All posts filed under: Music

A Warped Tour: One Lunachick’s Life on the Road

It was 1999, a full-on, hot and sweaty Summer. We were getting ready to go on the infamous Vans Warped Tour that is ironically — or un-ironically — touring for the very last time this year. By “we,” I mean me and my BFF’s — three friends from Laguardia High School with a big sister from another mister who, in 1987, started an all-female band called the Lunachicks. We did it for shits and giggles, but it became an accidental career. All of our favorite local bands had broken up, died from heroin overdoses, or other accidents, or literally just disappeared into the ether. (That happened, but that’s another story.) So we figured we’d just make our own thing. Each one of us — Squid, Gina, Sindi and me — all had good, diverse musical tastes. We liked everything from Funkadelic to The Runaways to The Stooges, to Black Sabbath to KISS…. Just for starters. And we just thought playing in a band would be a good time. By 1999 we had been doing it …

Rise: The Midlife Mixtape

Numerous studies show the link between a high-energy playlist and the uplift in mood it can inspire. And when it comes to songs that play on the word “rise,” there’s no shortage of tunes that remind us to get up and keep trying, no matter how dark things seem. A RISE playlist may not be a cure, but if all it does is help us uncurl from the fetal position and take stock of what we do next, that’s a pretty good place to start. “Rise to the Sun” – Alabama Shakes. Sometimes it’s a victory just to get up and power through your day. It’s especially daunting when your goals feel infinity miles away, or as Alabama Shakes sing, “Well, my eyes are full of stars, But I just can’t reach ’em… oh, how high they are.” Take comfort in knowing you’re in good company in the struggle, and take heart in the fierceness of Brittany Howard’s vocals. “The Rising” – Bruce Springsteen Off his 2002 album of the same name, this Bruce Springsteen …

The Best Voice in the World Is… Need You Ask?

For the most part, I don’t trust most people’s taste in music. To debate a musical topic or question with someone is to know for sure that you and your opponent have a shared music-listening lineage and appreciation or, at the very least, the two of you share a mutual understanding and interest for the music that one of you likes that the other person doesn’t. For me, someone with a baseline understanding of many musical genres, the mutual understanding thing is tricky, especially when the mutuality is to be established with: 1. A non-black person — especially a non-black person who hasn’t spent much time around black people. 2. A black person who hasn’t spent much time around non-black people 3. A much-younger person — any race, doesn’t matter. 3a. Case in point: my much-younger white coworker who didn’t know Bananarama’s “Venus” outside of the razor commercial (which until writing this piece and being schooled by our beloved EIC Margit I didn’t know was originally sung by the Dutch garage band Shocking Blue) 3b. …

10 Ways We Remember When Music Was a “Thing”

 Remember when music was a physical object — before it was just an ethereal file floating from one digital device to another? There were technical snafus, social mores and some heavy lifting that went along with the era of vinyl and magnetic tape. Herein, a few: 1. Using a pencil to fix an unraveling cassette tape. 2. Moving boxes and boxes of LPs from dorm room to apartment to apartment (Sorry, Dad.) 3. Merging record and CD collections with your partner. My rule: Do not merge until married. (And even then, Dave Matthews is never allowed to mingle) via GIPHY 4. Taping over someone else’s mixtape. The ultimate diss.  5. Using Scotch tape as a cassette-tape wonder tool. By taping over the little notches on top to record a mixtape over an unwanted cassette. 6. 8-Track Tapes And that satisfying sound of the 8-track tape clicking and connecting into its gears in your parents’ Buick Regal car radio. 7. When people actually cared about speakers. via GIPHY 8. Losing the 45 spider Aka that little …

Lift Every Voice And Sing: A Q&A with Activist and Singer Abby Dobson

The night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, two black feminist icons — Alice Walker and Angela Davis — spoke at the annual Peace Ball in Washington, D.C. offering two key messages about the intersection of art and activism. Walker revealed that the creation of art was one of her five tools of resistance. Davis noted that right now, “We need art, we need music, we need poetry.” Davis and Walker both understand the healing power of art, especially for women who feel under assault under the current administration. Jamaican-born Abby Dobson is a vocalist who carries with her both the activism of Angela and the art of Alice in her song. Dobson says she uses her gifts to birth powerful “genre-nonconforming” music, which is deeply resonant, at times mournful, in turns joyful, but always authentic. Dobson is currently Artist in Residence for the African American Policy Forum, a gender-equity organization founded by the “mother of intersectionality,” Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw. Dobson was featured in Crenshaw’s TED Talk (see below) singing as part of the #SayHerName campaign, a movement to bring …

Midlife Mixtape: Albums, Books and Other Music-Inspired Gifts

O Holy Night, it’s already end of November and I’ve done zero holiday shopping so far this year – whoops. Normally all that’s left for me buy by December 1 are the tangerines for the toe of the Christmas stocking (that go uneaten in favor of the chocolate, but at least I try for the healthy option.) Not this year –  2016 kept knocking me down every time I got up. Suck it, 2016. No tangerine for you. I do, however, have lots of ideas for Christmahannakwaanzukah gifts for the music lovers, book readers, and sense of humor-havers in your lives. Some caveats: I believe in paying creative people for their work, so I still buy albums and print books (for which the musician/author gets a much higher royalty percentage.) I encourage you to shop locally. And this year in particular, I’m trying to find products that are made in parts of our country where manufacturing jobs have been lost. Maybe if people weren’t so disaffected and hopeless about the economy, they wouldn’t have been …

Here’s Your Protest Playlist: 11 Songs to Fight the Power

One of the things we love about music is its power to tap straight into the emotions you need to feel and get out, the ones that defy words and logic. This week saw me put in my earbuds and walk and walk and walk, finding messages in every song I heard that helped me process shock, disappointment and fear. I’m trying to be ready to move on. And if you are too, I’m sharing a list of inspirational protest songs to fuel you for the hard work ahead of us. What would you add to the list? “Can’t You Tell?”  — Aimee Mann In the run up to this election, Dave Eggers’ 30 Days, 30 Songs project saw artists released 30 songs in the days leading up to Election Day, “united in our desire to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump.” It’s no longer a campaign but a presidency, which just makes the need for creative protest and creative community more urgent. I mean, as Aimee Mann notes, it’s not like …

How Prince Brought Unlikely Music Fans Together – and Turned Us Purple

The world turned purple when Prince died. Civic buildings and bridges in his Minneapolis home town and around the world were awash in his signature color. On Saturday night, heading out of San Francisco south on highway 280, with Sirius XM’s Prince tribute channel on the radio, we passed a suburban mall’s roadside message board flashing Prince’s glyph, the control tower and international terminal of San Francisco International Airport glowing purple ahead of us in the distance. As a fragmented society, we agree on so little, culturally. But we agree on Prince. And we agree on how to celebrate him. By allying himself so inextricably with a color (and, later, a symbol — turns out, he was a branding genius), Prince left us with a natural way to express our grief and love for him in the public space, writ large and without words. It may feel like no artist’s passing has ever been so publicly and universally mourned , but that’s not entirely true. When John Lennon was murdered in 1980, the shock of it …

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What’s Inside That Vault at Paisley Park?

In 2006, I walked through the front door of Paisley Park for arguably one of the un-coolest reasons ever: as a member of a team filming self-help videos for AOL. That’s because in addition to being the Purple One’s lair, Paisley Park is a production studio for hire. I wasn’t there to record soul tracks, but to tape a segment with the author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I expected the 65,000-square foot facility to resemble a Wonka-esque factory, but the outside looked more like a shiny white office park. In the wake of Prince’s death, his inner circle is undoubtedly debating the facility’s future, including turning it into a museum. Ten years ago, parts of the inside already seemed like a shrine. Off the lobby was a hallway with a timeline of Prince’s major accomplishments, featuring larger-than-life images of his bikini-bottom Controversy years and jazzy period when he put on more clothes and dropped from pop culture consciousness. The car grill from the cover of Sign ‘O’ The Times was hanging in the …

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Prince Gave Me a Condition of the Heart

In the mid-‘80s, when I’d get home from school, my parents were still at work. Sometimes I’d eat cereal and watch TV or get on the phone with friends. But very often I’d pull out Prince’s 1999 and play “D.M.S.R.” on the family turntable and dance across the dark brown wall-to-wall carpet in my living room, using the staircase landing as a stage. I gave Purple Rain its due, too. I mean, it was the ‘80s; who didn’t? But “D.M.S.R.” was my jam, and I played it over and over and one more time after that. I only danced in my living room when I was alone, not because I was shy — I love dancing, and I’m good at it — but because it was like a meditation that I didn’t know I was doing. It was me creating a space where I could be my authentic self and let it all out, long before I could put words to what I was doing. My parents were music lovers who bought records all the time, …

A “Young American” Remembers David Bowie

Bowie was my everything music – the alpha and omega. He was the artist who singlehandedly turned me on to sound. So when he passed yesterday, I was demolished. In his last album Blackstar, Bowie continued to tweak musical boundaries, creating a bleaker version of himself — a Major Tom still in outer space.  In hindsight, his customarily freaky and brilliant videos clearly hint at his coming demise. I wrote a little something a few years ago for my friend Nancy Davis Kho’s Midlife Mixtape site about one of my favorite Bowie albums that was still in heavy rotation — Young Americans. On the occasion of his passing, I thought I’d share that here. I’ll miss you David. Gone but never, ever forgotten — your legacy lives on in every musician and fan. ** As an 8-year-old in mid ‘70s Philadelphia, I’d rise most school days to the snap and crackle of WFIL-AM, and the Bay City Rollers, Starland Vocal Band or Hot Chocolate imploring me to get up, “you sexy thing.” Whatever that meant. (I also used to sing, “Voulez vous couchez avec …

Madonna’s Most Beautiful Love Song

In 1985, I was 16 years old and spent my weekend nights cruising the streets of Kansas City in my 1979 Fiat Strada. I realize now that a four-door hatchback is not every teenage girl’s dream, but I loved that car because it was mine, because it gave me freedom, and because it had a really great stereo system. I spent most of the money from my part-time job on cassette tapes that would become the soundtrack of my teenage years—The Bangles, the Go-Go’s, Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. I was a straight girl back then, though my interest in the women of pop music should have probably been a clue. It wasn’t, however, and it took me years to figure it all out. Now, when I look back on my deep feelings for each of those women, I ask myself one question: Did I want to be them or did I want to do them? This is a very important distinction. Upon much reflection, I can say without a doubt that I wanted to do …

After The Alt-Weekly, Where Will You Find Your Roots?

Wednesday morning! Better get up and see what you can pitch to Pat. Then you remember. After 34 years, there is no more tempting your editor with tidbits of roots music. Philadelphia City Paper has been purchased by the competition and put down. But why, why would I put in 34 years in the first place? It wasn’t the next-to-no money nor the non-existent recognition. (“Hey, are you still writing for City Paper?” asks an old friend who should know.) No, it was purely to share the joy of music that is made by the people and for the people. What is Roots music? Think the old story songs and ballads of an Appalachian town. The community of union organizers like Joe Hill, who would write barbed anti-boss lyrics to familiar tunes. Hill’s memory is being recalled this year on the 100th anniversary of death. The Freedom Singers who were invaluable aid to civil rights marches of the 60s. They, too, would take a familiar melody, gospel especially and lead the crowd in unison, adding …

15 Women Reveal Their Madonna “Life Moments”

Where were you when Madonna told you to Express Yourself? Had you been living in a Material World? Cherish-ing your boy toy? Desperately seeking a place to Vogue? We asked our contributors and friends for those moments in time when Madge was the backdrop to their lives — the soundtrack, the fashion, the filmic inspiration and even a dinner party companion.   “Borderline” I tried out for Drill Team in junior high to the song “Borderline.” I didn’t like Madonna. I had no desire to try out for drill team. I had no dance skills. The only way you were allowed to try out for drill team, however, was as a four-person squad. So I was drafted by three of my friends to complete theirs. We practiced relentlessly (six times counts as relentless when you’re 13). When the time came to perform and the play button on the boom box was hit, Ms. Carter gave us the head bob that said “YOU’RE ON!” I thought we actually had a shot. Twenty seconds later, I managed …

In Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour, Expect The Unexpected

Where were you when you first heard Madonna? It’s a question that pop fans who devoured the offerings put forth by MTV and top-40 radio during the ’80s and ’90s can probably answer without thinking. Mine: “Borderline,” off her self-titled debut and an MTV staple thanks to its video, which mixed high art and graffiti and hopscotch. The song’s wounded, yet bubbly production made me dance; Madonna’s effortless cool gave me a glimpse at what bohemian adulthood might be like. The songs of hers that I probably remember best, though, are the ones on her 1986 album True Blue, which served as the official warm-up album for a dance class I took during sixth grade; any mention of the pugilistic actor Jimmy Cagney, to whom Madonna dedicated that album’s feisty “White Heat,” flashes me back to the afternoons of leotards and stretching at the barre. [pullquote] 30 years on, the Material Girl still packs stadiums around the world.[/pullquote] No matter what era of Madonna one remembers most fondly — the crumpled white dress of the “Like …

I’ve Never Wanted Anyone Like This — and I’m Still Looking

I still listen to the radio often when I drive, mostly for the rush of stumbling across a song I love among the commercials. Missing in our current world of all-media-on-demand-all-the-time is the element of surprise I found when I was flipping stations the other night and came across Madonna’s “Crazy for You”. It’s high on my mental list of songs I have to listen to all the way through; I’ll sit in the parking lot and sing to the end before I’ll go inside. It’s 30 years old this year. It’s the power ballad from Vision Quest, a movie I recall nothing about except for the snippets I can remember from the video – Matthew Modine doing pushups, wrestling, then kissing Linda Fiorentino and her enormous hair, like a knock-off Kevin Bacon from Footloose destined for trouble, dissonantly interspersed with Madonna in her best tousled hair, black bracelets and scarves as a bar singer emoting the crap out of “Crazy for You.” I was 14 in 1985, a huge fan with a single huge …

Truth or Yawn: When Did the Material Girl Get So Boring?

I was surfing through radio stations in my car when I first heard Madonna’s latest single, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.” Her new album had been in the press, more due to her recent attention-grabbing antics than the music itself — the topless photos, the skirt that she flipped up to expose her well-toned tush to photographers — but Madonna has always courted controversy. I’d seen her simulate masturbation on stage and pretend to give a blow job to a bottle in the 1991 documentary Truth or Dare; if I was ever scandalized by Madonna, those days are long gone. But listening to “Bitch, I’m Madonna” made me change the station in disgust. I wasn’t shocked, and I wasn’t titillated. Really, I was just bored. Look, I grew up with Madonna. I was a fan. I stacked black rubber bracelets on my arms because she did. I attempted to style my bad perm into her tousled waves. I watched and re-watched Desperately Seeking Susan wishing that I could cultivate her “I don’t give a shit” attitude. Through her …

She Must Be My Lucky Star

For the first 12 or so years of my life, I was the good girl. My first act of rebellion came in seventh grade when I threw a bunch of baby carrots in the bathroom at church. (I have no idea know why I did this.) Before I could even be accused of the carrot caper, I confessed. Bowing down to authority seemed to be inked into my DNA. While other middle schoolers were experimenting with smoking, I could be found in the school band. I didn’t even play a cool instrument like the drums or the saxophone. No, I played the oboe, and the oboe is just about the nerdiest of the nerdy instruments a junior high schooler could play. Then in 8th grade, MTV came bursting into my room. That year, I spent every afternoon glued to the TV. I was enthralled by Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf. I escaped through a-ha’s comic book-styled world in Take On Me. I spent hours learning the moves to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But the song that captivated …

My Personal Hair-Metal Hell

There are only two bands on Earth that I truly hate. Despite having run the gauntlet of indie record store employee, college radio music director and Senior Music Editor of college radio weekly CMJ between 1988 and 2002, I only really have it in for two bands. First, the Doors. We’ll leave that one for another time. Second, and the target of my most virulent, Technicolor ire, is Mötley Crüe. Put simply, Mötley Crüe took some of the greatest influences in rock – the seed of glam that bloomed into the New York Dolls, the pull-no-punches riffs of countless fierce ‘70s bands like AC/DC and Cheap Trick, the parent-spooking studs and black leather of punk – and amalgamated them into the biggest pile of party-hardy excrement to hit the charts ever. Do I seem bitter? That’s because I was in high school at the apex/nadir of hair metal: 1986-1990. By the time I was 14, I was already a deeply invested music nerd, scouring liner note lists of “thank yous” to find new bands, leaning …

The Rise and Fall of the “Indie” Artist

I came to college radio in the ’90s, when “alternative” was earning itself a capital “A” among marketing types and when bands that existed for as long as a 7-inch were snagging major-label deals. This was also the period of slackers and Slacker, when corporate rock continued to suck and when Coca-Cola’s attempt to tell Gen Xers that they’d created a soda that was totally OK was met with derisive eye-rolls. The palpable tension between the creation of culture and its ever-quicker path toward commodification was probably best    exhibited in my world by the extended argument — written in Sharpie and a variety of pens — that covered the inlay of Built to Spill’s 1997 album Perfect From Now On. The trio’s major-label debut was a marvelous album full of sprawling songs and gorgeous textures, with singer-guitarist Doug Martsch tossing off explosive solos and meditative drones featuring lyrics about finding eternity’s true size and standing up to the demands of the metaphysical world. Perfect remains a fairly astounding piece of work, a shining example …

A Superstar Visits Buenos Aires

Gospel music has a way of making people sound like better singers than they are. I should know—I’m one of those people. In general, one should not make too many assumptions about someone’s talent simply because that person sings professionally or publicly. When a person chooses to sing or not sing in front of other people, that choice doesn’t necessarily reflect the person’s musical ability (or lack thereof). Not all people who can sing do sing, and not all people who do sing can sing. If you’re wondering into which category I fall, the answer is who the hell knows? Can I carry a tune? Absolutely. (*Clears throat. Puts right index finger to ear and points left index finger to sky, like Mi-mi-mi-miiiiii. Do-re-mi-fa….*) Can I hit high notes? Usually. It depends on how many Marlboros I smoked (or how much Malbec I drank) the previous night. But when you sing in a gospel choir, especially an African-American gospel choir, hitting your notes is beside the point. The music is as much about the message …

Songs We Worked Out To in the ’80s (If We Worked Out At All)

Back in the 1980s, working out wasn’t inextricably linked to music, the way it is today. There weren’t Zumba songs or “Jock Jams.” We didn’t listen to playlists oriented by BPMs. We didn’t have a handy, clippable iPod touch. Yes, we had our Sony Walkmans, but I had nightmares of trying to “jog” with that thing affixed to nylon shorts and watch it crash to the ground. While the ’80s saw the advent of aerobics, and Jane, and Olivia, of course, we did our jumping jacks to whatever music was bouncy. I remember taking a “dance fitness” class in 8th grade and my young teacher playing the Moody Blues “Tuesday Afternoon,” which we thought was the coolest thing ever, if completely inappropriate for Jazzercise. So we conducted a purely unscientific poll of friends, asking people what music they worked out to back then, and found a wide range of tunes — from the obvious to the obscure. We say, whatever moves you. Good For:  Aerobics 1.0  “Can You Feel It” — The Jacksons Everyone remembers the …

The New Pop, Pop, Pop Music (And Why I Don’t Like It)

I’m so out of it. Even when I think I’m kind of into it, I’m so out of it. And I can’t believe I’ve become this person. Thumbing through the December 15 year-end wrap up edition of New York magazine, I flipped my way to “The 10 Best Pop Albums of The Year” and got excited by the list of names I didn’t know. A few, I did: Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent, Aphex Twin (Aphex Twin? Hello 1990) and Perfume Genius, whose sinister and sinewy “Queen” popped up on Pandora. No Swift, no Mars in the top 10 (they did make the longer online list), this was a more high-minded, artful interpretation of pop by critic Lindsay Zoladz. Fair enough. I decided to sample some of it on Spotify: Frankie Cosmos, Run the Jewels, Angel Olsen, Todd Terje, Jesse Ware and Perfect Pussy. [pullquote]We’re in a new zone, led by a generation waiting for the bass to drop as they dance themselves into a pleasant, sudsy lather.[/pullquote] Oof. Look, I’ve been out of the …

The Thrill Isn’t Gone: Learning Guitar in My 40s

Like most of us, I’ve always kept a list of goals and ambitions in my head. When I was 10, I wanted a pony and an Academy Award. So much for that. But some of the items on my list now have a check mark beside them (get published, visit England), and as for the others, well… my garden is almost ready for its close-up, Sunset Magazine. Those are the dreams I’ve admitted to, when asked. But I also keep a second list, double-padlocked and held close to the heart, of dreams that are too private to divulge, for fear of being laughed at, or worse, being expected to follow through. For most of my life, the same dream sat at the top of my super-secret to-do list: Learn how to play the guitar. It seems like a perfectly mundane goal, well within reach, unlike that Palomino I was going to keep in the driveway. But I couldn’t make myself speak my guitar obsession aloud, let alone actually do something about it. Whenever I had …

5 Bands Who Represent the New Power in Pop Music

Power pop, power chords, powerhouse vocals, “The Power Of Love” — music has myriad ways to flip the switch. Here are five artists who are honing and, in some cases, redefining what the idea of power in pop music means. 1. EX HEX There are some days when only the power of classic rock can save you—thanks to its big chords, hip-shaking beats, and long-hair-don’t-care swagger. The Washington, D.C. trio Ex Hex—made up of Betsy Harris, Mary Timony, and Laura Wright—gets this. Their debut Rips (Merge), out next week, takes rock and roll’s biggest ideas and compresses them into shiny pop gems, dismissing the wanky tendencies of certain rock-radio staples while audibly delighting in those tropes that put the pedal to the metal—juicy solos, sticky hooks, oh-oh-oh backing vocals.   2. SLEATER-KINNEY Timony is an indie lifer; before she formed Ex Hex, she was in the supergroup Wild Flag. That quartet also counted among its members Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from the Pacfiic Northwest guitar-guitar-drums trio Sleater-Kinney, whose assaultive take on postpunk showed one way that …

5 Amazing Voices in Music Right Now

Pop music is defined by the voice — after all, the communion that a great song provides comes from singing along with lyrics, and not basslines. Here are a few singers making some of the most exciting music of 2014, in large part because of the way their artistic visions and strong voices come together. 1. KIMBRA Her voice blanketed radio in 2011, when she assisted Gotye on his inescapable breakup track “Somebody That I Used To Know.” But The Golden Echo, the second album from this Melbourne-based singer/songwriter/auteur, places Kimbra in the driver’s seat of pop experimentation, and she stretches her voice to its outer limits on the dissonant yet wistful “’90s Music” to the wanting, string-accented “As You Are.” The skating-rink-worthy “Miracle” is a disco jam on which she turns into a yowling, shape-shifting, and utterly joyous diva. 2. ANITA BIAS & AMBER STROTHER The two vocalists who make up the powerhouse R&B trio KING seem to be made for each other, at least as partners in soul—their singing is alternately coy and commanding, …

My Wet Hot American Playlist

I’ll be the first to admit my obsession with all things camp is a wee bit weird. I watch informational videos about other camps. I troll camp websites. I’m hooked on movies about camp. (Meatballs is one of my all-time favorites. But I also recommend Wet Hot American Summer, Camp, Indian Summer and Little Darlings.) Yet music is the art form I associate most closely with camp. I hear songs on the radio, at a wedding or in an elevator, and I am immediately transported back to my summers in Schwenksville at Camp Kweebec. (Also included in this group of memories: the one summer I spent on an all-camping teen tour out West with one of my bunkmates, and the summer she and I don’t like to discuss because my parents sent me to a “nicer” camp under duress.) So here is my camp playlist timeline,  starting the summer when I was a junior camper and ending when I was a group leader and counselor. Ah, the memories. 1977: “I Just Want to Be Your …

What Makes an Amazing Live Show? It’s All in the Secret Sauce

A hot damp breeze blew across the infield as a bank of dark clouds rolled in. The crowd collectively braced against the first fat drops of rain. On stage, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss moved through a set of songs from their collaborative album, Raising Sand, with Plant’s grizzled tenor the salty counterpoint to Krauss’ angelic soprano. No doubt, this was a good show. Then the whole damn thing kicked up about a thousand notches as the band played the opening bars to the Zeppelin classic “The Battle of Evermore.” The raucous crowd fell silent. Grown men had tears in their eyes as they recognized a song that had meant so much to them back in the day. The wind whipped through Krauss’ hair, her image huge on the screens that flanked the stage, her voice wrapping around the tune like a cashmere throw as Plant growled in jagged harmony. At that point, the performance entered some other plane entirely, far above the dusty N’Orleans racetrack where we stood, transfixed. In the minutes that followed, …

In Defense of Parrotheads — Really, There Is a Defense

Oh, haters. You just love to hate on my boy Jimmy Buffett. Do you think he’s too pedestrian? Too conformist? Too old? Too old school? Too silly? I can’t seem to figure it out. Perhaps you’ve only heard the ubiquitous party anthems “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. They’re simple, harmless songs. Sure, they can get annoying — but anything can, if you hear it too much. Buffett has penned tons of those types of tunes— songs like “One Particular Harbor” and “Boat Drinks”. It’s all good fun. And those of us who dig him? We really love this shit. We like being transported to a place where sand in your shoes and waves crashing on the beach removes us from the mundane. I have to credit my brother-in-law for introducing me to Buffett when I was 18.  Just beginning college, I was struggling with my mother’s imminent death, and Buffett took the edge off by giving me an escape. Ed took me to concerts and I found a way to connect, laugh and smile. And get to …

Why I Stopped Being a Rock Critic

Adjust the radio dial to find the right frequency. Seek the perfect sound, skip past that uncomfortable crackle…. It’s 1975 and I’m a grade schooler, snuggled under my Marimekko sheets, waking up to my little clock radio. I’m tuned into Philadelphia’s WFIL-AM, listening: Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing,” ABBA’s “S.O.S.” and then….Bowie. More specifically, David Bowie’s “Golden Years.” The song snaps and thumps through the Solid State and I recognize, for the first time, that I love music. The righteous guitar riff, thudding bass drum, distant melodica and that bellowing, sinewy voice…it turns me on, like a radio. Music became my breath, my way of life. It relaxed me and it amped me up. I’d fall asleep to side two of Tattoo You. I’d dance in my bedroom to The Cars. I called i-92 to score tickets to The Police/Joan Jett/R.E.M/Madness at the old JFK Stadium (yes, that was a line-up). I’d make mixtapes for boyfriends. My life could be charted in musical moments. Fast-forward… I’m a music fan, a record and cassette tape collector, a …