September 2008

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will be playing this year's Superbowl Halftime show in Tampa, Florida. Other recent halftime acts have included Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and U2.
Once a guy who was playing his guitar while singing in front of a store met a gal selling flowers who needed her vacuum to be repaired.  They ended up making beautiful music together.  Only a good plot for a movie?  Maybe not. Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and The Frames came to Pittsburgh as The Swell Season.  Glen and Marketa were greeted with applause as they took the stage and began singing "Into the Mystic".  Usually performers save their most well known song for near the end of a show or even the encore, building momentum throughout the set.  The 2nd song they did was "Falling Slowly", and the concert managed to soar upwards from there. Glen has the craft of building a song and false endings perfected.  He's very entertaining, engaging, endearing; in addition to being gifted with a great sense of humor.  Some performers wear their hearts and emotions on their sleeves, Glen can't keep his emotions contained. Being a Presidential election year, Glen could not resist encouraging us to all go out to vote, and then suggested a candidate to cast our ballot for (and it sounded like the audience, for the most part, agreed with his choice). All the musicians had their time in the spotlight.  Glen and Marketa showcased their talents together and as soloists.  Glen often encouraged us to sing along (and we did!).  Each song was well received with generous applause. It was a 65-minute show, with a standing ovation, followed by a 35-minute encore.  The Frames were in a semi-circle on the stage with lights behind them at stage level, essentially framing them.  When Marketa was at the piano, her back was turned to the audience.  She did take center stage with the guitar to sing a couple of times and Glen went to the piano.  The Frames violinist shined on many songs throughout; he was given a chance during the encore to shine on his own. Glen seemed to appreciate the response from the audience and recalled how they are now able to play bigger theaters thanks to the success of "Once".  They sang many songs from that soundtrack, plus songs from The Frames as well as a couple of brand new songs, which may soon become fan favorites. What a swell evening of music.  I can't wait to hear more from Glen, Marketa and The Frames in the future.  Bill Callahan (also known as "Smog") opened the show.  He sang and played electric guitar; accompanied by a drummer for his 45-minute set. Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host P.S. Glen's local musican friend who joined him on stage is Mark Dignam:

A full harvest moon, a full club (with electricity!) and two talented singer-songwriters.

Shawn Mullins made his second appearance in Pittsburgh this year, opening for Dar Williams.  Shawn came on stage at 8 pm in blue jeans, white shirt with a tie, sport coat and hat.  Still out in support of “honeydew”, which was released in March, he sang a few songs from that CD, including the tragic true tale of “The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston” and the song that was heard in the TV show “Scrubs” “All in My Head”, adding his thanks to WYEP for the airplay.  Shawn remembered Rosebud across the river and said “Beautiful Wreck” was inspired by playing in such venues.  He reminded us that he was briefly in a group called The Thorns, with Pete Droge and Matthew Sweet (who he noted will be coming to Pittsburgh soon).  When Shawn talked about The Thorns CD, I clapped in recognition, not realizing I was the only one who was acknowledging the CD.  Shawn looked in my direction and said that his parents bought a copy of the CD and now he knows who bought the other copy.  Here's my copy of The Thorns CD, which I got signed by Shawn years ago (and it reminds me I should get Pete and Matthew’s signatures someday too). 


While Shawn was in high school, he took one of those career education courses.  One day Amy Ray (now of the Indigo Girls) performed for the class, and this apparently helped to inspire Shawn.  Amy even wrote Shawn a 10-page letter to encourage him.  I love it when singer-songwriters tell stories about their songs, even ones they did not write.  Normally I’m not a fan of “covers”, but Shawn’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” (written by a female and sung from that prospective) is a natural fit.  Shawn wrapped up his 65-minute acoustic set with his Australian hit “Shimmer” and a medley :) of his hit “Lullaby”.

Shawn Mullins and Dar Williams have been friends for years, so it’s only natural that they are now touring together.

Dar Williams came with her guitar, a percussionist, and a keyboardist to tell us that Pittsburgh is one of her favorite cities.  In fact if she had six houses, one would be in Pittsburgh.  Dar is an engaging performer who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about her music.  Almost bubbling over.  Dar mentioned a couple of times she was disappointed that she could not play at WYEP that afternoon (due to the power outage) and that she sent an email to her management company to book another show in Pittsburgh along with a visit to WYEP (she mentioned maybe in January).  Dar only played a couple of tracks from her new CD “Promised Land”, including the first release the catchy “It’s Alright”.  Requests were shouted from the audience, and Dar obliged her fans a couple of times.  Her back-up group gave the songs an even fuller sound from the small stage.  Dar’s blend of “folk-pop” was mostly up-tempo during her 95-minute set, except when she sent her band off-stage so she could sing a couple of songs without accompaniment.  She also returned to the stage alone to do one song for the encore.

A full moon shined down on the South Side, as we were treated to over 2-1/2 hours of music by 2 amazing singer-songwriters.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

I was going to write a mini-bio to precede the John Vanderslice interview below, but I can't really tell you anything that way that you couldn't read somewhere else.I can tell you that I did once ride the subway with him.  I sat a few seats away with a friend while John talked to two kids on an otherwise empty Manhattan train.  He asked them how they liked CMJ so far, what bands they had seen, how their stay in New York was going.  He never mentioned that he was a musician himself.  Never mentioned that he was also attending CMJ.  Never mentioned that he had his own showcase in the halls of Lincoln Center.  He was simply talking to some kids from somewhere that was not New York City about how their week was going.

I have the feeling that if I had written John 100 questions, I might have gotten 100 responses (or maybe 97 - one question I asked about his appraisal of the Rick Ross scandal went unanswered).  John Vanderslice is one of those people who seem to fill every second of every day re-recording entire albums in a chicken coop or taking a photo of a trebuchet or concocting a video blog tour or running a recording studio or opening for Death Cab for Cutie, in between eating a bagel or reading the paper or talking to his mom on the telephone.  It's like he takes all these stories and experiences we're all exposed to everyday and scraps them into beautiful little snowglobes. Below are my questions and John's answers, traded over email.  All punctuation and text credited to John are his own. -Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday WYEP: First of all, I have to say - I love the black coat you are wearing on the cover of Emerald City.  Where did you get it? JV: it's from my ex-girlfriend's store minnie wilde ( she was on the shoot helping out with clothes. it's a girl's jacket, maybe a few sizes too small for me. i really love that jacket. WYEP: And at whose feet are you sitting in that picture? JV: autumn dewilde, the photographer, saw my neighbor sitting in her open garage listening to dr laura. she told me to pull the car over and, in her calm and savvy way, talked the woman into sitting with me for some shots. i was sure they were throw aways, but like everything you do with autumn, they came out fantastic. i haven't seen her since. WYEP: Do you feel like you have to know someone pretty well to include their perspective in your songs, or is sketching in the details yourself more important? JV: the better i know someone the harder it is to write about them. for me there has to be a distance, or an absence. WYEP: Do you feel a responsibility to tell the stories of people (American soldiers, civilians in war) who might not have their own forum to speak? JV: i don't feel a responsibility, i'm mostly interested in telling interesting stories. sometimes that means writing about justin timberlake. WYEP: Do you worry about authenticity when you write from other peoples' perspectives? JV: oh yeah, i worry about that! WYEP: It's almost expected for hip hop artists to have some kind of cross promotional car/drink/clothing line endorsement deal.  Have you ever turned down a commercial offer on your music? JV: no, but i haven't been offered tons of stuff. placements don't really worry me, if it got invasive and stupid, like banners hanging from stage, i'm sure it would be a turn-off. WYEP: How do you decide what to charge money for?  You've given a lot away over the years - MP3 remixes, video blog tours, streaming albums. JV: we always try to have some free material released every cycle. for next year, there should be a free digital EP. we charge when we have to, so people stay paid. otherwise, music feels to me like it should be free. WYEP: Would you ever score a TV show?  If yes, what would be your dream opportunity in that realm? JV: oh yes, for sure. i'm a tv junkie. 30 rock, house, mad men, the office, the list goes on. WYEP: I think you and your current band would kill as the house band for a quiz show or detective series.  Speaking of which - how permanent is your touring band?  Ever fantasize about being back in a full band and sharing all the responsibilities and creative processes with other people? JV: well i wish they were more permanent but they play in a lot of other bands. i'll be lucky to keep them together next year. yes i would love to be a sideman in a huge band. getting a per diem and direct deposit. hell yeah. WYEP: Your current setup allows you some maneuverability to do things like the blog tour.  Is the old touring model -  spending two months driving around in a van crammed with gear - dying in the same way that the giant record label promotional approach is dying? JV: well, i am very attached to that old touring model, but price pressures and competition (the unbelievable number of bands out on tour at any given moment) may change how profitable it is. i've heard numerous bands talk about skipping smaller markets and doing more fly-ins to make money. i think bands are going to figure out all kinds of new ways to make a living doing this. WYEP: How has the last batch of recordings turned out?  Is there an album with a central idea taking shape? JV: well, things are starting to make more sense. we're at song #16, i'll write and record 24 before the end of the year. btw, that's really hard for me, i usually do about 12-15 a year. i set the number very hard to see if i can jar loose something in my brain and break some of the patterns i'm in. WYEP: You've been very personally affected by the policies of the current administration [ed. note - there was a time when John's Parisian girlfriend's visa application was put through the ringer by Homeland Security].  Was there ever a silver lining creatively in that experience?  Do bad times make for good art? JV: i wouldn't say there's been any silver lining for me, i think i'd much rather be challenged to find material than having all these awful things happen. WYEP: Guns, hockey, oil money, teen pregnancy...this stuff seems totally in your wheelhouse - can we look forward to a Sarah Palin-inspired song from you in the near future? JV: she's too calculating to get a song from me. there's nothing tragic about her...yet!  
This summer we asked WYEP listeners to vote for their 10 favorite songs from the 1990's. We tallied the votes, and turned the list into a countdown show that aired on Labor Day. There's some surprises here, along with some "sure things". Overall, we think its a pretty good list, our listeners have good taste. Here it is... 100 Cake - The Distance "Fashion Nugget" 1996 99 Grant Lee Buffalo - Mockingbirds "Mighty Joe Moon" 1994 98 Natalie Merchant - Wonder "Tigerlily" 1995 97 Midnight Oil - Blue Sky Mine "Blue Sky Mining" 1990 96 Cracker - Low "Kerosene Hat" 1993 95 Depeche Mode - Policy of Truth "Violator" 1990 94 Liz Phair - Polyester Bride "whitechocolatespaceegg" 1998 93 Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning "Rumour and Sigh" 1991 92 Nirvana - Come As You Are "Nevermind" 1991 91 Dave Matthews Band - Two Step "Crash" 1996 90 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris "Dizzy Up the Girl" 1998 89 No Doubt - Don't Speak "Tragic Kingdom" 1995 88 Pavement - Summer Babe "Slanted & Enchanted" 1992 87 Presidents of the United States of America - Peaches "Presidents of the U.S.A." 1995 86 Counting Crows - Round Here "August & Everything After" 1993 85 Pearl Jam - Better Man "Vitalogy" 1994 84 Aimee Mann - Save Me "Magnolia Soundtrack" 1999 83 Beck - Devil's Haircut "Odelay" 1996 82 Blues Traveler - Run Around "Four" 1994 81 Concrete Blonde - Joey "Bloodletting" 1990 80 R.E.M. - Man On The Moon "Automatic for the People" 1992 79 Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealin' "Ritual De Lo Habitual" 1990 78 Dar Williams - As Cool As I Am "Mortal City" 1996 77 Pulp - Common People "A Different Class" 1995 76 Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give it away "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991 75 Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm "Siamese Dream" 1993 74 Tori Amos - Silent All These Years "Little Earthquakes" 1992 73 U2 - Mysterious Ways "Achtung Baby" 1991 72 Weezer - Buddy Holly "Blue Album" 1994 71 Wilco - Misunderstood "Being There" 1996 70 Ben Folds Five - Battle of Who Could Care Less "Whatever and Ever Amen" 1997 69 Blur - Song 2 "Blur" 1997 68 Counting Crows - Rain King "August & Everything After" 1993 67 Dave Matthews Band - Crash Into Me "Crash" 1996 66 Elliot Smith - Waltz #2 "XO" 1998 65 Iggy Pop - Candy "Brick by Brick" 1990 64 KD Lang - Constant Craving "Ingenue" 1992 63 Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray "It's A Shame About Ray" 1992 62 Tori Amos - Crucify "Little Earthquakes" 1992 61 Portishead - Sour Times "Dummy" 1994 60 Bush - Glycerine "Sixteen Stone" 1994 59 Cranberries - Zombie "No Need to Argue" 1994 58 Foo Fighters - Everlong "The Color and the Shape" 1997 57 Spin Doctors - Two Princes "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" 1991 56 They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople) "Flood" 1990 55 Pearl Jam - Even Flow "Ten" 1991 54 Belly - Feed the Tree "Star" 1993 53 Billy Bragg & Wilco - California Stars "Mermaid Avenue" 1998 52 Mazzy Star - Fade into You "So Tonight that I Might See" 1993 51 Soul Asylum - Runaway Train "Grave Dancer's Union" 1992 50 Peter Gabriel - Digging in the Dirt "Us" 1992 49 James - Laid "Laid" 1993 48 Cranberries - Dreams Everyone "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993 47 Whiskeytown - 16 Days "Strangers Almanac" 1997 46 Cornershop - Brimful of Asha "When I was Born for the 7th Time" 1997 45 Tori Amos - Cornflake Girl "Under the Pink" 1994 44 Radiohead - Karma Police "OK Computer" 1997 43 Alanis Morrisette - Ironic "Jagged Little Pill" 1995 42 Seal - Crazy "Seal" 1991 41 Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching "Under the Table and Dreaming" 1994 40 Sublime - Santeria "Sublime" 1996 39 Fiona Apple - Criminal "Tidal" 1996 38 Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson "Gordon" 1992 37 Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy "New Miserable Experience" 1992 36 Indigo Girls - Galileo "Rites of Passage" 1992 35 Fugees - Killing Me Softly "The Score" 1996 34 The Wallflowers - One Headlight "Bringing Down the House" 1996 33 Lisa Loeb - Stay "Tails " 1995 32 Smashing Pumpkins - Today "Siamese Dream" 1993 31 Pavement - Cut Your Hair "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain " 1994 30 Oasis - Don't Look Back in Anger "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995 29 Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend "Girlfriend " 1991 28 Bob Dylan - Not Dark Yet "Time Out of Mind" 1997 27 Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees "The Bends" 1995 26 Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah "Grace" 1994 25 R.E.M. - Nightswimming "Automatic for the People" 1992 24 Blind Melon - No Rain "Blind Melon " 1992 23 Smashing Pumpkins - 1979 "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" 1995 22 They Might be Giants - Birdhouse in Your Soul "Flood " 1990 21 The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" 1991 20 Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way "Cruel Sun " 1992 19 Radiohead - Paranoid Android "OK Computer" 1997 18 Live - Lightning Crashes "Throwing Copper" 1994 17 Radiohead - Creep "Pablo Honey" 1993 16 Pearl Jam - Alive "Ten " 1991 15 Ben Folds Five - Brick "Whatever and Ever Amen " 1997 14 Cranberries - Linger Everybody "Else is Doing it, So Why Can't We?" 1993 13 Sarah McLachlan - Possesion "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy " 1993 12 Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares 2 U "I Do Not Want..." 1990 11 Pearl Jam - Jeremy "Ten " 1991 10 Beck - Loser "Mellow Gold" 1994 9 Pearl Jam - Black "Ten " 1991 8 Breeders - Cannonball "Last Spash " 1993 7 The Counting Crows - Mr. Jones "August and Everything After" 1993 6 Alanis Morrisette - You Oughta Know "Jagged Little Pill" 1995 5 The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony "Urban Hymns" 1997 4 R.E.M - Losing My Religion "Out of Time" 1991 3 Oasis - Wonderwall "What's the Story Morning Glory?" 1995 2 U2 - One "Achtung Baby " 1991 1 Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit "Nevermind " 1991