Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with Amber and David from local band, Somebody's Darling. I never imagined being inspired by the Judds, but definitely with My Morning Jacket.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Play You Out

During my interview with Mark Ryan from Mind Spiders, he asked why his music was now receiving all this national attention. As in, more attention than the Marked Men and more than when Mind Spiders' first record came out.

I explained to him about the nature of how music critics don't want to be the dreaded last to cover a buzzed-about act. This happens every year, and it always creates this sense of something bigger than it really is.

With my exposure to Mind Spiders, it started last fall when fellow writer Darryl Smyers raved about them to me. Claiming that Mark Ryan was a crazy frontman, I was curious. Fast forward to January and Audra and I kicked around ideas for upcoming features. I expressed an interest in writing one on Nervous Curtains, as I've seen the band develop over the years. Audra wanted to write a story on them, so she asked if I wanted to write a story on Mind Spiders. I said I was game, but I needed a crash course on them. I listened to Meltdown and had some topics in my head about what I wanted to ask Mark.

My conversation went very well, and the results are in the story I wrote. Like all my features, I tried to write a definitive story about a local band. As in, represent a band from the DFW area, but talk about why they're special and worthwhile. Sometimes acts catch fire around the nation and world. Many others don't, but that doesn't diminish their greatness.

It's great to see mentions of Meltdown in Spin and the A.V. Club and a pretty nice review in Pitchfork. But I know that when I see Mark again, it will be the same Mark, probably talking about the new songs he's written and when a new Mind Spiders record will be out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Angular blues

I mention towards the end of my review of the "final" Annex House show that I play in a band with a member of one of the acts that night. Conflict of interest on the journalistic ethic end? Not to me, because Ben's band sounds much different than what we've cooked up with Sean.

My review, like every review I write, is what I truly feel about a band's performance. Besides, when you play in bands around the area, the scene is small enough and you run into people as you meet new people and develop contacts. There's one band like Rocketarm for every thirty cover bands.

So yes, I have a new band going. And I've recorded some new solo material for the first time in ten years. These are some of the most positive new developments in my life since I was laid off. My hope is that I can continue to make more positive developments in the months to come.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I love Mind Spiders. I hate driving on ice. I hope this comes through in my feature on the band. And as a bonus, I did another edition of My First Show with frontman Mark Ryan.

My first show

This week's edition is with Sealion, a band I saw open for Tim Kasher last year. Frontman Hunter and I share a lot in common with growing up in Houston and being into pop-punk.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"This needed an editor . . ."

One kind of literary criticism that still irks me is this line: "This needed an editor." I received that comment when Post came out, and I'm sure I'll hear it again with When We Were the Kids. Why it irks me is because I spend many weeks/months getting things ironed out with an editor. To make this claim is like saying the author wrote the book without any thought or organizational skills, and published it without reading it.

What I must remind myself is how everyone gets that remark. Substitute "editor" with the "Everyone's a critic" phrase and you get the picture.

But the Internet is a great place to be an armchair critic. Lampooning, ridiculing, and/or blasting someone's work is much, much easier than committing yourself to the writing/editing process. The thought of actually writing a book is beyond them.

Ever since I co-edited Post, I tend to think like an editor when I read a book. This is especially true when I read Stephen King's work. I'll read some stretch of pages and think, "This could have been consolidated." That was especially the case as I read the Dark Tower series (Too much High Speech! Ugh. And quit your nonsensical conversations and find that damn tower!).

But are my editorial suggestions going to change King's books? Hell no. They don't change my feelings on Post and they probably won't with When We Were the Kids. Such is the struggle, but it's worth it when you're proud with the end result.

Friday, February 17, 2012


How's this for a curveball: I saw Chris Botti last night and gave a summary of things I overheard and saw. It was a great show, albeit much different than the kind of show I usually go to.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with a Dallas legend, Patrick "Taz" Bentley. I briefly met him in passing a few years ago at Bishop Manor, but I didn't introduce myself. When I saw him play as a solo act last year, I did, and this what came of putting out my hand to shake and talking with him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Seconds Out

I never thought I'd see the day when I looked at the vinyl section more than the CDs when going to a record store. Alas, that's what it has become. Plus, I never imagined vinyl making a "comeback" in terms of preferred physical purchase. LPs were what my parents had and they dubbed their favorites onto cassette. I had punk rock 7-inches so I could have rarities that never surfaced on CD. That was it for me until a few years ago.

In that time, and despite what you've heard about the industry "crumbling," there are plenty of options with finding old records. I'm thankful there are many record stores around the DFW metroplex. In terms of used vinyl, the best quality I've found is at Good Records and Mad World Records. Half Price Books has the best selection, bar none, but sometimes the vinyl's condition greatly varies. I have yet to venture back into Forever Young or visit Doc's for the first time.

So, here's a list of artists I always find, no matter where I go:

The records Genesis put out in the 70s are best heard sitting at home, resting. Having Foxtrot or Trespass on in the car or on the computer can be frustrating because of how exploratory they are. One minute it's pastoral folk, another minute it's free-form jazz odyssey. You have to be relaxed to let things seep in. Alas, I'm happy I keep finding used copies of this era of the band.

Frank Sinatra
Sinatra put out a ton of records, and not even counting the compilations. It's not uncommon to hear about a deceased grandparent's record collection ending up at Half Price, and Sinatra was a staple of many collections. There are many treasures to find with the guy's work, well beyond the hits.

The one record I keep seeing is Grace Under Pressure. Definitely not a bad record, especially since it contains "Red Sector A" and "Distant Early Warning." But since it's post-Moving Pictures Rush, there is a tendency to sell back that instead of 2112 or Permanent Waves.

Carly Simon
Whether it's her 70s or 80s work, she's there. Every time. It's like the album covers scream out, "You belong to me!"

Bruce Springsteen
I'm still on the hunt for the Live '75-'85 box set, but I've regularly seen Tunnel of Love, Greetings from Asbury Park, and Nebraska. I made a lucky score with the rarely-seen The River a couple of months ago.

Neil Diamond
Like Sinatra, many albums and compilations equals better chances of finding this stuff. The Jewish Elvis had a ton of great album tracks and singles beyond the biggest sellers.

The Who
I'm not talking Quadrophenia or Who's Next. I'm talking It's Hard and Face Dances. You better, you bet.

And here are artists I have a hard time finding, non-180-gram edition:

Husker Du
Any record on SST is a sticky issue. They never remastered their catalog on CD and they haven't paid their biggest artists royalties in decades. Just ask Bob Mould. They really took to the overpriced 180-gram trend though. It's a sad way of preserving a legacy for one of the 80's greatest indie labels. With Husker Du, you might find a copy of their two LPs on Warner Bros occasionally.

The Velvet Underground
That famous Brian Eno quote explains this situation. You'll easily find copies of the box set and various reissues of their debut and final record with Lou Reed on CD. But a worn down copy on MGM or Verve that still plays great? Keep fishing.

Tom Waits
At no fault of Tom, his back catalog on 180-gram is outrageously overpriced. Closing Time, Blue Valentine, and Small Change for $28 a pop? Really, Rhino? I'm still holding out hope to find an old copy. Someday!

Archie Bell
To the average oldies music listener, Archie Bell is that "Tighten Up" guy. Sure, that song cemented his work to be played on turntables and laptops all over the world, but finding something beyond that has been tough. I sure would love to hear a single mix of "Balloon's Going Up."

Sex Pistols
Never seen Nevermind the Bollocks. Ever.

Pink Floyd
Aside from seeing Dark Side of the Moon once and Atom Heart Mother once, I figure most can't part with their material. Makes sense.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Light the candles

I'm 33 today. I definitely don't feel 33, but I don't feel 23. In between family get-togethers and other things, I saw a couple of shows this weekend. Saw Mind Spiders tear up Rubber Gloves and Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra sweep into Sons.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

My first show

This week's edition is with Andy Lester from the Blurries. First time I've interviewed someone who has symphony musician parents. Definitely made for an interesting interview.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Gentle Reminder

Get the new @thejealoussound record today. Mid-life heartbreak, bleary-eyed optimism, and the power of palm muting. A hands down classic.

So went a tweet by my friend Trevor on January 31st. I knew who the Jealous Sound was, especially since I had seen them play before, once with Spitalfield and the other with Sunny Day Real Estate. In those prior encounters, the band was not my focus of attention. But there were part of important moments for me, like meeting Adam Wade for the first time and finally seeing the original Sunny Day Real Estate lineup.

Keeping Trevor's suggestion in mind, I decided to check out A Gentle Reminder. Deeply taken by a handful of its songs, especially with lyrics like "We all can change when it's time to change," "I can't do this on my own," and "You're breaking your back to be alone." And while that might sound like simple break-up prose, Blair Shehan's vocals make these lyrics incredibly personal without sounding weak or teary-eyed.

With the band now a priority in my regular listening habits, I caught their set at Lola's last night. The atmosphere felt absolutely fitting with a small gathering of 25-30 people, including some friends of mine that I had not seen in a long time. Standing in front of me was a couple who couldn't keep their hands off each other. Right in my view of Blair were these two, clearly enjoying being together, while I heard tales of heartbreak, strain, and hope by a thread. How's that for a not-so gentle reminder?

The band sounded much more powerful live, especially with drummer Bob Penn. He punished his large kit and his arms, making every little loud-quiet dynamic more pronounced. And Blair as a frontman is extremely captivating. He might look like an extra from Alien 3 with his bald head and piercing, dark eyes, but he was very open, conversational, and friendly with the crowd between songs.

Starting the set with some of the band's strongest work to date -- "Beautiful Morning," "Hope for Us," and "Got Friends" -- was smart. And while they didn't play the standout "Change You," their hour-plus set was highly satisfying. Definitely something I glad I didn't miss.

This has left me wondering if I've seen the best show I'll see all year. Well, it's definitely the most personal. And we're only in February.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Finding new pavement

In all my years growing up in New Orleans and suburban Houston, I can count on one hand how many people I knew who lost their jobs. Since I was in college, it seems like everyone I've met has either lost a job themselves or is close with someone who has.

I distinctly recall a classmate in elementary school whose father couldn't hold down a job. Driving around in an expensive car and sending his children to a private school weren't the best budgetary decisions, but that's what he chose. There was plenty of dysfunction within the family and him, so I thought only the unstable and wasteful had employment issues.

I had a lot of friends who had parents that survived the Great Depression. The kinds of tactics they took to scrape by stayed with them (like, don't leave the back door open because cold air was getting out), even if they owned a lakehouse and a couple of boats later in life.

College was when I heard about friends' parents losing jobs. In my ten years after, I realized there is no stigma to getting laid off. And a great result is the chance to try something else. As scary as that may be, finding new pavement is much more appealing than going in circles around on broken pavement.

In my case, as much as I love the productivity that comes with part-time freelance writing, I have the itch to do something more with my time, like a full-time job. I'm nearing the finish line with a (hopefully) final draft of When We Were the Kids and I'm about to turn in a feature for the Observer. Along with playing golf every few weeks and reading every single day, this keeps me at sanity's bay.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Stay Positive

Normally I never ask for an autograph or picture with a band, but there are times when I can't resist. And the days leading up to this picture were pretty whirlwind.

At the end of last week, some of the most promising full-time job leads I had all fell through. This took the wind out of my sails and wondered what to do next. It's not like I have the option to quit the job search, but there are definitely highs and lows. As I've maintained in this time, productivity with positivity is better than no productivity with negativity.

On Monday, my editor Audra sent out an e-mail to the writers asking what we're covering this week. Aside from this week's edition of My First Show with Bad Design, I pondered seeing Deleted Scenes play in Denton on Tuesday. I ended up going to that and reviewing.

Since the show was in Denton, I knew I had a while to go before I went to sleep. When I covered the Life and Times show, I didn't get into bed until 4. With this show, I hit the hay around 3 but couldn't fall asleep, especially since a dog next door was left outside and barked its head off constantly.

I finally fell asleep and awoke mid-morning and turned my phone on. There was a three-part text message from my friend and fellow writer Kelly. He planned on covering the Craig Finn show, but couldn't because of work. Asking if I could cover for him, I said yes without hesitation. I'm a fan of Craig's work with the Hold Steady and I looked forward to seeing him in a smaller venue.

I reviewed the show and enjoyed the evening, especially since there were plenty of places to sit and watch. As the show wound down, the guitarist from Finn's backing band approached me and asked what my name was. Turns out, it was James from Moonlight Towers, a band I have championed for years. I had wondered what he and the band had been up to, and suddenly the answer was in front of me.

James was kind enough to introduce me to Craig, the writer of many songs I've played repeatedly over the years. He even took the picture at the top.

That's been my week so far, as I do the final edit on When We Were the Kids and assemble another feature in the meantime. Sure beats sleeping my recliner.