Month: May 2013

Road Visions: Late Nights in Florence – Hanging Out Backstage

Backstage - Florence, Italy

The crowd at Backstage in Florence, Italy was electric. (.GIF – D.Hixon)

Hot Spot
Backstage, Florence Italy, 05/18/13

My wife and I were stumbling back to our rented loft after a too good meal in Florence. It was maybe midnight, and as we walked in the shadows of the Duomo a second wind stirred within us. The night prior I spotted what looked to be an interesting little club on Via Fiesolana, just around the corner from where we were staying at the J & J Hotel. So in the interest of obtaining a nightcap and some adventure we dove head first into the Firenze nightlife.

Hot Spot's Setlist.

Hot Spot’s Setlist for the night.

The club, Backstage, was very small – maybe half as large as the Lizard Lounge, and it was loud, sweaty, and packed with beautiful Tuscan 20 and 30 somethings. I felt like Hemingway’s Jack Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, living the expatriate life far away from home, getting lost in an exotic night.

Hot Spot was the band on “stage” – and I say “stage” because there was no stage. The band was on the level with the crowd that was dancing emphatically around them, spilling just a little on their amps, as a large overflow drank and partied outside on the street of Via Fiesolana. The revelers were smoking too many cigarettes, speaking loud and passionate Italian – the most gorgeous and trilly of languages – while the house band, Hot Spot, urged them to continue, playing a mix of English and Italian Jazz Standards. The night was sweaty, neon hazed, and fun as all hell. Hot Spot’s guitarist was particularity adept, sitting as he played, seemingly oblivious to the madness he controlled. I thanked him multiple times in the worst Italian he’s probably ever heard, but he smiled back and shook my hand.

We got back to our loft sometime between 3:30-4:00am with a noticeable lean, and slept in maybe a little too late – but it was worth it, and I’m glad we dove in for a quick Firenze dip.

Un milione di grazie.

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You’ve Got A Best Friend Now: Kurt Vile – Ocean City

Yaz trying to beat the Summer heat in 2010.

Yaz trying to beat the Summer heat in 2010. (Photo – D.Hixon)

I’m still bumming pretty hard about losing my bud Yaz – I holed myself in my apartment yesterday and the night before, and per always, music was there to help me cope when feeling low. I instinctively was drawn to my Kurt Vile records, who’s been a favorite of mine for years, and has always struck a personal chord with me. “Ocean City” off of 2010’s Square Shell’s EP hit me the most directly, likely because I was literally interpreting the chorus, and as the night progressed I kept picking up the needle and restarting the song while sitting in the dark with drink in hand, and memories swirling in my head.

You’ve got a best friend, don’t know how
You’ve got a best friend now

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An Empty Spot at the End of the Bed: RIP King Yaz

Yaz. A Best Friend. A Great Guy.

Yaz loved music, and always was with me when listening to records.

I’ve got a scratch on my arm that I don’t want to heal. Less than 12 hours ago I said goodbye to my best bud, my best friend, my cat Yaz. He was as old as me and my Wife’s relationship, and the three of us have been a killer Team over the best decade of my life. It’s cliché to say he was part of our Family, but it’s the ultimate truth. Living in Boston neither my Wife or I have Family close, and as a result we formed a tight bond between the three of us, and Yaz’s sudden passing is hitting hard in an Apartment that seems empty and riddled with ghosts.

Yaz was a huge help in getting me through my ACL surgery.

Yaz was a huge help in getting me through my ACL surgery.

Yaz was a true one of a kind, and is forever on the Honor Roll with the highest of marks. He had the kindest heart, and could sense whenever my Wife or I were upset or in a bad mood, and would do whatever he could to get us out of it. When I had to have surgery on my ACL and was house and bedridden for what seemed like an entire Summer, Yaz was forever by my side helping me heal emotionally. When my Mother passed away in 2007 he helped more than he realized to stop my tears and make me laugh. He was as loyal as any dog I’ve ever seen. He had the heart of a Lion.

Each day when I came home from work he’d be at the door meowing and I’d pick him up to hug him. If I was wearing a hat he’d rub his cheek against the brim to reciprocate the embrace while his emphatic purring (and sometimes drooling!) would drown out the din of the city, and the stress of life. We had a trick, Yaz and I, where he’d jump up on my back and climb to my shoulder. I’d then walk about our apartment like some mutant Black Beard with his Parrot Cat, entertaining our guests, and each other.

My best bud.

My best bud.

If we opened a can of tuna he couldn’t give three shits, but if we cut up a cantaloupe or were eating strawberries look the fuck out – for King Yaz would be on the prowl. Never in my life have I seen a cat that adored fruit so much. The only type of “human food” we ever let him eat, and as a result he earned one of his many nicknames, “Monkey”. Another nickname he had was “Shark Tail”. His tail was a large source of pride for King Yaz, who was suspected of being a Maine Coon mutt. His tail was always clean along with his hairy toes, and whenever he’d enter a room you’d see his prideful tail sticking strait in the air, bouncing with his step, peaking over coffee tables; a dorsal fin warning of his impending presence.

A Family Photo from 2006.

A Family Photo from 2006.

Yaz lived a great life and made my Wife and I so very happy. I’m trying to think positive and remember the good times and the happiness he afforded me, but it’s hard, and it’s sad. The finality of life and death is like a hammer to the thumb – pain is instant and overwhelming. Time will make things better – but won’t fix anything. I’ll never see my best bud again. I won’t be greeted at the door, won’t have a partner while listening to new records, won’t have a lovable lump in the nook of my arm while I fall asleep.

Instead there’s an empty spot at the end of the bed, and my feet are cold.

We love you Yaz, and will miss you forever.

Yaz Ramalo Booton - 2003 - 2013

RIP – Yaz Romolo Booton – 2003 – 2013

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Episode 56 – Zachelor Weekend

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Episode 56 - Zachelor Weekend

Episode 56 – Zachelor Weekend (Watercolor – D. Hixon)

In late April I organized a Bachelor Party for one of my best friends, Zac. We’ve worked together, jammed together, jammed together some more, and have been consistent partners in mischief and art. In celebration of his upcoming wedding we rented a house with friends in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee – and lived free while not dying for a long weekend in the Spring. A lot of music was made, played, and listened to – and this live mix was spun while overlooking the deep blue waters of the lake and snow capped mountains in the distance – during a weekend dedicated to getting lost with friends to a beat our own. The diversity speaks volumes for the company I was with. Live Free or Die indeed. Killer Weekend. Killer Company.

1. Joaquina – El Camino (The Foam and the Mesh – 2002)
2. Meat Puppets – Aurora Borealis (Meat Puppets II – 2002)
3. Frank Zappa – Peaches en Regalia (Hot Rats – 1969)
4. Fatso Jetson – Ugly Man, Ugly Name (Power of Three – 1997)
5. Comets On Fire – Pussy Footin’ the Duke (Blue Cathedral – 2004)
6. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py (Look-Ka Py Py – 1969)
7. The JB’s – Pass The Peas (Pass The Peas – 1972)
8. Bill Doggett – Honky Tonk Popcorn (Honky Tonk Popcorn – 1969)
9. Funkadelic – Can You Get to That (Maggot Brain – 1971)
10. Crunch – Funky Beat (Peoples’ Potential Unlimited Family Album – 1982)
11. Washed Out – Lately (Life of Leisure – 2009)
12. Flying Lotus – Beginners Falafel (Los Angeles – 2008)
13. Toro y Moi – Blessa (Causers Of This – 2010)
14. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Ambivalence Avenue – 2009)
15. Clark – Track 15 (Clarence Park – 2001)
16. Boards of Canada – ROYGBIV (Music Has the Right to Children – 1998)
17. DJ Shadow – Organ Donor [Extended Overhaul] (Preemptive Strike – 1998)
18. ????????????
19. The Green Arrows – Mwana Waenda (4 Track Recording Session – 2006 via 1976)
20. Tune-Yards – Bizness (W H O K I L L – 2011)
21. Gold Panda – You (Lucky Shiner – 2010)

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Road Visions: Record Stores of Florence, Italy

Rock Bottom Records - Florence, Italy

Rock Bottom Records in Florence, Italy was my favorite shop in the city. (Photo – D. Hixon)

I’m traveling around Italy for the next week and a half and thus far this beautiful country exceeds all reputation. The food is exquisite, the architecture breathtaking, and the art’s priceless. My first stop was Florence, and while I went places that were expected like the Duomo and Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, I had to peep what Italian Record Stores had to offer.

Marquee Moon is a nice shop if local, but not yet a destination.

Marquee Moon is a nice shop if a local.

My first stop was Marquee Moon, a shop that resides in the shadow of the Duomo. The shop was quaint, but the prices, like all shops I visited, were not for the light of wallet. My biggest disappointment here was that 95% of all vinyl was brand new – and a lot of the releases were from the US. I browsed quickly, picked up Les Sins 12″ from last year (Toro y Moi side-project), and moved on. A great shop if you live in Italy, but not if you’re visiting looking for gems you can’t get back home. I’d equate it to a smaller Newbury Comics stateside.

Data 93 Records - Florence, Italy

Data 93 Records – Florence, Italy

Next up was Data 93 Records, a shop located near the Arno River, which was much more along the lines of what I was looking for. From the outside the shop looked like it would be as small or smaller as Marquee Moon, but the room really opened up as you snaked into the back. They wasted some prime space with CD’s up front – but the store was a treasure trove of used records, and virtually everything I picked up was an “import” or foreign non-US pressing. I got some great albums here (Soft Boys, Alex Chilton, Brothers Johnson, & More) and the staff, whom I believe were Father and Son, were incredibly helpful. The store was funky with a psychedelic ceiling and posters, and organization was decent, but heavy digging was still required to unearth good. Apparently in Europe college radio rock or alternative is universally called “New Wave” – That’s weird.

Rock Bottom's selection is as deep as the ocean.

Rock Bottom’s selection is as deep as the ocean.

The last shop I visited in Florence was Rock Bottom, and I certainly saved the best for last. The shop had a super crisp and clean feel about it, and the store was 100% dedicated to vinyl. What also blew my mind here was the intense organization of everything. There were no lazy listing just by the letter of the alphabet, each band had it’s own unique dedicated section. On top of this, each record was labeled with the Vinyl and Sleeve condition, and there was also a description of the pressing and record in each sleeve, which meant I didn’t have to “waste” my time checking to see if a record was a US pressing or not. They had a large variety of records, specializing in rock and indie, and their hyper organization made it easy (and dangerous) for me to find records. I got some killer first pressing from Germany, Holland, and the UK which you’d just never see in the states – such as: Daydream Nation, Goo, Forbidden Places, and Computer World. If you can only go to one shop in Florence, this is hands down the place to go.

Overall the shops were all great, but there’s no real “bargains” in any of these places. You have to be ready to pay close to Discogs retail for what you’re buying, but it’s worth it, especially given you’re not paying for shipping and the rarity of what you’re seeing given what’s back in the States. Overall an excellent job done by Florence.

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Episode 55 – Nothing Ever Stays The Same

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Episode 55 - Nothing Ever Stays The Same (Artwork - D.Hixon)

Episode 55 – Nothing Ever Stays The Same (Artwork – D.Hixon)

Episode 55, Nothing Ever Stays The Same, was put together in the Spring of 2013 with loads of nervous energy. Flying is my biggest fear, and in mere hours I’ll be on a transatlantic flight en route to Italy. I’m hoping the drugs knock me out, but if not, this Mix will have to suffice.

1. The Woolen Men – Her Careers (The Woolen Men – 2013)
2. The Men – I Saw Her Face (New Moon – 2013)
3. Banjo or Freakout – Move Out (Banjo or Freakout – 2011)
4. Just Handshakes – London Bound (BG043 | London Bound – 2013)
5. Toro Y Moi – Studies (Anything In Return – 2013)
6. Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky (Fall Be Kind – 2009)
7. Woods – Cali in a Cup (Bend Beyond – 2012)
8. Guided By Voices – Waving At Airplanes (The Bears For Lunch – 2012)
9. HEHFU – Two and a Half Years (The Singles Collection – 2012)
10. Eat Skull – Catch Em Before They Vanish (III – 2013)
11. Yo La Tengo – Ohm (Fade – 2013)

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New Music: Peals – Blue Elvis

Peals

Peals will help ease your pain.

Relax. Turn down the volume on the race you’re in, the anxiety you have, and the grind you live. Relax. Turn up the volume on Peal’s latest track “Blue Elvis”. Float out to sea on an inflatable raft and let the sweetest guitar you’ve ever heard make you remember how to forget, and relax.

Walking Field will be released this month via Thrill Jockey Records.

Recommended If You Like: Perfect Toned Guitars, Beachy Sway, Relaxation

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