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When Will the Grateful Dead Stop Trolling Us?

Last week, my friend Whitney suggested I write an essay on the (Grateful) Dead’s incessant trolling of America in 2015. We’d been talking about the monumentally misguided Dead & Company’s announcement in August that they were bringing John (“My dick’s a white supremacist”) Mayer along for another reconfigured Grateful Dead tour as a stand-in for the…

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Morrissey: Inside Looking In

Manchester is 185 railroad miles north of London, linked by signposts that read Rugby, Birmingham, and Stoke-on-Trent; by sprawling misty green meadows, gushing streams, and a zillion grazing sheep. The city itself is a soot-gray mosaic of European architecture, from the high Victorian gothic of its majestic town hall to the palazzo warehouses that color…

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Meat Puppets: There’s No Business Like Show Business

These scruffy indie champs did nine albums and more than a decade on the road before a longtime fan, Kurt Cobain, turned them into stars. Now, Arizona’s psychedelic punks are basking in the mystery of it all. By Mark Kemp It was like a mirage. The Meat Puppets ambled onstage at the KROQ Christmas Party…

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Major success in a minor key

This story about Merge Records was published at Business North Carolina magazine in July 2011. I’m reposting it on my blog in celebration the label’s 25th Anniversary. The photo comes from the cover of the Merge Records book Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records. It was shot by the excellent live-music photographer Brian Vetter. Happy 25th, Merge!…

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Yeezus! Is ‘Pazz & Jop’ Critically Ill?

Everybody’s a critic. That’s what they used to say. These days, it’s literally true. We have the Interwebs! We all can be critics. We all can be publicists, too. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting old, but the latest Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll looks critically deficient. I understand why Chance the Rapper, Vampire Weekend, and…

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The Ballad of Wreckless and Amy: A Punk-Rock Love Story

Ever had a YouTube rabbit-hole experience? Sure you have. I had one tonight that warmed the icy punk-rock part of my heart. You know the kind of rabbit-hole experience I’m talking about — those time-wasting trips into the matrix that almost always begin on Facebook or Twitter. Someone posts a video of an artist or band…

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15 Minutes with You: Lou Reed, 1942-2013

“Ah, baby, you’re so vicious…” Reading on Facebook today that Lou Reed had died, I had one of those visceral reactions. I literally felt it in my gut. It was as though someone had punched me. Hard. With a flower. Lou Reed was too tough to die. He was too gentle to die. He was…