Monday, July 24, 2006

Konono No. 1 at the Black Cat

I guess we're a little behind the curve on discovering the Congotronics sound, although I recall Hackmuth playing me a track a long time ago. But after Tom turned us on to the second disc, which includes some amazing footage of performances on DVD, we were big fans. So we bought our tickets many weeks before this Friday's show and awaited the night with great anticipation.

When we got to the BC there were some frat boys at the door asking for their money back but we didn't pay them any mind, figuring they didn't like the music. So we got stamped and climbed the stairs to enter the main room to find ......... no air conditioning. None. Not a trace. It was fiercely hot. Congo hot. After bitching we resigned ourselves to a sweaty night.

What gives with the Black Cat? There wasn't any air conditioning in the back room when we saw the Foreign Press earlier this summer. This is DC in the summer. People need air conditioning.

So anyway, back to Friday night. It must have been 120 degrees at least in the club. Sweat poured off us. Coked-up college kids were smoking cigarettes and having loud conversations. Chopteeth, the opening band, was terrible, but Konono No. 1 was fantastic, with waves and waves of interwoven rhythms just going and going and going. At times, with the heat and the Red Stripe in my system I began drifting to another plane. We danced and danced. We danced away the frat boys, we danced away the cig smokers, we danced away the wars in the world and the violence in our city, we danced away every single care, and when we came out onto the street, soaked through, we felt cleansed. That's what music is supposed to do, right?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Touch of Gray

Originally uploaded by stereogab.
Deep in the dog days of summer it's time to celebrate my dad's birthday today. Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

To Be Viewed With Your Third Eye

Originally uploaded by BarrettJ.
All is illusion...

Monday, July 17, 2006

a weekend at Wave Farm

Originally uploaded by BarrettJ.
We spent the past weekend at the Campfire Sounds festival, which took place at Wave Farm in upstate New York, up the road from Saugerties. Wave Farm is thirty acres of forest and fields owned by free103point9. Performers on Saturday included Dust Dive, MV+EE+Bummer Road, and others. Stars Like Fleas did a great set up in the woods beneath a big old tree. But the performances were really just an added bonus. The real pleasure was camping at the edge of a sunny field, walking around listening to the day's set being broadcast to dozens of radios scattered throughout the property, and mingling with the crowd, which was a mix of students, musicians, artists and friendly fellow-travelers.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More Syd Barrett Stories

Story of a blind date with Syd in 1967

Nick Kent on Syd

Syd's astrology life path number 9

Syd Barrett perfume

A Pitchfork feature

A previously unknown Arnold Layne video

An interview with his sister

Two friends remember

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Syd Barrett Links

A 1971 Rolling Stone interview

A BBC tribute site with some interesting comments

A Newsnight tribute broadcast last night

Joe Boyd remembers

Pink Floyd performing on Look of the Week back in the day

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Scream Thy Last Scream: Syd Barrett's Last Trip

By now the news is spreading like wildfire. I'm sure in the next few days there will be more outpourings like this one. I know many fans cared deeply for the man even though they'd never met him. I suppose I'm one of them, although over time I've come to realize that my interest in "Syd" was more about what he represented than who he actually was. For a very short span of time he channeled some very intense energy into a small body of work: "Piper At The Gates of Dawn", one song on "Saucerful of Secrets", two solo albums- "Barrett" and "The Madcap Laughs" - and some unreleased gems like "Vegetable Man" and "Scream Thy Last Scream". Then he disappeared, walking from London back to Cambridge, as the legend goes, to live a life of seclusion. It's all very Romantic English Poet Tragic, a pop-culture Keats trajectory that still resonates thirty-years on. But while the story is fascinating, and the pictures are fun to look at, it's the music that first spoke to me and continues to speak to me all these years later. Songs like "Lucifer Sam" and "It's No Good Trying" are the heaviest psychedelic shit I have ever heard. Heavier even than "I Am The Walrus" or "Purple Haze". Heavier than the dozens of lesser-known bands whose output I have collected obsessively over the years since I first heard "See Emily Play" and thought this sounds fantastic! The music was a transmission from a higher plane, portraying a revolution in consciousness where typical words and chords were transformed into something new, unique, and exciting. And that's the lasting appeal of Syd. Like the shamans of long ago he took the trip and came back to communicate what he'd glimpsed so that all of us could share the experience. That's the work of a true artist and that's who Syd Barrett was. Rest in Peace.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Office Culture of Cost Cutting

At my work they're suddenly running out of money. Strange for an institution that is supposed to advise the countries of the world on how to plan their economies. But there you have it; the revenue streams are drying up and it's time to trim the fat. So what's on the chopping block? The Executive Dining Room? Lord no! The director's limousine service? That must stay! Fly economy class? Are you insane? Subsidized parking spots? Never! So what to cut?

First, an obvious money-drainer: bathroom cleaning. Now bathrooms are only cleaned once a day. So the pile of green phlegm that was in the men's room sink at 10 a.m. is still there at 5 p.m.- YUM!

Second to go: salary increases. Lower tier staff get a 2.5 % increase and upper tier staff get a 4.5 % increase. So upper tier staff, who are already paid more, get a bigger percentage increase than lower tier staff. Since these are economists, it must make sense to them. All I know is that my salary increase for this year won't even pay a month of my rent.

Next on the chopping block: library services. Cost-cutters are taking a hard look at the library's wasteful practice of buying books, journals, and databases used by the organization's staff for their research. Why are we paying for this stuff when it's all out on the Internet for free?

Stay tuned for further details...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Originally uploaded by stereogab.

Today is my mom's birthday. My mom has been through a lot this year. Her Swedish Minnesota Lutheran upbringing equipped her with the strength and stoicism to endure the various hardships that life has tossed her way over the years. She is now the matriarch of her family, having outlived her three sisters. She keeps in touch with her nieces and nephews and even marks the birthdays of their children. She touches many children's lives in her work as librarian in a public library. I am happy to honor her today, and every day.