Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 29, 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 Constantine Maroulis does.

The transcript follows.

washingtonpost.com: Madonna Gives Hip-Hop Fans Some Sugar

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washingtonpost.com: Sweet Harmony Of Rock And Rap; Wildly Disparate Bands Fill Lineup At Virgin Festival

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washingtonpost.com: Playing to Beat the Band; Levon Helm's Knockout Rock at Rams Head

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J. Freedom du Lac: So, the full VMoFest lineup is finally out - and Dylan is definitely in. As are Chuck Berry, Lil Wayne and Shudder to Think, among many, many others.

Madonna wants you to "see my booty get down." (Ehh.)

Miley Cyrus doesn't.

And a Jimi Hendrix sex tape is apparently on its way. A very different kind of experience.

Let's do this.

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Levon Helm show: Twas a great show. Did you notice that Howard Johnson was on tuba (a legend who has played with many folks including The Band on Rock of Ages)? Also, the performance of "It makes no difference" was the first in 14 years!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, fantastic show - my favorite so far this year. I only wish that my review captured more of the excitement of the night. Such joyous noise.

I did not, in fact, realize that HoJo was on tuba. Had a hard time taking my eyes off of Levon, to be honest. Watching him work is such a great, great thing.

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Washington, D.C.: "Come on into my store/I've got candy galore"

This should be your new intro blurb.

J. Freedom du Lac: Okay, but don't expect Producer/9:30 Club Forum Slagger David to exhort me to a la Pharrell on that booty-dropping Madonna track. What's he say? "A little lower, baby." Err, yeah.

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Levon Helm: After seeing his show a while back at the Beacon in NYC, I found a performance by him and the Cate Brothers on an SCTV DVD doing "Sweet Peach Georgia Wine" around 1981 I think. He's so into the performance, and a smile is glued on his face, and it's uplifting just seeing the joy.

Did he have any special guests in Annapolis? He had oodles at the Beacon.

J. Freedom du Lac: If by special guests you mean Little Sammy Davis, then yeah. Otherwise, it was just the core Levon Helm Band. Only, like, a dozen people on stage.

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Washington, D.C.: I know this is a vague question but can you help me understand the appeal of festivals? Do the artists prefer them to a more traditional concert (two hours and gone)? Do the fans?

J. Freedom du Lac: If you're, say, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and you're playing 500- or 1,000-capacity clubs every night, and somebody comes along and offers you a chance to perform at a 60,000-capacity festival ... and you're really just trying to get your music heard/win over new fans, you have to do it, right? So long as you're not going to be a musical fish out of water.

Now if you're an act like Bob Dylan ... I'm not really sure what the appeal is. Maybe he wants the challenge. Or the paycheck. Or just really wants to see Nine Inch Nails and Lil Wayne without paying for a ticket.

For fans, it's a great way to see a lot of acts in the same space. Plus, being at a festival with 10s of thousands of other sweaty music fans that appeals to our inner-somethingorother.

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Dehydrated & back from Indio: After witnessing yet another of Prince's jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, show-stopping performances, this time at COACHELLA....would it be possible for both of houses of Congress (and Parliament for that matter) to sign a petition basically proclaiming everywhere on this planet to be HIS HOUSE?

J. Freedom du Lac: Having watched a lot of shaky but brilliant footage on YouTube, I'm going to have to agree with you here. Call your Congresspeoples now and get this idea going. The Capitol switchboard number, in case you don't already have it programmed into your phones: (202) 224-3121

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Arlington, Va.: Can it be that Claymates and Chickenshack fans are less annoying/argumentative than Jonas fankids?

J. Freedom du Lac: You're referring to this blog post, and this one.

I think it might be that there are just fewer Claymates and Cluckheads than JoBro fans.

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wiredog: VMoFest. Is that like an EmoFest, with more E and less V?

A friend reviews Coachella. I wonder if anyone's found the pig yet?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, I mean, Paramore and Taking Back Sunday are on the bill. And Lil Wayne occasionally veers into emo-rap territory. So yeah.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Shudder to Think?! Wow, throwback. I'm a fan and all, but was there really a need for them to reunite? The good times have already rolled, in my opinion.

J. Freedom du Lac: Many people think there is, in fact, a need for them to reunite, yes.

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Washington, D.C.: Reading recommendations:

There is a new book out called "Girls Like Us" about Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon. It sounds pretty interesting, although I think Mitchell and King are quite a cut above Simon.

Also Suzy Rotolo has a book out about the Village in the '60s and, of course, Dylan. It's called "A Freewheelin' Time" and got an excellent review in Slate.

No particular question here, just two books that sound very interesting.

J. Freedom du Lac: I just read an excerpt of "Girls Like Us" somewhere. It was about Joni. Good stuff. I only wish I could remember what magazine it was in. I want to say Vanity Fair, but then I don't, because those Miley Cyrus photos from VF have somehow become A Story, and now there's a Miley Cyrus Photos chat going head-to-head with me.

Mojo Nixon needs to write a song about Miley. He really does.

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Santogold: Real deal? All hype? More diverse song-wise than M.I.A.?

And new Portishead, Roots, and others out today - as some have alluded to already, is today the day to support your local record store?

J. Freedom du Lac: Listening to Santogold as we speak. Next MIA? Dunno about that. MIA seems to be more imaginative, with more to say. She's also a better cultural appropriator, I think. There's nothing on Santi's album that's as thrilling as the "Pretty Green" cover she did for Mark Ronson's album.

Just getting into the new Portishead (it was late arriving). Liking what I'm hearing.

The best work by the Roots this year just may be Questlove's production on the upcoming Al Green album. He and James Poyser really brought Rev. Al back to the '70s.

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Mt. Pleasant, D.C.: Please, please tell Post writers and all the critics you know to stop using phrases like "the unofficial poet laureate of New York City" to describe Lou Reed, because he apparently reads these reviews, takes them to heart and then decides 75 minutes of rambling, mid-tempo pretense constitutes a good show. Sure "naked, frank introspection" is a good thing, but it's not enough to make up for high school literary magazine-quality lyrics and a kind of ostentatious lack of enthusiasm from the guy. I disagree with your colleague Chris Klimek the words sounded "insufferably weak" even from the mouth of The Great Man. I mean, he's a legend, he can do what he wants, and no one needs to hear "Walk on the Wild Side" again. But a little energy and a little wit to balance the ballads would have made for a show that was actually worth watching.

J. Freedom du Lac: Duly noted -- and possibly/probably something Chris will respond to if he's reading in real-time, or something close to it.

Everybody knows (or should know) that rock's real poet laureate of NYC is actually Patti Smith.

But I thought the show was pretty solid. Not great, but absolutely worth watching, even if he did half-arse his way through some of the material, "Sweet Jane" especially. Maybe he was just tired after his weekend wedding.

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Arlington, Va.: Free...headed down to New Orleans this weekend for the second half of Jazz Fest and seem to remember that you are doing the same. Any acts I shouldn't miss? What else should I do while I'm in the Big Easy?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, planning to be there - and nervously looking at the weather reports, as there was a major deluge last weekend and the fairgrounds turned into something like a swimming pool. Might be some storms rolling through on Friday-Saturday. Ugh. (I was really hoping that I'd seen the last of the concert-season downpours down on the National Mall for the Green Apple Festival.)

Haven't really looked closely at the schedule yet. The only thing I absolutely know I'm going to see is the closing set by the Neville Brothers.

While you're in town, you should make a point to eat at Cochon. (Unless you're a vegetarian or don't eat pork for religious reasons or some such.)

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Baltimore, Md.: Why Dylan tours: He is relentless about it--he has played the baseball stadium in Frederick, for heaven's sake. I have heard that, essentially, Dylan has no other life now but playing music and that really may have been the case all along. He tours for the same reason a shark swims--if he stops, he dies.

J. Freedom du Lac: The question isn't re why he tours. It's why he'd play at a festival. Especially one whose bill that day includes Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots, Iggy and the Stooges and Kanye West.

Would love to see the backstage scene when Dylan is coming on. There's a 20% chance that the scene will be better than Dylan's set itself.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Ok, I've missed the boat on Prince. Please provide the primer on what albums, youtube clips I need to start with to fully appreciate his awesomeness. Thanks!

J. Freedom du Lac: Four essential albums: "Dirty Mind," "1999," "Purple Rain," "Sign o the Times."

If you can find footage of his performance of his Super Bowl half-time performance, that would be a great place to start. He absolutely slayed. Unfortunately, his lawyers then killed all the YouTube uploads - just as they've been doing with vids of his Coachella set.

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Washington, D.C.: Jazz Fest and Cochon: You definitely shouldn't miss the Saturday set of the Pinstripe Brassband...and please, I beg you, stop spreading the pork gospel of Cochon! That NY Times write-up and people like you are ruining it for those of us who thought we had the best dining secret in New Orleans.

J. Freedom du Lac: Will investigate your recommendation.

The NYT rec really did crazy things for Cochon's business. Used to be that you could just waltz right in. Then Bruni's write-up landed, and when L Freedom returned to the restaurant, she had to wait to be seated, even though she had a reservation.

The best dining secret in (or near) New Orleans, by the way, is Tacqueria Chilagnos in Kenner.

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Old Post Office Pavillion, D.C.: Who are you looking forward to the most a V-Fest? I'm only going to be there on Sunday, so it's a toss up between Kanye and NIN. I saw NIN out a Nissan a few years back and it still ranks as one of the best show I've ever seen. Trent was actually having fun on stage!

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm going to see Kanye at Nissan in a couple of weeks, so he moves down on the list. I'm really curious to see how Chuck Berry and the Silver Beats do. Lil Wayne. Sharon Jones, who just might make Duffy cry. She & Him. NIN. Soulwax and Underworld in the dance tent. A lot of stuff, really.

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Washington, D.C.: Which is the Prince song where he refers to himself as a "Sexy MF"? That will forever be associated in my mind with Prince. That, and the enormous drummer (the guy was spherical) who used to play in his band.

J. Freedom du Lac: Err, the one that's titled "Sexy M.F."

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Mudcrutch: Have you gotten a chance to listen to Tom Petty's new/old group Mudcrutch? The two guys in the band who aren't from the Heartbreakers are now The Luckiest Men on the Planet.

It's a great listen, by the way.

J. Freedom du Lac: Have not heard the new album yet. Too busy listening to the new garage-rock album by the group otherwise known as Green Day.

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What to do at NO Jazz Fest : Assuming he's recovered from a scorpion sting, go see Richard Thompson.

J. Freedom du Lac: Scorpion sting!

Reminds me of the time I interviewed Matthias Jabs for The Sacramento Bee.

Matthias: "What kind of newspaper name is Bee?"

Me: "What kind of band name is Scoprions?"

Love Richard Thompson.

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The question isn't re why he tours. It's why he'd play at a festival.: Boredom? Variety? Chance to meet other musicians he wouldn't otherwise meet? Someone else is making his decisions and he just goes along with it?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, I'm pretty sure Bob Dylan is dying to meet Moby. (Maybe Zooey Deschanel, though.)

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Washington, D.C.: "Err, the one that's titled "Sexy M.F.""

Damn Prince and his confusing song titles.

J. Freedom du Lac: Right? Let's go crazy, Prince. Oh no, let's go.

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"Sexy MF"? : I can't think of Prince as a sexy MF, unless MF stands for Midget Fembot.

J. Freedom du Lac: Hahaha! Very nice.

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Jazz Fest Fan: This will be my 10th Jazz Fest. Seen the Nevilles close the show many many time. You might be surprised at how mellow it is by the closing set on Sunday. Lots of people already heading out to catch their flights, I suppose. Of course, this year could be different since they haven't been back since the storm.

For the poster looking for not-to-be-missed stuff this weekend -- spend as much time as you can in the Gospel Tent, the Jazz tents, and the Fais-Do-Do stage. One thing Quint Davis does better than anyone is honor the local musical traditions. (Ergo the proper name New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.) If you've never been, local acts like Deacon John, Trombone Shorty, Anders Osborne, John Gros/Papa Grows Funk, Theresa Andersson, Big Sam, Dirty Dozen, Henry Butler, and many many more, are where you should be. You can see Santana anytime.

Oh, and Free, STOP telling people about Cochon. Do you know how hard it was to get that reservation?!?! And speaking of cochon, the cochon du lait po'boy at the festival is the single not-to-be-missed food of all the amazing food. I cannot wait to get on the plane!

J. Freedom du Lac: The controversy over Aaron Neville's (alleged) abandonment of New Orleans is pretty wild - especially given what was going on with his health and, especially, his wife's. It will be really, really interesting to see what kind of reception the Nevilles receive - and, also, how their set comes together. I think it could be special.

Good recommendations. Very much looking forward to spending some quality time in the gospel tent. Will be skipping Santana, Raconteurs and a whole bunch of other acts who aren't that tough to catch on the road and/or don't really seem like they'd be better/more interesting than usual in the Jazz Fest setting.

As for cochon, CityZen is doing a great tete de cochon dish right now, if you're into that sort of thing. You can get it at the bar. And while you're there, see if you can figure out which front-of-house staffer is a big, big fan of Scandinavian black metal.

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Downtown: Is Son Volt one of most unsung great bands out there? Saw them Friday at 9:30 club and they killed - played a ton of songs, the band is tight. After the first encore, and after the house lights went up, the band came back and played one more, just because Jay Farrar felt like it. Really cool. They also did a tremendous version of Waylon's "Are you sure Hank done it this way" - I for one don't understand how Wilco has eclipsed Son Volt.

J. Freedom du Lac: Son Volt's debut, "Trace," was flat-out terrific. One of the great albums of 1995, or whatever year that was. But there was a clear drop-off from there - plus their live shows tended to be super-boring in the early years. Whereas people really, really responded to Wilco's live shows, not to mention their catalogue.

But I rather like the latest Son Volt album, "The Search." Much more than Wilco's latest, "Sky Blue Sky." But, then, I've never really been a big Wilco devotee.

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Odenton, Md.: Mariah Carey has had like 18 number ones hits in a long career. How come I can recall only about 3 or 4? She has no signature song or songs like almost any other artist of her stature.

J. Freedom du Lac: Because she doesn't have the pop sensibilities of a Madonna, who is still crafting killer hooks after 25 years?

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What, no love for Dolly?: Nary a word about Ms. Parton on the chat today...I thought the show was super! Even if the 7:30 start made it impossible to be on time, what with Washington traffic and the nightmare that is Patriot Center parking.

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't you hate it when artists hit the stage on time? I do. I guess we both missed "Jolene," among other songs. The roads in to the venue are just brutal on a weeknight.

Dolly is really one of our greatest entertainers, though. She's a walking quote sheet, etc.

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RE: You definitely shouldn't miss the Saturday set of the Pinstripe Brassband.: Please, I beg you, stop spreading the gospel of Pinstripe Brassband. I can no longer get a front row seat. Stop making recommendations altogether! You're ruining my personal favorites. I don't want to share!

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny. I love the idea of bands being like secret fishing holes, loved by you - and only you - and to be shared with absolutely no one, ever.

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Sexy MF: Really, it is easier to picture Prince as a Sexy MF than JT bringing sexy back. At least Prince has discernable facial hair, and if you close your eyes, you can imagine him taller and less... frou frou. When I close my eyes while listening to the Timberlake, he seems even younger and less sexy.

J. Freedom du Lac: What do we think about Timberlake and Madonna, by the way? Creeped out? Amused? In love with the track and don't care that JT was, like, 15 months old when Madonna's first single came out?

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Atlanta, Ga.: So Coldplay giving away its new single today ... shrewd marketing a la Radiohead and Prince, or desperate move to be heard amid the din of so much new music coming out every week?

J. Freedom du Lac: Lefsetz had an interesting take yesterday. He basically asked why the track is only free for a limited time when it will always be available as a P2P file. That's a very good question. I suppose the marketing idea is fine, especially since we're talking about it now. The more interesting idea, though, is this free concert they're doing at Madison Square Garden. That's one way to get yourself heard amid the din -- put on a free show! Not the most cost-effective idea around, but they're going to get a ton of buzz out of it.

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The Fab Faux: Please explain the appeal of this one to me. The people down in the front of the theater paid $100? For a cover band?

J. Freedom du Lac: Revisiting the past can be an expensive proposition, I guess. I should've gone into the nostalgia business myself. Looks pretty lucrative.

Anyway, that's all for today. Thanks for stopping by, folks. Be back next week with a live report from New Orleans. I'll have to see if I can do it from the bar at Cochon.

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JT and Madonna: Love the track. Close my eyes and wish it were Prince she were canoodling with. Except Prince's talent dwarfs hers. (I say this as a fan of her music.) Timberlake is just so Disney. Maybe he should run around with no underwear on to rough up his image a little.

J. Freedom du Lac: Idea of the day. Somebody get JT's reps on the horn.

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