Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spike Lee Throws Free Brooklyn Dance Party Today to Celebrate Michael Jackson's Birthday

Today would have been the 51st birthday of Michael Jackson, and film director Spike Lee is throwing a free dance party in Brooklyn to celebrate. The public is invited to the event, which runs from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday in the borough's Prospect Park.

Brooklyn's own DJ Spinna will be there to spin MJ tunes, and even though the weather looks a bit rainy it seems the party will be going on. (DJ Spinna, along with Q-Tip and Mark Ronson, will be playing Michael Jackon songs at a party at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square tonight.)

According to the Web site The Root, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitzh will be at the festivities and will declare Aug. 29 “Michael Jackson Day.” (The site has directions to Prospect Park, too.)

The New York Post has information on other Michael Jackson birthday events in New York here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Free J&R Music Fest & Tech Expo, August 27 - 29, Lower Manhattan

The huge music and technology retailer J&R periodically hosts live music in its lower Manhattan neighborhood, and starting today is its 2009 J&R Music Fest & Tech Expo. The proceedings actually started Wednesday with a performance by the pop group Air Supply, but things get going in earnest on Thursday, August 27th.

Here's the schedule (all events are at City Hall Park, except where noted). See the J&R Music Fest & Tech Expo Web site for more details and biographical sketches of the performers:

* Thursday, August 27th
2pm - Dick Dale and Jimmy Dale (J&R Musical Instruments Store, 33 Park Row)

5 pm - Diane Birch
6 pm - Jemina Pearl
7 pm - The Smithereens

* Friday, August 28th
5 pm - Melinda Watts
5:30 pm - J Moss
6 pm - Clipse
7 pm - Mario

* Saturday, August 29th
1 pm - Randy Jackson (J&R Musical Instruments Store)
1 pm - KRS-One and Buckshot
2 pm - Letoya
3 pm - Nikki Yanofsky
4 pm - Roberta Gambarini
5 pm - Roy Hargrove

Note: Hurricane Danny is projected to blow up around the East Coast Saturday, which may throw a monkey wrench into the Festival. Check the Web site above for the latest updates.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Music (and Other) News: R.E.M. Dublin, Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Thirtysomething DVD, J&R Music Fest

There's news this week on albums, software, and TV, as well as music.

R.E.M.'s "Live At The Olympia" album, which drops on October 27th, is a unique kind of project: the recordings are from the group's "working rehearsals" from their weeklong run at a theater in Dublin. According to the band's Web site for the project,, for the first time R.E.M. tested out new material before an audience before releasing them on record. It's a two-CD set, and a CD/DVD set will also be available. See the Web site for track listing of the 39 songs, videos, and more information.

Apple's long-awaited Mac OS X "Snow Leopard" release now has a new on-sale date: this Friday, August 28th. The version was first announced more than a year ago. The price to upgrade to Snow Leopard from OS 10.6 is $29. Mac Observer notes that, as of yesterday, the Apple Web site wasn't showing a price for a standalone version for Mac users who are not running Leopard already.

The groundbreaking late-'80s TV show "thirtysomething" is finally out today on DVD (the first season anyway). The Washington Post reviews it here (and says that the set was delayed because it took so long to secure music rights). is selling thirtysomething: The Complete First Seasonfor $38.49, and it's said to include many interviews and other extras featuring cast members.

If you're near downtown New York City, check out the free J&R Music Fest and Tech Expo (August 27th to 30th, a kind of block party near the store (situated near City Hall). Tech equipment makers will be there for demos, and there will be live performance of musicians from The Smithereens to Roy Hargrove. I'll post more on the performances in the next day or so.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

2009 U.S. Tour Dates for the Pixies "Doolittle" Tour

A few weeks ago I mentioned that The Pixies were staging a reunion tour to mark the 20th anniversary of their "Doolittle" album, and were going on tour to play the entire album live. At that time only European tour dates were available, but a number of U.S. tour dates have been announced (they actually seem to have come out a few weeks ago, but I just found out about it today).

Here are the American dates for the "Dootlittle" tour (which will include B-sides and other tunes related to the album). Tickets for most of the dates are on sale already.

4th - Los Angeles, Calif. - The Palladium
8th - Oakland, Calif. - Fox Theater
9th - Oakland, Calif. - Fox Theater
12th - Seattle, Wash. - Paramount Theatre
13th - Seattle, Wash. - Paramount Theatre
14th - Eugene, Ore. - Hult Center
16th - Denver, Colo. - The Fillmore
20th - Chicago, Ill. - Aragon Ballroom
21st - Chicago, Ill. - Aragon Ballroom
23rd - New York, N.Y. - Hammerstein Ballroom
24th - New York, N.Y. - Hammerstein Ballroom
25th - New York, N.Y. - Hammerstein Ballroom
27th - Boston, Mass. - Wang Center
30th - Washington, D.C. - Constitution Hall

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Music News: Monty Python Reunion, Beatles Rock Band Songs Announced

Beloved comedy troupe Monty Python is celebrating 40 years since its formation, and is reuniting in New York City for one night at the screening of a new documentary. Brooklyn Vegan says that they'll be at midtown's Ziegfeld Theater on October 15th for a showing of the theatrical version of "Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)," along with a Q&A with the cast and a presentation from BAFTA, the British film and TV awards organization.

IFC is behind the documentary and will be televising it October 4th to 10th, in one-hour episodes. BV says IFC will also be showing the Monty Python films during a special Monty Python week. See the link above for episode descriptions and air dates for the episodes.

Speaking of beloved old British performers, the upcoming Beatles version of the Rock Band video game has been in the news a lot lately. Yahoo News says the names of the 19 of the songs to be featured in Beatles Rock Band were released today, with one song title yet to be released. The Web site Vintage Vinyl News lists what it says are 44 of the 45 songs to be included in the game.

Among the songs to be included in Beatles Rock Band: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "A Hard Day's Night," "Ticket to Ride," "Helter Skelter," "If I Needed Someone," and "Drive My Car."

Beatles Rock Band goes on sale September 9th.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

40th Anniversary of Woodstock: Heat, but No Mud in NY

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the start of the legendary Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York... three days of music, peace, and mud. Fortunately, after a summer full of unseasonably wet weather, the NYC area is free of rain and mud for this anniversary weekend; it'll be hot and sunny.

There of course will be a range of events in upstate New York to commemorate the Woodstock anniversary, including a couple of Richie Havens performances. There of course will be special observances at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a new facility that offers concerts and other events throughout the year, as well as a museum. Today is a (sold-out) Heroes of Woodstock concert featuring the Levon Helm Band, Jefferson Starship, Ten Years After, Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Mountain, and others.

A reading from the book "Woodstock Revisited" will be held August 17th, and Loggins & Messina and Poco will play a show on the 21st. There are also events such a a wine festival, county picnic, and even an alpaca day (bring your own alpaca?)

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts seems to be a great development, bringing music and arts to the area of the Woodstock festival throughout the year, instead of just one weekend.

There was a big crowd at the Blondie/Pat Benatar/Donnas free concert in Coney Island Thursday night, but the only mud in sight was in a small puddle off one of the walkways. It was a great show, however, especially from the two co-headliners, who still sounded in good form after more than a quarter century while tearing through sets of their best-known tunes. (The Donnas sounded fine, but had a very short opening set.)

Pat Benatar couldn't hit the high notes the way she used to, but other than that her voice had much the same sound as it did back in the 1980s.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Music News: New Phish CD, No More Radiohead Albums, Woodstock’s Forgotten Man, and Michael Jackson Concert

This week's developments in the music world involve everything from '60s classics to today's alt-rock groups.

Vermont jam-rock band Phish will release its new album "Joy" on Sept. 8th. Paste Magazine says that fans can buy the album in "CD, vinyl records, or splurge on the Joy Box, containing an explosion of Phish paraphernalia, including a second album, Party Time, just in case Joy alone doesn't cut it." Phish worked on the album with producer Steve Lillywhite, who also produced their 1996 album as well as recordings from U2, Dave Matthews, and other big names.

Thom Yorke has said in an interview that Radiohead will release no more full-length albums. The article in Believer quotes Yorke as saying that recording full-length albums had become "a drag" and that the band will instead focus on producing EPs and downloadable singles, such as their new “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” a tribute to the recently deceased last British veteran of World War I.

It's the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, and the Wall Street Journal has an article on Bert Sommer, which it calls "Woodstock's Forgotten Man." The musician, who performed on the iconic festival's first day, wasn't represented on the Woodstock albums, and the article says his name was even omitted from the original commemorative plaque placed at the site of the concert. Though he recorded a few albums, he never became widely known, and died in 1990. A friend created a tribute Web site to him,

Michael Jackson will be getting a tribute concert fit for the King of Pop, an affair in the lavish Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, home to the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Jermaine Jackson, the oldest brother of Michael, is lining up artists to perform at the gig, which may attract an audience of "at least 85,000."

British folk-rocker and activist Billy Bragg criticizes the record labels for trying to sic Internet providers on illegal music downloaders. In an article in The Guardian, Bragg says that while he is opposed to copyright infringement, record labels and Internet companies shouldn't be penalizing music fans. He suggests that "Clearly, some form of P2P subscription service is the way forward, if only because it provides the most convenient way for consumers to access music."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blondie, Pat Benatar, and The Donnas to Play FREE Coney Island Show Thursday

A month after the Siren Festival, Coney Island is set to host another big concert event: the women-who-rock tripleheader of Blondie, Pat Benatar, and The Donnas. The three acts, who have been touring around the U.S. this summer, will be performing a free show in the Summer Seaside Concert Series at Asser Levy/Seaside Park in Coney Island/Brighton Beach, across the street from the New York Aquarium.

You can find directions to Asser Levy Park here, including subway and driving directions and a link to a map of the area. (Via subway: take the D to Stillwell Avenue/Coney Island Station; or take the Q or F to West 8th Street/NY Aquarium Station.)

See here for more Donnas tour dates, including some headlining shows. You can find Pat Benatar tour dates here. And here's the link for all the Blondie tour dates.

The free Blondie/Benatar/Donnas show in Brooklyn has been on my radar for some time, but I hadn't been aware of this concert series until just now. Which is too bad, because they've had some great classic acts: Credence Clearwater Revival, Gladys Knight and the O'Jays, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Daryl Hall and John Oates, and the last show of the season, Donna Summer on August 27th.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

New Podcast Episodes: Frank Black, Newport Folk Concerts, The Clash Covers

The Podcast is out with an episode on Grand Duchy.

Some good new episodes are out this week in a number of long-running podcasts. Here are a few highlights.

The Podcast has been coming out sporadically this year, but they've got a new episode out devoted to Grand Duchy, the band featuring Black and his wife Violet. The band is currently on its first tour, and I caught of few songs during its set at Coney Island's Siren Festival.

If you didn't manage to hear any of NPR's live Webcasts from the Newport Folk Festival, you can still catch them... and keep them, in many cases. NPR Music has started to put up free podcast downloads of Newport Folk concerts, including Joan Baez, Gillian Welch, Fleet Foxes, Neko Case, Mavis Staples, and more.

If you'd prefer a sampling of the Newport Folk concerts, NPR also has a free podcast download up that covers day 1 of the festival, and there will probably be more to come.

And over at Coverville, the all-cover-songs podcast, you'll find a diverse range of covered artists, as usual. Episode 600 is devoted to covers of KISS, while number 599 tackles Cat Stevens and 598 features cover versions of The Clash's iconic album, "London Calling." And all three of those Coverville podcasts have come just since July 30th!


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Modest Mouse's New "King Rat" Video, Directed by Heath Ledger, is Released

Besides being an actor, the late Heath Ledger also directed several music videos, and his last one was released today. Ledger's six-minute video for Modest Mouse's song "King Rat" made its debut today exclusively on MySpace Video. (Embedding the video was disabled, but I've put a screen cap above and you can view the video at the link.)

Although the animated video features fish and other sea creatures piloting a fishing boat, which seems like standard cartoon fare, the video takes a dark turn as we see the "fishermen" hunting for (and killing) humans. (Which may explain why the video has a positive rating of only 25%.) It's said that the video reflects Ledger's interest in the issue of illegal commercial whaling, which is a controversial issue in the late actor's native Australia.

A press release says that Ledger had proposed the idea for the video in 2007, according to a blog post at The video was unfinished at the time of his death, but was completed by a company that Ledger had worked with, in honor of the actor.

The release also said that, in keeping with Ledger's interests in protecting ocean life, proceeds from sales of the first month of the video's iTunes sales will go to an international marine wildlife organization.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

All Points West: Sunday is Soggy But Now OPEN!

After a four-hour delay due to steady rain in the NY metro area, the All Points West Festival is now open for its third and final day.

Around 3:10 p.m. Liberty Event, the company that produces All Points West, sent a message from its Twitter account (@libertyevent) saying, "Doors are OPEN at #APW #AllPointsWest. A break in the skies."

Turns out that was premature, though; it seems the gates didn't actually open until almost an hour later. All Points West sent a message from its Twitter account about 4:10 reading, “THE DOORS ARE OPEN! Let the games BEGIN! RE-TWEET like craaazzyyyyyy!!!!!!”

No word yet on how this will affect the schedule. Sunday's show was to begin at Noon and headliners Coldplay were to take the stage at 9:35, with other bands going on later at the other stages. Another factor is that this is Sunday and many people will be going to their 9-to-5 jobs the next day.

Oh, and just to complicate things more, rain is forecast for tonight.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Festival Updates: from Newport Folk and All Points West

The 50-year-old Newport Folk Festival and the sophomore edition of the All Points West Festival in NJ are heading into their final day. APW experienced rain off and on during Friday, but the show went on. Saturday was sunny and rain free, but as the New York Times and other attendees reported, the fields were quite muddy.

Tomorrow's All Points West schedule features headliners Coldplay, along with MGMT, Echo and the Bunnymen, Mogwai, Elbow, and L.A.'s Silversun Pickups, among others.

The Newport Folk Festival seems to have been rain free, and I was able to listen to portions of some of the sets through NPR's live streaming, including the Avett Brothers and Fleet Foxes. They will be doing live audio tomorrow as well, and they say that all of the concerts will be archived online for later listening.

Here is the Newport Folk Festival live streaming schedule for Sunday:

11:30 a.m. Josh Ritter
12:30 p.m. Campbell Brothers
1:35 p.m. Neko Case
2:55 p.m. Arlo Guthrie
4:15 p.m. Joan Baez
6 p.m. Pete & Tao Seeger & friends with special guest Judy Collins