Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Going to Chapel Hill!

Two weeks ago I wrote "Someday I'd like to go to Chapel Hill", once hometown of two of my all-time favourite bands, Ben Folds Five and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The time is now, I leave TODAY for Chapel Hill to witness a spectacular event the likes of which I could never have predicted happening, let alone attending. That's right, I'm going to the BEN FOLDS FIVE REUNION.

When tickets went on sale September 8th, it was seemingly sold out before anyone got a chance to buy tickets (online, that is). Basically the site kinda crashed and there were a lot of mopey fans, myself included. Then, a little bit of a miracle: I won two tickets through the Ben Folds Fan Club (don't laugh). Technically, I "won" the opportunity of buying tickets, which had me on pins and needles until Monday afternoon when they finally gave me the info required to actually get these tickets. By this point, I had booked complicated travel arrangements based solely on their e-mail word, desperately hoping I wasn't the victim of some psychotic Nigerian Ben Folds e-mail scam. But I did get my ticket. I'm on my way!

Last Friday, Ben acted as DJ on a Philadephia radio station Y-Rock on XPN and talked about his new album, the reunion, and forthcoming projects:

  • MySpace had originally asked Ben himself to play the full Reinhold Messner album front to back and he declined, partially because it seemed weird to do it without the rest of the "Five". A couple days later he thought "Why not?" and called up Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee to see if they wanted to do it. They said okay.
  • All proceeds from the show are going to Operation Smile
  • One show, that's probably it. They've been careful about playing reunion-type shows and they'd like to "retain the sanctity" of what Ben Folds Five was. No one in the band is really inclined to take it any further than this. Perhaps the occasional gig someday if the circumstances are right, otherwise no. Ben thinks they'd want to do an original album of material before something like that occurred, but he doesn't really see that happening either.
  • regarding the reunion show: "Perhaps there'll be an encore with extra special treats?" Ben: "Well, that's compulsory."
On the Ben Folds slate:
  • of course, the new album Way to Normal is due at the end of the month
  • in December, rough plan is to write/record an album with Nick Hornby! "We've got some stuff we've already done..."
  • an orchestral tour next fall
  • he's gathering college a cappella covers of his songs, possibly releasing a whole record of them
  • at some point, a Jacques Brel-style show in downtown New York (to me, this sounds Amanda Palmer-influenced)

Another exciting event for next month: he's joining Elton John for a benefit concert in New York October 20th celebrating the 35th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Other guests include Rufus Wainwright, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, the casts of Hair and The Lion King(?), and more. Tickets range from $250 to $2500! I'll wait for the television special, though I'd love to hear Ben tackle Grey Seal, or anything from that album, really.

Don't forget, Darren Jessee's band Hotel Lights recently released their second album Firecracker People, which has a new recording of the unreleased Ben Folds Five song, Amelia Bright.

Outside of college a capella groups on youTube, covers of Ben Folds Five are somewhat rare, but here's a few curiosities I've collected over the years:

Bette Midler - Boxing [originally by Ben Folds Five]
It's hard to believe one of the only BFF covers is by Bette Midler of all people. Good song choice, debatable success.

Yellowcard - Missing the War [originally by Ben Folds Five]
A surprising cover from an Wal-Mart(??) internet session. Originally from Whatever and Ever Amen, this cover subs out the signature Ben Folds piano-based sound for acoustic guitar.

Basking in the Sun - Brick [originally by Ben Folds Five]
A lamentable dance remix of Ben Fold's Five biggest radio hit, in case you ever wanted to do the abortion twist.

University of Nebraska Jazz Band - Jane [originally by Ben Folds Five]
My favourite BFF cover takes an underrated cut from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner and jazzes it up superbly.

The Harvard Callbacks - Don't Change Your Plans [originally by Ben Folds Five]
One of the better, if not the best, a cappella cover of a Ben Folds Five song. Originally from the Messner album.

De Poema's - Groot en Belangrijk [originally by Ben Folds Five]
VanVelzen - One Angry Dwarf [originally by Ben Folds Five]
Not one, but TWO covers of One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces by Dutch artists. My favourite song from Whatever and Ever Amen, it's great to discover at least someone giving it some cover love.

Adrian Holovaty - Cigarette [originally by Ben Folds Five]
A Chicago web developer and journalist, Adrian Holovaty has a side hobby posting youtube videos of his Django Reinhardt-inspired guitar playing. Extremely multi-talented guy. I posted his Gypsy Super Mario 2 theme a while back. Here, he re-arranges a short tune from Whatever and Ever Amen.

AudioDile - Manic Depression [The Bangles vs. Ben Folds Five]
A mash-up of Manic Monday and Brick. Works surprisingly well.
[**UPDATE: Read the comments for an updated version of this mash-up from AudioDile!]

I saw this a few days ago, though for some reason it doesn't seem to work for me right now... maybe it will for you: an unexpectedly ingenious video mash-up of Ben Folds Five's Army with the treadmill dancing of OK Go. Check it out.

I'll be back next week with stories and photos!

1 comment:

AudioDile said...

Thanks for posting my BFF/Bangles mash, but you've got the old version. You can hear the new one at:

Or just go to and look under mashups. I think it's quite a bit better myself, but I'm probably biased.

Thanks for the mention!