Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Monday, 7 June 2010

i power kexp

i'll be honest: i've never been much of a charitable giver.

i can't think of one point in my life where i've called up a charity and said "hey, i like your cause, count me in". don't get me wrong, i give to numerous charities but this process always begins with being cornered by a lady - and it is always a lady - with a clipboard on a busy high street. i don't know why it's always females, perhaps men are just poor at getting unsuspecting passers-by to give them money. i guess if they bat lashes in the same way it probably wouldn't have the desired effect, and in your more homophobic regions it could even lead to a crowd at the gallows old-school style or the mass exodus of all hetero-penis from the town pursued by some flouncing anti pied piper..

i digressed. back to the point: i'm a tight fisted bastard. but this all changed this week, when i finally got off my butt and, in this time of financial uncertainty, i made the decision to get involved with Seattle-based radio station KEXP for their summer pledge drive.

i do feel a pang of guilt for giving to KEXP when 6Music is facing the axe, but my reasons are simple:

a. you can't give 6Music any money. fale.
b. i pay my licence fee so i already do, technically, give, although i also give to a whole bunch of shit i don't like and don't watch/listen to. just think about that - you're all technically giving over money so they can make The One Show
c. KEXP has to hand a fantastic back catalogue of streaming archives from their live guests, accessible at the touch of a button, and we're talking both the cutting edge and the time-weathered heroes, from Death Cab and MGMT to Bright Eyes and Los Campesinos!. it also run block parties, music festivals and is home to the single best radio show anywhere in the world: Jon Richards' Jon In The Morning, some effortless mix of the old and new alternative, who'll regularly play, on request or otherwise, stuff from Seattle's own Long Winters and Harvey Danger, plus the likes of Black Keys, Arcade Fire, Joy Formidable, Sam Amidon, Future of the Left, The National, Sufjan, Elliott Smith and the list goes on and on.

there is no other site like this, it is truly one of a kind and, in the current financial climate, i think it's about time i stepped in, albeit with a paltry donation.

with the needle currently sat at just under 50% at time of writing (about $300k short of their target), it's not too late to chip in. at the very least, spend an hour with them a week and improve/expand your music taste (yes yes, regardless of how good it is now, i know yours is great already).

Sunday, 6 June 2010

an evening at the ICA

it's always fascinating, for me at least, to see a songwriter with a band. the endless questions like, how do they write together? do they write together or is that one man responsible for everyone's every move? and which comes first, the song on the record or the song being blasted down into your eardrums at 115dB?

welcome to the ICA. well, not right now but recently. Wednesday night in fact, when i cashed in the ticket given to me by my parents on my 29th birthday to go and watch Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent, famed (in my head at least) for gentle heartbullying country/blues/folk.

but that's deceptive. what that description above doesn't tell you is that your country-blues-folk will be served to you on a platter of psych-rock, elongated with the musical rolling pin that is guitar solos, garnished with the permission of a rather serious-looking curly haired guy from Atlanta. this spindly creature, Houck himself, will wander from centre stage at any opportunity but not forward to bask in any glow, but backwards or sideways to let the band do the work.

i guess for anyone who knows me well the question is simple: you hate drawn-out wig-outs. why the fuck are you there?

simple. Matthew Houck has a voice which, for some reason, i regard to be the perfect voice for the style of music he plays; it breaks, it warps, it sounds out of control but it can't be because he hits the same notes in the same places every time. it's a perfect example of order from chaos, that happens to hit its peak at the most important part of any band: the vocals.

so why the band? in the encore it's clear that a lone Houck can deliver a stunning song himself, as first Pride star 'Wolves' and then Here's To Taking It Easy also-ran 'Heaven, Sittin Down' are given solo treatment, the former taken from its original ukulele-laced slow-burning arrangement, and the latter given new purpose away from its full band country hopalong style, both gleaming in the stage spotlights that night, the lack of any other interference a clear benefit.

but i guess a counter argument can be made, as those two highlights make up only two of the four heart-in-mouth moments at tonight's ICA show (the ICA, incidentally, is a beautiful theatre and venue, albeit one i sadly have little time to explore). a big fan of willie nelson, Houck and band punch out Nelson's 'It's Not Supposed To Be That Way' (released on their Nelson tribute album To Willie) and recent-album highlight 'The Mermaid Parade' to great effect, the main man looking decidedly more relaxed at both these points, taking the microphone from its stand, lead draped over his shoulders, roaming to the front of the stage for once to bask in the sheer heartbreak that, for the Willie Nelson cover at least, just isn't present on the record, and that second verse in 'The Mermaid Parade' gets me at the best of times but tonight it makes for a lump in the throat.

I guess then whatever Houck does, there's always potential for the magic touch. I'll be honest, tonight wasn't the greatest gig ever witnessed by humanity which, given my short attention span isn't surprising when you're dealing with songs forcibly extended to six, seven, eight plus minutes, but Phosphorescent are a band who are more relevant now than at any previous point in its existence, you should check out 'Wolves' and 'The Mermaid Parade' on iTunes and get the free mp3 from KEXP below (more on them soon).