And In Case You Weren't There ..

That's me and my friend John rockin' to the beat last Saturday at Frisco Disco. Ugh, makes me wish I wore more color or crazier shit. Click on the photo for more from the party.


Celebrate Diversity

Pride celebrations were being held throughout the country this weekend, with SF and NY pretty much at ground zero. This was my fifth year celebrating. In the week leading up, San Francisco becomes one longish party. I had a good time this weekend, although I'm still somewhat dehydrated and have been trying to give my legs a rest.

On Pink Saturday, I went to dinner with a friend, bar hopped, party hopped and ran into some familiar faces. My final stop was Frisco Disco, the weekly dance party at The Transfer. It's the West Coast's answer to Misshapes (although it's been around longer), with fun, obnoxious, beautiful people, an almost anything-goes attitude to the music being played, and just a great way to dance until your drenched in sweat.

It was probably the most fun I've had at a party in a long time (perhaps since, Misshapes in April?). I had seen DJ Jefrodisiac (one half of the Frisco Disco team -- the other is Richie Panic. They also perform as Paradise Boys) perform elsewhere. He performed a long-ass set in 2005 when M.I.A . made her first trip to San Francisco, performing at the Independent. She was stuck at the airport and ended up being super late, but all was good with Jefrodisiac's blend of 80's hip-hop and electro classics. Oh, and if you were at the show, my girls were the ones that hopped on stage during his set, dancing until they were booed by the crowd.

Anyway, Saturday night was amazing, and I must have been dancing for an hour and half. They played everything from The Smiths' "Panic" to
Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" to The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" and a shitload of dance and hip-hop tracks I didn't know. There were sweaty boys bumping and grinding in wannabee go-go mode, cute flirty girls in halter tops rubbing my beard, and some random people wearing too much clothing. In other words, for a music lover at Pride weekend, this was the perfect way to celebrate diversity.

It's not necessarily fair to compare Misshapes with Frisco Disco. With the latter, there are no celebrities, no mid-set performances, or the East Coast capacity for taste/image-making. However, the crowd and spirit at both parties are essentially the same. Plus, Frisco Disco is cheap and you can actually see people. You will find me there again.


Workin' On My Fitness

I joined a gym last October, which was sort of a big deal for me. Oh the anxieties .. body identity, looking puny to all the regulars, not knowing how to use the machines, and on and on. But I still felt it was good time to start living healthy.

I started simple with cardio, and then weightlifting, and then organizing some schedule between both. I guess the motivation at the beginning was 75% cosmetic, 25% health, but now it's become such a routine, I don't really have a focused goal. Overall, it's had a good effect on my well-being.

When I began, I didn't know how to integrate music into the gym lifestyle. I didn't want to
burn calories listening to awful house music on my iPod like most folks at my gym.

It's interesting -- they say the iPod has changed the way people listen to music, but I think going to the gym has changed the way I listen to music more than the device itself.

At first I didn't bring my iPod because I didn't mind what the gym sound system was playing. From Kelis's "Bossy" to Bloc Party's "Banquet," it was all good .. except for Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance," which they still play as some sort of hip nostalgic radio staple.

After about two or three weeks, I realized the same songs were playing again and again, and I guessed this had something to do with music licensing. That's when I started to bring my iPod.

For a good 20 minute run on the treadmill, I started with some pop music. I had a period of running to Beyonce's B'Day , and then for a good 2 months to Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds. More recently, it was Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? and Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury. With the Of Montreal album, nothing is quite as encouraging as Kevin Barnes singing "I'm in a crisis" on "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse."

For high-speed runs in the 10-15 minute range, I have a special playlist. It's usually very remix-oriented and dance friendly. Sometime it can be a little outrageous, sometimes it makes me laugh, but I never allow it to be monotonous.

It's usually music from various blogs that are introducing new artists and act as a taste-tester if I want to checkout the album when it comes out or buy it if it's already out.

Here are some of my recent favorites (not in sequential order):

Cut Copy, "Hearts on Fire (Joakim Remix)" (via iPop)
This remix takes me on the Star Trac treadmill from 4.0 to 6.8 to 7.5 in a matter of minutes. I know I said I don't really do the house thing, but this has so many familiar melodic elements. Cut Copy have a FabricLive album coming out, which I will definitely check out. Hear the original "Hearts on Fire" on their MySpace.

Kid Sister, "Damn Girl" (via Pitchforkmedia)
Holy Moses! She's cute, has a sassy Chicago accent and uses "percolate" like some common verb. The Too $hort sample from "Bossy" is simply effortless, and I love the swift production. I heard "Control" on her MySpace site -- I'm getting this shit on vinyl, but you can also find it on iTunes. I'll be writing more about her soon.

M.I.A., "Bird Flu (Diplo Remix)" (via I Guess I'm Floating)
To be honest, "Bird Flu" kind of creeped me out when I first saw the video. This Diplo remix transforms it from its voodoo weirdness to a sacrificial singalong to King Kong.

Rihanna, "Lemme Get That" (via FluxBlog)
Should I buy her album? This song is really hot, but I still haven't been able to understand Rihanna's appeal. She just looks and sounds so young and her star status seems so forced. I'm not a fan of "Umbrella." If the next single is good, I'll check it out.

There's about a dozen more. I figure I can report new favorites in a few weeks. Ultimately, going to the gym has
had a great impact on my appreciation for the remix or dance single. Never before would I have actively hunted for hot tracks for the sole purpose of staying fit. Cardio days have become the days I look forward to. They're my run-to-the-beat days. Whatever works, I guess.


Italo Disco In 2007

I've been looking for a good italo disco compilation. Not to be confused with mutant disco (which I still don't understand even after buying the ZE records compilations), italo disco is generally considered disco music that was created in Europe even after the disco backlash in the U.S. There was never a backlash in Europe, so the mirrorball kept spinning.

As far as sound, I generally think of it as space age 80's music, with lots of synthesizers, vocoders and icy rhythms. There are a lot of artists who churned out a hit or two and then disappeared forever.

Italo disco has had a resurgence this past year. Actually, I didn't know what italo disco was until this year. I credit Johan Agebjorn, the Swedish producer behind Sally Shapiro's outstanding Disco Romance, for bringing it to my attention.

Shapiro has described the album as "italo disco-influenced pop" and cites inspiration from artists Valerie Dore, Katy Gray, Savage and Fun Fun. Even the album cover has a cheesy Euro 12" look to it.

Shapiro (not her real name), is a mysterious and possibly reclusive character, rarely giving interviews and with no interest to perform live.

She has beautiful vocal melodies. On songs like "Find My Soul" and "Time To Let Go," there's a level of sadness that keeps her from sounding precious. She has a soft, almost effortless singing voice, which works surprisingly well for this style of dance pop.

Musically, for a genre that's known for it's cold synths and robotic beats, Agebjorn adds an incredible amount of warmth and depth to the songs. Even though it's a dedication to a genre they love, the album certainly stands on its own as a great electro pop album.

After months of listening, Disco Romance still gets played regularly in my world. "I Know" is one of my top played songs on my iPod. The album has 9 tracks, two of which are excellent remixes, and one ambient soundscape.

Trying to search for the music that inspired this album was difficult. Agebjorn provides clues with his hot DJ mix, "We Go All Night Long", broadcast on German Internet radio Welt-am-Draht. This 13-track mix features some italo disco classics, as well as songs by Sally Shapiro and Lindstrom.

I highly recommend it, and it's free to download on his site. Scroll down to "DJ mixing" and if you like, ask Johan for the track list -- he will reply.

There are tons of italo disco compilations out there, and yet, none seem to be a guaranteed crash course. Locally, I'm not quite sure where to look. At my regular record stores, the areas for "Disco," "Euro Dance" and "World Music - Italy" don't have what I'm looking for. There's a bunch of comps on Amazon that I might end up checking out. If any of you have recommendations, please add comment.


Man Overboard

Did you know July is Blondie and Deborah Harry Month? I actually thought it was June, which explains the idea for this post and why it took me a good 5-8 minutes to find anything about it on Google.

The month was registered by a fan in 2003, and apparently, it's not that hard to do, although now you can think big: it's no longer the National Special Events Registry, it's the International Special Events Registry, organized by John Kremer, author of "Celebrate Today" (yeah, I didn't read it either).

Now, I'm not sure what someone does during a month dedicated to a band. The obvious would be to play and worship them, reflecting on the contributions they made to popular music, fashion, art and the like.

The dedication says:
Blondie took the music world by storm in the late '70s and early '80s, and the influence of this band and its lead singer Deborah Harry is still being felt today and increasingly recognized with the passage of time.
I only have one Blondie album, The Platinum Collection, a 2-disc set with early favorites like "Rip Her To Shreds," "I'm On E," and "X Offender", hits like "Call Me," "Rapture," "Atomic" and more. I consider it pretty essential.

I love the song "Man Overboard", a fun disco number with a terrific synth solo and Deborah singing the drama that "he gave it all for love." I also love the dreamy "Union City Blues" and the later cuts on disc 2.

When I was in New York City this past April, Blondie was everywhere: DJ'd at the clubs that I visited, postered at the stores I shopped at, and on people's clothing. Truth be told, New Yorkers love music that comes from New York, so Madonna, The Ramones, The Strokes, The Notorious B.I.G. were equally ubiquitous.

I came back with my own Blondie memorabilia, a Marc Jacobs t-shirt with an iconic portrait of Deborah Harry, all to benefit the Provincetown Art Association. Out of all the 10 available colors, I went with the white.

I learned last week that this was not an exclusive NYC t-shirt -- the store on Fillmore Street has mounds of these t-shirts.
So the Blondie from the 70's and early 80's might be everywhere this year, even in my city.

It's cute, and maybe I'll wear the t-shirt as my nerdy little dedication to a band I like (but not love). Maybe I'd have more enthusiasm for the Official Talking Heads Month or the Official David Bowie Month, neither of which, to my knowledge, exist. Well, at least I now know one method to step-up my fan dedication.


Defacing Pictures of Famous People

Maximo Park will forever be the band that I was introduced to through my younger brother. I got A Certain Trigger two years ago for Christmas with the same enthusiasm one finds when receiving a sweater for a gift. I don't like albums as gifts unless someone has a very good idea that the music would interest me. Unfortunately, my younger brother is not one of those people. I'm not sure how, but sometime in the early 2000's, I kind of lost hope for modern British rock bands. But it was Christmas, and I love music, and I told my brother I'd certainly give it a listen.

And what a total surprise: A Certain Trigger ended up being one of my favorite records of 2005, an album of aggressive, melodic rock with sharp guitars, and a very charming singer named Paul Smith. Unabashedly British (no American accents, thank goodness), and wearing early Paul Weller on his sleeve without being derivative, Smith's direct, non sequitur phrases and expressive voice were the perfect match for music which veered from post-punk, to power pop and everything in

They have a new album, Our Earthly Pleasures, which has a more crisp-sounding production from Gil Norton (The Pixies, Doolittle) and more of what made A Certain Trigger, and the following b-sides collection, Missing Songs, so excellent.

"By The Monument", a jangly, radio-friendly rocker has become a regular on repeat for me. On the first record, Smith sang "I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French," and on the new one he's "defacing pictures of famous people on the train" .. it's an entertaining notion for a classically British singer to be vandalizing buildings in London Town, a la Banksy.

It would be difficult to be Paul Smith's ex-love. He can be very direct and I would imagine the perso
ns he's singing about know it's them. Unless he's just being very creative, and I haven't picked up no the poetic license thing.

The first two singles out now "Our Velocity" and "Books From Boxes" are powerful and good contrast between the types of songs that are on the new record. The music is energetic, aggressive, with a great rhythm section and Smith's confident singing. Everything about the new record is refreshing.

I haven't been this excited about a British band since Franz Ferdinand released their debut. Franz's follow-up was a massive let down, but Maximo Park show that there is a light for new British rock. Then again, "new rave" bands like the Klaxons might overshadow the British indie bands trying to come over from across the pond.

For the San Francisco folks, Maximo Park is playing at Popscene on July 26. I'm an idiot and didn't know about pre-sale tickets from their website, which are no longer available. I'm going to do my best to make it .. but why Popscene, and not Slim's or The Fillmore? I guess that's the question for every new band that you think is huge, or will be huge soon.