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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that the Polyphonic Spree does.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: All Together Now; The Rockers of Live Earth Lift Their Voices in Support of a Greener Globe

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washingtonpost.com: Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul Still Rules

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J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings, live Earthlings. So how many of you watched or listened to or hugged a tree at any of the various climate crisis concerts on Saturday?

It was, according to Al Gore, "officially the largest global entertainment event in history." Gore and friends claimed a global audience of 2 billion. I'm still trying to figure out how exactly that math works. I just saw a release from the Live Earth publicists, who say that "more than 8 million" people watched the concerts on MSN.com and that another 1 million (or so) "participated in more than 10,000 Friends of Live Earth events in 131 countries."

The spin doctors at NBC Universal are saying that the U.S. broadcasts on NBC, Bravo, Telemundo and CNBC drew in "nearly 19 million viewers, who watched all or part of the coverage." (Note the part about "part of the coverage," as my colleague John Maynard says that the NBC prime-time broadcast averaged 2.75 million viewers, which is a pretty slight number. Even "Cops" and "America's Most Wanted" had bigger national audiences than that on Saturday night.) There were also the 52,000 or so people at Giants Stadium, and various folks tuning in on satellite radio. Plus, of course, all those people watching or listening or concert-going around the world. But I still don't see how they arrived at 2 billion. Not that this event was all about the numbers. But I'm just saying.

Anyway, how did the show(s) play on TV and/or online? I was watching and writing from inside Giants Stadium so I didn't have a good handle on what it looked like on the other end. How did KT Tunstall's gold lame tights look through the lens? How did the Dave Matthews Band sound? (I was taking a Gatorade and bathroom break.) Could you tell Akon was doing an awful lot of lip-synching? (I could.) Do tell.

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Anonymous: Hi "J." Who, in your opinion, put on the best set out of all the Dead Earth (heh, heh--my little joke) performers? (I really liked Wolfmother's set from Sydney.)

Thanks.

J. Freedom du Lac: I can only speak to what I saw at Giants Stadium, which included video of a very small handful of single-song performances from around the world. My vote goes to that band of research scientists up on the ice sheet in Antarctica. Talk about a cold open!

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Washington, D.C.: So where did you watch all the performances from on Saturday? Different spots in the stadium, down on the field, in the seats?

J. Freedom du Lac: I mostly watched from the stadium floor, 30 rows back. Pretty great seat, in spite of the drunkards from [radio network name redacted]'s advertising department, who were spilling beer dangerously close to my laptop and singing, at annoyingly high volume, along to every single Bon Jovi lyric. They were also heckling Cameron Diaz, demanding that she take her clothes off. Good times.

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Columbia, Md.: So is the summer as bad for music as it is for television and sports? I mean the next Coldplay album is not even due until 2008 and unless its a colab with Tool it cannot possibly be worth the wait. Am I doomed to a summer of crappy albums or is there hope in the future?

J. Freedom du Lac: Depends on your definition of crappy (and, conversely, good). The new White Stripes album is fantastic, as is the Spoon album that was released today. The Josh Ritter record that comes out in August is quality entertainment product. I have high hopes for that Common CD that's coming out later this month. Etc.

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T-Town: JFduL: It's interesting how your perception of Saturday's concert - which you attended live - differed from our viewing experience at home. By the way, Bravo did an excellent job of broadcasting; they broadcast whole sets and showed generally good clips from other concerts during the set changes. Melissa Etheridge may have galvanized the crowd, but she caused us to turn off the volume - it came across as horrible braying on the small screen.

When you are only doing a 20 minute set, why do you waste valuable moments trying to get the crowd to sing along? That too is very tiresome on TV.

The best sets (and I did not see everything) were Keith Urban's set - he and Alicia Keys were incendiary on Gimme Shelter, we thought. Alicia Keys doing Marvin Gaye's Mercy, Mercy Me. Kelly Clarkson - who knew? The Police - Andy Summers played some great guitar.

The worst - Kanye CrisKon were interchangeable and uninteresting. Dave Matthews - technically proficient but boring.

The Pumpkins - the rat in the cage lyrics have not aged well.

The weirdest set was Roger Waters recreating Pink Floyd's greatest hits. I happened to see the Dark Side of the Moon tour twice over 30 years ago, with fond memories. This was the faux band version - technically proficient but nowhere as good as the original, although the sax player was pretty good. It creeped me out.

The one song shown from Genesis from London reminded me that I had seen them several times on tour over 30 years ago as well, when Peter Gabriel was the singer and Phil Collins the drummer and comic relief. Nostalgia trumped the present again. Indeed, there were so many acts with white haired or bald gentlemen of a certain age (my peers) that it was a relief to see a few youngins like AFI and Ms. Clarkson.

Anyhow, I enjoyed your review, but thought you might be interested in the TV perspective.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks for this report. Keith Urban sure knows his way around a fret board, no?

Funny that you singled out Melissa Etheridge -- I got a text message from Producer David during the show who basically said the same. I wonder if I was suffering from heat stroke or something. I sure did like her live; I'll have to see if I can catch a replay. Ditto Kelly Clarkson. I thought she was lousy -- save for her closer, "Since U Been Gone," which seemed to wake up the crowd after her sleeper hold of a set.

Regarding the sing-alongs, I liked Bon Jovi's approach. Just sing big anthems, and the crowd will follow. No exhortations necessary. Of course, they did have home-field advantage. But still.

While I really can't stand Billy Corgan's voice, I was reminded, during that Smashing Pumpkins set, just how much I like the sound of his guitar. (I'll be keenly interested to see how they come off tonight at the 9:30 club.)

J. Freedom du Lac: Speaking of the Pumpkins: I understand that more than a few people were thinking about getting over to the 9:30 this afternoon, just to make sure they have a place at Billy Corgan's feet at tonight's show. Hope they brought umbrellas as the skies have opened up over NW DC. Wheee!

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Washington, D.C..: J.-- The DC area has been blessed the last few months with some fantastic live music. We have such a gem in the 9:30 Club yet still many folks don't know about this locale, to name just one. How often do you get to actually attend local shows?

J. Freedom du Lac: Anybody who lives here but doesn't know about the 9:30 club isn't a fan of contemporary music.

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Live Earth: Shouldn't all the musicians have been doing acoustic sets ?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and the spotlights should have been replaced by candles.

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Concert bands: I turned on Live Earth for about 30 seconds this weekend and heard a bit of Fall Out Boy's set. Horrendous. This is something I've never understood about some bands and doing live shows. Has no one ever told Fall Out Boy that "This Ain't a Scene..." sounds awful live? Everything good about it was created in the studio. What's the worst/best band when playing live?

J. Freedom du Lac: That's not necessarily true. I've heard Patrick Stump do "It's Not a Scene..." as a solo acoustic number, and it was great. He has one of the more interesting voices among contemporary male rock singers, methinks. I look forward to Fall Out Boy's inevitable breakup, just to see what that dude does on his own.

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Atlanta, Ga.: If I was forced to see either Roger Waters pretend to be Pink Floyd or David Gilmour pretend to be Pink Floyd, I'd take Gilmour. But I'd really rather just listen to Dark Side of the Moon at home with a good pair of headphones.

J. Freedom du Lac: The third option isn't a bad one at all, though I thought Roger and his crew sounded pretty good live and I rather enjoyed seeing the pig fly right over my seat. I doubt you have a giant, inflatable pig at home. Then again, maybe you do, in fact, party like that and I've got it all wrong.

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Washington, D.C.: Built to Spill put on a nice show at the 930 on Sunday, but I don't really care for Doug Martsch's voice. Any thoughts?

J. Freedom du Lac: No thoughts about the show. I was in recovery mode after the Live Earth marathon, which ended with a steeplechase as my colleague Josh Zumbrun and I had to go off-roading to get to our hotel on the other side of the Jersey Turnpike. This after getting stuck at the county fair, or whatever the hell they had set up in the Meadowlands parking lot. Quite an adventure.

I don't have a problem with Martsch's voice, though. Speaking of Built to Spill fans, Band of Horses is working on a new album as we speak. Just thought you'd wanna know.

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Kanye West Hates Tha Police: How else to explain his superfluous interruption of what could have been a pretty good "Message in a Bottle"?

J. Freedom du Lac: Can't say I liked that finale. (Especially since there were persistent rumors that something TRULY exciting was going to happen at the end of the night. Alas, the Police with John Mayer and Kanye did not qualify as truly exciting.) It could have been worse, though. The Police with Rob Thomas and P. Diddy, for instance.

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Live at Home: I DVR'ed the NBC show in the evening (didn't want to use all that electricity taping the day's proceedings).

Turned it on intending to watch the performances of anyone I like and skip past the rest, including His Royal Goreness and the increasingly Gore-y Leonardo.

Fast-forwarded through the entire thing, except for the Police. And they sucked, especially with Kanye jabbering "Uh. Uh." over Message in a Bottle.

Total investment: 9 minutes.

J. Freedom du Lac: I see your 9 minutes and I raise you 9 hours, which is about how long I spent inside the stadium. Live Earth: We watch so you don't have to. (I believe they call this "service journalism.")

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Maryland: I caught some of the Live Earth coverage online, and some on Bravo. Duran Duran was much better live than I would have expected. Ditto Bon Jovi. Red Hot Chili Peppers were disappointing. KT Tunstall's tights looked weird, but her performance was good. I had never seen John Butler Trio perform live, so that was cool. I'd never heard of Kenna at all, so that was a nice introduction. And I've never been a Keith Urban fan, but his duet with Alicia Keys was good. Kanye West's performance with The Police was embarrassing, to say the least.

J. Freedom du Lac: Was it more embarassing than Sting introducing Al Gore as "another bass guitarist"?

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. du Lac-- I had the good fortune of catching Rush out at Nissan a couple of weeks ago. They still got it. Just incredible how good they are after all of these years. And the new album is great--in fact, it debuted Billboard at #3, with only a country and urban record in front of it. Not too shabby.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not to shabby at all. Our review below, in case you missed it.

washingtonpost.com: Rush review

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NJ: Hi! I know this is soo 90s of me to ask, but I've been wondering what happened to No Doubt and Matchbox 20 ever since their lead singers got solo careers. Are these bands dead or just on hiatus?

J. Freedom du Lac: That's VERY 90s of you. What next, a question about Collective Soul? Matchbox 20 is still together, even though Rob Thomas has done pretty well on his own. In fact, just last month, there were reports that the Matchbox dudes have gone into the studio with Steve Lillywhite to work on some new tracks for a best-of album. There's also, it seems, another Matchbox Twenty album in the works, though I guess Thomas is going to do another solo album first. This is great news for MILF-rock fans, I suppose.

As for No Doubt, Gwen Stefani's second solo album, which I liked more than most of my critical bretheren, is sort of winding down, I think. And there are apparently plans to work on a new album with her old band at some point this year.

Now, about Silverchair . . .

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J. Freedom du Lac: In other MILF-rock news, Maroon 5 has announced a tour with a somewhat surprising opening act: The Hives. Seems like a weird pairing, no? Though maybe not as unlikely as Justin Timberlake with your favorite Waldorf band, Good Charlotte -- coming soon to an arena near you!

So ... what's the strangest/most unlikely pairing you've ever seen in concert?

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Live Earth: I caught much of the UK show on both XM and Bravo (which was running about 15-20 minutes delayed, so I could catch the same acts twice), then tried live streaming on MSN for the Beasties and Spinal Tap, because Bravo started the NJ show then. All good options, though the stream was hard to get onto -- guess it was popular. I wasn't planning to spend so much of the day listening, but I got sucked in.

Favorites: Duran Duran (I know, I know, but the 13-year-old in me will never get over them), Keith Urban (I couldn't be more surprised about that), RHCP (though not as good as last V-Fest). Worst: Fall Out Boy (I have yet to hear them be good on live TV), Melissa Etheridge (even though I mostly agree with you, please shut up), Kanye West (thanks for ruining Message in a Bottle). Overall, I thought the UK show was better than NJ, but that's probably just because I preferred the lineup. Also, that group of scientists on Antarctica was surprisingly good -- seriously.

J. Freedom du Lac: More Keith Urban love! I remember seeing him at Live 8 in Philadelphia and being sort of surprised by how good he was. (I'd never seen him play live before.) I heard the same thing from more than a few other people after the show. And now, this. He got skillz. And while "Gimme Shelter" was a strange choice, thematically, I thought the version really worked, even if Alicia Keys sounded kinda flat in spots. (Her own set was exceptional, by the way.)

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Vienna, Va.: What percentage of downloaded music is from iTunes? The reason I ask is that although "Singles File" is a great service for Post readers, I frequently have trouble finding the songs. And if they're not on itunes, I couldn't play them on my iPod unless I go buy the CD, which then sort of defeats the purpose of "Singles File." I know it's more work, but any chance of a sentence that says, "Not available on iTunes yet" when the review is published?

J. Freedom du Lac: The iTunes Music Store has more than 70 percent market share of all digital music sold in the U.S. and it recently became the third-largest physical or digital music retailer in the country, behind Wal-Mart and Best Buy. (Amazon.com had been No. 3.)

But Chris Richards, who writes the Singles File, (obviously) doesn't limit his picks to songs that are available at iTunes because he's not particularly interested in waiting for the songs to surface there before he can write about them. If he finds a track he really likes, as with Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls," he'll write about it right away, even if it's only available as a stream on MySpace. There's a great immediacy to the column, I think, as Chris really works hard to find songs that are just starting to show up on the pop-music radar. (You probably won't, in other words, see him writing about "Umbrella" next week; but you might read a riff on a hot new "Umbrella" remix. [You know, like the one featuring Lil Mama -- whose "Lip Gloss" Chris wrote about way back when.])

Having said that, it might be worth indicating in the Singles File where you can find each song if it's not yet available at All The Usual Spots (including iTunes). We'll have to talk about that internally.

What other tracks have you had trouble finding? It'll help us if we know how often readers run into this problem.

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New York, N.Y.: Any thoughts on the Interpol album released today? I like it, but I'm not sure it meets my very high expectations.

J. Freedom du Lac: I miss Joy Division.

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Melissa stupendous: I have to say that I thought Melissa's rant was great, and something that should have been more evident in the rest of the day. She was on a mission, and said it pretty well, (I was tearing up). The problem with society today is that everyone wants their cake, their feet to be rubbed, and not have to think. The day was about making our world a better place to live, and to make us think. Come on kids, we need to join in, not turn it down.

J. Freedom du Lac: She also had the coolest, most appropriate accessory: A green guitar strap emblazoned with recycling symbols and a peace sign.

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Most Unlikely Concert Pairing: I dare anyone to top Jimi Hendrix opening for The Monkees.

J. Freedom du Lac: Game, set, match! Though you weren't actually there, so it doesn't count.

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Unlikely Pairing: The Roots opened for Wilco a few summers ago at Merriweather. I don't care how much hippies and hipsters like ?uestlove, et al. Hip-hop groups and Jeff Tweedy do not mix.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's a pretty good one. Or weird one, if you will.

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Boston, Mass.: Way way back in '95 during Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill tour, the opening band in Hartford, CT was Radiohead. And yes, they played "Creep." It seemed bizarre at the time, as no one really knew who they were, but given time, it's even weirder. If that's even a possible

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow. I saw Alanis on that tour, but I don't recall who opened. I don't think it was Radiohead, though. (Saw them out west.) You know who the drummer for Alanis was, no? One Taylor Hawkins, now sitting at the kit for the Foo Fighters. I recognized him as soon as I saw the first Foo video. (New Foo Fighters album coming out this fall, by the way.)

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Unlikely Concerts: Staind/Nickelback/Daughtry! Can't imagine how they thought those guys would fit together.

J. Freedom du Lac: And here I thought they were all the same singer/band!

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4 Mile Run, Va.: What's your take on Lily Allen: I can't decide if I like her music...or am being momentarily swayed by mindless pop...

J. Freedom du Lac: Love some of her stuff, precisely because it's such mindless pop. But it's exceptionally crafted mindless pop, and she shows her teeth some, too. A great combo of salty and sweet.

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Another Strange Concert Pairing: Billy Bragg and Black 47 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Not only was it a weird pairing, but it was an indoor afternoon concert in the summer.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow. Double-wow.

Speaking of First Avenue, must've been a pretty great place to be in the wee hours Saturday night/Sunday morning, when Prince played a post-concert concert there, no?

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Washington, D.C.: I skimmed through NBC's Live Earth coverage, and was completely disappointed. Luckily I noticed that Universal HD broadcasted just about everything from all of the venues with amazing picture and sound. Was it just me, or was the sound pretty darn good for a festival-style show? Even Roger Waters' complicated setup worked well through the board.

J. Freedom du Lac: The in-stadium sound during the Roger Waters set was pretty great, in an almost quadraphonic kind of way. Can't speak to the quality you were hearing at home, though.

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Re:Akon: He didn't really say "support Global Warming" did he?

I want to say I'm surprised but I just can's bring myself to say that. Oh well, he probably made lots of money, right?

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, I actually like Akon (even if I think some parts of his bio read like creation myth). But he wasn't having his finest hour at Live Earth. At least he answered the call, though. Gotta give him that.

washingtonpost.com: Lord of the Ring Tone, And More; With a High, Warm Voice and Hit CDs, Akon Is Heeding the Call of Fans Who Can't Get Enough

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Washington, D.C.: I listened to some of the Live Earth London show, and damn, was James Blunt terrible. I realize that this is not shocking, but he was much, much worse than I was anticipating.

Other than that, the performances ranged from okay to pretty good. Bloc Party was the best, in my opinion.

J. Freedom du Lac: This just in? Errr, no.

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Boston, Mass.: I watched quite a bit of Saturday's broadcast. Urban and Alicia Keys was stellar. And I actually really enjoyed DMB's set. But I've seen them live a few times, and that's pretty much how it always is. Plus, Carter is just so sick behind the kit, watching him blowing bubbles and grinning and just having a great time is enough for me. I also really liked Mayer's set. He is a great guitar player, and I thought his band was awesome. AFI made me want to stick something sharp in my ear, both because of the music and the obnoxious singer saying, "we, as AFI" over and over talking about how great they are because they're vegetarians. I thought K. Clarkson was bad, and so was Kanye. The Police were pretty cool, too. The Red Hot Chili Peppers in London were great as well. I really liked Bravo's broadcast. They showed stuff from other concerts that had finished, so I got to see Jack Johnson's set, even though he played before I woke up.

Oh, but I didn't hug any trees. Though Al Gore's speech kind of made me want to. Why wasn't he that inspiring 7 years ago?

J. Freedom du Lac: I wasn't paying particularly close attention to DMB's set. Was Boyd Tinsley using pitch-correction technology? I've heard that he often needs an assist.

Mayer apparently got into a wee-wee match in the "media bubble" (which was actually the NY Giants' practice field under a mini-dome) with a reporter who was pressing him about his eco-sins or something like that. Wish I'd been back there to witness it.

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weird parings: I have two. Waaay back when, when i was too young to know better, i saw hall & oates open for ELO. blew my 10 year old mind.

in the not so distant past, maybe 10 years ago jewel opened up in dc for peter murphy. nobody had heard of her and we certainly didn't expect the yodeling.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow, those are definitely weird. Some day, if I've had a three-martini lunch before the chat, I might tell you the story about the time I saw Jewel backstage at Live 105's BFD concert at Shoreline. I saw more of her that day than, well ... never mind. Today isn't that day.

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The Roots opened for Wilco : for some reason this doesn't seem weird to me, although on paper, it should. Maybe because they're both iconoclasts who defy boundaries and cross markets? Transcend classification? Appreciated by connoisseurs?

They're complimentary rather than similar.

J. Freedom du Lac: But can't you say the same thing about the Monkees and Hendrix? (I keed, I keed.)

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unlikely pairing: Pharcyde opening for Korn sometime in the 90's at the Boathouse in Norfolk, VA.

J. Freedom du Lac: Most interesting. I miss Pharcyde. I miss the days of Spike Jonze music videos, too.

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U St: Not that I am complaining, although I am because I wasn't able to get tickets, but why aren't the Smashing Pumpkins playing more than one show in DC?

And in honor of the new Spoon album, which of their previous releases is your favorite?

J. Freedom du Lac: They are, in fact, playing more than one show in the DC area. The next one happens the first weekend of August at a little horse track up in Baltimore. Virgin Festival, I believe it's called.

I came to the Spoon party very, very late. "Gimme Fiction" is the first album I spent any serious amount of time with. I'd have to say that, then, though I do like "Girls Can Tell."

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Baltimore, Md.: Weirdest concert pairing? That's easy. Years ago, I saw Martin Mull as the opening act at the Baltimore Civic Center. This was when he did a show called Martin Mull and His Fabulous Living Room in which he played acoustic guitar and sang songs such as "Walking Hand In Ankle," about dating a Little Person. Who was he opening for? Liza Minelli! And while I dug it, most of the audience booed the entire time. Wonder how quickly Mull changed agents.

J. Freedom du Lac: Ohmy.

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Baltimore, Md.: Are you peeved that your BFF, the guy from Good Charlotte, didn't give you an exclusive heads up on his babymakings?

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but Amy Argetsinger is.

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Jersey: I drove the Hummer in from Allentown to the Meadowlands. My wife had to go to the dump with our grass clippings and some old computer monitors, so she drove the F-350 in and met me there. We'll do anything to save the planet!

J. Freedom du Lac: I think your wife almost ran me over in the parking lot. It was kinda crazy how many gas guzzlers I saw parked out there. Though, to be fair, there were also extraordinarily long lines at the bus stops post-show.

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unlikely pairings: I think are sometimes caused by a successful musician who 'discovers' a different sort of act and gives them a break by letting them open for them.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or, by artists sharing the same booking agent/manager/attorney/whatever. I'm just sayin.

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Penguins as back-up dancers: Those scientists at the Antarctic research station deserve some sort of award for performing (with no gloves!) outdoors in temps of 15 below. No prima donnas there!

J. Freedom du Lac: I was really awe-struck by that performance. That couldn't have been comfortable. But what a great natural setting, eh? Even more impressive than the Gorge or Red Rocks.

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Strange pairings:: Punk/Funk shows of the 80s...Dischord bands with Go-go bands. Good times all around. Best pairing...Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone. An all-night party.

J. Freedom du Lac: I recently saw an old concert poster from one of those shows. Fugazi with Rare Essence, or some such. Bet that was pretty great.

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No love for Keith: J. Free: I heard Urban's set on the radio after he finished the duet with Alicia Keys. I thought he was boring with mediocre songs. Yeah, he can pick, but as John Sebastian said a long time ago, "There's thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville."

J. Freedom du Lac: One vote against. Look, man, 2 billion Keith Urban fans can NOT be wrong.

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Vienna, Va.: SinglesFile, 1st Ld-Writethru: I run into this problem just about every time I check SinglesFile at WaPo.com, which is about once a month. Invariably if two of Chris' suggestions seem worth checking out, one of them won't be available. I understand the need for immediacy, and I applaud it. I just want to know how to find the song. I'm an aging rocker just trying to stay up to speed!

J. Freedom du Lac: Duly noted. I will bring this up with Young Chris.

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Richmond, Va.: I like the opening and feature acts to be different. Not in the mood for two alt-country bands in a row, say. Especially since the opening act could ruin enjoying the feature act either by being MUCH better (seen it), or just using up all your taste for that type of music before the feature act. You're tired of that by the time the feature act starts.

I'd rather have two different genres, like two different courses of a meal.

J. Freedom du Lac: You mean kinda like Ryan Shaw opening for Joss Stone? Not sure why she'd have him open for her, since he sorta kicks her bootay all over the stage -- kind of like John Legend did when he opened for her in '05.

Aretha had a comedian open for her at Wolf Trap.

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Last One: I remember being at a Gulf War protest concert on the Ellipse in 1991 featuring... Fugazi and Joan Baez. Politically a match; musically not so much.

J. Freedom du Lac: But you often get a strange mish-mash at concerts for a cause, no? I really don't think you'd see Taking Back Sunday, Roger Waters and Ludacris on the same bill otherwise.

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Urban uprising: For me, at least, the pleasant surprise was not necessarily his "skillz" -- it's that I hate country music in nearly all its forms, so I didn't expect to like him at all. And yet he rocked!

J. Freedom du Lac: There you go. When Al Gore mentioned a special pairing with Urban, I was REALLY hoping it would be somebody like Prince. That would have been truly cool.

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Bethesda, Md.: J. Free, if you read "Singles File" online, there's usually a link to where you can download or stream the song.

J. Freedom du Lac: Evey now and again, there's a song with no link. But otherwise -- yes, this is true.

washingtonpost.com: The Singles File

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Upcoming weird pairing: Porter Wagoner opening for...The White Stripes. In Madison Square Garden.

J. Freedom du Lac: But have you heard Porter's new album? Great stuff, in a Southern Gothic sort of way. The pairing makes more sense than you might realize -- though it's probably true that Porter will not make an immediate connection with that crowd. Alas.

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Tap!: What does it say about the current state of the music industry that the huge dinosaur performance in Wembley is not Zep...not the Who...not the Stones...but Spinal Tap???

A joke band who was washed up 25 some-odd years ago. And not even british!

Awesome. What a great way to wrap up the Tap legacy. and what a great comment on the sad state of the "industry"

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm not sure what it says other than that Christopher Guest was not busy that day.

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Washington, D.C.:"Jewel backstage at Live 105's BFD concert"

This reminds me of one time when I saw Chris Richards backstage at Ft Reno. Whoa!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeahbut ... was he wearing underwear?

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penn quarter, in the steamy (just ask the junior senator from louisiana) district of columbia: most unusual pairing:

a number of years back at the 9:30 club, the always unpredictable concrete blonde had, as its opening act, a neuvo flamenco outfit called mojacar. it made for an interesting and memorable evening.

as for the live earth shows, i saw much of it on bravo, and as much as i hate to admit it, i thought bon jovi (and i am by no means a fan, but it was very solid arena rock) turned in the best (it hurts just saying it) set.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you for admitting that about Bon Jovi. That takes some serious stones. I agree: They done good.

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Annaoplis, Md.: Enrique Iglasias was comically terrible.

J. Freedom du Lac: As opposed to . ? . ? . ?

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Tysons Corner, Va.: Bruce Springsteen once opened for Chicago.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're making that up. Right?

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Charlotte, N.C.: Mr. Freedom,

Am a fan of your chats.

A thought, you turned me on to a couple artists, Miranda Lambert and Solomon Burke.

Both these are great talents I agree. But ... well M Lambert bills herself as the anti-Nashville artist. But her entire album is so slick and over-produced. Great songs, but man, the production and backup musicians are Nashville 101.

S. Burke's album 'Nashville' is very similar. The guy has a great voice and delivery. But the sound reminds me of those old Ray Charles albums that were destroyed by strings and orchestra arrangements by some meddling "producer". Just get out of the way and let the brother sing Buddy.

Anyway, thanks for the chats and leads on new talent.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hmmmm. I don't hear a slick, overproduced sound when I listen to "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." It's definitely not raw, ramshackle alt-country, but I don't hear something that's been ProToolsed to within an inch of its life, either. And the playing hardly sounds rote. I think the production and instrumentation are actually pretty spot-on. There were moments in the Solomon Burke album where I, too, wished they'd pull back and just let him sing, but I never felt like the arrangements destroyed the songs. Could have been better, yes; but there's a big difference between the two. Our mileage does vary, apparently.

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Vienna, Va.: Singles, 2nd Ld-Writethru: The myspace links weren't there this weekend on some archive stuff I looked for... so thanks for links (though if you are an Ipod-Itunser that still does you no good to actually download, right?)

J. Freedom du Lac: Right: It does you no good if your ultimate goal is to put the tuneage on your iPod.

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Yes, Tap!: Actually, that isn't surprising at all. That movie has been a tour bus staple for every rock act for the last 20 years. Though I wouldn't know personally, it is said to be pretty true-to-life, in addition to being hilarious. And the music is pretty good, especially for a bunch of comedians. I thought they were great (especially considering their age), and the new version of the Stonehenge screw-up was excellent.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's one of the all-time great movies about music. A mockumentary for the ages. When I was at FakeFest, the tribute band dudes made multiple references to Spinal Tap. And they're still hilarious, even though I've heard them over and over for years.

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Unlikely concert pairings: A few years back 98Rock had a comedy concert at Merriweather, with a "special surprise musical guest".

As it turned out, the Scorpions ended up opening for comedians Jim Breuer and Tommy Chong.

It was surreal.

And nobody was more shell-shocked about it than Jim Breuer, who spent half of his set marveling at how "that dude's still got the voice he had back in the 80s".

J. Freedom du Lac: Strange, indeed.

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Washington, D.C.: Re: strange concert pairings- The Who's Next tour in '71 in Cleveland. Hometown heroes The James Gang opens the show and get the crowd all riled up. Next up.............James Taylor, doing his Sweet Baby James thing, brought the crowd right doooown. Except everybody was REALLY rowdy waiting for The Who. Up, down, up. Ahh, but the acid kept me UP!

J. Freedom du Lac: That is an especially strange threesome.

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Porter Wagoner opening for...The White Stripes. : that's prob one of Jack's earliest heros; he'd jump at the chance to play with him

J. Freedom du Lac: It's not a question of Jack White liking Porter. It's a question of how the White Stripes fans will react to the guy's music. And I'm not so sure the reaction will be favorable.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Lady, if I want to put my #&# foot on your armrest, I WILL put my #$&- foot on your armrest.

Clay Aiken

J. Freedom du Lac: I haven't read those stories, but: Was Clay flying coach?

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Houston, Tex.: I saw Arrested Development open for Bob Dylan about 15 years ago at the University of Illinois--both tours were in the area at the same time, and decided, eh, why not? I went to see Bob (along with probably 80% of the audience) but have to say that AD's set blew Bob's away.

J. Freedom du Lac: Reallllly? I just can't see that one. Strange.

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Jefferson City, Mo.: Any thoughts on the new Mark Ronson cd?

J. Freedom du Lac: Love some of the tracks, including "Pretty Green" and "Valerie" but haven't yet heard the full album. I think Ronson is a fantastic producer, though, based on his work on the Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen albums. I'm VERY excited that he's working with D.C.'s own Wale.

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Okay, stop teasing us: Alright, give it up, whadja see backstage with Jewel? Just imagine you've had the three martinis.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, this is a family newspaper's Web site. And I'm stone-cold sober.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. I'll see you all at the bar.

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Washington, D.C.:"This reminds me of one time when I saw Chris Richards backstage at Ft Reno. Whoa!"

Let's just say the number one jam that summer was "Hairyback"

J. Freedom du Lac: OK, this is worth a coda.

Also, while we were all wasting our time together here, a very small handful of Smashing Pumpkins tickets seem to have been released by the 9:30 club. Don't bother looking, though -- they disappeared about as soon as they went up for sale.

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