Ok, iJamming! Readers, you're almost home and dry. The iJamming! Appeal, which I've been running somewhat relentlessly through October, ends with Halloween. If you've already given - and many of you have - thanks so much. It makes an emormous difference, not just in meeting the bandwidth bills, but in knowing that this site is appreciated. If you visit often, and haven't yet had opportunity to contribute, please give it some thought.
Why donate? To quote from one my pitches earlier in the month:
"I operate iJamming! as a labour of love it's become an integral part of my life and that's not going to change any time soon but there are costs involved in running the site, not to mention the increasing demands on my time. I have deliberately steered free of advertising on this site, both because of the bureaucracy it would create, and because I want iJamming! to be 100% independent and not influenced by any outsider's interests. And so, the plain fact is: I put in several hours a day on this site, thousands of people visit every week, and I don't get a penny from it.
"In the old days, as some of the regulars at the iJamming! Pub know, I would attend gigs with a plastic bag full of Jamming! fanzines, approach those I thought might be interested in what I/we had to say, and ask them to part with approximately 25p for the privilege of buying a copy. (Sometimes this covered the printing costs; other times it didn't.) Now I'm doing it the other way round: You get to read anything and everything for free, in advance, and if you feel like you're getting something from it, I ask that you consider a contribution. Think of it as dropping a coin in the busker's bucket, or making a donation for upkeep to a beloved museum/church/library. Overseas readers who make up a significant percentage of iJamming! regulars should not feel like they can't get involved. Using either paypal or amazonhonors is as simple as clicking on the buttons below and paying through a credit card."
The concept of web hosts ("bloggers" in some peoples' terminology) asking for contributions is a relatively new one, though I'm far from alone in my request. Certainly, nobody asked us to host these sites; it's entirely our own choice to put in so much time and energy. But that's the beauty of us: we are beholden to no-one not to advertisers, publicists, editors, or lobbyists. We are the truly independent media of the 21st Century.
If we were to close down because we could no longer afford the backbone costs and the time, you would presumably find other sites to replace us. That's the nature of the free market. Or would you? If you come to iJamming! or, indeed, any other non-commercial web site on a regular basis for your news, opinions, reviews, interviews or discussion boards, please consider a small contribution just as you would to a good musician who plays for free and passes the hat later; as you would to a beloved building in need of upkeep; as you would a non-profit, listener/viewer-funded public radio or TV station on which you rely; or as you would to a shareware company that lets you use its software first and pay for it later. If you find you're spending less on print media because there's so much free information on the web, perhaps consider putting some of the money you save back into that new media. And especially, if you're frustrated that your usual media is controlled by a combination of its advertisers and its corporate owners, consider supporting those who stay independent.
It doesn't need to be iJamming! I thoroughly believe in non-commercial web sites as a vital new form of media, and would love to see others feel similarly appreciated so that they too continue putting in the hours to inform us all. Many sites now have a contribution button on their home page; all they ask from you is the impulse to take two minutes and donate. Here are iJamming!'s contribution buttons: you can click on either and Keep iJamming! Thriving.
Bruce Springsteen has stayed out of Partisan Politics throughout a 30+ year career. In 2004 he has endorsed John Kerry for President. My respect for The Boss remains almost limitless.
Any non-British iJamming! readers still uncertain as to John Peel's influence might want to check out some of the shows Radio 1 has been broadcasting since the DJ died, suddenly, on Tuesday. The 15-minute Newsbeat special includes immediate tribute interviews from all manner of musicians, many of whom, like yours truly, remember taking John Peel to bed with them as teenagers (via transistor radio) so as to hear every last minute of his weekday show with or without parents' permission.
In fact, as my own generation hit its mid-teens, the only phrase more common at school than, When are you going to get a girlfriend? was Did you hear Peelie last night? The two were not entirely compatible. It was troublesome enough going to gigs with the knowledge that we were sacrificing two hours' worth of brilliant new music on the Peel show. The prospect of spending an evening fruitlessly trying to get your hand inside some girl's blouse in front of her TV set, or out at some crap movie, when you could be listening to John Peel playing new music was, for some of us, more than we could bear.
Part of our love for this man who was, remember, old enough to be our father, was because of his Peel sessions. At John's request, artists went into the BBC's Maida Vale Studios and recorded up to four songs in just eight hours; these recordings served not only to introduce many a fine new act to the general public, but were beloved of bigger bands too as opportunity to try out new songs in something of public demo form. (On Tuesday night, Steve Lamacq played some selection session cuts; you can access the show here.) Over the last fifteen years, many of the finest Peel sessions have been released on CD and vinyl, but at the time, to miss a great session was equivalent to missing your football team on Match of The Day. And those who stayed home and taped Peel's shows on the finest quality cassette recorders found themselves in great demand. I remember spending far too much of my pocket money sending off blank tapes, Stamped Addressed Envelopes, or crisp pound notes to various addresses scattered round the United Kingdom, to complete my Joy Division or Fall or Scritti Politti Peel session collection.
Everyone remembers a specific record that John Peel turned him or her onto. Mine is probably the most obvious, and excuse me some rose-tinted sentimentality if it makes me believe I had the fortune to be a Peel loyalist during his truly golden days the period right after punk. There was so much wonderful music aired on his show, every single night, but The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' seemed to soar above everything else. It was a brilliant record regardless of Peel's obsession, but it was even better because of it, this 40-year old who could empathise with the teenage experience without patronizing those who were immersed in it. Peel probably played 'Teenage Kicks' every night for six months, from when it was released on Good Vibrations until it charted on Sire. But I particularly remember one night when he played it, let out a sigh of joy, and then said, in those dulcet tones of his, "That record is so good I have to hear it again," picked up the needle and put it back on the start of the groove. These were the days when Abba and Boney M still ruled the play lists and charts, a period when not even The Clash, The Jam and The Buzzcocks were heard on Britain's only pop music station during day time hours; to hear a DJ play a record twice in a row purely because he loved it
well, it gave us hope. Really.
A list of all the bands Peel turned me onto would be overly long and inevitably incomplete. In those years immediately following the punk rock boom, when independent labels sprung up by the hundred and everyone seemed to be putting out records, every night's show offered some new minor classic or another. There were usually a few dogs as well; no Peel show was complete without at least once wondering if you could get through the next three minutes without switching him off. (Likewise, few Peel shows were complete without him playing a record at the wrong speed and how we loved him for it.) But that was part of Peel's persona. He played the role of University Professor for us teens, widening our Universe at a time when prejudices and street cults dictated we keep it confined. There was no one else who played dub reggae alongside new wave, ska alongside hardcore American punk, and old-fashioned folk alongside Kraut rock. (As the years went by, Peel expanded his oeuvre to include techno, drum and bass, hardcore punk and God knows what else. It's important to note that Orbital chose to play their last ever live show, just a few months back, from the Maida Vale studios for a Peel show.)
John Peel, then, taught us that good music is good music. He also taught us that snobbery is a crime. Peel was, remember, a devoted fan of both The Undertones and The Fall, two groups who had almost nothing else in common apart from their lead singer's terrible taste in trousers. And while he filled his post-punk years with all manner of obscure DIY bands from up and down the country, I have a crystal clear memory of the night he decided to play the new Stranglers album from start to finish, simply because he believed they didn't deserve their current backlash.
I was fortunate enough to meet John Peel on several occasions. The first was in late 1978, after he was interviewed for Jamming! 5 by Ray Hoyle, an older kid at our secondary school Tenison's. After cornering him for the interview an exercise in simplistic questioning - Hoyle somehow convinced Peel to let us come up to Broadcasting House one night and sit quietly in the background while he presented his show. I can only assume we had to leave halfway through for the last bus home, and likewise I can only assume we didn't piss him off too much, because I remember going back a second time, being equally reverent and equally quiet as he went about his nightly business. I felt a little embarrassed to be there; his show carried greater resonance delivered through the airwaves to your front room, rather than sitting in on it with him. What I do remember, though, was being invited into his office and seeing all the session tapes piled up in the corner like so many out-of-date newspapers. Peel assured us that it was actually for protection: if he didn't hoard the tapes, he insisted, the BBC bureaucrats would just throw them out, and though that may have been overstating the case, it was typical of Peelie that he would take it upon himself to keep so many priceless recording sessions safe from harm and close at hand.
John Peel traded on self-deprecation, the notion that for all his influence (something he would never admit to anyway), his life was actually quite boring. And to be honest, for a while there it was. If Peel's hours - broadcasting from 10pm to midnight, Monday to Friday - put his listeners in a quandary when they wanted to go out to a gig, imagine what it did for the DJ. For years, he almost never got to see the bands he so loved perform live. And he didn't meet them in the studio either: the Maida Vale sessions took place miles away from Broadcasting House, during the day. For the most part during those peak years, Peel would drive down from his home in East Anglia, shuffle into the studio, prepare his show, pick up a bite to eat on his own, broadcast for two hours and drive home again.
It was during that period that Paul and I started Jamming! Records. Our first signing, Rudi, were already Peel favourites: their 'Big Time' had been the first record on Belfast label Good Vibrations. ('Teenage Kicks' was the fourth.) Peel played Rudi's 'When I Was Dead' as many times as we had hoped, and brought the group in for a couple more sessions. But with Rudi's follow-up, 'Crimson,' he seemed to cool in his enthusiasm.
Jamming! Records used The Jam's radio plugger, Nigel Sweeney. He was great at his job, and a nice person too. But Peel distrusted pluggers for all the obvious, right reasons, and when I asked Nigel how to keep Peel on our side, he said that he certainly couldn't intervene. He suggested, instead, I take Peel out for dinner.
I was 18 at the time. Maybe. I'd only had my first Indian meal a few months before. I didn't know how to order food, let alone wine. But Sweeney insisted. You've heard Peel complain how he never meets anyone, he told me. Give John a call, offer to take him out for a curry. Bet you a tenner he says yes.
I had nothing to lose. (Except a tenner.) I got Peel on the phone it wasn't hard in those days, I'd done it a few times before - and asked if he fancied sharing a curry some weeknight before his show. I cringed as I made the offer. But John was immediate in his response.
"How very kind of you," he said. "I'd love to." A few days later, we met up in the early evening at Broadcasting House, had a quick pint round the corner, and then Peel took me to his favorite local curry house and I picked up the tab.
What did we talk about? Damned if I remember. Hopefully, just about music and maybe a little bit about his life out in the country, with the mysterious "pig," as his long-suffering wife Sheila was referred to for so many years. I only remember being perfectly nervous, and John being perfectly charming. He may possibly have found me as much of a pain as when we blagged our way into his studio all those years earlier, but if that was the case, he was far too nice to say so. And looking back on it, I'm sure he enjoyed himself. Not because of my company, but because he always took pleasure in talking about music with anyone who loved it even half as much as himself, and because he would have been happy to share his enthusiasm and encouragement for anyone willing to make a career of that love. You may have heard people say over these last few days that John Peel was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Guess what? It was true.
Our meal out didn't make the slightest bit of difference to his on-air support for our records. Nor should it have done. Peel only ever played what he liked. But it was the fact that he liked so damn much of it with a passion - that makes us so sad to lose him.
I could not get excited about this year's CMJ Music Marathon, despite the presence of hundreds of bands in dozens of New York clubs over four solid nights. My lack of enthusiasm may be the result of attending too many previous such events, it may have been from the ongoing understanding that all the best bands come back round to New York sooner, rather than later, and it was certainly something to do with the other priorities in my life right now
None of which could disguise the fact that the line-up this year was desperately poor. Buzz British bands like The Music and Hope Of The States aren't filling me with excitement to match their media buzz (a subject I'll return to another day). And too many of the supposedly star attractions were disappointingly old and familiar: The Fall, Sonic Youth, Camper Van Beethoven, Low and Lou Barlow may have been cutting edge ten years ago (or more), but in 2004, they represent only a trip down alt-rock's memory lane. Such was the paucity of real young talent that Clinic who have been through New York several times now across at least three albums were brandished as the most happening thing around. If this Music Marathon was anything to go by, the American alternative rock/college music scene is in a desperate funk.
One of the two shows I went to during 'CMJ week' was not even related to the Music Marathon: it was a sold-out show at Webster Hall with The Libertines and Radio 4. The Libertines have attracted an instant following in New York, for which I think you can credit the wasted drug vibe as much as the music this is the home city, after all, of the New York Dolls, The Strokes and so many more, and there's something of a fascination among Manhattanites for the similarly seedy side of London.
Rude Boy Carl Barat and new boy Anthony Rossomando; photo courtesy of Chris Benton
But without Pete Doherty, the crowd were not obliged their musical (or even visual) train wreck. What they got instead was a set that flitted between the Libertines' trademark ramshackle Britrock'n'roll and American post-punk hardcore, with new American guitarist Anthony Rossomando stylishly flailing his way through precision chords and solos like a youthful Joey Santiago. Rossomando's presence allowed Carl Barat an undisputed role as front man, though the singer's reluctance to engage the audience surely represents a lost opportunity in that regard.
As when I saw the group at Bowery Ballroom, my initial cynicism about the Libertines' originality was gradually worn down by their onstage sense of purpose especially the power of drummer Gary Powell, who seemed thrilled by the addition of the skillful Rossomando. Though I hadn't heard much of the new album by the time the show came round, and therefore failed to recognize much of the set proper, I enjoyed the encores of 'Boys In The Band', 'What A Waster' and 'I Get Along' (all, interestingly, from the debut album) almost as much as the girls in the front rows.
But not really. They're a better, more focused band without Doherty but, I freely admit, I fail to appreciate The Libertines' attraction especially given the lacklustre new album. I'm obviously in the minority; my date for the night, fellow blogger Chris Benton, loved every note. Time to move on
Thursday night, Posie and I attended the Astralwerks showcase at Bowery Ballroom as our sole venture into the madness of the CMJ Music Marathon. The Astralwerks label (always afforded a certain financial security by the size of its parent company Virgin) made its initial impact, over a decade ago, with ambient-dub techno compilations in the emerging American post-rave scene. By the mid-nineties, it had positioned itself at the vanguard of what the media called electronica, enjoying a purple patch with the success of Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Air, and many others. But as the dance scene has dissipated (the new Fatboy Slim album Palookaville has disappeared almost without trace in the States), Astralwerks has been forced to look further afield to maintain its musical and commercial edge. The line-up at the Bowery reflected the label's healthily eclectic, global approach to A&R but also demonstrated just how fractured the music scene is at the moment.
THE GOLDEN REPUBLIC (Kansas City, Missouri):
A relatively conventional four-piece with an obvious debt to Supergrass, and therefore T. Rex before them: check the songs 'You Almost Had It' and 'Make It' from debut EP People for evidence. Live, vocalist/guitarist Ben Grimes has enough twang in his voice and personality in his presentation to lift The Golden Republic above the ranks of like-minded bands; with talented bassist Harry Anderson also contributing charisma, they are, to coin the most relevant if common of clichés, a band to watch for.
SONDRE LERCHE (Bergen, Norway):
It would be hard for Astralwerks to detour further from the block-rocking beats that made the label's fortune than the largely acoustic folk-pop of Norwegian pin-up Sondre Lerche. But good music is good music, and Lerche is a talent such as any label would die for. The 21-year old Lerche includes among his influences Burt Bacharach and Paddy MacAloon, but he reminds me mostly of Roddy Frame. For, as with the Aztec Camera man around his second album, Lerche is painfully young, quite gorgeous with it, and so full of charisma you only hope he won't allow the weight of expectations to weigh him down. Given his casual performance style - "So, y'all keeping it real?" he frequently teased the New York audience in his Scandinavian accent the acclaim doesn't seem to be bothering him. (Nor, it should be said, did it much bother Roddy Frame, who nonetheless has never re-climbed the heights he attained on his first two albums.) Lerche drew primarily on songs from his 2001 debut Face Down and this year's Two Way Monologue, but dropped in a few new songs too, including one with a lyric so stunningly obvious "There is romance and there is love" that you couldn't help but love him for it.
As a solo performer, Lerche is a natural, but he knows well the limitations of the lone singer-songwriter, which is why he brought on The Golden Republic as backing band for the last couple of songs. Suddenly his material especially another new number that started in bossa nova style, before venturing into a serious rock throwdown had a bounce. The two acts are currently on tour together, and you can be certain The Golden Republic will be joining Lerche onstage at every opportunity.
VHS OR BETA (Louisville, Kentucky):
I wrote about this group two years ago after they blindsided me at the Knitting Factory with their instrumental, guitar rock appropriation of chic French house and urban acid techno. That night they seemed to play primarily instrumentals, and while it inevitably made for a sense of repetition, I may have preferred them that way: on new album Night On Fire, Craig Pfunder's vocal delivery is so painfully styled on Robert Smith's that even the best songs like the title track and 'You Got Me' come across as little more than 80s new wave revivals. Still, when they broke free of these constraints, as on the exuberant instrumental 'Nightwaves', they asserted themselves as the best punk-funk-acid-disco-rock band in America. The out-of-town college kids, who always react to dance music like it's a new invention, almost wet themselves with excitement.
THE CONCRETES (Stockholm, Sweden):
I'm not sure what I expected from the much vaunted Swedes, but I know I was disappointed. The nine-piece group (complete with brass section, and that requisite of almost all Scandinavian touring groups, the tambourine player) had less energy than your average acoustic duo, and though this forced quiet is a supposed part of their charm - along with the cult-like uniforms - it didn't work after midnight on a multi-band bill. Even the early appearance of 'You Can't Hurry Love' failed to create an atmosphere, and you could tell from the worried look in singer Victoria Bergsman's eyes that she wasn't happy about any of it.
Some of The Concretes: spot the obligatory Scandinavian tambourine player behind Bergsman.
Bad night? Or over hype? That's the problem with Music Marathon showcases: even at one venue, in just one evening, you can become overloaded with music to the point that you stop caring. We called it a night but a memorable one, based on the enthusiasm and talent of the three preceding acts a few songs into The Concretes. And we worried not about missing everything else in town that week. Contrary to all the bitching of the also-rans, cream does generally rise to the top. The best acts will be back here in no time. And presumably, given the cyclical nature of this stuff, the scene will soon sort itself out. And when it does, Astralwerks will surely continue to be in the midst of it, sifting out the best of it for the rest of us.
I took a certain amount of stick these last couple of years for favorably quoting British expat Andrew Sullivan's political observations: he was, after all, a proud Bush supporter in 2000. Not this time: Sullivan comes out today, in the New Republic and on his web site, in support of John Kerry.
"If Bush wins," writes Sullivan, "the religious right, already dominant in Republican circles, will move the GOP even further toward becoming a sectarian, religious grouping. If Kerry loses, the anti-war left will move the party back into the purist, hate-filled wilderness, ceding untrammeled power to a resurgent, religious Republicanism - a development that will prove as polarizing abroad as it is divisive at home. But If Bush loses, the fight to recapture Republicanism from Big Government moralism will be given new energy; and if Kerry wins, the center of the Democratic party will gain new life. That, at least, is the hope."
Sullivan's site is among the most widely read and presumably, then, influential political blogs in the world. I've admired Andrew since 9/11 for never letting his political inclination get in the way of what he perceives to be the truth. (Even though there are many, many issues on which I don't share his view.) I've been even more supportive of that other politically outspoken British expat, Christopher Hitchens, who, though he doesn't blog, bravely (and controversially) questioned his traditionally left wing stance following his friends' and allies' hysteria in the aftermath of 9/11. Still, Sullivan surprised me this morning by labeling Hitchens a "Bush-supporter" in his endorsement of Kerry.
A quick flip over to Slate.com, for whom Hitchens regularly writes shows that, yesterday, its contributors, Hitchens included, came out in support of Kerry. Hitchens' endorsement is reserved as it is by most of us who are fed up of supporting the lesser of two evils rather than the greater of two go(o)ds but it's there none-the-less. Sullivan has since corrected himself on his web site. That's part of what blogs are for, and Sullivan is not beyond apologising: in his endorsement of Kerry, he pleads "guilty" of placing too much faith in Bush. He writes that he is still glad Bush "was President when we were attacked," but then makes the following crucial assessment.
"But that doesn't mean he's the right leader for the years ahead. And one of the great benefits of being a democracy at war is that we can change leaders and tactics to advance the same goals. Dictatorships are stuck with the same guy - with all his weaknesses and all the hubris that comes from running successful wars, hubris that almost always leads to fatal errors, hubris that isn't restricted to tyrants."
Does someone like Sullivan carry enough sway to swing the election? Surely not. But if his view is representative of other well-meaning, socially liberal fiscal conservatives who are struggling to equate their traditional leaning with the reality of the Bush administration, then his "confession" and endorsement could yet make a major difference. (In this regard, it will be fascinating to read the response of his readers to the Kerry endorsement.) This Election, after all, comes down to a very small number of people in a small number of States. I believe it is absolutely wide open at this point, and that late-in-the-day Kerry endorsements by disappointed Conservatives carry as much weight as any number of letters to random voters from well-meaning Guardian readers.
A day of mourning here at iJamming! for veteran, legendary broadaster John Peel, who has died from a heart attack, while on holiday in Peru, age 64.
There surely aren't any British music lovers at least not amongst the type who would visit this site - unaffected by Peelie's enthusiasm and geniality for such a wide range of music, shared over so many years via his various shows on BBC Radio 1. Music lovers round the rest of the world, many of whom listened to him via the BBC World Service and in more recent years across the Internet - will surely be aware of his influence. It was without comparison in modern broadcasting. His popularity was helped in no small part by the fact that he was such a lovely man.
In mourning his sudden departure, maybe we can pay our respects in the form of fond memories. If you have a John Peel moment, some instance where he turned you on to some thing new, or just made you laugh with his jovial irreverence, please feel free to share it in The Pub. We will miss him, greatly.
Had what some might consider a normal weekend: I didn't go running. Been nursing a (predictably) sore knee from what can only be called over-training in recent weeks, and opted to rest up rather than aggravate it just two weeks shy of the Marathon. (At this point, my long runs are done with anyway; the main task now is just to stay healthy and fit, with some short runs to keep the body familiar with the concept.) Anyway, the result these last few days has been interesting from a physiological point of view: not being so worn out at night, I've been waking earlier and with copious amounts of excess energy.
Fortunately, there's been plenty to do, most of it away from the site. I spent the weekend in a not entirely intended nostalgic mood, working on features about Pete Townshend and Joe Strummer, letting the latter commission overlap with a final read-through of my upcoming book, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Clash, before it goes off to the printers. This next few months is going to bring an absolute deluge of books on The Clash in general, Strummer in particular: as well as Pat Gilbert's highly anticipated Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story Of The Clash, there's also Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros: Visions Of A Homeland by Anthony Davie, Let Fury Have the Hour: The Punk Rock Politics of Joe Strummer by Antonino D'Ambrosio, and Joe Strummer and the Legend of The Clash by Kris Needs. If anyone's read any of these new books (I haven't), please share your thoughts in The Pub. The one to really look forward to is Redemption Song: The (apparently) Authorised Biography of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz, which is not out until April '05.
I'm happy to say my own book has nothing in common with any of the above: it's about the music, pure and simple. It's the first time I've written a non-fiction book without interviewing dozens and dozens of people, the first time I've been able to just sit down, listen to the records, compose my thoughts, check my facts and write. It's a short read, 128 pages, no photos. And I have to say: I'm real pleased with the results. The book's out some point in the New Year.
Also this weekend, I sorted through Apocalypse music and memorabilia for our upcoming album, and briefly attended the 40th birthday party of one of my old-time football friends from out here. There's a solid group of us immigrants (English and Irish) in New York who moved here round the same time, found ourselves playing football together for many years and who, for the most part, have stayed on and settled down. It was great to see them again Saturday night - even though, with the wife being 27 weeks pregnant and me trying to stay out of trouble, we cut out at midnight. This was was, somewhat reassuringly for such a bunch of old codgers, just as the party looked like it was getting going.
A stroll down our neighborhood 5th Avenue yesterday revealed so many more new restaurants and bars opening that I start to wonder if the entrepreneurs have never heard of the phrase, Irrational Exuberance. Surely there's only so much money to be made out of one neighborhood's disposable income at a time when, to be blunt, most of us don't have disposable income? Or maybe I'm just frustrated: when you're working long hours, raising a family and no longer able to hammer it every night and still bounce out of bed the following morning, there's little opportunity to sample all the food and beverage a happening 'hood can offer.
For those with the time and the money, I can, from a little recent experience, recommend Franny's Oven-Baked Pizza on Flatbush by Prospect for using entirely organic ingredients for its delicious thin pizzas and an all-Italian wine list. (Warning: it's a meal out, not a slice night.) Surreal Café, on 5th and Prospect, is open for breakfast through dinner, and also focuses on organic ingredients but without sacrificing comfort food: I had a brilliant veggie burger and fries the other week, and a good lentil pilaf on another occasion. My carnivore friends seem to be more than happy with the various burgers and steaks on offer too. They wouldnt be so content at Vegetarian Palate on Flatbush by Prospect (opposite Franny's), which is a Chinese flavored café/restaurant full of those fake meat dishes that I love to devour when on a protein kick. I may well try it out the night of November 7.
There's a number of wine bars in our area now, too. Total Wine Bar is just round the corner from me on 5th Ave; I haven't had occasion to hang out there, but the list is suitably varied and fairly priced. The award winning restaurant Al Di La has opened Al Di La Vino round the corner; somewhat self-explanatory, it offers 25 wines by the glass along with whatever the Italian call tapas. Blue Ribbon stays open til 4am nightly, serving not just some of the best food in Brooklyn, but an astonishing range of fine wine by the glass. And Cucina, for many years 5th Avenue's lone fine restaurant, recently succumbed to the surrounding competition and closed its doors; it re-opened almost immediately, with much the same décor, as Tempo Restaurant and Wine Bar.
Fortunately, some of the once-new places have now been around long enough to become mainstays. While our son was in the playground opposite, I spent a little time chatting with the English bartender at The Gate yesterday lunchtime as he opened up shop. He's a Tottenham fan, and we agreed that it's easier to follow your team from overseas, not just because you can get on with your day even if they lose, but because it's hard to feel quite as excited as you used to given the mercenary nature of the game these days. Funnily enough, soon as I got home, I read an editorial on that very subject in The Observer. (And hey, what a difference goal difference makes, eh? Palace win 3-0, leapfrog five teams at the bottom of the Premiership
an enormous boost to the team's confidence.)
Can you imagine how hard it is to get a 9-year old boy OUT of this store?
The most interesting addition to 5th Avenue, without doubt, is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., which is partly what it says, a store that sells capes, masks, grappling hooks, 2-way radios, camera glasses and other such necessary goods to destroy the forces of evil. If that seems rather facetious, well, it is: the store is really a front (pun intended) for a McSweeneys inspired non-profit organization, 826NYC, set up to help students improve their writing skills. McSweeney's itself is the publishing company established by (Park Slope by way of San Francisco) writer Dave Eggers, from the proceeds of his best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, about raising his 8-year old brother after their parents died. (Eggers was 22 at the time.) Though I've always found McSweeney's the epitome of elitist humor (i.e. not funny), I'm full of admiration that Eggars has put his money back into the community in such a direct, hands-on manner. Whatever did happen to The Clash club, anyway?
OCT 18-24: R.E.M., Kevin Tihista, Brian Wilson, Atomique. Anglo-American Angle, Jon Stewart,
OCT 11-17: Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Bowling For Soup, Paul Weller, The Go! Team, Fatboy Slim, New York Wines and Dines, Dick Is A Killer,
OCT 4-10: Best of Best Of New York, Keep iJamming! Thriving, WebFriends, October Hitlist
SEP 26-OCT 3: This Sporting Life Parts 1 & 2 (football and Olympics), Full Court Music Press, Rudi, The Clash, Apocalypse
SEP 19-25: The Zutons/Thrills live, Brian Clough RIP, Iraq, Hunting, Virgin Trains, Punk Voters, Step On Steps Down
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: Pixies, Charlatans, Scissor Sisters, Fountains Of Wayne. Basement Jaxx, Audio Bullys, Freestyler, The Killers, Pink - and camp cameraderie.
SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: