Friday, March 31, 2006

A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point

The amount of information Dan Bejar is willing to reveal about his work could never catch up to the amount of times Destroyer songs play in my head while I bike, walk, smoke, think, sit, and stare blankly.
That’s not a problem. But identifying with albums like this sometimes makes it difficult to be reasonable and just appreciate someone else’s art. The lyrics—more akin to their definition as short poems than as liner note filler—and all those arpeggios are too intimate. If only in their familiar narrative distance. Like novels I love, rereading them reinforces the feeling that they’re an addition to the guard that defends you from your own alienation. Theirs too I guess. Yes, intimacy...or maybe I’m just making too much of everything…
After a brief but unfortunate misstep in writing and production that takes listeners through a lesson in Destroyer drinking games, there’s actually a pretty okay interview with Dan Bejar here but a better one in The Fader where he talks about the “cabal of bloggers” dissecting his work.
I’m now officially one of those people. But if you only knew, like I do, what they were saying you’d be very forgiving of my own indulgence.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

noise fizzle

i wrote some stuff for this year's noise pop guide, and was reimbursed with tickets to shows i wrote about. so, monday i went to see the flaming lips at bimbo's, which, despite being on monday night, was pretty thrilling. the last time i saw the lips was at the greek theater, so bimbo's was a really cozy environment. wayne coyne and his somewhat indifferent, zoned out bandmates were clearly used to playing much larger venues, and after a singalong, wayne said something about how even tho there were only 600 people in the place, it sounded like 5000. which made me wonder if, when he orders biggie fries, he thinks, well, even tho it's only a pound of fries, it seems like a giant bowl of fries.

they were good, tho.

i also had tickets for tuesday's deadboy and the elephantmen show, and last night's dirtbombs show. i was not up for tuesday's show after being out late monday, but i was ready to rock last night. i walked to macarthur bart to get to sf early enough to grab some food, preparing for an epic solo outing of in the red action. in the station, i met george chen, who shook his head and said bart broke. i guess there was an electrical problem and the doors weren't opening or something, and there was gonna be over an hour delay before the next sf train.

i went home, watched the rest of arturo ripstein's deep crimson, an extremely fucked up movie, then went and rented shampoo and stripes, which i keep wanting to call reds.

so much for noise pop.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Oh, Canada.

Man, those wacky Canadians and their supergroups. They just can't get enough. I'll admit that neither can we.

On the other hand...Moz hates on Canada for its annual baby seal clubbing contest.

Meanwhile, Canadian ex-pat Neko Case's new record is so good that I'm physically incapable of listening to anything else.

and i can't believe i forgot this ...

This actually goes out to RayHenry ... Bjork on the phone with P. Diddy: Make sure you watch it from the start (you may have to wait till it cycles back to the beginning).

(Sorry to Mr. Guapo Prudencia -- I couldn't track down the OG Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie "I'm Washing My Penis" flash film.)

one more favorite for today



Hollywood activist SEAN PENN has a plastic doll of conservative US columnist ANN COULTER that he likes to abuse when angry. The Oscar-winner actor has hated Coulter ever since she blacklisted his director father LEO PENN in her book TREASON. And he takes out his frustrations with Coulter, who is a best-selling author, lawyer and television pundit, on the Barble-like doll. In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, Penn reveals, "We violate her. There are cigarette burns in some funny places. She's a pure snake-oil salesman. She doesn't believe a word she says."

(If anyone can scare up a picture of this thing, please holler at me! -- fanny)

Turn at the Editorial Favorites Wheel

1. Erica Jong at 64, leathery decolletage (did we really have to go there, Ms. Wiltz?) and all:

2. Samorost 1 and 2. I've loved these subtle, somewhat cuddly and definitely psychedelic sci-fi Flash Games for a while, but I revisited them late last night when I'd had a little too much wine and was supposed to be editing my own writing. Go to and click on "FLASH GAMES." Then get hyp-mo-tized.

3. The following three CDs in the morning, not necessarily in this order: Neko Case "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," Drakkar Sauna "Drakkansasauna," and Iron and the Albatross's self-titled one.

4. Shadow puppets. Russian songs. Mazursky. 'Nuff said.

5. The latest Letter of Fug "from" Britney Spears on Those ladies are such pocket wockets, I want them HERE RIGHT NOW.

6. Matthew Fox. Naveen Andrews. Ian Somerhalder. Even freakin' Josh Holloway and Merry Hobbitt. Um, yeah, "Lost" has great writing. But it doesn't hurt that they stacked the man-deck, now does it?

7. "Needles and Pins" by Volney Litmus. How is this not a Split Enz cover?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Stuff It Like It's Hot

So, listen, y'all, it's like this: I used to enter the votes for the East Bay Express' best of contest, and I can tell you with the utmost confidence that IF IT WEREN'T FOR BALLOT-STUFFING, NO ONE WOULD EVER WIN. Most categories get about ten votes for honest, random favorite things (as in, one person votes for one business, another votes for another, etc.), and dozens of votes for ONE thing, usually all campaigned for. Like, businesses put out table tents and piles of newspapers, and make it very easy for folks to vote for them. So there's no shame in helping us stuff it like it's hot. So send this to all your friends, put it on your blog, et cetera.

Here's what I suggest:

Best East Bay product: Kitchen Sink
Most enviable person, place, or thing: Kitchen Sink
Best coffeehouse: Mama Buzz
Best Gallery Openings: Buzz Gallery

You can do it by registering and voting here:
Or just pick up a paper and vote like that (it's on page 28 of the current issue).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hey! It's the editorial favorites of the week after Sanit Patrick's day!

The KS blog has been sadly neglected by me (nice passive voice construction, huh? Let's try again). I've sadly neglected the KS blog this week. Hello, KS blog. Here are the editor's favorites of the week:

1) Waking up before 7am. This provides a person with an entire additional hour of time in her day. Also, before 7am my neighbors the chop shop owners are not yet grinding and pulverizing things. Peace and quiet, I adore thee.
2) Beards. According to the New York Times, beards are back. Coincidentally, Evan Rehill of the Conspiracy of Beards will be appearing at the next installment of our storytelling series, Telegraph Stories, on 4/23, and I've been reading a lot of John Berryman, who was possesed of one of poetry's best beards:

Being the daughter of a father with a big-ass beard, however, I find beards more avuncular than sexy. Just so's you know.
3) Girl Scout Samoas. They come, you eat a whole box in one day, they go again. Mysterious. Tempting. Dangerous. Real.
4) Ross, True Love Tattoo, Berkeley.
5) This party is fucked without the karate chop of love: Joshua Beckman.
6) Ada Limon. I opened for Ada last night and she's a total freaking doll. And a good poet, to boot. Ada, I'm really sorry about your cat. That's a total bummer.
7) Poetry family reunion hour at Joshua Clover's book party, 3/21. I have never seen so many people crammed into a stairwell taking notes. Also I dropped cashew nuts onto the carpeting at University Press Books and then ground them in with my feet.
8) Spring equinox in the Bay Area. One nice day, and then rain again. Our feet are becoming webbed.
9)Stefanie Kalem's upcoming puppet show, plus her blog chronicles of SXSW. Scroll down, read, be enthralled.
10) Embracing the fact that you will never look good in peg-leg jeans. Because you've already lived through the eighties once. Also: leggings revival? You're totally dead to me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Behold the final Biggie!

I keep going back to the Saturday afternoon when I laughed so hard I almost cried into my hefeweizen listening to Joe Wenderoth read this at The Rite Spot in San Francisco...

If I were royalty I would want a Biggie and a hundred plain
burgers. I would throw away the buns and lay the burgers
side by side on the sidewalk so as to form a bed. I would
take off all my clothes and lie down in the bed with my
Biggie. As people passed by, I would say, "Behold the meaty
bed of royalty! Behold the final Biggie!" And I would relax
there until I was arrested.

Joe, if you're out there...there's a very special place for you in my heart.

only the shadows know

I have been very busy. I am narrating a folktale with shadow puppets and live music. I get to act like a witch and an angry glowing skull and a virginal Russian peasant beauty and a perky talking doll. I am glad I quit smoking, though I smoked in Austin and now I think I'm getting sick. I think the guy who makes the scenery for my troupe may be related to the Fabulous Baker Boys, and the guy who made the puppets and plays classical guitar is a Conspiracy of Beard. Please come -- it seems like everyone's going to attend the Gilman show next weekend, which makes me think that the Lobot show this Saturday and the one at Sam and Katy's (the very nice stand-up bass player and puppeteer couple) this Sunday will be woefully underattended, if attended at all. That said, please come to one of them if you can. Any one would be fine.


Teatro Penumbra Presents
Vasilisa the Beautiful
a shadow puppet production

What do you get when you combine an abusive stepfamily, a child-eating witch, some Shostakovich, a dancing hut, and enough borscht to feed ten hungry men? Vasilisa the Beautiful, a dramatic folktale bearing some resemblance to the classic Cinderella, but with a definite Slavic flavor -– its featured ogre, Baba Yaga, is a staple of that region’s myths and fairytales, a wild woman of the forest and mistress of magic. And for this production, folk songs will be sung in their original Russian.

Vasilisa will be staged by Teatro Penumbra, a new shadow puppetry troupe which grew from Quelque Fois, the company that brought Carmen and Daedalus: Master Craftsman to the East Bay in 2005.

The Band: Mary Dougherty (violin), Sam Hoffman (upright bass), Jesse Jackson (guitar)
The Puppeteers: Gabriel Bridges, Sean Mooney, Christina Shaheen, Katy Wafle, Jessica Way
The Narrator: Stefanie Kalem
The Singers: Sarah Hipkins, Ellie Johnson, Erin Lashnits

Script and direction by Jesse Jackson
Music arranged by Mary Daugherty
Puppets by Jesse Jackson and Jessica Way
Sets by Gabriel Bridges

The Shows:
Sat. 3/25 Lobot Gallery, 1800 Campbell St., West Oakland, 8 p.m., donations requested, sock puppets open up
Sun. 3/26 Sam & Katy's, 839 55th St., Oakland, 7 p.m. (house party, most likely sans kid n' play)
Sun. 4/2 924 Gilman, Berkeley, 5 p.m., variety show featuring music by Raum and Ula, and short films, $4

eugene mirman everybody!

... you can call something indie-rock that's a shirt ...

that's eugene mirman, about a half hour ago, talking about his reputation as an indie-rock comic. i just interviewed him for ks14. eugene mirman is thoughtful and polite and smart and really funny. check out his web site, and once my interview/essay comes out in ks14, check the ks site for a transcript of our conversation.

now i don't want to work anymore today, or maybe ever. not for any reason, really. i just don't feel like working, ok?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Required Reading

Tao Lin's "the MFA in hamsters." Don't forget to pre-order his book while you're there.

Matt Briggs' "Virility Rituals of North American Teenage Boys" in the new Spork 4.3.

The comic, Local #4, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

Slate's William Saletan on cigarettes, booze and erections.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

sxsw postdripped

Best band names at SXSW:
Man Man
See Cape Wear Cape Fly
The Skullening
You Say Party! We Say Die! (Oakland's own)
Deaf in the Family

And no, I haven't unpacked yet.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

sxsw blog: friday part one's been adjusted

Because of some formatting I screwed up, the last half of the "Friday Part One: Truths, Justice, and Britt Daniel Is NOT a Monet" entry dropped off. It's fixed now. So if you're curious as to how I know the singer from Spoon is rilly hot close-up, you should re-read it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Saturday Night Round-Up: Some Beautiful Place to Get Lost 2

By 6:30 Sat. evening, downtown Sixth St. was already sheer chaos. Spring breakers, music nerds, and local yokels mixed and meandered in the light rain, and I peeped at the entrance to Exodus, where Charlatans UK were playing at 1 a.m. Pockets had warned me to get in line right away if I wanted to get into that show, but I balked – considering that I’d gotten into the Neko Case/Sharon Jones show less than an hour before Jones hit the stage, I was confident that I could get into a 1 a.m. show if I lined up at, say, 9 or 9:30. The bouncers at the door of Exodus affirmed this – in fact, they said that it was such a big venue that I could line up at 10:30 or 11 and still make it in. I kinda figured that, since surely no show that I wanted to go to could be that popular, even among the Music Geek Nation – my tastes are just too random, and my allergy to hype so strong that it works to my disadvantage more often than not.

So I got a slice of pizza and got in line a block away at Eternal – Richard Hawley was playing an acoustic set at 8, and though it seemed strange that such a critically acclaimed act would play first on a bill, folks were lining up already, willing to risk missing some later acts that maybe they should have been lining up for elsewhere. Or maybe this lineup was enough for them – it ended, after all, in SF’s awesome Two Gallants.

The lineup turned out to be sponsored by Music for America, an organization that preaches politics though music events. Smart folks – they got a lot people into a club awful early, dangling Hawley as an 8 o’clock carrot to get us to listen to some speechifying about the need for better health care for service industry workers. Luckily, the speechifying was done by Kyp Malone (TV on the Radio), Brian Fife (the Good Life), “political punk folk banjo” player Jack Chernos, David Dondero, and freakin’ Ted Leo, in addition to an adorable little janitor girl from Houston who spoke through an interpreter. Leo had lost nearly all of his voice performing that week, and when Dondero spoke, he talked about how his mailbox is always stuffed with medical bills, and the first thing I thought was, “Maybe you wouldn’t have that problem if you didn’t get with hookers all the time.” (I realize this is only funny if you know his music, but what the hey.)

(Music for America, by the way, seems like a pretty cool group. Check’em out here:

Richard Hawley took the stage at shortly after 8, joined by his brother Charles, who played guitar, slide and regular, plus lap steel, and who was wearing the flyest suit I’d seen all week – black sharkskin that shown burgundy in the stage lights, with rose-colored Western style suede insets over the shoulders. Hawley’s a charmer, man – he apologized for having to read his own lyrics because he’d taken so much acid as a kid it’d fried his memory, and told a funny story about a married couple who have fabulous anniversary celebrations every year, but divorce anyway because the other 364 days are shite. He played lots of songs off an acoustic EP he’d done some years back (thanks to the guys from Impact Merchandising in Omaha, who I hung out with at that show, and informed me of the above fact), and was generally swoony. Best-lookin’ harelip this side of Joaquin Phoenix.

The set list (which I copied off the actual one onstage): CW Nights, Something Is Sick (this is probably wrong), Motorcycle, Darlin’, Precious (these are two different song titles, though “Darlin’ Precious” would be a damn good one), Wading Through, and Comin’ Home.

Oh, and one of the last things Hawley said what that “whateverrrr” is America’s gift to the world. Which it is.

Afterwards, I stumbled around 6th St. with the same friend of a friend I’d caught a ride with earlier, trying to decide what to do next – the line at Exodus was still nonexistent, and said friend of a friend wanted to see the Essex Green at the Merge showcase at Antone’s and, though I wanted to see Camera Obscura (also on that lineup), I’d heard that Jane’s Addiction might be playing a surprise show at 10 p.m. at Stubb’s, and for some reason, I gave a shit. I wandered with her for a while, ran into Kelley Stolz (whom we both know), and then continued on. She started to get on my nerves right around then – two pushy women should not hang out together unless they’ve already established a friendship, and, having rolled pretty much on my own all week, I wasn’t really up for bonding exercises.

I got a phone call from Glenn and Chris – my fellow Screw Music Foreverites from FL, though Glenn lives in Austin now – who didn’t have a schedule to look at, and were wandering aimlessly on the main drag. I told them where I was, they found us, they looked at my printout and decided to go check out a metal lineup, I acted really excited about that, and let them spirit me away from my new friend. Whew… lucky for me, the band they actually wanted to see at the metal show wasn’t a metal band at all, but rather a drums-and-synth/laptop duo from Pittsburgh called Zombi who do Goblin-style horror movie music, all instrumental and atmospheric.

We got to the show, at Room 710, and I immediately felt self conscious in my grey-and-turquoise KS shirt. So I ducked into the look and changed into the sheer black thermal I’d stuffed in my bag in case of a temperature drop (Burning Man really has trained me well), pulled my grey hat down over my eyes, and emerged freshly metalized.

It was mostly for naught, though, as the fellas suggested we go next door to an Irish bar and drink till Zombi went on, which we did. Two drinks later, we were back in the crowd. Zombi were great, by the way, and it was funny to watch all the metalheads craning their necks to look at nothing, really, although it was pretty cool to watch the drummer in his headphones, playing with fuzzy mallets. He looked like he was in a recording session. The Captain called me halfway through, and in lieu of talking to him, I held the phone up for a solid five minutes, maybe longer – I spoke to him the next day and he said he listened to the whole thing while he smoked a cigarette.

From there, Glenn and Chris and I headed to the venue where IMA had played earlier. Sadly, I’d had my share of whiskey by then, and forgot to note the name of the club. No matter – it was pretty atrocious, some legendary goof-punk band called the Happy Flowers, hopping and rolling around onstage. Bil Bowman was there, IMA’s drummer who, unlike the rest of his St. Pete-based band, actually lives in Oakland – when I was 18, I used to smoke pot with him in the parking lot of Club Detroit, and when I moved to Oakland more than a decade later, I discovered that he worked at the Berkeley Amoeba, though he no longer does.

The good news is that I actually got to see the band who’s name I’d liked best of the entire SXSW musical buffet – The Skullening. They were awful, though, and I ducked out shortly after, planning on grabbing food and walking home. Once I got to 6th, though, I realized I was right near Exodus, so I ambled over. 10 to 1 a.m. : no line. So on in I went, tying up my hair and stashing my hoodies before shoving my way into the pack of bodies. I stood there for 40 minutes, among ever-growing choruses of “what the fuck, what the fuck,” :there’ll still be cocaine and beer after the show!” and “borrrrrrring!” I was actually a little fearful of a stampede, and was thankful for the wrought-iron railing I was clutching onto, confident that, if need be, I could scale it and take refuge among the lucky crowd on the balcony.

When the Charlatans finally came out, I couldn’t see a thing and had no room to dance. So, three songs in, I raised the white flag and walked out of the crowd and out of the club.

And, once again, went the wrong way. By the time I finished my hot dog, I’d reached I-35. Oh, for fuck’s sake. Turning around, I steeled myself for 15-20 more rainy, crowded blocks. After a while, though, I heard something interesting – a furious bar-band version of “The Harder They Come.” As I am the white female incarnation of Johnny Too Bad, I felt compelled to peek in and, though the bouncer let the last person in just as I walked in, I could see quite clearly through the open door that it was the Waco Brothers, and the lady at the door confirmed that. So I hung out there for a while, till they were done with my song, then wandered on, pleased once again with the fruits of my poor sense of direction.

Soon enough, I’d reached the end of the bar crawl. But what’s that, coming from the other aside of the street? A sweet and distinctive female voice, accompanied by amplified acoustic guitar. A pair of guys walked by me and, just as I’d stopped to place the voice, one said to the other, “Do you hear that? Mary Lou.” Yep. Mary Lou Lord, ’90s alt icon, perennial SXSW busker, obscure song interpreter, and one-time Cobain lover. So I booked it across the street, pulling my hood on over my hat to shield me from the rain.

She’d drawn an impressive crowd, including several Austin street characters. Someone called out “His Indie World,” and I seconded it, but she ignored us and continued on her covering way, doing songs by Paul Westerberg, Merle Haggard, the Magnetic Fields (“I Don’t Want to Get Over You” and others. She had the sides of her hair up in two pigtails, and was super-friendly with the crowd, telling us about how she has the same condition as Linda Thompson tat makes it nearly impossible for her to sing, but Thompson encouraged her to come do it this year, anyway, because Mary Lou claims she can only sing in Austin. She also told us this would be her last year busking at the festival, after a decade of doing so.

I was right up front, bopping along and smiling, thinking about how this was a great way to end my last night at SXSW, when someone hollered out “His Indie World” again. I’m not sure everyone knows this song – it may have been some kind of college radio hit, but I don’t think I ever heard it anywhere but on the CD. Anyway, it’s a really sweet song about a girl who likes folk music and doesn’t understand why an indie rocker’s hanging around her. It starts out like this: “I don’t fit into his indie world/ guided by Voices and Velocity Girl/ Eric’s Trip and Rocketship/ Rancid, Rocket from the Crypt/ Bikini Kill and Built to Spill/ It’s plain to see that I don’t fit. It name-drops a lot of bands that are long gone, like Helium and Butterglory, but a lot that are still kicking, like the Silver Jews. And I used to just love it, in my indie rock dork way. So when she refused to play it after the second time someone called it out Saturday night, I said, loud enough for her to hear, “I asked you to play it six years ago, and you didn’t do it then, either.” Which is true – I ran into her playing on the street the last time I was at SXSW, and she refused my request then, also, telling me to come to her showcase that night, instead. Which I did not.

“Wait,” she said, halting mid-strum. “Did you just say that you requested it six years ago?”
“Yep,” I said.
“And I didn’t play it for you?”
“OK, OK, I’ll do it.” A small cheer erupted from the crowd. “But I feel silly.”
A big bearded guy came up and offered to help, and she said yes. Just as I was about to offer my help, too (as I know all the words), she asked me if I wanted “His Indie World” or “His Endy World.” Not knowing what the latter was, I answered “indie.”
“OK, then, I’ll do the indie version, he’ll do the endy one. That’s the No Depression version.”
And so they did. She did the one I knew, and then played and sang choruses while the guy sang a version with y’allternative bands instead of indie ones. Then, she played a couple more, thanked us, did an encore, and unplugged. I apologized for bullying her, and she said that was allright since it came out good, didn’t it? I asked the name of the guy who did the song with her, and she said it was Peter Blackstock, “Mr. No Depression himself.” I found out later he’s the co-editor of No Depression magazine, where the “movement” got its name.

I dropped a dollar and a business card into her case (I didn’t buy a CD, ’cause, I’m , ya know, a jerk), and headed off home with Scotti, who’d found me and Mary Lou via text messages exchanged during her set (how SXSW ever went off without text messaging, I can’t recall). We crossed the river together, swapping stories – turns out the singer from, Camera Obscura’s a midget or something – and lamenting the pain in out feet and legs.

And the next thing I knew, it was time for my last free breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes, mmm). And so, with four hours of sleep under my belt for the second day in a row, I packed up, bid farewell to the Tampa crew, and got into Illjay’s car.

Wait, you’re saying – so what was the Best Celebrity Sighting that I alluded to in my last entry? Surely it wasn’t Mary Lou? No dear children, ’twas not. See, Illjay and Regan and Duck and I went to Target for a few things, and as were taking some pre-shopping turns at the restroom, who should I see walking past the children’s clothing section and toward electronics but a wee bearded Sam Beam. Turns out the new homestead of the Iron & Wine mastermind is in the neighborhood of this Target, sez Illjay. Like the girl from Camera Obscura, he also, apparently, is something of a midget.

My trip ended with a time-killing but enjoyable movie (V for Vendetta) with Illjay and Regan, and then I ended up on the same flight to Houston with the IMA guys, and all the way to Oakland with Bil. Not to be too obvious here, but I realized that I really like Austin – I’d been there three times before, but never while living in a city that I actually like, so it’s easier for me now to recognize another city I could live in. Warm nights, freaky friendly people – I could get used to it.

But I’m home now, it’s 2:45 on Monday afternoon and I’m still in my jammies.

Everything’s back to normal.

Saturday Day Round-Up: Some Beautiful Place to Get Lost 1

After briefly considering going to the Arthur magazine party to see a bunch of bands I was only mildly curious about and to force people to look at my chest – OK, at my Kitchen Sink T-shirt – I decided to hoof it to the Yep Roc party at Yard Dog to see Billy Bragg, since he’d played two or three times already, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew his would be a performance worth catching, even if he didn’t do a single song I knew – sometimes that matters to me, sometimes it doesn’t. Depends on what kinda wet noodles the performers seem to be beforehand. Sometimes you just don’t want it to be your job to throw them against the wall and see if they stick, you know?

At about a quarter to 3, I headed off over the Colorado River for the third time that day. Sadly, though, the mini mental map that my friendly airport cab driver had gifted me with Wed. afternoon had begun to fade – I’d gotten turned around Friday night, and this day, too, I walked in the wrong direction (north instead of south on Congress) for many, many blocks before realizing my error. The good thing about SXSW, though, is that if you’ve gone 10 blocks in the wrong direction to get someplace, you’ve still gone 10 blocks toward good music, most likely. And since I was near the corner of Congress and 13th by the time I realized that my geography was backwards, and my next stop was at W. 17th anyway, I just needed to go four blocks north and a coupla blocks east to get there.

Only problem was, the capitol building was in my way.

Thankfully, some post-menopausal mamas coming from the afternoon’s national anti-war protest told me that I could just continue straight ahead, walk directly through the building and emerge on 15th St.

And so, things overheard around the Texas state capitol building:

Lady coming from anti-war protest: “You know, till thirty years ago, you never saw a Texas flag flying below an American one.”

Little kid: Do we get to go in there?
Bigger kid: “Yeah.”
Little Kid: “I knew that.”

Big black birds that are all over downtown Austin (grackles, I think): Chirrup, click, whirr, squeak.” (They totally sound like electronic decoy birds.)

The Hall of Governors inside the capitol building is actually a rotunda, and for all I know, it could be called the Rotunda of Governors. Or, even better, the Rotunder of Gov’ners. Regardless, it looks like the gallery from the Haunted House at Disneyworld. On the north side of the building is a “Tribute to Texas Schoolchildren,” a circle of bronze kiddies playing ringaroundtherosey. It’s creepy.

But anyway – this is not very rock n’ roll, this spontaneous elementary school field trip. Good thing, then, that I made it to the Dog & Duck shortly thereafter, for the Pop Culture Press party (oops, not Pop Matters, my mistake). This is actually only the second big daytime party I’ve made it to, as loyal readers of this blog know (his, Regan), because I am devoted to my readers, and also to my sleep.

The Pop Culture party (I’d vote for them) was huge, but the day’s steady rain had forced them to condense the acoustic and electric stages into one, so the folkies could get the benefit of the big tent as well as the rockers. The band taking the stage when I found Mr. Pockets was Nic Armstrong and the IV Thieves, a foursome of striped-shirted, leather-jacketed, black-haired power poppers that Pockets was tres excited about, but I just didn’t get. It started to nag at my craw, the fact that Pockets and Scotti kept going to totally different bands than I did, with not one in common. And then, realizing that the entire band actually looked like Mr. Pockets, I had an epiphany: Whereas I once largely preferred music made by people I’d like to make it with – and by “it,” I mean the dirtynasty, not the music itself – I now look for and groove on music made by people I relate to, i.e., want to be friends with, if not actually be them. And so, Pockets would love to hang with or be in the IV Thieves, whereas I wouldn’t touch’em with a prophylactic’d pole. Nor do I want to be like them, anymore than Pockets would want to be like or be Neko Case, Sharon Jones, or even, probably, any of the funky, sharp-suited Dap-Kings.

But then, but then … why were all these women, some my age or older, rocking out to Nic Armstrong under the Pop Culture Press tent? Well, maybe they don’t have the (questionable) benefit of my experience – as in, Are You Experienced? As in, having actually done the dirtynasty with my share of musicians, including semi-famous ones that make music I like. So they don’t know that it’s no different from any other dirtynasty, except that maybe it gives you a greater sense of conquest – a typically male expression of sexuality – than when you get it on with, as the Variety wedding announcements would put it, a “non-pro.”

OK, enough pontification … Peter Case played after IV Thieves, flanked by some other Plimsouls. They did some Plimsouls songs, probably some other stuff. I certainly didn’t care. Pockets did. Then Steve Wynn and the Miracle Three took the stage, and their second song was one of two Wynn songs I know, “That’s What You Always Say.” Luna covered it on their Slide EP, that’s why I know it. Wynn had a rad female drummer, and it turned out that she was Linda Pitmon, the drummer from Zuzu’s Petals. Here’s what I know about that band: The singer’s married to Paul Westerberg and, when they played the Brass Mug in Tampa in the mid-90s, I tried unsuccessfully to score them weed.

Did I mention that the Pop Culture party had Pyramid and Fat Tire on tap? Did I mention that I actually had a better time than it sounds like I did? Waiting in line for beer number two or three, I pulled out my notebook. I had just had two very annoying conversations with pompous music nerd know-it-alls, and I was about to write something like, “the problem with this festival is that everyone’s the same kind of asshole as I am” when this guy tried to cut in front of me and, realizing what he’d done, gave a five-spot to his friends directly ahead of me instead. I said something, he said something back, and before I knew it, I was having a great conversation with his friends, a guy and a girl from the Harrisburg PA area. We talked about music, and the festival, what we’d seen and were excited to see, little known nerdy factoids and whatnot. And I immediately felt bad for what I was about to write. And so, not having listened to that guy’s band yet (he gave me a CD), I’ll give them a shout-out right now, just for being so cool. Listen to the Parallax Project! I’m sure they’re awesome!

Beer in hand, I squeezed through the crowd to see Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet take the stage. Remember how I said the 14-year-old me wouldn’t let me miss this show? Well, unfortunately, the thirtysomething-year-old me got stuck behind a bunch of guys whose own inner teenagers wouldn’t let them miss the show, either. In other words, 14-year-old Fanny who wanted to be Susanna Hoffs, meet the guys who used to jerk their chicken to her. There were a dozen of them, at least, standing directly ahead of me and bellowing “Susanna!” for the entire show. I got one of them to take a picture of her and the now-portly Sweet … as soon as I upload all my pictures to Photobucket, you can look at ‘em. But take my word for it, she’s still an absolute vision, and though the sound that day left a lot to be desired, her voice still sounds as lovely. What the two of them are doing right now are their favorite 60s songs, and those favorites are not as obscure as you’d think. That day, they did “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (Dylan). “Different Drum” (The Monkees), and not one but TWO Neil Young songs, “Everybody knows This Is Nowhere” and “Cinnamon Girl.” I was pretty damn happy, even though I was more than a little icked out by the boys-only fan club element.

When they were done, I bid adieu to Pockets and Duck (a friend of Illjay’s who I’d run into during the Hoffs/Sweet set) and caught a ride back downtown with a friend of a friend and some of her friends.

Next up: The final night of SXSW, more adventures in getting lost, and the best celebrity sighting yet.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Friday Wrap-Up Part Two: Technical Diffies and the Worst Pick-Up Line Ever

OK, so it's 1:30 p.m. local time, I'm back at Halcyon and it's just drizzly enough outside to make me glad I brought my boots. But for some reason either this wall outlet or my cable's not functioning, so I'm al 43% battery power as I type this. So here we go ... got lost walking from the hotel bar gig to Antone's, of course, got turned around twice or three times, asked two pairs of cops -- on astride a horse, so after craning my neck to talk to the guy, I looked straight and was eye level with a pretty brown nag. I petted her nose, thought of Elka. Do mounted police usually ride a specific breed of horse? Because they always seem to be brown to me, and roughly the same size.

At one point I got a text from Pockets, saying he was at Buffalo Billiards with the guys from IMA, waiting to see Dungen, and I looked up to see I was actually standing in front of that place. But the line was off the chain, and Dungen was scheduled to go on in like 15 minutes, so I continued on to my ultimate destination -- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at midnight, Neko Case at 1 a.m.

The lines there are bad, too, but the badge line is lessening and I get a good spot, about twenty folks back, on the wristband line. I make friends with a couple of guys on either side of me -- an "undercover indie rocker," i.e., a guy with a straight corporate job, from Austin (the undercover thing's his words, not mine), and a tall, kinda scuzzy kind cute guy from a Nova Scotia band. The latter ends up being pretty cool -- he's dying to see Sharon Jones, and we chat a bit about the 90s Nova Scotia scene, Eric's Trip and Sloan and whatnot. Eventually, they shoo away the ticket-buying line and start letting us in, just in time for me to see the tail end of Marah, the band I'd heard while eating enchiladas at Twangfest. They were a little more interesting tonight, but every song was an easily recognizable amalgam of classic rock saws -- The Band, AC/DC, Meat Loaf, Guns n Roses.

They finish, I squeeze through the crowd for a great spot behind two old guys, a midget and a dude in a wheelchair, and between two photographers -- one very tall and long-haired, quite like a Yeti, and another short and shaved bald, who chats me up with the preposterous line, "You look like you have an open mind. I just had a thought and I'd like your opinion: Have you ever thought about how 'wife' rhymes with 'life'?" Despite the ridiculousness of that, we end up talking for a while, largely because when I tell him why that's such a ludicrous statement, he takes it like a man. I end up watching his bag for him as he scampers all over the place taking pictures of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who are even better than when I saw them in SF some years ago -- the sharp=dressed band (featuring, I believe, members of Antibalas) comprises two saxes, a trumpet, bass, two guitarists, and a drummer, and they wrap us in tight funk for two songs before introducing the fortysomething (fiftysomething) Jones, who tears the joint right the fuck up. She takes off her high heels and her earrings (slipping them into the bassist's suit jacket pocket) to show us how her ancestors -- one side West African, the other Cherokee -- danced, then put'em back on to do some soul favorites, taking them off again to demonstrate the swim, the jerk, the boogaloo, et cetera. But man -- the woman has more style and energy and charisma than most women half her age.

I know, I know, it's a cliché, but the computer's at 36% power now. I'm hurrying through this, and can't even recall the names of the songs she did that I knew. Too much pressure!! And there was this old guy falling asleep on the lip of the stage, and Jones totally gave him some funny love ... and, and, and ... I've got pictures of all Friday's stuff, but don't have time to post them to a site then link them here. Crap. Later.

Neko Case and her band took the stage shortly after 1 a.m. She set up her own stuff, wearing a mismatched Texas tuxedo (denim pants and jacket) and with her massive red hair in a sloppy sideways knot. Both her guitarist and drummer had red hair as well, which I thought was cute. She also had a stand-up bassist, an amazing banjo/pedal steel/lap steel player, and, best of all, two back-up singers: Rachel Flotard (???) and Kelly Hogan (who I've loved since about 1991 or 92, when "Lounge Ax," a song by her first band, The Jody Grind, was a frequent favorite on my college radio show (most of that band, if not all but Hogan, died in a tour van crash). Kelly and Rachel gave the proceedings the requisite girl-group feel (as had the three girls Sharon Jones brought up for one song during her set), and the three had an awesome camaraderie that, as you will see soon, I got a little to into. Oh, and when Neko came out to actually perform, she'd taken down her hair and off her jacket. No makeup, just a bedazzley black shirt and all that freakin' hair.

Songs I recognized/caught the titles of: "If You Knew What I Knew," "Teenage Feeling," "Baby," "Guided by Wire," and a couple of cool murder ballads that she termed "spooky ones, like truck stop Halloween sound effects tape songs."

At one point about 2/3 in, at which point I was practically right up front, there was an exchange that went something like this:
Neko: I'm getting a little bit of camel toe in these jeans, unfortunately.
Rachel: We've got some moose knuckles over here. (I believe this is a Texas thing -- it's the male equivalent, and also the name of a bar, I think.)
Neko: I'm trying not to think about it.
Rachel: It's clam's night out!
Fanny: Jam out with your clam out, ladies!!
Kelly: (polite smirk)

Eventually, Neko said, "We're gonna do one more song, and then we're gonna go offstage and pretend we're done and you're gonna clap and then we'll come back and do some more. It'll be fun." And though I always love when artists acknowledge that farce in one way or another, I was just about dead on my feet at that point, as it was a quarter after two and I still had at least ten blocks to walk. Besides, it wasn't like I was going backstage to hang out after that little appearance by MC Bad Feckle. And besides again, on my way out the door, I heard them begin their encore with "Wayfaring Stranger," a song you can quite literally hear five times daily during this fest. So I left, perpetratin through the convention/weekend/spring break/UT sports victory crowd, and into bed.

And now ... it's 2 p.m. local time, the coffee shop's playing "The Greatest," and I'm going back to the hotel to drop off my laptop and then either go to the Arthur magazine party (Magic Numbers, Witch, Mazarin, Gris Gris, Nethers, Colossal Yes, a few more, some have played already but I don't know who) or to the Yep Roc showcase at Yard Dog to see Billy Bragg at 3:45. One thing's for sure: 14-year-old Fanny will not allow the adult version to miss Susanna Hoffs with Matthew Sweet, either this afternoon at 4:45 at the Pop Matters party at Dog & Duck, or wherever they're playing tonight. On the Pop Matters party flier, Hoffs' name is like 1/3 the size of Sweet's, and I am miffed. What did he do for us? "Girlfriend"? And she? She's at least partially responsible for "James," "All About You," "Goin' Down to Liverpool" (OK, Steve Wynn wrote it, but the Bangle did it better), "Different Light," and a dozen or so more -- not to mention inspiring "Raspberry Beret." So I guess I'll go down there and heckle Matthew Sweet. Just for kicks, ya know?

Also possibly on the menu for tonight: Camera Obscura, IMA, Richard Hawley Acoustic, the Charlatans UK. Oh, and Louisiana at Town Lake, if the rain lets up. Oh, and I saw a listing for ESG, but it's the first I've heard of it, and they're listed as being from Houston, so I'm thinking it's not the real ESG ...?

22% and still goin'. Boo-freakin-ya. Don't know if I'll be able to do this anymore before buying a new power cable -- hopefully it's just this wall outlet. But I've got about 29 hours left in town. So there's more to be seen and said. I'm sure.

Friday Wrap-Up Part One: Truths, Justice, and Britt Daniel Is NOT a Monet

Last night as I walked home after 2 a.m., so tired I was spacing out to the visual rhythm of my hoodie’s shadow (pulled up and perpetrating because the fratty element’s gotten sickly thick now) and thinking about truths that I’ve heard in my life and taken to heart. Like: It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. And: Argue your limitations and they're yours. Also: When the front row of a show is entirely composed of cute gay boys, you’re in for a treat. And now, a new one: There is no pair of shoes on the whole blue and green and brown Earth that can make this kind of behavior OK -- standing and walking and dancing for nearly nine hours straight.

After I finished up at Halcyon, DJ Illjay took me to Art’z, her barbecue favorite. She hoped that no SXSW guide, official or un-, had name-dropped the place, and her prayer was answered – we walked into a dining room bereft of badges, wristbands, and the young and restless in general. Nope, nobody here but us and these rednecks – err, I mean, kindly regular Texans. I ordered baby-back pork ribs and beef brisket, plus a salad (greens, tomato, some onion I think) to try and cut through the fatty static. The barbecue comes with sauce, of cawse, and a slice of wheat bread, onions, and a pickle. I do not pile these things together, as is recommended. The ribs are phenomenal, sweet and tender and prolific in their meatitude – the brisket, not so much. I’d take Bo’s brisket in Lafayette, CA over it, anytime. Luckily, the pile of food was roughly the height of my head from chin to nostrils, so my appetite could afford to box up the brisket for the boys later.

Explaining that it’s on the “bad” side of town (East Austin is currently doing the backlash-against-gentrification dance), DJ Ill dropped me off at that days’ sprawling Vice magazine party, with stages inside and outside the Victory Grill and one inside the Long Branch Inn across the street. I’d been text-messaging with Scotti, and he and I meet up just in time to hear Kinky Friedman introduce Roky Erickson, who hits the stage with his band either ten minutes late or 45 minutes early, depending on whose schedule you’re going by.

I don’t know what I was expecting – I guess that, if Erickson looked like he did in his 13th Floor Elevators days, all Manson hair and grizzly-man beard, the festival organizers perhaps wouldn’t have deemed him sane enough to perform. But I certainly wasn’t expecting an oversize brown shirt, hairless double-and-a-half-chin, and a ding-dang mullet – nay, a Cyrus. But he looked undoubtedly not crazy (though one of the earlier events was a ticket-only benefit for his mental health care) and he started out with “Cold Night for Alligators,” which made the sexy scuzz-rock BBQ crowd go nuts. Essentially, it was an old man’s blues-rock show, but Erickson’s reedy voice, rare presence, and the air of psychedelic history he brought to the stage made it electric beyond the sound man’s typical power. Highlighst: “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” “Bermuda,” “Two-Headed Dog,” and closer ”I Walked with a Zombie.” I was disappointed in that last one, because I expected Erickson to pronounce the word “zombeh,” but then I realized that I may have been thinking of the REM version, from the tribute record that firsthipped me to the Elevators.

Other highlights: Orange beach balls bouncing above the crowd for a fraction of the set – this ain’t a Flaming Lips show, after all, and one guy to my nearby right and back made it his job to ground the balls and deflate them; and three nerds unconsciously acting out the “smells like reefer” scene from Dazed and Confused.

When it was over, the emcee announced that there was free sponsor vodka and Sparks available (the beer tent was selling only Heinekin and Bud Light by the time I arrived; at 6:30, the party had been happening for five or six hours already). Not tempted (not even a little), I found Scotti over at the Long Branch, chatting with Berlin-by-way-of-NY electronic artist Jason Forrest, who Scotti informs me does glitchy punk-rock mash-ups. Forrest leaves, and I take pictures of Scotti doing the Austin Scrunch and Scan, the typical pose one assumes while leading the tiny type on SXSW schedules in the light of a bar.

Scotti and I walk west, back toward downtown. We spend the time trying to figure out how we met, back in Tampa so long ago. We finally decide it was at DNA, a club on the north side of town. I can’t remember what night was the night there, but suffice it to say we were both victims and celebrants of it. It’s always fun to hang out with someone who, at least in part, always sees your younger face when they look at you.

We part ways on the 18th floor of Capitol Place, a venue at the top of a hotel just west of I-35. I can’t tell if it’s a fancy hotel or not, but the bar is just like any other hotel bar. It’s called Bernie’s, and despite the fact that it takes me forever to get a drink, I love it. I can’t help it – I just love me some hotel bars, especially weird ones with beautiful views (as this one has, of the entire, lit-up city of Austin) and stupid, stupid names. I chat with some guys from San Diego, and give one of them my card, which turns out to be a mistake, since he proceeds to call me three times over the course of the next couple of hours. S’no good, y’all.

The actual venue is down a short hall, in what is essentially a conference room set up with cushy hotel dining chairs, and featuring the same awesome view Bernie’s does, backdropping the low, wide stage. When I’d arrived, said stage was occupied by a mediocre twangstress, a square-jawed, long-blonde-haired Amy Madigan lookalike singing songs that appear to all be named after states. Lots of “mamas” and “done wrongs” and that kind of shit – her band’s a crack team but her most interesting lyric is something about “my Mexican baby,” and that’s when I high-tailed it for Bernie’s, since ultimately, I could applaud their efforts, nothing more. I hunkered down with my glass of tequila -- too good to shoot, too rough to gulp -- returning only when I was sure it was time for Nicolai Dunger to set up.

I can’t help this either – I love me some folkies with funny voices. Heck, I even used to dig Laura Nyro. And if you’re a nice-looking, sometimes-twangy troubadour from Sweden with more than a passing vocal resemblance to Van Morrison, I’ll certainly hoof it across town to see your set at 9 p.m., instead of lining up early for a show I won’t be able to get into later. And Dunger – who I’ve liked for about three years, but have never seen – nearly made me cry during his set.

It wasn’t when he came out solo, clad in a black suit and pink shirt, and played us a song on his acoustic wherein he welcomed us all. And it wasn’t when he brought out his band, all young Brits and Swedes so obviously in thrall of Dunger and each other they may as well have all been part of a big communal marriage, and who played the blues and boogie rock so smooth he got to use that suit for what it was made for, some seriously Bryan Ferryesque crooner-type behavior. It also wasn’t when he drew a wry, easy laugh from the crowd when he sang “relationships like this go on and on,” and so he rewarded/punished us by making us sing the “on and on” refrain with him. No, it was when he dropped a simple truth, after thanking his band for a particularly good performance during one song, and then shooing them off by saying “I think I’d like to do one on my own now” (drawing another laugh from us), and picked up his acoustic to sing a song called “Lick My Soul,” about wasting “half my life with this guitar and this song,” and wrapping up with the statement that as long as you love and are loved, you’re doing all right. It took me by surprise, the weepies, just as they had when Beth Orton told me “You always hurt the one you love, you don’t need a reason,” one stoned night eight or so years ago.

Dunger thanked us, we him, and I went back to Bernie’s to take notes and steel myself for a night of truths. Tequila gone, weird San Diego guy still calling me, I freshened up in the ladies’ room and press the button for the elevator. It arrived immediately, and the doors opened to reveal three people, most notably a tall, very attractive redheaded guy. I smiled at him, and he said, “Hey.” And I tripped over the elevator entrance on my way in. A guy stepped into the elevator after me, and before the doors were even halfway closed, I said to him, “Was that Britt Daniel??!”
“Yes,” he said firmly, with a star in his eye, too.
“I hope he didn’t see me fall into the elevator,” I replied.

And so I can assure you, right here, right now, that I must not have been remembering correctly when I wrote that entry yesterday, because Britt Daniel looks damn good in close proximity.

Cream-colored Ponies and Crisp Apple Strudels

Okay, this "editorial favorites" business is a pretty good idea, so here's what I'm digging this week:

1. (the 99-cent) Miss Saigon, a big blockbuster musical pared down to the bone and staged on the cheap in a middle school metal shop in Berkeley. only four performances left, so now would be the time.

2. The fact that there are mystery series or novels starring pretty much every supporting character in the Sherlock Holmes stories. There's a Mycroft Holmes series (and numerous one-shots by various authors), countless Watson novels by divers hands, and separate series starring Inspector Lestrade, Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty. I'm actually reading Michael Kurland's The Great Game: A Professor Moriarty Novel right now, and liking it surprisingly well. I still haven't found any Mrs. Hudson mysteries, but you just know someone's put Holmes's housekeeper in the spotlight.*

3. V for Vendetta. I know, I can't believe it either. Someone made a good movie out of an Alan Moore comic? Totally unprecedented. And not to put too fine a point on it, but one with a terrorist as its hero to boot. Still, somehow they pulled it off, and in some ways I enjoyed it more than the comic, if truth be told. Reading the newspaper the next morning is bizarre, though, as pretty much everything comes off as a government lie. Even more than usual, I mean.

4. Still, as much as I liked V, it can't quite compete with the Natalie Portman video posted here.

* Edited to add: Ha! I knew it!

Friday, March 17, 2006

more editorial faves of the week

following up on santa's list of editorial favorites, i want to mention a few things i'm digging right now:

the amalgamation polka, by stephen wright. i cannot express how excited i was to find this in the new book section at moe's in berkeley. i've been waiting on this since wright's last novel, going native, and that was, like, the mid 90s. the book is great so far (p 192 of 323), and the author photo in the back is still funny. in his last author photo, he was wearing a joy division shirt. now he looks like a character from dhalgren.

richard pryor stand-up. my buddy nick came over last night with a box set, and in between slurping beers and schooling him on can and pavement, i ripped several of the disks. richard don't care if i rip his disks. i've been listening to his stand-up all day, amazed. he has this routine about bringing a buddy who's been hexed to a hoodoo lady, which i listened to in my car on the way to work today and laughed my little ass off.

povel, by geraldine kim. i have an instant crush on geraldine kim. i read about this book somewhere and have been looking for it, which should not have been as fruitless as it was before today, since it came out last year. on the other hand, it is (sort of) poetry. i shouldn't bother trying to describe the book, but it's like confessional prose poetry, broken into short stanzas, and it's one more or less continuous, like 10 pt font thing that goes on for 113 pages. it has df wallace-ian footnotes. she forges an intro by lyn hejinian, and starts off by presenting the book's real title, which is even longer than that one fiona apple album title. her project seems (so far: i'm on p 14) to be to transcribe or represent her thought process, or more accurately, to follow her thoughts. in other words, she pretty much seems to be sitting at a computer typing away, but it's way too interesting and intelligent to be off-hand or (omigod!) bloggery. incidentally, my neighbor across the hall said "oh my god!" 8 or 9 times in 4 minutes the other day. i could hear her through two walls. geraldine kim, geraldine kim, you remind me of this girl named lisa pau, whom i met in a poetry workshop and with whom i was secretly in love (just like everyone else in the class was). i'm not saying this because they're both asian, or because geraldine kim looks a teeny bit like lisa pau (she is reminiscent of lisa pau in her (geraldine kim's) author photo), but because there's something about geraldine kim's slightly suicidal and sorta wise-guyish sense of humor that reminds me of lisa pau. incidentally, i am not now mimicking geraldine kim's style. the other night i hung out with tragic matt and watched the importance of being morrissey, and tragic kept saying "i want to have his babies." i wish geraldine kim was my friend.

(i'm) stranded, the saints. i had this album on my ipod, and today i bought it on vinyl (in celebration of being slightly less broke than i've been all year, since october really, when uncle sam took all my drug money). i love song titles with parentheticals, and this is probably the best one i've ever seen.

wild strawberries, ingman bergman. saw it for the first time this week. it's good. also good is the 1998 interview with bergman on the special features (criterion collection), which is about as long as the movie. i especially like when he talks about the paper pads and special pen he uses to write brilliant movies. the interviewer asks him if he ever tried to use a typewriter or computer, and bergman says, "i can't write with a machine." i heart ingmar! and human interaction is just trying to analyse one another's personalities. mostly. no, maybe i don't believe that. whatever.

rip it up and start again: postpunk 1978-1984, by simon reynolds. good music, good writing.

letters to wendy's, by joe wenderoth. i must apologize to my friend jlox for not reading this on his long-ago recommendation. i just saw jw read in the city, accompanied as i was by santa and the rogue reporter and claymond, and i was pretty convinced that tw is a genius. this guy gave a funny intro to the first reader, then came back to announce joe wenderoth, then started reading poems, and i was all, man, it's tacky for the emcee to read his poems as an introduction to another poet, and then i thought, man, i hope that isn't joe wenderoth, because then i can steal that technique, but then it became evident that it was joe wenderoth. i'll possibly steal the intro thing anyway, if i'm feeling 4 selves away sometime. after the reading, as noted elsewhere, it sort of hailed on us, which is cool now, cold then.

ray gonne

The Shakedown in Hipster Town

DJ Illjay doesn’t have a wristband or a laminate, so she drives us to Sholz Garten, a club hosting a Diesel-sponsored party that you just need an invite for, nothing else. (There are lots of parties like that, especially during the day, and in fact, the invite policy is only recently getting more prevalent because, I hear, the SXSW establishment is annoyed at all the event that folks can get into without any sort of paid-for pass.) SF’s Film School is the first band, and the one DJ Ill wants to see, but by the time we get there at around 11, there’s no one playing. The first thing we notice when we get to the door is that there are way too many people there doin’ too much – too much hairdo, too many accessories, too much attitude. This is the most hipster-thick event I’ve attended thus far – or perhaps it’s that the room, which looks for all the world like a small high school gym, is the most well-lit venue I’ve been in after dark, so I’m getting a good look at people. And they all look younger than me. So I look to the ground.

And I see a hundred-dollar bill there.

It’s folded to quarter-size, but those three digits stand out enough that I only shoot a half-glance at my companion before bending down, snatching it up, and hustling through the crowd. Once toward the temporary bar in the back (this is a beer garden, after all, and all the action probably usually goes down out back), I stop DJ Ill and show her what I’ve got.

“That’s blood money,” she jokes.
“Well, then,” I say, “let’s go drink some fucking blood.”

We get to the bar, the Benjamin begging to get broken. The bartender appears to be ignoring us. I turn my face up to a chunky, baseball-becapped dude sitting on the bar, and say, with a free-money smile in my voice, “Maybe she can’t see me because there’s a guy sitting on the bar.”

“Even if I wasn’t sitting here,” he says, “good luck getting a drink. They’re out of booze.”

So, not only was the beer garden out of beer, but DJ Illjay and I stayed at that party for nearly 40 minutes, watching girls in asymmetrical everything cut innocent rugs to “Don’t you Want Me” and “Hanging on the Telephone” while NO BANDS PLAYED. No bands, no beer. We cut out before midnight, my new friend Hundred Dollar Bill quite literally burning a hole in my pocket.

We cruised down 6th St.’s main drag, windows down, listening for good stuff. DJ Ill slows as we get past Club DeVille. “That’s Calla,” she says. “I like them.” So we park and I pay her $15 cover charge. We watch the tail end of their set – they were all right, sorry I can’t say more – and then she gets us a table while I get in one of the lines at the bar.

Unfortunately, I picked the slow line. The burning in my pocket intensified as a guy behind me inquired about my tattoos. I explained them to him, and we continued chatting.

“You know what,” I said, “I think we’re in the slow bartender zone.”
“Oh, no,” he replied, “This guy’s my buddy. He’s great.”

Five minutes later, our line still hadn’t shifted, so I shifted over to the middle bartender, who was now miraculously available.

“Two shots of Don Julio and a Dos Equis amber, please.”
“I’m sorry, this is the beer-only line.”

So I returned to the first line. But when my new friend started talking about how nice my legs looked in my Converse, and some big blonde out of nowhere got a drink from his “buddy,” the bartender, I had to duck out. I made a beeline for the far left lane, and in doing so heard my name said with surprise. Standing there was Chris Sturgeon, St. Pete, FL native and member of IMA, who are playing Saturday night. Also standing there was former South Floridian Glenn off Baby Robots. Good fortune, indeed, for my fellow Screw Music Foreverites (, as I immediately bought us all a round, and they found Mike from IMA and we all sat down together.

But before long, my entire posse abandons me, Illjay and all. I ordered another shot of Don Julio and found a space in the crowd for Doubles, from NYC. That band is effing awright: multiple keys, imaginative guitars, spooky vox, Pavement influences. Plus, the guys are kinda funny looking. Good stuff. I buy a CD, and thank heaven for booze, which just a small amount of makes me comfortable in my own skin and yet, that skin itself (as well as its attendant lymph nodes and respiratory system and such) are fragile enough that I know my limits, know that I’ll always be a lightweight. Even if I do drink a lot for a Jew.

I meet an English girl from 4AD in the bathroom, and we bond over the Breeders – I tell her about my Pod 33 1/3 pitch, and she tells me that Title TK sounds a hundred times better on vinyl. Then she tells me the next band, Celebration, is awesome, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re on her label, so I retain my skepticism and we part ways.

Oh, my: Said skepticism is soon all gone. The Baltimore three-piece does a stuttering, funk thing, and people keep comparing frontwoman Katrina to Karen O, but she’s got way more real-life oomph, red hair and a booty and an art-rock hollering style. They remind me of a stuttery Can. For the last two songs, Stuart from Antibalas (and, I think, SF’s Transmission) sits in on alto sax. It’s over, I buy a CD and a shirt. Katrina’s a doll. I feel bad for her, having that name and all, and being compared to Karen O.

Outside, I make some calls and try to find my boys – they’re converging on a Kid 606 after-party, and I reluctantly make plans to meet them, basically to get a hotel room key (I still don’t have my own, dammit). On my way to the main drag, I spy Stuart the saxophonist on the corner.

“Hey,” I say, “Did you used to play in Transmission?”
He laughs and unbuttons his shirt to reveal a Transmission T. We chat a bit, talking about a friend in common. Stuart’s just gotten into town that morning, and is exhausted – he’s played four shows already, two with Celebration, one with The L. Michaels Band (Lorne Michaels, I wonder? Weird), and one WITH FUCKING WU-TANG. Man, I gotta start going to more of these shows with “Special Guests” listed on the line-up. Stuart and I share a cab as he debates joining me at the after-party, He’s cute – if he knew that I was the girl who wrote in the Express about Antibalas being rad despite being a bunch of white boys playing Afrobeat, thus prompting an infuriated letter from one bandmember, I don’t think he’s be considering this. However, we find out that we’re both planning on going to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Neko Case Friday night, so we make plans to tentatively catch up. I’m gonna have to tell him. Sigh.

Get out, meet the boys, head to the room, call it a night after the obligatory poring over the next day’s schedules. I slept for four hours, got up for the complimentary hotel brekkie (my omelette filling choices were cheese, bacon, sausage, and jalapenos – welcome to Texas, Fanny), went back to bed, got up at noonish, showered, and have been here at Halcyon Coffee on W. 4th St., for over two hours, the St. Patty’s day festival right outside the front door. Illjay’s on her way to get me and take me to a locals’ favorite BBQ joint. Then, hopefully, I’ll make it to a Vice party in time to see Roky Erickson, who has actually played two or three times already this week, but I haven’t managed to make it to see him. I think that if I return home without seeing the formerly reclusive 13th Floor Elevators genius once, I’ll be very, very sorry.

I’ll leave you with couple of Irish toasts:
Here’s to a wet night and a dry morning.
May you make it through Heaven’s Gate before the old man knows you’re dead.
Thirst is a shameless disease; here’s to a shameful cure.

Town Lake Is Really a Lake, Kind Of: Thursday Evening

(I’m in a coffee shop, typing on my computer! MY computer! Sitting! With a soy latte! Heaven, you are so all up in this entry).

So, it took us a while to actually get to Town Lake after I typed that last entry. I had left Mr. Pockets up in the room for what he’d said was going to be a quick shave, but the minutes crawled all over themselves for an interminable stretch, till I had to call and ask him just what, exactly, he was shaving. Funny though that may have been, Pockets is still Pockets, and he deplores spontaneity so much that, when we were dating, I always lied to him about movie start times, giving him earlier showtimes so that he could fuss with his hair and I’d still get to see some previews. So, that hasn’t changed, and by the time we’d covered the short distance between our hotel and the lake – which is actually a dammed-off portion of the Colorado River – we’d just missed Blackalicious. I know I can see them back home in Oakland, but I just saw Chappelle’s Block Party last week, and the idea of seeing some hip-hop at a massive, outdoor venue really appealed to me.

No matter, though, We found my old pal DJ Illjay reclining in a camping chair in the crowd, and I plopped down upon the grass and starting digging on the muggy weather. The sky was starting to dim slightly, and the 80s showed no sign of going away – both in terms of the weather, and the fact that the headliner was Echo & the Bunnymen. DJ Ill asked Pockets and me if we thought that we were psyched for that because we’d all done time in Tampa, where one of the stupid/funnest things to do every week is dance to 80s music at The Castle on Monday night (a phenomenon that has been occurring in that down, at various venues, since I moved there in 1989).

Before long, Spoon took the stage. The last time I saw them was at the State Theatre in St. Pete, FL, opening for Superchunk and promoting Girls Can Tell. They’d been sloppy, and I talked to Britt Daniel after the show that night and said he’d looked like he was having fun up there. “Yeah,” he’d replied, “sometimes it’s just better to fake it.” But they were NOT faking it at Town Lake. They’re so gloriously on point now, and the hometown heroes gave their Austin their tightly wound pop all, opening with “The Beast and Dragon at Dawn,” and drawing largely from Girls and Gimme Fiction which made me very, very happy. (And RogueR will tell you that, by the time they made their way into “Sister Jack,” I was just far gone enough to call our home answering machine and hold my cell phone up. It was like that, y’all.)

Oh, and DJ Illjay and I agreed that Britt Daniel is a Monet, which, as fans of Clueless know, is someone who looks hella fine from far away, but not so much upon close inspection.

Spoon finished up, and we began the wait for Echo. It must not have been very long, because there was this big board to house right, stage left (can you tell I’ve been hanging out with a sound guy?) displaying messages from the crowd, and by the time I’d realized that all you had to do was text message the number in the board’s bottom right to get your words up there, and I’d thought of something clever to type (“I lost my cherry listening to Echo,” which is not true, it was actually to the sounds of the horror flick The Howling, but anyway) the board went to a large “SXSW” logo and emcee Bullethead, from event sponsors eMusic took the stage.

By then, we’d gotten ourselves pretty close, thanks to Spoon fans leaving and Eco fans being old coots like us who don’t particularly like to cut through a large, half-drunk crowd on a hot night. Bullethead thanked corporate sponsors, including Mickey D’s (big boos from the crowd) and encouraged people to visit the Kinky Friedman for Governor booth (big cheers). It was nearly dark by then, and still in the 70s somewhere, and DJ Ill pointed out that the Chase building – part of the illuminated downtown skyline that serves as a dramatic backdrop to the Town Lake stage – looks just like My Neighbor Totoro. (Check it:

(Here I must apologize: The batteries in my camera went dead at Twangfest, and it turned out that the spares I had were also dead, so I couldn’t take any pictures with my own machine. DJ Ill had a camera, though, and she’ll email me the ones I took with that, and I’ll post them, hopefully soon. I also gave my card to a guy taking personal pictures at the Flaming Lips show, so I will maybe have some of those, too. In the meantime, I’ll try my best to buy some batteries today.)

Echo started with new stuff, but quickly gave the crowd a lot of what they wanted – “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” “Never Stop,”"The Cutter," “The Killing Moon,” et cetera. They also covered “Love Me Two Times,” exhibiting one of the things I like best about this band – Ian knows he’s got a Morrison Complex, and he doesn’t try to hide it. This is the guy, after all, who, according to Julian Cope’s excellent book Head On, used to go by the name of Duke McCool.

And of course, me and lots of others were goth-dancing our waydown memory lane. At some point I had this thought that my demographic's band reunion tours are cooler/better/more valid than thse who came before us, because these bands were underground to begin with, so they get new fans and sound fresh when they trot out the old songs ... but then I realized that "Dancing Horses" sounds better to me than "Born to Be Wild" because I wasn't 16 when I first heard the latter, and therefore don't get the same electricity from it. In other words, every generation thinks their bands are better -- if it's too good, you're too old.

The new Echo songs sound good, though, and one that I guess must be something of a hit (unless it’s just an old one I’ve never heard), judging by a certain faction of the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction (i.e., a blonde in a tortoiseshell hair clip and too much perfume shoving past me when it started) is “Sleeping Pills,” which they made into a medley with “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” Ian McCulloch tried to get the crowd to sing along to the “do-do-dos” in “Wild Side,” but he was messing with the cadence and no one seemed to be able to get it, so he settled for getting us to clap along.

This whole time, by the way, I’m totally tripping out on how much Ian M. looks like my friend Chris Millstein. I’ve said this for years. Chris almost always works at record stores wherever he lives, and he’s cute enough that girls generally say he looks like whatever guy’s the indie heartthrob of the moment (Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus, Beck, etc.). But I’ve always insisted he looks like McCulloch. Look:


And Chris:

(Sorry, Chris.)

Despite smoking like an open flue, McCulloch’s voice still sounds fantastic, if grown a bit reedy with age. Both he and guitarist Will Sargent were wearing layers, hoodies under blazers and the like, which didn’t really distract from the fiftysomethings’ portly spreads. Not that I think either is particularly self-conscious – Ian was wearing shades the entire time, and squatted out of sight for breathers in between vocal bits, and Sargent didn’t bother to face away from the crowd when it came time for him to shred, as a younger man in his kind of band might have done.

They finished up with “Lips Like Sugar,” and we made our way out of the crowd, DJ Illjay pointed out that the logo for HEB -- a local drugstore or supermarket whose name all over informed us of their sponsorship of this event – looks like Jesus’ face when turned on its side. This did not surprise me, as my first thought upon spying one of their outlets from the window of my cab from the airport was, “Hm, Heeb. Oh, right, I’m in Texas, where they think my people have horns.”

Sadly, as we walked away from the venue, through the free samples and shwag (I got a Spam magnet, but refused a SXSW lighter), we heard Echo kick into an encore of “Ocean Rain.” Ah, well. Such is life when you’ve got places to go, and I was anxious to lose Pockets and have a night with a female wingperson. So we went our separate ways with him, and DJ Illjay and I retired to her nearby apartment --which looks like a treehouse, and is home to two turtles who have to live in separate tanks because the little one keeps love-biting the big’un – to eat turkey dogs and chill before setting out into the still-warm night.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Hey! It's the Editorial Favorites of the Week!

As the manager of this community, it makes me feel like a complete lame ass not to have posted anything here. I'm not at SXSW or doing anything remotely glamorous at the moment (unless you count typing on a G4 while having a heating pad stuck behind your back), but following up on RogueReporter's last post, I thought it might be mildly entertaining for KS readers or anyone who's stumbled by this site to get a few recommendations. One of my pervier fascinations with Vanity Fair is their little featurette "My Stuff", wherein semi-famous people (like hairdresser to the stars Frederick Fekkai) list off their favorite drinks, kitchen appliances, etc. We at KS, however, being po' folk, have much less glamorous lives. However, I and a lot of my cohort spend a lot of money we don't have on books, records, and, in my case, clothes and food. For more about that, you can check out my own blog. Meantime, here are a senior editor's favorite things for the week of 3/16 (oooh, tomorrow is Saint Patrick's day! the only holiday that matters):

Black and tans (1/2 Guiness, 1/2 Harp)
W.B. Yeats' "The Fascination of What's Difficult"
The Pogues, "Sally Maclennane"
Joshua Beckman, Shake, Wave Books 2006 + Joshua Beckman at Pegasus Books, 3/15/06
Joshua Clover, The Totality for Kids, UC Press Books, 2006
Style Wars as an in-class activity
Tanya Turner, lead bitch on Footballer's Wives
Project Runway nostalgia
Cal Bears men's and women's basketball teams in the NCAA finals
Walking through the mission in a sleet storm after a poetry reading

Thursday evening...

'Nother quick update from this fabulous standing-room-only hotel lobby computer kiosk, with one fellow coventioneer to my right and a roundish, bespectacled little blonde boy (11?12?) playing "slime games," to my left, and talking very loudly to himself. "Oh, Argentina, you're so lazy Argentina." I don't wanna know, ya know?

Slept in till after twelve today, then cabbed it with Mr. Pockets to Twangfest at Jovita's, where I waited for food service (I'd slept through free breakfast by several hours) while Lucero and Marah played sets that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed, anyway. just too damn hungry to rock out; and Marah sounded boring till they busted out the keyboards. I can't help it -- when the rawk gets too straight-up, I just yearn to listen to the Hold Steady.

I finally got my enchiladas and beer (it's SXSW, dammit, and I'd already had a cup of coffee in the room) and ate it all up just in time to see a better-than-usual set by SF's Jolie Holland, whose music I love, but who, in every other set I've seen by her (three or four) has exhibited a Cat Power-like tendency toward shy underperformance. But tonight she did almost all-new songs, played with confidence, and even pattered a bittoward (though not exactly with) the crowd. Afterward, I chickened out of talking to her, but did manage to chat up her manager (also Sean Hayes' manager) and, in doing so, got to see and hear Jolie's mother up close -- I knew it was her, because she looks and talks just like her daughter.

Out to the patio, into the hot spike everyone had predicted -- 80 or 85, somewhere in there, and Pockets keeps telling me this is a desert climate but my hair's too big and wavy for that to be true-- and, under the shade of twisted trees, checked out Memphis' Glossary. At first I thought they fell into the too-straight-wish-they-were-the-Hold-Steady category, but I soon changed my mind when they busted into a very Bandesque number -- that's when I noticed the fine coed harmonies, the drummer's mic, and the pedal steel.
Now I'm off to Town Lake Stage, which is actually on the river, to meet up with an old girlfriend from Florida (who lives here now) and see Blackalicious (if I haven't missed them), Spoon, and Echo & the Bunnymen before heading out into the night. I think tonight I'll check out an all-Nordic lineup. Maybe there will be trolls there. Fine, bearded trolls. There will definitely be lotsa girls too dressed-up for this T-shirt and BBQ town, I can guarantee you that.


I have such a new comics crush. It's making my heart feel all aflutter, bringing the pink blush back to my cheeks, my mouth form what it remembers as a smile, and my eyeballs rejoice in the feast.

MOME, put out by Fantagraphics (does Fantagraphics ever put out anything shitty?!?), was conceived "as a contemporary literary journal, though one that tells its stories via the medium of comics, rather than prose."

This wonderful constructed quarterly features a core roster composed of: Andrice Arp, Gabrielle Bell, Jonathan Bennett, Jeffrey Brown, Martin Cendreda, Sophie Crumb, David Heatley, Paul Hornschemeier, Anders Nilsen, John Pham and Kurt Wolfgang.

Their styles vary but placed together offer up a great selection of
what contemporary comics have to offer. I love a lot of the contributors--Jeffrey Brown's girlfriend trilogy killed me, Martin Cendreda's Dang! stole my heart, Sophie Crumb's Belly Button
was the weirdest/best thing I'd read in a while, and Jonathan Bennett's subtle style was forever selling out or disappearing before I could get my fill--
so I'm a little biased. Regardless, I still thinks it's well worth checking out and a noteworthy step for comics publishing.
Here's where it's at.
OK, so, I haven't been able to get to a free wireless connection since Phoenix, even though Austin's supposedly crawling with them. And I wrote a very embarrassing blog entry that the KS editorial board -- or at least the versions of them that live in my head-- put the kibosh on publishing here. Let's just say that the whinnying bitches of fate punished my neurotic packing clusterfuck by ruining the one pair of long pants I's chosen, finally, to bring, and leave it at that.

But I'm just getting my own crawl on, having spent the ten or so hours since arriving getting my bearings in the city. My $22 cab ride from the airport was provided by a chatty dude who's from Morocco by way of Orlando, and he explained to me that Congress St., where my hotel is, divides the city's east and west sides, while the Colorado River, which my hotel'd adjacent to, divides it in a northerly and southerly way. This was a helpful start, and made up for the pain I felt when I found out that Austin's buses cost $1.00 for 24 hours' unlimited transfers.

Anyway ... cutting to the chase, as it's nearly three a.m. and I have to kneel on a dining room chair to reach the keyboard at this kiosk without standing. Through the masses of Nice Beards Professors (boys in blazers and beards which give them the appearance of being both older and cuter than they are) and the "woolpaper" (so named by my companions, as in, "this town is papered with fine wool") that have descended upon the town, Mr. Pockets, Scotti and I cut our way to a Vietnamese joint with an excrutiatingly long wait and a celebrity customer in the form of J. Mascis or, as Pockets called him, "The Silver Fox." He commented that Mascis hadn't aged well, but I disagreed -- he never was a particularly attractive man in the first place, and at least tonight he was rocking a purple track jacket with white stripes. That immediately removes all the criteria of Normal People Attractiveness.

We went our separate ways -- Pockets to an event put on by his band's label, Tone Vendor, Scotti to try and gain entry to the New Pornographers/Belle and Sebastian/Mogwai show at Stubb's, and me to Antone's for the Astralwerks showcase, with the ultimate goal of seeing Beth Orton at 11 p.m. I was already over the general stiffness of the event before the first act hit the stage, and I started chatting with some folks at the bar, who told me there was a "secret" Flaming Lips show happening at 11 at the Fox & Hound. The first act at Antone's was a decent enough soul singer from the Bronx named Stephanie McKay, who exhorted the crowd to participate in a too-challenging singalong, and then laughed when they didn't get it, whether that be due to lack of ability or interest. It was barely 9 p.m. on Wednesday, after all. So I took off with my new friends to the Fox & Hound, one of many outdoor, tented venues at SXSW, and the same one I saw the Apples in Stereo at in 2000, and where John Doe from X nearly ran me over as I hid from the rain near the backstage area. Tonight I was greeted by The Czars, who I give a 7 for composition, an 8.5 for execution, and a 5 for lyricism. Oh, and a 9.5 for onstage patter -- when the singer finished his first song, during which his mic buzzed the entire time, he grumbled to the crowd, "Hey, have some respect. I sucked a lot of cock to get up here." Unfortunately, his voice was more interesting when the mic was feeding back.

Three queues (for warm Tecate, the port-o-potty, and a shot of Jameson, respectively) later, I ambled easily into the crowd to get a good view of the Lips, who I hadn't seen in many years. Just as I was starting to kick myself for not seeing any exciting new acts yet, the band started up with "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- the whole thing. The trademark giant Flaming Lips baloons -- green and orange -- were bouncing around, and everyone seemed to know the words. Wayne Coyne bestoyed upon us wishes of community and whimsy like the beloved salt-and-pepper priest he is. The rest of the set went roughly like this: One new song, which Coyne encouraged the crowd to sing along to, also, prompting his bandmate to add, "if you know it illegally"; a marathon version of "Yoshimi"; another new song; an old song I didn't recognize; and, finally, "War Pigs," with special guest vocalist Peaches, which was exactly as good, or as bad, as you'd think. Coyne blew green and yellow smoke at us from a Rube Goldberg device that appeared to have been made out of a megaphone, and then it was over and we streamed out of there grinning, hundreds upom hundreds of us, as at peace with each other as an army of music snobs could be. Think I'm being cynical? You should have seen the crowd reaction two thirds into the show when a young man stepped onstage with his girlfriend and asked her to marry him, right then and there; Wayne Coyne had to cue us to applaud.

From there, I headed through the mid-60s mist back to Antone's, and caught, miraculously, Beth Orton's last two and a half songs. "Trailer Park" is one of my favorite albums of all time, and though I don't know her newest material, and that's all I heard tonight, her unique, raw silk voice still moves me all around inside.

From there, I made the 20-minute walk to meet the boys at Stubb's, through the mad pedestrian traffic. Once there, I watched about 15 minutes of Mogwai, determined I was too sleepy and not nearly stoned enough to truly appreciate it, and began the hike back to the hotel, bidding the fellas adieu, as they were going to try and catch Echo & the Bunnymen at a warehouse party at 4 a.m. (I thought this was extremely foolish, as that band's playing a free show in the park tomorrow afternoon; and indeed I was right, since as I started neatening this entry up, Scotti called me to tell me the party had been invite-only.)

En route, though, I got my first New Band Wish granted, when I stopped to clap and hoot and throw money at The Daughters of the Confederacy, a four-piece Austin-area band playing on a corner of 6th St. Stand-up bass, fiddle, and an impossibly young pair of brothers on banjo and acoustic guitar, playing freight-train bluegrass that even inspired a pair of cologne-dipped frat boys to square dance for the crowd. Turns out they're recording for Pie Records soon -- on Long Island. And so it would appear they were meant for me, as that's where I'm from, and I was able impart upon them more than a dollar and a KS business card -- I was able to advise them to spend as much time as they could in NYC, and as little time as possible on LI, as I wished I had done.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reasonable Travel

At the Oakland airport, the Express Deli serves Niman Ranch meat (vegetarian feed, family farms, sustainable practices across the board) and the fiftysomething Slavic lady working there calls me “mama” when she hands me my coffee. It’s things like this that remind me why I don’t leave town very often. There are actually quite a few reasons for this: I don’t make a lot of money; I don’t have any planets in the house that rules travel (it also rules education, which I like to think explains an unwillingness to take responsibility for my student loans); and, for the last eight or nine years, I’ve had a stomach so fragile that I get nauseous on swing sets. And the big reason – the philosophical reason, which, by nature of being philosophical, and therefore an intellectual and spiritual exercise that I hope can not be sullied by cries of “justification of chickenshittedness” – is that I like it here. I moved to Oakland in the summer of 2001, sight unseen, because I was ready to leave where I was, who I was, and because three friends beckoned me with some classic California promises: psychedelic music, ever-changing vistas, and a whole mess of boys I’d never met. And I like it here.

I like it a whole lot better than Central Florida, the last place that I moved to, sight unseen. Given that I stayed there for twelve years, is it any wonder that I rarely leave the Bay Area now? It’s become apparent to me that I like moving to random towns and just digging the hell in. With mountainous hikes and beachside roller coasters (which, somehow, do not make me nauseous) within driving distance, decent thrifting in the suburbs and fly shoes in the city, and great bands on every corner, why would I stretch my credit card and pollute the air just to get drunk in new bars and eat out at restaurants far inferior to the ones I can patronize here?

And yet, here I am, at Oakland International at 8 a.m. buzzing on four hours of sleep. Only one thing could get me here – OK, two things, if you count a free ticket. The main thing is music.

And sex.

OK, so, three things. But sex isn’t any more guaranteed where I’m going than it is at home. So we’re back down to two. Fuck, I hate math. Maybe that’s why music has always been a spiritual thing for me, something I obsess over and write about, but only marginally create myself – because math makes me crazy, makes me feel like a stone fool. But math and music are two sides of the same coin – staffs are truth tables, xs and ys are quarter-notes and half-notes in their way, and symbology is everything. And since I cannot easily understand how either is put together, there is a big fat veil of god between math and music and me. But math you can’t really enjoy from afar, except in terms of money (and maybe that’s a small, subconscious part why it holds such allure for the poor, or at least those of us who can’t wrap our minds around numbers). Music, well – not only is it enjoyable on a three-dimensional level, for anyone who wishes, but it’s also inescapable. It hollers at you from open car windows, fills in the spaces between jackhammer hits downtown, heralds your birthday at the theme café. In Hebrew school, they taught us that adonai, G-d, was everywhere and saw everything. But can you dance to it? If so, I’d probably have had far less trouble packing for this trip to South by Southwest than I did last night, since all my skirts would be ankle-length and a wig or two would replace my flat iron and too-bulky hair dryer. Because ever since I was a teenager, I’ve believed in something else that I can’t touch, can’t really explain, and yet can be found wherever I go.

And that’s why I’m leaving town, heading to Austin. Because Mr. Pockets, my longtime patron and someone who knew me when I was a professional music fan – a paid weekly columnist – is going, and saw fit to buy me a plane ticket and score me a wristband via the community radio station in Tampa, where he still lives. The last time I went to SXSW, in 2000, I still did, too, and all those bands and artists – most of who would never be able or bother to visit that foreleg state of the union – made me feel like a fat kid in a cake store. That time, I had my music calendar circled and booked by the time I got on the plane to Texas, and my fellow Tampanian music tourists and I got drunk and tossed tips at one another. This time I’m flying solo, largely ignorant of what my choices will be, and just hoping for one or two transcendent surprises of the musical kind.

Or sex.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Low Spark of Indie Boys

So, RogueR brought home this Copper Press zine, and I was flipping through it in the loo and came to an interview with Howe Gelb. I didn't even get to the first paragraph (which is kind of a good thing, since it's just a cutesy-woo piffle about Gelb asking the interviewer questions about dragging and dropping in iTunes while they're on the phone) before getting rageful; the italicized epigraph reads: "But spirit is something that no one destroys," -- Howe Gelb, "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys." OK, sit with me for a second -- AAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!! I bet you're confused by my anger. So was I. But I finally figured out -- that misquoted preamble is SO much of why I hate music journalism, and shudder at the thought of being part of its tradition, in spite of the fact that that identity, of music scribe, was probably the most comfortable fit of my adult life so far. But man, oh man -- that epigram (epigraph? sorry) just shows that most writers think music journalism is an excuse to show off your own cleverness: It's about how spot-on your musical metaphors are, how well you trace out the "Ben Franklin having mushroom tea with the Donnas in the Mojave desert" lines in the journo sand. It's not about the historical line, the complexities of how Steve Winwood and Traffic begat Howe Gelb and Giant Sand. Fuck, in this case it's not even about HOW TO READ THE LINER NOTES, apparently. Because you wouldn't want anyone to know that you just got the cool rock shivers from STEVE FREAKIN' WINWOOD. That is SO not cool. You don't want anyone to think you were listening to "Higher Love" or nothin'. "Who, me? No, no, that was Springsteen's Nebraska, dude. You must've heard wrong."

Monday, March 06, 2006

letter to the editor: re: "dave chappelle in slow motion," ks12

readers may be surprised to hear that it is a rare occurrence that a somewhat lengthy, very much intelligible letter arrives in our mailbox. imagine our delight when we received the following single-spaced two-pager from sam rosenberg of north brooke, illinois. it is followed by a response from the writer of the essay in question.

sam rosenberg 02/28/06

first, i want to thank you for your thoughtful letter. the fact that you read my essay more than once, and that it was valuable to you because it helped you gather your thoughts on a subject you obviously feel passionate about matters much more to me than whether you agree with me or like my prose style. at this moment i’m stuck between rereading my essay before continuing, and letting your words stay fresh in my mind, now that i’ve read your letter a few times and have various responses spinning around in my head.

i’m going to proceed directly from your letter, for now.

i agree with you that any consideration of “black comedy” must absolutely take serious consideration of richard pryor. furthermore, in many ways i think he would have been a better example than eddie murphy in my essay. at the time, i compared chappelle to murphy, or, more accurately, compared his career to murphy’s, because murphy was such a popular “cross-over” comedian. to my recollection, i was most interested in talking about chappelle as the most famous black comedian of the last few years, and i was convinced that he was the most famous black comedian since murphy, in terms of mainstream success, and its attending pressures and complications. i was especially interested in the extent to which he was entertaining a white audience that is hyper-aware of his blackness—which is not to disregard chappelle’s black audience. part of what makes me so fascinated with him is that he seems to be funny to black and white audiences, and that he criticizes black and white people. ultimately, it might not even make sense for me to talk about a black and white audience for chappelle, since he’s talking to everyone at the same time, even when he appears to be addressing black people or white people specifically (example: when he jokes about using the term “skeet” without being censored, because white people don’t know what it means, his humor is pretty complicated. he’s talking to people who know what skeet means, which i believe he says is black people, but he’s also talking to white people, because he knows they’re paying close attention and don’t want to miss the joke. he doesn’t define “skeet,” if i remember correctly, which suggests an in-joke, but he also runs around the stage gesturing while he says “skeet skeet skeet!” so you can pretty much figure out what it means if you’re paying attention. also, of course, he’s suggesting that the censors are white people who don’t know what skeet means, or possibly black people who think it’s funny that their white co-censors don’t know what it means. it’s a routine that very well demonstrates why chappelle is such a great comic, and i wish i talked about it in my story. however, part of what we do, for better and for worse, at ks, is try to say something substantial in a concise way, which means that a writer has to stay pretty focused in a story in order to keep it tight and comprehensible.).

another reason i thought the murphy reference was apt is that i could contrast the way the two of them dealt with massive amounts of riches and fame, and eddie murphy was close at hand because his brother charlie murphy is on chappelle’s show. that goes back to my point about making things concise; i could bring eddie into the discussion without necessarily getting in over my head by having to establish a more distant connection. i was fascinated by the fact that charlie murphy witnessed first hand the ascendancy of two phenomenally successful black comedians, and that for many people, chappelle is the heir to eddie murphy as a popular comedian, which makes his association with charlie murphy sound like a smart move on chappelle’s part. he had his own show, and he had someone around who knew what that level of fame and scrutiny could do to someone. (not that charlie murphy didn’t pull his weight in other ways; he’s funny as hell.) also, at this point it’s easy to contrast the careers of eddie murphy and dave chappelle, since they responded to the same dilemma in different ways. murphy succumbed to expectation by making toothless movies (after beverly hills cop and 48 hours by making lots of toothless movies, and chappelle fled from an offer to be bought and sold, as you astutely put it).

i am a fan of richard pryor, and the more i hear of his standup (and after having seen jo jo dancer), the more knocked out i am by his humor and intelligence. i had him in mind when i wrote the chappelle story, and thinking about my essay, as well as pryor’s death, encouraged me to delve deeper into pryor’s work. i would have done well to make note of him in my story, and to acknowledge the lineage of black comedians that runs through pryor and murphy and chappelle. i did not make a decision not to talk about pryor, but i know that a meaningful discussion of his work was beyond the scope of my story. he deserves more than a sentence or two in an in-depth consideration of the history of black comedy, but that’s not the endeavor i was undertaking. i agree that pryor’s contribution to comedy, and to history, is more substantial and profound than that of eddie murphy, but that doesn’t make him a better example of dealing with the sort of fame dave chappelle has had to deal with.

thanks, by the way, for pointing out that chappelle’s line about africa is a direct quote of pryor. i’m pretty sure chappelle would be happy to hear that someone repeated him, and someone else pointed out that he was quoting pryor. it sounds like the sort of mind bomb he’d plant, and that’s another example of how poignant and great a comedian i think he is. he’s talking to you, who gets the reference, and to me, who does not, and he’s communicating with both of us, and encouraging us to communicate with each other.

as for my sentence about how chappelle’s flight from the set might turn out to be cocaine-related, i think i didn’t come across to you the way i meant it to. i was acknowledging rumors of chappelle having a drug-induced breakdown, but i felt like i was basically dismissing that theory, even indicting it as a stereotype of black fame, in favor of a much more likely scenario, which i outlined: he was suddenly very rich and very famous, and life had gotten very complicated, and he didn’t know who he could trust, and he needed to go someplace where he felt like he could get his head on straight. i summarized this latter theory in the sentence before the one you quoted (which i’ve just gone back to read), and it was my intention to favor that theory over the more sensational, reactionary take regarding presumed drug use. that’s part of why i was so caught up on “his” comment that “i went to africa and i didn’t see any niggers there.” i thought he was anticipating his flight, saying that he could go to africa and just be a man, a person, and escape the constant and at times misguided and misinformed awareness of race in america.

in no way was it my intention to perpetuate the notion that drug use was the cause of chappelle’s departure from the show, though i wanted to acknowledge that it would be ironic if that were the case, since drug humor was such a big part of his show. it would be especially ironic—and now it occurs to me that i should have pointed this out—because the drug humor on chappelle’s show was always delivered at a remove, whether ironic, parodic and/or in character. he didn’t joke about doing drugs as much as he joked about other people doing drugs, and about the way white people associate drug addiction with black people. anyway, that’s why it would be sad and ironic if we were to learn that chappelle had a drug problem—he seems to know better than to go down that suspiciously sign-posted path. he understands that drug addiction causes one to lose control, and he’s obviously a) in control of himself and his show, and b) well-aware of the triumphs and mistakes of his predecessors, black and white. ultimately, i believe what chappelle himself has said every time he’s talked about leaving the show: he had too many people around that he couldn’t trust, and he didn’t think the new episodes were up to his own standards. when he talks about trust, he talks about people making demands of him, but he also talks about them not making demands of him. in other words, he had a lot of yes-men around, and he didn’t think it was good for his art. it’s an incredibly brave and principled act for him to walk away from that, and i’m rooting for that scenario. i’d be sort of heartbroken if we either found out that he’d really just had a breakdown, drug-induced or stress-related, or if it started to seem like most people just assume that to be the case. i’d much rather learn that he made a personal, creative decision, and that he did so because he believes in the value of socially engaged, intelligent comedy.

thanks again for your letter, and i hope you return to kitchen sink with the same intellectual fierceness you brought to my story.


jeff johnson

ps. i’d also like to agree with you about the effectiveness of danny hellman’s illustration. i should mention that the best ks illustrators’ read the story they’re illustrating before they get to work. hellman may well have better captured chappelle’s dilemma than i did, but reading your description of the sense you get from the illustration, i thought, that’s exactly what i was trying to say. even if you don’t think i did a good job of bringing that across, i hope you could tell what i was trying to do.