Friday, June 20, 2008

Gotta Have You

I first randomly came across Deb Talans' intensely unique voice four or five years back...I have no idea how, but I remember listening to some tunes on her website and really liking them. But, I soon forgot the website and then her name, and she seemed to become lost in the sands of time. Then, earlier this spring, her voice came back to me in a daydream, and I made a concerted effort to track her down...and boy oh boy I'm glad I did.

Since last I met Deb, she done got hitched and formed a duo: The Weepies. Their music is beautiful. You should listen to it.

One song of theirs that I listened to over and over again off of their MySpace page (b/c I'm a poor bastard that can't afford to buy albums right now) was "Stars". I'm not sure why...there's just something about it. Much to my chagrin, they then took the song off of MySpace, and, after not being able to find it anywhere else on the interweb, I found this video on YouTube. It is not made or sponsored by the group...just a homemade video by some dude. I admit that the first multiple times I played the video I didn't even watch it -- just listened. But then, seeing bits and pieces of it started to intrigue me, and after watching it in full, the impact of this amazing piece of art really affected me. This is one emotional and heartbreaking won't fully hit you until the end, when you realize what the whole thing's about. I've watched it over and over, taking in Deb's voice, and appreciating again the beautiful song, story, and message.

Watch it once and then click on the 'comments' below for the story behind the video, from the creator. It'll make you Weepie.

Below: The Weepies - "Stars" [video]

And another lovely song:

The Weepies - "Gotta Have You" [MP3 (in new window)]

Official Band Site | Buy the Album (Say I Am You)
MySpace (listen to "World Spins Madly On" first)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Random YouTube Fun: Daft Bodies

This just makes me smile, and not only because of the partial nudity. Fun song, fun heads, and any video that has the robot dance in it is a winner in my book. Over 1.5 million people have enjoyed this already, and now you can too! The action gets down to it around the 45 second mark, and just gets better as the music gets faster and funkier. I admit, I'm slightly obsessed with this. Daft Punk est good times!

That was inspired by the original "Daft Hands" video, which is also great fun to watch.

Daft Punk - "Harder Better Faster Stronger" [MP3 (in new window)]

Friday, January 18, 2008

Smile Like You Mean It

So it's become obvious to me and perhaps you that amidst the still-newish-job, the other jobs, the school, the basement remodeling, the family, and, perhaps most significantly as it relates to this blog, the breakup of the band, that I'm not very good at focusing on the music of I had hoped when I first set forth on this mildly interesting blog journey. I blame Dan Beahm in many ways, since his move to Boulder from Champaign in July abruptly ended my rock star days just months into them, just as we hit our stride with a (brief but legendary) mainstage performance at the Canopy Club. With his departure went my valid excuse for leaving my family and responsibilities a few times a month to attend and/or perform a late-night local music rock spectacle. Since then, my ties to the "scene" have become tenuous at best, and I haven't been able to devote the time I need to research the bands I want to highlight. Thus, my blog has consisted mostly of random but (hopefully) fun links to non-local goodness. I'm writing now to simply state that, for at least the next few months until my medic class ends, this blog will continue along the lines of what I've been doing recently, without the C-U focus that I'd like to hit on. I do have partially-written posts on the Andrew Bird concert that was at Krannert back in September and a couple of bands like The Beauty Shop that I'll trot out here one of these days...

BUT, in the meantime, I eagerly invite you to visit Smile Politely, a rather-new blog/website focusing on all things Champaign-Urbana that I mentioned briefly a few posts ago. The rag-tag band of all-Chambana writers includes local music guru Seth Fein, local music superstar Larry Gates, local omnipresent film critic guy Chuck Koplinski, and the former founder and publisher of alt-weekly The Octopus, Paul Young, among many other interesting blokes. They've had very interesting local music updates recently, along with food, theatre, sports, gossip, and everything else, so I invite y'all to point your browsers that'away!

Just for kicks and related to nothing, I'll add here for your listening pleasure an **unfinished demo** of my favorite Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three song, as yet unreleased. There is a chance that I may receive a cease-and-desist letter from Dan for this, but he's skiing in Vail right now, so whatever. Again, this is a low-quality DEMO. When performed live, I was the dude on tambourine, who very successfully annoyed all with my overbearing ching-chinging. This is all Dan on the recording, and I invite you, as I have before, to visit his website to listen to all of his most recent album (written, produced, and recorded in a spare bedroom in a house on the corner of Washington & Elm in Champaign) for free. This song is the first of a new genre of music Dan has deemed "swank rock"... rock music with a loungey-hipster flair. Enjoy.

Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three -- "By the By" [MP3 (in a new window)]

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Man for Me

My friend Maddy Wyatt is becoming quite the NYC songstress, having released her debut album, Backdive, last summer, and playing gigs throughout the five boroughs and beyond. But, more on her at a later date. She's written an ode to the man who will be our next president, and she has the song as a free download on her website, here.

I've known that I'm going to vote for Barack since long before he ever announced that he was running. Back during his state senator days, he gave the closing keynote address at an April 2004 conference I helped organize in celebration of the anniversary of the Brown vs. Board decision, held at the College of Law at the University of Illinois. It was a pretty amazing conference, with speakers including Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP, and Neville Alexander, the co-founder of South Africa's National Liberation Front and prisoner with Nelson Mandela on Robbin Island, among many others. Obama spoke to a small audience of maybe 50-75 people, and was highly impressive on every level. I was instantly drawn to him. I could go on waxing poetically about the experience, but it's all been said before by many others, including Maddy in this song! I got his autograph and shook his hand, which I knew was special even back then.

Here's Maddy's video. Click the link above to download the song and spread the love! 'Tis all the rage in NYC!

Below: Maddy Wyatt - "Man for Me (Ode to Barack)" [music video]

On a related note, here's some pretty trippy Barack fun!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Uncle Sam Goddamn

To offset my recent postings of Barbara Streisand and children's christmas specials, I figured I should bust out some "manlier" beats, if you will.

Thanks to a new-ish Chambana arts and entertainment website that I'm quite fond of, Smile Politely, I've discovered a new holmes to add to my list of kickass white boy rappers. How I love white boy rappers.

I introduce you now to Brother Ali, a "six foot tall, legally blind albino Muslim" from Minneapolis. Dude can flow! And he raps about politics and world events and race and America as the evil empire! Hot damn!

Below: Brother Ali - "Uncle Sam Goddamn" [official music video]

Here's a great bluesy-funky tune that I will be offended if you don't like:

Brother Ali
- "Take Me Home" [MP3 (in new window)]

And an interesting interview with the man himself.

Official Band Site | Buy the Album

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Year Without a Wookie for Christmas

Some last-minute Xmas fun...

My favorite clip out of all the stop-motion animation Christmas specials from the '60s and '70s:

The Year Without a Santa Claus - "The Snow Miser Song / The Heat Miser Song" [video from 1974 ABC TV special}:

I love that song. The dancing chorus dudes are brilliant!

Snow Miser is voiced by Dick Shawn, an actor and stand-up comedian best known for his role as Lorenzo St. DuBois/Adolf Hitler in "Springtime for Hitler" in the original The Producers in 1968. Random fact: he died onstage from a heart attack in the middle of a comedy routine in 1987, but the audience didn't realize it wasn't part of his act until the paramedics arrived.

Heat Miser is voiced by George S. Irving, a Broadway veteran who most notably (for me) replaced the original Major General in the 1981 production of The Pirates of Penzance (my favorite musical), starring Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt.

And, without a doubt my favorite non-traditional Christmas song:

The Star Wars Holiday Special
- "What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas?" [song from 11/17/78 TV special]

I'd like to post more about these specials, but must be off to family holiday fun now!

More on A Year Without a Santa Claus here.
More on The Star Wars Holiday Special here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


The Santastic! albums are absotively free "holiday" albums put out each of the last three years by a collective of DJs from around the world. The DJs are given free rein to do whatever they'd like with an existing holiday song or, most often, songs. The results are "mash-ups", where Frosty the Snowman overlaps and intertwines with Run DMC, Eartha Kitt with Janis Joplin, Rudolph with Black Sabbath, Adam Sandler and the Simpsons with the Dreidel Song, Jingle Bells with Led Zeppelin, John Lennon and the Jackson 5 with Santa Claus, etc.

The results are mixed. There are a few absolute standouts that have immediately become a few of our holiday favorites. Others are fun to listen to once or twice for the novelty of it, and some just aren't all that, by my reckoning. But, nonetheless, 'tis free and definitely worth a browse through, as they're sure to bring you a few good tidings!

Our favorite songs are below. The first two inspire madcap dance parties whenever played in this hizouse, and I predict you will be blown away by the awesomeness that is "Lonely Siberian Winter". Have fun trying to place all the bits of songs that are thrown in there!

Santastic II - "Lonely Siberian Winter" (by DJ John) [MP3]

Santastic II - "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" (by Lenlow) [MP3]

Santastic III - "Yuletide Zeppelin" (by mojochronic) [MP3]

Santastic I - "The Christmas Massacre of Charlie Brown" (by DJ John)

Links to the full albums:

Santastic I: Holiday Boots 4 Your Stockings (
- You can only download the entire album, not individual tracks. Click on the Santastic TORRENT 2005 link to download, and use a free software like uTorrent to un-encrypt it.

Santastic II: Clausome! (
- Our favorite album of the three. You can left-click on each individual song to listen to it or right-click to download it for free! You don't have to download the album as a whole.

Santastic III in 3-D (
- Like the second album, you can left-click on each individual song to listen to it or right-click to download it for free! You don't have to download the album as a whole.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Random YouTube Find: festouverture

I happened across this chic when looking to watch an old Cat Stevens performance of "Moonshadow" (one of my favorite songs) a few months ago. Her voice is intense. I really dig these covers, and she has some quality new stuff she's working on as well. All I can glean from her YouTube page is that her first name is Joanna, and she's from San Gabriel, CA. So there you go. Check out all of her videos here.

Below: festouverture - "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens [video]

Below: festouverture - "I Wanna New Drug" by Huey Lewis & the News [video]

Friday, November 30, 2007

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Five years and one week ago I was lucky enough to marry my high school sweetheart -- the past, present, and future love of my life. Heck, she was practically my junior high sweetheart, for crying out loud. Jenna and I met in the 8th grade in Elmhurst, IL, a suburb 18 miles straight west from Chicago; she the cool public school kid and I the Catholic school dork with a bowl haircut. We met in the theatre, as all good relationship stories begin -- in the Elmhurst Children's Theatre 1991 production of a dumbed-down version of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I was Filby, the time-traveling supergenius, and she was Agatha, Filby's secretary, who had a hidden, burning desire for her employer. Jenna and I had grown up just a few short blocks from each other (though on opposite sides of a busy street), but had never crosssed paths until then. We carpooled to rehearsals together and came to be quite good friends, though our friendship didn't progress past anything show-related, at the time. I had no problem talking to girls but had no idea how the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing worked, so that never crossed my, she was a "public"! Scandalous! I forsook the whole God thing and became a public myself for high school (York Dukes!), where Jenna and I shared honors English classes and quickly became very good friends again (see perhaps earliest known picture of us, at left, circa 1993?). Sophomore year we did a group project together on the novel The Scarlet Letter, which kicked off a many-months- long stretch of talking on the phone together almost nightly. Still, I didn't know how to broach the relationship thing...I despised and refused to say the stupid words "Will you go out with me?", but saying that seemed to be the only way to become an "official" couple. Eventually she got tired of waiting for me to step up to the plate, and she went out with some other dude. I then beat that guy up and won her heart -- oh, wait, nope, that didn't happen. Interestingly, a few months later, midway through the first semester of junior year, I somehow got the gusto to ask the silly question of another young lass. Jenna and I, much to the chagrin of my friend-who-was-a-girl, remained close-ish friends and classmates. Nine months or so later, I was "single" again, and the very next day after the break-up Jenna and I just automagically gravitated towards each other and went out for ice cream, and that was that ... we've been together ever since. We count the last week of August 1995 as the beginning of our "official" relationship. From there, life and the whims of youth have taken us for quite an exciting ride, where we've done everything a bit out of order (just the way we like it) ...first came baby, then moving in together in Champaign, then both graduating from the UofI, then the start of real job and grad school, then the wedding, then the minivan purchase, then two more kiddos and a house purchase in betwixt. It's been, and continues to be, quite a fun adventure, and I'm so fortunate to be tag-teaming through life as the small annoying Asian boy (Short Round?) to Jenna's Indiana Jones.

Jenna, thanks for everything in my life. You are an incredible woman, which encompasses so many other titles that you excel at: wife, partner, lover, friend, daughter, sister, teacher, etc....and, most importantly I know, mom. I love you. Happy Five Years.


It seems that in every picture ever taken of Jenna and I together, she looks great and I look like a total schmo (see examples above and below). I'm beginning to wonder now if that's just a perfect representation of real life.

(above: senior year homecoming '95 | graduation '96 | end of the wedding, Nov 23, 2002)
(below: jan '96 | late '95/early '96 | sept '97, the very mature-looking parents of a 1-year-old | aug '02, few months before the wedding | june '07, me still a stooge after all these years)


We had one hell of a wedding, I must admit. We were only the second couple ever married in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana (as far back as anyone can remember, at least). They didn't allow weddings for the general public at the time (they do now), but we got the hook-up since I worked and went to school there. Our wedding save-the-date is at right (click to enlarge).

We knew from early on exactly what "party favor" we wanted to give to all our guests at the wedding: a CD of music that had played a role in our relationship or that we just plain dug. Since this is supposed to be a music blog (though it hasn't seemed like it much recently!), below you'll find the complete track listing along with the original liner notes (with some updated tweaks) from our wedding CD entitled Merrily We Roll Along: Jenna and David's Big Adventure (The Soundtrack). Also, as a special bonus, if you act now you'll find links to many of the songs themselves! Remember, if the title of a song is underlined, you can either left click on it to listen to a full Mp3 of it, or right click and "Save As" to save a full copy of the Mp3 to your very own computer (Mac users, I'm not sure what you do, sorry!). For others, just hit the play button to listen to it. Heck, if you'd like a copy of the full CD for your very own, I'd love to send you one in the mail, if you ask real nice-like.

Merrily We Roll Along: Jenna and David's Big Adventure (The Soundtrack)

Click on the underlined song titles to listen!

1. Prologue (from the musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change)
One of our favorite musicals…a modern & musical look at relationships, from first date through death. Great music, and completely hilarious.

2. The Time Machine Tango (Jenna & David)
David is Filby, the time-traveling wonder genius. Jenna is Agatha, his trusty secretary with a poorly-hidden passion for her employer. When these two dynamic forces collide onstage, watch out! Sparks fly as Jenna and David, vintage 1991, work their magic, backed by Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. Remix put together at Krannert Center's audio department. Odds are no one but David will find this even remotely listenable or interesting.

3. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack)
Without any doubt, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Our friend Daniel Reichard (from David’s University of Michigan days…) sang and played this at the wedding. We knew from the moment that we started planning the wedding that we wanted Dan to sing this song. A beautiful song sung by a beautiful talent.

4. Come What May (from the film Moulin Rouge)
The best song from perhaps the greatest film ever made (you are wrong if you think otherwise). Our first dance song…we both knew it from the first moment we heard this song in the movie. Truly a wonderful song.

5. I Was Made to Love Her (Stevie Wonder)
Everything about this song is happy. David loves this song primarily for the backup singer’s “oooo, hey hey hey”. Not sure why…but again, it just makes us happy!

6. Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael)
Everyone has sung a version of this song, but this is the original, as sung by its writer, Hoagy Carmichael, on his Hong Kong Blues album. David’s Uncle Brian gave him a Hoagy cassette as a gift back in junior high…and now David is proud to be perhaps the only 20-something who knows who Hoagy Carmichael is. We also love this song as sung by Nat King Cole in the soundtrack of Sleepless in Seattle. As one of Jenna’s favorite CDs, that soundtrack was prevalent throughout the beginnings of our relationship in high school. (at right, our wedding in the lobby of the Krannert Center)

7. It Takes Two (from Into the Woods; words/music by Stephen Sondheim)
One of Jenna’s favorite musicals by Jenna’s favorite lyricist/composer (and namesake of one of our cats!), Stephen Sondheim. Jenna has always loved this musical since seeing the original cast on Broadway way back in the late 80s. During senior year of high school, Jenna and David did an Honor’s English group project about this musical, performing scenes together in class. This song was one of our readings at the wedding, read by David’s Aunt Beckie.

8. I am the Pirate King (from the musical The Pirates of Penzance; by Gilbert & Sullivan)
The role that David just won’t stop talking about ... this is David singing his character-defining song from his favorite musical, The Pirates of Penzance. York did this show our junior year, and David hasn’t gotten over it yet. Though he does sound slightly flat at times during this song, be assured that that was done on purpose to keep the piratical authenticity…and it was the orchestra’s fault, of course. If you listen closely, you may be able to hear our good friend Matt Hill yo-ho-hoing and “arrrg”ing away in the background.

9. Come By Me (Harry Connick Jr.)
A great song by one of our favorite singer/songwriters. Jenna has always loved both Harry and his music, and David likes Harry’s hair and wants to be Harry when he grows up. It was very difficult picking out just one Harry song for this CD, because we like all of it.

10. In My Life (The Beatles)
David has been a huge Beatles fan since his mom and Uncle Al first introduced the post-1965 Beatles to him in junior high. This song, from their Rubber Soul album, is a really important song with a great message, and has personal significance because David and fellow groomsman Wade Wegner sang this at our high school graduation ceremony. This song was played on the piano by Daniel Reichard while Jenna walked down the aisle.

11. What A Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong)
This was the first song that we played for Madeline after bringing her home from the hospital….we thought it rather appropriate and lovely. Rather cheesy, yes, but lovely.

12. Time after Time (Amazin’ Blue, U of Michigan a capella group)
We really like this song as sung and originally written by Cyndi Lauper. However, this version of the song is much better! David’s friend Anna Gleichauf, of Michigan fame, leads Amazin’ Blue, everyone’s favorite collegiate a capella group, in this version, with Maddy Wyatt singing in the background! Yippy!

13. Best of My Love (The Emotions)
This is a song from an album that is played constantly in our home…the Boogie Nights soundtrack. We love this movie ... not the happiest or most family-friendly film ever made, but it’s quality darnit! The soundtrack is particularly fabulous.

14. With You (from the musical Pippin)
Pippin is a fabulous musical…one of our favorites. Jenna grew up listening to this music, and David was first introduced to it while at Michigan, by his friend Eric Jackson. This song was another reading at our wedding, read by Jenna’s coolest uncle and godfather, Sean.

15. UofI Alma Mater (The University of Illinois Marching Illini)
This is the vocal version of the mighty U of I Fight Song, which has inspired us through many Illini football and basketball tragedies. Since we were engaged in New Orleans while there to see the Illini lose horrifically to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, we figured it to be appropriate to have this song on the CD. Also, our friend Grace and David have started their own Fightin' Illini tradition, honoring former basketball mediocrity Victor Chukwudebe. To join in the tradition, replace the lyrics "Victory, Illinois, Varsity" with his name! It totally works! We hope to have a whole stadium of people singing his name before we leave this town. On the psuedo-timeline- of-sorts that this CD is following, this song marks our moving in together in Champaign and our time spent at the University.

16. Catch a Falling Star (Perry Como)
We are big Perry Como fans, which some people may find to be rather strange. But, if you really give him a chance, you will be assimilated. David first came to love Perry Como while working on Forever Plaid in Chicago, in which this song is sung. David’s mother bought him a 2-disc Perry Como collection for Christmas, after debating whether to purchase Perry or the Beastie Boys for her son ... an interesting quandary.

17. I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (Elvis Presley)
Not too many people know this song, even though it is included on Elvis’ Golden Records album. Very cool and upbeat tune. We were privileged enough to take part in a pilgrimage to the Elvis Mecca (Graceland, of course) on our way down to New Orleans, a few days pre-engagement … certainly a life-changing experience for us both. David suprised Jenna by singing this song to her at the wedding, complete with back-up singers (Celia, Maddy, and Emily from UMich), a pianist (groomsman Wade from high school & college), and drummer (Corey from UIllinois).

18. Don’t Rain On My Parade (Barbra Streisand, from the musical and film Funny Girl) -- see video at bottom of this post
Oooo this is a fun song. Barbra just plain works it. Madeline and David have a short dance routine to this tune. Jenna joins us if we’re lucky.

19. Unexpected Song (Betty Buckley, from the musical Song and Dance) -- download
Yet another great song ... you are probably getting bored of us saying how great every song is ... sorry! Betty Buckley, star of stage and screen, performed at the Krannert Center a few years back, and David worked with her during the performance, falling in love with her in the process. She has one of the best voices of all time, yo.

20. Take a Chance On Me (ABBA)
Our good friend Grace Godwin first let us borrow the ABBA Gold CD. Thank you Grace. Seriously, even if you hate ABBA, you will love this CD ... or perhaps just hate them even more. At any rate, we dig ‘em!

21. (Love is) The Tender Trap (Frank Sinatra & Count Basie)
Another great song off of a great album ... one of David’s favorites combinations, Sinatra & Basie. David first heard this tune in music theory class at Michigan, and borrowed the CD from the TA. We are Sinatra and jazz fans ... it doesn’t get any better than this song.

22. The Origin of Love (from the musical Hedwig & the Angry Inch)
This is a beautiful song about love from a really bizarre but brilliant rock musical, Hedwig & the Angry Inch. We just discovered this musical and this song within the past six months, and thought that this song would be a great addition to the CD.

23. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag (James Brown)
There isn’t much personal significance to this song ... only that it is a great song to dance to and that this CD needed another upbeat song!

24. An Old-Fashioned Wedding (from the musical Annie Get Your Gun)
A lovely song about weddings from the musical by Irving Berlin.

25. All You Need is Love (The Beatles)
More Beatles. This was played at the end of our wedding, as everyone exited the ceremony.

26. Everything's Coming Up Roses (Ethel Merman, from the musical Gypsy) -- download
While debating what to use for a recessional song at the end of the wedding, we suddenly came up with this tune. Perfection! Totally hokey and cheesy, but this sort of cheesy equals happy, and that’s just what we were looking for! Not a traditional choice perhaps, but definitely one that reflects us.

27. Oskee-Wow-Wow (the University of Illinois Marching Illini)
Ok, just for kicks, a quick song to end…this theme (no, we have no idea what the title means) is played incessantly at all Illini sporting events. Now you can play it yourself for all your favorite events! Enjoy!

So, hope y'all enjoyed the peek into our lives through the magical world of music. If we made the CD today, certainly there would be a few changes (would have to include Sufjan and/or Andrew Bird of course!), but the songs above are a great representation of our lives at the time. There is also a second CD of J&D wedding hits, with a bunch of songs we played pre- and, wedding.

At left: The York HS friend contingent, consisting of the wonderful peeps we've known since '92 and, some, much earlier. Including groomsmen Wade Wegner and John Walsh, and maid of honor Lauren Dolan. We love them all, except Boosh. They've been with us since the beginning and before, and we'd be different people without them in our lives. Maybe better people, but different nonetheless. ah ha ha.
At right: The UMich MT contingent, consisting of two brilliant Tony Award nominees/winners (Celia Keenan-Bolger at left and Daniel Reichard middle), a kickass indie rock/folk songstress who plays all over the greater NYC area (Maddy Wyatt), and the rockin' renaissance woman Emily Whyte. (yes, I'm a bastard name-dropper) All four contributed their music to the wedding, Daniel playing piano and singing during the processional and the three ladies singing backup on the Elvis tune. Note that despite my best efforts I still look like a damned fool in this picture. My hair that day was just a disaster.
Not pictured: Want to be sure to give a shout-out to our best man, Chris Hillbruner, who is currently saving the good people of Ulan Bator, Mongolia (seriously), after we flew him in from the Peace Corps in the Phillipines for the wedding. Also, I'd be remiss not to mention that our now-11-year-old daughter, Madeline, was our flower girl/ring-bearer, which was so wonderful. Not everyone gets to have their daughter in their wedding!

** Thanks to our friend Cornie for the artsy-fartsy picture of us at our wedding, at the top.

Below: Barbra Streisand - "Don't Rain On My Parade" [1975 TV special video]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blame It On the Rain

Ok, yes, it's been awhile. To the three people that once read this blog, I apologize.

Now, for those interested, my excuses:

My last post was on June 7th (whoa, over six months ago). On June 22nd I left my full-time job with the University (after six years) to pursue the life exotique as a full-time EMT with the best ambulance service in Champaign County (whose name shall go unsaid at this time...though I might add that we've got Jesus riding shotgun in all of our ambulances, and that's just alright with me) . Night shift, 12-hr shifts thrice a week. Meanwhile, I started taking classes to obtain my paramedic license, which will come about sometime Summer 2008. Said classes are T & Th morning for four hrs each plus an afternoon lab once a week. Then on top of that we have almost 500 hours of hospital and ambulance clinicals to finish by next summer...of which I've only completed about 20 hours so far! That's all quite awesome, frankly. I love my job, and I am truly proud to be part of such a great organization and line of work.

The rub of course is that EMTs make only slightly more per hour than freshly-hired line cooks at Steak 'n Shake. I love Steak 'n Shake as much as the next guy, but give me a break. So, on top of the EMT gig I have three other part-time/freelance jobs: doing online work for my former employer at the University, as an "academic hourly" (for which I get paid over twice as much as what I make on the ambulance); as a freelance copy editor for a local publication house; and as a freelance events stage manager at the coolest place around, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Then there's the whole wife and three kids thing, and all that jazz. Life is full, and all is good.

I'll take this opportunity to toss a shout-out to all y'all I should be writing individually but haven't recently parce que I'm a bastard (D&E, Wade & Teri, Christopher, Anna, Maddy, TTBers, all the other MTs of '00, etc). Nug luv.

And mad props to Jenna for putting up with all of this. Love you!

Excuses are lame. I'm going to continue to update as best I damn can, if only so that Dan will stop spamming my comments. And there we go.

Below: Milli Vanilli - "Blame it on the Rain" [official music video]

Thursday, June 7, 2007

C-U Thursday:
2007 Pygmalion Music Festival

I'm very excited to trumpet the first announcement of the 2007 Pygmalion Music Festival, the great gathering of "independent" musicians that started in 2005 and has grown significantly since, bringing excellent bands and increased indie cred and whatwhat to Champaign-Urbana. It's taking place this year September 19-22, at venues across Chambana, and there are already 30 bands lined up, with more coming.

Headliners include the king of all that is beautiful, Andrew Bird (playing the Festival Theatre at the Krannert Center!), Okkervil River, and Champaign's own Headlights (no REO Speedwagon, sadly). The best of the C-U indie scene is represented, with the previously blogged-on Casados and soon-to-be-blogged-on The Beauty Shop, along with Elsinore, Shipwreck, Coco Coca, The Tractor Kings, etc. I'm perhaps most excited about finally seeing Denison Witmer, a friend of Sufjan (and thus a friend of mine) whose album I really dig, and who I've missed a few times already in concert. Liz Janes, another friend and former label-mate of Sufjan who opened for him when he played Urbana in 2005, will be joining in on the fun. Say, Seth at Nicodemus Agency (the producer of the festival), wouldn't it be quite a coup if we could get Sufjan to come along and join his friends here in beautiful Champaign-Urbana? Hell, while we're at it, why not Rosie Thomas (once of my newest infatuations) and Shara Worden/My Brightest Diamond as well? (Not that you haven't thought of that already, I imagine.)

I'm very excited that I'll be playing (as part of Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three's last C-U show before he moves to Boulder) with three Pygmalion bands at a show at the Canopy Club this Saturday: Corey Chisel and the Wandering Sons (listen to these dudes), Noah Harris, and Tunnels. I'll definitely give a post-concert report.

Just for kicks, here are a few bands I'd love to see come by for a visit (all of whom have played C-U before...why not again?): Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos, Beirut (a long shot, I know), Page France (I've missed them twice here over the past few months, doh), Akron/Family (though their concert was disappointing last time they were here), Tilly and the Wall, and Mates of State. Admittedly, there was no point to this paragraph, but a boy can dream!

So, anywho, four days of music and 30+ exciting bands, and the first fifty festival passes are being sold for the lowlow price of $35 each; after which, who knows what they'll cost. I'd argue that Andrew Bird himself is worth $35. Check out the official website here for the complete band list and ticket purchase info. Methinks you should join us in September so you can experience the great C-U music scene for yourself!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Nothing To Do With Music (NTDWM) pt. 1

I have a disability which deeply affects my life. This wonderful educational video shows a little bit of what it's like to be me.

"When did it become socially acceptable to make somebody prove they have a handicap?"

The more you know...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

C-U Thursday ("classic edition"):
REO Speedwagon

Though I don't own any albums or memorabilia from this genre and, being that I was born in the tail end of the '70s, have limited memories of those days of hair-rific glory, I am a sucker for brilliantly cheesy '70s-'80s guitar power-pop arena-rock, just like any other brown-haired/blue-eyed/ god-fearing Midwestern boy (right?).

I'm very proud to say that one of the deliciously cheesiest bands of them all, REO Speedwagon, was born and raised right here in Champaign- Urbana. Hows about that?! I told you all that this town is a musical mecca, and this finally proves it hands down, bizatch!

From the liner notes on one of the bands more recent albums (yes, they're still around): "REO started out on the University of Illinois campus in 1967, playing obscure covers by underground bands such as Cream and The Doors. Beer and sawdust bars, 'The Red Lion', and 'Chances R' were home to dozens of local Champaign rock groups. But in 1970, when guitarist Gary Richrath joined founder members Neal Doughty, Alan Gratzer, Terry Luttrell and Gregg Philbin, REO emerged as the most popular band in town by far. Gary was not only a great lead guitar player and a flashy performer, but he was also a song writer. Little by little the band begun to sneak originals into their set among the cover tunes, and by 1971 they had enough of their own material to get the attention of Epic Records A&R man Tom Werman. The first album, chock full of REO's trademark high-energy riff rock, came out of that year."

Word on the street is that the boys of REO held their first rehearsals in the basement of the Illinois Street Residence Halls in Urbana (seen at right).

And have you ever wondered where they came up with one of best band names around? The REO Speed Wagon was an early ancestor of the pickup truck, first manufactured in 1905. The band took the name and the logo right from the vehicle after the keyboard player, Neal Doughty, an engineering major at the University of Illinois, learned about truck in a class, which frankly I think is awesome. The REO Speed Wagon fire truck is pictured at right.

I've just discovered that the first solid incarnation of REO, after some early personnel switches, played some really good funky-bluesy rock that's quite different than the power pop that folks of my generation equate them with (see picture at the top of this post). Here's a great YouTube find of very early REO, circa 1971, with a different lead singer and bassist than the later arena rock lineup. I really dig the lead singer, Terry Luttrell, and I've never realized what a great guitarist they had in Gary Richrath (a Peoria native). He and the keyboard player kick this song's arse. The music begins around 1:10 (4:45 remaining), after the totally riveting host does his smooth-talking thang.

REO Speedwagon - "157 Riverside Avenue" [video of TV appearance]

And here, friends, we have the REO we all have come to know and love, with the leader singer who basically became the face of the band (for good and bad): Kevin Cronin, the king of showbiz hair (that's him in the picture up top). This video rulez. I'd like to dedicate this to my great friends Dan and Erika, who are moving in July from Champaign to Boulder, CO. You'll understand why after watching the glorious first two minutes of this video (which shows the future of Dan Beahm). And be sure to check out the explosively cheesy ending starting around 5:45 into it (1:50 remaining), complete with guitar solos and guitar back-and-forth orgies, multiple pseudo-endings, lots of running, jumping, and random galavanting about the stage, dipping of greasy 80s-hair into the audience, fireworks, and the one of the best displays of shout-out-name-of-song-and-scream-a-barely-
understandable-"HANKYOU!"-before-running-offstage that I've ever witnessed.

REO Speedwagon
- "Ridin' the Storm Out" [live concert, circa 1985]

On January 19, 2001 the City of Champaign dedicated part of Main Street in the heart of downtown to be forever known as "REO Speedwagon Way". To my knowledge this is the only street named after REO in the entire world, which makes us pretty much better than everyone else. The city was even cool enough to invite back the original singer Terry (from the "157" video above). More pix here.

After all of the above awesomeness, I hate to end on the following, but such is rock 'n roll. The latest incarnation of REO, with lead singer Cronin as the only remnant of their early-80s asskickingness (though keyboardist Doughty is apparently still involved here and there), is currently promoting their newest album by touring Walmarts across the nation. Yes, Walmarts. I don't have the heart to put this next video directly up on this blog, but here is the link of them performing "Time for Me to Fly" (seriously my favorite REO song) at their April 6, 2007 appearance at the Walmart in beautiful Eagan, Minnesota. Warning: if you have any self-respect, you may start to weep while watching this.

May Sufjan and Andrew Bird never end up playing the hallowed halls of Big Lots and Dollar General when they're in their sixties...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV"

This is perhaps the greatest thing in the history of ever:

The Asylum Street Spankers do their best to remind us that there are good things about Texas. And I say, good for you, friends!

I love theatricality, and the Spankers seem to have oodles of it. There's nothing better than cheesy done really cheesily well.

I don't own any of their music just yet, but I done need to right quick. They dudes are cool. And they have a "kids album" out, of which I approve.

Official Band Site | Buy the Album
MySpace (listen to "Beer" & "Boogers")

Thursday, May 24, 2007

C-U Thursday:

Casados is a Champaign-based husband-wife team that knows how to rock -- in an acoustic/harmonious/folky/guitar-and-harmonium sort of way. Methinks there's something rather mesmerizing about them and their music, particularly when the harmonium (a strangely erotic instrument ... perhaps because of its french and indian roots) kicks in. Live, Nic plays acoustic guitar and sings lead on most songs; Heather sings harmonies and plays mandolin and the now thrice-mentioned harmonium (they're frequently joined by friends playing accordion, slide guitar, etc.). And "live" happens quite often, as they've played almost 70 shows in the past year, in Chambana and the Midwest along with extended tours to both coasts. I was fortunate enough to catch them live at the Canopy Club in Urbana last weekend, where, due to an unfortunate booking that listed them as headliners but didn't have them playing until 1AM (after two very good bands and two highly mediocre bands), they were gracious enough to play for a bit even though there were only about six people still around, including myself, the bartender, and the sound guy. They played the songs off of their EP (released in early April), all of which I like very much, as well as a few brand new ones, including one about great-grandma that made my friend Dan weep silently in his whiskey. It was quite lovely to be serenaded with such personal and lovely music by two people who obviously enjoy their music and each other. Their music, particularly the harmonies, is just plain beautiful.

Here are two tracks from their five-track EP that I wish was much longer (though I don't hold it against them), Passages. Nic wrote all the songs on the EP, played a whole slew of instruments, and recorded it all himself in their home studio. They bill the album as the following, which I find to be quite intriguing: "Nic Dillon and Heather Dillon are in self-imposed exile. Tossing aside the respectable nine-to-fives, they've taken to the road on a Garfunklean journey to look for America. Passages is a documentary of the beginning of that journey and the people observed: five small lives of pain and change -- the wide-eyed drifter, the penitent divorcee, the dogmatic slacker. Five lives of quiet desperation, playing out their bit parts on a grand stage."

Casados - "Take It Slow" [MP3 (in a new window)]

Casados - "Twenty-four" [MP3 (in a new window)]

I'm really looking forward to the music these cats put out in the future. May Champaign-Urbana embrace you, Casados!

P.S. Casados is Spanish for "married".
Official Band Site | Buy the Album
MySpace (listen to "Panama" first)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

TMBG Yeah You Know Me

A well-written and thoughtful concert review/article about one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants, here (from the Village Voice).

I say they're one of my favorite bands, but I honestly haven't purchased one of their "adult" studio albums since 1996's Factory Showroom (unless you count the McSweeney's magazine soundtrack in 2001). We have both the more recent "kids" albums, No! and Here Come the ABCs, and I even own the 2003 documentary on them: Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). But I sorta feel like I don't know them anymore...

I'll never forget first listening to Flood in Adam & Cheryl Gohr's basement while in 8th grade in the spring of 1991; introducing Mark Rospenda to it while playing pool in his basement (TMBG sounds good in basements, apparently), and him thinking that his tape deck broke the cassette when he heard the slow-mo in "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair"; doing a full-on interpretive dance with my sister to "Fingertips" (from Apollo 18), which we still reference to this day; and seeing my first TMBG concert in Ypsilanti, MI with the MTs in spring '97.

Am I silly and weird because I like them or do I like them because I'm weird and silly?

I keep saying that I need to listen to their new stuff, but the little I have heard I haven't gotten immediately excited about, and I've quickly moved on to other things. What a bastard I am. This is my public apology to the good Johns: I'm sorry for being a bad "adult" fan in recent years.

The family and I love the kids stuff! No! really is a wonderful album, and includes a few of my favorite TMBG songs ("Bed Bed Bed", "I am a Grocery Bag", etc.). We even went up to Chicago to see them play a kids show at the Old Town School of Folk Music a couple years ago. I still listen to the old music, particularly since the ten-year-old daughter is now really getting into them. But, darnit, they've been so good to me all these years, I need to take a solid listen to contemporary TMBG, starting with their new album that's just coming out, The Else. Given how tech-savvy and "with it" they are, with free frequent podcasts, free MP3 downloads, multiple websites, etc., I can't say I have much of an excuse to not listen in. So, I promise you...I'll have a listen and report back--someday--on my new aural experiences with the boys of TMBG.

For now, here's some delicious old-school rock silliness:

They Might Be Giants - "Don't Let's Start" [video]

Official Band Site Buy the Album (No!, and many others of course)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

C-U Thursday:
Lynn O'Brien

Lynn O'Brien is a fantastic singer-songwriter-pianist in the vein of Regina Spektor, with a bit of Nellie McKay and Norah Jones thrown in. Those are all very good things. She's not Russian (Regina), a British-born Broadway lead (Nellie), or the daughter of Ravi Shankar (Norah), but who needs all that when you're from East-Central Illinois, fool! Yes, Lynn is living the life right here in Champaign-Urbana/Bloomington-Normal, as a 20-year-old Music Therapy major at Illinois State University who's become a regular in the Chambana music scene over the past two years. She's made the Iron Post in Urbana her second home, where she seems to play once a month or so to quickly-growing and highly-appreciative crowds. Lynn is, rather remarkably, a self-taught musician, having only started formal training last year. She evidently makes one hell of a teacher, cause homegirl can play the piano--and, she's just picked up the guitar as well. To top it all off, her voice is what really sets her apart. Her debut album, Umbrella, which was recorded/produced/mastered/etc. at Dubwax in Urbana and released in September 2006, features ten other musicians playing alongside Lynn, including her family members. The fully orchestrated songs on the album provide lovely additions and contrasts to the solo work that Lynn often does in concert, where she tinkles the ivories, lays down beautiful and very interesting vocals, asks the audience to sing along, and basically makes everyone in the room fall in love with her--all with the greatest of ease, and seemingly without a care in the world.

Following are two tracks from Umbrella. Lynn writes some great, more "serious" ballads, often jazz-tinged, but I'm particular to her more quirky fun stuff, such as "Italy", below. These songs have quickly become favorites in la maison du Tete.

Lynn O'Brien - "Italy" [MP3 (in new window)]

And here is perhaps the most delightful song ever written, "All My Troubles are Bubbles". Props to Pops O'Brien for playing the guitar and the rest of the O'Brien family for vocalizing on this wee bit of happiness.

Lynn O'Brien - "All My Troubles are Bubbles" [MP3 (in new window)]

Check out Lynn's MySpace page (link below) for upcoming concerts, including an appearance at The Beat Kitchen in Chicago on May 27th.

Here are two newspaper articles with more info on Ms. O'Brien:
"Student uses voice to express feelings, help others", The Daily Vidette (ISU student newspaper)
"The one thing ISU has that U of I doesn't", Buzz Magazine (weekly UIUC student magazine)

Below: Lynn O'Brien - "The Recycling Song" [live video; not taken by La Tete]

Official Site (in development) | Buy the Album (contact Lynn via her website)
MySpace (listen to "Company" first)

Friday, May 11, 2007

There will be posts there will.

I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.

I saw the sign.


Saturday, May 5, 2007

C-U In Concert: José González

I'm confident Argentinian-Swede acoustic guitar maestro José González recognized the mecca-nicity of Champaign-Urbana when he chose to grace our fair cities with his awesomeness on his recent short US tour. Playing just 7 venues in 10 days in small to mid-sized cities (no Chicago, NY, or LA!), including the massive Coachella Festival in California, José hit the Courtyard Café (absolute maximum capacity 449, though I highly doubt they've ever stuffed that many people in there) at the Illini Union at the University of Illinois on Wednesday, May 2nd. I was the lucky winner of two free tickets (an $8/ticket value!!) in my first ever call-in radio contest win on C-U's own 107.1 WPGU, though I was planning on going even if I had to pay the exorbitant ticket price (ha). Most of the crowd was sitting on the floor or in chairs in the back of the room, which made for a lovely and laid-back environment. After a highly mediocre performance by a local band (that I was expecting more from) with a guitarist standing front and center who decided to face away from the audience for the entire performance, the lights dimmed to a spot on a chair center-stage, and José stepped in, sat down, and began the magic. Over the course of a bit under an hour, José played every song that I hoped he would, including all his more well-known songs ("Hand on Your Heart", "Stay in the Shade", "Heartbeats" being his most popular, methinks). The sound in the Courtyard was really amazing, as both his voice and guitar were incredibly clear, loud, and beautiful. (I'd experienced sound issues at concerts there in the past, so it was very nice to see that change, though we realized afterwards that José had his own Nordic sound dude running the show, not the venue staff.) It was definitely one of the best concerts I've been to. There's just something wonderful about one man and a guitar, alone onstage, able to so captivate an audience for an entire show. "Teardrop", "Crosses", and "Lovestain" were three highlights of the evening. Interestingly, something seemed off on my favorite song, "Hand on Your Heart", but I couldn't quite place what it was. The crowd clapped heartily after each song, and then was in complete silence while José did his thing. His guitar work and picking were, as my friend put it, bad ass, and lots of fun to watch up close and in person. So, if you're so lucky to live in a town as cool as Chambana, and José comes for a visit, you must show him the love. In the meantime, here's one MP3 and a video I took of "Stay in the Shade". Taylor over at Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good has a nice write-up, two MP3s, and a video (of "Crosses") at his site (it seems he got a closer seat on the floor than I did, so his pictures and video are better!)

José González - "Teardrop" [live audio a different concert]

A rather awkward "um"-filled interview w/
José from the University High School (Urbana) student newspaper, with videos from the show: "Guitar hero"

Below: José González - "Stay in the Shade" [live video, May 2, 2007]

Official Site | Buy the Album (Veneer)
MySpace (listen to "Lovestain" & "Heartbeats")

Thursday, May 3, 2007

C-U Thursday:
Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three

Every Thursday or Friday this here blog is gonna focus on a local Champaign-Urbana band that La Tete finds to be sexy. Certainly the sexiest band in the C-U land is none other than Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three. Sure, the dude's head is smaller than his hands (as you can see in the picture above) and his last name has an unnecessary and potentially dangerous "h" in it, but that is quickly forgotten when you hear the music this man pulls out of his whatwhat. DBi3 is the mellow, lovely, passionate, multi-instrumental, indie-tastic baby of Beahm, a man with many different musical offspring (check out his label's website...psst, those bands are all different incarnations of Dan Beahm, but don't tell him I told you). Dan's been in Champaign for around three years, and came to us from Columbus, Ohio, where he helmed the power-pop bar-rock trio DB3, which gained a loyal local following. After the band went their separate ways, Dan returned to solo work, and crafted the album Amplifier, which he released this past February. Dan plays all the instruments and sings all lead and harmonic vocals, as well as pretty much every damn other thing involved in making the album. So, on the album, the Three are in fact invisible; however, it seems that Dan has yet to discover how to replicate the playing of multiple instruments and the singing of multiple harmonies on the live concert stage (we can't all be Andrew Bird, now can we...), so over the past few months following his album release Dan has been appearing in a number of venues around Champaign-Urbana with a visible Three: a cellist, a drummer, and an auxiliary vocalist/random instrument dude. Unfortunately for C-U, Dan will later this summer be moving to Boulder, CO to follow the magical musical call of the mountains. But, neverfear C-U, you have a few more chances to catch him live.

Amplifier is quite a departure from the electric guitar rock of DB3. The album is almost if not entirely acoustic, and Dan shows his chops on guitar and keyboard in particular. "Mackinac" is a beautiful song that is a good representative for the rest of the album.

Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three - "Mackinac" [MP3 (in new window)]

"Half as Cool as Han Solo" brings out the nerd rocker in Dan, and while it is quite different from the rest of the album, it provides a great final track. I predict this song will play a role in Dan's ascent to fame and glory. Whether the picture above will help or hinder that ascent is yet to be seen.

Dan Beahm & the Invisible Three - "Half as Cool as Han Solo" [MP3 (in new window)]

I encourage you to check out Dan's website at, where you can listen to the entire album streaming for free. Other personal favorites include "Kandahar" (a must-listen), "The Visitor", and "Two Hands". Check out the upcoming Champaign-Urbana concert dates as well. And maybe, if we're lucky, Dan will finally update the freakin' site as he's been promising to do for quite some time.

I've been fortunate enough to be playing the role of "auxiliary vocalist/random instrument dude" (as mentioned above) with Dan and the band the past few months, and I consider him to be a very close friend. However, I had nothing to do with the creation of the album (though, in the interest of fuller disclosure, I did receive a shout-out in the liner notes), and I won't be moving out to Boulder with him (just yet anyway), so my days in DBi3 are in limited supply, and I will be but a forgotten blip on the VH1 DBi3 special in 2040, a la Pete Best. Plus, I don't really like him all that much; I'm just using him to get the groupies. So, all that being said, I don't feel all that bad about this being a very-slightly self-serving post. Rawk.

Official Band Site | Buy the Album
MySpace (listen to "Kandahar" & "The Visitor")