I can’t Dance.

The Foo Fighters was the first cd I bought but I think this Genesis album was the first cassette tape I purchased on my own. I’d imagine a big part of my choice was due to this video which I found really funny then and still, although for probably different reasons because now it just is goofy.

I’ve never been a good dancer, regardless of how much beer I’ve consumed. It’s always been something I’ve observed at bars, parties, concerts, and really anywhere. I am jealous of people who can actually dance because I feel pretty inadequate while trying to shake a leg next to them. Granted, I think that dancing is good for you regardless of your skill level because you take a few minutes to forget the stress of the world while having some fun  and burning some calories. Who knows, maybe you will slide onto a dance floor somewhere and have similar moves to your one true mate in the world. Doubtful, but possible.

Dwight Yoakam is slowly becoming one of my favorite country artists because of the type of music he was playing in the time period, the 1980’s, when country was really in a terrible place.

This post came to me because of a show my band played on Saturday night in the same coastal tourist town my brother had one of his first jobs at a gas station, probably about the same time he drove the Ford LTD Wagon.  We had done a show the night before in Portland, Maine at a hipster bowling alley that had gone fairly well, except for the fact that the opening band played longer than we did because of scheduling SNAFUs.

Our expectations were pretty low for a beach town in mid-March with two feet of snow on the ground, but strange things do happen. A sight-seeing trolley, whose existence in these conditions is a mystery in itself, dropped fifty people off so we switched our faster second set with our slower first set and a bonafide dance party ensued. Literally, a conga line formed during “As Fast as You”, which was something we’d never seen before and never will again most likely.

I went to a lot of jam band shows in college and there was a lot of hippie dancing.

The rest of the show was great and we got paid extra because we kept the dance floor doing all night, even to Pink Floyd’s “Money” which is pretty hard to dance to due to its odd 7/8 time signature. It got me thinking about the different way people dance, the various skill levels, and why we dance at all. At our shows, you see a lot of older folks doing a similar dance where they stick their butt out and wave it around while waving their arms out a little. It’s sort of similar to the typical hippie dance where you spin around in a circle with your arms out like a bird or a 747 like my brother compared it to once when we were imitating it in a subway in NYC.

White people dancing to hip hop has always been  source of amusement to me. I don’t want to make it a race thing, but from my observation, black people are far better dancers than their white brothers. There are exceptions of course.

I have been to a few hip hop shows, most notably Wu Tang Clan, and most of the people in the crowd do a similar dance. You know the dance, where you jump up and down and occasionally put your arms up and fan the air like you are trying to put out a fire when actually you just are feeling the vibes of the beat. I’ve seen this at parties from high school up to the present time and it feels great. We all do it, even those who detest hip hop, because it’s fun and puts you into party mode. Probably the best part of dancing is the amount of time you spend not thinking about anything except the music, moving, and having a good time. Like the LCD Soundsystem song, you can dance yourself clean.

Music can truly help you dance yourself into feeling fresh and new, or  even clean. Of course, when you are all sweaty after, you could actually clean up.

I think if the only thing you get out of dancing is a short vacation from reality, then that’s a good thing. I have read many rock and roll biographies in the last few years and I just finished Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman which details a lot of drug abuse and poor treatment of those around him. The most salient point is that nowadays, if all Gregg can do is give his still numerous concert goers a few hours where they don’t think about the problems in their lives, then he considers it a job well done. Regardless of the complexity of music, isn’t this what we are all looking for in our music? A distraction from the rigors of daily life?

The slam dancing of Primus shows back in the day has given away to much more hippie dancing as they have moved into jammier tunes, but there was a brief time when I enjoyed the mosh pits. Even Les doesn’t like them anymore and calls people out on the mike when they get too rowdy during their current shows.

So I will probably never be a good dancer, but that will not stop me from trying. Whether it be old person dancing, hippie dancing, rap dancing, or even light moshing, it’s fun for everyone involved. Don’t worry if you can’t dance, Phil Collins probably can’t either and that hasn’t stopped him from becoming super famous.

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Hip Hop Hooray: Enter the Wu Tang

To piggy back on my brother’s post and due to an incredibly strict schedule this week of parent conferences, here is one I put out almost a year ago! WU TANG!

I made a resolution to write more about hip hop this year so I figured I’d start right off on it.

Although the Elder J and I grew up in the great white north, we both have been into very urban hip hop for some time. In fact, I would say that the predominate music choice of most people I know living in Maine between the ages of 18 and 35 is hip hop, and of course country music, which is a very interesting juxtaposition. Nowadays, rap is a lot more innocuous with no one really too hard core in the top 40. I got into rap in what I like to think is the heyday of  gangster rap, the one sub genre of the rap/hip hop category that I like the most. Although I loved Dr. Dre, Snoop Dog and the Notorious B.I.G., the group I liked the most is the Wu Tang Clan.

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New Track: M.I.A. – ‘Y.A.L.A.’

I have loved M.I.A. since I first read about her in The New Yorker (Yeah, this is hateful. Screw off. I am uncomfortable enough for all of us). I loved Arular and Kala but found the third album Maya a bit underwhelming.  This track has just enough house beats to make me annoyed and the takedown of YOLO with YALA is a bit juvenile, but I still love M.I.A’s style and the integration of world drums into the track makes it move in a way other house music doesn’t.

The fact is, I’ll keep trying anything she puts out hoping for some of the innovation and dynamism of those first few albums.  What do you think, my brother? Is there room in our lives for multiple South Asian ‘artists’?

Raw Music|Entertainment

Her long awaited fourth album, ‘Matangi’, is ready to drop on November 5th and available to pre-order on iTunes today! As an instant-grat, anyone that pre-orders the album will get the track, ‘Y.A.L.A.’ instantly!

Leave it to M.I.A. to take  cultural phenomenon like ‘YOLO’ and turn it on it’s head. ‘You Always Live Again’ deals with the idea of being the anti-yolo as well as touching on several politic topics, again in true M.I.A. fashion. It’s less happy than some of the her tracks we’ve heard and has a similar swag to lead single, ‘Bring The Noize’. Props to the incredibly brilliant hook and the closing verse. ‘Y.A.L.A.’ has to be my favorite track thus far from this album – I can’t wait for more!

Pre-order ‘Matangi’ on iTunes here!

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Dance Music?

My band has gotten into what I would consider our first serious argument. We have been doing the covers thing to decent results and are pushing to finish our own  music while still accruing fun shows for the summer to expand our skills and social network. The only complaint we’ve had is that we need to play more dance music so people will want to get out there and shake their booties. I think we play some jamming tunes, but we decided to brainstorm as a band for some other covers we could throw in there to get people moving. This was the first suggestion by my esteemed lead singer and best friend:

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The Notorious B.I.G.: Amazing across all socio-economic divisions.

I can’t tell you how many times I joined in with about ten white kids yelling the lyrics to this song and almost every other Biggy track I mention in this post. Just last night, I got strange looks from the slide guitar player in my band when I threw this track on after we finished up working on our original music. Not everyone got into gangster rap out here.

I love gangster rap. I talked a while back about my affinity for this genre, starting with the work of the Wu Tang Clan and now moving to the unmatched and incomparable Notorious B.I.G. Of all the solo rappers out there, I can say with earnest that Biggy is my favorite. His combination of hard core gangster and lovable family man coupled with some of the dopest beats in hip hop and often highly introspective lyrical thoughts on street life and the rap game add up to make him the reigning king of gangster rap.

How does an upper-lower middle-class Scandinavian kid from the great white north end up being such a huge Biggy fan? I think that he was such an immense talent and personality, it doesn’t matter where you are from or what color you are to stand up and recognize that this shit is the bomb. And if you don’t know, now you will know.

I watched Casino a lot as a youth and I always loved the reference to the movie in this song. This song has one of the best beats in hip hop music ever while also making an incredibly viable point about mass media and death. Would The Doors be so big if Morrison had lived? What about Jimi Hendrix or Janice Joplin? You can never tell, but it’s a good topic to explore another day!

The closest thing we have to ‘the streets’ in rural Maine is the trailer park which is where I began my education in rap music. Everyone listened to Tupac, Eminem and a slew of other hip-hop artists of varying qualities. Biggy was always a mainstay, the baby-faced gangster from the urban warfare of  Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the 1970’s where a 1977 power outage led to hundreds of stores being looted and many more burned to the ground. We are talking about a man who was equal parts court jester and bloodthirsty criminal. In hindsight, I think it’s this juxtaposition that makes him such an enigmatic character, thug and teddy bear. As he puts it in “Machine Gun Funk”, just because he joked and toked a lot doesn’t mean he doesn’t tote the Glock. Lyrically, not many rappers have ever come close to the eloquent and gritty nature of the Notorious.

The production on his tracks is always top notch and this is due in no small part to the skills of Mr. Sean “Puff Daddy”, aka “Diddy” or whatever the fuck he calls himself now. He was a mover and shaker in the NYC hip hop scene and brought on Easy Mo Bee to help produce this album, a genius producer who had worked with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA, Big Daddy Kane and was even behind  Miles Davis’ last album in 1992.

His lyrics  have a nice easy flow to them that allow you to actually hear them the first time and see how they fit into whatever narrative is happening in the song. This seems like an obvious trait for any rapper, but check out rap from today, such as some recent Lil’ Wayne tracks. I don’t know if I’m too sober,  but his tracks have been making less sense to me than ever before. With a recent trip to the hospital for allegedly overdosing on codeine cough syrup, it’s not surprising that his songs have made less sense.. My 8th grade students tell me he is doing painkillers too, but this is neither here nor there.

Biggie’s first album Ready to Die is one of the best rap albums ever, running a whole cycle of stories from party songs like “Big Poppa” and reflective songs like “Juicy” to a song about contemplating suicide and then doing it in “Suicidal Thoughts”. One thing I love about Biggy is the lack of celebrity guest rappers on this first album. The only one to really feature another rapper on the debut is “The What” with the incredibly talented Method Man dropping some serious rhymes. One can see why being such a fan of Wu Tang would also lend well to Biggy, but I can’t remember which I got into first. I am leaning towards the latter though. In the days of entire albums of guest stars, it’s nice to see an artist who only needs himself and a few good producers.

I have given a lot of thought as to what the appeal was to this music to me as a youth because let’s face it, I had a very easy upbringing with almost no elements of the street life. I think the answer is a multi-faceted response. First, the Notorious B.I.G. is an amazing performer regardless of the genre he makes his music in, from the lyrics to the production to the whole persona.  Biggy is the man and anyone who likes any type of music can see that. And he also pulled himself up from the streets, sold drugs and then used his experiences to pursue his greatest passion and change the rap genre forever. His gritty tales really do tell a story of a place that is scary and exciting to me, probably because I’ve never been held up at gunpoint or sold crack to feed my family. I’ve never held anyone else up either but I do love hearing Biggy rap about it.

So I don’t think it really matters where you are from, Biggy truly does pass above all socio-economic divisions. I can promise you that anyone who likes hip hop likes Biggy and even if they are rock and rollers, there is at least one song they can get into. This leads nicely to my final point. Like the Felice Brothers or Creedence Clearwater Revival doing genres of music that are not necessarily aligned with where they are from, music does not have geographic , racial, economic or any boundaries for that matter. It is perfectly ok for me to love the Notorious B.I.G. even though I am white and live in the woods, just as it’d be ok for Biggy to be into Lucky Tubb if he was alive and so inclined. Music is a universal language to be spoken wherever it wants to be. Socio-economic lines mean nothing for good music and if that’s the one thing you get out of this post then I’ll be happy. Oh yeah, and the fact that Biggy was probably the best rapper ever!

I think if Biggy had not been needlessly gunned down in the yet to be unsolved murder in Los Angeles, his music would have gone this more poppy direction. I will add that I am sure many of the violent and misogynistic lyrics are frowned upon by those who think song lyrics can push people to act out some of these terrible things. Like I’ve said before, no one has ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die because of a song; they are surely already crazy. So, I am sorry if anyone is offended by some of this rap lyrics. The joy of the modern era is that  we all have the freedom to listen or not listen.