Sunday, April 6, 2014


Sun, 6 Apr 2014 16:36:35

Ric Hickey


You're probably used to eating twigs, right? -- Encino Man

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Save The Last Documentary For Me

A/K/A Doc Pomus

Doc Pomus was a profoundly influential and inspiring figure in the history of popular music both for his prodigious output as a songwriter and for the remarkable success he enjoyed in spite of a physical handicap that dogged him for his entire adult life.

Born Jerome Felder in 1925 and stricken with polio at a very young age, Pomus was captivated by the Blues music he heard on the radio as a kid growing up in Brooklyn. At age 17 he started hanging around Jazz clubs in Greenwich Village. To avoid being ejected from a club he wasn’t legally allowed to be in, the inexperienced but starry-eyed teen claimed to be a Blues singer waiting for his turn on the bandstand. The impromptu performance that followed opened up a whole new world to him and he returned to the club every night for months, in spite of the long arduous commute he was forced to endure on crutches. All this was on the sly, and as his popularity grew the young man changed his name so that his mother wouldn’t see “JEROME FELDER” on the club’s marquee.

The newly christened Doc Pomus went on to cut over 50 sides in a 14-year career as a Blues singer before was approached by Ahmet Ertegun to write songs for Atlantic Records. Otis Blackwell brought Pomus and songwriting partner Mort Schuman to Hill and Range publishers where they cranked out countless hits for the Drifters, Dion & The Belmonts, Big Joe Turner, the Coasters and dozens more. From their Brill Building office the prolific Pomus and Schuman spun numerous numbers for Elvis Presley’s string of film soundtracks. Indeed, a complete list of Pomus-penned hits from the early ‘60s would include some of the most familiar songs of the era, including “Save The Last Dance For Me”, “Viva Las Vegas” and “This Magic Moment”.  About Doc’s song “Teenager In Love”, Bob Dylan once said, “All you need to know is in that song.”

Featuring the voice of Lou Reed reading from Doc’s personal journals, A/K/A Doc Pomus is a long-overdue documentary on this songwriting legend. The film opened earlier this month in Los Angeles and New York.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Been A Long Time #1"

This is the first track on my new album. With lyrics based on real events, the song is both a celebration of what it's like to be on the road with Sparrow Bellows and a warning to anyone who plans to travel with them.


Pile in the van: Me, B and Sam
Not gonna make it too far
Sam at the wheel, B on the phone of course
I play a little guitar
Been a long time
Since we did something like that

Pulled into Pittsburgh, started a fire
Barely got out with our lives
On into Jersey where it starts to get fuzzy
Exiles on the Lower East Side
Been a long time
We should go do that again

From the Cumberland River on through Tuscaloosa
To the lot lizards of Lake Charles
Knock on your door at a quarter to four
Welcome to the Dirty South
Been a long time
Wish we were back there right now

Well even mistakes are bigger in Texas
Got high as a mountain but fell
All I remember about Oklahoma:
I was hungover as Hell
Been a long time
Since I was sick on the roadside like that

New Orleans is not the place to get sober
Or even to slow down at all
Wish I could tell you how we got to Chicago
Legend has it we had a ball
Been a long time
I don’t rightly recall

The 17th Level of Weirdness was conquered
With the wall up against our backs
Husbands and lawmen emerge empty handed
From the shit storm that covered our tracks
Been a long time
But I don’t think that I’ll forget that
Been a long time
But I don’t think that I’ll forget that

Download my new album
on Amazon for $5.99:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

TOMAHAWK Oddfellows


When we first met Mike Patton in 1989, he was the sulking, skulking 20-year old lead singer for Faith No More. After the band broke up in 1998, Patton seemed to be on a quest to take his vision of heavy music as far from the mainstream as possible. It’s impressive to think that having tasted the big time at such a young age, a post-Faith No More Patton turned his back on fame and fortune and ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction. That’s a courageous move for an artist of any age and particularly impressive for a guy who was still in his twenties when FNM disbanded. Since then Patton has launched numerous noisy endeavors including but not limited to Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, and Tomahawk, as well as a number of projects with the great avant garde jazz punk pioneer John Zorn.

Things seem to have come full circle for Patton. He’s freely pursued his mercurial muse down every path that struck his fancy over the past decade or so. Meanwhile the music industry has gone through changes that have, among other things, gradually bestowed a sort-of new anonymity upon Patton, leaving him free once again to push the boundaries of hard rock and heavy metal in relative obscurity, unencumbered by the demands of the marketplace or corporate record labels.

Tomahawk recently re-formed to record Oddfellows, the band’s first full-length release since 2007. Patton and crew are masters of the creepy crawlies, crafting here something akin to a heavy metal funhouse soundtrack. Oddfellows is rife with sinister drones and ominous riffage, and Patton’s deep voice is spastic elastic, what a zombie Jim Carrey might sound like fronting a band. Brutal riffage abounds, but there’s also some nice detours that stray from any kind of typical heavy metal fare. In particular, “The Quiet Few” features a psychedelic smear of swirling guitars similar to what Kevin Shields does with My Bloody Valentine.

Ironically – now 20 years on from Faith No More’s heyday - much of the material on Oddfellows isn’t too far from that band’s classic formula: Clever bastards playing brainy metal for other clever bastards. There’s some evil sounding shit here. A great record to play on Halloween. And for many of us stubborn middle aged hard rockers, road dawg rivet heads for life, every day is Halloween.

Here's a promo clip for a song from the new album called "Stone Letter":


MARNIE STERN The Chronicles Of Marnia


Marnie Stern juxtaposes heavy guitar chops and pounding polyrhythms with vocals akin to a high nasally schoolyard taunt and the result is great, grating, provocative, serious and funny. Her music is often dark and foreboding in tone, with layers of guitars angrily cascading down from the heavens like a swarm of killer bees. Rumbling like underground thunder, Stern’s new drummer Kid Millions shakes the foundations and rattles the windows with the brutal precision of a military airstrike.

I am loathe to join the chorus of those who compare Stern’s guitar playing to Eddie Van Halen. With her copious use of the hammer-on technique famously associated with Eddie, she’s bound to be hounded by such comparisons for the rest of her career. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Any musician who says they wouldn’t want to be considered in the same league as EVH is a lying fool. But the fact is that there is much more to her sound and songs and guitar prowess than finger-tapping. Her records always sound huge, thanks largely to her mastery of overdubbing complimentary yet contrasting guitar parts. And while the lady’s high-pitched vocals may grate on the nerves of some listeners, they’re an integral ingredient in her overall sound and they bring another level of intrigue and contrast to the mix. Listening to Marnie Stern can be a disorienting experience and some may find they are not up to the challenge. When I first heard her self-titled LP from 2010 it confused and amused the hell outta me. Still does.

While your ear is eagerly trying to focus on and decipher all that wild shit she’s doing on the guitar, Miss Marnie’s paper-thin caterwauling demands your attention in a way that might drive you nuts at first. To say nothing of the consistently great drumming on all her tracks, which often sound like two drum kits being pushed down a metal staircase.

Her stuff always makes me laugh. But I know what I’m really laughing at is my own inability to fully grasp what she’s doing. Nine songs out of ten go sailing over my head while my monkey brain reels and flails and gropes in vain for the understanding that I hope eludes me forever. It is oddly satisfying to feel simultaneously impressed and perplexed by these sounds.

Like Marnie Stern’s music, it is a singular sensation that defies comparison.

The Chronicles Of Marnia comes out March 19, 2013.

The album is streaming here on NPR’s website:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bonnaroo 2013 Line-Up Announced

The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival announced its 2013 line-up today via a live youtube event hosted by Weird Al Yankovic and featuring a live performance by Portugal. The Man. Among the dozens of artists on the bill there are some big name veterans as well as some promising new acts, representing - as Bonnaroo always does - an amazingly diverse cross-section of music from bluegrass to hip hop and everything in between. (Though this year’s line-up seems heavy on indie rock with less emphasis on acoustic music.) Traditionally, about 99 out of 100 of my Bonnaroo predictions have been wrong, so I’ve tried to keep them to myself these past few days while anticipating today’s announcement.

This year’s festival is June 13-16 and among the main stage headliners are Mumford & Sons, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and – in perhaps the biggest coup in the festival’s 10-year history – Sir Paul McCartney.

Having had my first glance at the line-up just moments ago, I have to say the biggest measure of my excitement is over the inclusion of Dwight Yoakam, ZZTop, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes on this year’s itinerary.

Here is a partial list of some of the other artists scheduled to play Bonnaroo 2013:

The xx
Pretty Lights
Trombone Shorty
Passion Pit
Twenty | One | Pilots
A$AP Rocky
Big K.R.I.T.
David Byrne & St. Vincent
Jim James

Of Monsters And Men
Billy Idol
Gov’t Mule
Grizzly Bear
Killer Mike
Amadou & Mariam
Deep Valley
Lord Huron
Wild Nothing
Portugal. The Man.
The Step Kids
Divine Fits
Dirty Projectors
Gaslight Anthem
The National
Beach House
Death Grips
Local Natives
Walk The Moon
R. Kelly
The Vaccines
Holy Ghost!
Tame Impala
Animal Collective
Wu Tang Clan
Cat Power
Boys Noize
Paper Diamond
Weird Al Yankovic
Purity Ring
Matt & Kim
Glen Hansard
Kendrick Lamar
Four Tet
Father John Misty
Trixie Whitley
Sam Bush & Del McCoury
and a “Super Soul Jam” to include Jim James, John Oates, Ziggy Modeliste from the Meters, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Friday, February 8, 2013

First Thoughts On Bonnaroo 2013


The as-yet-unannounced line-up is almost irrelevant.

If you’ve ever been to Bonnaroo you know that within the first few minutes on site one immediately starts mental preparations to return next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…

Four days of car camping in the summer sun does not sound appealing to many people. Even hardcore music lovers who acknowledge Bonnaroo’s vast and perennially amazing itinerary of bands who perform morning, noon and night on several stages sometimes find they lack the stamina and sustained enthusiasm to get them through a 4-day weekend of living out of their car, 18-hour days of trudging from stage to stage, with their only refuge the rare patch of shade and a tent to collapse into at the end of each day.

But if you’ve attended Bonnaroo before then you know that the pros far outweigh the cons.

I am a person who lives the other 361 days of the year daydreaming about going back to Bonnaroo.

So you can imagine my delight when my favorite editor and good friend Mike Breen gave me the green light to cover the festival again this year for Cincinnati CityBeat. There is a press credentials application process involved, but in years past when I enjoyed the good fortune and favor of CB’s patronage it was just a matter of a few hoops to jump through and press access was secured.

I count my Bonnaroo experiences as some of the most fun I have ever had. As musician and writer and shameless fanboy, I find that I connect with it, I “get” it, on every level. In my experience I have been a writer, performer, recording and live sound engineer, light board and spotlight operator, soundman, van driver, promoter, poster artist, provider of hospitality, doorman, etc. etc. So I understand almost every single aspect involved with the mounting of a huge festival like Bonnaroo. The entire process and end result are transparent to these eyes, yet it remains the most magical entity in which I have ever participated. Without question it is the “sun” around which my life as a freelance writer revolves. I make contacts via Bonnaroo every year that expand exponentially in the wake of the festival and provide me with freelance fodder throughout the year.

But of course it is the 96 hours I spend at the festival itself where the sparks really fly. In the past I have gone whole hog gonzo at Bonnaroo, spinning my perspective on the festival round and round in my slave-to-the-rush emulation of HST’s Fear And Loathing style, with varying results. But the truth is that Bonnaroo doesn’t need me to embellish its wild rainbow of colors and soul-pulsating sounds with my unschooled splatter of verbiage.

On more than one occasion I have had the pleasure of reviewing a recording or concert performance that I found so exhilarating I would later remark that the piece “wrote itself”. It is that sensation times a thousand and then multiplied a thousand times again that best describes my feelings about the actual writing involved with covering Bonnaroo: Straight reportage of the bare facts 100% free of embellishment would surely paint the picture of a scene so amazing that it strains the limits of credulity.

And so, like I said, the line-up for this or any year’s Bonnaroo Festival is almost irrelevant to me. The announcement of the line-up is imminent and I’m sure there will be dozens of bands on the schedule that I will be very excited to see. But it’s icing on the cake. A mountainous cake, soon to be slathered with an ocean-size layer of mind-numbingly sweet icing.

The largest measure of my deepest gratitude goes out to Mike Breen for once again making it possible for me to count myself proudly and excitedly among the Bonnaroo press corps. I shall endeavor as always to do my very best in hopes of providing CB with brag-worthy content.

Attached below you’ll find links to my coverage of Bonnaroo for CityBeat from 2006, 2007, 2010 & 2011, featuring some spectacular photography by Keith Klenowski and Chuck Madden.


An epic account from Bonnaroo 2006:
A sprawling 4-parter from 2007 starts here with part 1 & links to parts 2-4:
Highlights of my experiences in 2010:
And a 5-parter from 2011: