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NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (UPDATED AGAIN)

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The Noise Pop festival of indie rock in San Francisco (23 February to 1 March 2010) for its 18th year. I’m checking it out and pondering what exactly is “indie rock?”

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (24 February)
    • Wondering what exactly “indie” rock is? Is it a genre or a sensibility?
    • Anton (violinist) of “string metal” band Judgement Day told me Noise Pop is not about genre but about showcasing innovative bands.
    • So this is where the ’80 new wave led: The Fresh & Onlys (REM meets The Cure meets Live) at the Rickshaw Stop.
    • Sean Lennon at The Independent — mostly neo-psychedelic singer-songwriter stuff (competent but not interesting or engaging) . Only time  he seemed to have his own voice was on the encore song ‘This World is Made for Men.” Then, with only a solo acoustic guitar and a harmony vocal, he made a statement — simple, unadorned, poetic
  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (25 February)
    • Art of Noise cocktail party — only thing more boring than the art was the party.
    • Tape Deck Mountain at Cafe du Nord: a great psychedelic trio with no stage presence but great songs with piercing, funny, sometimes touching lyrics. Play those pedals! Look at all those pedals! Ended the set with a straight-forward, funny, touching song: “I’ll Tell You Lies.”
    • Greg Ashley followed Tape Deck Mountain: interesting finger-picked psychedelia on a Les Paul. No lyrics — seemed like a collection of intros. Got bored and left during the third song.
    • Picture Atlantic: good hard pop rock band with good vocals but a little heavy on the hooks. How many pedals do you need to play pop rock? Tight song structure but ultimately nothing to set it apart from other competent, enjoyable bands. Three songs and I’m out.
    • Indie rock —  is it a continuation of ’80s new wave (also not well-defined) without the sense of style or the attitude but keeping the sense of humor (like new wave even when it’s morbid, it’s funny)

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (26 February)
    • No club hopping tonight – spending the evening at Cafe Du Nord where the Mumlers close the show tonight.
      • Four band bill:
        • The Ferocious Few: guitar/drums duo that began busking the streets of San Francisco — great roadhouse vocals (singer with standard hipster — skinny jeans, scraggly beard,  little hat — I should open a little hat store with nothing but little hats)
        • Sonny and the Sunsets: bass/guitar/drums trio that plays catchy, quirky tunes a la Jonathan Richmond
        • The Growlers: five piece local band with a devoted following — good bar ban
        • The Mumlers: six piece ensemble out of San Jose — neo retro Memphis soul — absolutely great! Could be big with a little seasoning and a little luck

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (27 February)
    • Industry Noise conference on the business of music
      • Highlight is keynote by Claudia Monson who handles the business side of Stephen Merritt and also plays with his Magnetic Fields ensemble.

There isn’t one Stephen Merritt style — I like this one:

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (28 February)
    • Dizzy Balloon at Bottom of the Hill (all ages / afternoon show)
      • One of the best bands at Noise Pop and one of the youngest — good poppy, almost bubblegum songs with Green Day panache. I was skeptical when Kevin Arnold, festival creator, touted them as one of the bands that the festival might give a bounce but, lo and behold, they are that good. Live, they’re completely professional, musically tight and FUN!
      • They ended the show with a good and very fun cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”
      • The clip below is “Crazy Jane”

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm

“Desert Rock”

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Desert Rock

Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara.

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

"Desert Rock"

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Desert Rock

Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara.

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

“Postmodern Traditional Music”

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Postmodern Traditional Music

How Tim Eriksen became perhaps the only musician to play with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson.

By Jeffrey Callen

Without doubt, Tim Eriksen is one of the most original American singers working today. Once you hear his voice, it is impossible to forget; its richness and intensity seem hauntingly appropriate whether he is performing New England murder ballads, Bosnian pop songs, or punk rock. Yet, it is always distinctly his voice, the product of a wide-ranging set of musical experiences. Eriksen’s musical career began as the front-man for Massachusetts punk band Cordelia’s Dad in the Eighties and along the way to becoming a leading expert on Shape Note and Sacred Harp singing, he studied South Indian Carnatic music and fronted the Bosnian pop group Zabe i Babe. It is somehow not surprising that he may be the only musician to have shared a stage with Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson. Eriksen continues to perform in a diverse collection of genres, including punk and Bosnian pop, but his primary musical calling is a sub-set of Anglo-American traditional music that he calls “Northern Roots” music… (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

"Postmodern Traditional Music"

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Postmodern Traditional Music

How Tim Eriksen became perhaps the only musician to play with both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson.

By Jeffrey Callen

Without doubt, Tim Eriksen is one of the most original American singers working today. Once you hear his voice, it is impossible to forget; its richness and intensity seem hauntingly appropriate whether he is performing New England murder ballads, Bosnian pop songs, or punk rock. Yet, it is always distinctly his voice, the product of a wide-ranging set of musical experiences. Eriksen’s musical career began as the front-man for Massachusetts punk band Cordelia’s Dad in the Eighties and along the way to becoming a leading expert on Shape Note and Sacred Harp singing, he studied South Indian Carnatic music and fronted the Bosnian pop group Zabe i Babe. It is somehow not surprising that he may be the only musician to have shared a stage with Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson. Eriksen continues to perform in a diverse collection of genres, including punk and Bosnian pop, but his primary musical calling is a sub-set of Anglo-American traditional music that he calls “Northern Roots” music… (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

Selected Writings from my examiner.com page (3/09 to 12/09)

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Deciphering Watcha Clan: Interview with Jeffrey Callen

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As the year wound down, I found myself thinking a lot about my favorite albums of 2009. They’re not falling into an easy categorization but there is a thread that ties them together. They all are based on crossings of musical boundaries. My runaway favorite album of 2009 is Omar Sosa’s Across the Great Divide, a brilliant jazz album that does the usually impossible: tells an engaging story, melds music and spoken voice, and makes a profound musical statement without losing the listener. A wonderful album that ignores boundaries of musical genre as it traverses the Black Atlantic, incorporating a diverse range of musical influences (including the incredible “Northern Roots” singer Tim Eriksen), to capture the musical and spiritual profundity of the Middle Passage. The other album that keeps finding its way to my digital turntable is the debut release of Warsaw Village Band. Brilliantly executed Polish music that crosses musical borders—check out the wonderfully funky “Skip Funk” and “Polska Fran Polska,” an inspired meeting of Swedish and Polish dance musics—but always remains rooted in Warsaw. It has a sense of travel, meeting, and exchange but it’s always rooted in a sense of place, a sense of home. That sense of musical travel, meeting and interchange is what is drawing me to cds this year. Last year’s Snakeskin Violin by Markus James was another effort that worked for me but there are all the misses, mostly World Music endeavors that perpetuate the worst of the North–South colonial heritage under the auspices of intercultural understanding. It’s the forefronting of the “Western” artist or musical reference and a certain rhetorical smugness that stands out. But all of this is just preamble to an album I don’t know what to do with. I should hate it. It’s rootless, “multi-cultural” music produced by “musical nomads.” On the surface, it’s all too precious but it’s got something and, sometimes, it’s got a lot.  (to read more click: Deciphering Watcha Clan: Interview with Jeffrey Callen).

Watcha Clan

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Queering Pop Music Studies

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I had a female impersonator for years named Jean LaRue. I didn’t tell you about that. She was out of Oakland. I don’t know if she is living or dead. She was with me for years. Name was Jean LaRue. (August 14, 1998 Interview of Clarence ‘Little Red’ Tenpenny).

“Little Red” was one of my richest sources of information (and knowledge) when I was doing research for my Master’s thesis on the blues nightclub district that existed in North Richmond, California from the mid-40s to early ’70s. Red mentioned Jean LaRue in our first interview but didn’t mention that she was a female impersonator until a later conversation.  That remark sparked my interest and led to later research, which resulted in my writing “Gender Crossings: A Neglected History in African American Music”*,  an analysis of the exclusion of female and male impersonators from the history of African American music. I’ve also written an encylcopedia entry for the long-delayed but forthcoming Encyclopedia of African American Music: “Transgendered Experience in African American Music” (a terrible title — not my choice). {Digital copies of this entry and/or my MA thesis Musical CommunityThe “Blues Scene” in North Richmond, California available on request

Also, check out Sherrie Tucker’s excellent article “When Did Jazz Go Straight? A Queer Question for Jazz Studies” in Critical Studies in Improvisation (2008). An insightful article that asks the right questions (and kindly cites my article “Gender Crossings”). I haven’t checked it out yet but Sherrie is one of the editors of Big Ears:  Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies that was published in October, 2008.

Female Impersonator Jean LaRue with the Red Calhoun Orchestra (from "Woman's a Fool to think her man is all her own" -- Nationwide Production, 1947 -- available from ACinemaApart.com) Not the Jean La Rue that Clarence Tenpenny told me about. La Rue seems to have been a popular stage name for female impersonators (i.e. the famous British entertainer Danny La Rue).

* published in Queering the Popular Pitch in 2006 (Sheila Whiteley & Jennifer Rycenga, eds. – New York & London: Routledge). 2006.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

“The Virtual Maghreb” (The Beat, Vol. 28 #1 — 2009)

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The Virtual Maghreb:  “The digital world has created greater access for artists, particularly those from small markets whether due to geography, language or genre. Particularly good news for alternative artists in small countries and that brings us to alternative music artists in Morocco. The virtual world has created a platform for alternative artists in Morocco (hip-hop, fusion, rock, electronica, singer-songwriters) that was hardly imaginable 10 years ago.” {Click on the link to read more}

Reda Allali of Casablanca rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

"The Virtual Maghreb" (The Beat, Vol. 28 #1 — 2009)

with one comment

The Virtual Maghreb:  “The digital world has created greater access for artists, particularly those from small markets whether due to geography, language or genre. Particularly good news for alternative artists in small countries and that brings us to alternative music artists in Morocco. The virtual world has created a platform for alternative artists in Morocco (hip-hop, fusion, rock, electronica, singer-songwriters) that was hardly imaginable 10 years ago.” {Click on the link to read more}

Reda Allali of Casablanca rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

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