Archive for September, 2015

D.C.’s H Street Festival Has Gotten Huge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 20, 2015 by johnbuckley100

H Street Festival-2

Time was when the H Street Corridor — the last section of D.C. to burn in the days following the assassination of Dr. King — was a symbol of D.C.’s decline.  These days, it’s a symbol of the city’s revival.

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Even two years ago, the H Street Festival in September drew maybe 50,000 visitors.  Yesterday, though, it seemed the whole city came out.  Or put differently, the multi-ethnic city was drawn, even if just for an afternoon, to a stretch of town with new amenities and much easier coexistence than existed here even a decade ago.

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Sure, you had the guys from the Nation of Islam seeing a neighborhood almost unrecognizable from what it looked like 20 years ago.

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But you also had young artists showing their wares near The Rock and Roll Hotel, which seemed to have started the trend, eight or nine years ago, in which the H Street Corridor became a natural rival to U Street for urban nightlife.

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It was a perfect September day, a little warm, maybe, but with perfect light.

H Street Festival

H Street Festival Wonk

And everywhere we went, we were reminded of the uniqueness of our city, where wonks carry the world on their shoulders.

Ought’s “Sun Coming Down” Is A Left-Field Entrant For Album Of The Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 20, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Most bands that invite comparisons to The Fall — from the Pixies to the Breeders to Pavement — are so categorized because of the guitar sound.  Montreal’s Ought, who last week released a pretty stunning sophomore album, Sun Coming Down, travel a different path: guitarist and singer Tim Darcy sounds remarkably like that great misanthrope, Mark E. Smith, whose nasally sprechengesang once emerged from the speakers we listened to far more often than contemporaries such as Bono, Paul Westerberg, and Black Francis.

Ought packs a wallop, and mostly tunefully.  Trying to place them taxonomically would likely have them slotted near the Parquet Courts, but it’s hard to get around the fact that Mr. Darcy revels in his singing-talking of repeated phrases to such an extent the Fall are never far from mind.

And that’s a good thing!  If your memory goes back to the ’80s, it was a long slog from the emergence of X early in the decade to the arrival of the Pixies at the end, with — let’s face it — only The Replacements, Fleshtones, REM, U2, the Mekons, and Elvis Costello generating much enthusiasm in between.  A trio of albums in the mid-part of the decade — The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, The Nation’s Saving Grace, and Bend Sinister — stood heads and tails above all contemporaries.  And now comes Ought, one-time college chums in Montreal who clearly spent a lot of time studying those records and the Manchester band’s earlier output, and we give them an A+ for their diligence and enthusiasm.

Sometimes a band sound like their heroes and, while fun to listen to, you can dismiss them for second-rate imitation, a derivation without promise.  And sometimes there is a band like the Velvet Underground that spawns an entire multi-generation genre such that their derivates become a favorite category in and of themselves: from the Modern Lovers to the Talking Heads, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Luna and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Listening to Darcy sing, “What is that sensation” over and over on “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and being able to place it perfectly in the context of the earlier band, we feel alright, we feel optimistic, we know we’ll be listening to these guys for a long time to come.

Worries

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Worries on a beautiful day.  Leica M, 35mm Summicron Asph FLE.

H Street Festival Worries

Marching From The Royal Palace

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Bangkok, 2007.  Leica M8, 35mm Summilux Asph.

Bangkok Royal Palace

On Widowspeak’s “All Yours,” The Sugar High Is Gone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 17, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Two instruments vie for notice in Widowspeak’s music — Molly Hamilton’s pretty, ethereal voice and Robert Earl Thomas’s canny, spare guitar.  We have raved about their earlier work, but also worried that what Hamilton and Thomas too often deliver yields a sugar high.  Earlier work has been short on the gritty substance needed to sustain interest, not just over the long haul, but over a single album.  And yet, from the moment early in the summer that we heard “Girls,” a standout track on their recently released All Yours, it was clear that Widowspeak have matured into the fine band they have promised to be ever since the release of their initial, Jarvis Tavaniere-produced album.

The connection to Woods goes beyond Tavaniere, as All Yours reportedly comprises Hamilton and Thomas recording with Woods’ rhythm section in bucolic Columbia County.  Emigrants from Brooklyn, the couple have removed themselves from the hipsters’ paradise and by the banks of the Hudson produced their best music yet.  There were moments on Almanac, their second record, that were magical, but it was too often a cloying confection.  On All Yours, the songwriting is strong, the singing is gorgeous without being thinner than air, and Thomas’s guitar work shows lean muscle mass.  Think of the best tracks Syd Straw cut with The Golden Paliminos, Neko Case singing with the Mekons.  This is one dream pop album that sticks in your head even as the substance sticks to your ribs.

Introducing Tulip Frenzy Photography: Images By John Buckley

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 2, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Tulip Frenzy Photos

Some years ago, when Tulip Frenzy launched, I gave it a subtitle: “Commentary On Music (Mostly), With An Occasional Photo.” Over time, though, Tulip Frenzy became a blog in which I published photos and occasionally wrote about music. It’s not that music became less important to me.  Clearly, my passion for photography became more intense, even as fewer were the albums or concerts that could prompt the kind of fanzine gushing that was the motivation for much of the writing in the early days.

So last week, I began publishing Tulip Frenzy Photography: Images By John Buckley, a freestanding site on which I’ll exhibit, and possibly sell, my photography.

Think of it as a sister site to Tulip Frenzy.  Bookmark it if you’d like.  Rest assured that I will still publish both the occasional photo and the occasional music piece on Tulip Frenzy.  But if the photos are worth a damn, you may see them migrate into gallery space on the sister site.  I hope you like it.

Get Ready For Richard Hell’s “Massive Pissed Love,” Out October 12th

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 2, 2015 by johnbuckley100

This morning, in his amusing pan of Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless, Dwight Garner* reminded us that most rock stars’ memoirs are pretty bad. (“With her new memoir, “Reckless,” Ms. Hynde proves that she can compete with male rock stars in another essential way. She’s written a book that’s just as slack and disappointing as so many of theirs have been.”) The way it should work but doesn’t is that the quality of the memoir should match the quality of the music, that the great rock stars write great autobiographies and the bad ones should write bad ones.  While the latter is certainly true, or so we believe without having actually read, you know, Nicki Sixxe’s opus, only a few rocker memoirs we can think of — Keith Richard’s Life, Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards — are of a quality equal to their output and meaning as musicians.

And then there is Richard Hell, whose literary output at this point certainly exceeds in volume what he accomplished on his albums with the Voidoids, or his work with Television, Dim Stars, and The Heartbreakers.  Beginning with his novel Go Now all the way up through his superb memoir I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, Hell has done something remarkable: he has produced writing that thrills me every bit as much as his albums did.  And remember, his albums had Bob Quine playing guitar on them…

We thought his memoir was one of the best autobiogs ever, and not just in comparison to *real* rock’n’roll autobiographies, but even posted up against those literary works like Emmett Grogan’s Ringolevio or Jim Carroll’s The Basketball DiariesIt’s great because the story’s great, even if you didn’t witness some of it, as we did, and know some of the characters in it, as we do.  It’s one of the best books ever about moving to the Bright Lights, Big City, and this particular city was New York in the ’70s, and Hell didn’t just move there and noodle around, though he did a bit of that; he helped create some of the best music of the era in the hands-down best era of music.  Uh, New York in the ’70s. And then he became a writer.  A good one.

Last year we marveled that the very best thing about New York Magazine‘s series of essays about New York musicians was Hell’s piece on the Velvet Underground.  And through a subsequent email Richard led us to his essay in Rock And Roll Cage Matchwhich depicts the whozebetter battle between the Stones and the Velvets — one of the best essays about two of our favorite bands, ever.

So imagine how thrilled we were to get notice that Hell’s Massive Pissed Love: Nonfiction 2001-2014 will be published on October 12th, and that Richard will do a launch reading/signing at The Strand on the 14th.  We can’t wait.

* Jesus, Dwight Garner wins the day, also publishing this about the 40th Anniversary of Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train.

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