Herman Dune’s Love Cat Blues — A Premiere

I first heard David Ivar sing at House 1002, a store where folks seek and discover odd treasures, on Pacific Avenue in San Pedro, CA, the Los Angeles neighborhood David and I both call home. Amid House’s cavernous space crammed with anchors and old tools and bamboo couches and vintage chandeliers, he sang Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, and Tom Waits in a gentle loving tone, not an imitation of those rough-edged troubadours but a heartfull tribute. Pacific runs from the end of the Harbor Freeway to Sunken City, the off-limits tumble of asphalt and palm trees where seven decades ago, a housing development slipped into the sea. Until a damn 7-11 opened a few years ago, there were no chain stores on Pacific, just mom-and-pop ventures like House. This port town is a community of independent businesses and immigrants – a perfect spot for a French-Swedish anti-folk anti-hero to lay his Greek fisherman hat.

Inspired by the words of Mr. San Pedro, Mike Watt, at a show – “Release your own stuff! Put out your own music!” – David, under his musical name Herman Dune (other stage names include Black Yaya), is releasing his latest, 13th album on his own on May 17. Sweet Thursday is named after a John Steinbeck novel and is also inspired by Pedro’s monthly art walk on the first Thursday of every month. Along with Brett Sullivan of the band American Anymen, David has made a video for each song. He’s releasing one video every Thursday.

Today, I have the honor of premiering “Love Cat Blues,” because, you know, I’m a cat lady. The video shows David driving around Long Beach, the South Bay, and Pedro in his old blue Toyota, lovelorn and seeking. From his awkward Southern twang in the spoken intro, to the road map background, to the Steinbeckian title, to the Americana groove, the album is a tribute to his adopted hometown and homeland, delivered at a time when immigrants are not always honored.

For more info about David and Herman Dune, and to buy limited edition copies of the album and of his art work, visit http://www.davidivar.com/. You can watch the video below, or at https://youtu.be/Qs28WdgoOmE, where you can also see his other videos as they are revealed over the next month.

 

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Don’t Follow Him, He’s Lost Too

Words to live by from Amy Rigby: “I write my own story, thank you.”

Diary Of Amy Rigby

Nine pm on a Saturday night in an English seaside town, Eric and I eat in Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips restaurant across from the seafront. We’re just like the other couples sipping large glasses of wine (the English equivalent of a “small glass” is a half pint) and tucking into their cod and chips and mushy peas, only Eric doesn’t drink, and told the waitress “no mushy peas”. (I tried the mushy peas and agree they belong only in a color photo or black and white film.) We’re just like the other couples making occasional conversation while the overhead speakers dotted in among the modest chandeliers play the type of music good old Harry would have liked back in the day.

“And he gave it all up for a girl – from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania” a male and female ensemble croon in a chorus repeated often enough to sound like…

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Pussy Riot Rally Review

This is not a concert review.

Pussy Riot did not play a show at the Los Angeles club Echo Saturday night.

Pussy Riot are artivists who don’t believe in the commercial practice of concerts. As they say in a press release, “Events that we organize are political rallies, not concerts.”

Pussy Riot held a rally at the Echo Saturday. It cost $25 in advance to take part in this rally, $28 day of show rally. They also rallied Sunday night, and will do it one more time tonight.

I saw a really good rally at the Echo Saturday night.


Pussy Riot has changed a great deal since they first grabbed the world’s attention after they were arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for performing “A Punk Prayer” at Russia’s sacred Orthodox cathedral. The Pussy Riot that led Saturday’s rally was not an all-woman anarchist punk collective, but a coed techno/rap duo. The only recognizable member of Pussy Riot on stage at the Echo was Nadya Tolokonnikova, and by recognizable, I mean that even though her face was covered by a balaclava, everyone knew it was Nadya – she has the most famous musical lips since Mick Jagger. There was also a DJ/programmer, a man who goes by Chaika – every rally needs a DJ – and a woman who occasionally bounced around and shouted (every rally needs a gogo dancer/hype person too). It was unclear if we would have recognized these two even if their faces hadn’t been covered by cloth. “Anyone can be Pussy Riot,” Tolokonnikova said Saturday, a claim the group has always made. Still, it was a bit weird to see a guy on the mike. Aesthetically, Chaika seems like a good collaborator for Tolokonnikova. But is this what people want when they see Pussy Riot?

Tolokonnikova has become a skilled MC. Her word flows sound particularly mesmerizing with a Russian trill; she also raps in English, especially when it’s subject appropriate, as in the Trump takedown “Make America Great Again.” Chaika’s beats propelled the tracks into climactic explosions; the rally became a rave. Their songs remain provocations, with infectious agit-prop hooks: Nadya led the audience in chanting, “Pussy is the new dick!”

Pussy Riot are deft visual as well as musical propagandists. They performed rallied Saturday in front of stunning videos, including visuals by jailed Russian artist Oleg Navalny for “Election,” their timely commentary upon the recent “win” by Vladimir Putin.


Make no mistake, protest was the running theme of Saturday’s event, along with coalition building. Pussy Riot have invited community members to join them on all the stops of their current tour. Saturday, Fat Tony took the stage before Pussy Riot with a set that fused bass-heavy hip-hop with not one but two Ramones songs. In the music journalism biz, we used to call this “an opening act” – I’m not sure what the rally equivalent is. Pussy Riot seem to be particularly reaching out to black American artivists, a tactic that reminds me of the Clash.

I don’t really care if you call what I saw Saturday a rally or a concert, but then again, I got in free as press. It was cool to see Nadya hanging out in the audience of the tiny Echo and not acting like the kind of rock star she deserves to be; after all, how many other musicians have spent time in the gulag for their art? I’ve always said that the quality of Pussy Riot’s music tends to get eclipsed by the impact of their message, and I feel like that more than ever now. I’d pay money to see Tolokonnikova in concert, and she wouldn’t even have to call herself Pussy Riot.

 

 

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Dolores O’Riordan and Feminist Magazine

I talked about the death of Dolores O’Riordan, and the recent spate of deaths of musicians of her era, with the great Lynn Ballen on her Feminist Magazine show on KPFK. You can hear it here:

https://app.stitcher.com/splayer/f/40348/53003344

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Dolores O’Riordan Transcript

In either late 1994 or early 1995, I interviewed Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan for Interview magazine, over the phone. The article ran in the March 1995 issue, as an edited Q&A. When she passed away Monday, I dug up the old transcript; following is the unedited interview. She had just gotten married and the band had released their second album. It’s poignant, and powerful, to read now.

Interview with Dolores O’Riordan

By Evelyn McDonnell

 

EM: You’ve had more success in the U.S. than in England, haven’t you?

DO: It was hard to take off here because of bad marketing, I think. The two singles were released on a demo a year before they came out as singles, so most of the press had already heard them. They’d hyped up the band a year prior to the release of the debut. So when the debut came out it wasn’t anything new to the English public. They started going against them, backlashing, saying the demo was better and whatnot.

EM: How is the English press treating you this time?

DO: I don’t really read them anymore. The band’s happening around the world, everywhere except Japan. So at this time in my life my perspective is more global, so I’m not really worried what an English paper says, or what an Irish paper says.

EM: Are you at all reluctant to do interviews?

DO: No, but I suppose I’m getting a bit cagier.

EM: Where are you living now?

DO: In the south of Ireland. I’m building a house there overlooking the sea. It’s really quiet and peaceful. We haven’t actually started building, we just got planning permission.

EM: Are you building a dream house?

DO: Yeah, it’s a nice big house. I’ve never really been that type of dream-house person, ‘cause I never grew up with too much materialism around me, so it wasn’t as if I longed for it. The idea of having a gymnasium in your house, or a bar, would just not be in my mentality, because you don’t see it that much. But as you travel and stuff, you realize you can’t go out to public places that much, so you put it all in your house — your own little gym and your bar, everything you need in there. You can go there for peace and tranquility, when you need to get away from everything. Continue reading

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Dolores O’Riordan Interview

Dolores O’Riordan had one of the most distinctive voices in rock’n’roll: an angelic brogue, like a rose and briar entwined. “I grew up with a very strong Irish accent, and I didn’t see why I should put on airs and graces for anything or anybody,” she told me when I interviewed her for Interview magazine more than two decades ago. You can see that article below; I’m working on getting the whole transcript typed up (feel free to contact me if you’re a Cranberries fan and would like to help out). You can also hear a snippet of what I told NPR’s Andrew Limbong about her.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/578247252/578247253

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Sewing a Revolution

Faith Ringgold self portrain

Faith Ringgold was already an accomplished artist in her forties when she wrote a memoir of her life. Still, no one would publish it. Instead, the painter turned to a new medium, creating quilts that — via images and words — told the narratives not only of her life, but of other black women. “I decided I would write my story on my art,” she told the crowd packed into the atrium of the California African American Museum yesterday at the closing ceremony for the exhibit We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85.

One of the earliest figures whom Ringgold depicted was Aunt Jemima. When her daughter questioned her inclusion of the controversial syrup idol, the artist said, “She’s a black feminist hero.”

“She’s not my black feminist hero” replied the daughter, Michele Wallace – an acclaimed scholar and author.

Mother and daughter shared the dais at CAAM Sunday, a formidable pairing at an event packed with powerful personages. Before their panel, three women of the Saar family (the Saarority?) stood together: the legendary Bettye Saar with her daughters Alison and Lezley. If, goddess forbid, the CAAM ceiling had collapsed yesterday, a few generations of important, inventive artists and their acolytes and analysts would have been buried beneath the rubble. Then again, these are women who have already busted through several glass ceilings on their own; maybe they would have just weathered the crash then begun making sculptures out of the debris.

We Wanted a Revolution gathers  drawings, paintings, photos, videos, pamphlets, letters and more from a period when Black and female artists were forcibly fighting against their exclusion from museums and the mainstream. There’s Adrian Piper, Lisa Jones, Emma Amos, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, and  more. Many of the artists, including Linda Goode Bryant, Maren Hassinger, Dindga McCannon, and Senga Nengudi, were part of the closing symposium.

“Have friends and don’t stop working.” That was Hassinger’s advice to young artists trying to persevere, progress and prosper. “Music can be your friend; art can be your friend,” added another speaker.

The work in We Wanted a Revolution is phenomenal, though the show, which was originated by the Brooklyn Museum, is traveling on. You still have a month to see Salon des Refuses, the intense, imaginative exhibit of works by Lezley Saar also on display at CAAM. Saar’s paintings and assemblages are psychedelic and psychological in their exploration of the unconscious and of alternative states of being. Deconstructing – literally – and then reconstructing books, she breaks down definitions of race and gender. She paints Renaissance portraits of dandies and rebel girls as Edgar Allan Poe might have imagined them, with mushrooms coming out of their heads, or bats for ears.

Lezley Saar’s Salon des Refuses

It was moving to think about how Lezley Saar is carrying on the legacy of her mother, Bettye, and how Wallace has dedicated much of her career to chronicling the life of Ringgold. The ghost of the previous generation was in the room as well, as Faith talked about the influence of her mother, Willie Posey Jones, a fashion designer. Mama Jones, as the family called her, helped her daughter make her quilts. Wallace recalled that in her foremothers’ time, all women knew how to sew. But her mother corrected her. “I refused to sew,” Ringgold said. She repeated the statement a few times, emphasizing refused. So, perhaps the most famous quilter of all time was a storyteller, not a seamstress. Yesterday, she made sure her story got told – and we listened.

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