Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tartanpodcast Closes Up Shop

When I first got into listening to podcasts a few years back, Mark Hunter's Tartanpodcast was one of the first that I heard and subscribed to. Hunter's mission was to play what he considered the best in independant music written, played, and produced in Scotland. Sadly (for listeners, anyway) Hunter has decided to end the show.

The Tartanpodcast was clearly a labor of love, and Hunter managed to produce it weekly (as well as a more international podcast, the Mellow Monday Show) pretty much every week. Obviously, it was a lot of work to do the shows, in addition to holding down a full-time job and being a family man. Hunter is continuing to produce the Mellow Monday Show, with a different host.

Here's the comment I posted on Mark Hunter's blog after hearing that the Tartanpodcast had come to an end.

"Mark, I’ve enjoyed the podcast immensely almost since the beginning, so I’m sorry to see it end. But I can understand your reasons. A podcast is very demanding to create and produce. And even in a place as musically rich as Scotland, there’s only so much good-quality music to enable a weekly show to be produced, without repeating the same songs and artists over and over.
I hope you’ll consider doing an occasional Tartanpodcast once in a while, when the mood moves you and when you find you’ve accumulated enough new music that you find you’re excited about. Glad to hear Mellow Monday is continuing.
Thanks for all the great music!"

You can still listen to and download Tartanpodcast episodes here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Midtown NYC Gets New Live Rock Venue

Amid all the bad news about live rock music venues in New York City closing down, here's a bit of good news: a new concert space that holds 3,000 is set to open in midtown in October.

Terminal 5, as it will be called, is run by Bowery Presents, the same organization that puts on shows at Bowery Ballroom and Webster Hall, and is behind the recently opened Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Bowery Presents says that Terminal 5 (formerly the Exit dance club) is "the largest midtown venue to open in more than ten years."

Terminal 5 will be at 610 West 56th Street between 11th and 12th Aves.

So who's playing there? I got an email from Bowery Presents that mentions a number of shows at all their venues, including Terminal 5. Here's the "starting lineup" of live gigs for the latter:

11: The National
19: M.I.A.
20: Justice
23-24: The Shins with Vetiver

1-2: The Decemberists
23: State Radio with The Beautiful Girls
30 - 12/1: Ween

Tickets for these shows will go on sale this Friday, August 17th or the next day at Ticketmaster. (I'm assuming you can also buy them at the Mercury Lounge, 214 E. Houston Street, but check the Bowery Presents Web site (below) for details.

Sounds like Terminal 5 will get off to a great start with that slate of shows. It's always good to have more live rock concert locations in the City... especially in places that are near mass transit or at least a short cab ride away.

Bowery Presents Web site:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Thermals Heat Up Maxwell's

Portland, Oregon's The Thermals rocked a sellout show at Maxwell's in Hoboken Friday night, August 10th, even sparking a minor mosh pit at a couple of points. (This can be a somewhat unsettling event in a small room that holds only a couple hundred people.)

The trio, which calls its music "post-pop-punk," put on a set of relentlessly loud, fast, catchy tunes, including "Here's Your Future, "A Stare Like Yours," and "Pillar of Salt." The band's Web site says "The Thermals are well known for their joyously punishing live shows," and after seeing them, it's hard to disagree.

The combination of Hutch Harris (guitar and vocals), Kathy Foster (bass), and Lorin Coleman (drums) make a wonderfully tuneful racket. While it's not always easy to catch what Harris is singing, there's often a sharp-edged commentary on the world and society. The band's Web site says that their latest full-length, "The Body, The Blood, The Machine" (produced by Brendan Canty of Fugazi), is about "a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians." A couple of times Harris held up his guitar to show the crowd a message pasted on it that seemed to say "This machine kills fascists" — the same phrase that Woody Guthrie had written on his folk guitar.

As a big fan of music podcasts, I must note that it was podcasts where I first heard of The Thermals and their music. The IndieFeed podcasts, which feature daily downloads of one free track accompanied by a bit of description about the artist, introduced me to "Here's Your Future," I heard "A Stare Like Yours" on the defunct Free Radio Sub Pop, and a video podcast I used to follow featured a live performance of "Pillar of Salt."

After their show at Maxwell's, The Thermals are playing to a much bigger crowd today at Brooklyn's McCarren Park Pool, on a bill with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. That show should pack in about five or six thousand people, and should win The Thermals some new fans.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Get Concert Dates with a Free iTunes Plug-In

Here's a great idea... this free download surveys the artists in your iTunes Library and shows you, in iTunes, when they're coming into your town (and other towns too, if you're traveling).

This personalized calendar is called iConcertCal, is available for both Windows and Mac OS X, and supports worldwide searches.

The recently released Version 2.0 provides a calendar of upcoming album release dates for artists in your library, links to pre-order upcoming albums, calendar sharing with friends, highlighting of shows you're most interested in.

I like it and find it pretty useful. I'd find it even more useful if I used it more often, but I keep forgetting it's there.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Reunited Squeeze Delights New York Audience

From Rage Against the Machine to The Police, this has been one of the biggest years for rock-band reunions in some time. This is not always a good thing, of course, but in the case of Squeeze it worked well.

Last night at New York City's Beacon Theater they played an hour and a half set that kicked off with "Take Me, I'm Yours" and briskly browsed through the band's most popular tunes. Consisting of originals Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, John Bentley on bass (who was with the band in the early '80s, and players from Tilbrook's touring band on keyboards and drums, Squeeze seemed to be genuinely enjoying the reunion concert.

The one complaint I had (or maybe it's more than one) was that the show was maybe a little too brisk. There was minimal chatter with the audience, and when one song ended the band launched right into the next one. And since most Squeeze songs are quite short, the tunes just flew by, which brings up another thing: I'd wished the band would have expanded some of their songs, playing longer solos or adding new elements. Basically the songs sounded just as they did on the original LPs (yes, Squeeze's heyday was back in the age of vinyl).

But it was definitely an enjoyable show, and the rest of the crowd was eating it up. And unlike many concerts I've been to with bands from the '70s or '80s, in which the audience was full of gray-haired baby boomers, this one had a large number of people in their 20s or 30s. I guess Squeeze's brand of bright uptempo pop has a lot of fans among the younger generations.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Michelle Shocked, Toshi Reagon in Free New York Show

The free summer concerts just a-keep on comin' in New York City. Last night Korn gave a free show at South Street Seaport; tonight the legendary Mavis Staples performs downtown as well, and there's more.

The folks at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater have just announced some free shows (and for-pay ones) at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, home of the Shakespeare in the Park festival (complete schedule). A free concert on Friday, Sept. 28 will feature Michelle Shocked, 
Toshi Reagon & BIGLovely, and John Boutte. And the week before the series will feature a 40th anniversary concert of the groundbreaking musical "Hair," which included a lot of great music.

Here are some of the shows that are NOT free, but sound good nonetheless:
Lesley Gore, Jill Sobule, and The New Standards 

Patty Griffin, Allen Toussaint, and the CMA Songwriters Series 

Beirut, Balkan Beat Box, and NY Gypsy All-Stars 
Presented in association with The NY Gypsy Festival 

The Delacorte Theater is a beautiful venue for concerts; I saw a fantastic show there a few years ago featuring Jonatha Brooke and Suzanne Vega. I'm definitely going to try to go to a couple of the shows above.