Wednesday, December 14, 2005
To begin Rock radio is so racially segregated that it doesn’t even know it’s own history. This is music made by people for people who think that the prime mover, the big bang of all music, was Kurt Cobain. Nothing happened before and certainly nothing Black ever occurred in rock music.
When I learned guitar, I worshipped Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry. Chicago Blues, for example, rolled out some of the greatest riffs ever and I sure as hell couldn’t ignore it even decades removed from the original recordings. Sure Led Zeppelin was stealing riffs from Dixon. Sure ZZ Top throws a knowing wink to John Lee Hooker. 70s Rockers may have had a lot of sins but at least they knew their history and openly acknowledged it enough to inspire their listeners to seek out the originals. Yet on The Buzz you have bands all seem to want to ignore anything Black. Listening to this station you’d think that Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Hazel and Sonny Sharrock never existed. How Rock became so white that James Hatfield was once quoted in Rolling Stone as saying something like “Black people can’t play metal” and nobody called him on it, I don’t know. The result is a music so disconnected from its history and so segregated that it has become the equivalent of a 10th generation copy made from a copy of a copy of a copy that was...well you get the idea.
But take away the history and there could at least be some innovation if only by dumb luck. Unfortunately Rock on commercial radio is a manufactured product with stock features – innovation is frowned upon. Do you think something that really is interesting is going to make it onto the radio? Hell no! The reason is that the radio stations are banking on lazy listeners who will stop if something sounds familiar. That’s why all these bands sound alike. The fit in the peg – play ‘em.
And the market for the Buzz is pretty clear. This is music made for white male teens in suburbs. Here is Rock that’s safe for consumption with a prepackaged rebellion that ends at “buy our product”. You want rebellion? Here is a guy with a loud guitar and tattoos. Woo! I can feel “The Man” shaking in his boots. It’s the same packaged rebellion that the Minutemen mocked when they first heard Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”. What’s sad is that I play my 3 year old son a Pete Seeger children’s record and, in all honesty, it is much more rebellious, subversive and challenging than anything put out by these boy bands masquerading as rebellious rockers. Consider John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Those albums still hold up because their rebellion is based on ideas. On the Buzz, volume and attitude are confused for rebellion. Why? The music simply doesn’t have anything to say.
The problem for these bands is that Rock, like any art form, is something that is communicative. It must communicate not only with it’s own time but with the past and future. It must communicate not only with it’s own musical genre but with other musical genres. It must communicate not only with its place in the realm of art but in the realm of day-to-day life and the history that surrounds it. By pigeonholing Rock as this very particular thing to be consumed by a particular audience it becomes no longer art but simply a commodity - a commodity to be consumed, enjoyed, and then shit down the toilet and forgotten.
Me, I’m keeping it left of the dial where they still play music.
Friday, December 09, 2005
The day began with some band Trapt; a band so plasticine that the most I was able to muster in my notes was to describe them as “Typical White Guy Rock” followed by “Sad that Nirvana and grunge led here”. This was the equivalent of a plain unsalted cracker. Here, I admit, this seemed an easy task no worse than listening to music on an elevator. But things turned ugly very quickly.
From my false sense of security I was then suddenly hit with the announcer. Yeah, that’s right, the announcer! Corporate Commercial Radio doesn’t have DJs! It’s sad but true. A DJ is someone with a love of music who shares their expertise, knowledge, and taste with the listener. From the second the monster-truck-announcer voice tore through my speakers, it was pretty clear what I was in for. Instead of DJs, they have people whose job it is to talk. They plug local events, they plug marketing promotions, get you your traffic, and they yammer about Jada Pinkett Smith. Pretty stunning until they follow this up with what was easily 20 minutes of commercials. People listen to this? I kept wondering where the music was on this station. On my notes I scrawled 5 minutes. Scratch that – 10 minutes. Nope! Scratch that! 15 minutes! Finally, I gave up after 20 minutes of keeping score.
Now, mind you, I had the station’s website running on Firefox for my reference. It was at this time, that I noticed they had a section called Babewatch. I shit you not! http://www.thebuzz.com/pages/babewatch2.html I mean what the fuck kind of lame stuff is this? It’s not even lame enough to be sexist but simply pathetic. I’m not sure which is worse the lame T&A glamour shots from modeling agencies or the local women who want to be those models in the local Buzzbabe section. Surely the guys who get off on this have all the women beat! Yes, Buzzfest losers, your station assumes that you are too stupid to get porn.
Now, in case you are a purveyor of Buzz’s babe section let help you out. Go to Google.com. Are you following me? Ok click on where it says “images”. When you arrive at the next screen type “Pussy”! Wow look at that. Pussy! Pussy, Pussy, Pussy! Amazing! Now go jerk-off like a normal person! You can thank me later for this little known Internet insider tip and Larry Flint can de happy.
But I digress…after all this blog is really about music.
Now, after the aforementioned commercial break we did finally get some music. Houston’s New Music Alternative was playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers! Not bad but not what I would define as “new” unless new is something from over a decade ago! The Buzz obviously deals in geological time frames.
A rash of “New Alternative Music” then followed the Peppers. Linkin Park’s “Paper Cut” only proved the old mathematical proof true that White Guy, where n>0, multiplied by rapping over rock = bad. Maybe you just have to be a 13-year-old suburban jock to get it. I certainly didn’t. 3 Doors Down (of whom my notes simple state a pithy “Pussies!”) followed with a song called “Let Me Go” which was proof that the 80’s Big Hair Metal ballads have not left us.
Then around midday it happened. They hit me with Nickelback’s “Photograph”! This song was so bad, such an unlistenable ohh-baby-I-miss-you piece of shit that I was actually outraged! This is what people listen to? This is “Alternative”! This is a child begot by Punk?! FUCK ME! Utterly pathetic! I went on some rant to my coworkers about how guitars should be taken away from all white guys and how licenses should be issued before any person chasing fame gets a hold of one.
These 20 minutes of rage were followed by the realization that I had survived the worst and anything else was merely going to be more of the same product. Sure enough, from here on it was a steady stream of white guys with guitars emoting like Kurt Cobain. In fact it was so redundant that at one point when I left my desk, I really could not tell if the song that was playing when I left was the same song that was playing when I arrived? For all I knew this was another song entirely but it was so similar to the last that I couldn’t be sure. In fact when a Garbage song appeared on the station it suddenly hit me how male and xeroxed all the bands sounded. Later in the day when they played the Violent Femmes (yes from the 1st album) it also struck me how utterly same the instrumentation was for all these bands and, while awful, Korn’s Cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” at least acknowledged black music.
This steady stream of oldies and cookie cutter rock bands simple lead to my being bored out of my skull and painfully waiting for 6pm to hit so could listen to music. Worse for the wear I at least came to an understanding of this product and it’s creators.
Now, I could go on about how the mechanics of Corporate Commercial Radio suck ass (Clear Channel Radio in this case) but I think the more interesting question is who makes this music, who listens to it, and why.
Coming Up Next…
Part II Why the commercial rock product, it’s creators, and its consumers suck
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Discussion of my plan to partake in live performances by Pong and Blowfly this Friday at Rudyard's this Friday, has led to the comment that I listen to obscure music.
Large quantities of the “Modern Rock” Genre will cause serious neurological, psychological, and physiological damage to any human being.
Listen to “The Buzz” all day at work.
To listen to a corporate commercial rock station and live.
1.Arrive at work and manually dial up to the station that calls itself the Buzz.
2.Upon finding the frequency and a standard listening volume will be established,.
3.Once set, neither the radio nor the speaker volume can be adjusted.
4.The web browser will locate the station on-line to provide data as to what is being transmitted. This will be left on but minimization will be allowed.
5. Notes will be taken throughout the experiment to document the effects.
6. Once the chamber is entered there will no way out until the standard departure time.
7. Results will be published the following day.
Should I not survive, please note that my life was given in the name of science.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
If anyone took any photos [ especially crowd shots, DJ Cub, or ST37 ] we'd like to add them to our little page. Please submit them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For the moment, you can check out some lovely photos by Ms Rosa who took some swell shots of the Guilloteens and a smashing photo of our dancin' fan.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
Ok here are a few of the Live Thor Photos!!!!
I just have to say that all of you who skipped out on THOR at Rudyard's Pub last night missed out on one of the best Live shows I have EVER seen!
Oh I know what you are saying..."I'm too cooooool for Thor." Well, Trevi's wife Becky is now a proud owner of a mic stand that Thor bent with his own bare hands in his battle to defeat the creature that was lurking amogst the crowd. You, meanwhile, got nothin' ! Don't come crying to me now.
Only Trevi and his possee were savvy enough to show up. Goddamn right! That possee knows how to fuckin' rock! And the gods of rock, seeing this, bestowed upon them a performance so mighty as to make bartenders weep. The metal gods, meanwhile, see you, curse your name, and send a plague fit only for the weak - endless nights of reality TV.
Friday, August 19, 2005
PUFFI VS FRANZ FERDINAND
So now it's Puffy Ami Yumi in the car. Yea, it's a relief as Orion finally got tired of listening to James Kochalka's Monkey Vs Robot and I have to admit the Puffy Ami Yumi theme song is pretty frikkin kick-ass. Despite the weak bridge, it'd be a great song to cover. So now if you ever need anyone to quote you the lyrics of the "Teen Titans Theme", I'm your guy.
Previously, we'd been listing to the Kochalka CD. Yes, I've been listening to Orion yell "Put Down the Gun Kurt Cobain/ Don't blow out Your Brain", "Keg Party/Keeeeeg party/ Keeeeeg Party? CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG CHUG!" for quite some time now. While I will grant Kochalka his brilliance, I have to admit that there are only so many months of hearing it 10 times a week minimum before it starts getting a bit tedious. The lyrics to Peanut butter and Jellyfish, though, still make me laugh: "her body is a loaf of bread/ and when you cut off her head/ there's peanut butter and jelly inside/ you don't even have to spread it" - brilliantly surreal.
Puffy, while pretty much poppy kid-geared music, at least has some charm. My niece is totally into all that Disney crap. Oh my god, Hillary Duff needs to go down! Disney should be sued for destroying the brains of girls who should be listening to Sleator-Kinney instead as a rock role model.
As for adults. WHAT THE FUCK IS WITH FRANZ FERDINAND AND THEIR NEW SONG? "Look at me. I'm frikkin Roxy Music!" It makes me want to line everyone in the band and give them a swift nut check. NO WONDER SONY HAD TO PAY RADIO STATIONS to get people to listen! I was suspicious of them last year and now they have totally earned my active contempt. Hell, even Thor does a better Roxy Music than these guys (no really he does!).
DINNER AT T'AFIA
Rosa and I went out last night to Tapalia (Monica Pope's restaurant) to meet some old friends of hers. Unfortunately, a one course meal took over two hours. Sorry, but if I'm paying $20 for an entree I expect a bit better service. Also, hey waiter, move my ass out so other people can tip you. Fool! Nevertheless, it was nice too see Brandon and Michael. The downside was Brandon's buddy was a woman who was so tedious that I was dying anytime she spoke. A sample of her wit - "I love a good piece of Bass!" Oh stop you are killing me! No, you really are.
TUESDAY BAND REHERSAL
Lastly we actually had a good practice. I had this Hendrix styled riff and presented it to the band. Clinton said "Hey that would go great with this old riff that I never had a second part to." It actually worked. While we still need a proper arrangement and maybe some more parts, it's still a good primordial song. You can hear a low-fi version of what we worked on the other day at http://www.worshipguitars.org/LP4/secret_stash/oldcrow1point0.mp3. It needs a lot of work but it will be funny to see where the song goes.
Well, I'm off. Tomorrow I interview Thor. Please, pass me any questions you may have for the Rock God.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
The Mirrors played yesterday at Rudyard's. Despite the small crowd of friends and admirers, they played spectacularly. It's a shame. Greg Ashley vocals were just as great as I recall them. This band was the only ones who could really pull off a 13th Floor Elevators style of Psche that while inspired never merely copied it's source. Ashley and crew were smart enough to take a sound and make it their own. The opening (sorry I can't recall the title) was just as trippy as I remember hearing it live. The Vox keyboard with it's Leslie sound just shatters what ever realm you are in and transports you to another world. Heavy, trippy, and sadly a band that never released more than two albums when they still had so much more ground to cover. Well at least it made for a great Monday night show.
Maybe the set was colored by the fact that I drank like a fish. Karen was kind enough to set sail on the drinking express but I'm an amateur and wasn't able to keep up with a pro. Yea, I even goaded Karen to cap off with a trip to Poison Girl for a Scott Butt Bloody Mary. There we solved the world's energy problems when we mathematically discovered a way to generate infinite energy from a napkin, a peanut, and one of those little drink umbrellas. Yea, once I find the matchbook where we wrote our notes I'm going to the US patent office and getting rich! OK actually it was more drunken rambling but mercifully Karen let me chill at her pad for a while until I was able to drive back home. Thanks sistah, You are a life saver!
Now I just need to nurse my head from the hangover. Drinking on a workday is not for the weak- you will pay for it the next day.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
My arrival was pretty brilliant. I’m walking from my car when I’m approached by some fellow who looks a bit worse for wear at the homeless shelter.
“How’s it goin’?”
“Uh pretty good. How you doin’ my friend?”
“Oh pretty good. I just got some rock cocaine. Feelin’ it right now You wanna share?”
While I wisely and politely turned down the offer I had to think to myself, “Goddamn if that isn’t hospitality!
Well here we were again in Austin; our first time since the ill fated SXSW performance. This item though we were a bit better off from the get-go as we were (generally speaking) under a lot less stress and there was none of the insane hurrying involved with SXSW – this was going too be much more relaxed and groovy.
I arrived a bit tired but some coffee kind of woke me up somewhat. My mistake though came later at the club when I was offered some smokes. Yea, it was offered up so nicely that it didn’t occur to me why I stopped smoking in the first place. Basically I had to stop because it makes me completely detached from what goes on around me. I clam up and observe but I have no connection to what is occurring – I am a completely neutral observer. I’m there but I’m not. I hate that especially when I should be putting all my energy into playing my best. But hospitality can kind of throw off your better judgment and, well, it’s better to err on the side of friendship.
The first band Triple wide was pretty good with this Velvet Underground vibe but their “This is for my ex. We call it fuck you!” kind of banter was a big turn off. Sorry guy I don’t give a fuck about your ex. Don’t know her, don’t care but you sound like an asshole. Now shut the fuck up and play!
The DJ was pretty cool I wish I’d been able to hear more of his stuff to be able to report back but at least he left the audience wanting more.
When we came up, while I had an off night due to the smokes, (not bad just not inspired) Clinton and everyone else performed smashingly and we had a set that got us a lot of good comments from people we’d never met. Now, I’m kind of glad we revamped the set after the press awards – it was definitely a smart move.
Lori Varga aka Lori Surfer’s films that were projected for all bands were truly inspired and just shows how far we have to go in our multi-media presentations. Lori is also super nice but goddamn it we never got to duet on Tapatia…well next time…
ST37 closed with a stellar set (like I’ve ever seen anything less from these guys. The new guitarist worked out well and the drums sounded massive.
After the show I said fuck it…I’m heading back to Houston and armed with a coffee and Jerry Jeff Walker headed back to Houston to arrive at a sleepy 5am to my sleeping family and comfy abode. Now that is rock-and-roll.
Friday, July 29, 2005
A free bar is a dangerous thing but great for a party and the Houston Press Music Awards Showcase only proved that rule true.
One thing nice about the awards is we only had to haul the Marshalls to the venue which saved our backs and loading time. Our set was filled with a large chunk of the newer material in the middle and this became a big source of discussion later that evening but more on that later. The set went fine though Charlie and Clinton’s guitars kept going out of tune (though not as badly as at SXSW) and curiously enough the two people with tuning problems refused to touch the tuners which were less than a foot from either Clinton or Charlie. Tuners are for the weak is their philosophy.
We started with Alien Abduction with quite a bit of energy but soon lost momentum to tuning and the newer poppier material. Luckily, Clinton’s new song Southern Pine got our groove back and we closed strong with our last three songs Southern Pine, Cannonball, and La Tapatia.
During the last song, I began with the usual deathmetal belting, which involves pushing as much air out of your lungs with as much force as possible, when (out of nowhere) comes this big huge bearded guy. He’s not intimidating or threatening, in fact he’s not doing anything - just standing there, right up front, less than a foot from the small cramped stage. For a second I am totally thrown off. I quickly turn to the side for a verse or so - just to get my wits together. Who is this guy? What the hell is he doing? Then it all became clear, like Kthulu, we must have summoned the dark one himself. Yes, that had to be it as no other explanation was possible. I turned to the audience and announced the Dark Lord's presence to a reverent crowd and commenced with the chant of Satan around the venue then ending with some kind of weird floor dance/wrestle with Brad Moore and being impaled AC/DC style by Clinton.
“Dude did that hurt?
“Uh yea, it did! Rock!”
It was nice to play to a bunch of people who’d never heard us and as much as we teased the venue for being a Bourgeoisie establishment [“Make no mistake of it we wouldn’t be allowed 5 feet from that velvet rope under any other circumstances.” “This is weird, the bathroom is clean. Can someone go piss on the floor?”] we did have a good time and they treated us very nicely.
Brian McManus is the Man!
When we got back to downtown from dropping off our equipment we had a bit of a problem finding a Press to figure out where to go next. I wanted to catch Drop Trio, The Rhinestone Life, Michael Haaga, and some other bands but there was no schedule to be found so we went to the Copa to regroup. Luckily, having a few extra after party wristbands, I called Mara to see if she and her posse needed some. Mercifully I got a call back. “We’re at the 12 spot watching the Rhinestone Life!” Kick ass! I rounded up the troops, we downed our drinks, and we headed over to a packed house where McManus and crew were giving a performance of their Garage Rock meets James Brown-attitude rock show. Rosa had been raving about them for ages and I finally got to see them play three songs that exceeded any expectations I could have had. These guys are playing on a level I could never hope to achieve. People standing on the bar to get a better look – that is a fucking rock show! Props to the soundman who did them right goddamnit!
From there we figured out that the party was at the Rice hotel – Free food and bar! Awesome, some car repairs left me with $1.49 in my bank account so this was a godsend. Now all I had to do was mooch the money to tip the bartenders!
The Rice Hotel
The Rice hotel was pretty nice and the bar actually was free. There was a nice continget of people; some like John Lomax were people with whom I was told I spoke but I cannot recall to save my life if I did or not – now that is a frikkin party!
What I do recall is meeting Satan, who was sitting at the bar. For all of you who have wondered Satan’s real name is “Greg” and he will be credited with a picture on our next album as he accepted the position of Satanic mascot. Linus is now officially brought to you by Satan.
By the way, Bud Light and Budweiser are not exactly the best thing on which to get drunk as it has the magic ability to give you that bloated Violet Beauregarde feeling. Also, I have to say that Kurt and Anika would make a cute couple. I only found out afterwards that she is engaged. Too bad Kurt.
Pop Rocks and a song is cut down in its prime
Aside from chatting it up with people and having the usual moron Linus Pauling discussions (generally revolving on our love of women, music, and drink) there was a seismic shift occurring in the LP4 camp. The set had two issues which we discussed between those of us who didn’t bail (Charlie) or those who had to fix their car battery (Larry in a very Hank Hill moment).
The first issue was the more poppy songs we’ve been playing with a heavy emphasis on the vocal hook. These songs happened to be bunched together in the set and it dragged the set down. My commentary was something like this:
I liked the poppier stuff because it was different from what we’d done but “Southern Pine” really showed that you can blend a poppy psych with a heavy riff and pull it off. This got me thinking that it was time to reconsider the prefab songs in favor of trying to focus on our strengths. Look, Neil Young dicked around with all these styles in the 80’s but when he got back to just rocking the world breathed a sigh of relief. Same thing with Linus. I wasn’t suggesting we totally drop a song with a good hook, fall into a LP4 structured regimen, or do something because it is what is expected. My thinking is that if the song is not distinctive we need to either reconsider the arrangement or kill it. If you have a song that you can step back and say “Bar band song” – kill it right there.
In short, we all seemed to agree in principle that we really needed to reconsider the direction or lack there of and man the rudder.
The one song we all felt was most problematic was “Girls In Black” – a song Charlie brought in as a throw away. I had been having some issues already with it because I didn’t think it was, from a rhythm guitar standpoint, very interesting. Now, we’re a band that actually had a discussion about the usage of the word “bitch” in “Colour out of Space”. The defense was that the character in the song would say that which seemed like a good defense on Clinton’s part so we were cool with it. Charlie has a line in “Girls in Black” which a lot of women really didn’t like and it cost us quite a few people in the audience. I had figured that this song fell under the same defense as “Colour out of Space” but some people in the audience didn’t think so and wrote us off as sexist. Clinton, Steve and I all agreed that at the least that line had to change. So are we being self censoring? Well if there was something artistically hanging in the balance here sure but Charlie brought it in as a throwaway and I had no attachment to the song. Curiously Charlie was happy to drop the song and change the lyrics. So that was never the big stinker I had thought it was going to be.
Is that a downer to end on? Ahh, trust me when we discussed this we were pretty drunk and so it was more like “Maaan, aaahm drunk. Yea, that song’s gotta go. Now let’s get another beer! He's drunk and passed out! Get a picture! Hey, She's cute! John Adams you rock like Dio!” Not exactly a linear sophisticated talk especially when you count the gaps where I went to talk to other people. Point is we had fun, got some important MO issues out in the open, and we hope we get to do this next year!
Went to the Meridian to check out the Press Awards but got there somewhat late. There is something weird about low rent awards shows. I thought they were just going to announce the winners but they actually had a Powerpoint presentation showing the nominees and winners, there were performances mixed it, and they even had some cheesy trophies. I was laughing when I saw Ian Varley (of Drop Trio) with his guitar-with-keys trophy tacked on (he won best keyboardist) which led to a discussion with him about the Keytar. You may think that these would be all but worthless 80’s remnants but oddly there is a market and a real Keytar is actually quite expensive. Ian tells me that Smooth Jazz guys love ‘em.
Anyhow, the Guilloteens, Mara, Lomax, et al. were all there but it wasn’t as much of a kick as the Sunday festivities. I got a nice buzz but I was still recovering from Sunday and hadn’t really had as much time to recharge my batteries after work.
A moment of inexplicable horror came in the form of this band called Lomestar Pronstar – a living cliché of rock. Now before I say anything, I will say that they can more than likely play much better technically than I could and I hate the Nu-Metal genre from the get-go so I am probably not their target audience. Sorry this just seems like the kind of stuff born out from the loins of suburban jocks who drink Coors and who’ve never met a person of color – ever. Now, that’s my gut reaction. I’m not saying that these guys are that nor that the genre actually is that in practice I’m just saying that’s what it speaks to me. So having said all that, here is what I want to know. Even if you like this stuff, what the fuck is with the dreadlocked white guy who does back-up vocals and dances like a latter day Vanilla Ice? Does he bring the pot to the rehearsals? That is the only reason I could think of this guy being on stage. “Dude, that was really cool when you pumped your fist in the air and hopped around! That song would suck if you didn’t do that!”
Well, if they hadn’t played there wouldn’t have been much to write about here so go figure. I guess thanks guys providing me with something to mock.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Saturday, I was able to catch Jana (missed john's set) and goddamn if it wasn't nice to hear Jana singing live again. Matty and Mossy played with us back during the release of "Ashes in the Bong of God" and damn if their release wasn't one of the best albums ever to come out of Houston. Jana is working solo now and she told me she is just getting back into writing material with a new release coming soon. What's funny about Jana is she is one of those people who talks in a manner where her teeth never open more than maybe One CM. So she talks with that immovable jaw manner many people have but when she sings her voice transforms into this very open and warm hearth that just brings everyone in. But that was the charm of these performances. They weren't flashy or loud just simple and honest and some times that's all you need.
Well, that and the terror of the huge flying roach behind janna slowly climbing the mast of the iron ship behind her. This is Houston after all.
After the show, various people went to Rudyard's Pub. I Got pissed, played darts, and ate nachos - all in all good fun. But near the end of the night, I got accosted by an ex-Sprawl member about having made fun of Sprawl like what 10 - 15 years ago. He wasn't being mean or anything but it was one of those no-escape conversations. Two things on this - first, my opinion isn't that important and two, I know all the words to "big ass jewel". Now can we move on, I was busy getting sauced! What Last Call? Damn!!!
Photo: Ms Rosa
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Thanks to everyone who came out. We had a great time and hopefully you did too.
Fatigue- the order of the day
Work, childcare, and heavy equipment is a recipe for exhaustion and, for me, the idea of quietly siting in a corner with my Herman Melville novel and maybe take a nap sounded like nirvana. Perhaps I wasn't feeling very social because of this. Normally, I jump at the chance to help the other band haul their equipment up the stairs but this time I just didn't have the energy. Luckily Steve talked me into having a Rudzburger and that got me back on my feet.
Scott Telles and Justin Banks are old friends from ST37 and Winslow so when we heard they wanted to play a show with us we were pretty psyched. For such a short sound-check and exhaustive amount of gear [the guitarist alone had to have over 15 pedals at his disposal], they sounded amazing! Kudos Joel O.! The drummer had the most basic drum kit (snare, kick, high hat, maybe one cymbal) but it sounded gorgeous. But enough about sound, the performance was stellar and while you can hear samples on http://www.myspace.com/americanvodka , the performance leaves the myspace recordings in the dust. Seriously, see them live for the full effect.
We played material not on the set list (based on repeated calls from the audience), played longer than the amount of 16mm films we brought, and pulled off a song we only finished arranging 2 days before perfectly. I really can't complain. I was even told that we didn't play so loud that we sounded like crap ( a common linus problem). Personally, if people hate the music because they think our songs suck, that's ok by me. On the other hand, if we play like shit and the songs don't have a chance, then I take issue with our performance. Beyond that it's all up to the audience to decide.
Melville, Brad Pitt, and the geek experiment
I know what you are thinking, Melville is so rock and roll! American Renaissance literature - boo-yaa! Actually there is one thing that we can never hide and that is that the LP4 are, at heart, geeks. Funny enough, I was being mocked (hilariously so) about my book as I sat in the merch table. Then Scott Telles came and commented that it was funny I was reading Melville as their song "Nantucket" was about Whaling Vessels. Is it any wonder why neither band has groupies? Let's face it, playing rock and roll has never gotten anyone I know laid. But then again if Brad Pitt were to go on about Jandek, Philip K. Dick and Spinoza in one breath, I'm sure he'd be in the same spot we are in. Hell, let's test this hypothesis. Brad, you now have an open invitation to join the LP4. I suspect that the second he joins the band, Mr. Pitt will be as unappealing as Steve Urkel.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Zakir Hussain has performed a lot on the world music circuit, and I have always been a hard skeptic about this kind of stuff because I associate it with bad car commercials where some land-crushing SUV is driving in the Sahara somewhere, while legions of dusty, ethnic looking people look on, and in the background is some nauseatingly sanitized yet lilting African folk song that apparently is supposed to make you feel connected with the rest of humanity even though you are sealed away in an air-conditioned bubble going 80 mph. I always imagine the lilting lyrics being translated as, "Yes, Yankee, today you drive your luxury vehicle, but some day we will cut your liver out and feed it to our hogs". I also tend to associate world music with whiny, do-gooder musician/celebs who decide suddenly that swilling whiskey and screwing hot women isn't good enough for them, and they decide to go ethnic and go find some rastafarian losers to jam with. Or some hairy-legged, pot-smoking college chick who is always crying about American imperialism and how she would go right now to Guatemala and live in the rain forest and help the indigenous peoples grow bean sprouts or whatever the fuck they grow there, except that she is getting over this really bad rash from using non-organic body lotion and besides, she has to, like, pay off her student loans, but she is going to work for a marketing company that, like, pays part of its profits to fund legal counsel for displaced Aborigines and stuff and they have these really cool commercials with African music in them.
Despite all these preconceived notions, I was not too cynical to truly enjoy this show on many levels - the sound textures, the dramatic quality, the amazing technical artistry, the composition, and the fact that despite being a crypto-imperialist xenophobe, I really, really dig Indian music. For his last number, Hussain went on an incredible tear on the tabla - my worries that his concentration on his film scores would cheat me out of a divine tabla performance were completely unfounded. Like many virtuoso players, you watch and keep saying, over and over, "how the fuck did he do that?" just like John Fahey allegedly said after listening to a cassette of Leo Kottke for the first time. Sometimes, in other words, the virtuosity can become a distraction from the music itself. Fortunately Hussain is very versatile and his forays into other music traditions have helped to keep him from being only a great tabla player. His singing was probably not that great technically, but it didn't matter because he had the feel right. I really got the feeling these guys were sitting in my living room jamming, and that is always a great thing. Sultan Khan, on the other hand, had a tremendously powerful voice - I know it's hard to imagine a diminutive, elderly Indian man sitting on the ground shaking the rafters, but he sure as hell did. It made me call to mind the time I saw Albert Collins at Antones in Austin, many years ago. Well, Albert Collins was absolutely fantastic. But up on the stage with him was another old guy whose main job appeared to be to hold Albert's guitar cord when he went into the audience. He was wearing a black suit, and his eyes looked like he had pulled them out, rolled them in sandpaper and Jim Beam, and put them back in his head. Apparently his name was Elroy (I'm not making this up) and finally Albert brought him to the front of the stage and gestured to him to sing. Elroy looked like he was going to sing, started toward the mic, then turned around and walked off in disgust. He repeated this a few times before he finally relented- and then blasted out the most mind-blowing, soul-splitting, howl of musical rage I have ever witnessed in my life. For the rest of the number, my jaw was hanging slack, my eyes were bugging out, and I realized that I was only a few feet away from supermen - men who were not from this planet, men who by their very existence defied the laws of the universe. I felt a little bit of that same feeling of awe and reverence for Sultan Khan. But everyone in Hussain's ensemble was extraordinarily talented. They demonstrated extraordinary ability to improvise off of film score compositions that one would have expected to have been possible only as set pieces done by much larger orchestras, or created in the studio. By doing this they proved to me the incredible value of live performance even in a period when music is dominated by technology.
The show also woke me up to the reality that even though popular music in this country may be at an all-time low right now, there is still a rapid pace of innovation in other less visible musical genres. They may not be household names in America, but who the fuck cares? They sure as hell don't, because they have their music. Kudos to the Indo-American Association for bringing some real art to this city.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
As much as it’s easy to conclude that everything out there is either worthless packaged angst (see any Clear Channel modern rock station) or derivative (see any band resurrecting Gang of Four and Joy Division), there are some bands that really make you acknowledge that rock isn’t quite dead yet. I give you Rilo Kiley as a worthy example.
The new album “More Adventurous” while generally flirting with its influences (“It’s a Hit” hinting at the Smiths and “Love and War” nodding to Pat Benetar[!!]), it is rarely overtaken by them. Jenny Lewis’ vocals are wrapped in a work that while gorgeously produced is never so overwrought in its production to bury the song writing or the musicianship. Since downloading the album, it’s been virtually spinning on my I-tunes almost non stop so when I and Rosa went to see the show my expectations were pretty high and my expectations were easily exceeded.
Lewis and guitarist Blake Sennett are obviously the creative forces behind the band and both held the audience not through theatrics or posturing but simply through a command of their work and graciousness of character. Lewis particularly seemed to leave nobody unimpressed by playing just about every instrument on stage throughout the show. The other character that everyone seemed enamored with had to be the Bob Ross look-alike trumpet player. He seemed so ecstatic to be on stage with his big bobbing hair that you couldn’t help being just as excited. While it sounds goofy to have one person on tour play horn on only a few songs, it really did make a difference on the songs in which he did perform.
Solid musicianship, great songwriting, and some props to the sound guys at Numbers, leave no doubt that if you missed RK this weekend, you missed one of the best shows to come to town this year.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Pretty frikkin Brilliant!
Should you happen to play this game and beat all your foes, I will simply tell you there is a pretty clever ending to the game centered around how you approach the princess: I will say no more.
Karateka is a classic if you lived at a time when not only did people actually use floppies but 1) the disks actually were floppy and 2) they measured 5.25 inches.
Yea baby! Look at it! That's 360KB of data we're talking about!!
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Well, the LP4 has been known to cover James Kochalka live so when, lo and behold, KTRU and Bedrock City Comics (my favorite comicbook shop in
James Kochalka Superstar rocked and the sound was actually great this year. Orion, my 3 year old son, was pretty excited about the show as “Hockey Monkey” is currently his favorite song and James Kochalka told him he would be playing the song after signing my book to him. Unfortunately, nap time came about the time as the show and - drunk from a full bottle of milk - Orion’s enthusiasm was muted to a quiet request of “Again?” “Again. Again.” after his song was played.
As for me, I was pretty amused. The band was much better than I’m sure they are given credit. Jason, with whom I spoke after the show, says he normally plays bass in an Zeppelin-AC/DC cover band and, somehow, that made sense. Kochalka's performance consisted of kicking and posing like a mutant Freddie Mercury or Robert Plant cartoon avatar while singing songs about Monkeys, Robots, Justin Timberlake, and his dink - just the kind of thing you need for a Sunday afternoon. The band put on a great show but had this been in a club I'm sure the intimacy would definitely made them more impressive.
J.K. Superstar was pretty fun stuff and it reminds you how just being silly can be genius. The sad thing is that Kochalka, with his sense of humor and cartoonist background, probably gets a lot less props than he deserves for his music. I tell you right now the first time I heard “Monkey vs. Robot” my brain screeched to a halt as it tried to make sense of something so novel and mind blowing! It's good stuff and that's good for you!
Charlie, unfortunately, got my e-mail a bit late and missed Kochalka. The bummer he wasn't the only one and the early time seems to have brought J.K. Superstar a smaller audience than they deserved but Jason told me they all have day jobs and would have to return to the Northeast in time to get to work on Monday. [WOW! The LP4 is not alone in the working-stiff band category!]
Charlie may have missed JK Superstar but was just in time to catch the awful band from hell that followed. I guess this was some music professor with his students playing bad jazz/muzak versions of jazz and pop standards. Gawd awful! Most in the crowd were (at best) indifferent or (more often than not) stunned that this band was actually playing in public. Orion and I just ended up going off to play in the fountains nearby during the set but by the time the third band started, Orion was too beat from running around campus with me. So, that was it for us at this year's KTRU outdoor show.
–Over and out. I’ve included photos taken by Orion for your amusement.
P.S. If you want to check out Kochalka you can go to Http://www.americanelf.com though at this posting their server is down.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Room 710 seemed like a nice enough club and the stage manager was really on top of things which was nice. The bands piled their equipment in what seemed like an infinitesimally small corner but surprisingly it all seemed to fit.
I missed most of Hobble (the opening band) but the next band, Baboon, seemed to have a large enough following - maybe filling 80% of the main floor. Perhaps they were going for some inept attempt at irony but I can honestly say that it was easily the worst band I have seen in a long time. I mean what the fuck! The singer turns his back to the audience and raises his fist ala Freddie Mercury – not a good sign. Freddie could get away with it – not Baboon's singer (who I think was Huey Lewis!) Ya ever see one of those 50’s teen horror movies and there is a party scene where there is a generic “rock” band playing in the background? Ok! This was that band but updated about 30 to 40 years. Horribly contemptible stuff that made me actually hate everything about music for the 4 songs I heard.
Mercifully I had some foresight to leave during this time (unfortunately not enough to remember that American Vodka was playing at the same time at the Ritz). My salvation though came in the form of Juanita Family And Friends - a folksy
When I returned Fantasy’s Core was setting up. Go (one of the guitarists) needed an amp as he blew his out the previous night and I was more than honored to let him use mine. We had actually met FC briefly yesterday at the KPFT live broadcast in
For better or worse we were up next. My worry was whether or not a crowd rocking out to 60’s manic garage rock would be interested in our everything-in-the-pot psych. The answer was a resounding “Hell No!” Half left before we started and the other half left quickly after. This was fine and dandy by us as, like last year, we thought we’d pick up an audience of passers by …. or not! It turns out that this corner of the festival isn’t exactly a place for people randomly walking in. If you are going to go off of
Things that went right: The 16mm film projector (despite a loose belt) worked beautifully and the timing on the films was perfect. Everyone hit the songs perfectly. A good stage manager this year kept things moving smoothly and was really accommodating to our needs. So performance wise – no complaints.
Things that could have gone better and you the reader can learn from:
1) I can’t confirm it but
Lesson (if true): never let the pressure of the schedule overtake your instinct to tune. If it’s not in tune, no matter how well you play, it’s gonna suck.
2) Nobody told us the class-monitor poster-Nazis were gone from
Lesson: Always flyer and fuck the man! If the man is in force and he takes it down, came back and put it right back up!
3) Sound was supposedly awful. Last year we had a less than spectacular stage manager and a great soundman. This time just the opposite was true. Supposedly we sounded like crap and no amount of great performing is going to override that. If the sound was as bad as I was told then this brings up a big thing for Clubs who are participating at SXSW - give the band a real sound check guys. What is the point of rushing bands through if they sound like crap?
Lesson: Force the soundman to give you a real sound-check! Better to play a good sounding 35 minute set than a crappy sounding 40 minute set.
Bonus Points: This guy actually placed a sm-57 right up to my exposed speaker. To nobody’s surprise after the change between Fantasy’s Core and ourselves, someone bumped the mike and it tore into my speakercone. Brilliant!
Well, despite those two or three problems we played well and you can only control what is in your sphere of influence. If we played well, did our bit, and only a few people liked it then so be it – it was worth all the work, fatigue and damage to our personal finances. That’s the beauty of SXSW. On some level you always feel like it’s this big beast that exploits you to some degree – you just can’t help thinking that on some level. But despite that undertow, you can’t help but appreciate the camaraderie of the whole endeavor. The musicians are busting their ass, not for that “big break” that is never going to happen at these conferences but for the sake of having their music reach a few more people and to meet some like-minded musicians and listeners. It’s just a way to remind you that you are just an insignificant small fish in a big school but there are a lot of other fish just like you that do it despite the futility simply because, as musicians, you are simply compelled to do so.