Just a quick note, just in case anyone who will read this today hasn't figured it out: the show today (2/29) is in Birmingham at Cave 9. (The Anniston club has closed down. Some listings, including mine-- sorry!-- never were updated.) See you there.
This guy managed to track down the original soap ad (from a c. 1971 Look magazine) that we swiped for the cover of the album Love is Dead. The last thing I ever expected to see. Kinda cool.
We shouldn't have tried to drive to Greensboro last night, but it was only snowing lightly in Carborro, NC, and getting a jump start on the next day's drive is always nice when you can swing it. But we weren't too far down the road when the snow started coming down pretty hard. People at the club had said that everyone over-reacts to snow in North Carolina, and that we should probably be OK. We hadn't planned to go too far, but we soon found ourselves driving blind in the middle of a blizzard. The only way we could tell where we were in the lane was by watching the mailboxes to the right.
I had dozed off in the back of the van. I woke up suddenly when we hit some ice, swerved violently, slid for a while, spun out and finally careened off the road. Time slowed down, as it does in such situations. And as so often in such situations, I was surprised to discover myself contemplating the prospect that these could be my final moments with an oddly acquiescent detachment. So this is how it ends, is it? How interesting.
This easily could have turned into one of those "they all died in a tragic van crash" stories. We could have flipped over. We could have hit something. We could have been hit. In the end, however, the van barreled up an upgrade, almost crashing into a parked, snow-covered car. We just missed it. Then we rolled back into a deep ditch.
We weren't dead, but we were stuck.
The back end of the van was buried in a snow drift. The snow was coming down harder than ever. We tried everything we could think of, but there was no traction and we couldn't move. None of our roadside assistance plans would send anyone out. They called 911 for us, and said the highway patrol would be there in "eight hours or less."
While we were wracking our brains trying to think if there was any trick we hadn't tried yet, a big, souped-up 4x4 pickup pulled up on the road behind us. The guy stepped out and gestured at our van with his half-empty bottle of Bud Light.
"Looks like you boys are in some trouble. I got a line, and I could pull you right out there, no problem."
We looked at him dubiously. It seemed unlikely. Our van is really big and really, really heavy when loaded up, and it was stuck between two steep slopes.
"What I'm asking is," he continued, "how much is it worth to you?"
We didn't know what to say, and just stared at him dumbly through the near-opaque curtain of falling snow. He ran a finger down his mustache, first on the left side, then on the right.
"I couldn't do it," he said carefully, "for less than..." He paused and eyed us challengingly. "...fifty bucks."
Hah. That wasn't what I'd expected him to say. I had been anticipating something along the lines of "how much you got?"
We didn't have any other options. "Dude, if you can pull us out for fifty dollars, you've got a deal."
We heard a loud "hooie!" sound, and another guy stumbled from the truck, Coors Light in hand.
"Don't worry, boys. We'll pull that sumbitch out there right quick."
What followed was pretty hilarious if you took the right attitude. (Which isn't easy when you're standing in a blizzard freezing in your Converse All-Stars at 1 am in the middle of nowhere, but still...)
The sumbitch, as we had surmised, wasn't going to budge easily. And our fate was in the hands of two enterprising, drunken yokels who seemed inordinately excited to be offered $50 for rolling around in the snow and mud, tripping all over each other and slipping and sliding every which way in an elaborate Petticoat Junction slapstick routine. And that was just when they were trying to attach the hook and line to their own truck. It didn't look too promising.
In fact, the first attempt to tow the van up the hill was worse than a failure. Bud Light's pickup ended up getting stuck too, wheels spinning, right alongside our van. From within, we heard Bud Light's voice saying over and over: "God dammit! God dammit!" Coors Light stood by laughing like a maniac. We tried pushing the truck from behind while he gunned it. (I considered asking the guy how much that was worth to him, but thought better of the idea.) No luck. Now we were both stuck.
The silence of the night was broken only by a regular cry of "God dammit!" Like the call of a distant, anguished bird. God dammit! God dammit!
Another truck pulled up, and yet another guy stumbled out, beer in hand. He called out to Bud Light, one drunken good samaritan to another:
"You need me to pull you out? I got a line, I can pull that sumbitch right outta there..."
At this rate, we were going to end up with several sumbitches stuck in the same ditch side by side, everybody owing each other fifty bucks.
Eventually, though, after about thirty minutes of spinning and pushing and rocking, he managed to get his sumbitch out of the ditch.
At this point it was plainly no longer about the $50. Bud Light was proud of his truck and he just wanted to prove he could do it. Plan B was to try to pull it out from behind. Again, it seemed unlikely. It looked like all that would happen was that the back end of the van would get pulled deeper into the snow drift. Coors Light wasn't too worried about that, though. He rolled in the mud and snow underneath the van's back end, trying to attach the hook and line to the body of the van, as he couldn't reach the axle, squirming and grunting, pausing only to utter the obligatory "God dammit" at regular intervals. The whole apparatus slipped off around 10 times. He tripped and rolled down the slope himself a few times. At one point, Bud Light came within inches of backing up over Coors Light's whoopin', guffawing, snow- and mud-covered head. God dammit!
To everyone's amazement, though, eventually it worked. Bud Light's pickup groaned and stuttered and finally pulled that sumbitch right back on to the road, just as promised. After a brief, exuberant hollering session, they agreed to guide us back to the main road. We followed, going slow, and eventually ended up in the parking lot of a little roadside bar. Roadhouse 54. 5.4 miles from the highway, they said.
"You boys look like you could use a beer."
Well, maybe so, but what we really wanted was information about where we could find the nearest motel we could reach by a relatively non-treacherous road. "Come on in, we'll talk about it." Hmm. With some trepidation we followed Coors Light and Bud Light into the bar. The locals gave us a rundown of the local motels, ranked by the number of bugs we were likely to encounter in each of them. (The word "bugs" was always illustrated by a firm slap on the bar, followed by a scraping of the palm on the edge: the universal sign of squashing bugs with your bare hands.) We paid Bud Light his well-earned $50. We had had our suspicions about him, but he turned out to be a pretty good guy, and we were lucky he came along. If it hadn't been for him, we might still have been there, trying to dig the sumbitch out. An older, wild eyed guy at the bar was talking to us pleasantly, though I couldn't make out a word he said. It sounded like he was making jokes and laughing at them. We tried to look neutral, but mildly amused here and there, hoping it would all match up. We must have hit it pretty close, because he stayed happy, all smiles. He finally left with a sixpack to go, just like in the song.
All the people at the bar were very friendly, though it was kind of a weird scene. Good, old, kind of crazy southern hospitality, I guess. As we were leaving, I glanced up at an enlarged xerox copy of a cartoon that had been posted on the bulletin board. "Did you hear about the Chinese couple that had the black baby? They named him SUM THIN WONG." I couldn't help wondering which of these nice folks had found it charming enough to think it would be neat idea to post it publicly so that everyone could enjoy it. Culture clash. Weirdness. A land of many contrasts. Nice people with their disturbing cartoons. I don't get it, can't get my mind around it, but then, I'm from California. It's a different world.
We bade farewell to Bud Light, Coors Light and the entire Roadhouse 54 gang. The bar girl called out: "I surely do hope we meet again under more favorable circumstances." Right back at ya, babe. And I even almost kind of meant it, too, somehow.
The surreal epilogue: as we were stumbling toward the van at 3 am, still a bit dazed and overwhelmed by the experience, not quite having our bearings yet, my cell phone rang. It was a phone interview that had been set up earlier, with a commercial radio station in Houston on a late night show. I had forgotten all about it in the excitement. The DJ was a really nice guy, eager to help us promote our show at Fitzgerald's. I did the interview in a daze. I hardly remember what I said. He played several songs, including, to my surprise, "Tomorrow is a Harsh Mistress." I stood there in the falling snow, hearing the bridge blasting from my cell phone's tiny speaker. "With each passing day, a world destroyed..." Boy, oh boy.
And so we survived North Carolina and our own foolhardiness to live long enough to play another little show at another little club in another little place in the middle of another great big nowhere. Myrtle Beach, SC, that is. Chances are, it won't be that great of a show. (And it wasn't--ed.) But I don't care. I'm just glad to be alive. (Yeah, it sounds weird to hear myself say it, too.) As for the van, we're going to be a bit more careful with that sumbitch in the future, I can tell you that.
Favorite moment from our show in Brooklyn the other day: during the second encore, when I played a solo version of "I Believe in You" and looked into the crowd and saw several couples making out while they were swaying and singing along. It was like when the band plays "Freebird" at a high school dance. I'm a sentimental fool, I know that. But it was pretty great.
The last days have been thoroughly crazy. Crazy drives, crazy shows, crazy Keystone Kops routines courtesy of me and my entourage. I met the Blog of the Hurricane guy in Detroit. Cleveland rocked, just like the re-tooled song says. Rochester, NY last night was a weird scene, man. It rocked too, though. The show was recorded for broadcast by Universal Buzz, but I don't have any idea whether it was simulcast, or whether the broadcast is yet to come. I'm in a fog out here, pretty much. But being in a rock and roll band is great fun, fog notwithstanding. I'm having a blast.
However, I think I'm feeling the early tremors of an impending major sore throat/flu situation going on here. The cold medicine is making me way more spacy than usual. And the terror of succumbing to illness and losing my voice entirely. Never forget the terror. (I haven't tried to speak above a whisper yet today. I plan to try for the first time around noon. I'm not entirely sure what will happen. Brace yourselves, and wish me luck.)
If all goes according to plan, I should be playing a few acoustic songs live on WFNX radio in Boston before the show tonight. Around 7pm, God willing. As I said, I think I may be coming down with some kind of cold, though, so if I sound like an autistic chimp on the air, that will be part of the reason.
The Onion was going to do this one, but real life beat them to it.
(Thanks for sending the link, Jill.)
There's much to criticize about my whole deal, I know that, but I honestly can't ever recall having been slagged for "lame lyrics." Until now.
Here's another take.
The Alcatraz Wars (1999 - c. 2002) have long since settled into an uneasy truce, with both sides more or less agreeing to disagree and to try to get along together as best they can. It's an intractable problem, but in the end most people reached the conclusion that there are more important things to worry about in this sad, short life, and it's hard to disagree with them.
So it's ancient history, but the debate has arisen again in the comments to the last few items. The defeated Alcatraz partisans are no doubt over-represented among my readers; or they're polite enough not to mention their anti-Alcatraz philosophy in mixed company. Anyway, here's an elaborate apologia from one of the partisans, from one of the MTX message boards. I'm sure one of the Alcatraz Sucks Brigade folks could make an equally convincing case to the contrary. The market has rendered a verdict, but History has not.
Ben wrote a sweet little post about the other night in Chicago. I love the final question in the penultimate paragraph. Maybe we should put it on a Tshirt or something.
Ben has a lot of complimentary things to say about the current line-up, and I just have to say I second that emotion. I'm the same way. I marvel that these guys can manage to play stuff live that I could only do expensively, in a studio, with a thousand retakes and punch-ins, and make it sound so natural and real. What I'm saying is, I'm a fan, too, and quite a reverent one. Having the suddenly smokin' band is one of the things that makes it so much fun to play these days.
Speaking of which, Ted Angel was in the men's room of the Fireside and heard some kids standing around talking about the MTX. They were saying, "they really should get Joel back in the band, it's just not the same without him, the new guy isn't as good," etc. Of course, they had no idea that Ted was a "new guy" himself. Ted called over: "you know I think you're wrong, actually. Have you seen the new guy? He's really great. I think it's the best line-up ever." Later, when I was doing my solo-acoustic mini-set, they saw him in the bar and were all apologies. I thought that was pretty funny. (I've been in situations like that before, where kids say funny things to me or within earshot, without realizing who I am. Once when I was arranging the merch., holding a copy of Alcatraz or something, someone warned me not to buy it: "don't get that one, it totally sucks." All you can say in situations like that is, "thanks for the tip." Actually, to adapt a catchphrase, I've been told Alcatraz sucks for so long it sounds like up to me.)
We had a couple of good nights Monday and Tuesday.
Monday was Minneapolis. A great city, if also a frozen, virtually uninhabitable wasteland. We stepped out of the van. Then we stepped right back in, thinking that wasn't such a swell idea. Eventually, the locals were able to coax us out. They said, as people in extreme climates always say to people who are unsure whether they should have stepped out their vans: "oh, this is nice. You should have been here yesterday."
Still, we managed to make it into the Triple Rock Social Club eventually, and from that point forward it was pure, if slightly out of control, fun. In nearly twenty years of playing shows in various cities here and there, I've never come across a club that is so well-designed, so well-run and so thoroughly oriented to the needs of touring bands. (It's run by some Dillinger 4 guys, and they obviously have applied their experience-- they really know what they're doing.)
Despite the fact that it was a 21+ show on a Monday night, there was a big crowd of extremely enthusiastic punters. I think it may have been the drunkest audience we have ever tried to entertain (and I'm even including Oslo 2001 in that assessment.) People were falling down and remaining on the floor, smiling and continuing their conversations, clearly not having realized that they were no longer upright. It was one of those nights. Luckily, the Minneapolis drunk is not a belligerent drunk. Or they put their belligerence aside temporarily for the occasion. Either way, there was a lot of warmth and goodwill radiating from floor to stage. It sounds corny, but after a lifetime of being received more often than not with stony indifference, you really notice stuff like that. Your lower lip starts to tremble. You start slapping people on the back and saying stuff like "I love you, man." ("Woman." "Sorry, woman.") Life feels ever so slightly less unbearable.
As with all of the most intense MTX shows, we played till we disintegrated. The last couple of encores may have been ill-advised. I had lost the ability to tune my guitar properly, or it had lost the capacity to be tuned, and I'm sure the resulting noise was bloody awful. But I'm also fairly certain that very few of the Minneapolitans were in any kind of condition to notice.
I finally got to meet frequent commenter and blogger Lynn after only knowing her in text form. She took a ten hour bus ride from Winnipeg, bless her heart. I think she may have been right that she was the only correctional officer in attendance. If there are any other correctional officers among the short legion of MTX fans, I've never heard from 'em, I can tell you that.
I came out of Minneapolis thinking that they had cornered the market on warmth and goodwill, but I must have been wrong, because there was a great deal of w. and g. the next night in Chicago. The camaraderie was so thick on the ground that you practically had to kick it out of the way to get to the bar. Partly that was because a lot of our friends were there. I hadn't had the chance to talk to Ben, Vapid, John, Mass, Randy, Ethan, Phillip, Rachel, et al. in quite some time. It's times like that I almost imagine I might like to try having a social life of my own back home. I'm not sure I'll ever go that far, but it's nice to step into one from time to time.
Allyson, a regular commenter here, was also in attendance. Also: Jackie, a girl who seven years ago at one of those Reel Big Fish shows had made a big impression by weeping continually for several hours, from doors to close; she's older now, and has that composure thing down. In fact, I don't think she wept at all. They grow up so fast.
As some of you may have heard, Screeching Weasel played a short, unannounced set using Even in Blackouts's gear. It was a really great set, and it was clear everyone was having a great time playing, which was nice to see. My buddy Ben, too. I mean it. The crowd went nuts, and just kept on going nuts till it was all over.
Really, it's shows like that can make you feel like reassessing your previously-reached conclusion that you have totally wasted your life on this rock and roll thing. After the show, I told Ben I had to drop the customary cynicism for just a moment to say: "man, this was a great, great night." I can't tell you how many times I have had the occasion to utter those words sarcastically over these long years, but this time it really and truly was.
Alternative Press has a couple of recommendations concerning Yesterday Rules. The first is for you: buy it used. The second is for me: take some Ritalin. (I get credit for my sonic adventurishness, but it seems as though they'd prefer a bit less of it in the future. I think the lithium is supposed to take care of that, but if Ritalin will help take the edge off the material maybe I should give it a shot.)
Other random notes from Iowa: a guy at Iowa State University asked for my endorsement for his candidacy for student body president. I didn't really have a chance to check out his positions on the issues, or even to learn what the issues might have been, but he had bought a tshirt, so he seemed like an all right guy. That was good enough for me. I can't remember his name, but my endorsement still stands (and this might as well stand as an endorsement of any candidate for anything): vote for the guy in the MTX shirt. Do it for planet Earth and the little children; do it for peace and humanity; and do it for the United States of America.
There was some crazy partying in the university/venue hotel after that show, including a soon-to-be notorious, outrageous, bizarre, pretty gross incident that I may be able to bring myself to write about one of these days, if I can figure out a way to do it relatively tastefully. That's quite doubtful, in fact, but stay tuned just in case.
And a guy from the band the Young Hasselhoffs handed me a fantastic home-recorded take on "She Runs out when the Money Does" (my words, his music and arrangement) that has to be heard to be believed. It's exactly how I might have fantasized about doing it if I had intended it as an MTX-y Raspberries-ish power-pop tune. (The "real" one isn't at all like that, but maybe it should have been.) I'm going to post it (along with a couple of others) soon.
We still have a small backlog of MTX cover songs that people have sent in. Eventually, we'll get them all up on the site. (We just got a "We are the Future People of Tomorrow" from a guy in Germany-- I haven't heard it yet, as I'm waiting for a fast connection to download.)
If you drive a van with California license plates through the midwest or the south, you just have to get used to being pulled over repeatedly by curious cops who just want to get a look inside. Sometimes they're upfront about it: "hey boys-- just wanted to check out the freak show! You drive careful now." Other times they have an unconvincing warning to convey ("you're signaling too early when you change lanes..." and the like.) Sometimes they really think they're going to "find something" when they look inside. They can't quite believe that a California van full of relatively young-looking dudes would not also contain some reason to arrest somebody. When they don't find anything, it makes them mad, and the whole process can delay your trip to the gig, sometimes for hours, but what are you gonna do? That's the system we've got out here in this great country of ours.
In the comments to this post, former MTX bassist Aaron tells the story of the first time we ever encountered it, in rural Missouri. I still can't quite decide how much of those cops' cartoon hick act was genuine and how much of it was put on for their own amusement. I'm used to that sort of thing now, but at the time it was pretty alarming, which, I guess, might have been the intention. They have to have known that each one of us was thinking "Deliverance" as soon as we heard them they say "you boys ain't from round here..." Why wouldn't they use it? To rattle us, I mean. (I know from various southerners I've known that they're not above going all Petticoat Junction on you when the need arises, and they can switch it on and off at will. And they do like to try to mess with you when you're an outsider, especially if you're from California, just to see how you'll react.)
For some reason, the most vivid memory I have of that particular incident is how one of the cops inspected my passport (which was my only valid ID at the time-- another bad idea when traveling through the nation's various god-forsaken hell holes). He affected an attitude of elaborately-staged puzzlement, as though he'd never seen anything like it before in all his born days, turning it over and over, paging through it, holding it up to the light, even, I fancy, putting it to his ear and shaking it. He was faking it, I'm almost sure. After quite a stretch of this charade, if it was a charade, he handed it back to me and said "Paris, France! Must be nice..." Oh, and another vivid memory: one of them pointing to our drummer Alex's ear-ring and saying "now I understand that means something. Now which is it, the left one or the right one they all have out there in Frisco?"
Aaron doesn't remember the denouement, but I do. They unscrewed and pulled back some of the van's interior panels to see if we had hidden anything there, and in the end confiscated a couple of porno magazines that had been in the back seat. They told us to drive careful. The whole thing took about 2 1/2 hours.
Anyway, since reaching Kansas, we've been stopped numerous times, though nowhere near as elaborately. But it's early days yet, and we are going through Alabama.
Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.
"We try to hire the best, smartest people available," Brandon said of his philosophy hires. "If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire.
Mill's analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia. Players in the NBA tend to be taller than average. There is a good reason for this. Members of academia tend to be a bit smarter than average. There is a good reason for this too."
What's this guy doing teaching philosophy?
We've got a day off to drive from Seattle to Denver. I have nothing to say about it, but I wanted to mention that the address I had listed for the Climax Lounge (at the "shows" link) is incorrect: it's at 2217 Welton Street. I've updated it now.
See you there. If you come, I mean. If not, well, obviously, we'll have to see you some other time. You know what I'm getting at.
How many times have I read The Inimitable Jeeves? A conservative estimate would be around thirty or forty times. That's the great thing about P.G. Wodehouse: you can read the entire book from page one to the end, then immediately re-open the book and begin from page one and read the whole thing again with every bit as much enjoyment. They're great books to have on tour for that reason, though not only for that particular reason, of course.
Anyway, there's this passage that I've read and noted and smiled at many times before, but it wasn't till just now that it hit me quite how hilarious it is.
Bingo Little's uncle, lunching with Bertie and under the impression that he is the pseudonymous author of the Rosie M. Banks novels about class barrier-breaking romances, has been talking about his excellent, irreplaceable cook.
"For seven years I have lived in constant apprehension lest some evilly-disposed person might lure her from my employment. To my certain knowledge she has received offers, lucrative offers, to accept service elsewhere. You may judge of my dismay, Mr Wooster, when only this morning the bolt fell. She gave notice!"
"Your consternation does credit, if I may say so, to the heart of the author of A Red, Red, Summer Rose. But I am thankful to say the worst has not happened. The matter has been adjusted. Jane is not leaving me."
"Good egg, indeed-- though the expression is not familiar to me."
I couldn't help it. I started giggling, then chuckling, then trembling so violently that I shook the van. My band already thinks I'm a little weird, and this did nothing to help matters. It's not easy to explain. You just have to read it. It's a great, great, egg.
The gods seem to have decided to do what they can to make each MTX show as "intimate" as possible. I don't know why. But they're up there on that big mountain, playing an insane game of chess upon a diorama of the western United States, moving a tiny little blue van here, a venue there, interfering with the weather and so forth. Hera's mad at Zeus again. Well, can you blame her? Still, why take it out on us? No one knows why. They can do whatever they want.
In Sacramento, lingering Great White-related paranoia has resulted in the strictest venue-capacity rules in the country. Even though we've had well over three hundred kids in there before, the official capacity of the Capitol Garage, in the post-Great White era, is 149. And they have to include all the band members, bar staff, guests, and girlfriends in that number. The result was that after a hundred and one paid admissions, it was "sold out." It was heart-breaking to see them turning away the disappointed kids from a half-empty venue, but that's the law, baby.
(Sacramento may be the capital city of the most important state in the Union, but it still has a cozy, Anytown, USA feeling to it. That's one of the things I love about it. It's like Grover's Corners with more believable scenery. When they were talking about the capacity situation, someone said "the Fire Marshall might be coming round tonight." As a joke I said, "oh yeah? What's his name?" And, with no trace of humor, someone said "it's Bob, right?" And then from somewhere in the background a voice said "yeah, that's right: Bob." In the event, Firemarshall Bob didn't show up. Anytown, USA. Or the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Or maybe both.)
In Portland, the gods decided to play a game of Hide the Venue. The address we had was wrong; the phone number was "not accepting calls at this time." We drove around looking for a scuzzy warehouse with a bunch of kids standing outside, our usual method in these situations. No luck. (Don't get me wrong: south east Portland is very well stocked with scuzzy warehouses. No kids though.) We stopped in a couple of Tattoo parlors to see if anybody knew where the Meow Meow was, and nobody did.
One of the alt weeklies had a Meow Meow ad with the wrong address. The other one had an ad with no address. It was starting to look like even if there was a show, we wouldn't find it in time.
We found a hot spot and I checked my blog. Nate Schmoe had left a comment with the new address. We drove there, but still couldn't find it. I phoned Michael Totten (whom, by the way, I'd never met before-- we had a nice little talk about music, politics and internet dating after things settled down a bit.)
Michael said he had seen the Butthole Surfers in a space in that area a few years ago, and if it was the same place, it's off the road a little bit; he recommended getting out and walking around to check it out. That seemed a bit, well, Judgment Night, but OK, we were game. Result: still no scuzzy warehouse with kids in it. So Ted called Bobby Manic from Sacramento; Bobby M. had Nate's number. We called Nate, and he directed us to the unmarked, closely-guarded, secret location. Take that, Hera!
So in the end we found it. And I'm totally impressed with the investigative powers and tracking skills of the 50-80 other people who managed to find it, too. It's like a gimmick that they might have had on that VH1 show, Bands on the Run: OK, bands, listen up. There's a gig in Portland tonight. But here's the catch: we're not going to tell you or anyone else where it is. Your job is to find the venue and try to promote the show and pull in a crowd anyway. The winner will get one hundred dollars and a chance to enter the semi-finals.
We went around looking for confused kids stumbling around looking for the gig, and even found a few. And we put up a sign at the old, wrong address. All in all, I think we did pretty well. Better than Harlow, anyway.
I'm starting to understand, just a bit, why people with jobs end up blogging so often. Whether or not you have anything particular to say about whatever may or may not be going on, and whatever job you might have, typing stuff into the little "entry body" box is for some reason far more compelling than any of the stuff you're required to do. Just think how productive our economy might be if all those missing blog-hours were channeled into activities that actually produce something. Stiff penalties for slackers; mandatory ISP monitoring; burden of proof on the accused to demonstrate what they were doing instead. Then we could all get jobs as internet narcs. Wouldn't work? How do you know till you try?
Like right now? What I really should be doing is arranging all these tiny slips of paper into chronological order and sorting them by type, adding them up, subtracting the resulting running total from another sum derived from adding up a different wad of little slips of paper, trying to figure out why the number is so, uh, negative, projecting possible ways to make it end up less negative at some future point, and sobbing helplessly in the corner while my bandmates stand around saying "he's crying again. What the hell is wrong with that guy?"
I'm kidding, really. I haven't reached the sobbing in the corner stage. Give me time, though. My point is, I really should be "doing the accounting" right now. But I'm not.
Yet it should be noted that you can learn how to do your "job" better just by standing around in a crowded nightclub, PBR in hand. That's my preferred method, anyway. The other night in Sacramento, for example, I got some tax advice from a trio of young, fashionably-attired female tax accountants. I'm not even kidding about that; it's really true. Now and then, one or two of them would take a break from their risque girl on girl disco dancing, wander over, and offer me some valuable tax tips. There was even some accountant humor thrown in: did you know that gambling winnings are tax deductible? (pause; then, spiritedly and in unison) but only to offset gambling losses! I'm keeping it in mind.
I don't want the last post to leave the wrong poor impression: I had a great time in Sacramento, despite the feeling of impending vocal doom.
The Helper Monkeys are a great, energetic trashy rock and roll band in the Dictators/Heartbreakers/Pagans mode; I could tell they had some funny lyrics, though I couldn't make too many of them out. Maybe I'm wrong about that 70s-oriented impression. But they were a lot of fun, whatever they might have been going for.
Sacramento local heroes Popgun were awesome as usual. They manage to evoke the spirit of the New Wave, circa 1979-80 (I'm talking Fabulous Poodles-20/20-Cars-Paul Collins Beat here) without sounding derivative or fake. The songs are often Beatles-level catchy, and they're great singers and great musicians, by which I mean primarily that the band always sounds perfect, like a record, even under the least promising technical circumstances. I'm always impressed by that.
The singer has a mustache. That impresses me almost as much as the music. I mean, people in my world don't usually "go there," as they used to say. It's a bold move. I could never pull it off. Yet there's this perverse part of me that dreams of being brave enough to take the mustache plunge. It would only take me about a week to get it going. But something stops me. I know I'd look bad. I know I'd look ridiculous. That's somehow part of the appeal. I know it's wrong. Sometimes you have an urge to do wrong. The wrong is irresistible, even when you lack the courage.
I was talking about it with my friend Roach, whom I hadn't seen in awhile. At first, she was only kind of down on the idea, though in an indulgent, good-natured way.
"But," I said, "just imagine if you had seen me standing over here when you walked in tonight, and I had a big, droopy, Rockford Files villain mustache. Wouldn't that be surprising, and, uh funny?"
She laughed and said "I'd run from the room screaming."
Then she fixed me with a steady look that made it clear that she wasn't kidding in the slightest. She really would run from the room screaming.
After a pause she said, in a solemn voice: "Frank, don't do it. Just don't."
The thing about mustaches as general matter is: grow a mustache, and most women will find it unattractive, distasteful, repulsive. But the few who do dig it are pretty much guaranteed to be the craziest, wildest, freakiest ones. It would be like a kind of girl filter. If you're interested in that type of thing.
Day one went okay, despite the title. The show was pretty fun, if chaotic. We don't have our act together yet with regard to loading, unloading, merchandise, that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, the monitors were quiet, which is a disheartening way to start off a string of 30 + shows. It's not just that you sound a bit more retarded than usual when you can't hear the vocals; it's that your reflex in such a situation is to try to make your voice compensate for the monitors' deficiencies by pumping up your own volume. But no singer can overpower a loud rock band with drums and amps and all by sheer force of will. So you end up screaming, straining your voice, doing damage that will affect all the shows down the road. You're just standing there, realizing that this is happening, powerless to stop it, praying, praying that it doesn't do too much damage. And remembering that one, terrible time in Victoria, BC where you lost your voice entirely and could only whisper for a good week.
Even "good" or strong singers will tell you: your voice may not literally be a finite resource, but it can't regenerate nearly as fast the Bad Monitors demon can damage it. Your voice is like a character in a video game, with a little, green, depleting bar above its adorable little head. Every night like last night knocks a couple of segments from the bar. It will probably be okay if it can avoid a major defeat in the immediate future; that is, enough of it will regenerate to allow it to live to move on to the next level, weakened but still pretty much in the game. But if the following night is a Bad Monitor night as well (which is quite likely) your cute little voice could end up losing it all. Game over again.
Unless I'm rather luckier than usual, there will probably be a good handful of Bad Monitor nights ahead. That's my lot in life. All I can do is humbly ask St. Cecilia (who I believe is the patron saint of hapless low budget touring musicians) for her intercession in this matter: please, please, St. Cecilia, please do what you can to space out the Bad Monitor nights so that there aren't too many in a row. That's all I ask.
Well said, Ben. I remember stopping a show in the middle of a set because some refigerator-shaped goon had injured his second cute little girl (by sudden drop body slam) after being warned to cut it out. Result: prima donna accusations. Once someone climbed on stage, yanked the bass chord and pulled down and destroyed the entire bass rig. Even though playing after that point was no longer even theoretically possible, there were still people saying: "oh, I see: so this is how it is now that you're a big rock star..." (Funny to hear it phrased that way, under the circumstances: we were playing in some kind of teen community center with no PA.) Or then there was the time when we played for free at a party in Arcata. I said something like "we've got tshirts and cds for ten bucks..." and this guy said "OK, here comes the sales pitch..." before launching into a speech about how the day will come when the blood will run red with the streets of the rock stars or something like that. If I recall correctly, he thought having cases for the drums was some kind of obscene extravagance. You can usually tell when someone's going to launch into one of those speeches because it's almost always heralded by the phrase, "oh, I see how it is..." Now you see the violence inherent in the system, etc.
There was this one show awhile back at Coney Island High in New York where a drunk, pudgy, troublemaker had been annoying the crowd by knocking over the girls in front of the stage for the entire night. He had also been trying to climb up on the stage (many people see this as their God-given right, no matter whether the band wants it or not, and regardless of how much disruption they might cause); he got up a couple of times during our set, inadvertantly pulling out my cord once, trying to slobber into the microphone whenever he got close enough. He mooned the audience (nice) before the security guys threw him off the stage for the umpteenth time. Then he sullenly went back to his schtick of hassling any members of the audience who were smaller than him, which was just about everybody; but he really focused on the girls.
Anyway, I was in the middle of playing "You're the Only One," when he climbed on stage again, knocked over the mic stand and once again pulled the guitar cord out of its jack. That's kind of a beloved song, and the girls had had enough. They pulled him down and beat him to a bloody pulp.
It was great.
So the tour begins. I'm going to try to blog from the road, though that can be more difficult than it sounds, as I've explained before. Starting today, though, things are going to be pretty crazy, especially in the first "get acclimated to living like dogs" phase, so don't be surprised if there's a bit of a lull, posting-wise.
In the meantime, in lieu of something new, here's a kind of blast from the past. Back in the year 2000, when the MTX was on the road as part of the Lookout! Freakout! Tour!, I did a little promotional tour diary feature for emusic. I think in the end I only ended up sending in four or five installments-- writing in tour mode was no easier back then, and I'd had a lot less practice. It's no longer posted on emusic, as far as I know, and I get a lot of requests for the text of this particular one for some reason. So here it is. Just imagine it's 2000 AD. Or change a few of the names and it might as well be now.
Sept. 25, 2000
There's an old joke that goes: "for good old fashioned hospitality, you just can't beat the slave states." Just a joke, but it's funny because the juxtaposition of sentimentality and brutality rings true. The South is crawling with guys in trucks equipped with guns who'd just as soon kill you as look at you; but they'll serve you some great biscuits, too. Only in the South do you get people coming up to you after the show to complain that there weren't enough fights, and then asking you to autograph a sticker "for my mom." But one thing you realize when you've been driving around the country for awhile is that, outside of San Francisco, Manhattan, and parts of Seattle, the entire USA is the South. It doesn't matter where you are, North, South, East, or West; Ohio, Vermont, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon: there's always going to be a shirtless guy driving along-side you in a pick-up, screaming something like "hoo-eeee." Every other person you meet will eventually fix you with a cold, steely stare and say something like "you boys ain't from 'round here, is ya'll?" It's like 95% of the country is a Jeff Foxworthy HBO special, vaguely funny, inherently disturbing. Well, everywhere is south of somewhere, I guess.
Anyway, north or south, the Lookout! Freakout! Tour! is a punk tour. How do I know? No monitors, baby. When you can't hear yourself sing, you sound a bit retarded no matter how hard you try not to. Every song sounds like the Elephant Man is singing "you've been so kind to me..." And at each show, the singer of each band leaves a little piece of his or her throat behind, quivering painfully on the stage. It doesn't get much punker than that. But the show must go on, and it does go on. And my band has once more transmogrified into a new form: a power-trio fronted by Bosley from Charlie's Angels. Check it out. It "rocks."
Remember how I said before that an important part of being in a band is hanging out with your friends being all anti-corporate and stuff? Well, that's kind of what it was like in Boston, minus the anti-corporate part. We saw a lot of people we hadn't seen in awhile, like Maddie the Tight Pants fanzine girl, and my good friend Joe Queer, with whom I had a long and uncharacteristically cogent conversation. He ended up joining us on stage to sing "...and I will be with you" which the Queers have been covering lately. Somehow during the two and a half minute song he managed to high-five every single member of the audience, which was an impressive feat, to be sure. I guess there's an extra part of the song that the Queers don't do, so when we got to the part where he didn't know the words, Joe just started singing "the fucking Queers, the fucking Queers..." It was a moment of pure poetry.
All was going well, until I noticed someone setting up a table with pamphlets, buttons, and T-shirts that had great big swastikas all over them-- there was even a T-shirt with Adolf Hitler's face on it. Alarmed that some neo-Nazi group had crashed the Lookout! Freakout! Tour!, I ran over to try to put a halt to this appalling concession stand. When I got closer, however, I noticed a banner on the table that said that it was "anti-racist." The T-shirt that I initially thought advertised some bizarre Nazi basketball team turned out, on closer inspection, to depict a stick figure throwing a ball-like swastika into hoop-like trash can. All became clear. It sounds weird, but it's true: some people wear swastikas because they approve of Nazis, and some people wear them because they *don't*.
I'm sure you've noticed this paradox about the Hipsters of the Revolution: for people who make such a point of being anti-racist and anti-fascist and so forth, they sure seem to like wearing a lot of swastikas. I know they mean well, but it's still pretty disturbing when you see these people walking around: you don't know whether to hide trembling behind a sofa or to shake their hands and congratulate them on their unobjectionable political views; and by the time you figure out which is the best course of action, it could be too late.
If you know the secret, however, it *is* possible to tell an actual neo-Nazi from a harmless left-leaning anarchist-hipster. You just have to examine them closely. They wear almost exactly the same uniform: the main difference is that the swastika on the hipster's T-shirt has this tiny red line running through it, as though to say "I love my swastika... NOT!"
Or let's take another example: at the local punk rock show, a person with the letters "KKK" emblazoned on a jacket or armband asks you if you can spare any change. But don't run from the room screaming till you take a closer look. If there's a minuscule "no" above the three frightening letters, you have a "politically engaged" hipster on your hands, and not an actual member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Occasionally, you run into the trickiest one of all, a T-shirt bearing an enormous swastika underneath some fearsome phrase in German. This looks bad, I know, but don't panic and run off to phone the Wiesenthal Center right away. Rather, get out your German-English/English-German dictionary and a good elementary German grammar, such as Schaum's Outline of German Grammar or Hammer's German Grammar and Usage. Then, from a safe distance, attempt a quick translation. If the shirt turns out to say something like "Achtung! I think this symbol is very, very, bad," you can relax. He may not smell all that great, but this person is essentially harmless; he just wants everyone who happens to be carrying a German-English/English-German dictionary to know that he is opposed to Nazism, Fascism, racism and other bad stuff like that.
Of course, as political statements go, coming out against Hitler and the KKK isn't exactly going out on a limb. But they are taking a stand, and trying to look cool at the same time, which is a pretty difficult thing to do. Plus, you've got to hand it to them for choosing to belong to a subculture whose fashion accessories and iconography, when properly decoded by a skilled interpreter with access to the appropriate research materials, reveal such a thoroughly sound, albeit uncontroversial, position on the question of whether Nazis are good or bad. (In case you're still confused, they think they're BAD.) I hear they also disapprove of cancer and birth defects, though I'm not totally sure.
Here's the info about tonight's show in Sacramento:
Saturday - 2/7/2004
Capitol Garage, Sacramento, CA
1427 L. St., Sacramento
doors: 8:30, a/a
with the Helper Monkeys and the Losing Streaks
And following is the updated show list: the main changes are filling in details like show times and the other bands on the bill. Note that the Lawrence, KS show is quite early (doors at 4pm, MTX plays at 7:15pm); and some kind of show in New Mexico will probably happen on 3/7, though nothing is confirmed yet. I would call the venues if stuff like that matters to you, as I'm sure there are inaccuracies. And if you discover any, leave a comment to let us know. Or you could just show up at some random time and hope for the best. That's usually our plan, intentional or otherwise.
A famous man once said "touring is never boring." That's absolutely true if you scrunch up your face and try to make your voice drip with sarcasm when you say it. Touring is quite frequently boring, in fact. So chances are we'll just be hanging around, looking for something to do at any given moment. If you come by, maybe we can play the bar video-trivia game or something if anybody has any quarters. But I warn you, my "brain" is rather well-stocked with trivia.
In any case, if you're in any of these towns, feel free to stop by, consume some beverages, buy a Tshirt or something, say "hi." It may not seem like much now, but you'll be storing up treasure in heaven. Well, maybe not with the saying "hi" part: that's up to you and as far as I know earns you no compensation in the hereafter. But I understand the Tshirt ploy actually works.
Anyway, here're the rest of the shows:
Sunday - 2/8/2004
Meow Meow Portland, Oregon
927 SE Pine St., Portland, OR
with Gifford Pinchot & TBA
Monday - 2/9/2004
Graceland Seattle, Washington
109 Eastlake Ave. E, Seattle, WA
$7, a/a, doors: 8pm
w/Throwaway Angels & TBA
Wednesday - 2/11/2004
Climax Lounge, Denver, Colorado
2217 Welton Street., Denver, CO
Thursday - 2/12/2004
737 New Hampshire, Lawrence, KS
*early show* doors: 4pm, MTX set at 7:15pm.
w/Man Planet and Primetime Heroes
Friday - 2/13/2004
Gabes Oasis, Iowa City, Iowa
330 E. Washington St., Iowa City, IA
w/Man Planet and Chinese Telephones
Saturday - 2/14/2004
Maintenance Shop, Ames, Iowa
Iowa State Memorial Union, Ames, IA
$8 students/$9 public
doors: 8:30 pm
with Man Planet
Sunday - 2/15/2004
Warehouse, La Crosse, Wisconsin
328 Pearl St., La Crosse, WI
with Man Planet, the Obsoletes, & Claiming Nothing
Monday - 2/16/2004
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota
629 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN
with Man Planet and the Valentines
Tuesday - 2/17/2004
Fireside Bowl, Chicago, Illinois
2646 W. Fullerton, Chicago, IL
w/Man Planet and Even in Blackouts
Wednesday - 2/18/2004
The Shelter, Detroit, Michigan
431 E. Congress, Detroit, MI
w/Man Planet and Ruth's Hat
Thursday - 2/19/2004
Grog Shop, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
1765 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, OH
w/Manplanet and Surrender Dorothy
Friday - 2/20/2004
Club Laga, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3609 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
$10/$12, doors: 6pm
with Man Planet, Sixty-Four, & the Breakup Society
Saturday - 2/21/2004
Bug Jar, Rochester, New York
219 Monroe Ave., Rochester, NY
w/Man Planet, Serious & the Grinders
Sunday - 2/22/2004
Middle East, Cambridge, Massachusetts
472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA
w/Man Planet & the Knee-Hi's
Monday - 2/23/2004
The Space, Hamden, Connecticut
295 Treadwell St. - Bldg. H, Hamden, CT
w/ Man Planet, Superfallingstars, Thom Dunn; 7pm
Tuesday - 2/24/2004
North Six, Brooklyn, New York
North 6 66 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, NY
w/Man Planet, Dirtbike Annie, and the John Stamos Project
Wednesday - 2/25/2004
Talking Head, Baltimore, Maryland
203 E. Davis St., Baltimore, MD
w/Beatnik Termites, Proteens, Copyrights, Gamma Rays
Thursday - 2/26/2004
Cats Cradle, Carrboro, North Carolina
300 E. Main St. Carrboro, NC
Friday - 2/27/2004
Lime Light, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
1724 Hwy. 501, Myrtle Beach, SC
w/One Louder, 1st Degree Burnouts, Achronite
Saturday - 2/28/2004
Wills Pub, Orlando, Florida
1850 N. Mills Ave., Orlando, FL
w/Limitpoint, Ask Me Later, Whole Wheat Bread
Sunday - 2/29/2004
1213 Rock Shows, Aniston, Alabama
6216 Meadowlark Dr., Anniston, AL 36206
doors: 7 pm, a/a, $8
w/ Model Citizen, Backseat Virgins, & Nowhere Squares
Monday - 3/1/2004
The Earl, East Atlanta, Georgia
488 Flat Shoals Rd., East Atlanta, GA
Tuesday - 3/2/2004
Vinos, Little Rock, Arkansas
923 W. 7th St., Little Rock, AR
with Il Libretina & Dreamfast
Wednesday - 3/3/2004
Fitzgerald's, Houston, Texas
2706, White Oak Dr., Houston, TX
Thursday - 3/4/2004
Emos, Austin, Texas
603 Red River, Austin, TX
Friday - 3/5/2004
The Wreck Room, Forth Worth, TX
3208 W. 7th St., Fort Worth, 817-348-8303
w/Ghoultown, 41 Gorgeous Blocks
doors 9:00, a/a
Saturday - 3/6/2004
Green Door, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
329 E. Sheridan Oklahoma City, OK
Monday - 3/8/2004
The Mason Jar, Phoenix, AZ
2303 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, AZ
I disagree, halfempty, this is exactly what is going to make people realize that Bush* really is like Hitler… and then everyone will turn against him… and then true progressives will get in office… and then peace will be had in the world… and then gumdrops will fall from the sky… and then unicorns will roam the land once again.
Alias meltdown, I mean. From now on, I want all you guys to call me Elvis.
In honor of St. Valentine's Day, Lookout is ratchetting down the prices of all MTX merchandise. 10% off everything, for the entire month of Feb. Music to ruin your every mood...
My band has never been featured, nor any of my records ever reviewed or mentioned in Rolling Stone or Spin. That's no big surprise. Ever since I've been paying attention to pop music, Big Media has always almost totally ignored the vast majority of the music I've been most interested in. It's just invisible. It might as well not exist. Imagine a person wearing RS/Spin glasses and examining your record collection. In my case, my best estimate is that around 20% of the records and CDs would be visible, and another 10% visible, yet fuzzy and indistinct (owing to having been alluded to or referenced in a cursory way by someone keen to show off their "arcane" knowledge); the remaining 70% would be empty, blank spaces, as though they had been magic-wanded/erased in Photoshop. Whatever the composition of your collection, if it has any MTX records in it, they would disappear. The glasses have been designed that way. Those bastards. ;-)
You might think: why don't they, like, just once, leave out the Hootie and the Blowfish review and use the resulting space for a couple of reviews of cool, not quite zillion-selling records? A bold move! When I was a kid, I used to think that way: imagine what it might be like if someone over there was cool enough to replace just a bit of the extensive Journey or Kajagoogoo coverage with some stuff about the Television Personalities. But that was stupid. You don't become the largest circulation music magazine in the nation by leaving out the Hootie and the Blowfish review, or replacing the extensive Journey or Kajagoogoo coverage with stuff about the TVPs. You just don't.
Yet, you can believe it or not, but for awhile there it was looking like Rolling Stone actually was going to print a review of Yesterday Rules. I mean, it was really going to happen. They confirmed they were going to run a review with a photo, and they even called our publicist to fact-check it (which impressed me-- I've never been fact-checked by a reviewer before.) In the back of my mind, I began imagining the wry, self-deprecating little phrase I would use when I linked to it. It was supposed to be in the issue with Howard Dean on the cover. But it wasn't. The reviews editor stopped returning our publicist's calls. We speculated, maybe a little desperately: there was maybe an outside chance that it had been bumped to the next issue. But no. The next issue came out. The review had been killed. And, thus endeth our hugely implausible Rolling Stone-covered career. I don't know why. I guess someone came to their senses just in time. These things happen in publishing. (Maybe if they had known how far down the charts Howard Dean was going to slip, they would have killed him, too. The cover story, I mean.)
What difference would it have made? It would have made none, probably. The conventional wisdom, borne out by my own experience in the second- and third-string publicity world, not to mention the fourth- and fifth-, is that reviews don't really do much to "move units." Advertising makes much more of an impact. However, I've never had the experience of being reviewed in a big deal magazine, so I don't know for sure. I imagine it might have made it just a bit easier to persuade other bigger publications to consider covering it, as they all seem to end up covering the same dozen or so records anyway. Indeed, that was what made the whole thing so astonishing. All I know is, as it stood, it was the biggest publicity success we had ever had; which is to say, it was the biggest publicity failure in the end.
Into each life, some rain must fall. I'm used to it, and it's really not that big a thing. In the end, it's a trivial matter that doesn't affect our game plan (to the extent that we have one) in any way. We put out records, we play shows, we sell merch. Time marches on. The main thing is: I'm hell of curious as to what on earth a Rolling Stone reviewer would have had to say about it. Somewhere out there, on someone's word processor, the answer presumably lies.
This election is not going to be simply about which one of these candidates you believe in, trust more, agree with more, and so on. The broader question is: given that the House and Senate are almost certainly going to stay Republican, do you want one-party government or divided government? Recent history suggests that the best option for people of my polyglot persuasion is a Republican Congress and a moderate Democrat in the White House. With any luck, you get gridlock, the Congress restrains spending, and you don't get wackos on the courts. The big exception this time around, of course, is war. Can we trust a Democratic president to defend the country adequately enough? Toughie. So far, none of the Dems has even begun to make the sale to my satisfaction. But, again, that has to be weighed against whether the country can live with bankrupt big government Nixonism as a price for national security. Second toughie.
Just a note to any Mac users among you: if you've been looking for a good newsreader for OSX, you need look no further than Unison. I tended to use the MT version of Newswatcher in OS9, but the OSX version was pretty unusable. Until now, the best option I could come up with (other than plain old rn/tn) was Entourage, even though it's clunky, slow, buggy, and utterly counter-intuitive. Anyway, Unison has tons of terrific features, many of which I haven't had a chance to try yet; but most important of all, it works great, is totally searchable, and is easy to figure out. I tried it out once and was instantly hooked. Highly recommended.
(via Citizen Keith.)
Well, it wasn't quite an Insta-lanche, but this blog had a pretty big jump in traffic last night, due to the fact that someone linked to it from this Clay Aiken discussion board thread. The question being debated in that particular part of the thread was whether or not Clay's starting his own blog would be a net plus in the important matter of trying balance the complementary interests of Aiken versus those of his fans. An Aiken fan, who rather surprisingly (to me) appears to know who I am, has this to say:
as amazing as blogs are in general, and as cool as it is to find Moby and Dr. Frank blogging away, I'd hate to see this become yet another required marketing tool for musicians.
I'll say one thing: Aiken would probably get a different order of comments than I do, if the message board is any indication. Here's one from Claysomesongs:
I actually think Clay will be better off when he has an girlfriend that he dates openly, and hope he makes the decision to do this soon. If he is obviously with a date, surely fans will not feel free to invade his private space.
How I wish this were true. Unfortunately, it's not, imo...
Steven Rubio has some kind things to say about me in this post about small-time musicians who don't know when to quit. Erm, I mean s.-t. m's who selflessly soldier on because they love the music, regardless of how permanently small they are likely to be. They are the true Heroes of our land. God bless us, and God bless America. Hmm, I was trying to make it sound better. Never mind...
Seriously, though: he likens this situation and the musical importance of the small fry in the bigger sea, on the one hand, to that of the less exalted clubs and teams in the sporting world on the other. e.g., each Manchester United stands on the shoulders of a hundred Wrexhams. There's something in that, though for the analogy to be perfect, you'd have to assume that all the Wrexhams and their supporters secretly or openly despise the Man.U-ers and in darker moments hope they all die in a mysterious accident; even while handing over vast sums of money to M.U. while they try to sneak into the Wrexham matches. Maybe they do, at that. I don't know.
I've always seen the "alternative" music world as a kind of shadow music business/culture. Everyone involved tries to do their best low-budget imitation of the real music business. There's less of everything; it's quirkier and more interesting and more boring all at the same time, as the threshold for "failure" is far lower. There are effective "term limits" for participation-- though some people hold on for, like, ever, most participants say "the hell with it" sooner rather than later, so there's more turnover in terms of staff and customers. Practically every fan has his or her own band, as well, so everyone understands implicitly the pain and exaltation of marginality, and sympathizes with the struggles of all of those lower on the totem pole than they perceive themselves to be. (As for those who are undeservedly higher on the pole, they secretly hope they, too, get killed in a mysterious accident.) Occasionally, participants in the shadow music world manage to break in to the real music world; some manage to keep a foot in each, though that's a tough thing to manage or maintain. And there are even times (as in the late 70s) when the shadow music biz's pretensions actually come somewhat close to reflecting reality. That is, when the shadow music world actually is, as a whole, more legitimate and outright "better" than the actual music world, more real than "real."
Rubio also mentions his experience as a listener when I had my radio show on KALX, UC Berkelely's campus radio station. His characterization of my worth and skills as a dj is wildly generous and extravagant. In fact, I used to babble incoherently about nothing in particular, and my chief goal (successful, for what it's worth) was to be as annoying as possible: I was totally inept at every other aspect of dj-ing, though I did play pretty good music between all the fumbling, stumbling and technical difficulties.
I know Steven Rubio only through his charming, unassuming blog (which is one of my favorites) and through a single interview he conducted with me for Punk Planet a few years back. I still think it's one of the best published interviews I've ever participated in. Anyway, he mentions that he used to call me up on my late night show, which I don't remember specifically. You get a lot of calls when you're a late night college radio dj going out of your way to provoke people.
It's funny the callers that I do remember. There were the guys from bands who would call in to request their own songs, attempting to disguise their voices, and pretending to forget the title of the song. Those were great.
And then there was this one guy who, for a period of about a year, would call in on every single show, sometimes more than once, to request "Hinckley had a Vision" by the Crucifucks. Immediately after making the request, he would always say, in a booming, Larry King-like voice: HINCKLEY FOR PRESIDENT! HINCKLEY FOR PRESIDENT! HE HAD A SHOT AT THE MAN! LET"S GIVE HIM A SHOT AT THE JOB!
He would slam the phone down as he said the word "job," so that at first I thought he was saying "jaw." But no, I realized eventually: it was "job." Clearly, he never tired of the spectacularly witty juxtaposition of the literal and figurative sense of "shot." I'm kind of weird myself, and I started actually to enjoy these calls a bit after awhile. You gotta hand it to a guy whose priorities are such that he puts so much effort into maintaining a single, spectacularly unclever joke. I see various strange, not all that edifying parallels there. On those rare occasions when he didn't call, I fancy I experienced a vague sense of emptiness, in fact.
Even after all these years, I occasionally find myself wondering who he was, and what he's doing now. It can't have been the Crucifucks guy himself, as he would have been either in Wisconsin or some kind of mental institution at the time; plus I would have recognized his voice. That's the problem being a semi-public, shadow music biz guy with a funny voice: you can't make crank calls, or request your own songs on the radio. My own career, as musician and as crank caller, has perhaps suffered infinitesimally as a result of this fact of life, as it puts me slightly behind the other shadow musicians and crank callers to whom God gave more normal-sounding voices. In that sense, and in that sense alone, I am indeed a True Hero for our time. God bless me, and God bless America.
Just to pull something out of the comments to this item, Ben had a great answer to Dave Bug's question about how the Democratic contestants each stack up against Bush in the election for "swing voters":
To put it in dating terms:
Bush v. Clark: She's new to the dating game and doesn't know the rules. Likely to ask you to take care of her dog for the weekend after one date, or show up at your apt. with her suitcase at three a.m. after her roommate kicks her out for being annoying. Move to the third party, quick.
Bush v. Lieberman: Like dating a girl who will only do it with the lights out. She hates your friends and wishes you wouldn't drink so much. You find another girl (third party).
Bush vs. Kucinich or Sharpton: She looks crazy, she talks crazy, she acts crazy, and being too old to think that Crazy equals Interesting, you run (don't walk) to the comforting, relatively sane arms of any available third party and leave Crazy Girl to the men with the butterfly nets.
Bush v. Dean: She has no friends and hates yours. She wants your relationship to be you and her against the world, sitting in the apartment every night drunk on misanthropy. Insanely jealous and subject to bouts of suicidal depression. She's so full of cynicism that you know it's only a matter of time before she starts hating you; the murder/suicide plot is a distinct possiblity. You vote Bush just to avoid a potentially lethal catastrophe.
Bush v. Edwards - She's not perfect, but she's close. Knowing a good thing when you see one, you pull the Edwards lever and live happily ever after.
Bush v. Kerry - You need some action and you're too horny to concern yourself with maintaining dignity and self-respect. Turn the lights down low and pretend she's beautiful and doesn't have a halitosis problem and a botched botox boobjob. You'll feel bad in the morning, but hell, you were desperate.
By the way, either there's something wrong with the test, or something wrong with me, or there's something wrong with both me and the test: but I answered these questions (via Andrew Sullivan) to see which candidate best suits me based on my opinions on "issues" and came up with these results: Lieberman 100%; Sharpton 97%; Kerry 97%; Edwards 95%; Dean 95%; Clark 90%; Kucinich 90%; Bush 61%. Sharpton? Maybe I don't know Al, or myself, as well as I think I do.
As Sullivan says, one flaw is that it doesn't ask "do you think a race-baiting demagogue would be a good president?" I don't know the other criteria of the test, but it seems like "socially liberal, fiscally conservative" answers (as mine pretty much were) knock Bush out of the running, but fail to distinguish meaningfully between the Democratic candidates. Maybe it's true that Bush's own fiscal profligacy has effectively removed that as a meaningful category in this election; but what good is that? Also, strong support for the Iraq campaign and continued US presence doesn't swing things much towards the incumbent, nor does it take more than 10% away from Dean or Kucinich, and it still leaves Sharpton near the top. I'd say some tweaking is in order.
I'm sticking with Ben's analysis for now.