Dec 062012

By Martin Mudd

In their best album since the groundbreaking debut Let’s Get Free, revolutionary hip-hop duo dead prez have released a masterpiece in Information Age. In the decade following Let’s Get Free, and M-1 have released some great singles amid some weaker material, but this album is a rock-solid return to form, a much-needed update to their radical message encoded in catchy beats and poetic lyrics.

Since their early days, dead prez have geared their artistic decisions toward using popular musical forms to spread their uncompromisingly revolutionary message to a wide audience. Let’s Get Free was a savvy blend of gangsta-rap bangers and soul-inspired tunes; Information Age, meanwhile, adapts recent trends in hip-hop and electro to incorporate bust-ya-shit-out dance beats and synthesized vocals. What has not changed is dead prez’s lyrical quality and flows, which are liquid, inspired, and inspiring. If something inside you has not changed by the time you finish listening to this album, then you probably need to check yourself. Continue reading »

Jun 242012

By Clay Shields

On May 4 this year, after almost three years battling cancer, Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away—a sad day not only for B-Boys, but for all of music.

MCA was a founding member of the musical powerhouse the Beastie Boys, as well as the Milarepa Foundation, a non-profit responsible for the international, decade-long Tibetan Freedom Concert series, the biggest, US-based musical benefit since 1985’s Live Aid.

In 1986, MCA, Michael “Mike D” Diamond, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz—the three emcee’s behind such genre-bending classics as “Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and “Sabotage”—cut their debut full-length album, Licensed to Ill, the first hip hop album to top the Billboard charts.  Over twenty-five years later, the Beastie Boys were still touring and had produced seven platinum or better albums by April 2012, when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (just a month before MCA’s passing).

Sheisty-Krhist. Image by Stacey Earley.

But the honors and homage aren’t stopping there (“You can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop”).  On Friday July 27, Al’s Bar (Sixth and Limestone) will play host to “Sheisty Khrist & Sundog Revival present The Beastie Boys: A Tribute”—an event which will be equal parts hip hop extravaganza, ‘80s (dress-up) dance party, and charitable benefit concert.  Continue reading »

May 022012

Our man in Amsterdam helps bring The Coup to Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

When I got an email from a friend and fellow activist a few weeks ago asking if I was interested in helping to arrange a show in Amsterdam for the Oakland-based revolutionary hip-hop band, The Coup, I nearly choked on my bitterballen.

Our Man and Woman in Amsterdam with entourage and Boots Riley. Photo courtesy IIRE.

I’ve been listening to The Coup for well over a decade. They’ve basically provided the soundtrack for my own political activism over the past ten years. Not only am I a big fan of the group, I’ve followed and admired Boots Riley’s, the front man’s, work as an organizer and agitator for a long time. Continue reading »

Mar 122012

Friday, March 30

Al’s Sidecar, next to Al’s Bar at the corner of 6th and Limestone.

Some of North of Center’s readers may remember last year’s “Double Down Tour” featuring Peter J. Woods and Bryce Beverlin II, who over the course of two nights presented electric and acoustic noise sets, a monologue, and a physics discussion.  Well, Peter J Woods is once again venturing outside of Milwaukee, this time with the harsh noise/free improve group Phoned Nil Trio, which also features Dan Schierl (of Dan of Earth) and Neil Gravender (of Lucky Bone, and a recent Nohl Fellowship winner).

Because their sound is difficult to pin down, here’s a description from a recent Phoned Nil Trio press release: “The sounds are spastic and totally awkward, combining harsh static blasts with synth pulses, tape hiss, arbitrary vocal samples, and long silences in a way that barely holds itself together. Sounds awkwardly cut in and out, slowly reaching a point of equilibrium only to have it ruined by the next jarring idea, leaving the audience constantly in a state of intriguing confusion. Live, the group matches its bizarre sounds with a strange theatricality, including the band brewing a free pot of coffee for the audience at every show during the performance (the percolator often doubling as a musical instrument as well).”

Rounding out the show are Lexin’tonians Wretched Worst and Trance Substantiation.  Wretched Worst plays “gore-splattered, wounded-berserker, barebones squish-metal—metal too liquefied to bang your head to.” All you can do, one fan has opined, is “grimace and make a sour face, while shaking your head in disapproval, unable to turn away.” Trance Substantiation, meanwhile, makes for what NoC reviewer Matt Minter has called “uneasy listening” that comes “from the bottom of a barf bucket—like the radiation that is slowly giving you cancer, or the sound of somebody getting stabbed in slow-motion.”

Those hoping to imbibe more than the live-brewed coffee provided by Phoned Nil Trio ought to bring their own refreshments—It’s OK.

–Aaron German

Doors open at 8:30PM, Show at 9PM; $5 donation (more or less as you are able). Show location has been updated to reflect new location at Al’s Sidecar, next to Al’s Bar at the corner of 6th and Limestone.

Dec 072011

There’s nothing particularly holiday-like about this installment of the NoC music calendar. I’m just calling it that to encourage you to spend more money.

And here’s what you should spend your money on, since we’re on the topic: bagels. Specifically, the bagels at Great Bagel, located in the University Plaza strip row of stores on Woodland Avenue, right on the corner next to the Subway. I went there for lunch today, and my goodness, that’s a good bagel. I had the club on onion, and I could’ve eaten four of them. And the brownies are superb.

I bring this because I’m an east coaster and I miss good bagel shops, and now I’ve got one just around the corner from me, and I don’t want it to disappear. It’ll be tough, because you Lutherans and Presbyterians evidently know nothing of bagels and won’t patronize the place, and it’s also in that cursed location where nobody lasts a year. So I’m doing my part: go get some bagels. Continue reading »

Nov 232011

Since the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we in the NoC music department have had some difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 23


Cosmic Charlie’s; 388 Woodland. 10 P.M.

Those who command magic are to be praised or feared, depending on how they choose to wield their talent, for they are powerful beings and at a whim can aid or hinder the causes of common folk such as you and I. Continue reading »

Nov 092011

Wednesday, November 9

Buster’s; 899 Manchester. 8:30 P.M.

For 20 years, the jammiest of the jam bands have toured relentlessly, building the grassiest of grass-roots fanbases. I don’t know anyone who owns any of their albums, nor anyone who can even name a particular song, though I’m sure those people exist. Then again, with music like moe.’s, songs and albums are nothing more than arbitrary divisions of the never-ending groove.

Kentucky Theater; 214 E. Main. 8 P.M.

This show costs $27.50. I bring this up because even though we don’t usually print ticket prices herein—the idea is that the cost of art is irrelevant when considering whether to consume it, and that most shows in Lexington are pretty cheap anyway—this particular price caught me off guard.

Now, I am old, but hear me out: I saw Clapton in an arena, 10-row floor seats, for $22. That’s 22 smackers to sit no more than 30 feet from Slowhand himself. This was 1990, on the Journeyman tour. Nathan East did a haunting “Can’t Find My Way Home” on vocals and electric upright bass. Then Eric encored with “Cocaine.” $22. Continue reading »

Oct 262011

By Danny Mayer

Album cover.

John Hartford AereoPlain.

John Hartford is one among a generation of artists—Kentuckians Hunter S. Thompson, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman among them—who came of age during the 1950s, soaked in the cultural and social upheavals of the 1960s in hippy-dippy California as relative (and relatively old) unknowns, and then proceeded, in the early Seventies, to produce some of the most thoroughly saturated “Sixties” works one could ever hope to encounter.

It wasn’t until 1971 that Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas appeared in the iconic ’60s startup Rolling Stone magazine. That same year McClanahan’s “Greatful Dead I Have Known” hit the Playboy stands. Ditto for Norman’s Divine Right’s Trip, subtitled A novel of the counterculture, which began to run serially in the back-to-the-earth publication The Whole Earth Catalog.

For the song and dance man John Hartford, 1971 brought the release of Aereo-Plain, an album best described as a perfect expression of counter-cultural bluegrass music. The sound was a distillation of Hartford’s two different decades as a musician. There was the 1950s teen years spent listening to late night country radio, playing old time fiddle and banjo music, and dreaming about the Mississippi River. And then there was the Sixties, spent as a radio DJ in Nashville, later as a witty but otherwise undistinguished California-type folkie with a banjo, and later still as an accomplished session player for albums like the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

In Aereo-Plain in 1971, Hartford synthesized those two decade pulls. The new and the old matched. Critics cite the record as ground zero for the newgrasss movement with good reason. It fused the more conservative old school bluegrass traditions of Hartford’s youth to the feel-hippy adventure-seeking wit and punch he encountered as a studio musician playing at the height of the 1960s acid rock craze. Even his Aereo-Plain band, new-school long-hairs Norman Blake and Randy Scruggs and old-school short-hairs Vassar Clements and  Tut Taylor, split generationally down the middle. Jim Morrison talked about doors; and here was Hartford, the old hippie with the old-timey goggles, a veritable time and sound portal. Continue reading »

Oct 122011

So last time out I was pretty down, and couldn’t really muster the energy to tell you about all the wonderful live music due to be played in our fair city in the fortnight following the last issue’s publication. As you almost certainly don’t recall, I was feeling confused and hurt by Opeth’s latest release, and the world of music seemed so barren.

But I’m good now; I’m over it. I got my groove back. I still don’t like the album, but it’s a big world, you see, and there’s much more to listen to. Such as…

Thursday, October 13

Greg Abate

Natasha’s; 112 Esplanade. 9 P.M.

You like jazz? No? Then you’re a goddamn Philistine. Enjoy your algorithmically generated, mass-marketed bullshit “music.” In fact, let’s see what you’re listening to these days…a quick check of the Billboard charts reveals that Adele still holds you in sway. Yeah, whatever. Number two: Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera. What, Alvin and the Chipmunks weren’t available to collaborate? Continue reading »