Blogs > Talk about the Passion

It's an old R.E.M. song. Thoughts on music, or whatever else is distracting me, can be found here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: The Psychedelic Furs at the Ardmore Music Hall

The old Brownie's 23 East was jumping Friday Jan. 9.
Perhaps thinking that people had forgotten about them, since they haven't released any new music since 1991, one of the truly great bands of the '80s booked a show at Montgomery County's Ardmore Music Hall. The Psychedelic Furs officially sold the place out a couple weeks before the concert date. So surprise guys, people do still find the music you made -- punk aggression with heartfelt, desperate longing (and a honkin' dollop of saxophone) -- very meaningful. My wife noticed that the audience skewed to people of our "certain age," and gave the evening a vibe of parties she enjoyed back in the day.
Richard Butler still has that wonderfully distinct, nasal, smoky, Johnny-Rotten-snarling rasp, so he sounds cool singing anything. 
Here's a story that appeared in Ticket that reveals that new Furs music is pending.
Priding itself on having good sight lines, my suggestion to the Ardmore Music Hall -- which is an interesting hybrid of a general admission/standing club like the Trocadero with a cabaret having precious-few bar seats -- would be to cap the sell-outs at a slightly smaller number. By the time the Furs took the stage for the roaring opener, "Into You Like a Train," the best view I could get was an under-somebody-else's-butt-level angle.
 Whew! When there's a sell out at Ardmore, get there about when the doors open. You have been warned.
But before I tell you more about The Psychedelic Furs' performance, here's a few words about an unexpected bonus -- an opening set by the Philly band Travel Lanes. Being a fan of the local hook-based roots rock bands Buzz Zeemer and Flight of Mavis, I recognized Frank Brown's voice, which my wife astutely observed has quite a bit of Elvis Costello in it. That led to me tweeting @djcaterina about them, and getting confirmation that yup, that is the Buzz Zeemer guy. Travel Lanes' highlights included the Buzz Zeemer songs "Break My Heart" and "Crush." The latter sounded even better than the BZ recording. They also put an ace spin on The Ramones' "She's the One."
They smartly promoted their Jan. 24 show at Dawson Street Pub, but the deadpan quip of "we're a local band, which you can see ... locally" came across as snarky and rubbed me the wrong way. Dude, you're opening for the freakin' Psychedelic Furs! That's a plum slot for a new group; embrace that with a smidge more gratitude and enthusiasm, please!
 The Furs hit crowd-pleasers like "Pretty in Pink," "Love My Way," "Heaven" and these killer tunes:


 They also mined their catalog for excellent songs like "Until She Comes," "Mr. Jones," "Only You and I," "Run and Run" (which lyrically is kind of a bookend companion song for "Pretty in Pink," IMO) and "Fall," which features this unforgettably sneering punk couplet:
Marry me and be my wife/You can have me all your life
Our love will never end/Parties with stupid friends
LOL -- damn!
Who'd have thunk it ... these songs have aged rather well, especially with the new life breathed into them by the band.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

HGTV is the root of all evil

Every once in a while, the pastor at my church gives a poignant reminder that for all the stressing we do over our material possessions, God doesn't care about all the stuff we have. Contrary to what that '80s bumper sticker said, he who dies with the most toys still dies, and you can't take any of it with you. Our American culture being what it is, that's a hard concept to process.
Take, for example, Home & Garden Television, which has been known to send me into fits of rage.
HGTV's mission -- despite my wife's Playboy Magazine excuse that "I just watch it to get decorating ideas" -- seems to be relentlessly brainwashing us all into believing that what we have is never ever enough.
"House Hunters" gives me such powerful feelings of inadequacy that I feel like blowing my brains out.

"I'd like to know where these neighborhoods are," my wife sometimes says after seeing list prices in excess of $500,000 for houses that are a modest 1,200 square feet. 
Even HGTV nice guys the "Property Brothers" are forced to appease this endless, annoying, greedy parade of whiners that "must have" more bathrooms than they'll ever use, "open concept," hardwood flooring (Have you seen how EXPENSIVE hardwood is?!), granite counter tops (cha-CHING) and stainless steel appliances.

What kind of a message does all this reality TV self-absorbed bitching and moaning send, when there are homeless people right in your "trendy, up and coming" neighborhood that would be grateful to have that house that you're pooh-poohing just because it doesn't have a swimming pool?
At the point my brain turned to mush during a recent marathon of "Love It or List It," [there's a freakin' dollar sign in the word "List" in the show's official logo!] that's when I lost it. This family was living in a pretty nice bungalow, which the husband unfortunately sabotaged by starting numerous improvement projects but never finished. The show's real estate agent, David Visentin -- who's probably the biggest HGTV whiner of them all -- showed the couple one house listed at $1 million and another at $1.25 million. 
I started pacing around the house, yelling: "ONE POINT TWO FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!?"
I get it that the show is shot in Canada, and these are Canadian dollars (I hear that, in typical fake "reality TV" fashion, some of the houses are not even actually on the market, but I will leave that alone). Still, if these idiots had that big of a budget to even be considering houses listed at $1,000,000+ each, why not invest in a contractor that knows what they're doing instead of ruining your house with unfinished projects that, in the long run, cost more to correct?
Eee-gads, these HGTV people are throwing around Monopoly money. Meanwhile, by the time I get that kitchen backsplash my wife covets, it'll be out of style -- perpetuating the cycle of "never stop improving." Or as I like to bluntly put it, spending even more money on stuff you know you eventually won't want any more.
All this, and you still can't take it with you.     

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, December 5, 2014

All About That Bass, my @$$!

  It's one of the dumbest songs of all time, on several different levels.

  1. Check out this analysis by somebody that tortured themselves by paying attention to the lyrics. 

2. The treble and mid-range are also important, so you can hear things like -- oh I don't know --  MELODY and LYRICS. If all I can hear of your music is the bass, how good can it be? The answer is that it isn't.

3. Living next to a 22-year-old knucklehead that has his stereo low-end cranked so high that it sometimes rattles our walls [Um, hellooooo? Dude, there's an invention called the *@!%$)#(* iPod so I don't have to endure your crappy taste in music! Look it up!!], and witnessing vehicles audibly vibrating from the music inside on Main and Washington streets in Telford Borough, I've become quite the connoisseur of bass. This song has no discernible bass line despite being "all about that bass." HAAAH??

4. There's a calypso melody in the refrain of this song, that I know has already been used and re-used, but can't place at the moment. And I could go on about its lack of artistic merit, but several others have already done that for me.   
...And furthermore ...

5.  What the heck is up with the anachronistic early '60s feel of the video? "Hairspray," I guess?

6. How the listeners of WXPN landed "Stairway to Heaven" on a 88 worst songs of all time list (but also put it in the 885 all time best - which is quite a conundrum), but failed to hit this song ...
OMG, you guys really let me down. For shame.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't "Say No" to War on Drugs

It was during the Nixon years when America officially declared a "war on drugs."
Ticket editor Aixa Torregrosa recently asked me what I thought of the Philly band The War on Drugs, and I told her I hadn't yet heard enough to form an opinion even though they've been around for nine years. That was, until I heard this song:

 Ignore the noisy first 33 seconds and the hazy "Day in the Life" shoegaze ending ... but yeah, buddy! It's like Paul Simon meets the dreamy atmospheres of The Ocean Blue with some saxes thrown in.
Right now it looks like they're touring Australia, New Zealand and England -- selling out a lot of these concerts too.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bucks County band with quirky nom-nom releases sixth album

Alternative rock outfit Birdie Num Num and The Spirit Squad -- long-time regulars at John & Peter's in New Hope, by the way -- are up to six full-length albums now with their latest, "Subject to Change."
While making the album, they learned in almost hilariously tragic fashion why analog is dead. They had six reels of old-school tape, which they were planning to spool up, hit record and let run -- something that fits with the Bucks County band's jam-then-develop-the-best-bits style of songwriting. They recorded their first take at their studio, Robot Recordings, only to hear dead silence when they played it back. The playback head of the tape machine was shot. 
Ha, ha, ha "Subject to Change," indeed!
Among the album's tracks that you can hear on the band's Soundcloud page are "The Creek" and "Ride The Pony." 
 Birdie Num Num and The Spirit Squad have had a whopping 36 different members, that have rotated in and out since 1999. But today, they are drummers Todd Mason and J.P. Wasicko, R.J. Gilligan on bass and vocals, Joe Montone on keyboards, and Joe Ujj, who formed Birdie Num Num after a previous band had been courted by the likes of Geffen and Sub Pop during the '90s grunge explosion.
For live shows and more om-Num-Num-Num, go to   

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jazz very near you

The Towamencin-based websites All About Jazz and Jazz Near You are creating a network of affiliates around the world to host jazz house concerts.
 The house concerts concept has been very successful for the Xtreme Folk Scene and the Philadelphia Folksong Society because a house party is a super-intimate and casual environment to enjoy live music. Plus, you can talk to the musicians and get to know their music better. According to Ricci, there are already successful jazz house concert networks in Princeton, Baltimore and Seattle.
As if the idea of a jazz house concert all by itself wasn't the coolest, the Jazz Near You series debuts right here this Friday, Oct. 24, featuring The Jōst Project performing live at the home of the sites’ founder, Michael Ricci. Tickets are $15 a person (you can BYOB) and can be purchased here (it's an Eventbrite page) Once the ticket is purchased, the concert site address will be shared.
One of the band's specialties, Ricci said, is jazz arrangements of familiar '70s music. A quartet scaling back to a trio for this performance, might they be bold enough to take on "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin?

The Jost Project
"It's really about jazz musicians being able to make a living," Ricci said, noting that Chris' Jazz Cafe is still the only full-time jazz venue in Philadelphia.
All About Jazz gets 500,000 to 750,000 unique visitors each month. Jazz Near You launched two years ago; is a website, an e-blast with 170,000 subscribers, an IOS app and more; and can take you to concert calendars for 250 cities. 
Here's a 2011 story, with video, that I did on Ricci. Jazz Near You hadn't been launched yet at the time. 

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hooray for Jim Boggia!

One of my favorite people to talk music with is Reporter Circulation District Manager Gar Webb.
"Have you heard of  Jim Boggia?"
I knew he was a Philly singer/songwriter, who had recorded an eerily spot-on cover of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't be Late)," but that was about it.
I was pushed to learn more after checking out this video.

Besides combining Springsteen's Phil Spectorian bombastic anthem (one of my wife's favorite songs of all time, by the way) with "Over the Rainbow" (a nod to the uke version made famous by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole) perhaps the other most impressive thing about this clip is there are NO dislikes by the extremely snarky, and often off-topic, users of YouTube.
Boggia co-wrote Jaci Velasquez's "Glory"  and has been one of those behind-the-scenes guys, writing commercial jingles, playing/touring with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Amanda Marshall and Bernadette Peters, and occasionally getting plum song placements in a BlackBerry commercial ("Live the Proof") and ABC's "Men in Trees" ("Several Thousand").
Some of you might even remember the Philly local supergroup he was in with Scott Bricklin, Ben Arnold and Joseph Parsons called 4 Way Street.
It looks like his ukelele performances are what's getting him noticed ... and it looks like you just missed him at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville.
But check for more, and don't miss him the next time he's anywhere in the area.

Labels: , , , , , ,