Wednesday, February 25

RIP Randy Bewley...

Randy (in black) watching Judi Chicago at Athens Popfest 2008

Word in from various sources, both locally and online, that Pylon's Randy Bewley has passed away. This is... awful. He was an important part of the Athens music scene and I hope those than knew him better will offer tributes in the days to come. He was always a gentlemen when we spoke, and his absence will leave a hole in the local scene. I'm told that his family and bandmates were with him when he passed.

See the article at Pitchfork. The Athens Banner-Herald has more.


Please read Mike Turner's thoughts on Randy at the HHBTM blog. Mike and wife Leslie knew Randy well, and Mike's thoughts are touching.

Also see Athens local Lucas Jensen's article on Randy over at Idolator. It's loaded with info, videos, and comments about the man.

Randy Bewley of Pylon in ICU after heart attack/car accident

Vanessa and Randy of Pylon (courtesy Mike White)

Word in from Crib Notes that Pylon, Supercluster, and Sound Houses guitarist Randy Bewley is in intensive care after a heart attack and car accident. The word from Pylon singer Vanessa Briscoe-Hay, courtesy of Chad Radford:

His van drifted off the road and tipped over. No other people or vehicles were involved. Rescue workers did CPR at the scene and he was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center. He is in ICU.

Besides being a member of great bands, Randy is a super nice guy. Please keep him in your thoughts and wish him a full recovery.

The Avett Brothers cover "Glory Days"

Over on Bruce Springsteen's website, there is a "Hangin' on E Street" section featuring videos of other performers playing songs by The Boss. Among them are North Carolina's Avett Brothers, who rock out a version of "Glory Days" in what looks like a garage/storage unit/fallout shelter. Take it away, gents...

The Avetts have two Atlanta-area shows coming up in late April, but they're both opening for Dave Matthews. Thus, I will not consider attending. Sorry guys.

New Neko Case song - "Middle Cyclone"

The Anti- label blog is celebrating its one-year anniversary today. To do so they've released a second free track from the forthcoming Neko Case album Middle Cyclone. It's the title track, and it has me even more eager for the record's March 3 release.

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

The record is available for pre-order from Amazon for $7.99.

Wednesday, February 18

Howlies - "Angeline" video

I overlooked this earlier this month, but Atlanta's Howlies have released a video for their infectious "Angeline" from Trippin' with Howlies. It's well done, and their masks freak me out a little.

Howlies are on tour now in the northeast (see Myspace for dates), and will be at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens on March 4.

Wilco to tour; play Classic Center in Athens on April 20

Wilco - "Hummingbird" on The Late Show, June 16, 2004

I've been buried in work this week, so it was a real bright spot yesterday when I learned that Wilco will be at the Classic Center in Athens on April 20. The pre-sale begins today via MusicToday, and they go on sale to the general public on Friday.

The Athens show is one stop on Wilco's spring tour, which was just announced. The band also has a number of European dates ahead.

- Tweedy solo -
03/26 Higher Ground, Burlington, VT
03/27 Calvin Theatre, Northampton, MA
03/28 Beacon High Auditorium, Beacon, NY
- Wilco -
04/14 Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI
04/15 Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI
04/16 IU Auditorium, Bloomington, IN
04/17 Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Mem. Aud., Athens, OH
04/18 Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN
04/20 Classic Center, Athens, GA
04/21 Thomas Wolfe Aud., Asheville, NC
04/22 Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL
04/23 Lyric Oxford, Oxford, MS
04/25 New Orleans JazzFest, New Orleans, LA
05/23 Tenerife Aud., Tenerife, Spain
05/25 Teatro Cervantes, Malaga, Spain
05/26 Teatro Calderon, Madrid, Spain
05/29 Territorios Festival-La Cartuja, Seville, Spain
05/30 Teatro Circo, Oporto-Braga, Portugal
05/31 Lisbon Coliseu, Lisbon, Portugal
06/01 Palacio de Congresos, Sala Braque, Santiago de Compostela-Galacia, Spain
06/03 Kursaal, Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain
06/04 Auditori Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
06/11-14 BONNAROO
07/22-25 10,000 Lakes Festival, Detroit Lakes, MN
08/21 Highfield Festival, Erfurt-Hohenfelden, Germany

See the Wilco site for more information on the band and tour.

Friday, February 13

Thor rocks the iPod

The variant cover to Thor #601 by Marko Djurdjevic, hitting store shelves on March 18:

Marvel has a poll on their site asking what he's listening to. I hope it's AC/DC and not MC Hammer.

Wednesday, February 11

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down tour dates released; Atlanta show at The EARL on April 20

Thao Nguyen and her band have announced a spring tour, with dates all around the U.S. The first two shows are Thao solo, and then Thao and the Get Down Stay Down will assemble for the remaining dates. Included is an April 20 show at The EARL in Atlanta. All the dates will be with Sister Suvi and Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers. Thao's record was one of my favorites of last year, so this should be a darn good time.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down - Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down - Bag of Hammers

The tour dates:

- solo shows -
2/26 Noise Pop - Swedish American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
2/27 The Coffee House Davis, CA

- band shows -
4/17 Black Cat, Washington, DC
4/18 Duke Coffee House, Durham, NC
4/19 Village Tavern, Mt. Pleasant, SC
4/20 The EARL, Atlanta, GA
4/21 Club Downunder-FSU, Tallahassee, FL
4/23 The Parish, Austin, TX
4/24 Lola’s, Ft. Worth, TX
4/25 The Foundation, Lubbock, TX
4/26 The Sub-College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
4/28 The Loft-UCSD, San Diego, CA
4/29 The Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA
4/30 Independent, San Francisco, CA
5/01 Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR
5/02 Chop Suey, Seattle, WA
5/04 Neurolux Boise, ID
5/05 Kilby Court, Salt Lake CIty, UT
5/06 Hi Dive, Denver, CO
5/09 Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
5/10 Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH
5/12 Iron Horse, Northampton, MA
5/14 Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
5/15 First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, PA
5/16 The Boot, Norfolk, VA

The band promises fun new outfits for the tour, so we'll see what they have in store.

The National announce tour; Variety Playhouse on May 27

The National have announced a small selection of tour dates for late May. Luckily, one of those is a show at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse. Yes, I applauded in my kitchen when I read that on The Music Slut. It's been far too long since I've seen these lads live.

The National - Fake Empire

The tour:

5/21 Kool Haus, Toronto
5/22 Metropolis, Montreal,
5/23 House Of Blues, Boston, MA
5/24 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
5/25 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
5/27 Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
5/28 Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC
5/29 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA

I can't help but feel like I've missed an announcement or something about these guys. Are they still promoting Boxer, or is there a new record coming? Please chime in if you can drop some knowledge.

Athens Popfest 2009 is canceled

Well, this is unpleasant news. Due to concerns about the economy, Athens Popfest 2009 is officially canceled.

From the press release:
After five years, thousands of attendees, hundreds of bands and an unimaginable amount of fun the organizers of The Athens PopFest have made the difficult decision to cancel this year's event.

The reason is quite simple. The entire world is suffering right now under the pressure and uncertainty of an increasingly unstable global economy. Owing to the fact that a large portion of the audience for the Athens PopFest, not to mention the bands themselves, thend to travel hundreds of miles to attend and play going forward with this event would mean placing a financial hardship upon many of them. This factor is compounded for those traveling from overseas. Further, the organizers feel it would be uncomfortable at best (crass at worst) to approach our local businesses, past sponsors and corporate entitites for financial support this year. Let's face it: when businesses around the world are laying off employees at record levels it just feels unseemly to ask them to transfer those dollars to us in support of a music festival.

There is more at the link. The organizers still plan to hold Athens Popfest in 2010, so we'll see what happens.

Thanks to Crib Notes for the info.

'The Ten-Cent Plague' author David Hajdu at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Thursday, February 12

This Thursday, Cable & Tweed is co-sponsoring a visit to Decatur's Wordsmiths Books by author and Columbia University journalism professor David Hajdu. His most recent book, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, is a study of the comics hysteria of the mid-twentieth century. During that period a nationwide backlash struck the comics industry, with its product blamed for juvenile delinquency, illiteracy, and a general decay of American youth culture. The result was book burnings, boycotts, and contentious congressional hearings that crippled the comics industry and led to the adoption of the Comics Code to regulate content.

For those familiar with this episode in America's cultural history, many of the details will be well known. Although hysteria about the corrupting force of comics came and went throughout the early twentieth century, it hit a high point with the convening of congressional hearings in the early 1950s and the publication of Dr. Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent in 1954. He followed many others in arguing that comics had a detrimental effect on youth. Although Wertham's was not the only voice raised in opposition to comic books, it resonated with America's mothers and moralists like few before. While Wertham's tale is the best known to emerge from this era of comics history, Hajdu digs deeper to explore the numerous actions against comics in America as well as the concurrent growth and contraction of the industry. He did so by conducting over 150 interviews with comics veterans and uncovering more primary and secondary sources on the topic than I realized were available. It's a fascinating bit of American cultural history.

David Hajdu


This week, Hajdu was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer questions that I sent him via e-mail.

C&T: Famed artist Al Williamson's quip that "[i]t was a bad time to be weird" (p. 210) sums up the situation examined in The Ten-Cent Plague pretty succinctly. I have to wonder, though, if there is ever a good time to be weird without provoking the powers that be. As you note, attacks on popular youth culture are cyclical and recurring. In my own formative years such attacks were made on heavy metal, rap music, "naughty" cartoons (e.g., Beavis & Butt-Head), and violent video games (among other supposedly corrupting forces). What about the attacks on the comics industry drew you to this topic a full half-century after the key events?

DH: I love that comment from Williamson. It would make a good book title – or perhaps a better song title. I’ll have to go visit Williamson again, with a guitar.

No time is exactly like any other time, of course, despite the recurrence of some themes in history. If we think of weirdness as bohemianism, that’s something that’s had a kind of cultural currency since 17th-century France. Rimbaud is forever cool, at least to young people interested in establishing their own generational identity by defying the standards of their parents. That said, each youth culture sets its own standards of weirdness, and they’re frequently rigid or parochial. When the Beatles came along, Elvis called them “weird” and “queer.” By the early ‘70s, when glam rock along, the Beatles no longer seemed so transgressive. They seemed like squares.

I was drawn to the subject of my book in large part because I didn’t understand it well. It represented a challenging new area of inquiry for me.

C&T: The aspect of The Ten-Cent Plague given the most attention is its focus on legislative responses to the perceived threat of comics as fostering juvenile delinquency. The congressional hearings of 1950-54 in particular remain captivating as both public spectacle and an example of legislative overreach. I wonder, however, about their depiction in the book. There seems to have been some balance in the 1950 hearings headed by Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN), but nothing of the sort in later hearings. Is that a fair assessment, or were there dissenting voices in later hearings that did not make it into the book?

DH: No, I didn’t rig the evidence. I tried to convey the proportion of events as accurately as I could.

C&T: In your assessment, to what degree were elites' concerns about comics genuine rather than fueled by electoral concerns, self-promotion, or a desire to sell books and periodicals? Discerning the motivation of a Frederic Wertham, for example, hardly seems straightforward.

DH: When I started my research, I wondered if the hysteria over comics would have happened without Wertham, and I was surprised when I found that it DID happen without him -- that is to say, it began quite a while before he joined it. Wertham became important as a catalyst and as the public face of the campaign against comics. But he didn't start it; in fact, he didn't emerge as a prominent critic of comics until 1948, a full eight years after Sterling North, the children's author and book critic, wrote the newspaper column ("A National Disgrace") that was the manifesto of comics critics.

North sounded like Wertham before Wertham did. He called comics "badly drawn, badly written and badly printed -- a stain on young eyes and young nervous systems," and he describe the "effect" of comics as "that of a violent stimulant." He charged comics publishers with being "guilty of cultural slaughter of the innocents," foreshadoing the title of Wertham's book by fourteen years, while echoing the criticism of turn-of-the-century newspaper strips. That first piece of North's on comics (and it was only the first) was reprinted in forty newspapers around the country, as well as in the journal of the National Parent-Teachers Association.

A few years later, a Jesuit priest named Robert E. Southard took up the crusade against comics, making the first charge, in print in 1944, that comics were "largely responsible for juvenile delinquency." Parochial schools distributed a list of "objectionable" comics that Southard made, and they used it to organize protests against comics and public burnings as early as 1945, three years before Wertham turned his attention to comics. Wertham and the comics crusade -- or, more accurately, the multiple crusades against comics -- are not interchangeable.

C&T: In my day job I am a social scientist, and I appreciate that The Ten-Cent Plague addressed the results of empirical studies in the 1950s regarding the relationship (or lack thereof) between juvenile delinquency and comic books. I was struck, but not shocked, by the fact that none of the scholarly or peer-reviewed research identified a causal relationship between comics and crime despite claims by various politicians and moralists. Why weren't these studies more influential? Were Wertham and his ilk simply better at self-promotion and rhetoric than their counterparts?

DH: Wertham clearly had an appetite for attention, and he understood how to use the media.

There were several serious studies of comics reading and scholarly papers on the subject published in the late 1940s, and most of them came to the conclusion that comics did no particular harm to young minds. They got very little attention in the popular press.

For instance, the November 1948 edition of the Journal of Educational Research included a study of 635 elementary-school kids in Farmingdale, New York, and it found no "significant differences between those children who read comic books, attended moving pictures, and listened to radio programs to the greatest extent and those who participated in these activities seldom or not at all."

In December 1949, after the early peak of hysteria over comics in 1948, the Journal of Educational Sociology devoted an entire issue to comics, and all the papers in the journal were tempered or positive about comics. This issue included a couple of fervent defenses of comics and critiques of Wertham's methods, including "The Comics and Delinquency: Cause or Scapegoat," by Frederic M. Thrasher of NYU. As Thrasher wrote, "In conclusion, it may be said that no acceptable evidence has been produced by Wertham or anyone else for the conclusion that the reading of comic magazines has or has not a significant relation to delinquent behavior."

C&T: My own inclination is to shun censorship and reject many of the arguments made by Wertham and his allies, but I can empathize with their concerns about graphic imagery in the hands of children. It seems that some comics professionals did as well (including UGA graduate Jack Davis, incidentally). Given that, why didn't the comics industry take its own Comics Code in 1948 more seriously? Is there evidence that age restrictions were ever considered for particular comics in the spirit of the modern film and television ratings? It seems that such a system might have blunted much of the later controversy, though it might have hurt the bottom line.

DH: Comics publishers did quite a bit to tone down their content after the early peak of the comics hysteria, in 1948, but they concentrated on crime content. The first wave of of comics regulations focused primarily on crime comics, on the grounds that the depiction of criminal acts in the panels might inspire their readers to act criminally. As a result, comics publishers shifted the tone of their crime titles or discontinued them. Only two newsstand dealers were actually arrested for selling crime comics, as far as I know; but the legislation against crime comics, in concert with the atmosphere of panic over their role in changing juvenile mores, led publishers away from crime. They turned to other genres, including horror and romance, proceeding blithely on the misconception that only crime comics could qualify as criminal.

C&T: While reading 'The Ten-Cent Plague' it would be difficult not to notice the attention given to EC Comics in its various incarnations. In fact, the book serves as a notable history of that imprint as well as broader attacks on comics. One gets the impression that EC's history is closely correlated with that of the industry as a whole, including its flame-out in the 1950s. Was it your intention from the start to focus on EC to such a degree?

DH: I gave EC the attention I gave it in part because EC comics were so serious and ambitious as art. One of the reasons I care about the debate over comics is that I care about comics. The debate over comics was a debate over not only moral values, but aesthetic values. The clampdown on comics, which resulted in the demise of EC, is tragic because it destroyed something of value.

C&T: In the course of a project of this magnitude, one inevitably learns things that are unexpected or stumbles onto wonderful artifacts. Do any such discoveries stand out in your mind? Was there a particular anecdote or fact that you wish had made the final manuscript, but did not?

DH: Oh, boy…I have literally thousands of pages of transcripts from my interviews, and I used just a tiny portion of them. Most of the material didn’t make it into the final manuscript! That was my choice, though, so I’m not complaining here. I think of writing largely as the practice of oblation.

The best story I didn’t use took place after the time period of the book. That’s why I didn’t include it. It came from Stephen Sondheim, who said that when he was first brainstorming “West Side Story” with Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins, he proposed to open the play with a musical number in which the Jets would sing about comic books. Showing that the kids were comic-book readers would establish immediately that they were juvenile delinquents!

C&T: The discussion at the beginning of the Notes indicates that you interviewed more than 150 individuals associated with the comic book industry during the course of your research. In fact, the list of interview subjects is downright overwhelming. Who among them did you find most interesting or impressive? Did anyone surprise you in some significant way?

DH: I’m thinking of posting all those interview on my website, since I didn’t use literally 90% of the material, and I’m not exaggerating. Who was the most interesting? Maybe Janice Valleau. That’s why I started the book with her.

C&T: Now that you have examined jazz, Bob Dylan, and comics, what can we look forward to from you in the near future?

DH: I’m just about finished putting together a collection of my essays – pieces I’ve done on music and film and comics and some other subjects over the past ten years or so – and that will be published in the fall. It’s called “Heroes and Villains.” I’ve also been working for a few years on a biography of the jazz singer Billy Eckstine – part two of a possible trilogy on African-American jazz singers from Pittsburgh named Billy. All I need is a third.

David Hajdu appears at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Georgia, on February 12 at 7:30 PM. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America is available now.

Monday, February 9

RIP Blossom Dearie, 1926-2009

I am sad to report that the great jazz singer Blossom Dearie has passed away at the age of 82. I featured Dearie here last year to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of her wonderful Once Upon a Summertime, and have been listening to her more in recent months. Such a unique talent.

Here's Blossom Dearie performing "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" circa the early 1960s:

The Telegraph has an extensive obituary and article on her death.

The Decemberists announce tour; play Tabernacle in ATL 6/3

Brooklyn Vegan reports that The Decemberists have announced summer tour dates, including a June 3 stop at Tabernacle in Atlanta. Pre-sale tickets are available today; they go on sale to the general public on Friday, February 13.

The band will be supporting their forthcoming album, The Hazards of Love, and the details sound cool:
On tour, The Decemberists will present a full performance of the album, a 17-song suite that tells the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake. Joining the band on stage will be Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden who deliver the lead vocals for the female characters. The band announced last week that they will give the debut live performance of The Hazards of Love when they headline NPR Music's South by Southwest showcase at Stubbs in Austin on March 18th.
The tour:

5/19 Hollywood Palladium Los Angeles, CA
5/20 Fox Theatre Oakland, CA
5/21 McDonald Theater Eugene, OR
5/24 Wilma Theatre Missoula, MT
5/26 Fillmore Auditorium Denver, CO
5/27 Uptown Theater Kansas City, MO
5/29 Riverside Theater Milwaukee, WI
5/31 The Pageant St. Louis, MO
6/01 Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Columbus, OH
6/03 Tabernacle Atlanta, GA
6/04 Memorial Auditorium Raleigh, NC
6/05 The National Richmond, VA
6/06 Tower Theatre Upper Darby, PA
6/09 Bank of America Pavillion Boston, MA
6/10 Radio City Music Hall New York, NY
6/11-14 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Manchester, TN

The Hazards of Love is due on March 24.

Sunday, February 8

Radiohead - "15 Step" on the Grammys

The performance got Twitter all abuzz, and now it's on YouTube. I hope it stays there.

That's the USC Marching Band making all the band geeks drool. Way to go, Trojans.

Thursday, February 5

New 'Watchmen' viral video: The Keene Act and You

The flood of impressive Watchmen promo material continues with this video on the Keene Act supposedly from 1977. It stresses vigilance and condemns vigilantism, and explains the danger of costumed adventurers.

Is that cool or what? Thanks to Ain't It Cool News for sharing.

Wanda Jackson announces live dates; Nashville 2/17, Tampa 2/21

Wanda Jackson - "Hard Headed Woman"

A rare announcement from the Wanda Jackson camp, as the Queen of Rockabilly has announced some scattered live shows. Unfortunately, the closest dates to Georgia so far are Nashville on February 17 and Tampa on February 21. I don't know what material she performs these days, but I'd love to see her perform.

See Wanda Jackson live:

02/13 The Dame, Lexington, KY
02/14 The Southgate House, Newport, KY
02/17 The 5 Spot, Nashville, TN
02/21 Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa, FL
04/29 Ponderosa Stomp @ House of Blues, New Orleans, LA
05/08 Texas Rockabilly Revival, Austin, TX
06/04 Bearcreek Farms, Bryant, IN
06/05 Bearcreek Farms, Bryant, IN
06/06 Bearcreek Farms, Bryant, IN

Wanda will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4. Her outstanding Rockin' with Wanda! is just $6 from Amazon.

Tip of the hat to Nashville Cream.

Wednesday, February 4

Deadpool digs Huey Lewis

As a youngster, I was totally into Huey Lewis and the News. I'm amazed my cassette copy of Fore! still played after all the wear and tear. In today's Deadpool #7, we learn that Deadpool shares my younger self's affinity for Huey:

Deadpool #7 was written by Daniel Way and penciled by Paco Medina.

Bonus mp3: Glen Phillips - I Want a New Drug [live Huey Lewis cover]

Joey Weiser reveals FLUKE 2009 poster art

Comics writer/artist Joey Weiser is a shiny new Athens resident, and today he revealed the poster he designed for the FLUKE Mini-Comics Show this April:

That's just one of three versions, but my favorite of the bunch. FLUKE 2009 takes place April 4 at Tasty World (upstairs) in Athens, Georgia. I had a great time last year, and recommend checking it out.

New Laura Gibson song - "Spirited"

Laura Gibson's Beasts of Seasons is due on February 24, and label Hush has sent along the first single from the album. "Spirited" is a pretty but multi-layered tune, and strikes me as a little more experimental than much of Gibson's earlier output. Good stuff.

Laura Gibson - Spirited

You can pre-order Beasts of Seasons from Hush Records.