Check out Christopher Shays questioning Michael "Brownie" Brown in the congressional hearings. Note that the Democrats refused to appoint anyone to this committee in protest, believing that the investigation should be independent, and that an investigation by a Republican congress would be a "Whitewash."
Now, the findings may well end up whitewashed; we don't know yet. But keep in mind as you watch this that Shays is a Republican.
Oh, and sorry for the commercial. I don't know how to avoid them. Yet.
Labels: The politics
One of These Days (false start)
Hot in Herre (Nelly cover; featuring Jill’s Mom)
One of These Days
Love is Never Equal
Goodnight My Love Goodnight
Ready for the Rapture
Under the Disco Ball
Lucy at the Gym
I Kissed a Girl
Karen By Night
Somewhere in New Mexico
Now That I Don’t Have You
Cinnamon Park (APW on trumpet)
Big Shoes (Jill’s mom on rap, backing vox)
Jill Sobule returned to New York for the first of two shows at Joe’s Pub last Thursday night. The shows were presented in association with the New York Jewish Music and Heritage Festival, so Jill did her regular set, but complained more.
She took the stage without an opener at 9:30 sharp, resplendent in hippie blue skirt and matching girlie heels, all Sex and the City from the ankles down. There was a banjo mounted on a guitar stand stage right, but she came out with the Vagabond. She immediately strummed the opening chords to “Jet Pack,” her love song to New York and a frequent show opener. Jill moved to LA from Brooklyn maybe a year ago, and I realize now how spoiled we’d become from being able to see her around town so often. Now the beneficiaries of her home town largesse are the patrons of LA’s hip Largo. Still, she says that New York is her home turf, and I believe her.
Just as I was absorbing the impact of Jill in heels, she kicked them off and began the second number of the night in her bare feet. It was “One of These Days,” only the power from her Vagabond guitar gave out (it turned out to be a faulty power cord that plagued her all evening.). Fortunately she had the banjo (which she’d bought the week before). Instead of using it for a song or two, it bailed her out often during the set. She turned to the banjo, brought someone up from the audience to hold her laptop (she does this when she has new songs for which she hasn’t yet memorized lyrics), climbed onto a stool, and treated us to a banjo rendition of “High Five,” a brand new song with the refrain, “Good job Brownie, high five!” The banjo, the stool, the bare feet-- suddenly Jill had gone from Carrie Bradshaw to Minnie Pearl (but in a really good way.) Next she invited her mom out, and the two of them treated us to probably the world’s first Jillbilly version of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” Apparently Jill's mom is a hip-hop fiend, like most middle-aged Jewish ladies from Denver. Her mom sang (or rather, rapped) the chorus, which features the line, “Gonna take my clothes off” (presumably because it’s so hot in herre.) At song’s end Jill lapsed into her throaty soul girl church voice, putting it over the top.
Finally Jill returned to “One of These Days,” the guitar back (for the moment) in working order. We are told about Jill’s addiction to online Scrabble. Then one of a handful of extremely poignant numbers, “Sonny Liston,” off The Folk Years, which is only available at shows and at her web site (hint hint). “Sonny Liston” is a story song about losing one’s personal artifacts-- the things that define a life-- in a basement flood. Obviously this was a minor flood, but the story resonated deeply with the images and devastation of Katrina fresh in everyone's mind. Jill has a way of being funny, approachable, inclusive (inviting audience members onstage), a little kooky-- then assaying a song that is just so spellbinding and jaw-droppingly good that it is a little jarring. This was one of those moments, and there would be more.
“Love is Never Equal” continued the mood, and the audience remained rapt. Then she sang “Goodnight My Love Goodnight,” a song off her Valentine’s Day EP that she mentioned was included in the TV series Starved. (Jill noted she’s getting a lot of play from TV, between this and Unfabulous.) Starved is a series about four friends with eating disorders (“You’ll laugh till you purge!”) airing on FX and the brainchild of Eric Schaeffer, an obvious fan (he also directed the film Mind the Gap, in which Jill stars.) Jill says she wrote the song on piano, and it features some delicate fingering, almost classical guitar playing.
Next up was “Busy Getting Ready for the Rapture,” based on an email correspondence she’s struck up with Steven Bennett, who runs this site for converting homosexuals (could he BE any gayer?) It is a peppy song, kind of a whistle while you work on the afterlife.
Next Jill veered back into the gripping, with “Houdini’s Box,” in which she uses the magician’s greatest escape trick as a metaphor for a relationship. Both seem to be some kind of trap:
“There's a secret passage out of here
But I don't want to reappear
I just want to stay with you in here”
Always a highlight.
“Under the Disco Ball” is a response to a request, and she dedicates it to Bennett. Then “Lucy at the Gym,” exquisite and delicately played, then rocked out at the end. Then quickly into “Resistance Song,” with the room joining on the chorus “la-la-la’s.”
The juice goes out again on the guitar, so Jill straps on the banjo and performs a totally unplugged version of “I Kissed a Girl”-- no amplification of voice or banjo, just her in the house. She jumps onto a table in front midway into the song, and soon announces that this was not such a good idea (her aside, “I’m sorry!” to the woman at the table was priceless.) But the song is a total triumph, oddly working on banjo, the whole room pin-drop quiet in order to hear the un-amplified Jill, until we all join in on the refrain.
“Karen By Night” follows, a popular choice. Then a breathtaking read on Pink Pearl’s “Somewhere in New Mexico,” and the equally poignant “Now That I Don’t Have You.” At this point it is getting near time to wrap, and Jill looks over toward my table. “I see Josh is here, and he’s my trombone player-- wanna come up?” She asks. Well, ahem, sure, I guess… So I make my way onstage, taking care to walk into position at the back of the stage, never taking attention from Jill. I find my place at the second mic, which was set up for her mom’s songs. I ask her to strum the chords once through-- I know we’re doing “Cinnamon Park”-- and she does, after yet another cord revolt and a switch back to banjo. She plays the chords through, and I play “air trumpet”-- pursing my lips and blowing, imitating the horn line of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park,” the riff of which is the basis for Jill’s song. My peeps in the audience give my part an especially hearty response, so I jazz up the second line. At one point Jill loses power; “I got you covered,” I say, and vamp the melody on invisible horn until the banjo is hot again. At one point she stops singing the chorus and turns to me, and I sing the line flawlessly. (“You can sing too!” she says to me later. Yes, I’m an all-around threat.) Oh, on the close, she looks at me, and we make one of those musician non-verbal connections, and as she plays the final chords bringing the song to a close I hit a major seventh thing reminiscent of the way Chicago's "Color My World” ends. I think the song is a highlight, but what do I know?
As I discretely make my way off stage, Jill banjos her way through her own “All the Young Dudes,” the anthemic “Underdog Victorious.” Lighters and cell phones are held aloft all around the arena.
Her first encore is “Big Shoes,” which features her mom’s answer rap. (Jill's mom brings her pocket book out onstage. "There was no place to put it! she protests when Jill gives her a look.) Then “Bitter,” a nice song to end on.
I suspect Jill was disappointed by the power outages that marred the set. But she should not have been. Often a little adversity brings out the best in a performer, the way a grain of sand in an oyster irritates into a pearl. This was a pearl of a show, featuring a totally unplugged “I Kissed a Girl,” new stuff, old favorites, and spellbinding takes on “Sonny Liston,” “Love is Never Equal,” Houdini’s Box,” “Lucy at the Gym,” and “Somewhere in New Mexico.” And of course, after rocking the house, if you wanted she signed your CD on the way out. She signed my friend Max's poster.
Alas I did not get to see the Friday night show.
Labels: The tunes
Well, I guess we all have Hurricane Fever now!
The cable news networks have obviously decided that the hurricane is Mother Nature’s OJ trial; CNN is now called CNN Storm Central. President Bush, to his credit, has been belatedly coached on how a president is supposed to act when there is a hurricane, and he’s been moderately convincing in the role, if a bit forced. But then, this isn’t the Great Communicator we’re talking about, so let’s cut him some slack.
But doesn’t it seem like Hurricane Rita has given everyone some sort of cosmic do-over? Suddenly you see Louisiana politicians rattling off evacuation strategies as if they’d had them in place longer than a week. Every city on the Gulf has a plan, and the public officials who appear on the news are beautifully drilled in all the details and nuances.
We were treated to the spectacle of 2.7 million Houston residents leaving town, despite the fact that Houston is above sea level, 60 miles inland, and not in the storm’s direct path. The traffic jam eclipsed the hurricane as a disaster hitting Houston; “We’re in hour nine of the traffic jam, Wolf, and STILL, the government has provided neither water nor gasoline!” Indeed it actually seemed possible for a while there that the president would fly in to survey a TRAFFIC JAM.
No disrespect intended to the many who are suffering and who have lost loved ones. Indeed it is their suffering that seems to make this self-congratulatory over-compensation associated with the Rita response seem so tacky and manipulative. If Rita hadn’t hit on the heels of the Katrina devastation and subsequent fiasco, would almost 3 million people have gotten out of Houston? I doubt it.
Finally, I wish we’d sent our military over to southeast Asia when the tsunami hit in December. Because if only we’d fought the weather over There, we wouldn’t have had to fight it over Here.
By the way, turns out the sea water from the tsunami was great fertilizer, and many of the lands hit in December are enjoying bumper crops as a result.
Labels: The politics
Labels: The politics
Ask for Jill
Big Brown Eyes
Black & White
Hang Around With You (new Stamey)
Lonely Is as Lonely Does
If and When
She’s Not Worried >
Living a Lie >
Cycles per Second
World to Cry
I’m In Love
Love is for Lovers
That Time is Gone (new Holsapple)
Something Real (new Stamey)
It was déjà vu all over again for the very first time as the dBs pulled into Hoboken’s teeny tiny Maxwell’s club for the first of two nights last evening. Roman Candle opened with a serviceable set, and they were well-received considering the anticipation building in the house for the main attraction.
The dB’s hit at about 10:10, augmented by Andy Burton on keyboards; my friend Henry tells me he is the band leader for NYC’s popular “The Beat Goes On” series. As the above setlist indicates, the show was largely similar to the recent Chicago gigs, although I think “I’m in Love” was new to the set.
The first four songs were jaw-droppingly good, in large part because the shock of seeing these guys play these songs had not yet worn off nor sunk in. “Ask for Jill” was almost a collective musical orgasm, and “Big Brown Eyes” wasn’t far behind. “Black and White” was ripping good fun, having moved up in the set from Chicago. Holsapple’s voice has aged, taken on a smoky, grainy, deeper throaty quality; he’s kind of been Keith Richards-ized. This is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is just a thing to be reckoned with, and he reckoned with it splendidly, singing the old songs in a comfortable register and imbuing them with the kind of aging that generally does good things for wine, cheese and cigars. And, it turns out, power pop. I don’t know if the songs were played in the original keys, but I’m guessing they were.
The twin guitars were something to behold, and while Stamey and Holsapple were vexed all night by monitor woes, from out in the house (dead center, about five people back) they sounded great; not hi-fidelity, but all raucous jangly sheets of pop. I found myself trying to figure out why a band like the dB’s is so good, when so many can assay this kind of music and come off sounding generic. What is the formula? And I think it ends up being simple: good songs, harmonies (it is more difficult than it seems to sing this well together), and economical playing. While each guitarist took leads (and Stamey was the more flashy, especially on the janglo-mental “Purple Hose”), the real guitar heroics were in the chording, the way the guitars provided the fabric, the matter of the songs.
Will Rigby is a force of nature on the drums. He does such a good job of providing the rhythm and driving the band that Gene Holder on bass is freed up; his bass playing seems to provide less of a groove per se, and more of a wall of texture. Maybe it was the room’s acoustics, but the shimmering tones created by the bass added a richness and density to the music, the overtones injecting melodic qualities. It is Rigby’s drive that allows Holder to lay on the texture, which makes the whole band sound richer; an intertwined ripple effect. The jangle of the Fender guitars, the bass sheets of sound on the bottom, and the vocals all combine to make a breathing, melodic, ringing sound that suits the songs to a tee.
Some of the live reproductions were surprisingly robust given the production of the original tracks. “She’s Not Worried,” which always sounded like a Pet Sounds or Sergeant Pepper tune to me, featured Burton’s keyboard work, and was splendid. This tune kicked off a late-set highlight, giving way immediately into “Living a Lie,” which in turn segued directly into “Dynamite.” Trebly shimmering joy. Both the latter period dB’s songs came off well; “Molly Says” and especially “Love is for Lovers,” on which Stamey joined the fray and jousted with Holsapple on the break like he’d been playing it all along. “Neverland” was the prefect release of a set closer.
The encores featured two new tunes. Holsapple’s song, which is probably called “That Time is Gone,” is a basic 12-bar pop. The new Stamey song, which might be called "Something Real," is a wistful, smooth slice of ear candy with sweet harmonies on the chorus, and which features a false stop and coda. “Amplifier” was an almost inevitable final encore, with the two guitarists putting it to bed with a nice flourish. No one would have complained if they’d played another hour. And perhaps the most amazing thing about the old songs is that they didn’t sound old; especially remarkable because the band’s first two albums (which comprised most of the show) sounded old when they came out, which was part of the charm. When I first heard Stands for Decibels I thought it could have been some long last pop-psychedelic classic from 1968.
I think step one in a successful band reunion is to reclaim the catalog from history, shake the nostalgia out of it, re-inhabit the songs in a fresh way, and lay the groundwork for new material. Mission soundly accomplished. The dB’s have lost nothing save for some hair. Holsapple’s new voice doesn’t have the register of his early 80s voice, but that didn’t stop him from singing the hell out of everything. He and Stamey go together like peanut butter and jelly; they’re sweet and salty and they stick to the roof of your mouth.
Photo credits: b.f.
By the way, Peter Holsapple is a New Orleans musician, as is Alex Chilton, who figures prominently in the early days of Stamey's career. The dBs have a great cover of "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted," which you can download if you go here and make a donation to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. Last night they mentioned that they'd raised $8K so far. A good cause; check it out.
Labels: The tunes
A view of the aurora australis (Southern lights) as taken by the
Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE)
spacecraft on Sept. 11 in ultraviolet light. (Thanks Michael M.) The video, brief, is nonetheless a thing of cosmic beauty.
I wonder if conservatives hate Maureen Dowd the way liberals hate Ann Coulter? I would guess yes, but I can't fathom how she could possibly instill such response. Because as it turns out, she is my favorite secret nerd crush. I mean, just look at her. Grrr. And when she rolls her eyes in that ladylike way on Bill Mahr and says something understated and witty... like I say, grrr. If I was single I would so totally ask her out!
Anyway, check her here on Bush and Katrina. Remember, the NY Times requires that you be registered to access content.
On a related note, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you want to see the video of Bush taking responsibility for Katrina, courtesy the Washington Post. His tone, the little whine at the end of each sentence (that guy who does him on SNL totally nails this affectation), and the absence of the trademark smirk reveal his obvious discomfort with this message. He looks like he's going to cry.
Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard:
of melody, but that can
be a compliment.
Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang
old blues cats get down
no new ground broken; just old
ground, tastefully trod
New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
Twisty, bendy pop
way to complex to be catchy
till listen 20.
Calexico and Iron & Wine, In the Reins
two distinct sounds
roots grit here, whispered folk there
Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel the Illinoise
glassy suite candy
the beach boys meet phillip glass
except its folk, yo
BoDeans, Homebrewed: Live From the Pabst
live roots rock fury
dripping earnest commitment
but they won’t get rich
Son Volt, Okemah and the Melody of Riot
alt.coutry meets neil
young, which is incestuous
and the songs are great
Van Morrison, Magic Time
more of the same thing
but, when the same thing’s this good
you oughtn’t complain
Daniel Lanois, Belladonna
pure ambiance from
one who’s always ambient
this time, Ambien.*
*Note: sometimes you need an Ambien.
Labels: The tunes
APW humbly sumbits that this is what being an American is all about.
In all seriousness, Bush surprised me by doing the right thing and copping to responsibility here. Obviously he was made to do so against his will (you can SO tell when he is uncomfortable with what he is saying; he is like an open book.) But Americans are a remarkably forgiving people, provided you ask for the forgiveness. Which, by copping to the blame, Bush has essentialy done. Good political damage control. I wonder who in the administration had the good sense to recommend humility? It really isn't their style.
Labels: The politics
(With apologies to my 3 conservative occasional readers: the pop star, the brother, and the desperate housewife.)
My initial inclination in the wake of the wake of the flood was to leave politics out of the thing. But then the criticism and finger pointing began, and I hated to be left out of it all. No, actually, I saw a commentator on TV say that if we don’t raise these issues now, they will never get a proper airing out, and I decided he was right. See, it isn’t the blame game; it is the accountability game. If you want to be, say, mayor or governor or president, you owe the people some accountability. And the higher up you go, the more accountability you have (not, as president Bush would have it, less.)
The tsunami of backlash against the current administration is appropriate, well-deserved, and potentially profound. Let’s take a moment to understand why.
Republican apologists will tell you things like “there’s plenty of blame to go around,” or, “The story here is, government failed at every level.” Both these statements are designed to deflect criticism from the president and his cronies. Both are flawed logic.
There is indeed plenty of blame to go around. However, as Al Franken said yesterday (I was already using these words, but I now must acknowledge that so did he), Roy Nagin is not my mayor. Kathleen Blanco is not my governor. But George W. Bush—he’s my president. Expect Nagin to be held accountable by a city, Blanco by a state. But Bush is accountable to a nation, and that includes me. And probably you.
Second: is it really surprising to anyone that the local government officials of New Orleans, Louisiana are incompetent? No? I didn’t think so. So, like it or not, their culpability in the flood disaster is a case of dog bites man, and so not news. No one was shocked by this.
But when the first disaster hits this country since 9/11, on Bush’s watch, after the formation of the department of Homeland Security, and the reaction is so sadly dismal? When the administration is supposed to be competent, in control, and buttoned up? Man bites dog. Big news.
When you sit in the big chair, you shoulder the big responsibility. Bush has been smirking and shirking his whole life; nothing is ever, has ever been, his fault. You don’t get to play it that way if you’re in the big chair. This is his fault. By definition. If you don’t like that, Mr. President, you have the wrong job.
The potential impact on national politics is profound. It may be an oversimplification, but I generally assume 30% of the country will always, no matter what, vote Republican. Another 30% will always, no matter what, vote Democrat. These 60% of the voters are just not in play.
The remainder—the middle 40%-- is up for grabs, and these are the people who comprise mainstream America. These are the Democrats who voted for Reagan, the business leaders who rallied behind Clinton. Moderate, less partisan, and the real indicator of which way the wind is blowing.
The Bush camp won two elections by appealing to the middle 40% (which is not unusual; that is how you win national elections.) These people perceived Gore and Kerry as vague, probably lacking in leadership, and had more confidence in Bush.
But here’s what happened in New Orleans. The middle 40% basically sat in front of the TV for 3 weeks with jaw agape, sputtering, “What the F***? I thought these guys were supposed to be on the ball.” These people are watching things unfold, and they are thinking: either the administration dropped the ball, or they didn’t care enough about poor black New Orleans. It has to be one or the other. And the good people of mainstream America, giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, are assuming it is the former.
And see, the Republicans can’t tell them that the administration did not drop the ball. Because that message won’t make these people to shift blame from the Bush administration to the local politicians. No, it will cause them to move to explanation B, lack of concern for the poor black people of New Orleans. There is no win here for Bush. Just degrees of loss.
When all is said and done, what has happened is that the Republicans have lost the hearts and minds of the middle forty. And boy, do they know it. The “resignation” of “Brownie” yesterday was the clearest indication. Bush getting his ass into the muck in New Orleans yesterday is another.
Has the tide turned? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t turn back before the mid-term elections. The Democrats need to put some points on the board right now, not just rely on the Republicans giving a bunch back. And sadly, there has been little since William Jeff left office to indicate that there are any national Democrats capable of putting points on the board.
Labels: The politics
Labels: The tunes
Villa closes his essay with two shots from the Associated Press.
This one is a satellite photo of New Orleans taken before Katrina.
This picture is the same view, taken August 31.
Labels: The politics
But Brownie-- Michael Brown, the colossally incompetent Bush crony who heads FEMA-- had the gall to tell CNN last Thursday that he did not know that there were refugees in the New Orleans Convention Center until that day (this, after CNN had been reporting same for maybe 36 hours.) Really, you need to see this for yourself. If you are inclined to be an apologist for the federal administration's handling of the New Orleans disaster, watch this footage, and then look yourself in the mirror and see if you can still do it with a straight face.
I have been trying to decide which is the best organization to contribute to, in order to make my meager donation have some impact on the New Orleans refugees. All of this is by way of me announcing that I have now decided. I am going to make a donation to purchase a cable TV subscription for Michael Brown of FEMA. Who knows how many lives this will save?
Labels: The politics
This morning CNN carried a radio interview originally aired by WWL radio with Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans. Ray speaks bluntly, and speaks volumes. "I need troops, man." Check it out.
Labels: The politics