Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tina Dico & Teitur, Joe's Pub, NYC, 10/12/04

Zero 7 already had a wealth of vocal talent on their 2001 album, Simple Things, rotating Mozeez, Sophie Barker and Sia Furler into the lead vocal slot like so many ace pitchers in a championship starting rotation. As such, they hardly needed another singer, and yet when they recorded this year's release, When It Falls, they could not resist adding a fourth vocalist in the person of Tina Dico. When Dave & I saw Zero 7 play New York's Irving Plaza back in May, all four vocalists were amazing, as was the instrumental excellence of the group led by Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker who bring so much more to the table than would be suggested by the characterization that they are merely a British version of Air.

In addition to her prodigious vocal talent, Dico's knockout good looks are totally consistent with her Danish origin. I'd travel to hear any of these fine vocalists work solo; Sia's got a great solo album but so far only Dico has done solo gigs stateside, playing several times over the last few months at the Livingroom, with October dates at Joe's Pub and the following night as part of CMJ at the Fez. I had no sooner secured what I was told were the last two tickets for the Joe's Pub show than Dave learned of a mandatory p.r. event for Sony artist Celine Dion to promote the Anne Geddes' book, Miracle: A Celebration of New Life, scheduled at the same time as the show; Bev wound up the beneficiary of Dave's scheduling snafu.

Performing solo with acoustic guitar, Dico's voice is every bit as strong and powerful as it is when accompanied by the full sound of Zero 7. It was only a minor disadvantage not to have heard her mini-album Far, prior to the show, but she only did two songs from it, "Break of Day" and "Warm Sand." She followed these with two songs not on the album, "Room With a View" which is about moving to London, and "Use Me." She closed with a beautiful solo version of her Zero 7 song "Home" which she co-wrote with the band.

Although she's been quoted as saying that performing solo is much scarier than playing for large audiences with Zero 7, she seemed totally self-assured and in control of her performance, even borrowing Teitur's guitar mid set for its sound. Dico's been compared to Joni Mitchell, and while her songwriting is occasionally excellent, she's got a long way to go before such comparisons are warranted, however you can hear a slight vocal resemblance when Dico's voice soars into the upper register. This girl's got great pipes and between Zero 7 and her solo career, I think we can expect great things from Tina Dico.

Dico seemed additionally pleased to be opening the show for her friend from Denmark, Teitur. Although it may seem somewhat presumptuous for an unknown to bill himself by one name, Teitur Lassen is a twenty-five year old singer songwriter who looks kind of like Beck without the suit and sounds sort of like a mellower Nils Lofgren. I did pick up Teitur's debut album Poetry & Aeroplanes a few months ago and found it to be a pleasant listen although it didn't otherwise dent my consciousness on first or second listen.

With two backup musicians, mostly playing upright bass and drums, the three switched instruments often, including a couple of turns on harmonium by Teitur who also acquitted himself well on acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards. He had a friendly and engaging storytelling style between songs, including accounts of travelling in a tour bus that previously belonged to Willie Nelson, mentioning that he and his band mates like to take turns sitting next to Dico on the bus (so cute). He also mentioned being in New York during the blackout of 8/14/03 as a lead in to "Sleeping With the Light On." His fourteen song set included most if not all of the album, plus a few additional tunes including a mellow yet sort of edgy minor key version of "Great Balls of Fire" to close his set.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Guess I Touched a Nerve (Fear and Loathing on the Melodica Bulletin Board)

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later, I've been flamed. My post "Why Only Germany Gets to Hear the Hooters" resulted in this seemingly over-reacting response.

Message: 1
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 20:19:08 -0400
From: Name Omitted at Writer's Request
Subject: A COMPLETE OUTRAGE!!!!!

Personally, - I really don't think that Rob or Eric should have to address anyone about their personal financial business - especially on the internet. Where does anyone on this list come off asking that Rob & Eric should have to answer questions about how much they get paid for shows. That is a completely out of line question. Back when I did bookings for my friend Blake's band - If you asked me how much we got for a show and were someone just off the street (fan or not) and even slightly pushed about it I would tell you to "kiss me $#+". Bottom line. You did far worse that quoting a source without permission - you made a completely baseless statement that comes from an outright biased disgruntled source with no confirmation of any of the facts. DAN RATHER!!!! This all goes back to that pressure and desperation from some of you that you are putting on this band and it is really sad........Sorry but that is how I feel. Leave it alone and be cool. Keep all this up and they might just not play anywhere around here ever again. I can't believe that you would pull a Dan Rather and print something here that you have no valid proof of other that what some knucklehead at U of Penn would tell you. The person that told you all this stuff - is this someone that has been hounding Cornerstone for the last couple of years and is mad because they don't want to deal with him and quoted him a super high price to get him to leave them alone.??? Who cares whether they're committed to the music. What does that even mean? They are committed to their art; their craft which means that they play music (and do it for a living). It also means moving on with your craft and moving on in life and trying different things. Come on - Rob & Eric are like 50 years old each with families / children - the whole 9 yards. What do you want from them. It's an outrage (I feel like Johnnie Cochran here..) that you would ask that they explain their financial activities out in the open. Some of you out there still feel that this band (who hasn't had a new studio album outin 12 years) owes you something. Take some time and think about it......This is really negative attitude kickin from some people here..................Be Cool...That's my story and I'm stickin' to it...........

**********************************************************************

I should note here that after my original post, I received a private email from another member of the bulletin board suggesting that I send my question directly to the band members and provided their email addresses. I thought this was a good idea and so I did send a note to Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. I never did hear back from them personally, but one or both of their emails apparently went directly to Cornerstone Management who replied within the hour with a fairly lengthy response that they specifically requested not be posted to the bulletin board. Although Cornerstone stated that the dollar figure I had quoted was incorrect and made the case that the economics of live performance are more complicated than it would seem to an outsider, they said nothing to dispute the notion that a high price is the reason for no local gigs.

After further consideration of being flamed and of the discussion that ensued, I posted this final thought on the matter.

From: "William Kates" <wkates@hotmail.com>
To: <Melodica@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Saturday, October 30, 2004 11:54 PM
Subject: Why Only Germany Gets to Hear the Hooters

I sincerely apologize to anyone who took offense to my last post. If not for the strong and loyal support of their Philadelphia area fans in the early years, there might not have been a CBS contract, MTV airplay, and the resulting international distribution that allowed them to develop the large German and European audiences that made the last two summers' reunion tours possible. In light of two summer tours overseas with no local shows, I think the local audience has cause to feel abandoned, without being called crybabies and worse. I'm not asking to know anything about the group's finances, however it's been mentioned on this board more than once that the band would like to play locally but the economics will not allow it. I do regret mentioning the unverified dollar figure, but regardless of the exact amount, what I heard is totally consistent with the previous posts here on this board. I'm well aware of the potentially complex economics of mounting a tour, but as someone who has seen many a great club show, I'm sure the guys know that they don't need tractor trailer loads of sound and lighting equipment to play live - there are probably a dozen or more local venues where the band could just bring their instruments and play, and I can't believe it would not be profitable to all concerned. As a long time fan of these musicians and their music I wish them only the best, I don't wish to invade anyone's privacy and I certainly never meant to offend anyone, but I also don't think it's in any way out of line to want to know why only Germany gets to hear the Hooters.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Putting the Fat in the Fire on the Hooters Discussion Board

For the past two summers (2003 and 2004) the Hooters have reunited to play a tour of Germany where apparently they still enjoy superstar status and as such have enough drawing power to make such a tour highly profitable. Unfortunately, even with the long history of local support they've gotten from fans in their hometown of Philadelphia, they have been unwilling to play any dates here either at the beginning or end of either German tour. Eric Bazilian has been quoted on the message board as saying that the band really does want to play in Philly but that due to the high cost of venues and promoters and so forth that it has been "economically unfeasible." The first summer it was somewhat amusing to read the accolades posting to the message board from the German fans, and it was likewise interesting to hear Jonatha Brooke discuss her experience as opening act for the 2003 tour. By summer 2004 however, the accounts of the two and a half hour shows where they played "everything" became more annoying than enjoyable to read, especially in light of their seeming snub of their hometown. Eric's appearance at Jonatha's opening show at the new World Cafe Live venue inspired me to raise this question with someone at WXPN who would know, and what I learned was somewhat disheartening and formed the basis for this post to the Hooters discussion board.

From: "William Kates" <wkates@hotmail.com>
To: <Melodica@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 10:37 AM
Subject: Why Only Germany Gets to Hear the Hooters

I don't want to quote a source without permission, but I have it on good authority that WXPN (the U of P radio station) has made many attempts to book the Hooters to play in Philadelphia over the last few years, and even though Eric and Rob are both Penn alumni and members of the station, the major stumbling block seems to be an incredibly high price asked by the Hooters' management. I'm told that the price was somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.00 for their (brief) reunion performance at Pierre Robert's WMMR Anniversary concert at the Spectrum a few years ago. As someone who clings to the notion that the Hooters were (are) committed to the music at least as much as to the commerce, and as someone who knows that the many Cabaret shows back in the day could not have generated that kind of money but certainly seemed to compensate with a great musical experience for both audience and band, I totally don't understand this state of affairs. I would really like to hear Eric and Rob address this issue specifically, if anyone on this board has access to direct this question their way. Cheers (I think). - William Kates

k.d. lang - World Cafe Interview & Performance, 9/10/04

I was just listening back to this radio appearance and although I usually think that there's too much interview and not enough live performance on the World Cafe segments, in this case the interview is fascinating (and there's no shortage of music either, it's a nice long segment). You can hear her starting out with some stock answers, almost word for word the same as on her NPR Morning Edition appearance, but when she discusses her motivation to interpret on her last two records rather than to write, and also when she discusses her experience with Tony Bennett, her answers are so honest and insightful that it's almost revelatory, as compared with the usual promo tour interviews which nine times out of ten come right out of the p.r. playbook. David Dye does a nice job eliciting this conversation then getting out of the way to let her talk. Her last two records are so good that it makes me want to go back and discover (or rediscover) her earlier work. If any readers would like to hear this, drop me an email and I'll send you a CD with both the World Cafe and NPR broadcasts.

k.d. lang's website: http://www.kdlang.com/

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Tale of Two Documentaries and a Teen Comedy: Fahrenheit 9/11, Supersize Me, & Saved! (All 2004)

Perhaps if I had seen Fahrenheit 9/11 when it was first released to theaters, I would have found it to be more earth-shattering, but having read and heard all the reviews, accolades, fact checking nitpicks and so forth, watching the DVD on the small screen turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic. For reference, I must state that I strongly believe that George W. Bush has proved in his four years in office, to be one of the worst presidents ever, as bad as Richard Nixon, if not more so. What he has done to damage the environment, the economy, every social program you could name, and turning the surplus back into all-time record deficit would be bad enough in and of itself, but his actions in response to 9/11 have hurt our standing in the world, encouraged more terrorism, and as a result have left us less secure as a result with a very uncertain future. The degree to which he has looted the U.S. treasury and mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren to pour untold sums of money into the coffers of companies owned by his cronies in an invasion and occupation of a country that was likely unneccesary, is enough to make any patriotic American's blood boil.

The factual material presented in this movie would be totally damning and maddening without any editorial spin; it hardly needs the Michael Moore hard sell. My initial reaction was that Moore's narration seems to overstate the case and was not only not necessary, but served to undercut the impact of the factual material, making it seem more like propaganda. However, after further review, and considering that even now at this late date the papers are calling the presidential race a "dead heat" it would seem that the American public is way more stupid than we ever imagined possible, and I resign myself to the thought that Moore's sledgehammer approach is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary. So, at the risk of being called a flip-flopper, I must give Fahrenheit 9/11 thumbs up, without reservation. I still maintain that the Cannes Film Festival prize was due more to the politics than to the quality of the moviemaking, statements to the contrary at the time by the festival jury notwithstanding. Other recent documentaries have seemed to me to be much more well made movies, including The Endurance, Crumb, American Splendor, Woodstock, and the movie I will describe next.

While on one level, the subject matter of Supersize Me would seem irrelevant in comparison to the life and death issues of Fahrenheit 9/11, the sad fact is that the majority of Americans are probably more interested in hearing about fast food than about Bush's failed presidency. Which is not to denigrate the fine work of writer/director Morgan Spurlock. Supersize Me deals with the obescity epidemic in America, the issue of what and how we eat and the health implications, how we educate and protect our kids (or not), and some of the business and cultural impact of McDonalds in a film that is constantly interesting, informative, and entertaining. The writing and onscreen presentation by Spurlock are first rate.

Even though the fast deterioration of Spurlock's health caused by his three meal a day regimen of McDonalds food shocked his doctors, Spurlock almost understates his case, allowing you too to be shocked without having your reaction spoon fed to you. Although some stomach-turning scenes give the movie a bit of an edge, Spurlock's story is delivered with plenty of humor and pathos, and a more than fair and balanced presentation, giving plenty of screen time to the denizens and proponents of McDonalds food without being overly judgemental. The interviews are skillfully produced by Spurlock to humanize those who appear; his vegan chef girlfriend provides just the right amount of emotional grounding and reality check without falling into obvious anti-fast food cliche.

Unlike many DVDs, the bonus material included with Supersize Me is all essential viewing, especially a lengthy interview with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser who for some reason was unavailable to be in the film. The killer extra is a piece called "The Smoking Fry" in which about eight McDonalds menu items are placed in bell jars to decompose and the results are both funny and disturbing. Supersize Me is one of the best documentaries I've seen and well deserving of the awards it won at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Saved! provided a nice humorous antidote to all the documentary heaviosity. Written and directed by Brian Dannelly, Saved! establishes a comedic tone that makes fun of religious hypocrisy without specifically making fun of religion, which is not an easy tightrope to walk, especially for a first time director. The cast is wonderful, especially Jena Malone as the lead character who begins her senior year of high school with the discovery that she is pregnant from a failed attempt to "cure" her boyfriend from being gay (with Jesus' approval, of course).

Singer and actress Mandy Moore shows some range in a portrayal of a less than endearing character who serves as the poster girl for hypocrisy and intolerance in the name of religion. Eva Amurri is funny as the only Jewish student at the Christian school. Macaulay Culkin's performance even manages to overcome the somewhat disturbing onscreen image of a deep voiced older guy with the face of the kid from Home Alone. Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) also does a nice job as the son of the preacherman. The music used throughout is enjoyable, especially Mandy Moore's version of "God Only Knows" that accompanies both the opening and closing credits. For some unknown reason, a soundtrack album seems not to have been released. Saved! is good spirited fun and you don't have to be religious or a teenager to enjoy it.

Friday, October 08, 2004

WXPN's 885 Song Countdown - The Final Tally or Welcome to Brucetown

It's hard to remember when a week of radio was this much fun to listen to, and WXPN deserves a lot of credit for coming up with this deceptively simple concept and then playing all 885 songs. The simultaneous discussion on the WXPN bulletin board only served to amplify the excitement that grew day by day as the songs counted down. There were many great moments, including yesterday when both "Supper's Ready" by Genesis and "Close to the Edge" by Yes were aired in their full album side entirety. That the Yes masterwork was followed by a great Stevie Wonder tune was one more unexpected pleasure that resulted from this programming. Even though WXPN added server capacity to accommodate 4,000 listeners online, the demand overwhelmed the station's website during the final day of the countdown, and the site is still down as of 11:15pm. When it comes back online, I'll update this entry with the vital statistics, final top ten, and I'll list how my top ten selections did.

Springsteen still apparently owns this town as not one but two songs from the classic Born to Run album made the final top ten, with "Born to Run" at #6 and "Thunder Road" coming in at #1. As it played, I too rolled down my car windows to let the wind blow back what's left of my hair, and thought about the fact that this is truly the quintessential Springsteen tune, which is probably why it was also the Springsteen song on my list. The WXPN site came back online Sunday, so here's the top twenty-five:
  1. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
  2. John Lennon – Imagine
  3. Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone
  4. The Beatles – In My Life
  5. Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
  6. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
  7. Van Morrison – Into The Mystic
  8. The Beatles – A Day In The Life
  9. The Beatles – Hey Jude
  10. U2 – One
  11. Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue
  12. The Beatles – Let It Be
  13. Marvin Gaye – What's Going On
  14. Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven
  15. Joni Mitchell – A Case Of You
  16. Derek And The Dominos – Layla
  17. The Band – The Weight
  18. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watch Tower
  19. Van Morrison – Moondance
  20. The Rolling Stones – Satisfaction
  21. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
  22. Bruce Springsteen – Rosalita
  23. Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry
  24. Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
  25. The Who – Won't Get Fooled Again

I was initially amazed that only one female artist, Joni Mitchell, was represented in the top twenty five, and she's also the only female artist on the list below of artists with the most songs on the list. But then I checked my own top ten and she's the only female artist on it (hmmm). Five out of my ten placed on the 885, two in the top five. I'm kind of surprised that my Creedence and Del Amitri songs didn't place. Amazingly, there was only one Creedence song in the whole 885 ("Fortunate Son" #367). Here's my top ten and where they placed.

  1. Beatles - In My Life (#4)
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River
  3. Yes - Close to the Edge (#271)
  4. Genesis - The Cinema Show
  5. Jackson Browne - For a Dancer (#207)
  6. Joni Mitchell - Urge for Going (#438)
  7. Bruce Springsteen - Thunder Road (#1)
  8. Chris Rea - Fool (If You Think It's Over)
  9. Del Amitri - Always the Last to Know
  10. Average White Band - Work to Do

Some of the more industrious bulletin board participants (or those with too much time on their hands) kept us stoked with constant statistical updates, at least until the xpn site crashed. Here's the ten artists with the most songs in the 885:

  1. The Beatles - 48 Songs
  2. Bob Dylan - 33 Songs
  3. Bruce Springsteen - 27 Songs
  4. Rolling Stones - 26 Songs
  5. Grateful Dead - 20 Songs
  6. Joni Mitchell - 19 Songs
  7. Led Zeppelin - 19 Songs
  8. U2 - 18 Songs
  9. Neil Young - 16 Songs
  10. Van Morrison - 14 Songs

Here's the top ten Beatles songs, as they placed in the 885:

  1. Imagine (John Lennon, #2)
  2. In My Life (#4)
  3. A Day In The Life (#8)
  4. Hey Jude (#9)
  5. Let It Be (#12)
  6. Blackbird (#39)
  7. Here Comes The Sun (#40)
  8. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (#46)
  9. Yesterday (#48)
  10. Across The Universe (#64)
  11. Norwegian Wood (#67)

You can analyze the results in as much detail as you want with this nice database, courtesy of Claire & Michael Smith from their family website: http://www.smithnj.net/885counts.asp

You can see the entire list of the 885 songs on the WXPN site: http://www.xpn.org/885_GSAT.php

Here's the WXPN bulletin board: http://xpnonline.org/bb/viewforum.php?f=44

Thanks, xpn. Nice job.


Enjoy Every Sandwich - The Songs of Warren Zevon (Artemis, 2004)

This tribute disc which is scheduled for October 19th release, looks just great on paper (and the Jill Sobule song is even good). Check out the tracklist, courtesy of the Artemis website.

"Searching For A Heart" - Don Henley
"Werewolves of London" - Adam Sandler
"Reconsider Me" - Steve Earle
"Poor Poor Pitiful Me" - Jackson Browne with Bonnie Raitt
"My Ride's Here" (live) - Bruce Springsteen
"Lawyers, Guns, and Money" - Wallflowers
"Studebaker" - Jordan Zevon
"The Wind" - Billy Bob Thornton
"Splendid Isolation" - Pete Yorn
"Mutineer" (live) - Bob Dylan
"Monkey Wash Donkey Rinse" - David Lindley and Ry Cooder
"Don't Let Us Get Sick" - Jill Sobule
"Ain't That Pretty At All" - Pixies
"Keep Me In Your Heart" - Jorge Calderon/ Jennifer Warnes
"Keep Me In Your Heart" (strings only) - arranged by Van Dyke Parks

Website: http://www.artemisrecords.com/newsarticle.aspx?id=165

Rebecca Martin & Jill Sobule - World Cafe Live, 10/04/04

Having travelled to New York City's Livingroom many times to see Rebecca Martin, I couldn't pass an opportunity to see her play here in Philadelphia, at the new World Cafe Live on only it's third night open. Even though I had no interest in the headliner, it seemed worth the $20 ticket just for the opening set. Rebecca Martin as a member of Once Blue was responsible (with Jesse Harris) for one of my favorite albums of all time. In her solo career, she has turned away from the melodic pop music that Once Blue was so good at, and instead she has explored a form of introspective jazz music with vocals that is always a pleasure to listen to. What the music lacks in rhythm and melody, it makes up with tonal shadings and Rebecca's always appealing voice; I could listen to her sing the phone book.

Her last album, Middlehope consisted of mostly standards with two Jesse Harris compositions, one of which ("One Flight Down") became more familiar when Norah Jones later included it on her album. Rebecca's new album People Behave Like Ballads, the source for most of the tunes she performed during her half hour set, may be her best effort yet as a solo artist, with its all original jazz vocal pieces. Her excellent backup musicians for this show were Ben Monder on electric guitar and Larry Grenadier on acoustic bass. The new songs sounded great live, especially with Monder's ultra mellow electric guitar work. Her set also included a previously obscure Once Blue song "Out in the Rain" which was originally recorded for the second Once Blue album that was never released; the recent Japanese remaster of Once Blue includes those nine unreleased songs as bonus tracks. She ended with a brand new song, "You're Older." It is remarkable that music like this that is seemingly long on integrity and short on commercial potential can still find a place in the scheme of things, and I always consider it a privilege to be able to partake in it.

I find very few songs as annoying as the two Jill Sobule songs that I was familiar with going into this show: her best known song "I Kissed a Girl" which according to Jenn was written more as an attention getter than as an expression of sexual preference, and "Cinnamon Park" from her current album which is inexplicably getting heavy rotation play on WXPN with its piano riff lifted directly from Chicago's "Saturday in the Park". Despite my initial misgivings, and maybe partially because I was seated at a table with a family of three who were big fans of Sobule, I couldn't bring myself to walk out after Rebecca Martin's set, so I stayed to check out her act instead of rushing home for Monday Night Football.

I'm reluctant to admit it (even to myself) but dressed in a dumpy brown dress with a short skirt that displayed her somewhat scary looking legs with mid-calf suede boots, Sobule's spunky energy and ability to connect with her audience gradually wore down my resistance, and I found myself actually finding aspects of her performance to enjoy. She may be the only rock artist or singer-songwriter I've ever seen do "Sunrise Sunset" but as "the only Jewish girl at St. Mary's Academy" I guess it made sense; Condoleezza Rice also attended the same school according to Sobule.

Her best song was the Warren Zevon composition "Don't Let Us Get Sick" which she recorded for a forthcoming Zevon tribute disc, due October 19th on Artemis Records. She explained that Zevon wrote this song before he found out about his own illness. For "Big Shoes" she invited someone from the audience with a cell-speaker-phone to come onstage to call her (Sobule's) mom to do an answer verse over the phone into the mike as part of the performance of the song; a cute touch. "Cinnamon Park" on solo acoustic guitar without the Chicago riff was less gimmicky and was actually one of her better tunes. It struck me about this point in the show that Sobule reminds me a little of Cyndi Lauper only with a somewhat less engaging personality and less scary hair; their accents may give away some background in common.

For her encore, she explained that "I Kissed a Girl" had given her some unwelcome baggage but that she had recently come to grips with it to the point that she enjoys playing it again, and she then proceeded to unplug her guitar and walk out onto the dinner tables to sing it with no mike and no amplification. She finished the encore set with a nice version of "All the Young Dudes" and finally plugged back in for "When My Ship Comes In." I still wouldn't count myself as a Jill Sobule fan, but her set was better than expected, and I know a lot more about this artist than I did before so I'll put this night in the time well spent column.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

WXPN's All Time Greatest Songs Countdown

The countdown of the 885 all time greatest songs as selected by the listeners' top ten lists (with staff and music industry votes "weighted") began on Monday October 2nd to celebrate WXPN's move to their new facility. The countdown goes from 6am to 11pm daily and will run through Friday October 8th. The selections are as arbitrary and variously good and bad as any given person's top ten list multiplied by about 4,000 entries. The best thing about it is that it allows WXPN to go off format and play some tunes you would never normally hear. It's almost surprising (but not really) that there is such a predominance of Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and Springsteen on the list. If the survey data was fudged at all to allow the Tom Waits and Springsteen versions of "Jersey Girl" to follow each other at #685 and #684, it was a nice touch, at least from a programming standpoint. I didn't hear Jethro Tull's "Thick as a Brick" at #568 but I wonder if they played the entire album. When was the last time anyone played "The End" by the Doors on the radio, or Al Stewart's "The Roads to Moscow." I have my doubts that anyone in their right mind put "Speeding Motorcyle" by Daniel Johnston with Yo La Tengo on their all time top ten, but there it was at #856. Before playing Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" the afternoon host opened the mike and said "I'm sorry for this." Great radio. You can follow the list here http://www.xpn.org/885_GSAT.php. When the countdown is finished, I'll post an entry listing how my top ten selections did.

Jonatha Brooke, World Cafe Live, 10/02/04

World Cafe Live is a new music venue located in WXPN's beautiful new building at 30th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. Given the degree to which her career has crossed paths with WXPN, it was more than appropriate that Jonatha Brooke got the call to open the new venue headlining the opening night shows. The deco era Hajoca Building was gutted and remodeled completely as the new home of WXPN and World Cafe Live, which is a separate entity from the radio station, a for-profit company owned by Hal Real that is a tenant, sharing the building and licensing the World Cafe name, hopefully to the mutual benefit of both. I haven't had the pleasure of a tour of the WXPN portion of the building, but from what one can see from the public areas, the building looks just great. The Walnut Street entrance brings you into the top floor which has a public lobby with a merchandise and ticket selling desk, and "Upstairs Live", a restaurant/bar where music theoretically is performed continuously with "almost never a cover charge." They were only seating customers who planned to order dinner so we didn't spend any time there on opening night.

The middle level and lower level lobby walls were adorned with some nicely done photography of music artists. The middle floor provides entrance to the balcony level of the World Cafe Live music venue. The lower level lobby provides the main entrance to the venue with lobby windows also looking into one of the WXPN studios where it looks like the World Cafe radio show will tape its live performance segments. The World Cafe Live venue itself is spectacular. A large stage runs the length of the room which has a very high ceiling, a main floor that is set with tables for dinner at the early shows and can be converted to auditorium style seating or general admission for later shows. Just behind the tables on the floor level is the bar area, with more tables just slightly overlooking the floor - from about stage height. Elevated very high above is the balcony level, with the ceiling above that looking like what you might find in a television studio. Multi-millions were spent in the construction and outfitting of this world class venue and it looks it, with lots of wood, state of the art lighting, great acoustics, and a superb sound system engineered by Clair Brothers. I walked around to check the view from various locations and it's no cliche to say that there is not a bad seat in the house.

The only fly in the opening night ointment was a sequence of events that overwhelmed the kitchen and caused many dinner orders to go unfilled. The sound check ran late which caused the doors to open about thirty minutes late, which caused the room to fill all at once with most folks seemingly wanting to try the food. To compound the problem, the computer ordering system went down causing a total nightmare in the kitchen. We did get to sample some excellent rolls which seemed to be from Le Bus. The food as described on the menu seems a bit fussy and pricey; not something you would necessarily want to have if you came here often.

Fortunately, there was no such problem with the music presentation which is really the most important aspect. Eric Hutchinson opened the show with a somewhat humorous solo acoustic set which was enjoyably brief. Jonatha Brooke did a great set with full band, playing most of the songs you would want to hear, concentrating on her latest two releases. Early in the set, she brought out Eric Bazilian of the Hooters to guest on her song "Better After All" which Eric had co-produced and played on for her latest album, Back in the Circus. Eric sang and killed on lead guitar. Jonatha talked about opening for the Hooters on their German tour in the summer of 2003, how much fun it was, and how the Hooters would bring her out every night to help sing their big encore song. She then invited Bazilian to stay onstage and they sang together "One of Us " which he wrote for Joan Osborne, whose version is also the theme song of the tv series Joan of Arcadia. The crowd loved every minute of it.

Brooke's set was enjoyable start to finish and included two of the three cover songs from the latest album; she sounded great on "God Only Knows" and the Alan Parsons song "Eye in the Sky" was a good encore choice. Earlier this year at her album release performance at Borders, she explained that while the Hooters seem to still have superstar status in Germany, she was a total unknown and when opening their concerts she wanted to do some songs that the audience would know so she put the aforementioned cover tunes (plus James Taylor's "Fire and Rain") into her set. With the exception of the food, World Cafe Live exceeded all expectations. If the ticket prices are reasonable, I will likely be a frequent customer.