Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: hip-hop, pop, alternative, country, alt-country, rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Persephone's Bees do.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: No Longer the Loneliest Number; On the Billboard Charts These Days, It's Crowded at the Top

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washingtonpost.com: Mariah's Entrances; At Verizon, an On-and-Off Concert

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J. Freedom du Lac: So, looking at a 40th anniversary vinyl copy of "Pet Sounds" that's on my desk -- and I'm wondering if there's ever been a better album with worse cover art. The Beach Boys! Feeding goats on a farm! Get it?! Ehhhhh.

Anyway ... what's up?

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Washington, D.C.: Billy Ray Cyrus's "Some Gave All" spent 17 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in 1992? No it didn't. You're lying. It COULDN'T have. I don't live in that kind of world and would refuse to if you tried to move me there.

No one is impressed with your lies, so stop lying, you liar.

J. Freedom du Lac: Face the facts, my friend. He of the The Achy Breaky Big Mistakey was on top of the world in '92. He and Garth Brooks, who also had 17 weeks at #1 that year (though with two different albums). Thank gawd for Nirvana.

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washingtonpost.com: Justin Timberlake, More Purr Than Growl

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I was curious as to whether you saw Man Man when they passed through DC as the opening act for the Fiery Furnaces a couple months ago. I saw them for the first time a few nights earlier in Philly and they've quickly become one my favorite bands. Two good albums to their credit and an extraordinary spectacle of sight and sound when seen live.

Also any thoughts on Magic Potion, the new release from the Black Keys? I was thinking about picking it up on my way home from work.

J. Freedom du Lac: Man Man are great, though I'm not sure I'd need to see them more than, say, twice in my lifetime. I've only seen 'em once (at South by Southwest), and I thought the whole thing insanely fun. But it was about the spectacle more than anything. Then again, just about the entire Pitchfork editorial staff was at the bar, and most of those guys had seen Man Man a ton. And they insisted that they're always worth seeing. So....

Meanwhile, my new favorite album: "Notes from the Underworld" by Persephone's Bees. It's absurd, and great, and it makes me giddy. Take THAT, Fiery Furnaces!

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Re: Justin Timberlake: It has been my experience that FutureSex is much less fulfilling than RightNowSex. My religious fiancee might disagree, tho.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm no Dr. Ruth, but I'd have to agree with you.

Curiously, nobody asked Timberlake for his take during the conference call he did with a bunch of us hacks on Monday. But about 96 people did ask him some variation on the question of "where did sexy go, and how do you plan on bringing it back?"

Sed Justin (and I quote, directly from the transcript): "It was the first line that I came up with on the song. I - it -originally I wasn't even planning on calling the song 'SexyBack.' I was going to call it, you know, something like, I don't know what we were going to call it. We weren't originally going to call it 'SexyBack, but it was never - I definitely didn't think it would become the most worn-out joke of 2006 or phrase, I mean. It - I definitely didn't know it was going to start what it started. It just sounded like a nice opening to the song."

Aren't transcripts great? I. It. Er. Ah.

And no, there's no N Sync reunion in the works. I know, I know -- heartbreaking news.

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Oxford Town, Miss.: How crazy was Apple to close their iTunes store all day Tuesday for that gimmicky "It's Showtime!" garbage??

Do it Sunday night, man.

J. Freedom du Lac: They did it just to spite Chris Richards, who was trying to wrap up the latest edition of the Singles File.

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Burtonsville, Md.: Hey J,

I was in San Fran last week and caught a band called Centro-Matic at Bottom of the Hill. Are they really that good or was I just euphoric from the Grand Marnier? Do you know anything about these guys? Have you checked out their latest CD "Fort Recovery"? I recommend it to fans of smart, smooth southern rock.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not familiar with them. Anybody?

In lieu of informed opinions, let's just chalk it up to you being three sheets. Love Bottom of the Hill, by the way.

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Washington, D.C.: Freedom, if you love JT so much, how come you didn't get to do the review? Also, do you love JT as much as Allison Stewart does? Finally, do you agree with Allison that Care Bears are sexy? Cause frankly, that's weird.

J. Freedom du Lac: After having reviewed JT's show last month, I felt like it would have been too much for me to review the CD, too. So I farmed it out to the great Allison Stewart. Loved her review. And yes, I (Heart) JT as much as she does. I have no opinion about Care Bears. Monchichis, on the other hand -- they're so soft and cuddly.

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Arizona Bay, Ariz.: How broken up are you over Tool's canceling of their show tomorrow because Maynard is sick?

J. Freedom du Lac: So broken up that I plan to listen to some of those lachrymose Nick Lachey songs just to make myself feel better.

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Silver Spring, Md.: VHS or Beta will be at the R&R Hotel soon...are they actually performing, or just DJ'ing?

J. Freedom du Lac: My sources ("sources" = Producer David, who has multiple personalities) say they're DJing. And that it's the Virgin Festival afterparty. My sources also say that they have some Persephone's Bees song on their iPod, and that they came across one of the tunes very early this morning and had to change to something more depressing. Because it was just too perky for that hour. My sources need help, I think.

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Washington, D.C.: Getting this in while I'm thinking of it. Read the review of Justin Timberlake's new album by your colleague Allison Stewart -- by far the best sentence in the whole thing was "Timberlake is still no Prince, and lines such as "Back up some more / And let me take it off" have the same sexual charge as a proposition from a Care Bear." Priceless.

Anyway -- should I buy the whole thing on iTunes or just cherry pick my way through?

J. Freedom du Lac: That was a really great review. Our thoughts on the album synch up almost perfectly. I do think it's worth getting the full album, as you sort of need to hear the interludes and preludes and intros and outros as they unfold. Timberlake and Timbaland clearly put a lot of thought into them. Now, not all of the songs on the album are great (the track with Three 6 Mafia is a big dud, eg). But I think it's a pretty excellent pop album. Timbaland's production is on point, too. He's at the top of his game right now. The new single, 'My Love,' is completely absurd. It was fun listening to Timberlake talk about how that song came together.

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Silver Spring, Md.: In your article on the Billboard Charts today, you mentioned that Bob Dylan's return to No. 1 was partly a gift of scheduling and partly a result of the artist availing himself to his fans through a memoir, the radio show and "No Direction Home." Also the commercial for Apple.

Dylan's last album, Love and Theft sold over 133,000 copies in the first week of release. Considering the album came out on September 11, 2001, I would consider that first week's sales of 130,000 to be his core audience that either pre-ordered the CD on Amazon or braved a trip to a record store during that horrible week to buy the new Dylan CD.

The "Chronicles" book was released in Fall 2004 and the "No Direction Home" Scorcese film was released on DVD this time in 2005. He's also toured the US six times since the release of the Chronicles book. A two-year ramp-up for a new album? I guess it's the "Never Ending Marketing Campaign." Including the radio show, the pre-sale tie-in with Apple, and the iPod commercial, for a guy who doesn't acknowledge his audience during concerts (to the dismay of Chris Richards), that's quite an elaborate scheme to avail himself to fans for an additional 60,000 + copies of "Modern Times." If like Nelly Furtado, all that Dylan cared about was a number one record, he would have had the number one album with just the sales to his core audience. I'm not sure the so-called Never Ending Marketing Campaign is in support of getting a number one record than Dylan building up his core audience and keeping those younger fans. That his album hit number one last week fit in nicely with your Wednesday feature and gave Washington Post writers yet another chance to call Dylan craggy or cookie monster with a cold, or say that he's seen better days. I think the real story here might be the steep drop in sales for younger stars who seem to be everywhere like Jessica Simpson, Young Dro, and Christina Aguilara. Dylan is down to #3 this week - 128,000 copies, but nothing like the drops those artists took.

I didn't even see Dylan's iPod commercial on television until this past Monday, the end of the sales week. I don't care about Dylan's motivations for doing the commercial, I was just glad to see a guitar in Dylan's hands again. I was also thankful that it wasn't a Beyonce L'Oreal, Pepsi, Dreamgirls or Wal-Mart commercial or a Justin Timberlake McDonald's commercial.

J. Freedom du Lac: You still in that defensive crouch, or are you standing up now?

If Sony releases the Dylan album on the same week that a Xtina Aguilera or Beyonce or Timberlake or even Danity Kane or OutKast drops, he doesn't bow at #1. So yes, it was a gift of scheduling. Sony had a lot of say there, since they're behind many of the biggest albums of August and September.

The iPod commercial was hugely important because it alerted many of Dylan's fans to the arrival of the new album. Older music consumers aren't really programmed to care about release dates the way younger music fans are. That's fact, per industry research. As such, you generally don't see fans of older artists like Zimmy rushing to the stores right away. In this case, though, people were acutely aware of the album's arrival and responded accordingly.

You act as if I dislike the album. I gave it a rave review upon its release and even referred to it today as marvelous. Why the outrage? And by the way, what's wrong with being craggy? Some of my best friends are craggy.

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Arizona Bay, Ariz.: Tool isn't really about lachrymology. Thanks for playing though.

J. Freedom du Lac: Is there a cure for that?

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My Vote: J. Freedom, why didn't you run for a political office? You would make a slammin mayor - lighten the district up a little.

J. Freedom du Lac: Fenty's got the mid-30s bald guy vote on lock. I wouldn't stand a chance. Plus, I'd hate to see what the opposition research might unearth. Photos of a much younger version of me in tights and a leotard and a blonde wig, for instance.

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Put up your fist if all you want is J. Freedom: So, what do you think of the new Los Lobos? I like what I hear so far, but haven't gotten to spend much time with it yet.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sad to say that I've yet to listen to it, in spite of my well-documented soft spot for the styling sounds of Whittier's finest. Part of the blame goes to my horrible 'filing system': I didn't even know where the album was until I started digging through the various CD bins around my desk today. Doing some spring cleaning, about a half-year late. I should do that more often, really. I'm sure the janitorial staff would appreciate it. Plus, I might actually know where things are.

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Severna Park, Md.: So what you're saying is that the Achy Breaky record is 17 times better than the new Bob Dylan record? I wouldn't have thought so, but them's hard numbers you're talking about. Who am I to argue with science?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and "Please Hammer Don't Hurt Em" is 21x as good. Yo, Zimmy -- u can't touch this.

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Birmingham, Ala.: There's a guy in my office who doesn't listen to music at all, has never bought a record album. I think this is the creepiest thing ever. Nice guy generally, but jeez....

J. Freedom du Lac: You should make him a mixtape that tells him as much. Gnarls B's "Crazy," Radiohead's "Creep," New Order's "Weirdo," etc. Speaking of "Crazy," Trey Lorenz - one of Mariah's backup singers - did a falsetto version of that song during her show last week. Somebody -- Cee-Lo, eg -- needs to issue a phatwa against cover versions of that song. They're ruining it for me.

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Washington, D.C.: There sure has been a lot about Dylan, Beyonce and JT in the Style section lately. At least two big articles on each. But only one small review of Slayer. Shame...

J. Freedom du Lac: Hey, it's DC. We like our front-runners. Seriously, though, what would the secondary story on Slayer be about? They don't seem to be crossing any sort of major career intersection at the moment. They're just kind of doing their thing. Whereas Dylan is continuing his remarkable, decade-long resurgence, Justin Timberlake is further establishing himself as one of the more surprisingly credible pop artists around, and Beyonce is trying to ... well, I'm not sure what it is she's trying to do. But she sure has a lot of people talking.

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The District: I'm going to Burger King for lunch - want anything???

J. Freedom du Lac: If they have any of those taking Pikachus left over from that late-90s giveaway, I'll take one of those. And a medium Diet Coke (TM). Thanks.

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Takoma Park, Md.: So Scarlett Johansson stars in the new Dylan video, and Dylan shouts out Alicia Keys on his new album. Alicia Keys will be starring opposite Scarlett Johansson in The Nanny Diaries. Coincidence? Is Bob Dylan just really excited for the Nanny Diaries or what??

J. Freedom du Lac: Hopefully, he'll address this pressing issue soon on his radio show.

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El Paso, Tex.: Best/Worst album cover of all time? "We Can't Be Stopped" by the Geto Boys . Bushwick Bill on a hospital gurney after being shot in the eye? Can't beat it with any petting zoo on the world.

Not actually a fan of the record, though.

J. Freedom du Lac: That was a horrible cover. Just awful. I should have asked Bushwick about it when I saw him at a Grammys after-party last year.

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Meccamputechsubterranea, whatever: New Mars Volta out yesterday!

What do you think?

It hasn't hit me as hard as the last two albums did. Less rockin', more guitar wigginess. Less glass shattering wails, more falsetto.

Still, unlike anything out there.

J. Freedom du Lac: It didn't really excite me. I loved our reviewer's take on the CD and the band itself. It's true that they're a tough, tough opening act -- even for fans of groups that are kinda out there, like System of a Down. The System fans were stupefied when I saw Mars Volta open for 'em in Balmer last year.

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A boring building in Rockville: What's the word on Tamar's solo album? I've read that she was dropped from her label and the record shelved and was wondering if there was any truth to it. And that it might get released in the future as part of another Prince project...

Any thoughts on the new Alice Smith record? I streamed and will probably get it, but was curious to see what others thought. She's got DC roots and could be lumped in the Neo Soul category.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't know what's going on with this album. It was supposed to come out Aug. 29, I think. Dunno if it ever did. But Tamar hasn't blogged on her MySpace page since early August. And somebody on the page posted this note: "So here's the long awaited question that nobody has asked. Where's the album? 8/29 has passed." Big hmmmm. I'll see if I can get an answer from the label.

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No Los Lobos review?: I was counting on you. More importantly, Los Lobos was counting on you. Just because David Hildalgo is a big guy doesn't mean that he can't get his feelings hurt. Strong men also cry. Strong men also cry.

J. Freedom du Lac: Asleep at the wheel. (Speaking of which ... Ray Benson is TALL. Wonder if he could dunk on Guy Clark?)

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Dress Co, DE: JF: Tights and a blond wig?? I SAW you last week on the Metro!

J. Freedom du Lac: Wasn't me. I've changed wig colors.

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San Diego, Calif.: This isn't really a question, I just wanted to publicly thank my friend Adam for blowing out the speakers in my car on the way back from Matisyahu last night. Driving to work this morning was almost painful. Friends don't let friends mess with their stereo.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's rough. But, then, that's what you get for letting him crank the new Whitest Boy Alive album. (Great name, by the way. Dig the music, too. Take THAT, Phoenix.) Anyway, how was the show? He's much better live than on CD.

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Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Mr. Free,

Pollstar sez George Jones will be in your neighborhood on 9/23 at the Great Frederick Fair. Are you going?

J. Freedom du Lac: I can't, alas. I'll be at Pimlico for V-Fest (and some satellite betting; wonder if I can expense that?). Anyway, you're assuming George will actually show up. Give me decent odds on that and I'll bet against it.

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RE: Cover Songs: For Mr. Tool: Tool's cover of Led Zeppelin's 'No Quarter' is terrible and should have never been done. What a bunch of punks.

J. Freedom du Lac: Just passing this along. (Mostly because I like seeing our friend from Arizona Bay antagonized. But also because it's easier to pass things along then actually type thoughtful responses out to interesting questions.)

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Riverdale, Md.: Speaking of what Beyonce is trying to do, I've had her album for a few weeks now and I hated it from the beginning. But then after reading some positive reviews about it (mostly from reviewers in the UK) I relistened and relistened again. I think if anyone else released this album it wouldn't chart at all. Now I'm REALLY worried about Janet.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not sure. Maybe she was completely distracted by her boyfriend, who is apparently working on a new album of his own. I listened to the Beyonce CD again yesterday, and I like it even less than I did the first time through. It's a mess.

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Speakin' O' Xtina: How's her album doing? Since the flurry of publicity, I haven't heard much from it. I grant that there may be a huge rock over my house that I'm unaware of.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's doing aight. The first-week sales weren't great vis-a-vis Beyonce's, but it's been hanging around in the Top 10 for a month now. #1, then #3, #4 and, now, #6. Second single isn't generating a ton of heat. But, then, it had a tough act to follow. I lurved "Ain't No Other Man."

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Re: George Jones: The famed George Jones drunken traffic stop is NOT on the YouTubes! How can this be? I thought everything was on the YouTubes.

J. Freedom du Lac: Everything IS on YouTube...until the cease-and-desist letters start flying. I was chatting with somebody last week about Sam Cooke, and she directed me to YouTube to check out a performance clip of Sam with Jackie Wilson on some TV show back in the day. But the link had been removed -- and her best guess was that Cooke's estate had ordered the thing to come down. (And she'd know, since she's managed various soul greats and still runs in those circles.)

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Arlington, Va.: Album sales are down all over the place, but doesn't this seem to be hitting rap particularly hard lately? Any reason why?

J. Freedom du Lac: Hip-hop sales are down sharply -- I think by about 15% this year. And TI's King is the only rap album that's gone platinum in '06. Not sure why this is exactly, but I'm sure ringtone and digital track sales are really dragging down album sales in the genre. Also, it could be that there just haven't been a lot of big-name releases out this year. No 50 Cent (who had the #1 selling album across all genres last year), no Eminem, no Jay-Z. There was an OutKast album, of course, but it's performed more like a soundtrack than a proper album, in terms of consumer response. So say the people who use phrases like "consumer response."

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RE: YouTube: But if I see Sam crooning with Jackie Wilson, aren't I more likely to buy some of his tunes? A bit short-sighted on his estate's part, wouldn't you think?

But the picture of you in the wig and tights - gotta go.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, you'd think. Some estates are just more protective than others.

And sorry, but coming soon to a YouTube near, well, you: J. Freedom, 8, in "The Ice Maiden." Get over it. (And yes, I just third-personed myself. How lame.)

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Alabama: One more crappy album cover that defied logic was The Rolling Stones

Dirty Work. These guys appeared to be well-enough off that they did not have to take a joy ride on South Beach and kill several Cuban drug lords and take their clothes. During the same car ride, Mick Jagger's pants challenged Vanilla Ice's pants to a scream-off.

J. Freedom du Lac: Definitely a regrettable cover. I hope they burned those outfits.

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Decatur, Ga.: I met this girl recently, and she has the individual albums (not just greatest hits) by Journey on CD. I was more surprised than upset. I didn't dream they were still in print. Who needs that much Journey?

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't know, but you might need relationship counseling if this goes anywhere. Maybe she just wants to be as close to Randy Jackson as possible.

Speaking of Journey, ask Richard Harrington his great story about Steve Perry and the telephone call one of these days. It's priceless.

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Silver Spring, Md.: No defensive crouch here, maybe a more than slightly concerned slouch. If Modern Times is released the same week, with the same slate of weak new releases, it's number one with just Dylan's core audience - no new campaign to avail himself to fans, no iPod commercial, nothing. Danity Kane sold 101,000 records last week - a 50% drop in sales. I'm sure Dylan appreciates the top spot as much as anyone would. I'm just not sure that the bevy of activity and product generated by him in the last two years was all to get a number 1 record.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nor did I suggest that it was all to reach #1. Dylan probably doesn't care where his albums chart. But it was an awfully interesting thing to see him at #1, and it had many, many people scratching their heads, wondering how that happened, what it all meant, etc. If you don't think it's news, then please explain why BBC-TV had me on live during one of their evening newscasts last week to talk about it. Couldn't possibly have been a slow news day since Tony Blair had just announced that his clock was ticking. (And the BBC ain't exactly "Access Hollywood.")

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I know, no one asked...: Country music hasn't been any good since Ronnie Milsap and Charlie Pride.

J. Freedom du Lac: Listen to the great new Eric Church album, "Sinners Like Me," and tell me if you still agree with yourself.

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Falls Church, Va.: I read in Rolling Stone that Tower Records is so out-of-money broke that record companies will not supply them with new product. A sign of the times for sure...I remember when going to Tower was the coolest thing - I could spend hours there...

J. Freedom du Lac: Pretty sad. But I think Tower did itself in years ago, when it expanded like crazy all over the world. The company got too big, too fast and seemed like it lost its soul.

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Washington, D.C.: Runner-up Worst Album Cover: David Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name."

The album cover is beautiful in the way that drug-induced brain hemorrhages are beautiful

J. Freedom du Lac: At least they didn't synch up the sun with his eye. But yeah.

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Arlington, Va.: J Free-This may sound like an odd question, but I hope you'll bear with me. My 15 year old son wants to start seeing shows in DC, with his friends, but I'm concerned. How easy is it to find parking at The Black Cat, DC9, 9:30 Club? Are there any venues you'd say are definitely not safe to go to after dark, or that are particularly good?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, I walk home after shows at all of those places. But I wouldn't necessarily recommend that to a 15-yr-old. There's a small parking lot at the 9:30 club. I think you can buy tickets for the lot online. Plenty of people around the club, too, before and after shows. The Black Cat is a tougher place for parking, but 14th is a busy street. Of the three clubs, DC9 is on the sketchiest block. But not a worry for your son, since DC9 is also 21+. So he won't be getting in there anytime soon.

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Re: Tower Records: If you rearrange "Tower" you get "We Rot".

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Where's your head at today J. Free? Your name-dropping seems a little half-hearted today.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, this is a pretty weak week. Well, what if I were to tell you that I met Skunk Baxter at a party the other night? Is that something you might be interested in? (I asked him about the whole CIA thing. To which he said: "No comment.") Also met Mary Wells.

That's still lame, though. Um....Randy Jackson called on Monday. Better? No?

Try me again next week. I'll see what I can come up with.

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A Little Bit Country: The Eric Church album "Sinners Like Me" will make country music lovers find a fourth leg for their dogs, abandon rail travel as an option, and drink adult beverages out of heavy earthen-ware jugs. It is unbelievable good--like Gnarls Barkley "Crazy" good.

J. Freedom du Lac: It really is.

And on that note of praise, I'm out. Thanks for stopping by. Watch for me on YouTube.

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