Saturday, December 20, 2014

I was on the radio once

As you know or might not know, I was on the radio once upon a time in college. To get on the air, you had to take the Radio Practicum class. You were given a two-hour shift where you played the college/indie rock programmed by the music director. It was almost like a real commercial radio station. 

One of the conditions of the class was that you had to tape yourself on air. Every time something was to be announced - a song title, the weather, a PSA - it had to be recorded so it could be critiqued by the professor (also GM of the station) and all of the other students. 

I still happen to have a cassette tape of that from April 2001. I also happen to have a tape deck and the correct cable to hook it up to the line-in jack on my computer. I also happen to be really fucking bored on a Saturday night...

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, having only been on the air once a week for two months or so. The first PSA reading features a bonus cough. 

Almost 18 months later I had the opportunity to have my own show with my own music, Saturday nights (technically Sunday mornings) from 12AM-2AM. I called the show Total Radio Anarchy. (It was not.)

My voice definitely became more confident, and being as I knew the music better, I had more to say about it. However, I sound like I'm on speed. (I was not on speed.) 

I feel like this is the last (latest) surviving tape of my radio show. The more I was on the air, the less I felt I needed to record myself every week. I wasn't actually that good, mind you, I just knew deep down inside that no one was listening anyways. 

Because I know you're dying to know what I played on a radio show 12 years ago... here's the setlist from the first hour:

Pink Floyd - Time
Everclear - The Swing
Bloodhound Gang - Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)
Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up
Disturbed - Liberate
Dr. Dre - Ackrite
Radiohead - True Love Waits
Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
Local H - Keep Your Girlfriend
Blink-182 - All The Small Things
Dashboard Confessional - Remember to Breathe
Wasp - Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)

Personally, I think playing commercial music on a college radio station was kind of subversive. But that's just me. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Concert Review: Sturgill Simpson, 12/5/14

See that $12.50 price? Unless Sturgill Simspon is the second coming of Fugazi, that price is going up next time. 

Last time Sturgill Simpson played Turner Hall Ballroom maybe 100 people showed up. This time – through word of mouth, a handful of national television appearances, and (according to a Facebook post) even a busload of people that came down from Appleton – the place was pretty much sold out. Last time the boys in the band had to sell merch out of a cardboard box after the show. This time a table was set up before the show started. And last time, Sturgill Simpson had just released the fantastic Metamodern Sounds in Country Music to some minor critical hype and nothing else. This time, he was just nominated for a Grammy.

One might think something would change with all that extra fame, but one would be wrong in thinking that.

“I don't even know what Americana is,” Sturgill said between songs, acknowledging his Grammy nomination, “but I'll take that over country any fuckin' day!” The crowd roared and hooted and hollered in approval. It is hard to pinpoint Sturgill's sound – and neither Americana nor Country do it proper justice – but 70s Outlaw Country is a good place to start. Taking their cues from Waylon, Willie, and the boys, Sturgill Simpson and his awesome backing band delivered a scorching 95-minute set that had everything from straight-up country (“Long White Line”), to blistering honky-tonk (“Railroad of Sin”) to spirituals (“A Little Light”).

If that wasn't enough, the band veered dangerously close to Southern Rock in general and Allman Brothers Band in particular on a couple of numbers wherein the boys just jammed out. (This lends credence to calling Simpson's music progressive country, but I digress.) This was highlighted by lead guitarist Laur Joamets, who, for lack of better words, can just flat out fucking play. He had no use for rock-star theatrics, though I don't think anyone would've minded a few windmills or epic guitar faces. Instead, we were treated to intricate picking that he made look effortless. It was a joy to watch.

If you wanted to dance, you could – the rhythm section was locked in all night. If you wanted to lose yourself in Simpson's deep, metaphorically complex, and oftentimes dark lyrics (pretty much the entirety of “Living the Dream”) you could do that too. I think this is part of what brought in such a diverse crowd. It was the sort of show where Chuck Taylors mingled with cowboy boots, and there was plaid and flannel as far as the eye could see. And sure, some of those Johnny-and-Jill-come-latelies talked over the slow songs, like the gorgeous sounding, would-be modern country radio hit “The Promise.” But that can be overlooked. The music managed to cut through all of that and hit you right in the heart and brain, all full of good time vibes and stoned thoughts.

Sturgill Simpson and his band (they need a name, I think) left it all on the stage on Friday night. Next time they come to town it'll be a bigger stage, and I have no doubts that they'll have no trouble with that one, either.