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The Big Takeover #80 Spring 2017

Chris Stroffolino

Chris Stroffolino lives in Oakland, CA. He is an actively performing musician, and has been a member of a number of groups, including Silver Jews, Rising Shotgun, Volumen, and Hudson Bell. In 2001, he won a NYFA grant for his poetry which he used to stage a re-creation of the late poet Anne Sexton’s rock band for an event sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. Since 2002, he has been singer/songwriter/pianist for Continuous Peasant, whose second album, Intentional Grounding, was recently released on Good Forks. He also has a Ph.D. in English Lit from SUNY-Albany and has published three volumes of poetry, some of which has since been translated and published in Bengali and Dutch, and a book of essays on contemporary poets.

“Rich:” Beme The Rapper in Oakland

22 May 2013

Beme’s rap goes beyond the mere food/shit dichotomy. Beme’s “shit talk” is also music; the body is not a bank, but the music is rooted in the breath, the free improvisatory flow of words that are also tethered to the formalism of rhyme. Talk is ex-lax; rap betters the talking cure. It, too, is a work out that can make you less hungry. As a mural from the Oakland-based Community Rejuvenation Project suggests: there’d be less eating disorders and drug addictions if people were allowed to talk more, if word-jazz and singing were more acceptable. In this sense, Richard Berman is wrong: it’s harder to solve the obesity crisis by keeping your mouth closed. The extra energy you get from dieting has to go somewhere.

The Feuerzeig Video Covers Project: “Lisa Says” (Velvet Underground, Live, 1969 Version)

7 May 2013

Recently, the filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig (Half Japanese/The Duded) decided to document some originals & cover songs I have been performing on an acoustic piano in a 1983, ford Econoline. It’s given me an opportunity to turn people on to a version of a Velvet Underground song that tends to get lost in the shuffle.

Music's Not For Everyone, Chain & The Gang

Chain & The Gang, Music Is Not For Everyone (K Records, Release Date 2/22/11) (conversation with Dion De Arroganto)

15 February 2011

The breakup of the USSR may also just be a way to talk about your parents divorce in drag. Just don’t underestimate the as yet anonymous female vocalists. Live, who knows? They might even induce that whirling dervish frenzy…

If Chain & The Gang’s main message was really at its deepest the Gregorian monkish spartan existence suggested in the title track, why is it so radically different from anything else on the album, an album that, on a musical level, may very well be the most seductive, populist album Ian Svenonius has yet created in over 20 years of recording and performing?

Save KUSF

Open Letter To President Privett on The Sale of KUSF by The University of San Francisco

23 January 2011

The sale of KUSF is neither popular nor moral, but rather another cave-in to the trickle-down supply-side economics that crassly support an anti-humanist and anti-religious notion of “science and innovation” at the expense of the liberal arts. Ultimately, it’s not even a sound economic decision for you or the University.

Parergon...

23 July 2010

too eclectic melodic fierce tender bluesy jazz psych to be a mere jam band

Combobulated & Whelmed: The Anti-Nostalgia of Pavement Live at Greek 6/25/2010

29 June 2010

Notably, they didn’t do any covers (unless I was too wasted to remember).

Nara Denning (featuring Stoo Odom of The Graves Brothers Deluxe), Part II

16 January 2010

The Graves Brothers Deluxe were one of the first three rock bands I got into when I moved to the Bay Area, and the only one for which I jumped around in an ape suit.

San Francisco Film-Maker Nara Denning, Part I

9 January 2010

In Nara Denning’s Neurotique, words get in the way of the games couples play.

Slanted & Enchanted: Not The Album But The Book(Exclusive Video Interview with author Kaya Oakes))

10 June 2009

So Slanted & Enchanted is not exactly “A tragedy of epic proportions!” More of a problem comedy—too realistic to offer the patriarchal cathartic moneyshot. Or, as Kathleen Hanna puts the wait for the Next Big Indie Thing—“It’s almost like this pregnancy where the baby never gets born. I feel like it’s been as if ‘The baby’s coming! The baby’s coming! And it’s five years later. And the woman weights three hundred pounds…and is not having the kid.”

SanFran Music Tech Summit (May 18, 2009)

22 May 2009

There’s a growing movement to re-establish connections between the fractalized digital technology and the already established local music scenes. There’s many more money making opportunities if these connections are seen more clearly as a two-way street, especially as the recording and distribution industries have made severe cuts in their ‘regional offices’ (or more autonomous locally-run subsidiaries) in recent years.

Three SF Bay Area Radio DeeJays

1 May 2009

I think once having the internet in your car is a normal thing, FM stations will suffer heavily, escpeially if commercial free stations such as Soma FM still exist. I’m pretty sure that college stations will continue to broadcast on line and perhaps having these online station options available in cars will finally pull some of the stranglehold away from Clearchannel….Who knows, it might be just what the music industry needs to recover from this current dire situation it has fallen into.” (Elise Nordling)

Oakland: Sir Lord Von Raven & Brian Glaze (March 2009)

1 April 2009

While Sir Lord Von Raven is lonely, lonely, really lonely. He’s still very lonely. He’s Oakland lonely. Ocean lonely. Happy Parts Go-To-Bakeries Lonely. Fats Time Domino FLies Lonely. Chip Shoulder Glamour Grit Lonely. Dorian Grey Mike-The-Cat Lonely…Look him in the eyes, and ask him if he’s satisfied? Death-of-a-ladies-man Buster Poindexter lonely. Same-drummer-as-Brian-Glaze-lonely (Take him quiz question; does Jay Bronzini’s drumming style have anything particularly Italian about it?) Oh solo mio (lonely!).

Does Barack Obama Have Anything To Do With The State Of The U.S. Music Biz?

9 June 2008

So the baby boomers are trying to put it into the 1960s paradigm map again. BEWARE THESE BABY BOOMERS!! This is my shtick. Yeah, we need the baby boomers, and Hillary Clinton supporters. They still have a huge demographic—but it’s been about them them them for so long—-I think that might explain some of the pent up resentment, or sheer catharsis of “Generation X-ish” (a generation that never really had the demographic numbers by itself), and the under 30 *MARK RISTAINO” (MUSIC FOR AMERICA) crowd—-who, now, finally had a way to speak, and be heard, not just by the older people, but BY EACH OTHER.

PJ Harvey III (of III)

23 March 2008

Ultimately, this groundbreaking song (which is nonetheless deeply rooted in traditions) helps rewrite the mystery of love (and the more than love that is really part of love).

You Exhibitionist!: PJ Harvey's "Sheela Na Gig" 15 Years Later [Part II]

5 February 2008

In Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig,” the sound of the polysyllabic proper (even clinical) word “exhibitionist” becomes more obscene (and stings more) than any rapper’s use of the word “hoe” or “skeezer.”

You Exhibitionist!: PJ Harvey's "Sheela Na Gig" 15 Years Later [Part I]

12 June 2007

If “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is analogous to “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Sheela Na Gig” is more like THE KINKS’s “You Really Got Me” while PEARL JAM and the others would be more like THE DAVE CLARK FIVE or HERMAN’s HERMITS.

Trying to Make Sense of the RIAA's Latest Crackdowns on College Students

6 May 2007

It’s odd that a younger generation of consumers is being punished for (and threatened) for exactly—or a very similar—thing that thrived in the repressive JOE MCCARTHY era …

Feel Free to Sing Me Down If You Find This "Message Music" Too Heavy Handed

19 March 2007

And the old guys took more risks back then
Than most people your age they let win
So you’re tempted to side with the old
If there wasn’t this thing that you hold

Don’t walk, take bus, leave drive, to us
Sit in Back Seat and Google ROSA PARKS

What Can Brown Do For You?: The “Heresy” of Negative Capability in James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy"

31 January 2007

“I’ll Go Crazy” is as good of a place to start talking about the greatness of JAMES BROWN as any.

Excerpt from Songwriter's Notebook (12/31/06)

4 January 2007

I’m also often amazed that it’s so rare that I ever see someone singing outdoors, or at their jobs, yea’ e’en in the marketplace! But it’s great when it happens, even if it’s only a cover version, or even if the person sings out of tune. Hell, I used to do when I was 12 years old while I delivered newspapers! Not as much lately, even before the accident, but why? Because I had become the professional, honing those raw simple a cappella melodies into well-crafted songs

When a Listener Becomes an Audience, Must a Recording Act Become a Performer? (Notes from a Radio Orphan, Part I)

12 December 2006

It’s more common and generally easier for a lower-class musician to develop a local reputation through live shows than it is to develop a mass-cultural reputation through recordings. Conventional wisdom claims that the former is a pre-condition for the latter. The success of my old band, THE SILVER JEWS, is
a rare exception to this, yet, lacking such fortune that allows me
access to the cultural middleman of mass culture, I now feel that in order to continue to make music, I must forget about the solitary listener, alas, and with it, the ideal of the well-crafted song—-at least for the time being

Alissa Quart On Toronto's Breaking Social Scene

20 November 2006

In her New York Times Magazine piece on the Toronto ‘youth’ music scene that revolves around the ‘flagship’ band BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE, ALISSA QUART shows that piercing wit and, at times, brutal insight, are alive and well in today’s muckraking rock journalism.

"In The Ghetto" and the Power of (Political) Tears

3 November 2006

While punk and rap bands for the most part didn’t want to blow their ‘street cred’ or coolness by crying, country music and to a lesser extent, ‘adult contemporary,’ largely took up the slack, even if too often it felt like muzak version of tears.

Open Letter to Boots Riley of The Coup

4 October 2006

I’ve been performing my version of your song “Ride The Fence” to very enthusiastic mostly white ‘indie rock’ and/or primarily apolitical folky audiences on both sides of the bay, and I’d like to record it for an upcoming album. I need to get your permission and/or blessing to do this.

“Someone To Perform With:” An Image of John and Yoko [Part II]

20 September 2006

You could ask, why would they do it? But it’s probably better to ask, would you do it? And if not, why not? But what if love itself has to be a work of art in order for the art you make to be a loving art?

“Someone To Perform With:” An Image of John and Yoko [Part I]

5 September 2006

In this sense the fantasy is embodied, the private is public, and there is peace in the universe, or at least an image of peace, and, ay, there’s the rub! For an image of peace, like any idol or icon, threatens the very peace it may be said to represent.

Dear Pacific Gas and Electric: Consider Acoustic Music as a Form of Energy Conservation

3 August 2006

Yes, you could marshal the full force of your persuasive muscle to convince these industry types that pushing more acoustic acts could still ROCK or radiate whatever kind of intensity, warmth, and emotive power deemed marketable.

Open Source Radio: The New Weird America? [Part II]

26 July 2006

... I can now say with conviction (that I wouldn’t have had only a month ago) that with the success of KYOU, music podcasting has finally arrived and AM music radio is back.

Open Source Radio: The New Weird America? [Part I]

17 July 2006

... the “iPod revolution” may light a long overdue fire under the butt of increasingly complacent ‘independent’ radio program directors.

My Favorite Monkee: An Appreciation of Michael Nesmith [Part II]

9 July 2006

I know that MICHAEL NESMITH had a lot to do with easing the transition from what DAVID BERMAN calls the roped off amusement park called ‘Rock World,’ toward a wider appreciation of ‘roots music’ and country in particular, just as GRAHAM PARSONS, GENE CLARK, RAY CHARLES, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, BOB DYLAN, or maybe (just maybe) the ‘alt country’ movement have for others.

My Favorite Monkee: An Appreciation of Michael Nesmith [Part I]

25 June 2006

While some could claim that we probably never would have heard of, much less care, about MICHAEL NESMITH, had it not been for the Monkees, it’s equally plausible that his success with THE MONKEES has actually prevented a greater appreciation for his solo work.

Maybe the Words Don't Matter Half as Much as the Tune [Part II]

20 June 2006

But even if the words don’t matter as much as the tune, the tune may not matter as much as a good singer. “The singer not the song” dichotomy definitely complicates the words/tune dichotomy…

Maybe the Words Don't Matter Half as Much as the Tune [Part I]

6 June 2006

I found that trying to fit words to this particular melody was threatening to make me abandon the song for another one without as pretty of a melody and I didn’t want to have to do that.

An Open Letter to Bob Dylan: Happy 65th Birthday!

27 May 2006

“In many a dark hour I’ve felt so ashamed
That the world Jesus fought loves to shout out his name
But I can not speak for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Jake Dylan’s father had Bob on his side”

Folk-Punk Piano Players of the World Unite! [Part II]

24 May 2006

While strength of songs and/or intensity of passion can help make up for many folk or acoustic guitarists lack of virtuosity, such allowances are less likely to be made for solo pianists.

Folk-Punk Piano Players of the World Unite! [Part I]

16 May 2006

One can be called a ‘freak folk’ artist, for instance, if one plays the harp, but there’s not enough novelty for a pianist to warrant this currently fashionable designation.

Rethinking the Relevance of Billy Bragg in Today’s Music Scene [Part II]

9 May 2006

The idea of cheap production and cheap entertainment, as in THE MINUTMEN’s ‘econo’ philosophy, which was so central to 1980s alternative culture, has largely gone the way of the small car, and with it, we’ve lost a certain aesthetic beauty of jagged edges…

Rethinking the Relevance of Billy Bragg in Today’s Music Scene [Part I]

24 April 2006

If I were a DJ or podcaster and someone called up and requested Bragg’s version of “She’s Leaving Home,” I’d suggest his rendition of “Walk Away Renee” or one of Bragg’s many great originals…

Fragile Industry Ears: The Necessity of Overthinking Song Order

13 April 2006

You’re trying to catch the ears of labels, reviewers, and DJs who may give it one half-listen while multitasking, and never make it past the first song, or who may play each song for 30 seconds without giving the album time grow on them (a practice which may explain why so many popular albums don’t hold up to repeated listening).

My Alternative to Noise Pop 2006

3 April 2006

Sometimes, you just need to be reminded of what made you want to be a musician in the first place…

The Howling Hex featuring Neil Michael Haggerty with Philip Jenks - The Bottom of the Hill (San Francisco) - Saturday, March 18, 2006

28 March 2006

Though at times I wished they had mixed it up a little, ultimately, something made me stay, and it was the absolutely infectious sound—in short, the show rocked, giving new meaning to the maligned term “jam band.”

Hello World, Hello Morning, Hello Cop!

19 March 2006

I thought that taking my music to ‘market’ would somehow destroy the freedom of expression I found by playing it in more informal settings. I was out there in the park busking more to meet girls than to make money.