I have found the time to explore the Internet for musicians and fans who do have the interest but don't have the time. So I hope this will give you all something to look forward to. Part one of my series is The Big Purple Van Club, (the post below this one). My previous article about Daytrotter in July 2007 is technically the first.
Obsession Collection -
Music Site Scavenger Series #1
The Big Purple Van Club is a French Internet music site that features videos of awesome underground music acts, filmed in a 1970's Van. While the van drives through the streets of Paris, it becomes a moving theater. The interaction between the musicians and the colorful crew replicate a contemporary version of "The Magical Mystery Tour". The Big Purple Van Club site is a destination where viewers will see all genres of music captured in an atmosphere of love and celebration. The authenticity is potent. To me, it is like seeing a band in a basement, living room, or garage show, where there are few boundaries that separate the audience from the musicians.
The creative staff that makes it all possible include: Pablo Nicomedes (creator/cameraman), Mc Load Le Pirate (the van conductor), Joaquin Lola (sound), and Muchachos (lights). The chic hobo styled foursome brings artistry and personality to the fray. They have designed ingenious ways to film and edit impromptu music sessions while layering humor in the mix.
I started to visit their myspace site quite regularly and wrote a glowing comment. With a few communications in broken English, we discussed the possibility of doing an interview. Some time passed and I went back to the site and was a little concerned, it was looking a little strange.
Surprisingly, all their top friend icons were beautiful woman posed in funny and provocative positions creating a parody of myspace. I was offended and didn't quite get the joke. My rush to judgment was a little embarrassing. I have grown to appreciate their zany antics. They don't take themselves too seriously and that is one reason the site is so refreshing to go to. You almost never know what they will do next.
My interview took place with Pablo Nicomedes the creator/film director of The BPVC via email.
For me, being a teenager in the sixties, a van symbolized freedom and the awaiting open road of possibilities. Gas was cheap, there was the call of the sexual revolution, and young people decorated their vans as lo-fi love shacks, unlike the customized vehicles of the “Pimp My Ride” generation.
The Vans Torrid History and Karmic Upgrade
When Pablo found the van he was surprised by it's history. It was a destination for prostitutes to do business in Pigalle the red light district in Paris. This was a love shack of a different order, and in Pablo’s mind it represented love of sorts. While viewing the van, He had an epiphany, he thought it would be wonderful to film musicians and poets in the van and share their energy and passion via the Internet. The dull old van got a face-lift and was painted purple. That was the inauguration of The Big Purple Van Club.
Finding and presenting music that is not found on commercial media is the primary focus of The BPVC. Their music selection is not genre specific. They are open to music of any category, and what suits their fancy at a particular moment. So far many of the filmed sessions have included musicians that are respected in the underground scene like: Ramona Cordova, Francois Virot, and David Fenench. The uploaded videos offer exposure to their music.
The original concept has evolved and has enabled the fluidity of ideas. This year The BPVC presented “The Big Show” that included twenty-five recent live in the van performers to participate. Affording pop, underground, hip-hop, strange electro, comedic, and rock, to share the same stage in one night. With the purple van parked in front of the Le Club Des Chats, the collective created a pre-show event. This theatrical red carpet staging area added momentum for the line-up to follow.
The BPVC has just updated their website making it a necessary pit stop that showcases all their creative endeavors. They have recently added a French radio broadcast that presents a different artist weekly along with podcasts of each performance. For the future they are planning to bring the purple van to New York in the summer of 2008, culminating in a big show in September.
This madcap crew, know how to have fun and their eccentric frolics can be outrageous and campy. The van interior and their costumes change to accommodate the varying line-up. This collective has discerning taste and creative vision. Most importantly, it is their love of music that they share with viewers throughout the world hoping to make purple, a symbol of music passion.
I am very opinionated, extremely loyal, passionate, a little insane, foul mouthed (to make a point) and frankly too old to be doing this. Let me just say, some music makes me ill. I have seen live acts that are not ready for the printed word. I will politely listen, or exit discreetly.
This industry is tough. So many of the musicians I write about are broke. Their commitment to music has its rewards and sacrifices but is not for the weak. So…why hurt or criticize? That was never my intention. Obsession Collection is a platform for me to write about music that I think is exceptional, and often ignored. It takes time and effort to write thoughtful articles and I think the music is deserving of that kind of care.
The live quality of this collection of songs lends to the authenticity of the storytelling. The awesome folksy cover art suits the style of this low fi folk/ country / blues and sometimes rocking recording. The sessions were recorded on tape with minimal overdubs featuring David Dondero on guitar and vocals, Craig D. on drums and an assortment of talented musicians exchanging instrument rotation on all ten tracks. One particular standout is jazz pianist Eddy Hovizal. His chops add distinction next to the natural quality of the other instruments.
Dondero is a masterful songwriter and bona fide storyteller. Extolled by NPR’s Robin Hilton as America’s best living songwriters. I agree with his assessment. Dondero’s songs compel me to cry, smile, laugh, and snicker, concurrently. I often feel like he’s one of my family members as I affectionately appreciate the self-deprecating and sarcastic nuance of his humor and tender sweet nature of his being. I find myself chuckling while listening to the final track “Double Murder Ballad Suicide”. The guitar, conga and jazz piano play and interact with Dondero’s eight minute crazy sing / talk story involving a group of friends, a detective and tourists on the Golden Gate Bridge. Ending to my surprise with a quick trickster suicide jump off the bridge. Why am I laughing?
Throughout the recording are lonesome bluegrass sounds, twangy guitar leads, drifting pedal steel guitar and bluesy piano rifts. The sounds replicate the rinky-dink jukebox acoustics in saloons, from the underbelly of small towns and forgotten cities. There in the bar dives amongst the drifters; he’s been ditched, dumped, kicked around and hurt. He pens his misery as he travels from Alaska to San Francisco and to Oakland. His broken heart receives solace recalling the inspirational Rothko Chapel in Houston Texas and gains strength when he yearns for the Mighty Mississippi. He is a forlorn martyr that longs to find the idyllic and unrealistic “simple love”. He seeks eternal love while living life as a hot plains drifter and road rambler. The lonely path is the one he follows.
I’m so tired / he sings in the opening track of “The Prince William Sound”. In Alaska, he’s had enough of the rugged edges of the world, where the male female ratio is off balance, and bar fights are sometimes the only solution for a jilted lover. He wants to possess the body of his girlfriends new boyfriend so she will make love to him. The rocking chorus picks up the pace but I love you more / than anyone could know / do not know anyone at all.
Dondero describes San Francisco, as the coldest city on earth in the song “When the Heart Breaks So Deep”. Leaving Alaska didn’t change his luck. The steady beat of the drum and electric guitar leads as Dondero masterfully describes the many ways he’s been broken, beat and played out like a fool: / your eggs are runny / because somebody broke out all the yolk/ or / deep butterflies are bleeding in your guts /.
The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational sanctuary and the backdrop for Dondero to praise the virtues of authentic religious inspiration. He anoints a revered musician and sees the light and power in the church of Saint John Coltrane. He intertwines love with religious philosophy. / My religion is nature, art and literacy / my religion is science music and poetry /…and my religion is in your eyes / but my church ain’t organized /. Dondero highlights his genuine inspiration with a quote by Charlie Parker “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn"
Featuring Piano and soft pedal steal guitar “Simple Love” is a sad and moving song that reaches emotional heights when Dondero’s wavering vocals are complimented by female vocalist Renee Woodward as they sing / I was born for the simple love/ I was worn like a boxing glove / I was torn from the human skies above /. Together their voices have an old fashioned quality found in early country male-female duos. My favorite line is his questioning his exes intentions / how could you say you love him / you don’t even like his music /. This is the ultimate betrayal of a musician.
He revisits the concept of eternal love in Oakland (the city of pain) in the song “Stuck on the Moon”. He sings / I want to contradict the past / want our love affair to last / Ending with the ultimate commitment / you give me thoughts of a baby /. But for him it’s just a concept.
“Mighty Mississippi” is a roaring rock mix with bluesy piano and thunderous drums that glorify his passion for the phenomenal majesty of the landscape. His declaration of love is extreme as he shouts / I’m going down / I like the hu/mi/di/ty!!
There are three topical tracks on the recording. One is “Lone Rose” a fond tribute to a women who is altruistic and kind to vagrants and whose death is questionable. He wrestles with the circumstances surrounding her death. Another is the song “You Don’t Love Anyone”, that describes a superficial woman plumped up with silicone and collagen who is self involved and interested in money. / You’re so beautiful / you’re so beautifully dull /. Finally he is lucky, this shallow beauty is not interested in him, cause he don’t got any money. Thrown into the mix is a traditional folk song like a children’s verse of folklore past, but only Dondero would start a song with I saw a one-legged man walk a three-legged dog.
The songs and the sound of the instruments is straightforward and real. That is what makes this particular collection so fine, and why I love David Dondero’s music so much it hurts, but I’m smiling.
Although David Dondero discography includes six full-length productions, EP's and splits, he is still under the radar, but is blessed with a core group of adoring fans. This touring year has been good, and has given him the opportunity to broaden his exposure, opening for Jolie Holland, Bright Eyes, The Mountain Goats, and this fall for Against Me. Check out his site for upcoming touring date.
David Dondero site
Rothko Chapel Listen
List of Musicians on Recording: Lance Solleck, Tom Heyman, Jonathan Humphries, Ben Howard, Travis Garaffa, Craig D, Eddy Hobizal, Lew Card, Dabid Matysiak, Rene Woodward.
Boxer is the second release from The National on the Beggars Banquet label; it is the follow-up to their 2005 critically acclaimed Alligators. The band members are Aaron Dessner bass / guitar, Bryce Dessner / guitar, Scott Devendorf / guitar, Bryan Devendorf / drums and Matt Berninger / vocals and songsmith. The Australian composer Padma Newsome ( Clogs ) did the orchestration and horn arrangements and Sufjan Stevens was the guest pianist.
The National’s Boxer is grown up music and I don’t mean easy listening. The sound of Boxer is moody, poetic and smart. It is orchestral pop at its best and is for ears that listen. Lyrically the song structure present scribbling of observations mixed with word associations that form pictures and clues about thematic concepts. The first track "Fake Empires" starts with piano, vocals and bass. About midway the drum rolls in and the texture of the horn section arrives in the backdrop. Suddenly the sonic sounds swell and soar as Matt sings / as we fade away in our fake empire /, ending on a single abrupt note.
Matt Berringer’s seductive bedroom voice has presence and surprising tonal diversity. The haunting nature of the vocals and drums are in the forefront of most tracts, and tucked in the background is the layering of instruments that rise gloriously persuasively calling. Enveloping the lyrical entries are the lush qualities of the guitar scaffolding, cascading piano segments, subtle brass arrangements and discriminating cello that breath through the steady pulse of drum beats. The drums are beating time rather then keeping time, reflecting moments that are captured in thought. They march forward with a steady tin beat, and pulsate like a life source. Steadily pumping on through life’s intricate moments and messy quandaries.
The lyrics pose a thematic approach on two fronts. The songs "Fake Empires", "Racing Like a Pro", "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Squalor Victoria" present the premise that youthful ideals are often compromised by work and money. The professionals in white shirts, the showered blue blazers that fill with quarters or the mourning of the glowing young ruffian appear in dumbstruck predicaments. Captured in lyrics like / another un-innocent / elegant fall into the un-magnificent lives of adults /. Often the mediocrity of adult life is unfortunate.
The other songs like "Brainy", "Slow Show", "Apartment Story", "Ada" and "Start a War" deal with contemporary adult sexuality and the complexities of relationships. Among the familiar household references like bedrooms, television, magazines and stereos the story-lines unfold. In "Slow Show" a man's vulnerability is exposed as he anticipates coming home to put on a playful show and admitting / I know I’ve dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you /. Relationships get complicated in "Start a War" because they / expected something / something better than before /. Weary lovers need to step away.. / walk away now / your gonna start a war /. In a world corrupted by pop culture "Apartment Story" describes a couple caught up in a “rosy minded fuzz”, willing to indulge their superficial attractions, that are fleeting and will / stay inside till somebody finds us / do whatever the TV tells us / we’ll be alright / we have our looks and perfume on /. Deception can only be covered up temporarily.
Boxer is appropriately titled and it authentically represents the struggle to adapt to adulthood while trying to understand and come to terms with it’s many pitfalls. The cohesive and layered music is intricately built to stand up. Strongly the pulsating rhythm meticulously beats while orchestration soars and expands in a moody seductive mix. I'm hooked.
The National Myspace
The National Daytrotter Sessions
National on Letterman