Friday, August 21, 2015

Can Let You Go

Second song, "Can't Let You Go," on the 1983 Rainbow album Bent Out of Shape, leads in with nothing but pure, gothic organ (think Phantom of the Opera), then some minor distortion and out of left field comes this glossy, hair metal ballad.  There's no mistaking that 80's drum sound and overwrought vocal style for anything else.  You'll be fist-pumping in your fringed leather vest and jean cut-offs in no time!  Vocalist Joe Lynn Turner belts this one out with cornball bravado that just skims the edge of opera.  It's not that he sounds bad or anything--actually he's got an impressive voice--but the delivery is so dang pretty.  More to the point, Joe Lynn Turner has pretty hair.  You can (and should) check it out in this weird video.  Rainbow founder and leader, Ritchie Blackmore throws in a nice little shredding solo which lends this cut a hint of metal cred.  Unfortunately the solo is a shorty.  Ultimately, the pop-oriented approach with sugary riffs makes this single, amongst others, entirely too catchy.  The rest of the album has a few flourishes here and there, two notable instrumental tracks might get your attention.  Keyboardist David Rosenthal manages to insert some proggy non-Christmastime sounding synths in there, which is no small feat.  For the most part though, the album is only mildly bearable.

Rainbow's Bent Out of Shape may or may not have been a beloved LP, so why do the Vinyl Vagabonds make particular mention of "Can't Let You Go"?  Apparently, the prior owner loved the song as they took the time and care to punch up the lyrics on a typewriter.  The original lyric sheet/sleeve that comes with the album is still intact so that owner ("Tracey Studios" is the signature on the hand typed sheet), must have typed this up for a party or some sort of homework assignment, maybe a karaoke night?  Perhaps she typed it up out of mega-devotion to Rainbow?  Was Miss Studios the worlds biggest Rainbow fan?  Maybe Joe Lynn Turner's only stalker?  Either way, this is just the sort of oddball ephemera that tends to turn up when buying (or in this case finding abandoned on the side of the road) random used records.  As amusing as this is, the LP isn't exactly worth holding on to so the VVers can let this go.  Clutter the VVers shelves with your harmless hair metal no longer!

Don't have your own lyrics sheet?  Just sing what you hear.  That's what the VVers do.  For instance take "Desperate Heart," the break-up rocker that starts Bent Out of Shape side-B, where no one will miss a beat when you belt out: "You promised me there would be a food fight!" sung like you are in the band Europe [whoa-oh!].  {Actual lyrics "You promised me there would be no goodbye."}  Seriously, who wouldn't be heartbroken because of the lack of a food fight (or this record)?  Whoa-oh!  No lyric sheet, no problem!  Clearly the VVers need to get themselves a typewriter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Have You Ever Danced with Prince in the Pale Moonlight?

By: The Vagabond Apprentice
I’ve always thought of movie soundtracks by pop musicians to be merely an element of support to the visual medium of film. On the odd occasion I listen to a soundtrack separated from its original purpose, it tends to have a weaker sound; more like an album of unfinished demo tracks or B-sides. I consider it not a normal part of an artist's discography because it rarely matches the experience of a traditional finished release.

This brings me to the Spring 2015 Brooklyn WFMU Record Fair. As I was expertly going through the rows of LPs, like a good vagabond should, I spotted a huge, cropped, solid-gold Batman logo’ed record cover.  I knew immediately it was Prince’s Batman soundtrack to the 1989 Tim Burton smash-hit film.  Don’t you just love those 80’s golden, gaudy colors? (yuck).  For all you young people out there, this film stars Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson (NOT Christian Bale!).  Staring at that record, I was immediately was transformed into my former fourteen year old geek self.

A few Bat-songs I remembered from the film were “Batdance,” “Partyman,” and “Trust.”  I recall thinking back then, that the soundtrack was just another piece of sell-able Bat-merch, along with a million other bat-things, action figures, keychains, mugs, underoos, etc., that Warner Bros. was hawking.   Warner Bros. studio, who produced the DC comic, the movie, and the Prince record, definitely wanted my hard earned paper-route money for the Bat-merch that Bat-summer.

Now, twenty-six years later, I realize how wrong I was.  While the 1989 Batman film has not aged well, the Batman Soundtrack has become a timeless Bat-sterpiece rivaling “Purple Rain.”  Prince went “POW,” “BAM,” and “BIF” on this one!  This album is loaded with those classic Prince deep beats, funky guitars, groovy bass lines, and synthesizer pulses.  For the most part, the songs really don’t have much to do with Batman, comic books, or the movie in general.  Doing some research, I found out that Prince was desperately in need of a hit album at the time, so Warner Bros. persuaded him to change a few lyrics, add a bunch of audio movie quotes clips, and slap on a “Batman” logo cover, so that the album related in some way to the movie.  You can tell though that Prince had fun being part of this Batman tidal wave.  He seems enthusiastic and uninhibited on the album and to this day, he still performs songs off this record at concerts.

Looking at the lyrics sheet, I noticed songs are pseudo-sung by Bruce Wayne, Joker, Vicki Vale, and Gemini.  Who is Gemini you ask?  Gemini is Prince’s alter ego for this record.  Huh?  And in all the marketing for this album, Prince wore a "Gemini" superhero costume that was split down the middle; it had a half Batman outfit and half Joker outfit, which also looked similar to Batman villain, Two-Face’s costume.  Is Prince trying to be a new Batman character?  Is he being conceptual and making a statement that no man can be all good or all evil?  Prince’s birth sign is Gemini (June 7th), does that have anything to do with it?  Your guess is as good as mine.

As with Prince records, the lyrical concepts throughout the LP are mostly about sex, women, love, and partying.  I mean, what does a “Lemon Crush” have to do with Batman?  Absolutely nothing, but it's an amazing, kick-ass song.  Another fascinating stand out is the slow, romantic duet “The Arms of Orion,” sung by Prince and the 80’s Grammy Award winner Sheena Easton.  Usually, Prince’s love songs sound like he’s on the prowl, lusting for a woman, like a tiger lusts for bloody, raw meat.  Not here.  In this song his tone is of true love and being content with his deep affection. It’s a top notch 80’s ballad.  Last but not least, I must talk about “Batdance.”  This bombastic, amazing track is a collage of music and audio movie quote clips that needs to be heard to be believed.  It's electrifying and manic.  Prince also does a guitar solo that rivals former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash on it.  (Don’t forget to check out the “Batdance” music video, Prince and his crew perform the movie in a seven minute interpretive dance.  it is bizarre and super funny.)  If you buy this record, I guarantee you will “Go, go, go with a smile!”

Saturday, August 1, 2015

DJ Night: The Flipside of Summer (because digital B-sides just don't cut it)

(It was too damn hot out to do a fancy logo.)

The Flipside of Summer
(because digital B-sides just don't cut it)

Friday, August 14th 7pm-9pm

Be seen with the Vinyl Vagabonds as they Baffle your Brain by Busting your summer quota of Beautiful B-sides.  Better not Be late! Beat the heat, Be cool, and listen to some lesser-knowns from the Best side of the platter.

This is a free, metro-walkable, all ages, cosmically-relevant music night at Silver Spring's newest (and only) record/coffee shop.  Also, they have an awesome staff, fine adult beverages, and delicious foods for eating.  YES!

Bump 'N Grind
1200 East West Highway,
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Be there!
  Stuff you probably already know:  
The Vinyl Vagabonds (who are Eric and Sara) is a music and art focused project inspired by the medium of vinyl records, going strong for over six years!  They like all kinds of music and are prone to play just about anything.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Killer Joe's International Discotheque

1965 was a great year for corny but capable dance albums.  The proof?  Welcome to the world of "Killer Joe" who manages to just mildly slay you with his virtuoso musical abilities.  Recorded gently and without a hint of malice by the "Killer Joe Orchestra."  A little research and the VVers discover that the entirety of the music was in fact done by Atlantic Records' serious session men and even more serious record execs of the day.  See, the "King of the Discotheque" isn't a musician at all, but instead a superstar for his skills with the boogie.  At least so says the back cover description.  His job?  Pick the tunes, order of songs, and set the tempo to elicit maximum dance.  Hang with Joe as he manages to not bore you through: the watusi, the monkey, the swim, the "cheek to cheek," the bosa nova, the merengue, the jerk, the cha cha watusi, the hully gully, the mlle (pronounced "millie"), the frug, the shake, the frug (twice with the frug!), and lastly, la bostella.  Yes, "all the new dances to be seen at the chic discotheques in New York, Paris, Washington, or London, where the smart people have fun" are featured here in one handy dandy collection.  Is that Ray Charles?  No, it's not.  It is however a handily done version of "What'd I Say" from the session crew.  Not too shabby, cats!  Pop this platter on and you'll be fruggin' in no time!  As well, "C'mon and Swim" is a tidy little cut for you to swim to - aka - aquatically shake a little of this and that.  You can tell these session pros are having a blast with this Sly Stone penned ditty.  Also, Mr. Joe loves to rock the third-person insertion into the lyrics "look at Killer Joe look at him go," "Killer Joe is one fancy pants, mojo whoa oh," "Go Joe, go and kill it, Joe, you are killin' it," and "she wants to dance with Killer Joe, Millie, she's silly, from Philly." Good luck trying to figure our which of those lyrics are real.

Killer Joe, also known as Frank Piro, winner of the national jitterbug competition of 1942, does it all!  He's got the right moves for every occasion.  However, those who should make the mistake of looking at pictures of Mr. Piro on this record will likely recoil in horror/amusement at his over the rainbow expressions and herky-jerkiness.  "The Jerk" indeed!  One look at this cornball and you will never want to look away.  You are now under his power!!!  Perhaps, at the discotheque, with the lights turned down a bit, it's not as blinding.

Mr. Joe apparently was doing a very important and respectable job of teaching people of a certain means the hip dances of the day as well as generally being a regular on the big-time club scene.  No harm, no foul.  These pics just have not aged well.

P.S. Also, what the hell does this high fidelity thing mean?  The VVers refuse to look this up.  The VVers refuse to learn fancy terminology for turntables.

P.P.S. The Cha Cha Watusi:
"My Girl Sloopy" really just sounds like "I want schmoopy" and in particular, Spanish ham soup, "I want schmoopy, schmoopy jamon."  Singing the wrong lyrics is impossibly catchy to VVer #2, that there's no way this record is dancing its way out of the house anytime soon.  That is what VVer #1 gets for digging around thrift shops and picking up random, horribly covered albums as a joke.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Close But ... Not Even Close

Trying to complete a run of albums by a particular artist is a truly daunting endeavor.  You have to ask yourself a few questions before embarking on such a hazardous quest.  Is the artist still active?  Were albums ever released during a time when vinyl was scarce (early 90s to mid 2000s)?  Did the artist ever "jump the shark" and make music that stank mightily?  Some items to ponder while hunting for those final vinyl vagabonds.

Consider also that completing a collection by an artist can very easily dilute your listening experience.  Every artist has laid at least one egg in their career.  Remember that one?  You know the one.  Why add that mediocre fare to your collection?  As well, storage is most certainly an issue.  How important is it for you to make room for that last LP that you'll never listen to?  Be honest with yourself.

In favor of being a completest?  The concept of listening to an artist's entire catalog has its merits.  Experienced end-to-end it can be quite compelling; even listened to out of order you will gain amazing perspective on their career.  Unless they sober up.  Those albums are usually pretty bad.  Sorry, but it's true.  As well, artists can also get a little off-the-rails with the non-sobriety.  Watch out for those also.  Regardless of the reasons, you are bound to find peaks and valleys in even the most heralded musician's discography.

Where did they record the album?  Was it done on the cheap?  Who produced it and how quickly?  Was there a major label bigwig pressuring the them to do something novel or something they didn't want to do?  How about the final product?  Did the studio chiefs chop it to bits and shoehorn it into a pop-tacular package?  That final product might be arriving at your inner ear after a long, strange trip.  Don't worry, the Vinyl Vagabonds are here to help.

Several examples:

Faith No More - Completing the run of albums by FNM is an interesting idea, but actually getting most of the LPs will make a considerable dent in your wallet.  Each could easily set you back $30 and good luck finding an original pressing!  Why do it?  A back-to-back album listening session lets you hear how the band changed so dramatically along their career--mind blowing!  Totally different lead singer?  Yes.  Totally different sounding same singer?  Yes.  Complete change of guitar sound?  Yes.  Complete change of guitarists?  Yes.  The very first album, We Care A Lot from 1985, sounds as if it was recorded in the Stone Age compared to records from the 90s onward.  That's not a gripe, as the album is crushingly great, warts and all.  The very definition of completion is that if you love a band then the back catalog is must-listen material, no matter who plays on the album.

Kurtis Blow - For the VVers to finally complete this run was painfully difficult because Mr. Blow seriously ran out of creative juice along the way.  The purchase of his last album was something they put off for several years.  One VVer would see it in a store and tap the other on the shoulder, "Are we getting it?"  "I'm scared..."  "Me too."  Why they finally broke down is anybody's guess.  Still, it was an accomplishment and the VVers are willing to own being KB's #1 fans (even though they never listen to Back by Popular Demand--there was no popular demand Mr. Blow, none).

Peter Tosh - All studio albums plus one live album live on the VVer's shelf, spanning 1976's Legalize It to 1987's No Nuclear War.  Of course not all of these are created equal (Equal Rights being the superior, Wanted Dread and Alive, consider the title and draw your own conclusions), but there hasn't been a huge rush to break up the collection.  Still, the VVers should have probably quit while they were ahead.

DEVO - Haha, there are two later records that seem... not interesting.  Why hold off when those are fairly inexpensive and not too hard to come by?  The completest would buy them, but a crappy album can, and should, be avoided.  The VVers are trusting their instincts here.

Talking Heads - The VVers keep avoiding "Ape Face" album, also known as Naked.  All seven other records are accounted for, but not this one.  It could very well be the greatest LP of all, but something about that cover is just creepy.

The Clash - Although only six studio albums, having the complete Clash discography will actually set you back some shelf space, Sandinista! is a triple and London Calling (both of which took some seeking-out and wallet-opening) is a double.  By some strange turn of events, the VVers already had the Clash's least exciting albums, Give 'Em Enough Rope and the horrifyingly dull Cut the Crap in their collection for quite some time.  Those should probably be jettisoned, especially the latter which apparently the producer made most of without the actual band.  While the VVers were recently house cleaning and working on this here write-up, they decided to drop the needle on Cut the Crap since it has literally been years since this platter has seen any action.  The substantial layer of dust that needed to be cleaned off of the record proved that!  After a half-spin, the VVers decided the dust should remain so that this record doesn't get played again.  This blog is helping the VVers cut the crap, out of their collection.

Queen - Do not become a Queen completest.  Most of Queen's albums past the mid 70s are just too full of stadium/radio pop, goofy experiments, and over the top ballads.  Those albums just have way to many gaps.  The exception being the Flash Gordon Soundtrack which is mostly instrumental, just sayin'.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Five out of seven, and only the good ones.  Missing the last two, does it matter?  No.  Done.  This just wrote itself.  Actually, it does matter.  Recently the VVers, against their better judgment, got carried away and picked up Mardi Gras at a local shop, CDepot in College Park.  At the time, it was thought that this was the last album to finish the CCR run.  For a measly $3.99, why not give it a spin?  The VVers will tell you why not: they cringed through about three tracks and decided it was way too country and way not-Fogerty-vocals enough to keep it.  The sly VVers slipped it into Vagabond Apprentice's record bag as he was packing up to head back to New York.  Goodbye bad record!  Banished to another state, hopefully never to be spoke of again.  Not only was it a disappointment that the album was lametastic, but they also discovered there is still one more album to check out, Pendulum.  Pheh, no thanks.

Neil Young - The idea of getting every album by Mr. Young will kill you.  He's recorded around thirty-eight studio LPs to date.  That is not a typo.  That's more shelf space than the entire VVers jazz section.  Don't even think about including his live albums, soundtracks, compilations, or band albums--Buffalo Springfield, CSNY--impossible.  Avoiding being a completest with Neil is actually not that hard.  Some of his LPs just do not appeal.  For example, he's done several straight country albums which are never going to enter the VVers inner sanctum (living room).  He's also been on a recent tear, putting out six albums since 2000.  The modern records (post 1990s) are in no way affordable.  No way!  Now the nice part about trying to track down records from Mr. Young has been seeking out the weirdo ones from the 80s that nobody seems to love.  Many of these albums came out at a time of vinyl abundance.  Therefore, these fun finds, particularly Landing on Water being a strange standout, are very affordable.

Completalest in Summararium (that's Latin you know)

Molto Bene (that's actually Italian):
  • Get a full picture of the artist.
  • Bragging rights of owning every release (this actually might not be a good thing).
  • Satisfying your inner-completest-ness (curiosity).
Molto Male:
  • Find yourself buying records that are not good, diminishing love for that artist (can also be funny).
  • Take up precious real estate on the shelf.
  • No money left for snacks.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Lo-Fi DJ

The Vinyl Vagabonds wound up with some side projects this summer: Artist Nights and DJing.  When the two coincide, VVer #1 puts on his art pants (pantalones de arte) and VVer #2 puts on her DJ hat (sombrero de la musica) and comienza la fiesta de los vagabundos!  Here's the thing, the VVers don't have traditional DJ gear (yet), mainly because they have mainly done DJ sets at an awesome coffee shop that has a permanent set-up (thanks Bump N' Grind!) and DJ gear takes up a lot of space (the VVers live small).  However, what our heroes do have are two, old, sweet, lo-fi, portable record players that perfectly fit the bill.  Player one is an early 70's Rheem Califone suitcase player that has decent sound thanks to a tune-up and recent needle upgrade.  Player two, also picked up at an estate sale, is a plastic "toy."  This Realistic brand plastic player doesn't have much for sound, but given the circumstances, it would work.  The first Artist Night, a gathering of locals sketching and working on their current projects, was hosted by VVer #1 aka DC Creeper, at the cozy back-bar of Olive Lounge in Takoma Park.  The small room is just right for the warm vinyl sound of a portable player.

Since it was a arty event hosted by VVer #1, he pitched in some ideas for the tunes of the night, one which stuck with Madam DJ Hat: play full sides of records as opposed to singles.  This would be more relaxing and help the creative juices flow.  A strategy was formed that sides of albums would be played in full on the larger player since it had better sound.  These would be buffered with 45s from the toy player.  Which records would and wouldn't sound good on these particular mini-players was an added restriction in choosing music for the night.  Records were picked and tested for optimal audio quality.  An example, the toy player couldn't handle vocals very well, the tinny sound distortion was just too much.  Another example, the larger player had a history of being too weak too turn those modern heavy records--the turntable was built pre-180-gram vinyl and those don't really play at speed-- it's like the motor just poops out.  It's the saddest thing you will ever hear.  Little did VVer #2 know that the Califone also didn't like the thin, lightweight sounds of Dynaflex (floppy records that RCA was producing in the 60s).  For the first album of the night she popped on Benny Goodman B.G., The Small Groups, for which the vinyl felt pretty flimsy (great, right?! total opposite of 180-gram).  Au contraire, after about three minutes playing VVer #2 was dragged down by the drunken slur of the sound.  Was the turntable dying before it could even get going for the night?  This left Madam DJ Hat mighty nervous.  She didn't want to just rely on the tinny toy player and the digital iPod set-up that she brought as plan-C.  Fortunately, a switch to a standard weight LP and everything was back to normal.

Tunes were flowing, the event got crowded, noise levels were on the rise, and volumes of the little players struggled to compete.  WARNING: Turning a lo-fi player up to its max just doesn't cut it and should only be done in emergency circumstances.  Total tin-iness.  Unless the visiting artists were super aware of the music or were sitting adjacent to the turntable, it could barely be heard.  Not that it mattered, those artists were having a great old time socializing, as was our heroic DJ.  By the close of the night (this was a Sunday, mind you), only a few friends and some stragglers were left so Madam DJ Hat played whatever the hell she wanted.  On went the full side of Isaac Hayes "Do Your Thing" from Shaft followed by the bluesy side-B of Judas Priest's debut album Rocka Rolla.  With the thinned out crowd, the suitcase player perfectly resonated through the confines of the small space.  In the immortal howling of our closing musician, Rob Halford, the lo-fi art event was fully satissssfiiiiieeeed!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Your Album Cover is Scaring Everybody

Sam Harris - Self-Titled - 1984

VVer #1 picked this up at a Goodwill for its awful cover.  Funny right?  Deep regrets.  It seems possible that worse 80's Motown records have been made, but the VVers are willing to bet that this one is scarier than most.  How did this thing even end up on Motown?  A joke?  Maybe someone lost a bet?  A cry for help?  Was it the 80's that led to the once mighty Motown losing its clout, or this record?
Please, be frightened.
Let's examine the evidence:
Exhibit A:  The Back Cover (see above).  Scared yet?

Exhibit B:  The Music (the VVers have taken one for the team so you don't have to).  Bask in the maelstrom of 80's pop tropes (synths, canned percussion, ear-splitting histrionic singing) that worked moderately well for George Michael, Michael Jackson, Prince, and others... except in this case not nearly so listenable.  The second song on the LP, "Sugar Don't Bite" sounds so much like "Papa Don't Preach" that you'll likely just take this piece of garbage and toss it off your balcony and pop on True Blue instead.  Madonna's worst songs sound better than this cluster.  Turns out Mr. Harris recorded his tune two years prior, so Madonna must have been a fan.  Anything is possible.  From here, too many power ballads slow jam your face into infinity.  Is there more to say about these tunes?  One thing, the version he does of "Over the Rainbow" is without a doubt the most horrifying thing you will ever possibly hear.  Imagine Judy Garland spinning in her grave like a top.

Want to know why Sam Harris is singing "Over the Rainbow" on his debut LP?  Mr. Harris is in fact a product of reality television (not surprising at all) circa 1983 and that was his signature song.  He turns out to be the male vocalist champion of the very first year of Star Search.  Heard of Star Search?  No?  Think American Idol, but instead hosted by Ed McMahon and it's the 80's.  Sounds great, right?

Not to digress... but what about this album art?  Seriously, did nobody try and stop this from happening?  Who actually thought it was a good idea to dress up your singer in a horrifying suit made out of pieces of seven inch gold and silver records?  Not to mention the silver glitter Converse All-Stars.  I mean, you've got to earn that level of bad Mr. Harris.  But you!  You just decided it was ok to go there.  How many people lost their jobs because of this album?  Think of the children!  Stop shouting!!!

Exhibit C:  The Front Cover.  He's got a tone arm attached to his lapel.  How many turntables were harmed to make this suit Mr. Harris?  HOW MANY!?!
Exhibit D:  The inner sleeve.
This f&@#(g guy.
Looks kind of cool in black and white, but the mullet...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Austin, TX and New Orleans, LA

WARNING: The Vinyl Vagabonds normally try to keep their blogs short and to the point, but here ahead of you lies a blast of mighty blather about two of the mightiest music cities in this here union of ours.  Proceed with caution and factor in at minimum one snack break.

Venture along with the Vinyl Vagabonds as they travel far from home in an attempt to conquer two storied musical hotbeds.  Interested?  Then you should know that the initial reason for the trip was to visit friends in Austin and to finally go to Austin Psych Fest (renamed this year to Levitation).  It seemed appropriate to throw in a few days in the not-so-nearby musical mecca of New Orleans while in that part of the world.  Right?

While the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest was not in any way the impetus for visiting New Orleans, the last day of the eight day mega-fest conveniently coincided with the first day of vacation.  Were they going to skip the opportunity to check out one of the highest regarded festivals in the world?  With tickets, hats, and sunscreen in-hand, the VVers ventured out to the enormous festival.  The VVers were also equipped with a slew of insider info (where the toilets with AC are located and thoroughly vetted music recommendations) from a friend with years of Jazz Fest under her belt.  But on to the music already!  First up was a stroll towards the guitar riffage of Anders Osborne for a muscular set, jammed with appreciators of that which is called rock n' roll.  Who the VVers really wanted to see though were funk originators, The Meters, mainly because they had "Cissy Strut" stuck in their heads since getting into NOLA.  The local New Orleans legends, who also played the very first Jazz Fest in 1970,  brought the real deal sounds along with a key guest spot from uncle, Cyril Neville, their top notch "hype-man."  Rounding out the afternoon was joyously on-point Kermit Ruffins' with a spot-on tribute to Louis Armstrong.  You've never seen so many smiles in your life!  Closing up shop was the unparalleled shredding of Buddy Guy, who, by the way, still shreds with complete mastery.  The VVers bow deeply to his superior crushingness.  In reflection, Jazz Fest is huge, with over ten stages built around an entire racetrack footprint.  The VVers caught bits and pieces of several other wild and wooly acts, not even coming close to covering all of that ground.  It's easy to see why New Orleans Jazz Fest might overwhelm you with it's abundance of top notch culture, food, art, and spirit... not to mention the great music.  Wowzers.

Next up, NOLA records stores.  Thanks to The Vinyl District's app, Louisiana Music Factory and Skully'z were easily found in, and adjacent to, the French Quarter.  LMF on Frenchman St. has a monolithic selection of jazz and local music while the tiny Skully'z on a quiet section of Bourbon Street had a stellar hodge-podge of just about everything else.  Michael at Skully'z shot the breeze with VVer #1 about the music scene in NOLA and recommended a totally random local LP from garage rockers ... (Well this is embarrassing, but VVer #1 filed this hand-stenciled LP into the collection and has since misplaced it, not remembering the name of the group.  Is it possible the VVers have too many records?  Haha!  The devil with you!).  Easily the most impressive shop, however, was Euclid Records, which came recommended from the drummer of New Orleans band, Buck Biloxi and the F*cks, that VVer #1 happen to meet pre-travel.  Just a stitch up the river, Euclid Records is housed in a huge pink building that is as equally stocked to the gills, as it is well curated.  The upstairs is almost entirely devoted to 12" singles and 45s (organized by record label as opposed to alphabetically or by genre).   VVer #1 was able to pick up some recent limited edition Record Store Day releases such as the Live Harvest from Blitzen Trapper and one "REJECTED BY RECORD STORE DAY" (at least that's what the sticker said) by Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All-Stars.  You could easily spend a day in this amazing shop and not feel in the least bit guilty for the time well spent.

A word about Frenchman St. and the near constant street music scene in and around the French Quarter.  All the time, and without warning, musicians will just strike up a show in the middle of the street or a sidewalk.  While this is great it can also be very disorienting.  Many times the VVers were just strolling to and fro and a crowd would just form around a random marching band.  Blues singers, Americana trios, whatever and whenever.  Moral of the story: it is impossible to not hear impressive live music in NOLA; you cannot escape it!

[Intermission:  Go get a brew and some pretzels and mustard.]

The VVers embarked on the long road trip between NOLA and Austin.  The supposed seven hour drive took closer to twelve as the VVers admired the lush bayou scenery and took in a leisurely lunch in Baton Rouge.  They even caught half a zydeco concert at the most decked-out visitor center ever, a short distance from the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, where they went in search of crocodiles.  Ironically, after this wildlife excursion and back on the road, VVer #2 snuck a Facebook check that suddenly gave reason to make haste to Austin.  Crocodiles, one of the VVers favorite bands, posted that they were playing at downtown club Holy Mountain.  WHAAA?  The VVers canceled plans to go to the Alamo Drafthouse Weird Wednesday, made a very short guest house check-in, and raced to the venue just in time to catch the band manning the merch table pre-show!  The VVers got to gush a bit, chat, find out the guitarist grew up not too far from VVer homebase, and buy new album BOYS on vinyl (and get it signed, SWEET).  Best of all, there was a personalized shout out to the VVers "from New Orleans" during the stellar set.  The VVers shout you out Crocodiles!!!

The next day the our travelers devoured some Torchy's breakfast taco's whilst en route to Antone's Record Shop just north of the University of Texas on Guadalupe (which is phonetically not pronounced an-twons on guad-a-loop-eh).  VVer #2 was in search of a Rolling Stone's cover of Chuck Berry song, "Around and Around" as material for an upcoming DJ set.  After confusion set in (probably from a week of constant live music and records), she got mixed-up with another Chuck Berry cover, "Come On" which turned up on the German import compilation record, Bravo.  She convinced herself that was the song she was searching for.  After a strong recommendation and some background education on the quality of German pressings from the extremely knowledgeable clerk (Antone?) about if this weirdo album was worth it, the record made its way into the VVer's luggage.  No regrets here, it's a great album with a few rare cuts on it.  One record, two records, three records... AH HA HAH.  Would it shock anyone to read that the VVers booked a house to stay in Austin mainly for the reason that there was a record player?  This should surprise no one.  The collection of vinyl was quickly on the up-tick.

Back to the original reason for the trip, Levitation (Austin Psych Fest) located on (muddy) Carson Creek Ranch along the Colorado River.  Started by local Austin heroes, the Black Angels, this year's line-up included enough amazing bands that the VVers made the right choice to go for at least two of the three days.  The three stages each served their purpose: the Reverberation Stage hosted main acts, the Levitation Tent got the heavier acts (and spectacle of live light show/art projections), and the Elevation Amphitheater got the chiller bands.  Even when there were conflicting acts (not many), the stages were arranged in such a way that you could easily catch the beginning of one and end of another with a short walk between.  All this on top of decorated trees and swings, incredible food trucks, traveling artisan's, and local merch vendors.  Need more vinyl?  VVer #1 managed to find WonderTwin Records, a vendor from Ohio selling tons of reasonably priced, old Sub Pop 45s for cheap.  EEEEEE!

Light projections in the Levitation Tent
Live, colored-dye stage projections
Enough distractions!  Highlights from Saturday, the second day of the fest: local band The Well; the girl-trio LA Witch, fuzzy-rockers Creepoid; tuneful Las Robertas, and seminal Scotish group The Jesus and Mary Chain.  After midnight, during The Jesus and Mary Chain set, the VVer #2 turned to #1 and whispered that "Just Like Honey" was the first song all day that she recognized!  This is the beauty of well-curated festivals; all-day music to check out unknowns and just get down with the experience.
Creeping Creepoid during their tent set

The Myrrors mesmerizing set on the Elevation Amphitheater
Half of the bands for Sunday's line-up were more well known entities.  Of those that weren't, the semi-atonal Los Mundos hailing Mexico; the emo-grunge Nothing; and German instrumentalists Samsara Blues Experiment, were stand-outs.  Up next were The Myrrors of Arizona.  A few months prior, VVer #1 won a copy of their second LP Arena Negra from The Vinyl District.  The record got frequent spins in the lead-up to the fest, so the VVers were eager to check them out live.  The Myrrors set was a slow-burn of building evil instrumentation which completely entranced the crowd (maybe it was the drugs?).  Headliners the Black Angels put on their typical great show as the skies darkened.  The fifty year reunion of the 13th Floor Elevators followed.  This was more than just an important slice of music history that deserves some extra attention.  The Elevators (the namesake of the festival) are fronted by musical mystery-man Roky Erikson who has been on the long road of recovery in living with mental illness.  He's put out a slew of very weird records over the years, but to see him kick it with his original band and to do it with gusto and at such a fest... mind melt.

APTBS crushing it
As if this wasn't enough, A Place to Bury Strangers absolutely annihilated the tent stage.  Literally, they were throwing guitars in the air (almost taking out their drummer) and smashing half their gear, all while their destructive reverberating sound continued.  Lead singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann then managed to crowd surf to a hidden trove of other gear sneakily set up in the crowd to then play their encore from in the center of the swarm.  INSANITY!  A quick stroll over to Flaming Lips territory was all it took to realize it was time to call it quits as there is just no way to top that level of mayhem.

One last note from the fest is that artists and vendors were mingling through the crowd.  One such vendor offered to sell VVer #1 his hand-cut Flaming Lips limited edition three-holed EP for fifty bucks.  Haha, this thing looked insane and it actually drove VVer #1 temporarily insane so that he chewed the guy out for a minute about hawking overpriced merch.  As cooler heads prevailed, the kindly fellow (who happened to have his own record label, PIAPTK) broke out some cheaper crafts for the VVers to ogle.  One such craft was an "analog-digital hybrid" by local act, American Monoxide, that is a turntable friendly CD.  You read that right, the CD plays on both a turntable and in a traditional CD player.  Apparently it's magic.

Final Day of the Trip (still in Austin):
VV booster, "Mr. Dustin the Amazing" kindly took a half day at the office so he could take our twice fested and weary travelers on a curated afternoon tour of Austin's best vinyl shops.  They first hit Piranha Records which was pretty far out into the north hinterlands.  The large shop had so many rows of all sorts of stuff (shoelaces, mix CDs, posters, etc.) that it took a while to even get to the rows of new and used vinyl.  Noteworthy purchases: Puscifer's What is... and Shocking Blue's self titled LP.  Next up was End of an Ear which vied for the title of best overall store on the entire trip.  This spot, a bit South of the river, had mountains of well organized and unusual vinyl to sift through and several nice listening stations.  The staff was easy going and made the extra effort where it counted.  Most of the psych band's merch was well sold out post-fest, but VVer #2 managed to get an EP by one of the standouts from Levitation, Los Mundos, Dios es Fuzz.  Breakaway Records was the last stop.  This place was really unique in that it heavily featured 45s and some incredibly rare stuff.  They did a fantastic job of noting on the little paper sleeves little things about some of the more obscure albums, such as "Houston garage rock oddity," so you had an iota of info about what you were holding.  While our heroes were going hog wild, Dustin the Amazing picked up a mirrored, embellished LP labeled Orion, Ryan Adam's heavy metal concept album.  Score for Dustin the Amazing!  As if these travelers didn't have enough weight in their bags, Amanda the Amazing threw in a record she found at a sale a few weeks prior: Ace of Base single Don't Turn Around, which was mostly an inside joke.  Never seen that on vinyl until that moment; add it to the bag.

Waiting in the airport for the flight home, the VVers took a last sip of freedom at a pub near their gate.  More music ensured as a singer/songwriter started up a set of originals and covers.  These Austin cats just do not kid around.

It is worth a mention that every record store visited in New Orleans and Austin was littered with people in the middle of the day, weekday, weekend, evening.  People supporting local stores in force.  That is refreshing.  Final vinyl tally for the trip was 14 LPs and 14 45s.  Well done!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vinyl Vagabonds DJ Set at B'nG

To round out the trifecta of Vinyl Vagabonds music sets at Bump 'N Grind...

Friday, June 5th 7pm - 9pm
The Vinyl Vagabonds Take Your Request Night (HAHA, PSYCH!)
A night of psychedelic music for your soul.  Silly, the VVers don't take requests.

This is a free, metro-walkable, all ages, cosmically-relevant music night at Silver Spring's newest (and only) record/coffee shop.  Also, they have an awesome staff, fine adult beverages, and delicious foods for eating.  YES!

Bump 'N Grind
1200 East West Highway,
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Be there!
  Stuff you probably already know:  
The Vinyl Vagabonds (who are Eric and Sara) is a music and art focused project inspired by the medium of vinyl records, going strong for over six years!  They like all kinds of music and are prone to play just about anything.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five - The Message - 1982

Primarily purchased for title track "The Message," there are other reasons to listen to this LP, and some reasons not to ever, ever, ever.  First, if you are reading this here blog, the VVers have confidence that you know "The Message" and don't have to indulge.  It is epic, with lyrics and beats that have been sampled over and over in the three decades since its release.  "It's like a jungle sometimes / It makes me wonder how I keep from going under."  For the first time, social commentary enters hip-hop; no longer just party/dance anthems a la the disco era.  Get reacquainted with "The Message," it handily surpasses your memory of the song.

Good reasons to listen to the rest of this LP:
"She's Fresh" starts with some energetic horns followed by some sweet synths over their name call-outs.  "Sock it sock it so I can sock it to ya!"  Most of these lyrics have been sampled a million times, but generally they are just plain bad.  "You're supposed to be on the dance floor not thinking about it," says VVer #1.

Next track, "It's Nasty," may just have you completely forget what you're listening to because it starts with a straight lift from Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love."  That sampled track, from only a year prior is prominently featured throughout this one.  "It's Nasty" manages to conjure Funkadellic with some disco and talking/laughing overdub.  This works well while also incorporating some pretty legit individual solos in a proto-Wu Tang style: everyone gets a solid verse and shout-out.

It's like hip-hop discovered the vocodor for the first time in "Scorpio."  This one is just completely relentless.  Vocodor!!!  Super computerized vocals with an abundance of laser-beams blasting your brains to putty leads to uncontrollable weird break dancing.  The dancing can't be stopped, but you may want to stop the music before this track is over to save your ass from getting hit by a laser-beam being shot out of your speakers.  Pyow pyow ZAPPP!

The Bad:
"It's a Shame" is mediocre.  It isn't good; the clap-track and weak singing really hold this one back.  There are some thoughtful lyrics, but meh.

"Dreamin'" and "You Are" start off the B-side and are worthy of a Kurtis Blow B-side.  This is not the sort of thing to be bragging about.  In fact, "Dreamin'" is actually worse than a KB B-side (the VVers almost went directly into a coma listening to it).  Thoughts that come to mind: mute buttons, dying cat, running into rush-hour traffic, testicular cramping.  The crooning on this is stupendous-horrendous.  Apparently, the group's got a monster man-crush on Stevie Wonder because they're "dreamin about you Stevie."  This song is a joke, right?  Why would they keep this on the LP?  GMF + FF: don't you have friends?  Maybe they should have stuck with the EP and skipped these filler tracks that were so common in the early days of the hippity-hop.  Following this up is "You Are": schmaltzy R and B at its worst.

These two tracks singlehandedly made the VVers want to listen to some bad KB B-sides because in comparison, it sheds a new positive light on them.  Were bad B-sides a thing in the early 80s?  VVer #2 wants to take knife to these two tracks so they can never be played again.  What's sad is that they hid "The Message" at the end of side B and you have to listen to all this shit before you get the goods.  Is this a metaphor for their socially conscious "message" that after a lot of bad could come good?  Ugh, furious VVers.  The VVers got the message, which is -- this LP has got to go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DJ Sets at Bump N' Grind Silver Spring

Friday, May 29th 7pm - 9pm
Six Degrees of Separation

The Vinyl Vagabonds will be DJing by way of the six degrees of separation method -- tracing connections between the vast and varied selections from their collection.  Links, such as Run DMC to Aerosmith, might be very obvious while others will lead to some head-scratching, such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to St. Vincent.  Daunting as this all sounds, the VVers know it can be done!

Coming next:
Friday, June 5th 7pm - 9pm
The Vinyl Vagabonds Take Your Request Night (HAHA, PSYCH!)
A night of psychedelic music for your soul.  Silly, the VVers don't take requests.

These are free, metro-walkable, all ages, cosmically-relevant music nights at Silver Spring's newest (and only) record/coffee shop.  Also, they have an awesome staff, fine adult beverages, and delicious foods for eating.  YES!

Bump N' Grind
1200 East West Highway,
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Be there!
  Stuff you probably already know:  
The Vinyl Vagabonds (who are Eric and Sara) is a music and art focused project inspired by the medium of vinyl records, going strong for over six years!  They like all kinds of music and are prone to play just about anything.

"So, uh, how does it work?  Do I just give you my records?"
"Yes, give us your records."

Friday, April 24, 2015


Vinyl Vagabond Apprentice Reporting from NY on Record Store Day Spring 2015

Normally, I turn into a 13 year old girl at a One Direction concert on Record Store Day.  My body tingles, my heart pounds, and my bank account evaporates.  Not so this time as I didn’t absolutely need any of the fancy limited edition special releases that are a hallmark of RSD.  Don’t get me wrong, there were tons of interesting releases this year that I was primed to purchase, but it was not a life or death situation if I did not score any … or so I thought.

A few days before, my New York RSD buddy and I laid out our plan of attack.  We would meet up no later then 6:30 AM at Bleeker Street Records, the most reliable shop in the city.  It was thought, we could hit that great spot and get to another three record stores before most of the best LP’s went bye-bye.

I woke up at 4:50 AM.  As you can tell, on RSD I don’t play around.  I threw on my clothes, jumped on the subway, and got to the record store by 6:10 AM.  Third in line; not bad for a Vagabond Apprentice!  Taped on the window of the yet-to-open record store, was a long list of RSD vinyl they would have available.  While waiting in the ever growing line, I casually made my decisions of what I wanted to buy.  Luckily, the weather was nice, and fellow vinyl addicts were friendly.  Entenmann’s cookies and donut boxes were being passed around making for a pleasant and relaxing morning.  I had a vinyl smile from ear to ear.  A paid record company lady came around giving out bags of mystery goodies. (More on that later.)

Next thing I knew, it was 10 AM, and the store started letting a single-file line through the door.  We were whisked in, navigating through the aisles towards the RSD area, as if we were candy in a Willie Wonka machine.

Since we were scrunched together, I could hear what the two guys before me were buying.  All of a sudden, I noticed they were both purchasing the exact same records I was looking to get.  Even being third on line for RSD can become a problem.  The record companies distribute the limited edition vinyl to record stores randomly and stores can get ten, two, or even ZERO copies of LP’s no matter how many the store orders.  I began to get scared.  It felt like a bucket of ice was poured on my head, my blood started to boil, and murder was on my mind.  What stared as a fancy free morning turned ugly real fast.  I saw these two guys as enemy combatants now.  I MUST HAVE THOSE RECORDS!  If I don’t get what I want, they better leave Manhattan real fast!  In the blink of an eye, it was my turn.  I meekly asked the clerk if they had any more of the LP's I most desired.  Thankfully they had one more of each.  RECORD STORE DAY IS NO JOKE!  I noticed that many of the best LP’s were gone after about fifteen people.  With over 100 people behind me, I thought there was going to be a vinyl riot.  As we left Bleeker Street Records, my buddy told me he still wanted a bunch more records from his list, so we journeyed to the next store, Rebel Rebel, which is a dank, hoarder-mess of a store, but in a charming NYC way.  No large line had started there yet, mainly because everyone was still waiting in line at Bleeker Street Records.  In a jiffy, my friend was able to swoop up the other LPs he was looking for.

Feelings of invincibility quickly faded when we realized we both forgot about the Citizen Dick 7” that we both wanted.  I know what you are thinking: Who is Citizen Dick?  Citizen Dick is the fictitious band in the 90's Cameron Crowe film Singles. The bogus band starred Matt Dillon on vocals and the members of Pearl Jam as his bandmates.  The RSD 7" consisted of one ridiculous song they created, "Touch Me I'm Dick," and the reverse side was an etched quote from Matt Dillon's character in the movie.  Sounds like a must have, doesn't it?   So we trekked to the snooty, stuck-up punk rock store, Generation Records, next, only to find a line of around 50 people.  After about a half hour, there was just one guy in line in front of me.  Guess what happened?  I heard him ask for the Citizen Dick 7” I wanted.  The store clerk told him “You got the last copy bro.”  I was floored.  Record Store Day agony was in full force.  My buddy and I estimated our luck in finding that 7” was fading fast.  We decided to go to one more store, the too-cool-for-school indie hub called Other Music.  As we walked across town, we noticed so many people had vinyl sized record store bags in their hands.  I’m happy to say, it looked like a vinyl parade had spread out all over New York City.  We got to Other Music as quickly as we could, but the 7” was long gone.  It had been just two hours, but we knew the RSD vinyl gold rush was over.  At the end of things we both spent way too many dollar bills.  My friend was now flat broke, and in deep trouble at home, for spending all that money.  I took pity on him and bought him a burger and cheese fries.  An exciting, frothing-at-the-mouth Record Store Day it turned out to be.

Curious about that bag full of promotional RSD stuff?  Was it cool goodies or garbage?  You decide.
  • Flaming Lips, Johnny Marr, Erasure, Royal Blood, Neil Young, Rush, Robert Plant, J. Mascis, Dr. Dog mini posters
  • Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Charli XCX, Death from Above 1979, Grateful Dead Stickers
  • Prince, Alt-J buttons
  • Jenny Lewis patch
    Heart shaped box ... of mints?
  • Muse turntable slipmat
  • Three Gary Clark Jr. guitar picks
  • Arctic Monkeys, Head or Heart temporary tattoos
  • The Raa bottle opener keychain
  • The Whigs refrigerator magnet
  • The Thermals, Justine Skye No. 2 pencils
  • A Plague Vendor coaster
  • A Trevor Jackson bookmark
  • A Lee Brice beer cozy
  • A Goo Goo Dolls coffee clutch
  • A Sarah Silverman comedy album reverse window sticky
  • And lastly, Kylie Minogue breath mints in a red heart shaped plastic pack  (I guess Kylie knew a lot of people were going to forget to brush their teeth on Record Store Day morning, thanks Kylie!)
And with that, Vinyl Vagabond Apprentice is signing off.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Outfitted for the Apocalypse

VVer #1 got out of work a little early and decided to stroll to and through Chinatown.  After a coffee break he got set to hit the metro before the full swing of rush hour.  On a whim he popped his head into the huge Urban Outfitters which is a mere minute from the metro entrance.  Why not check out what the kids are listening to these days?
Ugh, not Journey.  Ralph!

A little background: for years UO has been selling new vinyl and basic all-in-one turntables for the hipster set.  Prices are usually moderate to pricey (except for the extremely rare super-sale).  Selections are often interesting; heavily geared toward hipster and aging hipster alike (not a bad thing, but somewhat limited).  Quite a few years back the VVers picked up the Black Market Clash 10" -- a strange but solid addition to the collection.  UO is always good for a reissue as well.  An example being a not-long-ago purchase of Mr. Bungle California; said Pitchfork "one of those albums that you can't believe a major label had anything to do with."  A bizarre album to find at an UO in VVer #1's former neighborhood mall.  An aside: decades ago, this mall housed no less than three actual music stores.  Now the only place to find any substantial selection of music is the UO, which has filled the void of quasi-music stores similar to Hot Topic, Sears, or Woolworth's (that's going back a lot of years).  If you don't happen to live near one of the few remaining independent record stores, UO and the interwebs are pretty much it.  Most indie stores feature a large used section which affords the visitor to do a significant amount of digging (half of the fun), discovery (the other half), and hobnobbing with other music lovers (essential).  How does UO fit into all of this?  Since they have always stuck to new vinyl and newish artists, much of the records could just as easily be found on Amazon or the like (think Santigold Master of My Make Believe or Tune-Yards Nikki Nack, two examples of purchases by the VVers from UO in the past few years).  Less direct competition for the indie record store which can get wild with variety and keeping that used section flowing with goodies.

You dirty bastards.
Back to the mega-UO in Chinatown which has an equally massive vinyl display.  While this section isn't exactly set up in a user friendly manner it does present very prominently in the shop.  Form over function -- the upper racks are so high up off of the ground that you would either have to be a basketball player or sit on a friend's shoulders to check it out.  That aside it was an interesting passing of the time until VVer #1 spied two new wooden crates on a table, each slab in said crates marked with a massive orange sticker reading "vintage vinyl," i.e., used vinyl.  Used. Frickin'. Vinyl.  What in the name of Wilford Brimley's mustache does UO think they are doing messing with indie record stores bread and butter?  Aghast, VVer #1 proceeded to check out their offerings and it was a joke.  Not only were the prices stupid high, but the selection was just laughable.  One album in particular that really galls is Steve Martin Let's Get Small for thirteen bucks.  Really?  A copy of that can easily be had for a dollar, oh just about anywhere.   Oh well, suppose a sucker is born every minute.  VVer #1 pulls over a manager and politely asks "what's the deal?"  The guy, very nice, doesn't know much about it except that it is a pilot program isolated to just a few UO stores.  Other stores aren't doing it... yet.  He has no idea who is buying the records, where they came from, who prices them, etc.  Seriously UO, you are not allowed to further mess with indie record stores.  Back away from the used vinyl.  Whichever jerk in the UO business office decided this was a good idea; may you please fail miserably.

The VVers tolerate that UO is selling glossy new releases (to an extent), but delving into used vinyl is unacceptable, bandwagony, and horrifying.  This week's edition of Parade (the glossy, pulp-portion of the Sunday edition of the anywhere-USA newspaper) has a full spread on Record Store Day.  Why are the VVers not dancing the watussi about this?  The article doesn't say a whiff about a single actual record store (and proceeds to interview Barry Manilow and the likes; the VVers disapprove).  Mainstream stores, such as UO, and mainstream press continue in ignorance of the vital part of what makes music interesting, irreplaceable, and community-oriented.  Long live indie record stores!

RSD is this Saturday, April 18th.  Most shops, in addition to having extended hours and fancy special limited releases, also will have other fun things like live music, contests, freebies, used vinyl sales, etc.  The store closest to the VVers usually has free coffee and donuts as well as a store-wide sale.  For a solid list of stores, check here.  Most importantly, make it a point to go to your neighborhood record store and embrace it for all its friendly, knowledgeable, un-corporate glory!  If these stores are passed-over, all that will be left is the UO at the mall and Amazon.  Prepare for the apocalypse.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

DJing at Bump N' Grind is Now a Thing

Yes, there is a pizza record.  Yes, it will be played.  Yes, your mind is blown.
The VVers are at it again for three Fridays in the next three months.
From 7pm - 9pm they'll be rockin' the private stash of rare and tasty vinyl. The new zine (#6 Monster Edition) will be for sale, which is also in fact rare and tasty and probably more edible than any of our records because zines are made of paper which is organic and won't kill you.  Hooray!

April 17th 
Record Store Day Eve (yes the date was purposefully picked!)
Pulling from the many wild, weird, and wonderful RSD purchases

May 29th

June 5th
The VVers Take Your Request Night (HAHA, not really)

These are free, metro-walkable, all ages, cosmically relevant music nights at Silver Spring's newest (and only) record/coffee shop.  Also, they have an awesome staff, fine adult beverages, and delicious foods for eating.  YES!

Bump N' Grind
1200 East West Highway,
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

You outta be there!
  You probably know this already, but just in case your mind is still blown from the whole pizza record thing ... the Vinyl Vagabonds (who are Eric and Sara) is a music and art focused project inspired by the medium of vinyl records, going strong for sixish years!  They like all kinds of music and are prone to play just about anything.

"So, uh, how does it work?  Do I just give you my records?"
"Yes, give us your records."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Strangers No More

It's pretty rare to hear a recording so amazing that the live act seems to pale in comparison.  Especially for loud, heavy bands, the experience of seeing said band crushing it (your face) on tour can be transformative.  Recently when the VVers went to Baltimore's Metro Gallery to see Brooklyn's A Place to Bury Strangers things were more in the reverse.  This is not a slight to the band (having only seen them once live) and instead has shed new light to how truly impressive their recorded work is.

The VVers have more than a few platters by these guys, but it is their second album, the titanic Exploding Head, first introduced by Brother VV as a gift, that has spawned such musical affection.  Even though drenched in feedback, the production values on Exploding Head (and most of the APTBS records, for that matter) are fantastic.  It's hard to get enough of that signature APTBS sound: crisp, echoey, devastating.  Exploding Head is a frenetic batch of songs with sonics so over the top that by the end it's not hard to imagine the recording studio being blasted off of the map.  Even more amazing is how the mix of sharp drums and direct guitar riffs easily sticks in your head.  That's right, high speed noise-rock that is catchy.  Exploding Head is on crystal-clear vinyl and the band often does a respectable job pressing their vinyl on fun colors; Strange Moon is bright tie-dye yellow and the new single is translucent blue (read on)!

Back to the aforementioned concert in Baltimore, VVer #2 spied some highly unusual looking vinyl at the merch table and had to claim it as her own.  The packaging contains the equivalent of a solid quarter-inch thick metal trivet (this thing is really heavy!) for a front cover of the 45.  The single "We've Come So Far" is from APTBS' new album, Transfixiation.  It is a moody track that briefly enters the realm of radio friendly, but that thought is quickly atomized by the instrumental pulverizing that ensues.  Singer Oliver Ackermann takes an impressive vocal journey with female vocalist Emilie Lium Vordal through speeding guitars and CHAOS!  It is a fine melding of relatively calm vocals overlaid with serious reverb.  Somewhere mid-way dissonance overwhelms melody into disintegration, to reform back again just in time for the close of the track.  Yes, thar be serious loudness here, but it be quite pleasing to the spleen.  The sleeve notes indicate it was recorded for a cooperative in Etne, Norway.  Good job Norge on loving crazy music; the VVers have been to Norway and approve.  Hah!  On the B-side, "Resistance" combines patient industrial mayhem on what, at first listen, sounds like a purely instrumental track.  Credits to vocals beg another few listens.  The singing in question, which is 99% muffled that the lyrics might as well be about anything.  It's as if the vocals are transmitted over a CB, then beamed to Mars, and back again to be played over the speakers in a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.  Enter drums like thundering machine guns and done.  APTBS keeps this track short as it's more or less a fragment, but not in a bad way.   Nice tour purchase for VVer #2!

The VVers have plans to see APTBS in the near future at Austin Psych Fest, "Levitation."  The venues couldn't be more different: tiny club in Baltimore and giant outdoor festival in Austin. Fingers crossed that they play a night set and bring "the goods."  The Vinyl Vagabonds will be there; earplugs at the ready and eagerly looking for the merch table.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Six Street Vagabonds

VVer #1 was rolling solo out from a concert at the Black Cat the other night and out of the corner of his eye spotted a small stack of vagabond vinyl sitting against a nearby wall.  Since the Black Cat show had no vinyl for sale (boohoo), he had a little jonesing for the stuff.  "Sad vinyl out in the cold, it is I who will rescue you!"  In the dark it was hard to tell what was what, but it was definitely vinyl.  Here is what he found:

Rimsky-Korsakoff Scheherzade, Montreux Conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
This platter is loaded with all manor of flourishes.  Soft violins and flutes over gentle percussion lead to bombastic wind gusts of power.  Classy classic classical.  Though the VVers are by no means experts on classical, they know what they like and this is it.  Description on the back sleeve of Montreux as "the dean of living conductors," completing this recording at the age of eighty-six!  Welcome to the collection.

Bonnie Raitt Sweet Forgiveness 1977
This LP gets off to a "not entirely displeasing" start with two super bluesy numbers, the most interesting of which is a cutting rendition of the 50's Del Shannon hit "Runaway."  Things get sappy from here and little into gospel territory.  Ick.  Side B has a similar unevenness.  The title track is a touch sentimental, but ... "I don't know what my tolerance is for any more of this yelping," says VVer #2.  Thankfully, "Three Time Loser" and "Takin' My Time" both have more swagger and the second of the two tracks surprisingly goes briefly into epic "November Rain" territory.

Anne Murray Love Song 1974 Wow, this is not the sort of music that ever gets played in the house of VV.  Is it bad?  No, not really.  Ms. Murray has a rich, calming voice.  The music is soothing, mellow, slightly country, and no.  No.  The VVers don't really do this sort of thing.  "BLAH BLAH BLAH WHOO WHOO AGH!" said VVer #2, the sound of a dying wombat.

Charlie Rich Behind Closed Doors 1973
Basically the same album, but with a lot more dude.  The first two tracks on this one were so badly scraped that they cannot be played.  This may indeed turn out to be a blessing.  In this case, the less music, the better.  The back cover write-up is so ridiculously over the top about Mr. Rich, it is to the point of deification.

Don't do it Bonnie!
Bonnie Raitt Home Plate 1975
Ms. Raitt gets another chance here and just from the first glance at album cover things don't bode well.  Such a hokey pose Ms. Raitt.  VVer #2 is shocked that this is a cover for an album.  Horrible.  The music however starts off well.  The sound is a pleasing blend of funk, jazz, and blues with a decent amount of moxy stirred into the brew.  Ms. Raitt probably brought the house down at the small clubs.  This sort of music rarely makes the cut in the House of VV, but it's impossible to deny that Ms. Raitt has vocal chops for miles and a healthy slice of soul to boot.  Too bad most of it is kind of boring.  YER OUTTA HERE!

Orchestra Harlow Heavy Smokin' 1966
Whoa, what's going on in here?  This cover really is kind of scary.  Looking at the vinyl is also scary.  It looks like hell.  It looks like somebody attacked it with a sandwich full of gravel.  VVer #1 assumed it couldn't even be played, but surprisingly, with a significant amount of cleaning, it played nine of the twelve tracks with minimal skippage.  Heavy Smokin' is an enjoyable salsa album.  While it isn't exactly "heavy," "smokin'," or remarkable (except for the cover), "it isn't terrible" exclaimed VVer #2.  And like a puff of smoke, gone.

Moral of the story for picking up a stack of random vinyl off the side of the road; have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised if one is a keeper.  Enjoy crappy records for all their crappiness, then toss them back onto the side of the road for another vagabonder to discover, or a squirrel to go sledding on.