Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 18th April

Newsnight v Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
Oh dear. Old media fails again to report properly on new phenomena… From Stephen Smith’s bizarre “Is this the future of Rock ’n’ Roll?” opening line it was The Day Today all the way. After Brick Stowell explained that he made 300 t-shirts for the pop-up shop (OF are paying their way by selling stuff rather than music at this point), Smith’s supposedly snark aside was: “Are there any washing instructions in here?” How lame is that? A pointlessly combatative interview with OF followed by their manager having to insist they paid taxes, before Smith’s coup de grâce—“Some say the band are a case of new wine in old bottles, or is that a case of old dope in new bongs?” If that’s the level of discourse, if that’s how you’re going to attempt to impart information in the six minute time slot that Newsnight will allow—then why bother? As the kids would say: Jam Yo Hype, Newsnight!

Mystic Malvina
“There were some good things at the Monterey Folk Festival—you must have missed them, or they didn’t appeal to you anyway… A girl named Janis Joplin, square built, impassive, singing blues in a high, skin-prickling voice like a flamenco woman; Bob Dylan, and some others. When thousands of kids are doing something with diligence and devotion, there are going to be some geniuses amongst them—it figures mathematically. And something is coming of this. Bob Dylan is a sign.”

An excerpt from a wonderful letter that folksinger Malvina Reynolds (composer of Little Boxes) wrote to Ralph J Gleason, published by Jeff Gold on his Recordmecca blog. As Jeff says, “Boy, did she ever get that right.” Big Brother & The Holding Company three years in the future and Dylan’s first appearance on the West Coast. “He too was almost completely unknown, and for Reynolds to invoke the genius-word was pretty prescient—and daring, indeed.” Jeff follows this with a letter from a woman called Donna, about Dylan’s 1965 San Francisco Press Conference which is just as good. More and more, these primary sources ring with resonance—the resonance of a time and place, not with hindsight or a critical straightjacket to tie them up in.

Welcome To The Library, Friday evening, 13th April

As far from the jungle as could be—you’d think—the Westminster Reference Library, just off Leicester Square. I used to do my homework there. Tonight it’s the venue for the Sam Amidon Experience.

A power trio unlike any you’ve ever heard. Sam makes the melodies of these old, old folk songs a kind of plainsong—flattened out and dessicated, almost. By repeating and intensifying phrases, voice totally in sync with his unique guitar style, the tunes move forward and shift gears. Behind him, like mad scientists tiptoeing through the cables, his genius accompanyists moved from Slingerland drumkit to computer, from bass to prepared guitar. Take a bow Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro. With these two beyond-talented collaborators the show swayed from free jazz to beat poetry to Appalachian ballads (one of which, Prodigal Son, Amidon dedicated to Rick Santorum: “When I left my father’s house, I was well supplied, I made a mistake and I did run, I’m dissatisfied… I believe I’ll go back home, I believe I’ll go back home, I believe I’ll go back home, Acknowledge I done wrong.”)

I took my mum. She found it equal parts beguiling and baffling. She loved the final medley of Climbing High Mountains with R. Kelly’s Relief, where the audience sang the refrain like a hymn. She’d liked to have heard more Beth Orton. Mothers, eh?

Post-Rock Careers: Nine Inch Nails

Literate Rockers Alert!
As Alex Kapranos is to food, so Charlie Fink may be to film, if an enterprising publisher snaps up the Noah & The Whale Film Companion. A really entertaining diary entry in ES Magazine made me warm to a frontman whose band had hardly set my pulses racing at a couple of festival appearances last year. I’ll have to listen anew.


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