Saturday, September 3, 2011

Jam of the day, Wikileaks leaks, and a surprising fact about China's punk rock scene: Sonic Youth / "Washing Machine"

Artist: Sonic Youth
Album: Washing Machine
Song: "Washing Machine"
Released: September 26, 1995
Label: Geffen Records

I really had no intent on listening to Sonic Youth today, let alone writing this post, until I saw the following headline on a link shared on SY's Facebook page:

Wikileaks: Sonic Youth is bigger than The Black Eyed Peas in China

The corresponding blog post (on some random crazy-link-sharing Tumblr) links to a New York Times article about how Julian Assange's Wikileaks site has completely revealed all of its holdings via some 1.73 GB document of text that one can find on a file-sharing site using a password that is findable somewhere on the internet. Crazy stuff. I have no desire to actually go through any of that (that's a huge document) but the particular passage this Tumblrer came across was interesting, kind of humorous, and, well, yeah, just really intriguing. (The following is quoted from that Tumblr page; I did not read the Wikileaks document myself.) Here it is:
Shanghai Rocks Out To Sonic Youth
12. (U) In the past year Shanghai has hosted an increasing number of concerts by foreign performers, including the Rolling Stones, James Brown and the Black Eyed Peas. The audiences at all of the concerts have been remarkably consistent, mostly foreigners (of all ages) with few Chinese. As a result, most foreigners expected a similar audience at an April 24 show by New York-based punk band Sonic Youth. Unbeknownst to most (Econoff included) Sonic Youth has a large, devoted following in China.
13. (U) The concert was held at the Shanghai Concert Hall, a historic building in the center of People's Park that primarily hosts classical music concerts. Before the show started the mostly twenty-something clean-cut Chinese audience was seated politely, many still in work attire, most with backpacks, a far cry from the typical Sonic Youth crowd in the United States. There was no alcohol or soda sold, only water. As soon as the lights dimmed, however, pandemonium erupted.
14. (U) The Chinese security seemed unsure how to react; for the first hour every time they tried to control the audience, the band would castigate them. Five minutes into the show the audience rushed the stage but the security stopped the surging crowd and aggressively pushed the audience back to their seats at which point the band stopped singing and asked the security to let the crowd approach the stage. Security held firm until a particularly popular song whipped the crowd into such a frenzy that it overwhelmed the security guards and the audience took over the stage pit. As the concert went on, security eased up more and more so that by the end they were allowing stage diving.
15. (U) According to Lilo Wang, a 24-year old accountant, who spent most of the show in the heart of the mosh pit, Sonic Youth had been popular in China for a long time and within the rock crowd was extremely popular. She said that Shanghai's rock scene was weak because all everyone cared about was making money and they were not passionate about life. She said the cost of the tickets (RMB 480 or USD 62) was worth it and that she hoped more bands like Sonic Youth would come to China and that rock, especially punk, would grow in popularity in Shanghai.
16. (U) Regards from Shanghai.
Pretty crazy, huh? I'm trying to picture what it must have been like to be at that show, both as a foreginer and as a native Chinese, closet Sonic Youth fan. Wild. Music is a universal language, folks. I wonder what that "particularly popular song" was that "whipped the crowd into such a frenzy". Any guesses? It's probably "Teenage Riot", but I'd rather play "Washing Machine" here. My friend and sole office mate has the actual washing machine-featuring blue t-shirt from the album cover (see above photo) and he wears it a lot, so it's always on my mind, and we have a good time tossing each other quarters and saying "Hey honey, here's a quarter. Go put it in a washing machine." Ahhhh, I guess you just have to be there. I found this awesome live version of "Washing Machine". Check it out.

"This is a song about the future. It's called 'Washing Machine'."

Sonic Youth on the web: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Wikipedia
Buy Washing Machine: SYR Store / Insound / Amazon / iTunes / eMusic

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Video jam of the day: Sleeping Bag / "Slime"

Artist: Sleeping Bag
Album: Sleeping Bag
Song: "Slime"
Released: August 9, 2011
Label: Joyful Noise

One of my favorite debut releases of this year is Sleeping Bag's self-titled LP. It channels 90s indie rock at its finest, smashing the wry and understated lyricism of Stephen Malkmus with the hooky guitars of Dinosaur Jr. and the poppy sentimentality of any number of Elephant 6 bands. That's high-minded company to lump Sleeping Bag with, but I think it's all well-founded and deservèd. I gave a glowing review of their album over at Draw Us Lines about a month ago, and since then, the band has gone on a Midwest/East Coast tour and has released an official music video for the lead single, "Slime". (Anyone out there who has seen them live wanna share your thoughts? Apparently they were here in Pittsburgh while I was out of town :-\ )

This song is one of my faves from the album, with its driving bass riff and drum beat, and the way Dave Segedy's vocals just push everything forward without too much insistence, combining just the right amount of forcefulness to be heard amongst the music with just the right amount of nonchalance to let the guitar melodies grab your ears and keep your attention. The video itself is an apparent homage to the Bloomington, Indiana scene, with shots of the band playing at a half dozen or so locations around town, from a garage to a junkyard to a rooftop to a living room to a patio to a playground to a forest and back again. Throw in some playful handclaps from the background crowds, plus a girl napping on a couch, some dudes eating breakfast, a couple making out, and a one-on-one basketball game amongst all the musical action, all spliced together seamlessly with great shots of the trio doin' their thing, and you've got a solidly entertaining video. Oh yeah, flying kittens!

Sleeping Bag / "Slime" / Sleeping Bag [Joyful Noise, 2011] / Dir. Nathan Vollmar and William Winchester Clay

Also check out this interview with singer/drummer Dave on the Village Voice's music blog for more info about the band and the video.

Sleeping Bag on the web: Website / Bandcamp / Facebook / Twitter / Joyful Noise Recordings