Wednesday, October 31, 2007

R.I.P. Linda Stein: Former Punk Rock Manager Murdered in NYC

Linda Stein, a key figure in punk rock history as a manager of acts like the Ramones, was murdered, the NYC medical examiner has said.

Stein's body was found in her home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Tuesday by her daughter. Stein was formerly married to Seymour Stein, at one time the president of Sire Records, which was the original record label for bands including the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Madonna.

Stein was co-manager of the Ramones, and she's credited with bringing the Ramones to England for a July 4, 1976 show, which is often called the start of the punk rock scene in Britain.

In recent years she was a real estate agent, where she was called "Broker to the Stars" because of her many clients in the entertainment business. Her clients included Madonna and Sting.

Her profile at Prudential Elliman, the real estate company she worked for, is rather modest in referring to her previous careers, saying simply, "She taught elementary school for six years and managed rock and roll bands in the 1970's and 1980's."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wendy O. Williams Makes a Comeback..But NOT with TV's "Heroes" Cheerleader

After a lot of rumors, reported today that Hayden Panettiere, who plays the cheerleader on TV's hit show, "Heroes," will not play legendary punk-metal singer Wendy O. Williams in a new biopic about her band, The Plasmatics. The movie is said to begin filming in March 2008.

This middle-aged punk-rock fan will be glad to see Wendy O. Williams and her band are getting more exposure in front of today's music listeners. Punk rock was all about rebellion, but even in that genre The Plasmatics were pushing boundaries.

They had a large and loyal following, and were a punk rock band that could sell out concert venues that previously only more established bands were able to fill. Their music was loud and hard, and their live shows were famously audacious: Williams and the band (who often sported Mohawk haircuts) would cut guitars up with chainsaws, explode their speakers, smash TVs with sledgehammers, and on more than one occasion, bring a car on stage to blow it up.

Then there was Wendy O. Williams herself. She usually performed (and was often photographed) completely topless, with only small pieces of black electrician's tape covering the nipples to avoid censorship.

That wasn't enough to keep The Plasmatics out of trouble, though. Their wild stage act, which often included Williams simulating one or other sex act, got the band charged with numerous obscenity raps. Wendy O. Williams was arrested in Milwaukee in 1981 and was beaten after she allegedly resisted arrest.

Williams was nominated for a Grammy in 1985 for best Female Rock Vocal.
Wendy O. Williams recorded some solo albums after The Plasmatics broke up, but is said to have become increasingly unhappy with her life, and committed suicide in 1998.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spooky Spanish Pop Music for the Day of the Dead and Halloween

UPDATE, Oct. 31st, 2014: L.A. radio station KCRW has put together a Dia de los Muertos/Halloween Playlist that you can stream on Spotify or listen to on YouTube. It includes spooky tracks from Kinky, Ozomatli, Los Carniceros Del Norte, and more. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you're marking Halloween or the Spanish occasion Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), you might want some tasty Spanish-language pop and rock music to accompany the festivities.

Ritmo Latino, the self-styled "booty-shaking" podcast that offers a fun variety of Spanish-language tunes, has once against put together a collection of tunes for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. Some are spooky and Halloween-themed; others touch on the Day of the Dead or just have a supernatural feel.

[UPDATE: Sadly, the Ritmo Latino podcast is no more, and the Day of the Dead music files are no longer on the Internet. However, the radio program Alt-Latino has an article with 11 scary Spanish songs for Day of the Dead (and descriptions of some spooky stories).]

Here's the Ritmo Latino playlist, if you want to track down the songs and create your own playlist:
  • Upground, "Suerte de Mi Muerte"
  • Grupo Fantasma, "Chocolate"
  • Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser, "Miedo"
  • Los Peyotes, "El Humo Te Hace Mal"
  • Misterio, "Vampirella"
  • Conjunto Jardin, "La BrujaƦ
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, "Diablo Rojo"
  • La Bruja, "BrujeriaƦ
Have fun, dance along, and don't eat too much candy corn.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mac OS 10.5 Leopard (OS X) Reviews and Info

Mac OS 10.5 Leopard came out yesterday, and there are plenty of reviewers busy kicking the tires. And they're almost unanimous in liking the experience.

Walt Mossberg, the highly respected personal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has tried out Apple's new operating system and writes about it on the All Things Digital Web site. Mossberg finds that Mac OS 10.5 is "evolutionary, not revolutionary," but is faster and easier to use than Microsoft's new operating system, Vista. (No surprise there; most Windows users who've upgraded to Vista would rather be back on Windows XP.)

Mossberg offers a good overview, but if you're a tech fan who really wants to get under the hood of MacOS 10.5 Leopard, check out the detailed review from Computerworld. It looks at Leopard's new Finder, improved apps like iChat and Mail, and running Mac and Windows under Boot Camp.

Computerworld also offers an extensive photo gallery of screenshots from Mac OS 10.5 Leopard.

Friday, October 26, 2007

NJ's Own Bon Jovi Opens New Prudential Center in Newark

New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi opened the Prudential Center in Newark with the first of the band's 10 shows in the brand-new arena last night.

Tomorrow night, the NHL's New Jersey Devils will play their first game in their new permanent home. "The Rock," as the new arena is being called, will also be the home arena for the Seton Hall University basketball team (from nearby South Orange), and a team in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

For the Prudential Center, the first major sports arena built in the tri-state area in a quarter century, the Bon Jovi shows are giving a jump-start to the opening of the new center. The Prudential Center has a number of high-profile rock and pop concerts scheduled for its opening weeks, including Mary J. Blige, R.Kelly, the raised-from-the-dead Spice Girls, and two shows featuring the hottest concert ticket in the country, Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus.

The 10-night opening stand by Bon Jovi reminds me of a similar inauguration by a Jersey artist more than a quarter-century ago, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played multiple nights to open the new Meadowlands Arena (now to be called Izod Arena, formerly Continental Airlines Arena, formerly Brendan Byrne Arena).

Is this the long-awaited revival of downtown Newark? It may just be, with the slate of sporting events and concerts bringing a diverse crowd to the City. The Performing Arts Center, which features mostly classical music brings in a specific type of audience, as does the Newark Bears minor-league baseball team.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free Download: Tribute to R.E.M.'s "Automatic for the People"

It makes me feel really old to admit it, but it's been 15 years since R.E.M.'s classic album "Automatic for the People" came out.
Now the music blog Stereogum is offering a tribute album to "Automatic for the People" called "Drive XV."

The free album download includes songs covered by artists including the Meat Puppets, Rogue Waves, Dr. Dog, Jana Hunter, You Say Party! We Say Die!, and the Shout Out Louds.

Did I mention, it's FREE?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Rocks the Garden in His Return to NYC

With his detours into the solo-oriented approach of "Devils and Dust" and the folky big-band sound of his Seeger Sessions project, it had been five years since Bruce Springsteen had been to New York City with a full E Street Band performance.

With his return to the City at Madison Square Garden last Wednesday night, he and the E Streeters seemed to pick up right where they left off back in 2002's tour to support "The Rising." If anything, this show was overall more uptempo and raucus than anything Bruceand the boys had done in a numberof years, due to the new album "Magic" being Springsteen's hardest-rocking effort in quite a while.

As with his last few albums, this new one considers things like getting older and looking back, and the message was brought home by watching the proceedings on stage. While Bruce and the boys still put on a high-energy two-hour show, he's definitely slowed down a bit since the tour for "The Rising." During shows on that tour he grabbed onto his mic stand and pulled himself up parallel to the stage at one point, and at another time range the length of the stage and slid on his knees. He didn't attempt either manuever this time around.

His voice doesn't have quite the same reach either. On a few songs, such as "Adam Raised a Cain," he didn't even try to hit the high notes, he just opted for a lower one.

But with his energy and enthusiasm, a good mix of the newer songs and the older ones (including a few surprises), the "Magic" tour is an essential show for any Springsteen fan who, like me, passed on seeing the Devils and Dust and Seeger Sessions performances, preferring to see The Boss in the full E Street Band configuration.

The Donnas Spend the Night at Highline Ballroom

It had been a long time since The Donnas had played New York City, but the ladies from California made up for the absence with a high-energy show at the Highline Ballroom last week.

Their new album, "Bitchin,'" has a harder edge than their last few releases, reminiscent of Joan Jett in several songs, and this rougher sound comes off great in concert, where there are no overdubs or editing, but the unvarnished sound of the crunching guitar. Speaking of that guitar, this harder sound means that Allison Robertson, the band's lone guitarist, has to be on top of her game at all times, and she was up to the challenge.

Brett Anderson's voice was in fine form, as usual. And drummer Torrey Castellano, who has had problems in the past (and maybe still does) with wrist injuries from drumming, was wailing away on the skins with abandon, oftentimes practically jumping off of her stool. She's been a very enthusiastic and active drummer every time I've seen The Donnas, but she seemed to be even more revved up this time around. I wonder if her injuries have subsided, allowing her to whack on the drums harder, and enabling the band to pursue songs with a harder edge and a more driving beat.

As expected, the setlist included a number of songs from "Bitchin'" along with a collection of tunes from their last few albums. A couple of pleasant surprises were a song from one of their early albums, "Let's Go Mano," played during their encore, and a cover of the Ratt tune "Round and Round."

The only complaint I had about this show is the same one I have of every Donnas show I've attended: the band plays the shortest sets I've ever seen in a headlining band. I've seen The Donnas four or five times now and they've never played long than an hour, and sometimes the sets are closer to 50 minutes. I had sometimes suspected maybe this was due to Castellano's injured wrists--maybe they couldn't handle much more pounding than that on any given night--but she seems to be pounding the skins pretty hard these days.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hear New R.E.M. Song "Day Is Done," with Video

R.E.M. has a new song, "Day Is Done," and it has been made into a video that is being used to promote Anderson Cooper's CNN environmental documentary, "Planet In Peril." The video features images and film clips from the documentary with the R.E.M. song playing in the background

You can hear the song and view the video of the song with the documentary images here.

"Day Is Done" will be on the new R.E.M. album, which will be coming out in 2008.

Radiohead "In Rainbows" Download Goes Off On Schedule

As everyone in the world now knows, Radiohead decided to offer its new album, "In Rainbows," exclusively on through its Web site on a pay-what-you-want download. Meaning that it could be a free download if you choose to pay nothing.

Well, Radiohead was true to its word: it said the download of "In Rainbows" would begin on Oct. 10th, and those who ordered the new album online did indeed receive an email from the band this morning saying that the album was ready for download.

I ordered the album and received the download email the morning of the 10th. Downloaded the zipped filed took a few minutes, then I unzipped the file and found myself with 10 brand-new Radiohead tunes on DRM-free MP3.

"In Rainbows" is still available for free download, or paid download, at

At Radiohead's Web site you can find information on Radiohead tour dates, announcements, links to other Radiohead sites, and more.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Free Concert Downloads by Some of Today's Top Rock Artists

NPR's All Songs Considered podcast has always been a good podcast for introducing new albums by current and emerging artists. Most of the artists fall into some area of the rock genre, but the program also covers world music, jazz, and otherThe show also presents periodic live shows, but lately the podcast has been busting out by offering a lot of great live shows, almost all of them available as free MP3 downloads.

Since July All Songs Considered has offered free downloads of full concerts by everyone from British rockers Travis to gypsy punk outfit Gogol Bordello to '70s rock pioneer Nick Lowe, indie pop band The Apples in Stereo, alt rockers Rilo Kiley, and folk artist Iron and Wine.

The last few months have also seen concert downloads by The Polyphonic Spree, African star Femi Kuti, Okkervil River, John Vanderslice, and the duo of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who perform under the name The Swell Season. If the names of Hansard and Irglova are familiar, it's because they're the musician-stars of the well-reviewed movie Once, about musicians busking on the streets of Dublin.

On the Web site you'll find past concerts you can stream from artists such as the the White Stripes, the New Pornographers, Modest Mouse, Lilly Allen, Arcade Fire, and Regina Spektor.

Of course, the show is enjoyable and informative even when it's not providing free concert downloads. Host Bob Boilen discusses new albums and plays excerpts or full songs by the artists, and when the show doesn't have rights to play the full songs, you can stream them from the All Songs Considered Web site.

Besides the free downloads I've mentioned here, there are many other past concerts listed on the Web site. Some you can download, others are available only for streaming.

For listeners with a somewhat eclectic taste in rock and other current music, All Songs Considered is a great resource for hearing extended offering by a wide range of artists.

Monday, October 08, 2007

CMJ Music Marathon Ready to Descend Upon NYC

If you're an indie music fan, you'd better start catching up on your sleep now. From October 16th to 20th the annual CMJ Music Marathon is coming to town, cramming about a month's worth or regular concertgoing into five days.

I couldn't even begin to name the many bands, from Eisley and Mates of State to British Sea Power, ....And They Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Band of Horses, M.I.A., St Vincent, the Meat Puppets, Funky Homosapien, and many more. I think there are upwards of 100 performers playing out during the Marathon. See the Web site for details on who's playing where, and to stream songs from some of the artists.

To try to make sense of it all, and find the shows that you most want to see, the site includes pull-down menus that let you display the showcases by date, by band, or by venue. Brooklyn Vegan, probably the best NYC music blog, will undoubtedly have extensive coverage of CMJ that you'll want to check out (in addition to sponsoring a few showcases of its own at the Marathon).

Also, the good folks at Flavorpill have put together a handy guide to what they consider the best picks at CMJ. If you see something that interests you, pounce. Most of the shows are in small venues and some have already sold out.

Rest up, everyone.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Verizon LG Voyager Cell Phone: Reviews, Photos, More

OK, this isn't specifically podcast related, but since lots of people are opting for cell phones that play audio and video content, I thought the subject was appropriate.

The LG Voyager cell phone from Verizon was designed to take on Apple's iPhone. It's got a large touch screen on the outside, then opens up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. How does it look and work, and is it really an iPhone killer? Here are some sites to find pics and more...

* Tech blog Electronista reviews the LG Voyager and how it stacks up against similar cell phones and multifunction devices

* You'll find nearly 20 photos of the LG Voyager in this gallery from tech blog Gizmodo

* The Voyager isn't the only hot new cell phone from Verizon; Engadget Mobile looks at the Samsung Juke, Blackberry Pearl, and the LG Venus and LG Voyager

* How does the LG Voyager compare with these other new LG cell phone models? CNNMoney compares different models and which one might be best to give (or get) this holiday season.

Official names of the products: Verizon LG VX10000 Voyager; Verizon LG VX8800 Venus; Verizon Samsung U470; Blackberry Pearl 8130

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Bongos Reunion: Drums (and Guitars) Along the Hudson

James Mastro (left) and Richard Barone (right) of The Bongos

Back in the early '80s, Hoboken, New Jersey gave birth to a thriving alternative rock scene epitomized by The Bongos. Though lead singer and guitarist Richard Barone and guitarist James Mastro have both continued music careers since then, The Bongos have not performed more than a few shows together since they broke up 20 years ago.

They had a rousing reunion yesterday as the headliners of the Hoboken Music and Arts Festival, which also featured sets by other New Jersey artists from the same era. The Bongos' set was preceded by The Health and Happiness Show, Mastro's 1980s roots-rock ensemble; Glenn Mercer, leader of The Feelies, the much-loved and acclaimed late '70s/'early '80s band from Haledon, NJ; and Chris Stamey, former frontman for The dB's.

The Bongos sounded like they picked up right where they left off: they played a tight set of their old tunes, including most of their Drums Along the Hudson album. The reunion timing was uncanny: this summer saw the issuing of a remastered, expanded version of the CD, including live tracks from a concert in London and the first recorded Bongos show... and even a 2007 remix of the song "Bulrushes" by Moby.

Before beginning their set, The Bongos were presented with a proclamation by the mayor of Hoboken. While I couldn't hear the whole thing--I'm not sure if they proclaimed Sept 30th "Bongos Day" or something--it was great to see them getting this recognition from the city that was their home base. And judging from the amount of gray-haired folks I saw standing in the front of the audience, I'm not the only person in the crowd who remembers The Bongos from their heyday at Maxwell's more than 20 years ago.

Seeing the sets at the Festival reminded me of just how much I enjoyed these bands in the past, and still do. Creative, inventive pop with catchy hooks galore. Some music from that era sounds dated and I can't listen to it anymore. I bought the new version of "Drums Along the Hudson" at Tunes, the local record store, while walking home from the festival, and it still sounds good.