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It appears Radio K and  The Acme Siren are operating on similar wavelengths (either that or someone over there is stealing my waves!). Check out their Sept 26 blog entry about the Twin Cities’ local music scene and Michael Yonkers and The Blind Shake. A double whammy mash-up of two recent topics offered here at The Siren.

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Reached earlier this morning at his home in Georgia, an alive and well MF DOOM issued this statement:

“What up? I’m dead.”

Via Stones Throw Records‘ monthly email.

Disclaimer: I wrote this post a long time ago after I saw Kinski live at the 7th Street Entry. I still think it’s appropriate.

At a recent rock and roll show earlier this week I noticed what appeared to be a few newcomers in the audience. I would like to take the opportunity now to formally welcome you. Maybe you just turned 21. Maybe you’re older and have just moved here from another city/state. Whatever your reason, we here in the Twin Cities want you to feel right at home in our bars and music venues. After all, we are the home of “Minnesota Nice”. So, to head off any questions and/or discomforts you may have about our little “scene”, let me let you in on a few secrets.

1. We Have Big Name Acts Too
The Twin Cities have been home to such huge acts as Bob Mould, Sugar, Atmosphere, The Suburbs, Lori Line and Lftr Pllr (*that’s short for Lifter Puller. They moved to New York and changed thier name to The Hold Steady but we still call them Lftr Pllr. As in, “I remember seeing them back when they were Lftr Pllr.”) So don’t believe anyone from New York, LA, Seattle, Chicago, Austin, Athens, Las Vegas, Tacoma, Cleveland, or Boise when they say that the Twin Cities doesn’t have a decent music scene. They’re just jealous that Prince isn’t from their hometown.

2. Proper Attire is Required
It isn’t actually “required” but dressing appropriately is often the first step to fully integrating one’s self into the scene. After all, you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she is dressed. For instance, wearing your old middle school soccer jersey, booster club T-shirt or band uniform can create an instant connection between you and others at the bar. Example. “Hey you went to Centerville? Do you know Cindy Allison?” See, instant conversation starter. The same can be said for novelty T-shirts offering clever sayings like “I’m with stupid” and “Virginia is for Lovers”.

3. Floor Presence
This is similar to stage presence, only it is the audience on the floor that is giving it off the presence. Try this exercise the next time you go out to a concert. While the music is happening on stage look around at the people watching it. Most will probably be utilizing the “Midwestern Apathy Stance”. It’s easy to spot. The arms are folded across the chest, weight is evenly distributed, and the head nodding slightly with the music, as if to say, “Yes, I really do enjoy this music.” Try it yourself! It’s easier than it looks. Mix it up a little by putting your weight on just one of you feet. Or put your hands in your pants pockets, or even your back pockets if you really want liven things up. Under no circumstances is it appropriate to whip you head from side to side or gyrate your body uncontrollably as if in the throes of a psychotic episode or trance. You are an adult. There is no reason to act as if you are a 17 year old “rockin out” in your bedroom at you parents house.

4. Knowing Where to Go
Right now you’re probably saying “Wow. Thanks for all the great advice. But I just turned 21/moved here from another city/state and have no idea where to go to find good music!” That’s OK. There are many forms of media that can guide you and inform you about the Twin Cities music scene. For starters tune into the latest, greatest radio station in Minnesota; 89.3 The Current. Many of the DJs give up to date concert listings. They also showcase many local bands from around the Twin Cities. Imagine going to see a band in concert the same day you heard them on the radio! And, The Current is owned by National Public Radio. So you don’t have to feel like your selling out to a corporation everytime you tune in! Also check out the newspaper and “The City Pages” for goings on about town. Both have excellent weekend events coverage.

That should be enough to get you started. I hope this helps alleviate any misgivings and helps you along your way of becoming part of the scene. And once again, welcome. We are all glad to have you here.

Local man gets “GO 2 11” license plate in homage to Spinal Tap. A complaint is filed with the DMV by a citizen who misinterprets the license plate as “GO 2 HELL.” DMV issues a notice to local man recalling his license plate. Local news station does what local news stations do best and makes it into a vapid pointless feature and airs it on said news station. Local man fights DMV and issues a rather thorough response from his lawyer. (Found via spinaltapfan.com)

Someone get me out of this Hell Hole!

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I found the pi10k project the other day via Coudal. It’s a wonderful piece of the internet that allows you to convert each digit of pi into a musical note and play them in sequence out to the 10,000th digit. I recommend assigning the bass clef for the first 5 digits and the treble clef for the last 5 digits. This gives a “bass line and melody” feel to the sequence, and seems to be the most sonically digestible. If you are more in tune (sorry for the pun) with musical theory than I am you can probably get it sounding pretty good. It’s interesting that some note assignments sound “better” than others, this shouldn’t be the case with random digits like pi, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s the human inside of me looking to pass judgment, I don’t know.

I just finished reading Contact by Carl Sagan which contains a great scene about pi and the patterns hidden within the digits. If you haven’t read it go out and buy it this instant. The pi10k project got me thinking about this idea of pi and patterns and music. If you listen carefully as the digits bang out their respective notes you can hear little bits and pieces that almost sound like something you’ve heard before. The automatic, or perhaps the socially ingrained, human response to music is to look for patterns. Things that repeat. Chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, verse. But the random nature of pi almost precludes this from happening. Almost. If the digits truly are random, infinitely random, then somewhere in the digits is Beethoven’s Fifth, or the complete works of Pink Floyd, or Bohemian Rhapsody, or all of these. All of the music ever composed packaged within a single mathematical equation based on the proportions of the circle, circumference/diameter.

A single beautiful perfect circle.

Featuring a young Billy Crystal.

And a young Dana Carvey (Thanks for pointing that out Mr. Bud Snead)

Is it possible that a pseudo-serial produced by HBO can be a barometer for musical culture? An amplifier for what’s new and undiscovered? I don’t want to discredit The Flight of the Conchords at all, I understand it’s satire. I just think that the people behind the Conchords are smarter than they appear when it comes to music. Hmm. Let’s look at the clips.

First up is the ‘Chords’ musical journey through Middle Earth titled Frodo. While The Lord of The Rings hasn’t been in theatres for for years, it makes sense for this clueless New Zealand duo to keep beating this horse. I’m getting a little hint of Tenacious D throughout. While the roots of the clueless musical duo format go back to the Smothers Brothers or specific episodes of Laurel and Hardy, it was the ‘D that brought the format to popularity in most recent history.

Next from the ‘Chords’ is Inner City Pressure. Most definitely a take-off of the late 80s British new wave scene. But I’m definitely getting some more recent tones of Bogdan Irkük and the Rollerboys.(If the people responsible for the Conchord’s video actually knew about Bogdan Irkük I really gotta give them some credit.)

And finally we return to the robots, which we’ve already discussed on this blog before. Here’s Robot from the Conchords, and We’re in Business by Andrew Thompson.


Hockey Night playing at Mercury Lounge NYC.

To my great disappointment I missed the Michael Yonkers and The Blind Shake show last night at the Turf Club. I have no excuse. I was working late, and I was tired. I’m getting old.

I first saw Yonkers at the Turf Club a couple years ago doing a solo show. I had no idea who he was, but his guitar intrigued me. It was either homemade or sawed apart and glued back together in the wrong configuration (it was the latter). It appeared to be held together with only duct tape and good vibrations. The sound that he was producing was distorted almost beyond recognition. There was a definite beat to it but it was unrecognizable as even coming from a guitar. It was a most interesting sight; a 6 foot-plus middle aged man banging away on a tiny guitar making one hell of a racket. On a deep reptilian level it reminded me of my high school years banging away on my own homemade electric guitar (before I learned to play at all!). The sound was a magic mix of sonic distress and physical discomfort. It was heaven. It was sex. It was drunkeness. It was everything rock and roll is and should be. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this experience please, please, please go to your local Guitar Center and tell the man behind the counter, “I’ve never played a guitar in my life. I want 5 minutes alone with a Les Paul and a Marshall Stack. I’m not going to buy it, I just need to know what it feels like.” Don’t worry about not being able to play, most of the kids in there sound like shit anyway. If the 14 year-old punks give you any dirty looks just say, “Link Wray. Look him up.” And if the guys at Guitar Center aren’t willing to help you out, give me a call and we can make a special trip out to my parent’s garage.

Michael Yonkers has been playing around the Twin Cities music scene since the 60’s. A true mad scientist of both sound and instrument; Yonkers made many modifications to both his guitars and his effects. In 1968 he recorded Microminiature Love, an album that, until just recently, had never been released. He self-released many other albums on LP, 45, and CD-R and has experienced a bit of a revival in the past couple years.

Enter The Blind Shake. I don’t know how it happened but the teaming up of Yonkers and The Blind Shake is a musical event that won’t soon be forgotten in the Twin Cities. The Blind Shake share Yonkers enthusiasm for loud, distorted, high energy rock and roll, and are fueled primarily by beer and tour van exhaust fumes. I’ve attended a number of their shows and their music is reminiscent of earlier times when “the music was fast and loud.” (Tony Venne gets credit for that phrase.)

It’s a phrase that makes one stop and think. Ask anyone between the ages of 21 and 40, “Remember when the music was fast and loud?” and most likely you’ll get a smile and a thousand-yard stare in response. It means so much to so many people in so many parts of the world. Everyone has their own definition, their own band, their own club, that typifies this phrase. My own recent history points to bands like Falcon Crest, Malachi Constant and Hockey Night as major players in this Golden Age. When the Turf Club had tacos instead of big-screen TVs, the lounge was still Clowny and the afterbar reigned supreme. If you could find it.

I’m sure there are bands today that rock just as hard, and I’m sure people are drinking as much Grain Belt as ever. But there is something special about that time, those people, that sound, and those places that all came together in that perfect storm to define your Friday nights (and Saturday mornings). There is no replacing that.

Ok, so this is only tangentially music related, but DoseOne of Anticon/cLoudead/Subtle6 fame has started drawing a rather surreal yet utterly satisfying cartoon entitled NOTgarfield. Here’s what Mr. Dose has to say about it:

My countless hours on the verge of puberty, spent drawing and tracing Garfield, have finally paid off… More importantly I have finally found a perfect window for my sense of humor, which all too often has to take the back seat to my seriousness… Bottom line is it’s “laugh or die” for me lately, and I hope these tiny cartoons help spread that sentiment outwards toward whom ever might need it most….

Enjoy.

Disclaimer: While the actual definition of the word “Irony” may be very different than the its use in common parlance (sorry Alanis, ten thousand spoons when you need a knife is not technically ironic), I’m going to leave those debates to the literary blogs.

I posted the above video clip to show just how far irony has crept into our culture. And when I say “our” I mean music loving hipsters. It’s now getting to the point where it’s hard to tell where the irony stops and the truth begins. For instance, can I credit the Hasselhof‘s ressurgance solely to his irony quotient? Or is this just Knight Rider envy that’s resurfaced in young men due to some delayed hormonal reaction?

Take for instance Dark Dark Dark. A band I saw at the Triple Rock last night. They seemed to be some lo-fi, punk’d out version of Spaghetti Western String Co. I’m as much of a fan of roots, bluegrass and zydeco as the next guy. What they were doing was interesting and I like the way they sounded but an accordion and a banjo? In the same band? At a rock club? Really? You gotta be kidding me? I’m not trying to put them down or anything, but any display of enthusiasm from someone wearing a “Tri-State Middle School Swimming Rocks” thrift store t-shirt should be met with at least a small amount of caution, lest you become trapped in some juvenile nightmare (“I was just kidding, I HATED Tri-State Middle School Swimming. I can’t believe you liked it.”) Perhaps it was the collective atmosphere of the music, the bands attire, the bar and it’s patrons that got me thinking down this path.

I’m not trying to sound like Andy Rooney here, (because I think he’s a dick) but this level of irony seems somewhat isolated to the current generations. Were the Mods really concerned with appearing Mod-ish without being “too” Mod? Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe the whole Indian influence/Ravi Shankar phase The Beatles went through was the product of a inside joke that went a little too far.

In any case check out Dark Dark Dark, they’re “real” cool.