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Meg Baird hops on board the Lee Ranaldo / Steve Gunn acoustic tour

Meg Baird | courtesy of the artist
Meg Baird | courtesy of the artist

San Francisco by way of Philadelphia songwriter Meg Baird is hopping on the already stacked co-headlining tour of Lee Ranaldo and Steve Gunn this January. Aside from her solo career, Baird is also known a lead vocalist in psychedelic folk rock band Espers. Her latest solo effort, Don’t Weigh Down the Light, was released last summer. For tickets and more information on her PhilaMOCA set, head over to XPN’s Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo’s joint solo tour comes to PhilaMOCA

GunnLeeTour

Guitar maestros Steve Gunn and Lee Ranaldo are hitting the road together for a short run of intimate, solo gigs. The tour will begin this January in Somerville, Massachusetts and end right here in Philadelphia with a January 21st PhilaMOCA date.

Lee Ranaldo is best known for being a co-founder of legendary noise rock group Sonic Youth. He’s also an accomplished visual artist, and in 2014, he released his latest solo record with backing band The Dust, Acoustic Dust. Continue reading →

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Review: Avant-guitar virtuoso Lee Ranaldo wows Boot and Saddle with The Dust

Lee Ranaldo and The Dust | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Lee Ranaldo and The Dust | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

This past Wednesday Boot & Saddle played host to one of rock’s premiere guitar virtuosos in Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo and his band The Dust, which features the superb drumming skills of fellow former Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley as well as Alan Licht on guitar and Tim Luntzel on bass, wowed a nearly sold-out crowd for 90-plus minutes. Bathed in mostly red light, Ranaldo shifted between multiple guitars with ease and added the visual and aural flair of playing with a bow as well as a set of cymbals.

Heavily relying on material from their 2013 record Last Night on Earth, Ranaldo and Co. fashioned a soundscape both familiar and exotic to go with the inspiration he culled from time in Italy. With Shelley’s joyously fierce drumming of a Sonic Youth-emblazoned drum set and a bassline pulsing through the floor and up one’s legs (I could feel it hours afterwards), Ranaldo and the Dust are a powerful band. And as they ended the night within the limits of curfew with the lengthy (but certainly worth it) jam track “Blackt Out,” one’s rock palate had been sated for the night. Yet the taste for more Ranaldo, Shelley, and beyond remains. Lansdowne native and currently Brooklyn-based Steve Gunn opened.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Lee Ranaldo and the Dust at Boot & Saddle, Kevin Devine at Musikfest Cafe, Dirty Dozen Brass Band at World Cafe Live and more

Lee Ranaldo and the Dust | photo via www.facebook.com/leeranaldoandthedust
Lee Ranaldo and the Dust | photo via www.facebook.com/leeranaldoandthedust

Lee Ranaldo and the Dust headline Boot & Saddle tonight.  The founding member Sonic Youth has created an impressive solo career over the last couple of decades, most recently releasing Between the Times and the Tides in 2012 (ahead of an XPoNential Music Festival appearance) and Last Night on Earth in 2013.  In-between, Ranaldo has performed the works of John Cage in intriguing and experimental ways (check out an interview about it here).  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with Steve Gunn can be found here.  Watch Ranaldo and his band perform “Lecce, Leaving” on Conan below.

Continue reading →

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Photos: Lee Ranaldo at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Guitarist Lee Ranaldo, an alum of XPo Fest ’12 and a founding member of Sonic Youth, performed a program of John Cage pieces last night as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Dancing Around the Bride exhibition. On display since the fall, the interdisciplinary exhibit celebrates the work and interactions of 20th century artists Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Ranaldo has long drawn influence from Cage – read Elliott Sharp’s interview with him here – and last night performed several abstract guitar pieces while dancers from Cunningham’s dance company performed on the stage in front of him. The sound was imaginative and somewhat mystical, mixing in audio from radio and a player piano with Ranaldo’s exhilarating guitar work. He suspended his guitar from the ceiling and played it with a bow, waved it atop his upturned guitar amplifier, swung it like a propeller around the room and allowed the air and motion the shape the sound how it would. Ranaldo performs again today and tomorrow, beginning at 1 p.m.; more information can be found at the museum’s website.

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Interview: Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo on John Cage (playing the Philadelphia Museum of Art on 1/4 – 1/6)


Lee Ranaldo is best known as the guitarist and co-founder of Sonic Youth, inarguably one of the most essential American rock bands. But his work outside of that band is just as adventurous, ranging from the singer-songwriter oriented album he released last year on Matador, Between the Times and the Tides, and his more feverish experimental work with critical voices like Mats Gustafsson, Zeena Parkins and William Hooker, and in groups like Text of Light (with Christian Marclay, Alan Licht and Ulrich Krieger ). In addition to his numerous music projects and releases, Ranaldo is also a visual artist and writer.

Ranaldo is performing several times in Philadelphia over the weekend as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Dancing around the Bride,” the massive ongoing exhibit celebrating the work of John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. For these performances, Ranaldo will be interpreting several Cage scores, as well as performing some of his own work.

I caught up with Ranaldo a few days ago on the phone from his home in New York City to talk about his personal relationship with Cage’s work and legacy.

The Key: Did you ever meet John Cage?

Lee Ranaldo: I saw him at a few events around New York in the 1980s, but we weren’t really that friendly.

TK: Do you recall your first encounter with his work?

LR: I think it was “Rainforest IV,” with David Tudor. It was definitely mid-70s, when I was just arriving at college and starting to hear a lot of different avant-garde and 20th century composers, from Edgar Varèse to Karlheinz Stockhausen to John Cage.

TK: What was your first impression?

LR: I would liken it to the one I first had when I encountered mid-century avant-garde American film: at first you don’t know what to make of it, and then you realize it’s an entirely new language that you’re trying to understand. In a sense, you have to work your way into a language, or into a new art form; it’s like coming to an understanding of abstract painting. Continue reading →

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XPoNential Fest: Lee Ranaldo plays an explosive set on the Marina Stage

Expressionistic, explosive guitarist Lee Ranaldo was a founding member of avant-garde alternative rock band Sonic Youth, and remains an adventurous songwriter in his own right. During a Saturday afternoon set on the Marina Stage at XPo Fest, Ranaldo and his four-piece band (featuring fellow Sonic Youth alumnus Steve Shelley on drums) delivered the musical wizardy and pop hooks showcased on his recent solo album, Between the Time and the Tides. Ranaldo played his guitar with a violin bow, broke a few strings, and serenaded the crowd with warm, reflective anthems like “Off The Wall” and “Waiting on a Dream.” Check out a photo gallery above, and see the setlist below. You can listen to his performance in its entirety here (via the WXPN media player). Continue reading →

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Listen to a Fleetwood Mac cover by Lee Ranaldo Band (playing XPoNential Music Festival next week)

Electric guitar wizard and Sonic Youth co-founder Lee Ranaldo teamed up with one of his 80s alt-rock brethren – J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. – to cover the instrumental Fleetwood Mac number “Albatross,” a song originally recorded in 1969 and released during the Mac’s heady pre-Buckingham / Nicks era. You can stream their cover below, and compare it against a live BBC performance of the original from 1970. “Albatross” will appear on Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac, which will be released in August by Starbucks’ Hear Music label, and will also feature contributions from Best Coast, Marianne Faithful, The New Pornographers and Tame Impala. Lee Ranaldo Band will be joining us next week for the XPoNential Music Festival; they play the Jersey Arts Marina stage on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. You can pick up your tickets or passes here; early bird prices for the festival have been extended through July 11.