Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 1, 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.

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Washington, D.C.: The Toadies!

J. Freedom du Lac: What about them?

Back from the beach. What'd I miss? And was that you in the house next door, cranking "Cat Scratch Fever"? You know it was.

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Washington, D.C.: Dude, what was up with the sound at the Ulrich Schnauss show at Velvet Lounge? The 4 opening acts all had serious issues with the sound guy - the first band actually walked off mid-set because they had been having issues for an HOUR! It took at least an hour between each act to set-up, and the sound still sucked. What ended up is that by 1 AM there was still one opener to go before Schnauss even would come on. We were really excited for the show, but decided that bad sound+shoegaze did not equal a combination that would have us wanting to stay until 3 AM!

Grrrrrrrrrr Velvet Lounge, Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno. Anybody have any insight? Is said sound guy here to defend himself?

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Northern Virginia, Virginia: Don't people want to listen to recording artists who can actually sing? Apparently not. Otherwise, more consumers would have purchased Clay Aiken's latest album, On My Way Here, which really showcases his voice with songs that are beautifully arranged and full of melody, qualities that seem to have disappeared on today's music scene. Groban and Buble, neither of which can match Aiken's strength vocally, have become fixtures on Adult Contemporary radio. Why not Aiken? You don't have to approve of his personal life -- whatever it is. The Voice should be enough to get him the respect he deserves and has earned.

J. Freedom du Lac: Maybe they just find the material boring. Having a fine voice is one thing; actually doing something interesting with it is another.

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Rockville, Md.: Care to list your top 10 D.C. area concerts for the first half of 2008? Maybe readers can submit lists, too?

J. Freedom du Lac:

Sure, that's easy, since - following Producer David's lead - I'm tracking my shows this year in a spreadsheet.

10. Alice Smith at Black Cat

9. Allen Toussaint at the Tipitina's 30th anniversary party

8. JazzFest on May 3

7. Sharon Jones at the Black Cat

6. Erykah Badu at Constitution Hall

5. Sonny Rollins at the KenCen

4. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Merriweather

3. Kanye West at Nissan

2. Radiohead in the rain

1. Levon Helm in Balmer

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DC or Bust: Hey what do you think of EW's list of top 100 new classics?

J. Freedom du Lac: Haven't read it. It's probably only the 146th most interesting music-related list that EW has ever done. I'm over them.

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9th and U Street: J. Free - How about I buy you a beer at Eli Reed tonight.

I'll be wearing a Tool t-shirt, singing Afternoon Delight.

J. Freedom du Lac: Enjoy. I'll be watching the Nevilles at the Birch. Stronger material, kick-ass band and those voices - especially Aaron's ... I mean, how could you possibly prefer to see Paperboy Reed over the Brothers Neville?

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The real room: I'm just wondering, what with the car wreck that is A. Winehouse the last five months, whether the people running the Grammy voting system are thinking of changing it back to the way it used to be (Jethro Tull's heavy metal win notwithstanding).

J. Freedom du Lac: Changing it back to what way? As far as I know, the only difference in the voting system now vis-a-vis the Grammys 15-20 years ago is that there's a blue-ribbon panel of some sorts that helps get the album of the year field in order. But the voters are still the voters. And either way, she deserved the win. You're gonna ding her for bad behavior and bad decisions? Hey, while we're at it, let's also remove Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis and Janis Joplin and Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, et al, from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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West Coast: I know that I'm straight and everything but that George Michael sure knows how to put on a whalloping show...for three hours (and for three hundred bucks including floor seats, VIP parking & drinks) it really felt like being at the largest nightclub on the planet...and best of all, only two WHAM! songs.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'll be the judge of that. (The part about the show, that is. Not the part about your declared heterosexuality.)

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Washington, D.C.: Brothers Neville equals good, but not much new. Seen 'em once, seen 'em all. Paperboy Reed equals good and new and a fresh take on an old sound. Geezer.

J. Freedom du Lac: Paperboy Reed equals semi-fresh take on old, with weaker material and a far less notable voice than the Nevilles. Seen once, seen all = impossible, since they have so many songs. Geezer is just another way of calling me wise. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of best shows of 2008, it's a shame you missed the Pearl Jam show. Amazing energy, 31 songs, nearly a 3-hour set. I've never witnessed a crowd like that in DC before. Probably the best show I've ever seen.

J. Freedom du Lac: They're no Eli Paperboy Reed.

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Bethesda, Md.: R.E.M. does not crack the top 10 for concerts?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's 13th, right behind Jens Lekman at the Black Cat and the second of my two days at JazzFest - but ahead of James McMurtry at the Birch and the Roots pre-Grammys jam session at the Key Club.

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Anonymous: Seeing the Neville Brothers without Leo Nocentelli? that's like listening to Mick Jagger without Keith Richards!!!!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Isn't that a Snoop Dogg lyric?

Oh, wait: That was "[Hey there, fair lady], you without me is like Harold Melvin without the Blue Notes."

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Atlanta, Ga.: Finally caught up with the R.E.M. tour. When they tour again, they just need to bite the bullet and bring on Johnny Marr full time.

J. Freedom du Lac: When they played here, a Friend of Freedom Rock gave a friend of a friend a ride home afterwards, and said friend of friend, etc, asked, "Who was that guitar player they brought out at the end, and who was the other guy playing with them all night?"

FoFR says he laughed at the idea of REM, Scott McCaughey and Johnny Marr onstage together - "and maybe half the crowd not realizing that they're seeing some of the godfathers of alt rock."

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Anonymous: Will you be attending the Central Park free show of Bon Jovi? Don't you just love singing along with them? Granted, I miss Jon's "strong hair" days, but love the fact that he captured what Bruce left behind.........

J. Freedom du Lac: No, but I'll tell you what: The most electrifying moment of the Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium last year was Bon Jovi's set. They owned that place. The locals sure do love them some Bon Jovi.

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Nostradamus: So what's the top 10 for the remainder of the year gonna be like? Any chance the bands at Virgin Mobile Festival will make it?

J. Freedom du Lac: Clearly, Celine Dion's September show at [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center will crack the list. Other than that - I've no idea.

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Anonymous: Isn't the "desert island" list a bit dead? Shouldn't it be a list of songs in case you're thrown in jail without the chance for a trial anytime in the next decade?

J. Freedom du Lac: What's truly puzzling is how you'd actually get your music to play on said island. Unless you have a solar iPod charger, you'll be out of juice before you've finished listening to the entire Abba box set.

(Cripes, did I just say that out loud?)

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Radford, Va.: I find it hard to believe Lupe Fiasco's show at the 930 club is not in your top 10. He basically performed every single song and played for 2+ hours. While the sound may not have been top 10, the show as a whole had to be.

J. Freedom du Lac: This show? Not even in my Top 20. Appreciated his artistic generosity, but it felt tedious to me - especially since he let the air out of the sails in between so many songs. Too much dead air. He needs to work on pacing, too.

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Salt Lake City, Utah: Does Courtney Cox still get awesome seats at Springsteen shows?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm guessing her assistant and publicist can pretty much get her an awesome seat at any show still. Dunno that Bruce would pull her onstage to dance, though.

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The Reissued Silver Spring: From the comments in your chats and Freedom Rock and from Bob Lefsetz's reason for being, I was under the impression the CD as a current music delivery system was dead and that people who still bought CDs were hippies or luddites. Why is it that deluxe CD packages heralding the 5 month anniversary of lo-fi acts such as Liz Phair, Mogwai, the Replacements, Sebadoh, etc are released every week? Aside from the Liz Phair album which took over 10 years to go barely gold, I don't think any of these acts ever sold 500,000 records combined during entire careers. Is an obligatory DVD (with interviews with Rock Legend John Cusack) and remastered sound for albums that were recorded for maximum $3,000 really necessary or inducement when the 50,000 people who might care have already uploaded their old copies to iPod or downloaded from i-tunes. If ATO really wanted to raise Liz Phair's profile out of the gutter it's been in since the 3rd Lilith Fair or to be fair, just after the release of Whipsmart, wouldn't it have just been easier to send her out on a few dates with Lance Armstrong. Oh, sorry, that's Sheryl Crow. Same person aren't they?

J. Freedom du Lac: From a label's standpoint, though, it's easy money, isn't it? The return on anniversary releases and other repackaged collections has to be pretty good, even if they don't sell huge numbers. It's sorta like adding a new layer of pretty icing with sprinkles to the old cake. Or something.

And look, in Liz Phair's case, it's a way to remind people (other than Robert Christgau, who seems to have never stopped loving Phair's output) that, you know, you were Somebody To Be Taken Seriously once. Though that might be a bad thing, with people comparing her subsequent material to "Exile."

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Celine Dion's September show: Only if she busts out the AC/DC cover

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny.

Here is the real one. Ugh. Her rocker moves alone make me want to gag. (Also: Anastacia?)

Why don't you watch this, instead? It's Shakira doing "Back in Black." Meow.

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me & Clay:"Having a fine voice is one thing; actually doing something interesting with it is another."

Amen, dude. I have a beautiful voice - really, it's lovely, you should hear me - and I have basically nothing I'm looking to communicate with it, other than the joy of singing in choirs. Anyone who bought my album (if I had an album) would basically be an idiot. Not to say anything about people who buy Clay Aiken's albums, but...ok, yeah, I am saying something about them.

J. Freedom du Lac: Post of the day!

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Washington, D.C.: thoughts or comments on thievery show? i don't think you were there but would appreciate hearing what you heard about the show? one of dc's greatest bands ever? what say you?

J. Freedom du Lac: Review here.

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Tampa, Fla.: It is sexytime for Alex Rodriguez?

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny - just read an item about his (alleged) dalliances with Madonna. He and Jose Canseco finally have something in common!

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Jazzfest : I am assuming you are referring to the New Orleans Jazzfest. If so, did you see The Subdudes? Ever see them perform?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, no, yes.

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KAN, YE: Man, I never thought I'd agree with you on anything.

But Bon Jovi at Live Earth was a lot more fun than Bon Jovi at Verizon. Maybe it was because I took an awesome friend to Live Earth and took my crazy mom to Bon Jovi. Mom kept answering her phone whenever it rang and yelling "I'M AT BON JOVI" to the poor sucker on the other end.

J. Freedom du Lac: I think their home-field advantage also counts for something. The stadium was pretty electric when they came out.

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Wheaton, Md.: JFree, Farhi is talking music and running long on his chat, so if you want to go beat him up, we'll wait...

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny, in between him stepping on my turf, and me thinking about whether or not I wanted to put out a hit, we started messaging back and forth about track and field. That's our Switzerland, I guess.

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Chantilly, Va.: Youtube is blocked at my office. I feel like I should pack up early and go home right now so I can watch Shakira doing "Back in Black".

J. Freedom du Lac: You should. I'm sure you can get a note from your doctor or something.

Dumb question about offices that block YouTube access: Can you watch YouTube videos if they're embedded in external sites? Like, if I posted that same video in Post Rock right now, would you be able to see it?

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Rockville, Md.: What's the buzz on Alice Russell? I saw her on a friend's recommendation at Bohemian Caverns. She played two sold out shows, and my friend who got there late couldn't get in! She played a great show. I was surprised that this was the first I'd heard of her.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm listening to her version of "Seven Nation Army" right now on MySpace, and -- wait, hang on, I've gotta pick my jaw up off the floor.

Here's a YouTube vid of her doing a live cover of that same song. (The recorded version on MySpace packs more vocal punch, though; sounds more soulful/less tinny.)

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Severna Park, Md.: Field is awesome. Track, not so much.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thank you, Dan Jenkins.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, Mr. Free

I have an off the wall question for you on the ethics of rock criticism, if that's not too oxymoronic a concept.

I picked up the new Alejandro Escovedo CD the other day. It's really good (although one of the songs is an utter ripoff of Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"). Anyway, one of the stickers on the wrapping was a quote from legendary rock scribe Dave Marsh, who called it "the best album of the year". When I read through the liner notes, I saw that Mr. E gave thanks to his management company, headed by Jon Landau and Barbara Carr, who is also Mrs. Dave Marsh. (Carr, that is, not Landau)

So, what's your take on the ethics of this kind of situation? Is there an issue? If so, is it cured by some kind of disclosure by the critic of his spouse's relationship to the artist? To be fair, since all I saw was the blurb, for all I know Marsh did indeed include such a disclosure in a full review. How would you approach a similar situation? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

J. Freedom du Lac: Seems kinda icky/questionable on its face. Probably not all that different than authors who are (literally) in bed with each other blurbing each other's books. Which is also kinda weird.

Now, the Alejandro album is pretty great, so Marsh's position is defensible. Still, couldn't they have used somebody else's quote? Somebody who isn't married to anybody in Alejandro's camp?

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!!!: Are we paying you to sit and watch youtubes all day?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm "listening" to YouTubes. It's how new music gets heard these days, I guess.

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Phoenix, Ariz.: I know they're elder statesmen now and all, but "Pearl Jam" is still a stupid name for a band.

J. Freedom du Lac: Better than Mookie Blaylock.

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New York:"U3", er "Coldplay"- how do they get away with ripping off "U2" like that? Do they have some sort of side deal with them, to cut them in?

J. Freedom du Lac: Unless they start stealing lyrics and melodies outright, they're in the clear. Imitation isn't illegal.

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Phair: I like all the Liz Phair albums, even though objectively they've been kinda crappy since Whipsmart. Weird how that happens. I guess she's one of those artists for whom I have a critical blind-spot -- she can do no wrong.

J. Freedom du Lac: I've never understood that sort of band/brand loyalty, really. It's not very good, but you like it anyway? Why can't you just like her first two albums and dislike everything else even if you don't dislike her circa 2008?

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Bethesda, Md.: Dude, Clay sings the way a woman wants to be made love to. What's more interesting than that?

J. Freedom du Lac: Paint drying.

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Back in Black: Let's be real. I'd want to pack up early to YouTube Shakira singing a duet with James Blunt.

J. Freedom du Lac: That'd be sorta like the time she did a duet with Beyonce. Only not really.

James Blunt does sing like a girl, though. He proudly admits as much.

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Washington, D.C.: Is the first side of "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle" the finest rock-tuba side of an LP (back in the day of the LP)? What other rock-tuba albums would you rank up there?

J. Freedom du Lac: "The Band" has some tuba on it, and it's a pretty great album.

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U2 and Coldplay: And really, if imitation was illegal, there are lots and lots of more egregious examples. Creed anyone?

J. Freedom du Lac: Worse than Creed are the post-Creed post-grunge bands. Ripping off the rip-offs - they're so derivative, they're almost original!

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New Beck: It is out there, have you heard it yet?

J. Freedom du Lac: Only the single. The full-length album should be landing momentarily. Are Beck and Lil Wayne related, by the way? Or did they just study at the same school of absurd lyricism? Discuss.

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Arlington, Va.: A date recently invited me to the Rock the Bells show at the Merriweather Post at the end of the month. I'm a ravenous live music fan, but generally avoid big venues (not a fan of crowds or watching artists on a jumbo-tron... for all that I could watch them on YouTube). Think this show will be worth the hassle?

J. Freedom du Lac: If you're a golden-era hip-hop fan, then yeah. Tribe, Rakim, De La ... not a bad triumvirate. Not bad at all.

Plus Ghostface, Nas, Wale, etc etc.

Go.

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Clay: The fact that ANYONE thinks that Clay sings like they want to be made love to makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

Just thought I'd say what the rest of us are thinking.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks.

And on that upchucky note, we're done. I have some more YouTubing to do. Gotta find some more videos for our Summer Mixtape series on Post Rock.

Thanks for stopping by. See you at the show.

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