WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION:
PITCHFORK MUSIC FEST 2007: Rather than attempt a blow-by-blow account, I'll give you an overview, discoveries, and disagreement with the press. For example, the big show Friday night -- Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation in full -- was dimmed by a muted sound system (x2); I got closer, and Jim DeRogatis must have been too close to notice that the fab performance (though not quite as fab as the Goose Island Fest, Ken) was not translating to folks in the back half of the venue. And technical problems plagued a number of the acts this year, though not all were the fault of the Fest. Fortunately, Union Park was not a blast furnace this year and had enough cool breezes to keep folks from despair when delays would occur. The other issue this year was that the fest was heavy with more laid-back, intimate folk rock that does not always transfer well to a festival setting. Thus, DeRogatis may not be keen on the Cure & Smiths-influenced Voxtrot, but he had to admit that they were a welcome shot in the arm Saturday afternoon. TimeOut Chicago agreed. I wasn't sure how Grizzly Bear would fare in a live setting as the Yellow House album is such a unique production; it did suffer a little, but it brought out the band's harmonies, which oddly reminded me of early Jefferson Airplane (with Marty Balin on lead), or slightly of Trip Shakespeare. I think the press was a little hard on Iron & Wine because we already had a number of laid-back acts; newer numbers like "The Devil Never Sleeps" perked up the crowd and have me looking forward to the new LP. Similarly, I think Battles got the benefit of being one of the more rocking acts of the day, though their math-prog vibe still leaves me cold.
CAT POWER, however, may have gotten the rawest deal in the press. She and the Dirty Dozen Blues band had the same sort of volume problem as Sonic Youth, but up close, she converted me from an admirer to a fan. Contra DeRogatis, her fans were wowed, and TimeOut got it almost completely wrong. Chan Marshall and her band -- made up of people from Jon Spencer's Blues Explosion and Delta 88, among others -- put on a helluva show, despite the technical problems. Though drawing largely from The Greatest (starting with the title track), she totally reinvented "New York, New York," belted "The Tracks of My Tears" like it was Stax instead of Motown, pumped up her own cover of "Satisfaction" and -- after joking that it was not "Bela Legosi's Dead" -- delivered "The Dark End of the Street" in a way that likely made Gram Parsons smile (wherever he is). Now that she's reined in the crazy self-destruction, go see her.
YOKO ONO: I came, I saw, I heard, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. Outside the park, some street musician honked out "The Addams Family Theme" on the sax to assure me that real music still existed.
SUNDAY had a better mix of music. Deerhunter (think My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth), whose frontman, Bradford Cox, suffers from Marfan syndrome.and a penchant for wearing dresses, is not going to lull anyone to sleep. Nor would the garage-tinged indie rock of The Ponys (who sadly were doubly-cursed with sound problems). Menomena was good, but not great (imho). An upside to tech delays was that I caught a bit of Nomo at the third stage; I had not heard them before and they were funkalicious. The Sea & Cake wisely chose a setlist that kept them out of the "too laid-back" box. The biggest surprise of Sunday for me was just how dynamic Jamie Lidell was all by himself; the leap in energy level was comparable to Otis Redding in the studio versus live -- he won the crowd over and even had a fair number dancing in the late afternoon heat. Sadly, I couldn't hear Stephen Malkmus, as I was establishing a position for Of Montreal -- which turned out to be my best decision of the day. Here, TimeOut gets it exactly right -- the '70s glam/'80s new wave fusion with tight harmonies, the theatrical performers onstage, the roaring encore of The Kinks' "All Day & All Of The Night," etc. I'll have return to Of Montreal here when the photos and video become available, because it's one thing to write that Kevin Barnes channeled Ray Davies wearing a leather thong and fishnet stockings, but you really have to see it. It was worth being trapped up front and getting a less-desirable spot for The New Pornographers, which TimeOut also gets right; the band was clearly jazzed to be the penultimate band at the fest, with a set full of fan faves ("All the Old Showstppers," "Mass Romantic," "From Blown Speakers," "Sing Me Spanish Techno," "The Bleeding Heart Show"), a particularly hyper version of "Twin Cinema" and new numbers from the Challengers LP coming this August -- one of which unexpectedly segued into Queen's "We Will Rock You." They were so good that I felt a little sorry that they had to follow Of Montreal. As for De La Soul, I liked some of their stuff back in the day, but nipped early to report back to y'all... and to soak my feet.
BONUS: This year's fest included some of those big video screens, so I'm thinking they should have some sweet clips for the site soon. In the meantime, P-Fork has reposted clips from last year, from which my picks to click would be Yo La Tengo, Jens Lekman and Man Man.
THE REDWALLS: Chicago's very own neo-classic rockers stopped by the Current, so you can stream an interview and miniset via MPR.
IT'S ALL PART OF HER ROCK 'N' ROLL FANTASY: Author and radio host Katherine Lanpher talks to WNYC about her rock 'n' roll fantasy camp experience, which found her singing backup vocals for The Who's Roger Daltrey and Cheap Trick.
ELIJAH WOOD, a/k/a Frodo Baggins, talks to CMJ about his plans for his Yep Roc-distributed indie label, Simian Records.
ALL SONGS CONSIDERED is featuring selections from Spoon, Interpol, The Field, Laurie Anderson and more, streaming via NPR.
DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY brings the Bond vibe to Pink's "Get The Party Started." She's still got it.
25 MUST-HEAR NEW INDIE ALBUMS, from Gypsy punk to West Coast hip-hop and Swedish death metal to mainstream country and more typical indie rock, according to Billboard.
OKKERVIL RIVER is doing the pre-order our album, download it now thing. Frontman Will Scheff tells Billboard it's going to be more upbeat than the often-harrowing Black Sheep Boy: "I felt like if I did that again, I'd fall into the trap of repeating myself..."
SCHMALTZ IS OUT: Science proves it by studying the "differential affect gap."
PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The supposedly sober supermodel, reportedly feeling "old and haggard," is turning to the woman who first made her famous - Storm Model Management boss Sarah Doukas - in a desperate bid to relaunch herself after breaking from the troubled singer.
PATTON OSWALT -- the voice of Ratatouille's Remy -- meets Daniel Radcliffe, a/k/a Harry Potter, on The Tonight Show. And then proceeds to list the reasons not to see the Potter movie.
WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Of course, there was no chance that people were going to believe Oswalt, so Hogwarts took in 77 million over the weekend, with a global 330 million total (on a 150 million budget) and the biggest grossing Wednesday ever. That's magic. Director David Yates and producer David Heyman talk about the latest Potter on WNYC. NPR is streaming "Wizard Rock" inspired by the series. But I digress. Transformers came in second with 36 million; the studio will be happy to see a drop of under 50 percent. Ratatouille took the third spot with 18 million and a mere 38 percent drop in the face of the Potter juggernaut. Live Free of Die Hard dropped a similar amount, making 10.8 milllion and crossing the 100 million mark in the US. License to Wed and 1408 each dropped less than 30 percent. Evan Almighty took another 43 percent drop; it remains under the 100 million mark worldwide, with a reported 200 million budget. Knocked Up quietly took in another 3.6 million, having made at least 100 million over its 30 million budget. Sicko made 2.6 million; it's 15 milliontotal is more than its 9 million budget, but Fahrenheit 9/11 made 222 million on a 6 million budget, so ouch. Rounding out the Top Ten is the leggy Ocean's 13 with 1.9 million bucks.
ELISHA CUTHBERT added injury to the insult of starring in Captivity -- which debuted in 12th place -- by getting hit by a car and thrown across the street in NYC, because she wasn't looking where she was going.
LINDSAY LOHAN is out of rehab. And her close friend, DJ Samantha Ronson, is suing PerezHilton and the Sunset Photo and News Agency for suggesting that cocaine found in Lohan's car after an infamous fender-bender was actually hers.
BRITNEY SPEARS reportedly has a "stalker" calling the L.A. County Department of Child and Family Services and lodging "bizarre" complaints against her, which explains some of last week's events. Meanwhile, NYPost gossip Cindy Adams is hearing the pop tart still wants Fed-Ex back, while friends speculate that the marriage was a set-up by Fed-Ex (which seems unlikely, given that he's reportedly dating someone other than baby mama Shar Jackson).
THE FRENCH HOTEL: The L.A. Sheriff's Department on Thursday launched an internal investigation into whether the hotel heiress got special perks while at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood.
REBECCA ROMIJN and JERRY O'CONNELL got hitched on Saturday in Los Angeles. The couple's two dogs, Taco and Better - dressed in black bow ties - joined in on the celebration.
TOM-KAT UPDATE: Fluffy coverage of Homes and the Tom-Kitten on a playdate claims that "the youngster took tentative steps along a grassy bank," but the video shows her trying to escape several times. Run, Suri, Run!
CARMEN ELECTRA and JOAN JETT have split up after nine months, according to the ever-reliable Star magazine.
MATTHEW PERRY, HIDDEN COUGAR: The former Friend and Meg Ryan have been secretly dating for five months, according to US Weekly.
MICHAEL RICHARDS has been seeking some spiritual healing in Cambodia, after he shouted racial slurs at hecklers in a West Hollywood comedy club.
EVAN ALMIGHTY: If the most expensive comedy ever did not already have enough trouble, Malaysian Muslims have called for a ban on the flick as offensive to their religion, state media reported Friday.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II did not flip out at celeb photog Annie Leibowitz during a Vanity Fair photo shoot. The BBC has admitted it "misrepresented" what happened in the encounter. Leibowitz denied the incident several weeks before the BBC launched its version of the events. RELATED: Former BBC producer Anthony Jay writes about the decades-long, rampant biases at the BBC.
TROPHY WIVES: Both ABC News and the NYT have done stories on potential GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson's wife Jeri, both suggesting that she's a trophy wife and (oddly) that it's likely a plus for him. Yet neither has covered the fact that Rep. Dennis Kuchinich married his third wife, Elizabeth Harper, in 2005; she's roughly 30 years younger than he is and far more attractive than he is... and he, unlike Thompson, is formally running for President. Ouch.
ISLAMISM in the UK: An al-Qaeda fanatic jailed for inciting murder online was caught making a website urging terror attacks - from his cell in Britain's most secure prison. Up to 4,000 Islamic extremists have attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan before returning to Britain, security chiefs have revealed. Former extremist Hassan Butt writes that he still hears British Muslims clinging to conspiracy theories and living in a comforting state of denial.
CARTOON JIHAD: A Muslim group lost its libel case against the newspaper that published cartoons satirizing jihadi extremism; the group is considering an appeal... and a fatwa!
IRAN: Anti-stoning activist Asieh Amini finds that few want to talk about what happened to an adulterer in the village of Aghche Kand, even though the national government confirmed the stoning last week. And Tehran is doubling the number of forces assigned to check up on lax dressing.
PAKISTAN: The NYT reports that few people attended protests of the raid on the Red Mosque organized by religious parties on Friday, showing how far Islamist radicals are from gaining widespread popular support. OTOH, the NYT reported that there has been a deadly surge of jihadi violence in the restive North Waziristan tribal region. As in Iraq, a relatively small number of radicals can present problems. The army started deploying troops in NWFP's southern districts, adjoining the Waziristan region, amid reports that an operation to curb militancy and extremism was imminent.
IRAQ: Key tribal leaders from the Ubaidi and Anbakia tribes signed a peace agreement in Baquba to end decades-long tribal conflicts and stand together against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. IraqSlogger has photos of former insurgents joining Coalition forces. And here's video of US forces and Iraqis celebrating victory over AQI in Anbar province. On Saturday, Iraqis celebrated the anniversary of the 1958 Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy and founded the first Iraqi republic. I'm sure much will be made of Prime Minister al-Maliki's comment that if necessary, Iraqi police and soldiers could fill the void left by the departure of coalition forces. But if you were PM, you would likely say the same, out of nationalist sentiment and pride. Second-tier Shiite, Sunni and Kurd officials have already said that disaster would follow a hasty US withdrawal. Meanwhile a robot air attack squadron of killer drones is headed into battle.
LOLCATS: Time magazine has discovered them, years after the fact. The mag reports: "It's easier to show lolcats than to explain it." And then doesn't show any.
THE GIANT, LION-EATING CHIMPS of the MAGIC FOREST: A story in London's Guardian, not Weekly World News.
BIG DOG UPDATE: Tiny the Great Dane is challenging Samson for the title of Britain's Largest Dog. Pic at the link.
MYSTERY REPTILE spotted in the Jayhawker Ponds Natural Area near Loveland, Colorado.
THE PORCUPINE THREAT: A new type of intruder has been needling authorities at Israel's top secret nuclear research center -- one of the four-legged variety. Has Spiny Norman been accounted for?