Tuesday, June 07, 2005

And we were all yellow...

So now, Deep Throat is out and the political pundits are out in full force. Some range from ludicrous (G. Gordon Liddy and Pat Buchanan obvious have a thing against Woodward and Bernstein and they've pretty much painted them as traitors). Some critics have said the work of two self-serving journalists led to the downfall of Nixon's progressive agenda toward China. The more level-headed critics have decried that ever since Watergate, there has been impeachment fever for every president that has been in office.

Some media pundits have worried that Woodard and Bernstein have made a generation of attack dog journalists who value the scoop above all else and who yearn to be the one who brings down people of power. These folks wish journalism would return to the pre-Woodard and Bernstein world. Obviously, they've never heard of muckrakers - those journalists in the 20s and 30s whose desire to expose corruption was their fuel. In this time, if journalists couldn't dig up something, they would make something up - hence yellow journalism. You can say that journalism has declined, that reporters are lazy in the age of the Internet as opposed to when you had to rely more on good old-fashion footwork, but in virtually all of the major journalistic institutions, that yellow journalism crap would not fly today in the age of fact checkers, fear of libel and a more-informed public. So, in short - even with the problems of anonymous sources, bias and lazy reporting, the media is far more reliable now than the glory days some critics wish journalism would venture.

Lighter topic - Neko Case at Sokol Underground...

The cool basement of Sokol auditorium in Omaha was a haven from the wall of humidity that has settled for the past week. My roommate let out a few sneezes on the way to the show "12 hours into my f*$&ing 24-hour Claritin." Both he and co-concertgoer Trac grumbled about the 9 p.m. show (with all due credit, all of us had to work early).

Still, Neko Case is one artist that you gladly sacrifice sleep for - without question. The crowd initially was made up of a lot of aging hippies and Gen-Xers. It was a nice contrast to the Shins, where you were awash in ironic t-shirts. These folks didn't give a crap about how they looked - polo shirts, untucked generic striped shirts. Heck, one girl I saw had a Penn State t-shirt on, jeans and a clip that had at least 20 keys jangling from her waist.

After Low Skies performed their set to a polite reception (think Jeff Buckley's band backed by the Verve's Richard Ashcroft with a blown vocal cord), Neko Case's band took the stage. The girl with the Penn State t-shirt politely weaved her way through the crowd, climbed up on stage and began tuning her guitar. Internally, I was banging my head against the wall - I'm way too shy to be a stalker, but I definitely wanted to have a 'fan moment' where I thanked her for making one of the best albums of the decade (Blacklisted) and thank her for capturing the generic vibe and loneliness of Tucson (where she recorded Blacklisted and is recording her next album).

For fans who have not seen Neko Case live, her vocal translation from studio to live is virtually identical. Her voice (think Patsy Cline signing at a piano bar designed by David Lynch) is one of those few voices currently in rock that shocks you with its openness and power. She is one artist that you will not confuse with any other artist when you hear a song by her on the radio.
Case's set focused heavily from her latest live album, The Tigers Have Spoken. The album is a mix of Case's original alt-country/lounge/rock style ("If You Knew") and some extremely smart covers (Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Soulful Shade of Blue"). In the course of the show, Case stopped to tune her guitars (two acoustics, one electric). While she was tuning her guitar, her crowd banter was easygoing and never forced. The sometimes off-key acoustics from her supporting band gave the show an informal charm. However, you can tell Case is a perfectionist; at the end of virtually every song, she kindly instructed her soundman where to tone down the volume and where to add more and less reverb (other than the poser rock star move of raising a thumb up or down and mouthing 'can we get more?').

In addition to fan favorites ("Blacklisted", "Deep Red Bells", "Set Out Running"), Case tried out some new songs and rewarded the crowd of about 500 with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Buckets of Rain."

Throughout the show, she tousled and occasionally tied back her hair. Some may see that as a nervous tic, but her laser-focused gaze toward the audience and her dead-on hit of every note shows a confidence that has come from years of hitting the road with various rock, country and even punk backup bands.

The fans, for the most part, let Case and her band play whatever the hell they wanted. There was an occasional cry for her cover of Aretha Franklin's "Running out of Fools" (sort of rude by the concertgoer, but who can blame her?), but Case politely dismissed the request, saying the band hadn't rehearsed that song.

The set clocked in at a little more than an hour-and-a-half. She closed with "Furnace Room Lullaby" and said her band would be available to meet the audience and to sell stuff after the show because the sales were needed to fuel their vans. The show may have been low-key, but Case packed a punch that left you hoping she would come back and perform at the small venue of Sokol Underground, even though you hope enough people catch on to her to fill a much larger venue.

Final Topic (thanks for those who have made it this far) - No one likes Coldplay

Coldplay's new one comes out today. No one likes it - it's either a masterpiece or a calculated, harmless piece of hokum.

Paste Magazine says it's a masterpiece: www.pastemagazine.com

Pitchfork Magazine says it's harmless: www.pitchforkmedia.com (altho Pitchfork wear their elitism like a badge of honor)

Rolling Stone plays the middle ground, but still give it three stars (which is like a 3.0 out of 10.0 for any other magazine). www.rollingstone.com

I'm curious as to the folks who criticize the band for its broad lyrics. Some of the best blues lyrics are simple variations as "now you're gone." Hell, even critical favorite Joy Division's typical line was something like "Where will it end?" Not that I'm ranking Coldplay up with Buddy Guy, Son Seals or Joy Division. Just saying...

Others fault the band for its ambition. However, if you have the skills, ambition is not something that I usually dog. It was far more fun to make fun of overly-ambitions bands of the '90s like Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis than earnest folks like Dave Matthews and Hootie and the Blowfish. Be it Radiohead, Flaming Lips, Beck or Outkast, it's far more riskier to aim high and try to record that "album of the decade." For that, I have to side with the Coldplay supporters. I'll be in line picking up X&Y - even though I haven't heard a note of it.

It's funny that Coldplay is coming out with its opus the same day as the White Stripes come out with Get Behind Me Satan. Some critics are pitting this as the battle of the overly-earnest, studio-shined wizardry of Coldplay verses the scrappy, low-fi stomp of the White Stripes. The problem is that the White Stripes overly earnestness is just as calculated as Coldplay's ambitions.

Current listening selections:

Neko Case - The Tigers Have Spoken

Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Oasis - Don't Believe The Truth


At 3:19 PM, Blogger Unemployed said...

Regardless if the author reads this or not his post about the Neko Case show was spot on. I was at the show; my first Neko concert.(I've since seen her 3 other times)

This one was my favorite. At the time I was going through personal crap which looking back was so trivial, but at the time was overwhelming. Anyway I needed to get out and do something. So around 8pm I finally decided to go to the show; a little challenging since I live in Lincoln.

Funny to think of being able to purchase a Neko Case tix an hour before the gig. The next time I saw her was at the Rococo which I think was sold out.

I remember the Penn State shirt, the intimacy of the show, her laid back friendly stage personality, and most of all the music. And oh yeah that amazing voice of hers.

I love Dylan but her version of Bucket of Rains made me really appreciate how great of a song it is.

It was exactly what I needed. A laid back evening of great music while hanging out with other Neko fans.

Great post. Thank You.


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