It seems that more and more music acts want to capitalize on the growing "jukebox musical" craze, in which all the songs are drawn from popular artists' existing repertoires. ABBA (Mamma Mia!), Billy Joel (Movin' Out), Queen (We Will Rock You), Madness (Our House)...the list goes on. But did you know that jukebox musicals exist for Blondie, Take That, and Earth, Wind, & Fire? There are even two jukebox musicals based on Dresden Dolls songs. (see Wikipedia: Jukebox Musical)
The latest, and somewhat intriguing, announcement is that Michael Mayer, director of Broadway’s Spring Awakening, has taken on Green Day's 2004 concept album American Idiot and will debut the musical in September. Characters from the album like Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy, and Whatshername will likely be major players in the musical.
In an interview with the New York Times, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong explained, “It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s what I love about it. It’s not the most linear story in the world. When people see it, it’s going to be my wildest dream.”
And, if American Idiot director Mayer's hunch is right, that wild dream might eventually come to Broadway. We'll just have to wait and see.
Apparently, California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which will premiere the American Idiot musical, is also presenting a show based on Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend album.
Overall, I think jukebox musicals are an exciting way to bring lovers of popular music into the realm of theatre and to present these often treasured songs in a new light. At the same time, though, I am torn, thinking that bringing existing music into the plot of a musical can come off as contrived, unoriginal, and less meaningful. When you see a musical, the songs become attached to a scene or moment in the performance. The words become more literal as they are linked to a specific event in the story, rather than being left open for interpretation to the listener. One song has the same meaning for many listeners, rather than many meanings to many listeners. And doesn't that diminished meaning actually in turn diminish the artistic value of the song to begin with?
On the other hand, what may have once been just a "good song" could be presented in a way that it suggests an important meaning, or at least, shows another perspective on the song that one may not have thought of. I guess that's kind of the same thing that really great music videos can do for a song. And I guess this will always be why I can't make up my mind how I feel about spinning music into musicals.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
A few random quick hits:
-Are there any local bands interested in playing the Pittsburgh date (July 8) on the 2009 Warped Tour? The deadline to make your submission is this Wednesday, April 1. Though we're excited to see local rockers Anti-Flag back on the bill, this year's Warped lineup is mediocre at best, so you might as well snag that local performance slot and see if you can liven things up. Check out the information here: http://www.sonicbids.com/Opportunity/OpportunityView.aspx?opportunity_id=14357
-I'm finally going to see Flaming Lips live! They've been added to this year's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, which will be part of our awesome "Summer of Shows" series - more details to come on this in the very near future. The Flaming Lips are one of the best live bands in the world and I've managed to miss them at all the festivals I've attended before, so this is going to rule.
-I'm loving the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs record It's Blitz! It's a surprisingly synth-y rock record that grabs me far more than anything they've ever done before. This is the first CD I've heard that I believe may end up on my Best of 2009 list.
-Amanda Palmer has spoken out before about her frustration over the lack of support from her label, Roadrunner. Now she's written a funny song dedicated to the label, called "Drop Me." Check out a video of the song, which she debuted two days ago:
Video: Amanda Palmer - "Drop Me"
Monday, March 30, 2009
Last week Blender magazine announced it will shut down its print edition. I will miss Blender. It was easily my favorite music publication. Unlike Rolling Stone, which I can consume in its entirety during one 30-minute lunch, an issue of Blender took days to read through. It was just so jam-packed with information. There were all these cool features - Download These, The Greatest Songs of All-Time, Ask Blender, and the quirky last-page conversation. There was the feature where a band was given $848 by Blender and had to spend it all in one night while Blender's photographers documented the proceedings.
There was the monthly interview in which all of the questions were provided by fans. That was a great concept - the writers could ask the embarrassing questions they wanted to ask while shifting the blame to the fans - 'No, Tommy Lee, I personally would never ask if you've ever had a gay experience, but Betsy from Milwaukee really wants to know!'
I had a subscription to Blender for several years. It was only $7.95 per year, which worked out to less than 75 cents an issue. At that price you'd have to be a fool NOT to subscribe! Of course, maybe the low price explains why they went out of business.
My main beef with Blender was that they never put me in the magazine. I kept sending them photos for that section where they show fans with pop stars, but they never saw fit to publish one. Guess what, I'm going to publish them here, out of spite:
Scott with Conor Oberst, Will Sheff, Damien Rice, Sophie B. Hawkins, Pete Yorn
Despite the lack of publicity they gave me, Blender was some good shit. My greatest concern now is what happens to Rob Sheffield, pop music's most witty, entertaining columnist. I never heard the story of why he left RS for Blender, but I hope someone else picks him up pronto. He must not be allowed to linger in journalistic purgatory!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I've written before about the recent lack of quality shows at Club Cafe. To be honest, I only half-pay attention to the venue's schedule anymore since it's mostly mediocre acts no one cares about.
That changes on April 1, when Portland, Oregon pop duo Blind Pilot rolls into town. The band's album 3 Rounds and a Sound was released last year to substantial acclaim. Its songs combine gentle pop grooves
The band went on a bike tour last year by themselves, but now they've got a van to accommodate their larger backing band. They played SXSW last week, and they're playing shows almost every day leading up to their show at Club Cafe on April Fool's Day.
Blind Pilot maintain their own blog, featuring photos of postcards they've been mailing from the road (though, unless they're trying to encourage stalkers, they may want to take better care to black out their mailing address!) Find them on myspace at check out the links below.
MP3: Blind Pilot - The Story I Heard
MP3: Blind Pilot - One Red Thread
Video: Blind Pilot on Last Call with Carson Daly
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Michael Jackson is broke. So he's auctioning off some of his belongings. The full collection is here. Here are some of the highlights. Get your bids in now!
Lifesize fiberglass statue of an MTV Video Music Award
Who doesn't need a 6 and a half foot Moonman? Starting price listed at $300-500. If moonmen aren't your thing, he's also got a lifesize Oscar statuette for about the same price.
Acrylic tube socks with rhinestones
From the Jacksons' Triumph tour from the 1980s. Starting price listed at $600-800. What, tube socks are worth more than a lifesize Moonman?
A five-foot tall statue of Wile E. Coyote
Seriously. There's a similar figurine of Daffy Duck for sale as well.
1990 Rolls Royce touring limousine
Now we're talking! Features a full bar and leather seats for six. They're asking $40,000-60,000. What a steal!
Marble statue of a Renaissance girl
Five feet girl, suggested bid $600-800.
Michael's pants from the Jacksons' Victory Tour
Now these are actually cool! I'd rock these even today, walking down Carson Street.
Four-foot tall bronze statue
It's an upside-down boy whose shirt and shorts are falling down. Why in the world would Michael own something like this?
Indonesian puppet with a creepy moustache
The elephant man's bones
No, I jest of course. It's actually a pair of elephant heads to hang on your wall. Not real - made from plaster.
There's lots of other awesome crap in the auction. Go check it out!
Friday, March 20, 2009
The folks over at We Listen For You have put together their second annual Indie Rock March Madness bracket. This is a cool idea. Put together 64 bands and have them compete at the same time as the NCAA basketball tourney.
You can see the entire bracket here. Go over there and vote for your favorites. Or, do what I do and fill out your own bracket to see who your personal winner is. Here's a rundown of my Elite 8, using their bracket:
Deerhunter(5) vs. Deerhoof (8): This was by far the lamest bracket for me. I couldn't care less about most of these bands. This matchup is a tossup, but I'll go with Deerhunter to move into the Final Four.
FLAMING LIPS REGIONAL:
Fleet Foxes(1) vs. Vampire Weekend(6): Vampire Weekend vs. MIA in the first round? No fair! I love MIA, Okkervil River, Fiery Furnaces, and Of Montreal, but this bracket comes down to Vampire Weekend vs. Fleet Foxes. Vampire Weekend wins easily.
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM REGIONAL:
Kanye West(1) vs. Sigur Ros(11): Some great acts in this bracket as well - Cat Power, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I'm loving their new album), Cut Copy and No Age. If you know anything about my musical taste, you know I'm going with Sigur Ros to win this regional.
MGMT(3) vs. Girl Talk(4): Of the 8 teams in the top half of this regional, six of them I absolutely love - TV On the Radio, MGMT, The Mae Shi, Antony & the Johnsons, Bon Iver and Crystal Castles. Stacking them all in the same region is super-lame. But I have to pick MGMT to emerge from that bunch. They advance to the Elite Eight but lose to Girl Talk.
Vampire Weekend wipes the floor with Deerhunter, while Sigur Ros edges Girl Talk. And in the finals, Sigur Ros knocks off Vampire Weekend to win my March Madness tourney. What a surprise.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Last night I watched Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for the first time. It was a bit painful. The man doesn't look comfortable in that role. And he certainly wasn't funny. Then again, was Jimmy Fallon ever funny? Aside from when he was reading Tina Fey's jokes on Weekend Update?
But I digress. His show was worth watching yesterday because the musical guest was Vampire Weekend, performing a new track, "White Sky." Their next album will be one of the most anticipated releases in quite some time - can they shake off that sophomore jinx?
This wasn't really a new song - I recognized it as one they played last year at Bonnaroo. But it's fantastic - it would've fit right in on their debut album.
Everyone in the blogosphere is waiting with bated breath for someone to post the video clip. For now, you can go to NBC's website, select the March 18 episode, and fast forward to about the 36-minute mark: http://www.nbc.com/late-night-with-jimmy-fallon/video/episodes/
They slowed down the tempo a bit, which is disappointing. For comparison's sake, here's how it sounded at Bonnaroo:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Nice article about Trent Reznor trying to combat re-sale ticket outlets:
I always thought scalping was illegal, so I don't understand how it's ok for companies to resell tickets at hundreds of dollars above face value. The RS article makes mention of a time when scalping "used to be" illegal, so I guess the law has changed. It's good to see that Trent is speaking out against this practice.
The ticket price issue is one that I feel strongly about. Kudos to Trent and to other acts like No Doubt, who are offering lawn seats at shows for only $10, for trying to keep their shows affordable.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I decided to give this a separate post in case folks missed it. Here are the answers for the lyrics game. Go here to see the clues.
1 Tegan & Sara – Nineteen
2 Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane
3 Silverchair – Freak
4 Dresden Dolls – Delilah
5 Patti Smith – Because the Night
6 Clay Aiken – Invisible
7 Robyn – Konichiwa Bitches
8 Rod Stewart – Young Turks
9 Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes
10 New Kids on the Block – This One’s for the Children
11 DMX – Ruff Ryders Anthem
12 Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out
13 The National – Fake Empire
14 Architecture in Helsinki – Heart it Races
15 The Hold Steady – Stuck Between Stations
16 Tokyo Police Club – Cheer it On
17 Monkees – Daydream Believer
18 Okkervil River – Our Life is Not a Movie Or Maybe
19 Shakespear’s Sister – Stay
20 Guns N Roses – Patience
21 Akon – I’m So Paid
22 Taylor Swift – Tim McGraw
23 Heart – All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You
24 Human League – Human
25 The Offspring – Why Don’t You Get a Job?
Posted by Scott at 4:09 PM
Friday, March 13, 2009
The lyrics guessing game has been going around Facebook so I thought I’d try it out here. The following list contains the first line of 25 different songs that came up randomly on my iPod. How many can you name without looking them up? Feel free to leave a comment, or just think over the answers in your head.
The answer key can be found here.
1. I felt you in my legs before I ever met you
2. Standing on the corner, suitcase in my hand
3. No more maybes, baby’s got rabies
4. There is no end to the love you can give when you change your point of view
5. Take me now, baby here as I am
6. Watcha doin tonight, I wish I could be a fly on your wall
7. You wanna rumble in my jungle, I’ll take you on
8. Billy left his home with a dollar in his pocket and a head full of dreams
9. What I’m searching for, to tell it straight I’m trying to build a wall
10. This is a very serious message, so all of you, please listen
11. Stop, drop, shut em down open up shop
12. Now, the mist across the window hides the lines
13. Stay out super late tonight, picking apples, making pies
14. And we’re slow to acknowledge the knots in the laces
15. There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right
16. Operator, get me the president of the world!
17. Oh I could hide beneath the wings of the bluebird as she sings
18. It’s just a bad movie where there’s no crying
19. If this world is wearing thin and you’re thinking of escape
20. Shed a tear cause I’m missing you, I’m still alright to smile
21. I get in til the sun rise, going 90 in a 65
22. He said the way my blue eyes shined put those Georgia stars to shame that night
23. It was a rainy night when he came into sight standing by the road, no umbrella, no coat
24. Come on baby dry your eyes, wipe your tears
25. My friend’s got a girlfriend and he hates that bitch
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I guess the lyrics are appropriate enough, but I'm just having a hard time fathoming this song being sung by a country pop artist. Well, since I won't allow myself to pay to download this, I'm just going to have to wait till tonight's show. Here's hoping it doesn't become a saccharine, overplayed hit like Daughtry's "Home."
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Read on as I corrupt the youth of America...
By now most people have heard the Asher Roth song "I Love College." I watched this video on YouTube. Someone posted a comment along the lines of, "Hey kids, you realize you can't just party in college like this guy says. You have to work your ass off in order to stay in college if you want to enjoy the parties."
Video: Asher Roth - I Love College
I disagree vehemently. Unless you plan to go to law school or pursue a doctorate, your grades in college are utterly meaningless. No employer will ever ask to see your grades. They just care that you have a degree.
If you only plan to obtain a bachelor's degree, you could party it up as much as you want, squeeze in a little studying every now and then, and sneak through college with Cs and Ds. In fact, I highly recommend taking this path. I wish I had!
So kids, go ahead and follow Asher Roth's advice and live crazy.
(Note that I am not endorsing the quality of the song itself, just its message. The song is rather unimaginative and Asher Roth comes off as a lame Eminem impersonator.)
Friday, March 6, 2009
Just Say Yes
Since local pop-punk favorites Punchline are coming to town tomorrow, we thought it appropriate to do a belated review of their September '08 release, Just Say Yes.
After several years with Fueled By Ramen, Punchline's fifth album was released on their own record label, Modern Short Stories. And for what this effort lacked in originality, it won us over with its just-plain-ear-catching tunes.
Let's face it--you've probably heard Just Say Yes before. Maybe it was by a group called The All-American Rejects, or Jimmy Eat World. But Punchline has been making music under the radar alongside these acts for years, and within the power-pop-punk niche they fall into, this album is a quality recording. There really isn't a reason why this couldn't sell as well as an AAR release--with the right publicity, of course.
While many tracks stick to a pretty standard formula, Punchline shines when they mix that sound with with other influences. The album opens with "Ghostie," an epic-sounding track a la My Chemical Romance; "Somewhere in the Dark," a bouncy break-up tune, channels Ben Folds Five; "Just Say Yes" would be right at home on a Death Cab for Cutie album; while "The Other Piano Man" shows hints of The Hush Sound.
While not all the tracks are memorable, certainly none are bad. The lyrics and vocals aren't perfect, but they're good. And there's no denying that they know how to put together appealing, toe tapping songs. We're interested to know how their show at Diesel goes on Saturday, as we won't be able to make it--readers, let us know!
What have I been watching and listening to lately? I have to admit one of my favorite guilty pleasures is MTV's The Real World: Brooklyn. Who isn't gripped by the Katelynn saga or the ongoing war between the sexes? And what's up with Baya - why can't she get any face time? She has to be the most ignored RW castmate ever!
However, I'm coming to realize that a better Brooklyn-related use of my time is Harlem Shakes, a lively rock band that played at Mr. Small's on Saturday, opening for Tokyo Police Club. Someone described Harlem Shakes as combining the sounds of Vampire Weekend and TPC, and that’s an apt description, considering their energetic, up-tempo show. The highlight was "Strictly Game," with its optimistic "This will be a better year" refrain. They also performed the title track from their upcoming release Technicolor Health live for the first time. They seemed to have an unusually high number of fans for an opening act and the audience was very much into what they were doing.
Harlem Shakes are likely to be one of the breakout bands of 2009.
Video: Harlem Shakes – Strictly Game (live Brooklyn Feb ’09)
The Harlem Shakes' debut full-length Technicolor Health comes out on March 23. Find them online at www.myspace.com/harlemshakes.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Photo credits: Erin Broadley, Henry Ruiz, Stuart Wainstock
The Airborne Toxic Event are a fast-rising L.A. band that crafts story-based songs built around real-life experiences. Blender Magazine praised their self-titled record for its "inebriated celebrations of love's boundless optimism." One such track, the acclaimed "Sometime Around Midnight," currently sits at #5 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart.
The band will be performing at Mr. Small's in Pittsburgh tonight. Singer/lyricist Mikel Jollett called us yesterday to chat about his lack of vocal hygiene, dueling with bloggers, and his inability to compete with Leonard Cohen.
It’s good to hear your voice. I understand you had to cancel some recent shows because of laryngitis.
Yeah, we had to cancel 5 shows, unfortunately, so I could go see a voice specialist.
How did they treat your condition?
Well, I’ve been learning all about something called ‘vocal hygiene’. Apparently, you’re not supposed to get drunk every night (laughs). You’re supposed to not drink alcohol and caffeine. But there was another issue where a cold virus had gotten into one of the nerves, apparently. One of my vocal chords was partially paralyzed. It’s a temporary thing - it goes away when you get over the cold - but the doctor was like, ‘Well, you’ve been on two continents back and forth touring for 6 months, getting up early every morning and drinking every night…’
Well, if you don’t do those things, your stories might not be as interesting...
(Laughs) Maybe. I’m feeling better, though. I’ve been resting. I didn’t talk at all for 4 days. I walked around with a little notepad and a pen and communicated that way. A lot of lip reading went on when I was trying to speak.
It must be satisfying to head out on tour knowing that a lot of your upcoming shows have already sold out.
Yeah, it’s nice to know people want to come see the show. It’s our first headlining tour and we’ve yet to play a non-sold out show so far. We’re really sort of surprised by that, and it’s been great.
Your music has been compared to a wide variety of bands, from all across the spectrum. What’s the weirdest comparison you’ve heard?
(Laughs) When we first came out, we got compared constantly to the Pogues, the Clash, and the Smiths. And then for a while there it was Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand. There’s a blog somewhere that keeps track of how many different bands we’ve been compared to - it’s like 50 or 60. It’s weird because the bands are nothing like each other. It just seems really silly to us, because it has nothing at all to do with what we’re doing.
There’s a lot of politics in the guitar effects. Put a certain amount of delay on a guitar and people say you sound like Modest Mouse. Add strings, they say you sound like Arcade Fire. It’s not really what’s at the soul of the music. What’s at the soul of the music is the intention, your songwriting, the stories you tell, the ideas you go with.
Pitchfork Media gave your CD one of its worst scores ever, and you responded by sending them an open letter. Why did you feel it was important to respond in that way?
We thought that it was a little bit beyond the pale. You can’t take that stuff too seriously - they gave The Boy With The Arab Strap an 0.8, which is a great Belle & Sebastian record.
We’re very spoiled – we’ve gotten a lot of positive press – but it felt kind of like the writer just had an axe to grind, so he decided he was gonna get us. We’re an indie rock band on a tiny label, and we just happen to have a song that ended up on the radio, so I think that he heard a song on the radio and figured we were sort of ‘that’ band and made a bunch of assumptions. So we thought it was appropriate to write him a letter.
I think he tore into “Sometime Around Midnight” for rhyming, which doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a controversy. And then a couple months later iTunes named it the Song of the Year. Weird stuff like that… it feels like it has nothing to do with you. It feels like you’re standing somewhere idly watching people argue about you. So it’s probably best not to take any of it too seriously.
How did “Sometime Around Midnight” come together, and why did you choose that as a single?
We actually didn’t choose it as a single - it was kind of chosen for us. I wrote that song after seeing my ex-girlfriend. It’s a true story. It happened one night. I went home, spent three days locked in my apartment and wrote the song. I brought it to the band, we started playing it and we recorded it. And then people just started sharing it on the web, it got posted on blogs and played on local radio stations. We didn’t have a record label at the time. We didn’t have a manager. It was just the five of us, and the radio station in town called me up and said, ‘We’re gonna start playing this song.’ It was KROQ. I was like, Really? (laughs).
Video: The Airborne Toxic Event on The Late Show With David Letterman
How much interest did you have from major labels, and what made you ultimately go with an indie label?
We met with just about all of them. We went to a lot of lunches and dinners, people bought us a lot of drinks, that kind of thing. It wasn’t any kind of dogmatic thing, like, ‘We have to be on an indie label,’ it was just that nobody would put the record out as is. Every one of the major labels wanted to change it. They treated it like a demo and wanted to have us re-record it, or remix it. Actually the president of one of the biggest labels in the world said he wanted to sit with me and work on choruses and bridges (laughs). I was like, You’re out of your mind!
Majordomo came along, and their deal was, ‘Hey, we really like your record and we want to put it out.’ So that’s what we did. It was a very simple exchange. We handed them the record completely done. And we would’ve signed with Capitol, or whatever major label, if they would’ve said to us, ‘We love this record and we’d love to put it out.’ So, nobody was willing to put that kind of muscle behind what was basically a home recording.
You guys have signed on for Coachella and Sasquatch. Have you played any major festivals before?
We played V-Fest in Toronto last year. We played Pemberton in British Columbia, which is sort of like, if you can imagine Coachella at the foot of a mountain (laughs). They were both really fun, just really great crowds. You get to see some of the other bands and you get to meet a lot of the other bands. It’s really a good energy at festivals.
We’re so looking forward to Coachella. We’re playing the same night as Morrissey and Leonard Cohen and some guy named Paul McCartney. I don’t know if we’re slated for the same slot as Leonard Cohen. Maybe he’ll be on the mainstage and we’ll be on a side stage or a tent. I think I’d probably tell the audience just to go watch Leonard Cohen (laughs). That guy’s a genius. He had his first U.S. concert in 15 years a couple weeks ago in New York, and I watched all the YouTube videos, and it just looked amazing. I can’t wait to see him.
Finally, which is more fun to play: David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, or Carson Daly?
Letterman. The crew was super cool, everyone’s really relaxed, and it was just a really good vibe. We were drinking wine in the basement before we went on stage (laughs). We had a hotel that was half a block away so we could leave the studio and go there. At some point we did a soundcheck, then we went home with our friends, then went out and we played on the tv, and then we went to dinner. It was just a really fun day.
The Airborne Toxic Event perform at Mr. Small’s Theatre tonight at 8 pm. Find them online at www.myspace.com/theairbornetoxicevent and www.theairbornetoxicevent.com.