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On The Beat: What shows are in store for the winter migration

Iowa City has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. That tends to be the case when a big chunk of the population migrates to Chicagoland (or wherever), and another chunk goes into hibernation. We all must accept the fact that less people in town means fewer shows. That is not to say that […]

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Prairie Pop: Radiolies? “Truth” in Sound and Storytelling

At the end of September, the podcast Radiolab went in search of “truth.” It was a daunting task, to be sure, but not wholly outside the scope of the program, which bills itself as “a show about curiosity…where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy and human experience.” In essence, it’s a […]

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DOWNLOAD: The “ILLBOARD” Hot 100 playlist – Kembrew’s guide to going (instru)-Mental this Christmas

DOWNLOAD THE PLAYLIST If you’re like me, Christmas songs probably send you into a murderous rage that ends with a trail of bloody reindeer and a decapitated Salvation Army Santa (those incessant ringing BELLS!). Fortunately, I have a plan to combat this musical menace that does not involve bloodshed. What you need is an impenetrable […]

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Prairie Pop: Putting the Mental back in Instrumental

My son Alasdair turns two next month, and lately he has been immersing himself in the wild world of sound. If mom walks up the creaky wooden stairs to his bedroom, he’ll say, “Mommy sound!” Or, when I crack open a PBR, Alasdair points to the can and blurts out, “Daddy sound!” A train whistle […]

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Prairie Pop: Making Music Work – David Byrne on the economics of the music industry

I recently watched David Byrne give a Power Point lecture on the economics of the music industry. That a man with a flair for dramatic presentation, a wisp of a man who famously wore an outrageously large suit in a concert documentary, a punk-rocker who was singing at CBGB’s since before his new collaborator, St. Vincent, […]

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Prairie Pop: The Chump and the Champ

At the beginning of his professional boxing career, Cassius Clay was primarily known for winning an Olympic gold medal and possessing a loud mouth. Most sportswriters hated him, especially the old guard, who felt he was not properly deferential. The racist treatment by boxing crowds and journalists certainly would have justified Clay throwing his Olympic […]

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Brain Waves: MP3’s and the Science of Sound

“One of nature’s greatest wonders is the ability of the human ear to distinguish among the millions of sounds around us. Each sound has a distinctive pitch, loudness, and quality….these characteristics are determined by the frequency, intensity, and of sound waves which your ears pick up and analyze.” So begins The Science of Sound, a […]

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Prairie Pop: The Iowa roots of the “Paul is dead” hoax

Did you ever hear about the “Paul is dead” rumor, involving the Beatles’ Paul McCartney? Did you know it originated in Iowa? Back in 1969, news spread that he died in a car accident and was secretly replaced by a look- and sound-alike. The story originally appeared in an Iowa college newspaper and fanned out through the counterculture’s […]

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Prairie Pop: To Hell in a Handbasket – “Paradise Lost” and the story of the West Memphis Three

In 1993, three second grade boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas—a deeply conservative community in the heart of the Bible Belt. Naturally, Satanism was blamed and suspicion was cast on a trio of outsiders: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. “Fears of satanic cults reached their peak last week when the teenagers […]

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Prairie Pop: Black Rain Onslaught – Pitchfork Preview + Interview with Tim Hecker

So, you are a composer and performer whose music requires close listening, preferably in the dark. Your recent Iowa City show at the First United Methodist Church blew the audience away—or, rather, it sucked them into an all-enveloping temporary autonomous zone created with pipe organ and electronics. This aural explosion transported some listeners into the […]

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Atomic Andy Kaufman: The Comedian That Loved to Bomb

  Early in Andy Kaufman’s career, the comedic performance artist sometimes opened for musicians—including, implausibly, schlock-popper Barry Manilow and R&B greats the Temptations. The latter group’s predominantly black fan base wasn’t feeling his inept Foreign Man routine, so they unleashed an avalanche of boos as he wept uncontrollably. Kaufman then pulled out a large cap […]

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Fishbone is Back! – An interview with Fishbone Bassist Norwood Fisher

I made it out of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s without a single tattoo, but if I did get inked, it likely would have been a Fishbone logo. They were my favorite band when I was a teen, and I wasn’t alone. Back in the mid-to-late-1980’s, two Los Angeles area bands—the Red Hot Chili Peppers […]

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