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author, journalist and dee jay Tony Fletcher.
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TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE UK BY OMNIBUS PRESS, JULY 14 2003
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HEDONISM AND TO READ EXCERPTS, CLICK HERE
Talking of the Siren Festival, as I was yesterday, among the many almost painfully "now" bands on the bill for the July 19 Coney Island free music fest are my personal New York faves, Radio 4. Wednesday night the Gotham! boys headlined the Bowery Ballroom for the first time, helping promote the up-coming Yes New York compilation, a celebration of the city's contemporary music talent that features all the obvious high-profile suspects: The Strokes, Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture and of course, Radio 4 themselves.
Sadly I had to miss Wednesday's gig due to prior commitments namely, being kicked around the 5-a-side field at Chelsea Piers by the top team in our over-30s league. (No wonder we got stuffed, given that only four of our 11-strong squad showed up for the 11 pm kick-off.) Still, given that I was out and about and in Manhattan at the witching hour, I decided to stop in on my way home for the first night of my fellow Crystal Palace fan Boozy Jo's party 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cigarette' at Lit. As you can imagine from that combination of proper names and the brilliant invite - the night featured more illicit smoking than anything New York has seen since the days of opium dens.
I had to smile at my conundrum. Just as I've been insisting that cigarette addicts in the newly smoke-free New York clubs now have an easy decision to face - whether they want to see a band/hear a DJ without smoking, or stand outside and ignore the entertainment for the sake of a cigarette - so I was faced with a similar, but opposite prospect. Either I stayed in a (downstairs, out of sight) room full of tobacco smoke for a fun party, or left and hoped there was a better atmosphere somewhere else in town at a venue that actually observes the new no-smoking law.
I stayed put, listening to Barry Seven from Add N To X, Ethan Reid and others play everything from Adam and The Ants 'Deutscher Girls' to The Jam's 'In The City' (though I think there may have been records from other years too), enjoyed a conversation about Manchester United (to the extent that such a thing is possible) and South American street violence with the singer from the Boggs, met the proponent (or is that promoter?) of Punk Rock Aerobics, and was chuffed to find that Radio 4 had chosen this party for their own post-show soiree. By all accounts, it sounded like their headline had been a success, though front man Anthony Roman shared with me the irony that while his band can now just about draw 500 people in their New York hometown, they can pre-sell 1000 tickets in London, 3000 miles away.
That will explain why Radio 4's next New York gig is halfway down the bill at the freebie Siren Festival, yet their summer schedule is filled with festival appearances in Europe from Glastonbury to Reading, Leeds to Roskilde, and including something called Pukkelpop in Belgium along the way. Everyone from Damon Albarn to Steve Lamacq to the NME seems to be in Radio 4's corner right now; from my own perspective, I'm just happy that a local band I once thought of as underdogs are now getting their day as top dogs.
I'm equally pleased that my love for Stellastarr* has turned out to be something more than just a personal obsession. Shawn, Amanda, Michael and Arthur signed with RCA Records last week on whose roster they will join fellow New York bands The Strokes and Longwave. That said, I've never really seen Stellastarr* as part of the current New York rock revival, which might explain why they're absent from the Yes New York album. You can hear them instead on New York: The Next Wave, an altogether more limited edition compilation on Kanine Records that also features Elefant, Aerial Love Feed, and My Favorite, each of whom I've already witnessed in the flesh and reviewed here at iJamming!.
(The only band to make both these new New York new wave of no wave compilations, by the way, is The Fever, whose EP also just landed on my desk. Can someone say good timing?)
Other New York bands booked for the Siren Festival on July 19 include !!! (that's Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! to you, pal), Oneida, Ted Leo/Pharmacists and The Witnesses. New Zealand is represented by The Datsuns, Detroit by The Dirtbombs, and my old stomping ground well my old chip shop's stomping ground of Gypsy Hill in sarf landon is represented by the Kills.
The Siren Festival is sponsored by the Village Voice, a saving grace for a weekly paper that tends to be as patronizing these days as it has always been relentlessly political correct. So further credit where it's due: this week's cover story, Gangsta Rap Peddle Crack-Age Nostalgia, takes the likes of 50 Cent and the labels that hype them to task for "Selling the Myth of Black Violence Long Past Its Expiration Date". Ain't that the truth. And similar respect where it's merited: for Russell Simmons and his Hip-Hop Action Network Summit, which on Wednesday gathered rappers and students together in public to protest the ludicrously outdated Rockefeller Drug Laws, which mandate hefty prison sentences for small drug offenses, placing many a minor offender into a costly prison system with no obvious long-term benefit.
On a more positive note, catching up with the papers from my week away, I was pleased to see a report on how Bend It Like Beckham has become a "sleeper hit" in the States especially among soccer-playing youngsters who are surprising their parents by demanding they be taken to see an independent, foreign movie about multi-racial sporting ambitions. At the time I wrote about the movie in January, I observed how the storyline revolved around the girls' need to come to America to have a professional soccer career; it's fair then that I note that while back in London in April, I saw talk of an impending professional women's league in the UK at last. Did the British success of Bend It Like Beckham have an impact on this decision? You'd have to think so.
Not that Becks and his wife, the former Posh Spice, seem to have the advancement of women in sports at the top of their personal priority list. The same Sunday New York Times as wrote about the movie's success had a separate story on Victoria Beckham and her American ambitions for her and her hubby. "I think we have such a strong message, between the two of us," she's quoted as saying. "We want to have our own brand. There are so many things that interest us fashion, make-up." What, not Barbie Dolls too?
When will New Yorkers ever be able to attend a peaceful, weekend-long music festival such as the Europeans take for granted? That's the question doing the rounds after this coming weekend's Field Day Festival, scheduled to be held at Riverhead in eastern Long Island, was canceled yesterday, ostensibly due to a lack of sufficient security - which you can interpret to mean that the local community didn't want an influx of 40,000 music fans and did everything in its power to halt the event. And succeeded.
The promoter, Andrew Dreskin, who made his money with the online 'sales fee' service TicketWeb, insists through the event's web site that the 'FIELD DAY FESTIVAL (IS) STILL ON', which proves that his sense of honesty is no better than that of other, more established rock promoters. Because while it's true that most of the headliners - Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Beck, Blur and my beloved Underworld and Spiritualized have all agreed to play at Giants Stadium this Saturday instead of on Long Island, the prospect of seeing these acts at a football stadium has absolutely none of the attraction of seeing them over a two-day festival period out in the countryside.
Besides, if the Field Day Festival is indeed "still on," you have to ask why tickets from the Riverhead location are not being honored; instead, you have to purchase fresh $80 tickets for the football stadium show while applying for a refund from the original event. As an appropriately irate Chris Leslie-Hynan writes on the pitchforkmedia web site, "They get to nail you twice on the service charges! Let's hope you didn't put down any cash for a hotel room, or for god's sake, drive to Calverton [Long Island] already. SOMEBODY couldn't get their SHIT TOGETHER WELL IN ADVANCE AND WORK THE FUCKING GODDAMN SHIT OUT! WHO'S IN CHARGE OVER THERE, ANYWAY? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!!!!!!"
Well, the arguments about licenses and security are clearly a smokescreen. The local community leaders, who can't tell Radiohead from Limp Bizkit, must surely have looked back at the violent debacle that was Woodstock 1999 (the last time a full weekend event went ahead on this scale in New York State) and decided they didn't want similar chaos in their own front yard. So who do we blame? The disconnected community leaders? The crowd from Woodstock for rioting on such a scale and ruining it for future generations? Or Woodstock 99's promoters, Metropolitan Entertainment, for treating the audience there with such contempt that the violent destruction of property seemed for many in the crowd an entirely appropriate response?
Either way, we're trapped in a vicious cycle: until the east coast can hold a peaceful weekend campground music festival, communities will be unwilling to grant the necessary licenses. And until communities grant the necessary licenses, then obviously we're never going to get a decent peaceful weekend campground music festival.
Riverhead, incidentally, was also the intended location for the proposed Creamfields festival of two (I Think) summers ago, which was abruptly canceled far up front by the promoters, Clear Channel Entertainment, due to lack of advance ticket sales. Dreskin's Field Day Festival seemed to be going about everything in a better way except, it turns out, for anticipating the local community's disinclination to host the event in the first place. I had decided to give Field Day a miss anyway for a variety of reasons; I'm hoping that I'll be back in Britain some point this summer for one of the many music festivals which, even though there are occasional problems (such as at Leeds last year) are still seen as a vital part of youth culture, not to mention a financial boon for the communities that host them.
And in the meantime, I'll console myself with the fact that New York City knows how to put on great outdoor shows without worrying that the world will collapse around it. The entirely free July 19 Siren Music Festival in Coney Island promises to be a particular treat. Mark your calendars if you live here.
Check the groovy album sleeves. Rotary Connection cover Other People's Songs, 1969 style...
... While, exiled to the non-tropical English climate, Brazilian tropicalista maestro Caetana Veloso wears an Afghan coat for warmth on this 1971 sleeve.
I've got an enormous pile of new releases in front of me as always, but I've got to admit, I've put preference to an overdue birthday present: the albums Songs (from 1969) and Hey, Love (from '71) by Rotary Connection, compiled onto one CD by Ace Records in the UK five years ago. I wrote about my love for what little Rotary Connection music I already owned a few weeks ago, and was promptly and rightly reminded there's plenty more of it available for anyone willing to look. And there's still several more albums to collect: I'll get there.
I'm also finding myself somewhat addicted to the various Brazilian CDs I took down to Rio with me, and the few albums I brought back too. Brazilian music is no more easily summarized or categorized than is 'American' music, but that was part of the beauty of hearing it and seeing it in context as opposed to just looking at a map or reading a Luaka Bop compilation's sleeve notes. I wouldn't pretend to have done anything more than scratched the top layer of the surface, but at least I feel I have some basic understanding of the lengthy history and complex geography that helped create one of the most vibrant indigenous modern music scenes in the entire world.
I also took with me, to catch up on my reading, a couple of Newsweeks that I'd missed whilein England for ten days in April. The issue dated April 2 demonstrates the deep dangers of trying to predict next week's news. Try this, about SARS:
"I don't believe it will become a pandemic," says Dr. David Heymann of the world Health Organization. "Overall, I think it's a positive picture." (Which is why I had to fill in a form about my possible exposure to the SARS virus before being admitted to Brazil?)
Or this, which seems particularly poignant today of all days:
"(Ariel) Sharon, who's vowed not to dismantle West Bank settlements
is unlikely to make the concessions the road map requires."
But these are minor mistakes compared to the magazine's predictions of an Iraqi quagmire. (The April 2 issue would have gone to print during that three-day period it looked like shaping up to be a lengthy war.) "Barring a sudden collapse of the Baathist regime still a possibility, senior administration officials insist [note the quiet cynicism] the war in Iraq is about to get bloodier."
Or this: "The Iraqi President isn't merely surviving. He's started looking like himself again."
Or this quote from the Iraqi Defense Minister. "Eventually the Americans will have to come to Baghdad, and we'll be waiting for them here. We all know where the final battle will be."
Baghdad had fallen by the time my ten-day trip was over and I picked up the week-old magazine. The "final battle", however, remains ongoing: it's the one that acknowledges how the real hard work comes with reconstruction, both by preventing a dictator like Saddam from rising to power again to butcher his own people and invade his neighbors, and in assuring that Iraqis come to recognize the west as their friends, not their enemies. To that end, an essay by the ever-reliable Fareed Zakaria in the same Newsweek seems much more relevant than the deadline-driven new items.
Indeed, it opens with the poignant comment, "Predictions during war are a dangerous business. Still, I feel safe making one: don't bet against The United States." He goes on to point out that nobody should have been surprised that Saddam's regime hadn't just keeled over, that Stalin held such sufficient control over his people that in World War II, they were willing to die in great numbers for his dictatorship rather than face foreign conquest.
"There are no pictures of the Allies being greeted warmly by the Germans," Zakaria noted. "And remember that the Allies were liberating Germany from the most monstrous dictatorship in the history of man. Nor were their pictures of friendly Japanese, thanking Americans for ridding them of their fascist regime." Most Iraqis, he predicted instead, "will be on guard to see what happens after the war. That is when America will vindicate itself, if it truly helps to build a new Iraq. After all the Germans and the Japanese did not cheer in 1945, but they were grateful by 1955. America will win the Iraqis over not by what it does in the next five weeks but rather in the next five years."
Thomas Friedman makes almost exactly the same point in his column in today's New York Times, while retro-actively examining the purpose of taking on Saddam. Weapons of Mass Destruction were never the real reason for an Anglo-American invasion, Friedman says; nor were they the relevant one. (I made a similar point in looking at the arguments for and against war back on March 11.) He makes a strong argument for there having been a 'real' reason, a 'right' reason and a 'moral' reason for the war, while lamenting that the 'stated' reason WMD has all along been the weakest, and thereby the most erroneous, one. You can read the whole column here (registration required for first-time users) and you can certainly make note of this conclusion.
"Finding Iraq's W.M.D.'s is necessary to preserve the credibility of the Bush team, the neocons, Tony Blair and the C.I.A. But rebuilding Iraq is necessary to win the war."
...I'm back in New York City after one of the most fascinating trips I've ever taken: a week in Rio de Janeiro, visiting a close childhood friend of mine who's been living and working down there for the last 18 months. I felt mildly guilty at taking a holiday when I neither 'needed' or 'deserved' one, but I've been storing a bunch of air miles for a long time now, awaiting an opportunity to treat myself; my friend is coming to the end of his work stint in Rio (his wife and baby have already gone back to London); and if things go to plan I'm about to start work on another non-fiction book (or two) that should keep me busy for months on end. In other words, it was essentially a free trip, and if I didn't take the opportunity now, chances are I never would.
The Brazilians have precisely the same priorities in life as the British: football, music and beer. Which means, of course, it was a place of enormous interest for me and, by extension, most iJamming! readers. I attended gigs, clubs and Cup matches, I drank beer (though not, like many of Rio's 'Carioca' natives, for breakfast), I soaked up the city's glory in all its positive and negative connotations, and I came back with enough observations, photos, anecdotes and cuttings to fill several pages of this site. I fully intend to do so once I've written them all up...
In the meantime, I got to see the series finale of Six Feet Under last night. And don't worry, knowing that Channel 4 in the UK has only just started broadcasting the second series (what do they do? send the tapes over on a row boat?), I won't give away any plot lines you couldn't find by going to the HBO web site. Interestingly, somewhere in the confusion of my travels, I believed I was watching the penultimate episode, rather than the finale, which meant that, as the show drew to a halt, I was thoroughly enjoying the prospect of seeing various unanswered questions being solved next week. Only at the show's conclusion, once I discovered that I'd just watched the final episode, did I grasp how much was still left up in the air. No matter. Having initiated a number of inventive plot twists over recent weeks, the finale concluded almost all of them quite poignantly, if not quite brilliantly. Besides, all good fiction should leave something up to the imagination.
Domestic bliss? Six Feet Under dares to question. And Nate and Lisa struggle to find it with baby Maya.
I know I'm not alone in rating Six Feet Under as probably the best drama ever to make it onto American TV: over at Slate, Virginia Heffernan wrote yesterday that "The previous two episodes had been as spellbinding as any show on television ever has been." She does so while observing that Nate Fisher's wife Lisa had been the unlikely fulcrum of the series: "an exquisite antagonista deadly figure whose every gesture rebuked the show itself, especially its insistence on the redeeming powers of sex and art." I hadn't reached this conclusion for myself, but I can see what Heffernan is getting at. Part of Six Feet Under's simplistic genius has been to attribute each family member with a relatively common relationship issue, only to then explore it with unusually brutal honesty. Nate's situation, that of the formerly joyous and gregarious young man whose all-embracing love for his baby daughter (conceived out of wedlock) is compromised by the nulling disappointment of his subsequent marriage, proved perhaps the most painful (and from a purely dramatic point of view, successful) of them all. I hope British viewers become sufficiently addicted to the second series, now that it's finally being shown on terrestial TV, that Channel 4 follows it up immediately with the third series. Because, compared to its HBO 'orginal programming' competition, Sex and The City and The Sopranos, Alan Ball's Six Feet Under completely wipes the floor. I'm going to miss it.
MAY 19-JUNE 1: Ian McCulloch live, New York's financial woes, Six Feet Under, Hedonism, Tommy Guerrero.
MAY 5-18: Live reviews of The Rapture, De La Soul, Carlsonics, Laptop, The Libertines, Echoboy, The Greenhornes; observations on Chris Coco/The Blue Room, The Apple Music Store, Alan Freed, Phil Spector, The Matrix Reloaded, Rare Earth, Tinnitus and Royale!
APRIL 28-MAY 4: Flaming Lips, Madonna, Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks, the war
APRIL 21-27: Rotary Connection, War(n) Out, Cocaine Talk
APRIL 14-20: Belated London Musings on Death Disco and CPFC.
APRIL 7-13: London Musings: Madness, Inspiral Carpets, the Affair, the Palace, the Jam
MARCH 31-APRIL 6: Music be the spice of life, London Calling: Ten Observations from the Old Country
MARCH 24-30: Six Foot Under, Peaches/Elefant live, MP Frees and Busted Boy Bands
MARCH 17-23: Röyksopp live, Transmission, Worn-Out War Talk
MARCH 10-16: Live reviews: Stratford 4, Flaming Sideburns, Joe Jackson Band, Linkin Park. Why I Oppose The War (For Now).
MARCH 3-9: The Pursuit of Happiness, Weekend Players, U.S. Bombs, Al Farooq, A New Pessimism, Brooklyn Half Marathon
FEBRUARY 24-MARCH2: Orange Park, Ali G-Saddam Hussein-Dan Rather-Bill Maher-Jon Stewart TV reviews, Stellastarr*, James Murphy, The Station nightclub fire, the Grammys
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2003