Play it live
A return of the real
By Kevin Elliot Reynolds

We are two weeks into 2005 and two weeks out of the year that saw musicians sold to the masses like laundry detergent. If video killed the radio star, 2004 killed true musicians. That’s not to say there were no good albums put out last year, although a disturbing new trend rose that made many talented, hardworking musicians sick to their stomachs.

The reality-show music star: it began with American Idol and has now saturated the industry with shows such as Nashville Star and Battle for Ozzfest. Apparently many people now have to be told what music they like. The most famous example of this is the triple platinum success of reality-show phenomenon Ashlee Simpson. After the sudden success of her slapstick sister Jessica Simpson through her MTV smash Newlyweds, Ashlee jumped on the reality show bandwagon. Ashlee’s aptly titled The Ashlee Simpson Show showcased a chronological video diary on how the pros use music software like Pro Tools to create a star out of an average person who just happens to be the sister of a famous singer.

That said, she did sell three million albums before she was laughed off the stage on SNL for lip-synching and booed off the stage at halftime of the Orange Bowl for actually singing. Not to pick on her, but it seems she is a prime case study on the horribly wrong turn the music industry took in 2004. What happened to the old school method of bands playing sleazy bars for years, then working their way up to opening for has-been bands like Cinderella before landing on a label and opening for bigger acts such as Dave Mathews? Only then would they let the corporate bigwigs grab hold of their balls and put them in a vise grip.

There were a few bands like Maroon 5 who went through the usual steps to stardom, working hard until they fine-tuned their songwriting and performing skills and produced hits. Hopefully there will be more of these real musicians in 2005 — keep your fingers crossed. Luckily, 2005 will see long awaited album releases from some firmly established acts, which will be a much-needed escape from all the packaged and processed pop that has been crowding the airwaves. Hopefully these slated releases signal the return of real music. 2005’s album forecast is looking good so far for rock and roll, which the Musician’s Almanac states should kick into gear around mid-February.

Some albums to look out for include the return of uber-famous British emotional rockers Cold Play. After breaking the proverbial sophomore album curse with the triple-platinum success of 2003’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, Cold Play’s highly anticipated third album should be one of the year’s highlights. If you love that rock-you-to-the-core sound, you will be happy to hear that Audioslave will be tackling the sophomore album curse head on with power riffs and piercing vocals. Audioslave is now in the studio working on the follow-up to their 2003 return-of-rock debut. With the madness of Tom Morello’s guitar and Cornell’s ever-expanding range, this album should deliver.

Political headbangers System of A Down will be releasing a two-album set titled Mesmerize/Hypnotize, but unlike Outkast, will wait six months between the two. The metal experimentalists hope to push the envelope even further with the follow-up to 2001’s quintuple platinum Toxicity. Another experimental rock troupe with a lot of buzz is The White Stripes, and they too have an album in the works which is sure to please indie and mainstream fans alike with great songs and excessive cool factor. The long-awaited return of Nine Inch Nails will become a reality this year as songwriting virtuoso Trent Reznor is finishing With Teeth in the studio with Nirvana/Foo Fighters alum Dave Grohl on drums. This will definitely be a must-buy of 2005. Speaking of the Foo Fighters, they’re working on a two-record set due to be released in late summer, while the jury is still out on Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, which could be released tomorrow or five years from now.

Lexington’s music scene is heating up quickly as well, and this past weekend was no exception. The weekend’s highlight was the Happy Birthday Elvis Hootenanny at The Dame featuring local artists interpreting The King’s greatest hits. Featured artists included the wild antics of Lil’ Miss Tammy Smith, King Friday, Crown Electric, Stoll Vaughn and The Fat Elvis featuring members of Partly Cloudy. Each frontman or woman was in full Elvis gear adding theatrical dramatics to the already exciting show.

This week promises more excitement with hot local and national acts including a Thursday night show featuring The Elephants with High Water Marks and Fire the Saddle at The Dame. These acts are a sure bet for your Thursday night. Friday night offers a different experience as The Dame will feature a night of Burlesque with Project Loud Women, the Rakadu Gypsy Dancers and alt/punk rockers The Smacks.

For a little comic relief you can check out Blue Collar Comedy veteran Ron White performing at Rupp Arena. The variety blues/rock sounds of the Johnson Brothers can be heard at Cheapside Friday and Saturday, while a Lexington fave will take over The Dame Saturday night. Alt-country rocking troubadour Stoll Vaughn will once again turn The Dame into a packed sardine can as fans from near and far venture downtown to hear this talented singer/songwriter before he blows up. Vaughn is a sure thing for a night of quality musical entertainment.

Enjoy life, music and the freedoms we as Americans are allotted, and don’t forget our troops abroad who are protecting what we so easily take for granted. Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrating a man who foresaw an America much like the one we live in today, Monday we honor his legacy. Have a great week, be safe, be responsible and as always…Support Local Music!!!! n