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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Something/Anything

Here's the reality of being a lifelong music fan/audiophile: I now accept the fact that my entire library cannot be consolidated to digital.

It's not like I'm against having everything in one place. It's more the nature of the beast that comes with collecting vinyl and bargain bin CDs in addition to everything else. As much as I had apprehension towards vinyl before, the source of changing the opinion around comes from the quality of the needle, turntable, and the actual vinyl.

With less of a demand for CDs year after year, deluxe remasters could be a thing of the past. (And I'm not hot on the idea of shelling out $200 for a set including a remastered CD, 180-vinyl, DVD, and book.) For example, I don't think Columbia Records will not get around to producing massive reissues/box sets for the rest of Bruce Springsteen's catalog. Instead of buying a thin-sounding version on CD, I gladly will add The River and Nebraska to my vinyl collection. The same goes for Todd Rundgren's massive back catalog.

Something else I've realized: there's music that is great to listen to at home and then there is music that is great to listen in the car. Think about it: if you're going to spend hours on end at home, wouldn't it be nice to have as much at your disposal as possible? Especially since this amount of time probably greatly trumps the amount of time in a car?

Since not every vinyl record known to man was repressed on CD, there are plenty of lost tracks waiting to be found on the grooves. And I find immense joy in hearing something I've never heard before (and probably wouldn't have had the patience for) while driving.

At this point, I can't imaging packing things up and finding a good cellar. Part of being a music fanatic often means being a librarian/archivist, so I feel confident in accepting this title.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My first show

For this week's edition, I had the pleasure to interview Mark Pirro from the Polyphonic Spree and Tripping Daisy. Lots of great stuff to share, including the first time he played with Tripping Daisy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seven Year War

Probably one of the best Christmas gifts is seeing Red Animal War live. They don't play live very often and I interviewed Matt and Justin on this and other topics.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WWWTK Tumblr

To help promote When We Were the Kids, I decided to create a Tumblr page for it. For sanity's sake, the information on that page will be general in nature, featuring mainly links, photos, and clips. Theme Park Experience will continue to be the hub for all my online adventures.

How to be a professional

In the spirit of this excellent site, I offer a few things about how to be a professional in the workplace.

Don't talk to your co-workers like they're your childhood friends. Also, don't talk to them like they're five years old and have learning deficiencies.
There are many different ways to communicate with adults. These extremes are not the only ways.

Know the difference between a "crisis" and a crisis.
A true crisis can involve a loved one in a serious accident and needs to be attended to right away. A "crisis" is when you can't find your favorite kind of socks.

You do less with less.
Still waiting to hear about how a workplace benefits from doing more workload with less people? You're not alone.

Don't say, "You're only human," and then berate someone for being human.
Humans make mistakes. Remember this and say this to yourself.

If you say you're coming in early tomorrow to help out, that means you're coming in early to help out.
That doesn't mean you take most of the morning off and act like nothing of great significance was said yesterday.

If you act like a brat, don't expect to be treated like an adult.
And if you continue to act like a brat, expect to be left out of the loop on most things.

Don't spend ten minutes telling someone one request over and over again.
The average adult hears you the first time and the 111th time.

The Serenity Prayer doesn't just help recovering addicts.
Knowing the difference between what you can and cannot change is vital, even in the workplace.

My first show

My First Show is extra special this week. Instead of interviewing one person or a band, I interviewed a bunch of local artists I interviewed this year and got their take on their favorite shows. And I got them to preview what's coming up for them in 2012. You can read the whole meatball 12-inch here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Have You Forgotten?

I graduated college ten years ago this month. It was also ten years ago when I saw a movie by Cameron Crowe in a theater.

Coming out of Vanilla Sky with my brother-in-law, I felt like the world was much bigger and vaster. A few weeks later, I saw the movie again and still loved it.

Since Crowe released only one more film in the ensuing years prior to this year, it's not like I had an embargo with his work. Elizabethtown interested me, but I never got around to seeing it. When the basic idea was announced, not surprisingly, online movie writers got excited about the prospect of something on par with Say Anything. Based on the response when the movie actually came out, there was a large degree of disappointment. (Seems like Nathan Rabin remains the most vocal about the film, especially with his bookend reviews of the film in My Year of Flops.)

This year, Crowe released Pearl Jam 20, a decent look at the band that suffers from a common dilemma with band documentaries: there was so much good stuff it became hard to whittle everything down to a manageable running time. I'm happy the doc exists and glad Crowe is back behind the lens.

But with We Bought a Zoo? That's where I apply the brakes.

Sam Adams wrote an extensive piece for Slate that breaks down Crowe's flaws. I will simply say this: the kind of earnestness that I loved with Almost Famous/Untitled and Vanilla Sky is not something I repeatedly yearn for. While I believe in asking "What do you love about music?" with a straight face and saying "Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around" to conquer internal struggles, I understand that kind of earnestness is silly for a lot of people. They're phrases that could easily come from a non-jaded person, but non-jaded adults don't exist in the minds of those consumed by absolute pessimism.

My reaction to We Bought a Zoo's trailer is that it's a heartwarming family film. I have no problem with those kinds of films, but David Fincher's take on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is tempting me more this holiday season. I'm not against seeing We Bought a Zoo, but it's not a must-see priority.

When faced with the question of who has changed more, the director or the audience, I'd have to say it's the audience by a mile. I applaud Crowe for sticking to his heart, but what grabbed a mainstream audience with Jerry Maguire and Say Anything might simply not fit for what people want these days.

Monday, December 19, 2011

"I miss the dog more than her"

I know a guy who likes to tweet a lot about his personal life on Twitter. A little too much, if you ask me. Usually the tweets are about missing his home state, trying to pick up girls, and thinking about girls he used to date. There are many reasons why I don't write that kind of stuff on Twitter, and his feed is ample proof of what I don't want to explicitly put out there.

But, as much as I don't really see eye-to-eye with this guy on how to represent yourself online, I've found myself slightly seeing eye-to-eye with a tweet he wrote earlier this year. Very slightly. Missing his ex-girlfriend's pet more than his ex seemed incredibly harsh when I originally read it, but I thought about the general innocence that comes with a pet.

Be it a cat or a dog, the pet doesn't really grow much after the kitten/puppy stage. Since the most they do is meow or bark, you don't get asked why the sky is blue or when's supper. The perpetual state of cuteness can easily find its way into the rose-colored glasses of looking back.

With the pet, there are no arguments or strained feelings about topics that can't seem to resolve. The pet is a part of the couple's life, but usually as a bystander or a distraction. If the relations were good between the pet and the significant other, it can be understandable to value that benefit of the relationship.

Reflecting on my experience, I truly value the good memories, but I haven't erased the reasons why we aren't together anymore. There were many great times shared between us, and sometimes there was a pet around. I never had arguments with her cat and she didn't have arguments with my dog. Matter of fact, we loved each other's pet -- her cat and my dog were like an extension of our personalities.

I never imagined a pet to be a part of the grieving process, but then again, I was never very close to pets growing up. That feeling changed when Juliet came into my life and later, Victory. Exploring more about how to love and be loved, you can find yourself grieving over a lot of things if you break up. But this ties in well with the saying about loving and losing than never loving at all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WWWTK 12.15.11



Another update on When We Were the Kids.

Given my state of being between full-time jobs, I have a lot of free time, but I haven't spent hours a day working on another draft. Am I wasting away by not taking advantage of this? I don't think so. I've lived with this book for almost five years and I want to take a little time away from it before I release it.

I'm awaiting some feedback from a friend on his take with the book. I'm hoping his take will help me shape the final draft. Then it will go to my editor and the publishing train will start rolling soon after. Unlike what they say about one's second book ("You have all the time in the world to do your first, but you have very limited time to do your second"), I've had all the time I've wanted with working on this. And I'm grateful.

Once again, that William Goldsmith line came into my head: "The truth takes time to tell."

Of course, this is a fictional book, but I don't want it to read like it's fictional. A nice comment I received last year from an early draft was that it was like a documentary. Seeing as how rock band documentaries played a major role in the writing, I think this is fitting comparison.

I'm happy to report the cover photo has been taken. I took the photo myself using a Nikon 3000 camera, in a spot less than five feet away from where I wrote the book. Since I have all the instruments to play in a rock band in my room, it was a no-brainer. I hope it captures what it's like to play music in a bedroom or a basement, away from a fancy recording studio.

I'm penciling in a spring release timeframe for the book. You'll hear much more about it when it's finally ready.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My first show

This week's edition was a true treat: I interviewed all three members of Here Holy Spain at once. Drummer Scott Brayfield was part of the first interview I ever did with a band, back when he was in Slowride. Was a really good catch-up with him and meeting his bandmates. They're good people who make good music.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Outta My System

Wrapping up the week, I did a few more DC9 items. Saw My Morning Jacket pulverize the Verizon Theatre, saw Scratch Acid rip Trees apart, and I talked with Travis Hopper about his band Elkhart and playing music for his daughter.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Graham Jones from Yukon Blonde. He mentions seeing Moneen, a band I saw back at the old Door a few years ago. Pretty incredible live band, flying dreadlocks and all. He also mentions seeing Bob Dylan, someone I tend to only hear horror stories about.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Conditions of my parole

I covered Puscifer's show on Saturday night at the Majestic. Quite a different kind of show than anything I've seen before, but it was quite enjoyable.

Interesting side note: Sitting next to me was someone I've read a lot of ire about from Zac Crain: the Dallas Morning News' music critic Mario Tarradell. Tarradell was very friendly and engaged in the show (just read the guy's live Twitter feed), and I didn't ask what he thought of Zac. Remember, there's what you say in person and then there's what you say online for everyone to see. Pretty different worlds.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A year in music

In hopes of not sounding like a total whiner, 2011 turned out to be one of the hardest years of my adult life. My girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer and she decided later in the year she didn't want to be in a relationship anymore. The guy who taught me how to be a traffic reporter died after a lengthy battle with emphysema. My band broke up. And I got laid off.

Some year where I was looking forward to January 1st to start anew, eh? You bet.

That said, I enjoyed a lot of music, among everything else I'm into (which, more or less, consists of reading books, watching movies, golfing, and reading about MMA fights).

So without further ado, here's this year in review:

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Albums Released This Year That I Really Liked (And Not Really In A Particular Order)

Rival Schools, Pedals
You know when a band spends way too much time (as in, more than two years) to release a new album and the album sounds like warmed-over mush? Well, Rival Schools didn't do that with Pedals. They had a decent excuse why it took them ten years to release a second record: They had broken up a few years after they released their stellar debut, United By Fate. Reuniting a couple of years ago, the follow-up finally arrived this year. While not as diverse as their debut, Walter Schreifels still sounds at his best with this band. And I can't deny the tuneful gut power found on songs like "Big Waves" and "69 Guns."

Explosions in the Sky, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Not to sound like I was "over" this Austin quartet, but I wasn't so sure Explosions in the Sky could blow my mind again. They had already done that with The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place and All of Sudden, I Miss Everyone. Besides, at this point, the band has their sound and you're not going to hear anything different from here on out. Well, when I heard songs like "Human Qualities" and "Postcard from 1952" in my car at a loud volume, I kept listening to Take Care, Take Care, Take Care again and again.

Wilco, The Whole Love
As much as I have loved Wilco since Being There, I wondered when the band was going to release a record I didn't love so much. The Whole Love didn't grab my attention right away like their previous two records, but I knew I had to give this record a decent chance. I'm glad I did, because a song like "Born Alone" is one I hope they play live for many years to come.

We Were Promised Jetpacks, In the Pit of the Stomach
I won't lie: In the Pit of the Stomach is not as captivating as their debut, These Four Walls. But when you have a song like "Act on Impulse" on it, it is worth hearing.

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
I grew tired of Foo Fighters albums starting with One By One, but I still loved their singles. Credit producer Butch Vig for why a song like "These Days" is one of the band's best. Credit the decision to record this on tape in Dave Grohl's garage. However the math works, the end result is far and away one of the best Foos albums.

Office of Future Plans, self-titled
I didn't even know this record existed until I read a review with "Salamander" a few weeks ago. Earlier in the year, I had heard some rumblings that J. Robbins had a new band yet I didn't know it was with Kerosene 454/Channels' Darren Zentek and cellist Gordon Withers (who had recorded an album entirely of Jawbox covers on cello). Robbins brings the good stuff again, making difficult music poppy.

The Get Up Kids, There Are Rules
Back in '99, when I was listening to Something to Write Home About in my college dorm, I never imagined the Get Up Kids would make a record like this. I like to think of this as sci-fi power pop. A song like "Automatic" is a good introduction.

Mastodon, The Hunter
There was some talk about this record as Mastodon's version of The Black Album. Stuff like "Curl of the Burl" grooves and punches a bit more than what was found on their previous album, Crack the Skye (an album I still love the most out of all their material). Since the band approaches every album differently (while retaining its core of being Gabriel-era Genesis meets metal), it's probably why I keep up with them.

Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes
Yes, the band remains a quirky power pop band. ("Road Song" and "Action Hero" are some of the best moments.) But can you name another quirky power pop band that passes the five albums test? I can't.

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Songs Released This Year That I Repeatedly Played (While Not Listening to Josh Rouse or Rush)

Carter Tanton, "Murderous Joy"
I receive at least a handful of e-mails a day from publicists wanting me to know about their artists and/or wanting me to cover their artists when they come to town. Carter came my way through a pretty reliable publicity agency and I hoped to feature him in a My First Show. The interview was conducted, but due to some miscommunication, the thing didn't run. I'm not posting this song as a consolation prize; I'm posting it because I think this song is fantastic. Poppy and folky I like, especially when it doesn't sound twee-like or sleep-inducing.

Braid, "The Right Time"
This is a horrible reason to pass up on digging into an EP, but since I really like to judge music when I'm driving in my car, Braid's comeback EP, Closer to Closed, didn't make regular rotation mainly because of its length. Its opening track, though, became impossible to get out of my head after a couple of spins.

Low, "You See Everything"
I can't say Low is a band I really seek out. Dirge-y stuff isn't really my thing, even though I enjoy True Widow. But when the members of Low were on Sound Opinions this year, I gravitated towards "You See Everything." Sounds a lot like what Carly Simon should be putting out these days.


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Album Not Released This Year Yet Had a Big Impact On Me

Editors, An End Has a Start
I know the band has another album that came after this, their second record, but I still haven't checked that one out. With this record, especially with a song like "Bones" on it, this band matched the gloomy spunk found on their debut, The Back Room. Plus, I love how the lyrics tend to walk a line between positivity and negativity. I still can't tell if frontman Tom Smith is a hopeful guy or not. Whatever mood you're in, he's singing to your heart.

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Bands That I've Liked Since Middle School Yet Had Neglected Since High School Until This Year

Dream Theater and Pearl Jam were some of the bands I really dug in my seventh and eighth grade years, even though they are drastically different in approach and aesthetic. For various reasons, both bands dropped off my radars. (I thought Dream Theater kept writing longer, indulgent songs for prog heads and Pearl Jam kept following Eddie Vedder's disjointed muse.) Turns out, documentaries on the bands inspired me to circle the wagons. The web series, "The Spirit Carries On," helped me understand why auditioning a replacement for Mike Portnoy was more than finding a guy who could play in time. And Pearl Jam Twenty is a love letter to how a band can survive skyrocketing success and still be an incredible band 18 years after that success.

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Favorite Interviews I Did This Year

Roger Miller of Mission of Burma
(A My First Show and a lot more, all here)
I interviewed Roger in hopes I could get some good memories about Mission's early days. I got that and so much more. I especially enjoyed the parts where we discussed seeing the MC5 when they were more of a Jimi Hendrix cover band, how terrible Rush was live in the early 70s, and the good that came out of Moby covering "That's When I Reach For My Revolver."

Munaf Rayani of Explosions in the Sky
(Part 1 found in my story, Part 2 found in a My First Show article)
Munaf had a gentle way of speaking that was neither fake or condescending. An incredibly friendly, generous guy with explaining the band's story as well as the first time he went to Austin to see a show.

Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde
(Part 1 found in here, Part 2 in a My First Show here.)
The day before I interviewed Johnette, a co-worker (who's a longtime fan) advised me to have my proverbial shit together when talking with her. Claiming she'd go to town on me if I didn't know-all and be-all, I started to get nervous. Luckily, Johnette would go on and on answering a single question. She made me feel easy to ask any question.

Mike Martin of All That Remains
(A My First Show found here)
I like talking metal with metal bands, but the last thing I want to hear about is how "This new record is more mature and more melodic than our last one." To avoid that with Mike, I asked the question about seeing non-metal acts. Mike chuckled, "How much time ya got?" At no point did I feel like I was talking to a "metal-up-ya-ass!" kind of guy.

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Best Shows I Saw This Year

Trashcan Sinatras at the Loft
(Original review)
The show was one of the most blissful times of the year for me. Things got really rocky only a few weeks later, so I'm glad I had this experience to remember.

Against Me! at the Double Wide
(Original review)
Originally, this was going to be an acoustic set by Tom Gabel. It turned into a full AM! show with acoustic guitars and lots of pushing around. One of the best shows I've ever seen at the Double Wide.

Taking Back Sunday at House of Blues
(Original review)
I was asked to cover this show about three hours before the doors opened. Since the show started early and I enjoy TBS, I said sure. I didn't expect this to be probably the best show I saw all year.

We Were Promised Jetpacks at Trees
(Original review)
Coming off the heels of writing a story that was cathartic to do, I was pumped for this show. I had a great time, but I didn't understand why half of the audience stood like statues.

The Jayhawks at the Granada Theater
(Original review)
The band played a lot of stuff people wanted to hear, but they pulled out a ton of stuff more up the alley of the hardcore fan. Still, the night's vibe was wonderful. Those 90 minutes felt heavenly.

Wilco at the Music Hall at Fair Park
(Original review)
First time to finally see Wilco -- and it's safe to say it won't be my last.

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Biggest Show Disappointment

A Perfect Circle at Verizon Theater
(Original review)
The band played great, but a show devoted mostly to lukewarm covers? Really? Add in shitty post-show traffic. Yeah, not my idea of fun.


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Albums That Disappointed But Are Not Terrible


face to face, Laugh Now, Laugh Later
My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Cut Off Your Hands, Hollow
Journey, Eclipse
OFF!, The First Four EPs

To be brief because I don't love to dance in this garden for very long: face to face remains one of my all-time favorite bands. Laugh Now, Laugh Later is not essential for newcomers. My Morning Jacket is still one of the great live bands around, but I wish they (or maybe it's just Jim James) would stop trying too hard to be different from the band's earlier material. Cut Off Your Hands sounded like they cut their second record hungover and with early Echo and the Bunnymen records spinning on their turntables. Journey put out a rock record that didn't rock me hard enough. And OFF! might have been awesome if I was in high school and never heard early Black Flag. Alas, bursts don't necessarily equate to longevity.

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Best Rock Music Books I Read

Bob Mould, See a Little Light
One of the most open-door, honest memoirs I've read. Think you already know Mould's story by reading magazine interviews over the years and Our Band Could Be Your Life? You know some of the story. Mould goes much deeper.

Mark Yarm, Everybody Loves Our Town
The League of Meh (as in, people my age who are rarely thrilled by something and find most of life to be a series of meh's) might scoff at another book on grunge. But I couldn't resist reading and I'm glad I read it. Yarm's oral history uncovers a lot that had never been in print before and doesn't glorify or nullify the genre/major label turning of rebellion into money.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Born Alone

Many years after I came to Wilco with Being There, I finally saw them live. Here's my review.

Also, this week's edition of My First Show is with Dave Wilson from [DARYL]. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get off the pot

No matter what I'll be doing in terms of full-time work next year, I will have another book out. After five years of work, When We Were the Kids finally arrives, even if it's via self-publishing.

The hard thing is letting this story be unleashed to the world. I'm not embarrassed by what I've written; I'm more like a protective parent who doesn't want his child to get beat up on the playground within an hour of going to school.

What's very hard about writing a fictional story is that I have a hard time knowing when something is truly "done." Storytelling and editing collide and you become addicted to tweaking. I'm convinced that if it weren't for deadlines, most books would never be published.

I have intentionally only showed snippets of the book to a couple of people. I don't want too many proverbial cooks in the kitchen, but I appreciate honest feedback. And I want the kind of feedback that doesn't tear me limb from limb under the thin veil of "honesty." I want honest feedback, but not something that gets personal and offensive. So far, the feedback has been very helpful.

Maybe I'm in the wrong business, but I can't suppress this book inside my head and my hard drive forever. This is something I want out there. Yet I tend to find myself coming up with more anecdotes every few days, wanting to tweak some more.

One last thing: I'm happy to say I have taken the book's cover image, using items that are literally behind my computer desk. I just so happen to have a drum set, guitar and bass, and amps around whenever I feel the urge to play. Since this is a story about how people came to play music (and most of them still play it), I figured this was a perfect sort of set-up for a book cover.

So, there's the update. Once this sucker comes out, you'll hear about it, at least from this spot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

You do less with less

The night before Victory and I went down to Houston for Thanksgiving, I finally finished watching The Wire. Yes, the show that's required viewing if you want to be a white person in the know. I can now join the many folks who find it to be one of the best TV shows of all time . . . because I agree with them. Solid show from top to bottom and all that good stuff.

What I found most compelling was the final season, where a portion is shown at The Baltimore Sun. With buyouts coming and a pressure to deliver a different kind of content in print, there is plenty of drama. And even though I've never worked for a daily paper, I found so much of what was depicted to be spot-on, especially given my layoff last month.

In particular, there's plenty of inspiration in what series creator David Simon did when he himself took a buyout at The Sun. By then, his first book had been turned into a TV series (Homicide) and he made the transition into making The Corner miniseries and The Wire for HBO. Definitely a rare sort of story, but I think it's worth remembering.

With my post-layoff life, I'm not focusing on what went afoul or how I should have done things different or prepared more. I try to think more about what I could do next. Given that half of my office was let go, I feel bad for the people who kept their jobs. Trying to do "more with less," I echo what Simon says about that work mindset: "You do less with less."

As for what I could do next, I'm not tied into a knot of "This is the only thing I know." I'm not cut out to be a salesman, a retail drone, or a janitor, but I'm open to a lot of other things. Just because I worked in radio for 11 years doesn't mean that's the only thing I know how to do. I've kept up with writing/blogging side because I love to do it, want to do it, and find time to do it. Coupled with my multi-tasking ethic and a desire to work with a team (and independently), I can do more than turn on a microphone and speak with authority.

What's difficult in casting a wider net is when you're around people who don't want to cast a wider net. Being in radio, you tend to run into (but not all the time) those who remember when radio was a big fun party. Making near-six figures and only working four or five hours a day can be a blast. But what kind of work ethic comes of that? Not a good one, in my opinion.

I once heard co-worker say, "I remember when I was paid more for working less hours." And this was coming from a guy who worked seven hours a day. Well, that hasn't been my experience -- I worked hard and was paid, but never got much in the way of time off and rarely received a raise.

So, it's been over a month now since the RIF. And I see no reason to give up, pull up stakes and retreat into a hole of self-loathing and depression. I'm glad I had the time to finish Simon's excellent show because it gave me more than simple entertainment. And it let me think about how I can move onto something else, even if it's different than what I've done before.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Robbie D Love from the Red 100s. And I saw My Jerusalem on Friday night.

Show reviews and blogging resumes next week. This is the first time in 11 years that I get to enjoy Thanksgiving without the pressure of zooming back into the swing of things.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Silver Side Up

Knowing my habits, because of the Twenty book, CD, and documentary, it doesn't come as a shock that I've decided to circle back to Pearl Jam albums I've neglected. Namely, their albums after Matt Cameron joined the band. Plus, I hadn't listened to Ten since, oh, 1993.

It's not that I think the band lost the plot. Rather, I blame Creed and Nickelback.

Up until now, my thoughts on Pearl Jam post-Dave Abbruzzese were, "Pearl Jam got weird." Meaning, less of rip-roaring drums and guitars and more atonal experiments. This is a rather unfair sentiment, especially because of some powerful songs on Yield. I get this all now, and I'm enjoying albums like Yield and Pearl Jam.

I can safely say I won't be praising Creed's My Own Prison or Nickelback's Silver Side Up any time in the near future. For me, and many other people who got into grunge as adolescence kicked in, those bands typified what major labels wanted Pearl Jam to be when Pearl Jam learned to say, "No."

When it comes to saying no to making videos and playing Ticketmaster venues, this still sounds like a bold move. Especially with where Pearl Jam was in their career, it could be considered career suicide. Alas, more people had respect for the band. And I think this kind of level-headed attitude has kept the band going all this time.

But when you grab some eager bands that sound like a primped and buffed version of early Pearl Jam and they sell more records than Pearl Jam's latest records, the cynicism of the industry really kicks in. "What Pearl Jam won't do, we'll find some other bands who will." Thus, a distinct sound becomes bland. And that sucks. Especially for those who have fond memories of hearing Ten for the first time.

This industry tactic has been done plenty of times before and since. It seems like the same thing happened after At the Drive-In broke up. The industry liked their sound, but they went for bands that wanted to be rock stars instead of full-time musicians. Thus explains so many terrible bands that have come and gone and never made anything as strong as Relationship of Command.

I could wonder why I spend so much time around an industry ripe with cynicism. I counter with all the great feelings that come from seeing and listening to a band, whether I'm in seventh grade or as a 32-year-old. When music is good enough to cut through the crap, then it's worth it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gone for Good

Seems like all the really great pre-Thanksgiving shows are tonight, So I'm having to make a Sophie's Choice. Instead of seeing [DARYL] re-unify (my Q&A on this can be found here), I'm seeing My Jerusalem play (I interviewed their frontman here).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Closer to Your Side

My review of the Jayhawks' performance last night can be found here here. Basically, this show was as peaceful as the Trashcan Sinatras show I saw back in March.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

American Capitalist

Yet another round of show reviews and articles. Saturday night, it was Five Finger Death Punch (review here). Last night, it was the Misfits (review here). Plus, as yet another preview of the Jayhawks' show tomorrow night (which I'll be covering), My First Show is with Mark Olson (read it all here).

No rest for the wicked here. Just having fun and staying active.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/22/63

I don't have a bucket list. But when a situation arises where I'd be foolish to not follow through on, I usually go for it. Well, a friend of mine got a pass for me to see Stephen King speak at the Majestic last night. And I went and it was everything I thought it would be.

Promoting his latest book, 11/22/63 -- a fantasy novel about a man traveling back in time with a hope to prevent JFK's assassination -- it was pretty amazing to see King speak on the same street that JFK was shot.

In only 45 minutes, he talked about plenty of stuff. Here are some of the highlights:

-Based on all his research (especially following this thought, "Follow the gun") he's convinced Oswald acted alone.

-The idea for the book came to him in 1971.

-Seeing video of fervent extremists from the sixties reminds him of Tea Party members of today.

-An interesting what-if: had Oswald's wife agreed to reconcile with him the night before, would he have not assassinated JFK?

-He admits to making a couple of errors in the book: the misspelling of Killeen (even though he looked it up, he and his copy editor missed it) and pronunciation of radio station KLIF (he thought it was called "kay-life").

-He didn't think the country was ready for Barry Goldwater and he doesn't think the country is ready for Rick Perry. Lots of cheers and applause on that one.

-In terms of the idea with traveling back in time, he ponders this about the 1999 accident that nearly took his life: if he left for his walk five minutes earlier or later, he could have been killed or he could have not been hurt at all.

-He still doesn't own a cell phone, but he owns an iPad and a Kindle.

-As for the topic of e-book versus p-books (p for paper), he sees the market going more and more towards e-book with every year. While I agree with him, I will continue to buy his books in hardcover for as long as they come out in that form.

-He briefly mentioned his son Joe (who goes by the pen name of Joe Hill) and people cheered.

-On acting, he mentioned his various roles, especially on Sons of Anarchy and Creepshow, and people cheered loudly.

-On collaborating with Michael Jackson's 40-minute video in the mid-'90s: he received a call from Michael while he was on the set of The Stand miniseries. They never met in person and King can't even remember the name of the song. (It's "Ghosts.")

Two years ago, I discovered a large bookcase of King hardcovers for sale at Half Price Books. One year ago, I started the Dark Tower series. Now I can say I was in the same room as King. I quip that I can strike that off an imaginary bucket list. But I have thought about seeing him in person if he ever came to town. Well, wish granted.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What lay-off? (cont.)

Still churning out a lot of stuff for the Observer. In this week's print edition, I did a story on the Jayhawks. And in the past few days, I covered the Touché Amoré show and the Youth Lagoon show.

And this week's edition of My First Show involves a lot of laughing. I had the pleasure to interview Mike from All That Remains and we didn't talk a lot about metal. We talked more about John Mayer.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What lay-off?

I've been a very busy beaver as of late with DC9 stuff. First I covered the Youth Brigade show last Thursday, then it was We Were Promised Jetpacks' show on Saturday, and then it was Joe Lally's show last night.

And I'm covering at least two shows this week. I'm definitely not taking my full-time job's layoff lying down.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

In the Pit of the Stomach

When I heard We Were Promised Jetpacks were coming back to the DFW area, I was very excited. I wanted to cover their show by interviewing one of the members beforehand. Turns out, I talked with guitarist Michael Palmer, a lymphoma survivor and my story became a very, very personal matter, beyond what I thought of their new album. This is a story that I hope gives other survivors inspiration. And of course, another story of someone saying, "Fuck Cancer."

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My first show

My First Show is with Michael Palmer from We Were Promised Jetpacks this week. You can read it here and stay tuned for my feature on the band later in the week.

I also covered the Explosions in the Sky show over the weekend. It was great -- with what I could see of it. Here's my review.

Monday, October 31, 2011

RIFed

Six years ago this month, I found myself without a full-time job. Last Wednesday, the same thing happened again. Only this time, I sensed the position termination coming, per acquisition by another company over the summer, and I thought about my options with moving forward.

Now I'm considering what to do next -- and if ever there was a time to try something outside of the field I've been in, well, it's time.

I could reflect on this like Charlie Brown foolishly believing Lucy was going to hold the football long enough for a kick. I could lie on the ground asking myself why I believed this time would work. But that's not what I've been thinking. For many reasons, the story met a natural conclusion -- and I have the desire to write another story.

The advice I like to give to anyone considering entry into a field where it's hard to find any work: get experience, even if it's not exactly what you imagined yourself doing. Know your limits, but be unafraid to find strengths you didn't know you had. No one will truly begrudge you if you change your mind about the field you're in after you've worked and gained working experience. And what you dreamed to be one day might not be what you wanted after all. But there is absolutely no fault in finding that out yourself.

When I graduated in December 2001, I never imagined being a traffic reporter. My wish was to be a music director at an alternative rock station and have my own Sunday night specialty show. It was strictly in the hopes to playing music that I loved to people who would listen. That's what I did in college radio and I hoped to return the favor to those inspired me in college.

As I would quickly find out, achieving my wish would be almost impossible to grant. Sticking to what I loved and hoping to give props and respect back to those who inspired me, I found other routes. Taking a job as a traffic reporter/producer helped me immensely with skills I never thought I'd have as a somewhat shy person. And with the work hours, I was able to do plenty on the side.

Deciding to write and publish a book is still one of the best decisions I've ever made. Even though I had never written a book before and never had any of my material published anywhere, I committed myself to doing something I strongly believed in. That led to this blog, writing for the Observer, and writing another book -- all matters I have enjoyed doing.

Was this path the plan? No, but I'm reminded almost every day that this was the right way for me to go.

I don't regret being a traffic reporter. Not at all. I had the pleasure to work with plenty of great people -- people who reached out to me immediately following my layoff. Knowing a lot of other people in my office were also let go, I reached out to them as well. With the responses I got, I knew that eight years of hard work and sacrifice were not wasted.

With the time I've been given now, I am able to explore many options. While I know the time to be a little picky/choosy can be brief, I have plenty of reasons to do this. And I reserve the right to change my mind if it gets to that point.

I'm very thankful I have a lot of mental support from my family, my friends, and especially my housemate Matt. I'm also thankful I still have my freelance work going with the Observer and a voiceover gig I do from time to time. And there's also that second book I (almost) have in the can.

I see no point in selling everything I own and finding the nearest cave to live in. There's nothing I'm trying to run away from. It's more about what's there to run towards. Once again, I'm reminded of something I realized that went beyond reporting traffic every ten minutes: On the road of life, it's good to have some alternate routes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Johnette Napolitano Q&A

And here is my (very long) Q&A with Johnette. Was an absolute pleasure to talk with her.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My first show

My First Show this week is with Johnette Napolitano from Concrete Blonde. Definitely one of most fun interviews I've done this year. A longer Q&A on the band's legacy and her solo work will be online later. For now, enjoy this week's edition.

Monday, October 24, 2011

We'll have Halloween on Christmas

There was a time when the thought of not trick or treating on Halloween saddened me. It was when I watched an episode of Our House and Chad Allen's character opted out of the activity, claiming he was too old for it. I couldn't fathom turning down the opportunity to get free candy from the neighborhood and dressing up in a costume. Couldn't fathom it at all.

And yet I haven't done it since middle school.

These days, I love handing out candy, within reason, on my street. My neighborhood is inundated on Halloween night with families and we run out of candy very quickly.

As much as I enjoy Halloween, I don't celebrate it like Christmas. I know people who decorate their downstairs and front doors with witches, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns. Aside from the pumpkin carving party Matt and I help host, the most Halloween decoration you see is the plastic jack-o-lantern filled with candy.

Yesterday, on a trip to find certain pieces of the costumes we'll wear this weekend at parties, I came across an entire corner of Target devoted to Halloween decorations, separate from the candy and a little close to the ever-growing Christmas displays. I wondered why I don't decorate for Halloween.

I'm not critical of those who do and I'm not against doing it myself. I enjoy catching a few more scary/Halloween-related films during October and I don't object to pulling out a spooky Stephen King short story (especially as I'm finally rounding the curve with the epic Dark Tower series). I save my decorating skills for Christmas.

Maybe next October I'll be standing on a chair hanging orange lights and finding a place for a plastic skeleton. Then again, there are only a few days left of the month.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

DOMAXXIII

Everybody -- freelancers and staffers -- chipped in to write about the winners of this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. I wrote about three acts: Warbeast, Ducado Vega, and the House Harkonnen.

Read the whole enchilada here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My first show

When I do My First Show, all that I ask for is somebody who's willing to share with me about first show experiences. I know many people scoff at 3 Doors Down's music, but when Chris was willing to answer my questions, I couldn't say no.

So, here's this week's edition.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moving (and not moving)

I helped a friend move over the weekend, moving her only a few streets away from where she was. It was a smart thing for her to do -- going from a small apartment complex in a sketchy area to a chilled-out carriage house in a pretty quiet area.

As I helped lift some rather heavy boxes and figured out ways to get some of the furniture out of the old place and into the new one, I thought about when I'll be moving next. It's been seven years since I had to do that, and I'm in no rush to pack up and move away. If I were to move, it would have to be in a better living situation than the one I'm in now -- and I'm pretty happy with the one I've had for seven years.

I can understand the desire to own less if you move every couple of years. I moved ten times in college. Prior to that, I moved twice. Huge difference. And in the college experience (and post-college), I was ready to settle into a place and try and stay there for more than two years.

But now I'm becoming the "Stuff" bit by George Carlin.

My friend wanted to get rid of a bookshelf and I immediately thought of a way to put it to great use. The shelf now sits between my two main ones and it houses almost all of my Stephen King hardcovers. It looks great in the reading room and I'm happy to have everything in one place -- and it kinda reminds me of the cases I found the hardcovers at Half Price Books.

I find staying in one space is a sense of stability. I'm not on the hook for a mortgage, but I'm not necessarily afraid of being in one. I hope to someday have a backyard so my dog can run free and chase as many cats as she wants to. But until then, I like staying put in a situation that is ideal for where I am in my life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Power of Myth (monoculture edition)

Steven Hyden recently wrote a spot-on piece for Salon.com on how monoculture is a myth. As I read it, I thought about how glad I was that somebody wasn't falling in line with a context-free, romantic view of the past. I wished there were more speaking up and saying this. Especially lately with all this grunge nostalgia.

Hyden and I are close in age, so when he talks about being young and seeing an album like Nevermind have a monumental impact on pop culture -- and not just the music industry in the early nineties -- I can relate. He also remembers the other big names in music during those times. Names that are not as celebrated these days.
Once my classmates did see it, a number of them purchased “Nevermind,” as I did. But many of them didn’t. Some preferred Pearl Jam. Some liked N.W.A.’s “Niggaz4life.” Some didn’t care about music at all; they’d rather play Tecmo Bowl. Then there were the millions and millions of Americans who bought Garth Brooks’ “Ropin’ the Wind,” the best-selling album of 1991. If anything, that was the album that we as a culture were united behind — it sold 14 million copies, though I never heard it once blasting through people’s windows.

I'm not shocked Hammer's Too Legit to Quit, Garth Brooks' Ropin' the Wind, and Kenny G's Breathless are not receiving the 4-CD/DVD deluxe reissue treatment this year. There are plenty of reasons why.

In the eyes of many critics who tend to fall into the mindset The Onion perfectly satirized a few years ago, those former blockbuster albums didn't have enough of an impact. Those albums just satisfied the lowest common denominator -- making them feel like they were eating a combo meal at McDonald's. Really? Something can sell millions of copies and not affect culture? And not just music, but video games, TV shows, and movies -- all which were taken to by millions? Makes me wonder more about the true meaning of sales figures in the long term. Especially with how we respond to them in the now, glimpsing into the past.

I'm curious how people will view Titanic in six years from now -- exactly 20 years after the film and soundtrack seemingly made everyone flock to. Will we get a deluxe reissue of even more of James Horner's score and Celine Dion's chest-bumping scorchers? Probably not. We're more likely going to see a box set reissue of Radiohead's OK Computer.

When people sound wistful about a day and age when an album could be enjoyed by multiple age groups and demographics, implying that can never happen again, I roll my eyes. Sure, it could very well be pop culture's equivalent of Halley's Comet, but that doesn't make or break the enjoyment of life. You should live for the moment you're in -- which, as Hyden points out, is filled with way more options than 20 years ago -- instead of the past, which seems so easy and straightforward in retrospect.

So I ask people of my age group: do we really want to fall in love with a patched-together worldview of the past, not that far removed from what our parents and grandparents fell for? You know, those Good Old Days, which sound suspiciously like plot points from Happy Days and The Donna Reed Show? Well, keep going back to oxygen tank labeled "monoculture" and we may very well end up that way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Maria Taylor, from the lovely duo Azure Ray. Nice little coincidence she saw the same INXS show that Tim Kasher saw.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We got stars directing our fate

There are times in my life when people run into each other when there is no scientific way of explaining how. A lot of people take the easy way and proclaim it's God while others can claim it's pure luck. Somehow, it seems like a mixture of both to me.

Yesterday, had it not been for a large family taking multiple pictures of themselves on the midway section of the State Fair -- the spot where Matt and I wanted to take pictures of ourselves -- I would have never run into my longtime friend Tim, his wife-to-be, his cousin, and his cousin's parents. Three of these five live in Houston and I rarely see them these days. And these were five people I didn't know were going to be at the fair at the same time Matt and I were to be there.

Usually, I hear about how someone was at the same show I was at, but we never saw each other. You see a check-in via FourSquare on Facebook after you've come home and realize, "Hey, we missed each other. Shoot!"

Say it's the stars or the planets lining up. I don't really know what to think.

This encounter was no different than the time I ran into a friend from elementary school at a Mardi Gras parade. A year after I had moved away from New Orleans, I saw my closest friend when we came back to town. Out of all the days Mardi Gras happens, all the people that come to the parades, and all the parades that take place, he shows up to one that I'm at.

You could show me statistics, but I probably wouldn't believe them. All I'll say, as a general rule of thumb in life: when you think you're being delayed, you might actually be on track to come upon something you had wanted to be around.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Overblown

Grunge nostalgia is a mixed blessing for people like myself. I weigh pros and cons -- hoping to not minimize or over-embellish the impact.

Sure, it's great to remind others how important bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden were to me and people my age (as well the people at MTV and the journalists who covered what we saw and read). But it would do a disservice to younger generations by claiming this time in rock history was the greatest ever.

I wouldn't say there has been a massive flood of grunge nostalgia in terms of products to buy, but it has made a lot of people talk, write, and think about it. Which I find healthy, in general.

For me, as a consumer, I have a lot of hesitation towards checking out the various permutations of the Nevermind reissue. While it might be nice to sample Butch Vig's mix of the album, I don't think it's something worth owning. And with the B-side bonus tracks? Well, they can be found on other releases (and not just the Outcesticide bootleg series anymore). The Paramount show on DVD? I'll rent it on Netflix.

I also have an aversion to skimpy retrospectives that fill maybe ten magazine pages or four minutes on a network TV news program. I like some meat with these kinds of meals, and I am thankful there are new books out there on the subject.

There's the Pearl Jam Twenty book and documentary, but I'd have to say the item most worth people's time is Mark Yarm's book, Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Sure, there is another oral history of grunge called Grunge is Dead. There's also Loser, an exhaustive (and frankly, difficult to cut through) look at Seattle rock music, pre- and post-grunge. But if you enjoyed Doug Pray's documentary Hype! like I did (and still do), Everybody seems to expand themes and stories to a T. And reading it doesn't feel like you're experiencing an ABC miniseries from the 70s.

I know people who frown on oral histories (I heard a few qualms when I told them my second book will be one), but frankly, I can't think of a better way to describe a scene. No one person can be responsible for a music scene, so why should there be one narrator?

While there are stories touched on that have been presented elsewhere, there is so much I've never seen in print before. Getting Buzz Osborne's perspective on Nirvana's rise and fall is pretty fascinating. Learning more about the U-Men, Andy Wood, and Mia Zapata was also great. And getting the perspective of alleged copycats (Candlebox) was a nice touch.

This is not a rosy look at things -- the final quarter feels like a sad decline riddled by death, drug use, and strained relations between longtime friends and lovers. Not the kind of stuff where you feel inspired to plant a tree or climb a mountain, but there's no way of sugarcoating things. To sugarcoat would be a cheat.

Maybe this is the best way to remember this era (or any era, for that matter) -- not everything was sunshine, but it wasn't like walking in mud all day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Ed Breckenridge from Thrice. I've had the pleasure of seeing these guys play three times in the DFW area, including that first show at Rubber Gloves with Red Animal War and Samiam. I remember how some people laughed when Teppei brought out his BC Rich guitar for a song, since it's such a "metttttal!" guitar.

A few years later, when I saw them open for Dashboard Confessional, there was a girl behind me constantly calling the band "T-rice."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Use Me

I might not be playing in a regular band these days -- and probably won't be playing with a regular band for the foreseeable future -- but that doesn't mean I have given up the drums.

Hell no. For as long as I have working limbs and a desire to tap along, drumsticks will be nearby.

Last week, I took up an invitation to play on a jam night at a small bar a little north of where I live. I'm happy to say that I had a wonderful time and will be back.

Playing old school blues and R&B is not something I've ever done in front of people. But like I realized when I played southern rock songs at Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp last year, if you've played something John Bonham and Bill Ward have played, you've received a partial education on the blues.

All the years I've spent watching a guitarist motion around, whether on the neck or with the foot going towards a distortion pedal, came in handy for this jam. Playing a slow blues song that I was not familiar followed by a mid-tempo groove I was very familiar with ("Use Me" by Bill Withers), it helped that the guitarist was dictating to me what to do and what not to do -- by showing plenty and saying little.

The thrill of playing together is when people who don't know each other lock in. Improvisation can sound great when you're in sync with one another -- and it's especially great when you can extend a song into a lengthy jam.

I have not abandoned my love for playing rock music. It's just at this point, I'm very reluctant to play in a regular band, only to see everything collapse not too far down the road. One-offs are nice for me at this point.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Near Wild Heaven

As much as it's old news at this point -- and many thought this should have happened a number of years before -- I've been meaning to write about R.E.M.'s decision to call it a day last week. With this week's edition of My First Show featuring a remembrance of seeing the band on the Monster tour, I have a few things to share.

I read plenty of well-written tributes to the band last week, but the one that really rang true for me was -- no surprise here -- the one The A.V. Club did. With fond memories in them, writers like Noel, Josh, and Kyle hit the bullseye on what's it like to be a fan of this band. Keith's final line really hit me:
Some music you hear. Some music marks you, and shows you where you’re headed before you even know.

Referring to where he was in his life when he heard the R.E.M. records that impacted him the most, it's interesting how the band was there at pivotal moments.

I, along with many others, can understand the sentiment.

Even though I knew who R.E.M. was when Document and Green were out, I became a big fan with Out of Time. With "Losing My Religion" being an inescapable video on MTV (as well as "Shiny Happy People" and "Radio Song"), it helped that I really gravitated towards the band's sound.

I was in seventh grade when I became a big fan of the band. Almost every other fall between then and my freshman year of college, there was a new R.E.M. record. It's like fall wasn't really fall until the new record arrived.

As they toured Monster in 1995 with Radiohead, I was fortunate to see the band play at the Houston equivalent of the Starplex. Definitely one of those shows I speak of fondness with a little bit of bragging (especially since Radiohead was touring off of The Bends, which wasn't as heralded at the time as it soon would be), I don't find any embarrassment that I went with my parents. It's not like I took them to see Napalm Death.

Since I was too young to fall in love with the band when they released Murmur, the crux of fandom was (and might always be) between Out of Time and Up. Thinking of Keith's quote about music directing your future, this was definitely true with me and my life. For the past few years, I've been very lucky to review live shows and interview bands that I admire -- and it helps that I'll always have a positive memory of an early showgoing experience.

Plus, it's very important how records like Out of Time and Automatic for the People helped me see a broader and denser view of the world. With all the videos MTV played (as well as the many interviews with the band) over those years, I highly doubt anyone watching the channel now could get the same experience from the lifestyle programming that's on now. No, the post-R.E.M. generation will have to find that elsewhere, and I'd be more than happy to share.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crawl Space

After many months of trying, I came to a conclusion last night: Breaking Bad will probably not be one of my favorite all-time TV shows.

I say this fully acknowledging the show is very well-written, acted, and produced, but at the end of the day (moreover, when I'm thinking about something to watch over dinner), I cannot join my friends in the near-universal praise.

I played catch-up with the series during its hiatus before season four began, so this is my first season I've watched week-to-week. And I've passed the point of whether or not I should continue watching the show. I don't hate the show per se; I can't give up on a show with characters I've taken a lot of time to know. I want to know how the series will end, so I'm hanging on through the end of this season and I will watch its final, fifth season when it airs.

Without going into spoiler territory, I point towards never-ending chasing of tails. When there's a problem that seemingly can't reach an easy solution, no matter how much it's between a rock and a hard place, eventually there is a clever solution. And it's usually an unpredictable solution, making things very engaging to see happen, albeit to a fault.

What also doesn't help: pacing. Plenty of episodes have long, drawn-out moments of discussion that sometimes can test the audience's patience. Alas, when a brutally violent confrontation or sequence occurs, all is forgiven.

But at what cost? Plenty to me.

There seems to be a certain, mostly male, attitude that loves this show. And guess what? I don't have it.

Although certain people I know, like my friend Millicent and my expert friends Donna and Noel (who have reviewed and been with the show since its pilot episode) have optimistic views on life, many males I've encountered can't get enough of this show because they see adult life as an ongoing series of disappointments. It's like, this show is an escape from the drabness of being lonely, broke, bitter, and disaffected. In other words, places in life I'm not at, or have been at before and don't want to be at again.

Again, I have not sampled a little of this show and said, "Eh." I've been on the rollercoaster and I don't want to get off of it. All I'm saying: do not expect me to own the entire series on Blu-ray or to be a part of the ongoing critical echo.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In the end, all you can hope for is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through

Two weeks ago, I reviewed Tim Kasher's show at the Loft. If you haven't read the review yet, I thought it was a great show overall that became a little unglued at the end. Well, at the end of every show review for DC9, we do a "Critic's Notebook" mentioning personal bias, random quotes, or whatever else we feel like sharing that wouldn't fit in the body of the review.

In the case of the Kasher show, I wrote the following in my Personal Bias section:
I am a fan of Kasher's stuff, but there are times when I find Album of the Year and The Game of Monogamy very hard to listen to. It's not because of the music -- it's the brutal honesty and vulnerability found in the lyrics. I think I needed this show.

There was a sentence between the second and third sentence that didn't make the final draft. I'm not pointing fingers or whining at why it was excised. Rather, I figured I'd explain a little more about what I was talking about.

Frankly, merely writing about this topic is a reminder of why I write: to get out what I have difficulty saying.

In short, between the end of July and end of August, I became single again and my band broke up. Both situations forged around the same time almost two years ago and both fell victim to erosion at almost the same time.

Once again, a big blow to my life happened in the middle of summer. Previous years saw a close friendship end in an ugly way, friends die after slow and painful bouts with cancer, a coworker die suddenly of a heart attack, and other things, all lining up at the span of the same time frame. And now this.

I know of people who have been through rough years and ask in the middle of them, "Can we just skip ahead to next year and start over?" I've thought that, but I prefer to not think about time travel or other things I can't change.

The one thing I can steer is my attitude. I can use these losses as a way to move forward. Keeping a positive attitude can be trying, especially when you're grieving, so I'm not going to act like I'm in denial. It's just that things sink in at different times, and when something stings, it stings like a colony of bees.

In an attempt to make use of the slow days, I've stayed very active with my exercise habits, my reading, and my writing. Matter of fact, there was a point for a few weeks where I worked 11-13-hour days between my regular work stuff and freelance stuff. But, like when I was laid off seven years ago, the positive drive can reach E and things start to coast on fumes. Right now, I'm at that point.

I can't give up on a positive attitude about life. I may say cynical, dark jokes, but it's always hiding some pain I'd prefer to dish out in small laughs rather than big tears.

Hope is not lost here. Far, far from it. I've been using my time to get a handle on where my life is now and where it's going. But there are times when I feels like I'm finally recovering from a massive blow to the body and head. Things don't heal overnight, you know?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Eric Larson, bassist for Ume. He grew up in Houston and his first punk show was at the same venue that mine was. Great talking with him, and Ume is incredible live.

And if one just wasn't enough for this week's edition, I also interviewed Tom from the Horrors on his first show experiences. Read that one here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

First World Problems

I've recently encountered a phrase that fits perfectly into understanding the severity of something: first world problem. Often a hashtag on Twitter, the phrase has stuck and it's spawned some funny sites like this one.

In many ways, I find this an evolution of the Stuff White People Like blog: white people with a certain amount of financial security and particular lifestyle habits poking fun at themselves. It's all harmless and I find the humor in it is as well.

Yet knowing about this self-awareness makes me even more cautious to talk about my "problems." It's a great gauge to understand what's an earth-shattering problem and what is not. Merely watching snippets of a Real Housewives show or My Super Sweet 16 can show you plenty. I try to be careful about what I whine about -- knowing full well that I am a lucky and fortunate person.

It's like that line in Swingers (in the same conversation that spawned the title of this here blog), where Rob is conveying his frustration about making it in Hollywood: "You're telling me that your life sucks; that means my life is God-awful."

I hope I come across as caring and a non-whiner, but some things really drive me up the wall. Who I tell this stuff to is different. The more caring and understanding people I know, they hear it all. But with people that only know me in passing, my Facebook and Twitter friends, well, I watch what I say. Besides, do you really want to be lampooned and be cast as a stereotype?

Gotta Go

Last night was another late-nighter for me. This time, it was to see Agnostic Front at Trees. Here's my review.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Postcard from 1952

A few years ago, I hoped to interview somebody from Explosions in the Sky for a Punk Planet feature. Their album, All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone, blew my mind and I wrote a very lengthy review. Well, I never got to interview somebody for a Punk Planet item because the magazine closed down, but I was happy to make up for it with the Observer.

In addition to yesterday's My First Show, I did a half-page feature that also runs in the print edition. You can read it here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My first show

I'm proud to announce that this week's edition was one of the best interviews I've ever done: Munaf from Explosions in the Sky. Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where you're from, where you are

In hopes of making interviews into friendly conversations, I'm always searching for icebreakers. Be it the town they're from, mutual friends we have, or when I saw them play live, I like to have things a little loose and fun. I definitely don't want to sound like a robot feeding questions into a mainframe computer.

Lately, I've talked with many a folk who are from the Houston area and it's always a fun topic. Earlier today, I conducted an interview for an upcoming My First Show piece and Houston was brought up quite a bit. Given how pop-punk was brought up as well, the conversation went deeper than the surface. It's about searching for reference points and finding spots to explore more, even if it's about a past life.

These days, I visit my hometown only a couple of times a year. I try to strike a balance between having my own life in Dallas and having Houston as my home away from home. I'm always welcome to make the four-hour drive, yet I prefer to be busy with my ongoing life in big D.

When I meet new people in person (or simply have a brief phone conversation for an interview), I never shy away from where I come from. Be it talking about my time living in New Orleans, Austin, or Fort Worth, these are parts of life's path and there's no reason to pretend like my times there never happened.

As I've said before, all I need is a few days back in the old neighborhood to remind myself why I moved in the first place. It's not the people per se; it's the lifestyle and environment. If I need reminders of landlocked, liberal-free thinking, there's the suburbs I grew up in. It's not like a chose a hippie lifestyle living off the land and recycling my urine. It's deciding to stay where I want to be.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Parking lots

Ending the week with a little rant I thought about when I was driving to see the Dodos last week. It's on three venues that have parking lots which are hard to get out of.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Cold Love

In this week's print edition, I wrote the main feature. It's on Maleveller, probably the only metal band I've interviewed where we could have talked at length about Richard Hawley and Elliott Smith.

Also, I covered Tim Kasher's show last night. It was epic to say the least!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My first show

For this week's edition, I interviewed Tim Kasher, someone I've been a fan of for many years. So far, I've seen Cursive four times and the Good Life once, and I've never come away disappointed.

And if that wasn't enough, I also interviewed David Rogers-Berry from O'Death for a bonus edition of the column.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Tied to the '90s

I've spent a lot of time during this Labor Day weekend combing through many used-CD bins at a couple of Movie Trading Company locations. With a special of "Buy two, get one free" with 99-cent CDs, I've amassed a few small stacks for a total price of three new CDs.

While this makes my library even larger, I can't help notice what I've bought: almost all of these CDs were by bands I remember from high school or college. Only a few came out after I graduated college, which was ten years ago.

I'm talking Neil Finn, Dance Hall Crashers, Catatonia, Space, the Juliana Theory, and Underworld, to name a few. Records that I remember holding, whether I was at a Best Buy or at my college radio station. There's a different set of memories there -- and quite different from seeing songs saved as MP3s on my computer.

I find this stuff to be treasure. I doubt some of this stuff is on the Internet -- and it's been cheaper to get them in the used bin instead of spending a few hours clicking through to see what's available and hoping that the sound quality doesn't suck.

People may laugh or wonder why I hold onto these CDs instead of dumping them after I rip them. Well, hard drives could always die on you, losing all sorts of stuff in the process. It never hurts to have back-up copies. And it never hurts to recall when you first heard a record when it impacted you.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fables

Speaking of the Dodos, I covered their show last night. Here's my review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Meric Long from the Dodos. We had a pleasant little 10-minute chat and that's what you get.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here come Omar




Last week, I decided to make a purchase that some could say was foolish, but others could see as smart. And I couldn't help being self-conscious about it: I bought The Wire on DVD.

There's a joke about being white and liking this HBO show that ran for five seasons. (Read probably the best explanation why right here.) Seems like everyone I know that has seen the show loves it, and will profess its greatness at any given moment. The day I purchased the set, I quipped on Facebook that I was "officially white."

I have yet to hear anyone say a negative thing about this show, but there was some hesitation when I considered buying the whole shebang. This show was on HBO, a network that has its tendency to have original programming where people you don't normally root for as protagonists. But since this show's on HBO and not network TV, you can't say anything bad about it, right?

Well, I still have burns from being a big fan of Six Feet Under before the show made me eventually hate all of the characters. And I still remember watching a handful of episodes of The Sopranos and realizing that mob stuff is not of great interest to me, even though I think The Godfather is great.

Then, there's this little factoid: as of this writing, I've never seen a full episode of The Wire.

You might think I'm the epitome of stupid by laying down some good money for a show I think I'll like. Since the price I paid for it was too good to pass up (a one-day-only Amazon deal that pulled the price down to only $73, while it normally runs for double that amount) I decided to take the risk. I decided, if I hated the show, I'd give the set to one of my friends who loves the show and leave a nasty note.

But I'm quite sure that won't happen.

What interests me about the show can be credited to my enjoyment of watching shows like The Killing and The Shield. I'm not the biggest fan of dramas with cops, robbers, and inner-city life, but with what I've lived around in a gentrified neighborhood (and worked around in the media), a look at how cops, criminals, political leaders, and journalists intertwine fascinates me.

And knowing that, I'm reminded of when I decided to pick up Scott Walker's In Five Easy Pieces box set back when money was tight, but Tower Records was closing and selling everything drastically cheap: sometimes you have take a small risk for a big reward. The key is sometimes because you don't to drop a lot of dough on stuff that has yet to fully prove itself to you. But, every once in a while, you have to go for it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lovely Lovely Lady

Normally, I don't stay up incredibly late to cover a local band's set, but I didn't have to get up at 4am today. Here's my review of Burning Hotels' CD release show.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Serve the Servants

If your life was changed in 1991 or 1992 by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, you shouldn't be surprised there is renewed interest in talking about how good things were back then. You know, it's only been twenty years. (Cue rolling of eyes and head-slaps to those that remember this era like it was ten years ago.)

From here on out for the rest of the year (and maybe some of next year too), you will hear plenty of reminders about how much albums like Nevermind and Ten were game-changers. Writer Simon Reynolds recently wrote an excellent piece about 90s nostalgia, tying it in with his book, Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Past. He starts off talking about how Nirvana's '92 performance at the Reading festival will be shown at this year's edition of the festival. Then he throws in plenty that is well worth your time.

This got me thinking about how I have responded to news about Nevermind's reissue, Pearl Jam's forthcoming documentary, Twenty, and the deluxe reissue of U2's Achtung Baby. I will definitely want the Nevermind reissue (mainly due to the DVD moreso than the B-sides and alternate mixes) and the Achtung Baby reissue (mainly because the original CD version sounds very thin and quiet) and I would love to see the Pearl Jam documentary (because I can't say no to documentaries on bands I like).

Am I falling into a trap of nostalgia here? I don't think so. I think I'm briefly circling my wagons, but not parking those wagons with a resigned attitude about how things were better in 1991 and 1992.

Not to sound narcissistic, but with my own books, I'm trying to not give off an impression that everything was better "back in the day." I'm trying to give a perspective on how things were and point out differences with the present. I know intentions can get lost in the interpretations of the final product, but I definitely did not want to sound like an old codger who hates all new music and new bands.

When I began writing and researching Post, I was reminded every single day how nostalgia is sold (and resold to future generations). Working at a radio station that specialized in the oldies format, groundbreaking artists with a plethora of hit singles were reduced to only a couple of songs in medium or heavy rotation. And they were songs you've heard all of your life and you tend to get sick of them.

Plus, knowing how people love to talk about one-hit wonders ("It's a one-hit wonder weekend!"), I had the bad feeling the first and final word on emo would be with Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle." (Not that I think Jimmy Eat World is a bad band or "The Middle" is a bad song. It's just there was a lot that led up to this: a whole book's worth.)

Consider my efforts noble to get the story straight, and not give into compromises I knew I'd regret down the line, but I had to self-publish Post to get my ideas out there. I'm happy to say I have no regrets, though I wouldn't object to reworking the cover and write a new afterword.

Now with another book almost done, set between 1993 and 1997, I don't want to make it sound like I'm this kind of guy who constantly pines for the past. Sure, there are some things I miss about playing music when I was learning to play the drums, but there is a hell of a lot I don't miss. More than anything else, I want to show how people like me and my friends got on the path we are today because of coming of age in the 1990s. I especially want to make things clear with the choice of years When We Were the Kids is set in, because too many rock critics think American rock music 1993 and 1997 meant less and should be made light of.

I write about what I know best and I try to at least put an effort into something rather than whine all the time. If I choose to revisit records that greatly turned the tide for me as a seventh grader, that doesn't mean I'm trapped in the past. I'm merely taking a look back while also looking forward to many other things down the line.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My first show

This week's edition is with Casey from the Dear Hunter and Andrew from Life On Repeat. This is what happens when one guy answers the questions well in advance, but the answers are short and to the point. So when another band is playing in town and a member is willing to elaborate, you get this as an end result.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer on the links

A little update on my golf game. I'm still playing and there's no reason to stop playing.

Lately, Matt, myself, and Jeff (Matt's father) have ventured far and wide in the area to play. Sure, there are plenty of courses around here in the Dallas area alone, but we've recently played in Gainesville (which is about 90 minutes away) as well as in Marietta, Oklahoma.

Why play so far away when there's so much to offer around here? Well, when my golf partners want to go there, I tag along.

Prior to playing in Oklahoma, I had never stepped foot in the state. Yes, after living under the state for 26 years, I finally paid a visit. I'd like to go back there soon, just not when it's 105 and sunny. It felt like being in a fireplace, waiting for a match to be struck at any minute.

There's an old-school charm to these courses and I love that. Shorter holes without any fancy water fountains or brand new houses next to the course. (Not that there's any wrong with that. I'm merely saying it's like the kind of golf courses you see in black and white movies.)

Playing wise, I have good contact, but I still have a ways to go. I tend to get into this cycle: when I learn how to do something, I try to improve, but when I don't improve by leaps and bounds, I stay at the level I'm at. And there's no reason to stop playing because some shots I make go everywhere but straight. Playing is so much fun and there is no reason to stop.

A few weeks ago, Dallas got some rain early one Saturday morning and it remained cloudy the rest of the day. We three decided to check out a course in Pleasant Grove and it was pure magic. I'm not saying our playing was pure magic, but the whole day felt so peaceful and relaxing.

Even though it was back to 100+ degree heat the following day, I got a glimpse of playing well into the fall and I liked that sight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On (Still) Reading . . . The Dark Tower

The year has past its halfway mark and I'm still trying to climb up the Dark Tower with Roland and his ka-tet. I wasn't planning spending all this time dissecting Mid-World, thankee-sai, and Blaine the Mono, but that's how it's gone.

You could ask why would I bother with such a difficult read. Well, since I'm a fan of easter eggs in books, TV shows, and movies, this series is ripe with them. And I still agree that if you read this mash-up of King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and the Man With No Name trilogy, you have a much better understanding of Stephen King's other work.

While I was in Florida, I read two non-King books in four days. Those who are friends with me on GoodReads know that is warp speed for me, but I think my patience with the Dark Tower series helped me immensely. The pacing of the series is slow, but after I read The Stand, I'm used to that.

A few weeks ago, I decided to read a short story from Full Dark, No Stars in one morning. There were no moments of todash, specialplates, or rose sightings. It's not like I expected those, but reading through and along helped me zip through this short story in an hour or so.

This all made me think of challenges we're willing to take on end up really helping us down the line. Helping us out in ways we never saw coming.

Believe me, if I thought the Dark Tower series was a bunch of pretentious, drug-fueled fantasies tying every loose end together, I would have given up in The Wastelands. But there was enough to hook me in and want to read to the very end. Even though I've heard plenty of whiners about how the story concludes. (Yes, the Internet is still perfect if you want to viciously rip on something but backpedal about it in person.)

All I can say is, the journey's still going and I'm not giving up. I passed the give-up point long ago any way.