Wednesday, August 1, 2018

10 Thoughts About the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival

I attended the Pitchfork Music Festival the weekend of July 20-22. I had these thoughts about the event…
  1. Kudos are once again due to the festival’s organizers for once again staging a fantastic festival. They improve something about P4K every year, and this year was no exception. This year they moved the beer ticket section and concessions out to the edge of the festival grounds made it much easier to get to and from the Blue Stage. Little things like that make a huge difference.
  2. Diversity absolutely rules. In terms of uplifting cultural experiences, Pitchfork was a nice oasis from the sh*t-show that is life in the U.S.A. in 2018. In important ways, it was the opposite of a Trump rally. I’ve seen the future of America, and was in the Black and Brown faces of the audience members.
  3. This isn’t a complaint, but I couldn’t help but notice that the ratio of no-bra-wearing women to bra-wearing women in the general audience was at an all-time high. We cis hetero males notice these things. Is there an apparel shortage I wasn’t aware of? Should I be concerned?
  4. The food and cider I consumed over the weekend was delicious. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason this year, something about Connie’s Pizza just hit the f*ckin’ spot!
  5. I have to say I found myself somewhat underwhelmed by this year’s music lineup. Part of it is my personal tastes - The dearth of Metal, Hardcore, and Dance bands on this year’s schedule was noticeable to me. Sometimes you just need to get your ears blown off or shake your butt for half an hour to get through those summer afternoons.
  6. That being said, there were, as usual, tremendous sets to listen to this year. The big winners for the weekend for me were Chaka Khan, Natural Information Society, Noname, Open Mike Eagle, and This is Not This Heat.
  7. Chaka Khan was fantastic. There has been talk about how her voice isn’t what it once was, but she made up for it by bring an amazing band and group of backup singers who did a lot of the musical heavy lifting. Everything they did was on point. The two guitar players tore it up, too. I was sad I had to choose between watching this set and Japandroids on the Blue stage, but I made my choice, and I’m glad I did.
  8. Lauryn Hill was just OK. I respect the place The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill has in the history of American music, but I’ve never been a massive fan of it. The running joke was how late Hill would be taking the stage, if at all (it’s kind of what she does). The thing is, starting a set late at Pitchfork is deadly, especially if you’re the last performance of the weekend. Chaka Khan had set Hill up beautifully with a fun, high-energy lead-in set, but the crowd lost momentum during the 20+ minute delay waiting for Hill to take the stage. By the time she got to her biggest solo hit “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”, the fest crews were already turning up the street lights and breaking down the other stages “Closing Time”-style. Better timing on Hill’s part would have turned a merely good set into a great one.
  9. Rappers need to stop giving orders to audiences. I just wanted to throw this one in. It’s why I can’t stand most live rap performances. Rappers who spend half their set yelling at the audience to “Get your hands up!” and “Make some nooooooise!” need to just please stop.
  10. I’m already looking forward to next year. This is the 14th event Pitchfork has run at Union Park (including the 2005 Intonation Festival, which they curated). I’ve attended 12 of them. When you get older, you’re supposed to grow up and out of music festivals. I’m still waiting for that to happen for me. This festival in particular remains an amazing place to hear new and old artists and bands you didn’t know you liked.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stick This In Your MP3 Player: Warpaint, “Undertow”

[originally published in 2010]

Warpaint is an LA band that formed in 2004. Their first full-length album, The Fool, is set to release later this month. If the single “Undertow” is indicative of what else is on that album, it will be well worth seeking out.

The song has a sparse, undulating, slinky arrangement that sounds like its trying to slip straight into the unconscious parts of your brain. The lyric’s effective imagery of water, what’s lurking beneath the surface, and its intentions (Malice? Lust?) is made even more provocative by the band member’s half-whispered harmonies that remind me of the Greek Sirens.

“Why you wanna blame me for your troubles?” “Nobody ever has to find out what’s in my mind tonight.” Whether it’s a warning or an invitation (maybe both), the groovy intimacy is hard to resist.

Click here to go to Warpaint’s Web site

Click here to go to Warpaint’s Wikipedia page

Click here for a free download of “Undertow” (courtesy of the Gorilla Vs. Bear site)

Monday, June 18, 2018

A DJ Mix Tape from Korallreven

[originally posted Oct. 7 2010]

As electronic music continues to deepen its history to rival the longevity of rock and roll, I feel like we’re entering a new era. The novelty of sampling and electronic effects is pretty much over, and a generation that was born after synthesizers were invented begins is now dominating the music landscape.

One of those artists is Swedish band Korallreven. From what I can discern from cursory searches on the Internet, this is a relatively new band, but their output is incredibly advanced in terms of their understanding of electo music and what it can do to create atmosphere as well as melodies. The music they spin is dreamy, opaque, and sensual. Anyone with a taste for electronica should give this band a listen.

Their 20+ minute mix-tape “A Dream” is a fantastic journey through their own songs and tracks from others in their aural orbit. Letting the sounds wash over you, it sounds like the background music to Heaven.

Click here to get some Korallreven via the Gorilla Vs. Bear site.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Thomas Dolby’s “The Golden Age of Wireless” and “The Flat Earth”

This is an essay I wrote for CHIRP Radio that also appears on their blog. Do yourself a favor and have a listen to this great community-based independent radio station!

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska in the mid-1980s, before the existence of the Internet and MP3 players, meant you had to look a little harder to find new and interesting pop music. Fortunately I had a sister who was plugged in to the few places in town where one could find new stuff that wasn’t featured on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. One day she got hold of two albums on cassette tapes that I dutifully sponged off of her and that introduced me to the brilliant synth-pop of Thomas Morgan Robertson, a.k.a. Thomas Dolby.

In these days of ubiquitous electronic equipment, it’s easy to forget there was a time when it wasn’t possible to just push a button and have coherent sounds (or songs, or albums) come pouring out. Digital sounds didn’t come off the shelf; they had to be built from the ground up and made into something useable, hopefully by someone who knows what they’re doing, musically and technically. Dolby was one of those people. His skills enabled him to make two of the best pop albums to come out of the New Wave era.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Striking Movie Poster for "Red"

[originally published in 2010]

The ad posters for the new film Red caught my eye on the train this morning. It's a very cool design, made even better by Helen Mirren's timeless beauty. Some people are just born to have their faces on screen. I don't know if the movie is going to be any good, but this image is great.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to Get a Job: "No Phone Calls, Please."

[originally published August 2010]

by Clarence Ewing

“No Phone Calls, Please.”

If you are looking for a job, it’s guaranteed that you have seen this sentence in printed or online want ads several times. It’s an incredibly frustrating phrase, especially these days when it seems most people do nothing BUT make phone calls on their mobiles, Blackberrys, and wireless laptops.

The reason these four words are so ubiquitous is simple – too few Human Resources people with too much to do. The average HR and recruiting department is not a revenue generator for most companies, so they tend to keep their staffs small. This means at a given company there will be one person doing the work of one and a half or even two people. This includes organizing the hundreds of resumes submitted, reading the documents, picking out the ones that might be promising, coordinating resumé reviews with the people who actually make the hiring decisions (no small feat, I can tell you), arranging interview times, writing the ads and getting them posted, researching what positions they should be hiring for and what qualities are needed in those positions.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The ULTIMATE Purity Test

[originally posted August 2010]

Back when e-mail was new and exciting, purity tests were all the rage. The text below is the last word in purity tests: 2000 questions, covering just about everything. I’ve reprinted the e-mail exactly as I received it many years ago, including names and e-mail addresses of the authors, as requested by them in the test.

Please note that this test is not appropriate for young folks. There are frank descriptions and dirty words scattered throughout the text, but it's nothing that can’t be found on 200 million other Web pages. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How to Dress for a Job Interview

[originally posted May 2010]

written by Clarence Ewing

Over the years, millions of otherwise competent people have lost job opportunities because they did not dress properly for their interview. 70% of human communication is non-verbal, and what people see is often what makes the biggest and most lasting impression, especially if their opinion of it is negative.

Through the way you’re dressed for an interview, you are trying to tell potential employers that you are a professional, that you are serious about the meeting you are having, and that you won’t embarrass them in front of clients with your off-the-wall or casual look.

From my experience, new college graduates and workers who have not had to look for a job in a while are the most likely to make clothing faux-pas. Generally, the key is to dress conservatively and err on the side of formality. With certain clear exceptions (such as fashion design), an interview is not the time to show of how creative you are, clothes-wise.

Here is a brief, basic guide to how to dress for a job interview. This is, of course, not a set of hard and fast laws, just some general ideas of how to go in order to make the best impression during a meeting:


Men: Hair should be cut or at least combed back away from the face. Face should be clean-shaven, or the mustache/beard should be trimmed.

Women: Women should wear their hair up and back so the employer can see your face and you don’t have to keep brushing your hair from it (which looks like fidgeting).

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Breaking Bad is the Bad-Ass-est Show on Television

[originally published April 11 2010]

by Clarence Ewing

Now in its third season, Breaking Bad, presented by The AMC channel, is finally getting the widespread acclaim it deserves. This show about a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who turns to manufacturing methamphetamine to help pay his family’s bills continues basic cable’s tradition of kicking broadcast TV’s butt when it comes to scripted dramas.

The show’s directing, editing and photography are all top-notch. As with any drama that lasts more than a season, though, it’s the cast that makes the show into more than a clever idea. Bryan Cranston, who has already won a bunch of awards for his portrayal of Walter White (or “Heisenberg” as he’s known on the street), is now moving into Tony Soprano territory in terms of the depth and complexity of his character. Aaron Paul skillfully plays White’s partner Jesse Pinkman, who used to be a smart-mouth punk-ass kid when the series started but now, after the deaths of one of his friends and his girlfriend as well as his parents’ disowning him, is starting to embrace his role as one of the more successful drug dealers in the Southwest.

Steve McQueen and The Evolution of The Action Hero

[This essay was part of the Steve McQueen Blog-a-Thon, sponsored by Jason Bellamy of the blog Cooler Cinema. Click here to check out more bloggers’ thoughts and opinions about the Hollywood legend.]

by Clarence Ewing

Without a doubt Steve McQueen is one of the most popular American actors to ever walk the silver screen. He was also one of the most successful – at his peak he was the highest paid actor in Hollywood and he still ranks among the top earning deceased celebrities of all time.

I’m not a huge McQueen fan, although I’ve enjoyed all of the films I’ve seen him in. The movies I know him best from are The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Cincinnati Kid, The Towering Inferno, and Hell is for Heroes, all of them great films. Like anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the man, I’m also familiar with the public and personal aspects of his life that earned him the title “The King of Cool.”

The celebrity McQueen reminds me most of is Frank Sinatra. Both were good looking, driven men who came up the hard way and earned everything they got with their talent and will. They both thrived when America was entering the last half of the 20th century, with all the changes in cultural and social mores that went along with it. They were both also physically undersized men who (from my distant viewpoint) perhaps at times trying a bit too hard to prove to everyone how badass they were.