Wilco performs ‘Country Disappeared’ on the Take Away Show

I love what La Blogotheque is up to and obviously I’m not the only one. As I blogged about recently, they’re working with Invisible Children to bring to and document live music Uganda, where we’re hoping to soon see an end to Africa’s longest war. La Blogotheque recently caught up with one of my fave bands, Wilco.

Sometimes we tell ourselves that no, the band is too famous, too important, that their label would never let them do a Take Away Show. We have a fantasy list: Radiohead, Tom Waits, Chuck Berry, Cat Power. Wilco. They announced their date at Olympia in Montreal just after I had touched down in the city. Wilco, the band whose tours never stop in Paris. I bought a ticket right away; a good idea, as the concert sold out in weeks. And then I asked around. What if we tried to film them? The answer was unanimous and enthusiastic. I sent out an email, without really believing it would come to anything. The next morning, their publicist called.

Working with [Derrick->http://www.astorytoldwell.com, we knew that we would have less than an hour, but we didn’t know if all of the members of the group would play; we were told that it would depend on where we filmed. They wouldn’t have the time to wander through the streets; it rained that day anyway. But they were prepared for us, had placed all their instruments and some amps in the back of the hall, set up some red lamps to create some ambiance. And above all, we got the entire six. I can’t help but feel a little silly in moments like that, camera zoom in hand and a smile from ear to ear. But I can’t help myself, when there is magic happening I feel like a kid. Tweedy’s voice without amplification, Cline’s attitude — who has to be one of the most elegant guitarists on the planet —, Kotche, visibly moved… It’s decided, tomorrow I’m calling Thom Yorke – you never know.

Kickstarter: Crowdsourced Funding for Ideas that Matter

I finally made my first Kickstarter pledge today – toward an Invisible Children film project including Yeasayer and Polyphonic Spree.

Kickstarter is a new website and funding platform for “artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers….” Started by entrepreneurial blogger and developer Andy Baio, Kickstarter invites anyone to submit a project for funding and/or to fund a project with little risk. [CORRECTION: Baio is the CTO. Kickstarter was started by CEO Perry Chen, along with cofounders Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler.] You invest in the final product which reaps rewards. Should the project not reach its funding goal, your money is returned, so as not to be wasted on something that runs out of fuel halfway through. Baio also created one of the infamously useful-before-Yahoo-bought-it online apps – Upcoming.org.

Kickstarter is a brilliant concept because it feeds on the positivity and karma of giving, sharing, and creating on the web. But it’s not just the ethos — it’s the stories. And the stories behind the stories. Take the story of Greg Bayne an aspiring filmmaker who — with the help of a final push — got the funding to succeed (+ an extra 2 grand) in his goal of raising funds for a documentary on legendary MMA fighter Jens Pulver. It’s addicting enough to follow these projects and see if they get funded or not — there is only 48 hours left to raise another $10k for the Invisible Children project.

UPDATE 3/10: The project was fully funded with ten hours to spare.

But that’s only the beginning — it’s a gift that keeps giving and giving back, through blog updates from those who are funded and in many cases, a final product such as a film, or a DIY mixed-use space, or a book of war comics.

Have a look for yourself and see how many intriguing projects you come across. Or if you start your own, let me know. I want in!

Broken Bells @ Bootleg Theater, LA 2.19.10

We were lucky to be among a few hundred people to catch Broken Bells’ first-ever live performance Friday night at the Bootleg Theater in Echo Park. Broken Bells — if you haven’t heard yet — is a collaboration between James Mercer (of The Shins) and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse).

Try to imagine what that might sound like and your expectations would be met and likely exceeded by the first single — “The High Road” — alone (video after the jump). Stack that on top of Burton’s track record as a multi-instrumentalist and producer over the past decade (The Grey Album, Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, MF Doom, Beck) plus the mystery of it being Broken Bells first live performance and the Bootleg was buzzing with anticipation.

The crowd was a good mix of industry, critics, serious music freaks, and fans (we scored tickets out of the lot that went up for sale after 10am Friday for $15 each – and were gone by 10:30am, according to the Fold’s website).

After a spirited set by the house DJ’s, Broken Bells took the stage as a 6-piece band (two guitars, two keyboards, bass, drums). The band seemed well-rehearsed and the onstage demeanor was rather serious for a “surprise” show — the only announced Broken Bells concerts to date are London and Paris and as part of a SXSW showcase next month. A couple people mentioned that it was Burton’s first time playing drums onstage (he played keys on one or two tracks with prerecorded supporting beats). On the record — much like with the Gnarls Barkley collabs with Cee-Lo — Burton handled all the instrumentation as well as production, James Mercer wrote the songs and played guitar.

Mercer’s voice was strong and rose above Burton’s shuffling timekeeping. Several songs had a lilting bass groove reminiscent of the Manchester sound of 20 years ago — Stone Roses, Happy Mondays. It was also apparent that these musicians were influenced by the likes of Damon Albarn and Beck — not necessarily a bad thing. Add four- and five-part harmonies and some ace songwriting by Mercer and the live experience had a wall of sound, Floydian feel, melodies grinding through spiral video projected on the stage.

After each song everybody seemed to turn and look at each other with eyebrows raised as if to say, “wow, that actually sounded really good.” After ten songs the band left the stage briefly and then returned with the two greatest surprises of the night. First, the duo of Mercer and Burton rattled off a beautiful version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” and then the rest of the band returned for a spot-on cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover.” Mercer led into it saying gingerly (to the crowd, the band or both?) “I don’t know if you’re ready for this but here it goes.”

Lights up. The house DJ cued The Turtles’ “Happy Together” and the crowd filed out, smiles all around.

Broken Bells drops March 9 on Sony / Columbia.

Originally posted at LAist.