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June 11 - June 17, 2009
buzz@boulderweekly.com

• Hating your friends
Come on feel the Lemonheads
by Adam Perry


• Having a ball
CU student brings the 1940s back to life in grand style
by Jim Lillie


Hating your friends
Come on feel The Lemonheads
by Adam Perry


The cover is a polarizing thing.

Some people prefer the off-the-wall cover — take “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane, “Satisfaction” by Devo or “Tomorrow Never Knows” by Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera — classic tunes re-interpreted in a fresh and inventive style where only the original over-lying melody is still present but the weight of the initial spirit successfully shines through the vision of a different performer.

Some prefer the faithful cover — see the Sea and Cake’s “Sound & Vision,” “Four Strong Winds” by Neil Young or “Waitin’ Around to Die” by the Be Good Tanyas — a new artist does justice to a beloved favorite by giving it the honest essence of their unique talent, whether it’s a screaming guitar solo or brilliant female sensibility.

Some just prefer the sound of a deep-voiced early-’90s alt-rock sex symbol playing anything.

I fall in the first category — the Feelies’ raging “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” and the New Bomb Turks’ half-time hardcore version of Wire’s “Mr. Suit” are near the top of my list of favorite covers — but I have to admit that the one-time title holder of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” Evan Dando has something for every finicky music geek on his new covers LP, Varshons, just released on The End Records.

Just about everyone who’s had even a toe in the waters of the music industry has a friend with an “I know someone who dated Evan Dando” story. Famous for fronting The Lemonheads, who rose to worldwide fame with their cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” in 1992, Dando pretty much disappeared in the mid-to-late ’90s, succumbing to crack addiction and the temptation that comes with being able to sleep with just about everyone who’s had a toe in the waters of the music industry.

Thus, between 1996 and 2006 there were no Lemonheads releases, although in that time Dando put out his only solo album (2003’s Baby I’m Bored) and made the tabloids for partying with people like Courtney Love and Johnny Depp.  The former Boston alt-rock dude went all L.A.

The L.A. part hasn’t changed with the new covers album, as Kate Moss and Liv Tyler both appear as guest vocalists on Varshons, but Dando seems to have at least partially returned to the playful nature of It’s a Shame About Ray and even earlier Lemonheads albums.

Dando’s versions of “Waitin’ Around to Die” (Townes Van Zandt) and “Beautiful” (written by Linda Perry but made famous by Christina Aguilera) won’t exactly bowl anyone over: they’re faithful (but stale) covers by someone with a an exceptional voice. “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” (Leonard Cohen) is a similar story; it’s a song that’s been covered a lot, and despite the fact that it’s a duet with Tyler, nothing remarkable happens.

Dando’s balladeer rendition of the Cramps’ punk classic “Green Fuzz” (originally by Texas’ Green Fuz) is something special, though.

He took a slow-churning, campy psychedelic-rockabilly song and made it a soulful, melancholy croon. That’s exactly the kind of 180 some of us go for.

Whether this entertaining — what else can you call an album where a G.G. Allin cover precedes an electro-clash collaboration with Kate Moss? — cover album will steer the 42-year-old Dando’s rejuvenated career into more interesting musical territory than The Lemonheads’ self-titled 2006 comeback album, it’s impossible to predict. I’m not even sure why they’re called The Lemonheads and not something like Evan Dando and Friends, as the two other original members were gone by 1987, and the most memorable Lemonheads lineup (with Juliana Hatfield) only lasted for a few years in the early ’90s.

I do know that sobriety is a good thing, and Evan Dando puts on a decent live show when he’s not hours late. Plus, the reality that he’s been divisive enough to have inspired a famous “anti-Dando” fanzine means he must have done something right. Pissing people off takes serious work, as does surviving not only crack but Courtney Love — but hey, words can’t bring him down.
Adam Perry writes a music-related blog called “Beautiful Buzz” at adamperrywrites.wordpress.com

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On the Bill
The Lemonheads perform with Pacific Pride at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver, 303-291-1007.

Having a ball
CU student brings the 1940s back to life in grand style
by Jim Lillie


The bombing of Pearl Harbor thrust America headlong into hell barely a generation after the so-called War to End All Wars had come to a close. Nerved but unbowed, people back home found relief by seeking out community, whether in public canteens or their own kitchens.  Morale-boosting songs seemed everywhere. One, recorded 16 days after the infamy at Pearl Harbor, went by the title, “We Did It Before (And We Can Do It Again).”

The Greatest Generation might be slowly fading away, one stout heart at a time, but its defining quality — the determination to emerge victorious, ideals forever uncompromised — still inspires Khyentse James, a recent CU business grad whose memories of her grandparents are the driving force underlying this weekend’s 1940s World War II Ball.

While living in Chicago seven years ago, James founded Decibelle Music and Cultural Festival, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping women reach new heights of artistic achievement. She was moved to do so, she says, after returning from studying abroad in Africa, Northern Ireland and Tibet.

“I had no idea how immense the opportunities were in America until I saw very traditional lifestyles in other places. I thought, ‘American women have so many opportunities.’ I decided to create a space to show women opportunities they never knew existed.”
It didn’t hurt that, growing up, James had had a living example of someone who’d paved her own path.

“My grandmother, who took care of me, was a total feminist. She was the breadwinner of her family. She sang songs on radio in the ’40s. She had her master’s degree, taught school, illustrated children’s books and taught piano and voice out of her home.”

Five years after founding Decibelle, with the group growing dramatically in popularity and attendance — but still an all-amateur affair with full-time hours — James moved to Boulder, she says, both to gain the business skills necessary to make Decibelle her profession, as well as to restore a sense of balance to her personal life.

“I was so dedicated, but I wasn’t able to give anything to others. I wanted to have more purpose in my life, to feel as though I belonged somewhere.”

While finishing up her degree at CU this past year, James opted to take lessons in flight instruction at the Boulder Airport. She soon shared her dream of extending her Chicago-based festival to Boulder with a few of her airport buddies, some of whom had piloted warplanes back in the day when James’s grandmother was singing on the radio. One airman told the present-day James of a successful World War II-inspired event he’d attended, and, true to form, she began making plans to do something similar to raise money for the Boulder branch of Decibelle.

“All of a sudden, people started telling me, ‘I have a Staggerwing,’ ‘I have a BT-13,’ ‘You should ask so and so, they’ll bring their B-25.’ And before I knew it, we had about 12 planes coming here,” she says. “Then I started to get calls from swing groups, people who had military vehicles.”

Soon after, James had Joe Peterson’s 10-Piece Big Band lined up to perform, along with The Andrews Sisters Singers, The Timberliners 24-person barbershop chorus and famed aerialist Brandy Dew.

Further completing the picture, groups of professional swing dancers will provide dance lessons for ball guests (period dress is optional but encouraged) while various war scenes are projected on the rear wall of the airport’s main hanger. Most anticipated of all, a genuine B-25 used in several Hollywood movies will be available for rides this Saturday and Sunday.

With all that, partygoers might feel more like they’re characters in a movie than attendees at a fundraiser. Which leads James to remark, “To me it’s a really great sign that there’s community everywhere we go” she says. “It just takes saying, ‘There’s this event’ for it to materialize.”

She continues, “A year or two ago, I thought, ‘I could stop doing [Decibelle] and go and build someone else’s dream. But that’s not very empowering. Not when I have the ability to build my own dream. And maybe it’s not as financially successful as I’d like it to be.

But if I follow my dreams and feel empowered, that’ll come in some way or another... When you’re able to give that to others, that’s when you get it back. The model of Decibelle is changing, but it’s establishing and evolving here. I have to build things. It’s what makes me feel human. It will definitely evolve here.”

You can almost hear Grandma singing, with no small touch of pride, “You did it before...”
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On the Bill
Decibelle Music and Cultural Festival presents The 1940s WWII Ball at 6:00 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, June 13, at the Boulder Airport (Main Hanger), 3335 Airport Rd., Boulder, 303-449-4210, www.decibelle.org. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 day of. Rides available in the B-25 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 13 and 14: www.pacificprowler.org/RidesInfo.html.


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