Ages and Ages Courtney Barnett Exene Cervenka Foxygen Imaginary Scoop John Doe Pendarvis Farm The Barr Brothers Warpaint

Is it summer yet? Pickathon 2014 lineup announced {8/1-3}

Hoo-wee, friends! Adding Pickathon to our summer festival circuit schedule two years ago might have been the best, sunniest, dusty-boots-est move we’ve ever made, having spent long hot weekends steeped in performances by Andrew Bird, Dr. Dog, Langhorne Slim, the Mynabirds, Neko Case, Sharon van Etten, Thee Oh Sees, King Tuff, Phosphorescent — just to name a few. And looking at this year’s lineup, our time spent at Pickathon 2014 is going to be no exception.

In case you’re not familiar, Pickathon is an intimate, homegrown, multi-stage festival out on a farm (Pendarvis Farm, to be exact) in Happy Valley, Oregon that takes place every year in August. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not all banjos and stardust — although there are a little bit of both, in good and appropriate amounts. Pickathon showcases a wide spectrum of bands, with this year’s lineup hosting gems like X and Blind Pilot next to indie bands Warpaint and Courtney Barnett. There really is something for everyone, and with each band playing multiple performances on different stages over the weekend, your chances are better-than-good to get a glimpse of all the music you’d like to take in.

We’ll get into our imaginary schedule as the event draws near, but suffice it to say, we are most excited to see not only the bands above, but the likes of Jolie Holland, Gregory Alan Isakov, Valerie June, Foxygen, The Barr Brothers, Angel Olsen, and Ages and Ages, just to name a few. Check out the whole lineup here, and look into ticketing options (with and without camping and such) here.

Need more convincing? Check out Imaginary Victoria’s 2013 recap here, and her two-part 2012 experience here and here.

Come on now, summer! We’ll see you out on that farm.



Bloodshot Exene Cervenka Record Review

The Excitement of Maybe

Exene Cervenka listened to aching pop gems on the little AM radio in her family’s 1959 Dodge as she grew up, soaking in the streams of romantic longing of Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Peggy Lee as the rain hit the windows. That haunted, pine-freshener smelling, cigarette burns on the leatherette seats feel is all over the punk-celestial’s new full length, The Excitement of Maybe.

Neophytes might be wondering if the thrift-store crazy gal who co-fronted X with the bass player she met in poetry class (John Doe) deserves a little hootenanny on roots-deep Bloodshot. I mean, she has the pedigree, but can an art-pop raven pull off the chops for love songs and sweeter lamentations? You’re asking about it the wrong way, kiddo. On reeling opening track “Already In Love,” she reminds that she once herded up The Knitters, which was X gone rodeo even before they recorded and toured as a stripped down acoustic version of the seed band. (Track down their work on Slash Records at all costs.)

More than that, the dark pull of her vocals bring to mind bluegrass goddess Peggy Seeger, who made “Henry Lee” famous (that’s right, Nick Cave fans) and flabbergast me that I never caught the connection before. I could have heard Seeger in Cervenka when she was howling “The Have Nots” or “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”, but all that glammy Billy Zoom guitar got me gobsmacked. “Already In Love” also somehow channels the OG cow-punk of Rank & File, the band once known as The Dils before they got fed up with the “noo waif” and took their Marxism to the ranch in the early 80s. (And yes that’s The Blasters’ Dave Alvin axe-grinding away like a charmer in a roadhouse at the beginning of a set behind fence to protect him from the blues-ridden cowgirls.)

The two sweet-creepy singles to bliss in on this release though are “Falling” and “I Wish It Would Stop Raining,” which beautifully combine indie-politan with country-swoon. No, don’t think because this is the great lady who fronted transgressive rock (Auntie Christ), old school alt-country (Original Sinners) and the aforementioned bands that this is going to be some sort of American Gothic slaughter. This time it’s all love, love, love and Bloodshot could use a sparkling little romance elpee in its catalogue. And so should you, in your own preserves o’platters.

EMP Exene Cervenka Imaginary Scoop Jigsaw Records Math and Physics Club The High Dive The Mountain Goats Too Much Joy

Best weekend ever: Record Store Day, PopCon, shows, awesomeness

Math and Physics Club at the High DiveMy mind is being blown as I look at my calendar pages for today and tomorrow. On top of the intoxicating sunshine the weather folk have predicted for the weekend, the indie-gods have bestowed a packed schedule of wonderfulness:

APRIL 16-18: EMP Pop Conference
It’s going to be full of great sessions around this year’s topic of sounds and the machines that make them. This year I’m most excited about hearing Tim Quirk and his look at “The Quiet Revolution: From the Walkman to the iPod, How Portability and Infinite Storage Have Changed the Way We Listen, and What We Listen To” on Friday at 10.45am. Catching Mike McGonigal moderating “Identity Projects” and Michaelangelo Matos on the “Interrogating the Digital” – both on Sunday – will rock 33 1/3 socks off as well.

APRIL 17: Record Store Day
Empty out your canvas bag and your bus pass, it’s time to take Seattle record stores by storm on an all day tour picking up a slew of very special limited edition releases to remind us all how important it is to support out local independent record stores.  I am most looking forward to getting to Jigsaw Records in time to pick up each release in their LTD RSD-only series (only 25 will be pressed!) with floppies by Math and Physics Club and BOAT. (full scoop)

APRIL 17: Stranger creator James Sturm and HATE’s Peter Bagge at Fantagraphics/Georgetown Records
Fans of Comic Con festivities, Market Day, Other Lives, and HATE at this signing and big party!

APRIL 17: Exene Cervenka’s record store tour
Exene, of legendary punk band X, is making a bunch of appearances at Seattle-area record stores: Easy Street Records (Queen Anne) on Friday, April 16 and on Saturday, April 17, the actual Record Store Day, she’ll be at Tyrannosaurus Records in Renton and Damaged Goods in Belltown.

APRIL 17: Early Math & Physics Club shows at the High Dive (6p-8p)
Math and Physics Club will play a couple low key shows at the High Dive on Saturday, April 10 and Saturday, April 17 to test drive some new songs for their upcoming trip to the San Francisco Popfest their album release show at the Crocodile on June 12. Both High Dive shows are going to be early (6p-8p) and have the sweetest of openers:Eux Autres (on April 10) and The Special Places (on April 17).

APRIL 17: Mountain Goats movie at Northwest Film Forum
Let’s all celebrate the DVD release of Seattle debut of The Mountain Goats: Life of the World to Come, a documentary film about our story’s hero, John Darnielle and his band of Mountain Goats. Enough said.


And I’m sure I missed something… what else is going on this weekend? All this fun must be a thank you for getting our taxes done on time, right?

Bloodshot Damaged Goods Easy Street Records Exene Cervenka Interview Tyrannosaurus Records

Exene Cervenka's record store tour

Record stores have, like nearly every business, not fared particularly well in the economic climate of the past few years. In fact, they have likely had a much more difficult time staying solvent as the move towards more people getting their music online than at retail stores. At the beginning of this year, the first two albums to hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart this year (Ke$ha’s Animal and Vampire Weekend’s Contra) were the first two albums in history to top the charts with more than 50% digital sales. The lower prices, huge catalogs and fast delivery methods have made iTunes, emusic and Amazon the often first place for people to go to purchase music (and that’s saying nothing of what is obtained via illegal downloading) and has made it that much harder for record stores to stay in business.

One artist who is doing what she can to help record stores is Exene Cervenka. Best known for being the badass frontwoman for punk band X and the alt-country band The Knitters, she has been one of the most prolific and multi-faceted artists over the past thirty-plus years. Not just a musician, but she’s also a writer, poet and visual artist. My favorite quote about Cervenka came from her X and Knitters bandmate John Doe (which I found in Maria Raha’s great book Cinderella’s Big Score), who said “she was such a badass! I pretended to be but Exene was the real thing. She had the ax to grind…the unusual wiring that made it possible for her to throw a drink in somebody’s face and still be right.” She most recently released a gorgeous solo record called Somewhere Gone last autumn. She is currently on a tour, playing in-store shows at record stores on the west coast that will include appearances at three Seattle-area record stores: Easy Street Records (Queen Anne) on Friday, April 16 and on Saturday, April 17, the actual Record Store Day, she’ll be at Tyrannosaurus Records in Renton and Damaged Goods in Belltown.

I asked Cervenka during a phone interview last week why she was doing this tour of exclusively record stores and she said bluntly, “I want to help keep them open,” and then adding “and I want to play places that are all ages, where we aren’t playing at 11:00 at night that is full of beer and whiskey, where young girls can come, or young boys who want to see someone who has been around.” She also said, “I want to play my new songs and I want people to hear my new songs and not have to worry about getting a babysitter and drinks and parking and can’t go because it’s at 11:00 at night. It’s hard for people to go out and spend that kind of money, so I wanted to make it easy for them. I win, the fans and the audience win and the record stores win.”

Her album she’s touring to promote is Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot), her first solo album since 1996. It’s a beautifully-made album with personal, sincere lyrics that compliment the folk arrangements. Contrasting with her previous work, she told me “these songs are different. They’re all like emotional landscapes and they’re all love songs. They’re kind of poppy and folky and catchy.”

She’s had a remarkable career for over thirty years, not just with numerous musical projects like X, The Knitters, Auntie Christ and her solo work, but also as a writer and artist. My favorite book of hers is Adulterers Anonymous, a collection of poetry with No-Wave artist Lydia Lunch where they annotate each other’s words. She said of the comparison between making visual art and music, “The art, the collages that I make is great because your mind is kind of free and kind of Zen-like. You don’t really think about anything other than what those colors look like together but when you write a song you’re going deep into your emotions. It’s a completely different process. It depends on your mood. Some days you don’t want to think about any of that stuff so you make art, other times you feel like you really want to get your emotions out and something hops into your mind that you want to work on, so you write a song.” She added “right now, it’s all music, all the time.”

This all music, all the time is keeping her busy. Later in the spring she’ll play some shows with X and The Knitters before finishing up her next solo album. She told me “I started recording and when I get home from this tour and I’ll start recording again and hope to finish up in June. I’ve already figured what the songs are going to be and they’re all written. I have a fantastic producer, fantastic studio and fantastic people to play on it. I can’t wait.” She understandably didn’t want to talk about who she would be collaborating with.

Part of what makes her energy, output and longevity as an artist so impressive was the admission recently that she has multiple sclerosis. She released a statement, visible on her website, saying in part “many people remain strong and continue to live their lives as productively as they had before an MS diagnosis. I plan to be one of those people.” When I heard her on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” program a few months ago, host Jason Bentley asked how she was feeling and said “fine”. With her prolific output as an artist and upbeat, friendly manner when I talked to her on the phone, it’s difficult to see how she could be anything but.

Right now, she is on this tour of record stores and said she’s having a great time. She said the in-stores “were exactly what I had envisioned when I thought about doing this. There were kids there and all kinds of people there and they were buying records and things to have signed. There have been a lot of people coming out and the record stores were very happy.” She added, “There is pressure when you go on the road because you have a band and you have to pay everybody and make sure everybody’s rooms are right and all that and you have to keep everyone happy. Everyone is playing for not very much money and you don’t know if people are going to come out or not. They don’t have any money either, but with these in-stores, there’s no pressure. It’s me with my guitar and my best friend and we’re driving around the country and we’re having a great time. No one has to have any pressure if no one shows up; that’s just not even an issue, it’s fantastic.”

One point she wanted to convey was that she hoped everyone would support the record stores as much as they could. She told me “this is one thing I’d like to say is that when people come out to my shows, I don’t care if people buy my record or not, if they do it’s fantastic and if they don’t, it’s fine, but please buy something from the store. There are all kinds of great things in the record stores and I just want people to patronize the stores while they’re at the shows, even if it’s just to get a button or something. Just help the store out.”

{Photo by Ali Smith.}