It's the fourth Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for CHIRP Night at the Whistler! This edition features Soddy Daisy and the The Gnar Wave Rangers. It starts at 8:30pm and there is no cover
Today we wish a posthumous Happy Birthday to Joe Strummer, co-founder and lead singer of The Clash. Starting out in the '70s UK Punk scene, the band's global reach was in the music, as they incorporated Reggae, Ska, Dub, Rockabilly and Funk into their sound. London Calling and Combat Rock put the band at the top of the charts, with Strummer's politically charged lyrics and musical influences inspired people looking to express themselves socially and artistically. Celebrate his birthday by taking your MP3 player, pressing the "shuffle" button, and sharing the first 10 songs you hear:
I saw Whiplash a few weeks after the 2014 film’s nationwide release. It’s an astoundingly good movie. It stirs the viewer’s emotions, poses larger themes for debate, and truly earned the Oscar for best sound mixing. But on my way home from the Davis Theater, I could not stop thinking about one thing – did Jo Jones actually throw a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s head?
Whiplash’s protagonist, Andrew, is a young jazz drummer beginning his first year as a student at a prestigious conservatory in New York. Fletcher is a teacher at the conservatory who notices Andrew early and takes interest in cultivating Andrew’s talent. Andrew is drawn to Fletcher’s tutelage because Fletcher is reputed to be the best teacher at the conservatory. Sadly, Andrew quickly learns that being Fletcher’s protégé means tolerating a heap of physical and psychological abuse.
Andrew endures Fletcher’s cruelty because he is so driven to become the best drummer at the conservatory. When Fletcher tells Andrew his mercilessness is only meant to push Andrew to excellence, Andrew believes him. To explain his teaching methods, Fletcher tells Andrew a story about how Charlie Parker “became” Charlie Parker because Jo Jones once threw a cymbal at Parker’s head.
I never heard of this story, and I was skeptical as I watched it being told on the big screen. Andrew takes it at face value, but he’s just a kid. What does he know? Fletcher is a monster, but he has proven he can develop young musicians into great ones. Andrew wants to believe that the ends justify the means. He wants to believe that Jo Jones throwing a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s head makes it okay for Fletcher to hurl a chair at his. But did Jo Jones really throw a cymbal at Charlie Parker’s head?
Biographers have documented that a 16-year-old Parker did play on stage with Jones. It’s true Parker played terribly. It’s true Jones threw a cymbal at him. It’s true Parker was laughed off stage, humiliated, and thereafter dedicated himself to better practice habits that improved his skills drastically over the next year of his life.
It’s false that Jones threw the cymbal at Parker’s head and “nearly decapitated him.”
The cymbal landed at Parker’s feet. It startled him more than it threatened any bodily harm. Witnesses described it as more of a playful gesture than a malicious one; a way of telling Parker that Jones disapproved of his performance and it was time to stop.
So the myth is half-true. Jones did throw a cymbal at Parker, but not at his head.
A major theme of Whiplash is: how far is it acceptable to push kids to do their best? Fletcher is fine with the idea of slinging projectiles at a teenager’s head, so long as the ends justify the means. Fletcher considers a world in which Bird’s music was never made to be a tragedy. But Bird succumbed to addiction at age 34; is that not also a tragedy?
I’m so hung up on this Charlie Parker story because I think it’s evidence that Fletcher is really just a sadist who uses his skill as a music teacher to allow for his atrocities to go unchallenged. Now that I know the true story, Fletcher’s version sounds like an abuser saying whatever he has to say to the victim so that the abuse can continue. If the ends always justify the means, then the means of Fletcher being a sadist depend on the ends of his pupils becoming great musicians. And if Fletcher must lie to a pupil to convince him it’s okay to throw a chair at his head, so be it.
[ In July, CHIRP DJ and Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Avampato traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the Forecastle Festival, a three day celebration of music along the banks of the Ohio River. See coverage of days one and two of the festival on the blog, and head to Flickr for a full photo gallery. For a look back at featured Forecastle artists, tune into Sarah's show on CHIRP on Friday at 8pm Central. ]
Everyone hits a wall with music festivals. I don't care how old or young you are, or how well prepared -- three days on your feet in the blistering sun will do strange things to you, and eventually you reach a point where all you want to do is go "home". I'm not ashamed to admit that Sunday was my "wall" -- oppressive heat really does you in pretty quickly. I allowed myself to have a short day at the festival, rather than getting so hangry that I cried over pizza, which is definitely not a thing that I've done at a past Forecastle, no, not at all.
I started my day out by seeing Noah Gundersen. The Seattle-born singer-songwriter may have started his career with music with a little more folk, but his sound has gotten bigger and bigger over the years, and his songs keep getting more refined. He played several songs from his upcoming album, Carry the Ghost, in addition to many older favorites. Despite having the first slot of the day at the festival, Gundersen attracted a healthy crowd, and wowed them with a moody cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". If you've ever caught my show on CHIRP, you'll know that I'm a total sucker for cover songs, and this one was no exception.