Archive for the ‘scene and herd.’ Category

This month I wrote a piece on one of my favorite bands, Yo La Tengo for the local paper the Portland Mercury:



(signed ticket stub from one of their Chanukah shows a while back)

For the Mercury piece I did an e-mail interview with their bass player James. Only a small portion of which was featured in the piece.


Here’s the whole thing, slightly edited.

Jack: Only through the magic of Googling that I found Stuff Like That There was a song by Betty Hutton from 1944, later covered by Bette Miller (from the movie For the Boys) and Kelly Clarkson (during her American Idol run). Did the band have any connection to the song in particular? The lyrics are pretty funny/sxualized

“I want some huggin’ and some squeezin’

and some muggin’ and some teasin’

and some stuff like that there.

I want some pettin’ and some spoonin’

and some happy honeymoonin’

and some stuff like that there.”

Was there any talk of covering that song? (why/why not?)

James: No, we never thought we’d cover it. I think we were drawn to it by the recent discovery of Sun Ra’s version. It kind of gives you pause, here’s this ferociously original composer/ performer, who always kept his arrangements of standards in the Arkestra’s book. “Take The A Train” could appear right after “Discipline 27.” 

Jack: I’m probably reading too much into that song, but it seems to be about feeling like your out of the game but getting excited by something again. Did the songs on this album feel like getting your juices flowing?

James: You probably are. Nope, everything flows.

Jack: On the album you cover a Special Pillow song, a band you played in. Were there other Special Pillow songs in the running?

James: There weren’t, but they have a ton of great songs. I was lucky that Dan Cuddy asked me to be the guitarist in the original lineup. I was a giant fan of his band Hypnolovewheel.

Jack: Are you as much of a baseball/Mets fan as Ira (i’m not sure about Georgia and Dave)?

James: I am a fan to be sure. Measuring it is like asking how religious someone is.

Jack: Is it hard being on tour overseas while the World Series is happening?

James: Yes, it’s murderous. 

Jack: Do you try and arrange daily schedules to watch the games or tape them/watch them later? (especially since it’s the Mets).

James: No, it usually fits right in with our daily lives, unless we’re in Europe, and then all is chaos.

Jack: I read this was the first time you played upright bass? Is that true?

James: It was my idea. What was I thinking? Actually, I know what I was thinking. Al Greller played upright on “Fakebook” (and Wilbo Wright played upright on the subsequent tour), so I thought I’d go 100% on the concept of this record and try it. It’s a challenge, all right. Playing it every night on tour has been rewarding, probably in the way a boxer feels after winning a heavyweight match (every night).

Jack: Any plans to use some upright bass on the next Dump record? (any plans for the next Dump record?)

James: No plans (for either). One song on a new Shrimper records compilation (Led Zeppelin’s “Down By The Seaside”), and one new original 15-minute song on an upcoming cassette compilation.

Jack: Could you tell us a little bit about the recording process? Was it similar to previous records or did you try anything different? (IE- Instruments first then vocals, all live, different for different songs). Was it challenging to decide how the upright should sound/be mic’d recorded? I can imagine it’s challenging to get an upright mic’d right for live shows.

James: It was nothing like previous records (except “Fakebook,” I guess). Almost the exact same basic setup for every track, minimal overdubs. Our live sound engineer has used a combination of mic/ direct techniques for the upright, he won’t even tell me. I’ve been playing it through a Fender Super Reverb onstage, but only for monitoring purposes.

Jack: Have you kept up on independent comic scene? What’s been some titles/writers you’ve enjoyed in the past few years?

James: I haven’t kept up too closely. I have mostly followed the careers of a handful of the same artists for a long time, and their work has just gotten stronger over time, particularly Jim Woodring and Adrian Tomine.

Jack: What have you been up to the past few days? Any good/bad site seeing? (London, Paris, Berlin)

James: Lots of walking, searching for coffee, stamps. I’m a huge fan of pharmacies and grocery stores when overseas. I like to get out and see the city whenever I can, and try to blend in somehow.

Jack: Have you had any special (or not so special) guests join you on stage for this tour besides Dave Schramm?

James: In Brooklyn, we played “Walk Away Renee” and “Rollers Show” with Nick Lowe. In London, we played “Rings Around The World” with Gruff Rhys.

Jack: Any plans to visit the Portland tree featured on Fade’s album cover? (in Overlook park) while you’re in Portland?

James: No plans, but it could happen, especially if it starts serving coffee.








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weird sketchiness. Driving home last night, saw a guy messing with a bike lock in front of Fresh Pot on Mississippi. I slowly drove by, couldn’t tell if he was unlocking or locking or trying to steal it. It was a cable lock, and he was putting something into the key hole it looked like. I slowed down and pulled over at the corner awkwardly and put my hazards on. A group of people started walking by and I pretended I was trying to get someone’s attention and honked my horn a few times, not looking in the bike’s direction. Then I waited. Turned around. I saw that the guy was not by the bike, but on the sidewalk, just checking out the scene. I stood there and then pulled over catty corner (so now across from animal traffic). I called the police, and said I knew it was kind of pointless, but it sort of looked like this guy was trying to steal a bike and he was still here. I could see him a block away, standing there. Maybe sort of wondering what I was up to. I described him as best I could to police and they said they’d send a car by. So I stayed there, with my hazards on. Watching this guy standing there. he walked down the block, further down shaver, but still he stood there. After another few minutes passed. I looked away. Then when I looked back I think I saw him get into a silver hatchback car. This was shocking. Why was he messing with a bike lock and then getting into a car? They drove off. I actually stupidly tried following them, because I had nothing better to do. But I’d lost them. I went back to the bike. I wanted to take a closer look at the lock, but was afraid the police would pull up and arrest me. Although I had a good alibi. I had given the dispatcher my name and number. So if they did try to arrest me, I could just tell them to call my number. Which actually, makes me think it would be the perfect crime. I didn’t look at the bike lock that closely and then I drove home.

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I was going to write a review of this show, but I didn’t so just some pics.









Friends from college opened the show, John Gnorski and Jeff Brodsky AKA Wet Wool. They were pretty awesome.








AU played.

Then Nurses.








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Brother Jeff’s Corpse Story

“I’d been smelling this stench on my hall for about 3 weeks, even complained to maintenance over a week ago, saying that I even thought it might be someone who died, I got the semi-racist response “it’s probably just a Chinese person cooking a cabbage, that always smells bad.” Finally yesterday the old Ukranian lady who lives across the hall from me knocked on my door to ask me if I agreed with her that there was a terrible smell in the hall, she had complained to maintenance and they blew her off as an annoying old lady. So she and I went to the maintenance office together, and convinced them to come check out the smell – they came, blowing us off all the while, insisting that it was “not a rotting smell,” one maintenance guy saying he smelled nothing, and the other guy saying it was “definitely from someone’s dirty apartment.” When they left, having done nothing, the nice asian dad who lives down the hall came out of his apartment and said he couldn’t take it anymore, even his 3-year old boy had been complaining lately, and come to think of it, he hasn’t seen his neighbor in a while. The neighbor in question was a portly man in his 60s, lived alone. Rent bill still on his door. We decided we should call 911, so I called and told them there was a stink on my hallway, we feared someone might be dead. So the cops came, very funny cops. They arrived on the hallway a little later and immediately said “oh yeah. It doesn’t look good for this guy.” They saw the rent bill on his door and said “it’s always the same.” (picture all of this being said in the most stereotypical NYC cop accents). They called in a third cop, who talked exactly the same way. When he arrived I escorted him from the elevator asking him if he smelled what we were talking about – he said “Naw, I don’t smell nothin’. I wuz down at September 11.” I thought he meant that he smelled so many stinking corpses at the twin towers that nothing bothered him anymore but he continued: “I developed a cancerous growth in my nose – they hadda take it out, and now I can’t smell nothin.” So this is like a superhero cop with no sense of smell, who gained his powers from chemical exposure at the Twin Towers, and they bring him on for particularly smelly jobs!! Amazing! I went back to my apartment, not wanting to be standing around when they broke down the door and hauled out this 3 or 4 week rotting corpse of a fat guy – but there was no question – when I was in my apartment, about ten minutes later, this horrible smell suddenly permeated my place, even from way down at the opposite end of the hall, it must have been when they opened the door. I opened all the windows and turned the fan on high and started burning incense. Finally, about 6 hours later, I got the courage to leave my apartment and go outside to get away from my building for a while. Down on the street was the “meat wagon” and a couple of medics with a stretcher trying to gain access to my building – I let them in – I couldn’t believe it had taken so long for them to arrive. I was sure the burst of stink from 6 hours earlier was from the body being removed, but apparently it was just from when they opened the apartment door. I watched them get into the elevator with the stretcher and I took off, not wanting to be in the lobby when the elevator came back down!

On the good side, at least somebody on the co-op apartment waiting list is going to get a nice letter soon.

And remember – that’s the only way ANYbody ever moves out of the co-ops!”

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overheard (twice!) at thursday’s LONEY, DEAR show:



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