Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; 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 Britney Spears does.

A transcript follows.

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J. Freedom du Lac: Big on-sale date today. No, not the Fugazi reunion. Single-game Washington Nationals tickets. Oh, yeah.

Can't wait to see which Heavy D song Nick Johnson uses when he comes to the plate. Dude, lay off the half-smokes.

Okay, then. Let's shall....

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Silver Spring, Md.: J. Free -

When will the Virgin Fest lineup be announced?

Also, which outdoor festivals will you be attending this year?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not sure, but last year, Seth, Donna & Co. announced the Police and Beasties in late March. The full lineup came out about a month later. They'll have to move sooner than later, especially with All Points West already announcing its acts.

Beyond V-Fest 3.0, I've no idea where I might be going during festival season this summer. Maybe nowhere. I'm kind of intrigued by Sasquatch, though. Malitz and I were just talking about how compelling that one looks.

The lineup includes the R.E.M./Modest Mouse/National triple-bill that's coming to Merriweather; the Cure; "The Flaming Lips UFO Show"; M.I.A.; the Breeders; Ozomatli; Built to Spill; Flight Of The Conchords (!); Cold War Kids; Okkervil River; Jamie Lidell; and two all-time Malitz faves (Destroyer and Stephen Malkmus) along with two current duLac faves (Pela and Thao Nguyen).

Plus: It's near Seattle! Love Seattle.

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Annapolis, Md.: Do you think the success of American Idols like Carrie Underwood has more to do with the use of "real" instruments, as opposed to less successful Jordin Sparks and Fantasia whose songs sound much more artificial? I'm surprised that some of the production for the latter is going against obvious trends in popular music.

J. Freedom du Lac: No, it's her prom-queen looks.

Though Chris Daughtry doesn't exactly look like a prom queen, and he's been pretty damn successful - even if he doesn't wash his hands after going to the bathroom. I've told you about what I witnessed at a pre-Grammy songwriters panel, no? Let's just say that you should never, ever shake Daughtry's hand ... unless you're wearing a surgical glove.

Daughtry, Carrie and Kelly Clarkson are the best-selling Idols to date. Does Kelly use more real instruments than Fantasia does on her albums? Dunno.

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REM/MM/TN: Do you know when the REM tix are going on sale? (June 11 concert?)

Thanks

J. Freedom du Lac: I do not.

Anyone?

By the by, I almost included "Shiny Happy People" in this poll re the most annoying alt-rock hits of the 1990s. But it was edged out at the wire by Third Eye Blind.

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Alexandria, Va.: Any word if Mark Knopfler's North American tour is going to include a local stop?

J. Freedom du Lac: Haven't heard. Let's just hope he doesn't return to Constitution Hall, site of Knopfler's summer-of-'06 summit with Emmylou Harris. You remember that show, no? Some of the worst acoustics on record since the turn of the millennium.

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Van Halen: So their press release says Ed is undergoing a battery of treatments/tests for a medical condition. TMZ says he has been loaded in recent concerts. Who to believe?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think he's probably sick ... of his bandmates.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: SXSW!!!!!!!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: NotMeXNotMe!

Producer David will, however, be blogging from the Berkeley of Texas throughout the festival. Wish him (and his liver) luck! It's his first SouthBy experience.

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Write in vote: "What's Up" is by far the most annoying song of the 1990s.

J. Freedom du Lac: Oh, wow. Yes. I totally would have included that ... if only I'd remembered. An oldie but baddie. So strange to think that Linda Perry has become a pop producer.

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Lexington, Ky.: Do not be mean to Edward Van Halen. He is a genius and his ways are beyond your comprehension, foolish mortal.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're right. I could never, ever understand his ways.

I wasn't being mean to him, though. I was merely pointing out that he might be kind of sick of the boys in the band. It's happened before, you know.

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Van Halen: If he's sick of his bandmates, it doesn't speak well of his parenting skills.

OTOH, Val is looking good these days.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and the gossips boys were reporting that EVH was actually fighting with his own son. Not that they're to be believed. But...

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You Really Got Me: Ray Davies. Another album. Does he still matter and will he deliver the goods live?

J. Freedom du Lac: I haven't seen him live in about a decade. He was some kind of superlative back then, though. Quite the raconteur. And he had a belly full of fire.

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Philly, Pa.: So Vampire Weekend is on SNL this week. I love those guys, but I'm surprised they got on SNL so quickly...I mean they were playing a church basement in Philly one month ago. You diggin' VW?? SNL seems to be very on the ball when it comes to live acts lately.

J. Freedom du Lac: Never heard of them. Unless you mean these guys. (And even then, I was way, way late.)

Yes, I dig. They've been buried alive by the hype, but it hasn't quite done them in. Yet. They're on the cover of the latest edition of Spin, by the way. Take that, SNL!

Speaking of which: Wilco sounded awfully good last weekend on SNL. Who knew that the sound engineer knew how to mix live music? (Not anybody who's tuned in for a musical performance over the past several years.)

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RE: Daughtry: When asked about not washing his hands on the way out, Don King is reputed to have said "I wash my hands -before- I touch my -Tyson]."

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny. Ever seen Don King's hair up close? It's a work of art. Though my all-time favorite follicular sighting came when I was in the courtroom during Michael Jackson's trial. Sitting a few rows behind him, you could clearly see the line that demarcated his weave.

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Bad 90s Tunes: Honest to Pete, I thought "What's Up" was a Spinal Tap-esque spoof of girrl power bands the first couple times I heard it. And I thought the pain it caused in my stomach was a ruptured aneurysm.

J. Freedom du Lac: Another write-in vote for "What's Up." No rebuttal here. None.

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Ballston, Va.: If you have an encore chat later today, should I hold my applause? Maybe you should just tell us now that you're not planning to sign off?

In other news, I'm regretting not seeing Maceo Parker. It always kills me to read an amazing review of a concert I considered seeing, but decided, in the end, to skip. I'm currently weighing the upcoming Pat Metheny show.

Oh hey, a real question: How is the State Theater as a jazz venue?

J. Freedom du Lac: In chatting, as in life, you're supposed to stick to the set list. I don't do encores.

Funny you'd mention this, though, as I went to the BB King talk show last night at the Strathmore and there was no encore. BB just built the finale into the show. Why bother with The Wholly Symbolic Walk-Off when you're 82 and your knees hurt? So, for those keeping score at home (or, in my case, on a spreadsheet), that's consecutive encore-less shows for me.

J. Freedom du Lac: Oh, and re your other questions: Maceo is always a good time, whether he's with Prince or doing his own thing or whatever. Though if you haven't been to a Maceo show in a while, you might be surprised to smell all the patchouli oil in the crowd. (He has a fair following among hippies, thanks to his opening stints for Phish. [Or was it the Dead?])

I'm not in love with the acoustics at the State, though I haven't seen a jazz show there.

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90's songs: B-52's. Love Shack, ugh.

J. Freedom du Lac: Played in the '90s, but released in the '80s. Therefore: Disqualified.

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Interesting choice of words: Where the led is turned into gold in the attic of the gods. XM Radio will be suspending the Led Zeppelin channel beginning March 7th until the fall. The fall of what?

J. Freedom du Lac: The fall of your net worth when you wind up shelling out $1,100 per for those Led Zep reunion-tour tickets?

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Philly, Pa.: "What's Up" is hands down the worst...rips off Bobby McFerrins "Don't Worry Be Happy" for God's sake. "No Rain" isn't even close.

J. Freedom du Lac: But "No Rain" has Shannon Hoon's voice. And that counts for quite a bit.

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Fairfax, Va.: Yeah, Wilco sounded great, but what the hell was Tweedy singing about? "You left and I had to learn to do laundry"?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think it was a song about Van Morrison B-sides.

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Falls Church, Va.: re: eddie

I don't care who or how cool your dad is, when you are a teenager, being on tour with your father has got to be a drag

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, but just think of his allowance! Plus: He doesn't have to be in bed by 11.

Speaking of rock stars and being in bed -- did anybody catch Fred Armisen's Gene Simmons act on SNL? During the fake "Celebrity Apprentice" spot? Armisen does a lousy Obama but I think he was born to play Gene Simmons. Spot on.

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Yeah, I'm old: You mean that aside from 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' that there was a good song in the 90s?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, that's exactly what I mean.

There were some terrific songs being played on alt-rock radio in the '90s.

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Waffle House: I saw that Kid Rock had his day in court. When will he go away or am I just missing it?

J. Freedom du Lac: If he goes away, then who will Keely Smith tour with this summer? And who will publicly threaten to beat up Bob Lefsetz?

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90s Dreck: "Cherry Pie" by Warrant. Nauseating hair band garbage, and misogynist to boot!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, but we're sticking to songs played on alt-rock radio. Warrant does not fit the bill. (Neither do "Ice Ice Baby," Lou Bega or "Macarena.")

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RE: annoying 90s songs: "Annoying" is a good way of phrasing things. There are many songs which I recognize as good or which many liked which became annoying by being over played. So while some may say "Sunny Came Home" is a good song, I still find it annoying because it was on the radio WAY TOO MUCH when I was in high school. Annoying does not necessarily mean "bad".

J. Freedom du Lac: Right. I mean, as Mr. Malitz (and several others since) have pointed out, the guitar work on "No Rain" is quite tasty. Those vocals, though....

Speaking of Blind Melon, there was a funny post on Idolator taking This Very Publication to task for writing about Shannon's stand-in's tattoo of Shannon ... and then failing to include a photo of said body tag. I'm with them on that one. I, too, wanted to see the tat.

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Takoma Park, Md.: A few chats ago someone asked why you don't cover local music more, and you said something to the effect of your job is to cover good music, local or otherwise.

The Post weekend section, though, often includes awfully favorable reviews of the CDs of local artists with upcoming gigs. I've listened to some of these CDs, and let's just say there are good reasons they're local, not national, artists.

My question: as a local musician, how can I get my upcoming CD reviewed generously in the weekend section?

J. Freedom du Lac: As we're completely Balkanized here, you'd have to contact the Weekend section directly. weekend (at) washpost (dot) com.

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Re: SNL Gene Simmons: The Gene Simmons was so spot-on that it almost redeemed the whole "lets string a bunch of unrelated impressions together" aimlessness of that sketch. Almost.

Why don't other people find Gene Simmons as hilarious as I do?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because they're still mad about his run-in with Terry Gross? I dunno. I think he's hilarious. Exceedingly coarse and crass; but hilarious nonetheless.

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Bethesda, Md.: Any word on what Crudo is? I saw them listed in the sasquatch festival list? I only know its mike patton and dan the automator....

J. Freedom du Lac: Raw Phish?

Thankyou. Thankyouverymuch. Be here all week. Try the Veal.

Here's an interview with Dan and Mike.

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Washington, D.C.: Submitting early 'cause I'm annoyed: Who is this "Jess Harvell" who wrote the mini-review of the new Gutter Twins? The review seems completely unaware that Dulli and Lanegan have been working together for years as The Twilight Singers. Have you heard the GT record? I think it's better than anything they've done in years.

J. Freedom du Lac: Ah Jess Harvell, a very exciting new addition to our freelance stable. His CV includes a turn as musics editor at Baltimore City Paper. He's been widely published elsewhere, too (Pitchfork, Village Voice, etc). Had been doing some bloggery for Idolator. I'm sure he knows his Twins from his Twilights. There's a big difference between the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, though. Dulli was the dude in the Twilight Singers and everybody else was just a bit player; in the Gutter Twins, he and Lanegan share ownership.

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Spin Doctors!: Really, you can't spell "annoying" without a couple of the same letter that are in "spin doctors."

J. Freedom du Lac: Ah, yes: Another neo-hippie group that crashed alt-rock radio back in the day. Enjoy.

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Mark Knopfler: Wolf Trap in July.

J. Freedom du Lac: Woot, there it is.

Get the Coleman Coolers ready, folks. Party on the lawn!

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River City: Gene Simmons reminds me of Joey Ramone as 2 of the most unbelievable sex symbols. I know they are (or were in Joey's case) very popular with the ladies, but all I can do is look at those mugs and say "really?"

J. Freedom du Lac: You Shoulda Been A Rock Star, Exhibit 156.

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Annoying: Annoying as the result of being played too often is not the fault of the artist. An annoying song should be judged on merit alone. Things like banal words, a screechy sing-song vocals, a dumb video and cute words like "shiny, happy people" make songs annoying from the first time you hear them. A song that annoying will never redeem itself. You may have liked a song the first 50 times you heard it, the next 200 times are annoying due to over familiarity.

J. Freedom du Lac: I suppose, though if an annoying song falls in the middle of an empty somethingorother -- will anybody be annoyed by it? I think there's a communal/critical mass element at work here, too. We like being annoyed, together. Misery loves company and all.

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Yay Lefsetz: Glad to see you read his rants too - talk about a fire in the belly...

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes. More on this later. Much, much more.

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Geez.: I have many of these "most annoying songs" on my iPod. I also have a pretty cool selection of annoying '80s hits.

J. Freedom du Lac: Remind me never to go to a party at your place. Though truth be told, I probably have a lot of these songs in my library, too. Then again, I get to call mine an archive. A research library. Etc. Yours is just a poorly chosen collection of songs. Sorry.

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Anonymous: If you mention the Spin Doctors as annoying than add a couple of votes to Third Eye Blind who stole Semi-Charmed Life from Two Princes to make an equally annoying song.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeahbut -- I already did mention Semi-Charmed Life. Which is actually running fourth (out of five) in the Post Rock poll. Chumbawumba is, ehm...thumping the competition.

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Sasquatch: Near Seattle? Well, it's closer to Seattle than D.C. is, but really. I love the Gorge Amphitheater and the Sasquatch lineup looks awesome this year, but it is like a four-hour drive from Seattle in the middle of nowhere.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hey, when you're out this way, everything on the Left Coast feels like it's close to Seattle. That drive is nothing. I could have a long lunch at Cafe Campagne and still make to the Gorge in time for R.E.M.'s headlining set.

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RE: unbelievable sex symbols: I was always partial to Ace Frehley myself. Until the makeup came off.

J. Freedom du Lac: Worst move of their careers, actually - going sans makeup. (Well, maybe not Paul. But the rest of them...)

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American Idol Artists: What the hey are "real" instruments? Guitar/bass/kazoo? Is there somebody recording wtih "fake" instruments? I'm confused.

(But I played a mean kazoo in 3rd grade band. We did a Carpenters medley that would melt your socks off...)

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes. ProTools is an instrument, too!

Whose albums do you think are more "produced" - Carrie's, Kelly's, Daughtry's or Jordin's? This might be a trick question.

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Lefsetz: I don't know how many times Lefsetz can say music should be free, weep over the steering wheel as he hears Spirit on XFM and pimps Ipods. He's getting like Andy Rooney now. Did he actually do something in the music business?

J. Freedom du Lac: 67. And that's just today.

Like I said: Much more on this later.

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Arizona Bay, Ariz.: Any of these will do as the most annoying 90's song:

Semisonic - "Closing Time"

K's Choice - "Not an Addict"

Soul Coughing - "Super Bon Bon"

The Proclaimers - "500 Miles"

The Prodigy - "Firestarter"

The Cardigans - "Lovefool"

The Verve Pipe - "Freshman"

Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta"

or anything by 3rd Eye Blind

J. Freedom du Lac: Some decent nominees, though Semisonic shouldn't be included. That song isn't annoying. It's hardly Dan Wilson's greatest work (Trip Shakespeare > Semisonic; and he was the Dixie Chicks' semi-secret weapon on "Taking the Long Way"). But it shouldn't have a place in this conversation.

Aren't there any Tool hits we can include on this list? Or does Tool not actually have a hit?

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Free Falling: I see that Tom Petty is going out AGAIN on a tour. I thought that his last tour was his last tour. Maybe I must have misunderstood Mr. Petty when I bought my tickets for his LAST tour when he said except in the case of Steve Winwood going out on the road with me. Talk to me.

J. Freedom du Lac: Cher must've gotten to him.

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Baltimore, Md.: J. Free - Yes, I'm a dirty old man, but you are too. How hot is Taylor Swift in person?

J. Freedom du Lac: What are you talking about? I showered this morning.

Taylor Swift is a smart and savvy 18-year-old. And that's all I have to say about her.

Beyond this, anyway.

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Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C.: j free,

I'm weighing in early with a correction. Last week I gushed about encountering the Plant/Krauss version of the song "Killing the Blues" for the first time in a new J.C. Penny commercial. At the time, I remarked that Ivaguely remembered it from an old John Prine album from many years ago, and simply attributed the song to him. So taken with the song, I went out and picked up the Plant/Krauss CD (the jury is still out on this one; quite inconsistent, but it approaches brilliance often enough for me to keep listening to it), and glancing through the liner notes, I discovered that the song was actually written by Rowland Salley, who for many years has been the bass player in the Silvertones (though apparently he has had something of an underground solo career, which I just may have to investigate, for a while now), Chris Isaak's backing band. Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight and give credit where it was due.

J. Freedom du Lac: This is setting a dangerous standard, you know. One in which I might feel obliged to run corrections after the fact re all the things I get wrong on a weekly basis.

But thanks for chiming in with this. An easy mistake to make, since you sort of go in assuming that every great song that John Prine sings was actually written by John Prime himself. He's that good.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: Carrie Underwood did not sound good on SNL. The real instruments sounded okay. So did the background singer covering the high notes.

J. Freedom du Lac: I have to admit that I kind of skipped past her songs. Her vocal on Brad Paisley's last album was pretty great, but otherwise she tends to leave me cold.

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Falls Church, Va.: I'm thinking about going to see Levon Helm next weekend at the Beacon Theater, NYC. Do you know if he'll play any The Band standards (Ophelia, The Night They Drove..) or will it be all "Dirt Farmer" which is great music, but hardly what I would call country-fried rock, which Levon made an art form all his own. Be worth is just to see a living legend though?

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't overthink this. Just go. If it's 55% as good as his Midnight Rambles reportedly have been, then you'll have a blast. Report back and make us all jealous, would ya?

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most annoying: that song that sang "I'll tell you what I want what I really really want" AAARGH

J. Freedom du Lac: Ehm, yeah ... about the Spice Girls: I really did like their show last month. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Not completely ashamed, anyway.

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Burlington, Vt.: Do I really want Jesus to take the wheel, anyway? Is he an especially skillful or cautious driver? There's nothing in the bible about it.

J. Freedom du Lac: You'll have to come back another time to ask this question to Michelle Boorstein. You know Michelle, right? TWP religion writer who did that really interesting piece on Jaxx last week weekend. Rock on.

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the Spice Girls: I really did like their show last month. I'm not ashamed to admit it.: Well, remind ME not to go to YOUR party.

J. Freedom du Lac: Touche.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. It's been fun. See you all at the Alice Smith show.

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