How your skinny pants can help Darfur: Amnesty International seeks bands and fans for Small Places tour

So, as a musician or a music fan, you're doing stuff to make the world a better place, right? You're supporting local venues, stimulating the economy by drinking lots and lots of cheap beer, and boosting self-esteem by helping otherwise socially awkward band dudes get laid. But now there's an opportunity to do something MORE, whether you're that totally rich dude from Coldplay (because he totally reads this website every day), or just some kid who wants to see, for example, The Shins and also try to stop the genocide in Darfur.

Amnesty International is looking for bands (like you, guy from Coldplay!!!) to be part of what they're calling the Small Places tour. Named as a nod to an Eleanor Roosevelt quote about human rights being important "in small places close to home," the tour will be more of a collection of music-related events and opportunities than an actual caravan of tour buses. Spearheaded by Amnesty supporters like U2's The Edge and Peter Gabriel, the performances kick off September 10, my birthday, and run till December 10, the date of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's Amnesty's biggest music-based project in 10 years.

So, what is it? Well, it's an opportunity for artists to take the initiative themselves to get their fans involved with Amnesty's message. Since it's not a traditional tour, bands can offer incentives like meet-and-greet opportunities, special seating packages, and awesome performances. Musicians and fans will be supporting Amnesty's 60th anniversary campaigns like campaigning to stop violence against women, ending torture, stopping the killing in Darfur, protesting China's activities in Tibet, working for the release of Burma's Aung San Sui Kyi, and demanding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

To get involved with Amnesty International's Small Places tour, visit its MySpace page.

…And the [Club] Owners Hate Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks With Their Agents and Their [Tour]dates…

Heads up, English-speaking peoples of the world (uh, and any French-Canadians as well, I guess). You'd better stock-up on garbage-related puns this summer, because you can't stop pride-of-Portland Stephen Malkmus and his merry band of emotional trash-talking Jicks from gettin' their psych-rock swerve on all over the world, infesting the festival circuit this summer with their... uh, "filthily-rockin' noise polluting, litter-music"... or, you know, whatever. You can think for yourselves, can't you?

And speaking of thinking for ourselves, according to a recent post by Pitchfork, the Malk-man and co. have recently lined up a deliciously rotten "slurry" of new summer dates all over the western world, including a couple of pre-Siren Fest romps up in the clean, white land of Canada, a dirty one-off at Fuji Rock in Japan, and four grimy little UK gigs to close out the month of August. Yum! And by the way, no showers are accounted for in the tour itinerary...

Riding Dirty:

EMI Initiates Layoff Extravaganza©, Ex-Employees Ecstatic at the Possibility of Entering the Vibrant Job Market, Thankful for Trickle-Down Theory Economics

EMI's owner Guy Hands is a visionary, and he's been having visions of cutting jobs at least since January, when EMI announced job cuts of roughly 1,500-2,000 (TMT News). In April, word got out that 2,000 more jobs would also get the axe. If in fact this second round of layoffs becomes true -- EMI denied the cuts -- the company would be reduced to roughly 2,000 jobs. And since Guy Hands and his buyout firm Terra Firma originally purchased EMI with 4,500 employees, that means roughly 56% of the jobs will have been axed by the time the last ex-employee shuffles out the door.

The latest round of layoffs are currently happening (since yesterday), and if you can't glean my excitement, I'm literally jumping up and down here, smiling from ear to ear. Here's a bullet-point list courtesy of Hypebot:

- 10 are out at Blue Note, mostly in NYC
- Capitol Nashville VP of A&R Larry Willoughby and VP of Sales Bill Kennedy
- Denise Arguijo, a production manager in Nashville
- Capital_records David Pak and a number of others exit from Caroline
- In house art and design staffs suffering severe cuts
- Anything that can be outsourced will be
- Expect more pink slips and details today

EMI will continue to focus on A&R, digital music, and corporate sponsorship, but maybe it should look into outsourcing Mr. Hands' job. Meanwhile, Coldplay's Viva La Vida (TMT Review) will top the Billboard charts with 721,000 sold.

Dan Deacon and Neko Case Headline Forward Music Festival in Madison, WI

After an exhausting summer of sweating it out at music fests like Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and the ever-impending TMT Fest, Midwesterners will be happy to hear that Forward Music Fest, hits just as the weather cools off, coming September 19-20 to Madison, WI. Don't matter that it's indoors -- by September, the land of dairy and snow will be well into single-handedly disproving global warming with ball-shiveling gusts. But that wont stop acts like Neko Case, Bob Mould, Shearwater, Leslie and the LYs, Dan Deacon, The Detroit Cobras, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Dillinger Four, Killdozer, Pale Young Gentlemen, Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons, The Gomers, Blueheels, Droids Attack, Things Fall Apart, and more TBA from congregating in the various Madison venues participating in FMF.

And more: concert-goers, after buying an all-access pass for $25, can shell out an extra $10 for guaranteed entry to select shows, which is damn egalitarian if you ask me. VIP status at a nominal price. I love Wisconsin!

The Black Kids Are Virgins – No, Wait, The Black Kids Tour With The Virgins

Remember when you lost your virginity? Yeah, me neither, but to honor The Black Kids' upcoming fall tour with The Virgins, we asked our readers to share their stories of how they lost their V-cards:

Erin Matterson (Athens, GA): “The first time we made love, I had no idea what was going on. Afterward, he didn't speak; he passed out. I was so alone. I've never hated myself more. But it was done, my virginity was gone. It didn't matter after that: sex became an everyday occurrence. My only fear was losing Bobby. He was the first, and even if he treated me bad (and there were those times), I was going to do anything I could to hang onto him.”

Darren Haas (Rochester, NY): “I messed up big time my junior year of high school. I started having regular sex with my girlfriend. I was a Christian, therefore the momentary pleasure was there, but the relationship was a miserable one. I am still scared from the instances that took place. It took me until the summer before my freshman year at college (during camp) before I realized that God had already forgiven me, but I wasn't letting go. I found out that I have to totally let go of something to keep it from holding me down. I will never completely forget what happened, but I worship an awesome and forgiving God. The biggest statement I would like to make is the fact that I would give anything to take it back and to have my virginity still to this day. Hang on to it; you will only know later how happy you'll be!”

Eric Glenbeck (San Jose, CA): “Losing my virginity has caused many problems in my life. For the longest time, I cried myself to sleep -- I felt dirty and ashamed of myself. A few days ago, I finally mustered up enough courage to go and get tested for STDs. I'm still waiting for the results.”

You can read more “real life stories” here, or you can ask The Black Kids about theirs at the following tourdates (I dare you):

$ The Virgins

Ryland Bouchard (ex-Robot Ate Me) To Self-Release Box Set for the Fall

I know him as Ryland, and you probably know him as The Robot Ate Me -- but we all know him as obscure ’50s tennis superstar Pancho Gonzales, which makes it exciting for everyone to know that Mr. Bouchard is currently in the studio with Alan Lechusza (who did the arrangements for Robot Ate Me's Carousel Waltz), putting the finishing touches on the music for a massive "wood holding box" called SEEDS. Engraved, numbered, and set for release on his own Swim Slowly label, the set not only features three "mini-albums" both on CD and spread across three colored seven-inches, but it also contains a full-color book with illustrations by Daniel Gibson, an additional CD of B-sides/unreleased tracks, a DVD, and hand silk-screened items, including a t-shirt, poster, lyric sheets, carrying bag, and more. Phew!

You can order SEEDS October 1 for $125, but Ryland is already taking pre-orders, which reduces the price to $100. Keep in mind that you won't be able to find the set in record stores, and the music isn't expected for release on a "regular" format. And did I mention it's limited to only 500 copies? Yeah, so if you want these yummy, sweat-infused fetish objects, I'd recommend putting your economic stimulus checks to use sooner rather than later. For all you get in this set -- CDs, vinyls, book, t-shirt, etc, etc. -- you can bet your sweet smellhole that I already plopped down my cash (and then picked it up, deposited it into PayPal, and then used PayPal to buy the set).

Check out Ryland's MySpace page for early versions of "Henry The Devil," "nohandnoclothes," and "Born in the Middle." And make sure your upcoming fall/winter schedule is flexible, as Ryland will be making the rounds throughout Mexico, North America, Europe, and Japan.

Hercules and Love Affair Tour Every Single Country in Europe Besides Estonia, Release Album in the U.S. Today

It's summer time. The sun is blazing, the beats are bumpin', and the booty shorts are EVERYWHERE. You've got ice cream, and you've got sunscreen, but still summer seems somehow... incomplete. What could it be? The lack of killer nouveau disco jams, of course!

Andrew Butler, innovator behind the body-moving grooves of Hercules and Love Affair and pal of Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons (who guests on the upcoming H&LA album), is going on what is possibly the longest tour EVER. (At least that I have had to type out for a news story. SIGH. I am gonna be typing in my dreams tonight...) He's hitting pretty much every single country in Europe, a load of summer festivals, a tiiiiiiny handful of dates in America, and finally seeing the group's self-titled album (TMT Review) get released today here in the U.S. on Mute Records. If people still wrote those "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essays, Butler would definitely not be at a loss for words.

I love the nightlife:

Special, Magical, Seminal, Chicago-based, Post-Rock Band Tortoise Tours… Slowly

Well, well, now. Come on now, youngster. Come on now and sit right down here next to me. Well, well, now... that's it... don't be shy... Yes, that's it, don't be shy. Now then, let me tell you a tale. A special tale. A magical tale. Let me tell you a special magical tale. Yes, son, don't be shy and let me tell you a special, magical tale about a band. Well well, now...

This band is a special magical band. This band is a post-rock band, seminal in scope and influence and Chicago-based in nature. Yessiree, youngster, this band is a seminal, Chicago-based, post-rock-group kinda band. The name of this special, magical, seminal, Chicago-based, post-rock band is Tortoise. Did you know that, now, youngster? Come closer now.

Well, well, come closer now, youngster. I am about to tell you the most special, magical part. The most special magical, post-rock part of this seminal, Chicago-based tale. See, this seminal, special-based, post-magical Tortoise-based Chicago band is planning something. And the something that this tale-based magic-band is planning is none other than a tour. And the seminal tour which they are planning (this magic-based band Tortoise, of course) is happening this summer, youngster. Did you know that???

Come closer, Chicago. Now, that tour is rumored in this tale to encompass some places. Some places that the tour will encompass are in shy North America, and some of the places that the tour will encompass are in seminal Europe. These shyly seminal places that the Chicago-rock, post-based Tortoise band will visit are in support of a magical, special record. The name of the record being post-supported by Chicago-touring come-closers Tortoise is called A Lazarus Taxon, and this record is out now on Thrill Jockey, youngster. Well, well, now, Tortoise. Well, well!

Dates of the North American/European-based Tortoise tour:

* My Bloody Valentine, Meat Puppets, Thurston Moore

RIP: Useless Wooden Toys Singer Stabbed to Death After Defending Woman

Useless Wooden Toys, a Minneapolis hardcore punk band, lost its lead singer Christopher Johnson Saturday June 21. According to Johnson's memorial website:

Police say 32-year-old Christopher Johnson was stabbed after an altercation in Bloomington Saturday night with a man from Warsaw. Witnesses told police the fight started after Brian White of Warsaw grabbed a woman and Johnson tried to intervene. [...] Officers later found White hiding in a cellar. He faces a preliminary charge of murder.

- Useless Wooden Toys MySpace
- Christopher Johnson memorial website
- Star Tribune story

She & Him Tour & Stuff

My window looks out onto the roof, and I'm watching a little bird wash itself in the rain gutter. It's a pleasant black bird, with warm eyes and a beak that somehow forms a smile. It picks its head up and locks eyes with me. My knowledge of cartoons and all things fantastical makes me think it's going to start whistling "Goodbye My Coney Island Baby" with a squirrel, a rat, and a beleaguered alley cat.

It doesn't. I'm learning to live with contradictions.

I'm in that mood though. That animals-sing-to-you mood. The problem is that people think it happens when you've just fallen in love, but it's always a bit more melancholic than that, almost bitter, like when you want to fall in love but don't. It's a mocking song. The birds sing, and sure it's cute and everything, but if you look into their chocolate-colored eyes, you can see that they know you're blue but want to keep it that way. "This is how good you could feel," they seem to say. "If only you could be a bird like me."

If you look into their eyes long enough, though, staring at them while they wash themselves in the rain gutter, you can also see they aren't so well-adjusted as they'd have you believe. Not everything is delightful up in the sky; they just don't wear their hearts on their sleeves. "Why don't you ever sing to me?"

The bird's friend splashes down, another little black one. It dips its head in the water and shakes it off before looking at me too. "We have feelings, why don't you sing to me?" Two more fly in and bathe, and suddenly the gutter is filled with morose birds. "It isn't all about you," their eyes all seem to convey. "Our hearts hurt too. Why don't you sing to me?"

They bottle their emotions and drink alone. If only we could sing to them when they're blue to cheer them up.

"I don't sing," I tell the birds. They splash water on me. "Don't be like that. Hold on." I open the window wider and turn on my stereo. What might help them?

I put on She & Him's Volume One (TMT Review), Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's melancholic yet bittersweet album about falling in love but probably not falling in love. It sounds sweet. It feels like it should cheer them up, but I play it to mock them as they mock me. "How do you like it?" I sneer.

They don't like it at all. It's pleasant music, but it hurts. I feel satisfied, but horrible. We'll all have to get better at living with contradictions.

They're touring, as the crow flies:

  

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