Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009; 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 Nicole Scherzinger does.

The transcript follows.

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_______________________ Blog: Post Rock


J. Freedom du Lac: Now playing: The new Amadou and Mariam album, "Welcome to Mali." Best thing I've heard this year. (Yes, even better than "Willie and the Wheel.") Out March 24 in the States.

Let's shall....


Anonymous: I always enjoy these chats, and it seems you enjoy a great range of music, which is wonderful. But you said something about Kenny Chesney last week, and I'm having a hard time with it. "Chesney has a fine voice. And actually when he sings the truly authentic-style stuff, he can be pretty great."

I believe it has been acknowledged that Kenny (and Tim McGraw) use vocal tuning equipment on their live shows (and obviously in the studio).

Doesn't that really disqualify them from being "great" in any sense of the word other than marketing?

I know lots of others use it, which only means we are subject to too much showbiz crap, when there are plenty of truly great performers being left in the shadows.

I can't prove my allegation, but I bet Peter Cooper could provide some insight.

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, a while back, Peter told me that better than 85 percent of country singers use Auto-Tune in those Music Row studios, but that Chesney isn't one of them.

Dunno about his stage shows, but he sang without the help of Auto-Tune at the Hank Jr. tribute and was in great voice. Just him and his guitar.


Wammie!: To make the Wammies more interesting they should get the dude from "Anchorman" who liked to say "Whammy!" to present every award. And he would just say "Whammy!" about 143 times over the course of the night. That would be cool right?

J. Freedom du Lac: Greatest thing about Klimek's Wammies report from Sunday night?

This line about the big winner, Jon Caroll, who is something like the Alison Krauss of the Wammies (inasmuch as he ALWAYS wins): "Caroll won a couple of Grammys with the Starland Vocal Band back in 1976, including one for arranging the immortal '

Afternoon Delight

.'" I'm gonna have to reach out to Jon to talk about that song, given that it was once (and maybe still is) the unofficial Freedom Rock anthem.


TicketMaster: Is the world of live music better or worse because Ticketmaster exists ?

J. Freedom du Lac: This editorial cartoon was posted on Michael Cavna's Comic Riffs blog last week. Pretty funny.


Neko's new album: When Neko's new CD comes out we should revisit the Neko v. Jenny argument. If I recall, you were a "Jenny" unless Acid Tongue has already made you change your mind.

J. Freedom du Lac: Fine by me. "Acid Tongue" beats "Challengers," but to me, "Rabbit Fur Coat" beats "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood."

Haven't heard Neko's new "Middle Cyclone" just yet.


Arlington, Va.: Hi J. Free,

Serious question - can you explain Ticketmaster? Even before the shady business with and reselling tickets at more than 3x face value, there have been issues with Ticketmaster. Why do bands work with them? Isn't this a monopoly?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because they have to, if they want to play certain venues.

Just ask Pearl Jam how taking on Ticketmaster works out. (And remember, EdVed and Co. were, if not the kings of rock-and-roll during that period, at least in the royal court.)


McLean, Va.: Hey J. - Clapton is scheduled to play D.C. in June. The rumor I heard is that it's supposed to be a Clapton/Winwood tour but the TicketMonster Web site lists it only as a Clapton concert. Can you clarify- will Winwood be along for the ride but not on stage all the time? Or is Winwood's participation just a rumor? Thanks.

J. Freedom du Lac: Definitely Clapton-Winwood. Live Nation just announced the local date this morning. June 13 at Verizon Center. Tickets go on sale Friday. And they're more expensive than Springsteen ducats! $158, $88, $68.


Baltimore, Md.: OK, so this is a "pop music" chat. Most people have never heard of The Silver Jews or Animal Collective. Why talk about trite indie bands so much, and alienate a potential audience that might get more enjoyment out a discussion of relevant pop figures.

Don't get me wrong, I like some of those trite indie bands, but it gets to a point where pleasing a vocal minority of readers comes at the cost of a better read for everyone.

Or just have two chats.

J. Freedom du Lac: Are you conflating this chat with the Malitz half (OK, the Malitz 80 percent) of the Post Rock blog? I'm pretty sure the Silver Jews are rarely mentioned here, and Animal Collective kind of came and went in this space -- though if you're going to talk about relevancy circa 2009, I'd submit that Animal Collective is exponentially more relevant than most of the pop field. Not that I have anything against pop, mind you. I'm just saying.


Given that it was once (and maybe still is) the unofficial Freedom Rock anthem.: It is? Wow. Do you do these chats from home?

J. Freedom du Lac: You said "do."


Anonymous: Thanks for the great Lambchop review on the blog. Glad to see William Tyler getting the props. I saw them during their previous Black Cat appearance and was amazed at what Tyler did so sparingly. Don't forget Tony Crow on the piano! I stood right in front of Kurt Wagner and know first hand what you mean by the sound of saliva in someone's throat when they speak. I thought he would get out of his chair but he didn't.

J. Freedom du Lac: Post music correspondent Patrick Foster is en fuego. Lambchop review here.


National Insider: Wow, $158 for a concert ticket. I'm not in the tax bracket eligible to receive a stimulus refund and I'm not about to even broach the subject of $158 tickets to my wife. $25 + fees for the National was a negotiation. You may recall that the National blew Arcade Fire off the stage at DAR a few years back.

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, I do not. I recall Arcade Fire winning that war. But, then, I am on record as being kinda bored by the National as a live act.


Pop: I follow this chat every week and can recall few instances that Silver Jews have been brought up. Animal Collective was brought up because many publications proclaimed it to be 2009 album of the year in December. Far from being a pop chat, it usually boils down to a Springsteen chat. Doesn't the Starland Vocal Band qualify as pop anymore?

J. Freedom du Lac: Wait, didn't we just talk about Chris Brown last week? And Ne-Yo?

Trite indie-R&B/hip-hop artists, I guess.


Irrelevant Animal Collective: I mean, come on, J. Free, s/he's got a point: how could Animal Collective possibly compare to the everlasting relevancy of the Jonas Brothers?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm ALWAYS up for JoBro chatter, actually. In fact, I've gotta review their new 3-D concert film for TWP. Wish me luck.


Shaq: Anyone like seeing Shaq dancing with that hip-hop dance troupe? The dancers were cool, but seeing Shaq with them was freaky. He was like some giant god they were all praying to.

J. Freedom du Lac: And that mask was about seven sizes too small.


Arlington, Va.: Tomorrow is my brother's birthday and he has requested a mixtape from me. I'm a bit of an indie fiend, but my brother only ever listens to hip hop and I'm having trouble fleshing out the tape. What recent rap/hip hop artists would you recommend?

Bro insists that the beat is what's most important to him.

J. Freedom du Lac: Throw him a curveball and add K'Naan's "ABC's" -- if nothing else, he'll be amused/entertained by the re-purposing of Chubb Rock's "Treat Em Right" beat. (Plus a cameo by Chubb himself.)


Travis, Ky.: I have to give some credit to the producers of the Grammy awards (and probably NARAS as well). They must know that the awards themselves are something of a joke, so they turned the ceremony into a 3+ hour concert, with the occasional trophy handed out quickly, so nobody would notice.

That said, was the Krauss/Plant album one of last year's best?

J. Freedom du Lac: I thought the Plant/Krauss concert at Merriweather was fantastic -- and I assume the rest of the tour was, as well. But these weren't live-music awards. They were about albums, and I personally didn't find "Raising Sand" to be Top 10-worthy. Of course, of the five candidates (Lil Wayne's "Carter III," Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," Radiohead's "In Rainbows" -- also fantastic live, but..), only Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentleman" was a Top 10 album for me.

Agreed about the staging/booking of the show this year, though. It was,

I wrote

, the industry's own stimulus concert. And good on 'em. But the audio mix ... oof.


Washington, D.C.: Do you watch American Idol? In that its produced some non-trite indie band "pop stars" of late, I would think it's somewhat relevant to your work. Just curious.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't usually pay attention until the semi-finals. So I guess I need to start paying attention.


Baltimore, Md.: Re TicketMaster: Time was, individual venues sold their own tickets--if you wanted to go the Cap Center or Baltimore Civic Center, you went down to the box office or called with your credit card number or mailed a check. And that worked. Today, all such venues have, I would think, pretty robust computer hardware and software. So what's to stop a venue from saying, "Ticketmaster is the devil and human shape. So we're going to start selling tickets on our own." If Verizon, Nissan Pavilion, etc. did that, couldn't Ticketmaster be euthanized? Thanks.

J. Freedom du Lac: There's probably a very good answer to that question. But I don't know what it is. Any readers/posters who know the inner-workings of the concert biz care to weigh in?


RE: Jonas Bros 3D: I thought they'd send Malitz, what with his previous up-close Jonas Bros experience.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, as the missing JoBro. Right.


Washington, D.C.: For the brother looking for a hip-hop/rap mixtape, get him the new Drake.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wait, was he looking for a mixtape, or trying to make one? Either way, don't forget D.C.'s own X.O. Third in line behind Wale and Tabi.


Suge Knight: What's up with Suge Knight? A few years back no one would mess with him or even joke about him.

But now, he's gotten his butt kicked twice: once he was knocked out outside of a club, and earlier this morning he got beat up by Akon's business manager and another guy.

What gives?

J. Freedom du Lac: I wish TWP's old Suge Knight beat writer, Teresa Wiltz, was still here to weigh in. She had quite an adventure reporting this Suge story.


Conyers, Ga.: Didn't Irving Azoff make enough dough managing (the) Eagles and other CA country rock bands that he doesn't need to indulge in Ticketmaster extortion? Just askin.

J. Freedom du Lac: He's managing Axl N Roses now. Along with Neil Diamond, Xtina Aguilera and the Eagles, among others. The good times continue to roll, I guess.


Re: Ticketbastards: To answer the previous poster's question...

Because venues aren't owned by individuals (for the most part), they are owned by large corporations who have exclusive deals with Ticketmaster. Also, many venues are now owned by Live Nation which is being bought by Ticketmaster. So in a few months when the FTC approves the deal, Ticketbastard will now own both the venues, the promotions, the ticket sales and the secondary ticket market (i.e.-TicketsNow). So in short, either write your Congressmen re: the proposed deal or get used to the exorbitant ticket prices that you have seen in the last few months.

J. Freedom du Lac: But...that doesn't explain, for instance, the deal Merriweather Post Pavilion and I.M.P. have with Ticketmaster.


I'm a bit of an indie fiend, but my brother only ever listens to hip hop and I'm having trouble fleshing out the tape. What recent rap/hip hop artists would you recommend?: Are people still making mix tapes? I thought the fun making a mix tape for someone else was that you got them to listen to stuff YOU like, that you think they will like also. No?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, but I think s/he is basically admitting that s/he has something of a blind spot and wants to give Little Brother something that isn't horrible. And Animal Collective isn't going to do it.


RE: (the) JOBROs: So if Malitz is a missing JoBro, does that mean he's related to Alec Baldwin?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think he's part of the Schweaty family, actually.


Rap mixtape: What about Aesop Rock, Sage Francis, that whole Def Jux crew?

J. Freedom du Lac: Right. I think I just put an old Cage album on the give-away table, actually. Pre-spring cleaning/purge time.


Arizona Bay, Ariz.: J-Free, long time buddy.

Wanted to give you a heads up, just got back from a long weekend in Vegas and coincidentally while I was there, Puscifer was playing (Yes, MJK of Tool's solo project Pusicfer) and just to show I'm not an MJK/Tool worshiper, I found the show to be just okay, average at best. Was glad I didn't play for the tickets.

I guess not everything, anyone in Tool touches turns to gold.

Now, off to spend all the money I wont gambling.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wow, a blast from the past. On the same day as the first "Afternoon Delight" reference in a year, too!

All we need is for Long Beach to post something about ZZ Top and Snoop Doog and it'll be like 2005 all over again, only with a pay cut.


Philly: I have recently discovered a band that has blown me away: Pugwash, from Dublin. Have you heard them? It's unabashedly Beatlesque power pop, it's beautifully produced, and the songcraft is heads and tails above anything else out there. My question, if I even have one, is how music like this gets overlooked?, because it seems like the stuff that critics in particular salivate over (and for good reason).

J. Freedom du Lac: Will check them out. (Pugwash, btw, is the name of the big Wash Post management retreat. Bet they don't play that band's music there, though.)


Yes, as the missing JoBro. Right. : Aaah, so Malitz is the cute one! Those JoBros are all too plastic looking for me.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, he's the Shaggy One.


Washington, D.C.: New Amadou & Mariam? Ooh! Ooh! I got laid off last year and I'm not spending money, but I'll make an exception for that album.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's worth the splurge, inasmuch as $10 on iTunes is a splurge.


Ticketmaster: I know the venues used to sell tickets on their own, in addition to ticketmaster, or a couple other companies who have come and gone. But since the '70s they've been around doing a public service and making money.

For the groups and their managers, do they want to deal with 50 venue box office managers, or deal with Ticketmaster who covers the tour for them?

It makes sense to for groups to work with Ticketmaster, but in the last ten years or so it has become a devil, with the increasing charges, and lack of access to good seats immediately after the opening bell, while the scalpers have tickets for sale seconds after they start selling.

I don't think there's a great answer. Cutting costs are important to everyone.

J. Freedom du Lac: Good point. I guess that's why they call it a "convenience" fee. Or something.

I still hate the fact that I have to pay to print the tickets at home. They should be paying ME to do that, kind of like I get a nickel for every reusable bag I use when I'm buying groceries at Giant.


Herndon, Va.: Why does everyone (well most people) hate the Jonas Brothers? I've never heard a single song of theirs, but I can't stand them and I am not even sure why.

J. Freedom du Lac: On principle, I think. The very idea of tween idols is kind of repulsive to some people. I don't mind them, really -- in fact, I think they're pretty good for that genre. But I hated seeing them duet with Stevie Wonder. Just didn't work. At. All.


Speaking of best thing this year: No question, just a comment. In case you have not discovered it yet, the new Orchestra Baobab CD, "Made in Dakar", is stunning. These dudes are better than they were 25 years ago.

J. Freedom du Lac: Funny, I just pulled that from a bin during the Friday cull. It's sitting on my desk, awaiting a reunion with my CD player.


Baltimore, Md.: Explain to me this "influential" business. I remember when The Strokes were being hailed as the second coming of The Rolling Stones and The Ramones.

Like it or not, there are two types of popular music: music that is popular, and music that smart -- maybe snobby -- people think should be popular. I was just suggesting you devote a bit more time to the former.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wait, who said anything about influential? We were talking about relevancy. Nielsen Soundscan figures, BDS data and the BigChampagne charts aren't the only metrics worth following, you know.

Having said that, if you really think all we talk about here is "trite" indie music, well ... I'm not going to call you an idiot, since I've been instructed not to do that anymore. So I'll use the Wilbon-approved "knucklehead," instead.


Severna Park, Md.: Can Malitz spin around in a cirle while playing the guitar?

David Malitz: I can play a power chord in drop D while sitting on the floor in my closet, how's that?


Washington, D.C.: Has there been any news regarding a U2 tour this year? If so any rumors on DC dates?

J. Freedom du Lac: Just a lot of speculation so far. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about this new album, though. The first two tracks are not promising.


Richmond, Va.: You almost kept me from going to see The National at Richmond's venue The National. That would have been a big mistake as they were smoking that night. One of the best shows I've seen at the beautiful, newly renovated theatre.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm apparently in the minority, since people lapped up those 9:30 shows, too. But really: Great headphone music, terribly torporific onstage.


Panama City, Fla.: Is U2 only going to play new songs when they are on Letterman every night for a week? That would suck.

J. Freedom du Lac: Let's hope not. Unless they're holding back the best songs and, for some reason, put out something that sounds like a "Pop" B-side as the first single from their new album.

Klimek and I were just talking about this, btw: What the heck happened to the Rick Rubin sessions?


New York: "Why does everyone (well most people) hate the Jonas Brothers?"

Because they were EXACTLY what the music industry would want to fabricate if they could - attractive, wholesome, and musical brothers. They come straight from Saved By The Bell central casting. It's nauseating to a lot of us flawed folks.

J. Freedom du Lac: That's a fine, fine point.

They're like Hanson without the Dust Brothers!


The Lost Jonas Brother: Forget guitar playing. Can Malitz brood in a way that suggests both depth of purpose and simmering sensuality while doing a lake side scene with Demi Levato?

David Malitz: Simmering sensuality's easy, but depth of purpose is something I've been struggling with my whole life.


Washington, DC: "David Malitz: I can play a power chord in drop D while sitting on the floor in my closet, how's that?"

"Play a power chord"? So that's what the kids are calling it nowadays. TMI, dude, TMI.

J. Freedom du Lac: Post of the day!


I remember when The Strokes were being hailed as the second coming of The Rolling Stones and The Ramones. : The kiss of death to any band is to be hailed as the "second coming" of some other band.

J. Freedom du Lac: In Dave Marsh's "Book of Rock Lists," there was a long entry with next Dylans/second-comings of Dylan or some such. Lots of roadkill there.


Why does everyone (well most people) hate the Jonas Brothers?: They come across as being a little too satisfied with themselves and we'd like to knock them down a notch or two.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sure.

They had me until they exhorted Stevie to show them what he's got.

(Seriously - get off my lawn. Right now.)


U2: Perfect example of the "relevant" music that the knucklehead from Baltimore wants you to talk more about. Relevant 20 years ago, sure, but today...pretty much a washed-up, boring, static old band that basically defines irrelevancy. And yet, people continue to ask about their upcoming tour.

J. Freedom du Lac: Special U2 Correspondent Chris Klimek weighs in:

I've been waiting for somebody to ask! U2 are booking European stadiums for the summer, and will apparently begin this tour in Europe for the first time in decades. But apparently they intend to return to U.S. stadiums this year for the first time since the PopMart Tour of 1997.

Lanois told somebody (like my sourcing?)

[ed note: not really, no]

that he's seen tage designs, and the boys will be playing in the round on this tour . . though they've been doing B-stage mini-sets since the Zoo TV glory days of 1992-3. Bono didn't want to cover "Hurt!" Boom-tsk!


"trite": Seriously, who are all these people who apparently hate this chat, and what are they doing here? I find Wilbon to be a muttering fool, so I don't partake in his chat. Its very simple, really.

Besides, even if I don't know every band being discussed, this is always one of my favorite chats. Dropping baseball references--bonus if they rip on Barry Zito!--just makes it even better. And maybe I'll learn about a new band, too.

J. Freedom du Lac: They're the same people who say they hate listening to various sports-talk hosts (who's the DC equivalent of Ralph Barbieri, anyway?) -- and call their shows all the time to tell them as much while also taking great care to tell them what recent on-air reference they hated.


TicketMaster: A couple years ago Nickelodeon put out an album of tunes sung by "Spongebob and the High Seas". The CD included a mock radio ad for a concert by the group that ended with the announcer saying "Tickets available at all TicketTyrant locations!" The kids wanted to know what I was laughing at.

J. Freedom du Lac: I loved that Fark headline that Lefsetz sent out:

"Live Nation to acquire Ticketmaster for $2.5 billion, plus $700 million in convenience charges"


When is the Joaquin Phoenix: rap album coming out?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, his favorite word IS "youneverknow." (Oh, wait; that's Joaquin Andujar.)


To the guy who wants to make a rap mix: I really like the Cool Kids. My friend who is really into rap loves Aesop Rock.

J. Freedom du Lac: Ah, yes. The Cool Kids. Cause it's '08/Time to set 'it straight, knowhati'msayin?/Ain't no half-steppin, etc.


Pop B-Side: Lanois also told someone that this new album would reinvent rock and roll? From the internets, I don't think they've succeeded. That being said, I'd much prefer to hear Brian Eno produce the Jonas Brothers than hear Rick Rubin produce anybody else other than the Beastie Boys and Johnny Cash.

J. Freedom du Lac: Really?


Jay-Z's "99 Problems"?

Those classic Run-DMC sides?

That recent/righteous Dixie Chicks album?

System of a Down?

LL's "Radio" -- "reduced by Rick Rubin," according to the credit?



Anonymous: Yeah, that Shaq dance was hypnotic and eerie. It was like a cross between the native ritual in King Kong and kabuki theatre. That was hot stuff.

J. Freedom du Lac: We should have Sarah Kaufman review it.


Seriously, who are all these people who apparently hate this chat, and what are they doing here? : Maybe it's the same guy who regularly shows up at Marc Fisher's chat to tell him what a jerk he is, and that he's cancelling his print subscription because of something stupid Fisher said.

J. Freedom du Lac: Right, same breed.

I'm all for differences of opinion, except when you're wrong. Actually, it's the angry posters armed with false facts/stupid assumptions that set me off.


Ticketmaster PT II: I meant to add, that once upon a time I loved Ticketmaster. The local Sears had a ticket office and shows were listed way before they were advertised. I got first row seats for Foghat at the Warner, ZZ Top at I think (Loews Palace), second row seats for Bonnie Raitt at the Warner, and great seats for many other smaller theatre shows. They finally closed the Sears. At that time (I had hair, the late '70s) ticket prices weren't dirt cheap, but seemed reasonable. If you didn't live all that close to the venues, it was a godsend.

J. Freedom du Lac: Passing along.

I was always a Ticketron guy myself.


Why talk about trite indie bands so much, and alienate a potential audience that might get more enjoyment out a discussion of relevant pop figures. : Okay, well, let's just have another all Springsteen chat, then.

J. Freedom du Lac: We will. In May.

Thanks for stopping by for more trite talk. A pleasure, as always.

Be sure to read

Ben Sisario's NYT story

on Estelle Bennett of the Ronettes. Heartbreaking stuff.


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