Thursday, October 28, 2004

"Take the Skinheads Bowling"
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Camper's Greg Lisher
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Camper's David Lowery
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Camper's Jonathon Segal
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Victor from Camper Van Beethoven
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Tweedy Rocking Out
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Tweedy & Stirrat
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Cline & Tweedy
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WIlco's Nels Cline & Jeff Tweedy
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Wilco's John Stirrat
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Wilco's Jeff Tweedy
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Interesting Props!
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Deerhoff opening for Wilco
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Hudson's Fall Minneapolis Tour, Part 3: Wilco and a Pleasant Surprise Bonus Show

After finally catching up on my sleep after the Rock For Karl show, it's once again time to hit the road. This time, it's Wilco's second show in Minneapolis.

I hit the road around 10:30, and made it to my hotel by 2:30. With my concert companion busy until 6:30, I walked over to Let it Be Records and bought a couple of things, and then headed to Brit's for lunch and drinks.

We walked into the Orpheum (2nd row tickets!) midway through the opening act, Deerhoof. They were quite the band - a Chinese vocalist accompanied by some of Nels Cline's buddies. While a bit jarring at first, I found myself enjoying this band, especially the wild antics of drummer Greg Saunier.

Wilco started off their set with a handful of their quieter tunes. Well, quieter is probably not the best description. Let's just say these songs all started quiet, before evolving into the noisy interludes they've become known for. Most of their set consisted of songs from their last three numbers, and the A Ghost in You tunes really came to life. Kidsmoke, in particular, was absolutely stunning. The transitions from the long Can-ish drone to the more traditional hard rocking sections brought me close to tears. Tweedy also noted that they were earlier infomred that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had gone gold, and also had an interesting political rant at the end of the show that surely infuriated a few audience members.

Oh, and Nels Cline is a guitar God!!!

Before the last encore, Tweedy announced that anybody with Wilco tickets could get into First Avenue for five bucks to see Camper Van Beethoven. Hell yeah! I've loved Camper ever since my buddy Don Holmstrom rescued their debut album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, from KAUR's garbage can in 1985 (somebody up there had no taste). I saw them at the 7th Street Entry a few weeks after this discovery, and had travelled to see them a few other times over the course of their original incarnation. They even played an in-store at the original Ernie November's in '86 or '87.

A few days before the show, Camper had all of their gear stolen in Montreal while sleeping in their hotel room. Because of this, they were forced to borrow equipment from friends in various other bands, including Songs:Ohia. While there were some moments that you could tell that band members weren't completely comfortable with these instruments, they absolutely rocked. We had raced over from the Orpheum, and was able to find a spot right in front. They ran through a few songs from their great new album, New Roman Times, along with most of their 80's classics. Midway through the show came one of the best four song sequences I've ever witnessed. Starting with "Take the Skinheads Bowling" and moving through covers of the Clash's "White Riot", Black Flag's "Wasted" and "Shut Us Down", I felt like it was 1985 once again.

My companion had to leave shortly before the encores, so I stuck around for awhile. As the crowd cleared out, I noticed Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman hanging out with Wilco bassist John Stirrat. Once Perlman (and his entourage) left, I chatted with Stirrat for a few minutes. He said the band really did just find out about the album turning gold, but admitted that Ghost has a long way to go before reaching that stage. We talked a bit about how great Camper played, and when asked about Nels Cline he laughed and said "it's great to play with a real guitarist". At that point, I let him enjoy his night, and made the long walk back to my hotel.

It was a perfect night - probably the first time in five years that I can honestly say I had a great time with absolutely no worries. It's going to be hard for Paul Westerberg to top this next weekend...but I'm sure he will.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Photos From Last Thursday's Rock For Karl Benefit

Golden Smog
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Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn and Golden Smog
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Grandpaboy and Golden Smog
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Grandpaboy and Golden Smog
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Grandpaboy (aka Paul Westerberg) with Golden Smog
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Mini-Husker Du Reunion: Grant Hart and Bob Mould (sorry for the fuzzines)
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Bob Mould
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Soul Asylum's Mueller and Pirner
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Soul Asylum's Pirner and Dan Murphy
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Soul Asylum's Karl Mueller and Dave Pirner
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Paul Westerberg
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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Hudson's Fall Minneapolis Tour, Part 2: Rock For Karl Benefit

Two nights ago, I made my way to the second of five trips to Minneapolis in a five week period. Two weeks ago, it was the Twins ill-fated attempts to overtake the Yankees in the divisional playoffs. For this trip, my friend Traci and I made our way to the Quest (formerly Prince's Glam Slam) for an all-star benefit for Soul Asylum's Karl Mueller, who is battling throat cancer.

Unlike my other trips (besides the Twins, I have Wilco, Paul Westerberg and the Pixies in the next few weeks), we opted for the old drive-up/drive-back method. Twenty years ago this was a pretty typical occurrence. Of course, my body was much better-equipped for long days and late nights.

We left town at 10:30. The drive was relatively uneventful but the conversation flowed easily. We hit downtown Minneapolis around 2:30 and parked a few blocks away from the Quest. Traci had never been to Brit's, so we had lunch and a drink (or three) before starting our walk to the bar. We made a detour at Let it Be Records, and I must say that I was proud of myself for not spending any money. But I had spent plenty of cash on my last visit to town two weeks ago.

There was a bit of a line outside the Quest, but it was only fifteen minutes or so before they started letting us in. We immediately wandered upstairs and positioned ourselves directly opposite the stage. Around 6:30, Sarah Guthrie and her husband came onstage for a short set. Guthrie is the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie and the daughter of Arlo. Her set was pleasant, but not real exciting. Marc Perlman of the Jayhawks came onstage for a couple of songs (I guess he's on their upcoming record which was produced by Gary Louris and Polara's Ed Ackerman).

Around 7:00 came the first of many highlights. God, aka Paul Westerberg, rambled onstage. Holding up his "postage-sized setlist", his short set included tracks from most of his solo albums ("First Glimmer", "What a Day (For a Night)", "Lookin' Up in Heaven") along with two 'mats tunes ("I Will Dare" and "Swingin' Party") and a surprise cover of Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain". It was beyond great, but I needed more. I guess I'll have to wait two weeks until his shows at the Pentages.

Soul Asylum was up next. It's been some time since I saw these guys, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. They played a bunch of new songs that sounded better than anything off their past couple of albums. Mueller, who has reportedly fully recovered, seemed awed by the response from not only the crowd but the other musicians that were on the bill. "Even if it wasn't for me, I'd be here," he said before the set's finale, "Somebody to Shove".

Next up was Bob Mould. Again, I hadn't seen Mould since the final Husker Du tour. Onstage with just his electric, Mould also mixed brand new unreleased tunes with a few of his classics. Suddenly, there was another guitarist onstage. At first, I thought it was Husker Du bassist Greg Norton, but it turned out to be drummer Grant Hart. Hart and Mould have reportedly not spoken since Husker Du's split, so this was a great surprise as they ran through "Hardly Getting Over It"and "Never Talking to You Again".

At this point, the effects of the long day were starting to appear. There was a lengthy delay, and the crowd around us was beginning to feel overwhelming. I was also a little frustrated that the video capture feature of my digital camera would not allow for zoom, but I was taking a ton of pictures. The schedule said that the Gear Daddies were up next, but it didn't look like Martin Zellar and crew. For one thing, there was a female drummer.

When the music started, it certainly wasn't the Gear Daddies. Who the hell was singing? Traci started yelling, "it's Paul". It was...well, actually it was Grandpaboy singing the Stones' "Dead Flowers" with Golden Smog. Think about was members of the Replacements, Soul Asylum, and the Jayhawks playing together for the first time ever. It was a late 90's Minneapolis music fan's dream.

Unfortunately, Paul was off the stage after that one song. Golden Smog was also missing Gary Louris and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, but it was hardly noticeable. Besides a great version of the Kink's "Sunny Afternoon", the band ripped through an hour's worth of GS favorites. Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate also made a surprise appearance towards the end of the set.

At this point, we decided to take off. The Gear Daddies were due up next, and we had no desire to see them play those same songs they've lived off of for the past fifteen years. We searched all over town for a coffee shop and hit the road. An hour into the drive we ran into a deep, deep fog that made the drive close to unbearable. But it probably also kept us awake. We limped into Sioux Fall around 3:30, and five hours later I was at my desk trying to stay awake...but I don't regret a minute of it.

The Tribune says $50,000 was raised towards Mueller's $80,000 medical bill. $3500 was collected for a guitar signed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Recommended DVD - Mr. Show Season 4

I'm ashamed to say that I missed out on the original airing of Mr. Show. Actually, I didn't have HBO at the time. Thanks to the recent trend of releasing entire seasons of quality TV on DVD, I now have the whole series. Season 4 may be the high point of the run, particularly the first episode, where these shots were captured.

(Description from Mr. Show What Happened?)

Sole survivors on a life raft: talk show host Todd Linder Floman, panelists, and one member of his studio audience are awaiting rescue; eight days after a hurricane sank their cruise ship where they were taping their show on relationships. A white trash love triangle continue squabbling; mother and daughter in love with the same man. The audience member guy tells the sad group what's what, starting with the pregnant mother - "You need to respect the baby, 'cause life is precious, and God, and the Bible." He puts a shout out to figuring out how to survive without food and water. Two-timing Derwin's "super-secret lover" climbs into the raft. He was on an island, but he refuses to share the info ("I ain't sayin' Mr. Three-timing Whore of the Universe!") Todd gives his "final thought" after white trash momma mindlessly punctures the raft with her "lady of the manor engagement broach." Derwin, also facing death, has final thoughts - "I knew I'd never make it to 30, 'cause I'm a wild man! Before I die, I'm gonna fuck me a fish!"

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(Description from Mr. Show What Happened?)
Cloning Hitler

Two men who look like Hitler play casually with children at the park. "Hitlers seem to be popping up everywhere," says the reporter. Where are they coming from? Cloning. The Committee for Holocaust Reparations has cloned Hitlers to serve the relatives of Holocaust victims. "And, wuicker than you can say 'L'Chaim,' Hitlers have become a intergral part of Jewish life." We see Hitlers tending at a Seder and being used as playthings at little girls' slumber parties. But what is life like for the Hitlers? They complain that they can't get a date - "as soon as they find out you're Hitler, forget it." If their "master" dies before them, the Hitler is allowed to live as a free man. A sad sack, older Hitler describes the post-service life. "Oh, I keep busy...I clip coupons...I watch my stories, which I love..." His living room wall is covered with invasion-strategy maps ("lazy man's wallpaper"). "I'm Hitler. I can't not be Hitler."
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For Those Still Not Convinced About Iraq

Raw copy from Baghdad

This unedited e-mail below, sent privately to friends by Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi, was posted on, a site run by the Poynter Institute journalism school.

In an Oct. 4 note to Editor & Publisher magazine, Fassihi said she never meant the e-mail to become public. She is now on a vacation that she and her employers say was planned long before the controversial posting.

Subject: From Baghdad


Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets.

I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling.

And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the "turning point' exactly began.

Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to 10 per cent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq?

Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a "potential" threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to "imminent and active threat," a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess "the situation." When asked "how are thing?" they reply: "the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of land mines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerrilla war.

In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health — which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers — has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped.

He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen land mines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood.

They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods.

The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If anything, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it — Baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda — are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing.

Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathists to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day — over 700 to date — and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a "no go zone" — out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations.

The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all:

"Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

— Farnaz

Here's the last out of the season.
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I spent a great weekend in Minneapolis watching the Twins blow the playoffs.
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