Current DJ: The Dark Tomorrow with Jay Effem
Slowdive Blue Skied an' Clear from Pygmalion (Creation/EMI) Buy Slowdive Pygmalion at Reckless Records Buy Slowdive at iTunes Buy Slowdive Pygmalion at Amazon Add to Collection
CHIRP volunteers are celebrating this morning, as we’ve just received word that the House Commerce Committee has unanimously voted in favor of the Local Community Radio Act, HR 1147. This bipartisan bill, which is supported by thousands of people across the country from a variety of community organizations, churches, artist groups, indigenous tribes, emergency responders and labor organizations, would allow the further expansion of low power FM radio, and would result in many more low power FM radio stations in urban areas. The Act will now go to the floor of the House for a full vote. Efforts are being made to progress the Senate’s version of the bill as well, and we are hopeful that lead co-sponsor Representative Mike Doyle’s prediction that this will be our “Christmas present” will in fact come true, and we’ll see President Obama signing it this year.
While CHIRP will begin to stream a new Chicago community radio station online within a few months, we have always believed that it is important to continue to advocate for the expansion of low power FM broadcast signals in order to fully serve all of the community, particularly those who may not have access to the internet. It is our hope that if this bill passes, we will have the opportunity to apply for a low power FM license to further our mission of serving the Chicago community with a great arts and cultural, locally-focused radio station.
During last spring’s trip to Washington D.C., we met so many people doing wonderful things in their local communities – churches, youth art organizations, farmworker coalitions, independent musicians, just to name a few – and many who hope to build upon their success with the ability to have a low power FM radio station. It is not only because of CHIRP’s own broadcasting dreams, but also because of the great people who we met in DC that we support the expansion of LPFM service across the nation, so these other groups can have the chance to serve their local communities as well.
Today’s great news should be a cause for celebration, but also a time to light the fire under all of us. Please take a moment to ask your legislators to support the Local Community Radio Act by visiting their website
With the advent of compact discs, and now MP3s, the cassette tape went the way of the dinosaur. And, with it, went the mixed tape. Made of an “A” side and a “B” side, the mixed tape provided music lovers with the opportunity to create a sonic theater of sentiment complete with an intermission. Having two sides made it possible to fit two themes onto one tape, to make two full acts of music and to draw the crescendo of the tape out in a dramatic way.
It is easier, of course, to make a mix on a cd. All that is needed is a computer and a burner and a mix can be made in less than ten minutes. Tapes required elbow grease. Pulling the tapes you wanted to dub, searching for the tracks. Re-taping it if the sound didn’t come out right the first time, and trying to get the timing just right, so that no songs got cut off but also trying to avoid minutes of blank tape at the end of a side. I have fond memories of spending nights hunched over my tape deck, meticulously making mixes for friends (“Tori Amos Essentials”, “Good Going Out Tape”, “Girls!”) and for partners (“Love/Lust”, “Make Out Mix”, “You, Me, Rock”). Getting a handmade mixed tape was the best gift one could get. There was such an excitement in throwing it in your tape player and putting on your headphones, wondering what the next song, and the next side, would be.
In 2009, it is rare to find someone with a tape player. The last time I made a mixed tape was in 2003, and then subsequently had to buy my boyfriend a tape player to play it on. Cds are the wave of the future, but how can we make them just as good as the old standard, the mixed tape? And what just plain makes a good mix?
Nobody ever asks me that question. I tend to get more “Do you have a quarter?” and “What are you looking at, man?” Maybe the reason for that is purely geographical. I hail from the southwest corner region of Logan Square. Although maybe it’s more of a corridor than a corner. That’s not important. What is important is the present state of community radio in the neighborhood. Right now it’s fairly limited to the enormous Harley Davidson that likes to swing by blasting AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and MGMT’s “Electric Feel” which rises through my apartment’s floorboards on a regular basis thanks to my downstairs neighbor’s egomaniacal stereo. Don’t get me wrong. I love both those songs and could listen to them all the time. And do. But I yearn for more. Sometimes I get it when the neighbors two doors down pump up their tejano music to set their Friday night garage party in motion. Plus there’s the not-so-faint sounds of electric guitar thrash and reverb that escape the walls of Ronny’s four nights a week. Still, the sound quality is poor. I get better static tuning in an AM station from St. Louis. And so for these reasons and many more, I look forward to the day CHIRP launches and changes what community radio means to me, which is more often than not the neighborhood ice cream truck’s twenty minute rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel” on calliope
One wonders if Colin Meloy et al get together once every few years and say to themselves, “As The Decemberists, what is the weirdest thing we can do next?” or if The Decemberists are just quirky people who get together and say, “We should really write an operetta. About fawns.”
Regardless, friends, The Decemberists. I’m nuts about ‘em. What some pass of as a self-conscious explosion of the emo hipster fedora persona, I like to think of as a joyous, innovative, uninhibited, artistic process that we’ve been privileged to listen to. When I found out that The Decemberists’ latest album (Hazards of Love) was an operetta, I was nervously curious. Perhaps, having signed with a major label, they were over-compensating with something mildly unpalatable to get back their indie cred? Maybe they’ve just gone bananas?
No! It took two listens, but Hazards of Love thoroughly won me over, and assured me that the band was still the brilliant, absorbing band I loved. It’s the story of William, a fawn by day and man by night, and Margaret, who is quite possibly a forest fairy. They fall in love, and start having nightly woodland dalliances, and the Queen of the forest – who rescued William when he was a baby and turned him into a fawn – is all mad. But she agrees to let him have one more night with Margaret, he will return to her in the morning (to die? It’s unclear). But then! Margaret is abducted by The Rake, who sings a lovely song about how he killed all his children, and then whisks Margaret away. This is all very convenient for the Queen, who helps The Rake get across the rushing river, happy to get Margaret out of the picture. But lovesick William goes inevitably after Margaret, making a deal with the river that if he can cross safely, and rescue Margaret from danger, they will come back and duly drown later. I don’t mean to spoil the ending, but yeah, they drown. But they drown kissing! So…love!
This stuff is nuts. But The Decemberists make it work. Last Thursday at The Riviera in Chicago, as they have on the entire Hazards tour, they played the operetta straight through. It amounts to roughly 60 minutes of continuous music – no breaks, no banter – during which the whole trippy, mystical story unfolded in front of us. Every now and then, during an instrumental interlude or a bandmember’s solo, one or two of the band would be able to duck offstage to grab a new water bottle or, I don’t know, plunge their fingers in an ice bucket, but otherwise the entire band played and sang for an hour.
One couldn’t help but feel grateful for such an obvious effort, and the result was truly a great show. Frontman Colin Meloy sings the part of William, grounding the narrative with his familiar voice. Guest vocalist Becky Stark (of Lavendar Diamond) sings the part of Margaret, and her ethereal voice filled the theatre in an enchanting way that is missing from the album, on which she sounds sweet and small. Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) sings as the Queen, and she brought the flipping house down. The show didn’t really bring the crowd to life until her first solo. I was sitting in the middle of the balcony, easily 200 feet from the stage, but when she belted out, “Your life for the evening/ I will retake by morning./ Consider it your debt repaid,” I kind of wet my pants in fright.
Although the album is a single work, within it are tucked all the Decemberists’ specialties. “Isn’t it a Lovely Night?” and “Annan Water” have Colin Meloy in the plaintive ballad mode of “Grace Cathedral Hill” or “As I Rise.” “The Rake’s Song” and “Repaid” have the same fist-pumping, jump-up-and-down quality of “The Infanta” or “We Both Go Down Together.” And the infectious effervescence that have made The Decemberists great are sprinkled throughout, in the four permutations of “Hazards of Love,” and William’s theme, “The Wanting Comes in Waves.”
The Decemberists have been touring this show for a good few months, so the fact that they produced 60 minutes of pure verve was commendable at least, and inspiring at best. The crowd went wild.
After a short break, the band came back and played another 50-minute set of their perennial favorites. It was so generous and, as is obvious, combined with the sight of Colin Meloy in suspenders to launch me even farther over the moon for this band. That second set – including “O, Valencia,” “Los Angeles, I’m Yours,” “Grace Cathedral Hill,” The Crane Wife trilogy, and “Sons and Daughters” – made me very happy I’d plopped down $25 for the concert tshirt I will undoubtedly wear at next year’s Pitchfork.
This being the third Chicago show the band has played this year, Colin Meloy asked at one point, “Man, Chicago, how many times do we have to come back here?”
Never enough, Colin, I’ll be there every time.
What’s the iPod/MP3 Shuffle? It’s just a way to get people to share music and foster some discussion. I started doing this on my Facebook page a while back and it’s been great seeing friends exchange comments on each others lists. Every Friday, I get out my 120 GB iPod (which has about 24,000 songs now), hit shuffle and write about the first 10 songs that come up. Sometimes the 10 songs are kind of conventional, sometimes there’s a lot of obscure stuff. So check mine out and please add your own shuffle or discuss other people’s shuffles!
Let’s pay tribute to the intricate comic genius of Frenchman Jacques Tati, the man behind Monsieur Hulot. I’m not sure how Tati would view the iPod, as a man who parodied technology, but I’m sure he would have had a great shuffle. And I’m sure you do too. So please grab your iPod/iTunes/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up. Here’s mine: