Sunday, December 26, 2010

10 Albums I Liked in 2010

As usual, I don't purport to know the top 10 albums of the year since I didn't listen to them all. These are the 10 albums that came out in 2010 that I was most into. I'm glad the forces that brought them to my ears did!

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1. Judgement Day - Peacocks/Pink Monsters. You might have heard of Apocalypitica. They're a band that plays mostly metal covers on cellos. It's pretty cool, but inviting guest vocalists Gavin Rossdale and the dude from Shinedown on their latest album is just, wow, totally not. Enter Judgement Day, a violinist, drummer and cellist and from Oakland, who, on their second full-length, play original, passionate, furious string metal that gallops like Maiden, breaks down like Mastodon, and out-shreds all guitar-based metal that came out this year. Plus, their “Violin Hero” music video is hilarious:


2. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit. For a band with a global cult following, Agalloch doesn't hesitate to take risks and evolve. Their last full-length, 2006's Ashes Against the Grain, put post-rock at the helm of the “grey metal” ship they sailed to notoriety despite practically never touring. On their Profound Lore debut, the band successfully draws on straightforward black metal, merging it perfectly with the acoustic ambience that gives their records a wind-swept feel. Read my review for The Oregonian.

3. Cool Nutz - Incredible. The only flaw on Portland's best and best-known hip-hop artist's latest is the repetition of lines touting maturity in every other song such as "I'm a grown man with grown man ways." But the record's strength is that Cool Nutz is absolutely right--after 20 years in the business he is a veritable craftsman who never lays a stray syllable as he pulls in magnificent metaphors to rap about mothers and crime. Read my Oregonian feature and see my Ebaby! interview.

4. Gabriel Mintz - Volume One. His voice, my god his voice! This young Seattle folk singer has a voice that just comes out of the speakers and hangs around like smoke. He's also nutty and sweet, giving his songs an irreverence that makes them easy to get into. Mintz is my favorite discovery of the year.

5. Past Lives - Tapestry of Webs. After the 2006 demise of Blood Brothers, one half of the band's frontman duo, Johnny Whitney, was quick to form Jaguar Love with a similarly neon, jagged aesthetic. It took several years for Jordan Blilie, the lower-pitched half of the duo, to give the world its first clear look at him as a songwriter in Past Lives. Tapestry of Webs, the band's debut LP, is essentially a straightforward post punk record, but a youthful creative touch summoned by the experienced singer makes it magical. Songs like "Deep in the Valley" and "K Hole" are a like a teen's grayscale take on Where the Wild Things Are. Read my Oregonian feature.

6. Bad Religion - Dissent of Man. As far as recent Bad Religion albums go, Dissent of Man is no Process of Belief, but the songwriting core of this veteran punk band is so talented, that it would be hard for them not to achieve some new height on each new album. “Wrong Way Kids” is a thoughtful rock song about starting a band as a teenager and then growing up and playing to teens. Its sound is so punk that it's actually just rock--its whoa-ohs would fit right in between Cock Sparrer tracks at the pub. See my Ebaby! interview.

7. Foxtails Brigade - The Bread and the Bait. Classical guitarist and vocalist Laura Weinbach creates songs that sound like they could be coming from a magic music box found in an old hollowed out tree. She's accompanied by fiddler Anton Patzner (Judgement Day, Bright Eyes). This album reminds me a lot of Vashti Bunjan's Diamond Day in its cunning and space, but you don't have to been in such a particular mood to listen to it.

8. Die Antwoord - $0$. Die Antwoord makes bad music. But boy, is it ever of the moment. The South African rap web phenomenon is the pinnacle of irony culture--the ultimate joke that may or may not be a joke. If you think hipster culture accomplished nothing this decade, compare $O$ to Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme. The former is so much more complex--the thin beats from DJ Hi Tek up the ante on Souja Boy's laptop culture. The strangely Juggalo over tones in the violent imagery and use of the word "ninja," along with Prodigy-esque high-pitched female backing vocals and exotic accents make a cultural organism so twisted it can only have originated in the wild. Artificial irony has spawned a captivating and horrifying new species.

9. and 10. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People EP and Age of Adz. Of all the genres mixed in popular music these days, new age has generally been left to rot in its neglected corner of the record store. It took the work of Louisiana outsider artist Royal Roberston to inspire folk singer Sufjan Stevens to make new age rock that is cool and aesthetically valuable. Robertson was nuts--images of UFOs and strange machines fill the two albums Stevens made this year, which, despite their lack of choruses and song structure, are filled with memorable moments and sounds both relaxing and expansive. Read my concert review for The Oregonian.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Luminarias

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I write on a deadline all the time as a journalist. But as a songwriter, I'd never had an assignment I had to complete by a particular day until I got invited to be on the 4th edition of Willamette Week's holiday compilation this year. It's raising money for p:ear and you can download the whole thing for $5 (recommended) or just my track for $1 (or stream it for free).

After waiting all week for inspiration, I found myself with the song due Monday, a recording session scheduled for Sunday and virtually nothing as of Saturday at midnight. Usually when I write a song, I know where I want it to go and what I want it to say. This time, I only knew I wanted it to be about luminarias, the traditional southwestern Christmas decoration. So I tried an experiment and just let the song write itself. I didn't know what was happening or where it was going, I just tried to picture the story happening in a waking dream.

I was pretty happy with how it turned out, but the next day I was even happier when Michele Wylen and Randy B helped me out with some production and backing vocals that I think really make the track. Michele, who normally records dance music and has recently been guesting on a lot of hip-hop tracks, was challenged to sing a fairly cheesy, straightforward part in a high register. I mean, she seemed to think it was challenging--she nailed it all on the 2nd or 3rd try like I knew she would since she has perfect pitch and an amazingly versatile voice.

Anyway, this is the first bona-fide country song I've recorded so let me know what you think!

luminarias
With rain on Christmas in Portland, this is the best I could do at my house this year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Going Against the Grain with Greg Graffin

Back in 2007, I got to interview Greg Graffin, the singer of Bad Religion, over the phone for Harp Magazine. Recently, I got to meet him in person for the latest in English, baby!'s Celebrity English Lessons series.



I just waited in the book line and asked him to do the interview when he signed mine. I also had him sign one for my friend Mark. He was writing "Good luck!" in most of the books, but when I told him Mark and I once drove all night without tickets to Phoenix from Albuquerque to see the Process of Belief tour (we successfully scalped) he said, "Sounds like Mark deserves a 'thanks!'" So that's what he wrote.

Though I was certainly more passionate about them at age 16, Bad Religion remains my favorite band. Singing along to it is kind of like what I imagine reciting prayers and singing hymns would be for religious people. Greg's book has a whole section describing his life as a teenager and it sounds pretty similar to mine and probably most punks--except that he was already writing lyrics that were better than what most lyricists will ever write. Like these:

A modern man, evolutionary betrayer
A modern man, ecosystem destroyer
Modern man destroy yourself in shame
A modern man, pathetic example of
Earth's organic heritage


Pretty good for a high school sophomore, and pretty indicative of how Greg merges punk and science in his book. It's a good read even for a non-scientist like me. I recommend it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mellowing Out with Melo

When I discovered that Carmelo Anthony was making a movie in China last summer, I set out to try to get him to do an English lesson for English, baby!

With all the trade rumors surrounding him this season, I was surprised how chill he and the whole Nuggets squad was when I attended their practice. It was the most relaxed NBA practice I'd ever been to. Someone farted and everyone made fun of it. Chris "Birdman" Anderson ran off holding his nose.

Luckily, Melo was on the other side of the court and totally cool with chatting with me for a minute while he put his shoes on.



After we sent them this video, a couple of the Nuggets PR people made the Ebaby! chime sound-logo their ringtone. I think they have a lot of fun in Denver.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Portland Country Underground

stranger
It's a fact. Most cool people like old country. It might be the coolest music ever made really. Songs by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and the like are just so tight. The seemingly surface-level lyrics have subtle implications. The melodies are clear, easy and miraculously emotional.

Anyway, I didn't know this until recently, but there's sort of a little club of Portland musicians who get together perform country every so often. I got to cover the latest installment--starring members of Viva Voce and Dolorean--for the Oregonian.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bleach Is Back

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Freelance writers don't pick their headlines. Sometimes an editor picks something really goofy and it's kind of a bummer. But I like the ring of the title that ended up in the print edition of The Oregonian for my profile of the reunited Clorox Girls got.

The trio played in Portland for the first time in a few years over Halloween weekend, and in classic fashion, something and someone got broken. The disco ball at Slabtown went down and split in half (They are hollow and made of styrofoam. Who knew?). Someone's head whacked a monitor and he left bleeding. He came back soon and rocked out though. It was punk. Just like the time the Clorox Girls played three CD release shows in three venues and finished by breaking a small fence and some lights at Slabtown. Some things never change.

Keep an eye out for the Clorox Girls' next record! I've heard a couple of tracks and they pepped me right up.

Image by Mateus Mondini.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Satyri-gone.

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It was a tenuous claim to fame, but we needed it. Portland needed an historical rock venue. But alas, Satyricon, where everyone liked to point out the jukebox next to which Kurt met Courtney, is no more.

I recorded its second to last show for posterity in the Oregonian. The lineup featured punk bands from the club's early '90s heyday. It was a good show. It was also a little bit like being at someone else's high school reunion.

In 2006, I covered the re-opening of the club for WW, so that's what it was to me. It won't be reopened this time--it's being torn down. I played there a few times, and while the room was kind of an awkward space divided by pillars, you got the sense that those black walls just absorbed all the music played in them over the years and, being on stage, it made you feel warm.

Image: The last month of the Satyricon calendar.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Slangin' It Up with E-40 and Tech N9ne

The latest additions to the Celebrity English Lesson series over at English, baby! are my recent interviews with rappers E-40 and Tech N9ne. They played the Roseland Theater in Portland earlier this month and tore it up. I saw a guy outside with a sign offering $100 for a ticket, so you can imagine the inside was packed and rowdy. See for yourself. Not pictured: girl across the balcony from me tearing her clothes off she was so into the show (and probably drunk).





As a bonus, we got E-40 to roll out his latest slang creation, "for the energy."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mike Rice Scouting Report

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TV. It's trendy to hate it. But I gotta be honest, I'm into it. As an entertainer, I love watching other entertainers. And few TV sports casters are more entertaining--for better or worse--than the Blazers' Mike Rice. I wrote a scouting report on him for yesterday's Oregonian. See what we can expect this season when he takes to the air for another season of Blazers broadcasting Tuesday.

This article is for the byline-free "Edge" column (take that, anonymity!). I also compared the upcoming DC rallies of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for the column earlier this month.

Now, how can I get paid to write about How I Met Your Mother or White Collar?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

International Singing Sensation Tony Clifton Live and In Person

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As a young kid, I really liked the show Taxi. It's kind of a weird show for a 7-year-old to like. Latka was my favorite character. I named my snake after him.

Later, once I was a teenager in a punk band, I discovered that Latka was played by a man named Andy Kaufman, a performer who did all kinds of unusual things. He became one of my heroes. I read his biography, tracked down tapes of his performances and watched Man on the Moon, the movie based on his life, over and over.

The second and third albums by my punk band, Question the Answers, included me doing an impression of Andy's nasal, obnoxious lounge singer alter ego, Tony Clifton. I used to steal his bit and call clubs trying to book a show, then call back as Tony and say, "I heard those Question the Answers assholes want to play here. They're a bunch of good for nothing losers! Owe me a lot of money. You ought to stay the fuck away from them if you don't want a bunch of low lives in your club! Listen to me! I play in Vegas..."

We continued to include abrasive, confrontational elements in our live show, largely inspired by Tony Clifton. Tony was so much more punk than most punk bands. Considering Andy died about four months after I was born, I assumed I'd never get to see Tony Clifton live.

But this weekend, I finally did. How is this possible? Find out in my review of the show for the Oregonian.

There was a lot on the line here. If the show sucked, it would truly have broken my heart. Luckily, it was amazing. Near the end, my friend Jake and I sneaked up into front row center. Tony looked right at us and I worried he was going to attack. Instead, he shook our hands and said, "Thank you."

Listen to me doing Tony on the song "Holy Pubes, Batman," recorded by Question the Answers in 2000.



And if you've never seen Tony Clifton before, watch this 1982 news segment about him.



Also, Tony has a website.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall Into Darkness 2010

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This weekend, Portland's best metal festival, Fall Into Darkness, has taken over Berbati's Pan and I wrote a preview of it for the Oregonian. Unlike festivals where every band sounds and looks the same, Fall Into Darkness features diverse and creative bands with common heavy and dark elements. Last night, Fauna gave a performance that was half ritual, half concert, spreading leaves through the venue and passing out candles to the audience during acoustic interludes between black metal songs.

Influential Olympia queercore duo, the Need, also wowed the crowd last night with a really high energy set. I had never seen them before, and their music was heavier live than it is recorded, and just as sinuous. Drummer Rachel Carns pounds out some pretty awesome beats from a standing position, which gives hopes to would-be drummers like me who just can't seem to coordinate the feet.

Tonight, Fell Voices, a black metal band generating a lot of buzz in the deep underground plays around 10pm. Like many bands on the festival this year, Fell Voices features both female and queer members. I briefly spoke to drummer Michael Rekevics by phone. He offered this quote, which was cut from the piece for space: “I love plenty of meathead metal, but what I find so compelling about black metal is the trance.” When you take the macho out of metal, some interesting things happen.

Full festival lineup listed here.

Photo: Rekevics by brandi666

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

From Ashes Rise Q&A - MFNW 2010

From Ashes Rise @ The Echo
This month saw Music Fest Northwest, the best weekend for live music in Portland. Even though I've been recovering from knee surgery, I managed to get to see a few things. Sleep performed an incredible 2 hour show that at its best moments was basically exactly what you imagine a metal show should be. It was a like a Platonic, picture perfect show at its peak. I reviewed it for the Oregonian, and also blogged about NoMeansNo and Scott Kelly.

This year, there was more heavy music at the indie-heavy fest than ever before. I got to write a nice long piece about it, which focuses on Red Fang, Baroness, From Ashes Rise and Sleep. Here's an ad from MFNW 2009 highlighting how there was almost no metal. How times change! While writing this piece, I interviewed Brad Boatright, frontman of From Ashes Rise. It was a great conversation, but I only got to use a couple of quotes from it. Here is most of the interview.

What are you listening to right now? You're playing MFNW. Do you listen to any indie rock?

This morning I listened to Pentagram and Slayer on the way to work. This evening it was a little rainy and I was a little tired so I put on Neil Young. To be honest, indie rock and what you hear on the radio these days is better than it has been in a long time. I don't know if it's me getting older or if people had to figure out how to do it right, but there's a lot of stuff on Saturday Night Live, or whatever that's really mainstream that I would listen to, that's really good. It's mellower stuff, of course...when it comes to what I'm really into it tends to be more obscure, but at the same time we're really eclectic with our musical tastes, so we're not going to ignore something because it's indie rock.

From Ashes Rise just reformed this year. Why now?

As time goes by, people get older and you start looking back on things that may have happened a few years ago and think to yourself, "Why did we ever stop playing?" Was it a burnout thing? Were we just tired of it? Did we reach critical mass of creativity? I'm sure it was a combination of all of those things, but as time goes by, the severity of all those lessened. Our drummer, Dave, was in a band that was touring quite a bit and he had parted ways with them so it was perfect timing.

It sounds like it was internal factors. Did it have anything to do with timing in the music scene for your sound?

No. Frankly, we've always been in the dark as far as what kind of reception we've got outside of the people we're playing in front of right at the moment. Honestly, it was just four and a half years of not playing music in From Ashes Rise. We all played music in other bands, but it was something that we all miss. We started when we were really young, and we started missing it. Not to lessen those other bands--we've all been involved in and still are involved in some really great projects. But From Ashes Rise has always been a little more freeform.

I've heard you're planning to record new material. Do you know when we might hear that?

We've just been rehearsing a set, flying out and doing a show, and the cycle repeats. Hopefully, over the winter we'll have some downtime. We have some ideas right now. It doesn't take us that long to write songs, but these days it's kind of hard to get everyone together. But it will happen. I wouldn't expect it by year's end or anything, but it will happen. We're ready to keep moving forward, to take the formula we have and make it better.

What direction do think the new material will take? More polished with one kick drum like Nightmares or something different?

I'm really not sure. One reason that Nightmares sounds so refined is we had 11 days in the studio and we got a really good sound out of it. With the records before that, we lived in Tennessee. Nashville, you know, music city, USA, believe it or not, had a pretty poor selection of studios that could accommodate a heavy, underground band at the time. So we would go on tour and book four or five days at a studio in Oakland called Polymorph, so everything was rushed. We had to have the songs done before tour, so the songwriting was rushed too. Whatever we do next is still going to be downtuned; it's still going to be pissed off. I don't know how to sing, so...

How has the response been at your live shows this year?

It's been great. The best is seeing 17 or 18 year old kids. We broke up 5 years ago, which when you're over 30, isn't that long. But for a teenager, it's a really long time. When we played Satyricon in February, it was the best Portland show we had ever had. There was a lot of young energy in that crowd. I feel like it's gotten even stronger in the years since we've been dormant.

You've been flying out for a lot of one-off shows. Is that something you used to do before as well?

We did...We just don't have time to tour these days. The best thing with creativity and being in a band in general is learning how to use necessity to your advantage. For instance, you mentioned the kick drum thing, we quit using a double kick because Dave broke his bass pedal! In this case, the necessity is we don't have time to tour, so it's better for us and better for the promoters to pick a date and fly us in. We played LA at the Power of the Riff Fest. It takes an hour and a half to fly down and we probably would have spent the same amount on gas getting $4 a gallon in a shitty Econoline. I don't want to sound like snob or come off as an asshole saying that I'd rather fly to Chicago than play small town America. I mean, we're all from really small towns in the South except for Derek who's from small town Wisconsin. It's just a necessity thing. We can't go on tour for two months, so we do what we can.

I've been on your Facebook page and it looks like you have a lot of fun on these trips. Are you generally fun people?

Yeah, absolutely. You gotta be, otherwise you'll go crazy.

Image of From Ashes Rise by Alex Aimaq.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tough Tuesday

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I have an article in today's Oregonian about one of my favorite Portland bands, Pure Country Gold who is releasing their second album tomorrow at Club 21. Somewhere a few years ago, though I can't find it now, I remember them saying something about how, even if there isn't one, they imagine a good looking gal in the front row of their shows and play the kind of show that would make her dance. That attitude is why I love them. Clearly, I'm not the only one--the quote in the story from the Club 21 bartender? Yeah, she took time out of her vacation in New Orleans to call me. That's love!

This is the second time I've covered PCG (they also played a show in my living room once, which ruled). I did a long interview with both band members in 2007 when they made the top ten Best New Bands countdown in Willamette Week. One thing that didn't come up then or now was juke boxes. Apparently, PCG is on a lot of them around town. Good to know!

Image: Tough Tuesday album cover by Chanda Helzer depicting Club 21 regulars.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing Old With the Warped Tour


I've never had a bad time at Warped Tour. I kind of lived for it as a teen. The first out of town shows I played with my old punk band were scheduled around getting to see Warped in Denver (it never hits my hometown of Albuquerque).

So it was actually a huge thrill for me to get to talk to Warped founder Kevin Lyman for this preview of today's Portland-area show. In fact, I figured he'd probably be too busy to do it. But apparently, he makes extra time in his day by just being really smart. He had a lot of good stuff to say in the five minutes I talked to him.

One choice nugget I didn't get to include in the piece was his memory of the Warped Tour's first stop in Portland at a relatively small club:

You know La Luna? The club? Yeah, Warped Tour played there in 1995. We set up the skateboard ramp in the little lot behind it and we got a keg of beer because we had no where to set up anything else and we sat in that little dressing room behind the stage and that was the whole Warped Tour set up.

See, that's the thing about Warped. It still kind of has that lawless, party vibe even though it's all huge now. When I reviewed it for Willamette Week in 2006, I certainly enjoyed the literal pyramid of free beer backstage. And I remember my old band's friends/mentors Guttermouth impressing us with stories of getting kicked off the tour for trying to blow up H20's tour bus with fireworks and for giving out whiskey shots with t-shirt purchases, even to 10-year-olds.

The cops must be on to this at least a little. Another good quote from Kevin that I didn't get to include was about how at Warped's last location in the Portland area--which required a lot of driving, unlike the festival's current Washington County Fairgrounds home which is on a light rail line--cops seemed to hassle teenage drivers unnecessarily.

We were way out on the road. That was a long way for kids to go. But last year, watching the kids get off the train and go to the Warped Tour? That was pretty cool vs having to drive through the speed traps. I remember we'd send a runner out to get something and it would be like 20 cops writing tickets to kids. It was almost like that skateboarding's a crime thing: driving on the highway's a crime if you're under 25, you know?

Of course, Warped Tour has its sucky corporate side that kind of takes advantage of bands. I've written about that too. But I really wish I was out at the festival today instead of having rehab from knee surgery, mostly because the Portland date now includes a "Legends Stage" with old punk bands like GBH. I guess if the bum knee wasn't enough, the fact that this stage would be the highlight of the fest for me is enough to confirm that as far as punks go, I've crossed into old-timer territory.

Image: Guttermouth still at it on the Warped circuit last year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Long, SubArachnoid Space


Well, the band that made my favorite record of 2009 is splitting up. SubArachnoid Space is ending their 14-year run tonight at Mississippi Studios, and I was fortunate to be able to write a brief oral history of the band for the occasion.

The story focuses on the partnership between drummer Chris Van Huffel and guitarist Melynda Jackson. Melynda and I talked for over an hour on the phone for the interview. I kept thinking we were done and then turning the recorder back on when she said something else quotable. I really sympathized with a lot of her complaints about leading a band and working with musicians. It's so hard to be driven without coming off as bossy, and that's one of the reasons I recently dissolved my band (farewell show pending) as well.

If I weren't laid up after knee surgery right now, I'd go see SubArachnoid's last show. It's sure to be emotional, since their music always is and this show will be a release of all the band has gone through over the years. Don't forget to wear white. At least I got to see (and review!) their second to last show at the Day of Hel fest in July.

In the process of writing the oral history, I reached out to a lot of different bands that had been touched by SAS over the years. Due to my short deadline, I only got one in time, from Mike from YOB. This one came in just a little too late from Philadelphia's Bardo Pond so I figured I'd post it here. I gather SAS had quite a following on the East Coast.

I really can't believe it's farewell. I hope, and knowing those guys, I trust they'll keep making sounds.
We've known Melynda and company for so long, I can't remember exactly when we first met and played together! They always took such good care of Bardo Pond on our trips out west: giving us a place to sleep, loaning us equipment, cooking meals together, and of course, playing killer shows at Bottom of the Hill! And it was always such a treat to meet up with a sister on the road...
I love SubArachnoid Space's combination of their heavy, swirling soundtracks with the visual element - really fantastic films and editing. I've really never seen anybody else do it quite like that, the darkness of the riffs and imagery are so special. We saw those guys in Philly the last time they came through, and they really took it up a notch. The projections were hitting Melynda in her beautiful white gown. A real highlight for me is when she sings through her guitar. Maybe there is more vocalizing in future experiments?
I'm really gonna miss hearing them and feeling them turn on the light in that spongy place in my brain!

Warm Greets,

Isobel Sollenberger


Photo: Melynda and Chris. The only known of just the two of them together. By Kawabata Makoto.

Don't Fear The Bieber


I recently volunteered for the assignment of reviewing a Justin Beiber show. I kind of look for opportunities like these to write about music I don't know that much about, but that doesn't require that much knowledge to write about. It's fun to just take something like this on and be as objective as possible.

And of course, I thought it would be fun to bring someone to a Justin Bieber concert. Then we found out that they weren't giving any press passes. Kind of smart, really, since other reporters would see this as an opportunity to be snarky, not objective. In any case, The Oregonian had to buy me a ticket. One ticket.

When I got to my seat, there were some teenage girls in it. I tried to explain they were in my seat, and one of them said, "How many are you?" I held up one finger. They didn't move.

Feeling awkward as hell, I sat in the nearest empty seat. Then someone bumped me from there. Then I got bumped again. Finally I had to stand up for myself. I busted out my ticket to give the teens in my seat the boot. Ultimately, they convinced me to trade for a slightly further seat. The whole experience really pushed my limit of awkwardness--the lone male hipster in sea of kids and their moms.

The concert was pretty good actually. I had fun. I was glad I brought ear plugs, not for the music but for the loud screaming. After talking to a friend of mine who went to see Britney Spears for a lark onetime, I think everyone should go see a pop concert like this at some point just for the experience.

Props to Ryan White for the best Bieber-pun title, which I stole for this post.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Praise for "The LeBronze Age"



In ten days between the release of my LeBron James free agency song and "the decision," the video I made got a lot of media attention and thousands of views. Here are some reviews.

Yahoo! Sports' Ball Don't Lie blog: "...definitely the most earnest LeBron James song of all-time."

NBA.com's Sekou Smith: "...has plenty of good-natured fun at the expense of the King with no rings."

ESPN.com's True Hoop blog: "Those who doubt LeBron James now have their own music video..."

Willamette Week's localcut: "...a fun little ditty..."

Hooped Up Online: "...covers all kinds of LeBronory..."

Sports 1080 the Fan's Travis Demers: "I can certainly appreciate the solid editing job with photos and videos on this one."

A Stern Warning: "...brilliant folk-epic..."

The video was also covered by Cleveland's alt-weekly, The Cleveland Scene, The Oregonian, tauntr.com, AM Basketball, That NBA Lottery Pick, and even this Dutch basketball site, this one from Iceland, and this one from Korea.

The song was also played on local and national sports radio, by John Canzano on 95.5 The Game, and JT The Brick, who hosts a national show on Fox Sports Radio.

So all in all, this fun video was one of the most successful things I've ever promoted. It was a lot of work calling and emailing the right people, but it was worth it to kick start my new solo project.

Oh, by the way, LeBron went to Miami, which is fine with me. What isn't fine with me is that he showed no gratitude to Cleveland for bringing him up, no compassion for breaking their hearts and unfortunately in so doing ruined his legacy forever.

Hel Ain't a Bad Place

atriarch

Last night I had a good time at what started as one of the most mellow metal shows I've ever been to and ended in a full-on mind blowing at the hands of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. 'Twas the first night of the Day of Hel Fest at Berbati's, and you can read of my adventures in the Oregonian here. It continues tonight and is recommended!

Image: Atriarch, who also slayed last night.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taking It Outside with Austin Lucas

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Last night, Austin Lucas put on an incredible show at the White Eagle, and I reviewed it for the Oregonian. He'll be doing it again tonight, and I highly suggest going if you can! I can't guarantee he'll lead the crowd outside again to finish the show. But who knows? Maybe tonight he'll end up on the roof.

I first saw Lucas at a house show in 2006. When I mentioned this to him last night, he reminded me that I wrote a review of that show. I had forgotten! And it's funny how my memory of that night changed over four and a half years. I had totally forgotten about how Lucas almost called of the show because of talking. All I remembered was that he killed it and did it completely by himself and without amplification. His music had soul and his delivery was totally punk.

Looking back, that house show was actually a big inspiration for the new solo music project I just started doing. And last night's show added to that inspiration.

Image: Austin Lucas at his 2006 Portland house show, by me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lilith Fair Portland: Sheryl Crow Kills!

Lilith Finale
Last weekend I reviewed Lilith Fair's Portland stop for the Oregonian. It was a lot of fun! I actually got to meet Sheryl Crow--more on that at a future date. In the mean time, photos!

Erykah Badu

I thought Erykah Badu would probably be awesome, but she wasn't really. Although I gather she put on a great show later that same night at the Someday Lounge. And you gotta hand it to her for wearing two colors of warm ups on stage in front of 6000 people and totally pulling it off.

Erykah Badu

Sheryl Crow

Then, like a beacon from the gods of rock came Sheryl Crow. She killed, absolutely killed. After her first song, she did a little improv singing bit and said, "I'm not fucking around!" She wasn't. A few songs later, I could actually see people freaking out all the way to the back row because the performance was balls out the whole time time. Bear in mind Sheryl Crow is 48 years old. I think she will still kill at age 78. She's going to be the rock 'n' roll Willie Nelson.

Sheryl Crow

Next up was Sugarland, who looked a lot like Arcade Fire. Check out this sweet drum set.

Sugarland

Sugarland

Around this time, some fan in the front row saw me taking photos and was like, "Do you want one with the band?" And I said OK.

noob

Sarah McLachlan wrapped things up. Her music is pretty spiritual. My mind wandered to some deep places while she played. Did you know Sarah McLachlan has, like, an unbelievable voice?

Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan

For the last song, "Because the Night" by Patti Smith, every performer from every stage came out to sing together. How cool is that? I appreciate the love for the artists relegated to the smaller stages.

Lilith Finale

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Upheaval on Titan

jxatg

Tomorrow, JonnyX and the Groadies is releasing their second album, and I had the treat of reviewing it for the Oregonian. One thing I didn't get to mention in the piece is that the cover is actually a photo of a model the band built. The volcanoes in the background light up and even the stars are light shining through black cardboard. It reflects the overall vintage horror vibe of one of the most interesting bands I know of.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The LeBronze Age

I wrote an allegorical song about LeBron James. It's a cautionary tale imagining him the king of a humble realm. It was a lot of fun to record, so I hope you have fun watching it!



For more music, visit my Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Incredible: Extended Interview with Cool Nutz

IMG00062-20100615-1622

Last weekend, I interviewed Cool Nutz for a story about his new album for the cover of the How We Live section in today's Oregonian.

In the intro to the piece, I compared Cool Nutz's new album, Incredible, to Dr. Dre's The Chronic for having boastful titles and a simple cover with the artist's image. So I figured I'd put them here side by side as well provide the full text of our more than half-hour conversation.

INCREDIBLE_DigiCover_HiRes

Dr.DreTheChronic

You have a son due. Is he your first?
Biologically, yeah, my first one. I raised another--I raised her from the time she was four months old.

A new baby and a new album at the same time. Is that exciting or stressful?
Yeah the same span of time. I'm excited. It's a big thing. not everyday you get bring another life into the world, an extension of yourself. It's breathtaking.

Is there a moment on your album that you feel you couldn't have gotten away with were you based in another city?
That's one of the things about Portland. Cats don't call us out on stuff. It's different everywhere you go because some places you go where they're going to be into certain kinds of hip hop and not into others and you wouldn't be able to bring certain things into an arena or a certain scene. But in Portland, sometimes you can create your own scene. People are open to a white reggae hip hop band in Portland. People are open to a black rock hip hop band in Portland. It's a lot more open out here. Of course there's bias, but it's not as strong. It's not as separated. People don't enforce certain things in Portland as much. A classic example is how many people the police shoot. There hasn't been a riot or anything. People will go and throw a couple of bottles and get tackled by the police and that's it.

Is there a Portland hip hop sound?

Not so much because Portland has the luxury of sitting the middle of hip hop and perfecting our skills to the point where you're able to master your skills and craft, whether it be fast rapping or conscious hip hop, whether it be gangster rap. No one has really blown up to where there's a proverbial Portland sound. Like Nelly, everybody from St. Louis will come out sounding like Nelly. Everybody in Long Beach came out sounding like Snoop. If somebody in Portland came out...say Incredible was the album to blow up and that's what labels are looking for, the next Cool Nutz, then you would have a proverbial sound.

In "Monster Up" you talk about carrying Portland on your back. What do you mean by that?
For one, when we're out and about doing different things whether we be out here in Ohio or we be in Amsterdam or Norway or wherever, we're out carrying the flag and representing Portland in a real professional, classy way, and also not only worldwide, but even in the city, from everything from organizing POH-Hop to say, "Look what I have at my disposal." I'm also going to share it with the city when I have my radio show; I'm gonna spread the love with that. When I say I "carry Portland on my back," I don't just mean from a musical sense, I mean from a diplomatic standpoint. I'm also bridging the gap between different artists, spreading networking and opportunities, sharing those and continually trying to help educate other artists on how to increase your visibility, your business reach and everything of that nature. When I say "carrying Portland on my back" I guess mean doing stuff that other artists aren't willing to do for other people. When you're going abroad you're carrying that flag of Portland and representing it right and not only from a standpoint of what I can take from the game, but also what I can give back to the game.

But the language "carry on my back" would suggest that it's burden. Is Portland a burden to you?
Definitely, because people sometimes, especially in hip hop, perceive me as having a better hand than most or having a certain amount of power or influence and sometimes artists and people in the scene misunderstand that for me even to be to the point where I can have influence or have say so took a lot of work to get here. Sometimes I think being the more visible entity in the city--and you can go into something with the best of intentions--but because of people's feelings, sometimes they can sour the taste of the outcome.

Is Portland's hip hop scene building or was there a golden era that has passed?

I feel like it's still building in the sense that you've got a lot of talent. You've got a lot of people doing a lot of stuff. I think in terms of a golden era of Portland hip hop, I'd have to say it would be '95-2000. Hip hop hadn't grown as biased as it is now. We could do shows with a variety of artists and you'd have solid turnouts and you had people feeling like there was a certain amount of local hip hop pride. We would promote shows with local artists and get over a thousand people there. It was a good time. But I feel like talent-wise, production-wise, networking-wise, we have a lot of people that are working with bigger artists, working with different producers, touring and things of that nature.

What do you mean by "biased"?
I think because in those years that I mentioned, you could have Cool Nutz, Lifesavaz, Sand People and everything that people look at as underground hip hop, to the mainstream, to gangsta rap, and you would have people that would just come out and support hip hop. Not like, "Oh it's this kind of hip hop, so I'm not going. That's not real hip hop. I don't support that."

You're a pretty conscious rapper. Do you like to listen to party music as well?

I love every kind of hip hop. I think there are two kinds of hip hop. There's good hip hop and bad hip hop. People that don't like gangster rap, they can't say that 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Trying isn't an incredible album, you know what I'm saying? People that don't like so-called underground hip hop, they can't say that Aesop Rock's albums aren't good albums. People that aren't into Little Brother or that style of hip hop, they can't say that Little Brother's albums aren't dope records. Years ago, when I was first coming up in hip hop, I had to have Eazy-E's record, I had to have Ice-T's record and I had to have Public Enemy. Those were all dope records. You could listen to Eazy-E and be like, he's not the dopest rapper, but this is creative, something I haven't heard. This is a dope addition to hip hop music. There's a lot of things that people try to act like they just learned, like black militant music, you learned from hip hop, you learned that from Public Enemy. You learned that from Brand Nubian and Poor Righteous Teachers or the Coup, and a lot of people weren't socially conscious until they got into hip hop. A lot of people don't understand that Talib Kweli rallying against different things, being an activist for different causes. There are a lot of causes the average urban person may not be aware of until they go on somebody's twitter page or facebook page.

So you're saying that an atmosphere of good music is a good launching pad for causes?

Exactly. And create awareness in people. When you think about it, who was trying to fight the power before Public Enemy. Seriously, I don't know if you were into hip hop back then, and if you were, how many of your friends if they were into hip or were even entertaining fight the power or wearing black and green until they had heard Public Enemy or X-Clan or something like that.

It had almost gone out of style in the previous couple of decades.

Exactly. It motivated people to go see the Malcolm X documentary or go try out Marcus Garvey or something like that, because you were listening to the music. How many people even thought about they wanted to go to Compton until they heard Ice Cube or Dre. Compton is one of the smallest cities. Long beach is too and how many people were like, "I wanna go see long beach and Compton!"

If you were from, say, New York, you probably never heard of Compton.
Exactly. Hip hop created so much awareness in people that it opened people's minds. Now there's a lot of people out there that don't listen to Immortal Technique. They don't know he's fighting the powers that be, and if he was just really into hip hop, there wouldn't be guys who were like, "Oh that's some of that conscious stuff, that's hip hop with a message..."

How could it return to unity?
I think it would just take more understanding from people, like people understanding that it creates a better environment in hip hop, that it means more people at the shows, more financial revenues coming out of shows, more things circulating when you have more people interested. I did an interview with Oregon Music News and I was saying imagine if the same people who supported 50 Cent supported Aesop Rock. He already has a fruitful career, but think of much more fruitful his career would be.

And just effect it would have on culture.
Exactly.

Is there a spot in portland where you go if you just wanna dance or have fun?

I'm not even in that zone anymore. My life is based around my music so much that I'd probably get more pleasure out of just sitting at home listening to Marvin Gaye or putting on some classical music. There's a lot of clubs and a lot of good promoters, but I think it's more about the dj, like the O.G. Ones that are gonna play soul music. For me it's not so much about hearing hip hop, it's about hearing quality music and quality selections.

NE Portland is a big place that changes block by block. What part of NE Portland do you live in?
I relocated from NE. I was living in NW and now I live in SE, but I think NE now is not the NE that it was. You look at Alberta and you see the changes on that street. You see...what is it, last Friday, first Thursday, whenever it is that everybody comes out on Alberta, that's a drastic change by what was there before. NE has changed so much that you can't even compare it to what it used to be.

But you still call yourself "the voice of NE Portland."

Yeah because we represent what NE Portland used to be, and I still spend a lot of time in NE. My grandmother lives in NE. My whole life was spent growing up in NE.

So NE Portland is kind of a state of mind these days?

The thing with portland is you can live in SE but still be in NE a lot. My girl's mom stays there, my grandmother, my mom is right outside of NE, Bosko's mom, everybody, we're still rooted there.

What was important about what NE used to be?
For us, growing up in NE, we used to grow up with all of your friends. Went to the same elementary school, same middle school, same high school. Knew each other's parents. There was a certain amount of responsibility in the community. You knew your neighbors and there was that community involvement and culture in the neighborhood, growing up on a block that was predominantly black or being able to walk to the store and people were hanging out. Certain things that you saw that was our black community. That's not there anymore.

Is it totally gone or just less prevalent?
Less prevalent. Far less prevalent.

OK here's a weird one. If you were an animal, what animal would you be?Hm. I don't know, man, there's so many different things...I'd for a killer whale, an orca. because the thing is that they're powerful and graceful. They're predators, but you don't think of them like you think of a killer shark in terms of being a menacing figure. They react when need be and like I said they're beautiful, graceful and have a classy look about them, but they also are forceful.

Kind of the same paradox as your name, both cool and nuts.

Exactly.

You have a lot of guests on your new record. How much direction do you give them?
I want to create records that are me. There are a lot of people who I appreciate what they do. Liv Warfield is incredible. Pricy to me is probably one of the top three emcees in the city, if not in the entire region, but people aren't that familiar with him because he hasn't put out a record. So from the standpoint of rhyme in his voice and everything and then also with Kenny Mack and Maniac Lok, having them on a different type of song other than what people are going to normally expect from them about our mothers. I more wanted to take this in a pointed direction and have a different landscape for this record instead of what people naturally expect.

Yeah, a lot of the guests reveal a side of themselves you're not used to seeing.
I did the songs and I was like, "This is what I want you to do. I want to work with a lot of people but I want us all to work together in a capacity that represents me properly and also them as well. I've always respected Mic Crenshaw and that's why I was like, "I did the song and I want you to put your feel on it." And Mic is a very conscious person and does a lot of political stuff and things of that nature.

Are any of the songs off Incredible going over especially well live?
We've been introducing songs from it in the set and starting the show off with "Pushin", the song with Liv on it, that song always goes over really well. "Monster Up" goes over very well with people. "Black Top" goes over well and I'm actually working on learning a lot of the songs in terms of learning all the lyrics to perform them.

You mean from your old records?
From the new one too. People will think that you just get up there and you know the lyrics but that's not the case. When you're rapping, if you don't sit around and listen to your music all day every day, it's just like someone else's music. Sometimes it's hard. You'll know three lines but you don't remember the catch line to that fourth line and so it's a lot more intricate than what people think.

Do you usually record quickly after finishing a song?

Yeah pretty much. I try to write stuff and go into the studio soon after so I don't loose the excitement of when I wrote it. When I get beats, I write to those beats because I'm excited. All of the songs on the album...it's not just like I write the words and I find a beat. I hear the beat and the beat pulls the words out.

How much direction do you give Bosko?
We've worked together for so long he knows what I'm looking for. Like on "Love Iz" the hook and his verse, that was dope, i was very happy when he sent it back. One of the things we're aiming for is not just to be known as the rap guy from Portland, but we're making relevant music to what's going on nationally. I've been working on a more strategic approach to music. Not only conscious of the progression of my music but conscious in the effect of me being accountable for what I'm doing musically and having stuff to say and stuff that's thought provoking. I like throwing curve balls to make people say, Why's he saying that?" Like did you see that review of "Monster Up" Casey Jarman did where he talked about each individual line? That was great. I want people to not only look at me as a guy from Portland but respect the creative side and the work and effort we put into it. And that's the way I'm approaching this music, especially this incredible album and the next album after that is gonna be a progression and evolution too.

So is the next album already done?
It's kind of a work in progress. I've got enough songs to be done, but there's things I want to convey with the album, so I want to have a couple of more songs that I feel like will make it what I want it to be.

Is it going to be called Young Obama?
We were gonna do The Young Obama, but with all the stuff that's happening and people not being satisfied and different things I don't want people to not buy my record because I named it that. There are a lot of people who have their own political views and as a fan of music you don't want them to say, "Young Obama? I'm not supporting that because I'm a republican." I'll probably still release an album called Young Obama because that title has more meaning than just a tribute to Obama. What it meant was, coming from the Northwest, we're campaigning to establish our place in hip hop and do something we haven't done before. That of course, is not the magnitude of him being the first black president, but it's the magnitude of us doing what Mix-a-Lot did, what Snoop did and Outkast in Atlanta, being the face of that scene and being responsible for creating change in the music.

So it's kind of about how Obama wasn't always the president.
Exactly, and that's no different from me. When I grew up, I didn't think my hip hop would take me to Kenton, Ohio, doing a show or my music would take me overseas or to a lot of the places I've been so it's kind of like we've been on the campaign trail and right now we're campaigning for Portland for people to be aware. "Y'all from Portland?" They first thing say is, "Oh there ain't nothing but white people out there." We're not looked at as being a hotbed for hip hop which I'm trying to break that stereotype.

So what are you going to call the album instead?

It's gonna be called Bake the Donuts because if you think of the Dunkin' Donuts commercials where the guy used to get up at 4 in the morning and be hard at work, that just symbolizes to me so many times we're on the grind with this music and it's time to get up and bake the donuts whether you're tired, whether you don't wanna get up, whether the show turnout was that good, you still gotta do it. You still gotta get up and bake the donuts.

How'd you settle on such a modest title for your latest album?

I wanted to go with something that was one word that symbolized how people talk. "How was the show?" "Oh, the show was incredible: The drummer was sick, the singer was killing it. It was an incredible night, incredible show." The songs carry the weight of the title. From the artwork to everything, it's crisp and to the point, different from a lot of stuff we did. I felt like "incredible" was just one word that symbolized where I'm trying to take my music.

All Eyes on Portland's Music Yearbook

PDX Pop 2010

I remember the first PDX Pop Now! Festival in 2004. I was 20. I went all three days and did a lot of drinking on the railroad tracks. Suddenly, I had a glimpse of this indie rock scene everyone was talking about. Each band was a new introduction. Since the festival was free and the weather was good, and it wasn't terribly overcrowded or anything, it was pretty much the ideal setting to learn about new music.

The PDX Pop compilation is sort of still like that for me. There were a couple of years there where I actually kept with the Portland music scene, but those days are gone. So most of the tracks on the album are introductions to names I've been seeing. I really enjoyed listening to it and writing about this for the Oregonian. I think it definitely has the summer vibe the compilation coordinator Jesse Studenberg told me he was going for when I interviewed him for the piece.

Plus, increasingly the compilation is becoming how the rest of the world knows Portland music. I wish I had learned in time for the piece that the reason Junkface's music was recently played on the NBC show Friday Night Lights was likely because a producer heard it on the PDX Pop compilation. The comp itself got a shoutout on the CW's Life Unexpected.

For the second straight year, I'll be out of town the weekend of the festival. 7/30-8/1. But I hope to catch the tail end of the last day. See you there?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heave Yer Skeleton

gnome

The world is littered with bands. New bands with an instantly recognizable sound are rare, but Cleveland's mr. Gnome is one of those bands. Last weekend I talked to frontwoman Nicole Barille on the phone as they drove through Texas for this Oregonian story tied to their show at the Knife Shop at Kelly's Olympian tonight.

I reviewed mr. Gnome's 2008 album for Spin, and met them several times, but had never interviewed them before. This was my favorite story that came out of the conversation.
The pair married just after forming the band in 2005 and spent their honeymoon recording their first EP in ... downtown Cleveland. "I think everyone thought we were insane," says Barille, "but it was fun and exciting."

I was also glad I finally got a chance to write about mr. Gnome's solid new album, Heave Yer Skeleton, which I included in my top 10 of 2009. This will be my fourth time seeing mr. Gnome in Portland and the crowd has grown every time, so I'm looking forward to an exciting show!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Between the Sea and Sky

swallowsgrill2

Swallows is addicted to making records. Between the Sea and Sky, the Portland duo's third full length which comes out tomorrow, is the band's 9th release, and they're already working on their 10th. When I stopped by their practice space to interview them for this profile in today's Oregonian, frontwoman Em Brownlowe plugged in an acoustic guitar (for the last 6 years, she's rocked electric). She and drummer Jon Miller showed me a couple of new tunes that sort sounded like Violent Femmes meets Veruca Salt to me. It was really good stuff, and I gather you're likely to hear some of it tomorrow night at the Langano Lounge.

One thing I didn't get to mention in the Oregonian piece, is that Between is both produced by and dedicated to the memory of Kipp Crawford who was tragically killed in a bike accident just weeks after finishing the recording. One of the new Swallows songs I heard is about him, and among band posters in the band's tiny basement practice space is a framed picture of him, which I think might have been this photo.

kipp2jpg-2352166ac1020a20

Pretty much all of Swallows' music is on their website, so download it (I recommend the remix album--another thing I wish I could have fit into the article), and if you come to the Langano at Southeast 15th and Hawthorne tomorrow, March 20, you get a free copy of their latest.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Psychology of Booze & Guilt

gall
Since I wasn't able to review the great new album from local madman Professor Gall for The Oregonian, I wrote a live review of his CD release show last Friday.

I had put off seeing Professor Gall for a long time, because while I liked the spirit of his 2006 album, Intravenous Delusion, I thought it was a bit scattered and loose. While the The Psychology of Booze & Guilt isn't perfect, the occasional awkward vocal phrase doesn't interfere with the flow of a very creative, dark, fun jazz/rock record.

And the live show didn't disappoint! In fact, I'd say Professor Gall is one of the best live acts in town. The band has such presence that you really feel like you're seeing a show in some shack on a southern highway.

Professor Gall's next Portland show is Friday, March 26th at Dante's.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tapestry of Webs

pastlives
I am a huge, huge Blood Brothers fan. Their 2006 post hardcore masterpiece, Young Machetes, was probably my favorite that year, and I remember not even caring that at 23, I was one of the oldest people at their show in Portland that year. They were just too magical, too intense for a lot of grownups to handle, and I mean that completely seriously.

The band broke up in 2007 and basically split into two bands, Jaguar Love, whose debut I reviewed for Spin, and Past Lives, whose first full length just came out and who is playing Portland tonight. I had a really enjoyable half-hour phone conversation with Jordan Blilie for this feature that appeared in Friday's Oregonian.

Since the focus of the piece is Past Lives, there were a couple of tidbits about Blood Brothers that I didn't get to include, so I'll share those now. The first one, and this may be old news to some, is that Blood Brothers was more Whitney's vision than Blilie's. It's funny, because when I first heard Blood Brothers, for some reason I assumed Blilie was the leader creatively. I guess Johnny Whitney's vocals were just so insane--I couldn't picture him focusing long enough to write the songs!

But when Blilie was talking about how he had to relearn how to write songs by himself, he said, "My process was always linked to working with someone else and I was always contributing to his vision of things" (emphasis added). So Tapestry of Webs is kind of the world's first look at Jordan as a songwriter. When I pointed that out, he joked about how they should have called it Shades of Jordan.

The second thing I learned in the interview that might be interesting to Blood Brothers fans is that Blilie and the Jaguar Love guys are on fairly good terms these days. I was pleased to learn this since in doing research for the piece, I had read on various forums and such that the former bandmates weren't on speaking terms. But Blilie had nothing but positive things to say about Johnny Whitney and Cody Vototalo. And in fact, Blilie apparently saw Jaguar Love play for the first time a few weeks ago and was impressed. "There's not another band like Jaguar Love floating around," he says. "I think that's a good thing."

He went on, "Our breakup wasn't without its rough patches, but I think enough time has gone by and enough room and space has been allotted. I was just talking to Cody a couple of days ago. I'm happy that the two of them have continued to play together and make records."

Past Lives plays at East End in Portland tonight.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Elizabethan England Hath Talent

Yeah, so my band the Metal Shakespeare Company auditioned for America's Got Talent and it landed us on the local news, again. Can you believe we got Drew Carney to wear our shirt and a costume? Well, actually, that's not that hard to believe.



Wish us luck!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Olympic Vancouverage

Cold as Ice

Maybe it was just seeing all that snow, a rarity in New Mexico, but I remember as a young boy, I loved the Winter Olympics. This year, they were just a 6 hour drive from where I live and work, so the English, baby! team rented an RV and headed north to make English lessons at the Games.

The first question everyone asks me is, "What events did you see." We saw the luge, and it actually turned out to be one of the funniest videos we made.



But we were lucky to squeeze in the luge! It was an extremely hectic few days. We made 14 lessons, interviewed 5 athletes, and appeared in two news segments, one for American television and one for Chinese State TV.

Here are a couple of interview highlights. Chinese snowboarder Liu Jaiyu explaining what it means to ride goofy.



And gold medalist figure skaters Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue demonstrating a lift for us. The other lesson we did with them, "head over heels," went viral on Chinese video site 56.com with more than 50,000 views in the first few days!



4-year-old Jason watching the Calgary Olympics with his parents on TV would be glad to know that 22 years he'd be there in Canada to be part of the action. He might be disappointed though that his dreams of a bobsled medal would be dashed by the fact that he would never actually start training.