What I Liked About July

*GrassRoots Weekend with the Chambalas
*Katherine Lanpher's interview of Jerry Stahl, Union Square Barnes & Noble, NYC
*Billy Joe Shaver, Joe's Pub, NYC
*Kristin Andreassen's "Crayola Doesn't Make a Color for Your Eyes"

*Frankie and Kelly McGrath, Tiki Bar at Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
*Rock of Love
*The chocolate bread from the Bread Company, Montclair, NJ
*The Endy Chavez bobblehead

*Drive By Truckers, Castle Clinton, NYC
*The Carolina Chocolate Drops' cover of "Hit 'Em Up Style," Rockefeller Park, NYC
*Three big polka record wins on eBay
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


Tom Snyder RIP

(photo from http://www.exclaim.ca)

Talk-show host Tom Snyder died Sunday at the age of 71 from complications from leukemia. Tinsel and Rot has many fond memories of watching Mr. Snyder on "The Late Late Show" and the CNBC show that preceded it. In fact, one of our fondest TV memories is waking up to find the TV still on and Tom Snyder talking to Howie Mandel about Howie's young daughters and if he ever ogles her friends out by the pool. Seriously. He said that. On national TV.

And that was part of what made Snyder such an entertaining interviewer. You never knew what he'd say or what off-the-beaten-path guests he'd have on. His interviews with Robert Blake in the years when most of the world had forgotten about Baretta were also classics. And then there were all his great interviews on the smoke-filled "Tomorrow" show, including an interview with Charles Manson that's worth the trip to the newly renamed Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio).

Some "Tomorrow" highlights courtesy of YouTube:

There are also DVDs of Snyder's music-related "Tomorrow" shows--one called "The Tomorrow Show: Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Talk Show" and another called "The Tomorrow Show: Punk and New Wave"--available for purchase.

Fire up a colortini for Tom Snyder today.


E-Mail Subject Header of the Day

From an e-mail sent by the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank:

All Four Original Members of Asia on sale!

Not sure if you can buy single members or if it's a package deal, but I'm wary of making any transactions in the heat of the moment.

You know how I know you're gay? You just got the Asia pun.


How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I am not fully recovered from the nine shows I saw over my brief summer vacation, but if I wait until I'm recovered, I risk losing the seven people that regularly check this blog. So, here goes.

Tuesday, July 17
As mentioned previously, last Tuesday night was spent at the Drive By Truckers' Dirt Underneath show at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live. It was my first time seeing this kind of Truckers show, which featured mostly acoustic versions of selections from the DBT catalog. I wasn't sure what to expect, as DBT shows are usually ear-shattering celebrations of the loudness of good rock and roll, but it worked out just fine. The steel guitar of John Neff, usually buried somewhere deep in the mix at a Truckers show, found a home in this setting, weaving in and out of the guitar interplay of Patterson Hood and Mike "Stroker Ace" Cooley. Plus, though he was a little hard to find in the mix, bona fide music legend Spooner Oldham was on the Wurlitzer, adding a little old-school cachet to the proceedings. As the Truckers swigged liberally from the communal Jack Daniel's bottle, they showed that they were just as good seated as they are standing and, in the process, were able to let the lyrics of such gems as "Zip City" and "Sink Hole" shine a little bit brighter than they do when they have to fight the guitars for attention.

And the night at World Cafe Live came to an appropriate end when the guy in front of me on the stairs projectile vomited about five times, the last time in his hands on the way to the bathroom. Rock and roll.

Wednesday, July 18
The lowest-key day of the vacation. After getting in at about 4 in the morning from the DBT show, I slept a good long time until I finally made my way out of the house to see James Hunter at Madison Square Park for another free outdoor show. It seemed doubtful that the show would go on because of the storms earlier in the day, but everything cleared up by 7, thus enabling me to check out Hunter for the first time. I was still a little groggy from doing nothing all day (very exhausting), but I thought the show was pretty good. I'll definitely check him out again. Maybe you should, too. He's constant;y compared to Sam Cooke, which, I guess, is kinda close. But there's only one Sam Cooke. Still, he's not with us anymore, so you could do worse than checking out Hunter, who's also a damn fine guitarist.

After that show and a quick bite to eat, I hopped on the L train to dreaded Williamsburg to see Hoots and Hellmouth at Pete's Candy Store. When I got there, the Quiz-Off was still going on and dozens of nerdy hipsters were waiting to hear if their not-very-cleverly-named team had won (I suppose this would be a good place to list some team names, but they're long gone from my brain at this point...I suppose I could have taken notes, but until you start paying me to write this blog, I don't see the point of taking notes). Anyway, Quiz-Off eventually wrapped up, and Hoots and Hellmouth took the tiny stage to a pretty decent crowd for a Thursday night in Williamsburg. I had picked up the Hoots and Hellmouth CD a few weeks ago and wasn't knocked out by it, but their live show made me a little more of a fan. They're a folksy, rootsy kind of band from Philly that, like O' Death, compensate for so-so songs with lots of energy.

Too tired to take pictures on Thursday. Sorry.

Thursday, July 19

After a decent night's sleep, it was off to wait in line in Battery Park for the free Drive By Truckers show at Castle Clinton. I got there early enough to be first in line, or at least I think I was. Some people may have been there before me, but, by virtue of my seat on the first bench, I declared myself first in line. Apologies if I hopped in front of anyone who wanted to get their ears blown off in the second row.

The weather forecast for the day was ominous, but, again, things cleared up as the day went on, with only a brief downpour dampening things around 4 p.m. Smooth sailing from there on out, with the full rocking DBT glory on display in a raucous set that culminated with a seven-song assault ("18 Wheels of Love," "Shut Up and Get on the Plane," "Lookout Mountain," "Let There Be Rock," "Buttholeville," Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper," and Jim Carroll's "People Who Died") that finally got the reluctant crowd off their asses and declared that not only will the Truckers be just fine without Jason Isbell, but that they may be the greatest rock band in the land.

And, speaking of Isbell, he was next up at the Mercury Lounge, with Justin Townes Earle opening up. I got there a little before Earle's pretty impressive opening set, which gave me enough time to catch my breath for another aural assault courtesy of the former Trucker and his band, the 400 Unit. Isbell sprinkled a few Truckers songs in between songs from his new album, "Sirens of the Ditch," closing the night with a version of "Decoration Day" that was just as strong as any I saw him do with the Truckers. Isbell's own songs held their own though, especially "Chicago Promenade" and "Dress Blues," my two favorites off the new disc. The latter still gives me chills every time I hear it. If you aint gona buy the whole album (and if you aint, shame on you), you can at least redeem yourself slightly by legally downloading "Dress Blues."

And then it was time for sleep again.

Friday, July 20

A little bit of bad luck finally finds its way into the vacation, as I see upon arriving at Celebrate Brooklyn that Bobby "Blue" Bland is sick and will be replaced by Odetta. I stuck around though, checking out Catherine Russell's slightly-too-long set of jazz and blues numbers, including a fine rendition of my new favorite song, "I'm Lazy, That's All," popularized by Pearl Bailey. I had to get to Southpaw for the Will Hoge/Deadstring Brothers show at Southpaw, so I only had time to catch a few Odetta songs, which, all things considered, might not have been that bad. I like Odetta enough, but I was in the mood for something a little peppier for my Friday night. Still, it seemed like things were picking up as I left, as Odetta growled through a version of Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues." But I had a schedule to keep.

I got to Southpaw right on schedule, just as the opening band was packing up and Detroit's Deadstring Brothers were getting ready to hit the stage. The first time I saw the Deadstring Brothers was at the Bloodshot BBQ a few years ago, and I was only kind of vaguely interested. But they've gotten better each time I've seen them, and now, as they get ready to release their new album in October, they're one of my favorite live bands. Touring seems to have made them more confident as a band, and that confidence comes across in the interplay between lead singers Kurt Maschke and Masha Marijieh. Marijieh in particular has developed into a belter that just knocks you out with every lyric that comes out of her mouth. It seemed too short of a set by far, but they'll be back around when the new CD comes out.

According to his generally truthful blog, Will Hoge had a great night in Brooklyn. Glad it was great for him. Me...not so much. It was fine, I suppose, but it just didn't come together as well as other Hoge shows I've seen. There didn't seem to be a real connection with the audience, which, all things considered, might have been understandable, since the bulk of the audience was made up of screaming women of various ages who seemed only vaguely interested in the songs being played. Lot of chatter before, during, and after songs, including a few quieter new ones. And then there was the woman next to me who, to her credit, was completely into the music, but was also into something else, as heard in her pre-encore declaration of love, "You hot piece of ass you." I don't think she was talking about me.

Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22

My cold piece of ass got out of bed at 7 in the morning to get on a bus bound for Binghamton, where world-class journalist Bryan Chambala picked me up and we headed to the hippie haven that is the GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance in Trumansburg, New York. It's a yearly, four-day festival just outside of Ithaca at which thousands of less-than-clean, kind of funky smelling people congregate to see what is usually a pretty varied lineup of roots and world music (headlining acts this year included Hugh Masekela, the Cat Empire, Vieux Farka Toure, and Arrested Development). And since both the mighty Slo Mo and the Avett Brothers (whom you may have heard that I like), it seemed like a good year for my first GrassRoots festival.

After a harrowing, foul-smelling bus ride from the free parking lot to the festival site, Bryan and I made our way into the festival. Within about ten minutes, this conversation took place:

Slightly Spaced-Out Looking Guy: Hey, man, do you know where the shuttle is?

Bryan: Yeah, it's right back there by the entrance.

James: One just left, but there should be another one around soon.

SS-OLG: Cooool. Do you know where the guy with the goodies is?

Me and Bryan: Uh, no.

Immediately after that conversation, I wished I had come up with a better answer, like maybe "Go fuck yourself." For those who might be interested, just because I have a beard doesn't mean I (a) have a lighter or (b) know where "the goodies" are. I have a beard because I'm lazy, that's all.

I kid the hippies, but they're a good, peaceful people. So peaceful, in fact, that later on, as I watched Eilen Jewell in the Dance Tent, I wondered just what one would have to do at GrassRoots to really get someone to take a swing at you. I came up with some ideas. Some of the ones I'm more comfortable sharing in a public forum include:

*Setting up a tent next to the antiwar tent at which we could pass out leaflets detailing the highlights of the Bush presidency and hand out stickers that read "Yes to War!"
*Renting out a flatbed, gas-guzzling truck and driving it around the infield while blasting Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith songs from a boombox.
*Serving food only in styrofoam containers and, then, as each person disposed of his/her styrofoam in the trash can, throwing a match into the can, thus creating a pretty sweet burn barrel.

Maybe next year we'll test it all out. I'm still not sure we'd incite violence, though. And that's a testament to the fine, upstanding people that head to GrassRoots. Sure, a few of them looked a little rough by Sunday evening, but they're good folks who come to a festival not just for the scene but actually to listen to the music.

Oh yeah, the music. I caught snippets of a few different bands and most of the Duhks' set, but I focused all of my attention on Slo Mo and the Avett Brothers. I put together something for Popcorn Youth, the arts blog for the Ithaca Times, so head over there if you wanna read all about it, as well as other GrassRoots reviews and lots of other stuff.

It looked something like this (though occasionally not quite as blurry):

Monday, July 22

After breakfast at Hal's Deli and another record-buying run at Autumn Leaves, it was time for my vacation to end and to head on the Shortline bus back home. It was a pretty good music run. I'll start another run tomorrow with Riders in the Sky and the Carolina Chocolate Drops at Rockefeller Park, followed by Billy Joe Shaver at Joe's Pub, and perhaps Sometymes Why at the Living Room.

But now it is once again time for rest.


If you don't go to at least one concert in the next four days, I will be very sad

The next four days bring roughly a bajillion good shows to the area. I have spent the better part of the summer figuring out what shows to attend. I think I've got it sussed out. Time for you to do some sussing:


First there's the Drive By Truckers at Castle Clinton (or, if the forecast holds, an undisclosed indoor location...probably Pace University's Schimmel Center) at 7 p.m. It's free, but you have to line up to get tickets, which will be given out at 5 p.m. Then you have to continue waiting on line to get inside at 6 p.m.. And all that line waiting will be worth it when you see the mighty power of the Drive By Truckers. I am currently recovering from last night's acoustic "Dirt Underneath" DBT show in Philly (home at 3:10 a.m.), and as much as that kicked ass, Thursday's show will be all rock, so it will kick that much more ass.

And when it's all over, you can hightail it up to the Mercury Lounge, where former Trucker Jason Isbell does a show with his new band (and with Justin Townes Earle opening...note the last name). Will Jason reunite with the Truckers? Will the Truckers join Jason? Will Steve Earle check out his son's show? All these questions and more can only be answered by attending the shows tomorrow. Do it.

In a tragic turn of events, the DBT show falls on the same day as the free '80s show of the year in Brooklyn. Yes, not only do you get a set from Air Supply, but you also can rock out to the sweet soul stylings of the one and only, Mr. Billy Ocean. It is a testament to my love of the Drive By Truckers that I am passing up a rare chance to hear "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car" to see them. But I will understand if (hey! hey!) you (you!) have to go to the Billy Ocean show. Get in the backseat, baby!


OK, so there's The everybodyfields and Robinella at the Knitting Factory, Neko Case at Summerstage, Bobby "Blue" Bland at Celebrate Brooklyn, Will Hoge and the Deadstring Brothers at Southpaw, and Nick Lowe at the Housing Works Used Book Cafe. If you can't find something you like among all those people, I'm gonna have to ask you to leave the blog. Only excuse for not going to at least one of the above shows is that you need to see the new episode of Degrassi. And even still, you can probably catch it and make one of the concerts.

I hope to be able to go to the Bobby "Blue" Bland show and the Will Hoge/Deadstring Brothers show. Or maybe the everybodyfields/Robinella show and the Hoge/Deadstring show. Or...


Good weekend for a roadtrip, as this is apparently the unofficial Cool Festival Weekend. So I'm headed (I think) to the Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg, NY to see Slo Mo and whoever else I have time to catch on Saturday and the Duhks and the Avett Brothers on Sunday. Also, I plan to punch a hippie. OK, not really. But if one steps to me...

Other fine festivals include the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, NY (Marty Stuart, the Greencards, Biscuit Burners, the Kruger Brothers, Crooked Still, Sam Bush), Artscape in Baltimore (Avett Brothers, Old 97s, Greencards, Sam Bush), Green River Festival in Greenfield, MA (Buddy Guy, Neko Case, James Hunter, Erin McKeown), and the WXPN All About the Music Festival in Camden, NJ (Will Hoge, Kim Richey, Fountains of Wayne, Hoots and Hellmouth). There's also an all-day show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on Saturday with Fountains of Wayne and the Drive By Truckers. Or if you don't want to travel far on Saturday, there's Hal Willner's Doc Pomus Project at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park, headlined by Captain Excitement, Lou Reed.

Seriously, get in the car (or on the train or the bus) this weekend and go somewhere. No excuses.


Three Is a Magic Number

Tinsel and Rot pulled off the rare concert hat trick Saturday, hitting three shows over the course of about twelve hours. We will now pause for your applause.

Moving on...

The day started with a boat ride from downtown Manhattan to Governors Island, a heretofore unvisited-by-Tinsel-and-Rot island that served as a military base from 1776 to 1996. It's now open to the public, and, this month, the island is hosting the Folks on the Island concert series every Saturday at 1:30. This past Saturday's show was a salute to Harry Chapin featuring many members of the Chapin family. I suppose you can knock Harry Chapin for his penchant for long story songs, but I also suppose I could knock you in the mouth for doing so. And it will be a particularly forceful knock if you dare to mock my favorite Harry Chapin song, "Flowers Are Red," sung by brother Tom Chapin on Saturday. I'm also fond of "Mr. Tanner" after Saturday, so keep any derogatory comments on that one to yourself, too.

The show also covered the big Harry hits, like "Taxi," "W*O*L*D," the show-closing "Circle," and, of course, "Cat's in the Cradle." That's a fine song and all, but I found it odd when people started clapping along to it. It's not really a song that encourages clapping along. But whatever. If a song about crappy parenting makes you want to sway and clap, that's your business.

I didn't have much time to explore the island, as I got a late start and had to rush back to get the boat that would ensure I got to the next show on time, but it was interesting to see the island that I had only seen from afar on those daily Staten Island Ferry rides (boy, I miss those). I'll have to go back and explore the side of the island I didn't see last Saturday. You oughta check it out yourself. Ferry ride's free and short.

But enough about Governors Island. Time to go to the Citysol festival on 23rd Street and the East River to see O'Death. I'd been trying to catch O'Death for a few months now, as they've been getting some good word of mouth going based on their live show. They opened an Avett Brothers show last summer, but I got there too late to see more than one song. But since they were scheduled to play Citysol at 5 on Saturday, that fit right into the schedule.

It wasn't the greatest show in the world, but they certainly do have a lot of energy going for them, thus making them an appropriate band to play at a festival dealing in large part with energy concerns (oh, I know it's a stretch, but it's the day after the hat trick, and I'm hot and tired). There's jumping, flailing, screaming, chain rattling--a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And while I'm not completely won over just yet (the songs don't do all that much for me, and repetition creeps up a lot), they certainly get points for enthusiasm.

After Citysol, it was back to New Jersey--Hoboken, specifically--for dinner (Benny Tudino's), dessert (Emack & Bolio's), and the Ponderosa Stomp show at Maxwell's.The Ponderosa Stomp is a yearly festival that gathers up the unsung heroes of rock and roll to perform for the music nerds that adore them. This year, the organizers decided to bring a stripped-down version of the festival to Hoboken and Brooklyn. When Saturday night opened up in my schedule, I did some research into the people on the bill. When I looked into headliner Roy Head, I came upon this YouTube clip:

And five seconds later, I decided I was going.

It was a long, but ultimately fun night that started with locals the A-Bones (with Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan on keyboards) doing their own set before backing up Ray Sharpe (above), whose biggest hit was "Linda Lu" (to be honest, I hadn't heard most of the artists' "big hits" before Saturday). Sharpe was close friends with the late, great Ronnie Dawson, who was probably one of the first musicians I ever saw at Maxwell's. Sharpe's music mines the same rockabilly territory as Dawson, and sounded pretty good to me Saturday night.

Sharpe was followed on stage by Tommy McLain (backed by Yo La Tengo for a six-song set of Louisiana swamp pop that ended with his version of "Sweet Dreams" and a genuine declaration of his love for those who came out to the show), Tammi Lynn (above; she had a minor hit with "Mojo Hannah" and sang on the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street"...I'd give you a Web link, but there's not much out there on her), and Texas soul singer Bobby Patterson (below; the writer and original performer of one of the few Fabulous Thunderbirds songs I remember, "How Do You Spell Love?). All were backed by an all-star band that featured keyboardist Willie Tee, guitarists Skip Pitts and Teenie Hodges, and Willie Hall, augmented by a four-piece horn section that featured "Saturday Night Live" bandleader Lenny Pickett. Pretty cool.

Finally, Roy Head came out to close the night, and, 40-plus years after the above YouTube clip, he still performs as if shot out of a cannon. The leg-bending stage moves may be gone and the voice a few thousand cigarettes raspier, but he still paces around the stage and twirls the microphone around like it's 1965. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of his set was briefly curtailed by a posse of four roots rock weirdos, one of whom tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey! You can't wear earplugs!" Really? I can't? So I should spend four hours directly next to a speaker without earplugs? Duly noted. I'll keep that in mind for the next time. Thanks for pointing out how noncool being able to hear well into my 30s is.

I spent most of the rest of Head's set dodging the fearsome foursome and my earplug-averse friend's hair as she flung it about. But it was a good time anyway, with the main set capped by Head writhing on the Maxwell's floor. No pictures of that, so make do with this:

And, so, a little after 1:30 a.m., the concert day ended.

On Sunday, I rested.


Please Jimmy, Don't Hurt 'Em (Or, Roll Out The Hammer)

There is no greater testament to the unparalleled excellence of the New York City area than this simple fact: In the course of two evenings, I saw 16-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr and the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra and MC Hammer (and the Hammertime Dancers). And both shows were free. I defy you to find an area of the world that gives you that kind of opportunity.

I will start with the second show first, because it was the less enjoyable of the two. Sorry, Hammer. It wasn't entirely your fault. I'll take some of the blame, for once I saw the line that wrapped around the block to get into Brooklyn's Wingate Field, I should have realized that there was no show that would be worth waiting in that line for. But I'm stupid. So I expelled a great deal of sweat in the 90-minute wait to get into the 7:30 concert, which was to feature MC Hammer, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, and MC Lyte. And when I finally got in at a little after 8:15, the show hadn't even started yet. Sweet.

After a lot of stalling from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the Black National Anthem, and a short set from Def Jam's Jason Fox, it was, quite unexpectedly, Hammer Time. He had been advertised as the headliner, so I was expecting a long, hot wait if I wanted to see him. But I suppose the change was made on purpose, because no one really seemed to care about Hammer at all. Or maybe everyone was too hot and bothered to care. In any case, Hammer tried real hard, doing most of the hits ("Pumps and a Bump," "Pray," "Turn This Mutha Out," "Too Legit to Quit," and, of course, "U Can't Touch This), but nothing seemed to be making a dent--at least with the people not directly in front of the stage. Maybe it was crazy for the people who I assume lined up at 4 p.m. to get into the show. But I have my doubts.

After Hammer wrapped up to general indifference, Markowitz came out and hinted that there would be a decent wait before MC Lyte took the stage. It was 9:40. So that was my cue to leave. As I left, Markowitz, desperately trying to hold the audience's attention, brought subway hero Wesley Autrey on stage. So I saw MC Hammer and Wesley Autrey after a 90-minute wait. Was it worth it? Maybe.

OK, probably not.

But I can cross MC Hammer off the list of people I've never seen in concert. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Slick Rick, MC Lyte, and Doug E. Fresh.

There will be no pictures. Aside from the fact that several thousand people blocked my way to the front of the stage, I got a staredown from a security guy after I tried to take a picture from half a football field away (cameras were prohibited). And I wasn't about to get thrown out. So just picture it in your head. Or go to YouTube, where you'll find that Hammer did much better with the emo kids at the Great Bamboozle in New Jersey this spring.


I had a slightly shorter wait for Jimmy Sturr and the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra to take the stage at Jersey City's Liberty State Park, but there was a better reason. Seems that the Liberty House restaurant, which was directly in front of the lawn where the band was to play, also was hosting a wedding that day. So, as I walked up to the area where I assumed the concert would be, I found the wedding just breaking up and the subsequent reception just starting. And as that happened, Jimmy Sturr and the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra were setting up about 20 feet away. And, for the record, they don't rely on roadies. DIY operation. Sixteen-time Grammy winner getting his hands dirty. Take some lessons, spoiled rock stars.

Anyway, the wedding guests mingled on the grounds with the roughly 75 senior citizens lounging on lawn chairs who were anxiously waiting for the show to start while desperately trying to avoid any ray of sun. There's nothing quite like going to an outdoor show where the temperature and the average audience member age is roughly the same. I kid the seniors. Mainly because I could probably outlast the majority of them in a fight.

After an announcement was made that the show would be starting late to accommodate the wedding, everyone calmed down. And before you knew it, the Orchestra launched into the opening medley and it was off to the races. I think I know the opening medley by heart by now, but I won't ruin the surprise for you when you decide to attend your first Jimmy Sturr show. Suffice it to say, it smokes.

With a new CD to promote, Sturr added a few new tunes to the show, including a killer "Under the Double Eagle" featuring Keith Slattery. Alas, there was no "Devil Went Down to Georgia" from Fiddlin' Frankie Urbanovitch. Kind of a drag. But there were plenty of good times to go around. And then toward the end of the show, Jimmy Sturr started to cry talking about the soldiers. Dancing, laughing, crying--you get it all at a Jimmy Sturr show.

You oughta go. Check out the tour schedule and pick a show (next up for me: 8/11, Hunter, NY). He's better than Hammer. Doesn't dance as well, though.

And, lucky for you, cameras were very much allowed.


Blowin' your mind like they knew they would

Tinsel and Rot salutes your Atlantic League North Division First-Half Champion Newark Bears, who took first place away from the Tommy John-helmed Bridgeport Bluefish on Saturday and backed into the championship with a Bluefish loss on Sunday. And they did it all without any flashy ex-major leaguers. Take that, Long Island Ducks (featuring Edgardo Alfonzo, Donovan Osborne, Danny Graves, Jose Offerman, and Carl Everett).

Their first-half pennant earns them a playoff berth at the end of the season. It'll be the Bears' first trip to the postseason since 2002.

No word yet on if they plan to create an Atlantic League remix of the Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle." But I hope they do.


Thank you, come again

I joined the rest of the pasty, sweaty people of the world checking out the new Kwik-E-Mart on 42nd St. (btwn. 8th and 9th Aves.) the other night. In case you've missed the news stories, a select group of 7-Elevens have been transformed into Kwik-E-Marts as a promotional tie-in for the new Simpsons movie. Aside from the new facade and the clerks wearing Kwik-E-Mart uniforms (lucky them), it's not much of a transformation. There are some life-sized plastic figures of Apu, Ralph Wiggum, and a few others, some new signs in the window...

and on the donut case...

And you can buy Squishees (I passed), a Radioactive Man comic book (didn't see it), Buzz Cola (they ran out), and Frosted Krusty-O's (Score! $5, but only one per customer)...

It's funny, but it's also one of those things that would be difficult to explain to somebody who didn't get it. "Yeah, see there are these stores that are, like, universally scorned and pretty much only considered as a last resort. But then they changed the sign, started selling a fake brand of soft drink, added some cartoon characters in the store, and put Froot Loops in a new box and now it's, like, the coolest store ever!" But, logic be damned! Check it out if you're bored and in midtown this month.

I hope they do make that "Sopranos" movie so they can change Olive Gardens into Artie Bucco's Nuovo Vesuvios for a month.


Boots Randolph RIP

(AP Photo/The Tennessean, Frank Empson, File)

Homer Louis "Boots" Randolph, best known for the song "Yakety Sax," died Tuesday at the age of 80.

If you don't know "Yakety Sax" by name, you surely know it as the music that accompanied Benny Hill and the romping, scantily clad girls on "The Benny Hill Show." The song, which Randolph cowrote with James Rich, was surely Randolph's most popular song, but he also did a lot of cool session work, including Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." In recent years, he had also done a few tour dates with Jimmy Sturr, all of which, sadly, I missed. He also performed "Yakety Sax" with Sturr and the orchestra on 2003's "Polka 'Round."

And, in reading his various obits, I discovered that he did extensive touring with Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer as the "Masters Festival of Music." Damn. That would've been cool to see.

Rest in peace, Boots.

More info:
His official site
AP obit
Randolph's CDs on Amazon


What I Liked About June

*The Cash/Lyons nuptials (and post-wedding party for no-shows, Malden, MA)
*Pot roast and potato pancakes at the Emerald Inn, NYC
*The Tenderloins, St. George Theatre, Staten Island, NY
*The return of Degrassi: The Next Generation

*My game-tying two-run Wiffle Ball homer at the Heindl PhD Party, Holliston, MA
*Hank Williams Jr., Times Union Center, Albany, NY
*Richard Thompson/Ollabelle, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

*The Best Show on WFMU Listening Party, Iron Monkey, Jersey City, NJ
*Heybale, Hill Country Barbecue Market, NYC
*The New York Islanders' buyout of Alexei Yashin
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places