Steve Wildsmith

A cross between Rolling Stone, Soldier of Fortune and the Oxford American

Archive for March, 2009

Concert announcement!

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Get ready for April 17: That’s when tickets go on sale for a slam-banging double bill at World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville. The date: Oct. 13. The bands: The Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic. Announcement courtesy of AC Entertainment’s Concertwire.com.

Written by wildsmith

March 31st, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Live music recommendations, or “stuff you won’t read on Friday but might have in the past …”

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Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time or space to get to everything we think is cool and rocking in this area that you should check out. Like Saturday night’s show at Barley’s Taproom, 200 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City. It’s an unbelievable double bill: Backyard Tire Fire and Bloodkin, both of which we’ve written about in recent months. It’s hard-driving, jubilant Americana from a couple of underrated and under-appreciated bands, and to let this weekend go by without suggesting you go see them would be somewhat criminal on our part. The best thing about Saturday’s show? It’s only $5. FIVE BUCKS, people. You can’t get a combo meal at Wendy’s for that cheap. Take our word for it — it’s well worth it.

Read our interview with Backyard Tire Fire front man Ed Anderson — printed last October — by clicking here.

For our January story on Bloodkin and the band’s phenomenal new album — “Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again”click here.

Written by wildsmith

March 30th, 2009 at 7:26 am

Blog relaunch! Green Day brings “American Idiot” to the stage …

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OK, so I’m going to start using this blog as a place to post cool music stuff — national, regional and local — that’s not Twitter-friendly and probably won’t make the pages of The Daily Times, but that I find cool or interesting. I tell ya, juggling Myspace and Twitter and a blog and everything else is the supreme definition of multimedia multi-tasking. Gotta do what we gotta do to survive on this Titanic that is print journalism.

That said … I wish I lived in Berkeley, Calif. This sounds like a hell of a cool production to check out. I loved “American Idiot” and think it holds up well in these political times, and I’m psyched about the forthcoming “21st Century Breakdown.”

GREEN DAY ANNOUNCES STAGE VERSION OF AMERICAN IDIOT

Band brings blockbuster album to Berkeley Rep with director of Spring Awakening

Burbank, CA- Green Day won two Grammy Awards – Best Rock Album and Record of the Year – with its multi-platinum American Idiot, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Today the band announced plans to bring that explosive album to the stage by collaborating with Michael Mayer, renowned director of Spring Awakening, which grabbed eight Tony Awards including Best Director and Best Musical in 2007. The new show – also titled American Idiot – will receive its world premiere right in the guys’ backyard at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Tony-winning playhouse that launched last year’s provocative rock musical Passing Strange.  Berkeley Rep will produce the show in association with Tom Hulce and Ira Pittleman, the lead producers of Spring Awakening.

Mr. Mayer and Green Day, along with Olivier Award-winning choreographer Steven Hoggett, recently completed a workshop of American Idiot in New York, which was also produced by Berkeley Rep. The show includes every song from the album, as well as several new songs from Green Day’s upcoming release, 21st Century Breakdown . American Idiot will run from September 4 through October 11, opening Berkeley Rep’s 2009/10 season in the state-of-the-art Roda Theatre. A limited number of seats go on sale today at berkeleyrep.org starting at only $32. Lower prices and prime performance dates are available as part of a subscription to Berkeley Rep’s bold season, which also features five other hot new shows.

American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration – an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day’s electrifying songs. As Time described the album, “You will hear a story about Jesus of Suburbia, his dangerous friend St. Jimmy, and a heroic girl called Whatsername, who are struggling to express their individuality in a mass-media culture.” This high-octane show will blend an onstage band an d an ensemble of 19 young performers with what Newsweek calls ” a soundtrack for anyone disillusioned by millennial America.” Yet, Time concludes, “For an album that bemoans the state of the union, it is irresistibly buoyant.”

“We are really excited to be working with Michael Mayer on this project,” says Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. “We’d been thinking of bringing American Idiot to the stage, but knew we needed to find the right partners. After meeting with Michael to discuss the possibility, he invited us to see Spring Awakening. We were so impressed with that production, as well as his vision for American Idiot, that we knew we’d found the perfect collaborator. Plus, doing it in our hometown at Berkeley Rep was an obvious bonus. They’re an amazing theatre group, very adventurous, and their willingness to take chances is in keeping with the spirit of the album. The end result will be terrific, and we’re really proud.”

“When I first heard American Idiot, I was struck by its innate theatricality,” Mayer remarks. “Here was a new musical drama begging to be staged. Who would have thought that one of the most brutally honest, eloquent, passionate, funny, and poetic theatrical responses to the post 9-11 world would be a Green Day record? The connection I felt to American Idiot surprised me. I knew and liked Green Day, but had no clue that I would ever feel so inside their songs. This work of passion and vision and fierce intelligence seemed to me like the heartbeat of a generation of Americans who were fed up. I hear in these amazing songs the articulation of their frustration, anger, longing for a better world – a journey from apathy to action. Collaborating with Billie Joe and the band is a mind-blowing thrill, and I can’t wait to begin production at Berkeley Rep, the perfect home for making a new kind of musical event.”

“Green Day is a band that we’ve long admired here in Berkeley and championed as one of our own,” says Tony Taccone, artistic director of Berkeley Rep. “American Idiot is an iconic album, and having the opportunity to bring it to the stage is a bit of a dream come true. To preserve the original intention of the album while creating a stage-worthy experience is a challenge that we relish, and bringing a director with the skill and experience of Michael Mayer into our theatre makes it that much sweeter.”

It is apropos that the show will premiere in Berkeley, which is where the band got its start. ” The transfiguration of Green Day from punk-pop jesters into outspoken political agitators was mystifying – except to those who knew anything about the band members’ respective childhoods, and their early forging as a band in the cauldron of the gritty Berkeley, California, punk-rock scene, a back story that, in retrospect, makes the emergence of American Idiot, and its attendant rebel-rousing riot of a stage show, seem all but inevitable,” asserts Rolling Stone. “When they were 15 years old, Armstrong and Dirnt first ventured to the punk-rock all-ages club 924 Gilman Street Project, and everything changed. Located beside a canning shop in the gritty warehouse district of Berkeley, 924 Gilman was a graffiti-etched nonprofit drop-in center for legions of tattooed and mohawked punkers who ran the place on a volunteer, co-op basis. Gilman was where Armstrong and Dirnt first fell in love with punk music, and it’s where they cut their political teeth… Apart from their political awakening, something else happened at the Gilman that would have an incalculable effect on their future. They met a fellow teenager, and Gilman regular, who already bore the stage name Tre Cool… By 1990, Armstrong, Dirnt, and Tre had coalesced into Green Day.”

The band’s seventh CD earned effusive praise from the press upon its release. “The ambitious American Idiot joins an elite list of albums, such as The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, that successfully weave a narrative through music,” asserts Amp. It is “a fearless and politically astute rock album, a richly melodic song suite that gives voice to the disenfranchised suburban underclass of Americans ,” declares Rolling Stone. ” What most fans – Democrats, Republicans, and anarchists alike – seem to be connecting with is the irresistible passion, intensity, and hookiness of the music,” adds Entertainment Weekly. “And Idiot’s brash sound has done more than just connect with the public. It’s also struck a decisive blow for rock music – make that loud, butt-kickin’ rock music, the kind that shakes your nerves and rattles your brain.” Now this music hits the stage at a nearby theatre that also earned a national reputation following its unlikely birth in a Berkeley storefront.

Green Day – vocalist/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool – were loud, snotty, scrappy kids from working-class backgrounds who came of age in the underground punk scene in Berkeley. Even though they had released two records prior (1039 / Smooth Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk), they announced their arrival with 1994’s Dookie, a dynamic blast of exuberant three-chord punk-pop that spoke to bored teenagers everywhere. The album eventually sold 15 million copies, earned the band their first Grammy Award, and inspired a raft of imitators. Over the years, Green Day continued to top the charts with their subsequent studio albums Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning while entertaining millions of fans with their frenetic live shows. But it was their landmark 2004 album American Idiot that launched Green Day into the stratosphere. “Jesus of Suburbia” set the tone by telling a tale of the choice between self-destruction and redemption that resonated with listeners of all ages, nationalities, and political persuasions. American Idiot debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. It spawned five hit singles, earned seven Grammy nominations (winning two, including Rock Album of the Year), and raised the bar for modern rock and roll. This year, in addition to the premiere of this show, Green Day will release its new album, 21st Century Breakdown, on Friday, May 15, and then launch a world tour.

Written by wildsmith

March 30th, 2009 at 5:53 am

Weekend column for Friday, March 20, 2009

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In these troubled times, we all need an outlet occasionally — something in which to channel our frustrations and fears that’s not self-destructive or dangerous to those around us.

Personally, I recommend some punk rock — specifically, old-school punk played by four guys from East Tennessee whose band graces our cover this week. You can glance across this page to the one opposite to read all about the group, and you can make plans to attend Saturday night’s show at 4620 Reinvented (on Kingston Pike in Knoxville) to get the full effect.

This week’s Weekend cover story (found in the Friday, March 20 edition of The Daily Times of Blount County), however, marks the debut of something new and exciting here at Weekend World Headquarters, something we’re quite proud of and hope you enjoy.

A little background — as you well know, the printed word is in danger of becoming archaic and outdated, or at least categorized as such in this technological day and age. Newspapers across the country are hurting; media observers question whether an actual ink-and-paper news product will exist in the future. I know from personal interaction that many of you fine folks don’t have computers and, if you do, don’t use it except for e-mail.

But the trend is there — more and more readers are skewing away from a physical newspaper and seeking us out online. More and more people are plugging into all manner of multimedia to get what satisfies them in terms of news delivery, sports, entertainment and more. From blogs to message boards to social networking sites, we’re becoming a society plugged into all manner of information delivery that’s only a mouse-click away.

At The Daily Times, we recognize this, and we’re working hard to change with the times. Looking at our efforts to incorporate this technological shift into the way we bring you news about Blount County and the rest of East Tennessee, I’m quite proud of my co-workers for the leaps we’ve made in just the last couple of years.

For example, many of our stories now feature online video content. Today’s page 1 story on Alcoa student and recent “American Idol” contestant — did you happen to notice the blurb accompanying the story that points you to our website, where you can watch actual video of Jackie Midkiff Jr. and his father, Jackie Sr., leading a Wednesday night praise-and-worship service at High Praises Church? The written word tells his story; the video fills out that story with Jackie’s voice and personality, filmed in our own backyard and recorded for posterity.

It’s a way of fleshing out the way we journalists tell stories. What was once a 2-D presentation relying solely on the ability and talent of the journalist writing it and the editor editing it has now become a 3-D package of words and visuals and sound.

Over on the Weekend side of the newsdesk, we took a leap forward about a year ago with a Weekend podcast. Titled “Weekend Mixtape,” it was a weekly 20- to 30-minute Internet radio program, basically, that gave listeners a sample of the music played by bands profiled in that particular edition of Weekend. It was a good way to take those initial steps forward into the multimedia arena, and now we’re wading a bit deeper.

With today’s edition, we’re proud to present a retooled and reconfigured podcast for your listening enjoyment. Titled “Backstage Pass,” it’s a program that combines an in-depth look into the music and history of a local band. There’s an in-studio performance and interview by a Blount County native we profiled on the cover of last summer’s July 4th Weekend. There’s also a roundup of local live music events in a calendar format that gives you some song snippets by the artists playing in this area.

In other words, it’s a 40-minute program (the length will undoubtedly vary in the future, but we hope to keep it around the 30-minute mark) akin to “Fresh Air,” the program on National Public Radio that profiles various cultural and entertainment figures. The main feature of this week’s edition focuses on Teenage Love, that aforementioned punk band. It combines song snippets with narration about the band’s history and clips from our interviews with bandmates John Sewell and Rus Harper. Timothy Hankins, our assistant managing editor for online content, spent a great deal of time cutting and mixing and fading and stitching together, and I think it sounds phenomenal.

In addition, Tim takes center-stage with “The Tim-terview,” an in-studio performance and informal talk with singer-songwriter Tarani Duncan. The Maryville graduate was on the cover last summer, and since going away to college at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, she’s continued to write and record her own music. She talks about the process with Tim, who even joins her on a few songs. (He’s a guitar teacher and songwriter, in addition to being our version of Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.)

All told, I’m extremely proud of the inaugural edition of “Backstage Pass.” That doesn’t even take into account the fact that, online, you can watch some video of our interview with Rus and hear the full-length, uncut interviews with Sewell and Harper in their entirety.
I realize this may hold no interest whatsoever to you techno-phobes or those who don’t own a computer. But if you do — and especially if you enjoy listening to music and delving into all of the different multimedia offerings to be found on the Internet — I hope you’ll give “Backstage Pass” a listen.

Wait — I know what you’re thinking. “It’s too much trouble!” “It’s too hard to download!” Calm down, people. Deep breaths. It’s really quite simple.

The podcast is hosted at this URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/weekendmixtape — to listen, all you have to do is go to that site. Just click on the entry for “Backstage Pass,” and your mp3 player will immediately start it up. Put on your headphones and listen to it while you work or browse or whatever.

Want to listen to it on-the-go? That’s easy, too. Simply right-click on the “Backstage Pass” entry at that URL, save it to your desktop and import it into whatever music player you use — Windows Media, iTunes, whatever. Sync it to your mp3 player, and you’re good. (If you have iTunes, you can even subscribe directly — it’s a simple process that will bring you a new “Backstage Pass” every time we upload one. On the “Advanced” menu up at the top, drag down to “Subscribe to Podcast” and just type in http://feeds.feedburner.com/weekendmixtape.)

There you have it — no excuses for not listening except for procrastination and laziness (two faults I’m all too familiar with). Like I said, this is something we’re extremely proud of, so I hope you’ll give it a listen.

For those who do listen, please let us know what you think! You can e-mail me, or drop us a line at podcast@thedailytimes.com. We encourage any suggestions, comments, criticisms and (of course!) praise you might have.

“Backstage Pass” is a work in progress, but we think you’ll find this first one to be insightful, informative and entertaining. And here at Weekend World Headquarters, that’s our objective.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week.

Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at steve.wildsmith@thedailytimes.com or at 981-1144.

Written by wildsmith

March 19th, 2009 at 10:54 am

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