Music

Music Day 3: Running Out of Power

Music Day 3: Running Out of Power

Late start this Friday, first struggling through another 13 band write-ups, then a shower and a long wait for the bus into town. South Congress is crawling with cars and people when I get there, almost as crowded as the main 6th street area… though a little older and with more real people mixed in. SXSJ (South by San Jose) is going on in a parking lot next to Jo’s Coffee, with crafts, a big solar panel display (which may or may not be powering the stage), food and, naturally, a bunch of bands. I see Wild Beasts setting up and pull out my camera. The batteries are dead. I have not brought any extras. You can buy lots of things on South Congress, cowboy boots and lattes, primitive art and gourmet sandwiches… but it is very hard to buy batteries there. I walk up towards the Yard Dog and see nothing but boutiques, not a drug store or hardware store in sight. Which is why there are no photos of the Bloodshot party at the Yard Dog, where the Meat Purveyors are playing. Or of Wild Beasts, who are improbably baroque and decadent in the brilliant sunlight of a tie-dyed block party… think Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert and you’re about halfway there. Wild Beasts’ Limbo Panto, out late last year on Domino, is a flowery, theatrical, falsetto’d indulgence, all exaggerated gestures and swooning flourishes. The band is in the midst of the stylized excess of “Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants” when I pull in from the Yard Dog, Hayden Thorpe’s high tenor swooping clear out onto the street, irresistibly elaborate, over-the-top and English eccentric. Strange world, where you can buy Limbo Panto at one stand, hippie patchouli and batik at the one next to it, and where music as arch and ironic and urbanely over-the-top can be played in a parking lot with the sun beating down. My camera batteries are still dead, but I am recharged.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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