.

“Good song for tourist season,” I said, and we both smiled.

Literally thousands of people will come off that bus, hop on a boat, buzz around our Island for a day and head back to the mainland, unaware that many a local is humming a familiar, catchy Beatles riff at them as they buzz on by.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby “From Above”

There are the crappy cartoon crossovers (“Hello, ‘Flintstones Meet The Jetsons’!”) and then there are the awesome cartoon crossovers, like when Spiderman helped out The X-Men.

This is an awesome crossover.

Ben Folds, the bespeckled, piano-playing, off-Broadway-understudying, Shatner-record-producing, college-a-capella-recording, "Sing Off" judge, has a new collaborator, in Nick Hornby.

Yes, Nick Hornby the author of “High Fidelity,” “Fever Pitch,” “About A Boy,” “Songbook,” and a portion of my wedding vows.

"From Above" is the album. Words by Nick Hornby. Music by Ben Folds.

Nerd-vana by PJ Finn.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Martin Sexton "Boom Sh-Boom"

As much as I wanted to, I just couldn't come right out and ask her about her sex life. It just seemed to personal.

Martin Sexton was in the mvyradio On-Air studio, being interviewed by Barbara. I was in the lobby talking to Martin's manager, who is also his wife.

It was on my mind, to ask the question, but I just couldn't do it. Instead we talked about dogs and our children and the Vineyard and such.

Meanwhile, Martin was on the air, giving explicit details of his personal life, to Barbara and the listening audience.

"We did the Boom Sh-Boom, the doo wah ditty,
The mocha choco latte and the nitty gritty.
We did the hoochie coo, the laser ballerina,
Babe you make me feel like I'm a california dreamer, yeah."

It's a fun little ditty about meeting, connecting with and doing "the haystack tumble" with his wife.

I'm always curious what it's like to be the subject of an artist's song. If your spouse writes a tune about your love, or your fights, or your personal anything, and it becomes part of their show, is it weird for the world to hear the details of your life?

I wanted to ask Martin's wife if it felt strange to have the story of their relationship, and the details of what solidifies it, going out over the radio waves.

But I just couldn't come right out and start talking about her sex life. It just seemed to personal.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Preservation Hall Jazz Band "Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea"

Five behind-the-scenes scenes at Newport Folk.

Interactions with artists are inevitably awkward. Here are three quick vignettes from Newport Folk, to illustrate.

I was looking forward to meeting Glen Hansard. As mentioned, I'd seen The Swell Season last fall, and was really effected by the experience.

Though I had to be over at the NPR Music/WFUV tent to do the Horsefeathers bit, I did have about a 1 minute window, where I wanted to get a hello in there.

His road manager introduced us, I shook his hand, and launched into a semi-rehearsed speech:

"I saw you last fall and it really, really moved me. Such a great live show. I really appreciate what you're doing and I'm really looking forward to seeing you play today."

While it was not me at my most eloquent, I said what I wanted to say, without being too over the top. What I didn't imagine in my rehearsals, is what would happen next.

Err. Not much.

"Thank you. Thank you very much." He said. He asked me when and where I had seen the show. "Oh yeah," he said, "It was really cold that day."

Awkward pause.

I said goodbye and headed off, thinking, well, what was he supposed to say next?


When you are a musician, you sometimes get swept up in whatever scene you've been plopped down in.

Jason Spooner was playing in Newport on Folk Festival weekend, and came over to the Fort, after his gig. He's a super-sweet guy, and is very grateful and gracious to the folks who support him. mvyradio has started playing his new record, so he made a point to come say Hello and Thanks.

It just so happened that during his visit, we got permission from the Fort Adams staff to go up on the roof of the Fort. Normally, it's locked off to the public, but Joe had made arrangements for a Fort staffer to take the mvy crew up. So we pulled Jason along.

The view proved to be so beautiful, that someone suggested that this was where we should take a staff photo. Jason tried to politely decline being in the picture---pointing out he wasn't really a member of the staff. But he was pulled in anyway, caught up in a scene he'd been plopped down in. (Jason is on the right)


Awkwardness goes both ways.

There were loads of people behind the stage watching Levon Helm. They cleared us all out of that space, to make room for Levon's getaway vehicle. Most people were herded around to the side of the stage, but I needed access to the mvy tent, so I walked through the tunnel, back into the Fort.

From that vantage point, you could still see the stage, and hear the music, and there were a handful of folks who had taken up that position.

One of them was Ben Jaffe, tuba-ist and leader of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

I shook his hand and said, "Great set today. Really great. And I love the record. Congratulations."

He smiled and said Thanks.

Remembering my Glen Hansard moment, I left it at that, with no further expectations.

"It's a really exciting time," he said.

"Is it?" I replied, not knowing if he was continuing the conversation, or just making a statement.

"Yeah, a lot of mmfmfmmfffmm" at which point Levon's Ramble got louder and I couldn't quite make out what Ben said.

So I just kinda looked at him and nodded and smiled (I'm sure, blankly).

And the conversation stopped.

In retrospect, I think he was excited to talk about the record, and how the band had been received, and how things were going, but his audience of one, while willing, was not able.

And I wonder if Ben walked away from that moment thinking, "I said 'It's an exciting time,' what did I expect the guy to say back?"

(Probably not.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

John Prine “Angel From Montgomery” Pt. 2

Five behind-the-scenes scenes at Newport Folk.

And a memory can build upon itself, over and over.

Last week I wrote about “Angel From Montgomery” and the memories inside of memories it holds.

And seeing John Prine this weekend, that story just continued to telescope out.

I was running around in our backstage area, uploading pictures, checking audio, on the phone with the station---just doing what I do, when I heard Prine start this song.

I didn’t want to miss it, but I didn’t have time to go all the way around to the front of the stage and watch the show. So I made a little beeline from our setup, in the interior courtyard of the Fort, to a room inside the Fort, that overlooks the stage from behind.

Literally, you can see John Prine’s back, 50 feet away. Over his shoulder is the crowd of thousands, and behind them, Newport Harbor and The Bridge.

The best seat in the house,” said Barbara, who had materialized beside me.

She’d been doing her thing, and had the same notion, at the same time, as I.

Barbara commented on how great it sounded, this slowed down version of Prine’s tune. It really got to the heart of the song.

A nice shared moment with BD.

Later that night, we were back at Joe’s house. Saturday night at the festival, we have a late barbecue (after packing up for the day, it’s usually after 10pm before we get to dinner) and we rehash the day.

Musician Ryan Montbleau, who dates Jess, was with us for dinner, and of course we goaded him into bringing his guitar out.

After a few songs, he passed the guitar off to Barbara, and yes, the crowd insisted that she sing “Angel From Montgomery.”

Barbara tried to deflect the request, saying that there was no way she could do the song, after hearing Prine’s perfect version earlier that day. It just wouldn’t be right.

But the crowd would not be denied.

And yes, Barbara did an amazing version of the song. Some friends of friends were in the small group, and at the end of the night Barbara got big hugs from these former strangers, for her beautiful effort.

So now the song reminds me of Barbara singing solo on Ryan’s guitar which reminds me of watching Prine through a window in the Fort, which reminds me of Barbara singing with Kate Taylor’s Band, which reminds me of singing with friends in a farmhouse 15 years ago.

Stream the full Prine concert, or download it from our archives.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sam Bush "Uncle Pen"

Five behind-the-scenes scenes at Newport Folk.

Give credit to the generous gentleman and the complete jackass.

I had just gotten back to the mvyradio command center, inside Fort Adams’ wall, still turning over in my head what had happened.

Joe had been listening through headphones.

“You’re introduction was fantastic!” he said.

Jess turned around, “What’d he said?!”

I cut Joe off before he could continue any undeserved praise, and told them what had really happened.

A day or so before the festival, we, along with the other radio partners (WFUV, NPR Music, WERS, Folk Alley and apparently, this year, the Ice Cream Man) get our stage assignments from the festival producers. Each of us is given a few opportunities to get up on stage before an act, talk about our station, and then bring out the band.

On the one hand, it’s terrifying and intimidating to be up there, facing a crowd of hundreds, or thousands. On the other hand it’s thrilling when you nail it.

I drew Sam Bush, and his Saturday afternoon set on the Harbor Stage. I had the advantage of having seen the man before, knowing his music, and having time to prepare.

But as a stood at the bottom of the steps to the stage, waiting for a cue from the stage manager, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Here’s what you should say about Sam Bush . . .”

Now normally, when someone I don’t know tells me how to do my job, especially when the advice is unsolicited, I maybe slightly raise an eyebrow, nod politely, and then do whatever the hell I want to do.

But he wasn’t even finished with that sentence before I dropped my defense, and listened up.

This was Bob Jones.

Mr. Jones has been part of the Newport Folk Festival since before Dylan went electric. He was out on the road, coordinating tours for Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. He’s also been a part of the New Orleans Heritage And Jazz Festival since its inception.

Leaning on his walker, telling me what to say, you’re damn right I was going to say it.

But first, I had to do my mvyradio bit.

I got the cue and toddled out to a lone microphone at the corner of the stage.

“Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to the Newport Folk Festival. My name’s PJ Finn, I’m from mvyradio.” A smattering of light applause.

I continue with my mvyradio schtick: “We’re recording all these performances. I know you can’t be 3 places at once. If there is another performance you want to see when you go home tonight, mvyradio.com, you’ll be able to download performances from across the festival . . .”

When from out of nowhere, a guy, only a few rows deep shouted:


He was ducking down, but I could see him, with a big fucking shit eating grin on his face. He was a total asshole, just doing it for kicks.

I was totally derailed.

But the weird thing is, the adrenaline kicked in and my introduction soared.

I just thought of what Bob Jones told me. My voice rose:


As I hustled off the stage and down the steps, I lightly touched Mr. Jones’ shoulder, and said, “Thank you, sir,” before heading back to the mvyradio command center, listening to Sam and the band kick into a cover of Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen."

Had it not been for the jerk, I don’t know that my adrenaline would have risen like it did. And I don’t know if I would have decided to go with Bob Jones’ idea for the introduction.

So when Joe told me my introduction was great, I had to give credit to both the generous gentleman and the complete jackass.

You can hear my introduction before the complete Sam Bush set. Listen carefully, just before I say “Thank You, Sir.” That’s when I get the “mvy sucks” razz.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Andrew Bird “Skin Is My”

Five behind-the-scenes scenes at Newport Folk.

One of the cool things about this year’s festival, was the crossovers.

From Calexico joining Andrew Bird during his set, to Levon Helm doing “The Weight” with Glen Hansard and Richie Havens, to half the performers from the weekend getting up with Ben Sollee and Daniel Moore, there were lots of on-stage crossovers.

And there was some DJ crossover, too.

For the last few years, NPR Music and WFUV have covered the festival, and we have had a helpful exchange of resources with them.

Because we’re “the locals” and are familiar with the in and outs of both Newport and the Fort, we’re on the scene early, getting the place wired up for the internet. Joe, our station owner, builds out a network for the weekend, that mvyradio uses to broadcast on our station, and NPR Music and WFUV use to carry the content they want to carry.

Meanwhile, the NPR Music and WFUV folks bring enough staff to set up recording stations at each of the three stages, and share those final recordings with us, which is what you hear if you check out our website today.

Mutually beneficial.

The NPR Music and WFUV live coverage is a little different than the mvyradio coverage, in that they have 2 hosts live on the scene at all times. And they have other staff member act as reporters, who will come in and introduce record segments.

In the spirit of collaboration, they have invited mvyradio personalities to make reporter contributions, a couple of times throughout the weekend. A gesture of generous spirit.

I had it in my mind that Barbara was going to be that reporter. She’s really the voice of our station, our best emissary.

But on Saturday morning, she looked at her schedule and realized that at the time she was supposed to be on with NPR Music and WFUV, she was also supposed to be on stage introducing John Prine.

So the task became mine.

No matter what line of work you are in, if you suddenly have to do your job with a group of professionals that you are not familiar with and aren’t familiar with you, the pressure is on to . . . well . . . not suck.

So I made sure I watched the band I was supposed to be speaking about, O’ Death, for a good chunk of their set. And believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds when you’re working with the mvyradio crew. The four songs I watch live, was the longest I was in one place for the entire weekend.

I showed up appropriately early at the NPR Music/WFUV tent, with some notes in hand, and was seated across from Bob Boilen, host of All Songs Considered, and Claudia Marshall, morning host on WFUV. Veterans and pros, for sure.

Again, I’ve been on the air for thousands of hours over the course of my nearly 20 year broadcasting career, but now I had 90 seconds to show to my industry cohorts, that all those hours weren’t by accident.

And I feel like I rocked it.

For 90 seconds I was in the groove, delivering the salient points about the band and the set, in a casual manner, interacting with Claudia and Bob (who had also seen the set) and winding my 90 second spiel in such a way that Bob was able to lead naturally right into the recorded audio.

When we were clear and were pulling off the headphones, Claudia said, “That was . . . perfect,” giving me a big smile. It doesn’t get better than that.

And unfortunately, sometimes it gets worse.

The next day, Barbara had her time on with Bob, once in the early part of the day, and was scheduled to join him again late in the day. But then Glen Hansard’s manager showed up to offer an interview at exactly the same time.

So I was on again. But this time, I was not so prepared. The band I was supposed to be talking about, Horsefeathers, had already played, so I couldn’t catch them live. And the record bit that I had to listen to, didn’t tell me much. Giving it a quick listen before running over to do my break, gave me only a sliver of insight. I made a couple of spare notes, and hoped for the best.

This time, I was on with Bob, and with Rita Houston, music director for WFUV, another very respected talent in this business.

I won’t be so hyper-critical of myself and say that I completely sucked, but like a car not fueled up before a long trip, I sputtered out pretty damn quickly. With nowhere to go but for Bob to awkwardly transition from my trailing off voice, he said, “Well, let’s listen to Horsefeathers . . .”

I still got a generous smile and a “good job” from Rita, but I knew that I hadn’t killed it.

Is that what it’s like, when Levon asks you to sing on “I Shall Be Released” but you miss a lyric? Is this how you feel when you jump up on stage with Preservation Hall, and you hit a bum note during your solo?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sam Bush “Bringing In The Georgia Mail“

Five behind-the-scenes scenes at Newport Folk.

I thought it would be fun to take a peek back at the weekend, and let you in on a few stories from mvyradio’s On The Road adventures in Newport.

I’m sure you have some kind of vision of what we do when we go to these festivals. You can pictures staff wearing headphones, huddled over soundboards and laptops. You might have come to a festival, and met staffers at an mvyradio table or tent.

But there are lots of little jobs that we have, that you may never have conceived.

Like the Staff Stalker.

If you’ve ever been a part of an mvy auction, you might have bid on an autographed cd or poster or something. How did it get autographed?

Well, when we’re in a place like Newport Folk, where there are dozens of bands, and we’re backstage, we assign a staff member to the Staff Stalker job, hand them a sharpie, and tell them to get as many autographs as possible. So you might have a cd that says "To mvyradio, thanks for everything, Bob Weir," or something.

Unfortunately, due to cutbacks, we weren’t able to bring a Staff Stalker this year. Curse this economy!

In fact, we were lean and mean with our on-site staff. We combined a few jobs, so several of us, were doing several things at once. And somehow, the sharpie ended up in my hands at one point.

Gary, our marketing man, had found this beautiful book of photographs, featuring amazing black and white portraits of John Prine and Doc Watson and Steve Earle and more. Including Sam Bush.

And I was headed over to the Sam Bush stage, so I was assigned the stalking.

But, multiple job man that I am, I had another direction to run in, so I handed the job off to Julie, who was in charge of our t-shirt tent.

But, Julie, multiple job woman that she is, had another direction to run, too. So she handed the book off to Craig.

Craig wasn’t even working for mvy. He’s was on the air with us, years ago, was at the festival as a civilian, and I thought it was okay to ask him to help.

Unfortunately, all this chaos leads to some bad communication.

Craig didn’t understand that the book was for mvyradio. He thought the book was for Julie.

So during the next mvyradio auction, be on the lookout for a nice, signed picture of Sam Bush that says, “To Julie, Thanks Sister, Love Sam.”

Hear Sam Bush's set recorded at Newport Folk 2010. It's also available for free download in the mvyradio archives.