Archive for June, 2010

She Might Get Loud

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Or rather, louder. Bigger. Richer. Because for all of M.I.A.’s twenty-first-century sound and global-nomad street cred, she’s still not quite as famous as she wants to be. But now, with her long-awaited and wildly buzzed-about third album due out any minute, Earth may be about to go truly gaga for Maya

Photographs by Miguel Reveriego
July 2010
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In Los Angeles visiting with M.I.A., the London-born, Sri Lanka-reared, art-school-educated hip-pop supernova. Google’s satellite imagery reveals a house of sturdy proportions up in the city’s privileged canyons, a nice change from her grungy former digs in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn.

I want to see the house, maybe write some smack about how M.I.A. is risking her street cred now that she’s traded the leaks and mice for a touch of posh. But the singer, better known to the eagle-eyed guys at the immigration counter as Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, has another idea. Why don’t we pick up her fiancé, Ben, and head for Las Vegas, where she’ll get married on the spot? Yeah, why not! I’m game, but Ben talks her down on the phone, telling her they should at least wait for his mom, who’s visiting in a few days. Instead we do two hours of vintage shopping at a massive L.A. thrift emporium with her friend, the British fashion designer Cassette Playa, whose hair sports many pretty colors, her large purple-framed glasses reflecting the world.

This is life on the M.I.A. Express: improvised to the point of being slightly insane. In a $150,000 appearance for H&M and Jimmy Choo in November, Maya stopped after a few songs to lecture Paris Hilton and the rest of the select audience on corporate America’s involvement in war-ravaged Sri Lanka. She’d been planning to wear a costume made “out of loads of blown-up body parts and go as an explosion. But they told me I couldn’t, because I had to wear something from H&M or Jimmy Choo.” Um, yes. That’s H&M for you. A few months later, in March, she’ll tweet her fans to meet her at a London club and hear her latest tracks in exactly thirty minutes. Impromptu Las Vegas wedding with me and Cassette Playa as witnesses? Bring it on.

M.I.A. is perhaps the preeminent global musical artist of the 2000s, a truly kick-ass singer and New York-Londony fashion icon, not to mention a vocal supporter of Sri Lanka’s embattled Tamil minority, of which she’s a member. Her father was a key player in the Tamil separatist movement, and his links to the Tamil Tigers would later contribute to Maya’s rep as a terrorist sympathizer. She also has a 1-year-old son and a third album on the way. When asked about the new rec­ord, Cassette Playa (real name: Carri Munden) says simply, “It’s sick.”

Shopping with Maya is fun. “I like this Sade hat…. That doesn’t suit me…. My head’s too small.” She’s wearing a vintage Louis Vuitton sweatshirt, black tights, and ankle boots, looking disarmingly hipster-suburban. Her moods vary from slightly pissed off to go-fuck-yourself-already, but today she’s bubbly and engaged, doing a sexy-tired southern-ingénue walk. From her song “Hombre”: My hips do the flicks as I walk, yeah. We work our way through reams of ’70s and ’80s shit that reminds me of my own immigrant past. (My parents and I emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1979.) Taupe-colored “refugee coats.” EZ Spirit. Focus 2000. A Gitano denim coat. We get on the trendy subject of avoiding meat, and Maya says, “What are you gonna do, you know? We don’t have the luxury to even think about being vegetarians or meat eaters. We’re refugees. We’ve been dealing with normal shit, like how to stay alive.”

I think to myself, The refugee is strong in this one.

She buys a king’s ransom of thrift for $178.72 but still hasn’t found her perfect wedding dress. “I’ve always wanted to get married in a white suit,” she says. “I used to work at a Kodak lab in England, cutting photos after they’d come out of the wash, and in one I saw this couple getting married on a beach in white suits, and their kid was there.”

Like many people in their midthirties, rock stars included, a part of her wants to grow up, soften up. She misses Brooklyn but chose L.A. for her son. “I wanted an environment where I could have a lot of friends and family come and stay. That was the important part for me. And in New York I wouldn’t have been able to afford someplace where I could have, like, all my friends come and crash out and where I could still have a baby.”

Over lunch at India Sweets and Spices in Silver Lake, a Bollywood wedding streams on the giant TV next to a statue of Ganesha. She shows me a video of her son, Ikhyd, a cute curly-haired bruiser of a boy, dancing with his jovial papa, Benjamin Brewer (a.k.a. Benjamin Bronfman), a musician and an heir to the Bronfman beverage fortune. She picks up my digital recorder and starts to rap: I don’t want to live for tomorrow. I push my life today. / I throw this in your face when I see you, because I got something to say. I don’t realize it then, but she’s giving me a preview of “Born Free,” a new song that will generate controversy a few months later, when YouTube restricts access to the hyperviolent nine-minute video, a dystopian parable in which redheaded men and boys are rounded up and executed by government thugs. With the recorder’s tiny mike next to her face, her body in motion and the words just pouring out, she seems as happy and natural as I’ve seen her yet.

When GQ asks me for a 7,000-word piece on M.I.A., I agree quickly. (M.I.A.—what fun!) The next day, I wake up with buyer’s remorse. Did they say 7,000 words?

The problem with writing about Maya is that it’s like writing about the air. I’ve heard her drop-what-you’re-buying-and-listen-to-me-fucking-, now voice in every hipster boutique on both sides of the Atlantic (and the Pacific and, I’m sure, the Arctic Ocean by now), and then, after she’d blasted past the urban cognoscenti, in the cheesy bars of second-rate airports, in the cheesy bars outside Columbia University, in the cheesy bars of my native Russia (the kind of bars where someone with Maya’s skin color might get more than a passing look). Wherever you go—there she is. Björk also managed to pull off this omni­presence in the 1990s, but it’s hard to sing along to a Björk tune unless you happened to be born on her faraway planet. By contrast, M.I.A.’s hooks and jingles sort of wend their way into what’s left of your half-electronic subconscious (Pull up the people, pull up the poor!), so that by the time “Paper Planes” hitched a ride on the global jet stream, it pretty much became Earth’s anthem of 2008.

Maya’s music has been described as a combination (it’s always a combination) of world beat, hip-hop, punk rock, baile funk, techno beat, Jamaican dancehall, whirring sonics (whatever the fuck those are), Indian bhangra, blah blah blah… In other words, she sounds like absolutely nothing you’ve ever heard before. And like everything you thought you’d heard before, too. She also drops finer lyrics than just about anyone with a gold chain knocking against his chest. Indeed, she can craft a story better than scores of novelists out there, her tunes somehow conveying the pain of losing one’s family and homeland in the most joyous way possible. And with this third album, she’s attempting to get huge without sacrificing any of the drooling critical adoration that put her here.

Seven thousand words, though. Holy shit.

One thing you should know before we proceed together is that my taste in music isn’t very good. For me, listening to contemporary hip-hop is just a way to summon an attitude, to blend in with a more powerful person’s sense of himself and to pretend that I also possess some of that ineffable power. M.I.A.’s music certainly fits the bill, not to mention that she also confers easy cred upon her listeners. If I were single, I’d be pumping her new album on every date, all the while talking up a trip I took to Brazil a few years ago, the time I met these kids who might have come from a favela or something. Anyway, they were poor.

I stopped seriously listening to music when Ice Cube began appearing in the Friday movies. When I was a kid at Oberlin ­College, somewhere in Ohio, one of the whitest and crunchiest institutions in America, our obsessions focused on Ice Cube and Kurt Cobain, who managed to die my junior year abroad as I was flying Olympic Airways from Athens to Zurich. The pilots found out midflight, and the young stewardesses began to cry in unison as they tried to pour us our glasses of cloudy retsina. Back then, you see, musicians were still gods who walked among us. But it was the beefy gentleman emerging straight outta Compton, a self-described crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube, who provided our daily soundtrack as we jacked up my roomie’s Saab and aimed it at Oberlin’s sole ­McDonald’s, located in the most ­”urban” part of this sad village of 8,000 crushed souls. Ice Cube’s music—racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic (full disclosure: my roommate Mike “the Zap” Zapler and I were both nominally Hebrews)—rocked our little black Swedish convertible all the way down College Street as we dreamed of a Big Mac as hot and rancid as Cube’s funky lyrics. The Zap and I were both political-science majors with a lot to lose, but Ice Cube seemed like he came from a world where the apocalypse had already wiped clean any vestige of hope—an exciting, existentialist posture for a 20-year-old cracker still unsure of how to play the opposite sex. Since its East Coast inception and up to its recent blinged-out downfall, hip-hop has always been an exhilarating form of tourism for privileged young Americans, a journey into that shit-stained part of the country that always seems so near and yet so far. Bitch, you shoulda put a sock on the pickle, Ice Cube rapped firmly as he educated two guys in a Saab about the correct uses of birth control in a tone no Oberlin woman would ever tolerate. And your pussy wouldn’t be blowing smoke signals. Uh, yes, I’ll take that with fries.

After Cube had completely sold out, it was pretty much downhill for me. I fell under the influence of the Detroit ghetto-tech rapper DJ Assault, whose lyrics I actually paid to use in my last novel (Aw, shit, heah I come / Shut yo mouf and bite yo tongue = $500). And then, like many men and women stumbling headlong into middle age, I just stopped giving a shit about music.

My first meeting with Maya takes place one day last fall in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel in New York’s East Village, a dark, moody depot for transatlantic wankers of a certain caste. She’s rock-star late to the interview, and Maya’s publicist has been trying to call up to her room. “Maya Arulpra—” she begins telling the desk clerk. “Who?” “M.I.A.” No response. Despite her ubiquity on every iPhone in Williamsburg, there’s clearly still some brand-building ahead for Maya and her label.

Six hours later, she approaches my table with a just-got-out-of-bed look, resembling one of the sloe-eyed Israeli girls who sleepily haunted my Hebrew school. She tells me she doesn’t want to do the usual kind of interview, where she enlightens the reader about what it’s like to be Maya and I ask her questions about her past. No, she wants to come up with something creative. Maybe we should look at artwork together and discuss. Or maybe we can challenge the jerk who made her sound like a terrorist-loving Tamil Tiger groupie in The New York Times by holding a panel with the guy from The Village Voice who defended her. Or maybe this whole piece could be about the cell-phone videos of innocent Tamils, Guineans, and others being killed and raped—a truly ghastly video of Sri Lankan soldiers laughing while shooting bound, naked Tamil men has been making the rounds on YouTube. Or maybe “It shouldn’t be about Sri Lanka; it should be about truth. It should be why, when things are changing so fast, journalism’s not changing as fast as the world is changing, and no one seems to be independent enough to just be like, ‘I’m going to go look into this.’ Every little thing just needs to be so whitewashed on the bigger scale. I think it’s really interesting to focus in and say, ‘Right, we’re just going to take ten fucking cell-phone footages from around the world that didn’t become an outrageous piece of proof that stands up in the U.N.,’ which makes the U.N. really redundant, you know what I mean?” She pauses. “But all that footage crushes so many things that we stand for. It crushes art. Like, I can’t look at any art right now, ’cause I just think it’s all bullshit.” A few beats later: “In the future, I want to move more into art.” A little later: “I think [art is] good for my ADD, my music.”

Her attention deficit disorder is endearing. She’s razor smart while somehow managing to be warm, stando?sh, and suspicious. She wants to be in charge, controlling the interview, challenging her critics, crushing the United Nations once and for all. I get the sense she’s not completely aware of her own psychology, which may be an aid to her artistic work, where it all just comes pouring out like an uncapped volcano in the Philippines. Itching to get away from the interview and back to her music, she tells me the studio is where she talks her shit out. “It’s like therapy, seeing journalists for me,” she says.

“I’ll send you a bill,” I tell her.

The inevitable Robert Christgau, self-proclaimed dean of American rock critics, has called M.I.A. “the brown-skinned Other now obsessing Euro-America,” and Maya’s biography could be summed up in one of her own lyrics: I got brown skin but I’m a West Londoner / Educated but a refugee still. When she talks about her past, one thinks partly that she’s making it up as she goes along, not just because the stuff is so fantastical but because she’s such an effortless storyteller, explaining complicated events with small details, like the time her mom locked her in a room in her grandmother’s house in Sri Lanka to keep her from filming a potentially dangerous protest, or the gruesomeness of life on a Liberian rubber plantation she recently visited. “I’m sad I come from a country like this,” she says of Sri Lanka, “full of racism and hatred.” Although maybe L.A. and New York aren’t quite the ticket, either. “I’m ready to go to Ohio,” she says, sort of kidding. “I would love to move next door to Dave Chappelle. That’s my dream. If I stick around America, that’s what I’m doing.”

Wanderlust Festival 2010

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Wanderlust Festival 2010 Announced

Yoga, Music, and Spectacular Views Set This Festival Apart From the Rest

The second annual Wanderlust Festival returns to the stunning peaks of Squaw Valley USA in Lake Tahoe, CA from July 29 – August 1, 2010.  This four-day yoga and music experience is a feast for the body and the senses – a place to relax, unwind, bend, dance, revel, and contemplate

This year’s Wanderlust Festival features even more of the good stuff – expanded yoga offerings, more great music, a complement of organic foods and biodynamic wines, and the same incredible scenery and community that made last year’s event such a hit.  The New York Times said it best: festivalgoers get “the same rejuvenating charge from raucous dancing as from mindful breathing.”

Wanderlust showcases a range of teachers, classes and styles that will inspire and challenge all practitioners, from the curious beginner to longtime students.  This year’s yoga line-up features some of the most notable names in yoga, including Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Duncan Wong, Elena Brower and Schuyler Grant. Wanderlust will include other renowned instructors like Annie Carpenter, Brock & Krista Cahill, Jason Nemer & Jenny Sauer-Klein (the Acroyogis), Kerri Kelly, Janet Stone, Les Leventhal, Maya Fiennes, Rusty Wells, Sianna Sherman, Vinnie Marino and many others.

The music at Wanderlust is a soundtrack for the weekend, featuring both music to flow to and music to dance to.  After a day of focusing on the inner self, at night it’s time to let loose at one of the high-energy dance parties down at the Kula Village.  Leading the charge this year are Moby, Bassnectar, Brazilian Girls and Pretty Lights. Also performing over the weekend are Yard Dogs Road Show, Beats Antique, Rupa & The April Fishes, Ana Sia, MC Yogi, Orgone, Princess Superstar, Dave Stringer, DJ Dragonfly, The Mayapuris, Shaman’s Dream, Rara Avis, John Shannon, Desert Dwellers and many more.

A limited number of advance-priced yoga + music tickets go on-sale Tuesday, February 16th at 10am CDT at Prices start at $340 for a three-day Seeker pass and $420 for a four-day Sage pass.  Every Wanderlust yoga + music ticket gives you three classes per day with your choice of amazing teachers plus access to the Kula Village, High Camp, the cable car, and all music events on that day. Prices are inclusive of service fees. Music-only tickets will go on sale Tuesday, May 4th.

“Y’all ready to shake your asana?” – MC YOGI

Wanderlust is produced by Velour Music Group, in conjunction with C3 Presents (Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival) and Starr Hill Presents (Bonnaroo, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival).


Velour Music Group ·

Founded in 1999, Velour is a hybrid management company, events producer and record label focused on developing cutting edge music across various genres. Velour represents “music with soul” – not necessarily soul music, but rather music that represents the core values of great songwriting and performance, both on stage and in the studio.  By combining management, events and label functions under one roof, Velour also has created a holistic and stable home for its artists, one that is focused on long term career development and allows a nimble response to changing industry conditions.

C3 Presents ·

C3 Presents creates, books, markets and produces live experiences, concerts, events, and just about anything that makes people stand up and cheer. C3 produces the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza in Chicago. Along with these multi-day, multi-stage festivals, C3 books and promotes more than 1,000 concerts in arenas, theaters, casinos, and clubs across the US. In addition to event creation and booking, C3 manages the careers of select artists.

Starr Hill Presents ·

Starr Hill Presents is the largest independent promoter of live entertainment in Central Virginia, producing over 200 concerts a year in the region from club shows to major arena events. Together with its partners, Starr Hill Presents also produces large-scale music festivals nationwide including the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival and the Mile High Music Festival.


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
Bassnectar -  Massive Attack Bootleg

Happy Solstice!!!

Today is the longest day of the year, and we are spending it deep in a whirlpool of brainstorming. So many exciting projects and concepts are being hatched, and while we are being Mad Scientists in the Labs, we wanted to share another little piece of music:

The Massive Attack Remix is here and ready for your ears and bodies to consume!!!
Click Here to download

(link expires!!)

To share – please post this link to Twitter/Facebook:

If you have a minute, please give the track a love on the Hype Machine

Give Love on Hypem


to read more of the full story on this remix – the inspiration and how it came together, plus a video with bits of your footage from some of the recent HOTT SUMMER FRENZIES – i look forward to reading your comments!!






Rising producer MOREZEROS has been quietly remixing on the scene for years now.  Once this little track leaked to our ears, we couldn’t stop bumping it.

iLa Mawana

“Soldiers Of Sound”


Boston’s iLa Mawana just released their debut full-length album Soldiers Of Sound on May 15th. The eight-piece roots reggae group will be on tour throughout the spring and summer. iLa Mawana’s west coast debut kicks off June 4th, with a two-week tour throughout California and Oregon.

“…Boston’s next breakout reggae act.” – Lost In Sound

Tour Dates
June 25 & 26 – Block Island, RI – Captain Nick’s
June 29 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
July 08 – Westerly, RI – Paddy’s Beach
July 15 – Newmarket, NH – Stone Church
July 16 – Rochester, NY – Dub Land Underground
Aug 23 – Boston, MA – Rock On! Concert Cruise
Aug 24 – New York, NY – Rocks Off Concert Cruise


Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

State of Grace

Contributing Writer- Garret K. Woodward []

Over the course of the last six years, I have bared witness, for good or ill, to the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals- a band of innocence wrapped cozily within strands of talent stretching the ends of the world.

Though the purity of their intent may remain untouched in their minds, it’s being altered and exploited by greedy hands. The fact remains the rock group is no longer what we once cheered- it is now a gilded shell of its former self, a pop entity carefully maneuvered to appeal to anyone with a sexual impulse and diluted ear for legitimate music.

Ms. Potter is no longer the “aw shucks” girl next door, now a sex symbol to be reckoned with- a glossy playmate who distracts from her own musical gifts with orgasmic onstage squeals and miniskirts which could upend with the slightest unforeseen breath of air.

Although the recent album left me with a bad taste in my mouth, I still gave the ensemble the benefit of the doubt and tracked them down on May 28th at the Port City Music Hall in Portland, Maine.

It was a carbon-copy performance compared to those last year when Catherine Popper (bass) and Benny Yurco (guitar) initially joined. Granted the tone is a tad more aggressive, but the tunes are lackluster and uninteresting. The quintet, at times, felt as if it were going through the motions. Then, a spurt of wrist-slicing guitar hooks from Scott Tournet and Yurco would suddenly rears its head and excite my soul. Soon, a glass-shattering howl from Potter would send chills up my spine not felt since their Paradise Rock Club days.

But, just when those numbers would grab your ears (“Medicine”, “Some Kind of Ride”), subsequent offerings (“One Short Night”, “Tiny Light”) would immediately deflate your inner urges. Knowing damn well their capabilities from years of following their rise, I was left puzzled and at times jaded.

Maybe it was tapping my toes to opener (and side project) Blues & Lasers that muddled my thoughts. The blues-rock machine has tainted my once cheerleading-like ways towards Potter. It was a feeling similar to my first encounter with the cartoon Family Guy- suddenly The Simpson’s weren’t as funny anymore.

Though Portland justified there is something still embedded beneath the group worth pursuing (fingers crossed the next album brushes the current record under the rug), the June 8th Burlington, Vermont homecoming performance on Church Street left one in a dizzying state of confusion.

The manic, overzealous New England crowd pig-piled onto each other for a glimpse of “a real starlet from our own backyard”. Middle-aged fathers, pushing baby strollers, kept looking for loose change in their pockets while Potter strutted her sex across the stage. Overzealous mothers elbowed their way to the front in search of photographs to post on Facebook or as a reference point for their next haircut. Her voice, muffled at times, echoed down the street like the national anthem at a high school hockey game.

It was a sickening, chaotic scene, but the music industry is a tricky, unforgiving bitch.

How do you balance dignity with being able to pay your bills? How do you produce the melodies floating through you head, but also please the executives footing the process? How do you pursue your every desired dream, yet adhere to a nonstop schedule and being pulled in every direction by those either wanting to be near you or wanting to push you as far away from them as possible?

The line is hard, if not impossible, to straddle without falling off into the abyss of career success or career blunder?

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

[Hollywood Records]

Taking a scene directly out of Almost Famous, the cover of the latest Nocturnals creation has Potter as the obvious focal point. The other band members are out of focus, blurry, and pushed to the background.

The Gwen Stefani syndrome has finally taken hold.

I had high hopes for Grace and the crew. Venturing out west to seek fame and fortune, it seems the glitz and glam has brainwashed the group of their real aptitude: playing rock-n-fuckin’-roll.

Lead guitarist Scott Tournet is almost nonexistent throughout the entire record. With never-ending potential, the six-string ace comes off more like a hired studio musician going through the motions (the same goes for rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco and drummer Matt Burr). His craft is greatly suffocated in exchange for a we’re-trying-too-hard-for-radio-friendly-hooks approach. If it weren’t for their side project, Blues & Lasers, I’d say Tournet, Yurco and Burr were a waste of raw talent.

“Paris (Ooh La La)” (aka “If I Was From Paris” – a recycled bonus track from their last studio effort), though notable when played live, has bubblegum written all over it. Annoying backup vocals, chintzy doubletracking, and a feel reminiscent of Josie and the Pussycats, the tune is now reduced to the next single plastered all over whatever teenybopper drama Disney (who owns Hollywood Records, where the quintet sits alongside labelmates Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers) forces them onto.

Eerily similar to any previous Potter ballad, “Tiny Light” (which includes the only guitar section worth mentioning, though you have to painstakingly dig through the entire melody to hear it) and “Things I Never Needed” exhibit no progress in a band whose stagnation was thought to have left with ex-bassist Bryan Dondero (his replacement, Catherine Popper, is barely noticeable throughout).

The subsequent songs don’t fair much better.

There’s a frisky Potter squeal here and there, but each number sounds forced, with not one selection holding your attention for another spin. The sound is hollow and, at times, repetitive. It seems the only saving grace is “Medicine”– a meaty number, but one that could be taken as cheesy when placed in context of the entire album.

The phrase “personal sabotage” comes to mind.

It’s a damn shame the band has apparently traded their signature organic blend of soul for the cliché of rock stardom. At one time they hinted at a winning formula- a secret formula that the woman with incredible pipes traded in for high heels, sequin miniskirts and, frankly, terrible songs.

Honestly, the whole thing tends to make a mockery of any previous endeavors or accolades. But, as they say, having a gift from God is one thing, knowing how to properly use that gift is a whole other ballgame. One can only hope this is just a bump on a long and hopefully bountiful road for the Vermont darlings. And one can also hope that this is the record that gets the bullshit out of their collective system, that they can come back reinvigorated- ready to actually make music that’s worth listening to.

In the words of Jeff Bebe of Stillwater, “And let me say what nobody else wants to say: your looks have become a problem!”


Monday, June 21st, 2010

June 12, 2010 — MACPODZ LIVE AT SUMMERCAMP 2010 WSG/ Jake from Umphrey’s Video Production/Editing/Camera: Raymond Grubb