Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm back, and, damn, the Hoodoo Gurus rocked

I finally have overcome the death of the ancient PC. I'm typing on a brand new fancypantsed iMac and I love it. So let's catch up a bit...there's an impending Mondo Topless Midwest tour coming up that I will tell you more about eventually, but details are here if you can't wait.

I am off to see Social Distortion tonight for the first time in a couple years, but I'm still basking in the glow of an awesome Hoodoo Gurus show a few weeks back. I started seeing these guys in 1984 when they only had one album out, and what an album it was. All these years later, I realized as I watched them at the World Cafe Live in Philly, I believe they hold the undisputed title of Band That I Have Been Going to See the Longest. And here's the thing: I think they are better than ever.

One of the things I am proudest of in Mondo Topless is that we try to keep an active list of 40-50 songs that we can play on any given night. It keeps the mind young and the cobwebs never set in that way. Boredom is the death of many a band, and I'd hate to see that happen. Well, apparently, the Gurus have the same ethos. When someone requested a song, Dave said, "I dunno...we played that one last night," and he said they were trying to mix it up as much as possible. Sure, they took requests, but I got the idea that there were few, if any, repeats from the previous night. I recall that last tour that I saw them on, three years earlier, Dave said they had 50-60 songs ready to go. That is a rarity, and having just watched them tear through a representative cluster of songs from nearly every one of their albums, I am prepared to say that they have done it again. So I make this pledge: next tour I will see them more than once because I know I will get nearly a completely different show each night.

And what a show it is. The principal difference between the Gurus of old and the current band (other than male pattern baldness thankfully removing that '80s hairdo from Dave's head) is that, ala the force of nature that is the 2000s edition of Mission of Burma, the Gurus actually rock harder these days. Sure, the pop element of their garage/pop is still there, but overall the sound is tougher and ballsier. As a result, despite the glory of first-album tracks like "Tojo" and "I Want You Back," the truly shining moment for me was this one: The Right Time," from the Crank album. Damn. (Do yourself a favor and watch that video; it's one of my favorites ever...just completely ridiculous).

One other can see that they are still enjoying the hell out of playing live, and, in the days of the tired big-shed/re-tread reunion tours, watching a bunch of old guys ride the wave of unbridled joy that comes from turning it up and letting it rip is a beautiful thing indeed. Rock on, Gurus. Rock on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An involuntary break

I had a computer meltdown about a week ago. I am switching to an iMac, but the new beautiful machine won't arrive until later this week. Then I have to figure out how to use it, having been a PC guy all these years. So, unless I wanna blog from my phone (and I don't), the blog will be silent for a little bit. When I return, I'll catch you up on how great the Hoodoo Gurus were at World Cafe Live, how amazing it is to run a Warrior Dash, and how the Heavy are a pretty damn great live band but need to tell the lead singer to stop talking so much between songs.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Do fun stuff before you die

This weekend, in a continuing effort to have fun while beating myself to a pulp, I am running in the mid-Atlantic version of the Warrior Dash.

It's a 5k -- no big deal, 3.1 miles -- but here's the fun part: obstacles! Somewhere between 11 and 14 of 'em -- hay bales, mud pits, mud pits with barbed wire stretched overhead so you have to crawl through, walls of fire to leap over, etc.

And what do you get for your efforts? A big fuzzy Viking helmet with horns! So a few of us are headed out to Totally-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, Pennsylvania, and sloppin' through the goop and the muck, all to prove to ourselves that we earned that ridiculous helmet. Perfect.

Oh, and just for a warmup in the fun department, on Friday night I'm going to see the Hoodoo Gurus prove, once again, that you can be even older than me and rock out. Gushing review to follow (I hope!)....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What do the Minutemen mean to me? The Minutemen mean everything to me.

Everyone (well, every music freak, anyway) has That Band. You know, the one for whom your loyalty will never die. A lot of bands mean a hell of a lot to me, but one stands above the fray as the one I would bring back tomorrow, if only I could: The Minutemen.

I'm not going to give you a history lesson (part one or two). You can learn all about 'em here, because Allmusic Guide's Stephen Erlewine and Mark Deming have waxed poetic about them, and particularly about their stone-cold masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime, better than I ever could. But I want to tell you just a little, in my own bumbling way, about what the Minutemen mean to me.

Personalities loom large in any great rock band, but the Minutemen -- maybe because they were a trio -- wore their personalities on their sleeves a little more than the rest and made a statement from Day One that they were not going to play the music game like everyone else. They were going to take the D.I.Y. attitude of punk and, instead of turning punk into a uniform, make it into an ethos for doing whatever the hell you wanted to do with your art. So Mike Watt turned the bass into not just a rhythm instrument, but an expressive, nearly conversational, driving force behind every song. Over top of the rumble and twists and turns of Watt rode D. Boon's guitar, sometimes twanging, ala "Corona" (you know, the Jackass theme, jackass), more often spraying shards of perfectly aimed shrapnel at perfectly timed moments, but never, ever doing what all those other guitar players did. And then there was George. Fuckin' a drummer I used to just dismiss the notion of him as an "influence" and instead viewed him as simply way funkier/jazzier than I could ever be -- sort of a punk version of some unattainable god -- but many years later, I can play like that, but it's still chasing the dragon, so to speak. In other words, I can do that stuff but I learn a little more every damn day I listen to the man. His powerful, jarring, solid, funky propulsive drumming is at the core of what made this band so special. And I listen a lot. Some weeks -- and this one is already looking like one -- each day I find the 100-some Minutemen songs I have on my iPod, hit shuffle and let the good times roll.

And good times they are. I used to say that a Minutemen gig (or later the same applied to fIREHOSE) was like a sporting event. It all was teamwork and brotherhood up there through sweat and hard work. Three dudes, giving their all every night. They knew that the average guy wasn't going to get to do what they were doing. Yet they also knew those same kind of average guys were in the crowd there to see three of their own who had somehow risen above the shit to do something great. So they always put out, just like they would have wanted when they were just "fucking corndogs," to borrow a lyric, going to punk shows "to drink, and pogo." And they never lost that sense of wonder -- a sort of "Damn, we are getting paid to do this? We'd do it for free!" attitude. I saw 'em 25 years ago in October 1985, and I never (ever) drive by that (former) warehouse on the 300 block of Brown Street in Philadelphia where that all-ages show was held and don't think (or usually say), "I saw the Minutemen in there." That was a bombed-out dilapidated part of town back then. Now, it's a lot more gentrified. The warehouse is something else. Apartments, maybe? Offices? But to me, it's the place where I saw Mike, D. and George jam econo.

And I try to pass on the respect. My oldest son just turned 20, and, although I've done my best to school him in music, he's charted his own path (like he should), sometimes appalling the old man with his taste (like he should), but not always. I remember when I gave an old car of mine to him a while back. I told him he could remove any of the stickers I had on there, except the one that has a pic of D. Boon on it. It says, in clearest terms, why I loved this band: "Punk is whatever we made it to be." Honestly, I was (sort of) joking, but Kevin turned to me and said, "Dad, are you nuts. I would never take a D. Boon sticker off a car. That's D. Boon!"

Well, hell yeah.

VIDEO LINK: Minutemen--"Joe McCarthy's Ghost"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Farewell to Grains

And now a different type of farewell, from her Wild.Woman blog, Jenny Martineau sends a Dear John letter to the grains that are wrecking her life. Awesome.

A Farewell to Kings

All drummers secretly have a Rush problem. I have a simple rule: I won't turn off a Rush song if it comes on the radio. I don't love them, but sometimes their complete over-the-top progginess is precisely what I need, especially something insane from the Farewell to Kings album, like the video below.

VIDEO LINK: Rush -- "Xanadu"