Monday, June 09, 2008

Brad Yoder dropped by Brother Bean Saturday night for a two hour acoustic show. I had seen Yoder at the Oil Region Indie Fest and so had a pretty good idea of what to expect. He didn't whip out the tenor sax, Kenny-G style (a moment to acknowledge the poor tenor sax, an instrument now as scorned and ridiculed as any other, strictly because of one strangely coiffed 80s smoothy.), as he had when playing at the Fest, instead focusing on straightahead folky music.

Yoder plays a lot, logging over 150 performances annually, and drove probably over 100 miles to get to Brother Bean, and so, if he seemed tired at the start of the show, it was easy to cut him a little slack. Soon, he settled into a rhythm, moving smoothly from between song patter (one sample of which , before a song that deals with breakup of "a great local band", lead my wife and I into a long, giggly debate about the most unlikely band it could be about. I settled on "The Povertyneck Hillbillies", while her vote remained squarely on "Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers") to a greatest hits sort of show, ranging wide from early material to songs on his latest CD and even taking requests.

Yoder's music has been featured on CBS’s NUMB3RS, NPR’s Car Talk, the ABC Family Network’s Beautiful People, and the Dawson’s Creek 5th season DVD. With success like that, you know that he's not going to be edgy. Instead, his success grows from a combination of cleverly written mid-tempo folk, a confidence on stage, and a willingness to meet and greet the people who come to see him.

There's a clarity, a transparency, to his music. There aren't, two a cappella numbers aside, any tricks in his writing or performance style - think Rubber Soul-era Beatles and Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan. Within his performances (and by extension his album - for Yoder seems first and foremost to be performing artist and secondly a recording artist(albeit a prolific one)he seems to be creating a system - a world. He's not creating an epic, but instead relying on answerablity - using his art to explain answers that have already been raised in response to questions about society - can gay people be a seamless part of society? Why do we become so hard and angry in our culture? Why has religion become a tool of oppression rather than liberation? He attempts, in same way that Kant did, to place these disparate answers into a seamless system within his albums. "Reason cannot permit our knowledge to remain in an unconnected and rhapsodistic state, but requires that the sum of our cognitions should constitute a system." Kant writes in Critique of Pure Reason.

In other words, Yoder has chosen the perfect medium (or perhaps the medium has chosen him) - folky, smooth, well polished, even a little poppy to explain to us how issues are connected in a disconnected society - he's a teacher, metaphorically (and perhaps literally as well. I don't know, but he sure had a "cool teacher" vibe around him, and he speaks French real purty...). However, because such a system is ultimately impossible to finalize, pieces of melancholy, even anger seep into his writing. Here, he performs his reply to neo-cons misusing Christianity with his song. "WWJD?" from his latest album Someday or Never

Yoder has a fantasic website with downloads and the like, as well as a MySpace page. You should visit both.

Brad Yoder next plays a free, all ages show at the Backstage Bar at the Civic Light Orchestra Cabaret (655 Penn Ave., Downtown, Pittsburgh, PA) Thursday, June 12th, 2008 -- 5:00pm - 7:30pm

Wal-Mart is cutting out the middleman - that is, record labels.

Reframe is an attempt to get smaller films seen.

I've given live Cop Shoot Cop shows to a lot of students who come into my office to talk music rather than writing. Now, former CSC frontman Tod A has a new band, Firewater, which is equally sonically fascinating, but in a completely different way.

While teaching English in Bangkok and Calcutta, Tod A. concocted an ambitious plan to tour India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran with a microphone and a laptop computer, recording a new batch of songs with local musicians he met along the way. He checked into cheap hotels in Jodhpur, Lahore, and Peshawar and ordered up so-called nautch parties, with a traditional wedding band featuring a ululating singer and a G-rated belly dancer. None of the performers understood English. “They were a little confused,” he says. “I would play them the song and try spitting and making mouth noises to describe the beat that I wanted. [The result] was always something different, but always better.”

Threadless' $10 teeshirt sale continues through midnight tonight. I went with "The Beginning", my daughter with "Shotgun", and my wife with "Permafront Pollution".

Threadless is also sponsoring a very interesting Lomography contest.

"Natasha" is a newly translated Nabakov story.

Free and Legal Downloads:

Waco Brothers Live at Hideout on April 2, 2005

Vic Chesnutt Live at Drunken Unicorn on May 25, 2008

Uncle Earl Live at Schubas on January 23, 2008

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