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Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Not Over

For most bands, no matter how much I love them, one night of seeing them live every few months (or years) is enough. I don't want too much of a good thing, but when it comes to face to face, seeing them three nights in a row is an exception.

I was fortunate to attend all three nights of their Triple Crown shows, where they played Don't Turn Away on the first night, Big Choice on the second, and the self-titled record on the third. Even though I heard "Disconnected," "Not for Free," "I Used to Think," "Don't Turn Away," and "Dissension" three times, I did not mind. The amount of songs that were not repeated was greater than the ones that were.

I previewed the series of shows for the Observer and I let my fandom/appreciation be fully on display. I acknowledged the elephant in the room, given the recent writings on the impact of nostalgia on a lot of shows coming through Dallas these days. And while I did recall certain memories of my past with face to face's music (ie, getting Big Choice on the same day as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and learning various face to face songs on guitar), I came away from these shows with many positive, new memories.

When you meet a face to face fan, you're meeting someone who *gets* them. Meaning, he or she might be into a lot of other pop-punk bands, but doesn't adopt the attitude of acting like a pompous asshole or smarty-pants to make a statement. He or she is in touch with deep, inner-feelings, from happiness to sadness. No matter what age or what's currently happening in life, face to face's music and lyrics resonates. 

Time and time again, I've been able to listen to Trever Keith's lyrics about life's struggles, relationships falling apart, and fighting through rampant negativity with fresh ears. I cannot say the same about most of the NOFX, Screeching Weasel, and blink-182 records I listened to in college. Songs like "Resignation," "Overcome," and "1,000 X" spoke to me as a teenager, a college student and as someone now in his mid-thirties. This is a band I can keep coming back to and appreciate them for who they are, not necessarily as a band I liked when I was younger.

Talking with Trever and Scott here and there over the years, they've remained friendly and approachable people. They were no different on these nights.



 
As luck would have it, former drummer Pete Parada made a guest appearance on the second night. He was in town with his current band, the Offspring, and he played two songs during the encore. Whipping out "Overcome" and "Bill of Goods," I was pretty over the moon about this. Ignorance is Bliss was a favorite of mine when it came out, and I knew the change of style would turn off fans, but I have been vocal about its many merits for years. (I was recently at a show in Denton and it was playing on the PA between bands. I thanked the soundman for playing it.)

A story I like to tell about Pete is that when people were whining about the band's temporary change in direction, people singled Pete's drumming out on the band's message board. I argued his playing was exactly what the material needed and he could play the older songs just as well, if not better, than original drummer Rob Kurth. He seemed to appreciate my comments, because when I met him outside of Liberty Lunch in Austin, he was happy to meet me. Seeing him again on Friday night, he remembered me and gladly to snapped a pic with me.

Over the course of these three nights, I met a lot of great people and saw some people I hadn't seen in a while. The whole experience was like a reunion and a convention. Thing was, nobody dressed up like it was church and nobody didn't want to be there. The new people I met, I hope to see again, maybe at a future face to face show, or anywhere else in life. (Facebook brings us all together.)

As a way of reminding myself of how special this was, I have the following poster, signed by the whole band, framed above my home office's computer.
I might be falling into a nostalgia trap by placing this in a spot I look at every single day, but I want to keep a positive experience fresh and alive in my head every time I sit down to write. These shows signify the seventh, eighth, and ninth time for me to see face to face (now the national touring band I have seen the most times), but they will not be my last times I see this great band.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Nostalgia Trap

As a follow-up on my thoughts on the Bomb Factory reopening, I wrote a lot of words about the dangers of investing too much time to nostalgia. Basically, the past was great, but it wasn't all great. So let's look forward to what's next. And I quoted Billy Joel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Bomb Factory

I was asked to pen a few words about the return of Deep Ellum's Bomb Factory for the Observer. I never went to it when it was originally open. I was living in Houston at the time and it had been closed for a few years when I moved to the DFW area. I went to Deep Ellum Live, which was next door, plenty of times and saw many great shows, from Spiritualized to MxPx.

Now it looks like the Bomb Factory will bring in a lot of great bands, filling a void that's been in the area for many years. You can read my thoughts on it here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Art is Hard

A few new stories to share that I have recently written. I followed up with Dallas-based filmmaker Jeremy Snead, who made an excellent documentary called Video Games: The Movie. From talking about the kinds of reactions to his film to his upcoming series on video games, we had a great talk.

Over the weekend, I had to be in Houston for my father's 70th birthday party. People I had not seen since 2002 would be there, and I really wanted to go. Luckily I escaped Dallas before the snow and ice shut down the city.

While I was down there, I decided to review the Cursive/Beach Slang/Megafauna show at Fitzgerald's for the Houston Press. I had a great time watching Cursive for the sixth time and the openers for the first time. Beach Slang is all kinds of incredible, and I was happy to see them as they are on the rise.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Already Gone

There are times when reading about music bums me out. Bummed to the point where I think the writers only want to hear free jazz while being stoned and/or drunk, huddled alone, spacing out in a dilapidated home.

I enjoy reading perspectives from people who take the time and effort to investigate why a certain record or an entire catalog connects with people. (When I mean "people," I mean people who actually identify with the music and they carry that connection for the rest of their lives.)

But if someone is going to continually bad-mouth a popular act, I have to wonder why this person is going on and on about it. "Okay, it's not for you," I think to myself. (I say this knowing full well of how much I despised a popular form of emo ten years ago and wrote a lot about it on this here blog.)

If I were to only abide by music critics, especially those from the 70s and 80s, and fear verbal stoning for disagreeing with them, I should not speak up. Especially when it comes to writing about the Eagles. I'm supposed to hate that band for life. Liking them is conforming to the Establishment and I'm just a cog in a machine that spits out mediocrity.

There's a Salon article that echoes (and quotes) Robert Christgau's hatred of the Eagles, while linking pieces by Chuck Klosterman and Jason Heller that defend the band. It should come as no surprise that I identify more with Klosterman and Heller (and have for years, actually) than I ever have with Christgau. I don't think of music writers being in the wrong when I disagree with them. Rather, I try to acknowledge their opinion while not being ashamed of having a different opinion.

Let me break down why I should hate the Eagles, according to those who hate them:
 
-They're frauds who took country rock and turned it into Top 40 mush.
-All of their singles have been overplayed on the radio. 
-Glenn Frey is an asshole.
-Don Henley isn't a very good drummer.
-They say they are on a farewell tour, but they keep touring with no end in sight.
-Don Felder got the shaft and was fired unjustly.

None of these reasons reflect anything to me about their actual songs, mainly their melodies. These reasons are more about the personalities behind the band and the band's business, and how they affected people who don't spend hours poring through music, hoping to find something connects with them.

Somehow, after years of listening to them (including a five-year run where I heard an Eagles song every day between Monday and Friday), I have found I like them now more than ever. Like them in the way that I want to dig deep into their back catalog and read books on them.

This renewed interest came from watching a lengthy documentary on the band called History of the Eagles. Frey comes across as a pompous jerk, but the guy wrote some wonderful songs. I wouldn't want to work with him or someone like him, but a good song is a good song. Their story is an interesting one, filled with drama and ups and downs, making for an enjoyable watch.

One of the first things I never really noticed until I saw the documentary was how well the band (in its various incarnations) harmonize together. Randy Meisner's high register was especially the secret jewel of the band's sound, from "Take It Easy" to their version of Tom Waits' "Ol' 55."

A song like "Lyin' Eyes" and their version of "Ol' 55" warrant repeat listens from me. I can't really get enough of them. Songs like these are perfect for driving around, whether it's short distances or long ones. And somehow, I'm less prone to drive angry when I have their songs on.

Have I bent over backward to the Establishment out by admitting I love the Eagles? It doesn't matter to me, because I've never really identified myself as being a complete outcast. I'm too weird for the mainstream and I'm too mainstream for the weird. If liking the Eagles means that I have no credibility in discerning what's good and bad, then that's someone else's projections. I like what I like, and I'm not pretending to be anything more than what I am.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Do You Know Who You Are?

Hosting a podcast has been something I've thought about for years. My uncle Keith suggested it about seven or eight years ago, but I didn't really know where to start or how I could maintain one.

As the years passed, I kept finding new podcasts. When friends of mine started doing their own shows, the thought of doing one kept coming up in my head.

Only in the past couple of years, I've recognized what I want to hear in a podcast and what I don't want to hear. I want to hear an engaging conversation between two people in the same room, not on a cell phone connection. I want the people to be in a quiet room, not frequently interrupted by dogs barking. And, I want to hear something that isn't too inside baseball, meaning too niche-oriented that you can't understand what the hell the people are talking about.

With Santa Claus bringing me a laptop, two microphones, a quad box, and ProTools, I decided 2015 would be the year I did my own show.

Two episodes into Do You Know Who You Are?, things have come together quite well. My first guest was my housemate Joel, and we talked about growing up in a small town, getting into British music, and what led him to doing a DJ night on the first episode.

For the second episode, I interviewed Michael "Grubes" Gruber, someone I've recently befriended, but it seems like we've known each other for years. We had a great conversation over the weekend, discussing his time at the radio station 1310AM The Ticket, his current gig with the Dallas Stars, and his love of music and Chili's restaurants. We might be cousins, so we had to touch on that, too.

Right now, I don't have plans to put out a new episode every single week. I'd prefer to take the time and find people I know that could share unique perspectives and stories. Since I've met a lot of people through my work in radio, writing, and the music scene, there's no shortage of people to interview.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Last Word is Rejoice


New year, new stories to tell.

I've been sitting on this story for a while, but I'm now clear to share it. Mineral is one of the most important bands in the evolution of post-hardcore/emo. Without them, the Promise Ring, Sense Field, Jimmy Eat World, Texas is the Reason, and Braid, you'd probably not know what emo is today.

I decided to not flesh out the band's story in chapter form in Post. There was no doubt this band was influential, but their story arc was a little too similar to Texas is the Reason's and the Promise Ring's. I didn't want to wear my readers down with story after story with the exact same arc: Band gets buzzed about, tours a lot, puts out a great record, and breaks up before they sign with a major label.

Getting the chance to interview Chris Simpson about the Mineral reunion, I wanted to talk about how the tour has gone, instead of what led to it. That story has already been told many times, so I did the post-script, Now What? story.

Since the band is playing Houston and Dallas on this (possibly final) run of dates, I gave the story to the Observer and sister paper, the Houston Press. There are some subtle differences between the two and you can read the Observer article here and you can read the Houston Press article here.