Monday, July 07, 2014

Psychedelicatessen Radio, Ep. 4.1: Eagle Rock Comedy Festival Wrap Party, Live from Tao Comedy Studio

You can download or stream it here.

This was the first time we recorded a podcast at Tao Comedy Studio.  It's basically the wrap party for the 2014 Eagle Rock Comedy Festival.  Guests include Dylan Brody, Faith Choyce, Sal Rodriguez, Sally Mullins, LeeAnn Tooker, Vivicca Whitsett, Raja Michael, Mike McClenahan, Jonathan Zadok, Tommy Natoli, Q Mobley, and probably some others.  It was live, so it's a bit messy, but lots of fun stuff in there.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sleestak Lightnin!!!, ep. 1.9 - ROCK ACTION!!!

Download or stream that sumbitch HERE!

A few things first: I actually had the idea for the Funhouse set before Scott Ashton died, but the justification of it as a Scott Ashton tribute just seemed kinda perfect.  You can probably tell the Baby Metal mp3 is ripped from YouTube, cuz it sounds kinda shitty.  And I fucked up a few things during the back announcing, but I'm devoted to just doing one take (unless I completely fuck up in an unrecoverable way).  Here's the track list:

Baby Metal - Gimme Choco
BiS - Stupig

The Stooges - Loose
John Zorn - TV Eye
Neneh Cherry & the Thing - Dirt
Sheena & the Rokkets - Omae Ga Hoshii (One More Time)
Let's Active - Leader of Men

De La Soul - No More No Less
Drive-By Truckers - Natural Light
Patterson Hood - It's 12:01
Redd Kross - Anne

Kronos Quartet - Marquee Moon

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sleestak Lightnin!!!, ep. 8 - Old Timey Medicine Show

Download or stream it HERE!

This one isn't really thematic.  I mean, from the vantage point of 2014, it's all "old-timey" music, but the recordings range from the 1920's through the 1950's.  I didn't feel like back-announcing, since I'm getting over a cold, instead I stuck some bits from the Okeh Medicine Show in there to mix it up.  You can find the whole Okeh Medicine Show at  Also, the track "Night Owl" comes from a compilation called Dark Sweets, originally posted on the long-defunct Holy Warbles blog.  You can find that excellent comp here.  I know it's been a while, so I'm gonna try to get another one of these up as quickly as I can.  The tunes:

Okeh Medicine Show - Act 1
Champion Jack Dupree - Junker Blues
Phil Harris - That's What I Like About the South
Ella Mae Morse - Cow Cow Boogie
Slim Galliard - Soony Roony (Song of Yxabat)
Cliff Edwards - Night Owl 1933
Okeh Medicine Show - Act 2
The Nite Owls - Memphis Blues
Billy Gray & Mimi Roman - Mr. Opportunity
The Harlem Hamfats - My Garbage Man
The Andrews Sisters - Hold Tight (Want Some Seafood, Mama)
Okeh Medicine Show - Act 3
Will Bradley - Down the Road A Piece
Louis Jordan - Saturday Night Fish Fry
Amos Milburn - Chicken Shack Boogie
Slim Galliard - The Bartender's Just Like a Mother
Memphis Seven - Grunt Meat Blues
Okeh Medicine Show - Act 6
Luis Russell & his Orchestra - New Call of the Freaks

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sleestak Lightnin!!!, Ep. 7 - Shit Talkin' Blues

Download or stream it right here!

On this episode:

Moonshine Willy - Complicated Game
Goldie Hill - I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes
The Drive-By Truckers - Lisa's Birthday
James Luthor Dickinson - Out of Blue
Charlie Rich - Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Make Time, Take Time (w/Cochemea Gastelum)

Big Maybelle - Gabbin' Blues
Big Son Tillis - When I Come in This House, Woman
Lawanda Page - 450 lb. Version/Cadillacs and Diamond Rings/Cock-Suckin' Bill/Pipe Layin' Dan
Frank Zappa - What's a Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
De La Soul - My Brother is a Basehead

Horace Parlan - Other Side of Town

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Tao of Comedy: Embrace the Pause, by Bobbie Oliver

DISCLAIMER: This is a review of a book that my wife wrote, so it can't really be "objective" in any meaningful way.  It's just that a few people have written about the book so far, and I don't think any of them have really explained what makes this book unique.

There is a school of thought that says that there's no real reason for comedy classes or books on comedy, that stand up comedy is not really a teachable skill: you're either funny, or you're not.  This is especially odd in a town where everyone is taking acting, improv and voiceover classes, but it's worth addressing.  Let's accept the idea that someone is either talented or not.  That doesn't preclude the idea of learnable skills.  You can't teach someone to be Michael Jordan, but that doesn't mean you can't teach someone to play basketball.

Having said that, the books on stand up comedy that are out there (and many of the classes being taught) don't do much to dispel these criticisms.  For one thing, many of them devote most of their space to the one aspect of comedy that CAN'T be taught: generating material. In several of the big books, there are pages and pages of Madlib-style "exercises" where you are instructed to write about what makes you angry, what confuses you, how you feel about your parents, etc.  There are formulas for then taking this material and shaping it into jokes.  As you can imagine, if you were to complete these exercises, you would generate a large volume of obvious, formulaic jokes.  You could, I suppose, then go perform these on stage, and there is probably a small market of people who would like to just try doing stand up comedy a few times but have no idea how to go about it, that would find this useful.

But for most people, and especially most people that aspire to do stand up comedy, figuring out what you want to say is not really an issue.  Have you ever had nothing you wanted to express?  It's not a problem that I see much in regular life.  Most people are overflowing with shit that they can't wait to say.  It's why people are so fucking annoying to talk to.

Now, I'm not saying nobody struggles to generate material, and Bobbie's book does address that, just not with such obvious and flawed methods.  Generating material is a matter of simply expressing what you want to say.  The Madlibs can get you there, I guess, but only in the most shallow and obvious way.  That is, it can help you produce the same jokes, or the same kinds of jokes, that everyone else produces.  A better way is to simply listen to yourself.  Thus, The Tao of Comedy focuses on a combination of meditation, journaling and being present to uncover material.  And that leaves plenty of space to concentrate on the skills that are learnable: stagecraft, joke structure, and most importantly, THE PAUSE.

The book is subtitled Embrace the Pause for a reason.  This is the key skill for delivering comedy.  It's what, more than any other element, turns raw material into killer jokes.  This is the center of the teaching.  But the subtitle also has an alternate meaning.  Pausing in life--meditation, mindfulness, creating space--is what allows creativity to happen.  And this is where this book is really different from all the other comedy books out there.  It's not just an instructional manual for how to perform stand up, it's also a guide to pursuing comedy as a spiritual path.  In fact, the lessons of the book can be applied to any form of creativity (I've heard people who have no intention of doing comedy say that the book has helped them), and can make your life more fulfilling and less anxious even if you're not pursuing any kind of "creative art" (again, this is something I have heard people directly say).

So many of the people who write about or teach classes in stand up comedy are obsessed with the idea of making your act "marketable," which means having a simple, one-sentence explanation for what your comedy is like, and NEVER telling any joke that doesn't fit that style.  This is something that NONE of the great comedians do.  There are many successful, horrible comics who do do it, but the people who are actually performing decent stand up comedy are as multifaceted onstage as they are offstage.  And there's really no  reason why there should be an entire body of work on a subject that gives everyone the wrong advice on so many things!  Thus, The Tao of Comedy, an effort to correct everything that's wrong with comedy classes, comedy books and ultimately, comedy performance.

The Tao of Comedy: Embrace the Pause is available on Amazon and Kindle, or better yet, you can order a signed copy directly from Bobbie's website.  While you're at it, order a download of Bobbie's excellent new album Women Are Crazy.  It's an hour of hilarious and honest comedy

Monday, February 03, 2014

Sleestak Lightnin!!! Ep. 1.6 - The First Episode of 2014!

Yeah, I didn't bother coming up with a decent episode title.  So sue me.  This one has some of my favs from 2013, and tributes to some folks who died in 2013, and some other stuff for no reason.  Download or stream it here!

Gin Wigmore - A Man Like That
Dragon Sound - Against the Ninja
Cristina - Mamamia
The Julie Ruin - Run Fast
Julia Holter - Maxim's II

The Eat - Open Man
White Flag - Pieces of Chris Trent
The Flowers - After Dark
Fega Pahopp - Halla Masken (or possibly Parlor at Svinen?)
Of Montreal - The Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit
Melt Banana - The Hive
All Them Witches - When God Comes Back
Black Sabbath - Damaged Soul

Lou Reed - Take a Walk on the Wild Side (Live)

More episodes here!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever, by Will Hermes

If, like me, you've always harbored a fantasy about living in New York City in the 1970's, then this book is for you.  From the wee small hours of New Year's Day, 1973 to New Year's Eve, 1977, Will Hermes documents the music of the city.  Depending on your reading, you've probably heard some of it before, but it's doubtful that you've heard even most of it.  Yes, the book covers the rising punk scene at Max's Kansas City and CBGB, but also the DJ's spinning at underground gay bars and bath houses giving birth to disco culture, AND the Bronx block parties of DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata and Grandmaster Flash, AND the salsa scene centered around Fania records, AND the out-there jazz being played in downtown lofts, AND the minimalist composers like Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, AND the rise of Bruce Springsteen.  All this was happening at the same time, and these worlds were occasionally interacting.  Hermes provides a chronological account of all of it, plus the blackout, the crimewaves, the graffiti, the mayoral elections, the Son of Sam murders, the Yankees/Dodgers World Series, and everything else going on in the city.  There's an account of who was playing where each New Year's Eve, what each player experienced during the '77 blackout, how the Bicentennial was celebrated, and any time Dylan, the Stones, Miles or Bob Marley play in town.  And, as with Please Kill Me!, Hermes necessarily takes some time to check in with the parallel punk scene in the U.K. 

The choice of the timeline is a little arbitrary (cutting off at '77 means we miss out on the "No Wave" scene, for instance), and so is the choice of focus.  I would like to have seen, for instance, what was happening in the comedy clubs and at 30 Rock during these times, but hey, that's just my personal interest (I would also have appreciated more on KISS and The Cramps).  You could go pretty much infinitely in any direction with a book like this, so at some point you have to draw a border.

Putting these separate scenes into a chronology helps clarify some of the mythology built up over the years.  I had heard before a sort of hip hop creation myth that called Kool Herc's block parties a reaction to the downtown Manhattan disco scene: kids from the projects who couldn't get into the big discos just built their own.  But the timeline just doesn't add up: Herc was doing parties in 1973, about the same time something that could really be called a disco scene was being created in underground gay bars, years before Saturday Night Fever and Studio 54 brought about the disco scene that this myth seems to describe. 

You might say that this book takes the music scholarship of NYC in the 70's and begins to put it on par with how we view the music of the South.  It's long been understood that blues, gospel, country, jazz and what would become known as rock-n-roll all evolved side-by-side, often interacting, and that all these evolutions were shaped by forces of depression, migration, desegregation and Jim Crow.  Here we see a similar search for how sociological forces effected the development of the music.  My favorite example is the idea that the budding hip hop scene was given a boost by the '77 blackout, when kids across the Bronx looted sound systems and began to teach themselves to DJ.  Another example, which would be worth further research, is how the low rent seemed to foster a creative environment.  New York in the 70's was a crime ridden shithole.  Anyone with the means was getting the fuck out.  That meant that rent was absurdly low.  Several of the jazz players, for example, had rented large lofts where they could live, teach music lessons, and host shows at night.  Sam Rivers' space Studio Rivbea, and Rashid Ali's space, Ali's Alley are two examples.  Rashid Ali had a second floor loft where he lived, then rented out the space below when it was vacated by a local business and turned it into a performance space.  His total monthly rent was $200.  So you can imagine how little the rent for a rat- and roach-infested studio apartment might have been.  And with the cost of living that cheap, it's not hard to devote yourself to creative pursuits, or even to make a living through them.  What's not mentioned is the legality of those loft venues, something I'd be very interested in.  The city was going through bankruptcy.  Was there just not enough resources to go around shutting down illegal venues?  Or were the laws regarding public performance spaces much laxer then?  Not that the lack of enforcement was all sunshine and lollipops, as when a sleazy bathhouse called the Everhard Baths burned down in the summer of '77, killing nine people.  "The owner had been planning to get a sprinkler system installed the week after the fire."  At any rate, that seems like a line of research I'd like to see pursued further.