Cabbage’s “Nihilistic Glamour Shots” – A review

I’m settling back into a chair, headphones on, a cup of rapidly cooling tea beside me, preparing to listen to Nihilistic Glamour Shots, the debut album by Cabbage.

It’s only fair that I admit to hearing the band before. Songs such as “Kevin” & “Dinnerlady” caught my attention and favor, so I’m looking forward to this debut album.

The band is from Mossley, Tameside according to the information on their wikipedia page. I had thought the band was from Manchester, which was an initial mark in their favor as Manchester has a good history of producing amazing bands.

But no matter the place of origin, a band is only as good their sound and their songs. With eyes closed and ears open, if the band does not connect with listeners on an imagined sonic astral plane, nothing will remain of their hope for a future.

Which is good news for Cabbage as they do connect and cajole. I have not heard this music before, but I am drawn in and as the music swirls around, invited to decipher a code of sorts. But there is no hurry. I can play the songs again, later and another time and so forth. The work seems brash and complex at the same time. Which is good. I like a record that reveals itself over time, with subsequent listenings.

Glancing over some of the titles makes me laugh to myself. Titles such as “Postmodernist Caligula,”  “Gibraltar Ape,” or “Reptiles State Funeral” show the band has a good sense of humor, and taste without camping up the lyrics or music.

In conclusion, I recommend this record. Check it out. I will not guarantee that you will like it as much as I do, listening to it now as I write this, but if not, I would have to wonder what went wrong to make you so jaded. This is rock n’ roll, man. Let yourself enjoy it.

Being Aware of the Genius of Ginger Baker

Beware of Mr. Baker (2012) is a film directed by Jay Bulger, who documents the prolific career of the extraordinary rock and jazz drummer, Ginger Baker. Bulger, who, oddly, seems to have first been exposed to Baker through a YouTube video of his infamous Saharan drive, had originally obtained interview footage with him for a Rolling Stone magazine article on his life. He later returned to South Africa to finish the film. The tone of the movie is set in the opening scenes, as we see “Beware of Mr. Baker” written on a sign outside of his South African compound. He then assaults the director with a cane, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ginger Baker was born Aug 19, 1939, in England. He describes being fatherless at 4 ½ years old and had to learn how to fit into the world by navigating real life conflicts in working class neighborhoods. His streetwise upbringing defined his persona, and he gravitated towards a rebellious natural instinct in order to cope. This was especially prominent after meeting another English jazz drummer who would become a mentor of sorts, Phil Seaman. Seaman also turned Baker on to listening to jazz focusing on the drums while intoxicated on heroin, thus Baker’s long relationship with the drug began.

Like many contemporary documentaries with limited source footage, the film incorporates animated sequences that portray events being described by a narrator. In one sequence intended to humorously highlight Baker getting turned on to African drumming for the first time while high on drugs, the director decided to show an animated slave ship of rowing (white) slaves, which includes Baker as a rower and Phil Seaman as a masked African mentor teaching him about African drumming techniques. The sequence ends with Baker removing his shackles after hearing the beat accentuated by the effects of heroin from his slave drum master. This was culturally inappropriate on many levels. First, because it appears the director chose to portray Baker through an African slave context to exemplify the sensation of drug use. As an English white man, with his positionality, this was insensitive and disrespectful towards descendants of African slaves and trivializes their ancestors’ ordeals. No matter how they might try to justify it creatively–slave to heroin?– the fact that this sequence made it into the final film without anyone flagging it as offensive says a lot about the people behind this documentary. And it was only the first in a string of references reflecting colonial world views.

One highlight of the film is Baker’s focus on Africa and his collaborations with Fela Kuti. Kuti and Baker recorded Live! in 1971 with Kuti’s band, Africa 70, the recording was released by EMI. Baker had known Kuti since the early 60s from being involved in the rock music scene in the United Kingdom, Baker went to Africa in the 1970s to study African drumming. The film footage of Baker in Africa shows prominent cultural differences within interviewees contrasting ethnic and cultural social implicit biases based on positionality and hierarchical views because of historical colonialism. Tony Palmer who filmed Baker’s adventures driving across the Sahara and interacting with African musicians said Baker’s adventures, “Pre-dates everyone saying, we discovered the sounds of Africa.” Remi Kabaka who was a musician in Ginger Baker’s Airforce, contrasts this comment saying, “Drums are from Africa.” Stewart Copeland (drummer for The Police) said Baker chose, “To live in the squalor of it.” The squalor of the South. In reality, Baker was in the city of Lagos, a city a few notches under the chic of London perhaps but hardly a backwater. There, Baker deepened his knowledge in rhythm and sound, studying drumming and documenting his experiences. While quick to credit others, he can still be seen as a colonizer, “discovering” Southern rhythmic styles and being recognized in Northern culture for the sounds synthesized from African drummers. He set up a recording studio in Lagos and was recognized, by musicians in both hemispheres, as being a gifted drummer. Kuti and Baker grew apart when Kuti became more involved in challenging apartheid and instigating political dissonance where class and race may have played a part in the absolvement of their friendship.

Beware of Mr. Baker is a celebratory compendium of Ginger Baker’s curmudgeon lifestyle as told by himself. The live footage documenting his music career is definitely the centerpiece that accentuates his remarkable escapades and stories reminiscing about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, jazz, and…polo. Colonial overtones aside, Ginger Baker remains one of the finest rock drummers of all time. After assaulting the director, viewers may be quick to espouse a feeling of fondness for Baker, and his lifelong devotion to love of drumming may have contributed to more awareness into the roots of rhythm that originated in African music and was colonized by Baker and Western musicians.

By Karen Lee (Weekend Family Music Hour) & James Bunnelle (Center for Cassette Studies)

Brad Parsons’ Farewell Performance

It’s a wet Friday night in Portland and I’m trying to find The Laurelthirst Pub. It’s dumping rain and I need new windshield wipers. Where is this place? Aha, there it is… the place that’s packed wall to wall with party people. Tonight local singer songwriter Brad Parsons is performing and there’s no way I’m going to miss this, his farewell show.

Brad has been a part of the Portland scene long before I got here. I first learned of him a couple of years ago when he performed with another local favorite, Sam Densmore. Sam had asked me to help promote the show and Brad sent me a song called “Montana” to play on the air. It’s a beautiful song with some cool references to Portland (“I’m walking down Alberta, rain begins to fall upon my head”). When I saw Brad live a whole new side of him emerged. This guy can sing a love song and he can rock the room.

I open the doors of The Laurelthirst to be blown away by the volume of voices filling the air. Brad is across the room playing a solo acoustic set, but I can hardly hear him, so I make my way through the crowd toward the stage. I catch the last few bars of a love song. Brad puts down his guitar and promises to return in a few minutes with a full band.

Once Brad’s entire band starts playing, the rest of the room takes notice. Brad always hires Portland’s best to help him bring his songs to life. He fills the room with solid blues, Americana soul and rock and roll. He performs some of my personal favorites off of his latest album, like “Hold True” and “Stay Close” a gritty, bluesy song with a catchy chorus that gets the room singing along. These songs all take on special meanings for the crowd tonight. It almost seems as if, instead of singing to a personal partner, he’s singing them to us, the people of Portland, the city he’s leaving behind. Along with his set of original tunes, Brad breaks out some cover tunes, including Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Northeast Texas Woman” and Nirvana’s “All Apologies”.

Brad plays a farewell number, the room erupts in cheers and applause. This has been an emotional evening of music. Brad steps to the side of the stage and takes a few moments to chat with me.

Scott: “Brad, you just played to a packed house at Laurelthirst. The response was amazing. What will you take away from this show tonight with you on your journey?”

Brad: “The show was great indeed. I really got the feeling from it that I was being sent from Portland with love and with a purpose. And that the community we have here is full of interesting, kind, and wonderful people.”

Scott: “You’re headed to Atlanta, Georgia. What favorite memories of Portland will you share with your new friends in the deep south?”

Brad: “Hmmm…I’m not sure. I’m sure those things will come up when a situation in the south reminds me of something that happened out west. At first however, I will probably just talk about the food”.

Scott: “I heard a few fans shouting ‘You’ll be back’ during the night. Will you?”

Brad: “As in moving back? Who knows. But of course I’ll be back to visit. I play Northwest String Summit this summer and I’m a traveling man by my nature and occupation!”.

You’re sure to hear more from Brad in the future. As he said, he’s a traveling man by occupation. This guy has managed to make a living by taking his music on the road and I’m sure that road will bring him back to Portland in the near future. We’ll definitely miss having him as a neighbor and we’ll be glad to welcome him back as a visitor!

Scott “Uncle Scotty” Hammond has been a radio show host for over 20 years. He brought his internet radio station, Radio Hot Tub, to Portland and has been a strong supporter of the local music scene. He currently does live shows featuring local rock bands alternating Friday mornings on Freeform Portland.

The Shifting relationships with my Record collection

It is safe to say that my longest relationship has been between myself and my music collection. Like many of my fellow DJ’s, being a music enthusiast means that you are also likely a music collector. A hoarder. A completist. I have personally witnessed record collections swallow the homes in which they were placed. A fellow collector once told me that his music library had overtaken him so much he had to store records in his oven. He never cooked at home.

I would like to think that my collection was always well managed, despite its size, or the number of times I have moved. Though I might be among the trees I’m still able to see the forest.

My record collecting started in earnest when I was in high school and consisted mainly of records I was chiefly interested in hearing at home, mostly “current” albums. This was before I would read interviews with recording artists I liked who would cite artists or records they liked, and I would chase those records down vast rabbit holes. In the beginning, record collecting was all about personal enjoyment. I was not aware of first pressings, or that they would attract certain collectors of vintage vinyl. I simply bought records as I found them. It was all interest and fun. I loved playing the records, reading the back cover credits. Noticing the producer or guest musicians. Noting when a band did a cover version, and often seeking out the original version of the track for my own collection.

At some point part of my collection began to include the aspect of function. With the invention of the Walkman portable cassette player, I began to purchase factory made cassettes as well as vinyl albums. For instance that day in 1984 when R.E.M.’s “Reckoning” was released, I purchased both, so I could listen to it almost immediately while I rode home on the bus from the record store.

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PORTLAND MUSICIAN CORNER With DJ Sonic Szilvi – Interview with Saint Jacks Parade

About two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting several members of Saint Jacks Parade at a birthday party. At that point I had never seen them live, but meeting and getting to know them prompted me to explore their music further, and to see them play a live show.

Watching this band live is a great experience. Paul Davies’ vocals translate all the emotions into words with such intense passion that it can give you those good shivers. Bassist Chatchay Ramone will get you moving and dancing by jumping off the stage while he provides the rhythm together with the newest additions to the band, guitarist Marty Vincelli and drummer Roby Williams. Not to forget Regina LaRocca, whose lead guitar riffs will mesmerize you. This band is about making you feel good, with beautiful melodies and rocking instruments.

I’m sitting here with two of my favorite people in Portland, and two of the greatest musicians in the local scene, Regina and Paul.

Q: I’m excited about this interview, because I have the feeling that I’ll learn a lot of new things about your band, as will our readers. So, first of all, I’m curious, how did Saint Jacks Parade become a reality, and where does the name come from?

Paul: Before Saint Jacks Parade I was doing open mic jams and connecting with other musicians, wanting to put a band together. One night, I had this dream about being on stage performing in France. I turned around and I could see my band mates, but I couldn’t see their faces, who they were. At the end of the set the whole audience was screaming “Saint Jacks Parade! Saint Jacks Parade! Saint Jacks Parade!” It was totally magical. At this point I didn’t think we were going to be called Saint Jacks Parade, but the name stuck with me and that is who we became. After thinking about why this name was given to me, the answer became pretty obvious. The band comes from all different walks of life, joined together for a purpose. A parade is basically that, people coming together from different places and directions and focusing on one event, and that is what we do.

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Four is Also a Magic Number

Being an exceedingly average guy, I spent the years following high school dabbling in community college, working in kitchens at local restaurants, and spending time with friends.

Much of the time was generally spent driving around, talking about what to get up to. As might be expected in a coastal town, we would frequently end up on a beach, and drink standing round a bonfire, while further discussing what to do to next. This led to late in the night exchanges in the parking lot above the beach, after the bonfire was nothing but cooling ashes, as we shuffled our feet, practically knocking heads, rarely coming to a unified conclusion as to what came next.

Arriving at a consensus between four to ten people seemed to be impossible, no matter who might have been a member of our group. The inability to agree on one sort of destination meant of course we found ourselves later drinking coffee at a local Swensens or Denny’s. Both of these were the usual fall back sort of hangouts for us, that led us nowhere per se. Just hopped up on caffeine before heading home to restless sleep.

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THE RANSOM – FAREWELL SHOW AT THE VERN

My friends often tell me how cool The Vern is. They say it’s the greatest old punk bar in Portland, and it’s staggering distance to my house. So why haven’t I been there?

Well, I finally had a reason. On Saturday March 3rd, local favorites, The Ransom were playing their last ever show there.

I enter the front door of The Vern and it is a party. There are wall to wall people, loud ones, laughing ones, pushing ones, drinking ones…long haired bikers, glammers, preppies, skinheads, punks, Moms, Dads, friends, and local celebrities all piled into this place. One of the opening bands has just struck the last chord, so I make my way to the bar to get a beer. It’s so crowded, the bartender realizes they’ve just run out of glasses, so I buy a can of beer and head to the other side of the bar where the live music is happening.

I see my friends from New Not Normals (who opened the show) near the Video Lottery machines, so I grab a spot next to them. The room is a mass of bodies. The air is filled with energy. A mishmosh of different tribes all converged in this room to say goodbye to one of Portland’s coolest punk bands.

The band plugs in, tunes up, the room surges forward. The owner of the bar walks to the microphone and delivers his farewell speech to the drummer of the band and his long-time employee, Faith Davenport, in front of a full house. She’s embarking on new adventures in Buffalo…and tonight, Portland is going to send her off in a big way.The room is emotional, excited, hot, and ready to rumble… Faith does a couple of rolls on the drum kit, and suddenly The Ransom is ON!

If there was any doubt about what kind of legacy this band is leaving behind, it was all made clear tonight. Every song is flawless, energized, and real. Singer/bassist Charley Nims belts out clever lyrics with focused intensity while sneaking amazing little basslines underneath. Guitarist David Nelson is masterful, showcasing a variety of talents throughout the set. This is much more than a punk band. This band knows how to play their instruments. We’re rocking full throttle, and then the band announces that a guest will be joining them on stage.

The room goes wild as Toody Cole from Dead Moon joins the band for a rendition of “Running Away From You” – an old song by The Rats (Toody’s band before Dead Moon). Soon after, the band is joined by Charley’s former bandmate, Jerry A from Poison Idea. They perform a song called “Psychodelic Nightmare” – by Dead Moon. In between every song there are hugs, smiles, drinking, and more hugging.

Top pic is Jerry A from Poison Idea, bottom pic is Toody Cole from Dead Moon

David strums a surf rock guitar chord, the band breaks into “Echo Harbor,” and the room lights up. As quickly as they started it, they ended it.

“That’s it,” says Charley. More hugging, drinking, and the crowd, slowly chanting, “one more, one more, one more…”

The band plugs in and rips through their song “Happy Hour,” unplugs, and that was the last song we’ll ever hear from The Ransom.

Or is it?
Let’s chat with drummer Faith Davenport.

Faith, that was absolutely incredible. I know you’ve got a lot of people to talk to and party with, but let’s take a second and talk about this band. Tonight was your last gig. What was the first gig for The Ransom?

We had a few songs pretty close to done and Charley booked us our first show at Star Bar. He was pretty resistant about singing himself, but I secretly wondered later if that wasn’t his plan all along! Anyway, not only did Charley step up to the plate, he hit lyrical home runs – one after another after another.

I know you’ve had lots of amazing times with these guys. What’s it like working with Charley?

My least favorite thing about playing with Charley is that I don’t get to watch him play from an audience’s perspective. He gets SO into it! He’ll dip clear to the ground with his bass tuning pegs aimed to the floor. He’s just so in the moment, intense, and straight up fun to watch! The other thing I’ll say about Charley is that he practices a LOT. Probably daily. Not only does he dig playing, he takes his role in the band pretty seriously. More than a few times I’ve been out with him having a can of beer somewhere, and he’ll eventually bow out saying “well, I’m gonna go home and play my fiddle.”

How about David?

David is the guy that everyone raves most to me about after our shows. I really can’t say enough about his guitar playing. I don’t play that instrument, but everyone I’ve known who does, says he’s AMAZING. And I completely agree. He can mimic almost any tone or song, but mostly comes up with really really unique original “David” sounds. He’s big on practicing too, especially if there’s a particularly grueling repetitive riff in a song. He’s also written a good number of our more catchy tunes. Throw Garbage, Go Electric, and Sidewinder to name a few. David has been a great reality check for me as a player over the years. He’ll suggest a beat or roll that maybe I can’t pull off, which challenges me to take another lesson, or spend more time wood shedding. It’s humbling. And good. I know that David will have no trouble finding another group to play with post Ransom.

What’s the Ransom’s best kept secret?

The Ransom’s best kept secret has got to be Charley’s lyrics. We’ve always had trouble getting any P.A. to keep up with how loud we are!

What will you miss most about Portland?

What I’ll miss most about Portland – easy – the friends I’ve made. Damn, you’re gonna make me cry!

***

Charley, David and Faith are breaking up the band, but there is a silver lining to this story.
The Ransom is in studio recording their music, including some new stuff, and even though they won’t be in the clubs, they’ll be in our ears. We’ll have more from The Ransom soon!

Scott “Uncle Scotty” Hammond has been a radio show host for over 20 years. He brought his internet radio station, Radio Hot Tub, to Portland and has been a strong supporter of the local music scene. He currently does live shows featuring local rock bands alternating Friday mornings on Freeform Portland.

Los Punks: We Are All We Have- A Definitive Look at the Continuing Latino Punk Scene in Los Angeles

Punk subculture was born in the 1970’s from oppressed youth who wanted no part in conforming to the colonial mass culture surrounding them. The movement was “against it”, a rejection of societal norms based on behavior, attitude, music and fashion sense; a resistance to consumerism and a mass media that appease patriarchal heteronormative standards and reinforce white upper-class privilege. Contemporary punks today could argue that past punk culture in western societies has morphed into the mainstream, co-opted and codified by the dominant discourse and now part of a “poser” subculture appropriated by corporate power.

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Portland Musicians Corner with DJ Sonic Szilvi – Interview with The Toads

The first time I saw The Toads was about two and a half years ago. There I was at the Firkin Tavern when these guys started playing and it was, honestly, “love at first sound.” It is hard to put these guys into a simple genre, their music is a mix of fun punk with dashes of country, pop, 90’s alternative, and rock. Their lyrics are straight up and honest, presented with humor and sarcasm. If you are into loud music with lots of energy, The Toads won’t let you down. To top it all, Matt Dinaro, Matt Kane and Dylan Valentine aren’t just amazingly talented and driven musicians, they are also super friendly and fun people.Continue reading →