Isn’t the success that’s couched in abject failure the sweetest? Allow me to provide an illustration.
A week ago, I headed to Strange Matter for the sold out Real Estate show. Moments after I walked in the door, I caught a glimpse of a magic marker-scrawled schedule that was sitting on the desk of the ticket-taking station. The whole shindig was exactly 1 hour behind the advertised start. The Diamond Center at 9. Twerps at 10. Real Estate at 11. Normally, I don’t put too much stock in concerts starting on time, but I had to be up at an ungodly hour Friday morning and was beset by an uncharacteristic and unwelcome wave of prudence. Gross. But the Diamond Center put on such a fantastic display in the first opening slot that I completely forgot about my accursed curfew for a while, and I left Strange Matter with the unmistakable feeling that I’d gotten my money’s worth — and then some — even though I didn’t experience a single note of the headlining set.
So I was lucky enough to catch Youth Lagoon on Saturday, March 24, at Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with my friend Travis (you might remember him as the pioneer of the Gaga Challenge) and our music-loving wifeys. The following Friday, our better halves proved that the “better” is short for “better judgement,” as both of our spouses decided to rest up in Richmond in preparation for the Monument 10K, while Travis and I espoused certain sleep deprivation and inflated race times by driving west to Charlottesville with my buddy Josh to catch Reptar at the Southern. Both shows were great, and there was something especially cool about seeing one up in Travis’ neck of the woods and one closer to Richmond inside of a week (OK, so Charlottesville isn’t exactly my neck of the woods, but ever since the Jefferson started stealing a sizable percentage of the good central VA shows, it’s starting to feel that way… but I digress). I thought a fun way to report back on this mini concert series would be for Travis and me to do some yearbook-style superlatives, so let’s dive right in…
Just a quick post about a quick video that hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw it over the weekend. No… a ton of bricks seems way too slow. This video for Jack White’s new song “Sixteen Saltines,” which features a terrifying hellscape where kids are left to their own (apparently) depraved and destructive devices, is more like the audiovisual equivalent of speeding down a residential street at 70 mph and blasting every single mailbox along the way to tiny bits with a baseball bat. The song itself clocks in at just 2:36 — good news, because I don’t know if I could have stood one more moment of this video. Not because it’s gory or scary in a conventional sense, but because it traffics in a special kind of anxiety that may very well have been extracted, Monster’s, Inc.-style, directly from the brains of worried parents whose children are out past curfew. But as hard as it is to watch, and as little interest as I have in watching it again, this is definitely one of the best, most complementary videos I’ve seen in a long, long time. These disturbing, impossible-to-forget images are the perfect face for the song’s aggressive tone and instantaneously catchy “who’s jealous who’s jealous who’s jealous who’s jealous of who” melody. Seriously — listen below or watch above and try to get that puppy out of your head in 5 minutes or less. Ain’tgonnahappen. Look for “Sixteen Saltines” on Jack White’s very first solo album, entitled Blunderbuss, out April 24 (you can pre-order it here).
One of the best things about living in Richmond is the Monument 10K. It’s an incredible event, well worth a trip if you live out of town. There’s so much to love. The frenetic energy. The coordinated costumes. The overflowing goodwill that inspires RVA residents to line the course and cheer on the runners, even when it’s cold and rainy. The fact that many of those residents are holding solo cups that are themselves overflowing with bloody marys and mimosas. The nightmarish brunch scene after the race is over. Wait… that part sucks. All that aside, the best part has to be the live music. A staggering number of local bands plug into strategically located generators and provide entertainment throughout the race, right up until the very last walkers are swept off the course by the van of shame. It’s a herculean musical effort, given that it starts at dawn, lasts up to four hours and the only pay is a race t-shirt and a case of water. So maybe you can understand why I feel guilty as hell that, after several years of playing this gig myself, I ran the race for the very first time last Saturday and… I uhhh… listened to my iPod the entire time. As sacrilegious as this may be, I CAN’T HELP IT — I love the solipsistic trance induced by running with music blasting directly off my ear drums via earbuds and mp3s. It is, without exaggeration, one of my favorite things in the entire universe. And as perfect as Dana Buoy and Fun. proved to be for inducing my hyp-jog-ic state, unbeknownst to me, my friend Travis was taking this idea to a whooooole ‘nuther level. You’re going to think I’m lying when I say this, but I’m not… Travis listened to the Sultan & Ned Shepard remix of Lady Gaga’s song “The Edge of Glory” on repeat FOR THE ENTIRE 10K. That’s 6.2 miles of Gaga. Wild, right? As I understand it, they’ve used similar methods at Gitmo to extract information from suspected terrorists. The moment he told me about his marathon Gaga (non)mix, I knew what I had to do — I had to throw myself into the belly of the very same beast. And that’s just what I did early Wednesday evening, taking off on a 5-mile run with the wind in my face and Lady Gaga burrowing her way deeper and deeper into my consciousness with every step. It was intense, but I lasted 42:34. I believe Travis lasted a solid 20 or so minutes more in the 10K. So… how long can you last? Download the remix here (you can preview the shorter radio edit below) and see how long you can listen on repeat. You don’t have to be running; you can be driving, gardening, cooking, whatever. But proceed with caution. The Gaga Challenge is not for the faint of heart. I have seen the edge of glory, and what has been seen cannot be un-seen. Good luck and godspeed.
The role of the record producer has always been somewhat mysterious to me. I mean, I think I have a pretty good idea of what they do — recruit backing musicians; oversee tracking, mixing and mastering; provide general creative direction, yadda, yadda, yadda – but when I was younger, I pictured the producer as a suit-wearing, arms-crossing grump who hung out in the control room, called people “baby” and yelled things like “You tell that sonofabitch that I’ll rip his head off and shit down his throat!” into a Zack Morris cell phone. Crazy, right? And I realize now that the linchpin that held this warped mental image together was the assumption that the producer was older, wiser and more powerful than the musicians.
Two recent albums have helped sweep away the few remaining shards of this ridiculous image, in large part because their producers are a whole generation younger than the artists they’re advising, and because the artists are already legends in the recording industry. The first of the albums was Mavis Staples’ You Are Not Alone, on which Jeff Tweedy of Wilco — 28 years her junior — has the producer’s credit (he wrote a few songs and played some guitar as well). In a way, it felt like he was curating as much as he was producing and participating, given Staples’ place in the soul canon and the reverence that Tweedy showed in all the interviews that accompanied the album’s release. The whole project had a wonderfully positive feeling to it, and the album itself is fantastic (I wrote a short post about it last May).
You Hear That had its very first birthday over the weekend, and I want to offer a huge THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who have been reading, contributing, and commenting during the last 12 months. Whether you just started reading or have been following along for a while now, it means the world to me that you’re out there, somewhere, smiling at the same stuff that makes me smile. I’m super duper excited to jump into a second year of posting awesome music, tenuous analogies and stupid cat pictures, but before I do, I want to offer you a little something more than just words of thanks …
MERCH!!! As a gift to you wonderful people who make my blog world go round, I’m giving away a limited number* of YHT shirts! All you have to do is send an email to email@example.com with your name, address and preferred size and the merch fairy will drop a shirt on your doorstep. It’s that easy. Delivery time may vary, as the You Hear That Sweat Shop isn’t 100% operational yet (underage textile workers take FOREVER to train UGH), but rest assured, if your request comes in before supplies run out, your goodies are on the way. Now, I originally thought about leaving you with “Birthday” by the Beatles, but I’m pretty sure a Hunger Games hovercraft would appear out of the sky and extraordinarily render me to a remote prison in some ex-Soviet bloc country if I posted a Beatles song, so I’m leaving you with the next best thing — a reggae remix of “Birthday Sex” by Jeremih. Holla!
*How limited is this number? I haven’t quite figured that part out. Math isn’t my thing. If your request doesn’t make it in time, I’ll be sure to let you know so you’re not repeatedly coming home to dashed hopes.
I’ve always considered this blog a safe place to share even the most embarrassing stories/insights/confessions, and today I’d like to share a noteworthy and useful discovery that is shrouded in a fairly thick layer of moral ambiguity. [takes deep breath] OK, here goes…