“I’ll Take You There” – Celebrating 75 Years Of Mavis Staples @ The Auditorium Theatre, 11/19

Gearing up backstage for what she endearingly referred to as her “Sweet 16” on Wednesday evening, Mavis Staples told a local news reporter, “I could have been president if I wanted!” And isn’t that the truth? As a member of one of the most influential R&B/gospel groups in history—the Staple Singers—an unwavering fixture in the civil rights movement, a musical icon across genres, and today, a universally adored 75-year-old vocal powerhouse, there really seems to be no limit to the reach (and lovability) of Ms. Mavis Staples.

And “Celebrating 75 Years” of the woman in question proved that to no end. With a little help from about 20 of her friends ranging from classic rock legends like Gregg Allman to blues icons like Taj Mahal and Otis Clay to younger Mavis mates, Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne (who’s funky take on Talking Heads’ “Slippery People”—performed with Mavis—was a sure highlight of the night), and more, she proved that age truly is just a number, especially with her howling solo rendition of “I’ll Take You There.” Other highlights included Staples’ performance with her adopted Tweedy family: her “producer,” Jeff and “grandson,” Spencer, as the trio delicately gifted the audience with “You’ Are Not Alone”, the title track from Staples’ 13th studio album.

And what would this special concert event have been without the whole group joining for a heart-swelling rendition of The Bands’ “The Weight”—a Mavis staple (pun completely intended)? It was a magical night that left everyone in attendance hoping Staples will stick to her word when she said, “See you again in five years!” as she tearfully accepted the audience and cast’s rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Check out the full setlist here:

1 You’re Driving Me (to the Arms of a Stranger) – Joan Osborne
2 Heavy Makes you Happy – Keb Mo
3 I Ain’t Raisin’ No Sand – Otis Clay
4 Woke Up this Morning (With My Mind on Jesus) – Buddy Miller
5 Waiting for My Child To Come Home – Patty Griffin
6 Far Celestial Shore – Emmylou Harris
7 Freedom Highway – Michael McDonald
8 People Get Ready – Glen Hansard
9 Respect Yourself – Aaron Neville with Mavis Staples

Second set
10 Hope in a Hopeless World – Widespread Panic
11 For What It’s Worth – Widespread Panic
12 If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) – Ryan Bingham
13 Grandma’s Hands – Grace Potter
14 A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – Bingham, Potter, Griffin, Harris
15 Eyes on the Prize – Eric Church
16 Wade in the Water – Taj Mahal
17 Have a Little Faith – Gregg Allman
18 Turn Me Around – Bonnie Raitt with Mavis Staples
19 Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Raitt, Staples, Mahal, Allman, Neville
20 Slippery People – Win Butler & Regine Chassagne (Arcade Fire) with Staples
21 You’re Not Alone – Jeff and Spencer Tweedy with Staples
22 I’ll Take You There – Mavis Staples

Encore

23 The Weight – Mavis Staples and the entire cast

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Photos: Arcade Fire @ the United Center (Chicago), 08/26/14

Arcade Fire took the stage at Chicago’s United Center on Tuesday for the first of two Windy City stops on the band’s Reflektor tour—one that has been cemented as a must-see concert event of the summer. And it is an event, so much so that the band encouraged fans to sport their fanciest, shiniest formal attire or a costume for the show.

Devo kicked things of with a frenzy of classic new wave, as frontman Mark Mothersbaugh tossed several of the band’s signature “energy dome” hats into the crowd during the group’s biggest hit, “Whip It.” Dan Deacon entertained next, unleashing his zany compositions while conducting fans into mass dance exercises from the center of the floor. And then came Arcade Fire, whose setlist was littered with highlights that only escalated in energy—from their legendary debut, Funeral, to last year’s Reflektor, complete with Bo Diddly single “Who Do You Love?” serving as the evening’s honorary cover song.

We may be stuck in a “reflective age,” but Arcade Fire did their best to we make sure we celebrate it. Here’s to night two.

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Review: David Byrne & St. Vincent’s Love This Giant

David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This GiantDavid Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant (4AD, 9/11/12)

“Who”

David Byrne & St. Vincent: “Who”

David Byrne has one of the most recognizable voices in music, ranking somewhere between Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe. No doubt this is why everyone wants the former Talking Heads front-man to guest on their records. Dirty ProjectorsArcade Fire, Jherek Bischoff — they’ve all taken advantage of the static friction of that back-of-the-mouth tenor.

But Love This Giant, Byrne’s collaboration with St. Vincent, a woman who’s known more for her multi-instrumentalist abilities than her voice, is the first full-length he’s co-written with anyone other than Brian Eno.

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This Week’s Best Single: Colin Stetson’s Those Who Didn’t Run

Colin Stetson: Those Who Didn't RunColin Stetson: Those Who Didn’t Run (Constellation, 10/4/11)

Colin Stetson: “Those Who Didn’t Run” (excerpt)

Saxophonist Colin Stetson‘s distinctive reed work can be found in the music of Tom Waits, TV on the Radio, and Arcade Fire, among many others. His latest full-length solo album, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, was released in February of this year, and now he’s back with a 10-inch EP, Those Who Didn’t Run. Armed with bass and alto saxes and some advanced breathing techniques, Stetson creates heavy, droning horn sounds that are as post-rock as they are avant-garde jazz.

The two tracks on Those Who Didn’t Run were recorded in a single take and run just over 10 minutes apiece. Whereas the title track (excerpted above) is drawn in pulsating minimalist strokes, “The End of Your Suffering” rides an off-kilter, high-pitched riff throughout, with occasional aberrant flourishes. With such breadth of texture and pitch, it’s hard to believe that you’re hearing horns.

Following this release, Stetson will embark on a year-long tour as part of Bon Iver‘s live band.

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Morrow vs. Hajduch: Jim Guthrie’s Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Jim Guthrie: Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space BabiesJim Guthrie: Sword & Sworcery LP: The Ballad of the Space Babies (4/5/11)

Jim Guthrie: “Dark Flute”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Jim_Guthrie_Dark_Flute.mp3|titles=Jim Guthrie: “Dark Flute”]

Morrow: With a list of accomplishments that includes a solo career, band collaborations, and the co-founding of Three Gut Records, Jim Guthrie is more than a notable name in Toronto’s music scene.  He has recorded as part of Islands, Royal City, and Human Highway and has worked with Arcade Fire, but his newest project transcends the realm of reality to explore a magical/digital world.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is a successful cross-platform game / music project for the iPad and iPhone.  Guthrie delivered a great score for it, and now the music is available to purchase on its own.

From the open, The Ballad of the Space Babies is sort of a Legend of Zelda-meets-Goblin blend of space jams.  But pieces such as “The Cloud” and “Under a Tree” — with ambient, chamber, and neoclassical influences — establish different moods entirely, and there are more percussive elements than one might imagine, as tracks such as “Bones McCoy” build around clattering drum fills.  “Ode to a Room” even has a synth line that acts like a reverberated, quasi-Italian-western guitar melody.

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Q&A: Esmerine

Esmerine: La LechuzaEsmerine: La Lechuza (Constellation, 6/7/11)

Esmerine: “A Dog River”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Esmerine_A_Dog_River.mp3|titles=Esmerine: “A Dog River”]

Cello/percussion twosome Becky Foon and Bruce Cawdron, of Montreal’s Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, began recording minimalist chamber music under the moniker Esmerine about a decade ago. Two instrumental albums and numerous (sometimes collaborative) performances later, the duo has doubled to include percussionist Andrew Barr and harpist Sarah Page and completed its third full-length album. Both developments can be attributed to the late Lhasa de Sela, a Montreal vocalist and common thread between all four band members.

Lhasa passed away due to breast cancer at the age of 37 on January 1, 2010, and in her remembrance, Esmerine created La Lechuza, a beautiful, moving album. With several guest artists (including Colin Steton, Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire, and Patrick Watson) and the addition of steel drums, violin, harp, and saxophone, La Lechuza is a testimony to Esmerine’s musical progression.

ALARM caught up with Foon, Esmerine’s cellist, to discuss the band’s expansion, its new record, and its inspiration.

What was the initial motivation to create your own musical project as Esmerine?

We (Becky and Bruce) met recording the first Set Fire To Flames record, Sings Reign Rebuilder, in 2001 and became really interested in exploring the world of cello and melodic percussion. Bruce and I started to improvise together quite a bit, which then naturally evolved into writing songs. About a year later, we decided to record our first record at the Hotel 2 Tango in Montreal.

During the six-year time span between Aurora in 2005 and La Lechuza, was Esmerine on a hiatus, or were you just waiting for an appropriate time to start another album?

Bruce and I had been playing the occasional Esmerine show in Montreal since our last round of touring in 2005-06, inviting various guests to join us for some of them, but we hadn’t been thinking much about future recording. Lhasa asked us to open up for her in Montreal in 2009, which we did as a duo, and that’s where we met Sarah and Andrew, who were in her band at that point. We really hit it off, and soon after we invited Sarah and Andrew to join in an Esmerine show (where Lhasa also sang on a song), and everything evolved very naturally from there.

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Behind the Counter: Zulu Records (Vancouver, BC)

With an army-green facade out front and wood-paneled walls and retro furniture inside, Zulu Records is an established musical stronghold in the Canadian metropolis of Vancouver, British Columbia. More than a place to buy music (though it covers that angle pretty thoroughly), Zulu has become a family-friendly, cultural centerpiece of the community with a number of notable in-store performances, art openings, and a continued independent, DIY approach to business.

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

Zulu Records grew out of the ashes of an old store called Quintessence that specialized in prog and rock. It was 1981, music was changing, and there was a community of young punkers who were starved for all of the amazing imports coming out overseas. Zulu Records’ owner, Grant McDonagh, was one such fan with big ideas who saw his part-time job at Quintessence fizzle out and an opening present itself. Grant had ties to all of the great Vancouver punk bands and, in the early days, worked closely with  this community, including later starting his own record label to press bands that he felt deserved to be heard. Today, Zulu Records concentrates completely on being one of Canada’s finest indie music shops, and it still prides itself on the model of building and maintaining community ties.
 

Melanie holds Destroyer's City of Daughters

Melanie holds Destroyer's City of Daughters

What is the musical community like in Vancouver?

Vancouver’s music community is tight-knit. Vancouver has always had a bit of an annexed feel to it; we are in the corner of Canada, and the city is geographically bounded and can’t really sprawl endlessly like other major Canadian and American cities. As a result, the spots where bands play, practice, and congregate haven’t really changed over the last 25 years. There is still a very punk/DIY feel to how bands go about doing things, as really we are pretty far away from the spotlight of the business in Toronto. In fact, we have more of a West Coast / Pacific Northwest vibe going on, and certainly, Seattle feels like kindred musical spirits.

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Contest: Win tickets to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Packed with some of the biggest names in music, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, presented by Shell, takes place in the Big Easy over the course of two weekends, April 29 – May 1 and May 5 – May 8.

We’re giving away two sets of five single-day tickets. That means two separate winners will have the opportunity to bring four friends to one day, or to Ebenezer Scrooge it, and attend five full days alone — or some other combination involving the five tickets.

The seven-day festival features performances by Wilco, Sonny Rollins, Arcade Fire, Lauryn Hill, The Avett Brothers, John Legend & The Roots, and Lupe Fiasco, among hundreds of other artists that are scheduled to perform. See the full schedule here.

Fill out the form below to enter to win.

Update: Contest has ended.

[Have you pre-ordered yet? Don’t miss our limited-time offer, saving up to 38%, for Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color and Music, our next book that profiles independent musicians and artists who explore color in unorthodox ways.]

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World in Stereo: The Sway Machinery’s The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1

World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

The Sway Machinery: The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1 (JDub Records, 3/8/11)

The Sway Machinery: “Gawad Teriamou”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-Gawad-Teriamou.mp3|titles=The Sway Machinery: “Gawad Teriamou”]

Led by guitarist and lead singer Jeremiah Lockwood, Brooklyn-based band The Sway Machinery includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase, brass players Stuart Bogie and Jordan Mclean (Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra), and baritone-sax player Colin Stetson (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire). Though something of a name-dropper’s perfect dream, The Sway Machinery actually resembles very little of its individual parts.

Instead, under the vision of Lockwood, the collective explores Jewish cantorial music within the broader sphere of world music, injecting the ancient tradition with Afro-rhythms and blues-tinged soul.  The distinct sound stems from two figures in Lockwood’s life: his grandfather, renowned cantor Jacob Konigsberg, who instilled in his lifeblood the ancient heritage of synagogue music; and Piedmont blues virtuoso Carolina Slim, who mentored Lockwood early in his career, as he played the streets and subways of New York City.  It’s a far-out mix that is sacredly funky, executed brilliantly by a collective with a dense amalgamation of contemporary sensibilities.

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Q&A: Colin Stetson

Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: JudgesColin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation, 2/22/11)

Colin Stetson: “Judges”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/02-Judges.mp3|titles=Colin Stetson: “Judges”]

Powerful, otherworldly, and beautiful, wind player Colin Stetson‘s upcoming record, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, commands attention from start to finish. Largely recorded live without overdubs, Stetson exploits techniques that yield dense layers of multiphonic sound that seem impossible to have come from a single instrument. Here sounding deep and sonorous as a foghorn, there alternating between percussive popping and plaintive moans, while elsewhere emitting swirling, cyclical lines that could nearly pass for strings, Stetson pushes his horns through every timbral possibility.

With such formidable instrumental prowess, one might expect a display of flashy improvisations, yet Stetson uses his command of his instruments in service of intricate compositions, rich in atmosphere and mood, and unmoored from any genre. Moreover, the pieces function together to create a coherent whole, emotionally resonant and deeply affecting.  A record that will sound arresting and fresh to even the most adventurous listeners, New History Warfare Vol. 2 (out on Feb. 22) is an early bright light among this new year’s releases and likely to resurface on many year-end lists.

Adept at bass sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, french horn, and cornet, Stetson studied music at the University of Michigan. From there, stints on both coasts resulted in work with a wide range of music luminaries, including Tom Waits, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, and Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. More recently, Stetson has startled unsuspecting rock audiences as an opener for stadium indie acts such as Arcade Fire and The National.  Here he explains how this integration of influences creates his own musical worlds.

When I’ve played your music for people, the unanimous reaction has been “that’s a sax?”, which is all the more impressive given that much of it was recorded without overdubbing. Can you explain how you’re able to create such a rich and diverse range of sounds, both in terms of technique and production?

Technically, regarding the instrument, I’m just employing a lot of extended techniques that improvisers have been using for decades. The basis for most of my pieces is in circular breathing; by breathing in through the nose and continuing to breath out of the mouth, you can create these longer, uninterrupted pieces of music. After that, it’s a lot of “voicing,” or using mouth and throat placement to form chords instead of single notes, specific arpeggiated lines to move those chords into individual and distinct melodies/harmonies, and also quite a bit of actual singing through the instrument.

Having been working this out for many years, when it came time to start recording this music, I knew that a straight-up stereo recording would only take a snapshot of what was happening, and would ultimately flatten the experience. There’s no way to capture the essence of live performance in this manner, not if the idea is to recreate the same image through recording. So what I try to do is to capture every distinct and separate element I can, individually with separate and different microphones, so that this information can then be reorganized in the mixing process, and, rather than an attempt at recreating the live experience, we create an alternate version of that experience, something that is specific to the process of recording. In simpler terms, I wanted to make a record like a Haruki Murakami novel or a Terrence Malick film.

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Serbia’s EXIT 2011 Festival

Serbia’s EXIT music festival (7/7–7/10) just announced a partial lineup for 2011. Arena-rocker Arcade Fire is slated to play the multi-genre event, as part of over 400 performances on 20 stages connected by the “mystical fortress” of cobbled streets, ramparts, and tunnels.

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Behind the Counter: Kingbee Records (Manchester, UK)

Kingbee Records in Manchester, England has been around since 1987 and is now one of the last remaining independent record shops in northwest England.

The shop attracts a diverse clientele, and its ability to draw business from collectors and dealers around the world has fueled its success. Though its strengths are numerous, Kingbee is unparalleled in its selection of Northern soul vinyl. We spoke with Les Hare, Kingbee’s owner, and got the lowdown on this music mecca.

Mike holds Kid Canaveral's Shouting At Wildlife

Mike holds Kid Canaveral's Shouting At Wildlife

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

Always was a big record collector, then [I] started doing record fairs with my spares, and it kinda carried on from there. I have also deejayed off and on since 1971.

How has Kingbee survived the digital boom?

By having a loyal customer base both locally and across the country. We also get record dealers from Japan regularly visiting to replenish their shop stock. Sales from our website help, but mostly it’s the large amount of stock that we turn over in the shop.

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