Friday, October 28, 2011

No Lames Up In Here: Dam-Funk/Master Blazter at Highline Ballroom 10.25.2011

Anyone who really knows me knows how I feel about this man.

I feel strongly.

I had been looking forward to his New York show since the tickets first went on sale months ago, and I spent the days leading up to Tuesday night's set at Highline Ballroom by immersing myself in a healthy dose of Slave, Kleeer, Zapp and One Way (standard procedure for me, actually). I went with the only other two people who worship the Funk as much as I do, my best friend and my brother, and once we arrived, it was clear that the audience was strictly made up of people in the know: I'd be willing to bet that the venue wasn't even filled to half capacity that night. Which meant that we got to be front row for the majority of the show, I got to catch one of the giveaway copies of his new (free!) EP, InnaFocusedDaze, AND we got to hold his hand. He even let some randoms jam on his keytar.

For this tour, Dam is forgoing his usual live setup and instead is joined by Master Blazter, creating a funk trifecta: Computer Jay on keys and synthesizers (with triggers), J-1 on drums (and triggers) and Dam supplying keys, (candy red) keytar, vocals and the overall funk. Do. Not. Miss. This. They have been touring the country in a bus bringing the funk (not to mention hooking it up with secret last minute shows and DJ sets) and it truly is one of the best live music experiences one can have. The music this man makes is nothing short of gorgeous. Modern funk symphonies. I don't think anyone respects funk music and the history of it like Dam. It's an extension of himself- there is no distinguishing. Watching him perform is electrifying, almost hypnotic. He's a musical national treasure, and I think, my spirit animal.

His next full length album drops in the spring of next year so if the world really does end in 2012 I'll be fucking furious.

Apart from every single second of the show, I would have to say my favorite parts can be easily put into a top 5 list. In no particular order of G level, they are as follows:

5. After the encore of "Hood Pass Intact", Dam wrapped the show up by saying "you are now free to go, goodnight." (And I'm glad he said something. Because I would've stayed. Seriously.)
4. His 10 minute synth fueled diatribe where he yelled "FUCK DAVE CHAPPELLE, RICK JAMES WAS A REAL G"
3. The beautifully stripped down (it was almost acappella, save for him on keys) and smoothed out version of "I Wanna Thank You for (Steppin Into My Life)", complete with glowing blue spot light beams (one of the most romantic and sincere songs of all time in my humble opinion, and I may or may not have teared up)
2. The Vocoder/keytar Gap Band cover of "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)"

I leave you with this. You're welcome.

Scion A/V Presents: Dâm-Funk - Forever from Scion A/V on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Icebird/RJD2 at Brooklyn Bowl 10.11.2011

Watching RJD2 perform songs off of his 2002 debut album, Deadringer, basically made me feel 17 again (couldn't help myself, not sorry). This doesn't really happen to me anymore, as the last time I felt younger (in a good way, and not in a sad "old trick at the club" way) while at a show, I was seeing Raphael Saadiq in 2009 during his The Way I See It tour, and I was reduced to the same adolescent screaming puddle of hormonal and melted "I would" that is usually, and more appropriately, suited for Tyrese concerts circa 1998. This is all just to say that the opening notes of "Smoke & Mirrors" does something to me, chemically. Aural time travel is always my favorite kind.

I went with my brother, which was delightful, but it was extra special because we were also there to see the amazing Chuck Palmer accompany RJ during both his solo set and his opening performance with Icebird, his new collaboration with musician Aaron Livingston (of the Philly based band the Mean, and this Roots' jam). Chuck is the older brother of our good friend Max, and if pressed, I'd say I could really only compare his drumming style to this:

Chuck and RJ went to high school together in Columbus, Ohio, and have been jamming off and on since then, which was evident during the second half of the show, when RJ took to his four turntables and Chuck joined him on his third song (he had opened with "A Beautiful Mine," a.k.a. the Mad Men theme song, and came out post-Icebird wearing a robot jumpsuit with a welding mask, and some sort of Vocoder attached to his crotch that he kept spinning). Their timing and energy worked beautifully together, and it was great to see/hear these songs get a live boost via Chuck's percussion, especially on "The Proxy" and their stellar encore, "Good Times Roll Pt. 2."

Icebird's debut album, The Abandoned Lullaby, which was released that day, is a nice blend of psychedelic funk, and the band, which features Livingston on vocals/guitar, Chuck on drums, a bassist, second guitar player and RJ on keys/Korg, had one of the best live vibes I have seen in a long time. The fun they were having was not only obvious, but contagious: when they came back out for their encore after RJD2's DJ set, they treated us to the best cover of Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" that I will ever hear, as Livingston laughed and said, "I could do this shit all night."

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Evening with Jon Brion at Le Poisson Rouge 10.2.2011

It was extremely fitting that Jon Brion's first night of his Le Poisson Rouge run started off with the multi-instrumentalist/producer/song writer/musical genius idly playing chords from The Wizard Oz soundtrack. A veritable one man band, Brion seamlessly moves from keys to guitars to drums to the harmonica, all the while layering and looping each component (with the help of a MicroKorg), building the songs right before the audiences' eyes and ears. It's kind of like peeking behind the velvet curtain, and watching the Great and Powerful Oz himself.

There were some technical difficulties on the venue's end, resulting in several "live sound checks" from Brion (who jokingly commented, "when I showed up today, the owner was like 'man, you have a lot of stuff'"), but that was just further proof of Brion's consummate musicianship. To see him perform is to see him create, on the spot, off the top of his head and completely organically: that fluidity that comes so naturally (or seemingly naturally, anyway) makes watching Brion even more exciting than listening to him. His musical red herrings (like teasing the chords to the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” theme song) are very rarely indications of what will actually come next.

Duplicating the same atmosphere of his long running weekly residency at Largo in L.A., Brion wove originals like “Ruin My Day” and “She’s At It Again” into Duke Ellington standards. He re-worked The Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" via xylophone, covered Roxy Music's "More Than This," and, in what was the highlight of my week, unexpectedly turned an audience suggestion ("Born in the U.S.A.") into a Prince medley. For an artist who is known for his collaborations (he also did a great version of “Looks Like You,” a song he co-wrote with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads) and the roster of talented associates he usually plays with, sometimes it's better when the cameos don't show up. While waiting outside before the show, everyone, myself included, was throwing around names like Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, and of course, Fiona Apple, as potential rumored guests. And while I would've loved to see Brion and Apple do "You Belong to Me” (or anything really, for that matter), I was just as excited to watch him lead the room in "When Doves Cry," at top volume.

Monday, September 26, 2011

We Like It Like That - The Story of Latin Boogaloo

I stumbled across this amazing gem of a documentary while perusing this evening: We Like It Like That - The Story Of Latin Boogaloo. Several years in the making, New York Times writer and Latin soul aficionado Matthew Ramirez Warren's labor of love aims to shed light on the rise and then the abrupt fall of Latin boogaloo. Known as "the first Nuyorican music" a description given to it by longtime producer (and former trumpet player for the legendary Ray Barretto orchestra and Tipica '73) René López, boogaloo's life span was tragically all too brief, but luckily, not forgotten, as Warren brings viewers into the world of a refreshingly (although unfairly) under represented slice of music and New York City history.

Born out of the mixing tastes of Cuban, Puerto Rican and black teenagers and the clubs they would all frequent in 1960s East Harlem and the South Bronx, boogaloo became a platform for not only the changing of status quo musical styles, but for the identities and social climate of New York City's Latino youth. By fusing mambo, cha cha and son with R&B, soul, rock 'n roll and jump blues, the genre was truly a marriage of Afro-Cuban and Afro-American rhythms, and since it combined both Spanish and English lyrics, its appeal was widespread. But by 1970, it was gone, and salsa was king.

Utilizing interviews and first hand accounts of boogaloo's birth and death from seminal figures in the Latin music world like Joe Baatan ("Young, Gifted & Brown"), Joe Cuba ("Bang Bang") and Johnny Colon ("Boogalo Blues"), and the always delightful Bobbito Garcia, the film suggests that the music wasn't abandoned by fickle fans or a changing market, but rather was killed off, by old school Latin music purists (with the help of labels like the powerhouse Fania) who put pressure on clubs and booking agents to push boogaloo acts off the bill.

The film originally screened August 10th during a Central Park Summer Stage concert featuring Baatan and Colon. But due to funding needs, We Like It Like That won't be available for wide or DVD release unless it meets its Kickstarter goal of $15,000 by Sunday, October 9th. From the campaign's page:

Through Kickstarter we hope to raise enough funds to put us well on our way towards completing the film for submission to major film festivals, PBS, a possible theatrical release and a successful DVD release. Our reason for making this film has been to inform the public about this incredible period in New York City and Latin music history, and to put a spotlight on the music of these phenomenal artists, whose musical contributions have been overlooked for too long.

You can check out the film after the jump and support its Kickstarter campaign (and snag the epic poster, shown above, among other enticing incentives) here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

TDOS Obituaries: Cornell Dupree

Sad morning for soul. Just found out the incomparable Cornell Dupree passed away a few days ago due to emphysema complications. This man is, and always will be, one of my desert island, top 5 favorites. It wouldn't matter if every single guitar player on Earth vanished, as long as his recordings were still around. Honestly. He is an absolute GOD. He is responsible for some odd 2,500 recordings, including "Respect", "Rainy Night in Georgia", "Soul Serenade" and even Mimi's "Emotions."

He is featured on Aretha's fantastic Aretha Live at Fillmore West and my personal favorite, Donny Hathaway's LIVE, (second half only). His solo on "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" is literally magical. Even before he starts playing, Donny introduces him and says "from Fort Worth, Texas, by way of New York, or vice a versa, vice a versa, Cornell Dupree" and just the way he says it let's you know shit is about to get really real. And fast.

Dupree began playing guitar at 14, after he saw Johnny "Guitar" Watson perform, and not long after he was recruited by King Curtis to play with his band, the Kingpins. He found himself a regular staple at Atlantic Records and he began his life long career as one of the most sought out session players in the game. A choice Jerry Wexler quote, from his obit in the Washington Post:

“Time and again what we would get into was a hellacious mess as the three guitarists got in each other’s way,” said Wexler. “And so when Mr. Dupree, the pride of Fort Worth, came to our rescue, it was bye-bye to multiple guitarists because — miraculously, it seemed to me — one man playing rhythm and lead at the same time took the place of three.”


R.I.P. Cornell.

Thursday, April 14, 2011



Rembert Browne, you are a god. Waking up to this was like, all the Christmases I have ever experienced, the few Chanukahs where I got something cool, and that one time that I hugged Donnell Rawlings on the street in the Lower East Side. No, wait. Scratch all that. The way I feel right now is the way that Howard Carter felt when he found King Tut's tomb: GOLDMINE!

All goofs aside. This was one of the more inspiring and thought provoking pieces of music writing I have ever had the privilege of reading. I hope he submitted this for next year's Best Music Writing Series, IT'S IN THE BAG.

TDOS urges you. Nay, BEGS you, to read this fantastic gem of Stankified genius in its entirety. Fuck March Madness. This is the kind of bracket that I can get behind. Side note: I want to marry you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Forest For The Trees.

So. This started out as my usual waking up at 12:40pm to my cousin/roommate making me eggs and a warmed up chocolate croissant while I YouTube Aaliyah music videos Sunday afternoon slothing, but quickly turned into me searching for my favorite videos that take place in the woods. (I don't know either, just go with it.) As you may or may not know, I recently did a post about my top roller skating vids and now I am kind of inspired to continue to delve deep into the recesses of my mind/the World Wide Web to continue to bring you some of the best of the best xy and z themed vidjahs. Let's get started!

From the jump, babygirl usually preferred the ill Mad Max vibe. Biker chains, leather, eye patches, cages, post Apocalyptic settings...but in "4 Page Letter" she flipped her "California Love" game on its head and added a vegetative level. Part secret night club (it's called Redemption), part Sherwood forest outpost, part Lord of the Flies, this video is all kinds of dark, wooded futuristic fantasy. That ring of fire seduction dance? Ay yi yiiiiiiii.

Next up. Deborah Cox. The first time I saw this video on the Box, I was like, wait, HOW DID HE GET HERE? She's in some remote postbellum bayou house chilling with her girl all sad and alone and then BAM dude shows up with his biker crew all like, what? We always hang out on this dusty secluded forest road in tight tanks. The backdrop is all weeping willows, verandas, dirt roads, charmingly quaint black folks, misty lush greenery, abandoned one room churches and creaky shacks and even at the age of 12, I was like, hmmm, whoever did the treatment for this is romanticizing a certain something that maybe they shouldn't be...Apparently she's Canadian. She didn't know any better.

Speaking of Canucks, here we have Nelly Furtado (remember when she was the truth?) and the first half of "Turn Off The Light." Mud, spooky trees, creeping dancers and a DJ cutting in the brush. The video then takes a few different artistic paths (all of which I'm kind of into, even if they make no cohesive sense) but up until about the 1:37 mark it's straight up fabulous forestry.

Helen Folasade Adu. No one, and I mean no one, can pull off wooded nymph like this woman. Can you even fathom being lost in the woods (both theoretically and literally) and coming across this vision of beauty and salvation? No, you can't. Don't bother answering. From Wikipedia:

A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis. They dwell in mountains and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and in valleys and cool grottoes.


Jumping to the other end of the classy spectrum, we have Jenny From the Block I Would Never Like to Live On. Technically, this takes place in a jungle, but that is just another form of forest so it totally counts and besides, this is one of the most epic pre-millennium videos of all time. GOOD LORD DOES THAT PARTY LOOK LIKE FUN. I think we all can agree, we would have much rather been watching the countdown with La Lopez, under the glow of green lasers surrounded by shimmering dewy rain forest babes (her homegirls, duh) at her (idea of an) Amazon rave. Instead I was in my friend's basement drinking sparkling cider watching MTV secretly hoping that the world didn't end because I was only 13 and HAD SO MUCH LIVING TO DO.

I must say though: a French mani is NOT tropical chic, Jen.

OK, so technically this isn't a classic wooded setting per se, but it is an abandoned and overgrown with vegetation mental institution/kingdom/disco and that's good enough for my purposes so honorable mention for Missy Elliott! (Disabling issue, my b)

I would include MGMT's "Electric Feel" and Crazy Town's "Butterfly" but they both are basically the same thing to me so I won't.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Roll Bounce: Celebrating the Greatest Roller Skating Vids

Today is the kind of day that needs this. Now, I have only roller skated a handful of times myself (R.I.P. Rainbo Roller Rink!) but if I had my druthers, this would be my preferred method of wheel based entertainment. Don't get it twisted though: I do NOT condone roller blading. That is just goofy. I'm talking cruising around a rink with your homies while disco and R&B blares and fools have roller skate dance offs and you try not to clutch the side of the rink too much because your crush is totally there but being a cool guy and like, not skating just hanging out by the arcade leaning on the Hoop Fever game all Catalano like and you are just like OMG THEY ARE PLAYING DRU HILL WHY WON'T YOU HOLD MY HAND AND GLIDE INTO PARADISE WITH ME?

Yeah, I saw Roll Bounce in the theaters.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yes. Yes. And, yes.

Just read this most excellent piece from Jozen Cummings over at The Awl. I urge you to check it out, especially for this excerpt:

It's not so much that the term "hipster R&B" is inaccurate. I'm no hipster, but if The Weeknd and Frank Ocean are getting mad love from people who consider themselves hipsters, then I suppose hipsters can call it whatever makes them feel comfortable. But as non-hipsters like to say, let's keep it all the way real. Calling it "hipster R&B" is a nice way of saying it's R&B that white people like (black hipsters notwithstanding), and here's my problem with that: It's myopic, lazy, and it sounds to me like a form of musical segregation that's not entirely based on genre.

Here's a proposal—how about we call it "nappy-headed pop"? If that sounds even slightly politically incorrect or lazy, then you understand my frustrations with the term "hipster R&B." It's not with the term "hipster"; it's with any hipster or white critic labeling a black artist "an R&B artist" just because he or she sings a little.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Oh, and also:

All this automatic categorization of black artists who sing harkens back to the social roots of the R&B genre. Before R&B was even called R&B, the record industry and magazines like Billboard categorized it as "race music," shorthand for any black artists who sang with a backbeat behind them. For years, white artists who made similar music never had to worry about being designated as "race music" until 1958, when Billboard began using "R&B" instead. The switch made it possible for acts like the late, great Teena Marie and current artists like Robin Thicke to chart in the R&B category. Unfortunately, many critics still referred (and refer) to those artists with the term "blue-eyed soul," which is a nice way of saying they're white singers that black people like. Equally hackneyed is calling black singers who white people like "hipster R&B"—or, for that matter, "nappy-headed pop".

You Say Hipster R&B, I Say Nappy-Headed Pop. Either Way, It's Offensive.
[The Awl]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011