Travel Blog: Pop Culture Travel

The Hold Steady Pays Tribute to Kerouac’s “On the Road”

The upcoming album from The Hold Steady will be called “Boys and Girls in America,” part of a line from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Lead singer Craig Finn told Billboard magazine, “The line goes, ‘Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.’ Basically, the songs are about guys and girls, and love. It’s not a concept-type record like the last one—it’s more of a theme record.” The Hold Steady will likely be performing some of the new songs this weekend in Chicago at Lollapalooza. I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to seeing the band for the first time. Via Syntax of Things.

New Road Music: Tom Petty’s “Highway Companion”

Tom Petty knows how to write a road tune. “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” from his 1990 album Full Moon Fever, featured an infectious guitar riff and celebrated the freedom and promise of a good road trip with verses like this: “I rolled on as the sky grew dark / I put the pedal down to make some time / there’s something good waitin’ down this road / I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine.” Petty’s new album, released today, has a title that suggests it, too, will play nicely on the road: Highway Companion. Writes Rolling Stone in a review: “His songs are filled with images of motion, travel and the road; the sharpest writing appears in the cryptic, evocative ‘Down South,’ describing a journey that includes plans to ‘see my daddy’s mistress,’ ‘sell the family headstones’ and ‘pretend I’m Samuel Clemens / Wear seersuckers and white linens.’”

Jimmy Buffett: Celebrating Changes in Latitudes

Last Saturday, on a drizzly Southern California evening, I took in my first Jimmy Buffett concert, joining thousands of rabid Parrotheads festooned with Aloha shirts, shark-fin hats and other tropical-inspired accoutrements. I invested in the requisite margarita. A couple of friends wearing grass skirts greeted me and my wife with offerings of plastic leis. And as Buffett launched into his classics—“Margaritaville,” “Coconut Telegraph,” “Volcano,” and my favorite, his cover of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song evoking a ruminative sailing trip to Papeete, “Southern Cross”—I was transported.

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What’s the Hottest New Rock Band Named After a Tropical Disease?

Dengue Fever. How can you not love a band with a name like that? Although the band is based in Los Angeles, the name makes some sense: The lead singer is Cambodian. The Los Angeles Times proclaimed Thursday: “Sixties surf and pop songs may be the group’s source material, but add the stunningly acrobatic vocals of a modern-day Phnom Penh pop star singing in her native tongue and the result is oddly striking.” The Times’ story is available online only to long-term registered users, but a local alternative weekly features a short report here (fourth item down).

Make Springsteen Albums, Not War

When Eric Alterman traveled to Europe to investigate the new anti-Americanism, he found that most Europeans had big complaints about U.S. foreign policy but weren’t, in fact, anti-American. Exhibit A: the Bruce Springsteen concert Alterman attended in Paris. “You can tell a lot about a continent by the way it reacts to Bruce Springsteen,” he writes in The Nation. “Tonight, at the Bercy Stadium, the typically multigenerational, sold-out Springsteen audience could be from Anytown, USA. Everybody knows all the lyrics, even to the new songs. Toward the end of the evening, Bruce announces, in French, ‘I wrote this song about the Vietnam War. I want to do it for you tonight for peace,’ and 15,000 Parisians, standing in the historic home of cultural anti-Americanism, scream out at the top of their collective lungs, ‘I was born in the USA,’ fists in the air.”

He Said That While Playing a Solo, he Would Often Find Himself Thinking About Eating a Sandwich

The Funerals, an Icelandic “slow country band,” recently embarked on a spontaneous tour of their home country. Iceland has less than 300,000 citizens, so the tour only took four days. Still, much happened along the way. New York Times music writer Neil Strauss tagged along as the band endured, among other things, broken-down buses, broken ankles, payments of smoked fish and a sighting of Einar Melax, the reclusive former guitar player for the Sugarcubes. “On a Saturday night the band arrived in Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city, after Reykjavik,” writes Strauss. “It was therefore a disappointment when the only audience members were three women. Nonetheless, the band pledged to perform its best show and delivered, having a lot of fun in the process. ‘I’ve done a hundred rock ‘n’ roll shows,’ [guitarist Olafur] Jonsson said afterward. ‘But tonight I did the best show of my life. And for what? For three ladies in Akureyri. Isn’t that the story of my life?’ ”