Feb 282010

Trance Substantiation, Ara, and Tiger Hatchery

By Matt Minter

Another freezing-ass Friday night at Al’s Bar. Two Lexington heavies, Trance Substantiation and Ara, were opening for the Chicago-based super jazz trio Tiger Hatchery. I rolled in around 9:30, and with not a lot of people out, it was looking like it might be a pretty subdued evening.

This turned out to be a false prediction: the faithful crew eventually rolled in, sure to make it yet another weird time in Lexington. Trance Substantiation got the night started.

Trance Substantiation is actually John Reaves, pal of the Lexington/Louisville groove-stars Tiny Fights, and one really intense dude. You could call what he does experimental music—noise music if you really have to say it—but there’s better ways to describe it. What Trance Substantiation makes is uneasy-listening, channeling sounds from the bottom of a barf bucket—like the radiation that’s slowly giving you cancer, or the sound of somebody getting stabbed in slow-motion. Reaves should have been scoring slasher films back in the 80s for sure.

As the set went on, things just kept getting slower and more miserable. It felt like something really fucked-up was going to happen. Then it was over. The man shrugged his shoulders and sipped his drink. Ara was up next.

Ara is Sara O’Keefe and Trevor Tremaine, a great married couple and great musicians. Both have contributed to a number of hot bands throughout the years, Hair Police and Eyes and Arms of Smoke in particular. Ara might become my favorite project from these two. They take an extremely loose, yet wholly confident approach to making music, bending genres like it’s not a big deal. On this night, the two showed themselves off as a real couple of horn blowers, Sara on sax and Trevor on trumpet.

From the get-go, Ara made things real smooth and way heavy. Trevor moved over to his drum kit, and the two ripped out what sounded like an alternate soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s “Lucifer Rising,” a film shot in Egypt. It definitely made me want to go someplace where it’s HOT. And I’m not talking about arid heat. I’m talking about emotional heat. Sara let out her insane siren wail while Trevor continued jamming his percussion. The vocals soon went to LSD Land and Trevor threw in some mumbo-jumbo to drive the point home.

This was New Age music taken to the new age of music. Dead Can Dance can go home and die already. This is the really heavy shit. Before their final jam, Trevor dedicated their set to “everybody.” Sara picked up her clarinet and Trevor drug a stick across his cymbal. Their closer would be belly-dancing music with zero belly dancers present. A quiet riot broke out at the very last second before the two called it a night.

Tiger Hatchery was the final band. Comprised of Mike Forbes on sax, Andrew Scott Young on bass, and Ben Billington on drums, the three reside in a warehouse in Chicago called the Mopery, where they live in tents. Harsh lives bring harsh sounds, and these guys looked like they had what it takes to make some angry man’s music. As Ben laid all his stuff on the floor, I looked at the t-shirt he was wearing. It was a picture of Bluto wearing a pink shirt and gesturing his fist at no one, a telegraph of the raw power that was about to come our way.

Mike and Ben started out the set with a major duet. Mike is a heavy breather. As loud as his saxophone got, I could still hear his excruciating exhales from the other end. Ben played with all his equipment on the floor and kept the buildup nice and steady. Finally, Andrew picked up his ugly man’s bass, and the three hefty boys squeezed out a brutal load of jazz. This was a sound that I could seriously get behind. It was the sound of beating someone up that truly deserves it. The dudes finished on an abrupt note, but overall delivered a tight set that only some asshole would complain about.

Feb 282010

On Saturday February 27, 1943, an explosion in the mines killed 75 miners working at Smith Mine # 3, located near Red Lodge, MT.

On Saturday March 6, 1913, Joe Hill’s song “There is Power in a Union” first appeared in Little Red Song Book. The IWW song booklet has been re-printed over 30 times since its first publication in 1905.

On the same day in 1984, a year long British coal strike began.

On Sunday March 7, 1860, six thousand shoemakers and twenty thousand other New England workers struck in Lynn, Massachusetts. The largest strike to take place before the Civil War, the male and female strikers won wage increases for the poorly paid workers. The strike was the fruition of a number of forces, including the publication since 1830 of a radical newspaper, the Awl, which vociferously pushed for labor rights.

On the same day in 1932, police fired at a hunger march in Detroit. They killed four people, hungry people.

Monday March 8 is International Women’s Day. On this day in 1908 thousands working in the New York needle trades demonstrated for higher wages, shorter workdays, the right to vote and an end to child labor.

Information gleaned from “Solidarity Forever: Worker Resistance in Hard Economic Times,” the 2010 calendar of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Feb 282010

By Danny Mayer

There is a brief clip from David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s 2006 documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon that has always stood out to me. The documentary looks at the radical politics (and kickass post-Beatles music) of John Lennon, and the scene in question comes early in the documentary, as Leaf and Scheinfeld attempt to frame Lennon’s marriage to the visual artist Yoko Ono as one of complete-ness…a merging of separate artistic selves into a whole greater than its parts.

The line the directors use to convey this sense of Ono’s importance to Lennon comes from a male friend of his, who says simply that Ono made Lennon’s voice whole.

Leaf and Sheinfeld’s depiction of Ono is one not much shared amongst Lennon fans, both casual and serious. In the heavily Beatles-inflected masculinist Lennon mythology, Yoko is, to quote a friend of mine from high school, “the bitch who broke up the Beatles.” Some put this sentiment in other, slightly less misogynistic, terms, but the message is nevertheless the same. The Beatles were, after all, the nation’s first boy band, and probably its most successful. Even if it only took the little boys a couple more albums to become hep to what the girls already knew about the boys from Liverpool, someone’s always got to pay when you let little boys down—especially when they grow up into big boy music critics. So, what the hey, why not that bitch Yoko.

Like her counterpart Linda McCartney, the Ono hate extends beyond the Beatle’s 1969 breakup. The endless jokes—mostly from men, some music critics—about how awful Yoko sings and plays have helped cement a general feeling that Lennon’s post-Beatles work never quite reached the same ecstatic heights when his bride Yoko—sitting in for boy pal Paul—wailed away at his side. The jokes are mostly spot on of course. Yoko’s a horrible singer, but it seems hardly the point.

For one, who the fuck cares. If playing music comes down to recognizing good singers and players and calling out the bad ones, god help the rest of us mortals who fiddle around and play and watch and sing. Rock and roll is, at its heart, about playing. The whole idea of good and bad singing just seems like a fairly petty and vindictive kind of way to relate to music.

And besides, Ono’s off key notes are key contributors to many Lennon/Ono songs. The  Ono banshee shrieks that screech out at you in the 16 minute long live jam “Don’t Worry Kyoko” are absolutely freaky and brilliant; the eight minute live jam “Cold Turkey,” which Lennon introduces by saying “This song is about pain,” features Lennon’s own, more on key but equally violent, banshee screams that mimic Ono’s off-key blasts. Sure Ono was no fine singer, but coupled with Lennon’s voice she contributed immensely to some damn fine music. Bad voice, maybe, but good songs.

In focusing on Yoko’s voice, there’s also been a disservice done to Lennon’s work after the Beatles. His 1972 album Some Time in New York City, for example, is to my mind Lennon’s best album. The amount of musical terrain that Lennon covers in the album is fairly immense. Finally unencumbered by overproduction in the Beatles studio, Lennon’s sound is liberated to roam rock’s recent pasts. The result is a barely restrained violence and rock exuberance stitched into a 50s skiffle, ska, and liverpool drunk-ass hard-playing bar band beat.

More than anything, Some Time showcases just how great a voice Lennon had. It had the capacity to be both soft and hard, dirty and sweet, often within the span of one note. If we’re talking about Lennon’s all-time great rock and roll work—stripped down electric: drums, guitar, base, singing—this album is it, Beatles work or no. And that’s saying something.

Of course, Lennon’s great voice, heard on the album Some Time and shown throughout the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, did not just involve his singing voice. By the late 1960s and continuing on through the 70s, Lennon’s political voice flowered as well. In one interview from the documentary, he says, “’When I play I wanna hold your hand,’ everybody sings along, so I might as well put the words peace into my songs to get them to sing that.” The dance-ability, sing-ability, and rock-ability never actually left, it was just that, lyrically, “Twist and Shout” had given way to “Give Peace a Chance,” a simple folk song sung enmasse by a hundred thousand protesters of differing musical skills encircling the White House in a 1969 anti-war rally.

As Some Time shows, though, Lennon’s newfound folk politics and songs didn’t tend only toward abstract folk platitudes of peace. His understanding of folk was far more wide ranging. Lennon wrote folk songs about pain (“Cold Turkey”), racism (“Luck of the Irish”), marijuana use (“John Sinclair”), and violence. Lots of violence, in fact: prison violence (“Attica State”), imperial violence (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”), and political violence (“Angela”)–all angry indictments of violence perpetrated on everyday working class heroes by unjust forces of the state or some other incarnation of the Man, sung in loud, guitar-heavy bursts of confused rage and love.

It’s folk, all of it, pulled from the headlines of the day, given short intelligable lyrics,and set to the particular musical style necessary to the feeling, which is why I, like the Lennon friend interviewed in the beginning of the documentary, am also a big fan of John and Yoko’s voice.

We lost a lot when Mark David Chapman gunned down John Lennon in front of the singer’s New York City apartment building nearly thirty years ago. But what I miss most is his voice, their voice: beautiful, chaotic, humane, human.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon will be shown on Thursday, March 4 in the Oswald Auditorium of the Bluegrass and Technical College Cooper Campus. (It’s right next to Commonwealth Stadium.) Public welcome. Afterwards, feel free to stay around to hear musician Wes Houp talk about the politics of folk music. Mostly he’ll just play his guitar. We’re hoping for “Barely Living Wage Blues,” “Torture Me Light,” and/or “In the Great Out There.” He might know a John Lennon song.

Feb 282010

Picks for the 2010 Academy Awards

By A.G. Greebs

Oscar time. Arguably the best reason to get drunk on a Sunday night since the Super Bowl, last month. The Oscars, coming up on Sunday, March 7, might even be better, because while there is always some nut job at a Super Bowl party who likes watching football, studies show there are only 4 or 5 people on the planet who care what Sandra Bullock says, and chances are slim you’ll be spending Oscar night with one of them—which frees up a lot of attention for boozing.

At an Oscar party (and really, you should have an Oscar party, even if it’s just you in a bathrobe with a bottle of Andre), there are usually two different types of people. There’s the person who considers themselves an expert on movies, who’s seen most of the nominees, and knows the difference between a sound mixer and a sound editor. This person usually gets very emotionally involved in the results, and spends a lot of evening yelling at the television and sobbing. You don’t want to be this person.

On the other hand, you probably don’t want to be the person who thinks Up is going to win for best picture either. A good balance between being the nerd who wins the Oscar pool and has to take home the cheap plastic trophy from the Liquor Barn and being someone who lives in a box and communicates through Morse code in a cave is probably the best option. Continue reading »

Feb 282010

By Troy Lyle

Playing in the melting snow and ice, the result of an abnormally warm weekend, were the least of the problems for the 86 entrants in this past Saturday’s ninth annual Lexington Ice Bowl. Many of the tournament’s participants awoke as early as midnight the night before to make the drive from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Tennessee. Couple that distance and fatigue with soggy, semi-slush conditions and the demanding courses at Shillito and Veterans Parks, and you’ve got yourself a challenging disc golf tournament.

To make tournament play even tougher was the fact that Saturday’s turnout was the largest Lexington Ice Bowl on record. As Drew Smith, Bluegrass Disc Golf Association (BDGA) president and tournament participant, pointed out, with that many entrants you have to organize golfers in groups of four or five, making play even slower than what the sloppy conditions alone induced. Continue reading »

Feb 282010

Matt Duncan and Nathan Salzburg open show

By Andrew English

Saturday, March 6

WRFL Presents: Vetiver, Matt Duncan, and Nathan Salsburg

Al’s, 9 PM, $5. All Ages

With 2009’s Tight Knit, San Francisco’s Vetiver has managed to conjure the sepia-toned nostalgia of a long day spent with a good friend. It calls from down the street, in a familiar front yard, from a neighbor’s house where you did laundry most weekends. It’s that innocence of memory that permeates Vetiver’s catalog, sometimes helping us to forget, and other times asking us to remember.

For years, Vetiver has released material spattered with dreamy acoustic lulls and spooky simplicity. 2008’s aptly named Thing of the Past is a collection of well-worn covers, both from the band’s live set and their collective musical heritage. Although it’s an album of covers and a much more lush production than its predecessors, Thing of the Past is an honest, look you in the eye record. Vetiver tries on Loudon Wainwright, Townes Van Zant, and Ian Matthews, just to name a few, and still the songs come across as if they’re pinned to the same clothesline.

Vetiver has an uncanny way of making songs that feel familiar. Andy Cabic’s airy tenor and classic song-craft have always been at the forefront, but with Tight Knit, acid-pop treatments and infectious, foot-tapping guitars give new dimensions to simple, beautiful songs. Vetiver began life as a folk project, sometimes pigeonholed next to longtime collaborator and friend Devendra Banhart as freak-folk.

The last several years, Cabic and a steady, rotating cast of friends have made songs without concern for genre or image, to the delight of fans all over the US and Europe. Lovers of Simon and Garfunkel might fight for a copy of Tight Knit with the Wilco faithful or the George Harrison fan club. This album could very well have been released in any of the last five decades. What Vetiver is doing is timeless, inspired, and only getting better.

Matt Duncan, a first-rate incarnation of beautiful, danceable piano pop, will appear before Vetiver that evening with bells on. Don’t miss him while he’s still in Lexington and untouched by fame. Nathan Salsburg will travel up from his home near Horse Cave, KY to open the show. It promises to be worth a hell of a lot more than five dollars.

Feb 282010

Shootin’ and snaggin’ with the frugal fisherman

It’s that time of year again. Spring is just around the corner and with it comes the expectations of a new fishing season. More importantly, water temperatures are starting to climb, and with each added degree of warmth fish are one step closer to pre-spawn stages.

Anyone who’s ever fished understands what pre-spawn brings—likely some of the hottest fishing the season will provide. Species like white and black crappie begin schooling and feeding in earnest in the mouths of creeks and along buried timber situated on the edges of deeper main channels. Largemouth, smallmouth, striped and spotted bass will be on the move, actively feeding in preparation for the spawn. Nearly every species is on the hunt in an effort to bulk up for the coming mating season. That means the average angler is faced with his best opportunity of the season to land the big one. Continue reading »

Feb 282010

An update on the dangerous Corrections Corporation of America

One of our concerns here at NoC has been prison conditions in Kentucky for inmates and immigrant detainees. We’ve been paying attention—and you should, too, because we’re sending prisoners to places where procedure and profit trump humane treatment.

Last June, NoC ran a piece on the death of Ana Romero. To be honest, by the time we wrote on Romero’s story it was old news, but questions and concerns regarding immigrant detention were still a very live issue—and they continue to be. A 44 year-old cleaning woman from El Salvador, Romero was arrested on Jan. 14, 2008. Police had come knocking on her door, looking for someone else, and took her into custody. More than seven months and several jails later, she pleaded guilty on Aug. 7, 2008 to using fake identification documents and was ready to be deported. She would return to her mother in El Salvador. On Aug. 21 she hanged herself in her jail cell. Romero’s name has been absent from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) list of people who have died while in the agency’s custody. Continue reading »

Feb 282010

Looking back 40 years later

By Richard Becker

Editor’s note: This will be the first of a four-part story that looks back at the unfolding events of May 1970 at the University of Kentucky, when students and faculty voiced opposition to the destructive actions of their national and campus leaders. When all was said and done in Lexington, the National Guard had set up base on the university campus while, at the same time, students were banned from going on it; an aging former governor was made into a state folk hero for punching an unsuspecting student; and an unoccupied ROTC building was mysteriously burned to the ground.

This May will mark the fortieth anniversary of the killing by members of the U.S. National Guard of four students at Kent State University. On a local note, it will be the fortieth anniversary of the University of Kentucky’s response to the events at Kent State. For several days in the spring of 1970, UK, a bastion of political conservatism and, at times, simple apathy, was effectively shut down by students and community members who were moved to demonstrate against the United State’s illegal escalation of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and, later, the violent response of the State to university demonstrators in Ohio who protested the escalation. Continue reading »