Recommended diversions

Ugly Truths

Has the entertainment industry really crumbled to such a sorry point that rather than attempting to make the best music they possibly can, the current “superstars” are more interested in making bets on whose outrageously hyped, fancily packaged and hopelessly mediocre product will outsell the other’s equally lame-o new disc? Yeehaw — 50 Cent’s going to retire if Kanye wins.

Boy, that’s one helluva risk for a guy whose retina frying bling necklace could net enough cash to buy a small island somewhere. Or pay the college tuition for the average family’s 2.5 children, buy them cars and leave mom and pop with enough mad money for something like, you know, a new house.

I’ve long had the somewhat twisted fantasy of kidnapping one of these guys and locking them in a room with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, paper and pen and a tape recorder. If they want out, they have to write and record an album’s worth of material using the tools nearly every other musician has relied on for the past, well... forever. Would the resulting music have any chance at multi-million dollar sales? Would it be worth betting on? Besides, neither of them have anything on Common’s latest.


Andrew Bird @ The Orange Peel

On Sept. 11 Andrew Bird opened his Orange Peel set with a song called “Fiery Crash.” For the most part it’s exactly about what you’d think it is, but with a guy like Bird, you can rarely take things at face value. This choice of song in no way came off as callous or motivated by any need for “shock” quality — it’s a wonderful tune, kind of a running tally of the things that go through your head when you tumble through the airport these days. But I couldn’t help but feel this strange sense of pride in being part of the only audience that would get to witness him perform that song on that particular day.

Bird’s whimsical stage setup and theatrically skewed demeanor, his twisted chamber pop via Disney musical concoctions truly are things to be experienced in person. Constantly shifting between guitar, violin, whistling and singing (whilst digitally looping any of it at any given moment) he managed to create these brainy pop symphonies onstage with only a three-piece band — albeit with a drummer that plays piano and has his own array of samplers and looping devices. It was downright mind-boggling, and they made it look easy as falling off a log.


Main Street In The Wee Hours

Insomnia can sometimes yield interesting experiences. Wandering down the sidewalk at three o’clock in the morning reveals those little things that just don’t exist during the waking hours. A cat skitters down the pavement, maybe on the way back home, maybe because it doesn’t have one. By four the birds start chirping. I watched some manner of rodent negotiate the crosswalk once, then proceed to investigate the storefronts until it was merely a speck in the distance. Okay, so maybe I drink too much coffee, and it’s a self-induced insomnia, but still...

— By Chris Cooper

This Must Be the Place

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