Each summer, my hometown of Columbus, Ohio holds one of the largest sponsor-free music and arts festivals in the nation: Comfest. One stage that I always try to check out every year is the I Wish You Jazz Stage at the corner of Park street and Goodale Boulevard. Closing out the stage on the night of June 25th was Descendre, a self-described 70’s Film Jazz (???) outfit that has been in existence for only three years. Although they were not my favorite act of the night, they do deserve points for providing more than 42 minutes of free music on their website: “Funky Jam”, “Strangers”, “Suicide Is Painless”, and “Tutu”.
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When Bill McGowan decided to take on Ma Bell in 1974, no one quite expected that he’d win except the people who knew him. Among friends and colleagues, McGowan was notoriously determined, wily, and sure that he was right. And so, his decision to fight AT&T’s efforts to keep his company, MCI, from offering long distance service. At the time, AT&T was a monopoly, and its lawyers and chairman, John D. deButts, argued that this was a good thing, a “natural” development also, good for consumers. Without such control, deButts submitted, clients would face a “degradation of service and higher cost.” McGowan made the opposite case, that more choices meant better service, that competition led to better efficiency and lower costs.
His story is mapped out in Sarah Holt’s documentary, Long Distance Warrior, premiering on PBS’ World Channel on 13 September. The film offers a portrait of McGowan by way of his life story—series of episodes illustrated in photos and footage, as well as interviews with relatives (including his widow Sue Gin McGowan), lawyers, and associates. Everyone is impressed by his gumption, ingenuity, and stubbornness: a working class kid who became a self-made millionaire and venture capitalist, he’s described here as “in a sense, the American Dream.” An inveterate salesman who made a lot of money but never seemed to care much about it, except as it seemed a measure of his skills, McGowan is presented here as a regular guy who brought down the corporate bullies at AT&T.
Bad Sports’ three-chord, ever-so-slightly-punky, hook-filled pop recalls late ‘70s British pop-punk with a vengeance and this new tune “Can’t Just Be Friends” evokes the tuneful blast of Northern Ireland’s the Undertones most specifically. And they are even a power trio like Britpop gods, the Jam. But this contemporary band hails from the currently fertile musical hotspot of Denton, Texas, not from across the pond. Bad Sports wowed the crowds at SXSW this year and are headed out on the road this fall for a high energy tour. The band’s latest album is Kings of the Weekend, which came out last month via Dirtnap Records.
On September 11, 2001 the Sodhi brothers’ lives changed forever. They were frightened not only by the terrorist attacks, but also by what happened after the attacks. The first few moments of Tami Yeager’s earnest, intelligent documentary, A Dream in Doubt, show why: menacing graffiti (“Kill Muslims 9/11”) and TV reports that underlined the “difference” embodied by the bearded and turbaned Osama bin Laden. Sikhs who emigrated from Punjab to the United States in order to escape persecution, they were now targeted by their fellow Americans, perceived as “terrorists.” On 15 September 2001, Rana’s oldest brother Balbir was shot and killed in Mesa, Arizona. Rana’s nine-year-old son Satpreet describes what happened: “My uncle was talking to some people at his gas station, some man came up and shot him.” While Satpreet expresses a child’s grief and wonder at what’s happened, the adults around him, primarily Rana, struggle what it means to live in America. The film airs on Global Voices on September 11.
See PopMatters’ review.
Ten different station IDs were created for MTV, but it was the fuzzy progression of power chords used for the station launch that became its iconic signature. Guitarist Ray Foote was on the road in North Carolina with his band, Control Group, when he was booked for his first commercial session. A classmate from Bennington College, Jonathon Elias, was given the task to write several musical cues for the new Warner Brothers channel along with his partner at the time, John Peterson. Elias had always liked the way Foote played guitar, so he invited him to the New York City recording session at RPM studios on 12th Street in Greenwich Village. Foote remembers walking into the professional studio in awe of all the latest equipment and hip vibe. He brought along his Vulcan guitar with a Marshall head, earning $200 for the day (which lasted well into the night).
“Nobody had any idea how big it was going to be,” says Foote, reflecting on the day. “It was just a little gig.” The first time he saw the moon man footage was on television with everyone else. Foote is the co-founder of Big Foote Music + Sound in New York City, specializing in branded music for all media. The Vulcan guitar still hangs on the wall of his Union Square studios.