A newscaster just reminded me that today being the summer solstice, it’s also the longest day of the year. So what better way to commemorate that than by listening to an extended version of The Lotus Eaters’ “First Picture of You”? This New Wave single, with the lyric “First picture of you, first picture of summer” was a hit in 1983 for this Liverpudlian group, and the subject of one of my earliest (and most popular) posts on this blog. But YouTube being YouTube, the video I linked to in that post got taken down, and none of the replacement clips of that video seem to be of good enough quality to not make you feel like you need an eye test. So try the link below instead, and enjoy today’s installment of the long, hot summer…
This blog has always billed itself as “the official Type M for Music blog”, but for the last 4 1/2 years, anyone who bothered to click on the link for our parent site was surely disappointed to find content hadn’t been updated since Sept. 2012. So please allow me to make up for that: over on the Type M site is a brand-new issue, just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of one of my favourite albums, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Also included are a couple of articles about Sunfest 2017, so go check it out and see what all the fuss is about…
“Why didn’t you answer honestly?”
[Typist’s Notes: Since this is the second part of an interview, it should go without saying that the first part of this interview be read before this. But since this part literally starts in the middle of a discussion about the song “Somewhere In The Nowhere”, that goes doubly in this case.
This interview was conducted in February 2014 at Rocco’s Tacos in Boca Raton, Florida]
I. “Somewhere in the Nowhere” [cont.]
“It’s about the unintentional damage we do by being in their environment.”
Aidan Quinn, Friction Farm guitarist: [The song] tied nicely back to what Barry Henson had told us had inspired him to start the organization [Go Outdoors USA], which was that a bear had followed him.
Type Writer: Okay.
Aidan: Sort of camped with him, which I love the image but —
Aidan: I pictured that the bear is setting up on the side over here, while Barry is standing over there: “Oh, yeah, how ya doing, camper?” And the next day, they break camp and the bear goes with him.
Aidan: Not exactly what happened, [which was probably] a little more unnerving for Barry.
Aidan: He’s an outdoorsy guy; he was walking the Appalachian Trail. But there was a kind of sadness in the fact that that bear was there because he recognized that Barry was human and might be a source of food. Not Barry himself, but he might be carrying a bag of Cheetos or something.
TW: Okay, now I think this song might be a Friction Farm first, in that there have been some Aidan lead vocals in the past, but this might be the first Friction Farm song where you guys share the lead vocal.
Aidan: It is.
TW: Now was that done to contrast between the bear character and the hunter character?
Aidan: [pensively] Um, no, I don’t think so. There’s not really a hunting reference in the song; it’s more [about] human presence.
Aidan: It’s [about] the unintentional damage that we do by being in their environment.
Christine Stay, Friction Farm bassist: I think it was my push to have Aidan sing, because I usurped doing lead vocals, and I never meant to do that, it just happened. And I feel like he should sing more, so…
TW: Okay, so it was a push to have Aidan sing a lead vocal again, but for this specific song, do you feel like it served the song well to have —
Christine: To have a different voice? Yeah.
Aidan: And it also goes with [the lyric] “My grandmother’s grandmother”, [in unison with Christine] “My grandfather’s grandfather.” She sings the “grandmother” [line], and I sing the “grandfather” [line], for the bear.
II. “You Always Bring Me Down”
“I just wrote all the lyrics. We had to pull over so I could write them down.”
TW: “You Always Bring Me Down.”
Aidan: Do we?
Christine: [plaintively] Sorry…
TW: Oh, God, yes. [laughs] I was teasing [acoustic duo] Big Blue Sky years ago, saying that you can always tell when a band’s on the road too long when they start writing songs —
Christine: … About their car!
TW: [laughs] I was making the observation that this is a Friction Farm road song. Which there have been a few in the past, but this one’s very, very detailed about being on the road…
Christine: So this was written —
Aidan: … On the road [laughs]
Christine: Literally on the road. We were on I-81 in Virginia, at night, and I was driving, and I just wrote all the lyrics. And we had to actually pull over so I could write them down.
TW: Oh, cool. Now at one of the shows I saw you at recently, you were saying that the connection between the song’s lyrics and the book [in question] is not that direct. It’s the song I like best on this CD, [but] when I first heard it I was thinking, “What does this have to do with the Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter book?”
TW: I’m guessing that it’s a metaphor for, things are not always as they appear?
Christine: Exactly, yeah. And also, I think the reason I threw in the GPS [reference] is, sometimes when we’re driving and the GPS says something, I just do it. And if I stopped to think about it, I would know: “Wait, I’m not taking a left here!”
III. Do These Lyrics Make You Uncomfortable?
“There’s a little give-and-take on both sides of our jobs.”
TW: Okay, the way [“You Always Bring Me Down”] is set up, the first verse comes across like, you’re in the passenger seat, and you’re like, “Oh, you’re going the wrong way, you’re getting lost…”
Christine: But I’m… not gonna speak up, yeah.
TW: And I think about lyrics like “What am I gonna do with him?” [from the song “A Good Apartment”] [laughs] So my question to Aidan is, when there are lyrics like that, that are either sort of about you or could be about you, does that ever get uncomfortable when you first hear those songs?
Aidan: [pensively] No. I don’t think it’s ever uncomfortable.
Christine: Well, then, why didn’t you answer honestly? [laughs]
Aidan: [defiantly] I would answer honestly, anyway.
Aidan: [thoughtfully] No, I don’t take that as “What am I gonna do with him?” That was a normal sensation for anyone. It could [have been] “What am I gonna do with her?” It’s like, this apartment’s not big enough for both of us.
Aidan: Fortunately, I was out of [our small New York apartment] more than she was.
Christine: I’m the one who says it out loud [laughs heartily]
TW: Well, yeah, I guess why I said that was, it’s my assumption that Christine writes all the lyrics, right?
Christine: Most. Not all, but most, yeah.
TW: Okay, so it’s kind of like you have control of the microphone in a sense.
TW: So whatever’s on your mind, you get a chance to say.
Aidan: [emphatically] Right, if I couldn’t agree to it being in a song —
Christine: We wouldn’t do it.
Aidan: — or if it wouldn’t work for me, I’m not gonna play it. And I’m not gonna write to that.
Aidan: So I’m not gonna write with it. And sometimes the music comes first, which is more common than the lyrics [coming first]. She’s writing at the same time, and she kinda lays it over top of the music I’ve written.
Christine: And that works musically too. If [Aidan goes] somewhere musically that I’m just not going there in my head, there’s a little give-and-take on both sides of our jobs.
Aidan: As we’ve written more and more together, it’s become, I think, a better collaborative process. Like we can anticipate certain things and we talk the same language now about music. Like in [the song] “Normal” —
Christine: It [needed] some dissonance.
Aidan: That [needed] to have something which is off-kilter. That needs something that has a little twist to it.
Christine: And I think with the lyrics, I would say I’m the one who crafts [them], but the story-line is what we both agree to ahead of time.
Stay tuned for Part III of this interview in June 2017, with discussion of playing music in libraries and referencing laundry in lyrics…
When does a Fitbit give you too much information? As a longtime Sunfest attendee, I realize that a lot of walking is involved, especially on the weekend days when the third stage and the Art District is open, but I was not prepared for my step-counter to inform me that I’d covered 10 miles for each of the last two days. Then again, I was at the festival for eight hours each of those days, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I more than doubled the 10,000 step daily target on Sunfest Saturday and Sunday. Even heeding the advice of Leslie Grey Streeter of the Palm Beach Post to wear comfortable shoes to the festival didn’t save me from aching feet Saturday night.
But was this year’s Sunfest worth the soreness? I would say, more than I initially expected. Most of the performers I’d seen before were even better the second time around, and two recommendations for groups I hadn’t seen, made by fellow music journalists Bill Meredith of the Palm Beach Arts Paper and the aforementioned Leslie Grey Streeter, were right on the money.
So Empress K of Reggae Reflection and I have lots of good stuff to report on, both for our blogs and the online magazine for which we were shooting, Island Stage. (Not to mention this blog’s parent publication Type M for Music, which should be going again by month’s end.) Between the two of us, we photographed and listened to almost half of the 50 bands. So there’ll be lots of pictures and reviews on all of our sites in the coming days and weeks, but for now, here’s a summary of the highlights of this year’s edition of Sunfest:
Day 1: Award-winning Canadian folk-rock The Strumbellas got things off to a pleasant start, and later it was time for a pair of returning headliners, as Snoop Dogg rapped to an overflowing crowd at the Tire Kingdom stage while Weezer pleased the Ford stage patrons with its upbeat style of alt-rock.
Day 2: Both of this night’s headliners were delayed by concerns of inclement weather, but after half an hour of scary skies, eclectic musician Ben Harper took to the Tire Kingdom stage with his longtime backing band The Innocent Criminals, reunited two years ago after an eight-year separation. And thirty minutes later on the Ford Stage, the weather delay was also over for rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, so Sunfest patrons there were graced with that group’s mix of pop, hip-hop, social consciousness and fun.
Day 3: Like the headliners of the first night, reggae’s crown prince Ziggy Marley was a repeat Sunfest performer. Fresh off a win in the Reggae category of the Grammys, Ziggy performed an excellent mix of hits, new material and his legendary father’s classics, while over on the Ford stage, local rap star Flo Rida electrified his audience with a high-energy hip-hop show.
Day 4: The first of the long days proved to have a diverse mix of music. The afternoon’s sets on Tire Kingdom stage were performed by a pair of ‘80s classic-rock groups: power-rocking hit-maker Night Ranger proved that “(You Can Still) Rock In America” while Canadian group Loverboy was “Working For The Weekend.”
Over on the Ford Stage, rock-reggae ruled the day, with up-tempo performances by Stick Figure and Dirty Heads. By evening, the Tire Kingdom schedule had moved on to alt-rock, with shows by Filter and the stars of this year’s Inauguration, 3 Doors Down. Meanwhile, the trek down south to the JetBlue stage yielded pleasant results, with the laid-back R & B of YouTube sensation Tori Kelly.
Day 5: Another long day filled with diverse music. L.A. group Ambrosia made it big in the late ‘70s with its version of the California Sound, but actually started as a progressive-rock band years before. Similarly, Christopher Cross might have been firmly in the soft-rock genre in the early ’80s, but the jazz touches exhibited on some of his tracks recorded back then have now achieved full blossom in concert. Georgian jam-band Widespread Panic is a genre-bending mix of influences, while Alabama group St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a horn-driven homage to the soul music of the ‘60s.
Both of the final acts we saw at Sunfest 2017 were veteran performers, but the longevity of ‘90s alt-rock outfit blink-182 doesn’t even come close to the career of legendary British soul artist Steve Winwood, who debuted in the early ‘60s.
So, as you can see, we have lots to do to justify the wear and tear on our rubber soles. Stay tuned…
Like Day 4, the schedule for the final day of the 2017 festival is all over the map, musically speaking. The afternoon kicks off with some big names from the soft-rock era of the late ’70s and early ’80s: L.A-based Ambrosia, popular purveyors of what became known as the California Sound, and the Oscar- and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter/guitarist Christopher Cross.
Veteran music journalist Bill Meredith of the Palm Beach Arts Paper tells me good things about the blues-based band Widespread Panic from Athens, GA, especially about the group’s new guitarist Jimmy Herring, previously in the band Aquarium Rescue Unit. Also, Sunfest expert Leslie Grey Streeter of the Palm Beach Post did extensive write-ups on the neo-soul group St. Paul and the Broken Bones and pop sensation Rachel Platten from Newton, MA, best known for her hit single “Fight Song.” Another popular act performing today is X Ambassadors, a band from upstate New York best known for the single “Renegade”, featured prominently in a marketing campaign for Jeep.
The musical diversity of the final day continues through to the pre-fireworks headliners. Satellite-radio darlings Kaleo, the Icelandic group best known for the single “Way Down We Go” will close out the JetBlue stage, while Rock’n’Roll Hall-of-Famer Steve Winwood, the legendary English keyboardist and blue-eyed-soul singer, will do the same for the Tire Kingdom stage. Alt-rock veterans Blink-182 will be the final act of the night on the Ford Stage.
[Typist’s Notes: The 35th edition of Florida’s largest music-and-art waterfront festival has gotten off to a good start, despite the weather alert last night that delayed the start of both headlining sets, by Ben Harper, and Macklemore & Lewis. So look out for concert reviews and photographic coverage soon…]
Here are some of the likely highlights of the weekend portion of Sunfest, already in progress:
Day 3: Empress K is already at the festival, covering Yvad, former lead singer of The Wailer (post-Bob-Marley, of course). I will be heading up to take in the two headliners, Ziggy Marley, Bob’s oldest son and the winner of the 2017 Reggae Grammy, and Flo Rida, local rapper made very good indeed. But I might also try to get there in time to take in Tinashe, a young R&B singer from California with Zimbabwe roots.
Day 4: The last two days of the festival have the longest schedules, so in addition to a lot more acts, they also feature a lot more diversity in terms of genres. Eclectic Miami band Magic City Hippies is one of the earliest bands on the schedule, then in the mid-afternoon Sunfesters have their choice between classic rock (Night Ranger, Loverboy) or reggae-rock (Stick Figure, Dirty Heads). Night Ranger boasts a string of hits easily recognizable to anyone within earshot of an American radio in the ’80s, including the monster power-ballad hit “Sister Christian.” Canadian rockers Loverboy can say the same, with its big hit “Working for the Weekend” still a staple of Friday-afternoon radio. Cult figure Stick Figure will pass the baton to popular California band Dirty Heads, best known for its hit “Lay Me Down.”
The best known of Saturday’s headliners is alt-rockers 3 Doors Down, recently in the news as one of the few rock acts to play January’s inauguration.
2017 is the thirty-fifth year for which a mile-long stretch of Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm has been shut down in order to host Florida’s biggest waterfront music & arts festival. This is also the third year that my press partner, Empress K of the Reggae Reflection music blog, will be covering this festival on behalf of the online magazine Island Stage. Also, while this is our fourth year covering Sunfest in an official press capacity, this is only the second year we asked for press passes for all five days of the festival. So between our three websites, there should be lots of coverage of Sunfest 2017.
The festival will be opening its gates at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon, with two of its three main stages operational on this first night. Notable performers this evening include a newcomer to the festival, along with a couple of Sunfest veterans. Canadian folk-rock group The Strumbellas, best known for its hit single “Spirits”, will make their Sunfest debut this evening. But tonight’s headliners are both repeat Sunfest performers: alt-rock veteran group Weezer, and the Crown Prince of West Coast rap, Snoop Dogg.
For tomorrow, Day 2 of the festival, the two headliners consist of the eclectic songwriter Ben Harper reunited with his backup band The Innocent Criminals, and the Grammy-winning rap duo Macklemore & Lewis.
Stay tuned for another preview of the weekend portion of the festival…
The 2017 edition of this five-day West Palm waterfront music/art festival will take place May 3rd -7th. The following is a previously unpublished concert review from the 2016 edition.]
About a month after this neo-soul group’s appearance at Sunfest, its third album, a epynomous release, came out. So in addition to upbeat hits such as “She’s Out Of My League” and “The Walker” , the group’s Sunfest appearance also featured new material such as “Complicated” and the immediately ubiquitous “Handclap.”
While Fitzpatrick tended to stay fairly solitary and low-key, his co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs was a bundle of energy, dancing around the stage, leading the audience in clapping, and shaking a tambourine.
But the two were on the same romantic wavelength for the slinky funk of “6AM.” Fitz and the Tantrums put on a performance worthy of their Sunfest-Saturday headliner status.
The 2017 edition of this five-day West Palm waterfront music/art festival will take place May 3rd -7th; tickets are currently for sale at discount prices through April 29th. In the meantime, this site will be posting previously unpublished stories from the previous year’s edition.
This story was written in conjunction with Gianna Mascaro of Knight News.com]
This Philadelphia hip-hop/neo soul group is probably best known for its partnership with television host Jimmy Fallon, having been the house band for his previous talk show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and now The Tonight Show. But the recording career of The Roots, considered one of the most progressive acts in contemporary music, is just as notable as its late-night tenure. Not only has the group been awarded a handful of Grammys in the Rap and R&B categories, it has also amassed gold and platinum records with their studio releases, some of which have included collaboration with artists such as John Legend and Elvis Costello.
For its Sunfest performance, drummer/co-founder Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson took his place behind his kit, signature Afro pick sticking out of his hair.
Questlove (also spelled “?estlove”) was joined by the rest of the ten-man band in what would prove to be a high-energy performance. The horn section in particular was showcased, with trumpet solos by David Guy of the Dap-Kings band.
Also featured was Damon “Tuba Gooding Junior” Bryson, who wandered the stage as he played tuba and sousaphone, even venturing out on to the catwalk several times.
All along, the proceedings were presided over by vocalist/co-founder Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, clad in all white as he rapped over the music and introduced his band-mates to the audience before solos.
Any late-night show band needs to have a number of covers in its arsenal, and The Roots took the opportunity to show off how much of other artists’ music they know. Sprinkled throughout the set was an eclectic set of covers that included hits by the recently-deceased Prince (“Kiss”, “Let’s Go Crazy”), George Thoroughgood (“Bad to the Bone/Who Do You Love”), Damian Marley (“Welcome To Jamrock”), even Led Zeppelin (“The Immigrant Song”). Most songs turned into extended instrumental jams that tended to flow together. The set concluded with a medley that included “The Seed (2.0)”, the band’s hit featuring fellow eclectic musician Cody Chestnutt.
[Typist’s Notes: Acoustic duo Friction Farm moved away from Palm Beach a number of years ago but still manage to get back to Florida once or twice a year. Tonight, February 11, 2017 at 7:30 marks the final performance of this year’s winter tour, a bill shared with Jennings and Keller at the Labyrinth Cafe in Fort Lauderdale.
The following interview, a discussion of the group’s most recent release, “I Read Your Book”, was conducted on February 2, 2014 in Boca Raton, FL]
I. Album Cover
Type Writer: When I first saw this CD, the first thing I thought of was “Why are these people laughing”?
Christine Stay, Friction Farm bassist: I don’t know why we’re laughing, I don’t remember. Aidan’s brother took the picture, and we don’t have a lot of pictures of us laughing and smiling. But I think it’s who we are, so I thought we should use that.
Aidan Quinn, Friction Farm guitarist: I’m sure you said something ridiculous.
Aidan: We were out at some train yard in New York.
Christine: It was cold.
Aidan: We’d been there for an hour or so, wandering around different stuff around the train yard, we’d taken some funky shots…
TW: Yeah, you guys have used pictures from that shoot before, right?
TW: Okay, I think I saw a picture that was a lot more formal, and not really, you know…
Aidan: Yeah, there’s variety of shots that came from that session
Christine: It’s affordable that way [laughs]
[Sound of loud jet flying overhead]
TW: I was listening to the first track [of the album], “Normal”, and I had a question about the chords in the intro; I was wondering if they were almost meant to be a musical pun. The song’s called “Normal” and most of the chords in the main part of the song are major, whereas only in the beginning you have some minor chords that are almost dissonant.
Aidan: Well, that’s intentional.Christine being the main lyric-driving person, she talked to me about what the song was about, and I got this sort of dissonant, not kind of whimsical, somewhat awkward sound. And that one note, which is A-flat, I guess, that shows up a few times in the song — right at the end, right at the beginning, and one other time — it was just enough to twist you a little sideways.
Christine [to Aidan] : I think it’s funny that when you talk about [the music], you’re performing the chord with your hands.
TW: Next time we’re gonna do a video interview. [laughs]
III. “Let It Rain”
TW: Also in terms of musical puns, in “Let It Rain”, with some lyrics about the faithful praying for rain, I noticed it had some gospel piano and some organ as well, two church instruments —
Christine: Yes, that was definitely intentional, also. One of the thoughts I had when we were writing this song, was that we had lived in Georgia during a drought, and our Governor declared a state Day of Prayer, to pray for rain. Which is just so anti-religious for me, and ill-advised. [laughs]
IV. Books Into Songs
TW: In terms of the overall project, did you start off thinking you were gonna do an album of book-inspired songs?
Aidan: Well, yes and no. We had talked about this as a concept, and actually we had talked to someone who had — they had done a painting, and they had an exercise where another group of people wrote poetry about it, then another group painted based on the poetry.
Christine: Then they did an exhibit.
Aidan: The translation of creativity, and imagery, and sensation and all that kind of stuff, we thought that was kind of interesting, sort of a neat thing to do. I wouldn’t say it was by accident, but it really became sort of by accident.
Christine: It was an intentional exercise. I don’t know that we thought it would turn into a CD, but we thought, we’re going to do this as a way to spark our creativity.
V. “Somewhere in the Nowhere”
TW: Wasn’t [this] song actually commissioned by an environmental group?
Christine: Yeah, it was.
Aidan: Go Outdoors USA.
TW: So when you wrote that song, that was before you knew you were going to do an album of book-inspired songs?
Christine: Yeah. [The head of the group] called up and told us this story and he had this whole thing that he wanted us to write. And I sat down and we wrote a couple iterations, and we just weren’t getting it. I mean, it was horrible, trite crap. [laughs] So we started actually doing research: we read “The Grizzly Maze” and “A Walk In The Woods.” I thought “The Grizzly Maze” would be where we’d get inspiration, but we didn’t. Then we went to “A Walk In The Woods” and it was like, “There it is.” So it sparked a conversation which led to the song.
Stay tuned for Part II of this interview, with more discussion of this song and other tracks from “I Read Your Book”…