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“West” is from the upcoming second record by OAKS, Animal Life. The video was directed by Carlos Lamas. There’s a release show for it at the Icehouse on Friday night, and we’ll have it in stock later this week!

We have never been morbid enough (or reliable-enough readers of People) to follow our own “death pool” but as music lovers we’re worried one of the next big-name obituaries we’ll read in the morning paper is that of Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. The seventy-one year old legend suffered a brain aneurysm earlier this year and has been struggling since.

The latest news has offered some hope, that Mitchell will continue to recover. The New York Times recently reported she has moved home, been able to speak again, and is in the care of a close friend, Leslie Moore. Still, rather than reflect on her two dozen album catalog all too late, we’ve been listening to our favorites this week.

As is the case with many of our favorite performers, our first choices are the live albums. Mitchell released two live albums, Miles of Aisles in 1974 on which she is backed by L.A. Express, and Shadows and Light released six years later. Both follow a run of artistically ambitious and successful studio albums, and so the song selection on each is superb.

The best songs on the first live album come from Blue and Court and Spark, but we’ve always liked the way the double LP opens with songs from her earlier albums.

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“You Turn Me On I’m A Radio” and “Big Yellow Taxi”

L.A. Express originally started playing as Tom Scott’s backing group, so they lean towards jazz fusion instead of the folk style of Mitchell’s earliest albums, predicting the direction she’d move her music over her next few projects. Her next live album also features a jazz group, which includes substantial parts for Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius and Lyle May. Several of its best songs come from her collaboration with Charles Mingus, which was the last record he worked on. Shadows and Light contains relatively few songs from her earlier albums.

The other live performance of Joni Mitchell record collectors can find is her appearance on the Band’s collaborative farewell concert, The Last Waltz. The film is hailed by boomers as as one of the greatest concert films ever shot but for folks who didn’t grow up with some of its marquee names it feels more like a tour de force of the washed-up and drug-addled. Mitchell’s appearance provides an undeniably material reality check in the midst of moments like Neil Young’s coked-out, bloodshot performance and a rambling, directionless interview with Rick Danko.

The song Mitchell performed in The Last Waltz opened he then-new and slow selling album Hejira. “Coyote” contrasts the touring world she’d experienced as part of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue with day to day rural living. Whether Mitchell would rather be the rancher in her song than herself is left to the listener’s interpretation, but the song is certainly the most interesting on the triple-album soundtrack.

The other remarkable thing about Mitchell’s appearance in The Last Waltz is that she’s there at all. The only other women welcomed into The Band’s boys club all accept secondary roles: Emmylou Harris meekly performs Robbie Robertson’s “Evangeline” and the Staple Singers, featuring the amazing Mavis Staples, didn’t even perform at the actual Thanksgiving Day concert in San Francisco.

This seems to often be the case with Mitchell, a frequent anomaly in pop music — she is, for instance, the highest-ranked woman on Rolling Stones‘ list of the greatest guitarists of all time, and except for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours has the highest-ranked female-fronted album on their list of the 500 greatest. It’s all the more surprising that only two of her twenty albums are on that list, but she is still the second most-represented female performer.

 

Mitchell certainly belongs on the list of guitarists. Her style was always highly innovative compared to contemporaries, especially in her use of unique open tunings. She also became increasingly percussive in her playing as she evolved into more of a jazz performer, which becomes especially interesting in her interplay with Pastorius on Mingus and Shadows and Light. By consistently working in the areas between folk, pop and jazz, she didn’t really need the recognition of industry press like Rolling Stone. Her albums have always sold well.

It seems likely that even as Mitchell recovers, she will probably not make another album. Her last was Shine, released in 2007, and she had previously talked about retiring from songwriting. It’s just disappointing because that disc was an interesting return to her earlier, folkier style, and contained some of her best story-telling songs since Hejira. And it seems even less likely she’ll make another live album, but we can always hope. A couple years ago we had a Blue-era bootleg here in the shop, but it quickly bought off the turntable by an excited fan.

 

The fifth annual Roots, Rock & Deep Blues festival is this weekend — it’s one of our favorite neighborhood events of the year. The bill includes lots of our favorite local artists who have performed here at Hymie’s in the past, including Charlie Parr, Mike Munson, Barbara Jean, Black Market Brass and more.

There is also a chance to sample food from all of the awesome restaurants that make Longfellow the best neighborhood in town. The best eats from all over the world can be found around here. You can check out details for the festival’s “international food court” here. Please save some palak paneer for us!

One last reason we love this event is that it’s a fundraiser to support Patrick’s Cabaret, which is a non-profit community theater and an essential anchor for our neighborhood.

Here is the video of Black Market Brass we produced last year with Pabst Twin Cities. We love these guys!

We’ve got a soft spot for K102, but its starting to seem like most pop country songs are beginning to sound the same these days. Sometimes we feel like Bob (you know, from Bob’s Country Bunker) saying, “This ain’t no Hank Williams song.”

Turns out the overwhelming homogeneity to pop country music isn’t in ours or anyone else’s imagination. This hilarious video by Sir Mashalot puts six recent pop country hits together in a surprisingly seamless sequence.

Sir Mashalot is Nashville resident and aspiring producer Gregory Todd, and we think his video (which has been seen nearly five million times) is a labor of love more than a satire. Nashville has a long history of protectionism over what’s regarded as genuine country music, a genre which seems to be looking at its own extinction every couple decades.

We imagine one could produce a similar mashup of crossover hits from the 70s by outsiders like Canadian Anne Murray and Australian Olivia Newton-John who had #1 hits on the country charts. If you’re wondering just how resentful country artists were at the time, watch this bizarre moment from the 1974 CMA Music Awards, in which a doped-up Charlie Rich sets fire to the card reading the name of his successor as Entertainer of the Year, John Denver.

 

Country music returned to its roots for a while, with a traditional streak which dominated the charts and heartland airwaves in the eighties: artists like John Anderson and Emmylou Harris covered standards by stars of the Grand Ole Opry, and Ricky Skaggs revived bluegrass over the course of a dozen #1 hits. And then there’s the whole alt-country scene, with bands like Uncle Tupelo approaching traditional music from a post-punk background.

The best thing which ever happened to pop music was the FCC’s deregulation of radio under the Reagan administration, and the rapid proliferation of rural stations revived pop country, which had been kept alive by artists the likes of Alabama and Eddie Rabbitt throughout the 80s. Pop country is darn easy to listen to, especially when all the songs sound the same: by the time the six artists whose songs were used in Sir Mashalot’s video were born, most music on the country station was well on the way to becoming more or less indistinguishable from the music on the top 40 and adult contemporary stations again.

Black Market Brass performing here at Hymie’s on a cold night last winter. This is the latest in our series of videos co-produced with Pabst Blue Ribbon. Dan Huiting directed, Lauren Josephine edited, and Brian Herb of Mother of All Music mixed the sound.

This band’s great single on Secret Stash Records is one of those local records that’s so good you can do “the Beta Band trick” with it. They’re a great live act, too — their next show is at the Coup D’etat Block Party on Saturday June 13th.

We’re awful proud to have been chosen in CNN’s list of “ten of America’s beloved record stores” last week, but we’ve got bigger things on our mind when we look at the headlines each morning. And we sure wish CNN did too.

For starters, the Baltimore riot. And for good measure recent events from North Charleston, Ferguson, and Tulsa, where after restrained suspect Eric Courtney Harris was shot ‘by accident’ and said he couldn’t breath, the last words he heard on this Earth were “fuck your breath” — its harrowing footage to watch, especially considering the savage choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last summer for the crime of selling loose cigarettes.

The Daily Show‘s criticism of CNN’s coverage has been both hilarious and alarmingly on point.  Not only did the twenty-four hour news network offer hours of fawning coverage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner instead of covering the Baltimore riots, but anchor Wolf Blitzer seemed to have completely forgotten the past two months in his absurd denial of the riot’s precedence.

The media has offered a tragically narrow view of the Baltimore riots, completely ignoring the crowds who showed up to help repair damages during the aftermath. CNN’s own coverage sure seems like its set to promote the same stereotypes the media pushed after the 1989 LA riots. Meanwhile, the “Black Lives Matter” movement has misdirected is passion to punish unrelated people. Whether their protest at the Mall of America last year ‘raised awareness’ is negligible, but whether it cost thousands of workers much of a much-need Saturday’s income is certain. There appears to be no leadership on this issue which public officials address with trepidation. There are enormous systemic problems and no one has the courage to acknowledge them.

The fact that the US Justice Department doesn’t track police shootings of civilians at as alarming as any other fact unearthed by recent events. A recent Washington State University study suggests police actually shoot white suspects with less hesitation, but the cruelty of police killings of black suspects is nothing short of a national disgrace — especially considering footage of officers not providing CPR or other care in South Carolina, Oklahoma and elsewhere. What have we become?

Unfortunately, the Justice Department largely has no interest in the subject, since local police usually handle inquiries into claims of an officer’s use of force, and the officer is rarely disciplined. Look at a recent case right here in St. Paul, in which Chris Lollie was followed and harassed by police while waiting for his children outside their pre-school in a skyway seating area:

His ‘crime’? Refusing to provide identification, even though there was no probable cause he’d committed a crime and therefore no cause for officers to ask for his identification, let alone follow him for several blocks. He was undeniably harassed for his race and innocent of any crime (it was a public area where First National Bank had previously encouraged everyone to “enjoy a seat”) — the video is especially upsetting to us because it happened so close to home.

the messageWhat discipline did the officers who harassed and assaulted Chris Lollie recieve? None. Even though all charges against Lollie were dropped (you cannot ‘trespass’ on public property), they were exonerated by the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Commission in a decision announced last November.

This is the militarization of police we’ve allowed. Lollie was in the right: innocent of any crime and honestly passing time while waiting to pick up his kids at pre-school before being harassed, followed and tazed (this hurts a lot, by the way) not merely for his race but also the additional ‘crime’ of asserting his rights.

This is also the extent to which we pretend to not see communities within our country. For years we were told we’d win the “hearts and minds” of a country we occupied, while at the same time denying the own concern to our own citizens.

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“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

 

 

We’ve been producing videos on our stage in the shop for a few years with help from Pabst Twin Cities, and this most recent one is our favorite yet. Maximumrockandroll named Mystery Date’s New Noir as its record of the week back in March, and we couldn’t have agreed more. Their album is a exhilarating combination of power pop and punk rock, but the trio doesn’t take its craft too seriously. They’re one of the most fun live acts in town, and three really great guys as well.

“Lightspeed Romance” is from their first album, which is online here. The song was also on their first single for Piñata Records, which is sadly out of print.

The video was directed by Dan Huiting and edited by Lauren Josephine. Brian Herb mixed the sound. We just stayed out of everyone’s way.

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