This Week: Ray-Bans & Rolling Stones Celebrate Milestone Anniversaries

I was so crazy yesterday that I forgot to do the one thing I really wanted to do. This season does that to you. I wanted, expected, ached to attend the Ray-Ban: 75 Years of Legends event at The Darby last night. The Flaming Lips performed. I will attend the Rolling Stones concert as they bring their 50th anniversary tour to the Barclays Center on Saturday. It’s amazing that we are celebrating something that started 50 years ago and another thing that’s 75 years of tradition.

On this oldie-but-goodie tip, we have the wonderful Beatles cover band, the Newspaper Taxis, performing Revolver at the Red Lion, 151 Bleecker St. According to my pal Brian August, The Beatles never performed any part of Revolver live. My ex- wife Jennifer Hamdan did cover “Tomorrow Never Knows” when she was signed to Next Plateau Records. Her track failed to make it to any plateau, but it was fun. Still on the oldies tip, Gary Spencer will celebrate his 50th birthday with a bash tonight at  his Hanky Panky attachment to Webster Hall. Oldies but goodies – the prodigy producer/mixer Neil McLellan and good ol’ Andy Rourke (The Smiths) – will DJ, and The Darling Darling Music Company will perform live.

Older than Methuselah, Marty Abrahams told me about his solo exhibition “Break On Through” at the Salomon Arts Gallery, which will happen on 12/12/12 from 6pm till 9pm. If I’m not at that mega, super duper, ginormous Sandy relief concert at the Garden with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Roger Waters and all those other old guys, then I will attend Marty’s thing.

Somebody who never ages and whose humor is timeless, Murray Hill, will bring his annual “Murray Little Christmas” to us next Saturday the 15th, from 8pm to midnight to Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. Murray is amazing, amazing, amazing. Here’s the scoop:

“Expect an evening of hilarious and wacky skits with the cast, a sleigh full of cheesy holiday songs, plenty of nuts, fruits and tree trimming. This year’s special guests:

BRIDGET EVERETT (carnal chanteuse and fearless cabaret star), ERIN MARKEY (wacky performance artist), CARMINE COVELLI (a.k.a. SEBASTIAN THE ELF), THE NYC BURLESQUE CHOIR (conducted by Shelly Watson) with live swinging holiday music from Murray’s band THE CRAIG’S LIST QUARTET (Jesse Elder–piano, Kenball Zwerin–bass, Matt Parker–saxaphone, Arthur Vint–drums and rimshots). Set design by Steven Hammel."

Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell

Video Game Renaissance: ‘Beatles: Rock Band’, ‘Avatar’, & ‘Project Natal’

June is not even two days old, and already it’s been one of the most exciting months in recent memory for video games. I know this because I don’t play video games, and yet in the last hour I found myself watching three separate videos previewing three very different but very exciting new weapons, from three different pop culture giants, to be used in the horrific and devastating console wars. The big reveals came at the E3 Expo in L.A., the annual Mecca of gaming culture. So, between the upcoming Beatles Rock Band, James Cameron’s Avatar video game, and Steven Spielberg’s mysterious “Project Natal”, which one of these is the most exciting for non-gamers?

The Beatles: Rock Band: The two surviving members of the fab four, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, made a surprise appearance at E3 to unveil their version of the absurdly popular Rock Band franchise. Unfortunately, they seemed a lot less excited to be there than the crowd was to have them. Their best sales pitch: when Ringo said, “The game is good, the graphics are very good, and we were great.” Luckily, he’s probably right, but in case you don’t believe him, take a look at the game’s awesome trailer below.

Avatar the Game: After James Cameron’s almost-15-minute speech at E3, we now know more about Avatar the video game than Avatar the movie. While he prefaced his speech with a brief introduction to Avatar the film, much of what Cameron discussed was what went into creating the game with Montreal-based designers Ubisoft. Cameron hailed the game as (what else) revolutionary, as it’s “the first major stereoscopic video game title developed in 3D from the ground up.” While that might send tech geeks into forum-overdrive, what struck me most was when Cameron said it was the first time he’s ever been scared while playing a video game. This means two things: one, that James Cameron has never played Kirby’s Dream Land, and two, Avatar the movie, with its three-dimensional, photo-realistic, “terrifying” creatures, is going to be a living nightmare.

Project Natal: Leave it to Steven Spielberg to take all the attention away from James Cameron and the Beatles with the biggest reveal coming out of E3 — his long-in-gestation collaboration with Microsoft, “Project Natal.” Since Cameron has repeatedly beaten Spielberg in the “revolutionizing cinema” department, and will probably do it again with Avatar, Spielberg is setting his sites on being a game game-changer. He says of PN, “”This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games.” What could he possibly be talking about that is so seismic? Let’s go to the tape!

And if all this wasn’t enough for what is now the most momentous month in video game history, did I forget to mention that The Sims 3 just happened to be released today? On the iPhone?

Coachella or Bust!

imageNot surprisingly, half of Los Angeles is gone, having headed en masse to Indio, Cali, where everyone is about to get their Coachella on. Roxy owner and rock ‘n’ roll royalty Nic Adler is already out in the desert. He and his cohorts were treated to a soundcheck last night by none other than Sir Paul McCartney. What makes this already-sweet treat doubly delish? McCartney soundchecked some Beatles tunes. To quote Adler’s Facebook message to me: “OMG.” Nic also gives us a sneak preview of what to expect from the rest of the fest.

● A little birdy tells me that Urb mag’s party is rumored to have some special guest DJs. Their party is the closest to the site this year — it’s on the same lot, nearly festival grounds, so partygoers can flit between the two without missing out. ● Sam Spiegel, half of dance duo N.A.S.A., writes in that “Coachella is going to be fun. I’ve gone every year since its inception, and I’m stoked to be finally playing this year. We are going to tear the mojave tent down. Total destruction. I think our set will be one of those that people remember at Coachella. Like when Daft Punk played their first show with the pyramid, or Rage.” ● Goodlife.com, an eco-friendly new website, is pairing up at IndiOasis with The Sustainable Living Roadshow, Green Truck, and Coconut Bliss to bring some eco-relief to the parched concertgoers. ● As per usual, Coachella will have no shortage of VIPs. At the T-Mobile G-1 afterparty Saturday night, they expect a smattering of celebs including Adrian Grenier, Carmen Electra, Rumer Willis, Brittany Snow, and Dustin Milligan. Danny Masterson, Rob Patterson, Doug E Fresh, Blagstarr, Spankrock, Kenan Bell, The Whip, Japanese Motors, Franki Chan, Skeet, Abe Vigoda, The Golden Filter, Finger on the Pulse, and Ninjasoni are also expected to flock to the vitaminwater events at the Viceroy Hotel and the Riveria Resort.