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.     

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.

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.

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   

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. 

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.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jumping the Shark-nado

I have a guest blogger, who insists on remaining anonymous on the condition of possible future posts. 
The 2013 SyFy original movie, "Sharknado," blew up Twitter for a while, which was enough to warrant making a sequel.

I love disaster flicks. 
"Jaws" is one of my favorite movies, and "2012." I would like to think I have pretty high standards.
After a particularly long, stressful week, the weekend was finally here!!
Come Friday, my head is ringing.  I want nothing more than to turn the week off.   The TV remote is my salvation!
 OMG all day on SyFy nothing but ridiculous mutant sea creatures, the climax being "Sharknado 2: The Second One"!!!  It was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Mindless entertainment … for hours … mutant sharks and octopi.
Finally, after struggling through the original "Sharknado," "Sharknado 2" came on.  It’s awful, but totally entertaining.  I thought nothing of work or real life while watching.  It was so ridiculous, cheesy and campy, that it took me away from the stress of real life.  It has awful reviews, and more comments than I can remember on any other movie on how unbelievably stupid it is.  

But I liked it.
I escaped realty for a bit, and had a wonderful time with my husband watching this horrible piece of film.  It was so needed.  The cameos were a blast!  Andy Dick, Kelly Ripa & Michael Strahan, Kelly Osbourne, Matt Lauer & Al Roker, Billy Ray Cyrus, Robert Klein, Paris Hilton, Jared Fogel  from Subway, Biz Markie, Judd Hircsh (as a TAXI driver), Robert Hays (as an AIRPLANE pilot),  Rachel True, Wil Wheaton,  The Naked Cowboy from NYC, Pepa from Salt ‘n’ Pepa, “Downtown” Julie Brown  and many more.
 I have decided, with all we deal with day to day, there is nothing wrong with some mindless entertainment.  We all need it.  It makes us laugh and gave us hours of discussion outside of the "how was your day?" monotony.
Waiting for “Sharknado 3.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Catching up with former WYSP and WMMR DJ Anita

Once upon a time, radio personalities not only lived in the same metro area that you did (Ahem - Howard Stern, Mario Lopez, Ryan Seacrest, Elvis Duran, Steve Harvey; the list goes on forever), but they were also given the room to have a personality. In Philly, you don't have to go all the way back to Jerry Blavat to find those DJs. In the '80s you had DJs like Anita Gevinson, who did an advice call-in show during her mid-day on-air shift on the old 94 WYSP. "Ask Anita" was such a hit that the station had a promo spoof song about her set to The Cars' "Just What I Needed."

 "I guess I'll just ask Anita/just ask Anita ..." LOL

 Anita has since retired from the radio business, but was tapped by WMGK (where several of her former colleagues are still on the air) to be a judge for their 2014 Houseband Competition. To my surprise, there I was sitting right next to this person that I listened to on the radio in my teens, and thought was the coolest. Working with event emcee Andre "Mr. Beatles" Gardner was an honor, but this was a bonus.

 The above three photos, courtesy of Andre Gardner took the photo above. Our striking-a-pose judge is long-time Philadelphia concert photographer Tom Collins (not his real name).

Anita's outgoing, bubbly persona has not changed at all in 30 years. She still lives in the area and is working on a screenplay of her 2012 autobiography "You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio ... My Wild Rock 'N' Roll Life" (Oooh, nice Joni Mitchell reference).
The cover features Anita's infamous racy photo, where she appears to be naked underneath a bunch of scattered LP records. Presumably it includes her observations about working with rocker Billy Squier as one of the backup singers on his song "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You."

 "He was so Spinal Tap," said Anita of an episode when somebody caught an angry earful from Squier after bringing him a Tab instead of a Diet Coke. I didn't know they even still made Tab in the '80s, did you?
She mused that Billy Squier never seemed to be enjoying his success, which rapidly dried up after 1984.
She also raved about how great the Espy Awards were going to be because of Drake, made some hysterical observations about the fans of one of the Houseband Competition bands, confessed that Googling herself is sometimes embarrassingly unpleasant, and made me crack up laughing a lot.
Well hopefully this sort of changes that part about Google searching her name.
Can't wait to see what a movie version of the book will look like, Anita ... and who plays Warren Zevon.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Philly region bands competing to be WMGK Houseband

Had a great experience judging four cover bands competing for the honor of becoming 102.9 WMGK's next official Houseband. The opening round was held at Malvern's Twenty9 Restaurant.
If you haven't yet heard Mystery Guest, The Paper Shakers, The Tommy Froelich Trio, or Work Release -- who were the victors of Round One -- I recommend going to see all of these talented musicians!

Mystery Guest is from Downingtown. Lead singer Matt Stauffer's natural rasp was great on versions of "Vehicle" (Ides of March, anybody?) and Bob Seger's "Main Street."   

The Paper Shakers, a group of young 'uns from Philadelphia, brought tremendous energy and hipster cool. It hurt to have to judge them on their song selection. "I Fought the Law," "Build Me Up Buttercup, "I Only Want to be With You" and "Johnny B. Goode," are all terrific songs, but you won't hear any of them in MGK's classic rock format.  


Hailing from Coatesville, Tommy Froelich and his trio brought some tasty southern rock and blues. Big, powerful sound for just three guys.

And  I wish I could have seen more of Collegeville's Work Release. The enthusiasm of their posse was noteworthy, but distracting at times. Can't deny that the music was very well done though.

  But wait, there's more!!  Round Two is set for July 31 at Havana, 105 S. Main St., New Hope, with Fuzzy Side Up, Reaction, The Outlits and PixieDix. Performing Aug. 7 at the Craft House, 2310 W. Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, N.J., will be Strange brew, iCDC, The Whitewalls and The Pour Boys. Then on Aug. 14 at Big Heads, 1034 Second Street Pike, Richboro, it's Tangled, Some Assembly Required, Parmageddon and Cool With Me.  These are all Thursday nights, and the music happens with no cover charge from 8 to 11.  The finals will be Aug. 21 at Parx  Casino.
Good luck to all the semi-finalists, who will all be vying for $1,000 of new gear, two days of studio recording time and the opening slot of the Let Freedom Rock Festival.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weird Al's latest ROFL laugh riot

More than 30 years after first grabbing America's attention by spoofing Michael Jackson with "Eat It," Weird Al Yankovic is still living the dream of every nerdy seventh-grade boy -- making a career out of meticulously wicked song parody, enhanced by even more meticulously funny videos.

Still in the process of rolling out eight videos over the course of eight days from his new album (and maybe his last release in the album format, if the reports are accurate), "Mandatory Fun," Weird Al deftly used YouTube (thankfully, no longer having to count on MTV for support) and blew up Twitter (where bad grammar runs rampant) with "Word Crimes," a Schoolhouse Rock deconstruction of Robin Thicke.

"#somecunninglinguist" ... high-larious!  I know I just used quotation marks for emphasis (snicker, snicker), but hopefully he doesn't read my blog post and comment that  I "write like a spastic." One of  the sly things that make this video terrific is the slipping in of a photo of the young Weird Al into the flipping dictionary pages, presumably by the definition of  accordion, a nod to Weird Al's recurring polka medleys of very random songs, and his accordion-heavy first album. And when he scolds those of us who incorrectly describe something as ironic, look for the image of "rain on your wedding day," taking a dig at Alanis Morissette. 

He also knocks it out of the park with the less cerebral "Handy," where HGTV meets Iggy Azalea. 
"Now let me glue 'dat, glue 'dat/And screw 'dat, screw 'dat/Any random chore you got, well I can do 'dat, do 'dat ... I got 99 problems, but a switch ain't one."
I'm crying with laughter just typing that.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Canadian alternative band Royal Canoe playing Philly this week

Six-man Winnipeg group Royal Canoe bring the atmospheric textures of Death Cab For Cutie, '80s synth excess, and the beats and hip-hop sensibilities of Gorillaz. These South by Southwest and Bonnaroo Festival alumni are fresh off a Juno Award and touring behind a new album, "Today We're Believers." They're opening for Bombay Bicycle Club at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday May 7 at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia. Tickets are $22.

Oh, and they have a penchant for crazy videos!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The dark horse at this year's Grammys?

2013 was a large year for Imagine Dragons. At Sunday night's Grammy Awards, they will be up for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, and even performing a duet with rapper Kendrick Lamar (!).
Guest blogging on Talk About the Passion is Brian Bingaman Jr. of Souderton Area High School's "The Arrowhead." This story appeared in "The Arrowhead" Dec. 20, 2013 (It has been edited by me for style). Since it's not easy to find the online version of the school paper ...

Over the past three years, the band Imagine Dragons has made a charge on the alternative rock and pop music industries.
Imagine Dragons started in 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada when lead singer Dan Reynolds met the band’s drummer, Andrew Tolman. Tolman got longtime high school friend Daniel Wayne Sermon to play guitar and various other instruments, like the mandolin. Sermon then added Ben McKee to play the keyboards and complete the band.
It all started coming together for the band during a small gig in a casino in Las Vegas. 
 During the six-hour set, Reynolds collapsed on stage. He came through and finished the set.
“Something about that moment bonded us and made us realize that we were building a connection with people from all over the country,” said Reynolds. 
“We got a standing ovation from all the people at this tiny little casino at 3 a.m. on a weekday in Las Vegas,” said Reynolds.
The band has only gone up since then. In 2010 the band got their start up with releasing two EP’s (Extended Play) titled "Imagine Dragons EP" and "Hell and Silence EP."
 After getting signed by Interscope Records, the band worked with producer Alexander Grant (known as Alex Da Kid) to put out their first major label release, an EP titled "Continued Silence." After its release, the single "It’s Time" came out, and peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Top 100 list.  

After "It’s Time," the band had nowhere to go but up. They started to work on their first album, which they released in the summer of 2012, titled "Night Visions." The album reached No. 2 on the Billboard top 200. 
After "Night Visions," the band started to release hit single after hit single.  
The second single the band released after "It’s Time" was "Radioactive," a song that features an almost electronic feel, with catchy lyrics and beats, the song hit No. 1 on Billboard's alternative rock, and rock charts. 

The third single released, "Demons," with meaningful lyrics and slow tempo, attracted much more than just the alternative rock fans. This single reached No. 2 on Billboard's alternative and rock charts, and also No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.  

 Imagine Dragons' music has been known to feature various instruments, creating a new sound for alternative rock and pop listeners. 
“Their music makes me feel good and energetic,” said junior Gina Reitenauer.  
Imagine Dragons has also taken part in fighting childhood cancer. The band became close to a boy named Tyler Robinson, who at the time was a cancer survivor. Together with his family they created the Tyler Robinson Foundation, which raises money to help the families of kids with cancer to be able to make medical payments and help with bills. 
Unfortunately Robinson’s cancer came back unexpectedly and he died. Even with the loss, the band is still a big part of the foundation, and pays respects to Tyler at each concert. 
On the Tyler Robinson Foundation website, it says his favorite song was "It’s Time." 
The lyrics of the song tied into his story. “The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell” was his “theme” through his treatments. 
The band has made a solid impact on the music industry and its fans. They have branched off into the pop music scene and have reached out to listeners as well. 
Expect more to come from Imagine Dragons in the near future. 
Got an idea for a guest blog post? Email me at or reach out via or Twitter @brianbingaman.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Harleysville indie rocker takes to Kickstarter to make new album

Nathan Allebach, aka Earl, became an "artist to watch" for me ever since I stumbled onto the folk and indie shows he had been organizing at Rock Community Church in Vernfield, Lower Salford.
Since then, he's made the most of opportunities to perform his songs in some prime venues, such as Siren Records in Doylestown, The Note in West Chester, and Milkboy, the North Star Bar and The Fire in Philadelphia, and even playing live on WRFF-FM Radio 104.5. 
Allebach and his ladyfriend, Rachel Moyer, have started making beautiful music together in more ways than one, and are asking fans to help offset the costs of recording their debut album, titled "Repose," via Kickstarter.
Understanding that it takes financial backing to fully realize most major creative projects, Kickstarter was launched in 2009 (the same year as Talk About the Passion) to "crowdfund" the endeavors of artistic types of many stripes. It's a revolutionary game-changer for the arts! If you have enough supporters, it'll take a lot more than one Simon-Cowell-like naysayer to squelch your dreams.
The "Earl and Joy" album has been on Kickstarter since Jan. 6, and the goal is to raise $6,500 in a month. The itemized budget of how much is needed for what is posted to their page. With three weeks to go as of this post, they've received more than $2,000 of support, but still have a ways to go. Pledges of $1 or more come with a variety of thank-you incentive gifts, so check it out.
And meanwhile, here's a link to music by Allebach's Earl & Raine.