Valentine’s Day Cards

Valentine’s Day Cards

I’m generally a ‘card guy’. I like giving cards, receiving cards and making cards and this year I made my wife an “old school mix-tape” card (only it was a CD because, you know, who has a cassette recorder anymore?) Here’s what was on her mix:

Hem – Waltz (from Rabbit Songs)
Peter GabrielIn Your Eyes (from So)
Jason MrazI’m Yours (from I’m Yours)
311Love Song (from 50 First Dates)
IncubusDig (from Light Grenades)
Band of HorsesMarry Song (from Cease to Begin)
Dave Matthews BandI’ll Back You Up (from Remember Two Things)
The Bird and the Bee – How deep is Your Love (from Please Clap Your Hands)
Nick DrakeNorthern Sky (from Bryter Layter)
Stevie WonderI Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever) (from Talking Book)
Prince – Call My Name (from Musicology)
Paul McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed (from McCartney)
U2 – Sweetest Thing (from U218 Singles)
Hot Chip – Wrestlers (from Made in the Dark)
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – My One and Only Love (from John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman)
Dave Mathews Band – Crush (from The Central Park Concert)
Jay Wood – #41 (from ???)

Anyone else get crafty and make their sweetie a Valentine this year?

Ickmusic goes to the Grammys

As the shadow of Amy Winehouse’s brunette beehive casts a shadow on the 2008 Grammy Awards – it is time, friends, to open the refrigerator, fetch a cold Heineken Premium Lite, and drink my way through this ceremony. The official rules for Ickmusic’s Grammy Drinking Game can be found here.

The telecast starts here in Arizona at 7:00pm MST (9pm EST). Right now, Ace Young is being interviewed on the Red Carpet E Show. Ace Young! I need to pop my beer now. American Idol sighting.

Be with you in 20 minutes…… feel free to add your comments in the – well – Comments.

6:54pm – In the “I sh*t you not” department, here is proof positive that I am committed to this game. Represent!

6:59pm – the wife and kids are hunkered down upstairs. Wise of them! Here we go…
7:00 – Kind of cool, kind of creepy intro with Alicia Keys and a dead black & white Sinatra singing behind her piano. The way he’s snapping hisfingers behind the piano looks a bit like he’s handling his junk. But I digress.
Michael’s IM: Hey, it’s Frank Sinatra… here’s the sound of teenagers all over the country going “who the hell is that guy?”
Okay, these ‘virtual’ performances are creepy as hell. Alicia Keys sounds great and honestly it was a great performance. But what the heck is with all these women with dresses that they look like they are going to trip on. I’m thinking that before the end of the night we’ll see at least one of these ladies eat a chunk of the stage!

7:03pm – Alicia is beautiful. But that green dress is smashing her girls.
7:05pm – Carrie Underwood performance. Is anyone else having flashbacks to Shania Twain? Leatherrrr… In the background, dancers are bashing those swimming pool noodle things into junk.
Michael: They are wasting no time… Carrie Underwear, I mean Underwood is doing a vamped up, rocked out “Before He Cheats”. I guess the cast of “Stomp” was available for the evening. She definitely gets points for the Dusty Springfield inspired look.
7:07pm – Oh! American Idol (Underwood) sighting! 1 Drink!
7:08pm – There’s the Purple man. Eh, 2 drinks! Prince presents Best Female R&B Performance. Alicia Keys wins. I didn’t catch P’s one liner about Sinatra. Drink.
Michael: Dayum… looking every bit the part of Christopher Tracy Prince is here to give the award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. First award goes to Alicia Keys for “No One” and obviously she thanks God and her “Angels” (Prince has a copy of ‘The Watchtower’ in his back pocket to hand her).
7:11pm – first commercials 11 minutes into the ceremony. not surprised I guess.

7:17pm – “Jungle Love”! Driiink. Okay, we have Morris, Jerome, Jimmy, Terry… is that Jesse on the flying V?
Michael: Jimmy Jam! Morris! Jerome! It’s the motherf**king TIME!! Somebody get me a mirror! I don’t know… is this show is certainly not letting up on the pace. Jungle Love… oh-eh-oh-eh-oh! Ella-ella-aye-aye… Rihanna flows nicely. And when did Morris start looking just like Prince?

7:22pm -Tom Hanks showing love to the Band! Nice. Tom Hanks = Grammy Gold. Eh? But “That Thing You Do” (I think was the name of the movie) was pretty sweet.
Michael: Hey Tom Hanks thanks for pointing out The Band are Canadian.

The Grammy Drinking Game

Here’s what I have so far. By all means, feel free to add more rules in the comments. I’ll be adding live commentary beginning at 7:00pm MST.

  • Every time someone thanks God (or any higher power) during an acceptance speech – point to the sky – 3 drinks
  • Every time music cuts off an acceptance speech – laugh – 1 drink
  • Rihanna sightings – nod – 1 drink
  • Every time anyone mentions “Rehab” – 1 drink
  • Every time the name “Bublé” is mentioned – 1 drink
  • Every time an American Idol (contestant or winner) is shown – 1 drink
  • Every time an American Idol wins a Grammy – put your drink down – that’s how we ended up with these people in the first place
  • If Bruce Springsteen wins a Grammy, stand, salute the television, and drink the rest of your beer.
  • During the Foo Fighters performance take 1 drink every time: 1. Dave Grohl spits 2.Dave Grohl screams like a madman 3. Taylor Hawkins spins his drumstick a la Tommy Lee
  • During the Rihanna / Time performance:
    • If they go into ”The Bird”, stand up and join in for at least 5 seconds, then sit down – 3 drinks
    • If it’s “Jungle Love”, exclaim “Somebody bring me a mirror!” – 3 drinks
  • Should Prince win a Grammy for “Future Baby Mama” do a shot of Purple Motherf**ker (Recipe Below)
  • Should Prince win a Grammy and accept it during the broadcast drink a pint of Purple Motherf**ker

Purple Motherf**ker

Over Ice pour:

1 Part Blue Curacao
1 Part Triple Sec
1 Part Vodka
1 Part Pineapple Juice
Top with 7-Up

One shake and serve as a shot or drink in the glass!

Coming Sunday: The Ickmusic Grammy Drinking Game with Live Commentary

If you’re watching the Grammys on Sunday night, don’t forget to dial up Ickmusic for some live commentary from me and Michael, as well as the premier Ickmusic Grammy Drinking Game ®. If somebody thanks a higher power during an acceptance speech? Point to the sky and take 3 big gulps! Kanye West appearing visibly upset after losing another award? One hearty laugh and chug a beer.

So bring your laptop and a six-pack over to the TV and join us, won’t you?

More rules to follow…

The Time + Rihanna = Jungle Umbrella Love? – Watch the Grammys

Here’s a newsworthy item for a Prince geek like me… According to this Billboard article, Rihanna will be joined by none other than the Time for a performance at next weekend’s Grammys.

I’ll be adding my sometimes snide, sometimes cynical, but honest commentary all night in year 2 of my live blogging of the Grammys. Believe me, it works better than barking mean-spirited comments to my wife all night!

There should be some blog-worthy moments, especially if Amy Winehouse shows up. They tried to make her go to rehab and she said Yes Yes Yes – this time around. But she’s expected to be there for the ceremony.

Here’s Morris, Terry, Jimmy, Jesse and the boys throwin’ down on American Bandstand back in ’82-’83 with “777-9311” (quality = shiteous, but fun nonetheless):

LastFM takes it to the next level

If you’re here, you love music. And if you love music, you should be on LastFM – a free social music networking site. Especially with this morning’s news…

LastFM, which CBS bought last year, just announced a major deal with all four major labels, and thousands of indie labels, that will allow you – the music fan – to go to LastFM, and listen to any song you want, in its entirety. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Okay, so what is LastFM? What all does it do? I turned a few friends on to it over the last few months who had never heard of it, so there are probably bunches of you fine people out there who don’t know about LastFM. So here goes…

The first thing you want to do is sign up for LastFM. It’s free.

The next thing you’ll want to do is download their software (PC or Mac, it doesn’t matter). What the software does is it ties in to your music player, whether it’s iTunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, whatever – and keeps track of the music you listen to.

When you go to your profile page, you’ll find “charts” of the music you’ve been listening to, your top artists, your top songs, etc. Pretty sweet in itself. But that’s just the beginning. This is where the networking part comes in to the picture. Based on what you’re listening to, it shows you other LastFM members with similar interests, and displays them as your “Neighbors”. You can check out their profile pages to see what they’re listening to. You can send them invitations to be your “Friend” too. Friends can send recommendations to other friends, send private messages, etc.

Then there’s the Recommendations feature. By just typing in an artist, LastFM will start playing full tunes of similar artists – a great way to discover new music. It’s pretty sweet. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but it’s not. I’m a music GEEK, and this is music geek heaven, in my opinion. And now that they’ve made a deal with virtually the entire music industry (refreshing to see), this takes LastFM to another level.

Just think, any song you want to hear – in its entirety – for free. I am GEEEKED!

So check out my LastFM presence. If you sign up, send me a friend invitation. The more, the merrier!

Pete’s LastFM Page

That was my LastFM pitch.

Next Up: I have a ton of friends who still visit web sites one by one to check them out. This cannot stand! So coming soon… “Bloglines, Google Reader, and RSS Feeds: Get Fed!” or “You Still Check out Web Sites One by One? WTF?”

Michael’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007:

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write a Year-End Best of Column

I’ll be honest, the thought of figuring out a ‘Top 10’ for the year is far more daunting a task than I had imagined. So much so that I found it difficult to pare down the list to ten. Why is it always the top 10, anyway? In the spirit of non-conformity and as a big nudge to ‘the man’ here’s my ‘Year in (Ick)Music’

Before we get started, I’d like to note that both Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen are not on my 2007 list as I obtained copies of the UK release of both Back to Black and Alright, Still in 2006. While they certainly got tons of play in 2007 they remain last year’s news to my ears.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s…

Michael’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

Songs of the Year:

1. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – What “Chelsea Rodgers” should have been this is the funkiest track that His Royal Badness has graced us with in years. Hell, I don’t even care about the circumstances that it was released under. Here’s hoping that it’s not just another tease.

2. “No One Is Gonna Love you”, by Band of Horses – There is something so decidedly simple and beautiful about this tune. Ben Bridwell delivers the lyrics with such heartbreaking, self effacing honesty that you almost feel wrong for listening to his tortured soul.

3. “Just Fine”, by Mary J. Blige – This one snuck in at the close of the year. I’ll tell you that the first time I heard this I listened to it at least three times. Something about the lyrics really just grabbed me. This is a different Mary than we’ve seen in years and it’s a great to hear her belting out an upbeat track.

So I like what I see when I’m looking at me
When I’m walking past the mirror
Don’t stress through the night, at a time in my life
Ain’t worried about if you feel it
Got my head on straight, I got my vibe right
I aint gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just Fine…

4. “Good Life”, by Kanye West featuring T-Pain – Not many artists can get away with releasing three singles within a few weeks of each other and have them all blow up the way the first three tracks from Kanye’s Graduation did. And while I cringe at almost everything that has the tag “featuring T-Pain” this was the exception. It’s hip-pop at it’s best. And I’d be remiss if I did not give you guys the video. These are the type of videos that make me actually miss when MTV showed videos.

Cover Songs of the Year:

1. “Don’t Stop Believing”, by Petra Haden – This is an easy one. Take a beloved song that’s inclusion in the closing scene of “The Soprano’s” put it back in the hearts and minds of just about everyone and add the ethereal voice of Petra Haden and you’ve got a masterpiece.

As a bonus, this video is too good to not share

2. “Valerie”, by Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse – Nearly every track on Ronson’s solo debut is a smash, but this track stands head and shoulders above the rest.

3. “Hard Sun”, by Eddie Vedder – Though it stands on this list as the cover that almost no one knows is a cover, this track shows the power of Eddie’s voice.

Albums of the Year:

1. Cease to Begin, by Band of Horses

2. In Rainbows, by Radiohead

3. 100 Days, 100 Nights, by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

4. Planet Earth, by Prince

5. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen

Honorary Mention: Finding Forever, by Common; Graduation, by Kanye West; Chase This Light, by Jimmy Eat World; Kala, by M.I.A.; Version, by Mark Ronson; Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, by The Foo Fighters; Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco.

Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:

Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip

From the Corner to the Block, by Galactic

Pete and I both fell upon the Lateef & Z-Trip release around the same time and he beat me to the punch featuring them here. Between that and the stellar release of the jam-band favorites Galactic (featuring many of the underground hip-hop communities finest) my faith in Hip-Hop was well and alive.

Best Live Show of the Year:

Dave Matthews Band at New England Dodge Music Center, August 4th. – The wife and I make a yearly pilgrimage to see Dave and the boys and I’m not sure if it was the great seats or the overall vibe of the show but it was the best since MSG in Dec of 2002 (when the Godfather of Soul, James Brown joined the band for a 15 minute jam on “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”).

Best New (to me) Artists

Alice Smith – I foresee her blowing up in 2008. With her soulful yet rocking tunes she’s sure to win over fans.

Amel Larrieux – I had loved Groove Theory and a friend pointed me towards he solo releases and I’ve since become a full on advocate.

The Brothers Johnson – One of two (related) ‘digging in the crates’ finds for 2007, this act lays down some of the funkiest grooves ever committed to tape.

Saul Williams – I had heard his name before but never had the opportunity to listen and with the free release of “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!” I’ve become an instant fan. I’d highly suggest everyone taking the chance to listen as it’s still a free download.

Shuggie Otis – As Pete said in a previous post, this is like “Prince 1.0”. Shuggie not only displays great musicianship and songwriting but he is one of the more underrated guitarists of the last few decades.

In Conclusion

As Pete said in conclusion of his year in review, I can’t wait to hear what 2008 has in store and look forward to sharing it with you.

Happy New Year!

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

I know you’re probably all sick of the obligatory year end list mania sweeping the interwebs, but indulge me, if you will, as I throw in a few favorites myself. I give you….

Pete’s Year in (Ick)Music: 2007

Songs of the Year:

1. “Intervention”, by Arcade Fire – Win Butler and his band of gypsy maniacs known as Arcade Fire rocked my soul with this song. I had the heard the song in earlier incarnations, specifically on one of AF’s Morning Becomes Eclectic appearances. But it was after Neon Bible was released, when I was on a run with the iPod, when this song raised the hairs on my arms, brought tears to my eyes, and zapped me with an extra dose of adrenaline. In my opinion, “Intervention” is an epic masterpiece, joining songs like “Purple Rain”, “Thunder Road”, “London’s Burning”, and Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” on my mantle of all time favorites. The church organ, the lamenting lyrics that spotlight the brave and innocent soldier stuck in a unnecessary war:

“I can taste the fear
Lift me up and take me out of here
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.”

“Intervention”s lyrics are a bitter reminder of our current leadership here in the U.S – an administration that continues to take a giant dump on a lot of the ideals of our forefathers. As of this writing, there are 390 days left of this god-awful president and his gang of deceivers. The door’s over there, fellas – don’t let it hit you in the ass.

Cheers to Win Butler and Arcade Fire.

2. “F.U.N.K.”, by Prince – Who knew? He still has it in him. All it took was a little passion and anger to get a great song out of him. Too bad his ire is directed at his most passionate fans – those who have carried him through his career. Finally, we get inspired, funky, creative Prince. Whatever it takes, I guess! Prince - F.U.N.K. - Single

3. “City of Immigrants”, by Steve Earle

Though it’s still hard to adjust to the latest live incarnation of Mr. Earle (Steve, a guitar, two turntables and a DJ), he released a very solid album this year – Washington Square Serenade – and to me, this track stands out from the rest. NYC / Brazilian group Forro in the Dark back Steve up in this spirited homage to New York City’s immigrant roots. Steve’s delightfully upbeat mandolin playing, Forro’s Brazilian percussion, and the sweet backing vocals of Allison Moorer make this one of my favorites of the year.

It’s worth watching the Letterman performance of it too…

Albums of the Year:

1. Magic, by Bruce Springsteen

Refreshing. Like opening the windows on a cool, sunny morning. The man just has it, doesn’t he? His talent at songwriting and tunesmithing (not to mention performing) leaves me in awe. Bruce’s tip o’ the hat to Brian Wilson and sixties pop, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, leads the charge for me. But there is no shortage of excellent songs on this one: “Gypsy Biker”, “Long Walk Home”, and “Livin’ in the Future” to name a few. Now if only Bruce would book a date in Phoenix on his early 2008 tour. Still nothing, and it’s killin’ me!

2. Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco

This album reached out to the mellow, country-rock side of me, and wrapped its arms around me. I’ve enjoyed all of Wilco’s albums (particularly from 1999’s Summerteeth on) for their spontaneity and originality. You just never know where they’re going to head next. When I threw on Sky Blue Sky, it immediately connected, right from the opening notes of “Either Way”. It’s the opening salvo of songs 1 through 4 that move me the most: “Either Way”, “You Are My Face” (can there be a cooler song title?), “Impossible Germany”, and the title track. I could listen to Jeff Tweedy sing the phone book. His scratchy, smoke & whiskey-soaked voice makes jeff one of my favorite vocalists around.

Disappointment of the Year:

Planet Earth, by Prince

No one wants a great Prince album more than me. Every year I hope I’m going to hear it, but once again, Prince underwhelmed. Songs like “The One U Wanna C” and “Somewhere Here on Earth” were the highlights for me, and gave me some hope. But duds like “Mr. Goodnight”, “Lion of Judah”, “Resolution” and the title track pollute Planet Earth enough to make Al Gore pitch a huge hissy fit. And the song that had the highest funky Prince potential – “Chelsea Rogers” – is marred by Shelby J.’s mic-hogging, with Prince’s vocals just a footnote in the background.

The Throwing It All Away Award of the Year:

Amy Winehouse.

I discovered Amy’s music back in February when I heard the retro, soulful, yet still modern “Rehab” of hers. Then I picked up Back to Black. What a VOICE! Effortless and so rich with soul. Then it soon became apparent how troubled she was (and is). Her demons & addictions (and those ratty old ballerina slippers she insists on wearing) have been all over the tabloids and gossip web sites this year. Surrounding herself with folks like her hubby Blake Fielder Civil and chronic fuck-up Pete Doherty don’t bode well for her future. Of course Blake is locked up now for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t look like she’s using it as an opportunity to straighten herself out.

Back to Black was recently nominated for six Grammy awards. We’ll see if she even turns up for the ceremony (by the way – Year 2 of Ickmusic Live Blogging the Grammy’s, comin’ up!). You can’t help but pull for her, though. So much talent. Get it together, Amy!

Underground Hip-Hop Double Blast of the Year:

Ahead of the Curve, by Lateef & Z-Trip

Rise Up, by Zeph & Azeem

These two joints were a breath of old school fresh air to my hip-hop starved lungs. If you’re looking for something – anything – to prove to you that real hip-hop is alive & well, pick up these two albums now.

Lateef & Z-Trip – “Get Down” (DJ Zeph Remix)

Zeph & Azeem – “That Type of Music”

Best Live Show of the Year: Arcade Fire at Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 15th. 90 minutes of adrenaline-filled bliss for me. They are one of a kind: inspiring, energetic, and grandiose. Like I’ve said before, there’s something powerful about Win Butler’s stage presence and charisma. The defining moment of this show was their encore finale, “Wake Up”… a sea of humanity singing along with the band, a collective of goosebump-filled arms raised in the air. To me, Arcade Fire are one of the defining bands of our generation. There’s something very special about these guys & gals.

Best New (to me) Artists

Music is all about discovery for me. Often times I don’t pick up on an artist until well into their career. Here are a few that I came across this year – some who have been around a while, others who haven’t.

Aceyalone – Acey has been a fixture on the LA underground hip-hop scene for years. I was finally brought into his world through his reggae/hip-hop album Lightning Strikes.

The Avett Brothers – These guys hail from Concord, North Carolina, and knocked me out with this year’s album, Emotionalism. Cool neo-bluegrass folksy sounds come out of this trio’s guitar, banjo and stand-up bass.

“Die Die Die”

Brett Dennen – Five words: “There Is So Much More”

British Sea Power – This powerful foursome from Brighton, England pushed me on a recent 10k race. I look forward to hearing a lot more, and seeing them when they come to town.

Cat Power – Thanks to an Austin City Limits TV performance, I have been turned on to Chan Marshall – aka Cat Power. Amazing singer, and completely and utterly unique. I’m loving this girl.

“Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” (from the soundtrack to I’m Not There)

Look out in early ’08 for her latest album of covers, called Jukebox (click the cover to find out more)…

Damien Rice – One song sucked me in: “The Blower’s Daughter”. It led me to his two great studio albums, O and 9. Irish singing / songwriting at its finest.

The Felice Brothers – I first heard these guys on Vin Scelsa’s Sirius radio show. 21st century Dylan/Springsteen hybrids from the Catskills.

Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts – Catchy hooks and melodies, a smoking hot bass player. What’s not to like?



So what will 2008 bring? No idea, but I look forward to finding out. Don’t be shy about sharing your favorites with me. I’m always interested in quality tunes, wherever and whenever they may come from.


In April, I turned into an Apple guy when I bought a new iMac. I also have my iPod, and, as of a few weeks ago, an iPhone (can you say L-o-v-e?). So call me heavily biased in favor of Jobs & Co.

So next week, Microsoft will release 2 new models of their media player, the Zune. One is the 80 GB player, “available in any color you want, as long as it’s black *“. Haha – love that. The other is a flash based model with less space – either 4gb or 8gb. Zune has the capability to wirelessly share music with other Zune users – though they are limited to 3 plays of the song. And starting next week, Zune users will be able to wirelessly synch with their PC. Lots of other features too

But the point of this post is this: I have never ever met anyone with a Zune. I haven’t even seen one. So I pose these questions to you guys and gals…

Is there anyone out there who has a Zune?
Or do you know anyone who has a Zune?
Or are you like me: iPods rule the roost among your family, friends, and co-workers.

Just curious.

Ickmusic @ ACL: Day Two Recap

With the cancellation of the White Stripes, Saturday’s headliner, many called this the weakest day of the festival lineup-wise. But for me, it turned out to be my favorite. Here’s why:

Raul Malo – What can be said about Raul Malo, other than he has the voice from the heavens and could sing the phone book and it would sound great. The former singer for the Mavericks kicked off the early afternoon with a fantastic set at the Dell stage, peppering in Mavericks classics like the barnburner “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” and “Dance the Night Away”, with the steamy Latin love song “Besame Mucho”, a cover of Dwight Yoakam’s “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry”, and the mambo classic “Sway”.

Raul Malo at ACL 2007

One of the great things about seeing Raul Malo live is his sunny disposition. The guy seems to always be in a great mood on stage, and it’s rare not to see that beaming smile throughout his set. He has a way of putting the audience in a good place, and that good nature comes through in his music. Dammit I feel all warm and fuzzy just talking about it.

Here’s some sweet vid I shot of Raul and band doing “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”:

Watch an interview of Raul at the ACL festival.

Steve Earle – Having been tuned into Steve Earle’s new album with Dust Brother producer John King, I wasn’t surprised to see a couple of mic stands and a DJ rig set up for Steve’s ACL set. But it was a sight that probably made a few people go “hmmm.” The first few songs were just Steve and his gee-tars. He walked out and told his Townes Van Zandt / Amigo the Horse / Crested Butte story that prefaced Townes’ “Rex’s Blues” into “Fort Worth Blues”. Then he reached back to “Tom Ames Prayer”, “Rich Man’s War”, and “Copperhead Road”.

THEN, up crept DJ Neil, who laid down a funky lil’ beat which led into “Tennessee Blues”. I was front and center, and I heard some laughter and sounds of surprise from a lot of the crowd as they tried to comprehend what they were seeing: not Steve Earle & the Dukes, or Steve Earle solo, or Steve and the Del McCoury Band, but Steve Earle and a DJ. Two turntables and an acoustic guitar? Damn straight!

The Steve-DJ Neil portion of the set was dedicated solely to Steve’s new material from Washington Square Serenade (out September 25th). He played 8 of the 12 songs from the album. His wife Alison Moorer came out for a few songs (“Down Here Below”, “City of Immigrants”, and “Days Aren’t Long Enough”), looking radiant in green…

When the set ended, and we were shuffling off to the next stage, I overheard a young lady say “That was weird.” I don’t think she meant it in a good way. For me, it’s the weirdness and unpredictability that attracts me to artists like Steve Earle, and I know a lot of people agreed with me on that day. It’s the courage to try something new, instead of sticking with the same formula. The same courage that inspired Bruce to release Tunnel of Love after Born in the U.S.A. (or head off on tour with the Seeger Sessions Band), or Prince to follow Purple Rain with Around the World in a Day. It may shake off some fans, but those of us who are interested in following artists along on their journey – wherever they may go – are in for a thrill.

Steve Earle carries himself like he’s sporting a perpetual middle finger to “what’s expected” of someone. Watching him strum along with the manufactured beats and samples of the DJ certainly was different than my past Steve Earle experiences, but was a lot of fun to watch. I caught a couple of moments where Steve and DJ Neil were interacting, and you could sense genuine happiness on Steve’s face – the joy of kicking down the walls and trying something completely new. Keep on going, Steve – I’ll be following along.

Set List

1. Story About Townes Van Zandt
2. Rex’s Blues
3. Ft.Worth Blues
4. Tom Ames’Prayer
5. Rich Man’s War
6. Transcendental Blues
7. Copperhead Road
8. Intro
9. Tennessee Blues#
10. Satellite Radio#
11. Oxycontin Blues#
12. Down Here Below#*
13. City Of Immigrants#*
14. Days Aren’t Long Enough*
15. Steve’s Hammer#
16. Way Down In The Hole#

# w/ Neil McDonald a.k.a “DJ Duke”
* w/ Alison Moorer

Youtube snippet from ACL | Another one

Beausoleil – I regret not being better positioned for the Beausoleil set. We were off to the side, just far enough to miss out on the full Beausoleil experience. But we treated to some great traditional Cajun sounds, with leader Michael Doucet’s great voice and fiddle playing. I need to see them when they pass through Phoenix, but like a lot of the bands and artists I admire, Phoenix isn’t part of the tour itinerary. I think I need to be a promoter and pull in some of these acts. No Wilco? No Arcade Fire? No Beausoleil? And I could go on and on. I guess it has to do with the local radio market too, which is saturated with your run of the mill country, classic rock, “lite” jazz, and talk stations. And people are satisfied with this? Blechh… sometimes I feel like I live in a town with no fucking soul. I guess I feel especially sensitive to this right now because I just returned from Austin. But it’s always there. Of course, I’ve chosen to live out in suburbia in the land of cookie cutter houses, SUV’s, everybody and their uncle on their damn cell phones all the time (talking to their little bluetooth headsets), no sense of community. Did I say blechh? Let me say it again: blechh.

Arctic Monkeys – These Brits are a favorite of the music critics out there, and there are a lot of devoted fans – probably a lot of you – but they didn’t click with me. I can appreciate and admire the energy and creativity with their Brit-pop-rock-punk stylings, but I need a melody. I wasn’t hearing one. Not that they’re pitted against each other, but gimme Kaiser Chiefs!

Youtube snippet from ACL.

Arcade Fire – Many people have asked about who I enjoyed most at ACL. “Arcade Fire” is my answer. It’s often followed by “Arcade who?” or “What kind of music do they play?”. I never know how to answer the “what kind of music” question. That’s why I struggle with reviewing records. It seems in order to write an accurate review, you have to pigeonhole artists into categories. I’m guilty of it by lumping every post of mine into genre categories. But I hate to define music. It’s so subjective. And people like me who appreciate every kind of music under the sun have a hard time putting it to words. “What kind of music do you listen to, Pete?” – Um, everything?

So how to answer the Arcade Fire question? I try with words like gypsy rock, high energy, Montreal, indie, Epic (with a capital E)…. does that do it justice? No. For one person, I pulled out my iPod and had her listen to “Intervention”. That’s Arcade Fire.

Ever since I first heard “Old Flame” about three years ago, I’ve chomped at the bit to see Arcade Fire live. Win Butler’s amazing vocals and the unique instrumentation promised for a great live experience. And great it was. We weren’t too far from the stage at all – a little to the front and left of the soundboard. We were in a sea of people with not too much room to move (my bro wasn’t too fond of the sixty-something, writhing hippie with an affinity for pouring water on his head to cool off). But when the music started, it turned into an intimate, communal experience.

They’re a seven piece ensemble. And they’re not the reserved bunch. Richard Parry flails around like a wild banshee, banging drums, crashing cymbals, and I think I saw him hitting a motorcycle helmet with wild abandon. Régine Chassagne, Win’s wife, played some wild looking instrument with a crank, played keyboards, played drums, and acted out lyrics at different times. Holding them all together is Win Butler. There’s something about the guy. I don’t know, some sort of wise and spiritual aura. Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of his voice.

My highlight was “Intervention”, which has to be my favorite song of the year. Goosebumps.

And the communal craziness of their encore, “Wake Up”, is evident here:

But enough of my yakkin’, you can download the show here.

Thanks to the boys at Hidden Track for hipping me to the ACL Downloads Page at Largehearted Boy .