Cool DC Events: NPR’s Screening a Punk Doc

The impact of Dischord Records and its surrounding miniverse of hardcore and post-hardcore punk is enormous, and its influence is still felt today in D.C. and everywhere. For alternative music fans living in our nation’s capital, it is nearly a ritual to glorify D.C.’s past as a hotbed for a thriving, groundbreaking punk scene.

The latest artifact of this culture has surfaced in an in-depth documentary on the old scene, entitled “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90).” Created by Scott Crawford, a zine publisher-turned-documentarian, the 90 minute film combines unique vintage concert footage with current-day interviews.

In a great tip of the hat to the scene of old, NPR Music will be hosting a screening of this documentary in its DC office. According to their blog, Scott Crawford will appear after the screening on a panel along with Jim Saah, the film’s director of photography, as well as veteran DC punk Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion) and moderated by Ally Schweitzer of WAMU.

The event is on Tuesday, May 5 at 7pm. Unfortunately, it’s already been fully sold out, but hopefully you know someone who can get you in! Otherwise, don’t fret. The Library has your back. Come by and ask about our great (and still building) collection of DC punk classic CDs and DVDs! You can celebrate the rich punk legacy of our city here with us.


Jeff Goldblum’s Laugh – TRANSCRIBED!

Remember Jurassic Park? Classic childhood film. Dinosaurs and all of it. But I bet this little oddity slipped past you:



DID YOU HEAR THAT LAUGH? Actually more of a composite of several different laugh ideas, and almost certainly overdubbed after the fact (his mouth doesn’t move at all), Jeff Goldblum’s laugh in the helicopter scene (following a puzzlingly unfunny joke) is one of the strangest and funniest slip-ups in a major film (that I can think of, at least). Thanks to one clever YouTuber, it has become modestly internet famous, with about 500,000 views and counting at the time of this writing.

But it’s about to get a lot more popular, because the brilliant Evan Kent has made it available to be played and taught in any household or school where music is played. That’s right, he’s transcribed the laugh into musical notation. It proves to be quite the accomplished composition, complete with time signature changes and dynamic leaps. Kent even had the acumen to notice that the “huh” in the 3/8 section of the laugh was possibly performed by the man sitting next to Goldblum, making this a duet! Play it with your friends and coworkers!some quick sketches from my new masterpiece

And John Cage thinks he’s all that.

P.S.- for the very interested, here’s a hilarious remix video of the original laugh:

Cool DC Events: JAZZforum- Sun Ra in Century 21, 10/22

Attention jazz heads and space freaks! Your icon and idol, Sun Ra, will be featured at this week’s UDC JAZZalive event. It’s part of an ongoing series of exhibitions, discussion forums, presentations and concerts hosted by UDC that will extend into the spring and likely the distant future as well!

While we sadly cannot attend an actual Sun Ra concert, this event still promises to be a great one for fans of the psych-jazz master. Funk scholar Thomas Stanley, who teaches sound art and sonic culture at George Mason U, has put together a monograph called The Execution of Sun Ra, which “is an attempt to bore into the late jazz oracle’s remarkable ideas about history and human development.”

At this lecture he will speak on his findings. This should be an incredibly interesting experience, considering the intellectual depth and strangeness that defined Sun Ra’s view of our species. The event is tomorrow night (Wednesday the 22nd) at 7pm. It will be held in the Recital Hall of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives, on UDC’s Van Ness Campus (4200 Connecticut Ave). It is free and open to the public, and books will be available for sale at the event.

Also, if this talk engenders a deep interest in Sun Ra in you, the reader, take the time to stream some of his albums online or, highly suggested, check out his Space is the Place DVD- sure to be a trip!


Epic DVD Review: Minor Threat Live DVD

Hello all, Jesse here, music library bloggist. If you remember, I reviewed one of Media Services’ many music-related DVDs, 20 Feet From Stardom, last semester. Starting with this post, I will be reviewing about three Media Services DVDs a month. The idea is first to cover all of our D.C. music-related DVDs and then branch out into the larger variety of music DVDs that Media Services offers. Welcome to the Epic DVD Review.

Anyways, when many hear the phrase “D.C. music scene,” a prominent thought is the D.C. hardcore punk scene of the 1980s. Led by bands such as Bad Brains, Void and the Faith, D.C.’s punk scene epitomized the intensity and wild spirit of the American punk subculture. Because D.C. bars allow all ages (minors just get ye olde X on the hands), punk bands could hold shows in legitimate establishments and this helped the scene thrive.

Of course, the scene was taken to a new level when Ian Mackaye and his crew showed up. Out of the ashes of Teen Idles, Mackaye and drummer Jeff Nelson recruited guitarist Lyle Preslar and bassist Brian Baker to form Minor Threat, a band that would become the champions of the D.C. scene, building it along with their own fanbase. They were Mackaye’s first platform to introduce his punk ideals to the masses, including the importance of an independent music scene and the idea of the straight-edge lifestyle (abstaining from alcohol and drugs). Their insanely fast and angry sound, coupled with Mackaye’s wild stage presence and shouted vocals, were a major influence to just about every hardcore punk band that followed them.

Minor Threat only lasted four years but the impact they had on their scene and genre was enormous. Luckily, some prescient camera people were able to capture some great moments of their hometown performances, and three such performances are collected on our Minor Threat DVD.

The first, a short set in a second floor gallery above a D.C. jazz club, is nearly mythical: in extremely grainy black and white footage, the strikingly young band (including a not-yet-bald Mackaye, gripping a soda can) plays to a small group of spirited fans whose moshing bodies often jostle the camera or block its view of the band, giving you a feeling of participation.

The second set, two years later at Buff Hall, is filmed in better quality (still not quite prime but at least it’s in color!) and shows the effect of the band on a larger crowd. After a surprise funky intro, the band explodes into full rage, and fans who were sitting onstage begin jumping into each other and off the stage with wild abandon. Mackaye, head swollen from a car accident earlier that day (what a champ) sings into the faces of the crowd, and a second microphone is set up stageside for a group of fans to sing along in.

The final set captures Minor Threat at the height of their powers, performing a set at the 9:30 club in 1983. Mackaye begins the set with a goofy monologue while the rest of the band set up, giving the sensation of a room full of friends. Throughout the set the crowd’s energy is explosive, something I’ve never seen at the 9:30 club. The audio/video quality of this set, meant for a documentary that never was finished, is the best- Jeff Nelson’s brutal drumming benefits most. At the end, an exhausted MacKaye leaves the audience with a heartwarming comment: “Nobody sings like DC.”

Finally, the DVD includes a quick interview with Ian MacKaye after the show. Awkwardly divided into question-only and answer-only sections by the makers of the DVD, it is nonetheless worth the watch. Sitting in front of a piano, the frontman fields questions from an interviewer who seems to be very ignorant of the scene. However, his responses are very enlightening, revealing his strong views on the punk scene, scenes in general, straight edge, stagediving and moshing, and organized religion. When the interviewer compares punk to another youth movement, the hippies, he acknowledges the similarities but implies that while the hippie movement faded away, punk will be longer lasting.

I’d recommend this DVD to any Minor Threat fan, any fan of hardcore or punk and anybody interested in musical subcultures in general. If you’re not a punk fan, the performances may get a bit repetitive, but the interview with MacKaye holds significance far beyond the genre of punk. Even if you don’t like punk, it’s still worth it to see the dynamic devotion of the band’s fans, and to witness the beginnings of an essential DC scene. Check it out (again, DVD 4394), and if you like it, come listen to their complete discography at the Music Library!


A Salute to Our Favorite Drummers

Give the drummer some! We at the AU Music Library have a special place in our heart for the percussionally-inclined (I don’t care if that’s not a real word in there). As a matter of fact, both of my bosses are drummers, and they’re pretty cool! Sam ripped the skins back when he was a young punk, and Nobue is the bee’s knees at classical percussion. And guess what? I too am a drummer! What a suprise!

Anyways, in honor of Nobue’s upcoming gig in Texas (more on that soon), we’ve decided to treat you to some of our favorite drummer videos. Now these drummers may not be the most traditionally talented out there (maybe that post will come another day), but they’ve all got more than enough personality to bring them to the top in our eyes. After all, we should all agree that your drummer face is just as important as how fast you can paradiddle.

Until today I thought that everybody had seen this first one, but then I found out that Sam hadn’t and realized that there may be more poor souls out there who hadn’t yet witnessed the famous Drummer at the Wrong Gig. So here he is, in all his flailing, ecstatic, caring too much to be in a wedding band glory.

Here’s a rarer gem in a similar vein, although still pretty popular, it seems. This guy really takes the cake for over-emoting/stealing the spotlight. While the singer indeed sings beautifully and the song is a nice Korean torch song, the whole vibe is thrown off by the drummer’s ridiculous enthusiasm, playing sensitively but in an insensitive manner. The results are hilarious. My favorite moment is early on, when the camera is on the singer but you can see the drummer’s face on the edge of the frame, contorting in musical glee. His stick twirls, while less deranged than our gold-jacketed hero from above, are hilarious nonetheless simply due to their ubiquity.

And then, in contrast with these two showboaters, there’s the meek but mighty Garth Algar (played by Dana Carvey) from Wayne’s World. When Wayne, Garth and Cassandra visit the guitar store, Wayne fawns over a white Strat, but Garth slips off to the drum section (as drummers are wont to do) and plays an epic solo on his own. When complimented afterwards by an admirer, he simply responds: “I like to play”. Garth Algar is a true hero of a drummer, one who plays because he likes to, and this is one of my favorite scenes (in a music-related film, at least). The crucial scene is at 0:40-1:58.

Hope this inspires you to pick up the sticks, or at least gives you a good laugh that’ll last you till hump day.

Cool DC Events: Free Ken Russell Movies @ Library of Congress, 9/12, 19, 26

Thanks for this article go to one of our new part-timers, Haley, who in the words of big boss Sam “hipped me” to this series of Cool DC Events happening every week for the rest of September. DC-based film critic Pat Padua is hosting four of idiosyncratic director Ken Russell’s music films at the Library of Congress, one on each Friday of the month (sorry ladies, I’m too late to write about the Liszt one last Friday). And the best part is, they’re free!

This week’s showing will be Russell’s 1970 film The Music Lovers, a biopic about the dark and twisted life of Tchaikovsky. Typical of Russell, it is a dramatic and flamboyant interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s life, from his disturbing and scarring childhood to his troubled marriage and hidden homosexual urges to his eventual suicide (not an 100% certain fact, but Russell takes the creative license). The LoC website reveals that the dream and fantasy sequences are set to Tchaikovsky’s music, adding an interesting commentary on his psyche and inspiration, possibly.

The film will be shown on Friday at 7pm in the Mary Pickford Theatre on Floor 3 of the LoC James Madison Building. It’s free but you need to reserve a space. And hurry, you never know if they’ll run out of room! Here’s the event page for information and the reservation link:

20 Feet From Stardom

Hello, readers new and old! If you’re reading this on the Media Services blog, my name is Jesse, nice to meet you! If you’re on the Music Library blog, you know me. Either way, it is my great honor to provide you with a review of a new DVD at Media Services: 20 Feet From Stardom.

20 Feet, released in 2013, is a documentary delving into the history, psychology and philosophy of background singing. Unique for focusing on background talents rather than the usual camera fodder (the stars), it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in March, giving director Morgan Neville his first Oscar!

The film follows the careers of several background singers who have performed and recorded with a jaw-dropping amount of famous artists and helped shape the sound of popular music, often without realizing it. Singers such as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and quite a few more have spent their entire lives in the industry, and the documentary weaves their stories into the fabric of American music history. Judith Hill, a contemporary singer who represents a new generation of background singers, is also heavily featured.

In using the singers’ lives as a narrative, 20 Feet reveals a great amount of intensity. These are stories of a constant struggle with identity; the ups and downs of the industry, the conflict between simply surviving and striving for art, and the ramifications of trying to break out as a solo artist. I was surprised at how emotional it got when the singers spoke about their highest highs, lowest lows and the love of their art that kept them going.

While the idea behind 20 Feet is great, its execution is tremendous. The film features interviews with dozens of background singers, as well as with stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Stevie Wonder. It mixes these interviews with incredible archival footage of the likes of Ray Charles, Phil Spector, David Bowie, George Harrison, Talking Heads and many more. And, in perhaps my favorite aspect of the film, the featured singers were brought into L.A.’s legendary Ocean Way studios to sing together, and the footage of their recording sessions is downright inspiring.

Anyways, I’m gushing here. If you’re passionate about singing, music, or pop culture in general, then you should be rushing towards Media Services as I type, student ID in hand. 20 Feet From Stardom will scratch that itch in the best of ways.