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The Gaslight Anthem, Live On Letterman

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As part of the crowd that joined the TGA fan club on day one* I got to go to the “Live At Letterman” taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater tonight, for a live webcast. The band were the musical guest, and then they emptied the theater out and filled it back up with friends, family, some VIP’s, and us, the great unwashed. The band played a brisk 45 minute set, which you can watch right here.

The fact that you can watch it yourself means there is little point in me telling you about it, but I will offer a couple of thoughts. First is that the time on the road is doing them good, I have seen them three times since May and this was the best performance both musically and energetically. I wasn’t wincing at clams or missed cues or thinking that Brian wasn’t hitting the notes. Second, the sound in the theater was PHENOMENAL. (The webcast sound kind of blows. That’s too bad.) The sound mix is something that fans complain about consistently, and I realize this was not their sound person but it was refreshing in the extreme to hear a pristine, clear, proper mix. I thought the pace of the show worked well, I liked the sequence and mix of songs, and still enjoy hearing “Baba O’Riley.” I thought it was interesting that after the recent trend of Brian shedding the guitar for a few numbers, he eschewed that move completely, likely in the service of not wanting to waste time on taking guitars on and off, possibly not wanting to feel awkward without the guitar to hide behind on TV.

It was nice to hear the “leaked” “Here Comes My Man,” giving us a grand total of three songs from Handwritten, but I have to say that this bullshit of not playing the new material live until the album comes out has got to stop. At this point it is just stupid. The band needs to build a new setlist around the new material and they can’t do it if they can’t play it. Most people who are going to go see the band on the upcoming tours are likely going with an expectation of hearing new material since there is a record coming out in less than a month, and yet, the only songs being played are the single, the one that everyone knows because they played it in Australia, and now, the one that appeared on their website for a few hours over the weekend and then just as mysteriously vanished. Mostly, I just want to hear the damn thing already, and I will go see TGA even if there is no new material, but there needs to be new material already.

I appreciated the goodwill of the band getting the people in the fan club into the show, and apparently it was not that hard to get tickets, but the entire process of getting tickets and then getting into the theater was agonizing. As a veteran of multiple Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tapings, NBC runs their operation with military precision. NBC numbers tickets and has different lines and funnels the various groups efficiently. CBS had a VIP queue and a regular folks queue and just could not get their shit together. This, of course, has nothing to do with the band (although when CBS security was lecturing us that if we were sent to the balcony that we shouldn’t complain, we did feel like the fans were getting the short end of the stick) but damn it was annoying. I was also happy to finally be inside the Ed Sullivan Theater, which was just cool to think about.

You know it’s a good night when Alex Rosamilia emerges beaming underneath the hoodie, but everyone had big grins on their faces. I took photos with my camera phone from Row J because I wanted to try to capture some of that. They did good; they even did great. It’s too bad the webcast couldn’t show more of that.


*(a longer post that basically translates into, I am hedging that this band will get big enough that I will be happy to be one of the first people to have joined it, just like I remain delighted that I am a five-digit Pearl Jam fan club member)

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20/20 on “New Wave” from 1979

This was the best you could get for music on television back then, and given the time and the outlet, this is not a terrible report, at all. It has a clue, and it also quells the whole OMG PUNK ROCK HEROIN AND YOU WILL KILL YOUR GIRLFRIEND that was the usual tenor of mainstream media when talking about this music back in the day.

There’s some great footage in here, especially of the Ramones at the Diplomat, the Talking Heads (with an interview w/David Byrne and Jerry Harrison), and the Clash live. I don’t specifically remember watching it, but I can’t imagine I wouldn’t have seen it. At least it wasn’t cringe-inducing for watching with one’s parents.

[Note – I didn’t digitize this or upload it, I just found it somewhere on the internets and it made me chuckle. I wish I could remember who posted it or where I saw it but I do not. Thank you, Person I Do Not Remember.]

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I Want My MTV, 30 Years Later

I know it’s hard to believe now, but MTV used to be cool, or at least interesting. Back at the beginning, when there weren’t a lot of videos, they had to play what they got. They had Pete Townshend and Sting (before he was a total prat) doing commercials. They ran Velvet Underground outtakes and local NYC bands and anything, at all, that they could run to fill the time and space. They had “VJ’s” (instead of DJ, get it?) that actually knew something about music. Martha Quinn used to be a dj at WNYU back when that was my outpost to hear about new music, driving home from my after-school job at the medical records department at the HMO. There was 120 Minutes and The Cutting Edge – both of which you would plan your week around, even if you had figured out how to program your VCR – and the old 60’s videos from Beat Club. There was plenty of crap, to be sure, but there was always something worth watching, something worth talking about.

Everyone I knew had a blank VHS tape on top of their televisions (or better yet, in the VCR) just so that when MTV played something cool you could fly across the room and shove the tape into the machine as quickly as possible. This, of course, rarely worked, so you’d record a video three or four times to try to get as much of it as you could, in different pieces. When a new video came out, you would sit there with the TV on, just waiting, hoping you could guess when it would be, that they might announce it, so you could get the tape into the machine and hit RECORD in time. I once was responsible for the dog eating the chicken that was supposed to be for dinner because I needed to see the “Dancing In The Dark” video premiere, and sat there transfixed in the living room while the dog pulled the plate down off the kitchen table and slurped it right up.

It wasn’t until I moved to Hoboken in 1985 that I actually had MTV at home. The thing everyone forgets is that at the beginning, only people in Manhattan could get MTV, even if you called your cable company and asked for it, just like Pete and Sting and Pat and Adam told you to do. Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island – all SOL. I used to go up to Connecticut and camp out for the weekend if I needed to see something, VHS tapes in tow. (I had convinced my parents to buy the family a VCR for Chanukah back when I was in high school, mostly because I wanted to be able to tape “Friday Night Videos” or “Night Flight”. I STILL HAVE A LOT OF THESE TAPES.) I took over the TV room at my parents’ house in order to watch MTV the Saturday of Live Aid, along with a stack of brand-new VHS tapes.

I remember the weekend MTV ran the entire Monkees series from end to end. People were standing around Maxwell’s, looking at their watches nervously: “I gotta get home and change the tape,” and everyone knew what they were talking about. No one made up excuses or pretended they were going home for any other reason. There was some snobbery over the people taping at EP vs those taping at SP. I lived at Second and Adams and could have taped at SP and still seen whoever was playing that night in the back room, but was too broke at the time to dedicate that many tapes to the Monkees. (That was when a brick of high-quality VHS tapes was considered a thoughtful gift for any occasion.)

And then, of course, it changed, like everything changes, when there’s a chance to monetize and synergize and reach for the low-hanging fruit and all of that. “Rock the Casbah,” which was amazing back in the day, seems so incredibly low rent for a band on a major – an indie label wouldn’t make a video that looked like that now. MTV played it at least once an hour, and at one point I owned a stuffed armadillo I got as a birthday present because of that video. (Go find it on YouTube. I’ll wait.)

I write about all of this, and remember when it felt like you were part of this secret club – I would call my friends when a particularly good or rare video was on! – and it seems so quaint and old-fashioned in a horse-and-buggy way in the age of YouTube and instant gratification. It was this tiny blip in time that changed so much about music and promotion and marketing and the way people looked at and found out about music.

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RIP, Don Kirshner

Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert changed my life.

I was watching it long before I probably should have. I would strike these deals with our babysitters on Saturdays, if they let me stay up to watch Don Kirshner, I would make sure the rest of the kids (and there were four of us) would behave and go to bed with no problem. This worked on all of our sitters except Ann from next door, who – because she LIVED NEXT DOOR – felt a need to be more accountable than the other random girls who showed up at our house to watch us while my parents went out.

I’d like to figure out how I even knew about this television show. I was pop music crazy at a young age, I was riding my bike to the record store to get the printouts of each week’s Top 40, I was calculating allowance to figure out what I could afford to buy (at 79 cents per 45), I was already a huge fan of both American Bandstand and Soul Train, I regularly requested songs on the local radio station, I would turn the dial slowly to get WLS in from Chicago and try to find stations on the other side of the state, in Detroit. All of that stuff makes sense, but my need to watch Alice Cooper or Roxy Music on Rock Concert at the age of 7 or 8? Where the hell did that come from? Because that is when I was doing it. We lived in Michigan from 69-74 and I was definitely hooked on Rock Concert the last two years, at least.

There’s a Chrissie Hynde quote that knowing that there were guys like Iggy Pop and Brian Jones out there made it hard for her to take anything or anyone local seriously, and that was how I felt about Rock Concert. I was too young to go to concerts (although I tried SO HARD to get my mom to take me to see the Jackson Five), I was too young to afford proper record albums, but I had this magic thing on Saturday nights and I would do anything to make sure I could watch it. If you watch it now – and there are some on youtube – you will think: lame. But in the early 70s to a girl trapped in a tiny town (my mother reminds me to this day that she got us out of there before it had done too much damage) that show was everything that rock and roll was supposed to represent, which was dark and smoky and dangerous and free.

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Thoughts On Bruce Springsteen on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

Golden ticket!!! #fb

I had written off being able to attend this taping, until I got a text at 2:50 telling me to be at 30 Rock by 3:30. I got shin splints on the way over because I was walking so fast. I am so glad I was there, because if I’d watched it on tv later I would have kicked myself for not trying to get in. You’ve seen it on TV already (or can go watch it online) so I won’t reprise the entire evening. So, just a few thoughts:

  • I hated “Whip Your Hair”. He started playing it and at first I hated that we were going to waste 15 minutes to a Jimmy Fallon comedy bit. When Bruce walked out, at first I was hoping it wasn’t him but rather someone else dressed as him but within a second I realized it was him and I couldn’t believe it. I hated it. I hated everything about it. I hated that that disposable piece of garbage was elevated as though it added something to the culture. I hated that they spent all that time that could have been another song, more discussion, or PLAYING THE ENTIRE “BECAUSE THE NIGHT” INSTEAD OF CUTTING IT SHORT. I am sure Bruce was just being a good sport but it just felt like pandering to the lowest common denominator and he does not need to do that. It’s going to go viral and people who have never cared about Bruce Springsteen will be talking about it like it’s the greatest thing ever, when it has absolutely nothing at all to do with anything he’s done in his entire career. Hell, the Dancing In The Dark outtake video has more artistic merit than this did. I get that he didn’t do Fallon for people like me; he did Fallon to reach a different demographic. But reach them by playing the shit out of your material with the Roots, or allowing them to use your material for an episode of “Glee” – not by talking down to your audience.
  • I was thrilled that the “OMG BRUCE GAVE JIMMY THE ESQUIRE TO USE ON THE EMMYS” rumor was officially debunked.
  • I thought the interview was fantastic. I am sure Jimmy was nervous, but he managed to contrain his fanboy tendencies long enough to get a great interview out of Bruce – not the most willing interview subject – and keep him on track, which is more than even Jon Stewart was able to do. I don’t care if it was all the work of a research staff, Jimmy still had to ask the questions and keep the interview moving.
  • THE ROOTS. I have been so, so excited to see them with Bruce since this was announced. I loved Bruce saying that “Wiggle Wobble” was a song that the Roots could play the heck out of, and then them turning around, finding it on the internet, and learning it in two minutes. (No joke. Questlove tweeted, “the panic of less than two minutes of cramming that “wiggle wobble” song w/o rehearsing was worth it to see the look on their face.”) The song performances were UNBELIEVABLE in the studio – one of the few times that I have seen rock and roll in a tv show taping that actually resembled the performance I saw on TV later. I personally would kill or die to see them do some shows with Bruce. Please read this amazing Tweet from Questlove after the show.
  • Did you see the State of NJ on the front of Questlove’s kick drum?
  • The revelation that “Fire” was, indeed, written for Elvis, FINALLY.
  • BRUCE AND STEVE TOGETHER TALKING. Why hasn’t this been done before? That three minutes alone dwarfs the entire two hours on Sirius Monday night. “I wanted to call it a bunch of lost arguments.” Dear lord, this should have been ten times longer.
  • There were no edits or retakes, except the last intro before “Save My Love,” Jimmy cracked up and had to redo it. There were no additional songs, except for Bruce jamming with the Roots on the music in the breaks and in the outro, which you never saw because they ran way over.
  • And finally, when Bruce mentioned “It’s All For The Love Of Rock And Roll” and one person clapped – well, that was me. I yelled “CBGB’s” at him because it was the best way I could say something that would be understood given the circumstances. Honestly, I had no idea that song was that obscure and did not know I would be the only one clapping – Handsome Dick Manitoba was in the house too – it was like Tourette’s. I couldn’t help myself. Needless to say I was floored. It is a great fucking song and he SHOULD cover it. This is also where I will point out that in 2005, I presented a paper at the first Springsteen symposium entitled “Action In The Streets: Bruce Springsteen and Punk Rock”. (Frankly, I think there’s a more than a little revisionist history in the fanbase these days, because this was never a popular line of thinking before – but suddenly everyone is okay with punk rock and Bruce acknowledging his punk influences. Better late than never I guess.)
  • GO ON TOUR WITH THE ROOTS. DO A CHRISTMAS SHOW WITH THE ROOTS. DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING WITH THE ROOTS. That is all.
  • If all of this wasn’t enough, I was by myself and somehow got seated in the front row on the stage right side Still reeling.

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Everest on Jimmy Fallon

This is not objective. This is flat-out gratuitous promotion for a friend’s band. But it is also more than that.

My friend Joel Graves is the very busy guitarist on stage left of this clip. I have known Joel for what seems like forever; when I try to explain to people I’ve just met as to why I am there, I start with “I have seen every band Joel has been in (except one)” and “He’s like my brother.” There is something incredibly special to support a friend’s success; as someone struggling with her own art, it is also incredibly uplifting to stand witness to artistic achievement. Which is, I guess, a complicated way to say that I am proud of my friend and happy for him. But luckily, there is more to it than that.

See, I fucking LOVE Everest, and would go see them even if I didn’t know anyone in the band. As I was explaining to someone yesterday, I have been to see all of Joel’s bands, but I have not gushingly given witness about all of them. That is a complicated way of saying that this band is good and worth your time. They are back in NYC next week to play a CMJ showcase at the Mercury Lounge on Thursday and to open for My Morning Jacket at Terminal 5 on Saturday and I am fucking stoked to see the shows. I get mad if someone tries to talk to me while they are onstage.

They are very, very good, if you dig the kind of thing they do. I just love how much space and soar and fullness is present in their music. I love how they are continuing to grow and blossom every single time I hear or see them. The road sucks, but it remains a time-worn way to make your band lock together and shimmer like hell. It helps to have a genuinely talented bunch of people to begin with, but the repetition and the muscle memory and the ability to step up together and turn it on helps. It just does.

Even the Roots dug them, Questlove tweeting about them mid set (the dude has an ipad with Twitter loaded as part of his drumkit. Seriously).

They are on tour until the end of November, by themselves and with various other folk. You should go.

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the who. the halftime show.

The official Caryn L. Rose line on the Who’s Super Bowl performance is this: I do not think it was terrible.

Let’s get this out of the way: It didn’t top Bruce. It didn’t top Prince. It didn’t top U2. But it did make me cry, just a little. I cried because I love/d them. I cried because they are old. I cried because I am old. I cried because the music of my youth is dying. I cried because Roger can’t go onstage shirtless anymore. I cried because John is dead, because I never got to see Keith, because there is no one else like them, no one who comes close to them.

I know I am not objective. I know I am emotional and irrational and have a stormy history with this band. But they were the first band I loved insanely. I do not have to be objective.

The performance tonight was a rock band – one of THE rock bands – playing onstage. Just playing. In a few years we will all forget what that was like, a band, just playing onstage, without gimmicks or theatrics. There are no more bands like this, who form when they are young and stick together 20, 30, 40 years. Consider that U2 is the only band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that still has their original members. Think about this. It was not the Who at their best, but this era is not them at their best. They are old. They have aged. Roger’s voice, which he coddled for years, has not held up. At least he has learned to not to try to hit the notes and miss them, he has figured out how to modulate around them and still deliver a solid performance. But it is not power screaming Roger Daltrey, and if you are looking for that, you are better off watching The Kids Are Alright on repeat. You don’t go for that. Or if you do, you’re not very smart.

You go for the emotional heartstrings being played, and they can still do that. I got goosebumps when “Won’t Get Fooled Again” started. I got goosebumps during “Listening To You”. If you didn’t then these aren’t your songs, this isn’t your band, you don’t care about rock and roll and it’s just background music to you. And I get that this might not be relevant to you. But there’s an awful lot of people to whom it was relevant. Those people are also getting old along with Roger and Pete and in a few years you can have Lady Gaga doing the halftime show for you instead.

Pete, Roger, Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Rabbit Bundrick on keys. Simon Townshend filling in the gaps (who I have forgiven previous transgressions due to his work with Roger on his solo tour). This is the Who core right now, and it is sad in a way that I was relieved that it was the people I already know and not someone new. I liked the staging, I liked the clear drums with the target cymbals (okay I LOVED the target cymbals), I liked how I was not seeing the camera cut to audience plants who have no idea who this is or have never seen the band before and could mostly care less. The connection with the audience was a big part of what the Who was, but you weren’t going to get it here. The lighting and setup were topnotch.

Zak was remarkably restrained and so was Pete and I think that put a damper on the energy. Not enough guitar, too much keyboard in the mix. When Pete did play, it was fantastic, melodic, compact – which is a freaking challenge in a medley of songs that don’t easily lend themselves to being medley-ized, in a band that was never about brevity (remember Pete in TKAA going on about Kit Lambert giving him a hard time about songs being more than “2 minutes 50”). But the BIGGEST problem, hands down, was the fucking JACKET. For years we have all gotten on his case for his need to wear expensive suits onstage, which he then spends the entire fucking show moving and adjusting and it gets in the way and causes him to miss solos and notes and windmills. WHY ON EARTH DID YOU DECIDE TO WEAR IT TONIGHT? “It’s just not windmill conducive,” to quote a friend texting me after the show.

Roger hit the scream on WGFA and that was all that mattered. The look of relief on his face when it was over showed just how nervous he was.

I haven’t seen them live since the tour when John died, out at the Gorge, when I yelled at the thunder for taking the Ox from us. I wasn’t going to see Roger on the most recent solo outing until a friend gave me a free ticket. I will probably go this time around, because this time will likely be goodbye.

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VU

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Lou Reed, Mo Tucker and Doug Yule in conversation with David Fricke, Live at the New York Public Library

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Patti Smith: A Salute to Robert Frank


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
17 October 2009

I keep trying to figure out what it means to be American.
When I look at myself I see Abyssinia, nineteenth-Century France, but I can’t recognize what makes me American. I think about Robert Frank’s photographs – broke down jukeboxes in Gallup, New Mexico, swaying hips and spurs, ponytails and syphilitic cowpokes, hash slinges, the glowing black tarp of US 285 and the Hoboken stars and stripes.

Patti wrote the words above in 1971. I thought about those words as I walked through the new Frank exhibit at the Met. I thought about Bruce Springsteen describing Bob Dylan a few weeks ago – “it was the country I recognized” – and how both of those sentiments describe what it was like being in the same room with “the Hoboken stars and stripes”.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should. You should go see the exhibit or at least know the work. Maybe I’m a cultural snob. Maybe I’m completely unoriginal, just another pseudo-bohemian claiming the usual cultural touchstones. But it was powerful to be in the same room as those photographs for the first time. They are as much a part of my cultural DNA as anything I have ever read or listened to. They are as much an influence on me as an artist as anything else.

It was the country I recognized.

The event at the Met today – as Patti put it, “This year’s event” – was to celebrate that. It was songs and readings that tied back into “what it means to be American”. She relayed some stories about Robert Frank (who was supposed to have been there but was unable to be at the last minute). She read Walt Whitman and EB White and sang “Southern Cross” for Jim Carroll. She read Burroughs and Lenny sang Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Patti sitting cross-legged on the stage watching him. She read Carl Sandburg and sang Sons of the Pioneers, read Emma Lazarus and sang Gogi Grant. Patti talked about what she remembered, what she thought she remembered, what she wanted to remember. The songs were supposed to be songs Robert and his family could have heard while driving around the country taking the photos that became The Americans.

Jesse and her boyfriend (and at this point I should have his name, and I’m sure someone will come on here and chide me for not remembering it) provided instrumental accompaniment to the readings. Patti noted that the music was composed by the two of them. It provided a pleasant background.

They finished with “Ghost Dance” and “People Have The Power,” and then Patti came back out, pulled out what I recognized in row O as the Pocket Poets volume of Howl (Patti noting that this particular book was usually kept in a box as she had it with her as she sat in vigil at Ginsburg’s bedside), and proceeded to read “Footnote to Howl,” which was, to me, the most astonishing part of the performance. Part of it was because it came at the end and the audience wasn’t interacting with it in any kind of traditional way, it caught them off guard, there was no polite, confused applause at the end of it. At first I thought it was an afterthought, but then realized that of course it was not, that it tied all of it together, all of the influences and backstory of the work.

I have to go back, and see it again, and think about it harder. I first saw these photos when I was 17 and they still make me think. Patti noted that Robert still teaches her. I understand, I think, at least a little.

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elvis costello – spectacle

I am so out of the loop i only barely heard that this was happening, and saw the opportunities for tickets and dismissed them.

Until the one came through listing as follows:

APRIL 15
Bill Clinton

APRIL 16
Lou Reed

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