French officials ordered security measures in the wake of the ISIL terrorist attack in Paris last Friday, which included the cancellation of all concerts. As just about everyone around the world has read or heard by now, the largest massacre was at a show by an American band, Eagles of Death Metal, at the Bataclan Theater. Included in the eighty-nine victims was Nick Alexander of Colchester, England, who was serving as their merch manager. This all hits close to home for anyone who loves live music, and like us spends a lot of evenings in clubs and theaters.

The restrictions have since been eased as the city seems safer, although efforts to capture the possible mastermind of the attack led to a shootout late last night in the suburb of Saint-Denis. The legendary Irish punk band Stiff Little Fingers didn’t cancel a show last night at a Paris venue, Backstage at the Mill. In this BBC story, lead singer Jake Burns expressed their condolences to the victims. “For us, we’re musicians, we’ve just come to do what we do. Hopefully the people who come tonight can manage to forget about their troubles for an hour and a half,” he said. “That would be our job done as we see it.”

Burns and the band grew up in Belfast during the worst of what were called the Troubles, the long and bloody conflict in Northern Ireland which deterred touring bands from visiting the capital city for much of the seventies.

“As a youngster, it was frustrating to be deprived of such a normal part of life. For us as a band, our performances were sometimes delayed because of disturbances and road blocks, nothing serious. But we do have an appreciation of just how difficult these situations can be.

Obviously, in Northern Ireland, conflict became very much the normal state of affairs. Here, it isn’t. It’s a huge shock to the system for people here. Unfortunately, we can’t do a lot to help, we’re just here to do our job.”


After their encore, lead singer Jake Burns told the crowd, “The world has you in its heart.”


Before French officials eased the restrictions, another Irish group with roots in the Troubles, U2, was forced to cancel a concert which was to be televised on Saturday. They had been rehearsing in Paris, just three miles from the Bataclan, when the attacks began on Friday night. Bono spoke with an Irish radio station in the morning, offering his reaction. “Our first thoughts at this point are with the Eagles of Death Metal fans,” he said.

If you think about it, the majority of victims last night are music fans. This is the first direct hit on music that we’ve had in this so-called War on Terror or whatever it’s called. It’s very upsetting. These are our people. This could be me at a show. You at a show, in that venue. It’s a very recognizable situation for you and for me and the coldblooded aspect of this slaughter is deeply disturbing and that’s what I can’t get out of my head.

All four members of U2 visited the Bataclan Theater on Saturday, laying flowers on the sidewalk with others.


There is a lyric in the bridge of Stiff Little Finger’s first single, “Alternative Ulster,” which seemed like a fitting response to the Islamic terrorists like ISIL, even though the song was originally about the conflict in Ireland.

They say they’re a part of you
But that’s not true you know
They say they’ve got control of you
And that’s a lie you know

pop wagner

Pop Wagner’s 1988 album Disco on the Bayou might look like a novelty along the lines of Saturday Night Fiedler, but it’s actually a great combination of his familiar cowboy stylings and cajun classics like Clifton Chenier’s “I Yi Yi.”

Pop has about ten albums dating back to 1977, and on them he performs with lots of favorite local musicians: Peter Ostroushko, Butch Thompson, Tony Glover, Charlie Maguire and Bob Bovee, to name a few.

A genuine, old fashioned cowboy, Pop is also known for his rope tricks and tall tales, as well as his hand-made mohair cinches for you equestrians out there. You can find out more about that from his website (here).

Pop is next performing on Saturday November 28th at Patty and the Button‘s annual vaudeville show at the Heights Theater (details, on Facebook, here). Other performers include the awesome Adam Kiesling, the Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers, Christina Baldwin and master of the mighty Wurlitzer organ, Harvey Gustafson. Other special guest include tap dancer Miss Molly and puppeteer Liz Schacterle. It’s an afternoon matinee, and last year we had a fantastic time with the kids!


buddy weed

manfred schoof

jj fux

clovis gentilhomme

Paris Blues

“Paris Blues” is the theme from a 1961 soundtrack album by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. The film stars Sydney Poitier (still one of our favorites) and Paul Newman as American jazz musicians working in the City of Lights, playing in clubs perhaps like La Belle Equippe or Comtoir Voltaire.

We are, like most of the world, at a loss for words after the events in Paris on Friday night. Fortunately, this song has no words.

Photo on 11-15-15 at 11.42 AM

rank strangers the box

Celebrating their silver anniversary, Rank Strangers have released not one, not two, but three albums this year. The third of these, The Box, is the subject of a release show/25th anniversary party tonight at 7th Street Entry. While producing a vinyl tryptic isn’t an unprecedented undertaking (the endearing and inventive folk duo Sudden Lovelys released three LPs in 2012, which we featured here), it is undeniably an impressive accomplishment. Few bands last twenty-five years, and fewer still hit their stride entering that second quarter century. Rank Strangers might have been a darling during those years when Minneapolis might have been Seattle, but that was a long time ago and today the band is better today for its unencumbered independence. The Star Tribune‘s reliable Chris Reimenschneider, who Thursday featured The Box by pointing out the band didn’t make one of the best local rock records of the year. “They released three of them,” he wrote on Thursday.

We’ve already featured the first two records (Lady President here and Ringtones here) and we’ve spent nearly a year speculating on how the trilogy would be resolved, and whether its recurring themes — royalty, power, revolution, the end of the world — would be connected. If there really had been “a Rosetta stone or map key” as we speculated when Ringtones was released, we’re too slow-witted to find it. We called Mike Wisti’s typed lyric sheets “maddeningly dense” in that post, and we’ve pored over them as we have played these albums over and over. Once again the lyric sheet reads like Theodore Kaczynski’s manifesto if it had been edited by Tom Robbins, and while we get tangled trying to connect dots which may not be there, we enjoy the albums even more knowing the words (we are famous for making up words when we don’t know the actual lyrics — you should hear our impression of “Lady Marmalade”).


There is nothing on the third album as dramatic as the reworking of “The Last Piranha” which appears as the penultimate track on Ringtones and first set us towards the theory it would all lead to a grand conclusion. Instead, after an hour and a half of anxiety over the end of times and everything leading up to it, Mike Wisti ends the trilogy with an assurance that “paupers and teachers reach out for preachers” and a simple flourish. T.S. Elliot told us this is the way the world would end.

Honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Like its predecessors, The Box is filled with catchy, inventive pop tunes, often in the vein of those late-era new wave records which found aging punkers exploring new directions and running out contracts. “Global Warming” is a brief interlude which approaches a genuinely serious topic without commentary, but provides one of the most enjoyable melodies in the trilogy, and on the other end “Bird Flu Blues” actually embodies a sense of anxious dread.

The straight ahead rockers on The Box, a couple reappearing reworked from the previous albums (“The Lone Piranha” and “Halloween Arrives”), are worlds better than the middle-of-the-road stuff praised as presentably pious in the church of pop mediocrity. “The Empire of Dresses,” with an awesome sounding bass line played by Davin Odegaard, is one of our favorite songs of the year. And “Lone Piranha” here is presented with more energy than on the first album.

Over the past few years Mike Wisti has engineered some uniquely mad records in Albatross Studio, most notably Grant Hart’s epic The Argument, which portrayed Milton’s “Paradise Lost” with aching intimacy at times (put Hart’s “I Will Never See My Home Again” in the context of the 2011 fire in his childhood home, and yes this is a subject which hits close to the heart here at Hymie’s). The Fuck Knights’ labored psych- rock sophomore statement Puke All Over Themselves (feature on our blog here) was recorded in Wisti’s studio at the same time. Its seems like these projects and others have bled into Rank Strangers’ willingness to try new things in this trilogy of albums. The result through three albums has been extremely successful without falling into the pitfalls of Sandinista!, which even for fans like us has overlong moments of indulgence. The three albums by Rank Strangers this year are pleasantly compact and cohesive, and it’s been a real pleasure to finally be able to listen to the three together. We expect all three are albums which will be favorites of ours for a long time.



Rank Strangers release show for The Box (and 25th anniversary celebration) is tonight at 7th Street Entry. They will also be playing here at Hymie’s along with J.W. Schuller tomorrow night at 6pm.

spotlight on percussion

This entertaining program was produced and directed by Ward Botsford for Vox Records in 1955, and appeared as box set even though it is a single LP. Spotlight on Percussion presents the sounds of more than sixty percussion instruments followed by examples of their use by classical composers ranging from Handel to Hindesmith with many stops in between.

The program is narrated by radio personality Al “Jazzbo” Collins (who last appeared on the Hymies blog here), and features Arnold Goldberg and Kenny Clarke as the percussionists. The album also includes an interesting interview with the engineer, Rudy Van Gelder, best known for his work with jazz artists, including on some of the recordings for which Clarke is famous.

Ward Botsford had an extensive career as a record producer with a keen emphasis on obscure or unrecorded classical compositions. He also produced spoken word albums for Caedmon Records, recording writers such as T.S. Elliot and Gertrude Stein reading their own works. Beginning in 1979 he had the opportunity to reissue music from EMI’s catalog through Arabesque Records, a subsidiary of Caedmon until Botsford and a partner purchased it. After Botsford’s retirement the label went further into jazz, but still includes new and reissued classical recordings as well.

Here are two selections from the program of Spotlight on Percussion.

The first offers insight into the role of percussion in several places, such as unprecedented appearance of the tympani in the D minor scherzo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and the brilliant use in Saint-Saen’s Dance Macabre. This second launching the tradition of dancing skeletons, from Disney’s “Silly Symphony” in 1929 to Michael Jackson’s “Ghosts” seventy years later.

In the second section Kenny Clarke performs a variety of material while Collins introduces the percussionist’s role in a jazz group. He was, even by 1955, one of the most influential performers in jazz, for his role in early bebop recordings by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others. Clarke is credited with creating the ride cymbal pattern, which became a foundation of bop rhythm (here’s Tony Williams performing an example of the ride cymbal). You’ll hear this and other familiar bebop innovations in his improvisations on this recording.

nifty chart

The final feature of Spotlight on Percussion is the big book included in the box, which contains an extensive and interesting history of percussion. There is even this nifty chart of instruments and their use, range and history.

distins drumThe history includes fun trivia, like the story of Distin’s Monster Drum, exhibited in England in the nineteenth century. The book also includes more details about the recording and production of the record than you’ll find in any other record (except maybe one recorded for Dave and Sylvia Ray’s Sweet Jane label), and even pictures of Rudy Van Gelder cutting the master to disc.


Today is Veteran’s Day, a national day of recognition which began in commemoration of the end of World War I, sadly once called “the war to end all wars.” Our deepest thanks to those who have served our country, especially the more than 350 men and women from the upper midwest who have sacrificed their lives to protect us from Islamic terrorism since September 11, 2001.

On a lighter note, here is “Army Blues,” a 1941 single by Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys.

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