Archive for June, 2008

  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Jun
  • 08

Yay! Pride weekend!” the very gay man cheered, shaking a booty barely contained by a neon pink thong from atop park bench.

I ducked out of the way of his matching feather boa as the crowd around us at the corner of Church and Market cheered in obligatory response.  Most of the same sex couples raised brown-bagged forties in celebration as an impromptu dance party broke out, fueled by some dogshit terrible techno from a cheap shoulder-mounted boombox.  It was the tenth such dance party the Danimator and I have seen while stumbling through the Mission that day.

By a little after midnight, I had my fill.  At ground zero for the global Gay Pride weekend, this straight ally was wondering why a celebration for equality and civil liberties looked like Mardi Gras.  Less an expression of sexuality and more an exhibition of sex, Pride in San Francisco is not a political statement -- it is pornography.

In its 38th year, there are few Pride weekends in the world comparable to the revelery of San Francisco.  Depending on which drunk you ask on which corner, anywhere from a hundred thousand to forty million gay and lesbians flock to the city for the annual Pride festivities.  Parking in the city turns into a clusterfuck nightmare and getting a table at a restaurant becomes as likely as a straight man getting laid.  But, above all, techno blares at 110 decibels from every third building in town, thus reducing non-participants to near-deaf curmudgeons and making everyone not in the blaze orange fishnet set a pathological square.

Trying to cross Valencia Street during the Dykes on Bikes March is the closest I’ve felt to a ghost.  Silently ignored, merrymakers seem to look straight through you like a downtown panhandler soaked in the smell of his own piss.  Those you wished weren’t flopped along the march topless while those you wished were stumbled along -- already shitfaced by 6pm -- sending photos from their cell phones to wellwishers back home.

The problem with Pride celebrated this way is that both sides of the greater cultural debate are only reinforced by it.  Dudes with wigs and tight underwear don’t challenge or engage, they only affirm or offend.  From a personal standpoint, it’s hard to figure out what I’m fighting for.  The investment of time and money in the cause for equality for everyone regardless of sexual preference was something I thought was a categorical imperative.  To see the principal political event of that effort manifested in obscenity makes it hard to find the return.

I think stereotypes are what got us in this culture war.  We’d be well served to avoid them if we are serious about getting out.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 28
  • Jun
  • 08

San Francisco is the one fucking place in California that is not sunny or warm.  From the ground, Saturday seems like a normal Saturday afternoon in a microclimate of fog and despair.  It was cold and overcast, like any other summer day in this town.  The view from space, however, yields a different perspective.

For the past couple weeks, Northern California has been on fire in a couple hundred different places.  Suffering from an uncharacteristically dry winter, fire season for this part of the state showed up early and often.  The wet months of the year have long since passed, rendering a landscape so dry that it could easily catch fire with a hard stare.  Just a sixty mile drive on Highway 101 is enough to make someone wonder why this entire place isn’t on fucking fire.

After two weeks of nearly every square acre outside the cities having a fire of some sort, everything smells like smoke.  Closed windows only served to stave off the scent for the first couple days and the trademark wind of the city doesn’t distribute the smoke elsewhere so much as suck it in from other places.  By 4pm, most everyone in town has a wanging headache and a faint craving for barbecue.

It makes one wonder why the hell anyone settled here in the first place.  With the omnipresent threat of earthquakes, a daily average temperature of 60 degrees, and a local economy still coping with the boom/bust cycle precedented by the Gold Rush, one wonders if people were ever meant to be in San Francisco.

It’s a town that by every environmental estimation should not be.  With smoke in the air, it is easy to wonder how long it will.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Daniel Austin
  • 25
  • Jun
  • 08

It was 10:30am in Denver when I realized that neither of us was joking. The wedding was 30 miles south in Littleton at 1pm and my tuxedo was 80 miles south in Colorado springs at that very moment.

The first step to solving a problem is realization.

The previous night I had been catching the elevator down from my 16th floor room with Fava when I asked him in passing if he had my tuxedo. I was the best man in his wedding, so of course I needed a tuxedo, but I hadn’t seen it even after his bride picked it up from the tailor. He had jokingly told me that he didn’t have it, which I now know was because he thought I was pulling his leg. At the time I thought he was pulling mine. The reality of the matter is that we were both sinking into deep shit and had no clue.

On the morning of the wedding we came up from the street, stopped at the bride’s room to pick up the suits, then headed to my room to suit up. This is when Fava gave me his first serious look. “Don’t fuck with me dude.” This is when I realized we were in deep shit. The bride underscored this with a very smooth tone of authority, “You need to handle this.” Click.

The second step is to survey your available options.

Beege immediately called to find other tailors that could replicate the suit. None would be able to meet our two and a half hour deadline. I immediately double checked the automobiles to verify that the suit was in fact not in Denver, and it was not. This left us with two options.

Option one was to have somebody bring the tux up. The problem here was that nobody had a key to the front door of the apartment where the tux was located.

Option two was for me to drive speed to Colorado Springs with the key, unlock the front door, grab the tux, and speed back.

The third step is execution of the decided course of action.

I grabbed the key from the room and headed down the elevator, which seemed painfully slow as it stopped to pick up two older passengers. Time didn’t matter the second time it stopped because as soon as I saw the bride’s parents step in my impatience was overcome by fear of what complications they might introduce to the situation. They didn’t recognize me though.

“We just dropped the photographer off with our daughter who is getting married!” the bride’s mother said.

“Oh how wonderful!” the couple replied.

“But things are already getting hectic, the best man forgot his tuxedo!”

“He forgot his tuxedo??” the couple exclaimed, baffled at how such a thing could happen.

For the record, such a thing happens when somebody tells you that you should probably take your own tuxedo while you’re preoccupied cleaning coffee stains from the floor mat of the rented bridal carriage.

It was all I could do to keep myself from chiming in myself with a hearty “what an asshole!”, but I decided against it and time resumed as I exploded from the elevator in search of my getaway car, a rented Kia Rio.

The fourth step is performance of strategic plan revisions to include multiple paths to the solution.

As I turned down every closed off street fair hosting street in Denver I cursed traffic and considered my situation. Being a security expert involves revisiting details that seem given, but may not actually be necessary parts of the equation. Locks are such a thing. You do not necessarily need to unlock a door to get into an apartment. With this thought I called up the only two thieves I knew. Darin didn’t answer. Gerald didn’t answer. I turned up my racing techno soundtrack and passed a few dozen clusters of cars on the right.

The phone rang and it was Gerald. I verified that he was in Colorado Springs, laid the situation out to him, assured him that if he was arrested I could clear him when I showed up with the key, and then I hung up.

I passed a group of military vehicles on the right. Doesn’t anybody leave the fast lane open for fast drivers?

The phone rang and it was Gerald. He had gained access through a very high, very small bathroom window, recovered the tuxedo and secured the apartment on his way out. The police had not come. I turned around and we simultaneously headed towards Littleton with him driving about 100 miles per hour to deliver the tux to me at 12:52pm, 8 minutes before the start of the wedding.

It was not surprising when I sensed some hesitation from the groom as he handed me the two wedding rings, the ceremony was just about to begin.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Hala V. Furst
  • 21
  • Jun
  • 08

Sitting in Hyde Park, watching the democratic process at work in Speaker’s Corner, you might think you are witnessing a cavalcade of loonies. You would be half right. While most of the men (why only men, I wonder) sharing their particularly skewed world views with us are certifiable nut jobs, there are the occasional voices of reason, such as the well dressed, rather articulate grandfather discussing calmly why the world needs a World Parliament. He even apologizes for the fundamentalist histrionics of the man next to him, telling his audience that ‘not all Muslims are like that. Please don’t judge the religion this man’s hate.’ This might seem patronizing, until you remember the softly simmering tension many Brits feel regarding the large population of predominantly Muslim South Asian immigrants after the Tube bombings a couple of years ago. As I sit there with friends, debating both politics and which bar is the best in Rhode Island, I realize that on this Sunday morning I am participating in a Cathedral Mass of free speech. In a country that has 20% of the Closed Circuit TV cameras in the WORLD, where the Notting Hill house in which George Orwell once lived is even under unironic surveillance, where you can get an Anti-Social Behaviour Offense ticket for being annoying to your neighbors, it is deeply comforting to know at least this bastion of free speech remains. There are no police to be seen.

People react to the CCTV in surprising ways. To many Americans (although, sadly, those numbers are dwindling) this is an invasion of privacy antithetical to ordered liberty. To many wealthy Brits, the same is true. But to the people living in the East End, in the sketchier neighborhoods, the cameras are a welcome presence. As one woman who works as a security guard at Parliament told me, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong. They can watch me all they want.’ Sound familiar? Frankly this was a point of view I thought was specifically the province of reactionary post 9-11 Americans. Apparently not. It reminded me that England’s erstwhile socialism wasn’t just about universal free health care; it was also about monitoring citizens activities, insuring you weren’t behaving in a way not beneficial to the whole community. Now that the Labour Party is a ghost of its former self, the conservative factors have retained these cameras, even while dismantling the best of socialism- the health care system. 1984 has come and gone, but her shadows fall darkly in 2008.

Last week I attended a parade for the Queen’s Official Birthday. Not to be confused with her actual, human birthday, this is the anniversary of her coronation, her ‘birth’ as Queen. The old girl regards all her regiments, and awards the best one the Colours, the flag. It is, as they say, a BFD. Yet at the parade for the Queen’s Birthday, I heard very little of the Queen’s English. London is an international city, open to all comers from the EU, now that the European Union Human Rights Freedom of Movement clause has been taken to heart. As much as you hear British accents, you hear Polish accents, Lebanese accents, Bangladeshi accents. Once again the issue of immigration is present in the UK, as tense as it is in the states, except here these immigrants are (mostly) perfectly legal because of the EU. So the bigotry and fear, which isn’t that extensive, really, is more based on the actual identity of these foreigners, rather than their status as criminals, the convenient lie we tell ourselves in the US. In the UK it is really ‘us’ versus ‘them’, not ‘legal’ versus ‘illegal’. So as I watch the Queen, the Princes, even Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall parade by, I wonder who among the crowd is really subject to them anymore.

All that being said, I am really falling in love with this city. Maybe it is the way they put absolutely every conceivable stuffing between two slices of bread, using mayonnaise to solidify their deep, national love of the sandwich. Maybe it is the way the Victoria Line tube blasts past me at such a high speed I feel the irrestistable urge to shut my eyes, lean towards it, and consider my mortality. Maybe it is the way every pub seems to be named ‘The Something Arms’, or ‘The Pincushion and Spawning Toad’. Maybe it is the inexplicable way that there are NO trash cans in London, and yet also no trash. Whatever it is, I am smitten.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Rob Spectre
  • 20
  • Jun
  • 08
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Cherry Poppin' Daddy Man

At first listen, it remains difficult to consider a record like Susquehanna without being colored by the wonder of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies one hit. With former Mojo labelmates like Aaron Barrett putting out records all about the rise and fall of Reel Big Fish from popularity, the expectation for the authors of “Zoot Suit Riot” to do the same comes easy. Fortunately, expectation is a mechanism Steve Perry can deftly dismantle.

Some folks call them a ska band. Others call them a swing band. Still others call them a rock band. With Susquehanna all and none of those titles can be fairly applied to the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies of 2008. The one thing that all in the music business can agree to call Cherry Poppin’ Daddies is “unmarketable.”

Susquehanna may be the ultimate anti-record of the year with a sequence and style that’s nothing short of a solid middle finger to the modern business of music. The hooks are R-rated, the anthems are tango, and the album is bookended by the same tune – an English reggaeton with a Spanish reprise. Just one walk through the cookie cutter record stores that serves as the 21st century distribution channel and just finding the right shelf to put this album on is enough to inspire a migraine.

So, with his own money, his own studio, and a shitload of his own time, Steve Perry goes back to making Daddies records the way he began – with tongue-in-cheek and shoulder to the grindstone. Our interview with the man behind the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies concludes today.

Dream Not Of Today: What are your ambitions for this record? Is this one last hurrah before hanging up the gloves for good? Are you attempting to cement a place in the state fair / casino circuit? Is this a reaction to strong demand from the cult base that stayed with the band through one-hit-wonderdom to now?

Steve Perry: My ambitions for any record are to make a unique listening experience that brings the listener through a journey that tests as well as delights him/her. I have another bunch of songs of a completely different feel ready for a new recording – if I can afford it and if the band is up for it. Rock n’ roll oblivion is something that you cannot control. We make body music that anybody can enjoy. We incorporate many forms of American traditional music into the mix.

(d)N0t: When you look back to the release of Zoot Suit Riot, what do you consider the Daddies’ role in the short lived swing revival? Grateful participant? Unwitting victim of a fad? Trendsetter, if only for a short time?

SP: Swing music is a key part of 20th century American popular music. Currently “rock and roll” assumes too large of a place in the history. My belief in why that is has to do with rock and roll being a wish fulfillment art form that soothes personal insecurities by encouraging the illusion of power. It sublimates the actual will to power. It’s phony, like Grand Theft Auto. Swing doesn’t make little boys feel like they deserve to get laid or kick ass, therefore it is marginalized. Currently the swing scene is dominated by women. I think that is cool. I don’t think we have much of a role.

(d)N0t: Remorse and reflection are themes that have always been in Daddies tunes, Kids on the Street’s “Irish Whiskey” being my favorite example. Within the context of this greater body of work, Susquehanna doesn’t at all seem like a departure though obviously some might mistake tunes like “Hi and Lo” as a reference to the fame rollercoaster you experienced. A contemporary of your stardom, Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish, ended up writing a whole record about that rise and fall. Susquehanna contains none of that bitterness. Is something like We’re Not Happy If You’re Not Happy a record you ever got the urge to make?

SP: We are really not interested in the music “business” primarily, but interested in pop music as creative pursuit. “Hi and Lo” was written about a close friend of mine who led a doomed life and finally died of a Heroin overdose in the 90’s – it really has nothing to do with the Daddies career path. I guess for me I never felt entitled to all the goodies and success that our celebrity crazed society chases madly after. I grew up in Apalachin, New York among dairy farms… pretty frigging marginalized by birth, you know? So nobody owes me anything. Not even to be nice. So I am not surprised by how crappy businessmen can be when they exploit kids who play music to line their pockets. The first time I looked into one of those music business guys’ faces I went, “This guy would just as soon kick me in the face as smile at me.” When it comes down to it about 25% of those people are plain old thieves and lie to themselves about it. Susquehanna is more about the heartland than Hollywood or Manhattan. Hollywood is boring.

(d)N0t: What made you decide to get this flying fortress airborne again? If the reception to this record is lukewarm, do you see it being the last you make as Cherry Poppin’ Daddies?

SP: I realized how much I rely on writing music to process my emotional history, so I started writing again. I don’t see it as being the last. No.

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati