DVD commentary classics, Part 1

Categories: Imported
From McSweeney's, a piece of satire that would have been funny if Noam Chomsky ever in a million years used the phrase "privileged by this narrative." (Thanks to Fimoculous for the link, tho.)

Low to tour with Radiohead

Categories: Imported

Turns out that not long after bassist Zak Sally left Low (see below), the band got a call from Radiohead: Now the great Duluth band is joining the great British band on a European tour in July.

"It's kind of ironic that he's only been out of the band for two weeks and then this dream came true," says Sparhawk. "Now I feel bad that I told you this."

Sparhawk said that a couple days ago, actually: I waited to report it until he talked to Sally. The newer news is that Karla Schickele, of the New York band Ida, will fill in on the tour. Among those not completely alienated by "Classical Music Is Fascist" below, Schickele's name might be familiar: She's the daughter of composer and classical music parodist Peter Schickele, of P.D.Q. Bach fame. (All-time favorite P.D.Q. Bach moment: Beethoven's Fifth called like a football game--Schickele even sounds like John Madden!)

Meanwhile, a paired-down Low plays an early 18+ show with Haley Bonar (fresh off a breakthough Kitty Cat Klub performance last weekend) and others tomorrow (Thursday, May 1) at Fitger�s Spirit of the North Theatre in Duluth. The show is part of the massive weekend Homegrown Festival just two hours to our north--check out these summaries of all the participating bands in today's Ripsaw).

Between that, Cinco de Mayo, and the May Day festival, the first weekend of May is its traditional insane self...


Exchange with my younger brother Ben

Categories: Imported
At the Even Further rave in rural Wisconsin, 2000, 3:45 a.m., me on Ecstasy, sitting in his car, going on about my anxieties. Pete: [long pause] Ben, what have I been talking about for the last half hour? Ben: Who cares. Let's dance.

Classical music is fascist

Categories: Imported

Every day I wake up to Classical 89.3 FM, "Music and Ideas," and most of the time, I only half comprehend what the voice on the air is talking about. This morning I was sleeping late, finger-humping the snooze button until a few minutes after 9, when the soothing patter of Melissa Ousley came on (she also hosts Music from Minnesota on Saturdays), and she said something that struck me as completely hilarious.

I'm paraphrasing from memory, but it went something like: "Here are four short Brahms pieces for piano. Just to warn you ahead of time, they finish quite a bit louder and faster than they start."

I appreciated this caveate. The purpose of morning classical radio is hardly to startle the half awake. That's why Ousley and her colleagues spew nonstop white-mouth-noise on the air, never failing to sound less than surreal. They're informative, too, like a radio equivalent of Classical Music For Beginners, the book I picked up recently in hopes of reanimating what education I have on the subject (especially now that I, you know, write about music for a living).

All this is just set-up to say that I've made a routine of dreaming with classical music on. But it wasn't until last week that I had my first classical-music nightmare. After staying up all night on Thursday, and taking a catnap on Friday evening, I didn't stir when violins began pouring out of my clock radio.

Instead, I imagined the competing melodies were swords on a Tolkien battlefield, warriors dueling to the death. The more I listened, the more the music became a justification for this arrangement, a musical dramatization of the philosophy that might makes right and may the best man win--with sex tips from Straw Dogs, decor by Leni Riefenstahl Living, a will to power from the ages and a national slogan of "don't hate me because I'm beautiful," plus the general ranking of humanity, the belief in race, and whatever else you want to call it.

I sat up, and the words came to my lips: "Classical music is fascist."

Did I really believe this? Did I hate classical music? Did classical music hate the weak?

Now, in this life, it's important to grapple with why, exactly, you're not a fascist. Being anti-Nazi isn't enough. That's just a stance, or worse, a pose. When self-congratulating protesters shout down Ku Klux Klan members outside the state capitol, I'm not convinced that's anti-fascism at all. To be thoroughly and viscerally anti-fascist, you've got to reject in your viscera the very impulses of what you're "fighting." Which doesn't mean becoming a pacifist, necessarily, it just means never making peace with the rule of smallness.

People who are peaceful by nature might be luckier on this score, but I doubt it. Part of me thinks audiences find The Pianist so unspeakably moving because they don't know quite how to feel about the passively brave title character. The movie doesn't judge Wladyslaw Szpilman for his need to hide, any more than it judges his comrades in the Warsaw ghetto for their need to fight. Instead, it looks at history and violence from the point of view of a hiding place, and imagines music as its own kind of hiding place.

So now I wonder: Why didn't the movie's music move me more? Adrien Brody could make a Baathist sob over Szpilman's plight (I loved the Saturday Night Live sketch with Tracy Morgan and Bernie Mac bawling over it). But the effectiveness of his performance makes me painfully aware of how little Chopin had to do with it...

I'm not sure I can't educate myself out of this response. But I hope to. Loving music is a way of living, and to love well, you love more widely. If anything, I think the dream was less about my dislike of classical music than about my fear that some things are just beyond me. Maybe I'm not smart enough to figure out how to be happy. Maybe I mistrust things that are good. Maybe I'm worried that deep down, I have my own cruelty, my own fascist streak, and that classical music just opened up one subconscious hiding place for it...

The Laffer Curve: It is to laugh

Categories: Imported

Now that the war's over, let's talk about something we can all agree on: the need to lower taxes for wealthy stockholders.

Peter Ritter on the president's moumou economics:  "Say it again with me: 'There's no such thing as double-taxation on dividends.'"

Reaction to the news about Low:

Categories: Imported

"They should raffle off their drink tickets before shows now." More responses at I Love Music.

Scorned by Scorned in Atomic

Categories: Imported

From Atomic #2, the new local punk zine:

Kris Kersten (interviewer): One last thing--a recent City Pages article proclaimed punk dead in the Twin Cities.

Joe (drummer): Ha! Fuck that. It's more alive now than it has been in the last five years.

Kerry (guitarist): I don't think it ever was alive in their eyes. Well, they interviewed people that don't go to shows.

Joe: Not to mention, I don't think they would know punk if it went and slapped them across the face.

Send $15 for a three-issue subscription to Atomic Zine, P.O. Box 50113, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Orchestra Baobab and Bembeya Jazz: the rock&roll clash of civilizations

Categories: Imported


Maybe it's the romance I once had with the lush, royal Africa of Jean De Brunhoff's imperialist Babar books. Maybe it was the more contemporary images of musical Africa on Sesame Street when I was a kid. Maybe it was the way the music on Syliphone Discotheque 71 Guinee seemed as lost and pacific as the imaginary Africa of my childhood, which I remembered when I heard the reissue a couple years ago--some old, forgotten intersection of Islam and Chuck Berry, Cuba and Conakry, Spanish guitar and the Incredible Bongo Band.

All I know is that this amalgam recently became my favorite rock&roll. And by happy coincidence, both Guinea's Bembeya Jazz and Senegal's Orchestra Baobab (pictured)--two Cuban-influenced, West African "national" orchestras from the same period--reunited for tours at around the same time as I was discovering them. Baobab played Northrop Plaza last summer, and I paid tribute to them in City Pages, before and after. Sadly, Bembeya didn't make it to the U.S. last year, and now their first North American tour stops short of Minnesota, in Chicago on August 28 (I might make the drive).

Both acts are anachronisms in the "clash of civilizations," a conflict that isn't necessarily (or even) international or military. Mostly, this clash comes down to what the Clash sang about in "Rock the Casbah": a local hubbub over some sexy new dance in Mali, say (one that actually turns out to be a sexy old dance in Mali: See the 2002 documentary Bamako Sigi Kan). "The West," "Islam," "tradition"--these things overlap wildly over stretches of time. Only ideologues can pick them apart cleanly.

It's a point made flesh in Baobab, who still sound like nothing else, and who return to Minneapolis this summer fresh off a recent Buena Vista Social Club-style comeback album (which I named my CD of the year, over the Streets, in 2002). Tell everyone you know to see them at First Avenue on Friday, June 30 .

Sage Francis at the Cabooze, Afro Preachah at the Red Sea

Categories: Imported

For college-age hip-hop fans (or fans of college-age hip-hop fans), don't miss the "underground" event of week: Atmosphere cohort Sage Francis appears at the recurring Minneapolis party Mission Control on Wednesday, April 30, at the Cabooze. Openers include Carnage (with Mr. Booker), P.O.S. & Cecil Otter, and DJ King Otto. Tickets are $8 for 18+/$6 for 21+.

If you haven't heard of it, Mission Control held memorable shows over the past couple years in the basement of Mario's Keller Bar, which became ground zero for a pretty exciting new scene. But the less literally underground venue on the West Bank offers a special advantage for self-cultivated "heads": convenient bar hopping to the popular 18+ hip-hop night just down the street at the Red Sea. This party features Afro Preachah, DJ AK, and a $7 cover. Come in peace, wear your best, and buy an old critic a drink.

The RAVE Act: subliminal politics

Categories: Imported

We have now entered the Kevin Nealon "Subliminal Man" era of lawmaking, in which controversial bills are routinely snuck onto the back of otherwise benign legislation. Take the so-called RAVE Act (which holds property owners and promoters liable for illegal drug use on their property, even if they took steps to prevent it, and which may effectively kill most music festivals, forget about raves). A version of this act was attached to the AMBER Alert bill, which creates a new media-based system of response to child kidnappings. AMBER passed the House and Senate earlier this month without arousing much debate.

To translate into Nealonspeak: "We've finally found a model for protecting our children (Footloose), and for allowing the media to get all the information they need (smoked-filled room)..."