Month of September, 2009

Midi Lidi video "Bujon"

"Bujon" is a very Kraftwerk-oriented tune on the band's full length, ?ekání na robota, which means "waiting for the robot" and thus their claim to be an existential electronic band. This video makes better use of the black/white screen split then Paula Abdul, but the dancing is more spastic. Suppose a little cheerleader training would help them on that.



Midi Lidi and the Steel Heart of the Czech Republic

This weekend I joined the Radio Wave crew on location for their recording of a concert by the band Midi Lidi in the town of Ostrava, CZ. The concert was supposed to be live, but due to "pre-election live broadcasting censorship," namely that the band might say something on public radio about one of the candidates, the show was held for broadcast tomorrow. Which is a public holiday. Also, the election was supposed to be held this fall but is not going to be now. So the rule actually should not have applied.

Moving on, we arrived at Cesky Rozhlas's building at about 5pm, with enough time to see Midi Lidi sound and video checking. As a performative electronic in the Kraftwerk (through Mixel Pixel) tradition, they have an integrated light and sound set up. The band was busy in their prep, so we went out to wander the streets of Ostrava, which is known as "the steel heart of the Czech Republic." Having grown up in Youngstown, OH, which is "the buckle of the rust belt," I was curious about my town's Czech sister. The pre-evening night out downtown was basically abandoned, and no shops were opened. Restaurants were prepping, but few had patrons or even on music. Men at kebob shops were rolling their carts out onto the street. Things were sleepy.

We returned to find the street outside the club full of fans. The show was free with guest list request and about 120 people responded, most of whom were in their 20s. The show began promptly in this larger radio hall with quilted sounddampeners along the back and iron covered pastel sound absorbers on the vaulted ceiling. The space felt like a shrunken high school auditorium and the threesome Midi Lidi, two laptops, two midi controlers, a drum pad, Korg snyth and vocal effects box stood in front of a large screen and the projector stacked on top of road cases in the middle.

Although they all sing, Petr assumes lead with the most animated gestures. He plays confused or confounded by his tech, he is bashful or exhuberant, he jigs sideways or runs between the walls like a raving madman, but always back to the mic for the chorus. Prokop, the analog synth player, tosses his now new wave hair sideways and tries not to smile as he pecks out naive melodies and the occasional breathetaking fill on his keys. Marketa, in the middle with vocal effects, is more successful at not smiling as she adds harmonies. She only breaks after the encore when the crowd, who'd been dancing tiny controlled movements, breaks into a more full on raver mode. The room begins to sweat and laugh at the more whimsy of their earlier tunes, then ends with Prokop and Petr bounding acrosss stage like hugging bunnies, and the lights go on.

Half our crew breaks down the gear, the other half is upstairs in the mixing room - something has gone wrong with the snyths on the first four tracks and has to be remixed. Then we tumble out into the night, where the meats are now well roasting in the streets of Stodolni, the drinking street, and groups of guys in their party shirts and ladies in heels wander between grotty themed bars. The Radio Wave team finally all comes together at an upstairs, smoke-friendly club local to one Waver who's proudly wearing his Banik anorak and DJing "Moravian hip hop funk," which as far as I could tell mean P Funk  interspersed with Onyx and Naughty By Nature. I left the crew at 2am and ventured back to the Rozhlas house, which features serveral hostel rooms for out of town programmers, and lingered for a minute in the hall outside the elevator where pictures of the 1930s Ostrava Radio Orchestra, sound effects men, and an interviewer with Janacek hung.


just started a wiki on abstract writing

Every year I get emails from folks who have never presented at EMP asking "How do I..." and after searching the web mostly unsuccessfully for general advice on writing humanities abstracts, I decided to just go ahead and make a wiki about abstract writing. Once I get together another enough thoughts, I'll write a final version and post it around. Help out if you can!

Sharing knowledge is punk rock! Supporting ideas to get better is punk rock!

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?

The NYT reported that WWII torch singer Vera Lynn topped the Beatles' reissues in UK charts. Well even though WWII vets in the US die at a rate of 2,000 a day, there are probably still more of them than there are serious Beatles fans. You can't get more mass culture than a world war.


Capricious finds in Prague: Patti Smith and DC

While reading the myspace of the fantastic Please The Trees band (who pull off a sound as epic as their recordings even on the tiniest of stages as I found two years ago in an  "letni kino" set that preceeded a showing of the Johnny Cash movie), I stumbled on a link for a blog entry Patti Smith made about her last gig in Prague.

Jánošík, Pravdivá história

Just back fro an opening weekend screening of Jánošík, Pravdivá história, the ninth extant film on the subject of the Slovak/Polish gentleman bandit. As an enduring part of the region's folklore, the Jánošík character has undergone a number of shapeshifts to fit the mood of the age.

French anti-pop consort

A few years ago a war raged between two grous, poptimists and the "rockists." They never managed to have a proper faceoff but generally argued pleasure of reception in the mass object v. the distinction of understanding a autonomously produced work of single authorship. Or something. Anyway this is the kind of thing the French have been arguing about basically forever.


The story of young rapper Roxanne Shante getting a "college clause" in her major label record deal has been circulating for decades, but in the last few weeks it has come under fire after Slate ran a piece by Ben Sheffner that reports many of Shante's assertions about her education and career are false. Read the wise Jeff Change and Wayne Marshall on the controversy here.

Jokes about health care to a room of Czech punks

Just came back from a night up at 007, the club in the basement of the #7 student dorm known as Strahov. Now celebrating 40 years! A truly great place with low ceilings covered in reed mats and whose sight lines are improved by a series of wooden boxes in the middle third of the club. Anyone who's ever been to a show in Europe knows the back third is for table football.