Thursday, July 30, 2009

People who yell at each other on the internet

I just wanted to point out that there are two people that have been yelling at each other on one of my Michael Jackson vs. Beatles articles from last month and continue to do so. 

I don't even know what they're arguing about anymore. But just yesterday one of them admitted to being from Canada and then the other one started to lay into him for that. He even brought up "Blame Canada" from South Park. It's pretty funny.

I thought about stepping in at pointing out how ridiculous they are being, but then it might stop. And this is just too fun.

Check out the back and forth here on

Monday, July 27, 2009

Six most interesting Michael Jackson cover songs

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" so goes the saying.

Cover songs are the best way to pay tribute to excellent musicians and songs. Some straight up copy the tune, some take it and tweak it to make it fresh and new.

Since MJ's untimely death, I've noticed folks posting Michael Jackson covers in every style from Mariachi to ballad-esque. Here are some of the most interesting covers I've seen.

Disclaimer: Just because you put on the sequined jacket, it doesn't mean your version of an MJ song is going to be good. Put on the jacket and make it your own. Make it interesting.

Sorry, Fall Out Boy and Alien Ant Farm will not be on this list. This is of course my own personal preference, but I don't find these covers very interesting. This is my criteria for these six:

- Does the artist make the song their own?

- Does the artist keep the integrity of the MJ original?

- Last but not least, is the cover fun to listen to?

Read more of my article here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Photo essay and retrospective of Queensryche's show at the Fillmore

I know, I know, this report is months overdue, but I figure better late than never. And since these pictures are pretty good for what I can do with my little Canon Power Shot, I wanted to share them with you.

I am not embarassed to say that I am a Queensrÿche fan. Even though I mostly listened to classic rock and 60s folk rock in high school, something about Queensrÿche's album Empire grabbed me in the early 90s. My older brother gave me his tape and CD because he was soooo over it. But I listened over and over and over. Was it Geoff Tate's insane soaring vocals? Was it the intricate arrangements and guitar lines? What about their unabashed political statements? As a girl whose music tastes were somehow stuck in the 60s, this strange world of Seattle progressive metal was bizarrely appealing to me.

In 2004 Queensrÿche toured through Austin, Texas (where I lived at the time) performing their rock opera Operation: Mindrime. I jumped at a ticket. Yes it was expensive and I went alone since I couldn't persuade anyone else to go with me.

"Queensrÿche? You like them?" people would say.

Yes, I'm crazy. The fans were fascinating, especially these Texan fans. I've never seen so much faux-leather spandex in my life. Metal fans are awesome and the music was not disappointing. The guitars sounded great and Geoff Tate sounded better than ever. This is what singing is all about.

Queensrÿche came through Austin again in 2007 peforming both Operation: Mindrime I and II with theater sets, costumes and props. By then I had met a friend curious enough to come with me and we had a great time.

I saw that Queensrÿche was playing the Fillmore at the beginning of June and I jumped at this show too. They have a fascinating new album out called American Soldier based on recorded interviews conducted by lead singer Geoff Tate with men and woman who have served our country. It was inspired by Tate's father who served in Korea and in Vietnam. Tate told the Fillmore audience that his father never liked talking about his wartime experiences but got him to talk in an interview. This album is not an anti-war album, it's a pro-soldier album.

Tate stated that Queensrÿche has many fans in the armed forces and appreciates what they've done for the United States and "allow us to live the way we live." Earlier this spring they scheduled Military Base Signings open to service men and women only.

These are snippets of Tates's stage banter and photos from the Queensrÿche San Francisco show at the Fillmore on June 4th, 2009.

A highlight of the show was this moment when Tate's stunning 11-year-old daughter Emily joined her father on stage for "Home Again" a song about a series of letters between a father at war and the daughter missing him.

"Vietnam veterans came home to a very divided country. They were called 'baby killers' and people spat in their faces. We've come a long way since then."

"The album Empire is about the war on drugs. [Since the song was written 20 years ago] the money spent on this war as quadrupled. It's obvious that we don't need more money, we need new ideas."

Tate reminised about listening to Queensrÿche on vinyl records and appealed to Bay Area mentality. The audience cheered.

"Are cheering because you like vinyl?" he asked "You mean you like the idea of people being made to sit and actually listen to music? Wow. I'm giddy. The record industy must have it wrong (with mp3s)."

After the show I had the honor of meeting the band. They signed my ticket stub! Check out the the wall of Fillmore posters in the back.

Geoff Tate and me

with guitarist Michael Wilton

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Sway Machinery covers "Bille Jean" in Krakow

The Sway Machinery performs a cover of "Billie Jean" at the Festival of Jewish Culture in Kracow on July 4th, 2009

Love the infamous bass line on the baritone saxophone.

Now I'm looking for more interesting MJ covers, send one my way!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ra Ra Riot plays a Sunday morning breakfast show in Golden Gate Park, sans cello

I take sleeping in on weekends very seriously. But sometimes it's worth getting up at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning, especially if you know that you're going to witness an intimate performance of a popular band in a park!  Take yesterday: I got up and headed over to San Francisco to see the band Ra Ra Riot perform a live set in Golden Gate Park. 

The event was part of a "Live and Local" series thrown by SPIN earth tv "A voluminous new music site with correspondents from 6 continents who are producing videos, articles and photos about their music scenes." I just heard about this site and am now following them on twitter

After wandering around the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park for a couple minutes wondering where the crowd was and wondering if it was all a cruel joke (and seeing some other folks doing the same) I found the crowd in a meadow to the east through the trees. Ra Ra Riot and Spin earth tv had brought along free bagels, donuts, fruit and coffee.

I'd say there were about 50 people there. Everyone looked half awake (I'm sure some of them were at the Greek Theater the night before to see Ra Ra Riot and Andrew Bird open for Death Cab for Cutie).   I'm not too familiar with Ra Ra Riot, but since I like free stuff and I like the park, I thought this would be worth my time. 

It turns out that the cello was broken, so the band could only perform two songs.  It was sad, but it was nice to hear some music that early in the morning, especially from a band of their stature.

I'm still wondering if only those two songs were playable without the cello, but like I said, I don't know their music that well, so maybe. But it was still worth getting up.

These are two short video clips I took of "Each Year" - sans cello. If you want to see the full performances, I've reposted this on with someone else's footage.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Girl in a Coma bringing back the spirit of rock'n'roll, one fan at a time

Girl in a Coma is probably the most inspiring band I've come across in awhile. Hailing from San Antonio, these three Latinas have already taken over Texas. Now they're off to conquer the country. And right now they're on their way to the west coast!

I find Girl in a Coma extra inspiring since they are supporters of Girls Rock Camp Austin, Texas, where I first saw them perform.  They have won the respect of Joan Jett, who signed them to her label Blackheart Records and Morrissey, who they toured with last year. To me they embody everything that Girls Rock Camp represents: talented female musicians playing straight up, hard rocking music while being true to themselves and having fun.

Girl in a Coma is sisters Nina (vocals/guitars) and Phanie Diaz (drums) and friend Jenn Alva (bass). Phanie and Jenn played together in high school and were always looking for that last link.  Little did they know that the last link was Phanie's 12 year old sister Nina.  Now almost a decade later, Girl in a Coma has just released their second studio album Trio B.C.  named after the Diaz sisters grandfather's tejano band.  

I had a chance to catch Nina over the phone while the band was on their way to Philadelphia. I wanted to know what it was like being in a band that represented so much sexually and politically while being a straight up for-the-love-of-the music band. Here are some of the highlights of our chat:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Photos from the History of Women in Rock Girls Rock Camp workshop

Always More to Hear has made it to the big screen!

I thought this would be very meta... pictures of the blog on the blog. For those of you who teach using youtube videos, this is a great way to get everything in the same place. Putting everything on a blog was very helpful. This way, campers can go back to the entry, watch the whole video and learn more if they want to.

One of the Girls Rock staff members borrowed a digital projector from a friend, so all we needed was internet and a computer. We also got the audio patched through the PA so the music was nice and loud.  Big Mama's Hound Dog sounded really good.

For the most part the campers seemed to like the workshop, it gave them some down time to basically sit and watch tv.  Who wouldn't like that? I hope I get to lead this workshop next year, it's really fun.

Jennie introduces the workshop

Martha and the Vandellas "Dancing in the Street"

Sleater-Kinney and Riot Grrrl

Dolly Parton and her "Coat of Many Colors"

Bessie Smith: the first music video star? - Girls Rock Camp, celebrating women in music

In honor of Girls Rock Camp this week occurring in Oakland this week, I am celebrating women in music, past, present and future.

Today I want to celebrate Bessie Smith, definitely one of the greatest influences on women (and men!) in music today, and possibly the first music video star as well.

But first, let me tell you what's happening at the second day of Girls Rock Camp: the 70 campers or so will learn more of the basics of their chosen instruments, whether it be the bass, turntables, drums, guitar, keys or vocals. The girls will also continue to pick band names and write a song that they will perform for a live audience this Saturday at 2pm at the Oakland Metro Opera House.

After lunch they will learn how to make a zine and participate in a history of women in rock workshop, taught by yours truly. Bessie Smith is the first woman we will talk about and the video we're going to show the campers is part two of St. Louis Blues made in 1929. We want to showcase her powerful voice.

It got me thinking about what this video actually is. I have this way of using youtube just for the audio, but the sometimes the video is just as interesting (or bizarre or hysterical) as the audio itself.

Part I

Part 2

History of Women in Rock for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp

Welcome to Jennie and Jamie's "History of Women in Rock" workshop for The Bay Area Girls Rock Camp! We will be leading this workshop for the first and second session of camp this year, but this information will be around for you to see when camp is over.

Feel free to watch these videos and click on the links (colored and/or underlined) to learn more about the women that inspire you.

There are so many amazing women who have brought us so much music we couldn't include everyone, but please click on the bottom of this post where it says "comments" and tell us what you think.

Bessie Smith - "St. Louis Blues" (1929) Classic Blues

Big Mama Thornton - "Hound Dog" (1965)
 Rhythm & Blues

Wanda Jackson - "Heart Headed Woman" (1950s) The Queen of Rockabilliy 

Martha and the Vandellas - "Dancing in the Street" (1964) Motown

Tina Turner - "Fool in Love" and "Work Out Fine" Medley (1965) Rhythm & Blues and Rock 

Dolly Parton - "Coat of Many Colors" (1971) Country

Joan Jett - "I Love Rock n Rock" (1983) Rock   - start 1 minute in

Tina Waymouth - Talking Heads "Burning Down the House" & "Life During War Time" (1984) Rock

(Start at 2 minutes)

Sleater Kinney - "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun" Rock (2000)

Queen Latifah - "Ladies First" Listen in the playlist over to the right

Other women by instrument - click on the link to learn more and maybe watch a video

Guitar players

Piano players 

Bass players
Carol Kaye - Studio musician
Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth - "100%"  
D'arcy Wretzky of the Smashing Pumpkins - "Cherub Rock"

Maureen "Moe" Tucker of the Velvet Underground - "Fired Up"
Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney
Gina Schock of the Go Go's "We got the Beat"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Girls Rock Camp: celebrating and encouraging women in music: past, present & future

Why girls? Why a Girls Rock Camp?

Someone has actually asked me that.


Have you ever watched Mtv? (Especially now that it only schedules reality television.) Have you seen the dozens of blatant sexualized covers of RollingStone Magazine?

Why are there so many more men in popular music than women? And why are most of the women in popular music singers? Where are all the female instrumentalists?

Do you want to see more women on TV being real women rather than over sexed school girls?

Aretha Franklin, Wanda Jackson, Joan Jett, Sleater Kinney, Queen Latifah, and Bjork: these are someof the famous woman that Girls Rock Camp (GRC) uses as role models. But GRC also seeks to shine the light on every day role models: our cool sisters, the girl next door and the band that plays in that small club on Fridays.

This Saturday, July 11 at 2pm at the Metro Oakland Opera House you will be able to see the 70 or so girls perform their original songs that they will write with their bands this week. Whether or not they ever pick up these instruments again, GRC hopes to inspire each and every one of them to be powerful and true to themselves. I highly recommend that you pencil this show into your weekend. You will not regret it. I usually spend the whole two hours smiling with tears in my eyes. It's amazing what these kids can do in a week.

Read more of my Article here

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Neat and addicting website: WhoSampled

I came across an addicting website the other day while trying to remember what the name of the song where Fatboy Slim sampled Camille Yarbrough. Turns out it was of course "Praise you" and I found this neat site that puts the two youtube videos right next to each other: WhoSampled: exploring and discussing the DNA of music.

My friend Raya Yarbrough (also a vocalist) is the grand-niece of Camille Yarbrough, who is the vocalist sampled on "Praise You." I heard that Camille made so much money off this sample that she was able to buy a condo in Harlem, where she lives today. Spin Magazine called her the "fore mother of hip hop." Very cool.

This is the original "Take Yo' Praise" from 1975:

This is the hysterical video that WhoSampled uses on their site: I repost it here because it was filmed in front of the Bruin Theater in Westwood, the neighborhood near UCLA in Los Angeles. I grew up about 6 blocks from this theater. Check out these dance moves:

Another video WhoSampled entry I wanted to point out was that of Moby's "Run on" from the album Play. This is my favorite Moby track:

Here's the original four part harmony gospel tune (one of my favorite genres of music, a precursor to motown, do-wop and any vocal harmony group) by Bill Landford & the Landfordaires called "Run On for a Long Time":

Here's Moby's tune "Run On":

I think I like this tune more than most of the others because of the way Moby samples Landford: he samples the whole song. This really hardly ever happens with samples, it's usually little bits played over and over and over (oh, the joys of electronic music). Really Moby just adds an accompanying track to the vocals and I think it really adds to the tune.

Check out the rest of the site, there's more good stuff there.