Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 6:09 pm
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the day Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell threw his first party in the function room of 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the South Bronx. While that Kool Herc back-to-school party marks the official beginnings of the global culture we call hip-hop, what the mainstream media at large now calls "hip-hop" is a far cry from the creative culture that emerged following the gang truce between the warring tribes of the South Bronx. When most people say "hip-hop" what they're actually talking about is rap.
A group of 20 students sits in a big circle in the front parlor of a Victorian mansion at Davis & Elkins College. Everyone has a fiddle. And all eyes are on the teacher. Heads bop and toes tap as Dave Bing plays a West Virginia tune called "Camp Chase." Outside, a bevy of banjos plink out a mournful melody. Down the road the mandolin and guitar classes combine to jam on a new tune they've learned.
John Darnielle was a little lonely when he wrote the songs on All Hail West Texas, the 2002 album that became a highlight of his music career. His band, The Mountain Goats, is a trio now, but back then it was a one-man show. Darnielle would come home from the long, dragging hours of his healthcare job, alone in his house while his wife was away at hockey camp. He'd sit down on his couch with his guitar, cobble together some words and music, and hit record on his Panasonic boombox.
Should you ever meet Donny McCaslin, you'll encounter an imposingly tall fellow who's one of the nicest guys you'll shake hands with — and who wields a sax like few others. His band has gone electro-funk with fuzz-dub bass, analog synths and hard grooves. One of his newer tunes is called "Stadium Jazz," which is a little tongue-in-cheek and with a little bit of the grand vision implied. They played a side stage in the morning. The audience didn't know what hit 'em.