Friday Fives – the independence of it all

Do you have any Independence day traditions? 

I guess it mostly depends if you are inviting me over for something, are you? There has been an accidental tradition of being at Grateful Dead shows in the 4th. My first Dead show (Jerry is still alive at this point) was July 4th 1989. I was at many subsequent July 4th shows. When the Dead did their first formal reunion, about ten years ago, we were there, too. This was July 4th, at the Gorge. The band was billing itself at ‘the Dead’, as opposed to ‘the Grateful Dead’. I liked this, it was a classy homage to their history, but by not fully using the entire name… it was an homage to the fact Jerry was gone and it could never be the Dead again.

As you read this, I am seeing the Grateful Dead again, and again on July 4th. In the last 25 years, I suppose there have been more independence day holidays not at Dead shows that at Dead show. But, the Dead shows were certainly a bit more memorable. Where would you rather be? What is more American than the Grateful Dead? I can prove it. A couple years ago I had to call customer service for some Dead CDs I had ordered. The call center for the customer service was in India. That is how American they are. It made me sad. A bit of a sell out, and Jerry wouldn’t have allowed that.

Do you have any Independence bad memories? 

Well, yeah. After the aforementioned Dead reunion show at the Gorge, we were camping there. We had driven from Denver, you see. After the show, it being the 4th, everyone had fireworks. This is quite common at Dead shows. What you don’t have, though, is people in any condition to be shooting fireworks. It literally felt and sounded like a war zone. Shit was flying EVERYWHERE, and exploding. It wasn’t stuff flying up and exploding, either. It was stuff going sideways, and blowing up. It was terrifying.

Not conducive to sleep, and we were tired. Not just a ton of driving that day, but then an 8 hour concert. The Allmans opened up. Each band plays for about 3 to 4 hours, with set breaks in between. The amazing Warren Haynes played lead guitar for BOTH bands. 8 hours on stage. It was an amazing show, and the Gorge is still the most beautiful venue on Earth. I say that as someone who lives just a few miles away from Red Rocks.

It was tough to sleep. On top of that, some asshats set up a serious powerful speaker system out of their truck and played rave music. LOUDLY. It could be heard for miles. We didn’t want to hear ANY music, not to mention rave electronic music. We kept thinking security would come and tell them to turn it off. We were afraid to leave the tent, because of the fireworks issue. It wasn’t safe to walk around. Finally, after about an hour of this, I snuck over in the dark and unplugged their shit. Not just the power, that would be too easy. They could have just plugged it back in. I know how sound systems work, since I am in a rock band on the side. I think I pulled out the quarter inch audio jacks and then hid amplifier transfer box thingy under their tire. They would find it in the morning. It worked. Power to the people!

I am aware it’s ironic and kinda fucked up that a guy going to see the band who was the ultimate fuck you to the power structure… and I am now the ‘turn it down and get off my lawn’ guy. Had to be done, and everyone was appreciative.

What’s the most patriotic thing you have ever done? 

That thing above. Shutting down that goddamn fucking rave. Does ruining some kids one shot at a good time make me an American hero? Yup.

What is one of your earliest fireworks memories?

None come to mind. I can tell you this about fireworks. They were illegal in AZ. Super illegal. Like, you can’t have a sparkler. It’s the desert, and 120 in July. So, it absolutely makes sense. There were professional fireworks shows, of course, but it just wasn’t that big a deal. Well, I have some great stories about Mexican fireworks, but we don’t have time for that now.

What part of American history did you learn as a youth that you have discovered is completely misunderstood. 

Yeah. I remember finally figuring out the pledge of allegiance is some fucked up bullshit or a country that prides itself on freedom of everything.   I pledge allegiance to the flag, and the country, and to god? Fuck you, buddy. Now, there is nothing wrong with having pride in your country, and teaching that to kids. BUT… we were taught that before we knew what any of those words meant. THAT is what I resent. In my lower teens, I started the whole ‘society doesn’t know dick and is all about oppression and we gotta break the whole thing, man!’ phase. Did you have that? I hope so. I started standing for the pledge, but not saying it.

Power to the people. All power to the people. I can only hope that somewhere, some kid is writing in his blog about his 4th of July memories. He is telling a story about a joyous after concert dance celebration with the fans of the Grateful Dead, until some narc spoke into their shit and killed the joy. Probably a cop, no Deadhead would do such a power move.

Are you out there, kid? Happy 4th!

Friday Fives – more music because my editor is a lazy bastard

I can say that, right?  I mean… it’s with love.  Plus, it’s about music.  I can hold forth all day long about music… but you poor sucks already know that, don’t you?

Who is the worst band you’ve ever seen live and why?

Flaming Lips at Red Rocks.  They were opening for someone, I don’t remember.  I was initially very excited to see them.  Wayne Coyne is famous for his great live shows.  Red Rocks is also a magical place that has coaxed amazing performances out of mediocre bands… like Radiohead.  The Flaming Lips were horrible.  I finally realized they are built on kitsch and novelty.  They are not good songwriters, they are not good musicians, and Wayne Coyne is not a good singer.  10 or 15 minutes into their set I have to leave. I went up top to drink and look at the amazing view.

See, if you go up top, the sound is horrible… which is best for the Lips.  It means it is also the quietest up there.  Red Rocks doesn’t put speakers anywhere but the base of a stage.  Normally, this would be fine… were you not on the side of the mountain.  If you are not in the first 30 rows, the sound is terrible.  This is especially true when the wind whips around, which it tends to do on the side of a mountain.

but why were they so bad?  The music just wasn’t compelling on any level.  Not catchy, nor thoughtful.  You know those kids songs Charlie Sheen’s character wrote on 2 and a half men?  It was stuff like ‘who cut the cheese?’.  Yeah, that is Flaming Lips catalog.  Anyone who likes Flaming Lips is a hipster douchebag!  Trust me, it takes one to know one.

But… any concert at Red Rocks can’t be that bad, right?  It’s like how they say a bad day fishing is better than the best day at work?  Well, they weren’t at this show.  To close, Will Rogers never met this band.

Who is the best band you’ve seen live, and why?

Oh golly, I have see a LOT of bands, and a LOT of great bands.  It is almost impossible to pick 1.  So, I’ll pick two.  This answer goes out to Cody in Utah, a month late.  Sorry on that, bud.  James Taylor and Barenaked Ladies.

James Taylor I have been seeing since high school, possibly longer.  For one, and maybe this is a given, he sounds perfect… every time.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s… every decade I have seen him he was amazing and crystal clear.  Every show gets the obvious hits.  Here is what people don’t know who haven’t seen him; he is hilarious.  He is a seriously funny and engaging guy.  I have seen comedians live, many of the great ones:  Richard Lewis, Mitch Hedberg, Lewis Black, and Brian Regan.  I have laughed that hard at every single James Taylor show.

Barenaked Ladies have always killed it live.  First time I saw them, it was the ‘Rock Spectacle’ tour, which was a very early greatest hits tour… of sorts.  I wasn’t a big fan, but I Gordon.  The internet wasn’t everywhere yet, so I hadn’t seen clips or read reviews.  After that show, I was amazed.  As everyone knows now, they are amazing live.  Funny and sweet and musical and surprisingly improvisational.

Every show becomes a very unique experience.  It becomes about your city, and current events.  I have seen them 3 or 4 times, and every show was better than the last.  I should have to mention this was all back when Steven Page was with them.  I can tell you every person who has ever seen BNL at any era with Steven Page will tell you it was the best concert they have ever seen.  I agree.

What band has your go to perfect album?

Again, SO many.  How about three?  Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti,  Guns & Roses Appetite for Destruction, and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream.

What are the best comebacks you know?

The question implies a witty rejoinder, a la ‘the jerk store called’.  In the spirit of the questions leading up to this, I will assume it is a poorly worded question about career comebacks in music.

I have been seeing bands for 30 years now (it starts with the Police in 1983 and Rush in 1985… and keeps going).  One day, ask me about the golden girl I saw at the Rush, and how that kinda changed my life. Hint, it involves boobs and a 13 year old boy. A lot of the acts I have seen were regarded as ‘comebacks’, but never left.  I saw Pearl Jam in 1997, and the critics were calling it their ‘comeback’ tour.  They never went anywhere, never broke up, and never stopped making music.  Same has been said for seeing Page & Plant together, James Taylor, and Paul Simon.  To qualify, we have to count a band who fully broke up before I saw them.  I think these guys broke up a lot.  Heck, they just re-broke up again last fall.  This time, I think it’s for good.  Greg must be in his 70s.

The Allman Brothers.  I first saw them in the late 80s.  They had already been broken up and reunited several times by then.  Over the years, I saw them more than any other band, except maybe the Grateful Dead.  I have seen both bands around 20 times.

When I count the Dead above, I am talking about with Jerry Garcia.  Since his passing, I have seen another 20 shows of their very many offshoot bands.  Also saw Bobby and Jerry solo while Jerry was alive.  Still go see Bobby every year.  Going to see him this summer, too.

The Allmans are a unique class of band that got better with age.  They are also a band that thrives live.  I say the same about Iron Maiden.  They not only get better, they get more popular.  Iron Maiden is amazing, and one of two bands I NEVER miss when they come to town (the other is Pearl Jam).  Sorry, since we are talking about great live bands, I had to get in a plug for Iron Maiden.

The radio is on and you are driving down the road, a song comes on. At what moment did you realize “Damn.. I’m getting old”?

HA… I remember the exact moment.  Wifey and I were driving through Northern Arizona on our bi annual trek to see movies.  We were in a car that likely only had a cassette deck, and we were sick of our tapes.  Maybe it was CDs, who knows?  We were searching the radio for anything.  Of course, when you are in the middle of nowhere, you only get county and bible shit.  Why is that?

FINALLY we find a good station.  Prince was on, from his Purple Rain heyday.  We were so pleased with ourselves until the dj came on.  “you’re listening to Northern Arizona’s golden oldies.”.  we listened for another hour.  We knew, and loved, every song.  We were OLD, man.  I swear we were only in our early 30s, if even that.  We are early 40s, now.

* for the record, Wayne did this.  It was cool and all, but clearly a distraction from shitty music.  Prince never had to do this.  Also, he was afraid to get passed back/up.  Reasonable, since Red Rocks is built into the side of a mountain.  Still, though, that woulda been cool.

Friday Fives – music delivery edition

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1. How do you listen to your music?

mostly at my computer at work.  It is kind of a shame.  I have a really really nice stereo in my truck.  Big fat subwoofer and all that jazz.  Mostly, though, when I drive I am listening to podcasts or books on tape.  That makes my commute go quicker, and I both learn and am entertained on the drive.  Not sure why you aren’t doing this, but you have me to remind you how to be a better you.  to be a better you is to be me.  you are welcome for that.

when I do want to rock out, it is in the truck.  Must be alone.  For some reason, women tend to think driving time is talking time.  Of course, women think that anytime is talking time.  So, that doesn’t work.  Also, the windows have to be down… even if it is snowing outside.

2. CDs are dying, no one uses cassettes anymore. Where is music going to come from?

yeah, a couple years ago I threw out all my cassettes.  Just right in the garbage, hundreds of them.  Here is what really hurt, about a quarter of them were bootlegs.  Bootlegs being live recordings passed from fan to fan, getting shittier sounding each time.  I had a very impressive catalogue of live Dead, Allmans, and Pearl Jam.  Note, all three of those bands encourage their fans to tape and distribute live shows.  They still do, but everything is digital now.

Last week in cleaning up, I found a cassette for Smashing Pumpkins ‘Gish’.  It’s an amazing album.  I don’t have a cassette player anywhere, but I can’t bring myself to throw it out.   even though i have a few copies on CD, including the beautiful remaster and repackage job.

Focus man, back to the question.  Well, the future of music is definitely digital.  So, where will it come from?  Anywhere that has access to the internet.  It will be integrated into everything, soon.  In Japan, for example, their biggest cell phone company is Softbank.  of their subscriber base, 10% of their sales aren’t even phones.  They are things like toasters and digital picture frames and refrigerators that are all online.

I would like to make it so that each time I open my fridge, Mungo Jerry’s ‘in the summertime’ plays.  That is a great song, and somehow just goes with eating.  By the way, take a look at this guy.   Is there a better example of 70’s than this?  This is the singer from Mungo Jerry.  dude looks like a black power cartoon.  What is weirder is I don’t even think he is black.

Here is what is weirder, and even makes him more awesome.  Dude is a Brit!  Perhaps he is half black. We used to call them mulatto, but I don’t think you are allowed to say that anymore.  I am pretty sure it is a racial slur, which is dumb.  How about some other famous mulattos?  Lenny Kravtiz, President Obama, Slash, Tom Morello, Tyler Stewart, and Bob Marley

another thing you aren’t allowed to say?  ‘Siamese Twins’.  It is bad and racist to say that.  Now, we call them ‘conjoined twins’.  I guess the Siam lobby was fed up with everyone assuming they were all stuck together?  Anyhow, take it from me, don’t use either term.  It’s a sticky situation.   Get it?

3. What genre is the next big thing coming down the pike?

jesus, I am the wrong person to ask about that.  even though I know more about music than everyone you know combined, I just don’t care about new music.  Now, dumb people will say “todays music is ______”.  This is universally and always a stupid statement.  I am positive there is amazing music being made right now.  Likely the best in history.  However, I am not interested in new music.  I like what I like and I am not too interested in finding new bands.  I just feel I don’t have the time.  Now, a few bands slip in and quality rises to the top – avett brothers, ray lamontagne, brandi carlile are all awesome and current.

4. Who/what musically do you recommend these days?

see above.  Are you even paying attention?  also, go with Bob Dylan’s first five albums.  not ‘Blood on the Tracks’ though.  You aren’t ready for that.  Then get Grateful Dead’s ‘Live without a Net’.  Now, leave me along and get off my lawn.

Generally, the only new music I buy is new releases from old bands. 

5. Did you ever belong to Columbia House Record Club?

oh for sure.  6 cassettes for just a penny!  They were so deceptive that they got sued out of business.  not only were they not leveling with the consumers, they were screwing the musicians out of the royalties.  Their logic was “well, we sold your record for 1 penny.  So, I can’t quite give you a tenth of a penny now can I?”

this falls under what your mother should have told you “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”.