Sunday, March 30, 2008

Womad 2008 - random notes... [belated]

Arrive Friday afternoon, check out the Govett Brewster Gallery for my Len Lye fix. Hang with my NP rellies and give Friday night a miss - hear later that Sharon Jones joined Mavis Staples for one song on Staples' Friday set. Damn.

Arrive Saturday arvo on the festival site, after a pleasant stroll thru Pukekura Park. Check out Kora, grooving and moving. They sounded great, apart from a brief lapse into Eurotrash techno - their influences may be broad, but do they have to explore every single one? Still, the crowd loved em, and they looked like they were having a great time onstage.

Hung round after Kora played, had dinner (butter chicken and naan) while watching a kapa haka group, with Mt Taranaki in the distance. Nice.

Watched the Dapkings set up and soundcheck, while on the grass in front of the stage Zac Condon and Beirut try and get to grips with playing cricket. The overarm bowling thing got em, kept bowling like it was baseball.

The Dapkings hit the stage at 7pm, all snappy suits and funky grooves. MC and guitarist Binky Griptite warms up the crowd, welcoming us to this special Womad edition of the Daptone Super Soul Revue. After a few tunes, he bids us to welcome Ms Sharon Jones to the stage, and this little ball of dynamite blasts into view and tears the stage apart for the next 45 minutes. No gaps between songs, just the band leader (and bass player) Bosco Mann calling the changes (found out later they never use a setlist - damn they tight) .

Then Ms Jones and the band exit. The crowd goes nuts, then Binky Griptite comes back out, holding a glass of red wine, dead casual, and asks the crowd if they want some more? The response is yes please. "Do you want some more?" Yes! "So, are you telling me, we could have a crowd-control situation of you don't get some more?" YES!!!! So the band and Ms Jones return to the stage and rip thru a few more numbers before departing. Sharon sings about all the difficulties she has faced as a singer, from people in the music industry telling her she was too short, too fat, too black, too old. And how she stuck with it, and look at her now. The crowd loved her to bits. And the response to their show on Sunday night was no different.

Sharon Jones and Bosco Mann (Gabriel Roth) took part in an event they had on a small stage set up with lounge chairs, called Artists In Conversation, an interview-format session with different performers. Sharon talked about how she was a prison guard at Rikers Island before joining up with the Dapkings. She was playing in a wedding band, and Bosco was DJing at a wedding she was playing at. He played the instrumental flipside of a single he had, and Sharon sung along, and no-one could believe she wasn't lipsyncing. Later, Bosco was doing some recording on a tune and they needed three backing vocalists, and the sax player he was working with suggested his girlfriend, which was Sharon. She came in and said well, I can sing all three parts, so why don't you just pay me instead?

The interview was conducted by the very able Nick Bollinger (Listener /National Radio - pictured above, on the left), and near the end they opened it up to questions from the audience. I got in a question to Bosco, asking about whats involved in producing vinyl. He talked a little about mastering and so forth, then got onto the pressing plant they use, which is United Record Pressing in Nashville. He's had a tour of it, when they've been down that way playing. He said it's like something straight out of the 70s, especially the offices. There's an apartment above the offices, which was built to accommodate the like of Motown's Berry Gordy when he'd come to do business with the plant, as none of the motels in Nashville would let him stay. (Photos here)

Bosco also mentioned the printing shop down the street, that prints their record labels. "They don't print flyers, stickers, posters - just record labels". He said that you phone up the owner, and say "Hey how's it going?" and he has a standard response - "Printing em square, cutting em round".

Bosco's enthusiasm for vinyl was evident in the way he talked about getting home with a new record, putting it on the turntable, then listening to the first side - he likes to listen to it 5 or 6 times before turning it over and listening to the second side. He said that albums used to be about 20 minutes a side, but now, you have artists filling up 80 minutes on a CD with nonsense like comedy skits, which he suggested was not really their area of expertise (or word to that effect).

Mid-conversation, Bosco stopped for a moment and sniffed the air, as some smell wafted by. "What's that, some food?" said Sharon. "No, I think it's something else," said Bosco, grinning (it was herb). "And thats another thing, you can't roll a joint on an MP3".

He also noted that the whole downloading/MP3/iPod culture seemed to be about quantity - "So, you've got 80,000 songs on your watch - so what?"

(And I got my latest Dapkings album signed, and got a photo of me with the lovely Ms Jones - ADDED below. And I bought the t-shirt).

Also saw Mavis Staples, Tibetan throat singers, Neil Finn, Beirut ("This is the first time we've ever played in front of a moat!"), Terem Quartet, some crazy gypsies, Cambodian guitar god Master Kong Nay & Ouch Savy, SJD, so much more. Very inspiring weekend. And scored four stellar vintage shirts from the Pio Pio opshop - $5 fill a bag. Awesome.



Further reading - NZHerald's Steven Shaw Sharon Jones steals the show, Full Womad report. NZH's Alan Perrott - See Womad and dye.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I saw a great documentary at the Film Festival last year, called Helvetica, which, as you can guess form the title, is all about said typeface. Helvetica celebrated its 50th birthday last year too. You can catch fresh screenings of Helvetica at the World Cinema Showcase which starts this week (check the schedule here). Go see it!

That is all.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 22
Grover Washington Jr - Knucklehead
Restless soul - Turn me out dub
Overproof sound system - The model
Lightning head - Area boy
Roots Radics - A friend in need
The Lions - Giving up food for Jah
The Lions - Jungle struttin
Mystic moods - Cosmic sea
The Clash - Rude can't fail
Skatalites - Beardsman ska
Matumbi - Reggae stuff
Cocoa tea - Barak Obama
Beat conductor - Carribean path
Phil Cohran - Loud mouth
Kora - Culture
Portishead - Magic doors
Carlos Nino - Find a way
Herbie Mann - Muscle shoals nitty gritty
Sharon Jones and the Dapkings - How do i let a good man down?
Sharon Jones and the Dapkings - How long do I have to wait for you? (Ticklah remix)
Nicole Willis vs the Dynamics -Feeling free
Mikey Dread - Signal one
Komac - Harry's record machine
Dengue fever - Mr Orange
Mighty Mo - The next message

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 8
Phil Cohran - Frankiphone blues
Hypnotic brass ensemble - Brass in Africa
Modern sound quintet - Sugar daddy
Herbie Hancock - Palm grease
Ocote soul sounds - Look sharp
Dub Setsuko - Groovy, man, groovy
St Etienne - Only love can break your heart
Hopeton Lewis - Express yourself
Ken Boothe - Arte bella
Top cat - Request the style
The Lions - Jungle struttin
Restless soul - Turn me out
Erykah Badu - Telephone
Sharon Jones and the Dapkings - Something's changed
Reuben Bell - Superjock
Don Covay - Sookie sookie
Kingites - Whistling in the dark
Muhsinah - Construction
Phil Cohran - Malcolm X
Meters - People say
Mike Nock Underground - Space bugaloo
Mavis Staples - Eyes on the prize
Jackie Mittoo - Chicken and booze
Horace Andy - Rock to sleep
Roots combination - Horny dub
Erykah Badu - Twinkle
Lightning head - Area boy
Carlos Nino - Find a way

Thursday, March 20, 2008

• "The DJs in The Rub have been putting together mixes chronicling the history of hip-hop--with each mix being devoted to one year, beginning in 1979--and right now they have a hard drive-busting 21 volumes up. (A few of the earlier mixes are available via ZShare downloads, no doubt to alleviate bandwidth costs.) [The Rub, via Rapidshare]" Hat tip to Idolator

• Video for the new Portishead single, Machinegun.

• SXSW pipe dreams- "The "Vinyl Revival" panel at SXSW ... went through the typical pattern of production processes, distribution and whatnot, but when the Q&A started, things really sprang to life - especially when one member of the audience, a representative from Sony BMG, mentioned that his parent company is working on releasing its entire back catalog on vinyl." Link

• EMIs buried treasure - Mojo reports.
"LIVING IS HARD, the latest release on the Honest Jons label, is the first to draw from “The Hayes Archive” – a treasure trove of recordings, owned by EMI, of performances dating back to the 19th Century. Trancey Albanian folk, mind-expanding Georgian organ rounds and the Japanese Emperor’s ceremonial band share shelfspace in the suburban Middlesex storage facility with Elgar and The Beatles – all recorded by EMI and its forerunners.

“It’s a magical place,” says Honest Jons’ Mark Ainley. “You couldn’t kick a football to the other end of it. You turn these huge wheels to move the shelves about. They could crush you – it’s like something out of Batman.”

Ainley’s special interest – which he shares with Honest Jons patron and EMI artist Damon Albarn – is in the archive’s mind-boggling cornucopia of international music, most of it unheard since its release, some of it never released at all. “You go in there and there’s, like 1500 Turkish 78s in a row, in catalogue number order. Did I have a guide? No, you just have to go in and literally get your hands dirty. These are ancient paper sleeves that just crumble to dust in your hands.”

Living Is Hard, subtitled “West African Music In Britain 1927-1929” is the first of “ten or so” compilations that will eventually profit from Mark Ainley’s archival burrowings. The next Hayes-related release on Honest Jons will be a compilation of Iraqi music, followed by a more wide-ranging sampler, followed by music from Iran, Greece, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus."

... Honest Jons have just been picked up for local distribution in NZ, so their recordings should become easier to find. They are generally quite pricey tho.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RIP Mikey Dread.
Passed away aged 54. "Radio disc jock Mikey Dread is dead. He succumbed to a brain tumour late yesterday afternoon at his family home in Connecticut, USA at the age of 54. Born Michael Campbell in Port Antonio, Jamaica, he distinguished himself as an extraordinary studio engineer and presenter at the now defunct Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) where he came to prominence in the 1970s as "The Dread-the-Control Tower", the name of the late night show he presented at a time when reggae music was scoffed at by many." Link.

Got back from Womad last night, full report coming. But I just have to tell you - Sharon Jones and the Dapkings were phenomenal. Incredible singer, great band, fantastic live show. Truly inspirational and deeply, deeply funky.

More soon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Iggy and his ray of light
At the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, they inducted The Ventures, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five and Madonna, but not Iggy and the Stooges. They did get Iggy and co to come out and play a Madge song (video), which sounds like dirty Detroit karaoke, but wait for the end of the song, when Ig recites Like a Virgin as if it were beat poetry. And Madge sits there, stone-faced. The the camera follows them offstage, and you get to see the band walk thru the kitchen area, where they meet Madge backstage for a suck-up moment with the press. Rock n roll, kids. And then there's Stooges bass player (and former member of Ciccione Youth) Mike Watt grooving on shaking her hand.

Fave moment - Iggy wanders into the crowd mid-song, exhorting them to "feel something". Everyone remains seated at their dining tables. Hat tip to Idolator.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

French people are mad
Here's proof. Brooklyn band Yeasayer (the NY Times says they're part of a new alt-rock wave outta NY, so it must be true) singing acapella on the Paris subway after their show, then climbing up 11 flights of stairs to someone's apartment, to play a few songs round the piano, with a bunch of Parisians joining in on the chorus, and banging on the floors til the neighbours complain. Outstanding video.

NYT... "[Yeaysayer's] songs are tribal yet futuristic, with flashes of African and Middle Eastern melody, and tangles of electronic effects that recall 1970s progressive rock..."

More madness...
Was digging in the bins at Real Groovy at the weekend, and a mate passed me this record (see below - cheers, Julien!), and I had to get it, cos its got Knucklehead, classic b-boy break. But the cover - what is with 70s jazz dudes who play wind instruments getting their shirts off on their covers? (see Herbie Mann)

Speaking of funky vinyl...
"The first Auckland Vinyl Record Collectors Fair for 2008, will take place this Saturday March 15 at Polish House, Morningside. Stalls include New Zealand vinyl and music posters and foreign, 60s, rare, dance, reggae etc vinyl. Murray Cammick will be there, selling more funk and soul vinyl. The event also has stalls selling turntables & accessories.

The venue is the Polish House Hall, 1 McDonald St, on the corner of Ethel Road, off Sandringham Road, opposite Eden Park. The fair runs from 10am to 3pm. $2 entry fee."

... And Conch Records just got a new shipment in, and Unity Books is on sale, and I found a copy of Ginger Baker in Africa on DVD at the weekend too. He takes off from England to visit his mate Fela Kuti in Nigeria, going across the Sahara desert in a Range Rover. Madness ensues.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Steel jazz bebop - my new fave genre
"Still Around by the Rudy Smith Quartet is the first record Rudy Smith made under his own name after the Modern Sound Quartet. Now, if you’re wondering what steel pan music is, you should stop what you’re doing and watch the mindboggling live video here. Rudy Smith apparently recorded this album while living in Denmark with Ole Mathiessen on piano, Niels Prøstholm on bass and the South African Gilbert Matthews on drums. Steel drums are generally used for traditional Afro-Caribbean pan music, but Rudy makes use of them in a bebop & jazz context." Source: Undomondo.

I'm currently listening to Otinku by Modern Sound Quintet (get it here), jazzy 70s biz from Harold Vick on Strata East, the new Erykah Badu album, and Muhsinah, a singer from Washington DC who sounds a hella lot like Georgia Anne Muldrow. It's a funky, jazzy time.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Attention audio snobs.

Do coat hangers sound as good as Monster cables?
By Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing

200803031241"The cables made by Monster Cable (the company that enjoys suing other companies that have the word "monster" in their name) sound no better than coat hangers, according to a man who ran a blindfold test to compare the quality of audio running through each. Can you tell the difference between music that passed through a pricey Monster stereo Cable, and a coat hanger?

A reader forwarded us a post from the Audioholics Home Theater Forum and its author says no. He says his brother ran an experiment on him and four other audio aficionados listening to a new CD from a new group blindfolded. Seven different songs were played, each time heard with the speaker hooked up to Monster Cables, and the other time, hooked up to coat hanger wire. Nobody could determine which was the Monster Cable and which was the coat hanger.

The kicker? None of the subjects even knew that coat hangers were going to be used."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ring The Alarm playlist, BaseFM, March 1
Restless soul - Turn me out
MIA - 20 dollar
Joe Gibbs - Colour TV
Junior Murvin -Cool out
Joe Gibbs - Heavy duty dub
Sharon Jones and Dapkings - How do I let a good man down? (Live, KEXP)
War -Southern part of Texas
New mastersounds - Witness
Recloose - Solomon's alive
Don Drummond & Skatalites - Man in the street
Chosen few -Do your thing
Buddy Miles - Them changes
Freddie Cruger - I feel quote whatever
Freddi Henchi - Funky to the bone
Beat conductor - Caribbean path
Dr Tree -Eugino D
Chico Hamilton - El toro (Mark de Clive Lowe remix)
KRS One & DJ Premier - Criminal minded 2008
Gorillaz - Feel good inc (Kut Korners reggae remix)
DJ C and Quality Diamond - Let it Billie
Round 4 feat Tikiman - Find a way
Solomonic sound - Children of Israel
Little dragon - Test