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Tiger, Not Taiga

Posted by evankessler on November 23, 2010

Tiger, Tiger, Burning bright....

That Kind of Tyga– (Image by law_keven via Flickr)

I’ve always prided myself on having a wealth of pop culture knowledge, but I can’t pretend to know everything about the current lay of the music industry land. Every few days I hear the name of a new artist and am either intrigued or confused  as to how and when they got popular beneath my ever-so-perceptive nose. Furthering my confusion is the pronunciation of some of these artist monikers that revel in misspellings and nicknamery. Not that I have an issue with what they call themselves, but rather just that they fail to elicit any sort of linguistic base for me to even consider their name. Such was the case while working for OneRiot and reading that someone named Waka Flocka had been shot? Not only did I think “who?” but also what kind of name is Waka Flocka?

The same issue plagues me when people bring up the names of popular new Indie groups and overpronounce their monikers to appear more worldly and in the know. For the last few weeks one of my friends has been talking about the group Das Racist, pronouncing it as if it were a Rammstein song title; but the more I looked at the name, the more I decided it sounded like a slangier incarnation of “That’s racist.” Not that I’m right, it just seemed to make sense.

My powers of moniker interpretation took a bit of a hit today though. At some point I was looking through music articles and came across the name Tyga. While the articulation of the artist’s name wasn’t lost on me, the meaning of it went somewhere completely different in my head. I started to think of elementary social studies and different climate regions. I remembered how below the treeless plain of the frozen tundra lie the Taiga in the northern areas of Canada and Eurasia. It wasn’t ’til later in the evening while waiting for a slice of pizza, I heard a radio DJ announce a song featuring Tyga, where it dawned on me that the rapper in question most certainly named himself after the animal or golfer- like a Tiger.

I don’t mean to sound old and out of touch like Andy Rooney, but I certainly feel like it today.


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Stand By The Jams

Posted by evankessler on May 3, 2010

There are songs and bands whose existences can live in deep in the recesses of your memory and stay lodged there for an indefinite amount of time until someone comes along and turns those metaphorical brain pockets inside out with either  a direct reference to a specific moment in your musical upbringing or with a blow to the head that brings about a sort of selective amnesia that allows you to only recall obscure early 90’s dance tracks. Yesterday, while approaching third avenue in Manhattan from the south east corner  of 52nd street, my friend Jason seemingly out of nowhere mentioned a group that once promised to rock me in a way that was non-Freddie Mercury and non-Brian May related.

“Do you remember that group The KLF?”

I was confused by the question.  I thought I was the only person in the world who occasionally had the words “KLF is gonna rock you” bouncing around my head from time to time.  This was a revelation, how many other people our age were secretly humming relatively obscure early 90’s acid house tunes.  After the fog in my head cleared and the song was somewhat fresh, we discussed the shouted refrain that neither of us could figure out and seemed to instantly join the canon of misheard lyrics of our youth.  I thought it was “ancients approved” and Jason thought it was something like “agents of rude.” Mine made more sense to both of us, but as it turns out neither was right.

I quickly changed the subject to another KLF song featuring Tammy Wynette of “Stand By Your Man” fame. Jason had zero recall when I mentioned this.  I was able to remember the “all bound for mu mu-land” lyric, but he still had no idea what I was talking about.  Part of me was now thinking that I had conjured this entire video on my own. Fortunately, there is a thing called Youtube that can confirm all of your deep-rooted musical suspicions.

I watched this video briefly today and it struck me as one of the more awkward pairings of all-time.  Sure we’ve had our  fair share of those over the years like Jack White and Loretta Lynn, Nelly and Tim McGraw, David Bowie and Bing Crosby and a few others I’m probably missing, but  watching this nearly 20 years later had this odd power that made it feel confusing, memorable and groundbreaking all at the same time.  Anyway, you be the judge.  I still think the KLF is gonna rock you.

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Did They Ever Cover Blackbird?

Posted by evankessler on April 22, 2010

I was walking home tonight and The Dandy Warhols Welcome to the Monkey House album came on.  Lyrics on the title track proclaimed “when Michael Jackson dies, we’re covering “Blackbird.” I had known about these lyrics, but when I first heard them several years back the thought of Michael Jackson dying seemed so far off that I never even considered it a valid occurrence for at least another 20 to 25 years. So I guess my question is, did the Dandy Warhols ever cover “Blackbird?”

Considering a "Blackbird" cover?

On another note, having a map such as the one in the background of that photo is pretty sweet and I kind’ve want one.  Someone steal one from an institution of learning for me.

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The EvanKessler.com Guerrilla Interview: Abdullah Saeed

Posted by evankessler on April 15, 2010

It’s been a long while since I’ve engaged in one of the earliest EvanKessler.com traditions, that of the Guerrilla Interview.  The way it works is, I just start interviewing someone whether or not they’re aware that I’m interviewing them. Almost always the targets are close friends, but sometimes they’re not…but then they eventually grow to be close friends because I’m just that sort of guy.

Today’s subject is one Abdullah Saeed.  Abdullah is a freelance writer.  We’ve both been employed as bloggers for OneRiot and JoshSpear.com. We first met several years ago through Abdullah’s brother Ahmad, who is another good friend of mine.  Abdullah is not only a talented writer, but also a talented musician and a DJ/producer-type.  Currently he’s embarking on “Adventures in Pork“, a blog where he repeatedly confronts a taboo long-forbidden by the law of Islam that is the consumption of pig products.  It’s a rather enthralling read. He’s also one of two main ingredients in the Taqwacore country-punk outfit based out of Philly, Sunny Ali & The Kid.

The conversation began over GChat as Abdullah was notifying me of a new column he wrote for a Taqwacore Webzine.  After paying him a few compliments, I quickly turned the tables. The following is a slightly edited transcript of the conversation or the latest installment of the EvanKessler.com Guerrilla Interview:
Abdullah Saeed: Yo, check this out, new column.
EK.com: Excellent, only comment is a grammar one.
AS: Whats that?
EK.com: When you put “self” before a word you’re going to have to throw a hyphen in there.
AS: Ah,thanks.
EK.com: I smell a 2nd Fatwa.
AS: Hahahahahaha, still waiting on a first.
EK.com: You should hold the Fatwa Awards for Muslims who have gone against the religious mainstream.
AS: Ha! Wow that’s a good idea.
EK.com: Indeed. I just like the word “Fatwa.”
AS: ’tis a good word
EK.com: So how does it feel to have the entire Muslim population calling for your head?
AS: A little congested, actually.
EK.com: Can you do me a favor?
AS: Sure.
EK.com: Can you draw me a photo of Mohammed?
AS: Whoooaaa,
EK.com: Or a picture, while you’re at it.
AS: Are you testing my faith?
EK.com: No, I’m just trying to line you up for another Fatwa.
AS: Hahaha. Wow dude, you seriously just made me think for a second.
EK.com: That’s what I do…I make people think.
EK.com: So Mr. Abdullah Saeed tell me, what is the greatest adventure you’ve ever had in pork?
AS: I f%*ed a pig last weekend.
EK.com: Well, did you cook it and eat it afterwards?
AS: Yes
EK.com: Is bestiality grounds for a Fatwa?
AS: Sure, why not? Bam! Fatwa number 3.
EK.com: I thought we were on 4 by now, but seriously folks…best pork experience so far?
AS: ummm, Pork Belly, bbq style.
EK.com: That sounds tasty. How would you describe your music?
EK.com: In six words or less…I’m all for brevity.
AS: Sounds like…two honorable gentleman with instruments
EK.com: Were you counting “sounds like” as part of your description? If so, you’ve gone over the imposed six-word limit. You are horrible at following instructions.
EK.com: How would you describe my music?
AS: Two honorable straight gentleman with instruments, although, your music I would describe as electro-fuzz pop.
EK.com: I’m satisfied with that. You know me and the other members of Evan Kessler & His Only Two friends really work hard at perfecting that Electro-fuzz Pop sound.
AS: hahaha
EK.com: Who are your influences? And you can’t say Jude Law.
AS: For this project, personally, JJ Cale is probably my biggest influence. That and a few surfrock standbys that I’ve recently revisited: Dick Dale, Link Wray, The Stray Cats…
EK.com: What is this project?
AS: Sunny Ali and the Kid
EK.com: If Father Time had any siblings, what would their names be?
AS: Scissor Sister and Brother Muzzone
EK.com: Those don’t make any sense. The correct answers were Brother Earth and Sister Plate Tectonics.
AS: hahahahahahah
EK.com: On a serious note, what’s are you going to eat for lunch today?
AS: I was just thinking about that. id like to have a pulled pork sandwich
EK.com: I’d like to have that too. Unfortunately, I’ve already indulged in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Abdullah 1,
EvanKessler.com 0.
EK.com: How has EvanKessler.com changed your life?
AS: EvanKessler.com inspired me to write and jump started my writing career by taking me under its wong. shortly after, it destroyed my life with a series of strategically sent post cards. Note i said ‘wong’ and not ‘wing.’ that wasnt a mistake.
EK.com: Well, you’ll be glad to know that EvanKessler.com is going to make up for destroying your life by taking you sailing on your birthday. Remember to wear a life vest.
AS: Yeah!
EK.com: I hope you can swim.
AS: I hope you can save drowning novice sailors.
EK.com: Remember, to fight off sharks, punch them in the nose.
AS: Thanks
EK.com: Mr. Abdullah Saeed, I thank you for participating in the EvanKessler.com Guerrilla Interview…where the unsuspecting start suspecting early on in the conversation that they are in fact, being interviewed.
AS: Thanks man, that was fun
EK.com: I hope it wasn’t too much fun. It was all toil and trouble on this side of the table.
AS: hahahahaha, damn man, your making me laugh-cough over here.
EK.com: Godspeed and good luck dodging all of them Fatwas.
AS: Gracias, I think I might go get that pulled pork sandwich now
EK.com: Sounds delightful.


Posted in blogging, guerrilla interview, humor, music | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by evankessler on April 14, 2010

Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album came along at a strange, but perfect time in my life.  The shooting pain in my heart that I felt from the gaping wound opened by the recent realization of an unrequited teen-aged love was still fresh in my psyche.  I remember a feeling of abject misery as my good friend Rob and I made our way to the Tower Records on Route 59 in Nanuet, New York a few days after my birthday and the subsequent event that left me rather dizzy with the sort of depression that years later you look back on and laugh at; not because it didn’t hurt, but because you’re a kid and you didn’t really know that things would get better.

Wildflowers had probably been out for some time and I liked “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “It’s Good To Be King,” but I wasn’t that familiar with the other songs contained within.  Rob took it upon himself to bestow me with a birthday gift that has kept on giving to this day.

Admittedly it had been awhile since Tom Petty’s 1994 effort sans The Heartbreakers has hit me in the perfect mood, but today was such an occasion.  I emerged at the end of a subway ride back into Brooklyn from Manhattan when the album came on my iPod.  As soon as the song “Wildflowers” hit my ears I noticed the surrounding cherry blossoms and general flow of life in my immediate vicinity. I began pondering both the springtime metamorphosis and the growth of myself as a more confident and mature individual.  By the time it was over, I didn’t so much care that the people around me “don’t know how it feels to be me” nor did I have the desire to “get to the point and roll another joint” or any joint for that matter. The third song, “Time to Move On” seemed like it was spurring me along to get past all of the petty pointless stuff in life and just get to living.  I appreciated that.  While the rest of the album didn’t have as profound an effect as the first three songs while strolling in the sun, I couldn’t help but feel perfectly in step with Mr. Petty and the music.

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31 Today

Posted by evankessler on November 4, 2009

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Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys at Carnegie Hall

Posted by evankessler on October 7, 2009

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!  Or if you’re Steve Martin, you get there by being one of the more talented human beings in nearly all facets encompassed by the arenas of stage, screen, and the written word in recent memory.  The ability to do a damn fine job finger-picking a banjo, can’t hurt either.

I’ve always had somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the work of Steve Martin.  The jealous part of me thinks he’s a total asshole for being so great at everything.  I only wish I could be as good at one thing  as he is at well…you name it, he’s probably an expert.  I bet he’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a world class chef.

The other part of me finds the deft touch of wit and complete dedication he seems to put into everything to be totally admirable and absolutely endearing.  The latter, more positive part wins out 99.9% of the time.  So, it was with little to no hesitation that I accepted an invitation on Tuesday evening to attend Steve Martin in concert at Carnegie Hall accompanied by the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers with the legendary Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys slated to be the opening act.

To be as gifted as Steve Martin is to be allowed to display  at least a cursory amount of arrogance and for as long as I can remember Martin’s feigned air of superiority has been a staple of his humor repertoire.  While jabs at his own haughty superstardom would mark later banter in his performance, the perennially white-haired jack-of-all arts strolled on stage with his banjo at around 8pm and thankfully announced to the crowd that he had always dreamed of doing a Banjo show at Carnegie Hall.  He went on to inform the crowd that when it was suggested that the legendary Bluegrass performer Ralph Stanley be his opener, his response was, “Ralph Stanley doesn’t open for me.  I open for Ralph Stanley.”  And with that the show began, Martin picked his way through a short number influenced by several of his favorite banjo tunes growing up.  Following a generous round of applause Martin exited stage right and made way for Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Bluegrass Legend Dr. Ralph Stanley

Clad in matching outfits suitable for a traditional bluegrass whoop up complete with cowboy hats and guitars, fiddles, banjos, and a standup bass accompanying them, the Clinch Mountain Boys sauntered out on stage followed by what appeared to be a tiny aged afterthought, shuffling to catch up with arms crossed.  The Clinch Mountain Boys launched into their opening number and the aged man still hung back from the microphone so as to patiently bide his time until it was his turn to make his voice heard.  As the opening instrumental came to a close, Bluegrass Legend Ralph Stanley stepped up to the microphone and gave a haunting rendition of “O Death,” a song more recently familiar to many music fans as a track on the acclaimed “O Brother Where Are Thou?” soundtrack.  After wresting complete attention from his band for that moment with his weathered, otherworldly wail; Stanley and company launched into the much beloved “Man of Constant Sorrow” which also enjoyed a resurgence from the aforementioned Coen Brothers soundtrack.

Steeped in 60 plus years of tradition, the hour and ten minute opening set by the legend and his cohorts rolled on like a steam train running on fuel made out of clawhammer guitar strumming and tunes played tighter than a parachute pack on a first time skydiver. The 82-year-old Stanley occasionally slowed things down with some stage banter; banter that made you realize just how young you were.  On several occasions he’d mention when he wrote songs, peppering in years like 1948, and 1954; probably long before many attendees were a gleam in their mama’s eyes. It was a family affair for old Ralph and the Clinch Mountain Boys as we learned that many of the players had been with him for upwards of around 16 years maybe even longer.  More than that though, they also featured Stanley’s actual 17-year old grandson on the guitar.  They let him sing a few too.

Perhaps the oddest moment of the entire evening came when Ralph Stanley invited his son, Ralph II out on stage to play a few tunes with him.  From the moment Two (Ralph Stanley II’s nickname) entered stage right, visions of Kenny Powers and many other of the world’s greatest black sheep bounced around the brains of the audience.  While everyone else was wearing more Bluegrass friendly garb, Stanley’s son separated himself wearing sunglasses, a dark designer outfit ,and a devil may care attitude accented by his cocky stroll to the microphone stand.

Ralph Stanley II

Ralph Stanley II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Just Kidding: This is Ralph II

Instead of thanking his father for having him up on stage, Two spouted off sales facts about his new album.  It debuted at number one, it’s been number one for a few weeks, and so on…  It was as if the former Clinch Mountain Boy was saying, “look at me dad, I can do this shit without you.  You may be a legend but you’re fucking out and I’m fucking in.”  While Two’s first song seemed like a stereotypical neo-country snooze fest, the second with his father and what seemed like the full compliment of the band, had a lot more life to it.

Overall, the full set performed by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys was a solid outing with very few chinks in the armor.  While Stanley’s aged rasp didn’t necessarily travel that well through the Carnegie Hall sound system on occasion, he along with his band made you feel as though it were an honor and a privilege to be in the presence of such musical history and greatness.

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers

If Ralph and Co. were as tight as a snare drum, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers performance had about as regimented a feel as elementary school recess.  Martin’s original compositions were pleasant to the ear and full of toe-tapping, knee-slapping splendor, but they also had an airy, loose feel that was quite apparent from the get-go.  Throughout it all Martin kept the audience smiling and laughing with trademark witty banter.  He warned his bandmates not to be too talky as that was his job and threw wrenches in the conventional stage discourse reserved for expounding on song backstory.  At one point Martin was about to wax informational about the inspiration behind a particular ditty, launching into…”this song…” and letting the words hang in the air before actually playing it. He also told the crowd that the tour fulfilled a life long dream of his to go on the road with handsome men, referencing his bandmates in the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin again proved a modest host early on in his set, leaving the stage for his bandmates, allowing the audience some quality time to get acquainted with the music they play when not in the presence of such a superstar.  The Steep Canyon Rangers certainly impressed with the vocal harmonies on their Gospel award nominated track “Be Still Moses” and another song.

Martin soon returned to the stage and the loose atmosphere persisted even through a turn at more traditional songs.  He only provided vocals on two or three of his own songs with his bandmates picking up singing duties on the other non instrumentals.  Even the more poignant songs had a dash of humor as Martin introduced “Daddy Played The Banjo” as a song he wrote while attempting bad poetry, which he thought made for a good country song.

Even in the midst of delivering his blend of bad poetry, the crowd was never left wanting for someone more talented.Having such an adept comedian deliver  in the midst of such a fine setlist of quality music seems like a nearly once in a life time opportunity.  Martin’s songs off The Crow: New Songs for The Five-String Banjo may or may not leave an indelible mark on the Bluegrass community but seeing this undeniable talent’s combination of skills in action certainly left one in my mind.

In a fitting end to the evening after an encore or two, Martin called out all of the night’s performers to join in on the bluegrass standard Orange Blossom Special…and as Martin traded lyrics with the legendary Ralph Stanley, he made sure to throw in a “King Tut” just to make everyone remember from whence he came.

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MJ Alive, Caught on Tape, Probably Working With Elvis

Posted by evankessler on August 27, 2009

Last year’s “Chinese Democracy” album from Guns ‘n’ Roses may have been one of the most anticipated albums in decades, but it pales in comparison to the bubbling excitement over the upcoming release by multi-genre supergroup The Pearly Gates– entitled “Enter The Pearly Gates.” The band has been working hard since 1977 when their lead singer Elvis Presley faked his own death in anticipation of all of the other musical talents he could recruit to fake their own deaths and record, what has long been billed as, the “most important album of all-time.”

While Presley has been laying down initial tracks with the help of Kurt Cobain, Liberace, and Tupac, the final piece of the production puzzle was completed back in July when the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, faked his own death (years after being courted by Elvis through his daughter and MJ’s wife Lisa Marie).  Most people took MJ’s demise for the real thing, what with that impressive memorial service and a handy medical scapegoat, but with the emergence of recent video footage of someone slightly resembling the gloved one emerging from a coroner‘s van, it’s all pretty apparent that the thrones of both the King of Pop and The King are still warm.

While the album might take on an entirely different direction with Jackson’s added melodic sensibilities, it’s still expected to cut across all musical boundaries and transcend dimensions to affect both the dead and the living. Assuming we’re correct about the fact that all of those people involved in the album aren’t actually dead and the video of Jackson getting out of the coroner’s van is valid, expect the album to drop in about 9 years or so– just in time for the 2018 Comeback Special.

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MJ Memorial to Heal the World

Posted by evankessler on July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson's Memorial Service at Staples ...

Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

The world is at a standstill today and Los Angeles is it’s epicenter as close to a billion people worldwide have stopped in their tracks and glued themselves to their television sets or to chairs at the Staples Center to remember one of the great artists of all time with a memorial tribute to Michael Jackson.  Such a momentous occasion is this celebration of the life of The King of Pop that even MTV has got in on the act,  putting a halt to it’s regularly scheduled programming consisting of teenagers getting drunk and trying to hook up with each other indiscriminantly, to join more respectable entertainment outletssuch as CNN and BET to cover the heart-wrenching, celebrity-ridden tribute from the eloquent perspective of Sway.

News coverage has been vigilant to say the least, following everything via helicopter from the private service at Forest Lawn Cemetery to an OJ-style aerial shot of the hearse transporting the body of MJ to the event. It’s pandemonium on a Princess Di level and truly a fitting tribute for a guy who we called a King that was prone to dressing like some sort of Civil War Admiral.

Today, we truly are the world, and we are the children of the music of Michael Jackson. And when this whole damn star- studded thing is over, we’ll have to get back to our normal lives with the knowledge that none of us are “Invincible”, but also
that we must do our part to heal the world and make it a better place– because that’s what Michael would want us to do.

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NEVER Gonna Give You Up

Posted by evankessler on June 30, 2009

Rick Astley Live in Singapore

Image via Wikipedia

In the days following the death of Michael Jackson, Internet hoaxsters have tried their hand at convincing us that famous people are dropping like flies. First there were the Jeff Goldblum rumors, then they told us our beloved Harrison Ford and Britney Spears had gone the way of the dodo.

Being the astute followers of pop culture that we are and being hip to the fact that celebrities die in threes and not 4’s,5’s, 6’s, or 7’s, we quickly saw these stories for what they were, nothing but a bunch of hogwash. Nonetheless, these pranksters will stop at nothing until they finally persuade us that another one of our beloved elite entertainers is now standing in that spotlight in the sky. Their latest attempt comes at the expense of a singer who is so obviously immortal, based on his assertions that he is “NEVER gonna give you up” or “let you down.”  We’re talking about 80’s Brit-soul superstar, Rick Astley.

Early this morning the Internets had an outpouring of stories on Mister Astley, asserting that the singer had been found dead in his German hotel room at the age of forty-three. Our first reaction was, “Say it ain’t so.”  Our second, however, was to quietly sing the lyrics, “Together forever and never to part. Together forever with you.” It was these lyrics that gave us the resolve and strength to realize this story was indeed a crock. For when Rick Astley croons, “Together FOREVER,” he means it. OneRiot 1, Internet Hoaxsters 0.

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