Tag Archives: surf rock

Do you like beer? Do you like food? You'll like Musikfest.

Then-candidate Obama at the Bethlehem Brew Works in April 2008.

As a resident of Bethlehem, PA, I had yet to make a post in the “Where You’re From” category.  It’s not that there is no music scene here, of course.  There are loads of live music venues and a number of universities that draw touring bands, but our close proximity to both Philadelphia and New York results in most of the quality local acts migrating out of the Lehigh Valley.

But given that it’s Musikfest, the 10 days in every August when the population of the Lehigh Valley converges on the streets of downtown Bethlehem and police look the other way as we drink lots of beer, spend too much on food, and enjoy hours and hours of free music, I feel obliged to make a post.

If you were actually planning on making your way to the Christmas City this weekend, I recommend these guides by The El Vee and Lehigh Valley with Love.  I’ll assume instead that you’ve never heard of Musikfest and let a quick outline suffice.

As a fire needs heat, fuel, and oxygen to ignite, Musikfest requires, in ascending order of importance: music, food, and beer.

Beer: We drink our beer out of 24 oz. Musikfest mugs.  They cost $9 this year ($12 for the ones that have blinking lights built into them), but you don’t need to buy a new one each year.  So you can tell who’s been coming to Musikfest for the longest time by the style of mug they’re carrying.  Bourbon street rules temporarily go into effect and we drink our beer outside, on the sidewalks, streets and under bridges.  Despite the best efforts of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, likely the most dickheaded Liquor Control Board in the country, the best place to get your mug filled if you’re a beer snob like me is in a local bar instead of at a tent, where you’ll have to use Musikfest tickets to pay $6 for an MGD, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I recommend the Bethlehem Brew Works (who are apparently also selling half gallon growlers with sweet carrying pouches this year, what?) or the Starfish Brasserie, which currently has Stone IPA on tap.

Morning Call blogger Bill White knows a thing or two about the food at Musikfest.

Food: The food is really good and ranges from a pickle-on-a-stick and German sausage to Hogar Crea kabobs and Kenyan masala wraps, reflecting both the diversity and the appetites of the Lehigh Valley.

Music: You will hear some polka music at Musikfest; that is a given.  You will probably dance to it.  Apart from that, however, there are two basic kinds of concert at Musikfest, the nightly big-name concert that you must buy tickets for and the free concerts that set up everywhere else.  Of that first variety, the groups are usually selected to appeal to children and their parents (and their parents).  This year’s big draw is Adam Lambert, but Norah Jones, Counting Crows, Martina McBride, some incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd and some incarnation of Sublime were/are making an appearance.  I usually don’t make it to these concerts, but several years ago I made it to Alice Cooper and it was unconditionally awesome.

Of the second variety, you can see this years full schedule here, but it’s a mixed bag.  Folk, jazz, and rock are usually pretty well represented though not by their most glamorous or talented representatives.  The Red Elvises (Russian surf-rock) and Los Straitjackets are perennial favorites. One corner of Main Street features Native American music and dance.  This year the Wildflower Cafe, a delicious vegetarian live-music venue on Bethlehem’s Southside, put together an interesting lineup that included Emily and the Similars and this jazz/blues cellist named Trevor Exter.  You can usually find at least a few acts that will surprise you by being good.

Things Musikfest doesn’t need, but has:

  • born-again assholes!
  • some weirdo who wears a bird mask and travels around with a medieval 4-ton church bell piano thing called a “carillon” playing music that is like Christmas but way scary!
  • human/police-horse altercations!
  • go-karts!
  • fireworks!
  • arts and crafts to buy! for example, leather belts and candles!
  • platzes! (the various stages/areas of Musikfest are given names like Americaplatz, Festplatz, Volksplatz, Lyrikplatz, etc.  “platz” is German for “place”)

Seriously, it’s a good time.

The Andrews Sisters, “Pennsylvania Polka”

Norah Jones, “It’s Gonna Be”

Trevor Exter, “One Too Many Goodbyes”

Posted in Where You're From | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What little difference a "for" or "to" makes

Last year, as I struggled on whether to include Miike Snow’s debut on my (arbitrary, unimportant) top 10 list, something about one of the tracks really bugged me. It’s not that it was derivative, just an odd coincidence. “Song for No One,” the fourth track of Miike Snow, was backed by an addictive high-pitched surf guitar lick. Jeff Buckley’s collaboration with guitarist Gary Lucas “Song to No One,” the fourth track of Songs to No One was backed by an equally addictive high-pitched guitar lick. Coincidence? Or Buckley’s shady handiwork from his watery grave?

Miike Snow, “Song for No One”
Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, “Song to No One”

Also: Miike Snow has released a few singles in ’10. Not good. Retroactive delisting?

Buy Songs to No One or Miike Snow at Amazon.

Update: Not to mention, given our recent Twin Peaks post, Buckley’s lyric, “Laura, show this song to no one.” Someone tell Miike MIKE!

Posted in Random Noise | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Noise Narcs Promise: Whistling

I’m a child of the 80s, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. New Wave, for the most part, isn’t my thing. But you know what is my thing?


And this song, from neo-New Wave Brooklyn group The Drums whose debut album dropped today, has it in spades. Even better: it’s surf rock. So another Noise Narcs promise: awesome songs that involve whistling (no, I’m not looking at you Juelz Sanatana).

Update: Sorry about the funky link. Song should work now.
The Drums, “Let’s Go Surfing”

See also: Blood Feathers’ “Sea Legs” (have I really not posted on Blood Feathers? Unacceptable.), Peter, Bjorn, and John’s “Young Folks”, and everything from this Spinner list except the Paul Simon. And wet your whistle in the comments with other whistling songs.

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noisenarcheology: Omar Khorshid

"We look awesome." "I know."

A lot of the “new” music that I come across is not new at all except to me.  A suspicious car collision cut tragically short Omar Khorshid’s career in music and film a few months before I was ever born.  Documented attempts on his life began shortly after he played a concert at Carter’s White House to celebrate the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty signed 31 years ago this past Friday.

I discovered his music when my brother recently passed along a tip about Sublime Frequencies, a self-described:

collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations.

I highly recommend that you check them out.  So far they’ve put out 52 releases, the most recent being a retrospective of the music Khorshid was producing in Beirut around the time of the Lebanese civil war. “Takkasim Sanat Alfeyn (Music from the Year 2000)” originally appeared on Rhythms from the Orient (1974).

Omar Khorshid, “Takkasim Sanat Alfeyn (Music from the Year 2000)”

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"The longing that brings one here with a lot of reverb, it's sip directly under the skin."

I’m working on a real post about the relationship between music and story, but in the meantime please enjoy a fun track from As the Dark Wave Swells, the most recent release from Croatian surf-rockers, The Bambi Molesters:

The Bambi Molesters, “Siboney”

According to a German review of the album (and thanks to Google Translate):

Nine years of waiting have paid off: Just killer, no fillers. The world, it can be so unfair: Scrap soulless filled to the brim of the charts, wonderful music, when every note comes to the soul, remains unheard. No, “As the dark wave swells” must not go unheard.

Let the success to come in waves.

And as a bonus, here’s a video produced for the album’s title track:

As the Dark Wave Swells

Posted in Minutemusic | Tagged , | 3 Comments