Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 26, 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 Clay Aiken does.

The transcript follows.


Denver!: So Springsteen is allegedly going to do a solo acoustic performance after Obama's speech on Thursday night. What song do you think it'll be? A lot of the Democrats have used The Rising, but that doesn't seem to lend itself to an acoustic performance. The stuff off of The Ghost of Tom Joad isn't well-known enough (Youngstown does play into the struggles of working class America) and Devils & Dust seems too overtly political, even for a political convention.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not happening, as reported on Post Rock this morning.

Bon Jovi might be there, though. If they're looking to make it an all-Jersey bill, maybe the Jonas Brothers will show - though I suspect they're McCain guys.

Or maybe it'll be (ulp)!

So ... welcome one and all.

It's convention week. Can you feel the excitement?


Just out of curiosity: Why was James Hunter reviewed and not Chris Isaak?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because Chris Isaak hasn't released a studio album in forever (and he's been reviewed during that period, too), whereas James Hunter has. And it's a damn fine one, too.


Annandale, Va.: After Bo Bice and the "40 Years Ago Today" Beatles tour for Sgt Pepper, can we expect to see Clay Aiken perform a 10 year retrospective of the Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin" next year?

J. Freedom du Lac: Did you just use "Clay Aiken" and "Flaming Lips" in the same sentence? That's hilarious on at least two levels.


Current Rock Fashion: I'm not sure what bothers me more:

The uber tight, tapered pants worn by the kids or their hair that is manicured and shaped for hours to make it look like they just rolled out of bed.

Who started the tight pants thing, think Jonas Bros, Metro Station, other forgettable bands on MTVU etc

J. Freedom du Lac: Umm.... the Ramones?

It's taken off again recently, though. I blame the residents of Williamsburg.


Washington, D.C.: David, you're cute and all, but go eat a sandwich or something!

J. Freedom du Lac: You should see the sandwiches Malitz eats. Plain turkey. He's the least adventurous eater I know.

_______________________ Post Rock!


Obligatory Springsteen Question: First, NBC reports that Springsteen dedicates Born in the USA to Michael Phelps, which doesn't even make sense (the later dedication of Thunder Road in St. Louis seemed more like he was making fun of Bob Costas for starting the rumor). Then, various papers and journalists start reporting that he's going to show up at the DNC, which has now been denied (but is still being reported in some places as something that will happen). Then there's the ongoing rumor that he will play the Super Bowl halftime show, which has neither been confirmed nor denied in the two or three months of its existence.

My question is this. Has Bruce Springsteen (and/or possibly Jon Landau) taken on a personal mission to slowly and subtly destroy what's left of the mainstream media's credibility? I've never thought of him as the conniving sort, but maybe he hates cable news just that much?

J. Freedom du Lac: That's an interesting theory. (Speaking of Springsteen and sports and St. Louis, The Big Lead thinks the show there was held up until Tony LaRussa was in the building, as the lights apparently went down moments after he was brought to his seat.)

Anyway, yeah, much speculation/rumor-reporting about Springsteen performing at the convention on Thursday, but as I reported on Post Rock this morning: It ain't happening.

I think the Super Bowl thing would be a possibility, though I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't happen and, like, the Eagles played instead.


St. Louis, Mo.: Ok, 41 y/o black chick attends her first (maybe) Nine Inch Nails concert. Was very impressed, even the mosh pit was tame. Though some of that instrumental stuff in the middle was weird and not what I was expecting. I had suite tickets so I didn't get the full NIN experience. I liked it enough to download their free CD "Still", though I did add the instrumental stuff to my dogs' iPod. Yes, my dogs have their own iPod. Don't judge.

J. Freedom du Lac: I didn't love the instrumental section at Virgin Festival, either. It sounded great, thanks to the mix. But it just felt flat, in a sucking-the-air-out-of-the-audience kinda way. But I was pretty much already on my way to Kanye's stage at that point. Maybe it would've been more effective if I'd been paying close attention.

What do the dogs think of the instrumentals?


Mt. Vernon, Va.: Your opinion on the "band" She and Him. I've heard a few songs and really like it...but I'm wondering if I'm being swayed by the wonderfulness of Zooey Deschantel.

J. Freedom du Lac: I can see why you'd be so swayed.

I like them just fine, though after listening to the album a second time, I decided it was more anodyne than anything else. M. Ward is great, though.


???: When is new Metallicas

J. Freedom du Lac: Sept 12, I think. A Friday.

At least officially. Who knows when the leak will land.


San Diego, Calif.: Eagles no good. Not superbowl for Eagles.

J. Freedom du Lac: I still maintain that they should've retired the Super Bowl half-time show after Prince performed. Nobody's gonna top that, though Bruce and the ESB have a chance to tie.


FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM du Lac: Just wanted to let you know that your follow up on the Jonas Brothers (the one with the comments) provided for loads of hilarity in the office. I mean after all ten spins with a guitar is a lot.

Seriously though: What do you think of Jakob Dylan's Solo CD and does it sound any different then him sans band? (FWIW I did love the Wallflowers)

J. Freedom du Lac: The public humiliation was rough, but I survived.

My favorite email was the one that concluded thusly: "So please stop hating on him. I thought only teenagers did that, but you're a grown man. GROW UP!"

The correspondence was so great that Harper's Magazine is considering publishing some of the emails that didn't make it into print/online here.

Now hang on, I have to finish getting Woodward's scrapbook together...


!!!: Metallica yay!

J. Freedom du Lac: Thoughts on the new single? At first pass, it sounds sort of stale. Metallica covering Metallica.


McLean, Va.: Hey J - Did you see Jimmy Page on the Olympics? How lame was that? Waaaaay out of sync with the tape! He did look pretty good though; not as pasty as recent photos.

J. Freedom du Lac: No, I missed the pomp and pageantry. In fact, I missed most of NBC's broadcasts, besides some of the live events. I watched quite a bit of track (not field) online, though. Didn't feel like waiting 12 hours for NBC to getting around to it...


Backstage Riders: J-Free: what's the least-justified concert rider you've ever seen? I don't mean the "no brown m&m's" thing, 'cuz if you're Van Halen in 1984, you can pretty much demand anything. I mean what's the most ridiculous demand made by someone who has no right to expect anything more than a clean bathroom?

Hey, by the way: Bon Flowbee, for that feathered hair the Jersey chicks love.

J. Freedom du Lac: Haven't really spent much time studying concert riders, though I always enjoy them when I happen to find one on TheSmokingGun. I think Solomon Burke has a large throne-like chair in his rider. But that's easy to justify. The dude is the king of rock and soul.


Fairfax, Va.: I know we've done the obligatory Springsteen question today, but awhile back there were rumors about another CD since there was a lot of material left over from Magic. Any word on that, or has the loss of Danny Federici changed things and is this concert run it for the gang down on E Street?

J. Freedom du Lac: Nils was sort of noncommittal about the future for Bruce and the ESB when I interviewed him last week. I don't remember what he said exactly, but it was something cryptic about this chapter (the "Magic" album/tour) coming to a close and who really knows what's ahead.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: When the Jonas Brother spins 10 times with a guitar (which IS a lot) is that spinning the guitar like ZZ Top or spinning himself around like in the hokey pokey. Because 10 ZZ Top-style spins really WOULD be impressive.

J. Freedom du Lac: It WOULD be impressive! But no, the young, sharped-dressed man spins in a circle, like a Deadhead without the psychotropics.


Arlington, Va.: Any word on the date for the new Jenny Lewis?

J. Freedom du Lac: Klimek asks me that question daily, though usually it's: When can you get me a date with Jenny Lewis?

The album is out Sept 23, I think.


L' Enfant Plaza, D.C.: The new Metallica?

Musically, a bunch of ideas that seem to be fighting with each other a bit. Lyrically, hunh? What's he saying? Hopefully the live version will pull the bits together better.

Heard their new cover of an Iron Maiden song? That is really awesome.

I also disagree about the instrumental NIN stuff at V Fest. A bit unexpected, but I thought it was beautiful.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, I think there's a pretty good chance I would've liked it more if it had my undivided attention. Kanye was coming on, plus deadline was just around the corner. My mind was already wandering across the field.


Decades-old complaint: What bothers me about radio stations playing "Paper Planes" is that the MIA song is just as good now as it was 18 months ago, when it was completely ignored by commercial radio (along with all her other output).

I often think that a programmer at a popular radio station could make any decent song a hit just by playing it a few times, and without being deserted by listeners and advertisers. Variety hasn't killed commercial radio in Europe.

It bothers me that they're still so unadventurous here.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's quite possible that a lot of programmers never actually heard the song - or any of MIA's music, for that matter - before the "Pineapple Express" campaign.

Frustrating, sure.

But personally, I'd rather have people discover MIA late than never at all. This just in: She's been great for a while now!


Tulsa, Okla.: Home of Cains Ballroom

Best concert rider - Chuck Berry - his car must be parked right at the back door - money in cash in one paper sack - another sack of BBQ and a loaf of bread.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's great.

Apparently, he was in a car, on his way out of Pimlico before his VFest appearance. Hated the idea of playing with the Silver Beats so much that he was going, going, gone before they got it all sorted out.

Speaking of cars parked by the back door: As I was leaving Tipitina's after the 30th anniv concert, I saw a sweet old Rolls parked next to the door, with "PIANO" on the plates. Allen Toussaint's ride. Awesome.


Bethesda Blood Bank: Re: Jonas Brother Photo - Please pass on to Producer David that selling plasma should be limited to just two days a week

J. Freedom du Lac: He's gotta make rent somehow. Hope he gets a raise before he disappears into the ether...


Norfolk, Va.: Hope I didn't miss the review but how was that last Solomon Burke anyway?

J. Freedom du Lac: You missed the review. The album is just okay, which I blame on the material/producers. Too mellow. I like King Solomon sound sing with a belly full of fire and ache, as with that killer "Nashville" album he put out a couple of years ago.


Washington, D.C.: J.Free, what are your thoughts on Rage? I take it you don't agree with Malitz.

J. Freedom du Lac: Right, I completely disagree with Malitz here. RATM spoke to my meathead sensibilities. Plus, I think they're in a completely different category than Limp Bizkit and the rest of the rap-rockers. (Actually, early-era Deftones would be in with RATM, too, only they weren't really political. And they didn't really sound similar. I mean from a qualitative standpoint.)

I really just liked the raw power of RATM's performances. Subtle? No. Lyrically/thematically sophisticated? Not necessarily. But cripes - they absolutely lowered the boom live. Did exactly what that brand of agit-rock is supposed to do. Seeing them at the Fillmore, which was wayyyy too small to contain their sound and energy, was really something else. I thought the place was going to explode.

Also, Malitz says he likes guitars to sound like guitars, but what does that really mean? Thurston Moore's guitarwork sounds nothing like Thao Nguyen's sounds nothing like Prince's.


Spoonerized Band Names: Chuck Berry. Buck Cherry. Any others? Jon Bovi (not really). The Efferson Jairplane (not really again). Jeter, Pjorn and Bohn (not really again). Stupid question, sorry.

J. Freedom du Lac: Apology accepted.


Backstreets: There's no great mystery to why Springsteen isn't playing the convention (and taking this week off between concerts): He's taking his oldest kid, Evan, to college this week. Simple as that. Seriously.

J. Freedom du Lac: And sometimes fans have to be stalkers!

Oh, just kidding. (Sort of.)


Tulsa, Okla.: any review of the Sgt Peppers tribute show?

Thanks Here ya go.


22205: I am having an existential crisis. After attending 4 shows in one week (Rattler, Rancid, The Hold Steady, The Faint), the idea of listening to new music exhausts me. I have seriously reverted back to the bands that I listened to when I was a teen because its familiar and I don't have to think about my opinion on the stuff. This funk has lasted 2 weeks now, and unfortunately its only getting worse. I am now listening to young teen bands because, well, the music just isn't all that deep. And last night I actually checked out to find new harmless music that doesn't make me feel like I should be thinking about it.

J Free, have you ever been burnt out of new music? And more importantly, how can I get out of it? The shame I feel knowing that Paramore (seriously. Paramore.) now has a significant place in my Zune library is almost too much to bear.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, but I do burn on bad music.

When I'm on a new-music binge, plowing through a bin of new releases, and nothing's sounding good, I usually listen to an old standby to kind of recalibrate my ears. Though lately, when that happens, I find myself returning to James McMurtry's catalogue. And, oddly, that Dixie Chicks song, "Travelin' Soldier."


Bon Jovi Cover Band Made Up of of Obamamaniacs: Obama Jovi...

J. Freedom du Lac: Marginal, but okay....


New York: Speaking of MIA, in "American Boy", is Estelle singing "No, I ain't been to MIA" or "no, I ain't in to MIA"?

I really hope it's the latter. Nothing like a battle between two successful female Brit hip-hop artists. Dizzee Rascal could referee.

J. Freedom du Lac: Definitely singing that she hasn't been to M-I-A.


Plain turkey. He's the least adventurous eater I know. : My husband does this. Bread and turkey. No mayo, no tomato, no nothing. But he does it out of laziness, believe or not. I mean, how much effort does it take to slap a little mayo down? Does David actually LIKE his sandwich so plain and boring? Or does he eat it that way to "save time."

J. Freedom du Lac: Went to lunch near his office one time, and he ordered a plain turkey sandwich. Definitely a choice.


Re: Bo Bice: In your Six Questions, he claimed that the Beatles were less of an influence than the Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, and "Marshall Crenshaw." I'm willing to bet he said "Marshall Tucker" and you guys weren't paying attention because you were trying to imagine him in that satiny Sgt. Pepper's coat. By the way, how bad was that concert, anyway?

J. Freedom du Lac: Hahahahaha!!!!! Man, you say Marshall, I hear Crenshaw...

No-touch editing in action.

Dave McKenna reviewed the Baltimore stop of that tour and kinda hated it.


Alexandria, Va.: A friend just got the WKRP in Cincinnati box set but it was lame -- no original music on any of the TV shows on the DVDs. Sigh...

J. Freedom du Lac: Huh, weird.

I'd be more excited if I got a copy of this book in the mail, I think: "Brocabulary: The New Man-i-festo of Dude Talk."


Taylor Swift: so, I know you are a quasi-fan. I'm trying to sell my boyfriend on Taylor Swift. I tried "she's like a country Kelly Clarkson." I tried "She sings about what high school girls care about, and does it well." But neither has worked. What say you? How do I sell a man on her music?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm just not sure Taylor's somebody you can sell him on. But don't compare her to Clarkson; very different singers. Don't think, for instance, that Taylor could hit a home run with a cover of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" the way KC did on American Idol a year or two ago.

Try telling him that her phrasing is influenced by rappers. Though that might not work, either.


Sgt Pepper tribute at Wolf Trap: two words: train wreck

J. Freedom du Lac: Sounds like it.


And, oddly, that Dixie Chicks song, "Travelin' Soldier." : J. Free: Once again, you prove yourself to be a genius. That is a great song, a sad tale of innocent wartime love and loss, and ironically, the Chicks' single at the time their career was butchered because of their George Bush comments. And your James McMurtry decision was also a good one (how about the songs "Levelland," "Where's Johnny" and "Storekeeper"?). The man's awesome.

J. Freedom du Lac: That is, indeed, one of the great ironies about the backlash. It's covered pretty well in "Shut Up and Sing," Barbara Kopple's great documentary about that whole period of the DC's career.

"Choctaw Bingo" - pure genius.


Re: The Sgt. Pepper's thing: So, why do people do things like this? Does Christopher Cross need the money? He sold 90 gazillion songs way back when. Do they think it gives them artistic credibility (I laughed when I typed that, by the way)? Wouldn't they get just as much attention singing their own hits?

J. Freedom du Lac: He tours on his own, too. But money might be a motivating factor for CC, as well as maybe just being a big Beatles fan. Or maybe wanting to be in front bigger crowds than he'd otherwise draw.


The new Sugarland is awesome: There. I've said it. Never thought I would about a country band but I just did.

J. Freedom du Lac: Say it about somebody who's super-twangy, like Ashton Shepherd, and I'll really be impressed.


re: How do I sell a man on her music?: You can't succeed at trying to force the issue, you will just make him dislike her even more. The only way to get him to like her is to just play the music when he's over without saying who it is, maybe mix her stuff in with some other artists. Eventually he will get used to it and start to like it.

J. Freedom du Lac: Carolyn Hax, get in here!

Actually, I think I'll ask Carolyn this question, since variations on it come up in the chat every now and again.


Big Boss on Campus: Springsteen's OLDEST son is starting college?

I feel so... so... young.

J. Freedom du Lac: Let the lobbying begin now: Your Class of 2012 commencement speaker ... Bruce Springsteen!

Thanks for stopping by today, folks. Nils Lofgren interview going live on the blog later this week.


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