Archive for June, 2010

From Deadman’s Bar

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, Summicron 90mm.  A century ago, a famous Western murder took place at the spot where this photo was taken. Apparently, some guys sitting around a campfire got in a fight, and one guy ended up dead.  The other two tried burying him, only the river revealed the corpse.   A hanging ensued.  What I’m trying to figure out is how could someone sit here and think of fighting?

Talking It Over

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 14, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Leica M9, Summilux 50mm.

Brian Jonestown Massacre At the 9:30 Club Was The Eye, Not The Hurricane

Posted in Music with tags , , on June 10, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Lord knows The Brian Jonestown Massacre have had their share of tumultuous shows, but last night at Washington’s 9:30 Club, they were an island of calm amidst a sea of chaos.

Consider: coming home from a dinner out before heading to the show, a deranged driver of a pickup truck shot across four lanes of avenue traffic and headed directly for our car proceeding up one of Upper Northwest D.C.’s narrowest streets.  We pulled over as the truck shot by going upwards of 50, and it just barely missed us moments before it drove over a curb and through a hedge, its brake lights never glimpsed.  Or this: an hour before we arrived at 9:30, three young men were shot right in front of the club, which was then surrounded by police and crime-scene tape.  Think of it: the Brian Jonestown Massacre played a locale surrounded by police and crime-scene tape, and it had absolutely nothing to do with them.

They played a calm, ultimately moving, pretty glorious set, turning the set lists from the 2008 and 2009 tours inside out.  Instead of opening with “Whoever You Are,” the band followed Anton into “Super-Sonic.”  “Wasted” was the third song of the night, and with its chugging refrain of “I want to know,” the band kicked hard, but were as impassive as jurors settling in for a long trial.  Sure, Joel Gion got worked up when Matt Hollywood sang “Got My Eye On You,” and the drumming, as always, was an artful pneumatic drill, but when you think about the way the BJM live meld three and four strumming guitars against Anton’s methodical leads, it’s a speedball combo of the constant and the virtuoso.  Thick layers of six- and twelve-string guitars, powerhouse drumming, an emollient organ, and Anton plinking his notes, one at a time, putting in Sterling Morrison fills, and singing, shyly.

Calm as they were, as professional as they are, the impression should not be conveyed that they failed to produce a big ruckus. “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” had the whole, nearly sold out crowd singing, and it was just a practice run for a raucous “Who?”  I’d never heard them play “Going To Hell,” and it was an up-tempo delight.  Something was slightly off in the mix, or the tuning, for “That Girl Suicide,” but this is a mild kvetch.  With the exception of “Hide and Seek, ” “Straight Up And Down,” and “Nailing Honey To The Bee,” they played all the songs you’d want them to (and they may even have played those, but after almost a two-hour set, we braved the D.C. streets.) “Servo,” and  “Vacuum Boots” and “Anemone” were all quite fine.

Anton seemed stronger than he has the last few tours: still hidden behind a burka of forelocks, saying virtually nothing, standing as he always does playing to the stage, not to the crowd.  But his voice was strong, and he’s still with us.  As are those three guys shot out on the street just before the show, and since we haven’t heard otherwise, the driver of that pickup truck terrorizing the leafy interior suburbs of the Nation’s Capital.  Whowouldathunk that The Brian Jonestown Massacre would be the steady counterpoint to the chaos of the streets, or even that in 2010, they’d still be around and kicking hard against beautiful songwriting strummed in perfect unison.

Summer’s Here And The Time Is Right

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 7, 2010 by johnbuckley100

… for getting out of the sweltering East.

Leica M7, Fuji Velvia Film, Summilux 50mm, wide open, 3 second exposure, about 9:30 at night, July 2006

The Decline And Fall of New York Times Rock Writing

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on June 6, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Once upon a time, John Rockwell of The New York Times had power, and he used it brilliantly.  When he wandered down some obscure Downtown alley and found, say, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, when he used his taste-maker’s wand to deem Ms. Lunch important enough to write about, we took notice.  Wow, Lydia, way to go. Rockwell may only have one eye  but his good eye was sharp, his ears pricked, his mind open.  And the guy could write.  I would venture that in his own way, Rockwell was as important a player in our understanding that the Eno-Talking Heads nexus was of world-historical importance as, say, Clement Greenburg was in ensuring Jackson Pollack was taken seriously, or John Swarovski in getting us to understand the meaning of Stephen Shore’s arrival as a photographer.

When Robert Palmer ruled the roost, you had someone who as authentically could tell you about the Jelly Roll Kings playing in a Helena, Arkansas juke joint as he could review Bowie’s new phase.  He could wax passionately about Ornette Colman, The Rolling Stones, or Iggy Pop.  When he wrote, such was our respect that we stepped back to contemplate what he was saying, which sometimes became apparent on more than one level.

That was then. For the past twenty years, the Times has been Pareles-ized, its power diminished by the one-man wrecking ball known as Jon Pareles.  Pareles is the anti-Christgau.  Whereas everything Bob writes is well crafted, and when he offers one of his real raves, you have to give the artist well-earned props.  But Pareles is a truly horrible writer, a man who could render ecstasy on a stage into cardboard prose, filled with faux-learned music terms.  And I’m afraid he’s had the effect of ruining the writing of all around him.

Sure, we liked Ann Powers, and miss Kristine McKenna, and even Neal Strauss had his day.  But then recently, when we read Ben Ratliff pompously harumph about the Stones’ reissue, “I find Exile good, not great,” we realized: these days, the Times’ entire batch of rock critics produce irremediable mush.  Take Nate Chinen’s write-up today of the new Deer Tick album: “These are bright, durable songs, and Mr. McCauley liberates them from any telltale sign of artifice, whether he’s caressing them alone or roughing them up with his band mates, who manage a credible honkey-tonk snarl.”

Oh, puh-leeze.

Dear Mr. Chinen, and Mr. Ratliff, and your colleagues, too: you must leave the Times at once and not return Jon Pareles’ phone calls or email, if you have any prayer of rediscovering that rock’n’roll music is about passion, and feeling, and what moves the listener, not to mention the artist.

It is not to be studied in a dusty library.  It is about sweat, and gyrations, and occasionally about fearfully walking through back alleys, or into juke joints in Arkansas, on the off chance you’ll discover something that moves you.  Being a rock critic is not the same thing as being an actuary in an insurance company, no matter what Jon Pareles says.

Much has been written about the decline and fall of journalism.  It is genuinely sad to say that if you dropped the entire print run of the Times Arts and Leisure section off the Staten Island Ferry, the world of rock music would actually be a better place.

Searching For The New Blitzen Trapper Album “Destroyer Of The Void”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 5, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Do you see it in here?

Probably not, as it’s official release is Tuesday.  Still, if it’s half as good as Furr, we may not listen to much else this summer.

Leica M9, Summilux 50mm, obviously wide open, ISO 80.

Fleshtones Were Best At 9:30 Club 30th Anniversary Fest

Posted in Music with tags , , on June 1, 2010 by johnbuckley100

They only got to play four songs, but at the 9:30 Club’s 30th Anniversary party on a sweltering D.C. Memorial Day, the Fleshtones made the most of their brief opportunity, so much more entertaining than *The Fall, The Pixies, Cracker, X, Luna, Tom Verlaine, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Calexico, Nirvana, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Wilco, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Mekons, Mazzy Star, The Soft Boys, The DBs, The Apples in Stereo, Lou Reed, The Jayhawks, Alejandro Escovedo, Camper Van Beethoven, Sonic Youth, Ryan Adams, The Feelies, New Pornographers, and all the rest who’ve graced the club.  (*Okay, okay, not all of these bands played at the party today, but this is a representative sample of bands we’ve seen at 9:30, in its stanky ol’ F Street origins, as well as its more commodious, air conditioned, smoke free and damned near pleasant home on V Street, which it’s inhabited since the early Clinton Administration.)

It also was great seeing the Slickee Boys play today — the first band I ever saw at the old 9:30 Club, on New Years Eve 1983-84 — and though it’s been more than twenty years since they’ve regularly played together, you wouldn’t have known it from the way Kim Kane and the gang played “When I Go To The Beach.”

The ‘Tones were in excellent shape for a 6:20 PM set on a scorchingly hot holiday.  Fortunately, they’d been able to get over to Tulip Frenzy World Headquarters for a hotdog and a burger each, and maybe a cooling swim.

The 9:30 Club was instantly turned into “Hitsburg USA,”  and every boy and girl started to do the Frug. “Feels Good To Feel” had Ken and Keith kickin’ to Bill’s beat, and when Peter whipped out the  harp, the place just swooned.  “Way Down South” was a reminder that New York’s pride was playing South of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Next thing you knew, Seth Hurwitz, who says The Fleshtones were the first band he ever actually booked at the old 9:30 Club, muscled his way onto Bill’s stool to play drums to “Ride Your Pony.” Thankfully, while standing next to his kit, Bill kept the beat while Seth earnestly kept up.  And then it was over, and not even the promised reunion of Creedence coulda possibly been better.

All of D.C.’s music fans cheered these American treasures — The Fleshtones and the 9:30 Club.  The show may still be going on — there was a rumor the Bad Brains and Fugazi were going to reform for the occasion… okay, I started it…but thank Heaven that America’s hardest working combo set up shop on V Street to get us all in the holiday spirit.  Summer’s here and its time to hear Solid Gold Sound.

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