Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 11, 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: While you were away ... the "American Idol" groupies took over TWP's music blog.

First, the Bo Bice fans hijacked my David-Does-Austin poll, which was supposed to send Mr. Malitz to Daryl Hall's South By Southwest performance tomorrow night. Instead, he'll be heading off to see Bo Bice somewhere south of Sixth Street. (Have fun, dude! Hahahahaha.)

Then, the Constantine crazies staged a sit-in or something in the comments section of David's old poll-as-post re Mr. Maroulis.

Totally didn't see that one coming, though I guess all it takes to incite a commenting riot is a post on some fan forum somewhere. (Or, as somebody in the anti-Constantine camp hilariously noted, a phone tree! Nice.)

Strangely enough, that Constantine set a new Post Rock record for comments, beating out the blog-launching post about some guy named Springsteen. Go figure.

Anyway ... onward.

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R&R HOF: Madonna refusing to perform.

Good thing or bad thing ?

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno - I mean, seeing Madonna on a small stage without all of the bells, whistles, disco balls, dancers, pyro, etc. kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? That's sort of what makes Madonna Madonna. It'd be like KISS taking off the makeup ... and we all know how scary that was.

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Philly, Pa.: My upright, law-abiding, churchgoing sister wants to name her soon-to-arrive baby daughter "Mary Jane" because she thinks it's cute. She won't listen to me when I tell her that every song ever written about a girl named Mary Jane is actually about marijuana.

Should I continue to press this issue or just wait a few years and say, "I told you so"?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, given that my mother-in-law has that very name ... you're asking the wrong guy to come to your defense. Same MaryJane who had us all LOLing last Christmas when she told us about having Googled "Dick's Sporting Goods" -- only without the part about the sporting goods. Because, you know, it never crossed her mind that she needed the full name.

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Safe from Satan: I'm feeling all "Down in the Hole" this week.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, yes, yes. (But which version?)

"Wire"-heads are all bereft right now. The withdrawls are just brutal.

You saw that David Simon spent finale night with the Pogues, yeah?

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Chicago, Ill.: Radiohead at Lollapalooza, J Free. Put that in your Virgin Festival pipe and smoke it.

J. Freedom du Lac: That'd be my Virgin Mobile Festival pipe. But, you know, there's no smoking in the office or whatever. Plus, there's too many seeds in Radiohead. Whatever that means.

I'm still saying Stone Temple Pilots will headline one of the days, with the Foo Fighters locking down the other.

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Montreal, Canada: Why doesn't the Post do more to review talented local bands, like Evan Bliss and the Welchers?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because then we'd have to not review some of the talented national and international bands that come through town. Can't write about 'em all. We do review some locals, though - more than a lot of daily newspapers, actually.

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Kiss w/o Makeup: It indeed was/is creepy. Gene Simmons should wear makeup for his reality show. I shudder when I see him for real.

J. Freedom du Lac: And that's to say nothing of his recent home movie.

Two words: Gro. Ooss.

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The Hives, 930 Club: Ok, so although I thought Saturday's show itself was awesome - fun and energetic, and Pelle Almqvist's ridiculous antics were entertaining, I really need to vent about something:

What the %@#&! is up with people in cable-knit sweaters and pleated khakis standing around checking their Blackberrys during a garage/punk/crazy Swedish rock show? Seriously. Am I just being a snobbish hipster or do these people deserve to get their a**** kicked?

J. Freedom du Lac: You sure they weren't taking pictures or video? Or, um ... writing notes for a review?

I've actually started doing the latter myself. In fact, I did it at the Alice Smith show on Sunday night. So I can't sign off on giving Blackberry users beat-downs. I'd hate for you to step to me and get hurt or something.

I really don't care about people checking their BBs or sending texts or whatever during a show. It's the talkers who drive me nuts.

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Non-Music Wire question: Do you know how Mike Fletcher felt about the portrayal of Mike Fletcher ?

J. Freedom du Lac: I do not. I'd probably have to know Mike Fletcher before I knew how he felt about said portrayal.

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Wire/Pogues: The Wire is chock full of Pogues songs, not just in Season 3. In the 1st season, every episode had 2 or 3 it seemed.

Please tell me last night's show bit. I had to sell my tickets, at a loss no less. Family issues, as it were....

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes indeedy, David Simon and the show's music supervisor clearly have a thing for the Pogues. Was McNulty the Shane MacGowan of the BPD, only with better diction and teeth? Discuss.

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Cleveland Park: Gonna check out Stephen Malkmus this month at 9:30? His new album is basically spectacular in his usual understated kind of way.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hey, have you heard of this newfangled thing called MySpace? Check it out sometime.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Did John CougarMelcamp perform? If so, bet he sold a lot of Chevy trucks.

J. Freedom du Lac: Mr. Malitz is writing up a RRHOF post as we chat.

Me personally? Didn't watch it in real time last night. But I did DVR it.

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Washington, D.C.: I would just like to point out that the next time a hipster kicks someone's @$#@ will probably be the first time a hipster kicks someone's $@#@.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, a very good point. And actually, I think it's in the Hipsters Handbook. Rule No. 1: No hipsters in fight club. Or something.

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re: the Hives @9:30: Who is that guy kidding? Hipsters can't beat anybody up ... pants are too tight.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: So I'm pretty excited about seeing Malkmus this month since he never comes to town, but who the heck is John Vanderslice?

J. Freedom du Lac: Oops, the snarky MySpace answer above was supposed to be here.

Re whether I'm gonna check out the show -- don't know yet. Have the in-laws visiting then. Probably not big Malkmus fans. MaryJane stopped following him when Pavement broke up.

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Levon at the Beacon NYC: You asked a poster last week to report on the show if he went. That's not me but that comment got me to go. Got a 16th row, single ticket on Thursday for Saturday's show.

The show lasted about two hours and it was really a revue, with Levon singing about 10 songs (or less), speaking very little, and mostly having a great time it appeared. His drumming was excellent, his voice was pretty weak compared to before his illness, but you could tell it was him. His voice was shamefully low in the mix to me, and I don't get that at all.

The entire mix took way too long to get together considering this was the second night in the same venue.

They did about 6 or 8 Band songs, with Jimmy Vivino singing one of those, and the piano player another.

The band included guitarist Vivino from Max Weinberg's band on Conan, who was also master of ceremonies, Howard Johnson (Charles Mingus, SNL) on bari sax and tuba, and special guest "Blue" Lou Marini (SNL and Blues Bros). Counting Marini, there were four saxes at times, and trumpet and trombone.

The opener, Olabelle, was missing Amy Helm who just had a baby. They didn't really do much for me last night, or when I saw them open for Rosanne Cash. Good if you are into that, but not anything that makes me tell friends about the opening act.

Phoebe Snow sat in for a few numbers and the finale, and didn't really get to showcase her voice to what I would have expected since I think this is at least her third appearance in this tour.

Catherine Russell was the only "one time" guest Saturday night, and she was very good. Her father was Louis Armstrong's musical director and her mother was the bass player in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm (all female big band in the 30's/40's). She has a new CD out.

Little Sammie Davis, an elderly gentleman who player pretty good harp, and sang the blues well, is a part of the ensemble for the tour. He did three songs I believe.

Olabelle's drummer subbed for Levon when he played mandolin, Larry Campbell (Dylan, Bob Weir) played the other guitar. I didn't get the piano players name but he was good.

Overall, the only transcendent moment was when the crowd sang along at the end, to The Weight and another song or two. But it was good to see Levon enjoying himself. The $99 total ticket price, plus $51 to park took away a little of the joy for me.

I saw Levon at Desperado's in Georgetown in the 70s with his buddies the Cate Brothers as his opening act, who then backed him up, and it was a transcendent evening all around.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks for this report. Ouch on the tickets and parking. But still ... you got to see Levon!

He's with his band on April 24 at Rams Head Live in Bmore. Tickets are $40 or so. See you there?

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River City: I dunno, I think Mary Jane for weed is pretty old. When I hear Mary Jane now, I think hipster shoes.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm old, too. That's why when I hear Mary Jane, I think of Rick James in those Spandex outfits with those Masai braids and whatnot.

I'm in love with Mary Jane/
She's my main thing/
She makes me feel alright/
She makes my heart sing.

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re: hipster fights: Maybe by "kicking @#$#" he meant "wearing oversized non-prescription eyeglasses?"

J. Freedom du Lac: And a Bape hoodie.

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Princeton, N.J.: JFDL, Everyone should have Levon Helm on their bucket list. Sat night at The Beacon in NYC was one transcendent musical experience. Levon sounds wonderful and has a kickin band: Phoebe Snow, Little Sammie Davis, Thersesa Williams, Jimmy Vivino, Larry Campbell (who played everything but the toothbrush). Ramble indeed!

J. Freedom du Lac: Another Levon report.

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J. Freedom du Lac: This just in: Mos Def at the Kennedy Center on Sept. 21. Mos Def! Kennedy Center! (And not on the Millenium Stage, either. He's booked in the Concert Hall.)

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RE: Mary Jane: I think of that Tom Petty song, you know, the one with Kim Basinger in the video as a dead chick and TP as an undertaker with necrophilia vibe going on...blech.

J. Freedom du Lac: Ah, yes. "Mary Jane's Last Dance."

I dig the song. (So, too, do the Red Hot Chili Peppers, apparently.) The video, though ... eh.

TP feels summer creeping in. I just feel the creeps when I watch that one.

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Austin, Tex.: Regarding "buzz bands," every year SXSW and the myriad other festivals have bands that draw insane numbers, only to show up the next year or two in a smallish club, unable to sell out the show. What's your take on the "flavor of the month" aspect of music?

J. Freedom du Lac: You're comparing Apples in Stereo to Agent Orange here. The SXSW buzz bands draw big numbers during the confab because Austin, during SXSW, is overrun by people who are supposed to be on top of the latest in next-big-thingyness. They can't miss those shows. And so they go - in large numbers. When the bands come back, buzz alone won't fill the room.
Though it might. Did you happen to try to push your way into a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show a couple of years ago?

I don't mind the flavor-of-the-month thing, really. Churn is good, though the hype can be a bit much. If not more.

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Washington, D.C.: "Mos Def at the Kennedy Center on Sept. 21"

Are him and Jack Black going to perform selected scenes from Wierd Science, Iron Eagle, and Goonies, or are him and Sam Rockwell going to diatribe about the mysteries of the universe?

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but he and MC Serch are going to talk about blackness.

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hipsters, etc: what's worse: hipsters in tight pants trying to start a fight or pleated khakis at the 9.30?

i'd say it's a draw.

J. Freedom du Lac: (Note to David: We should have done this as a Post Rock poll. Next time.)

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Anonymous: Interesting that Iggy and the Stooges were allowed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to sing Madonna songs but not to sing their own songs at their own to be determined induction. Iggy was the absolute best part of the induction. People in the audience looked like they'd rather have had an enema than look at Iggy. Also Madonna thanks Nile Rodgers for producing her biggest hits but Chic is not considered rock and roll enough by Dave Marsh and Jann "I Left My Wife for a Male Underwear Model" Wenner. What was up with Lou Reed? He seemed really nervous and kind of out of it.

J. Freedom du Lac: I really need to get home to watch this. Iggy&Chic should have been inducted.

And they shouldn't call it the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Because it's not that. But I guess Popular Music Hall of Fame doesn't quite resonate.

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Speaking of Mos Def:: Stuff white people like.

J. Freedom du Lac: Greatest blog ever. Seriously.

It's #1 on the list of blogs both white, partially-white and non-white people like.

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Boston, Mass.: The first rule in the Hipsters' Handbook is that you do not talk about the Hipsters' Handbook. Betcha can't guess the second rule...

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, no - but here's No. 6 on the Hipster Handbook site's 11 Clues You're A Hipster list:

6. You own records put out by Matador, DFA, Definitive Jux, Dischord, Warp, Thrill Jockey, Smells Like Records, and Drag City.

(Also, No. 2: You frequently use the term "post-modern" [or its commonly used variation "PoMo"] as an adjective, noun, and verb.)

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Re: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Nah. Being a local, I just go to the free/invite-attainable day parties. You can see most of the same bands, anyway.

J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe my all-time favorite SXSW moment? Walking down Sixth Street with Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber (for a story) when we came across a huge crowd outside one of the clubs. Ryan was sort of irritated that he had to push his way through the throng. Turns out CYHSY was playing inside. So ripe.

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20011: Is it just me or has SNL just started an unprecedented streak after back to back weeks of good mixing?

Vampire Weekend were awesome IMHO.

J. Freedom du Lac: Three's a trend. Let's just call it coincidence until we see what happens with the next musical guest. (Or maybe we should wait a week, since Janet Jackson is up next.)

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Rant: So I went to see the Pogues last night and yet again I was shocked, shocked I say, that so many people are so interesting. I mean why pay good money to see a show when you can't wait until the band finishes to have a good long chat. Yes, among others, you two next to me. I mean your new hair-do plans were well worth the 20 minutes you spent discussing them.

I am pleased to report that one of the two debaters took out her cell phone during the encore and dropped it where it was promptly stood on. I smiled the whole way home.

J. Freedom du Lac: You should have thrown your Blackberry at them.

Seriously, though, what are we going to do about this horrible trend?

This.

Must.

End.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Make sure to check out the HOF telecast for Iggy and the Stooges walk through the Waldorf-Astoria kitchen. It looked like a freakier version of Ray Liotta's walk through the Copa kitchen in Goodfellas. Iggy telling Justin Timberlake that he was sorry he sat on his lap while singing to Madonna is something that you will never hear again in your life.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow. Just ... wow.

Best speech?

Most awkward moment?

Did anybody wear a bluetooth thingy in their ear a la Melle Mel last year?

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Beacon in NYC: $51 to park? Isn't that place near a subway stop?

Oh sorry that's not music related. How about this: Near as I can tell, producer Dave hates every musician that I like. So I guess I'll have to take whatever he says and go 180 degrees from there.

washingtonpost.com: Then I guess you'll want to do whatever you can to get into tomorrow's sold-out Live show at the 9:30 Club.

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can't admit I know to ask this: but how can the osmond brothers have a 50th anny concert? Just how old ARE Donny and Marie?

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno enough about their history to comment on how they can do a 50th. But Donny is ... 50. Maybe it's a birthday party for him. (Just to clarify, Marie was never a member of the Osmond Brothers. For the obvious reasons, yeah?)

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Justin Timberlake: Say what you want about the guy--and I really am not a fan of his music-but he has talent. And I loved his speech.

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, several years ago, it actually became okay to like Justin Timberlake in public - even if you're not a 16-yr-old girl. Just saying...

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talking during Cat Power: I was at a Cat Power show (for You are Free) at the 9:30 club once and the City Paper had just done a whole story about her. The place was packed and everyone was talking over Chan and her piano. She was definitely on something and her feeble pleas for folks to keep it down were left unheeded. I was drunk and I finally yelled at a group of folks that were drowning her out. But that was eons ago- now that I'm an aging hipster I don't think I could do that now.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nice. Did it work?

There are rumors that I've been known to tell concert yakkers to STHU every now and again, but I won't confirm.

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Arlington, Va.: Through some bad planning/memory, I ended up double booking us and we have tickets for 2 concerts on the same night:

Burt Bacharach at Strathmore

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers/Steve Winwood @ Nissan

Pros & Cons of choosing one over the other (assuming we're not sending you the tix to the one we don't go to and try to find friends for them or put them on Craigslist)?

Haven't seen TP since 1986, doubt I will again (hate big venues but gave in here); have never seen Burt B. and who knows if we will again.

Decisions, decisions....

Thanks!

Cheers....

J. Freedom du Lac: Go to the Burt Bacharach show ... and hope the rumors of a Tom Petty club tour with his old band, Mudcrutch, are true. And that you'd actually be able to get tickets.

Can you imagine seeing TP at the 9:30 club? Actually, I can, since I saw three of his shows during his run at the Fillmore in the '90s. (The San Francisco Fillmore, not the fake ones that Live Nation is building all over the country.)

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Arlington, Va.: Can someone design a line of hoodies that read "Show Now. Talk Outside." in glow-in-the-dark paint?

Then all you have to do is turn your back on the chatterati.

J. Freedom du Lac: How about handing out "SHADDAP!" cards at the door when people come in?

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Speaking of KISS....: I'm no KISS fan or apologist, but I can see why their fans are all suffering from aneurysms of indignation in re: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If the powers that be let the Dave Clark Five in before the one-time Hottest Band in the World, they're just pouring salt in the wound. Who's next? Freddy and the Dreamers?

J. Freedom du Lac: Constantine Maroulis. Clearly.

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Silver Spring, Md.: So the Hives, a band whose popularity in this country is based on the use of a song in a national advertising campaign, are considered punk and for hipsters without Blackberries. Dude, you weren't at a Black Flag show. The cable sweaters and khakis sound about right. Why would you worry about someone elses' behavior at a concert if they weren't talking loudly or vomiting on you? Surely there were enough fellow hipsters there to pick up the public displays of fandom - crowd surfing, mosh pit, incoherent crowd dialogue with lead singer, phone video for uploading to YouTube later- to make up for these Blackberry poseurs?

J. Freedom du Lac: In the weird calculus of music culture, isn't calling the Hives "punk" actually pretty punk rock?

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Re: talkers: You've got your bully pulpit, your bully chat, your bully blog. Why not bully some concert chatters?

J. Freedom du Lac: They don't read. Too busy talking.

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Producer Dave's musical tastes: I on the other hand almost always agree with Producer David's musical tastes. I have an e-crush on him. I would totally buy him a drink if I ran into him.

J. Freedom du Lac: Awww, cute.

(He'd totally accept, too.)

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The Osmonds: Donny is in his mid to late 40s. He is one of the younger Osmond kids - some of his bros are considerably older. Remember, there are about 17 of them total.

And trust me on Donny's age. He is about 4 years older than me; when I was about 5 and he was about 8, I looked a LOT like him. This was early 70s, when he was at the height of his TigerBeat fame. I am still in theapy.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd trust you, if only you were right.

From IMDB's Donny Osmond entry:

Date of Birth:
9 December 1957

I know journalists as a breed are lousy at math, but I'm going out on a limb here and saying that the guy is 50.

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Clues that you are a hipster: You happily pay $4 for a can of PBR and pretend that you like the way it tastes.

J. Freedom du Lac: Also: You go to an It Band's sold-out show at the Black Cat ... and then spend the entire time leaning at against the back end of the stage-right bar, with your back to the stage. Love that look.

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Cat Power show: I think it did. My friend was so terrified that I had done that she pushed me to a different part of the club. that's why I never went to the Sufjan show later that year, but it turned out the crowd was super quiet. go figure.

J. Freedom du Lac: The Sufjan crowd at the 9:30 was pretty incredible, actually. So, so, so quiet. I actually noted that in my review.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: "She was just 17. You know what I mean."

I've heard that song 100 times, and I only just now realized that no, I DON'T know what he means.

J. Freedom du Lac: This can be avoided going forward if somebody figures out how to translate the ";-)" on a lyric sheet into an actual vocal.

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You might be a hipster if...: Quick! Someone call Jeff Foxworthy!

J. Freedom du Lac: Is there such a thing as a redneck hipster?

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Orange, Va.: I'm a little late to table with this one, but still feel it necessary to rave about Levon Helm's "Poor Dirt Farmer" At times it's like the Band never went away, but without the annoying scene stealing Robbie Robertson. And the back story of Levon's recovery from throat cancer makes the disc even more compelling. Any thought?

J. Freedom du Lac: Loved "Dirt Farmer." (I don't think "Poor" is a part of the album's title, unless there's a limited-edition version that I don't know about.) Gripping stuff. He's in much, much better voice than he should be, all things considered. I'm really looking forward to seeing him live.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Is Hall without Oates more like Simon without Garfunkel or Medley without Hatfield?

J. Freedom du Lac: More like me without Malitz, actually.

With that, it's time to wish David happy travels. Bon voyage, etc etc etc. Don't let the Shiner Bock bottles hit you on the way out ... of the Bo Bice show.

See you all back here next time. Thanks, as always, for the questions/comments/quips/hipster jokes.

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Is there such a thing as a redneck hipster? : Uh, yes. Are you forgetting the hipsters with mullets era?

J. Freedom du Lac: Trying to, yes.

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