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The Top Five At Five presents the music of the late great Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü

Grant Hart | courtesy of Big Hassle Media

Sad to hear about Grant Hart passing away today. As a long time Hüsker Dü fan, I always felt that people mainly associated Bob Mould with the songwriting in that seminal American punk band. I’m certainly also a Bob fan, but Grant wrote many, many cool songs as well. He had a bit more of a pop songwriting sense of the two, and I loved his everyman vocals and the way he always seemed to be teetering on disaster when he went full throttle (witness the last 45 seconds or so of “Sorry Somehow” from Candy Apple Grey). Outside of the Huskers, his solo work and Nova Mob stuff is pretty under-appreciated, in my opinion. He certainly had some epic battles with his demons over the years, but I always found him to be very friendly and sweet. I’ve been singing along to Grant’s songs for a long time now, and I invite the uninitiated to check out his work. There was nobody like him. Continue reading →

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The Edge calls in to WXPN studios to catch up with Dan Reed

The Edge | via facebook.com/u2

So last Wednesday night I got an e mail from U2’s record company. It said that they had The Edge (he – of course – is the guitarist and original member of U2) available tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Did I want the interview? Uh… OK.

I did a little research on the band and their new album, got some question ideas from my “Dan & Dan Music Podcast” partner Dan Deluca of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and took the call. He was extremely nice, very cordial, very professional. It was an enjoyable 10 minutes for me. Listen…I’m no U2 superfan, but I certainly recognize the group’s importance and longevity. They do what they do as well, if not better than, any band in the past 50 years. So it was an honor and a pleasure to talk to The Edge for a few minutes.

As a side note, I went to see U2 on their very first U.S. tour. It was April 17, 1981 (I just looked it up) at Bogart’s in Cincinnati. At 20 years old, I was a few months older than two of the members (including The Edge). They were really, really good… they entertained the 200 or so in attendance, got asked back for an encore, and had to play “I Will Follow” again because they had no other songs. If you would have told me that day that this band would someday become (not too) arguably the biggest rock & roll band in the world, I would have told you that you were nuts. Then if you would have told me that I would be interviewing the guitarist 36 years later for a radio station in Philadelphia, I would have REALLY though you needed help. But it happened. And I’m really glad it did. Continue reading →

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Predicting the fate of SXSW artists, one weird band name at a time

Yes, there's a band called How I Quit Crack, and they look like this, and they will probably get arrested at SXSW (so predicts XPN's Dan Reed) | photo via the artist's official Facebook page
Yes, there’s a band called How I Quit Crack, and they look like this, and they will probably get arrested at SXSW (so predicts XPN’s Dan Reed) | photo via the artist’s official Facebook page

No. I am not going to SXSW.

Just so you know what I’m talking about, SXSW is the South By Southwest Music Festival is a yearly event held in Austin, Texas. It’s the largest gathering of its’ kind, with over 2,000 artists performing in over 100 venues. It has grown exponentially over the years, and it now includes a film and interactive component as well. Over 20,000 registrants are expected this year.

But I’m not going.

This time of year, I get asked that question (“Hey, are you going to SXSW?”) about 50 times daily. It’s the “thing” to ask people if you are in the music promotion business, I guess.

But, no, I’m not going.

That being said, I almost wish I was going this year because THE DAMNED are playing, and I would like to see my punk heroes try to tear things up in their late 50’s.

I love to look at the names of the bands playing SXSW every year. A lot of them I know, but most of them are new bands, trying to get some kind of foothold and attention amongst the throng of thousands of would-be Bonos or Kanyes or GaGas navigating the dusty Austin streets.

Here is a list of my favorite band names playing SXSW shows this year, along with a brief description of what I think they should sound like (or how their SXSW experience will go), given their band name. If you are going to SXSW, please report back to me if you see any of the following groups. Thank you. Continue reading →

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Philly pays tribute to The Last Waltz for a sold-out Troc crowd, raises money for education

Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com
Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com

Saturday night’s Philadelphia tribute to The Last Waltz was a great idea coupled with precise execution, and the cooperation between the performers and the organizers was extraordinary.

In front of a totally packed Trocadero this past Saturday night, the event looked and sounded fantastic. The core band of Jim Boggia, Pete Donnelly, Adam Flicker, Kevin Hanson, Andrew Lipke, Nate Graham and Matt Muir was just wonderful. Donnelly took center stage for many of The Band song vocals, beginning with a fantastic rendition of “Don’t Do It” to start the evening. This core band was positively ferocious throughout. Muir is such a great drummer, and nobody had more fun throughout the evening than Jim Boggia, who just couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

Garth Hudson | Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com
Garth Hudson | Photo by Lisa Schaffer | skylerbug.com

Calling up the special guests as they went along, a few dozen different musicians (including a stellar horn section led by the very talented Jay Davidson), participated throughout the evening. There honestly wasn’t a bad rendition all night, and some of the highlights included Alec Ounsworth ( of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) on “Helpless”, Cowmuddy’s way spirited “Up On Cripple Creek”, Ben Arnold – perfectly cast – absolutely killed Dr. John’s “Such A Night”, and Joey Sweeney and The Long Hair Arkestra’s version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.

The most pleasant surprise of the night was a ridiculously soulful take of Van Morrison’s sublime “Caravan” by a guy named Casey Parker (please… somebody get me some more info on him!). And The Band’s Garth Hudson was the guest of honor! His appearance certainly added to the authenticity of the evening, and the audience was enthusiastic throughout.

This sold-out event, with over 1,000 people in attendance, raised thousands of dollars for four Philly organizations with a focus on education. One of the organizations, the student rock band H.O.M.E. at South Philly’s Andrew Jackson School, performed in The Balcony Bar during the night.

Dan Reed onstage | Photo by Mark Schreiber
Dan Reed onstage | Photo by Mark Schreiber

After the show, Wesley Stace, who played the part of Bob Dylan and The Canterbury poets said “It was a great and magical night that showed us both The Last Waltz and Philadelphia in all their musical glory: so pleased they ask me to be Bob (and the poets)!”

I hate to gush this much, but it was just so much of a fun, successful evening. I can’t wait for the next idea organizers Lipke, Hanson, Fergus Carey, and Bryan Dilworth come up with. Count me in to help, whatever it is…

Below, check out a gallery of photos from the show, and watch a video of “The Weight.”

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A few thoughts on Lou Reed from WXPN’s Dan Reed

Lou-ReedI just heard that Lou Reed passed away. There is going to be a lot said and written about him in the coming days, and much of it will probably more eloquently describe his legacy than I’ll be able to do here. That being said, on a personal level, Reed’s contributions to my life were enormous. I met him once, interviewed him on one other occasion, so I can’t say I knew him. But I KNEW him, you know? Just like many of you did. For those of you whose knowledge of his work doesn’t go much beyond “Walk On The Wild Side”, I urge to you to take this sad occasion to delve deeper into the large and varied catalog of his music. He was one of the most important and confrontational artists in the history of rock & roll.

It’s hard to believe how strange of an album that first Velvet Underground album was (The Velvet Underground And Nico, 1967). Released in the spring before “The Summer Of Love”, that record presented the underside of the hippy dream, rife with drugs, prostitutes, and general bleakness. It predated punk nihilism by a decade. Reed wrote or co-wrote all the songs. Fueled by the artful anarchy of his mentor Andy Warhol, Reed joyfully wrote and sang about all the unmentionables that New York City had to offer. His singing voice was unlike anything else… a monotone that oozed detachment and cool.

It was his solo career, however, that cemented his place in music history. From his David Bowie-produced hit album Transformer (that included “Walk On The Wild Side”, the funniest and most subversive song ever to hit the top 20) to his 1975 album of nothing but noise and hiss (Metal Machine Music) to his wonderful nod to his beloved home (the New York album, 1989) and beyond, Lou Reed challenged, changed, and confounded his fans and foes. I can remember buying his album Street Hassle in high school. I brought it home, put it on the turntable, listened all the way through, and just knew that I could never hear music the same ever again. It was scary and funny, often at the same time. I went back from there… the incredible sadness of the story and characters of Berlin; the druggy swagger of Coney Island Baby; his criminally underrated debut album.

And there’s this interview that I just saw for the first time a week or so ago… it’s from 1974 at the Sydney, Australia airport. I think it’s hilarious.

Back in ’06 we had the “885 Greatest Artists” countdown, and we all had to come up with our top 10’s.  As much of a Stones fan as I am, as much as I adored The Clash, and Neil Young, and My Bloody Valentine, and Nirvana, Lou Reed was my choice for my favorite rock & roll artist of all time.  I think he always will be, because he changed the way I think about music, and what you can say with your own individual talents.  Plus, he was cool as hell.  R.I.P., Uncle Lou…