The Dead Air Radio has been a staple of the WCNI-FM airwaves as long as I can remember, and as long as I can remember goes way back to the Fall of 1983 when I first encountered this amazing rock and roll radio show . Why amazing? Well, really it’s about good taste. Peter Detmold, Hugh Birdsall and Paul Sweeney (the show’s current hosts) all possess an uncanny sense of good musical taste, history and a dry sense of humor – put them all together and you’ve got a recipe for a radio show that’s managed to stay on the air for more than 30 years.
I have my own history with WCNI (which perhaps I’ll tell another time) but it’s been a long, long time since I pulled songs together for a radio show. Still, I was asked by Peter to take the helm of the Dead Air Radio Show for an hour on September, 8 and here’s how it went. Not so bad! I’m a bit rusty and I think I over-did it on the “sounds like The Beatles, but not The Beatles” set but there’s some good stuff in there. Have a listen.
Big Kids Wanna Rock • Myracle Brah
Nothing • Jay Sherman-Godfrey
A Question Mark • Elliott Smith
She Goes To Bed • Jason Falkner
Ruin My Day • Jon Brion
Get The Message • Sagittarius
The Magic Touch • The Bobby Fuller Four
Soul Deep • The Box Tops
It’s Looking Good • The Rutles
You Don’t Know Her • The Rubinoos
Thought You’d Never Go • Kenney Howes
So Far From My Heart • Frank Lee Sprague
Sexy Rickenbacker • Charlie Chesterman
Inside Looking Out • The Animals
For Your Love • Larry Williams Show
Listen, Listen • The Merry-Go-Round
The Trouble With Boys • Little Eva
That’s How It Goes • The Breakaways(UK)
Live At Fi is a podcast I produce that features live recordings from The Hifi Bar in NYC. It’s part documentation of the scene, and part enticement for folks to come down to the venue and enjoy the experience in real time.
This bonus length, hour long episode (most are edited to fit into your subway commute) is great fun and features songs from HiFi’s Under Your Influence tribute series. These tribute nights are loose and fun for musicians and the crowd, but there’s no mistaking the ambition of the performers to do justice to the featured songwriters and performers.
Recording these shows is also great fun but a technical terror. Stage lineups change song by song, mics drop, cables fizzle, singers alternately whisper, then scream. I stand by the side of the stage with my recording gear and headset listening, hoping for the best, but always grooving on the performances with a nervous grin.
My goal for these live recordings has never perfection (I’ve succeeded there), but something like the live FM broadcasts I loved listening to on FM radio in the ‘70s and early ‘80s on WNEW, WPLJ, or the short-lived and lamented WPIX. Those broadcasts were more about about sharing the excitement of a venue, with an attempt at presenting a sonic impact a bit more impressive than a microphone in the crowd, and I’ve tried to make sure that the sound of the room and the crowd at HiFi is a big part of the recordings. For example, check out how the Beautiful Fear performance of XTC’s Dear God silences a talkative crowd – the musicians never chide the audience, but the music and their presence shift the audience’s attention completely.
All the performances are fun, but a few others to mention – Jessie Kilguss’ take on The Kinks’ This Time Tomorrow makes me think Fairport Convention should have covered The Kinks in their heyday, Edward Rogers slays the crowd with his twist on Pretenders’ Precious, and it warmed my heart to hear the house band go for Rockpile’s live arrangement of Nick Lowe’s Heart of The City, as featured in many vintage live FM recordings and bringing it all back home for me.
I love producing music and music programs but this was a fascinating break from the recent normal – producing an interview with New York artist Sara VanDerBeek discussing her work and show at The Guggenheim Museum. Working with the folks at The Cooper Union was a blast, looking forward to more projects.
What a treat to get to know Don and his music over the last few months. The latest episode of Live at Fi features 5 songs from a fiery set recorded at The HiFi Bar last August. And I mean fiery, like up from a slow burn to a blaze and back down to a slow burn. I recall listening to the show live and grooving like crazy to the sound, then realized and remembered that it was all being recorded (uh, by me). Sometimes you get lucky.
All the songs are great but I have a special love for Solitaire, starting about 22:14 into the podcast. Now that’s how you sell a song.
Don’s also got a new album out called What It Is and you you should own it. Get the lossless version for fullest fidelity!
And here we go with another episode of Live At Fi, this time an interview show with Matt Schwartzer and Gary Levitt, the producers of HiFi’s weekly free comedy show, I Don’t Get It. The episode digs down deep into the inner workings of the local comedy scene, and what it takes to be funny on a tough New York stage. And as serious as these folks are about comedy, they manage to keep the talk very, very funny.
Last May, I recorded the tribute to The Lovin’ Spoonful at 2A , a really special night of musical celebration (and perhaps the sweatiest in recent memory – the AC couldn’t handle the packed house). Tom Clark mentioned that Dave Davies was in the audience but I missed spotting Dave or the chance to say hello. A day or two after the show I was going over the recording and heard this little snippet in the background – Dave’s unmistakable voice offering a little encouragement between a couple of songs. Just a snippet of sound, but a genuine, unexpected moment from a music hero. This band deserved it.
I’m pleased, chuffed, pumped, delighted, tickled and downright honored to have The Reducers’ Last Tracks and Lost Songs included in Jack Rabid’s Best of 2015.
Jack is one of The Big Takeover, the world’s greatest (and thriving) rock magazine. I’ve been reading TBT for years and years so it’s a thrill to have such an emotionally charged project included in a list with some pretty impressive artists. (The Reducers are nestled in somewhere between The MC5 and The Heartbreakers).
Gosh, I fell for this band. Back in my “you-go-out-every-night-and-see-a-band” days, I, uh, pretty much went out every night to see a band. Sometimes I knew what I was getting into, sometimes I had no idea. Those nights without expectations were unsurprisingly a mixed bag. Most nights were meh, every now and then I wouldn’t last a song, but then there were those nights where you heard a band doing something special, making a connection with crowd, maybe even playing an unfamiliar brand of music.
Sea of Bees did it for me when they played HiFi on July 15, 2015. I started recording for the Live at Fi podcast just a few weeks before Sea of Bees showed up and was still working out exactly how we were going to get these bands recorded. I showed up early to set up and was happy to meet Julie Ann and the rest of the band. All friendly, all happy and ready to play. The crowd wasn’t very big, but they showed up early, clearly expecting a lot of competition for seats. These people knew something I didn’t know and when Sea of Bees started playing I figured it out – Julie Ann Bee has start power. Such a unique voice and a set of original songs with strong, singable melodies that manage to steer clear of the traps of nostalgia. I loved the set and happily purchased a vinyl copy of their latest LP, Build a Boat to the Sun. I was too dopey to get autographs but I should have.
Live at Fi – Sea of Bees on iTunes
Live at Fi – Sea of Bees on Soundcloud