Archive for May, 2008

British (Sea Power) Invasion

May 20, 2008

I had been waiting for weeks, I got my ticket at Paul’s CDs, and had resigned myself to a long and lonely walk to Mr. Small’s in Millvale, because my friends are lame, or play frisbee in these things called tournaments, or insert excuse.

They apparently do not like rock music.

But I do, so, braving the unseasonable chill (and rain) and the 40th street bridge, I trudged five miles or so out to the venue, only to be made to wait in the drizzle for another half hour, though the doors should have been open. A small crowd of scenesters spoke of things like Curiosa, Mogwai and their stratocasters. I smoked several cigarettes, and watched some errant green balloon float into the scattered clouds.

I hadn’t even remembered that there were three performers on the bill, and I groaned inwardly when I saw a dude with a sticker-crusted acoustic on the stage. Then I started enjoying him. Jeffrey Lewis is from the same anti-folk school as The Moldy Peaches, except he stayed after class and did extra credit. He was great, and managed to transcend the novelty quality most of that sound is mired in. I’d listen to this on any given day.

He supplemented his odes to artistic awkwardness with ‘films’. These were, as he explained, low budget. By low budget, he meant something like a Demetri Martin sketch. Fully illustrated, and with his voice as a soundtrack, Lewis spun out two of these in his brief set, and they were disarmingly innocent children’s stories for adults. I was grinning the whole time. One of his better songs was about not letting the record label take you out to lunch.

A friend had told me he had enjoyed his Sea Power experience to such an extent that not even Feist opening up could spoil it. I don’t know if I would’ve been as strong, but apparently, her ubiquitous ass is everywhere. The between-sets DJ played a remix of that damn ipod commerical. It was all I could do to not headbutt someone.

The Rosebuds
were up next, and though I had listened to “Birds Make Good Neighbors” at the behest of another pal, I didn’t get into it. But I was blown away by these guys, and I’m listening to the album right now. The set was smart, loud (much more so than the album), honest and dance-friendly American Rock. My usual complaints about the rust-belt not knowing how to dance were on the boil. But I had a spot at the bar, and was enjoying a tall, cold Yuengling and some quality music- Ivan Howard has a great set of croony pipes.

Plus, there weren’t really any girls to dance with. That would’ve required punching a guy with thick framed glasses and taking his place. But I didn’t feel the drive to involve myself in the inherent paradox of punching some dude who looks like me. Except is taller. And has hair. And is probably more charming, hence, has a skinny pretty girl that likes to talk about bands on his arm. I knew I shouldn’t have worn my glasses.

Some of the Rosebuds’ songs were reminiscent of late 60s rock, at times even some psych rock. It was mostly tight pop songs, played hella loud. This is music I’ll be looking to put on at the bar, sandwiched in between a Toadies song and a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tune. They played a slower song or two, and segued into a bit of Phil Collins with one. I never thought I would hear “I can feel it in the air of the night” sung at a show.

Then some more waiting, until the intro to Do You Like Rock Music? came on. The more I read about Sea Power the more I love them. They called the album that because they figured it was something the Who would do.

They walk on stage, blessing Pittsburgh for supplying the world with Heinz baked beans, and fell into…a fairly sterile set? No, I’ve heard so much about their shows, I thought. I didn’t pay to see the bloody Wedding Present, as much as I like them. I paid to have my eyes kicked in with a massive concussion of Rock and Roll. I want people jumping about! Yan, foil helmets are not enough! I’m sorry the place is not to capacity!

Then they hit a stride when they played “Waving Flags” and proceeded to get fully into it, reaching climax when guitarist Noble jumped off stage and ran around playing. They joked and talked to the crowd (Yan was mimicking whatever was yowled into the microphone he put in a fan’s face for a bit, like a strange game of simon says) and they were having fun playing. So much fun in fact, that they had a ten-minute plus slab of noisy-freakout at the end, complete with one of the microphones making the rounds thanks to the spry Noble, which unfortunately displayed Pittsburgh’s lack of imagination (or at least quick thinking) with every “woo” fans delivered.

Folks were covering their ears for the bulk of the finale, and I don’t blame them. Someone had put a guitar against an amp, and the violinist was playing with the feedback like a dance partner. My ears were still ringing as I rolled up a promo flyer from the wall into my front pocket and tramped out into the night, only to walk five miles back to my house, err…local bar. Then home to examine my blisters and worry about how much I’m going to hurt the next day. And I do, a day later. I am sore as hell. But I’m sure I’ll be found at Mr. Small’s again in the near future (perchance for the Silver Mount Zion show in late June), and I’ll probably enjoy the walk, if necessary, as much as I did the first time.

But then, I like rock music.

Just Another Day in the Suck

May 18, 2008

The sooner we leave the better. Every few months it’s something new (old). Civilians killed, locals insulted.

At least this latest is sort of funny (really, it shouldn’t be, but then, if you can’t laugh at things, the world’s just going to pull you down), if only for the fact that it’s so childish: “Oh yeah? Well here’s what I think of your stupid book, doodoo-heads!”

So some wiseass plugs a Quran with a few rounds. I don’t ever want to subscribe to the idea that the Army is a bunch of monkeys and increasingly, ex-cons, but guys like this certainly aren’t doing my country, or humanity for that matter, any favours. I know a few in the service, and most of them wouldn’t put up with this nonsense. Sadly, not all of them.

Same goes for the people behind printing the Quran on toilet paper (though to be fair, if that chafes too much, there’s a King James variety around somewhere, I’m sure).

The real funny thing is that these religions are based on oral traditions. The gospel, Old and New were passed along orally, through sermons and the like. The Quran comes from the visions Mohamed laid out for his followers.

From my standpoint as a socialist, the reason these stories are so fanciful is because they were entertainment. Pillars of salt? Brimstone? Virgins awaiting you in the sky? Man, that’s just as cool as Scylla and Charybdis, or the Green Knight.

So what does a book matter then? I can understand the point. In fact, if I ever happened across a book-burning and saw some Vonnegut or Miller in the fire, I’d likely go a bit nuts myself.

It’s not the destruction of a mere collection of paper that gets to people, it’s the ignorance and arrogance, the sheer idiocy, and like I said, childishness. This is not how a civilized society works. But then, it seems we keep slipping further everyday.

57th Street is my Hell.

May 8, 2008

Pittsburgh, can we talk?

It’s cool you have these paper streets and all, but what the fuck?

I get 3/4 up a giant fucking mountain and the fair city tells me no dice?

Hence, I have to Indiana Jones my way up through the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, nearly breaking my money maker (my face, thank you).

Let’s rewind:

It’s two Saturdays ago. I get word the Philadelphyinz are playing a gig at Remedy.

Recently, I’ve been getting out more, making my presence known, though probably not felt. So I decide to go. I’m antsy all Saturday…looking for excuses not to go, thinking too much. To be fair, going out on my lonesome is a big deal to me, I used to get panicky enough not to leave the apartment for days.

But I go, a cute little triumph. I get there an hour early, because City Paper lies, promptly bump into a scenester chick who unloads, “Excuse me!”

Alright, we’ll do that. I sit down and hit a few gin and tonics, waiting. Finally some heads I recognize roll in, and I slip upstairs, cover not included. There’s some awkward talk with an old friend who’s grown up, some chitchat with Skinny Friedman and Apt One, and suddenly, some cats I haven’t seen for a minute are there. The Harlan Twins were among my favorites.

And the dancing, rapture motherfucker. I’m playing pool, dancing my face off, talking Steelers, film and grad school (shit, I am totally not qualified, but I generally have an opinion about everything) at the same time.

For the record, the Yinzer expats put down a fucking great show. I’m looking forward to hitting up one of their regular joints in Brooklyn or Philly. Smooth and lovin tunes.

An ex is there, which was a surprise. Her forcefield decorum was met by a drunken handshake and an apology for her not liking me. Well. I am classy at times. Not sure if that was one of them.

So last call sounds and I’m gone like the honeybee. Since I walked around one side of the cemetery, I figure I’ll round the other side and come out near home.

For the record, it took 30 minutes from Sonny’s to Remedy.

I walk, realize this part of Lawrenceville has yet to be colonized by art-fags, and turn up 57th street. I’m an eagle scout, I can find my way. But then, disaster! 57th ends in a creepy one light road up a hill or a paper street. I am nothing if not an enthusiast, so up the paper street I go.

I have hiked hellish topography worse than this. Granted, I was sober, but still. The hill went on. And on. Then the stairs, due to some crossed stars, bore a giant “ROAD CLOSED” sign, complete with yellow tape, halfway up the bloody thing. I did what any self-respecting scout would have done, I kept going.

Enter the vines, enter the thorny branches. Enter the stairs that disappear. Yes, every stair meant six that were never put down. So I’m clinging to the rail in the dark, working my way up to some halo at the apex. Then the stairs just stop completely. I’m still only 3/4 up the hill. Suddenly, I’m back in Cub Scouts, swinging on grape vines, rolling town junk heap tires down into gulleys, clawing my way through leaves and mud to the top of something I don’t need to be at the top of.

A backyard, a dog barking, a quick retreat into the welcome of a streetlight. Yes, I arose into a backyard. Some engineer fucked up somewhere. So I wander around, keep walking. By now I’m trying to call someone, just to say hello I am fucking lost what did you do tonight. There were a couple of funny voicemails (read: drunk and frantic) some brief conversations, and then I get ahold of this real cute photographer, we end up talking through to the end.

I skip through Morningside, Garfield and one or two others. I pick up a rock on the way, why not?

Finally, I breach unto the intersection of Baum and Penn, the world has found me. I walk a few blocks, some old black dude on a corner extends his hand with a ‘What’s up.” Without missing a beat, I clutch the phone in my shoulder, keep talking, switch the rock to the free hand and shake.

Later I realize this is completely inappropriate behavior. I also realize that I met this gentleman and his friends at around 3:30 AM.

After this, it’s all eyes on Get-Go, I drop my improv weapon and it’s a cheap sub and Gatorade, it’s a thank you to my cute photographer angel for the nice chat, and then half of Return of the Jedi and some sleep, after a surprisingly eventful evening. The lesson is to get out da hahs.

It’s 4:30 when I get home. I left at 2.

It is now glaringly obvious I made a very stupid call. But I make those every few months, and it almost always results in a drunk stumble through town. And it is always a great time.

Most of these good times would not be possible without the framework of this fair city, incomplete stairways and all.

Bless you, Pittsburgh.