Monthly Archives: December 2012
In the latest installment of what is now our continuing series of posts about artists and their representatives charging insane amounts of money for their music, the Zappa Family Trust recently announced a rather unique method of putting out some unreleased Frank Zappa live stuff: Instead of just selling the tracks themselves (for now, at least—more on that in a sec), they’re going sell what are known in the biz as “master duplication copies” for $1,000 a pop. Owners of said masters can then turn around and resell the music themselves—becoming, in effect, independent distributors of what ZFT has cleverly titled Roxy by Proxy (All Roxy No Elsewhere), a set of unreleased recordings from the same December 1973 shows that the produced the now-classic live album, Roxy & Elsewhere.
On paper, I suppose a thousand G’s for a master dupe sounds like a bargain. Under the terms of the sale, you get to manufacture and sell as many copies of Roxy by Proxy as you want—so for any really enterprising soul, this could even prove to be a money-making venture. But there are a few major caveats in the fine print.
First, you’re only allowed to distribute Roxy by Proxy on CD—not in any other format, including digital or increasingly trendy, collector-friendly vinyl. Second, you’re responsible for your own manufacturing costs—unless you decide to use ZFT’s manufacturer, in which case you’ll be charged the rather steep wholesale price of $11 per CD (plus shipping and handling) on top of the grand you already dropped. Third, ZFT retains the right to sell this same music itself in any format—so you might eventually be competing with them to get your copies of Roxy by Proxy out to the Zappa faithful.
The Family Trust says they’re doing this mainly to raise money to complete a concert film documenting some of those historic shows on which Roxy by Proxy and Roxy & Elsewhere are based. So in a way, this is sort of their own version of a Kickstarter campaign—except unlike with most Kickstarters, Roxy by Proxy has one tier only, and it’s strictly for high rollers. Which seems like a not very well-thought-out strategy to us, but what do we know? We’re just a couple of broke-ass bloggers. We’re sure Frank has more than his fair share of fans with an extra thou lying around.
For more information on how to license Roxy by Proxy, visit Zappa.com. And if you decide to pony up for a master duplication copy, just remember that you need to do so by Dec. 28th.
Man, I love our Facebook polls. If it was up to me, we’d do one every week, but my partner in crime Andy is a fucking control freak so we only do them every month or so. The rest of the time, we get to pick the bands. But honestly, you guys out there in Readerland kinda do a better job at it.
Case in point: This month’s poll winner, a one-man/one-doll band from Vermont called Caring Babies. Actually, this is the second winning band in the past few polls that features inanimate objects as band members. Your Fuzzy Friends, who we featured in November, are a one-man/three-animal-hand-puppets band. We should find a few more and organize a festival. We could call it Fluffstock or some shit.
The human member of Caring Babies is apparently a dude named Matt Mazur who sings like David Byrne and, as you can see, has excellent taste in sweaters. He had this to say about being our Weird Band of the Week: “I will wait as patiently as I can for this article, but I am doing some dances because it’s cool and because I’m excited.” Well, wait no more, Matt! But keep doing those dance moves anyway, because judging from your live show, you need all the practice you can get. (I kid! If it wasn’t for spazzy white-guy dance moves, this whole blog wouldn’t exist.)
The non-human member of Caring Babies is a Cabbage Patch-like doll named Redgei. She had nothing to say about being our Weird Band of the Week, but since she’s a doll, she’s probably not real good at writing emails. Then again, she’s credited as playing all the band’s computers, so who knows? Maybe she’s just less impressed with us than Matt is. As she should be.
Caring Babies have been around since 2009 and are from a town in Vermont called Wilder, which is so fucking appropriate I can hardly stand it. Their songs are catchy little synth ditties that mostly seem to be about friends and balloons and generally happy stuff. They also have a song about cell phones, which by their standards gets kinda dark: “Mr. Cell Phone, I thought you were talking to me.” It’s biting social commentary you can spazz-dance to.
For more on Caring Babies, check out their Blogspot or peep the videos below. Oh and go vote in our next poll, OK? I’m pretty sure this one is 100% doll, hand puppet and stuffed-animal free. We try to mix things up.
P.S. We’re taking next week off to go torture our families during the holidays, so this is our last Weird Band of the Week for 2012. All kidding aside, thanks for supporting us so much these past 12 months and get ready for even more weirdness in 2013. We’ve barely scratched the surface, people!
Even in the world of weird bands, The Residents have pretty much always hummed their own tune. So it figures that at a time when seemingly ever band on the planet is launching a Kickstarter to fund their next record, The Residents have basically decided to force fans to start their own Kickstarters just to buy their next record.
Did I say record? I meant box set. Wait, did I say box set? I meant MOST GARGANTUAN SET OF MUSIC EVER RELEASED BY ONE BAND IN THE HISTORY OF RECORDED MUSIC.
Seriously, this thing is ridiculous. It comes in a fucking working refrigerator, for starters. It includes everything The Residents have ever released in their entire 40-year history, including 40 LPs, 50 CDs, and approximately one metric butt-ton of singles, EPs, DVDs and God knows what else. It even includes an authentic Residents eyeball mask and top hat. Who knows, maybe even one worn by the actual Residents, since they’ve ditched the eyeballs lately in favor of an old man mask and what I’m gonna call Tusken Raider lounge singer costumes.
And oh by the way, here’s the most ridiculous part: Each Ultimate Box Set (UBS) will set you back a mere $100,000. No, that’s not a typo. You could literally buy a house in Pittsburgh right now for less than the price of this box set. I’m not even misusing the word “literally.”
There are only 10 of these things in existence and they go on sale Christmas Day. Wonder if anyone will give them as gifts? Wonder if anyone will have the balls to put this on their wish list? “Never mind the Xbox, Mom. Or college. Just give me a fridge full of Residents!”
After they’ve raked in a cool million from these box sets, The Residents will kick off 2013 with a bunch of tour dates celebrating their 40th anniversary as a band. After the dates below, stick around for an Ultimate Box Set infomercial starring The Residents’ lead singer, Randy Rose. Oh yeah, hadn’t you heard? The Residents “revealed” their identities in 2010. Apparently their names are Randy, Chuck and Bob. So now you know.
The Residents “Wonder of Weird” Tour Dates:
January 29, 2013 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
January 31, 2013 – Austin, TX – Scottish Rite Theater
February 1, 2013 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
February 2, 2013 – Dallas, TX – Kessler Theater
February 3, 2013 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
February 5, 2013 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
February 6, 2013 – Carrboro, NC – Carrboro Arts Center
February 8, 2013 – Northampton, MA – Iron Horse
February 9, 2013 – New York, NY – Stage 48
February 10, 2013 – Washington, DC – Sixth & I Synagogue
February 11, 2013 – Philadelphia, PA – World Café
February 12, 2013 – Boston, MA – Institute of Contemporary Art
February 15, 2013 – Chicago, IL – Schubas
February 16, 2013 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
February 17, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
February 18, 2013 – Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
February 21, 2013 – Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre
February 22, 2013 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
February 24, 2013 – San Francisco, CA – Bimbo’s 365 Club
February 25, 2013 – Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
February 26, 2013 – San Diego, CA – Belly Up
February 28, 2013 – Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre
Now here’s that infomercial. I could be wrong, but after watching all seven minutes of this thing, I’d swear The Residents must be Insane Clown Posse fans.
This week’s band is one of several recently suggested to us by the inimitable Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin, who could probably do a way better job than us running this blog if she were so inclined. They’re a French group called Rockets, or sometimes Les Rockets or Roketz or even Silver Rockets to avoid being confused with a much less interesting American band called Rockets. And they did the whole ’70s glam/proto-disco/space-rock “We are aliens and we have come to your planet to boogie” thing the way only a bunch of ’70s French dudes could.
Rockets started in Paris way back in 1974 under the name Rocket Men. Dressed up in matching silver suits with shaved heads and silvery gray facepaint, they no doubt caused quite a scene in the French rock clubs of the day. Their otherworldly appearance and heavy use of synthesizers and vocoders suggested a strong Kraftwerk influence, but there was more to them than that: The very first track on their 1976 self-titled debut album, for example, was “Apache,” a funked-up version of a faux-Spaghetti Western rock instrumental recorded by a 1960 British skiffle band called The Shadows. They later covered Canned Heat, too. So their influences ranged pretty far beyond Ziggy-era Bowie and Krautrock—although that was clearly all part of the mix, too.
By 1979, Rockets had begun to enjoy some commercial success, at least in Europe, where their third album Plasteroid sold out in some countries almost as soon as it was released. By this time, they had developed more of a pop/New Wave sound and outfits that appeared to borrow rather flagrantly from Ace Frehley’s Spaceman look. But they had also perfected a highly entertaining live show that featured lots of robot dance moves and a scary, bazooka-like device with which lead singer Christian Le Bartz could shower the audience with sparks. Check the three-minute mark of this clip from an Italian TV appearance for a taste of the spark-bazooka; I’m pretty sure that even in Italy, they don’t let you get away with shit like that anymore.
Rockets peaked, both commercially and creatively, with 1980’s Galaxy, a brilliantly campy piece of space-rock/synth-pop with blacklight-ready cover art and high-concept songs about space travel and cyborgs and other bits of sci-fi geekery. It sold over a million copies worldwide, but the band began to unravel soon thereafter. By 1983, both lead singer Le Bartz and drummer Alain Groetzinger had quit the group, followed shortly by their longtime producer, Claude Lemoine, and their bassist, “Little” Gerard L’Her. With a new British lead singer, Sal Solo, the remnants of Rockets squeezed out two more albums, 1986’s One Way and 1992’s Another Future—the latter of which gamely tried to update the band’s sound with some Brit-rave beats, but without much success. By 1993, the band was effectively defunct.
But nothing helps revive musical careers like a healthy dose of nostalgia—so you will not be surprised to learn that as of 2000, Rockets have resumed their existence, albeit in heavily watered-down form. The closest thing they still have to an original member is keyboardist Fabrice Quagliotti, an Italian who joined the group in 1977. Although we’re not sure exactly when it was shot, we’re pretty sure this video is Rockets in their current incarnation. The spark-shooting guitar is kinda cool, we guess, but go-go dancers? Seriously, guys? They’re like a bad Eurovision band now. We prefer to remember them in their spacey and slightly awkward late ’70s heyday, like in this video:
Or even when they were getting all arty and high-concept with guest female vocalists in the early ’80s, like in this clip:
So thanks for the tip, Petunia! Who knew that over 20 years before Daft Punk, French people were already dressing up like robot/alien space creatures?
- Les Rockets (site dedicated to the “old” Rockets, in Italian)
- Rockets home page (fan site, with an excellent bio we cribbed most of this post from, in English and Italian)
- Rockets & Rocketsland (official site of the “new” Rockets, in Italian)
- Rockets.com.ua (Ukrainian/Russian fan site)
- Rockets on MySpace (appears to be a fan page, not recently updated)
Is there any band on the planet better-suited to putting on a Christmas concert than The Polyphonic Spree? Do I even have to answer that? This is a band that, even in non-Christmas mode, radiates so much joy to the world that they practically levitate off the stage. Slap a few Santa hats on them, and the joy is so intense you could probably weaponize it and have the entire nation of North Korea doing the “Gangnam Style” dance in the streets. So it’s about time that they finally released a Christmas album, Holidaydream, and took their semi-legendary annual Holiday Extravaganza concert on the road.
The first stop of the Holiday Extravaganza (Holivaganza?) tour was right here in Los Angeles this past Thursday night. Held at the usually dark and clubby Henry Fonda Theatre, it was a kid-friendly affair with unconventional opening acts (a magician, a children’s book author), people in Santa suits and giant snowman and reindeer costumes running around the crowd, printed programs with song lyrics, and a decidedly non-rock concert vibe. One friend of mine brought her seven-year-old daughter, who was happily tear-assing around the venue with another little girl with blinky lights on her shoes. At one point I spotted Spree frontman Tim DeLaughter in the audience, chillaxing and enjoying himself as much as everyone else. It was like being at a church social that just happened to have a full bar with six beers on tap.
The Spree played an early, holiday-themed set for the families and kids; then, after a couple of other musical acts (YouTube-famous folkie Gustafer Yellowgold and the punk-rock-meets-Blue-Man-Group racket of Street Drum Corps), they returned for an extended “rock set” that included old Spree standards like “Soldier Girl” and “Light & Day/Reach for the Sun.” Both sets featured balloon drops, confetti cannons, and loads of rowdy singing along—along maybe not as much singing along as DeLaughter was hoping for when he invited a bunch of the kids up on stage and launched into “Feliz Navidad.” Turns out most little kids whose parents have dragged them to a Polyphonic Spree concert don’t know the words to “Feliz Navidad.” Note to Tim: Try “Jingle Bells” next time. That’s every seven-year-old’s “Sweet Caroline.”
To the Spree’s credit, they didn’t stick to the obvious, feelgood Yuletide classics. Yes, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and “Joy to the World” were practically meant to be played by an 18-piece rock orchestra, and they were suitably grandiose and exuberant. But an eerie, slightly atonal version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was also one of the highlights of the holiday set, as was the “Town Meeting Song” from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I also loved that they turned “Silent Night” into a harp solo so beautiful, it actually made you forget that “Silent Night” is one of the dreariest, most dirge-like Christmas carols of all time.
The latest incarnation of the Spree has been stripped down to a comparatively lean 18 members—or so my program tells me. Actually, I only counted 17 people onstage, but maybe the second guitarist was out sick or something. Even minus a French horn or two, they still managed to pump out quite the wall of sound.
The highlight of any Spree set, for me, is their electrifying cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium,” and the version on this tour, accompanied by a pink balloon drop, does not disappoint.
The only part of the show that was even better than “Lithium”? The milk and cookies they handed everyone in the lobby on their way out. Can all bands start doing this now, please?
The Polyphonic Spree Holiday Extravaganza is only playing four more cities: Chicago (Dec. 11th), Philadelphia (Dec. 14th), New York (Dec. 15th) and Dallas (Dec. 22nd). If you’re lucky enough to live in one of those places, go. What else are you gonna see this time of year? Mannheim Steamroller?
[Update: Video of the Spree's performance has been added to the end of this post. Scroll for the gold, people!]
Look, we know Jay Leno is the Grinch who stole The Tonight Show. But suck it up, Conan fans, and watch late-night television’s most lantern-jawed host just this once, because he’s got a special treat for you, in the form of a red-and-white robe bedecked orchestral pop ensemble churning out what will no doubt be the most euphoric rendition of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” since the John and Yoko original.
Yes, the Polyphonic Spree are out promoting their new holiday album, Holidaydream, available now wherever fine Yuletide soundtracks are sold. They’re also doing a very limited December tour, which we’ll be covering later this week. The press release for the tour promises a holiday-themed variety show extravaganza that may or may not feature such delights as zoo animals and “tap-dancing grannies.” (No, really, the press release actually says “tap-dancing grannies.”) So stay tuned for our report and grainy Instagram photos, campers! This should be a fun one.
In the meantime, here are some Spree December tour dates:
Dec. 6 – Fonda Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 8 – Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
Dec. 11 – Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, IL
Dec. 14 – Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA
Dec. 15 – Webster Hall, New York, NY
Dec. 22 – Lakewood Theater, Dallas, TX
And here’s a sample of Holidaydream: a lovely animated video for “Let It Snow,” one of 13 videos the band is rolling out Advent Calendar-style on their website. And yes, for once, we’re calling something “lovely” in a totally sincere and non-ironic way. Well done, Spree.
Update: The Spree’s Tonight Show performance is now available via Hulu and embedded below. It’s not quite as over-the-top as we were hoping for—they’ve stripped down to a comparatively lean 18 members—but it still puts us in the Christmas spirit way better than knocking over old ladies to get to the discount racks at JCPenney.