Babyrain Dance

Critical Fandom for the Blogosphere "Pop music has for decades possessed the power to transport the human spirit and to serve as a vehicle for the transcendence that we seek." --Bill Friskics-Warren


Would Lester Bangs Listen to the White Stripes?

I almost didn’t go to Birmingham on Monday. I read it on the White Stripes “Little Room” fan-board that Jack sounded sick on Sunday in South Carolina. I had to borrow $40 from my land-mate to make the bus-ticket. I had less than $3 in my bank account (and even though my monthly paycheck would be deposited at midnight, I feared that the hotel might reject my Visa debit card at check-in, just like in the movies when the star is suddenly destitute for whatever reason).

I was feeling just as my friend Kassi wrote recently on her myspace blog, saying it succinctly, surely, and sweetly: “i cannot afford my rock n roll lifestyle. but i also cannot afford not to live it.”

But we find the way to make it, no matter what, because the music pulls us in and pulls us to another rock and roll road trip, helpless addicts all of us—like the prostrate muslim during proper prayers or the worst crack-and-meth-afflicted-junky-ho.

So, I left the farm with my family and a flat tire in the trunk. We had to stop on the way to Nashville to repair the tire, and we almost didn’t make it downtown in time. The crowd in the bus station overflowed into the street. I had that awful moment of “What was I thinking?” But somehow, there were just enough seats on the bus. And I got to Birmingham just in time.

Checking into the hotel was without worry, but my “hard ticket,” allegedly being Fed-exed from the friendly publicist in New York was not waiting. A phone call and email later, I discovered that I would have the usual access at will-call after all. Within a short while after that, I’d connected with the amazing Anne from Houston and the fansite, and she’d agreed to give me a lift to the show. It turned into a carpool with Chris and Sandra from the Atlanta area. I love the serendipitous fan connections with folks who are willing to go into debt and sleep-deprivation and probably worse just to travel to a show.

On the way to and from Birmingham on the Greyhound, I read Let it Blurt—the amazing biography of rock writer Lester Bangs written by Jim DeRogatis. Since Lester, Jack White, and I all share some serious Detroit energy in common, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Would Lester Bangs like the White Stripes?” He certainly wouldn’t care for the fact that the band wrote a song for Coca-Cola, I mused. But the revival of the Detroit garage sound that the Stripes made famous and infamous still seems most insistently Bangsian.

But Janis and Jimi bless Google, someone had already posed the question. A blogospheric rock critic who claims to channel Kerouac and Bangs had already posed the problem in a sideways manner. (See

It began with a record review of Icky Thump that took the form of a fantasy involving the writer and Meg White (who can blame him, really). And them the comments raged with all things anti-Stripes and pro-Stripes and all things in between.

I tend to sympathize with the poster called “JC Mosquito” who wrote:

“Would Lester have liked the White Stripes? Hmm... historical (or hysterical) rewriting in the making - I'd say yes he would. He liked the Guess Who, he liked Metal Machine Music, and he took matters into his own hands when he started a band. He would've liked them becuse his sense of humour was right in tune with the lo-fi DIY Stripes' ethic.”

When my male-menopause-cum-midlife-crisis kicked in a few years ago and fully fueled my rock music fan obsessions, I felt blessed to find a burgeoning underground scene made even more palpable by the instant access provided to DIY by laptops and the internet. And almost with perfect synchronicity, while technology made everyone an engineer, a promoter, and producer, this same DIY ethos drove people away from the computer and back to more purely rootsy forms, which in part explains why so much of the old-time music scene is comprised of ex-punks.

So many bands keep me busy that it’s hard to think about just one. But the Stripes are one among the many.

Please see my 'official' review at


Kings of Leon kick out their dirty south jams at the Orange Peel in Asheville!!

For my review of the show, please go here.

Photos by Jonathan Marx (


When Win wins, we all win!

Yesterday, I saw Montreal's Arcade Fire in Asheville, North Carolina. The band has bounced back after having to cancel some European shows due to Win's sinus surgery.

Before the show, I met lead singer Win Butler in the street. He made my night by confirming that the band would play "Windowsill" (lyrics follow) from the new record
Neon Bible.

Even though the 14-song set did not include two of my favorites ("Antichrist Television Blues" and "Wake Up"), the overall overwhelming energy of the band and the fans made for an incredible evening.

When time allows, I will pen a proper review of this amazing show.

Don't wanna hear the noises on TV
Don't want the salesmen coming after me
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more
Don't want it faster, I don't want it free
Don't wanna show you what they done to me
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more
Don't wanna choose black or blue
Don't wanna see what they done to you
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more

Cause the tide is high
And it's rising still
And I don't wanna see it at my windowsill

Don't wanna give 'em my name and address
Don't wanna see what happens next
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more
Don't wanna live with my father's debt
You can't forgive what you can't forget
Don't wanna live in my father's house no more
Don't wanna fight in a holy war
Don't want the salesmen knocking at my door
I don't wanna live in America no more

Cause the tide is high
And it's rising still
And I don't wanna see it at my windowsill

MTV, what have you done to me?
Save my soul, set me free!
Set me free! What have you done to me?
I can't breathe! I can't see!
World War III, when are you coming for me?
Been kicking up sparks, we set the flames free
The windows are locked now so what'll it be?
A house on fire or a rising sea?

Why is the night so still?
Why did I take the pill?
Because I don't wanna see it at my windowsill

Don't wanna see it at my windowsill
Don't wanna see it at my windowsill
Don't wanna see it at my windowsill


Preview and Interview: THE BLACK ANGELS

many thanks for the photos of Alex by Briana! Visit her at:

At the Mercy Lounge, Friday, March 30th

The Black Angels are a youthful band in debt to the music that initiated the counterculture four decades ago. While the retro label suggests a kind of dated backwash, the Angels courageously deflect such implications. Lead singer Alex Maas insists, “When using the word retro—by definition meaning ‘old-sounding’—that’s fine with me. There’s tons of amazing music from the Sixties, and people should shed light on it.”

In transcendent fashion, the band’s war-sick and wigged-out theater of thump and drone digs deeper into the back catalog to invoke a lifestyle—not just the notable influences. As this particular past tense shamelessly fuses the Doors and the Velvet Underground alongside fellow Texans like the 13th Floor Elevators and the Butthole Surfers, haunting vocals get fuel-injected with guts and groove, all held down by Stephanie Bailey’s stabbing drums. Hiding his good looks behind beard, bangs and pageboy cap, Maas cannot hide the brutal reckoning of his lyrics. In addition to tracks from last year’s Passover, the Angels’ upcoming set will include a sampling of new songs recently recorded and awaiting release, some of them due on a split EP with Vancouver’s Black Mountain. (

What follows is the transcript of a conversation between writer Andy Smith and Alex Maas, lead singer from the Black Angels from the morning of March 21, 2007.

AS: Wearing your debt to the Velvet Underground up front, with your vocal stylings being frequently compared to Jim Morrison, making music so strongly reminiscent of an era 40 years gone, discuss how you carry the weight of your influences?

AM: It’s not really a weight. We just have influences that we like. If anything, we feel like it is our duty to spread good music.

AS: Are you concerned with how people use the ‘retro’ label to describe your music?

AM: When using the word retro—by definition meaning old sounding—that’s fine with me. There’s tons of amazing music from the Sixties, and people should shed light on it.

AS: Yourselves and others have described what you do as psychedelic. What do think contributes most to the psychedelic sound that you have?

AM: 13th Floor Elevators, the Red Crayola, even Butthole Surfers—a lot psychedelic music comes from Texas. There’s tons of psychedelic music—anything from like Can to modern psychedelic music like Psychic Ills.

AS: Is there something specific that you do musically? Is it what you call the drone machine? Is it the wah-wah pedal? What is it?

AM: It’s not just one thing; it’s everything. It’s the sound, the layers. Christian’s guitar is one of the main things—and Nate [bassist] as well. The overall feel of what we’re doing—I don’t think we never set out to be super, super, super psychedelic to where it’s stuff that doesn’t have a song in it.

AS: When the record first came out, there was a lot of talk about the fact that several you share a house together. How would you describe the relationship between communal living and the band’s writing and touring process as band.

AM: That’s definitely played a part in the cohesiveness of the band. We moved in with eachother—that’s kind of serious, like a big marriage or something. We all moved into the same house. We’re all sitting here listening to the same music, eating the same food, sharing the same stories. So, we’re definitely growing and evolving as a band. Living with each other creates ideas to bounce off of each other all the time. It’s a real positive thing that we all moved in with one another.

AS: Talk about some of the changes that success have brought for you personally.

AM: We still love to tour. Maybe our standards are rising. We’re not sleeping on people’s floors as much anymore.

AS: You get a hotel room instead of a couch?

AM: We get a couch instead of a floor. We sometimes get a room and that makes it an awful lot easier.

AS: Do you drive the bus yourself or do you have a driver?

AM: We have a 15-passenger pan we drive ourselves. We all share driving. We drive with eight or nine or sometimes 15 people in the van, so we’ve got plenty of drivers.

AS: Are you ready for Bonnaroo?

AM: I know it’s a big festival. I’ve never been. A lot of our friends are playing.

AS: You reference the Vietnam War and the Iraq War in your singing and lyrics. Coming of age during the wars since 2001, how has this affected you personally and as a band?

AM: We’re definitely freaked out by everything that’s happening. It’s a scary situation. I’ll never go to war—not unless it’s something I really believe in. I think it’s ridiculous that we’re over there. A lot of people are talking about it but a lot of people are just thinking it and being kind of complacent. There’s definitely parallels between the Sixties and what’s going on right now. It’s really easy to see that we’re falling into the same kind of problems; history’s repeating itself.

AS: Is there already a follow-up to Passover planned?

AM: We’ve got six new songs recorded. Right when we got back from Europe, we tracked six more songs in the studio. We have a lot of material; we’re just trying to figure out when’s the best time to release it. We’re about to do a split with Black Mountain, do you know them?

AS: From Vancouver, they’re phenomenal.

AM: We’re doing three originals, and we’re covering a Black Mountain song.

AS: Are they going to cover one of yours?

AM: I think so; that’s the whole plan.

AS: So you have a split record with Black Mountain and possibly another of your own? So, two new records coming out this year?

AM: Yes.

AS: So what can we expect when we see you on the 30th?

AM: We’ll be playing a lot of new stuff in the towns we’ve been to before.

AS: So I better let you get to the rest of your calls. I’m sorry about the technical difficulties.

AM: Technology’s always difficult.


They put out the fire that can't be put out:
Cold War Kids, Tokyo Police Club, and Delta Spirit Just Kill it in Nash Vegas

Please see my 'official review' at

Here's another excellent review of the show:

Thanks to Kassi for this setlist:

more or less how it went down, probably with a few gaps:
We Used To Vacation
Red Wine, Success
Hang Me Up To Dry
Saint John (all out jam session)
Hospital Beds
God, Make Up Your Mind
Hair Down
Quiet Please
Tell Me In The Morning
Well, Well, Well – John Lennon Cover

These are some more of Landin King's pictures that did not make it up with the other story. There's one of CWK singer Nathan and me--as well as one I took of Landin and Nathan.


With warmer weather and lots of work, my Spring Concert Season is finally here! Hopefully this blog will get busy with photos, reports, and generally good-hearted buzz about all things about to rock.

Here is my dedicated and delicate itinerary:

3-24 Cold War Kids w/ Tokyo Police Club & Delta Spirit

3-30 Black Angels w/ VietNam

4-12 TV on the Radio

4-23 The Killers

5-2 Arcade Fire

5-26 TOOL

6-14 to 17 Bonnaroo


Jacketastic Still: I am ready to testify after Ogden night two

While I am generally skeptical of competition and comparisons and generalizations and platitudes, I am about to lay them down plain and simple. And while I hate to break it to the fans of other bands, I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is My Morning Jacket.

As students of great rock themselves, the Jacket channel their classic influences in a spiritual, non-derivative way. They are rock stars in terms of theatrics but not pretension or ego. We can hear the echoes of Radiohead, Neil Young, Lynard Skynard, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, and so many more.

On stage in strange costumes, Jim James holds court like a science-fiction action-figure protagonist carrying his band of brothers into ever more majestic and mystic moments of pure sonic poetry. This is what rock and roll was supposed to be in their bedrooms when they were fourteen and as it has been engraved on the souls of teenage air-guitarists everywhere. No-fucking wonder Cameron Crowe put them in a movie playing “Freebird.” Because that filmmaker appreciates the mix tape of the soul like few others in Hollywood, as evidenced by the story of Almost Famous and the cheesy but priceless ending of Elizabethtown.

To experience it in such intimacy two nights in a row is profound. To tell of its cinematic and religious qualities is point others to the sounds. But of course this means that the career should take these guys to the next level next time—which means I must cherish this closeness and ineffable camaraderie now. Someday they may hold stadiums rapt, and I can only pray they keep the same playful seriousness in tact. Meanwhile, mainstream radio ignores them, so we know it is through the albums and the shows, the internet and places like the theatrical screenings of Okonokos that we can gather like a tribe, each of us wearing the morning jacket of his or her choice.

In the last few years, I've seen the Flaming Lips, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Coldplay, U2, Scissor Sisters, the Killers, the Mars Volta, the Black Angels, the Black Keys, a wide array of awesome people at the 'roo from Bonnie Raitt to Radiohead to Matisyahu and many more, too many to name.

Over the years, I've seen a serious catalog of live rock shows including acts as diverse as Rush, the Stones, REM, the Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Grateful Dead, Operation Ivy, Fugazi, the Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, Kiss, GWAR, you get the idea. Too many to name, truly.

And frankly, and honestly, and I can only say this heartfully after Denver MMJ for two nights, I've rarely seen a band put on a live show like the Jacket. Best live band on the planet right now.

Best old school rock band of our time. Great by any standards. Big words, yes, and deserving of them this band is.

Wildly, they're still relatively underground. I mean, I still can't get over how cozy the venues they sell out are. With 5 albums behind them, these late twenty-somethings are the music fringe's best kept secret, even after owning a share of what the American rock festival means from Coachella to Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza and many of the smaller festivals and on and on.

Who plays 2 hours or more every night? Who switches the setlist every night? While some nights are mirrors, at least one song will inevitably change. But the two-night stand in Denver shares with the fans some otherworldly shape-shifting ecstasy much like I imagine the multiple nights at the Filmore were.

I don't wish to rag on other hard-working acts, but the serious, traveling fans are paying your freaking bills for heaven's sake! Give us some love, give us some variety, stop settling for 70-minute sets produced every night on auto-pilot.

The Jacket have set a new standard for nailing each song as if the earth depended on it and playing each show as if it were their last. Other bands, please take some notes.

The crossover appeal to jam band fans everywhere should not be understated, but it should not be misrepresented or misinterpreted either. The Jacket groks the integrity of the song and gives its live rendition the space to breathe, but not the space to grow like mold into boring, self-referential, cock-rocking whateverland. They take us to the outer galaxies and back, sure. Yes, they can sustain a musical thought for more than ten minutes, and they can get tweaky and freaky and geeky in the most gifted manner. But they return to rock's mission statement in a way that's both refreshing and chilling, understanding a vocation to write and perform rock songs—not to randomly splash sounds on the sonic canvas.

MMJ has something so sincere to offer, frothing with showmanship but not showing off. I love how tight and completely communal the shows are now, but I imagine bigger things for these deserving guys. It's not a secret I can keep. If you love rock and roll and everything you thought it had lost through thirty years of shitty sell-out commercialism, go see the Jacket. At this point, I could confess, that asking me about this band would be like asking a nun about Jesus.