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Rock Desk

Welcome to the Rock Desk, where Seattle Times rock critic Patrick MacDonald fills you in on the latest news, upcoming concerts, news releases and insider info on the rock 'n' roll beat. Music critic Tom Scanlon also contributes local music and club news.

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March 25, 2007 11:51 PM

TV on the Radio set list

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

Here's the set list for tonight's TV on the Radio show at the Moore:
1. "Tonight"
2. "Young Liars"
3. "The Wrong Way"
4. "Dreams"
5. "Province"
6. "Staring at the Sun"
7. "Snakes & Martyrs" (new)
8. "Dirtywhirl"
9. "Blues From Down Here"
10. "I Was A Lover"
11. "Wash the Day"
12. "Satellite"
encores
13. "Method"
14. "Let the Devil In"
15. "Wolf Like Me"

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March 17, 2007 2:23 PM

New media is webalicious

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

A SXSW panel discussion this morning on "Covering Music in the New Media" threw out lots of internet new-speak -- "compression," "the speed premium," "webalicious" -- but came down to the old verity, "Content is king."
Representatives of eMusic, AOL, Pitchfork and public relations firms -- including two panel members with histories in Seattle, Erik Flannigan, who was a writer and broadcaster in Seattle and still is a consultant to KEZP-FM, and Michael Azerrad, who wrote a book about Nirvana -- at first expressed disdain for "the old print school" and "gray, old newspapers" but eventually had to admit that Rolling Stone, Spin, The New York Times, the L.A. Times and other creaky old print mediums still have more clout than all the new media put together.
Credibility and readibility count, and accuracy and intelligence trump speed and shallowness in the long run, panel members seemed to say.
There are not a lot of good reads in new media, and the thrill of immediacy is short-lived. Also, you can't make big money in new media, most panel members admitted. While new media may be hot, it still has a long way to go.

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March 17, 2007 1:06 PM

Chuck D belongs to the world now

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

As Chuck D strolled through the Austin Convention Center this afternoon, on his way to participate in a SXSW panel on race relations, people stopped to shake his hand and have their picture taken with him.
I just stood before him, raised up both my hands, and bowed three times, to honor his contribution to rap music, his Malcolm X-like ability to grow and change, and the wisdom he brings to the endless discussion about race in this country.
He smiled at my acknowledgement, then laughed as I ended up being handed camera after camera to take shots of him and fans.
"Do you want one?," he asked, as aides told him he had to go.
I said no because, damn, I don't have one of them cell-phone cameras.
At the panel, the pioneering gangsta-rapper of Public Enemy fame expressed a tolerant world view, forged by age, experience and travel.
"Culture and music bring the one race -- the human race -- together," he said.
Music rises above governments and corporations because it's
universal, spiritual and emotional. "It's a communication with our souls," he said.
"America is as black and white as '50s television," he sadly observed, but said the larger question today is not race relations but saving the planet.
"Music, art is a powerful force," he concluded, "It's about love."
It was an emotional discussion. Moderator Dave Marsh, the distinguished rock critic and author, teared up talking about overcoming his family's racism.
Garland Jeffreys, the singer/songwriter/musician, who said he's "between the races," because he's black, Puerto Rican, American Indian and white, said, "I heard a lot of names growing up but I had to find my own way."
The mixing of races in the Greenwich Village club scene in the '60s saved his life, he said.
The discussion ranged from poverty to health problems to political activism.
There is still much to done, nationally and globally, the panel agreed, and music can be a major, international force for change.


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March 17, 2007 9:29 AM

Rickie's in Love -- with Life

Posted by Patrick MacDonald


Rickie Lee Jones has been through the music-business wringer and come out of it feeling "fantastic to be alive," she told a small but supportive audience at a SXSW session this morning in the Austin Convention Center.

"I feel unstoppable now," she said, explaining that she's been through a spiritual experience involving "Jesus, God, what I call the Invisible World."

"What do I have to complain about? I'm still here!"

In the 28th year of a music career with spectacular highs and lows, she said she feels the best is still ahead.

"Good is coming," she insisted. "Some great wave of good fortune I know is coming."

A quarter century ago, Jones (a former Olympia, Wash., resident) was dubbed The Duchess of Coolsville after "Chuck E.'s in Love" became a huge No. 1 hit. Her sultry, jazzy style and hipster image put her on the cover of Rolling Stone, and seemingly on the fast track to superstardom.

But as she followed her muse, getting more and more morose and introspective in her lyrics, and more experimental in her music, the audience didn't follow along with her, nor did the critics.

"I got bad reviews and they hurt a lot," she said, adding that she now knows there was also a lot of concern from writers, and from disappointed, confused fans.

Her record and ticket sales got so bad, she had to declare bankruptcy four years ago.

"I was blue and angry," she said, "but something has happened. I'm here to serve."

She has come to terms with her past, as epitomized by the new, three-disc retrospective, "The Duchess of Coolsville."

Seemingly content but still quirky, Jones arranged the songs in alphabetical order.

"It just seemed to work out that way," she said.

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March 16, 2007 2:40 PM

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

Posted by Patrick MacDonald


It's so hot and sunny today in Austin, it's like a day trip to the summertime.
As the temperature reached 80 degrees, there was a guy walking down Sixth Street, where most of the live-music clubs and bars were already jumping by noon, in nothing but a cowboy hat and tightie-whities.
Oh, wait, that's not just a guy working on his tan, it's The Naked Cowboy, away from his usual haunt, Times Square in New York City. Buffed, long-haired and smiling, he was followed by a camera crew as he strutted down the middle of the closed-off, crowded street, waving to slack-jawed gawkers, including bemused Austin cops.
Lots of SXSW action goes on during they day, including an increasing number of private parties. At the grande dame of Sixth Street, the ornate old Driskell Hotel, dripping with gold, marble, burnished woodwork and Old West art and sculpture (including a Frederic Remington bronze called "Outlaw"), a reception was held for Emmylou Harris, where friends gathered and musicians jammed. I sat in a rocking chair on one of the grand porches overlooking Sixth Street, and chatted with fellow rock critic Michael Corcoran of The Austin American-Statesman.
Meanwhile, over at the convention center, panels examined "Reinventing Payment Models for Digital Music," "Making Money as a Songwriter and Music Publisher" and "China's Emerging Music Market."
But while the bean-counters were fretting about business up on the center's top floor, the real action was going on downstairs in a cavernous exhibition space which DirecTV has turned into two barlike TV studios -- one funky, the other high-tech.
A raucus concert was going on down there in the faux "Lone Star Lounge," where a young British band called Razorlight was rocking an excited audience, as cameras caught the action. In the back, you could watch the live broadcast on big plasma TVs.
Maybe because it was such a hot day, the lively lead singer was shirtless. Or maybe he was just showing off his skinny bod.
Late in the afternoon, after the concert, I walked from the convention center to nearby Town Lake, laid down on the thick green grass under a shade tree, and listened to the birds while day-dreaming of summertime.

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March 16, 2007 1:50 PM

An O. Henry Oasis

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

Editor's note: Due to technical difficulties, some of Patrick MacDonald's reports from SXSW in Austin, Texas, yesterday were not posted on The Rock Desk. Here they are, better late than never.

Get yer career needs here!
A visit to the SXSW trade show in the Austin Convention Center is a good way to catch up on trends in music-business marketing, and pocket some free promotional swag, like pens, buttons, T-shirts, CDs, posters, bumper stickers, sweatbands, and lots and lots of miniature candy bars.
Many of the booths are hawking services to bands, everything from instruments and equipment to management and promotion services, web sites and even transportation.
Some of the biggest display spaces are taken up by governments touting their music businesses and sponsoring SXSW appearances by their bands. England, Scotland, Wales, Norway and Canada all have large booths and helpful staffs. Australia, New Zealand, Louisiana, Memphis, Houston and Albuquerque also are represented.
At the Spin magazine booth, copies of the April issue, with coverboys Isaac Brock and Johnny Marr of Modest Mouse, and a story about their volatile relationship, were being snatched up by nearly everybody who went by.
The busy convention center is packed with people all day, and so are the areas surrounding it, including the bustling SXSW headquarters hotel, the Austin Hilton, right across the street where you see bands like Bloc Party being interviewed by TV crews -- and nearby lots where tents have been set up, with bars and live music day and night.
But just steps away from all the nonstop action and noise is a quiet oasis, also across the street from the Hilton.
It's the small home of O. Henry, the great short-story writer and master of the surprise ending, with a little park surrounding it.
It's quiet because almost nobody visits. A guide said that the few who have stopped by during SXSW were mostly from Russia and England. The charming little house includes some of the original furniture from when O. Henry and his family lived there in the 1890s. Most interesting are copies of the newspaper he worked for here in Austin, called The Rolling Stone.

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March 15, 2007 10:43 AM

Ever-loving Emmylou

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

Emmylou Harris talked about her fateful meeting with Gram Parsons when she was a young waitress, more than 35 years ago, at a SXSW appearance this morning, and told how the death of the gifted singer/songwriter/musician inspired her masterpiece of grief, "Boulder to Birmingham."
She then sang the moving song, accompanied by guitarist Buddy Miller, and the big crowd gave her a standing ovation.
"I was a bad waitress," Harris recalled, "I was very clumsy."
But she was a single mother who needed the job, and it led her to meet Parsons, who helped her become a better musician, singer, performer, and parent.
"Everything depended on him," she said. "One day he was alive and the next day he was dead."
But, she quickly added, "it was not an affair; we we're friends." Parsons' widow and family never believed that, however, and she said that has added to the grief on both sides.
Her singing was the best part of the event, because the interview portion was conducted by a fawning Jonathan Demme, who is a much better movie director than he is an interviewer.
After Harris sang "Love Hurts," Demme suggested she change the line "I'm young, I know" to "I'm old," because Harris turns 60 this year. He dwelled on it to the point where Harris, who is singing, writing and playing better than ever, cracked "I'm not decrepit!"



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March 15, 2007 12:00 AM

Streets filled with music

Posted by Patrick MacDonald

SXSW has taken over this town like never before. They used to block off 6th St., the main drag of nightclubs, on Friday and Saturday nights, but this year they started tonight, closing more blocks than ever before.
The party has started!
Music was pouring out of everywhere, not just from bars and clubs but also from huge tents set up in parking lots. You can hear drum beats in my hotel room up here on the 17th floor, coming from a parking lot across the street.
If the big crowds tonight are any indication, the weekend is going to be crazy. The streets were full of people in a partying mood, sampling the wide variety of live music up and down the street.
The mood was festive, friendly, like a streetfair to a rock beat.
I heard the spirit of Jimi Hendrix coming from the open, streetside windows of a joint called B.D. Riley's. It was "Red House," executed superbly by a surprisingly young trio called Back Door Slam, from the Isle of Man in the U.K.
The club was packed and so was the street outside. Folks were transfixed by this kid on guitar who played with a fiery spirit and sang with conviction, making the song his own.
Black Door Slam plays again Thursday night at a showcase of U.K. bands and I'm not going to miss it.
Checking out about a dozen bands tonight, I was inspired once again by the passion, the energy, the dedication of musicians who want to make their mark -- or just want to have fun and express themselves when they're young and full of spirit.

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Recent entries

Mar 25, 07 - 11:51 PM
TV on the Radio set list

Mar 17, 07 - 02:23 PM
New media is webalicious

Mar 17, 07 - 01:06 PM
Chuck D belongs to the world now

Mar 17, 07 - 09:29 AM
Rickie's in Love -- with Life

Mar 16, 07 - 02:40 PM
Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

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