July 21, 2016
By Elle Shwer
Chicago was bumping this past weekend at Pitchfork Music Festival and WCBN was there to watch it all live. Pitchfork Music Festival consisted of a lot of Virtue Cider, free Clif Bars and me challenging my generally mainstream music taste. For the most part, the Pitchfork lineup leaned toward underground artists where the performers themselves were quite diverse in genres. I danced foolishly to soulful R&B British singer NAO, witnessed the makings of “A Footwork Party” brought to the stage by RP Boo and his accomplices, and was inspired by indie pop headliner Sufjan Stevens to live more in the moment (as a result, I have no pictures from his set). Many cite the highlight of the weekend to be Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds which had the whole crowd singing along to the Beach Boys classics, but I found myself wandering to the smaller stage to watch eclectic R&B/Hip Hop performer Anderson .Paak instead.
My personal favorite performance of the weekend was BJ the Chicago Kid - a popular rapper whose fame arose in the song Studio by Schoolboy Q and has features on Chance the Rapper’s latest mix Coloring Book. Noteable seconds include Anderson .Paak and Neon Indian. Sadly, I had to head back to Ann Arbor before the headliners Sunday and missed the surprise arrival of Chance the Rapper who took the stage with Jeremih.
My only complaint about the weekend is how many of the bands overlapped. As someone who wants to see everything and be everywhere, I found myself spending more time travelling between the three stages then actually taking the time to listen to entire sets. And if one performer started late due to disorganization (usually tech related), it meant I would either have to miss the next band I wanted to see or skip the person I had already waited to 20 minutes in silence to watch.
At the end of the day, I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to attend Pitchfork and I felt pride walking around repping WCBN. Till next time!
At noon on Tuesday, July 12, Selective Memory will be pleased to welcome RJ Spangler into the studio to talk with guest DJ Michael. Spangler is a drummer, bandleader, a promoter and artist manager for Detroit jazz and blues artists, and co-founder and CEO of Eastlawn Records. He is also a founder and member of several local jazz and blues music groups, including the award-winning swing band, Planet D Nonet, and RJ's Kansas City Six.
Spangler will be performing in Ann Arbor this week, appearing at the Old Town Tavern with the RJ Spangler Trio. He'll also be making an appearance at the Michigan Jazz Festival on July 17 at Schoolcraft College, as part of the PD9 Township Jazz Project.
To listen to the show, you can tune in to 88.3 FM Ann Arbor or stream online directly from the WCBN website.
You can listen to the entire episode here.
Our Saturday morning show Bill Monroe for Breakfast recently played a two-hour-long tribute to Ralph Stanley, who died on June 23, 2016 at the age of 89. The singer, banjoist, and songwriter, who preferred the term "old-time mountain music" over "bluegrass" when describing his work, was nevertheless one of the most important figures in bluegrass music.
As a boy in rural Virginia, Stanley learned to play the banjo from his mother. He and his older brother Carter Stanley (they were known collectively as the Stanley Brothers) began making music together in the 1940s, and formed a band known as the "Clinch Mountain Boys."
Many people have been introduced to his distinctive music through the 2000 film O Brother Where Art Thou. The soundtrack is largely distinguished by Appalachian-style music, including an old recording of "Angel Band" by the the Clinch Mountain Boys and the Stanley Brothers (Ralph Stanley included), as well as a gripping a cappella performance of "O Death," which Stanley recorded for the film. "Man of Constant Sorrow," while not performed by Stanley in the film, was also a signature piece of the Stanley Brothers' repertoire, and it's absolutely worth checking out their version.
But the legacy of Ralph Stanley goes much, much deeper than a few memorable songs and a period film. Here's what Tex has to say about his show on June 25:
"I was struck by how almost two hours of his music really barely scratched the surface. His musical memory reaches back into some of the deeper corners of history. I was planning to play one of the recordings on which he "lined out" a hymn, but I didn't get to it. I'm not aware of any other bluegrass musician (or any other musician in any commercial genre) who has done this."
If you'd like to listen to that, it's a chillingly beautiful a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace," and it's on Youtube.
Bill Monroe for Breakfast airs evey Saturday morning at 10 AM on 88.3 FM Ann Arbor.
June 20, 2016
It's the first day of summer, meaining it's time to get the sunny good times rolling in earnest. But before you slip on your flip flops and sling a beach towel over your shoulder and run out the door too quickly, ask yourself this important question: "Did I remember to bring my summer jams?"
Worry not, we have your back. Everyone at WCBN knows it's not really summer without a truly epic summer playlist. Therefore, our resident groovologists have selected their favorite hot-weather beats, and it's pretty much the audial equivalent of a bottle of soda on a warm day: smooth and refreshing, but with plenty of fizz, and enough sugar to keep things energetic. It will serve as the perfect soundtrack for days spent at beaches, picnics, parties, cookouts, and cottages up north, and it's equally great for just relaxing and appreciating everything that's good in the world. You can listen to the playlist on Spotify above:
As a bonus, here are some songs that were just too special to be on Spotify:
- "Trans Day of Revenge" by G.L.O.S.S. [contains expletives] (Former DJ Aa: "G.L.O.S.S. (aka Girls Living Outside Society's Sh*t) is a hardcore + queer punk band from Washington. Just after the recent brutality in Orlando, they released a 7" EP called TRANS DAY OF REVENGE. It's four songs in five minutes, and preaches some brutal truth. This stuff is certainly not everybody's cup of tea musically, but it's important, meaningful stuff.")
- "Salad" by Jefs Chasing Zara (Former DJ Aa: "Immediately showcases his intense attention to layering and the breadth of his musicianship, playing and recording guitars, bass, drums, keys, and programming electronics, like so many tiny clocks chirping together.")
- "Booty Shorts" by Astray [contains expletives] (Stockholm: "It's definitely one of my main summer jams. Plus, he's a local artist.")
June 17, 2016
Maybe you've been tuning in to Tex's tango show Buenos Aires Hora Cero every Wednesday evening from 6–6:30pm to get your weekly tango fix. If so, you should know that Ann Arbor has a vibrant tango scene, not least of which is the Michigan Argentine Tango Club, a student dance organization right here on U–M campus that welcomes members of all skill levels.
On the June 15, 2016 program of Buenos Aires we welcomed special guests Edmund and Jeff from MATC to talk with DJ Tex about the steamy history of the music, especially the Argentine style, which is the stuff the MATC dances to. As Jeff explains, "The Argentine style, mostly it's from the 30s and 40s. And that music was the golden era, and it was orchestra music that was designed to get people moving in this beautiful way."
During the half hour, they listened to numbers that painted a picture of the evolution of the music. In the 1930s, tango had begun to slow down and become more complex. This music was more suitable for concert halls—but less so for passionate dancing. Juan d'Arienzo, an Argentine tango musician, came to the rescue. "He's 'King of the Beat,'" says Jeff. "He's like, let's make it simple and let's make it rocking. And everyone was like, I can dance to this!"
Just as there was a push towards faster, more dance-worthy music in the 30s, there was a counter-push by musicians who wanted "more variation, more complexity" than the simple dance music. As Edmund explains, there was both an artistic and cultural tension: "In the early era in the 1900s, 1890s, 1910, tango was for the lower class. And then once it got exported to Paris and New York in the 1910–1915 time, then it became popular with the upper class." This is when it slowed down to concert-hall music. But during the Golden Age of tango, it transitioned back to dancing music, and "everyone could come and dance to it."
Golden Age Argentine musicians like Lucio Demare innovated by combining the rhythmic and lyrical elements, which is perhaps why it's so addicting to dance to. If you've never tangoed before, the MATC has free beginner lessons every Wednesday in Mason Hall room 1401 at 8pm.
They also have plenty of other events throughout the week, which you can find on their Facebook page or at umich.edu/~matc. Edmund and Jeff said they might be back next week, so don't touch that dial, and join us next Wednesday at 6!
WCBN bids a fond farewell to general manager Karl Seibert, who after volunteering and making the station a more awesome place for over seven years, has finally earned the title of WCBN alumnus.
That's a lot of hours at the turntables, not to mention a lot of behind-the-scenes goal setting and problem solving and fundraising and making sure the entire team has what it needs to succeed. Here's what Karl has to share with us about his time here:
"It’s impossible to put into words what WCBN means to me. WCBN gave me an incredible variety of opportunities to learn and develop from both personally and professionally. Being surrounded by highly intelligent and passionate WCBNers not only helped me gain knowledge about music, film, and art, it sparked a deeper interest in actively seeking out new and challenging experiences to learn from."
Karl started off at WCBN in 2009 as a freeform DJ, moved on to become Publicity Director in 2012, and took the reins as General Manager from 2014 to May 2016.
"Having the privilege of holding leadership positions at WCBN gave me the chance to meet tons of listeners and leaders of other university/community arts organizations. I’m really grateful to have made so many friends along the way, and I look forward to remaining involved as a station alum. We’ve certainly had some difficulties over the last few years, but WCBN has never been in better shape thanks to our incredible listenership and our dedicated staff."
Karl earned his degree in History here at U–M in 2008 and more recently his MBA this year, and he's saying his good-byes to both U–M and WCBN to pursue his career in New York.
"My wife, Kenyon, and I moved to Manhattan in May. I’ll be doing management consulting work with McKinsey & Company. We’re very excited to enjoy all NYC has to offer, and we’ll be back in Michigan to visit family and friends often, so I hope to see you at a CBN event in the not too distant future.
"Thanks to everyone for making WCBN such a remarkable institution. I’m happy I was able to be involved, and I look forward to listening to WCBN for the rest of my life."
Max Cornell has recently taken over duties as General Manager. You've been increible, Karl. We promise to do everything we can to make you proud!
On July 15–17, join WCBN for three days of great music, food, and art in the Windy City at Pitchfork Music Festival! We will be hosting several several giveaways, so be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter, as well as tune in to 88.3 FM, for news on how to win.
Among the musicians appearing this year are Beach House, Blood Orange, Super Furry Animals, and Thundercat, not to mention Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who will be performing his classic Pet Sounds.
Also performing is musician Julia Holter, who is none other than WCBN's former music director, and who appeared on WCBN's Living Writers show this past November.
Enough excitement for you? Then get your ticket or 3-day pass here before they sell out. And keep an eye out for those giveaways.
See you at #P4kFest in July!
March in from the music fest to the Distillery with the Water Hill Liberation Social & Pleasure Club Brass Band. Parade starts 6pm at 621 Summit.
WCBN 88.3 FM presents a nice place to hang after Water Hill Music Fest, featuring music from Michael Hurtt's Haunted Hearts and the Water Hill Liberation Brass Band. Good food and interesting people will be present. All we need is you!