Honoring Mark Kamins With None Other Than A DJ-Filled Party At Santos

The passing of Mark Kamins was a definite shock and awww (editor Bonnie spelled correctly!) event. His passing in February made us all a bit more mortal, a lot more empty, and had us all thinking back to our misspent youths… well, spent anyway. Mark’s legacy includes names like Madonna, David Byrne, and Ofra Haza, and almost "everybody" of importance in the downtown DJ/music scene. An event called Mark & Cetera – a pow-wow of "everybody" – will celebrate his life. Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette, will host the party on Wednesday, April 17th.

The band Konk will perform for the first time since 1986. Other performances will include Crystal Ark, Nomi Ruiz, Coati Mundi, Strafe, Johnny Dynell, John Robbie with Harmony Trujillo, and the debut of the Pow Wow Band.

DJ sets by Mike Pickering, Jellybean Benitez, Veronika Vasicka, Justin Strauss, Stretch Armstrong, Eric Duncan, Francois K, WorldWarWalter, Jazzy Nice, Bill Bahlman, Mark Elias, Mark Fotiadis, Kip Lavinger, Ivan Ivan, Delphine Blue, Dodo Almaas, Walter Vee, Jody Kurilla, and more will bring us back to the glory days of Danceteria and Area.

A $20 donation to support the Mark Kamins Scholarship Award in electronic music is being collected.

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You May Ask Yourself: How Does Music Work?

In 1986, David Byrne made a movie called True Stories, a mockumentary of sorts about the fictional city of Virgil, Texas. With a nod to the ugliness of industrialized civilization predicated on a mass killing of the native people, animals and vegetation, his treatment of the town—look at this field, where they build houses; the shopping mall is where people socialize on the weekend—comes in its own brand of wry compassion, with the same degree of bite as A Prairie Home Companion.

And a new book by Byrne, How Music Works, is a tour of all things musical delivered in the same voice that took us through Virgil. As smart and impeccably researched as it is, it doesn’t lack for irony. For one, it comes packaged by McSweeney’s as a minimalist coffee table tome, designed by the staggering genius himself. And threaded through an otherwise disjointed collection of chapters on Talking Heads history, the music industry, recording technology, and the science of sound is a cheekiness bordering on disdain directed at the Roger Scruton school of classical music is virtuous music, and pop music is for the plebian masses.

He spends a good deal of time picking on Theodor Adorno, who saw the jukebox, and all mechanized distribution of popular music, as a gimmick for suckers. “He might be right,” says Byrne, “but he might also have been someone who never had a good time in a honky-tonk.” It’s hard to imagine Byrne in a honky-tonk unaccompanied by a “check this shit out, I’m in a honky-tonk!” kind of attitude. Or maybe not. His ambiguous sensibility is what makes the fun parts fun.

A student of design, some of the passages on the architecture of musical spaces make for the most interesting stuff. He has a few good jabs at the opera houses and even Carnegie Hall, whose acoustics aren’t conducive to rock ’n’ roll: “This acoustic barrier could be viewed as a subtle conspiracy, a sonic wall, a way of keeping the riffraff out.” He favors the populist scenes around the likes of CBGB’s and Le Poisson Rouge (“I go to at least one live performance a week, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. There are other people there. Often there is beer there, too.”)

In a lingering op-ed piece of a chapter, he knocks the moneyed set for “supporting the arts” by preserving antiquated opera houses and museums while scores of aspiring artists and musicians go hungry. His historical tracings of musical gentrification are of note; apparently, people would drink and socialize during operas and shout at the stage, requesting encores of their favorite arias. A similar transformation occurred with jazz, where the relaxed, funky vibe was taken over by tweedy highbrow geezers in Greenwich Village. Out with dancing, in with sitting quietly. “Separating the body from the head seemed to have been an intended consequence—for anything to be serious, you couldn’t be seen shimmying around to it,” he notes.

All this is not to say that he doesn’t have any grievances with pop music. The shimmying going on in the discos of the ’70s wasn’t merely the effect of catchy tunes—“I suspect there was a drug connection as well; those high frequencies in particular sounded sparkly fresh if you were on amyl nitrate or cocaine.” And not every pop song comes off the pen of an Andre 3000 or an Aimee Mann. “In Beyoncé’s song ‘Irreplaceable’ she rhymes ‘minute’ with ‘minute,’ and I cringe every time I hear it,” he concedes.

Byrne notes in the forward that the book can be read in any order, and I may go so far as to say that certain passages can be skipped altogether, sans guilt. One chapter begins with this gem: “The online music magazine Pitchfork once wrote that I would collaborate with anyone for a bag of Doritos.” While I think there’s nothing wrong with amassing collaborations, it gets pretty tedious to list them all; every member of an obscure Latin jam band that he may have played with gets name-checked. He gives an exhaustive account of how songs were written for all of his albums, and anyone who doesn’t know an A-flat from an A need not try to comprehend those passages. A chapter detailing the six major variants of a recording contract is enlightening by way of proving, with thorough charts and figures, that musicians make no money. But it reads like a textbook—and, in many ways, How Music Works kind of is a textbook, backed up with a thorough bibliography and peppered with annotated images. The handsome presentation may cause some hesitation, but it really is a text to read and pick through time and again.

And all this is what you’d expect, and hope for, from the foremost heady apologist of pop music. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever felt moved by a catchy tune and wanted more. And for those who haven’t, I suppose it’s understandable—it’s hard to shimmy around a room with a stick up your ass.

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Listen Up: Fall New Releases Roundup

Summer may be coming to a close, with hemlines dropping and day-drinking becoming less socially acceptable, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop—at least not where your ears are concerned. With the changing of seasons comes the best-of-the-best music releases to help ease the pain of summertime withdrawals. With choice efforts from phoenix-like indie goddess Cat Power, who did some major soul-searching and self-inventing on her latest album, swagger-centric hip-hop head A$AP Rocky who’s destined for mainstream acclaim, to the unusual pairing of an art-rock veteran and an indie darling sonic ingénue, this year’s must-listen albums run the gamut of aural awesomeness. Without further ado, tantalize your ears with our editor-approved picks of the season.

A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP
Named after one-half of the legendary rap duo Eric B and Rakim, A$AP Rocky (neé Rakim Mayers) dominated the headphones of hipster hip-hop fans with his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP. After whetting the collective sonic appetite of the blogosphere A$AP Rocky is back with his rhyme-tastic full-length debut LongLiveA$AP, which features a cameo from pouty seductive songstress Lana Del Rey.

Cat Power – Sun
After enduring serious heartbreak (a bad breakup with actor Giovanni Ribisi) Cat Power chanteuse and multi-instrumentalist Chan Marshall decided to put the pain to music. The resulting sound on Sun, Cat Power’s stellar new album, is electronic-infused, soulful without being contrived, and full of lush melodies, and heart-on-sleeve lovelorn lyrics. Highlights include opener “Cherokee” and the power-pop laden “Ruin.”

St. Vincent and David Byrne – Love This Giant
While this may seem like an unlikely pairing, the Talking Heads front man and St. Vincent’s Annie Clark make beautifully artful music together. Filled with a bombastic horn section, catchy hooks, and cerebral lyrics, Love This Giant revels in its own innovation and redefines the notion of a super group. Music nerds rejoice!

The xx – Coexist
Purveyors of moody make out music, London’s The xx are back with the long-awaited sophomore album Coexist. Filled with the stunning sonic textures and slithering sensuality you’d expect from this Brit trio, Jamie xx and company deliver songs with more-fully formed lyrics, like the love-longing ambience of “Chained.”

Grizzly Bear – Shields
The sometimes-precious indie crooners Grizzly Bear are back with Shields, the follow up to 2009’s critically acclaimed Vekatimest. Staying true to the spacious dreamy layers from past efforts, Shields combines ethereal harmonies, psych-infused guitar riffs, and lush soundscapes making for a perfect Sunday morning sound.

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, Mad City
With the lyrically dexterous Good Kid, Mad City, up-and-coming rapper Kendrick Lamar offers up his signature philosophical-heavy rhyme style to masses. On this major label debut Lamar collaborates with avant-popstress Lady Gaga and cleverly pontificates on the highs and lows of inebriation on the hip-shaking bagger “Swimming Pools (Drank).”

St. Vincent Joins Forces With David Byrne on ‘Weekend in the Dust’

Never ones to be busy for too long at a time, David Byrne and St. Vincent announced their upcoming collaboration album, Love This Giant, earlier this summer, with the release of the groovy-ghoulish sax-laden track "Now." The duo have followed that up with the delightful, similarly brassy and funky "Weekend In The Dust" over the weekend. Annie Clark’s vocals and the sax riff complement one another quite well. And you can get it for free when you pre-order the album. 

The most disturbing, but glowing, review of the track (and of St. Vincent) comes from the YouTube link, where a commenter declares, "I want to crawl inside of Annie and have her give birth to me so I can call her mom." Um, okay then. Listen to the track below and draw your own conclusions (although hopefully none are as Freudian and weird as those on YouTube) before Love This Giant drops Sept. 11th. 

A Brief Birthday Celebration of Things David Byrne Has Done (Beyond Talking Heads)

Talking Head and musical pioneer David Byrne turns 60 today. Sixty years is a long time, but it’s safe to say with a resumé as long, extensive and eclectic as his, he’s made pretty fantastic use of it. There’s the funky, new wave explosion of the Talking Heads, propelled by Byrne’s lyrics and unmistakable voice—the band’s been cited as an influence by countless artists and even begat a certain British musical darling courtesy of the song "Radio Head." But the Heads disbanded in 1991 (save for a 2002 reunion), and in that time, Byrne has stayed busy. In honor of his big six-oh, we give you a brief celebratory rundown of some of his more recent enterprises. 

In the twilight years of the Talking Heads, Byrne founded Luaka Bop, one of the world’s most recognizable and respected "world music" labels, which began as a vehicle for releasing a few compilations of Brazilian music. As the label grew, releases included works by some of the most well-traveled artists from all over the globe, including Brazilian Tropicália pioneer Tom Zé, Congolese-Belgian vocal group Zap Mama and tamboura-dropping Britpoppers Cornershop (Remember "Brimful of Asha?" Of course you do.). He produced the killer track below from Jorge Ben: 

Byrne has done a veritable crap-ton of composing for film and television, including works for Season 2 of Big Love. But it was his score with Ryuchi Sakamoto for the Bertolucci flick The Last Emperor that netted an Oscar, and was awesome.  

Ever look at a bike rack and think, “Man, I wish that looked more like a guitar or a dollar sign or the silhouette of a woman?” David Byrne made your dreams come true. Byrne, a bike enthusiast, created a series of whimsical racks (on racks on racks) that appeared around New York, and published his book on cycling, Bicycle Diaries, the following year. He’s also extended his efforts into visual arts with the likes of Arboretum.

In 2010, Byrne released Here Lies Love in collaboration with earworm-master Fatboy Slim. The funky, star-studded concept album tells the story of Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines. Last month, it was announced that the Public Theater in New York City would be producing a musical based on the album. Here’s one of its catchier tracks, “American Troglodyte.”

Not only did the 2011 film This Must Be the Place, which stars Sean Penn as an aging, Nazi-hunting rock star, get its title from one of Byrne’s most memorable songs, but he also scored the film and appeared. In this scene, a rather precocious kid covers the titular tune.

And, just because it’s still pretty awesome, a bit of Stop Making Sense:

What David Byrne Can Learn from Paul Simon and P. Diddy

Is it that only the most impressively multi-talented people become famous or that famous people are given opportunities to hone in public talents others spend lifetimes working on in bedrooms, studios, and jail cells? The world may never know, but one thing’s for sure: rock musician, bike advocate, composer, visual artist, and author David Byrne can add a new title to his long, illustrious list—playwright.

The Public Theater has announced that in 2013, the Byrne-penned Here Lies Love, a “wholly immersive spectacle [that] combines disco beats, adrenaline-fueled choreography, and a remarkable 360-degree scenic and video environment,” will have its world premiere. The show will feature lyrics by Byrne, music by the former Talking Head and his pal Fatboy Slim, and will be directed by the Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson genius Alex Timbers.

Despite his ability to seemingly do it all and do it all well, Byrne should tread very carefully. After all, celebrities haven’t always had the best of luck transitioning into the theater.

One might look back to 2004, when Sean Combs was still a cultural force and decided that he belonged in a revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Most others didn’t agree with him; "For proof that star quality doesn’t necessarily translate from one business to the next, look no further than the Royale Theater, where Sean Combs, otherwise known as rap mogul and fashion impresario P. Diddy, is giving a sadly inadequate performance at the center of the new Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun," hissed Variety.

Paul Simon’s Broadway foray, The Capeman, lost a reported $11 million in 1998 when it closed after only six performances and became a punchline it took years for the singer to get beyond.

And stage failure isn’t reserved just for the mega-famous. No! In 2010, The Mummy actor Brendan Fraser starred in a strange little play called Elling, meant to give his career a bit of gravitas. Instead it ended up giving him a one-way ticket back out of town. “Mr. Fraser less persuasively inhabits the dopey geniality and unrestrained coarseness of Kjell Bjarne,” the Times wrote of his performance, “despite leaving his mouth agape for long stretches and walking with a shambling, galumphing gait.”

Good luck, Mr. Byrne. You’ll need it. 

Afternoon Links: Ai Weiwei Sets Up Live Webcams, Mary J. Blige Commercial Pulled

● Ai Weiwei has installed four live webcams in his Beijing home — including one over his bed and two at his desk — as a nod to the 24-hour police surveillance he has been subjected to since his detention last year. [ArtsBeat]

● In Glamour this month, Lauren Conrad claims that, ever since someone "zoomed in" on her cellulite years ago, she has been "just petrified" of wearing a bathing suit in public. "It was so mean," she says. [Us]

● Noted astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson has for years been bothered by the inaccurate star-map used in Titanic‘s climactic scene, so for the 3D go-around, James Cameron changed it. "So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie,’" Cameron said. "So that’s the one shot that has been changed." [HuffPost]

● David Byrne and Will Oldham have teamed up as the Pieces of Shit — a title which no one would endue the two — for the This Must Be the Place soundtrack. [Pitchfork]

● Mary J. Blige’s commercial for Burger King chicken snack wraps ("Crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses, ranch dressing wrapped up in a tasty, flour tortilla," she’ll tell you to the tune of her “Don’t Mind”) already seems to have been pulled from YouTube. [Gawker]

● Nick Cannon has begun documenting his recent health troubles with an online series called the NCredible Health Hustle. "Hoping this series serves as inspiration for anyone dealing with kidney disease, lupus or ANY ILLNESS to keep pushing as well," he says. [People]

Fatboy Slim Jams His Toe

Fatboy Slim is back under the name Brighton Port Authority—or BPA, and with him comes the innovative music videos he used to specialize in (remember the Torrence Community Dance Group?). This clip, for a song called “Toe Jam” was directed by Keith Schofield and features vocals from David Byrne and Dizzie Rascal. Who knew toe jam could be this much fun? (We did.)