Lift Every Voice and Sing3

God Bless the Black American National Anthem

The paradox of the Obama presidency, CNN recently pointed out, is that it has exposed a more deeply ingrained and widespread racism in America than many realized existed. It’s all very succinctly encapsulated in the Donald Trump pitch “Make America great again,” which of course is code for “Make America white again.” That’s why I…

Paul Kantner at Altamont

That Time When Paul Kantner Stood Up to the Hell’s Angels

If you’ve seen the Maysles brothers’ concert documentary Gimme Shelter, you know the story of what happens in the clip below: Jefferson Airplane begins performing “The Other Side of This Life” during their set at the infamous 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Music Festival, held just east of San Francisco two years after the Summer of Love…

512px-John_Bauer_1915

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…

Morrissey

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…

meatpuppets

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…

Merge2

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!…