Monday, May 25, 2009

Sad Day

On a day meant to remember all the people who have served this country, news is breaking about the death of Jay Bennett, the former member of Wilco who contributed greatly to, arguably, the band's best three-record run.

I'm going to be fuzzy on the dates, but the time was back in 2002, and Bennett and collaborator Edward Burch had recently released the very, very good "The Palace at 4 a.m." The duo were preparing to play a show at one of Boston's smaller clubs, while Wilco, the group that booted him from their ranks no more than a year ago, was absolutely blowing up and performing at a much bigger venue a day or two later.

I was supposed to meet Bennett to talk about "The Palace" and starting his solo career. The piece was to run in a local zine, as part of a package with stuff on Wilco. I got to a local bar with the idea that I had maybe 30 minutes with Jay, and that he really didn't want to talk about the Wilco experience, except his contributions on what was then one of the most lauded records in recent memory, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."

I remember I was actually kind of nervous, which is odd for me. I had to talked Jay once before, backstage at a Newport Folk Festival, and he wasn't exactly chatty. I figured, under the circumstances, he wasn't going to be again. Boy was I wrong.

We actually spent about two hours drinking and talking. It got to the point where we had to leave unfinished beer on the table to run over to the club because it was getting close to showtime. It was a great interview, one of the best I've ever done. Jay was candid, talkative, honest and, really, just a nice guy.

At that point, Wilco was indisputably my favorite band. I loved them. I couldn't believe they got rid of Bennett. He was a huge contributor to "Summerteeth," an amazing, amazing record. I really wanted to get Bennett's side of the story, which he'd barely given out at that point.

The ironic thing is that my editor on the piece didn't really care that I got such a big part of the story; he really only wanted a short piece to augment the big one about Wilco. Most of my story ended up on the cutting room floor. But I'll always have that interview. I know it sounds cheesy and like I'm only writing this now because he's dead, but, at the time, I was a 23-year-old guy without many long interviews with famous musicians under my belt. That interview gave me a lot of confidence, and I've told this to many people over the years.

So while people are out barbecuing and celebrating the holiday, hopefully some of you will remember Jay Bennett, a guy that, no matter how he died, leaves behind a significant contribution to, inarguably, two of the greatest records of the past 20 years. And he made some very underrated solo discs.

Here's a clip of Bennett and Wilco's frontman Jeff Tweedy playing together as a duo years ago. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meet Frank Masso

Frank Masso and I have some things in common.

He lives in Connecticut. I live in Connecticut.

He's presumably at least somewhat Italian. I am Italian.

He guests on radio and TV shows occasionally. Sometimes I guest on radio and TV shows.

He thinks the media can do a better job. I think the media can do a better job.

And Frank Masso doesn't want to attend Gathering of the Vibes. And I certainly don't want to attend Gathering of the Vibes.

That's about where the similarities end, I think.

Frank Masso seemingly runs the Bible Prophecy Ministry. He's a looney-tune Christian. I don't run any organizations and am not a loony-tune Christian.

Frank decided to send me a letter this week. Let's just say I'm happy to have received such a letter. It's chock-full of information I had no idea about. Once I got through the myriad of spelling mistakes, horrendous grammar and lack of proofreading, I was able to learn a whole lot of new things.

For example, did you know that David Crosby, who will perform at the Vibes in late July, "is out to steal young people from their parents (sic) world and get them to replace their value systems"? Neither did I.

Frank did. Thank you, Frank, for sharing.

You see, Frank hates rock music. And rap music. And any other kind of music that doesn't sing about loving Jesus. Oh, and he also hates anybody who doesn't love Jesus as much as him. For example, did you know that (I'm leaving exact grammar) "In a recent vibes concert the Wailers were advertised as a feature band! No one mentioned the fact that the Wailers advocate marijuana and they also belong to the Rastafarian Cult! They believe Haile Selassie is the Messiah - not Jesus Christ!"

That doesn't make Frank happy. According to his bio that he included in his loving and thoughtful letter, Masso booked rock concerts in Connecticut from 1968-1980. Then he found Jesus. Then he wrote a pamphlet that "proves many of the rock and roll music acts promotes (sic) drugs / alcohol / rebellion / perverted sex / the occult and even satanism in their lyrics / quotes / cd cover designs / etc...! Some of the rock and roll musical acts Frank (editor's note: yes, first person!) exposes are Alice Cooper / Black Sabbath / Cult / Fleetwood Mac / Iggy Pop / Led Zeppelin / Prince / Slayer / Twisted Sister / ZZ Top / etc...!"

But don't worry, it's not all bad news. In this pamphlet, Frank also "includes the plan of salvation which explains how to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and make heaven your home for eternity!"
I am so glad this came. How would I have ever known, otherwise, that the Black Crowes "advocate marijuana" and that Phil Lesh has "destroyed his liver as a result of alcohol and drug abuse over the years!"?

Frank also has done some extensive reporting for his letter. I mean, he puts my journalistic cred to shame. You know what he found out? It's amazing. Frank must have gone deep undercover because he talked to musicians! He withholds their names, but says that some musicians who played at the Vibes, a noted jam-band festival, will never go back "due to the amount of drugs and alcohol usage they saw going on in the musicians quarters." Oh my god!

Oh, and don't think Frank only likes to talk to men. No way. He also spoke with a "female musician." You know what she said? She said that "many of the male musicians at event (sic) kept telling her they wanted have sex with her at the event grounds anytime she is ready!"

Folks, I could go and on, but I don't want you to get all your information from me. You can get your free pamphlet by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to Frank Masso, Bible Prophecy Ministry, PO Box 2713, Bridgeport, CT, 06608. Please tell him Pat sent you.

In all seriousness, I can't stand people like good ol' Frank. But I am so glad when they send me letters. In gives me material for this here blog. I have no idea where that video above came from, but doesn't it make this entry that much more priceless to see what Frank looks like?

But, like I said, at least Frank and I agree on one thing. No Vibes for us. Maybe we can get a beer together instead?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Oh, Wow

This article makes me happier than happy.

As many of you know, I simply love Peter Gabriel too much. And as someone who's written for a lot of indie magazines, it's quite amazing to me that Magnet is featuring the man.

Let's just say that magazines like Magnet, internally and in print, have never been not too kind toward prog rock, always lumping the excesses of bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer into the same stories about great acts like Gabriel and Genesis.

With all that said, I agree with most of this. But, to call "Games Without Frontiers" overrated is just plain ignorant. It's one of the smartest, hippest and most surprising pop songs. Take a listen. This tune charted.

Anyway, I must now get back to work and interviewing people.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Maybe I'm Insensitive

So I haven't seen last night's season finale of "The Amazing Race." I did DVR it, however, and will watch it at some point. I know who won though.

"TAR" isn't my favorite show or anything, but it's something I do enjoy watching if it's a good season, and a friend of time told me this season was really good. I trust certain people's advice, so I've seen about half of the episodes.

How could I watch last night, though? The biggest night for Boston sports in my life, maybe. Bruins playing for their season, Celtics looking to even up a playoff series and, of course, the Sox looking to win a series from the devilish Rays.

But "TAR" went down. I didn't see it. Here's my problem. According to this wire story, the end featured a "heartbreaking" loss for the show's first deaf contestant. I think the entire season should be a considered a "heartbreaking" showcase for deaf people in general.

I know this is going to sound harsh, but there are a lot worse things you can be than being deaf. I'm sure most deaf people would agree with me. Maybe I shouldn't say this because, of course, I'm not deaf. But this guy was the whiniest, most immature 22-year-old television's seen in a while. He was teamed with his mom. If I whined like he did to my mom when I was 22, it wouldn't have been pretty.

Look, I've never been deaf — except for a few weeks in December of 2006 when my sinuses made me not hear — and I've never had any kind of disability, so I'm not good at empathizing. But, in college, one of my good friends was deaf. He wasn't a whiny immature dude. And, of course, "TAR" is a response to "Survivor," and a deaf contestant has been featured on "Survivor." She represented deaf people everywhere wonderfully. This guy represented whiny, immature folks wonderfully. So, yeah, sorry, this was not a heartbreaking ending.

In other news, Hugh Jackman had a perm. If you read this blog enough, you know I hate Hugh Jackman. But it does make me happy to know he had a perm.

For all you kidlets reading this here blog, Kate Voegele is over at Toad's Place tonight. I guess she's been on the show "One Tree Hill" as a guest star for multiple episodes. I wouldn't know these things, but I'm assured the kiddies love her. Go check it out. I thought her upcoming record was, um, OK.

I guess that's all I got today. I'm going to leave you with a video from Wye Oak, a band that's at Cafe Nine Friday. I wish I could go so badly it's making me cry inside. I don't want Wedding Weekend to begin. Please make it go away.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Less Than Two Weeks ...

Oh, yeah, for those of you like me — people who've been looking forward to the upcoming Green Day record — here's a great story about the years in between the great "American Idiot" and the upcoming "21st Century Breakdown."

Monday Missives

Here we are, the beginning of the week. Yep, it's Monday. I know most people hate Mondays, but I actually don't mind them. I work a decent amount on Sundays, my weekdays are very similar to weekends and, weirdly, I tend to get more sleep during the week anyway. I bet you care about all of this.

So with that all said for no particular reason, let's talk as I sit, type and wonder whether the Red Sox-Yankees game that I'm supposed to attend tonight will get canceled. Who knows? I just don't want to drive all that way for nothing, especially with two killer basketball games tonight.

Anyway, so Britney Spears. If you haven't already, you can read my review of Saturday's show here. Supposedly, some crazed fan stormed the stage last night, which makes me sad. I would have liked to see that.

Let's start with the most important point, though, since my friend, Ryan Thomas Dixon, who went to the show with me, thinks my sarcasm didn't come through enough in earlier posts. I disagree. I'm a sarcastically funny boy. It's true.

But, yeah, so the concert was pretty good. It's hard to call it a concert, though, since there wasn't any singing or anything. As a spectacle, or erotic-carnival theatrical piece, the performance was totally entertaining. A whole lot of thought and cash went into its planning. Who thought up half-naked men doing a "sexual welding" dance? I mean, I would have liked to be in the brainstorming meeting when someone was like, "Hey, what if we get some dudes, strip them down to some S&M underwear, and make them weld stuff, just sexually?" That's how it must have gone.

As a veteran of Madonna, Justin Timberlake, New Kids on the Block and Beyonce shows, I expected a crowd of many scantily clad 25-40-year-old women, gay men and a few unhappy-looking boyfriends/husbands. That's the demographic at these shows. Here, though, there were a lot parents with their kids. Yet this was not a family friendly show. Not a bit. There was lots of skin, lots of simulated sex and some scary/risque videos. If you let a 10-year-old sit through this show, your parenting skills should be questioned.

All in all, though, I'm happy I went. I wouldn't call it my kind of thing, but I think what Ryan said as we were leaving sums it up pretty well: "I think I enjoyed that more than any 30-year-old guy should have." It's true. It was a good way to spend a Saturday night, especially since I got to eat oysters and bluefish beforehand and made it back to good ol' New Haven in time to play a nice long game of poker. That, my friends, is a fun little evening.

To get an idea of the show, here's a clip:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Aeroplane Rides

As I sit here at home, mentally preparing myself for what will be a trying evening with Ms. Britney Spears, I wanted to make a quick note about Aeroplane, 1929, the sort-of New Haven-based band that played The Space last night with The Smyrk.

Many of you know how much I love the group, which features three New Haveners and a couple members from Springfield, Mass. But, because of a few different reasons, the guys haven't played the area in a little bit of time. So I had to make sure to catch them last night. Man, they sounded better than usual. I can't explain enough how much they need to be checked out. Aeroplane is easily one of the top two or three bands from here right now. Seriously.

With all that said, the band has a tentatively scheduled CD-release party coming up at Cafe Nine. The gig's supposed to go down July 22. You're going to want to catch this.

Photo courtesy of Simone Gutkin

PS: Here's an acoustic performance from Aeroplane, playing the tune "Flag & Crucifix":