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Monday, May 5, 2014
The man possesses serious chops, but he plays with a great sense of feel and sonic spacing that eludes many guitar shredders. Few guitarists can make every note count like Scofield does.

It was far from a typical night Sunday night at the University of California’s San Diego campus with the John Scofield Uberjam Band in town. The Loft is an on-campus venue with a small stage set in a modern pub atmosphere. But Scofield apparently sold too many tickets for the venue, so the show had to be moved to an adjacent ballroom across the hall.


There was a proficient student jazz band opening the show but no bar inside the ballroom, not to mention no drinks of any kind allowed except for bottled water. Most ticket holders were therefore inclined to idle at the Loft’s bar while waiting for the headliner. The Loft had a heady beer selection that would put some other local venues to shame (such as The Belly Up Tavern, House of Blues and Winston’s Beach Club), and excellent food to boot. It would have been a perfect setting for a show, compared to the featureless ballroom.


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Friday, May 2, 2014
Fanfarlo remain one of my favorite recent bands. Should I feel sad that they are playing smaller venues than the last tour or happy because I can be closer up?

When Fanfarlo’s drummer, Amos Memon departed from the band last year, Valentina Magaletti took on the role. The more gender-balanced Fanfarlo then released their newest album Let’s Go Extinct earlier this year to a cumulatively somewhat improved score over their past two albums (at Metacritic) though less people took the time to review it (including this site). So, should I feel sad that one of my favorite bands in the past five years is garnering less attention, which means they are playing smaller venues, or be happy because I can stand closer to the stage and not get jostled?


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Thursday, May 1, 2014
Lauren Larson occupies the Mount Olympus of women in rock as Ume destroys San Diego.

The year was 2011. Ume was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top unsigned bands in the country and it seemed the Austin, Texas power trio would soon be soaring to the top of the modern music world. The band had released their debut LP Phantoms and was winning raves with every gig thanks to singer/guitarist Lauren Larson’s dynamic onstage presence.


The waifish blonde has a soft-spoken Southern belle type of voice when she speaks, but it belies her true musical persona. There’s a dark angel inside and when the band cranks up the amps, Larson turns into a mesmerizing rock goddess with her furious riffs and urgent voice. She also flies a flag for the sentiment that couples who play together stay together - she’s married to her bassist Eric Larson, with whom she began collaborating when both were in high school. He seems to care little for the spotlight, content with the best spot in the house. He teams with drummer Rachel Fuhrer to create a powerhouse rhythm section behind the alt-rock siren of their dreams.


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Thursday, May 1, 2014
Doubtless, Bill Maher’s stand-up concert was mordant, hard-hitting, and spectacular, and yes, subsequent to the dreadful -- but comic gold -- Bush years.

Satirist Bill Maher spent 100 minutes lauding many of President Obama’s political achievements whilst mocking and mercilessly decrying the GOP, more precisely its Tea Party faction. And religion, of course, was the butt of several jokes. The lively, packed Midland audience gave Maher a standing ovation as soon as he hit the stage, and Maher politely reciprocated, as he proclaimed he especially loves to perform in Kansas City. Doubtless, Bill Maher’s stand-up concert was mordant, hard-hitting, and spectacular, and yes, subsequent to the dreadful—but comic gold—Bush years.


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Monday, Apr 28, 2014
Ben Harper's latest, Childhood Home, is a folksy collaboration with his mother Ellen. Very lucky fans were treated to a live performance of the record in NYC.

Although I had no idea Ben Harper’s mother Ellen was also musically inclined, it was not a surprise to hear that was the case or that they have recorded a folksy album together called Childhood Home due out next month. At Rockwood Music Hall on a Monday night, people queued up for over an hour (even though everyone’s names were on the private invite list) to catch the mother and son team perform the entirety of the album on the tiny stage, plus a bonus song that Harper had to refer to the lyrics for. I’ve only heard the material once but the music and the stories are twinged with nostalgia, heart and politics.


They opened with “House is a Home”, the lead track on the album (maybe they played it in sequence?) that is a pleasing sound that will have you tapping along even if the lyrics leave you feeling uncertain if a house can really be a home if your heart no longer has ties there. “Born to Love” has been performed live before by the two and it’s a timeless ode that does not confine love to any relationship, so it will likely be a slow-dance song for many weddings to come. My favorite moment was when Ellen picked up a banjo for “Farmer’s Daughter”, which I presumed would be another homely tale, but turned out to be a powerful, political rally cry against Monsanto, Dupont and Dow Chemical for genetically modifying and patenting our basic sustenance and against banks for stealing the metaphoric farm through foreclosure.


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