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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clockwork Angels

Not only did I get to review last night's Rush show at the American Airlines Center, I also had the pleasure to snap a few pictures up in the front. Turning around and looking at the crowd in the arena, I thought I was in The Song Remains the Same. Absolutely special night.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Evan Chronister, someone I've known for years. He's told me plenty of great stories about seeing pivotal and influential bands, but he had never told me about seeing Rush. I hope to see him tonight when I cover the Rush show at AAC.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My grown-up Christmas list

For two decades, when it came to compiling a Christmas list, compact discs were at the top of the list. Every year, from middle school to last year. Be it a box set, single CD, or double-CD, there was a continuation of my want-itis for years. But this year, my Christmas list doesn't feature any CDs.

As much as this might sound like a joining with modern society, I'm still a CD buyer and only listen to CDs in my car. But when it came to things I most wanted for Christmas this year, DVDs, books, golf-related stuff, and bike-related stuff came to mind. I still listen to plenty of music, but given the MP3s I get every month from eMusic, along with used LPs I get from Half Price Books, CDs aren't the go-to format for me now. I certainly will not fathom abandoning the format completely. But for now, my wants (and the things I want to buy for others) lies in other things.

I credit (credit, not blame) this to a decision that music isn't the only important matter in my life. If I were to tell the 16-year-old version of myself this, he'd probably cry foul, run into his room, and lock the door. But it's taken me this long to realize that my interests should be a better balance with listening to/playing music along with biking, golfing, reading, watching movies, and dog-walking.

I feel comfortably fine to take on new responsibilities with where my life is going. I don't feel the pressure to constantly have music to listen to, books to read, or movies to watch to fill up my leisure time. Those things seemed to fill a bigger void in my life for such a long time. But this was a void that has become much smaller in recent memory. Time passes much more quickly because there's so much that I want to do and accomplish. So it looks like I will not have a house filled wall-to-wall with media. And I'm thankful of that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meet the . . .

I'm rather perplexed by the supposed pressure we put on ourselves before meeting possible future in-laws. I've put pressure on myself before and it ended up not being a big deal. I've had friendly relations with my previous girlfriends' parents and I'm happy to say that has continued with Jenny's family (I met her mother and one of her sisters a few weeks ago, and I will meet the rest of the family at Christmas.)

When we're teenagers, there's a bigger sense of pressure. The whole, "Why are you dating my daughter?" awkward conversation and all. Since every girl I asked out in high school turned me down (sad trombone), I never had to deal with that. No questions like, "What are you going to do with your life?" or "Where do you plan to go to college?" When I got to college, I had a relatively pressure-free experience with my college girlfriend.

These days, on paper (and in the eyes of suspicious skeptics), I sound like a questionable 33-year-old who doesn't seem to have every duck in the row. Guy who lost his full-time job and is a freelance writer? Guy who plays drums but doesn't play in a band? Guy who has a library of books, DVDs, LPs, and CDs? Sounds like a non-winner to the superficial. I'm lucky that I date someone who sees through the superficial, sees my charms, and recognizes my potential. (I see the same with her.)

Stereotypical stuff, as in the stuff that the Meet the Parents franchise is based on, might be funny with nervous tension. I try to not fall into that crap. I've always stuck by this attitude: if I don't want to introduce a girlfriend to my parents, then I shouldn't date her. Might sound limiting, but there are some perks to being picky. I don't want to choose between my parents and her. I'd rather have her be welcomed with open arms every time we see my parents (and vice-versa with her parents).

Building longtime relationships is important to me. If you want to take dating seriously with somebody, you need to consider what all you're getting yourself into. I most certainly do.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition is with John Solis, drummer of seven Dallas bands. I've known this guy for years and found out a lot more in this conversation.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My first . . .

This week's edition ran a day later for a technical difficulty. Our interview was scheduled for noon on Tuesday, but all attempts to make contact didn't happen. Hans called me yesterday, very apologetically, and we did the interview. We spoke for less than ten minutes and I asked a lot of questions. Then I transcribed it and uploaded it.

Also, in print edition, I wrote a couple of blurbs about two winners of the DOMAs. I wrote one on Burning Hotels and one on the Foundry. I couldn't make the awards showcase on Saturday due to a wedding, and I couldn't make the ceremony since I was at the Title Fight show at Dada. The promoter and one of the bands on the bill won DOMAs and were very gracious of their respective awards, but they seemed like they had more fun being at a show (and a rowdy one, no less).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Happened?

For the past three years, I have looked for a single book that went out of print years ago. Almost every single time I went to Half Price Books, I dropped in on the TV books section all for the hopes of finding Mr. Show: What Happened? by Naomi Odenkirk.

I wasn't sure how the book would be filed: "Mi" for mister or "Mr" for Mr? Repeat trips to the section found me looking a plethora of Monty Python-related books as well as books on Mr. Ed and Mr. Bean.

I can't remember exactly where in the filing I found this, but I was tremendously happy to find it last Sunday:
I wouldn't consider myself a super-fan of Mr. Show. I didn't really find it funny when I originally saw on HBO or when my friends would watch it. When it was on HBO, I thought the humor was over my head. When I originally watched it with my friends, I thought I had to be high to get the humor. Luckily, I gave the show another shot a few years ago and I finally appreciated the dark/twisted/meta humor Bob and David did.

Since What Happened? is billed as a behind-the-scenes look at the show, I figured there would be some interesting stories about the difficulty in doing a show like it. Reading about the struggles of making something fascinates me. Stories like these are healthy reminders about how creativity can be incredibly difficult, even for the people you look up to. It's a story I often read about, and I don't seem to get tired of.

Thinking I'd find out some more wisdom and background on the show, I looked and looked during my frequent trips to this great used bookstore chain in the world. I stopped looking at online retailers quite a while ago, figuring that people were asking too much for it. I wanted to hold a copy in my hands and see if it was truly worth buying.

Quickly thumbing through this copy on Sunday, I knew I had struck gold. Like when I finally found that five-LP set of Bruce Springsteen live material earlier in the year, there was a sense of relief finding something in good shape and for a decent price.

Three years is a long-ass time to look for something particular, but when I'm determined to find something, I'm quite sure I will find it. Of course, I do wonder, "What next?"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Merry Christmas, Baby?

There is a little war being waged in my household over Rod Stewart's career in the past ten years. Yes, Rod Stewart. (War might not be the right word, as the extent of it has been posting links on Facebook timelines and hurling light insults at each other. Nothing has come to fisticuffs or hurt feelings, yet.)

If my memory is correct, my housemate Matt casually mentioned his love of Rod Stewart's recorded output. Rod the Mod's been on his mind quite a bit lately, mainly with all the used vinyl LPs he's found in the past few months at Half Price Books. I have plenty of appreciation for the material found on these LPs, going back to his days with the Faces to his early solo work, and all the way to songs found on his mid-1990s albums. For those keeping score at home, that's "Stay With Me" and "Maggie May" all the way to "My Heart Can't Tell You Know" and "Rhythm of My Heart."

Where the line goes off in different directions involves Rod's choices of material starting with It Had to Be You, his first Great American Songbook collection, in what has accumulated into four unnecessary sequels. I'm not picking on Rod by choosing cover songs; he's done cover songs for all of his solo career. Whether it was Tom Waits or the Isley Brothers, he did things in his own way.

But the way he covers a song like "The Way You Look Tonight" is pathetic. Doing it in a style that sounds like it's being performed in an airport bar feels like pandering. A kind of pandering to men and (especially) women aged 38 to 66 who still aren't sure about the validity of MP3s or the iTunes music store. Somehow, this demographic doesn't mind when older artists take the route of regurgitating material that has already been regurgitated to death. And even worse, they regurgitate it to make it sound as appealing as a Yanni album. See also: Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, and Kenny G.

I understand that Rod is playing to the people who are actually buying tickets to his shows and his albums. Albums like Human and A Spanner in the Works didn't catch fire in the '90s, so he's taken the safe route of playing the familiar songs of other people to stay relevant to a broad audience. (Though I must say his version of "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" from the Still the Same collection is pretty spot-on.) The man women wanted to lose their virginity to and the men who wanted to be him has come to this career floatation device.

Since he's going the way of Barry Manilow, it's only fitting that Rod has a Christmas album out this year called Merry Christmas, Baby. Now he's playing to those people who want continuous Christmas music to start on November 1st every year. By giving this crowd a dozen of the Christmas songs you always hear every year (along with a few original tunes), he's going the same airport bar performance route. Feel free and hit the snooze button through "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Silent Night"!

I can only roll my eyes at Matt's enjoyment of this record. He made me a copy of it and I could barely get through the first track. He's told me about Rod's appearances on the Home Shopping Network schlepping this as well as the recently-released autobiography, The Autobiography. And I'm sure he will terrorize me with his copy of Merry Christmas, Baby when we're out getting our Christmas tree or doing various bits of holiday shopping. (I hope Jenny doesn't snag a copy in the meantime.)

For now, we agree to disagree. I'll take Rod's version of "Downtown Train" any day over "White Christmas" any day. Unfortunately, I'm alone in this.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Un-Friend Zone

Before Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Facebook, who you kept in touch with was not for public knowledge. A lot of people had a Rolodex or an address book filled with phone numbers and addresses. (Throughout high school, I had a small piece of paper with my friends' phone numbers on it.) With cell phones, keeping any number stored in your phone was groundbreaking.

But ever since those aforementioned social networks came into prominence (especially MySpace and Facebook), deleting anyone from a virtual (and public) Rolodex has become a touchy subject. Un-friending someone doesn't mean, "I don't want to hear your political rants, what you're eating, or what was the last movie you saw." Instead, it often comes across as, "I need distance from you, so I'm breaking communication ties for now." And sometimes (usually with the blocking function) it means, "I don't want to have anything to do with you for the foreseeable future."

Whenever someone un-friends me, I often think about the last time I saw her or her. Most times, the conversation (no matter how brief) was pleasant and friendly. So to find myself un-friended, I'm more curious than anything. I don't hold it against that person if he or she does it, but I most certainly will politely ask about it if I see that person again. (And as much as people like to say it's not personal, it certainly comes across that way when there's no real explanation given.)

I'm not bashing social media here; I love the concept, frankly. Keeping in touch with people you haven't seen in a while, you get a ballpark sense of what that person's everyday life is like. For people you often see, you get to see things that may or may not be brought up in a future conversation.

Too often, what we're thinking in our heads is not always suitable to be said in person. It doesn't help that Facebook always asks, "What's on your mind?" in the blank space delegated for a status update. Humans have a great filter called vocal cords. We can use them when we want to say something, and we don't use them when we hold back. Yet we don't have to use them at all when posting a status update. Which makes me wonder about the validity of, "If you can't say something nice, don't say it" matters in our modern society.

I'm no saint here; I've said some really hurtful things to people over e-mail, and I've been very cryptic about heavy things going on in my life on Facebook and even this blog. I have tried to curb all of that even though I understand why people use the route of sending a message instead of having a conversation in person. There are some people that we know that just don't "get" what we're talking about. They cut us off mid-sentence, urge to change the subject, or make light of what we're talking about. That certainly derails us from truly speaking our minds.

I can't help but think of this topic with the presidential campaign being over. Friends of mine, who love to vocally voice their political opinion on Facebook, have plenty of things to say today. In some cases, people have come across as hurtful and misinformed with the posts they share and the things they say. Interestingly, they don't bring these things up in an everyday in-person conversation.

All I come away from is knowing what to not talk about with someone in our next in-person conversation. If their political rants annoy me, I can simply unsubscribe from their posts, and they won't know about it. Thankfully that doesn't have to be public knowledge . . . yet. 

My first . . .

This week's edition is with Shane from Title Fight, a band I've come to love in the last few months. My friend Seth highly recommended their latest, Floral Green, to me, and I returned the favor in the first question I asked.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Finally

I believe it's safe to share this information now: while it's not a full-time job, I have a new, regular freelance writing gig. Writing copy for dentist offices throughout the country, it's something I am learning more about by the day. My skills as a blogger and copywriter have come in handy, allowing me to finally break from the box I've felt trapped in for so long.

I will continue to write about music and books because I feel extremely passionate about doing that. I might make little or no money off of writing about music, but I'm not going to stop. Writing in general still keeps my chops in shape and my thoughts flowing. I'd be foolish to quit.

Something that was hard to explain to non-radio people was my actual job with my last company. Essentially, I was the guy who took a lot of information about traffic and made it readable and understandable for quick reports on the radio and TV. That involved a lot of multi-tasking with plates spinning in the air, but I did it for eight years.

Now I'm moving into the world of SEO copywriting and blogging. It's not too far a leap from what I've done before, but I'm thankful for the chance to do this. The road ahead looks more promising the road I've passed.

Friday, November 02, 2012

This is for the hearts still beating

I've been very lucky to see many great shows this year. From Chris Botti to the Jealous Sound to Ben Folds (with and without the Five) to the Afghan Whigs, all of these shows will be in my (usually lengthy) end of the year recap.

Yet it was the show I witnessed last night that trumped everything else I've seen in 2012: Converge with Torche, Kvelertak, and Enabler at Dada. This was a show that reminded me about what life is truly like in the now, not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. Just living in the present and having a ball. Performances alone made the night, but the kicker was the camaraderie with the people I knew at the show and some of the new people I met.

Before the show began, I had the chance to meet and chat with Jake Bannon at the merch table on the patio. Following up on the conversation we had for this week's My First Show, we talked and talked about other things, like the hold-up on the vinyl edition of All We Love We Leave Behind (that new Beatles vinyl box set is taking up a lot of time at the pressing plant). Looks are very deceiving with Jake: he might have tattoos all over his body, but he's one of the friendliest and approachable guys I've ever met. Thus set a tone for the evening.

Also catching up with Andrew from Torche, whom I had interviewed last year for My First Show, we heard Enabler on in the background. The band sounded good, but their style sounded a little too generic for my tastes. Their blast beats and tortured vocals just didn't do it for me. But when Kvelertak came on, things really picked up. With thick and hearty riffs, the six-piece (complete with three guitarists) just slayed. Many of their songs would just go on and on, in a great way. It was like, Can these guys take things up even more? The answer was always yes.

The soundsystem at Dada handled the overload for the first two bands, and they thankfully did for Torche and Converge as well.

This was my third time to see Torche, and they have never disappointed me. Playing a lot of material from this year's Harmonicraft, the band sound like a big punch in your face. But it was the kind of punch that made you realize how glorious life can be. They're one of the few metal-tinged bands that smiles when they play, and for good reason. Friendly melodies with deep tones done like no other. (They even played some new material that sounded like doom metal, and I thought the overhead speakers were going to fall down.)

Then Converge took stage. This was my first time to see them after listening to them for seven years straight. Kicking off with "Concubine" and then going into "Dark Horse," the floor became alive. (Here's an Instagram of the set list.) Plenty of people moshed while I, along with many others, stood back. The band was everything I hoped for: punishing, unrelenting, but truly inspiring. And when they had microphone problems, they handled things in a pretty funny manner. Riffing on "Linus and Lucy" from the Peanuts specials while getting things straightened up, the band lost a bit of its momentum when the engine got back running. Jake commented that technical issues come with having fun, and he was absolutely right. And he repeatedly thanked the audience for coming out and sharing a positive experience with them.

Ending the set with "You Fail Me" and encoring with a few more (including "First Light" and "Last Light"), I came away happy. I got to talk some more with Jake and Andrew before they had to pack up and head for Austin. Such a great way to end the night.

Now it's the next day and I'm still feeling the buzz. I have three pieces of Converge vinyl to add to my collection, All We Love We Leave Behind on CD, and this special poster made for the show (which Jake signed for me).

Thinking about the show now, it was especially important for me to feel a true sense of belonging in a show setting. I didn't know everybody in the venue, but I enjoyed being around them. Jake shaking my hand and saying "Thank you for everything" means more than just a handshake and greeting; it's that mutual respect that fans of hardcore know very well.

And as a rock music fan, this was a great reminder about how incredible music is still made today. We can lament about sleepwalking zombies with Bon Iver as their soundtrack or garage bands who have no desire to evolve, but we can also celebrate bands like Converge and Torche. They make going to shows a worthwhile experience, and they make paying attention to modern music a purposeful pursuit.

This is why I still love going to shows.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

TCB or TYA

In this week's print edition, I wrote the main feature on Bobby Patterson's life after radio. Even though I've talked with him plenty of times before, I immensely enjoyed interviewing him for the first proper time. As in, the recorder was on.

Doing traffic for him was the highlight of my final year as a traffic reporter, but like him, I'm moving on. My hope was to write something honest and personal, but in a way that people who haven't heard his music can relate.