Bits: A.A. Bondy, Freddie Gibbs, You Weren’t There, The Afghan Whigs, I Need That Record!

  • A.A. Bondy trotted out a couple of new songs, “Another Country” and “Slow and Lo”, at the Newport Folk Festival. You can listen to (and download) his Saturday set at NPR Music.
  • This week, Yours Truly is featuring 5 Days of Fred with daily features on Freddie Gibbs.
  • This week, Pitchfork’s One Week Only feature is You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984.
  • Summerskiss has confirmed that the Afghan Whigs’ final album, 1965, will be re-issued on 180 gram vinyl with seven bonus tracks and an 8-page booklet on August 24. It’s a European-only release.
  • I Need That Record!, Brendan Toller’s heart-wrenching documentary about the state of independent record stores in America, is now widely available on DVD, including through Amazon and Netflix. This was one of NTSIB’s favorite scores from Record Store Day this year, and we encourage you to check it out.
  • Bits: Crook & Flail mix, Justin Townes Earle, A.A. Bondy, Big Boi and Rick Ross, the Black Keys, Nicholas Megalis and the Envy Project, Outside Lands

    Bits: Les Savy Fav, Walkmen, Lissie, RZA, A.A. Bondy

    • Les Savy Fav will release a new album, Root For Ruin on September 14.
    • Also dropping September 14 will be the Walkmen’s Fat Possum debut, Lisbon. The band will hit the road next month.
    • Lissie, who has been a cover song powerhouse this year, will release her first full album, Catching a Tiger, on August 17, and you can pre-order it from Fat Possum now.
    • Via RZA’s Twitter: Post a picture of yourself with the Swarm cover/logo to RZA’s Facebook for a chance to win an autographed copy of Pollen: The Swarm, Part 3. Winner will be chosen June 26.
    • NTSIB favorite and part of the inspiration for turning this blog into a reality, A.A. Bondy will be hitting the road again in October, sharing dates with his new label-mates the Walkmen.

    Speaking of Lissie’s great covers, here she is doing Cleveland-native Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”.


    Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: A.A. Bondy, Brendon Urie/Pete Wentz

    Now here’s DJ Jen to take you into the all-request hour…

    Total Request (Not Quite Live)

    For April, from Ohio: A.A. Bondy


    I took this one last winter, during soundcheck at the Bowery Ballroom. (Also on the bill: Willy Mason, The Duke & The King.) It is probably the best picture I took all night, of anyone. It is certainly the best lit picture of Bondy that I have, because he seems to like to sing in the dark, or at least in extremely low light, and I don’t use a flash.

    I had (slightly) better luck when I saw him again earlier this year at Union Hall, in Brooklyn. He still confined himself to four red stage lights, but I was closer to him, which made it easier to work with the low light. The shot below, a variation on the “tuning my guitar” pose, is my favorite from the evening. It is, again, a moment of stillness amid a flurry of activity. And there’s the totally incongruous picture of the colonial lady above his head, as if he’s in someone’s very fancy parlor, and not in a shoe-box-sized basement room in Brooklyn where there are dead animals nailed to the wall behind the bar and people playing bocce ball upstairs. (Yes, really, bocce ball. There’s also book-lined shelves and functioning fireplaces. Union Hall is a very interesting place.)


    For Alina, from Moscow: Brendon Urie and Pete Wentz

    IMG_2657.JPG copy

    I took this picture at Angels and Kings last August during Brendon Urie’s solo acoustic set. Pete Wentz was kind of but not really a surprise guest, in the sense that a) Fall Out Boy was on the Blink-182 tour with Panic! at the Disco, at the time and b) we were all crammed in his bar. When he appeared on the stage the first time — practically out of thin air — I was too startled to take any pictures. This shot is from the second time, when he came out to sing Don’t Stop Believin’ with Brendon. All I had time to do was point the camera at their faces and hope for the best.

    I’m particularly fond of this picture partially because that evening marks the start of my rock and roll photography adventure – I had never bothered bringing my camera to shows before – and partially because it’s a moment where they both look happy.

    The next one is just Brendon Urie by himself. You can’t tell from the expression on his face, but it was about 900 million degrees in that bar at that moment, and the audience was practically in his lap. I think he may have been trying not to laugh at whatever was going on in the front row.


    Guilty Pleasures: Verbena

    The scene: You’re home alone doing some menial chore. It’s boring and takes a long time, but it has to be done. To make the experience a little less of a trial, you put on some music, something up-tempo. Something light. Maybe even something a little mindless. Before you know it, as your cleaning out the cat box or washing the dishes, you’re doing a little boogie and singing along at the top of your lungs.

    The sound of snickering behind you stops you dead, and you know your partner/roommate/child will now never let you live down the fact that you were just jamming along to Counting Crows/Lady Gaga/the original cast recording of Cats. You’ve been caught indulging in a guilty pleasure. It seems everyone has at least one, even those who say they don’t (yes, okay, I do actively blush when I listen to Billy Squier). But why feel guilty? We can’t help the fact that certain sounds just move us. So let’s cleanse our guilt through confession.

    My first confession is a complex one. Regular readers know by now that I feel no guilt at all about loving the music of A.A. Bondy (and if anyone does feel guilty about loving his music, I’d like to have a word with that person after class), but what I am a little less forth-coming about is my affection for the music of his former band, Verbena. And not just the first album, Souls for Sale, which is widely agreed by many – including Bondy himself, who is more than willing to forget his whole Verbena experience – to be a decent album, full of promise. I like all three albums. Yep, even the being-groomed-to-be-Nirvana major label debut, Into the Pink. (I… I, actually, prefer the latter two albums to the first one…) Like, really like them. Like, can be found listening to them at least once a week.

    The complex part comes in that I only feel guilt about listening to Verbena because the man partially responsible for the music itself would seem to prefer that the music didn’t exist at all. I do not actively blush while listening to “Bang Bang” or “I, Pistol”. Indeed, I like those songs a whole fucking lot. “Dirty Goodbyes” is a beautiful song, reminiscent of the Greg Dulli school of dark piano ballads. “Devil in Miss Jones” is just, plain sexy. And “Way Out West” is an instant shot of energy.

    Okay, sure, some of the lyrics are… well, let’s just say they don’t measure up to the words Bondy sings these days. And, admittedly, a lot of what I love about Verbena is the LOUD GUITARS AND SCREAMING factor, but what’s wrong with that? Sometimes after listening to a lot of lovely, pared-down acoustic work, you need a shot of noise, right?


    Oh, whatever. I still like them.


    Test Pattern

    I’ve got nothing today, kiddoes. The tank is empty. But it will be refilled shortly, and I’ll have a Carolina Chocolate Drops show review for you and a post about the Famous. For now, have some A.A. Bondy covering Hank, Sr. This is a beauty.


    Notable shows in the greater Cleveland area & some SXSW showcases

    Shows worth checking out this week in and around Cleveland:

    The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern

    • Sat, Feb 20| 8:00 PM (7:30 PM door)
      Bluegrass Barn Dance
      Pete McDonald & The Wax Wings String Band / JP & The Chatfield Boys / Hiram Rapids Stumblers / Heelsplitter / Misery Jackals / Timber Wolves / One Dollar Hat
      $5.00 adv / $7.00 dos
      Ballroom | All Ages
    • Tue, Feb 23| 9 PM (8:30 PM door)
      Ha Ha Tonka
      Cowboy Angels / Robbie Jay Band
      Tavern | All Ages
    • Fri, Feb 26| 9 PM (8:30 PM door)
      The Fervor
      Good Morning Valentine
      Tavern | All Ages

    Grog Shop

    • Mon, Feb 22| 9:00 PM
      Sun God
      The Unclean

    The Kent Stage

    • Tues, Feb 23| 8:00 PM
      Ani DiFranco
      Erin McKeown
      $36.00 Individual
      $65.00 Patron

    Oberlin College

    • Weds, Feb 24| ?
      Ani DiFranco
      Erin McKeown
      Finney Chapel @ 90 North Professor St
      Call 800-371-0178 for details

    For those who might be venturing to Austin in March, here are a few links to SXSW showcases to check out:
    No Depression
    Muzzle of Bees
    Schuba’s Tavern
    Brooklyn Vegan

    Revisiting the line-up for The Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford, Mississippi, A.A. Bondy has been confirmed, meaning you will likely see Bondy playing with the Felice Brothers and vice versa.

    A.A. Bondy with the Felice Brothers, performing the most rousing version of “American Hearts” ever at the Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama, September 9, 2007

    Rebirth of the Cool: John the Revelator

    This is the first installment of what may become a regular feature focusing on covers or different takes on a single song.

    One of the much bandied about cliches of modern music is that the devil gets all the good music. But anyone who has delved into the different forms of sacred music knows that that is a very arguable statement. (There is some damn fine gospel music out there, and the gospel influence can be heard in some of today’s more exciting bands, like The Builders and the Butchers.)

    I would posit the theory that the best music is performed by those whose ultimate fate (if one is given to beliefs of the spiritual) remains in question. Take the blues classic “John the Revelator” as an example. The first noted recording of the song was recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in 1930. While he played in the blues style and has been covered by artists such as Led Zeppelin, the White Stripes and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, all of Johnson’s lyrical content centered on the sacred, and he was known to preach to anyone who might listen.


    Blind Willie Johnson - John the Revelator


    While Johnson’s take on this old call-and-response field song is compelling, due in no small part to his gravelly voice, the song became a different beast in the hands of Son House. House held early dreams of becoming a preacher, but was ulitmately more compelled by the blues music that the church stood firmly against. He served time at Parchman Farm prison for murder and was later publicly berated by Howlin’ Wolf for his problems with alcohol. House’s version of the song is haunting, especially in this filmed performance.



    In his 2007-2008 live shows, A.A. Bondy travelled his own road with “John the Revelator”. While the use of religious imagery in Bondy’s songwriting is often cited, his take on the Revelator steers the story in a more secular direction. Yet, in Bondy’s version, the apocalyptic side of the Book of Revelation seems closer than ever.


    AA Bondy - Live at The Waldron - 8/12/08

    News Bits & Bobs: Southern Festivals, Waits Reads, New Lidell & Scott-Heron

    • Gulf Shores, Alabama, will host the Hangout Music Festival May 14-16, 2010. The fest will feature A.A. Bondy… and some other people. A lot of really good acts, actually, like the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Legend, Matisyahu, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Michael Franti & Spearhead, among others.
    • The Felice Brothers will be down in Bondy territory when they play the Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford, Mississippi, on April 24, 2010. The free festival will be headlined by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and will also feature performances by Jimbo Mathus and Those Darlins, among others.
    • Tom Waits reads Charles Bukwoski. ‘Nough said.
    • Mercurial soul singer Jamie Lidell’s new album Compass comes out in May. This time around, he’s getting a hand from Beck, Feist, Pat Sansone of Wilco and a few members of Grizzly Bear. You can hear the title track at Stereogum and Pitchfork.
    • I don’t know how long ago this was posted, so it may no longer count as news to anyone else, but the Bowerbirds played a few songs for Pitchfork’s Cemetery Gates series.
    • Gil Scott-Heron’s first album in over a decade drops tomorrow, and you can take a listen below. I owe him a few bucks just for the number of times I listened to it yesterday. Gorgeous work.

    Willy Mason & A.A. Bondy at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI, 2.2.10

    Under a snow cloud that seemed to concentrate solely over Ann Arbor (and seemed to want my car as a sacrifice), in a hole in the wall bar-cum-club, a rabble of music lovers who seemed to span every age range from 18 to 40 and possibly beyond gathered around a small stage to hear what Willy Mason and A.A. Bondy had to offer.

    Thinking of Willy Mason, the word that comes to mind is solid. His songwriting is solid, his guitar-playing is solid and his voice is solid. But the previous two times I had seen him play, he seemed to lack an indefinable something. Oomph, chutzpah or some other slightly onomatopoeiaic word. This time, he seems to have found the road to that indefinable something. While Mason is still more than a little quiet in between songs, the songs themselves popped with a vibrancy that had been missing before. “Pickup Truck”, “If It’s the End”, “Where the Humans Eat” and “Hard Hand to Hold” all sparkled and received deserved appreciation from the audience.

    There was a sweet moment as Mason waited for some friends to come help him out on stage. He said, “We need some filler.” To which a voice from the audience called out, “Oxygen!” “Oxygen?” Mason replied. “We can do that.” Then a shy smile lit up his face, and it was a moment when you could see in his joy how hard it can be to be The Opening Guy, just waiting for someone to know who you are and like what you do.

    The friends who came to help were, of course, A.A. Bondy and his bandmates Macey Taylor and Ben Lester, and they helped Mason close his set with a beautifully filled out song – a song to which I don’t recall any of the words and cannot even guess at the title. But trust me, it was good, and Mason was obviously happy to be joined onstage by good friends. He left the stage to the sound of cheers.

    Here is what A.A. Bondy is not: a romantic troubadour, a lonesome drifter who just hopped off a freight train, a sepia-toned ghost who has just stepped out of a bygone era. Though he might be a ramblin’ man. And with his long-legged, wide stance, he looks like he could have just gotten off a horse.

    Here is what A.A. Bondy is: just a guy. A good guy with a lot of talent, passion, skill and the ability to get up in front of crowds of strangers night after night and do his best.

    As a member of an A.A. Bondy audience, here is what you cannot do: expect to hear songs delivered just as you heard them on his records, see one show and think you’ve seen all the artillery he has stashed in his armory, fail to be surprised. It would also be good if you didn’t talk while he was playing. (I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by respectful and mostly quiet audiences at the two Bondy shows I have been to.)

    While both of A.A. Bondy’s solo albums are beautiful creations (and they both mean a lot to me), if you’ve only heard his albums, you only have part of the picture of who he is as a musician. As an artist, Bondy posesses an admirable confidence in his music. He is not precious about his work and has the ability to stretch out in his songs, to add here, take away there, turn left instead of right.

    He opened the set with what well may be his best song to date, “Mightiest of Guns”. The gentle finger-picking of the original recording was accompanied by a beautiful swoon of pedal steel supplied by Ben Lester, adding power to an already moving song. “There’s a Reason” was given a sonicly diverse treatment and crescendoed with passion again and again. Bondy played the most beautiful bit of harmonica I’ve ever heard from him (or anyone, for that matter) on “Black Rain, Black Rain”. “When the Devil’s Loose” was transformed from an almost Radiohead-like exercise in ambience to a hip-shaking honky tonk (during which Bondy shouted out, “Disco ball!” to get the mirrored ball in the center of the room spinning). Electric guitar gave “Rapture (Sweet Rapture)” a certain elegance. Bondy’s cover for the night, Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – a song well-suited to Bondy’s smoke and honey voice both in style and content – even received a little improvisational picking. And there was more – “Vice Rag”, “To the Morning”, “Killed Myself When I was Young”, “Oh the Vampyre, “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing”, “A Slow Parade” – each with a certain bang, a certain nuance, that stopped you in your tracks for a moment, leaving you unable to do anything but marvel.

    What, for me, was the highlight of the show – in a set where every song was a highlight – was the closing “The Coal Hits the Fire”. Again playing with sonic dynamics, at one point, the band dropped out completely, leaving only Bondy’s voice driving the song through, his eyes closed and his fingers playing in the air as if pulling the notes from somewhere just out of sight. Then the band came back in and took the song to a thrilling cacophony of hard and heavy sound that felt like a sharp punch to the solar plexus before mellowing back into the finger-picked guitar melody. And invigorating note to end a show that played up and down the emotional scale.

    The one thing I did miss in this show that had been abundant at the A.A. Bondy show I had seen previously at Musica in Akron, Ohio, was Bondy’s between song banter. Despite the somber presence he can sometimes convey, Bondy is very clever, very bright and very fucking funny. There was a story about the time he had played the Blind Pig two years before. “There weren’t as many of you,” Bondy told the crowd after thanking them and telling them how much he appreciated the turnout, “and you weren’t very nice.” As a matter of fact, another band who was there went backstage and drank all of Bondy’s gang’s beer. “So to recreate that night, most of you need to leave, and then the rest of you be assholes and drink all our beer.”

    Side note: A good thing to know if you’re ever going to the Blind Pig: Hit the ATM beforehand. As the posters around the venue and the T-shirt on the bartender will tell you, charmingly accentuated by the infamous shot of Johnny Cash flipping the bird, the Blind Pig is CASH ONLY. They don’t mention this on their website, so it’s a good thing my plastic-dependent self moneyed up beforehand just in case.