Five Reasons Why You Need to Experience A Parquet Courts Show

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Words by Seth Johnson/Photos by Roberto Campos

In recent years, excitement has seemed to follow Parquet Courts wherever they’ve gone, and for good reason. Recently, the band made their way through Bloomington, Indiana in support of their excellent 2016 release, Human Performance. In the sweaty, sold-out crowd, our Seth Johnson soaked in all 23 songs of the New York band’s career-spanning set, eventually coming to the conclusion that Parquet Courts is a band everyone needs to experience live.

1. Their sets are to the point, while also packing a punch

There aren’t many bands that pack 20+ songs into an hour-long set anymore, but that’s just what Parquet Courts did on this night (see set list below). Reminiscent of Guided By Voices, the band rocketed through song after song, only taking brief breaks to tune every now and then. During these breaks, they also managed to keep the crowd engaged, even chatting with them about wrestling great Stone Cold Steve Austin at one point.

2. They don’t take themselves too seriously

At one point during this Parquet Courts set, the band’s banner began to fall from the wall behind them. Rather than making any fuss, the members simply joked about how their record label (Rough Trade Records) was the only reason for the banner. “You guys know who we are, or else you wouldn’t be here,” they joked.

3. Their energy is infectious

Despite the very hot temperature at this show, Parquet Courts’ energetic live sound kept fans moving (and sweating) throughout the entirety of their set. Much of this can be attributed to their generally upbeat nature, heard in older songs like “Black and White,” “Borrowed Time,” “Stoned and Starving” and “Sunbathing Animal.” This overall feeling of being at a kickass party remained present during their slower songs, too, however.

4. They bring the audience onto their level

While many bands often try to accomplish this with their live shows, there are few I’ve experienced that do it quite like Parquet Courts. For example, the stage lights at this show were accidentally turned off at one point in the set. With this turn of events, the band simply asked the crowd if they wanted the lights on or off. After cheers of approval for the latter, Parquet Courts went on to play a song in complete darkness, humorously making the audience feel even more a part of the show.

5. Their music is thoughtful yet incredibly fun

Over the past half-decade, Parquet Courts have released several solid albums. Arguably, though, their best to date is 2016’s Human Performance, which was featured heavily at this show. Time and time again, the group’s latest full-length pulls the listener in with irresistible pieces of songwriting. A few personal favorites of mine include “Dust,” “Outside” and “One Man No City.”

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Recap : Lollapalooza 2013 Day 3 : Grant Park | Chicago, IL

Lollapalooza 2013 – Day 3
Regardless of one’s festival stamina, by the third day, the wear & tear can start to kick in by the third and final day of Lollapalooza 2013. We arrived near the beginning of the lineup once again, albeit sluggish, sleepy and sore. While we missed Palma Violets, we pressed on through the fatigue to see Wild Nothing on the Red Bull Sound Select Stage at 2:00 pm. Jack Tatum’s dream pop band appealed immediately to me, probably because the group’s sound is so clearly and heavily influenced by 80’s pop and new wave, in particular New Order. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tatum’s songwriting has also been influenced by Yo La Tengo, as their distinct indie sound seemed to be evident in some of Wild Nothing’s set. At one point, Tatum acknowledged his excitement for getting to play on the same stage as The Cure (who later headlined the RBSS Stage), and that they are one of his ‘all-time favorite bands.’

Saltlick's Lollapalooza 2013 Day 3 album on Photobucket

Photos by Rachel Rubenstein

As if we did not spend enough time there on Saturday, we walked back across the park to the Grove Stage to see MS MR. However, unlike during most of the sets on Saturday, the Grove Stage was packed for MS MR. The New York City duo, led by vocalist Lizzy Plapinger, were playing as a four-piece outfit with a drummer and guitarist. Plapinger is either strongly influenced by Stevie Nicks or my mind is playing tricks on me. Not only does Plapinger have an eerily similar vocal delivery, her stage presence is also akin to that of the 70’s rock diva. Dressed in a tie-dye outfit, she led the audience through an enchanting set including ‘No Trace,’ hit single ‘Hurricane’ and a cover of the LCD Soundsystem classic ‘Dance Yrself Clean.’ Plapinger swayed back and forth projecting a slightly country voice to a crowd of devoted fans.

We marched back over to the Bud Light Stage for the much-anticipated Two Door Cinema Club. As early as twenty minutes prior to start time, people had filled the area surrounding the stage to see the Northern Ireland trio well-known for its style of up-tempo, crisp pop rock. The band appeared onstage with lead vocalist Alex Trimble donning a suit & tie and drinking a glass of white wine—one of the more gangster moves I’ve seen in some time from a musician. The band wasted no time and went right into ‘Sleeps Alone’ from their latest release, Beacon. In between an array of songs from their two full-length albums, Trimble takes a break to speak to the crowd: “This is our second time here…it’s such a great festival and we’re so happy to be playing for you guys.”

We left Two Door Cinema Club and hiked across the park to Perry’s to catch Dog Blood. One thing was clear about the Perry’s Stage for the majority of the weekend: the only thing that could have made me feel older would have been actually showing up at a high school, or simply one of the frenzied kids just walking up to me and pointing out that I am old. The maniacal crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of Dog Blood, a collaborative effort between dubstep master Skrillex and Boys Noize. Feeling like a chaperone at the prom, I walked close to the stage but stayed to the side of the crowd knowing that I would have been eaten alive had I tried to get into that madness. Our photog Rachel Rubes braved the insanity and went into the photo pit, where she experienced revelations about today’s generation of partiers and bonded with other photographers who were equally amazed at the scene that had developed prior to the show. The stage crew hoisted a large, black banner that covered the entire front of the stage, completely blocking the DJ booth and subsequently, any sight of Dog Blood. The duo came out on stage, and just as the beat was about to drop on the first track, down went the banner, revealing the stage and sending the crowd into an absolute roar over a track with the hook “throw your middle fingers up if you feel me.” The youthful audience was going nuts! We departed from the insanity at Perry’s and headed back north to the Bud Light Stage for the final group of shows for the night.

Vampire Weekend was next on our list, and by the time we arrived at the stage, there had already been a larger crowd than we had seen gather for any act up to this point at the festival. Rachel bolted for the photo pit and I stood back watching the crowd swell by the minute. Following a horn intro that reminded me of the Olympics opening ceremony music, they kicked off the set with ‘Cousins’ and the crowd burst into a dance party. The stage backdrop was elaborate and strange, featuring a floral pattern that looked like the wallpaper in an elderly woman’s bathroom, several large white pillars and a mirror in the middle. The band’s sound is not-so-subtly influenced by the likes of The Beatles and Paul Simon, in particular the ‘Graceland’ era. Lead singer Ezra Koenig took a moment to address the crowd: “It’s good to be back in Chicago…only this time we have a new album out!” The set continued with a mix of older and new material, and we finally pulled away to head back to the Grove Stage.

For the majority of the day, Rachel and I had been trying to anticipate just how ridiculous the 2 Chainz (formerly known as Tity Boi from the Atlanta rap group Playaz Circle) show would be. Twenty minutes before the show started and the crowd was already losing their minds, desperately shoving their way towards the front. His DJ came out on stage ten minutes before the scheduled show start and began hyping up the crowd on the mic, playing a medley of 2 Chainz tracks (this used to always be a total gaffe to play an artist’s songs before said artist took the stage, but times are different now). He cued up ‘Rotation’ and asked the crowd “how many blunts y’all smoked today?” and the crowd responded with cheers. Finally, the 6’5 rapper ran out on stage and the madness began. Actually a decent rapper but certainly heavy on hype and image, he led the crowd through a typical hip hop show that featured first-verse only versions of songs that stopped abruptly. Nonetheless, the ever-growing audience continued their craze as if their childhood hero was onstage and the entire Grove Stage was a twerkin.’

Like most everyone else in the older population at the festival, we headed to the RBSS Stage to see The Cure. It seemed like the entire city of Chicago (minus the under 30 crowd) was there waiting, as people were sprawled all over the area that surrounded the stage. We caught the first part of the show and were treated to an experience we may not get to see again. Robert Smith may look older but he sounds incredible. Always known for great songs but perhaps underappreciated for the quality of musicianship in the band, The Cure played to an enthusiastic audience who sat listening to Smith’s haunting vocals that once inspired an entire generation. Just as I was noting down that Smith’s songs all seem to center around the concept of love, the band broke into the timeless hit, ‘Love Song.’ Also noted during the performance were stickers on Smith’s guitar that included Amnesty International’s logo and a pro-choice sticker that read “My Body, My Rights.”

I reluctantly left in the middle of The Cure’s set to head back across the park to reconvene with Rachel, who had gone to shoot the Phoenix show. I walked into the stage area during ‘Lisztomania’ and enjoyed that and a few more songs from the Parisian pop rock band before we slowly walked our tired bodies out of the festival one last time.

This was my first Lollapalooza experience and overall, it was thoroughly impressive. The lineup was fantastic and perfectly blended today’s relevant artists with a few less current bands such as The Cure and Nine Inch Nails. If I could have changed one aspect of the festival, and this is probably just the old guy in me, it would have been the size and type of the crowd. Certainly just a casual observation and not supported by any data, it seemed that about 75% or more of the crowd was college age or younger. While I have no problem with this in and of itself, it did create a feeling that it was more about the party than the music. Also, there were times it just felt like there were too many people (see: Lana Del Rey at the Grove Stage). To each their own, though. We had a great time and would definitely return for another future Lollapalooza. Hats off to C3 for a superbly produced festival that seemed to have little to no glitches in the operations. Time to sleep this one off for a few days.

-Recap by Ryan Hickey

Recap : Lollapalooza 2013 Day 2 : Grant Park | Chicago, IL

Lollapalooza 2013 – Day 2
After a long day at the festival on Friday, we headed back to the room for a meatloaf supper and Wheel of Fortune reruns to rest up for another day-long affair. Saturday began for us at just before 1:00pm, kicking off with the southern duo Shovels & Rope. The band’s sweet, country sound was like having buttered corn on the cob to start to the day, and who wouldn’t be enticed with choruses like “come to Carolina and yer drinks are on me” (the band is from Charleston, SC). The set included instrument switches between the two, and vocalist Cary Ann Hearst maintained a smile the entire time. Aside from enjoying the music, all I could think was “tonight, whiskey will make an appearance” (hint: my prediction came true).

Saltlick's Lollapalooza 2013 Day 2 album on Photobucket

Photos by Rachel Rubenstein

It was just a short hop (all the way across the park) to the Petrillo Stage to see Reignwolf. Lead singer Jordan Cook took the stage alone at first, beginning the set with a triple-threat combination of guitar, vocals and drums in a bluesy song that included improvised mentions of Chicago and Lollapalooza. His raspy, inarticulate voice carries a tremendous amount of soul and is reminiscent of southern rock singer John Bell of Widespread Panic. The band delivers a no-nonsense style of rock & roll that would remind a virgin listener of a Jack White project, and Cook has the charisma required to elevate a band to the top.

During a transitional period at the press lounge, we found out that there were some changes to the schedule that affected the Grove Stage. The cancellations included Death Grips, who were making their second non-appearance in two days, as well as Azealia Banks.

Following a brief and exhilarating stop at the Soundwave tent where we participated in a photobooth, we headed back to the Grove Stage for St. Lucia–now in a new time slot because of the aforementioned lineup changes. I was not incredibly familiar with the band, but was immediately put into a better mood when they started playing. Although the start was somewhat awkward and a lot less than perfect (seemed like there may have been some sound issues) the band began a set that I could only describe as ‘summer music.’ It made me feel like sipping lemon spritzer and dancing around in pastel clothing with no shoes. Their sound could be paralleled to electro-pop bands such as MGMT, but again this is from the perspective of one who had not previously heard more than a taste. During the 3rd song, ‘Closer Than This’ lead singer Jean-Philip Grobler encouraged the crowd to ‘sing along if they knew the words’. Their music was a perfect accompaniment to the sunny Grove Stage lawn.

We engaged in obligatory hydration then headed back once again to the Grove Stage (yes, a pattern is developing) for Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Upon arrival one could tell that this was going to be underappreciated, as the size of the crowd was clearly not up to par with the other shows we had seen up to that point. This may have been due to the fact that thousands were sprinting to Perry’s Stage to catch Baauer, but we nestled in to check out the garage rock trio. Their set was dominated by intense guitar solos and boundless energy, as well as an abundant sound for a three-piece band, an observation that was randomly echoed a few minutes later by a friend who I ran into.

Now approximately halfway through the weekend and with a string of bands yet to cover on our schedule, we opted for a getaway in the media tent to charge our phones and rest our bones. During this rest stop we listened to Eric Church, a pure country act who was performing on the Lake Shore Stage. Numerous people in the media area were preparing to cover the Kendrick Lamar show, and we were among that group. We made the journey along with other dedicated media folks across the park to the Bud Light Stage.

I went into this show with low expectations because frankly, most rap artists do not deliver well in the live setting. Kendrick’s set was highly anticipated, as his record was probably the rap album of the year in 2012, at least in the court of public opinion. The Compton native also has ties to Chicago, and the fans were rushing to catch his performance. His DJ, who also serves as his hype man came out first, prompting the crowd to do the usual pre-show routine at a hip hop show. Kendrick came out to the stage, backed by a drummer and guitarist in addition to the DJ, and instructed the crowd to put their hands in the air (yawn). It was interesting to see the change from Kendrick’s studio effort that features mellow and often times trippy vocals to the live setting where he followed suit of most other rappers , running back and forth yelling into the mic. Despite some annoying, long-overused hip hop stage tactics (if we’re feelin’ it, we’ll put our hands up), Kendrick navigated through an arrangement of his popular songs and the live band added a layer that could propel the talented lyricist to another level. The highlight for me had to be seeing young girls waving their arms around singing along to the warm lyrics “P_$$y and Patron Got Me Feelin’ Alright.”

Our next stop was, you guessed it, the Grove Stage for HAIM. The three-sister trio from LA was without a doubt the surprise performance (for me, at least) of the weekend. Simply put, these girls absolutely killed it. Their vocals have a folky, country influence but the music is most definitely not described as such. Upon taking the stage, the girls in the audience let out a scream that was similar to that of when Lana Del Rey took the same stage the night before. The band has an extreme affinity for what they do, and they are damn good at it. They showed their passion for the Lollapalooza experience when they asked “How they f__k are we feeling, Chicago?!” and then told a story about how they had dreamed of playing the festival since they first attended in 2008. Definitely check them out the next time you get the chance if you have not already, or even if you have.

Supreme Cuts was scheduled to play on the Petrillo Stage at 7:45pm, but after some obvious on-stage confusion, they announced that their computer wasn’t working and they might not be able to play (unfortunately, there was no Apple Store or Genius Bar onsite). They continued to fuss with their Mac to no avail, and finally regrettably announced that they could not perform, but that they were going to let Chicago R&B collective JODY do a set instead. This show was a disaster and I know the guys in Supreme Cuts felt terrible, so we won’t pour salt on their wound by describing it in any further detail. I know what it can be like to be on that side of things and I felt for them.

Finally, we headed back to the Grove Stage, our home away from home on Day 2. This time we were there to see the replacement act for Azealia Banks, the LA-based Bad Things, a band with a recognizable face on lead guitar: Olympic gold medalist Shaun White. The straightforward rock act took the stage with a spirited fervor, and fortunately gave no special attention to Shaun White. If you did not know he was in the band, you would never think twice about his role in it–he is simply another member of the band, and most would not recognize him without the familiar, signature long, red hair. High energy vocals from frontman David LeDuke led the way to a great set to a small but appreciative crowd to end our second day at Lollapalooza. We look forward to a third and final day tomorrow!

-Recap by Ryan Hickey

Recap : Lollapalooza 2013 Day 1 : Grant Park | Chicago, IL

Thursday: Arrival
After we pulled into Chicago Thursday afternoon, I headed up to Wicker Park to stash our vehicle (blue collar parking). I stopped into Big Star and of course, had an obligatory margarita before heading back downtown. We headed to the pre-event media check-in reception at Public and enjoyed a few complimentary greyhounds after we grabbed our credentials. We then headed to The Vic to see Hot Chip, an absolutely fantastic kickoff to Lollapalooza weekend. Bear Mountain opened up and had the crowd relatively well engaged, despite the fact that the venue was only half-full and everyone was clearly there to see the headliner. Having never seen Hot Chip, I knew I was in for a treat in terms of the music but did not know what to expect from their performance. Needless to say, this was an outstanding show from start to finish and the crowd never lost their enthusiasm. Impressed by the band’s musical talent as well as their ability to maintain an obscure, odd presence while absolutely jamming, Hot Chip is most definitely one of the better shows I’ve seen in the last few years. Seeing this intimate show at The Vic left us with a feeling that there was no way they could replicate that experience at Lolla the following evening. Regardless, we felt like we received a real treat getting to see the Thursday night show.

Friday: Day One
Thanks to the hotel Keurig, we were able to kickstart the day appropriately and get a little work done before heading into the festival. We walked swiftly with excitement down a hot and humid downtown so we could arrive right at the beginning and see The Neighbourhood on the Petrillo Stage. Experiencing virtually no wait to enter the gate, we walked in and headed straight to the stage to find a crowd already gathered for the show. Pusha T’s ‘Numbers On The Board’ came on the house system, the crowd responded with cheers, and a few minutes later The Neighbourhood took the stage. Lead singer Jesse Rutherford greeted the crowd with a quick “Chicago, what up!” and the band began an energetic set.

Saltlick's Lollapalooza 2013 Day 1 album on Photobucket

Photos by Rachel Rubenstein

Next we ventured across the park to the Lake Shore Stage to catch Robert DeLong. DeLong’s stage presence is highly charismatic and upbeat, as he does live vocals and percussion over self-produced beats that incorporate elements of various EDM styles. His trademark orange ‘X’ is placed on everything on the stage, including him. The crowd was getting a head start on the day as they danced to songs such as his hit single ‘Global Concepts.’
Up next was Keys N Krates at EDM-centric Perry’s Stage. A long intro slowly led up to a drop, cueing the mostly-underage crowd to break into a massive dance party with the sun intensely beaming down. The party had started and it was merely 1:00pm, and Keys N Krates led the young crowd through a series of remixes with a distinct hip hop style.
To prove that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we trotted back to the Lake Shore Stage to see the bubbly Icona Pop. A large crowd swelled into the area surrounding the stage as the female duo took the stage, delivering the most poppy lyrics imaginable (after all, Pop is in their name). Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo have more fun in one hour than some people do in a year. The Swedish duo kept the crowd jumping throughout the set, and at one point spoke in between songs about their affinity for ‘making out’ while encouraging everyone to have as much fun as possible at Lollapalooza.

After a short break, Father John Misty took the stage with a totally unique style relative to the other bands on the bill today. Upon walking out on stage, he made a comment along the lines of “what is this dance music?” making a reference to Monsta who was currently playing in the distance on the Perry’s Stage. FJM’s countrified rock was a nice change, and the performance was stellar, complete with an assortment of dance moves. There was even an intimate session with a unicorn from the audience.

After the break, we headed around the corner to see Crystal Castles, a personal fave and indie girl crush of our photographer, Rachel Rubes. The band walked out onto a haze-filled stage, Alice gripping a bottle of Jameson in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She takes a ‘healthy swig’ of the Jamo and begins crawling towards the front of the stage, tossing the cigarette, crawling up the mic stand. When she reaches her feet, they erupt into ‘Plague’ from their latest release, ‘III’. It was difficult to decipher if the vocals were intentionally muffled or if there were issues with the sound, but their sound relies heavily on high levels of distortion, particularly in her vocals. Alice danced around constantly, appearing like an aerobics instructor on copious amounts of drugs. The crowd kept their hands up as she paraded around the stage and out into the crowd. After a mic malfunction, she threw it at the stage and hopped back up to continue the set. Now wearing muddy leggings from her crowd venture, she raises the bottle of Jameson again and takes another long pull, drawing a supportive response from the crowd. Alice, along with Father John Misty were clearly the most dramatic performers up to this point.

One of the more comical observations on the first day was all the younger folks sporting brand new shoes along with a look of surprise when they had to walk through mud anywhere there was not concrete. We took our muddy-feet back over to where we started the day to check out the eclectic Thievery Corporation. At this point it was obvious the crowd at Lollapalooza was growing rapidly, and we weaved through a sea of people to get there. They treated the crowd to their usual style set, incorporating elements of hip hop, trip hop, reggae and funk. At one point it sounded like the JBs with rude boys on the mic. I had not yet seen Thievery so it was great to get to catch them.

Facing dire straits with a phone battery at 8% (I simply could not get ahead of the curve on this), we turned around to the Bud Light Stage to see the highly anticipated Queens Of The Stone Age. The show started with a spacey intro that featured glass-breaking sound effects and other trippy sounds. The band wasted no time and immediately went into a blazing set of classics and new material. The crowd, who clearly represented the older faction at Lollapalooza, was most appreciative of the energy brought to the stage by QOTSA. “We’ve been waiting a long time to catch up with you,” the band commented.

A brief visit to the Perry’s Stage during Flux Pavilion was like going to a dubstep prom. We were the oldest people around by at least 10 years in most cases (more in my case) so we had to move on. Plus, we were dead set on getting a good spot to see Lana Del Rey. This was the one artist that was poorly placed—the Grove Stage was just too small for her, and it was uncomfortably packed. The female contingent screamed like it was Beatles concert in the 60’s when Lana took the stage. Her presence is quite magnificent, and she began her seduction of the crowd. After ‘Blue Jeans’ Lana asked for a cigarette, which one of her crew members provided. Due to bro-overload in the crowd, we left a few minutes before she finished so we could catch the last 30 minutes of Nine Inch Nails. After performing a series of hit songs that were absolutely shaking the roof (even though we were outdoors) the set ended abruptly with no audible ‘thank you’ or any other indication that it was over. We headed back to the hotel to recap the day and yes, charge our phones. Looking forward to Saturday!

-Recap by Ryan Hickey

Album : Stevie Ray Vaughan : Texas Flood (30th Anniversary Edition)

There’s so much talk about how everything’s bigger in Texas – seems to be a tradition. Whether or not anyone in the capitol knows it, the state earned some serious bragging rights when two bands that stemmed from the Vaughan Family exploded out of Austin – the Fabulous Thunderbirds, in 1979, and T-Birds guitarist Jimmie Vaughan’s brother; Stevie Ray Vaughan, who emerged with Double Trouble in ’83. The T-Birds were more about jukebox-length songs; bringing retro strut back into the genre. Stevie Ray, who died in 1990, has inspired many with his delectable tones, lightning-fast guitar work, and all-around passion for the form.

SRV/Double Trouble’s debut, Texas Flood, was recently reissued; providing a perfect starting point for anyone who wants to dive in –  and adding a second disc, with nine live-from–Philadelphia tracks that were recorded in ’83. Much of the latter is as searing as this live track, one of my SRV faves, “I’m Leaving You”. I like the way he throws in a few bars from Juke Boy Bonner’s “Runnin’ Shoes” (also covered with aplomb by the T-Birds, on What’s The Word), at the end:

“I’m Leaving You” is on SRV’s Live Alive, btw.

I can only imagine what conversations were like around the Vaughan supper table.  While I ponder that, you might want to check the Texas Flood reissue, over at the Legacy site.

Post by Mary Leary

Album : Aimee Bobruk : ba.’brook

Photo Credit: Holly Bronko

Aimee Bobruk’s new 12-song opus, ba.’brook, glistens with sad, beautiful sounds.  The Austin-based composer and all-around artiste (I love the mailer she used to send me the CD) worked on the album with Brian Beattie (bass playing with Glass Eye; production for Daniel Johnston, Okkervil River, Shearwater) and drummer Dony Wynn, who’s used banana peels and metal for some of his percussion kits. Sound like a pile of creative energy? Well, it’s a quietly confident pile of creative energy; laced with achingly gorgeous guitar tendrils, out of the box percussion and effects, and Bobruk’s avant-pop compositions, which linger in the aural palate in the very best way, kind of like the yummiest mocha mousse ever.

Even though it’s not out until January 29th, ba.’brook is so enticing, I’m moved to share it with you now.  ‘Cause in my world, holiday shopping doesn’t begin in November and end in January; it’s a year-‘round affair.

Bobruk (or whoever’s with her in this video for “Two of a Kind”) looks pretty cute as a guy. And, well, that’s just confusing.

MP3: Aimee Bobruk – Two of a Kind

Bobruk’s enchanting world can be accessed here.

-Post by Mary Leary

Album : Bessie Smith : The Complete Columbia Recordings

Long before I got into Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday – and after I’d thrilled to the intensity of Janis Joplin, one who influenced all of them could give me shivers within the first few bars of every song… shivers that were white-hot for the duration of every song. She could keep me with her through song after song of whatever anthology I was spinning. That singer is Bessie Smith; a barrelhouse-blues chanteuse who should be in the dictionary next to the word “fierce.” Full-bodied, brimming with feeling, and clear as a bell are all descriptors that fit the vocalist, who was active in the 1920s and ‘30s.  The “Empress of the Blues” died 75 years ago, as a result of injuries incurred in a car accident when she was 43.

A new 10-CD boxed set, Bessie Smith: The Complete Columbia Recordings, should be welcomed by Smith completists while offering an ample fount of material to new converts. Included are alternate takes, family interview segments, and tracks from Smith’s lone film performance in St. Louis Blues (1929). The box also houses rare photos and a new essay by blues scholar Ken Romanowski. Among the musicians who made the brilliant accompaniment sound effortless were trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Joe Smith, pianists James P. Johnson and Fletcher Henderson, trombonists Jack Teagarden and Charlie Green, and clarinetist Benny Goodman

Included in this new collection, much of which wasn’t previously available on CD, is one of my all-time Bessie faves, “Gimme a Pigfoot”:

Bessie Smith: The Complete Columbia Recordings is out now. You can find out more about it here.

by Mary Leary