A long, long time ago, I wrote a feature for The Village Voice on the new, guerrilla poetry. It lead with a description of the legendary performance of Mike Tyler, the time he broke his arm reading verse outside the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. In the two decades since then, Mike’s become one of my dearest friends, the person I can always turn to to tell me what’s right and what’s bull. He’s had other notable friends along the way, like Beck and Banksy (who designed one of Mike’s book covers). I helped Mike a bit with his new album, Erection, which was, er, erected yesterday. He performs in London on Thursday.
Former Babes in Toyland bassist Maureen Herman wrote a powerful open letter to Republican a-hole Todd Akin, drawing on her own personal experiences as the mother of a child who was created by rape. Brave, honest, true.
The good people over at Legendary Rock Interviews are doing a series on the Runaways. So far, there are great talks with Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, Vicki Blue, Marie Currie (Cherie’s sister), and part one of a four-part Kim Fowley conversation. (Because Kim on a roll can not be stopped!) They ask some smart questions and get pretty honest responses.
If Pussy Riot were journalists, or politicians, or white males in general — if they weren’t young, punk women — would they have long ago been set free in response to international outrage? Here’s hoping they are released tomorrow. I heart their rejuvenation of ’90s feminism — their explicit embrace of Guerrilla Girls and Riot Grrrls.
Regina Spektor vocalizes heartache, and not just of the girl-loses-boy kind. Last night, at the taping of a session for KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic show, the postmodern Edith Piaf sang about death, loss, the streets of New York, museum paintings, and Paris in the rain in her inimitable throb, before a select crowd of 200, including Spiderman (Andrew Garfield). After the nine-song set, she discussed with KCRW music director Anne Litt the deep roots of her bittersweet songs. Twenty-three years ago Spektor emigrated to New York from the Soviet Union with her family.
“You’re a rarity,” she said of her constant awareness of her Russian Jewish roots. “You get to live. You never know when they’re going to pogrom you.”
Spektor seemed safe but hot and nervous in the packed swelter of Apogee’s Berkeley Street studio in Santa Monica. “This is a new genre; it’s intimate with strangers,” she joked. She sipped water obsessively in between gorgeous takes of songs including “Firewood” and “Ode to Divorce.” The session, which will air Sept. 25, took place on the eve of KCRW’s summer pledge drive.
The singer/songwriter talked about her decades of classical piano lessons with a fellow East European immigrant her father befriended on the subway. She demonstrated the considerable depth of her talent, the kind of longterm legs we associate with jazz singers, not indie-rock songstresses. Spektor sings with the clear tone and sure rhythmic footing of an Ella Fitzgerald, and vulnerability of Billie Holiday. She flirts with beat-boxing and could probably do a mean scat. And she has a talent for pregnant analogies: “You’re like a big parade through town/ You leave a mess but you’re so fun,” she sang in “The Party.” It took her two takes to get that song right, but right she got it.
dream hampton crafted a lovely piece for NPR about Detroit, focusing around one of my favorite White Stripes songs.