Archive for March, 2009

Testing the Timber

March 31, 2009

Q: Where will I be the night of Sunday, May 17th?
A: Nashville’s The Basement for an evening with Joe Pug

I stumbled upon “Hymn #101” late last year and fell in love with the heavy Nebraska vibe.  Pug’s style also coincides with another personal favorite of mine, which Twangville eloquently conveyed in a recent review: “Much in the way of Josh Ritter’s recent breakthrough, Joe Pug is able to sound like a wise old sage with a million stories and a memory that captures each detail and refuses to let them dim.”

This week, Pug became even more appealing after discovering that Joe was a fellow Tar Heel and attended UNC in hopes of becoming a playwright. The day before his senior year, he sat down for a cup of coffee (probably on Franklin Street?!) and realized “I am profoundly unhappy here.” (as inconceivable as that may seem to alumni like myself) 

Following this realization, Pug dropped out and headed north to Chicago. Working as a carpenter by day, the 23 year-old spent nights playing the guitar he hadn’t picked up since his teenage years.  Using ideas originally slated for a play he was writing, Joe began creating the songs that would eventually make up the Nation of Heat EP.

In addition to the Springsteen and Ritter comparisons, I find Pug’s lyrical style akin to old-school Cat Stevens.  As Daytrotter put it, “Every song is another chapter in a lifelong search for Pug, whose main goal lyrically is to get to the crux of not just where he’s headed, but where his father and his father’s father were trying to get to before the years came after them and stopped their progress. It’s a course bearing down on fulfillment, on maximizing the time spent here and finding reason to observe a day of rest on Sunday as well as needing to make right with the luminous figures and sorts up there on the horizon.” Fortunately, you can and should download Pug’s entire Daytrotter session online.

As if the Springsteen, Ritter, and Cat similarities weren’t enough, here’s what the musician had to say for himself regarding influences in an older online interview:

Well, certainly Dylan and Prine are huge for me. They might be obvious, but I think that’s okay. Because there’s something very fundamental about both of those guys that makes them accessible, so you can go off on a tangent of your own. They taught me that a song can be original in its logic or phrasing or spirit even while its using a structure or melody that’s been around for a hundred years. 

Steinbeck and Whitman are huge for me. Whitman explained once that poetry isn’t meant to confuse people. That trying to articulate your feelings as clearly as you can is cryptic enough as it is. You don’t need to fool anyone. You don’t need to prove to anybody that you know things that they don’t know. Because of course you do. So just try to say it as clearly as you can. Steinbeck, for me, embodies that ethos, whether he meant to or not. You see it most strikingly in The Grapes of Wrath when he begins that harrowing passage that begins, “And this I know…”. You’ll never read something so lucid. I suppose right now, that’s what I strive for.

Pug wins more cool points by understanding the value of honest word of mouth advertising.  The following message was posted on his website on March 1st.  No worries, I’ve requested copies to pass out to everyone:

If you’re insulted by the songs they loop on the radio all day. If you’re tired of your parents repeating the phrase “music meant something in my day” with baseless contempt. Here’s a chance to do something about it…

I want you to give my music away.

The thing is, there’s no subsidiary of Viacom shoe-horning my latest single onto radio playlists. There’s no carefully worded advertisements assaulting you at the bus-stop. There’s no ringles. 

You heard about my music from a friend. Simple as that. Which means you listen to music because of its substance, not its convenience. And that’s precisely why I’m asking for your help.

Think of some likeminded friends who haven’t heard my songs. Then let me know how many sampler CDs I should send you to give to them.

All I need…

Name
Mailing Address
Email Address
How many CDs you want.

Send the requests to nationofheat@gmail.com

Thanks for your interest, thanks for your help…

-Pug

For anyone still in the Triangle area, Joe will be coming back to play at the Local 506 amongst other places across the country in the upcoming months.  If you’re still not convinced, his performances from Laundro Matinee should do the trick:

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If you’re both too cheap to buy the EP on iTunes and can’t wait for a free sampler, you can also download three of his tracks instantly at his website.

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R.I.P. Lucky

March 28, 2009

Losing a pet can certainly be tough.  Just ask Marley’s family.  I’m not sure how long the following clip has been around, but the fact that Katie Couric suggests the video to Joe Biden at the end of a pre-VP nomination interview makes me feel like I’m late to this particular YouTube party.  As creepy as it may sound, Maya’s eulogy actually makes me look forward to becoming a father and encountering that first devastating tiolet bowl funeral experience:

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I particularly enjoyed the editor’s sensible decision to dramatize the introduction with bagpipes and a reminder that Lucky lived from 2006 to 2006.  I have every intention of becoming that shameful dad constantly trying to “capture the moment” on film in an attempt to carry out my directorial pipe dreams.

I’m Feeling This

March 24, 2009

Although this official “Hey, you should get excited!” video is about a minute too long in all its rock star vainglory, I must admit that I am in fact delighted about the reunion of one of most instrumental bands in shaping my high school (and early college) genre of choice:

2009 is quickly gearing up to be quite the year for tours featuring my favorite bands.  The only unfortunate result will be the substantial damage on my wallet.  The annual checklist is filling in nicely:

RYAN ADAMS & THE CARDINALS
3/14 – War Memorial Auditorium – Nashville, TN

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
5/2 – Greensboro Coliseum – Greensboro, NC

U2 360º TOUR
9/12 – Soldier Field – Chicago, IL

BLINK-182
Summer 2009 Tour

With the soon addition of the ever elusive U2, I’ve been extremely productive in crossing off important favorite artists from my “must see live” checklist over the past year and half:

CONSIDER YOURSELVES OFFICIALLY EXPERIENCED (RECENTLY):
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Talking Heads / David Byrne, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Jimmy Eat World, Josh Ritter, The Frames / The Swell Season

Everything’s Amazing

March 22, 2009

I’ve recently come to a realization.  Not a sudden epiphany by any means, but rather something that comes as a result of several smaller reminders that gradually add up into a much bigger awareness.  I’m incredibly unappreciative of all the amazing fortunes I undeservedly have.

I guess I’ve always been conscious of this flaw, but I’ve decided I should seriously attempt to cut down on my growing pessimism.  In the interests of saving everyone from what is bound to be some humdrum egocentric post, I’m going to try to keep this as brief as possible.  Earlier this week, Christina forwarded a New York Times story (originally sent via my mom) by an older Nashville songwriter recounting his wife’s devastating car accident.  Although very depressing at times, I highly recommend taking the time to read the article as the author’s reflections leave an impact.

Adding to the build-up, I decided to make the four and half hour trek up to Bloomington, IN to meet my mom and Christina for my sister’s basketball tournament this weekend.  Instead of listening to music (typically a huge sacrifice), I decided to finally pop in my audio CD copies of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.  My mom insisted that I copy her originals onto my laptop over this past Christmas break, but I had forgotten to burn them until this week. I had been aware of the lecture since its initial publicity in 2007, but never got around to watching or reading. Needless to say, I’m glad that I finally did.  Although some might consider the quote cliched, one of my favorite takeaways from the lecture was when Pausch stated, “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”

As you probably know, I’ve always identified with Bruce Springsteen’s music.  A fundamental reasoning for this affinity was fairly accurately summarized by Jon Stewart during his time with Bruce this Thursday.  Jon concluded the interview by thanking Springsteen for introducing him to a concept which Stewart felt was at the core of Bruce’s musical message: “By working to get away from your circumstance, you can make something better of yourself, but there’s no guarantee…the joy of it is chasing down that dream.”

The theme from listening to Randy’s lecture during my road trip seemed to loosely coincide with the message being discussed on Thursday’s edition of The Daily Show, which ironically also seemed to correspond with the New York Times article that I read on Monday whose story happened to complement certain lyrics from the band I’ve been obsessing over recently (“Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”).

I’ve spent way too much time staying unhappy and frustrated instead of searching for possible solutions.  Among many other benefits, I’ve got my health, a solid education, and an incredible support net of family and friends.  I’ve had an unbelievably easy life up to this point, but I’m still never happy.  Louis C.K. nailed it on Conan last fall, and it’s time for me to stop being one of people he describes:

We’ve all been given this amazing gift, and it’s our own responsibility to make the best of it.  I can do a much better job personally, so call me out if you see me finding ways to continue dropping the ball.

Highly Anticipated 2009 Release

March 16, 2009

I still vividly remember the first time I heard Bon Iver. After a mid February purchase, For Emma, Forever Ago dominated my stereo for the remainder of 2008, and I may have already found that group for 2009.

I cannot stop listening to this band, and searching for hidden “unreleased” tracks floating around has become my new favorite hobby.  Similar to 2008 favorites Noah and the Whale, Mumford & Sons is considered to be part of London’s “new folk revival.”  When I first listened to the tracks available on their myspace page, the band’s style immediately reminded me of a blend of Frightened Rabbit (Midnight Organ Fight was my 2nd favorite album of 2008) and North Carolinian natives The Avett Brothers.

The always enjoyable Fueled By Friends blog summed up my feelings best: “Mumford & Sons make honest, compelling music that veers towards triumphant even as they chronicle the difficult litany of life’s woes. It sounds epic and substantial while simultaneously crawling under my skin with its vulnerability.”

The band has set the bar pretty high with the early EPs, so I can’t wait to hear what the debut full length will have in store.  I can easily see this band becoming the next BIG British band.  A few friends lucky enough to see them in New York this week claim that the live experience caps it all off.  Unfortunately, YouTube is the closest option I have at the moment:

I very much envy those getting to experience the music firsthand at South By Southwest this weekend, but anxiously hope that Mumford & Sons decides to bring their banjos to Nashville in the near future. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to download the latest EP for the time being.

Carry Me Home

March 15, 2009

Ryan Adams and his fellow Cardinals paid a visit to Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium this weekend with back-to-back shows on Saturday and Sunday.  Originally, my dad was going to fly in for the Saturday show, because Ryan is basically one of three musicians I think he would ever pay to see live.  The show sold out before he could get travel plans squared away, but I figured I could easily go to the unsold out Sunday show.  The venue took awhile before announcing a second date, so I’d have plenty of time to figure out if I was going by myself or with a friend.  What’s the rush in getting a ticket for a show that wouldn’t sell out…

Obviously, it did.  As many friends already know, Ryan sits right behind Bruce and U2 in my grand scheme of musical things.  To add to the frustration, there was speculation that this would be Ryan’s last tour in awhile after a blog post he made earlier this year.

Christina was in town for the week.  As she does with Bruce, she’s been with me long enough to know to at least pretend to appreciate Ryan’s music even if it isn’t a personal favorite.  Knowing how much the show would mean to me, she convinced me to try to pull some strings to make it to the sold out Saturday night show.  After hours of scouring, we stumbled upon a Craiglister that was willing to sell her pair at face value about an hour before the show started.

Needless to say, I now believe in miracles.  We inexplicably found ourselves inside the venue before the show started after leaving my apartment (which is 20 minutes away from downtown) 35 minutes before the start time, still needing to accomplish the following seemingly impossible missions given the time constraint:

  1. Retrieve cash from the one Nashville BB&T ATM (in the opposite direction)
  2. Meet the generous Vanderbilt couple selling their tickets
  3. Drive from Vanderbilt area to the venue
  4. Find a free parking space downtown

We knocked out the above tasks with minutes to spare.  While sprinting to the venue and cutting around street corners, we almost literally bumped into newly weds Ryan and Mandy Moore, who I suspected were most likely heading to the same destination.  The morning after, I still can’t believe that I was standing approximately two feet from a personal musical hero and his new popstar wife and completely blanked on asking for a picture.

After pausing to watch the couple cross our path, I stopped to share the experience with Christina.  Mandy now rocks a dyed hair color not usually seen in the magazines, so Christina didn’t realize what just transpired.  Once her double-take confirmed my statement, she appropriately teased, “Well, at least we won’t miss the first song if we beat him inside.”  After a very stressful hour full of adrenaline rushing, I didn’t initially find her joke funny, but we both had a good laugh once we successfully made it to our seats.

All the hassle and stressing out was totally worth it when Ryan surprisingly played my favorite song.  It’s been a tough transition moving away from the college lifestyle in Chapel Hill to Nashville, and it felt appropriate that the band decided to play the one song that I wanted to hear:

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In addition to reiterating the fact that Ryan Adams is amazing live, the night and all its ridiculousness yet again confirmed that I have the best girlfriend in the world.

Mad As Hell

March 13, 2009

After all the hype, the “showdown of the century” turned out to be a one-sided apology instead.  I don’t know when Cramer decided he was going to concede virtually every talking point, but his tail stayed timidly between his legs the entire interview:

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Even though the debate wasn’t as heated as advertised, I left with more respect for Stewart.  Although the financial crisis isn’t specifically Cramer’s fault, he irresponsibly abused the trust of his viewers and Jon drilled him for it.  I recommend reading James Moore’s article on how Stewart has “brought back context to journalism by making people in our drive-by culture responsible for their words and even actions.”

While watching last night’s interview, I couldn’t help comparing Stewart’s on-air attitude to that of the memorable Howard Beale character in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Network:

Although the film was released in 1976, Beale’s famous rant feels especially relevant today.  On a less flamboyant note, The Daily Show replicated the same sentiment last night, and I’m happy that the commentator standing up for the general public wasn’t just part of another “scene in the movies.”

Just Around the Corner from Me

March 11, 2009

I have a soft spot in my heart for Pete Yorn.  Music For The Morning After was one of those important adolescent records that taught me there was rock music being made that was much better than the radio bands I currently listened to (read “Creed”).  Years later, promoting Nightcrawler was one of my first priorities during the early CMR days.

Yorn has a new album coming out this June called Back and Fourth and I’ve decided that I’m a fan of the recently released “Don’t Wanna Cry” single.  In Pete’s words, the song is “about somebody who’s in a lot of pain, a lot of guilt, trying to cut out because they couldn’t really handle what life was dealing them at the time.”  Seems very appropriate given the current state of things.

While I’m talking about Pete, I loved his brief reasoning for liking Bruce on Hangin’ On E Street, as it was a perfect summary of what continues to draw me to the Boss:

Pete’s take on his favorite song from Magic is one of the many excellent covers featured on the genius BruceSpringsteen.net promotion.  I especially can’t wait for the yet to be released Josh Ritter contribution (“The River”?).

I know you all must be ecstatic about my ability to successfully relate every post back to the Boss somehow…

The Snuggler

March 6, 2009

A special thanks to my brother for bringing the following video to my attention this week.  Danny Boy is equally appreciative of the comedic genius known as Zach Galifianakis. It takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate Zach’s style, and I have a natural respect for anyone that also loves it.  Far and away, Zach is my favorite comedian, so I hope you enjoy his latest gift to the world, “The Snuggler”:

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If you’re a fan, I strongly encourage you to check out his equally disturbing Absolut Vodka “promotions” from last year.

Prove It All Night

March 3, 2009

I’m feeling like a giddy schoolgirl awaiting the 30th anniversary edition of Darkness on the Edge of Town.  Like the 2005 reissue of Born to Run, the Darkness release will also include live footage from those glorious years in the 70s, as well as a documentary on the making of the album.  Landau says it’s nearing completion.  Although I’d prefer a specific release date over a vague confirmation, I’m really excited for the live DVD portion.  In my opinion, the band’s live performances during the Darkness era will always be the epitome of what live music should be.

CASE IN POINT:

I know I’ve preached about the awesomeness of this specific video in the past, but I’m seriously in awe every time I watch it.