Archive for February, 2008
Noisepop 2008 turned sweet 16 in sunny San Francisco this week. A music festival that sprung from a one night affair in a dive bar in 1993 to the Star Destroyer of Bay Area rock and roll, Noisepop swallowed nearly every rock venue in town. The festival’s moniker has only recently become deceptive with the graduation of “noise pop” to a no-bullshit genre, leaving me with the anticipation on opening night that the entire fest would be singularly themed. As it turns out, the first night of shows at Bottom of the Hill was delivered through some form of noise gate, leaving only pop music for the paying consumer.
I was on the hunt for Minipop, proveyors of local melodramatic pop songs in the vein of Stars or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. At the superior counsel of an associate of mine, I snagged the record off iTunes the night before, devouring it hungrily like a trailer park mom at the Wal-mart hotdog stand. Like Wallyworld’s nacho cheese, it went down smooth but perhaps did not deliver the kind of nutrition that would qualify making it a regular part of my balanced breakfast. The acid test was the live show, conveniently situated at the opening of this Frisco festival.
The scene did not deliver a strong amount of Rob affinity. It was a corporate rock show, though not in the sense of production so much as consumption. The music offered was thoroughly indie and a budget-conscious enterprise, but the crowd was largely married couples with husbands balding in leather jackets and wives in knee-length boots all dancing with an awkward lack of rehearsal. The rock was not corporate, but the crowd was definitely the critical need-to-get-home-before-the-sitter-leaves demographic.
Having missed most of the openers, I came in as West Indian Girl started their set and the baby boomers were two sheets to the wind. Like a oil spill in slow motion, the 45 minute set from this L.A. cliche would prove among the longer I have spent at the Bottom of the Hill. Clearly an ill-conceived effort to cash in on the growing popularity of female fronted indie pop and the grotesque sexuality of the lead singer, the outfit is exactly one purchase of a thesaurus and a lead singer decision away from a good band. The grand total of unique words delivered lyrically during their set could not at all been over 500, even including articles. The evening’s scoreboard measured in word repetition looked something like:
Los Angeles: 41
Oooh and/or Aaah: 1,360
I only discovered their city of origin the next day, but West Indian Girl heaped on Long Beach stereotype like mashed potatoes in the lunch line which is to say arbitrarily, indiscriminately and with little consideration of its impact on the health of the consumer. Six minute masturbatory tunes drug out with jam sessions less structured than a goat rodeo with no clear message other than L.A. is, evidently, rad. Revealing a songwriting process that is undoubtedly jam-driven, West Indian Girl aims for the green and lands in Arnold Palmer’s Port-a-Shitter. The only claim to greatness available being proximity to the defecate of someone more talented. No one should ever be that enamored with the sound of her own tambourine.
Serving an antithesis as stark as the vibe adjustment between Northern and Southern California, the bill was headlined by Minipop, San Francisco natives of no small popularity. Though sharing the same genre, the difference was polar opposite. Where West Indian Girl’s “look” hinged on a frontwoman possessed an oversexed, carnal appearance fit only for the amateur section of Maxim, Minipop relies exclusively on genuine beauty as an indie rock platform. Deliciously mature at the expense of being a touch mellow, Minipop delivers real pop song in a familiar format that eschews excitable and directionless breakdowns for concise message.
A four piece led clearly by guitarist Matthew Swanson and vocalist Tricia Keane, the real unsung hero of the live show comes in the form of tasteful bassist Nick Forte. Given the majority of the rhythm responsibilities in each song, he, much like Evan Cranley, is the palette for nearly every tune. A pop ensemble with most individual personality literally pounded out, the excess of instrumentation so prevalent in the scene is given a condensed voice in his basswork, serving as the contributory equal to any three Moog carrying faux keyboardist heard over the course of the night.
Their set closed out with a real festival treat with a rare cover of Catherine Wheel’s “Black Metallic” and an early bedtime for all the corporate boys and girls who had 9am sales calls to get to bed for. In all, Noisepop proved to be a big goddamned deal with illuminati from the Bay Area music industry all crawling around complaining of the hangovers earned from a hard evening the night before. As genuine as any festival of its size can be, Noise Pop is very much a festival linked to San Francisco itself. Unlike the reasonably mobile big tickets like Lollapaloozas, Noise Pop provides a ridiculous price/performance ratio of whole wheat underground alt rock.
It’s like eating your Wheaties with a banana; a musical breakfast of champions.
Ralph Nader announced his candidacy this morning on MTP.
Thanks a pantload, fuckstick.
Which consumers this tardjar is advocating for with a fourth-in-a-row bid for the White House is pretty unclear. The cycle of running for president every four years for nearly a quarter century has to be getting on and, at the ripe age of 74, we can only hope this time round is his ticket to the nursing home. For reference, this guy has been campaigning for twice the average expected lifecycle of a male African lion. From a lion’s perspective, he’s committed two lifetimes to this bullshit.
Yet despite an ROI analysis akin to eating $80 million every fourth year and depositing it in portable toilets in the eleven most populous of these United States – a microshit model, if you will – Ralph persists in accomplishing little more than splitting the liberal vote. Barack Obama crystallizes the sentiment of much of the party, saying:
He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush and, eight years later, I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about.
Anyone incapable of accurately divining the difference between Bush and Gore may not be qualified to identify his head from his cornhole let alone serve as Head of State.
Up until the 2000 election, I strongly favored Nader’s participation in American politics. The Republicans had their own vote splitters and his lot strayed largely from the Democratic parties I was attending. Less hippies, I thought, meaning while his posse was getting high and pretending to change the world through tie-dye, we could get loaded at Jefferson-Jackson dinners only minimally incurred by the terminally Grateful. It was a real convenience, as our rallies are pretty disorganized to begin with. Drop a bunch of long hairs with small minds and big ideas in the mix and getting 100 Democrats to agree on anything became a Sisyphan enterprise. We have enough single issue, single minded cats to herd, better that they have an independent or Green or whatever-the-hell to do whoever-the-fuck they want.
Then all of the sudden an unelected alcoholic gets in the White House and Nader goes from minor nuisance to wanted for capital jackassery. When the results from Florida came in with analysis of the effect his candidacy had on Miami-Dade, Nader’s 2000 candidacy became an implicit war crime. Oblivious to the irony of the choice his campaigning denied, in years since he’s rejected the label of spoiler in that race, calling the “Nader Effect” a construct of mainstream media. Not only did he contend that Gore v. Bush did not offers voters sufficient option, he to this day contends that the option he offered had no effect on the outcome. The mere suggestion is enough to wonder if he has some sort of learning disability inhibiting basic mathematics.
Ralph Nader has performed spectacular service to his country in his lifetime. Serving as a voice of dissent in a political climate that is increasingly intolerant did ultimately save lives, though perhaps not the millions that he is quick to claim. He was a whistleblower when our nation needed it and rightly commands respect for it.
But killing the Corvair isn’t a free pass to pursue an General Motors grade fuckup of our planet. His fifth time around is not delusion; he is acutely aware of the damaging effect he is having and is doing it anyway. This is not principle; this is board-certified cardinal pride. The voiceless he is claiming to speak for are only taken less seriously by his words. The liberal effort his is claiming to represent is only injured by his presence. He is doing nothing but making another Republican presidency more likely.
Irrespective of the ridiculousness of his effort, the option alone is a danger to America. When a guy like Mike Huckabee welcomes his entrance to the foray, all doubt is removed. Ralph Nader is a candidate who is unsafe at any speed.
It’s an interesting word. People look for it in their newscasters, and in their politicians. Lotta’ folks work hard to anchor their lifestyles to the philosophies espoused by the word. If there’s one thing New Englanders are often criticized for, it usually has to do with our generally introverted natures that though friendly, tend to radiate an over developed sense of “dignity, seriousness or solemnity of manner”.
Though personally, I’ve always felt that stereotype was created by people visiting the area who attempted to strike up a conversation with one of us, outside, sometime from November through March. They mistook our hurrying stoically onward as dismissal perhaps, instead of correctly reading it as: “You know? It’s ass cold out here, how ’bout we talk inside? Race you.” Or in the Summer months, transpose ‘cold’ to ‘hot and humid’ and you yield the same scenario. The one thing most New Englanders can agree on, is that we’re never happy about the weather. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it, but our relationship to our climate is probably the single most important key to our psychology.
Anyway. When Rob buzzed me the other night via IM, wondering if I’d be willing to undermine his blog by contributing to it, the first thought that ran through my head was that I lacked the proper amount of gravitas. I’m not one to follow politics closely, or take them as seriously as I often feel I should when I do. My interest in technology is fairly narrow and regulated to how many waveforms or filter types something might be able to produce, as opposed to whether or not something is Bluetooth compatible or HD ready (though, for the record: Bluetooth-compatible MIDI and audio interfaces, controllers and rack gear/sound modules would be kick ass). Punk rock I can maybe do, though I can’t remember one band’s name from another to save my life. I also don’t get out much, being able to work from home like I do and in between trying to earn a buck, I juggle a family that includes a ten year old who’s already surpassing my ability on the Wii, and a five month old who has a taste for fingers and likes to giggle. There’s not a lot I take seriously, as just getting from one end of the day to the other and from one paycheck to the next in one piece, tends to exhaust my patience for ’serious’. I even had to look up ‘gonzo journalism’.
It was the week around last New Year’s Eve. My family and I were up in Camden, ME visiting a close friend who lives and works at the Camden Public Library, which is probably just about the prettiest library I’ve ever seen. The library often features art showings, highlighting the work done by local artists. The first day we were in Camden, also happened to be the last day of a showing by a couple of really nice people. They work in mixed media, utilizing anything from paint, to photographs, to dolls, blocks and other small toys or objects. I’m not one to usually appreciate art, but I really dug what they were doing. Originally from Kentucky, they apparently split the state in favor of Maine, when their own local library began removing and banning certain books based that didn’t support, largely, certain conservative religious beliefs.After getting a chance to meet them, my friend and they were well acquainted as they often visited the library, and speak with them, I offered to lend a hand in carrying their artwork out to the waiting cars as they broke their showing down. It was icy out. I am not a naturally dexterous man.
The piece I was carrying at the time, was a wooden box type of thing, that was partitioned off by other wooden blocks so a grid of sorts was created. The box was painted very colorfully. Within each small ‘room’, they’d placed a number of seemingly random objects like blocks with various words written on their sides, flowers, and what have you. Many of these objects were not in any way secured to the piece. The price tag for the piece was around $1400. That was the first thing that ran through my mind as my feet went out from under me, having found a particularly insidious ice patch. The second thought revolved largely around the pieces that began to leap from their little homes, taking flight as they hurled themselves en masse to scitter about on the icy road in a rush to explore this whole ‘free range’ thing they’d heard about, as I scrambled to regain my balance. The third and last thought consisted of me figuring out how I might best shift my weight in order to throw myself backwards, effectively taking the bullet for the team by landing solidly on my back, but at least most of the piece might be salvaged. But gravity got distracted, and I kept my feet.
The artists concern was immediate, and it was solely for me. The blocks and other odds and ends were quickly recovered, dusted off, and placed back into the piece with enthusiasm, in different positions, in different little homes. I could only stammer apologies. These however were in turn met with hearty laughs and twinkling eyes. “The name of the piece is ‘Oracle’,” they explained. “What just happened was perfect! It was like…casting the bones or something! You got to help us recreate this piece! We think that’s fantastic!” I didn’t know how to respond to the situation. Normally when one is on the bad side of: “Uh…I broke your thing that you spent a lot of time and effort on…I’m…sorry…” they don’t normally expect a response of: “You didn’t break it! You helped make it -better-!”
The artists went on to explain that their pieces were designed to be touched, explored, interacted with. They wanted people, especially children, to just relax and enjoy their artwork without fear of what can be summed up as, having to stay on the other side of the velvet rope called ‘gravitas’. Art, like life, they explained, needed to be fun, because life is tough enough as it is. People, they stated, forget to appreciate that we have a world within which we can explore and wonder and dream. They, they said, want to help people out of that mindset. They want to teach people to explore, to dream, to wonder. They also host fairy tea parties.
That experience, for whatever reason, really drove home a certain point. It was certainly one that I’d begun to pick up during my time with the Shaft (our approach to music contrasting many of the bands we played with), but it was lost during these past few years in the face of various trials and tribulations. The opportunity to be happy, to make others happy, and to simply enjoy the world around us together, is a rare and precious thing. Many people are unfortunately denied this. To my mind, this mandates that those of us who are blessed with such freedom need to embrace it fully, in spite of the weighty responsibilities and stresses most of us carry. Leave your gravitas at the door, please. There’s wonder out there, and I’ve a previously unrecognized invitation to go out and revel in it with as many people as I can, and I aim to take the world up on that invitation.