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Friday, 10 September 2004
the day before the day...
Now Playing: The Push Bin with Lou (wfmu.org)

Whereas September 11, 2004 will mark the third-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America, today marks the third-year anniversary of a time we can't get back to. For me, September 10th has become somewhat historical and poignant in its own right because it represents what we want back and can't have. Everything the USA didn't have to know before the day that came after it is gone.

As people gear up to remember the day, I still find myself fascinated by the elusive nature of the day before the day. And I still hold fast to the belief that while we commemorate September 11th, we long for September 10th. For Americans, for the world, it's the ultimate example of what we all want...and can't have.

Posted by macedonia at 9:30 AM EDT
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Thursday, 9 September 2004
the rain on urban terrains can really screw up the trains...
Now Playing: Bryan Ferry - Mamouna [Virgin]
Topic: transportation

I?m sure that there were those of us who live and/or work in New York City dreading a repeat of yesterday?s commuting events. Although there was rain off and on this morning, it was smooth sailing on the subway. Yesterday was a whole other animal.

A random straphanger on the subway hit it right on the nose: ?The MTA is clueless on a normal day. When things go wrong, it?s just chaos.? I couldn?t agree more. Sometimes I think that Mother Nature throws the weather pattern into a tizzy just to watch the MTA cause more confusion than it solves. Their current slogan is ?Going your way.? I would like to propose an addendum to that:

?The MTA: Going your way?until some sort of natural disaster happens. Then we pretty much make things up as we go along.?

It was raining pretty hard when I stepped out of the door yesterday. I was determined not to let things get me down: not the weather, not the job, not anything. So the meditation started the moment I walked outside and put up my umbrella. Of course, the umbrella didn?t do a bit of good as the rain was coming down at an angle. The bottom of my pants were soaked?almost up to the crooks of my knees. I?m standing at the bus stop with another brother whose umbrella is twice as big as mine, his pants soaked also. And we?re looking at each other as if to say, ?Why are we even using these things? It?s pointless.?

Bus picks us up and we?re whisked to the subway station. I think I boarded the train around 7:45 A.M. Usually, this is a 45-minute trip at the most. I didn?t get to work yesterday until 10:15 A.M. Six stops into my trip, the train sat for what seemed like 20 minutes due to a sick passenger. Once we went underground, things got worse. My train emptied everyone out at the 149th Street-Grand Concourse stop. Flooding problems had killed West Side service. Nothing was running: no 1, 2, 3, or 9. I think the A, C, and E were affected also. So everything was running on the East Side, which meant crossed signals, misinformation, and maddening delays.

The next express train I boarded turned into a local around 125th Street. I don?t think I need to tell you how crowded that train was. I remained surprisingly calm throughout all of this, just closed my eyes and meditated. People around me cracked a few jokes and shared stories about their traveling mishaps. One man commented that he never took a local train before today. ?I didn?t even think the trains stopped at 77th Street,? he said.

On the plus side, I was almost dry by the time I got to the office. I wasn?t the only co-worker with a horror story about the subway, so when I finally arrived, it wasn?t news to anyone what had happened to me. Thankfully, yesterday was our breakfast day at work ? folks bring bagels in and all that. Along with the bagels was a cookie platter with plenty of oatmeal raisin still left. So I happily munched on some cookies, checked my messages, fired up the computer, and listened to WFMU?s Listener Hour. The show from last Saturday was hosted by Otis Fodder. An interesting character, he hosts a website that?s sort of a portal to incredibly strange music and a showcase for his various projects. His hour-long show was dedicated to the music of high school bands. You haven?t lived until you?ve heard a high school band perform Rod Stewart?s ?Do You Think I?m Sexy??

Posted by macedonia at 12:21 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 9 September 2004 12:25 PM EDT
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Thursday, 2 September 2004
late bloomer syndrome (or "how can i be DOWN?")
Now Playing: Japanese pop...and lots of it.

What would you be doing if you were not making music?
M: God, I don't know. Probably have a regular job or be stressing on the street doing something that I ain't supposed to do, like my other homies. Luckily music can save your soul, and you can be in tune with more of yourself.

-Taken from an interview with Madlib, Tokion Magazine, September 2004.

I read this interview earlier in the week and it made me smile. I have so much respect for Madlib as a producer, DJ, and musician. Seeing him spin along with Peanut Butter Wolf and Trevor Jackson at P.S. 1 back in July was easily the highlight of my summer. It?s funny some of the traits that some record collectors share, like buying records just for the cover art or getting a certain feeling about how an album will sound without even listening to it first, then getting home and discovering that you played the right hunch. I totally relate to that. Some of the most challenging and creative music in my record crates were purchased by playing hunches.

I look at all that Madlib?s doing and think to myself, damn?he spends all day in the studio. If only that could be my life? At the same time, Stones Throw is an indie label and at the end of the day, you need to move units. So they gotta put in work: promotion, tours, in-store appearances and all that. But still, they?re doing what they want to do. You gotta respect that. The same can be said for so many other artists and hard-working labels dedicated to releasing quality sounds.

A good friend of mine and his girlfriend were over my place this past weekend and he asked me why I wasn?t already doing the same. I said something about having too many other responsibilities to really pursue it, as well as lacking connections. I?d like to think that at least the first part of those sentiments ring true. I gave up rapping a long time ago; I?m a poet, but I?m no MC. I just don?t have it in me to be that boastful ALL THE DAMNED TIME. The house that MCs built is fortified with bravado at its foundation. Meanwhile, I?m a Christian, which means I?m supposed to make it my business to crucify self daily. Kinda hard to do when you?re claiming bragging rights, isn?t it? Besides that, it?s through the blog and my rants that the vocal side of me comes out.

Most musical ideas that I have these days are more instrumental than vocal anyway. I could probably say a lot more through the rhythm than my vocabulary. Sometimes you just need to know when to shut the hell up. There are beats in my head that have been haunting me for years. They will more than likely continue to do so until they are fully realized outside of my mental. So what are my excuses for not doing so already? Time and money. Both of these are my greatest enemies. Working a pride-swallowing, soul-sucking job for craptacular wages can seriously sap your energy. Most of my day is spent at the job and traveling to and from the job. When I get home, there is always something to be done that keeps me away from the music. And the money?s spent before the pay check?s even in the account. The few dollars that I?m not even supposed to spend usually end up going towards music purchases.

I suppose I?ve been championing other artists? sounds for so long that I?ve left no time or money to bring my own to fruition. This is about the point in the conversation where my friend responds, ?You need to stop doing that.? The thing is I like being the person that turns others on to cool sounds. I?m a selector before a producer. Granted, back in my college radio days, I was able to do both on the regular. I was a lot hungrier then. I was also more conceited and considerably more dishonest. Long story short, I was a so-called follower of Christ who ran game on people on the side. Once I graduated from college, I did my best to distance myself from the person I was back then. To a large degree, the producer in me may have been swept up while I was internally cleaning house.

I haven?t been spinning anywhere since March and I don?t have a radio show, so my circle of influence isn?t nearly as large as I would like for it to be. I?m a man with much music and very few outlets. Other aspects of my life (primarily the job and the never ending war of economics) have done well in beating me down to the point of where I?m just numb to so many things. These days, I can swing from really numb to verbally violent (just exactly the states in which every employer loves to see their customer service representative, wouldn?t you say?). I don?t like extremes, so this has gotta stop, but without a new corporate gig lined up, there?s likely more on the horizon. Listening to Giuliani?s speech at the Republican National Convention Monday night (yeah, I know, should?ve known better) had built up a murderous rage, which thankfully subsided Tuesday afternoon...shortly after I started reading the Madlib article.

I have a picture of myself at 11 months old, dragging Roberta Flack?s Quiet Fire album over to the record player. I recently found that record for three bucks at a vinyl spot I stumbled upon in the East Village. Things like that remind you of who you are. More than often, who you are has nothing to do with what you do for a living. It?s no accident that I found that record. Maybe fetal beats will actually have a chance to become newborns. It would be nice to be pregnant with production again. It would probably take my mind off of the unnecessary annoyances. It?ll happen when it happens; I?ll only dread it if I rush it. Until then, tempos and chord changes wipe their feet on the tissue of my brain and take residence, nagging me every so often to become ?the poor man?s Prince Paul? that I?ve always pictured myself being.

Posted by macedonia at 11:08 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 11:17 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 25 August 2004
Now Playing: Choking on Cufflinks w/Michael Goodstein (wfmu.org)

The worst states of being for me are boredom and numbness. I?m trying to avoid both, but the monotony of a never changing, everyday routine makes it increasingly difficult. And when the changes do come your way and they look as if they may not be for the better, the built-in anesthesia immediately goes to work. If you live or work in or near a city like New York City, the numb candy gets injected into your skin after a while. I don?t know if it can be avoided. It?s part of the survival mechanism that?s necessary to exist amongst the denizens of the urban jungle.

Change is inevitable. It can be good, necessary, irritating, just plain frightening, or a combination of some or all of the elements. Autumn?s peeking over summer?s shoulder, and while I appreciate the cooler temps, changing leaves, and picturesque road trips, the season has become this yearly reminder that I better get ready for the deep chill of winter. Only a few days before September is here: back to school, back to work, back to the routine, back to being busier than you already were, back to having more people wanting to take your time and energy in various increments. I know I shouldn?t expect such scenarios, but the patterns of my life since January of last year have informed me when I need to brace myself.

It?s been a week since Beth?s last day of work at CNA. She?s currently gearing up for the fall semester at Hunter College. She is now a teaching adjunct preparing to take her first crack at shaping young minds. At the same time, she also needs to finish up a pair of term papers hanging over her head since the previous semester. It?s the career change she always wanted to make, but never wanted to actually go through because she knew that the adjustment period would be rough. I?ve been living that reality for at least a year and a half now.

The idea that I?m the main breadwinner of the home just kills me, especially considering that I?m making half of what I used to make?doing something that I absolutely despise doing. Come September 15th, I will have been here a year. I?m almost 31 years old and I have an entry-level position in a customer service department. This CAN?T be my life. I keep wondering how the annual review?s going to go. It?s not that I haven?t done my job. I have ? quite well. How could I not when I?m dangerously overqualified? So the question remains: how do I get through the upcoming review without letting on that I?m bored to tears, that I?ve been considering other possibilities, that I consider clipping electrodes to my nether regions a more pleasurable alternative?

Okay, maybe that?s going too far, but you get my point. I?m here because it was the only opportunity made available to me after 6.5 months of not working. This isn?t a first choice, it isn?t even a last choice, it is what it is. And nothing more. If it wasn?t for God?s grace and a constant stream of music at my cubicle, I?d go completely mad. Like I said, boredom and numbness are zones I can?t afford to go into.

The war of economics that I fight daily just got more intense. I?m trying to figure out how bills are going to be paid from now on. When your inflow is considerably less than your outflow, it?s like battling a monster with a pair of barber shears. Maybe you?ll get close enough to actually cut off an ear, only to have it grow back within a few weeks? time. Still, I?m reminded that things could be far worse every time I take my lunch break and step out for some fresh air.

Within a few blocks of my office, the faces change but the scenario remains the same. A person sits on the sidewalk, head down, their worldly possessions in a knapsack, and their sign on display explaining their plight. New faces appear every week along my walk to the park. There are days I think they all rotate positions every so often. Hard times don?t discriminate; clearly all shades have been affected. I?ve seen a brother roam these streets with headphones, pontificating about various homemade theories with random passersby. There?s a sister a few doors down from where I work who wears a winter hat and jacket all year round with denim jeans, one leg rolled up to the kneecap. Her words are coarse and unforgiving as she carries several grocery bags around, their contents concealed from the multitude that hustle and bustle along East 21st Street, cell phones permanently attached to the sides of their heads.

I look at all of these people in these unfortunate circumstances, think about how many others there are in this city, and wonder when the NYPD will begin tucking them away?just in time for the Republicans to take over Gotham.

Posted by macedonia at 4:29 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 24 August 2004
back to the party
Now Playing: check the list, man...
Topic: playlists

This is it. The new mix is finally done. Almost 79 minutes in length, starring my good friends disco, house, techno, soul, and funk. After wrestling with this for several months (when I could sneak in the time), I have to say that I?m happy with it. As I?ve stated before on this blog, I?ve been calling it a ?lo-fi booty shake session,? so this one?s for the rump shakers out there. I?ve done the introspective, contemplative mix thing already and I needed to let loose for once?long overdue. Funny thing is it still feels like victory to me, or a soundtrack to overcoming obstacles in a way. That?s probably only because this thing is finally done. But before I overanalyze something that I never designed to be brainy in the first place, let me recap the playlist and step away from the keyboard.

Oh yeah, click here to listen. And enjoy. I hope?

-prelude to a celebration-
mouse on mars*diskdusk*thrill jockey
metro area*dance reaction*environ
the nick straker band*a little bit of jazz*prelude
cookie monster & the girls*c is for cookie (sweet version)*ninja tune (uk)
roy ayers*running away*polydor
cosmic rocker vs. zeb*hashish*codek
djinji brown*chango?s house*seven heads
aardvarck*non spoken (track b1)*delsin (the netherlands)
claro intelecto*tria*ai (uk)
the soft pink truth*soft pink missy*soundslike (uk)
the rapture*killing*dfa
liquid liquid*optimo*soul jazz (uk)
the soul searchers*blow your whistle*harmless (uk)
the joe cuba sextet*bang! bang!*tico
$tinkworx*whut*down low
ezekiel honig*cape cod getaway (john tejada remix)*microcosm music
matthew dear*in unbending*spectral sound
akufen*in dog we trust*force inc. (germany)
!!!*intensifieder ? sunracapellectrohshitmix ?03*touch & go
serge gainsbourg*marabout (bob sinclar remix)*mercury (france)
underworld*rez*wax trax!/tvt
carl craig*tres demented*planet e communications
-the comedown-

Posted by macedonia at 11:15 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 August 2004 11:21 AM EDT
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Thursday, 5 August 2004
a wedding, a reception, an afterparty, and the aftermath
Now Playing: WFMU - Noah Zark (wfmu.org)

In order for you to truly appreciate the wonderfully bizarre victory that was the afterparty, I need to fill you in on the wedding and reception that preceded it.

On Saturday, July 31, 2004, the heavens smiled as two souls were joined together to be married: Dawn Crandell and Baruch Israel. In a world where so many senseless things happen, this event was a reminder that beautiful moments ? the type that you secretly wish for and jump for joy when they do ? can still occur on this imperfect planet. The wedding wasn?t the typical religious service, as Dawn and Baba aren?t typical human beings. In fact, it was its unconventional nature that made it so memorable. Both artists, educators, and activists, the bride and groom culled from their individual upbringings and shared experiences to pull off an awe-inspiring union.

The wedding took place that afternoon at St. Mark?s Church in New York City. For the rest of my life, I will never get their processional out of my head. Baba and his wedding party lined up on one side of Parish Hall, Dawn and her wedding party on the other. They would enter with a personalized rendition of ?The Wedding March,? the women singing in luscious harmonies while the men laid down vocal percussion. It was a brilliant decision, one that still leaves me speechless just thinking about it. As the judge led them through the ceremony, a hush fell upon us all, followed by the feeling that all was right with the world. Few dry eyes were left in the place as Dawn and Baba recited their own vows. Again, we were speechless, save for a lone voice amongst the congregation that simply stated what we were all thinking: ?That?s deep.? And when they kissed, it was magic. It said more than all the words they?ve weaved together ever could.

From there, the wedding party exited the hall for a toast ? well, several actually. Get a bunch of artists and their close friends together and everybody?s gotta have their time in the spotlight. Leave it up to that nutty bunch to spark a bride and groom toasting cipher (?I got next!!?). It was all love, though. Two amazing people became husband and wife that day ? and for that, there?s plenty to say and to celebrate. After that, it was back into the hall for the reception. Amazing food and drink, largely a vegan selection and quite tasty. Did I mention that there was no air conditioning in Parish Hall? I think we all lost five pounds just by sweating. Music was provided by my man Emil a.k.a. DJ Center, Baba?s ace boon and groove purveyor for Open Thought. Moving deftly from soul and funk to old school hip-hop, afrobeat, and other flavors, he held it down, as always, giving folks a taste of what was in store for the afterparty.

So we said our goodbyes, offered more hugs and handshakes to the newlyweds, and headed off to spruce up for the jump off later on that night. And that?s when things really got interesting.

Emil had been briefing me for about a week and a half prior what he wanted the afterparty to be like: ultimately a celebration of Dawn and Baba through their favorite music. ?All I ask is that you bring your Macedonia vibe and I?ll bring my Center vibe.? That?s what he said to me. I was with it from jump. I love how that cat gets down in the mix and I knew that the both of us together would create something special for our newlywed friends. It was located at a place called Le Souk on Avenue B, a two-level restaurant/bar with a Middle Eastern-flavored decor and belly dancers to boot (a few of them male). The party would be located downstairs in an open area spot of the club. Ideally that area should have been closed off to us. It didn?t turn out that way, but more on that later.

Emil said that the owners never pay the DJs what they?re worth, but he could guarantee me a certain amount, which was more than I?ve seen at my last several gigs combined (not hard to do when you?re constantly spinning for free). No complaints outta me. Two nights before the big day, he calls me up stressed because dem shady Souk cats flipped the script on him. They figured they?d cut into our cash in order to make as much money as possible that night without spending a lot. That?s what it?s all about now regarding bars and clubs in the Rotten Apple, so I wasn?t surprised to hear that. He was getting a bad feeling and needed some encouragement. So we decide to stick it out and not let the bad vibe get us down, just feed off the positive energy that our friends would bring. But negativity is a worthy adversary and would show up in more ways than one that night.

The moment that Beth and I turned the corner on Avenue B and I saw all these trendy people lined up in front of the spot, I already knew what kind of night I was in store for. I quickly filed the coming attractions under ?one of those nights? and it played out just like I thought it would. Friends of mine who had RSVPd for the afterparty guest list were getting hassled over dress codes that management never bothered to tell anyone about. So after Emil comes out and tries talking with one of the staff (to no avail), he escorts me downstairs. He looked vexed, but still wanted to vibe out through the music, so he spun some more tunes. The trendy outnumbered the wedding folks 12 to 1. So much for having the room to ourselves. I was ready for whatever, so I tried to get a feel for where Center was at in terms of a rhythm. In the corner, a bachelorette and her giggly cohorts were making a scene. Our people were scattered amongst the room. There were a few heads that looked like regulars that seemed to be diggin? Center?s groove, though.

Dawn entered first, soon followed by Baba. The new husband needed to holler at Center regarding the illness of the evening, so I took over and played the following records:

cloud one*atmosphere strut*p&p
cookie monster & the girls*c is for cookie (sweet version)*ninja tune (uk)
talking heads*once in a lifetime*sire
jamiroquai*supersonic*sony (uk)
prince*17 days*warner bros.
prince*i wanna be your lover*warner bros.
booker t. & the mg?s*melting pot*harmless (uk)

While ?17 Days? blasted through the speakers, much to the delight of the bride (a MAJOR Prince fan), I crouched down to find another selection, only to hear the needle skate violently across the record. I sprung up to catch one of the bar backs zoom by out of the corner of my eye and figured they must have bumped the turntable or something. To make matters worse, one of them had turned a huge floor fan toward the mixing console, which would?ve been fine if it was blowing at us. But no?it was blowing directly over the turntables. So the slipmat from the other turntable gets blown over to the one that the Prince record is on and knocks the needle a little further. I pick the tonearm up off the record and shout at the top of my lungs?


People thought I was pissed, but I really wasn?t. I?ve ended up spinning in this type of environment more times than I care to count, and I already knew what I was in for. I figured if they were gonna play those types of games, let me get straight Negrocles on these mofos and speak in my Monsieur Big Nig voice. I let Center and Baba know about the happy haps and keep doin? my thing. This is probably around the time that a Plan B started to formulate. As I switch from ?Melting Pot? into a DJ Vadim joint, Dawn asks for a microphone. We hook up the headphones to the microphone jack and turn down the music. Dawn proceeds to announce to all in attendance that, due to the rudeness of the management, the afterparty was being moved down the street to a spot where her friend tends bar. Packed up our records and whatever else we had and left the place with no DJs, no music, no vibe.

Now, THAT?S how you shut a party DOWN.

This is obviously not the Alphabet City of ten years ago, because back then people who looked and acted like the trendy folks at Le Souk would have been scared to even walk down Avenue B. Gentrification is a cruel and harsh mistress. New York City, supposedly the most progressive city on earth, has become economically draining to artists. Due to outdated cabaret laws, bogus quality of life issues, and everything being geared towards the tourists and the rich, New York has been excluding native New Yorkers for years now. And forget about trying to champion new and exciting sounds at a club ? the owners would much rather play it safe. So everything?s geared towards the beautiful people, needlessly rife with dress codes and way too much attitude. The only time they?ll even consider taking a chance is when they?re down on their luck and figure that they have nothing to lose.

But the heads I was hanging with that Saturday night weren?t goin? out like punks. Seeing as how our time at Le Souk truly Le SUCKED, a mass exodus took place. The party would continue about a block and a half down the street at a discreet yet friendly spot that actually had air conditioning. After all that we had been through, we welcomed the change with open arms. The DJ was playing some danceable tunes with a Moroccan/Arabian flair. While my wife tried to figure out exactly when Avenue B turned into Little Tehran (her words), the people brought the party atmosphere with them. The dining area in the back turned into a dance floor in seconds flat. Want to know the key to getting a party started? Just call Dawn?s father and let him do the rest. No matter what the circumstances, brother Bernard will get it started.

So in a strange way, we won. The underdogs pulled it off. Granted, the music to our victory dance was supplied by a guy who would segue from Punjabi MC into Marc Anthony with a straight face, but who cares? The point is we still won. And the family and friends that surround Baba and Dawn were just the motley crew necessary to pull off such an upset. Emil was even able to spin some joints around two in the morning. Yeah, it was one for the books, all right. It was a conclusion that just proves how much sense it makes for them to be married: they sidestep the pitfalls, jump the hurdles, climb over the obstacles, and make victories happen.

Together. Just the way it should be.

Posted by macedonia at 3:06 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 August 2004 3:26 PM EDT
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Sunday, 1 August 2004
party for your right to fight: culture jamming in NYC
Now Playing: Howard University Marching Band - "Got To Get You Into My Life"
Topic: event reports

Saturday, July 24, 2004

It was around 9:30 p.m. when I found myself looking up at the Manhattan Bridge from a Brooklyn street corner down by the water?s edge. I was waiting on line with dozens of others to get into the Lunatarium. They were hosting a party entitled New Nation, some sort of multi-purpose festival with DJs, bands, carnival acts, and activist organizations. The heads at Complacent were involved, so I already knew the angle: somewhere between revelry and revolution. These functions are rarely ever without their share of hedonism, which was the very thing that made me wary about going in the first place. Decadence and I just don?t see eye to eye lately. Then again, when you tell yourself that you?re trying to live life like you know God is watching you (and sometimes acting as if you never said that to yourself), the tug-of-war between the spirit and the flesh reminds you that this battle is a daily operation?with no signs of an end anytime soon.

Visuals from a laptop were on display along the side of the warehouse with people text messaging from their cell phones in order to fill in the blanks of the broadcast statements. A man appears from around the corner in a white suit and a preacher?s collar, speaking through a megaphone. ?Now appearing on stage?the beautiful?sexy?Female Bureau of Investigation! Your chances of getting laid will increase greatly if you see this band! One can only hope that they investigate us?conduct a search?pat us down?? Apprehensions or no, too many people I knew were performing for me not to be there, plus there were some acts that sounded interesting. So I paid my ten bones, cast my dispersions to the side and walked in.

F.B.I. provided live funk and soul from a garage space. Opposite them was a tent area peopled with various organizations including Greenpeace, Dancesafe, and The League of Pissed-Off Voters. Functions like these always bring an interesting mix of people out: the ravers, hippies, hipsters, hackers, b-boys and b-girls, the well-to-do, the down and out, the anarchists, the activists, the undecided, and everyone else in between. Spent about the first half hour walking around and talking with random folks in the crowd (it?s amazing how easily my Boondocks/Okayplayer t-shirt can start up a conversation), as well as catching up with some heads I hadn?t seen in a while. It?s always wild when you see people from different areas of your life all in one spot. I could already tell it was going to be a memorable night.

I was encouraged to step into the garage to check out Femm Nameless, an all-female afrobeat band. Live bands that lay down a danceable groove are definitely my flavor right now and these sisters did not disappoint. They were tighter than a mosquito?s posterior from the moment they started and quickly whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The lead singer (who also played a mean trombone) brought the politickin? to our doorstep in between songs: ?It?s not only about making your vote count, but who counts the votes. DEMAND YOUR MOTHERF**KING RIGHTS!!? The crowd answered back with cheers of approval. They closed their set with a cover of Fela Kuti?s ?Water No Get Enemy,? leaving us wanting more. We clapped, stomped, and chanted for one more song. The femmes took the stage and absolutely KILLED Fela?s ?Zombie,? which I was secretly hoping they would perform. I went nuts. Once it was over, I made a beeline to their booth to cop their CD.

By this time, the festivities under the night sky began to resemble a carnival. People piled onto a bus that ran on vegetable oil that sat across from a van serving as a confessional booth. Out near the water, short films were projected onto a silver screen and people took turns being tossed back and forth on an apocalyptic-looking machine complete with a body harness. Got a nice hook-up from one of the activist booths handing out goody bags from The Nation. Meanwhile, anti-Bush administration shirts were a big hit that night ? ?My Bush would make a better President? for the ladies, ?My Dick would make a better Vice-President? for the men.

Video installations of Dubya and protests line the walls inside. People are having their faces painted in a corner. A naked man walks among the crowd as if nobody's supposed to notice that the emperor has no clothes on. Three rooms separate one series of sounds from another. Just around the bend emanate the sounds of disco and tribal house. My man Jordan?s got the multitude body to body on the dance floor. The lights go out and screams of delirium erupt. I leave this scene to condense my two carry bags into one, just in time for the DJ to drop ?The Nervous Track? by Nu Yorican Soul. And from there it?s on. I think it was Tyler Askew of Rude Movements holdin? it down on the tables. Deep and soulful house met up with broken beat in the mix. Every musical experience so far was further confirmation that I was in the right place?and my friends hadn?t even taken the stage yet.

During a 15-20 minute wait on the porta-potty line, I was entertained by The Hungry March Band, a raucous dose of Mardi Gras spirit infusing their performance. Between Femm Nameless and Tyler Askew, I danced so hard that I was literally wringing sweat out of my Boondocks tee. Luckily, The Nation goody bag had something to change into: a short-sleeved shirt that simply read ?November 2.? I made it back in time for the second half of 3rd Party?s set. As always, they did their thing ? real hip-hop at its finest. Rabbi Darkside, Farbeon, and my man Hired Gun sound better every time I see them. The way in which they trade verses off each other and keep the crowd going consistently is a beautiful thing to witness. And it was just getting started up in there. A seamless switch was made from 3rd Party to Open Thought, and the hip-hop flow continued. MC/beatbox artist Baba flipped verses off the dome, including a freestyle about hooking up with Dawn (his fiancee). That in particular was a really touching moment, especially if you know them and what a blessing it is to see them walk through life together. Baba called Dawn up to the stage (who was taken to the spot blindfolded by members of her bridal party, including my wife) and just kicked the verse, then kissed his bride-to-be as the crowd applauded and cheered.

(Let?s just stop there: how many hip-hop shows have you been to that celebrate love in such a fashion? Or even take the time to mention it? I didn?t even think about that aspect of it until just now.)

It had become a bit of a sweatbox inside and my wife needed to get some air, so we headed out for a few minutes. A drum circle started by the water with fire dancers adding their own pyrotechnic movements to the spectacle. Feeling the breeze come off of the river, reality begins to set in. I began to think about the war of economics that my wife and I fight daily, the idea that the money that I make at my current job is half of what I used to make at my previous one, and the bills still have to be paid. The fact that my wife's full time gig ends mid-August and then it's back to grad school, leaving us with nothing but my current salary to live on. The lack of savings, the abundance of passions and dreams, and how the two sides never seem to come to a compromise. Beth and I held hands under the bridge, the wind from the water numbing us both, trying to make sense of it all.

Back inside, the crowd was merely concerned with the get down as DJ Rekha hit 'em with the bhangra beats. Around the corner, DJ Chrome assaulted body movers with dark drum and bass as MC Hired Gun supplied microphone motivation. After about 20 minutes or so, I retreated to a corner to rest. The sounds from different rooms began to bleed into each other and the visuals would follow suit. George W. loomed large on a wall while a video manipulator put words in his mouth with a few clicks of a mouse. Behind Bush Jr. came a parade of protestors demanding to be heard, refusing to leave until their concerns were addressed. This symphony of sensory confusion provided an apt soundtrack to what I was feeling at the moment, let alone the political climate of our nation at large.

Watching the sun rise during the drive home, synapses in my brain called out for a rewind. Tyler Askew's set came rushing back to my memory, along with the feeling of euphoria while dancing to certain selections. It was good to have been in the midst, to party and politick alongside so many. What we do with the information that we have shared and received remains to be seen, although word has it that $16,000 in donations were raised for a number of political and activist organizations that were there that night. One thing's for certain: no matter what happens, the next few months leading up to Election Day are going to be quite interesting...and that's probably putting it lightly.

Posted by macedonia at 2:10 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 1 August 2004 2:15 PM EDT
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Monday, 26 July 2004
pop rocks (or "to hell with being hipper-than-thou")
Now Playing: Lady Man - Viagra Opus [theAgriculture]
Topic: music appreciation

?The records we?ve always loved were doing something culturally massive. We would love to bring [our label] into the mainstream. Are we doing something so much odder than Outkast? No. You know, people always say that good music cannot be successful and that?s a load of sh*t?we figure, we all have to listen to the radio, why not let our team win? I?m being an optimist. The day I stop believing this, then, I have a depressing A&R job.?

- James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records, ?Sup Magazine, Issue 13, Summer 2004

Reading James Murphy?s sentiments about music did my head in the other week. In the midst of the oh-so-hip attitudes of the underground, this guy unabashedly embraces pop music. Keep in mind that the DFA label is responsible for some of the most exciting music being released at the moment. It?s this wild mixture of punk ethics alongside danceable grooves. It?s rock music for rump shakers, an odd musical mutt that features blistering guitars rubbing up against funky bass lines, frenzied percussion and syncopated hand claps. It?s uncompromising and hard-hitting, but there?s something undeniably catchy in its song structure. I can hear it in the work of bands like The Rapture, The Juan Maclean, !!!, and others. The way that they rock so funky can be traced back to bands that were doing their thing in the late ?70s-early ?80s like ESG and Liquid Liquid. I am completely fascinated with this sound at the moment, and have been marveling at the idea of punk bands that wanted to move butts, that didn?t mind creating a locked groove through organic means.

A cat like Murphy amazes me. When you listen to the label?s output and read an interview like the one in ?Sup Magazine, it?s clear that he?s not trying to clutter an already oversaturated music industry. He is committed to making quality music, and DFA?s definitely doing that. At the same time, he is not solely doing things for a certain market. He is open to the possibilities of a larger listening public. He even tried working with Britney recently, but the sessions didn?t go well (apparently, Ms. Spears digs The Rapture). And again, he?s not trying to dilute the airwaves; plenty of other production companies and music imprints do that already.

I find that those within the under can?t even front on a lot of sounds being flaunted by the corporate signals, and Britney?s a prime example. I?ve seen people wear the ?Spear Britney? T-shirt, but I know several hard techno heads that are feelin? her song, ?Toxic.? I?ll never forget the first time I saw the video for ?Boys.? That was the day I learned that there?s so shame in Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo?s game: The Neptunes will work with anyone. It was bad enough that the choreography was straight out of the video for Janet Jackson?s ?Nasty.? Pharrell is perhaps the poster boy for overexposure (even more so than Diddy at his peak), but I can?t front on him. Alongside Chad, they have laced many an artist with a damned catchy beat. Is it any wonder that so many of us find ourselves listening to certain artists that we swore we despised? Once The Neptunes work their magic, the obligatory head nod session will ensue soon after.

They may work with a host of R&B folks and rap cats, but let?s face it?Pharrell and Chad are as pop as Jiffy, and they?re workin? that angle for all it?s worth. They can drive me nuts at times regarding who they work with, but never cease to pleasantly surprise me with a certain production or remix job. Ever hear their remixes for Sade?s ?By Your Side,? Daft Punk?s ?Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger? or Air?s ?Don?t Be Light?? Off the meter. It was their N*E*R*D project that made me first pay attention to them. I thought In Search Of? was going to be the Stankonia of 2002 and the album that brought black psychedelic pop back to the consciousness of the masses, but it didn?t quite work out that way.

One of my constant musical inspirations is Prince, who obviously knows something about crafting a great pop tune. Andre 3000 has certainly been taking notes over the years because ?Hey Ya!? was a monster. Both Outkast and Prince are perfect examples of good music being able to be successful. Both have also been able to freak the pop aesthetic and make it an integral part of their respective takes on music. Pop doesn?t have to be a bad thing. It can be catchy while not insulting your intelligence. I immediately think of three acts from the alternative rock landscape in that regard: The Cardigans, Stereolab, and Cornelius. All three have been able to work within a pop context and not become watered down in the process. The Cardigans have even performed sweet and sugary interpretations of Black Sabbath songs. Listening to Cornelius can be quite the genrecidal experience, but one constant always remains: his undying love for The Beach Boys and The Beatles (two ensembles that arguably drafted the blueprints for creating the quintessential pop tune). His vocal harmonies are lessons learned from the school of Brian Wilson. And Stereolab?I don?t know where to begin with them. They can convey a world of emotion with songs centered around two or three chords. Between the strum of the guitars, the occasional accompaniment of a brass section, and heavenly vocal harmonies, Stereolab represents everything enjoyable about pop music.

As of late, I?ve been obsessing over a pair of electronic music artists: Matthew Dear and Junior Boys. Dear has been touted as one to watch by a number of underground dance publications and he totally lives up to the hype. He has recorded a number of minimal techno singles under his own name as well as songs under two different monikers (Jabberjaw for the Perlon label and False for +8). Recently he has taken a turn towards vocal pop material and the results have been extraordinary. His debut album Leave Luck To Heaven includes several of these works, the most infectious of which is the lead-off single, ?Dog Days.? What amazes me about the track is how accessible it is without losing its underground integrity. It is a musical halfway point between techno and house with a repeated four-bar vocal chorus. Take that chorus out and it wouldn?t be the same ? it?s so necessary to the success of the track. To say that Matthew Dear is in a zone would be an understatement. Only a few months after the release of his debut album, the Backstroke mini-LP came out this month, featuring more vocal heavy work. It has quickly become a favorite of mine. As for Junior Boys, their album Last Exit came out about two months ago. I?ve only heard snippets from two songs released as singles, but my curiosity is peaked. Try to envision what would happen if an urban contemporary/hip-hop producer invited an ?80s synth pop outfit to their studio. In other words: Timbaland meets Depeche Mode. Yes. Seriously. FOR REAL.

All of these acts can be successful if given the right exposure. Good music deserves to be heard by as many as possible, no matter where it?s coming from. It?s funny how so many of us that support obscure artists tend to get upset when mainstream success comes their way. We?ve been known to turn our backs on them altogether. I can remember when Fishbone started getting more exposure. It was somewhere during the release of The Reality of My Surroundings, circa 1990 or so. They were a musical guest on Saturday Night Live and had made an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. Part of me was happy for them, but another part of me wondered what the hell was going on. Why is it that when others come to know what some already know about a certain artist (particularly one with mad talent and limited exposure), the first question that the informed want to ask is ?Where have you been??

I?ve been guilty of asking that question on many an occasion and then some. I would even go so far as to call people ?musically ignorant,? back during a time when I didn?t know half as much about music as I do now. I once hosted a college radio show in this condition, which means that I have an entire listening audience to apologize to. I can?t speak for others with their ears to the underground, but as for myself, there was this selfish part of me that always wanted to keep the music to myself. It?s as if I didn?t trust too many people having it at once because if that happened, there was a greater chance of the sound becoming tainted to mainstream influence. So I always wanted to make clear distinctions between the underground and the commercial, but the lines have seriously blurred over the past ten years. And I?ve come to realize that if I really love an artist, I won?t penalize them by keeping how great they are to myself. Now I want the world to know what awaits them underground. It?s like James Murphy said in that interview: ??why not let our team win??

I?m starting to think that being hip takes far too much effort. I am tragically un-hip. I?m too excited about music to have a ?cooler-than-thou? attitude about it. I want to run out and tell as many people as possible that the antidote for cluttered airwaves does exist, contrary to popular opinion. So for someone just coming into the knowledge about some leftfield sounds that I may have known about for a while, the question isn?t ?Where have you been?? If anything, I should ask them, ?Aren?t you glad you?re here??

Posted by macedonia at 2:14 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 10 August 2004 10:46 AM EDT
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Friday, 16 July 2004
laptop superstar (that is what you are...)
Now Playing: Mint Condition w/Jantine B (wfmu.org)
Topic: music appreciation

It?s always good to see your friends and associates make good. Although I was tired, sweaty, and really craving sleep when I got home after work Wednesday night, I fought it off and made my way down to a bar on the Lower East Side for a friend?s record release party. Enter Ezekiel Honig, organic electronics wunderkind, whose debut album for Microcosm Music (2nd album overall) is receiving critical acclaim from various sources. I believed in what he was doing from day one. He makes some of the most heartfelt laptop tunes that the ears will ever be blessed to hear. Just seeing his CD packaged all professional-like makes me smile. The album in question (People, Places & Things) arrived in select stores this past Tuesday.

A mix CD by his buddy Brett a.k.a. Clever, drum and bass DJ extraordinaire, was released the same day. He?s been exploring the leftfield areas of d&b on an imprint called Offshore Recordings. The CD (Troubled Waters) provides a summary of Offshore?s travels up until this point. Prior to its release, it had already received the seal of approval from DJ Dara, Dieselboy, and Simon Reynolds (author of Generation Ecstasy). On top of that, the CD is currently featured in the Virgin Megastore?s Union Square location with its own listening booth.

While I don?t know Brett that well, I have heard his earlier mixes ? all of which have been stellar. As for Ezekiel, what can I say?Zeke?s my man. Our friendship dates back about eight or nine years, back to our time at SUNY Albany. He was a sick DJ back then and it was no surprise when he began to make his own music, but what he?s doing now?I had no idea that all of that was in him.

The label release party was held at Spill (formerly known as Bauhaus) on the lower east side of NYC, right next door to where the Orchard Bar used to be. It is also where Recess located to, a party that I was once a resident DJ for. I hadn?t been at a Recess function since last October, so it felt kinda weird at first. But the decor of Spill is totally different from the Orchard Bar, with carved-out seating arrangements and flat-screen TVs lining the wall and a kickin? sound system. Almost made me forget that I have a thing against bars, and I hadn?t felt that way in a long time.

A DJ named Lindsay warmed up the night with a wonderfully eclectic set that bounced from old disco and R&B to house and electro. Heavy ?80s influence in the mix, too. Been wanting to see her spin for a while cause I knew she had deep crates. After some technical difficulties, Zeke was up and running. Staring intently at a sleek-looking PowerBook, a man and his laptop ran through material from the new album and selections from his three-inch CD single on Red Antenna as well as his first album released on his own label. Friends waved, whistled and chatted him up while strangers head nodded and even shook their rumps a little bit.

When it was all over, applause and cheers were offered up by the faithful. Zeke just kinda gushed behind his Mac and handed the reins over to Clever, who proceeded to lead the crowd straight into sinister step territory. Hated to leave, but the next day brought another work day, so I slipped out and made my way to the subway (which consistently finds new ways to screw up my route home). I drowned out the drunk people on the Metro-North train with a Michael Moore text and the music in my head, doting on the possibilities of Ezekiel and Brett?s success. I honestly believe that Wednesday night was just the beginning and that it will pale in comparison to what awaits them both in the not so distant future.

Posted by macedonia at 10:09 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 July 2004 2:34 PM EDT
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Friday, 9 July 2004
damn, it feels good to be in customer service...
Now Playing: Mint Condition with Jantine B (wfmu.org)

No, the heat in this place hasn?t gotten to me. And no, you?re not hallucinating. You?ve read exactly what you think you?ve read. I never thought I?d say it, but some workplace drama made me think twice. It all started after lunch yesterday.

Rob, an admin that sits on the other side of my cubicle wall, had called his cell phone company. His phone was on the blink due to no fault of his own; apparently, it?s not the first time that the phone has malfunctioned. So he calls customer service to get an upgrade, a service that he did not want to pay for. He had to explain this scenario at least four times because every time he talked to someone, he needed to be transferred to someone else. The dynamics in his voice would change with each person he called. Rob would start off all calm, then get louder the more agitated he got. So imagine this taking place four times in a row, the dynamic peak reaching a new plateau with each conversation. The phrase of exasperation went from ?Are you serious?? to ?Oh, you?ve gotta be kidding me? to ?This is bulls**t,? and ending with ?F**k that!? Meanwhile, the rest of us are answering calls while all of this is going on, phone receiver under one ear while plugging the other with our index fingers.

Things continued to go from bad to worse for Rob. Before long, whoever he was talking to would hang up on him. This happened twice, possibly three times. I remember Rob being connected to someone and the first thing he said to them was, ?I am not going to curse at you, so please don?t hang up on me.? After a few minutes, that person hung up on them, too. It was at that moment that I realized I was doing something right. Honestly, the mere fact that I?ve stuck with this for eight months is worthy of acknowledgement. Anybody that knows me knows that I despise phones. And yet, I still come in and do my thing. I answer the phone, I return calls, I troubleshoot queries, I try to get back to people as quick as I can, I strive to remain courteous at all times, and I like to think that I succeed more often than I fail. While Rob?s experience on the phone sounded far from pleasurable, it made me feel better about what I was doing. As my co-worker Matthew so aptly put it, ?If you?re talking to a customer and they never have to say ?F**k that,? you?re having a pretty good day.?

There?s an extremely funny TV show on the BBC entitled The Office. There are moments when my time here at Rosen Publishing mirrors that show. Every now and again, I just look around at everyone and think to myself, what on earth am I doing here with these insane people? There?s a boat cruise coming up in two weeks that the office is hosting. While I?m looking forward to it, the idea that I?m going to be on the boat with these fools with no feasible way of getting back to shore on my own is a little?well?frightening. I can?t front, though: I?ve grown accustomed to these nuts. They?re a lovable bunch ? crazy, but lovable.

When the time comes, I?ll fill you in on all the cruise details. Don?t you worry about that. Because after all?I?m here to help.

Posted by macedonia at 10:03 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 9 July 2004 10:15 AM EDT
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