Drone Strike

alanToday a friend of mine (who I didn’t know was a Low fan) posted a link that has had me smiling all day.

I had not heard this news but it was like candy to my reading eyes.  At this weekend’s Rock The Garden music festival in Minnesota, five indie bands were gathered together to play a long evening of rock ‘n roll.  Among the bands invited were Minnesota’s own Low, the very band that inspired this website (including the name).

The crowd had just been rained on so much that some were literally standing in ankle-deep water, and as Low took the stage certainly no one was expecting what would come next:  a 14-minute, droning, noisy, ambient tune from The Curtain Hits the Cast that was stretched out to fill their entire almost 30-minute set, followed by a simple three-word punchline.  “Drone, not drones.”

Apparently the majority of the audience weren’t amused (warning: foul language in that link).

Listen, folks, I understand that:

  1. the audience was filled with people that probably don’t know the iconoclastic side of Low and were looking for just a good night of music, and that
  2. this amounted to a preachy political statement at an inconvenient time, and that
  3. people paid a lot of money to see a night of what they hoped would be music, and
  4. Alan probably alienated some potential fans by making this statement.

That having been said, reading about it has reminded me once again what made Low so life-changing for me in the first place.  Here is a band who, from the beginning, wanted to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  They played quietly and slowly, with subtle harmonies and lots of ambience, to crowds that often sat while listening, and would often turn their volume down in hostile venues, during the era when Grunge was hitting the scene.  And they not only succeeded in doing it, but they’ve earned a throng of loyal fans, some of them quite high-profile, and managed to stay married and active in the church, while raising children, for over 20 years.  Perhaps Alan is right that it’s a fluke, but it gives me hope that I can stay true to myself and still find a niche in life.

Secondly, without getting too political here, the issue of drone strikes by the United States government is a concern to me, and it’s sensitive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and interrupts my daily life and thoughts in a disturbing way.  Anyone that reads a lot about the subject should lose at least a little sleep over it.  It seems to me that Alan feels the same way, and what better way to bring awareness to the issue than point it out starkly to a crowd of art fans who might be receptive to the message?  And I’m noticing that this seems to be the overlooked point of Alan’s stunt.  So Alan seems to have miscalculated, perhaps, and a crowd of 5000 potential fans might have been the casualties of that bold risk, but I’m so glad he took it.  So glad.  Like, tonight when I put my kid to bed and he was brushing his teeth I was just beaming to myself the whole time, just thinking about it.

While many of the crowd probably wanted a refund on the money they spent on Low, I literally would have paid $100 to see it.  And you know, as far as I can tell, they seem to be the most-talked-about artist that played that show – and hundreds and possibly thousands of people are hearing the phrase “drone, not drones” for the first time (including me), so perhaps Alan knew what he was doing after all.

Drone Strike

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Linescratchers has been sleeping, but low is the band that never sleep and Alan Sparhawk is the shark of the music world. If he stops writing and performing, he dies.

Alan Sparhawk collaborated with violinist Gaelynn Lea in a new band called Murder of Crows. They’re selling a download of their first EP, Imperfecta, for however much you’d like to pay (including $0) here. (Handmade CD version is available here.) Watch their segment on PBS show The Playlist here.

Low has announced that their new album, The Invisible Way, will be released in March (I’m not linking the album trailer because it’s ridiculous, perhaps as a comment on how ridiculous a trailer for an album is as a concept.) Jeff Tweedy from Wilco invited the band to his Chicago studio to record the record and he also took the producer’s helm.

In the meantime, the band has released their second pay-what-you-want digital EP, Plays Nice Places. It’s a collection of live tracks from their recent tour with Death Cab for Cutie. I can never forgive Ben Gibbard for slaughtering This Charming Man*, but it’s interesting to hear him take the vocals for “Words.” Download it using the widget on the right side of the page here.

Low was also featured in an episode of BYUtv’s surprisingly good new series, Audio-Files. Watch the whole 30 minute episode free here.

The Retribution Gospel Choir also remains active and will release their new album, 3, on Chaperone Records this January. “Q: How do you follow-up a four-song 7”? A: With a two-song full-length.” Sounds like they’re going to attempt replicating the live RGC experience this time. I’ve been lucky enough to see them once in DC and once in Santa Cruz, CA. If you haven’t seen them live yet, brace yourself. Prolific jazzy, Wilco-y guitarist Nels Cline joins on one song (half the album?)


*If you want to cover the Smiths, you bring your A game. You do not change the lyrics. Gibbard’s egregious offense:

This man said

“It’s gruesome

that someone so handsome should care.


This man said

“It’s crucial

that someone so handsome should care.”

No, a hundred times no. If there is one word that could ruin that song, he found it.

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Video – “Especially Me” by Low

Here’s a new official video for “Especially Me” off Low’s latest album, C’mon.  It’s my favorite song off the album, and it was by far the highlight of their live show when I saw then a couple months ago.  The video is really well-directed, and I love the city-scapes, but unfortunately, the best part of the song was the very cool string climax before the final chorus, and they surgically removed it in the radio edit.  Too bad.  Still a cool video though.  Enjoy!

Video – “Especially Me” by Low

Linescratching Post for the week of May 30, 2011

Vol. 1 No. 14, Week of May 30, 2011

This week: Low get raw, Donny Osmond impromptu guest-vocals with Fictionist, The JaneDear girls up for an award, Colby Miller’s new album out NOW, the 5 Browns and Yo Gabba Gabba touring (separately), New Roxy Rawson song, Neon Trees, American Hollow, and Donny and Marie!

Continue reading “Linescratching Post for the week of May 30, 2011”

Linescratching Post for the week of May 30, 2011

Test Marketing Low’s C’mon

For your consideration, a two step formula for judging art: 1. Identify what the artist attempted to accomplish 2. Assess whether the artist accomplished it.

Low is never as monolithic as you remember them being. One word summaries (slowcore) hide the most important and interesting part of Low–their focus on relationship. Dynamics are Low’s secret: within a harmony, a song, an album, and increasingly, a discography. Like the Beatles, like Nirvana, revisiting the back catalog is always a pleasant surprise because the precious space we have in our brains to categorize popular music doesn’t let us retain the exceptions to our heuristics. And it’s the exceptions that make those bands stand the test of time.

Continue reading “Test Marketing Low’s C’mon”

Test Marketing Low’s C’mon

Linescratching Post for the week of April 18, 2011


Vol 1 No. 8, Week of April 18, 2011

In this issue: A (non-Arcade Fire) Mormon storms the Canadian music awards scene; Cary Judd tries out a new career path; Low and Uncle Jesse’s project comes to fruition; The Steelwells get remixed; Mayan Fox mash up; SHeDAISY talk breakfast, Aquabats, Neon Trees, and Brandon Flowers do Coachella; Jennifer Thomas give a tutorial on instrumentation, and more.

Continue reading “Linescratching Post for the week of April 18, 2011”

Linescratching Post for the week of April 18, 2011