Fakebook-Joan Jett

Fakebook n. A book containing information about songs, especially their lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions, used by musicians as a substitute for sheet music or as a framework for improvisation.

I began to reconsider Joan Jett when her song, Bad Reputation, was used as the theme music for Freaks and Geeks.  It was appropos as the show’s heroin was a strong, charismatic  individual who was grappling with her identity in the fishbowl of high school social strata.  Rock and Roll has always been about youth and has mirrored and influenced youth culture since its birth. Like high school it has its cliques: the popular kids, the jocks, the geeks, rockers, etc.   Joan is a rare artist that resonates with more than one clique.   She’s pop and pretty enough for the popular kids, the rockers gave her respect, punks and new wave-ers embraced her, and her sexual politics are edgy.  The 80’s was a time of unprecedented expansion of the sub-genres of rock and roll, and here was a woman who could transcend several.

For an artist, choosing a cover song is an overture to a predecessor; a salute to history; a declaration of alliance.   Tommy James and the Shondells could also transcend genres from garage, pop, to psychedelia, to hip shaking rock.  Other songs of theirs would re-emerge as hits for other 80’s artists like Billy Idol and Tiffany.  So here’s to Joan and Tommy, who are both still making music.

Calexico. Live in Nuremberg.

photo by emily wilson

Calexico–that band of handsome Tucson troubadours known for dusty southwestern  sonatas–is giving it up for free! To get folks all excited about their summer tour Calexico is offering up a free download for a live recording of a 2009 Nuremberg show via CASH Music. (thanks to small town romance for the heads up.)

CASH Music is an organization that, as stated on its website, “began with the vision of Kristin Hersh, Donita Sparks, Robert Fagan, and Billy O’Connell” in order to provide musicians with “total control over the presentation, sharing, and sale of their music — enabling them to make a living off of their art, building strong direct relationships with their audience.”

Learn more about the cool things going on at CASH Music here.

Hook yourself up with some live Calexico here.

And here’s a friendly reminder of the sonic majesty that is the Calexico live experience…

Catch Calexico on the road this summer if you can…

July 31. Newport Folk Festival. Newport, RI
August 6. Edmonton Folk Festival. Edmonton, AB, Canada
August 7/8. Regina Folk Festival. Regina, SK, Canada
August 14/15. Ottawa Folk Festival. Ottawa, ON, Canada
September 3. Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Snowmass Village, CO
September 9. Zakk. Düsseldorf, Germany
September 10. ZDF-Gelände. Mainz, Germany
September 11. Tivoli. Utrecht, Netherlands
September 12. Beatpol. Dresden, Germany
September 13. Train. Aarhus, Denmark
September 15. Kvarteret. Bergen, Norway
September 16. Rockefeller. Oslo, Norway
September 17. Byscenen. Trondheim, Norway
September 19. Hollywood Bowl. Los Angeles, CA
September 20. Belly Up Tavern. Solana Beach, CA

Backtracks. Scorpions Blackout.

Backtracks takes a look at songs that were a meaningful part of los grillos past and have recently come back to los grillos in whatever random ways such things happen–in a movie, in a bar, in a dream, or just in the head for no apparent reason.

The first time I got high was during the summer of 1985. I was with Leon, a redheaded, rebellious type whose last name I can’t remember. What I do remember about Leon is that he was the coolest dude I’d ever met. Granted, back when I was a shy, aggressively uncool 12-year-old stoner in the making there wasn’t exactly a lot of competition for the title of “coolest dude” in my life, but even now I can see that Leon clearly deserved the crown for a number of compelling reasons:

1. Leon owned a bitchin’ Mongoose BMX bike, could bunny hop higher than anyone else in the neighborhood, and had competed in actual dirt track races before his leg was shattered in a horrible motorcycle accident.

2. Leon’s leg was shattered in a horrible motorcycle accident!

3. Leon smoked weed out of a surprisingly effective apparatus constructed from various pipe fittings “liberated” from the local hardware store.

4. Leon’s older sister was smokin’ hot and drove around in a souped-up Trans Am Firebird–just like the one Burt Reynold’s moustache drove in Smokey and the Bandit, but white.

5. Leon was a metal maniac with a particular affection for the Scorpions album Blackout.

Leon was the sort of kid that parents warn their kids about (even Leon’s parents probably warned him to stay away from himself), and he was a die hard afficionado of the sort of music parents love to hate–heavy metal. If marijuana is a gateway drug (it’s not), then Leon was my gatekeeper to a different way of interpreting and responding to the world (he was). I can’t say that Leon, and by extension the Scorpions, was my gatekeeper to the world of heavy metal because that honor belongs to my older brother who, when I was an impressionable 3rd grader, woke me up with the resounding “gong” that announced the black-clad return of AC/DC, Brian Johnson at the helm, after the tragic death of Bon Scott.

But I can say that after my first few magical puffs of Leon’s stash, “Can’t Live Without You” playing on a shitty jam box in the background, I had a blackout. I really had a blackout.

Jaill. That’s How We Burn.

Jaill, a long time, workmanlike bar band from Milwaukee and recent Sub Pop signee, serve up guitar jangle and garage punk attitude as tightly crafted pop songs. In the wry lyrics and rolling backbeat there’s a hint of The Smiths‘ more uptempo dour ditties that, combined with a Replacements knack for melodic hooks, calls to mind another hard-working, hardly-recognized band Sub Pop helped to rise from regional recognition to national reknown.

Jaill’s debut, That’s How We Burn, is out today on Sub Pop. Buy it here. Or pick it up at your favorite local record store.

On The Beat by subpop

Catch Jaill on tour in August and September.

August 14. Turner Hall. Milwaukee WI
August 18. Showbox. Seattle, WA
August 19. Vogue Theatre. Vancouver, Canada
August 20. Crystal Ballroom. Portland, OR
August 21. W.O.W. Hall. Eugene, OR
August 23. Senator Theater. Chico, CA
August 24. Catalyst Club Atrium. Santa Cruz, CA
August 25. Detroit Bar. Costa Mesa, CA
August 26. Glass House. Pomona, CA
August 27. Velvet Jones. Santa Barbara, CA
August 28. Burger Records. Fullerton, CA
August 28. 40 Watt Club. Athens, GA
August 31. Hi-Dive. Denver, CO
September 13. Lincoln Hall. Chicago, IL
September 14. Beachland Ballroom. Cleveland, OH

Call Me Lightning | When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free

Do you like The Who? So do I. And so does Call Me Lightning, a garage-rockin’ Milwaukee trio that takes its name from an early Who b-side–and lives up to the name with the unhinged aural assault on their latest, When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free, out now from Dusty Medical Records.

The band cites Lungfish as an influence, and Lungfish covering The Who for an SST comp ain’t a bad way to describe what these dudes are up to.

Check out album lead-off track here.

Buy the album here.

And here’s a video featuring a live version of album track “Bronze Hell”…