Disco Lives!

Left of the Dial

Disco Lives!

Posted by on Jul 9, 2019

This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of “Disco Demolition Night” when an irreverent Chicago disc-jockey by the name of Steve Dahl tried to kill off an entire genre of music. The scene of the crime was Comiskey Park, where the White Sox were hosting a twi-night doubleheader on July 12, 1979. Dahl asked his listeners to come out to the ballpark with disco records so he could blow them up in center field between games.  What was supposed to be a silly and small radio promotion turned into national news when thousands of drunk and disorderly teenagers stormed the field chanting “disco sucks” and vandalized the grounds so much that the Sox had to cancel and forfeit the second game.

Photos and news footage of the melee went viral — as viral as 1979 could be — and it resonated with enough like-minded teenagers that a tidal wave of backlash against disco soon led to a decline in its popularity. Disco stations and discotheques disappeared over night, while groups like the Bee Gees and Chic suddenly found it hard to receive airplay or sell records.

But did Dahl really kill an entire genre of music? Nah. Record companies and radio stations banished the word “disco” from their vocabulary and instead rebranded it as “dance music,” which is all it really was in the first place.

Disco lives on well into the 21st century under many different names. Along with dance music, there’s also club, house, electropop, dance-punk, big beat, and naturally, Nu-Disco. All of these genres have their roots in the classic “four-on-the-floor” sounds of disco and all remain thriving to this day.

Join Rick McNulty for a special salute to the glory and cheese of new and classic disco on this Friday’s edition of Left Of The Dial. And remember, you can’t kill a good music genre.

For further background on the infamous Disco Demolition Night, watch the short ESPN recap:

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays 7-11pm and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-10 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

SXSW Left of the Dial Picks

Left of the Dial

SXSW Left of the Dial Picks

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays 7-11pm and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-10 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

The circus is back in town and it’s bringing over 1,700 musical acts begging for your attention. With so much extraneous noise up in your grill, I’m here to help by endorsing five artists who are mostly under the radar but worthy of your attention. The nighttime showcases can be a crapshoot and difficult to get into; I recommend tracking down the bands you want to see and catch them in the daytime. There’s something magical about reaping the benefits of SXSW for free and in the daylight. In any case, you can’t go wrong by catching any of the following at SXSW 2019:


Illuminati Hotties
Not only does she extensively know her way around a recording studio, Sarah Tudzin knows her way around a tune. She writes intelligent and infectious songs in a style someone coined as “tenderpunk.” Her music blazes along at punk rock tempos while supporting some serious melodies and hooks, topped off with some hilarious and confessional lyrics. [Best bet to see Illuminati Hotties: Waterloo Records 3/13 @ 4pm and The Container Bar 3/15 @ 2pm]


The Rad Trads
This is a truly all-American band that combines elements of Little Feat, The Band, Dr. Dog, and Randy Newman. Their live performances can turn into a Saturday night church meeting, fueled by the fact that all five of them can sing. They got their start as a New Orleans cover band, which has clearly worked in their favor. You’re gonna love these guys. [Best bet to see the Rad Trads: Radio Coffee & Beer 3/15 @ 7pm and The Jackalope 3/15 @ 3:15pm]


If Wire had a one-night stand with Parquet Courts, their noisy baby would be Squid. They’re Britain’s latest incarnation of droogs, but instead of the depressing dystopia of A Clockwork Orange, Squid is closer to the spastic action of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. They’re so brand-new they’ve released only seven songs and all of them will melt your face off. [Best bet to see Squid: Scratchouse 3/13 @ 8pm and Latitude 30 3/14 @ 10pm]


Viagra Boys
There’s something desperate and debauched coming out of Stockholm these days, and Viagra Boys appear to be the ambassadors of this serious gonzo dance-punk. Led by lead singer Sebastian Murphy and his glib but pointed vocals, this music embodies all of the best traits of the sneering and fearless punks of yesteryear (think Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, Mark E. Smith, & Richard Butler). And you gotta love a band that throbs along mercilessly. [Best bet to see Viagra Boys: Waterloo Records 3/15 @ 5pm and Hotel Vegas 3/16 @ 3:30pm]


Yolanda Quartey is a British singer who’s just delivered an amazing debut album. Imagine if Gladys Knight recorded Dusty In Memphis and you’re halfway there. It’s a soul album with classic Nashville touches: pedal steel, fiddle, and honky tonk piano. It’s lovingly produced by Dan Auerbach; I’ll be surprised if the record doesn’t catch fire this year. [Best bet to see Yola: The Barracuda 3/15 @ 4:30pm and KUTX Live at the Four Seasons 3/16 @ 10am]


Finally, some serious honorable mentions: I Am Waiting For You Last Summer, The Nude Party,
Warmduscher, Dylan Cartlidge, The Fur, Cherry Glazerr, Republican Hair, and Japanese Breakfast.

All Covers Weekend

Left of the Dial

All Covers Weekend

Posted by on Jul 23, 2018

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays 7-11pm  and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-10 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

What makes for a good cover? What makes somebody’s version of someone else’s song interesting? I think it’s the art of taking the familiar and obscuring it in such a way that it becomes a different experience. Think of Picasso making copies of his realistic Blue Period paintings by instead using his eccentric Cubist methods. Same painting, but a totally different experience.

A good cover reveals a good song. If the original is well-written and has a solid foundation, you can cut it in an entirely new fashion or a different genre and a good song will always stand up. It’s like the songwriter left a blueprint and all it takes is a good contractor to embellish the original plans to make something just as impressive.

We’re not talking about just copying a song note for note, like Gus Van Sant remade Hitchcock’s Psycho shot for shot. Who needs that? A good cover changes the arrangement or the timbre–the feel of a song–and shapes it into something new so the performer can make it their own.

Below are the playlists from the all-covers shows I recently hosted. The first is from Left Of The Dial, where you’ll hear covers done in all different styles. There’s every genre here from bluegrass to punk and from electronic to rockabilly.

The second playlist is for Uptown Saturday Night where I focused exclusively on R&B and Soul artists covering hits and remaking them in their own image. One of my favorites is Solomon Burke repurposing “Proud Mary” as a story about his black ancestors who worked on the riverboat as it rolled down the Mississippi River. You’ll also hear Aretha, Etta, Brother Ray, James Brown, and a host of other soul singers infuse familiar pop hits with a massive amount of soul. Put any one of these songs on a mixtape or a playlist, and you have a party on your hands. [Note that several tracks from this show are not available on Spotify or are simply out of print and undigitized as of 2018.]


Rick’s Picks for SXSW 2018

Left of the Dial

Rick’s Picks for SXSW 2018

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018

Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-11 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy

After spending the past two weeks swimming through the morass of SXSW artists, I think I finally have my essential acts to see. [Note to our Austin bands: though I will no doubt catch some of you this week, I didn’t include you in this discussion since we can fortunately see you year-round.]

My first priority is to catch U.S. Girls, which is the moniker used by Meghan Remy. Her lyrics are subversive with a musical foundation that skews somewhere between Childish Gambino, Steely Dan, and a young Madonna. She just released her second album and may be primed for a breakout this year.

I’m also excited about the 20-year-old Sophie Allison, soon to be better known as Soccer Mommy. Clearly Allison comes from the school of Car Seat Headrest because A) she uses a ridiculous nom de plume; B) she’s barely old enough to vote; C) she knows her way around a guitar; and D) she writes songs that are as heartbreaking as they are cutting.

My third favorite pick for SXSW is a young British quartet known as Goat Girl. They have an elevated sense of humor (“Country Sleaze” and “Cracker Drool” are just two of their titles), are incredibly fun onstage, and speak to the malaise of our times. I hope they run into Kim Deal while they’re here — they’d have a lot to discuss.

More generally, if you’re on the prowl for straight up rock ‘n’ roll I recommend Naked GiantsMetzCanshaker Pi, or Ex-Girlfriends. And if you want something a little weirder, you’ll flip your wig with Superorganism, Sloppy Jane, Girlyboi, or De Lux.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with my 30 picks for this week. Good luck out there!

Rick’s Picks for ACL 2017

ACL Festival

Rick’s Picks for ACL 2017

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017

KUTX’s Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial every Friday night 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. This week he’ll give you a list of THE people to watch at the Austin City Limits Festival.  Here are a few of his picks!


Vulfpeck vulfpeck

It’s the one band I’m most excited to see as I’ve heard nothing but great things about their live shows. They’re a bunch of smart and funky music nerds who model themselves after legendary session musicians of the past (Muscle Shoals, Stax, Motown). 

*Plus two nights @ Emo’s 10/9 & 10/10.

Car Seat Headrest car seat headrest

Will Toledo and his young buddies may still look like they need permission slips signed by their parents to go out on tour, but they can rock like a mother. Furthermore, their star is ascending and pretty white hot right now. See ‘em before you’re over ‘em. 

**Plus late night @ Mowhawk 10/12.


Stephen Bruner has some of the most bizarre and varied vocabulary in music these days (working with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Suicidal Tendencies and Michael McDonald for starters). His bass playing is extraordinarily complex and suave;  too bad he was thirty years too late to join Steely Dan or play with McDonald the first time around.

**Plus late night @ Scoot Inn 10/7.


I’m a big believer that you can’t see a band too soon, which is to say, before they call it quits or get crusty and stale. Gorillaz has never seemed like they’re a permanent fixture so my advice to is to catch them before it’s too late. And you know they’ll play “Clint Eastwood.”


Nick Hakim
nick hakim

If you hit that point in the festival when you need to mellow out, Hakim may be your best bet. The man has an sweet and honeyed voice supported by  minimalist instrumentation with lots of wonky honks and beeps. Honestly though, he could sing the phone book and it would still melt your cold jaded heart.

**Plus late night @ Antone’s 10/13.