Sunday, January 31, 2016

What you'll see at the 2016 Philadelphia Auto Show

It's Auto Show time again. It runs through Feb. 7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
In case you missed it, I was live tweeting from the Media Preview Day Jan. 29.
A rep from Volkswagen told me over lunch that Detroit is the one and only A-level auto show. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are B-level shows, and Philadelphia is considered a C-level show. Now doesn't that just give you an inferiority complex? Philly's auto show is a fun time, and we should be proud of it. 700,000 square feet, 250,000 people and influencing $3 billion in sales doesn't sound C-level to me.
Somehow I doubt New York's going to have the Fiat Pope Francis rode in during the 2015 World Meeting of Families, like we have!  
The pope could've had a limousine, but instead chose a compact. The car was auctioned off during the Auto Show's Black Tie Tailgate preview event to benefit Catholic Social Services, Casa Del Carmen, Mercy Hospice and the Philly archdiocesan schools of special education.

One tweet that really got people's attention was of this Kia.
This year, I finally got around to doing a Camp Jeep Test Track ride. That camera wobble was due to the rough terrain of the off road simulation.
The Wrangler's 285 horsepower is sexy, but it only gets 21 mpg highway ... as opposed to the new Honda Civics that get 42. That's the truly great thing about the Philadelphia Auto Show -- you get to see what all the noteworthy manufacturers have to offer (some are even offering test drives) under one roof.
For example, you probably wouldn't think about Rolls Royce if it was out of your price range, but it doesn't hurt to look while you're here.
Dr. Fred Simeone of the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia was on hand at media day to highlight the 50th anniversary of the first American victory in the World Sportscar Championship races, and the cars from the museum's collection that won it all for the U.S. in 1966-1969. The motivation for trying to make a name for the U.S. in world racing, Simeone said, was that Caroll Shelby and Henry Ford Jr. had a mutual dislike for Enzo Ferrari, whose namesake race cars typically dominated the circuit. "Was it a big deal? Was it expensive? You're damn right," Simeone said. The rare 1965 Cobra Daytona Coupe, Ford GT 40 Mark II and Ford GT Mark IV are part of the museum's eye-catching display at the Auto Show.

Besides the new Auto Show eKEY, here are just a few of the other fun interactives at the show.

As the old Exxon ad used to say: "Happy motoring."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brian Bingaman meets Ryan Bingham

Ever since WXPN started championing the music of Americana singer/songwriter Ryan Bingham in 2007-2008, it's given me fits of existential angst: Maybe if my name was a few syllables shorter, and had I been in Texas, I coulda been a contender!
Bingham's song, "The Weary Kind," was the main theme of the movie "Crazy Heart," and won an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. Now that's a rare hat trick!!! Here's "Crazy Heart"'s star, Jeff "The Dude" Bridges, performing it.

I recently fulfilled a professional goal, that I used to joke about ("Who's that guy running around out there imitating my name?!"),  by interviewing Bingham. Here's a link to that story for you. When I asked him what songs he'd like to hear in a Ryan Bingham tribute show -- because you know my next step is to create a "Brian Bingaman Sings the Songs of Ryan Bingham" concert -- he left it wide open. "I just hope that whoever was doing it would play the songs that inspired them," he said.  This would be one of them.

Now how the heck do I get that gravelly, raspy Tom-Waits-meets-Steve-Earle sound? The guy is 34 years old and sounds like that.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Random thoughts on Christmas music

Johnny Mathis wrote on the back cover of one of his Christmas records that every home needs to have some of those seasonal songs. With Philly's 98.1 WOGL sort of joining the early all-Christmas format flip this year, there's just no getting away from it.
*It's a shame that with the all-Christmas terrestrial radio stations in the area -- including More 101 in Philadelphia, 100.7 WLEV in Bethlehem and 99.5 WJBR in Wilmington -- they only actually play a small sample of the wealth of holiday musical offerings out there.
*"Linus and Lucy" by the Vine Guaraldi Trio is NOT a Christmas song, just because it was in "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Please stop treating it like one.

*Despite the passing reference to it snowing Christmas Eve in the opening verse, "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg is more of a New Year's song. When it was originally released in 1980, it entered the top 40 singles chart on Dec. 27.
*This time of year is so weird because it is the only time ever you will hear Wham! (with a double dose of George Michael in "Do They Know It's Christmas" by Band Aid), The Carpenters, Amy Grant and Jose Feliciano on the radio. Does no one remember Jose's top 5 Doors cover from 1968?!

*Walmart Radio is playing some re-makes of Christmas classics that are so terribly done that I want to tune in terrestrial radio to cleanse the bad taste out of my ears. Make that nonsense go away.
*It's the mooost stress-ful time/of the year. Or it's the most wonderful time to drink beer. I also have my own rude, obscene alternate lyrics for the wretchedly campy song "Happy Holidays."
*There's a howler of a bad lyric in "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays:" "From Atlantic to Pacific/Gee, the traffic is terrific." Traffic is never terrific. Horrific would be more accurate.
*Is Dean Martin really as drunk as he sounds on his records, or is that just an act?

*I break into The Beach Boys every time "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" comes on, thanks to Paul Rudd's character in the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marhsall."

*I do my Vince Vaughn impression every time "Here Comes Santa Claus" comes on, thanks to the movie "Fred Claus."
*What's with the threatening tone of the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town?" What happened to peace on earth, and good will to all?
*Someone in particular who gets into the season is Neil Diamond -- a Jew who's recorded at least three Christmas albums. His cover of Adam Sandler's "The Hanukkah Song" is fun.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thanksgiving music

There's no Thanksgiving songs, you say.
With assists last year from "Paste" magazine and WXPN, I found that's not necessarily so. I'll start your Turkey Day soundtrack off with something that didn't turn up on Spotify, "Thanksgiving Prayer" by Johnny Cash. Would love to know how the Man in Black ended up on an episode of, according to the YouTube poster, "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman."

When I was growing up, and without fail traveling to be with my paternal grandmother's side of the family every Thanksgiving, my mom had me convinced that the song that begins "Over the river, and through the woods/to grandmother's house we go" was about Thanksgiving. That was until I recently found "Over the River" by Danny Kaye & The Andrews Sisters, which has lyrics about Christmas. I refuse to believe "Over the River" is a Christmas song! And since I'm a holiday purist -- believing in breathing space for holidays, instead of the overlapping Hallo-Kwanz-ukkah-mas mess advertisers and stores have forced on us -- I can't bring myself to pollute my Thanksgiving playlist with a Christmas song. We'll all be bludgeoned to death by Christmas music soon enough.
Luckily, my wife knows I'm not insane (nor is my mom), and agrees that not only is "Over the River" a Thanksgiving song, but said there is a verse of "Over the River" that ends "Hooray for Thanksgiving Day." So who can tell me where a recording of that variation can be found?
I was also dismayed to find that The Beatles B-side "Thank You Girl" is not on Spotify. Come on, Macca! The world didn't end when The Beatles music was made available on iTunes. Gimme a break! The good news is the cover by The Smithereens is brilliant, and I will reward that band by sharing this interview I did with Pat DiNizio.
So fire up your Spotify and sing along with Arlo Guthrie (I get a kick out of his $14.27 reference from Roger Miller's "Dang Me" in the now-50-year-old "Alice's Restaurant"), through all the thank-you songs I could think of, to Dan Bern's modern-day-Desolation-Row "Thanksgiving Day Parade." Any suggestions you have for additions are encouraged!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Down the YouTube mashup rabbit hole

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're going to tell me that mashups are so 2006. I don't care.
Thought most of them were complete crap until one of my Facebook friends shared this haunting pairing of completely unrelated songs -- "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" by The Pixies. My seal of approval for a mashup, besides if it rhythmically fits, is given if it causes you to appreciate the original songs more.  

Then that cursed YouTube, always at the ready to suggest something related to what you've been searching lately, pointed to another Pixies mashup, "Where is My Mind?" coupled with The Beastie Boys' sadly overlooked War on Terror commentary "In a World Gone Mad."

There's several "Smells Like Teen Spirit" mashups, but the one that makes the most sense is this one with White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," Seven Nation Teen Spirit, if you will  
Then these next two were so good -- because of the polar opposite juxtaposition of overt '70s pop with '80s hard rock -- they brought actual tears to my eyes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Memorable and creative local band names from MGK's 2015 House Band Competition and beyond

Just like covering the Philadelphia Folk Festival, I think being a judge in the WMGK House Band Competition could become an annual thing for me.
A semi-final round Aug. 6 at Havana in New Hope featured mid-day jock Debbi Calton as emcee, and a slate of competing bands whose names are burned into my brain.

  • The band I thought was going to win was Moroccan Sheepherders because of all the wild stuff they had going on stage -- three-piece horn section, multiple singers, a guy on bongos, interesting set list ...

Other favorite local band names I have are Norristown's Jean Claude's Damn Van. And don't forget Crossroads Tavern semi-regular Two For Flinching.
Worcester Township bar The Keystone Lounge has a whole scene of crazy band names to keep an eye out for, among them: Funk Church and Native Maze (as opposed to Native maize). Another of those bands that you can sometimes catch at The Keystone, Mr. Fuzzy & The Barbarian, is scheduled to play the Music on Main Street Lunchtime Concerts series in Lansdale's Railroad Plaza at noon Sept. 9

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New adventures in hi-fi

A visit to my stepdaughter's townhouse greeted me with the surprise that she and her boyfriend had "inherited" a circa 1960 Voice of Music hi-fi record player, manufactured back in the days when people didn't consume their music on the go, unless it was on the car radio.
Some of its functionality has diminished. The other speaker isn't working. And I've either forgotten how to activate the platter drop, or it's not working either.
The young people -- who smartly knew to use a nickel as an anti-skip device -- were impressed how much I was able to improve the sound simply by tweaking the speaker balance, bass and treble. They were also wowed that it was possible to stack 10 records, or more, on the spindle for hours of hands-free party DJ entertainment (which sadly, I was unable to successfully demonstrate). I think the smell the vacuum tubes make when they heat up makes them nervous.
"They're not used to having to do that," my wife explained, reminding me how children of the '90s interface with their music.
Selections we listened to included some latter day vinyl by Phantogram and the first interesting (but not quite classic) album that Pink Floyd ever made, 1971's "Meddle."

And you're welcome for the Pandora's Box of rabbit hole links.